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Come Back, Ajusshi: Episode 16 (Final)

It’s time to say goodbye to the show and our favorite characters, even as they say goodbye to each other. We all knew it was coming, yet somehow I still wish there was a way for Maya to stop time and just let everyone stay happy for a little longer. At least this time there is the chance to say a proper farewell before being whisked off to that big ol’ heaven-bound train in the sky. Not that it makes it easier, of course, so make sure you have that kleenex box handy, because you’ll need a tissue or two. Or twenty. *sniffle, sniffle*

EPISODE 16 RECAP

Putting the pieces together, Da-hye figures out that Gi-tak is her brother, although she wonders if it isn’t a false memory from Hong-nan’s stories. With tears in her eyes, Hong-nan “confesses” that Gi-tak is indeed Da-hye’s brother, and that she took on Hong-nan’s name when Gi-tak “adopted” her and raised her like a sister.

As Da-hye reels at the discovery of her birth name, Hong-nan reassures her that Gi-tak used that name as a way to remember his sister. But she makes Da-hye promise that she won’t speak either name after this, since Gi-tak would want to know that Da-hye is happily living her life as Da-hye and not Hong-nan. She also tells Da-hye to remember Gi-tak from when he was younger and not think about how he died.

Hong-nan, unable to control her emotions, abruptly leaves the table. Across the room is Suk-chul, who creepily smiles in satisfaction since he now knows who is Gi-tak’s true sister.

Hae-joon walks Da-hye home, and she muses that it seems like everyone she loves is unlucky. He admits that Ji-hoon was the one who found out about Gi-tak first, but because of Young-soo’s death, they didn’t want to tell her. She’s been through so much, but Hae-joon tells her sincerely that she deserves to be loved. She admits that, even though she’s lost her husband and her brother, she’s been able to stay strong through it all because she was loved.

In his office, Jae-gook studies his fancy now-meaningless “CEO” name-plate. Yi-yeon arrives, and, ignoring his snark, she sincerely asks if he wouldn’t be happier without her. She wants to end their relationship for good, since it will best for them (and Young-chan) in the long run.

Hae-joon looks around his office and all his employees, taking it all in for the last time. Manager Ma arrives with his coffee and greets the “interim CEO” with effusive praise. Hae-joon simply asks him to ignore any strange acts he may do in the future. The first of which will be giving Manager Ma a long and tender hug. Aw, it’s the first step in saying goodbye.

Seung-jae finds it suspicious that Hong-nan invited him and Gil out for drinks during the middle of the day, but she explains that this will be the last time she will enjoy the taste of soju with them before she leaves for America. Yeah, sure, “America.”

Gil is totally onboard, agreeing to Hong-nan’s orders that he focus more on his cooking instead of bossing everyone about. But the stoic Seung-jae asks Hong-nan to wait a little longer, because he’s almost found Suk-chul. Except Hong-nan gently tells him that Gi-tak wouldn’t want him to be focused on revenge, and instead he should just forget about it.

Yi-yeon is prepping for a photoshoot when Gil updates her on Hong-nan’s “goodbye” drinks-and-nagging session. Even though her face falls at the realization that Hong-nan is really leaving, she has model-perfect smiles for the camera.

In the corner, off-to-the-side, Hong-nan quietly and proudly watches the photoshoot — it looks like Yi-yeon will be just fine on her own.

Seung-jae tracks Suk-chul through a maze of alleyways and winding paths. When Suk-chul stops to talk to someone, Seung-jae ducks behind a building, but when he peers around the corner, Suk-chul is nowhere to be seen. He starts to run down the alley, but the sound of Suk-chul’s trademark lighter causes him to turn around — it was a trap!

Suk-chul seems amused that Seung-jae is following him, but Seung-jae angrily demands to know if he killed Gi-tak. Annoyed that everyone seems to want to ask him that, he yells that he did, so what? Just as Seung-jae steps forward with his balled fists ready to fight, Suk-chul’s minion leaps in from out of nowhere and kicks Seung-jae in the chest.

The two men battle it out, and Seung-jae has the minion pinned against the wall as he punches him the face. But he stops suddenly, surprised to discover the man just stabbed him in the stomach. As Seung-jae slides down the wall, his knees buckling from the pain, Suk-chul tauntingly tells Seung-jae that Gi-tak’s sister is next, and it will all be over by tomorrow.

Pretending to be someone from a real estate agency, he calls Da-hye, telling her that he’s looking for Gi-tak’s family because they need to rent out his place but it still has his things in it. A surprised Da-hye agrees to come over and pick them up, but she tries calling Hong-nan first, who ignores her call because she’s already said all she can say to Da-hye.

But when her phone rings again, it’s Seung-jae, who gasps out that she shouldn’t go and that Suk-chul is after her. Hong-nan’s eyes grow wide as she realizes what that means.

Da-hye arrives at Gi-tak’s apartment, and is surprised by Suk-chul suddenly stepping out and greeting her. He pleasantly chats with her as he dials Hae-joon’s number, who answers even though he doesn’t know who it’s from. He’s about to hang-up when he hears Da-hye’s voice on the other end as Suk-chul talks with there.

As soon as she’s distracted by looking at the photos, he tells Hae-joon that if he wants to see Gi-tak’s sister alive, he better come right away with the code to the secret bank account. Hae-joon speeds to the apartment as he calls Hong-nan, letting her in on the situation. She tells him it’s all her fault — she’ll take care of it. But he just presses the gas pedal even harder as he speeds to Da-hye.

In the apartment, her fingers gently caress the photos of Gi-tak, and a tear falls as she calls him “oppa.”

Hong-nan runs through the streets, but her first stop is the wounded Seung-jae. Horrified by his bloody injury, she yells at him in worry as she tries to keep him conscious, demanding to know if Suk-chul did this to him. He gasps out that he told her not to come, but through her tears, she reminds him that she told him not to seek revenge. As he passes out, she screams for help.

Da-hye has gathered a box full of items and is ready to leave, but Suk-chul threateningly makes her stay. Just as she’s inwardly calling out for her husband Young-soo, Hae-joon arrives at the rooftop garden. He rushes to throw himself in between her and Suk-chul, who just wants to know if he brought the bank code.

Angry, Hae-joon prepares himself to fight, reminding himself that he won’t die because he’s already died once. Well, that’s one way to look at it. But he’s no matched for a trained gangster, and Suk-chul easily takes down Hae-joon and his next-to-nothing fighting skills. He’s tenacious, though, and every time Suk-chul knocks him down, he staggers back to his feet.

Finally Suk-chul just yells at him to tell him the bank code already — he doesn’t have the time to play around like this. But Hae-joon is the one who doesn’t have time, and he’s learned to endure a lot after his fifteen years working for a company that treated him like crap. Yeah, but that doesn’t protect him from Suk-chul’s upper-cut which knocks him back to the ground. He’s still determined to protect Da-hye, and he clings to Suk-chul’s knees, begging that he leave her out of this.

Yi-yeon smiles as she studies the selca she took with the photoshoot staff, but then she spots Hong-nan standing in the background. Suddenly she’s off and running through the streets, remembering all the times Hong-nan has been there for her, and all of her words of encouragement on how to lead a happy life.

Back on Gi-tak’s rooftop, Da-hye finds an umbrella which she uses to try and beat Suk-chul away from Hae-joon, but Suk-chul easily disarms her. As he threateningly advances on her, a voice calls out his name: it’s Hong-nan!

She holds up the picture of the young Gi-tak and Da-hye that has the bank account number, asking if this is what Suk-chul came for. Yes, it is, but as soon as Suk-chul reaches out for it, she tosses it aside. Using all her fighting skills, she intercepts Suk-chul’s repeated attempts to grab it, until she finally grabs him by the collar, demanding to know if it’s not enough to kill Gi-tak, Big Boss, and Seung-jae, but now he must also kill Da-hye and Hae-joon. And all for some measly money?

There’s nothing wrong with money, Suk-chul insists, and he refuses to live in Gi-tak’s shadow all his life. Hong-nan grabs Suk-chul’s precious lighter and the photograph, wearily telling him that it’s time to end this.

She tosses the burning photo off the rooftop and Suk-chul instinctively runs to catch it, but it’s too late — the photo and bank code are gone. Angrily, he grabs her and she loses her footing, causing the both of them to topple over the side of the building. Hong-nan manages to grab onto the railing, but Suk-chul’s weight as he clings to her, blubbering that he’s not ready to die, makes it difficult for her to hang on.

Hae-joon and Da-hye rush to the edge and try to pull her up, but the weight of both her and Suk-chul are too much for them. Hong-nan is calm as she declares that it’s time, and she looks up at Hae-joon as she tells him that she hopes that the people she loves will be happy, and that he takes care of her sister until the end.

She stares into Da-hye’s eyes and Gi-tak inwardly tells her goodbye, using the childhood nickname “crybaby,” which causes Da-hye to gasp, “oppa.” Hae-joon does his best to cling to Hong-nan’s arm, but as we watch the flashbacks of Young-soo and Gi-tak meeting on the train to heaven and being given a second chance in their new bodies, she purposefully slips through his fingers and falls to the ground.

Over a montage of favorite Hong-nan scenes, we hear her say that she’s thankful Young-soo loved her sister. One of reasons they came back to earth was because someone up there must have wanted to show them something. One of those things must have been knowing Young-soo.

Hae-joon weeps as Da-hye stares in shock. The only body on the ground is Suk-chul’s — Hong-nan is nowhere to be found.

The rooftop is empty by the time Yi-yeon finally arrives, and she screams for Hong-nan as she searches for her. She sadly realizes no one is there but just then she turns around, and… it’s Hong-nan!

She calmly walks towards Yi-yeon, telling her that she wanted to say a proper farewell this time. As Yi-yeon’s eyes fill with tears, Hong-nan gently places a hand on her cheek and tells her not to cry. Slowly, she leans in, and… they kiss! As she (or technically Gi-tak) kisses Yi-yeon, memories of their happy times together flash by.

Maya appears and sadly watches the couple. Yi-yeon begs Gi-tak not to leave, but he smiles, reassuring her that he’s not going anywhere. He nods when she tearfully begs him to stay by her side, but then he fades into a glittery sparkle and is gone. Just like Hong-nan. Sob.

As Yi-yeon cries alone on the rooftop, any evidence of Gi-tak’s existence begins to fade away. From his photos, to his branded merchandise, to his boxing gloves, to his clothes. All of it disappears, and a dazed Yi-yeon is left standing on what she perceives to be an unfamiliar rooftop.

Back at home, Hae-joon gets word from the police that they’ve ruled Suk-chul’s death an accident from the fall. As he watches Da-hye dream about her older brother, Maya stands with him, informing him that the memories of Gi-tak are slowly being erased from everyone.

The photo of young Gi-tak fades and now it shows young Da-hye next to the car with an unknown boy in the front seat, smiling for the camera. Da-hye wakes up, happy to see Hae-joon standing there.

In the morning, Hae-joon has a stack of gifts for Hanna. The first is a winter coat for her to grow into, the next will be her first bra, and the other some perfume for when she comes of age. He orders to get permission from her mom and grandfather before she gets a boyfriend, and he better be just like her father. Pfft.

But Hanna’s more interested in the sparkly tiara — that’s for when she gets married. Hae-joon tells her that her father would have loved to have seen her in her wedding dress. Smiling, Hanna tells him that she’ll marry Hae-joon, and holds out her hand so they can practice the wedding march.

Da-hye and Young-soo’s father watch them slowly walk down the hallway, and as they do, the memories of all their happy family moments flash by. As Dad pointed out before, you can’t force being a family — it’s just something that comes naturally.

That night, as Dad is sleeping, Hae-joon quietly steps into the room and sits by his bed. Young-soo tells him that Dad has to stay here and watch Hanna get married and have children of her own. Only then can they see each other again. Stifling his sobs, Young-soo quietly exits.

He places all but one of the grape stickers on the picture, leaving the last one to place on a sponsorship card from an orphanage. Awww, the photo that burned up wasn’t the real one with the bank account number, but a fake one. The real one Hong-nan left for Hae-joon to protect, and it seems like he donated the money to the orphanage Gi-tak and Da-hye were adopted from, and he made the donation under Hong-nan’s name.

Da-hye invites him to a specially prepared breakfast for his last day as her tenant. When he sees that it’s curry, she tells him that when she first got married, she couldn’t really cook, so she made curry every day. Yet Young-soo never complained and happily ate it. Today, though, is the first time she’s made it since Young-soo died.

As he eats his last breakfast, Hae-joon tells Da-hye that he thinks it’s best if they ignore each other in the future. If she sees him, she shouldn’t greet him because he’ll ignore her, and if he treats her badly, she shouldn’t cry but instead curse him and walk away. This is, no doubt, to prepare her for the real Hae-joon’s arrival.

He steps into his shoes one last time and walks down the road where he sees Maya waiting for him. He greets her pleasantly, telling her he thought he’d have a drink with Gi-tak on the train. She’s just glad there will be at least one person who will remember him.

He doesn’t have any regrets about coming back or leaving now, except — he looks back towards his home — he didn’t want Da-hye to know who he was, yet he’s somehow disappointed that she didn’t figure it out. And he still didn’t get to say his goodbye.

Da-hye stares at the bowl of carrots Hae-joon picked out of his curry. It’s the same vegetable that Young-soo would pick out of his curry, too. As she runs down the road, she remembers all those moments that Hae-joon felt like family, and in a voice-over reminiscent of one his notes, Young-soo says that he knows he knows how much she’s struggling because of him and he’s sorry that he hasn’t kept his promise to always keep her happy. But he will be the Kim Young-soo who makes her and Hanna proud. “Thank you, and love you always.”

She reaches Hae-joon and flings her arms around him, pulling him tight in a back-hug. She tells him that he’s worked hard today, which are the exact words she would use to greet Young-soo when he would come home from his long days at the store.

Hae-joon tries to quiet his sobs as he gently pats her hand before carefully releasing her grip on him. With a final “good-bye,” he steps forward, walking down the path without looking back. Da-hye cries as she watches him go, wishing him a safe journey. Maya and Young-soo walk along the road, side-by-side, as Young-soo says that’s it’s okay — this is enough. Then they fade away.

Top star Yi-yeon is in the middle of an interview (where it seems like she’s still married to Jae-gook), when one of the interviewers ask about her latest movie. The theme is unconditional love — has she experienced that sort of unique relationship? She admits that she’s not sure, but it feels like she’s received unconditional love from someone, which has given her a warm sense of peace.

Gil introduces Yi-yeon’s new road manager — it’s Seung-jae! He’s alive! Aw, he admits he doesn’t have much manger experience, having worked in a kitchen previously. As he dutifully follows behind his new boss who chatters on the phone to her son, he pulls out his phone that has a picture of his mother. Omo, is that Maya? No wonder she was so attached to him.

Someone who looks exactly like Hong-nan jogs by them just then and Yi-yeon doesn’t even blink, but Seung-jae stops and turns. Could there be a lingering memory left, somewhere? Please?

Hae-joon arrives at the department store and is greeted by all the salesgirls, who are delighted to tell him how great the employee lounge has been for their health. Except of course it’s the real Hae-joon, who has no idea who they are or what they’re talking about, and continues on his way. Pffft, he has a sheaf of dried seaweed sticking out of his briefcase.

Manager Ma reminds them that Hae-joon was in a hit-and-run accident recently (which is true), but it means that he has some glitches in his memory and may not act the same as usual. Ms. Wang watches him, smiling as she remembers Young-soo’s Hae-joon telling her to divide up his shares of the company stock amongst the employees, effectively turning the department store into an employee-owned company.

When the real Hae-joon arrives at his office, he finds a note from Young-soo, telling him that for the last two months, he’s borrowed his name and ruined his plan to sell the store. But he won’t apologize for it because he’s given him a staff that respects and admires him. He hopes that the real Hae-joon will forget revenge and instead live a life of love. Ha, he signs it from “a friend who could be a twin.”

The real Hae-joon sits down with Jae-gook and Chairman Cha, and while Ms. Wang translates the chairman’s wondering why Jae-gook is there, because he’s still fired, Jae-gook just says he just thought he could of help to Hae-joon.

Hae-joon says that he hates him, as he always has, and then calls him brother, which completely throws him off. He turns to Chairman Cha, calling him father, adding that he’s wanted to call him that at least once. This emotional outbreak is not what they were expecting from Hae-joon, and as Chairman Cha exchanges glances with Ms. Wang, she finally bursts out that she has no idea what he’s trying to say, ordering him to actually have a normal conversation for once. Ha!

As Young-chan kicks around a soccer ball, Jae-gook asks Yi-yeon to dinner — he’s got enough time on his hands now. She won’t live with him as a wife and mother, knowing that they’re best apart, but she’ll accept his effort to act more like a father. Speaking of acting like a father, Ji-hoon hands Hanna some milk (that had better not be banana!) as he tells her how much he admires her father — he was a great man. Aw, Hanna asks if Ji-hoon will some day teach her to dance.

The elevator doors open to reveal Hae-joon standing there, and Da-hye hesitates a moment before stepping in. She’s amused at the way he ignores her (and munches on his seaweed), and tells him that she’s going to file for workman’s compensation (for Young-soo’s death). He stares at her blankly, but she just smiles as she exits the elevator.

Later, Hae-joon makes his way through the lobby and runs into a woman — hey, it’s Hong-nan with short hair! Or someone who looks exactly like her. Their meeting is exactly the same as their first meeting, and they have a cute moment before the annoyed not-Hong-nan storms off. Hae-joon glances back to see her adjust the wedgie from her stockings. Yep, that’s our girl.

Epilogue. Young Gi-tak asks a man to take the photo of him and young Da-hye together. Awww, the man is none other than Young-soo’s father. That means the boy in the front seat is teenage Young-soo, and he’s the one who replaced Gi-tak in the picture.

The show ends with a quote from Hermann Hesse’s Knulp: “How lovely it had been, how lovely in joy and sorrow.”

COMMENTS

Ahhhh, it’s over! My darling little drama that admittedly wasn’t perfect, but it did pack so much into each episode — laughter, tears, pretty cinematography, amazing characters and their beautiful relationships, however broken they might be.

I know Gi-tak’s decision to reveal himself (and thus cause him to disappear from memory) may seem like a harsh and unnecessary decision, but this is the man who called himself a coward despite his gangster bravado. Here he was able to do one final brave act — to save not just the love of his life (and Seung-jae’s life), but his sister’s life, too. Both in the literal sense, in making sure Suk-chul could never harm her again, but also the emotional sense. The discovery that she had a brother is a joy tinged in sadness, since it is yet another family member lost to her. But by wiping her brief memory of him, she can live in peace — the nightmares will be gone.

This, of course, does make me wonder how that last little epilogue can happen, if Gi-tak ceased to exist. Or perhaps it was the true memory of the moment, before Maya brought them back. Maybe because it’s also Young-soo’s memory, there’s still a part of it that lives on, if only in Heaven. Or maybe I’m overthinking things.

I do feel like, in general, we got a reasonably worthwhile wrap-up of what could have been a very complicated ending. While I may still wonder about the details of Gi-tak ceasing to exist, I’m pleased that things are relatively the same. In this new reality, Yi-yeon may have never had a relationship with Gi-tak, but she can still sense his love. Jae-gook is still fired and while the new Hae-joon isn’t the same as Young-soo, it seems like his time being stranded on the island was transformative to the point where he might be receptive to Young-soo’s proposals and plans put in place before his arrival.

While I know Maya specifically isn’t supposed to create new bodies in the likeness of anyone else, I am happy that there’s another Hong-nan out there. Yes, she isn’t the same Hong-nan, but she’s out there and maybe she’ll run into Seung-jae and that poor orphaned puppy will be able to smile more than once in a blue moon (although he definitely can keep that leather jacket, just sayin’). Then again, maybe she was creating her son’s dream woman and just didn’t know it. Yeah, not over that little reveal any time soon (and now I’m going to have to go back and rewatch her scenes with him and bawl my eyes out even more).

I originally started out this drama just with the intention of watching it for all the pretty faces, but I was pleasantly surprised by how entertaining and meaningful the show managed to be. I’ve laughed until I’ve cried, and cried until I’ve… cried… even more… yeah. My heart has been broken and it has been filled by these amazing characters. Everyone was so perfect in their roles, but Rain and especially Oh Yeon-seo never made me stop believing that they were really two ajusshis, just in different bodies. While no one else may remember Gi-tak/Hong-nan, I know I will, and be forever grateful for the brief time they were in my life. How lovely, indeed.

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nice drama

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