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12

Dear My Friends: Episode 13

Nan-hee fights to keep the status quo while dealing with her fears, and everyone else struggles with the realization that Hee-ja’s delusional tendencies aren’t just a cute personality quirk but something much more serious. You wouldn’t think this would make for a compelling hour-and-fifteen minutes, but these aunties who have stolen our hearts and become a part of our lives make this episode as riveting as any other.

EPISODE 3: “Like a mother to the end; like a fighter to the end – Part 1”

The doctor tells Nan-hee they’d like to run a few more tests, and as she waits for a CT scan to be prepped, she complains on the phone to Wan that no one is telling her anything. Wan believes in her mother’s stubborn spirit, and tells her to demand the doctors explain in detail why they want to retest her and Granny. Record the explanation on her phone, if she can.

Nan-hee just grumbles that if Wan cares so much, she should be there with them, and then hangs up to get her CT scan. Wan isn’t particularly worried, knowing that the women in her family live a long and healthy life, and her mother is strong as ever.

The results reveal that Granny’s ulcer has gotten worse, and she argues that it’s stupid to try and operate. She’d rather die first. Nan-hee reassures her that she won’t have to get surgery as long as she takes her pills. When it’s Nan-hee’s turn, the doctor tells her that they want to refer her to a larger hospital to get an MRI.

There’s a tumor on her liver, and they don’t have the capability of determining if it’s cancerous at this hospital. Nan-hee tears him a new one, insisting that she’s never been sick and the x-rays must be wrong. But then she asks the doctor to explain — in simple terms — what it is exactly he found on the x-ray.

Suk-gyun tries to follow along with the “10 Commandments of Being a Good Husband” that Choong-nam posted on the fridge as he sets about taking care of his home himself. He may not fully understand what all the buttons mean on the washing machine or rice cooker, but at least he tries.

He does eventually call Jung-ah who has to walk him through which button to push and reassure him the rice cooker will make a noise when it’s finished. Hee-ja points out that it means he’s actually taking care of himself. Well, he might not starve, but I’m not so sure his meal will be all that appetizing.

Seung-jae has been studying the CCTV videos of Hee-ja’s home (now that he has access to her cameras), and with some SAT word-problem worthy math, deducts that the same time each night, she leaves to go to the church to pray and then returns home right after. He calls up a doctor friend of his to discuss this friend of his who may have dementia.

Granny spends the night with Nan-hee, who helps her get ready for bed. She can tell that her daughter is bothered by something due to the way she keeps yelling at her. As Nan-hee cuts Granny’s toenails, she wonders if Nan-hee is angry because she had to waste money by going to the hospital, and Nan-hee jokingly agrees. Aw, Granny looks so sad.

As she watches her mother sleep, Nan-hee calls Wan, who’s in the middle of a get-together of the younger generation. Min-ho, his wife, and Jung-ah’s daughters are there to be interviewed by Wan for the book, but they’re having a lot more fun just hanging out and eating and drinking.

Wan thinks her mother is just being her usual clingy self when she asks Wan to come over, and teasingly tells her that she should find a boyfriend to obsess about instead of always pestering her, since Wan will be getting married soon. Nan-hee wants to know who Wan is marrying, and she just says: “a man.”

But instead of returning to her guests, Wan calls her back, worried because she could tell that Nan-hee didn’t seem like her usual self. Nan-hee hesitates, then grumbles that it’s nothing. Her irritated attitude reassures Wan that her mother is her old self, and she happily wishes her a goodnight.

Wan focuses on the younger generation (if they are children of all the aunties, then does that essentially make them cousins?). She asks who likes their mother all the time, and everyone hesitantly raises their hand. Wan has to point out that she said all the time, and they all slowly lower their hands as they admit their mothers can be annoying.

She admits that while she loves her mother in the end, the process to get to that point can be incredibly frustrating. So today will be the chance for them to talk freely about their mothers, no holds barred.

When she asks what they like the least about their mothers, Jung-ah’s daughters, after confessing that they know their mother has had a hard life, say in unison, “her appearance.” As for Wan, what she likes least is that her mother loves her so much it’s more of an obsession. Hahaha, she confesses that she can’t help but picture her mother watching whenever she’s with a man. The horror!

Wan’s next question is if they could ask their mothers for one thing, what would it be. Min-ho’s wife answers first, and she sincerely says that she’d ask her mother to live a long an happy life. Aw, I’d forgotten that her mother had a stroke. The atmosphere grows serious for a moment, but then Wan and the “cousins” toast their mothers, starting the party again.

Young-won is hosting a meal for the film crew when Nan-hee calls to ask for a referral for a hospital. Young-won immediately assumes it has to do with Granny, but Nan-hee reassures her that it’s just ulcers. When she asks if Young-won knows any doctor that specializes in liver cancer, Young-won says she does. Nan-hee: “Did you date him, too?” Ha, Young-won teases that she wishes she did.

Speaking of dating, Young-won fills Nan-hee in on the fact that her ex-husband wants to see her one last time before he leaves for America. She’s thinking about agreeing to meet him, and Nan-hee points out she knows her best of all, and that at this point, she’s knows that Young-won has already made up her mind about what she wants to do.

As if to prove her right, Young-won calls up her ex-husband. It’s sweet how her voice and expression softens into that of a younger woman, nervous and worried about how he’ll respond to her request to see him one last time. She says she’s still just a foolish girl who was never able to get over him the first time.

As Nan-hee watches her mother sleep, with her fingertips she gently writes out “Mom” on Granny’s back. She whispers that she’s scared and then buries her face in Granny’s back as she tries to muffle her weeping in order not to wake her mother.

Seung-jae sets an alarm so he’ll get up in the middle of the night to watch Hee-ja. Her internal clock is right on the dot, and she gets up and heads out, causing Seung-jae to scramble to leave his house, too. He tracks her down to the church where she kneels before the alter and earnestly prays.

Without disturbing her, he watches from a distance. She’s unaware of anyone as she walks back home, taking a moment to stop and smell the flowers. Seung-jae sees her return home, and then heads back home himself.

He’s surprised when Hee-ja calls him, and she tells him that she can’t sleep. She worries that she woke him up, but he reassures her he was already awake. He tells her that it’s the middle of the night and she should get back to sleep, and she agrees, especially when he offers to sing her a lullaby.

Aw, it actually works, and soon Hee-ja’s asleep. Even as the phone slips out of her hand from ear, Seung-jae continues to sing, stopping only once he confirms via CCTV that she’s finally asleep.

No one would guess Nan-hee’s bad medical news the next day as she cheerfully takes care of her clientele. But once she closes up the restaurant, she asks about her employee’s mothers, knowing that they had been diagnosed with cancer.

One employee says that her mother passed away — the cancer finally took over. Nan-hee’s face falls, but then she perks up again when her other employee says that her mother’s cancer was misdiagnosed once they actually removed the tumor. Doctors can be wrong! But Nan-hee’s reassurance seems short lived.

Seung-jae takes the footage of Hee-ja to the doctor, who says that if she’s having a difficult time telling night from day, then there’s a likely chance that her dementia is getting worse.

It’s test day for Choong-nam! She’s stressing about doing well on her practice test for the college entrance exams when Seung-jae finds her. She thinks he’s there to cheer her on, but he invites her to have a cup of tea. Choong-nam wonders why he looks so sad, and shouts after him that he should break up with Hee-ja and find someone else. Like, y’know, her.

Hahahaha, Choong-nam prays to “everything” to help her pass the test. I hope she does, just to show up those boys who keep teasing her.

Suk-gyun follows Jung-ah home, mocking her for taking a contact slip for a menial job. She doesn’t care, though. She’s got her own life to live. Besides, shouldn’t he be at work? He tells her he was fired, and she’s just like, “good for you.”

He says that he’ll end up picking up recycling in the street, but Jung-ah chides him for trying to take a job from the truly poor when he could just sell his house. He continues to follow her home, and watches her prepare her lunch.

He proudly reveals the soybean paste soup he made, admitting that it tastes weird at first, but eventually you get used to it. Jung-ah finally tries it and simply confirms that it’s edible.

Over a shared meal, Suk-gyun tells her that he went to the old house where they had their honeymoon and he was reminded of when she miscarried. He apologizes that he didn’t take her to the hospital that day. Jung-ah literally flips the table as she demands to know why he’s bringing this up now.

She’s never been the type to complain unnecessarily, so why didn’t he take her to the hospital when she told him she felt sick. Why? She starts to cry as she repeatedly yells at him to bring back her son.

Nan-hee goes to a PC room to use a computer to look up symptoms of liver cancer. Oh no, doesn’t she know that reading about illnesses on the internet is the worst idea ever? She searches for the survival rates, but just as she’s scanning through the links, her musician friend appears.

He tells her that he likes to go spend time here on his day off, and was surprised to see her in a place that mostly caters to teenagers playing Starcraft. She quickly closes the browser window, explaining that she doesn’t have a computer at home and needed to research something.

He invites her to go on a walk with him, and let me just say, any walk that involves churros is definitely the best walk ever. He introduces himself as Lee Il-woo, pointing out that they didn’t even know each other’s names until just now. That gives him the idea to visit with a fortune teller who frequents the cafe he plays at.

As the cafe server gives them their beer, he whispers something in Il-woo’s ear, and Il-woo immediately says “we’re friends.” Nan-hee jokingly asks if the server said that she looks too old to be his friend, and Il-woo smoothly says that he said she looks beautiful. What a smooth talker.

The fortune teller arrives, Nan-hee tells her that she wants to know how long she’ll live. As for Il-woo, he wants to know if he and Nan-hee will end up together. She tries to hide her laughter, but he says he’s serious. She warns him not to joke around too much, because her late husband was like that and he ended up cheating on her.

The fates do not favor Il-woo and Nan-hee’s relationship, and Il-woo grumbles that she’s a terrible fortune teller. But Nan-hee disagrees — she said Nan-hee would live a long life. She then asks why Il-woo is speaking so informally to her — after all, she’s older than he is.

He apologizes, having done it without noticing. She tells him that she doesn’t want him to give her any cute “noona” nicknames, but he could at least be respectful. He playfully exaggerates his formal speech as they discuss a couple who he insists are either married or just friends, but who Nan-hee insists are having an affair.

Wan calls her just then to tell her not to do her usual unannounced visit because she’s busy with work, but Nan-hee simply says that she’s busy herself — she’s out on a date. Wan goes into over-protective mode as she warns her mother about dating someone who’s practically a stranger, and Nan-hee rattles off all the facts she knows about Il-woo (widowed, owns a convenience store, a musician in his spare time, has a kid in college).

Despite Nan-hee’s insistence that she’s tellng the truth, Wan laughs at the idea that her mother is dating a much younger man. Just then Nan-hee gets another call — it’s Young-won, who’s got a doctor’s appointment set up for her tomorrow. Il-woo returns from his window shopping to give her a cute bear keychain he bought for her. Aw, that’s such a classic drama romance move.

Wan might have warned her mother to not bother while she’s working, but she seems content to have the distraction of Yun-ha. She smiles as she complains that she has to work, but they can’t keep their eyes off each other or stop smiling as they video chat.

She tells him that she has to work on the novel so it’s finished by July, and then they can go to the beach together. He asks if she’ll really come, and she promises. Aw, can I ignore the faint sense of dread and just enjoy the warm fuzzies these two give me as Wan happily writes down the date she’ll return to Yun-ha next month.

Suk-gyun slowly takes his leave from Jung-ah’s place, and seems relieved when she calls after him, telling him that the next time he makes soybean paste soup, to be sure add anchovies. Aw, it may not be the largest olive branch, but at least it’s something, and he happily promises the next soup will be filled with anchovies. Er, yeah; his cooking skills are definitely going to need a lot of work.

Seung-jae drives Choong-nam to Hee-ja’s, having filled her in on his worries about her dementia. Choong-nam refuses to believe it, pointing out that Hee-ja has always been a little bit strange, and it’s not dementia if the person is actually aware of their actions. What’s so wrong with a midnight snack or going to to church to pray? It’s not uncommon for a pious person to partake in evening prayers.

She and Hee-ja watch Youths Over Flowers together as they settle in to bed, but Choong-nam can’t help but remember how confused Hee-ja was the night the aunties stayed at her place. Hee-ja’s in a happy mood as she wonders what it would be like to go on a “Youths Over Flowers” style road trip with the other aunties. Ooooh, can we have the next series be “Aunties Over Flowers,” pretty pretty please?

Choong-nam hesitates a second, then asks Hee-ja if she leaves the house at night, like, to pray or something. But Hee-ja thinks that’s ridiculous, because why would she leave her house at night, especially to do something that she could easily do in the day. Choong-nam then asks how much Hee-ja eats during the day, and she says it’s not that much, yet she poops more than anyone else she knows.

Speaking of which… As Hee-ja runs off to use the toilet, Choong-nam worriedly begins to realize that Hee-ja may have dementia after all. As Hee-ja sleeps, Choong-nam stays awake, watching her closely.

Suddenly Hee-ja wakes up and begins to head to the door. Choong-nam follows, nervously asking where she’s going. She tries to hide the fear that lurks in her eyes as she reminds Hee-ja who she is, telling her that she should leave the house because Chong-nan doesn’t like being alone.

Hee-ja just looks so heartbreakingly lost and confused as Choong-nam guides her back into the living room and tucks her back into bed. She asks Hee-ja where she wanted to go, and Hee-ja sadly says to church, so she could repent. She refuses to talk about it further as she silently begins to cry, and Choong-nam gently wipes her tears and stays by her side, holding her hand until Hee-ja falls asleep.

In the morning, she fills Seung-jae in on what happened. They agree that they have to tell Hee-ja’s kids, but first they’ll tell Jung-ah, because she’ll be the one to best break the news to Min-ho. As Choong-nam hesitates before calling Jung-ah, Hee-ja bounces in, proudly telling her that she made breakfast. Choong-nam says that she’ll be right there after she makes a phone call.

As Nan-hee gets her MRI, Choong-nam and Seung-jae tell Jung-ah about Hee-ja. The loyal friend refuses to believe it, pointing out that she knows Hee-ja better than anyone else, and that Hee-ja’s always been strange since she was a kid. But Jung-ah also recalls all the odd instances in the past few months, and her defense of her friend sounds more like an effort to convince herself than anyone else.

She tries to pull herself together as she sheds emotional tears, remembering all her happy times with her friend. She also recalls Hee-ja’s explanation of why she tried to commit suicide — to keep her children from having to deal with her if her delusion became dementia. That was also the same time Jung-ah had told her that Hee-ja wasn’t allowed to die without her.

As she puts on her coat — her treasured gift from Hee-ja — she calls her friend, telling her that she wants to see her soon. She acts happy for Hee-ja, but as soon as she hangs up, she has to use the wall to hold her up. She asks Choong-nam for a few more moments before they go tell Min-ho, and Choong-nam and Seung-jae quietly wait for the sound of Jung-ah’s sobbing to cease.

After her MRI, Nan-hee dazedly rides the bus home, ignoring any phone calls. The doctor told her it was urgent to get surgery, but the soonest he could get her in would be three weeks later. She finally picks up the phone when she sees Wan calling. Wan’s been frantically trying to run the restaurant since Nan-hee hasn’t been answering her employee’s calls.

Nan-hee just tells her she was out shopping, much to Wan’s astonishment, and then she hangs up. Young-won fixes her makeup in preparation for meeting her old flame. Seung-Jae, Choong-nam, and Jung-ah arrive at Min-ho’s work, and he greets them happily until he sees the serious expressions on their faces.

Hee-ja walks along the bridge, singing to herself as she carries a pillow like a baby on her back. Nan-hee, sitting on the bus and lost in her thoughts, drives by without noticing her.

COMMENTS

Is there ever going to be an episode of this show that doesn’t involve me turning into a blubbering mess? No? Well, okay, then.

I wish there was a way I could reach through the screen and somehow making everything right again. Nan-hee would be cured and Hee-ja would just be her 4D self, minus the dementia. Young-won would be able to live happily-ever-after with her first love and Choong-nam would pass her college entrance exams and show those professors what it truly means to be an intellectual. Jung-ah would live in her house of dreams, happy and free forever’n’ever, and Wan would get married in a beautiful Slovakian church.

But it feels as hopeless as expecting Yun-ha to fully walk again by next week.

No, not hopeless — that’s not the right word. Sad, worrisome, fretful — yes. But hopeless? No, not while these lifelong friends have each other. Maybe there won’t be the idyllic ending that I desire and feel that these amazing women so rightfully deserve, but at least I know that whatever happens, they’ll have each other.

Still, no one will mind if I slip out of my house in the middle of the night and pray for a “happily ever after,” will they? I don’t care if it’s delusional — I love these aunties too much to watch them be hurt and broken for even a few more episodes.

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"I wish there was a way I could reach through the screen and somehow making everything right again. "

Me too, me too. Thanks for the recap of this really wonderful drama, odilettante.

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Watching Hee Ja walk so happily with the 'baby' at her back made me so sad. Nan Hee has always been so strong and watching her look so defeated is so heartbreaking. I don't know who I feel more sorry for.
Maybe Jung Ah, the news was such a blow to her

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This was a really rough episode to watch - so depressing. I fear things will get a lot worse before they get better.

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I love this show for being realistic. Sometimes in life you make plans but fate has others. I do hope it is a happy ending though, because even though this show is realistic it is a drama so it can break a couple rules. I agree with what you said, one thing for sure is that they will always have each other. Thanks for the recap odilettante. :)

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"and Wan would get married in a beautiful Slovakian church"

Yun-ha lives in Slovenia (beaches, fairly warm climate, kinda like Croatia), not Slovakia (no sea, mountains, think Austria) ;)

My 2nd favourite drama as of late, after "Oh Hae-young", now it will fight with "Beautiful Mind" for that nr 1 spot

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i hear you odilettante... i make sure to watch each episode uninterrupted, coz i don't want to cry more than once in a day:( thanks for your recaps, as always!

will wait on the next recap, tissues are not enough it seems, time to grab a towel...

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Sometimes you lose little pieces of yourself every day and then grow more the next. eventually though the pieces you lose outnumber the pieces you gain. You can't stop it. All you can do is hold on to what's left until it's all gone.

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Kim Hyeja is one heck of an actress. Well, they all are, but Heeja is killing me in this. When are we ever going to get to see a drama like this again?

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agreed.. i shed tear just looking at her eyes.. no words needed

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I love every characters. So realistic the story- growing old, having sickness, dealing with loneliness and grumpy hubby. Makes me appreciate my hubby more. Really hope wan can go and marry her guy cos very heartbroken if she has to stay and look after her mum. The friends are all so sweet and supportive of each other- dropping everything to look for hee ja. This is my favorite drama after beautiful mind

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"Is there ever going to be an episode of this show that doesn’t involve me turning into a blubbering mess? No? Well, okay, then." I gave up and just grab a new box of tissues every weekend before I watch the new episodes. I am seriously considering buying stock in Kimberly-Clark, the company that makes Kleenex. The actors are so good, the production (everything, even the wardrobe) is so well done, they could do an hour on the aunties brushing their teeth and it would be completely entertaining.

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Give Wan and Yun ha a happy ending pleaaaase *-*

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