Dear My Friends: Episode 8
Mothers and daughters. Love and friendship. These themes have been the core of this drama since the beginning, but now that we’re halfway through, we begin to delve even further, discovering the flip-side of those relationships. Some of them are beautiful despite the hardships, and some have a darkness that remains carefully hidden — or tries to remain hidden, but nothing can stay secret forever.
EPSODE 8: “As if nothing had happened.”
Stunned, Nan-hee watches through the window as Dong-jin and Wan hug. She staggers under the weight of this discovery — it’s all the proof she needs to verify that Wan is dating a married man, but in reality, that hug is their declaration that things are over between them.
As Wan leaves the office, she turns back to say a final “good-bye” to her first love, and Dong-jin tells her she should just focus on Yun-ha now. Except, Wan informs him, Yun-ha has a new girlfriend, which is a surprise to Dong-jin.
Wan slowly walks home, stopping to watch the flower petals rain down around her. She calls Yun-ha, holds up her phone so he can watch the cherry blossoms while she sings to him. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he smiles at her video call, enjoying the shared moment.
In the morning, Nan-hee has a hard time focusing on anything when all she can picture is Dong-jin kissing her daughter. She arrives at the publishing company, and despite how busy he is, Dong-jin pleasantly greets her and invites her in to his office to have a cup of coffee.
As he clears a spot for Nan-hee to sit down, she studies the photos of him with his wife and children. Just as he’s apologizing for the chaos — it’s their busy season — Nan-hee throws a cup of water in his face. She starts to hit him, asking if he played around with Wan because she was the daughter of a widow.
Despite his surprise, Dong-jin retains his composure as the rest of his staff hurry to help restrain the angry woman and release her tight grip on his hair. But she’s furious, demanding to know how it can just be a “misunderstanding” when he has a wife.
One of the girls at the office tries to call Wan, but she’s unable to pick-up at the moment. Apparently Nan-hee did enough damage for Dong-jin to warrant a trip to the hospital, and she calls Choong-nam, who cautiously asks what happened. Nan-hee unrepentantly tells her that she pulled his hair and kicked him where the sun don’t shine.
Choong-nam has a coffee date with Seung-jae, but is totally taken aback when he informs her that he only asked to meet because he needs her help in convincing Hee-ja to go on a trip with him. Once she comes to grips with the fact that he doesn’t want to travel with her, she firmly tells him that she won’t don’t it.
He doesn’t understand why she’s acting so mad, and when she admits that she likes him, he starts to laugh. He thinks of her as just a little kid, someone he’s known since she was in diapers. But Choong-nam is on the warpath, demanding to know if he doesn’t like her because he thinks she’s stupid — just like her professor friends do.
Speaking of which, they arrive at the coffee shop just then, bearing a gift of a fancy vase. They apologize for their previous actions, where they left her to pay their bar bill. She yells at them for confusing her on purpose with the directions she gave her that day, and the professor stands up, offended on his own behalf.
He calls her a bully for using her age to get her way and ordering them about, but she argues back that, as professors, they shouldn’t stoop to her old ignorant level. The professor snatches back his vase and flounces out.
Seung-jae tries to get Choong-nam to calm down, telling her she’s overreacting and should have a seat. Instead, she orders him to stand up, demanding to know why he doesn’t like her. He simply says that he likes Hee-ja — Choong-nam is like a sister to him. Once again, he asks for her help in wooing Hee-ja.
But she asks if she’s just the supporting role in his life — the one who passes along the love-letters to someone else. Well, she’s the main character in her life and she refuses to play a secondary role. Ha, she even grabs the flowers he bought for Hee-ja as she leaves. You go, girl!
He’s completely bewildered by her actions, wondering what got into her. He calls Young-won to see if Choong-nam is really serious, and she teasingly tells him that he’s so popular now that she might fall for him, too. Dazed, he says he’s too old to deal with this kind of attention.
Young-won tells Choong-nam that there will be karmic retribution for deciding she doesn’t want Seung-jae and that she doesn’t want anyone else to have him, either. Choong-nam doesn’t care — if she ends up in hell, she’s dragging all the aunties down with her. Besides, this is the first time she has the position of power, and she’s going to use it.
Later, Wan apologizes to her coworker for not answering her phone and forgetting to call back, but when she hears what her mother did, she just closes her eyes as though she’s in pain. She thinks about her mother’s recent comment about how she’s slaved her life away for her daughter, wondering why Wan seems so different than she used to be.
Wan remembers the night when she was young and her mother took her to the empty field. She pulls out a yogurt drink — and in the bag is also a mysterious bottle. That can’t be good.
Cracking open another can of beer, Wan tries to focus on her work, but she can’t rid the memory of her mother handing over the yogurt drink, and young Wan sadly asking if she could not drink it. But ever obedient, she takes it from her mother, and as she watches while her mother downs her drink, young Wan slowly drinks, too.
Nan-hee calls just then, and Wan seems barely able to spit out her words as she tells her that she’s working and she’ll call her back. Ahhhh, yes, that mysterious bottle was definitely not a good thing, because a man — her father? — runs through the field with young Wan on his back, as she coughs up blood, having been poisoned.
Adult Wan tells us that she clearly remembers that night, but she never asked her mother why she did it. Should she do the same tonight, pretending that today’s incident never happened?
Nan-hee angrily washes the dishes at work, cursing her daughter for dating a married man after the way she raised her. Wan, in her voice-over, tells us that she can’t keep quiet any more — it’s time for her to directly tell her mother to stay out of her life. She’ll no longer pretend like nothing has happened.
Suk-gyun can’t stop bragging about the way he was able to help Soon-young and send her the 500,000,000 won he and Seung-jae got from Sae-oh. Aw, he’s so proud of her simple “thank you, Dad” text message and he keeps bringing it up until Jung-ah looks like she’s ready to smack him.
He leaves just as Choong-nam arrives (and he tells Jung-ah to tell her about Soon-young’s message, hee!). But she’s there on business, about the property Jung-ah asked her to sell for her. Except that Choong-nam’s discovered that only one property is under Jung-ah’s name — the rest were changed to Suk-gyun’s siblings without Jung-ah’s knowledge.
Choong-nam is ready to curse Suk-gyun for being a thief, but Jung-ah just wants to know if her single property is enough for 50,000,000 won. Choong-nam assumes she wants the money for Soon-young, but Jung-ah says it’s for herself — she wants to move out.
At the farm, Nan-hee continues to help out while Granny yells at her son for being too distracted by his girlfriend to get his work done. Sounds like she’s more concerned he’ll be a womanizer like his father, and Nan-hee says that if he wants to marry his girlfriend, than Granny should just let him. Does she think the “other woman” is stealing her son from her?
Distracted by her husband taking his oxygen tube from his nose, Granny yells at him, asking if he just wants to die. She’s already cost him enough by having her call the ambulance so frequently. In a huff, she gets on her ATV and rides out to In-bong, asking him how much debt his girlfriend has.
At first she hears that it’s only 20,000 won (about $20), but In-bong repeatedly yells that it’s 20,000,000 won (about $20,000) and Granny grumbles that there’s no way her son is worth that much. As she drives off, he yells that they can sell some of their fields or ask Nan-hee for help.
Choong-nam, Young-won, and Jung-ah are at Hee-ja’s house, and they’re astonished to realize that Jung-ah is serious about her declaration to get to a divorce. Choong-nam is the only one who supports her, pointing out that it would mean that all the friends would be similar — all of them would either be unmarried, divorced, or widowed.
Both Hee-ja and Young-won think it would best if Jung-ah stayed with Suk-gyun — what’s the point in getting a divorce so late in life? In the spirit of compromise, Young-won proposes that they go on a trip — Jung-ah will feel batter after that. But Jung-ah is determined. She’s not going to live her life trapped like her mother. Instead of waiting to die to be free like a bird, she wants to live freely now.
While the aunties discuss what to do with Jung-ah, Seung-jae calls, asking Hee-ja to go on a trip with him, but she just hangs up. Ha! The aunties all agree that Jung-ah is pretty stubborn, and that if Suk-gyun refuses to get a divorce, then Jung-ah will have to take it to court.
Hee-ja wants to call Nan-hee over to discuss it, but Young-won tells her that Nan-hee is having troubles of her own. Choong-nam bluntly says it has to do with Wan dating someone she shouldn’t, which worries Hee-ja even more, but she’s distracted by the thought that Jung-ah could live with her after the divorce. Ha, it’s hilarious watching Choong-nam and Hee-ja try to converse with their very different styles of communication.
When Hee-ja asks Jung-ah if she’d live with her after the divorce, Jung-ah scoffs — she can’t stand the husband she’s lived with for fifty years, so why would she choose to live with someone else? Aw, but look at Hee-ja’s sad puppy-dog face — how could she possibly say “no” to that?
Hee-ja suddenly orders all the aunties to leave. She bursts out that Jung-ah seems nice and friendly, but she secretly stabs people in the back. She was only pretending to be an obedient wife to Suk-gyun just so she could betray him in the end. Hee-ja retreats to her bedroom, yelling that Jung-ah is two-faced. Choong-nam and Young-nam are a little stunned by Hee-ja’s outburst, but Jung-ah takes it in stride, telling them they should at least eat the meal she prepared before they go.
Nan-hee arrives at Wan’s apartment, but this time her passcode doesn’t work, and she’s forced to ring the doorbell. Wan silently lets her in, looking sick and pale as she retreats to the bathroom. Without saying a word, Nan-hee impatiently waits for her, but when she doesn’t come out, she opens the door to find Wan leaning over the sink.
She’s a little surprised that Wan is drunk at this hour of the day, but without judgement she tells her to take a cold shower and get sober. Wan simply says that she tried but it didn’t help. The memories of her mother declaring that there are only two men she won’t allow Wan to date — married men and handicapped men — mingle with the moment she saw Yun-ha get hit by the truck.
Nan-hee asks what will help her get back to her senses, and Wan wearily says a cigarette, but she doesn’t have any — will Mom buy her a pack? Shocked by her request, Nan-hee just shuts the door, but then goes to the nearest convenience store.
She throws the cigarette pack at her daughter as though she can barely stand touching it, and then turns her back while Wan smokes. Nan-hee’s patience finally wears out, and she grabs a water glass from Wan, tossing it to the floor.
As she weeps and beats on her daughter, she asks how Wan can act in such a way, after all she’s taught her. To date a married man and to smoke in front of her mother — how could she, how could she? Nan-hee repeats over and over.
Wan has no fighting spirit in her, simply accepting her mother’s grief, and when she accidentally answers her phone, Yun-ha just listens to Nan-hee’s cries as she wails about Wan’s actions. After a silent moment, he hangs up. Apparently he was calling to “stand up to his girlfriend,” as Nikita describes it, but knowing that she’s going through a hard time, he refrains.
After she leaves Wan’s apartment, Nan-hee dumps an armful of soju onto the counter of a convenience store. She’s surprised to see that the clerk is her musician friend, who thoughtfully adds a couple of health tonics, complimentary, encouraging her to drink those first. But she just silently gets into her car and drives off.
Young-won finds Nan-hee in her bedroom, sitting on the floor, surrounded by her soju bottles. Like daughter, like mother? Crying, she tells Young-won that, thanks to her husband’s affair, she always considered any woman who dated married men to be a crazy bitch. She even thought of Young-won like that, and they were best friends. But she can’t bring herself to call Wan that. Sobbing, she asks Young-won what she should do.
Hee-ja isn’t over Jung-ah’s declaration that she won’t live with her after the divorce, and calls her late at night, informing her friend that she can live just fine on her own. Also, she’s not “tiresome” — she’s worked very hard all her life not to be a burden to anyone, and even when she was struggling about her husband’s affair, she didn’t discuss it with Jung-ah.
Still insisting that she’ll live alone, Jung-ah tells her that they just won’t get along if they lived together. Hee-ja sleeps with all the lights on and cleans with a roll of tape, while Jung-ah sleeps with the lights off and eats snacks at night. They should just continue to live alone and meet when they can.
Hee-ja dramatically agrees, sadly adding that this is why they say women aren’t loyal. She just didn’t think that she and Jung-ah would end up like that. Sighing, Jung-ah hangs up, grumbling that Hee-ja is making a big deal out of nothing. Then she sighs, missing her mother. Aw.
With new determination, Hee-ja calls Seung-jae to tell him that she’ll go on the trip with him. He’s delighted and does his little celebratory dance. He sends off a text to Choong-nam, thanking her for visiting Hee-ja and convincing her to go on the trip.
She didn’t, of course, and Choong-nam calls Hee-ja, asking who she likes more. Hee-ja says she likes Choong-nam more, and Choong-nam tells her that if she values their friendship, to not go on the trip, because she likes Seung-jae and doesn’t want them to end up in a love triangle.
Hee-ja acquiesces, but the moment she wants to discuss what happened with Jung-ah, Choong-nam tells her she’s busy and hangs up. That’s okay — there’s always Gi-ja to talk to, and she reassures Hee-ja that Jung-ah was being too harsh. Except the nosy Gi-ja wants to know if Hee-ja gave Jung-ah more money than her.
She then tries calling her son Min-ho, but his wife says that he’s asleep. It’s a lie, though, and as they eat dinner, they watch her on the security cameras. No one is available for Hee-ja to talk to at this time of night — except Jung-ah. Hesitating, she scrolls down her list of names, pausing at Jung-ah, before sending a text message to Seung-jae, canceling the trip. Choong-nam means more to her than he does.
Young-won is staying at Nan-hee’s for the evening, and it’s cute how she playfully flirts with Nan-hee as they share a bed. When Nan-hee chides her, she reminds her that she has cancer. So whenever Nan-hee thinks her life is going terribly, she should remember that it can’t be as bad as Young-won’s.
But she does have one benefit from her cancer — she encourages everyone else. They look at her and feel pity for how her life has ended up. She laughs at the way they post encouraging comments online, telling the skeptical Nan-hee that it’s good to laugh whenever you can. After all, she doesn’t have cancer.
The two friends talk late into the night, and Nan-hee admits that she finds it hard to believe Wan would date a married man — she thought she raised her daughter better than that. But Young-won points out that’s not how it works — it doesn’t matter what a parent tells their children, they can’t control their lives.
Wan spends the evening tidying up her apartment — starting from the glass that her mother threw against the floor, to the all the empty bottles and cans of alcohol, until her apartment is fully clean and organized. Breathing deeply, Wan sets to work, typing the first chapter of her book and then changing the chapter title from “Mother” to “Nan-hee’s Story.”
It’s 2am and Hee-ja flips through the tv channels, painfully aware of how slowly time ticks on. No one is answering their phones at this hour, and Hee-ja finally resigns herself to calling Jung-ah, who was sleeping but wakes up to answer the phone. Hee-ja wonders if Jung-ah keeps her phone on in case Soon-young calls, but Jung-ah chuckles that her daughters don’t even call during the day, so why would they call in the middle of night?
Jung-ah only keeps her phone on at night for Hee-ja, knowing that she gets lonely in her empty house and likes to talk to someone. She tells Hee-ja not to take it personally about her desire to live alone — her surroundings are so noisy, she just wants a chance for some peace. Besides, they’ll still see each other frequently, just like they do now.
That’s enough for Hee-ja, who tells her happily that Jung-ah isn’t two-faced after all. She’s worked so hard to support Suk-gyun that it’s time she has a life of her own. As soon as she hangs up, though, she remembers the latest gossip, and calls her back to happily talk about Seung-jae and Choong-nam. She admits she’s not sure if she likes him, but she’s decided to choose friendship and let Choong-nam have him.
In the morning, Wan visits her mother. Without a word, she settles down at the table, pulling out her note book and hitting the record button on her phone. She surprises her mother by cutting off her questions about Dong-jin and Yun-ha, telling her that she’s there to interview her for the book she’s decided to write about the aunties.
Nan-hee’s still single-mindedly determined to find out why Wan broke up with Yun-ha — was it because he cheated on her? Wan simply says that he became handicapped, and since she knew her mother wouldn’t want her dating someone like that, she abandoned him. After all, she’s always obeyed her mother.
Ignoring the surprised look on her mother’s face, she asks where they should start the interview — from when Nan-hee was born, or her first memory, or how about the night that she tried to poison her daughter? Stunned, Nan-hee just stares at her daughter, while Wan calmly asks if they should talk about that night when she was six-years old: “Why dd you try to kill me then, out in the fields?”
Ugh, what a cliff-hanger. Obviously there has to be more to this story, since from that brief flashback it looked like young Nan-hee attempted a murder-suicide, but I’m still glad Wan is calling out her mother’s imperfections and demanding answers of her own. For someone who’s spent all of her life obeying her mother, doing whatever she’s asked of her — even breaking up with the love of her life — there has to be residual bitterness. Especially since Nan-hee is the most critical of all the aunties, severely judging anyone she believes to have sinned against her.
Wan isn’t a perfect daughter, but then, Nan-hee isn’t a perfect mother, either. Perhaps it’s the desire of the previous generation to wish their offspring will be better than they are — or at least have a better life — but as Young-won points out, you can’t control someone forever. People will make their own mistakes and learn and grow from them, whether you like it or not.
Nan-hee has been the auntie I’ve had the hardest time relating to, and I think it’s because of how unforgiving she is. Clearly there is some very real hurt in her life, but it seems like she can avoid dealing with it so long as no one else makes mistakes in theirs. If you wrong her — even if it’s just by association — she’ll cut you out and never let you forget it. Then again, I have to remember that her home life wasn’t exactly ideal. From the little we’ve been able to gather, her father was an abusive alcoholic who often gambled away the household money, so she’s likely trying to compensate for the failures of her parents and her husband by focusing everything on making sure Wan is the perfect daughter she so desperately needs to believe in.
Except Wan clearly didn’t have an ideal parental role model, either. She knew, growing up, that her parents only stayed together because of her, and that her father was always in love with the other woman. While it hasn’t been openly discussed, Nan-hee definitely has a worrisome drinking habit. There is some very deep-seated hurt that has probably never really been explored in her life, and even though I know it’s coming from a place of rebelliousness, I commend Wan for refusing to ignore the skeletons in the closet. It’s time to take them out and dust them off and get to the truth, no matter how much it hurts. After all, isn’t that what Nan-hee likes to know? The truth?
In better news, I lovelovelove the friendship between Hee-ja and Jung-ah. They’ve been my favorite couple since I first met them, and I really appreciate that they know each so well that Jung-ah doesn’t take offense at Hee-ja’s dramatics. That’s just how she is and how she expresses her hurt. But Jung-ah also seems to know that acquiescing to Hee-ja’s every request isn’t healthy for her — even if she always makes sure to keep her phone nearby for those late-night calls.
But it was Choong-nam who stole today’s episode. I wanted to stand up and cheer when she told Seung-jae that she refuses to be the second lead in his story. She may continually feel insecure that she doesn’t have the book-learning that everyone else has, but she has a strength of maturity that makes me respect how unafraid she is to be utterly direct with people. I love that she doesn’t waste a second to call people out on their crap. Instead of floundering in the mire of “what does he really mean,” she immediately asks. The answer may hurt, but at least she knows what it is. To me, that’s true intelligence, and I’m glad that Choong-nam has enough self-respect to stand up for herself, even though it’s not always the easiest thing to do.