On the Way to the Airport: Episode 9
Su-ah tries to find meaning in her life apart from work this hour, but her newfound freedom actually sets her up to realize what else is truly important to her. Are her friends really her friends? Was her husband her husband, or just a pilot? Sidelining her job in the sky may ground her away from living in the clouds in one way, but in others, she’s just starting to figure out what “escape” really means.
EPISODE 9 RECAP
Remembering Hyun-joo’s words, Su-ah calls the airport and informs them that she’ll be resigning. As she returns home, Hyun-joo catches her, asking why she’s going in the wrong direction. When Su-ah tells her that she quit and asks if she did the right thing, Hyun-joo tears up at how much Su-ah suffered until now tending for an unappreciative household, and for working so hard.
Hyo-eun is alarmed when Su-ah comes home saying that she quit, and acts defensive because she thinks her mom quit just because she wouldn’t go to school. But Su-ah assures her that she doesn’t have to go today, so they’ll just spend time together without any thoughts or responsibilities.
Su-ah processes her resignation at the airport, the first time we’ve seen her there out of uniform. She starts to text Do-woo to tell him she quit, but deletes it at the last moment and wonders who one should talk to when one “breaks up” with work. She takes Hyo-eun’s hand and they start to walk out together, but Su-ah stops and takes one last look around the vast halls of the airport for the last time. Gosh, am I really tearing up?
Do-woo meets with another name on Grandma’s list, but the real owner, Mr. Moon, is out of town. His assistant informs him that Annie came to seek him out before, catching Do-woo’s interest. He tells him to come back tomorrow if he wants to meet Mr. Moon in person.
The assistant leads Do-woo to the storage shed where they keep Grandma’s ornament. Suddenly he recalls that Annie would always come in here whenever she visited, just for a couple of minutes. Do-woo looks around the shed as if in a new light, and notes a large white decorative vase in the corner.
Meanwhile, Mi-jin runs into Ji-eun at their hotel, and the two groan as they realize how close their rooms are to both Jin-suk and Hye-won’s rooms. Mi-jin tells Ji-eun to make a scene and move her and Hye-won’s rooms away from Jin-suk’s ASAP—they can’t let Hye-won and Jin-suk meet. Ji-eun can’t believe that Do-woo would really have an affair, but Mi-jin just snaps at her just to stop acting suspicious. At that moment, Jin-suk comes out of his room, and the two immediately press themselves into the wall and avoid eye contact. LOL, you two.
Su-ah and Hyo-eun visit Grandma Young-sook at the hospital, whereupon she immediately scolds Su-ah for rashly quitting her stable job. She says she would have been able to take care of Hyo-eun if she’d waited just a few days, and she’s even been doing her physical therapy exercises every day. When Su-ah tells her that she’ll be moving Hyo-eun back to her old school once the paperwork is set, Young-sook hotly orders them out.
As they head home, Hyo-eun complains about Young-sook’s temper, saying that being a working mom is hard work. Su-ah just sighs, wondering why everyone else seems so mad about her personal problem, before suggesting that they go somewhere far away, just as if she got on a flight to someplace far.
So they find themselves at an amusement park, playing bumper cars and enjoying the rides. Hyo-eun teases Su-ah for being able to take ten-hour flights but not a simple park ride. Su-ah thinks about her now former life for a moment, looking up wistfully at a passing airplane in the sky.
On the way home, Su-ah calls and informs Do-woo that she quit after seeing the peaceful laundry woman. “To think you were tired enough to envy someone who was doing laundry,” he laughs. He tells her she did the right thing, and asks what kind of comforting she needs from him.
Su-ah heads to Do-woo’s house and enters one of the rooms, which is completely empty save for a single pillow. She looks at the pillow for a moment before laying down on it, immediately immersed in her relaxed surroundings.
When Do-woo comes in, she smiles serenely up at him, and he settles down beside her. She tells him that this room seems to have a special power to separate her from the rest of the world: “Just like you, Do-woo.” Do-woo smiles and reaches out a hand to stroke her cheek, and they lie together just like that.
Afterward, Do-woo leads Su-ah out behind his house. He asks her to wait a moment before going inside to fetch something—a laundry hamper. “The first step of my comfort was my house,” he says. “The second step is laundry.” Okay, that’s cute. She tells him that she’s never done laundry in a yard before, and they hang up the laundry together, all smiles.
At night, the magic ends, and Do-woo drives Su-ah home. He asks if Hyo-eun is home alone, telling her that the phrase she says the most is: “Hyo-eun is home alone.” He wonders how free they can be when they have a family. “Maybe our age is when we say goodbye to the old things in our lives: our jobs, and…” He doesn’t finish his thought, but simply smiles and tells her that thankfully, he’ll be here for her.
Mi-jin lies alone in her hotel bed, trying to make sense of the web of relationships at play right now: Jin-suk, Hye-won, Su-ah, and Do-woo. Mi-jin tells herself that she shouldn’t make any stupid mistakes again the same way, and when she receives a text from Jin-suk inviting her to a beer at their “usual place,” she ignores it.
Jin-suk is indeed sitting at his usual bar when Hye-won and Ji-eun walk in. Hye-won recognizes him and calmly takes a seat beside him while Ji-eun nervously excuses herself to order some drinks. She texts Mi-jin about the emergency, causing Mi-jin to scream in frustration.
Hye-won wastes no time in questioning Jin-suk, asking if he knows Do-woo. Jin-suk recognizes the name as “Malaysia,” and Hye-won informs him that Do-woo is her husband. Jin-suk greets her and expresses his condolences about Annie. Just as Hye-won starts to ask him about Su-ah and Do-woo, however, Jin-suk receives a call from Mi-jin, who wants to talk back at the hotel. Jin-suk immediately excuses himself, much to Hye-won’s chagrin.
Joo-yeon hears the news about Su-ah’s resignation and muses to herself that she should let Jin-suk know about it immediately. When she reaches Jin-suk’s room, however, she catches him letting Mi-jin into his room without a word.
In the room, Mi-jin says flippantly that seeing him here seems more wrong than it did back home, and she’d better head back. Jin-suk just laughs, telling her she can relax—he doesn’t go for older women, anyway. He suddenly mentions that he just saw Do-woo’s wife, laughing that it sure is strange that everyone knows him.
Meanwhile, Joo-yeon runs into her coworkers on the elevator, holding back her tears. “Do you guys know what I saw just now?” Uh oh.
Mi-jin notes that Jin-suk’s claustrophobia went away after marriage, and Jin-suk seems touched that Mi-jin still remembers that about him. She tells him that she worried about him during every fitness test, and laughs at the idea of it being a phase, just like she was to him. He tells her that she should be honored to spend time with him, but she scoffs: “Why should I be happy to sit next to my dark past?”
At that, Jin-suk leans over and kisses her. When she doesn’t resist, he says smugly, “Your body won’t lie. How dare you pretend I’m a mistake?” She punches his shoulder, calling him pathetic, self-centered, and pitiable, but he points out that she’s only drinking water because she’s afraid she can’t control her true emotions otherwise. In response, she downs her glass of wine.
Jin-suk tells her that she’s jealous of Su-ah for living with him, and when Mi-jin jokingly agrees, he suddenly flips it on her, calling her a beautiful and capable woman. He agrees that he’s self-centered and pitiable, and asks why she can’t just spend some time with that “pitiable” being—after all, they once lived together, and they’re comfortable with each other. “Su-ah is my wife and you’re…” Jin-suk trails off, either unable or unwilling to finish his thought, and drinks his wine.
Ji-eun and Hye-won return to the hotel just as Mi-jin starts to excuse herself. Jin-suk, however, has one more thing to say. He tells her he can only share his one hundred percent with her, and asks if Mi-jin has ever missed what they had. He tells her that she’s the only one who knows everything about him, and that she’s comfortable to him. “If you miss that too, we should start seeing each other again. Let’s go where our hearts take us.”
Mi-jin leaves, but starts to pound her head into the wall. “Where my heart takes me,” she mumbles to herself. Her coworker watches from afar as she suddenly turns back around and enters Jin-suk’s room again.
The next morning, Su-ah works as a volunteer who helps students cross the road, and she and Hyo-eun share teasing smiles as they pass. She and the other moms laugh about their past jobs over coffee at Hyun-joo’s café. The other moms try to guess where Hyun-joo and Su-ah used to work and laugh at the idea that they were once stewardesses.
Su-ah and Hyun-joo take a walk together afterward, talking about how those moms only think about their kids’ education now that it’s their only identity. Hyun-joo sighs that every so often, she tries on her uniform when she misses it. As they part, Su-ah sighs wistfully.
Do-woo goes back to meet Mr. Moon, who tells him about Annie—she would come to spend time looking at Grandma’s ornament, and he always wondered why it was so important to her. A flashback shows Mr. Moon explaining to Annie that this quilt was Grandma’s first work that first got her into the business, a secret hobby that kept her away from studying or doing anything else.
Mr. Moon then showed Annie the big white vase in the corner, and told her it was a magic pot that seals up secrets. “But I don’t want my secret to be sealed up,” she said. “I want it to be carefully passed on to the next person.” Still, she cried her secret into the vase, wishing for her, her parents, and her grandparents to all be able to live happily in the future.
According to Mr. Moon, she then asked if he would let her father work for him here—not Do-woo, but her biological father. Annie had said that he traveled often that he couldn’t be with her a lot, but that he was very good at pottery. She made Mr. Moon promise not to tell anyone about what she said before looking around at the field behind Mr. Moon’s house, musing that her father loved sceneries like this.
Do-woo stumbles into the field, recalling an earlier conversation with Hye-won. She’d insisted that Annie didn’t know her biological father, but Do-woo hadn’t believed her. He looks around at Annie’s field, devastated at her suffering.
Su-ah unpacks her luggage and finds a photograph of Do-woo—the photo she found in Annie’s room. When she looks on the back, Annie had written, “Please protect my dad, Do-woo.”
As Do-woo leaves, Mr. Moon says he can’t share Annie’s secret. Still, he knows what she wanted to protect: family. She thought that if she kept lying well, she could protect both families. Do-woo doesn’t quite understand the meaning of “two families,” and sits in his car deep in thought. Later, however, Mr. Moon’s assistant knocks on his window and tells him that Annie used to live with her father before she met Do-woo, and that her “two families” refers to her biological father and Do-woo’s families.
Do-woo is shocked to hear this, and he stop the car as he drives home, confused and angry. When Su-ah texts him pictures of both sides of Annie’s photograph, he steps out and pounds his chest in fury.
He and Suk drink that night, and Suk guesses that Annie and her father must have been in contact, promising to meet at that field. Suk suggests that they start figuring out where they talked to each other, but one thing is for certain—Hye-won didn’t raise her. So why, Suk demands, did she leave her father and come here? He tells Do-woo to stop protecting Hye-won and get to the bottom of this.
Do-woo takes a walk back to his office, recalling all sides of this situation: Mr. Moon’s, his assistant’s, Hye-won’s, and Annie’s. He is totally lost in thought when he arrives at Hyun-woo’s bar, but spins on his heel and walks in the other direction. Hyun-woo muses that Do-woo walking so much must mean that he’s either horribly sad, or horribly contemplating something.
Do-woo tries to log onto Annie’s email at home, and works until dawn trying to guess the password.
At the airport, Jin-suk gathers his crew, but halts when someone mentions that tonight is Su-ah’s farewell party. Jin-suk coolly excuses himself, clearly furious. Mi-jin follows close behind, trying and failing to distract him from his anger, while Joo-yeon complains that this wasn’t the response she wanted.
Hyo-eun and Su-ah sit at home doing work when Jin-suk calls. He demands to know how she could so “selfishly” quit her job without his consent. She asks if he even thought about what might have driven her to quit, that Hyo-eun has been struggling for weeks at school from bullies and soccer. She tells him that there’s no way he would understand since he’s never seen her like that. Jin-suk tells her that he won’t tolerate her selfishness any longer, but she only says: “So don’t.” Yes!
When Ji-eun and Hye-won arrive back in Korea, Hye-won receives a text from her business friend informing her that Ji-eun’s mom knows that she lied about Grandma’s unfinished ornament. Ji-eun tells her that her mom is waiting for them back at the gallery, but when they arrive, she’s mighty pissed. Ji-eun’s mom tells her that she’ll just fault this mistake as due to Hye-won’s overeager ambition, and that Do-woo has already apologized for her mistake.
As Ji-eun listens from afar, Ji-eun’s mom tells Hye-won that she’s going to be taking over Grandma’s role as Hye-won’s mother-in-law, and says she won’t forgive her if she gives Do-woo a hard time. She tells Hye-won that she’s willing to have a purely professional relationship with Hye-won, and that otherwise, she completely trusts Do-woo.
Ji-eun has a beer at Hyun-woo’s, complaining that both her mom and Hye-won are scary. She tells Hyun-woo that her mom wants Do-woo and Hye-won to break up so he can get together with her. Hyun-woo just shakes his head, pretending he didn’t hear that.
Su-ah meets her former co-workers at her farewell party, where she receives an expensive bracelet as a farewell gift. The mood is solemn, and Su-ah asks them all to remember how great she was at her job. Mi-jin asks what difference that would make, but Su-ah explains that she doesn’t want her career history to disappear after she worked so hard.
When Mi-jin tries to laugh off the solemn mood, however, their younger coworker suddenly blurts out that Mi-jin was part of the reason for Su-ah’s hardship. She says that Su-ah always looked out for her when everyone else saw her as a rival, and she respects her completely: “So how did you end up with a friend like that?” OMG.
She says that she and Joo-yeon saw Mi-jin go into Jin-suk’s room late at night, and that she knows they were having an affair. Su-ah is shocked for a moment, but then takes it in stride, telling her that Mi-jin and Jin-suk are very close—they might even have married if she and Jin-suk hadn’t married each other first. Mi-jin agrees, saying that they were only talking about business, but her tone is cold: “Is that a problem?”
Joo-yeon tries to dispel the awkwardness while the others take the coworker out. She apologizes for ruining Su-ah’s party, and everyone else files out quickly after.
Su-ah tells Mi-jin that she should have been more careful when there were so many people watching, but Mi-jin just laughs that there sure aren’t any secrets in the world: “After all, who would have thought that the wife of the man you’re having an affair with would be on the same flight as me?” Oh man.
Do-woo is still at home trying to log onto Annie’s email, and finally guesses it right with his own name as the password. The first email he sees was sent a day before her death to her biological father, telling him she was coming to Korea. “Mom isn’t happy, but I want to be there for Grandma’s birthday,” she writes. Another email: “I don’t believe Mom, but if you really are avoiding me, you only have to give me one reply and tell me you’re okay. I’ll wait however long it takes.” Do-woo looks through all of their emails, seeing that she and her biological father had been in contact for years.
And one last email, sent from her father two years ago, telling her he loves her.
Do-woo thinks of all the times Hye-won lied to him, and remembers all the times he gave Annie a ride to Mr. Moon’s. One of Annie’s emails says: “Dad, why didn’t you come today? I waited all day in the field. You didn’t show up, but I’ll keep waiting for you. No matter what Mom says, I know you didn’t abandon me.”
Mi-jin tells Su-ah that she knows she’s cheating with Do-woo, and tell her to stop seeing him.
As Do-woo stares at the computer, Hye-won returns home. He looks up at her and says, “You… Who are you?”
AHHH! Everyone knows!
This was the moment I was waiting for, but who knew it would happen so early? This drama continues to surprise me with its pace, and I’m glad that the show really knows how to keep us on edge—it’s slow enough to be wistful, thoughtful, and poetic in all the ways it promised, but fast-paced enough to be dramatic, not melodramatic. Having a handle on both sides of that coin is no easy feat, but the drama has such assured direction that it just takes me along on this emotional ride. Even in this episode, the scene when Su-ah looks back at the airport after she quits, and the scene where she lies down in Do-woo’s house in the serene isolation of nature—those were such beautiful moments. But minutes later, I was on the edge of my seat when a terrifying Hye-won questioned Jin-suk in a bar, or when Ji-eun’s mom beat her down with a few, carefully chosen words. Such skill!
I honestly could talk about all the things this drama does well, but since I’ve done that quite a bit in my previous comments, I’ll talk about what I think is its biggest flaw: I’m not sure the drama is giving me sufficient reasons to believe that Su-ah and Do-woo should be apart. It’s very, very clear that Su-ah and Do-woo are the only things that give each other meaning and peace. On Su-ah’s side, she doesn’t really love Jin-suk, and I’m convinced that Do-woo never loved Hye-won—if he did, he most certainly doesn’t anymore.
Even if they do care about their spouses to a certain degree, it seems to only be a matter of time before they’ll break up anyway. Hyo-eun doesn’t necessarily want her mom to be with her hotheaded and difficult father if it’s hard for her, and while Young-sook might take Jin-suk’s side, she believes in Su-ah’s qualities and in Hyo-eun enough not to make her life hell or any such thing. Their friends—Hyun-woo, Ji-eun, and Mi-jin—are good friends if a bit wishy-washy, but if they can’t accept their friends’ happiness, Su-ah and Do-woo are probably ultimately better off without them.
In that sense, while I know that it’s only a matter of time before everyone breaks up with each other, the real question is how they’ll end up finding each other. Will friendships be broken? Will families be torn apart? With more than halfway to go, I can’t see this drama ending without tears—but does it make me bad for looking forward to it?