On the Way to the Airport: Episode 16 (Final)
This is it, folks — everything our characters have gone through has all led up to this. Before Su-ah and Do-woo can even think about having a life together, we still have one more confrontation to power through, and it could be the most surprising of the entire show. The defining moments in life aren’t always as big and dramatic as they’re often represented onscreen, and On the Way to the Airport is here to remind us that sometimes, things just happen, and we have to find a way to go on from there.
FINAL EPISODE RECAP
Su-ah enters the apartment with a heavy heart, saddened to return without Hyo-eun. She lies in Hyo-eun’s bed and remains there for the rest of the day, all curled up.
When night falls, she takes a walk around the neighborhood, much like she used to do in Jeju. Do-woo calls to ask what she’s up to, and upon hearing she’s walking around, he urges her to walk “to his house.” Su-ah smiles and says that no matter how far she walks, his house won’t appear.
Suddenly, a car parked in front of her flashes its lights – it’s Do-woo’s car. Su-ah stares at him, completely stunned, while Do-woo merely gives her his signature warm smile.
Do-woo takes Su-ah away from the apartment, saying that he knew she’d be slumped down after sending Hyo-eun off to New Zealand. “Like when Hyo-eun’s mom and Annie’s dad first talked on the phone,” he clarifies.
Though he’s not someone to remember people easily, Do-woo claims that he remembers everything about the first time he saw her.
This is news to Su-ah, who had no idea Do-woo even saw her there on the street way back when. She wonders how he could’ve seen her.
Do-woo takes them to their special room at the old house so they can talk comfortably. Su-ah even notes that the second she walked in, her heart felt a little more at ease. Do-woo suggests they make this room their home, though Su-ah feels bad since she’d insisted on suffering alone. Do-woo reminds her that he went through it first, and while he knows that a divorce is hard, he knows it’s even harder now when feelings that had never appeared before are suddenly popping up.
Su-ah lets his words sink in. “You meet and you part,” she says. “It’s such a common thing. You meet, you live, and you part.” And it’s that middle – the living – that becomes hard, she says. Do-woo says that he should live at least one day with her then, and he jumps up to grab some blankets. He leaves again to find some beer in the fridge and comes back to find Su-ah laughing while on the phone with Hyo-eun. He smiles to see her looking so happy again.
After she hangs up, Su-ah admits to Do-woo that she’d returned to Seoul with the plan to eventually return to Jeju Island with Hyo-eun, but she hadn’t been sure what she was going to do after that. And after Hyo-eun left for New Zealand, Su-ah says she was more confused than ever.
She lifts her eyes to look at Do-woo. “About returning to Jeju Island,” she starts. “I’m not so sure about that.” She thinks that there would be too many memories of Hyo-eun on the island, and she doesn’t have the courage to go there right now.
Do-woo smiles with understanding, and then half-jokes that it’s too bad, since he was planning on hiding out on the island with her.
The next morning, Su-ah slowly opens her eyes to find Do-woo already up, watching her intently. He asks what they should do today, and then suggests they simply rest and shut themselves in. They silently agree and continue gazing at each other lovingly.
Do-woo eventually comes out to greet Suk, who’s surprised to see he’s back in Seoul. He’s even more surprised when he notices Su-ah trailing behind Do-woo. When Suk asks who she is, Su-ah’s eyes widen with panic. Do-woo isn’t at all ashamed and happily introduces her as “Choi Su-ah – someone like family.”
Do-woo and Su-ah spend the rest of the day together strolling outside, enjoying drinks, and learning a little more about each other’s pasts.
The two settle back down in their secret room, and the conversation turns a bit more serious. Do-woo reveals that when he was waiting for Su-ah in Jeju, he would think of Annie and how she’d waited for her father. Hearing the guilt in his voice, Su-ah says, “I think it was thanks to you that Annie was able to wait.” She reminds him that Annie had always insisted on bringing Do-woo along to the pottery house when she could’ve gone alone, and that having Do-woo there must’ve made Annie feel strong. “Just as I do now,” Su-ah concludes.
Do-woo’s face does light up at that, though it dims again when he asks if Jin-suk is arriving tomorrow. He tells her there is one thing she can do: drop everything and run away. Su-ah says that anticipating nothing is the last of the three conditions they had for their relationship and thinks they should at least keep that, while Do-woo thinks they might as well break it now.
They’re interrupted by Su-ah’s phone ringing, and Su-ah says that it’s Hyo-eun calling for their video chat. Do-woo gets up to leave, telling her to take as much time as she needs and to call him when she’s done.
However, Su-ah doesn’t call Do-woo when she’s done. She sits in the room contemplating what to do while Do-woo remains in his office, wanting to go back to her. They’re like that all night, until Su-ah finally decides to leave that morning. As she rides the bus home, she narrates her apology to Do-woo.
Su-ah: “Do-woo, I’m sorry to leave without saying goodbye. If I stayed another five minutes, I’d probably run away with you, just as you said. It’s still hard to know what’s best for me, but right now, I think what’s best is to live blamelessly. I’m going to close my eyes and pass through it. When I open my eyes again, I hope to be sitting by your side with a peaceful heart.”
Su-ah opens her eyes, only to heave a big sigh to see that she’s once again sitting in her apartment alone.
Mi-jin spots Jin-suk in the airport and immediately texts Su-ah to let her know that he’s back in Seoul. This irritates Jin-suk, but Mi-jin tells him it’s time to stop running away. She sincerely wishes for him to overcome this before bumping into a colleague who asks what she should do with Su-ah’s nomination as an employee trainer. Mi-jin tells her to keep Su-ah’s name on the list.
Jin-suk takes a deep breath before coming into the apartment. But when he does come in, he walks past Su-ah and straight into his room. What did Mi-jin just say about running away?
When Jin-suk finally comes out to talk, he rambles on about Su-ah’s flight to New Zealand, not letting her speak. He wants them to wait until they’re all in New Zealand before they talk about anything.
But Su-ah doesn’t sit still this time, and demands that he get angry or at least ask her about it. Jin-suk argues that now that Su-ah is back home, she should just face reality. Su-ah’s frustration boils up and she has to pound her chest with a fist to keep herself from breaking. She fires back that she’s going to say what she needs to say, making Jin-suk stare at her and fall silent.
Su-ah says that Hyo-eun is liking her new home, so it seems right for Jin-suk to transfer over there. But she is going to keep living in Seoul, and suggests they settle this once and for all and just part ways. Jin-suk questions who Su-ah plans to live with then, and asks, “Seo Do-woo?” His words hit Su-ah like a punch in the gut. Jin-suk continues that he doesn’t want her to beg for forgiveness just so she can feel better; he’d rather she just swallow whatever bad feelings she may have.
But it looks like Su-ah is already done. She stands up, telling him that she won’t say anymore, and that she won’t be going to New Zealand either. Jin-suk: “It’s a crisis. Overcome it.” Su-ah: “It’s not a crisis. It’s already shattered.”
Su-ah leaves him there, and he’s too stunned to grab her or say anything else. Su-ah tries to collect herself on the elevator ride down, chanting “It’s okay, it’s okay” to herself. You did well, Su-ah. I’m proud of you.
Meanwhile, Do-woo meets with Ji-eun to take on a new project, which Ji-eun happily accepts. Do-woo then visits Hyun-woo to help out at the bar before it opens. He notices a new picture on the wall – the view of Seoul from the second floor – and something about it makes him stop.
Back in his apartment, Jin-suk is still shaken from his argument with Su-ah. His eyes land on the framed ornament of Grandma’s resting on the living room shelf, and the next thing we know, he’s leaving the building with the ornament in hand and determination in his stride.
Su-ah finds herself wandering over to Hyun-woo’s bar, and Hyun-woo smiles at her, saying that Do-woo has been wandering around the neighborhood as well ever since he spotted the picture on the wall.
Su-ah inspects the picture herself, remembering the first time she saw this view. She then climbs the stairs to the balcony on the second floor, surprised to see Do-woo walking down the street right below her.
She calls him and he immediately picks up, asking how it went with Jin-suk. She’s glad to report that she got everything off her chest, but she’s not sure if Jin-suk will actually listen to her. Do-woo wants to see her and asks where she is, but she just tells him to guess.
She gives him hints, saying that it’s a place she greatly missed somewhere Do-woo often comes and goes. Do-woo thinks that it’s Jeju Island, and Su-ah muses that this place is a lot like Jeju. Do-woo then walks out of her line of sight and she says, “I can’t see you.” When he’s too confused to answer, Su-ah explains that she now knows how he saw her the first time they talked on the phone.
Do-woo finally understands and looks up, smiling to realize how close they are. He notes that even now, they always end up in the same place, whether that be on Jeju Island or merely walking around Seoul. He tells her to stay put and that he’ll be right up.
However… oh no. Jin-suk pulls up to the bar, only seconds after Do-woo heads inside.
Jin-suk goes straight to Hyun-woo and states that he’s here to see Do-woo, throwing the ornament onto a table. Do-woo stops in his tracks, looking torn over whether he should keep walking towards Su-ah or turn around and face her husband.
It only takes him a few seconds, though it feels like a hundred. Do-woo turns on his heel and reveals himself to Jin-suk. And with both aware that they know exactly who the other is, Do-woo wastes no time and gestures to a table where they can talk. Oh god, I don’t know if I’m ready for this.
As the two take their seats, Hyun-woo hurries up the stairs to find Su-ah. He quickly informs her that he knows the new owner of the second floor, so she can go in there for the time being. Su-ah asks about Do-woo, but poor Hyun-woo doesn’t seem to know what to tell her.
Jin-suk begins by saying that he’s not one to get angry or throw a fit, and Do-woo agrees that he’s the same way. Once they have that settled, Jin-suk gets straight to the point: He knows that Do-woo helped Su-ah a lot since they first sent Hyo-eun to Malyasia, and that Do-woo and Su-ah coincidentally met again in Jeju. Jin-suk, of course, has his doubts about the coincidence part, but he says that he’s decided to overlook everything.
He continues, saying that he knows men like them prefer to live freely, but that there’s a certain time when they should quit. Do-woo takes all of this in calmly, and then admits that all this time, he’d been dying to meet Jin-suk – he wanted to understand how he thinks.
Jin-suk laughs dryly, but his expression grows dark as he asks if Do-woo’s wife knows about the affair. “I asked if your wife knows what I know!” he roars.
Jin-suk’s yelling drives the rest of Hyun-woo’s customers out the door. Still calm and collected, Do-woo reveals that he and his wife divorced not too long ago. Jin-suk interprets this as a plan that Do-woo and Su-ah came up with. “Am I next?” Jin-suk asks. He seethes that it’s not going to go as they planned.
“Planned?” Do-woo repeats. “There’s nothing going as planned. People meet and they part. How does that go as planned?” Jin-suk agrees with Do-woo there – he brings up Grandma and Annie, saying that there’s no way that could’ve been planned. And if it had been, Do-woo wouldn’t be human. In the back, Hyun-woo glares at Jin-suk, calling him a bastard. I’m with you, buddy.
Do-woo is shaking as he struggles to hold his tears and his clenched fists back. It looks like he’s about to snap, but Hyun-woo beats him to it. To Do-woo’s surprise, Hyun-woo grabs Jin-suk by the collar and furiously asks Jin-suk who he thinks he is to be acting this way here. Jin-suk yells right back in Hyun-woo’s face and shoves him off just in time for Su-ah to walk in and see.
Jin-suk freezes at the sight of her. “In the end, I get to see this,” he says, his voice defeated. Su-ah tells him they need to talk, but Jin-suk wordlessly storms out. When Su-ah turns to follow him, Do-woo grabs her arm in concern. Su-ah assures him that it’s okay and goes after Jin-suk. But Jin-suk is already in his car, and he drives off without giving Su-ah a second look.
Mi-jin returns to her apartment only to have the bejeezus scared out of her when she finds Jin-suk huddled by her door. He struggles to get the word “Elevator” out, saying he couldn’t take it up to his room. Mi-jin tells him to take the stairs then, which causes Jin-suk to bang his head against the wall, breathing with difficulty. And that’s when Mi-jin realizes what’s happening.
Mi-jin lets him inside so he can pull himself together, and says that while she knows Jin-suk developed claustrophobia because of how strict his father was, he hadn’t shown symptoms for the last twenty years. (The way Mi-jin explains this feels like a heavy exposition dump, but I’ll take whatever I can get). She asks what made those symptoms reappear.
Jin-suk’s voice is shaky as he admits that he was wrong about his condition. He hadn’t been afraid of his father’s scolding – he was afraid of having what was most precious to him thrown out. Mi-jin still doesn’t understand, so Jin-suk has to say with finality that he saw Do-woo and Su-ah together.
He’d had hope that it wasn’t real since he hadn’t actually seen or heard any of it, but now that he’s seen Do-woo and Su-ah right before him, he knows that it’s over. “I won’t see Su-ah anymore,” he says. “Tell her that.” Mi-jin sighs that Jin-suk should’ve treated Su-ah better if she was so precious to him. “Shut up,” he mutters, done with this conversation.
Mi-jin later calls Su-ah and tells her about Jin-suk’s condition (even though Jin-suk told her not to), and how he may have trouble flying for now. Su-ah is speechless, so Mi-jin tells her not to worry since Jin-suk will get plenty of rest in New Zealand. Su-ah still seems to feel terrible, but she’s at least relieved to know that Jin-suk has Mi-jin. Mi-jin smiles at that and reveals that Jin-suk is now willing to part ways, and that Su-ah was, in fact, very precious to him.
Su-ah calls Do-woo and tells him everything, and though he tells her that she did a good job, she’s not sure if she can say the same to herself. Now she realizes what Do-woo meant by divorce coming with a lot more emotions than just happiness. Do-woo can tell that something is weighing on her mind and urges her to let it out.
Su-ah starts to get choked up as she tells him that after sending her daughter off and making things harder for Jin-suk, she doesn’t know if she can let herself be happy and go to Do-woo. Crying now, she says that thinking only about herself in this kind of situation is even harder on her. She hangs up without another word.
The next day, Su-ah meets with Jin-suk at the airport before he flies out to New Zealand. She tells him that she’s already explained everything to Hyo-eun, and that they can all take their time figuring things out. Jin-suk tries to act a bit aloof, saying Su-ah probably won’t worry about him, but he does sincerely say that she doesn’t need to worry about Hyo-eun either, since they’ll be in contact.
Before Jin-suk leaves, Su-ah tells him to call if there’s ever any good news. She wishes him a safe trip with a genuine smile, making Jin-suk’s expression soften ever so slightly. He nods, and they both go their separate ways.
Su-ah asks to see Do-woo one last time. Do-woo shows up to the meeting place half an hour early, and not too long after, he sees Su-ah arrive early as well. However, Su-ah doesn’t see him and sits at a different table, nervously wringing her hands. Instead of approaching her, Do-woo uses the time to gaze at her.
Once the meeting time strikes, he walks up to her with a smile, which Su-ah returns. She reminds him of the time he asked if they could welcome each other’s texts while remaining apart, because she’d like to do that now.
Do-woo asks for how long, but Su-ah doesn’t know just yet. She’s scared of Do-woo’s answer, but he readily agrees. “You won’t be able to come to me if you’re the only one happy,” he says. “That’s why I like you.” He says that for now, they’ll only text. And if Su-ah continues feeling sorry about being the only one happy, they won’t meet. But if she eventually feels that she does want to be happy, they will meet. “You can do that for me?” she asks.
Do-woo nods and reminds her of the time she’d asked what she meant to him, and how he’d told her he’d answer later. He gives her his answer now: She’s the one person he wants to spend the rest of his life with. Su-ah is moved to tears, and she can’t help but smile at Do-woo’s earnest gaze.
A few months later. We learn that Hye-won has quit her studies and moved all the way to Malaysia to help Mary with the homestay. We see her visit the same spot at the airport where Annie had died, and while it doesn’t seem like Hye-won has forgiven herself yet, it does seem like she’s found some sort of peace.
Meanwhile, Mi-jin is still hanging out with Je-ah and Kevin, Su-ah is back in her red uniform and working as a trainer at the airport, and Do-woo is hard at work with his new project alongside Ji-eun. And all the while, Su-ah and Do-woo keep up with their texting.
Everything seems to be going well, though at the end of the day, both Su-ah and Do-woo reach for a can of beer in their respective homes. “If I had to say that something was different, it’d have to be that a day is longer now,” Su-ah narrates.
One day, Su-ah finds one of Jin-suk’s old caps in the storage room and asks Hyo-eun how he’s doing these days. To her pleasant surprise, she learns that Jin-suk’s been perfectly fine, and that he’s even flying again.
Later, Hyun-joo’s husband finds Su-ah resting in the airport and finally gives her the letter from Hyo-eun that he’d forgotten to hand over before. Su-ah opens the letter and reads that Hyo-eun had felt bad watching her mom work in the orchard, but she could also tell that Su-ah was happy. Hyo-eun always looked up to her mom for working so diligently with a smile, and says that she plans to do just the same.
Do-woo sends Su-ah pictures of the views from the airport and of the Han riverside. She smiles at the two sights, replying back that the two resemble each other with their desolateness.
When Do-woo sends her a picture of another location, Su-ah guesses that it’s Jeju Island. Do-woo tells her that it’s not Jeju, but it’s similar. As Su-ah scrutinizes the photo, she thinks back to Do-woo’s promise that they can meet again once she’s ready to accept her happiness.
Suddenly, she jumps up. She grabs her coat and bolts out the door, sending Do-woo a text saying that she’s breaking the last condition — she wants to visit the place in the picture with him. As soon as Do-woo reads that, he’s out the door just as fast.
They both hurry to the airport for the next flight out and… Ah, this scene looks very familiar. Do-woo: “Where are you?” Su-ah: “I’m already at the airport.” Su-ah rides the escalator down, her eyes searching the terminal until she spots Do-woo waiting for her at the very bottom.
It’s a long way down, but she and Do-woo are no longer in any rush. They smile at each other, ready to come together again.
*slow clap* That was beautiful. I have to admit that I saw that ending coming and for the last few seconds, I was worried it was going to come across as used and cheesy. Many dramas have done the same thing with tying the ending scene with a memorable scene from the beginning, and at times, it can really feel like a cop-out. And sometimes the tie-in doesn’t even make sense (I’m looking at you, Doctor Stranger — you and your little bridge scene). But the moment I saw Su-ah step onto that escalator, I knew it would be perfect. It was a wonderful way to remember the couple’s very beginning and to look forward to their new beginning.
Though we’d all been looking forward to Su-ah and Do-woo making their relationship official, I was glad that Su-ah stuck to her guns and decided to wait until her happiness with Do-woo felt not only felt right, but earned. Su-ah has definitely grown into an admirable heroine, and it was extremely satisfying to see her finally raise her voice over Jin-suk’s — but I was also impressed that the show never changed who she was. She was a quiet, old soul who saw the beauty in everything, and who needed the time to figure her feelings out. That never changed about her, and in all honesty, it didn’t have to change. Especially since it makes sense for someone to need time to heal after a divorce.
Which brings me to the pivotal scene that initiated the divorce: Jin-suk’s breakdown in the bar. I can’t exactly call it a breakdown, but that is what it felt like. The way Jin-suk had been dealing with the discovery of the affair was interesting, because he would constantly laugh it off or ignore it completely. But seeing Do-woo there and actually talking about it made it much more real for him, and I was starting to see him crack with every dry laugh that came out of his mouth. And even still, it didn’t fully hit him until Su-ah walked in.
The symptoms of his claustrophobia that followed that, though jarring at first, eventually clicked into place for me, and I was able to understand him for the first time. The drama gave us little hints here and there that Jin-suk had had some sort of traumatic past, and it made sense for it to come up now. If anything, confronting Su-ah and Do-woo had to trigger something for him, and when it did, he had to come to terms with the fact that he’d already lost Su-ah a long time ago. I don’t see his past with his father an excuse for being a total asshole this entire time, but I think the backstory works well with the character. I wanted to see what was going on in his mind, and the drama delivered. Thank you, Airport.
I have many reasons to thank the show, the biggest being that it’s the first adultery melodrama I’ve ever watched from start to finish. I think we all came in harboring doubts as to how the show would handle the affair, but I was especially concerned since I’d had such mixed feelings about previous shows just like it, such as Secret Love Affair and Valid Love. Like the heroines of those shows, I held an intense dislike for their spouses and I gravitated much more towards the men the women would eventually fall for. Needless to say, it really messed with my head. I felt super uncomfortable rooting for something I knew was “wrong.”
After all, adultery is probably one of the most despised acts a person can do. If we think about The Scarlet Letter, it’s an act that can even be seen as evil — a result of nothing but lust. But we know that’s not always the case, since there are affairs with people who just happen to fall in love at the wrong time. And unfortunately, those affairs are almost always clumped together with the rest. Airport dealt with such an affair, and it couldn’t have been done better. The story was told in such a way that we understood our characters. We cared about them and we felt every drop of emotion they felt, whether it was the unbearable frustration within their marriages, or the sweet and endearing love they found outside of them.
We can still call this an adultery melodrama, but at a certain point, you (almost) forget about the cheating. It may be because of the stellar directing or the provocative dialogue, but I personally think it’s all thanks to the characters. Rather than focusing too much on the actual affair, we got week after week of engrossing family dynamics and individual searches for independence and happiness. Every ounce of work that went into this show is worthy of praise, but it was always those characters and the actors’ dedication to their roles that made the trip to the airport all the more worthwhile.
- On the Way to the Airport: Episode 15
- On the Way to the Airport: Episode 14
- On the Way to the Airport: Episode 13
- On the Way to the Airport: Episode 12
- On the Way to the Airport: Episode 11
- On the Way to the Airport: Episode 10
- On the Way to the Airport: Episode 9
- On the Way to the Airport: Episode 8
- On the Way to the Airport: Episode 7
- On the Way to the Airport: Episode 6
- On the Way to the Airport: Episode 5
- On the Way to the Airport: Episode 4
- On the Way to the Airport: Episode 3
- On the Way to the Airport: Episode 2
- On the Way to the Airport: Episode 1