There’s such a bittersweet joy in sending your children off to become adults, and that’s exactly how I feel, seeing this show end. But all baby birds must leave the nest, and it’s time for Bok-ju and Joon-hyung and all their friends to spread their wings. It’s been a nearly perfect journey from beginning to end, delivering love, laughter, and tears, and enough kisses and cuddles to keep us going for a long time to come. SWAG!
EPISODE 16: “Spring again, youth, and us”
Settled at the Taereung National Training Center, Bok-ju calls Joon-hyung to wish him goodnight. He tells her he’s improving his swimming times , eager to earn his own place at Taereung and join her.
Bok-ju says that she misses him, her friends, and her father’s fried chicken. Growing sleepy, Joon-hyung promises to run by Bok Chicken tomorrow and check on her dad for her.
Bok-ju tells Joon-hyung that her time at school feels like it was a dream, now that she’s at Taereung. Joon-hyung doesn’t answer, and she realizes that he’s fallen asleep and complains that she feels like she likes him more these days. Awww.
Joon-hyung heads over to Bok Chicken the following morning as promised, and finds a sign at the entrance closing the restaurant temporarily for personal reasons. He calls Uncle Dae-ho, and learns that Bok-ju’s dad is in the hospital undergoing tests to prepare for a kidney transplant.
He visits Dad, who wonders why he’s going to such lengths if he and Bok-ju are just school friends. Dad’s surgery is scheduled for the day of Bok-ju’s upcoming competition in China, so he asks Joon-hyung not to tell Bok-ju about it and worry her.
Joon-hyung gets a call just then, and barely stops himself from saying Bok-ju’s name when he answers. He says that he’ll call back when he’s done “training,” and hangs up on her. She wonders why he seems not to want to talk to her lately.
A couple of her new Taereung sunbaes ask to see a picture of her boyfriend, so Bok-ju pulls up a few on her phone. They exclaim over how handsome he is, and one girl snarks that it’s sure strange that such a good-looking guy doesn’t answer when she calls.
She tells Bok-ju that most athletes who come into Taereung with significant others end up breaking up, and that you can tell when it’s going to happen by the signs. First, you can’t get in contact with them. Then when you do, their answers are short and cold. Eventually, they ask to break up because they’ve found someone new.
Bok-ju argues that Joon-hyung is just in training, but the girls laugh that it’s lunchtime, so that’s just an excuse. Considering his looks, they give the relationship two months, because surely the girls will be all over him now that Bok-ju is gone.
While hanging out with Seon-ok and Tae-kwon, Nan-hee takes a call from Bok-ju. Bok-ju complains that she called Joon-hyung but he said he was in training, and Nan-hee tells her that can’t be true, because Tae-kwon is with them right now.
The girls confront Tae-kwon, demanding to know where Joon-hyung really is. Tae-kwon tells them that all Joon-hyung said was that he had somewhere to go, and they suspect it has something to do with a woman. Tae-kwon insists that Joon-hyung would never cheat, so the girls vow to find out what’s going on.
Dae-ho takes Joon-hyung into the hospital hallway (OMG Joon-hyung’s goofy grin every time Dae-ho calls him “nephew-in-law”). He asks Joon-hyung to come back for a couple of hours tomorrow so that he can spend some time with his girlfriend Kim Seul-gi, the sassy delivery girl. Joon-hyung agrees and heads home.
He tries to return Bok-ju’s call on the way, but she doesn’t answer. Shi-ho finds him and walks back to the dorms with him, though Joon-hyung says he doesn’t want to and attempts to send her ahead on her own.
Shi-ho says that she’s been seeing the therapist, and that she’s interviewing for coaching jobs. She asks if he’s able to see Bok-ju much, aware that it’s difficult to date someone at Taereung, and Joon-hyung sighs that he’s starting to resent his country.
After practice the following day, Tae-kwon contacts Seon-ok and Nan-hee, and the three trail Joon-hyung to see where he’s going. They follow him (super obviously) as he walks, determined to catch him with a girl, and fail at being casual when he feels like he’s being watched and turns around.
Still, they manage to track him all the way to the hospital without being caught, and gather at the hospital door once he goes inside. Seon-ok recognizes the name on the door, and Nan-hee cringes when she realizes that it’s Bok-ju’s father in the room, not a woman.
They peek in and get caught by Joon-hyung, who glares at them angrily all the way back to school. He’s especially upset with Tae-kwon for siding with the girls in thinking he was cheating, and the girls admit they were just worried because Bok-ju was upset. Joon-hyung calms down, and makes them promise to keep Dad’s secret.
Bok-ju finally answers when Joon-hyung calls again, and they both pout that it’s so hard to talk because they’re in training. Joon-hyung says he’s busy for a few different reasons, but stalls out when Bok-ju asks what kinds of reasons.
Bok-ju asks if the truth is that he has the time for her but not the heart, and Joon-hyung looks horrified at the idea, but she’s called away by her sunbae before he can answer. Joon-hyung complains to a picture of Bok-ju that hearing her voice only makes him miss her more.
Bok-ju twinges her back injury again in training, and her coach worries that it’s not getting better. She sends Bok-ju for treatment and tells her to take the rest of the day off and spend the night at home, which Bok-ju gratefully accepts.
Tae-kwon calls Seon-ok, says nervously that he has the day off, and asks her to go to a movie with him. She says she’ll call Nan-hee, but he stops her and clarifies that he only wants to go with her, dropping to banmal to make his meaning clear.
As they walk to the theater, Tae-kwon tentatively takes her hand, and Seon-ok looks up at him with wide eyes. But Nan-hee comes barreling at them and Seon-ok pushes Tae-kwon away violently (by the face, hee). Cornered, Seon-ok invites Nan-hee to the movie with them.
After getting treatment for her back, Bok-ju decides to visit home before seeing Joon-hyung. She calls her father, and Uncle Dae-ho fibs that Dad is in the bathroom, but he and Dad both jump when she says she’ll be home in a little while.
Nan-hee sits between Seon-ok and Tae-kwon at the movie, who both look miserable to have their first date thwarted. When Nan-hee nods off, their hands meet in the popcorn in her lap, and they send each other the most pathetic faces.
Dad panics at the thought of Bok-ju seeing the closed sign at the restaurant, so Dae-ho thinks fast and calls Joon-hyung. Joon-hyung rushes over to the restaurant and just barely manages to stop Bok-ju from seeing the sign, and pretends that it’s total coincidence that he just happened to show up at the same time she did.
He grabs her in a desperate hug when she tries to go inside, acting so weird that Bok-ju asks if he’s done something wrong. He says he just missed her and drags her off to eat.
He doesn’t think it through very well, and soon Bok-ju is glaring at him over a basket of… fried chicken. PFFT. She’s suspicious of everything he says by now, even though he tries to be adorable to distract her.
Bok-ju finally blows up, and asks if Joon-hyung has been flirting with other girls while she’s been gone. Joon-hyung says he doesn’t have a death wish, but he looks guilty as sin when he fakes a stomachache to answer his phone.
Of course it’s only Dae-ho, letting him know that he and Dad are on their way home and need him to stall Bok-ju for thirty more minutes. But Bok-ju is sure he’s talking to some girl, and she sneaks up on him while he’s still on the phone. HAHAHA, his face, he’s dead meat.
Joon-hyung shoves Bok-ju back to the table, swearing that he wasn’t talking to anyone she knows. He lies that it was an old school friend, but she heard enough of the conversation to hear that he was being too respectful to be talking to a schoolmate.
Joon-hyung turns accusatory, and asks why she’s nagging when they haven’t seen each other in ages. Bok-ju decides he must have been talking to a woman, and demands to see his phone. Joon-hyung plays keep-away, which just escalates the situation.
Bok-ju insists that he should show her if he has nothing to hide, while Joon-hyung hollers that she should trust him. Eventually she backs down, saying that her increased training has made her sensitive, and Joon-hyung sets his phone on the table and swears that he hasn’t even looked at another woman.
Her bluff works, and Bok-ju snatches his phone. Joon-hyung chases her around the restaurant as she tries to pull up his call history, squawking about privacy, and Bok-ju gets fed up and leaves.
Joon-hyung follows her out, but Bok-ju is in a righteous fury, though she admits that she hates feeling jealous and petty. She yells that she feels stupid for being so excited to see him, and storms off.
She walks home, grumbling the whole way. She stops short when she gets inside the restaurant, and sees her dad wiping tables with a mask on, while Dae-ho inexplicably fiddles with the fire extinguisher. Way to look completely weird, guys. Luckily Nan-hee and Seon-ok show up after having also been called by Dae-ho, and they do their trademark “swag!” move, which Dad and Dae-ho awkwardly imitate.
Dr. Go sits in her office gloomily staring at her phone, obviously disappointed when a knock on the door is just her nurse. The nurse says that “that person” must not be coming tonight, though Dr. Go swears she’s not waiting for anyone.
She carefully hides her reflexive grin when she hears Jae-yi’s voice after all, and mutters that she was not waiting for him. She says she already ate when he asks, but he dimples at her and asks if she’ll go with him while he eats.
He smiles while Dr. Go stuffs her face, and she fibs that she got interrupted while eating earlier. He takes out his phone and starts talking about other restaurants in the area they can go to, and Dr. Go suddenly jumps up and leaves.
Jae-yi catches up to her and asks what’s wrong, and she lets loose on him. She says she came all this way to get over him, but now she finds herself waiting for him every night like before. Jae-yi reaches out and hugs her, surprising Dr. Go.
He says that Seoul is lonely without her, and asks her not to tell him not to come. She nervously asks what he means, but he just asks, “By any chance, do you like Messi?” Aww, that’s adorable. Dr. Go smiles at him and he opens his arms, and this time she steps into his hug.
Bok-ju spends the evening with Seon-ok and Nan-hee, and kicks her phone grumpily when Joon-hyung calls. They ask if she’s grown tired of him already, and she complains that men don’t stay loyal if you aren’t right next to them.
Joon-hyung goes to the restaurant, worried that Bok-ju still won’t answer his calls. He reaches for the door, but Bok-ju’s dad bursts out, scaring the poor boy half to death. They sit down inside, where Dad asks what Joon-hyung did to upset Bok-ju. Joon-hyung just says it’s a misunderstanding.
Dad asks if he’s a good swimmer, and about his parents, and Joon-hyung is honest that he was raised by his aunt and uncle. But he explains that they raised him with a lot of love so he grew up well, and Dad scoffs at him saying that about himself.
Dad asks what Joon-hyung likes about Bok-ju, and Joon-hyung’s eyes go all soft. He calls her warm, and says that she has a way of warming people’s hearts, and that she’s had it ever since she was young. Dad says she gets it from him, and Joon-hyung enthusiastically agrees. Recognizing that this young man truly loves his daughter, Dad warms to him just a little and smiles.
Dad and Dae-ho send Bok-ju back to Taereung the next morning, and the moment she’s gone, they rush Dad back to the hospital. But Bok-ju doubles back for something she forgot, and sees the closed sign back up at the restaurant.
A friend of her dad’s stops by and asks Bok-ju when her dad’s surgery is scheduled. It’s news to Bok-ju, and she calls Uncle Dae-ho to ask where he is right now. He lies that he’s at the restaurant, just as she walks into Dad’s hospital room.
They sit Bok-ju down and tell her everything, explaining that they just didn’t want to worry her before her first big competition. Dad begs her not to be mad, but she says she feels bad because he always knows when something is wrong with her, but she didn’t suspect anything.
Bok-ju promises to win the gold medal for him, as long as he comes through his surgery okay. Dae-ho tells her how Joon-hyung helped them stall her yesterday, and Bok-ju realizes that Joon-hyung was acting so strange because he was helping her father.
She waits for him outside the swimming pavilion, and throws her arms in the air in supplication when she sees him (and HA, he jumps like she was going to hit him). She rattles off a complicated apology, saying that she’s sorry for listening to her Taereung sunbaes without evidence.
She explains that she’s just uneasy because he’s so handsome and has a great personality, and Joon-hyung is all And? Bok-ju continues that he’s a good swimmer and a good kisser, then says she’s done when he asks And? again, hee.
Joon-hyung takes Bok-ju back to Taereung, and pouts that it seems extra close today when he wanted to spend more time with her. He looks into Bok-ju’s eyes and tells her that he’s totally fallen for her, promising never to look at other women. He tells her that he’ll be there for Dad’s surgery, so she won’t have to worry.
He tells her to just focus on training and bring home the gold medal. They play the You go first, no you go first game, and Joon-hyung keeps sending Bok-ju on but refusing to let go of her. So cute, these two.
Bok-ju follows through on her promise to focus on training, while Joon-hyung cheers her on by making Jenga towers of her favorite sausages and sending her pictures. He texts tips on taking care of her back and sends updates on her dad, and makes a wish in their toad fountain for her success.
Finally it’s the day of the competition in China, and Bok-ju mentally prepares for her turn to lift. She gives herself a silent pep talk, telling herself that she has many people at home loving her and cheering her on. She tells herself, “Kim Bok-ju, you can do it!”
At the same time, Joon-hyung and Dae-ho wait for news of Dad’s surgery, and breathe a sigh of relief when he comes through it just fine. They turn on a live broadcast of Bok-ju’s competition, and clutch each other nervously as she takes the stage.
Her old Haneul weightlifting team is also gathered to watch as Bok-ju steps up to the barbell. She lifts the weight above her head and holds it, grimacing as she struggles not to move, and the bell rings and she drops it to the floor.
Her teammates all jump up screaming, and Joon-hyung and Dae-ho bounce in their seats, as Bok-ju raises her arms in triumph. Behind them, Dad opens his eyes and smiles a tiny, proud smile.
The airport is packed with reporters when the team arrives back in Korea, but Bok-ju scans the crowd for one particular face. When she sees him, she leaves her team and pounces on Joon-hyung, and they hug as if they aren’t being watched by the entire country.
Two years later.
Joon-hyung walks with one of his Taereung sunbaes, both wearing their national team jackets with pride. Aww, he made it! His sunbae reminds him that he has to go or he’ll be late for his own graduation, and Joon-hyung yelps that Bok-ju is gonna kill him.
Bok-ju, Seon-ok, and Nan-hee gather with their old weightlifting sunbaes, dressed in their caps and gowns. Coach Yoon makes one of his trademark awkward speeches, and he and Coach Choi do a high-five, showing off their couple rings. Finally!
Bok-ju looks in her locker for the last time, then it’s time for a little graduation fun. The girls dance down the line of their classmates covered in their training gear, then have to run the line again while everything is yanked off them. HA, that looks fun.
The hazing continues over at the swimming pavilion, as Joon-hyung threatens his hoobaes not to toss him in the pool fully clothed. Tae-kwon shows up, dressed in his army uniform, and helps them dunk Joon-hyung then gets thrown in himself.
After the graduation ceremony, Bok-ju and Joon-hyung formally introduce their families to each other, though apparently they’ve been sending each other fried chicken and vitamins through the kids for a while now. Jae-yi teases that it feels like an in-law meeting, and Bok-ju congratulates him and Dr. Go on setting a wedding date.
After a round of photos with their friends, Bok-ju and Joon-hyung take one last walk on campus. They go to the toad fountain then the track, reminiscing about all the times they spent here. They make a bet about who will win the most medals at the Tokyo Olympics. So cute.
Joon-hyung grows serious, and asks Bok-ju, “If I win a gold medal, should we get married?” She says cheekily that she’ll think about it, and tells him to train hard if he wants to win that medal, starting now. She runs off to the middle of the field, and he follows her when she says she won’t marry him if he doesn’t.
In voiceover, Bok-ju says that everyone has a youth, a time that’s all the more beautiful because it’s awkward and clumsy. It’s a time when you’re not afraid of anything because you have nothing to lose, and you’re excited because you can have anything and everything.
“Age twenty-four, my youth. Although I’m still uneasy and nervous, I’m perfect, without needing anything else.”
I don’t know when I’ve ever finished a show feeling so satisfied, yet so sad to see it end, but this was just about the most perfect ending ever. As much as this was a show about young adults experiencing love for the first time, it was also a story about growing up and becoming independent. It was so true-to-life in that the problems faced by Bok-ju and Joon-hyung were vital and important to them, but are issues that many young people their age face. Sick family members, fighting with friends, struggling to move from childhood worries to grown-up concerns like what to do with your future — these are things so universal that we’ve all been through them at one time or another. Watching Bok-ju and Joon-hyung and their friends navigate their new adult world felt nostalgic to me in a way that only the Answer Me franchise has been able to do, reminding me of what it was like to be young and scared but also excited about the future.
It’s so rare to come across a drama that hits every single moment perfectly, never experiencing that late-stage slump that plagues even the most well-written shows. But Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju never flagged, never bogged down in angst or unnecessary side-plots, and somehow managed to keep its energy and lighthearted bittersweet tone from the very first scene to the last moment of the finale. It never dragged out misunderstandings, and the characters always talked as soon as possible whenever anyone was upset. Not only did that avoid the audience being forced to spend several episodes frustrated at easily fixable situations, but it also allowed the show to cover so much more ground because it didn’t waste time stringing its characters along for no reason.
This is one case in which I completely don’t mind that everyone got a nicely wrapped-up happy ending, because for once, all of the characters pretty much deserved one. This show was such a feel-good journey from start to finish, and it’s gratifying to see each person learn, grow, and get what they deserved, which is a happy future. And I love how even though the show is primarily about first love, most of the time the kids (particularly Bok-ju) put friends and family first, such as Bok-ju deciding to visit her father before calling Joon-hyung. She never dropped her family, her weightlifting dreams, or Nan-hee and Seon-ok to spend time with Joon-hyung, and in fact consistently chose those things even when Joon-hyung wanted to be together. My only complaint (and it’s a very small one) is that they never really learned not to keep secrets from each other — even in this final episode, Seon-ok and Tae-kwon chose to invite Nan-hee to the movies rather than admit they were on a date, and Dad spent most of the episode lying to Bok-ju about having surgery. But it wouldn’t have been as realistic as it was if everyone were perfect, and overall I felt that all of the characters experienced a lot of growth and maturing and always had their priorities in order.
I can’t express enough how wonderful I thought the acting was in this show, and not just in the case of Lee Sung-kyung and Nam Joo-hyuk. I’ve said multiple times that they’ve both convinced me that they’re much better actors than they’ve had a chance to show until now, and I predict very bright futures for them both. But they aren’t the only ones who impressed me, and I found myself tearing up with Uncle Dae-ho, laughing along with Nan-hee and Seon-ok, felt my heart breaking for Shi-ho, and aching for Jae-yi and Dr. Go to finally be together. Fairy was just so perfectly cast all around (though I was disappointed that Jo Soo-hyang’s nasty rhythmic gymnast was slowly written out — she could have been such fun as Bok-ju’s snarky nemesis), and it showed in the way every scene seemed to shine and never felt superfluous.
I could honestly go on and on about what a wonderful drama Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju is, and never run out of positive things to say. But I think I’d be preaching to the choir, so I’ll just say how lucky I feel to have been able to recap this sweet, almost-perfect little show. It’s quickly made its way to the top of my list of favorites, even replacing my adoration of Louis and Bok-shil as my favorite drama couple of all time (though they’re still a close second!). Joon-hyung and Bok-ju just feel like the perfect couple — loving, unfailingly adoring of each other while still being honest with each other when needed, never forgetting to put the other first and make their love a priority. Their youthful romance will stay with me for a long time to come, and I think I’ll be coming back to visit them over and over, whenever I need a reminder that love is, above all, something to always be cherished.
- Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju: Episode 15
- Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju: Episode 14
- Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju: Episode 13
- Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju: Episode 12
- Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju: Episode 11
- Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju: Episode 10
- Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju: Episode 9
- Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju: Episode 8
- Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju: Episode 7
- Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju: Episode 6
- Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju: Episode 5
- Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju: Episode 4
- Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju: Episode 3
- Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju: Episode 2
- Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju: Episode 1