Go Back Spouses: Episode 1
Hurrah! Dramaland’s newest time travelers make a great first impression in Go Back Spouses. There’s always plenty of laughs to be had when we’re dealing with time travel, and we definitely get that in this premiere, along with some pretty intense emotions that I wasn’t quite ready for. It was a nice reminder that behind the fun premise lies a very unhappy couple who just long to be happy again. But not to worry—that’s something the ‘90s can always fix.
EPISODE 1: “Marriage is not the happy ending”
A nervous groom stands just outside his wedding ceremony, waiting to be called in. One of his friends approaches and tells him to quit trembling before his knees give out, but the groom, who we’ll come to know as CHOI BAN-DO (Sohn Ho-joon), insists that he’s fine; all he has to do is march down that aisle.
Once he’s officially called in, Ban-do takes a breath and literally marches down the aisle like a toy soldier, lol. His parents watch in total horror and embarrassment, but the rest of the crowd cheer him on. His lovely bride MA JIN-JOO (Jang Nara) is called in next, and she’s all smiles as she enters with her father.
That smile disappears when her father steps on her dress and sends her falling to the ground. Ban-do rushes to her side to make sure she’s okay, which gets her smiling again. They beam at each other like fools in love, neither of them at all embarrassed. So cute.
As the couple continue with their upbeat ceremony, Jin-joo narrates that all romantic dramas end with marriage, because for the main characters, marriage is the happy result after a long journey of hardship.
The couple is still smiling as they leave the ceremony, and Jin-joo’s narration adds that opening those doors should be a happy ending. However, as the couple fade out into their “happy ending,” an older version of the couple fades in.
It’s 14 years later, and they’re now walking out of court after having finalized their divorce. They both seem completely drained, though Ban-do forces a smile and offers a handshake, saying that he should at least comfort her. She returns the fake smile, only to drop it when she says that he should just remember to pay the alimony. He dryly states that it’s not even that much.
She calls him petty, and he retorts that that’s his personality. Having had enough, she huffs and starts to walk away, but he calls her back. “Let me visit Seo-jin often,” he requests, referring to their son. Her expression seems sad now, but she agrees.
And with that, they go their separate ways. Jin-joo concludes her narration by wondering if all characters in romantic dramas continue their happy ending after marriage.
We rewind to one month before the divorce: Jin-joo is a stay-at-home mother, and we see that her toddler, Seo-jin, needs to cling onto her at all times. Ban-do even finds her carrying Seo-jin while she uses the bathroom, and he asks in disgust that she at least shut the door. Jin-joo just glares at him as he shuffles away.
Seo-jin then runs off to his daddy, while Jin-joo goes off to her room and stares at today’s date on her calendar, marked “Wedding Anniversary.” Just then, her face lights up to see a jewelry gift bag hanging on the coat rack.
She’s overjoyed to see a pair of expensive-looking earrings inside, but when Ban-do walks in on her trying them on, he flips out. He snatches them away from her and says that they’re a gift to a doctor at work, whose anniversary is today. She watches him leave incredulously.
Jin-joo follows Ban-do out and demands to know what the passcode to their front door is. Still annoyed, he answers that the numbers are their anniversary date. “It’s… today,” he realizes. Wah-wah.
Jin-joo’s glare grows severe, making Ban-do’s eyes dart to the knives on the counter. What she actually grabs terrifies him more: his planner for work. She dangles it over the sink, and he gingerly asks her to think about how important that book is for him as a pharmaceutical salesman. He even promises to buy her a gift, but she doesn’t budge.
Now panicking, Ban-do claims that that little notebook pays for everything from the clothes on her back to their baby’s diapers, adding that if she damages that book, he wants a divorce. Jin-joo’s face falls at that, and she’s so shocked to hear those words that the book slips from her grip and ends up getting soaked.
In his car, Ban-do furiously scrubs his book to no avail. He gets an angry phone call about an appointment he’s missed, but with his notes ruined, he’s unsure of where to go. Though he’s upset that Jin-joo did this, he does eye the flower shop he’s parked in front of.
The couple go about their day, with Jin-joo at home with Seo-jin and Ban-do out performing his assignments. (And we get some cool scene transitions, like when Jin-joo notices a light flickering, only for us to see Ban-do changing a light at a hospital.)
Jin-joo takes Seo-jin out in his stroller, and she can’t help but feel inferior with all the young, lively folks around her. She glances down at her scuffed shoes and the vomit on her shirt, looking truly ashamed of her appearance.
At a karaoke bar that night, Ban-do impresses some clients with his pouring skills. He maintains his energetic attitude until one of his clients asks if someone named Doctor Park still makes him look after his mistress.
Meanwhile, at home, Jin-joo is freaking out because little Seo-jin keeps throwing up. She’s practically in tears as she tries to reach Ban-do, but he’s too busy entertaining his clients to pick up. And so, she has no choice but to take Seo-jin to the hospital by herself.
Ban-do does, however, answer a call from his client Doctor Park, who’s panicking because his wife found out about his affair. He orders a reluctant Ban-do to get rid of his mistress before the wife finds them and causes a scene.
So Ban-do hurries all the way to the hotel where Doctor Park was supposed to have his rendezvous and drags the mistress outside. But it’s too late—the wife, Kim Ye-rim, appears, ready to take her husband’s lover down. Ban-do tries to calm her down, but the wife is just annoyed to see him acting as her husband’s sidekick again.
When Ban-do doesn’t get out of her way, she gets him in a headlock and warns him to mind his own business. He tries to pry her off, accidentally knocking her down to the ground in the process. He starts to apologize when someone punches him in the face and sends him sprawling to the ground as well—it’s her husband, Doctor Park Hyun-seok.
Doctor Park takes Ban-do to another bar and has the nerve to laugh in his face, saying that he had to put on a show to calm his wife. Poor Ban-do excuses himself to go to the bathroom and angrily stares at his reflection, calling Doctor Park a bastard.
He marches back into the room with purpose, but when he sees Doctor Park sitting there, Ban-do just forces a polite smile. Park voices how great it would’ve been if they’d been friends back in college, and though Ban-do thinks otherwise, he maintains his smile.
Park then returns a credit card, thanking Ban-do for letting him use his name. As Park continues that his wife has gotten too sharp lately, Ban-do crushes the credit card under the table.
At the hospital, Jin-joo is told that little Seo-jin had acute enteritis, but thankfully, he’ll be okay. She watches her son sleeping and sadly tells him, “Mom is sorry.” After putting Seo-jin to bed at home, she finds Ban-do’s credit card bills lying on the table and opens them, confused to see the various motels and hotels listed.
To make things worse, a nurse that she knows sends her a text, asking if the man pictured is her husband. Jin-joo gasps to see that it is Ban-do, pictured with Doctor Park’s mistress right outside a hotel.
At this, Jin-joo crumples to the ground. She catches her reflection in a mirror and is once again ashamed to see her disheveled state. It’s not until she gets a text from Ban-do saying that he can’t make it home tonight that she finally succumbs to tears.
It turns out that Ban-do is staying in his car (with the flowers he’d bought for Jin-joo), too ashamed to come home when he’s all cut and bruised. Jin-joo calls him crying, but he weakly says that he’s not in the mood to fight with her. But Jin-joo continues as she says that thanks to him, her life has become lowly.
Ban-do sighs and says that his life is no better. He yells into the phone, asking if she knows how terribly he’s treated at work, and if she knows that it’s all her fault. With that, Jin-joo comes to a decision: She wants a divorce. “We should’ve never met,” Jin-joo cries. “I want to turn back time. I want to turn back and change everything. Let’s get divorced. Let’s stop all this.”
Ban-do’s eyes fill with tears as her words hit him. “Fine,” he says, looking absolutely heartbroken. “Let’s get divorced.” Jin-joo seems just as heartbroken to hear him agree to it, and as soon as they hang up, they both break down in sobs.
We return to the present day, just after Jin-joo and Ban-do officially ended their marriage. Jin-joo goes to a columbarium to visit her mother, apologizing for being too busy with Seo-jin to come more often. As she starts to cry, she muses that she’s been crying a lot more as she got older.
Ban-do visits a convenience store near his childhood home and makes small talk with the ajumma there, who he seems to know quite well. As he heads out, he’s bombarded with texts from his two best friends. One of them, GO DOK-JAE (Lee Yi-kyung), calls him to pester him with questions about the divorce.
The other friend, a rather buff AHN JAE-WOO (Heo Jung-min) snatches the phone from Dok-jae and tells Ban-do to get some rest and call them later.
Jae-woo asks why Dok-jae is so interested in someone else’s divorce, and Dok-jae insists that he needs to know so he can get divorced too. Jae-woo gives him a good smack on the head for that. Jae-woo then sees the black residue left on his hand and asks what the heck Dok-jae put in his hair. Dok-jae curses and smooths out his hair, saying he had to use hair loss concealer. Ha, I like these two already.
Jae-woo wonders why their friends divorced so suddenly, and Dok-jae figures that a love like theirs doesn’t always last forever—in fact, he says, Jae-woo is the perfect example. That triggers something in Jae-woo and he grabs Dok-jae, threatening to throw him over the balcony they’re on if he mentions the name Bo-reum.
We’re introduced to YOON BO-REUM (Han Bo-reum), who also happens to be Jin-joo’s friend, as she leads an aerobics class. She calls Jin-joo to find out why she divorced so suddenly, but Jin-joo is too tired to explain for now.
Ban-do returns to his parents’ house and finds his older sister, Choi Ja-yeon, chasing her teenaged son for causing trouble. Ban-do tells Ja-yeon to go easy on the kid, but she just smacks Ban-do on the head. As Mom and Dad file in, they each give Ban-do a smack as well.
He later retreats to his old room with some soju, where he stares at his wedding ring. Jin-joo does the same as she gets a bus ride home. She eventually drops her ring, letting it fall to the street, while Ban-do throws his out the window.
The two rings quiver where they are until suddenly, both Jin-joo and Ban-do find themselves in the middle of an earthquake. But strangely enough, we see that it’s only happening to them and not the people around them (Hmm, Freaky Friday, anyone?)
The rings vanish into thin air, stopping the earthquake and leaving our couple stunned. But they’re confused when everyone else insists they didn’t feel it, and when no one believes their claims, they’re forced to brush it off.
As Ban-do goes to bed, we zoom in on a framed picture of baby Seo-jin. The picture in the frame changes to his wedding photo, then his college photos, going all the way back in time until it stops on an old family picture.
Ban-do gets up the next morning, so hungover from last night that he doesn’t even notice that his entire room has changed—there’s a huge desktop computer, a box TV, and dozens of manhwas and CDs. He just walks right out of the house and into his regular convenience store to get some hangover remedies.
But he notices something strange about the expiration dates: They’re all in 1999. He turns to confront the ajumma about it, but stops in shock to see that she looks much younger now. He then catches his reflection in the mirror behind her and freaks out to see that he looks younger, too.
He runs back home, calling for his mom, but his eyes only grow wider to see that both his parents are younger too. One look at the 1999 calendar on the wall and it all clicks into place for him. “I… think I came from the future,” he says, scratching his chin like it’s no big deal. LOL.
Meanwhile, Jin-joo is having a bad dream until someone shakes her awake. Jin-joo’s eyes snap into focus when she realizes it’s her mom (Kim Mi-kyung), alive and well. Jin-joo can hardly believe it, and she immediately grabs Mom into a hug, saying that she never sees her in her dreams anymore. She cries that she just got divorced and all she wants now is to die along with Mom.
Mom smacks Jin-joo on the back, cutting Jin-joo’s crying short. She doesn’t know what all this talk of death is about, instead urging Jin-joo to go to school. But Jin-joo’s too preoccupied with the fact that Mom’s hit actually hurt. She whacks herself on the chest multiple times to wake herself up, while Mom just looks at her like she’s crazy. It’s not until Mom leaves that she realizes she’s in her old bedroom, just as it was in 1999.
Ban-do comes barreling out of his room, looking like an excited kid. He finds his mom and sister playing with his nephew (who’s now a cute little baby) and asks if he’s really twenty again and a college student. Dad comes up and hits him upside the head, which only makes Ban-do happier. “It hurts!” he says. “That’s so great! That means this isn’t a dream!”
Jin-joo is just as amazed, and she takes advantage of the situation by following Mom around the house and hugging her like a lost puppy. She remembers visiting Mom in the columbarium and reaching out to her picture only yesterday, and finds herself reaching out to Mom now, which just confuses Mom further. Irate, Mom just yells at her to go to school already.
Just then, Jin-joo’s sister, Ma Eun-joo, comes out with a suitcase, threatening to run away if Mom doesn’t buy her and Jin-joo cell phones. Jin-joo hits the back of Eun-joo’s head, saying that she shouldn’t speak to Mom that way.
Eun-joo argues that she’s the older sister here, but Jin-joo argues that she’s the older one now. Still confused, Eun-joo also says that it was Jin-joo’s idea to run away, and in flashback, we see that a younger Jin-joo did pack her things in defiance.
Having had enough, Mom calls Dad out to drive Jin-joo to school. Jin-joo insists that she wants to stay home with Mom and Eun-joo insists she just wants a cell phone, and Mom just starts hitting everyone, including Dad. Haha.
Dad gives Jin-joo a ride to school, and he’s taken aback by her harsh glares. (Uh-oh. Did Dad do something bad in the past?) She doesn’t say goodbye to him, but her expression softens to see her university in all its glory. She admires all the pretty students, even stopping in front of a mirror to admire how pretty she’s gotten.
At the same time, Ban-do arrives to campus and can hardly contain his excitement as he admires everything, from the CD players to the denim jackets. He hops all around, hoping he never has to wake up if it’s all a dream.
Jin-joo is having the time of her life exploring the campus as well… until she spots a familiar face. Jin-joo and Ban-do lock eyes from afar, and their smiles drop. They both remember the harsh words the other had said before the divorce as they slowly make their way toward each other.
But instead of greeting each other, they just pass each other. Ban-do briefly turns back, wondering if he and Jin-joo don’t know each other at this point in time and smiles at the thought. Jin-joo stalks all the way to the track field, thinking that Ban-do must not know her at this point either.
She takes a seat in front of the track field and huffs that it’s better this way; they should just pretend they don’t know each other from now on. Her mood is feeling sour again, but her eyes light up when she notices a handsome group of boys out on the field.
A few of them start to remove their shirts, making Jin-joo clutch her chest and squeal, “Omo, what is this? This ajumma’s heart is fluttering!” Pfffffft, I freaking love this.
She zeroes in on one of the boys and recognizes him as old classmate JUNG NAM-GIL (Jang Ki-yong). She recalls a conversation she had with Bo-reum not too long ago, when they’d seen Nam-gil on TV and discovered how rich and successful he’d become after school.
Jin-joo had blushed, remembering that Nam-gil had asked her out once. But she’d turned him down, which she soon regretted—she’d found it so unlucky to discover he was a director’s son after turning him down.
Jin-joo blushes as she watches Nam-gil now, especially when she catches him look her way and then immediately avert his gaze. She wonders if he still has feelings for her.
Another familiar face comes around the corner, and Jin-joo’s ecstatic to see that it’s Bo-reum, looking about as ‘90s as you can get. She marvels at Bo-reum’s lack of wrinkles, which, of course, has Bo-reum looking at her like she’s insane.
Ban-do finds the engineering building with ease, running into a young Jae-woo in the hallway. Ban-do is shocked to see his buddy’s skinny frame and bursts into laughter, wondering where his muscles went.
Annoyed, Jae-woo merely says that Ban-do is dead for showing up without his uniform. Cut to: All his classmates dressed in their department uniforms, minus Ban-do.
A sunbae of his asks Ban-do what he’s doing without his uniform, but Ban-do has trouble keeping a straight face with these “kids’” serious expressions. The sunbae has Jae-woo explain that they’re serving punishment because someone in their department picked a fight with the Physical Education department.
Ban-do demands to know which punk got them into trouble, to which the sunbae replies, “It was you.” Flashback to the night of the fight, when the Physical Education sunbaes had teased Ban-do and the others in the Civil Construction department for their chick-yellow uniforms. Ban-do had gotten right in these sunbaes’ faces, threatening to take them down. Oy, he chose a bad time to come back.
Jin-joo is still having a blast exploring the campus, and Bo-reum finds it amusing that she’s acting like she’s in a theme park.
Tall and handsome Nam-gil comes around the corner, and Jin-joo is delighted to get an up-close view. To Bo-reum’s horror, Jin-joo walks right up to Nam-gil and says hello, nervously calling him “Oppa.”
She smiles awkwardly, though it slowly fades when she realizes that everyone in the room is now staring at her. Including Nam-gil, who looks pretty peeved.
As Ban-do and his classmates perform their punishment exercises, the older sunbaes come marching in, ordering Ban-do to come out alone.
Sometime before the divorce, Ban-do has some drinks with Jae-woo and Dok-jae. They have a talk about first loves, as a drunken Dok-jae admires a picture of Suzy in his shot glass, ha.
Ban-do remembers his first love from college, a girl named Seo-young. He sighs that he’d been too naïve to ask her out and says that if he could go back, he’d try to date her instead of Jin-joo.
Ban-do then admires a video of little Seo-jin on his phone and shows it to his buddies. He beams at the video, bragging how his son can say “Dad” and everything.
I think I could really love this. Time travel dramas have been hit-or-miss with me lately, so I’m trying to keep my expectations at a reasonable level. But it’s kind of hard to do that when a premiere is this good. Jang Nara and Sohn Ho-joon are fantastic in these roles, both dramatically and comedically. Their characters were in such a bad place and it was hard not to feel for them and have my heart break along with theirs. At their core, they both seem like good people, so it’s tough to see them go through such hardship.
The promos for this show came across as very funny and wacky (and it definitely is that in the second half), but I appreciated how true to life this introduction was. I was afraid that the couple’s hatred for each other would be exaggerated to the point of being outrageous, but the hatred actually feels valid. They really seem like that couple who were infatuated with each other and couldn’t wait to get married, but then life got in the way and hindered that love from growing. It almost seems as if they rushed into marriage before they had the chance to develop the basic building blocks of a relationship: consistency, honesty, and empathy. In my eyes, the main problem is that these two are so miserable that they don’t care to think how the other may be feeling.
Both are going through hardships, thinking their stress is heavier than the other. They both take care of the family, her at home, and him at work. Because they believe their struggles are worse, they also seem to believe that the other has it way too easy, when that’s just not the case. If there is no understanding in a marriage, it just doesn’t work. As certain characters mentioned, love doesn’t last forever. But I disagree—it can last forever as long as both parties work at it. The initial puppy love of a relationship can only last so long, and perhaps this second time around, Jin-joo and Ban-do will get the chance to build something much stronger.
Because, come on, it’s so obvious that these two still love each other. They both brought up divorce, but they never seemed happy about it. They’ve been waiting for it to happen, but whenever it’s actually brought up, it catches them off guard. They wait for the other to say no. But since neither will step up to admit this, both are left thinking divorce is truly what the other wants. I really hope that they learn to communicate better, because that seems to be the main issue here. And this “vacation” into the past is exactly what they need. They should figure out what they want, what will truly make them happy, before deciding what their future (er, present) with each other will be. With Jin-joo, I really hope she learns to love herself. She’s been craving her old life for such a long time, but I don’t want her thinking that being young and beautiful is the only way to achieve happiness. It’s a realistic thought, especially in this day and age, but it’s a thought that can be quite toxic.
Now, on to the actual time travel. I love that they don’t even bother questioning how or why it happened. Instead, they’re determined to ride this out as long as they can. It’s great to see them enjoying themselves after that gloomy introduction, but I’m sure they’ll have to consider the rules to all of this sooner or later. For instance, what happened to little Seo-jin? When they got sucked into the past, did the present just… I don’t know, freeze? Or does life go on without them? If so, who takes care of the baby?
I hope this gets addressed soon, because I found it odd that Jin-joo and Ban-do, who seem to love their child very much, didn’t even think about it. I also wonder when they’ll figure out that they didn’t time travel alone. They may want absolutely nothing to do with each other now, but they won’t be able to avoid each other for long, and I can’t wait to see what happens. It’s funny that Jin-joo said marriage was the usual happy ending for characters, because here, marriage was the beginning for her and Ban-do. The real journey starts now!
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