Because This Life Is Our First: Episode 16 (Final)
The end is finally here. It’s been a wonderful ride as we navigated life through the eyes of our three couples, learning what it means to love oneself as well as others. At times, the relationships portrayed have caused gnashing of teeth in addition to joyous uproar, and as much as this show has been a romantic comedy, it’s also crossed genre boundaries and been so much more. Now it’s time to say farewell to these lovable characters and hope for the best for each one of them.
Episode 16: “Because this life is our first”
Ji-ho watches drunk Se-hee sleep and traces his profile in the air before getting a call from Mom. She rushes to the hospital, and soon, the family welcomes their newest member. Dad wipes away a few tears, and behind them, Ji-seok audibly sobs on the floor.
Mom and Ji-ho coo over the newborn baby, agreeing that this is the greatest gift in life, and Ji-ho suddenly drops the truth to Mom: She’s getting divorced.
Ji-ho asks why Mom isn’t saying anything, but Mom says there isn’t anything to say since Ji-ho never changes her mind once she’s decided something. And besides, she already knows that the decision must have been difficult for Ji-ho, as will be the consequences afterwards.
Ji-ho asks why Mom never divorced Dad back when she was younger, recalling a time when Mom took her and Ji-seok to her parents’ house. Mom smiles, surprised that she still remembers such an old memory, and tells her that both sets of parents disapproved of their marriage.
Though they married for love, it didn’t seem to be enough to weather the hardships they faced later on, since they considered separating. But the day Mom decided to get a divorce, she looked at Dad sleeping and realized that if she broke up with him when they were dating, she would have missed him all her life. Once she realized that, she decided it is was best to just live with him.
Mom advises Ji-ho to take care of her “star pocket,” and Ji-ho gives her a quizzical look. Mom explains that everyone experiences moments that sparkle, and when that happens, it’s important to capture them and save them in your star pocket to help you through the tough times.
Using Mom’s metaphor, Ji-ho says that she’s getting divorced so she won’t lose her star. She says she wants to fill her star pocket with sparkly things, and smiles up at her mother. Mom just replies, “Bullshit.” Pwahaha! She yells at Ji-ho to keep her divorce a secret from her dad for now, and curses her under her breath as she walks away.
As Ji-ho leaves the hospital, she narrates, “It hurt. Mom’s beautiful words, that families are gifts, felt like they were scolding me. Marriage is something that sparkles. Marriage is something that makes you take another look back even if you hate the other. We took marriage too lightly. For the first time, I felt ashamed.”
Ji-ho packs her belongings, and Se-hee arrives. We revisit their goodbye scene at the door, where she suggests a parting handshake. They wish each other the best of luck since this is both their first divorce, and Ji-ho thinks that since their relationship started with a handshake, it was only right to end it with one, too.
However, looking out of the bus window, Ji-ho smiles and thinks, “The first half of our relationship was marriage, but I want our second half to be love.”
Sang-gu runs into Park while out on business, and comments on Park’s bandaged nose, which Park blames on a drunken stumble. In the elevator, Sang-gu notices Su-ji’s missing presence from the group, and Park tells him that she resigned (yes!), calling her and all women irresponsible.
Before separating, Sang-gu invites Park to smoke together, but when Park offers him a cigarette, Sang-gu explains that he quit. Park says that it might hurt his career, but Sang-gu bluntly tells him that he doesn’t want to partake in their ridiculous conversations, pointing out that even middle schoolers don’t spout such trash these days.
A familiar-looking motorcycle rides up to them, and Sang-gu introduces his new girlfriend. The motorcyclist takes off her helmet and flips her hair in slow motion, revealing Su-ji. She greets Park by his first name, and Sang-gu puts on the spare pink helmet as he takes his seat behind her. They make some jabs at Park and wave goodbye, leaving him completely stunned.
Sang-gu accompanies Su-ji while she buys bras for research, and as he bids her farewell at her apartment, she invites him in for ramyun. He laughs that he won’t get fooled that easily, but when she tells him it’s an honest invitation, he eagerly accepts.
Won-seok empties his rooftop apartment, deciding to go back to his parents’ house, and says goodbye to the pink couch one last time. Meanwhile, Se-hee puts his own place up for sale and receives potential buyers. Once they leave, Se-hee looks around and imagines Ji-ho eating here, watching soccer, and doing her usual things.
He peeks into her empty room, remembering her sleeping there, and notices a letter on the bed, which the prospective buyer had found dropped on the floor. In it, she asks if he watched soccer and if Cat is well, wondering how long it would take for him to find this. She admits to entering his room once and finding the poetry book, and to knowing about Jung-min, and apologizes to Se-hee.
Ji-ho adds an interesting story about Mongolians, who carry their dead to a remote place rather than bury or cremate them. Later, when they return to the place to check the bodies, they mourn if the body is still there but rejoice if only bones remain. She wonders what will be left in her heart on her way back after she leaves this room.
Not wanting to eat at home alone, Se-hee invites Won-seok to a meal since he’s the only one available. Having heard about Se-hee selling his place, Won-seok asks where he plans to move, and looking deflated, Se-hee says that anywhere is fine as long as it isn’t that house.
Se-hee grabs a piece of meat, and though Won-seok warns him that it needs to be cooked more, he pops it into his mouth, saying it doesn’t really matter. Won-seok asks where Ji-ho went, and Se-hee guesses Mongolia.
In reality, Ji-ho is reading comics with Ho-rang at the sauna, living at a guesthouse (housing mostly foreigners) in Seoul. Ho-rang offers her the rooftop room for Ji-ho to use since Won-seok moved out and their lease is still valid, and Ji-ho happily accepts.
Su-ji makes a pot of ramyun for Sang-gu, but as he grabs some, he struggles to eat the clump of still-hard noodles. He takes a bite, clearly shocked at how she could ruin ramyun, but pretends it’s delicious as he continues to eat the undercooked noodles.
Su-ji asks about Se-hee since she heard that he sold his house, and Sang-gu tells her that he hasn’t seen him in a while. Apparently Se-hee plans to use all of his vacation days at once, and Sang-gu complains about how much the company is suffering as a result.
Se-hee mopes on the couch while watching soccer, and dryly comments on his team scoring again. Staring at Cat, whom he calls “Woori,” Se-hee notices the nametag collar, and asks if Ji-ho put it on her before she left. He asks Woori if she understands Ji-ho’s feelings, and then proceeds to drink beer through a straw. Heh.
Meanwhile, Ji-ho also watches the soccer game at the guesthouse, and one of the guests asks why Ji-ho so much soccer, wondering if it wouldn’t get boring. With her limited English, Ji-ho tries to convey her feelings, but ultimately decides to explain it in Korean: “Just watching soccer is not important. It’s whom you watch it with that matters.”
When asked what she’s doing tomorrow, Ji-ho happily says that she’s baking a cake for her ex-husband. Ji-ho attends a baking class the next day and smiles proudly when the instructor compliments her work—but then glares when she calls Ji-ho’s chocolate cat an excellent raccoon. Heh.
Se-hee stops by the office to get the keys to Won-seok’s apartment, and finds the whole office hovered over two laptops as Won-seok races against another employee in a game. He loses badly, to his (and Bo-mi’s) chagrin.
Afterward, Won-seok and Sang-gu worry that that the rooftop apartment would be too small. Se-hee says that he just needs a place to sleep and eat, and his sudden change in philosophy makes Sang-gu nervous.
Ji-ho arrives at the rooftop apartment, and assumes the boxes and bedding are Won-seok’s leftovers. When she plops down on the bed, she’s surprised by how much it feels like her old one.
Ho-rang meets with Young-hyo at a café, and he suggests taking a vacation in March since it would be the best time to go to Bali. He calls it the perfect place for a honeymoon, to Ho-rang’s utter shock, and asks if she would go to Bali with him next year.
Bo-mi finds Won-seok and asks him to play the recording of his game earlier. She analyzes his strategy, explaining why he lost, and Won-seok praises her analysis. She tells him that games, formulas, and game formulas are her favorite things (much like Won-seok), and asks him if he wants to date.
Se-hee brings Woori to their new place, while at his old place, Ji-ho gapes at the stranger who answers the door. He informs her that he’s the new owner, and Ji-ho can’t believe Se-hee sold his home.
She tries calling him, but to no avail since he left his phone behind while buying more beer, and they both walk to the same place a small distance apart. When Ji-ho arrives, she sits outside with her cake, sighing over her missed chance to propose to him about starting again.
Ji-ho remembers the moments she shared with Se-hee, both the good and the bad, and thinks to herself that she wanted to leave that room and see what was left in her heart. Looking back, she realizes that neither hatred nor pain was left—instead, there was just longing. Staring up at the night sky, Ji-ho sighs, “My star pocket is full.”
Su-ji calls Ji-ho, wondering if she moved in and saw him yet. With dawning realization, Ji-ho slowly turns around and enters the apartment, where she finds Se-hee sleeping (with the snail doll) on the bed. She lies down next to him, and Se-hee drowsily opens his eyes.
He thinks that he’s dreaming since he misses her so much, and bitterly asks her how she found Mongolia. “Did you have fun, after leaving me behind?” he asks. She tells him that it wasn’t fun because she missed him every day, but Se-hee laughs, not believing her.
Ji-ho touches his face with her hand and says, “I love you.” Se-hee’s startled to hear it so she repeats the words, but this time he starts to cry. He calls her bad for saying that when she isn’t going to stay with him, when she’ll just be gone when he wakes. She tells him, “I’m sorry. I won’t go anywhere anymore.”
He closes his eyes and wonders, “What kind of dream is so sad? Still, I’m glad that I can see you like this. I’m glad, even if it is a dream.” Ji-ho apologizes and draws closer to Se-hee as he sleeps.
In the morning, Se-hee wakes to a cleaned room and a thermos filled with tea, and jokingly asks Woori if she made it. Cracking another beer, he steps outside, and as he takes a swig, he stares wide-eyed at Ji-ho standing in front of him.
She chides him for drinking first thing in the morning and invites him to eat breakfast instead, while he stares at her like he’s seen a ghost. Inside, she merrily eats crab, and Se-hee asks how she can eat in this situation. He points out that they’re divorced, and doesn’t understand how she suddenly showed up after disappearing.
She wonders if this means he wants her to leave, but before Ji-ho can exit the room, Se-hee grabs her arm and tells her in informal speech that he doesn’t mean that. He just wants to know where she’s been, but when she tells him that she was still in Seoul, he turns his back to her and grabs his head in frustration.
She asks if he’s mad, and though Se-hee denies it, Ji-ho clocks his expression and calls him out on his lie. Eventually Se-hee blows up, yelling at Ji-ho for not contacting him even once when she was so close, saying that he missed her and had a hard time.
Ji-ho smiles at his outburst, which only upsets him more, but she thanks him for opening his Room 19, informing him that this is the first time he’s ever told her what he feels.
Ji-ho apologizes for leaving him when he was having a hard time, and opens up her arms, offering him a hug. Se-hee rejects her offer, sulking on the bed, and Ji-ho continues to playfully pester him while he childishly pushes her away. Heh.
He pushes her onto the bed, and reminds her that he told her to stop. He asks if she needs more breakfast, and when she says that she’s done, he closes the gap between them and kisses her.
Won-seok looks at the data Bo-mi gave him about their match rate, which is over 90 percent, and meets her to give her his decision. Using an analogy, he calls Bo-mi a Mac OS, and though he finds her new, interesting, and intuitive, he still misses Windows. While he understands rationally that the Mac OS is ideal for him, his heart can’t let go of Windows.
Bo-mi graciously accepts his refusal, even calling it romantic, and gives Won-seok some advice about updating before it’s too late. She hints at Young-hyo’s planned proposal today, and Won-seok asks if she knew about this already. Bo-mi simply smirks before walking away.
Ji-ho and Se-hee cuddle in bed together, and she tries to wake him for dinner though he protests for more sleep. Se-hee offers to make omurice for her, but Ji-ho bluntly tells him to just order chicken. Hahaha.
They eat dinner outside, and Se-hee mentions that Ji-ho didn’t sign the writing contract, having heard the news from Jung-min. He thinks she gave it up because of him, but she asks why everyone thinks she’s giving up something for someone. She explains that chances are rare for people like her, so she can’t give them up easily—including love.
Ji-ho realized that what was important to her, and decided that she couldn’t give up love. Therefore, instead of giving up anything, she frames her actions as choosing something, which was love.
Since falling in love is difficult to do even once, she doesn’t want to get married if it will hurt their love, and asks Se-hee for his opinion. He says that he never wants to be apart again, and wants to be her legal guardian so he can rush to her side first when she needs him. However, he agrees that he doesn’t want marriage to change their feelings, and proposes that they search for a solution together.
They cheer to that, but then Ji-ho asks sharply if he met with Jung-min alone. Se-hee gulps and says nervously that Jung-min called first, and Ji-ho complains jealously about Jung-min’s overstepping. Se-hee offers to change his number, but Ji-ho tells him to forget it while shooting daggers at him.
Ho-rang calls Ji-ho to tell her that she needs to throw away the pink sofa because it’s moldy and old, and will drop by after reporting it (as waste material) to the district office. After hanging up, Ji-ho gets a message from Jung-min, who congratulates her about her lawsuit.
She also tells Ji-ho that a different production company will contact her since she promoted her work purely as a fan. Ji-ho stretches happily, and looks at her phone where Se-hee is saved as “my man” with a heart.
Se-hee arrives at work, much to everyone’s surprise, but then he shocks them further when he answers a call from “mine” and replies to Ji-ho in an endearing manner. He ends the call with a kiss, and everyone reels back in horror.
Ho-rang meets with Young-hyo, who goes over his meticulous multi-year plan for marriage, but Ho-rang apologizes since she can’t accept his proposal. He asks if she can tell him the reason, and she takes out the ring Won-seok gave her.
Though she tried hard to let Young-hyo into her heart, she realized that feelings can’t be forced—they can only come to you. Without any resentment, Young-hyo accepts her decision and agrees with her statement, and the two high-five, signaling their end.
Won-seok hesitates over calling Ho-rang, and asks Se-hee if Ho-rang ever comes by the apartment. Se-hee tells Won-seok that she’s actually coming today after visiting the district office, and Won-seok jumps to the conclusion that she’s registering her marriage.
Se-hee doesn’t deny it, and instead feeds the flames of Won-seok’s misunderstanding. Won-seok rushes out of the office to stop Ho-rang, and Se-hee gives himself a congratulatory fist pump.
Won-seok spots Ho-rang getting into a car, and chases after futilely. Ho-rang arrives at the district office, and bids one last farewell to Young-hyo as they both wish the other luck in marrying someone they love.
As Ho-rang fills out the paperwork, Won-seok runs up and says that he can’t give up. She assumes that he wants to keep the couch, and reminds him that it’s old and scratched. Won-seok argues that they should cherish it all the more and asks for one more chance. So she tells him to take it, and Won-seok finally looks at the form, belatedly realizing that it’s a disposal report.
Relocating to a coffee shop, Ho-rang assures Won-seok that she could never accept a different ring, and tells him that the one he gave her is enough for this life. Ho-rang proposes first this time, asking Won-seok to marry her.
They cry together, realizing how much they missed each other, and he wonders where they’ll live now that they left the apartment. She tells him not to worry since they’ll live with his parents, and, borrowing from Young-hyo, Ho-rang shows Won-seok their five-year plan.
Ji-ho narrates that Gary Becker once said that people get married when it provides more benefits than living alone.
Talking over the phone in English, Su-ji’s business seems to be doing well, as does her relationship with Sang-gu. He picks her up and surprises her by saying he booked the same flight to accompany her on her business trip. But it turns out that she’s in business class and he’s not, and he laughs that he can’t keep up with the CEO of such a booming company.
As they get out of the car, Su-ji suggests sharing mileage points so Sang-gu can upgrade his seats, but he points out that those can only be shared with family members. Su-ji simply says that they should get married then, but Sang-gu harrumphs over her seemingly trivial reason.
She huffily tells him that she saved for years for those points, and takes back her proposal, grumbling that she even brought their son today. Sang-gu looks at the backseat to see a new doll buckled in next to their old one. With a smile plastered on his face, Sang-gu chases after Su-ji and happily announces his intentions to stick with her forever.
Ji-ho continues her narration, and says that Goethe, on the other hand, once said that there’s no such thing that’s fundamentally based on happiness, except marriage. He also said that marriage is the beginning of a relationship.
Some time later, as Ji-ho writes her script, Se-hee feeds her a red ginseng packet—the exact same PPL Ji-ho wrote into scripts when she was an assistant writer. Well played, Show. Taking a break, Ji-ho sits in a massage chair, and Se-hee asks if she wants a beer while tousling her hair.
Through her narration, Ji-ho explains that they registered their marriage three years ago, and rewrote their contract. They agree to both pay half the lease and jointly own the apartment. They also agree to visit their families separately on holidays since their feelings come first and trump any cultural norms. While they revise their contract every year, the most important condition never changes: Love is their top priority.
Ji-ho admits that their arrangement is atypical, and that during their first holiday apart, Se-hee’s mother cried and Ji-ho’s dad flipped the table. But nothing worse happened, and people just assume they’re a crazy couple. And that’s allowed Ji-ho and Se-hee to focus more on their own lives.
In her final narration, Ji-ho says, “Whether you get married or not, whether you register your marriage or not, whichever you choose, nothing goes that wrong.” Se-hee lays his head on Ji-ho’s lap, but gets up to switch the channel to watch her drama. Turning to her, Se-hee says, “I love you.”
Ji-ho continues, “What matters is spending time with the person next to you, right at this moment, no matter what.” Turning to Se-hee, Ji-ho tells him back, “I love you, too.” She grabs him, and pulls him into a kiss as the title card for this drama plays on the television screen.
Out in the street, our three couples chase after the bus, and sit all together in the back row. Bidding the viewers farewell, Ji-ho says, “To those living this moment, with all of my sincerity, I wish you the best of luck. Because this is everyone’s first life.”
It’s a neat bow for a beautiful show that wraps up the main relationships in a way that gives closure as well as room for the future indicating that “happily ever after” isn’t a definite ending but a work in progress. From beginning to end, this show has proven to me that tropes can be subverted, a script can be tight, character development can be logical, and women have a place in dramaland besides being a Candy or generic love interest.
Who would have guessed from the premise that this show would be so contemplative and realistic, that the relationships would be so heart-achingly relatable, or that a romantic comedy would be so unafraid to address real life issues concerning family, work, friendship, and love? Though the show wasn’t perfect, and the PPL almost became too meta to be funny, I sincerely thank the creators of this show for bringing something magical to my screen.
The entire cast was absolutely fabulous, from the leads to the tertiary characters (including Cat/Woori), and I cannot praise Jung So-min and Lee Min-ki enough on their stellar performance. It was amazing to see bits of Se-hee that felt so out of character yet still perfectly in character, like the stoic way he acted “cute” to Ji-ho over the phone, and it’s really thanks to Lee Min-ki that Se-hee always felt consistent throughout the show. The subtle changes in expression and mannerism really brought the character to life, and I truly cannot imagine anyone else in the role.
I’m glad Ho-rang and Won-seok found each other after realizing what they wanted most in life was each other, flaws and all. It’s touching how the pink sofa continued to act as a metaphor for their relationship—it symbolized their misunderstandings, but was also the place where they came to talk and discuss their future. The elements weathered the couch just as they weathered each other and their relationship, and in the end, Won-seok’s misunderstanding about the sofa perfectly captures how they should move forward as a couple. They need to cherish each other and their battered relationship, and rather than assume that the scratches can’t be fixed, they need to treasure their relationship even more and treat it gently. By having them interact with almost their “ideal” type of partner, both Ho-rang and Won-seok realized that their ideas of perfect weren’t the things that would make them happy. The show didn’t try to patch up their relationship without dealing with the problems that fundamentally drove them apart in the first place, and it’s amazing to see such development from them because as Mom told Ji-ho, relationships are ultimately the same. Nothing is perfect, but it’s those happy moments that propel us forward to make it through the tough times.
Su-ji and Sang-gu mostly dealt with their issues before the ending, which allowed room for the other two, but that doesn’t mean this couple was any less lovely. It was a great choice for the show to have Su-ji propose (and for such a “trivial” reason, reflecting Ji-ho and Se-hee’s relationship but from the opposite development point) and emphasize Sang-gu’s patient and steadfast nature. They balance each other nicely and they’re an adorable couple, and I couldn’t be happier to hear that both their companies are successful!
Lastly, Ji-ho and Se-hee continue to bring me joy, and I was surprised by how invested I had become in their relationship on an emotional level. When Se-hee confessed his feelings to Ji-ho, thinking that everything was a dream, I unexpectedly teared up because I felt his emotions. I understood how scared and confused he must have felt to verbalize those feelings, and seeing them together again made me indescribably happy. Their ending was satisfying, and I’m glad that they found a solution that works for them. They may be unconventional, but that’s their charm. They don’t march to the beat of society’s drum, and instead, have found that love is the force that binds and guides them. Whether that means angering their family or causing others to point their finger, Ji-ho and Se-hee don’t care because they’ve experienced a once-in-a-lifetime chance at love and won’t change it for anything in the world. Though the future isn’t set in stone, we can only wish them luck as they continue living their life for the first time, just like the rest of us.
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