Go Back Spouses: Episode 10
Another week, another bucket of tears at my feet. The more amazing Jin-joo’s family is, the heavier the knowledge of her mother’s death weighs on our hearts. Our couple starts to take notice of the things they’ve been taking for granted in their lives, and both Ban-do and Jin-joo struggle, in their own way, through a painful anniversary from the future.
EPISODE 10: “You can’t take anything for granted”
We start our episode in the newlywed days of 2004. Jin-joo cuddles Ban-do in appreciation as he uses his knowledge of pharmaceuticals to manage her medications. But in 2017, his same efforts go unappreciated by Jin-joo. Ban-do begins to narrate: “At one point in life, we begin to take some things for granted, because we get comfortable and used to them.”
Jin-joo begs Ban-do to change his shirt, since the one he has on is dirty. Ban-do’s already late and doesn’t really care, but Jin-joo insists and pulls him back in to change. Jin-joo’s efforts to take care of him earn her a long sigh rather than appreciation. Ban-do continues: “We consider the kindness of our love and the happiness we have as something we deserve, and we take them for granted.”
The scene moves to the day of Jin-joo’s mother’s funeral; Jin-joo watches as a mother and daughter walk in to the funeral together. Ban-do watches Jin-joo’s crouched figure from inside, as his narration continues: “But we only realize this after we lose everything. That someone’s existence was not supposed to be taken for granted.”
As the episode title credit rolls, we get a brief glimpse of a later scene: Jin-joo and Ban-do stand facing one another outside Jin-joo’s house, lit by the streetlights.
We return to 1999 and the group’s trip to Gangneung. It’s now morning, and Jin-joo and Ban-do are the first to rise. Ban-do hints at their history with Gangneung and the fireflies, but Jin-joo dodges the topic and turns it to how fresh the air is. Rather than get upset about not having his moment with Jin-joo, Ban-do just says that he’s glad that Jin-joo saw them and is enjoying the fresh air. (How surprisingly mature, Ban-do.)
Nam-gil is the next one awake, and watches on as Jin-joo and Ban-do sit together in awkward silence.
Meanwhile, Seol busies herself loading up the van (and making sure there’s no room for Jin-joo to sit, ha). Dok-jae worries that Seol was drunk enough to cause mischief again last night, and even as Seol denies it, she finds several phone keypad buttons in her pocket.
Dok-jae’s cell phone is indeed Seol’s victim, and Dok-jae gives chase. Jae-woo comments the two should date, but Bo-reum says that Seol can do better, and Jae-woo can’t disagree.
Jin-joo notes the scruff on Ban-do’s face and comments on his hasty shaving job. Ban-do complains that the past lacks six blade razors, and Jin-joo chuckles at his excuses. Nam-gil watches the entire exchange, and Ban-do tries to play up Jin-joo’s criticism as concern for him.
Nam-gil is surprised when Jin-joo doesn’t offer to ride back to school with him, but don’t worry, Seol has his back. Seol says there’s no room left in the van and disregards the guys’ protests as she slams the van door shut.
On the road, Seol and Bo-reum laugh at the boy’s obliviousness of their ploy to give Jin-joo and Nam-gil some alone time. Seol shoots her judgmental eyes at Ban-do as she declares that Jin-joo needs to meet a nice guy for once, while Ban-do just drives in silence. He’s caught up in his memories of how the firefly viewing was supposed to go, and how Nam-gil had ended up in his place.
In Nam-gil’s car, Jin-joo’s thoughts are on the same scenes. As Nam-gil thinks of their moment last night, he recalls how Jin-joo ducked out of the embrace to race back to the cabin, making the excuse that they should go drink.
He breaks the silence for some small talk, but what he really wants is to get Jin-joo’s opinion on his shaving technique. Jin-joo leans in to confirm that his face is nice and smooth, and Nam-gil smiles at her attention.
Back at home, Jin-joo joins her parents for some TV. The news talks about the upcoming Michael Jackson concert in Seoul, but Jin-joo doesn’t show the same enthusiasm for the event as her parents. Dad gets up to try out his dance moves, and then Mom gets up to demonstrate her superior moonwalking skills.
The next morning, Mom makes tomato and carrot juice for her daughters by hand. Jin-joo is touched, and then enraged when her sister refuses the lovingly made breakfast. Jin-joo cuts her off at the door and demands a talk.
Jin-joo asks her sister to appreciate their mother more, because she won’t always be with them, and she doesn’t want her sister to have any regrets later. Jin-joo’s thinking of her mother’s funeral, and how her sister had sobbed beside her. Jin-joo returns from her thoughts, but the idea of Mom dying has unsettled her sister, who walks off.
At school, Ban-do calls the national weather service for earthquake predictions. It seems he’s trying to figure out what phenomenon sent him back to the past. Frustrated with the lack of information, Ban-do heads to the library for some research.
He starts with some Stephen Hawking, but when the theory gets a little too esoteric, he turns to a more pop culture take on time travel.
Meanwhile, Nam-gil can’t find the cat he usually feeds. Instead, he finds Jin-joo eating alone. Nam-gil states aloud the similarities he sees in the cat and Jin-joo, though Jin-joo doesn’t catch it.
She does take note of the loud growl from Nam-gil’s stomach. Although he insists that he’s not hungry, Jin-joo shoves some of her breakfast into his hands, and they eat together.
On the way inside, Jin-joo’s back begins to hurt and she jets off for the restroom. Ban-do sees her from across the way and recognizes the symptoms.
In the restroom, Jin-joo discovers that she doesn’t have any sanitary napkins (ah, so these are period-related symptoms). She tries calling Bo-reum first, but when no one answers, she tries Ban-do next.
Ban-do is already at the pharmacy purchasing painkillers for her, and he reviews the ingredients to get the ones that will be the gentlest on her stomach. He gets Jin-joo’s call, and doesn’t hesitate to pick up a box of pads for her as well. He even remembers that she prefers ones with wings and swaps out for the right kind, as the ladies in line look on in shock.
Ban-do arrives at the restroom, but he’s not sure how to get the supplies to Jin-joo without going in. Dok-jae and Jae-woo spot him, and Dok-jae springs on Ban-do in a sneak attack, sending the box of pads flying out at Bo-reum and Seol’s feet.
Ban-do plays it totally cool though, and picks the box up and hands it over to Bo-reum to deliver to Jin-joo like it’s no big deal. Once he’s alone though, Ban-do gasps out his embarrassment (so close to actually being adult about this, ha).
Ban-do finds Jin-joo in the empty classroom ready to take her medication, and he replaces the soda she was going to drink with the cup of water he’s brought for her. To help with the pain, he hands over his backpack for her to rest her head while he massages her back. Jin-joo worries that they’ll be caught, but Ban-do says they aren’t doing anything wrong.
He presses in further, and asks if she’d like to kiss. When Jin-joo turns him down flat, he says that they shouldn’t feel guilty for being “caught” doing anything less than a kiss scene. Then he just returns to massaging her back, as though he’s slipping back in to an old routine, and Jin-joo can’t help but notice. She thinks back to all the times he was there for her when she was in pain, massaging her back even late into the night.
As Jin-joo clasps her hands under her chin, Ban-do can’t help but notice the empty ring finger where her wedding ring once was, and the empty space on his own finger. Heading outside, Jin-joo marvels at how pretty high schoolers are “nowadays,” and Ban-do chimes in, “You’re pretty too.” He tries to cover a little, saying of course she is because she’s 18 years younger, but Jin-joo still relishes the compliment.
They stop when they spot a group of teens smoking. This triggers a memory for Ban-do, when he and Jin-joo spotted another group of teen smokers in the future. Ban-do wanted to intercede, but Jin-joo held him back, warning that teens were scary and that she couldn’t bear losing him. This sentiment held Ban-do back, and as he returns to 1999, he just keeps walking without a word to the students.
In the evening, Dok-jae and Jae-woo gather around the computer for some porn viewing. Dok-jae is envious of Jae-woo for having a girlfriend, but Jae-woo says that Bo-reum isn’t like that.
Bo-reum isn’t perfectly innocent, since she and some other of the girls in the dorm have gathered for their own night of porno. The girls’ eyes go wide as they watch, and one of the other girls is surprised to hear Bo-reum is so inexperienced, since she has a boyfriend now.
Back in the boys’ room, Dok-jae vents his frustration that Jae-woo hasn’t done it yet, saying he doesn’t have to protect Bo-reum like a cultural asset.
The next morning, Ban-do seems shaken by the date on the calendar, June 25. Coverage of the Michael Jackson concert scheduled that day continues to play on the TV at Jin-joo’s house, where Jin-joo sits in a daze while her mother folds laundry and sings. Inspired by her singing, Jin-joo suggests they go to karaoke in the middle of the day, and the whole family is giddy at the proposal.
On campus, Ban-do walks with a ticket to a ballet and b-boy performance. He flashes back to the moment when Seo-young invited him to the event, where she’ll be performing with the b-boys they encountered on their previous date. He’s quick to take credit for this union, and said he’d certainly attend.
However, now Ban-do seems upset that it’s occurring on this date. Even so, he’s on his way to the show, until he’s distracted by Ye-rim, who pulls up alongside in her car. He tries to walk away, but she just has her driver drive apace with him. She stops him in his tracks when she asks if Jin-joo is okay, since she heard that Hyun-suk tracked her down and hit her.
Meanwhile, Jin-joo and family are at karaoke. Jin-joo lingers briefly at the front desk to make a request before joining with midday drinks. Mom gets the mic and belts it out all afternoon.
Back to Ban-do, who storms into the medical students’ lab and kicks Hyun-suk to the floor. When that doesn’t keep him down, Ban-do pummels him with punch after punch. “Do you think I let you win before because I’m that weak? How dare you touch her!” he demands in between blows.
Ban-do remembers that fateful night in the future, when Hyun-suk was the one to punch him after Ban-do accidentally threw Ye-rim to the ground, and how Hyun-suk gloated about the show he had put on and looked down on him.
At karaoke, Jin-joo’s dad finally gets a song in, and he serenades Mom enthusiastically. Jin-joo’s grudge begins to soften as her sister points out how much in love their parents are even now. As they’re leaving, Jin-joo stops back at the front desk to pick up the tape she asked them to record of their session. Awww, now you have Mom’s voice anytime you feel lonely.
Dok-jae and Ban-do are out for drinks to help Ban-do cool down, but it doesn’t seem to help. Ban-do walks home alone and thinks back to a few nights ago when he walked Jin-joo home. He realizes that she reached out to him when Hyun-suk attacked, and he hadn’t been there once again for her.
Ban-do punches a tree in frustration. His attention is caught, though, when he hears passersby discussing the Michael Jackson concert. Hmmm.
Meanwhile, Bo-reum makes it back from her date with Jae-woo too late, and the dorms are locked. They have no choice but to get a motel room for the night, and one look at Bo-reum on the bed has Jae-woo settling down on the floor. Bo-reum mistakenly assumes Jae-woo has no interest in her, but in reality he’s reciting the national anthem in his head to keep his thoughts occupied.
Jae-woo bolts up suddenly and leaves on an unknown errand. When he returns, Bo-reum is asleep and Jae-woo hovers over her. His hands scoot up her skirt, and Bo-reum wakes up, her thoughts panicked. But then she opens her eyes, and sees that Jae-woo just retrieved medicine for her scrapes from cheerleading. Relieved, Bo-reum kisses and hugs Jae-woo. They sleep next to each other in the bed, sweetly holding hands.
In her bedroom, Jin-joo places the tape of her mom’s singing in her desk drawer. Jin-joo is surprised by a phone call from Ban-do this late at night, who waits outside the gate.
Ban-do stands with a box of grapes in his hands. “Why am I like this?” he asks. “Why can’t I do anything right?” He tells Jin-joo that he’s always been sincere, but even now, everything’s just a mess, just like ten years ago.
In flashback, Ban-do reveals what’s been bothering him about today’s date—in 2009, the night started out great, with a successful sale after a long night of wining and dining some doctors. On his way home, though, Ban-do spotted some teens bullying a classmate, and he stood up for the kid. Ban-do started to scold the students, but he was interrupted by a call from Jin-joo.
It was that call, the one where Jin-joo begged Ban-do to come home right away. While she was still on the phone, the students stepped in and started a fight with Ban-do, Jin-joo still on the phone to hear the pummeling.
Ban-do and the students were hauled into the police station. Ban-do begged the cops to let him go, but it was no use. Jin-joo rushed in to the station to get her husband, but seeing the lineup of bruised teens and her struggling husband sent her into fitful tears. “Why are you always doing this?!” she screamed.
At the funeral, Jin-joo blamed Ban-do for making her miss saying goodbye to her mother, since she’d had to pick him up at the police station instead. The two sobbed at the funeral, brimming with regret.
We fade back to 1999, Ban-do in tears as he confesses his feelings to Jin-joo. He says he’s been trying so hard to live a good life, but all he ever does is feel sorry. And then his last confession: “I missed my mother-in-law just as much as you did.”
The couple’s moment is interrupted, however, as Mom opens the gate and finds the two together.
In 2009, Jin-joo’s mother’s funeral was overshadowed by the news of Michael Jackson’s death on the same day. The news media latched on to fact that he died exactly ten years to the day from his Seoul concert in 1999 and covered the event nonstop.
Jin-joo narrates over scenes of her watching the news in her funeral hanbok: “The day my mom, who was like the universe to me, disappeared, the rest of the world was paying attention to something else. And my sorrow seemed to be ignored just like that, as something petty and normal.”
Three months after the funeral, a weary Ban-do braced himself outside their apartment before he donned a falsely cheerful demeanor. He brought the pork slices that Jin-joo likes for dinner, and he hurried off to change so that he could make them for her, but Jin-joo never budged from her place on the couch.
Ban-do found Jin-joo’s assortment of photos of her mother lying on the bed, and his fake smile faltered. On the couch, Jin-joo huddled into a ball, the two of them so close physically but neither willing to talk about their sorrow.
Guys, I could barely keep it together to write this recap. I just kept crying.
The reason for Ban-do’s failure to show up for Jin-joo is so much more painful than I expected. It’s not just that he wasn’t there, but that Jin-joo had to go pick him up instead of going to see her mother. He inadvertently asked her to choose between her husband and her dying mother, who was the world to her. She had to listen to her husband take a beating over the phone, a beating that she had warned him against and begged him not to risk, for her sake. June 25 was a night she could have lost both her mother and her husband, and it’s the intensity of her deep love for Ban-do mixed with the sorrow of the loss of her mother that has fueled her anger and isolation.
From Ban-do’s perspective, he’s just been trying to do what’s right and good all this time. Protecting a kid from bullying isn’t a bad thing, but even good intentions can contribute to bad results, and he’s been beating himself up for it ever since.
Jin-joo’s family is so incredibly warm. The moonwalking scene was so real and lived in, just a bunch of goofs being lovely with one another. It makes the stark contrast to Jin-joo’s future all that more poignant. Jin-joo grew up in the most incredibly happy and caring household, and now she feels incredibly alone. After losing her mother, she isolated herself from those who she felt didn’t understand or share her pain, and that included her husband, who put on a cheerful face after the funeral, and her father, who found a new life partner just a year after her mother’s death. Even the closest of families can break down completely when a major trauma tears them at the seams.
Jin-joo’s talk with her sister was so heartbreaking. Jin-joo just can’t impress on her sister what it will mean to them later when Mom is no longer around, but it’s Jin-joo who has been letting her grudge with her father prevent her from fully enjoying these happy days with her family again. Jin-joo has a special place in her heart for what her mother meant to her, but it also seems as though she refused any other care from those who didn’t match up with Mom.
The show plays a lot of the things from the past for gags, but it doesn’t forget that the most mundane artifacts from years gone by can also be the most painful, like a song that you’ve heard in a different context in the future, or what Michael Jackson means for you in 1999 in contrast to 2009. I really liked the way this event was woven into the shape of the narrative, and though I had my suspicions early on what was going on with the date, the impact at the end of the day with Jin-joo at the funeral watching the news and Ban-do arriving with grapes was perfectly resonant.
I’ve been rooting for the main couple from the beginning, as tempting as second leads may be, but this episode really filled my heart back up with my desire for everyone to just finally talk it all out and make up. Jin-joo and Ban-do have just been so lonely, but each scene with a doting Ban-do assures us that it hasn’t always been that way, and that Ban-do has been wanting to find a way back to the good times for a while now.
On a lighter side, it was also a nice touch to see something like menstrual cramps featured in the show, not only as something that can impact a woman’s whole life, but also as something that a husband can also help care for. Ban-do doesn’t leave Jin-joo alone to deal with her “lady issues,” he’s always there to massage her back and pick out the best painkillers for her. He’s committed to her comfort, as he pointed out, because he’s there to care for her for life.
There was something deeply satisfying about Ban-do finally giving Hyun-suk the beating he deserves. From the very first episode of the show, we’ve been told that Ban-do was impulsive and quick to get into a scrape. But we’ve been with adult Ban-do this whole time, the one who pushed down all his anger at this man in order to make money for his family, so the restraint has been understandable. So while it doesn’t solve any actual problems, I was super pleased when Ban-do’s fist made contact.
I’m starting to think that very little will actually change in the future, and I honestly think that will be the most satisfying. Tragedy will still strike, but I want to believe that Jin-joo and Ban-do are learning to cope and look to one another to help unburden their struggles. Hyun-suk may still be an intolerable jerk, but Ban-do won’t have to grovel anymore. Mom will still be gone, but I’m hoping Jin-joo will reconcile with those she’s turned away from. Though I really do hope a few small things, like the tape Jin-joo recorded of her mom’s singing, will be able to slip through the cracks.
- Dancing the Macarena with Go Back Spouses
- Premiere Watch: 20th Century, Witch’s Courtroom, This Life Is Our First, Mad Dog, Revenge Club, Go Back Spouses, Package, Black, Revolutionary Love
- Go Back Spouses feel the difference eighteen years makes
- Go Back Spouses find a 2-in-1 fountain of youth and time portal
- Go Back Spouses get a re-do at love and marriage
- Trios of best friends, rivals, and enemies for KBS’s Go Back Spouses
- Jang Nara, Sohn Ho-joon tie the knot for new KBS drama