I’m Not a Robot: Episodes 17-18
Some long held wishes come true, but they aren’t as meaningful as expected because they can’t be shared with that special someone. As Min-kyu contemplates all that the world has to offer, he can’t ignore that it doesn’t quite sparkle without Aji-3, but suddenly her presence causes him nothing but sorrow. As much as Jia wants to tell him the truth about her role as Aji-3’s stand-in, she’s forced to reconsider what’s really best for Min-kyu.
EPISODE 17: “You can send Aji-3 away now”
Outfitted in her wig and crazy glasses, Jia takes refuge in a bathroom stall to mentally prepare for the final round. Two employees walk in and discuss how Min-kyu approved the competition to help Ri-el and the conversation turns to their engagement.
The women debate who’s the better man, Min-kyu or Yoo-chul, and when one of them calls Min-kyu a psycho, Jia storms out of her stall to wash her hands and splashes water on the naysayer. When the women leave, Jia loyally announces, “Kim Min-kyu’s the best in every way.”
Jia runs into Jin-bae in the lobby but he doesn’t recognize her, although her suitcase looks familiar. He guesses that she’s a finalist and kindly directs her to the auditorium.
As the competition gets underway, Jia scans the booths onstage and we see in flashback that Min-kyu read the letter that she poured her heart into. Jia’s voice reads, “When you touch my heart ball, you’ll think of someone you want to share your feelings with.” Min-kyu stared at Jia’s heart-display of books as her letter closed with a wish, “I hope that your one and only will appear in your life.”
Min-kyu calls Jin-bae to inform him that he’s on his way to KM to attend the competition while Baek-gyun races there as well, worried that Min-kyu and Jia might meet.
Ri-el introduces Yoo-chul, who sees Min-kyu in the balcony when he reaches the podium. Chairman Hwang is also in the balcony, but he leaves once Min-kyu sends him a withering glare. Jin-bae joins Min-kyu and when he sees the heart balls onstage, he realizes that the woman in the crazy disguise was his sister.
At the coffee house, Ssan-ip and Hok-tal watch Sun-hye read Jia’s fortune, which predicts that luck won’t be on her side. That turns out to be true, since there’s zero interest in her heart balls.
When Jia hears the negative comments of the crowd, she drops onto a chair, dejected. From the balcony, Jin-bae wills his sister to fight, “You always yell so loudly whenever you fight with me. Why are you sitting down? You have strong legs.”
Baek-gyun enters the auditorium to look for Jia but is stopped by Jin-bae. Out in the lobby, Jin-bae assures Baek-gyun that Min-kyu didn’t recognize her because, “She disguised herself like a crazy woman.” Curious, Jin-bae asks Baek-gyun, “Are you dating my sister again?” He admits that he wants to and came to tell her how he feels.
Jin-bae breaks the news that Jia’s heart lamps aren’t doing well, while back at the coffee house, Sun-hye continues to read Jia’s fortune. She smiles and explains to Ssan-ip and Hok-tal, “…Jia has something stronger than luck…She has something she got from her father. An inheritance that no one can ever take away from her.”
Min-kyu is disappointed that the creator of the heart lamps lacks the passion that he sensed in her letter. Jia suddenly hears her father’s voice and lifts her head. She imagines him in front of her and with a smile, he offers the encouragement that she needs, “I’m sure our Jia will do something that’ll help other people…I believe in you.”
Jia stands up and promotes her heart balls with a renewed zeal. They appeal to some parents who want to stay connected to their children, no matter where they are, and Min-kyu leans forward as Jia’s heart balls gather interest.
Jin-bae and Baek-gyun can’t hide how happy they are to see her booth flooded with people. Baek-gyun admits that, in her own way, Jia is a greater genius than he is and he urges Jin-bae not to look down on her. Baek-gyun never saw that side of her four years ago, and expects that Jin-bae underestimates her as well since Jia often commented on how similar they are.
Yoo-chul visits a booth with Ri-el and notes that one of the dogs shares a name with her childhood pet. She can’t believe that he remembers, but he reminds her that she missed school when it died. We then see young Yoo-chul console young Ri-el as she prepared to bury an urn in the woods. Ri-el is moved, but she’s called away and leaves Yoo-chul alone to visit Jia’s booth.
Yoo-chul offers Jia encouragement just as Min-kyu approaches with a question about the heart ball, “What if that person becomes the one who caused me the most pain? I’ll think of that pain whenever I look at this.” He glances at Yoo-chul as he continues, ‘What do I do then? Should I just throw it away? Or, should I break it into pieces?”
Jia recalls when Min-kyu identified his archenemies and recognizes Yoo-chul. She surprises Min-kyu when she answers, “Hey, why would you stay friends with a jerk who gives you a hard time? You can always make new friends.” Jia credits her father with those words, spoken when she was hurt by someone, and adds, “He said we need to learn how to say goodbye to old friends and meet new ones and flow through life like a river.”
Yoo-chul walks away as Min-kyu laughs that he’d like to meet Jia’s father. When she volunteers that her father died when she was in high school and her mother when she was two, Min-kyu tells her, “You remind me a lot of someone I know.”
You remind me of someone….
Min-kyu worries that the heart ball won’t have the desired effect on him, but Jia promises that it will definitely make him think of that special person. Buoyed by her confidence, he has Jia stand at a distance with one of the heart balls and touches the one next to him. When the ball lights up in her hands, Min-kyu sees Aji-3 in Jia’s place and walks away without a word.
Over coffee, Baek-gyun confesses to Jin-bae how dismissive he was of Jia when they dated and that he realized after they broke up that he didn’t really know her. Baek-gyun believes that’s why he modeled Aji-3 after her, because he wanted to understand Jia. Baek-gyun hopes for another chance with her and asks for Jin-bae’s help, but he leaves that up to Jia.
Jin-bae warns Baek-gyun that he must protect the team from any misunderstanding with Min-kyu. Chairman Hwang and Yoo-chul want to sell the Santa Maria team to Bold Group and Min-kyu is the only one standing in their way.
Min-kyu pulls into a gas station and opens his trunk where credit cards and cash are at the ready. When the attendant returns his card, he brushes against Min-kyu’s fingers but he’s too distracted to notice and drives away.
After the finalists bid farewell to each other, Jia tells herself, “It’s really over now. With him, too.” One of the dogs gets loose, which causes panic for another finalist with an allergy to dogs.
The man’s reaction reminds Jia of Min-kyu the day that she delivered his action figure. She recalls his confession that he was allergic to human contact and realizes that he suffered his life-threatening reaction after Ri-el touched his hand.
Jia then remembers their outing on the promenade and wonders how that was possible. She thinks of Dr. Oh’s explanation that a similar patient improved when he found someone that he could trust and suddenly Min-kyu’s words, “I can’t live without you,” and “You’re my most precious treasure,” take on new meaning.
Min-kyu pulls over when he realizes that he touched the attendant’s hand and checks himself for a rash, but he finds nothing, and his monitor shows that he’s normal, even though he’s alone.
Dr. Oh runs into the lobby of the hospital, stunned to see Min-kyu touch an elderly patient who bumped into him. Min-kyu hugs his speechless doctor and tells him, “Thank you for your hard work for the last fifteen years.”
Min-kyu sits outside as Dr. Oh tries to make sense of his sudden cure. He asks if something made him happy and Min-kyu thinks of Aji-3 with the heart ball and admits, “I did call out to someone with my heart.” Of course, Dr. Oh assumes that Min-kyu means Ri-el and gushes that thanks to Aji-3, he can marry his first love.
Dr. Oh tells Min-kyu that he can send Aji-3 away now, but he wants to keep her. Dr. Oh gently explains that Min-kyu became attached to Aji-3 because she was his first friend in fifteen years, but that he’ll experience more happiness from an attachment to a human. When Min-kyu protests that Aji-3 made him happy, Dr. Oh calls it an illusion.
Dr. Oh describes love that can be reciprocated and the beauty of growing old with the person you love. Now that Min-kyu has improved so much, Dr. Oh wants him to experience the touch of someone that he loves. Dr. Oh points out that since Aji-3 opened a door for him, it’s time for Min-kyu to re-enter the world and meet the people in it.
Jia arrives at the hospital just as Min-kyu exits an elevator and walks right past her. While Jia waits to see a doctor, she gets a call from Baek-gyun, who asks to meet because he has something to tell her.
Min-kyu sits in his car and thinks about Dr. Oh’s invitation to rejoin the world, but he doesn’t look at all happy. He calls Baek-gyun and implores, “Help me.”
Jia meets with Dr. Oh to ask for more information on human contact allergy and reminds him that he mentioned the condition could improve if the patient formed a trusting relationship. He shows her an interview with the patient from the U.S. and explains that when his nurse became his girlfriend, his condition improved.
As Jia watches the interview, she remembers when Min-kyu almost died and whispers, “He must have been really scared for a long time.” She recalls his explanation that he spent fifteen years on the house of cards and understands, “He must have been so lonely.” She thinks back to when Min-kyu rested his head on her shoulder and her eyes fill with tears as she realizes, “He must have missed people so much.”
Jia wonders if the cure has to be human, could it be a human-looking doll or — a robot? Dr. Oh surprises Jia when he asks if she knows Baek-gyun.
Baek-gyun joins Min-kyu in a hotel bar and they laugh when they’re able to shake hands. Their mood is celebratory as both men both drink to Min-kyu’s recovery.
The team is happy to see Jia when she returns to the barn, until Dr. Oh walks in and sees Aji-3. Alarmed, Pi demands to know his identity, but Dr. Oh ignores her as he looks back and forth between Aji-3 and Jia.
Pi turns to Jia, who wants to know, “Did you know about it, too? Did you all know?” Angry, Dr. Oh bellows, “I told you to send a robot, not a human being…You could have killed someone!”
Baek-gyun doesn’t hear the call from Pi as he urges Min-kyu to tell him what’s on his mind. Min-kyu recalls how he was instructed to share his feelings while he trained Aji-3 and Baek-gyun completes his sentence, “So you fully recovered,” but Min-kyu corrects him, “I fell in love.” A tormented Min-kyu makes it clear to Baek-gyun, “I love Aji-3.”
EPISODE 18: “Seeing you is too hard for me”
Min-kyu explains to a surprised Baek-gyun, “I love Aji 3. I don’t want to acknowledge it, but I have no choice.” Min-kyu asks Baek-gyun if he anticipated that result and is assured that it never occurred to him.
Min-kyu confesses, “I don’t know when it started, but I only waited for the time Aji-3 would come. In the evenings, I’d keep praying for the morning to come quickly. I was really happy that I had someone who listened to me. And knowing that I had someone who watched over me and remembered me made my heart pound.”
Baek-gyun finds it understandable that Min-kyu would become obsessed with the first friend he made in fifteen years, the one responsible for his cure. Min-kyu confides that Aji-3 makes him feel alive and Baek-gyun reminds him that they’re talking about a robot. Min-kyu knows that, but shares, “I feel like Aji-3 loves me, too.”
Baek-gyun reminds Min-kyu that’s not possible because Aji-3’s responses are programmed, the result of his input. Min-kyu admits that’s why he’s going crazy, “My head tells me that everything I feel right now is fake, an illusion. But my heart says all of this is true, that it’s happening.” Min-kyu can’t hold back his tears as he begs Baek-gyun for a solution.
Baek-gyun carries a drunk Min-kyu to his bedroom and asks Butler Sung to look after him. When he returns to the barn, an angry Jia confronts him, “Did you send me in there knowing he’s allergic to humans?” Pi tells him that Dr. Oh paid them a visit and Baek-gyun tries to explain, but Jia argues that his need for an investor explains everything.
The team comes to Baek-gyun’s defense, but he takes full responsibility for what’s happened. Jia yells that Baek-gyun didn’t have the right to make that decision for her.
Even though she’s grateful that Min-kyu is cured, Jia is terrified at the realization that he could have died if he had discovered the truth. Her voice rises as she points out, “I can’t even tell him to trust me! Do you know what that means to me? Why did you do that to me?”
Pi explains to Jia that Baek-gyun turned down another investment offer so that he could help Min-kyu. Pi adds that they really expected to repair Aji-3 quickly and a tearful Jia replies they should have told her that from the beginning.
The bumblers watch for Aji-3 and when Jia stops her scooter just outside of Min-kyu’s gate, the men find her familiar. In unison, they identify her as Aji-3, just in a different wig, and follow her. The bumblers are confused when they see Jia take her suitcase inside Jin-bae’s house and Curly wonders, “Did the robot run away from home?”
Jia’s sister-in-law and niece greet her with smiles, but when they see her face, they hug her just as she begins to sob.
Curly snaps photos when Jin-bae gets home and sees Jia’s scooter. The men check their notebook and when they match Jin-bae to his personnel file, their wheels start to turn. Slowly, very slowly.
When Jin-bae walks in, his wife quietly announces, “Jia’s home.” Jin-bae visits Jia’s room and urges her to get lots of rest. Before he leaves, she admits, “I should have listened to you back then. I should have improved my resume and tried to get a job. If I’d done that, I wouldn’t be in this mess.”
Jin-bae admits that at her age, it’s not such a terrible mess, and adds that not many people are willing to take risks to follow their dream, he certainly didn’t. Jia cries that she only managed to twist up her life, but Jin-bae encourages her to cheer up.
A much calmer Dr. Oh meets with Baek-gyun, unsure who to thank for Min-kyu’s cure, Jia or Aji-3. Baek-gyun reasons that since Min-kyu believes that Jia is a robot, Aji-3 is the true object of his affection and deserves the credit. Dr. Oh suggests a way to help Min-kyu get over his conflicted feelings, but he’s not sure that Baek-gyun has the courage to tell him the truth.
Baek-gyun goes to Aji-3 and asks her to define her relationship with Min-kyu. She explains that they can tell each other anything and that she can be his closest friend, but not the woman that he loves. When Baek-gyun remembers that Min-kyu confessed, “I think Aji-3 loves me, too,” he studies the videos of Jia’s interactions with Min-kyu and realizes why he believes that.
Jia answers Baek-gyun’s call and he apologizes that he looked for her but she reminds him that she was the one tempted by money. He’s sorry that he didn’t tell her the truth and we see in flashback that Baek-gyun explained that using an identical looking human was part of the test. Jia admits that she suspected something wasn’t right, but let it slide.
Baek-gyun explains that when he had the chance to leave, part of the reason that he stayed was because he was excited that his robot could heal someone, but overlooked the possibility that Min-kyu could get hurt in some other way. Jia argues, “That’s why, I think we should be honest before it’s too late,” and they agree to tell Min-kyu the truth the next day.
Min-kyu wakes up in his bed and summons Aji-3, who walks unnoticed to the mansion. She finds Min-kyu in his room where he sadly admits, “Aji-3. Seeing you is too hard for me…Each time I see you, I realize what it is that I can’t do.”
Min-kyu confides that now that he can do anything, there’s so much that he wants to do with her, but he can’t watch her grow old or cook for her. While she stays the same, Min-kyu has changed, and his feelings are more that he can deal with.
Aji-3 reminds Min-kyu, “You said we should be together forever,” but he can only apologize. Aji-3 notes, “You look very pained and sad,” and Min-kyu raises his tear-streaked face in agreement, “Your master is a mess.” She reminds him of what he taught her long ago, “You’re my master, no matter what you look like,” and Min-kyu starts to sob.
The bumblers snap more photos when Baek-gyun picks up Jia in the morning. They get a call from Director Yoon and before they can update him, he fires them when he learns that they don’t have Aji-3 and hangs up.
Dr. Oh gets a call from the doctor of the U.S. patient with the tragic news that he suffered a fatal allergic shock when his girlfriend ran off with all of his assets. Dr. Oh wastes no time and calls Jia to tell her what happened and to warn her not to tell Min-kyu the truth.
Baek-gyun pulls over as Dr. Oh tells Jia, “We have no idea what can happen. So you have to keep quiet. You must not run into Kim Min-kyu ever again!”
Baek-gyun goes alone to meet with Min-kyu at his house and suggests, “I’ll tell you what you have to do today.” When he proposes to reset Aji-3, Min-kyu looks out the window and tries not to cry.
At the barn, Pi helps a heartbroken Jia to dress as Aji-3 one last time. The next time we see her, she stands in front of Min-kyu in his house as snow falls outside.
Min-kyu asks Aji-3 to listen, because he’s about to compliment her, “For the last month you were my friend, my treasure, my treatment and you were my door to the outside world. Every minute with you was a miracle for me. Thank you. And I’m sorry.” Jia tells Min-kyu, “I’m not the one who cured you. Deep down in your heart, you had a longing for someone special. That’s what cured you.”
Then it’s Jia’s turn to give Min-kyu a compliment, “You made me realize that I’m someone valuable. You were my friend, you treated me like treasure, and you made me feel special. I’ll never forget everything you did for me. And I’ll never forget how much you treasured me. Thank you. And I’m sorry”
In spite of his tears, Min-kyu manages to calmly order Aji-3 into Operation Mode. When he announces that he’s about to reset her, she reminds him that all of their memories will be permanently deleted. Min-kyu agrees to proceed and she explains how to carry out the reset.
Min-kyu announces that he has one more thing to input and places his mother’s necklace around Jia’s neck, then hugs her and confesses, “I love you.” Unseen, Jia’s eyes fill with tears as she confesses, “Every single moment I spent with you made me happy,” while Min-kyu hugs her tightly and sobs.
Every moment made me happy
How can episodes filled with so much personal triumph, that should be cause for celebration, be so heart crushingly sad? There’s so much to cheer for as Jia makes it to the final round of the KM competition with her heart lamps, Baek-gyun and Jin-bae recognize how special she is and Min-kyu is cured to the point that he can go anywhere that he wants and touch people without fear of dying. Every single accomplishment is a victory of epic proportions, but there’s an underlying sorrow that anchors the entire hour. It’s a delicate balance, but the writing and directing, not to mention the performances, blend the happy with the sad in such a memorable way.
Min-kyu’s head and heart have been at odds with each other for some time now, but he has his moment of truth once his cure is complete. Min-kyu no longer needs Aji-3 to be within sight to prevent an allergic reaction, but that development only reveals how deep his feelings for her have become. Everything that Min-kyu longed for during his confinement is finally within his reach but he can’t share any of it with a robot, even though he wants to. His confession to the real Aji-3, that he’s changed while she hasn’t, pretty much sums up his dilemma, he can’t expect anything more than her programmed responses and it’s not enough anymore.
While Min-kyu confronts his feelings for Aji-3, Jia walks her own path of realization. Witnessing that finalist panic at the sight of a loose dog starts a chain of events that helps Jia to fully appreciate Min-kyu’s condition and how he’s lived, and suffered, for the past fifteen years. That awareness highlights how dangerous Aji-3’s test phase was for Min-kyu and Jia is genuinely fearful for his life. By the time that she learns that the patient in the U.S. suffered a fatal allergic reaction when he was betrayed, Jia is prepared to let Min-kyu go, even though it’s the last thing that she wants to do.
The entire hour sets up that final farewell between Min-ku and Jia (as Aji-3). For me, the final scene represents both an ending and a beginning as they open their hearts to each other before they say goodbye. Prepared to proceed with Aji-3’s reset, Min-kyu has the freedom to share his true feelings, knowing that there will be no record of his words. But he gives his Aji-3, who has always been Jia, his mother’s necklace as proof that she is the only one that he will ever love, even if she is a robot.
As Min-kyu and Jia face each other for one last time with so much emotion, while snow falls outside, their meeting feels like a wedding. Their words of gratitude, encouragement and apology are balanced with each other’s as they share their heartfelt emotions. The gift of the necklace, more meaningful to Min-kyu than a ring, seals what amounts to their vows. But rather than commemorate two lives joined together, Jia lets Min-kyu go to safeguard his life and Min-kyu lets Aji-3 go when he “deletes” all of their shared memories. It was a heart-wrenching farewell filled with many tears, but that reset offers a glimmer of hope, that Min-kyu will meet Jia when he re-enters the world and that he’ll reconnect with the one heart that he longs for. Rather than focus on Min-kyu’s breakup with Aji-3, I’m going to anticipate his love story with Jia, because some things are just meant to be. The next time that I shed tears for this couple, I want them to be tears of joy.
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