My Ajusshi: Episode 16 (Final)
It’s time to say farewell, but My Ajusshi reminds us that goodbye is never final, and that if you truly love someone, there’s always hope. Nobody is expendable, and every person is deserving of love. Nobody knows this better than Dong-hoon and Ji-an, who have found in each other a special relationship that will never break, no matter where life takes them.
EPISODE 16 RECAP
Dong-hoon takes Ji-an to visit her grandmother, and they watch the cherry blossoms floating down around them. Grandma asks Ji-an what sound they make, and Ji-an says, “A nice sound.” Grandma signs that she feels happy and peaceful for the first time in her life.
Grandma sends a smile to Dong-hoon, who’s waiting a respectful distance away. She signs something to Ji-an, and they both look over to Dong-hoon, who joins them. On the drive home, Dong-hoon asks what Grandma said. She tells him that Grandma is thankful for him.
They arrive at the police station at the same time as Yoon-hee, who’s offered to be Ji-an’s lawyer. Yoon-hee leads Ji-an into an interrogation room, where she apologizes, and thanks Ji-an. Ji-an asks why everyone is thanking her, saying that she’d hate her if she were them, and admitting that she hated Yoon-hee because she was jealous.
Dong-hoon heads to Jung-hee’s bar, where he finds Gyeom-duk waiting outside. He takes Gyeom-duk to buy flowers, and as they walk back, Gyeom-duk tells Dong-hoon about Jung-hee’s visit to the temple and how she threatened to start a fire. He admits he’s uncomfortable walking around in the neighborhood that made him feel like he’d committed a crime, where he defied expectations and cast aside his lover in an act of betrayal.
He confesses that instead of banishing his thoughts all these years, he should have banished his feelings of guilt. Dong-hoon says that he was relieved when Gyeom-duk ran off to be a monk, because he’d always felt second-best next to his friend. He’d watched Gyeom-duk having his head shaved and thought, “I’m going to lose to this bastard,” and he’d felt scared and run home when it was over. Gyeom-duk says there’s no winning or losing, because everyone has their own life to live.
Dong-hoon tells his friend about the most pitiful girl in the world, who said that he’s the most pitiful person in the world. He sighs that he didn’t live his life right, and definitely lost. Gyeom-duk just tells him to win now.
Jung-hee is shocked to see her old flame standing in her bar holding a gigantic bouquet of roses, and she wonders if she’s losing her mind as Gyeom-duk sits. She serves him tea and notes that he left as a young man, but came back middle-aged.
Gyeom-duk’s smile starts to slip as he stares at something, and he confesses that he’s wondering why he could never come here in the last twenty years. He tells Jung-hee that something was weighing on his heart, and she says that she always hoped that weight was her. Jung-hee asks what’s left for her to look forward to, and Gyeom-duk tells her to live happily and comfortably.
While Dong-hoon hangs out at Mom’s house, she secretly slips him some money, but Ki-hoon pipes up that they saw that. Mom says it’s just money for new clothes to go with his new job, and Sang-hoon offers to spring for a new black suit. Dong-hoon asks Mom if she thinks he’s pitiful, but she says she just worried because he’s the quiet kid.
Sang-hon asks why Dong-hoon is here instead of at home. Dong-hoon says he’s waiting for Yoon-hee to call him, but she’s still with Ji-an at the police station.
Ji-an tells the entire story, starting with her noticing that Joon-young had a burner phone and only ever called one person with it, and how she realized it was the same number listed as “Wife” in Dong-hoon’s phone. She says that’s how she knew why Joon-young was trying to get Dong-hoon fired, confessing that she agreed to help get Dong-hoon and Director Park fired in exchange for money.
Joon-young also goes to the police to tell them his version of events, blaming Ji-an for blackmailing him with knowledge of his affair. He says that he only found out about what Ji-an did to Director Park after the fact, and that he was afraid of her so he didn’t give her any money. He’s asked why he didn’t report her then, and he says that he’d done something wrong that he didn’t want to admit to himself.
Ji-an reluctantly admits that she learned about Director Park’s important meeting through the wiretap she installed on Dong-hoon’s phone. Joon-young is asked if he directed Ji-an to tap Dong-hoon’s phone, but he scoffs that she did that on her own. He denies Ji-an claim that he told her to keep listening to Dong-hoon, and to try to start a scandal with him.
Unfortunately, Joon-young paid Ji-an in cash, and the recordings are gone, so there’s no proof that Ji-an didn’t act all on her own. Yoon-hee tells the detective that she’s requested the records from Joon-young’s burner phone, and when his lawyer says no such phone exists, she insists that it does.
In private, Yoon-hee asks Ji-an why she deleted the audio recordings on her phone. Ji-an murmurs that there was information about Yoon-hee on there, information that made Dong-hoon suffer. Joon-young is brought in since they’re telling such different stories, and he sneers that Ji-an and Yoon-hee live interesting lives.
He accuses Ji-an of drugging and kidnapping Director Park and only telling him afterward, which she admits is true. Joon-young gloats, until she adds, “It’s not like you had the mental capacity to think of a plan that would work. The only thing you could think of was using a subcontractor to create a bribery scandal.” Damn.
Joon-young fires back that she’s doing all this because he gave Dong-hoon a hard time, and that she likes him. Ji-an asks why he keeps saying she likes Dong-hoon as if it’s an insult, scoffing that he must get petty when he likes someone.
She looks him dead in the eye as she asks, “Do you even know what it means for a person to like someone?” Furious, Joon-young orders his lawyer to sue Ji-an for blackmail, defamation, and anything else he can make stick. He stalks back to the office, thinking about Kwang-il’s partner demanding money for all the recordings.
Alone again, Yoon-hee asks Ji-an if she’s trying to punish her, and Ji-an asks why Yoon-hee cheated on a man like Dong-hoon. Yoon-hee says there were a thousand reasons, but probably not one real reason. They call Dong-hoon when they finally leave the station. Yoon-hee tells him that this would be easier if they had the recordings, but they don’t know who has Ki-bum’s computer.
Luckily for Ji-an, Dong-hoon convinced Director Park not to press charges. Yoon-hee explains that to Ji-an, who says that one of the kindest things she heard Dong-hoon say when she was listening to him was, “Do you want me to buy anything on my way home?” when he was talking to Yoon-hee.
Yoon-hee drops Ji-an off with Jung-hee, and as they’re getting ready for bed, Ji-an asks why Jung-hee doesn’t ask what she’s doing with Dong-hoon and Yoon-hee. Jung-hee says that all she cares about is that Ji-an comes back, and Ji-an teaches her the sign for “thank you.” Jung-hee asks if she should have Ji-an’s old neighbor bring her things over, but Ji-an says that if she stays at the bar, Dong-hoon won’t be able to come here.
Kwang-il frantically copies all of the audio recordings from Ki-bum’s computer, as his partner yells that they could get a lot of money for deleting those.
Ji-an calls Dong-hoon (whose team is hanging out in his office just because they miss him, so cute) to tell him the bad news — Grandma has passed away. He goes with her to identify Grandma’s body, and when she can’t bring herself to look, he looks first.
When she finally looks at her grandmother’s face, Ji-an hugs her and cries her heart out. She signs, “Grandmother, I was so happy that I had you by my side. Thank you for being in my life. Thank you for being my grandma. Thank you. Let’s meet again, okay? Let’s meet each other again.”
Dong-hoon and his brothers come to the funeral, as does Jung-hee. Sang-hoon grows fidgety, likely thinking of his own mother’s eventual funeral. He calls Mom and sends her on a scavenger hunt for his hidden money, directing her to deposit it into Ki-hoon’s bank account. Next he calls Jae-chul for a list of their soccer club members.
Soon Jung-hee is laying out a lavish memorial table full of food, and the funeral hall fills up with condolence wreaths from Jae-chul and the soccer club members. The entire soccer club shows up to pay their respects, along with Dong-hoon’s old work team, and Yoon-hee and Ki-bum arrive last.
Ki-bum tells Ji-an that he and Yoon-hee are on their way to the police station. Ji-an says she’s sorry, and Ki-bum gives her a slightly forced, but sweet, smile and tells her to hang in there. He stops on his way out to thank Dong-hoon.
Dong-hoon offers to pay Sang-hoon back all the money he spent, but Sang-hoon refuses to take it. He says he’s never liked himself as much as he does right now, even if it means he’s broke tomorrow.
Dong-hoon takes issue when his coworkers pour shots and clink glasses as if they’re in a bar. They’re curious about how Ki-hoon is with a semi-famous actress like Yu-ra, and ask what Ki-hoon does for a living. When Dong-hoon doesn’t reply, Ki-hoon asks him why, then sighs and says he’s a cleaner. Yu-ra says it’s only temporary, but Ki-hoon grumbles, “Who says?”
Worried that Ji-an isn’t eating, Jung-hee fetches Dong-hoon. But when Choon-dae arrives just then, he goes to see to Ji-an first. He looks at the room packed full of mourners, then tells Ji-an that her grandmother is blessed.
Later, the guys play soccer in the parking lot, while the ladies look on indulgently and Dong-hoon arranges for cremation of Grandma’s body. Jung-hee asks Ji-an her New Year’s plans, and if she wants to meet up twice a year at New Year’s and Chuseok. Ji-an actually smiles and says she’d like that.
Dong-hoon tells Ji-an when and where Grandma will be cremated. She asks why he’s being so nice to her, and if he plans to leave her when this is over. He informs her that it was Sang-hoon who arranged all this, giving her a tiny smile when she stares at him incredulously. Ji-an says that when he told her to call him when Grandma passed away, it was very comforting.
As he goes to join the soccer game, Ji-an remembers the last time she saw Grandma. She’d told Ji-an (about Dong-hoon), “What a wonderful relationship you have with him. And so precious, too. If you think about it, each and every interpersonal relationship is quite fascinating and precious. You must repay them. Live a happy life. That’s how you can repay the people in your life.”
Looking around at all of these people who have transformed her life, and the man who started it all, Ji-an she finally loses the last bit of hardness in her expression.
Joon-young tells Detective Hong about the caller who demanded money to delete the recordings, and how he sounded like a young man. Detective Hong immediately suspects Kwang-il and rushes to his office with several police officers.
Kwang-il stuffs all the copies of the recordings into a bag and tries to flee carrying the computer tower. He runs into Detective Hong in the hallway, but he narrowly manages to escape, snarling that he won’t lose the recordings to him.
The cops chase him down to the parking lot, where Kwang-il violently smashes the tower into smithereens on the pavement. He runs, still carrying the bag with the recordings. He leads the cops through a maze of alleyways, eventually managing to lose them and get away.
Most of the mourners show up again for Grandma’s interment. Ji-an rests her forehead on the beautiful urn for a long moment before setting Grandma in her final resting place, along with many pictures of her with Ji-an.
Dong-hoon gets annoyed when Sang-hoon thanks Ji-an for letting him have the most wonderful day of his life, given that it was due to her loss. But Ji-an says it’s okay, because it was the most wonderful day of her life, too. She promises to repay Sang-hoon, but Jae-chul says it isn’t necessary.
On the bus back to the city, Dong-hoon watches Ji-an thoughtfully. Ki-hoon gives him a pair of sunglasses, saying they should wear them later and take a picture, because it’s Sang-hoon’s wish.
Back at the office, another envelope arrives for Dong-hoon with no sender listed. He opens it in front of the team and finds a bag… the bag Kwang-il filled with Ji-an’s recordings and rescued from the police. While he was running, he’d stopped in a delivery store and had it sent to Dong-hoon.
As we see Kwang-il walking away, we hear Ji-an’s voice: “He used to be a good person. And he used to be nice to me. Back then the look in his eyes wasn’t the same as it is now.” Aww, I knew there was still a good man in there.
Dong-hoon delivers the recordings to the police, who play them for Joon-young. Gossip of Joon-young’s affair with Dong-hoon’s wife quickly makes it back to the office, and Dong-hoon’s former teammates are too upset to even talk at dinner that night. Suddenly Ji-an is a hero, and the team asks Dong-hoon to arrange a meeting so they can properly thank her for her loyalty.
Dong-hoon gets a text from Ji-an: “Buy me food. And alcohol.” He finds her at his friend’s restaurant, talking with the owner, and she smiles to see him. She tells him that Chairman Jang bought her lunch today and introduced her to a job opportunity with a friend’s company in Busan, and that he put in a good word for her so they’re willing to overlook the fact that she’s on trial.
She says she wants to go far away because she feels pathetic wandering this neighborhood hoping to see him. She reminds him of his promise to be happy, half-joking that a person who can be happy without her holds no appeal. She says she wants to start over and reinvent a new life for herself.
She continues that she’s glad that they’ll be happy to see one another if they run into each other later, because when she was on the run, she thought that Dong-hoon would avoid her if he saw her. She thanks him for being so good to her.
He replies, “You must have been sent to his neighborhood in order to save me. I was on the verge of dying, but you were the one who saved me.” Ji-an looks at him tenderly and tells him, “I truly lived for the first time because of you, Ajusshi.” Dong-hoon holds out his glass and proposes that they be truly happy now, and they toast.
Not only does Joon-young lose his job, but Director Yoon as well. Director Park is reinstated to his old position, just as Chairman Jang promised.
The neighborhood pals are sorry to see Ji-an moving so far away. Jung-hee offers to walk her around the neighborhood one last time, and the brothers follow them as usual. Sang-hoon and Ki-hoon turn off at their corner, wishing Ji-an well, and Ji-an offers them a bow in gratitude.
When it’s time for Dong-hoon to head home, he looks at Ji-an wistfully, and she asks him if she can hug him, just once. This time he nods, and hugs her tight. They stand that way for a long time, then back up, but when Dong-hoon tells Ji-an to go, she stands there stubbornly until he walks away. She calls after him, “Fighting!” and he returns the salute with a smile.
Yoon-hee calls Dong-hoon, who asks if she wants him to buy anything on his way home. She remembers Ji-an saying that it was the kindest thing she’d ever heard, and she asks him to bring home some beer.
Some time later, Dong-hoon goes to visit his mother after taking Yoon-hee to the airport to visit their son. He says that she’s going to look into some schools for herself while she’s there, and when Ki-hoon says Dong-hoon should move home, Mom nearly throws dirt in his face, ha. She reports that Sang-hoon may be reconciling with his wife soon.
While watching TV, Ki-hoon asks about Ji-an, but Dong-hoon is evasive, just saying that she’d have no reason to call him. Ki-hoon talks about a movie he couldn’t watch about a mother who abandoned her children. He wondered how he could direct a movie when he can’t even watch one, so he watched it the following day, and he was glad because the kids had their own inner strength.
As Dong-hoon eats at home alone later, he starts to get emotional and loses his appetite. He fights back tears, but no matter how hard he tries, they get the better of him. Eventually he lets himself sob out all of the feelings he’s been bottling up for years.
Ki-hoon yells at Yu-ra over the phone, angry that she keeps asking if he’s going back to movies and accusing her of being ashamed of him. He vows that he’s never going back to that, telling her to break up with him and date a guy in the industry.
As the seasons pass, Yu-ra keeps calling Ki-hoon even though they’re broken up, and he cries when he hangs up. One day, Sang-hoon slows the van when he sees Yu-ra’s face on an ad. He fusses at Ki-hoon for breaking up with an A-list celebrity like her.
Dong-hoon has quit his job and started his own business, bringing all of his old team with him. He’s CEO Park now, and his desk is covered in pictures of Yoon-hee and their son, along with one picture of himself and his brothers partying in their expensive sunglasses.
Ji-an is thriving in her new job, and she even socializes with her female coworkers outside of work. She teaches sign language in her spare time, and she smiles and laughs freely.
One day, Ji-an walks past by the old office building, but she only pauses for a moment.
Ki-hoon goes to one of Yu-ra’s movies, and he smiles when her character says the line, “I love you” repeatedly. He slumps over to Jung-hee’s afterward and sits at the bar alone. He ignores Jung-hee when she tells him that Yu-ra came by last night, but later, he goes home and starts to write his next screenplay.
Ji-an visits a coffee shop with her coworkers, and she hears a familiar deep voice. But she looks around and sees nobody she knows. She hears the voice again and this time she sees Dong-hoon outside with a colleague. He spots her and stands, and they smile at each other.
Ji-an looks so different, in a good way, that Dong-hoon jokes that he wouldn’t have recognized her. He says that he heard through the chairman that she’s doing well at her job, and she tells him that she recently transferred back to Seoul. She asks about the old company, but Dong-hoon says he left and started his own company.
Her coworkers beckon to her, so Dong-hoon offers to shake hands. They do, and he thanks her. Ji-an offers to buy him a meal, saying that she’ll call, and Dong-hoon fairly beams at her.
She joins her friends, and he turns back just once to watch her go. Ji-an also turns back, but Dong-hoon is already walking away. He thinks, “Ji-an, were you able to find some comfort for yourself?”
Ji-an’s voice answers, “Yes. Yes.”
One of my favorite things about My Ajusshi has always been the visual artistry — because cinematography like this can’t be called anything less than art. Early on I would get frustrated because it seemed like every scene was shot with no lighting, but I eventually came to understand that the lighting was a character in itself, informing the audience that Dong-hoon and Ji-an were living in (emotional) darkness. I began to notice that the happier they became, the lighter and brighter their lives (and those scenes) were. So as soon as this finale started and I saw Ji-an and her grandmother sitting in the bright sunlight, wearing light colors and surrounded by soft pink cascading cherry blossom petals, I knew that everything would turn out okay. Still, it nearly broke my heart when Dong-hoon and Ji-an finally parted for good, even though I knew they were both moving on to better lives.
I think it’s incredible how sometimes one person can change the lives of so many, and Ji-an was one of those people. She didn’t just change Dong-hoon’s life, but Yoon-hee’s as well, inspiring her to be a better woman and a better wife and to appreciate what she has. In a very short time, Ji-an had the love and support of the neighborhood soccer friends, so much so that they dropped everything to give her grandmother a huge send-off at a moment’s notice. These people all profoundly changed Ji-an’s life for the better as well, showing her that she doesn’t have to do anything more than just be herself to be worthy of love and support. It started with Dong-hoon, but in the end, Ji-an was able to carry on on her own, and have friends and a good job, all because one person bothered to know her and love her.
Her effect on Dong-hoon was the most pronounced, and I love that, even though her life was literally in danger daily before meeting him, he gave her all the credit for saving him. He may have seemed to be living well, but he was dying inside, living a life that was unhappy and unfulfilling. Ji-an showed him that there’s something more important than having a good job or the perfect-seeming marriage, and that’s to love someone, purely and unselfishly. And he loved Ji-an just as purely and unselfishly, although, as I’ve said, their kind of love isn’t one that can be (pr should be) defined. It just is, and they know it, and that’s enough.
It cannot be overstated, how masterful the acting performances were in this drama. Each and every actor, no matter how large or small their role, had moments where they moved me in some way. IU may as well have been Ji-an, she so perfectly embodied Ji-an’s misery and loneliness which eventually gave way to acceptance and peace. The way she let go of her unhappiness after Grandma’s funeral was so subtle yet so powerful, I had to stop and collect myself before I could go on watching. Jang Ki-yong as Kwang-il made a similarly deep impression on me, somehow making me care even for a violent loan shark, even if it was mostly to mourn for the loving man he could have been under different circumstances. I believe that both of them have very bright futures ahead. And of course, Lee Sang-hyun, Lee Ji-ah, and the rest of this amazing cast gave what I would call performances of a lifetime, each bringing something special to their characters that made me fall in love with each and every one of them (Okay, maybe not Joon-young).
It may seem overly dramatic to those who haven’t seen My Ajusshi, but I think that those of us who have been graced by this beautiful show will understand when I say that I feel like this drama is a precious gift. It reminds us that what’s important in life isn’t material things, or appearances, or even whether we find perfect happiness. It’s the relationships we share with others, whatever shape they may take, and how we treat those around us that gives our lives meaning. As Grandma said: “If you think about it, each and every interpersonal relationship is quite fascinating and precious. You must repay them. Live a happy life. That’s how you can repay the people in your life.” I don’t think it can be said any better than that.
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