The Third Charm: Episode 16 (Final)
After following the twelve long years of Young-jae and Joon-young’s relationship, and all the different relationships in between, we’ve finally reached the end. How that end will go even our protagonists don’t know. But, hey, they’ve gone through everything from a funny meet-cute to a destructive romance, so an unknowable future may not be so scary after all. It could even be refreshing.
EPISODE 16 RECAP
Young-jae tells Joon-young to go, so he releases her arm and slowly walks out of the building. Young-jae follows him out to watch him leave, though he doesn’t turn back. The further he gets, the more dejected they both look.
Instead of going home, Joon-young sits in his restaurant to gather his thoughts.
The following morning, the air is crisp with the beginning of winter as Joon-young’s family gets ready to meet the in-laws. Sang-hyun wonders where Joon-young is, and his folks think that he spent the night with Se-eun.
While Joon-young’s family is practically bursting from excitement, Se-eun is looking rather numb as she gets ready in her apartment. She braces herself before slipping on her new heels, and they’re immediately uncomfortable.
She then gets a phone call and heads downstairs where an underdressed Joon-young is waiting. She robotically says that she hadn’t expected him to pick her up then suggests that they get a move on.
“Se-eun,” Joon-young stops her, needing to get this out. “I don’t think I can go. I’m sorry. I can’t go with you.” Se-eun keeps her head down, saying that she’d thought everything would be okay since she liked him and trusted him.
She’s struggling not to cry as she continues that it’s too hard on her now. But she doesn’t want him to feel sorry or guilty–because she’s the one who is letting go of this relationship. And with that, she turns around and heads back inside.
Back in her apartment, we see that the heels have left cuts on her ankles. She calls her mom and learning that her family has already arrived in Seoul, she advises that they take a tour and then go home. It’s only after she hangs up that she allows herself to cry.
Joon-young stays outside her apartment for a long time before walking all the way home. He reaches the house just as his family are piling into the car. They see his casual attire and downcast look, knowing that can’t mean good news.
Sometime later, after he’s told them everything, they sit in silence in the living room. Dad is facing away from them, surprisingly the most angry. To avoid the palpable tension, Sang-hyun takes his daughter out, which is when Dad finally stands. He hits Joon-young on the back over and over, and Joon-young silently takes it all.
Joo-ran completes her second phase of chemotherapy, meaning she gets to leave the hospital for a few weeks. Soo-jae takes her to a secluded vacation home where they can rest up in the meantime. He tells her to do nothing but relax and to let him handle all the arrangements.
Meanwhile, Young-jae seems to be feeling somewhat better as she approaches a stray kitten and feeds it some food. She smiles at the little kitten, So-ri in mind, and then leaves to catch her bus.
It turns out that she’s going out on a bit of a personal tour, starting with her and Soo-jae’s old rooftop apartment and Soo-jae’s old coffee truck spot. She then visits all the locations that hold memories of her relationship with Joon-young.
She stops by the café where they met for the blind date, and she smiles as she remembers nerdy Joon-young. She then stops by the amusement park where they continued the date as happy, carefree young adults.
By nightfall, she reaches the last stop: the hair salon where she and Joon-young shared their first kiss. The place is empty now, but the memory is still plenty vivid like all the rest. Man, it’s just as weird for me seeing them that young again.
The next day, the atmosphere is still chilly from the broken engagement. Mom finds Dad sitting outside, looking at their persimmon tree, and urges him to eat breakfast. When he doesn’t budge, she just sits there with him.
Mom later visits Joon-young at the restaurant, where he spent the night again, and sits him down to talk. She explains that she got sad when he started changing. Not because he got older, but because life just turned out that way. When he’d forget that it was Parents’ Day, for example, she knew that he wasn’t disrespecting them.
Joon-young keeps his head down, hiding his tears, as Mom continues that he should worry about himself, not her or Dad. “I’m sorry,” he says, which makes Mom start crying too. She reiterates that he shouldn’t feel that way.
His voice shaking, he admits that this is incredibly hard for him. He didn’t want it to go this way, but it ended up happening anyway. He just couldn’t control his feelings. So this is his decision and he’s going to live with it.
“But I feel so sorry,” he’s crying harder now. “For Se-eun, for Se-eun’s parents, and for our family. I’m so sorry.” Mom’s heart is hurting to see her son like this. She suggests they get something to eat, making him smile through his tears.
Soo-jae and Joo-ran enjoy their night by sitting out by a bonfire. Joo-ran starts talking about the things she used to do before she was sick, like spend way too much time on her hair and makeup. It’s so different now–she doesn’t have hope, but then again, she doesn’t have despair. She has no reason to laugh, but she has no reason to cry. And she won’t be able to date, but she won’t be able to get dumped either.
She points out that Soo-jae said something similar when they were first getting to know each other. He remembers that when he did, she told him not to give up, especially when it came to dating. He’d gone to bed that night and cried, realizing that was what it was like to be comforted.
Soo-jae’s learned that when unexpected tragedy comes barreling in, a comforting person comes along with it. He then wheels himself closer and drapes his jacket over her shoulders. She apologizes, and he wonders why all the women he knows say “sorry” instead of “thank you.”
As a little tip, he recites one of his favorite movie quotes: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” She’s so moved by this that later, when he offers to sleep on the couch, she thanks him instead of apologizing.
We delve deeper into winter and catch up with Joon-young’s family as they set up the Christmas tree. Dad is still lacking holiday spirit, though, even when the adorable Da-in encourages him to help out. Mom sadly watches as he trudges off to the bedroom.
Joon-young decides to take his own trip down memory lane, to the island where he and Young-jae volunteered. He remembers all the sweet moments they shared as he walks about the area.
He, of course, has to visit the old man whose radio he helped fix. He reaches the house and is happily greeted by the grandpa. The grandpa asks if “they” came together, confusing Joon-young until Young-jae then steps out. (Nice to see you again, Fate.)
After the initial shock wears off, the three of them sit outside by the grandma’s smiling picture. The grandpa explains that after his wife died, he didn’t want to eat or sleep by himself. He ended up staying with his children, but that only made him feel worse.
However, the grandpa continues, when he came back to this house, he surprisingly felt at ease. Since forcing himself to forget only made it harder, he decided to just remember his wife fondly. He’d clean the house as if she was there, sleep with her pillow as if she was there. He laughs and says, “If I miss her, I’ll just miss her.”
Joon-young smiles sadly and looks up at Young-jae, who’s surely taking all of this to heart. When the grandpa thanks Young-jae for giving his wife a haircut and making her look beautiful for the rest of her days, she’s able to smile too.
Night falls, and Joon-young and Young-jae leave the house together. On the trail back, they note that it looks exactly the same as it did five years ago, as if time stopped on the island while the city completely changed.
Young-jae notices that Joon-young is shivering (even though he’s all bundled up) and hands him her gloves. He accepts them gratefully, and she says that in the twelve years they’ve known each other, she never knew he was sensitive to the cold. He says it’s because they never spent winter together.
They also think it’s funny that they jumped to the conclusion that they were too different when in actuality, they didn’t know every little thing about each other. It then starts to snow, and the two slow to a stop. As they take in the sight, Joon-young expresses his realization that just because you want something doesn’t mean it’ll happen.
Still, Young-jae believes that they should put in the effort; after all, their future is important. He looks at her with new eyes as she smiles up at the snow and calls it pretty. And with that, they continue on their way.
At the hospital, Joo-ran is full of nerves as she readies for her surgery. Soo-jae sees this and tries to calm her down by asking if she would’ve liked him before his accident. Or if he would’ve been this brave before she got sick. “This is good timing,” he says, making her smile. He thinks that this was the universe bringing them together.
They’re interrupted by a nurse, who’s come to take her to the operation room. Before she’s wheeled inside, Soo-jae takes hold of her hand and tells her to stay strong. She’s smiling with tears in her eyes as she’s taken in, while Soo-jae waits behind, getting emotional himself.
Meanwhile, Young-jae moves back into Soo-jae’s apartment, one suitcase and small plant in hand. She takes a seat by the window, where she and Soo-jae used to have their talks. At the same time, Joon-young gets back to his restaurant and opens up the curtains, perhaps ready to start working again.
Sometime later, Soo-jae and his film crew congratulate the idol MJ for getting the lead role. MJ thanks Soo-jae for the part, and Soo-jae thanks him for breaking his preconception. And at the hospital, Young-jae visits a recovering Joo-ran. But she’s not alone–she’s brought the salon staff with her.
Everyone’s sad that they didn’t know about Joo-ran’s illness, but they’re glad to see that she’s okay. They give her some hugs and encourage her to get back to the salon as soon as possible so she can get back to scolding them. She promises that she’ll do just that, haha.
The staff eventually leaves, giving Young-jae and Joo-ran some time alone. Joo-ran explains that the doctors can’t guarantee where her health goes from here, but they want her to think positively and surround herself with good people. “I guess people are the best medicine,” she says.
Joo-ran regrets not doing this for Young-jae, but she’s incredibly grateful that Young-jae is with her now. Full of understanding, Young-jae wordlessly puts her arm around Joo-ran and pulls her close.
Joon-young decides to come home, finding Dad drinking soju in the kitchen. He greets Dad with a bow but doesn’t get a response. So he just walks over to the stove and starts preparing ramen (with Dad’s favorite ingredient, cheese).
Joon-young places the pot and a bowl in front of Dad and starts to leave, only to stop when Dad puts his shot glass on the other side of the table. Joon-young accepts the gesture and sits down to take a drink.
Dad puts some noodles in the bowl and gives it to Joon-young, then gets up to bring another bowl for himself. Joon-young waits for Dad to start eating before digging in, both remaining silent. Mom steps out of her room, notices her husband and son together again, and smiles with relief. Jeez, of all things, this scene has me crying the most.
Before we know it, it’s spring again. Sang-hyun is sad to see his baby girl go off to daycare for the first time, but he is glad to finally have some free time. Buuuut, Ri-won stops that thinking real quick by revealing a gift: a positive pregnancy test. She goes even further by presenting him with a shiny, new marriage certificate.
Ri-won refuses to have a ceremony, though, cringing at the thought of a wedding dress. Sang-hyun whines that he wants his shining moment in a tux, but he pulls her into a loving hug and thanks her anyway. Pffft, I can’t with you two.
Love must really be in the air because soon, Young-jae is getting ready to attend Soo-jae and Joo-ran’s wedding. The two look happy in love as Young-jae, being the groom’s only sister and the bride’s best friend, declares them husband and wife. Joo-ran gives Young-jae a big smile before wheeling an ecstatic Soo-jae back down the aisle.
Joon-young is at the wedding too, as the caterer. When MJ comes out to perform a love song, Joon-young grabs two glasses of champagne and joins Young-jae. She jokes that Soo-jae wanted a small wedding, yet he hired a fancy chef and a K-pop star, and they both laugh.
The two later take a stroll outside, and talk about what’s been going on in their lives. Apparently, Young-jae now owns a small hair salon in a nice, quiet area, and Joon-young will be moving to New York for a new head chef gig. At long last, they can say they’re okay, just living life.
Young-jae narrates, “After time and seasons passed, we became adults. But we’re still clumsy and make mistakes. That’s why we comfort each other, worry about each other, and embrace each other.”
And Joon-young, smiling by her side, narrates, “The pain and distress we endured helped us grow, along with all the joy we shared together. Perhaps that is why we continue walking. To be our fulfilled selves.” That said, our couple happily takes their time walking down the path together.
Well. I’ve gotta say that I’m kind of speechless. After that sweet slideshow of pictures at the end, showing our couple throughout the different seasons and stages of their lives, I’m just speechless. The only way I can describe how I’m feeling right now is that combination of relief and giddiness and sadness after graduating from high school or college. I mean, we made it.
So hear me out. The Third Charm was one of the most frustrating drama viewing experiences I’ve had in a long time… but I kind of really liked it? Huge emphasis on the question mark there. But the finale somehow exceeded my expectations. It didn’t try to rush through anything; it just let things happen. Joon-young and Se-eun broke up. Se-eun was left heartbroken. Joon-young’s family was left heartbroken. Everyone needed time to rebuild themselves and they eventually did. It all felt very fluid and genuine. My one gripe about the finale was Se-eun’s wrap-up, which wasn’t really a wrap-up at all. The last time we see her, she’s really hurting (and the metaphorical heels cutting up her ankles sure don’t help). Perhaps she’s still struggling to build herself up. After all, she practically dedicated her life to Joon-young for five years. But, if that’s the case, I wanted to watch this in scene. A mere twenty-second clip isn’t much to ask!
Just as Joon-young and Young-jae were unbalanced throughout the show–in love, in life–the show itself proved to be unbalanced till the very end. In retrospect, I felt more sympathy for Joon-young even though it was Young-jae who was saddled with all the tragedy. And that has nothing to do with me liking Joon-young more or liking Young-jae less. The show spent way too much time focusing on him, his struggles, and his struggles about Young-jae. All of that was great, but it would’ve been better to see Young-jae get the same treatment. Instead, we were given more reasons to feel bad for her, which actually made me angry at times. When so much tragedy befalls a character, that character almost becomes their tragedy. As if that’s all they are.
And I’m not saying that those who go through many hardships in life are empty characters; I just think the show failed when it came to execution. The writer was clearly trying to present a piece about grief, which didn’t exactly fit in the “breezy romance” mold that was initially set. Because this wasn’t about Joon-young and Young-jae being a cutesy couple and being broken up just to get back together again. This was about all the characters and all the pain and grief they endured. This was about Soo-jae and the restrictions he felt with his handicapped condition. About Joo-ran and her longing for a chance at family. About Joon-young and him having to separate himself from his love in order to find himself. And, of course, about Young-jae and the fight to keep going when everything seemed lost.
So while I wasn’t a fan of the writing, I don’t necessarily think it’s the writer’s fault. I’m more compelled to blame myself and the expectations I had going in. Nevertheless, I was more than pleased with the acting all across the board. From Esom and Seo Kang-joon, to the second leads, to everybody else. Many different characters were graced with generous amounts of screen time, and I was engaged with every one of their stories. And I can’t say that that happens often.
But, let’s get back to the main couple. Esom has always been awesome in my book, but this drama truly turned my opinions around on Seo Kang-joon. The last thing I saw him in was Cheese in the Trap, a drama that left a sour taste in my mouth (though that wasn’t really his fault). I’d heard good things about his performance in Are You Human Too, but seeing his improvement for myself was an entirely different thing. He and Esom carried the show for me, for sure; I don’t think it would’ve been as effective without them.
Would I rewatch the drama? Yeah, that’s a big fat no. Because of the rich characters and the dynamics developed along the way, it was an engaging watch from start to finish. But, man, I never want to go through this again. There are heavy melos that I do enjoy rewatching, but this is not one of them. I would say that this is more of a drama that I lock away, at least happy to have watched it in the first place. No regrets, but no going back.
I don’t have a problem with this ending, but many viewers will. It’s not exactly open and it’s not exactly concrete–it’s somewhere in the middle. I don’t feel completely satisfied, but I appreciate the show for sticking to its tone and various themes. It didn’t resort to a neatly tied bow of an ending, and I’m cool with that. A lot of my favorite dramas did the same (*cough* Age of Youth *cough*). I can’t say that the second half was a sudden trip to depression because the whole drama was sprinkled with misery. Even when our couple was happily in love, there was a tinge of misery. So the second half wasn’t unexpected, just… a little more than I could handle, I guess. And at the end of the day, I wouldn’t call this a romance. There’s romance in it, of course, but this is more of a human drama, showing different sides to people and how they tackle on the surprises in life. Sometimes those surprises are painful, and if they’re lucky, sometimes they’re downright charming.