Romance is a Bonus Book: Episode 16 (Final)
Not unlike a good book, I feel bittersweet about reaching the end of the journey with our publishing heroes. We’ve faced great highs and hard lows together, and I will miss everyone, from sweet Dan-yi and Eun-ho to bickering Hae-rin and Seo-joon, and even spoiled Ji-yul and poor Hoon. But also like the best books, we get an excellent conclusion and the reassurance that our heroes stories will continue, even if we can’t see it all in this volume.
The day has arrived: Dan-yi is headed back to Gyeoroo, and she’s even got a trench coat on to flap in the breeze as she makes her return. Ji-yul and Hoon await her at the elevators, party favors in hand, but the first out of the elevator is Director Ko, not Dan-yi, and they carefully pick the pieces of ribbon out of her hair. Second is Jae-min, who they nearly deafen with their party favor, and by the time Dan-yi finally pops her head out of the door, they’re all out of party favors. Dan-yi quietly heads through the doors, but then immediately runs back and jumps and hugs her friends.
At Dan-yi’s new desk with the marketing team, Yeong-ah has brought her flowers, they’ve found the sturdiest chair, and the guys have assembled her desk. Even Song-yi has picked up a gift: a cute cactus humidifier, and then after some prompting, also an apology for falsely accusing Dan-yi of making the contract mistake when it was actually her own. Dan-yi graciously smiles and accepts the apology.
Jae-min arrives, wearing the same celebratory headband as Ji-yul and Hoon, while Director Ko quietly mouths, “good job” to Dan-yi from a distance. As the welcoming starts to break up, Director Ko saves Jae-min from Ji-hong’s request to practice his tango lessons with him. Now that the room has cleared, Dan-yi receives a text from Eun-ho: “Look at me.”
Dan-yi looks around the room, until she spots finger hearts coming from behind a shelf. Eun-ho emerges and delivers additional hearts with his hands and above head head. Dan-yi delivers a return heart, and then Eun-ho saunters to the other side of the room, book in hand as if to play it cool, but he bumps his head on a shelf as she turns to watch Dan-yi, and wanders back to the other side of the room for more hearts directed at Dan-yi. She sends a kissy face back. It’s adorable.
Meanwhile, Ji-yul broods in the break cafe about the Heroes manuscript. She wonders if Hae-rin has stolen it so that she can work on it herself, and as Ji-hong arrives to make himself a coffee, Ji-yul decides that she’s got to stand up for herself.
The next thing you know, Kang superfan Ji-hong is at Hae-rin’s desk, Ji-yul hovering behind, demanding to see the manuscript. He’s heard that Eun-ho has it, but Hae-rin reports that Eun-ho is at a meeting with Seo-joon. Ji-hong knows Hae-rin better than that, and asks her to make him a copy of the copy she made for herself. Hae-rin gives in and digs out the manuscript just as Jae-min enters the room.
Hae-rin surrenders her copy of the manuscript to Jae-min in his office. Jae-min recalls the moment that Eun-ho offered to deliver all of Author Kang’s rights to Gyeoroo, and how Eun-ho had told him that he was Author Kang’s son. But there’s more to this scene, as Jae-min recalls that he immediately questioned this family status, since Author Kang was known to have never married. And here Eun-ho responds that he promised the author that he would be his son, and that he needs Jae-min’s help to find a caregiver for him. When Jae-min asks for proof, Eun-ho offers Author Kang’s journals.
Dan-yi lingers outside Jae-min’s office, and then she glances to Eun-ho’s empty office chair. We return to the scene of Eun-ho and Seo-joon at a bar. Eun-ho first proffers a manuscript by an author that Seo-joon really likes to work on, and then he pulls out the Heroes manuscript, since Eun-ho knows he’s also a fan of Author Kang.
Seo-joon plays dumb at first, but Eun-ho quickly lets him know that not only does he know that this manuscript came from Seo-joon, but also that Seo-joon is the son Author Kang mentioned in one of his journals. Eun-ho knows that Seo-joon’s birthday is the same as Author Kang’s final book, and Seo-joon asks what Author Kang’s explanation was for the title.
And then Eun-ho says that Author Kang was not in a state to answer that question. Instead of explaining, Eun-ho hands over a bag filled with the author’s journals.
Seo-joon returns home, but he finds himself struggling to enter his birthdate into his door lock. Through his father’s notes and journals, he discovers his father was sick with Alzheimer’s and that it was never that his father didn’t try to find him, but that he had forgotten that he’d even met his son.
Seo-joon flashes back to when he confronted his father back in 2008. He announced his mother’s name and his birthdate, and delivered the news that his mother was sick. He promises to tell no one that he’s the author’s son, and asks if he could just send money to help with the hospital expenses. Young Seo-joon dashes away, leaving Author Kang with just his notes to try to piece things together.
Author Kang begs himself not to forget this important information, that he has a son, and he crosses out the title of his current manuscript and writes in April 23.
In the present, Hae-rin arrives in Seo-joon’s neighborhood. While Seo-joon discovers how Eun-ho came to be Author Kang’s “son” in his mind, Hae-rin stands vigil outside his door. It isn’t long before Eun-ho runs to Seo-joon’s apartment as well, but his worries are eased when he sees that Hae-rin has beaten him to it.
Hae-rin comes down to talk with Eun-ho, and Eun-ho says that Seo-joon is lucky to have someone like Hae-rin looking out for him. Hae-rin returns the compliment that Dan-yi is lucky to have a guy like Eun-ho, and they smile at one another.
In the night, Eun-ho wakes up to a phone call from Kapyong, and he picks up Seo-joon on the way as he hurries to be by Author Kang’s side. Seo-joon is worried, and Eun-ho tries to comfort him, telling him that they’ve had several scares and that Author Kang will be fine.
Jae-min is already there when they arrive, but it’s too late, and Author Kang has passed away. Eun-ho drops to his knees at the man’s bedside, and then reaches up to place Seo-joon’s hand on his father’s as well.
The scene dissolves to Eun-ho and Seo-joon, dressed in black, standing together looking up at a hill by a river. Seo-joon admits that he thought that Author Kang had ignored him, and that he had wanted to prove to the man that he was still his son by writing The Heroes. Eun-ho tells him that in the end the manuscript did exactly what Seo-joon had wanted, since discovering it was what helped Eun-ho make the connections and unite Seo-joon with his father at last. Eun-ho sighs that it seems as though Author Kang waited a long time to be able to say goodbye to Seo-joon.
Seo-joon says that April 23 was his last hope, and Eun-ho confirms that it was indeed Author Kang’s last message for his son, that he hadn’t forgotten him.
Back at Gyeoroo, Song-yi appears at Dan-yi’s desk, hopeful to work with her on her first book proposal in the 10 People series that won Dan-yi her job back. But Ji-yul is also vying to work with Dan-yi, and she arrives with research. Song-yi can’t compete with that, and Dan-yi and Ji-yul pick out their first mentor for the series, a botanist.
And in other publishing news, Gyeoroo releases a new edition of April 23. Readers flock to the bookstores, where they discover the author’s official chronology, as well as photos sharing the truth about his illness, Eun-ho’s involvement in his life, and the secret of his son.
We return to the moment when Eun-ho and Seo-joon stood together following Author Kang’s memorial, and the doctor delivered a letter left for his son. Eun-ho passes it to Seo-joon, who passes it back, and the doctor suggests that it’s for the both of them.
It begins, “To Eun-ho, my beloved son,” and in this possibly last moment of clarity, Author Kang says that he’s no longer afraid of the world knowing about the full story of his life. He was afraid of being remembered as an old, sick man, but that now he accepts that as part of his story.
We quickly flash to the readers with the new edition, who spot a medical certificate indicating his diagnosis and clearing all the rumors that he disappeared. There’s also a photo with Eun-ho standing beside Author Kang in his wheelchair. At Gyeoroo, Ji-hong and Yeong-ah read through the new supplemental material, and Dan-yi reads her own copy, and then gazes up, contemplative.
In the past, Eun-ho sits to write the chronology of Author Kang, the words from the letter still fresh in his mind. “I want my life to become a story that people can read.”
The letter’s narration continues, as scenes of a young child who reads a book on the floor and two students help an older woman up some stairs roll by. “I don’t believe that a single book is capable of changing the world. However, I still would like to tell you to become someone who’s like a book.”
A woman begins to tear up as she reads the new edition supplement, and then we see a flashback of Eun-ho walking alongside Author Kang. Ji-hong and Yeong-ah squabble over dinner with their son, and Jae-min covers Director Ko with a blanket when he finds her asleep at her desk. When Director Ko wakes up and finds a note from Jae-min reminding her that her work will never love her back, she’s in his office in an instant and convinces him to play hooky from work and go to the beach. Hae-rin drops a manuscript on Ji-yul’s desk, and everyone cheers as Ji-yul realizes she’s finally passed her mentor’s inspection.
“Eun-ho,” the letter continues, “I want you to become a book that can console others like you did for me.” Seo-joon finds Hae-rin at his apartment, a packed lunch in her hands. And in his apartment, Eun-ho stands at his bookshelf, while Dan-yi embraces him from behind, her head on his back in tender support.
“A single book might not be able to change the world or change a person’s life. But a good book is bound to be read by everyone. And then, little by little, it will warm people’s hearts… I pray that you’ll also be able to be consoled by meeting a person who’s like a book.”
At Seo-joon’s, he asks if Hae-rin cooked all this food for him, but she reassures him that it’s her mother’s cooking. Seo-joon jokes that he heard a woman who starts stealing from her mom’s fridge is a woman who has started dating. Hae-rin flushes and asks who she would be dating, and Seo-joon just shrugs and grins.
Seo-joon takes a photo of his food, but he’s included Hae-rin in the frame as well, and promises to share the photo with her. Seo-joon mentions that he heard from Eun-ho how Hae-rin remained outside his apartment for him, and he thanks her for worrying about him. “But Eun-ho is still your number one guy,” and Hae-rin quickly squashes this, saying that he’s just her chief editor.
Hae-rin leans back and takes a look at Seo-joon’s former writing lair. She suggests that he write a new novel with his real name. Seo-joon demurs, but she tells him that she read The Heroes several times through and loved the writing, and will wait patiently for him as his editor.
At Gyeoroo, Ji-yul and Dan-yi have their edited copies of their first manuscript by that biologist, Inner Thoughts of Plants. They are so excited to present it at the next executive meeting, except that when they get there, the group overwhelmingly approves Hoon and Song-hi’s thriller instead. They try to ask when their book will be published, and everyone filing out of the room tells them to wait, while Yeong-ah tells them that means it will never be published. Aww. Dan-yi and Ji-yul watch the group congratulate Hoon and Song-yi, while the two of them mutter about invasive species and plants (haha, they’re still deeply immersed in their botany book!)
But then they realize that Eun-ho wasn’t at the meeting, so they find him after his lecture and try to get an answer from him. But even Eun-ho tells them to wait while he thinks about it a while.
Seo-joon and Hae-rin have returned to that cafe where they first watched the snow fall together. This time they’re back to arguing over the details of a book design. They both stick to their stubborn stances, until Hae-rin answers a call briefly from her mother, who has set her up on a blind date. Seo-joon’s face falls, and he whimpers that he thought the two of them would eat dinner together. And then he takes a bolder approach, and asks Hae-rin to not go on the date, and instead to eat dinner with him. Seo-joon tells her, “my father once said that I should be someone who is like a book. I want to be a book for you.”
Hae-rin asks if he means a book about nagging and morality (ha!) but Seo-joon is quick to answer that he wants to be a romance novel.
Dan-yi sits in bed as she searches for an apartment of her own. Her six months at Eun-ho’s have come to an end (has it really only been six months?) and she’s looking for something nearby. Eun-ho joins her, and while he doesn’t voice his disappointment, his mood seems to dampen at the prospects of Dan-yi finding another place to live.
Eun-ho tags along as Dan-yi goes to see her prospective new apartment (wearing quite a jacket). It’s clean and roomy and a good price, and she is ready to sign a lease. But Eun-ho protests that it’s not big enough to fit him too, so she’ll have to pass. As they leave the apartment, Eun-ho says that he won’t stop her from finding a new place, but the deal is that wherever she goes, he goes too. Dan-yi asks why she would leave his place if that’s the case, and Eun-ho’s response is, “Exactly.” Dan-yi worries about what it will mean when her daughter returns home after graduation, but Eun-ho tells her they can worry about that then.
Another day at Gyeoroo: Hae-rin shares the skincare products she’s received as a gift from an author (sharing with everyone except Ji-hong, ha). Dan-yi approaches Eun-ho about the botany book, but he says he’s still thinking. Eun-ho gets a call, and then announces to the room that the poetry book Ji-hong supported is ready for its fifth printing. Additionally, Hoon and Song-yi’s thriller has become a bestseller and will begin its third imprint. With that news, Jae-min announces that he’s treating everyone to bbq.
At the restaurant, everyone is thrilled, except maybe Dan-yi and Ji-yul, who are letdown by the lack of enthusiasm around their book. Jae-min gives a speech congratulating everyone on the sales, and then announces that because those books have done well, they can now publish Inner Thoughts of Plants as well. He says that they sell bestsellers like Hoon and Song-yi’s book so that they can afford to publish books like Dan-yi and Ji-yul’s, ones that won’t sell well but are worth sharing with the world and the smaller audience that will treasure them.
And there’s one final announcement to be made, this time by Director Ko. She announces, with a nod in Dan-yi’s direction, that Gyeoroo will now have a blind recruitment process for new hires, where they will only consider the applicants’ talents. The servers notice how happy the group is and ask what they do, and the group all yells, “We make books!”
Everyone heads outside. Eun-ho can’t help but take Dan-yi’s hand, and he holds it high overhead to announce to their colleagues their official status. And they aren’t the only couple with news, as Jae-min drags Director Ko’s reluctant hand into the air as well. Everyone laughs and runs, until Eun-ho and Dan-yi find themselves alone under a clearing covered by tree branches.
Dan-yi gasps that everyone knows now, and Eun-ho responds that he doesn’t care, because he wants the entire world to know that he loves her. They kiss under the canopy of trees, and Dan-yi thinks to herself how Eun-ho is like an old familiar book, one she opened up again to read anew. “I find new sentences in this book everyday. It’s a book that stayed with me the longest.”
Ji-yul finds her blind date interrupted by Hoon. They try to yell at each other, but then Ji-yul kisses Hoon instead, and the two run out together.
Together for a meal, Jae-min feeds Director Ko the food he’s prepared for just the two of them.
At Gyeoroo, Yeong-ah walks Ji-hong and their son to the elevator. Ji-hong has his son for the weekend, and they’ve got plans to goof off together.
And finally, all the remaining new hires walk out of the doors of Gyeoroo together, leaving us with a long final shot of the empty workspace where they’ve made so many books together.
And now we must leave Gyeoroo and its staff behind, though their stories will never leave our hearts. I know I’m being a little saccharine and sentimental, but I can’t help but feel warm and fuzzy as this show draws to a gentle close. It was honestly everything that I wanted it to be: a poignant but also adorable love story, an office comedy, and even the mystery finally impacted me in the way I wanted it to, so that I felt for Author Kang and the sons he left behind.
We’ve been wondering for a while whether or not Eun-ho was truly Author Kang’s son or just an enthusiastic student of the man, and now that we know the answer, nothing has diminished in their relationship. He promised to be Author Kang’s son, and he upheld that promise until the very end. I am so relieved that Seo-joon never saw Eun-ho as a replacement or unwelcome member of the family, and instead saw how his father, even with his declining health, could want to hold tightly to the memory of Seo-joon but still falter. Even though Author Kang’s memories were mixed up and confused, his feelings held tightly to him, and he transferred them to Eun-ho. I’m glad that Seo-joon was able to find his closure at last, and to even find a “brother” he could trust.
The show has done an amazing job of honoring both the publishing industry and what it does and the people who work in that environment, and Author Kang’s parting sentiments bring these two loves together as one, with people and books both existing to touch the lives of others. It draws out the idea that every person has a story of their own, just like a book, and while an individual cannot change the entire world, it is still significant in the way that others feel comforted by it when they bring it into their lives. Just like Inner Thoughts of Plants wasn’t necessarily a bestseller, it was still a work that deserved the chance to touch the hearts of others. And I really like the final sentiment, that it couldn’t necessarily do it on its own, but with the help of others, our botany book will make it.
Eun-ho couldn’t solve Dan-yi’s problems, nor did he too often make the mistake of trying to. Instead he was there to comfort, to hold her hand, and to make her smile. For others, like Director Ko, sometimes we forget that stories (and people) are important, and instead dive into other pursuits like work. But in the end, everyone at Gyeoroo grows and thrives, even as their stories change.
Author Kang also reminds us that a story needs a beginning and an end, even if the ending is not the one we had hoped for. In perhaps his final moment of clarity, Author Kang realized the importance of recording his whole life, not just the beginning, and how that life and its story impacted others. Because even though many struggled through the end of his tale, in the end when the truth was revealed, he brought people together who were able to console one another.
Let it not go unnoticed that the final shot is not of our romantic couples however, but of Gyeoroo. A place of cherished work, where all of these characters came together to make stories for others, and to make their own along the way.
And so, the show leaves us with one final message at the end of the credits: the moon is beautiful.
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