When the Camellia Blooms: Episodes 9-10
Our budding couple is facing opposition from all corners, and they’re not even officially together yet! But while they look to the future, others are grappling with revelations from the past. Can the past be left behind or will the residents of Ongsan find that the past was never past in the first place?
EPISODE 9: “A Wish, an Affair, and Turmoil”
Yong-shik and Dong-baek walk in silence as they share an umbrella in the pouring rain. To break the silence, Yong-shik suggests they go to Gaebu Island to eat giant dumplings together. Dong-baek gets flustered, asking why they would travel all that way just for dumplings.
She tells him that going to an island, then “accidentally” missing the last ferry is such a cliché (and so uncool of him). Without missing a beat Yong-shik lets her know that a bridge to the island was built a decade ago.
They’re cozy under their umbrella…until Pil-gu pops up from a side alley and stares Yong-shik down. The next thing we see is Yong-shik trailing behind them on his own. Pil-gu asks why “that ajusshi” is tagging along with them before cutting to the chase: Does Yong-shik likes his mom? If that’s the case, Yong-shik shouldn’t come by the Camellia anymore because Pil-gu hates any man who likes his mom.
Men all say they like her, but they don’t treat her with respect. Yong-shik tries to assure Pil-gu that he’s not like that, but Pil-gu doesn’t let up. All men are the same, and he hates all men who are interested in his mom. After all, even his own dad left them.
A drunk Jong-ryeol waves a credit card statement in Jessica’s face, asking her how she managed to spend five million won on pilates classes (about $5,000). Annoyed, she tells him that she and her mom couldn’t possibly take group classes.
Her mom comes out to back her up and pointedly tells Jong-ryeol that rich and influential people wanted Jessica to be their daughter-in-law. Before she got married, Jessica was an innocent girl who only cared about studying. If he had any shame, he wouldn’t be quibbling over money.
Jong-ryeol doesn’t waver and tells them they need to understand that some people can’t go to Qingdao because of 480,000 won (meaning Pil-gu, but of course they don’t know that). His mother-in-law shoos him away and tells him to go to sleep because he’s drunk and spouting nonsense.
Kyu-tae and Hyang-mi are on their way back from their water ski trip and they make small talk, which mostly involves Hyang-mi pouring on the flattery with a straight face as Kyu-tae basks in the compliments. She says that if he ever runs for governor, she’ll definitely vote for him because she respects him. Kyu-tae’s practically bursting with glee, and he tells her she can be relax around him and to think of him as a mentor. She agrees at once, telling him they’re already close.
In front of Dong-baek and Pil-gu’s house, Yong-shik earnestly tells Pil-gu that he won’t do anything if Pil-gu doesn’t approve. Pil-gu tells him to stop coming by the Camellia and to stop acting friendly if they run into each other at the arcade. Yong-shik understands, he was the same way as a kid trying to protect his mom (which Pil-gu can’t believe because Deok-soon’s so tough). Yong-shik promises he won’t do anything to mess up Pil-gu’s life, and that he’ll try to score points with Pil-gu in his own way.
Kyu-tae asks Hyang-mi whether she likes trout just as we see Jong-ryeol at home, asking himself why both mother and son bug him so much. In contrast, Yong-shik grins and thinks aloud that both mother and son are too adorable.
As Yong shik walks home he hears a strange beeping sound. From afar, he gets a glimpse of a hooded figure and looks down to see an empty glass bottle and shoe prints. He wonders what anyone would be doing in a random empty alley.
Kyu-tae brings up his favorite trout restaurant (again) and says he doesn’t take just anyone there. Hyang-mi asks him whether this means she’ll be first lady once he’s governor, since today is their first day as a couple. Kyu-tae covers his shock with some fake laughter at her “attempt at humor.” With a straight face, Hyang-mi says she’s not trying to be funny and asks him why they went on a trip together if they’re not dating.
If looks could kill! Ja-young stares out the window as she thinks to herself that it’s morning and her useless husband didn’t come home the night before. She prints out Kyu-tae’s credit card statement and highlights the water skiing expenses in pink. There’s even a charge for a wakeboarding outfit.
Kyu-tae tells Hyang-mi they should hang out some time, but the trip was a one time thing. Hyang-mi’s quick on the uptake: Despite water skiing together, they’re not having an affair. They took a trip together, but it wasn’t a date. She ends her summary by telling him that crooks cannot become governors.
He’s taken aback at her change in attitude. Kyu-tae emphasizes that water skiing is a wholesome sport and that they only stayed overnight because of a car malfunction. Hyang-mi sarcastically shoots back that he should have brought his wife instead. She asks if he’s worried people will bash them and ominously tells him the world’s not a fair place.
Meanwhile, Deok-soon is upset and at a loss on what to do. Chan-sook and Jae-young add fuel to the fire by telling her there’s no time to waste, she needs to act. Give Yong-shik an ultimatum: Is it me or Dong-baek? Deok-soon says she’d never say something so uncool and yells at them to leave.
At the police station, Yong-shik wonders if they could find saliva or fingerprints like in CSI Miami. Chief Byun tells him to just transfer to Miami (hee!) and asks why the forensics team would bother testing a random bottle Yong-shik found on the street. He yells at Yong-shik not to waste his time and abruptly gets up. The chief grabs the Joker case files, slipping one file out, then hands the rest over to Yong-shik.
At home, Kyu-tae scarfs down a meal and gets a fright when Ja-young is suddenly next to him, asking how the food tastes. She says it’s interesting that he just had to go to a funeral on one of the few days her mom was visiting. Ah, that explains why he wore a suit to water ski. He coughs, but she continues, telling him that her mother still brought the cod head stew he loves so much.
Kyu-tae tells her that liver cancer is scary, but Ja-young corrects him–colon cancer, he said his friend’s wife died suddenly of colon cancer. He has trouble keeping his story straight and while he blathers, she thinks back to when they first met. Ja-young had found his inability to hide anything refreshing compared to her guarded personality. In the present, she laments that he’s too transparent to even hide an affair.
She sits down and asks why he would need sunscreen and sunglasses to attend a funeral at night. Kyu-tae has a coughing fit and she just takes it in. With a cold anger, she states that if people get addicted to the taste of forbidden fruit, they could end up in the fiery pits of hell. Ja-young leaves him to choke on his guilt.
Yong-shik diligently looks over the Joker case files and comes across crime scene photos of footprints that look eerily similar to the ones he saw near Dong-baek’s house.
At the Camellia, Hyang-mi and Dong-baek are sorting the recycling and wonder why random bottles (the same brand as the one Yong-shik found) are mixed with theirs. Hyang-mi playfully points out that Yong-shik and Dong-baek are like the Brangelina of Ongsan. She tells Dong-baek not to worry because parents opposing their children’s partners are only real in dramas. Dong-baek says she’d listen to her parents. But you can only understand how awful that is once you’ve experienced it.
Hyang-mi is all ears at that and tells Dong-baek to spill. She’s the perfect person to tell secrets to–she has a bad memory and is totally thoughtless. Dong-baek tells her it was a nasty breakup and that she couldn’t be understanding like she usually was.
Even as a child, Dong-baek was never welcome anywhere because she was an orphan. People felt bad for the gloomy kid, but no one wanted to befriend her. Then she met “him” at 22; he became her entire universe and she was utterly consumed by love. We see Jong-ryeol and Dong-baek’s relationship, with lots of fighting over silly reasons and making up (with lots of tears).
At 25 her bliss was shattered when Jong-ryeol’s mother refused to accept her. She’d met with Dong-baek alone and told her she hated Dong-baek. Jong-ryeol had tried to console her by telling her he can win over his mother, but ends up speechless when he hears what his mother called Dong-baek: “a lump of germs.” In the end, Jong-ryeol’s mom wasn’t the reason they broke up.
In the present, Hyang-mi jumps to the conclusion that Dong-baek got cheated on and calls Pil-gu’s dad a jerk. Dong-baek says she doesn’t hold any grudges because she has Pil-gu, calling it even. Hyang-mi thoughtfully says that if either of their moms had been like Dong-baek, their lives probably would have been happier.
Yong-shik sits Chief Byun down to ask for advice. Is conflict between a daughter-in-law and mother-in-law an unsurmountable challenge? Raising an eyebrow, Chief Byun quips not to worry, Yong-shik doesn’t even have a girlfriend yet. He then muses out loud that a daughter-in-law and mother-in-law relationship without conflict is something that only exists in fiction or paradise.
At Deok-soon’s restaurant, Chief Byun thinks he knows who Yong-shik is interested in, but he’s off the mark as usual. Rolling his eyes, Yong-shik clarifies that it’s Dong-baek. He’s liked her since he first laid eyes on her and the entire neighborhood knows. Hilariously, Chief Byun asks if his mom knows and just then Doek-soon purposefully elbows Yong-shik in the head. Question answered.
Ja-young is waiting for her mother-in-law, when she happens to spot a bright wakeboarding outfit hanging outside a laundromat. She narrates that she wants to hide her hurt pride, but she walks over to check the customer tag on the outfit. Grabbing the tag, she stares at the customer name: The Camellia.
In the car, Ja-young’s mother-in-law drops hints about what she’s expecting for her upcoming birthday. Ja-young is not having it and tells her mother-in-law that she’s not in the mood to cook a birthday feast. Ja-young breaks things down by saying Kyu-tae really takes after his father (who ran off to be with a young bar girl). His mother angrily refuses to believe this, but Ja-young doesn’t care, she has somewhere important to be–the salon.
Yong-shik tries to reason with his mother and lists Dong-baek’s good qualities, but Deok-soon gives him an ultimatum: is it Deok-soon or Dong-baek? He refuses to choose and asks to talk it out but Deok-soon insists on reminding him how hard it was for her to raise him on her own. She tells him that dating a single mom is a step too far. Clapping his hands, Young-shik tells her it’s “buy one, get one free” deal because she would be getting both a daughter-in-law and grandson at once.
Deok-soon angrily tells him to come to make a choice. Unrelenting, he says he’ll make a choice, he chooses Deok-soon and Dong-baek. Deok-soon scoffs and tells him to stop seeing Dong-baek for two months to prove that this isn’t a fleeting infatuation. He loudly, proudly, shouts that his love for Dong-baek will last longer than two months, his love is forever!
In the salon, Ja-young asks for the director. They refuse to accommodate her until Ja-young tells them she’s on her way to see her husband’s mistress. At that, they all rush to beautify her. Ja-young thinks to herself that once her pride is hurt, there’s no stopping her. At the Camellia, Ja-young cooly informs Dong-baek that her lease for the Camellia will end in December.
Ja-young refuses to listen to Dong-baek’s pleas, won’t increase rent, and will only accept a contract termination. She warns Dong-baek that if provoked, she might actually lose it. Before she goes, Ja-young fires off a parting shot: she doesn’t like Dong-baek’s face, skin or voice. Wow.
Yong-shik rushes over just then with a stolen bag of red chili powder for Dong-baek, but he stops to see her looking so down. He asks what’s wrong and why she looks like a sad cow. She just mutters that she’s gotten on her landlord’s bad side.
Jong-ryeol is back in Ongsan, doing his car lurker routine. School’s out and he’s annoyed to see Hyang-mi show up. Pil-gu and Hyang-mi walk home and they talk about Yong-shik, who currently ranks fourth (out of four) on Pil-gu’s list of Most Hated Men. Seeing how hot Pil-gu is, Hyang-mi suddenly asks if he wants to ride in a car. At Pil-gu’s confusion, Hyang-mi turns and waves at Jong-ryeol, who’d been creeping behind them the whole time.
At the Camellia, Dong-baek asks Yong-shik to give up on her since everyone is against their dating. He agrees to be more careful with how he acts. With his mom’s ultimatum in mind, he says he’ll take a strategic retreat and before he can explain, she stops him and says he doesn’t need to say anymore.
She’s Dong-baek, no one likes Dong-baek. She’s used to it though, so she’ll be okay. But no one can love you like a mother and she tells Yong-shik to listen to his mother’s wishes.
In the car, Pil-gu asks why Jong-ryeol never trains and is always in Ongsan lately. Hyang-mi starts making some uncomfortable comments that make it pretty clear she knows who Jong-ryeol really is. Not one for subtleties, she tells him Dong-baek’s getting kicked out by her landlord so Jong-ryeol should just buy the building.
Back at the police station, Chief Byun opens up about the Joker and hands over the final case file. He begins with a video, security footage of a mass. The final victim was a friend of Dong-baek whom she’d met at church.
It’s a warm summer day and Dong-baek’s agreed to test out a second-hand tanning machine bed her friend bought. She climbs into the machine, despite some reservations about its creaky lid. While Dong-baek’s tanning, the aesthetician unni takes a reservation from someone over the phone. For some reason, the person seems intent on knowing if the woman is alone, and she cheerfully says there’s no one around, so she can take an appointment immediately.
Someone rings the clinic’s bell and the unni lets them in with a smile, but the smile falters as she’s met with silence. The person is dressed all in black, hood up, hat and face mask on, and gloves. The unni makes a run for it, but it’d no use. The Joker switches off the lights and turns up the music. As Dong-baek tans inside the machine, her friend is brutally murdered.
Just as the Joker is about to leave, the tanning bed beeps. Realizing someone is still there, the Joker frantically searches for whoever is left, coughing all the while. Dong-baek hears the hoarse coughing and thinks it must be a customer. She asks her friend to open the machine and starts banging on the lid.
The Joker finally realizes where Dong-baek is and tries to yank the machine open. Dong-baek sees a bloody cord and gloved hand, but the machine won’t open far enough for the Joker to reach inside. Before the Joker can get to Dong-baek, the fire alarm and sprinklers suddenly go off and the Joker escapes through the window.
Soon after, the police are on the scene, collecting evidence. They realize that the Joker must have been unfamiliar with the clinic since they didn’t know to check inside the tanning machine. Dong-baek is escorted out by the police in but they fail to keep her identity a secret.
Later on, Chief Byun is visiting Dong-baek and she tells him she can’t live like this any longer. There’s nothing more for to say, she only saw the Joker from behind. Answering Chief Byun’s questions, she mentions that someone might have knocked on the door before the alarm and sprinklers went off but she can’t be sure. He wonders why the sprinklers were set off and tells her that they saved her life.
Yong-shik closes the case file as Chief Byun recounts that her luck saved her back then, but since everyone in the neighborhood knows Dong-baek was there, the Joker must know too. Yong-shik asks if the Joker stopped murdering people after meeting Dong-baek. Chief Byun replies there’s no way to know if the Joker stopped or is just taking a break.
With a crazy look in his eyes (the flared nostrils are back!), Yong-shik says he’ll catch the Joker and protect Dong-baek at all costs. As epic music plays, he dashes across a busy street…only to be shouted at by his mom for jaywalking. She’s at the police station to report the theft of a bag of red chili powder.
Abashed, he confesses that he took it, and he has one more confession to make: he can’t keep away from Dong-baek for two months as per his mom’s request. In response, Deok-soon goes after him with a foam tube she finds on the side of the road.
She asks him if the 30 years she raised him mean nothing, but he says if he doesn’t protect Dong-baek now, he’ll regret it for the next 30 years. He pleads with his mom, she left him to his own devices for 30 years, can’t she cut him a break one more time? Before she can do anything, he runs away from her.
Dong-baek closes up at the Camellia and starts her walk home. As she walks, she keeps turning around every few steps, as if expecting Yong-shik to run up to her. When she reaches her house, she gives one last look, then whispers that she almost fell for him and heads inside. Yong-shik misses her by seconds and as he wonders if she got in safely, hears that beeping sound again. He sets off on a run and pursues the shadowy figure through the neighborhood’s alleys. He finally manages to catch up and grabs their wrist.
Is it possible to just keep on loving this show and for it to get better and better? Every side character is so lovingly drawn up, so much so that I feel like a part of this quaint town that loves to gossip and constantly gets things wrong. In some respects, When the Camellia Blooms feels so incredibly real, and like any good slice of life drama, I just want it to center on Dong-baek’s journey towards self-acceptance and growth. She’s been given the short end of the stick at every step of her life: she grew up neglected and shunned because she was an orphan, had to raise Pil-gu with no financial help, and she was at the scene when her close friend was murdered. It’s easy to understand why she’s so self-reliant and feels like she doesn’t need anyone except for Pil-gu. The walls are up mainly because everyone else in her life has either moved on or been wiped away, which is absolutely devastating.
But it’s not only Dong-baek who has me so thoroughly invested, I am living for Yong-shik and his fierce declarations of love. Along with his sweet nature, his greatest asset is that’s he’s an open book and just fearless when it comes to expressing his feelings. For a while, the way he made his interest and feelings for Dong-baek known was a little uncomfortable. So while he hasn’t always been great at respecting boundaries, he has been great at at being committed and unwilling to care about other people’s judgements of them. He’s clearly in love with her. So much so, that he would go head to head with his mom for her.
But at the same time, it’s not like he’s choosing Dong-baek over his mom, he wants his mother to come around to the “buy one, get one free” perspective. I love how he’s so accepting of Pil-gu, and the way he phrases situations in the dorkiest (but somehow spot on) ways had me cracking this entire episode. I especially love the bickering relationship he has with Chief Byun.
Little man Pil-gu’s quick wit and bodyguard instincts make me go awww every time he’s on screen; he’s clearly taken a lot upon himself. I’m warming up to Jong-ryeol too, it must be tough to suddenly find out you have a son. I think he’s a good man, and judging from the way he can’t seem to stay away from Pil-gu gives me hope that he’ll be able to step up as a father. The comedic beats and the music in the show really complement every character, so Jong-ryeol’s humourous scenes have made him so much more likable. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for Jessica or Kyu-tae. Kyu-tae in particular makes my blood boil at his attitude towards his wife. The fact that I am now actually rooting for Ja-young to be set free from her toxic marriage or work with how broken it has become, goes to show how remarkably interesting I find her. She’s just a supporting character, but she and all the other side characters are so fully realized that they fill up the screen.
The thriller aspect I feel is well integrated into the plot now, with just the right amount of heightened tensions and ominousness foreboding. When the Joker was about to open the machine Dong-baek was in, my heart froze for a few seconds. I have my suspicions on who the Joker might be (Heung-shik the handyman?) but I’m more interested in finding out whether any of the victims had any connections and why he was so fixated with them. Brrr creepy stuff.
- Premiere Watch: Flower Crew: Joseon Marriage Agency, When the Camellia Blooms, Secret Boutique, Running Investigators, Vagabond, Pegasus Market
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- Character stills for When Camellia Blooms with Gong Hyo-jin, Kang Haneul
- Lee Sang-yi joins the cast of When Camellia Blooms
- Kang Haneul is back and signed up for post-military comeback drama
- Gong Hyo-jin considers becoming single mom for KBS rom-com thriller