When the Camellia Blooms: Episodes 25-26
Misfortunes abound this hour as things start coming to a head. Sometimes it takes the ish hitting the fan to realize what’s important and do something about it. For some it may be too late, but others find the courage to decisively stand for the future they want.
EPISODE 25: “The End of All the Flirting”
As Hyang-mi drives off to make a delivery, she’s followed by Jong-ryeol, another man and Jessica. Hyang-mi passes a drunk Kyu-tae and shoots him a finger-heart as she zooms by. Jessica tails Hyang-mi dangerously closely, aggressively honking.
At the Camellia, Jung-sook calls a cab but won’t tell Dong-baek where she’s going, although the words “Ongsan fishing” are visible on the note she left behind. The camera lingers on an old flip-phone left on the counter.
We see a collage of six people with a motive for Hyang-mi’s murder: Jung-sook, Nak-ho, Jong-ryeol, Ja-young, Kyu-tae and Jessica. In what looks like a rundown warehouse by the water, Hyang-mi—still alive—lies bleeding on the floor. Someone enters.
The next day, Dong-baek goes looking for Hyang-mi and finds out that she hasn’t been living in her old apartment for a while. She wonders if Hyang-mi really went to Copenhagen.
Chief Byun gets the results back on the cat food and informs Yong-shik that apart from Heung-shik’s sample, it was full of herbicide. It was previously a commonly used poison in suicides and sales were banned in 2012. Yong-shik gets riled up about catching the culprit but deflates when Dong-baek walks into the station.
After getting her car’s smashed bumper looked at, Jessica joins Jong-ryeol in his car at the car wash. He admits Pil-gu is his son, and he wants to raise him. Jessica can have whatever she wants in the divorce. When he says they don’t even eat together like a real couple, she blows up. How can she eat when she’s called a pig online? She says she would’ve already killed herself if she could’ve.
Dong-baek lays out the situation with Hyang-mi for Chief Byun. He wonders if Hyang-mi came back after stealing the 30 million won to take something else. He thinks it’s clear she ran away and wants Dong-baek to file a theft report, but Dong-baek is worried Hyang-mi got in an accident.
Yong-shik sarcastically says maybe she met the Joker (ooh, that’s going to haunt him) and storms out. Dong-baek follows him out, and he angrily tells her not to take delivery orders so late at night. Dong-baek wonders if she should close early then and only do what makes him comfortable. “Delivering food, getting robbed and getting attacked by the Joker are all part of my life.” She asks him to respect her life for what it is.
When Yong-shik says it’s exhausting, watching her go through all that, she gets insecure and emotionally pulls away (like she did with Jong-ryeol in the past). He shouldn’t be with someone who exhausts him, she retorts. Yong-shik tells her not to use breaking up as a weapon just because he likes her more. As he walks away, she thinks it’s her that likes him more.
Chief Byun has officers review CCTV footage of the terminal and call Nak-ho. Yong-shik explodes when Chief Byun sighs that Dong-baek has an unfortunate life. “If she was that unfortunate, how could she have met me?” They marvel at his self-confidence. Chief Byun makes him stay behind (and find the Joker) while the rest of the team finds Hyang-mi.
A reporter sits in a van looking at surveillance photos of Hyang-mi. He and his partner had been following her for days after hearing her refer to Jong-ryeol as “Pil-gu’s dad” at the shoot she crashed. They spotted Jong-ryeol following her moped and hoped for a photo of them together, but Jong-ryeol noticed their camera flash, so they drove off.
Pil-gu accidentally scratches their van with his rolling backpack, so they get out but pause when they realize he’s the kid in question. “Do you play baseball?” the reporter asks.
In the car, Kyu-tae’s mother asks him about his visit to his mother-in-law the previous night, but he can’t remember anything (too drunk). His mother’s main concern seems to be what the neighbors will think about his affair and potential divorce, as well as making sure Kyu-tae keeps the house. Kyu-tae asserts that Ja-young is so far above their family she deserves the house.
Yong-shik is out trying to piece everything together: the cat food, the arson, the green lighter, the Joker’s MO of arson followed by murder. He still finds Kyu-tae’s closeness with the director of the academy suspicious, so he goes to question him.
Kyu-tae claims he doesn’t know anything but appears anxious in the face of Yong-shik’s barrage of questions. To Yong-shik’s confusion, Kyu-tae exasperatedly blurts out, “I rode a duck pedal boat!” His wife left him, so why try to prove anything now? He tells Yong-shik not to investigate Hanbit Academy—it’ll stir up trouble in the town.
The reporters attempt to strike up casual conversation with the ajummas about the Camellia and the “strange lady” who’s often there, but their we’re-just-here-for-a-friendly-chat routine doesn’t work. “Are we friends?” they demand to know. “Why are you eating our rice cakes?”
Chan-sook notices the notepad in the man’s pocket and catches him recording their conversation. The ajummas assume he’s asking around about Dong-baek, so they tell him that she has a homicide-detective husband who won’t take kindly to their prying. Plus, the women here are a unit, and they don’t appreciate people messing with their little sister (Yay!).
The men leave when the ajummas get ready to throw down. They head to the Camellia and decide they’ll just ask Dong-baek (about Hyang-mi) since they’ve come this far.
Kyu-tae comes home to find Ja-young’s mud-spattered car in the driveway. Ja-young tells him they’re heading out. He sees the divorce application—with both of their stamps on it—on the table.
Kyu-tae doesn’t want a divorce, especially since he and Hyang-mi didn’t technically do anything, but Ja-young is done. Amazingly, his enticing offer of one day being the governor’s wife doesn’t do the trick. He finally goes with her to the courthouse when she threatens to tell the current governor about his affair.
At the bar, the reporter shows pictures to Dong-baek and asks about Hyang-mi. They know Jong-ryeol and his wife live separately, and they’ve seen him and Hyang-mi together. This is all news to Dong-baek.
She’s upset when she sees a photo of Pil-gu on the camera. She tries to delete it and says they shouldn’t take pictures of a kid. He didn’t do anything wrong. “Pil-gu is just my son!” Dong-baek throws the camera on the ground, breaking it into pieces, and warns him not to mess with her kid.
Fuming, Dong-beak calls Jong-ryeol about the situation. She blames him for interfering in Pil-gu’s life and tells him to protect his kid.
On the way to the courthouse, Kyu-tae wears Ja-young down until she agrees to eat one last meal as a couple. While eating, he tries to proclaim his innocence again, but Ja-young says it doesn’t matter. It’s down to incompatibility.
Ja-young points out that they looked down on each other and have lived like roommates for years, staying together out of convenience. They should stop holding back. She doesn’t even want revenge anymore since she already got it through Hyang-mi.
When Ja-young goes to get in the car after paying, Kyu-tae locks her out. He wants them to go back to when they liked each other. “Noona, I love you!” he proclaims before driving off.
Yong-shik comes to the Camellia bearing flowers but hesitates outside. Jung-sook criticizes him for buying flowers again. “Do you know how much money you need to support a family?” She calls him naïve.
He asserts you don’t need money to be happy, but Jung-sook believes it raises your chances. “If your kid asks for food right when you wake up, you end up abandoning them.” We flash back to a young Dong-baek sobbing that she’s hungry as Jung-sook holds her and cries.
Jung-sook just wants her kid to have enough to eat. Yong-shik ensures her he won’t let Dong-baek starve, but she worries about his mother’s disapproval. She doesn’t want Dong-baek feeling unwanted or intimidated. Yong-shik claims he’ll slowly convince his mom, but it’s not enough for Jung-sook.
Yong-shik marches over to his mom’s restaurant and psyches himself up to talk with her. Inside, he sees something and stops short.
At the Camellia, Dong-baek nags her mom about staying out so frequently. “Do you have another family?” Dong-baek tries calling Hyang-mi again, but Jung-sook tells her not to wait for someone who won’t come. Jung-sook takes off her cleaning gloves, exposing a bruise on her arm.
When he walks into the restaurant, Yong-shik’s mom says she was going to disown him if he forgot about his dad’s death anniversary. His intimidating older brothers, Kyu-shik and Doo-shik (cameos by Choi Dae-chul and In Gyo-jin) wonder why he might’ve forgotten—is he dating? He shocks the room into silence by stating he is.
In typical sibling fashion, his brothers tease him about his old dating experiences. They rapid fire questions at him until Yong-shik announces he’s dating Dong-baek. Again, they’re stunned.
Dong-baek sits staring at the door, clearly waiting for Yong-shik, while Jung-sook admonishes her for acting desperate. She baldly states that always being lonely has made her easy. Jung-sook assumes that comment is aimed at her.
For Dong-baek, it’s all or nothing when it comes to dating. Jung-sook urges her to just call Yong-shik then, but Dong-baek won’t. He’s out of her league, so what right does she have?
Yong-shik sits quietly while his brothers berate him for dating Dong-baek and worrying their mom. But things get heated when one of them assumes Dong-baek was the one to hit on him. Deok-soon breaks it up and tells Yong-shik to go home.
The brothers complain that she’s too lenient with Yong-shik, but she argues that they, at least, knew their dad. Deok-soon tears up as she tells them not to treat Yong-shik so harshly. Failing to hold in his tears, Yong-shik says he loves his family, but he can’t help his feelings for Dong-baek.
Jung-sook chuckles when she catches Dong-baek sneaking off to the market in her fancy shoes. She goes back inside, telling Dong-baek to wait so they can go together. Dong-baek scurries away the second she’s gone, making her mom smile.
At 5:00 AM, Yong-shik wakes for his weekly Thursday morning market trip with Dong-baek. He’s surprised to see Deok-soon at his place with breakfast made. She knows about his trips with Dong-baek—the ajumma network is strong—and asks him not to go today. They’re interrupted by a call from Chief Byun.
Meanwhile, Dong-baek waits at the bus stop and imagines Yong-shik meeting her there. She boards alone. Even though she was used to doing everything alone, it’s harder now that she’s gotten used to having someone there.
At the lake, the police investigate the third recent fire in Ongsan. As with the two other fires, they find sawdust on the ground. They also find a burnt sweater (which Hyang-mi was wearing) Yong-shik recognizes as Dong-baek’s. He remembers there were four fires before the Joker murders and rushes out.
Dong-baek receives a panicked call from Yong-shik, on his way to meet her, asking where she is. She tells him she’s at her stop and gets off without noticing the disturbed man’s graffiti food for thought on the seatback: “There’s no witch that doesn’t burn.”
An announcement comes over the loudspeaker at the market for the owner of the Camellia to come to the second floor to pick up a receipt. Shortly after Dong-baek enters the second-floor office, we see a man (dressed in the universally suspicious all-black number) leaving.
Dong-baek gets a headache and smells something right as the fire alarm goes off. The door is locked, so she breaks a window, but the flames are right outside. She bangs on the door, screaming for help.
Yong-shik learns of the fire (now the fourth one) over the police radio and rushes to the scene. He ushers people out as he makes his way upstairs, the hallway now in flames. Through the fire-burnt wall, Yong-shik sees Dong-baek lying on the floor. He douses himself in water and breaks down the door.
At the hospital, Dong-baek is horrified to see a passed-out Yong-shik with his entire arm bandaged. At the reception desk, a nurse confirms over the phone that a patient is on the list. Her finger rests on Dong-baek’s name.
On the other end, a raspy male voice asks if she’s still alive. We only see the bottom part of his face. His arm is scratched, and he has several bottles of Gramoxone (the herbicide) in his room.
Dong-baek stands by Yong-shik’s bedside and cries. Yong-shik wakes and immediately worries about her bandaged hand. She’s upset he put himself in danger for her, asking “Do you think you’re invincible?”
He laboriously sits up, looking serious. He says that he’s exhausted and can’t do it anymore. Dong-baek stands silently, preparing for the worst, as he continues that he can’t even focus on his work. He just wants to live comfortably, so they should end it.
She sits on the edge of his bed, facing away from him, and says he’s growing up. If he stays by her, he’ll catch her bad luck, so he should run. He says they should stop almost-dating now. “Let’s…just get married.” Whoa. Skipped a few steps there.
Yong-shik can’t stop worrying about her and, he smiles, “You’re so cute. I want to keep you by my side for the rest of my life.” Dong-baek stares in shock and thinks he’s gone crazy. He offers to give her his good luck.
He says he wasn’t even scared to jump into fire for her. They should just get married.
Dong-baek finally gives a small smile and says she loves him. Yong-shik smiles back (“I knew it.”) and pulls her in for a kiss.
So much happened this hour, but let’s start with that proposal. Dude doesn’t waste any time. They haven’t even officially dated yet and he’s proposing! I can’t say I’m surprised though. Yong-shik isn’t one to play things safe or hesitate once he knows what he wants. But considering she’s got a kid, shouldn’t they take this a bit slower? It’s not right to blindside Pil-gu with this. He’s already not on-board with them dating, so for his benefit, maybe they should date for a while until he’s more comfortable with the idea. This is assuming Dong-baek says yes— she’s a lot more cautious than Yong-shik, so I wouldn’t be surprised if she wants to ease in more.
The big question throughout these episodes is what exactly happened to Hyang-mi. Although my money is on the Joker for locking her up and eventually killing her, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a confrontation(s) before that. She could have been injured from a run-in with someone before being picked up by the killer; we have no way of knowing if she was injured before or after being taken to that warehouse. She was being followed, and we know Jessica, at least, caught up with her. The mangled bumper suggests she may have even hit her. There was also the mysterious bruise on Jung-sook’s arm and the “Ongsan fishing” note, which makes it possible she was involved. Kyu-tae looked too drunk to do any real damage, but he, Nak-ho and Jong-ryeol can’t be ruled out as suspects. I seriously doubt Ja-young had anything to do with it, as it doesn’t seem her style, but I think the mud-spattered car was meant to suggest her as a possibility. It’s a sad state of affairs when six people could plausibly want you dead.
I might be in the minority here, but I don’t dislike Hyang-mi. She often made terrible decisions, but I find her more pitiful than vindictive. She’s unusually honest with no illusions about her nature and choices, which I appreciate. All her life, she’s been neglected and mistreated, even by her own family. I don’t think she ever realized there was another way to survive before becoming reacquainted with Dong-baek. She seemed to want to start living differently and maybe she could’ve with the support of her new family. Unfortunately, she’ll never get the chance to try.
One thing I appreciate about this show is the variety of female characters. From Dong-baek to the neighborhood ajummas to Hyang-mi to Ja-young to Jung-sook—they’re all so different, each with their own strengths and flaws. Even Jessica has taken on a bit more depth of late. Her outburst in the car about the cyberbullying she faces was chilling in light of recent real-life events. I hope her comments weren’t prophetic and she winds up okay. She may be unpleasant, but no one deserves that kind of public shaming and bullying. I hope she comes to realize value lies beyond the external.
To end on a positive note, how great was watching the ajummas stand up for Dong-baek? They’ve finally included her in their little family. It’s taken a long time for her to become an insider, but her kindness and persistence paid off.
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