When the Camellia Blooms: Episodes 39-40 (Final)
The residents of Ongsan are known to be a meddling bunch, which can be a good or bad thing depending who you are. When things start to look bleak, we look for miracles – but the million dollar question is: do they even exist?
EPISODE 39: “Do Miracles Happen?”
Dong-baek arrives at the hospital and cries to see the amount of machines Jung-sook’s hooked up to for dialysis. The doctor explains that the disease is hereditary. They’ll need to examine Dong-baek’s DNA before proceeding with the transplant – Jung-sook needs a miracle at this point.
Yong-shik dismisses a call from Detective Kim and Dong-baek has no energy left as she laments, “Miracles don’t exist. Things like that don’t happen in my pathetic life.” Elsewhere, the ajummas are gathered and Chan-sook comments that Fate decides who lives and dies.
Deok-soon finds Pil-gu at the arcade, surprising him with a smack on his back. She fills him up with food at her restaurant and says she doesn’t hit just any old stranger. They share smiles and all seems to be forgiven.
Meanwhile, Jong-ryeol holds a press conference asking the public not to hurt his family with ungrounded rumors. The journalists pester him with accusations about Jessica’s lies and Jong-ryeol retorts, “Did she commit a crime or something?”
He gets riled up and pushes away the script that was prepared for him. Her marital status isn’t something that needs to be reported publicly especially if he, the husband, was aware of the situation. Jong-ryeol firmly warns that anyone who crosses the line will be sued for defamation.
At home, Jessica and her mother read an article about Jong-ryeol defending her. Touched, Jessica tears up and hugs her daughter tightly, while mom is relieved that Jessica has better taste in men than she does.
Yong-shik helps Dong-baek pack a bag, explaining that Pil-gu will stay with Joon-gi. When he ignores another call from Detective Kim, Dong-baek listlessly tells him that he should go. She appreciates his help, but needs to learn to take care of herself again without being babied.
He urges Dong-baek to depend on him at times like this, but she’s not swayed. She asks Yong-shik to leave and let her move on, so he reluctantly complies and returns the call. Apparently, Seok-yong keeps requesting Heung-shik to bring him his glasses.
At first, the detectives got some answers from Seok-yong. But the moment the yellow object was brought up, he sighed and stopped co-operating, only asking for his son and his glasses.
Yong-shik declares to the detective that if that’s what he wants, then they’ll give it to him. Seok-yong is displeased to see Yong-shik instead of Heung-shik. “Why? Do you have an order for him or something?”
Heung-shik struggles to find work with everyone on edge around a killer’s son. He understands, but wonders if he’ll starve to death as he tosses a notebook into a fire. Hmm. At the rice cake shop, Jae-young hands Heung-shik a payment that she owes. Chan-sook throws in a jab, inquiring whether he really was oblivious to his dad’s identity as the Joker.
Dong-baek, who was passing by, watches as he stands wordlessly as the new target of the ajumma squad. The things they say to Heung-shik mirror the ones Dong-baek had to listen to when she was being ostracized.
She slaps on a smile and whisks Heung-shik away with the excuse that she also has an outstanding payment to make. Instead, she serves him lunch on the house as thanks for being a regular.
Heung-shik realizes she saved him from the ajummas and Dong-baek sighs that they both suffer because of their parents – he reminds her of herself. He thanks Dong-baek for everything she’s done, but has a question for her.
Seok-yong looks exhausted as Yong-shik shares that Hyang-mi’s body was mangled, the superglue in her throat took three days to scrape out, and plankton was found in her liver. He explains that this means Hyang-mi was still alive when she was dumped into the lake. This seems to surprise Seok-yong, but he doesn’t let it show.
When asked what Hyang-mi did to deserve this, he emotionally yells that he used sawdust and glue to silence the screaming and that she died because she chose to make the delivery. There’s almost an undercurrent of regret as he asks why she had to deliver that night. Yong-shik stares him down intently.
Heung-shik asks why Dong-baek always treats him well and gives him freebies. He recalls the times Dong-baek had asked him to stay for a meal after fixing something for her. She’d even given him peanuts on the house.
We’re taken back to when Dong-baek thought someone’s shoes were covered in flour while the news reported that the Joker used a fire extinguisher at a crime scene. Sure enough, the person who left the Joker’s signature scrawl on Dong-baek’s wall in 2013 was…Heung-shik. CHILLS.
Ignorant of this fact, Dong-baek promises to make steamed eggs for Heung-shik when her ingredient delivery arrives. His demeanor shifts slightly and he notes she uses formal speech with him. Nearly choking on his food, he asks why she’d do that for him.
Dong-baek can tell that something is off. Heung-shik’s smile disappears as he begins to cough, pointedly asking if she pities him, “You’re the one who everyone pities, but am I beneath you now?” He stops eating and glares at her.
When Yong-shik inspected the glasses pouch earlier, he’d discovered 2 yellow objects and realized it’s what Hyang-mi had swallowed. He calmly tells Seok-yong now that it seems as though Heung-shik attempted to send him a message.
Yong-shik further discloses that there was no glue in Hyang-mi’s throat and she didn’t drown. Seok-yong knows the ruse is up, shakenly reaching for his glasses pouch as Yong-shik softly remarks that he’s not capable of killing people. The yellow objects roll out – they’re Heung-shik’s earplugs.
He’d angrily thrown one on the floor the day Hyang-mi died, and is wearing a pair right now. The phone at the Camellia goes off, but Dong-baek makes no move to answer. Heung-shik ominously asks if the delivery is coming soon, reaching for a hammer with a burned hand.
On the day of the incident, Seok-yong found Heung-shik’s notebook filled with angry scribbles. Bookmarked on a page that read, “The witch… If she drowns, she was human. If she lives, she’s not” was the Camellia’s flyer. Heung-shik was waiting for Dong-baek to get caught in his trap.
Seok-yong helped clean up the aftermath and dispose of Hyang-mi’s body at the lake, which explains the scratch. Heung-shik robotically commented that they should’ve pulled out her nails, prompting Seok-yong to question if he has feelings. Plus, didn’t he like Hyang-mi?
Heung-shik gave the same answer he’d once given to Yong-shik, it’s not an easy thing for a person to like someone. He’d likened Hyang-mi to a stray cat. Seok-yong asked if he’ll stop once dad dies, noting that he wears Seok-yong’s shoes when he kills.
Heung-shik drawled, “Did you throw yourself down the construction site because I killed people and pretended to be you? Did you try to die?” He tsks that dad’s “paralysis” fooled even him for five years.
Seok-yong wondered if things would be different if they could turn time back to before Heung-shik made his first kill as a child. Heung-shik: “I guess you wouldn’t know if I was raised like this or born like this.”
Breaking down, Seok-yong regrets not raising Heung-shik well enough due to working constantly. Heung-shik had no friends and began to kill cats that he brought home. Seok-yong would secretly release them; he even tried slapping Heung-shik but nothing made a difference. Heung-shik had sensitive ears and a heart of stone.
Seok-yong shares that Dong-baek got on Heung-shik’s nerves. If she’d left, this wouldn’t have happened. Heung-shik gets increasingly irritated back at the bar. He hates the way Dong-baek looks at him. She tries to excuse herself, but he grabs her arm, face twitching and ears ringing.
The Ongsan cops find Yong-shik with his crazy eyes again. They pile into the patrol car and Yong-shik recalls his prior suspicions. The Joker claimed to watch Dong-baek every day, but Seok-yong couldn’t have done that. They lead a whole line of police cars (SWAT team included!) to catch the real Joker.
Playing with a lighter, Heung-shik leaves the Camellia annoyed. He thinks back to all the moments when his previous victims triggered him. It’s exactly what Seok-yong had confessed, but now we see that each scene ends with Heung-shik glaring with murderous intent.
He walks through the alley, greeting Chan-sook and Jae-young and they’re shocked when he’s attacked unexpectedly from behind — Dong-baek’s angrily smashed his head with Hyang-mi’s beer mug.
Back at the Camellia, Heung-shik had let go of Dong-baek after her phone blew up with messages from the ajummas announcing that they were coming over to bring her food. He collected himself and paid for the food, advising her not to pity others so easily.
Now, all eyes are on Dong-baek and Heung-shik, who’s sprawled on the ground. She knows he killed Hyang-mi and threatens to kill him if he keeps joking around. HA, she yells a string of profanities that are conveniently drowned out by a honking truck.
The police arrive and witness Dong-baek confronting Heung-shik. Yong-shik narrates, “I thought I would be able to protect Dong-baek, but she will protect herself.” Dong-baek scoffs that Heung-shik’s a wuss since he can’t even do anything in a crowd.
The ajummas declare war, now armed with items like a mop, bowl, and even a radish (LOL) to attack Heung-shik with. They’re a scary bunch, latching onto Heung-shik while a dozen cops dramatically run to his rescue. A full out brawl ensues as Chief Byun’s pleads, “We have to take him alive!” I love this.
Dong-baek leaves them to their chaos and Yong-shik watches her go with more respect in his eyes than usual. Dong-baek inwardly declares that someone like the Joker isn’t scary. What’s scary is being unable to protect someone.
She later sits by Jung-sook’s bedside. Although visitation hours are over, the nurse allows Dong-baek to stay. Before leaving to take a call, she suggests that Dong-baek invite anyone who might want to see Jung-sook today, but Jung-sook has nobody else.
Deok-soon arrives with Pil-gu in hand while Yong-shik hangs back in the waiting area. Dong-baek sobs that she’s never experienced this and has no clue what to do. It’s heartbreaking for Deok-soon to watch. She assures her that Jung-sook is leaving with a warm heart thanks to Dong-baek.
After Dong-baek left to get Pil-gu from Seoul, Jung-sook sat down with Deok-soon to ask for a favor. Jung-sook took the blame for Dong-baek’s pitiful life. She confessed that she doesn’t have much longer to live and only came because she missed Dong-baek.
Jung-sook began to take a liking to Yong-shik and she trusts Deok-soon. She asked her to take Dong-baek under her wing as a mother-figure. Knowing Dong-baek, she’d never forget how gracious Deok-soon was and would probably make sure she’s never lonely.
Jung-sook smiled and finished, “I came to embrace Dong-baek, but I get to leave this world with the warmest heart,” while Deok-soon was left speechless.
Deok-soon tells Dong-baek to put herself first so her child can be happy. Sacrificing everything for Pil-gu will negatively affect him in the future. Deok-soon promises to welcome her warmly and Dong-baek smiles through tears, “Yong-shik must be warm-hearted because he took after you.”
The boys share a tub of ice cream and have a heart-to-heart of their own. Yong-shik asks if his presence annoys Pil-gu, caught off-guard when he replies, “That’s not what’s important right now. Mom’s crying.” Yong-shik gets all the blessings he needs when Pil-gu confides that he wouldn’t say this to any other guy.
As they head home, Deok-soon tells Pil-gu the best thing he can do for Jung-sook is to eat well. She’s bringing out the expensive stuff for dinner and Pil-gu cheekily asks, “Is it because I’m not someone else’s kid?” Deok-soon: “Now that you’ve become my kid, I will protect you forever.”
Dong-baek opts to stay in the waiting room, jumping up whenever the door opens. The nurse notices and tells Dong-baek to go back inside before rushing off to take a call. Dong-baek’s hesitant to do so, afraid that Jung-sook will leave once she gets there.
Yong-shik can’t bear to watch Dong-baek struggle from afar anymore, asking for permission to sit next to her. She reaches out for him and they embrace, both a sobbing mess. She doesn’t want to pretend to be strong anymore, the world is too cruel to her.
Even though she was the best kid in the orphanage, all she got were pencils from Santa. It’s a sad moment, but I can’t help but chuckle whenever this couple cries so earnestly together.
Dong-baek doesn’t believe in miracles and refuses to beg for one. Lights flicker around the hospital and the ICU announces a Code Green. Jung-sook is wheeled out urgently and Yong-shik pesters the nurse, Ae-ryeon, for information. They originally couldn’t do the operation, but there seems to be a chance after they ran some tests. They pile into an ambulance that Kyu-tae is in – Jung-sook’s condition can worsen so travel time is key.
Nurse Ae-ryeon’s on the phone again, updating Gwi-ryeon (her sister, also part of the ajumma squad) on the current situation. A flashback shows the end of Chan-sook’s musings on Fate deciding who lives or dies; she’d declared they’d do whatever they can before Fate makes up its mind.
The entire ajumma crew began reaching out to their networks for help. Chief Byun narrates that everyone in Korea knows each other through an acquaintance. Most things are achieved by reaching out to them.
Cue the snow and hopeful Christmas music as the residents of Ongsan work together to create a miracle for Dong-baek. The police control the traffic lights and clear the road, Kyu-tae found the best-equipped ambulance in the country, Ja-young contacts a former client (a famed nephrologist), and even Joon-gi prays.
Everyone’s sincerity helps them arrive safely at Ongsan University Hospital as Yong-shik narrates, “Miracles don’t exist. It’s just the little heroes inside us working together. It’s small acts of kindness done by kind people.”
As Dong-baek preps for surgery, the ajummas text her updates on Pil-gu and the Camellia. They even gathered money to help with the surgery costs. Yong-shik continues that you may think it’s a miracle, but it’s the result of all the good deeds you’ve done.
It’s said that before dying, you return to the moment you regret most. Jung-sook’s moment is the day she abandoned Dong-baek. In her dream, she chooses to make a different choice, running back to Dong-baek instead of leaving.
She wakes up in the hospital instead of heaven. The patient next to her gets a scolding from the nurse. HAH, it’s Dong-baek and Yong-shik, who get in trouble for sharing a hospital bed. Dong-baek happily rushes to hug Jung-sook (who’s frustrated that she did the surgery), announcing that she’s not unlucky after all.
Kyu-tae drags a drunk Ja-young home and is told to get lost. He fusses over her and she grabs his nose, telling him to follow her inside…if he has the guts. He remembers meeting her for the first time. Ja-young only agreed to the blind date because it was Kyu-tae, though he didn’t remember her.
She’d initiated dates, overnight trips, and even the proposal. Kyu-tae asked why she chose him instead of someone more successful, and Ja-young smiled that he’s comfortable and easy to read. He declared that he’ll drop honorifics and Ja-young teases him by grabbing his nose, telling him to go ahead if he has the guts.
She presently lies on her couch mumbling that Kyu-tae has no guts. Just then, he flies through the door and stands proudly in front of her (though he’s unable to say anything besides her name). She pulls him on top of her, and they’ve found their way back together.
The officers dry chillies outside the station and discuss Yong-shik’s wedding. He vows to hold the biggest wedding Ongsan has ever seen.
Chief Byun keeps probing about the bouquet, requesting that they give it to Yeong-shim.
They realize that the chief is in a relationship and poke fun at him, only for him to scuttle away, embarrassed. “I know how to love as well. I’m a bachelor too!” Aw!!
Heung-shik asks to see Yong-shik to reveal that someone framed him for the death of the delivery man. Yong-shik dismisses it as nonsense – if Heung-shik killed 5 people, he’s capable of killing more.
Heung-shik agrees, but that means whoever murdered the delivery guy can kill more people too. He gets twitchy again and confesses that he hates how Yong-shik thinks the world is so peaceful.
He laughs almost maniacally as he says that the Joker is everywhere and new ones will always appear. Yong-shik sighs that Heung-shik must want to leave some creepy vibes at the end of his case, but it’s futile. Bad guys are one in a hundred. Good guys outweigh them in numbers and will always prevail.
He calls it the law of numbers. Bad guys will get outcast while the good ones are mainstream. The ajummas strut around the alley, proudly announcing that they protected Dong-baek with their numbers.
The Camellia undergoes renovations (yay, she’s getting windows!) — Jung-sook bought the place so they no longer have to worry about rent. Her dream of doing something for Dong-baek came true.
Dong-baek also achieves her dream of hearing “thank you.” She stationed a box outside the bar where she receives packages for people who aren’t home. She glows in happiness from the number of thank you’s she gets per day when residents pick up their parcels.
Jong-ryeol makes an appearance in Ongsan, giving Dong-baek a bankbook with 5 million won (~$4,200 USD) in there. The humble amount surprises everyone, and he explains there’ll always be 5 million even if money is withdrawn.
Like a magic pot, it’ll replenish itself until Pil-gu enters the Major Leagues. Jung-sook accepts it before Dong-baek can react. Jong-ryeol warns them not to use it for their wedding since he’s not cool enough to let that happen, leaving with a smile.
Kyu-tae’s mother calls Ja-young, sounding nice for once – she’s made ox knee soup. Ja-young takes this opportunity communicate that that’s Kyu-tae’s favorite; she has different tastes!
Yong-shik runs a dumpling stall outside of the Camellia where Kyu-tae fusses that the dumplings better be good, since they’re for someone special. They go about their usual banter and Kyu-tae berates Yong-shik for speaking informally to him.
He becomes shy when Yong-shik gruffly says that he speaks informally to all his friends, “should I stop?” Yong-shik smirks and treats him to an extra serving, “since it’s for the three of you.” AW, they’re pregnant!!
One couple returned to their roots, and another tries to grow up. Jong-ryeol and Jessica are on a date, sharing a dessert. He gives Jessica time to take pictures before digging in, but she reveals that she quit social media.
She’d wanted compliments, but people just feel sorry for her. Jong-ryeol can relate – if he doesn’t play well, people tell him to cheer up. It’s difficult to speak up about jealousy, but easy to pity others.
Jessica asks if he felt lonely during that time, but he laughs it off. The family would’ve fallen apart if that were the case. He grabs his phone to snap a picture of her, but she sheds a tear. He’s shocked and cutely promises to say the words she wants to hear sometimes… like “You’re pretty,” and “I like you,” which brings her smile back.
Dong-baek worries that going on a honeymoon will affect her business, but Jung-sook tells her to enjoy it while she can.
In stories, people usually get their happy endings after suffering, which Jung-sook thinks is stupid.
She advises Dong-baek to be happy when she can instead of saving it for later. Dong-baek offers some advice of her own: “You don’t chase happiness. You savor it.” She tells Jung-sook to look around and see the flowers.
Dong-baek does some self-reflection, likening her life to an apple tree planted in the sand. She had no soil or other trees to depend on but now, she has solid roots. People have begun to sprout around her, enabling her to see her surroundings clearly. She just had to mingle her roots!
Dong-baek’s finally made herself comfortable, laughing and eating with the neighborhood ladies. She later admires her surroundings while waiting for Yong-shik on a bench. He flirts in his usual dorky way, and they’re all smiles as they embrace.
She wonders if it was a miracle that they met, then decides that she doesn’t believe in something that sounds like a lottery – she believes in herself. Yong-shik beams the brightest smile at her, “I believe in you too,” and they kiss. Too cute.
We see Pil-gu-of-the-future again, who’s on the phone with Dong-baek. He’s busy but expresses his love for her, suggesting that she turn on the TV if she misses him. He gathers himself before opening a door, stepping into a room full of journalists.
The house is filled with Pil-gu’s awards and trophies, as well as a girl’s school uniform that belongs to a Hwang Go-woon (aw, they named their daughter after Hyang-mi). Yong-shik’s been promoted and he sits hand-in-hand with Dong-baek as they watch Pil-gu’s Major League announcement on TV. We only see their backs, but they’ve aged.
As we pan over to meet our couple face-to-face one last time, they’ve reverted back to their younger-looking selves. Dong-baek finally has an answer. “Honey, now that I think about it, my life has been nothing but a miracle.”
That was a rollercoaster of emotions – from horror and sadness, to warm-fuzzies and relief. We were lulled into a false sense of security, thinking that the criminal was locked away. Literally all the signs had us originally pointing fingers at Heung-shik, only for the show to throw us off-track and had us suspecting his dad instead. But now we learn that it was actually Heung-shik all along and…I feel like I have whiplash from all this back-and-forth. His motive to kill was nothing to write home about (I’m still unsure why Dong-baek got on his nerves…she was being nice and noticed him, so he thought she was pitying him all this time? Underwhelming). Also, if he had such impulsive murderous intent, it makes no sense that he’d stop killing for 5 years just because he couldn’t frame his dad anymore. I think the Joker storyline dragged out longer than necessary, and we could’ve spent this time exploring other characters instead.
The whole Nature vs. Nurture debate was brought up by Heung-shik himself. Was he born a monster or raised one? It’s the very thing Hyang-mi struggled with before she passed. She and Dong-baek had similar upbringings but ended up taking different paths. I’d argue that they had it worse than Heung-shik, so there’s no excuse that his upbringing caused him to go on killing sprees. It was sad to see Seok-yong take the blame, but parents will always try to protect their child.
Speaking of parents, JUNG-SOOK!!! Watching the residents of Ongsan meddling in a good way brought the waterworks. It was such a feel-good moment – it’s been drilled in our heads that Dong-baek has never has anything good happen to her. It was amazing to see the amount of effort everyone put in to help her out. All she’s ever wanted was to fit in and she’s finally found a make-shift family that will fight for her (I’m still cry-laughing at the scene with the ajummas attacking Heung-shik. Also, how badass was she when she confronted him? You go, girl!). Dong-baek shines brightest when she smiles, and I’m glad that after all the tears she’s shed during her whole life, she can finally be happy and live for herself.
I’m so happy that Pil-gu grew up surrounded by so much love. Not sure how I feel about Deok-soon suddenly doing a 180 just because Jung-sook was on her deathbed, but I love the protective mama bear side of her too much to really complain about it. I just wish we’d resolved this issue much earlier so we could see more BFF and Pil-gu interactions!
The loose ends were tied up neatly and each character felt like they were more than just an extra. I’d say that was a pretty satisfying finale, and we can move on knowing that Yong-shik and Dong-baek will always cry together, laugh together, and support one another through tough times.
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- Character stills for When Camellia Blooms with Gong Hyo-jin, Kang Haneul
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- Kang Haneul is back and signed up for post-military comeback drama
- Gong Hyo-jin considers becoming single mom for KBS rom-com thriller