Hi Bye, Mama! : Episode 2
What’s a ghost to do when they find themselves suddenly mortal again? Our former ghost is reluctant to insert herself into her family’s life now that they’ve moved on, but in the end she can’t keep away from her daughter for long. Meanwhile, our grieving doctor feels more haunted by the living apparition of his wife than he ever was of her ghost, and his feelings start pressing against the seal he’s had them locked behind for the last five years.
And perhaps after this episode they should seek a new daycare for Seo-woo. Because that place has some serious security issues.
EPISODE 2: “Forgotten Season”
In the past, Seo-woo still just a newborn, Kang-hwa kneels before Yuri’s parents to beg them to raise his daughter. Dad wavers but Mom firmly refuses. But she stops short of storming out of the room, to ask if Kang-hwa’s plan is to try to kill himself again once they take Seo-woo from him. Big tears drip down Kang-hwa’s cheeks and he sobs that he can’t live anymore. Mom tells him to keep busy, and she brushes a tear from her own face. Dad tries a less stern approach, and tells Kang-hwa that he needs Seo-woo in his life to keep him going. All the while, baby Seo-woo gurgles and smiles, and it seems like Dad is tempted to take the offer.
But Kang-hwa returns home and cares for Seo-woo. It’s a struggle at first to feed and bathe her on his own and to make it to daycare on time, and in the beginning, Kang-hwa can’t help but collapse to his knees outside the daycare center, snow falling around him. In voiceover, he narrates: “Everyone passes through a tunnel of darkness in life. A long tunnel that makes you think that you may never see light again.”
There are lots of rushed days, but as time passes, Kang-hwa relaxes into the routine. Seo-woo walks on her own to daycare, and he has time to stop and watch the snow fall. And eventually, Kang-hwa walks hand in hand with his daughter and new wife, smiling and happy. Kang-hwa bookends his narration with, “But as there are no tunnels without exits, there is no eternal love nor eternal pain in the world.”
Back to the present, though a similar moment, as Kang-hwa walks hand in hand with his family. But this time he spots Yuri in the crowd, and he looks back, his eyes unable to look away from this apparition of his dead wife. Yuri feels his gaze, and notes that the snow melts into her winter coat for once. She’s a physical being in the world again.
Min-jung notes Kang-hwa’s distraction, though he denies it. Meanwhile, Yuri grapples with the sensations of life she’d thought she’d left behind forever. A group of high school tough girls mock her bizarre behavior, but Yuri’s too excited that they can even see her to care about their attitudes.
Yuri rests on a park bench. “Did I just become a human? But why now?” Yuri wonders why she’s so tired, but then, oh yeah, she flashes back to just a moment before, when she joyously skipped through the square, talking to anyone who makes just a little eye contact, stealing their mirrors and accepting their karaoke ads. Now not only is she tired, but also cold and hungry.
A brightly-colored umbrella appears over her head, and with it priestess Midongdaek. Midongdaek takes Yuri back to her place, and then suggests that perhaps Yuri got sassy with a certain celestial power. Yuri can’t imagine getting sassy with a god, until she recalls that prior to her change, she was yelling accusations at the sky. She asks if this is a reward for standing up to the gods, and Midongdaek snorts that no, this is judgment.
Midongdaek explains that typically, a spirit is given 49 days to be judged for reincarnation, but that for some reason, Yuri’s judgment will be happening on earth in human form. Midongdaek says that Yuri has 49 days to reclaim her place in the world, and if she’s successful she’ll stay alive. Yuri must become her husband’s wife and daughter’s mom again to remain human. Yuri points out that her husband remarried, but Midongdaek has no other options for her.
Meanwhile, Min-jung sneaks a peek at a folder she has hidden away in her vanity. It’s divorce papers, but before we learn too much Min-jung tucks them away again to check on a sound from the living room. She finds Seo-woo on the floor and scolds her for jumping on the couch, but Seo-woo smiles at someone who passes by Min-jung, and it’s not Kang-hwa, because he’s in the shower. Seems the apartment ghost is still hanging around…
In the shower, Kang-hwa can’t stop thinking about the Yuri look alike he saw, and those thoughts are mixed in with a few from the past, Kang-hwa sobbing in his scrubs over Yuri’s body.
Yuri needs a place to stay, so her first stop is her parent’s house. She hesitates to ring the bell, and dashes away when she hears the fam strolling back from a walk with their dog. Yuri crouches behind a nearby car, but Popo the dog senses her and begins to bark and lunge. Mom and Popo draw closer to Yuri’s spot, but Dad says it’s probably just a cat and Mom drags the dog inside.
“There’s no place for you in the real world now,” a voice over narrates, but while it’s relevant to Yuri’s situation, it’s actually the words of the ghosts at the columbarium who are trying to comfort a new arrival. The new ghost protests that her love will only move on because he can’t see her, but the ghosts challenge that. They say that even if someone could live again, they wouldn’t be welcomed back with open arms. The ghosts bicker, and then start to wonder where Yuri has been all this time.
After her aborted stop at her parents, Yuri makes her way to her friend Hyun-jung’s restaurant and lets herself in with the hidden spare key. Yuri heads to the photo collage and rearranges the photos of her and Kang-gwa to her liking, and then settles down at the counter. Yuri thinks about her new situation, and can only see it as punishment. “I miss you, Seo-woo,” she says, since she can no longer secretly stay at her daughter’s side.
Yuri is gone by the time Hyun-jung opens the restaurant the next day, but she immediately notices the rearranged photos and beelines for the cash register. There’s a single 10,000 won note missing, and she declares that a rat must have sneaked in.
And by rat, she means her husband Geun-sang. He denies the theft when she calls him, and asks what he could possibly buy for a measly 10,000 won. And of course, the petty thief is Yuri, not Geun-sang, who is getting some street food with her friend’s money. Yuri ducks away though when Kang-hwa turns up at the same stand for coffee. He doesn’t spot her, but Yuri finds her husband’s work ID badge forgotten on the counter.
The forgotten ID is just the first of Kang-hwa’s mishaps as he tries to focus on his day. In the office, he pulls up the wrong medical records and admonishes a young boy for still smoking at his age, haha. In the cafeteria, Kang-hwa piles a mountain of rice on his tray until Geun-sang finally stops him. And while Geun-sang shows off his OOTD (outfit of the day) instagram account, Kang-hwa doesn’t even notice when Nurse Jung tries to rib him about his earlier mistakes.
When he finally breaks from his reverie, it’s to ask the lunch table crew if they believe that there are people that look exactly alike to others. Everyone argues that people can look similar, but only identical twins look exactly alike. Kang-hwa doesn’t like their answer and stands up to storm away, but when Geun-sang tries to coax him back, he pivots back and stands at the end of the table to declare his theory: doppelgängers exist. Unsurprisingly, he gets skeptical stares in response, and Kang-hwa retreats to his office.
Yuri still has Kang-hwa’s ID and makes her way to the hospital to return it. She’s discovering though that travel isn’t as easy once you’re not a ghost. She forgets to move out of the way for a bicycle, and tries to enter a bus through the middle of it, haha. Once she boards correctly, she spots a ghost in a seat. But Midongdaek warned her that ghosts will try to take advantage of her if they realize she’s human again, so Yuri pretends she can’t see her and moves along.
For all the extra troubles being a human brings with it, Yuri can’t help but enjoy the sunshine and fresh air from the bus window as it drives along.
In his office, Kang-hwa takes out Yuri’s old wedding ring and stares at it. He’s not having a good day though, and he manages to drop it underneath a cabinet. Geun-sang arrives to check in on his friend, and finds him on the floor straining to reach the ring. Geun-sang easily retrieves it and asks what made Kang-hwa bring it out in the first place.
Kang-hwa admits that he saw someone who looked exactly like Yuri on the street the day before. Geun-sang pushes, and Kang-hwa asks why he can’t just look at her ring just to see it. Geun-sang points out that it’s Kang-hwa who has been pretending that it never happened. Kang-hwa pushes his friend out of his office.
Geun-sang remains skeptical of Kang-hwa’s doppelgänger proposal, until he spots Yuri at the hospital reception desk, returning the ID. Geun-sang releases a loud yelp and squeezes his eyes shut. When he opens them again, Yuri is gone. He does his best to walk off his surprise and deny what he saw, while Yuri crouches behind the reception desk. As she turns to leave, a familiar ghost family watches her from outside the doors.
We take a moment with the columbarium ghosts to clarify the ghost family’s history: they’ve refused to move on because they believe their son, Pil-seung, still needs them. Their son was nine when the rest of the family died in a car crash, but it’s been a few years and Pil-seung has grown into a man already. The ghost family clearly remains in denial as we see them trail their son into a hotel room with a woman.
Back in the present at the hospital, the ghost family phases inside and surrounds Yuri, testing her reactions to them. Yuri tries her best to ignore them completely, but see through her act and all Yuri can do is run. The ghosts face less obstacles as they race through the crowds, but Yuri still manages to duck away and lose them.
Hospital staff get the lost ID back to Kang-hwa, but they wonder why the ID card is now backwards in the case. In a quick flashback, we see that it’s because Yuri couldn’t help but doodle silly moustaches all over her husband’s face, just like the photos in the restaurant. But Yuri discovers that she used permanent marker by mistake, and flips the card so that the doodles don’t show on Kang-hwa’s face. Kang-hwa rights the ID card and spots the familiar doodles, but before he gets a chance to consider what it means, hospital staff rush in and demand his help in surgery.
Kang-hwa tries to avoid the surgery, but it’s an emergency case and all other surgeons are already in their own operations. So Kang-hwa scrubs in, but he’s immediately flooded with memories of Yuri’s accident. He recalls begging to do the surgery and save her himself.
Geun-sang hears from the nurses that Kang-hwa is performing surgery, and he can’t believe it. Everyone else seems pretty skeptical, but Kang-hwa steps forward to the operating table. He leans forward, hands outstretched, but all he can think about is Yuri’s body, and sees himself sobbing in the corner of her hospital room, and he freezes.
Meanwhile, Min-jung has finally been coerced into coffee with the other moms. The moms present their case of concern for Seo-woo, and mention incidents like Seo-woo talking to herself or declaring there are children where there aren’t any. They also point out that Seo-woo seems to be able to talk less than the other kids. Min-jung completely changes the topic and asks if they’ll all be sending their kids to English kindergartens. And of course they are and want Min-jung’s recommendation, but instead she tells them that they should mind their own business and focus on their own children then. Min-jung gracefully marches away, and while the mom’s are miffed by her attitude, they can’t help but admire her as well, haha.
Min-jung gets a call and promises the caller she’ll be right there, and then calls a child pick-up service to collect Seo-woo from daycare for her.
Yuri lingers at Seo-woo’s daycare windows, catching glimpses of her daughter. She’s reassured to see her laughing and smiling, but then she sees Seo-woo’s playmate is a ghost. Yuri can no longer phase in, but that doesn’t stop her from marching into the daycare anyway (where is the security in this place?) Yuri frantically searches the rooms, until Seo-woo finally comes barreling into the hallway, and directly into her arms.
Yuri tenses in surprise, unprepared for first contact with her daughter. But then she wraps her arms tightly around her daughter and tears spring to her eyes. She only pulls away when a daycare worker finally discovers them. But the employee assumes that Yuri is the pick-up service Min-jung hired, and apparently doesn’t bother to check her credentials before sending Seo-woo home with her.
Back at the hospital, Dr. Jang berates Kang-hwa in front of the rest of the hospital staff. Dr. Jang finished up his own surgery early and was able to take over for Kang-hwa, but Kang-hwa still endangered the patient with his inability to operate. Kang-hwa takes it all without a word, while Geun-sang lures Dr. Jang away to explain. Kang-hwa stares down at his ID and those doodles.
Geun-sang finally admits to Dr. Jang that Kang-hwa has developed a phobia of operating rooms and experiences panic attacks when he tries to enter them. Dr. Jang asks why they’ve been hiding this for four years instead of getting treatment, and Geun-sang says that Kang-hwa refuses to pursue it. The two realize that while Kang-hwa has been putting up a good front, he may not be over the death of his wife.
Kang-hwa drives to the columbarium, blasting Yoon Hang-gi’s I am Happy in the car on the way there. He stares at the photo alongside Yuri’s urn, which features the same doodles as his ID. And he recalls the moment when that photo was defaced. Yuri was pregnant and mad at him for not getting her the strawberries she craved. Kang-hwa calls her childish, while Yuri promises to tell their daughter, who she’s nicknamed Yeol-mu, all of her father’s misdeeds as soon as she’s born.
On the way home from daycare, Yuri asks Seo-woo if she knows who she is. Seo-woo says she does, but then answers that she doesn’t, haha. Yuri tells her it’s okay not to know, and then she can’t help but give in when Seo-woo wants to stop to play at a playground. Oh boy.
When Seo-woo isn’t there for the real pick-up service, Min-jung calls Kang-hwa to report that Seo-woo is missing. Both Kang-hwa and Min-jung take to the streets and frantically call for their young daughter.
Geun-sang recounts the strange day to Hyun-jung at her restaurant, including the Yuri look alike and the botched surgery. Hyun-jung says that her own heart skips when she sees someone who looks a little like Yuri, but Geun-sang stresses that Kang-hwa seemed to think she’d come back to life. Hyun-jung expresses how happy she’d be if Yuri came back, but Geun-sang points out how complicated that would be for Kang-hwa and Min-jung.
Yuri pushes Seo-woo on the playground swings, and in excitement pushes a little too high and Seo-woo falls. Yuri collects her daughter in her arms, sobbing along with her. From Seo-woo’s scraped hand, Yuri recalls her own injuries as the car crashed into her. She also recalls how she pleaded for someone to please save her baby.
Geun-sang and Hyun-jang’s argument continues in voiceover. Geun-sang argues that Kang-hwa has been through enough and shouldn’t have to do it all over again, while Hyun-jung counters that it’s Yuri’s death that’s unfair, and that she never got to even hold her own daughter.
As they argue, Kang-hwa finally arrives at the playground. His face stiffens at the sight of his daughter in Yuri’s arms, and then begins to crumple as the emotions take over. Yuri looks up and returns his gaze.
We’re back to those first scenes, as Kang-hwa struggled to learn to take care of Seo-woo. But now as he drops to the ground in the falling snow, he isn’t alone. Ghost Yuri is there, her hands hovering over his shoulder to comfort him. She’s there as he races Seo-woo’s stroller to daycare, and she’s there to try to brush the snow from Kang-hwa’s hair as he stops to watch the snow. And eventually, he starts to run right through Yuri, until he’s smiling, hand in hand with Seo-woo and Min-jung, and swinging Seo-woo right through Yuri’s ghost, leaving her behind in the distance.
Yuri’s return did not stay a secret for long, and I’m glad that the first ones (other than Midongdaek) to know about her return are Seo-woo and Kang-hwa. There were some close calls with her family and Geun-sang, but it feels only right for Kang-hwa to be the first to welcome her back to the living and try to grapple with what that means. Keeping him in the dark for too long would have felt so torturous, especially after getting the glimpses into his ongoing suffering that he’s trying to hide.
It was great to see Yuri get that unexpected hug from Seo-woo early on as well. She didn’t get the chance for the build-up and instead was thrown into the situation, and I loved it. There are benefits and drawbacks to being a ghost (no worries about bus fare, crowded streets don’t bother you), but the most unbearable pain for Yuri has been her inability to reach out and show human comfort for those she loves. Now she gets the chance and she’s understandably as overwhelmed as she is overjoyed.
In this episode, the writer is employing a technique they used in Go Back Spouses very effectively–the extended prologue and epilogue glimpses into the past. Like in Spouses, we’re thrown into the story at the breaking point, the moment when magic and myth intervenes to give people another path forward. But we can only root for the characters if we feel a strong connection to them, even with their faults and bad decisions, and that’s where these flashbacks come in.
Rather than spliced throughout the episode like many other dramas, the scenes serve as little vignettes to give us a sense of another time. This episode in particular was very effective in showing us not just what Kang-hwa has gone through, but Yuri’s current state.
Watching the episode without the context of the epilogue, Yuri seems distanced from her husband and hyper-focused on their daughter alone. It’s understandable. He’s remarried to another woman. He acts coldly towards Seo-woo at times. But when we revisit the past in the epilogue, everything from the prologue has the added context that Yuri was there with him for every moment of grief. She was there to pat him on the shoulder when he couldn’t even stand, and there to brush away the snowflakes from his hair, and even there, watching from a distance, as he swings their daughter up into the air with his new wife. The distance for her has grown over time, as Kang-hwa has closed himself off and tried to move forward. I’m hopeful we’ll see more, including how Kang-hwa and Min-jung met and how Yuri reacted to those early encounters. Also more baby Seo-woo and Kang-hwa scenes, because Lee Kyu-hyung looks great with a baby.
Speaking of Min-jung, what do these divorce papers mean for her situation? Is she considering leaving the relationship because she knows that Kang-hwa is clearly still hung up? So far we don’t know much about her at all, and the characterization comes across as quiet nanny more than it does wife. Perhaps that’s why those divorce papers are sitting in the drawer. I can’t help but wonder if that’s a hint that perhaps Yuri’s return is meant to heal her family’s new life, rather than for her to just return and replace everything. Because if Min-jung wants a divorce already anyway it makes things just a little too easy, right? And if this is judgment rather than reward, perhaps Yuri will be asked to decide between her own selfish desires and the best outcome for everyone that is a part of her daughter’s life.
Getting Yuri right on mission moves the plot along, but Midongdaek’s explanations felt a little too convenient. I guess I’m glad that she’s so attuned to the will of the universe, because otherwise we would have no idea what the goal was here, but yeah, I hope she gets to do a little more than just offer up unexplained worldbuilding info dumps. Yuri will need to get feedback on her progress, but she’ll also need friends to get her through this, ones who aren’t from her past and can help her see things clearly.