Hi Bye, Mama! : Episode 6
Angry ghosts, what do they want? Mostly to help their families move on. Our heroine certainly seems focused on what she can do for Seo-woo, rather than looking out for what might be at stake for her own future in the human world. But as all of the ghosts realize, it’s not always so simple to help your family even when given the chance.
EPISODE 6: “Even in the Face of Death, Family is Still My Number One”
In 2015, Yuri finds herself in the columbarium after her death, and she spends her days there crouched on the floor crying as the other ghosts try to console her. They do their best to demonstrate that they understand how terrified and wronged she feels, but Yuri chokes out that she’s upset that her husband does nothing now but cry.
Yuri is not the only ghost to face this pain. In turn, each of the ghosts cries as they watch their loved ones mourn them. In voiceover, Yuri narrates: “I thought death was just about leaving this life after making the most of the time God has given me… But I realized after death that my life was not mine alone.”
Back in the present, Min-jung ducks into Hyun-jung’s bar to avoid the gossipy neighborhood mothers. She spots Yuri at the bar, but settles into a stool at the opposite end without a word. Min-jung asks for soju, quickly changes her mind to beer, but Hyun-jung serves her soju anyway, pretending that she’s swapped it out because beer has too many calories.
Hyun-jung watches the two women, and she knows how both are likely hurting. She thinks back to the family day at daycare, and the longing stare Yuri held as she watched Seo-woo leave. She also recalls her encounter with Min-jung outside the convenience store and her concern for Seo-woo.
Yuri and Hyun-jung begin texting furiously to plan Yuri’s escape. Yuri also warns that Min-jung shouldn’t drink more than two bottles of soju. As Yuri tries to leave, Min-jung speaks up, declaring that “they look too much alike.” But then she lifts two little shrimps from the snack bowl, and Yuri and Hyun-jung exhale in relief. Yuri tries to leave again, but Min-jung stops her and asks if Seo-woo is really that precious to Yuri.
Yuri does her best to feign nonchalance and says that Seo-woo is of course adorable and sweet. Min-jung responds, “You can be her mother then,” and then her head drops to the bar. Yuri says that Min-jung drank more than she could handle (and Hyun-jung certainly finds it interesting that Yuri knows that…)
The next morning, Min-jung is absolutely wrecked. Smears of dark eye makeup trail down her cheeks and she has two large bandages on her forehead, plus no recollection of how she ended up in that state. Kang-hwa apparently missed her return home the night before, as he was preoccupied in his office, thinking about Yuri lingering outside her parents’ house and the strawberry incident from the day before. But he finally takes notice of Min-jung as she staggers into the office doorway, and he jumps back in shock.
Min-jung is not the only one sporting an injury. Geun-sang teases Hyun-jung about her nosebleed and bandaged nose, until she delivers a swift kick that sends him to the ground in near tears. And at the hotel, Yuri also sports a bruised forehead hidden under a bandage. Hmmm…
Over at the temple, the ghosts have gathered to launch a hate campaign towards God in hopes of returning to life like Yuri. The only one who seems reluctant to join in is the demure ghost Mi-ja, but even she gives a vulgar gesture towards the Buddha statue after the other ghosts have been chased away by Midongdaek.
Midongdaek follows the ghosts back to the columbarium, where they stage an impromptu performance of Les Miserables, but it’s the song of angry ghosts, moody blue lighting and all. Once their performance is over, they accuse Midongdaek of giving Yuri unfair treatment while they remain ghosts. The ghosts continue to antagonize Midongdaek, and she delivers a feral scream of frustration.
Min-jung is still trying to piece together the night before as she walks Seo-woo to school, but she can’t quite recall what she said to Yuri in the bar. Hyun-jung catches up with Min-jung and asks how she’s feeling, and then also dodges explaining how she hurt her nose. When Yuri joins their pack, also clearly injured from some shared forgotten incident, the three mumble awkwardly before finally dropping off the kids. The other mothers wonder if they got in a fight with one another, but one mom points out that they had to all be on the same side because they’re wearing the same brand of bandages.
Min-jung lingers at the window, watching Yuri play with Seo-woo. The mothers invite Hyun-jung out for coffee to discuss “problem children,” clearly in hearing range of Min-jung, and Hyun-jung declines and tells them to mind their own business. She walks away with Min-jung instead, and says that kids don’t have problems, it’s the adults who create them. Min-jung agrees, though she seems to take it as further confirmation that she is to blame for Seo-woo’s behavior.
Min-jung asks if she made any embarrassing mistakes the night before, and Hyun-jung reassures her that she just ate her food and left. But then Min-jung reaches into her coat pockets and pulls out piles of leaves, and Hyun-jung barely conceals her bemused smirk. It drops away though, when she spots Yuri’s dad headed in the direction of the daycare.
Back at the columbarium, Midongdaek has found a solution for her rowdy ghosts. She’s sealed them all in their urns using her trusty printed talismen.
At the daycare, Yuri’s dad arrives to volunteer in stranger danger training. Grandpa stops at the children’s art displayed on the wall, and declares that Seo-woo’s piece is clearly the mark of a genius. Grandpa joins the other volunteers in the classroom, where the kids practice refusing to go with strangers.
Yuri pops out of the kitchen, and gives Seo-woo’s art the same assessment her dad did, ha! She heads towards the classroom, but then quickly darts back to the kitchen when she spots her dad.
Grandpa serves as the pretend stranger while students pull away and tell him no. But Seo-woo is quiet when she holds Grandpa’s hand, and gives him a hug instead. Grandpa is, needless to say, delighted, though the daycare staff are rightfully concerned, haha.
Seo-woo spots Yuri out in the hall again and runs into her arms. Grandpa goes to retrieve her, and Yuri is saved at the last minute as another staff member takes Seo-woo into her arms. That was very close.
Meanwhile, Yuri’s dad’s absence has not gone unnoticed at home. Mom asks Yeon-ji where Dad is, and she shrugs. But once Mom leaves the room, she texts her Dad a warning that Mom has noticed he’s not home.
After the training, Grandpa stays to play with Seo-woo. Yuri watches from the hall, and she recalls a moment with her parents when she was pregnant. Her dad was busy bragging to all of his friends on the phone about his grandchild even before the baby had arrived. Mom reports that Dad was avoiding his class reunion outings because he was the only one without a grandbaby to show off until then.
Kang-hwa and Yeon-ji are there, preparing Yuri’s strawberries. But when Dad jokes that he plans to raise Yuri’s baby for them, no worries, he’s at his father-in-law’s side asking if he can record that promise. Sigh. So then that makes the next flashback, the one of Kang-hwa asking his in laws to take care of Seo-woo for him, extra heartbreaking. Because while Dad stands by his wife’s reasons for forcing Kang-hwa to take care of Seo-woo himself, there’s now extra meaning to Dad’s longing stare at little Seo-woo.
In the present at the daycare, Dad now delights as he plays with Seo-woo, and notes that she reminds him of his own daughter when she was young.
Meanwhile, today is Kang-hwa’s disciplinary hearing. Geun-sang tries to convince his friend to look a little more pathetic and unkempt while Kang-hwa just keeps striding forward in his nice suit.
Dr. Jang sits with the hospital director and tries to make a case for Kang-hwa. The director clearly isn’t interested in Kang-hwa’s hardships and instead says that he will just listen to the decision of the disciplinary committee no matter what. Regardless, a surgeon that can’t perform surgeries is of no use to the hospital.
While they wait for Dr. Jang, Geun-sang questions why Yuri would take a job at Seo-woo’s daycare. Kang-hwa rolls his eyes and questions Geun-sang’s credentials as a psychiatrist if he really can’t guess what might draw Yuri to her daughter’s daycare.
Dr. Jang interrupts them and dismisses Geun-sang to have a moment with Kang-hwa. At Dr. Jang’s serious face, Kang-hwa sits a little taller, apologizes for the doodles on the patient forms that declare, “Dr. Jang is so annoying,” and says that he’ll try to do right from now on.
Dr. Jang offers him two options to finally feel better: raise a question to get Dr. Jang fired, or continue to refuse to perform surgeries and get himself fired. Neither says out loud what they mean, but both of their thoughts are on that moment five years ago, when Kang-hwa begged to perform the surgery. In this flashback he screams at Dr. Jang, “Why did you do this to me? What am I supposed to do now?”
Whatever the question they’re referring to, Kang-hwa chooses treatment instead. Dr. Jang calls out the door, and Geun-sang comes in at first. But Dr. Jang promptly sends him back out and calls for the psychiatrist who will actually be helping Kang-hwa with treatment. Dr. Jang warns Kang-hwa to behave at the disciplinary committee hearing, and then musses up Kang-hwa’s nicely styled hair.
Meanwhile, Min-jung’s memories finally start to come back to her while she waits at a cafe for a friend. She recalls that sometime last night, she drunkenly mistook leaves on the ground as money. This explains the leaves in her pocket, but we still don’t have the full picture.
Her friend arrives, and Min-jung asks if the fellow nurse can help her return to work. Her friend wonders about Seo-woo’s young age, and then also asks about Min-jung working at the same hospital as Kang-hwa. She’s surprised to learn that Min-jung doesn’t even know that today is Kang-hwa’s disciplinary hearing, and Min-jung declares aloud that she’ll pursue a divorce.
Most of the ghosts are still stuck in their urns, but the ghost family is set free when their talisman falls off. They can’t help any of the others though, so they go in search of Yuri. Yuri happens to be watching her father say his final goodbyes to Seo-woo, so she spots the ghosts as soon as they arrive.
The family puts on their most menacing faces and stalk towards Seo-woo. Yuri rushes out, but it turns out the family is just kicking out another lingering ghost. Relieved that the ghost family doesn’t plan to target her child, Yuri follows them back to the columbarium to release the others.
Once they’re all out, they immediately resume making their demands of Yuri. They’ve got all sorts of requests, like replacement portraits to something they’d prefer and new music in the columbarium. Yuri’s overwhelmed by the number of demands, but the ghosts remind her that only she can really understand how they feel. Yuri knows exactly what torments them, and we see Granny Ghost Gwi-soon hovering over her sick daughter’s hospital bed, unable to help. We see Editor Ghost Hye-jin watching as her mother stands in protest outside her office building for her daughter. And the ghost family watches as Pil-seung passes a closed restaurant, unable to feed him a real family meal.
Yuri can’t deny her fellow ghosts, so she offers to do one favor for each of them. She calls back all the requests she heard for fried chicken and new photos, but now that they’ve only got one request, none of the ghosts are quite so quick to make their demand. They all ask for a little time to think, and Yuri leaves with no tasks at all. Midongdaek awaits her outside, and she thanks her, grateful that someone can finally help them.
After wanting to interact with their family members for so long, many of the ghosts now worry how it might negatively impact them. Hye-jin assumes that loan shark Geum-jae’s choice is easy, but it turns out that his mom thought her son was a civil servant, so the sudden delivery of his ledgers may not be as helpful as he wanted it to be. Meanwhile, Sang-bong watches footage of his funeral, and the ghost fam dad notes that the reporters are more interested in which celebrities attended the funeral than the family.
Geun-sang delivers some last minute advice to Kang-hwa, suggesting that he kneel and beg for his job. Kang-hwa remains aloof, and quietly agrees to every judgment the committee delivers. He even nods along when the committee suggests that Yuri’s traumatic death isn’t enough justification for Kang-hwa’s inability to operate.
When Kang-hwa is dismissed, Dr. Jang remains behind to defend his protege. He reminds the committee that doctors are humans too, ones forced to reckon with death every day. But when death comes for someone dear to them, they are just as human as anyone else.
In flashback, Dr. Jang hunts down Kang-hwa at a food stall tent. Kang-hwa is very drunk, and holds his glass out to the angry Dr. Jang before gulping it down himself. Kang-hwa asks how he could ever pull himself together, since Yuri died because of him. He repeats it over and over again, that he killed Yuri, that it was his fault.
At a coffee shop, Hyun-jung stops in for a coffee. She requests that her son blow on her bruises, and he complies. As she waits for her drink, she overhears the gossip moms doing what they do best. They’ve got a new bit of juicy news: they’ve heard that Min-jung is filing for divorce. Hyun-jung won’t stand for it, and she leans in to scold them for gossiping, especially in front of their children. She warns that kids talk, even when parents think they aren’t listening.
But this bit of gossip lingers in Hyun-jung’s brain when she meets with Yuri at the bar. She asks Yuri if she’s really fine with Min-jung raising Seo-woo. Hyun-jung points out that Yuri is avoiding Kang-hwa because of Min-jung, and Yuri responds that she doesn’t belong here anymore.
While they talk, Min-jung and Seo-woo leave their psychologist appointment. Min-jung leans down to Seo-woo, and Seo-woo blows gently on Min-jung’s injury.
Hyun-jung sits at her bar after Yuri leaves, struggling with her decision to tell Yuri about the divorce rumors. Yuri’s thinking about it too as she walks home, and of the encouragement from Midongdaek to take back her place in the world. Across the crosswalk, Yuri spots Min-jung with Seo-woo. Seo-woo breaks from Min-jung and runs into Yuri’s arms in the street. As Yuri passes her back to Min-jung, Min-jung’s memories from the night before finally return.
Min-jung wasn’t alone in that alley collecting leaves. Yuri and Hyun-jung raced after her, trying to keep in check Min-jung’s drunken exuberance. They finally catch up with her, and Yuri pulls Min-jung back from the crosswalk. “Your face scares me,” Min-jung tells Yuri, right before headbutting her. Hyun-jung tries to intercede, and gets her own headbutt as payment. All three women lay sprawled on the ground, their future wounds throbbing.
And finally, Min-jung remembers what she told Yuri in the bar as well, that she could be Seo-woo’s mom. Yuri calls to Min-jung, “Can I?” and the two women stare at one another in the crosswalk.
In a food stall tent, all the columbarium ghosts watch on as the youthful living complain about their families. The ghosts know all too well how much they regret that once they are dead. The ghosts scramble as an unaware server begins to clear away the plates of remaining food. In voiceover, Yuri narrates: “Even in the face of death, there’s something that keeps you from thinking of yourself. It’s family.”
I’ve never been in doubt that this was a show about family rather than a big sweeping romance. But this episode digs in a little deeper and grapples with the question of regrets and second chances, and the doubts that come with the latter. So many ghost stories focus on vengeance for a single person, but not one of our ghosts has once mentioned an interest in chasing down the ones who caused them harm. They all just want to alleviate their families’ grief.
Yuri remains at a distance from this story conversation for the moment, but it’s still pretty clear how this applies to her. She recognizes how a voice from the past like herself could disrupt the happiness her husband and daughter have managed to carve out. Like ghost Mi-ja, she recognizes that dredging up old pains may only cause harm. She’s only let herself think of the damage she believes she’s caused Seo-woo, and nothing beyond it.
But of course the piece of that puzzle that’s missing is that her family hasn’t moved on. It’s still unclear to me whether Dr. Jang allowed the distraught Kang-hwa to operate on his wife, or if Dr. Jang prevented it. Either way, it’s not Dr. Jang that Kang-hwa blames, but himself. He holds himself directly responsible for her death, and now that she’s alive, I can’t even imagine how he’s trying to reconcile that. Even with her here, he seems unable to let go of the blame.
So I’m eager to see some progress between Kang-hwa and Yuri at this point, for both of their sakes. I don’t think it can be an easy reconciliation, even if Min-jung gives them both her blessing, but it’s clearly something they both need. Even if by the end, their relationship isn’t the one that lasts. Yuri seems to be taking initiative at last, but I suspect that her request at the very end is more of a cliffhanger psyche-out than it is a real request to take custody of Seo-woo.
And honestly, I’m happy about that so far. Seo-woo needs more people in her life, not less, and Min-jung is clearly an important person to her. Seo-woo cares about Min-jung. Seo-woo watched so attentively when Min-jung was dealing with her hangover, and blew on her bruises to make her feel better umprompted. There is no wicked step-mother here, and I would be really sad to see their relationship severed.
But it is also very clear that Min-jung needs some breathing room. She may be naturally prim and quiet, but there’s a more interesting, funny side lurking inside, and it doesn’t need to be soju that brings it out of her. Some good friends like Yuri and Hyun-jung seems like an excellent place to start. The gossipy mothers were right about one thing for sure: Min-jung, Yuri, and Hyun-jung are all on the same side of the fight. The ladies are sticking together so far, and I’m here for it.
I think as we move along, the conflict will be less about who should or shouldn’t be in the picture, but rather what role they should play. While Min-jung may be important to Seo-woo, it’s still not clear that she’s the better mother. There are a few things Yuri isn’t aware of yet, like that strawberry allergy, but the energy between Yuri and Seo-woo is clearly something that Seo-woo craves. The show is doing a great job of keeping me uncertain of what I want to see for everyone in the end.
Except let’s get Yuri’s parents in Seo-woo’s life stat. It’s a real blow when Grandpa can only see Seo-woo by playing the part of a dangerous stranger at the daycare. There are people waiting in the wings ready to dote on this child, and I hope that Yuri can move past her own fears to bring them in soon. It’s going to be a two boxes of tissues moment when it finally happens.
It almost feels too late in the game though to start these sidequests for the other ghosts. If we’d seen a sort of weekly story resolution I could get behind this, but how does Yuri have time to help all of the ghosts mend their broken relationships and lingering concerns when she’s got a full plate of her own?