Answer Me 1994: Episode 8
Is that not the saddest shot ever, with the third wheel left behind to peer at the other twosome? Brace your hearts for some tugging, because there’s plenty of moments both sweet and bittersweet in this episode, which spreads some of the love around to the other characters, who get a moment to shine and bond amongst themselves. And a surprise twist! (If you’re me, that is, being surprised at the way one of the love triangles shakes out.)
Ratings continue to climb; this episode scored another high with 7.1%.
SONG OF THE DAY
Lee Seung-hwan – “화려하지 않은 고백” (Humble Confession) [ Download ]
EPISODE 8: “A moment’s choice decides your whole life”
2013. Na-jung grumbles at the inconvenience of preparing more drinking snacks for the crew, and calls Garbage “Oppa” as always. (This points us in the “Oppa’s not the husband” direction since she previously addressed her husband differently, but it’s not enough to take him out of the running. And clearly this show knows how to be coy about things like this.)
Garbage accidentally spatters the only mayo they’ve got left, then carefully scrapes it off her face into a serving dish (gross). Then we get a glimpse at her wedding photo, but as the groom is predictably kept out of sight, it’s not even much of a tease.
1994. The gang (minus Chilbongie) sprawls on the campus lawn drinking beer, and it’s Binggeure’s turn to answer a question: Which of the two girls would you marry, if forced to choose between them? This seems like a dangerous game.
Binggeure picks Na-jung, and so does Samcheonpo. Yoon-jin doesn’t mind being passed over the first time, but Samcheonpo just has to state his case with a few backhanded insults (he is soooo tone-deaf to social cues and it cracks me up) and gets beer spewed in his face.
Haitai picks Yoon-jin readily, and expects to get picked right back. But she names Garbage, making Haitai pouty.
Then it’s Oppa’s turn, and Na-jung holds her breath in anticipation—only to be bypassed for Yoon-jin. Aw. I have a feeling he’s just deflecting but Na-jung feels the blow, so at her turn she points defiantly elsewhere—at Chilbongie, walking toward them. Aw, more deflection. Then when Samcheonpo tries to borrow Chilbongie’s baseball cap, Na-jung intercepts it and plops it on her face to cover her tears.
Garbage steps aside to check his pager message, and Na-jung follows to make him re-answer the question. It’s almost funny, the dead-serious way she poses the hypothetical question (“The earth is destroyed, the mountains crumble, the land bursts, the seas part, all beasts and humans die—the only ones left are you, me, and Yoon-jin”), but it just means so much to her and that pinches my heart.
Oppa looks at her with serious eyes, coming close. He turns the baseball cap around and cups her face in his hands, looking sincere as he says, “Of course it’s you. Do I have anything but you?”
It’s sweet and heartfelt… until he flips that mental switch and turns jokey, squeezing her cheeks like they’re made of putty, teasing that he’d never find a toy as entertaining as her. Oh, Oppa. Did you mean it? And if so, why do you have to cover it up by hurting Na-jung?
He smooshes her face and keeps laughing while her eyes well up with tears. She calls him a moron and kicks him in the shin, which I’m thinking he earned.
Back with the gang, Chilbongie gets the same question posed to him, and he answers easily, “Na-jung, no matter what.”
On a rainy day, Yoon-jin walks into a pharmacy (the song is Kim Gun-mo’s “Red Umbrella,” to match the one she carries) and finds Haitai already at the counter. He freezes up as the pharmacist packs up his purchases, which includes a box of condoms, and I swear you can see the panicked wheels turning in Haitai’s brain, trying to think of an explanation.
He lags behind her on their walk home, then tosses his umbrella away so he can use the excuse to share hers. He makes the worst explanation ever for why he would be buying condoms—that his professor declared that one shouldn’t feel shame buying them, and so he was just doing that as practice, yunno, like a social experiment. LOL.
Yoon-jin cuts through the bull and tells him she’s no idiot. There are different types of guys in the world and that’s fine—he doesn’t have to be a sweet guy who dreams of platonic love, he can be his sex-addicted pervy self. Ha. I love how she can cut him down so swiftly, and she tells him to wash off his dirty body in the rain before he comes in.
Haitai looks at her with indignant eyes that glow green… matching the eyes onscreen of the Drama Du Jour, hit horror series M starring Shim Eun-ha as the possessed heroine with supernatural powers. (M wasn’t that terrifying but there was a definite creepy vibe to it, back in a time when horror television was rare.)
Na-jung is especially jumpy and clings to Chilbongie, practically twisting the shirt right off him. Samcheonpo blusters that he’s not scared at all, just as Na-jung screams and jumps on Chilbongie again… and then we pan over to Samcheonpo clinging desperately to Binggeure, ha.
Yoon-jin and Haitai come home, and the four TV-watchers ditch the show to witness the much more interesting argument. It’s mostly a one-sided thing as Haitai defends his honor: “Did you see me sleep with anybody, huh? What’s wrong about an adult buying condoms?”
Another argument breaks out between Mom and Dad. His first love has become a star, and after being hounded by producers to do a reunion show with her, he filmed it after telling Mom he wouldn’t. Oh, Dad. It’s no wonder Mom’s spitting mad, accusing him of wanting to trade in his wife, which has Dad sputtering defensively.
Garbage calls because he doesn’t have an umbrella for the walk home, and Na-jung happily volunteers to pick him up from the library. Chilbongie tags along and muses at the lovers’ spat between Haitai and Yoon-jin, but Na-jung scoffs that he’s got it all wrong—a girl who likes a guy wouldn’t look at him that way. Which leads him to ask, “Then how would she look at a guy she does like?” It can’t be a good thing that the song scoring the moment is Seo Taiji’s “Sad Pain.”
Cut to: The walk back, with Na-jung’s eyes shining adoringly at Oppa as they share an umbrella. Chilbongie trails behind, and the light slowly dawns in his eyes as he watches the two of them focused entirely on each other. Ouch, my heart.
More M watching with the gang, and this time Na-jung leaps at Oppa in a scary moment, while Chilbongie’s left to watch from the other side. I love the sight gag of panning over slowly to reveal Yoon-jin with her arms wrapped around Haitai’s neck… and then Samcheonpo huddled up to Binggeure again.
The boys tease Yoon-jin for her involuntarily reflex, and she rolls her eyes while Haitai decides that all her bickering earlier was just her way of showing affection. Garbage advises her to choose well because a decision made in one moment might stick with her for life, teasing that her future husband may be in this room.
Everyone cracks up when he suggests it could be Samcheonpo, though the Kim cousins vote that Haitai is more likely. Na-jung sides with Oppa, voting that Samcheonpo has a bigger chance of being Yoon-jin’s match.
All of a sudden, the lights flick off as the whole neighborhood loses power. The gang gets out their lighters and candles, and Samcheonpo nervously sits on the toilet and tells his buddies to knock off the joke ’cause he ain’t scared. Heh.
Chilbongie caaaasually selects a spot next to Na-jung as they settle down listening to a soothing radio show. There’s something about the way he rolls on his side to face her that kills me a little, especially since she hardly even notices. The DJ comments that a night like this is an opportunity, instructing his lovelorn listeners that if their crush is nearby, turn to see their face.
Chilbongie’s already looking at Na-jung, but she turns her face away from his, to look up at Oppa on the other side. Oof.
The DJ instructs his lonelyhearts to indulge their fantasies for a few minutes, imagining that their love is requited over the course of the next song (Lee Seung-hwan’s “Humble Confession”). He encourages everyone to try ending the one-sided love with a confession tomorrow, on the chance that they might find their hopes realized.
Everyone listens to the song peacefully… while in the bathroom, Samcheonpo grows increasingly agitated in the dark. He threatens his friends with harm if they don’t turn on the lights, unable to actually count to three to make good on the threat. (“Two and a half, two and three-quarters, two and seven-eighths….”)
In the morning, Na-jung gets up with purpose and practices making her love confession. She musters up the nerve, but gets waylaid first by Oppa’s sleepiness (“I’ll wait for him to wake up”) and then by breakfast (“I’ll tell him after eating”).
It’s no surprise she doesn’t find a chance to make her move, so next she leaves a voicemail on his pager. She struggles to get out the words, “I like you, Oppa-ya.” And then she deletes the recording—that was just practice. She’s never gonna say it, is she?
Samcheonpo embarks on a long-awaited solo bicycling trip, only to drop his wallet in the yard and have to come back. Yoon-jin finds the wallet and checks the ID, and something about it makes her eyes widen in surprise. When Samcheonpo comes back to demand its return, she orders him to be nice to his noona—he’s two years younger than the rest of them. HA. Best sight gag ever, to make him even younger.
He explains that his birth was registered late (which happens sometimes, making your legal birthday different from the real one), but curiously he refuses to explain more. Ha, but this means that Yoon-jin now treats him like a little boy and forces him to be more polite to her.
Yoon-jin happens upon another secret when she answers the phone and hears that Binggeure’s paperwork is incomplete for his leave from school. And then Yoon-jin walks by as Na-jung kisses a photo of Garbage. It’s all about the secrets today.
Na-jung pleads with Yoon-jin to keep her secret, though Yoon-jin is hardly surprised—she could tell from the way Na-jung looks at Garbage. Aw, Yoon-jin takes charge and orders Na-jung to confess right now while she has the nerve, dialing his number for her. But Na-jung chickens out with more procrastinating, deciding she has to bathe first to clean mind and body before confessing.
Chilbongie calls the house, getting Na-jung on the line and asking for her father. Is he trying to confess too? Na-jung thinks nothing of the call, and then he calls again later, only to get Haitai.
Garbage keeps running into Binggeure around town, first at his job at a convenience store, then at his job in a cafe. He sits him down and gets him to confide about taking a break from school; Binggeure’s been saving up for the day his father finds out and cuts him off. Medical school is his father’s dream for him, but he doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life, or even what he likes or hates. He hangs his head in dismay, calling himself cowardly and pathetic.
Garbage assures him that it’s fine not to know what the wants to be at his age, and listens sympathetically. He asks, “What can I do for you? Say one thing—I’ll do it for you.” Best oppa/hyung ever. Binggeure asks for Garbage to buy him one meal a day, and after teasing with a fake-out, Garbage promises to once a week.
Yoon-jin is expecting a visit from her mother that night, though she insists that Mom doesn’t have to do anything since her mother won’t be staying. But then a call comes in from the bus terminal to tell Yoon-jin that her mother’s waiting alone after her bus got in early. Haitai takes the call and offers to page Yoon-jin, but she’s at the bathhouse with Na-jung and misses it.
Samcheonpo comes back home again, having left his pager behind this time. The day is getting longer and Haitai suggests he postpone till tomorrow, but Samcheonpo is stubbornly determined to keep to his plans, as “I have never broken a promise with myself.” Ha.
He almost makes it off the property this time, but the phone rings in the empty house and sends Samcheonpo scurrying back in forth indecisively, wanting to leave but also feeling pressed to answer the phone. He ends up taking the call from another kind stranger at the terminal, who worries that Yoon-jin’s mother has been waiting for hours, so afraid of missing her daughter that she won’t even eat or go to the restroom.
Samcheonpo leaves Yoon-jin a voicemail chiding her to get to her mother asap, and rushes out to begin his trip again. But he starts and stops a half-dozen more times, wrestling to leave as planned but held back by his conscience.
Yoon-jin finally checks her messages and races for the station in tears. Finally she finds her mother sitting outside… and next to her is Samcheonpo, offering Mom the precious coffee he’d refused to share earlier.
When Yoon-jin’s mother spots her excitedly, it becomes clear that Mom can’t speak—she makes grunting noises as she signs her words at her daughter. Yoon-jin scolds Mom for risking it in the big scary city alone, but Mom assures her that it’s a myth that Seoul people are mean. She’s been helped by so many good people today, and Samcheonpo even bought her kimbap—and described himself as her very best friend. LOL.
Yoon-jin spies a pile of notes, in which Mom had worried that Yoon-jin was too reserved and Samcheonpo had assured her that Yoon-jin has lots of friends and is really cute and bright.
Samcheonpo’s narration: “Sometimes I imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t answered the phone that day, and what would have happened with us if I hadn’t gone to the terminal. Living is all about the choices you make moment by moment. Even if it’s just a log bridge, you must make a choice: Do you go forward? Do you turn around, or do you stop? Where I am now is the result of countless choices made in the past. That day I answered the phone and went to the terminal, and those small choices gathered to make up the present day.”
2002. The wedding. Yoon-jin mans the camera as her husband signs the guest book: Kim Sung-kyun. Ah, it’s the real name of the actor! I’m sure some Haitai fans will be crushed, but how much do I love that Samcheonpo and Yoon-jin ended up married?
Samcheonpo: “Whichever path you choose, there are always lingering thoughts of the road not taken. That’s why there are no choices without regrets, and no one right answer to life. All you can do is believe that the road you’ve chosen is the right answer, and turn it into the right answer. The right answer to life is to believe that you don’t regret your past choices and live on.”
1994. Dad has coffee with his first love, played by comedian Lee Kyung-shil. She flirts openly with Dad, who flatters her right back, and says she regrets her choice years ago when he’d asked her to run away with him.
He’s pretty good at deflecting gracefully, telling her that she’s made so much of herself and is better off this way. When she sighs about envying his wife, Dad grumbles up a storm about Mom’s housekeeping and flatters the ex until she’s giggling over his obvious lip service. She practically swoons to see that Dad ordered a cake to take home, assuming it’s hers—and pouts when he says it’s for the wife. To remind us, for good measure:
Samcheonpo: “Believing in my past choices without regret and loving them—that is the right answer, and that’s how to grow old with style.”
Na-jung cracks open Garbage’s door that night, practicing under her breath, “Oppa, I like you. I love you.” He doesn’t hear her, and Mom’s interruption gives Na-jung another excuse to keep procrastinating.
Chilbongie calls one more time, and Na-jung picks up. He’s already forgotten his earlier excuse of calling Dad, and hems and haws before arriving at the point. But he loses his nerve, instead telling her not to sleep with the fan on. Na-jung tells herself she’ll confess after their snack, and Chilbongie tells himself he’ll confess tomorrow.
Another blackout hits, and the gang pulls out the candles and the liquor. Yoon-jin is the first to get drunk, and asks the resident sex addict if he’s used all his condoms yet. When Haitai gets defensive, she announces that she saw him buying porn the other day. “It’s okay,” she says, “it’s a disease, it’s not your fault.” Pwahaha.
Then she turns to Samcheonpo and outs him as being two years younger than them all, to their shock. Next is Binggeure, whom she nags to get the proper paperwork filled out for his school leave. Haha. And gasp! There’s one more secret she knows.
Garbage tries to usher Yoon-jin to her room since she’s half-asleep, but she starts hitting him and calling him jerk: “Can’t you recognize Na-jung’s feelings?”
Droopy heads perk up as she continues, “Na-jung really, really likes you.”
Na-jung is too drunk to freak out and just starts her drunk-winking, but Garbage’s face grows serious. Chilbongie’s too.
Yoon-jin sits down in front of Samcheonpo and orders him (calling him Sung-kyun) to give “noona” a back massage, telling him that her mother was grateful to him. But as she starts to explain about her mother not being able to speak, Samcheonpo grabs her to cover her mouth before she says more. From the looks on Garbage and Chilbongie’s faces, would that she were quieted a few minutes earlier.
First, a great big awwwww for the Yoon-jin and Samcheonpo romance. I thought there might be room to go that way in the future, but that was just a distant possibility; I hadn’t expected things to swing this way at all. It’s not only that it was a twist on expectation that I loved it, but because it happens to perfectly illustrate the theme of the day—that your life can change paths with a single, in-the-moment decision.
Not that a single decision decides your life, of course—it’s up to you to build your life upon a foundation of daily choices, but one thing is enough to make an opportunity… or let it slip by. It’s the difference between Samcheonpo and Haitai, though it certainly isn’t arguing that Samcheonpo is the better man for going to the terminal over Haitai. If the situation were flipped and Haitai got the later call, he may have gone to Mom too. But Samcheonpo being the guy at the terminal opened Yoon-jin’s eyes to him, and therefore the door to their potential future courtship. While we already know that they end up happily married in the future, I think it’ll be plenty of fun to watch them racking up more daily choices to direct them in that eventual direction, because at this point in 1994, it’s hardly a done deal.
The storyline also gives a nice counter to the main love triangle, which was an example of missed opportunities. Or maybe it’s deliberately surrendered opportunities, because both Na-jung and Chilbongie let their fear take over and talk them out of confessing.
I’m pretty confused over Garbage’s reactions, which I know is the intended effect because we haven’t been given an insight into his feelings or behavior yet. It’s exciting on one level to dig for hints of his feelings and feel that flutter of excitement when he takes a step in Na-jung’s direction; I feel like we’re watching their relationship through Na-jung’s eyes, and the drama captures perfectly that feeling of harboring both hope and despair that your crush might like you back—the tiniest encouragement can sustain you for days, but a setback can be heart-crushing.
I have full expectation that the drama will give Garbage a good reason for his hot-cold reactions (well, more like serious-not-serious), but I think they have to start peeling back the veil on his emotions soon. The longer they tease, the more they run the risk of pushing too far and aggravating us rather than titillating. Okay, by us I mean me, because while I adore Oppa as a character and a person, he’s really toeing that line for me where I find him frustrating.
Without further explanation I can only think that he’s either afraid of his feelings or misguided about what’s best for Na-jung. If there’s a good reason, I want to be with him and feel that conflict for him, rather than feel irritated that he clearly likes her but keeps pushing her away, which results in a lot of mixed signals.
The contrast is especially stark because we’ve got Chilbongie waiting right on the other side, and he has no problem choosing Na-jung and facing her full-on. He’s not conflicted, he’s not withdrawing, and he’s 100 percent on Na-jung’s side. I understand that it’s easier to put yourself out there when you’ve experienced less pain, so maybe Chilbongie finds it easier to be that way than Oppa… but at this point in the story there’s no indication of that so that’s a lot of scrambling for justification for a reason that may not exist.
I never subscribe to the belief that one person “deserves” love more than another person, because that’s not how love works. Love is a gift, not an entitlement. But right now I’m leaning more on Team Chilbongie, because it’s hard not to love a guy who’s willing to love you wholeheartedly.
I do wonder at the 2013 timeline skewing so heavily in Chilbongie’s favor, though, and it makes me suspicious that a massive reversal is in our future. But the only reason for thinking that is because it has to, it’s too straightforward otherwise. Gahhh, this love triangle is both really good and really, really terrible.