The Producers: Episode 12 (Final)
Well, it’s been a fun run, but it’s time to say goodbye to The Producers, which ends on a lesson about what it’s like to secure longevity, whether that’s with a program, a career, or relationships. And as the show has managed to do all series long, it’s really the relationships we care about, using the programs and careers mostly as examples and metaphors to illustrate lessons for life. It’s what makes this show-about-showbiz not really about showbiz at all—for better and for worse—but about the people who work in it. Who turn out to be, for the most part, just like the people who work outside of it, too.
SONG OF THE DAY
Haell – “정말로 사랑했다면” (If we really loved) from The Producers’ OST [ Download ]
EPISODE 12: “Understanding a Long-Running Program”
Joon-mo makes his decision to keep Cindy on his show, and the senior executives clearly disagree but don’t refuse, since the show is about to be cancelled anyway. CP Kim shakes his head in an interview, saying that you don’t realize what love is (as in, ratings) until you lose it.
In the bathroom, 1N2D’s three writers complain resentfully about Joon-mo’s decision, taking on added risk when they’re already in danger. Ye-jin hears from inside a stall as they gripe that Joon-mo has no sense of responsibility.
They shut up nervously when Ye-jin emerges and addresses the head writer, who’s worked with Joon-mo for the past five years. Ye-jin agrees that nothing has gone well for Joon-mo’s shows, but asks, “Do you think there were never orders from above to swap out the writer?” On, snap. In fact, Joon-mo went to the mat to keep her on staff, calling her part of his family. Pointedly, Ye-jin sighs that she doesn’t know what the writer’s idea of responsibility is, and the writers hang their heads in shame.
Seung-chan asks to see Ye-jin on the roof, and this time there’s a huge distance between them as they stand apart. He musters up the nerve to tell her how he walked home last night (which took him hours) thinking everything over, and thought that if his life were a show, he wished he could reshoot scenes of it. He’s not sure which parts but lists a few key moments that he would redo—or refrain from doing, so that it wouldn’t result in rejection.
Ye-jin asks if it’s because he’d be better off if he didn’t like her, but he replies instead, “No. Because I want to like you more earnestly.” He was too awkward and in a rush and young, he says, and if he’d just found a more grown-up, dashing way to be close to her… maybe…
Augh, his earnest pain is just so raw. He wishes he could call cut, edit that all out, and start over—is that impossible?
Walking home at night, Ye-jin is pleasantly surprised when the lampposts light up, interviewing that she thought Seung-chan might be responsible. He’s been so thoughtful recently, doing things she wouldn’t even think to expect from Joon-mo.
The 1N2D team pulls up in the wee hours of the night to surprise Cindy, and through the blurry faces she realizes that they haven’t abandoned her and bursts into tears.
Later as Manager Oppa drives her to the shoot, she’s back to her usual gruff self, though her words have no bite when she chides Oppa for not warning her about the surprise, since she probably came off really strangely. But Oppa says she was the prettiest she’s ever been. When she worries that CEO Byun will punish him for this, he says she doesn’t scare him—not like Cindy.
Cindy’s surprised, but he explains that being raged at by people he dislikes is no big deal… but when people he likes get upset, that’s a scary thing. Aw, we love you too Oppa.
CEO Byun is shocked to hear Cindy is still part of 1N2D, and we pan over to rookie Jini, who’s practicing the signature 1N2D chant, thinking she’s on the show now. Muahaha.
At KBS, the other five idols wonder if it’s true Cindy’s really joining them, and as usual, Sandara is all petty jealousy. (Gotta admire her for going for such an annoying character instead of worrying about her own image.) The boys say that Cindy’s not so bad once you get to know her, but Sandara snipes about how fake Cindy is, all different behind your back than to your face. And then Cindy arrives and Sandara is all sweetness, totally missing the irony.
Sandara feigns concern and asks if the stories are all a misunderstanding. Cindy does the one thing that gets under Sandara’s skin the most, which is to smile sweetly and pointedly call her unni (that is to say, pointing out her age).
The cast is taken to a rural village where they’ll spend this trip at a grandma’s house. Cindy and Seung-chan follow their grandma home, and the woman asks, “Which of you is the celebrity?” Pwaha. Cindy says she’s been on TV a lot, but the grandma just finds her name weird and shrugs. Cindy interviews that it was unexpected given how long she’s been active, but adds that she didn’t dislike the feeling. It felt comfortable and free.
Cindy asks her grandma if they’re making dinner the old-fashioned way, only to have grandma retort, “Do you think we’re still in the war?” Everything’s electric here, though Cindy’s challenge is dealing with the mess—everything’s piled haphazardly and the blankets left unwashed since the 2002 World Cup.
So she ends up washing them herself in a tub, tossing a few hints for help at Seung-chan that he misses completely. She has to ask plainly, and he joins her in wringing the blanket of water. But when she snaps the blanket taut, he jerks forward, almost falling on top of her.
To make conversation, she asks where he watched the World Cup and gets excited to hear that they were at the same park to watch one of the matches. It’s not an amazing connection, but still a little one, which reminds Seung-chan of his own words to Ye-jin (about their playground encounter years ago).
Seung-chan tells Cindy he knows she didn’t lie about her background, and she responds, “Of course!” (in Dangyunhaji game mode). She asks him to hang up the blanket, and he responds in kind.
Seung-chan interviews that he’d worried about Cindy but is glad to see her holding up well. But he’s concerned about her airtime, because the other idols are doing activities with their grandmas and Cindy’s just doing housework. Then he pauses to geek out about how very PD-like he just sounded.
CEO Byun drops in on the station director to have her say about Cindy’s continued presence on 1N2D, then offers Jini for Star Wars instead. She heard it’ll replace 1N2D, smug that she’ll still come out on top.
But to everyone’s shock (including mine!), the director has had enough of CEO Byun ordering him around and says that whatever happens to their shows, they’ll decide. Wow. That was unexpected. (Of course, he isn’t any more inclined to save 1N2D; he just got pissed off at her high-handedness. Still, it’s an improvement.)
Over at Music Bank, Ye-jin’s co-workers comment on Cindy’s scandal. Ye-jin says she doesn’t think Cindy lied, and one of the cameramen adds that years ago, he heard Cindy give an interview saying she was an orphan. It didn’t air because CEO Byun shut the interview down while Cindy was crying, but he distinctly remembers the footage…
Ye-jin asks when and where the footage was from. Please do what we all want you to do!
CEO Byun and Jini arrive at their dressing room, appalled when the apathetic writer Da-jung doesn’t leap up to treat them like stars. Da-jung says in her infuriatingly bored way that she thought Jini was a stylist, not a celebrity, looking unimpressed as she gives her the once-over. Jini stews, but they can’t say anything when Da-jung gets up and her own sleek appearance casts Jini in the shade. Muahaha.
Joon-mo drops in to check with Seung-chan, who’s not sure how well his shoot is going. Cindy’s busily cleaning everything in the kitchen, but he’s not sure how usable her footage is. (Then he asks Joon-mo eagerly if he sounded like a PD just now, haha.)
Seung-chan hopes they won’t be cancelled, and Joon-mo tells him that no variety program ends on applause. Unlike dramas that get to end on a high, in variety, people’s applause means you keep going. But nothing lasts forever and people get tired, so there’s always a trace of bitterness when a program ends. The longer the program runs, the worse he feels that he’s the one to see its end.
Ye-jin visits the tape archive looking for all the potential appearances from seven to eight years ago that could have contained that interview with Cindy, and ends up with stacks of old footage. Thus begins a loooooong night for her, reviewing each one.
Cindy sits outside her grandma’s house with Seung-chan and Joon-mo, and a comment about being scared to use the outhouse at night prompts Joon-mo to say there are ghosts afoot, which makes Seung-chan visibly nervous. He covers his ears and tries to block out Joon-mo’s story of doing an overnight trip where he saw a woman in white with long hair (the traditional Korean ghost image), and jumps in fright when Joon-mo yells suddenly.
The mood dims when Cindy asks if the cancellation rumors are because of her, and says she knows Joon-mo stuck with her out of responsibility, even though it would hurt him. Joon-mo advises Cindy that fame is like a tax, requiring you to endure unfair and painful things, and that it’s easier the more readily you can accept your tax.
He mentions seeing Yuna recently, and Cindy waits with bated breath to hear how she’s doing. She sighs in relief to hear that Yuna’s good, running a flower shop, and wonders if she should try that later. No, she’ll run a moving service since she’s so good at tidying homes.
Seung-chan falls asleep on Joon-mo’s shoulder, and Joon-mo tsk-tsks while shoving him the other direction—landing his head on Cindy’s shoulder instead. Joon-mo tells Cindy to go inside and sleep, but she says she’ll stay out just a while longer.
Joon-mo leaves at some point and they remain like that for a while. When Seung-chan eventually stirs awake, he stammers an apology, and she says she didn’t want to wake him. She says she knows who he likes and can’t celebrate it, nor does she want to interfere, “But I don’t want to lie about my feelings to you, either.”
He says that one-sided love is like building and tearing down a house all by yourself, intending it to be a consoling statement. She picks at his wording as he stumbles to explain himself in a way that isn’t insulting, missing that she’s just messing with him in amusement.
Cindy tells him just to remember that she, the beloved star, and despite him not having “one bag of hot cakes’ worth of interest” in her, really likes him. She’ll just be off in the distance building and tearing down her home, and if he ever becomes curious as to what kind of house that is, well, he can turn around and see.
She mentions how he’d felt bad about turning her into Beggar Cindy, and how he was going to make it up to her. When she gets back to Seoul, she’s anticipating a difficult road ahead where nobody will take her hand. Holding out a hand to Seung-chan, she asks, “Will you hold my hand just once? Because your hands are warm.”
He does, and they sit there a long time quietly, holding hands.
Ye-jin spends all night reviewing tapes, cursing herself for listening to that cameraman. But finally she finds the footage, and sees Cindy breaking down on camera just as described.
Writer Da-jung sees her wearing the same outfit from last night and assumes her romantic dilemma resolved herself happily. Ye-jin clarifies that she was working all night, and Da-jung tells her not to change, because wearing last night’s clothes makes her look hot. Ye-jin totally doesn’t understand, but is left feeling flattered anyway.
The 1N2D trip wraps, and Cindy gives her grandma a warm hug goodbye, which Seung-chan smiles to see. He’s editing the footage when Joon-mo and the other PDs drop by and send him on an errand to get a video message from grandma’s favorite celebrity (Song Hae, who’s emceed Korea Sings since 1980) to insert into the episode, chuckling to themselves that he’s about to get his initiation as a rookie PD.
Song Hae records his message, then invites Seung-chan for “just one drink,” which turns into bottles, until Seung-chan is lolling drunkenly and calling the old man “Hae hyung!” Seung-chan bemoans his seven-year program coming to an end, only to have Song Hae say his has been 35 years.
Song Hae interviews (while Seung-chan is passed out beside him) that people think he can do his program in his sleep now, but he says that it still makes his heart pound, and he does it because he loves it.
CEO Byun sails into Cindy’s house with Jini in tow, and turns on the TV to Entertainment Weekly in time to hear the agency’s official apology on Cindy’s behalf. The MC introduces the story, saying that even if Cindy’s lies were created by her management, she went along with the story and never refuted it, making her party to the deception. But just before they were about to air, fresh information came in to show otherwise.
CEO Byun bolts upright to recognize footage form that old interview, wherein Cindy breaks down as she talks about her parents’ death. The camera captures CEO Byun berating Cindy for not sticking to the story, insulting her intelligence, and asking for a reshoot. Ahhh, that’s the taste of sweet, sweet satisfaction you’re feeling.
Cindy remains surprisingly emotionless through CEO Byun’s tantrum, but a flashback shows us that she knew about it in advance. Ye-jin had explained how she found the footage (assuring her that it didn’t take long to locate it) and saying she wanted to ease her spirits a few hours earlier by giving her the heads-up.
To Joon-mo, Ye-jin lets her fatigue show. She says that while he never told her about the reasons, she knew he was bothered by CEO Byun and sensitive to Cindy’s situation. He thanks her for saving them all, since their show would’ve been under even more fire if not for her intervention.
The team worries about Seung-chan being out of touch, just as he arrives at the station—totally hammered, mind you, and spouting off in banmal at all his superiors. The others tell him to go ahead and do as he wishes, and he beelines for Ye-jin with arms outstretched… so Joon-mo trips him and sends him crashing down. Glaring, Seung-chan tells the others that he’ll reveal Joon-mo’s secret, which sends Joon-mo and Ye-jin leaping to drag him out of there.
As the three of them walk home, Seung-chan zigzags drunkenly and chides them to walk straight. Then he adopts Ye-jin’s drunken aegyo, dancing madly and wheedling them to go eat live octopus, and Ye-jin is amazed and horrified to encounter what she’s like from the observer’s perspective. And then he gets a determined look in his eye and plants a kiss right on Joon-mo’s mouth.
In the morning, Seung-chan wakes up on Joon-mo’s couch. He’s back to his respectful self as he says good morning to Joon-mo, who just glares and sighs. Ye-jin asks if Seung-chan remembers last night, then advises him not to try, since that’ll be easier on him.
CEO Byun sees that the tide has turned against her, with netizens moved by Cindy’s story and more stars speaking out about her ways. Her agency has been defaced with graffiti, and Cindy arrives to offer the name of a cleaner that does well against such slurs. They sit down to lunch and CEO Byun hands over paperwork to dissolve Cindy’s contract, which Cindy moves to stamp immediately. CEO Byun stops her, though—to advise her gently to read the contents of any contract before signing.
Maybe she has a heart (tiny and shriveled though it may be) or maybe she’s just taking the strategic route, but CEO Byun takes a mellow tone and says that Cindy was her joy for the past ten years: “Until you started to turn your back to me, I truly thought of you as my daughter.”
Cindy says, “I know,” which surprises her. “Your methods were wrong, but I know you loved me. It’s not because I don’t know that but because I do, that I’m leaving you. Don’t feel afraid that people will leave you. There’s a limit to how much you can keep people next to you with unfair contracts and weaknesses.” She advises CEO Byun to think carefully about what made people leave her despite all her devotion to them. “I’m leaving because I don’t want to live like you,” Cindy says.
Seung-chan gets into an elevator at the office with CP Kim, who teases him about his behavior last night, calling him by his first name and patting his head. Seung-chan vows to quit drinking, but CP Kim says that’s not possible—what he has to do is learn how to ask for forgiveness each time. Then he adds that the teaser Seung-chan put together, despite being awkward, was funny—even his daughter laughed at it.
This totally makes Seung-chan’s day, and he interviews that he’s never been able to make anybody laugh. He would try, but his friends would call him corny and tell him to stop. To hear that someone he doesn’t even know laughed at his work gives him an electrifying feeling.
The exposition FD explains that Seung-chan has just gotten hooked to that feeling—it’s like drug addiction, and he’ll go crazy trying to chase that feeling of entertaining people. He congratulates him, but warns that it’s not great for your health—it’ll end when it sucks out all your energy. He points out all the things around them in the prop room, filled with things that used to cause such a stir, now just sitting idly. Popularity always ends.
Seung-chan wonders why the FD never goes to team meetings, and the FD just smiles bashfully. That’s when a sunbae PD enters the room and asks what he’s doing—and Seung-chan sees that nobody’s there.
He tells his team about it, and they laugh that either Seung-chan needs to stop drinking, or it was an impostor who slipped inside the building. Orrrrr, on PD suggests, it could be a ghost. Seung-chan gets increasingly nervous as Joon-mo asks questions, then bursts to clasp his hand in congratulations—he met the famous broadcast station ghost. The team laughs, but Seung-chan can’t shake his unease, rifling through all the notes he took in his FD chats.
He interviews that he’s very scientific, and that no matter what people say, he’s sure he didn’t see a ghost. His docu PD asks, “Then what was it?” Seung-chan thinks. “A broadcast station fairy? That has a better connotation, doesn’t it? A fairy. Tinkerbell.”
Hong-soon continues to pine after Office Nazi, who continues to ignore his texts. CP Kim comes up to give him good news: The station president is dining with the director, he’s recommended Hong-soon to come along.
At the dinner, Hong-soon pulls out all the brownnosing stops, showing off his muscles (which goes awry when the president wonders if the variety department has too much free time if they can work out so much), grilling beef, and mixing up specialty drinks. The mood is flying and Hong-soon has the president fully impressed… until he gets a text message from Office Nazi. She gives him thirty minutes to make it to their ddukbokki rendezvous spot or cut ties forever, and he freezes in indecision.
The president offers him a glass, and he calls himself crazy as he apologizes and runs out. He arrives well beyond the deadline, but sits himself down and says she’d be crazy sorry if she knew what he gave up to be here. Then he takes over cooking duties with flair, offering her a heart-shaped mound of rice and melting her iciness.
He interviews that he already regrets his choice since now the director is refusing his calls, though I’m sure his tears will dry soon enough.
Ye-jin hears from the maintenance office that they fixed the street lights sooner than scheduled because of that broadcast PD who made a pest of himself calling about it, threatening to put it on air if they didn’t fix them right away. She calls Seung-chan out to ask why he did it, chiding him for doing the worst thing as a PD, throwing around his profession to get something done, even if it was for good purposes.
Seung-chan is hopelessly confused for a while, then starts to slowly put the pieces together. He says it wasn’t him, and watches with a long face as Ye-jin wonders who it could have been.
Joon-mo has good news for him, though, starting with their program being out of the danger zone—ratings have gone up a tiny bit, and Cindy’s name is helping them now, and even Seung-chan’s trailer had some effect. Seung-chan lights up at that, and Joon-mo puts him in charge of the upcoming one, too.
As he starts to go, Seung-chan stops Joon-mo from leaving and asks how he’s managed to be friends with Ye-jin for so long.
An interview with Song Hae cuts in, where he answers the question of whether he knew Korea Sings would be a long-running program from the start. Of course he didn’t, and to do one, you have to go in not thinking that, thinking you’ll give it a shot and if it doesn’t do well, you’ll bow out. His program figured they’d have enough counties to visit to last them two years, but kept finding new places to go: “People’s relationships are just like that—you don’t know it when you make the first connection, but they end up going a long time.”
Seung-chan reflects back to his first days as a PD, when he’d stood in the rain with Yoon Yeo-jung’s tea, thinking that everything he learned in school was useless and that he’d made a mistake coming here. And how, through all the uneasy, nerve-filled days to follow, he’d think to himself every night: “Let’s just try today, and if it’s not right, let’s quit. Let’s just do tomorrow, and if it’s not it, run away.”
And in the process of living out a day at a time, spring passed equally for everyone. As Joon-mo sits alone where he’d once sat with Ye-jin, Seung-chan narrates how some people were given the chance to reconsider someone they’d thought of as a given. And Cindy leaves her empty place behind as he says, “And someone else, in order to be born anew, gave up many things they’d enjoyed.”
Hong-soon and Office Nazi hold hands as examples of people whose hate turned to love in “an unusual miracle,” while Song Hae works at his latest show to protect something that’s old and precious. Chapter 12’s lesson: “Understanding Long-running Programs: Don’t forget the beginning.”
Seung-chan looks back on his early experiences as a PD and vows not to forget his beginnings, when he felt useless and told himself to hang on just through the day. As he comes upon the empty swing set where he’d often talked with Ye-jin, he thinks, “And the connection that began without me knowing what it would become—through that person, this spring was happy. I won’t forget it.”
Ye-jin smiles as she walks along the now-lit path, and calls Joon-mo late that night while he’s already asleep. She complains of the huge mosquito that’s taken two bites out of her and insists he come catch it for her, and he tells her to get bit since he’s not coming. But two seconds later he’s up, grumbling as he gets up to make the long drive out to her new place.
He finds her waiting by the well-lit street, and she tells him about the maintenance requests made by the PD who threw around his career like a threat. Joon-mo insists he didn’t—all he did was answer the question about what his job was, and she smiles at the confirmation that it was his doing. She asks why he did it, and why he came all the way out at her phone call tonight, and turns to leave when he doesn’t answer.
Joon-mo speaks up (finally!) and explains that he struggled in high school because she got such good grades—because he had to follow along if he wanted to go to the same university. The same when she said she wanted to be a PD, because he’d have to prepare for exams.
“But even when I spent over half my life following you around, I didn’t know. That me following you wasn’t a habit, but love.” He says that he hesitated a lot because he didn’t want to burden her with these words, or make things uncomfortable between them. “But you didn’t go anywhere, and stuck next to me like gum—thank you.” He draws her into a hug, and they stand there holding each other.
The next day, Seung-chan drives into the station just as Cindy’s there unloading her makeup and gear. She explains being a standalone agency now, and has to get used to these tasks, though she’s clearly angling for him to help her. Instead, he just gives her a “Fighting!” and starts to move on.
So she proposes a round of rock-scissors-paper to carry her stuff, and just like before, he instinctively throws a winning hand. Heh. She accepts her defeat and starts unloading her things, but this time Seung-chan smiles as he pretends to leave, then takes over the duty. Aw, baby PD’s not quite so clueless anymore.
Joon-mo interviews that they’ve bought themselves three more months, and the response to the show is on an upswing, with people saying that it’s changed for the better. To his staff, he shouts at them to come up with ideas, while to the docu camera, he says confidently that trust in his team is up, and they’re going all-in. “I have a really good feeling about this!”
Then he’s asked about Ye-jin, and he starts to answer cheerfully that all is well, then changes his tone and gets more serious. He laughs that he doesn’t want to leave these statements behind when nobody knows what’ll happen in the future.
Ye-jin, on the other hand, interviews about how she understands now how owning a home changes how you feel about it. (Cut to: Ye-jin stuck in traffic, cursing the commute.) She says that she’s turned a good friend into a boyfriend and feels freer now—she doesn’t have to fight tooth and nail anymore, but can go with the flow. A phone call interrupts the interview, and in a flash she’s back to tough Ye-jin, fighting with the director’s orders on some decision.
Cindy interviews that nothing is different, and that a rookie might feel nervous running an agency: “But I’m Cindy.” Then she snaps at Oppa for idling the car during her interview, wasting gas. Sheepishly, she admits to the camera that the world isn’t an easy place: “Though the toughest thing is… Baek Seung-chan.”
Seung-chan proudly shows the search engine rankings, where his latest trailer sits in eighth place, the last one hitting sixth. It’s not that he’s asking for popularity, but to have people like his teasers, “To hear praise that I’m the variety department’s Bong Joon-ho or Park Chan-wook…”
Then Joon-mo cuts in to yell at him for mishandling the receipts: “You call yourself a PD?!”
A pretty solid finale, especially when you factor in that the production shot the last episode in a day and a half—the drama was so pressed for time in the past couple weeks that they called it “super live shoot” and mobilized a C team, since A and B weren’t enough. (You could argue that one better fix would have been to cut back the onerous 80-minute episodes, but hey, I don’t run the show.)
I find The Producers difficult to sum up with a single score or judgment, because it had the notable factor of changing its approach mid-show. And to be quite honest, I liked both approaches, so I can’t even find fault with one over the other on an intrinsic level. It’s just, even if the heartfelt rom-com and coming-of-age story that it turned out to be in its latter half was engaging and satisfying, it isn’t what got me excited about the show, so there’s unavoidable disappointment mixed in.
The first two episodes in particular were cutting and witty in a really refreshing way, and although even that version of the show didn’t quite nail the mockumentary device, I was pleased with the direction. The show had launched under the description “variety drama,” and filming the show as a show-within-a-show was such a cute, novel ideal (for Korean dramas) that when they gave up right away, it made me disappointed with the public for not embracing the idea and angry with the producers for caving to the initial responses.
The Producers was a strange experience where I feel like the comments from the international fanbase (like the ones here on Dramabeans) were diametrically opposite to the ones in Korea, where fans hated the docu-cam, found the awkwardness of the interviews boring instead of hilariously sardonic, and clamored for more romance. I suppose if the response at home was so overwhelmingly in one direction it doesn’t make sense for producers to ignore them—domestic viewers are, to use Joon-mo’s metaphor, the regular customer base that you don’t want to alienate by trying to get too wild and crazy. I just wish they were a little more willing to stick out their necks for the sake of opening a new door for a slightly less familiar style of storytelling. Being different takes time to be appreciated!
Then the show changed directions, and at that point I wish they’d have gotten rid of the mockumentary camera entirely rather than feature them as random interviews. The whole point of a mockumentary is to show us the funny dissonance between what is said and what is captured, to give us access to the unauthorized moments of truth in between people’s bluster.
But format aside, looking at a purely story point of view, I was entertained and moved, and thought the lessons were smartly drawn to use the industry as a metaphor for the issues the characters were facing. And at the end of the day, the characters saved the day, drawing us into their daily struggles. I like that The Producers didn’t overblow their conflicts—a cancellation is a blow, but hardly the end of the world—and let us connect to the emotions in between.
I found Cindy by far the most relatable and engaging narrative of the show, which is unexpected given how she started. It was satisfying to have her be something of the emotional climax of the show, and that the three other characters all played a part in backing her when everyone else wanted to ditch her. (I almost wanted more drama out of it, though I suppose that could have been too pat.) I liked that Cindy’s predicament wasn’t only about helping her overcome a hurdle, but that she became symbolic of things in their lives too, like Joon-mo confronting that weakness in himself and being the better person this time around—and really, for his own sake. He was my least favorite character and deeply frustrating, and I literally shouted at my screen multiple times, “BE A HEROOOOO!” But he did finally step up, and for that I’m relieved. Mostly since I want to like Cha Tae-hyun again.
I find Ye-jin interesting in that I don’t think she underwent as much of an arc as the others, but she was pretty crucial to the show—if anything, Gong Hyo-jin’s trademark sweetness and natural delivery carry her through everything, finding genuineness in places you might not get with other actresses. I like that she recognized her tendency to be too prickly as a self-defense mechanism, even if she’ll never be cured of it. Not that it’s entirely a bad thing, since her refusal to be pushed around by bullies (say, CEO Byun) is one of her best traits. Just, we’re left with the hope that she’ll channel that bulldoggishness in productive quarters and soften the edges for the rest.
But I suppose it really was Seung-chan’s story in the end, and it was gratifying to see him growing sharper and savvier—but not losing the essence of himself, like the dorky bookishness or his boyish excitement over being given praise. His ending voiceover was poignant and bittersweet, and at the very least draws a little of the sting out of his disappointed romantic hopes. I was never a huge fan of the romance-o-go-round, mostly because the extended device stretched on too long and started feeling like a silly game rather than an earnest storyline.
Whenever you feel like a story is being told to trick you or jerk you around more than to show and reveal, you violate the viewership’s trust. It reminds me of the tiresome runaround of Answer Me 1994—fun at first, but increasingly wearying. It’s a gimmick you really can’t get away with more than once (which is why 1994 remains a disappointment despite being so good otherwise) and while I applaud The Producers for deciding not to make the lovelines obvious from Day 1, there’s also a limit to how long you can drag that out.
In Seung-chan’s case, he frames his experience of heartbreak as part of a learning process, as part of the time he spent putting one foot in front of the other, figuring things out from the ground up. He describes relationships as the result of a bunch of little incidences rather than meaning something specific from the start, and that’s a lovely sentiment to end on. Turned around, it becomes an empowering thought, really: that you find the meaning in things, rather than meaning being prescribed to you from the start, weighing on your shoulders like a burden you’re fated to carry. Life gains meaning through living it—nothing means everything, but everything can mean something.