Bubblegum: Episode 6
Sometimes it’s easy to confuse dreams with reality, and realizing that you’ve been living your whole life blurring the lines between the two can be painful. Waking up to reality can be a joyful thing, or it can be heartbreaking… and sometimes it can be both at the same time. When reality holds some difficult truths, how do you find the courage to be honest with yourself, much less those you care about the most?
EPISODE 6 RECAP: “Some Dreams Permeate Deep Into Reality”
Ri-hwan waits outside Haeng-ah’s office, and smiles the happiest smile ever when he sees her waving tentatively at him. It’s a sweet moment, but when they get in Ri-hwan’s car, Haeng-ah starts to over-explain like mad. She says that they’ll just say he likes her, and they’ll say she maybe possibly has some strange feelings, too. So what now, do they date or what?
Ri-hwan mimics her speech pattern, and says that, if they were dating, he would fasten her seatbelt for her (which he does). They go to eat and keep up the cute act, saying that if they were dating they would feed each other like this, and if they were dating Ri-hwan would give Haeng-ah his coat this way. She refuses to take it and leave him cold, so they just switch coats, with hilarious results.
Ri-hwan buys roasted sweet potatoes, then smears coal dust on Haeng-ah’s face and teases her to chase him. As penance, she draws a cat nose and whiskers on him, and makes him go the rest of the night that way. They buy each other silly hair clips, and now they both look ridiculous. But they’re struck silent when they turn a corner and see a whole street of hotels and motels, and their imaginations run wild.
Ri-hwan says that if they were dating, they would probably come to a place like this. PFFT, Haeng-ah just quietly skips the other direction, and Ri-hwan is forced to follow her.
Later, after spending a fun evening together, Ri-hwan says that he told Haeng-ah that dating would be nice. She just smiles at him in agreement. On the drive home he says that he has no intention of going backwards now, so it’s her turn to come to him.
At Haeng-ah’s apartment, Ri-hwan sneaks in by saying he needs to get his kimchi container back, and as long as there’s kimchi, they may as well have some ramyun. Haeng-ah is nervous having him in her home, but she can’t get him to leave, so she gobbles her food down quickly. He wanders into her bedroom which makes her even testier, though he argues that he’s been in here a thousand times.
The overhead light burns out, and Ri-hwan tries to help Haeng-ah when she barks her shin, getting accidentally handsy (“That’s not your knee?” HAHAHAwhoops). They both end up sitting on the bed and Haeng-ah wails that she’s scared of him, so Ri-hwan decides to get to the bottom of this. She says that she’s afraid they won’t be able to go back to being friends if dating doesn’t work out, so Ri-hwan suggests they spend a day together. Ri-hwan’s car is still there in the morning, which doesn’t escape Suk-joon’s notice as he heads to work.
Tae-hee also heads out, and finds Ji-hoon sleeping on her doorstep. She walks past him as if he’s not there, and he has to chase her down the street. He explains that he had to drink to prove to her how useless he is when he drinks, which is a pretty sad yet oddly logical explanation. She asks why he’s back after being gone a year, wondering if its because she likes someone else now.
He says that he was too scared to face her, since she scolds him for everything. Tae-hee barks back that it was scary for her too, that she was afraid she’d spend her life taking care of a drunk. Ji-hoon says that still, she dated him because she liked him, and promises to be good to her from now on. But Tae-hee tells him it’s too late.
Yi-seul visits her family’s estate, and her mother shrieks over the fact that “that doctor” drove her to her grandfather’s side. Apparently, letting him find out some secret about her grandfather could ruin everything. Yi-seul defends Ri-hwan, and her brother Jung-woo soothes their mother by saying that he’ll talk to Ri-hwan and explain things.
But Mom isn’t finished, and complains that Yi-seul is still carrying last year’s purse. Oh, the shame — people may think they’re only very rich, instead of filthy rich. HAHA, Jung-woo asks if that’s why Mom gets a new face every year. He’s pretty good at handling her, and distracts her so that he can speak to Yi-seul.
Yi-seul asks if he really plans to speak to Ri-hwan, and he says he’ll do it today. Suddenly nervous, Yi-seul worries that the timing may not be right, but he’s determined to take care of his little sister.
Ri-hwan sees his mother leaving with some flowers, but she’s cagey about her destination. Ji-hoon wanders home and Ri-hwan reminds him of his promise to take care of Aunt Princess today. He invites him to Secret Garden the next day to make kimchi, sweetening the offer by mentioning that Tae-hee will be there, and Ji-hoon hugs him gratefully.
Yi-seul goes to an art gallery, and a painting of the ocean fades into Ri-hwan and Haeng-ah’s day together at the beach. Haeng-ah thinks she finds a gold ring in the sand but it turns out to be trash. She says sadly that even if it were a gold ring she’d throw it away, since it was someone’s heart and feelings that they tossed away. So Ri-hwan digs through the sand, and comes up with… a discarded bathing suit. Oops!
He tells Haeng-ah a naughty story about a beach in Jeju that’s very dark at night, and in the morning the sand has lots of holes (where people would canoodle with each other). It makes them both shy to even think about it, so cute.
Haeng-ah turns a bit serious, and wonders if they’re like this beach — peaceful on the surface, but if you dig deeper, you might find things you don’t want to see. Ri-hwan isn’t scared, and says they’ll just keep digging until it’s clean. He asks what it is she doesn’t want to see, pushing a bit since it’s why they’re here today.
Instead of answering, Haeng-ah puts on some music and they sit companionably, enjoying the day. Later they feed the seagulls and run from the waves, doing nothing but just having fun in each other’s company.
Ji-hoon goes to Secret Garden to perform some acupuncture on Aunt Princess’s sore wrist. He asks when Dong-hwa plans to start calling Auntie “Mom,” but Aunt Princess says she’ll do it when she’s ready. Hmm, is she adopted?
Ji-hoon spills the beans about Ri-hwan finally going after Haeng-ah, and for some reason, Aunt Princess doesn’t want Uncle Gangster to overhear. She asks if Ri-hwan’s mother knows and if she threw a fit, but Ji-hoon doesn’t know many details. He’s confused why Ri-hwan’s mom knowing would be a bad thing, but Auntie just asks him not to tell Mom for now.
Yi-seul buys a painting, and checks her phone for the thousandth time. The last text she sent Ri-hwan asked him to call her, but he’s not responding.
He’s still with Haeng-ah, and they take a walk and stop to rest on a bench. Haeng-ah gets a pebble in her shoe, and confesses that she once sent a letter to a radio station about feeling like a pebble in someone’s shoe. The DJ had scolded her for saying such a thing, but she’d always wondered why anyone would take her in and raise her.
Ri-hwan knows that she’s scared of his mother’s reaction, and Haeng-ah admits that it’s only because she likes her so much. But she does like her — she’s difficult and precious, and she wants to look good in Mom’s eyes. She says that she’s scared Mom might “do that” again.
In flashback, we see a breathless teacher pull Ri-hwan off a school bus while Haeng-ah could only watch helplessly. Aunt Princess had met him at the hospital and told him that his mother hadn’t been sleeping lately, and accidentally took too many pills, but Ri-hwan had known that wasn’t true.
Crying, he’d asked why, when he’s still here? Auntie hugged him and said she’d been having a hard time, and she must have wanted to sleep very badly. She asks him to understand his mother, and neither of them notice that it’s Haeng-ah’s turn to cry to herself just around the corner.
A man had been wheeled past her just then, bleeding from a chest wound, and Haeng-ah had passed out. Ri-hwan had run to her, but her first words on opening her eyes and seeing his worried face had been, “Are you okay?”
Now Ri-hwan assures Haeng-ah that his mother will never do that again, but she knows that he’s still scared, too. It’s the reason he never travels, and still lives at home. But he won’t be distracted, and tells her to think about what her heart feels regardless of what the world thinks. That’s what he did, and how he discovered his true feelings. Besides, what his mother really wants is for him to be happy, and he’s found happiness.
But Haeng-ah likes the world she lives in, and does care what it thinks. She has her friends, and family at Secret Garden, and him. She doesn’t want to be greedy for more.
But Ri-hwan asks why being greedy is necessarily bad — what if nothing happens, and life gets better? Haeng-ah counters that she doesn’t want to gamble with everything she has, and lose everything. We see her again, overhearing Ri-hwan’s mother saying that nothing can ever, ever happen between her and Ri-hwan, or she’ll be out on the street. But as it turns out, Ri-hwan heard it too, though he hid that fact from Haeng-ah.
But later that night he’d found her sitting alone and dejected in the park. She’d said she had nowhere to go, and he’d taken her home. Now Ri-hwan says that she won’t ever lose everything she has, because he won’t let that happen.
Haeng-ah gets a bit angry and tells him not to speak like that. Her father had made the same promise, that she’d never be alone, and he couldn’t keep it. Ri-hwan only says that she’s not alone… if she doesn’t like him she can say so, and they can go back to being friends. But if she’s just scared, then they should try being together.
He stands and holds out his hand, inviting Haeng-ah to take a chance. She hesitates, and begins to stand alone, but he reaches and takes her hand anyway.
Together they visit the tree dedicated to memory of her father, and Ri-hwan again takes Haeng-ah’s hand confidently. She’s embarrassed in front of her father, but Ri-hwan isn’t, and says proudly that they even kissed.
Another bouquet of flowers gives away the fact that Ri-hwan’s mother was here already today, and she’d confessed to her old friend that she thinks she’s sick. She admits wanting to forget him so badly that she nearly ended it all, but now she’s scared to forget that for one day in her life, she was happy. She asks permission to come to him a bit earlier, if that happens.
Ri-hwan drops Haeng-ah off at work that evening, telling her to pick up when he calls later. She goes in to the building and finds herself in the same elevator as Suk-joon, but this time she doesn’t avoid him.
Ri-hwan calls his mother, who’s at the hospital for an MRI and says she’ll be home late. He’s approached at his doorstep by a suited man, who requests that he come with him to speak to Jung-woo. He agrees, but insists on taking his own car rather than the car that was sent for him.
Se-young doesn’t show up for work and nobody can reach her. Joon-soo is sent to her house while Tae-hee reports the situation to Manager Jo. Suk-joon sees everyone scrambling and finds out what’s happening from Joon-soo.
Tae-hee finds Manager Jo sleeping in his underwear, which she ignores with much better grace than he does, hee. They discuss asking Suk-joon to fill in, but Manager Jo nixes that — he’d never agree. But Suk-joon surprises them both by coming in on his own.
Joo-soo finds Se-young uncharacteristically disheveled and crying on a park bench. She’s been offered a role in a drama, but she’s distraught because it’s a supportng role, and one where she’d be the “other woman.” Trying to stop her crying, Joon-soo says that he’s been her fan since her debut, and she snaps right out of her funk to hear that he’s seen such an obscure show.
Ri-hwan is led to a restaurant, where he finds a confused Yi-seul, who was also asked by her brother to come here. Ri-hwan apologizes for not calling her, explaining that he had something important to do today.
Yi-seul says he has nothing to apologize for, and refers to their previous discussion when he’d said she got the wrong idea. She disagrees, but says that he didn’t do anything wrong. He’s been very clear, and it’s not his fault she feels this way anyway.
They’re joined by a smirking man, who sneers that it’s the first time he’s seen Yi-seul since the engagement party. Ah, this must be her cheating ex-fiance. Yi-seul tells him to leave, but he quips that everyone knows about their broken engagement as if it wasn’t all his fault.
Ri-hwan politely invites the jerk to leave, but he continues to insult Yi-seul. Ri-hwan gives him one last chance to leave or he’ll make him leave, which is when Jung-woo arrives. The moment he realizes who is harassing his sister, he tells her to wait outside and punches him right in his smug face. He’s ready to beat him into a pulp, but Ri-hwan stops him from seriously hurting the guy.
Haeng-ah is shocked to see Suk-joon in her studio, but she gathers her courage and faces him bravely. He smoothly introduces the show and his presence there, the consummate professional, acting as if nothing is unusual.
Ri-hwan assures Jung-woo that whatever is happening with their grandfather, he’s not the kind of person who would talk. He explains when asked, that he went into Eastern medicine to cure illnesses that can’t be cured by needles and drugs. Jung-woo finds that interesting and tells him that Yi-seul went into dentistry because patients never look at their dentist’s face.
Apparently Yi-seul looks like her grandmother, who used to make her mother’s life hell, so now she punishes Yi-seul in turn for something she has no control over. Jung-woo starts to say that Yi-seul may marry whomever she chooses, but Ri-hwan stops him to clarify that they’re not in that kind of relationship.
Jung-woo asks if his sister knows that, but stops Ri-hwan before he can answer — he doesn’t want to wake her from her nice dream. As her older brother, he wants to be able to make at least one of his sister’s dreams a reality.
Suk-joon’s presence on their rado show is a huge hit, and Tae-hee stops Manager Jo from going into the studio where Suk-joon and Haeng-ah are sitting in silence. Haeng-ah hesitantly says that the kiss between her and Ri-hwan wasn’t an act, but Suk-joon doesn’t believe that her feelings could change so quickly.
Haeng-ah explains that it made her uncomfortable to be around someone who knew her so well, so she went too far in the other direction with someone who didn’t know her at all. She did that with all of her relationships, so she was always the one left wanting more. But now she thinks that things don’t have to be lonely and frustrating that way.
So what he saw the other night wasn’t an act — it was her putting aside the act she’s been playing her whole life. Suk-joon silently takes this in.
Se-young swears Joon-soo to secrecy about her debut, in which she apparently does something embarrassing with a billiard ball, ha. Joon-soo pouts a little, because he thought she was really pretty in that show. She thinks he’s buttering her up to get her to go to work, but he says that’s not true. Awww, puppy definitely has a crush. When Se-young hears that Suk-joon is doing her show, she insists on going in to stop him from taking her job.
Jung-woo finds his sister making a tower of fancy cookies, and she says that she’s embarrassed he acted that way in front of Ri-hwan. He asks what he can do for her, but she only stares at him reproachfully as her tower topples over.
Joon-soo may not have a driver’s license, but he does have a scooter, and Se-young whoops with excitement as they rush to the studio.
Suk-joon has something to say to Ri-hwan too — he thinks that he’ll be getting off that bicycle she mentioned, as a metaphor for his obsession with his job. He tells her to pretend she doesn’t know him no matter what happens, but Se-young arrives before he can explain what he means by that.
HA, she’s still in her pajamas and bunny slippers, and was nearly stopped by security who didn’t recognize her. She seems primed to fight for her job, but Suk-joon willingly turns over the mic.
Ri-hwan’s mom gets her test results, and she says that she’d rather have had it be a brain tumor. Her colleague says this isn’t necessarily worse, and he offers her his best effort in treating her. She has one very important question, and we don’t hear what it is or his answer, though it seems to devastate her. He tells her that she can’t face this alone and to bring her son, but she vehemently opposes this. She has something she needs to do first.
Finally alone, Ri-hwan calls Haeng-ah to ask when she’s off work. He admits, giggling, that he called because he missed her, and Haeng-ah drops the phone in horror at the cheesiness. She tries to pretend to be the operator disconnecting the call, which only makes Ri-hwan laugh at her.
Ri-hwan’s mom finally names her disease — early onset familial Alzheimer’s. She’s concerned that it’s hereditary, but her colleague says there’s no guarantee that Ri-hwan will also have it.
Ri-hwan waits in his car with flowers, but they aren’t for Haeng-ah. He’s waiting at the hospital for his mother, and gives a huge smile and wave when he sees her. She bursts into tears, but at the same time, she smiles at her son’s sweet gesture.
Poor Ri-hwan, he has no idea the painful truth he’s going to have to face soon with regards to his mother’s health. Watching a loved one forget themselves, and you, is a heart wrenching experience, and will be even more so for this close mother-son duo.
This show is just so lovely to watch, and I love how we’re given the characters’ backstory in layers, learning more details and deeper secrets about their pasts the better we get to know them. For example, we knew early-on that Ri-hwan’s mom strongly objects to their ever dating, and has done since they were young, but we didn’t know why. Then we’re told that it’s most likely because of Haeng-ah’s family history of cancer, and that Mom is probably afraid of her son being left to watch the woman he loves die, as (I assume) Mom watched his father die.
But I didn’t understand Haeng-ah’s deep reluctance to explore her feelings for Ri-hwan, until now, when we find out that Mom once tried to commit suicide. It makes perfect sense now, that Haeng-ah is afraid to drive the only mother she has left to possibly do something terrible to herself. That’s a heavy burden to carry, and Haeng-ah’s tendency to smile and pretend everything is fine would definitely lead her to ignore her feelings for Ri-hwan for fear of causing him to lose his only parent. Haeng-ah is a good person, caring and selfless, and it’s totally within her character to put Ri-hwan and his mother’s happiness ahead of her own. Not to mention, by mirroring the scene where her father died and Ri-hwan felt responsible, it makes me wonder if she somehow thinks Mom’s suicide attempt was somehow because of her. If she does, it’s no wonder she’s plainly terrified to get any closer to Ri-hwan than friendship.
Ri-hwan’s mother’s story is intriguing too, as she seems to be full of secrets. We’ve been told that nobody knows who Ri-hwan’s father is and that he died before Ri-hwan was born, but I have a feeling that that’s an over-simplified version of the story, if not completely fictional. Her visiting Haeng-ah’s father’s grave gave us many tantalizing hints about her past, even seeming to tease that maybe they had a deeper relationship than just friends (though it’s my personal opinion, at this point, that the rumors that Haeng-ah’s father may also be Ri-hwan’s father are a red herring, and that Mom’s objections to Haeng-ah probably have more to do with her medical history). But on the other hand, she repeatedly refers to Haeng-ah’s father as “Sunbae,” which feels more formal than if they’d had any kind of romantic relationship. I think she’s a fascinating and deep character, and I’m looking forward to learning more about her, even while I’m afraid she’s going to break my heart as she loses her memory.
If there’s any misgivings I have about this show, it’s my fear that we seem to be delving into some dark, twisty territory that could turn this simple and warm story into something too big for it to handle. Death, being orphaned at a young age, mental illness, obsession, abuse and family dysfunction, and addiction are some pretty heavy topics to take on one at a time, much less all in one drama. Luckily the show still feels balanced at this point, and we get plenty of funny moments, sweet interactions, and lightheartedness in between the dark moments. While I enjoy exploring and discussing these sorts of topics, I hope the show can maintain that balance and not get too bogged down in the dark clouds that seem to be looming ahead.