Bubblegum: Episode 14
Memories are tricky – they shift and change, and sometimes even disappear. It’s strange to think that losing memories could make one a better person, but when those memories have caused a lifetime of pain, it can change things for the better when they’re gone. Life is full of unexpected blessings, and sometimes what looks like a loss can be the beginning of something wonderful.
EPISODE 14 RECAP: “One Step Between Yearning and Happiness”
Ri-hwan joins Haeng-ah on the bus, and silently sits next to her. They clasp hands, and Ri-hwan starts to smile, slowly and tentatively. He turns to Haeng-ah and says, “I’m here,” and gently kisses her forehead while she smiles happily.
Ri-hwan is reluctant to let Haeng-ah go when they get to her apartment building, showing a bit of his old spirit by insisting on walking her to the door. Of course he comes inside, but still doesn’t let go of Haeng-ah’s hand — not that she seems any more eager to part. He says “I’m going” about five times while they both just stand there, so cute.
Finally he asks if Haeng-ah has been well, and she shakes her head no. He hugs her, then kisses her, and soon Ri-hwan is carrying Haeng-ah to the kitchen table and they’re taking each other’s clothes off. Ha, Ri-hwan kneels to take off Haeng-ah’s boots and falls on his rear when one finally comes loose, and he gives a little fistpump of victory. He goes back for more kisses, and the rest is left to our imaginations.
Ri-hwan is busted by Ji-hoon the next morning, just now coming home, and he admits that he just left Haeng-ah’s house. Ji-hoon just says that Ri-hwan gets to buy breakfast, hee. Up in his room, Ri-hwan can’t wipe the smile off his own face, and he removes the watch from Yi-seul, thinking to himself that he no longer needs to just make it through each day until midnight.
Haeng-ah spends her morning at work trying to make the giveaways that Se-young wants work out, which sounds like a big hot mess. She tells Tae-hee about her reconciliation with Ri-hwan, and Tae-hee of course looks grouchy about the whole thing. She doesn’t chastise Haeng-ah too much, but she does say that if they ever break up in the future, she won’t say Haeng-ah made the wrong decision.
Ji-hoon can’t stop teasing Ri-hwan about his energetic night, and Ri-hwan takes it with good humor. Ji-hoon tells Ri-hwan about seeing Tae-hee the night before, and how pitiful she looked. But seeing her like that, he realized that the guy she likes turned her down, and now he feels some hope again. Though now, he admits despite his earlier words, that hope feels like torture.
Tae-hee demands to know the results of Ri-hwan’s DNA tests when they come out, so that she knows whether to celebrate or comfort Haeng-ah. She says such sweet things, but so grumpy. She tells Haeng-ah in ten words or less that she confessed to Manager Jo and got rejected, which shocks Haeng-ah because she didn’t even know about Tae-hee’s crush. Se-young enters in the middle of their conversation and, not wanting her to know their personal stuff, they hilariously finish the conversation in song titles.
Se-young goes on and on about her mother visiting and how much she nags, and forgets herself and asks Haeng-ah if her mother nags like that. She remembers and berates herself, but Haeng-ah says, with a pointed look towards Tae-hee, that she has several mothers — even one that nags her daily. She giggles as she thinks of how Ri-hwan also nags her, even this morning reminding her to eat, and get some more sleep, and take her medicine. And dress warm. And cross the street carefully. Wow, he really is a nag.
Se-young reads a story about being reborn with the face of the person you loved in your previous life, and Haeng-ah finds the picture she took with Ri-hwan, his face drawn like a cat. She spends some time just looking at his pretty face, thinking that it wouldn’t be bad to be reborn with a face like his.
Tae-hee startles when she runs into Manager Jo, who’s cut his gorgeous long hair off. She says bluntly that she liked it better before, refusing to look at him or get on the same elevator. She says that it’s because she likes him, that she can’t look at him yet.
Ri-hwan calls Haeng-ah while she’s waiting for Tae-hee, and sneaks up on her while they talk. He jumps out to surprise her, and Tae-hee leaves them alone even though Ri-hwan tries to invite her to have coffee. Poor Ji-hoon, he was there to surprise Tae-hee, too.
Haeng-ah tells Ri-hwan about the theory of being reborn with the person you loved most’s face, and he giggles that it’s a good thing she’s pretty. He suggests they just switch genders in each life and keep loving each other, which is so weird and sweet.
Ji-hoon does manage to catch up with Tae-hee in the parking garage, and she says that she’s sorry about yesterday. But she’s angry, because she thinks he feels wronged that she dumped him, and plans to get her back then dump her. Damn girl, you really do expect the very worst in any situation, don’t you?
Ji-hoon admits that he felt a sense of urgency when she told him she liked someone else, but he feels genuine happiness when he sees her. It breaks his heart that she cries over someone else, and he doesn’t know what to do with these feelings. If he spent their relationship drunk, it’s no wonder he finds real emotions confusing. But, he figures this must be what love feels like.
Ri-hwan and Haeng-ah wait for Ji-hoon, and Haeng-ah agrees that Ji-hoon is a pretty good person, making Ri-hwan a little jealous. She reminds him that he thought Tae-hee was pretty when they first met, though he denies it.
Ri-hwan suggests they visit her father’s tree with his mom (which was one of her wishes in her book), even though it’s winter, because by spring she may not be well enough. Haeng-ah agrees to go this weekend. They split up to go check on their friends, with a hilariously dramatic and silly parting scene.
Manager Jo sighs to Suk-joon that everyone likes his “idol-level” hair except for Tae-hee, and they order fried chicken and talk. Jo admits that he’s thought of getting a better-paying job, but it’s not easy to leave the station. Suk-joon says you have to just go for it, and offers Jo a job at his new television station, and to live in his apartment while he moves into the company house. He doesn’t say it straight-out, but it’s obvious that he’s finding it difficult living near Haeng-ah.
Joon-soo angles for an invitation to meet Se-young’s mother, and when she asks why he’d want to do that, he gets quiet. Se-young objects to his telling her mother they’re dating, since she wants to see her daughter married. Hurt, Joon-soo asks if Se-young sees him in her life at all. He knows she wants to get married, even though she pretends she doesn’t.
Se-young says with false bravado that she’d already be married if she wanted to be, listing the qualities that would make her a bad wife. She tells Joon-soo not to feel burdened by thinking she’s looking for marriage, but he just asks what they’re doing now, then? Will they just date and break up? She doesn’t have a quick answer, and he leaves, insisting that he’s not angry.
Ri-hwan visits Yi-seul to give her an update on Mom, and she notices that he’s no longer wearing the watch she gave him. He only says that he no longer needs to watch the time, returning the watch. He also returns the credit card from her brother, and something she left at their house when she visited, and says that he came to say goodbye and thank you.
Ri-hwan fusses at Haeng-ah for waiting for him out in the cold, stuffing her hand in his pocket to warm it. He asks if he’s being a gas mask again and she says he is, but hey, when there’s chemical warfare, you can only breathe with a gas mask. And then she cringes at her own cheesiness, hah. Yi-seul comes out to say one last thing and sees them walking away, hand in hand.
Ri-hwan updates Haeng-ah on Mom’s condition these days, though he’s mostly certain she’ll remember Haeng-ah. She promises that no matter what, she’s prepared because she’s been researching the disease — she just hopes Mom is glad to see her.
Aunt Princess takes Mom for a walk, and they witness a young schoolgirl nearly get hit by a car. Mom sees her as Haeng-ah in her teen years, and relives that moment when Haeng-ah was nearly hit because she was running to see Mom. Ri-hwan and the real Haeng-ah see it happening from across the street and Ri-hwan runs to comfort Mom, and she stares at the real Haeng-ah, who hugs her.
Ri-hwan stops to talk to Uncle Gangster, who tells him not to try that breaking up thing ever again. If things get hard, focus and talk to people, and stop making mistakes. He punctuates each of his orders with a chop of his knife, and Ri-hwan gets the picture loud and clear.
Haeng-ah thanks Mom for showing such concern for her out there in the street, and worrying that something bad might happen to her. She says Mom’s done that a lot in the past — but she’s doing well now, and tells Mom that she’s missed her.
Yi-seul goes on another blind date, who doesn’t seem any more interested than she does. But they bond a little over the fact that they’re probably being watched since they both tend to screw up these dates. Yi-seul checks her watch frequently, explaining that she’s just living until midnight over and over, and her date kindly asks if she got dumped. It seems they’re in a similar position, and suddenly the conversation relaxes and they’re talking easily.
Ri-hwan and Haeng-ah prepare to take Mom to see Haeng-ah’s dad’s tree, and they even take Dong-hwa along on the trip. They all admit (to Dong-hwa’s dismay) that they’ve never been on a vacation before, but Ri-hwan says that they plan to do it a lot from now on.
Sitting in the beach holding hands, Haeng-ah tells Ri-hwan that if he hadn’t followed her on the bus that night, her next scheme was to call him constantly and recite all the mushy lines he’s said to her in the past. Ha, she’s good. Haeng-ah wants to see what they find in the sand today, but Ri-hwan says not to – it doesn’t matter anymore what’s down there. By leaving what’s buried to the imagination, it’s like they’re sitting on hope.
He tells Haeng-ah that Mom said she was happy a few days ago, and that she was in a good mood. Haeng-ah says that being in a good mood is what happiness is. They look back to see Mom sitting contentedly while Dong-hwa takes selcas, and Haeng-ah asks what other wishes Mom wrote in her notebook.
She’d written “let Ri-hwan go,” meaning to let him go on a vacation, a lot like this one. She still feels badly that he missed his school trip because of her, all those years ago. Haeng-ah muses that she’d be happier if she forgot those memories. They joke and laugh together, just enjoying each other’s company.
Mom watches from a nearby bench, wondering if there are any “what ifs” in what’s happening to her. We see her past self sitting next to her present self, and her past self wishes that she’d been stronger. Her present self simply says that she gave birth to Ri-hwan and held onto Haeng-ah, so can’t she be more understanding wth herself?
The Past Mom asks Present Mom if she can be better to them than she was, enough to make up for what she lacked. Present Mom says that it’s getting harder for her to remember what to do, so Past Mom says to tell them that she’s happy, and tell the children to be happy. Present Mom tells Past Mom that she did a good job all those years.
Ri-hwan comes to check on Mom and puts her coat back on her, and she looks around, disappointed to find her past self gone. But she looks down in the sand and sees her old hospital badge, as if her past self really had been there.
They all have a cookout that night, and Ri-hwan nags at Haeng-ah’s cooking while Dong-hwa screams that she’s huuuungry. Ri-hwan asks what they’ll do if they have a daughter like her, and Haeng-ah reminds him that she was like that too, when she was a teen.
Mom tells Dong-hwa about Aunt Princess, who’s father was very mean and sent her to work at Mom’s home instead of letting her go to school. She practically lived there with Mom, and almost never went home. Dong-hwa feels so bad for her mother that she cries, feeling bad for making fun of her name.
Later they all roast marshmallows over a bonfire, all four of them mystified by the process since they’ve never done it before. There’s a minor freakout when Ri-hwan’s marshmallow catches on fire, and then Mom belly-laughs like it’s the funniest thing she’s ever seen.
Mom and Dong-hwa head to bed, and Ri-hwan sits Haeng-ah down by the bonfire. He expresses his disappointment that nothing on this trip seems to be working out like they planned (ruined food, bad weather), and Mom probably won’t remember all this anyway. “But still, it was nice.” He promises that if the weather doesn’t improve, they’ll come back to see Haeng-ah’s dad in the spring.
Rather than turnon her music like usual, Haeng-ah requests that Ri-hwan sing her a song. He tries to beg off, saying that he can’t sing and he doesn’t know any songs anyway, so she offers to grant him a wish if he sings just a little bit.
So he shyly sings (“My Time Towards You,” from the show soundtrack), and his voice is sweet, and it thoroughly charms Haeng-ah.
Aww, it’s so good to see Ri-hwan and Haeng-ah happy again, and together. They really do belong together, and they both seemed like only half of a whole when they were apart. But together they sparkle and glow, and I love their silly nonsense conversations and fun teasing. But the best thing is that they just get each other, in the way that only two people who have known each other their whole lives can. And they both seem so much more at ease this time around, now that they’re not fighting what they think Mom wants. That’s evident in the beach scene, where both Ri-hwan and Haeng-ah seem more relaxed and happier than the last time they were here.
While I’m still not willing to say that Mom is completely forgiven for all of her past actions just because she’s sick, this week I am softening up a bit on her. For two reasons: first, because we saw that the part of her that does remember the way she treated Haeng-ah and manipulated Ri-hwan, feels regret and remorse at the way she behaved. I believe that’s genuine, and that she truly does wish she’d done things differently. Maybe that remorse is detached from the person she is now, but it’s a real and true understanding of her own actions and how they affected two people she does love, very much. In the only way that Mom can be, she’s sorry for the fact that she nearly kept two people apart who belong together, and that’s a lot more than could be expected from someone with her illness.
The second reason is that in very real ways, Mom is a different person now. She’s not the same woman who was so depressed that she nearly killed herself twice, or the same woman who hated Haeng-ah even while she loved her, or even the same woman who raised Ri-hwan. The tragedy of Alzheimer’s is that it quite literally erases the afflicted person, and recreates them as someone new. If you’re lucky, the new person is like Mom, someone who has forgotten their life’s losses and heartaches and can finally be happy. Simply, presently, and honestly happy. The old Mom would never have laughed like that at a burned marshmallow, but what a gift that the Mom we know now can find such joy in something so small.
That scene where both of Mom’s selves had one final conversation was so simple, but so beautiful. Past Mom got to voice her regrets and ask Present Mom to help her rectify them. And Present Mom, the happy and calm one, was able to forgive herself for being too harsh and too unbending in her life. It was a lovely letting go of the past, and a way for her to accept the way things are now, by allowing her that one last moment of clarity. Even if it was a distant sort of clarity, it was wonderful to see that she’s still capable of learning and being better than she was. So yes, okay, for that I’m able to forgive her.
We still have two episodes to go in our story, so I’m a little anxious to see what’s to come. I worry that Ri-hwan and Haeng-ah may face losing Mom just when they’ve all found peace with the situation, and I hope it doesn’t come to that. This episode actually would have made a sweet ending to the drama, with everyone happy and contented with their lives, so I almost hope that the final week is just all about wrapping up loose ends. It’s not often that I wish that from a drama, but in this case I’ll make an exception. Just let Ri-hwan and Haeng-ah stay happy!