Dear My Friends: Episode 11
Ahhhh, sweet revenge. Suk-gyun remains clueless about why Jung-ah left him, assuming it’s a temporary thing and she’ll be back. Everyone else tries to gently (or not so gently, if you’re Choong-nam) clue him in, but he stubbornly refuses to believe he’s in the wrong, which results in everyone making the most amazing faces as they deal with his frustrating obtuseness.
EPISODE 11: “Sharpening the blade of revenge, part 2”
Jung-ah sleeps peacefully in her new home while Suk-gyun wakes up to find out that she’s gone. He calls out her name over and over, wondering why she isn’t there — and why she’s made so much food.
While the aunties are still at the hospital with Choong-nam, they fill Wan in on all the details of Jung-ah leaving. She’s thrilled for her auntie, impressed by Jung-ah’s “revenge.” But Young-won and Nan-hee don’t agree about her getting divorced (even though Choong-nam is all for it). Wan asks Granny her opinion, but she says it’s none of her business.
Suk-gyun calls Hee-ja just then but she doesn’t answer, and Young-won wonders if he’s ever called her this early in the morning before. Hee-ja dazedly responds that it was once, thirty years ago. Hmmm, sounds like there could be a story there, but Young-won just tells her to stop remembering such old details.
Suk-gyun goes through the list of aunties, asking them if Jung-ah is with them or if they know where she is. Both Young-won and Nan-hee lie that they’re busy at work and don’t know what he’s talking about. Amused by his predicament, Wan begs them to tell him the truth about Jung-ah, but they keep playing dumb. Much to Wan’s delight, however, when he calls Choong-nam, she wearily tells him that it’s obvious his wife left him and is finally getting her revenge.
He’s incredulous, though — why would Jung-ah leave him? He assumes she must just be pouting over all the work he made her put in for the memorial service. It was with it, though, because he rightfully honored his parents. He then tries calling his daughters to see if they know where their mother is.
Choong-nam gets another phone call — this time from Professor Park, but she just ignores it as she mutters that she’ll get her revenge. She stubbornly refuses help as she rolls herself and her IV drip back to her hospital room while Wan tells her that she should just stop seeing the professors instead of taking revenge. Wan’s worried that they’ll start taking advantage of her again, but Choong-nam just tells her to be quiet.
As Wan starts to clean up after the aunties, Granny tells her that her uncle will be getting married in a couple of months. Granny’s worried that Jacqueline won’t like her and asks how to win her over. Thinking for a moment, Wan says that she should give her money, and then politely refuse any request to have dinner together, keeping quiet until they decide talk to her.
Granny grumbles that she might as well just die first and leaves in a huff. As she continues to tidy up, Wan sing-songs to herself that she needs to understand them since she’s going to be writing a book about them. But it’s not going to be easy, is it?
Hee-ja quietly watches Jung-ah sleep, but when she gets a worried phone call from one of Jung-ah’s daughters, she tries to wake up her friend. Jung-ah says that she’ll call them later — and then immediately goes right back to sleep. Ha.
Choong-nam’s nephews visit her in the hospital and they hang their head in shame as they apologize for not answering their phones when they were out with their friends. She tells them that she won’t give them her cafe since they didn’t answer their phones, reminding them that something terrible could happen at any moment. As she imperiously orders them to get out of her way, they scurry to kneel outside her doorway, like students being punished.
Suk-gyun has taken refuge at Seung-jae’s, who seems mildly irritated that Suk-gyun assumes that he’ll do all the prep and cooking while Suk-gyun just watches TV. As they sit down to enjoy their meal, Seung-jae tells Suk-gyun he should beg Jung-ah for forgiveness and ask her to return home.
But Suk-gyun isn’t worried — he’s convinced Jung-ah will return in a few days. Why would she have made him enough food to last a week if she wasn’t planning on coming back? Seung-jae tells him it’s because of who she is, a good person. She’s the kind who would make him a final meal as she tells him to leave her alone for the rest of her life.
Suk-gyun laughs at this, pointing out that it’s ridiculous because there aren’t any divorce papers. Jung-ah will never leave him because he’s a good husband — for the fifty years they’ve been together, he’s provided for his family and never had an affair. He scoffs at the fact that she bought a house, saying it’s just her way of trying to get him to go on a world trip together.
But he’s had to save money to care for them, assuming they live to be a hundred. That’s probably something Seung-jae has never had to worry about, since he’s a lawyer who came from a rich family. But Seung-jae bristles that he’s no crook lawyer that swindles people and his parents spent all their money taking care of their health in their old age.
Suk-gyun jokes that he should just move in with Seung-jae, since he’s a better cook than Jung-ah, but Seung-jae doesn’t seem to think it’s as hilarious as Suk-gyun does. They would definitely make a stereotypical “odd couple,” with Suk-gyun’s lazy, messy ways and Seung-jae horror that he doesn’t wash his hands after using the restroom and seems unconcerned about peeing directly into the bowl. Ewwww.
At the publishing office, Dong-jin tells Wan that he’ll be going to America, and then he asks if Yun-ha was happy to see her. She admits that she thought he would be, but instead he played hard-to-get, telling her that his life is fine the way it is and he doesn’t care if she comes back to him or not.
How did Wan’s mother react, though? Wan just remains silent, and Dong-jin reassures her that even though it will be hard on her at first, she’ll come around because she knows Wan is happy. Wan asks if he’s an expert on her mother because she beat him up, then apologizes on her behalf, telling him she’ll make it up through sales of her book.
She asks him out for a drink for old times’ sake, but he declines — his wife is coming soon. Besides, their ending can be just as awkward and imperfect as their beginning. They both wink at each other as they wish each other happiness and then go their separate ways. Aw.
Jung-ah’s daughters are at her new house, trying to talk sense into her. How could she just leave their father like that when he can’t care for himself? Jung-ah ignores them, continuing to clean as they alternate between yelling at her and begging Young-won and Hee-ja to help them talk sense into their mother. Jung-ah’s daughter Soo-young is especially angry, pointing out that it’s embarrassing that all the women in her family are getting divorces.
After they leave, Jung-ah makes the aunties lunch as they praise her for keeping quiet while her daughters were here. Young-won admits it makes her feel lucky that she doesn’t have a family — no parents, husband, or children. Hee-ja says she envies her and Choong-nam for their lack of family, but she also pities Young-won for having cancer. Plus, Choong-nam has all her relatives who rely on her. Life isn’t easy for anyone, is it?
Wan gulps down her own lunch at her mother’s restaurant, and thoughtlessly answers her mother phone without looking to see who’s calling first. It’s Suk-gyun, and she makes a face as she tries to politely ask him how he’s doing. He grumps that she’s the “useless one” who “smokes and writes novels,” then demands that Nan-hee come over and cook for him that night.
Nan-hee says she will — she has to, at least once, but Wan defends her mother and says she’s too busy, telling him that he should call his daughters. He says they’re also too busy, so Wan can come over instead. She’s surprised, but he yells at her that he’s been friends with her mother for over sixty years, and she’s an ungrateful girl if she doesn’t come. She politely tells him that she’s too busy and then hangs up.
He must be having trouble getting ahold of anyone if he’s calling Choong-nam to come cook for him. She just asks if he wants her to kill him and then hangs up. Ha! I love her. When Professor Park calls, she sweetly tells him that she’s still recovering and next week they can get together — she has a big surprise for him. Ohhhh, this is gonna be good.
Suk-gyun’s daughters are busy cleaning and cooking for him while he reads the newspaper. He at least notices that they’re irritated with him, even though he’s surprised by it. His daughter begs him to make up with their mother, doing whatever he can to get her back. They offer to loan him the money for a trip if that’s what it takes.
But he doesn’t understand why he should beg. When Soo-young says that he treated their mother like a slave, always nagging her about meals and demanding glasses of water, he bursts out that he’s a man — why should a man cook or get his own water? Besides, he’s sure Jung-ah will be back within a month.
What if she isn’t, though? But Suk-gyun is more focused on telling Soo-young what to make for dinner tomorrow night than hearing her pleas that she has her own husband to take care of and can’t constantly wait on him.
Oh, hey, it’s the handsome photographer neighbor! I’m happy to see him again, but apparently it won’t be for long since he’s moving out. Boo. He sees Hee-ja walking by and he pleasantly greets her, but she says that she doesn’t know him. He reminds her that he’s the photographer who took her picture, and that he was hoping for a chance to say good-bye — but she just blankly stares at him, repeating she doesn’t know him. Before he leaves, he sets a copy of the group photo by her door.
As she walks along the neighborhood street, the image fades into a foggy train tracks. It’s the same tracks in Suk-gyun’s dreams, and as he walks along, he hears a train — and then he wakes up from his nightmare, calling Jung-ah’s name. But of course she isn’t there.
When she gets home, Hee-ja tries to go to bed, but then decides she’s hungry. While she eats, she suddenly gets sleepy, and immediately falls asleep right at the table, her meal unfinished.
In the morning, Young-won and Choong-nam stop by Suk-gyun’s to give him breakfast. Young-won cheerfully tells him it’s Choong-nam’s last attempt to be friendly, but then gasps in horror at how many dirty dishes are in the sink. He says that his daughters are too busy to clean for him, and Choong-nam tells him that if he won’t wash his own dishes, he shouldn’t eat. Pfft.
Then she hangs up a list of “how to be a good husband” on the fridge. Ha, I love it. Young-won busily cleans up the mess while the still-recovering-from-surgery Choong-nam rests at the table. Suk-gyun tells them to send Jung-ah back to him so they won’t be annoyed by having to do things for him.
Young-won point-blank tells him that this is a one-off offer — besides, he’s the one who should be asking Jung-ah to come back. But he blames them, the two that live on their own, for persuading her away. Choong-nam is like, “Yes, we did.” She then excuses herself — she just had her appendix explode a few days ago; she doesn’t need her head exploding, too.
Annoyed, Young-won tells him that she actually tried to stop Jung-ah from leaving, but now she’s on Jung-ah’s side, considering that Suk-gyun undoubtedly treated his wife worse than he’s treating her right now. Besides, if he needs someone to take care of his daily chores, he should call on his siblings that he’s been taking care of his whole life — they should try to repay some of that debt.
Suk-gyun protests that his siblings are all men, and Young-won yells, “And I’m a woman, so what?” But Suk-gyun isn’t concerned about finding help because Jung-ah asked him to come over, and he’s sure she’ll be coming back with him.
Despite her true desires, Choong-nam returns to help with Suk-gyun’s chores. It’s her way of repaying him for beating up the kids who used to bully her in school, even though she’s irritated she still remembers that.
Suk-gyun finally reaches the top of the steep hill to Jung-ah’s new home, and while she eats her lunch, he asks her what’s so wrong with caring for his parents and his siblings. He keeps taunting her about getting a divorce until she pulls out the paper, showing she’s already signed a divorce agreement — it just needs his signature.
He switches tactics by declaring that this new house is legally his, but she calmly says she’ll be happy to take it to court. Then he tries to insist he hasn’t done anything wrong — he took care of his parents, obeying their dying wish that he also look out for his siblings. Why, he even abandoned them and sided with Jung-ah when his parents were disappointed she never gave them a grandson.
Except Jung-ah points out that all he did was move out of their house — she still had to go over there every day and cook and clean for them. He doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong by spending his money on his siblings because he was just a dutiful son. Jung-ah says that he can live with his siblings, then. She wants to be a dutiful daughter, too, living out her own mother’s dying wish to be free.
Seung-jae continues to prove he’s the opposite of Suk-gyun as Hee-ja admiringly watches him prepare fruit for the aunties’ gathering. He admits that his wife taught him domestic skills in her last few years of life, and Hee-ja understands it was so that he was prepared to live alone. As she tries to help him, she’s surprised to discover her cabinets are in disarray, genuinely wondering who made such a mess.
Choong-nam arrives just as Hee-ja is happily showing off her new coloring skills, and Seung-jae apologizes that he couldn’t see her in the hospital because of his fender bender. Aw, it’s sweet how Choong-nam tells him to take good care of Hee-ja, hiding how much it must still hurt to sacrifice her affection for him.
Eventually, all the aunties arrive. Wan tries to get them organized enough so she can take notes and interview them about their lives, but they continue to talk over each other. She tries to explain that the concept for her novel is to make it appealing for the younger generation, who aren’t as interested in hearing about the old folks’ complaints and ailments.
The aunties agree to support her concept, but then try to take charge as they bring up suggestions about what to add and what they don’t want in the book. Wan wants to create a book that is filled with pleasant and lovely stories of their lives — not the details of how boring they really are. For example, she wants to tell a story about the considerate mother who thinks about her kids all the time but doesn’t call them to ensure she doesn’t bother them.
But Hee-ja bursts out that it’s all a lie. She’s disgusted by her kids — if Wan wants to write a story about a mother being lonely all day, then she can leave Hee-ja out of it. She raised her kids when they were younger and needed her, but now that they’ve grown, they keep her locked up alone in her house.
Gi-ja yells that life is a constant battle between parents and kids, and the aunties argue about the concept of “love and war” between the young and old. Wan tries to regain control of the situation by saying all their stories are totally makjang (that is, like a soap opera), but the aunties tell her, in unison, that that’s what life really is — it’s makjang!
Wan just wants a book filled with nice heart-warming stories, but the aunties tell her that their misfortunes are the sad realities of their lives. Besides, reality is more interesting and what people really want to hear about.
Suddenly inspired, Wan gathers her things and rushes off, telling the surprised aunties they did a great job. She plays the recording of all the aunties arguing over the details of their sad stories for the rest of the publishing staff, explaining that she’s found a new tack — instead of beautiful, heartwarming stories, it’ll be like a cruel fairy tale handed down from the elderly to the young.
In a voice-over, Wan says that she decided to write the true life stories of the elders without sugar-coating them. After all, they are the protagonists of their lives and they have the right to choose how those stories are told.
The aunties gradually call her to explain further about their actions — Hee-ja begs her to say that her making a hundred rosaries in such a short time isn’t because she’s lonely, but because of her volunteerism. Jung-ah asks that her leaving home not be couched in terms of revenge, but just that she finally wanted a little bit of freedom.
Speaking of revenge, though — Choong-nam carefully carries over one of Professor Park’s hand-crafted bowls, except it’s filled with fruit salad. Pffft. The looks of stunned horror on the professor’s faces are priceless as they watch her casually dish out their food from the work of art. One of her nephews drops another of Professor Park’s bowls, and she just waves it off. It was one of the less expensive ones, anyway
They’re still trying to wrap their minds around the casual way she’s treating their art pieces, when she reveals that she’s going to be selling her paintings at half price, “generously” offering them a chance to buy some since they’ve said they’ve wanted one but couldn’t afford it. They leave in an offended huff (and Professor Park complains that he doesn’t even have enough cash to buy a painting, anyway. Ha!).
Meanwhile, Young-won has some art appraisers studying some of the professor’s artwork, and it turns out they’re worth a small fortune. Hahahaha, I love it! Choong-nam isn’t surprised — after all, she’s the one who knows how to make a profit from anything. But she just laughs at the professors who thought they cheated her by selling her their artwork, only to not realize their true worth.
Wan continues her voice-over, pointing out that if the aunties do get their revenge, then so what? If that act can make up for the sixty or seventy years of hardship they’ve endured — if it comforts them — then isn’t it worth it? Besides, they won’t have many years left, and if would be cruel for the younger ones to tell them to just keep living their life as they were.
Granny massages Il-bong’s leg as she instructs her husband on practicing his writing (ha, the sentence she tells him to write is “I deserve to die”). But then she gets a pain in her chest and starts to vomit. Nooooooo!
Young-won stops by Wan’s, bouquet in hand. It’s from her first husband, who she still refuses to meet face-to-face. She wonders if she’ll be disappointed to see him again. Life is full of disappointments, she says, admitting that she married her second husband to get over the first — although it didn’t seem to work.
She laughs at herself, wondering if it’s boring listening to an old woman talk about love. But Wan is sweetly supportive, telling her she’s still beautiful and she should go for it. Then she bashfully adds that she went to see Yun-ha last week, and no matter what Nan-hee says, once the book is finished, she’s going back to Slovenia.
Young-won just smiles and departs, leaving Wan to work on her book. But instead she indulges in a happy video chat with Yun-ha, where she refuses to look at him at first because of how much it makes her miss him. He reveals what he’s working on, holding up photos of the church. Wan smiles and says it would be nice to get married there.
Suk-gyun has another train-tracks nightmare, and in the morning, he walks past a travel agency, thinking about Jung-ah’s desire to travel and his determination to spend money on his family. He meets with his siblings who tell him that they don’t have much money to offer him, having spent most of everything he’s given them. But they encourage him to get Jung-ah back. After studying the brochure for a trip to China, he resolutely visits Jung-ah.
He asks if she’s happy that he lost, using every last penny on a trip for her. It’s not a world tour — he could only afford a trip to China. But she waves him off, telling him that she doesn’t need it. He persists while she tries to nap, and she finally orders him to leave.
I’d feel sad for how lonely and lost Suk-gyun looks as he makes his way back home, but this is the bed he made during his fifty years of marriage, so he must lie in it.
Over drinks with Seung-jae, he begins to cry as he explains that Jung-ah has trained him to the point where he can’t do anything without her, making him believe she would take care of him the rest of his life. He didn’t just beg her to come back home, he offered her a trip — but she just threw it back at him. He downs another shot of soju as he cries that it’s all useless — she really has abandoned him.
I’m so eager for when Suk-gyun will finally realize that a few minutes of lowering his pride to ask her back and waving a brochure in her face, bragging about how much it cost, is not the way to prove how much he cares (which I presume he does, kinda, in his own way). If he even stopped to think about it, he should have at least tried to book a trip to Italy, since that’s the place she really wants to go.
But I have faith that Jung-ah will continue to make him (and his old-fashioned sexist ways) pay for all the grief that he’s caused her. She’s a grown woman who can make her own choices in life, and for once she can stop sacrificing everything for her family. After all, her children are adults and have their own family to take care of, and her husband is an adult who should be able to take care of himself, too (at least in theory).
While on paper it may not look like much happened in this episode, it was really full of wonderful small character moments. I wish I could just transcribe all of the aunties’ conversations that were so realistic as they talked over each other and were distracted by arguing over details, but it’s just evidence that this drama is filled with relatable human beings. I can understand Wan’s frustration (although, really, she was asking for it, having gathered all of them together like that), but I do love that they gave her a wake-up call regarding what type of book she should write.
It makes me wonder if Noh Hee-kyung had a similar epiphany, because it almost felt like we were watching her brainstorming process for this drama — instead of a beautiful, heart-warming story, it’s the plain truth about what the aunties’ lives are like. While so many of our aunties’ lives are relatable, they all have their flaws. Sometimes I find myself agreeing more with one auntie one week, and then switching loyalties as I realize this week I side with a different auntie. But every week, I fall in love with them more and more, warts and all.
I suppose technically this drama could be considered “makjang” if we only focused on the plot points and ignored the depth of character that inhabits it. More than anything, though, it’s human drama that gives us a lovely sense of the reality of our aunties’ lives. Everyone’s life has difficulties, but as long as you have love and friendship, then it’s all worth it in the end.