Dear My Friends: Episode 6
Mother-daughter relationships are at once beautiful, complex, and heart-breaking. Parents are fallible and children imperfect, and navigating these relationships as one grows further into adulthood only becomes more confusing. Perhaps, like Nan-hee and Wan, there could be an equitable camaraderie, or perhaps, like Jung-ah and Soon-young, there could be carefully maintained boundaries built to protect each other. But when those boundaries break, one should be prepared for the flood (of tears).
EPISODE 6: “The road you which can go back on and the road you cannot.”
Crouched in a corner as she seeks shelter from the rain, Wan remembers all the happy times and promises made with Yun-ha. She also vividly remembers the moment he was hit by a truck. It was for this reason she called Dong-jin — she’s desperate to have someone help her rid her of those memories that won’t stop playing in her mind.
As he gently kisses her, Young-won and Hee-ja watch from around the corner. When Nan-hee pulls up, her spirits high due to her enjoyable dinner (and drinks!) with her cute musician, the aunties quickly intervene so she won’t see her daughter kissing a married man.
Hee-ja is bewildered by Seung-jae’s cute way of saying “good night,” calling up her son Min-ho to try and understand what it means. She also calls up Jung-ah, waking her up to discuss the meaning of the “good night,” but Jung-ah doesn’t understand why she’s making such a big deal out of it. Still, she’s a good friend, and lets Hee-ja rant and rave about how much she totally doesn’t like Seung-jae, falling asleep with the phone next to her ear.
The other aunties have settled in at Nan-hee’s for the evening, and while Young-won inspects all of Nan-hee’s knickknacks, Nan-hee tipsily delights in telling Choong-nam about her evening with her musician customer. The aunties are adorable as they act like any group of female friends having a sleepover.
Dong-jin escorts the weary Wan back home. She tells him he should leave, then suddenly changes gears and invites him in for a cup of tea. He offers to make some coffee while she showers and gets cleaned up after being drenched in cold rain. While he prepares the coffee, he sees the photos of her and Yun-ha.
But his spirit is light as they watch Casablanca together, sipping the warm coffee. Wan’s also in a much better mood, but she hesitates as she tries to figure out how to bring up the subject of what just happened. Dong-jin cuts her off, pleasantly telling her to just watch the movie since it will make her feel better and ruffling her hair like she’s a little kid.
He stands up to leave and Wan calls after him. She can only say she’s sorry, but Dong-jin understands the deeper implication. From her window, she watches him walk down the street and internally apologizes for thoughtlessly using Dong-jin to try and forget Yun-ha. At that moment, Yun-ha tries calling her, but she ignores it. She mentally tells Dong-jin that this it — it’s officially over.
The next morning, Hee-ja is still obsessed about Seung-jae’s comment, even calling Gi-ja to figure if he still likes her. She insists that she’s no longer interested since she’s an old lady, but he surprises her by greeting her as she’s walking up to the church. Hahaha, at his “good morning, kid,” she actually turns around, trying to figure out who he’s talking to. After all, she’s no “kid” — she’s an old lady.
The aunties’ gossip mill is in fine form as everyone is concerned about the love-triangle between Hee-ja, Seung-jae, and Choong-nam, and the disastrous repercussions that it could mean for their group of friends.
Seung-jae is volunteering to help clean up the church facilities, and even though one of the church ladies flirts with him (the one who’d warned Hee-ja that Seung-jae was a devilish playboy), he’s primarily focused on helping Hee-ja. He finds her gagging in a bathroom, trying to clean a filthy toilet. He knows it’s too much for the fastidious Hee-ja and takes over so she can have a break.
Back at Nan-hee’s house, Choong-nam studies all the photos of Wan that are set out. Wan was quite the accomplished child, studying dance, sports, and music — anything Nan-hee asked of her. In fact, she became a writer to fulfill Nan-hee’s own personal dream of writing. Nan-hee proudly says that Wan was the reason she survived through the times of her husband having an affair and her alcoholic father beating her mother.
Wan arrives just then, for no real reason except because she missed her mother. Choong-nam watches them carefully, knowing what happened last night with Dong-jin and how much it would crush Nan-hee to find out about it. She suddenly asks Wan how much she loves her mother, and Wan says so much so that it’s a burden. That’s all Choong-nam needs to hear.
Young-won takes Soon-young to the doctor’s office, where he sets her fractured wrist. He also tells Young-won that Soon-young’s injuries are severe and that she’s been suffering from them for quite some time.
Worried, Young-won asks why Soon-young hasn’t told her parents about what’s happened. Soon-young admits that she’s bitter towards her father, but knows her mother did the best she could raising another woman’s child and doesn’t want to burden her. Jung-ah calls just then, and Soon-young ignores it, leaving Jung-ah to assume that her daughter is still angry at her.
The church volunteers gather in a prayer circle, holding hands as they reflect on their thoughts during volunteering. Flirty church lady heaps on the praise for Seung-jae’s efforts, but he’s just happy to be holding Hee-ja’s hand — or at least her pinky, which is all she’ll allow.
When it’s her turn, Hee-ja simply admits that it was very hard work her her, much to the amusement of everyone else chuckling at the straight-forward old lady. Afterwards, Seung-jae tries to be friendly (while still calling her “kid”), attempting to give her a snack and offering her a ride home.
But as he rushes off to get his car, Hee-ja watches him in amazement, surprised that he’s so gullible. When he pulls up to the entrance of the church, she’s long gone. He just laughs it off, though, amused that she’s just as charming as ever.
Choong-nam is dying to talk to someone about Seung-jae, but Young-won has her hands full in dealing with Soon-young and Jung-ah. Choong-nam also worries about what to do with Wan, and hesitantly begins a text to Nan-hee that tells her she saw Wan kissing a married man.
Jung-ah is delighted to have Young-won visit, apologizing for her humble hospitality. She thinks it’s just a friendly visit and happily recounts the evening spent at the colatec. Young-won carefully tries to bring up the subject of Soon-young, but that just reminds Jung-ah that her daughter sent her a picture of her with her grandmother (Jung-ah’s mother), acting as if everything is all right. Jung-ah considers Soon-young to be her best daughter.
Young-won asks where Suk-gyun is, and Jung-ah says he’s with Soon-young’s husband — he’s the favorite son-in-law, after all. Ooof.
Suk-gyun happily accepts Soon-young’s husband’s generosity as he buys his father-in-law a jacket, but Soon-young’s husband is just relieved to know that Jung-ah hasn’t tried to come back to the house or been in contact with Soon-young.
Afterwards, Suk-gyun visits his older brother at his store — it’s the one where he left a packet of money a few episodes ago. He shows off the jackets he got, making sure his older brother gets the better one.
Back at home, Jung-ah looks through the photos of Soon-young’s injuries. She bursts into tears, weeping for her daughter while Young-won quietly pats her on the back. Suddenly gathering herself together, she tells Young-won they need to go see Soon-young.
She’s at a cafe with a friend, figuring out how they can move to America. Soon-young is happy and smiling as they make their plans. Watching from a car outside, Jung-ah blames herself. Early in her marriage, she had told her mother that her husband’s temper scared her. But Jung-ah just told her that all men are like that and not to worry about it.
Since she didn’t bring it up again, Jung-ah thought everything was fine. Young-won tells Jung-ah to help Soon-young get a divorce — it’s not like it was in the old days, where they just endured. Her injuries are too severe for her to stay with her husband.
Suk-gyun drunkenly staggers home after his night out with his son-in-law and his brother. He’s annoyed that Jung-ah isn’t there to answer the door, but when he enters, he finds her sitting on the sofa, still in her jacket, staring out the window. He chides her for not opening the door, and she simply tells him that Soon-young is getting a divorce.
He laughs it off as ridiculous. Why would Soon-young want to leave her perfect husband — the professor who makes good money while Soon-young just stays home and does nothing? He calls Soon-young spoiled and delusional, just like her mother.
Jung-ah slaps him, telling him that yes, Soon-young does unfortunately take after her, having kept quiet for so long like she did. She throws the pictures in face, yelling that it’s all her fault. She rips up his new jacket — the gift from Soon-young’s husband — before retreating to the bedroom where her gut-wrenching sobs can be heard. Dazed, Suk-gyun picks up the photos and stares at the evidence of his daughter’s abuse.
At Granny’s farm, Nan-hee wakes Wan up to enjoy the sight of Grandpa being Granny’s little duckling, unable to keep his eyes off of her. It’s cute and good for a laugh, until Wan watches her uncle settle himself into his wheelchair, which reminds her of Yun-ha.
As he stumbles out of bed, Suk-gyun tells Jung-ah that she doesn’t need to make him breakfast — he’s not hungry. Without responding or even acknowledging his presence, she finishes her ablutions and returns the bedroom.
Instead of going to work, he takes the bus to the university, asking where the professor is. When Suk-gyun finds Soon-young’s husband’s office, he rips the nameplate off the door (okay, the bastard gets a name: Oh Sae-oh) and barges in.
Suk-gyun starts to beat up Sae-oh using whatever he can get his hands on, throwing down the photos of the injured Soon=young to explain his actions. But Sae-oh angrily fights back, pinning his father-in-law against the wall. He takes a photo of the very small injury on his face that Suk-gyun gave him, and also shows photographic evidence that Soon-young was spending time with other men.
Suk-gyun says those are just her students that she tutors, but Sae-oh doesn’t care. He knows that his wife was sexually promiscuous at a young age, blaming Suk-gyun for not acting like a real father to protect her.
Suk-gyun remembers the day when young Soon-young came to him in tears, telling him about how his boss’ son had molested her. Suk-gyun had angrily blamed her for somehow “asking for it,” ignoring her heart-broken protests that she did nothing wrong.
Back in the present day, Sae-oh throws Suk-gyun across the room, admitting that he did hit his wife, but there’s no way that anyone can prove that he’s responsible for Soon-young’s injuries. Sae-oh leaves, confident he has the upper hand, while Suk-gyun, now suddenly seeming more like a weak old man than ever before, tries to gather himself and Soon-young’s photos.
Or maybe he isn’t as weak as he looks, as he drags a iron pipe over to Sae-oh’s car and smashes the hell out of it. So satisfying. But it also means he’s taken away to the police station, and as rides in the patrol car, he listens to Sae-oh’s confession that he’d secretly recorded on his phone.
As she sits in Soon-young’s tiny room, Jung-ah feels regret for how she raised her adopted daughter. She apologizes, admitting that even though it was wrong, she did prefer her biological children over Soon-young. As she breaks down crying, she asks Soon-young why she couldn’t come to her if she wasn’t having problems.
Soon-young remembers her wedding day, and how relieved Jung-ah seemed to be that now her duty as a mother was over. She knows that Jung-ah’s live hasn’t been easy either, what with her abusive in-laws and miscarriages. Soon-young was determined to not make her mother’s life more difficult, preferring to hide anything that was bothering her.
But Jung-ah can’t let it go — she’s ready to tear Sae-oh to shreds for how he’s treated Soon-young, but Soon-young doesn’t want to sue him like Jung-ah suggests. She just wants to escape and live a free and peaceful life. The two women cry as they hold each other.
Jung-ah treats her daughter to lunch, and Soon-young says it’s the most delicious thing she’s had in a long time. She reassures Jung-ah that her plans to move to America make her happy. Jung-ah supports her, but it’s difficult to eat as she stifles her urge to cry.
Instead of returning home, Jung-ah goes to Hee-ja’s. Her friend tries to be attentive and hospitable, knowing that something is wrong, but Jung-ah stubbornly refuses to talk and instead just stares at the tv. Eventually Jung-ah tells her that Soon-young is being abused by her husband.
Worried, Hee-ja asks what they should do, but Jung-ah just hides her face as she cries. The two friends cling to each otehr as Jung-ah continues to cry.
The next morning, the aunties head out to visit Jung-ah’s mother (and Hee-ja gently wipes the tears from Jung’ah’s eyes as she drives) while Wan explains in a voice-over that someone once said we’re all wanderers down this road of life, and the road is split between one you can turn back on and one you can’t — there is a clear division between the two. Even if you passed some roads, you can go back over them and get the same sense of excitement, hope, and wonder — just like how Choong-nam feels about Seung-jae.
But then there are others where the road is blocked and you couldn’t go back, even if you wanted to. Such as in the case of Suk-gyun and Soon-young. As she watches her grandparents work in the field, Wan wonders what road her they are on. Then when her phone rings, she wonders what road she and Yun-ha are on — can they go back, or should they stop? She doesn’t answer his call, and his new CD salesgirl friend brings him his coffee.
Suk-gyun and Soon-young quietly eat lunch, but he breaks the silence by asking if it’s true she’s really going to America. He asks her to visit, and tells her to have a good life, forgetting everything. She’s defensive, asking if she’s just supposed to forget because he told her to. He pays for their meal and leaves, asking for her to keep in touch.
Her resentment is clear once it’s revealed that in order to get her father released from jail, she had to use the money she’d saved to get a divorce and then set up shop in America. In a voice-over, Wan tells us that Suk-gyun sent her off without even an apology, which is how his true feelings were kept hidden.
Flashback to a young Suk-gyun beating the crap out of his boss’ son that molested his daughter. Wan says that he knew his actions would get him fired, but he couldn’t tell Soon-young he was sorry or how he really felt. He grew up in a time when parents didn’t apologize to their children. Besides, what could he say? That he hated being poor more than the rich boy who sexually assaulted his daughter? He was a fool.
Later, when he passes away, Wan will tell Soon-young everything. Wan confesses that she learned that life doesn’t end even after you die — reconciliation is still possible after death. But for now, Suk-gyun calls Seung-jae, asking if he’s still a lawyer — there’s someone he wants to kill.
Wan helps the aunties and Jung-ah’s mother into the car as they head off to the seaside for the day. Everyone is happy to be giving Jung-ah’s mother a day out, but as she squeezes Jung-ah’s hand, she realizes that this will be the last day they have together.
While Hee-ja hunts for sea shells and Wan and Nan-hee play around in the sand, Jung-ah wheels her mother along the pier. She points out all the birds flying free. Hee-ja arrives to give Jung-ah’s mother one of her seashells, and as she tucks it into her aged hands, the fingers don’t fully grasp it.
That’s when she realizes something is wrong — Jung-ah’s mother has just sweetly and silently passed away. Everything seems to stop for Jung-ah as she gazes down at her mother, and she sounds like a young girl as she continues to point out the birds. Crying, Hee-ja watches as Jung-ah clings to her mother, while Nan-hee and Wan continue to laugh and play-wrestle, full of life on the beach.
As she wraps her arms around her, Jung-ah holds her mother’s hands one last time as a bird flies free across the ocean.
I’m tempted to remain just curled up in a ball, sobbing, and let that be my commentary, but I think I’ve gathered myself enough together to use actual words. At least I’ll try.
There’s something so heart-breaking about the the sins of the mothers being passed down to their daughters. It’s narratively poetic, to be sure, but it’s also crushingly true-to-life. Watching Jung-ah realize that her daughter tried to put up with years of abuse because she didn’t want to burden her mother, because she was told “all men are like that, you just have to learn to deal with it,” because she didn’t feel strong enough to leave — just like her mother — is agonizing.
So, too, is the realization that Jung-ah is not only the mother in this situation, but also the daughter. Like her mother before her, she’s living a trapped life, devoted to taking care of her family even though her spirit longs to soar free like a bird on the wind. Na Moon-hee definitely deserves some sort of an award for her role, because she can go from one moment of making me laugh with her unabashed joy, to making me weep in empathy as her character struggles with the pangs of grief.
I’m far younger than any of the aunties (and even younger than Wan), and while I’ve not experienced life the way they have, their emotions are universal and ageless. I can be giddy with Choong-nam and her revived crush, knowing exactly how it feels to get a text message from a special someone and want to tell everyone about it. I can be confused with Hee-ja, bewildered by the attentions from someone she’s long dismissed, and wanting to dissect every little detail with her girlfriends to know what’s really going on. I can sigh with Young-won as she tirelessly works to keep the friendship group running smoothly, making the difficult decisions of when to step in and intervene, and when to let it be.
I feel for Wan, who’s had to deal with the trauma of watching the person she loves get run over by a truck, which, if that wasn’t terrible enough, resulted in the promise of a beautiful relationship being cut off with no warning. Maybe it was heartless of her to break up with Yun-ha, but if every time she looked at him she vividly recalled the day of his accident, I can’t really blame her. Although I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of Dong-jin, I do respect her for realizing she was using her old boyfriend to help fill a void in her heart that she wasn’t willing to face on her own.
As for Suk-gyun, well… I knew it was coming, didn’t I? I knew the show would reveal he might be more sympathetic than I cared for him to be, and here it is. While I still wish he’d be kinder to his family and the people in his life, that’s simply not how he was raised. His way of showing he cares is by providing for his family, which he’s worked very hard at all his life. He’s not perfect, and I don’t forgive him for everything, but he’s not the heartless monster he was first presented to be. Perhaps his choice in physical retaliation in respect to defending his family isn’t the wisest, but I sure got a lot of satisfaction watching him destroy Sae-oh’s car.
Relationships are messy, and complicated, and even if you try really hard, you can fail at them. But life isn’t a pass-fail test — as Wan points out, there are many routes that one must take in one’s life. Some roads may be easier than others, and some may take you on a wild detour, but in the end, somehow you will reach your destination, even if it wasn’t where you originally planned to be.
- Dear My Friends: Episode 5
- Dear My Friends: Episode 4
- Dear My Friends: Episode 3
- Dear My Friends: Episode 2
- Dear My Friends: Episode 1
- Go Hyun-jung suffers third-degree burn, filming pauses on Dear My Friends
- Love triangles and mother-daughter wars in Dear My Friends
- Daniel Henney makes guest appearance in Dear My Friends
- Seniors Over Flowers in warm human drama Dear My Friends