Fight My Way: Episode 15
After years of pining for their lost dreams, Dong-man and Ae-ra are discovering that getting what you always wanted isn’t necessarily a bed of roses. Big dreams require big sacrifices, and it might not be worth it to give up their adult dreams for those of their youth. And if they just pay attention, they may discover that their true dream is something they’ve had all along.
Round 15: “The clown always smiles at us”
After being injured in his fight with Tak-soo, Dong-man’s hearing slowly fades to nothing as he’s talking with Ae-ra. He pounds his head in a panic, screaming that he can’t hear anything, but there’s nothing that Ae-ra can do.
Surprised to find Seol-hee on his doorstep, Joo-man awkwardly invites her inside. Seol-hee orders Joo-man to lie down, and he misunderstands, wondering if they should talk first, hee. But she just wants to put medicine on his burned back.
The burn isn’t serious, but it looks very painful. Seol-hee asks why Joo-man threw himself in front of the flying coal, her voice quivering. Joo-man sits up and tells her softly that it’s not what he wants, but that he’s okay if she dates intern Chan-ho, and that he’ll wait for her.
Seol-hee asks if he really thinks she would date Chan-ho just to hurt him. Joo-man says that he’ll wait for her even if it takes until he’s fifty. Seol-hee says that she’s not the same person she was, and that she won’t fall for his tricks.
She states that in Joseon times, cheaters were branded, so she doesn’t feel bad about his getting burned. She says it’s just his punishment, and that her putting medicine on it means nothing.
Ae-ra and Coach Hwang accompany Dong-man to the hospital, where he’s put through a battery of tests. Ae-ra is told that Dong-man has a concussion that caused him to temporarily lose his hearing, and that he’ll heal and recover fully. But there’s some bad news: There’s a hairline fracture in Dong-man’s skull, in the temporal region.
Landlady Hwang finds Coach Hwang waiting in the hospital hallway. Coach Hwang admits that seeing the flip phone Landlady Hwang entrusted to him made him cry. Landlady Hwang says that the flip phone is the only proof of the truth of Hwang Bok-hee’s real life, asking him to keep it safe. Coach Hwang says that he thought she was a warrior, but now he knows it’s not true.
Feeling nostalgic, Landlady Hwang tells Coach Hwang that she was an assistant at a photo studio when she was younger, because she liked being in front of the camera. She gave it up when she met her husband, but she admits that she never stopped loving acting, which is why she auditioned for a movie. She had to hide the fact that she was married with a child, and she landed the role.
She says that that’s when her life started to go wrong, but Coach Hwang protests, calling her the “fairy in the posters” in his room. Still, Landlady Hwang sighs that the path she chose in life was thorny.
Ae-ra takes Dong-man home, where he does nothing for days on end but lie in bed. He ignores the food she makes for him and doesn’t even change clothes as Ae-ra, Joo-man, Seol-hee, and even Coach Hwang take turns looking after him. He does sit up once and turns on the TV, but when he still can’t hear the dialogue, he lies back down, looking infinitely depressed. Ae-ra refuses to give up on him, and she lies in bed that night, patting Dong-man’s back and singing softly.
In the meantime, Ae-ra’s MMA announcing job is going well, and she’s given a chance to host a television show. She’s speechless when she gets a look at the studio, this being the closest she’s ever gotten to her announcing dream.
At work in the tasting room, Joo-man gets a bit teary as they discuss marketing some lobster. He recalls taking Seol-hee to a fancy restaurant with his first paycheck, excited to treat her to her first lobster. But then she’d asked to go somewhere else, saying that she’d heard that steamed cockroaches taste like lobster, which had grossed her out.
She’d denied that it was about the price, then she’d served her whole lobster to him. Joo-man had said that it upset him when she did things like that, and it was the first time he’d complained that it made him look like the bad guy.
After work, Joo-man gets caught leaving another bag of food and a stuffed animal on Seol-hee’s door, and she tells him to stop doing this. Joo-man begs her to forget the couple of bad months they’ve had in favor of their six good years, but she says that although she misses those six years, she doesn’t want to go back because of the two bad months.
She says that he changed in those two months, but Joo-man snaps that she changed, too. He says that she was always pure and naïve, but that after she met him she became self-conscious, and he always blamed himself. Seol-hee starts to say it doesn’t matter, but Joo-man complains that he doesn’t want to break up.
He reminds her that she said she has no regrets because she tried her best, and he says that he’s going to try everything he can so that he doesn’t have regrets either. He shoves the food and toy at her and runs upstairs, calling back defiantly that he isn’t going to marry anyone else but her, and that he needs ointment on his back today too, or he’ll get an infection and die. Ha.
Before her first broadcast, Ae-ra does a short pre-interview with the fighter she’s going to be speaking with. She asks if he’s afraid to go back in the ring after a shoulder injury, but he says he’s lucky it’s not too bad, considering what happened to other fighters.
Later, Ae-ra goes back to Dong-man’s, speaking loudly to the prone figure on the bed. But today he gets up and embraces her in a backhug, asking why she’s yelling at him. He’s got his hearing back!
Landlady Hwang marches into an office to confront a man who seems very surprised to see her. He says that he’s searched everywhere for her, then gets on his knees in front of her.
Dong-man and Ae-ra go to a cafe, where Dong-man tells her that not being able to hear is like being at the bottom of the ocean. Ae-ra seems upset, asking if he can hear her now, and if his need for complete rest is over. He says he’s fine, so she breaks the news that he has a skull fracture. She says that the doctor told her that it would heal without any need for treatment, but that Dong-man’s fracture is near his cochlea.
If he receives another injury there, he could lose his hearing permanently, so this means the end of his fighting career. When Dong-man doesn’t appear to take this seriously, Ae-ra tells him of two fighters she learned about, one who died from a head injury and another who suffered permanent brain damage. Dong-man argues that injuries happen all the time in fights, but Ae-ra asks why she should watch that happen to him.
With a sigh, Dong-man says that he wouldn’t have started fighting again after ten years only to quit so soon. Ae-ra tells him to do as he pleases, but that if he fights again, they’re over.
Landlady Hwang tells the man kneeling before her that even after twenty years, she can’t forgive him. A flashback shows Landlady Hwang begging this man on her knees not to air a certain show, and him angrily refusing her. Now she and the kneeling man, who it turns out is a CEO at KBC, enter the editing room, surprising Kyung-ku in the middle of editing his footage of Dong-man’s fight.
Ae-ra holds firm to her decision as she and Dong-man head home, though he objects to her blackmailing him just because he loves her. He insists that he can’t choose between her and fighting, but Ae-ra makes it clear that if he fights again, not only will she break up with him, but it means the end of their friendship, too.
Kyung-ku is ordered to show Landlady Hwang the footage of the fight, though he protests that the show airs in an hour and it’s too late to change anything. Landlady Hwang asks if Dong-man agreed to this broadcast, mentioning that she heard that Dong-man and Kyung-ku were once suspect and victim in a legal matter, and she accuses Kyung-ku of airing this show to get revenge.
Finding Dong-man’s place empty, Ae-ra wonders suspiciously if he went to the gym without telling her. At a banging noise from upstairs, she marches up there, worried that Hye-ran is trying to hang herself.
Hye-ran tries to shut the door when she sees Ae-ra, but Ae-ra shoves her way inside. She sees the chair that Hye-ran pushed into the bathroom and her fear escalates, but a pale and tired-looking Hye-ran says that she was just trying to change the lightbulb. HA.
Seeing some bank notices on Hye-ran’s bed, Ae-ra mutters that the rumors are that Hye-ran got a pile of alimony. Hye-ran sneers that she refused her ex’s family’s money. She asks Ae-ra if she thinks she’s won, saying that since Ae-ra knows what she means to Dong-man, she’ll win him back.
After all these years, Ae-ra finally realizes that Hye-ran’s attachment to Dong-man is about her need to preserve her pride. She doesn’t argue, and just goes to the bathroom to change Hye-ran’s lightbulb.
After a call from his father alerts Dong-man to the show about to air, he goes to tell Kyung-ku that he doesn’t give his permission. Kyung-ku refuses to pull it, repeating what he told Ae-ra about not being the same old Kyung-ku, because he’s not that lame or sloppy anymore.
Another flashback takes us to the night that Kyung-ku waited for Ae-ra, soaking wet and holding a box splattered with red liquid. She’d been scared, even when he said that it was strawberries in the box, and she’d yelled at him for texting her constantly, telling everyone they were dating, and even getting her pulled from a show she was on.
Kyung-ku said that if he made Ae-ra an outcast, then maybe she would date him. Ae-ra had tried to walk away, but Kyung-ku had grabbed her. Suddenly, Dong-man had showed up, on leave from his military service, and punched Kyung-ku in the face. He’d warned that if Kyung-ku bothered Ae-ra again, he would desert the military and show up with his rifle.
Now, Dong-man asks if he’s still trying to get revenge, but Kyung-ku tells him that everything will be made clear if he watches the show. Dong-man thinks that Kyung-ku plans to make him look foolish, and all Kyung-ku will say is that without a story, nobody will care about an unknown fighter.
His face growing dark, Kyung-ku tells Dong-man that he caught the truth on video, and that his show makes Dong-man look good. When the show airs, Dong-man sees that from Kyung-ku’s angle, it’s glaringly obvious that when they went down to the mat, Tak-soo deliberately pulled Dong-man’s head down and head-butted him.
Still in the hospital, Tak-soo watches the broadcast and has the nerve to accuse the station of malicious editing. He orders Tae-hee to stop the media from talking, and vows never to fight Dong-man again.
Dong-man’s parents catch the broadcast, and though his mother looks frantic to see her baby getting hurt, his father actually looks pretty proud. Little sister Dong-hee asks their dad to take her to see Dong-man.
The show does make Dong-man look like a maligned hero, and Kyung-ku grins at him, satisfied. The two head to Nam-il’s restaurant, where Kyung-ku proudly shows Dong-man pictures of his ex-idol-trainee wife and beautiful daughter.
When asked why he’s been following Ae-ra around, Kyung-ku admits that his daughter was bullied by a boy who’d said that if he made it so nobody else liked her, she would only play with him. Kyung-ku feels like this is his karma, making his daughter go through the same thing he put Ae-ra through, so he’s been trying to set things right.
Leaving Dong-man’s apartment with a pot of soup, Ae-ra runs into Landlady Hwang, who fusses that she shouldn’t be taking food to men. But Ae-ra just follows her up to her apartment, saying that the soup is for Landlady Hwang.
Seol-hee comes home early from work to find Joo-man’s mom leaving his place. She asks Seol-hee why they broke up, worried that it’s because of herself or his sisters. Seol-hee reassures her, so she asks if Joo-man cheated, and she can tell it’s true by Seol-hee’s expression.
They sit to talk, and Joo-man’s mom tells Seol-hee that her husband cheated on her twice. She says that Seol-hee doesn’t deserve to suffer that way, but that she can’t help but feel defensive for her son, and she admits that she was jealous of how protective Joo-man was of Seol-hee.
She promises that if they get back together, she’ll never come to their house, or make Seol-hee come to family gatherings, or let Joo-man’s sisters call her. Seol-hee says she’s sorry, and Joo-man’s mom shyly confesses that she just doesn’t want to lose her.
Ae-ra serves Landlady Hwang the mackerel stew, full of foods that supposedly fight cancer (since she saw the cancer literature at her place earlier). She tells a story about how her mother made stew out of one mackerel, angry that her father wasn’t a better fisherman, and that her dad liked it so much he opened a restaurant.
Landlady Hwang looks like she wants to cry when she tastes the stew, but she just tells Ae-ra to stop talking so much while she’s eating. She grouchily sends Ae-ra home, and Ae-ra stomps off in a snit.
Once she’s alone, Landlady Hwang gives in to tears. Yet another flashback takes us back to the day when Landlady Hwang begged the man from KBC not to air a program. She’d discovered that he’d leaked to the newspapers that she was a single mother, then had found him watching home video of young Dong-man, Ae-ra, and Seol-hee in an editing room.
She’s screamed that he’d already ruined her acting career and made it impossible for her to be a mother, pleading with him not to air the program. She’d begged him to leave her Ae-ra alone and not to make it public knowledge that her mother became an adult movie star, but the man hadn’t cared.
Back in the present, Landlady Hwang takes the photo of herself and the baby out of the frame, and unfolds it to reveal the baby’s father — Ae-ra’s dad. She remembers going back to see Ae-ra once, asking to sing to her sleeping child before going to Japan. The song she’d sung was the same song Ae-ra sang to Dong-man when he was incapacitated by depression.
Kyung-ku had told Dong-man about Hwang Bok-hee coming to see him, so Dong-man looks her up and finds the old article revealing that she was a mother. He has a sudden flash of memory of her giving him a caramel and asking him to protect Ae-ra in her place. Stunned, he gasps, “Caramel Ajumma?”
Ae-a passes Nam-il on her way back to her apartment, and Nam-il gives an annoyed sigh and asks why she cares so much about his mother. He says testily that he believes people are inclined to be evil, so he keeps wanting to test Ae-ra to discover if she’s truly that nice and clueless. Ae-ra snaps that people are all the same: weak and insecure. She notes that he’s always prickly, like he’s going through puberty again.
Nam-il forgets to retort, remembering that Landlady Hwang once said the same thing about him when he got a tattoo on his arm. He’d yelped when she smacked him, and she’d said that brats with nobody to smack them are pathetic, and she’ll never let him be that pathetic. She’d declared him her son from that moment forward.
He goes upstairs and asks Landlady Hwang if she’s ever been as sad over him as she is over Ae-ra. He reminds her who was with her when she lost her business and got cancer, and asks her to go back to Japan with him.
Dong-man waits anxiously for his dad to bring Dong-hee to visit him. When they arrive, she doesn’t speak right away, but she allows him to carry her to her wheelchair. He notices that she’s wearing the sneakers he brought for her. He asks why she’s still not speaking to him, and Dong-hee grabs his wrist and tells him, “Don’t lose anymore. Why did you make me feel bad for ten years? You were mean.”
Dong-man says that it wasn’t because of her (that he threw the fight), and Dong-hee hands him a scrapbook that she made. She says nervously that she’s his fangirl, and Dong-man flips through the scrapbook to find photos and articles of every one of his fights.
Dong-hee says that it took her ten years to make the scrapbook, then repeats that he’s not allowed to lose anymore. She says that she hates seeing him unable to stand, even more than she hates herself being unable to stand. (Okay, is anyone else crying? Just me?)
A while later, a crowd of people are shown around the gym, and Coach Hwang tells Dong-man that he has several interviews, photo shoots, and a commercial booked. It’s all due to Kyung-ku’s program making Dong-man a celebrity.
Dong-man says that he may not be able to fight again, and Coach Hwang agrees that it’s scary to think about getting hurt again. But Dong-man says that it’s not about the trauma, but that if he wants to fight again, he has to give up something huge.
He goes to see Landlady Hwang that night, but we don’t hear what he has to say. Afterward, he goes up to the roof, where Ae-ra is waiting for him. With a sad smile, she says that she saw the article and that she knows he’s made up his mind.
In his interview, Dong-man told the reporters that when he couldn’t hear, what scared him most was that he might never stand in the ring again. A reporter had asked if he planned to fight again, and after a long pause, Dong-man had said, “Yes. I request a rematch with Kim Tak-soo.”
Ae-ra laughs wryly that this is certainly one way to get dumped. Dong-man takes her hand and says that they don’t have to break up. But Ae-ra says that when he couldn’t hear, she went to church and begged and bargained for Dong-man — not to get better, but to quit MMA fighting.
She tells Dong-man that her grandmother used to pray with her rosary whenever her father was out fishing. She says that even when her grandmother got dementia, if the weather was bad, she asked for her rosary. She tells Dong-man that her grandmother was trapped in that fear for the rest of her life, and that she doesn’t want to live like that.
Admitting that he’s scared of being hit and losing his hearing again, Dong-man says that what scared him most is the thought of going back to his empty life. His voice quaking, he adds that he doesn’t want to go back to not having a dream, and Ae-ra says just as tearfully that she knew he wouldn’t stop.
Dong-man says that it’s not just his dream, but that of his father, his sister, and Coach Hwang. He asks Ae-ra to trust him, but she interrupts to say this means they can’t be friends anymore. Dong-man stares at her for a long time, then agrees that he can’t be friends.
Gulping back tears, Ae-ra just says, “Okay,” and stands to go. Dong-man jumps up to stop her, barely holding back his own sobs as he asks her to stay by his side, but she says that she can’t bear to watch. She adds that she wishes they’d never started this relationship, then she removes his hand from her wrist and leaves.
After she goes, Dong-man collapses onto the bench and begins to sob.
When he’d gone to see Landlady Hwang, Dong-man had asked her, “Please protect Ae-ra from now on. I don’t think I can protect her anymore.” Landlady Hwang tells him that she’s thankful to him, but he says there’s no need. He tells her that he didn’t watch over Ae-ra because of the caramel he gave her, but because, “I think that from the beginning, it was always Ae-ra for me.”
Why does this show have to keep breaking my heart? Dong-man giving care of Ae-ra back to Landlady Hwang just gutted me. He knew what was about to happen, because he knew how she would respond to his decision to fight Tak-soo again. He knew he was making a decision that would cost him Ae-ra’s love and friendship, but there’s something compelling him to finally get his chance for a fair fight with Tak-soo, even if it means giving Ae-ra up. Dammit Moose, you’re killing me over here.
So, Landlady Hwang is Ae-ra’s mother after all. Kudos to the show for keeping it a pretty good secret until the actual reveal — I discounted it because I thought it seemed too easy. But it all makes sense now why she never came back… apparently something went terribly wrong and she was forced to become an adult movie actress, and she’d left for Japan, probably to make sure Ae-ra escaped the scandal. It was selfish of Landlady Hwang to choose acting over her family in the first place, and she’s a good example of how chasing your dream can actually be the wrong thing to do. There are no guarantees that getting your fondest wish will turn out well.
At first I was rolling my eyes at the hinted reconciliation between Ae-ra and Hye-ran, because honestly, I don’t think Hye-ran deserves any pity or redemption. She’s friendless and penniless as the result of the awful way she treats people, and has from the very beginning. But there’s a part of me that’s glad that at least it was Ae-ra who reached out to her and not Dong-man, because it was really always Ae-ra that was Hye-ran’s real problem. All of the years she jerked Dong-man around, it was her way of getting back at Ae-ra for being the one he truly cared for — I really think that if not for that, Hye-ran and Dong-man would have fizzled out naturally after a few months and that would have been that. Ae-ra knows that nothing will never happen between Dong-man and Hye-ran, so if she decides to leave Hye-ran this one delusion to preserve her pride, then I suppose I can live with that.
I’m so torn in regards to Ae-ra’s decision to break up with Dong-man, and even to dissolve their lifelong friendship because he won’t agree not to fight Tak-soo again. On the one hand, I’m very much not a fan of ultimatums, and she’s been saying “Stop or I’m out” for a while now, which makes me just reflexively disagree with her actions. I think that if Dong-man’s need for closure is so strong (and Ae-ra’s seen him fall apart at the idea of losing his chance to set things right, not to mention watching him walk around like a zombie for ten years) then what a true friend would do is to recognize that it’s his life to lead and support him, even if the decisions he makes are ultimately self-destructive. You can disagree with someone’s decisions and not completely abandon them.
But on the other hand, I also understand that as much as Ae-ra loves Dong-man, both as a friend and as the love of her life, she can’t just watch him fight, fearing that every fight will be the one where he gets himself killed. She has the right to decide that she doesn’t want to be there to see that, even if it means losing him. It would be one thing if this was her old “Don’t fight Tak-soo again” ultimatum, but now the stakes are much, much higher. And I don’t think Ae-ra decided to break up easily or in a fit of anger — she gave it thought, and she did what she felt she could live with. In a way, it even feels like she’s freeing him to do what he needs to do without worrying about her disapproving or being angry with him. So yeah — I’m definitely conflicted. I don’t think there’s an easy right or wrong solution to Dong-man and Ae-ra’s impasse.
We’re out of time for too many more major revelations, but I do hope that when Ae-ra finally meets her mother and discovers why she left all those years ago, she’ll realize that by asking Dong-man to choose between her and fighting, she’s asking him to make the same mistake her mother made. And I hope that Dong-man sees that pursuing your dream at the cost of those who love you can be disastrous. There’s got to be a middle ground, where Dong-man can follow his dream of fighting without having to give up the person he loves most in the world, condemning them both to a life of misery without each other.
- Fight My Way: Episode 1
- Premiere Watch: Circle, Fight My Way, Lookout
- Life is rosy for the youths of Fight My Way
- Oh Snap! A friend to lean on when things go sideways
- Suffocating best friends in Fight My Way’s new teaser
- The cute and the petty in Fight My Way’s second teaser
- KBS schedules drama shorts, delays Fight My Way’s premiere
- Finger hearts in new stills for Fight My Way
- Bickering besties Park Seo-joon and Kim Ji-won for Fight My Way
- Kimbap and charged looks on the set of Third-Rate My Way