Go Back Spouses: Episode 4
Everything seems to be going great as Ban-do and Jin-joo both enjoy the simple pleasures of youth, until memories from the future start to creep in on our time-traveling couple. Scars from experiences yet to pass still sting, all the more painfully so when the past brushes up against them with a dash of salt—and by salt, I mean a certain mother-in-law. (Also, my tears.)
EPISODE 4: “Again, my heart beats”
Winter, 1998: 19-year-old Ban-do has just finished registering at his future college and whines to his mother that he doesn’t want to study civil engineering. Registration is about to close, but Ban-do spots a girl running to make it in time. It’s Seo-young, and Ban-do keeps the doors open for her, his reward a broad smile and a thank you. Just like that, he is enchanted.
In voiceover, Ban-do narrates that a thing called a heart lives in everyone’s chests. “It pounds all the time, and makes you embarrassed. It makes us losers who can’t do anything.”
As he narrates, we see Ban-do watching Seo-young from the school hallway as she dances, and he ducks out of sight when she looks at him. He tries to bring her a drink, but on his way in, he trips (over himself, literally), and the drink rolls to Seo-young’s feet.
Jumping up, Ban-do awkwardly shouts that she can just have the drink he dropped before making a run for it. But Seo-young catches up with him and thanks him for the drink, her smile drawing a grin out of Ban-do.
Ban-do morphs into his future self, selling medical equipment to doctors. Ban-do’s narration returns, and he admits that once he became an adult who learned to control his heart, it seemed to stop moving altogether and disappeared.
While he narrates, future Ban-do climbs into bed next to Jin-joo. She wakes at his arrival, but neither turns to the other, scrunched away on opposite sides of the bed.
In 1999, we return to that drunken night club evening, and Jae-woo struggles to get Dok-jae back to the dorms. Dok-jae blames Bo-reum and her drinking challenge for his state, and Jae-woo grins that he thought she was cool.
The dorm gate is locked, and Dok-jae has the bright idea to try to squeeze through the bars. He gets his head through, but his shoulder just won’t twist enough, and he gets stuck. Meanwhile, Jae-woo discovers that the side gate is still unlocked and walks through to the other side.
Jae-woo tries to pull Dok-jae free (and push his face through the bars with his feet), but nothing works. Dramatic music begins to play, and the boys talk as though Dok-jae is a wounded soldier on the battlefield. Dok-jae urges Jae-woo to leave him behind, so that at least one of them will live. Oh, these two.
Jae-woo scampers off and starts to get help for Dok-jae, but he’s distracted by a page from Bo-reum, demanding his presence in room 201 by 2:00 p.m. tomorrow. In his excitement over a potential date, he completely forgets about Dok-jae, who spends the night in the rain with his head between the gate bars.
The next morning, a passing bicyclist stops to see if Dok-jae is hurt, but Dok-jae’s zombie-like rasps for water send the man running.
At Nam-gil’s house, his father harps on him again to either change his major to business administration or quit ROTC for student council. His father is indignant when Nam-gil asks if he’s supposed to learn about exploiting other students on the council, but his stepmother sweeps in to calm the two men.
Stepmom has a late birthday gift for Nam-gil, who accepts it begrudgingly before leaving. His father thinks he should stop giving Nam-gil an allowance, but his wife tells him absolutely not.
In his car, Nam-gil recalls his actual birthday the day before, when he pulled over into the taxi line to take a call from his birth mother. His mother’s not calling to wish him happy birthday, but to demand money. She yells at him, and he yells back that she can’t even remember his birthday. He screams at her to stop putting him in the middle and call his father directly for money, then slams the cellphone down into the seat.
Nam-gil is overcome with emotions and drops his head to the wheel, right when a tearful Jin-joo steps into his “taxi.” Slipping back into the present, Nam-gil wonders what was wrong with Jin-joo last night just as he pulls up to the school, and he passes Dok-jae, who’s still stuck in the dorm gate.
A crowd has surrounded Dok-jae, and help has arrived in the form of ambulance workers with a chainsaw. Dok-jae screams as they rev it up, but everyone stops when Ban-do’s voice emanates from the campus speaker system.
We’ve returned to the last episode’s cliffhanger, as Ban-do and Jin-joo argue in the campus radio station, unaware that they’re broadcasting to the whole campus.
Ban-do argues that they’re doomed if anyone finds out that they were married, but Jin-joo says that he’ll be the one in trouble if his first love finds out that he’s a married man. Ban-do stutters out that he’s not married, he’s divorced. The camera zooms across campus to show everyone listening to their spat, including Seo-young.
Ban-do points out that Jin-joo was perfectly happy falling into a younger man’s arms, and the camera zooms over to Nam-gil listening as well. Jin-joo demands her alimony, and Ban-do says that he’s a poor student who can’t afford to give her anything. Bo-reum snarls at this while she listens.
Not far from the radio station, Seol listens in to the argument, realizing who the divorced couple is. Ban-do gets the last dig in as he tells Jin-joo to stop doing things out of character, like clubbing and drinking. Jin-joo huffs away, but Ban-do has one last thing to say and chases after her.
Ban-do demands that Jin-joo turn over the phone number she collected from the doctor last night, and Jin-joo perks up when she hears he’s a doctor “on the other side.” From behind a pillar, Seol has definitely just heard and seen everything.
In class, everyone talks about the divorced students, but Ban-do doesn’t realize they’re talking about him and joins in on the trash talk… until Jae-woo gets to the part where the man is a cheapskate. Ban-do recognizes his ex-wife’s favorite word for him and learns that the argument was broadcast across campus.
Jin-joo is enduring her classmate’s criticism as well. Bo-reum wonders if the whole thing was a radio drama, which cheers Jin-joo up, but the radio hosts get on air just then to clarify that it absolutely wasn’t a drama. Ha.
In the cafeteria, Jae-woo and Ban-do end up joining Jin-joo and Seol for lunch. The divorced students are still the hot topic, and Seol growls that the guy is a jerk for getting a girl pregnant, her eyes locked on Ban-do. Ban-do is compelled to defend himself and says that the guy didn’t “get her pregnant,” but that they were married, and this only increases Seol’s fury.
Jae-woo comments that both of the students abandoned their child, and Ban-do and Jin-joo both emphatically call that nonsense. Jae-woo thinks the best way to spot the divorcees is to look for the students who are publicly fighting, so Jin-joo and Ban-do make an effort to be overly civil to one another.
After lunch, Jin-joo and Ban-do find a bench for a private conversation and agree to not argue publicly. That agreement doesn’t even last a minute, however, as they start arguing about whose fault the radio broadcast was in the first place. Jae-woo and Seol approach, so they haltingly pretend to be good friends. But Seol’s fiery gaze won’t leave Ban-do until Jin-joo drags her away.
Hyun-suk recognizes Jin-joo in the hall, and she almost slips and calls him a doctor. Ban-do watches as Hyun-suk asks for Jin-joo’s number, and Jin-joo catches Ban-do’s eye before she eagerly writes her number down for Hyun-suk.
Nam-gil tries to blow off some steam in the pool, but he can’t shake Jin-joo and their accidental hug from his mind. A girl tries to catch his attention by pretending to drown, and Nam-gil doesn’t even look as he tosses a kickboard in for her, haha.
The freshmen history students are told to gather in the reference room later tonight for a department event, and Jin-joo glances up to find that Nam-gil is standing in front of her.
In the atrium, Jin-joo thinks she’s receiving a confession, but instead, Nam-gil accuses her of assuming that he likes her. Jin-joo shrugs out that well, yeah, he did ask her out. Nam-gil tells her that he chose her randomly, so she shouldn’t hug him again.
Nam-gil doesn’t realize he’s stomping on a middle-aged woman’s already wilted self-confidence as he walks away, and now Jin-joo is crushed to think that he never liked her, not even in the real 1999. And though Nam-gil put on a hard front, he clutches his chest as he walks away to steady himself.
It’s time for Jae-woo’s date in room 201, which turns out to be where the cheerleading club meets. Bo-reum is a member, and it seems she convinced him to sign up while he was drunk. Ah, so this was the promise he had to keep.
Jae-woo struggles to keep up with the basic exercises, but he’s mesmerized when Bo-reum and the other advanced squad members perform. He can’t bring himself to watch when a male squad member grabs Bo-reum’s waist for a lift, so he’s surprised when Bo-reum then charges right over to the new recruit lineup. Startled, he topples the entire group.
In the ballet room, Seo-young struggles in the exercises, and her instructor accuses her of looking heavy (you must be kidding me). Back in the practice room, Ban-do has brought donuts for everyone, especially Seo-young, but she won’t accept them, citing an upset stomach.
A group of jealous fanboys quiver at the door, but Ban-do just invites them all to join the group. After they’ve devoured the donuts, Ban-do heads for the door, gloating over how well his plan worked out.
He’s almost to the door when Seo-young collapses, and Ban-do rushes back and scoops her up before heading to the nurse’s office.
In the evening, the history department has gathered for their event. It’s a dare to enter the library, which is supposedly haunted by a former history freshman who hanged herself in the stacks. If someone makes it in and finds the red envelope, beer is on the seniors tonight. The freshmen seem nervous, and we jump briefly to Ban-do’s father watching a horror TV show and scoffing at it.
The freshman who have dared to enter the library return quickly and swear that there’s really a ghost in there. The seniors are disappointed that no one’s going to make it this year either, but then Jin-joo decides to give it a try.
Once inside, Jin-joo remembers all the scares from the real 1999, when the seniors managed to send her running for the door. She won’t be fooled this time, and when one senior knocks books out of the bookshelf at her, she sneaks around him and plays the same trick on him.
The senior dressed as the ghost waits to scare her in a line of mannequin heads (seriously), but Jin-joo sneaks up on him as well, and he bolts outside.
At the same time, Nam-gil waits in the stacks dressed as a vampire. He rips off his disguise, thinking that the game’s over, but then he sees Jin-joo.
Jin-joo spots the red envelope on a high shelf and climbs a ladder to claim her victory. But on the way down, her heel catches, and she falls backwards. Nam-gil swoops in like the white knight that he is, and he catches her in his arms and twirls them both safely to the ground.
Jin-joo is the first to pull away, but in her haste, she backs into the ladder, and it starts to fall on top of her. Nam-gil throws himself over her to take the hit himself, earning his second save of the night.
We check back in on Seo-young, who wakes up in the nurse’s office. She swings open the curtain to find that Ban-do stayed with her the whole time, and he now offers to take her out for dinner.
Ban-do takes Seo-young out for meat and soju, but she’s still resisting food. Ban-do tries out a little reverse psychology and says that she shouldn’t eat, since he doesn’t want her to blame him later if she gains weight. He offers her a bite and then yanks it away, and that’s enough for Seo-young to cave. Just one bite, and soon, Seo-young is shoveling food in.
We return to the library, where Jin-joo tries to steady her racing heart. Her attempt at an apology turns into an accusation, and she scolds Nam-gil for not telling her he was hiding, to which he responds, “Then what’s the point of hiding?”
Jin-joo gets up to leave, but she notices that Nam-gil is clutching his ankle. She grabs for it like a mother treating a skinned knee, but he pulls away and asks her why she keeps speaking informally to him. Busted.
Jin-joo ducks under Nam-gil’s arm as he struggles to stand, and she lets him lean on her as he limps out.
At the restaurant, regret has overtaken Seo-young. Ban-do has one last surprise though—he’s bought her a pair of sneakers while she was sleeping, having used her pointe shoes to guess the size. He proposes that they walk off the food they’ve consumed.
On the walk, Ban-do recommends that Seo-young allow herself an indulgence once in a while, and he claims that doctors even say that the stress from restricting oneself is worse than actually indulging. Seo-young doesn’t believe it, and Ban-do almost slips up and tells her that his wife’s doctor said so when she was pregnant, but he quickly changes it to his sister.
The pair end up at a scenic outlook of the city, and Ban-do breathes in deeply, grateful there’s no fine particle pollution yet. Seo-young asks what he means, and he says that it’s famous air made in China, and Seo-young laughs, “Does China sell air?”
Meanwhile, the history students have made their way to the bar. Jin-joo receives a cheer for her bravery, and she waves it off that people are scarier than ghosts. She’s still in mothering mode over Nam-gil’s ankle, and brings him a bag of ice for the swelling. He laughs to himself and wonders yet again why she keeps talking like she’s older than him.
Yet at the same time, Nam-gil can’t keep his eyes off Jin-joo as she cheers and drinks up with her friends. Oh man, he’s officially falling.
At Jin-joo’s table, she notices that Seol’s drinking juice instead of beer. Seol says that neither she nor Jin-joo usually drink, and Jin-joo encourages her to let loose now, since it won’t look good once she’s older. The table cheers, and Seol joins in.
By the end of the night, Seol is drunkenly stuffing fried chicken in her pockets for later and Jin-joo’s face drops onto the table with a heavy thud. Nam-gil’s still watching from afar and winces, but Jin-joo just good-naturedly laughs it off, and he starts to smile too.
Jin-joo sends Seol back to the dorms with the seniors and wobbles off home herself. Nam-gil follows from a distance to make sure she gets back safely. On the bus, Jin-joo turns contemplative and makes a tiny footprint in the condensation on the window, crying as she thinks of her Seo-jin. From the back of the bus, Nam-gil watches this too.
We return to the end of Ban-do’s date with Seo-young. Seo-young’s not convinced that Ban-do’s advice to not hold back in life is good for her, but all the same, she still tells him she’d like to get to know him better. As he sends her off on her bus, Ban-do fist pumps in triumph, but his celebration is cut short when he spots someone on the street.
Jin-joo’s parents, and his future in-laws, walk down the street toward Ban-do. His eyes are locked on Jin-joo’s mother, and he clenches his fist against his bag as they pass.
The next morning in 1999 comes again, and Jin-joo seems disappointed to still be in the past. She looks at her hand, where the mark of her abandoned wedding ring still shows.
Jin-joo washes the dishes against her mother’s protestations. Her mom tells her she can wash the dishes for the rest of her life once she’s married, but Jin-joo argues that Mom will wash them until she’s dead, so she should just rest.
Jin-joo accompanies her mom to the market and encourages Mom to get the grapes that she likes instead of the watermelon that the rest of the family enjoys. Mom forgets to pick up the photos she printed, so Jin-joo sends her home while she heads back for the photos.
Mom arrives at home to find a whole box of grapes at the front door. From around the corner, the culprit, Ban-do, watches. He remembered Mom’s favorite, and now I’m crying.
Mom looks around and almost spots Ban-do, but as she walks forward, a preoccupied young man slams into her and knocks her groceries to the ground. The guy doesn’t even apologize and Mom calls him out for it, and the guy advances toward her like he’s going to start a fight.
But before he can close in, Ban-do arrives and shoves the guy away. Ban-do declares that he’s this woman’s son, and the guy backs down. Ban-do helps Mom pick up her groceries, and she tells him that his mother must be so glad to have him.
At that comment, Ban-do takes us to a flash forward of his wedding. He greets guests with his in-laws and bride Jin-joo, and Mom is just bubbling over with pride for her new son.
An ear-piercing shriek from Jin-joo brings Ban-do back to 1999, and she shoves him harshly away from her mother. Mom wants to explain that this young man helped her, but Jin-joo shoves her inside. Ban-do struggles to take his gaze off Mom, but finally turns to Jin-joo, who asks him if he came here to see her mom.
The camera fades to the future and Mom’s funeral. Ban-do is distraught, and he cries at the altar with Mom’s photo. He says he’s sorry over and over, and Jin-joo comes over and starts to hit him while she sobs too.
Oh no, why does Ban-do feel guilty about his mother-in-law’s death? And why is Jin-joo upset with him about it? Please don’t let it be anything unforgiveable! I want Ban-do to get the chance to spend some of this time with his mother-in-law too.
This typically goofy show has the ability to wring tears out of me every other episode. This time, it was the moment that Ban-do saw his mother-in-law alive again. Ugh, and then when he delivers grapes for her, how is it I’m crying over a box of grapes? But it’s not just the grapes, it’s also the way that Ban-do can’t stop looking in wonder at Mom. Ban-do obviously loved her dearly, something that’s great to see in a vast sea of nagging mother-in-law dramas, but obviously something went wrong when she died. Was he distracted with work? Callous towards Jin-joo? This has the potential to be so heartbreaking. Am I going to end up crying every week? (Good, because I love a little heartache).
This episode did a good job of balancing that emotional ending with enjoyable fluffy moments with the other love interests, and I think it has the chance to leave no one behind in too much heartbreak, while still getting our main couple back together in the end.
Ban-do and Jin-joo not only have the opportunity to give themselves a second chance at youth, but they also bring with them the gifts of life experience and wisdom for all of their friends. Jin-joo can show Nam-gil that he doesn’t have to be so cold, and Ban-do can help Seo-young not take things so seriously and indulge once in a while. So even though those second leads might not get the guy/girl, they might find something even more rewarding along the way. And Jin-joo and Ban-do may find that even when everything goes right with their first loves/second leads, there might have been something really magical between them that they’ve forgotten since life hit them hard.
I actually really like that I’m fairly confident that the main couple will get back together. It may destroy some of the anticipation of the “will they or won’t they” drama, but I think that gives the show the opportunity to swing some more powerful emotional punches on the topics of the larger family unit. The big impacts have been the feelings that Ban-do and Jin-joo have for others in their lives, like Mom and Seo-jin, and I think that it’s an interesting way to address how a divorce can really rock a family.
I’m surprised that Jin-joo can’t seem to see Nam-gil as anything but a much younger man. I was surprised how motherly she seemed to feel towards him, considering she used to know him when he was this age. Meanwhile, I’m starting to wonder if Ban-do is also actually feeling more paternal towards Seo-young than he is romantic. They definitely shared a successful date and he got the opportunity to feel like he did better than all those moments in the past when he felt like a nerdy failure, but those scenes in the restaurant just seemed so much more like an older mentor wanting to help lend a hand to a struggling student.
I wasn’t expecting to get a more well-rounded look at how Jae-woo became a professional cheerleader, but I really like the direction the show is taking in that. A scene that was played as an embarrassment last week is possibly a huge moment in college when Bo-reum helped Jae-woo gain some confidence in himself and find something he enjoys. I’m dreading seeing how they break up, because I’ve already grown oddly attached to this strange pairing.
I’m interested to see what Seol will do with the information of Ban-do and Jin-joo’s divorce. So far, she seems willing to support her friend without actually calling anyone out, and it also seems like Seol is seeing her friend in a new light. And while she may feel bad for the situation she thinks Jin-joo is in, it also seems to be opening her up to consider new experiences as well.
And finally, as for Dok-jae, how does this guy ever find a wife and girlfriends on the side?
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