Manhole: Episode 16 (Final)
Well, we made it. We’ve traveled through time, altered the past and future, and mixed up countless relationships to the point where I’m now convinced that I will always get a slight headache every time I see a manhole. Still, while I may not understand most of the whys or hows behind this adventure, I’ll miss the elusive charm of our main characters and the family they created. We have reached the final hour, and I’m both relieved and exhausted as we take our last jaunt through the ever-lovin’ manhole, all in the hopes that Pil will finally get the girl.
FINAL EPISODE RECAP
Pil tracks Soo-jin and Jae-hyun to the lake house and peers in through the window to see them at the table. When Soo-jin spies Pil, Jae-hyun notices her gaze and turns to look, but Soo-jin pulls him back just in time to distract him and allow Pil to duck away.
Playing along with Jae-hyun’s crazy, Soo-jin tells him to wash up first while she gets changed for bed. Except the familiar suggestion reminds him of how she ran away the last time she told him to take a shower, and he grabs her arm.
Jae-hyun yanks Soo-jin back and warns her not to try and escape from him again, warning, “I’ll find you no matter where you are.” Soo-jin nods mutely, and he relaxes.
A car alarm suddenly sounds, and Jae-hyun goes out to investigate. Sure enough it’s his car, and as he goes to turn it off, Pil slips unnoticed into the lake house. (Ah, clever boy.) Pil quickly gathers Soo-jin and the two of them race out the front door, but they aren’t fast enough, and Jae-hyun spots the pair as they flee.
As Soo-jin and Pil make it to the back lawn, Jae-hyun sneaks up on them from behind the house, holding a long piece of wood. Soo-jin sees her husband raise the bat to attack and leaps to cover Pil with her body, taking the blow herself and falling unconscious.
Pil recovers first and starts punching Jae-hyun. Jae-hyun quickly starts fighting back, and the two men roll around the backyard as they trade blows. Pil manages to catch Jae-hyun’s arm and judo-flips him to the ground, then gives him three solid kicks to the face. (Heh. Karma, bitch.)
While Jae-hyun flounders around, Pil runs over to check on the unconscious Soo-jin. But Jae-hyun recovers quickly and pulls a knife from his waistband.
While Pil continues to hover over Soo-jin, Jae-hyun looms up behind and stabs Pil right in the stomach.
There’s a moment of silence, then Jae-hyun rips the knife out, causing Pil to gasp in pain. Looking stunned by his own actions, Jae-hyun drops the bloody weapon and sprints to his car, driving away while Pil crumples to the ground.
Soo-jin wakes up just as Pil falls, and she pulls his head onto her lap as she stares in shock at the blood spreading over his shirt. Pressing her hand to the wound, Soo-jin calls out to Pil, telling him to open his eyes.
Far away from the blood and mayhem, Pil’s police sunbae is still calling Pil’s phone after Pil hung up on him. Another officer informs Sunbae that Jae-hyun’s phone is back on, and there’s a police car heading to him now.
Returning to our life-or-death couple, Pil gasps out that he’s fine and asks where Jae-hyun went. Soo-jin assures him that he drove away and digs Pil’s phone out of his pocket to call an ambulance. Before she can, Sunbae calls Pil yet again and Soo-jin answers, weeping.
Sunbae immediately starts asking about Pil and Jae-hyun’s whereabouts, and Soo-jin hiccups out that Jae-hyun stabbed Pil and ran off. Taken aback, Sunbae promises to send an ambulance immediately, then hangs up to call the officers tracking Jae-hyun, informing them that he’s on the run.
As luck would have it, Jae-hyun drives past two squad cars just as they get Sunbae’s call. Recognizing the license plate, the police give chase.
Back at the lake house, Soo-jin tells Pil that help is coming and urges him hold on, but Pil just asks if she was hurt at all. Soo-jin says that she’s fine and apologizes for leading him here with her phone, crying that she wanted to stop seeing him because he always gets hurt.
Gasping now, Pil replies, “If I couldn’t save you, I would’ve resented myself for the rest of my life.” He adds that that would’ve hurt far more.
Jae-hyun continues to lead the police on a merry chase, until a wrong turn leads him to a dead end. He tries to escape on foot, but four officers pounce on him, shoving him to the ground and cuffing their elusive culprit.
Back to the tragic couple, Pil murmurs that while traveling through time, he first thought that all he needed was her. Then he came to realize, “When you smile, I can smile. When you’re happy, I’m happy. So you have to be happy. That way I can be happy. All right?” (*Sniff*)
Soo-jin snaps at him for talking like this is the end and begs him to stay with her. Pil’s breath is short as he swears, “Even if I die, don’t think that I’m not with you. Even when you didn’t remember, I was always by your side. Whatever you do, wherever you are, I will always be by your side.”
Sobbing now, Soo-jin says she can’t let him go. Pil slowly reaches up a bloody hand and brushes her cheek, whispering that he can’t see her face anymore. His eyes closing, Pil breathes out, “Soo-jin, I have to see you.”
Pil’s arm lowers, and his hand falls to the ground with awful finality.
Soo-jin trembles at his still form and cries out for him to open his eyes. An ambulance pulls into the driveway, and Soo-jin reaches out to hold Pil’s hand, thinking, “Pil, I love you.”
Soo-jin bows her head over Pil, but suddenly, her body starts fading. (Omo!) Soo-jin disappears completely, leaving Pil (dead or alive?) on the grass.
And… we’re back?! It’s 2017 on Soo-jin’s wedding day, and we zoom in on Soo-jin in her wedding dress, getting her makeup done.
Soo-jin jerks upright, gasping, while Jung-ae and Dal-soo tease her for falling asleep. Confused, Soo-jin looks around and asks Jung-ae what’s going on. When Jung-ae answers that she’s getting her bridal makeup done, she realizes that she’s gone back to her wedding.
Popping up out of the chair Soo-jin runs out of the room, yelling that she has to find Pil.
At Pil’s house, Mom and Dad are grouching about having to go to Soo-jin’s wedding, when Soo-jin bursts in in her full wedding regalia, looking for Pil. Mom answers that Pil isn’t home, but Soo-jin runs up to his empty room to make sure.
Promising to explain later, Soo-jin races back out, leaving Mom and Dad wondering why she’s looking for their son instead of walking down the aisle.
Woah. Okay, so now we jump through time again to 2018, where Pil lies unconscious (but alive!) in a hospital bed. He dreams about the manhole tunnel and hears Soo-jin’s voice reaching out from 2017 as she runs around the neighborhood in her wedding dress, searching for Pil and begging him to appear.
Pil opens his eyes, and the screen splits to show Soo-jin running in 2017 and Pil getting up out of the hospital bed in 2018. Looking pretty spry for someone recently stabbed, Pil yanks out needles and shakes off confused nurses before running out of the hospital.
In their different timelines, both Pil and Soo-jin jog through the manhole tunnel, Soo-jin during the day, and Pil at night. They come to a stop at the manhole and think:
Soo-jin: “Pil. You’re also looking for me, right?”
Pil: “I told you that I’d find you wherever you are. That I’d always be by your side.”
Soo-jin: “Right, I can feel you. We’re in different times, but we’re still together. We’re looking at the same thing.”
Pil: “Nothing can split us apart. I’ll go to you by any means. Just wait a little.”
In her time, Soo-jin nods as though she can hear him, and both of them slowly reach their hands into the space in front of them, closing their eyes like they can feel one another. Above Pil, the streetlight starts to flicker, and when the clock strikes midnight, he fades away.
Jung-ae and Dal-soo finally catch up with Soo-jin, bringing Gu-gil along with them. Shaken out of her space time continuum moment, Soo-jin states that she has to find Pil, but the others snap at her that this isn’t the time since she’s late for her wedding, and they drag her away to her impending nuptials.
Meanwhile, in Jin-sook’s rooftop apartment, Pil awakens in 2017 to find himself tied to a chair. He starts looking around, trying to figure out what’s going on, when Jin-sook strolls in. Remembering the last time he awoke tied up (in the juice stand), Pil tentatively asks if he and Jin-sook got married again. Heh.
Thankfully, Jin-sook just calls him crazy and yells that this is to keep him from ruining Soo-jin’s wedding. Pil stills to hear that and wonders if Soo-jin didn’t time travel with him, lamenting that he came back alone again.
Seok-tae arrives at the rooftop apartment and Pil eagerly looks to his friend to untie him, but Seok-tae just asks Jin-sook if she tied the rope correctly. Pffft.
Seok-tae is firmly on Jin-sook’s side, agreeing that he needs to stay put for Soo-jin’s wedding, but Pil appeals to him, saying that he has to be there were the most important day of Soo-jin’s life. Seok-tae starts wavering and turns sad eyes on Jin-sook, only she just snaps that they can’t trust him and the two depart, leaving Pil tied up.
At the wedding hall, Jae-hyun paces while Soo-jin’s parents fret over their absentee daughter, but then Jung-ae and her boys arrive with the wayward bride.
Seeing Jae-hyun, Soo-jin freezes, remembering all the terrible things he’s done/will do. He walks up to her all smiles and sweetness, but Soo-jin stares at him, horrified. Soo-jin’s mom just laughs that she’s nervous, and then a staff member calls that the wedding is about to start.
In the rooftop apartment, Pil yanks at his restraints, finally managing to fall to the side and wiggle out of the ropes. He sprints of the apartment and is once again running through the streets to find Soo-jin. (Seriously, how much of this show has Pil spent running?)
Pil better pick up the pace though, as the wedding has already started, and Soo-jin is being called to make her entrance. She slowly starts inching down the aisle, looking like she’s walking to the gallows rather than the altar.
Downstairs, Pil dashes through the front doors and makes for the wedding hall. However, it seems this is the fastest wedding ever, as we’ve already reached the “Do you take” portion. Jae-hyun eagerly shouts out his “I do,” but when it comes to Soo-jin’s turn, she just stands there.
As silence builds, everyone starts shifting around uncomfortably as Jae-hyun looks questioningly at his bride. Then, here to save the day, Pil runs into the hall and calls out Soo-jin’s name. (Aw yeah!)
Soo-jin (and everyone else) whips around to see Pil standing in the aisle, panting. Soo-jin looks instantly relieved, and Pil gives his best ever puppy eyes as they gaze at one another, each hoping that the other remembers.
Everyone gawks at the interruption, and the officiate repeats his question, pushing Soo-jin to accept Jae-hyun as her husband. Her eyes never leaving Pil, Soo-jin answers, loud and strong, “No. I can’t marry this guy.”
The room erupts with twitters, and Soo-jin’s parents look like they’re having twin heart attacks. Soo-jin coldly warns Jae-hyun to never come near her again, then delivers a swift kick to his shins. Nice.
As Jae-hyun writhes, Soo-jin drops her bouquet and runs to Pil. He asks if she went through the manhole too, and she nods happily. Soo-jin grouches a bit at him for making her worry, but Pil just smiles and apologizes for being so late. Smiling back, Soo-jin holds out her hand and tells him, “Let’s go.”
Pil takes Soo-jin’s hand and, in front of all their gaping friends and family, the happy couple runs away from the wedding, both of them beaming.
Pil and Soo-jin escape to their lookout spot, and both of them can’t seem to stop smiling. Soo-jin turns serious when she asks if his stab wound is all right, but Pil chirps back that he’s all better, calling it a benefit of time travel.
Relieved, Soo-jin hugs Pil and asks that they never be separated again. Hugging her back, Pil answers that no matter where or when they are, he’ll always be there. He draws back, and they stare at each other for a moment. Then, Pil reaches up and gently holds Soo-jin’s head, pulling her in for a sweet kiss.
…And they keep kissing. (Damn, I think my knees just went a little weak.) The two slowly pull apart and smile at one another, a brilliant sunset lighting up their happy faces.
Then, we cut to one month later. It’s nighttime at Soo-jin’s house, and she lies in bed, checking her phone and looking worried. She glances at a string tied to her wrist, then we follow the string to where it runs all the way into Pil’s room, where the other end is knotted around Pil’s wrist.
Pil paces nervously, glancing at the clock, which reads twenty minutes until midnight. Pil calls out to see if Soo-jin is still there, and Soo-jin jumps up to reassure him that she wasn’t summoned by the manhole. Unable to take the stress, Pil climbs over the balcony into Soo-jin’s room and hops straight into her bed.
Soo-jin whisper-yells at him, but Pil insists, “If we get summoned, we have to go together!” Then he tugs her down into the bed with him. Before Soo-jin can give formal protest, she’s tucked in bed with Pil and holding his hand. She relents in the face of his happy face, but insists that it’s only until midnight.
Pil takes what he can get and cuddles closer, grinning when he hears Soo-jin’s heart beating fast. He brings up his phone, and they both pale to see that it’s 11:59 p.m. Soo-jin clenches her eyes shut as Pil counts down… but nothing happens. Soo-jin sighs that they made it through another midnight, and Pil cheekily suggests that he stay the night anyway.
Soo-jin’s eyes go wide, but then her mom’s voice calls out, and the two spring apart like guilty teenagers. Pil hides on the floor beneath the comforter while Soo-jin jumps up and manages to cajole Mom out of the room. The coast clear, Pil pops his head out of the blankets and calls the whole situation “thrilling.” Soo-jin, however, is less than thrilled and starts whacking him with a pillow. Hee.
The next morning, Soo-jin’s mom moans and groans about Soo-jin running out on her wedding and demands to know how she can keep dating Pil when he doesn’t have a job.
Suddenly, Pil’s voice carries down to them from his room, where he’s jumping around and yelling that he got accepted. Pil runs downstairs, barely pausing to tell his parents that he passed before continuing over to Soo-jin’s house.
Yelling that he got into the police academy, Pil scoops Soo-jin up and spins her around… right in front of her parents. Dad gives an “ahem,” and the giggling couple pause their revelry for Pil to practically shove the phone results in Mom’s face.
Pil’s parents come over and hug him, cheering to finally have a successful son. Soo-jin’s parents hold the stink eye for another moment before congratulating Pil and claiming that they always knew he’d be successful. (Sure…)
Having also passed the civil service exam, Seok-tae packs up his study cubicle when he gets a call from his father and heads to a café. Except, when he arrives, it’s to find that he’s been set up on a blind date. They sit down, and the woman seems nice enough, but Seok-tae clearly isn’t into it.
He just starts to muster up the courage to tell her that he already has someone he likes, when he spies Jin-sook sitting in that very café. He tries to hide his face, but Jin-sook sees him and heads over.
Seok-tae starts to babble that this isn’t what it looks like, except his date comes right out saying that they’re on a blind date. Seok-tae looks absolutely terrified, but Jin-sook merely apologizes for interrupting, then strolls out. With a quick apology of his own, Seok-tae ditches his date and runs after her.
Returning to her rooftop, Jin-sook scoffs that Seok-tae had claimed he’d only like her for his whole life, but then Seok-tae bounds up and starts explaining that he honestly didn’t know about it. Jin-sook tells him it doesn’t matter to her and turns to leave, but Seok-tae has had enough. He grabs her arm and asks once and for all if she’s ever thought of him as a man (as in, romantically).
Jin-sook hedges, but at Seok-tae’s insistence, she answers that there’s a slight possibility. Then she yanks her arm away and retreats inside, leaving Seok-tae grinning cutely.
Dal-soo is playing guitar at his DVD store when Jung-ae runs in with the news that Pil passed his exam. Jung-ae spies a wedding invitation for one of Dal-soo’s friends and she asks if he will get married now that all of his friends are having weddings.
Serious, Dal-soo asks if she thinks that marriage is the endgame for love, and Jung-ae answers that it is, since it means they’ll always stay together. Dal-soo points out that two people don’t have to get married to be together, arguing that marriage isn’t some kind of magic solution.
Dal-soo takes Jung-ae’s hands and promises that for as long as she wants him, he will always stay with her. It’s enough for Jung-ae, and the two hug.
In a distinctly gloomier setting, a rundown Jae-hyun is with his psychiatrist. Looking dead inside, Jae-hyun admits that the medication is helping the mood swings. The session is interrupted when Young-joo enters the office, and Jae-hyun spins around at her voice. With a Cheshire smile, she holds her hand out to him, and he considers it.
Back at the manhole, the streetlight shines brightly as Pil and Soo-jin run up. At one minute to midnight, the two clasp hands and close their eyes, cringing against any potential rainbow lights. But midnight once again comes and goes with not even a burp from the manhole.
They both sigh in relief, then Pil laments that he can’t live with the constant worrying. Soo-jin stomps on the manhole and wonders if they should just block it up, but Pil answers that he has a better idea.
Reaching into his pocket, Pil lowers to one knee and pulls out a ring box. Opening the box to reveal a diamond ring, Pil asks Soo-jin to let him always stay by her side, no matter what time or place they’re in. (Awww!)
Soo-jin looks moved for a moment, then yanks him up and tells him to be “specific, clear, and precise” so she can understand. She starts to rant that she needs fours words, or even just three, but Pil cuts her off: “I love you.”
He says it quickly the first time to get it passed his nerves, then repeats it again, slower. Soo-jin is shocked into silence, so Pil adds on the four words she wanted, “Will you marry me?”
Stunned that he actually said it, Soo-jin holds out her hand and jokingly tells him to put the ring on her finger before she changes her mind. Pil returns to one knee, sliding the engagement ring onto the finger of the woman he’s loved for twenty-eight years.
Pil stands up and Soo-jin pulls him in for a kiss. As they embrace, the streetlight flickers above them, giving a final farewell to its time-traveling duo.
Two years later.
The gang is at Soo-jin’s studio and gathered around Pil as he holds a baby boy on his lap. Soo-jin snaps pictures while everyone marvels over how good Pil is with babies. Then, Jin-sook and Seok-tae arrive, and it turns out that they are the baby’s parents.
When Pil turns the baby over to them, Gu-gil remarks that Pil should take care of any children he and Soo-jin have. Pil immediately turns to Soo-jin and offers, “You just give birth to a baby. I’ll handle the childcare.” Pffft.
Dal-soo calls everyone to come take more pictures, and Soo-jin sets the camera to automatic before jumping in to join Pil in the photo. As the friends pose, we zoom out to see that someone else is watching the happy couple: It’s the aliens!!
The bug-eyed and black-robed extraterrestrials observe the group from their spaceship, one of them asking if Pil is the guy who used their wormhole. Another answers that he gave himself the impossible task of trying to make his unrequited love come true.
The aliens marvel that love is really so important to these humans and find it interesting that Pil succeeded in his mission. They wonder if they should take their wormhole back now, but ultimately, they decide that they should leave it so they can study this “love” phenomenon some more.
An alien asks if there is another suitable candidate, and their spaceship screen zooms in on… Gu-gil. Uh-oh.
Later, at five minutes to midnight, Gu-gil is alone at his pool hall. He calls Jung-ae to ask if she wants to get food together, but Jung-ae snaps that she’s meeting Dal-soo and hangs up. Gu-gil pouts miserably and turns to put away a pool cue, but suddenly fades away.
Over at the manhole, the telltale street light flashes, and we hear the aliens laughing as the manhole belches once more. Now, it is hapless Gu-gil bellowing as he slides down the manhole water slide.
Cut to: Pil and Soo-jin as they walk hand in hand and reminisce over how it’s been a year since they married. Soo-jin hopes that since they haven’t been summoned, maybe the manhole no longer works.
Suddenly, there’s an almighty bellow, and they both flinch to see Gu-gil barreling down. He runs up and frantically rants that everyone else thinks he’s crazy, but they’ll believe him, right?
Dropping to a whisper, Gu-gil says that every night at midnight, he travels back and forth through time.
Gu-gil starts listing how he’s been back to high school and kindergarten, but his friends both start to smile as he keeps raving. Laughing as Gu-gil insists that he’s telling the truth, Pil and Soo-jin both point at him and exclaim, “Manhole!?”
You know, I can hardly believe it I’m saying this, but I actually liked the ending. I mean, I really enjoyed it. I know, believe me, no one is more shocked, but it was like everything the show was missing got shoved into this final hour. Admittedly, it was not a perfect episode, and there are still a few lingering questions regarding the rules of time travel that will forever remain a mystery. Still, this was way more than I was expecting, considering I went into this episode with the same level of excitement as Soo-jin during her second walk down the aisle.
My main concern was how they were going to return Pil to 2017 without losing everything that happened in 2018. I honestly had no idea how they were going to pull it off (especially since the manhole was now blocked again), and I absolutely love their solution: bring Soo-jin back with him. Granted, this means that future Soo-jin will now forevermore be stuck one year behind her actual timeline, but I can live with that.
Pil’s ability to travel through time had originated with his sincere wish to be able to tell Soo-jin his feelings. So there’s a kind of symmetry when Soo-jin’s love confession to him opens the manhole and takes her back. Then, with them both stuck on either side of time, their mutual love and Pil’s promise to never leave her was strong enough to pull him through to her. No, it’s not a flawless solution, and I’m sure if I poked around I’d find more holes in the theory than Swiss cheese, but for some reason it felt right, and that’s enough for me.
I was worried about what with happen with Sir Crazy if only Pil and Soo-jin remember what happened, except it turns out that it doesn’t really matter if no one else knows about Jae-hyun’s psycho tendencies. By going back, Jae-hyun never started using his serial beatings of innocents as an outlet for the rage he suppressed during marriage. So while he wasn’t punished, he didn’t actually commit the crimes either. I’m a little concerned that he and Crazypants will get back together, but maybe Young-joo was right when she told Soo-jin that only she could handle Jae-hyun. I’m just going to hope that they can focus their particular brands of crazy at each other rather than innocent civilians, and leave it at that.
My other worry when watching the last episode was how Manhole planned to wrap up our confusing Jung-ae, Dal-soo, and Gu-gil triangle. I was yet again surprised at their simple answer, which was essentially to not wrap it up. Sending Gu-gil through the manhole is brilliant, since it now sheds a whole new light on their past exchanges. Before, it was just a confusing mash of mixed signals and constant confusion as to why we even had this subplot.
Now, however, it’s the perfect backdrop for another manhole excursion, this time with Pil and Soo-jin there to give Gu-gil some pointers. Admittedly it’s not a completely satisfying conclusion, since instead of answering our remaining questions about these pesky aliens and their manhole, it sidesteps them entirely by implying that adventure continues with Gu-gil, and he’ll have to find the answers himself.
But while I still don’t have my answers, I’m just so taken with how clever the show was to find an ending that didn’t need to answer the questions that I don’t even care. After the subpar plotlines and constantly inconsistent characters, this crafty finale is a lot like getting outsmarted by a little kid: You can’t get mad because they are right, and you’re so shocked that you can only tell them “Good job,” while wondering what the heck just happened.
I may be in the minority regarding the ending (and it’s entirely possible that I’m subconsciously trying to convince myself that I like it as a way to justify sitting through the last fifteen hours of the show), but right or wrong, I ended the last scene smiling, which is far more than I had hoped for. So farewell, Pil. It’s been… an interesting ride, and I hope you and Soo-jin find the happy ever after that you worked so hard for. But maybe stay away from manholes for a while longer – you know, just in case.
- Manhole: Episode 1
- Premiere Watch: Manhole, Live Up to Your Name
- Jaejoong goes back to high school for Manhole
- Manhole gang’s funky new character posters
- Manhole goes retro for the ultimate beach holiday
- UEE and Jaejoong cozy up under the sun in new Manhole stills
- Cast of Manhole throws dignity out the window for new dance teaser
- First look at Jaejoong’s time-slip rom-com Manhole
- News bites: July 1, 2017
- Baro up for Jaejoong and UEE’s time-slip rom-com Manhole