While You Were Sleeping: Episodes 19-20
This is a surprisingly feel-good hour, despite the number of times I cried. It’s one of those laugh-cry-laugh situations where you just feel all of the feelings and then it’s over, and you have no idea how you did so many emotional cartwheels back to back. This show is definitely at its best when our characters’ lives hang in the balance. Too bad for them, yay for us.
EPISODE 19: “Boy Meets Girl”
The Olympic archer’s father sticks his hunting rifle out his car window and guns Jae-chan down in the street, right in front of Hong-joo’s eyes. As she runs over to him in a panic, the archer’s father speeds away looking determined, and we see that the set of pictures that Yoo-bum gave him also feature Woo-tak and Hak-young. Nooooo, not Batman!
As Jae-chan gets loaded onto the ambulance, Woo-tak’s partner arrives and Hong-joo gives him the license plate of the shooter.
But he’s already caught up to Woo-tak and Hak-young, who have just had a round of drinks together. They start to cross the street when the archer’s father spots them and speeds up, aiming to run them over.
Woo-tak sees the car first and pushes Hak-young out of the way, and they fall over in the crosswalk just in time to not get hit. But the old man sees that he missed and turns his car around, and this time the boys are helplessly lying on the ground as the car speeds toward them…
Just before they become roadkill, police cars cut off the car’s path and surround the shooter on all sides. Oh phew. Woo-tak’s partner checks to make sure he’s okay, and then the cops close in on the shooter, but by the time they open the car door, he’s unconscious.
Hong-joo runs alongside the gurney in tears as Jae-chan gets wheeled into the emergency room. She’s beside herself with worry, and he fades in and out of consciousness, seeing her crying and pleading by his side as the doctors work on him.
He thinks back to their youth and says to himself, “You were Chestnut. Why didn’t I recognize you? There’s something I want to say to you, more than ‘I never forgot that day 13 years ago,’ more than ‘I’m happy to see you again.’ Something I want to say more than that…I’m sorry.”
And in that moment, he flatlines. Hong-joo wails for him not to die, and he thinks to himself that he shouldn’t have said those things. He remembers that day on the subway platform when he’d told Hong-joo that he wouldn’t take responsibility for his dreams, refusing to carry the guilt of not being able to change the future.
He thinks now that it was a hurtful thing to say to someone who had carried this guilt her whole life, and he regrets it. “If this is the end, I worry that you’ll blame yourself again endlessly,” he thinks. He imagines himself just smiling and accepting her umbrella that day, and says to himself that it’s what he should have done.
“No, I have to tell you that I’m sorry,” he decides, and as a tear trickles down his face, his pulse returns on the monitor. The doctor tells the team to prep for surgery, and Hong-joo finally begins to breathe again.
News of the shooting gets broadcast, and Mom drops everything and runs out of the restaurant. Yoo-bum sees the same news and looks… conflicted? It’s hard to know with him.
Outside the operating room, Seung-won paces frantically, and seeing a doctor run past them with more bags of blood just brings on a fresh bout of tears. Woo-tak tries to get him to sit down, though he doesn’t listen.
Hong-joo’s hands are trembling, but she looks over at Seung-won and makes a decision. She holds his hand and brings him over to the bench, where she says gently that his bruised face is going to make his brother more worried than he is. Ugh, this is the part that’s making me cry, her being a mom to him.
She heads out to get bandages, and on her way back she looks down at her shaking hands and remembers how she’d insisted to her mom that she could change the future. Mom finds her like this in the lobby, and Hong-joo cries, “You were right, I couldn’t change it! No, I did change it. I changed it… and it got worse!”
She breaks down, asking Mom what if Jae-chan ends up like Dad, and Mom holds her as she sobs.
Mom tells her not to think that way, but Hong-joo cries that the surgery won’t end. Thankfully Woo-tak comes running up to tell them that the surgery just ended and Jae-chan will be okay.
Hong-joo grabs his sleeves and makes sure he’s not lying to her, and when he reassures her again, relief washes over her and she faints. Woo-tak picks her up in his arms and carries her back.
At the prosecutor’s office, Hyang-mi divides up Jae-chan’s caseload among the other office managers, who are all in shock over the shooting. They comment that it’s not even America, wondering how he got a gun (god, what an embarrassing but true point of reference). They say that it was a personal hunting rifle that was supposed to be stored at the local police station.
Hyang-mi suddenly bursts into tears, clearly worried about Jae-chan, but she pretends that they’re happy tears about dumping her work onto everyone else.
Hong-joo wakes up in bed to Mom hovering over her in worry. Hong-joo’s only thought is to race back to the hospital, but Mom says Jae-chan is in recovery and they aren’t allowed in until visiting hours start, so she makes her eat breakfast.
Mom hands her the ring box that Jae-chan had on him at the time of the shooting, saying that Seung-won passed it along, and asks how Jae-chan knew her nickname was Chestnut.
That’s news to Hong-joo since she never told him, and then she opens the ring box to find a post-it inside. It’s the note she wrote and left behind in the hospital 13 years ago, which Jae-chan has kept all this time. Awwww.
Little Jae-chan opens his eyes in the hospital, and Little Hong-joo is there beside him with tears in her eyes. He says, “It was you, Chestnut.” He reaches out to touch her face and asks why he didn’t recognize her sooner.
And then the scene morphs into their adult counterparts, as Jae-chan asks if she remembers him. He sheds a tear as he tells her, “I missed you, for a very long time.” She says she was scared he’d never wake up, and he finally gets to apologize for what he said to her at the subway platform.
He caresses her face lovingly… but then the scene morphs again and we see that it’s actually the chief prosecutor who’s sitting at his bedside, looking very uncomfortable at Jae-chan’s confession. LOL.
“I never dreamt for a second that you were a girl,” he says, and they all gape at him like he’s lost his mind. He refuses to let the chief prosecutor leave, thinking he’s Hong-joo, so he just sits there awkwardly, letting Jae-chan pet his face. Hahahaa, I’m dying.
Prosecutor Lee says it’s normal to hallucinate after anesthesia, recalling how he asked his father for a smoke after a surgery when he was a kid and got a beating for it. They figure that Jae-chan will take at least a month to recover, and wonder where Prosecutor Sohn disappeared to.
The archer’s father is still unconscious, and the detectives outside his hospital room are amused when a precocious little boy asks them about the suspect using very professional jargon.
The same boy meets a young man with a broken arm in the elevator, and when he learns that the man was beaten by his professor, Brainy Smurf offers to report the professor for assault.
When he gets off the elevator, Prosecutor Sohn calls out to him in worry. Well that explains where he learned all those legal terms. Brainy Smurf just coolly offers his mom a fist-bump, and the young man with the broken arm watches them hug with a smile. They’re adorable.
At school, the bullies sit down next to Seung-won at lunch as if nothing happened, now that his brother is publicly in the right and the archer’s father is the lunatic gunman. But Seung-won just picks up his tray and moves over to the next table without a word, choosing to sit with outcast Dae-gu instead.
Woo-tak arrives at the prosecutor’s office in uniform, and he and Yoo-bum are questioned at the same time regarding the shooting. Hee-min and Chief Choi present Yoo-bum with the pictures that he sent to the archer’s father, but he shows zero remorse, pointing out that he wasn’t wrong about Woo-tak and Jae-chan being friends.
Woo-tak admits that they’re friends, and that he told Jae-chan that Hak-young would never kill anyone. But he says that Jae-chan refused to be convinced by anything other than evidence, enough to make him a little upset about it. Yoo-bum asks them to think about it from the father’s point of view, asking how he wouldn’t go crazy to find out that the prosecutor let his daughter’s killer go free because he was a friend of a friend.
Chief Choi argues that they had evidence, but Yoo-bum’s immediate response is, “It could’ve been fabricated.” He says it takes nothing for a prosecutor to change some evidence and drop a charge, and Woo-tak turns to look at him curiously and asks if that’s possible. Yoo-bum replies proudly, “Why wouldn’t a prosecutor be able to do that?”
Woo-tak asks Hee-min if a prosecutor can do that, and she says, “No, that’s something I can’t even imagine doing.” She asks Yoo-bum pointedly if that’s what he did when he was a prosecutor, and he realizes his slip and laughs to cover it up.
Woo-tak asks with a smile if that’s why Yoo-bum gave his client those pictures, because he assumed Jae-chan fabricated evidence like he used to do. Yoo-bum realizes he’s been cornered and asks why this feels like an interrogation when he committed no crime, pointing out that he’s not the one who pulled the trigger.
Hee-min says that he can’t be charged with anything legally, but that a person almost died, and as a prosecutor she can’t just sit by without finding out why he was shot and leaving a record of what kind of person Yoo-bum is.
From the observation room, the other three sunbae prosecutors watch, and they note that Yoo-bum is a frightening person, and that the archer’s father might have pulled the trigger, but it feels like Yoo-bum is the one who committed a crime. Seriously.
On his way out, Yoo-bum asks Chief Choi if he doesn’t want to come work at his law firm, saying that he doesn’t like how he always appears like the bad guy when they meet like this. Yoo-bum says that Chief Choi was always on his side and never once told him that his judgment was wrong.
Chief Choi says he’s right about that, adding, “That’s why I’m scared… that I may have aided and abetted back then.” Yoo-bum looks shocked by that answer, and from a distance, Woo-tak watches them with a pensive look.
Hong-joo comes to visit Jae-chan at the hospital, but finds his room empty. She hurriedly puts some makeup on while she waits, but then hears him approach while she’s only got one eye done, and hides herself behind a curtain to finish the other eye.
Jae-chan comes in with Seung-won and Hee-min, and refuses to believe that he called the chief prosecutor a woman in his drug-induced stupor. Hee-min suggests moving hospitals, and tells him that the shooter was admitted here, of all places.
But Jae-chan says that’s convenient and wants to go there right now to ask the man why he shot him. Hee-min says they already know why, but Jae-chan asks if being angry is a reason to shoot and kill a person.
“I’m going to meet him and make sure he knows before he dies that rage is not an excuse to kill,” he says. That makes Hong-joo think back to 13 years ago, when he’d said the same thing to her about not letting the cop die just because she was angry.
She sneaks out and rides the escalator up and down, which is how Woo-tak finds her, lost in thought. He joins her and wonders why she isn’t going inside to see Jae-chan. But she just asks him if not knowing is better, should she keep pretending she doesn’t know something?
He asks if she can pretend to the very end, and that if you can do that, they say it’s not lying. But are you saying that because of your secret? She’s surprised by his answer, having thought that he would advocate telling the truth. He asks why, and she says he’s upright and good, and he smiles and says she’s right about that. She thanks him for always telling her what she wants to hear.
Woo-tak decides against visiting Jae-chan, thinking it best if he keeps his distance until the misunderstanding with Hak-young’s case blows over, and he sends Hong-joo up the escalator by herself.
On her way to see Jae-chan, Hong-joo looks down at his ring that she’s wearing on her finger… and decides to take it off.
Jae-chan spots Hong-joo from behind out in the hallway, and backhugs her as he asks why she came now.
Except… Hong-joo turns the corner and appears in front of him wearing a similar outfit. Lol, abort! Abort!
Jae-chan finally looks up and spots her glaring at him (and Chief Choi in the foreground mouthing for him to stop, ha) and realizes that something is amiss.
Faux Hong-joo turns out to be Hyang-mi, who looks absolutely lovestruck. Chief Choi trips over his feet to try and intervene and Jae-chan backs away in horror, but the damage has been done, and Hyang-mi is convinced he’s just confessed his undying love to her.
She asks if she should call him Jae-chan-sshi now and hugs him, and he yelps in pain, though he honestly looks far more terrified of Hong-joo than potential death. She just stands there watching him, eyebrows raised, like she’s daring him to continue.
Chief Choi’s attempts to pry Hyang-mi off aren’t successful, and neither are Jae-chan’s tiny cries of, “I think I’m bleeding?”
So Hong-joo finally comes over, and she scoffs when Jae-chan stammers that this is a misunderstanding. She runs with that and apologizes to Hyang-mi on behalf of herself and Jae-chan, pointedly referring to them as a unit. It works and Hyang-mi finally untangles herself from Jae-chan, trying not to die of mortification in the process.
She asks if Hong-joo is the Hong-joo from the samgyupsal restaurant, and recalls what her coworkers said about her being a femme fatale.
Hong-joo, meanwhile, spots the scarf that Hyang-mi dropped mid-hug and leans down to do her sexiest possible bend-and-snap, flipping her hair and twirling the scarf in the air with flourish like she’s in a music video. Hahaha, I love this character.
Once they’re alone, Hong-joo goes right back to glaring, and Jae-chan smiles sheepishly. He notes her bare finger and asks if she got the ring and the note, and she says she did, but pretends not to remember him or the note from 13 years ago.
He says that their fathers were both killed by a soldier and that they met at the funeral, but again she says she doesn’t remember him. He’s confused, thinking of the conversation they had when he first woke up after surgery. But she claims that she hasn’t been to see him until now, and that he must’ve hallucinated it.
Jae-chan can’t sleep that night and tells Seung-won that Chestnut from Dad’s funeral was Hong-joo, but that she doesn’t remember him at all. Seung-won says that it was a long time ago and they only met for one day, so it’s possible that she forgot.
Jae-chan muses sadly, “I remember every minute and every second of that one day, but it must’ve been nothing to her.” Seung-won holds his brother’s hand and tries to make him feel better by suggesting that Hong-joo must have a terrible memory.
Jae-chan heads over to the shooter’s hospital room tries to get past the detectives at the door by announcing himself as a prosecutor. They look skeptical, and then Brainy Smurf appears and demands identification, and rattles off the punishment for impersonating a prosecutor.
It’s hilarious how easily Jae-chan is outsmarted, so he resorts to calling Hee-min in front of them to ask when he can meet the shooter, making a point of shouting his name and title at her. Privately, he whispers an apology for the shouting, and she mutters that he shouldn’t do stuff he’ll be sorry for.
Hyang-mi suddenly blurts beside her, “That’s what I’m saying! Why do something you’ll be sorry for?! WHY?!”
Prosecutor Lee comes to the hospital to see Jae-chan and spots Prosecutor Sohn in the lobby, and she tries to ignore him until he’s literally breathing down her neck to say hello. Brainy Smurf runs up and she introduces him as her son Chan-ho, and when asked if he’s ill, she says with a little reluctance that he has chronic kidney disease. She says it’s gotten worse to the point that he needs dialysis daily, and now they’re waiting for a transplant because it’s the only answer.
Prosecutor Sohn looks out the window at the rain and says wistfully that on rainy days, she used to think about whether she brought her umbrella that day or washed her car recently, but now that her child is sick, she finds herself thinking that on a rainy day there will be more accidents, and hoping that someone might donate a kidney.
She says that the sound of sirens means that someone was hurt, and that someone is suffering terrible tragedy… but to her it’s a straw of hope to grasp onto. As she speaks, a man gets wheeled off of an ambulance covered in blood.
She thinks it’s terrible of her, but Prosecutor Lee pats her shoulder and says it’s not. She asks him to pretend not to know, since she wants to stop having those thoughts at least while she’s at the office.
A nurse returns an earring that was found near Jae-chan’s bed when he was in intensive care, and he recognizes it from his so-called hallucination of Hong-joo’s visit. He returns it to her over lunch, and when she claims it right away as hers, he calls her out on the lie that she never came to see him.
He accuses her of remembering him from 13 years ago too, and she mutters that it feels like she’s being interrogated. She tries to run away with another excuse, so he stops her and asks why she’s avoiding him and acting like she doesn’t remember.
She finally admits that she remembers him: “How could I forget you? You were the person who was with me on the saddest day of my life, and the one who made the day I most want to forget.”
He doesn’t understand, so she says that she almost killed him that day—that she hesitated to pull him up from the water. It was a brief moment, but she says she almost let him die because she was so mad at that ajusshi that she thought it wouldn’t matter if Jae-chan died with him.
She says that when he came out of the water, it was hell, and that she thought she’d killed him. She says that her hands still shake whenever she thinks of that day, and that it’s no excuse, but she had lost someone she loved so much. “The empty space he left behind was so big I couldn’t stand it, and I filled it with rage, and regret remained like a scar. To me, you 13 years ago are a wound and a scar,” she says.
Jae-chan is so distracted with thoughts of Hong-joo that he forgets all about his appointment to meet the shooter, and Hee-min grits her teeth in annoyance. She looks wary when he stands before the dying man with a notebook full of case notes like he’s preparing to argue in court.
Jae-chan begins to outline the evidence, but then he thinks back to what Hong-joo said to him about how her loss was so big that she could only fill it with rage, and he closes his notebook. He says that he understands why the archer’s father was so heartbroken and needed someone to hate, thinking that someone had murdered his daughter.
But he says that he interviewed a lot of people about his daughter, and every single one of them only had nice things to say about her, including prime suspect Hak-young. Jae-chan says that his daughter was kind and loved, and that was the biggest evidence to him that she wasn’t murdered, and he wanted her father to know that.
The old man bursts into tears in response, and his wife stops Jae-chan out in the hall to bow in apology for what her husband did. She asks if he’ll leave his notebook with her, since she would like to hear what he has to say, and thanks him for speaking well of their daughter.
As they walk out, Hee-min asks why Jae-chan changed his mind and softened, knowing that he initially planned to go in there and argue. Jae-chan thinks it over and comes to the sudden realization: “I remembered that I’m not any better.”
He’s already talking about something else entirely, of course, and yanks the IV needle out of his arm before running off. At the same time, Hong-joo dozes off in a taxi, and when she wakes up, she asks the driver to head back to the hospital.
Jae-chan pulls on some clothes and goes running into the rain despite doubling over in pain every few feet, and he’s shocked when Hong-joo comes up to him with an umbrella. She nags him for coming out in the rain in his condition when he had no idea where she was, and he guesses that she saw him in a dream.
She says he wandered the streets looking for her in her dream, getting soaked while he had a fever. We see him going from Mom’s restaurant to her house, bleeding from his wound and barely standing.
He smiles and asks if he found her in the dream, and she says he did, but half-dead. In the dream, she’d found him at the bus stop and dropped her umbrella to run over to him. In the background, the bus has a sign for the movie Boy Meets Girl, and a bus stop poster has the lines from Kim Gwang-sub’s poem “At Night”: “Me and you / Wherever we are whatever we become / Will meet again.”
Jae-chan asks if she saw in her dream what he said to her after they met. Back in the dream, he’d said that he was the same as her 13 years ago—though it was just a brief moment before he entered the water, he hesitated and debated not saving that ajusshi, because he was just as angry as she was.
He tells her now that he struggled with that for a long time, just like she did, and that he’d forgotten that scar until she helped him remember it. But he says that in the end, they made choices—he dove into the water and she pulled the rope.
He asks if he said the same thing in her dream, and she nods, adding that he also told her to stop avoiding him and disappearing when he wanted to find her, calling her Dog Poop like usual. “So what did you say in response?” he asks.
The present intercuts with Hong-joo’s dream as she reaches up to touch his face and kisses him the same exact way both times.
He smiles and pulls his hood back to kiss her properly, and the screen splits in two, showing simultaneous kisses in reality and in Hong-joo’s dream, as they get lost in the moment.
He says with a smile in the dream, “It’s nice to meet you again, Nam Hong-joo.”
And she replies in the present, “It’s nice to see you again, Jung Jae-chan.”
That was a lovely way to use the dream ability, especially since it’s a callback to the first kiss they dreamt that was never realized. This time when dream and reality converge, it hammers in the sense that the moment was fated to be, just like they were fated to meet again and fall in love. Or maybe with these two, it’s more like they were fated to heal each other and save each other, and love was just a natural consequence of that. I like that in this drama, they’re not separated first loves—they feel like old friends who share the same scars, and are thus perfectly suited to heal each other’s wounds.
It was just nice to get a break from the usual cases and focus mostly on the central relationship, and how these two people took their time to reunite. I never thought that Hong-joo had anything to feel bad about when she ultimately saved Jae-chan and the cop 13 years ago, but everything about that time in her life seems to be bundled in her survivor’s guilt over her father’s death, and that was just the start of the burden she’s carried with her since then about seeing people’s futures that she wasn’t able to change. Jae-chan was someone who understood that burden fundamentally, and it’s why he avoided her and the dreams initially, which is why I like the sentiment that he turned around at death’s door because he couldn’t leave her feeling guilty again. I mean, losing her father once that way was cruel enough, and she would’ve broken if he’d died the same way.
Her pretending not to remember him seemed a little extreme to me, but I see how it fits thematically, since Hong-joo sees herself as being the same as the father who was filled with so much grief that he thought to kill. She isn’t like him, of course, but she thinks she is because she considers herself capable of letting someone die, and that extreme point of view helps Jae-chan forgive and understand his shooter. It doesn’t excuse his actions, but it humanizes him, and it also helps Jae-chan remember that he once felt that rage too, and had just let himself forget it. And then there’s Yoo-bum, who is actually responsible for instigating this whole thing and doesn’t feel even a drop of remorse or responsibility for his actions. I’m starting to doubt the existence of a conscience after all, though he did seem at least a little thrown by Chief Choi’s rebuke. Even if he does take it to heart, I’m sure he’ll somehow learn the wrong lesson anyway.
I really enjoyed the comedy sprinkled throughout; it seemed almost like they saved the extra funny moments for the extra sad episode to make it up to us. I especially love it whenever lovey-dovey sentimentality gets undercut with humor, like Jae-chan confessing his feelings to his boss while high on post-op drugs. And I had been missing Hong-joo’s nutty personality lately, so it was nice to see a flash of it return when her jealousy turned her weird, and then to see her be the first to kiss Jae-chan again. Now that’s the Hong-joo I know and love.
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