Go Back Spouses: Episode 11
This is the episode I’ve been waiting for. Buried words are spoken, buried tears are shed, and buried feelings are exposed. Ban-do and Jin-joo have been through a lot while living out their second 1999, together and individually. And it was this episode that I realized the changes they make in this timeline don’t influence their future, but changes in their hearts.
EPISODE 11: “Tangled hearts grow when we ignore and neglect them”
After her mom’s funeral (in 2009), Jin-joo had escaped into the bedroom to cry while Ban-do listened from the living room. The next morning, Jin-joo had come out to find Ban-do sleeping on the couch, still dressed in his suit. She’d glared at him with tears in her eyes, only to let out a hopeless sigh. And later when Ban-do woke up, he’d found that Jin-joo still made him breakfast.
Jin-joo narrates that people’s hearts can get tangled not necessarily because it’s someone’s fault, but because of a situation—and instead of simply ignoring and neglecting their problems, she and Ban-do should’ve tried to fix them. We see that after Mom’s death, they both tried to bury their sorrow and plaster on fake smiles. That, of course, only made their tangled hearts grow bigger, until they finally blew up with that argument that led to divorce.
We go back to 1999, with Ban-do showing up at Jin-joo’s door. Ban-do’s face crumples as he confesses that he missed his mother-in-law too, and Jin-joo tears up too. But before she can answer him, her mom opens the door and asks what they’re talking about.
Mom looks Ban-do up and down and says that he seems pretty young to have a mother-in-law. She asks why he and Jin-joo are crying, and Jin-joo tells her not to get the wrong idea; she makes up the excuse that Ban-do was upset about a friend of his and came to talk to her about it.
Jin-joo urges Mom to go back inside, but Mom, still looking concerned, turns back and invites Ban-do to join them for dinner.
Once inside, the familiar space triggers memories for Ban-do. He remembers sitting down with Jin-joo’s parents to get their blessing. When her parents had jumped to the conclusion that they were insistent on marrying because she was pregnant, Mom started hitting Jin-joo and Dad started hitting Ban-do (hee), until Jin-joo blurted out that the reason was that they couldn’t spend another day apart. Cuuute.
He then remembers sweet moments with Mom when he would secretly give her spending money, and even some heartfelt moments with Dad when Mom had passed away. Dad had cried in front of him, saying he was glad to have a son-in-law since he couldn’t cry like that in front of his daughters. Only now, Jin-joo’s dad is looking at Ban-do like he wants him out of his house.
He falls into protective-dad mode and starts interrogating Ban-do, but Mom tells him to be nice. She encourages Ban-do to eat and even places a piece of fish on his spoon. He looks at her with such sadness, remembering how she always did that for him when he was still her son-in-law. His reaction doesn’t go unnoticed by Jin-joo.
At the same time, Ban-do can’t help but notice the loving interactions between Jin-joo and Mom as they eat. Afterwards, Mom sees Ban-do out, even inviting him to join them again sometime. She asks what kind of food he likes, and Jin-joo surprises Ban-do by naming his favorite dish.
Mom heads back inside, and Dad asks why she bothered walking Ban-do out. She responds that something about him makes her feel sorry for him and wonders why he looks at her with the same sad expression that Jin-joo has had lately.
Jin-joo and Ban-do sit at a park bench, and Jin-joo notices the blood on his knuckles (from beating Hyun-suk). She asks what happened, and he replies with a question: Why didn’t she tell him about her run-in with Hyun-suk?
She says it wasn’t a big deal, but he starts tearing up again as he voices how right she was. He’d always thought he’d be the one to protect her, but now he realizes he never could. Jin-joo sighs at that.
Jin-joo: “Who asked you to protect me? You didn’t need to protect me, you should’ve just stayed by my side. You didn’t need to feed me, you should’ve just eaten with me. If I cried, we should’ve cried and been sad together. No matter how much time has passed, I can’t seem to forget it. I know it wasn’t your fault. I know that you couldn’t help it. That’s why I kept restraining myself from blaming you. But why did you act so lightly? Why were you so light, to the point that my sadness felt like it was nothing?”
She concludes that that was when they started growing apart. All along, she just wanted him to hug her and cry with her. She wipes her tears away and says that that’s all meaningless now and starts to leave.
She stops in her tracks when Ban-do quietly says, “I wanted to make you smile.” He felt so sorry for her and her mother, but felt there was nothing he could do other than make her smile. That was all he wanted, rather than make her cry. She tearfully says that he should’ve told her this sooner.
Meanwhile, Ban-do’s parents are having dinner. Mom is clearly in a bad mood and she watches as Dad spits out all the food she purposely drowned in salt, lol. He demands to know why she’s so mad at him, and she asks if she has to spell it out for him. He retorts that of course she has to spell it out; it’s not like he can read her mind. Pffft, so relatable it hurts.
Back on campus, Dok-jae is off sulking by himself. He grumbles that now his friends are dating, they’ve kicked him away like a can. He then notices an actual can left on the ground and angrily kicks it… only for it to hit a department sunbae square on the head.
The sunbae marches over to him, thinking he did it on purpose, and Dok-jae insists that it was an accident. The sunbae decides to let it go and walks away. Dok-jae curses under his breath and gives the sunbae the finger behind his back, which is, of course, right when the sunbae turns around. Dok-jae not-so-smoothly turns the middle finger into a thumbs-up and then bolts, the sunbae yelling after him.
The next day, the captain of the cheerleading club announces their preparations for an upcoming competition. Bo-reum’s friends are sure she’ll be dancing center, but they wonder who her partner will be.
Bo-reum glances at Jae-woo as he practices (not very well) and asks their opinion about him. Her friends barely acknowledge him, saying he can’t even get the basic moves down. Jae-woo’s face falls in shame.
A large group of students begins their protest to get Nam-gil’s father to resign. Ban-do is watching them march through campus when he spots Seo-young. It’s when he sees the disappointed look on her face that he remembers he’d missed her performance the day before.
Ban-do immediately apologizes, and she lets out a laugh, assuring him that she’s just messing with him—she knows that he doesn’t like her, so she didn’t wait up for him. She merely wanted to give him the ticket since he was the one to introduce her to a new hobby.
He’s happy to hear that she’s found something she can do if she were ever to retire from ballet. He tells her to take it easy, and she says that he should be the one living like that. She continues that he obviously likes Jin-joo and that he’s probably the only one who doesn’t know it, then supposes that Jin-joo probably doesn’t know either.
As Jin-joo arrives on campus, she comes across the protesters and worries about how Nam-gil must be feeling when she realizes he’s walking toward her. However, he’s preoccupied with his own thoughts, remembering how Jin-joo had run off (when she had cramps). “She’s not giving me a chance,” he sighs.
Just then, the protestors see Nam-gil’s father arrive in his car, and they ambush it right in front of Nam-gil. He watches them bang on the windows and throw eggs, an unreadable expression on his face. He then notices Jin-joo trying to wave him away, telling him to get away from the scene. He walks past the commotion by the car and stops in front of Jin-joo to ask if she’s eaten yet.
The two share a meal in the cafeteria, with Jin-joo staring at Nam-gil and wondering how he can hide his feelings so well. She repeats this out loud, saying he should express his feelings, whether he’s sad or angry. That way, she says, people know they should worry about him. He smiles and asks if it’ll get her to worry about him, making her sigh. More serious, he adds, “I don’t have anyone who worries about me. So I’m okay.”
Dok-jae tries to hide among friends, scared the sunbae from last night will catch up to him. But as soon as the sunbae shows up, Jae-woo gets up to leave. Ban-do suggests he just lie that he got his draft notice and leaves as well, forcing Dok-jae to fend for himself.
The sunbae and his friend are ready to beat Dok-jae to a pulp, but Dok-jae panics and ends up using Ban-do’s excuse, saying he acted up last night because of his draft notice. Weirdly enough, the excuse works, and the two sunbaes get teary-eyed and suggest they take him out for a drink. HA.
Jin-joo and Nam-gil walk through campus together, with Nam-gil being very flirty and saying that Jin-joo’s look of concern could make his heart flutter. Jin-joo makes him laugh by shooting back that her look is more like a mother’s gaze. However, his smile drops when they run into his stepmom.
He greets his stepmom with his usual cool demeanor, even when she says that she hurried over when she heard about the protest. She asks if everything’s okay, and he answers, “[He] will be fine,” referring to his father, and starts to walk away.
“Not your father,” his stepmom clarifies. “You. I came because I was worried.” Nam-gil’s expression changes to one of genuine surprise. And next to him, Jin-joo looks at him with a hint of a smile. She takes off on her own and heads to the library, thinking about how Nam-gil insisted he didn’t have a mom when he actually has two.
Jin-joo ventures into the science section of the library to look for a certain book, only to deflate when she sees that it’s not on the shelf. Ban-do comes around the corner and holds up that very book (the one he’d checked out to research time slips), saying that he didn’t find anything all that helpful. A disappointed Jin-joo makes her way out of the section, but she freezes at the sight of a couple making out against the shelves.
She backtracks and pushes Ban-do further down the section, saying it’d be weird if they walked out now. She turns around to face him, only to get flustered by how close they’re standing. They stay like that for a few seconds, until Ban-do’s intense stare becomes too much for her and she has to turn away. Ban-do is flustered as well, but he does take a moment to look at her ringless hand.
Elsewhere, Dok-jae is having drinks with his sunbaes, who offer their military wisdom and encouragement. Dok-jae, of course, plays along, ecstatic that he escaped a serious beating. But when he goes off to the bathroom, he gets a call from his mother and learns that he actually did get his draft notice. (I’m not even surprised at this point; this guy is the epitome of bad luck, I swear.) He returns to his table and grabs one of his sunbaes in a bear hug, crying genuine tears.
Ban-do wanders around town, thinking back to the scene in the library. He’d asked Jin-joo how long she’d had the ring mark on her finger, and she’d answered that she’d had it since she returned to 1999. It all clicks into place for Ban-do, and he takes off running to check out a jewelry store.
He goes through numerous jewelry stores, knowing he and Jin-joo bought their wedding rings somewhere in this shopping area. He finally comes across the store they went to years ago, and sure enough, their rings are there.
After purchasing the rings, Ban-do runs straight to Jin-joo’s house with the biggest smile on his face. He sees Jin-joo step out the door and opens his mouth to call out her name, but he stops when her mom comes out to join her.
He watches the two from afar, his smile faltering as he realizes how happy they look together. Jin-joo and her mom embrace and then go off arm-in-arm to take a walk around the park. Ban-do stays where he is, his grip on the ring box tightening.
As they take their time walking around the neighborhood, Jin-joo tells Mom about Nam-gil and his two mothers. Mom finds Nam-gil’s behavior normal for a kid with divorced parents—if he was so focused on his birth mom, it would make sense that he wouldn’t realize there was someone else who truly cared for him right under his nose.
At the mention of divorce, Jin-joo pauses and then asks Mom what she would say if she were to get divorced in the future. Mom firmly states that she would never let Jin-joo marry a man she thought she might divorce (heh).
But in all seriousness, Mom says that there are things she doesn’t like about Dad, and she’s sure that there are things he doesn’t like about her. That’s just the way things are. Jin-joo sees the truth in Mom’s words, thinking there must be things the other person (Ban-do) doesn’t like about her.
Still, she looks at Mom and wonders aloud, “If you were there, would it have been easier to live?” Mom chides her for speaking so ominously again, and then goes on to say that life is never easy. She believes that everyone has to go through trials and errors in life.
They reach a convenience store, where they witness a drunk salaryman stumble over to strangers and demand to know if they’re looking down on him. The man progressively gets more and more emotional, shouting that people should treat him like a person and not a dog.
The man’s words sound all too familiar to Jin-joo, and she watches slack-jawed as he falls to the ground. “It’s really hard for me,” he slurs. “Don’t look down on me! I’m really trying! What more can I do?!”
Jin-joo’s eyes fill with tears as she remembers Ban-do saying something incredibly similar right before she declared she wanted a divorce. She hears his voice in a different way, like she can finally detect the pain behind it. And then she remembers his confession yesterday, when he cried that he’d always tried so hard, only to feel sorry in the end.
Jin-joo turns to Mom and asks if Mom would make sure she didn’t marry a bad guy. Mom confirms that she would definitely make sure the man Jin-joo marries is a nice guy—someone who would never make her cry. With that in mind, Jin-joo urges Mom to go home alone before taking off.
Jin-joo is full-on crying when she calls Ban-do. He’s out drinking soju alone, but he immediately sobers up when he hears Jin-joo’s wavering voice. Jin-joo: “I’m crying. Should I just cry alone again?” Ban-do assures, “Don’t cry. I’m coming.” Great, now I’m crying.
While out driving, Nam-gil recalls his last encounter with Ban-do, who had merely thanked him for saving Jin-joo (from Hyun-suk). Nam-gil still doesn’t understand why Ban-do would thank him on Jin-joo’s behalf, but the thought goes away when he spots Jin-joo at a crosswalk.
He stops his car on the other side and gets out, though Jin-joo doesn’t see him. A little boy next to her loses his ball and runs out to the street to retrieve it—which is right when a car comes speeding towards him. Oh shit.
Jin-joo doesn’t even hesitate—she runs out to the boy and grabs him. But she’s completely frozen as the car comes barreling toward them, as is Nam-gil, who stands there in shock.
Out of nowhere, Ban-do runs into the street and pushes Jin-joo and the boy out of harm’s way. Instead, it’s Ban-do who slams into the windshield and goes rolling onto the street. Argh, noooooo! Why?!
Jin-joo runs to Ban-do’s side, shouting his name as tears stream down her face. She turns him onto his side and desperately asks for him to get up, calling him “yeobo” (husband) for the first time in a long time. But he doesn’t hear her; his entire relationship with Jin-joo flashes before his eyes, and then his eyes close.
“Back then, if I knew what I know now,” Jin-joo narrates, “maybe we wouldn’t be here now.”
When Nam-gil had driven Jin-joo home from the group’s spontaneous trip, Jin-joo had found Ban-do waiting for her on the steps by her house. He’d asked if she felt better after going on a trip, and she’d answered that she did. She continued that it’d been a long time since her last trip, and Ban-do noted that their time in 1999 could be exactly that.
He thought that their time slip could simply be a short trip for them. Jin-joo agreed, wondering if the heavens had sent them back for a much-needed vacation. “But you know what?” Ban-do asked. “A trip is only a trip if you go back.” She looked at him curiously, only to laugh when he dropped his serious expression and joked that otherwise, they’d be settling down.
What the hell was that, Show? No, seriously. You were doing so well, and then you decide to throw in a last-minute car accident? My number one pet peeve in dramaland? I can’t even feel sad for Ban-do or Jin-joo right now because that ending left me severely pissed.
Because yes, this is an overused trope—the trope of throwing a loved one into a dangerous situation for the hero or heroine to realize their feelings. It’s a trope I actually love when it’s done exceptionally well. But here, it was done terribly. I could’ve lived with yet another car accident in a penultimate episode, but… why? Why did that car honk instead of stop? Why did everyone just stand there and watch? Why did Jin-joo move Ban-do when he was clearly in a bad state? I just couldn’t feel the emotional weight of the moment when the scene was handled that sloppily. It’s incredibly disappointing, especially since the show has been enjoyable thus far.
On top of that, it wasn’t even needed. Jin-joo was already on her way to understanding Ban-do. She had her epiphany with the drunk salaryman (such a great, heartrending scene), so why give her the car accident test? Moving on from the accident—believe me, it’s hard to do—I do wish we’d gotten more time for Jin-joo to rebuild her love for Ban-do.
Her realization didn’t exactly seem rushed, but it did feel as if there was an episode or two missing. Either way, I think this epiphany of hers still makes sense. Her love for him has always been buried inside her, and she just needed something like this to let it all out. I also liked that it was her mom who helped her see Ban-do’s sincerity. It’s been hard for her to see it, just as it was hard for Nam-gil to see the sincerity in his stepmother. What a lovely parallel.
The show has never let us in on the rules of the time travel, but we’ve always known it had something to do with their rings. And I actually like that returning to the present could be as simple as the two of them wearing their rings again. They had the power to return all along—they just had to find their way back to each other. They had to find their way back to their marriage, back to their rings. It makes me think that removing their rings triggered this dreamlike vacation to the past and that nothing was ever in danger of changing. Seo-jin was never in danger of losing his very existence. This was just a short trip that the rings allowed the couple to have after a painful experience.
I both like and dislike this idea. I like it because the vacation now seems like a lesson for this couple, a chance to get some clarity in their relationship. But I dislike it because it makes me believe that everything they tried to change will be for nothing. Will Ye-rim still be married to that jerkface Hyun-suk when they return? I don’t know how the drama will tie up their trip to 1999. As long as our couple returns the way they want to return, whether happy together or happy individually, I think I’ll be somewhat satisfied. If they get to the talk they were going to have before Ban-do got hurt, we should definitely get somewhere.
Speaking of which, I love that Ban-do hesitated when he saw how happy Jin-joo was with her mom. A part of him must’ve assumed that she’d rather stay than return with him, and it makes me sad that he doesn’t realize how much she actually loves him. And honestly, if I were Jin-joo, there is no way I would stay in the past. I would not want to go through a parent’s death—and all the pain that comes with it—twice. I’m sure for Jin-joo, being with her mom again has felt like heaven, but she must know that Mom belongs in the past and that she belongs in the present. Even if we return to the past with zero changes, Jin-joo and Ban-do will still carry the knowledge they gained from this experience. And you know what? That’s all that matters.
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