Go Back Spouses: Episode 8
Call your parents and hug your children, because this episode focuses in on family and the unconditional love that comes with it. The novelty of refreshed youth has run dry for our time travel couple, who both just want to get back to their old lives and the family they’ve left behind there. But while they’re still in 1999, they put their parenting skills to good use and solve some of the show’s early mysteries for us.
EPISODE 8: “Your weapon against the world”
We start off in 2017 and follow Ban-do to a meeting with his sunbae from college. Ban-do’s friends are certain that the guy called suddenly to try to sell him insurance, but Ban-do remembers that his sunbae always wanted to be an architect and figures he pursued that path.
When Ban-do gets there, though, it seems his friends were right. Over drinks afterward, Dok-jae and Jae-woo recall how the sunbae had bragged about becoming an architect, but Ban-do reminds them that they’d done that too, saying they’d be movie directors. The guys laugh at the memory.
This takes them into a flashback, when they were fresh-faced and eager volunteers on a movie set. Ban-do begins to narrate: “There was a time when I had nothing to lose, since I had nothing.”
Back in 2017, he continues his voiceover as he stares off wistfully over drinks: “There was a time when I couldn’t estimate how hard the world was.” The scene dissolves to a new one, where Ban-do cries as he embraces Jin-joo.
Now it’s back to 1999, as Nam-gil overhears Hyun-suk’s friends talking about the takedown at the medical student party and how Hyun-suk was so angry he might go after Jin-joo.
Jin-joo walks home and begins to sense someone following her, so she calls Ban-do for help. But Ban-do tries to call her at the exact same time, and they both get busy signals. A dark figure charges Jin-joo, and she drops her phone to the ground. At the same moment, Ban-do’s phone rings. His eyes widen as he listens, and he starts running.
Hyun-suk corners Jin-joo and says he’s not afraid to hit her and go to jail for it. But as he readies his swing, he receives a mighty kick to his side. Nam-gil has arrived to save the day, and he retorts, “No need to go to jail. I’ll just send you to the afterlife.” Oh my.
And where is Ban-do? Ban-do has found his caller, Seo-young, who has packed her bags and decided to run away from home after all.
Back in the alley, Hyun-suk tries to fight back, but Nam-gil easily fights him off. Jin-joo eventually pulls Nam-gil away, and when Hyun-suk asks why she’s doing this, she responds that he’s pitiful, getting upset about a woman he doesn’t even like. She says he should be grateful that Nam-gil showed up, otherwise she would have killed him, and then finally warns that he shouldn’t bully powerless salesmen, ha.
With that, Jin-joo beckons to Nam-gil and they leave Hyun-suk alone in the alley. Jin-joo thanks Nam-gil for saving her, and he smiles at her tough bravado earlier. She wonders what he’s doing in her neighborhood, and when his stuttered response of going for a walk doesn’t add up, she asks again if he likes her.
Nam-gil repeats that he thinks he likes her, starting sometime after she rejected his request for a date. Jin-joo says that he must like older women, since he fell for this version of her, but he doesn’t get it. Jin-joo warns that it’s probably best not to like her, since there might be a mom lurking somewhere inside.
Instead, she thinks he should pursue his dream of being a great history lecturer. But Nam-gil is taken aback, since he’s never told Jin-joo his dream. Oops.
Jin-joo plays it off and scuttles inside her house, leaving Nam-gil wondering. Jin-joo’s dad returns home at that moment and sees the rich young man courting his daughter.
As Ban-do and Seo-young eat burgers together, he lectures Seo-young about running away and avoiding her parents’ phone calls, but Seo-young thinks it was his great idea in the first place. Ban-do asks where she’s planning on staying, and Seo-young’s eyes drift out to a motel across the street.
Now Ban-do drags Seo-young down the street towards her home, his lecturing continuing the whole way. As Seo-young struggles with Ban-do, her father catches up with the pair.
Ban-do tries to introduce himself, but Seo-young’s dad really isn’t concerned with him. Dad tries to take her home, but Seo-young refuses and instead takes the opportunity to finally tell her dad how she feels.
He agrees to talk if she’ll just come home, and Seo-young sees the sweat at her father’s collar from running all over the city looking for her. With a final nod from Ban-do to go, Seo-young heads home. Ban-do watches on like a proud father, and notes that Seo-young’s dad doesn’t look much older than himself.
Jae-woo sits with all four of Bo-reum’s tough-looking older brothers outside a convenience store (this must be where Bo-reum gets it). The eldest offers him a popsicle, and Jae-woo turns to eat it as if he’s drinking with elders.
Bo-reum’s brothers complain about her missing a family trip and living in the dorms, but she growls back that they should understand why. The brothers leave, grinning at their sister’s new boyfriend.
On the walk back to the dorms, Bo-reum shows Jae-woo her phone and tells him to press 0. Doing so calls Jae-woo’s phone, and Bo-reum reminds him that numbers start at 0, not 1. Jae-woo giggles as he starts to recover from his doubts, but the question still remains as to whether Bo-reum likes him because he’s easy.
Bo-reum says that she does, but clarifies that she likes that his face shows his emotions and she doesn’t have to guess with him. Finally, Jae-woo is relieved, and Bo-reum tells him that it’s actually quite difficult for her to kiss him, and she thinks about it at least 10 times before she even attempts it.
Jae-woo gives her a peck on the cheek, and Bo-reum grabs his face to go in for a real kiss, but then hesitates. She says she only considered it five times this time, so Jae-woo goes in for the kiss himself, saying that he thought about it 10 times for her.
The next morning, Jin-joo’s mother finds Jin-joo in her now typical morning despondence. Mom’s concern is growing, while Dad thinks of the rich boy from last night and worries that Jin-joo would suffer under an intolerant rich mother-in-law. Mom has no clue who he’s talking about, and shoots back that father-in-laws from poor families are worse.
Speaking of which, we head over to Ban-do’s house where his father yells at his mother for leaving the water running as she washes the dishes. Mom fights back and calls Dad a cheapskate. Ban-do overhears and defends his father, saying that his father works hard and doesn’t want to have to be worried about money.
But Ban-do goes too far and stresses how little his father makes, and his father smacks his head for it. Dad doesn’t realize that Ban-do has his own experiences of working hard for little reward.
Mom asks Jin-joo who Seo-jin is, having heard her crying about him every night. Jin-joo can’t tell Mom the truth, so Mom assumes that it’s a boy who dumped her. Rather than answer, Jin-joo suggests going to a public bath together.
At school, Seol turns in a request for a leave of absence. Bo-reum finds out from the school staff, but they don’t have any details as to why Seol is leaving.
Meanwhile, Ban-do meets up with Seo-young to see how the talk with her parents went. Seo-young is pleased with the compromise they made that’ll let her take a break from competitions. She can’t help but note Ban-do’s old-man behavior as he makes dad jokes and defends her parents’ perspective.
Seo-young suddenly asks, “You don’t like me, do you?” Ban-do’s caught off guard, but he doesn’t argue either. Seo-young says that she always thought he liked her, until she realized that Ban-do looks at her like her father does. Seo-young doesn’t seem hurt, though, and gently teases Ban-do while he seems to be contemplate this revelation.
In class, Ban-do’s sunbae brags about his architectural design in class to the other students. Jae-woo makes kissy faces at his phone, and Ban-do seems to accept that there’s nothing he can do to prevent Jae-woo from falling in love with Bo-reum.
The students receive their reports back from the beginning of the semester about what they think their lives will be like in 20 years. Sunbae reads his aloud and announces that he’s going to lead the way in eco-friendly construction.
As Sunbae finishes his report, Ban-do recalls the meeting he had with him in 2017, when his sunbae seemed ashamed as he attempted to sell Ban-do an insurance policy. Returning from his memory, Ban-do gets his own paper back and reads his hopes for 20 years in the future: best movie director in Korea, a win at the Baeksang Arts Awards, and a nomination at Cannes. He grunts a laugh at his former self’s high hopes.
At the public bath, Mom insists on drying Jin-joo’s hair for her, and Jin-joo enjoys the motherly affection. A bath employee compliments the two on their close relationship, and the employee shares that she has a daughter attending Jin-joo’s university on scholarship.
Outside the bath, Jin-joo watches as her mother fawns over a baby in a stroller. Mom recalls how cute Jin-joo was as a baby, and Jin-joo can’t help but say, “You’d be so happy to see my son.” Mom laughs at her daughter, but her smile fades when she sees Jin-joo’s sad eyes.
Jin-joo takes us to a flash-forward to when Seo-jin was born. Ban-do and his parents cooed over the new baby and gushed how much he looked like Ban-do. No one was there from Jin-joo’s family, since her mother had passed and she stopped speaking with Dad.
Alone in her hospital room later, Jin-joo cried as she looked at a photo of her and her mother from her wedding. Returning to 1999, Jin-joo hugs Mom tightly.
At school, word of Seol’s disappearance starts to spread. Ban-do recalls how upset Jin-joo was when this happened in the real 1999. Dok-jae darts past Ban-do and Jae-woo, off to steal money from his dad so that he can replace the shredded wallet.
The remaining friends gather to discuss Seol’s disappearance. Seol left handmade coasters for Jin-joo and Bo-reum, and Ban-do recognizes Jin-joo’s it from their home in the future. Bo-reum hopes that if they just wait, Seol will return, but Jin-joo and Ban-do know better.
Seol’s mom didn’t know about the leave of absence when Bo-reum called, but Bo-reum hadn’t felt it was right to tell her. Both Jin-joo and Ban-do see it from a parental perspective and insist that they need to tell Seol’s parents.
Ban-do walks Jin-joo home and takes the opportunity to ask if she knows the reason why Bo-reum broke up with Jae-woo. Jin-joo says she doesn’t and that it’s none of his business.
Ban-do seems flippant about Seol’s disappearance at first, but then he reassures Jin-joo that they’ll start searching for her tomorrow. Jin-joo is surprised and reminds him that he didn’t want to look for Seol in the actual 1999, and he admits that he was young and thought he was being considerate.
But now he gets it, and points out that Jin-joo cares so much that she held on to the coaster from Seol for 18 years, even when Ban-do told her to throw it out.
Ban-do changes the subject to ask if Jin-joo got home okay last night. Jin-joo starts to tell him that Dr. Park turned up, but then changes her mind. Ban-do presses, and Jin-joo admits that she called Ban-do because something happened, but he hadn’t been there for her—just like he’s never been there for her when she needed him most.
Ban-do stutters in surprise at her words as Jin-joo heads inside, but on his walk home, he knows exactly what she means. He thinks back to the future, when Jin-joo’s mother was ill.
In that future, Jin-joo cried on the phone as she begged Ban-do to hurry home. It seems he didn’t make it, because at Mom’s funeral, Jin-joo says that because of him, she wasn’t able to see her mother one last time before she died.
Drifting back to 1999, Ban-do find Jin-joo’s mom standing in front of him, in front of the house. Mom recognizes him from their last encounter, then thinks back to her daughter’s reaction to him and asks him if his name is Seo-jin.
Ban-do freezes when he hears his son’s name from Mom, but Mom continues that Seo-jin is the boy her daughter has been crying over every night. Ban-do blurts out his name, however, clarifying that he’s not Seo-jin.
Dok-jae sneaks up to his father’s restaurant, and waits for his father to finish trimming the hedges before he heads inside. He creeps to the cash register and starts taking bills, but his father catches him in the act and chases him through the restaurant with the gardening shears.
Dok-jae locks himself in a back room, which also happens to be occupied by Seol. She’s started working at the restaurant, unaware that Dok-jae’s father was the owner. Dok-jae tries to use Seol as a hostage, and threatens to Dad to keep her locked in with him until overtime pay kicks in. Dad seems to give up for now, though his crazy eyes suggest this isn’t the end of the confrontation.
Seol tells Dok-jae that she left school because she couldn’t decide on a major, and instead she hopes to get ahead by entering the workforce early. Seol makes Dok-jae promise that he won’t tell anyone where she is. Dok-jae swears that he can keep a secret.
A drilling sound brings Dok-jae’s attention back to the door. His father has removed the hinges and drags Dok-jae out by the ear.
Back at school, Jin-joo and Bo-reum meet with Seol’s mom and learn that Seol’s father has had to stay home from work with a back injury. Jae-woo and Dok-jae join them, and Dok-jae does a miserable job of lying that he hasn’t seen Seol. He says they shouldn’t worry, but once he hears that Seol’s mom has reported her missing, he gives in.
Jin-joo and Bo-reum find Seol at the restaurant, a remorseful Dok-jae trailing behind them. Seol explains that her father lost his small business during the 1997 financial crisis and she feels guilty for spending her parents’ money on college. She was reluctant to talk about it with her friends for fear of ruining their carefree happiness.
Jin-joo tells Seol that this is what parents do, and that running away won’t make her parents happy. Seol says that her mom works too hard scrubbing backs at the bath, even injuring her hands in the process, but that’s when her mother’s voice chimes in: “I do it because I want to.”
Mom asks if parents aren’t allowed to take care of their children if they fail at their businesses. Even though they failed once, she says, they can pick themselves up again for their children. Seol embraces her mother as the girls watch on, and Dok-jae wipes away his tears from afar.
Jin-joo and Bo-reum head back together, and Bo-reum observes that Jin-joo has been acting so mature lately. Jin-joo laughs about sounding like an old lady, but she falters when she sees a mom pushing a stroller. The mom looks just like Jin-joo did as a harried mom, feeling self-conscious about her sloppy appearance, just like Jin-joo felt under the gaze of younger women.
At Ban-do’s house, he sits and stares at two peaches on his desk, thinking back to his encounter earlier with Jin-joo’s mom. After he confirmed that he was not Seo-jin, Mom felt bad and gave him two peaches from her groceries, which she’d bought because Jin-joo loves peaches.
This triggers a memory in Ban-do, of him eating apples with Seo-jin. Jin-joo talked on the phone with her sister, who promised to send fruit, and Jin-joo asked for anything except peaches. It weighs on Ban-do now, remembering how she’d loved peaches.
Back in 1999, Ban-do continues to stare at the fruit until his father barges in and asks what he’s doing with peaches when he’s allergic to them. Ban-do doesn’t bother answering as he rushes out the door.
A poster for the children’s dinosaur museum catches Jin-joo’s eye on her commute home, and she can’t help but recall her Seo-jin’s love for dinosaurs and sweet times spent with her son.
Ban-do races for Jin-joo’s house and arrives just as Jin-joo walks up the stairs, tears streaming down her face. Ban-do remains unnoticed at the top of the stairs, and though he starts to reach his hand out, he then draws it back without a word. Tears streak Ban-do’s face as well as he dejectedly turns for home.
At home, Ban-do drinks alone. The next morning, he wakes up… to find himself back in his home in 2017. From the other room, Jin-joo calls for him to get up. In the kitchen, there’s 2017 Jin-joo, and Ban-do embraces her with tears in his eyes. “We’re back, right? I’m so relieved.”
We come back to that insurance sales pitch from Ban-do’s college sunbae. Ban-do says he’s been looking for a good plan and accepts the offer, and Sunbae relaxes. Ban-do tells him he should reach out to his fellow classmates, and Sunbae admits he’s been embarrassed to attend any of the reunions because he failed to become an architect.
Ban-do waves it off, saying they all had dreams back in college, and then Sunbae brings up his kid, and says that there’s nothing he can’t do for him.
The two men share a meal and show off photos of their sons. In voiceover, Ban-do narrates: “Youths may have dreams and passion as their weapon. But we have a bigger weapon that helps us fight against anything we face in this world.”
And now we’re back to the day Seo-jin was born. Ban-do and Jin-joo admire him through the glass. Jin-joo asks Ban-do to help her protect their son always, and Ban-do agrees, smiling and crying as he embraces Jin-joo.
What is this ending? Is Ban-do really back in the future? And if so, did he return without Jin-joo? Is there the possibility that there’s a version of time-travel Jin-joo out there now interacting with a completely oblivious, original-1999 Ban-do? And since Ban-do and Jin-joo seem to still be together in 2017, have the actions of the past changed something? I have so many questions. This is totally not what I was expecting at this point in the show, but depending on how they handle it, it could really nicely spice up the slow and steady pace we’ve had so far. I hope we at least get a lot of Seo-jin’s smiles next week.
This show went and took my words from last week and spat them right back at me, in a really nice way. I was certain we were heading toward Ban-do rediscovering his lost passions and going for it this second time, but instead, this episode took some time to break apart that time travel trope. No matter how dedicated or passionate, sometimes the future doesn’t turn out how you expect it to (just like Ban-do’s sunbae). Future Ban-do might not remember what his passions were anymore, but it’s not because they weren’t there. Time has eroded those old passions, but also filled him up with new ones, and this is where the show brings us back to the point it’s been hinting at all along—life can really knock you down, but your children renew your purpose.
And parents are certainly the focus of this episode. Ban-do and Jin-joo come closer and closer to one another as they reclaim their identities as parents, and that identity helps provide some helping hands to their friends. Problems they couldn’t solve in 1999 because they lacked perspective are easily solved when they’re now willing to think like adults and get their friend’s parents involved.
We saw the shape of several families in this episode, including Seo-young’s concerned dad, Bo-reum’s tough-yet-goofy brothers, and Seol’s hard-working mom. Jin-joo and Ban-do’s perspectives as parents themselves expand the world and reveal the family scaffolding that’s usually hidden in the background, just in time to remind these college students that they don’t have to solve everything on their own.
And thanks to all this parenting, a lot of lingering questions were wrapped up in this episode. Seol no longer disappears form their lives, and we now know the final piece of the puzzle surrounding Jin-joo’s mother’s death. Perhaps we’ll still fill in more details if we get to see what kept Ban-do from reaching Jin-joo in time, but we now understand at least why Jin-joo feels as though Ban-do has abandoned her.
As Seol’s mother said, you can fail at your business and your first try at life, but you pick yourself up again for your children. Ban-do has been so focused on the opportunity of getting a do-over in the past that he’s missed this point up until now. The solution to life’s problems isn’t about dwelling on mistakes of the past, but rather by pushing forward and overcoming, for the sake of those who depend on you. Which brings us to Ban-do’s current hang-up. He’s felt like a failure for a while when it comes to Jin-joo, because he failed to be there for her when her mother died. He blames himself for their fallout, and it seems like he’s been focused on what could have been different in the past, rather than looking to do better in the future.
But I feel like Ban-do is on his way to finally figuring things out. He starts to come around in this episode, in all the ways I’ve wanted him to. He totally gets that his interest in Seo-young wasn’t serious, he wants to spend more time with Jin-joo, and he starts to see how heartsick she’s been about losing her life in the future with their son. And just like she reminded him of the things in life that he loves, he starts to remember the things that Jin-joo loved as well.
There’s a lot of that, remembering the little things that people love, and the things that a person gives up for another. The moment where Ban-do stares at the peaches that Jin-joo’s mother gave him and realizes that this is something that she gave up for him; it’s this really adult sort of response to the question, “What does love look like?”
As Ban-do starts to learn how to be an adult, one of our second lead ships sink. The dissolution of Seo-young and Ban-do went exactly as I had hoped it would, though, and it all seems for the best. No feelings were hurt, because Seo-young has been feeling the parental vibes from him for a while. She takes it really well, and I’m super happy that she’s found a new friend who helped her stand up to her parents’ demands.
I fear that letting Nam-gil down, however, is going to be a lot messier for Jin-joo. He’s well past smitten, and I’m bracing for some second lead heartbreak pretty soon.
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