Pretty Noona Who Buys Me Food: Episodes 15-16 (Final)
It sure is hard to be Jin-ah. In trying to avoid conflict and please everyone, she sets herself up as the ultimate martyr to every cause and desire but her own. With a finale pushing three hours, there’s still plenty of angst left to plow through before we reach Happy Ending Island, because contrary to what the soundtrack would have us believe, love isn’t always enough, and maybe the person you have to forgive is actually yourself.
Joon-hee and Jin-ah argue over him telling her to go to the U.S. with him. When Kyung-sun confronts Jin-ah about Joon-hee’s plans, Jin-ah tells her that she doesn’t want to throw away everything she wants to do to leave with him. It shocks Kyung-sun that she admits to putting herself before Joon-hee.
Jin-ah secretly moves to her new apartment while Joon-hee is away for a business trip, and lies to him about it over the phone.
At work, the CEO takes Director Nam’s side on the harrassment issue (the two of them are relations) with the justification that it’s to “protect the company image.” They mobilize against Jin-ah with fabricated “evidence” that she was a willing participant, and even had something going on with Director Nam. Disgusting.
The company lawyer threatens Jin-ah that if she proceeds, they’ll use this “evidence” to flip the case around and sue her for defamation. Furious, she vows to take her fight to the end.
Joon-hee comes back a day early and finds out about her move. He turns up at her door and Jin-ah again does her deflecting and minimizing thing. He’s almost weary when he asks her why she couldn’t wait for him.
She says she didn’t want him to bail her out, and asks if it isn’t enough just to have feelings for each other. Frustrated and disappointed, he leaves after pointing out that waiting things out won’t magically bring them a happy ending.
Jin-ah confronts Manager Gong, who bullishly continues refusing to admit any wrongdoing. He says he can’t afford to lose his job because he’s got three young kids—among them a daughter.
It’s only when Jin-ah asks how he’d like his daughter to be treated as she was that he folds. She records his apology and tells him to make a public one, or she’ll release the recording.
Director Nam still tries to cow her with threats until Jin-ah points out his “victim cosplay.” Is… that it?
The U.S. position suddenly opens up at Joon-hee’s company and he’s up to leave immediately. Meanwhile, Jin-ah gets “promoted” to chief, far from Seoul, in a role created specifically to get rid of her.
The family celebrate Jin-ah’s birthday, but unsurprisingly, Mom turns things sour in three seconds by talking of getting Jin-ah suitably married. You just can’t let go, can you? She declares that she’ll never change her mind about Joon-hee, and Jin-ah has enough and leaves.
She and Joon-hee have a special birthday-date and he gives her a gift of a necklace he created for her, with the message that she has his whole heart. No, this feels all wrong. They’re breaking up, aren’t they? WHAT ARE YOU DOING.
He tells her he has to go to the U.S. and asks her again to come with him. She says that the person she’s grown up to be now, thanks to him, can’t run away with him.
He embraces her tightly as they part, and he asks one last time, “You really can’t?” Arms around him, she apologizes.
And then we fast-forward to Seung-ho’s wedding and Jin-ah’s approaching 40th birthday? Whaat? And Jin-ah has a new boyfriend? WHAT. And the guy is ugh and constantly on the phone and busy with his job and vaguely ignoring Jin-ah. I DON’T LIKE THIS. I DON’T LIKE THIS AT ALL. I mean, after all that, you chose… this? Wtf is happening in your head, Jin-ah?
She looks absolutely miserable, but to top it all off, when the boyfriend skips out of the wedding, Jin-ah looks down to see none other than
the ghost of her ex-boyfriend Joon-hee, who just flew in from the U.S., looking up at her. Well crap. I think I just heard their hearts crack.
She goes through the rest of the wedding shell-shocked, and he’s not much better. Joon-hee returns to his old apartment, where colleague Seung-chul now lives, but he’s so assailed by memories of being with Jin-ah that he can’t stand it and tries to drink himself to death.
He confesses to Seung-chul that what he’d wished Jin-ah was unhappy, but seeing the reality has clearly shaken him. Seung-chul reminds him of the awful time he’d gone through when they broke up, and tells him to forget about her.
Meanwhile, Jin-ah gets friend-therapy from Bo-ra, who’s staying over. (She now lives on Jeju Island and flew in for the wedding.)
She tells her friend that the moment she saw Joon-hee, everything came back like it was just yesterday, and she barely stopped herself from throwing herself into his arms. Bo-ra suggests she throw in the towel here and come live with her in Jeju instead. You’re a good friend, Bo-ra.
Jin-ah goes through the next day in a daze, and endures another date being ignored by her boyfriend. She finally just gets out of the car in the middle of traffic and walks away. FINALLY.
Jin-ah turns in her resignation at headquarters and pays her respects to VP Jung—who is in now Executive Director Jung—for the last time. Director Jung doesn’t want to let her go, and tells her the door is open anytime she wants to come back.
Jin-ah visits Kyung-sun (who has her own coffee shop now) to both reconcile and say goodbye. She misses her, and asks if they can regain their old friendship.
Joon-hee pops in at that moment but tries to leave as soon as he sees Jin-ah. Kyung-sun makes him stay, and in the spirit of returning to how things used to be, she introduces him to Jin-ah as her little brother, and to her brother, she introduces Jin-ah as her friend.
She leaves them for a bit, and after a long and heavy silence, Jin-ah finally asks how he is. The hurt bleeds off him as he gives spiky, terse responses, especially when Jin-ah asks if they can’t go back to how they used to be before they dated.
Jin-ah leaves and Kyung-sun accuses her brother of still harboring feelings for her. In a voice full of thorns, he says that he’s like this because he can’t do anything about it.
Later that night, he turns up drunk at Jin-ah’s door and asks if she meant it, because there’s no way he can go back to the way things were before. Sober or drunk, his answer’s the same, and he calls her evil—viciously evil—before going off.
Jin-ah can’t settle down and finally goes to his place to confront him. She tells him that yes, the idea of being normal with each other was ridiculous, but she still tried, because they were sure to have future run-ins, and maybe it could be the tiniest bit less painful that way.
She asks what exactly it was that she did so wrong for him to call her evil. All the hurt she’s held in comes out as she asks what she was meant to do when he expected her to drop everything and go to America with him. That’s a very fair point. And then he went, leaving her alone to face everything.
In tears, she tells him how much she hated herself but felt she deserved it for hurting him and Kyung-sun: “Do you have any idea what that hellish time was like?”
“Why do I have to know?” he yells back, equally aggrieved. “How you lived… what has it got to do with me?” As she leaves in the rain, Seung-chul gives her an umbrella—the same one she’d once given Joon-hee.
Jin-ah tells her parents that she’s moving to Jeju (and that she’s done with men and marriage). Her mom snipes at her to the end, huffing that she and Joon-hee broke up on their own and she had nothing to do with it.
But shortly after that, Mom runs after her outside and tearfully tells Jin-ah that she did what she had to, and that Jin-ah would always have a home with them. Jin-ah regrets not being the daughter her mom wanted, and opens her arms for a hug.
The women embrace, and it’s a reconciliation of sorts, I guess. Neither can change but they’re still mother and daughter.
As Joon-hee packs up to go back to the U.S., his playlist takes him by surprise. With gathering tears, he listens once again to Jin-ah’s confession recording, and goes straight to her apartment… where she no longer lives.
Frantic, he calls up Seung-ho for Jin-ah’s whereabouts.
Jin-ah and Bo-ra enjoy a drink together after closing, and Bo-ra notices that she’s wearing Joon-hee’s necklace. Jin-ah confides to her friend that she sometimes thinks that that time she had with him was all they were ever fated to have.
Joon-hee lands in Jeju, and it’s in the rain that he finds Jin-ah again. Stunned to see him, she shelters him under her umbrella, and he asks for his one back. How she looks simultaneously longing, hopeful and afraid is killing me a little bit.
She turns away from him, but he catches her in his arms.
“I was wrong. I’m sorry. I really can’t live without you.” Smoothing her hair away from her face, he asks her to let him off just this once, and then she’s hitting him, crying, and pushing him away, but he just scoops her up, and finally they’re laughing, embracing, kissing.
From inside, Bo-ra watches them, smiling.
You know what? I’m so relieved this show is over right now. That unnecessarily bloated, navel-gazing finale was just exhausting, and directorially self-indulgent to the point that I’ve decided never to watch another Ahn Pan-seok drama. I honestly don’t know what to make of that ending, either. After putting us through so much misery, I feel like this wasn’t at all a good enough send-off. If we’ve learnt anything over the course of the show, it is that the present is not enough for the couple’s relationship—we need to know that they have a future, and the show failed to give us that. Without any assurance that they’ve surmounted the obstacles that kept them apart before, how can we be expected to blindly trust that it’ll somehow happen now?
Emotional fatigue aside, I’m not grasping what’s really changed when they haven’t solved their problems. Or if they have, we haven’t been given a single crumb as to how. If you can fast-forward us through four years of anguish, can you not throw us a bone and fast-forward us even one more year to give us proof of their future happiness? Something that showed they worked in the long-term, that they did stay together, that their togetherness wasn’t so precarious, but stable and able to endure? Otherwise all we’ve got, again, is a chain of stolen moments where they haven’t thought ahead, and so face the same problems that then end the same way. And after all we’ve been through, that’s just not enough.
I guess the reason Jin-ah lived the last four years the way she did was only partly to punish herself. The other part is the sadder part—that she folded simply because her inner flame went out, and she was existing at the level of least resistance. It’s the cosmic, spiritual, personal price she thinks herself as having to pay to balance her wrongs against the Seo siblings, the two most important people in her life outside of her family. If she makes herself suffer as much as she made them suffer, maybe she can be forgiven—or rather, maybe she can begin to forgive herself.
This journey of her reclaiming her personhood from all its scattered places has been her character’s trajectory from the start, and we’re given a painful, authentic portrayal of how difficult that really is. We grapple with the fact that perfect reconciliation isn’t always possible, that time and change can be inexorable forces that away the people you love most. She had to separate herself from her family, realizing that they were better apart. She lost Kyung-sun, but she deserved to. She and Joon-hee needed to be torn apart for a long period in order to really understand how precious it was to be together; in fact, she had to accept that she’d perhaps lost him forever, and live with that reality every day. As a viewer, I felt the overarching lesson to Jin-ah’s character was how choice related to consequence, but I’m not so sure Jin-ah herself got this. She did gradually take back her ownership of her life and choices to some extent, so that counts for something.
I thought her eruption at Joon-hee was cathartic and necessary. I really felt her in that moment where it’s one misunderstanding too much for her to bear, and that’s the moment I was able to start forgiving her. It felt like, “Ah! now all our cards are on the table.” I’ve been so desperate for her to show genuine emotional honesty towards Joon-hee—some sign of what she’s really thinking and feeling, however messy—instead of constantly acting like everything was okay.
Joon-hee’s rarely shown to make a mistake, but the one who does really is a monster. The couple were over the moment he asked to be sent back abroad, without any reference to her at all. How could that end well? It’s a preposterous thing to dump on someone and I can’t blame Jin-ah for how she took it. Even four years late, he deserved to be called out for it, and he was equally at fault for the breakdown of their relationship at that point.
Jin-ah’s reconciliation with her mother, though touching, also didn’t answer any questions. Was she taking her hands off Jin-ah’s life and no longer going to interfere in her choices? We can choose to read it that way, but we don’t really know, especially since just moments before, she’d sworn never to back down on her position regarding Joon-hee. I’ve been continously disturbed by just how rigid, inflexible and unyielding Mom turned out to be, and I’ve really felt in the last few weeks that Jin-ah resembled her a great deal, but because she expressed those characteristics over different issues, it didn’t look quite as cruel or out of touch.
All said, this show really has always been about Jin-ah. There’s only one main character here, and Joon-hee, though significant, is still only a part of her narrative. Apart from the limp ending, Jin-ah’s trajectory has always been more than her romance. That, perhaps, is also why I’ve found her so frustrating, and I don’t know if I should be angrier with the character or the writer. I’m kind of appalled that all the four-year timeskip proved was Jin-ah’s total inability to change, and to keep repeating the same mistakes. (Seriously, what was that boyfriend?! What a regression.)
The best and worst of this show has been in the intense (and sometimes harsh) realism of its characterizations, but it didn’t adequately answer any of the character conundrums it set up, and that’s why I’m unwilling to attribute that realism to genius or design. If it had been intentional, it surely would have seen some resolution, one way or another? I’m really dissatisfied in particular with how the workplace harassment storyline was wrapped up (or rather, wasn’t). What an injustice to such a vital thread. It wasn’t just that the issue was timely and important, but it had been handled with such nuance and promise until then. Then came the CEO’s sneering U-turn, the shutting down and skimming over of it all while the women were left fuming and divided, and the men all having each other’s backs—it all feels to me somehow like we’re looking at an ugly and unbearable parallel of how the show itself came to feel about it. I just can’t get over how they didn’t even bother showing us what happened, after all that.
It’s a shame the second half of the show was so depressing, but I guess we’ll always have the first half (which was practically perfect in every way). You can’t argue with chemistry, and if there’s anything our couple never lacked for, it’s that. And Bo-ra’s support. I love Bo-ra so much! Now I’m going to go imagine them into a future of island sunshine, happiness and a handful of adorable babies.