Thirty But Seventeen: Episodes 29-30
The memories of the young Seo-ri are so fresh and unmarred by the years that have passed since the accident. Seo-ri remembers what was in her heart when her lengthy intermission began and she’s hopeful that she can bring an end to Woo-jin’s nightmare. But his heart isn’t the only one that Seo-ri has to worry about because Chan’s feelings for her have yet to be dealt with. There’s still so much healing that has to happen before anyone gets a happily ever after.
EPISODE 29: “La Campanella Part 2”
On the bridge, under the nighttime sky, Seo-ri gazes at a tearful Woo-jin and marvels, “Your name was Gong Woo-jin.” She then asks, “What if what you know isn’t the whole story?”
In a flashback to May, 2005, the young Seo-ri was at Incheon Airport on her way to Germany for her music college audition. She saw a young boy with Pororo stickers on his face (little Chan), who was in tears and looked lost. When she tried to help him find his mother, Seo-ri left her violin unattended.
Crying harder, young Chan pointed to some donuts and his tears disappeared as soon as he had one to eat. His distraught mother found them and thanked Seo-ri profusely for her help. When Seo-ri walked away, she suddenly remembered her violin.
By the time Seo-ri returned to her seat her violin was gone, but a cleaning woman told her that a pretty male student took it to the information desk. Seo-ri reached the information desk just as Woo-jin walked away and they passed by each another.
Seo-ri hugged her violin in relief and asked about the person who returned it, so she could thank him. Seo-ri learned that it was a student in a brown school uniform with a poster tube.
Seo-ri caught a glimpse of the boy in the crowded airport but when he ran to catch up with his family, she lost sight of him. In spite of her best efforts, Seo-ri was forced abandon her search when her aunt called, unaware that the boy, young Woo-jin, was just steps away.
In the present, Seo-ri explains that she glimpsed that the boy’s poster tube was covered in Pororo stickers. Tearfully, Seo-ri reveals to Woo-jin, “The person who returned the precious violin that my mom left me, was you,” and she adds that thanks to him, she passed her college audition.
One day on that very bridge, Seo-ri heard a bicycle bell, which was unusual since she was always preoccupied with her music. She saw a boy with the familiar poster tube ride by and realized that he lived in her neighborhood.
After that day, Seo-ri looked for the boy everywhere and finally saw him on the street while she was inside a convenience store. Woo-jin poured water from his bottle onto a potted plant but before Seo-ri could catch up to him, he ran across the street.
Seo-ri visited a jewelry store to have a copy made of her moon and rabbit keychain as a thank you gift for the boy. In voiceover, Seo-ri explains that she took it with her everywhere in case she ran into him. She confides that she saw the boy a few more times and she even gushed about him to Deok-gu.
Eventually, just the thought of the young Woo-jin caused Seo-ri’s heart to pound louder and louder, like a crescendo. She hoped to meet the mystery boy before she left for Germany and was surprised when she looked up on that fateful day and saw him board the bus.
Seo-ri mustered up her courage and approached Woo-jin with the keychain but all she could do was ask him how to get to the art hall. The two teenagers were both nervous as Woo-jin pointed out the stops closest to the art center.
Seo-ri returned to her seat with the keychain still in her hand and was determined to approach him again when another passenger pressed the bell. Woo-jin jumped up to suggest that she stay on the bus and was about to show her his painting when Soo-mi joined them and he exited the bus in a panic.
Seo-ri dropped to her seat and Soo-mi figured out she had just met the elusive “Crescendo”. The two girls squealed in excitement while rain started to fall outside. Before Seo-ri could share the details of their meeting, she and Soo-mi were thrown apart in the accident.
In the present, Woo-jin insists that Seo-ri’s story changes nothing because he kept her from getting off of the bus. Seo-ri confesses that even though she approached him, she already knew how to get to the art center because she had been there many times.
Woo-jin believes that Seo-ri pressed the bell to get off the bus but she clarifies that it wasn’t her because she always got off at the next stop. A montage of scenes proves that she’s telling the truth as Seo-ri describes her walk to the art center from the bus stop in great detail.
Seo-ri feared that Woo-jin would continue to block people out of his life if she didn’t get the chance to tell him the truth. She looks at him and insists, “It wasn’t your fault. I would have gotten off at the next stop like I always had.”
Seo-ri confesses to Woo-jin, “I noticed you first, I had a crush on you first and I liked you first.” Tearfully, she suggests that she wasn’t the only one stuck at the age of seventeen for thirteen years. Woo-jin pulls Seo-ri into a long kiss on their special bridge and their lost years begin to melt away.
On the walk home, Woo-jin keeps saying Seo-ri’s name, as if he can’t believe that they’re really together. She finally gives him the moon and rabbit keychain and Woo-jin wishes that they had met when they were seventeen. Seo-ri admits that after she woke up, she felt that it might have been better if she had stayed asleep. She recognized that her regret over her past was a waste of time, because nothing could be changed. Her resolve to focus on her future prompts Woo-jin to confess, “I fell for you again,” and when he pulls Seo-ri into a hug, he suggests, “Let’s end this intermission together.”
Deok-gu runs up excitedly when Seo-ri and Woo-jin walk in the door. Woo-jin promises Jennifer that he won’t worry her ever again just as Chan comes down the stairs. The pain in Chan’s eyes is evident as he makes his way to Woo-jin but he just wraps his arms around his uncle. Woo-jin quietly apologizes but Chan assures him, “I’m fine as long as you’re back,” even though it’s clear that the poor boy has suffered.
Woo-jin finally gives Chan that promised cup of hot chocolate out in the garden. Woo-jin wants to explain what happened but Chan cuts him off, just thankful to know that his uncle will never leave again. Chan lightens the mood when he scolds Woo-jin, “You’re such a handful, Mr. Gong. You’re making me age faster. I’ll look as old as Deok-soo.”
When Chan returns to his room, he stares at his motto and the card for the professional rowing team with pained eyes and a lump in his throat.
The next morning, Woo-jin jumps out of bed when he sees that it’s late. He’s halfway down the stairs when he remembers to wash his face and he takes great care with his appearance before he approaches Seo-ri’s door. He’s about to knock when Jennifer announces that she’s with Chan.
Woo-jin remembers that Chan asked to spend time with Seo-ri and regrets that he didn’t wake up earlier. Jennifer argues that he was finally able to sleep well, now that he’s free of his worries. She has a bundle of boxes in her hands and Woo-jin asks if he can have them. He takes the boxes into the storage shed and gets to work.
Chan and Seo-ri are at the lake where he practices and he promises to explain why they’re there after a tour. First, they enjoy the view of a nearby mountain at an outside table, piled with snacks. Their next stop is the gym, where Chan teaches Seo-ri how to use a rowing machine but it turns out that she’s a natural.
Chan and Seo-ri ride on a bicycle for two and she explains that it’s a first for her. She was never allowed to ride bikes because she could hurt her hands and when she yells out happily, Chan joins in.
Jennifer gives Woo-jin a thumb’s up when she sees the progress in the shed. She returns a business card that she found in Chan’s room and correctly guesses that it belongs to Seo-ri’s aunt. Before he can explain, Woo-jin gets a call from his doctor.
Woo-jin meets his doctor and learns that his music therapy group has a concert planned. Woo-jin offers to design a stage as thanks for all of the doctor’s help, but he’s not sure that he deserves that credit. The doctor figures that Seo-ri must be very special since Woo-jin fell for her all over again. Woo-jin gushes, “She makes every little thing seem really special, and I think that’s why she’s special,” and the doctor can’t help but laugh.
Later, Woo-jin is at a bookstore when he gets a call from Hyung-tae.
Chan and Seo-ri walk together as he finally explains why he brought her to such a familiar place. Rather than choosing a nice restaurant that doesn’t suit him, Chan decided to bring Seo-ri to a place where he can speak comfortably and sincerely. Seo-ri stops in her tracks when Chan finally confesses, “I like you a lot.”
EPISODE 30: “You’re my first love”
Chan faces Seo-ri to explain that he doesn’t like her as a friend. When he thinks about her, his chest itches — when she cries, his heart breaks. Chan tells Seo-ri that he wants to comfort her and protect her and shares his plans to join the professional rowing team so that he can do just that.
Before Seo-ri can respond, Chan adds, “That’s what I was going to say, on the day of my win. But you don’t have to worry now. Because that’s all in the past.” With a smile, Chan confesses, “You’re my first love. I want my first love to have a proper ending. That’s why I’m telling you everything. So I can be okay.” Seo-ri has tears in her eyes as he continues, “I wanted to protect you because you were like a seventeen-year-old. But now, you’re a real grown up.”
Chan proves how unselfish he is when he adds, “Oh, and thank you for turning our Mr. Gong back into his old self. Let’s continue to be good friends and as for my uncle, please keep liking him just as much as you do now. I’m begging you.”
Chan teases Seo-ri about her tears and insists that he’s the one who should be crying. He reminds her how quickly his ankle healed and promises that he’ll soon be fine. He holds up his hands and explains that he now has calluses on his heart as well.
Chan asks Seo-ri to leave without him so that he can exercise and when she hesitates, he explains that’s his way of asking to be alone so that he can cry. Chan gives Seo-ri a smile and a wave but once she’s far enough away, he stops pretending to be all right.
Chan walks sadly as he’s flooded with happy memories of his special friendship with Seo-ri. He remembers how he watched over her when she walked home drunk and starts to cry when he recalls the many times that they chanted, “Don’t think. Feel!” Chan sits and remembers how his friends teased him about the gloves that were a gift from Seo-ri.
Chan’s decision to take down his poster the night before was his acceptance that his feelings for Seo-ri could never lead to anything. With a deep breath, Chan stands up and walks away, leaving the gloves from Seo-ri on the bench.
Hyung-tae meets with Woo-jin to let him know that the man who paid Seo-ri’s hospital bills searched for him to request a meeting with her. He’s worried that once they meet, she’ll realize that her aunt and uncle abandoned her, but Woo-jin shares that Seo-ri has already guessed the truth. Hyung-tae asks Woo-jin to tell her about the man’s request and gives him the contact information for KIM SANG-SHIK.
Woo-jin parks in front of the house just as Seo-ri returns. He jumps out and exclaims, “Hey! It’s my girlfriend,” but her expression tells him that she didn’t have a good time with Chan. When she asks about his whereabouts, Woo-jin tells her about his meeting with Hyung-tae.
Woo-jin sits with Seo-ri in the garden as the truth about her aunt and uncle sinks in. Woo-jin finally shares that he met her aunt and shows her the florist’s card as proof. Seo-ri wonders why he didn’t tell her right away and then realizes that her aunt didn’t want to see her.
Seo-ri asks if her uncle refused to see her as well but Woo-jin still doesn’t have any information about him. Seo-ri is determined to find her uncle but when she calls the number on her aunt’s business card, she learns that it’s been turned off.
Seo-ri tells Woo-jin that the photo in her notebook must have disappeared because her aunt saw it. Woo-jin comforts Seo-ri with a hug when she starts to cry, “She’s mean. She’s ignoring me even after finding out that I’m awake.”
Seo-ri sits with Deok-gu in her room as she stares at her aunt’s card but when her phone rings with a call from Woo-jin, who appears as “Crescendo”, she promises to come right out.
Woo-jin stands outside with the man who paid Seo-ri’s hospital bills. When Seo-ri demands to know if he caused the accident, Kim Sang-shik kneels and utters, “I’m sorry.” He thanks her for waking up and shares his plan to turn himself in.
Seo-ri angrily reminds him that an apology won’t bring back her friend or restore the years that she lost. Seo-ri is horrified when Kim Sang-shik confesses that he was drunk on the day of the accident and that he wasn’t capable of tying down the tires properly. He didn’t realize that he was responsible for the accident until he saw the news.
Kim Sang-shik went to the hospital and saw for himself what he had done, but he was too scared to turn himself in. He overheard that one of the injured students was in a coma and in a flashback we see Seo-ri’s uncle beg the doctors to save her.
Seo-ri asks if she was abandoned by her family before Kim Sang-shik took over her hospital bills. He admits that he never saw her aunt and uncle after she was transferred to a different hospital. Kim Sang-shik heard the staff discuss her unpaid bills and decided that taking financial responsibility for Seo-ri was the least that he could do.
Seo-ri screams at Kim Sang-shik that he was wrong to drink and drive. Woo-jin tries to calm her as Kim Sang-shik continues to mumble how sorry he is. A bag of groceries hits the ground as Jennifer arrives and she pulls Kim Sang-shik to his feet by his shirt. She speaks a name, “Kim Tae-jin,” and recognition flashes in the man’s eyes.
Jennifer tells Kim Sang-shik, “You killed my husband,” and she pounds him on the chest as she tells him about their lost child. Woo-jin runs to Jennifer’s side when she collapses as Kim Sang-shik apologizes to her.
Seo-ri hugs Jennifer as sobs wrack the housekeeper’s body. In a flashback, the music box plays its lullaby for her husband, Kim Tae-jin, who was thrilled to learn that he was going to become a father. The happy scene was displaced by one of the new widow as she sobbed over her husband’s funeral portrait, in the very same room where she told him the good news.
In her room, Jennifer explains to Woo-jin and Seo-ri that her husband was the second victim in the bus accident. Because of her profound grief, she lost her baby as well. Another flashback returns us to the day that Jennifer wandered in the rain and bumped into Seo-ri’s uncle. It was then that she discovered the library and she explains that she lost herself in books to deal with her loss.
Jennifer insists that she’s always fine but Seo-ri gives her permission to not be fine for one day. Seo-ri and Jennifer, two people who lost so much in the bus accident, grieve together as Kim Sang-shik keeps his promise and turns himself in to the police.
Woo-jin joins Jennifer in the garden, where she offered him counsel many times, to remind her of the advice that she once gave him, “I heard even the most painful emotions pass with time. I heard we can choose to turn away from them and leave them as regret or make them into a memory that we’ll want to revisit.”
Woo-jin admits that he lived with his heart closed for too long, but credits Jennifer with helping him to change. In spite of her stiffness, Woo-jin recognized Jennifer’s innate warmth and tells her that he’s thankful that they met. Before he leaves, Woo-jin shares his wish for her, “I hope you smile when you’re happy and cry when you’re sad from now on. I hope you don’t live with your eyes closed anymore.”
In her room, Seo-ri stares at her aunt’s card and the Euros that her uncle gave her and remembers his promise that with that money, she could afford a taxi to rejoin them. Seo-ri throws them away, only to fish the card and the money out immediately. When Woo-jin walks in from the garden, he sees Seo-ri dusting them off, so she explains that she tried to throw them away so that she would give up on meeting her aunt and uncle again, but she couldn’t do it.
The next morning, Chan runs into Seo-ri as he’s about to leave for school, but she can’t look him in the eye. He good-naturedly confronts her, “Are you really going to make a big deal out of this?” When Seo-ri finally manages to look at Chan, she relaxes and they mostly return to normal.
Chan has another race on the horizon and when Seo-ri teases him about his first place win, he confesses that he wants to be the best in the country. Chan plans to follow his instincts and spells out “feel” correctly, “It’s F, E, E, L.” As he walks out the door, Chan and Seo-ri chant, “Don’t think. Feel,” together like old times.
Chan meets Hae-bum and Deok-soo outside and they sense that he seems relieved. He teases them about the ever present bronze medals around their necks and suggests that they win another one. Determined to make the most of what’s left of their school year, all three boys run off shouting, “Medal! Medal! Medal!”
Back at work, Woo-jin proposes the project for the hospital concert and gets Hee-soo’s support. Hyun teases Woo-jin when he drinks out of the same water bottle as Seo-ri, but he shrugs it off since she’s his girlfriend. Hyun thinks it’s a joke until Seo-ri bashfully confirms that they’re a couple.
Hee-soo calls Hyun clueless when he confesses that he thought that Seo-ri liked him. Hee-soo looks surprised when Hyun shares that he thought that she would end up with Woo-jin. When Hyun insists that Seo-ri acted like she liked him, Woo-jin makes it clear, “She likes me.”
Seo-ri jumps up when she gets a text in response to her flyer. She and Woo-jin meet with a woman who saw her aunt regularly when she lived in the neighborhood. The last thing the woman heard was that Seo-ri’s aunt went to the courthouse to get a divorce.
That makes no sense to Woo-jin, who remembers that Seo-ri’s aunt sold the house, impossible if she had divorced her husband. Seo-ri insists that her aunt and uncle had a good relationship but Woo-jin reveals that he has information that she needs to see. He shows Seo-ri the documents that prove that her uncle’s company went bankrupt and that her aunt sold her house.
Seo-ri blames herself for the failure of her uncle’s business and marriage until Woo-jin reminds her not to jump to conclusions without proof. Seo-ri reasons that since her aunt wasn’t a blood relation, she felt no responsibility towards her. Seo-ri’s focus shifts to her uncle, who she fears is all alone.
Seo-ri decides that she has to speak with her aunt to find her uncle but when she and Woo-jin visit the flower shop, it’s closed. They ask around at neighboring businesses but can’t find out anything about the shop’s closure.
It’s late when they pull up in front of the house and a discouraged Seo-ri wishes that her aunt had told her about her uncle before she closed the shop. Woo-jin takes her hand and promises that they’ll continue their search.
Woo-jin and Seo-ri are about to go inside when her aunt approaches and calls out her name. As they look at one another, her aunt’s eyes fill with tears as she looks at Seo-ri and says, “You woke up.”
This beginning of this hour was heavy on the backstory of the younger versions of Seo-ri and Woo-jin and I enjoyed the opportunity to see the young actors again before Thirty But Seventeen ends. I’ve seen Yoon Chan-young many times and I always look forward to his performances but this was the first time that I saw Park Si-eun and I was really impressed with her portrayal of the young Seo-ri. Performances of the younger versions of adult characters can add so much to the story, and that was especially true for Thirty But Seventeen because in order to convince us that Woo-jin and Seo-ri were fated to be together, we have to feel their connection as teenagers, even though they only met one time. And the young actors managed to convince me that they had a connection strong enough to survive all that separated them for over thirteen years.
Once they cleared up all of the misunderstandings, Seo-ri and Woo-jin became a real team. Together, they confronted the man who triggered the horrific accident and managed to help Jennifer along the way. The continued to search for Seo-ri’s aunt and uncle, prepared to deal with whatever they discovered. Hyung-tae accepted their relationship and took a step back, as did Chan, so no lingering triangles. This drama was so focused on healing without any prolonged, forced crises to contend with. There were no life threatening conditions or bitter romantic entanglements, instead we witnessed an untangling of a huge, complicated knot that allowed everything and everybody to fall into place, and it was a refreshing approach.
After Seo-ri managed to convince the very doubtful Woo-jin of her teenaged crush, the guilt finally left him but it gave him the insight to help Jennifer through her crisis. Seo-ri was able to understand how one man’s irresponsibility could completely devastate her and it helped Jennifer take her first step out of her self imposed prison. She faced the man responsible for her husband’s death and the loss of her baby and once she shared her pain, the walls that Jennifer had carefully built started to come down.
Chan had his own suffering to work through and it was hard to witness his broken heart, especially after he was hurt so deeply when Woo-jin abandoned him yet again. Chan accepted the reality that Seo-ri was in love with Woo-jin and he did what he had to do to move on. That included telling Seo-ri the truth and I had to respect that he wasn’t going to just stuff his feelings. His confession was the equivalent of ripping off a band-aid, it was quick, painful and then over. Chan quickly made Seo-ri a part of his past and chose to move on rather than wallow. It was commendable though not very believable, especially for a teenager.
Maybe Chan’s quick recovery can be attributed to the fact that he’s an athlete who’s been trained to be a team player. There’s a bigger picture that he’s used to thinking about and that training may have helped him to cope with such a bitter disappointment. Or maybe he’s been influenced by Woo-jin, who couldn’t move past his pain and worried everyone who loved him for years, especially Chan. Whatever influenced him, Chan made a decision to move on from his first love and make the most of his already pretty awesome life.
The final mystery that remains to be solved has to do with Set-ri’s uncle. Unlike when she first woke up, I think that now that she has Woo-jin and is surrounded by friends who care about her, Seo-ri can endure whatever her sleuthing uncovers. Chan’s right, Seo-ri no longer seems like a seventeen-year-old, she’s an adult who’s ready to make the most of the miracle that brought her back to life.