When the Camellia Blooms: Episodes 15-16
The aftermath of an ominous warning causes a ripple effect of paranoia and fear. With her safe haven being threatened, our heroine must figure out how to protect what she loves.
EPISODE 15: “The Lynx of This Area”
Dong-baek’s spooked by the act of vandalism and Yong-shik notices that the security camera’s been deliberately painted over. The footage reveals a dark figure breaking into the Camellia and evading the camera’s field of vision before rendering it useless.
Chief Byun is called over and watches intently as Yong-shik demonstrates with ease how to pick the lock. Yong-shik deduces that it was done by someone who knows the Camellia inside-out, from the bar’s layout to the position of the camera. It was only installed yesterday, so the Joker must have been at the bar and therefore, caught on tape.
The flustered chief plans to call the forensics team but Yong-shik shushes him. He doesn’t want to scare Dong-baek, but she hears their conversation clearly as she takes out an old box from the attic to show them.
It’s filled with articles calling her a prostitute because according to the media, only prostitutes become the victims of serial murders. The articles advise her to “behave herself” since she managed to survive. Yong-shik is angry for her, but Dong-baek matter-of-factly states that nobody is curious about the truth – whatever the public believes becomes the truth.
She confesses that the harsh comments affect her even now. “The Joker didn’t kill me, but people stabbed me over and over.” Yong-shik swears she’ll never have to experience this again, but Dong-baek is more worried about Pil-gu, who’s bound to stumble upon comments online.
When Yong-shik proclaims that he’ll arrest the Joker, Chief Byun breaks his silence to bring Yong-shik back to reality – a case can’t be solved with sheer determination. Dong-baek silently takes in the eerie message as the chief points out that they need to do something about the wall.
Dong-baek heads out to check on Pil-gu, telling Yong-shik that he doesn’t need to escort her. He’s reluctant to let her go and asks why they’re seeing each other if she’s just going to do everything alone, but the paint job is much more important to her right now.
The Joker made it clear that she’s being watched so Dong-baek decides to keep the bar open. She knows that whoever did this will want to see her reaction today.
She tenses up while gathering the courage to walk through the alleyway, losing confidence when she sees a man slouched against the wall. Dong-baek’s just about to give up when Yong-shik calls out from behind. Though she says she could’ve gone alone, she’s relieved to see him.
Yong-shik eyes the man and smoothly positions himself between him and Dong-baek as he rattles on that he’s here because he’s clingy. Dong-baek’s still on alert as they walk together, jumping at the sound of the drunken man’s coughs.
Sensing her fear, Yong-shik suggests her to stay home and rest. Dong-baek shares that she’s scared of centipedes but learned that you must squish them immediately if you’re afraid. It’s scarier if they hide while you’re screaming, so she’s determined to catch the centipede of a killer today.
Yong-shik observes her as he recalls how he first fell for her gutsy, yet calm personality. These days, it makes him angry because he feels sorry for no reason.
Stopping in his tracks to take her hand, he wipes a confused Dong-baek’s palm with his sleeve. “You’ll get sweaty. Why are you always clenching your fists so hard?” He’d followed Dong-baek earlier and witnessed her hesitation in the alley as she dug her fingernails into her palms.
Yong-shik likens her to Sirasoni – an independent street fighter who, due to having no followers, didn’t gain power despite being better than a legendary gang leader. Dong-baek can be strong alone, but she’s gained a minion who will run to her whenever she falters. They both end up in better spirits as he sweetly coaches her to unclench her fists.
Chief Byun complains that he’s doing all the grunt work as Yong-shik investigates. Hah, the chief/subordinate roles are always reversed with these two. Chief Byun orders him to identify everyone in the footage and look into anyone who keeps looking at the camera.
That turns out to be a tall order because the men of Ongsan had all gathered around the CCTV, commenting that Dong-baek became scary as they read the new sign: “If you speak rudely, I’ll do the same.”
Yong-shik writes down some names and the chief is surprised to see Jung-sook listed. He muses that things started happening after she arrived. Yong-shik’s on the defensive, “how could she do such a thing to her own daughter?” but Chief Byun suspects an ulterior motive. He begins to wonder if she even suffers from dementia – his grandmother did and they act quite differently.
Jung-sook sets the table as Chief Byun narrates that she isn’t causing any trouble and seems to be helping her daughter out. When Dong-baek instructs Pil-gu during breakfast to not go anywhere alone, she’s surprised to learn that Jung-sook walks him from place to place.
As they head to school, Dong-baek suggests moving to a safer city. Seoul’s too expensive, but Daejeon has a school with a good baseball team. Jung-sook’s expression is unreadable as she looks at her daughter. To Dong-baek’s chagrin, Jung-sook affectionately refers to Pil-gu by her name again.
At a bank, Dong-baek is deemed unqualified for a small business loan. She shows Jung-sook her account balance of less than 2 million won – a low amount for working so hard everyday. Dong-baek laments that those born to wealth lead different lives to people born with nothing. Jung-sook can’t take her eyes off the bankbook, seemingly doing some calculations.
Yong-shik’s glued to the monitor as he diligently reviews the footage. Chief Byun instructs him to make note of everyone he saw from the moment he bought the camera to when it was installed.
Yong-shik thinks back to yesterday: he bought the camera from Heung-shik’s store and ran into Kyu-tae, who made a fuss about them drilling holes into his wall. Heung-shik shrank into the sidelines as the two men battled it out.
Kyu-tae picked up a cable (like the one from the crime scene) off the shelf and swung it around. His feelings got hurt when Yong-shik suggested that the camera was needed to catch Kyu-tae in action.
They then ran into the ajumma squad. Intimidated by Deok-soon, Yong-shik stuttered while explaining his actions. He thought she was letting him go until she dropped the bomb with a smile on her face: he won’t inherit her restaurant.
Deok-soon passive-aggressively mentions the bird-poop-covered-CCTV at her restaurant that Yong-shik never cared about. But sure, go and install one at the Camellia.
When asked why she let birds poop there, Chan-sook backed her up. “Is she supposed to block their butt holes, then?” HA. There’s no winning an argument with these ladies.
They found Ja-young loitering outside the bar. Yong-shik got her approval to install the camera and hilariously shared his political opinion: if anyone from her family were to become the governor, it should be her.
He and Heung-shik bid the busy “future governor” farewell, who’d walked away dejectedly. She’d just wanted a drink!
He rounds out his notes by adding Jong-ryeol, Hyang-mi, Jung-sook, and Dong-baek.
Dong-baek suggests to Mom that she leave, so they don’t have to suffer together. Besides, wouldn’t it better for her to suffer alone peacefully? Jung-sook answers that being alone makes people cause trouble. She’s lost in her own world as she explains that when isolated, a fool will think of foolish things, and a bad person will only think of bad things. Dong-baek gets the creeps as Jung-sook continues that suffering alone causes anger and desperation, creating monsters.
Yong-shik finds it frightening that the suspects are all people he knows very well…he can’t imagine any of them being a killer. Chief Byun hesitates before reassuring him that it must be an outsider.
Jung-sook ominously says that everybody looks nice on the outside, advising Dong-baek to be careful who she trusts.
Jung-sook flags down a taxi and promises she’ll be back tomorrow night, leaving Dong-baek confused about where she’s been heading recently. She’s reluctant to enter the Camellia alone but heads inside cautiously.
As Jong-ryeol carries some boxes home, Jessica waves around a promise that he’d signed, citing his agreement to let her attend grad school. Apparently, Jessica’s mom wrote the document and Jong-ryeol just stamped it. He complains that she’s barely his wife, so she brings up divorce again.
Tired of the same old conversations, Jong-ryeol compromises. She can go to Milan after weaning off their daughter. He tells her leave with a box of abalone, but retracts his offer when Jessica calls his fans tacky for sending it.
Dong-baek searches every corner of the Camellia to ensure she’s alone. She’s overly sensitive to even sounds she hears daily. A hiker comes in for lunch, activating a bell. The welcoming sound she used to love has become frightening.
When Jessica wonders if she should’ve just stayed with “Seok-han,” her mother warns to never utter his name again. They held a wedding and lived together for 2 years, but with no paperwork there’s no evidence of that marriage. Mom says she’s committing fraud while Jessica maintains that she’s innocent. They stop talking when a man coughs from a different room.
Jong-ryeol liquidates his assets and withdraws cash to purchase the building. Knowing that Dong-baek won’t take his money, he hides it in the abalone box.
Ja-young scans Kyu-tae’s credit card statement and figures out the charge for “Chung-dae MT” is a motel. She arrives just when Hyang-mi is checking out. Hyang-mi initially hides, but changes tactics, greeting Ja-young familiarly — but Ja-young doesn’t recognize her.
Hyang-mi drops a few hints about being close to Kyu-tae before boldly sharing that her “boyfriend” covered her expenses to live there. Ja-young doesn’t understand and tries to end the conversation. Hyang-mi quips that everyone dismisses her, making her want to do bad things.
At the realtor’s office, Dong-baek discusses moving to Daejeon, but it’s expensive. Jong-ryeol arrives to talk about the building and both are surprised to see the other. From the waiting area, Jong-ryeol hangs his head as the realtor advises Dong-baek to ask for child support. Dong-baek thinks it’s petty to ask, uncomfortably glancing back at Jong-ryeol.
He follows Dong-baek later, using the realtor’s words and calling her a kid for not asking for help. Dong-baek doesn’t want him to have a say in Pil-gu’s life and Jong-ryeol can’t believe what he’s hearing. Dong-baek hurts him further by requesting him to stop visiting Ongsan and seeing Pil-gu.
Parked in front of the school, Jong-ryeol beats himself up for being incapable of speaking nicely – he wanted to be honest and tell Dong-baek he’d missed her a lot.
His pity party stops short when a fire alarm sends him sprinting towards the school. Pil-gu watches as Jong-ryeol lectures Seung-yeob about the dangers of fires, so enraged that he even says, “What if my kid got hurt?”
Seung-yeob mutters that people would think Jong-ryeol’s the head of the PTA with how worried he is.
Jong-ryeol frantically inspects Pil-gu with concern but Pil-gu shakes him off, claiming that he’s busy. Jong-ryeol is upset when he learns that Pil-gu spends his free time at the bar. Offended, he retorts that Jong-ryeol should return to training in Seoul because everyone thinks he’s been fired.
Kyu-tae listlessly hands Hyang-mi enough money to cover a flight to Copenhagen as he recalls how she’d cornered him at home one day. She showed him the photo of them at the motel, commenting that it’s the thought of cheating that counts. Nobody will care about the truth, just what they see. It was then that Kyu-tae realised that she wasn’t stupid.
Hyang-mi plans to extort more from him later, warning Kyu-tae that she met Ja-young at the motel. She advises him to be more careful – Ja-young is a divorce lawyer, after all.
Seung-yeob informs Dong-baek that training ended early since somebody kept complaining about toxic gases. At the mention of Pil-gu heading to the bar, Dong-baek runs off in a panicked state. He’s not there and can’t be reached; she can’t help but be afraid that this has something to do with the Joker.
Yong-shik is still glued to his screen, but this time he’s watching footage from 5 years ago, in front of OK Aesthetics. The chief berates him for wasting time but Yong-shik is positive that the scene will reveal something.
Dong-baek barges into the station and everyone’s focus shifts to finding Pil-gu. Yong-shik leaves the security footage running and we linger on the screen for a moment as it pans to the buildings near the crime scene.
Unbeknownst to everyone else, Pil-gu’s having a picnic with Jong-ryeol by a mudflat. Jong-ryeol caters to his needs, boasting that the abalone was prepared by a famous chef.
When Pil-gu asks why he’s only sharing food with him, Jong-ryeol makes up an excuse that Pil-gu’s tiny and needs to grow.
Pil-gu says he’ll apparently be tall anyway, since he takes after his dad. Touched, Jong-ryeol shares that there’s an expensive box of abalone that’s meant only for Pil-gu and Dong-baek.
Dong-baek returns to the Camellia after an unfruitful search for Pil-gu. She freezes when she steps inside to see the father and son, spitting images of each other, watching a baseball game. Her legs give out as she falls to the floor in relief.
She makes Pil-gu promise to not be alone at the bar anymore. As she gets up, both men rush to steady her. Pil-gu watches as she pushes Jong-ryeol away to hold onto Yong-shik. Dong-baek warns him to stop playing games and to call her when he finishes school.
Yong-shik nods in agreement while Jong-ryeol looks annoyed, starting to comment about her spending time with Yong-shik instead of watching the bar.
Yong-shik notices the way Pil-gu looks at Jong-ryeol. He attacks his jugular to prevent him from speaking, laughing that Jong-ryeol must be drunk. Dong-baek notices Pil-gu’s lingering glance as Jong-ryeol is dragged outside. The two men get into an argument about who’s worse for Dong-baek. Jong-ryeol brings up Pil-gu and his long history with Dong-baek to claim the upper hand.
Yong-shik challenges him to repeat that to Pil-gu, then explain that he disappeared, married a model, and had another child. Jong-ryeol warns him not to act up when Yong-shik accuses him of not caring about Pil-gu’s scars.
Jong-ryeol heatedly asks if Yong-shik believes he can take care of them. “You just started liking her, so stop acting like you matter.” His believes his years with Dong-baek trumps Yong-shik’s few months, so Yong-shik should stop thinking his feelings can conquer everything.
Pil-gu skips dinner to watch baseball by himself, staring solemnly instead of cheering as someone hits a home run. Dong-baek ends up closing the bar while Yong-shik installs a new lock. She wonders if she’ll be okay even if she rests. It’s now sinking in that the Joker is among the customers that she serves, and Pil-gu could’ve interacted with them – what if she’s still afraid after taking a break?
The Camellia is filled with precious memories but now she’s spooked when the door opens. Yong-shik, who’d been listening intently, reminds Dong-baek that she was going to catch the Joker like a centipede. However, Dong-baek now recognizes that Pil-gu’s been watched for five years too, unsure what to do.
Jong-ryeol’s mood turns from bad to worse when Jessica sends him another text threatening divorce. He’s startled by Hyang-mi who wants his contact information. He’s not interested in the picture she wants to send him, blowing her off. She wonders how much journalists would pay for a picture of Jong-ryeol tending to Dong-baek’s hand.
Dong-baek admits that she’s exhausted from pretending to be okay. Yong-shik doesn’t let on that he feels angry that she is breaking down. He slaps on a smile, caresses her hand, and reassures her that it’s okay. She tears up as she declares that she doesn’t want to be Sirasoni. His face falls as she cries that she wants to leave this town.
Earlier that day, Yong-shik investigates the school’s warehouse where the fire started. Seung-yeob thinks the fire was caused by smoking. He couldn’t find a cigarette butt but found a green lighter that smells like paint thinner, which Yong-shik recognizes from somewhere.
It’s no secret that Dong-baek has always pretended to be okay, secretly suffering on the inside. Although Yong-shik is upset about her “breaking down”, I’ll be honest… I’m kind of glad. Being able to show your weakness and ask for help is a strength in itself. She and Pil-gu both deny their true feelings to put on a strong front; that pressure adds up over time and both mother and son seem to have reached their tipping point. They need to lean on people they trust and I think they’ve each found themselves a pretty good “minion” willing to protect them. Yong-shik for Dong-baek, and Jong-ryeol for Pil-gu.
Although I can see that Jong-ryeol really treasured and loved Dong-baek, I don’t agree that his “10 years of history” with her automatically makes him a better partner than Yong-shik. If anything, Yong-shik understands Dong-baek more than Jong-ryeol does. He notices little details and is able to communicate on a deeper level, getting her to open up. Jong-ryeol and Yong-shik are similar in that they get frustrated with some of her actions. However, Yong-shik outwardly acts in a way that Dong-baek needs in the moment, whereas Jong-ryeol reacts by arguing. If he truly wants to be a contender for her heart, he needs to re-evaluate his own actions.
Pil-gu and Jong-ryeol’s scenes have been my favorite throughout this show. Jong-ryeol has consistently shown that he does everything in his power to get to know his son and make sure he’s living well. He may be a bit clumsy at expressing himself, but his heart is genuine. Pil-gu shoulders a lot more burden than a child should have to. He is smart, and seems to have already figured out who Jong-ryeol is. I hope that Pil-gu can lean on Jong-ryeol for support and guidance. (On a side note, I love how happy he looks whenever he interacts with his grandma!)
A recurring theme this episode is that people believe what they want to believe. A pre-conceived bias can blind one from the truth. The media believes Dong-baek is a prostitute. Yong-shik barely gets his investigation going because he can’t think of his neighbors as killers. The fact that nobody will believe Kyu-tae if he denied having an affair with Hyang-mi if she releases the “proof” that she fabricated. Ja-young not realizing that she’s looking right at the woman who she’s looking for, even when Hyang-mi gives her hints. If everyone takes a step back to think outside the bias, then perhaps the real version of the truth will present itself. (…Joker? Were you here all along?)
By now, I’m sure that most viewers have Heung-shik on their radar as the prime suspect. He’s always wearing worker gloves, has those cables lying around his shop, and would probably smell like paint thinner. He’s also the one who physically installed the security camera, so he would know best how to not get caught. I’m curious to see if this is just a fake-out, or if he really is our guy. If he is, then as Yong-shik feared, he really is as ordinary as they come. He’s never at the forefront of any scene, always a wallflower – his existence is rarely acknowledged. Hyang-mi and Jung-sook did warn us that being cast to the side could make somebody want to do bad things…
- Premiere Watch: Flower Crew: Joseon Marriage Agency, When the Camellia Blooms, Secret Boutique, Running Investigators, Vagabond, Pegasus Market
- Kang Haneul becomes shy for Gong Hyo-jin in new promo for When Camellia Blooms
- Character stills for When Camellia Blooms with Gong Hyo-jin, Kang Haneul
- Lee Sang-yi joins the cast of When Camellia Blooms
- Kang Haneul is back and signed up for post-military comeback drama
- Gong Hyo-jin considers becoming single mom for KBS rom-com thriller