When the Camellia Blooms: Episodes 23-24
It’s a long, soul-crushing day for our girls from the Camellia as they each deal with their own battles. They learn that sometimes, you can try your best to do the right thing but it still won’t be good enough.
EPISODE 23: “Don’t Forget Me”
Nak-ho grabs Dong-baek by the collar, growling that she’s dead meat. The threats don’t last long; his wrist is crushed by Yong-shik’s iron grip. Dong-baek takes a cue from Jung-sook, crying that Nak-ho choked her, and Yong-shik announces that everything that’s about to happen is considered self-defense.
At the station, Nak-ho’s practically in tears while reporting the assault, sporting a nasty-looking scratch on his chest. Chief Byun tries to control the situation as the two other officers look up Nak-ho’s records. A livid Jung-sook stands up for Dong-baek, accusing him of strangling her daughter.
When Chief Byun is called over to look at Nak-ho’s profile, Nak-ho decides to settle. The chief, who’d been civil up until now, pushes him out the door and gruffly tells him to get lost. He doesn’t consider anyone charged with attempted rape or murder as humans.
Nak-ho takes this as permission to “act like an animal,” warning Dong-baek that he’ll be watching. He advises Yong-shik to guard her carefully, because one day…it won’t be just an attempt. Hyang-mi pushes an angry Yong-shik aside, wanting to settle things herself.
Outside, Hyang-mi tells Nak-ho to leave them alone – she’ll be returning by the end of the month, after all. He snidely congratulates her for settling down but Hyang-mi expressionlessly insists that she and Dong-baek are just strangers.
Dong-baek links arms with Hyang-mi as they leave the station and Yong-shik immediately runs to join them, clinging onto Dong-baek. He instructs her to stick to him, since there are people he’s wary of.
Pil-gu joins them at a BBQ restaurant, where Nak-ho’s comment that “a home is just a place you feel comfortable in” lingers on Hyang-mi’s mind. She fondly observes everyone’s interactions and thinks that it’s a weird place to call home.
“There’s a mom who abandoned her daughter. A country bumpkin who adores someone else’s child. A kid who’s the oasis of the family.” Dong-baek urges Hyang-mi to eat, and Hyang-mi finishes up her list. “And the woman that all these people love…Dong-baek.”
They happily share food and laughter and at 10:05PM, a 24-hour countdown begins. Oh no.
As she braids Hyang-mi’s hair, Dong-baek reveals that she took her in despite the lies because she knew Hyang-mi had nowhere else to go. Hyang-mi muses that Dong-baek’s the first person to notice that about her.
Hyang-mi doesn’t understand how Dong-baek is so good-natured when they both led equally shitty lives.
Dong-baek ignores the comment, offering her a raise so she can save up. When asked if a raise will help her buy a house and start a family, Dong-baek has no answer.
Hyang-mi laments that they were abandoned and lack education, money and connections. They were dealt the worst hand possible, so why bother trying so hard to live?
Dong-baek disagrees – nobody knows what’ll happen until they’ve tried their best. She urges Hyang-mi not to leave.
Hyang-mi feels bad for being the messed up one. She seems to be convincing herself when she sighs that it’s why she should – nay, must – leave. Dong-baek thinks to herself that everyone hides their weaknesses, but some people are just so easy to read.
Meanwhile, some are impossible to read. Yong-shik checks in on Heung-shik who’s preparing cat food, casually mentioning that the gloves must feel stuffy. Heung-shik’s all smiles and says he’s fine, although others seem uncomfortable with it. “That was a mistake,” Yong-shik thinks.
Yong-shik grabs a sample straight from the source when Heung-shik leaves his cat food unattended. He asks why Heung-shik is locking up when his father’s still inside; Heung-shik claims that it gives him peace of mind since the world’s a scary place. “Another mistake,” Yong-shik notes as he mumbles in agreement.
Heung-shik asks about the thug with a weird gaze and sheepishly says that people give off certain vibes. Yong-shik assures that Hyang-mi’s fine since she has a strong mentality, but Heung-shik begs to differ – she just pretends to be okay. He bashfully skitters away when Yong-shik speculates that he likes her.
The chief isn’t on board with the idea of sending the cat food samples to forensics. He yells that even if it tests positive for pesticides, they won’t know who poisoned the food – but Yong-shik now has a sample from the feeder.
Yong-shik asks about the search for information on a Jung-sook born in the 60’s, earning him another scolding from the chief. It’s an impossible task when they don’t know her date of birth. Yong-shik leans back and cheekily smiles, “Guess it’s up to the future son-in-law to find out.”
Armed with another bouquet, Yong-shik’s on a mission to find out Jung-sook’s birthday but isn’t able to get a word in. Jung-sook asks if he’s loaded, with the amount he’s spending on flowers.
Hyang-mi carries in a huge package addressed to Pil-gu – it’s filled with toys and even a credit card from Jong-ryeol. Dong-baek mutters that he’s an annoying jerk, worriedly looking over at Yong-shik who’s devouring dumplings while trying to tune everything out.
He eats too quickly and heads outside for fresh air. He boasts that he has money too! He lists his accomplishments and Dong-baek watches him with a soft smile, slipping her hand into his. He confesses his annoyance at competing against someone who makes 1.2 billion won (about 1 million USD) per year when most people don’t ever make that much.
Dong-baek kisses his hand (he tries to get one on the lips, hah!) and assures him that although she’s in need of money, Jong-ryeol’s credit card only made her think about Yong-shik’s feelings. This soothes him over and his smile returns as he sneaks in a proper a kiss.
Yong-shik and Dong-baek flirt happily until an annoyed Hyang-mi cuts in that he should just give Dong-baek the money he spends on bouquets – they don’t have any vases left. He looks around the flower-filled bar and grabs a tin can for today’s bouquet.
It turns out to be Hyang-mi’s storage for stolen lighters. Yong-shik inspects a green one and asks about Heung-shik, learning that he visits the Camellia on a daily basis. He recalls the Joker’s warning that he watches Dong-baek every day.
This talk about lighters reminds Hyang-mi of the message that was burnt off the wall. She remembers seeing a similar burn recently and wonders if it’s common for people to burn their own dining table. Yong-shik probes for the location, but Hyang-mi doesn’t spill.
Their talk is cut short when Hyang-mi receives a letter – Jong-ryeol has filed a damage claim against her. Hyang-mi says she was going to be mature, but people like him make her the way she is. 11 hours and 45 minutes left on the clock.
At 10AM, she hops on a bus to Seoul. Jong-ryeol is rehearsing his lines for a shoot when Hyang-mi struts in, calling his name. He ignores her until she calls him “Pil-gu’s dad” in front of the staff. Irritated, he wonders if he should just kill her.
Jong-ryeol informs Hyang-mi that he won’t let her suck money out of him, but pities the way she lives. She drops the honorifics, “When someone who has a lot to lose faces someone who has nothing to lose, it’s the latter who wins.” He’s being punished for abandoning the sweet Dong-baek and has no right to judge her life.
Kyu-tae’s been living off alcohol and instant food since Ja-young left. His mother cleans his house as Hyang-mi voice-overs that clueless men have to suffer to acknowledge reality. He’s told to stay quiet and not let Ja-young take everything away.
He argues that Ja-young can have everything; she’s worth that much. Mom yells that he should’ve shown this romantic side earlier. As she angrily takes a call from his father, he wonders sadly if all sons turn out like their dads.
Kyu-tae texts Hyang-mi to meet at Ongsan Lake at 3PM so he can push her in. She’s about to board her bus when the sight of several men in hiking gear gives her pause. Hmm. 7 hours and 5 minutes left.
At the lake, Kyu-tae shows up in a paddleboat and hurriedly pedals them away to avoid being seen. He wants Hyang-mi to kneel to “his dear Ja-young” and bear witness in court to clear his name. It’s so ridiculous that she asks if all men are always a step behind.
Hyang-mi asks why he hit on her if he didn’t want to have an affair. He shares that he’d just wanted to show off since everyone else looked down on him. To him, she’s like a stray dog that was never loved.
Hyang-mi looks hurt as he continues that she’s as pitiful as a dog that craves attention whenever someone shows some interest. He advises her to change her ways if she wants someone to give her eye cream in the future.
In what seems like their first conversation with no false pretenses, she asks why everyone only loves Dong-baek when they’re nearly the same. Kyu-tae breaks it to her — they aren’t.
Dong-baek rejected his offer to let her stay if she fired Hyang-mi, she is fiercely loyal. He leaves Hyang-mi with the advice to live more like a human, although he’s not one to talk.
She receives another international call — the person is asking for 30 million won, which frustrates Hyang-mi because she’s already sent all the money she earned.
Jung-sook asks Pil-gu which of the two men he prefers. He doesn’t like either one, but knows who he hates more — Superman. He’d watched the entire show and has seen how much Jong-ryeol loves his daughter. Claiming that he’s not jealous, Pil-gu just finds it unfair that Jong-ryeol comes after him when he could continue doting on her instead.
Jung-sook curses Jong-ryeol for breaking Pil-gu’s heart with that show. He concludes that he absolutely hates Jong-ryeol and moderately hates Yong-shik. She commends him for picking the right side.
Pil-gu takes this opportunity to ask why Jung-sook calls him Dong-baek around his mom when she knows his name. Jung-sook doesn’t answer, but sighs that he couldn’t have inherited his smarts from his parents.
Jessica and her mom enter the Camellia to collect Pil-gu’s DNA for court purposes. He refers to Jessica as the lady from the Superman show and Jessica’s mom attempts to pluck a strand of his hair. Jung-sook grabs a fistful of hers before she succeeds. I love how tough she is!
She throws the women out, berating them for being arrogant when Dong-baek met Jong-ryeol first. Despite not having been married, they have a history that can’t be erased. Jung-sook scoffs that Jessica can keep her husband; they don’t even want him here.
Jung-sook continues that they can spout nonsense about an affair if Jessica wants an unemployed husband. She dares them to come back if they have the guts — she has nothing to lose, and will do at least one thing for Dong-baek. Aw!!
Hyang-mi approaches Jessica, introducing herself as the source of the rumour. She takes them to the café and notes that Jessica is the most desperate to keep Jong-ryeol’s career afloat since her influencer status depends on him.
If Jessica wants to keep her title as Mrs. Kang Jong-ryeol, she needs to pay up — it’ll take 30 million won to keep Hyang-mi’s lips sealed. Jessica calls her a “lowly fake,” but Hyang-mi argues they’re not that different.
One’s dying for attention, the other was never loved. The lucky one becomes Jessica and the unlucky one, Hyang-mi. Jessica joins the list of people who want to kill Hyang-mi. 5 hours and 4 minutes remain.
It’s been a rough day for Hyang-mi, so she asks for Pil-gu’s hand since he’s “the portable charger of our family.” He sighs that their family sure is bothersome but obliges, and she realizes she included herself as part of the family.
She tells Pil-gu to become successful and take care of his mom. “Don’t betray her like others do.” A black car follows behind, watching the two walk down the street.
At the Camellia, Hyang-mi ignores a call from Nak-ho. She’d exhausted all her options and finally takes the money from the fridge. She’s clearly reluctant to do it but says it’s Dong-baek’s fault for taking in someone like her.
The ajumma squad get pampered at a salon, talking about how pretty Dong-baek has become since dating. When Joon-gi barges in, Deok-soon asks if he fought with Pil-gu since she doesn’t see him around lately. It saddens Deok-soon to realize that Pil-gu avoids this street because of her.
She corners him on the street, claiming Ongsan as her turf. Since Pil-gu can’t avoid her, he should beat her. By that, she means he should stop thinking so much and visit her restaurant.
Deok-soon tries out Pil-gu’s new rolling backpack as he eats, mistakenly thinking that Yong-shik bought it for him when he says that he got it from “that guy.” Pil-gu can’t really answer when she asks who it is.
Jong-ryeol’s frustrated to see that Dong-baek’s even making deliveries now. She invites him inside to take his money back, but discovers that it’s all gone and curses her fate.
Yong-shik enters, unhappy to see Jong-ryeol. He thought he’d made it clear that he doesn’t like seeing them together. Dong-baek cries in frustration, asking what she’s to do when these things always happen to her. They weren’t expecting her to cry and learn about the stolen money.
2 hours and 35 minutes. Hyang-mi’s on the phone with the person she wired the money to. She tells them that she bought a plane ticket for tomorrow. This person doesn’t want her to come, even though Hyang-mi has nowhere else to go.
Yong-shik calls himself a jerk for making Dong-baek cry; seeing her tears makes him miserable. He promises to help her out and Jong-ryeol tells him to butt out of their business.
As the two continue arguing, Yong-shik asks if Jong-ryeol’s feeling anxious because Dong-baek is so pretty. He’s surprised that Jong-ryeol admits being scared of losing her, and assertively states the facts.
Dong-baek was always gloomy next to Jong-ryeol, but is pretty now because Yong-shik makes her smile. He’s swears to make sure she’s happy until the day she dies, and this gets a laugh out of Dong-baek.
Hyang-mi sits by her grandma’s hospital bed as she tells the person on the phone that she’s sent them at least 100 million won. She needs to leave Korea urgently and asks why they’re pushing her away when she wants to be with them.
Turns out it’s her younger brother, Hye-hoon, who’s calling from a hospital in Copenhagen. He doesn’t want Hyang-mi to come and shames her for her job. Oh, and his wife and doesn’t even know of Hyang-mi’s existence. Ugh.
Apparently, Hyang-mi’s been paying for his house, living expenses, and even his wife’s hospital bills. He of all people can’t be ashamed of her; she worked hard to give him a great life. She calls him ungrateful and cuts ties before hanging up.
Jong-ryeol has accepted that the lovebirds will be together, but requests them to leave Pil-gu out of their relationship. He won’t take Pil-gu away; he’s sure that Dong-baek will hand him over.
Jung-sook returns to the Camellia to find Deok-soon and Pil-gu waiting outside. Pil-gu tells Jung-sook that Yong-shik and Jong-ryeol (accidentally calling him “dad”) are here. Deok-soon asks her to watch Pil-gu.
Deok-soon says she didn’t know his father was still in the picture. She has never been disrespectful to Dong-baek. But just like Dong-baek is precious to Jung-sook, Yong-shik is precious to her – she can’t leave without saying her piece.
Jong-ryeol calmly reasons that Dong-baek can’t financially support Pil-gu’s major league dreams. He asks if she’s okay if their son lives a pathetic life like hers (wow, uncalled for) and fills her in on the 2D1M nickname.
With Dong-baek, Pil-gu would be a 2D1M as the son of a bar owner. With him, Pil-gu would be better equipped for a better life. Plus, is Yong-shik even capable of raising someone else’s son? “You obviously can’t love him more than I do,” says Jong-ryeol.
Dong-baek gets increasingly irritated as Jong-ryeol continues to take jabs at Yong-shik, including his financial status. The conversation comes to a halt when, to everyone’s shock, Deok-soon enters in a fury, yelling at Yong-shik for even listening to Jong-ryeol
The couple follow Deok-soon back to her restaurant. Deok-soon tells Dong-baek she hates her now and calls it like she sees it: Dong-baek dates Yong-shik and lets Jong-ryeol come and go as he pleases. Yong-shik tells her she’s mistaken, but Deok-soon doesn’t listen.
Hyang-mi tells her grandma that she sent money for hospital bills despite knowing that health care is free in Denmark. She figured he just needed money and acted like a fool. Even when she cut ties, it was for his sake.
She recalls a happier time when they were kids outside the Forget-Me-Not bar. They didn’t have much, but she was a very sweet sister who took care of a dumb and affectionate brother. She cries that he deserves to live a decent life without her.
Dong-baek explains that she doesn’t keep in touch with Jong-ryeol, but Deok-soon knows he’ll always be around because of Pil-gu. He also clearly has lingering feelings for her. Dong-baek cries, apologizing for always messing up and Deok-soon bellows that she shouldn’t do anything to be sorry for in the first place.
Yong-shik is especially precious to Deok-soon because he was born without a father; she’d endured many hardships to give him a happy life so she will not allow him to share Dong-baek’s troubles.
Dong-baek swallows back tears as Deok-soon begs her not to look pitiful and to stop smiling at Yong-shik. She’s asked to leave him alone and leaves the restaurant with dry eyes, telling Yong-shik to keep his mother company.
Dong-baek accepts a late-night delivery that she wouldn’t typically do. Jung-sook asks why she’s acting strong, but Dong-baek needs to stay busy. Besides, she wouldn’t be able to afford Pil-gu’s academy fees if she stopped working every time something happened.
Jung-sook thinks that she should’ve just killed herself instead of coming to Ongsan to watch Dong-baek live like this.
Knowing she won’t be forgiven but with nowhere to go, Hyang-mi makes her way back to the Camellia. She laments that that having a home can be dangerous. She sees Dong-baek struggling to start the motorbike and tells her to move aside, she’ll do the delivery instead.
They talk like nothing happened and Hyang-mi cries, “are you really dumb?” for not asking questions. Without malice, Dong-baek calls her pathetic for not having the guts to run away with the money. Hyang-mi doesn’t understand how Dong-baek is so generous even without receiving love from the rest of the world.
Hyang-mi sincerely confesses that she took Dong-baek’s bracelet because she wanted to remember her. She says Dong-baek named the Camellia well, since the flower has a good meaning. Some flowers have unlucky ones, like the forget-me-not, which means “don’t forget me.” Hyang-mi asks Dong-baek not to forget her like her family has.
She sets off on the delivery and Dong-baek waits for her to return. At 10:05PM, Dong-baek receives a call. An alarm rings at the same time, so Dong-baek doesn’t hear a coughing man asking, “are you coming this time?” before hanging up.
Yong-shik pronounces the estimated time of death — between 10 and 11PM.
This episode was heartbreaking. We knew what the countdown was for and yet when the time came, it was still hard to accept. Hyang-mi has always been a mystery to us, but we finally learn her true motivations.
We’ve seen many instances where it seems like she’s trying to fit into the title of “someone like you” that everyone throws at her. They make huge assumptions that “someone like her” would turn out to be pitiful, heartless, and untrustworthy due to her background. She keeps repeating that Dong-baek shouldn’t have taken someone like her in, as if convincing herself to believe that it’s something anyone in her position would’ve done.
That’s why she feels especially bad seeing that Dong-baek, who had an equally bad upbringing, is so fundamentally good. Hyang-mi had to live her entire life protecting her brother, so it really aggravated me to see how ungrateful he was. I’m glad she had her own makeshift family and found a comfortable place to call home despite being let down by her blood family. Hyang-mi’s death is hard to accept because it’s clear that the target was never her, it was Dong-baek. It’s a case of bad luck, which seems to be the story of her entire life.
On the topic of family, I love how fiercely protective of Dong-baek Jung-sook has been lately. All her claws are out, and it seems like she’s just here to provide the support she couldn’t all those years ago. Deok-soon is also protecting Yong-shik in her own way, but is bulldozing over everyone. Dong-baek has been nothing but clear in her choice between Yong-shik and Jong-ryeol, but Deok-soon has tunnel vision and won’t stop to listen. I understand that it’s hard to be rational in her position, but she needs to see how happy Dong-baek and Yong-shik make each other, and let the kids figure things out themselves.
I find it interesting that Heung-shik is so perceptive of the people around him. He has this goofy demeanor and doesn’t seem like he’d hurt anyone. All the signs are pointing him out to be our Big Bad Villain. I wonder if it might be his father instead, since at this point, it has to be someone from Heung-shik’s household. Heung-shik doesn’t have the Joker’s habitual coughing; my assumption is that he’s the one who turned on the sprinklers, saving Dong-baek 5 years ago. Whatever the truth may be, we’ll find out very soon!
The writers have done a good job fleshing out most characters, their backgrounds, and motivations so I’m excited to dive into the Joker’s backstory.
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