When the Camellia Blooms: Episodes 27-28
While our cop works hard to solve his cases and protect our heroine, she’s faced with some unsettling truths that she can’t ignore. Unable to escape the fact that wounds from the past have a hand in the future, her reaction to unexpected news only makes matters worse. Somehow, in spite of their challenges, our cop and heroine manage to grow even closer.
EPISODE 27: “And That is How My Mom Aged”
After getting the call that Yong-shik was hurt in the market fire, Deok-soon runs to the hospital and as her feet hit the pavement, we’re transported to the Fall of 1987. It was then that a younger, pregnant Deok-soon made an almost identical run to the scene of the fiery accident that took her husband’s life.
At her husband’s funeral, a dazed Deok-soon remembered his happy announcement that the name “Yong-shik” had been chosen for their unborn son. As a shaman pointed at her, he channeled the dead man’s final message, “I was a man destined for greatness and longevity, but the curse of the widow was greater!” When the shaman tore through a banner leading to the afterlife, Deok-soon caused a scene, rejecting his claim that she was fated to be a widow.
Tongues wagged when Deok-soon reopened her diner before the 49 days ritual. When she heard two women gossip about her bad luck, Deok-soon chased the women away and vowed, “I’ll keep living. I’ll do what I can to raise my boys.”
When she arrives at the ER, Deok-soon overreacts at the sight of Yong-shik’s bandaged arm. Dong-baek tries to talk to her but Deok-soon pushes her away and orders her to leave. As Dong-baek walks away, she explains in a voiceover that experiences leave their mark as her own mother looks at her worriedly.
At the market, Yong-shik’s team discovers that all of the security cameras are broken. When Chief Byun hears that fragments of a lighter were found, he wants to know if they’re green.
A number of sealed bottles sit next to a desk with a notepad that has the phone number to the emergency room. Someone tears off the page, revealing a message peeking out from some heavy scribbling “You’ll know once you light a fire.”
Heung-shik opens the door to inform his father about the fire, pleading, “Please don’t do anything…Okay?” After telling Heung-shik, “She’s alive,” Dad explains, “That’s why you’ll know once you light a fire. A human being will burn to death, but not a witch.”
As Jung-sook leaves the hospital with Dong-baek, she’s surprised that her daughter has plans to check on Yong-shik after the way that Deok-soon reacted. When Dong-baek points out that she’s not exactly daughter-in-law material, Jung-sook rants, “So what if you have a son…Should you have killed yourself instead? Should you have had an abortion?” As Jung-sook pays her daughter’s bill, Dong-baek notices when a doctor recognizes her mother.
Jung-sook pulls Dong-baek down the street until she protests, “Are you selling me off to the briquette vendor?” Jung-sook stops as she recalls a night when she pulled a young Dong-baek that very same way. When little Dong-baek asked about her dad, Jung-sook warned, “Mention him again…I’ll sell you off to the briquette vendor.”
Dong-baek grouses that Jung-sook probably owes the man money and as she walks ahead, we hear Jung-sook’s voice, “Not knowing how your child feels kills you inside.”
Deok-soon returns to the ER as Yong-shik dresses to leave, promising his team, “I’ll make sure that the Joker doesn’t hurt Dong-baek.” Deok-soon narrates, “Knowing how they feel kills you, too,” and the officers back away when she confronts Yong-shik, “The Joker’s after her…she’s…that unlucky?”
When Jong-ryeol drives out of his parking garage, he’s followed by the reporters. Jong-ryeol calls his coach to warn that he’ll probably be banned for the season because he’s about to do something. Jong-ryeol proceeds to box in the reporters and then uses a baseball bat to smash the side mirror on their van.
Chief Byun drives Yong-shik to Ongsan Lake to interview the boat vendor. When Chief Byun asks to see the security footage of the night in question, he’s unsettled by the news that it stopped working around the same time as the market’s cameras.
A man cleaning the boats pulls a motorcycle helmet from the water and Yong-shik recognizes it immediately. When Yong-shik finds blood, he tells Chief Byun that it’s time to call in some divers.
On the drive back, Yong-shik asks Chief Byun to keep the latest discovery quiet. Realizing that Dong-baek will never be free until the Joker is caught, Yong-shik reaffirms his commitment to find him.
After Dong-baek takes down her delivery sign, Jung-sook offers to catch the Joker. When Dong-baek plays along, Jung-sook holds up the knife in her hand and asks, “Or should I kill him?” When Jung-sook looks up, she recognizes the woman across the street who’s staring at her.
Jong-ryeol and the reporter meet at a deserted spot by the river to negotiate. Jong-ryeol offers the reporter money but he’s turned down and called a lousy father. Before the reporter can leave, Jong-ryeol agrees to a story about his separation and a possible divorce, as long as his son is left alone.
Unmoved, the reporter confesses how much he hates rich and talented people. Jong-ryeol begs to have that hatred aimed at him, not the son that he’s never done a thing for. When Jong-ryeol’s eyes fill with tears, the reporter acknowledges that he’s finally acting like a father and accepts the deal.
Dong-baek chases after Jung-sook and her visitor with questions but she’s unprepared when the woman tells her, “I’m her daughter.” Dong-baek guesses that her mom was abandoned because of her dementia, forcing her to find the daughter that she abandoned. When Pil-gu joins them, Jung-sook pulls her visitor, Seong-hee, away.
In Hyang-mi’s apartment, Yong-shik finds the phone number for her brother and calls to report that she’s missing. The brother is adamant that he’s not responsible for her debts but Yong-shik just wants him to file an official missing persons report. When Yong-shik finds Hyang-mi’s bank book, he asks the brother for his birthdate on a hunch.
That birthdate turns out to be the PIN for Hyang-mi’s account, giving Yong-shik and Chief Byun access to her transaction history. They not only learn that Hyang-mi sent all of her earnings to her brother, but that Kyu-tae was sending her money.
After filing the divorce papers, Ja-young basks in her freedom until her (former) mother-in-law presses her to admit that she married Kyu-tae for his money. Ja-young confesses that she married Kyu-tae because she liked him and that his family’s tiny amount of money was never a factor when she could earn much more.
Once Ja-young is gone, mother and son hurl insults at each other, with Kyu-tae yelling, “Are you the heroine of my life? Ja-young is my heroine, not you!” When they get in his car, Kyu-tae’s mother finds gum on her seat and hits her son for having an affair with someone so ill-mannered.
Back at the Camellia, Dong-baek snaps photos of Seong-hee’s license plate and the parking pass on her windshield. When she questions Pil-gu, he tells his mom that not only does his grandmother not have dementia, everyone believes that she’s the smartest one among the three of them.
In a flashback, we see that Jung-sook was irritated when Chan-sook and Jae-young insisted that Dong-baek and Pil-gu had fuller cheeks thanks to her cooking. Announcing that the women talked too much, Jung-sook led her family away as Jae-young commented, “I don’t know who’s worse, her mom who puts on a show, or Dong-baek who gets fooled by that act.”
At home, Dong-baek sees that none of the adult diapers have been used but the bedding has been hung up to dry and the refrigerator is filled with healthy food. She asks Pil-gu, “…why do you think Grandma came to our house?”
Seong-hee talks on the phone about a cat until Jung-sook tells her to hang up. When Jung-sook complains about Seong-hee’s treatment, she argues that at least cats are grateful. Jung-sook reminds her, “I worked for your family as a maid for ten years, but you and your smart siblings treated me like a gold digger.” Unruffled, Seong-hee replies, “Don’t be like that, Mom. We’re your legal children.”
Chief Byun and Yong-shik find Kyu-tae at the car wash in time to overhear the attendant report that the gum was removed but the stain on the steering wheel won’t come out. Kyu-tae is alarmed when Yong-shik examines it and suggests that it’s blood. When Kyu-tae can’t explain his movements on the night of the 24th, Yong-shik takes him to the police station for questioning.
At the station, Kyu-tae’s leg bounces nervously as Yong-shik connects him to the Joker case, the now-missing director of Hanbit Academy and Hyang-mi. When asked to account for his movements on the 24th, Kyu-tae states that he had masu salmon which his mother-in-law can confirm because she runs the restaurant. That’s all that Kyu-tae remembers because he got so drunk that he doesn’t even know how he got home.
Kyu-tae stops talking as memories of that night return. In a flashback, we see that Kyu-tae was indeed very drunk at the restaurant, calling out for Ja-young even though she wasn’t there. Ja-young’s mother arranged to have Kyu-tae driven home and sent him away with a box of fish. Just as Kyu-tae loaded the fish into the trunk of his car, Hyang-mi flashed a finger heart as she rode by, with Jessica close behind.
Jessica honked at Hyang-mi while muttering, “I’m going to kill them all.” Her car bumped the scooter, knocking it down, and then she ran into a light pole. Seconds later, Kyu-tae staggered by and saw the scooter on its side and Hyang-mi on the ground, very much alive. Kyu-tae’s memory goes as far as seeing the door of the car opening.
The officers are waiting to hear more but Kyu-tae asks if Hyang-mi is really missing. Chief Byun shares what they know — there’s been no activity on Hyang-mi’s account and she’s not answering her phone.
When Kyu-tae asks if they’ve tracked Hyang-mi’s phone, Yong-shik explains that the law makes that very difficult. Kyu-tae has the officers follow him to his cousin’s phone store and soon, Chief Byun, Yong-shik and Kyu-tae are staring at a map that shows a signal in the middle of Ongsan Lake.
Kyu-tae’s cousin explains that when a phone falls into the water, the last location is displayed and Kyu-tae mentions the duck pedal boats. When Chief Byun reminds Yong-shik that it’s a big deal to bring out a diving team, Kyu-tae’s eye brim with tears as the severity of the situation hits him.
Yong-shik heads to the police car to take Kyu-tae home, asking Chief Byun to authorize a bloodstain examination of the helmet, the half-burned sweater and Kyu-tae’s steering wheel. Kyu-tae protests that he can’t even kill a spider and Chief Byun is surprised to see that he’s crying. When Yong-shik warns him not to leave the country, Kyu-tae collapses.
Kyu-tae is still with them when Yong-shik and Chief Byun drive out to check the damaged light pole. Crouched in front of the car, Kyu-tae asks himself, “Did I kill her,” admitting that he actually thought about it. Jessica watches from a car parked nearby as Yong-shik questions Kyu-tae, “Did you kill her? Or did you just want to kill her?”
When Chief Byun warns Kyu-tae not to confess before the investigation even gets underway, Yong-shik objects to him taking the suspect’s side. Chief Byun shuts down Yong-shik when he reminds him that criminals are pretty smart. Yong-shik asks again about Hanbit Academy but Kyu-tae explains that he needs legal advice before he can answer his questions.
Back at Dong-baek’s house, Jung-sook is making soup when Dong-baek asks why she came back. Dong-baek doesn’t care anymore about why she left, she just wants to know why Jung-sook returned. Jung-sook reminds Dong-baek that she returned to do one thing for her and promises to tell her daughter everything when the time is right. Worried that she’ll learn something that will stir her pity, Dong-baek escapes to her room and Jung-sook mutters, “Then you should tell me to leave. Why can’t you just kick me out of here?”
The next day, Dong-baek accompanies Yong-shik to the hospital and suggests not mentioning her to his mother. She gets frustrated when Yong-shik ignores her request so he changes the subject by inviting Dong-baek to his house that night. When Dong-baek gets adorably tongue-tied, Yong-shik has to admit, “I’m a nice guy, but you keep making me want to do bad stuff.”
While the doctor treats his burn, Yong-shik reminds Dong-baek that they haven’t taken advantage of the fact that he lives alone. After Yong-shik tells her, “I really can’t stand it anymore,” Dong-baek leans in to ask, “What time?” When Yong-shik explains that he needs help washing his hair, an embarrassed Dong-baek walks out.
Dong-baek runs into the doctor that recognized her mother and they meet in his office. Dong-baek learns that her mother visits the hospital every Thursday but she needs to be seen more often. After Dong-baek leaves his office, Yong-shik finds her and can see that something happened.
At the Camellia, Dong-baek finds her mother busy making kimchi and asks, “Are you out of time?” When Jung-sook doesn’t answer, Dong-baek invites her out for pork belly.
Jung-sook gets nervous when Dong-baek cooks the meat without saying a word. Jung-sook volunteers to answer her daughter’s questions but Dong-baek just asks for a fork, which she puts in her mother’s hand, and then a soda.
Dong-baek instructs her mother, “Don’t fill yourself up with rice. Make sure you eat a lot of meat.” Jung-sook’s eyes widen when Dong-baek asks, “Should we also have some beef ribs?”
Jung-soon realizes the Dong-baek is recreating the day that she was abandoned. The fork, the soda, the beef ribs and the instructions were all part of Jung-sook’s good-bye. Jung-sook clutches the fork and starts to cry, asking, “How do you remember all that?” Dong-baek replies, “How could I ever forget?”
As tears stream down Jung-sook’s face, Dong-baek explains how often she thought about that day, noting that she was younger than Pil-gu. Jung-sook tries to mute her sobs as Dong-baek confesses, “I’m still unable to hate you even when you came back so late.”
Dong-baek asks Jung-sook, “Why did you really come back,” and when she can’t answer, we revisit Dong-baek’s meeting with the doctor. The doctor assumed that Dong-baek was there for an examination because her mother told him that she knew.
In a flashback, we see that Jung-sook informed her doctor, “My daughter won’t leave me to die. She already offered to give me one of her kidneys.” At the restaurant, Dong-baek comes right out and asks Jung-sook, “Did you come to ask me for a kidney?”
After 27 years, Dong-baek has decided to return her painful memories to her mother. Dong-baek even recreates Jung-sook’s request for one last favor, “If anyone asks you your daughter’s name, make sure you tell them you don’t know.”
Dong-baek exits the restaurant, leaving Jung-sook alone to recall how bitterly she cried when she saw her daughter’s reflection in the taxi window. In the present, Dong-baek ignores her mother’s reflection to get in the taxi that takes her away.
A worried Yong-shik is outside the Camellia when Dong-baek returns. Dong-baek runs to him to cry into his shoulder, “I hate my mom so much. Do you really think my mom came to ask me for that?” Yong-shik tries to understand why Dong-baek is so upset as she sobs, “I waited for her to come back for 27 years. What if my mom does the same thing?”
The episode ends as it began, in 1987. After Deok-soon chased off the gossiping women outside her diner, she returned inside and found a battered young mother with an injured baby, a suitcase beside her.
Deok-soon sat down with the young woman to share the meal that she had prepared and learned that the baby girl’s name was Dong-baek. As the mothers visited, the little girl rubbed her feet on Deok-soon’s pregnant belly.
The mothers’ back stories this hour give a heartbreaking glimpse into the challenges that they faced in raising their children. The reveals help us to understand them a bit more, especially Deok-soon. After learning that her husband was burned to death, her reaction when she saw that Yong-shik had been burned made sense. And it explains why she’s unable to accept his relationship with Dong-baek — she’s terrified of losing him too. Deok-soon understands better than anyone else that attaching the label “unlucky” to a person is unfair, but she’s reacting to Dong-baek out of fear. But Deok-soon is smart and hopefully, once the Joker is caught, she’ll be able to reason her way past that fear.
What we learned about Jung-sook’s past gave us a better idea about why she walked away from Dong-baek in the first place. Not only was Jung-sook physically abused by her husband, Dong-baek was injured as well as we saw in the diner scene at the end of the episode. What I don’t understand is why Dong-baek seemingly has no memory of her father’s abuse. Did Jung-sook do an exceptional job of shielding Dong-baek or did she leave her husband when her daughter was too young to remember the violence? Because if Dong-baek remembers the day that her mother left her so vividly, how could she forget repeated violence?
As strong as Dong-baek grew up to be, she has two traumas to overcome — the abandonment by her mother and her dangerously close connection to the Joker. Each one has deeply affected her and led to fears which I believe explain her decision to abandon her mother, Jung-sook.
On the surface, the fact that Jung-sook reappears when she needs a kidney seems like enough of a reason for Dong-baek to turn her back on her. But Dong-baek has waited for her mother’s return for almost thirty years. What went through her mind when the doctor told her that her mother was seriously ill? Is it possible that she’s afraid to lose her mother again, this time for good? What better way to take control of the situation than to be the one to leave first? What Dong-baek may learn in the aftermath of her decision is that it’s possible to convince yourself that abandonment is the best solution, just as Jung-sook once did, and then regret it.
The mother/daughter relationship wasn’t the only casualty this hour. Ja-young is now a free woman and she practically skipped away from her ex-husband and mother-in-law. Just as Kyu-tae realizes how much she meant to him, he gets pulled further into the investigation into Hyang-mi’s disappearance, as well as the mystery surrounding Hanbit Academy. Not the best time to lose the lawyer in the family.
The other reveal this episode was confirmation that Heung-shik’s father is responsible for the fires. Did anyone else take notice when we learned that Yong-shik’s father died in a fire? Because of the broken security cameras, Heung-shik has to be involved somehow but he may just be burying evidence that implicates his father. Or perhaps, Heung-shik’s father’s fires trigger him to commit crimes of his own? As anxious as I am to learn the identity of the Joker, I’m now more interested in what happens between Dong-baek and her mother.
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