When the Camellia Blooms: Episodes 29-30
Today’s episodes are all about mothers and the lengths they’ll go for their children. Being a mother is never easy, but some have worse luck than others and have to fight harder to provide for their kids. We focus on two fiercely protective mothers who will do just about anything to secure their children’s futures, even if that means making some enemies.
EPISODE 29: “Mother”
Sitting atop the wall outside the Camellia is a green lighter which Yong-shik pockets when Dong-baek shows up. Yong-shik worriedly asks where she’s been, but she just throws herself in his arms and sobs.
After she calms down, she wonders why her “revenge” is hurting her so much. Yong-shik rants that she shouldn’t feel bad—what kind of mother asks for a kidney from the child she abandoned? When he angrily says someone like that isn’t even a person, she lightly smacks him. “Are you insulting my mom right now?” Ha.
Yong-shik claims Dong-baek’s too nice to hate anyone, so she shouldn’t try. He asks where the restaurant she left her mom at is, but she bursts into tears again, saying she hates her mom. He valiantly tries to comfort her, but she shrugs him off.
At the station, Chief Byun sighs that poor Yong-shik now has to find Hyang-mi, Jung-sook and the Joker. Yong-shik seems to think the more pressing issue is that, without Hyang-mi and Jung-sook around, Dong-baek’s alone. His solution: a stakeout.
Stealth not being his strong suit, Dong-baek notices him almost immediately and brings him out some food. Still worried about her mom, Yong-shik assures Dong-baek her mom has eaten too, so she shouldn’t worry. But as a mother, Dong-baek disagrees. She knows how scary a parent’s love can be.
We see Deok-soon making a vat of food for Yong-shik, while Jung-sook sits in the hospital worrying about Dong-baek. Dong-baek narrates that having a kid makes you stop living just as yourself, instead becoming “mom.” Devoting your entire self still isn’t enough.
At the school, Jong-ryeol is planning to fund a baseball scholarship that includes study abroad for one of the kids. Seung-yeob makes recommendations, but Jong-ryeol cuts him off. He selects Pil-gu (naturally).
Seeing as Pil-gu won’t even leave his mom to attend training sessions, Seung-yeob thinks there’s no way he’ll agree. When Jong-ryeol insists on Pil-gu, Seung-yeob gets defensive, thinking he’s trying to poach him. Jong-ryeol flatly states, “I’m his dad.”
He says he’s just trying to give his son a good education, but Seung-yeob is barely hearing him through his state of shock. Jong-ryeol vows that he’ll get Pil-gu to the Major Leagues.
After practice, Jong-ryeol takes Pil-gu out to eat and continues plying him with gifts, which Pil-gu assures him won’t buy his affection. He tells Jong-ryeol to stop coming around. Jong-ryeol asks for one reason Pil-gu hates him so much. “How can I just pick one?” Ouch.
When Jong-ryeol asks him to list everything he hates, Pil-gu lays it all out. He hates him being on Superman, his leggings-wearing wife and the fact that he won’t leave him alone. Jong-ryeol has a response for everything until Pil-gu asks why he hasn’t apologized.
Pil-gu says his mom apologizes even if he gets sick. Jong-ryeol, however, still refuses to apologize. Pil-gu is unimpressed with his excuse that he didn’t know about him, informing him that saying you didn’t know about your homework earns you a long timeout in school. Ha!
Yong-shik hits the crime scenes again, starting with Hanbit Academy where he thinks back to Kyu-tae’s suspicious relationship with the owner and his reluctance to divulge anything.
Next, he visits the scene of Hyang-mi’s moped accident and finds a CCTV camera. Unfortunately, it’s owned by the infamous Yeong-shim who relentlessly pestered the cops to handle her dog situation, which Yong-shik failed to do. She says he can bring a warrant if he wants the footage.
A happily divorced Ja-young consults with a client while Kyu-tae watches her with regret, especially when she claims divorcing has eased her loneliness. But when her client tries to set her up with someone, Kyu-tae bursts in for a consultation.
Dong-baek calls Jung-sook’s (step)daughter and is confused by the cold response. She asks Dong-baek to tell Jung-sook to stop putting on a show. She’ll visit with official documents soon.
Chan-sook stops by and gives Dong-baek the committee meeting agenda, but Dong-baek feels awkward about going since Deok-soon is the committee head. Chan-sook says it’s better to just face her confidently.
At the restaurant, Deok-soon serves Yong-shik an entire duck to speed his recovery. She warns him not to save her (or Dong-baek) from dangerous situations. Once again, she urges him to break up with Dong-baek. *Sigh*
He calls Deok-soon shallow for her about-face regarding Dong-baek. She looks devastated as he tells her he proposed. Furious, she says his persistence is making her hate Dong-baek more.
Onto the super awkward, practically silent co-op meeting. It’s a stark contrast to prior years when everyone was boisterous and accused Dong-baek of thoughtlessly siding with Deok-soon. Deok-soon had told them to get themselves a best friend if they were jealous.
Presently, Deok-soon gets up and walks out. Dong-baek catches up for a frank conversation. Deok-soon can’t stand the thought of Yong-shik having to raise someone else’s kid and getting hurt because of Dong-baek, but Dong-baek says she truly likes Yong-shik and doesn’t know what to do.
Deok-soon raised Yong-shik to be warm by shielding him from unpleasantness, “So why do you cast a shadow over my kid’s eyes?” Talk about harsh. She brutally continues that only Dong-baek stresses him out. What mother wants to see her child in that situation?
At her office, Ja-young has a consultation with Kyu-tae. He claims he was just mingling (whatever that means), but she calls bull on that. She wants to know why he’s trying to turn himself in now and finally drags out of him that Hyang-mi is missing.
Ja-young urgently asks if the police are investigating the case. Kyu-tae looks up in surprise, asking if she knows something. She’s silent, but there’s a furtive look in her eyes.
Yong-shik comes barreling in the station after hearing Yeong-shim brought in the footage. In a flashback, we see Deok-soon calling Yeong-shim and threatening to destroy her if she doesn’t turn in the footage. Of course, Yong-shik thinks it’s all down to his irresistible charm.
Chief Byun interrupts his bragging when he sees something that could be the moped on the footage. Yong-shik recognizes the speeding car behind it as one of Jong-ryeol’s, so he calls him. When he inquires where he was at 10:00 PM on the 24th, Jong-ryeol looks stunned and asks, “Is she dead?”
At home, Jessica uncharacteristically stuffs her face. She tells her mom she wants to shoot that ad and keep receiving the attention and adoration of being Jong-ryeol’s wife. Saddened, her mom asks why other people’s opinions matter so much.
Jessica answers that without acknowledgement, “it feels like Park Sang-mi isn’t anything.” She thinks back to Hyang-mi insisting they’re the same and says nobody can find out.
While Kyu-tae anxiously fills Ja-young in on the details of Hyang-mi’s case, Jong-ryeol goes through his phone and finds a ton of missed calls from Jessica from the night of the 24th. Back at the table, Jessica reveals to her mom she hit “that bitch” with her car.
Kyu-tae asks Ja-young what he should do. She coldly states, “Dead bodies don’t rise to the surface that easily.”
From a payphone, Jung-sook calls the police and asks if you can report someone for murder just based on suspicion.
Yong-shik muses that, with the growing list of suspects, the Joker may not be responsible for Hyang-mi’s disappearance. Chief Byun thinks not just anyone can kill. For now, it’s all speculation since the only solid evidence is the blood (presumably Hyang-mi’s) found on the helmet, sweater and steering wheel.
Chief Byun notices Kyu-tae sitting looking dejected outside the station. Kyu-tae stands and tells them he’s turning himself in.
At home, Dong-baek hears a phone alarm coming from Pil-gu’s dresser where she finds her mom’s flip phone. Although there’s no call history, there are some photos. In one of them, she finds a van with a phone number and the phrase “Help Is Near” written on the side. She calls the number.
At the station, Kyu-tae says it was June 29, 2014, which means the five-year statute of limitations is up. Yong-shik and Chief Byun point out that’s the day the Joker killed Geum-ok. Kyu-tae looks frightened as he admits he was there that day.
We flash back to that day at Hanbit Academy…which was actually an illegal casino. Everyone in the casino heard the sirens from OK Aesthetics that night and thought they were getting busted. Worried they’d be done for if the police got ahold of their CCTV footage, the owner covered up the camera.
In the present, Chief Byun is impressed that Yong-shik managed to conduct a real investigation and discover something. Heh. Eager to find the owner, Yong-shik asks Kyu-tae for his whereabouts, but Kyu-tae reveals he’s already in custody.
Cut to the three of them visiting the owner in prison. He gets spooked when he finds out Kyu-tae brought cops, but Chief Byun assures him they just want the footage from that night. Thanks to his guilty conscious, he cooperates.
Mighty proud of themselves, they examine the footage. Although his face isn’t shown, there is a clear shot of a suspicious-looking man. They’re ecstatic since this will allow them to analyze things like height and gait. Then, Kyu-tae spots someone else in the footage.
Dong-baek visits the place she discovered through her mom’s photos, which ends up being a shelter for single mothers where her mom volunteered. A nun working there tells Dong-baek a sister Jung-sook volunteered with at a preschool in Ongsan recommended her. Disbelieving, Dong-baek asks, “Was that Saint Severus Preschool in 2014?”
Yong-shik calls Dong-baek to the station to show her the footage. She’s excited they got the Joker on video, but Yong-shik seems hesitant. He tells her there are two people on the video.
Over in the hardware store, Heung-shik goes to help a customer. It’s Jung-sook, and she ominously observes, “There are lots of things you can kill people with here.” She turns to look at him. “It’s you, isn’t it? The Joker.”
She asks if he remembers her. We flash back to June 29, 2014. Dong-baek drops Pil-gu off at preschool and heads off with her friend Geum-ok. Jung-sook watches her from afar.
Inside, Jung-sook happily plays with Pil-gu, as she does every Sunday. The nun wonders why she loves Pil-gu so much, but she just says he’s adorable. Jung-sook wonders if Pil-gu has told his mom about her.
Jung-sook puts on lipstick as she prepares to meet Dong-baek. She looks hopeful and dons her bucket hat. Knowing Dong-baek goes to the skincare clinic on Sundays, she nervously waits outside.
The owner of Hanbit Academy and Kyu-tae see Jung-sook loitering outside and think it strange, but they just assume she’s hesitant to come in.
Dong-baek watches the video in shock. Yong-shik sighs he’d assumed there was an accomplice… He notes that it seems like Dong-baek’s mom has always stuck close to her.
Back at the hardware store, Heung-shik takes the accusation in stride and asks why Jung-sook thinks he’s the Joker. That day, the Joker bumped into her, making her accidently spill her drink on his hoodie. She smelled lacquer on him and sensed something was off.
Shortly after seeing him enter the OK Aesthetic building, the lights went off. She recalled people talking about the Joker earlier and ran inside. She pulled the fire alarm and activated the sprinklers that saved Dong-baek’s life.
Yong-shik holds Dong-baek’s hand as she wonders where her mom is now. Jung-sook watches Heung-shik stocking green lighters and claims she definitely saw him that night. Even with the mask and hat, she could see the look in his eyes.
When he came to the Camellia, smelling of lacquer, she felt uneasy. She knew it had to be him. Jung-sook knows there’s no evidence, but she’s got nothing to lose. She warns him not to touch her daughter. “I can do anything for Dong-baek.”
On the walk home, Dong-baek is quiet but assures Yong-shik she’s okay. In fact, she feels her life is less pathetic now that she knows her mom was looking out for her. “I guess I really did have a mom.”
Jung-sook’s stepdaughter shows up at the bar. Yong-shik sits separately as she and Dong-baek talk. She claims Jung-sook is doing the same thing she did after getting diagnosed—hiding.
We flash back to when the stepdaughter had found out Jung-sook had a life insurance policy with Dong-baek as the beneficiary. She accused Jung-sook of using her father’s money, although Jung-sook insisted the money was her own. The stepdaughter threatened to take her to court over it.
Dong-baek looks at her own name on the policy: Oh Dong-baek. We see her mother sneaking in to get her fingerprint while she slept. Later, she even asked her if she had insurance, talking about how much money you can get.
At the meeting with her stepdaughter, Jung-sook had tearfully lamented that she couldn’t even buy food for her daughter. So for the last 20 years, she’d never missed a payment. She sobbed that she was a horrible mother, but she at least wanted to leave her daughter some money. “Who are you to stop that?!” she screamed.
In the present, Dong-baek realizes her mom didn’t want a kidney after all. She just wanted to give her the insurance money. The stepdaughter haughtily warns her that her uncle is a prosecutor, so she should dissuade her mom if she doesn’t want her to end up in jail as a gold digger.
Dong-baek slaps her in the face. “How dare you call her a gold digger!” She says someone like her doesn’t get to talk about her mom like that.
That night, someone stalks Jung-sook down the street. Jung-sook stops and turns around. “What? Did you follow me to kill me?” A man in all black steps out of the shadows. Jung-sook looks surprised.
Okay, I’m not gonna be happy if Jung-sook dies like this. Dong-baek hasn’t even had a chance to have a conversation with her about everything she’s found out! I never believed she abandoned Dong-baek for no reason and came back just for a kidney, but I can understand how Dong-baek would. I find Dong-baek’s relationship with her mom to be the most compelling relationship in the show. It’s so messy and real. In Dong-baek’s shoes, I’m sure I’d resent my mom too. But now that she’s grown with her own kid, it’s harder to hold onto that resentment when she’s starting to realize her mom did the best she could to protect her and give her a good life. Her constant mantra of “I hate my mom” sounds more and more like something she’s saying to convince herself.
I think Dong-baek needed to vent her anger at her mom before she could move on to understanding and forgiveness. And, honestly, the way Jung-sook abandoned her at the orphanage without explaining anything, even telling her to pretend not to know her mom’s name, was horrible. There had to be a better way of handling that. Poor Dong-baek had to grow up thinking her mom just didn’t care about or want her. So I get her unwillingness to give up her anger easily. But, like Yong-shik said, she’s not built to hate people.
Speaking of Yong-shik, his mother is officially driving me nuts now. I get that she’s worried about her son getting hurt and that the fire is a trigger for her because of her husband. But it’s not like Yong-shik won’t ever face danger without Dong-baek around; he’s a police officer! It’s sort of his job to wade into dangerous situations and help people.
I know that she wants her son to have an easy life because she loves him, but at some point, she needs to let him live his own life. He’s not a little kid she can shield from unpleasantness anymore. I’d understand her adamance if Dong-baek were a terrible human who was going to ruin him, but she definitively isn’t. Even if being with Dong-baek does make his life harder, that doesn’t make it worse. Not every difficulty is bad.
Also, no matter how hard I try, I can’t wrap my head around the cultural aversion to stepchildren. Coming from a culture that doesn’t place such importance on blood relation, I find it impossible to understand the idea that you need to have a genetic stake in a kid to love them. Chosen family is no less real than biological family. And in this case, Pil-gu is an awesome kid who handles things like a boss. If anything, he’d probably help raise Yong-shik into a more mature adult.
I’m frustrated that we still don’t know the Joker’s (or Jokers’?) motive. As it stands, last week’s reveal about Heung-shik’s dad and the fires and this week’s reveal that Heung-shik is likely the murderer seem almost random. It would be more impactful if I knew, well, anything about them and what’s driving them. Hopefully, the coming episodes will dive into the murder-y father-son duo and what makes them tick. Since our intrepid, bumbling detective (and friends) is making surprising headway with the case, it might not be too long before we get some answers.
- 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