When the Camellia Blooms: Episodes 33-34
Changes can be hard for anyone, but they can be especially tough for a child who doesn’t have the full picture. Adults may think they’re protecting kids by keeping them in the dark, but they frequently underestimate how perceptive kids can be. And this hour, one kid’s hurt feelings and misunderstandings might lead to some drastic decisions.
EPISODE 33: “The Ongsan Avengers”
A police officer calls Hyang-mi’s brother to inform him of Hyang-mi’s death, leaving him shaken. His wife goes through a box Hyang-mi shipped, wondering why she always sends socks. He recalls Hyang-mi worrying about his bare feet when they were poor.
At the station, Dong-baek breaks down as she checks Hyang-mi’s belongings laid out on the sterile table. Yong-shik rushes in and holds her while she sobs. Afterwards, she identifies a pair of eyes for a composite sketch.
While Kyu-tae sits alone in an interrogation room, the commissioner summons Yong-shik and Chief Byun to his office.
After Hyang-mi’s death, the ajummas wonder if the Joker is truly targeting Dong-baek. Now that she’s family, they resolve to do something about it. Yong-shik narrates that the Joker is awakening the ordinary heroes inside all of them.
The commissioner chastises our detectives for running an off-the-books investigation into the Joker. Chief Byun watches, a little awed, as Yong-shik refuses to back down. Chief Byun jumps in, arguing “his kid” made more progress than the official team has in six years. The commissioner demands a written apology.
Dong-baek and Yong-shik pack up Hyang-mi’s things at the Camellia. Dong-baek asks through tears why Hyang-mi had to make that delivery. Yong-shik gently reminds her Hyang-mi’s death isn’t her fault. Blaming herself only frees the Joker of responsibility. They should focus on catching him.
Dong-baek can only identify him by his cough which Yong-shik informs her may be a tic. His explanation is interrupted by the creepily silent arrival of one of the ajummas who reminds Dong-baek about recycling. Two more ajummas drop by in succession to give her food and run reconnaissance.
Later, Dong-baek and Yong-shik run across the ajummas, all in track suits, purportedly exercising but looking more like they’re preparing for battle. Chan-sook advises Dong-baek to stick close to Yong-shik. As Yong-shik nags them to disperse, Dong-baek tears up from their support.
Chan-sook and Deok-soon pass a grouping of ajummas as they do a Dong-baek check-in, ensuring she’s alive and well. Chan-sook assures Deok-soon they’re just keeping Dong-baek alive, not necessarily taking her side.
They hold the next co-op meeting at the Camellia. Dong-baek narrates it’s the first time there’s been a crowd of women at her bar. The ajummas chide her for being so emotional as she sniffles.
Although they deny protecting her, they tell her to eat more—the Joker’s probably after her for being so skinny. Dong-baek says she plans to live in Ongsan until she’s 100. She starts crying again, making everyone cry.
Meanwhile, Jung-sook goes to the police (at the regional station) claiming to have seen the Joker. She pleads with them to investigate Heung-shik, but they think it’s a false claim since she has no evidence.
We flash back to that night in the alley when Jung-sook was followed. Heung-shik had come out of the shadows and told her he wasn’t this way because he wanted to be. He’d cried as he begged her not to do anything. Before she could respond, she’d fainted. He’d called her an ambulance and held her hand on the way to the hospital.
In the present, Jung-sook seems confused by the sudden memory. An officer whispers that he heard she has dementia, while another officer asks if she has a grudge against Heung-shik. She yells at them for being less competent than the little Ongsan substation.
The commissioner walks in and announces they now have DNA (from under Hyang-mi’s nails) for the killer. Jung-sook grabs onto an officer, begging him to check the DNA against Heung-shik’s.
Yong-shik designates their little station as the base camp for the Joker investigation. Jung-sook startles everyone by casually showing up and saying she’ll be sleeping there. She threatens to run away if Yong-shik tattles to Dong-baek, since “that idiot” will give her a kidney. But she won’t leave Ongsan until the Joker is caught.
Kyu-tae tells Ja-young he’s going to take a lie detector test, but she thinks it’ll hurt his case. Saying he’s willing to be punished if he does something wrong, he asks Ja-young to trust him. He shocks Ja-young by apologizing: “I’m sorry for making you act like a mom.”
In a burst of self-awareness, he realizes wanting her to see him as a man made him act more like a man-child out of frustration. He apologizes again, worrying Ja-young. “Don’t tell me you actually killed someone?”
Dong-baek hesitantly asks Chan-sook to babysit Pil-gu while she finishes the composite sketch at the station. Chan-sook admonishes her for never asking for her help before. They could have been watching each other’s kids from the start. Asking favors is how you make friends.
Kyu-tae has an officer bring Ja-young in for the final three questions. They ask if he was having an affair and if he’d ever been in Hyang-mi’s hotel room. He denies both. “Do you love your wife?” He answers yes, adding that he loves and admires her. The officers confirm he’s telling the truth on all counts.
At their makeshift headquarters, Chief Byun and Yong-shik review the case while the officers on the official team do the same. The official team is focusing on Jong-ryeol and Jessica, but they can’t peg either as the Joker since whoever killed Hyang-mi could have been a copycat.
At home, Jessica anxiously stares at the trending keywords related to Ongsan and the Joker on her phone as her mom berates her for wiring Hyang-mi money. “You’re about to become the Joker!” Jessica yells that Hyang-mi wanted to expose everything, and she didn’t want to be sued for a hit-and-run, so it was her only option.
Her mom says there’s no way she hit a person. She’ll take care of everything, so Jessica should stop thinking about it. “Mom, why shouldn’t I think? You always do everything for me. That’s why I became an idiot.”
An abashed Jong-ryeol stops by, saying he told his parents about the divorce. He kneels before Jessica’s mom and apologizes. Jessica pulls her mom off him as she hits him and screams that she’ll destroy him. Jong-ryeol wants to raise their daughter as well as Pil-gu.
Jessica follows him out and tells him they can say Pil-gu is his nephew and adopt him. From now on, they’ll live together as a family. She even goes as far as to hold their daughter hostage, refusing to give him custody if they divorce. Geez, woman.
On the bus, Pil-gu shares his worries with Joon-gi, claiming he hates both his dad and Yong-shik. Joon-gi doesn’t get why he’d hate Yong-shik, so Pil-gu illustrates by saying it’s like if Joon-gi sat next to someone else on the bus. How could Pil-gu sit with Joon-gi now that he’s got a new best friend? Aw.
Pil-gu rushes off the bus like the other kids, excited to see his mom. But she’s not there. Chan-sook says his mom had something to do, and she’ll pick him up later at their place. (His hurt little face!)
Deok-soon checks in with a couple of ajummas about Dong-baek, but they’re tight-lipped. They say to let her be, which Deok-soon bristles at. The ajummas tell Deok-soon to either love or hate her—just pick a side.
Deok-soon pulls the you’ll-understand-when-it’s-your-kid card. They wouldn’t be okay with their child marrying someone with a kid either. She goes on about being “burdened” with a kid before marriage until a door behind them opens and Pil-gu storms out.
She guiltily chases after him and insists she was talking about someone else. In typical Pil-gu fashion, he unflinchingly confronts her. “Am I my mom’s burden?” I love this child.
He goes home but the passcode isn’t working. An alarm goes off after a few wrong tries. He bangs on the door, yelling for his mom.
As Yong-shik walks Dong-baek out, he evades uncomfortable questions about finding her mom. Dong-baek asks him to catch her mom at the hospital, since Yong-shik says she’s still going. Instead of answering, he suggests she pop by the station unannounced sometime.
She continues worrying about her mom, so he asks her seriously if she’d give her mom a kidney. Dong-baek doesn’t outright say no. She gets a call from Chan-sook.
Dong-baek finds Pil-gu sitting outside their house and chides him for worrying her. Yong-shik enters the code to open the door, making Pil-gu ask why he knows the changed code. “Are you going to marry this ajusshi?”
Pil-gu yells that the idea of Yong-shik living with them is annoying, embarrassing and gives him a headache. Dong-baek gets mad and smacks him for being rude and upsetting her. He starts sobbing that it’s more upsetting for him that she didn’t come pick him up and changed their door passcode.
In the car, Ja-young shocks Kyu-tae by admitting she saw Hyang-mi making a delivery that night. That’s how she knows he’s innocent. Rather than telling the official team, who only wants to cover their butts, she decides to tell Yong-shik.
She walks into the station, Kyu-tae in tow, and drops the bomb: “On the night of the 24th, I saw Choi Hyang-mi.” In a flashback, Ja-young watches from a boat as Hyang-mi arrives at a shack to make her delivery. Later, Ja-young woke to the sound of a truck. Oddly, the lights were off, and the moped was in the truck bed.
It was too dark to see the driver or license plate, but it’s still a clue. Jung-sook suddenly realizes she saw the truck that night, too. It had pulled up next to her taxi at a light. She assumed Hyang-mi had sold their moped.
Ja-young suggests getting the dashcam footage from the taxi, but Jung-sook abruptly remembers seeing Jong-ryeol by the road. She’d passed by Jong-ryeol screaming in frustration while frantically searching for a body from Jessica’s hit-and-run.
Yong-shik cuts across Kyu-tae’s attempts to be relevant by saying this turns the five suspects into witnesses. He busts out his crazy eyes and announces these “lucky cards” will lead him to catch the Joker.
At home, Dong-baek and Pil-gu eat in silence, ruminating on their problems. Pil-gu thinks of Deok-soon calling him a burden, and Dong-baek thinks of the Joker’s note threatening her loved ones. Dong-baek tells Pil-gu not to go out alone.
Pil-gu asks where his grandmother and Hyang-mi are. Dong-baek hesitates. He wonders if they left to make her feel more comfortable and asks if she was more comfortable with him in China. She tells him not to be ridiculous.
He continues that one day, when he’s older, they won’t live together anymore. Dong-baek thinks he’s worried she’ll be clingy, but judging by his expression, it’s quite the opposite. She assumes he’s upset she hit him and says she’s the one who can’t sleep. Dropping some wisdom, he asks, “Do you think all kids sleep well?”
Kyu-tae undergoes hypnosis to try to recall that night with little success. He remembers a woman driving the car that hit Hyang-mi, but he ends up making up numbers for the license plate. He tells an angry Yong-shik he must’ve convinced himself he was hypnotized.
Yong-shik awkwardly collects the dashcam footage from Jong-ryeol, and they bicker like children. When Yong-shik tries to tell him something about Dong-baek, Jong-ryeol cuts him off. He can talk to Dong-baek himself thank-you-very-much.
Yong-shik asserts that no matter what, his and Dong-baek’s relationship will stay strong. Jong-ryeol tells him to say that after overcoming everything and marrying her. But Yong-shik doesn’t live like that—he takes things as they come.
The kids who used to bully Pil-gu harass him into letting them borrow one of his new game consoles. “You guys have never had a headache, have you?” Pil-gu sighs and hands over the console.
The boys walk away, bragging about strong-arming Pil-gu. Jung-sook approaches them ominously. “You may have a brother in sixth grade, but Pil-gu has a 57-year-old grandma.” Jung-sook tries to take off when Pil-gu comes running up, but the bully outs her. She turns, giving Pil-gu a small smile and wave.
Jong-ryeol checks in on Dong-baek at the Camellia. He won’t ask her to live with him but “just don’t die.” He already feels terrible that she raised Pil-gu alone but this… He asks her one more time to move to Seoul where he could give her a comfortable, safer life.
Dong-baek confesses she was never comfortable back when they dated, even though she never had to worry about rent. She’s more comfortable now because she’s proud of herself. She asks him to leave them alone.
Upset, Jong-ryeol apologizes for being the bad guy. “Let me have Pil-gu.” He can’t stand the thought of his son being caught up with the Joker.
Jung-sook takes Pil-gu out to eat, and he asks why she hasn’t come home when his mom has been waiting. “Mom likes you.” He can tell, even if she doesn’t say it and pretends to be mad at her. Pil-gu boasts he knows his mom best—Jung-sook and Yong-shik don’t come close.
He tells her to hurry back since his mom can’t stop crying once she starts. Concerned, Jung-sook asks why she’d cry. Pil-gu states, “I’m going to live with my dad now.”
Pil-gu visits Deok-soon with a parting gift, tearing up as he emphasizes how nice his mom is. Next, he breaks the news to Joon-gi who cries as Pil-gu tells him to make sure Chan-sook doesn’t bully Dong-baek. Pil-gu gives him his game console and tells him to visit Seoul.
Meanwhile, Yong-shik and Co. manage to get the license plate number of the truck from Jong-ryeol’s dashcam footage. They’re surprised to learn it’s been reported stolen by Heung-shik.
After finding out Heung-shik owns the truck, some cops go to collect his DNA. Heung-shik inquires if he’s allowed to refuse.
The cops call Yong-shik who grabs a gun and heads to Heung-shik’s. Chief Byun tries to stop him from being rash, but Yong-shik won’t be swayed. He only stops when he spots Pil-gu outside.
At the Camellia, Dong-baek says Jong-ryeol has no right to take Pil-gu. He claims he’s not trying to take him away; he just wants to keep him safe. She thinks back to the Joker’s note.
When Pil-gu walks in, Dong-baek tells Jong-ryeol to leave. Pil-gu shocks them both by saying he wants to live with his dad now.
We flash back to when Pil-gu was outside the station. He’d asked Yong-shik why he liked his mom, calling her greedy for wanting a husband after already having a son and a mom. Pil-gu said he was happier a year ago, which Yong-shik sadly realizes was before he arrived in Ongsan.
Everyone needs to stop doing Pil-gu wrong. I was ready to hurt Dong-baek, as well as Deok-soon, for being so insensitive to that precious child. Why is he the only one who can adult? Dong-baek really ticked me off this hour by not seeing how hurt he was and reassuring him she’s not abandoning him. After everything she went through as a kid, she should be well-aware of how he feels. I can’t believe she actually got mad at him when he lashed out after being literally locked out of their home. Anyone could see how sad and scared he was!
It was awful to watch poor Pil-gu thinking his mom would be happier with him gone. Now this kid who couldn’t even bear to leave his mom for a few days is planning to live with his dad because he thinks it’s better for her. Not that I think getting him out of harm’s way is necessarily a bad idea, but that’s not why he’s agreeing. Why is he the parent here? He’s not even in the double-digits yet! Grrr. I swear, almost every parent in this show is angering me at this point.
On the upside, it was nice to see all the ajummas kick in. It’s taken a long time, but there’s finally understanding on both sides. I loved the conversation between Dong-baek and Chan-sook because it showed the hurt wasn’t one-sided. Dong-baek distanced herself from them by being too cautious, which made it seem like she wasn’t interested in becoming close with anyone. If she’d just asked Chan-sook to babysit earlier, maybe things would’ve been different.
It’s also nice to see Kyu-tae making progress. I’m glad he realized he hadn’t been a true partner to Ja-young and sincerely apologized. Women are too often expected to play mom to their spouses and partners, as if it’s their duty. It’s not too much to ask for a grown man to take care of himself. Yay for Kyu-tae recognizing that.
You know who’s not making progress? The Joker with his stagnant subplot. I’ve already talked about my issues with this, so I won’t rehash that here. But now that we’re in the penultimate week, I’m doubtful we’ll get a good exploration of the Joker’s motivations or any backstory that could make him compelling. As much as I enjoy Yong-shik in crazy-detective mode, we could’ve done with less time investigating and more time fleshing out the villain.
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