Hi Bye, Mama! : Episode 1
If you’re looking for a good laugh and a good cry, boy, do I have the drama for you. Kim Tae-hee is back in dramaland and she’s here as the mama in tvN’s fantasy rom-com Hi Bye, Mama! After a terrible accident, and being torn away from her husband and her chance at family, our heroine decides that, hey, if she can’t be a doting mother, she can still be a doting ghost.
EPISODE 1: “Life is Full of Unpredictable Surprises”
We open to 2006, when our lead characters are twenty-four. Our hero, medical student JO KANG-HWA (Lee Kyu-hyung), is grumbling as his friend drags him over to a blind date. They arrive at a sports bar, a big soccer game on TV, where our heroine CHA YURI (Kim Tae-hee) is chiding her friend for tricking her into this date.
Then Kang-hwa and Yuri lock eyes. There’s a score in the game and the crowd around them, their friends included, go wild — a similar reaction supposedly happening in the couple’s hearts. As they smile shyly at each other, Yuri narrates, “It only took us three seconds to see each other and fall in love.”
That brings us to an adorable dating montage, which shows Kang-hwa and Yuri kissing on campus, celebrating 100-day anniversaries, and occasionally, fighting and making up. Four years later, when they’re twenty-eight, they’re back in the sports bar for another game. And just as the room erupts from a winning goal, Yuri suggests they get married.
Our couple couldn’t look any happier during their wedding day, even singing their love for each other during the ceremony. (It’s so cringey but so sweet.) Yuri’s narration continues that they believed in their time together, thinking it would be unbreakable.
Fast-forward to the drama’s present time in 2019, when they’re thirty-seven. We see the couple’s five-year-old daughter JO SEO-WOO (Seo Woo-jin) eyeing a wet power cord. Yuri notices this and tries to lunge for it before Seo-woo plugs it in, but her hand goes right through the cord.
Another hand whips out to stop Seo-woo. Yuri looks up at OH MIN-JUNG (Go Bo-kyul), who doesn’t acknowledge Yuri as she picks Seo-woo up and carries her out. Yuri sighs in relief, and behind her, we see a family picture of Kang-hwa, Seo-woo… and where Yuri should be, Min-jung.
As Min-jung walks Seo-woo to the school bus, ghost Yuri gets up in Min-jung’s face and scolds her for leaving water on the floor. Min-jung waves her hand, as if she feels a bug flying about, and then walks through Yuri. For a second, Yuri wonders if Min-jung saw her, only to scoff at her sour attitude. As another ghost passes by, Yuri narrates, “There are actually so many beings living together in this world, even if [humans] can’t see them.”
Yuri catches up to Seo-woo, acting all loving and, of course, getting no reaction. Still, she enthusiastically waves goodbye when Seo-woo leaves on her bus. Min-jung turns to leave as well, but the other neighborhood moms stop her and ask her out to coffee. Min-jung coolly states that she doesn’t like hanging out in groups and goes on her way. The moms whisper that she tries too hard since she isn’t Seo-woo’s real mother, making Yuri smirk. Her smile drops, however, when they mention that Seo-woo is a particularly strange child.
“Hey, moms!” a voice calls out. It’s Yuri’s college friend GO HYUN-JUNG (Shin Dong-mi), who doesn’t appreciate them trash-talking other families. Hyun-jung returns to her restaurant, and Yuri follows to have a one-sided girl talk and express her concerns over what the women said.
At the hospital, we rejoin Kang-hwa, now a cardiothoracic surgeon. It looks like Kang-hwa is still pretty squirrelly, running away as soon as he hears that his superior is angry and currently looking for him. He runs straight to his college friend GYE GEUN-SANG (Oh Eui-shik), now a neuropsychiatrist.
Kang-hwa reaches Geun-sang as he’s sending off a patient (and famous baseball player) named KANG SANG-BONG (Lee Jae-woo). Kang-hwa asks his buddy for his doctor’s note, saying their superior Doctor Jang is on the move, and Geun-sang wonders why he doesn’t just get treatment.
The door bursts open, and the two jump at the sight of DOCTOR JANG (Ahn Nae-sang). Jang cuts right to the chase, ordering Kang-hwa to stop seeing outpatients and avoiding performing surgeries.
The boys try to talk their way through this, reading off Kang-hwa’s symptoms of hand tremors, insomnia, and possible bipolar disorder. But Doctor Jang shouts that he’s not accepting Kang-hwa’s doctor’s note when it’s pathetically written by his best friend. Haha.
On his way out, Kang-hwa sees the sign for the OR and gets this dark look on his face. But once he’s in his car, he’s singing along to an upbeat song about being totally happy. Hyun-jung sees him while she’s crossing the street and shakes her head, thinking he’s crazy.
Kang-hwa arrives home, and weirdly enough, Min-jung doesn’t bring up the power cord incident. This annoys Yuri, but she just joins her daughter on the couch and sings along with the kids’ show. From afar, we see a shadowy figure — no doubt another ghost — watching her.
At dinner, Yuri sits in with the family as they eat, smiling at memories of eating with Kang-hwa back when she was pregnant. Kang-hwa breaks her train of thought, however, when he scolds Seo-woo for spilling food. Huffy that he’s being too strict, Yuri decides to leave for the night.
Meanwhile, news breaks out that baseball player Sang-bong committed suicide. His ashes are left in a columbarium, where his spirit now cries. He’s startled when he looks up and sees several other ghosts crowding around him. They wonder who this newbie is and squeal with delight when they realize he’s famous.
Before we know it, the group is calling all the ghosties out of their urns and chasing Sang-bong around the room. (Pffft, this is great.) This meet-and-greet is interrupted when the door flies open and someone saunters in…
Only to slip on the mopped floor and fall right on her butt. The ghosts laugh as the cranky shaman MIDONGDAEK (Yoon Sa-bong) gets back on her feet. They ask her if a ghostie named Mr. Choe was able to make it to the beyond after saying goodbye to his family.
A sad Mr. Choe comes ‘round the corner, revealing that he’d appeared to his family as a butterfly and that they unknowingly swatted him. He walks off, with Midongdaek yelling that she’d gone through all the trouble of reporting his departure for nothing. “I know that you guys are ghosts,” she says, “but keep your promises!”
As Midongdaek continues her rant, Yuri sneaks in and tries to make a run for her urn. But Midongdaek is clearly used to this and immediately gets her in a headlock. Midongdaek reminds her and everyone else that because they don’t accept reincarnation, there are fewer of the living while the streets are filled with ghosts.
Yuri throws back that they can’t leave when so many of them are worried about their remaining families. Midongdaeks points out that Yuri’s family is doing just fine and that she’s only staying to be with her daughter. “What, I can’t do that?” Yuri says. She sticks out her tongue and then disappears into her urn.
Midongdaek starts yelling that she shouldn’t keep doing this, but her face softens looking at the urn. She gives up for now, understanding how wronged all the ghosts must feel.
The next day, Yuri is especially excited because it’s her death anniversary — meaning lots of offerings for her to eat, lol. As she heads out to join her still grieving family, we cut to Kang-hwa looking at the calendar and needing to take a deep breath. According to the calendar, it’s also Seo-woo’s birthday.
At the temple, we’re introduced to Yuri’s mother (Kim Mi-kyung), father (Park Soo-young), and younger sister CHA YEON-JI (Kim Mi-soo). Looking at Yuri’s picture, Dad starts to cry and Mom coldly states that their daughter doesn’t deserve his tears when she died before them.
Yuri follows Mom into the bathroom, telling her not to be so hard on Dad. She stops when she realizes Mom is leaving the sink on to sob in private. Seeing her mom like that, she can’t help but cry too.
As the family leaves, Yeon-ji tells Mom to cut Kang-hwa some slack, at least on Yuri’s death anniversary. But Mom snaps, “He’s not our family anymore. He’s living a good life now.” And cutting back to Kang-hwa, he does seem perfectly happy at work. Almost too happy.
Yuri rushes back to the neighborhood to see Seo-woo off the school bus, but before she can reach her, Midongdaek uses her bell rattle to send Yuri up in a tree. The ladies break into an argument, but to everyone around them, it looks like Midongdaek is screaming at nothing.
Noticing Min-jung and Seo-woo staring, Midongdaek approaches them and warns them that an evil spirit has latched onto their family. Yuri, now free from the tree, catches up to make Midongdaek shut up.
Little Seo-woo grins and silently pulls on Midongdaek’s coat, and when Midongdaek looks down at her, she sees something that worries her. Min-jung takes Seo-woo away, Yuri in tow, while Midongdaek is frozen where she is.
That night, Kang-hwa makes up excuses to stay at the hospital instead of going home. At home, as it’s getting late, Min-jung suggests to Seo-woo they eat cake without her dad, but Seo-woo would rather wait. Aww.
Unfortunately, Kang-hwa doesn’t arrive until well after 2 a.m., when Seo-woo is already in bed. He comes into her room and sits on the bed to caress her cheek. Yuri, who’s been at her bedside all night, watches sadly.
In the morning, Yuri wakes up to the feeling of another presence. She hurries out of the room (waking up Seo-woo?) and confronts the ghost that’s been lingering in the apartment. Apparently, she’s dealt with this guy before, as his spirit is tied to this land. She orders him out of the apartment since he’s probably sucking up her daughter’s energy. To that, he retorts that she’s doing the same thing: “You think you’re human? You’re a bigger problem than me!”
The ghost leans in with a sly smile and tells her that it’s too late anyway — Seo-woo can see them. The ghost scurries off, and Yuri is left terrified, muttering that it can’t be true. But then Seo-woo comes out of her room… and steps around her mom to get to the couch. If that weren’t enough, Seo-woo looks directly at her, making her fall to the floor in shock.
Yuri heads straight to Midongdaek to tell her this news, but she already knows. Yuri blames herself, since she’s been by Seo-woo’s side since she was a baby, and though Midongdaek hates to say it, she did warn her to stay away. She explains that since Seo-woo is still young, she won’t be able to tell the difference between the living and the dead. As they speak, Seo-woo is at school and unknowingly follows a ghost child out of her classroom.
The day goes on and Seo-woo’s teachers eventually realize that she’s missing, just as Yuri arrives. The teachers go crazy searching the school grounds, as does Yuri (running through walls and popping her head inside classrooms), but Seo-woo is nowhere in sight. Luckily, Yuri senses the ghost child as it runs out of the kitchen; she goes inside and finds Seo-woo lying unconscious in the freezer. Oh no.
Yuri tries to grab Seo-woo, her hands going straight through, and then desperately calls for help, no one hearing her. Now sobbing, she screams Seo-woo’s name, and wakes her just enough to make her foot twitch and push the freezer door open.
A teacher notices this and runs in to save her, carrying her into the ambulance they called earlier. Once she’s at the hospital, Kang-hwa and Min-jung get there as soon as they hear, Kang-hwa taking her small hand in his.
Off to the side, Yuri crumples in tears, saying, “I’m sorry. This is my fault.”
We flash back to Yuri’s conversation with Midongdaek. She’d cried that she’d leave like she was supposed to, go to hell even, if it meant Seo-woo went back to normal, but Midongdaek sadly stated that that wouldn’t guarantee anything.
Yuri softly said that she just wanted to see Seo-woo walk. But then, after seeing Seo-woo walk, Yuri wanted to see her talk and run and eat. So she stayed and was there every step of the way. Hearing this, Midongdaek got teary-eyed but remained silent.
Yuri wanders out of the hospital and into the busy streets, saddened to see so many people out with their loved ones. It starts to snow, but when she puts her hand out, even the snowflakes go through her.
Overwhelmed, she drops to the ground and screams to the heavens, “Can’t I just stay and watch her? Am I not allowed to have that? Why can’t I? Why?! Who do you think you are?!” As she cries, we see her memorial space back at the columbarium having its own little storm.
This storm comes to life in the real world, and the snow inexplicably turns into hail. Everyone is surprised by this storm — Kang-hwa and Min-jung as they drive Seo-woo home, Yuri’s mom as she looks out the window. Even Midongdaek.
The next day, while leaving the grocery store, Mom and Dad see Min-jung with Seo-woo and stop in their tracks. (Min-jung clearly doesn’t know who they are and walks on by.) Mom pulls herself together, though, and makes Dad keep walking. Yuri, as well as Kang-hwa in his car, see this.
When they get home, Dad erupts that he can’t always be as strong as Mom and that he misses his granddaughter. He stalks off, and again, we see that Mom only allows herself to be vulnerable alone.
Later, Kang-hwa and Min-jung take Seo-woo out on the town, where Christmas is in full swing. Up ahead, Yuri watches them being a family, near tears. They start to pass her and… oh my god. OH MY GOD, Kang-hwa locks eyes with her. He continues walking, but his eyes stay on her the whole time, not quite believing what he’s seeing.
We get a brief flashback, seeing Yuri pregnant and on the street when she’s hit by a car. Then Yuri dying at the hospital and Kang-hwa, in scrubs, holding her lifeless body and crying his heart out. Back in the present, Yuri can’t believe what just happened — until a snowflake falls on her shoulder and someone bumps into her. She’s alive.
So it’s that kind of drama, huh? The kind that has me fall in love with its characters instantaneously and then immediately takes advantage of that. I should’ve known, this coming from the Go Back Spouses writer. I don’t want to compare the shows too much, since this feels like it’s its own thing, but I will say that the writer has a way of taking sad situations (i.e. a bitter divorce) and making us feel all the pain and sadness from it, while still making us laugh. Here, the ghosts are especially funny to me, the way they hang around the columbarium like it’s a jimjilbang. I’m liking their humor, their sense of community, and, of course, their dynamic with the shaman Midongdaek. It almost feels like I’m in Midongdaek’s shoes, watching these ghosts and feeling like they’re very much alive. Only to remember that… you know, they’re not.
Going back to our main characters Yuri and Kang-hwa, I adored watching their mini love story. We only saw glimpses of their relationship, but I liked what I saw — Yuri as the sassy but loving girlfriend and Kang-hwa as the spazzy but sweet boyfriend. Like in Go Back Spouses, I was so into the romance we were given that I was disappointed to have it taken away so soon. But the drama is doing a good job with its setups. We have Kang-hwa, who, despite his enthusiastic singing, is obviously still grieving; we have Min-jung, who is trying her best to be a second wife and step-mother; we have Yuri’s parents, who are struggling to let their granddaughter back into their lives. And that’s only the human stuff. The ghost stuff is certainly cool, but I appreciate the foundation laid out before us. The world feels full, if that makes sense.
I haven’t seen Lee Kyu-hyung since Forest of Secrets, so I was pleasantly surprised to see his more comedic side. He’s kind of hilarious. Kang-hwa and his best friend make quite the bumbling pair, but they’ve also got a genuine rapport going. Like, when his buddy suggested he receive proper treatment or when he encouraged him to go home to his daughter. Putting the pieces together, I’m wondering if Kang-hwa was the one who operated on Yuri and if that’s why he’s avoiding all his surgeries. I mean, if that’s really what happened, that just adds another heavy layer to his grief. I’m also wondering if his heart isn’t 100% with Seo-woo because she lived when Yuri didn’t. Seo-woo seems to love her dad a lot, so I hope they find some way to create a real, solid bond.
For Yuri, the bond has always been there, even if it’s only been one-sided so far. It breaks my heart that her spirit was tied to earth all because she wanted to be with her baby. It really does seem unfair, to be ripped away from your child’s life before you can be a part of it. Still, while Seo-woo is the main reason why Yuri stayed, I don’t think she’s the only reason. I think she doesn’t feel comfortable leaving her parents behind when they’re still suffering. I think that there’s a little (maybe more than a little) jealousy towards Min-jung for “stealing” her husband and daughter. To make it worse, she doesn’t completely know just how much Kang-hwa is suffering. So now that Yuri has been given another chance at life, she’s going to see firsthand how much everyone, including herself, isn’t ready to move on.
Personally, when it comes to losing a loved one, I believe there is no moving on. Yes, it’s been five years and yes, Kang-hwa has remarried, but the pain hasn’t gone away. The same for Yuri’s parents. With Yuri coming back to life, hopefully she and her loved ones can outweigh their anger and their grief, not exactly with closure, but with more love. (And hopefully, Min-jung isn’t made out as the bad guy in the middle of all this.) For now, I can’t wait to see Yuri hold her baby girl for the first time. Finally.