Hi Bye, Mama! : Episode 14
It’s time for some clarity. Our heroine’s return to life has been such a shock to the general of order of things that those closest to her have forgotten to enjoy her company while they can. Yuri still has a little time left though, and spending it on carefree days has her questioning her resolve to move on to the afterlife. But while she’s not ready to move on anymore, Kang-hwa finally hits a breaking point and lets his real feelings out in his own efforts to move forward.
EPISODE 14: “It’s Not Your Fault”
It’s 2015, the day Yuri died, and Mom is on the phone with her, admonishing her to stay home. Mom hangs up, exasperated but knows that her daughter won’t ever listen to her. Dad mentions that he had a weird dream and feels uneasy, but neither really seems concerned. But then the phone rings and Dad picks up. As he hears the bad news, the phone falls from his hands to the floor.
Now Mom visits her support group, and she tells the women that she wishes that she had just convinced Yuri not to go to work that day, everything would be different. We move on to Kang-hwa drinking as Dr. Jang hovers over him, Kang-hwa blaming himself for Yuri’s death.
And now to the present, where Kang-hwa confesses to an already distressed Min-jung that their pick-up helper is actually the real Yuri, somehow brought back to life. Min-jung can only stare at Kang-hwa in return. Meanwhile, Yuri sits on her bed at home and worries over how she lost Seo-woo and Min-jung’s reaction.
Min-jung sits at her vanity staring at the photo of Kang-hwa and Yuri together, while Kang-hwa knocks at the locked door to try to talk to her. She doesn’t let him in that night, and he spends the entire evening sitting in the hallway. The door finally opens only when Seo-woo wakes up the next morning, and Min-jung swoops past Kang-hwa without a word to get Seo-woo ready for the day.
But eventually she returns to her vanity and leaves the door open this time. Kang-hwa tries to convince her of the truth, but Min-jung is in the denial phase of this bizarre circumstance. She refuses to believe that Yuri is back from the dead (understandably) and instead accuses Kang-hwa of telling hurtful jokes. Kang-hwa asks why she cried so hard if she really doesn’t believe it, and Min-jung counters, asking him why he waited until only now to tell her the truth. He says that he was flustered at first, but that he knows she can’t be the only one who is being misled.
Over at Hyun-jung’s bar, Geun-sang faces off with Sang-bong, kind of. He seems to speak directly to the ghost and demands to know why he’s following him, but a few seconds later it’s clear that he has no clue where Sang-bong actually is.
Geun-sang turns to Hyun-jung for support, but he finds his wife so preoccupied with her own troubles that she’s heaped a mountain of red pepper flakes onto the dish she’s making. Geun-sang asks if she’s worried about Yuri again, heaving his own big sigh, and it dawns on Hyun-jung that they’ve all been sighing (and worrying) a lot about Yuri. “I understand why Yuri hid from us,” Hyun-jung says, as she recalls Yuri’s guilt over everyone else struggling because of her return. Hyun-jung drops her work and runs out the door, leaving the restaurant in Geun-sang’s hands for the day.
Dad waits until the morning to tell Mom that he lost Seo-woo while out with Yuri. Mom is upset, not just that he lost Seo-woo, but what that does to Yuri and Min-jung’s relationship of trust. Yuri sends a text to Min-jung with an apology, but there’s no response.
Yuri thinks about the night before and her visit to Midongdaek. She learns that it was the ghost family who helped hide Seo-woo from Guk-bong, and also that they have been forced to ascend by Guk-bong. Yuri’s instinct is to blame herself, because they were caught helping Seo-woo, but Midongdaek tries to redirect by reminding her how much time the family had already had as ghosts. Yuri thinks she should cook for Pil-seung one more time as a thank you, but Midongdaek reminds her she has her own problems to resolve.
Back in the present, Mom interrupts Yuri’s thoughts to tell her that Hyun-jung is there to see her. Yuri seems reluctant to go see her friend, but instead of a weighty discussion, Hyun-jung is waiting outside with a smile and a hot car to go for a drive. Soon the ladies are zooming down the highway, windows down and hair flying in the breeze. They start their adventure with a bungee swing ride across a lake, and then grab some bicycles for a ride through the park. Hyun-jung notes her friend’s easy, big grin as they ride.
Min-jung, meanwhile, sits sullenly with Seo-woo. Seo-woo offers her some play food from her play kitchen and that gets a small smile from Min-jung, but she remains preoccupied, her eyes on the family portrait hanging on the wall.
Kang-hwa broods over the last text from his wife, still insisting that he’s joking and that he should never try something like it again. Dr. Jang stops by to try to persuade Kang-hwa to watch his surgery again, but Kang-hwa still says that he’s not ready yet.
Back at the park, the ladies settle into a bench with some coffees. Hyun-jung asks if Yuri was also watching her for the last five years, and Yuri smiles that of course she was around. Yuri says that Hyun-jung never forgot her birthday, even when Yuri herself forgot about it. Hyun-jung says that she was likely struggling not to forget her friend. Hyun-jung says that at first, it felt like Yuri was just away for a while, like when she’d studied abroad. But once it sank in that Yuri would never return, all Hyun-jung could do was cry. Time passed though, and she was able to move on, though she felt guilty about it. Celebrating her friend’s birthday was her way of holding on.
Yuri tells her friend that while it made her sad to see her friends forgetting her, she was more afraid that people would never forget her and be sad forever. Hyun-jung realizes that Yuri knows about Kang-hwa and his inability to leave her behind, and Yuri accepts his struggles at work as her fault. Hyun-jung tells Yuri that it wasn’t her fault, but Yuri says that she made a choice.
At the bar, Geun-sang gives Midongdaek a call to deal with his ghost worries. Midongdaek is busy delivering a service for the ghost family. The other ghosts linger behind her, accusing her of being heartless. But Midongdaek warns that Guk-bong sees them all as demons, and it’s only a matter of time before he comes for all of them. She tells them to hurry and resolve their regrets before it’s too late. Her speech is interrupted, of course, by Geun-sang’s call.
It grows dark as Min-jung continues to sit alone in the apartment, and finally she’s had enough and runs out into the night. She ducks behind a wall when Hyun-jung and Yuri park their car nearby. They’re headed for Yuri’s house for food and drinks, and Min-jung follows at a distance. Min-jung hears Yeon-ji call out Yuri’s name, and once they’re inside, Min-jung walks up to the address plaque on the house. There are all of the family names, including Cha Yuri.
Inside the house, Yuri’s whole family gathers around to eat and drink. They’re glad to have Hyun-jung over again after so long, though Mom says she understands that Hyun-jung kept her distance to avoid reminding them of Yuri. Dad even tears up, though Mom admonishes him right away for being silly. The group laughs and jokes, and Hyun-jung captures a photo of the whole group.
On his way home, Kang-hwa spots Min-jung storming back as well. She walks up to him and without a word, begins to hit him softly in the chest. Her face breaks into sobs, now that she finally knows the truth.
At Yuri’s house, Hyun-jung has left and the rest of the family lines up on the floor for cucumber masks. Mom asks if Yuri had fun, and then smiles that they’ll be able to enjoy things like that from now on. Sigh. The moment is interrupted by Dad’s snoring, and the ladies laugh.
Midongdaek arrives for her visit to Geun-sang, and on the way in, she spots Sang-bong and puts him in a headlock. When she drags him in though, Geun-sang can’t see a thing, but he accepts that she has someone to drag inside with her.
Geun-sang refuses to sit at the same table as Midongdaek and the ghost, and instead sits a table away and texts Hyun-jung frantically. Now that Geun-sang knows which ghost is lurking around him, he asks if he’s being haunted because he refused to issue a fake diagnosis. Midongdaek asks Sang-bong why he’s lingering, and Sang-bong says that Geun-sang is the only one who knows that his death wasn’t a suicide. Midongdaek’s eyes grow wide at that new information, while Sang-bong asks Geun-sang to tell his mother.
Min-jung and Kang-hwa return home. Min-jung says that it must have been fun for them all to see how much she adored Yuri like a fool. Min-jung tells Kang-hwa that she was the first person he should have told about everything. He says that he hadn’t seen her look so happy with other people in a long time, and he didn’t want her to get hurt. Min-jung tells him that before taking care of her pain, he needs to take care of his own issues. “You’re a mess,” she tells him.
The next day Yuri asks the daycare director when Seo-woo will arrive, but learns that Min-jung has decided to keep Seo-woo at home that day. She looks at her phone, and with no response still from Min-jung, she considers giving Kang-hwa a call.
Kang-hwa, meanwhile, has heard from all of the women in his life now about how messy his life is right now. Both Yuri and Min-jung yelled at him for claiming that he’s fine when he’s clearly not, and now he’s faced with the looming operating room doors. Dr. Jang is in his office complaining to Kang-hwa’s psychiatrist when Kang-hwa arrives himself and indicates that he’ll be there to observe the surgery after all.
On her way home, Yuri spots her mother on the way to the hospital for her regular checkup. She offers to accompany Mom to her appointment. On the way, Yuri squeezes her mom’s hand as the bus lingers at a crosswalk. Mom looks up in surprise, but Yuri knows how her heart always races at crosswalks. As a ghost, Yuri often watched, unable to reassure her, as her mother’s anxiety would climb. Mom says that her body seems to remember the tragedy, even when she’s not consciously trying to remind herself.
The nurses stare at Geun-sang as he sits in the waiting room among the visitors. He tells them that at least here there are other people around, instead of his empty office. He says that someone asked him for a favor, but he’s not sure if he should do it. They say he should as long as it isn’t something difficult, since it’s not as if a dead person asked for something. That’s exactly what happened, and he says so, but then darts away when he sees Kang-hwa dressed for surgery.
Geun-sang is worried for his friend and tells Kang-hwa to duck out as soon as he starts experiencing panic. Kang-hwa is resolute, even as the other surgeons give him concerned glances as they stand at the surgery doors. They go inside the operating room, and Kang-hwa stares at the doors a moment alone before joining them.
Yuri and Mom are at the hospital now too, and Yuri asks why Mom decided to stop seeing Kang-hwa. Mom says that she’d rather not be a constant reminder of the pain from his past. Mom is called in for her appointment, leaving Yuri in the hall, and that’s when she overhears from a pair of nurses that Kang-hwa went into surgery to observe, and rushed out in a panic after only ten minutes.
Yuri’s up and running immediately, while the rest of the surgery staff have no clue where Kang-hwa has disappeared to. Yuri knows him though, and she finds him in the stairwell that he always goes to when he experiences the panic attacks. She crouches down with him and encourages him to breathe. Her hands on his shoulders, he finally looks up and sees her there with him.
And of course she would know where he would go, because she’s been here in this stairwell many times before as a ghost. All of those times before though, all she could do was linger at his side, a phantom, unable to calm him or hold him.
Now though, she’s there in the flesh, and Kang-hwa buries his face into her shoulder. “Why did you do it? Why did you leave me all alone?” he says between sobs.
And now it’s time for the final revealing flashback, the one that shows us everything that happened to Kang-hwa the day that Yuri died. His day started with a confrontation with Dr. Jang. A man needed immediate surgery to survive, but Dr. Jang insisted that they had to perform surgery on a waiting VIP patient.
Kang-hwa refuses to obey and takes his team to the operating room of the urgent case. He tells them to take the phones off the hook and lock the doors. He won’t answer to Dr. Jang until the surgery is complete.
That is when Yuri arrives, of course, and as soon as Dr. Jang sees her on the stretcher he orders the staff to find Kang-hwa. But Kang-hwa is unreachable, and the longer they wait the more at risk Yuri and her baby are. At that, Yuri reaches up to Dr. Jang’s sleeve and begs him to save her baby first.
By the time Kang-hwa exits surgery, it’s too late. He runs to Yuri’s room, but she’s already cold on the table. He finds Dr. Jang to scream and blame him, and then sobs in the corner of Yuri’s hospital room.
Back in the present, Kang-hwa tells Yuri she should have lived, and Yuri holds him tightly and says that she’s sorry, over and over again. “Stop blaming yourself,” she says. “It’s not your fault.”
Dr. Jang hears the psychiatrist’s explanation of Kang-hwa’s guilt again. The doctor explains that Kang-hwa felt not just guilt, but resentment and regret, all tangled up together, and that the person who triggered these emotions is gone, so he’s pushed all the emotions down rather than processed them.
At home, Min-jung stares at the apology text from Yuri. She spots the jewelry box, forgotten in her purse until now, and pulls out the three friendship bracelets she purchased. After a moment, she closes the lid and stows the box away in a drawer.
Dr. Jang and Kang-hwa go out for drinks after work. Dr. Jang encourages Kang-hwa for trying, and hopes that he’ll keep it up so that he can stay longer than ten minutes. Dr. Jang wants to know what made Kang-hwa change his mind and try treatment at last. Kang-hwa says that he knows that Yuri wants him to move on, and that it’s probably time to do so now that she’s alive again. Dr. Jang doesn’t get it, but Kang-hwa just smiles. Dr. Jang asks if Kang-hwa has to forget her entirely, and if he can just remember all the good things. But Kang-hwa says that it’s the good memories that immobilize him with sadness.
Geun-sang recounts to Hyun-jung about Kang-hwa’s attempt to attend a surgery, and how he found Yuri already in the stairwell with him. Geun-sang says that it was too painful to watch Yuri apologizing to Kang-hwa over and over, and Hyun-jung asks why Yuri should apologize when she’s the most unfortunate one.
On a park bench, Yuri sees the photos Hyun-jung has shared with her from the family dinner the day before. There are great photos and a goofy one of Dad, and each one makes Yuri smile. “I want to live too.”
Back at the bar, Hyun-jung tells Geun-sang finally that Yuri wants to live. He asks what the problem is then, since Yuri is alive, and Hyun-jung finally tells him that Yuri is going to die soon. As soon as the words are out of her mouth, Kang-hwa walks through the door. “What did you say? Yuri is going to die?” he asks, incredulously at first, and then he breaks into a scream as he demands to know why Yuri is dying again.
Yuri visits Midongdaek and tells her urgently that she wants to live now. She doesn’t see how she deserves this as punishment, and she wants to spend time with her family for a long time yet.
In a flashback to Yuri and Hyun-jung’s park outing, Hyun-jung asks Yuri when she wanted to be alive the most during her time watching them as a ghost. “Right now,” Yuri tells her, admitting that it’s now that she’s alive that she wants to stay with them the most.
Standing resolutely in front of Midongdaek, Yuri asks again, “Can I live?”
It’s 2015, and Kang-hwa tells Yuri’s family over dinner about the petition he’s started to stand up to the VIP treatment at the hospital. They’re all impressed with his integrity and Kang-hwa is proud, happy to receive their praise. Even Yuri supports her husband’s efforts.
After her death, he receives a gift basket from wife of the patient he saved that day. But the basket brings him no comfort as he looks at the photo of Yuri on his desk, and he sends the gift to the floor in a rage.
Geun-sang comes in then and tries to convince Kang-hwa that it wasn’t his fault. Geun-sang says that even if they had managed to reach him, it would have been too late. But nothing comforts Kang-hwa, and all he can do is say he’s sorry as he clutches Yuri’s photo.
Now we finally have the full picture when it comes to Kang-hwa’s guilt. He was busy standing up for a cause he believed in, one Yuri supported him in, and it left him with the pernicious “what if” question. What if he had been reachable and had rushed to her side, would things have been different? Could he have convinced her to prioritize her own life? Those who were there know that it wouldn’t have changed anything, but it’s plagued Kang-hwa all these years.
And his feelings are complicated. He feels guilt for his own actions, but it’s mixed in with resentment too. Yuri “chose” to ask Dr. Jang to save their child before her, and though clearly Kang-hwa understands that, grief has a way of twisting those feelings. It’s left Kang-hwa angry, as those Yuri chose to leave him behind.
His psychiatrist mentioned that Kang-hwa became particularly stuck because the person he needed to confront with his emotions, Yuri, was gone. So it makes so much sense for him to finally unburden all of those feelings in the stairwell with her. I’m just so grateful that these two finally shared a real embrace after so many almost pats on the shoulder they’ve been holding back. And while this seems like a big breakthrough for the guy, Kang-hwa’s reaction in the bar to the news of Yuri’s limited time left makes me think that this only further bonded him to her. Will things be different if Yuri “chooses” to leave for the sake of their daughter for the second time, but this time with the ability to tell him not to feel guilty? It’s really hard to see how anyone will feel anything but devastated if that is Yuri’s final fate.
But of course, Yuri has finally admitted that she really wants to stay and enjoy life with her family. I think it’s been easy so far for her to deny her real desires and tell herself that it only makes sense to move on. She’s spent five years feeling like her presence just drags her loved ones down, and her coming back to life has only seemed to amplify that in her eyes. Thank goodness that Hyun-jung caught on to what their behavior was doing and made an effort to really enjoy time with Yuri. It was such a small, painful moment, to see Yuri hesitate at the thought of spending time with her best friend. But so far, all the time has been spent crying and sighing (with a few opportunities to beat up the local gossips). Yuri’s time back among the living has been emotionally fraught. She’s been not only managing her own feelings about what is happening, but everyone elses’ as well. It hurts that Hyun-jung’s efforts are coming now that we’re so close to Yuri’s end, but at least it’s happening.
And then there’s my favorite, Min-jung. She’s hurt, she’s betrayed, and she’s very alone again. We’ve known since the beginning that keeping her in the dark was going to make for complications. But I’m not so sure that it was the wrong thing to do. I suspect that if Min-jung had known who Yuri was from the start, she never would have opened up to her the way she has her friendly pick-up helper. Without Yuri in her life, she wouldn’t have become friends with Hyun-jung or stood up for herself. She would still be very alone, possibly in the process of a divorce.
Of course, this betrayal has had a similar outcome. Min-jung is isolated again, though now with a battered heart. If we’re lucky, she’ll give everyone another chance to earn her trust again. But I also wouldn’t blame her if she walked away.
I have to give it to this show for keeping me mixed up all the way to the finale. I have absolutely no idea what I want to happen. I assumed all along that Yuri would learn to move on, and help everyone else learn that lesson as well. But right now, it feels like the lesson was for Yuri to learn to want to live. Which… doesn’t feel like much of a lesson? If everyone just gets Yuri back in their lives, does it mean that they haven’t really figured out how to move on? Or is there a way to have it both ways? What kind of ending could address both the importance of moving on and shedding guilt, and also give Yuri what she desires so much?
I also just don’t understand how everything we need to resolve can fit into just two more episodes. Forget about Yuri and her whole situation. What are we going to do about Pil-seung? About Sang-bong and his death? About all the other ghosts who are looking for resolution before they’re ejected from their ghostly forms? Somehow we’re going to help them all, and find an ending for Yuri? And for Kang-hwa? And Min-jung? I want to trust in the show, but there’s also so much I still want from it.