Hi Bye, Mama! : Episode 15
If you thought the last few episodes had too many tears, wait till you get to this one. We get all the confrontations we’ve been waiting for, and the drama doesn’t hold back. But even with confrontation, we’re nowhere near resolution. No one really knows what they want, because fate seems to have handed them a lose-lose deal.
EPISODE 15: “My Life’s Tomorrow”
Back when Yuri is ten months pregnant, she keeps a journal addressed to Seo-woo. She writes that Seo-woo is kicking so much that she oughta be a soccer player. Smiling, she vows to let her baby be anything she wants. “Since the day I can see you is arriving soon,” she concludes, “I’m looking forward to tomorrow more than today.”
Then, in present day, Yuri tearfully confronts Midongdaek, demanding to know if there’s a way for her to live — she wants to stay with her friends and family.
Kang-hwa walks in on Hyun-jung and Geun-sang just as Yuri’s possible death is mentioned. Kang-hwa orders Hyun-jung to elaborate, and they’re crying as she says that Yuri came with a time limit and her time is almost up. She continues that Yuri could stay, if she regained her place as Seo-woo’s mom, but that Yuri refuses to.
As Hyun-jung breaks into sobs, Kang-hwa turns away and asks, “Why are you just telling me now?” He leaves the restaurant and trudges home, remembering all the times Yuri had acted suspicious, when she cryptically brought up the 49 days.
We get back to Yuri and Midongdaek, having missed the end of their conversation. Whatever it was, it completely drains Yuri; she’s so out of it that she walks right past Guk-bong, who had eavesdropped at the door. He smirks at Midongdaek and says that he knew Yuri would want to live. “I can go to her daughter now, right?” he asks.
When Yuri gets to her bus stop, she’s surprised to find Kang-hwa there. He drags her to the park and cuts to the chase — “Why are you doing this to me? You were going to stay for 49 days and then die again?” He gets worked up, yelling that he barely survived losing her the first time and that he wouldn’t survive a second time.
Kang-hwa insists that Yuri should’ve told him everything from the start instead of making all the decisions herself. Yuri yells right back that her place is already taken and that none of this would’ve happened if he’d just moved on. She’d lingered as a ghost because she wanted to see him remarry and be happy.
“You’re the one who didn’t let go of me!” she cries. “You kept holding onto me and made me torture you! You’re the one who held onto me and made me feel sorry so I couldn’t leave you! You’re the one who stopped me from leaving!” Whoa…
Tears streaming down his face, he agrees that he did hold onto her, on purpose, in order to keep living. But then he’d just feel sorry again. He looks her in the eye, asking if she can really live if she gets her place back. Frustrated, she brings up Min-jung, giving him pause. Still, he tells her that she shouldn’t have to die again.
At home, Min-jung silently sits in the living room. Looking up at her family photos, including the photo with the “Yuri” sticker, she starts to cry. Seo-woo comes out of her room, looking sad, and Min-jung gratefully accepts her hug.
The next day, Pil-seung stops by the columbarium to pay respects to his family. On his way out, he notices Yuri’s altar and notes that her pictures look a lot like that ajumma he knows (pfffft). He passes Guk-bong at the door, not thinking much of him, while the ghosts inside run off to hide.
Guk-bong announces that hiding won’t save them. He taps on the ghost family’s altar, warning the others that they’ll have to go up like those useless spirits. Then, with a wave of his cane, he whips Hye-jin out of her hiding spot and into the air. He grins and says it’s her turn now, when, all of a sudden, someone shouts, “Hey!”
Pil-seung marches back in, grabbing Guk-bong by the lapels. Hye-jin is released from the air and scurries off, and the other ghosts cheer Pil-seung on as he drags Guk-bong out, angry that he called his parents “useless spirits.” Atta boy.
At the temple, Mom sees Midongdaek and follows her out to apologize for the way she reacted the first time they met. She asks how long Midongdaek has known Yuri and Midongdaek stutters that it’s been about five years. Realizing her blunder, Midongdaek adds that she doesn’t know how Yuri came back to life.
And at Hyun-jung’s restaurant, Yuri broods over her conversations with Kang-hwa. We see that after their emotional discussion, Kang-hwa also confessed that he told Min-jung everything. Yuri asks Hyun-jung what she should do about Min-jung, and Hyun-jung tries to reassure her that living is the right choice.
Hyun-jung admits that the thought of Yuri being a ghost the past five years and having to learn to give up breaks her heart. Rather than worry about Kang-hwa or Min-jung, Hyun-jung urges her to focus on her own life. Yuri grasps her friend’s hand and replies, “I wasn’t giving up. I was accepting that my life was over.” Yuri stands to leave, so Hyun-jung quickly asks if she’s going to save herself. However, Yuri just smiles and walks out.
Min-jung stays cooped up in the bedroom, crying, while Kang-hwa stays in the living room. He notices that several picture frames on the table have been placed face down, and he picks them up. But looking at his and Min-jung’s smiling faces, he sighs and places the frame back down. He starts when Min-jung finally comes out, but she tells him that she’s not ready to talk yet. She leaves the apartment… and sees that Yuri is out there waiting for her.
We jump to the hospital, where Geun-sang is thinking about his meeting with Midongdaek and Sang-bong. Through Midongdaek, Sang-bong had revealed that his best friend killed him and made it look like a suicide. Geun-sang starts to say they should catch the bastard, but apparently, the friend killed himself due to the guilt. All Sang-bong wanted was for Geun-sang to tell his mom that his death wasn’t her fault.
We cut back to Yuri and Min-jung, now sitting inside a coffee shop. Min-jung wonders aloud how she could be so stupid, when it was so obvious Yuri wasn’t just a look-a-like. Yuri apologizes over and over, and Min-jung cuts in that she can’t act angry when Yuri keeps saying she’s sorry. Besides, instead of saying sorry, Yuri should be demanding to have Kang-hwa and Seo-woo back.
Yuri looks up at Min-jung and says that it’s because she’s grateful — all she wanted was time with her daughter, and Min-jung gave her that. Min-jung’s eyes tear up as she says, “It would’ve been better if you were mean. I could have used that as an excuse and done whatever I wanted.” Yuri notes with a sad smile that the same goes for her.
Min-jung comes home that night to find Kang-hwa in their room staring up at their wedding photo. They lock eyes and damn, it’s almost like the room got darker. He gets up, his fist clenching by his side, and tries to find the right words.
But Min-jung beats him to it: “I want to leave you.” She calmly tells him that she knows his hand tremor isn’t the reason why he can’t operate; she pretended not to know because she didn’t want to be jealous of a dead woman. But now Yuri is alive, and Min-jung believes that Yuri is and always will be his wife and Seo-woo’s mom.
Min-jung stares at Kang-hwa, her eyes pleading for him to answer, but he just hangs his head, crying, and says that he’s sorry. With that, Min-jung starts to cry too. They stand there, unable to say anything else.
Yuri is sulking in her room, but when Mom pops in to say she’s going on a walk, she happily jumps up to join her. On their late night stroll, Mom asks if she’s disappointed by the fact that she came back without anything belonging to her anymore. “I have you,” Yuri reminds Mom, and they both smile.
Mom then reveals that when Kang-hwa was at his worst, she always prayed that he would remarry someday, knowing that’s what Yuri would’ve wanted. Mom wonders now if she really did the right thing, and Yuri says that she did — that of all people, Mom definitely understands her feelings best.
Mom and Yuri rest on a bench in front of the park, and Mom says that at this very bench, she used to watch Min-jung play with Seo-woo. It started a while back, when Mom came across them by accident. But after that, (after Min-jung noticed her), she realized that Min-jung and Seo-woo would happen to be there every time she was.
It was obvious at that point that Min-jung figured out who Mom was. Yuri says that Mom should’ve said something to Min-jung, but Mom insists that some relationships are better off when they’re not pursued.
Meanwhile, Min-jung finds herself at Hyun-jung’s restaurant asking for a beer. Hyun-jung silently hands it over, and Min-jung looks at it, saying she probably shouldn’t come by anymore. Hyun-jung just averts her eyes and says that she’s sorry. At that, Min-jung grabs her mug and downs the whole thing, her eyes filling with tears.
Min-jung looks up at Hyun-jung and cries, “Why is everyone apologizing to me? If you keep apologizing, what am I supposed to do?” She starts sobbing right there, clutching her chest, and Hyun-jung silently cries with her.
Later, when Min-jung is gone, Hyun-jung fills Geun-sang in, saying she believes Kang-hwa didn’t tell Min-jung about the life-or-death situation. Geun-sang thinks it might be best, however, to keep Min-jung in the dark about that; maybe she should just see Kang-hwa as the bad guy.
The next morning, Geun-sang gets ready to do Sang-bong’s favor (desperate to let go of this ghost). Sang-bong stands by as his mother walks into Geun-sang’s office, asking why Geun-sang called her. Geun-sang just urges her to read his last report before Sang-bong passed away.
We jump back to Geun-sang’s conversation with Sang-bong (through Midongdaek). Apparently, Sang-bong came out as gay to his family back when he was in college, and they reacted negatively. Sang-bong moved out soon after, cutting all ties with them. Later, he decided to resolve things with his family, even going to Geun-sang to express those desires.
Unfortunately, before he could reunite with them, he was killed. It wasn’t until after he died that he realized his mom reacted the way she did because she felt sorry for him. Mom had blamed herself for her son’s death, but now, reading Geun-sang’s report, she sees that Sang-bong had no resentful feelings towards her. Ghost Sang-bong watches his mom cry, telling her that he’s sorry he realized his feelings too late.
Yeon-ji walks in on Yuri looking at her glass artwork, and she suggests Yuri take it up again. But Yuri says that she only has one focus now, that being Seo-woo.
Speaking of whom, Kang-hwa arrives to the house with Seo-woo, telling Yuri to get dressed so the three of them can go out. Once in the car, Kang-hwa asks Seo-woo where she wants to go, and she answers with “amusement park.”
Seo-woo’s wish is granted, and the family spends all afternoon at the amusement park, riding rides and laughing together. At one point, a clown approaches them for a photo and at the last second, Yuri leans in and takes Kang-hwa’s arm. Aw.
The family takes a break, Kang-hwa and Yuri watching Seo-woo pout her lips in her sleep. Kang-hwa notes that Yuri used to do the same thing, and Yuri’s smile turns sad. He says that as Seo-woo grew up, she reminded him of Yuri even more.
“It’s not that I held onto you,” he continues. “I couldn’t help but hold onto you because you left me with something so big.” Still, Yuri says, if she were to turn back time, she would save Seo-woo again. Kang-hwa smiles with understanding.
At the park, Mom passes by and finds Min-jung sitting on the bench by herself. Mom joins her, making her look up with surprise, and she says, “You know who I am, right?” Min-jung doesn’t say anything, but she does tear up when Mom calls her “Seo-woo’s mom.”
Mom tells Min-jung that she is Seo-woo’s mom and that Min-jung knows Seo-woo like Mom knows Yuri. So she feels confident in saying that what Min-jung is worried about won’t happen. She gives her one last smile, thanks her for being so considerate of her all this time, and gets up to leave.
Back at the amusement park, Seo-woo sees a woman that looks like Min-jung and runs after her, calling for “Mommy.” Kang-hwa grabs her, with Yuri standing back with a heartbroken expression.
It’s a quiet drive back to Yuri’s house, Seo-woo falling asleep in the backseat. Kang-hwa and Yuri step out to talk, him telling her that she can start getting her place back as Seo-woo’s mom. Yuri gently urges him to stop and then reveals that she won’t be taking her place back — she can’t.
Yuri gets choked up as she says, “If I live, then Seo-woo will see ghosts for the rest of her life.” We flash back to her conversation with Midongdaek at the beginning of the episode. Midongdaek told her that she’s neither a human or a ghost and that that’s what’s causing Seo-woo to keep seeing ghosts.
Yuri continues that she started all of this, so she has to end it too. She promised Seo-woo, when she was still in her belly, that she would let her be anything she wanted to be. She couldn’t take that away from her daughter to save her own life; she couldn’t take away Seo-woo’s tomorrow.
Meanwhile, after praying nonstop all day, Midongdaek seems to get an answer from above. She rushes over to the temple, looking up at the written prayers hanging on the ceiling. One lone prayer sways back and forth: Yuri’s mom’s prayer to see her daughter one more time.
Five years prior, the pregnant Yuri heads over to a crosswalk (the crosswalk), while on the phone with her mom. After hanging up, she wonders if she should listen to her mom and go home. She smiles and turns to head back, only taking a few steps when a man behind her is hit by a car.
As Yuri looks on in shock, Kang-hwa narrates, “If your life hadn’t stopped, what kind of tomorrow would we have lived?” We see what Yuri’s life would’ve been like if she hadn’t died that day. She and Kang-hwa are still happily in love, acting as partners in crime when it comes to parenting Seo-woo.
One night, Yuri finds Kang-hwa and Seo-woo in bed, having fallen asleep after reading their bedtime story. She sits by their side and smiles, her narration saying, “Yesterday or today, my tomorrow had always been you.”
Well, jeez, that epilogue was all kinds of CRUEL. Why would you show us all the happy times that could’ve been? Now I want an entirely separate drama with Yuri and Kang-hwa being adorable parents, without all the ghosts and heartbreak and tears. Oh my word, the tears. Look, this drama has always presented itself as a sad story, and its epilogues never failed to make me cry. But here’s what was really making me cry: having such a fun time with our characters and then having the epilogues remind me of their sad reality. There was some kind of balance there. Recently, all Hi Bye, Mama! has been is a misery fest — so much so that I can’t even cry anymore.
What brought me back to the drama’s magic was actually Sang-bong’s scenes. I’m usually not a fan of secondary characters taking up too much screentime, but here, it could’ve worked. In the last few episodes, a lot of time has been dedicated to our main characters worrying, brooding, and of course, crying. And a lot of that would’ve felt less repetitive if they’d cut that down just a bit and focused on other storylines. I would’ve been happy even hanging out with Pil-seung again. He wasn’t a main character, but he was prominent enough that I definitely felt his absence when he just disappeared. Now, with only one episode left, I’m not sure how all of these stories are going to be tied up. There’s still so much, even about our main leads’ story, to be said.
One thing I was satisfied with was all the confrontation. I’m immune to the tears now, but my heart still broke as our characters released all the emotions they’d been holding back. With Kang-hwa and Yuri’s discussion, they were the angriest I’d ever seen them and for good reason. Because at the end of the day, their pain is linked together. I knew Kang-hwa had more influence on Yuri staying than she let on, but it seems like he might’ve been that deciding factor. They’ve been holding each other back without realizing it. Then, with Kang-hwa and Min-jung’s breakup, they were probably the saddest I’d seen of them. Min-jung kept looking at him as if she wanted him to fight for her, for once in their relationship, and he didn’t.
While I do think that Kang-hwa and Yuri’s chemistry is fire, I don’t want to give up on Kang-hwa and Min-jung. I truly believe that there is something there, that Kang-hwa could love her fully if he just allowed himself to. I just don’t see Min-jung being left out when he obviously cares for her and when Seo-woo obviously sees her as her mom. The drama’s dilemma — what’s always been the drama’s dilemma — is that I don’t want Yuri to be left out either. I don’t want her to break up the marriage, but I don’t want her to die. And like her, I can’t figure out why she was brought back to life if every option left her and her loved ones miserable. Hopefully, with this sign that Midongdaek is getting from above, we finally get an answer.
The writer’s previous work, Go Back Spouses, had its issues, but it successfully kept a very funny yet sad story contained in a small package of 12 episodes. If Hi Bye, Mama! had done the same, maybe the story wouldn’t have teetered off. But like Spouses, despite any issues I had with it, the characters were so strong, individually and together. So no matter what happens in the final episode — whether it’s a happy ending, a bittersweet one, or a sad one — that is what I’ll take away from this whole viewing experience.
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