Welcome: Episodes 23-24 (Final)
Our feline friend does his best to prepare his beloved owner for the possibility of a future with only a cat by her side. Will she finally listen to what he has to say or will she cling to the hope that there’s a way to overcome his weakening ability? The only thing our devoted owner can know with certainty is that her life has been forever changed thanks to her mysterious cat.
EPISODE 23 RECAP
Failing to force Hong Jo to transform after threatening Sol-ah, the catnapper grabs the cat and runs to his car. Jae-seon exits Sonamu just in time to see Sol-ah jumping into the catnapper’s passenger seat. Running after them, Jae-seon calls the police while Sol-ah warns the catnapper that he’s in even more trouble now.
Convinced that all of his cats died, the catnapper doesn’t care about the repercussions. It’s chaos in the car as the ‘fasten seatbelt’ alarm beeps and Sol-ah does her best to convince the catnapper that all of his cats were placed in good homes.
Seeing a car stalled in front of them, Sol-ah engages the parking brake but she can’t get away when the catnapper grabs Hong Jo. Doo-shik and Ji-eun are in that car trying to figure out why it suddenly stopped. Sol-ah pulls the catnapper’s hair and throws him against the steering wheel, giving her the chance to jump out just as Doo-shik and Ji-eun get out of his parents’ car.
Jae-seon catches up to them and seeing that he’s outnumbered, the catnapper escapes on foot through a side street. Just when he thinks he’s in the clear, he encounters the human Hong Jo.
Hong Jo informs the catnapper that while Sol-ah makes him happy, that wasn’t the case with his cats because he imprisoned them, making his love is an illness. When Sol-ah finds them, she knocks the catnapper to the ground with a single blow.
Seeing that Hong Jo changed back into a cat, Sol-ah scoops him up just as Jae-seon, Doo-shik and Ji-eun arrive. Sol-ah assures her worried friends that she’s okay but that isn’t true for Hong Jo. Our final quote from Leonardo da Vinci tells us, “The cat is nature’s masterpiece.”
At the veterinary clinic, the vet informs the worried friends that Hong Jo shows signs of serious stress, as if he’s been abused, and recommends plenty of rest so he can recover.
Everyone accompanies Sol-ah back to her house where the friends debate who should stay with her for the night. Sol-ah assures them that she’s fine and then reminds Jae-seon that his father is waiting for him.
When Doo-shik asks about Guk-bong, Ji-eun has to remind him that’s not the name of Sol-ah’s friend. Remembering that it’s ‘Hong Jo’, Doo-shik repeats the name as he struggles to remember where he’s heard it before, stunned when Hong Jo transforms into a human right before his eyes.
Doo-shik suddenly remembers that Hong Jo is Sol-ah’s cat as well as the fact that on the day she moved in, the man upstairs was suddenly replaced by a cat. Ji-eun sums up Doo-shik’s experience, “You were the first one to see it but the last one to realize it?”
After Sol-ah sends everyone away, Hong Jo tells her, “I was worried you might be all alone if I wasn’t around. But I was worried for nothing.” When he apologizes for not being there when she needed him the most, Sol-ah tells Hong Jo that she doesn’t want him to force himself to be human. Hong Jo tries to discuss the loss of his ability but Sol-ah cuts him off, insisting that he just needs lots of rest.
At Nalsaem Design, Doo-shik finds Sol-ah sitting outside and breaks the news that Jae-seon’s father died. After paying her respects, accompanied by Doo-shik and Ji-eun, Sol-ah finds Jae-seon siting outside of the funeral hall, alone.
Sol-ah sits down, facing in the opposite direction, and Jae-seon realizes, “It’s been a long time since we sat like this.” Finally ready to talk to Sol-ah, Jae-seon fears that he’s too late. Sol-ah argues that he wasn’t too late for his father but Jae-seon regrets making him wait so long.
Jae-seon asks about Hong Jo, wondering if he didn’t change that day because he couldn’t. Sol-ah admits that’s what happened and worries, “Do you think it hurts him every time he turns human? Like a cat that gets abused?” Jae-seon shares Hong Jo’s fear that he’d used up all of his time as a human, which explains why he couldn’t change.
When Sol-ah complains that she thought she’d have more time with Hong Jo, Jae-seon confesses, “I also thought I’d have more time with my dad and you.” Tears fall from Sol-ah’s eyes as she remembers the many times that Hong Jo waited to welcome her home, admitting, “I told him I can’t focus on work when I know he’s waiting for me…I can’t believe I said that to him.”
After Jae-seon moves to Sol-ah’s side of the bench to comfort her, Sol-ah points out that she should be the one consoling him. With the sun low in the sky, Jae-seon pats Sol-ah’s shoulder as she weeps.
Returning home from the funeral hall, Sol-ah finds cat Hong Jo resting on her bed and her tears begin anew when she tells him, “I’m so sorry.”
At Nalsaem Design Sol-ah hands in her letter of resignation. Vice President Park does her best to get her to reconsider, even offering her more money, but what Sol-ah wants is time. As a parting gift, Vice President Park reveals, “About when the client asked me to put you back on the team…it was because they liked your design.”
Doo-shik carries the box with Sol-ah’s belongings as she leaves Nalsaem Design for the last time. Sol-ah apologizes for quitting after bringing Doo-shik into the company but he’s convinced that he was destined to meet Ji-eun again. When Doo-shik asks questions about Hong Jo, Sol-ah grabs her things and walks away, ignoring his inquiry, “Does he use a urinal? Or a litter box?”
At home, Hong Jo is in human form again when Sol-ah announces that she just quit her job. He asks if she quit because of him but Sol-ah points to a stack of books and an exercise mat and insists that it’s been her dream to have time for other pursuits. Showing Hong Jo a box of groceries, Sol-ah declares that it’s time to get healthy and then proceeds to throw away all of their coffee.
In the following days, Sol-ah spends most of her time sleeping. One night, Sol-ah climbs into bed early instead of working on her webtoon and Hong Jo points out that she didn’t get anything done all day. Complaining that it’s cold, Sol-ah scoots over so that Hong Jo can warm the bed.
One day, Hong Jo hands Sol-ah a cup of coffee to help her wake up but she’s alarmed by the fact that he went to Sonamu by himself. After Hong Jo asks why she hasn’t left the house in days, Sol-ah confesses, “I need to sleep to make you sleep.”
Seeing the look on Hong Jo’s face, Sol-ah pulls him down on the couch to cuddle. They drift off to sleep (and for once Hong Jo doesn’t change into a cat), but at some point Sol-ah wakes up and she reaches up to feel Hong Jo’s rapidly beating heart. Crying, Sol-ah begs, “Don’t beat too quickly,” and then buries her head in Hong Jo’s chest as she sobs.
Hong Jo and Sol-ah are lounging together at home when her phone rings. Sol-ah isn’t interested in the call, especially when she sees that it’s from her webtoon manager, but Hong Jo answers it anyway. When Sol-ah walks away to talk, Hong Jo follows her and overhears her turn down an interview.
After Sol-ah hangs up, Hong Jo confronts her, “Did you give up on being human because of me? Is that what I did to you?” In order to convince Hong Jo that’s not the case, Sol-ah calls her manager back and agrees to the interview.
Hong Jo get the chance to visit Sonamu when Sol-ah finally leaves the house for a meeting with her manager. Hong Jo helps himself to a cup of coffee but Jae-seon takes it away, explaining, “She (Sol-ah) told me not to make you work…And to not give you any coffee.”
Hong Jo informs Jae-seon that coffee no longer works, “The time I can spend as a human is getting shorter and shorter.” Worried because Sol-ah quit her job only to sleep her days away, Hong Jo admits, “This isn’t why I wanted to stay with her. I just wanted to hold her.”
When Jae-seon throws a comforting arm around Hong Jo, he senses Jae-seon’s sympathy and figures that he can expect a ‘donation’. After Jae-seon releases him, Hong Jo returns the hug and asks for his severance pay.
On the day of the interview, Sol-ah finds fault with every outfit she’s tried on and when Hong Jo checks on her, she suggests cancelling the whole thing. Guessing that Sol-ah doesn’t want to leave him, Hong Jo offers to accompany her to the interview.
At the restaurant where her interview is being held, Sol-ah assures Hong Jo that she isn’t nervous but she panics when she can’t find her advance list of questions. Proving how well he knows her, Hong Jo hands her the list. When she checks her appearance in a mirror, Sol-ah complains that her neck looks empty and Hong Jo takes notice.
A photoshoot precedes the interview but Sol-ah becomes distracted when Hong Jo isn’t in his seat, unaware that he slipped out to run an errand. The photographer suggests a break so that Sol-ah can blot the perspiration from her face but when he resumes, the flash of the camera only makes her more anxious. Announcing that she can’t continue, Sol-ah apologizes and leaves.
Hong Jo returns just as Sol-ah runs outside to search for him. Hong Jo tries to hand Sol-ah the necklace that he bought her but she ignores it to remind him that he promised to stay by her side. Hong Jo sees the unhappy interview team leaving the restaurant and guesses what happened.
At home, Sol-ah urges Hong Jo to get some sleep instead of staying in human form. When he asks if Sol-ah wants him to be a cat, she clarifies that she doesn’t want him to be sick. Hong Jo agrees, “I should sleep,” but warns, “This time, I might be asleep for a really long time.”
Opening his hand, Hong Jo shows Sol-ah the necklace that he bought for her explaining that it’s like his collar, proof that he chose her to be his owner. Placing it around Sol-ah’s neck, Hong Jo tells her, “No matter how far apart we may be, you’ll always be my owner.”
Hong Jo asks Sol-ah to show the world what she’s capable of, “It’s what you need to do.” When Sol-ah questions Hong Jo about the word ‘mignon’ engraved on her necklace, he explains that it stands for cute, charming and adorable. Hong Jo holds up a mirror so that Sol-ah can see how the necklace looks on her and he smiles when she declares that it’s pretty. Sol-ah turns to thank Hong Jo and discovers that he’s returned to cat form.
EPISODE 24 RECAP
At home, Sol-ah can’t concentrate on her webtoon so she invites Hong Jo to join her for some fish-shaped buns and a walk holding hands but he remains a cat. When she answers the doorbell, Sol-ah finds that Doo-shik, Ji-eun and Jae-seon have paid her a visit.
Instead of criticizing Sol-ah for being a shut-in, Doo-shik exclaims that she’s glowing but he does complain that they have to come over whenever they want to see her. Ji-eun hands Sol-ah a bag of fish-shaped buns while Jae-seon asks about Hong Jo. The cat makes an appearance and Sol-ah confesses that’s how he spends most of his time.
While the friends share some snacks, Ji-eun turns to thank Hong Jo. Ji-eun figured out that Hong Jo was behind Doo-shik’s eraser ending up in her lunch bag and credits him with bringing them together. Jae-seon asks about the webtoon and Sol-ah confesses that she can’t figure out the ending. Jae-seon suggests, “Maybe you’ll get the answer by going back to the beginning. What did it mean to you when you met the cat?”
Later, Sol-ah sleeps until she hears Hong Jo calling out her name. She opens her eyes and finds Hong Jo sitting beside her, in human form. Hong Jo wants to take her somewhere and warns, “Hurry. There’s not much time.
Hong Jo takes Sol-ah to their bench near the river and wraps her red scarf around her neck. As Hong Jo remembers how Sol-ah kept him warm, she protests, “This is what you do when you say your final goodbye.”
Hong Jo’s eyes glisten with tears as he gazes over the water and he reminisces, “This is where I first thought I should stay with you.” Unsettled by the talk of their past, Sol-ah tries to make plans for the upcoming days until Hong Jo tells her, “This will be the last time to see me as human…I can feel it. I’m barely managing right now.”
Crying, Sol-ah stands up, insisting that all Hong Jo needs is coffee but he shakes his head. After Sol-ah sinks back down, Hong Jo explains that he only had a certain amount of time as a human and he’s used all of it. Sol-ah hugs Hong Jo tightly, and sobs, “I’ll stay with you. I’ll stick right beside you,” confident that having her close will enable him to transform. After appealing to him, Sol-ah kisses Hong Jo.
Tenderly touching Sol-ah’s cheek, Hong Jo tells her, “Thank you. For being the person to make me human.” Sol-ah cries because she had no idea their time together would be so short and Hong Jo confesses that had he known, he wouldn’t have left after meeting her. Hong Jo suddenly sways when his eyes close briefly and he announces, “I think it’s time.”
When Sol-ah begs him not to go, Hong Jo reminds her that he’ll still be with her, as a cat. Through her tears, Sol-ah asks, “If you don’t turn into a human, will you not be in pain anymore,” and Hong Jo nods. Sol-ah lets Hong Jo know that it’s all right if he’s never human again, as long as he’s not sick and able to stay by her side.
Hong Jo wipes away Sol-ah’s tears and promises, “I’ll wait for you. Since waiting is what a cat does.” Sol-ah promises to wait as well with the hope, “…tomorrow might come to us again.” With a weak smile, Sol-ah suggests that tomorrow they should visit the ocean and Hong Jo agrees, “Let’s do that.” Hong Jo uses what’s left of his strength to kiss Sol-ah one last time as the river gently flows past them.
Two Years Later
After setting out a sign in front of Sonamu, Jae-seon glances over at Sol-ah’s house. Inside, Sol-ah fills Hong Jo’s water dish and then slings the phone case that Hong Jo made her over her shoulder. With a wave, Sol-ah runs out the door and sees Jae-seon, who remembers, “Today’s the big day.”
Doo-shik finds Ji-eun rehearsing her presentation in a hallway and he yawns, explaining, “I heard nervous cats feel soothed when they see their owner yawn.” Ji-eun is pretty sure that applies to dogs but Doo-shik doesn’t care. He teases that Ji-eun must turn into an animal when she sleeps because no human could look as adorable as her.
During Ji-eun’s presentation, a yawn from Doo-shik calms her when she falters. After she’s done, Vice President Park smiles and murmurs, “Impressive.”
Sol-ah’s big day is a book signing event to launch the print version of her webtoon. Her former coworkers from Nalsaem Design make a surprise appearance, including Vice President Park, whose kids are fans of Sol-ah’s work. They pose together for a photo, proudly holding up copies of Sol-ah’s book.
The event over, Sol-ah is about to leave when Jae-seon arrives to invite her to dinner. When Sol-ah reminds him that Hong Jo is waiting for her, Jae-seon presents her with a bouquet of flowers and announces, “Hong Jo’s not the only one waiting for you.”
As they leave the bookstore together, Sol-ah admits that Hong Jo seems happy as a cat. Jae-seon asks how she feels about that and Sol-ah explains, “Him being a cat makes me happy,” adding that he’s still able to hug her even if he doesn’t have hands.
At home, Sol-ah spends her days happily with Hong Jo by her side and she narrates, “Just like how you waited for me, I’m waiting too.” When she leaves the house, we see that Sol-ah counts to three before going back inside and in voiceover she explains, “I checked every day just in case you might’ve turned into a human.”
Sitting on their special bench near the river, wearing her red scarf, Sol-ah thinks, “Even if it’s just once, I want to see you again.” Jae-seon joins her and when he asks, “Are you still waiting,” we don’t hear Sol-ah’s answer.
Sol-ah walks up her street alone and tells herself, “However long it may take, it’s okay even if you come back as a wrinkly old man. I will still recognize you right away.” After Sol-ah walks in her door, she sets down her drawing pad and smiles at Hong Jo as she hangs up her scarf.
When Sol-ah walks past her drawing pad, the pages turn on their own. Sol-ah turns around as her scarf falls to the floor and when she walks back to her room, she finds Hong Jo in human form wearing the scarf. Smiling, Sol-ah tells him, “Welcome,” and Hong Jo smiles back as we see the sketch of the two of them sitting on the roof, watching the sunset.
A variety of people hold their cats and dogs while they share what it’s like to have pets in their lives. One aspect they agree on is that their pets have helped them become better people.
While it’s no secret that I’ve struggled from the beginning with the romance between the main leads, I will admit that their supposed final farewell genuinely moved me. Hong Jo did his best to comfort Sol-ah with the promise that he would stay by her side as a cat, while encouraging her to make the most of her life without his human version. Hong Jo wanted the best for Sol-ah and suffered in order to tell her that, but as usual, Sol-ah couldn’t fully accept what he had to say and held out hope that he would return in his human form, someday.
The catnapper’s return and his unhealthy love for his cats got me thinking. Hong Jo accused him of imprisoning his cats but after Sol-ah quit her job, it felt as if they were confined in their own way. Even though Hong Jo and Sol-ah insisted that they were happy together, they gave up a great deal along the way. That doesn’t strike me as very healthy, even if it is what they chose. Which is why I was disappointed with the ending. Sol-ah’s entire life, both personally and professionally, ended up revolving around Hong Jo. Even though her webtoon succeeded, it was because Sol-ah spent two years immortalizing her love for Hong Jo while staying home with the cat day after day.
Which is unfortunate because looking back, I actually enjoyed the development of the secondary characters very much. Jae-seon exhibited the most growth because he started out so deeply wounded. No doubt Hong Jo helped him to heal and Jae-seon was genuinely appreciative. As much as Jae-seon wanted a second chance with Sol-ah, he was respectful not only of her feelings but of Hong Jo’s as well and proved himself a good friend. It was so hard to watch Jae-seon grieve not only for his father, but for the loss of Sol-ah, both at the same time. Jae-seon deserved a happier ending than being left all alone.
I also liked the relationship between opposites Ji-eun and Doo-shik, who somehow made things work as evidenced by the time jump. These two were happy thanks to what appears to be a balanced and supportive relationship. It’s frustrating because the writer chose to give Ji-eun and Doo-shik such a satisfying ending while Sol-ah’s was ambiguous at best.
After waiting for Jae-seon to return her feelings for ten long years, Sol-ah commits herself to waiting out the duration of Hong Jo’s life in hope that she’ll see him in human form at least one more time. That’s quite a few years of her life spent waiting and it feels as if Sol-ah is the one character who remained stuck. In the end, she’s not much different than she was in high school except for the fact that she ended up with someone who places value on waiting. After a storyline that emphasized not wasting precious time, her commitment to waiting seems out of place.
But Sol-ah’s patience is rewarded in the end, or is it? Hong Jo finally returns in his human form in the final scene but in some ways, it was almost as if she envisioned him in her imagination. The pages of the drawing pad turning to the sketch of Sol-ah and Hong Jo on the roof, the day that she decided to adopt a cat’s philosophy of living for ‘today’. What that really means is that Sol-ah forfeited her future for Hong Jo and the devoted pet felt compelled to fulfill her heartfelt wish. Sol-ah and Hong Jo became the focus of each other’s lives in the unhealthiest way possible.
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