It’s Okay to Not Be Okay: Episode 11
Ah, this show. With every episode, it leaves me emotionally (and almost physically) exhausted, yet I’m always excited to come back for more. Because even if our characters stomp on my heart, I know that some way or another, they’ll find some way to mend it. Let’s just keep it mended for now, okay?
EPISODE 11: “The ugly duckling”
At home, Moon-young uncrumples the paper Sang-tae threw out, and seeing it’s a drawing of her with the boys, she bursts into tears. There’s then a knock on her door, and she opens it to Ok-ran, who pops a party popper and sings “Happy Birthday.”
At OK Hospital, Kang-tae realizes that Ok-ran may be Moon-young’s mother, so he races out of there. He tries to call Moon-young, but she’s not picking up — she’s preoccupied with Ok-ran as she invites her inside.
Moon-young follows Ok-ran as she wanders about the mansion and asks what she’s doing here so late at night. Ok-ran reveals that Go Dae-hwan tried to kill her, and that he went on about needing to kill all monsters like her and Moon-young.
So Ok-ran wanted to visit Moon-young, thinking she’d be lonely tonight. After all, Ok-ran says, she’s a big fan of her mother. Ok-ran picks up a fountain pen and calls it pretty, and Moon-young warns her not to touch her stuff.
Moon-young grabs the pen but is surprised when Ok-ran doesn’t let go. Instead, Ok-ran smiles and says, “We’re quite alike. I also hate it when people touch my stuff.” Ok-ran whips the pen away, slashing Moon-young’s palm. And though Moon-young doesn’t seem to register the pain, the action surprises her.
A panicked Kang-tae finally reaches the mansion, and he sprints inside, yelling for Moon-young. He goes into the study and sees the splatter of blood on the floor, from Moon-young’s palm. Before Kang-tae can really panic, Moon-young appears at the top of the staircase, safe and sound.
Kang-tae closes the distance between them and holds Moon-young so tight that it takes her breath away (and mine). He’s relieved to see that she’s okay, which gives her hope, but then he demands to know where Ok-ran is.
Frowning, Moon-young tells him that “that ajumma” already left. Is that the reason why he came — not because he missed her, but because a patient escaped? She lets go of him, saying that his brother, and now even the patients, are more important to him than her.
He starts to argue, but she turns and storms off to her room. She flashes back to earlier, just after Ok-ran cut her hand. She reflexively reached for some scissors, but then she remembered Kang-tae’s advice to count to three if she felt close to losing control.
It took everything in Moon-young to count to three and hold back. And with that, she ordered Ok-ran to get out of her house. Though now, Moon-young is wishing she’d just lashed out.
Kang-tae comes into her room and sits by her side to wrap up her wounded hand. But she snaps that her hand doesn’t even hurt; his words from before, of them having an ill-fated relationship, hurt much, much more. He said that she isn’t an empty can, so why is he still treating her like one?
She’s getting agitated, so he grabs her by the shoulders and urges her to count to three if she can’t control herself. She does, saying, “One, two,” while the intensity between them only grows. They say, “Three,” at the same time and omo… Kang-tae surrenders control, cupping her face and kissing her.
They come up for air and look into each other’s eyes before going in again (omo x2). Kang-tae pulls away, and this time, he softly says, “Happy birthday. I missed you.” He smiles and says that she’s turning red, though she blames it on the heat. She points out that he’s red too, and remembers that he has a fever.
The hospital hears from Kang-tae and learns that Ok-ran came to Moon-young’s place. Director Oh orders everyone to be on high alert tonight, in case she returns.
Meanwhile, Jae-soo joins Sang-tae in his apartment as he’s eating. Jae-soo takes out the Mang-tae doll, having found it outside, and Sang-tae reveals that the doll is the third Moon brother. Jae-soo wants to be their brother too, but Sang-tae refuses to accept anyone who’s not really related.
As Moon-young is caring for Kang-tae in bed, dabbing his forehead with a towel, she asks about her father choking Ok-ran. He tells her not to worry about that and pulls her to his side. Holding her, he says that it’s nice to have someone look after him when he’s sick. He closes his eyes, falling asleep, and she gently takes his hand to look at the scar on his palm. She snuggles up closer, making him wrap his arm around her, and they sleep like that.
The next morning, at the apartment building, Joo-ri finds Sang-in spraying air freshener in his car. (She’d thrown up inside of it after getting drunk.) She gives him money to fix it, and he notes that he used to offer money to people whenever Moon-young caused trouble; he now realizes how bad he must’ve made those people feel. So rather than use the money to fix the car, he suggests they use it to eat a meal together.
By now, Kang-tae’s fever is gone, and Moon-young wonders if he was faking it. He smiles like a goof and says that it must’ve been lovesickness. He then takes her downstairs so they can sit down for a more serious talk.
At first, she pouts, thinking it’s another “My brother is enough” lecture. But then he reveals that his mother was murdered and that Sang-tae was the only witness. Sang-tae was so traumatized that they fell into this routine of running away.
In flashback, we see the murder through Sang-tae’s eyes: a woman in high heels had walked away from their mother’s body, to him, and caressed his hair. He recoiled in fear, only seeing the butterfly brooch on her jacket.
Since then, the brothers had to leave before spring, when the butterflies would arrive. Because Sang-tae would have his recurring nightmare of the murder and scream that the butterflies were going to kill him. With Sang-tae carrying this trauma, Kang-tae believes he has to keep caring for him.
Even so, he still wants Moon-young in his life. He repeats something she once said, that when someone you need shows up, it’s destiny. And right now, he needs her. “I have to stay by Hyung’s side,” he says, looking up at her. “So you just stay by my side.” She smiles, tears in her eyes, and says that she can do that.
At the hospital, the staff see Dae-hwan off before he gets tested for a possible brain tumor. Afterwards, Nurse Park makes the order to clear Ok-ran’s belongings and hand them off to the police; since Ok-ran is still missing, they need to provide her room to someone on the waiting list.
Upstairs, while Director Oh and Pil-wong are playing a game, Pil-wong says he heard that Ok-ran used to be an obscure stage actress and that she had multiple plastic surgeries. Apparently, lately, her roommates noticed her behaving strangely — she always insisted on practicing her acting and memorizing something.
As Kang-tae comes into work, a few people like Joo-ri and patient Sun-hae notice that he seems a lot happier than he was just yesterday. He turns more puzzled, however, as he packs up Ok-ran’s things. One curious find is a pack of note cards with written lines crossed out. Hmm, the lines she was trying to memorize, perhaps?
Later, Kang-tae tries to make out the words on the cards, to no avail. Director Oh joins him, wanting to ask why Ok-ran would go to Moon-young’s of all places. Kang-tae hopes that the reason was nothing more than to wish her a happy birthday, that nothing bad will happen to them anymore.
Kang-tae decides to tell Director Oh about the butterfly story as well, hoping he can help Sang-tae confront his trauma. Director Oh is flattered that Kang-tae is trusting him on this, since everyone thinks he’s a quack doctor. And Kang-tae smiles, saying that Sang-tae, more than anyone, can determine if he’s a true quack or not. Hee.
Moon-young is feeling good right about now and, looking at Sang-tae’s drawing, is motivated to get on Sang-tae’s good side. She visits him at the pizza place (keeping Jae-soo busy by ordering twelve pizzas), and tries to pitch a new story idea that she got from the drawing. However, Sang-tae won’t be moved.
So Moon-young goes with threats instead, telling Sang-tae to illustrate for her or compensate for breaking their contract. In the kitchen, Jae-soo calls Kang-tae to inform him that Moon-young dropped by. He’s starting to like her, but he says that Kang-tae will always be his #1. In turn, Kang-tae says that Jae-soo is his #3.
Moon-young follows Sang-tae out, badgering him to listen to her. She gets frustrated and yells his name, and he finally faces her, saying, “I’m not giving you Kang-tae!” She argues that Kang-tae isn’t an object, that Kang-tae doesn’t belong to him, but he insists that he’s the brother and that she’s a stranger.
Moon-young stops by the hospital to drop off the twelve pizzas and to relay her frustrations to Kang-tae. She tells him that she feels like those men who beg their girlfriends’ parents for permission to marry.
Trying not to laugh, Kang-tae says that it took Sang-tae ten years to like Jae-soo. He figures it’ll take much longer for Sang-tae to like Moon-young, since he’s already upset with her. Moon-young snaps that she can’t wait that long and turns to walk off, but Kang-tae just guides her over to a bench and kneels in front of her.
Kang-tae gently explains that Sang-tae’s only acting this way because Kang-tae is his only family and he’s worried that Moon-young will steal him away. “We should earn his trust,” Kang-tae continues. “You’re not taking me away from him, but he now has one more person who will stay by his side.”
Moon-young softens and agrees to try. Kang-tae then reminds her to keep her door locked, which she agrees to too. He caresses her hair, and augh, the way they smile at each other.
Once Moon-young leaves, Kang-tae joins the staff and learns of Dae-hwan’s test results — his tumor has returned and spread. And unfortunately, the doctors say that surgery will be pointless.
During break, Joo-ri tells her mom that she’s meeting Sang-in for lunch, and Mom immediately shoves lipstick in her face. Of course, when the couple meet up, Sang-in has to comment on it, saying she looks good with or without makeup.
Flustered, Joo-ri changes the subject to Moon-young and asks if she has any other relatives. After saying no, Sang-in correctly assumes that Dae-hwan’s test results were bad; he promises to tell Moon-young at the right time.
Joo-ri starts to ask about Kang-tae, but Sang-in suggests they stop talking about Kang-tae and Moon-young and start talking about themselves. He wants to know where she learned how to drink, and she laughs before delving into her explanation. Not gonna lie, you guys are kind of cute.
That night, Moon-young gets a surprise visit from Seung-jae, and she’s delighted to hear that Kang-tae sent Seung-jae so she wouldn’t be by herself. Seung-jae is willing to help however she can, and to that, Moon-young has a question. Moon-young wants to know if it’s weird that her mother’s fan came by to wish her a happy birthday.
Seung-jae answers that it isn’t weird at all; when she was a fan of H.O.T’s Tony, she celebrated all of his family members’ birthdays. Moon-young’s more taken aback that Seung-jae was an H.O.T fan, because it means Seung-jae must be older than her. LOL.
At the apartment, Sang-tae is engrossed in watching Dooly, when Kang-tae scooches up next to him and asks why the character Gil-dong lets the others live with him. Sang-tae says that they may be strangers, but Gil-dong accepted them because he’s an adult, as well as their guardian.
Kang-tae eases into the question, “You’re also an adult, right, Hyung?” Sang-tae answers that of course he’s an adult, and Kang-tae stresses that he’s an adult like Gil-dong — someone who can accept others as family. When Sang-tae says a quiet yes, Kang-tae concludes that he’s trying really hard to become an adult too.
The next day, while Sang-tae is working on his mural, Director Oh comes by and expresses (fake) disappointment that there aren’t any butterflies. The mural wouldn’t be complete without butterflies, so Director Oh refuses to pay Sang-tae until they’re there.
Later, when Kang-tae picks Sang-tae up to go home, he sees that Sang-tae has packed up all his painting supplies. Sang-tae exclaims that he’s not going to paint those butterflies, going straight to the apartment and straight into bed. Kang-tae isn’t having it, reminding Sang-tae that he’s supposed to be an adult.
Sang-tae tries to go for the zip-up closet, but Kang-tae grabs him and tells him not to run away. The boys struggle, until Sang-tae bites Kang-tae, and Kang-tae hits him on the back to make him let go. Sang-tae can’t believe his dongsaeng just hit him, and Kang-tae snaps that Sang-tae’s hurt him on so many occasions.
Kang-tae: Do you think I stay quiet because I enjoy getting hurt? I’m not going to hold it in anymore!
Sang-tae: When you need to control yourself, count to three!
Kang-tae: No, you count!
Sang-tae: Listen to me! I’m your hyung!
Kang-tae: Then act like one!
The boys get into a full-on fight, and it results in Kang-tae with a nosebleed and some minor bruising. When Kang-tae and Jae-soo are on the roof, Kang-tae starts laughing and says that he feels so relieved now that he’s fought with his brother.
With a sigh, Jae-soo says that Moon-young must’ve really gotten inside Kang-tae’s head. But Kang-tae says that this is who he really is. He lies on his back and happily exclaims, “Moon Kang-tae belongs to Moon Kang-tae!”
Downstairs, in Joo-ri’s apartment, Joo-ri and her mom tend to Sang-tae’s wounds. Sang-tae is rambling that he’s going to disown Kang-tae, so Joo-ri and Mom give each other knowing looks and pretend that they’re interested in adopting him then.
Into the night, while Sang-tae is sleeping, Kang-tae gets up to put a bandage on Sang-tae. As he does, we see the last bit of his conversation with Jae-soo. He told him that he and Sang-tae are still learning how to socialize with people and that he’s starting with Moon-young because she’s the loneliest person he knows.
Kang-tae is bombarded with texts from Moon-young, so he picks her up to take her out for a midnight snack. He tells her that he got in a fight with Sang-tae, and she worries this will mess with their plan. She suggests he just tell Sang-tae he likes her. He tests it out, saying, “I like Go Moon-young,” and making her smile.
She then asks when he’s going to start taking care of himself — isn’t there anything he wants to do? He says that there are three things, two of which he’s already done. One was to go on a trip, two was to fight with his brother, and three… Though it’s too late, he always wanted to wear a uniform and go to school.
We see into an alternate universe, where both Kang-tae and Moon-young are high school students. He sees her for the first time and, smitten, he follows her down the street and tries to talk to her. But then his brother appears and attack-hugs him, making her walk away.
Sensing romance in the air, Sang-tae calls Moon-young back and lets Kang-tae do his thing. The couple smile at each other… and we’re shown that Kang-tae is actually asleep in his apartment and seeing all of this in a dream.
Kang-tae starts talking in his sleep, saying he likes “her” so much. Sang-tae wakes up to this, and seeing the look on Kang-tae’s face, he gets up to check his emotion chart. And Sang-tae realizes, with tears in his eyes, that Kang-tae’s expression matches the word “Happy.”
The following day, Sang-in stops by the mansion to give Moon-young the news about her father. She’s clearly somewhat affected, but she simply says that her father is already dead to her. He tries to tell her that her father acts the way he does because of his mental condition, but she won’t hear it. Once Sang-in is gone, she lies in bed and stares at an old photo of her with her parents (her mother’s face torn out).
Meanwhile, Sang-tae calls Kang-tae at work and immediately asks if he’s eaten (something Kang-tae usually asks him). Since he hasn’t, Sang-tae tells him to meet him at a restaurant for lunch. All throughout lunch, Sang-tae acts like the big brother, cutting Kang-tae’s food and even offering some of his own. At the end of the meal, he hands Kang-tae money and says, “It’s your allowance.” Kang-tae just smiles at him and promises to spend it wisely. Stahhhp, you’re gonna make me cry.
As the boys leave, Moon-young makes herself known at a nearby table and asks Sang-tae to pay for her meal too. (She called Kang-tae and found out where they were.) But Sang-tae just walks out, prompting her to chase after him.
Kang-tae watches nervously as Moon-young grabs Sang-tae and tells him that she’s an orphan — she has no one to give her an allowance or to eat with. Sang-tae moves forward, ordering Kang-tae to follow. And frustrated, Moon-young calls out, “I’m saying I want to have a big brother like you!”
That stops Sang-tae in his tracks. After a moment, he looks back at them, unsure, and yells for Kang-tae to come. Kang-tae and Moon-young look disappointed, but then he yells, “Go Moon-young! Hurry up!” Their expressions turn to surprise and then utter joy, and they run over to catch up with him.
As we see the boys return to the mansion (Sang-tae returning Mang-tae to Moon-young), we get a narration of Kang-tae telling Sang-tae the story of The Ugly Duckling.
Kang-tae says that ugly duckling felt lonely because he was ridiculed by the other ducks, so he left his family. But what would’ve happened if his family had been more accepting? “If the adult embraces the kids,” he says, “the ducks and swans can all get along and live together just fine.”
Moon-young and the brothers all sleep soundly that night… unaware that there’s someone else in the mansion. In the basement, a woman sits at the vanity and takes out a butterfly brooch. We see the shadow of the brooch hovering over Moon-young and then Kang-tae, towards their throats.
Oh come on, you couldn’t just end with the trio walking off into the sunset? Why you gotta make me scared for their lives? Seriously, though, the drama sure is keeping us on our toes. I was 100% positive that Ok-ran is Moon-young’s mother, and now I’m back to 0%. It’s still a possibility, but it’s looking like Ok-ran is more of an obsessed fan having fun with her stage. And I don’t know if my mind is playing tricks on me, but the glimpses we got of the woman in the basement didn’t look like Ok-ran. But even if Ok-ran is just an obsessed fan, how does she know what she knows? How does she know that Go Dae-hwan killed Do Hui-jae? I read Beanie theories on Nurse Park being Do Hui-jae, and honestly, after rewatching her scenes, it doesn’t seem too far-fetched. We’re given more and more information each week, yet we still don’t know where the story is going to go. And as hard as that is on my brain, I love it. Moon-young’s mother, whoever she is, if she even is, is still an enigma. She is still a ghost, haunting these episodes and creating unease when all I want to do is be happy for our characters.
But whatever, I’m still going to be happy. Starting with that running hug, I felt this wave of relief. Kang-tae letting go of any sadness or anger or hesitation just to hold Moon-young and make sure she was okay — it gave me such a visceral reaction, I can’t put it into words. From there, Kang-tae freed himself more than he ever has. He allowed himself to like Moon-young, to trust her and open up to her, and to see that there can be happiness with both her and his brother. I think he’s been happy before, but this was different. Everyone, from Joo-ri to Sang-tae, could see that his smile was different. Kang-tae wasn’t Moon Kang-tae, Sang-tae’s guardian or Moon Kang-tae, the caregiver; he was simply Kang-tae. His and Moon-young’s spirits have always felt young, and I felt that again with his high school romance dream. He was the responsible adult for so much of his life, so it was satisfying to watch him play that innocent kid. He may have missed out on school life, but that youthful giddiness is just beginning for him.
On the opposite end, we had Sang-tae, who’s always been the innocent kid, step up as the responsible adult. All throughout the drama, he talked about being the hyung but didn’t quite know how to be one. I remember in one scene, when he was apologizing on Kang-tae’s behalf, that he accidentally called Kang-tae the hyung instead of himself. As if he was so used to Kang-tae being in that hyung role. But when Sang-tae saw Kang-tae’s happy expression, it flipped a switch. I think that, maybe, Sang-tae saw his brother as a kid for the first time and finally got the motivation to take care of him. He’s an observant guy, so he picked up on the little things Kang-tae did for him; all he needed was that extra push to execute those things himself. The lunch scene with Sang-tae acting all big brotherly was the cutest, sweetest thing ever, and then he went on to act big brotherly to Moon-young! It was such a reward, having him call out to her, and very much earned.
Finally, Moon-young. We know she can take care of herself (she proved that with her encounter with Ok-ran), but it’s comforting to know she now has a loving, protective family. It’s been subtle, but being around these boys, she really has grown a lot. I mean, I beamed with pride when she firmly stated that Kang-tae wasn’t an object. I still remember the time she called people objects and Kang-tae was so turned off that he walked away from her. Oh, how far we’ve come. Things are sure to get rocky again when we get the full story on the brothers’ mother and how she was murdered. I didn’t want it to be true, for our trio’s sake, but Sang-tae’s feared butterfly is looking to be Do Hui-jae. Still, after everything our trio has been through, there’s nothing they can’t overcome.
- Premiere Watch: Backstreet Rookie, It’s Okay to Not Be Okay
- Kim Soo-hyun and Seo Ye-ji grow close in new promos for It’s Okay to Not Be Okay
- Kim Soo-hyun, Seo Ye-ji confirmed for tvN romance drama Psycho But That’s Okay
- Kim Soo-hyun considering drama comeback in tvN fantasy romance
- First script reading for tvN’s It’s Okay to Not Be Okay with Kim Soo-hyun, Seo Ye-ji
- First stills of Seo Ye-ji, Kim Soo-hyun for It’s Okay to Not Be Okay
- Spring love begins for Kim Soo-hyun, Seo Ye-ji in tvN It’s Okay to Not Be Okay