My Unfamiliar Family: Episode 16 (Final)
It’s time to say goodbye to our messy, loveable family. I feel like I’ve been with this family for much longer than two months, yet I can’t believe their story is already over. This drama provided a surprisingly nuanced, frank look at family with all its beauty and flaws. I’ll miss seeing them on my screen every week, but I’m pretty happy with where we ended up.
Chan-hyuk goes to Eun-hee’s work to talk to her. They sit outside where he says that the one thing he couldn’t adequately capture through pictures at Eun-joo’s wedding was her parents’ expressions. Eun-hee recalls finding a photo of her dad in Jin-sook’s book. (That’s what she was so shocked about?)
She’s surprised that he has that very photo and a few others of her parents on his phone. Chan-hyuk liked them and passed them along to Ji-woo. In their expressions, he saw a tacit understanding between them that they alone knew what it took for each other to get there.
He calls it deeper than love and surmises that they didn’t hate each other or stay together only for their kids. Chan-hyuk thinks Jin-sook is wise and advises Eun-hee to just listen no matter what her mom says today. Eun-hee can tell he isn’t telling her everything, but she doesn’t push.
Elsewhere, Eun-joo meets with Ji-woo and gently reminds him not to believe someone who claims to know your concerns and desires. He may have loved that woman, but he fell for her scam because it was easy and comfortable.
Eun-joo drops the bomb that she’s divorced and admits she’s kept a lot from him because he’s the maknae. They should start telling each other things from now on. For the first time, Ji-woo is reluctant to take her card when she offers it so he can buy a cake for their dad. Eun-joo sees that as progress.
At home, the kids sit stunned when their father yells, “Get out!” Ji-woo cries silently. But Jin-sook refuses to kick her son out, knowing personally how scary it is when family does that to you. She addresses Ji-woo again, asking if he knows how he’s wronged her. Why did he do it?
Eun-joo intercedes that he probably left with only the thought that he could live freely abroad. Jin-sook states he found his family a burden. After her family left, she had nowhere to go and cried alone. She can’t fathom Ji-woo’s wanting to leave his family.
Jin-sook switches gears and says they should have cake and celebrate Sang-shik’s recovery. The girls hop to it, and Ji-woo begs his mom’s forgiveness. As he hugs her and cries, apologizing and pleading, Eun-hee tells Eun-joo she wants to be a maknae in her next life. Ha!
They have cake, and Jin-sook finally lets Ji-woo put the necklace on her. Eun-hee narrates that they shouldn’t cover up the issue so quickly. That’s always been their problem. (Amen.)
Outside, Ji-woo offers to drive Eun-joo home – likely to avoid going back inside – and Eun-hee doesn’t seem to want to give her a ride. Eun-joo guesses she’s dating, and the siblings note Eun-hee’s awkwardness about the topic.
Eun-hee goes to Chan-hyuk’s and asks how he knew that Jin-sook knew, so he admits they met. She didn’t ask him to keep it secret, but he thought it was best to let her address it. He didn’t know what to do since he hates keeping secrets from Eun-hee, but he was on her mom’s side.
Eun-hee stares at him and thinks, “I love you,” surprising herself. She tries to play it off when Chan-hyuk catches her staring, but he’s not so easily fooled. He wonders amusedly what could’ve made her face so red.
At home, Jin-sook prefaces her admission with a “don’t be mad” and tells Sang-shik she sold “Lucky Charm” (his truck). She recalls that’s what he used to call Eun-joo before she was born. She knows he’s stubborn, but he shouldn’t be driving anymore. He somberly acquiesces.
Jin-sook has lived thinking of everyone else, so even today, she paid attention to his and the kids’ expressions while she was falling apart. For the first time, she resented her kids and is horrified about it. Ji-woo, who’s been sitting out front, finally heads inside.
Eun-hee muses that her family has only just scratched the surface, so it’s not over. Chan-hyuk scoffs, but she points out there’s more to the story: Ji-woo being scammed. There’s also the real reason for Eun-joo’s divorce. Chan-hyuk laughs as she does an impression of her mom berating her for both of her siblings’ misfortunes.
Chan-hyuk smiles and thinks, “I love you,” also surprising himself. Their roles reversed, they do a repeat of their earlier conversation. Why is he so red? Eun-hee smiles.
The following day, Eun-joo finds herself in the elevator with Min-woo who rushes to follow her. Eun-joo says she heard from Eun-hee that he defended her when people were talking behind her back. Being recently divorced, she’s not comfortable with someone openly taking her side and being too nice. It’s better to be left alone.
Min-woo understands, but he’s actually there to collect the delivery fee for the furniture. Ha! He hands her a receipt and notes that her scolding during their training days made him meticulous.
He clarifies that he’s not being extra nice because of her divorce – he’s always been on her side since their training, and he doesn’t want her to be uncomfortable. Before walking away, he observes she said something like this once before and apologized later. Eun-joo stands at a loss.
Man-ho advises Sang-shik to quit truck driving now; even he’s considering it. He excitedly suggests they should start a business selling Jin-sook’s kimchi. Sang-shik yells at him for wanting to put his wife to work.
Sang-shik plans to drive a forklift in a factory now. Man-ho shares that Jin-sook cried after looking through Sang-shik’s stuff in the truck, making Sang-shik wish Man-ho had stopped her. He sits in his truck again, possibly for the last time.
Eun-hee peruses the pictures of her parents that Chan-hyuk took. She realizes that she’s said “I love you” to everyone but the people she really loves. Kyung-ok joins her and insists she wasn’t the one who spread the rumor about Eun-hee and Geon-joo.
Kyung-ok read once that you spend more energy being nice to people you dislike. Eun-hee is like that. She’s always professing her love for her colleagues, included her. Eun-hee is aware of her own tendency and advises Kyung-ok in turn not to buy people things so often, but Kyung-ok calls it her way of life.
Chan-hyuk has Ji-woo drop him off at his and Eun-hee’s memory walkway and waits for her there. Eun-hee walks up to him and blurts out with no preamble, “Park Chan-hyuk, I love you!” Pfft. She starts to look embarrassed in the seconds of silence that follow.
He holds up his hand with a ring now adorning his finger. Chan-hyuk smiles and places a matching one on her finger. “I love you,” he confesses and kisses her. Aaand it’s montage time. We get the relationship highlight reel from their college days until now before cutting back to the kiss.
Eun-hee waits for Eun-joo in her office’s parking garage and gets a front row seat as Min-woo struggles to back into the parking space beside her. (He’s all proud of himself.) He passes Eun-joo as she comes out, and Eun-hee doesn’t miss Eun-joo’s look of disappointment when he merely says “hello” and continues inside.
While they sit at the table prepping fruit with their mom, Eun-joo casually says she wants to meet her birth father. Eun-hee tries to duck out, but Eun-joo makes her stay. Eun-hee marvels at the straightforwardness when Eun-joo asks where he is, and Jin-sook says she’s seen him on TV. Oh. She’ll give Eun-joo his info.
Jin-sook tells her daughters she’s leaving, but she hasn’t decided where she’s going yet. Eun-hee wonders to herself why she thought her mom’s anger would abate so easily.
Later, Ji-woo shows his mom a cute dog video, but her mind is elsewhere. Ji-woo shares that he felt like he didn’t have an identity because he takes on the characteristics of whichever sister he’s around. He apologizes to his mom again.
Jin-sook just tells him to clean the house bit by bit so it’s more manageable and gets up. He stares after her in concern. Meanwhile, Sang-shik takes photos of his new apartment and sends them to Jin-sook.
Eun-joo can’t stand not knowing and ends up asking Min-woo what she supposedly apologized for during their training. He’s amazed she doesn’t remember. Min-woo used to follow her around and be super nice, and she’d gotten uncomfortable, saying she wasn’t interested in dating.
But he’d had a girlfriend then. Ha! He mimics her expression and gestures as she reluctantly apologized. Eun-joo still doesn’t remember it, but she believes his account. Min-woo and his girlfriend broke up because he was too busy with work. That’s why he admired Eun-joo’s efficiency so much.
Relationships where someone is always sorry and someone is always trying to be understanding are lonely. He liked his girlfriend and felt sorry towards her in equal measure. Min-woo understands Eun-joo’s wanting time to process and says he’ll wait patiently. She almost smiles.
Seo-young and Ji-woo have a heart-to-heart at work. She gets what it’s like to “feel dirty” and knows he trusted his girlfriend until the end. Ji-woo is angry at himself for falling for it, but he’s more upset about hurting his family than losing his money. Seo-young commiserates as a fellow “troublemaking maknae.”
Ji-woo wonders why Chan-hyuk has been out so much lately and is shocked when Seo-young throws out that he’s clearly dating. When he asks if one of his blind dates worked out, she tsks at him for his obliviousness.
Chan-hyuk is currently sitting back-to-back with Eun-hee on the grass as he takes photos and she reads. They start arguing about who wastes more money but then laugh it off. Eun-hee doesn’t like dating secretly, but with all the family turbulence of late, she feels it prudent.
He asks if she wants to brag about dating the awesome Park Chan-hyuk which makes her share her recent revelation: he’s not as funny in dating mode. Ha! He tosses out some cheesy jokes just to make her cringe.
Eun-joo nervously enters an art museum where she formally greets an older man in his office. He asks to talk first. He married late, and his eldest daughter is a high schooler. Until the kids are adults, it’s important to have stability. This could make things hard for his family.
Jin-sook told him about her pregnancy, so did he really not expect this day would come? He didn’t. Relationships are built on time spent, and even parent-child relationships mean nothing without that. Geez. Eun-joo assures him she only wanted to meet him once so as not to have unfinished business.
He observes that he and “Kim Eun-ji” do resemble each other. He brings over a painting as hush money, claiming it’s the best way to resolve this. (Isn’t he a gem?) Eun-joo corrects him: she’s Kim Eun-joo; he should at least remember her name properly. She declines his gift and leaves after telling him to be well.
Meanwhile, Jin-sook looks around her home one last time before wheeling her suitcase out the door as Eun-hee narrates that Jin-sook is living as herself, not a mom. Sang-shik later enters the empty home and thinks of Jin-sook telling him she wanted to leave.
He’d come across her bucket list which included things like becoming a grandmother and spending a month in Jeju. Sang-shik encouraged her to do them all. Jin-sook also saw his bucket list. Do the kids know that people their age still have dreams and worry about the future? She had sighed that living is hard for everyone.
In the time following, they all take care of the house and don’t talk about the void Jin-sook left behind. It’s the first time they haven’t known where she was. They have relaxed family dinners – Eun-joo even jokes with them! – and feel the burden of Jin-sook’s sacrifices for them lessen, although they miss her.
Eun-hee packs up and leaves P&F, and Sang-shik starts a new job operating a forklift. She narrates that they’re all finding themselves individually rather than as a family.
Geon-joo runs into Eun-hee at a bookstore where she’s arranging the new book she’s edited. It’s not selling well, but he claims his first project didn’t either. She should focus on topics she knows well. Like what, she wonders?
He brings up family, which she thinks could be boring, but he proposes something with experiences from multiple writers. It seems to give her an idea, but she keeps it to herself. After he leaves, her thoughts turn to her mom. (A banner tells us it’s 2021.)
Eun-joo makes a surprise visit to Tae-hyung who’s now running a clinic by the sea. They both look much more at peace after a year of living freer lives. They catch up, and Tae-hyung asks if she’s seeing someone. There’s a friend, she says, who talks a lot but doesn’t ask useless questions.
Tae-hyung claims Eun-joo talks a lot too, which she vehemently denies. She merely details people’s flaws to help them become their best selves when necessary. It’s hard work. Pfft.
He asks after her parents and says he keeps in touch with Eun-hee. She even requested a room when he builds a house in the suburbs. Ha! Ji-woo hasn’t contacted him at all, though.
Tae-hyung realizes he’s been using familial terms to refer to Eun-joo and her family, but she knows it’s hard to correct. Eun-hee called it a “trace” of when they were family. As former family members, they both wish for each other’s happiness.
At Eun-hee’s place, Eun-hee is surprised to hear that Chan-hyuk told his mom about them. She remembers Eun-hee as “the friend with the loud voice” – apparently, Eun-hee called her while drunk in college. Ha. Eun-hee’s family still doesn’t know they’re together. Wait, hasn’t it been a year?!
Their dinner and smooches are interrupted by Eun-hee’s siblings at the door, and there’s nowhere for Chan-hyuk to hide. After their initial shock at seeing Chan-hyuk with his shirt buttons half-done and misaligned, Ji-woo and Eun-joo both smile.
Ji-woo, ever the news gatherer, speculates that Sang-shik seems to know where their mom is, and it looks like she’s coming back soon. His evidence is his dad coming home everyday and cleaning a lot, which isn’t exactly ironclad. Ji-woo insists it’s true in the face of his noonas’ doubt.
Ji-woo recently found Sang-shik video chatting with Jin-sook in the middle of the night. It was daytime where she was (a beautiful forest trail). Sang-shik informed her he was getting his license soon. If it weren’t so late at night, he’d play his guitar and sing for her. Ji-woo had smiled and ducked out.
Soon after, Jin-sook returns home looking refreshed and content. Everyone is thrilled to have her back, and they don’t ask any questions. She brings presents for everyone, and seeing Eun-joo forced to don a Hawaiian shirt is an image I didn’t know I needed. Jin-sook even bought something for “Ji-woo’s boss” which she gives to Eun-hee (the siblings try to stifle their laughter).
The sibling trio tries to guess where she was while they watch her showing pictures to Sang-shik. Jin-sook calls them over, excited to show off her trip. Eun-hee narrates that seeing their mom smile like that for the first time is enough.
At work, Seo-young takes selfies with Ji-woo in the background. He complains that she suggested they date just so she can post about it on social media. When she says his scamming first love might see it, he suddenly puts his face right next to hers and smiles for the camera. Pfft.
Min-woo bursts into Eun-joo’s office with food and a request for advice about dealing with difficult clients. Their rapport is comfortable. Meanwhile, Chan-hyuk compliments the script Eun-hee wrote for his filming project. She jokingly asks if this is a family project now, and he latches onto the word “family.” They kiss and play fight on the bed.
Jin-sook is back to volunteering at the care facility and gets a surprise visit from Sang-shik bearing flowers. Later, he sends photos of himself with his new construction vehicle (sorry, that’s the best I can do), and Jin-sook sends photos of flowers to their family group chat.
When Sang-shik suggests they go on a family vacation, Eun-hee heads over to the separate siblings group chat. Eun-joo says she’s too busy to answer, and Ji-woo won’t answer until they do. Ha. Sang-shik pouts when no one responds.
But then, Jin-sook messages him separately: “Let’s just the two of us go.” Sang-shik beams. Eun-hee narrates, “As complicated as I am – we are – we have a family.” We close on shots of the family photos in the family home.
Nooo, it’s over. But I do like where everyone ended up. Each of our family members evolved into better versions of themselves which allowed them to have healthier relationships and go after what they want. To me, the most marked change was in Eun-joo who looked so happy and at ease this hour. There was no sense of the constant tension she carried earlier in the drama. I’m so happy that Eun-joo remained a very non-stereotypical female character and wasn’t softened into someone else but simply became less defensive. One thing I really appreciate about this drama is the character consistency. Too often, characters are used as vehicles for plot movement or ideas regardless of whether their behavior is in-character. Here, the characters were so well-thought out and nuanced. All their decisions and reactions made sense and fit who they were as people.
Although I’ve never been opposed to makjang, one issue I do have with the genre is when you get those overly dramatic reactions that often don’t feel realistic. There’s a lot of wailing and screeching without enough substance, and I end up frustrated with everyone. In this drama, while I did sometimes find myself frustrated with a character, it wasn’t because of poor characterization. It was because they made poor decisions that felt true to life. Most of us have known people who make questionable choices in the heat of the moment like Eun-hee, suffer in silence and shut people out like Jin-sook, or lash out in anger and act haughtily like Eun-joo. Even as I was frustratedly begging them to stop being so obtuse, I understood them.
These wonderful characterizations were in no small part due to fantastic performances from the whole cast. From the start, it was obvious these characters were in good hands, and things just got better as we went. They imbued their roles with such nuance and emotionality without dipping into overdramatics. But no matter how good the acting is, without a strong script, only so much can be done. Thankfully, the writing here was solid all the way through and didn’t lag towards the end as frequently happens. The writing’s biggest strength is in the depiction of the complex relationships between realistic characters. We had beautifully messy relationships galore between siblings, parents and children, and spouses. Each showcased different sets of issues in relatable ways. It just goes to show what skilled actors can do with a good script.
In most family dramas, even ones I like, I find myself bored by multiple storylines. Not so in this one. Everyone had something to bring to the table, and their issues intersected in ways that made everyone feel equally relevant. My favorite arcs were Eun-joo’s and Jin-sook’s, though. Both were so shut off from everyone and so unhappy. I loved watching those two strong women come into their own. Their easy smiles in the end were so rewarding. For a while there, I was worried Jin-sook would just stay with her family and make do, so I was really glad that she took off for her year of adventures. That woman deserved to choose herself for once. I still kind of wish she had struck out on her own without getting back together with Sang-shik, but I’m confident she won’t take crap from anyone now, so I’m not too upset.
This drama really did belong to the women who were amazingly varied and complex. Sang-shik, for me, was not nearly as sympathetic since he pretty much did everything to himself. His anger was based on his out-of-left-field assumptions he didn’t bother to fact check, as well as the decades-long secret he decided to keep from his family. I wish we’d gone into his mental health struggles more because that’s where he was most sympathetic, and it informed so much of his behavior in later years. His depression and suicidal thoughts were resolved way too easily. I was hoping we’d get some mental health care, but instead, he was seemingly fixed by his stint as a 22-year-old. And I would’ve liked to focus on Ji-woo a bit more because he didn’t get near the complexity of the other family members, which is a shame. I hoped we’d get more on him as we went, but he just stayed the maknae. His scamming incident sort of came out of nowhere and didn’t have the same impact as the other family members’ problems since we never knew him as well. I liked his character, but he always felt more on the periphery than the others, almost like a side character.
Speaking of side characters, I was a little disappointed with the way Hyo-seok was used. I thought his character would have more of a role, but he ended up feeling like a plot device. For how well this drama did characterizations, that felt like a wasted opportunity. He could’ve been an interesting counterpoint to Tae-hyung as a more openly gay man in a country that doesn’t welcome diversity. All in all, these are pretty minor grievances that, if handled a little better, could’ve made an already awesome show even better. My only true complaint would be the serious overuse of red herrings. It started to get ridiculous. A few, I can handle, especially if they fit with the drama’s theme of not taking things at face value. However, there were so many that they lost their punch. Sang-shik’s brush with death after his surgery had zero impact because I assumed it was probably a fake-out. Less is more, drama.
Overall, this drama took me by surprise with its quality and complexity. It’s a great example of makjang done right, even if it could’ve axed Sang-shik’s tumor and a few red herrings. Despite covering some serious topics, the drama never got too heavy. There was always a lighter counterpoint (like the awesome Eun-hee and Chan-hyuk pairing) to keep things from feeling depressing. And no matter how bad things got, there was always a sense of hope. In the end, everyone was in a better place having earned it by putting in the effort to better themselves and their relationships. Although, their stories are by no means over – we had a window into a brief period of their lives. I have no doubt that they’ll take the lessons they’ve learned and continue growing and living, together.
- Premiere Watch: My Unfamiliar Family
- Han Ye-ri adorably upset at best friend Kim Ji-suk in new stills for My Unfamiliar Family
- A mysterious family secret to be revealed in an ordinary, Unfamiliar Family
- Photos from first script read for tvN’s My Unfamiliar Family
- Casting news for tvN’s drama project (I Don’t Know Much, But) We Are Family
- Han Ye-ri confirmed for new tvN family drama