It’s Okay to Not Be Okay: Episode 13
So few dramas affect me the way It’s Okay has affected me. I’m with these characters through their ups and downs, smiling when they smile and crying when they cry. This episode just proves how attached I am to the senseless boy, the emotionless princess, and the ajusshi trapped in a box — because once things go to hell, I’m left in pieces.
EPISODE 13: “The father of the two sisters”
We rewind a bit, to the morning of the photoshoot. Moon-young was at Kang-tae’s bedroom door, about to go inside. But she changed her mind and called out to him, saying he could join her and Sang-tae later if he changed his mind. When Kang-tae heard Moon-young walk away, he finally got out of bed and went over to look at the suit she left him.
Kang-tae opened it up, surprised to find the doll Mang-tae in the jacket pocket, along with a note. The note read: “Thanks to the Mang-tae you gave me, I no longer have nightmares. You, Sang-tae, and Mang-tae. I’m so happy that I now have this family. P.S. I want Mang-tae back. He’s mine!” With a small sigh, Kang-tae came to a decision and started to get dressed.
At the studio, Kang-tae walks in moments before Moon-young and Sang-tae get their photo taken. Sang-tae announces that his brother has arrived, and both he and Moon-young grin as Kang-tae joins them.
“I was going to photoshop you into the photo if you didn’t come,” Moon-young tells him (haha). The photographer interrupts the family’s little moment and encourages them to stand together and give a big smile.
As the photographer counts down, Kang-tae still looks unsure of his decision. But looking at Sang-tae and then Moon-young smiling, he seems to think he’s made the right choice. So on the count of three, he also smiles.
(Let’s see that final photo again, just because.)
Meanwhile, Sang-in returns to the apartment building after his trip to Seoul. Seung-jae gives him an update, saying that their plan is working and that Joo-ri is convinced he went on a successful blind date. Oh, you sneaky sneaks.
Ever the romance expert, Seung-jae advises Sang-in not to bring up the blind date until Joo-ri does. But Sang-in being the goof that he is, he goes into Joo-ri’s room to greet her and brings up the dang date within a minute of their conversation.
Sang-in goes a little too far, saying the blind date was as beautiful as Song Hye-gyo, and Joo-ri coldly tells him that she needs time alone to study. He leaves, thinking he’s ruined everything, when really, she’s just thoroughly jealous.
Moon-young and the brothers head to the library to meet up with Seung-jae for research. Seung-jae swoons at Kang-tae in a suit, and Moon-young immediately tells him not to wear suits anymore… because they look uncomfortable. To that, Kang-tae smirks and says that she shouldn’t wear her “uncomfortable” dresses then.
While Seung-jae and Sang-tae run off to find some illustration inspo, Kang-tae finds Moon-young’s book The Cheerful Dog. Moon-young mentions that she spoke to Jae-soo last night, wanting to know why Kang-tae was mad, and that Jae-soo said he kept everything inside. Just like the cheerful dog.
Since Jae-soo said it was best not to pry, Moon-young’s decided not to push Kang-tae from now on. Kang-tae does have something to say, though; he tells her that he’s tired of protecting others, that he’s been forcing himself to do so because he always thought he had to. But now, rather than work, he wants to think of it as a goal.
“Putting my life on the line to protect my family,” Kang-tae says. “Come to think of it, it’s actually pretty cool.” So he’s going to protect his family no matter what, no matter who tries to mess with them.
Moon-young looks at him, hope in her eyes, and hesitantly asks, “Am I a part of that family?” He takes her hand in his and says that of course they are — they even have their family portrait as proof. They smile sweetly at each other (but gah, Kang-tae’s promise to put his life on the line just made me nervous).
At OK Hospital, Sun-hae is upset after having a heated phone call with her father. As she storms off, Nurse Sun reveals to Cha-yong that Sun-hae’s father left her with a shaman, claiming his child was possessed. Nurse Park cuts in, saying they shouldn’t judge without knowing the full story; she’s sure the father had his reasons.
That night, Sang-in skips dinner because he’s too embarrassed to face Joo-ri. When Joo-ri’s mom comes by his room to bring him food, he tells her his whole plan and how (he thinks) it failed.
Mom is glad that Sang-in is trying, but she does figure that he needs a little hint. Mom reveals that Joo-ri lost her father when she was young and felt that she needed to fill that role. So right now, Mom says, Joo-ri needs that person who she can lean on when things get tough.
Once at home, Moon-young finds the perfect place where they can hang their family portrait, up in the study. On that subject, she figures she should start redecorating, starting with getting Kang-tae in her room. But Kang-tae doesn’t want to stay in there… because it was her parents’ room.
Kang-tae turns to Moon-young and says, “If I asked you to live somewhere else with me, would you want to go?” Why, she asks, does he want to run away again? If it’s because of Sang-tae and his butterfly nightmares, he shouldn’t worry; she’ll tear those butterflies apart. He just smiles and pulls her into a hug. He asks that she not kill the butterfly, even if it does appear. They pull away to pinkie promise on it, but instead of sealing the deal that way, she pulls him in for a quick kiss.
Afterwards, Kang-tae heads upstairs to his room, where Sang-tae is watching the Dooly cartoon. Sang-tae notices that his brother is acting all shy and asks if he kissed Moon-young. And to Kang-tae’s surprise, Sang-tae says that kissing is better than fighting (pffft). Kang-tae wonders now who Sang-tae likes more, him or Moon-young, and Sang-tae naturally answers, “Go Gil-dong.”
The next day, while Sang-tae is working on his mural, Pil-wong comes by to return his copy of The Boy Who Fed on Nightmares. Sang-tae is glad to see that Pil-wong is up and smiling, and even more so to hear that he liked the book.
Pil-wong looks up at the mural and wonders what will happen first — if Sang-tae will paint the butterflies or if Pil-wong will leave the hospital. Sang-tae says it’ll depend who finds the door first, referring to their conversation on the bus. In response, Pil-wong smiles and says, “Let’s find that door soon so we can leave together.”
Upstairs, Kang-tae is showing Director Oh the threatening note that Ok-ran left, as well as the scribbled note cards. Kang-tae mentions that he couldn’t find a notebook where the note cards could’ve come from, so he believes that someone gave these to her. For now, Director Oh instructs him not to trust anyone in the hospital.
Kang-tae doesn’t want Sang-tae to be left alone, so at lunch, he tells him to go straight home instead of waiting up for him. Sang-tae insists that he’s not some scared baby and even shows off his sketchbook, where he’s been practicing his butterflies. He’s determined to get over his fear and protect his brother and new sister.
Later, outside, Kang-tae is on the phone with Moon-young, making sure she’s staying safe, when Sun-hae runs up to him and calls him “Oppa.” (Needless to say, Moon-young freaks out to hear this.) Kang-tae is taken aback, as Sun-hae is in pigtails and acting like she’s eight years old.
Joo-ri finds them and guides Sun-hae back inside. Afterwards, she informs Kang-tae that Sun-hae has dissociative identity disorder. Apparently, Sun-hae suffered child abuse and her defense mechanism was having those different personalities. As a result, her parents thought she was possessed and took her to the shaman.
At the end of the day, Sang-tae returns home, just as Moon-young is looking through his concept art. She’s unhappy with the characters (the senseless boy, the emotionless princess, and the ajusshi trapped in a box) because he drew them without expressions. “It’s hard,” Sang-tae admits. “It’s too hard for me to draw people’s expressions.”
Her face softening, Moon-young suggests he use his emotion cards for help. But he thinks that if he does that, they wouldn’t really be his drawings. In that case, she wants him to study others’ expressions and try again, reminding him that he’s observant.
Back at the hospital, Go Dae-hwan is moved to the isolation room due to his worsening condition. Nurse Park approaches Kang-tae and tells him about this, knowing he’s close with Moon-young. She thinks it’s time that Moon-young prepares herself mentally.
Sang-in waits for Joo-ri at the neighborhood bus stop to walk her home. Though when they meet up, she still gives him the cold shoulder. Unable to take it, Sang-in blurts out, “The blind date was a lie.” He starts to ramble, but she cuts him off and asks if his ideal type is really Song Hye-gyo.
Sang-in remembers what Joo-ri’s mom said and says that he prefers someone who will lean on him — someone he can treat like a daughter. Joo-ri gasps that he’s a pervert and runs off, while Sang-in stutters that he just wants to be loving like her father. Ha, smooooth.
Meanwhile, Kang-tae comes home to Moon-young looking over her story notes. He’s curious to know how her book will end, but she’s still keeping her lips sealed. He then brings up her father, and she says that she already got the call from the hospital, that they want her to visit him.
“It’s ridiculous,” Moon-young says. “Are all parents automatically forgiven for the bad things they did before they die?” Still, Kang-tae says, this is her last chance to say whatever she wants to her father. She was the one who told the King Donkey Ears story and said that keeping things in could cause heartache. But she insists that she’ll have no regrets. She tells him of a story she hated when she was little:
“A Tale of Two Sisters. I hated the father in the story. Even though his daughters were abused by their stepmother and were on the verge of death, he turned a blind eye to all of it. The one who neglects and turns a blind eye to the abuse is worse than the abuser. Those two sisters were practically killed by their father.”
Kang-tae is still thinking about this story when he’s lying in bed. While at the hospital, a scared Sun-hae hears footsteps down the hall and hides under her bed (transitioning into her younger self).
The next morning, Sun-hae’s father barges into the hospital and causes a scene, demanding that Sun-hae help him live. Director Oh (in an uncharacteristic display of anger) yells for him to stop, making everyone in the room freeze.
In his office, Director Oh tells Sun-hae’s father that he’s going to call the police if he keeps seeking his daughter and asking her to donate her liver. The father begs him to help him out, saying he could really die.
But Director Oh just says, “What were you doing when your wife nearly beat your daughter to death?” He continues that the father should be begging Sun-hae right now; she’s the one he abandoned for thirty years.
Out in the garden, Kang-tae is comforting Sun-hae, when the father comes out and calls her name. Kang-tae asks Sun-hae if he should kick the father out or if he should protect her as she says what she needs to say. Sun-hae gives him a weak, “Protect me,” and he immediately hides her behind his back.
With that, Sun-hae cries out to her father that she always begged for his help. And though her mother was the one who hit her, she hates him more for walking away. Still, when he left her with the shaman, she waited for him.
As Sun-hae breaks down, her father numbly walks past without another word. Kang-tae turns around and hugs Sun-hae, who’s reverted to her younger self again. Back at the mansion, Moon-young stares at the photo of her father and remembers what Kang-tae said the previous night.
At the apartment building, Jae-soo is helping Sang-tae by modeling various expressions. Though when Sang-tae asks for “annoyance” and “anger,” among others, he notes that his expressions all look the same, lol. Sang-tae asks for Seung-jae’s help next, but her modeling doesn’t inspire him either. Off to the side, Jae-soo thinks to himself that Seung-jae looks cute.
That night, Moon-young calls Joo-ri over to have some drinks. Moon-young shouts, “The king has donkey ears!” and says that she needed to let that out. And seeing that Moon-young needs someone to talk to, Joo-ri figures she shouldn’t get drunk tonight (aw). Moon-young then asks what would’ve happened if they’d had each other’s parents, and Joo-ri jokes that her mom would’ve killed Moon-young for being rude all the time.
At the apartment, Joo-ri’s mom and Sang-in talk about the girls being together, and Mom mentions the first time she met Moon-young. When Joo-ri brought Moon-young over for dinner, Mom noticed that Moon-young was scarfing down her food, as if she’d never received that kind of warmth before.
Back at the hospital, Nurse Park checks in on Dae-hwan in his room. Dae-hwan admits, “I committed a huge sin, but there’s no one I can ask for forgiveness.” As Nurse Park takes his hand in a comforting gesture, he continues that he killed his wife… that his wife was humming a song even after she killed someone.
In flashback, we see Do Hui-jae humming to the radio while painting her nails bright red. At this time, Dae-hwan had just learned of his brain tumor and got himself drunk. He joined his wife, switching the radio to the news — news of a recent murder. Suddenly sober, he asked where the new housekeeper was.
And we finally see Hui-jae’s face, wicked grin and all. She told Dae-hwan that the housekeeper shouldn’t have crossed the line and then walked past, towards the stairs. She told him not to worry, that no one would ever know. He grabbed her and said, near tears, that his daughter would end up like her if he died.
To that, Hui-jae just laughed in his face. Horrified, Dae-hwan called her a monster and pushed her, (inadvertently?) sending her over the railing and down the stairs.
In the middle of Dae-hwan’s story, Kang-tae comes in for a quick check-in. He’s about to leave when Dae-hwan says that Moon-young saw everything: “She was there when I killed that woman. She was just a little girl, but she saw all of that.” And, indeed, while Dae-hwan cried over his wife’s body, Moon-young had been watching.
The young Moon-young saw her father drag the body into the basement, and later, after he left in the morning, she waited up for him. When she asked where he’d been, he lied that he went out for some air, when really, he’d dumped the body (inside a suitcase) into the river.
Now, Dae-hwan cries that he also tried to kill Moon-young because he was scared she’d turn into her mother. He says that he’s the one to blame and that Moon-young did nothing wrong.
Still talking with Joo-ri, Moon-young reveals that she tried so hard to be a good daughter to her mother. She wanted to run away when Kang-tae came into her life, but her mom got in her way. Joo-ri gently asks about her father, if he ever did anything for her.
Moon-young says that her mother raised her her own way, while her father only read her a fairy tale book once. “But Joo-ri,” she says, her voice wavering. “He may have only done it once, but I can never forget it.”
After Kang-tae’s long night shift, he returns home in the morning and finds Moon-young asleep on the couch. He sits there with her, holding her hand, while at the hospital, Go Dae-hwan quietly passes away.
Sometime later, when it’s raining, Moon-young and the brothers visit Dae-hwan’s space at the outdoor columbarium. Sang-tae tries to read Moon-young’s expression, thinking she looks sad, but she insists that she’s not.
The trio start to walk away, talking about getting some food, but Moon-young stops and turns to look back. She remembers that one moment she had with her father, when he read her a story about a princess. He called her his own princess and hugged her, both of them smiling.
Kang-tae stops by the apartment to pick up some of Moon-young’s favorite side dishes. As Joo-ri’s mom packs the food, she asks if he’s okay, and he answers that he will be. Although, he says, he does feel guilty whenever he thinks of his mother.
Joo-ri’s mom says that’s nonsense. “The most horrible thing you can do to a parent,” she says, “is to give up on being happy just because you feel sorry towards them. If you want to make your mom happy, do your best to live a happy life from now on.” Kang-tae smiles at that.
Once at home, Kang-tae sees that Moon-young has put up their family portrait. He’s surprised, however, when she suggests they sell the mansion. She wants a new start — a new publishing company, a new camping car, a new journey, all of it. She asks what he wants, and he says that he’d love to go to school. She’s, of course, against that, as the girls would be all over him.
Kang-tae then asks Moon-young what made her want to be a fairy tale writer. She explains that it came naturally, since she knows the fairy tale world all too well. She’s lived the cursed princess life and knows just how hard it is; the ending is the only good part. To that, he smiles and points out that it’s all good as long as they get that happy ending.
The following day, the trio head into the hospital together. Everyone’s in a better mood, with Sang-tae even saying he’s ready to paint the butterflies. They go inside, to the crowd in the lounge, and… Oh. Oh no.
There’s a giant butterfly painted over Sang-tae’s mural. A butterfly that resembles a certain brooch. Shaken, Sang-tae cries that he didn’t paint that, that that’s the butterfly the woman who killed his mom was wearing.
Moon-young’s eyes widen. She immediately recognizes the design, remembering when her mother first got the brooch. “In ancient Greek,” Mom said, “the word butterfly is ‘psyche.’ Do you know what word comes from ‘psyche’? Psycho.”
Tears falling down her face, Moon-young says it can’t be true. Kang-tae tries to grab hold of her, but she backs away and runs back towards the door. He chases after her and grabs her again, but he doesn’t know what to say.
All Kang-tae can get out is “Please,” making her ask if it’s true. She finally screams, “Tell me it’s not true!” and they both burst into tears. She escapes from his hold and runs out the door, while he can only stand there, defeated.
Somewhere on the road, a woman is humming “Oh My Darling, Clementine” as she drives. We see that she has the butterfly brooch, those bright red nails, those bright red lips — it’s Nurse Park.
I… I don’t… Okay, hold on. I need a freaking minute.
I’m feeling so many things right now, because I was heartbroken over the dad’s death and Moon-young’s silent mourning, and I was heartbroken over Kang-tae’s reluctance to completely give himself to happiness. But then everything blew up in those last five minutes. I cannot believe that Nurse Park is actually Do Hui-jae. As I mentioned in an earlier recap, I saw plenty of theories claiming this, and from then on, I was suspicious. At first, Nurse Park seemed like a quirky character with a cute dynamic with Director Oh, but eventually, she just seemed… off. It was little things, like her pushing for Kang-tae to get punished after he punched Ah-reum’s ex-husband. I can’t even pinpoint why that moment stood out to me; it just did. It felt like an odd change in character, and I ignored it, thinking it was the writing.
Once I got it into my head that, no, this twist could really be possible, everything about Nurse Park seemed fake. The way she looked at people, the way she talked to them — the kindness and concern was almost exaggerated. The truth of the matter is, I didn’t want to believe it. I wanted to believe that I was overthinking it, that it was the writing or the acting. Even when Nurse Park made that comment about parents having their reasons for things, even when Kang-tae pointed out that someone had to send Ok-ran those note cards, even when ALL SIGNS were pointing to this, my heart dropped at the final reveal. For one, it felt like we were losing a character I trusted to be good, like Joo-ri’s mom. She was supposed to be good, yet all this time, she was the ghost silently stalking our newfound family. It gives me the chills just thinking about it.
Now I’m angry. I am so angry that Do Hui-jae has been manipulating these characters, that she’s been manipulating the whole hospital for who knows how many years. She killed the brothers’ mom, and she smiled. She saw her husband’s horror and agony, and she laughed at him. But you know what had me fuming? She used the brothers’ fear of the butterfly to mentally torture them. How dare she ruin Sang-tae’s mural like that, when he was finally ready to draw the butterflies himself. I know Kang-tae made Moon-young promise not to go after the butterfly, but a part of me wants this lady to pay. Still, I don’t want our trio to get hurt, so I hope they’re able to get through this without blood being shed. With all three dead-set on protecting each other, anything could happen, and that legitimately scares me.
This episode was jam-packed, so I don’t want to forget all the other things that made it great. Just to name a few (seriously, there was so much): Joo-ri and Sang-in’s hilarious relationship; Joo-ri and Moon-young’s growing friendship; Sang-tae being motivated to study expressions; Kang-tae and Moon-young wanting to start a new life together. But the main theme, as the episode’s title alluded to, was the fathers. Moon-young has opened up about her mother a few times, but her father was always a touchy subject. It’s interesting because we’ve seen that the mom hurt her on so many levels, but it’s the dad who left a lasting mark. And of course he did — he killed her mom and then tried to kill her. (Sidenote: How the hell did Hui-jae live if her body was in a suitcase and thrown into the river?) We should hate him as much as we hate the mom, right? We should, and Moon-young thinks she should, yet it’s much more complicated than that.
I’m not gonna defend Go Dae-hwan. He did some terrible things, which he admitted to. But the reason why his actions hurt so much is because he was supposed to be the hero. He should’ve been the hero to the mom’s villain, just as the father in the fairy tale should’ve been. There’s no doubt in my mind that he loved his daughter, but where does that love count when he makes the wrong choices? That being said, I understand Moon-young holding on to that one fond memory of her father but being unable to forgive him. I’m glad the drama didn’t go the cheesy route and have her visit him in the hospital for some miracle reconciliation. It wouldn’t have been realistic, and it certainly wouldn’t have been as impactful as what we actually got. They both felt that longing for each other, but they were too sad and broken and ultimately left their relationship there. That is real. And heartbreaking.
My favorite moment of the episode was Kang-tae acting as Sun-hae’s shield as she called out her father. It was so sweet that he asked first, if she wanted the father gone or if she wanted him to protect her so she could safely vent. I think that moment captures his character perfectly, because he is a shield. He was a reluctant shield for all his life — taking his brother’s punches, taking life’s punches — but now, he’s being his family’s shield because he wants to. Again, it worries me that he and the drama keep stressing that he’s willing to go down for his family. Rather than him being that shield, or Moon-young and Sang-tae being shields on their own, it’s best for them to stay strong together. Things are hard now, but their happy ending isn’t too far. If they could just hold on a little longer, they could finally reach a place where they’re safe and where their tragedies don’t define them.
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