It’s Okay to Not Be Okay: Episode 15
In its penultimate episode, It’s Okay takes all the pain that’s been building up and unleashes it all at once. There are just some forces determined to tear our characters apart and keep them miserable. Luckily, our hero is no stranger to misery — he’s been there and he’s getting better and better at finding his way out.
EPISODE 15: “A tale of two brothers”
We rewind to Do Hui-jae holding Sang-tae in the mansion — and it looks like she drugged his drink, as he’s getting sleepier and sleepier. She caresses his hair, and he weakly resists before passing out on the couch.
That’s when Hui-jae calls Kang-tae using Sang-tae’s phone. She laughs at Kang-tae’s worried tone, saying he’s always looking for his brother. Well, if he wants to meet them, she says, he’ll have to come to the cursed castle.
Kang-tae is back at the mansion in no time, walking right in and finding Hui-jae in the study. Kang-tae panics to see his brother unconscious, and again, Hui-jae laughs. She says it’s too bad she wasn’t able to put Moon-young to sleep as well: “I really wanted to see which one of them you’d choose.”
Kang-tae demands to know why Hui-jae is doing this to them, and she answers that they changed her daughter. In other words, they ruined her most precious artwork that she so carefully molded.
Kang-tae angrily argues that Moon-young is a person and not artwork, making Hui-jae explode. Because of him, she screams, Moon-young won’t listen to her. And like any other artwork that fails, she’ll have to discard her.
To Kang-tae’s horrified expression, Hui-jae smiles and says, “I don’t want to do that because of all the hard work I’ve done.” So she’s giving him the chance to take his brother and run away, as far away from Moon-young as possible.
As Hui-jae expected, Kang-tae refuses, so she presents him with another option: Kill her. That way, Kang-tae gets his revenge and Moon-young returns to her old self; it’s the perfect ending where everyone’s happy. He tells her to give up that stupid ending, because he’ll never give up on Moon-young.
Even when, Hui-jae asks, Moon-young is the reason why Kang-tae’s mother died? She’s more than happy to go into that story, saying she met his mom right here.
In flashback, we see that Kang-tae’s mom was sent to the mansion as the family’s new housekeeper. One day, while outside, Mom saw that the young Moon-young was fixated on a bird with a broken wing. And to Mom’s surprise, Moon-young was wondering if she should put the bird out of its misery.
Concerned, Mom would later relay this to Hui-jae, who smiled and said that she was proud of her daughter.
But then Mom started to suggest Moon-young go to the hospital her eldest son went to, and Hui-jae frowned. We transition from Hui-jae stabbing her paperwork with her pen… to that night in the alley, when she stabbed Mom in the neck.
“That’s it?” Kang-tae says, voice shaking. “Because of one thing she said, you killed her?” Seeing the smug look on Hui-jae’s face, Kang-tae snaps — he lunges forward and starts to choke her. As he does, she just encourages him to kill her, to not be weak.
Kang-tae’s crying, feeling nothing but fury, when he suddenly remembers something Moon-young said. It’s from the night she was drunk, when she admitted that she still viewed Hui-jae as her mom. With this in mind, Kang-tae slowly releases his hold on Hui-jae.
All of a sudden, Hui-jae grabs a tranquilizer from her bag and shoves it into Kang-tae’s side. She watches him fall to his knees, saying that he is weak, unlike her and her daughter.
Just then, Moon-young comes rushing in, taking in the scene. She stares down Hui-jae and states that she’s not like her, that she’s not a monster. She then grabs a pen off the desk and comes at her. But Kang-tae quickly puts himself between them, stopping the pen with his palm.
“You promised that you wouldn’t do this,” Kang-tae says, before passing out in Moon-young’s arms. In shock, Moon-young starts crying and begging for him to wake up.
Hui-jae comes up behind them and grabs Moon-young by the hair, seething that this is what she gets for not listening, for thinking she could ever escape. With that, Hui-jae takes the pen and raises it over Kang-tae–
And wham! Sang-tae hits Hui-jae over the head with a book, yelling, “Don’t hurt my siblings!” We see Hui-jae fall to the ground, and then we pan back to Sang-tae standing over his siblings, only now it’s their younger selves.
The next thing we know, the police arrive and take Hui-jae into custody (thanks to Director Oh, it seems). Seeing Director Oh, Hui-jae tells him that she’s already won; Moon-young and Kang-tae are too weak to stay together. But Director Oh says that people stay together because they’re weak.
Director Oh elaborates that people lean on each other and that’s what makes them human. When will Hui-jae become human, he wonders. Before the police take Hui-jae away, Director Oh asks her what she did with Park Ok-ran.
Hui-jae calls Ok-ran a great actress, and we see that before, Hui-jae would send her notecards with screen directions like “Walk down the hall and hum.” Hui-jae says that Ok-ran has left the stage now, and in return, Director Oh says that Hui-jae should leave the stage too. He watches as the car drives off, with her laughing inside.
Later, Director Oh gets Kang-tae settled in Moon-young’s bed and hooked up to an IV. Director Oh assures Moon-young that Kang-tae will wake up soon, but the worry never leaves her face. When Director Oh leaves, Moon-young sits by Kang-tae’s side and takes his hand, which is now bandaged up.
“You get hurt because of me every single time,” Moon-young says, tears streaming down her face. She remembers what her mom said, about them being the same, and she continues that she’ll ruin his life if they stay together.
Meanwhile, Sang-in is at the police station desperately trying to reach Moon-young or Kang-tae or anyone. Ha, apparently, after Moon-young ran off, he was pulled over for making an illegal U-turn and nearly hitting a deer. He’s been stuck at the station since, having no idea what’s happened.
Joo-ri and Seung-jae finally come to Sang-in’s rescue, and Joo-ri assures him that, according to Jae-soo, Moon-young and Kang-tae are fine. Still in the dark, Joo-ri asks what happened. Sang-in doesn’t go into details, but he does say that the couple have it so hard, as if some mean god is relentlessly sending them misfortunes.
Joo-ri brings up the law of the total number of misfortunes. They all have their set amount of happiness and misfortune assigned. And since the couple has endured all their misfortunes, they’re sure to get their happiness soon. To that, Sang-in smiles, while behind them, Seung-jae shudders from the cheesiness.
Jae-soo is still with Sang-tae, who can’t stop bragging about the way he saved his brother and sister. Jae-soo is proud of him (as am I), but he does worry when Kang-tae will wake up — is he Sleeping Beauty or something? In response, Sang-tae says that Sleeping Beauty needs a kiss, hee.
Eventually, much into the night, Kang-tae wakes up alone. He stumbles out of bed and runs to his room, relieved to find his brother sound asleep. He turns and sees Moon-young there waiting for him, smiling sadly. He starts to say that he had a really long nightmare, and she tells him that it was real.
With that, Moon-young takes Kang-tae downstairs to talk, and she surprises him by telling him to move out. She explains that she’s not an empty can, that she has feelings too, so she can never forget how much she made the brothers suffer. And she knows that the brothers won’t be able to forget either.
“Rather than forget it,” Kang-tae says, “we can overcome it.” He’s confident that he can think of today’s events as nothing but a nightmare. But she just tells him to stop acting like everything’s okay. If he stayed, he’d be wearing a mask around her just as he did around Sang-tae, and she doesn’t want that.
Moon-young orders Kang-tae to leave with Sang-tae tomorrow. She gets up to leave, but he grabs her and asks if she’s being sincere. Her expression cold, she says that she is, and that she wants to go back to living alone. He reluctantly lets her go, and she escapes to her room. Once alone, she quietly tells herself, “You did well.”
The next morning, Kang-tae wakes Sang-tae, hugging him and thanking him for saving them. Curious, Sang-tae then asks why a nice person like Nurse Park would try to harm them. Kang-tae tries to be careful with his words and explains that she was only pretending to be nice.
In reality, Kang-tae says, Nurse Park hated seeing people happy. That reminds Sang-tae of Do Hui-jae’s book The Murder of the Witch of the West, which had a character who killed anyone who was happy. They both agree that Nurse Park and the character are horrible people.
The brothers turn to look at Sang-tae’s giant stuffed dinosaur. Since the dinosaur was a gift from Nurse Park, Kang-tae figures they should throw it out. “No,” Sang-tae argues. “Dooly’s mom didn’t do anything wrong. The person who gave it to me is bad, but Dooly’s mom isn’t.” Kang-tae smiles, saying that he’s right.
In her room, Moon-young is still in bed, unable to stop thinking about when Kang-tae got hurt. She hears Kang-tae at the door telling her that he left breakfast and that he’s going to the hospital, but she doesn’t answer.
Kang-tae joins Sang-tae downstairs, and he hesitantly asks what he would do if Moon-young asked them to move out. Naturally, Sang-tae says that they would have to take her with them. And if she told them to go alone, he would tell her “Over my dead body.” At first, Kang-tae laughs, and then he nods, determined.
At OK Hospital, Kang-tae turns in his letter of resignation. Kang-tae tells Director Oh that he’ll be taking a break, and Director Oh smiles and says that he’s taking a break too — he feels he has to take responsibility for what happened. Kang-tae is saddened to hear this, but even so, he asks that he can have one last session.
Kang-tae admits that he lied to Moon-young. When he thinks about Do Hui-jae and how unfairly his mom died, it’s actually unbearable. Director Oh nods with understanding. “Being together torments you,” he says. “But if you break up, it’ll be equally painful. If both options feel like death, wouldn’t it be better to suffer together?”
Director Oh figures that Kang-tae wanted to kill Hui-jae, so why didn’t he? Hearing that Kang-tae stopped because he thought of Moon-young, Director Oh says that that’s his answer. The one who torments him can also be the one who saves him.
Back at the mansion, Moon-young comes downstairs, and Sang-tae immediately wants to show her his homework. She tells him that the homework doesn’t matter anymore, because she’s not publishing her book. She asks him to move out, and, just as he said he would, he says, “Over my dead body!”
Later, Sang-in and Seung-jae come by when Moon-young is covering up the furniture with sheets. Sang-in is horrified to learn that she’s selling the house, and even more so that she wants to quit writing. When Moon-young walks away, Seung-jae suggests they simply find another writer to work with.
Sang-in looks at Seung-jae incredulously, saying he was never in this for the money. He knows that writing fairy tales is Moon-young’s only way of speaking to the world. So Moon-young saying she’s quitting is pretty much her saying she’s given up on living.
After Kang-tae’s impromptu therapy session, he tells Director Oh that he’ll still come by to visit — maybe even plant a tree out in the garden.
Kang-tae returns home and finds Moon-young in bed, in the middle of a nightmare. He places the Mang-tae doll in her hand to calm her, inadvertently waking her up. Seeing that he’s still here, she tells him to move out already; he’s the one who always said he didn’t want people leaning on him.
Besides, she says, people like her are meant to live alone and not with others. But he argues that that’s impossible for her: “Because now, you know how it feels to have a warm heart and full stomach.” He leans in, touching her cheek, and tells her to admit that she’s just a kid longing to be loved.
Moon-young looks at Kang-tae, that exact longing in her eyes, but she snaps herself out of it and goes under the covers. Ever persistent, Kang-tae asks if she wants to hear a story (ignoring her protests).
“A long time ago, there lived two brothers who cared for each other very much. One day, it was the harvest season, so they both harvested rice. The older brother was worried his little brother might run out of rice, so he secretly carried a sack of rice at night and left it in front of his little brother’s house. The same day, the little brother also carried a sack of rice and put it in front of his older brother’s house… This continued for days.”
Kang-tae concludes that the moral of the story is that loved ones should stick together, so they don’t end up doing pointless work. He admits that Sang-tae came up with the story, and he too believes in it.
Kang-tae gets frustrated when Moon-young still refuses to come out, so he yells at her for being stubborn. That gets her out, demanding to know if he just raised his voice at her. And, HA, he’s so flustered that he blames it on the echo in the room and then scurries out.
The brothers are disappointed that the story failed, with Sang-tae assuming Kang-tae told it in a boring way. Later, they try to get Moon-young to eat dinner, since she hasn’t eaten for days, but she won’t be moved. So Kang-tae makes a call, initiating a Plan B.
The next day, Joo-ri calls Moon-young and says that her mom is sick, and that she’d appreciate it if Moon-young went down and checked on her. Though Moon-young refuses, we immediately cut to her at the apartment. And whataya know, Mom is completely fine.
To Moon-young’s surprise, Mom has prepared a meal for her. “Just go along with it and eat,” Mom says. “Do you know how many people were involved in planning this so we could put something in that empty stomach?” In flashback, we see that Kang-tae called Sang-in, wanting him and the others to help him out. Mom even took the day off work to pull off the charade. Augh, as if I didn’t love them enough already.
Of course, Moon-young can’t deny Mom’s hospitality, so she obediently sits down and eats. She gets emotional, though, when she hears that Kang-tae set this up; she wonders why they’re all so nice to her. Smiling, Mom says it’s because everything about her is lovable — especially the fact that she likes Kang-tae for who he is. Speechless, Moon-young blinks away her tears and continues to eat. Soon, Jae-soo shows up (right on schedule) to be her drinking buddy, and to trash talk Kang-tae.
Meanwhile, Kang-tae and Sang-tae are at the hospital planting a new tree, an ornament with their family portrait hanging on its branch. Kang-tae dedicates the tree to their mom, saying they can visit it whenever they miss her.
The boys sweetly greet their mom, bragging about how well they’ve grown. Kang-tae promises to take care of Sang-tae, but Sang-tae says that their mom didn’t have him to be the protector. Sang-tae is the big brother, and he proved that by saving him.
But now, Sang-tae thinks it’s about time Kang-tae takes care of himself. Because Sang-tae is “too busy,” lol. As Sang-tae walks off, the teary-eyed Kang-tae laughs and says, “You heard that, right, Mom?”
Moon-young comes home late, and by that time, she’s pretty drunk. She sees Sang-tae waiting for her on the stairs and joins him, a languid smile on her face. That smile turns into a pout, though, when he brings up his homework again.
She insists that she’s retiring, and to that, he retorts that he can find another bestie to work with. Offended by his lack of loyalty, she gives in and agrees to take a look at his drawings. Excited, he takes out his sketchbook and flips to a certain page — to a sketch of Kang-tae. Aww, it’s when Kang-tae was smiling in his sleep.
“It’s a happy expression,” he says. “He smiled like this after he told me he liked someone.” He points to the expression, saying it’s not fake, and she starts to cry. He’s confused by her reaction, but she simply says it’s because the drawing is so beautiful. She asks if she can keep it, and he gladly tears it out for her.
Sang-tae still wishes Moon-young would publish her book; he wants to be able to show it off to his mom. She asks what he means, and he explains that he and his brother planted a tree at the hospital.
So the next day, Moon-young visits this tree and gives the brothers’ mom a sincere apology. Kang-tae then appears, having followed her, and tells her that he’s going to keep trying. He’s going to overcome everything, so he wants her to stop pushing him away.
Incredulous, Moon-young walks past. Kang-tae stops her, holding out his hand and saying she should at least take responsibility for his injury. But he’s frustrated still, as she just apologizes and continues on. Now desperate, he calls out, “I love you. I love you, Go Moon-young.”
Moon-young stops in her tracks and turns to face him… only to turn away and keep walking. And, pffffft, he was not expecting that. He starts shouting, “I said I love you! I really love you!” the EXACT same way she did in Episode 4. From afar, a few patients watch him chase after her and joke that love sure changes people.
Once Moon-young is back home, she sits in the study and stares at the now wilted flowers that Kang-tae gave her on their trip. She sets them down when he barges in, and she’s annoyed as he continues to say that he loves her.
She starts to threaten him, meaning to say that she’s going to rip his mouth, but he kisses her and asks if she meant this. She’s too stunned to speak, even more so as he picks her up and gets her on the desk. Slowly, slowly, he leans in to kiss her again, as she slowly, almost painfully, leans away.
I hate to say this, but this was the weakest episode, by far. It’s sad, because initially, the drama was going nowhere but up, consistently exceeding my expectations. But then Episodes 14 and 15 hit and everything fell apart. We had all this buildup, of this ghost haunting our characters, and it led to a disappointing payoff. It led to a confrontation that had me cringing into oblivion. Jang Young-nam’s acting as Do Hui-jae was way over the top, but I can’t even blame her. I have to blame the writing, because it took Do Hui-jae and made a laughable cartoon out of her. If I’d known that this was what we were getting, I would’ve checked out. I would’ve preferred it if the mother remained a ghost — a traumatic but intangible roadblock. And now I’m thinking of what the drama could’ve been, had it taken a more psychological horror approach rather than a real one.
I will say, though, that Sang-tae saving his siblings saved the episode for me. In fact, all of my favorite characters saved it. They were, and are, the one thing that’s kept me locked in this drama. I mean, thinking back to where they started, the amount of growth is unbelievable. For instance, the brothers were in this intense but toxic relationship, and it gradually turned into a genuine and healthy love. There’s more openness, more understanding. But most importantly, there’s a connection without being tied together. It’s like they finally found a way to be brothers but still have their own identities, their own lives. So, that moment with their mom’s tree was monumental. For years, Kang-tae had been hurt by what his mom said, about him being born to take care of his brother. But all that pain washed away when Sang-tae denied that claim. Kang-tae needed to hear that, even if it wasn’t from his mom.
Of course, it’s not just the brothers. The couple has gone through incredible growth too. The entire romance started with Moon-young seeing Kang-tae as a pretty object and wanting to keep him. With Kang-tae seeing Moon-young as a pest in his already miserable life. Now, things couldn’t be more different. Just compare the knife-stabbing scene in the first episode to the pen-stabbing scene in this episode. There was so much more meaning in Kang-tae’s save, so much more pain and sadness in their eyes. Which leads me to all the parallels. The parallel I just mentioned was certainly effective, but it was all the parallels after that really got me. Kang-tae had to spend the last few days in Moon-young’s shoes, and it was hilarious. For the first time ever, he was the pest vying for attention. He was the one putting himself out there. It was hilarious but also sweet, because it was coming from real love.
Real quick, I want to bring up my recapping process. I actually watch each episode twice, once to write the recap and once to take the screencaps. It can be tiring, but it can also be surprisingly enlightening. Because, I’ll admit it, the first time I watched this episode, I thought it was completely stupid and pointless. I thought to myself, why do we have to spend a whole hour on Moon-young sulking? Why, when her one roadblock is sitting in jail? Then, on my second viewing, her sulking made sense. Her roadblock was never her mom, but the idea of her mom. Or, more specifically, the idea of this family tie hurting everything she touches. That’s been her fear her entire life, and to have it happen right in front of her… Eesh. On top of that, she could see that it bothered Kang-tae. I appreciated that she acknowledged that, and that he acknowledged that in his therapy session. What they went through, it’s not easy to get over.
It’s not easy, but it’s possible. The first time Kang-tae said he could overcome his trauma, I didn’t believe him. But the second time he said it, at the end, I did believe. Because by then, he accepted that it was still bothering him and that it’s something he has to work on. Hopefully, in the drama’s final hour, Moon-young will accept that they can work through their troubles and still be happy together. That there’s a reason why Kang-tae and everyone else is fighting for her.
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