Memorials: Episode 12
The pieces of our protagonists’ past are falling into place and amidst the sweet childhood bond, a dark cloud of tragedy is taking form. As they find themselves embroiled in a new complaint which seems to point towards a troubling coverup, their antagonist puts a more aggressive plan in motion.
EPISODE 12 RECAP
April 1st, 2020. 18th Anniversary of the Sarang Resort fire. Se-ra walks Ja-ryong home and teases Han-bi quit and she’s taking over. Knowing that’s untrue, he asks what she did after taking the day off. Se-ra says she lounged around and Ja-ryong tuts she should work hard. Se-ra tries to say she lied about laying around, but Ja-ryong calls that a lie. Receiving a call, Se-ra fibs they have the wrong number and Ja-ryong sighs she’s bad at lying.
We flashback to April 1st of last year to see that was the day Se-ra found the bus stop with the broken sign filled with flowers and a banana milk (left by Gong-myung). She’d been lost in thought riding in the car with Woo-young and Han-bi until they threw a speech in her lap and drove to the protest rally outside Mawon Office.
We again see Se-ra reluctantly take the stand and launch into a heartfelt speech, saying the issue isn’t that she was fired – but that building a distribution center near an elementary school was unacceptable. Se-ra had asked what kind of future exists if they don’t hope for a better tomorrow. “I know this day has been full of lies,” Se-ra had concluded, “but I really mean this, as long as you choose me.”
Voting day for the name change of the Smart One City neighborhoods arrives and everyone looks expectantly at Hee-soo when she walks in. Se-ra opens the meeting by saying each assemblyman represents more than a percentage of voters – they’re also deciding which names their children will grow up using. She implores everyone to close their eyes and think of those future children. Chief Won scoffs and only one of the Idiot Trio complies.
Everyone casts their vote and when Gong-myung brings her the results, Se-ra bites back a smile… and announces the ordinance passed 7 votes to 6. Chief Won immediately thanks Hee-soo and Assemblyman Bong shakes his head as everyone files out of the room, leaving Se-ra blinking back tears of disappointment.
Chief Won orders her people to speed up the project to make up for lost time as Assemblyman Heo finds Min-jae on the roof and asks if he’s made up his mind. Min-jae says he’s still thinking and Heo points out a chief’s secretary is far better than a district rep’s secretary. He says Chief Won offered the position because she thinks highly of Min-jae, patting his shoulder before leaving.
Se-ra springs up when Hee-soo enters her office, and reasons Hee-soo made her decision after a long deliberation – Sarang is Hee-soo’s district and she likely took next year’s election into consideration as well. Hee-soo tells Se-ra to just curse her out and Se-ra quips she already did enough of that in her head. She asks why Hee-soo voted for the name change and Hee-soo says she wants to be on the winning side.
She thinks Se-ra didn’t believe she’d win, either, and says she came to return Se-ra’s wish coupon: “I almost sided with you.” Se-ra corrects she didn’t give up until the ballots were counted, pointing out Hee-soo chose the winning side with her vote. Hee-soo simply smiles and walks out.
At home, Mom tells Dad Se-ra is at a disadvantage not having a husband to attend local events and meetings on her behalf to win people’s approval and votes. Mom decides to take initiative in order to get a jump on next year’s election. Dad asks why she’s talking about elections and Mom says it doesn’t make sense for Se-ra to give up a cushy job. Dad tells Mom to throw away her expectations if she cares for Se-ra but Mom quips that’s why he liked her.
Cut to Mom making a speech at a local event on Se-ra’s behalf. She squeals with delight when Chairman Jo arrives, and he greets her with equally false enthusiasm. Mom says Se-ra works from dawn to dusk, grinning she’s busy in both work and love. She asks if he’s aware Se-ra and Gong-myung are in a serious relationship and Chairman Jo laughs it off, saying they’re too young for anything serious and isn’t concerned. He says Mom looks beautiful and walks off, leaving Mom flabbergasted.
That evening, Chairman Jo tells Min-jae Se-ra’s recent loss will provide more than enough motive for her to go against Chief Won. He suggests they focus on Mom and her money troubles and Min-jae anxiously points out Se-ra won’t sit still if her family is attacked: “It’s not an appropriate plan.” Chairman Jo says he doesn’t need appropriate – he needs efficient and effective.
Min-jae argues he didn’t recommend Se-ra as chairman to be used as a scapegoat and Chairman Jo snaps he’d agreed because Min-jae was going to be with her, not Gong-myung. He says if the situation changes, so must their tactics. Chairman Jo never intended to allow Se-ra to keep the post and needs an excuse to oust her.
The following day, Chief Won invites Se-ra to her office and says they have a lot in common. She thinks their desires for change are the reason why they were elected and suggests they bury the hatchet and work together moving forward. Se-ra vaguely replies that sounds reasonable… and then spits out her juice when Min-jae walks in. Chief Won smirks and introduces him as her new secretary.
He walks Se-ra out and she says she thought he’d be with Chairman Jo forever. Min-jae warns her Chairman Jo plans to use her to oust Chief Won, and then he’ll come for her. Se-ra says she doesn’t care about their fight – she simply plans to try her best to keep her job until her term ends. She takes her leave and Min-jae lets out a sigh.
That evening, Chairman Jo is mildly surprised when Min-jae confirms he quit because Jo is using Se-ra as a pawn. Chairman Jo says he won’t be able to fix it now, sighing he’d considered Min-jae a son and they’d spent many years like family. Min-jae answers “like” a family means they aren’t really family but thanks Chairman Jo for everything. Jo muses it won’t be easy working for Chief Won and suggests they not say goodbye as they’ll continue seeing each other at work.
Mom listens to a pitch from a real estate agent, saying she’s looking for a house for Se-ra. Her friend worries Mom has already been scammed into buying property but Mom retorts getting scammed once doesn’t mean you stop investing. Mom turns back to the agent and gleefully asks if the house faces south. Oy vey.
At the Area 6 construction site of Smart One City, a worker heaves a heavy load up a flight of stairs. His vision blurs and he loses his footing, tumbling to the landing below as other workers rush to his side. Meanwhile, Yong-kyu carries his things back to the Secretariat office and bitterly tells Gong-myung he’s cleared out so the latter can move in when he’s ready.
Gong-myung lifts his own box and Yong-kyu accuses him of never unpacking. He growls they need to talk and Gong-myung snorts but follows. Dae-cheol goes with them and tries to mitigate as Yong-kyu demands how Gong-myung got his job back, griping he can’t use an innocent civil servant in his love spat. Face hardening, Gong-myung asks if he’d reported that to Chairman Jo as well.
Yong-kyu blanches and Gong-myung says Yong-kyu was in charge of receiving the Mawon Office reports and gave the original files to Chairman Jo and only the summaries to Se-ra. Yong-kyu tries to deny it, but Gong-myung points out Chairman Jo had commented on Se-ra’s weekend exercise, using Yong-kyu’s exact phrasing.
Just then Yong-kyu’s “girlfriend” calls and he scrambles for the phone, but Gong-myung answers first and Chairman Jo demands why Gong-myung was reinstated as Se-ra’s secretary. Gong-myung tells Yong-kyu the basic virtue of a secretary is loyalty: “Should you be loyal to someone other than your superior?” He warns Yong-kyu not to be Chairman Jo’s lackey anymore and stalks off. Yong-kyu storms off as well, leaving Dae-cheol more confused than ever.
In the assemblymen’s office room, Dong-chan announces Gong-myung has resumed being Se-ra’s secretary. The Idiot Trio figure they must’ve gotten back together and Hee-soo’s eyes bulge. Dong-chan says even Assemblyman Heo and Chairman Jo know about it and Assemblyman Bong tells the group to respect Se-ra and Gong-myung’s privacy. Hee-soo reels from being the only one not to know and immediately confronts Gong-myung.
He readily confesses he likes Se-ra – not out of pity, but sincerely. Gong-myung earnestly asks she keep the relationship a secret and Hee-soo bites her tongue and nods. He leaves and Hee-soo mutters she didn’t reveal everyone already knows as a final act of revenge, thrashing about in embarrassment. Heh.
Dong-chan offers drinks to the Idiot Trio and Shim thinks Se-ra will be quiet for a while. Jang thinks they shouldn’t bother with her title when it’s just them, but Shi points out she’s still their superior. Dong-chan is more than happy to bash Se-ra and launches into a mini tirade before jumping out of his skin when she appears behind him. She chases him out of the office as the trio quietly sip their drinks.
The construction workers from Area 6 arrive at Mawon Office to protest unsafe working conditions. Min-jae reports the situation to Chief Won and she rolls her eyes. Area 6 is the location of the Sarang Resort and Chief Won grumbles Sarang continues to create trouble. She orders all routes to her office blocked and suggests she and Min-jae get an early lunch. By the time the protestors make it inside, all paths to Chief Won’s office are taped off so they decide to appeal to Se-ra, instead.
On the roof, Dong-chan accuses Se-ra of taking her frustrations out on him. She points out he’d stolen her ordinance, tried to bribe her with gold, and now was caught gossiping. Dong-chan asks if she plans to hit him and flinches when Se-ra raises her arms. He screams when she rushes towards him, but she’s actually looking at the mob of protestors headed for their office.
Dae-cheol and Gong-myung frantically assemble drinks for their guests since Yong-kyu took the afternoon off for family matters. Se-ra and Dong-chan fight to get to her office first and are stunned to find the mob waiting inside. Dong-chan declares Se-ra must’ve made a mess and is quickly locked out of the office by Se-ra and Gong-myung.
Complaint notebook in hand, Se-ra listens as the workers explain that lack of safety measures onsite has resulted in five injuries and both the construction company and Mawon Office seem to be busy covering it up instead of apologizing. The workers suspect the Labor Administration of colluding with them as each inspection declares no issues.
Se-ra and Gong-myung go to the hospital to visit the injured worker and she’s wracked with guilt when recognizes him as the older guard who’d been fired alongside Dad’s friend. He says his son also works at Mawon Office and stepped out to meet with someone from the construction company. Turns out the son is Yong-kyu and he confusedly answers his father doesn’t have a chronic illness when Q Construction representative, Jeong Min-hwan, insists that was the cause of the accident.
Ignoring Yong-kyu, Jeong says the company still feels responsible and have prepared a settlement under the stipulation Yong-kyu and his father sign a nondisclosure agreement. Yong-kyu repeats his father doesn’t have a chronic illness and Jeong counters proving an industrial accident is harder than he’d think. He suggests Yong-kyu review the documents first, but the papers are promptly snatched away by Se-ra and Gong-myung.
Afterwards, Yong-kyu thanks them for coming, but doesn’t want to make things worse. The couple explain they’re here on behalf of the workers and four others were injured besides Yong-kyu’s dad. Yong-kyu snaps at them to talk to the other victims, wondering what Se-ra can accomplish when she already failed to protect Sarang’s name. Se-ra can’t answer and although Yong-kyu looks guilty he doesn’t apologize and walks away.
Gong-myung knocks on Se-ra’s door that evening to head home but finds her office empty. He seems to know where she’s gone and we find her back at the bus stop, staring up at the broken sign. She curses that it still hasn’t been fixed after her numerous complaints and takes out her phone to file another. Sensing movement to her right, Se-ra almost karate chops Gong-myung. He grumbles she should know better than to attack just anyone and she quips he should know better than to creep up on her. Hee.
They sit and Gong-myung announces today he found her in one go, handing her a banana milk. Recalling finding one at the bus stop a year ago, Se-ra smiles she found it, too. Gong-myung tells her not to be upset and says Jeong Min-hwan made him angry too. Se-ra confesses she’s actually mad at herself – if she’d handled the security guards’ complaint better, Yong-kyu’s father wouldn’t have been working at the construction site and gotten hurt.
Gong-myung gently points out the security guard issue was due to the apartment office and employment company’s poor judgement and the construction site is an internal problem: “Other peopled did wrong and should be held responsible. Don’t blame yourself.” Reinvigorated, Se-ra suggests they investigate the cause of the accident and throwing her arm around Gong-myung’s neck, drags him off.
Chairman Jo meets with the Mawon Credit Cooperatives and recognizes Woo-young as one of Se-ra’s friends. He recommends her to help handle the business with Mawon Office but says not to mention his involvement. Soon, the project is presented to the interns and Woo-young is the only one to volunteer so they easily comply with Chairman Jo’s wishes.
Min-jae calls a reporter to dispute an article declaring Chief Won’s private land is included in the Smart One City project. Unfortunately, the reporter heard it directly from Chairmain Jo and Min-jae is forced to back down. He discusses the rumors that the land is still owned by Chief Won’s father-in-law (and Assemblyman Heo’s father) despite changing names on paper following the Sarang Resort fire.
The land has remained unused for 20 years and Chief Won reasons it only made sense to include it in order to expand the project scale. Min-jae is unable to argue and Chief Won suggests they create a task force to regulate public opinions on the internet – The Integrity Task Force. Dae-cheol jumps at the chance to leave the service center to serve the chief but deflates when he enters the office to find men busily typing at computers and ignoring each other.
Having contacted the other victims, Gong-myung reports they’ve already signed the confidentiality agreement and therefore can’t cooperate. Se-ra questions how there can be so many incidents when construction only started 2 months ago and Gong-myung adds half the workers have already been convinced to return to the site. He says unlike previous complaints they’ve handled, even the victims aren’t cooperating. “If they don’t tell us,” Se-ra says, “we can figure it out.”
She proposes they go undercover on weekends with her gathering intel at a nearby restaurant and Gong-myung infiltrating Area 6 as a laborer. While Se-ra charms the restaurant ahjummas, Gong-myung snaps photos of torn netting. Se-ra asks the ahjummas about the recent injuries and they say everyone is keeping quiet for fear of getting fired. They wonder why Se-ra is asking so many questions and Se-ra fibs her husband works at the site, cheerfully offering to show them pictures of Gong-myung.
As Gong-myung returns his equipment at the end of the day, he hears the site manager refer to them as Best Industrial Development and sees business cards with the same company logo on his desk. The manager then tosses two bankbooks to his secretary and asks her to wire the monthly pay to one account, but overtime pay to a separate account.
Reconvening at Han-bi’s shop that evening, Se-ra whimpers over her aching body from the strict diner ahjummas as Gong-myung applies pain patches on her. Gong-myung briefs her that the site isn’t using proper safety measures, but even stranger the construction company for Area 6 is Q Construction (and Jeong Min-hwan is from there as well) but the manager referred to the company as Best Industrial.
Se-ra guesses they’re a subcontractor, but Gong-myung says Best Industrial Development isn’t listed among the companies working on Smart One City. Se-ra reasons it must be money-related which makes Gong-myung think of bank accounts. They nod at each other and Se-ra tells Ja-ryong she and Gong-myung will take him home.
Outside, she says she was worried about Gong-myung working onsite and he says he did part-time manual labor during university. Se-ra looks impressed and says they’re both strong-willed and resourceful. Noticing the awkward energy between him and Ja-ryong, she suggests they find something in common as well (aside from her). Ja-ryong asks if Gong-myung has any siblings and Gong-myung says he has a younger brother named Jong-dae. He asks what grade Ja-ryong is in and he and Se-ra look a little melancholy when he answers second grade.
Gong-myung notices Ja-ryong’s shoe is untied and when he bends to tie it, Se-ra says it’s the sign of the shoelace fairy that a friend is thinking of or missing him. Ja-ryong takes both their hands and the three of them walk home together laughing.
The next day, Se-ra asks the diner ahjummas if the workers use coupons and learns they pay with a company card. Later, she sneaks over to the account records and finds the bill for Best Industrial Development. In her excitement, Se-ra bluntly asks why Best Industrials is paying for Smart One City… and gets chased out. She calls to report to Gong-myung, but instead of getting proof, she gets salt thrown in her face.
Gong-myung sneaks into the office to get a look at the bankbooks and finds they also list Best Industrial. Just as he tries to take a picture with his phone, the secretary returns. Gong-myung manages to shut the bankbooks into the drawer before she enters and explains his presence by turning on the charm and asking if she likes coffee… only to be curtly rejected. Hee.
He did manage to send a photo of the business card to Dae-cheol, who reports back Best Industrial Development doesn’t have a license and has been fined many times for building without it. Gong-myung tells him they’re in charge of Area 6 and says he’ll keep digging. He asks Dae-cheol to keep it secret and Dae-cheol pretends to be talking to his kids when he sees coworkers approaching.
That night, Gong-myung cowers as Se-ra reams him for the blurry bankbook photo. He points out at least he didn’t come empty-handed and the photos of the site are clear. Se-ra growls he should’ve pocketed the bankbook and Gong-myung points out that’s theft. He adds tomorrow they start adding a night shift and Se-ra says that means they still have tonight and drags him off.
They sneak onsite hand-in-hand, but the office lights are still on. They dive behind construction materials when a car pulls up, but Jeong Min-hwan sees figures darting across the site. The manager tells him no one is working tonight so he grabs the flashlight to investigate. Se-ra and Gong-myung find themselves cornered. She lifts a tarp to crawl under, but something catches Gong-myung’s eye and he throws it back to reveal the remains of the Sarang Resort Fire Victim Memorial with Jo Jong-dae listed among the dead.
Young Se-ra and Gong-myung are leaving school when a voice calls out to them and they turn to see Jong-dae running towards them. He takes their hands and the three happily walk home, the badge on Jong-dae’s chest indicating he’s in second grade.
Oof, my heart! I may have to go back and rewatch some episodes (like I wasn’t going to do that anyway) because I had been under the impression Jong-dae had died in a vehicle accident. I can see where my brain connected dots between the significance of the bus stop and Jong-dae’s death being introduced along with the fight against the distribution center and trucks next to an elementary school, but this adds a whole new layer to the tragedy. Assemblyman Yang had approached Gong-myung about Chairman Jo’s involvement with the Sarang Resort Fire, revealing his parents divorced afterwards.
That’s not an uncommon reaction to the loss of a child, but it’s safe to assume more was going on. The fact that Chief Won’s family owned the resort and then she and Chairman Jo moved to include it in the reconstruction for Smart One City and change the name of the neighborhood is beyond sketchy. This finally explains why Gong-myung left – when his parents divorced, he went with Mom and Chairman Jo remained behind. I’m still not sure why he didn’t say anything to Se-ra first, or decided to distance himself from her, but I’m sure we’ll delve into exactly how traumatic the whole incident was for both of them and while I’m not looking forward to seeing our couple in pain, I feel the resolution and healing will be worth it.
It kills me how loose-lipped Woo-young and Mom have been with Se-ra’s dating life. To be fair, neither understands how tumultuous the relationships are between the couple and Min-jae and Chairman Jo, but it still wasn’t really their place to interfere. Min-jae took it in stride and while I’m so proud of him for finally putting his foot down with Chairman Jo’s latest scheme against Se-ra, I’m sure even he’s aware it’s too little, too late. It worrisome how personal Chairman Jo’s attacks have gotten, and I can’t help but wonder if Se-ra’s relationship with Gong-myung is the reason. Chairman Jo still holds out hope Gong-myung will come around and Se-ra doesn’t mesh with those plans. Furthermore, using Mom and Woo-young against her isn’t a new low for him, but it’s a reminder he’s not a nice guy.
On the flipside, Hee-soo is determined to show zero personal growth but I have come to enjoy her character. I felt equally gratified and empathetic when she found out not only were Se-ra and Gong-myung dating… but everyone knew. Hopefully, that “final act of revenge” means Hee-soo will abandon that rivalry and take one step closer to that frenemy balance I’ve been begging for from the beginning. I can’t say I was entirely surprised Hee-soo didn’t vote with Se-ra. Whether her research into the Sarang Resort fire played a part or it was simply a career move is hard to say. I do love that Se-ra called bullshit on her argument to be on the winning side, because as the swing vote, she chose the winning side. She claims to have thrown away her conscience, but if that were true, she wouldn’t have bothered giving back Se-ra’s coupon. She’s taking the long way round, but I’m sure she’ll get there in the end.
All in all, I really love this drama. I know I say it a lot, but I don’t think there’s any harm with expressing it repeatedly when it’s true. From the story, to pacing, to characters, to Gong-myung’s hair, everything is so delightful. The upcoming episodes are going to get a little heavy as we delve into the darker plot that has been breadcrumbed throughout, but I have faith our bubbly couple and colorful cast will buoy us along.