Memorials: Episode 14
The past never stays buried and more secrets are uncovered as our couple continues to investigate the problematic Sarang Resort’s past, present, and future. Our heroine was warned that there are two sides to every person and as those true colors come to light, some are revealed for the better while others are exposed as more devious than anyone anticipated.
EPISODE 14 RECAP
Se-ra leads Chairman Jo to the Sarang Resort fire memorial she and Gong-myung hid on the roof and he demands what her intentions were in taking it. Gong-myung instinctively steps forward to protect Se-ra but she holds him back. She calmly explains sneaking onto the Area 6 construction site to investigate the workers’ complaint and finding the memorial amongst the garbage – so she rescued it. Seemingly accepting her answer, Chairman Jo walks away. He pauses to watch Se-ra carefully recover the memorial with Gong-myung’s jacket and meets Gong-myung’s silent stare before finally leaving.
April 30, 2002. Chairman Jo sits solemnly with the Aeguk Conservative Party Leader, Choi Goo-pal. The man offers condolences for Jong-dae’s death… and then says the resort is trying to appease the families with a memorial. The families are opposed so he wants Chairman Jo to lead by example, pointedly mentioning Jo’s interest in entering politics.
In the present, Chairman Jo meets with Dad for drinks. Dad says Mom is working but he’s worried she’ll get scammed again, and he’s worried for Se-ra because she’s Se-ra. Hee. He tentatively asks if Chairman Jo has been spending time with Gong-myung, but Jo shakes his head. He sighs Gong-myung took after his mother, wistfully musing Jong-dae would’ve likely taken after his father. Drinking, Jo says Jong-dae followed Gong-myung around, liked banana milk, and definitely took after him.
When Dad gets home, Se-ra is surprised to hear Dad was drinking with Chairman Jo and that Jo remembers Jong-dae liked banana milk. Dad sadly adds Chairman Jo will never know the joy of bringing home his child’s favorite treat after drinking. Sobering, he remembers Se-ra didn’t want to leave Gong-myung alone and suggests she convince Gong-myung to move back with Chairman Jo. Se-ra can’t picture it and quickly changes the subject to the ice cream Dad brought home for her.
The memorial is moved to Mawon Office storage and the following day, an article is printed on it. The office is abuzz over Se-ra moving the memorial from the stie to the office and Gong-myung receives a text thanking him for the tip while at lunch with Dae-cheol and Yong-kyu. The other two gossip about the news and pointedly look at Gong-myung when they wonder how Se-ra moved the memorial on her own.
He confirms he helped and Dae-cheol asks why Se-ra was the only one questioned by police, then. Yong-kyu confirms Q Construction pressed theft charges since it was taken offsite and Gong-myung snaps at them for not telling him sooner as he storms out of the restaurant. Meanwhile, Se-ra sits in the police station, questioning who’s the memorial’s owner to call her taking it theft.
Ignoring her, the detective asks who’s pushing the wheelbarrow and Se-ra immediately clams up. Something behind her catches his attention and Se-ra turns to see Hee-soo strut into the station. Hee-soo introduces herself as Se-ra’s lawyer and Se-ra clings gratefully to her arm, glaring daggers at the detective.
Afterwards, the women get lunch with Gong-myung and eyeing all the tofu dishes, Se-ra quips someone would think she’d been in jail. Hee-soo looks to Gong-myung and he tells Se-ra to eat. She does but questions why Hee-soo decided to help after refusing to represent her with Chief Won’s lawsuit. Hee-soo confesses she’d thought Chief Won would be joining the National Assembly in the near future.
She says things have changed now and Se-ra genuinely replies she’s incredible. Se-ra adds she needs to thank Assemblyman Bong for his sole vote of confidence at her hearing. Hee-soo corrects that the solitary vote in Se-ra’s favor was hers, quickly explaining she just felt it was unfair. She’s concerned Chairman Jo will still try to oust them completely over the memorial incident, but Gong-myung knows Jo won’t take the issue further.
Hee-soo has another appointment, so she tells the couple to enjoy their date on her. Se-ra brightly thanks her “unni” and Hee-soo blinks at the sudden familiarity. Se-ra explains she’s nice to anyone who buys her food and Gong-myung echoes: “Thanks for the food, unni.” Hee-soo sweeps out of the restaurant as Se-ra pats Gong-myung affectionately and feeds him.
That evening, Chairman Jo meets with Min-jae to offer him his job back. Min-jae admits he hasn’t received other offers since Chief Won was arrested… but has no intention of returning to Chairman Jo. Jo argues he shouldn’t give up after being thrown a curveball and he needs Min-jae for his plans. He offers to give Min-jae time to think.
The next morning, Se-ra drops by Chairman Jo’s office to reiterate she really didn’t mean to cause him trouble (with the memorial). He believes her and Se-ra says those who remember the victims leave flowers at the Sarang Resort bus stop every year. With Sarang being renamed and redeveloped into Smart One City, Se-ra hopes he’ll find a place for the memorial for those people to visit. Chairman Jo agrees on the condition Se-ra can get signatures from all of the families.
Later, Se-ra peddles her juice to a real estate office and picks up a flyer for Smart One City apartments. Meanwhile, Gong-myung taps his fingers as the clock ticks down to 10. When it does, he leaps up and leaves the office. Walking home hand-in-hand, Se-ra tells Gong-myung she misses the chairman’s office and car. Gong-myung says he doesn’t and holding up their intertwined hands says he likes things now. Se-ra beams that she likes him.
Dad looks morosely at the headlines about the memorial and Mom asks if he really doesn’t understand Se-ra’s tenderhearted feelings. Dad snaps Mom should’ve told him (before he blew up at Se-ra and Gong-myung) and she sniffs he barged in before she could explain. Dad thinks Chairman Jo must be distraught, but Mom says he should be more concerned about Gong-myung.
The couple arrives home and Gong-myung uncertainly echoes Se-ra’s “I’m home.” Mom suggests they get to bed but Dad stops them. Se-ra’s arm reflexively blocks him from Gong-myung but Dad simply announces men and women will sleep separately. He adds that neither is to get up to eat in the middle of the night and imposes a household intermittent fasting regimen. Pouting, Se-ra shuffles off to her room as Gong-myung follows Dad.
Later, Gong-myung is so focused on his laptop, he jumps when Se-ra joins him in the kitchen. She grumbles it must be important that he’s working when it’s time for their 3 am ramyun date. Gong-myung says he finished work at 6 but has been studying up on Smart One City while Se-ra visited real estate offices. He says Chief Won was fastidious about documenting meeting minutes, but he’s found a suspicious gap.
Se-ra takes a look and sure enough, after the Smart One City Area 6 environmental report is given, there’s no questions or comments. Se-ra says the same thing happened when she interrupted the meeting regarding the distribution center. Checking the date, she sees these are from the day before the election and Gong-myung says he’ll keep digging. He adds he also plans to go home this weekend and Se-ra pouts.
They don’t notice Dad eavesdropping and Se-ra asks if it’s because Dad snores. Gong-myung laughs, explaining he needs to feed Cecilia and her friends and clean their tank. Gong-myung confesses since moving in, there’s something else he’s loved as much as their 3 am dates – coming home from work and being greeted warmly by Se-ra’s parents. Tearing up, he admits he’ll miss it but he can’t stay forever. They sit in silence as Dad holds back tears of his own. Aww.
Chairman Jo reports to Aeguk Conservative Party Leader Choi that Q Construction will complete the project with no further issues. Party leader Choi also tells him to “handle” the memorial (read “bury”), heavily implying Chairman Jo’s promotion to the National Assembly is dependent on the issue.
A week later, the memorial is still in storage. Dong-chan brownnoses Chairman Jo over ousting Se-ra until they’re interrupted by the Secretariat chief delivering signatures from the families to relocate the memorial. They’ve collected all but two. Dong-chan’s jaw drops as Chairman Jo signs a form for Jong-dae. He says the new location can be discussed after they get the final signature.
Dong-chan immediately reports his discovery to Hee-soo and she realizes the accident he’d mentioned losing a child to at the distribution center rally was the Sarang Resort fire. Dong-chan had thought it was all lies, sympathizing it must’ve been hard watching Se-ra make a fuss over Sarang and suggesting they stick with Chairman Jo until the next regional election. Looking at the form the families are signing, Hee-soo frowns at the line relinquishing rights to Mawon Office.
That night, Min-jae packs up his apartment. Picking up the framed photos of him with Se-ra and then Chairman Jo, Min-jae takes a deep breath and places both in the trash. He walks away as we see a text on his phone, thanking Chairman Jo for the offer: “But for the first time, I refuse.”
Hee-soo visits Se-ra and explains only one signature remains for the memorial relocation. Se-ra thinks they should hurry to get it out of storage, but Hee-soo clarifies the signatures will ensure the memorial stays in storage. Se-ra argues Chairman Jo promised and Hee-soo explains that people signed easily because the memorial was erected to placate them after the fire. She worries Se-ra trusts Chairman Jo too much and as it sinks in, fury overrides Se-ra’s confusion.
She storms out and is caught by Gong-myung. She declares she’s off to confront Chairman Jo over gathering signatures to keep the memorial in storage. Hee-soo joins them and Gong-myung asks her what happens if the remaining family doesn’t sign. From his calm tone, Se-ra realizes he knew. Hee-soo answers it’ll be difficult to prevent them from signing, especially when they don’t know which family remains.
Hee-soo questions why Gong-myung cares when it doesn’t concern him. Gong-myung corrects it does but doesn’t elaborate. He hopes Hee-soo will help them, but she says it’s beyond her power. She tries to walk away but Se-ra and Gong-myung block her. They say there’s someone who would never refuse Hee-soo and mime Dong-chan’s breath spray.
Cut to Dong-chan schmoozing Chairman Jo and offering he and Hee-soo to look for the final family. Se-ra receives a text from Hee-soo and thinks the address looks familiar – the first complaint she’d received, Golf Ball Granny.
That evening, Gong-myung joins Se-ra at a restaurant and when she orders more soju, he has her take a vitamin packet (?) first to combat her drunken antics. He asks if she still can’t reach Granny and Se-ra says the neighbors told her Granny moved out a while ago. Se-ra recalls she’d been the only contact in Granny’s phone when the hospital called her after her fall and wonders where Granny could’ve gone.
Holding back tears, she takes a drink and Gong-myung says they need to find her before Chairman Jo. Se-ra declares: “I’m Gu Se-ra! And that old lady is not an ordinary woman.” She lapses back into a sad silence. Gong-myung pours her next drink and they clink glasses.
The next day, Se-ra calls around to hospitals looking for Granny and finally finds her. As Granny sleeps, Se-ra grumbles that she still carries the helmet around and is about to throw it out when Granny wakes up. Se-ra whines it’s so hard to contact her and Granny snaps she lost her phone while running away. Ignoring Se-ra’s questions, Granny tells her to get apples.
Gong-myung enters and Se-ra proudly introduces her boyfriend only for Granny to tut, “Too bad he has an ugly girlfriend.” Granny giggles and the elderly woman in the next bed asks if Se-ra and Gong-myung are her grandkids. Granny’s face falls and she gruffly denies it. She tells the couple to take her out in the wheelchair and as they walk, Granny says the doctors told her she’s accumulated “bad stuff” in her body.
They told her the dizziness and headaches are due to that and Granny guesses her time is up. Se-ra argues she’d sworn not to leave Mawon and Granny asks if Se-ra is still a district rep. Se-ra nods and Granny files a new complaint – find the Sarang Resort fire memorial. She says once construction started, they moved it and won’t tell her where. Se-ra starts to say she moved it when Gong-myung suddenly asks how long Granny has been visiting that area.
Granny says she’s gone every Wednesday for the past 18 years to tend to the memorial: “All that remains is his name (Kim Won-oh) – how could I leave him like that?” We see she’d been the one repeatedly sneaking onsite to find it. The night Se-ra and Gong-myung took the memorial, they’d been saved when the manager had chased Granny and she’d dropped her phone in the process.
Crying, Se-ra confesses she took the memorial. Granny chases her around in circles until Gong-myung finally gets her to sit back down. He asks when she began to feel dizzy and she glares at Se-ra before answering 5 years. Later, Gong-myung explains Granny is suffering from arsenic poisoning. Arsenic is a heavy metal and Se-ra questions how Granny would’ve been exposed to it. Gong-myung says Yong-kyu’s father also had complained of feeling dizzy before he fell… and both were at Smart One City Area 6.
Back at the comic shop, Gong-myung glances anxiously at Se-ra as he and Han-bi discuss his arsenic suspicions. Han-bi plucks a damp tissue from Se-ra’s sniffling face as Se-ra thinks back to Granny’s declaration to stay in Mawon and protect “it” until the end. Gong-myung moves to comfort her but Han-bi holds up a hand and simply places a fresh tissue over Se-ra’s face.
Turning back, Han-bi admits to overhearing mention of carcinogens while working undercover at the dinner between Best Industrials and the Labor Administration rep. At the time, she’d assumed they were talking about burnt meat, but realizes they likely meant the arsenic.
Se-ra visits Yong-kyu’s father but he tells her he already settled and doesn’t want to get his son in trouble, pulling his hand from Se-ra’s and shutting the door in her face. Gong-myung tells her that of the 6 redevelopment areas, only Area 6 hasn’t handed in an environmental report. He’d requested a new copy, but they keep making excuses. At the meeting later, Se-ra brings it to the attention of the assembly.
She points out that only Area 6 has had repeated accidents and only Area 6 has failed to submit an environmental effect report. Assemblyman Heo sinks lower into his seat as Se-ra requests the missing report be released so she can confirm whether or not there’s a connection. Chairman Jo tries to put it off until next month’s audit, but Se-ra points out someone else could get hurt in that time and the room erupts into chaos.
Afterwards, Assemblyman Heo and the Vice Chief hang their heads in Chairman Jo’s office. Heo explains that the night before the by-election, Chief Won had received the environmental report and demanded what Heo had done to the land. He’d admitted he’d borrowed it to use as a temporary storage facility and she screamed there was over 25 times the legal limit of arsenic, a class one carcinogen. She barks all sorts of heavy metals were detected
Assemblyman Heo had whimpered he thought it would be fine because the lot was empty. He hadn’t wanted to build a facility to store waste, so he buried it. Chief Won threw a fit so Heo moved it to a rural location in Gyeonggi, thinking the land would be fine now. The vice chief confesses the estimated cost to clean the earth was beyond their budget so Chief Won ordered them to cover it up and proceed.
Praising Se-ra for her statement at the meeting, Assemblyman Bong is surprised she’s continued to look after the Smart One City laborers. Se-ra think the issues are the same and Bong warns her that the vice chief – who is currently acting chief – is close to Chairman Jo, so they may not comply. He recommends she come up with a backup solution, noting Mawon residents should be aware before construction continues.
Taking his advice, Se-ra posts her plea for the release of the environmental effect report on social media. Gong-myung stares pointedly at Yong-kyu as Dae-cheol commends Se-ra’s success in gathering enough people to bring the issue to Seoul City Hall. Yong-kyu gripes they aren’t obligated to release the report and will just say they’re not violating any rules. Finally fed up with Gong-myung’s staring, Yong-kyu snaps he and his father won’t help and storms off.
Assemblyman Bong pulls Gong-myung aside, saying he and Se-ra are no longer Chairman and secretary, and therefore should act accordingly. He adds he recently discovered Gong-myung’s relation to Chairman Jo – only one person had the power to transfer Gong-myung to the council secretariat and then return him to Planning and Budgeting and Assemblyman Yang had confided Chairman Jo had an adult son.
He strongly suggests Gong-myung stop involving himself in Se-ra’s business. Recalling how Bong didn’t support Se-ra at her hearing and used the files to sue Chief Won without confirming whether they actually came from Se-ra, Gong-myung retorts that he’s the one who should stop using Se-ra and making her take the lead when he sees fit and Assemblyman Bong purses his lips and frowns.
That evening, Gong-myung peels apples for Granny and says if anyone asks her to sign anything, to call him first. She asks about Se-ra and Gong-myung says she’s busy lately. Granny tells him to break up and then laughs, imploring them to get along. No sooner does he leave, than Chairman Jo arrive, seeing Gong-myung disappear around a corner before he enters the room and greets Granny.
Han-bi sees Se-ra’s name trending and shows her comments cursing Se-ra for bringing down housing prices. Meanwhile, Chairman Jo meets with the Idiot Trio, who quibble over whether to oust Heo or Se-ra. Unfortunately, ousting Heo tips the votes in the Progressive Party’s favor, so Chairman Jo opts to boot Se-ra.
A week later, Se-ra visits Granny. Granny says Gong-myung visited in Se-ra’s stead… as did Chairman Jo. She says she signed the form and for Se-ra and Gong-myung to stop visiting, turning her back as Se-ra huffs in disbelief. Returning to the office, Se-ra finds a notice posted declaring she’s been summoned by the people to vote on whether she keeps her position.
Ripping down the notice, Se-ra storms into Chairman Jo’s office and declares she won’t give it up as easily as she had this office. Unfazed, he says the residents will decide and she was lucky enough to get this far with her numerous complaints. “It wasn’t good fortune,” Se-ra corrects, “It was more of a miracle.” He warns people will stone her but Se-ra is willing to take it, echoing Gong-myung’s words there’s something she must do that only she can do.
Summer 2005 Middle school Se-ra walks home and sees something to make her eyes widen in horror. She takes out a notebook and writes something down before taking a deep breath and making a phone call. She introduces herself and looking up at a banner announcing an amusement park to be built on Sarang Resort’s location.
Reading from her notebook, Se-ra tearfully declares it’s only been 3 years and building an amusement park there is wrong. We’re told this is her first complaint and her first complaint notebook as Se-ra’s lip quivers.
I think Chairman Jo has a sympathetic story, but damn does he make it hard to like him. He was already working towards politics when the accident happened, and I can understand him clinging to them in the wake of tragedy – one thing that he refused to give up when something precious was ripped away. Unfortunately, the things he should’ve clung to were his wife, living son, and honoring his dead son. Right now, it would seem Gong-myung’s mother left when Chairman Jo sold his soul to Party Leader Choi instead of joining the outcry of the rest of the families over the flippant response from the Sarang Resort after so many lives were lost.
It’s possible it was simply a horrific accident, but the suspicious way the Aeguk Party and Sarang Resort were anxious to bury the incident suggests possible foul play. I may be sniffing for conspiracies, but it’s hard not to when politics are such a shady business by nature. Regardless, the handling of the aftermath of the fire was a grotesque lack of empathy. The same goes for Chief Won upon discovering the land contained astronomical levels of toxins… and deciding to go ahead, anyway. It’s infuriating to watch people place political aspirations ahead of other people’s lives and sets appropriately high stakes heading into the final battle. Something I’ve loved about the conflicts in this show is how they relate. No incident is entirely isolated, nor does it just affect one person or group. Everything is interconnected and creates a chain-reaction of events.
Chairman Jo’s actions 18 years ago are still having an impact today and unfortunately, it would seem rather than trying to correct his mistakes, he’s doubling down. It’s a common reaction – as humans we dislike admitting when we’re wrong – and that’s what makes Se-ra so special. She insists on holding everyone accountable for their mistakes, even herself. She’s flawed, but that doesn’t stop her from trying her best to do the right thing and it makes for such an inspiring heroine because she’s just an average person but she’s making a difference that all of us can make simply by insisting to be heard. My dad always says: “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” and Se-ra proves that with her dogged approach to addressing issues everyone else seems happy to ignore.
As a Beanie pointed out last recap, I goofed while covering the incident at Gong-myung’s and I’m glad it was revisited in this episode with Dad talking to Se-ra – the reason Se-ra was so adamant about leaving and why Gong-myung was so emotional was her abject refusal to leave without him. Se-ra recognized Gong-myung needed her most and despite his and her parents’ protestations, she was going to stay with him. It was truly touching because really, Gong-myung has been alone all this time. After his brother died, he left Se-ra to live with his mother… only for her to die some time later.
To lose his most precious people at such a young age explains why Gong-myung began holding everyone at a distance and is likely the reason he was reluctant to let Se-ra in again – fearing he couldn’t take it if he did and they were separated again. It just makes me love their relationship even more and I was sobbing along with Dad when Gong-myung said he’d miss Mom and Dad welcoming him home. He hasn’t experienced familial warmth in so long and every time Mom is sweet to him, it just yanks on my heartstrings.
I love all these characters and was so excited by the reveal Hee-soo voted to keep Se-ra. It shows some growth in Hee-soo as well as the duplicitous nature of Assemblyman Bong. My affection for him as the upright mentor from previous works was so effectively deceptive that while I’d been anticipating a twist, his one-on-one with Gong-myung was jarring. I’m not sure where he feels he has the right to tell Gong-myung what to do, let alone tell him not to help Se-ra, but he even seemed to be threatening Gong-myung with his identity. I love Gong-myung flat out telling Bong he’s the one who should stop trying to manipulate Se-ra, which is exactly what it felt like when Bong told her to come up with a backup plan. He wanted her to expose the issue, knowing that in doing so she’d draw fire. It shows anyone can be two-faced without being evil. All of the characters inhabit varying hues of that gray area and it’s so human that I’m continually impressed. Cheers to making it this far, y’all and fingers crossed this drama does us all proud in the finale!