Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha: Episode 15
Our handyman’s past has finally caught up to him, and we learn just how heavy a load he’s been carrying all this time. Get your tissue boxes ready for this one – there are many tears to be shed and many hidden heartaches to be laid bare.
EPISODE 15 RECAP
Do-ha attacks Doo-shik, screaming that it’s Doo-shik’s fault his father became paralyzed. The others have to drag him off Doo-shik, who takes in all the horrified faces around him and slowly gets up to stagger away. Hye-jin follows, despite him telling her not to. She’s sure there must have been a misunderstanding, but Doo-shik says Do-ha was right: it was his fault. And what’s more, he also destroyed the family in the photo by killing the father. Stunned, Hye-jin lets him go.
Doo-shik barely makes it home and sinks to the floor. Suddenly, he grabs his chest and gropes his way to the kitchen, where he swallows a handful of pills and sits back down on the floor to catch his breath. Hye-jin also sits in stunned silence at home until Mi-sun gets back. She asks if Hye-jin is okay, and Hye-jin bursts into tears, unsure what to think now.
The next day, Geum-chul, Nam-sook, and Chun-jae struggle to keep up with all their work without Doo-shik to help them. But they’re more worried about Doo-shik than they are upset, and they all emphatically declare their belief in his innocence. Meanwhile, Gam-ri leaves a meal just inside Doo-shik’s door, and we see Doo-shik still sitting huddled up on the kitchen floor.
Sung-hyun sees Ji-won talking to that other director and rushes over to separate them, telling her the Gongjin footage has disappeared. Ji-won runs off to check, and Sung-hyun stares the other director down before following. But, of course, nothing happened to the footage – he just wanted to get her away from the other director. He asks her not to talk work with other men, and when she asks if he minds her talking to other men about non-work stuff, his eyes bug out. But while she waits anxiously for his answer, Do-ha pokes his head in to ask Sung-hyun for a word, and Ji-won tells Sung-hyun to just go.
In private, Do-ha apologizes to Sung-hyun for his behavior at the after party. Sung-hyun knows he must have had a reason, and asks what happened, so Do-ha tells him the story: Doo-shik had convinced his father to invest in a fund he was managing at the company they both worked for. Do-ha’s father had even taken out a loan to do so, but then stock prices plummeted, along with Doo-shik’s fund. Do-ha’s father had attempted suicide in despair. Sung-hyun apologizes for working him so hard without knowing his story, but Do-ha says it gave him something to hold onto, since he could take care of his father. Then he reveals that his father wasn’t the only one affected: Doo-shik’s boss had died in a car accident that same day. Judging by Sung-hyun’s face, that’s enough for him to put two and two together.
Mi-sun does some digging, and shows Hye-jin an article about Doo-shik and Jung-woo, and Hye-jin recognizes the latter as the man Doo-shik claimed he’d killed. Sung-hyun works late into the night trying to edit his show, but he can’t stop thinking about the day Jung-woo had died and he’d rushed to the hospital to be with Sun-ah.
While Hwa-jung is cutting up kimchi, Young-guk walks in and attempts to sneak up on her. Of course, that’s a terrible idea, and she spins around, knife in hand, making him fall to the floor in alarm. They bicker over who startled whom more, and when he explains he just wanted to surprise her with a backhug, she pauses a beat and then tells him to go ahead. They both giggle as he does, and Yi-joon walks in on them right as Young-guk is making her laugh with a silly voice.
Cut to: Yi-joon staring blankly while they kneel on the floor in front of him. Hwa-jung says outright that they’ve decided to get back together, and Young-guk adds that they had been living separately due to a misunderstanding that has now been reconciled. Yi-joon asks if they’ll get married again, and they exchange surprised glances before stammering out a yes. Yi-joon just kind of nods, all, Okay, got it. Can I go play with Bora now?
Gam-ri sighs to see that Doo-shik hadn’t touched the food she left, and replaces the sweet potatoes with fresh corn. Meanwhile, Hye-jin’s friend with the job offer calls to ask about her decision, and Hye-jin says she hasn’t made up her mind yet. Her friend warns her not to wait too long. Gam-ri drops by just then with some of her corn, and they chat about her teeth. Gam-ri happily says she’s been enjoying all the squid she can eat, then gets serious and tells Hye-jin about Doo-shik not eating.
Sung-hyun decides they need a little more Gongjin scenery footage. He tells Do-ha he doesn’t have to go, but Do-ha insists he can set his personal feelings aside.
When Yi-joon hasn’t come home by nightfall, Young-guk calls Bora to ask about him. But Yi-joon left her place hours ago. Young-guk and Hwa-jung rush out with flashlights to look for him, and Bora and her parents join them. Bora finds Yi-joon first, where he’s just fallen off a pull-up bar and is crying his eyes out. She tries to cheer him up with ghost stories, and urges him to come home, but he doesn’t want to.
Before he can explain why, the parents find them, and Hwa-jung gathers him in her arms as Young-guk scolds him for scaring them. Hwa-jung asks if he’s upset with her or uncomfortable with the idea of them all living together again. But, through his tears, Yi-joon says he’s not upset – he’s so happy he can’t seem to stop crying, and he didn’t want to upset them with his tears. Awww, baby. They tell him he doesn’t need to worry about their feelings over his own, and Yi-joon cries even harder as he admits he always wanted to eat together as a family even when it wasn’t a special occasion, and to all live together again. Young-guk says they’ll go home and eat together right now. Off to the side, Bora sobs to her parents that she wants to eat with Yi-joon every day and live with him so he’ll never be lonely.
Hye-jin goes over to Doo-shik’s house. She brings Gam-ri’s food basket inside and sets it on the coffee table in front of Doo-shik (who’s now sitting on the couch). She tries to sound cheerful as she says she’ll cook him a meal and then let him have his privacy, but he finally looks up and says he’s ready to tell her his story. She sits with him as he relays the story of becoming roommates and then best friends with Jung-woo in college.
Jung-woo had convinced him to work for his company because as a fund manager, he could give people hope. While working there, he’d become close with Do-ha’s father, who had insisted on investing in the fund despite Doo-shik’s warnings about the risk – and made other reckless choices without Doo-shik knowing, leaving him in even worse debt when everything fell apart. Doo-shik had promised to help him, but had ignored his call while trying to sort out the overall mess, and that was the day Do-ha’s father attempted suicide. Distraught to the point of hysteria, all Doo-shik had been able to think of was going to him. But he’d been in no condition to drive, and Jung-woo had taken the wheel instead. While comforting Doo-shik, Jung-woo hadn’t been watching the road closely, and they were hit by a truck, killing Jung-woo.
After hearing the story, Hye-jin pulls Doo-shik into a hug and tells him it’s okay to cry. She knows he’s been holding it in all this time, but he doesn’t need to hide his pain from her. Doo-shik breaks down in her arms.
On the way to Gongjin, Sung-hyun and Do-ha reminisce about how Sung-hyun getting lost on the way to their original film site was the reason they ended up choosing Gongjin instead. Sung-hyun muses that they must have been meant to meet Doo-shik, and explains his relation to Jung-woo as Seon-ah’s cousin. He also tells Do-ha that Doo-shik had been on the way to see his (Do-ha’s) father the night of the car accident.
Cho-hee goes to see Hwa-jung for some porridge, since she’s gotten her wisdom tooth taken out. Having worked up the courage to go through the procedure, she’s also ready to confess that it was Hwa-jung she’d had a crush on, not Young-guk. But Hwa-jung has known all along, and says she sensed it from the way Cho-hee looked at her. With a gentle smile, she says that even though she couldn’t return Cho-hee’s romantic feelings, she liked – and likes – her as a person. Tearing up, Cho-hee thanks her for keeping the secret and accepting her as she was. All she wants now is for Hwa-jung and Young-guk to be happy.
While filming, Sung-hyun catches Do-ha spacing out and tells him to go take care of the “hangnail” that’s eating him up. So Do-ha goes over to Doo-shik’s. He admits he’d pictured Doo-shik living shamelessly and preying on other people, and Doo-shik sincerely apologizes. Do-ha asks if Doo-shik was the one who’d paid his father’s hospital bills and his student loan. A flashback reveals Doo-shik had sold everything he owned to do so, and borne all of Do-ha’s mother’s bitterness as she’d accused him of paying her off.
Do-ha asks if he thought money could fix it, but Doo-shik says he did it because the last time he spoke to Do-ha’s father, he’d mentioned wanting to buy Do-ha a suit to wear for job interviews. This was Doo-shik’s way of fulfilling that wish. Do-ha cries, recalling his father blaming every failed interview on his old, worn-out suit. But Doo-shik says his father was constantly bragging about him. Do-ha finally confesses he knew it wasn’t Doo-shik’s fault – he just needed someone to blame.
The next morning, Doo-shik puts on the suit Jung-woo bought him, and he and Hye-jin head out with flowers for Jung-woo. On the way, they meet Sun-ah, who smiles sadly and encourages her son to say hello to Doo-shik. The boy is confused because she calls him “uncle” but he isn’t Sung-hyun, so she reminds him how Doo-shik used to hold and dote on him. Doo-shik cries as the little boy talks about his favorite dinosaurs, and gives him a tender hug.
They leave the flowers on a rock at the beach, and while Hye-jin plays in the sand with the little boy, Doo-shik and Sun-ah sit a little ways off to talk. Sun-ah tells him that Sung-hyun told her he was here, explaining that the two of them are cousins. After a pause, she says she won’t apologize for her words back then. When Jung-woo died, her world had stopped, and she hadn’t thought she could go on. But she slowly regained her will to live. She’s also come to let go of her bitterness towards Doo-shik, and tells him he should forgive himself, too.
Doo-shik watches tearfully as she stands and walks over to join her son and Hye-jin. A vision of Jung-woo sits beside him, teasing him about crying. Doo-shik tells the imaginary Jung-woo that he missed him horribly and apologizes, but Jung-woo tells him it wasn’t his fault – the same words he’d said right before the accident. He tells Doo-shik to live on – for his own sake and not just for Jung-woo’s – and they can meet again and go fishing once Doo-shik has done everything he wants to in the whole world.
Now that filming has concluded, Gam-ri moves back into her house, and the other two grannies help her clean up.
That night, Hye-jin and Doo-shik sit by the waterfront. Hye-jin remarks that they didn’t quite make it to Jung-woo’s grave, but Doo-shik is sure he’ll understand. Hye-jin says it’s nice to see him smile again, and tells him he doesn’t need to think about whether it’s okay for him to smile and be happy – he should just let himself feel his true emotions. He looks at her with gratitude, and then slowly confesses that after Jung-woo’s death, he’d gone out to a bridge over Han River, intending to jump off. But he’d gotten a text from Gam-ri at that moment saying she was in Seoul and wanted to bring him some food. He says that Gam-ri and Gongjin had saved him: even though he locked himself in his house, the villagers kept knocking on his door and bringing him food, caring for him like a stray cat. Then they switched tactics and started asking him to help them out with various problems, and that’s how he came to be Chief Hong.
With a smile, Hye-jin says she understands now why he loves Gongjin so much. He apologizes for taking so long to tell her, but she thanks him for finding the courage to open up. Suddenly, Doo-shik remembers that she had something she wanted to tell him before all of this blew up. When she hesitates, he says she doesn’t have to tell him until she’s ready – now it’s his turn to wait for her. But Hye-jin comes straight out and says she’s been offered a job, and he guesses it must be in Seoul.
The grannies stay the night with Gam-ri, and get sentimental thinking about growing older. Gam-ri says she likes it, though, because of all the wonderful things and people she’s seen throughout her life, and all the fun things she’s done. “Look around yourself closely,” she says, eyes drooping heavier with sleep, “and you’ll realize that you’re surrounded by many precious things. Every day is full of such excitement, as if I’m going on a picnic the next day.” The other two laugh and make plans to go on a picnic tomorrow.
Later in the night, Sook-ja rolls over on top of Mat-yi. Mat-yi complains loudly, wondering how Gam-ri can sleep through this, only to realize that Gam-ri has passed. She gently covers her up with the blanket, and tells her tearfully to enjoy the picnic and wait for them to join her some other time.
On the night Doo-shik had been out on the bridge, Hye-jin had been driving by and spotted him (of course not knowing him at the time). She’d pulled over to call an ambulance for him, and waited in her car until it arrived and he was taken back to the hospital.
Go ahead, show – just take all my remaining tears, if there are any.
Doo-shik’s story was gut-wrenching for a number of reasons. Neither Do-ha’s father attempting suicide nor Jung-woo’s death were his fault, but I understand how he felt that they were, especially with the two being compounded on top of each other right when he was already at his wits’ end. It also makes sense why he grabbed onto the Chief Hong role like the lifeline it was: it gave him a chance to start completely over, an excuse and a means to bury the past deep inside and not let anyone in to see it, and a whole new life to enjoy instead of wallowing in the one he’d lost. But it was always a façade, and he would never have been able to heal if he’d kept his grief and guilt locked away forever.
You know what? I think I’m going to return to my very first impression of this show, and choose to agree with Sung-hyun that – within the story – there was a bit of fate involved in all this. Something about Gongjin draws people together in such a way that they’re forced to confront, deal with, and heal from their past traumas and heartaches. But for some people, the process took longer, or needed chain reactions of sorts to work themselves out. (Think of little Yi-joon, who wasn’t really given the tools to voice his inner feelings until his parents had worked through their own issues enough to see his suffering. Or Do-ha learning Doo-shik’s name being the catalyst to finally force all of Doo-shik’s carefully buried secrets out into the open.) How else do you explain Sung-hyun getting lost and ending up in that exact place, hmm?
At the end of the day, I’ve had my share of frustrations with this show as well as moments when it hit all the right notes, and I’d rather dwell on the brighter side when I can. Of course, the ending could always undermine everything I like about it, but as of right now, I’m hopeful that won’t be the case.
Maybe I was too busy crying to focus much on anything else, but I really only had a couple of small complaints about this episode. I liked Hye-jin giving Doo-shik space but being there when he was ready to talk, and assuring him he didn’t need to put up a strong front for her. I loved the beach scene, and I couldn’t hate Sun-ah despite the awful things she said to Doo-shik at Jung-woo’s funeral. I even liked the scenes with Young-guk and Hwa-jung, now that they actually seem to like each other. I do wish Sung-hyun would just be honest with Ji-won about his feelings, though he did have other things to think about this episode, for sure. (But was it really necessary to end the episode like that, show? Right when Doo-shik is finally able to smile again, did you have to take Gam-ri from him too?)
I’m still not sure exactly what kind of conclusion we’re heading toward. Will Hye-jin learn to stop living for others’ approval? Will that entail settling down in Gongjin permanently or pursuing her own interests back in Seoul? Will Doo-shik decide he wants to return to Seoul with her now that he’s resolved some of his pain, or will he continue to embrace the life he’s built in Gongjin? Will we ever find out who won the lottery? How many more chance meetings did Hye-jin and Doo-shik have before that day she lost her shoes on the beach?
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