Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha: Episode 16 (Final)
The villagers bid a final goodbye to one of their own, but with every ending comes a new beginning. While professional success awaits some, our seaside couples take a step towards the future and their happily-ever-afters.
EPISODE 16 RECAP
Hye-jin arrives at Gam-ri’s house and tearfully pays her respects to Gam-ri’s family and portrait. Doo-shik approaches, and she asks him about the table decorated with photographs of Gam-ri. He explains that Gam-ri had recently attended a wedding where she’d seen a similar arrangement, and knowing her funeral would be her next big shindig, she’d told Doo-shik that she wanted something similar at her funeral to remind her guests to laugh and have a good time.
Her wish was fulfilled because the gathered villagers are enjoying themselves as they eat and swap stories. Doo-shik asks Hye-jin if she wants a bowl of yukgaejang, and she tells him to fill it to the brim. Sung-hyun and Ji-won arrive, and conversation and laughter continues past sunset. Doo-shik and Hye-jin walk Sung-hyun and Ji-won to their car, where they once again offer their condolences to Doo-shik.
When they’re alone, Hye-jin worries that Doo-shik is pretending to be fine. He admits that he’s unsure of his true feelings, suspecting that the weight of Gam-ri’s death has not fully sunk in. It’s as though a part of him still expects her to appear around the corner and call his name, and he confesses that he feels a bit comforted living in denial where he hasn’t fully accepted that she’s gone. Hye-jin takes his hand and silently consoles him.
Doo-shik approaches Gam-ri’s son Won-seok after the guests leave. Won-seok asks Doo-shik if Gam-ri was well in her final days, and Doo-shik assures him that she was full of laughter and happiness. Won-seok admits he took the time he had left with his mother for granted, and now that she’s gone, he regrets not paying for her dental implants. Doo-shik reveals that she was able to get her implants and eat all her favorite foods before her death, which makes Won-seok happy. It also reminds him that Gam-ri always placed his needs before her own, just as he does with his own child.
He feels guilty, hating himself for not making her more of a priority, and Doo-shik insists that Gam-ri would want him to live a good life. She was always proud of her son, her reason for living. Doo-shik’s words make Won-seok sob and call out for his mother. Doo-shik comforts him, fighting back his own tears. The next day, Won-seok leads the funeral procession through Gongjin, and the villagers follow him to Gam-ri’s final resting place.
Mat-yi looks around Gam-ri’s house as though she’s expecting Gam-ri to appear in the doorway. Sook-ja arrives and Mat-yi tells her that Won-seok isn’t going to sell Gam-ri’s house. Together the grannies wonder how Gam-ri is doing in the afterlife, and they’re confident that she’s the prettiest one there.
Sook-ja makes Mat-yi promise to be around for a long time because she will be bored without her. “Won’t you be happy that I’m not around to scold you?” Mat-yi asks, but Sook-ja tells her to scold her and make fun of her all she wants as long as she promises to not to leave her alone. They lock pinkies, crying as they mourn their friend.
Without Gam-ri around, Doo-shik makes too much soap out of habit. He offers some to Hye-jin when she arrives, but she’s there to ensure he eats. As she makes herself comfortable in his kitchen, Hye-jin boasts that she memorized a recipe and opens the refrigerator. Inside she finds the corn from Gam-ri — Doo-shik hasn’t had the heart to throw out. There’s a letter from Gam-ri tucked inside the bowl and she hands it to Doo-shik, advising him to mourn fully or else the grief will travel through his whole body and later explode.
As they read the letter, we hear Gam-ri’s voice as she instructs Doo-shik to eat even when life gets hard. Over the years, Gam-ri had cooked for Doo-shik as a way to comfort his broken heart because parents want to see their kids happy and healthy, too, and Gam-ri considers Doo-shik her son and grandson. She doesn’t like seeing him locked away in his house, so she hopes he will eat her food and return to living among people.
Doo-shik recalls asking Gam-ri if the reason she never accepted his money was because he wasn’t family. He chokes up when he points out that she called him her son and grandson in the letter. Hye-jin hugs him as the dam breaks and he finally lets all of his sadness escape.
In a voiceover, Hye-jin explains that this was the first time that Doo-shik truly allowed himself to cry and properly mourn his lost loved ones. The rest of the town mourns Gam-ri in their own way, too. As the other villagers go about their daily lives, we see each of them pause meaningfully as they are reminded of Gam-ri. With a small smile, Doo-shik places a photo of him and Gam-ri next to the picture of his grandfather.
One month later, Sung-hyun and his crew are in the editing room, which is a mess of candy wrappers and banana peels. Do-ha calls Ji-won out for her unwashed hair, but she jabs back by pointing out his equally oily locks. Sung-hyun announces that they have finally finished editing the last episode of The Seaside Grasshopper, and they all rejoice.
Ji-won clutches her stomach as a wave of gastric pain hits her. She refuses Sung-hyun’s offers to go to the hospital, so he escorts her to the lounge, where he pulls out some medication and a heating pad from his bottomless Mary Poppins bag. Ji-won is touched by his attentiveness, but she sobers and asks him to stop being so nice. She has romantic feelings for him, and she’s tired of getting her hopes up, which is why she can no longer work with him. She leaves and abandons the pharmacy supplies on the couch.
Doo-shik knocks on Hye-jin’s bedroom door and asks if she has finished packing. We are led to believe that she is leaving for the job opportunity Seoul, but then Mi-sun pops her head into the room and teases Hye-jin for bringing so much to a three-day seminar. (Ha! Misdirect!)
Flashback to the night Hye-jin told Doo-shik about the job offer in Seoul. He tells her to take it since it’s such a great opportunity, but she no longer wants to return to Seoul. He worries that she’s staying in Gongjin because of him, and Hye-jin is offended that he would assume she’d base her career decisions on a man. She has her own reasons for staying. Back in the present, Hye-jin asks Doo-shik if she is packing too much. He confirms that she’s packing the right amount if she wants to wear fifteen outfits a day. “Exactly!” she says, “It’s doable for me.”
At the coffee house, Mi-sun digs through her purse for her lottery ticket. When she finds it, she asks Eun-chul to look up this week’s winning numbers. As she reads the numbers out one-by-one, she realizes that they’re a match! She jumps up and begins screaming her excitement, but Eun-chul awkwardly bursts her bubble and explains that he accidentally pulled up last week’s numbers. Mi-sun collapses in despair.
Eun-chul is curious to know what she would do with the money if she had won the lottery, and she answers she would buy a house for them to live in some day. Eun-chul grabs her hand and leads her to a spot overlooking the ocean. He asks if she thinks it’s a good location for building a house. She loves it, but she’s dejected that she doesn’t have the money for it.
Eun-chul hands her his bank book, and she gapes at all the zeros. He’s the mystery lottery winner! When he was still studying to be a police officer, Yoon-kyung asked him to cover the register at her store, and he filled one out while waiting for her to return. It was his first time playing the lottery, and he surprisingly won.
Mi-sun notices all the withdrawals from the account, and Eun-chul explains that they were all charity donations. He wanted to be a police officer and help make the world a better place, so he’d made the donations to aid in his philanthropy. Mi-sun is in awe of how cool he is, but he worries that she’s disappointed he donated so much of the money. She admits to being dejected for about three seconds, but she cannot think poorly of someone so kind and generous. Plus, a man diligent enough to become a police officer after winning the lottery is capable of anything; he could even build a house with his bare hands.
She flips the page of the bank book and sees the remaining balance. It’s not enough to buy the land and build their own house, but he asks for her opinion of the home on the other side of the bay. She tells him that she would spend a hundred years there with the man she loves, and they embrace.
Hye-jin has a hard time parting with Doo-shik as he carries her luggage to her car. She considers canceling her trip, but Doo-shik reminds her that she’s the presenter. She invites him to come with her, but he has a long list of odd jobs lined up. Hye-jin uses aegyo to try and coax him into joining her, and he’s equally pouty as he reaffirms his reasons for staying behind. Hwa-jung and Nam-sook stumble across the couple and nearly gag at their overly affectionate parting.
Nam-sook follows Hwa-jung to her restaurant and tries to convince her to join her at the sauna. Hwa-jung isn’t interested, so when Cho-hee arrives, Nam-sook is suspicious that they’re going to have fun without her. Hwa-jung’s phone rings, and after a brief call, Hwa-jung — literally — runs to meet Young-guk. Nam-sook and Cho-hee watch her sprint off, and Cho-hee yells that she hopes Hwa-jung has a good date.
Hwa-jung meets Young-guk at his office, which has been renamed the Administration and Welfare Center (a.k.a. the AW Center). Young-guk tells Hwa-jung that he wants to be her personal AW Center, open 24/7 to answer her requests and complaints. Trying not to smile, she doubts he will be able to handle her complaints, but he tells her to “bring it on.”
He then gives the same tonics that she’d once given him, explaining that the only presents he could think of were items that were good for her health; he wants to grow old and happy with her. She downs one of the tonics and compliments her personal AW Center for his service, admitting that she’s definitely happier. Young-guk is on the verge of crying, but Hwa-jung orders him to stop. He’s unable to keep his tears in check, so Hwa-jung lets him lean on her shoulder.
At the convenience store, Geum-chul fawns over Yoon-kyung, refusing to let her exert herself. He tries to show off his manly lifting muscles, but he trips and drops the boxes he’s carrying. Yoon-kyung unleashes a slew of curse words, causing Geum-chul to miss the days when she was pregnant. Realizing there’s a potential solution, he asks Yoon-kyung if she wants a third child.
The sound of Yoon-kyung beating Geum-chul can be heard outside, where Bora and Yi-joon play the honeycomb game. Unfortunately, Bora’s shattered dalgona indicates she wouldn’t last long competing in Squid Game, but patient Yi-joon successfully carves out the heart from the center of his candy. He offers his heart — both literally and figuratively — to Bora, but all she sees is candy. Yi-joon pouts as she munches on the treat, but his happiness is restored when she suggests that they go visit Seumseum.
Sung-hyun arrives in Gongjin and honks his horn when he sees Doo-shik, who’s annoyed by Sung-hyun’s frequent visits. Sung-hyun claims he’s in town for lunch, specifically some of Doo-shik’s chicken porridge soup. Doo-shik tells Sung-hyun that he can either settle for pizza or hit the road and arrive back in Seoul in time for dinner. As they place their pizza order through the app, Sung-hyun admits he’s surprised that they have become such good friends. Doo-shik denies being “good” friends, but the bromance is undeniably strong as they swap pizza toppings.
After lunch, Doo-shik tells Sung-hyun to cut to the chase and explain why he’s really in town. Sung-hyun confesses that he’d always wanted to keep Ji-won by his side as a writer, but now that she is leaving, he’s going to miss her for non-professional reasons. He’s hesitant to act on his feelings for fear of losing her completely, but Doo-shik scolds him for being unnecessarily cautious. Doo-shik is called away to a job, and Sung-hyun lingers to look at photos of Ji-won on his phone.
In Seoul, Hye-jin meets her stepmother for lunch. Stepmom asks if Doo-shik is doing well, and Hye-jin says that he’s fine, promising to bring him next time she visits Seoul. Stepmom recalls the first time she met Hye-jin. She’d been so nervous at first, but then Hye-jin had praised her braised potatoes. The rest of the meal had been awkward, but Stepmom had realized that being part of their family and sharing a meal together would be nice. Meaningfully, she reminds Hye-jin that their family has four chairs around their dinner table.
As Doo-shik eats dinner alone, he imagines Hye-jin in his house, pulling books from his shelf and trying to convince him to open one of his homemade liquors. Realizing how empty his house is without her there, he admits he misses her like crazy.
The next day Doo-shik is so preoccupied with thoughts of Hye-jin during his shift at the coffee house that he pours hot water on the counter instead of over the coffee grounds. As Chun-jae rushes to help clean up the mess, Doo-shik gets a text that causes his eyes to grow wide. He rips off his apron, and Chun-jae burns his fingers on the hot water cup that Doo-shik shoves into his hands. Hye-jin is back in town! When he sees her, he sweeps her up into a hug and twirls her around.
That night Hye-jin announces she is going to marry Doo-shik. Unfazed, Mi-sun reveals that she plans to get married to Eun-chul next spring, too, so Hye-jin better catch her bouquet. “No,” Hye-jin clarifies, “I’m going to propose tomorrow.” Mi-sun wonders why Hye-jin is rushing it, and Hye-jin explains that she hates seeing Doo-shik all alone. She wants to be his family.
Mi-sun is surprised that Hye-jin is acting so grown up but cautions her friend that he might reject her proposal, especially if it isn’t a good one. Hye-jin wants her proposal to be meaningful, something he will never forget, but she can’t think of anything. Mi-sun advises her to go back to the basics and recall their shared memories, which immediately sparks Hye-jin’s inspiration.
Hye-jin summons Doo-shik to the beach with a text, and he finds her sitting where they first met the day she came to Gongjin and lost her shoe. She has those shoes displayed in front of her, and they laugh as Hye-jin reminds him of how they’d butted heads the whole day. She places a pair of men’s shoes next to her heels, and says that she would like it if their shoes always walked side-by-side together. She then asks him to marry her.
His response is an immediate “no,” but not because he doesn’t want to marry her. He runs his hands through his hair as an anxious Hye-jin wonders what’s wrong. Finally he pulls out a jewelry box and explains that he was planning to propose today, too, but she beat him to it. Hye-jin tells him to think of it as a relay race. She went first, and now she’s passing off the baton for him to cross the finish line.
Doo-shik gives it a try, retelling the day they met from his perspective. While it may have been her worst day, he recalls seeing a sad woman on the beach who he couldn’t stop thinking about. He opens the jewelry box and reveals a familiar-looking necklace — the one she bought during their Seoul date, then sold. Doo-shik explains that he worked 637 hours to earn the money for it, so she better not sell this one.
He finishes his proposal by saying he wants to live in a house where everything is in pairs: two shoes by the door, two toothbrushes in the bathroom, and two aprons in the kitchen. They exchange “I love yous,” but as they kiss the tide comes in and steals one of Doo-shik’s new shoes. They run into the ocean to rescue it.
Doo-shik emerges from his bathroom to find Hye-jin drafting a marriage agreement that outlines who will be responsible for what household chores. They agree she’s a hazard in the kitchen, so she offers to take care of his teeth if he does the cooking and dishes. He accepts, and they also determine she will handle the laundry while he does the cleaning.
Now that they’re engaged, Doo-shik wonders if it is time for Hye-jin to stop calling him Chief Hong. She tries calling him by his first name, but she can’t keep a straight face since it sounds so funny. He suggests Oppa, but they both get chills and agree it’s weird. Finally, she suggests Jagi, which means “oneself,” and Doo-shik approves because it also alludes to how they have, as a couple, become one.
They exchange a few pecks on the lips, but things grow heated. Hye-jin announces that she’s not going home for the night, not that Doo-shik intended to let her leave. He scoops her into his arms and opens the bedroom door with a swoon-worthy kick. The next morning, Doo-shik brings Hye-jin breakfast in bed, where Hye-jin is unable to use her hands because she’s bashfully holding the comforter in place for modesty’s sake.
As Doo-shik feeds her, he reveals that he wants two kids, but he doesn’t care about their gender. She giggles that they should get busy making them, but Doo-shik reminds her that it’s time for the town cleaning. Hye-jin suggests that they play hooky, but Doo-shik won’t let her shirk her responsibilities, not even when she suggests more baby-making activities. They rush out the door and find all the villagers conveniently sweeping outside Doo-shik’s house. They announce their engagement, and everyone cheers.
Ji-won is waiting in the parking garage for a very late Sung-hyun, who shows up looking like a hot mess. Ji-won does her best to make him look more presentable for his meeting, and he admits that he is going to be lost without her. He invites her out to eat, just the two of them, to discuss his next show topic. She doesn’t understand his intentions, so he clarifies that he wants to eat, play, and work with her. Not knowing how to respond, she rushes him to his meeting, but she smiles to herself as she parks his car for him.
Joo-ri reads a review of The Seashore Grasshopper to the villagers who have gathered to watch the premiere. Sung-hyun — much to Doo-shik’s annoyance — has traveled all the way from Seoul to watch it with them because they are the unsung heroes of the show. Those who made a guest appearance aren’t mentally prepared to see themselves act foolish on television, but they are more amiable when Mat-yi reminds them that they will be able to see Gam-ri.
The next day, Chun-jae reads that the show’s ratings were in the double-digits. His phone rings, and it’s someone from a Seoul television network inviting him to be a guest on their show. He’s so shocked that he asks Joo-ri to pinch his cheeks, and her forceful grip confirms he isn’t dreaming. He tells her the good news, and she excitedly asks if DOS will be on the show, too. In a voiceover, Doo-shik reveals that The Seashore Grasshopper helped Chun-jae become a singer again and increased local tourism.
In Seoul, Ji-won asks Sung-hyun about his next idea, and he reveals that he wants to do a dating show about non-celebrities to see if a romance can form between couples who have been in the friendzone for years. “Like us?” Ji-won asks, and that’s exactly what Sung-hyun has in mind. Do-ha joins them and happily shares that his father walked for the first time with leg braces.
Doo-shik is tinkering with his camera when Hye-jin emerges from the bedroom wearing a wedding dress. She twirls, and he’s awestruck. He’s surprised that she doesn’t want to take their wedding photos in Seoul where they will have the actual ceremony, but Hye-jin reveals their wedding concept is “harmony,” a combination of glamor and simplicity. Plus, she wanted the photos to be taken in Gongjin, where they met and will continue to live.
Nam-sook spots them as they leave Doo-shik’s house, and despite their protests, she insists on being their helper. The couple’s entourage grows as they run into more villagers and are escorted to the lighthouse, where the villagers encourage them to kiss for their next photograph. Doo-shik whispers to Hye-jin that they should run on the count of three, and they escape to his grandfather’s boat, which Hye-jin learns was named after his grandmother. Thinking Doo-shik could learn a thing or two from his romantic grandfather, Hye-jin points to an unobtrusive spot on the boat and asks if she can write her name there in small letters.
He tells her to write it in a big, bold font instead, and she smiles that she will be at the front of the boat making sure he has a clear path. He runs with the metaphor, saying that life won’t always be smooth sailing; they’ll experience wind, waves, and maybe even typhoons. “But,” Hye-jin finishes, “it won’t matter as long as we‘re in the same boat.”
Doo-shik sets the timer on his camera and they take a series of wedding photos, but their photoshoot is hijacked again when both their phones ring. There’s a combination dental and handyman emergency. A closeup of Doo-shik’s feet as he prepares to run reveals he’s wearing the shoes Hye-jin bought him, and when she hikes up her wedding dress, she’s wearing her heels. Hye-jin tosses her bouquet, and together they run towards the village — and their future — hand-in-hand.
If Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha was a romance novel, then the finale would be the epilogue to the entire story, providing a little peek into everyone’s happily-ever-after. For a sugary sweet rom-com, it felt like an appropriate conclusion and a nice little reprieve from reality, even if part of me does roll my eyes a bit at how unrealistically perfectly everything wrapped up.
Let’s begin with our OTP, who in true romance novel fashion got engaged after knowing and dating each other for less than six months. But it’s okay because, you know, they had at least three (if you include Hye-jin calling an ambulance for the suicidal Doo-shik) random encounters when they were younger to indicate that they were destined for each other. Rushed, albeit super romantic, proposal aside, I do have a huge appreciation for this couple’s playfulness. It’s very common in dramas and other romance media for the main pairing to be pushed together by external factors, and while we did see a little bit of that (thanks to the two town perverts) for the most part Hye-jin and Doo-shik had a chemistry that naturally evolved from bickering to flirtatious banter. Doo-shik is the type who enjoys pulling the metaphorical pigtails on the people he likes the most, and Hye-jin — and bromance partner Sung-hyun — shine when they have a verbal sparring partner to keep them on their toes.
Our opposites attract couple Mi-sun and Eun-chul may not have gotten engaged this episode, but we can trust Mi-sun to follow through on spring wedding plans. I can’t say that I’m surprised that Eun-chul was the lottery winner because — let’s be real here — he’s the only one in that town capable of keeping his mouth shut. It was heartwarming to see that he’d donated the money, but I also admire Mi-sun’s honesty when she admits she was briefly disappointed. Even the most altruistic people can have moments of greediness, so I like that her response remained true to her character and reality.
And then there were our two friendzoned couples. The epilogue wants me to believe that Hwa-jung and Young-guk are happily together for good, but I have a hard time buying that Young-guk’s epiphany made him appreciate Hwa-jung and realize he’d loved her all along. Honestly, they seem like two parents who are staying together for their child, but maybe I feel this way because I’m more invested in Yi-joon and view their relationship through their connection as his parents rather than as romantic partners. It doesn’t help that I feel like Hwa-jung and Cho-hee had the most chemistry among any of the pairings in that love triangle, and I wonder what the story would have been like if the reason for their divorce had been that Hwa-jung also carried a torch for Cho-hee.
I don’t quite buy Sung-hyun and Ji-won as a couple either, but mostly because Ji-won felt like a consolation prize. It’s as though the writers looked at Sung-hyun and said, “Sorry, you can’t have the lead female, but how about this woman over here who has conveniently been a part of your life this whole time!” However, if I ignore Sung-hyun’s crush on Hye-jin, I find them a very believable couple, and I wish they had gotten more screen time so their romance evolved less passively.
There was more to this drama than romance though, and Gongjin was as much a character in the show as the people living there. Youth and old age were a recurring theme that was reflected in the social and economic status of Gongjin. The drama began with a young dentist uprooting her life to move to a seaside village with an aging population. As time passed, Hye-jin and her friends from Seoul brought change to Gongjin, and the village began to thrive with new life, both literally with the birth of a baby and metaphorically in the form of multiple pairings to symbolize new beginnings. And thanks to The Seaside Grasshopper, Gongjin also saw an increase in tourism.
If Hye-jin was a metaphor for the future of Gongjin, then it’s fitting that the series ended with Gam-ri’s death. She and her halmoni friends symbolized the old Gongjin, the village that was dying without a younger generation and tourism to keep it afloat. But to borrow Hye-jin’s metaphor from this episode, life is like a relay race where each generation passes the baton onto the next. With Gam-ri’s passing, the baton was passed on to Hye-jin, Doo-shik, and future generations.
I’m a little sad to say goodbye to Gongjin and the villagers’ antics, but I guess the beauty of happily-ever-afters is that there is no leftover curiosity. I can simply trust that all the characters are thriving in their quaint little seaside village.
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