Our Blues: Episodes 15-16
Loving someone is not always easy, and sometimes factors outside of your control can affect your relationship. Whether it is society’s double standards or a stroke of bad luck, our protagonists realize that life can be cruel and unfair even to kind and diligent people. Though they try to steel themselves from pain and heartache, in the end, to truly love means being vulnerable, too.
EPISODES 15-16 WEECAP: Young-ok, Jung-joon & Young-hee; Choon-hee & Eun-ki
Young-ok and Jung-joon adjust their lives to Young-hee during her short visit, and contrary to his first reaction, Jung-joon welcomes her with warmth and kindness. However, Young-ok warns him to maintain a bit of distance since, eventually, Young-hee will have to return to the care facility and live apart from them.
While hanging out and enjoying some drinks with her friends, Young-hee and Young-ok get into an argument and dredge up old wounds. Young-hee remembers the day her sister abandoned her in the subway, and the revelation leaves the others speechless. Masking her own shock with indifference, Young-ok tells Jung-joon that they have experienced worse days than this.
In bed, Young-ok asks to see her sister’s drawings if she is an artist, but Young-hee keeps her notebooks a secret. She pretends to sleep to avoid more of Young-ok’s questions, so Young-ok whispers goodnight to her and apologizes for leaving her on the subway. Once her sister is asleep, Young-hee gets out of bed and draws her.
Young-hee goes around taking pictures of the Jeju residents for her drawings, but Young-ok tells the others that her sister is lying about being an artist when a few of them make requests. After their excursion, they visit the beach, and Young-hee wonders why Young-ok is sitting by herself instead of playing with the group. Young-ok tells her sister that she likes being alone which is also why she enjoys diving. Young-hee asks if she likes the ocean because she is not there, but Young-ok does not answer her. Oof…
The three of them head out for lunch, and at the restaurant, a young boy stares at Young-hee and mocks her. Though Young-hee tells him to stop, the boy continues his taunts, so Young-ok confronts the parents and asks them to discipline their son. When the child refuses, voices are raised, and the parents direct their complaints at Young-ok’s table. Jung-joon steps in when the husband gets confrontational, and the staff intervene to cool off both parties.
On the walk home, Young-hee brings up the idea of living in Jeju with them, and Young-ok yells at her for mentioning such a ridiculous idea. That night, Young-hee stays outside to give her sister some space and paints with the supplies Jung-joon bought her. Trying to act as a mediator, Jung-joon cautiously broaches the topic of living with Young-hee, but Young-ok shoots down his suggestion.
Young-ok explains to Jung-joon what life is like for them and the hurdles they face. Growing up, schools denied Young-hee admittance, the nearest special education services was too far, and people stopped the building of one in their neighborhood. Even if Young-ok wants to live with her sister, that dream is impractical. She tells him that Young-hee understands everything as well, and even now, she is listening to their conversation and crying. Overwhelmed with emotions, Young-ok says that life feels so unfair, but she knows that her sister must feel even more frustrated than her.
Jung-joon takes Young-hee to his place for a round of drinks, and for the first time, she shows someone her drawings. He asks when she made all of these, and Young-hee tells him that she drew whenever she was lonely and missed her sister. Holding back his tears, Jung-joon says that Young-ok will love these, and he helps her title her artworks and sign them.
The next day, Young-hee is ready to leave before her sister can tell her to pack and scolds Young-ok for being late. After sending her sister off, Young-ok hangs out at Jung-joon’s bus and finds her sister’s artworks hanging on the walls. There are images of everyone from Jeju, but what catches Young-ok’s eye are the numerous drawings of her, ranging from her childhood to the present.
The latest paintings are images of Young-ok at the beach, and she can no longer hold back her sobs. She crumples to the floor, and Jung-joon waits patiently outside. Sometime in the future, Young-ok asked how her sister learned to draw so well, and she told her that she drew whenever she missed her. At the time, she did not know how to respond because she was too afraid of the answer that might follow.
Of the stories thus far, this felt the most bittersweet because the issue between the two sisters is something beyond their control. No amount of communication or compassion will fix the inherent problems in their situation because the obstacles that deter them exist on an institutional and societal level. Though Young-ok acts aloof and occasionally callous to Young-hee, she loves her and sees her as a unique individual with her own set of challenges and gifts. She thinks life is unfair because no matter what she or Young-hee do, they are set up for failure and undue judgment. She’s condemned for “abandoning” her sister if she leaves her at the care facility, but when she takes her out to places, people stare and grumble about them. In essence, as long as Young-hee is only Young-ok’s “responsibility,” people are fine with them, but once they enter social spaces, people see their differences as an inconvenience.
The show does fall back on some negative language surrounding Down syndrome which doesn’t help the overall message to destigmatize disabilities, but even with this hiccup, I enjoyed this arc and the honest portrayal of their struggles. Young-ok is neither romanticized nor vilified for taking care of her sister in her own way, and Young-hee’s identity is tied to her disability but not consumed by it. The show makes it clear that Young-hee is a wonderful lady who is much more thoughtful than people give her credit for, and her love for Young-ok is evident through her art. Even if it makes her lonely, Young-hee respects her sister’s need for solitude, and in turn, Young-ok realizes the sacrifices her sister makes for her, as well.
The other main pair this week introduces a new character to the show: SOHN EUN-KI (Ki So-yoo). This little girl is the daughter of Choon-hee’s youngest son, which also makes her Choon-hee’s only grandchild. Eun-ki lives in the mainland with her parents who adore her, and they both work hard to save enough money to move to Jeju.
Unfortunately, tragedy strikes the happy family when Eun-ki’s dad gets into a car accident one day at work, and he has been unconscious for a month. In order to make ends meet while taking care of her husband, Eun-ki’s mom switches jobs and needs someone to watch Eun-ki during the adjustment period. Thus, she turns to Choon-hee for help and promises to return in two weeks.
Eun-ki finds her new environment strange, and like most children her age, she cries to express her emotions. Her grandma turns out to be very different from what her dad described her as, and Choon-hee’s no-nonsense attitude leaves little room for childish imaginations. Both grandma and granddaughter have a difficult time understanding each other, and every day the two of them bicker over little things.
Unaware of her son’s accident, Choon-hee wonders why her daughter-in-law would leave Eun-ki in Jeju, and her suspicions worsen when another lady at the market asks if they abandoned their child. Choon-hee shouts at the nosy lady when she comments on her cursed fate — she lost her husband and children — and the fight causes Eun-ki to cry.
Choon-hee takes her outside to calm down, and seeing Dong-suk at his truck, she orders him to babysit. Like a game of hot potato, Eun-ki gets passed along to all the people working in the market from Ho-shik to Jung-joon, and her mood brightens as she realizes that everyone here knows her dad and calls her grandma the boss.
Eun-ki ends up on the beach where she plays with another girl her age, but their friendship is short-lived as the other girl describes them both as abandoned children. Eun-ki throws sand in her face, claiming that her parents will come back for her, and at home, she gets scolded by Choon-hee for fighting.
In the evening, Ok-dong notices Choon-hee wrestling with her doubts and advises her to call her daughter-in-law to ease her mind. Though it is only a quarter past nine, Eun-ki’s mom does not answer her phone, and we see her at the hospital, watching her husband be resuscitated. Of course, Choon-hee has no way of knowing this, and she starts to wonder if they truly abandoned Eun-ki.
While I understand why Eun-ki’s mom is unwilling to share the bad news with Choon-hee, I think this is a situation where knowing would be better than staying ignorant. Death and grief are painful things, but running away from them is a fool’s errand. Even if the truth might crush her, I think Choon-hee would prefer seeing her son regardless of his current state than being left alone to wonder in agony about what is happening. In the terrible (but seemingly likely) chance that her son dies, Choon-hee should be given time to be by his side as well.
It’s clear that Choon-hee has experienced deep sorrows, and I can already tell that the coming arc will break my heart because losing someone is one of those things that never gets easier. Thankfully, she and Eun-ki make an adorable pair, and the little miscommunications and reconciliations between them are fun to watch. It adds a nice air of lightness to the show, which I’m sure will be much needed in the coming episodes.