*this took me a while to write as i teared up multiple times lol*

i actually did not cry as much as i had expected during this episode— maybe because this rewatch has made me more understanding of deoksun and taek’s relationship and because i’ve seen the ending scene multiple times by now. that being said, i think episode 18 does make me cry the most </3

episode 18 does have warm moments, such as the gang meeting back in taek’s room for his birthday (i love how they all sit in the same spots, the food is the same and so is the room), and they joke around like usual after so many years. i also love how all the parents comment that they miss seeing their kids LOL and the couple reunions (jungbong and miok, and sunwoo and bora). i forgot about the r94 cameo too (i totally said “oppa-ya” when i saw trash on screen again). i like the r94 cameo in r88 better than the r97 cameo in r88— it seems more planned and intact with the storyline (it also helps that they casted michol in both shows, he was trash’s friend at yonsei in r94 and the boys’ friend in this show). the r97 cameo(s?) in r94 was funny, but it seemed a bit out of place for trash to fight sung shiwon (sung shiwon would TOTALLY fight him though).

but let’s be honest, you all know what this post is for, and who episode 18 of r88 is really for. kim junghwan. *sighs*

no matter how many times i rewatch this episode, and no matter how many times i know who the husband is, every time i start 18, i find myself desperately wanting it to end differently. i thought about it a while, and the reason i think i love junghwan so much is because i am similar to him— too shy to ever say anything, and so i hesitate and keep my emotions to myself. which is why it’s painful to watch this episode, and even though i love junghwan so much, i understand why he is not the one for deoksun. *sigh*

the first crack in my heart appears when “empty heart” by lee seunghwan starts playing (my absolute favorite song), and the camera pans to both taek and junghwan looking at where deoksun once sat. the LYRICS of empty heart are made for that scene, as the song begins with the lyrics “Without regret, I let you go. But my heart…/Why does it feel so empty today? I can’t figure it out/I suddenly woke up in the morning, and the sun shone brightly/But you sleeping beside me is just a memory now, I feel so hollow”— and then we see deoksun’s LEFT THE ROOM, the music direction is absolutely amazing.

and then deoksun and junghwan just miss each other once again as they’re heading out (that damn timing…) and during that forrest gump scene, that’s where the tears come in. i’d also never noticed how unexpected taek’s arrival is— in the previous scene where the people at the baduk club are talking about deoksun being stood up, i’d thought taek was shown to have overheard. but that’s not there, leading the audience to believe that he doesn’t know. which is why taek showing up, just before junghwan, is so heartbreaking. it’s unexpected for the audience, because we see junghwan speeding right before, and hope for JH begins to grow, only for it to be dashed away.

the only other episode with a monologue by JH is the one in the end of ep 4 (“we cannot help loving them”) and that was for like a minute. junghwan’s monologue in 18 about fate and timing reduces me to tears each and every time. when he gets back in the car after he just misses taek, his lines there are more angry at the world for causing him to miss his chance with deoksun, and JH’s face is controlled, but you can see the sadness in his eyes.

and then when he cries in his car alone as it rains, you see the sorrow and resignation in his face, because while he can be mad at the world all he wants, all he needed to get close to deoksun was if he’d been more open with his feelings in the past. he can blame the red traffic lights all he wants, but to quote JH himself, “in the end, fate and timing do not just happen by coincidence. they are the products of countless earnest choices that make up miraculous moments.” it is his own hesitations that stopped his first love from taking place, and that is only his fault. the song that plays during this scene is “days of longing, days to be forgotten” by lee seunghwan (another favorite of mine), and the chorus reads, “How much longer do I have to miss you?/I can't even say anything/If you leave now, I won’t be able to see you again/Why can’t I say that "I love you" when you're here, the person I want?/I don’t have any more time left”, which once again, perfectly illustrates junghwan’s frustrations.

my heart’s already broken by now, but the show decided to go further, and then puts a car ride with deoksun and junghwan, and JH notes deoksun repeatedly checking her pager… like she’s waiting for someone. they bicker once more, and listen to lee moon sae’s “as love goes by”… which continues until…

a confession so earnest that whatever’s left of my heart shatters into pieces. the bgm in this scene is “a girl” by lee moon sae, junghwan and deoksun’s love theme, and this is the last time the song plays in the show. this is actually the first time JH says he likes deoksun, reply 1988 is just brilliant with the dramatic irony. everyone can tell how real junghwan’s declaration of love is from just the look in his eyes (hyeri actually cried when they were filming this scene), and that’s why when he retracts it, it’s so painful. while the other three at the table thought it was a joke, the audience knows it’s real.

the final nail in the coffin for me is when the door opens, and deoksun looks automatically…. even after that confession (although it was retracted, i’d hope she’d understand the meaning behind it, but i guess not). that one turn just shows to me that she’s still searching and waiting for taek, and junghwan’s bitter smile with tears in his eyes…. (it doesn’t help my tears that “empty heart” plays again). junghwan’s stolen smiles in those flashbacks kill me, it’s so painful to watch how much he loved deoksun and how happy he got around her, only for it to end the way it has. and then the ring is left behind…

and despite it all, i still love this loveline and junghwan, even though it didn’t end happily. it’s beautiful, it’s painful, it’s first love. It’s bitter to swallow, but it’s real. as hard as this episode is to watch, ryu junyeol’s performance never ceases to amaze me. citing the title of the last song of this episode, despite the heartbreak episode 18 gives me, “i even loved the pain”. <3


    JH’s story is the perfect layout for a thirty something stoic male lead’s backstory in another show who hides a broken heart since his youth. I love imagining him being swept off his feet by a lovely loving lady!