Thousand Day Promise Drama Recaps

72 October 17, 2011January 24, 2016

Thousand Day Promise: Episode 1

by javabeans

Thousand Day Promise premiered today, and has all the makings of a taut, angsty melodrama. To be perfectly honest, by the halfway point I wasn’t sure I was enjoying the episode, but I was captivated by the conflict, the emotion, and the acting.

One of the things that make the writing great about this episode is that what you see at first glance is not always what you get. A scene starts out a certain way, then develops and twists and ends up in a surprising place. I love that. There’s conflict all over the place, and tons of flawed characters.

This is the closest drama I’ve seen in recent memory that evokes a Que Sera Sera feeling of mood and development. In my book that’s a good thing — Que Sera Sera was likewise not always FUN, but it was always compelling, sometimes downright riveting, and intense.

SONG OF THE DAY

Ibadi – “Eve” [ Download ]

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EPISODE 1 RECAP

A couple drives to an out-of-the way lake and sits in a car. PARK JI-HYUNG (Kim Rae-won) and LEE SEO-YEON (Su Ae) speak banmal like old acquaintances, and he confesses a truth he seems shamed by: That he’s a bad person for wanting her, to hold her. That his desire is all-consuming, and makes him want to find a way to hold her without being such a bastard.

Tears fill her eyes and she confesses that she’s been wondering if she should hold back, wanting to make the first move herself. “I’m just pretending not to, because I’m afraid of embarrassment.”

That sparks the passion, and they make their way to a bedroom, pulling clothes off impatiently, until they end up in bed.

Some time later, Seo-yeon drives along, alone this time. She’s dressed nicely despite having curlers in her hair, and deals with a headache. Pulling over to pop some pills, she flashes back to an earlier conversation: Her younger brother MOON-KWON (Park Yoo-hwan) had noted her frequent painkiller habit and cautioned her to get herself checked out.

Waiting for her is Ji-hyung, who grows increasingly upset and worried the longer he waits. He tries calling, but Seo-yeon has left her cell phone at home, and he can barely contain his fidgeting.

Meanwhile, at home her aunt chatters with her uncle about feeling sad because Seo-yeon has just paid off her loan for her home in full. The aunt practically raised Seo-yeon and looks upon her with affection (and some pity over Seo-yeon’s poor background), so it’s a bit of empty nest syndrome that the little girl no longer needs her help.

(Small note: Everyone in this drama is using outdated phones thus far, which suggests to me that there’ll be a time jump at some point.)

Seo-yeon doesn’t notice right away that she missed her stop and has to turn back, making her even later. By the time she arrives at the upscale remote hotel with apologetic smiles, Ji-hyung is just about to charge out of the room to find her.

His worry has him lashing out at Seo-yeon, telling her he was imagining an accident, or worse. Plus, they’ve only got an hour and half left of their planned date before he has to go in to work, now that her detour ate half the time.

Seo-yeon apologizes in good humor, although she notes that his reaction is overblown. She lets his hurtful comments slide until he calls her dumb for not calling, and then she fires back that they’re always living on his clock; he doesn’t consider other people’s timetables.

Then as quickly as she lost her temper, she cheers right back up and pours the wine, figuring to make the most of their date. He calms down a bit, distracted by the tie-up blouse she wore just for him, and they start making out.

Before things get too steamy, though, they’re interrupted by a phone call, and that kills Seo-yeon’s mood. She tells him to take it — he wants to ignore it — and steps aside while he answers the call from NOH HYANG-GI (Jung Yumi).

Ji-hyung isn’t excited to talk to her, but Hyang-gi calls him “oppa” and happily chirps on about getting vaccinated, and then whispers that the doctor told her to use contraception. Ohhh, wait. Is she the legit girlfriend? Is Seo-yeon the Other Woman?

Seo-yeon tries not to let this phone call bother her, and now a few things fall into place — like why they’re meeting at a hotel, why Ji-hyung was so agitated to waste half of their tryst, why she insisted he take the call right in the middle of foreplay. While she waits in the bathroom, she recalls a flashback of a past rendezvous with Ji-hyung, with them holding hands in bed, just lying there in quiet.

As this date comes closer to its end, they sit down to coffee and Ji-hyung suggests that Seo-yeon stop working herself so hard editing and ghostwriting for other people. Spoken like a rich boy, and she’d chides that she’s gotta make a living, which keeps her too busy to write her own novel.

Ji-hyung replies that he’d take care of her, like that’s the easy solution. Which it is, only she’s not that kind of girl, and she needs to make her own way in the world. She announces that she finally repaid her aunt’s loan, and starts naming all the things they can eat and do on dates now that she’s debt-free.

He cuts her short and tells her grimly that they’ve “set a date.” Apparently his mother and his fiancée’s mother went out and decided that next month should do it.

Suddenly her smile freezes, and she can’t bring herself to congratulate him. She lets this sink in with some difficulty, and realizes that today is their send-off date, and understands why Ji-hyung was so angry when she came late — how unfortunate that she wasted their precious time getting lost.

Forcing a brave face, she talks over his tense silence, telling him that she’s fine, that she practiced for this moment, and it’s not so bad after all. He’s hurt at her breezy tone, and says, “Must be nice that you’re so fine with this.”

She plasters on a smile that’s obviously forced and says, “I told you, I had practice.” Maybe the thing she practiced was acting okay, not actually being okay, but Ji-hyung says, “Don’t smile, I don’t want to see that.”

Seo-yeon asks if he’d prefer her to faint, or maybe die. He bursts out, “Just for this day, this moment, don’t act so damned cool and just let go. You’ve never broken down in front of me before.” He tells her that even when they were together she was always removed, asking if being with someone you can’t have is love. Interesting that he’s the one asking if she’s been toying with him — a twist on the usual case of the two-timing man — as though he’s the only one with his emotions engaged while she has been along for the ride.

She tells him this is her pride, and he says bitterly, “That damned pride.” She starts telling him that she came from nothing, and pride is all she has, which must be a familiar argument between them — implication being that he’s from money and therefore has the luxury of not standing on his pride.

But he cuts her off, reminding her that he wanted to marry her, and she refused. Oh, interesting. So he’s not just a cheating bastard.

She points out all the excuses he’d thrown at her for why their relationship would be a mistake — his disappointed parents, the arranged marriage. He fires back, “And still I wanted to marry you!” She reminds him, “But you didn’t. You couldn’t.” He argues that she refused, and around and around they go.

She asks, “If you make it my fault, do you think it’ll be easier for you? Fine, then make it my fault.” Declaring that she refuses to make herself miserable — even for him — she collects her things to go.

But Ji-hyung is already on the phone, pushing back his meetings and deflecting a call from his mother. Mom (Kim Hae-sook) is with Hyang-gi’s mother (Lee Mi-sook), who’s just had a plastic surgery touch-up. The moms are after him to take more time off from his job for his honeymoon, but he’s been fending them off, insisting he can’t stay away from the job for that long. Though it’s probably more like he’d actually prefer to work than take an extra-long honeymoon with a woman he doesn’t love.

In the hotel room, Seo-yeon and Ji-hyang sit in silence, stalling their departure, not quite ready to separate for good. He tells her he doesn’t know if he can stick to this breakup, that he might call her right away, but she says firmly that she can, and that she won’t take his calls anymore.

It makes sense that he’s weaker, because that’s how they ended up here, with him heading toward a loveless marriage and unable to take that final step toward his own happiness. But I actually admire him for being frank about it, as they hug one last time and shut the door on their affair:

Ji-hyung: “I’m sorry for being a coward.”
Seo-yeon: “No. I’m sorry for being too poor.”
Ji-hyung: “I’m worried for you.”
Seo-yeon: “I’ll be fine.”

Already his resolve to cut ties is weak, because on their way out Ji-hyung fusses over Seo-yeon and urges her to text him the minute she gets home, to hire a driver, to ride with him instead. She’s the stronger one and refuses a ride with him, speeding along their departure while clearly he wants to drag it out.

As she heads to her car, Seo-yeon flashes back to a different memory, after another one of their previous trysts:

Ji-hyung: “How long do you think it would it take for memories of these times to become comfortable? Three years? Five?”
Seo-yeon: “I don’t know. I’ve never been in this position.”
Ji-hyung: “Is there such a thing as a memory without yearning?”
Seo-yeon: “Without yearning, it’s just a recollection, not a memory.”
Ji-hyung: “Will we marry in the future?”
Seo-yeon: “Me? Of course. Would you want me not to marry anyone else?”
Ji-hyung: “I guess I shouldn’t want that.”

Like with all of their encounters, he’s miserable and she’s cheery. She spins a story about how they’ll meet a year from now and she’ll already be pregnant, and they’ll pretend not to know each other. He’s half-amused and half-offended at her quick rebound time.

Back to the present: Ji-hyung stretches out this goodbye as long as he can, double-checking and hovering like a clucking mama hen, while Seo-yeon rejects his concern. When she stumbles, he overreacts and rushes to her side, and without a more reasonable outlet for his frustration/sadness/grief, he blames her for wearing high heels.

This leads to an argument over the shoes, which is a stand-in for their frustration at their breakup, as he tells her not to drive in such heels, and she retorts that she wouldn’t have worn them to her last rendezvous if somebody had told her it would be their last.

Finally, she calms down and tells him quietly that she’ll do as he advises. But when he steps in for a hug, like he thinks he’s still got that connection to her and that right to comfort her, she pushes him away.

She storms into the restroom, so intent on getting into a stall before she breaks down that she doesn’t register that she’s in the men’s room. She kicks off the damned heels and chokes on her tears.

Outside, Ji-hyung waits as long as he can, and finally leaves a note on her car asking her to make sure to text him when she’s home.

On his drive to work, he flashes back into an old memory, dating back to when he was a student. Ji-hyung had come to a house looking for her cousin JAE-MIN, and found a young Seo-yeon screaming at her troublemaking brother.

Moon-kwon had done something else wrong in a long string of things, and she’d been fed up with constantly disappointing her, declaring that she was giving up on him.

Moon-kwon had begged for forgiveness, but also tossed out, “You’re not Mom!” as he ran away.

Seo-yeon fights another headache and stops at a rest stop to pop a few more pills. She makes it back to the city and drops in on her cousin, MYUNG-HEE (Moon Jung-hee), who runs a bakery.

Ji-hyung heads in to work but constantly checks his phone for that expected “I’m home” message. He can’t tamp down his worry and calls Seo-yeon, but of course she doesn’t answer.

Another memory comes to Ji-hyung’s mind, which dates back to his college days when he’d been talking to Jae-min about Seo-yeon. Jae-min had explained Seo-yeon’s sad story, of how she was abandoned by her mother as a child, and how his mother (Seo-yeon’s father’s sister) had found the two children starving, ages 6 and 4. Aunt had taken the children in, thanking God for coming upon them when she did.

Jae-min had warned Ji-hyung not to tell a soul that he knows this, and ended the conversation worrying, “She needs to meet a good man.” Clearly Adult Ji-hyung doesn’t quite measure to that standard.

When Seo-yeon checks her phone, it’s full of calls from “Park Ji-sook,” her code for Ji-hyung. This spins her off into another flashback, to the day Ji-hyung had laughed to see him coded as a girl’s name in her cell phone. For secrecy’s sake, of course.

He, on the other hand, hadn’t programmed her in his phone at all, because his fiancee Hyang-gi has a tendency to poke around. Instead, he’d memorized her number. “What about the call log?” Sae-yeon had asked. “I erase them right away.”

He apologizes for that, but she’s hurt nonetheless: “So right after you end your call with me, I’m erased. Not just the call record, but me — it feels like I’m being erased. After being erased over and over, one of these days I’ll disappear into smoke.”

In the present, Seo-yeon sends off the perfunctory “I arrived” message, then ignores the immediate return call.

She prepares dinner, not realizing that tonight is dinner night with her aunt’s family until her brother reminds her. She hurries over right away, but it’s clear from her startled reaction that it bothers her that she forgot this detail. Worried, even.

Ji-hyung calls out his old friend Jae-min (Lee Sang-woo), although it’s been a long time since they’ve talked. Jae-min even wonders if he’d done something to offend Ji-hyung, from the latter’s avoidance of his phone calls. Ji-hyung tells him no, but he does have something to tell him that he needs some liquid courage to help say. Hence the wine.

Ji-hyung is so grim that Jae-min worries he’s in big trouble. Ji-hyung finally tells him that he’s been dating Seo-yeon, and with confusion, Jae-min asks if he called off his engagement at some point. The look in Jae-min’s eyes gradually changes as he registers that no, Ji-hyung is still engaged, and that he broke up with Seo-yeon today.

Ji-hyung doesn’t try to make lame excuses, but he says that he and Seo-yeon went into it with their eyes open. To Jae-min it’s simpler: “You’re saying you played with our Seo-yeon and dumped her.”

This argument heads outside, and Jae-min is now convinced Ji-hyung seduced his little cousin like a cold-hearted cheater. This is doubly hard for him to accept because Jae-min had even warned Ji-hyung a long time ago about not treating her poorly, and had gotten back the assurance that Ji-hyung thought of her as a sister.

Ji-hyung adds that he wanted to marry Seo-yeon and she refused him, but Jae-min can’t believe that. Ji-hyung bites out, “I know that I’m a coward!” However, it’s not that easy — the two families are connected tightly and it all rests on his shoulders. The mothers are friends, the fathers are friends. His father is the director of his fiancée’s hospital. Marriage has been on the table for the past decade.

Ji-hyung argues that even now, he’s so conflicted he’s about to go crazy. The reason he’s telling Jae-min all this is because he needs him to look after Seo-yeon, because he won’t be able to. The irony of that is not lost on Jae-min — the bastard ex-lover, asking her own oppa to take care of her after he casts her aside? Yeah, real honorable.

Jae-min tells him he’s a waste of a punch, and leaves him with the parting words, “Don’t just say you’re going crazy — go crazy. Then I’ll believe you.” With that, he walks away and closes the door on that friendship.

After dinner with their aunt and uncle, Seo-yeon and Moon-kwon return home, where they realize that she left the gas stove on when she left for dinner. He hurries to air out the place and scolds his noona, thinking that her absent-mindedness could have killed them.

But Seo-yeon’s reaction is telling — she’s downright spooked at her memory lapse and even lies to her brother about not forgetting. She’s so upset with herself that she snaps at Moon-kwon, who tries to lighten her mood, to no avail.

When Ji-hyung comes home that night, Mom brings up the whole honeymoon issue again, telling him that she’s leaving it to him to figure out. (She says, “You take care of it” but she really means, “You’re going to do as I say, right?”) She warns him that Hyang-gi’s mother is a little miffed at his taking Hyang-gi for granted; clearly he needs to be a more attentive fiancé.

But Ji-hyung is bone-weary and just about at the end of his rope, and he asks his mother quietly, “What would you do if I said I wanted to call off the wedding?”

His mother senses he’s serious and grabs his arm, pulling him into another room. What does he mean?

In a despairing voice, Ji-hyung pleads, “I don’t want to do it. Please let me out.” He tells her he doesn’t love Hyang-gi — he loves someone else.

 
COMMENTS

I wasn’t sure what to expect of this drama going in, and even as I was watching, I wasn’t sure what the story was, because characters and impressions change even within one exchange. I love that feeling of discovery, as you put together the pieces and figure out what’s what. Because we dive into this drama right in the thick of the action — the characters are already in relationships — there’s a sense that we’re peering into their lives and trying to understand them, even as they’re trying to understand each other.

The dialogue is sharp, which isn’t surprising coming from a writer known as a dialogue master. It’s not necessarily witty or banter-y, but it is keen and insightful and sometimes cutting. It’s the antithesis of on-the-nose dialogue, which is the mark of clumsy writing — you know, when characters yell at each other, “I’m mad at you!” or cry, “I’m so sad!” Here, the characters talk about things that aren’t the things they’re talking about. Like Ji-hyung clinging to his anger and taking it out on her damned high heels, rather than admitting that this breakup is tearing him up. This deflection is real, and it’s interesting. The dialogue feels to me like a tool, not merely revealing character but also shaping it.

The show almost feels like a stage play — which is something I also thought of Que Sera Sera — in that there’s not a lot of actual movement in the present-day plot, yet so much is revealed in these intelligently mapped conversations.

Normally, I think an overuse of flashbacks can become a lazy crutch, but I think they’re a great tool here, given the drama’s whole memory motif. I can’t wait to see what else comes out in memory, as we get the sense of watching multiple narratives play out simultaneously, but non-linearly. It’s sort of like life in that way too — things may have happened to us far in the past, but perhaps they lay dormant and don’t ping with us until something happens today to bring them back to the surface. We’re as much shaped by our pasts as we are by our presents, after all.

Last but not least, Kim Rae-won and Su Ae are perfectly cast in this — emotive, strong, vulnerable, realistic, and compelling. I’m not sure I’m going to love everything that happens in Thousand Day Promise, but I do think it’s going to keep me wound up in knots. In a good way.

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72 October 18, 2011January 24, 2016

Thousand Day Promise: Episode 2

by girlfriday

I didn’t love the first episode, but I did love the second. The first rattled me, because it began so unconventionally, in medias res (and not the kind where you get the quick 48 hours earlier orientation either). But this episode takes a step back, not in time, but in breathing room. I feel like I have some space to learn who the characters are, which draws me in. I don’t know that the first episode alone would’ve hooked me, but paired with the second, it makes the world feel lived in, and whole. I’ll discuss this further in the comments, along with a note on melodrama as a genre.

Also, is anyone else amazed at how Kim Rae-won went to the army and lost his baby face? I almost didn’t recognize him. I know there’s the old adage of going into the army a boy and coming out a man, but in his case, it’s physical, and not in the abs-sense. It’s crazy.

Today’s Episode 2 came out the ratings leader for Monday/Tuesday dramas: Promise 14.6%, Kye Baek 12.9%, Poseidon 7.4%. Yesterday’s premiere was in 2nd place with 12.8%, but already it looks like Promise is set to climb to a comfortable lead, if Week 1 is already nearing 15%.

 
EPISODE 2 RECAP

Ji-hyung confesses to Mom that he doesn’t want to go through with the wedding, that he doesn’t love Hyang-gi, that he loves another. It’s probably the first time he’s ever uttered words of defiance in his life, judging from how meekly the words come out of his mouth.

Mom flips out, but in that really scary calm-and-collected-mom way. She decides she’s going to ignore what he just said. He sighs that never expected her to do otherwise. But that doesn’t change the fact that marrying Hyang-gi this way will make him a horrible person – a “con man for life.”

Mom thinks it’s just a matter of him never opening his mouth about it again. Oy. She tells him to clean up his mess, offering semi-threateningly to do it for him if he can’t. All Mom can think of is Hyang-gi and what this’ll do to her, pointing out that he’s the guy who cheated on his fiancée. She’s got you there, buddy.

But he can’t figure out what to do, because no matter what he chooses, he’s the bad guy. While I appreciate the predicament, if this was going to be a sticking point for you, being the bad guy, you should never have cheated, eh?

Mom reminds him of what’s at stake – his father’s position in the hospital (beholden to Hyang-gi’s dad, natch) and their two families. He lets out in a defeated tone, “My happiness was never a concern of yours, was it?” Mom: “This has gotten too big to be concerned with that.”

Oh. Damn. Just like that? Gee Mom, no hugs and a cup of cocoa to go with that?

Meanwhile, Jae-min (the oppa/cousin) goes straight from Ji-hyung’s confession session to go check on Seo-yeon. He comes bearing coffee, one cold, one hot, for her to choose. Um, can I have him?

He tells her that Ji-hyung came to see him, and that he knows everything. Her voice immediately changes – it drops a few octaves and she goes cold, palpably distancing herself. She wonders why he did such a silly thing, trying to downplay the situation.

Jae-min asks why she did it, fishing for evidence of Ji-hyung’s wrongdoing, like making false promises to her about leaving his fiancée. She doesn’t pass off blame, and instead says with an even tone that she decided to be a thief for a little while.

He starts to say, “You’re not that kind of…” and she cuts him off, repeating the phrase, saying she knew, but in the end she didn’t want to just sit there and regret her whole life. He worries about her, thinking she’s putting up a front (he’s clearly not wrong).

But she smiles and says it’s not like the earth is shaking. They simply parted ways, like they had planned to, all along. He asks how she’ll get over it, and she says, “Day by day, I’ll forget him, or day by day, I’ll miss him. It’ll be one or the other.”

Ji-hyung goes to pour himself the tallest glass of scotch ever, and Mom tells him that love is a feeling that fades. “Even boiling water, when the fire is turned off, cools.” Ji-hyung: “It’s still better than water that has never boiled at all.” Oh, you people with your delightful metaphors six drinks in.

Mom asks about the other woman, still curious. He tells her the rough outline (aka what she really wants to know) – that she’s without parents, she has a younger brother, she was raised by an aunt and uncle. Mom hopes she isn’t someone who will “cause trouble,” because that would be the worst. Yes, clearly, disrupting your life would be the worst thing that could possibly happen.

In true Seo-yeon fashion, she only lets herself cry when she’s alone. I don’t know why it kills me – her squatting there, doing laundry, and crying silently. She gets a call from Ji-hyung, but ignores it, as promised.

But then Ji-hyung gets a call right back, and answers, “Seo-yeon-ah?” No, it’s Jae-min, calling because it’s keeping him up all night. He tells Ji-hyung that he went to see Seo-yeon, and she put on a brave face, never showed a tear, and said she’d forget him in a few months’ time.

But Jae-min knows what Seo-yeon’s been through, who she is. She’s the girl who learned instinctively to take care of her little brother by the age of six, without ever having to be told. She’s someone to whom putting on a brave face is like breathing – it’s in her bones.

Jae-min: “But I have to say this. You took advantage of Seo-yeon. If she were some important family’s daughter, you couldn’t have done what you did. So no matter what excuses you give, you’re a petty coward. The end.” Wooo! That makes me feel great, just hearing him say the words. I love this guy.

Early the next morning, Hyang-gi comes by with pastries for Ji-hyung’s mom, which is of course a flimsy excuse to see Ji-hyung. But she’s the adorably sweet kind of silly girl, not the annoying bratty kind, so it’s endearing that she tries so hard. It probably helps that he’s the bastard as far as she’s concerned, to help her win some sympathy points off the bat.

She sneaks into his room just to peek at him while he sleeps, and decides to lean in for a kiss. She kisses him again, and this time it half-wakes him, and without opening his eyes, he starts kissing her, landing on top of her.

He finally opens his eyes, comes to his senses, and stops abruptly. Dude, your head is in such a messed up place right now. He gets up angrily and tells her that it’s wrong, which stings her.

She starts to cry as she says it’s been too long. A year in fact, which means in some sense he’s been faithful to his affair, in the physical sense. She asks if it’s wrong that she wants to touch him, and he reminds her that his mom and aunt are sitting in the other room.

But he softens to see her so vulnerable, and apologizes. She stops crying almost as quickly as she began, making him feel even guiltier.

Seo-yeon has another tiny memory lapse that morning, as she tries to remember what she needed – some colored pens for copywriting, which takes her a moment to remember. Moon-kwon promises to bring some home, and once she’s alone, she wonders to herself why she couldn’t think of it right away.

She turns on the stereo while but then immediately shuts it off. It flashes her back to a memory of sitting in the car with Ji-hyung, listening to the same aria from Madame Butterfly.

They had talked about the aria, how sad it made her feel, and he had held her lovingly in his arms as they listened to it, not realizing then how prophetic and tragic that story would be for them.

Back in the present, she sits lost in her thoughts, until her phone rings with a call from her boss, wondering where she is. She’s forgotten another meeting, just entirely forgotten. It shakes her.

She focuses on work for a while, not noticing the kettle that’s been boiling for some time now. She happens upon it later, now burnt black on the outside. She’s so stunned that she grabs it with her bare hand, and then again as she tries to take the lid off.

She gapes at the rising smoke.

But then she does what anyone would do – she scrubs the kettle clean, trying to wash away the evidence. She scrubs furiously, talking it out to herself. How could she forget? She was focusing on work; it happens. But what about the meeting? And the pens? Shouldn’t something have come to her, instead of being a blank slate?

It’s followed by another incident, the next day – Moon-kwon sees her sitting in the kitchen, when she should be at work already. Moon-kwon: “Have you quit your job?” Seo-yeon: “Who works on a Sunday?” Moon-kwon: “It’s Monday!”

Again, panic washes over her face. He tells her to get herself checked out at the hospital, but only in that half-serious way, not legitimately picking up on the extent of it. She rushes to work, so lost in her thoughts that she nearly runs straight into an oncoming car.

At the same time, Hyang-gi tries on her wedding dress. Ji-hyung comes by to get fitted for his tux, and gives a rather telling lukewarm reaction to the whole proceeding. But she breezes that he’s always that way. Or perhaps just where you’re concerned, poor thing.

Seo-yeon manages to get through her morning without further incident, but then at lunch with a few co-workers, she gets into an argument with their waiter, insisting that she ordered something she didn’t.

The co-workers back up the waiter, having heard her order the dish he brought, but she insists she didn’t. It finally dawns on her that she’s having another episode of some sort, and leaves the table abruptly.

I like that she’s both frightened but fighting it with denial. I mean, what kind of smart, independent woman would realistically just allow herself to believe that she’s losing her mind? Especially the kind of girl who’s used to hardship and dealing with it on her own. It’s starting to get bad though, and she feels it, though she can’t face it.

Ji-hyung and Hyang-gi’s families meet to discuss wedding plans, and I just freakin’ LOVE that Lee Mi-sook is playing a plastic-surgery addict, whose introduction last episode was entirely bandage-covered. That cracks me up to no end.

Her husband sits down next to her, joking that this is really the last time she can go under the knife, because next time her eyebrows will end up here *points to forehead*. Hee.

Seo-yeon avoids her coworkers, eating a coffee-and-sandwich lunch, while trying to figure out what’s going on with her. Jae-min calls to check in, and she jokes that she’s going to have to change her number because of him, and not Ji-hyung.

He doesn’t think that’s a bad idea, trying to pre-empt any future calls from the ex. She agrees to do so, probably just to get him off her back.

Ji-hyung zombies his way through the family lunch, eliciting snide remarks from his future shark of a mother-in-law on his dour mood. I don’t understand how Lee Mi-sook does it – she’s got the least screentime of any of the major players, but she’s got more presence than anyone.

He leaves the lunch in a daze, flashing back to happier times spent with Seo-yeon. In one memory they play and make out in a pool, and then in another memory they walk along the shore in each other’s arms.

Ji-hyung: What will we be like, five years from now? In ten years, how will we be? How will our hearts change? What kind of person will you remember me as? When will I be able to let you go? Will I be able to let you go?

Seo-yeon: Five years from now… you’ll be a father. In ten years… you’ll be a 40-year old ajusshi. By then, today will have become like a faded, yellowed old photograph. Without even knowing that you’ve let go, you’ll realize one day that you already have. Days will continue to pile, one atop the other, and then someday I’ll become a fossil from the dinosaur age to you.

He holds her close as the waves crash on the shore.

We cut to Seo-yeon, staring at her computer screen, her desktop background an image of that beach. Perhaps it was her flashback, or a shared one.

She gets a call from a writer when she’s almost home, asking for her edits from the night before. She blames an email glitch, knowing that she sent it last night… but then starts to panic.

She rushes inside, ignoring Moon-kwon’s greeting, as she starts up her computer to check her email. She didn’t send it after all, which she admits to her brother. He blames her painkillers, insisting that they’re the problem. But she knows it’s something else…

Ji-hyung and Hyang-gi pose for their engagement photos, with Hyang-gi’s mom going vogue-nazi on them. Hyang-gi complains that she’s being rude and overbearing, and Mom yells back, “Rudeness is fleeting, but pictures are forever!” HAHAHA.

They finally get rid of her long enough to get some shots. A few are smiley, but damn, that’s a thousand-yard stare if I’ve ever seen one. He heads back to work, still weary and distracted. Hey, when did Alex join this drama? Is it a cameo or is he in this?

Seo-yeon finally decides to go see a doctor. Thank goodness she didn’t have to collapse somewhere first. He does a series of tests on her memory – she falters here and there, and it’s clearly a strain on her.

He tells her that they’ll have to do more tests to be sure, but she guesses that she’s on her way to dementia. He tells her it’ll take more tests, and possibly upwards of a year, to know for sure what it is.

Ji-hyung asks Jae-min to meet him, and passes over an envelope. Oh no you di’n’t just try to buy your forgiveness by proxy! Jae-min looks at it warily, asking what this is. Ji-hyung says he’s always thought that Seo-yeon shouldn’t waste her talents on other people’s work – she should be writing her own stuff.

He says it’s enough for her to live on for a year, so she can focus on her writing. Jae-min calls him out for trying to buy her off, and tells him that he himself has never once offered to pay her way – why? Because she would never take it. “You clearly don’t know Seo-yeon as well as I thought.”

Ji-hyung realizes that he’s being shortsighted. He takes back the envelope, insisting that it was meant with good intentions. Jae-min isn’t so begrudging that he thinks ill of him for his totally misguided attempt to take care of her, after the fact. He admits that he knows Ji-hyung isn’t THAT kind of guy.

Ji-hyung: “How is she?” Jae-min: “She’s well. She’s strong. She’s someone who acts stronger, the harder it is for her.” Ji-hyung: “I know.”

Jae-min asks how he’s holding up, in all this. Ji-hyung: “I’m… being dragged along.” In my mind I’m stabbing you with your salad fork right now.

It’s telling that Ji-hyung spends the whole exchange with his head hanging literally halfway down his chest. He can’t look Jae-min in the eye, which right now is the only thing I like about him.

Seo-yeon stops by her sister’s bakery, where her sister runs the front, her brother-in-law bakes in the back, and her little bro helps out, in one of his many part-time jobs. Brother-in-law fawns over Seo-yeon adorably, while her unni chides her not to get married. I love this family.

Moon-kwon walks her out and asks what she did with the car. The car? He has to remind her that she took the car this morning. She looks up, stunned. He asks if she left it at work and took the bus. “No… I took a cab…”

He cuckolds her, but the way you’d yell at your mom for forgetting where she parked or something. But to Seo-yeon it’s another red flag.

She paces back and forth at home, the fear crawling up until she bursts, screaming in fury as she clutches her head.

 
COMMENTS

Wow, what a stellar performance by Su Ae. I’m more impressed with her in the second episode, where she had less dialogue and many more quiet moments to slowly freak out. While the first episode’s rapid-fire dialogue was impressive, it felt overwritten to me – not the words themselves, but the volume of them, which seemed unrealistic, given the circumstances.

But here everything started to gel together a little more organically. It feels like everything is slowly coming to a boil, like that kettle she put to the side and forgot about. I feel like we’re at a rolling boil, which is a great place to be, dramatically.

A few things to clarify as far as genre goes: A melodrama is something that’s centered on emotions, not necessarily sad ones, though that’s the general way it goes. It also doesn’t necessitate a sad or tragic ending, though of course that’s a common route. This drama is a melo because it’s emotion-centric, that is, stories are drawn for the purpose of eliciting characters’ emotional responses. It’s essentially a character study, which is why javabeans compared it to a stage play.

But being a melo doesn’t mean it’s a makjang, which is a genre classification that sometimes gets muddled. Makjang is a tonal variation, and a conscious choice to use common story elements like amnesia or incest or what have you, to carry the narrative. It’s often looked down on because it’s most commonly used as a crutch, to snag ratings. But lots and lots of dramas, especially the older ones, have elements of these common storylines, without actually being makjang. Another way around it is of course to embrace the makjang head-on, and be meta about it. (See: Flames of Desire.)

It’s just a question that a few people have brought up, so hopefully that helps. I’d put Promise squarely in the non-makjang, full-on melo category. I’d almost call it old-school, except it’s rather experimental in a few ways. I’m most intrigued by the free-flowing use of relative time. I don’t know which flashback belongs to whom, when flashbacks occurred in relation to each other, or even when NOW is. But it almost doesn’t matter, because time is liquid in this drama. It’s fluid and it’s also quite possibly wrong, depending on who’s doing the remembering. How’s that for a mind-bender?

Stylistically it’s also got a great touch in its use of black space and physical distance from characters in long shots, almost making us conscious of their unknowability. I like that I feel both instantly drawn to, but totally distanced from them — the hero, for instance, who is in one sense the most bleeding-heart vulnerable of all the characters, and yet insists on being a spineless jellyfish. It’s that duality in the characters that I think will carry this drama from first to last. Count me in.

 
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47 October 24, 2011January 24, 2016

Thousand Day Promise: Episode 3

by javabeans

Ooh, I love how things are shaping up. I really appreciate that this drama can be emotionally stirring, but without the grand melodrama that usually accompanies this genre. It’s full of emotion, without wallowing in it or offering it up as some sort of glorious misery. At least not where it counts (mothers and aunts can be excitable, sure): namely Seo-yeon, who faces her crisis with such a realistic mix of feeling — coolness that turns to fear, calm that erupts in panic — that I’m just captivated by her struggle.

Ratings are creeping up, with this episode hitting 15.1% and remaining in first place. (Kye Baek and Poseidon scored 13.1% and 7.1%, respectively.)

SONG OF THE DAY

Baek Ji-young – “여기가 아파” (This is where it hurts) from the Thousand Day Promise OST. [ Download ]

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 
EPISODE 3 RECAP

We start off the episode with a study in contrasts, breakfast being the theme of the day. In her small apartment, Seo-yeon eats a bowl of cereal alone, lost in memories of her breakup with Ji-hyung and her worry over her deteriorating memory.

Next door at Aunt Chatterbox’s house, the family gathers around the table for a conventional Korean-style breakfast (rice, kimchi, etc) while Seo-yeon’s aunt natter-natter-natters on about insignificant things, until finally landing on a topic of (our) interest: Why hasn’t Jae-min set up his little cousin with a nice man?

Myung-hee butts in to tell her mother to lay off the pressure, because her request is no picnic and is stressing him out. After all, Seo-yeon is poor, has no family, and has little to attract a decent man. Wow, I know that’s what the snooty chaebol half of this drama might say, but you too, cousin dearest? Mom argues that these days all a woman really needs is a good character. Myung-hee retorts, annoyed with idealistic Mom, “Hers isn’t all that, either!” Wow, and I again I say, wow. And here I was all set to like you.

At least Mom doesn’t take her seriously, smirking that Myung-hee probably thinks she’s better than Seo-yeon. Mother and daughter talk with their mouths full, spitting food at intervals, cutting kimchi with bare fingers. Quintessentially ordinary and middle-class.

The men remain quiet throughout breakfast, waiting until they’re both heading out to work to speak. Dad tells Jae-min that his mother is worried, and checks in with him that he won’t “make that kind of decision ever again.” Jae-min says no, and Dad advises, “Go on and forgive. That’s how you’ll forget.” Hm, seems there’s some kind of heartbreak in Jae-min’s past.

Breakfast at Ji-hyung’s, by comparison, is an elegant affair. Western-style toast and fruit, washed down with coffee served in china. Ji-hyung’s parents discuss wedding plans; in this merging of two friendly but competitive families, it’s like The Honeymoon has taken on deep symbolism, which might explain why everyone’s so damn obsessed about it except for the people actually going on it.

Dad is dissatisfied with Ji-hyung’s choice of a five-day trip to Hokkaido, like he’s a common salaryman. Then there’s the matter of where the couple will live. All these choices reflect the parents’ status, and Ji-hyung’s parents are conscious of looking shabby in front of Hyang-gi’s richer, more powerful parents. For instance, Director Noh (Hyang-gi’s father) has given them an expansive villa to live in, but Mom objects; the groom shouldn’t live in the bride’s parents’ home, which is the total reverse of tradition.

Ji-hyung’s dad says they can give their spare apartment to the couple (what, you don’t have one of those lying around?), but Mom protests that they can hardly trade the bride’s villa for a smaller, cramped apartment, can they? No, they’ll have to find a way to supply an appropriate home, even if they have to sell off a property or two. Ah, first world problems.

Hyang-gi calls the house as Ji-hyung readies to get to work, so he tells her he’ll call right back. That spins him off into a flashback:

A fishing trip. Over the years, apparently Ji-hyung had called Seo-yeon once or twice a year to check on her. He hadn’t had feelings for her — or perhaps it’s that he hadn’t realized them — because he hadn’t understood his own reasons for calling: “I was just concerned.” Seo-yeon had answered his calls curtly, always asking, “Why do you want to know?” as though he had no business caring about her. They laugh about it now, and Seo-yeon admits that she’d kept her crush on him well under wraps because she’d known he was out of her league.

I appreciate the way the scenes are layered thematically in this drama, although it’s done in a subtle way that doesn’t necessarily trumpet the connections. Breakfast is one such example, and here’s another, contrasting Ji-hyung’s inexplicable desire to keep calling Seo-yeon with his deep reluctance to call Hyang-gi.

He’s driving when Hyang-gi calls again, not able to wait for him to return her call. We (along with Hyang-gi’s parents) only hear the conversation from her side, though it takes little imagination to suppose Ji-hyang’s answers are vague and noncommittal. She wants him to come meet her friends and buy them dinner, as all her friends’ fiancés did. Her mother listens with growing frustration as it becomes clear Hyang-gi’s not going to press him, especially when she cheerfully accepts his brush-offs with a happy, “I love you!”

Now there’s a face you don’t want glowering your way, although Hyang-gi isn’t fazed. Mom rips into her, saying that she ought to be firm and decisive, hating to see her daughter wheedling and being treated as an afterthought. Hyang-gi just smiles, “I must have no pride where he’s concerned.” Or perception, or brains, as far as I’m concerned. (Is she actually blind or just willfully ignorant, so as to maintain the veneer of bliss?)

Seo-yeon returns to the hospital, minus the guardian her doctor had told her to bring. She tells him she has no family and says she’ll be fine to hear this alone. Right off we know this is serious, because he compares her brain scans to that of “a normal elderly brain.” He has her diagnosis: early onset Alzheimer’s.

She can’t believe it; she’s only 30. He tells her that it’s unusual, but not unheard of. There’s no cure, but there are ways to delay its advance. Grasping at straws, she starts listing her symptoms again, like her headaches and her stress may have led to misdiagnosis.

The doctor tries to assuage some of her fears, saying that Alzheimer’s itself won’t kill her, but that’s no consolation for Seo-yeon: “As my memory erases, that means I’m being erased. Then what becomes of me? Where do I go, where will I be?”

The doctor advises her to return with somebody to act as guarantor — a close friend, a relative. She says firmly, “There’s nobody. I have nobody.”

As she leaves, Seo-yeon tries to calm herself down, telling herself to get a grip, “You’ll be okay, you’re okay.”

She takes a seat on the hospital’s outdoor bench, watching patients go by. In the cab home, she gets a call from brother Moon-kwon, who is adorably programmed into her phone as “Superman.” He’s checking up on her because she’d taken time off work to go to the dentist and changed her phone number without telling anybody except for her aunt. (She’d figured Aunt would spread the word to the family.)

Moon-kwon has to hang up quickly, and steps in to mediate a fight between his cousin and her husband (Myung-hee accuses him of taking up smoking again, which would ruin all their product since he’s the one baking all the bread, while he insists he hasn’t).

Jae-min takes Seo-yeon to lunch and asks if she’s okay; she’s acting fine, but he knows her too well to believe she’s really okay. She tells him she’s decided to be fine, and therefore she’ll have to be fine. A Seo-yeon-like statement.

He asks how much she makes at her job, and brings up the topic of her taking time off to write her own books. It’s a sentiment he shot down from Ji-hyung for being wildly inappropriate given their circumstances (her accepting Ji-hyung’s money would be tantamount to taking a payoff to end an affair), but as her oppa, Jae-min would like to support her writing.

She immediately guesses that he’s been talking to Ji-hyung, though he awkwardly denies it. Jae-min says it’ll be his “investment” which she can repay once she’s got a bestseller on her hands. Seo-yeon thanks him but declines. Not knowing there’s more behind her denial, he urges her to have confidence. Seo-yeon tells him seriously, “I can’t do it,” explaining merely that she’s ruined her creativity by writing for others.

His kindness brings her to tears, though, and she jokes that people will think he dumped her, and no amount of assuring “No, he’s just my oppa” would dispel the impression.

That leads to another set of related flashbacks. In the first memory, Seo-hyun had decided they needed to change the way she addressed him. She argues that it feels incestuous to continue calling him oppa, as she has done since childhood, suggesting this is probably very early in the relationship, right after their shift from acquaintances to lovers.

The next is a flashback of her prodding him to tell her how he feels and he complies: “I love you. I like you.” The memory had taken place in a bathroom, and is prompted by Ji-hyung washing his hands in the bathroom.

The mothers meet for tea, talking over their plans with Hyang-gi’s mother fishing for some compliments on her recent plastic surgery. Ji-hyung’s mother obliges, saying, “Two more trips and you’ll look like my daughter-in-law,” which thrills Hyang-gi’s mother despite being blatantly false. Ha. I love how vain she is, and how frank she is about it.

Ding-dong — er, Myung-hee’s son — races into the bakery to take home some sandwiches for dinner, since Grandma’s too tired to cook today. His father balks that he needs rice, and the boy says with his precocious wisdom that he already made one bowl for Dad, sighing that Grandma sure fought him on it, saying that Dad could stand to skip one rice dinner. He speaks with such resigned ajumma-ness that everyone giggles, charmed.

Seo-yeon sits in the dark, swilling soju that night. She sits simmering in fury at Fate itself, her resentment piling on in waves:

Seo-yeon (voiceover): “This, too? Was it not enough for you? Were you disappointed? You couldn’t just pass by — you couldn’t leave things alone? If you were going to do this, why did you not just kill me then? Are you toying with me? What have I done that was so wrong? What crime have I committed that you need to be so cruel? Is it because I stole someone else’s man, without compunction? Is that why?”

She laughs humorlessly:

“Don’t make me laugh. That man was mine from the time I was sixteen. I only turned him away because I was dirt-poor. I thought he wasn’t mine to have. I tried to forget.”

She cries.

“No, no, I didn’t try — that’s a lie. But is that such a big mistake? Fine, strike me down with lightning instead. Burst my heart open! Do you think I’ll lose? That I’d get on my knees and beg? That I’d surrender? NO!

Screaming now:

“I’ll rebel. I won’t collapse! I’ll shake off this curse and shove it in a cesspool! I’ll tell it to go to hell! I’ll spit right at it!”

The last she roars out loud at her empty room.

And then, she sits shivering under the covers, partly from cold, mostly from fear.

On the other side of town (and the emotional universe), Ji-hyung tries to work while Hyang-gi suffocates him with her presence. She’s backhugging and pouting, and tells him he always makes her feel like she’s a nuisance, even when she’s not interfering. That’s because your very existence is an interference to his happiness, princess.

They go off to grab a fancy sushi dinner, while Seo-yeon eats alone at home. She goes over her to-do list of things for tomorrow, ticking off each item as she does it. With her memory so unreliable, she’s trying to keep a grip on her life, to keep it in order.

But even in the midst of this exercise in proving she can regain control of her life, Seo-yeon finds herself forgetting what she was doing with the soup, and ends up standing with her eyes glued to the pot lest she forget again. Moon-kwon points out that the soup she declared done is hardly done at all, and she covers by saying she was going to add those ingredients in the morning. Then she forgets where she kept the garlic and can’t think of the word for scissors.

Moon-kwon jokes that she’s too young to be going senile, and she turns on him, overdoing the defensiveness to cover her panic. She scares him with her outburst, and he apologizes through the door while she cries in her room.

Flashback: Six-year-old Seo-yeon at the neighborhood market, deciding not to steal a packet of ramyun at the last minute. Instead she offers 4-year-old Moon-kwon a bowl of water, but he wants food and cries for Mom.

It’s then that her aunt and uncle had dropped by just in the nick of time and carried them home, crying over their circumstances and cursing their mother. And then when the rain started pouring down on them, Aunt had cried, “It’s your father, crying from heaven.”

Back to the present: Seo-yeon’s aunt sends her a text message asking about the kimchi she’d sent them, and Moon-kwon replies for his sister that it was delicious. It’s adorable how excited the aunt gets at the text reply, since the phone is her newfangled toy of the moment, and she brags about the message to the rest of her family.

Aw, she may be an incessant talker, but her simpleminded warmth is so endearing; no evil stepmother she, when usually these stories of abandoned kids involves a resentful caretaker of some sort.

Ji-hyung stumbles home drunkenly after dinner, miserable as ever. His resolve crumbles and he dials a familiar number, only to be told that it no longer exists. Aw, you’ll be feeling that way again soon, and for the rest of your life.

Seo-yeon goes around reminding herself of the names of household items, as though each correct answer is one more block of sanity that gets rebuilt in her brain. Looking into the mirror, she labels herself:

Seo-yeon: “Lee Seo-yeon. Thirty years old. Team leader at book publisher Space. From years 2005 to 2006, employed at Munhwa newspaper, novel division. Writer. Fuck you, Alzheimer’s.”

 
COMMENTS

Wooo. I love the type of emotion this drama brings out — intense, real, but not hysterical. You can have energy when something explodes or spews or fires in a big giant fireball of chaos. But you can also have energy when there are two strong forces shoving up against each other, not moving, but exerting pressure on each other just the same. It’s that kind of simmering, just-about-to-bubble-to-the-surface energy that I feel here, where one move from either side can send everything bursting in chaos. Precarious balance, always on the verge of eruption. Seo-yeon feels that way to me, her control giving way to these momentary bursts of panic and horror.

I love that she gets angry, and that she rages at her illness and Fate. Her diagnosis sucks, and it’s depressing, and even if it’s not a literal death sentence, it’s tantamount to that when it chips away at your sense of self by degrees. But she’s determined to keep it together, and I find myself respecting her reaction, even admiring it at points.

In fact, the direness of her condition so overshadows the lost romance that I almost don’t care about that right now. I actually really like the fact that Ji-hyung’s so weak — I don’t like his character, but it makes for a very interesting dynamic — and appreciate that his character’s got a long (loooong) way to go to redeeming himself. (Isn’t that part of the fun of the challenge?) But yeah, for right now I’m content to watch him squirm in the hell of his own making, because that strong, independent, tough-as-nails woman you gave up? She’s living a hell someone else gave her, and my sympathies are all tied up thataway.

Ji-hyung’s problem is that he can’t make a choice. He thinks he has no choice, but that’s just his cowardice talking. But once Seo-yeon really starts to deteriorate and he decides what truly matters, I think we’ll see more of what he’s made of — and I mean the good stuff this time. Despite his misery now, I think the part when he realizes Seo-yeon’s fading actually seems like the less painful part of this whole deal.

As to structure: This drama does an interesting thing, which girlfriday previously touched upon, in giving the flashback a sort of ambiguity as to origin. Each flashback does have a present-day anchor telling us who’s thinking it at this moment, but you could say they’re all shared memories; both Seo-yeon and Ji-hyung are living more in their past these days than they are in their bleak presents, and no doubt many of these memories overlap and coincide.

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94 October 25, 2011January 24, 2016

Thousand Day Promise: Episode 4

by girlfriday

It’s the brothers’ episode to shine, as some characters go hurtling towards the truth, while others stay firmly in the land of denial. Grab a hanky and settle in. Oh, and you’re also gonna want your phone handy, to call your brother when it’s over.

Ratings: Promise hits a new high with 17.5%; Kye Baek follows with 13.3%; and Poseidon brings in the rear with 7.3%.

 
EPISODE 4 RECAP

Seo-yeon makes breakfast carefully and methodically, her new method for doing everything. Moon-kwon wonders why they’re eating so early, and she says it’s to buy some time to talk. Not The Talk, but just life stuff, like the fact that she thinks he should quit his part-time jobs to focus on school.

But he insists he’s young and spry and can handle it. Besides, if he doesn’t earn money, how will he marry off his sister? Aw, could you be any cuter?

She starts getting a little ahead of herself, asking him about his future and his plans to marry, which just confuses him because he thought they were talking about her. He senses that she’s saying this stuff to him because there’s a change in her life, and jumps to the conclusion that she’s getting married.

The questions come flying, about who the guy is, when they’re getting married, how he knew there was somebody. She denies, so then he asks if he’s from a wealthy family who won’t allow the marriage.

Startled, she says, “Yes. So I ended it.” Moon-kwon laughs, not even considering that it’s the truth.

She heads out for work, thinking about her brother’s laugh, wishing she could do the same in the face of her illness. She painstakingly goes over everything – that she brought her phone, that she is on her way to work, that she can read at the same pace that she used to.

She spends the entire rest of the way playing a word game in her head.

Ji-hyung heads out and tries calling Seo-yeon’s disconnected line again, over and over. Finally he calls Jae-min to ask for her new number, because he “didn’t end things properly.”

Jae-min asks what that would be, exactly, and points out that he can’t very well give him Seo-yeon’s new number when he’s the entire reason she changed it. Ji-hyung pleads that he just has stuff left to say, that he needs to say. Jae-min: “That’s your problem, ” and “Don’t mess with her.” Gah, I love oppa.

Seo-yeon is first at work, with everything seemingly under control, until a coworker points out that she’s brewed coffee without the coffee. She rushes to the bathroom chanting to herself that it’s okay, that it’s a mistake anyone could have made.

She steels herself in the mirror and heads out, not realizing she’s left the faucet running. But she remembers at the last minute and turns back, her resolve beginning to crack.

At lunch the women rant about how unrealistic their latest project is, a novel about a Candy divorcee who snags a chaebol. “Have you ever actually SEEN a chaebol?” Seo-yeon laughs and says no, more concerned with remembering what she ordered for lunch than whether chaebols exist outside of fantasy.

Meanwhile the actual chaebols stand around arguing over what ridiculously overpriced piece of furniture to buy, and whose taste is gaudier than whose.

Seo-yeon spends every free moment surveying her surroundings, naming objects, places, names. God, I can’t even imagine the terror of being a writer who can’t remember words. She memorizes the coffee menu at Starbucks, which I honestly couldn’t even do on a good day. I mean, what’s a half-caff-decaf-mocha-skinny-frappucino anyway?

She stops in to see her aunt, who’s adorably excited to make her dinner on a non-family-dinner night. Moon-kwon calls to ask for the car keys to go to his friend’s sister’s funeral, and Seo-yeon directs him to her dresser, where he finds the keys and one of her little daily checklist memos. A few normal entries, and then: “Memomemomemomemo, Checkcheckcheckcheckcheck.”

He reads it and smiles, probably thinking that she’s just being a little OCD, and goes to put it back… when he finds another piece of paper. It’s a prescription, for drugs he doesn’t recognize. He doesn’t know what any of it means, so he looks up the terms on his phone.

One of the pills is for Alzheimer’s, while the other is for depression. It starts to dawn on him that this is what’s going on with his sister, and he rushes to the computer to find out more. Panic washes over his face as he reads.

After dinner, Seo-yeon sits with her aunt and asks about her mother, for the first time ever. She asks what kind of person she was, and if Aunt knows where she might be. She doesn’t know (or doesn’t let on if she does), and declares her a crazy person, otherwise how could she have abandoned her children, not realizing what it might mean to Seo-yeon if her mother were legitimately crazy.

Seo-yeon asks if she and her brother would’ve died if Aunt and Uncle hadn’t come to get them, and thanks her for taking them in, despite how poor they were. Aunt insists it only took three spoonfuls of rice to feed them, like it was no big deal.

She in turn feels grateful to her husband, for suggesting that they take the kids in. (They’re her brother’s kids, so Uncle technically has no blood ties.) Seo-yeon takes out an envelope and passes it to her. She went to the department store but couldn’t choose, so she got a gift certificate instead. It’s her first gift to them, now that she’s debt-free and able to say thank you.

Jae-min sits outside a convenience store with a can of beer, and Moon-kwon rushes over to meet him. He says there was no one else, that he had to tell hyung first. Jae-min wonders if he’s in some kind of trouble. Half-jokingly, “Did you get someone pregnant? Does she want you to take responsibility?”

Moon-kwon starts in that it’s to do with his sister, that something’s going on with her. Thinking he means her recent breakup, Jae-min calmly says that she’s got her private life too, and that it’s something he should respect.

But Moon-kwon finally spits it out: “I think noona has dementia…” He lays out all the things that add up now, like her forgetfulness growing by the day, her strange memos, how she always leaves her phone behind, doesn’t recall the names of things.

He tells him about the scissors, how she had to resort to miming them with her fingers, and then blew up at his joke that she was going senile. He shows Jae-min the slip of paper with the name of the doctor she went to see, saying that this was the day she said she went to the dentist.

He says she’s been on painkillers for a while, but these prescriptions, made out in her name, are for new things – depression, Alzheimer’s. Jae-min says it can’t be… she’s too young. Shaking, Moon-kwon looks up at his hyung, looking to him for answers.

Seo-yeon walks home from her aunt’s house, counting each step as she goes down. She sees Jae-min walk up towards her, staring at the ground, completely oblivious to the world.

She waits in his path and he stops at her feet, startled. He makes vacant chitchat and she walks past. He stops her, “Ji-hyung called today.” He relays the message, that he has something he wants to say. Seo-yeon asks what he answered.

Jae-min: “I told him not to mess with you.” Satisfied at that, she says she doesn’t need to hear it, that it’s probably just that he’s sorry. Jae-min’s like, he didn’t even say SORRY? But she smiles, “He would have. Tell him he doesn’t need to feel bad, that I don’t need to hear it. That I’m fine.” Wow, are you thinking of sparing his conscience, even in this moment?

Jae-min watches her hobble down the steps in her high heels and turns back. He takes her arm and walks her down. Seriously, I cannot handle how perfect he is. There’s gotta be something wrong with him. Secret clown porn collection? Deals heroin to kids in his spare time? Something.

He asks if she shouldn’t hear Ji-hyung out, one last time. “What if he says you’re the only woman for him?” Seo-yeon: “While he raises children with someone else?” She wonders if there is such a thing.

She assures him that in a few months’ time, she’ll have forgotten all about him, and be with someone new. “What, did you think he was my one and only?” She apologizes for disappointing him, and laughs it off, saying she’ll be fine. She turns to go.

He starts to go back up the steps, but stops and turns back to watch her walk away. She tells him to turn around. “I don’t want you to see my back.” He complies, and this time she watches him go.

I love these two together. They have such an interesting dynamic that feels different from a normal family connection, but not in a squicky way. Their scenes play out not unlike a pair of lovers, though what makes it great is that he’s just her oppa. (Though obviously, part of me is like, can he be adopted?)

She flashes back to a time when Ji-hyung dropped her off, and she insisted that he leave first: “I don’t want you to see my back.” He asks why, and she says she just doesn’t like it, that showing her back feels sad and pathetic.

It’s telling that this has always been her character. It’s commonly a guy thing to say (at least in dramas) – “I’ll never show you my back” – as in, I’ll never walk away from you. She’s always been the stronger one, to look after other people’s feelings before her own.

Ji-hyung’s pre-wedding drama comes to a head when Hyang-gi’s mom hears his latest request, to push back meeting Hyang-gi’s relatives until after the wedding. He’s basically using work as an excuse to be involved as little as possible, which just does not fly with mother-in-law to-be.

She storms over there to scream her head off at Ji-hyung, and call the whole thing off. Well you just might be doing us all a favor there, lady. He apologizes in his usual placid, zombie way, which does nothing to calm her down.

But Hyang-gi shows up and counters that she’ll just DIE if she can’t marry Ji-hyung, and cries like the seven-year old princess that she is. He picks her up and comforts her, while Mom gapes at her, unable to fathom how she could’ve given birth to a daughter so useless. Ha. I love that Mom basically thinks her daughter is a moron.

Too bad she’s not serious about calling off the wedding though, as she promptly calls Ji-hyung’s mom to have her smooth things out and get him to play ball.

Seo-yeon starts a daily journal, detailing everything she did that day, more like a catalogue than a journal so she can keep track. She then goes over a series of questions geared towards Alzheimer’s patients, and answers them one by one, as if trying to convince herself that these don’t apply to her and that she’s fine.

Jae-min researches her illness online, and Mom brags to him about the gift certificates from Seo-yeon. She muses that she seemed different today, asking about her mother for the first time. Jae-min assures her that it’s natural that she’d be curious.

Moon-kwon calls from a rest stop on his way home, to check in. When she says that she’s settling in to do some work, he worries that she’s overworking herself.

Moon-kwon: What if you work yourself sick? I’m still powerless. It’s not a senseless worry. Of course I worry. It’s just the two of us. I haven’t done anything and you’ve worked so hard. If I didn’t worry, I’d be a jerk. Noona, I love you. I really really love you.

*whimper* The words just come tumbling out, seemingly out of nowhere. Seo-yeon smiles and tells him he’s being weird, musing that he must’ve been traumatized by his friend’s noona’s death. He chokes back his tears.

Ji-hyung gets an earful from his mom about how he’s clearly feeling avoidy because he doesn’t want to marry Hyang-gi. Um, so then why do you insist he still marry her? She tells him to get it together and stop making her nervous, and he assures her that it’s all squared away and he won’t hurt Hyang-gi. Mom: “Your wedding is the happiest moment of your life.” Yeah, you people seem real happy about it.

Hyang-gi’s mom continues to be dissatisfied purely for reasons of pride, while Hyang-gi is busy making sure that Ji-hyung isn’t mad at her. She texts him: “I think I was born to love you.” Oh dear. You are in for quite a shock, princess.

Jae-min sits up pondering what to do, zoning out while the rest of his family goes about their usual incessant shouting. It’s not just you, buddy. Every time your noona opens her mouth I just kind of go numb and tune her out.

Seo-yeon works for a while, and then notices a cup of ramyun sitting on her desk. Fear sets in as she realizes she forgot to eat it. She destroys the evidence, murmuring to herself that it’s okay, it happens to everyone.

Jae-min goes to see Seo-yeon’s doctor the next day, and confirms his fears. He tells Moon-kwon, who bursts into tears. “What is this? What is this, noona? What is this?!” Ugh, my heart, my heart.

Jae-min silently puts a hand on his shoulder as he cries and cries. After a while, he settles down and asks what they’re supposed to do now. She hasn’t filled her prescription – are they supposed to keep pretending they don’t know?

Jae-min suggests they wait a little longer for her, since she’s probably barely hanging on now. Moon-kwon worries about the meds, but Jae-min thinks she’ll tell them when she’s ready.

Moon-kwon: “What if she doesn’t, till the end? … We have to put on an act. Noona’s act, and mine too… Why are we so unlucky? Dirty rotten luck…”

While Moon-kwon cries his little heart out, Ji-hyung attends a couple’s cooking class that makes me want to puke. No, mostly it makes me want to shove his head in the oven, and a pie in Hyang-gi’s face.

Seo-yeon gets a surprise bonus from a project she’s been working on the side, and decides to take her coworkers out. They have a great time, while she spends the night distracted.

Jae-min stares at his dinner that night, unable to eat. Ji-hyung calls, and he steps out. He begs for just one hour of Jae-min’s time, swearing it’ll be the last.

He says he’s scared he’ll lose his friend, though it’s something he knew was a risk from the start. And yet he still hoped, that after everything, his friend might still understand him. Jae-min doesn’t answer, but agrees to have a drink.

Seo-yeon watches her friends sing and dance the night away, as she pours herself shot after shot of soju.

 
COMMENTS

Well the shit’s certainly about two inches from hitting the fan. I don’t think Jae-min’s going to be able to keep this from Ji-hyung, despite his anger. He’s not jaded like Seo-yeon is, and I feel like he’ll say something because he knows it’ll change the outcome. He’s gotta know it’ll piss her off something fierce though, which will probably be the source of their conflict from here on out.

I can’t wait till Ji-hyung finds out, Seo-yeon’s pride be damned. I know he’s miserable, but that self-flagellating guilt is so unsatisfactory as far as I’m concerned. Oh, you’re unhappy, boo frickin’ hoo. Get your head out of your ass and DO something about it. The truth is bound to kick him out of stasis, which will go a long way towards recovering his character.

I love that despite having the world’s most rotten luck, Seo-yeon is actually surrounded by family who love her. I don’t know who to feel worse for — the little brother who suddenly has to deal with his whole world coming down around him, or the hyung who suddenly has to have all the answers. Moon-kwon’s heartbreaking discovery just about killed me, and I’m glad that we didn’t have to wait any longer for someone to find out. It also gives him the chance to step up and protect her and be the caretaker, when it’s always been the other way around their whole lives. That role reversal just gets me *right here.*

 
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72 October 31, 2011January 24, 2016

Thousand Day Promise: Episode 5

by girlfriday

This episode just about killed me dead. It’s D-day, otherwise known as fan-hitting time for le shit. I love how quickly we get here, how raw the emotions are, and as always, I’m madly in love with Jae-min. He really ought to just dispense with that silly car and ride around on a white horse.

 
EPISODE 5 RECAP

Ji-hyung and Jae-min share a drink, and Ji-hyung confesses that he regrets it – regrets thinking that being the dutiful son was the right choice, when all he had to do was cast off that burden. He says he should’ve let it go, that he mistakenly thought that not stirring up trouble was the most important thing.

Jae-min tells him that he gave Seo-yeon his message, and that she said not to worry about her. Ji-hyung asks him to tell her that it wasn’t because he loved her any less, and how sorry he is. “I already know how pathetic I am. That I’ll spend the rest of my life being pathetic.” Yes, while that’s not untrue, it also does nothing for anyone, does it?

He adds that she should forget him as quickly as possible, and Jae-min tells him it’s pretty funny for him to be worried about that – she’s her and he’s him, so it’s really none of his concern anymore.

Jae-min reminds him that Seo-yeon hates dangling threads, loose ends. Ji-hyung sighs, “I know. But Jae-min-ah, I think I’ll be dangling my whole life.” Jae-min counters that he’s overstepping to worry about her. He knows it, but can’t help worrying anyway.

Ji-hyung loosens his tie, sighing that at least sitting here like this with Jae-min feels like he’s got a needle’s worth of breathing room. It’s a nice visual both as an action and a metaphor, because he’s so utterly suffocated by his life.

Myung-hee denies Moon-kwon’s request to quit working at her bakery (because he brings in the high school girls, ha) and at home she wonders if it’s because Seo-yeon is mad at her or something.

She confesses to badmouthing her when her husband pointed out a picture in a magazine saying it looked like Seo-yeon, and now she’s convinced Moon-kwon overheard and now both of them are mad. Ha. If only that was the height of their troubles, lady.

Jae-min tells Ji-hyung to stop being a crybaby and get it together. There’s nothing he can do for her anymore because she wants nothing to do with him. “So just consider her dead.” Ji-hyung says he gets it, and tears brimming, he asks that Seo-yeon at least know that it wasn’t because he loved her any less, and that he’ll spend the rest of his life endlessly sorry. Dude, what good does that do for anyone? GUH.

They get up to pay, and Jae-min heads to the counter… where he runs into Seo-yeon’s doctor. Oh. The doc recognizes him as Seo-yeon’s guardian and asks if he’s spoken to her about needing treatment soon. Jae-min says he hasn’t yet, and they part ways.

But Ji-hyung’s heard enough to know something’s seriously wrong with Seo-yeon, if Jae-min has met with a doctor because of her, and that if it were really nothing as Jae-min insists, the doctor wouldn’t be concerned with her treatment.

He asks what it is, if it’s cancer, what’s wrong. Jae-min holds his ground, insisting that they’re over and it’s Seo-yeon’s business. It starts to get heated as Ji-hyung relentlessly asks what’s wrong, and how he could stand here and pretend not to hear.

Jae-min: “She wouldn’t want you to know and neither do I. It has nothing to do with you – it’s our family, our business!” It turns into a shouting match as Ji-hyung pleads, but Jae-min refuses and sends him away. I want him to know, but I adore Jae-min for not making it easy.

Ji-hyung runs back into the restaurant to look for the doctor himself, and catches up to him on the street. He pleads with the doctor to tell him what’s wrong, insisting that he’s Seo-yeon’s boyfriend and her guardian too.

The doc says he can’t tell him because it’s the family’s private matter. Ji-hyung begs, asking if it’s cancer. The doc tells him that if he comes to the hospital tomorrow with Seo-yeon herself, then he’ll tell him everything. He adds that even if it’s not with him, she needs treatment.

Jae-min walks along and runs into Seo-yeon walking home just ahead of him. She’s barefoot and reciting the Lord’s Prayer in English, for some reason. Well that’s just the oddest drunk behavior I’ve seen to date.

He runs up and finds that she’s had some drinks, which she announces happily, since it was to celebrate her surprise bonus. She grins from ear to ear as she tells him it’s lots and lots of money, and she had a great time singing and dancing and drinking.

He worries about her feet, and she says she didn’t want to stumble in her heels and there was no one, so she just took ’em off. He says that she should’ve called him or Moon-kwon, and says that he’s here now.

He bends down to put her shoes back on, worried about her cutting up her feet, and offers to walk her home. Swooooooon. He insists on carrying her purse too, and she takes his arm, laughing that it’ll look like they’re dating.

She leans on him as they walk. “Oppa, thank you.” She says she’s grateful to Aunt and Uncle, Myung-hee and her husband too. “But I’m most grateful to you. Why? Because you always quietly took care of me. You’ve never hurt me, or made me feel like it was a burden. To me, you were always my biggest background.”

He asks why she’s talking in the past tense. She quickly corrects herself, “No, it’s past, present and future. Oppa you need to protect me. Don’t find a girlfriend. If you find a girlfriend and stop paying attention to me, I’ll be mad.”

Jae-min smiles, “That’s a really selfish thing to say.” Seo-yeon: “That’s right. I’m selfish. I’m going to be selfish.” She lets out a heavy, shaky sigh.

These two kill me. I don’t know if I’ve ever watched a drama where I cared LESS about the romantic relationship than I do about the oppa one, but damn.

He walks her home and watches her go up with a heavy heart. He gets a text from Ji-hyung, naming Seo-yeon’s doctor and his appointment with him tomorrow at 3. He calls and Ji-hyung totally lies that he’ll hear it from the doc tomorrow anyway, so Jae-min should just tell him now.

Urg, I’m so torn between wanting him to know but not wanting to give him the satisfaction of knowing. He finally railroads Jae-min into coughing up the truth, after swearing to keep it a secret from Seo-yeon. “It’s Alzheimer’s.”

Stunned, Ji-hyung goes through the same process of denial, wondering how it could be possible in someone so young, if maybe she was misdiagnosed. But no, Jae-min’s been down that road already, and researched doctors to know that hers is a well-respected one in his field. According to the doctor, she’s had it for about two years now (which would explain the long-term use of painkillers without an end to the headaches).

Jae-min tells him to just think of it as Seo-yeon’s fate, and not to feel guilt over it. “Do you see now why I said there’s nothing you can do?” He points out that Ji-hyung’s a week away from his wedding. Ugh. Jae-min asks him to keep his promise and not get involved.

At home, Moon-kwon puts on a brave face and promises to deal with the part-time job situation himself, rather than have Seo-yeon get involved. He panics for a moment when she struggles to remember the word for cereal as they talk about what to eat for breakfast. Both of them lurch for a moment, but then she finds the word.

He worries under his breath about her drinking, but it comes out loud enough for her to hear. He covers it up by saying that he’s just worried that it’ll be hard on her in the morning, but she smiles it off and says to worry about himself.

Ji-hyung sits staring blankly, as it starts to sink in. He flashes back to a happy moment in bed, when he had lied about not being ticklish. She insisted on testing it to be sure, when he caved and admitted to lying about it.

She wondered why on earth he’d lie about that, and he says it was to appear impressive in her eyes. She in turn tells him that when she was young she had an outy bellybutton, but it just changed one day, and now when she gives a push, she can turn it back into an outy. He totally falls for it and she laughs, wondering who’d fall for something so dumb.

It leads him to another memory, of the time they ran into each other at an art gallery, the first time they had seen each other in over eight years. He had returned from studying abroad, and it was long enough of a separation for them to not recognize each other right away.

He points out that they saw each other three years ago, when he came in to see Jae-min, which she had forgotten. He marvels at how she looks the same, and notices that she doesn’t put sugar in her coffee. “Because they say it’s bad for you. I have to live a long time.”

She asks about his fiancée, and when he’s getting married. He says in about a year… and as they have coffee, he asks her to lunch. And then as they have lunch, he asks her to dinner.

After dinner they walk along the river, holding hands. Ji-hyung: “What is this feeling? As if… since ages ago, since before I was born, since a thousand years before… I’ve been waiting for today.”

She tells him for her it’s déjà vu. She doesn’t believe in past lives, but she has the feeling that they’ve been here before, just like this, maybe in memory, maybe in dreams. He adds a vote to the past lives theory.

Back in the present, he weeps.

The next day he heads out of the hospital and has another memory, of Seo-yeon singing him happy birthday. He kisses her before she can finish the song and she sighs that she’d like to die right then and there.

What a heartbreaking thing to remember – something she said to mean how happy she was, but now just ringing in his ears tragically.

Seo-yeon spends the day at work in good spirits, until she gets a call at her desk. It’s Ji-hyung, waiting for her downstairs. She braces herself and meets him, repeating herself curtly that she’s fine and he needn’t do this.

But he launches straight into it, telling her that he made an appointment with a new doctor, that they’re going to get a second opinion, that she needs to start treatment. She looks up at him in shock. “How? How do you know?”

He tells her that he found out from Jae-min. “Oppa? How? How does he know?” Ohgod ohgod ohgod ohgod….

Ji-hyung and Jae-min sit across the table from her, side by side. She buries her head in her hands, balled up as fists the entire time.

Finally she speaks, without looking up at either of them. She insists that she’s not a patient, not until she says she is. She’s fine. Jae-min agrees then that it’s possible if she gets reexamined…

But she cuts him off that she found the best doctor, and he should fold that last bit of hope. Ji-hyung tries to chime in but she cuts him off coldly, in jondae, not to concern himself with it.

She tells Jae-min not to concern himself with it either, and he bites back, “How can you say something like that?!” She asks what he can do about it, and he tells her that there’s ways to treat it, to slow it, to wait till there’s a cure.

Seo-yeon: “Oppa, rather than growing old and stupid, I want to hurry, hurry, and end it.” She tells him that she has no intention of becoming a useless burden to the people around her, just sucking up their pity.

Ji-hyung tells her that it’s different, case by case. She could have ten years, maybe more. Seo-yeon: “What use is that? If I live a long long time as an empty shell, getting into trouble, shaving precious time from precious people – will I be immortalized forever?”

Ji-hyung: “Do you want to be dragged there, or do you want to go willingly?” Seo-yeon: “Stop pretending to be the good guy and get the hell out.”

She throws his concern right back in his face, asking if he wants to drag her to the hospital so she can hear the same diagnosis all over again, so he can sigh and say he did all he could, and feel good about it? “My problem is so big, that I don’t have time to do that for you.”

Ooof. There’s just something so fierce and raw about her pride even in a situation like this – it just resonates with me.

She gets up to go, and Ji-hyung blocks her path. She tells him that she’s perfectly fine, and rattles off all the things she’s handling right now, at work, in her life, how she’s perfectly normal.

Ji-hyung says that maybe it means she’s really fine, so if they see another doctor… But she pleads them not to make her hear it again. If she hears that diagnosis one more time, she can’t ignore it, can’t deny it. She’s scared she’ll just give up and collapse.

She looks over at Jae-min, “Until I got into really big trouble, I didn’t want anyone to know. My pride… it hurts a lot.” She walks past him to the door, but falters as soon as she reaches the handle. She crouches down, unable to stand.

The guys get up and Ji-hyung rushes to her side. She leans on him and clutches his arm, but she turns to Jae-min. Trembling, “Oppa, oppa, take me home.”

He comes over and picks her up out of Ji-hyung’s grasp, and she hugs him for dear life, wailing like a child. She cries into his shoulder, as Ji-hyung stands aside and cries silently. I can’t even see them through my tears.

Ji-hyung watches silently from the sidelines, unable to do anything for her, as Jae-min takes her to the car, puts on her seatbelt, and drives her away.

Over at Ji-hyung’s house, the moms-in-law meet up, and despite my hatred for this world and all its ridiculousness, I do love these two moms and their hilarious conversations. Today Ji-hyung’s mom gripes about her friend’s over-shortening of words, which is totally a gripe I share about Korean slang and its obsession with senseless compounding and shortening till words are no longer words, and everything is an acronym.

Hyang-gi’s mom in turn wonders if she ought to buy Ji-hyung a new car. Mom says no, that’s silly, so then she asks, “Do you want a new car?” She asks what the obsession with cars is, and she admits that a friend of hers married off her daughter with five new cars. Ji-hyung’s mom: “Did she have two heads?” Hahaha.

Hyang-gi’s mom goes so far as to worry about Ji-hyung and his, er, reproductive health, making everyone else cringe at her boundary issues.

Jae-min drops Seo-yeon off at home, and she insists that she’s fine and back to her normal self. She tells him that she doesn’t want Aunt and Uncle to worry, or to have Unni clucking at her, so to wait until after she’s lost her mind to tell them. He says he understands and promises to do so.

He calls Moon-kwon to tell him what’s happened, and he runs home with lightning speed, crying the whole way. He arrives out of breath and struggles to tamp down his tears before bracing himself and knocking on her door.

There’s no answer so he opens it cautiously. She lashes out at him, furious that he went through her things, that he told Jae-min. She asks how he could spill that secret so easily. Trembling, he admits the truth:

Moon-kwon: Because it was too big for me to handle! Because I was so scared!
Seo-yeon: So what are you going to do about it? Are you going to be sick in my place? Are you going to swap my head for yours? Can you do that?!
Moon-kwon: If that’s something I could do, I’d do it right now! If it meant that you could live, I’d jump off this roof right now!
Seo-yeon: You say something stupid like that one more time! Do you want to be beaten?!
Moon-kwon: How long did you think you could hide it? What is there to hide? Am I a stranger? If you’re hurting then I have to be hurting with you. Noona, if I were hurting, would you just be whistling and pretending not to know?
Seo-yeon: I’m not… ready yet. I can’t acknowledge it.

She refuses to face it, the dirty rotten luck of a girl abandoned by both her parents. He says that Dad didn’t abandon them, but she bites back that dying that young is the same thing as abandoning them. (Which means this is what she feels about leaving Moon-kwon behind, of course.)

He pleads with her to start taking her meds, but she ignores him, zooming past to change the subject and order food. She asks for her phone and he has to tell her that she left her purse at work, and that Jae-min is having it sent over by courier.

She flinches at the slip and then asks for his phone then, trying her damnedest to get past this moment and this conversation.

Ji-hyung calls Jae-min to check in, worrying endlessly with no outlet. He asks for Seo-yeon’s number, “just to have it,” but Jae-min tells him to back off from here on out.

He looks over the city at night, remembering Seo-yeon telling him that she loved him over and over, and the first moment when she knew, the day they first met. In voiceover, Seo-yeon: “Since the day I met you, I was zapped like lightning. Why, I wonder? You weren’t even that impressive. Why, I wonder?”

 
COMMENTS

Every time I’m more and more impressed by Su Ae. Seo-yeon’s prickliness could be extremely off-putting if she weren’t playing it all with such a deep undercurrent of vulnerability and sadness. You can see it on her face – the mask of denial and strength that she’s so desperately trying to keep up, everything she’s feeling underneath the words that come out of her mouth.

It makes her character so three-dimensional for me, because real people don’t say what they mean. They coat it, in pride, in anger, in misplaced blame. I’d be the same way, clinging uselessly to pride and denial because it’s safe, it’s what I know. I love that she doesn’t sugarcoat things for other people—it’s for HER, because she can’t face losing control of her life. That feels so utterly real that it’s kind of gut-wrenching to watch her falter.

The brothers continue to be the real heroes of the piece so far, but we do get our first glimpse of Ji-hyung’s transformation, just on the brink. He has yet to actually act – to put his money where his mouth is, so to speak – but the courage seems to be rising. I’m just glad that this drama dispenses with the secret-keeping, and that people just find out what they need to know swiftly, refusing to let them live in the safety of denial. It’s like the world or Fate pushes everyone out of complacency, trauma be damned. It sucks for them, but it’s awesome for us.

Structurally, I love that the romance plays out in the past. Somehow keeping it trapped there, only in memory, is maybe the most tragic thing of all. They play out like bubbles of time that can’t help but be tinged with sadness, no matter how happy they are in the moment, because it’s already gone. That inside-out feeling is a nice effect because it puts them on the outside, looking in on something that is no longer there. I don’t know why, but that kind of sadness gets to me more than two people breaking down and crying over each other. It’s like how insisting that you’re not going to think about someone is proof that you’re currently thinking about them – the fact that they exist in memory is proof that they are in the past.

 
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54 November 1, 2011January 24, 2016

Thousand Day Promise: Episode 6

by javabeans

Episode, meet your two guest stars, Fallout and Damage Control. It’s time to turn the focus onto the other side of this fractured love story, which means that we get some necessary development, although sadly less focus on my favorite characters (Seo-yeon and her two awesome men, aka oppa and dongseng). But at least we get more of the awesome Lee Mi-sook, who can turn the most dire situation darkly funny.

I’m relieved to have Flower Boy Ramyun Shop running concurrently with this one, because I’ll need all its fluffy cuteness to ease the heart-wrenching intensity of Thousand Day Promise. True, it makes me feel vaguely schizo to bounce from choked sobs to belly laughs, but I’ll take that tradeoff.

SONG OF THE DAY

Americano – “별님의 선물” (Gift from a star) [ Download ]

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 
EPISODE 6 RECAP

Morning at the workplace for our characters: Moon-kwon gets his ear screeched off by noona Myung-hee, who won’t accept his request to quit the bakery so he can study, so he can secure full-time employment, so he can help Seo-yeon support them.

She shrieks, “How can you only think of yourself?!” I guess it wouldn’t be irony if she recognized that the words just as likely to bounce back in her face. Thankfully she’s married to a nice guy who tells Moon-kwon to go.

Seo-yeon has a better morning, meeting with a successful author for an interview at the office.

On the other hand, Ji-hyung zones out entirely while his friend — I’m sure he has a name in this universe, but for now he’s just Architect Alex — carries their client meeting. Alex takes care of the meeting, but he definitely notices Ji-hyung’s apathy and afterward tells him to pull it together: “Just call off that stupid wedding! Why go through with it?” A good question, sensible man, which is why you are not the drama’s hero.

Bride and Groom’s parents go out for round of golf and stop for drinks at the clubhouse. Today, Bride’s Mom complains that her husband should be consistent in how he addresses Groom’s Mom, rather than bouncing from nickname to nickname. Either call her Soo-jung or Dr. Kang or samonim (madam), because it’s confusing when he uses all three in practically the same breath. It’s one of the results of knowing someone for decades and having your relationships evolve, since those monikers were all appropriate at one time and equally familiar to him.

The conversation is mundane, but it’s interesting in the way that it’s interesting to overhear the table next to you at a restaurant engaging in lively debate. You feel like you’re snatching a glimpse into their lives, no matter how little the topic of discussion. What I’m getting from these family scenes is that they’re not essential to the core story, but they round out the world. They’re relevant in a peripheral sense, showing us indirectly what it’s like to be Seo-yeon and Ji-hyung, and what their spheres are like.

Hyang-gi packs for her honeymoon and jumps when Ji-hyang calls her out for tea, running to meet him. She registers his morose attitude, but she figures it’s more of his office woes. And frankly, it’s not like morose is such a different look on him.

But he has a mission today, and prepares her by saying he’s going to tell her a nightmarish tale, one that he understands is unthinkable and unexpected but necessary to say. The worst she can imagine is that he wants to ask for a wedding postponement, but he tells her outright that he can’t marry her. It has nothing to do with his job, or her mother, but everything to do with the fact that he doesn’t love her, and his liking for her isn’t enough. He’d let himself think their long-standing friendship and comfort level was love.

Hyang-gi’s caught between horror and denial, and lists all the activities they’ve done together: the meals, the trips, the shows they saw, the sleeping together… As though the sum of those parts equals love.

Not only does she have to deal with this broken engagement, he’s left it to such a late date — the wedding’s in two days — that she’ll also have to face the humiliation. She sobs, “I want to faint but I can’t. Why can’t I faint?”

At work, Seo-yeon goes through another of her memory rituals, this time rattling off the names of famous writers, and gets stuck — she gets as far as Gabriel Garcia, and can’t think of Marquez. Then she leaves her purse at work, rattling her further. It’s like every time she’s having a good day, these lapses sneak up on her and sap the energy right out, leaving her cold.

While Hyang-gi struggles to make sense of this news, Ji-hyung tells her to consider him the bad guy in her life. He thanks her for her devotion and calls her good and kind and all those compliments that are sincere and true, but ultimately pointless because they end with But I don’t love you and I won’t marry you.

But when Ji-hyung says that he’ll break the news to their parents and accept the blame, she protests. That would be insane, she argues, and he has to know how incredible the consequences would be. No, she decides, they’ll marry as planned. Geezus.

But at least that gets him to drop the final bomb, that he’s in love with someone else. The screen actually flashes white, like this information is so huge that it blows her mind, as he explains that he tried to end that relationship, but finds that he can’t. That he’s been seeing her for the past year.

Hyang-gi is devastated but says she can’t give him to another woman — she can’t live without him. Maybe if he kills her, then he can do as he likes. As if on cue, she spits up, choking on vomit.

Ji-hyung takes her home, where she vomits again. She asks the housekeeper to keep this from Mom, and listlessly heads for bed. The obvious assumption by the housekeeper is that she’s pregnant, even though Hyang-gi earlier told Mom that they haven’t slept together in ages.

Ji-hyung calls Jae-min for an update on Seo-yeon, pressing despite Jae-min’s desire to keep this a family problem. Jae-min placates him by saying he’ll let him know once Seo-yeon starts on her meds.

Myung-hee calls Seo-yeon to the bakery to confront her about Moon-kwon quitting. Since she’s such a petty, jealous woman, it only stands to reason that she assumes Seo-yeon’s behavior is also rooted in petty thinking. For instance, her working theory is that Seo-yeon told her brother to quit the bakery because of negative feelings between them. Seo-yeon assures her cousin that she wants Moon-kwon to focus on his studies and that it’s nothing personal. Finally Myung-hee believes it, and the air is cleared.

Seo-yeon feels particularly tired today and wonders as she walks home, “How long will I be able to hold out?” She starts dinner, but when Moon-kwon comes home he finds the soup boiling on the stove unattended. She’s asleep in her room.

Moon-kwon texts Jae-min the update that he picked up her prescriptions. At Aunt’s house, Myung-hee gets a glimpse of the text and asks if Seo-yeon’s sick, which Jae-min covers by saying she’s just feeling a little under the weather. Aunt sighs that Seo-yeon must be working too hard, 365 days a year, and Myung-hee snipes pettishly that it’s not 365 — there are weekends and holidays, you know, so it’s more like 200.

Okay, Myung-hee is a spiteful cow, but you know what? I’m starting to enjoy her obvious inferiority complex — if she were causing damage I’d have much less patience for her, but because this bothers her so much while everyone else is unperturbed, I feel like there’s some cosmic justice built into the system. She’s so small-minded that it’s transparent that she’s just looking for reasons to criticize Seo-yeon, and coming up short. Really, that’s the best you can do? She technically works 200 days a year instead of 365? Congratulations, you’ve managed to split that one petty hair into TWO petty hairs. You win!

Moon-kwon gets ready to eat dinner, only to find that his sister didn’t plug in the rice cooker. When she wakes from her nap, the sight of the rice still cooking stops her short, and he tells her that he just turned it on. He doesn’t worry or hover or accuse, just leaves the truth there. But more evidence of her forgetfulness brings Seo-yeon’s defenses back up, and she starts making excuses for feeling tired. All the while, Moon-kwon just agrees calmly, not wanting to escalate anything.

Bride’s Mom comes home to the news that Hyang-gi threw up earlier, then finds her sobbing in bed. Hyang-gi tells her that she called it off, twisting the truth around to absolve Ji-hyung of blame: He said he loves her but she thinks he’s fooling himself; she confused her affection for love; ultimately neither of them is in love and therefore they shouldn’t marry.

Naturally Mom doesn’t believe this and assumes Hyang-gi’s parroting Ji-hyung’s excuses, but Hyang-gi persists, saying these are her thoughts. Mom: “How could you possibly come up with that thought? Did you get hit by a smart ray?” HAHA. Oh man, she cracks me up. I know I should find it sad that Mom has so little faith in her daughter’s brain, but on the other hand, it’s not like she’s wrong, is she?

Hyang-gi says she had an epiphany, that Ji-hyung insisted on going forward, and that she refused. Mom won’t be taken for an idiot — and storms off determined to give Ji-hyung a piece of her mind. A word from the housekeeper makes Mom stop short, and she asks Hyang-gi suspiciously if she’s pregnant. Hyang-gi says no, but Mom doesn’t believe that, either.

She calls Groom’s Mom immediately to scream in her ear about her worthless son. Groom’s Mom is stunned, although given what she knows, it’s not quite the surprise it could’ve been.

Oblivious to the drama unfolding at home, the two dads toast to their 40-year friendship and celebrate their last time partying together as mere friends, since they’ll be in-laws the next time. Aw, they’re cute. I can see why Ji-hyung was so loath to disrupt their relationship.

But the fun is cut short when Bride’s Mom calls Bride’s Dad to tell him the news. Meanwhile, Ji-hyung faces his horrified mother and aunt at home, apologetic but firm in his declaration that he can’t marry. Not when “my head, my heart, my everything is with that woman.”

That night, Moon-kwon and Jae-min sit Seo-yeon down with her medication, urging her to take them. They try to argue that it’s just like taking medicine to recover from an illness, but Seo-yeon refuses — she’s still not ready. She tries to compromise by saying she’ll take them when she gets worse, but not now.

The Dads head home to confront this mess and find out the extent of the damage from their wives. Bride’s Mom shrilly accuses Ji-hyung of everything, but it’s almost humorous how Dad doesn’t take her at her hysterical word (he must be used to her dramatics and treats this problem with the composure of a doctor looking at a wound he has to treat).

The mothers are in agreement about overruling the groom’s reluctance, intent on getting the derailed wedding train back on its tracks. It’s interesting that everyone takes that basic line of reasoning — that all they have to do is get the groom to the altar, rather than listening to anything the kids are saying.

Bride’s Mom shouts into her phone, “You wanna come here, or you want us to go there?” Dad’s calmer, though, arguing for conversation and negotiation, and sits down to talk it out with Hyang-gi. I don’t know how a scene like this can sneak in the funny, but it does: Mom keeps muttering and swearing, so Dad requests a mere five minutes of silence from her, and in response Mom orders the housekeeper to bring out a timer. Haha. I love Lee Mi-sook.

Hyang-gi’s father prods her gently to tell him the truth — was it Mom who pushed too hard and made Ji-hyung break it off? Mom breaks the five-minute agreement to screech at that, but Hyang-gi says no, that she was the one to call off the wedding.

Like his friend, Ji-hyung’s father approaches this relatively calmly — he’s sternly grim, but calm — as he tells Ji-hyung that he has to apologize and take it back. It’s too late to cite “I don’t love her” as an excuse to call it off; Ji-hyung can’t do this and still call him Father.

Ji-hyung accepts all the censure, bowing his head, and apologizes repeatedly. But finally he adds that he can’t because he’s in love with another woman — a detail Mom was intent on keeping from Dad forever. That changes things — especially at his admission that he told Hyang-gi as well, to break through her denial — and sparks tempers, with both parents calling him crazed.

They decide that Hyang-gi must have kept the full truth from her parents, since they aren’t screeching about That Other Woman. That means they can still right this ship and fix things, or so they think.

Hyang-gi’s father has a similar thought, and is ready to hold a two-family summit meeting tomorrow to keep the wedding on — even if that means his wife has to offer up an apology. She doesn’t like the sound of that at all, but he warns her to think of the end goal and do what she has to for her daughter’s sake.

Alone in her room, Hyang-gi takes out her wedding dress and holds it up sadly. Eep, girl, you’re tiptoeing into Miss Havisham territory there…

Ji-hyung slumps in his room, lost in thoughts of Seo-yeon’s illness, replaying their last, emotionally charged encounter.

Hyang-gi texts Ji-hyung, telling him that she wants to keep that part about his other woman quiet — it’s better that they both stick to the “We’re not in love” excuse. Telling the full truth would be humiliating for her and turns him into the bad guy. That’s probably more than he deserves, frankly, but Hyang-gi has a point if they don’t want to rip apart their parents’ friendships as well. It’s probably too late to prevent that, but I can see why the kids would want to try. And despite all this, she texts that she still wants him, though she calls herself stupid for it.

At home, Seo-yeon retires to her room to recite more facts and names to herself, going over authors and their famous works. She tells herself to focus on work, because she may not have much time left, and reminds herself not to make mistakes.

With that, she leaves her bedroom and settles down to work, surprising Moon-kwon, who thought she’d turned in for the night. When she sits at her desk and boots up her computer, he tells her that it’s still nighttime, as though he thinks she must have confused the hour for morning. Defensive again, Seo-yeon snaps at him that she knows, ignoring his concern.

 
COMMENTS

This was more of a necessary episode than anything, I think, getting our hero to stand up to his parents and take his stance. I missed the developments on the Seo-yeon front, but I guess we needed to give the fallout sufficient room to, uh, fall. And explode and send chaos raining in every direction.

Hyang-gi’s a frustrating character in that I hate seeing women place all their worth in a man, but from a story standpoint I understand where she’s coming from in her continued clinging. She has absolutely no sense of self without this man who doesn’t even love her, but who can blame the princess who was groomed to be this person since birth by everyone around her? Thus her unwillingness to let him go isn’t about a woman trying to keep her unwilling man so much as she’s trying to save herself. If she has never once considered living a life without Ji-hyung, then it’s understandable that she’d be panicked at the thought of her life — and her imagined future — crumbling away overnight. A woman desperate to keep a man who doesn’t love her frustrates me to no end, but a woman scrambling to find and keep herself I can understand.

If nothing else, it’s refreshing to see that her mother finds her infuriating, because Mom gets to hurl exasperated comments her way when we can’t.

Funny enough, Ji-hyung doesn’t frustrate me to the same extent as Hyang-gi does, even though he’s a much worse person, if we’re talking in terms of their treatment of other people. Maybe it’s because I find him fascinating in his weakness, in his utter frank admission of his cowardice. As Seo-yeon once pointed out, she didn’t have the luxury of letting her pride go, whereas he’s the exact opposite. It’s like he sold his pride to enjoy his worldly privilege, and it’s a lot harder to earn back pride than it is mere money.

I’m ready to see him break free of his family, though, and hoping to see his resolve grow from here on out. It was a relief to see him standing firm this time, and I really do think that making the decision was the worst part for him. He lacked the strength to take any action, which is why he waffled in a crisis of indecision for the past year (one might argue for his whole life). Now that he’s taken his stance, ready to accept whatever abuse comes his way as a result of it, I think he’ll be able to build on that resolve.

That’s why it’s significant that Ji-hyung admitted (in Episode 5) that he regretted his choice to let Seo-yeon go before finding out about her condition, I think, because at least we know that his regret isn’t colored by pity, that his love for her isn’t guilt-inspired.

But the most heartbreaking moments, by far, were the ever-so-brief glimpses we got of Moon-kwon as he tries his best to do what’s best for his sister. He sees signs of her lapsing memory and in his unguarded moments we see how that cuts him up inside, but he doesn’t betray any pity to Seo-yeon herself, because that’s the last thing she’d want.

It’s almost painful to watch Seo-yeon lashing out at him and him just accepting it, because he knows his sister needs to feel in control if she doesn’t want to succumb to her fear. He silently corrects her mistakes, not pointing them out but not coddling her, either. It’s a bit tragic to see him growing into a man before our eyes, because he’d started the drama so cheerful and happy-go-lucky, but it’s not like we’d wish him not to mature, either. It’s a little like wanting your child to stay a child forever to protect their innocence, and having no say in the matter while time marches on.

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40 November 7, 2011January 24, 2016

Thousand Day Promise: Episode 7

by girlfriday

Ji-hyung faces the firing squad for his decision, and some of the bullets veer left and hit Seo-yeon instead. But when my heart isn’t breaking for them, mostly I’m spending the episode laughing my ass off because of Hyang-gi’s parents and their bizarre ideas about what is and is not right. I’m pretty sure it’s one of the first dramas where I love watching the so-called villains of the piece as much as the good guys. I could watch Lee Mi-sook be her character all day, every day.

 
EPISODE 7 RECAP

Seo-yeon wakes up slumped over at her desk in the morning. Rather than turn off her alarm though, she just turns on the stereo to cover up the sound.

Aunt comes by with food for her, thinking that she’s sick, per Jae-min’s cover story. She hears Seo-yeon’s alarm still going off and wonders what that sound is, and Seo-yeon runs to her room, declaring that she knows what it is. The wording is peculiar: “I know what it is,” like every little thing has become a Name That Thing game.

Aunt worries about her and dotes on her, calling her “my baby.” It’s adorable. She gives her a comforting hug with reminders not to stress herself into sickness. She repeats her motto that if you treat your body well, it’ll always treat you well in return… which of course does no good to Seo-yeon, but she doesn’t know that.

Over at Hyang-gi’s house, Mom and Dad have come up to ask what she wants to do. Dad’s options: drag the groom to the altar, or end it. Yes, because so many married couples end up happily ever after when one party gets dragged into the wedding by force. Watching this family is not unlike peering into the lives of an alien race.

But Hyang-gi has no edgewise for her words to get in, because Mom and Dad are too busy arguing with each other about how mortifying it is to be dumped and what people will say, versus how important families always weather scandals. She insists this was a mutual breakup and she wants them to leave Ji-hyung alone, which makes Mom scoff at her simpleton daughter, and Dad whisper, “It’s because of your mom, isn’t it?” Ha.

Ji-hyung is still sitting numbly by his bed in the morning. Mom comes in to try and talk some sense into him, but he tells her to just think of him as the bad guy. He asks if she thinks he didn’t consider the two families and the fallout before making his decision.

Mom reasons that loving someone else and not loving Hyang-gi is not enough of a reason not to marry her. Um… okaaaay. There’s clearly no arguing with people like this. He tells her that even if the heavens collapse, he won’t change his mind.

Dad coaches Mom in how to deal with Ji-hyung, like refraining from words like “understand.” Heh. He tells her to focus on making him see how much he’d gain from marrying Hyang-gi, and how pesky feelings are nothing compared to practical matters of financial security. Yes, because clearly the thing to make your son who just overturned a wedding two days away to be with the love of his life is to argue that romance is silly.

Seo-yeon writes another journal entry, and though they are always a series of declarative sentences about what she did that day, they begin to take on a poetic cadence, mostly because each sentence ends the same way.

Seo-yeon: If it’s true that I have to live my days
Breaking, day by day
While I can think, decide
I have to erase anything that would be an unnecessary day
Will I be able to congratulate Moon-kwon on getting a job with a sound mind?
How much does That Person understand me?
Even if Aunt’s family, the office, the publishing house, all my neighbors knew
I wonder if That Person would understand my heart
That I didn’t want him to know
That I wanted that to be my last gift to him
Will he understand that?

Ji-hyung solemnly gets dressed to go speak to Hyang-gi’s parents, and as he showers and puts on a new shirt, he flashes back to Seo-yeon laying claim to one from his closet, deciding that it’ll be hers. She said she liked this place better than a hotel (what must have been an apartment or an officetel he got specifically for their affair).

She had said that hotels always seemed so fleeting, but that this felt more real. She had wondered if she was the only one he brought here (he insisted yes), and that she would hate it if he were with another woman in the same bed.

Hyang-gi’s mom comes storming over herself. She’s actually strangely calm as she tells him to sit down for a chat. She apologizes for her harsh words, her nasty habit of speaking to him that way, which she points out is because she thinks of him as her own son. It’s clearly taking all her strength to bite her tongue and apologize, which is fun to watch.

Kneeling, he tells her that it’s not because of any of those things, but because he didn’t think it was right for either of them to marry without love. And then off comes her lid, back to her normal high-volume excitable self. It’s honestly to Lee Mi-sook’s credit for making such a normally horrid character so fun and entertaining to watch.

Now both moms are in the room, and Hyang-gi’s mom declares that this is how it’s going to be: Ji-hyung will get his ass to the wedding tomorrow and marry Hyang-gi, and then in one year’s time, they will get a quiet divorce. HAHAHAHA.

Ji-hyung’s mom stares at her like she’s lost her mind, but she is totally serious that it would be better (that is, LOOK better) to get a divorce in a year than to cancel the wedding now. These people crack my shit up. She’s not kidding either.

I also love the contrast in the two moms, who are such good friends, but totally opposite personalities. Everything to Hyang-gi’s mom is at DEFCON 1. But Ji-hyung’s mom is always calm, collected, and cold. They’re fire and ice.

So when Hyang-gi’s mom gets told to calm down (because they want the same thing, but have different methods of getting there), she flips her lid at her friend: “You know what I hate the most? Is people who strike all the nerves they want, and then tell you to CALM! DOWN!”

I love that when she’s upset, the fact that Ji-hyung’s mom isn’t as excitable is yet another cause to be even more upset. She asks how her friend could’ve raised her son to be a monster, eventually slapping Ji-hyung across the face and beating his chest with her fists, as he apologizes over and over.

The dads get together for a summit meeting, or rather, Ji-hyung’s dad cowers in fear, while Hyang-gi’s dad hopes they don’t have to end up enemies. (A veiled threat that it’s a distinct possibility based on the outcome, so get your act together, buddy.)

But then his wife calls to declare Ji-hyung a lost cause. He stands up, “If a man can’t steer his own family…” Well so much for hoping. Looks like the dads are on the outs.

Ji-hyung’s mom calls Hyang-gi to ask her to hold on and not give up, reminding her not to say anything about Ji-hyung’s affair if she wants to salvage this. Hyang-gi’s heart sinks to know that Ji-hyung told his parents the whole truth, thinking it’s a sign that it’s really the end.

Her mom comes back to yell at her some more about how it’s really her fault, for being so needy and clingy and “Yes, oppa” that he got tired of her. Hyang-gi agrees that it’s her fault, not blind to the fact that she’s always loved him more.

It pisses Mom off to no end that Hyang-gi is so without pride. She says if it were her, she’d get out of bed and run around pretending that it was what she wanted all along, that she’s fine, that she’s grateful in fact, just to save face and keep her pride.

Mom and Dad have a powwow to discuss what to do. Mom’s pretty much ready to start circulating rumors about how Hyang-gi wedding-stressed herself to sickness, to the point that the wedding might not happen. Dad counters that they should’ve put her in the hospital then, to sell it. Yeesh. Is she Dokko Jin?

Dad thinks they ought to give Ji-hyung a little more time, just in case. But he asks for curiosity’s sake, “How do you plan to ruin him?” Dude, these people are funny AND scary.

Ji-hyung’s mom calls Architect Alex to ask him about Seo-yeon and where to find her. Oh no. He tells her, and then yells at Ji-hyung for being so old-fashioned as to hang himself by love. Ji-hyung: “Better to be old-fashioned than a con man.”

He tries calling, but he’s one step too late. Mom calls Seo-yeon and they meet. They’re actually quite similar, so they’re both very calm, exacting, and subdued, while being precise with few words.

Mom asks if she knew the wedding was tomorrow. Yes. Then did she know that Ji-hyung broke it off? Seo-yeon looks up in shock, and Mom can tell right away that she’s hearing it for the first time. Seo-yeon swears that she’s never once hoped to marry Ji-hyung, that she started seeing him knowing he had a fiancée, and that they ended things on the day he set a wedding date.

She tells Mom that she’s moved on. (She uses the word “tidy or clean up,” also meaning to straighten things and put them in order, which is the most common way people express ending a relationship.) Mom: “Clean up. It’s one word, two characters, but I know it’s not always that simple.”

Mom asks Seo-yeon for her help. This always frustrates me to no end. Isn’t it enough to tell someone to back off? She has to actively HELP you marry her lover off to someone else? Obviously she’s not blameless in this scenario, but uh, conflict of interest, anyone? Mom says that if it were long ago, she might’ve understood, even helped Ji-hyung with their relationship. But now they’ve come too far, and it’s too late for that.

Seo-yeon returns to work frazzled, and beyond being emotionally distressed, the office is demanding a lot of her today, which she struggles to keep up with. She calls Jae-min over and over but he’s in a meeting, so she texts him about Ji-hyung’s mother asking for her help. She tells him that she doesn’t want to get involved, and asks Jae-min to talk to Ji-hyung, “I sincerely, absolutely, do not want him doing something stupid because of me.”

She adds that he should beat him until he listens. He beats up people for her too? I want one, please. She pours out all her stress into this one massive text message, about how her head hurts, this Ji-hyung problem, and wondering why Jae-min isn’t answering his phone – there’s something about it that just breaks my heart.

She leaves work early and heads home lost in thought, and receives a short text from Jae-min that he understands and will take care of it. She stops by the bakery to pick up some pastries, and then stops by the convenience store to check in on Moon-kwon (where her brother-in-law is also hiding out).

She buys some milk and at home she stuffs her face with bread and milk, saying in voiceover that she had always wanted pastries as a kid but couldn’t afford them, didn’t want to ask Aunt for them, and then as an adult, somehow continued to suppress her desires. But suddenly today, on the way home, she had an overwhelming craving for them, and wanted to eat to her heart’s desire.

She wonders if she’ll someday be unaware of chewing, swallowing, or if she’ll forget what a toilet is, and just sit there in a daze, and soil herself. Tears start to pool as she eats mouthful after mouthful of bread. “Park Ji-hyung turned around and broke off his wedding, but I don’t want to think about anything. I’m too tired.” She tries to swallow her tears like her mouthfuls of bread, but can’t, and cries and cries at her desk.

Hyang-gi continues to cry and throw up everything she eats, unable to keep down even a glass of water, and the housekeeper informs her parents that she should probably go to the hospital. Dad’s all huffy with the I-told-you-so’s, while Mom just calmly keeps eating dinner, refusing to take the hit to her pride by admitting that Hyang-gi’s so broken up about it that she has to be hospitalized. Ha. You are a piece of work.

She declares that she’s going to make it so that Ji-hyung can never marry ANYONE. Ever. Heh. I kind of can’t wait to hear what her evil plans are.

Jae-min meets with Ji-hyung and relays Seo-yeon’s message about not doing anything stupid on her account, asking if he thinks Seo-yeon will take him back like this. Ji-hyung just says it wasn’t about her, but just that he couldn’t marry Hyang-gi.

Jae-min quite rightly points out that he should’ve done something about it before Seo-yeon got sick. “Do you have a savior complex?!” He assures Ji-hyung that he’ll take care of Seo-yeon.

Ji-hyung: “How am I supposed to ignore it and just get married? How am I supposed to pretend not to know?” He knows that he’s messing up his parents’ lives, treating Hyang-gi inhumanly. He knows that Seo-yeon is strong and independent. He thought that he’d be okay, just checking in once in a while, missing her, secretly being happy for her on his own. “I thought that kind of sadness wouldn’t be too bad.”

Jae-min cuts him off with a reality check to think about his life. Seo-yeon’s condition isn’t something where she dies in six months. It could be five, seven, ten years. “It’s not a romantic drama!” Thanks for the shout-out. Though I’d have to agree – so far, not so much romantic as it is just realistic about love and loss.

Ji-hyung, to his credit, refuses to be talked out of his decision. He knows the road ahead but he’s not going to turn around. I love that this drama’s triangle is not a romantic one. It’s still a love triangle, but it’s family love one way and romantic love the other way, with fierce protectiveness from both sides.

Hyang-gi does eventually get taken to the hospital, and Ji-hyung’s dad comes by to eke out his condolences. Pfft… Mom has brought along her bottle of wine to the hospital, just sipping casually with zero urgency on her face. Who stops to pack wine when taking her daughter to the hospital?

She declares that she’s done trying to track down Ji-hyung and fix things, and that it’s not like they’ll go bankrupt without this marriage, or that there aren’t any other men in the world to marry. Heh, when it comes down to it, Mom feels more dumped than anyone.

Ji-hyung refuses to answer his parents’ calls, so Mom finally sends him a text saying that she met with Seo-yeon to make sure that they ended things, and that she even understands after meeting her why he’s having trouble letting go of her.

But that doesn’t mean she understands his selfishness, and tells him that she and Dad are still holding onto hope. She adds that Hyang-gi has been hospitalized, and that he should go to her side, playing on his guilt.

Then, a short text from Seo-yeon that she’s on her way to the officetel. And like a bolt of lightning suddenly zapped him to life, he shoots out of the office to run to her.

He arrives outside just behind her cab, and he leads her into his car without a word. And then they end up at the officetel anyway, so I’m confused about where he picked her up and what the second car ride was for.

As they take the elevator up together, he asks if his mother said anything bad, and she tells him that his mother is so impressive that she almost died of envy. He leans down toward her and puts his forehead on his, with a long sigh of relief, as if just touching her allows him to breathe again.

She asks if Jae-min didn’t contact him. Ji-hyung says he came by to deliver her message. “I asked him to beat you, but I guess he couldn’t,” as if sorely disappointed in her oppa’s gangster skills.

But then she says that she can’t get in touch with him, and that he’s not answering his phone… even though Jae-min is currently leaving her apartment after trying to contact her.

They walk down the long hallway hand-in-hand, and then once inside, they hold each other for a moment in the dark.

Over coffee, Seo-yeon tells him that if she hadn’t gotten sick, he wouldn’t have wreaked such havoc. She says she asked Jae-min to handle it for her, but then thought about it, and realized that it was too big a problem not to deal with herself.

She says that his running into her doctor was just her dirty rotten luck curse, trying to ensnare him too, with her fate. She tells him that while she can still say these things, she needs to say them, which is why she came running over.

Seo-yeon: I can’t swallow up your life too. Remember those words… even after I forget your face, your name, and get pushed from this world as an idiot who forgets who you are. Remember that. I can’t mess up your life too. That’s not the love I know. The love I know is not pulling someone into the sandpit that I’ve fallen into.
Ji-hyung: The love I know is not living my life with no concern for you in the sandpit, as you sink further. Don’t push me away. I’ll protect you.
Seo-yeon: Have you studied Alzheimer’s? I will grow less and less and less myself. I will disappear!
Ji-hyung: You’re still you. Even if you die. Even if you stop breathing. You’re you.
Seo-yeon: If you were me, would you spread your arms and say, ‘Great, let’s die together,’ and welcome me?
Ji-hyung: If you were me, would you say, ‘Thank heavens for dodging my fate,’ and go running in the other direction?

That gives her pause. But she will not be beat at this game, and says that yes, she would run. She snaps bitterly that she’d be crazy to tie up her life to someone who shits himself. He finally relents that fine, she’s her and he’s him.

But when she calls his concern charity, pity, it cuts him. He wonders if she could really be sick, when she’s so obstinate, so cold and malicious. Trembling, she rattles off more names from one of her memorized lists.

“Even as I say this, I know… I’m gradually breaking.”

 
COMMENTS

Gah, how can someone be so cold and harsh and yet be so sympathetic and fascinating? She plays that vulnerable edge underneath the brittle exterior so well, it’s enthralling. I think for the first time I’ve begun to feel for Ji-hyung, mostly because it’s clear that Seo-yeon calls the shots and he’s completely enamored and along for the ride, as far as emotions go.

While I have zero sympathy for him where Hyang-gi is concerned (he really IS the bad guy there, like he claims), I have loads of sympathy for his position when it comes to Seo-yeon because he seems kind of like a lost puppy. He certainly has made some questionable choices, but the more we pull the curtain back, it seems to be that his character is entirely reactive, not just in the follow-the-rules in a good son way, but in his relationship with Seo-yeon as well, because she’s the one to keep him always at arm’s length.

He’s bound by his heart while she has no such tether, because she doesn’t allow herself that kind of abandon. Perhaps it’s like their pride issue—that he can do without, while she doesn’t have that luxury. It makes their relationship always imbalanced, always at odds. An arm’s length seems like a mile in Seo-yeon’s world. I can’t fault her for her desperate attempts to hold onto her denial that she’s perfectly fine, but I love that to Ji-hyung, and only to him, she will admit that she’s breaking. It’s surely not the end of her attempts to keep everyone away from her fate, but it’s a start.

 
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41 November 8, 2011January 24, 2016

Thousand Day Promise: Episode 8

by javabeans

The scenarios aren’t amusing, but these characters crack me up. Who would’ve thought a wedding cancellation would be funny? At a certain point, you have to step back and marvel at the way the rich folks in this drama think; it’s like you’re watching people from another planet, I swear.

That said, could we please return the focus to Seo-yeon and her oppa and dongseng, please? They’re the heart of this drama, and without them front and center, the drama starts to feel distant and amusing rather than moving.

SONG OF THE DAY

Lee Seung-gi – “어디라도” (Wherever) [ Download ]

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EPISODE 8 RECAP

In the morning, Moon-kwon asks why Seo-yeon was so late getting in last night. Rather than telling him she was with Ji-hyung, she lies that she took her time at the public bath. His reactions always kill me, with his struggle to maintain a brave face so evident in his expressions, never quite able to hide his fear.

Meanwhile, the rich people are in crisis mode. Ji-hyung’s parents are in quiet panic because it’s wedding day and there’s no sign of the groom, who didn’t come home last night. Dad heaps the blame on that hussy Ji-hyung was seeing, but interestingly, Mom is much more sympathetic to her, saying that it’s not her fault, and that Ji-hyung is responsible for this on his own. Dad’s all, “You think she’s right for dating a man who’s marrying someone else?” Mom returns, “And what about the guy who’s engaged to one person and dating another?”

I knew she felt a measure of respect for Seo-yeon after meeting her, but I didn’t think she’d be that understanding.

Dad turns this around on Mom, blaming her for not raising Ji-hyung right. He argues that he barely sees Ji-hyung a half-hour per week, so whose fault must it be? Wow. You’re using your negligent fathering as an argument for why you’re right in this scenario? Then Dad declares that there are tons of men out there just waiting to see him fail, and now he has to give them that satisfaction because of one measly woman? Ha, I knew this was all about you, but nice of you to put it in such clear terms, Daddy Dearest. Good lord, you people are amazing. And not in the good way.

Mom bursts out, “Stop saying me, me, me, me!” She argues that Ji-hyung has thought of both families before making his decision, and asks for some understanding. Okay, I take that back; Mom’s a little bit awesome. But Dad just shouts, “Why should I do that?!” Uh, because you’re a grown-ass man who should strive for maturity?

Mom tells Dad calmly to give up, because there’s nothing they can do. She wants to start alerting family while it’s still early, who’d be traveling for no reason. Dad stubbornly says that it’s only 8 am; they have until 1 pm. Right. Just enough time for you to adopt a religion and pray for a miracle, I take it?

Hyang-gi’s mom calls to confirm that the wedding is off, and to scream off Ji-hyung’s mom’s ear in discontent. In her mind, anybody who’s not reacting as loudly as she is must not be taking this seriously. Oy, well that volume = sincerity argument explains a lot about you. I’m amused at how the situation is entirely flipped on the bride’s side, with the mother flipping out and demanding somebody’s head on a stick, while Dad reasons that there’s nothing the groom’s parents can do to force their son.

The hour of truth for this family is 10 am, which also amuses me, with all these arbitrary deadlines flying around. Declaring that waiting till 10 when they already know it’s fruitless “would be a comedy,” Mom declares that the wedding is canceled.

Even with all this railing, the parents harbor hope; when Hyang-gi comes to talk to them, they eagerly guess, “He showed up.” But no, that’s not the reason, and Hyang-gi tells her parents it’s really not happening. He sent a text this morning, and it’s over. Accepting the situation, the dads confer and decide to break the news to wedding guests together.

Ji-hyung thinks back to last night with Seo-yeon, who had urged him to go home and beg for forgiveness. She’d been driven to tears as she made that her “last request” of him — go back, get married, and don’t let Seo-yeon be a burden to him. Neither does she want to show her deteriorating self to him.

Jae-min still wants Seo-yeon to get treatment, but she replies that it’s not really treatment. She even teases him about forgetting something she asked him yesterday, making Jae-min worry, “You really don’t remember?” She smiles, “Just kidding.” Man, I get the desire for some gallows humor, but that’s just mean.

She tells Oppa that she met Ji-hyung last night and used all the harsh words in her arsenal to persuade him to let go and get married. Jae-min says he doesn’t think Ji-hyung will change his mind, though, saying that men are a lot more cowardly than women suppose — so if he overcame that fear to call off the wedding, he must mean to stick with it.

She feeling sure that her words had an effect, but just then a mutual friend calls Jae-min to tell him of the cancellation. The news is out and now everyone’s spreading the word.

Stunned, Seo-yeon borrows Jae-min’s phone to call Ji-hyung, but stops short because she can’t remember the number. Oppa urges her to think calmly and let it come back to her, but she can’t, so he engages the call for her. No answer. “Because he thinks it’s me,” Jae-min tells her.

Upset, she storms off, but when she looks around the neighborhood, she doesn’t recognize any of the buildings.

Seo-yeon asks Jae-min where they are, and he tells her they’re on the way home. Even so, even though she should know exactly where she is, she looks around with confused eyes. It takes a moment, but she remembers and makes it home. She ransacks her room for her phone, calling Ji-hyung right away. He picks up.

Angrily, she accuses him of adding to her burdens when she’s already in over her head with her own. She calls him names — rocks-for-brains, empty-head — and he hangs up.

Jae-min comes by to check on her, and Seo-yeon looks at him with frightened eyes, admitting she still can’t think of the number, that she got lost and is scared to death. She cries for herself and for the brother she’ll leave behind, and Jae-min comforts her.

Ji-hyung’s mother makes phone calls, downplaying the crisis to relatives and saying that the couple has had incompatability issues for a while. Hyang-gi’s mother is impressively calm as well on her own set of calls, explaining that she’d love to rip Ji-hyung to shreds and reveal the reasons for the split, but out of deference to Hyang-gi and the other family’s reputation, she’s keeping mum. Ha, I love that her version of being quiet basically announces that Ji-hyung is at fault, while letting her seem generous with the offer to let it go.

She gets a new call as soon as she hangs up the first one, and bitches at her ringing phone about all these inconsiderate people who are pretending to be concerned just to sate their curiosity. Hyang-gi’s father asks the housekeeper to take away her phone, and Mom adds, “Flush it down the toilet while you’re at it.” She’s serious, too, which is what makes it funny; she tells Dad to get her a new number asap.

Mom announces that they’ll go on a family trip to Europe, since it’ll be embarrassing showing their faces in public for the time being. Hyang-gi would prefer to stay at home, and Dad steps in to say that they can stay, but it’s better for mother and daughter to leave the house separately. His reasoning: Mom’s hovering is going to make things worse on Hyang-gi. Heh.

Mom protests at having nobody to go out with, and Dad tells her, “I’ll send you a secretary, one you can pester all you like.” Haha. Dad cracks me up.

The calls get overwhelming, so both families leave them unaswered. In the groom’s household, both parents stand in silence ignoring the rings. In the bride’s house, Mom storms from phone to phone with a pair of scissors, cutting the line. Why is this so funny?

At Aunt’s house, dinner is chicken, cooked whole, with Aunt tearing up the body to divvy up among her family. She sets aside the legs for Seo-yeon and Moon-kwon, who are on their way, and Myung-hee protests since her default setting is dissatisfaction. Aunt tells her she can have the neck that she likes so much, and the wings, and the breasts, but now that the legs have been reserved for Seo-yeon, that’s the only thing Myung-hee wants. Did this woman never graduate from the junior high school mindset?

So when Moon-kwon joins them without his sister, distracting Aunt momentarily with her worry about Seo-yeon’s lingering cold, Myung-hee sneaks a leg off the plate and helps herself. Ha.

Aunt is eager for Seo-yeon to join them because she has news: She’s found a great mat-seon blind date for her, a real catch. Not about to concede anything nice to her cousin, Myung-hee snipes that he sounds too good to be true, so it’s probably a scam.

Jae-min tells his mother not to push, since Seo-yeon’s not the type to marry a mat-seon date. Myung-hee chimes in, saying that they have to let her marry her own choice so that later on, even when she complains about wanting to shoot the guy with a silent gun, they can toss it back in her face and tell her that it was her decision. At that, Myung-hee’s husband looks up and asks how many times she’s shot him with that imaginary gun, and she retorts, “More than a dozen!”

Ji-hyung finally comes home, telling his mother again that he’s sorry. She tells him to go see his father, and to not talk back but just accept whatever Dad says. Which seems like a needless concern to me; hey lady, have you met your son? Has he ever talked back in the history of ever?

Ji-hyung kneels before his father, who asks if he intends to marry the other woman now. Ji-hyung answers yes.

Calmly, without even looking at his son, Dad tells Ji-hyung how it’s going to be: Go upstairs, pack your bags, leave the car. Move out of the officetel. Return the investment Dad put into Ji-hyung’s architecture firm within a week. End of story.

Damn, that’s cold. It’s pretty much what I think Ji-hyung should do regardless, but it’s harsh to have even that decision taken away and made a punishment.

Dad: “Get out.”
Ji-hyung: “I’m sorry for disappointing you. I can’t even ask you to understand me.”
Dad: “Get out.”
Ji-hyung: “I should have dealt with this earlier. I was foolish.”
Dad: “Get out.”

There’s one thing in particular that Ji-hyung’s mother can’t understand; after meeting Seo-yeon, she believes that they ended things and that Seo-yeon told Ji-hyung to go ahead with the wedding. However, most women would be thrilled to hear the man called the wedding off, and yet that’s not the case here. Does Seo-yeon even love him back, or is he in this delusion solo?

Ji-hyung says that Seo-yeon wasn’t up to the ordeal she’d have to endure to be his wife, and that’s why they had their affair despite knowing he’d have to marry someone else. Mom just sighs that she doesn’t understand youngsters these days.

When Ji-hyung explains that Dad has kicked him out, Mom finally shows emotion. Shocked, she tries to convince him that he can stay and just avoid Dad’s path until he’s gotten over it. Ji-hyung says he deserves to be kicked out, and that it’s better this way.

Mom confronts her husband, who argues that he doesn’t have to treat Ji-hyung like a son if Ji-hyung doesn’t treat him like a father. Uh, is that what it said on the Daddy pamphlet they gave you when he was born? Because I’m pretty sure kinship extends beyond a mere “He doesn’t treat me like a dad!”

Dad says this will ruin his lifelong relationship with President Noh, and that he can’t harbor his son in his home and then marry him off to someone else. He couldn’t do that to President Noh. Mom says that Dad has resigned his position at the hospital, and that’s enough: “We are not that family’s slaves.” How can he kick out his own son for fear of their wrath?

Ji-hyung says his goodbyes (his aunt, cutely, cheers him on for making a “courageous” decision) and Mom lends him her car and tells him to stay in the officetel, which is technically hers. She offers to give the office investment that Dad is revoking, and sends him off with a hug.

Getting lost must have really spooked Seo-yeon, because she takes out her wardrobe and puts slips of paper in the pockets, which list her name, address, and the numbers for Moon-kwon and Jae-min. Okay, that is easily the most heartbreaking thing in this episode.

Hyang-gi calls, and Ji-hyung picks up, to her relief. She tells him she’s working at being okay, and that she recognizes that their feelings for each other were different. Therefore hating him for not returning her affections would be childish; she says neither party is at fault. (Except…you know…that whole cheating thing…)

That’s pretty mature, which I suppose is a relief given that the parents are sorely lacking on that score. Even if her reaction does gloss over the craptastic way he handled everything.

Seo-yeon clears away her uneaten ramyun dinner, experiencing a moment of fear when she looks through multiple drawers before finding plastic bags. Moon-kwon comes home bearing chicken porridge from Aunt’s house, and there’s another fleeting moment of fear when she asks, “Did I ask you to bring me some?”

Moon-kwon keeps up his gentle, cheery face until he tries to convince her to take her medication, only to have her decline again. He bursts out about her getting lost, and that does it. She turns on her brother, accusing the men in her life of talking freely behind her back, practically announcing her condition to the world.

Moon-kwon cries, “You’re sick, and when you’re sick, you need to take your medicine! Do you think we talk because we enjoy it? Jae-min hyung and I are worried to death!” She fumes, “What you feel is only worry — do you feel the desperation I feel? Do you feel as hopeless as I do? Are you as scared?!”

Huddling into a fetal position on her bed, Seo-yeon tells herself over and over to calm down, because losing it will only make her condition worse.

A very long scene in the architect’s office boils down to tell us: Ji-hyung is looking for his own apartment. An equally long scene in the publisher’s office boils down to tell us: Seo-yeon has a “dentist” appointment today.

Hyang-gi’s mother checks into the hospital due to emotional strain, although she seems just fine to me. Certainly none of the strength has left her speech, that’s for sure. It seems to be her go-to cure for stress — and why not, when it’s her hospital? All the benefits of a spa stay, with the sympathy of a hospital visit!

Ji-hyung’s mother comes by with flowers, and Hyang-gi’s mother talks to her crossly: “You’re fine, and that makes me even madder!” Her anger doesn’t seem to be the sticking kind, though, and she grudgingly invites her friend to sit. She explains telling her husband not to accept Ji-hyung’s father’s resignation, saying that it’s childish to let a broken engagement wreck two lifelong friendships. Wow, is she actually being reasonable?

Ji-hyung’s mother says the gossip doesn’t bother her, although she is aware of a rumor that’s making the rounds about Ji-hyung cheating. Neither mother is that concerned with it, figuring it’s the work of overactive imaginations, and Hyang-gi’s mother reminds Ji-hyung’s mother about getting her son checked out. Since, you know, she suspects he’s having trouble in the sexual performance arena. (Hyang-gi mumbles, “That’s not true, Mom,” and Mom shoots back, “Don’t butt in when the adults are talking.” Haha.)

Seo-yeon undergoes a CT scan to confirm whether the results will show anything different. Unsurprisingly, it’s the same diagnosis. She has stuck with her first doctor after all, figuring that with her disease it’s better to stay with the familiar. Today she finally comes to that point: “Now I have to accept it.”

The doctor asks what’s happened since the last visit, and she explains that there are little things at work that crop up, and that her ex-boyfriend gave up his wedding. Then, while walking home she’d failed to recognize her surroundings.

The doctor urges her to start medication, explaining how her condition will worsen. In stark contrast to the last time he asks her to accept her situation, this time she answers readily, “Yes, doctor.” It’s enough of a change that the doctor calls Jae-min to warn that depression is one thing to watch out for.

As she walks out, she acknowledges that she’s past the confirmation stage, and now she is an Alzheimer’s patient who is “daily growing dumber.”

Her voice is resigned as she thinks that this is just her lot in life, and she has to accept it. “Ahh, but just the thought makes me feel pathetic. If not for Moon-kwon, I could just end it now.”

Seo-yeon takes photos of her walk home, then delivers the camera to Moon-kwon. She wants him to assemble the photos into a step-by-step (literally) map from the bus stop to their front door. Poor Moon-kwon accepts this all with a smile, though the strain seems taxing on his sensitive nature.

She thinks to herself, “I have forgotten his name now, but those eyes, those lips — they’re in my heart. Even when the wind blows and the rain falls, I can’t forget the shadowy night outside the window.”

 
COMMENTS

I’ll be honest; this week’s episodes were pretty boring. Once Ji-hyung found out the truth of Seo-yeon’s illness, I expected some kind of shift in his attitude, but his resistance is of the quiet, firm kind. A valid personality trait for a person, but rather anticlimactic for the setup, I thought.

But I don’t think that’s the main problem I’m sensing. The thing about this show is that the conflict isn’t really changing from episode to episode. It’s the same predicament throughout, and what we’re doing is following Seo-yeon’s reaction to it. The acting is extremely compelling, and Su Ae is utterly commanding, but as far as story goes there’s not a lot going on.

It also means that I think I’m becoming inured to the whole Alzheimer’s storyline, which might be why I found this episode funny, rather than moving or sorrowful. We knew from the very start (even before Episode 1, thanks to promos and blurbs) that she would slowly start to forget him, so none of this is surprising. It’s actually to the show’s credit that it has been as engaging thus far given that it’s fairly predictable, but aside from the strong acting performances, I’m not really moved by the story anymore.

So in the absence of plot, it’s the small interactions, the sharp dialogue, and the smart writing that carry the show. We have plenty of that, which is what’s keeping my interest engaged. But I hope something actually starts happening, because if all we’re going to be getting is a slow-motion account of Seo-yeon falling deeper into her dementia, no matter how marvelous the acting, it’s just gonna bum me out.

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33 November 14, 2011January 24, 2016

Thousand Day Promise: Episode 9

by girlfriday

Yay, we’re back to the core characters now that the wedding hullabaloo has died down. We focus on Seo-yeon and her oppa and dongseng who break my heart with their perfection, and her relationship with Ji-hyung, which continues to be a battle between Stubborn and Bull-Headed. I’m not even sure I know which side I’m rooting for, just that I’d like the winner to win now, please.

 
EPISODE 9 RECAP

Jae-min comes by on his way home from work to check on Seo-yeon, insisting that he just wanted to see her. Aw. She knows it’s really because he wants to nag her about taking her meds, but he’s so sweet about it that she can’t really help but smile.

They sit on the swings and he asks how she is, to which she snarks that he ought to know, considering that the two men in her life (the brothers) are so chatty with each other. She’s talking about the pictures that she requested of Moon-kwon, since losing her way home.

Jae-min thinks that it was just a momentary lapse, but Seo-yeon is more realistic on that front, having come to accept that what is a momentary lapse now can turn into a daily problem, for her and for everyone around her.

He tells her to take her meds, over and over. She agrees to, but only verbally, and a little too easily at that, and he’s smart enough to know she’s just trying to get him to back off. But she assures him that her point of surrender is close, and asks for a little more time.

He says that Ji-hyung called to ask after her, and when he was told to back off, he did. She jokes that it’s disappointing that he gave up so easily. Jae-min wonders if it’s really over between them, if he skipped out on his wedding for her, and she calls it stupidity. “I think I’m not the only one with dementia.” Ha.

Jae-min asks if she wants to take a trip this weekend, and she laughs, calling him pathetic for not having a girlfriend and going on weekend trips with his little sister. He says that they should take Moon-kwon and go somewhere, and she agrees to think about it. They’re so cute.

She comes home to a worried Moon-kwon on the verge of tears, asking where she went, why she didn’t leave a note, why she didn’t take her phone. She tells him that she just stepped outside, and that she’ll leave notes from now on.

She thinks if he’s already getting this angry, it’s going to be a long road ahead for when she really loses her mind, but he calms down and insists he was just worried. He hands over her phone with a message about work, and then as she’s talking with the fridge door open, she sticks her phone inside and leaves it there.

Aunt comes by with some more food, cheerily chastising herself for forgetting to bring a stew over, saying that Uncle will say she’s gone senile again. The words sting Seo-yeon but she plasters on a smile.

And then Aunt discovers her phone sitting in the fridge, and she jokes that she can’t be acting like an old person already. That look in Seo-yeon’s eye every time she’s caught in a lapse is so panic-underneath-calm, it makes my heart sink.

Later she pieces together her route home with the photographs from Moon-kwon, numbering them systematically and studying them carefully. Guh, her attempts to order her life before accepting her fate are just crushing.

She gets through another workday without incident, and a coworker asks if she’s had a recent breakup, because that’s what everyone’s assuming is up with her mood. She denies it and rushes out before any more questions come flying.

As she walks down the street, she thinks to herself in voiceover:

Seo-yeon: If only I could go somewhere where no one knows who I am, sleep as if I’m dead for a few days… and then stop breathing, just like that. And yet every day I come to work. I speak when I have to speak. Laugh when I have to laugh. Some moments I feel like a hollow shell floating along. Other times like a newborn baby beast without a shell, hurting, searing.

Suddenly she stops in her tracks. Ji-hyung is standing up ahead, waiting for her. She doesn’t budge so he approaches. He tells her that he has something to say, that he knew she wouldn’t take his calls. “I thought I was going to die, I missed you so much.”

Her face changes the second he’s near her. Her eyes fill with tears, and though she says nothing other than okay, the way she looks up at him is so full of longing, it kind of kills me.

They drive in silence and her tears start to fall. He tries to comfort her but she pushes his hand away. He tries to give her a handkerchief, but she rejects that too. By now she’s in full-blown tears, growing angrier by the second at herself for crying.

I hate that feeling—when the last thing you want to do is cry in front of someone, but the tears won’t stop coming. It feels like they burn your pride with each drop.

At their officetel, he cuts right to the chase: “Let’s get married.” He tells her he’s found an apartment close to her aunt’s house, that all she’ll have to do is pack her computer and Moon-kwon, that he wants them to be together.

She decides that stone-headed is too good a descriptor for him, and decides he’s bird-brained. He repeats over and over, “I love you. I love you.”

Tears fill her eyes. (She can do that thing that always used to amaze me when Buffy did it—the way some people can fill their eyes halfway up with tears, like a little glass teacup, before any of them spill out.)

She says that if she were fine and normal, then she’d jump at this chance, without hesitation. She’d leave everything behind, even Moon-kwon, and run off with him and accept all manner of grief from his parents, just like the tv dramas she hates. She admits that everything she did before was to protect her pride, because she thought his choice was inevitable. But now that she’s sick, it’s all changed.

Seo-yeon: “From the moment I found out what you did, do you know how much I wanted to see you like crazy, how much I missed you? Like a crazy woman, in her bare feet, I wanted to run to you, to hold you, to touch you.”

She says she even thought about giving in and living with him for a week and then dropping dead, or just for a year. “Marriage? What will you do if I just say yes?” He says it again, that they should marry.

Ji-hyung: Let’s hurry and be together, and use each day like a thousand pieces of gold. [“A thousand pieces of gold” is a common expression to describe a sudden fortune.]

Ack, finally! What a way to say it—that their remaining time is suddenly precious, a fortune that comes from nowhere, so they should use it, spend it daily. I love that.

She smiles through her tears. “The words are enough. Thank you. I’m happy. For all the days I’ll remember you, I’ll be happy.” But she tells him still to leave her behind. “Even the heavens will understand.”

He gets up to protest. Seo-yeon: “What, a love like fate? There’s no such thing.” Ji-hyung: “Just lean on me. You can do that.” But she can’t, or rather won’t let herself. She rattles off all the things that could’ve/should’ve/would’ve happened if she’d gone to the doctor later, or if Jae-min had taken him to a different restaurant that night, or better yet… if they’d never met that day in the gallery.

She tells him to ask his fiancée (whom she calls “the nice girl”) for forgiveness and marry her. He pulls her into a hug. “I know why you’re pushing me away. But I’m not going to let you go.” Oh yeah, three cheers for the hero, making up for lost time spent in wishywashyville.

He drops her off near home, winning one battle (that she not take a taxi), but losing another (that they eat together). He tells her about the apartment he got, a rental. She snaps at him for doing all that, for not even considering what his parents would say.

He doesn’t so much care about that anymore, though he doesn’t get into the specifics about his fallout with Dad. He says he didn’t know what she meant to him because he was stupid. Seo-yeon replies, “Then continue to be stupid!” Hahahaha.

She leaves him staring off at her, just helpless to do anything to change her mind. He watches as Moon-kwon comes bounding up to meet her and walk her home.

Moon-kwon assumes of course that she’s coming from the bus stop, and adorably makes an excuse about wanting to stretch his legs from studying all day. She says it feels like winter already, and he rushes to take off his jacket for her. Aw.

Seriously, between the oppa and the dongseng, it’s just unreal how good they are. It’s nice that she’s got that cosmic balance somehow, that she’s surrounded by such good family. Because otherwise her fate would be unbearable, even for us.

Moon-kwon makes dinner for them, and then timidly brings up their weekend trip to the mountains. She makes excuses that she’s got work, but he presses her to go, and to discuss it with Jae-min.

Jae-min gets a call from Ji-hyung, on his way after dropping Seo-yeon off. Ji-hyung asks if Aunt and Uncle know about her condition, and declares that he’s going to take her away, to marry her. Oh, okay then. Shouldn’t you maybe get her to say yes first?

That’s news to Jae-min, and he asks if Seo-yeon agreed. Of course she didn’t, but Ji-hyung says he’s going to do it, even if he has to hogtie and kidnap her. Okay, now I’m back to disliking you.

Jae-min says he’s clearly not in his right mind either, and yells at him to back off. Now they’re both screaming at each other, and Ji-hyung says that he can’t do nothing, that he can’t have broken his engagement to do nothing. Well that’s a load of horseshit. Life isn’t a checkbook balance. You can’t just swap out one bride for another. Doofus.

Jae-min gets so riled up he doesn’t notice that his mom has entered the room behind him, and he yells at Ji-hyung to stop interfering and saying crazy things, and making life harder for her. He hangs up angrily.

Mom asks what could possibly make him so angry, and advises that he stop getting so involved in his friend’s matters. If only it were that easy. Seo-yeon texts him that she can’t do the weekend trip because of work, and he asks her to meet him for a morning hike instead then.

Ji-hyung comes home to find a basket of cookies on his doorstep, with a note from Hyang-gi. He calls and asks to see her. Aw man, you’re not going to drag her feelings along by being nice to her forever, are you? Over dinner she says that Mom and Dad went to Singapore and today was her first venture outside the house. She asks hesitantly about the other woman, how she’s doing.

She asks if the other woman is pretty. Ji-hyung answers honestly that she isn’t prettier than Hyang-gi. She thinks he’s being nice to her but then realizes that he’s not, and that if he loved someone who wasn’t prettier than her, it’s more sincere. Oh, honey, if I could just scoop up some pride or self-worth and give it to you, I would. You’re taking pathetic to new and astounding heights.

It does kill me though, that despite knowing it’s useless and pathetic, she’s just still so obviously in love with him. GAH. And then just when I’m screaming at him for being nice to her, he recalls his mother’s words about how he’s going to take all the punishment for what he’s doing to Hyang-gi, that just because he can’t see her heart ripping to shreds in front of him, that it doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

Seo-yeon paces back and forth at home, distraught over something. She paces from room to room, finally tearing apart the kitchen looking for something. Moon-kwon comes running out and she demands her bottle of wine, accusing him of drinking it all.

He assures her that he never touches her liquor, and then tries to tell her that it’s not good for her to drink. She explodes, demanding it right this instant, and he caves and takes it out from his hiding place… the veggie drawer in the fridge? Augh, that’s not a red, is it? Augh.

She slams down a glass and he pours a little in. She demands more. More. She finally grabs the bottle from his hands and pours half of it out into the one glass. Now a little calmer, she tells him that nothing’s going to happen to her, not yet.

She says bitterly that she’d rather it come all at once, that she’d fall asleep one day and then wake up stupid, rather than this slow torture. She downs the glass as Moon-kwon watches, the terror creeping into his eyes. She reaches again to finish off the rest, but he protests, and this time she relents, “Okay. I’m sorry.” Poor puppy Moon-kwon. Little Bro needs a big hug.

The next morning she tells Jae-min about the proposal. Without judgment, he asks what she wants to do, what she sincerely wants, without regard for anything else. (Why so perfect, Oppa?) She laughs and wonders if she should really marry him, and assures him that she’s not that far gone yet.

Ji-hyung comes home to pack up the rest of his clothes, and accidentally runs into Dad, who’s gotten a late start that morning. Mom tries to smooth things over, saying that even Hyang-gi’s house isn’t this antagonistic anymore, and Dad just spits that it’s because they don’t have a child who betrayed his parents in their house.

She says it’s suffocating, and he replies that it’s her price to pay for raising a child in that manner. Oh WOW. Way to pass the buck, Dad. Even evil mastermind bad daddies aren’t this evil.

Mom comes in to assure Ji-hyung that it’ll pass with time, but then he breaks the news that he’s going to marry Seo-yeon, that he’s got an apartment ready. Now it’s Mom’s turn to flip out, wondering if she really did raise him wrong.

She says that she had planned to take his side, to accept the woman he turned everything upside down for, because he chose her. But marriage, now? She tells him there’s not a chance in hell he could bring up marriage in anything less than a year’s time.

But he tells her that time is precious, that he can’t waste it, that there’s an extenuating circumstance. She jumps to the most logical conclusion, that she’s pregnant. She asks if she was already pregnant, if that’s why he did all this. He swears that’s not it, and promises to tell her later.

Meanwhile, Myung-hee comes running into the bakery calling for her husband, to take Dad to the hospital. Jae-min and Seo-yeon are there having coffee after their hike, and Jae-min rushes to get the car.

Seo-yeon goes outside to find Aunt and Uncle arguing, or rather Aunt yelling at Uncle, for being so stubborn. He basically let a corn on his foot grow to some enormous size so that now he walks with a limp, and never said anything to anyone until it got so bad that he has to go to the hospital now.

Aunt can’t understand for the life of her why someone would act that way, and Seo-yeon watches them with a heavy heart, knowing she’s doing exactly that. Jae-min takes them away, and then Myung-hee gets in another jab about Moon-kwon taking all the high school customers over to the convenience store.

On her way home, Seo-yeon thinks in voiceover, directed at her unni, that she knows she resents the attention that Aunt gave Seo-yeon growing up, because of her circumstance. But she pleads with her to let it go, to take the thorns out, that she’s sick now. Sigh, if only she would say those things aloud.

Ji-hyung calls to tell her that he told his mother about her, that he’ll speak to her aunt and uncle, and that all she has to do is follow him. She demands he come meet her at once.

As her final line of defense, she lays out how bad it’s really gotten—the photos of her route home, the notes with her name, number, and emergency contacts folded into every pocket of every article of clothing she owns. She confesses that she sometimes can’t follow what other people are saying, that she worries about how long she can work.

She asks if that’s what he wants to deal with, trying to scare him out of his fantasy. He tells her that that’s more reason to be together. She asks if he thinks it’ll be like in dramas, where she disappears and then he finds her in some special place that they share. “Is that what you want?”

She tells him that she’s scared every day as she goes to work, worried that she might lose her way there, that she might forget the way home. She feels so desperate and scared, that love seems laughable to her. She pleads with him to leave her alone.

He doesn’t budge, so she tells him that if he wants her to move, he can wait till she’s stupid and then move her all he wants. He changes his tactic to say he’ll just move into her house then. Seo-yeon: “You really don’t know me, do you?”

She storms out of the car, pushing away his embrace. She walks all the way home, and he follows just a few steps behind, silently.

Hyang-gi’s parents arrive home, and the only important bit of news is that Hyang-gi apparently has an older brother that Dad is constantly disgruntled about. He’s a movie producer or director, and either way he’s very hands-off with the family and very spendy with the money. I assume he’ll make an appearance at some point, if he’s suddenly being mentioned now.

Ji-hyung’s mother calls Seo-yeon out for coffee and asks how far along she is in the pregnancy. Seo-yeon stammers a whatchoo-talkin’-bout, and Mom says that’s what Ji-hyung says, or more accurately, what she gathered.

Seo-yeon assures her that she’s not pregnant. Mom breathes a sigh of relief and says that rushing to get married now is insane and outside her rules of common decency and the like, and adds that Ji-hyung isn’t himself and she doesn’t understand what’s gotten into him.

Seo-yeon in turn asks her to help break Ji-hyung’s stubbornness on the matter, that she can’t marry him – that it can never be. Mom looks at her in surprise. And then she drops the bomb:

“I’m an Alzheimer’s patient.”

 
COMMENTS

Well thank goodness at least one other person finds out this week. It’s like pulling teeth to get this drama to churn ahead sometimes. Obviously this story is going to be slower in the plot development aspect of things, because we’re meant to linger on the emotions of each moment. But sometimes, I’m like, We already know that. NEXT!

I feel like until Seo-yeon breaks down her massive wall of pride, we’re not really going to get anywhere with anyone. I love her character and I appreciate that she’s so flawed, but sometimes it’s so frustrating to watch Ji-hyung hit his head against that wall over and over and over, with no change.

It’s taken her a long time to get to this stage, where she’s actually admitting how bad it is to Ji-hyung, calling herself an Alzheimer’s patient to other people. It does feel like she’s really moving past Denial into Acceptance. But I want it to mean change for her, especially where Ji-hyung is concerned. I know she loves him – I can read it on her face, and though her nobility is heartbreaking and I understand it, I hate that it means they’re stuck in the same place.

I think I feel worse for Ji-hyung, because he’s got zero control, but then he also infuriates me because he’s not like Jae-min. But then that’s because she doesn’t trust him like her oppa, doesn’t lean on him the way he so desperately wants her to. Auuuuuugh. I guess it’s saying something that I feel so conflicted and see why it’s everyone’s fault and no one’s fault, why she should trust him and why she shouldn’t, why she ought to give into love and why she can’t. Le sigh, pass that bottle of wine.

 
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49 November 15, 2011January 24, 2016

Thousand Day Promise: Episode 10

by javabeans

Yay for people finding out and moving plot along. When a drama basically features a central character harboring a secret that we know from Day 1, and people left in the dark for ages, it can feel like you’re treading water indefinitely. Now that we have people outside the core characters finding out and reacting to the news, it starts to have a ripple effect in the rest of their world.

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EPISODE 10 RECAP

Seo-yeon gives Ji-hyung’s mother the basic explanation for her Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and how Ji-hyung came to know it. She says she never intended for Ji-hyung to know, much less cancel his wedding over her.

Now understanding her son’s motivation, Ji-hyung’s mother sighs, “We’re in big trouble.” She says that Seo-yeon’s condition is unfortunate but her concerns go with her son first, and apologizes for that. Seo-yeon tells her that she understands.

But Mom surprises her with her next words — that she had asked for this meeting intending to ask her to delay marrying Ji-hyung for just a year, or six months. She was going to do everything she could to convince her husband to accept the couple, and even if not, she would stand by her son — after all, this is the woman he gave up everything to be with, “And I want to accept you as my own child.” However, with this additional bit of news, she can’t do it after all.

Seo-yeon looks at her with startled eyes, maybe surprised that Mom wasn’t dead-set on hating her after all. She says she’s on the same page as Mom.

What kills me about this scene is that Mom’s sympathy is palpable, and her concern genuine. It doesn’t change her bottom line, but she’s conflicted nonetheless and it shows. She asks how Seo-yeon can be so strong and clean-cut about this break. Seo-yeon answers, “I’m using every last bit of my strength to be that way.”

When they head out to part ways, Mom asks to hold her hand for a moment, and tells her, “I’m so thankful I can’t tell you in words, but what about your pain? I don’t know how to help you.” Seo-yeon sends her away with a smile, telling her it’s all right.

As Seo-yeon walks away, she thinks of the words she almost said: “Please let me have him for a while — not long. Just let us have a year.”

Architect Alex has a character name — it’s Sohn Suk-ho — but he’s such a peripheral character, let’s just keep calling him Architect Alex. He gets called to meet Ji-hyung’s mother, who asks if he knew about all this.

For now, “this” refers to the relationship with Seo-yeon and the reason for the broken engagement, and Alex admits that he knew and tried to stop him. However, Ji-hyung was so stubborn and determined that he decided it would be better to help him than to keep fighting, and he helped find him an apartment of his own. Mom wonders how Ji-hyung could have afforded to strike out on his own, and it’s almost comical the dismay on her face when Alex tells her that it’s a monthly rental.

Mom prods, asking if he knows anything more about the reason for Ji-hyung’s abrupt change, wanting to see if he knows about Seo-yeon’s condition. He doesn’t, and just says that Ji-hyung must have figured life was short. Alex urges Mom to think positively, and that Ji-hyung’s father will come around in time to accept his future grandchildren.

He gives her one bit of encouragement, saying that Ji-hyung has decided to push back his plans to marry Seo-yeon, due to Mom’s reaction. I love how the bride’s continued refusal to marry doesn’t figure into the equation.

At work, Seo-yeon’s junior teammate notices her taking more painkillers for her headache and tells her to get checked out, wondering if it’s blood pressure related. Seo-yeon checks off the items on her to-do list and grabs her toothbrushing kit, but her teammate reminds her that she already brushed her teeth after lunch. That spins the room off into conversation about overbrushing your teeth, while she sits there shaken from the lapse.

The discussion hits a tangent when her boss recalls his father obsessively bathing in his latter days of dementia, and how those patients can’t even control their bowels. Seo-yeon declares that she needs to re-brush her teeth since she drank coffee in the meeting, but that leads to another slip and someone points out that she drank green tea. She covers for the slip smoothly, but walks away feeling panicked.

Ji-hyung’s mother arrives at Bride Central, where Hyang-gi’s mother is pitching a fit over Hyang-gi shutting herself in her room all day to quilt. Hyang-gi promises to stop, and Mom throws out the quilt in a huff.

Hyang-gi explains to Ji-hyung’s mother that quilting is the best way of making the time pass, but agrees to cut back on activities that make her mother screechy. Good luck with that one.

Hyang-gi’s mother wonders if Ji-hyung has a woman on the side, because that’s the only scenario that makes sense to her. Ji-hyung’s mother deflects but she’s a pretty poor liar, and can’t look the other woman in the eye. Thankfully for her, Hyang-gi’s mother is too busy complaining to pick up on it, although it makes it uncomfortable when Bride’s Mom gives Groom’s Mom a gift from her recent trip.

Hyang-gi walks her out and admits that she met Ji-hyung the other day, who treated her like a younger sister. Thinking on it, he’s treated her like that for the past year.

She asks if Ji-hyung’s mother has seen Seo-yeon, and Mom lies to say no. Hyang-gi asks her to be sure to tell her when she does see her — she’s curious to know what she looks like and whether Ji-hyung’s mother likes her, thinking it’ll make things easier to accept once she can feel the reality settle in.

Ji-hyung requests Jae-min’s help again in convincing Seo-yeon to marry him, and gets another denial. Jae-min points out that he would’ve married Hyang-gi if not for Seo-yeon’s condition, so she’s going to read this as pity no matter how you slice it.

Jae-min finds Seo-yeon waiting for him, timing her meeting to get him to buy her dinner, which is so cute. I love that this cousinly relationship is so close and warm, but damn if it doesn’t make me wish they could be romantically paired in some way. It would almost make the cliché of a birth secret worth it…

They have a pleasant dinner, and as he finishes off the sushi, she tells him in a casual tone, “Oppa, now I’m even forgetting things I did 30 minutes ago.” She recounts her toothbrush incident, figuring that now she’ll have to start adding to her checklist in greater detail.

He urges her to start medication, and she replies that yeah, she’ll probably have to. Soon she won’t even be able to share things like this with him, “Because I’ll have forgotten that I’ve forgotten.”

Mention of Ji-hyung’s phone call reminds Seo-yeon that she met his mother earlier, and she explains how Mom had assumed she was pregnant, and she’d ended up telling her about her condition. Jae-min asks how Mom reacted, and she replies, “She said thank you. Or did she? I don’t know, I can’t recall.”

Seo-yeon tells Jae-min that if she weren’t sick, she would’ve been able to marry Ji-hyung in a year’s time, since Mom had taken their side: “I really have dirty rotten luck.”

Jae-min drops her off at home and asks if she’s resolved in her decision, acting like it’s someone else’s life. She says that’s what she wants, that she doesn’t want to add to her loved ones’ pain “before I turn completely into a me that’s not me.”

He asks what she really wants regarding Ji-hyung, without considering his family. She calls it a cruel question and says she doesn’t want to disintegrate daily in front of him either, or add to his pain. Jae-min says, “You’re already in his heart. Whether you see him or not, his pain will be the same.”

She calls him a dummy and turns to go up to her apartment, then turns back to face Jae-min. In surprise: “Oppa, when did you get here?” She lets him think that for a second before laughing, “At some point I’m going to turn into this.” Ugh, her joking about her impending doom is almost as tragic as her sobbing about it.

Jae-min calls Ji-hyung to tell him what Seo-yeon said. Ji-hyung fires back that he’ll take care of her, and that he can focus all of his attention on her in a way that her family can’t. Jae-min isn’t necessarily against this, but he points out that Seo-yeon’s wishes take precedence. She’s becoming sarcastic and mocking of her own condition, and he’s not sure what to make of that.

At home, Seo-yeon comes into the kitchen to prepare breakfast for the next day, briefly forgetting her purpose. Moon-kwon tells her that Aunt brought by enough food to last for a few days, so she heads back to her room, but turns back to take issue with Moon-kwon’s use of jondaemal with her. His way of talking is something I always assumed arose from him being such a troublemaker as a youth, and later deciding to show her extra respect to make up for it. It’s definitely unusual to use jondae among siblings, but since she’s essentially a mother-figure, it makes sense.

Moon-kwon points out that he’s always spoken to her in jondae. She says that he used to mix jondae and banmal, but now he’s using jondae exclusively. Is it because she’s ill now? Does he feel more distant with her? He says that he just thought she deserved the respect, but she’s in defensive mode and asks, “Why, because I’m sick?” Moon-kwon drops the jondae to appease her, and she tells him, “Let’s just live like we always lived and not change.”

Jae-min comes home to — what else? — another bickerfest between his mother and sister. Apparently his mother went out and bought stuff using Myung-hee’s husband’s credit card, although she argues that she earned the money to pay for her own purchases. Myung-hee argues that if Mom buys Dad a parka and Moon-kwon a T-shirt (“I can understand up to that point!” — wanna guess where she balks?) using their card instead of her own money, then buys Seo-yeon winter blankets with her own money, it’s like Myung-hee is actually buying the blankets. Or something. I don’t really get her calculation methods, and this time I don’t think it’s my math.

Mom calls out her daughter for not caring about her own flesh and blood relatives who moved out in summer and need winter blankets. Myung-hee shrills, “We bought them frying pans!” Her husband is embarrassed at that petty defense, but Myung-hee argues that they were strapped and that was as much as they could give. Mom notes, “But your husband still bought a car.” Myung-hee: “It was a used car!” Mom: “A used car is still a car!”

Myung-hee: “You fed those kids for twenty years, that should be enough!” Mom: “Did you feed them? No, your father did!” Mom reminds her that Seo-yeon started paying them for their keep once she entered college, and Mom was heartbroken every time she had to accept that money. Myung-hee’s husband chimes in, “So it was fifteen years, then.”

Good lord, Myung-hee is such an ugly person. What a piece of work. At least she’s entertaining for all her shrewishness.

What overhearing this argument does for Jae-min, however, is underscore Ji-hyung’s point about being better able to focus on Seo-yeon than Jae-min’s family can. He has a point.

At home, Seo-yeon gives up trying to read a book and gets up to fix a snack for Moon-kwon. He assures her he’s not hungry yet, but it’s not until she asks the time that she backs down; it’s a lot earlier than she thought it was. She heads into her room and begins reciting that word game that’s become her mantra (it’s a word chain, where you start the next word using the last letter from the previous word).

Ji-hyung’s mother arrives at his officetel, all wound up with nerves. She knows about the Alzheimer’s diagnosis and demands to know how he could hide that and still go through with the plan to marry her. What’s he going to do now?

He tells her he’ll marry her anyway, but not to consider this as him sacrificing himself for Seo-yeon. “I’m doing this because I need her, because I want to be with her. I love her. I love her laughs, her cries. Her warmth, coldness, when she’s good-natured, bad-tempered, her thoughts, her stubbornness, pride, candidness, transparency. I love all of that.”

He says that Seo-yeon revealed everything to Mom and rejected him anyway, not because she hates him but for his own sake: “Without her, I’ll turn into a scarecrow, like you.”

He kneels by his crying mother and takes her hand. She tells him that she knows that love isn’t just for the happy times, and that there are plenty of people in the world who stick by their love when things get hard, and the sight moves her: “But I can’t handle my son becoming one of them.” They repeat an exchange of “You can’t”s and “I’m sorry”s, neither one able to budge.

Mom drives home sobbing.

The dads have drinks and come home to the groom’s household, their friendship mostly intact although Hyang-gi’s father sighs at the sight of their empty staircase — he’d always expected to see his married daughter bounding down it to greet her father. Both Ji-hyung’s parents freeze when he drunkenly slurs that he and the wife had thought Ji-hyung must be having an affair, but then decided against it based on their reactions.

Ji-hyung’s mother and father get ready for bed and talk about their day, and Dad mutters that Ji-hyung’s going to have to pay for his sins against Hyang-gi. That gets Mom’s temper flaring — despite the situation, how can he curse his own son? Dad blames her again, saying that their son took after her way of thinking. How is the successful, grown middle-aged man always ready to make himself the victim in this? Oh, poor you.

Mom reminds him of their own marriage, which was not easily gained because of parental opposition, but they ended well enough. She tells him to take back his words (“They frighten me”) and grumpily, he does.

Mom calls Ji-hyung that night to plead again, urging him to back off and let Seo-yeon go. She offers to make sure Seo-yeon is taken care of instead, and says that she understands how he feels, but still can’t allow it.

Ji-hyung asks, “Mom, do you want me to live the rest of my life with a guilty conscious, full of regrets that drive me crazy? Is that living? Even if time passes, if I step aside unable to do a thing, I won’t be able to let go of her until the day she dies.”

She sobs. He asks her to let go of him.

The next day. As Seo-yeon and her co-workers head out to dinner together after work, she gets a text message from Ji-hyung. She checks it — it’s a standard “I’m working late, I’ll eat dinner out” message, like you’d send to a spouse — and when her co-workers ask about it, she replies coyly, “It’s the person I like… That’s the answer you want to hear, isn’t it?” They marvel that she’s finally loosening up on her secretive ways, and she wonders, “Am I secretive?” They laugh at the idea that she could have ever thought herself NOT secretive.

Seo-yeon’s aunt drops by her husband’s jewelry store on an errand, but instead of heading home, she ends up at a different neighborhood and approaches a shabby restaurant. Inside, the proprietor welcomes her guest, then freezes to recognize Seo-yeon’s aunt. Could this be the elusive mother?

 
COMMENTS

This episode was really Kim Hae-sook’s to shine as Ji-hyung’s mother finds herself reeling and trying to cope, while at the same time coming to like and respect Seo-yeon, which makes her decision that much more difficult to handle. This is a struggle I’m keen on seeing playing out, because more so than anybody she finds herself caught in the middle. Everyone else’s loyalties fall pretty clearly on one side or the other, but now that she has met Seo-yeon, she can’t help but feel for her. Maybe she sees some of her own self in Seo-yeon’s steel will underneath her gentle-seeming exterior, or maybe she’s just not as cold as she seemed at first glance.

I do have to say I’m finding the snippets of story a bit jarring, particularly when they aren’t really connected to the central story but just hang off as appendages. How great it would be if the brokenness of the narrative flow were intentional, as though mimicking the brokenness of Seo-yeon’s memories… but really, that’s a stretch. I think the conversations are well-written and witty, but we certainly don’t need so much of it at times. I do appreciate getting a sense of the world and a little bit of that meandering is welcome, refreshing even, but by this point we’re halfway through and we’ve got major story drama goin’ down here. This isn’t really a slice-of-life type of drama, so they start to feel extraneous.

They’re not like the intentionally fractured visual frames, for instance (see below), which I can see ARE a direct reflection of the theme. They’re excessively used, in my opinion, but they serve a purpose. I think this show tends to linger a moment too long, stretch a bit too much, and that isn’t always to its credit. It IS a deliberate directorial choice, though, so I figure that will just continue to be the case.

That said, how much do I continue to love the brothers? What does it say that I keep mistyping Oppa’s name as Jae-mine?

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41 November 21, 2011January 24, 2016

Thousand Day Promise: Episode 11

by girlfriday

FINALLY. A huge gust of fresh air brings change to everyone’s world. It’s an episode heavy on the happy and light on the angst, and full of wit about abs and dramaland. It’s unexpectedly sexy, heartwarming, and FUN, which I get that this drama can’t be all the time, but damn, this episode makes me wish it could.

 
EPISODE 11 RECAP

Aunt sits down at the corner snack shop, eyeing the owner warily as she downs shot after shot of soju. She calls Aunt hyungnim, making her Seo-yeon’s mom for sure. They’ve clearly been in contact before, since she doesn’t seem all that shocked to see her stop by.

Aunt lies that she was just in the neighborhood and was curious to see if she was still working in the same spot. Mom muses that if she’d come a few weeks later she’d have missed her, since she’s moving shops. She mentions that her last boyfriend/husband/man-friend died, after she paid years of hospital bills for him, and then sighs that she can’t live without a man. She already has a new one lined up.

Aunt asks why she never once asks about the kids – doesn’t she care how they’re doing? Mom gives a blank look and reminds her that she answered this the last time, and that she’s going to continue to live like they don’t exist. “Do I get anything by seeing them?” Whoa. Seriously? It’s gonna be like that?

The upshot: Aunt not only knows where to find Seo-yeon’s mom, but stops in to see her once in a blue moon. Seo-yeon’s mom, whether or not she’s also sick (doesn’t seem like it so far) is a no-doubt-about-it deadbeat mom.

Seo-yeon has dinner with her coworkers, where they have a discussion about the overabundance of abs on television, and how it’s just fanservice and melts our brains or some such. So… what’re we saying here… that we’re not gettin’ any post-army shower scenes in this drama? *does not compute*

Aunt wonders to herself the whole way home how Seo-yeon’s mom could be the way she is, and when her kids ask where she went, she jokes that everyone’s allowed to have secrets, even her. Jae-min happens to be sitting outside lifting weights, which now seems like a cruel joke after practically announcing that we won’t get to SEE any of it. *pouts* Big tease.

He gets an earful from Mom about how he’s letting another year pass without getting married, and makes reference to an ex, making sure she’s not still hanging around. He assures her that he has no intention of seeing her again, but Mom goes on about how you never know, and someone else’s son, a friend of a friend, is getting divorced and then roped back into a relationship, or something.

Jae-min reminds her that he has yet to be married so there’s no one to ask him for a divorce. Hence she can just stop being upset about the things that have yet to occur. Heh. I’m totally having sympathy pangs right now. Are all conversations with mothers like this? Sure feels like it. He asks if she’s taking her medication (doesn’t specify for what), and she assures him that she does so faithfully, because she wants to live a long life.

He swears that he has no intention of seeing the ex again, so she needn’t worry. Mom has already jumped to the next point of conversation, which is what kind of girl he SHOULD bring home: not from too rich a family or too poor, but just like theirs, and just right for him, “Just like Seo-yeon!” Oh, Mom, you have no idea how much that hurts my heart.

Seo-yeon stays out with her coworkers for a while, and then slips out early, asking for a waiter to bring her purse out and make excuses for her. She waits outside in the cold, which brings back a memory of waiting in the snow for Ji-hyung.

Flashback. He picks her up and apologizes profusely, while she complains that he made her wait outside. He jokes that if the only thing that’s frozen is her hands, he can handle it, reminding us that he once thought her cold exterior was just cute.

She remains pissed, so then he offers up a solution, and BARES HIS ABS. Hahahahaha. Okay, this drama has officially made me laugh out loud. What a witty way to hang a lantern on the abs scene which is basically a requirement if you’re going to cast Kim Rae-won straight out of the army (because seriously, we’d want our money back), while still commenting on the gratuitous fanservice. Hee.

He offers up his stomach as a hand-warmer, which she doesn’t turn down, because she’s not stupid. He yelps from the cold and then hugs her tight, asking if her hands are thawing now. He whispers something naughty in her ear and gets a playful shove in response.

Oh, did you tell her where else she could put those hands? Because RAWR. I love seeing Ji-hyung in these happy flashbacks. He seems like a different person, one you’re not questioning why anyone would love.

On her drive home, Seo-yeon gets a call from Aunt, who crouches in the kitchen (as if that keeps her voice from carrying, ha) and lies that she heard from other sources that her mom is alive and well, and running a snack shop somewhere.

Seo-yeon asks if she’s healthy, and Aunt says yes, and wonders if she should look into tracking her down for a meeting. Seo-yeon declines, and Aunt quickly agrees that there’s no sense in meeting her face-to-face and dredging up the past.

Jae-min walks in and happens to overhear the conversation, and gathers that this is her secret, and where she went earlier that night. Mom tells Jae-min the truth – that she’s known about Seo-yeon’s mom’s whereabouts for over ten years, and that the woman doesn’t care to see her kids.

Jae-min asks the same question: Is she healthy? Mom says she is, and then sighs at Seo-yeon and Moon-kwon’s misfortune. Jae-min’s thinking, you don’t even know the half of it, Mom.

Seo-yeon drives home, and whether it’s because of the conversation about her mother is unclear, but she suddenly starts to panic, as the road begins to blur in front of her. She can barely see ahead, in the road filled with cars in every lane. Suddenly she doesn’t know where she is, and she breaks down in a panic attack right there in the middle of the road.

She barely makes it over to the curb and stops the car, but not before nearly giving me a heart attack trying to move two lanes over. She sits frozen in shock, and then reaches for her phone… but then blanks again, not knowing whom to call.

She beats herself in the head as she cries in fear and frustration. The panic is overwhelming.

Ji-hyung rides shotgun in Architect Alex’s car, when he gets a call from Seo-yeon. She’s crying hysterically now, as she tells him that she doesn’t know where she’s going, doesn’t know where home is. She’s in a full-blown panic attack, screaming out in terror.

He calmly tells her not to cry, and that he’ll be right there. It’s gotta count for something that she called him in her moment of true crisis. While she waits, she cries all the ways that a person can cry, from head-beating screaming, to incoherent wailing, to silent streams of tears. It’s the quiet tears that are particularly searing.

Ji-hyung finally arrives in a cab and runs to her, finding her defeated, scared, and still in tears. He helps her out of the car and holds her, and tells her that everything will be okay. She cries on his shoulder.

He puts her in the passenger seat and fastens her seatbelt, and then gently wipes her tears away. Aw, now YOU’RE breaking my heart. She says that a few minutes ago she finally recalled the slip of paper in her coat with Oppa and Moon-kwon’s numbers and apologizes for having to call him. His was the only number she could remember.

She apologizes, but he thanks her. Okay, you’re slowly winning me over now.

Ji-hyung’s parents have an argument over whether they’re going on a sudden weekend trip with Hyang-gi’s parents – Dad wants to go, while Mom wants to give excuses and bow out, not wanting to get an earful from Hyang-gi’s mom for three days straight. Don’t blame ya.

Hyang-gi’s mom is currently doing just that to her daughter, who’s now taken to jigsaw puzzles to help pass the time. Mom is dissatisfied at her lack of being over it, surprise surprise, and KICKS the puzzle in frustration. Who’s the child now? I do love her saucy remarks for everything though. Today’s winner: “I don’t remember ever giving birth to a moron like you!”

She rants to Dad that Hyang-gi’s doing puzzles now, and of Klimt’s Kiss for that matter. Are you upset because your daughter might be turning into a pretentious college student or just the romantic implications of the painting? In any case, I love that Dad does yoga while Mom rants. It’s kind of like one act to cancel out the other.

Ji-hyung arrives in front of Seo-yeon’s place, and finds her fast asleep, with her mouth hanging open. It flashes him back to a happier moment, when he first discovered this about her, and watched her sleep with her mouth gaping open with a giant adorable grin on his face.

She woke up and insisted that she does not sleep with her mouth open, recounting how she firmly closes her mouth before sleeping and wills herself to keep it that way. His insistence that it’s not something she can control while sleeping seems to upset her more than anything, which is telling of her control-freak nature.

Their happy laughter rings in his ears now, as the sounds bleed over the cut back to the present. He watches her sleep, now with sadness, and waits for her to wake up.

She gets up to head inside, and he pleads with her: “Please, let me into your life.” Seo-yeon: “Why do you want to go into the mud?” Ji-hyung: “Because you’re there. Because I have to go to you.”

She calls him an idiot and tells him to stop, that it’s testing her. He tells her he won’t give up, and that she should surrender. Though it feels like she’s one step closer, she doesn’t relent, reminding him that what’s good for her is a trap for him. Ji-hyung: “Trust me. You have to trust me.”

Seo-yeon starts to waver, with tears in her eyes. She says that she told his mother that she agreed with her. Ji-hyung: “You’re not my mom. I don’t need you to be my mother.” *gasp* Is the hero actually BEING a hero?

His words shock her as much as the rest of us, like he suddenly grew up overnight. He adds that all she needs to be is his. Seo-yeon finally crumbles a little, and puts her hand to his face.

Seo-yeon: Before I completely disappear… I want to use all my strength to live.
Ji-hyung: Even if you can’t remember me, in my memory, you remain as you are. You will not disappear.
Seo-yeon: But there’s no going back. I won’t let you take it back.
Ji-hyung: No going back. I won’t let you take it back either.
Seo-yeon: Every day… That you’ll love me every day more than the last… promise me.
Ji-hyung: Okay. I’ll promise every day.
Seo-yeon: You’re in trouble now. You’ve lost your chance to run away forever.
Ji-hyung: I won’t run away.
Seo-yeon: I want to be together. Be with me. Take care of me. Protect me.

God, I’ve never breathed such a sigh of relief at someone accepting a proposal. I never thought a surrender could be so relieving, so beautiful. They hold onto each other for dear life.

The next morning Jae-min and Dad go for a walk, and Dad mentions that Mom’s sleeping restlessly because her annual checkup is coming soon. They discuss it obliquely, and Dad sighs that he wishes five years would go by quickly, which makes me think she’s in remission for cancer or something.

Seo-yeon wakes up in good spirits, printing out a list of foods that are good for patients with dementia, and takes a call from Ji-hyung. He tells her that he’ll tell Jae-min and go ask her aunt and uncle for permission to marry her, and she tells him to come over today, since they’re all gathering for Uncle’s birthday.

He worries that they won’t want to give her away, and she laughs that they’ll be happy to marry her off. Moon-kwon overhears her and stops in his tracks. She gets off the phone in a blissful state, not even realizing that her brother is gaping at her because she didn’t tell him she was getting married.

He has to ask, and she beams that it’s true, and to someone he knows too – Park Ji-hyung. Moon-kwon’s eyes bug out. But does he know about her condition? And what about his parents? Seo-yeon tells him that he knows and so does his mother, and she hasn’t given permission, but Seo-yeon has decided not to care. She wants to live and be happy like everyone else.

Moon-kwon gets choked up with tears, and Seo-yeon asks if it’s not okay for her to do, and he quickly says no, it’s not that – it’s because he isn’t able to do anything for her, but this makes him so happy.

He takes her hand, and through his tears he smiles at her so sincerely: “Congratulations, noona. Congratulations.”

GAH, I didn’t even cry when she accepted the proposal, but this, this turns me into a puddle of goo. She tells him that she wants to be happy like any other woman, even if it’s for a year. If it’s two, or three, she’ll consider it a blessing.

He says he understands and then realizes that it’s why she’s printed out the list of healthy foods. “That means you’ll take your medication now?” She smiles, “I’ve already started.” He beams, “Now you’re my noona.” Aw, it crushes me to think of how scared he’s been, and how out of character she’s been acting.

She tells him not to say anything yet because she has to tell Jae-min first. She’s literally glowing, which makes me simultaneously happy and sad, to think of what little time she’ll get to be this happy.

Jae-min’s house is bustling with preparations for Dad’s birthday, only Dad breaks the news that his birthday happens to be tomorrow. That sends Mom into an uproar, but it turns out that she miscalculated (his lunar birthday) by a day. He doesn’t care, but she does, saying all her efforts have been wasted and that she must be getting old.

The family has the birthday breakfast anyway, and while Seo-yeon teaches Ding Dong how to read, the boys clean up. (Yay, dramaland!) Moon-kwon tells Jae-min that his sister has started taking her meds and eating healthy food. Relieved, he asks what changed her mind, and Moon-kwon coyly says he doesn’t know.

Ji-hyung stops by home to have breakfast with Mom, who declines the last-ditch effort by Hyang-gi’s mom to get her to join the weekend trip. He tells her that he’s going through with the marriage plans against their wishes, and asks for her forgiveness.

She asks about his future, if she’s someone for whom he wants to throw away his whole life: “Is she everything to you?” Ji-hyung: “Yes.” Mom argues that if she hadn’t gotten sick, he would’ve just married Hyang-gi, and he doesn’t deny it. But he says that it’s not because he feels sorry for her, because she’s sick. “It’s that her illness made me realize how much I love her.”

Mom confesses that she thought, if Seo-yeon were her child, how grateful she’d be if someone’s son stepped up to take care of her, how she’d bow a thousand times in gratitude. But when it’s her son, she can’t give him up, and even that thought plagued her with guilt.

I love how honest she is about where her sympathies lie, and about how much she feels for Seo-yeon… but only up to a certain point. It’s human, and honest. She sighs that he’ll do what he needs to do, and she’ll do what she needs to do. Hm, is that a threat?

He tells her that he’ll wait two to three months. But then Mom surprises me, and tells him that one healthy person’s day is not the same as one day to Seo-yeon. “Don’t waste time.”

He asks what about Hyang-gi’s family, and Mom says what he’s doing is already outside of politeness and duty, so what’s two or three months going to change? She’s not so much taking his side as she is being blunt about the consequences, and it sinks in for him how much his mother is about to face because of his choices. Once alone, she crumples to the ground and cries.

After breakfast Jae-min pulls Seo-yeon aside to ask about taking her meds, saying that this is how she should’ve been from the beginning. She happily tells him that she has to now, now that she’s getting married…

He stops short, his face betraying a reaction quite different from Moon-kwon’s. Oh god, is that heartbreak? Or just shock? I think my heart just sank five stories.

He stammers, asking how, when, is she sure. He just gulps silently, and she can read the unhappy on his face. “Why, did I do something wrong?” He says no, he’s just surprised, and asks how Ji-hyung convinced her. But his wording, though not meant harshly is something closer to: how’d the bastard seduce you?

She tells him about getting lost last night, and secretly hoping that Ji-hyung would ask her again, and that she agreed, that they promised there’s no going back.

Finally seeing how genuinely happy she is, he smiles. Aw, so sweet. Maybe it was just oppa-worry. She says she decided then and there to start taking her meds, and told her illness to do as it wants, that she’s going to live her life.

He stretches out his hand and she takes it in a shake, as he wishes her luck.

They relocate to a café, and then Ji-hyung walks up to meet them. Jae-min gets up and the two men stand in the aisle, and Ji-hyung puts out his hand…

And then Jae-min pulls him in for a bear hug. AWWWWWWW. Ji-hyung beams at his friend’s reaction, and hugs him back.

Seo-yeon watches with the happiest look on her face, and then notices a group of women whispering at the next table over. They gape and come to the conclusion that the two of them must be gay lovers, sending them clucking in disapproval, which makes Seo-yeon spit out her latte all over the table.

HA.

 
COMMENTS

Oh man, what a relief. A happy episode full of meta humor and happy times? I suddenly love this drama again. And I love writer Kim Soo-hyun much more when she’s being cheeky. I think the lighter tone of today’s plot gave her that extra room to inject more humor than usual, which is more my cup of tea.

Though the other episodes are at times plenty funny in the dark comedy, gallows humor kind of way, I like when she’s meta-funny about dramaland and about her own repertoire to boot. The pearl-clutching reaction to The Gay just cracked me up. It was a hilarious way to break the tension between the two guys too, because after Jae-min’s initial reaction to the engagement, their meeting had me on pins and needles.

I like that Jae-min is a little warier than everyone else. I don’t think he’s heartbroken in the way of icky feelings that he’s not supposed to have or something, but he’s clearly protective and worried and going to put Seo-yeon before his friend, like an oppa always will. They’re also much closer than a normal set of cousins, so it might be compounded with a sense of loss, like marrying away your best friend leaves you a little sad despite being overwhelmingly happy. I like that there’s room for his sadness and that it’s open to interpretation.

My confidence in Ji-hyung’s strength is growing – there’s something about the little things he does, like the way he wipes away Seo-yeon’s tears, that for some reason makes me stop and think twice about the kind of man he is. I’m just glad that he’s not a waffler when it counts.

What I love about the turning point (the panic attack in the car) is that it’s just traumatic enough to push her over the edge and screw pride, and just admit that she needs help. There’s no denying it anymore when she’s panicked and scared and alone, and then once she makes the decision to lean on him, there’s no going back. I feel confident that lest she forget, she’s not going to go back on letting him into her life.

Most of all, I love that she’s embracing the chance to be happy, for what little time she has. For the first time she sounds hopeful of what the future holds, and though it’s just a break in the clouds, her happiness in the moment feels like it’s enough to carry her, and us, through.

 
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30 November 22, 2011January 24, 2016

Thousand Day Promise: Episode 12

by javabeans

Phew! Thank goodness for another episode that’s heavy on the happy, and (relatively) low on the misery. After yesterday’s cheerier turn, I was afraid that we’d be back to gloomytown since they’d gotten some lighter moments. But that would’ve killed me, because their taste of happiness is still so fleeting in context of the bigger picture. In that sense, this drama is doing a very good job of driving in the message of enjoying the good moments while you’ve got them, because now every smile, every laugh, every loving encounter seems precious and loaded with meaning.

SONG OF THE DAY

Sung Shi-kyung – “한번의 사랑” from the Thousand Day Promise OST. [ Download ]

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 
EPISODE 12 RECAP

The happy couple meets with Jae-min, who adopts a paternal presence and says he’d been sure Seo-yeon would make Ji-hyung give up somehow. She smiles and leans in close to Ji-hyung, whispering the words that the devil on her shoulder said: “You have a right to be happy too.” So she took the devil’s hand.

Ji-hyung declares that he’s taking over Jae-min’s role in taking care of Seo-yeon, which Jae-min is now happy to hand over to him. They shake on it.

Jae-min comes home to find his parents on their way out, and gives them the good news. Just like that, he tells them Seo-yeon is getting married, which has his parents so flustered that Aunt (er, Mom) heads back inside and drags her husband with her, plans canceled.

After the initial shock, Aunt is thrilled and pumps Jae-min for information, pleased when he describes the groom as “an outstanding guy.” Meanwhile, Ding-dong (er, Ji-min) runs to the bakery to tell his parents what he’s overheard. Both are shocked, but it’s Myung-hee who tears out of there and sprints home with her ajumma run.

Watching Aunt react to the news is like a roller coaster, because she’s excited one second, then glum when Jae-min shares the part about the groom’s family opposition, but cheery again when she figures the couple will be fine, then teary as she exclaims, “That pitiful girl has this fortune, at least!”

Jae-min tells his parents that Ji-hyung is heading over to give his respects, sending his mother into a flurry of panicked activity. Food! Laundry! Cleaning!

Myung-hee bursts in and demands to know if it’s true. Jae-min answers her barrage of questions with a simple, “Yes, it’s Park Ji-hyung,” and that’s enough to get her mouth flapping uselessly, stunned speechless. Alas, just for a second. She can’t believe — not that guy — with the doctor parents — it’s gotta be a joke, right? Jae-min confirms it and she stews in her inferiority complex.

Ji-hyung and Seo-yeon arrive bearing gifts, and despite Ji-hyung’s posturing about being strong enough to carry the heavy stuff on his own, they end up holding the monster fruit basket together, which is cute.

They laugh their way up the hill, as he says he’d rather carry her up the steps since her “kill heels” always worry him. In fact, he wants to get rid of all her heels once they’re married, and she balks until he offers to pay her back. Okay then, but he owes her double. He smiles at the memory, saying he’s glad she wore them to impress him, and she points out that he complained the whole time. Heh, well here’s a case where it really is the thought that counts.

Aunt accepts Ji-hyung’s bow happily, and gets tearful as she expresses her relief. She had been so worried for Seo-yeon’s future, and urges her to be happy.

Aunt’s joy and tears are touchingly sincere, and I wonder if it hadn’t hit Seo-yeon just how much her aunt loved her, and how hard it was to watch them maintain a respectful distance. She loves them like her own children, but Seo-yeon has always been so conscious of her pride and kept her relatives at arm’s distance lest she be considered a freeloader, paying for her keep and working for everything.

Myung-hee comes in with coffee and kills the mood (so what else is new?), sniping at Seo-yeon for keeping her relationship a secret for a year: “She made us all into fools!” Jae-min argues, “So what?” Myung-hee uses her mother as her excuse to complain, saying that Mom’s worked so hard trying to find Seo-yeon potential matches, and the whole fuss could’ve been avoided.

Myung-hee throws a few more veiled insults at Seo-yeon, then turns to leave with a totally insincere, “Anyway, congratulations.” I love Aunt for her response: She flies at Myung-hee and hits her in the back, screeching, “What kind of congratulations is that?” Haha.

But I suppose it’s not really a funny scene, because Mom has just taken her daughter to task in front of a guest, which is doubly humiliating for Myung-hee. Not that she doesn’t deserve the rebuke, because she has crossed the line so long ago she probably can’t even see it anymore, but it adds to her hurt feelings.

Myung-hee screams and sobs, saying Mom never took her side, and finally Dad raises his voice and tells them to cut it out. Dad leaves for work, the men see him out, and Aunt sits with Seo-yeon to apologize for the outburst. She assures her not to worry about the groom’s family, and encourages her to be happy with her husband.

Next it’s off to see Moon-kwon at his convenience store job. Who could’ve guessed that there’d be a scene in this drama that could double for a toothpaste commercial?

Meanwhile, while the three parents on Team Death To Ex-Groom golf together, Ji-hyung’s mother, aka the one with a heart, stays home. Hyang-gi comes by with homemade soup for her, hearing that she wasn’t feeling so well.

Hyang-gi and Ji-hyung’s mother go for a walk, and Hyang-gi confides that she finds it comfortable to be with her. She even prefers their house to her own, with her own demanding mother never being satisfied with her. Ji-hyung’s mother tells her it’s not that her mother dislikes Hyang-gi, but that she basically wants a mini-me. Now there’s a frightening thought. It brings to mind images of a tiny Lee Mi-sook running around creating havoc like an imp, shrieking at people and cutting random cords with tiny scissors, and maybe running them into your shins. Where’s that drama?

Hyang-gi asks about Ji-hyung, admitting that she’d like to call him, but doesn’t want to burden him. She sighs that she wishes he’d just text her once in a while, even if just to ask if she’s okay, but “He must have forgotten that I exist already.” Mom faces her with an Oh, honey look on her face and tells her it’s so she can get over him quickly.

It’s like Hyang-gi’s convinced herself that she doesn’t expect more, all while hoping for a miracle, or maybe a personality transplant. That he’ll wake up and realize he loves her after all. That’s clear in the way she clings to hope, and reminds Mom that he accepted the cookies she gave him. Ji-hyung’s mother has to remind her that she said he treated her like a sibling, and entreats, “Forget him. There’s no space for you in his heart. End it now. The most painful thing in the world is a once-sided love. Don’t do it.”

The words shake Hyang-gi, perhaps getting through to her in a way that nobody else’s words have. But maybe she needs another push, because Ji-hyung’s mother drops the big bomb, that Ji-hyung intends to marry. She doesn’t approve and his father is unaware, but there you have it. Mom offers to break the news to Hyang-gi’s mother while Hyang-gi cries and says, “My mother…will have a fit.” That’s the nice way of saying it.

Seo-yeon invites Ji-hyung in to her apartment and unpacks groceries while explaining to him how happy and comfortble she and Moon-kwon were to move here, to have their own home. Ji-hyung comes behind her to hug her, and she warns him that this isn’t the place for that, since her brother could come home at any minute. Ji-hyung tells her he wasn’t planning anything more than a hug, but she says that it’s because she wouldn’t want to stop with a mere hug. Rawr. That revs his motor, and he grabs her hand and asks, “Where’s your room? Is it that one? It’s that one, right?” Hehe.

She resumes with the groceries, cheerfully posting up her “Foods for Dementia” list and adds, “But for our lunch…” She stops short, then picks up that misplaced train of thought, “We ate already.” I like the matter-of-fact way Ji-hyung handles her lapse, adding, “At Aunt’s, with Jae-min.” It’s nice that the men in Seo-yeon’s life react to her illness with a conspicuous lack of hysteria — it’s refreshing. (Those dramatics, I fear, will be supplied enough by Aunt.)

She falters when looking for the green tea, forgetting which cabinet it’s in. She remembers at the last minute and pours herself a cup, but accidentally spills the scalding water on her hand. In a flash, Ji-hyung’s at her side, running her hand under cold water and preparing a cold compress, worried and just a wee bit overreacting. About halfway through this procedure, Seo-yeon calms and watches him fuss over her, and when he wants to take her to the hospital, she outright bursts into laughter. Her: “Are you going to be like this every time?” Him: “Are you going to pour hot water on your hand every day?”

She assures him she’s fine, although he’s not convinced, and she tells him out of the blue, “I’m going to kiss you. I want to.” She hugs him and says, “I love you. I’m sorry. Thank you. I want to say it while I think of it, and not push it till tomorrow. I might not think of it tomorrow. I love you, I’m sorry, thank you.”

It’s a bit emotional for him and he tells her not to talk this way, but she continues, “Even if I don’t say these words again and become dumb, be understanding. Even if I’m not me, my heart will remember you.”

Ji-hyung: “I was a coward. Because I was, I turned away from you. I’m sorry. Don’t forgive me — you don’t have to forgive me, Seo-yeon.”

Seo-yeon, Moon-kwon, and Ji-hyung sit down for dinner, and she tells her brother that they’ll all be moving soon, and that preparations are nearly complete. He protests, preferring to stay here and not get in the way of the newlyweds, but she appeals to his sensitive nature by teasing, “You’re not just saying that because you’re tired of me and want to foist me off on him, are you?”

Seo-yeon’s jokes are understandable and it’s refreshing that she’s so frank, even if it’s disguised as jest, especially after hiding her condition for so long. But it’s also a bit gut-twisting every time she says something darkly amusing and the men in her life look stricken. For instance, Ji-hyung praises her cooking by saying that smart people are often good cooks, and she says lightly, “Am I smart? Is that why my brain going to ruin, because it’s too smart?”

At Aunt’s, the family gathers around a cake and sing Dad happy birthday. Myung-hee’s husband stumbles in drunk and in a rage, shocking everyone by kicking things over. The normally affable husband orders his wife to pack their bags ’cause they’re moving out. Myung-hee thinks this is just drunk babble, but he announces that this is how he really feels, and he’s been holding it all in all this while.

Okay, this scene starts out serious but becomes comical because of everyone’s unfortunate tendency to mutter one last comment that ignites the flame just as it’s about to die out. Seriously, it’s a hoot. Turns out that Husband is upset that Mother-in-Law embarrassed Wife earlier and hit her, and in front of Cousin’s Bridegroom, at that. (That gets Myung-hee to stop arguing with him, at least.) It’s almost sweet how he declares that she can’t treat Myung-hee like that…until he adds that it’s because Wife is his (read: property, chattel, minion, what have you) to manage, not Mother-in-Law.

Mother-in-Law retorts that she’s Myung-hee’s mother, a never-changing condition, compared to a spousal relationship that can be dissolved. Plus, Myung-hee was rude enough to merit the discipline, as far as she’s concerned. Finally Father-in-Law intervenes, which you know means everybody’s crossed a zillion lines because he always tries to remain far out of the mother-daughter hysterics. And when Husband starts to argue with him, Myung-hee slaps him upside the head — he can argue with Mom, but not Dad, especially not in this condition.

Aunt tells Husband to sober up and then talk, then tosses out the backhanded insult about him not being brought up right, and that gets him right back in their faces, demanding, “Did you just insult my mother?” Oh lordy. You people.

Seo-yeon sees Ji-hyung out, the lovers reluctant to part ways. She stops him to remind him to drive safely, and he laughs it off. But she tells him that you never know: “I’m really happy right now, but that happiness scares me. What if the devil who gave me this curse gets angry and steals you away from me?”

He promises to drive safely, and goes. She watches his car drive away, and thinks:

Seo-yeon: “You can’t have everything in life. From the start, I couldn’t have parents. But I still considered myself fortunate, better than the child who has no parents and no living aunt. Before I came to love him, I wanted nothing other than to find financial stability. Was the devil’s curse of Alzheimer’s to a 30-year-old too cruel a punishment in God’s eyes? The man I couldn’t have no matter how much I wanted him has taken my hand to be my one and only man. As I laugh and enjoy happiness with the man who is ruined because of me, while I’m still myself as Lee Seo-yeon, with the time that’s left to me, with all my strength, with all my heart, I want to love and be happy.”

Seo-yeon gets ready for bed, takes her medicine, and continues:

Seo-yeon: “What I must do from here on out is to delay my illness as much as possible, to do everything possible. To take my medicine, eat tofu, drink milk and cabbage juice. So that I can remain myself for one more day in front of my man.”

Problems arise at work, with a discrepancy in a book printing order. It turns out that another employee made the error, but it doesn’t stop us — or Seo-yeon, of course — from feeling that jerk of fear in the moments before we realize it wasn’t the fault of her Alzheimer’s. She thinks to herself of how many times every day she deals with that sinking feeling, worrying whether something is her fault. “How much farther can I go?” Her doctor says she can keep this up longer, but she wonders.

Wedding preparations near their end, and Ji-hyung’s mother calls to ask how things are. Ji-hyung informs her that the wedding is scheduled for this Saturday, and she asks about the details in a pained voice. Hearing about the small, quick affair makes her burst out — she’s not really upset about that, but it’s what breaks the dam — and Mom says brokenly that she’d hoped he wasn’t really going to do it, that although it’s a horrible thing to say of Seo-yeon, she wished he’d just live with her for a while.

Ji-hyung’s disappointed in her reaction and tells her not to take his feelings too lightly: “I’m not just playing at being the nice guy.” What kills me, though, is her anguish at her son taking part in a wedding that needs absolutely nothing from her, one she can’t be happy about or congratulate him on.

Ji-hyung calls Seo-yeon to tell her he’s running late for their meeting, and she tells him he doesn’t have to come pick out curtains with her because Aunt will be with her. He asks why she didn’t tell him earlier, and she replies, “I forgot. Did you forget who you’re dealing with here? I’m a dementia patient.” He catches on before she does, asking if she can talk about that so freely at work, and Seo-yeon belatedly realizes her slip.

Looking around, her co-workers are studiously pretending they didn’t hear, although they all look alarmed at the mention. Seo-yeon smoothly covers, saying that it’s okay because everyone knows it’s a joke. That relieves the tension, and the co-workers joke that everyone here is dealing with dementia.

Aunt and Myung-hee unpack gifts at the newlyweds’ apartment, where Myung-hee all but dies from envy. Finally she has to admit that Seo-yeon has scored the good life with the rich fiance and the fancy home. Her mother reminds her that the groom’s parents are still opposed to the match, and Myung-hee gripes, “What if they relent? You want me to die of indignation, right here?” Or, you know, you could try being happy for once.

But no, she’s the superficial one, and she even objects to the plate set that Aunt is giving the couple, which is the same one she gave Myung-hee, who now objects — it’s too cheap, it doesn’t belong in this home, it’ll humiliate her.

Seo-yeon heads to the work bathroom with her toothbrush kit, on which she’s actually taken to marking down the number of times she’s brushed her teeth today. Oy, that little detail gets me, more than all the crying and yelling. So stark and real, this proof of her illness in the midst of all the happy cheer.

There’s no need to brush, so Seo-yeon freshens up her makeup while her co-worker enters a stall, only to ask if she forgot to flush the toilet. Startled, Seo-yeon says defensively that she didn’t use that stall, rattled because she genuinely can’t remember.

 
COMMENTS

I still don’t think that this show is making nearly as much use of Kim Rae-won as it could, and should, but at least we got to see him smiling more, and starting to take on the role of caretaker. As girlfriday mentioned yesterday, we do need to see them actually working together as a couple to understand why anybody would love him to such an extent, because Mopey and Dopey weren’t cutting it.

The laughably short (and mostly irrelevant) scene with the three indifferent parents — what shall we call them? Three Musketeers? Amigos? Stooges? — seems like one of those things stuck in to make use of contracted actors, but on the upside, if it means more time with Seo-yeon’s family, I’ll gladly forego Lee Mi-sook’s brash hilarity. Kim Hae-sook’s character is wonderful and nuanced enough to fulfill the tortured parent quotient, and I continue to be fascinated by her. I respect that she’s honest about her own conflicted feelings, and that she sees herself as a mother first. And while most characters in her mold — the rich groom’s parents opposing the marriage with the poor heroine — would write off the heroine as a gold digger or inferior human being, Ji-hyung’s mother gives her her due.

I also love what we’re seeing from Seo-yeon’s aunt, who’s got complexity of her own. Her reactions to the wedding news were simultaneously hilarious (happy to sad to ecstatic to worried, all in the span of two seconds) and heartbreaking, because it’s so apparent that she loves Seo-yeon and wants to do more for her. She’s always done more for her, but out of respect for Seo-yeon’s feelings, she’s forced herself to pull back, and you know that kills her. But that’s what a parent does, isn’t it? You put the child’s needs above your own, and smile and count your blessings and show them you love them every time they’ll let you.

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49 November 28, 2011January 24, 2016

Thousand Day Promise: Episode 13

by girlfriday

It’s time for the wedding, as happy days thankfully continue. I’ve begun to feel like Seo-yeon when it comes to this drama – I count each happy episode and cheery moment as a blessing, and I’m thankful for the time I have, because I know the sadness that’s to come. But for as long as we can stretch this time, I want to enjoy every second of it.

 
EPISODE 13 RECAP

Wedding preparations are underway, as Seo-yeon finishes out her workweek before the big day. Moon-kwon calls from the new apartment to tell her that he’s settled in the rest of their stuff (I love that she moves her little brother into the new house too), and Aunt adorably mimes a big heart over her head to remind him that she was told they picked a very fortunate wedding day and that they’ll spend a hundred years together.

As she leaves work, in voiceover she goes over her wedding plans, and all the things she’s doing for the first time ever, like getting a facial or her nails done. She says that an amazing manuscript came into the office the other day, but she declined to work on it, with the excuse that she is now going to focus on her own writing. She then promptly went to the bathroom and cried as she washed her face.

Ugh, that breaks me up, that she had to turn down work that she would love, for fear she’d lose her mind before it was done. I hope her excuse (which she describes as ridiculous) actually happens, and that she writes this all down before it’s too late.

She continues, saying that she has decided to live and do as Ji-hyung wants now. She no longer rides the bus or the subway, at his insistence. She had said the cost was wasteful, but he had yelled, upset, that she was the only thing worth anything to him. With a smile on her face, she thinks, “I now take taxis, and the waste of money burns me up inside.”

She runs into Aunt just outside the door, floating away on a cloud of happiness at all the wedding prep, even laughing at how many times Uncle nagged her not to cry at the ceremony and embarrass everyone. She turns to go with a skip in her step, but then remembers that she wanted to ask Seo-yeon about her mother – should she be told about the wedding?

Seo-yeon says no without hesitation, and Aunt is happy to agree with her that she feels the same way, but just wanted to be sure. But as she packs for her honeymoon, the question comes back to the surface, and Seo-yeon repeats her answer out loud: “It’s not necessary,” again and again.

Ji-hyung heads for home after a haircut and gets a text from Hyang-gi, asking for ten minutes of his time. If this were any other circumstance, I’d say he’s crazy for meeting her, but considering how very recently he was about to walk her down the aisle, I don’t think it’s that crazy.

He meets her for coffee and she says she heard from his mother that he’s getting married soon. He tells her it’s tomorrow. It’s sort of crushing how she just says, “It’s really soon.” She says it’s good timing then, since it’d be weird to say these things to a married man.

She tells him that on the day of their wedding, she waited for him and held out hope till the very end of the day. But when his mother told her that he was getting married, it finally sank in. She says that she’s spent her whole life never once wishing for anything or being envious of anyone else, but for the first time, she finds herself so envious of the other woman.

She doesn’t mean any of this with any malice; it’s just the truth about the kind of person Hyang-gi is. She says that baby ducks open their eyes when they’re born, and then the first thing they see, they follow around their whole lives thinking that it’s Mom. She says she was a baby duck who followed Oppa around blindly. It infuriates me that this is who she is, but I also find it admirable that she knows this about herself. She calls herself “A stupid baby duck,” even to this day, and confesses it’ll take her a long time to get over him.

Then with tears in her eyes, she asks that if they should run into each other somewhere, even if he’s with “her,” not to pretend that he doesn’t see her. Gah, there’s something about that request that kills me. It usually goes the opposite way – when you break up you hang onto your pride and you tell the other person to pretend not to know you. It strikes me that where Seo-yeon is all pride, Hyang-gi is zero pride, and though at times it sounds a little pathetic, it’s also amazingly vulnerable and truthful.

Ji-hyung apologizes, saying that he wanted to keep from hurting her, but this is how things ended up. “No… this is how I did things.” That change, when he goes over what he said from this is what happened to I did this, satisfies my need to hear him own up to his choices.

Hyang-gi tells him to wish “her” congratulations, and as they say goodbye, she even offers up congratulations to him as well. He tells her that she doesn’t need to, but she says that she doesn’t like him not being happy. “Congratulations. Be happy.” And then she adds with a smile, “When I wake up tomorrow, I’ll have to transform from a baby duck to a mama duck.” Aw.

At home, Seo-yeon unpacks and organizes things, and stops to take her meds, only when she’s ready to swallow them, she looks down and sees that her hand is empty. She manages to locate her pills, and then gets an alarm message from herself: “Put the rice on, Lee Seo-yeon.” Is it just me, or does she talk down to herself a little?

She calls Ji-hyung just as he’s arriving downstairs, so she adorably runs to brush her teeth and then waits for him by the elevator. Aw, I love the birth of Cute Seo-yeon. The elevator doors pop open, and she cutesies, “Kakoong!” like you’d do to a baby, only there’s a neighbor grandma inside. Ha.

Grandma stares at her like she’s crazy, and Ji-hyung sheepishly explains that it’s his wife, which makes the granny smile and say they must be happy. Aw. He teases her for the outburst of cuteness, and then she forgets the lock code on their door. He takes it totally in stride and gives her the first number, and lets her figure out the rest.

After kisses and getting back to the rice, Ji-hyung tells her about meeting Hyang-gi. Seo-yeon pretends not to care, “So?” and Ji-hyung relays the congratulations message. She wonders if she ought to believe it, and he says that Hyang-gi is a sweet person, meaning she means what she says.

Seo-yeon: “Ah, I should be sorry. If I think about it, I am a little sorry. But… you were mine to begin with.”

Moon-kwon comes home and announces that he’ll be spending the next few days pulling some extra late-night shifts at work, because of a death in the manager’s family. Seo-yeon nags him about sacrificing school for work, and he teases her not to nag like a mom, otherwise Ji-hyung will get tired of her.

She in turn whines to Ji-hyung to help convince Moon-kwon to drop the job. It’s so nice to watch them be a family, and to see how helpful it is to have Ji-hyung as a buffer. Now it’s even more like mom and dad and son, which just makes me happy, I don’t know why.

Over dinner, Seo-yeon wonders if she ought to call his mother, to at least apologize. She feels bad that she swore up and down she wouldn’t do this very thing, and here she is. He suggests she call from the honeymoon, and she laughs, “Mother, what’s done is done?” He smiles, “Yes.” That’s terrible, and yet, I’m laughing.

Jae-min comes by bearing housewarming gifts and champagne, and tells Seo-yeon that this house suits her, basically saying it’s what she’s deserved all this time. She beams.

Ji-hyung’s mother braces herself for the conversation she has to have with her husband. He’s in no forgiving mood, but seeing as how the wedding is tomorrow, it’s pretty much now or never. She tells him everything – about the wedding and about Seo-yeon’s Alzheimer’s.

Dad freaks out, of course, calling Ji-hyung crazy and Seo-yeon all manner of terrible things, like she’s a golddigging hussy. Mom, despite being heartbroken about losing her son and not being able to stop him, defends Seo-yeon. She reminds Dad that they are doctors, who treat patients. Dad barks back at her not to lecture him. A real prince, this guy.

In tears, Mom says that Ji-hyung has made his choice, that despite being crazy, for him it’s love, and all he sees is Seo-yeon. “He asked me to let him go,” she says, like it’s breaking her heart all over again. She cries that he’s happy now, and she’s given up. She pleads with Dad to give up too.

Mom screams, “The choice, and the consequences, are his to bear!” It’s mind-blowingly earnest and admirable and sad, the way she disagrees with Ji-hyung’s choice, and yet respects it. I’ve almost never seen a k-drama parent respect her child’s decision as if he were (gasp) an adult.

Dad is, suffice it to say, not quite so evolved. He spends most of the time worrying about himself and what this’ll do to his relationship with Hyang-gi’s parents. Go figure. Even Ji-hyung’s aunt chimes in to bark at her brother-in-law, and gripe for him to stop thinking of Ji-hyung as his accessory and his possession.

As they unpack Ji-hyung’s things, Seo-yeon brings up money, feeling bad that she’s coming into this marriage penniless. He tells her he’s got lots, which she knows is untrue, but he swears he has more than she thinks, and offers to fill her account with some money from Mom for her to buy new clothes.

She says she’s going to spend it all on clothes and bags and shoes to her heart’s content, and he agrees wholeheartedly. Okay, where can I get one of him? She says that when the money comes from selling her apartment, she’s going to put some away for Moon-kwon, and save the rest for her hospital bills. He tells her that he’ll take care of the hospital bills, so she can put it all away for Moon-kwon. Aw.

Seo-yeon: Promise me that you’ll love me tomorrow more than today.
Ji-hyung: I said it this morning. Didn’t you get my text?
Seo-yeon: I don’t remember it. Say it again.
Ji-hyung: I will love you tomorrow, more than today. I will love you tomorrow ten times as much as I love you today. And the day after, twenty times.
Seo-yeon: Just say “more.” At ten, twenty, you’ll get to a million, ten million.
Ji-hyung: Wanna shower?
Seo-yeon: Yes, before bed.
Ji-hyung: It’s our first night.
Seo-yeon: It’s always our first night. Because there might not be a tomrrow.

How can one conversation be sweet, sexy, and heartbreaking all at once?

Ji-hyung’s parents spend a long while suspended in silence, and then drive over to see Hyang-gi’s parents. On the way, Dad gripes at Seo-yeon for not really loving Ji-hyung enough to be a noble idiot and run off somewhere far away. Wow, this guy so well encapsulates everything I find hateful and ridiculous, it’s comical.

Mom steps up to defend Seo-yeon as well-mannered and well-spoken, and adds that if she had run away, Ji-hyung would’ve gone crazy searching the globe until he found her. She sighs, “If I had Alzheimer’s, you’d run away, wouldn’t you?” He literally has no answer for that. Damn, that silence is cold.

She continues, “But if you had Alzheimer’s, I don’t think I could run. I guess Ji-hyung takes after me.” Dad: “Are you just now figuring that out?”

They arrive and Hyang-gi’s dad greets them with chitchat enough for his wife to call him an ajumma for his incessant chatter. Ha. She then of course chatters on herself about how Hyang-gi is infuriatingly still mopey, and how she wishes she could beat the stupidity out of her. This lady is hilarious.

Ji-hyung’s dad stumbles over how to deliver the news, and so Mom takes the reins and drops the bomb: that Ji-hyung has been seeing someone for a year, and that he’s getting married tomorrow. Oh crap. I’m watching through my fingers.

Hyang-gi’s mom loses her shit, but the first thing she does is turn to her husband to gloat in the I-told-you-so, calling herself supernatural for her uncanny insight into the big Why. I love that she has the brain space to be self-satisfied first.

And then of course she launches into venomous words, declaring that they are no longer friends, and that Ji-hyung’s dad can go ahead and resign from his job now. Her husband attempts to tell her that she’s not the one who decides such things, but yeah, that goes about as well as expected.

In between her shrieks, Ji-hyung’s mom tries to tell them that there’s more to be said, and finally has to just toss it out because Hyang-gi’s mom is so beside herself and refuses to listen to any more. She tells them about the Alzheimer’s.

More shock, and then Hyang-gi’s mom: “Do you mean to tell me that Hyang-gi got dumped for a DEMENTIA PATIENT?” I’m sorry, but that cracks me up. Why is this so funny? It’s like to her, all she can see is that her moron daughter got dumped for someone dumber than her, which makes no sense and just infuriates her on principal. It’s hysterical.

But Ji-hyung’s mom has finally had enough, especially in the way that Hyang-gi’s mom dangles her husband’s job around and makes them feel pathetic. She gets up and declares that they’re leaving. That’s it, Mom rocks.

Hyang-gi downs half a bottle of wine in one shot and reaches for more, as Mom comes tearing up to her door, screaming. She announces that Ji-hyung is getting married, and to a dementia patient at that, and I shudder to think if this were the first time Hyang-gi was hearing about this at all.

But the dementia is news to her, and she rushes to let Mom in to find out more. Mom confirms that the other woman has Alzheimer’s, and bless Hyang-gi’s little heart, she cries for Seo-yeon, thinking how bad she feels for her.

“I think I get it now, why I liked Oppa so much. In some way, Oppa and I ended up alike. I could love like that. I could do that too.” Auugh, she’s killing me. But it only brings Mom to a boil, and she just lets out a big scream in response.

Ji-hyung’s mother cries all the way home, and Dad tells her it’s simple – they’ll just pretend like they never had a son. Oh, okay then. She wonders how he could be so cold to his own flesh and blood, and cries at the road that Ji-hyung will have to face. She wonders how a forty-year friendship could dissolve like that too, and tells her husband to quit. Despite the hysteria inherent in Hyang-gi’s mom, I do feel bad for the dissolution of their friendship.

Aunt tosses and turns the night before the wedding, unable to sleep a wink. She finally goes out to the kitchen to pour herself a glass of soju, as she talks aloud to her dead brother. She sheds a tear as she proudly tells him that Seo-yeon is getting married, and that she and Moon-kwon don’t have much, but they’ve grown up well. She wonders why she misses him and wants to see him so much today. It’s a great scene, just quiet and ordinary, that reminds us of the connection that Aunt had with Seo-yeon’s father.

At the same time, Jae-min sits up in bed, unable to sleep. He goes over it in his head – Seo-yeon’s insistence that she wouldn’t give in to Ji-hyung, that she wasn’t that far gone yet, and then her subsequent surrender, saying that she gave in to the devil on her shoulder who told her to be happy.

He comes to the kitchen and finds Mom fully bawling, half a bottle of soju in, head in her hands. She cries as she tells her brother that he can stretch his legs and rest now, all the while wishing she could see him again.

Jae-min asks if she’s okay, startling her. She smiles up at him, and in her trademark way, immediately switches gears to happy-go-lucky Silly Mom, and laughs that she’s just getting all her tears out now, so that she doesn’t cry tomorrow at the wedding, as Dad has declared it would be embarrassing. She’s so cute.

Jae-min joins her for a drink, and then gulps down another shot before heading back to bed. He thinks back to a different conversation with Seo-yeon on the swings. This is a new flashback to a conversation we haven’t witnessed before.

Seo-yeon says that she’s most sorry to Aunt, who raised her and Moon-kwon with such love. She asks if he remembers the Egg Incident. Jae-min: “Two pieces, three pieces?” She laughs, “Yeah.”

She recalls how Aunt gave Myung-hee two pieces and Seo-yeon three, and Myung-hee freaked out and didn’t speak to her for a month. Ha. That sounds like her. Seo-yeon sighs that she’s of the age where she should be supporting Aunt and making her happy, but her fate…

She says that when Aunt got cancer, she thought that it was because of her, and Moon-kwon, the stress of taking them on. Jae-min reminds her that it was caused by her decades spent working at a hair salon and has nothing to do with her.

Seo-yeon tells him that she wants to keep the truth from her for just two more years, until she’s in remission. She wonders if she’ll be able to manage it that long, musing that she’s already lost her way home twice.

Back in the present, Seo-yeon can’t sleep either, and gets out of bed to sit alone with her thoughts. In voiceover she says:

Seo-yeon: Who was it that said that life is but a stage, and that we are merely the players? I am but an Alzheimer’s patient. One man is marrying me because he feels pity, and I am to be happy. In some moments of happiness, I do not lose myself, and play the happy part. But… as I do, I think… what am I doing to this man?

Ji-hyung comes out and interrupts her thoughts. She tells him that she has to call his mother, that she has to do it now. He dials on his phone. Mom answers expecting Ji-hyung, but Seo-yeon greets her on the other end of the line.

She tells Mom very plainly that she did not keep her promise, and apologizes. Mom: “It’s my child’s choice, so what can I do? I have no ill feelings towards you.” She asks to speak to Ji-hyung. She asks how wedding prep has gone, and tells him that they’ve told Hyang-gi’s family everything, and that she feels lighter after telling them the truth.

Mom: You’re having the wedding that you want, so I should congratulate you, but the words aren’t easy. Do your best until the very end. Don’t let your heart change, and don’t make her sad. Have her listen to her doctor, and take her medication on time. Spend lots of time with her. Love her, love her more, and love her endlessly. If you don’t, it’ll be too hard for you, and for her.

*Sniff, sniff… Waaaaaah*

Mom’s love is the most heartbreaking of all. With tears, he holds Seo-yeon close. Seo-yeon: “I love you. Thank you. I’m sorry.”


Wedding day. They forego most traditions and Ji-hyung walks her down the aisle himself. She looks beautiful, of course. He’s… kind of rocking a pompadour, but I rather like it compared to his super sappy bowl hair of late.

Their vows are simple: “I love you. Thank you for accepting me.” Family and friends cheer as they seal it with a kiss.

 
COMMENTS

Aw, yay for the wedding, going through without a hitch. I rather like that it’s not a super dramatic one, and that we don’t have people storming in to either bless or curse them. It would almost be too pat if Ji-hyung’s mom came around fast enough to show up at the ceremony, and I much prefer her words to Ji-hyung over the phone. They feel more earnest than a one-day turnaround. I like that we don’t spend too much drama time on the wedding itself, because the lead-up to it is actually the more interesting part, and I really enjoyed the various characters’ night before, as they each contemplate the big change ahead.

The show doesn’t take pains to over-draw the parallels in the generations, but Aunt’s conversation with her dead brother made me realize that in that one family, there’s three noona-dongseng relationships – Aunt and Seo-yeon’s dad, Myung-hee and Jae-min, and Seo-yeon and Moon-kwon. Her brief words to her brother made me realize how much they must’ve been like Seo-yeon and Moon-kwon, and why she loves those kids as her own. The Egg Incident story got me in the heart too, both in the way that Seo-yeon and Jae-min laugh over it now, and how it illustrates in the most mundane way that Aunt loves her.

It continues to be the family relationships that are the most striking in this drama. It’s not really about some kind of all-consuming self-sacrificing love between a man and a woman. It’s really about family, and how the meaning can be so vastly different from person to person. Ji-hyung’s father can disown him without a moment’s pause, while Seo-yeon’s aunt loves her like her own, maybe more. Hyang-gi’s mom can’t understand how different her daughter could be from herself which infuriates her, while Ji-hyung’s mom is heartbroken to realize how much her son is just like her. The highlights of this episode were definitely the two mothers – Ji-hyung’s mom and Seo-yeon’s aunt – who are as different as night and day, but share the same maternal love, for not just one of the kids, but the pair of them, which is such a nice refreshing change from the norm.

 
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48 November 29, 2011January 24, 2016

Thousand Day Promise: Episode 14

by javabeans

Just when you think this couple has finally achieved a measure of peace and reconciliation, new developments arise and rock their world, just a little further. As if they could take any more of the shaking. And with the news come additional conflicts to challenge this couple. As soon as they’ve gotten on the same page, there they are on opposite sides again.

SONG OF THE DAY

Top Cloud – “지워야 산다” (I have to forget to live) [ Download ]

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EPISODE 14 RECAP

On the morning of the wedding, Hyang-gi gets ready to leave the house for a change. She finds her parents in the workout room, and her mother proceeds to speculate that she’s going to go to some cafe with sentimental memories, where she’ll bawl out her eyes over her lost groom. Mom says she’s thankful to Ji-hyung, in fact, and wants to bow down in gratitude for calling off the engagement. The thought is so backwards that it’s kind of hilarious — like, Thanks for showing us you’re a jerk… to make up for the fact that you were a jerk in the first place.

Hyang-gi tells her mother that she’s the wrong one in this scenario for thinking solely of herself. She reminds Mom that she and “Ajumma” (Ji-hyung’s mother) have been friends for 40 years, and yet she hasn’t once thought of how painful this must be for her: “You’re not Ajumma’s friend. It’s so strange. You seem like a bad person. And if you’re a bad person, it makes me ashamed.”

Mom says that Ji-hyung leaving her for an Alzheimer’s patient is too much of a blow to the pride. Hyang-gi counters, “Is your pride more important than your friend’s unhappiness?” I half-expect Mom to retort, “Well, duh. It’s MY pride, and HER unhappiness.” But no, Mom gets offended and starts after her daughter, while Dad holds her back and urges Hyang-gi to go.

Mom stews, calling Hyang-gi an idiot, and Dad tells her that being pure doesn’t equal being stupid. He’s never thought of Hyang-gi as dumb.

The newlyweds follow their wedding ceremony with a plane ride to their honeymoon, while the groom’s family stays home, just waiting out the day. Ji-hyung’s father works in his home office, but a perturbed glance at the clock shows that he’s not totally uncaring of the fact that his son just got married and he didn’t bother going. At least I’m guessing that’s what that look means; the show’s got to do a lot more to convince me he actually has a heart capable of regretful feeling.

Ji-hyung’s aunt frets that she should’ve at least gone to the wedding, but she was mindful of his dad’s wrath, plus Mom stopped her from going. Mom replies that she can understand Dad’s reaction, and that they should respect how he feels. She says that even though he didn’t spend much time with Ji-hyung because of his work, he was generous by not showing his disappointment when Ji-hyung decided not to go to medical school and chose architecture instead. Pshhhhh. I literally just snorted so loud my cat fell off the desk. These people, I swear. Are they really human? Or maybe it’s just that their settings are calibrated to human-oid.

Architect Alex puts in a call to Mom to report that the wedding went off well and the couple is headed on their honeymoon. He says the bride was beautiful and it would’ve been nice if Ji-hyung’s parents had been there to see it, but adds that the couple was “briefly teary” at their absence.

Ji-hyung and Seo-yeon land and head to their beachside resort, and Seo-yeon says she wants to see the ocean today, “because it might not be there tomorrow.” Mood dampened at that constant reminder, Ji-hyung says the ocean won’t go anywhere and she apologizes, saying that she’s in a strange down mood. He says it’s because she’s tired and she agrees, telling him that she must be coming down from the stress.

She kisses him with a smile, but as her thoughts turn inward, her voice gets hard and scary:

Seo-yeon (voiceover): “That’s not it. Starting a while back, I suddenly felt angry, so much it made me want to die. Why me? Why did I have to get stuck with this? If this could happen to anyone, why did that anyone have to be me? What am I doing right now? What am I doing with this man?”

Ji-hyung breaks into that thought, commenting that it’s been exactly a year since their relationship began. She laughs over the memory of staying cooped up in a hotel room, uneasy at the thought of being labeled a man-stealer. Aside from the times they’d been washing up or eating, they’d spent most of their time in bed. He adds, “Because we were crazed.”

Hyang-gi ends up going to Ajumma’s house bearing flowers, saying she guessed she could used the consolation. Aunt gapes at her, as though wondering, Who created this girl? (Even more shocking is the answer to that question.) Ji-hyung’s mother says the consolation is working, and Hyang-gi’s pleased with that and hugs her, saying that she feels sympatico with her. Mom says she understands.

They go out for a walk, and Hyang-gi sympathizes with Ji-hyung’s mother, recalling how stunned she felt when she the wedding was first called off, and again when she heard he was getting married, and again when she found out the bride was ailing. But now she feels more at ease, after realizing that she couldn’t compete against the other woman, and seeing “what kind of love Oppa was in.”

She adds that she feels so sorry for Seo-yeon’s situation, and wishes she were her unni. Seeing Mom’s reaction, Hyang-gi smiles: “This is why my mother calls me moron, I’ll bet.”

The newlyweds settle into their extravagant honeymoon suite (a wedding gift) and put in a call to Seo-yeon’s aunt, who’s thrilled to hear from her. The call gets cut short by Myung-hee’s entrance, as she’s wincing in pain from a stomachache. Just as I’m gearing up to make a joke about what goes around comes around, her mother does it for me: “You’re being punished.” Not just for her general pissiness, but for carping all day long about the wedding, the bride’s old-fashioned gown, the groom’s appearance, and on and on.

Myung-hee retorts, “I was just speaking honestly.” It makes her feel better to say that at least she didn’t marry a groom whose family didn’t bother to show up, and Mom counters that her husband’s mother wasn’t all that fond of her, either. Myung-hee glares, and Mom says innocently, “What? I was just speaking honestly.” Ha. She adds, “What do the two of us have going for us aside from honesty?” Okay, that cracks me up.

Ji-hyung escorts Seo-yeon down for their honeymoon dinner, marveling at how grand she looks. She says that her clothes are wings, and he counters, “No, add wings to a pig and you still have a pig.” That’s cute.

She tells him that she’d planned this moment, picking out clothes to wow him. But his happy smile fades when she tells him to remember how she looks tonight, because if he forgets, her efforts were in vain. Aw, what a kicker.

She poses for photos with her handbag, blowing kisses, and making arm-hearts at Ji-hyung. Then he does the same. It’s pretty damn cute.

They have dinner and toast with a repeat of their vows (“I love you.” “Thank you for accepting me”). Seo-yeon says this is a welcome change from the affair, and lists all the precautions they had to take, and all the ways that made her feel left behind and lonely.

He apologizes, but she says it doesn’t matter now: “You’re mine 24 hours a day, I can hold your hand anywhere, and there’s no place we can’t go.”

He sits by her and smiles lovingly and tells her he loves her. She wants to eat quickly and go back to the room, which makes him tease, “And do what?” But she says, “Throw up. My insides feel all churned up.”

She vomits in the bathroom, then chalks it up to fatigue. Tiredness makes her nauseous, and she’s been feeling queasy since they started traveling.

An employee drops by with Seo-yeon’s purse, which she’d left in the bathroom. While Ji-hyung showers, she calls Jae-min, and I don’t know if it makes me happy or sad when she tells him, “I’m here on my honeymoon but I thought of you, Oppa.” She says lightly that she’s going to “fire” Ji-hyung since he didn’t notice she’d left her purse behind — she can’t have her caregiver being as senile as she is.

She hangs up as Ji-hyung joins her, but gags when another bout of nausea hits her. She lurches for the bathroom, this time clutching her head, and Ji-hyung worriedly rushes to her side. She says she’s fine, that it was just a momentary spell, but he watches over her in concern as she sleeps that night.

Seo-yeon feels better the next day as they head out to the beach and she recites passages from novels, although she forgets one in the middle of a line. But the wave of dizziness hits her again, and she attributes it to anemia.

The brief spell passes, and they spend the afternoon taking snapshots until she gets tired.

Hyang-gi’s mother comes to see Ji-hyung’s mother, for once her voice kind and gentle rather than that banshee shrill we’ve gotten used to. She says with genuine concern that she’s worried about Ji-hyung’s mother, admitting that when she gets worked up she can get harsh with her words; her husband calls her a “crazy plow.” That’s an apt description, which makes me laugh at the image of her churning up the soil in crazed motions, chewing up everything in her path.

Hyang-gi’s mother says that once she stopped and thought about it (which, granted, took her a while), she realized that the groom’s family had it worse, and commiserates with her plight of having a dementia patient for a daughter-in-law: “You’ll want to die.” Glad to see her flair for the dramatic is untouched. Ji-hyung’s mother says it’s not to that extent.

Hyang-gi’s mother apologizes for overreacting and promises she’ll be better. You’ve gotta love that even in her well-meaning olive-branch gesture, she’s blind to how she’s offending Ji-hyung’s mother with all the talk of how miserable she must feel, how her son is crazy, and how he’s doomed his own life. She tells Ji-hyung’s mother that they’re not just friends in name and that she sincerely feels for her, and to forget what she said about making her husband resign from the hospital. The sentiment is nice, but Ji-hyung’s mother’s answers are short.

She surprises Hyang-gi’s mother by saying she wants her husband to quit, because it has become clear that their relationship is skewed in the power department, and that Hyang-gi’s mother sees them as lower status than herself: “I want him to quit, and for our relationship to return to being equals.”

Hyang-gi’s mother protests that she is devoted to her friend, but Ji-hyung’s mother replies that the instant her friend ordered her husband to quit, she’d decided she wouldn’t see her anymore. She’s put up with a lot from Hyang-gi’s mother, holding back and only seeing her friend’s positive traits, so she entreats her friend not to ruin a 40-year-relationship.

Hyang-gi’s mother replies that it’s not just Ji-hyung’s mother who’s been holding back — that she’s done her fair share of biting her tongue, too (unbelievable, but true). That it’s plain as day when Ji-hyung’s mother looks down at her and thinks judgmentally, “Oh, what a snob she is.”

On the other hand, the dads have a calmer heart-to-heart in the sauna, with Ji-hyung’s father telling his friend that he would’ve been able to just accept and put it behind him if not for his wife. And because she wants him to quit the hospital, he’ll do it — because she still respects him and he doesn’t want to disappoint her, “even though it’s not like I’ve been such an outstanding husband.” Wow, is he actually a little bit self-aware? Not that it makes him any more likable, but it’s funny that he’s at his most candid and least prideful in front of his friend, whereas it’s like he’s got to maintain his front with his own family.

Seo-yeon gags again at lunch, so Ji-hyung insists on taking her to the hospital. She resists, saying it’s unnecessary since she’s just feeling the side effects of her medication. He can’t be sure that that’s it and is too uneasy to let it go, so he declares that if she doesn’t listen to him, he’s going to give her the silent treatment. And then he ruins that threat by adding that Architect Alex gave him the marital advice to start strong from Day 1 of the marriage, which makes her smile because it’s so unexpectedly cute.

Off to the hospital they go. Seo-yeon pouts, thinking this is going to just make the doctors annoyed with them, but he’s adamant that they go and not care about that. The doctor who checks her in guesses right away that she may be pregnant based on her symptoms — he’s an obstetrician — but that thought spooks Seo-yeon, who leaves the hospital before getting examined. She argues that it makes no sense based on the timing (they’d broken up months ago, and only married yesterday), declaring that she’s just going to pick up some digestive aids, and that’s that.

Turns out she picks up more than just that, because the next thing we know, she’s looking aghast at a pregnancy test, which shows two positive little lines. She wraps it well and throws it away, not telling Ji-hyung about it.

Next it’s Hyang-gi’s father’s turn to come to see Ji-hyung’s mother, asking her to help him convince her husband not to quit his job. He bows his head and apologizes to her.

She’s forgotten whether or not she remembered to call her brother after arriving, so she calls him now and chats about the basics: The weather’s cold, she’s happy, Ji-hyung’s treating her like a queen. But all the while she’s battling tears, and after hanging up she breaks down, angry at herself for forgetting her own brother.

That night, she takes another pregnancy test, which also comes out positive. When she joins Ji-hyung in bed, she tells him about the test, and how her illness must have been affecting her for a long time before she realized it, because she can’t recall when she stopped taking her birth control, or when her last period was. She says in that resigned voice that other newlyweds would like this news, and he touches her face and says, “I like it. Is it okay if I’m happy about it? Are you not?”

She tells him she can’t take care of a baby with dementia, and he says she can do it with help. She argues, what if she lets it drop over a balcony, or drowns it accidentally in the bath? He tells her not to fixate on the worst-case scenario, but she argues that she can’t be a mother who doesn’t know her child — she couldn’t do that to a baby. She says that if it’s true, they’ll have to abort. Turning away from him, she says, “I’m sorry. I’m your nightmare.”

The next day in the hospital, Seo-yeon gets an ultrasound and hears her baby’s heartbeat, confirming that she’s eight weeks pregnant. As she lies on the table, she hears Ji-hyung’s words: “It’s hard for me to give this up. I want another you. But the decision is yours. I’ll follow your decision.”

Next, they consult with Seo-yeon’s regular doctor, who agrees with Seo-yeon’s decision because the pregnancy will add stress to the patient. However, if she decides to go forward with it, she’ll have to discontinue her medication for the safety of the child. That’s enough to get Ji-hyung to change his mind on the spot, since Seo-yeon’s safety comes first.

But it has the converse effect on Seo-yeon, who changes her mind as well: “I want to have the baby.” Ji-hyung protests, but she says the medication doesn’t seem to be working anyway.

They take the argument outside, where he emphasizes, “But you’d have to stop your medication” and she yells back, “Its heart was beating!” She says it sounded like the baby was talking to her, asking her not to get rid of it. Ji-hyung says that there’s nothing more important that keeping her with him for as long as possible. I guess it shouldn’t be funny, but there’s a touch of black humor in the way they both use the same argument: “How can you flip-flop so easily?”

She tells him that her decision changed is because she can’t go through with it after all, and that she’s curious to know why of all the women out there, this child had to happen to a woman with Alzheimer’s. Ji-hyung’s frustrated retort: “What do you mean, why? You slept with me.” Ha, another moment that shouldn’t be funny but is.

Ji-hyung’s mother comes over to the newlywed pad to greet the couple, and gives some motherly advice to Seo-yeon about remembering that she’s dealing with a huge unhappiness hand-in-hand with a big happiness. It’s a reminder to not tilt too far in either direction, which I think is more apt that she knows.

Mom adds that as a mother, she finds it difficult to think this way, but that as person to person, woman to woman, she can’t dislike her son’s actions. She urges her to make the most of her time being happy while she can: “I hope you’ll make him happy, my son who says that nothing has meaning without you.”

Mom hands over a gift, which includes the only thing she had prepared for a future daughter-in-law, a ring, in addition to some of Mom’s own jewelry.

That night, the couple gets into a full-on, shouty fight about her decision. This time he’s throwing her own words at her (she can’t care for a baby), just as she’s throwing his (they’ll get help). She tells him that not having the baby was a decision she made for his benefit: “Having it is for me!”

She cries that she wants to have the baby, wants to look it in the eye and laugh. And now it spills out: “The mother who abandoned me is living, healthy. They say the probability of passing on the disease isn’t that high. Its heart was beating, you stubborn man!”

The fight leaves him and Ji-hyung grabs her in an embrace, and she sobs.

 
COMMENTS

Oy, this couple. They couldn’t just let them be happy a little before the impending doom, could they? They had to throw us another, even more heartbreaking wrench to topple the tentative peace they’ve made with their future.

This conflict stirs up some meaty issues, because before it was man versus nature, Seo-yeon in a race against time to make the most of her lucid days. Everyone was, for the most part, on the same page: Everyone wanted Seo-yeon to take her medication and be herself for as long as possible. Now, however, you’re pitting Seo-yeon’s desire to have the baby against Ji-hyung’s desire to keep her alive. Those aren’t mutually exclusive conditions — having the baby isn’t a death sentence — but he’s so scared of losing any time with her that he won’t give up the one thing he does have, and that’s the hope in the medicine. Without it, they’ve got no last line of defense against the disease.

But Seo-yeon wants the baby, and how do you argue with that? It’s a question I’ve pondered since Scent of a Woman raised a similar one, of whether the sick person is always right, and whether those around her are just supposed to bend, no matter what. Because she’s got them all beat on the My Life Sucks front, and therefore that’s her prerogative to tell or keep secrets, to take her medicine or not, to give up treatment or keep going.

I agree that it’s her choice, although it doesn’t stop my heart from pinching whenever her loved ones are hurt because of it. I confess I’ve started to feel upset with Seo-yeon every time she does that thing of stating her condition in the harshest, most wince-inducing way possible. I chafe, even as I recognize that she has the right to deal with her condition as she wishes, in whatever way works for her. But it’s almost cruel, her way of speaking. It’s not that she’s unaware that her brother, cousin, or husband are hurt; it’s like she does it on purpose, like the way she talks to Ji-hyung about the hard fate he has ahead of him. It feels like she’s rubbing his nose in his choice to stick with her, as though reminding him daily of the pain to come somehow prepares him for the pain better. Rather than, say, trying to focus on the good that’s here now while it’s here.

Ji-hyung points out that she seems to like using that word “adultery,” and I agree — it’s like she purposely says things in their harshest form, like using offense as defense. In that way she’s a porcupine of a character; she’s not as outwardly aggressive as Eun-jo in Cinderella’s Sister, for example, but she comes from the same branch of “Don’t hurt me — I won’t let you” and “If I say it first, you have no power to hurt me.” It’s interesting from a character analysis standpoint, but a little exhausting to watch as a viewer.

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58 December 5, 2011January 24, 2016

Thousand Day Promise: Episode 15

by girlfriday

A mostly contemplative episode, as the dust settles in each household. A cameo from another member of the Kim Soo-hyun family brings Song Chang-eui by, and it looks like he’ll stick around for a little while, which is awesome considering he’s pretty much the funniest thing about this episode. I can’t say anything good about the condition of his hair, but he’s delightful as the much-needed comic relief ’round these parts.

 
EPISODE 15 RECAP

Happy times for the newlyweds, as they dance while sweeping, cook in matching aprons, and stop to give kisses before each parting. They shop for baby-mommy books and squeal over dessert. But there are tiny moments when each of them lingers on a nagging thought – probably that this will be over someday soon. You get the feeling that they’re forcing it, not that they aren’t happy in the moment, but forcing themselves to focus on the happy, rather than give in.

At night Seo-yeon sits in front of her computer, staring at what she’s typed: “It’s far away… It’s far away… It’s far away…” (It can mean a lot of things: that she’s got a long way to go, that she feels far away, or that she’s convincing herself that she’s still got lots of time before the illness sets in.)

The happy moments continue, as they visit Aunt and Uncle’s family, now filled to the brim with people in that small room, everyone laughing together. Aw. That one thing just brings a tear to my eye.

They flirt while making pasta, read together, and Ji-hyung even teaches her how to play video games. Aw, they’re so cute with the Wii-boxing.

Ji-hyung wakes up on a Sunday and watches Seo-yeon as she sleeps, and we hear his thoughts in voiceover: “I could not change her stubborn mind about having the baby. It’s been one month since she’s stopped taking medication. Seo-yeon still goes to work every day, and makes an effort to be the happy wife, meanwhile she devotes everything to the baby growing inside her.”

Seo-yeon’s voiceover: “We all live as if Alzheimer’s is nothing. We promised to live that way. But it’s not as easy as the words, to do. But I don’t want to waste my time thinking about Alzheimer’s, and I don’t want the people who love me to waste their time feeling bad for me.”

She greets her day with the announcement that she is still Lee Seo-yeon, and names “husband, Park Ji-young,” and “brother Lee Moon-kwon,” with a fist bump. The naming game kind of gets me in the gut, but the boys play along, clearly having adjusted to Seo-yeon’s methods of coping, gallows-humor style.

She follows her notes for what to make for breakfast, and Moon-kwon helps her, now having to remind her of far more steps than before. Over breakfast they have an adorable round of pass-the-fish, as Seo-yeon gives Ji-hyung the best piece, and then Moon-kwon fake pouts, prompting both Ji-hyung and Seo-yeon to give him all the fish. Then they realize Seo-yeon doesn’t have any, and all the fish lands on Seo-yeon’s plate.

The couple gets ready to go out, and Seo-yeon doesn’t feel like wearing a heavy coat today, but Ji-hyung won’t take no for an answer, taking care to bundle her up from head to toe. Something about that gesture is really sweet, because it feels like he’s really stepping up as the caretaker.

She asks for her daily love confession, and he hugs her, saying he loves her, and will love her tomorrow 151 times as much as he does today. She answers with her usual mantra: “I love you. I’m sorry. Thank you.”

They go for a walk and he offers to play her word-string game. She starts, “Hyang-gi.” Uhhh… He tells her to just say what’s on her mind, since she clearly didn’t mean the word scent, did she?

She wonders how Hyang-gi is doing, how she could’ve let it all pass without so much as one angry-jilted-woman phone call. She asks if Ji-hyung thinks about her. He admits that he does wonder how she’s doing from time to time.

Seo-yeon wonders what she would’ve done if it were her. Maybe she wouldn’t have marched over there and slapped her across the face or anything, but she would’ve made one phone call, just to say “You’re poop.”

She thinks fewer words are better, so as to appear less pathetic, as if the roles really are reversed. I’d say she’s twisted for even thinking through all this, but she really WAS the other woman for most of their relationship. That feeling, like taking what isn’t hers, clearly still haunts her.

Ji-hyung tells her that Hyang-gi’s innocent and sweet, and has probably used all her efforts to try and understand him rather than hate him. Seo-yeon: “She’s unrealistic, you’re cruel, and I’m a thief.” It’s a succinct but not inaccurate summary.

They go grocery shopping and things are fine until she reaches for the milk, and then not two steps later, goes back to reach for the milk again. Ji-hyung’s heart lurches, but he beams her a smile and she does the same, to cover it up.

On their way home, she says out of nowhere, “It’ll take a long time.” She’s back to Hyang-gi again, meaning that it’ll take her a long time to get over Ji-hyung. He just says good-naturedly that he hopes that isn’t the case.

Hyang-gi seems like she’s doing well, and bounds up to greet her prodigal brother, who’s finally returned. (A cameo by Song Chang-eui). Can we set HIM up with Jae-min oppa? Hee. That perm looks ridiculous on him, but that might be the point, since his character is a ne’er-do-well type anyway, taken seriously by no one.

He tells Hyang-gi that it’ll all pass, and that in a year she’ll wonder when all this happened. Mom melts into a puddle of goo at the sight of him, clearly favoring her son. He in turn sweet-talks Mom in about two seconds flat. She complains that Dad is stupid for his daughter, and warns her son that Dad’s in no mood to deal with his usual requests (he’s been described as a money-pit movie producer, who basically spends his parents’ money in failure after failure).

He rushes to greet his father timidly, and Dad ignores him at first, and then at his wife’s nagging, he acknowledges his son’s presence with sarcasm. Dad’s preoccupied, beside himself because Hyang-gi is leaving tomorrow. (It’s funny that these parents have zero qualms about favoring one child over the other, but I guess at least it evens out?) Upstairs Hyang-gi packs her bags for a trip abroad to see a friend, which is a good sign that she’s moving on.

Over at Ji-hyung’s house, the air has turned even icier between Mom and Dad. He sees her packing up food, obviously to take to the kids, and he blames her, saying that clearly Ji-hyung took the plunge to disobey knowing that he could cling to Mom, and she would eventually take his side.

Mom just spits back that a thousand times over, she’d do the same thing, because she’s a mother. She wonders what the hell happened to him to make him change, and says it’s a good thing she remembers what he was like in their youth. She murmurs that she wouldn’t marry him now if she knew how he’d change. Ouch. Nice one, Mom.

He blusters that he hasn’t changed one bit, and asks her sister if he’s different. Sister totally swoons to describe how romantic he used to be, and how uncomfortable he is to be around now. This family is so weird.

Ji-hyung’s mom gets a call from Hyang-gi, who tells her that she’s leaving for the States today, and decided to go visit a friend on a whim, after being yelled at by Mom for the thousandth time. She doesn’t know how long she’ll be gone, and just says that she’ll return whenever she wants to.

Mom tells her to just enjoy the trip and not think of anything else. Hyang-gi does ask after Ji-hyung, but doesn’t want her to say anything to him about her leaving. “I don’t want to concern him… though I don’t even know if he’d be concerned.”

She adds one last thing, which she asks to be kept a secret from her mom: “I pray every day for a miracle,” referring to Seo-yeon as “Ji-hyung’s person.” This girl floors me, every time. Just when I think, there’s no such person, she goes and does something even more Hyang-gi-esque. As if answering my question, she says into the phone, “I like being stupid like this. I’m going to continue being stupid till I die.” It really is a wonder how she’s related to her own mother.

At Seo-yeon’s house, Moon-kwon makes lunch while the couple sits on the couch playing their word game. One word-slip from Seo-yeon makes Moon-kwon worry, then another makes Ji-hyung worry. She starts mixing word-stringing with word-association, and though he doesn’t make a big deal of it, he looks at her with a stricken expression, her confusion clearly breaking his heart. It breaks mine too – that game was like her lifeline.

Hyang-gi’s family sits down for lunch, and Dad dotes over Hyang-gi even more than usual, fretting over the tiniest details of her trip. Mom snipes at him, asking if his son is invisible, but that only leads to an outburst where Dad rattles off all the ways in which his son is a disappointment.

Hyang-gi just sits in silence, and Mom goes so far as to plug her ears, which cracks me up, considering how much SHE usually rants people’s ears off. Son brings up his next project, a musical for which he needs another mound of cash, and Dad flips his lid over the gall at even brining up another investment.

HA. This is hysterical. He’s exactly the same as Mom, when it comes to the other child. It’s a perfect mirror – Mom : Hyang-gi :: Dad : Son.

What really sells it is Song Chang-eui’s earnestness that it’s a really good musical, like he’s really that oblivious to Dad’s source of anger. It turns into a shouting match, and Dad gets up, and Son promptly flees from the table. Ha.

Ji-hyung’s mom tells Dad about Hyang-gi’s trip, and after a long pause, Dad asks about Seo-yeon’s condition. Mom perks up at that, saying that she’s still going to work every day, and asks him to meet her, reminding him that he’s a doctor, and one who used to be quite popular with his patients too.

But he balks at that, refusing to cave, repeating his line that Ji-hyung’s the one who turned his back on his own father. Mom sighs that Hyang-gi, of all people, is more understanding than he is. Dad: “What about ME? Who’s going to understand ME?” Oh my god, really? REALLY? Still all about you, huh?

Ji-hyung comes downstairs to receive a food delivery from his aunt, who updates him on his father, and tells him about Hyang-gi leaving. He sighs at the news, feeling guilty. Meanwhile, Seo-yeon gets a call from her aunt, wondering why she still hasn’t called when they were supposed to go to the public bath together.

She totally blanked, of course, and it rattles her. She offers to meet her there now, and Aunt happily heads out, cheerfully telling her husband that she loves going to the bath with Seo-yeon because Myung-hee is so rough at the exfoliating. Why does that not surprise me?

She runs into Jae-min on her way out (Oppa! There you are! Where have you BEEEEEEEN?) and tells him about Seo-yeon forgetting their date, taking it as a sign that being married has made her push Aunt down on her priority list. Jae-min gives a worried look but says nothing, and smiles to cover it up.

Ji-hyung insists on dropping Seo-yeon off, but she refuses, walking the whole way saying over and over, “Aunt. Bath. Aunt. Bath.” She admits she doesn’t even remember making the date, and struggles with her anger at forgetting. “What is the point of making notes, when I forget that I’ve written them, forget to look at them? Every time I become an idiot, I laugh. As I laugh I want to die. I want to kill me.”

Ji-hyung silently follows behind her, walking her there the whole way, without her knowing. Gah, that kills me. He’s clearly having a harder time than he lets on to anyone else.

That night he’s startled by an outburst in the kitchen. Seo-yeon is screaming bloody murder at Moon-kwon for laughing, thinking that he’s belittling her for putting a bag of trash in the fridge. He swears up and down that he’s not, he wasn’t, but she tells them both that no one can laugh, no one but her. “I’m the only one who gets to laugh, because it’s my illness!”

She calls them out for following her to and from the bath. “Did you think I wouldn’t know?!” Ji-hyung apologizes, but she’s inconsolable, and screams that she’s not a child, and not an idiot.

She turns to Ji-hyung, “Go. Go now, before it’s too late.” She tells him that she can see it, feel it, how hard it is for him. Oof.

Moon-kwon pleads with her through tears, asking why she’s doing this: “This isn’t my noona!” Augh, that kills me more than anything. She storms off, and Ji-hyung calmly asks what happened, and assures Moon-kwon that her becoming defensive is natural.

Moon-kwon says that she shouldn’t have stopped taking her meds, that keeping the baby was the wrong choice, because his noona is what’s most important, not a baby who won’t even have a mother.

Ji-hyung holds Seo-yeon as she sobs, and reminds her of her own words, that the baby feels everything that she’s feeling. That gets her to calm down and meditate with clenched fists, to stop the crying.

Meanwhile Hyang-gi’s dad and brother return home after dropping her off at the airport, and Dad suddenly bursts into tears. Hee. And awwwww. Big Bro urges him to stop crying in front of the staff, and tells him especially not to get caught crying in front of Mom. “If you invest in my musical, I’ll keep my mouth shut.” HA. Dad finally snaps, and then chases his son up and down the lawn. Hahahahaha.

Something keeps Seo-yeon’s aunt up late into the night, as she goes from room to kitchen and back out with a perplexed look, as if trying to puzzle something out. She finally comes to see Jae-min and tells him that she thinks something is… off with Seo-yeon.

She tells him that Seo-yeon left her key in her locker at the bath, which is no big deal in and of itself, but then afterwards she put on Aunt’s shoes instead of her own. Aunt had to point it out, and then Seo-yeon stared dumbfounded for a moment, and then laughed.

Aunt describes her laugh as unnaturally long, like not hers. Well they don’t call it mother’s intuition for nothing. Jae-min offers that maybe she thought it was really really funny. Heh. You are really not the best liar ever.

Aunt says something about it is wrong, something she can’t quite put her finger on. She says that Seo-yeon used to be so lightning-quick, but something about her seems slower than before. Jae-min suggests that being a newlywed, and pregnant, and still working is probably just stressing her out.

It’s enough to convince her, that maybe Seo-yeon’s just let go of being a control freak now that she’s got Ji-hyung to lean on and a baby on the way. She goes to bed satisfied at that answer, in turn leaving Jae-min worried.

Seo-yeon sits up alone that night, with nothing but the darkness and her thoughts.

At work the next day, everything boils over, when Seo-yeon is confronted with her first big mistake on a proof for a book cover. It almost makes it worse that her boss so fervently takes her side, not willing to believe it was her mistake. She apologizes, but he says that anyone could make the error, and chastises the team for not better checking each other’s work. Thankfully, they caught it in the proofing stage, but Seo-yeon is rattled at what it means for her.

And then when she gets up from her desk to go to the bathroom, her co-worker stops short to see her walking around without her shoes on. She has to stop Seo-yeon to ask if she isn’t going to put them on.

Seo-yeon freezes at her second mistake, and quickly puts on her shoes and rushes off to the bathroom. The team wonders if something isn’t really wrong with her, and head out for coffee to discuss how to bring it up with her, intervention-style.

Seo-yeon stands out on the balcony, reeling from the shock, and leaves a message for Oppa, who’s in a meeting. And then, while everyone is out of the office, she begins to pack up her desk. Her boss is the first to come back in, and she hands him her resignation.

He tells her that she’s overreacting, and that if it were a mistake to resign over, he’d have said so. Clearly she’s also his favorite, and he’d never make her resign anyway. But she braces herself, and with tears brimming, she tells him the truth: that she has Alzheimer’s, that she thought she could work a little longer, but she can’t.

In voiceover she thinks to herself that lying to him and making up an excuse wouldn’t be right, wouldn’t be the way to repay him.

He falls back into his chair in shock, and she thanks him sincerely for everything. But this breaks my heart: “That I won’t forget it… is a promise I can’t keep… because I have dementia.”

 
COMMENTS

We knew it had to happen eventually – that she couldn’t keep working with her condition worsening. But it still kills me that she has to do it. For someone like Seo-yeon, her work is her life, her pride. Her biggest fear at having Alzheimer’s is not forgetting, but as she says over and over, becoming stupid. Her fear is in losing words, which is the scariest possible thing to a writer.

I know that Seo-yeon’s coping style is highly abrasive, but I like that she’s not cookie-cutter, or just angelic and hopeful. If it were me, I’d be pissed too, and it feels honest when she roars back at the universe for her cruel fate, or when she gets defensive at being coddled because she’s not ready to face being stripped of all her agency as an adult.

The tragedy is that she’ll never be ready, and they’ll have to take care of her anyway, even if she doesn’t want to be taken care of. Her independence, the thing that’s carried her through her whole life, what has defined her as a person, is now the thing most at odds with what’s best for her. It’s not that she can’t see it; it’s that she doesn’t want to give up the reins to her own life, despite it all. And who can blame her?

But so far Ji-hyung is handling her admirably, letting her make decisions and trying to convince her of what’s best rather than railroad her into what he thinks is right. Though he really isn’t my kind of hero, he’s growing on me, and he’s starting to shape up, the more and more Seo-yeon begins to crumble. I suppose that’s their sad fate, but it’s beautiful in a harmoniously balanced, yin-and-yang kind of way too.

I like the thematic cohesion in this episode of laughter, from genuine laughter in happy moments, to fake laughter to cover up her fears and cope in the everyday, how someone can tell you’re not yourself when you don’t laugh the same way, laughter as a contract between Moon-kwon and Ji-hyung and Seo-yeon to live like Alzheimer’s is no big deal, and then finally how that laughter betrays her in the end.

 
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48 December 6, 2011January 24, 2016

Thousand Day Promise: Episode 16

by javabeans

Oof. Hold on to your hats, folks, this one’s a doozy. But a good kind of doozy, especially for a show where not a lot changes from episode to episode, since we’re focusing more on the little changes from day to day and the characters’ reactions to the illness, which is taking up a larger and larger place in their lives despite their efforts to live around it.

With two weeks left to go, finally the truth is out and free, and without that last bit to hide behind, Seo-yeon finds herself just a little more exposed and defenseless. But what’s beautiful is in how this reveals how very much she is loved.

SONG OF THE DAY

Dear Cloud – “기억에 흩어지다 (Marcescent)” (Scattered in my memory) [ Download ]

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 
EPISODE 16 RECAP

After submitting her resignation, Seo-yeon meets with Jae-min at a cafe to tell him the news, which he tells her to consider a good thing for herself and the baby. She says that she had to tell her editor about her Alzheimer’s because he was unwilling to accept her resignation, and figures that this also means it’s time to tell Aunt. She’d decided to do it on the way home today, but now finds the idea too daunting.

Seo-yeon asks, “Oppa, tell her for me. I can’t say the words myself.” Aw. It’s quite a burden to put on her oppa, but I love that she can burden him with it, she of the steel armor that never lets herself ask for help. Jae-min tells her not to worry because he’ll take care of it, adding that he was thinking it was about time.

Seo-yeon agrees, admitting that she’s making a lot of mistakes. She frames this in terms of turning herself in, as for a crime: “They say that when criminals surrender themselves, they feel more at ease.” She asks him to tell Aunt right away, today, and also, “Find a girlfriend soon, oppa. I want to see you marry.” Oof. That kills me, that little thing. It’s a reversal from her earlier comment about not wanting to see him married off, and she says if she doesn’t see him happily settled, she won’t be able to “close my eyes,” i.e., die in peace. Jae-min promises to try.

Myung-hee calls Moon-kwon to try to wheedle him into covering his old job at the bakery for a few days. Or maybe wheedle is too mild a word; threats of disowning him forever are more like it. She argues that it’s a teeny little favor and she really needs him…so she can go on a weekend trip with the girls to the hot springs. Psh, Myung-hee, you are a piece of work.

He says that he can’t interrupt his studying rhythm, and that if he fails his exam, noona’s going to throw him out of the house in nothing but his underwear. Haha.

Seo-yeon surprises Moon-kwon by coming home early and tells him she quit her job. He’s relieved, but also so tentative around her — trying to read signs, anticipate her mood — that it’s heartbreaking. She hasn’t told Ji-hyung yet, planning to do so when he comes home from work, so when he calls to suggest a date tonight, she defers and asks him to just come home instead.

She sits in the bath, reciting a mournful poem to herself entreating a lover to remember her after she’s gone (Musset’s “Rappelle-toi”). Then she sits at her computer to write a journal-like entry about how she’d thought she could last longer at the job, and use her pregnancy as an excuse to quit. If not for that error, she could have held on longer: “But the moment I was caught in my stocking feet, I wanted to run up to the rooftop and jump.”

She greets Ji-hyung cheerfully when he comes home, and almost as soon as she kisses him hello, she tosses out, “I quit my job today” in that way she has of saying huge things in light tones. I think my favorite aspect of the way Ji-hyung is stepping up to the plate is in how he takes everything in stride, not reacting big, not freaking out, but matching his mood to hers.

She tells him she made a huge mistake on the book jacket that would’ve been a disaster if the cover went to print, and starts to tell him about the shoes, but he smiles and says she doesn’t have to explain because he’s happy about the news. She confirms that she made the right choice, acting like she’s satisfied with the decision, which kills you because just an hour ago she was admitting to herself with raw honesty how much this is killing her.

Jae-min comes home with Moon-kwon in tow, ready to tell Aunt the news. Both men sit with dark faces in front of Aunt and Uncle, who can tell this is going to be bad. After warning them to prepare themselves and getting Aunt thoroughly nervous with anticipation, Jae-min says simply, “Seo-yeon has dementia.”

Aunt’s first reaction is denial and she tells Jae-min to cut out the joking, but her husband has already jumped to acceptance and Moon-kwon sits there silently crying. Aunt looks from face to face, the truth slowly sinking in.

Jae-min explains the gist about Seo-yeon being diagnosed and hurrying the wedding because of it, and how she’s had to stop her meds because of the pregnancy.

Aunt is so shocked that she passes out, and when she comes to, she sobs her heart out. There’s something stirring in the way she wails, swaying unchecked in her grief, while her three men sit stoically around her, her silent pillars.

Myung-hee hears the crying and bursts into the room, wondering what has happened. I actually feel kind of sorry for her when the first question she asks is, “Did Seo-yeon die?” As though that’s the only thing that would get her mother this sad. Aunt turns on her and wails, “Are you happy now?!”

Moon-kwon tells her about Seo-yeon’s dementia, shutting her up for the moment. Jae-min continues his calm explanation, and Aunt’s cries grow quieter as she thinks back to the signs of Seo-yeon’s illness. She wants to see Seo-yeon right away, but Jae-min tells her to wait a few days. Uncle agress, telling her to have her cry, and once she’s empty of tears, then she can go.

Moon-kwon’s phone rings while he’s still out, so Seo-yeon answers the call from Myung-hee to say she’ll tell him to call her back. But Myung-hee says through a sniffly voice, “Did you really have to make me into such a horrible bitch?”

Through tears, Unni says that this is why she doesn’t like Seo-yeon — because she messes with her and gets her all upset, but in the final moment flips the situation and makes her into the bad guy. She says she’d wanted to drag her out to the Han River and beat her on more than a few occasions (see? Someone wants to take you to the river — you say no). But now she’s made Myung-hee into an idiot.

Seo-yeon says she understands, and that she hasn’t behaved the best either. Myung-hee sobs that even now Seo-yeon has to act all cool, and hangs up abruptly. Funny how normally she’s so seething with jealousy and resentment, but this time I feel that Myung-hee’s harsh words are coming from a place of affection. But because Myung-hee’s not a soft person, the only way she can express her sorrow is through her usual tough speech and backhanded insults.

Seo-yeon keeps an even keel throughout this conversation, but after hanging up she blares classical music on the stereo, staring off into space.

Ji-hyung texts his mother, but it’s Dad who sneaks a look first while she’s out of the room. Clearly he is still interested in his son’s life, just not interested enough to drop the aloof act and actually display that interest.

Ji-hyung’s Dad chuckles over the developments at his friend’s house, since Hyang-gi’s father is morose without his little girl, while her mother is happy as you please to be reunited with her son. And sure enough, over in the Noh household, mother and son are dancing the tango in the living room while Hyang-gi’s father glowers.

Dad shuts off their music and takes issue with his wife gallivanting around without a care while he’s nursing a hole in his heart without dear daughter. Mom retorts that when Hyang-gi was being born, he was off with that hussy… and Dad hurriedly hushes her, conceding defeat. HA.

Mom turns the conversation to her son’s love life, telling him he should settle down and marry soon, rather than playing around and risk knocking someone up. He assures her that he’s not that reckless, but says that marriage might be difficult for him. (Why, because you have to reunite with your Life Is Beautiful lover, Jae-min oppa? Wouldn’t that make my day.)

But no, he sweet-talks, “It’s all because of you, Mother. Every young woman I meet will be compared to you, and I’ll wonder, ‘When she’s your age, will she be as elegant as Mother?'” Mom knows he’s laying on the charm but she loves it, soaking in the flattery. Wastrel Song Chang-eui cracks me up.

Moon-kwon comes home to a convivial atmosphere, with Ji-hyung giving Seo-yeon a foot massage. The mood immediately crumbles when he says he’s coming back from Aunt’s house, and he tells her that Aunt took it well. She cried a lot, but she didn’t collapse.

He finds a new text from Myung-hee on his phone, which reads simply, “I’m not going on my trip.” Instead, she’s sitting in her room sobbing. Her husband assures their worried son that his aunt isn’t going to die, and comforts Myung-hee.

Jae-min sits with his thoughts, thinking back to the time Seo-yeon had found out that he knew about her illness, and broken down at how much it hurt her and her pride.

At home, Seo-yeon bursts into laughter over something, and Ji-hyung asks to be let in on the joke so he can laugh with her. She tells him that they say you can fool yourself into feeling happy through the act of faking laughter, and since she’s going to get dumber anyway, maybe she can fool herself more easily than the average person.

Ji-hyung’s smile fades, but then he bucks up and says he’ll try it out too, and forces laughter of his own. Agh, that’s so sweet, and heartbreaking, as they sit there forcing laughter to cope with the pain.

But it doesn’t last long, because Seo-eyon goes directly from laugh to sob, and Ji-hyung comforts her. He thinks to himself, “It’s okay, Seo-yeon, it’s okay. These empty words are all I can say. But it’s not okay.”

Seo-yeon wonders to herself why the the baby’s heartbeat sounded so beautiful on that day she went to end the pregnancy, as though it were whispering her not to go through with it. But even now, she can’t be sure that this was the right decision, and that makes her fear the child: “Should I resent you, or be grateful? Should you be ashamed of me, or thankful? How will you, who will have no time to love me, remember me?”

Seo-yeon gets an unexpected visit from Myung-hee and Aunt, who are calmer today. It’s actually Myung-hee who’s closest to tears, who hastily tells her that her husband has been reading up on the latest treatment developments in the paper. And on her way to the door, Myung-hee says in a small voice, “Be strong. Have hope. Fighting,” and holds up a fist of encouragement. Now that warms my heart.

Aunt stays and gets to work preparing food. She keeps her stoic face on as best she can as Seo-yeon comes up behind her and says she’s sorry, and that life isn’t as hard as Aunt is thinking, since she has Ji-hyung. Aunt starts to cry but keeps her sobs inside, her face averted.

Later Seo-yeon forgets where she left her book. Moon-kwon finds it for her in the bathroom and she tries to shake it off, but she declares she wants to go out for a walk because it’s too stifling inside. She starts to head out before Moon-kwon reminds her to put on a coat. She says, “Ah, I forgot,” using the same word for forget that also describes flickering lights, and then calls herself Christmas lights, flickering/forgetting all the time.

As they walk, Seo-yeon gives Moon-kwon some sisterly advice, but in a tone that has his heart sinking in dismay. She says he has to live his life to the fullest, enough for the both of them, so that in the end he won’t have regrets. She says that she finds it harder and harder to pull her thoughts together, as though it takes an effort to be lucid that she finds wearying. Moon-kwon gently says she has to make that effort for the baby’s sake. She calls herself a crumbling brick wall, which no amount of effort will stop from crumbling.

She gets a phone call from Ji-hyung, and lies that she’s reading a book because he was insistent that she stay out of the cold. He asks which book and she fumbles for the title, and Ji-hyung guesses she’s outside. She tells him Moon-kwon’s with her, then quickly hangs up to keep him from scolding her brother. Ji-hyung calls her back to invite her and Moon-kwon to dinner with his mother.

Moon-kwon bows out of the dinner but drops her off, and she’s greeted by Ji-hyung’s aunt at a fancy members-only restaurant. The ladies begin dinner without Ji-hyung, who’s running late, and Mom asks after her health and the baby’s condition. Mom admits that while she didn’t agree with her decision at first, she understands and has decided to respect it.

But then…a voice sounds outside the door, impatiently insisting she’s going to go inside and say hi. It’s Hyang-gi’s mother, here with her son to suggest joining parties. Ohhhh crap.

Hyang-gi’s mother sizes up the room, and Ji-hyung’s mother identifies Seo-yeon as her daughter-in-law. This sets off Hyang-gi’s mother, predictably, who rails against her so-called friend for humiliating her daughter — who listened to Ajumma more than her own mother, by the way — and then bringing the Other Woman to this fancy place for dinner. Like this is a blight on decency. Through this all, Seo-yeon sits there stricken, unable to say anything.

Ji-hyung’s mother says that she isn’t obligated to get her approval or cower in fear while dining with her own daughter-in-law. She acknowledges that they were cruel to Hyang-gi, but reminds her that their children have worked through that on their own. But Hyang-gi’s mother is on a verbal roll and scorns her for coming here: “Is a daughter-in-law with dementia something to brag about?”

At that, Ji-hyung interjects, having just arrived. His hard words set off Hyang-gi’s brother, and the two sons get in each other’s faces until they have to be pulled apart. Hyang-gi’s mother shouts after Ji-hyung for being the guy who spit on her family to marry a dementia patient.

To which Ji-hyung’s mother warns, “Don’t you dare say dementia one more time.” Hyang-gi’s mother huffs, “What else would I call dementia but dementia?”

So Ji-hyung’s mother throws a glass of water in her face. Omo!

Hyang-gi’s mother sputters, more shocked than anything, “Y-you dare…?” Ji-hyung’ s mother says, cold as ice, “Dare? What about you? Who do you think you are?”

Dinner continues afterward, a silent affair. Seo-yeon cries silently over her plate, and Ji-hyung excuses themselves. Mom apologizes for subjecting her to this kind of treatment, but all Seo-yeon can do is bow her head and say she’s sorry.

Mom hugs her, pats her hair, and tells her while a tear runs down her own cheek, “There are friends you can neither kill nor save. Please understand.”

They drive home in quiet. Seo-yeon touches Ji-hyang’s face as he drives, and he kisses it. Once home, he holds her close, trying to offer comfort.

 
COMMENTS

Aww, yeah. I knew Ji-hyung’s mother would step it up, and she did it admirably. Despite the fact that some of the parents in this drama are questionable parents — heck, human beings — I like the variety we get in parent-child relationships, whether blood-related or surrogate or neglected.

I do appreciate how the broken wedding wasn’t enough to splinter the friendship, but that Mom’s protectiveness over Seo-yeon is. And how tone-deaf of Hyang-gi’s mother to feel slighted that her own child gravitated more toward her friend rather than herself — really, ya think? She’s a hilarious character to watch, but someone I’d dread knowing in real life.

Seo-yeon doesn’t have a mother — not one who cares, or who merits the term — but she has Aunt who loves her like a daughter, and now Ji-hyung’s mother is stepping into that role as well. I like that Mom doesn’t hide her disapproval of her husband’s childishness, even as she cuts him slack (too much, in my opinion) and says she understands his reaction. But I did wonder at one point if her own marriage was doomed the moment she chose to support her child and her husband had a problem with that. Good riddance, I’d say.

It makes it all the more wrenching that Seo-yeon won’t have much time to be a mother of her own, but even still she’s made this last decision regarding her illness in order to preserve that very motherhood. It’s partly the reason for her journal writing, and if that turns out to be her own book, I can’t think of a more satisfying way to leave behind something of herself, something permanent, to mark that she was here and that she lived.

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38 December 12, 2011January 24, 2016

Thousand Day Promise: Episode 17

by girlfriday

Just when you think you’re all out of tears… Today’s episode is all about motherhood – the mother that Seo-yeon is to her brother, the mother who abandoned them, the mother who stepped in to take care of them, and the mother that she wants to be.

 
EPISODE 17 RECAP

Seo-yeon stares at her Christmas tree, lost in thought, while Aunt cleans up around the house. She puts her head in Aunt’s lap like a little child, and they talk about missing work, and what it’s like to have a baby, and then Seo-yeon asks about her mom.

She suspects that Aunt knows where Mom lives, and Aunt just sputters that she doesn’t know know, but she could find out… why, does Seo-yeon want to see her? Aunt looks up at her with these searching eyes, almost pleading with her to say no. Something about that just breaks my heart.

Seo-yeon: “More than wanting to see her, there’s something I want to ask her. Something I have to ask her just once. Any longer and there won’t be anything, and even if I ask and she answers, it’ll disappear before long. But… I’m still Lee Seo-yeon.”

Aunt gives a big smile and says she’ll make it happen, and that it’s okay to want to see her mother. She makes sure to say that she’s okay with it, and that no one would blame her for wanting to meet her mother once. Aw, I love her.

Seo-yeon wonders why Ji-hyung married her, and asks if Aunt thinks he loves her. Aunt laughs and says that Myung-hee calls him wacko, because he’s so crazy for Seo-yeon. (The bride’s family would normally call him Park-suh-bang for his last name, but she calls him Ddol-suh-bang, replacing Park for Loony.) They get a good giggle out of it.

He comes home all kisses and sweetness and light, putting Seo-yeon in a good mood… until his phone rings while he’s in the shower. It’s a text from Hyang-gi. Oh no. Seo-yeon can’t help herself and she reads it.

It’s mostly just chit-chat in a text message – how are you, I’m doing well, our moms are still fighting, Mom set me up on a blind date, we met a few times but he’s just so-so. But the thing that kicks Seo-yeon in the gut is the line that asks after her: “How is her health?” Oh this is gonna be bad. Why is she still texting you??

Over at Hyang-gi’s house, her parents argue over who’s to blame in the big skirmish between the moms. Dad’s still trying to convince Ji-hyung’s dad to come back to the hospital, and they’ve sent flower baskets and fruit baskets, but he argues that Mom is the one who should apologize, in person.

Mom flares up at that, of course, thinking that she was the one who suffered, and doting son backs her up that she was the one who got doused with water. Oh man, that was just the most satisfying water-to-the-face ever. Dad thinks that for Ji-hyung’s mom to react like that means his wife really scraped her last nerve.

At Ji-hyung’s house, Dad’s doing the same thing, trying to convince his wife to make amends. It turns out that basically the husbands are still besties, and they find it uncomfortable to have their wives at war.

Mom points out how ridiculous it is for him to insist she swallow her pride, when he won’t accept his own son over a matter of his stupid pride. She tells him to accept the kids, and she’ll consider Hyang-gi’s mom. Nice.

Dad just pouts, asking if she’s trying to turn this into a deal. Mom sighs and tells him to think whatever he wants. Seriously, I didn’t even know they made babies this big. GAH.

Seo-yeon’s house is bustling because they’re having a housewarming dinner party, hence Aunt’s busybodyness all day. Myung-hee comes by with a cake, while Seo-yeon sits numbly staring at Hyang-gi’s text message, shaken.

Her co-workers arrive and Oppa comes too, and they eat and drink and mostly the women spend the evening fawning over Jae-min. You can practically hear the catfighting, though it’s all a series of silent stinkfaces at each other whenever they manage to get his attention. Don’t blame ya.

Seo-yeon’s attention comes and goes, sometimes completely oblivious to the conversation around her, other times joking and being witty. It’s a little awkward at times, but Ji-hyung takes it so in stride that he smoothes over her lapses. It’s clear she’s not in a great mood overall though.

Back at home, Aunt tells Uncle about Seo-yeon wanting to meet her mother. Only now does she confess all her worries – her fear that Seo-yeon’s mother won’t agree to see her kids, and not wanting to cause Seo-yeon any more pain.

Uncle says that Seo-yeon’s mother probably said she didn’t want to see her kids because she knows she has no right to, and Aunt wonders if it’s really her guilt, or if she actually doesn’t care to see them. And if that’s the case, does she just drag her there by the scruff anyway?

She sighs at Seo-yeon’s rotten luck, crying, “Why didn’t they take me instead?” Oof. That kills me. She cries that Seo-yeon is just starting out in life, while she’s lived a full one – so why can’t she be the sick one instead?

While Ji-hyung sees off their guests, Seo-yeon flips through the books she’s edited, memories of her work life flashing by. Ji-hyung comes back, and she complains that Moon-kwon is staying out too late these days.

Ji-hyung reminds her that he’s out with his co-workers tonight. Oh, he got a job! Yay. He tells her that his company is known for working their newbies into the ground and getting hardcore with their training. He tells her to rest and kisses her hand. You can kind of see his heart crumbling at every turn. “I love you…” Seo-yeon: “More than yesterday?” Ji-hyung: “A thousand times.”

He takes a call from Jae-min, which is when he finally notices the text from Hyang-gi, already read. He asks calmly if she saw the text, and if it upset her. She gets up and asks matter-of-factly, “Are the two of you waiting for me to die?”

Damn. I knew this would be bad.

He tells her that they weren’t in contact, and that this is the first he’s heard from her. He only knows her whereabouts because his aunt told him, and Seo-yeon interrogates him coldly, asking if he talks about Hyang-gi with his mother.

She tells him angrily that Hyang-gi is still not over him, which he thinks is ridiculous because they’re living like this, with a baby on the way. Dude, you might be, but she’s still texting you from Boston and calling you oppa. Not over you.

She asks if he’s going to reply. He says no, and then she counters why, if it’s so meaningless as he insists. So he starts to reply, “Don’t contact me anymore. It makes my wife concerned…”

And Seo-yeon snatches the phone out of his hand, refusing to let him make her look like the bad guy in all this. She types the reply herself, “It’s nice to hear from you. Be well and I look forward to your return.”

She turns to him coldly, “Should I add – I miss the loveable you?” She sends the reply (without the addendum) and puts the phone in his hand and walks away, closing the door behind her.

Augh, I feel bad for Ji-hyung because he’s not cheating on her, but he’s stupid for not cutting off contact with Hyang-gi. From Seo-yeon’s perspective, how could she not have that fear in the pit of her stomach? She’s losing her mind, feeling like an increasing burden to the people who love her, and if she can’t trust her own mind to tell the difference between fact and fiction, what on earth can she trust?

But in the time it takes Ji-hyung to clean up after dinner, she either forgets about the fight, or pretends to, because she glosses right past it, though she refuses to let him fawn over her as usual. She says nothing when Ji-hyung’s phone rings again with a reply from Hyang-gi, saying that he didn’t have to reply but that she’s grateful for it. He erases all her messages and says nothing.


Moon-kwon comes home and Seo-yeon suddenly decides that she wants to take a picture with him, while she’s still her. She tells Ji-hyung to make sure and capture their matching dimples, which is so cute because the actors really do have matching dimples on the same side.

She’s satisfied with that, but then Ji-hyung pouts that she doesn’t want to take a picture with him, whining that Moon-kwon is her favorite. So they take pictures together in the exact same poses, by now the mood back to happy.

She tells Moon-kwon to print the picture of them, and finds him in his room, her mood turning serious now. Tears pooling her eyes, she turns to him, “Noona’s sorry. I’m really sorry. I haven’t expressed it very much. I wanted to make you a capable, confident, honest man.” He tells her that he hasn’t risen to her expectations yet.

She apologizes for raising him so harshly – it was because she wanted him to grow, to be better than her. Fighting his tears, he tells her that she doesn’t need to say these things. He knows what she had to sacrifice to raise him, why she turned herself into a harsh mom. It’s why he didn’t run away even when he wanted to, or didn’t throw tantrums when he was angry.

Waaaaah. I never cry as much as when she talks to Moon-kwon. The noona-dongseng love turns me into a puddle.

She pets him on the head, saying that she trusts he’ll be okay if she’s not here, that he’ll live well and be okay. He tells her not to worry about him, “I’ll do well.” She turns his face to her, “Look into my eyes and promise me.”

Moon-kwon: “I promise.” Seo-yeon: “I’m sorry I only fed you water. I’m sorry I lied to you that we’d have beef when Mom came back.” *SOB* He bursts into tears and hugs her. God, her guilt at not being able to feed him when they were abandoned? When she was six? That turns me inside-out.

Ji-hyung meanwhile finishes the housework, thinking to himself that the doctor said that Seo-yeon’s condition hadn’t visibly worsened, but that he can feel her taking a step backwards, day by day.

Seo-yeon gets up in the middle of the night, pacing back and forth as she recites a poem. She heads out to the balcony and marvels at the snow, catching snowflakes in her hand. Ji-hyung finds her and brings her inside, where he gives her cake and she gives him kisses. Aw.

He holds her as they lie in bed, and Seo-yeon murmurs, “Thank you. I’m sorry. I love you.” Ji-hyung: “I love you. Thank you. I’m sorry.”

Ji-hyung gets a call from Mom, and all we hear from his end is that he doesn’t want Seo-yeon to get hurt. Methinks Dad agreed to Mom’s deal and wants to see them? He calls Seo-yeon to check up on her, and she lies that she’s grocery shopping with Aunt but she’s sitting in a coffee shop…

Aunt goes to see Seo-yeon’s mother, to ask her to meet her daughter just once. Mom refuses to, and Aunt tears her a new one for her nerve. She tells her that it’s a good thing she found her after her cancer and her surgery, otherwise she would’ve died at her hands. Ha. I love her spunk.

After the talking-to, Mom says she’ll think about it, while she downs a bottle of soju. But Aunt says that Seo-yeon is waiting for her right now…

Seo-yeon waits at the coffee shop, thinking back to the lies she told to Moon-kwon when Mom abandoned them, as she fed him nothing but water. And then she sees Aunt approaching… with Mom in tow. It’s silent as they enter, and Aunt’s the only one who speaks, saying that she’ll be just over there. Mom sits down without a word and hangs her head, not looking up once.

Seo-yeon tells her that it’s okay to look at her, so she raises her head. She tells Mom that she’s not here to be angry or hateful, but Mom just tells her to say anything she wants, and she’ll listen to it all.

Direct as ever, Seo-yeon asks why she left. Mom says that when Seo-yeon’s father died, and the only family they had was Aunt, who hated her. She didn’t have the courage to raise them alone, and she figured that Aunt wouldn’t let them starve.

But Seo-yeon knows about the other man in her life, and Mom answers that it’s true – that he wouldn’t take in her kids, so she left them behind. Seo-yeon asks why it took her days to make the call to Aunt, and tells her, tears streaming down her face, “Moon-kwon and I almost died.”

Mom hangs her head, knowing all this. Seo-yeon tells her that Moon-kwon got a job at a really good company. Mom asks about her job, having heard about it before. Seo-yeon pauses, as if trying to decide what answer to give her.

She says that she quit after she got married. Mom looks up, tears welling in her eyes, “You got married?” Seo-yeon searches Mom’s face and asks if they look alike. Mom: “What do you want to take after me for?”

She clarifies that she means facial features and the like, and Mom finally bursts into tears. Another tear falls from Seo-yeon’s eyes as she watches her cry, and then without a word, she gets up and walks out. In voiceover:

Seo-yeon: I never once had the desire to meet her in my lifetime – the woman whose name is ‘Mother.’ But I met her today. The moment the woman who was my mother walked into the café behind Aunt, I saw the proof that I had borrowed her body to be born. I will forget that woman very soon. But she won’t be able to forget me until the day she dies. She covered her face in shame and cried. It’s done. With this, it’s done.

Aunt pays the tab back at the coffee shop and runs out to catch up with her. She goes ahead to hail a cab, and Seo-yeon watches her, her face breaking into a smile as she continues in voiceover: “Mother. My mother, Aunt-mother.”

Aw. How much do I love that meeting her deadbeat mom only proves to her that Aunt is her real mom?

She can feel someone watching her, and she turns around to see her mother looking at her from afar. Aunt calls her name and Seo-yeon lingers, looking back at her mother one last time, before turning to go.

Aunt bawls her eyes out in the cab, holding Seo-yeon the whole way home. They come home hand-in-hand, and Ji-hyung is waiting for them, asking if they crossed the river to go grocery shopping, and wondering where they left the stuff they bought.

Aunt just stammers that they’re having it delivered, which is funny because what’re they gonna do when no groceries arrive? HE’s not the one with dementia.

Ji-hyung announces that his father wants to have them over for dinner, and she stares at him, shell-shocked. That’s a whole lot of chilly family reunions in one day.

He tells her that it’s totally up to her, and that if she doesn’t want to go, they don’t have to. She asks timidly, “Is he… scary?” Ji-hyung: “He’s different from my mother. Let’s not go.” Hahahaha. I don’t know why, but the way he answered that just makes me laugh.

Seo-yeon: “Is he… like Hyang-gi’s mother?” HA. He answers again, “Let’s not go.” But she says no, she’ll go. She just has to prepare herself and focus. He hugs her in gratitude, but that’s probably scaring her more, at the moment.

Ji-hyung’s dad arrives at home, and Mom warns him, “If you give her a hard time, I will not exchange a single word with you until the day I die.” LOL. Mom is so awesome.

But then apparently, she’s waited until today to tell him that Seo-yeon is pregnant. What, now? I don’t think that was very good timing on your part. Now Dad’s all riled up again, wondering what on earth they’re thinking, having a child who will have no mother to raise him/her.

But Mom says that they’re around, and it’s what Ji-hyung wanted, and warns him again not to make them feel bad. “Make me like you again. I miss the old you.” Aw. I like that it’s both an insult and a warning and a compliment, all rolled into one.

The couple arrives outside, and Ji-hyung tells her that they can turn back even now if she wants to. Dude, you’re really not instilling a whole lot of confidence here. She says she’s scared, but she wants to face it. She tells him about her plan to just pretend to faint if anything happens, and he sweetly tells her to do so, and that he’s always right next to her.

They brace themselves and head inside to face the music.

 
COMMENTS

Now that Seo-yeon’s condition is worsening, there’s actually a pit-of-stomach kind of suspense in waiting for her reactions to things, because we never know how she’ll respond. It’s heartbreaking to watch Ji-hyung try to hold it together all the time and be her rock, when sometimes it’s like walking on thin ice just to be with her.

But it continues to be the family stuff that really tugs at my heartstrings. It’s the brother love, and her apology at being such a hardass mom that killed me. She’s spent her whole life trying to over-compensate for the fact that he has no mother, but she was only six, and she didn’t have one either.

That’s why I love that moment after meeting – and I love how the writer puts it – “the woman named Mom,” that she sees so clearly just how much Aunt has stepped in to do the same for her. So when she became Moon-kwon’s mom, Aunt became hers.

I liked this episode, but I’m scared for the next one, because I don’t trust Ji-hyung’s father to act like an adult, despite his wife’s warnings. Somehow I don’t think Mom will throw a glass of water in his face too, but damn, don’tcha wish she would?

 
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75 December 13, 2011January 24, 2016

Thousand Day Promise: Episode 18

by javabeans

There are several celebrations in this episode, and yet they feel like mournful last goodbyes as Seo-yeon comes a few steps closer to motherhood, and also retreats a few steps further into her mind. There’s an approaching feeling of finality to come, in the mood and the interactions between Seo-yeon and her family. *whimper* Hold me.

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EPISODE 18 RECAP

Ji-hyung and Seo-yeon arrive at his parents’ home for the big meeting with Dad. Before coming out to greet the kids, Dad breathes in and out, in and out, preparing for the encounter — directed by Mom, who tells him to take another breath and remember to play nice. I find this interaction so cute, the idea that the parents are just as wound up in nerves as the kids are.

Dad wonders what to say, and turns to Mom for advice, asking her to give him some pointers. He’s disappointed in her reply, though (“Thanks for coming. I missed you”), sniffing since that would be, you know, too honest or something. Or maybe weak. Or maybe both, in his mind.

That’s why I find it doubly amusing when Dad comes out with his stern face on, like an actor stepping onstage to play the part of Grim Patriarch. Seo-yeon introduces herself with bowed head, saying, “I have come, shamelessly, to see you. I am the source of trouble who has disappointed you. I’m sorry. I have nothing to say.”

Hahaha. It’s not said to be mocking, but I find her excessive self-deprecation hilarious, for some reason. Dad’s mollified, and starts in on a calm lecture about how he disapproves of the childrens’ choices. Mom cuts him off a few times when the lecturing gets pointed and steers him away, and he throws her a disgruntled look, like I was just getting to that, let me finish. Heh.

He does finally get to the point, which is tacked on to the back of all those statements of “I don’t agree with your marriage, and I think you’ve made a foolish mistake, and I don’t think it’s wise to have a baby on top of all that…” He ends, “…buuuuuut I have decided not to burden you by arguing about it anymore.”

Immediately, Mom pipes up, “Thank you.” Why is this so funny? It must be the staged nature of this exchange; Mom’s thanks aren’t false, necessarily, but they’re amusingly insincere in the moment, because she’s basically directing the conversation. Dad knows it too, and can tell he’s being managed. But it speaks to his willingness to forgive anyway that he’s going along with this pretty readily — it’s just that pesky pride that makes him front like he’s still grudging.

Dad asks after Seo-yeon’s health, and Ji-hyung speaks up to say that she’s fine, that the tests show no further deterioration, that she’s managing day to day without particular trouble. Seo-yeon corrects him, though, speaking plainly about feeling herself getting worse, and that she’s making more mistakes.

Dad’s doctor persona comes to the fore as he asks how she plans to handle her illness. He surprises everyone by stating that he spoke with Seo-yeon’s doctor, and advises her to listen carefully to her doctor’s instructions and to resume her medication as soon as she’s given birth. Okay, I like this version of him much better, the good doctor looking after a patient. A little patient confidentiality would be nice, although maybe he feels it falls under his purview as hospital director.

Over dinner, Dad asks if they’re managing with living expenses, gives some fatherly advice (helpful for once) about not burdening his business partner too much, and offering up monetary support if they need it. He adds words of encouragement for Seo-yeon, in response to her earlier admission that some days she’s just barely hanging in there with the will to continue; he urges her to make the most of every moment, and not to give up.

So….Dad got a lobotomy offscreen, did he? Or did the actor suddenly swap places with his twin brother, who was mistakenly told to play the Dad gentle and kind, rather than small-minded and proud? He even asks for a smile from Seo-yeon, although she’s overcome with tears and can only apologize.

Mom gates a phone call as she watches the exchange, which is from Hyang-gi’s mother. She picks up, and Hyang-gi’s mother actually exclaims in surprise that she picked up. Haha. She grumbles that she’s lost weight because of Ji-hyung’s mother, who must’ve been her child in a previous life to cause her so much grief in this one. She’s expecting a bit of a bite, so when Ji-hyung’s mother just says she’ll call her back tomorrow, she accepts it and hangs up.

Mom thanks Dad for accepting Seo-yeon graciously, pleased with his response to the couple. He tells her to convey the message to Ji-hyung about not growing cowardly in the end, since this is the decision he made.

After dinner, the couple drives home and Seo-yeon asks whether she did a good job making her first acquaintance with Dad. It’s sad how in most cases that question would be a request for reassurance, but for her she genuinely isn’t certain because she may not be remembering it properly. Ji-hyung tells her she was proper, respectful, and precise, like she usually is. He repeats some of Dad’s words of advice, and she asks him to write it down for her when they get home.

Now she confides that she met her mother earlier — or rather, as she corrects, “the person called Mother.” She tells him that her mother had said she found the idea of raising two kids alone scary, then brushes aside the topic. Enough of that.

At home, Seo-yeon tells Moon-kwon about meeting their mother, and starts to tell him that if he wants to see her too, he can. He cuts her off to say no — that he’s lived well without her all these years, and there’s no reason to complicate matters now. Seo-yeon gently adds that maybe in the future, way off in the future, he might have reason to see her, and in that case he should — after all, she’s the woman who gave birth to them.

Oy, this scene is killing me already and they’re not even crying. It’s particularly poignant that Moon-kwon is reacting just as she first did, and that she’s giving him the okay to want to see Mom anyway, like Aunt did for her. Just as Seo-yeon hadn’t wanted to hurt Aunt-Mom’s feelings, Moon-kwon is loyal to his Noona-Mom.

Seo-yeon tells him this is her last wish and, having delivered the message, says, “Now it’s okay for me to forget.” Aw.

It’s a new day, and a revitalized Seo-yeon who sends Ji-hyung off to work with cheer. He narrates that since meeting with Dad, Seo-yeon’s mood has lightened considerably. No more waking up in the middle of the night crying, scrupulous attention to exercise and diet, no mention of Hyang-gi. She’s made mention of plans for the future, of things to do in spring, and he’s grateful for the change.

Ji-hyung’s firm wins a big contest exhibition, and the employees exult while Ji-hyung calls the wife to share the good news. His mother congratulates him too, on her way to meet Hyang-gi’s mother.

Hyang-gi’s mom is prickly as usual, griping about how hard it is to get some face time with her. Ji-hyung’s mother cuts to the chase, saying that taking the offensive right now will make this meeting a fruitless endeavor, and asks for an apology and some understanding of how they’d act if the situation were reversed. Hyang-gi’s mother points out, “You’re the elegant Kang Soo-jung, and I’m the snobby gangster Oh Hyun-ah.” Ha. Well, that’s definitely accurate.

Hyang-gi’s mom tries to get out of a verbal apology by saying she sent over multiple flower baskets, only to get the cool response, “You don’t want to say it? Then I don’t need to be here.” That gets her to apologize, and both mothers acknowledge that there were wrongs on both sides. With that, the husbands join the wives for dinner, with the former friendly mood mostly restored. Was that really so hard, people?

Seo-yeon writes another message to her baby while waiting for Ji-hyung to come home from his celebration party. Looks like it’s a late night, and Aunt nods off while preparing food in the kitchen.

Jae-min oppa drops by to take his mother home, having gotten the call that Ji-hyung’s on his way home. Seo-yeon greets him happily, but then with a serious face she asks Jae-min to take Aunt home now. It’s a request to be left alone, something that this family seems to have agreed is not a good idea.

They don’t want to leave her, but she’s also insistent to the point where it seems the tension may escalate — she tells them she’s no baby to need round-the-clock care, and you get the sense that the next line of argument would be to accuse them of seeing her as an infant. Thus they back down from this one and agree to go home.

So it is that she happens to be alone when washing up for bed, accidentally hitting her head when she stoops to pick up a dropped towel. It causes a deep gash and scares the hell out of her. Ji-hyung arrives home just moments later, in time to hear Seo-yeon sobbing in the bathroom, her hands and head covered in blood.

He calls Jae-min and Aunt, who are still in the car heading home, and they turn right around and rush back. Seo-yeon is calmer now but still sporting a massive bloody head bandage as she tells them she’s okay.

At the hospital, she gets stitches in her forehead, and as Ji-hyung watches, he accuses Jae-min of leaving her alone when he said he’d be right home. Aw. I get his worry, but you’ve seen Seo-yeon when she wants things her way, right? She’s like a volcano threatening to explode at any moment, and you can’t blame Jae-min for thinking it would be better not to upset her further by refusing to go.

Aunt sobs that Seo-yeon could’ve died if Ji-hyung hadn’t come home, while Jae-min stands by in stoic regret. Ji-hyung holds it together enough to take Seo-yeon home and put her to bed, then seeks out the dark to let his sobs out — just barely, his hands clapped over his mouth to muffle the sound.

Hyang-gi returns to Korea, not thrilled at the prospect of coming home to more constant criticism. Her brother picks her up at the airport, so she’s surprised when the car pulls up and Mom’s sitting there to welcome her back.

But it’s not just for the warm fuzzies that Mom has made the trip, and she directs the chauffeur to a beauty salon post-haste… because Hyang-gi’s got a blind date set up for dinner tonight. Haha. Wastes no time, does she? The guy has a similar history to Hyang-gi: Three years ago he’d gone through with a wedding, but they broke up before the marriage was made officially registered because the bride hadn’t broken things off with the guy she’d dated before him.

I love that this is Mom’s idea of a good thing, that two failed almost-marriages somehow make them suitable for each other. Mom’s reason for the rush is that the guy’s on his way to a business trip, so it was either today, or a month from now.

Some time has passed, as evidenced by Seo-yeon’s now-very-extended belly, and she and Ji-hyung have been making lots of preparations for the birth. Already the house is babyland central.

She’s in a gloomy mood today, distant and withdrawn. Maybe it’s because today’s her birthday, as we can see from the flowers and gifts around the house. She muses that she used to go out with her office-mates on her birthday, and has to be reminded that they sent her a flower arrangement.

Ji-hyung’s narration continues — it’s as though he’s taken over narration duties from Seo-yeon, who is now often locked in her own head. He watches her silently, with that mix of heartbreak and vigilance, narrating that the baby’s expected delivery date is now just over a week away.

As the day draws nearer, Seo-yeon has become more ill-tempered, alternately snapping at questions and ignoring them. Yesterday he’d been out of the house for four hours, only to find that she spent the entire time crying in one place. It’s in moments like those that he feels like she’s left her body behind to go off somewhere else mentally.

Two of the junior employees from Seo-yeon’s old office drop by with birthday gifts, and Seo-yeon has to be told who they are. She gives them detached greetings, like she’s completely blank on their identities. When one of them slips in mention of “Jae-min-sshi,” the other outs her as chasing after him, although he’s not returning her calls or encourating her. Seo-yeon’s completely bewildered, while Aunt takes a second look at the woman fawning over her son.

But then, out of the blue, Seo-yeon announces to her aunt that she’s not right for Jae-min, judging her coolly like a stranger: “This young lady is too sharp, critical, and selfish.” She says it blandly, matter-of-factly, but it’s not without bite and it creates the most awkward silence ever.

Her colleagues look at her with shock and her aunt tries to hush her, but Seo-yeon continues, adding that the woman advanced professionally using her wiles, not skill. Offended now, the target of the attack bites out that Seo-yeon’s disease must’ve ruined her personality as well, and leaves.

Aunt tries to smooth it over, saying that Jae-min doesn’t seem interested anyway, and asks if that woman had given Seo-yeon a lot of grief at the office. Seo-yeon answers that she didn’t act that way for herself, but for oppa’s sake.

Ji-hyung apologetically sends the guests away, then rejoins Seo-yeon and asks her why she lashed out, but she ignores the question.

That night, the family gathers for a birthday party and requests a statement from the guest of honor. Seo-yeon goes around the table thanking everybody (accidentally leaving out Moon-kwon and her nephew), and says in her now-usual voice of fatigue that this may be her last birthday.

That makes everyone object, but she says that next year, she may not know when it’s her birthday, so she wants to use this time to say some last words, while she can still recognize everyone and think straight.

She thanks her aunt and uncle, and apologizes for upsetting Myung-hee. She thanks oppa for being oppa, and says that even after she’s left her empty shell behind and finds herself wandering around somewhere, she’ll still carry her gratitude.

Seo-yeon excuses herself with Ji-hyung’s assistance, then tells him, “I think the baby wants to come out now.” She’s been having contractions for a while now, since back at the house. Quickly, the party disperses and the family mobilizes to send her to the hospital.

Hyang-gi meets her blind date, who can tell right away that she’s been forced into this by her parents. He’s understanding when she says she she’s not ready yet, agreeing that being less than a year out of her broken engagement is pretty soon. He asks point-blank if she’s interested in seeing where this goes, and Hyang-gi bows her head and says no. He’s fine with that answer, and suggests they not waste time, letting her off the hook and bringing a smile to her face for the first time tonight. She’s even more relieved when he tells her there’s a woman he’s interested in, smiling even wider.

Hyang-gi comes home to a happy reunion with Dad, while Mom pesters her for details about her date. She says they agreed not to waste each other’s time, and that he’s already got a girlfriend. Mom grabs her phone muttering, “I’m going to kill her!” and proceeds to rip that guy’s mother a new one for sending out a son who was already attached. Ha. Who wants to bet that the other mom didn’t know, and that Hyang-gi’s mother just stirred another pot?

Hyang-gi calls Ji-hyung’s mother to say hello, and they’ve obviously been on regular talking terms because Mom tells her there are still a few days left till the due date.

Speaking of which, back to the hospital we go, where Seo-yeon is mid-labor. She’s tamping down her cries of pain, which makes Aunt worriedly yell at her to feel free to yell. Seo-yeon asks, “What if the baby hates me? What if it blames me for giving it this life?” Oof. Who felt that, right in the gut? Ji-hyung assures her that won’t happen, scared out of his mind, while Seo-yeon tells him, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

 
COMMENTS

The drama’s crowning jewel, by far, is Su Ae giving an impressive performance, with all of Seo-yeon’s rapid mood changes and wild range of emotion. It’s painful watching her loved ones tiptoeing around her, trying not to set off her volatile temper, which is only getting more capricious with her advancing pregnancy and illness. But from an acting standpoint, Su Ae is marvelous, bringing us along with Seo-yeon’s gradual decline.

More than any other, this episode showed the biggest progression in her advancing memory loss, thanks to that time jump that took us to the end of her pregnancy. I was a bit surprised at how… mean she seemed, and wondered if there was more to that that just her Alzheimer’s making her cranky. There was a sharp undercurrent to it, more than can be explained by her decision, post-diagnosis, to speak what’s on her mind in the moment lest she forget it. Perhaps along with her memory, she’s stripping down that filter of politeness that most people use in daily interaction. It’s hard to watch, though, and speaks to how convincing Su Ae is in the little beats of uncertainty, as well as the grand emotions.

Now that Seo-yeon’s retreating further into her mind, it’s Ji-hyung’s turn to take over the narrating, which is a nicely subtle method of driving home the loss of Seo-yeon. Now we’re seeing her through other’s eyes more than through her own, which adds another layer of sadness to the proceedings. Hm, maybe that’s why she seemed meaner, come to think of it — because we’ve lost the window into her thoughts, and no longer have the inner monologue explaining the reasons for her defensiveness, her prickliness, her sparks of temper. I’m curious to know how things are going to wrap up next week, but also dreading what’s to come now that we’ve seen a bit of the empty shell version, because it’s sure to break my heart. Not that I didn’t know that coming into this drama in the first place.

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64 December 19, 2011January 24, 2016

Thousand Day Promise: Episode 19

by girlfriday

What do you mean you didn’t want your heart broken into a million pieces? There’s no backing out now, not this close to the end. As we prepare for the finale, the worst of it hits like a ton of bricks, with no mercy for Seo-yeon or for the people who love her. We’ve been dancing around it for most of the drama, but the breakdown finally happens, and boy is it heart-wrenching, as promised.

 
EPISODE 19 RECAP

Ji-hyung narrates that Seo-yeon had the baby, and cried silently all the way home, while looking at her little face. She has since “dipped her two feet into depression, then back out again,” describing the number of mood changes she goes through on a regular basis. Seven months have passed that way.

They hired a nanny, but Seo-yeon hated having someone else around her, and so they went though another, and another, until finally Ji-hyung had to cut his workday in half and spend more time at home. He says that Seo-yeon doesn’t seem very interested in the baby that she had so fiercely wanted to have, often looking at her with a far-off gaze.

“That my wife is taking one step away from us every day, is something that I know. The woman I love told me as she laid her head in my lap last night, that she is terrified of the day when she cannot recognize me or her brother. She asked what it is not to know yourself.”

He says all this as he leaves the office… and meets Hyang-gi? What the hell, dude? At least it’s clear from the awkward greetings and small talk that they haven’t seen each other in the interim. She mentions having seen his baby when she would stop by to visit his parents. He hems and haws for a bit, and then comes out with it…

He tells her that Seo-yeon has asked to meet her. He knows it’s crazy to ask, and he thought she’d let it go, but lately she’s been relentless about it. Taken aback, Hyang-gi admits that she did wish to meet Seo-yeon just once, even catch a glimpse of her from far away, to satisfy her curiosity and know what she was like, why he did what he did. That kind of breaks my heart.

But she says that’s not the case anymore. Oh, I’m so happy for you that you’re over him. He knows it’s way too much to ask, but pleads with her to consider it anyway. “I want to do anything I can to give Seo-yeon what she wants. Other than sit by and watch, there is nothing I can do.” Oof. That twists me up inside. And he looks wrecked as he says it too, just desperate to have some agency against this tidal wave that’s been beating him down for months.

He says it again, that he knows it’s crazy to ask this of her, but Hyang-gi good-naturedly tells him it’s okay, and that she has no ill will towards him. When it happened it hurt like hell, but now it’s in the past, and she’s got her parents’ love and her health, and she’s wont for nothing in this world. She is almost impossibly plucky. I’m proud of her though, for coming out on the other side of her heartbreak as a better person.

At home, Aunt shows Seo-yeon the new hanbok she’s wearing to a relative’s wedding today, and Ji-hyung’s mom arrives to take over baby/Seo-yeon duty in her place. Mom takes the baby up in her arms and attempts to turn her over to Seo-yeon, but she freezes.

Mom tells Seo-yeon that she won’t drop the baby, that the baby won’t break, that it’s okay to hold her. Augh, what a terrible fear to carry—that you’ll drop your own child in a moment’s mental lapse. She seems so terrified that she’s basically shut herself off from the baby altogether.

Myung-hee calls Aunt to pick her up for the wedding, and asks after Seo-yeon. She says to her husband afterwards that watching the once smart and strong-willed Seo-yeon lose her mind makes her feel… Her husband finishes the sentence: “Sorry? Do you know you should feel sorry?” Hahahaha. The way she looks up at him shows that she does know.

Mom tells Seo-yeon about a family trip planned to go see the flowers in bloom, and Seo-yeon answers everything with a far-off look in her eyes, like she’s just repeating words but not taking them in. Mom’s heart sinks in disappointment every time Seo-yeon answers her.

The house is covered with memos, naming people, labeling items and what they’re for. That alone tells us that Seo-yeon has passed a certain point in her daily functionality. Over dinner, Mom asks Ji-hyung if there’s something else they should be doing, something they missed to treat her illness and slow it down.

But Ji-hyung tells her that Seo-yeon’s accepted the things she cannot change about what’s to come. She reads about Alzheimer’s daily, preparing herself, often reading aloud to him to prepare him too.

While he steps out to see Mom off, the baby starts to cry, and Seo-yeon runs over to the crib in a panic, not knowing what to do. She stands there frozen, until Moon-kwon comes running in to hold the baby and stop her tears. He asks why she’s crying, and Seo-yeon answers, “I don’t know,” in this way like she feels like she ought to know the answer and hates that she doesn’t.

He asks Seo-yeon to take her and feed her, and she backs away. He urges her that nothing will happen; that she won’t drop her. But Seo-yeon fires back that she can’t – what if she drops her? Kills her? Imagines her as a monster and stomps on her?

Moon-kwon says that makes no sense, but Seo-yeon shouts back, “I make no sense!” Gah, this is crushing. She’s basically all first parents’ fears magnified a thousand times, so much that she can’t bring herself to hold the baby once, for fear that she’ll snap and lose her mind for just that one millisecond.

She turns to walk out of the room, and finds that Ji-hyung has overheard. She complains that Moon-kwon is belittling her, and he just holds her close and calms her down. She tells him that she thinks they should send the baby to his mother.

Seo-yeon: I feel like I’m trapped in a glass box that’s so dirty I can’t see out of it. Or like the sun has set and I’m in darkness, like a cloud of fog so thick that I can’t see ten meters in front of me. You know how much I like things to be clear, defined. How much I tried to keep it so. I packaged my inferiority as pride, and tried to stay awake, so as not to be detected. Before, the world, and my thoughts were cruelly clear. But now so many things have become ill-defined. I’ve lost confidence in everything. I’ve become dull, clothed in layers of tattered rags, like a giant mound of snow. I have confidence in nothing. More importantly, I can’t trust myself.

She cries sorrowfully, and then in a moment, forgets what she said. Ji-hyung reminds her, and she reiterates that she doesn’t want to have the baby here while she’s crapping herself. Ji-hyung reminds her that they are her father and her mother, and that it doesn’t matter. But she insists, and so he says he’ll bring it up with Mom.

In the middle of the night, Seo-yeon paces back and forth reciting another poem, and then suddenly walks out to the balcony. She takes off her slippers, steps up onto a stool, and peers over the edge, contemplating ending it all. Oh god oh god oh god…

She leans over the edge for a long moment, and then falls back with a cry. Oh phew. I think my heart just lurched out of my chest. She heads back inside, choosing to write than to end it all.

But Moon-kwon wakes up a little while later, and sees the scene she’s left behind – the open door, the stool, the slippers. He stares dumbfounded at first, and then runs to Ji-hyung’s door. He hesitates, like he doesn’t want to face it, but then starts calling for him, tears streaming down his face.

Ji-hyung stirs awake, with Seo-yeon sleeping soundly next to him. Moon-kwon tells him that Noona jumped, and Ji-hyung asks if he had a nightmare, ’cause Seo-yeon’s sleeping in bed. Moon-kwon doesn’t believe him at first, and runs inside to see for himself.

Ji-hyung wonders what he’s so upset about, and then sees the evidence on the balcony, stricken to see what must’ve passed through her mind, what almost happened, all while he was sleeping.

He tells Moon-kwon that they’ll clear all things out of the balcony, and Moon-kwon nods, sniffling back his tears.

In the morning, workers are there, putting up a metal railing to cage in the whole balcony. Seo-yeon complains to Ji-hyung that they’re locking her up, and he tries to deflect that it’s to keep them safe from burglars. But she tells him not to treat her like an idiot, and that she knows it’s because of her.

He sighs and tells her that she’s right, and that last night she stepped up onto a stool to consider jumping over the ledge. That sends her spinning in shock. She says she’s sorry, that she doesn’t remember.

He tells her that he knows what she was thinking, but that she can’t ever do it. He pleads with her to stop thinking that it’s what’s best for him, and that what he wants is to sit here like this, look her in the eye, and talk to her, and be with her.

She just repeats that she’s sorry, and he tells her to stop. Ji-hyung: “Because I’m you, and you’re me. We’re one person. Sorry is what you say to another, not yourself.” She says that she hates herself, that she wants to disappear.

But he pleads with her that she can’t: “If you disappear, I disappear.” She says they shouldn’t have married, that she thought they’d be happy. In tears, he says, “We are happy.”

Seo-yeon: “They say I’ve become an empty house with no owner.” Ji-hyung: “To me you’re still my wife and Yeh-eun-ie’s mother. Don’t run away from me.” He kisses her hands, repeating that he loves her.

Ji-hyung and Hyang-gi’s parents are on happy well-adjusted terms, the dads cooing over pictures of the granddaughter, and the moms back to their usual banter. Hyang-gi’s mom has had it up to here with Hyang-gi’s excuses for all the blind dates that she’s rejected – he’s too tall, too thin, too fat, too bald, too hairy, etc. She swears that Ji-hyung has ruined her, because now she’s just searching for another guy like him, and where do they have those lying around?

I know a guy. His name is Oppa, and I miss him sorely. I’ll even consider giving you to Hyang-gi if you show your face around here, Oppa!

Hyang-gi heads out to meet with Seo-yeon, and both women prepare for the meeting full of nerves, Seo-yeon fretting over what to wear and wanting to be as alert as possible. Ji-hyung asks Moon-kwon to watch his niece for a while, and he has this spastic burst of adorableness, flapping like a chicken at the baby. She just stares at him like, what’s this wacko doing? Heh.

Hyang-gi arrives, and it’s a tense beginning, mostly because I’m on pins and needles about Seo-yeon keeping it together in front of her. But she manages to be composed and clear.

She pauses as she searches for a way to begin, and Ji-hyung comes to her side, handing her the notes she wrote down earlier, the things she wanted to say to Hyang-gi. But she smiles and says she doesn’t need them, and thanks him anyway. Hyang-gi looks at Ji-hyung with this sudden realization, like watching his love for Seo-yeon in action feels so different from just knowing of it.

Seo-yeon wonders how much she must’ve hurt, and Hyang-gi says it was like being struck by lightning, but that it took that strike to make her realize that Ji-hyung never loved her. She calls him oppa still, and Seo-yeon responds calling him oppa too, and then laughs at herself for parroting her. And then she turns to Ji-hyung, “Oppa.” It’s adorable.

Once Ji-hyung leaves the room, she starts to say what I feared she’d say – that she’s not long for this world, and that if Hyang-gi still had feelings for Ji-hyung, that perhaps she could be by his side, that maybe she knows him better than anyone. Dude, I get why, but that’s just… WRONG.

She knows she shouldn’t ask it, but it’s like she can’t handle the guilt of what she’s doing to him. But as she says it, her head starts to ache, and she struggles to hold it together. Suddenly she clutches her head in agony, “I’m sorry, my head is shattering.”

Hyang-gi calls out for Ji-hyung and he rushes to her side with pills. He holds her close as she cries, shaking. “What do I do? I’m so pathetic and low. It makes no sense. What do I do? What do I do?” She bawls into his chest, as he tells her it’s okay.

Crying uncontrollably, she says to Hyang-gi: “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I ruined it all. I’m sorry.” Hyang-gi kneels by her side, assuring her that she’s not unhappy, and that it’s okay. “Please don’t cry, unni.” Aw.

Ji-hyung walks her out and apologizes, thanking her for coming by to meet Seo-yeon. Hyang-gi tells him it’s okay, and that it just hurts to see her in such pain. She asks him to tell Seo-yeon that she was glad to meet her, and that it’s a given that Ji-hyung loves her so.

Aunt is nursing a cold at home, and Jae-min finally shows his face in this episode to bring her medicine and tuck her in like the perfect son that he is. She says that Seo-yeon has a visitor and wonders if it’s the youngest of her co-workers, the nice one that Seo-yeon likes. She muses that maybe she’d be good enough in Seo-yeon’s eyes for Oppa to marry, and Jae-min just smiles and dismisses it.

Aunt confesses that perhaps Seo-yeon shouldn’t have had the baby, because she won’t even feed her, or hold her just once. She sighs that the universe should’ve taken her instead, a tear rolling down her cheek.

Moon-kwon puts the baby down and checks on Seo-yeon, and hears the bath running. He calls after her but she won’t answer, so he opens the door, to find her sitting in the overflowing tub, fully clothed and staring off into space.

He runs to stop the water and tries to get her out, and she shrinks back, yelling at him not to touch her. She storms out of the bath, trailing water everywhere, and then plops down in the bed sopping wet, on top of all the clothes she had laid out earlier.

Gah, Moon-kwon’s heartbreak is really hard to take. His whole world is crashing, hard and fast. Ji-hyung finds him in tears and calmly puts a hand on his shoulder, and takes care of Seo-yeon. He puts her down for a nap in the living room, and the boys clean up after her.

Moon-kwon asks who the visitor was, and Ji-hyung tells him about Seo-yeon wanting to apologize to Hyang-gi. Moon-kwon reassures himself by saying that she must’ve overstressed herself, trying so hard to stay alert.

Jae-min comes by and Moon-kwon tells him about what happened, and he finds Ji-hyung just about teetering on the brink. He holds it together long enough to get to his office, and then buries his head in his hands, crumbling under the weight of it all. Jae-min comes up behind him and silently puts a hand on his shoulder, and Ji-hyung breaks down and cries.

Outside, Seo-yeon wakes up and goes to the kitchen. She reads the series of memos on the refrigerator, and finds that the lunch menu is curry, so she dutifully takes the rice and curry out of the fridge.

She unwraps them, and then pours the curry over the rice, letting it overflow. And then without cooking it, she dips her hand in the bowl and begins to shovel it into her mouth, over and over again.

 
COMMENTS

Oh man, we all knew it was coming, but watching her break down is harder to take than I thought. That final scene – that shot of her picture when she was, as she says, still Lee Seo-yeon, and then her blank expression as she eats cold curry with her hands – just guts me. It kills me that it’s finally happened – her turning stupid, as she so feared. And to Seo-yeon, she’s as good as dead if she’s lost her mind.

It’s only in these last few episodes that I’ve finally come to understand why Kim Rae-won was cast, because the focus has now shifted so that we’re more emotionally grounded with him than with Seo-yeon. She’s still the source of our collective heartbreak, but he’s the one we cry with, that we feel empathy for when he holds her desperately and tells her it’s going to be okay when he knows it’s not. The way he handles her and Moon-kwon with calm and resolve is such a quiet heroism. He felt so listless in the beginning, so it’s nice to see that he has an arc of his own, and a chance to be the hero of the story, if he’s the only one left to tell it.

Park Yoo-hwan has successfully made me cry more than anyone else in this drama with his noona-love. Seeing her breakdown in the eyes of the one who looks up to her the most is unbelievably crushing. And of course, Su Ae continues to carry the whole show on her amazing shoulders. She’s un-fucking-real.

Is it stating the obvious to say ‘Prepare the tissues’ for tomorrow’s finale? I went ahead and bought the jumbo pack. Bring it on, Show. I’m armed with 3-ply.

 
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106 December 20, 2011January 24, 2016

Thousand Day Promise: Episode 20 (Final)

by javabeans

Blarg$@*&#()$%_)^#*%.

I’m pretty sure this finale broke me. I mean, I knew going in what kind of show it was, but there’s a difference between having the detached knowledge that you’ll cry and actually sobbing out a river of tears.

The show bowed out at a series high (19.8%) after flagging a bit in recent weeks — most likely because people were eager to find out the answer to the big question: Did she die? Would a miracle save the day? Sad ending, or happy?

SONG OF THE DAY

Shin Seung-hoon – “처음 하는 말처럼” (Like Saying it for the First Time) from the drama’s soundtrack. [ Download ]

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 
FINAL EPISODE RECAP

Seo-yeon’s illness has progressed to the point where she’s like a toddler you can’t let out of your sight, as Aunt learns when she goes grocery shopping, turns her back for a second, and finds Seo-yeon gone. She runs through the store looking for her, then heads outside, panicking. Aunt calls her husband and Myung-hee, who both drop what they’re doing to join the search.

It’s Myung-hee who spots Seo-yeon just as she’s about to board a bus. When asked where she’s going, Seo-yeon says, like a child, “Home.”

Myung-hee first scolds, but gets no response out of Seo-yeon. She softens her tone and asks, like a teacher asking an errant preschooler, what she was intending to do.

Seo-yeon remains expressionless all the way home, sitting by like she isn’t hearing a word, except that she is — when Myung-hee grips about buying handcuffs, or a rope to tie her with, Seo-yeon suddenly hits her in the back, angry. She glares and shoves Myung-hee, then storms off to her room. Aunt chides Myung-hee since they both know Seo-yeon hates being treated like a helpless idiot.

Aunt finds Seo-yeon looking at her reflection in the mirror, lucid again, speaking in her normal voice. She asks, “Aunt…who is she?” Aunt’s heart breaks as she realizes Seo-yeon means the mirror, and she barely holds it together to explain that Seo-yeon’s seeing herself, reflected in the glass.

Ji-hyung narrates to us that Seo-yeon’s condition is worsening so rapidly that even her doctor is startled. Sometimes she sleeps all day, some days she stares at the same page for hours. We see slices of what it’s like living on edge, with every little thing capable of setting off Seo-yeon’s temper.

It’s like she still has the emotions of an adult, but the expressive capabilities of a young child. The dichotomy is ever-present — she’ll do something strange, like trying to drink soup with chopsticks, or trying to wear a sweater as pants. But the moment she’s corrected, there’s a flash of lucidity as she realizes this is more evidence of her deterioration, and the only way for her to react is to lash out — by throwing something, or hitting something. Ji-hyung describes it as an explosion of anger from deep within, from the person who still remembers that she’s Seo-yeon.

Aunt has noticed that she gets worse when Ji-hyung isn’t around, which means that pretty soon he’ll have to stop going into the office and work from home.

He picks up Ye-eun from his mother’s house, where the three ladies — Mom, Aunt, Hyang-gi — are doting on her. Ji-hyung’s uncomfortable around Hyang-gi and keeps a stiff distance. She, on the other hand, is quite at ease with the baby and assures him that there’s no need for him to feel awkward, because she’s met someone she wants to date. He visibly relaxes.

As they’re heading out, though, Hyang-gi’s parents pull up in their car and immediately size up the situation. Mom throws a fit — and we’d expect no less — about her moronic daughter lying so she can sneak over here and dote on her ex’s child. Hyang-gi begs Mom to listen, that both Ji-hyung’s mother and he have discouraged her, but that she comes because she wants to see the baby.

Hyang-gi’s father steps up to take a calmer approach, asking for his cooperation regarding Hyang-gi. Ji-hyung assures them that neither of them are doing anything to cause concern, and they grudgingly agree to trust him on that.

At home, Seo-yeon becomes lucid in the middle of watering houseplants, which she’s done clumsily, resulting in a living room puddle. She grabs a rag and starts to sop it up, apologizing to Aunt.

She says it feels like Ji-hyung has run away, and Aunt assures her that he’s just at work, and due home any minute. Can’t she remember? Seo-yeon says, “I can’t remember.” Then, brightening, “No, I do remember.” Then, deflating, “No, I don’t remember.”

She can’t remember Jae-min oppa coming by yesterday, either, and asks Aunt, “I’ve become really dumb, haven’t I?” She confides that there are times she feels absent, or not herself.

Ji-hyung comes home, and Seo-yeon greets her baby with a friendly but detached “Hi.” While she rests, he talks with Aunt, who confesses the events of the day in a scared voice — how Seo-yeon disappeared in the supermarket, how she was about to board a bus, how this is new behavior for her. But worse is the bit about not recognizing herself in the mirror. Aunt sobs and asks why this is happening so fast.

That evening, he gently reminds Seo-yeon that she can’t go out alone. It’s difficult to watch him trying to prevent future troubles, because lucid Seo-yeon understands all the words he’s saying, and knows she’s not supposed to leave the house by herself. He even wrote her a reminder note on the door, reading, “I don’t know my number. I can’t leave the house.” She says that Aunt always tries to cover the note when they go so she won’t feel bad, which is sweet.

He asks, “You love me, don’t you?” She asks, “Does it not seem like I do? Does it seem I’ve forgotten I love you?” He answers, “No. I just wanted to confirm it.”

Seo-yeon: “Even if I forget other things, I won’t forget that. Don’t worry. Park Ji-hyung, my husband. Ye-eun’s father. The person who loves me terribly, the man carrying a cross up a mountain.”

He entreats her not to give up, because it seems like she has decided to let the inevitable happen. She says that she has, that she’s tired. It’s exhausting trying to hold on to herself when she just loses hold in the end anyway. Refusing to give up doesn’t mean the outcome will change.

He begs her to try, because every day is precious. She starts to cry, saying, “I want to, but I can’t do it. Even if I clench my fist, I slip out between my fingers.” They sob to each other, “Sorry,” over and over.

Aunt chatters on the phone with a friend, and asks if she wouldn’t be interested in dementia insurance — you never know. She perks up at the answer — her friend will? Six people? It’s hilarious how she gets right on the phone with Jae-min to tell him to send out an insurance rep from his company.

She freaks out to see Ye-eun missing from her chair, and sighs in relief when she sees Moon-kwon has her. She chides, saying she thought some baby-thief had come by, and he jokes at the ridiculousness of that.

But in the next room, Ji-hyung deals with a different sort of thief — the imaginary kind, who Seo-yeon is convinced is stealing her clothing, one by one. She won’t budge from guarding her wardrobe, insisting that if she leaves, her clothes will get stolen. She whispers, “That ajumma outside will give them to her daughter.” Oof. Ji-hyung raises his voice, upset that she could say that about her own aunt.

He holds her face in his hands, leans in, and tells her firmly that she’s Lee Seo-yeon. He repeats facts to her and she cries, “I’m Lee Seo-yeon — who says otherwise?”

He barely manages to convince her to go out with him on a drive, and calls Jae-min to act as driver. She doesn’t recognize the road that should be familiar, but puts a positive face on and asks for kisses.

The drive takes them to the old resort they used to meet at, where the three now lunch together. She’s cheery, until she asks how Ji-hyung knows this place and he answers that they came here a lot in the past. She tries to act like that doesn’t matter, forcing a smile.

After lunch, Seo-yeon walks alone while oppa and Ji-hyung walk along behind her. Ji-hyung tells him about Seo-yeon briefly not knowing Aunt, and Jae-min says there have been a couple time where he’d wondered if she didn’t know him, either. Ji-hyung feels like it’s not far off before she’ll forget him, too.

Seo-yeon waves Ji-hyung over with an excited smile, and he comes jogging up to her. She declares, “I just had the thought. I want to die when the cherry blossoms fall. When the flower petals fall like snow, it’s sad and beautiful.”

Ji-hyung changes the subject, not showing a reaction, and she comes away with him giggling, like she hasn’t just punched us all in the gut.

That evening, Ji-hyung hears Moon-kwon and Aunt’s horrified shouts, and comes out to see Seo-yeon holding scissors over the baby. She looks up at them wide-eyed, wondering why they’re so fussed — she just wants to give the baby a haircut. It looks ugly: “Like a dummy.”

Ji-hyung agrees that they’ll redo the baby’s hair tomorrow, but at the salon. To everyone’s relief, Seo-yeon accepts that answer and hands over the scissors. Maybe she has a burst of lucidity, because she barks at Moon-kwon for yelling, then refuses Ji-hyung’s attention as Aunt packs away all the kitchen utensils.

But this calls for more serious changes, and Ji-hyung’s mother sits with Seo-yeon to explain that she and (Ji-hyung’s) Aunt will take care of the baby. Seo-yeon is welcome to come by whenever she wants to see Ye-eun, or they’ll bring her over. Seo-yeon sits quietly, head bowed, saying she understands they’re afraid that she’ll make bigger mistakes.

Moon-kwon sobs his goodbye to the baby, promising to tell her lots of stories about her mother in the future. Gah, why is it that Moon-kwon brings tears to my eyes the fastest? It’s teariest for him, but I think saddest for Ji-hyung, who has to give up raising his own child, for the benefit of both mother and daughter.

When it’s time for Ye-eun to go, Ji-hyung calls Seo-yeon over, and she pats the baby’s cheek. She says, “Bye, take care.”

Ji-hyung sends his mother off, then comes back inside to Seo-yeon sitting there. She hadn’t watched the child go, and he notes that this was the first time Seo-yeon had touched the baby, or said a word to her. Seo-yeon smiles up at him; he says, “My wife smiles, but for what reason, or with what meaning, I don’t know.”

Time passes, and Seo-yeon gets worse.

At the dinner table, Seo-yeon looks up at Aunt and Uncle sitting across from her and asks, “Ajusshi, who are you and why are you at our dinner table?” Uncle looks stricken, but Aunt takes this in stride and explains everyone’s relationships clearly: I’m Aunt, this is my husband, your uncle, the father to Jae-min and Myung-hee.

Ji-hyung catches her talking into the mirror, asking the girl inside to come out: “Come out. I have no friends. Come out.”

And then she pushes away from Ji-hyung and asks “ajumoni” (Aunt) to get rid of the strange man in her room. Told it’s her husband, she asks, “Am I married?” Seo-yeon takes this in, and then turns to Ji-hyung, suddenly back to normal: “Aren’t you going to the office?”

Then while watching TV, she asks why there are so many people in their house.

Finally, Seo-yeon goes on a rampage, tearing down all the reminder notes in the house, screaming, “Burn it all!”

Ji-hyung narrates that now, Seo-yeon is not herself for large stretches of time, lost in her head.

When Myung-hee brings her a nice new sweater, Seo-yeon slaps her and calls her a mean, bad girl. Who knew I could feel so sorry for Myung-hee — especially when she chokes back tears and says, “I was wrong, I know that. Forgive me.”

More silent heartbreak when Seo-yeon asks who the other ajusshi is, and Jae-min cheerily identifies himself as her cousin. Now all men have become mere ajusshis, and all women are ajummas. Even Ji-hyung has become an ajusshi to her, although she understands that he’s her caretaker. The only person left in her memory is Moon-kwon.

And then, another panicked phone call. Seo-yeon has disappeared, from home this time. Unlike last time, she didn’t just wander off accidentally; she must have known the code all along and used it to get out.

The family tears through the neighborhood looking for her, while Seo-yeon stands at a clanging railroad intersection, the arm down as a train approaches. Oh god, drama, you’re not going to go Anna Karenina on us, are you? I swear, if you do…

She steps forward toward the speeding train. Alarmed strangers hold her back, and the family picks her up at the police station.

She gets more violent in the coming days, and tries to attack Aunt in the house. She injures her arm in some unnamed accident.

Ye-eun has grown into a toddler by now. Ji-hyung’s parents think it’s time for him to turn Seo-yeon over to health professionals, but he refuses, saying he’d promised to care for her till the end. They back down, not having expecting him to agree.

It’s also time for Seo-yeon to start wearing diapers, as Aunt hesitantly suggests to Ji-hyung, citing a few close calls. He brings it up, and recognizing the diaper seems to bring Seo-yeon back for a moment, even if it’s through rage. She screams that she’s not a baby, that Lee Seo-yeon has no need for these things.

But that night, Ji-hyung wakes up in bed alone, and when he bolts out to look for her, he finds Seo-yeon fumbling with the diaper, trying to put it on over her pajamas. He breaks down and holds her, telling her she doesn’t have to do it. And she just stares blankly as he sobs.

The picture freezes on that expressionless face and greys out. Fade to white…

And then we open at a gravesite.

Ye-eun’s walking and talking now, perhaps 5 or 6, and comes with Dad to set flowers at Seo-yeon’s headstone.

Ji-hyung kneels to tell Seo-yeon that they’re here, and says chokingly, “I’m still…” As in, I’m not healed yet. I still love you. I’m still with you.

 
JAVABEANS’ COMMENTS

Well, on the upside, it’s over.

I’ll be honest: I did not enjoy this ending. Or this show, for much of its latter half. I won’t go as far as to say I regret watching the show, because there were lovely moments in it, and watching Su Ae deliver a powerhouse performance was worth the pain. Maybe barely.

It’s not the death that bothers me, since that possibility was on the table since Day 1. It’s not the sadness of the premise, either, since clearly I knew what I was getting into. I’ve enjoyed melodramas in the past, and some tearjerkers are actually sort of refreshing to cry along to — not fun, necessarily, but there’s a sense of emotional payoff and gratification when you have a moving story.

What makes this drama a frustrating experience (aside from the cluttered writing) is that it follows a single line: Downward. No twists, no arc, no message. It’s a single-entendre show, and as eloquent as the dialogue could be, as wonderful the acting, as warm and inviting the characters like Jae-min and Moon-kwon, it was designed to show you a depressing story, for no purpose other than that it could.

I had hopes that this show could explore something interesting with its premise, like maybe memory or identity or the value of living on a ticking clock. Like Scent of a Woman, or 90 Days Time To Love, or The Letter. What would we take away from the story of a woman given an unfair, heartbreaking Alzheimer’s diagnosis just when she should be starting her life, family, and career?

And sadly, I don’t think there’s much I get out of this show other than some great acting. It wasn’t just a downer, it was a downer that deliberately withheld hope or any sort of uplifting message. She got Alzheimer’s, she gave up, then she died. The end. That sort of pisses me off.

 
GIRLFRIDAY’S COMMENTS

I don’t mind a dark story, so I’m okay with the trajectory of this show being downward, since that’s kind of inevitable given the premise. What I do think was wasted in the finale was the chance to leave Seo-yeon’s mark on the world with her writing, or give her one, JUST ONE meaningful connection with her daughter. Really just one would’ve gotten me in the heart and done the job.

This is the one episode where I didn’t cry, which is really odd, and also kind of deflating, since I bought the jumbo pack of tissues and all. But maybe it’s because by the finale Seo-yeon has already checked out, so I have no connection, just lots of pity. When the show managed to hit those family connections, it was amazing, but it wasted some big opportunities for that in the final episode, which is really a strange choice, given that it’s what I felt was the whole point of the series. Perhaps the only such moment for me in the finale was the one line from Ji-hyung, noting that everyone had faded in her memory except for her brother Moon-kwon. Portrayed in a dramatic way by Seo-yeon herself would’ve really killed me, and satisfied some of my need for that heart-tugging connection.

The ellipsis to her already being dead is the same – I’m here knowing that death is how it ends, so why rob me of that heart-wrenching moment, and my chance to be with Ji-hyung, or Moon-kwon, or Aunt when she’s gone? I really, really did not expect that my bone to pick with this drama would be that it was not melodramatic enough in the end. I mean, what? I didn’t need for her to live, or to magically be cured of Alzheimer’s. But I wanted her to have her final moments with the ones who have faithfully loved her and stood by her side. I don’t care if it’s movie magic to give someone a final moment of lucidity before death. Give it to me anyway. It’s what dramas are for.

All that about the final episode aside though, I did really like the show as it was going, and loved its portrayal of a prickly heroine and the amazing people who love her. I just wish we got the emotional payoff for being as faithful to the show as they were to her, because I feel (to borrow a metaphor from Flower Boy Ramyun Shop)… emotionally constipated. I’m proud of Ji-hyung’s stalwart love, and her family’s too – I just wished I got taken along for that final lap, ’cause I was all ready and willing to go.

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