[2012] Lời hồi đáp 1997 - Reply 1997 Drama Recap

159 July 26, 2012January 24, 2016

Answer Me 1997: Episodes 1-2

by girlfriday

This show is so adorable. It’s perfectly nostalgic, all about looking back on being eighteen with all its attendant highs and lows. It’s like a cross between Freaks and Geeks (though less broad) and My So-Called Life (though less angsty), set to the soundtrack of my adolescence, 90s kpop.

A note about format: The show is actually 16 half-hour episodes, just aired back to back for an hour each Tuesday. I can see now why they ever labeled it a sitcom—for length of episodes, not anything else—because it’s in no way sitcom-esque. I’ve shown the break in episodes, but since they air together, I’ll recap them together.


H.O.T. – “전사의 후예(폭력시대) (Warrior’s Descendant) “ [ Download ]

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EPISODE 1: “Eighteen”

We open in the summer of 2012, as Mom and Dad (Lee Il-hwa and Sung Dong-il) sing an oldie at a noraebang. Suddenly their daughter, our heroine SUNG SHI-WON (Jung Eun-ji) fast-forwards Dad’s song and butts in for her turn.

Dad characteristically rants, saying that Shi-won wears her head on her shoulders as decoration. He adds with a fist in the air, “If you pick one of those songs where you jibber-jabber in English, you’re dead!”

He says oldies are the best, and Shi-won lights up. An oldie you say? Cue her anthem, H.O.T.’s “Candy.” He flares up that this isn’t an oldie, but she argues that it is for her—it’s fifteen years old. Well damn, way to keep it real. *stops to do the math and cringes*

On a different night she takes a cab into Hongdae as she deals with a work emergency over the phone. She’s a TV writer (though clearly a junior one, since she says the writing part of her job mostly consists of labeling props).

She says in voiceover: “At times like these, something small can be comforting, like a song. Thirty-three. An age where we can’t say that we’re exchanging nostalgia yet—our ’90s were still too bright for that. If our bodies can’t go back, at least our souls can. Right now, I’m going back to the ’90s.”

She looks down at her phone to check the time, and still, Tony oppa graces the wallpaper. Ha. New gadgets, same idols. She walks into a restaurant and outside we see a little sign marking the 38th high school friends’ reunion dinner for Busan Gwangan High.

She greets her old friends, introducing one as Dan-ji, known as the Hee-jun oppa fangirl back in the day, while she herself lived as Ahn-seung-bu-in [Tony Ahn’s Korean name Ahn Seung-ho + wife]. Pffft. Everyone greets Shi-won with the annoying “Did you gain some weight?” She scowls.

In walks bestie MO YOO-JUNG (Shin So-yool), as Shi-won narrates that she’s had a lot of nicknames, but her oldest one is Ship-sa-ppa, short for “falls in love easily.”

Sure enough, she squeals over Infinite (and L in particular), and last month it was Park Yoochun, and Kim Soo-hyun before that.

And then, the boys enter. Awww yeah. Slo-mo foursome entrance for the win. Shi-won narrates that they’re here, her boys, her youth’s everything.

She introduces them one by one (right to left): the refined and delicate KANG JOON-HEE (Hoya), the talkative BANG SUNG-JAE (Lee Shi-un), the charismatic DO HAK-CHAN (Eun Ji-won), and the gruff and prickly YOON YOON-JAE (Seo In-gook).

Turns out there’s a reason they’re dressed like F33—they’re coming straight from a teacher’s funeral. Sung-jae talks a mile a minute about the ceremony and then asks for a picture of their group.

The six best friends pose for a shot, as Shi-won narrates, “Today, at this table, one couple will announce that they’re getting married.”

That takes us back to the spring of 1997, in Busan. They fire up a computer to play Dance Dance Revolution, and I sort of can’t believe how ancient this game looks now. Sung-jae, Yoon-jae, and Joon-hee play the game, and then Shi-won pulls the plug because it’s time for Star Docu, featuring H.O.T.

Gah, I love that she’s fumbling to make sure it’s recording on VHS. There is something so specific about that as a part of my adolescence. The boys grumble and sit back, bored, while the girls squeal.

It’s our first of many cameos by Tony Ahn playing himself, as he shows the fans his bedroom. There’s a big white teddy bear sitting on his bed, with “TN ♥ SW” stitched across the chest, and Shi-won freaks out: “That’s the teddy bear I sent!!!”

And then Tony climbs into bed hugging the teddy, and the girls die of happiness. So cute.

But Dad comes home from work (he’s a baseball coach) and nags Shi-won for the ruckus, so tired of seeing those monkeys on the tv again.

She gasps, but he just keeps going, saying that they should all have their heads shaved and be shipped off to army. Dads, they never change. I remember my dad saying almost this very speech verbatim about Seo Taiji.

Yoon-jae wakes up the morning of his eighteenth birthday to find a present and a card waiting for him. He tears into it to find a Guess t-shirt. He gapes, can it be?

Cut to his fifteenth birthday, where his present was an Adidos t-shirt, and then his sixteenth birthday, when he got a Westpak backpack (instead of an Eastpak, HA). He looks at the Guess shirt skeptically.

But when he wears it to Shi-won’s house she takes one look and says it’s not a knockoff this time, and he beams. Mom is busy in the kitchen making birthday soup for both Dad and Yoon-jae, who happen to share a birthday. It seems that whatever Yoon-jae’s family situation is, he eats his breakfasts here normally.

Shi-won refuses to come out and have birthday soup for that ajusshi she doesn’t know, and Yoon-jae has to remind Dad about his comments on her precious Tony oppa. Mom: “Oh the one that looks like a monkey?”

She reluctantly joins them and only wishes Yoon-jae a happy birthday, presenting him with her usual gift, a page full of coupons. He sighs that it’s the same gift every year, but she counters that she’s never known anyone who used coupons so well.

Flashback to Yoon-jae age 11, at his parents’ funeral. Aw, sad. Little Shi-won does a silly dance and the coupon reads: “Use whole body to make me laugh.” That’s so adorable I could cry.

And then Yoon-jae’s middle school graduation, where he proudly takes pictures with Shi-won’s parents. The coupon: “Borrow anything you want for a day.” HA. He borrowed her parents? At the same time, she graduates from her middle school parent-less. Hee.

He looks to see if there are any new ones this year, and sees that all the coupons have a theme: “No matter what,” like “Piggyback no matter what,” “Stop being mad no matter what,” and the biggie, “Grant a wish, no matter what.”

She promises that as long as it doesn’t cost her money, she’ll make good, no matter what. She scritches his chin like a little puppy.

As Shi-won floats away on cloud nine telling the girls in her class about Tony and her teddy bear, we see that outside, Yoo-jung and Yoon-jae are sitting on a bench together. Something makes Yoo-jung blush.

At lunch, Shi-won asks Yoon-jae to record the last episode of Star in My Heart tonight, because she has to go to Daegu for an H.O.T. concert. Yoo-jung sighs at the dilemma: Kang-ta oppa or Ahn Jae-wook?

Sung-jae scoffs but Joon-hee joins in, saying that he thinks Cha In-pyo is better. Sung-jae teases him for liking the drama like a girl, but he counters that Choi Jin-shil is really cute.

They wonder how Shi-won plans to ditch study hall to get to Daegu, and she says she’s already got a plan. Cut to an uncomfortable Teach, who gets the I-can’t-choose-not-to-have-my-period and You-don’t-know-what-it’s-like speech with the puppy eyes. He tells her to go, just to stop her from saying “period” over and over.

Teacher TAE-WOONG (Song Jong-ho) is on watch that night during late-night study hall, and when he comes by the boys’ class to gripe about the noise, the guys complain that he only seems to care about the girls’ classes. Rumors abound and Sung-jae decides he doesn’t like Teach because he clearly knows he’s good looking.

Sung-jae notices Yoon-jae’s new Guess t-shirt, and everyone oohs and aahs. (Oh the power of a brand name—why does that feel so important in high school? But it does.) He’s skeptical that it could be real and Yoon-jae flashes the shirt proudly, saying it is.

Even Joon-hee agrees—it looks real. But Sung-jae dies laughing, “Guess is a question mark, not an exclamation point!” And sure enough, inside the logo is an exclamation point. Hahaha. I totally never would have noticed.

Poor Yoon-jae crumbles in mortification, as the whole class laughs at his expense. But that raises the ire of Teach, who bursts in, furious that they’ve ignored his warnings to be quiet. He demands the class leader to come up front. Yoon-jae stands up.

He gets up but argues that he wasn’t the one talking, which just infuriates Teach even more. He orders Yoon-jae up to the front of the room, to be punished for his classmates. He asks how many times he wants to be hit, and Yoon-jae growls, “Ten.”

He grits his teeth as Teach spanks him with a giant ruler, ten times.

In Daegu, the girls line up for the stage recording of a music program (like a Music Bank or an Inkigayo), and Shi-won prepares with her Tony oppa beach towel, worn like a cape.

They take to the stage for “Warrior’s Descendant” (posted above), and while Yoo-jung screams along with the other girls, Shi-won just saunters into the aisle like a badass.

The music starts and she performs along with her oppas, dancing and singing along to every move. That wave of emotion passes through the crowd, and the girls start to cry as they scream and chant and sing along.

At the same time, Yoon-jae comes over to record the last episode of Star in My Heart, grumbling that he is NOT Shi-won’s flunky, thank you very much, all the while diligently doing what he was told.

He watches the episode with Mom, who sings along to the big final concert scene. (Ahn Jae-wook parting the crowd to declare his love publicly to Choi Jin-shil, the classic kdrama swoonworthy moment.)

After the concert, there’s an H.O.T. fan quiz for prizes, and Shi-won cleans up, answering everything in hilariously excrutiating detail: Tony oppa declared his feelings to his first love on April 15! It was a Wednesday and it was raining a lot! LOL.

But then when it counts, the last question for the t-shirt that Tony wore onstage today, she flubs and answers too quickly, and Yoo-jung swoops in and gets the big prize.

Shi-won stews about it the whole night, but on the bus ride back home, Yoo-jung sweetly gives the shirt to Shi-won, saying that if she ever wins Kang-ta oppa’s shirt, she can return the favor. Aw.

Shi-won pretends to be cool about it for two seconds and then caves, clutching it happily and deciding she’ll never wash the shirt for the rest of her life. But Yoo-jung says she has something she needs to tell her…

Yoo-jung: “Earlier today… I confessed to Yoon-jae.” Eep! Shi-won doesn’t betray anything but surprise, and Yoo-jung blushes, saying that he hasn’t given her an answer yet, but wanted to make sure Shi-won would be cool with it if they dated.

Shi-won asks why she should care if they did or not, but then adds that just last month it was another boy, and a few days ago she was hot for Teacher. Yoo-jung says she’s changed her mind—Yoon-jae is good-looking and smart and good at sports, and very mature. Shi-won: “Is he? I wouldn’t know.”

She walks home just as Yoon-jae is stepping out, and all she does is ask about the recording. He stops to tell her about Yoo-jung’s confession, and says he doesn’t know how he feels.

But tellingly, he asks, “Should I not date her?” Shi-won: “Why are you asking me?”

He takes a step closer and entreats her, “Should I not date her?” No answer. He takes another step forward, “Should I not date her?”

Aaaaaack! Say something! Still nothing. He sighs and takes out his birthday coupons. He rips one out and hands it to her silently. It’s “Grant a wish no matter what.”

She looks down at it, “What’s the wish?”

Yoon-jae: “Tell me not to date her.” Eeee! They stand there like that, the wish hanging in the air.

We don’t know what she said, because we cut to her inside, watching the last episode of Star in My Heart.

Yoon-jae goes home, where Teacher Tae-woong greets him? Wha? Tae-woong starts to apologize about earlier, but Yoon-jae cuts him off and slams his door. Tae-woong hangs his head, and we see a birthday cake sitting on the coffee table, waiting.

Yoon-jae bursts out of his room to yell, “It’s not an exclamation point! It’s a question mark! Hyung, can’t you even get that right?!” Whoa, they’re brothers? Dude, you publicly humiliated Little Bro twice on his birthday?

How interesting that they turn out to be brothers. That’s a surprising twist. Hyung is left stammering, “Question mark?”

Mom rewatches the episode with Shi-won, redoing the whole hands-in-the-air sing-along. They’re so cute. They swoon over Ahn Jae-wook together, and Mom declares that he’s gonna be a big star, and Cha In-pyo’s on his way out. Ha.

But they get to the end of the recording and Shi-won screams. It’s the tape that had her episode of Star Docu on it—the one with Tony and her teddy bear. Oh noes! Gone forever! Sigh, this is a pain the digital age knoweth not.

Yoon-jae cries himself to sleep as Hyung apologizes through the door—he didn’t know Yoon-jae was the leader of that class, he swears.

And as he cries, his pager goes off in a round of angry messages from Shi-won: “18 18 18 18 / 4 4 4 4 4.” [Fuck fuck fuck fuck / Die die die die die.]

Shi-won narrates: “A rear end hit, by Hyung for the first time in his life. A ripped heart, like a video tape that’s been cut.”

Yoo-jung sits up calling Yoon-jae’s pager too, but just to hear his voice on the recorded greeting. The narration continues:

Shi-won: An age where you feel like you could love anyone, where you put everything on the line for the smallest of things. Eighteen. Adults say that it’s an age where we laugh if a leaf tumbles by. But back then, we were more serious than any adult, more intense, and had our strength tested. 1997. That was how our eighteen was beginning.

Epilogue: Shi-won walks out of her bedroom in the morning wearing her own Guess! sweatshirt, and freaks out to see that Mom has washed Tony t-shirt. Not the one with oppa’s sweat on it! She collapses in a tantrum. Turns out the exclamation point is more fitting than they know.

EPISODE 2: “Becoming More and More Different”


Yangpa – “애송이의 사랑 (Youth’s Love)” [ Download ]

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We open at the reunion again, and this time Yoo-jung whispers that she’s “picked a date.” Er? A wedding date perhaps? Shi-won gasps that she’s fearless and tells her not to do it, but she swears she’ll be reborn as a Yoo-jung with a bigger chest. Ha, nice misdirect.

The boys ask what surgery and she says they needn’t know; it’s a surgery only women can have. As they laugh over her obvious plan to get breast implants (and Hak-chan gives a slow clap), Yoon-jae narrates, “There’s a surgery only men can have…”

Back to 1997, where Yoon-jae limps out of a clinic after getting circumcised. At eighteen? Ouch. Shi-won’s mom helps him out, and he asks her not to tell Shi-won about this, because it’s embarrassing. Mom swears her lips are sealed.

But just as she says it, Shi-won comes running up and jumps onto Yoon-jae’s back, “I hear you’re a man now!” He doubles over in pain and she teases him relentlessly, “Does it hurt that badly? I wouldn’t know. If you’re such a wuss about it, it’ll fall right off!”

He scowls at Mom, who insists it wasn’t her who told, only to have three random neighborhood shopkeepers stop to ask Yoon-jae how his surgery went. Oh no, that’s terrible.

Later that day, Shi-won practices her “Candy” steps while Yoon-jae looks for something in her room, and swears he can’t find it. She stomps in and digs through her backpack for him, handing him one item at a time without looking.

She doesn’t notice until it’s too late that they’re standing there holding onto each side of a maxi pad. They freeze like that, not knowing how to get out of this awkward moment.

A few days later, Tae-woong plays Go Stop with Shi-won’s parents, and Mom asks if Yoon-jae is healing okay after his surgery. Tae-woong says with a smile that he’s perfectly healthy.

Flashback to earlier that morning, when he found Yoon-jae hiding in the bathroom, washing his underwear. He snickers, “Did you have another dream? Who was it? Kim Hee-sun? Lee Seung-yeon? Uhm Jung-hwa?” Omg, dying of mortification for you.

Back to the game, where Tae-woong asks why Shi-won isn’t coming home. Mom says she ran away again because she fought with Dad, and they say it like it’s an everyday occurrence.

Flashback to two hours earlier. Dad opens the mail to find Shi-won’s report card. It’s got 48s all over it, as in 48th place out of 48 students. He flips his lid, while Mom just laughs, acting like getting last place is an achievement in and of itself.

He storms into Shi-won’s room, where she’s too busy listening to H.O.T. to hear anything Dad says. She says nonchalantly that she knows she’s last place. Dad: “What’re you going to be when you grow up?”

Shi-won: “Tony’s wife!” Dad: “Who would like a chicken brain like you?” He says that Yoon-jae is always first in his class, and Shi-won counters that the Busan Seagulls (Dad’s baseball team) are always in last place too. Ha, not the best approach, methinks.

Dad loses it and starts tearing up all the posters in her room, calling her certifiably crazy. Dude, did you steal this from my life? Or does every teenage girl’s dad do this at least once?

She screams bloody murder, while he shouts that if she ends up in last place one more time, he’s going to disown her and adopt Yoon-jae instead. He rips up everything in his path, leaving her clutching her posters in tears.

She sits on her floor sobbing, trying to tape all the pieces together. It’s both heartbreaking and hysterical.

Back in the present, Mom and Dad figure there’s only one place she ever ends up—with Yoon-jae, so they don’t even pretend to worry. Shi-won puts a coin in the payphone to make a call, but hesitates.

Yoon-jae sits at home, stewing about something else. Flashback to nine hours earlier in his day, when Sung-jae was insisting he had to listen to his new Yangpa tape. Yoon-jae calls her name ridiculous (it means onion) and her song “Youth’s Love” childish.

He scoffs that if a song like that becomes a hit, he’ll strip down and tumble ten laps around the field at the all-girls’ high school. Cut to a month later, where Joon-hee and Sung-jae watch, as Yoon-jae does cartwheels around the field, in nothing but his tighty whities. LOL.

Back to 9 hours before the card game. Shi-won shows off her latest idol magazine and judiciously gives her friends the pages with their oppas. They swoon over all the members of H.O.T. and then scowl when they turn the page to find rival idol group Sechskies (and a tiny baby Eun Ji-won) in the same zine as their oppas. How dare they?

She’s about to rip those pages out, when Yoo-jung asks for the page with Woo-hyuk oppa on it, which happens to have Eun Ji-won on the backside.

Class starts and the teacher asks why Shi-won didn’t do her homework. She says she really wanted to, but couldn’t because her friend borrowed her book. The teacher wants a name so she says Yoon-jae’s…

But when interrogated, Yoon-jae denies it. Shi-won sits the rest of the class with her arms in the air, out in the hallway, cursing him.

Seven hours pre-game. Joon-hee comes by during lunch to tend to Shi-won’s sore arms, while she calls Yoon-jae one syllable short of a son of a bitch, incidentally meaning “dog bird.” The air is still icy when he comes by to eat with them.

Shi-won cuts herself opening a can, and Joon-hee immediately takes her hand in concern, while Yoon-jae scoffs, “You won’t die.” She gives him a kick in the shoulder for being an ass.

In the present, Mom wonders where on earth Shi-won went if not to Yoon-jae. Shi-won does call Yoon-jae’s pager, but lets out a long sigh, not knowing how to proceed.

Four hours pre-game. Shi-won searches for something in the grass and grins. On their way home from school, Yoon-jae apologizes, and Shi-won asks if he’s really sorry. She tells him to put out his hand.

She gives him something and closes his fist around it. In voiceover he says: “There are two things I am afraid of in this word. Sung Shi-won and frogs.” He opens his hand to find a little green frog and he flips out.

Shi-won picks it back up and chases him all the way home, cornering him with it and taunting him endlessly, to his utter horror.

Suddenly the ruckus stops. We pan down to see them at the bottom of the steps, frozen. In his haste to get her to stop, Yoon-jae has put both his hands straight out in front of him… and right onto her chest. Hahahaha.

They’re both stunned so speechless that they just stand there, as the frog leaps to his escape.

Now we know why they’re both cringing in the present. Shi-won holds the phone up, just listening to the dial tone. She finally puts it down, unable to make the call.

She calls Yoo-jung instead and leaves a voicemail that she’ll wait at her place, and as Yoo-jung listens to the message, she takes off running in a panic.

Ooh, suspense. Shi-won gets closer as Yoo-jung runs. Her mom lets her in and Shi-won heads upstairs. She opens the door to Yoo-jung’s room…

Commercial break? Aaaaah!

She opens the door, and sees something. Yoo-jung arrives behind her, with a panicked expression on her face. Oh no, is it going to be what I think it is?

At the same time, the Go Stop game is building to a high point, and Mom thinks it’s in the bag. She plays her hand and starts her victory cheer, when Tae-woong and Dad initiate their reversal. Mom slaps Dad upside the head, and everyone gasps.

Back to the girls. Shi-won sneers and looks back at Yoo-jung, who’s near tears by now. She looks back at Yoo-jung’s walls… covered with posters of Sechkies, and of Eun Ji-won in particular, surrounded by hearts.

HAHAHAHAHAHA. I’m dying. This cracks me UP. It’s the utter seriousness with which they play the moment. For them, it’s et tu Brute?

To add insult to injury, there’s the page from her magazine that Shi-won gave her earlier, only now it’s clear that she wanted it for Ji-won oppa.

As the parents break out into a fight and Yoo-jung calls Shi-won in tears in the aftermath to say that it doesn’t mean she loves H.O.T. any less, Yoon-jae narrates:

Yoon-jae: Go Stop, a game where you have to match the same shapes to get points. There was a time when we struggled to be the same. But in one moment, we began to be different. That we were becoming different types of people—why was that so hard to acknowledge back then? People are all different; that’s the law of the universe, the law of human growth. Eighteen. We were maturing into different people, and having to accept those differences meant we were faced with yet another consequence of growing up.

Sometime later, Shi-won comes out to find Sung-jae washing up after gym class and they tease each other about whose chest is bigger. She comes around the fountain and has a very different reaction to Yoon-jae.

He narrates that it was 1997, and already a while since their second stage of maturity had begun, when they had already become different. He says he wanted in that moment to confirm, if what they were feeling was embarrassment over having discovered that they were different…

Or if she had become his first love.

He inches closer to her and then stops. He says just one word: “Confirmation,” and kisses her.

She blinks in surprise, and as they kiss, we get flashbacks to their childhood together.

As he pulls away slowly, he narrates that by the law of maturity, a boy grows into a man and a girl will grow into a woman. But the problem is when a boy who grows into a man, and the girl is still a girl. When the timing is wrong…

She kicks him in the shins, “You crazy bastard!” Ha. She attacks to cover up her embarrassment, and chases him up and down the schoolyard.

Back to 2012. The boys swear there was a month during their junior year when the girls didn’t speak to each other. They’re like, “Us?”

And as they chitchat, Shi-won’s bra strap falls out of place, and Yoon-jae leans over to pull her shirt back in place. They smile. Hm.


I love a high school drama done right, when it manages to capture that feeling of youth that can’t compare to how you see the world as adults, when everything is fire and ice, life and death, and your oppa is everything. It’s just universal, no matter where you live or what your idol group was (or is)—and I think the show does something great in conveying that feeling, outside of the specific pop culture references of the time. The fact that it’s also my adolescence that coincides with theirs is just icing on the cake for me, because I get to relieve it in a personal way.

It already feels like a full world with a rich set of characters, and I love pretty much every single one of them. I can’t wait to see the various friendships develop as Hak-chan joins the group next week. (I hope they make a reference to him looking like Yoo-jung’s new favorite idol, or is it funnier if they never do?) Yoon-jae’s growing crush already breaks my heart in a great way, and I can’t wait to see Shi-won, if ever, catch up to him.

There’s something so awesome about telling an enclosed story about one year in people’s lives. The writing feels very assured—after the first two episodes I trust that they know completely the story they want to tell, and how every little event that seems insignificant will end up shaping the adults they become. The tone of this sits so well with me—not hammy but just broad enough to be silly at times, totally willing to play a scene straight for the characters to get a laugh out of us, and completely earnest and heartfelt.

It’s not a story that could be told in 1997, but only now, looking back on then. But that’s what I adore about gems like Freaks and Geeks, though it was set in an era before my pop references (think: Grateful Dead). It conveyed a view on adolescence that only someone who’s suffered through it and survived could do. Gotta do the time to tell the tale. Making that point of view transparent by using narrative voiceovers and the class reunion as a framing device helps to root it as that kind of story, plus I love the mystery of which couple makes it to marriage fifteen years later. Consider me hooked.


153 August 2, 2012January 24, 2016

Answer Me 1997: Episodes 3-4

by girlfriday

I luff this show. So much. It’s rare to meet a high school drama that genuinely makes me go, Yes, that’s what it was like! This series isn’t afraid to let its characters feel every ounce of embarrassment, insecurity, and earnest joy—the honest, lovely, and sometimes ugly truth about what it’s like to be eighteen. I already loved the characters and the world, but then came the birth of the best love triangle ever. And now I just want to live here. Wake me when it’s 2012.


K2 – “소유하지 않은 사랑 (A Love I Don’t Possess)” [ Download ]

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EPISODE 3: “What You See Is Not Everything”

Summer of 1997. Mom and Dad argue up a storm over Shi-won’s latest antics. Dad calls her names, Mom calls Dad names, and ’round and ’round we go. Must’ve been something bad.

We backtrack to three days earlier. Shi-won plans out her route in Seoul to get to… Tony oppa’s house. HA. She’s determined to see him this time. Now I get why Dad was livid.

She joins the small group of diehard fangirls already camped out in front of Tony’s house with various gifts, and they all jump to attention at the arrival of his little blue sports car.

He greets them nonchalantly and tells them that he’s not going to come out for a while, so they should all go home. They sigh disappointedly, but most comply. By 9 o’clock that night, they’re down to three other girls and Shi-won, who’s looking more haggard by the hour.

6 A.M. Shi-won pokes her head out of… an appliance box? Dude, you did not spend the night in a box outside oppa’s house like a homeless fangirl stalker!

She groggily wipes off her face with a wet wipe, and by 1 P.M. she’s a walking zombie, stopping for instant ramyun in a convenience store in a sleepy haze.

The longer she waits is just fuel to the fire: “I can’t go like this!” And by nightfall the second day, she’s climbing the wall. Oh. No. Does this end in jail?

She sneaks up to the front door, which happens to be cricked open for the dog to do its business, and Tony comes out to fetch his little poodle. She scares him half to death, and he just sighs, clearly immune to the crazy.

He starts to shut the door but she pleads, “I came from Busan!” Tony: “I came from America!” He slams the door.

Shi-won berates herself for scaring Oppa, and acting so stupid. Aw, she’s not even upset that he shut the door in her face?

She sits on his front stoop, crying so sorrowfully it’s adorable.

Suddenly a voice calls out, “Hey, Busan!” Yay! She whirls around and Tony oppa signs her t-shirt, telling her this is the last time, so she shouldn’t come around anymore. He asks if she has train fare to get home. D’aw.

With her head still hanging, she ekes out, “Oppa, I love you.” He laugh-sighs at her like the little girl that she is and pats her on the head as she cries.

Back to Dad, who screams that he’d like to see Shi-won love her father like she loves “that monkey,” and Mom screams right back that he went too far with Shi-won’s punishment this time. He says yelling doesn’t get through to her anymore.

We pan over to see Shi-won in the aftermath, her hair shorn off and still stifling her sobs. Aw, *hugs.*

2012 Reunion. Yoo-jung waits for confirmation on some concert tickets on her phone, and the girls sigh that being a fan doesn’t mean what it used to—not like the days when they’d have to stand in line and put in the time to see their oppas.

“A Love I Don’t Possess” plays on the stereo and Shi-won immediately identifies it as Yoon-jae’s favorite song. That takes him back, as he reminisces about the time he heard it sent to his pager as a song message, from mystery sender “1004,” aka “Angel.”

In the morning after the hair debacle, Mom and Dad have another knockdown fight over the breakfast table, when Dad discovers that they’ve run out of his mother’s kimchi. He whines like a giant baby that he can’t eat without his mother’s kimchi, going on and on about how perfect she is.

Mom snaps and takes away his food, and tells him to go live with his mother then, and ask her to breastfeed him while he’s at. HA. I love her.

Shi-won drags Yoon-jae out before he can ask what’s going on, and as soon as he sees her new hair, he sighs, “What’d you do this time?” He totally sides with her dad about her going all the way to Seoul, and she snaps at his nagging.

They catch up to Joon-hee on their walk to school, and he sweetly compliments her new hair, saying she looks like Audrey Hepburn now. Aw, it’s a lie but it’s very sweet. He asks why she’s so down and Shi-won says it’s because her parents are always fighting.

She decides she’s going to the local government office today, because someone needs to put a stop to this: “People from Kyungsangdo and Jeollado shouldn’t legally be allowed to marry!” Lol. I hardly think you need a law to reinforce generations of feuding between the regions, but it says a lot about her parents that they managed to marry anyway.

Joon-hee tsk-tsks that she probably didn’t get to eat breakfast then, and offers to buy her something before class. She points out the vast difference between I-told-you-so-Yoon-jae and caring Joon-hee. They go off arm-in-arm, leaving Yoon-jae scowling.

Sung-jae is busy that morning tending to his Tamagotchi, those little virtual pets before there was an app for that. Unsurprisingly, I always killed mine. Yoon-jae takes his bitter mood out on Sung-jae.

Joon-hee walks Shi-won to class and asks if things are still icy between her and Yoo-jung since her jumping ship to you-know-who. He tells her that Yoo-jung wants to make peace, but Shi-won still feels betrayed—not that Yoo-jung became a Sechskies fan, but that she lied to her about it.

But when she reaches the top of the stairs, Yoo-jung is standing at the end of the hallway with determination. As the music swells, she takes off her hat… to reveal an identical haircut to Shi-won’s, in solidarity. That’s. So. Cute.

Shi-won looks up in shock and Yoo-jung smiles sheepishly. They stand there grinning at each other, already made up without a word. I just love the smile on Shi-won’s face. Is there anything better than a best friend?

They linger in that perfect moment, and then Sung-jae comes through with a mop to undercut the earnestness: “Are you two shooting a commercial?” Pfft.

It turns out Sung-jae’s on cleaning duty a lot, because it’s the go-to punishment for not getting the right answers or generally misbehaving. Not a surprise.

That day the boys get a new classmate, a student who transferred from Seoul because of his army dad. Enter DO HAK-CHAN (Eun! Ji! Won!). He’s well-spoken and very polite, and introduces himself to the class.

Sung-jae makes cracks about his weird accent but then gets put on show-the-new-kid-around duty because he’s the clean-up guy today. He turns around and purposely speed-talks unintelligibly that he’ll show him around later, leaving Hak-chan confused.

The bell rings and the girls dash out of class to line up at the payphone. Shi-won calls to hear the announcement that H.O.T.’s second album will go on sale tomorrow. Time for squeals.

Yoon-jae comes by to ask if Shi-won is “Angel,” the one who sent him the song, and she scoffs that that would make her crazy. He doesn’t even give Yoo-jung a second look, even though she’s batting her IT WAS ME eyelashes at him. You dolt.

Sung-jae half-assedly shows Hak-chan around, and then leaves him standing in the middle of the hallway with his milk crate while he runs an errand. When he comes back he finds Hak-chan being hit by the principal.

Turns out Sung-jae spilled milk the whole way up the hall and then left Hak-chan standing there with the evidence, and cringes. But Hak-chan’s totally chill about it, which makes Sung-jae decide on the spot that he’s cool after all.

At lunch, Shi-won asks Joon-hee to page her early tomorrow so she can line up to get her H.O.T. album as soon as the record store opens. Yoon-jae doesn’t understand why she’d have to do that just to get an album she’s already reserved a copy of, and she spits back, “Well YOU’RE the person I least understand in the entire world!”

He’s been sipping her drink from her straw and she snatches it away angrily. Yoo-jung sweetly offers him hers, and he tellingly pops her straw out before drinking it thoughtlessly.

Sung-jae joins them with big news: the new kid’s going to give Yoon-jae a run for his money as the “king card” (best catch) in their class. He says he’s asked around and then rattles off outrageous rumor after rumor, of how Hak-chan stuck a pencil in a kid’s head for messing with him, or tossed back a drink with the principal of his last school, and how he supposedly has a porn collection AND a manga collection that anyone would kill for.

I love that in Sung-jae’s mind, Hak-chan has gone from that kid from Seoul who thinks he’s better than everyone to his new hero, all in the span of half an hour.

Shi-won finds Mom and Dad having another screamfest that night, and early the next morning she tells Joon-hee that she’s worried about them. They won’t listen to her and she’s asked Yoon-jae to say something, but he refuses to get involved. Joon-hee says that’s Yoon-jae’s charm and Shi-won scoffs at the idea that Yoon-jae has any good traits.

They get their precious copies of Volume 2: Wolf and Sheep, and walk into school sharing headphones, and talking about Yoon-jae the whole time.

Joon-hee points out that Yoon-jae likes K2, and Shi-won sighs that everything down to their musical tastes are complete and total opposites.

She rattles off a litany of weird and picky things that Yoon-jae does, from food choices to his insistence on tighty whities. Joon-hee: “There’s really nothing you don’t know about Yoon-jae.” Shi-won: “We’ve been together since the moment we were born. There hasn’t been a single day I haven’t seen him. I’m sick to death of him!”

Behind them, Yoon-jae watches them walk in together, chummy and laughing. He’s especially bitter that he’s carried her lunch all the way to school, to be greeted by that.

He storms into Shi-won’s class to drop off her lunch, setting off the rest of the girls in a flurry of mirror checks and waves. But all he cares about is asking Shi-won if it really wasn’t her—Angel, the one who sent him the song.

Urg, it’s so obviously not her, but it pains me that he wants to believe it was her badly enough that he’s asking again. She asks why on earth she’d do such a thing, and he does his trademark move, running his fingers down her face. She sticks out her tongue childishly.

The other girls ask jealously if she’s going out with Yoon-jae and Shi-won just sneers at them too, like they’re all crazy.

Yoo-jung tries on a headband to work her best Lee Seung-yeon look, and tells Shi-won she could be Kim Nam-joo in Model. I totally wanted to be her. She says she’s going to grow it instead and be Kim Hee-sun in Propose. I wanted to be her too! Yoon-jae: “You’re both ugly!” Pfft.

Today Sung-jae brings Hak-chan to the lunch table. But Hak-chan goes white in the face as soon as he sees the girls, and awkwardly tries to squeeze on the boys’ side of the table so he doesn’t have to sit near them.

He’s SO AWKWARD, I love it. What happened to smooth introduction guy? This is hilarious. He perches on the verrrry edge of the bench and Yoo-jung watches curiously, and then yanks him closer for a good look. The girls introduce themselves, and Hak-chan can’t even look at them as he mumbles his name.

Everyone’s like, what’s with this guy? Sung-jae mutters that he’s not normally like this…

Yoo-jung has to practically accost him to get a look at his face, and then immediately squeals at his long eyelashes. But the attention just makes him even more awkward, and when Shi-won puts her hand out for a shake, he closes his eyes and reaches blindly behind him like a crazy person, shaking at nothing wildly.

Shi-won narrates: “A face like a prince, charisma like fireworks, athletic skill, and even leadership ability… God gave Hak-chan everything. But to be fair, he left one thing out. Do Hak-chan, who learned of women through porn: in front of a real woman, becomes a complete and total idiot, a first-class moron.” HA.

Shi-won and Mom watch tv that night, and the news reports that the Busan Seagulls have broken their losing streak and finally won a game. Soon Dad arrives in the driveway and starts honking his horn and shouting for Mom to come down and they start yelling at each other as she heads out.

Shi-won sighs as she chats with Joon-hee online, saying that their fights are just getting worse and worse, even when he’s won a game. She goes outside to check on them after a while…

Only to open the car door on Mom and Dad gettin’ busy in the backseat like a couple of teenagers. Hahaha. That’s not fighting! Shi-won’s so shocked she can’t even look away.

Dad finally has to tell her to go inside, and she awkwardly complies, and then he closes the door: “Well we got caught anyway, might as well…”

She goes back to her computer, stunned, as Joon-hee asks if everything’s okay. He puts on his jacket to head over, and she tells him she’ll see him tomorrow. Joon-hee: “Tell me what happened…Is it a secret?”

Shi-won: “Yes, a secret, one that I’ll never tell anyone for the rest of my life.” Joon-hee: “Then I’ll tell you my secret. Tell me.” Shi-won: “Your secret won’t compare.” Joon-hee: “Mine will be stronger…” If it’s what I think it is, he totally wins.

She finally types: “I saw… my parents… doing it…” She figures her secret’s got him beat, but after a pause he types: “Truthfully… I like…” and we don’t get to see the rest. But whatever it says, Shi-won’s eyes turn to saucers.

She narrates: “Anyone’s secret tells a truth that I could not have known. And then when what I knew is no longer real… secrets have more power. How much of what I know is actually true?”

In the aftermath, Shi-won and Mom sit awkwardly on the couch trying desperately to ignore what happened and watch some tv. Dad comes in with ice cream for everyone and they sit together, all acting way too cheery, but trying to be normal.

Mom hands Shi-won an ice cream cone, and then goes to hand Dad his… as it lands smack dab in his lap, cone-side-up. HAHAHAHAHAHA. Their eyes dart back and forth in the most awesomely awkward silence, and Shi-won gets up to scootch to her room without a word. *cringe* I’m dying.

Yoon-jae stays up late that night, listening to another K2 song sent by Angel over and over again, wondering who the hell it is.

Fifteen hours earlier. Shi-won and Joon-hee get to the record store to get their H.O.T. albums. It’s Joon-hee’s turn up to the counter and the shopkeeper asks for ticket and birthdate. Joon-hee: “October 4.” OMG. Ajusshi: “1004? Angel.”

Eeeeeee! I knew his crush would be on Yoon-jae! I totally didn’t expect him to be Angel too, just because Yoo-jung had been set up to be the misdirect with her pager stalking. But how sweet that he’s the one sending Yoon-jae’s favorite songs. My heart, it already bleeds for you.

As we go over the day’s events we see the chat from Joon-hee’s side. He types: “I like… Yoon-jae…” and hesitates. He presses Enter and bites his lip. Shi-won narrates:

Shi-won: A person’s heart has countless levels. Its depth cannot be known. Its limit can’t be known. You could fight to the death, and then exchange affection as if nothing ever happened. A red-blooded male could turn into an imbecile in front of the opposite sex. Yes, the truth is uncomfortable. But if we don’t embrace that discomfort, then we must live the rest of our lives believing what’s fake to be real. Even uncomfortable truths must be embraced. What you see is not everything.

Reunion, 2012. The girls take Hak-chan’s picture to run it through the celebrity lookalike app. The result: 100% match for Eun Ji-won. Ha. Yoo-jung says she doesn’t see the resemblance, while Hak-chan throws a fit.

Joon-hee tells them to stop teasing—Hak-chan hates being told he looks like Eun Ji-won: “How old is he and he’s still a choding?” Shi-won tells the guys to take a group photo with superstar Eun Ji-won and Yoon-jae makes his way to the other side of the table.

He puts his arm around Joon-hee who remains separated from the group, so Yoon-jae pulls him close. Aw. If you two end up the couple in the end, Show, I will luff you forever. But even if it’s just an I-love-you-as-my-friend-no-matter-what, which I sincerely hope it is, I will love you just the same. *sniff*

EPISODE 4: “Fair Play”


Sarah Vaughan – “A Lover’s Concerto” [ Download ]

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Reunion, 2012. The group argues over whom to vote for – Kim Soo-hyun or Han Seok-kyu. Ha, for the Daesang? Shi-won tells Yoon-jae to massage her back and he complies without batting an eyelash.

Yoo-jung votes for the young hottie, of course, while Shi-won argues for Han Seok-kyu and how his face ought to be on the 10,000 won bill anyway. Yoon-jae laughs as he thinks back to ’97, when Han Seok-kyu was still the topic of conversation…

Fall, 1997. Joon-hee and Shi-won watch Han Seok-kyu and Jeon Do-yeon’s movie, The Contact. Shi-won swoons over Han Seok-kyu and argues that he’s way better than that annoying Busan kid, Yoon-jae.

Joon-hee: “Do you know that everything you say ends in badmouthing Yoon-jae?” Shi-won: “Does it?”

At the same time in Seoul, Yoon-jae’s brother Tae-woong walks down the street and hears a familiar song. It’s “A Lover’s Concerto,” made popular again because of The Contact’s soundtrack. He stops at the tape vendor’s stand to ask for the album, as he flashes back to a young girl he tutored back in 1991 (played by Standby’s Kim Ye-won).

She was madly in love with him, wanting everything that he ever touched: his pencil, his lip balm, the sweater off his back, or the cushion under his ass. Everything was: “Oppa give me that!” She made it into college with his help and that day asked for his lips, surprising him with a kiss.

Back to 1997. Shi-won comes home late to join Yoon-jae and her parents at the kitchen table. They wonder where she went and she says she went to see The Contact. Annoyed, Yoon-jae reminds her they were supposed to see that together this weekend. It totally slipped her mind.

Did she see it alone? “No, with Joon-hee.” He gapes, “The TWO of you?”

Mom smiles and asks if Shi-won is dating, and Dad gives her the side-eye: “My daughter, last place in school and dating too… you’re the busiest person in all of Busan.” Shi-won swears they’re just friends, but Mom smirks, “There’s no such thing as friends between boys and girls!”

Shi-won: “Sure there is, right here.” She nods at Yoon-jae. Ouuuuuch.

That night, Shi-won gets online, ready to live out her own version of Han Seok-kyu and Jeon Do-yeon’s internet-chat movie romance, only to find that 60,000 other people already beat her to Jeon Do-yeon’s screen name from the movie. She settles for being number 65342.

She chats with a college student in Seoul in the ROTC, but when he asks about Busan like it’s a tiny town in sticksville, she says her mom needs the phone and ends the chat abruptly.

It’s the day of the Korea-Japan World Cup Qualifying Match, and Dad and Yoon-jae are already parked in front of the tv. Dad calls out to Shi-won to make sure that the chicken’s been ordered, and she looks up in a panic.

She was too busy going through her latest idol magazine with Yoo-jung to remember. Whoops. She pokes her head out to face them with her sincerest apologies, and confesses the whole truth.

Dad grumbles at her use of “fair play” and she explains to Yoo-jung that “fair play” is a surprise tactic: they think you’re going to lie, but you attack with the truth and therefore cannot be argued with. She smiles, “I’m not a coach’s daughter for nothing.”

One by one the boys arrive. Hak-chan is back to being his smooth eloquent self and immediately gets on Dad’s good side by saying he’s a fan. Then Joon-hee comes in, and Dad is impressed with his looks.

Sung-jae he knows only too well, and bribes him with Park Jung-tae’s bat if he can watch the game with his trap shut. Joon-hee’s the only one who goes to see Mom in the kitchen, and he sweetly compliments her, saying she’s looking younger every day.

She says loudly so everyone can hear, how NICE it would be to have such a husband, a son, or a son-in-law. Yoon-jae throws some eye-daggers his way.

Then Joon-hee joins the girls in Shi-won’s room as they’re squeeing over a message from the college boy Shi-won chatted with last night. He wants to meet in the chatroom again.

Yoo-jung: “You might date a boy from Seoul!” Joon-hee grabs Shi-won’s face with both his hands and tells her to do well… which is exactly when Yoon-jae walks in to tell them the game is starting.

He looks back and forth between them silently, and they stay frozen like that too, her face still in his hands.

Finally Yoon-jae tells them to hurry in his usual gruff way and walks out, leaving them behind in the room, smiling awkwardly.

Shi-won: “Still like him now?” Haha. This is the Best. Love triangle. Ever.

Joon-hee prods her to chat with ROTC guy, and meanwhile the game starts and Yoon-jae sits there stewing and wondering why they’re not coming out of the room.

Yoo-jung tries to get Yoon-jae’s attention any way she can, but he’s so distracted he can barely hear her. She tells him that Shi-won’s busy chatting with her soon-to-be ROTC college boyfriend, and you can practically see steam coming from his ears, like, There’s another guy?

Meanwhile, in Seoul, Tae-woong comes out of a friend’s wedding as his buddies urge him to move on with his life and get out of Busan. He says he will after he sends Yoon-jae to college, and then passes a street artist doing portraits.

It flashes him back to 1992, when he and his girlfriend had their portraits drawn together, and he had written a marriage proposal on it, using her original bad-English wording from when she was still a high school student. She squeals in delight.

Back to the soccer game. Shi-won and Joon-hee finally join the group and when they sit next to each other, Yoon-jae snipes at Joon-hee to move his head because he can’t see. So petty.

The game starts to get tense and Yoo-jung wraps her arms around Hak-chan, who can barely keep himself from spontaneously combusting right there in the middle of the living room.

And Yoon-jae has his arms around Joon-hee, whose omg-my-crush-is-hugging-me moment just kills me.

Suddenly the doorbell rings with a chicken delivery—a mistake, since they clearly forgot to order theirs. Yoon-jae is the only one to protest that they shouldn’t steal someone else’s chicken, but he’s outvoted and Mom says on a day like today, it’s okay to bend the rules.

He protests that the chicken shop owner knows them and will probably call, and Mom says they won’t answer the phone then. Shi-won whines that her ROTC oppa is due to call, which then makes Yoon-jae change his mind. Convenient, romance-killing chicken.

The game starts winding down 0-1, and they call it a day and filter out, sure that Korea’s never going to turn a loss around in the final moments of the game. Only Sung-jae is left to watch the rest in silence.

But of course, as soon as the room empties out, Korea scores its first goal. Sung-jae breaks his vow of silence and screeeeeeeeams.

Everybody runs back and gathers in front of the tv, and then they watch as Team Korea scores another goal and wins the game. The living room explodes in a sea of happy screams and hugs, and Hak-chan nearly has a heart attack at Yoo-jung’s show of affection.

Sung-jae finally gets to open his mouth, letting loose a barrage of things he’s been holding back since the start of the game, and Yoon-jae hugs Dad and then turns to Shi-won…

…who’s too busy hugging Joon-hee to notice him. Oof. His face darkens. They scream for joy, locked in a seemingly endless embrace from his point of view. He narrates:

Yoon-jae: I knew in that moment, that when you like someone, you have eyes for her in the sides and the back of your head. And that if you don’t knock, there will be no answer. Standing in place will not get you what you want. There’s no such thing as fair play anymore.

And then… the phone rings. Everyone freezes.

Yoon-jae is the only one who gets up to answer. He picks it up and everyone holds their breath, and Yoon-jae apologizes to the chicken shop, owning up to the deed and promising to stop by the shop later. They all commend him for his fair play.

Only… on the other end of the line is ROTC boy (Im Shi-wan? Is everyone from Standby coming for a visit?), asking over and over for Shi-won, as Yoon-jae jabbers on about chicken.

Damn, Yoon-jae’s not messing around. In voiceover, again: “There’s no such thing as fair play anymore.”

Back to 1992, when Tae-woong couldn’t go on a trip with his girlfriend because the Seagulls were about to play the final game of the Korean series. She pleaded and pleaded but he said no, and let her borrow his prized possession, the walkman his dad gave him before he died, with a tape of their song, “A Lover’s Concerto.”

They wave goodbye as she gets on the bus. The Seagulls win the series and Dad calls Mom from the locker room, on cloud nine. He’s talking at her a mile a minute, but suddenly his face freezes. Oh no.

He lets the phone drop as he turns his attention to the tv. The bus crashed, didn’t it? Ohgodohgod… The list of victims gets read over and over on the screen. As the phone falls to the ground, we hear Mom’s voice screaming in terror, “Our Song-joo! Our Song-joo! What about our Song-joo?!”


There’s her name on the screen: SUNG Song-joo. She’s their DAUGHTER? Holy crap!

And then Tae-woong comes in looking for Dad with flowers in his hands. Dad can barely manage to say, “Tae-woong-ah… our Song-joo…” He turns to the tv, and sees the news. Augh.

1997, post-soccer game. Dad yells for Sung-jae to go get Ajumma’s wallet from the nightstand so he can treat the kids out to dinner. He opens a door and Yoo-jung stops him, “That’s Shi-won’s unni’s room. The master bedroom is this way.”

And through the cracked doorway, we see the framed portrait of Song-joo and Tae-woong sitting there on the shelf. Heartbreak.

Tae-woong gets back from Seoul that night and Shi-won runs into him on her way back from walking Yoo-jung home.

She sees that he’s got a shiny new portable CD player and asks for a listen. It’s still playing “A Lover’s Concerto.” She swoons at the thought of listening to H.O.T. on it and puts on her aegyo smile, “Oppa, give this to me!” Aw, exactly how her sister used to say it.

It stuns him at first, and then he smiles sweetly, “Sure.” She lights up and he pats her on the head.

But as she runs off with a skip in her step, a different feeling comes over him, perhaps reminded of Song-joo, or perhaps noticing Shi-won for the first time.

Reunion, 2012. Tae-woong walks in the door (!) and everyone gets up to greet their teacher. He sits down next to Shi-won and pats her head sweetly, as we get reminded in voiceover that at this dinner, one couple will announce a wedding.


A twist! I love it!

Omo, what a wrench to throw into the final mystery. I like that we have a new player in the game, even if I’m still rooting for Yoon-jae. Competition in his older, nicer brother is going to complicate things in a big way. I didn’t expect that the circle would expand, but now that Tae-woong is here, I feel like someone’s going to give Yoon-jae a run for his money because the other boys weren’t likely candidates if Shi-won is one half of that final couple. Right now I’m rooting for Yoon-jae in 1997 more than in 2012, because I’m not one for first love having to be the end-all be-all, but Tae-woong’s arrival suddenly shifts things and I want Yoon-jae to step it up.

I really love the careful reveals on this show—when we first met Tae-woong, he was just a teacher, and then Yoon-jae came home and we found that he was Hyung. Suddenly it changes everything that we’ve seen in retrospect. And then again here with Song-joo, who I just assumed would be a painful memory of Tae-woong’s first love, but she turns out to be connected to everyone. What heartbreak this family has, though you wouldn’t know it in the everyday. The reveal was so perfect and so heartwrenching, and something about Yoo-jung’s very casual, “That’s Shi-won’s unni’s room,” killed me.

But the best reveal of all was Joon-hee’s. I suspected they might be dropping hints that he was gay when he said he like Cha In-pyo in Star in My Heart, and then quickly defended himself by saying that he was watching for Choi Jin-shil. Or when Sung-jae and Yoon-jae were naming dirty magazines and he had no idea what they were talking about. But they were small clues, and nothing to jump to conclusions about.

So when he confesses that he likes Yoon-jae, it’s a surprise because I certainly didn’t expect to find out so soon, let alone the fact that he’s in love with his best friend. I love everything about his nervous moment, of hitting Enter and waiting to see what Shi-won will say. And I love her even more, for being his friend just the same, without judgment.

And what follows is great because they’re naturally spending more time together—she’s the only one he’s come out to, so they’re going to be close—which sparks Yoon-jae’s jealousy because of course he only sees that his best friend is suddenly moving in on his girl. Everything about their love triangle is going to break my heart, but in the best way. This is teenage angst at its best, and dramaland on its A-game.


156 August 11, 2012January 24, 2016

Answer Me 1997: Episodes 5-6

by girlfriday

This show really knows how to take your heart through the wringer, but in the best way. It conveys that perfect smallness of adolescence, when that new pair of jeans or that one moment with your crush is your entire all-consuming world… But then life comes around once in a while to burst that bubble, and remind you that there’s a bigger universe outside of you.


Sechskies – “사랑하는 너에게 (To You, The One I Love)” [ Download ]

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Shhh… don’t tell Shi-won!

EPISODE 5: “Life’s Counterattack”

Fall, 1997. Dad and Shi-won have another epic shouting match in the car, this time over clothes. Shi-won HAS to have new designer jeans and Dad screams that if HE were last place in school, he wouldn’t have the gall to ask for a new anything.

He tells her at this point she’d be better off just giving up on school altogether and earning her own living, and the argument devolves into a screamfest. Mom sighs and suggests they stop for red bean fishes to take to Yoon-jae.

Shi-won gets out to buy some from the neighborhood vendor. (A cameo by MC/gagman Lee Yoon-suk, who’s hilariously playing a kid one year younger than Shi-won. He actually calls her noona.)

She alerts him to the fact that he can’t be wearing an H.O.T. hat with a Sechskies sweatshirt (The horror!) and orders him to take it off. He takes her literally, so I’m thinking he’s either the village idiot or afraid of Shi-won noona’s wrath.

Dad says he’d rather take in and raise that kid, while Shi-won’s jealous he has no parents, and back and forth they go again. She swears if he buys her these jeans she’ll study hard. Dad: “All I have to do is buy Yoon-jae one new pair of underwear and he gets first place all the time!”

Shi-won says she’ll swap families with Yoon-jae then, and Dad says they’ll go right now and change the family registry. Thank goodness Mom’s around to tell both children to shut their pieholes.

She tells them to calm down before they get into a car accident… about two seconds before they get into a car accident. Luckily it’s just a fender-bender, and Mom and Dad tell Shi-won to stay in the car because she can’t act.

They get out of the car doubled over in fake back and neck pains, and Kim Jong-min gets out of the other car? Ha, this show is like ’90s Celebrity Where’s Waldo. I’m sad his cameo isn’t with Eun Ji-won though.

Mom falls over in the street and Jong-min panics. He takes out his GIANT brick of a cell phone, “Oh no, I have to call 119 (emergency)! What’s the number?” Dad: “Call 114 (information) to ask!” Pffft.

While that’s going on, Shi-won turns up the radio in the car, where they’re running a contest for listeners to send in their stories to win the pair of jeans that she happens to be dying for.

Next thing you know, the radio host is telling Shi-won’s story about living every day in tears because her dear friend Yoon-jae was caught in a fire and suffered third-degree burns. As the story plays over the radio we cut to a hospital room…

And Yoon-jae sits up in a bed, eating a popsicle and scoffing. Ha. But all Shi-won wins for her entry is a toothbrush cleaner, and Yoon-jae spits a laugh.

Shi-won arrives and drops the pastries on the ground in disbelief at the measly prize her sob story got her. Apparently Yoon-jae isn’t the first of her friends to suffer a life-threatening accident in an attempt to win the jeans, and Shi-won ponders what a stronger entry would be.

At the same time, Mom and Dad get checked out in the emergency room. Even though the doctor says they’re fine, Dad insists on any and all acronym tests he can think of.

Yoo-jung joins the group and they ask if Shi-won did the big homework assignment due tomorrow, to transcribe 3000 phrases in both hanja and hangul. Dude. Apparently this teacher is famous for this epic assignment and its equally epic consequences: one hit per entry you didn’t complete.

Oops, she forgot. She makes her best puppy eyes at Yoon-jae, and looks over at his broken arm. “Can you… write with your left hand?” Ha. He narrows his eyes and calls her sub-human.

She helps him pick around the beans according to his little boy taste buds, and Yoon-jae notices that the bags have changed—now they feature a missing persons ad with a reward. Shi-won just sighs thinking of all the jeans she could buy with that much money.

He asks after Mom and Dad and she says they’re still touring the hospital, telling Yoo-jung that her parents are expert con artists when it comes to accidents. Yeah I’m getting that. Dad bursts in with drinks for all of Yoon-jae’s hospital bunkmates, in good cheer.

Later that night, Shi-won washes up and puts on her glasses. She comes out and sits on Yoon-jae’s bed, startling him. She says she’s staying here tonight since no one’s home anyway, and tells him (the patient, ha) to sleep in the cot down below.

He just stares dumbly. Shi-won: “Why are you looking at me like that? Am I so pretty you won’t be able to sleep?” Yoon-jae: “No, you’re so ugly I’m in shock.”

But once she falls asleep, he’s up all night, just staring at her. “How can you sleep?” He looks at those old familiar glasses on her face, and it takes him back to the last time he saw them.

1996, the first day of high school. Shi-won nervously puts in her contact lenses for the first time and revels in shedding her glasses for high school. Yoon-jae comes to get her and goes slackjawed. He narrates:

Yoon-jae: Bumping into someone on the street, reaching for the same book at the library, or running under someone’s umbrella… I thought that falling in love would be special. I couldn’t imagine… that I’d fall because of something like this. Spring of 1996. My first love began that suddenly.

I love how both grand and ordinary it is. Back in the hospital now he laughs as he mutters aloud: “Back then she was pretty because she took off her glasses. But now she’s still pretty even when she wears them.”

He gently pulls the glasses off her face and tucks her hair behind her ear. And then he leans in to kiss her ever so softly on the cheek.

The next day, Dad goes to take the trash out…oh noes, Daaaad, are you wearing the Club H.O.T. uniform as a raincoat? LOL. I’m already dying and the scene hasn’t happened yet.

Sure enough, Shi-won comes racing out in a panic, barefoot in the rain. She screams at Dad to takeitoff, takeitoff, TAKEITOFF, and he argues that all raincoats are the same and he’ll give it back to her inside.

But she pitches a fit that it’s one-of-a-kind and cries that he has to take it off this instant… and accidentally yanks the sleeves right off. HA.

Even Dad knows this is bad, and quickly peels if off and runs away, leaving her sitting in the middle of the street to get drenched and wail over her precious.

This time the boys come to visit Yoon-jae. He complains that all they brought was popsicles and asks if Hak-chan doesn’t have anything else for him. He peels open his jacket to produce a dirty magazine, which Yoon-jae promptly hides under his pillow. Hee.

But Joon-hee has a way better gift—the big homework assignment, which he’s already done for Yoon-jae. How cute are you? Yoon-jae motions for Joon-hee to come closer… and throws his arms around him. “You know I love you, right?”

Squeeee. You can just see Joon-hee’s heart skip a beat. He blinks awkwardly and breaks away with a smile. Yoon-jae figures if he hadn’t broken his arm, he’d have been writing 6000 entries—his and Shi-won’s.

Cut to Shi-won at her desk about two minutes into the assignment: “This is impossible. It just cannot be done.” Dad comes in, still feeling really bad about the H.O.T. raincoat, and asks how much the jeans are.

She lights up but as soon as he hears that they cost nearly 300 bucks they’re right back to disowning each other.

Mom tells Tae-woong that she’s sending Shi-won to the hospital with food, and that Dad has paid Yoon-jae’s hospital bills. Aw. Shi-won shows up in her torn raincoat in a foul mood.

It only gets worse when she gets to Yoon-jae’s room and they watch the news on tv: the red bean pastry boy turns out to be the missing child on the bags, and now he’s suddenly a chaebol heir. (Haha, is he playing both father and son?)

They gape and Shi-won sighs at the reward money that could’ve been hers. Tae-woong tells them that’s life—you never know when it’ll turn on you. Shi-won narrates that it’s true…

She comes home to a dark house and the phone rings. Something about the sound gives her pause. She narrates that it wasn’t a noise, but a cold wind, a nasty feeling…

She answers, and it’s Mom. She asks calmly if Shi-won has enough money to take a cab. Ohgod… Mom tells her not to be shocked.

Shi-won (voiceover): “Human beings have superpowers. That horrible telephone ring. It was an alarm from the gods.”

Mom: “Your father… has cancer.” Damn. The air goes still and her legs give out. She falls to her knees with a thud as Mom keeps talking. She says not to cry. “If you cry, Dad will go crazy.”

She rattles off a list of things to bring and tells her again not to cry. Finally the shock wears off and the tears start to come. Mom tells her not to cry and that she won’t too, her voice shaking as she cries on the other end of the line.

Shi-won breaks down, wailing: “What is this? What is this? Daddy! How can it be this way?” I’m screaming and wailing right there with her. It’s not fair!

The taxi ajusshi keeps looking back her, worried, and asks if there’s something wrong, if someone is sick. But she just cries silently and shakes her head no. He turns up the radio.

The final entry for the radio contest gets broadcast, and the winner is Shi-won, who wrote in about her father, a man who sacrificed his whole life for his family, and then was diagnosed with cancer. OH NO. You wrote this in yesterday, didn’t you? Oof. So that’s what a punch to the gut feels like.

She hears her own horrible lie being told back to her in this moment, and then the kicker: she wins the grand prize, the pair of jeans she was willing to disown her father for. She breaks down in the taxi, as the radio host tells her to be strong, and plays The Cranberries’ “Ode to My Family.”

Dad changes into scrubs for his surgery, and Shi-won can’t contain her tears. Mom does her best, and turns away as she starts to cry again, and he just hugs them close.

Tae-woong comes to take him to surgery, and Dad of course tries to make Shi-won feel better, telling her that if she cries like that he can’t go into surgery comfortably. She just wails into his shoulder, “Daddy I’m sorry.”

Aw. He smiles and chuckles that she’s finally grown up and hugs her again reassuringly. Augh, Sung Dong-il is so good at this—you can see the moment of heartbreak and fear in his eyes for that split second as he hugs her, that he blinks away before anyone can see.

The nurse comes to check his name and his age. Something about the way he says “forty-eight” just kills me. He’d better not die, ya hear me Show?

Tae-woong tells Mom and Shi-won to stay behind, and Dad takes Tae-woong’s hand. “Tae-woong-ah, you’re this family’s eldest son.” No, don’t say that! It’s his way of asking him to look after them if he doesn’t make it. *TEARS*

As he gets wheeled down the hallway, we flashback to earlier that evening, when he had gone down to the hospital’s chapel. He sits in the dark room and apologizes to God that it’s his first time.

He says that he has a daughter in high school, who’s physically big but really still a baby. She won’t realistically get into a great college or be really successful, so the only one who can take care of her is Dad.

“But if I go suddenly, what will she do? If I’m not here, who will hold her hand at her wedding?” *whimper*

He says he knows it’s a lot to ask, but pleads to be alive just until the moment he can walk Shi-won down the aisle. And then the second she does, he promises he can drop dead right then without looking back.

He starts to say that then he’ll go… to meet his daughter Song-joo who left this world before him, but can barely get the words out as he breaks down in sobs. Oof. Daaaaaaaad. How am I supposed to recap if I can’t see through my tears?

He begs, “Please…” and then we cut to him at the end of the hallway, as he enters surgery.

Mom and Shi-won sit on Dad’s hospital bed still in shock, and Mom tells Shi-won to go home—isn’t she going to school tomorrow? She reaches into the nightstand and passes Shi-won a notebook, saying, “You two always fight to the death. But he must not want someone else hitting his daughter.”

Shi-won opens the notebook to find that Dad did her homework for her. AW. She flips through the pages and starts to cry, and Mom sighs, “No matter what he says, you’re everything to your father. You be good to him.”

Yoon-jae narrates: “Life always comes when you least expect it to hit you on the back of the head. It can be a cruel sadness. It can be a cruel fear. At times like this the only thing we can do…”

We watch as Shi-won cries in the hallway, and as Dad cries a tear before going under. And then the surgeon comes out. Mom and Shi-won look up with bated breath… and the doctor unmasks his face. It’s Jong-min!

Mom recognizes him and immediately bows to the ground, feeling terrible for everything. But he sweetly tells her the accident was his fault anyway and starts to give them the news with a long face… and then a fakeout Just kidding! Haha, are doctors allowed to do that? I forgive you because you’re just Kim Jong-min, and I like the full-circle karma thing.

He says the surgery was a success and Dad will make a full recovery, and Mom jumps up to hug him and bows at his feet again and Shi-won cries in relief.

Yoon-jae (voiceover): This life that might leap anywhere—there’s no use avoiding or ignoring it. There’s just facing it and getting beaten to a bloody pulp. But at times life can surprise us with gifts that make our hearts flutter. And if we endure sadness, we are rewarded with happiness.

We get another glimpse of the moment Yoon-jae’s first love began, and the red bean fish cake Cinderella story… followed by the breaking news of the IMF crisis.

2012 Reunion dinner. Sung-jae announces that the groom will be buying the next round. Both he and Dan-ji ask if the soon-to-be-married couple will be buying a new place, and they argue back and forth about whether it’s better to rent or to own in this economy. Tae-woong marvels at how much they’ve grown up.

Sung-jae and Dan-ji ask twice if the wedding will be in Seoul or in Busan (effectively taking them out of the running). Annoyed, both Shi-won and Yoo-jung shout, “BUSAN!” Well, it’s something, but I’m pretty sure we knew the bride would be one of them.

EPISODE 6: “Love Makes You Do Things You Didn’t Do Before”


H.O.T. – “너와 나 (You and I)” [ Download ]

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Mom tends to Dad in his boisterous hospital room, as he complains that he has to share it with a bunch of ajummas. But times are tough (literally overnight) and they can’t exactly afford a private room.

Hak-chan gets on the bus to go to school that morning, and Yoo-jung waves at him excitedly from the back. He panics and throws on his headphones and beelines for the first seat he sees. She frowns.

At the hospital, Mom tries to coax Dad into eating and exercising, but he’s in a dour mood because they’re still waiting for the test results after the surgery, and he’s sure something else will go wrong. He tells her to be straight with him if he’s going to die.

The other ajummas coax her into watching the latest big drama with them, and Dad just stays in his funk.

It’s nearly lunchtime at school, and Shi-won and a classmate rev up like they’re racing the Indy 500, each holding a videotape at the ready. As soon as the teacher announces class is over, they take off running for the VCR and shove their tapes in simultaneously.

Shi-won’s like, We gonna start something, Eun Dokki? [Eun Dokki = Eun Ji-won fangirl.] The girl gets right up in Shi-won’s face, Let’s go, Ahn Seung Buin! (Tony fangirl, already established as Shi-won’s nickname.) This. Cracks. Me. Up.

It’s name-calling and tell-your-oppa-to-stop-copying-my-oppa back and forth, and soon there’s hair-pulling. Fangirl War!

The boys play basketball outside, and Yoon-jae is killing me with his affection towards Joon-hee, because I can just feel Joon-hee’s inner omg-omg-omg.

Yoo-jung runs onto the court and Hak-chan freaks out, literally running in the other direction. But she runs up screaming that the fangirl war turned into a brawl, and they need to hurry up and help Shi-won.

Yoon-jae and Joon-hee take off running. How much do I love that they run to her at the speed of light?

They get to the classroom but Shi-won doesn’t need saving, exactly – she has Eun Dokki in a wrestling hold. Yoon-jae picks her up and yells at her to stop but then gets startled by her bloody nose. That just sends her after the girl again in a rage. Ha.

This time he throws her over his shoulder and carries her out the door. Hak-chan and Sung-jae run up behind them and Yoo-jung motions for Hak-chan to go help the other girl. He awkwardly makes his way over to check on her.

In a daze, Eun Dokki chirps, “J-j-j-ji-won oppa?” and faints. HAHAHAHAHA. Yoo-jung tsk-tsks that she’s officially lost her mind. Or she’s the only sane one!

Back at the hospital, the doctor comes by to tell Dad that he’s cancer-free, but Dad has a weird reaction: blink-blink, “You’re lying.” The doc insists that he’ll be fine and he should exercise, and Mom tells him it’s true.

They join the ajummas as they watch their drama… which suddenly turns dire: “It’s cancer.” Everyone sighs and turns over in their beds. Lol. Oh, dramaland, why have your tropes remained the same, fifteen years later?

The group heads out of school that night and the boys get excited about having tickets to a basketball game. Joon-hee says he can’t go because he promised he’d stand in line with Shi-won for concert tickets, and the girls bound up.

Shi-won links her arm in Joon-hee’s, ready to steal him away, and the boys complain that it’s a waste of a ticket. So Yoo-jung links her arm in Hak-chan’s, giving him another jolt, and says she looooooves basketball. She’ll go instead!

It’s a win-win for everyone, except of course for Yoon-jae, who watches Shi-won and Joon-hee walk off arm-in-arm like the universe, and basketball, has betrayed him.

At the hospital, Mom tries to convince Dad that it was just a drama and he’s not going to die. Dad: “Don’t you know that dramas are based on real life?!” Ha, have you seen a drama lately?

While Yoo-jung gets snacks, Hak-chan rattles off statistics like an expert, and then clams up as soon as she gets back. She impresses them with basketball terms and knowing players’ names, and we see in flashback that she stayed up all night studying. Man, the things you do for a crush.

Back at the game, she asks Yoon-jae which player he likes. But his mind is elsewhere entirely, of course.

He asks Yoo-jung where Shi-won and Joon-hee are, and makes the excuse that he forgot he was supposed to bring Shi-won to the hospital tonight. He runs off, leaving Yoo-jung heartbroken. After all her studying! To impress you!

Yoon-jae finds Shi-won and Joon-hee in line and comes bounding up with the excuse that he came to see Joon-hee. He squeezes in between them and shares his pastries with a smile.

He asks if they aren’t bored waiting here all night, and they’re both like, “Bored?” The whole line breaks into song while waving their H.O.T. balloons, and Yoon-jae looks around him muttering, “The things I do…”

Dad wakes up in a coughing fit and asks for water, only to find Mom gone. She’s downstairs at the payphone, making a call to someone who’s working furiously at a typewriter.

Mom: “Are you going to write like that? If you just write that he has cancer and it suits you, is that all?! Are you that out of ideas?!” HA. Did you seriously look up the drama writer’s number to rant at her over the phone? Priceless.

Shi-won and Joon-hee sing “You and I” along with the crowd, eliciting stares of disbelief from Yoon-jae. They’re interrupted with an announcement from the Busan Club H.O.T. president (an awesome cameo by Shin Bong-sun), who says that an officer spot has opened up, since one member got her head shaved and shipped off to the States. Ha.

She says that normally they’d have an election, but since everyone’s here, they’re going to choose the person who can demonstrate that they love their oppas the most. Hands shoot up in the air.

Fangirl: I pitched a tent in front of Kang-ta oppa’s house for a month! Prez: Stalker! Next! Fangirl: I skipped my college entrance exam to go to an H.O.T. concert! Prez: You should have gotten into college to bring more converts! Pass!

This is awesome. The first one that gives them pause is: Well my unni’s boyfriend’s noona is an H.O.T. coordi! Shi-won sees the opportunity slip away and throws her hand up: “I can write a pledge in blood!” The boys gasp.

She writes a sign for Tony oppa with a pricked finger as Joon-hee and Yoon-jae just shake their heads like, nuh-uh… that’s going too far.

But it earns her the coveted little Club H.O.T. officer ID card. Joon-hee goes to get coffee and Yoon-jae wraps his scarf around Shi-won, asking if he and Tony both fell into the water, which guy she’d save first.

She thinks about it for a moment and says Yoon-jae, and he lights up. Shi-won: “Because Tony oppa knows how to swim.” He blames himself for asking and then tells her not to take that scarf off: “I’ve been wearing it all day. It’ll smell like me.” He kills me.

He wonders how the basketball game went. I don’t know about the game, but things are certainly looking up for Yoo-jung and Hak-chan. She’s asleep on his lap and he doesn’t move a muscle, even as janitors sweep up the stands around them. Adorable.

Dad finds Mom missing from his bedside again and complains but she’s so wrapped up in this drama that she goes livid when the hero gets told he doesn’t have much longer to live. She’s back at the telephone to scream another tirade at the drama writer, who’s now just taken to letting her rant while she works.

Yoo-jung waves Hak-chan down on the bus the next morning, and he ignores her yet again. This time she won’t be deterred, and sits behind him to ask for a favor. She got four tickets to another basketball game and wants them to go as a group again.

He says sure. But there’s a caveat: she’s also got two tickets to see Next, and she wants Hak-chan and Sung-jae to go to that, after agreeing to go to the game. Oh to leave you alone with Yoon-jae? Sneaky! Also, very elaborate. He stammers that he wants to see the basketball game, but she threatens: “Then I’ll just kiss you on the lips right here!”

Hak-chan: “Next! Next! I’ll go see Next!” Hahaha. But then she hugs him in delight and fondles his face, and he melts. Aw. The birth of Love Triangle Number 3?

Shi-won spends the morning asleep in class after pulling an all-nighter for the concert tickets, and Yoo-jung tells Eun Dokki that Shi-won is in a new class of fandom now, and tells them what she did.

In the boys’ class Joon-hee and Yoon-jae are both asleep too, side by side. Why so cute? They’re listening to “You and I,” and Joon-hee opens his eyes for just a moment to sneak a glance at Yoon-jae. Aw.

Shi-won finally wakes up in the afternoon to listen to Tony oppa doing a radio interview (in the middle of class, natch). The host asks if there’s anything a fan has done that he didn’t appreciate, and he mentions with horror in his voice that a fan from Busan sent him a message written in her blood, and says it was the worst thing by far.

Uh, yeah. Gonna have to agree with you there. But also, a heartbreaking realization for Shi-won. She buries her head in shame, as Eun Dokki laughs out loud.

Joon-hee comes by, worried, and finds her just sitting at her desk numbly. He tries to make her feel better, but she’s so devastated—to hear those crushing words from her oppa, just ooouuuuch.

The rest of the group heads toward the classroom to try and cheer her up, and Yoon-jae opens the door…

…to find Joon-hee holding her as she cries. Oh no. And… is he wearing the scarf Yoon-jae gave to Shi-won? Ack. Heartbreak. He shuts the door quickly and turns back.

As they head out, Yoo-jung presents the boys with the tickets to tomorrow’s game, saying that she won them for free, and convinces them all to go with her. Yoon-jae hesitates, and then asks her if he can have the tickets to take Shi-won. Oh noes.

She says she has four tickets so Shi-won can come, but he asks if he can have them all, making the excuse that he wants to take her parents too. Oh, you ass!

Yoo-jung gives them up with a smile, while Hak-chan watches, knowing what lengths she went through to get those tickets, all in an effort to be alone with Yoon-jae. This is one serious merry-go-round of teenage pain.

Yoo-jung leaves first before she bursts into tears, and Yoon-jae goes running off with a skip in his step, not knowing what a terrible move he just pulled. But Hak-chan knows, and he sends a basketball flying at the back of Yoon-jae’s head.

Yes! Hak-chan for the win! I love you right now. His eyes light up with anger.

Dad finds Mom missing yet again. She’s at the payphone of course, but this time she’s not calling the drama writer to rant anymore. She admits that her husband has cancer and says that the writer is brilliant and that everyone loves her work, but lately, ever since the hero of her story became sick, no one in the hospital watches anymore, and there’s no more laughter.

She pleads through tears for her to let that hero live, because right now that’s the only thing she can do for her husband, to give him hope. *tears*

She hangs up and then we see that Dad has heard the whole conversation. And now I’m a blubbering mess. Why are these two so good?

Yoon-jae (voiceover): The easiest thing we can do for the person we love is to throw ourselves away. The strength to do things that aren’t in our nature—that’s love.

Dad sits down next to her as she quickly wipes away her tears. He asks where she’s been—he asked her to always stick to his side. “You know I can’t sleep unless you’re using my arm as a pillow.”

He swings his arm around her and they have a tender moment… which he ends by telling her to wash her hair from time to time. Ha.

Yoo-jung runs onto the bus and then the tears come. Gah, I love you Yoon-jae, but right now, I just want to hit you!

The bus takes off but then stops to pick up one more passenger, and Hak-chan runs up. This time, he gets on and walks straight to the back of the bus, with purpose. Why is that so swoony?

He sits down next to her! Squee.

She can’t stop crying, and he doesn’t know what else to do, so he just silently puts one earbud on… and then puts the other in her ear. Omg. He touched her without freezing up.

Sechskies’ “To You, the One I Love” starts to play (posted up above) and he just sits there next to her while she cries, without a word. It’s my favorite thing, in a show full of favorite things.

He digs out the tickets to Next and asks if she wants to go with him, and she admits she doesn’t like them. Ha. He promptly rips up the tickets and tells her to meet him in front of the mall tomorrow.

Hak-chan: “We’ll go do whatever you want to do. Not basketball. Not Next. What YOU like to do.” How could any girl on this planet not fall in love with you??

She kisses him on the cheek, surprising even herself. He freezes, his eyes like saucers.

Reunion 2012. Sung-jae reads the wedding invitation for…

Hak-chan and Yoo-jung! Whooo!

Sung-jae asks if the wedding is so soon because they made a baby, but Yoo-jung balks, “We haven’t even kissed!” Everyone groans.

Hak-chan belatedly informs her that everyone knows they kissed the day they started dating. Ha.

They get ready to toast the couple but Shi-won whines that she has to drink juice (Omo!) and everyone sighs that the big drinker can’t join in because of…

The baby! One mystery solved, another begins. She sighs, “Jagi-ya, can’t I just have one?” Tae-woong, Yoon-jae, and Joon-hee reply in unison: “No, it’s bad for the baby!” Lol.

Shi-won says in voiceover that today Yoo-jung and Hak-chan announced their wedding, and that her husband is sitting at this table too. Dun DUN!

Back to 1997. A month passes and the hospital ward is quiet. A nurse comes in to turn on the tv—it’s the last episode of that drama. They all watch as the doctor announces that the hero is cancer-free and it’s a miracle.

The room bursts into cheers, and Mom is moved to tears. Dad just asks cheerily if they’re not going to exercise now, and shows her his empty bowl of rice. Yay.

As the closing credits roll, Yoon-jae sits at the basketball game. Is he alone? Serves ya right.

He murmurs that he knows saying this makes him really uncool and he’s mortified, but… could she stop hanging out so much with Joon-hee? ‘Cause it really concerns him…

Shi-won stirs awake in the seat next to him: “Did you say something?”

Yoon-jae: “No.” HAHAHAHA.


I love the Yoo-jung/Hak-chan pairing so much. I’m glad it’s their wedding announcement, though I’m really surprised they revealed it so soon. But that’s what this show does so well—it undercuts what you expect, whether it’s turning a melo scene into a comic one, vice versa, or delivering the answer to a series mystery this early in the game. Now we have one couple secured, and get confirmation that another survives. Time to place your bets.

Hak-chan took a while to come to the foreground, since he was the new kid and was less of an established character, but the way he reacted to Yoo-jung’s crush on Yoon-jae just stole my heart. He really surprised me, and I thought it was actually quite funny that it was her crush on Yoon-jae and her heartbreak that brought them together. I guess I just like the silent stoic guys who have random bursts of basketball-chucking anger to express their emotions. So funny, so simple, so sweet.

The Shi-won/Joon-hee/Yoon-jae triangle continues to hurt my heart a thousand ways, of course, but that’s a long-term conflict we’ll be riding out till the end. What took the limelight in this pair of episodes was really Mom and Dad, and for me, Dad and Shi-won. The daddy-daughter stuff is the thing I identify with the most on this show—I just feel every moment of Shi-won’s teenage strife with her father. And I appreciate that the family is the emotional heart of the show, not just for those of us who were horrible rebellious daughters once upon a time, but because Mom and Dad as a unit ground the comedy and the fleeting teenage whims.

They can be silly too, but man, can they deliver on solid gut-wrenching drama when it counts. I just love that Mom was so hung up on the idea that Dad needed that fake drama hero to live, when what he really needed was her. All it took to turn him around was to see how scared she was to be strong again, for her.

The passing of objects from character to character worked so well in this pair of episodes. The homework: Joon-hee does it for Yoon-jae, Yoon-jae would have done it twice for Shi-won, Dad does it for Shi-won in the end. The tickets: Yoo-jung to Hak-chan, revealing her crush on Yoon-jae, then giving them to Yoon-jae who can only think selfishly of Shi-won, and Hak-chan reusing the Next tickets to ask Yoo-jung out. The scarf: Yoon-jae giving it Shi-won, Shi-won thoughtlessly giving it to Joon-hee… all of it just tells us so much about the relationships, without needing to spell it out. We know exactly who loves whom, and whose heart is getting ripped out in the process. How can heartache be this good?


164 August 19, 2012January 24, 2016

Answer Me 1997: Episodes 7-8

by girlfriday

Boys. How do they make you swoon and sigh in equal measure? I’ve never met a drama with this many love triangles where none of the legs drives me crazy, but there you have it. I love them all. This pair of episodes highlights the two brothers in turn, who are great characters on their own, but really fantastic together. I love them both so much and want them to get everything they want in life… only there’s the one sticky problem of a girl…


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EPISODE 7: “Future Hopes”

Reunion, 2012. Tae-woong gets a call to move his car, and Shi-won asks him to grab something for her, calling her oppa. Hm, but, they didn’t arrive together…

Yoo-jung can’t believe she’s still calling him oppa. (WHY? Should she call him honey? Darling? Or brother-of-my-husband?) But she says it’s because Tae-woong is destined to be the President someday, and we find out that in the intervening years, he’s finally fulfilled all that top-of-his class potential as a congressman and now potential presidential candidate.

The other guys lament the vast difference between brothers, as Yoon-jae tries to brute-force his way into Shi-won’s cell phone case, breaking it in two. She beats him up for it, and has to be held back from ripping his hair out. These two. They got older, but not more mature.

A news story features Tae-woong on the monitor behind them, and shows his family—little brother Yoon-jae, who graduated Seoul University Law at the top of his class. So, not exactly shabby, eh?

The story says that the 33-year old Yoon-jae is serving as a judge nicknamed the Iceman… as we pan down to Shi-won and Yoon-jae, post-hair-pulling hissyfit. Heh.

February, 1998. Yoo-jung stops in the middle of eating her crab and announces out of the blue, “Let’s break up.” Hak-chan just stares back blankly. At school Sung-jae asks what the reason was for the breakup. “Because I eat with these three fingers.” Cue looks of confusion.

May 1998. Same crab shack, different news story to mark the time change. Yoo-jung: “Let’s break up.” At school Sung-jae asks what the reason was this time. Hak-chan: “Because I wore a v-neck with a v-neck.” Joon-hee actually does a spit-take.

October 1998 (marked as D-30 days till college entrance exams). Same crab shack, this time FinkL debuts on the screen behind them. Yoo-jung: “Let’s break up.” Hak-chan just silently holds up his crab with the proper fingers and his crewneck-vneck combination in protest. She storms out anyway.

Now all four guys are called for a pow-wow, and they ask what the reason was this time. Hak-chan just hangs his head and says she didn’t tell him. The guys collectively sigh. Sung-jae tells him to forget about her and just say fine he’ll break up, but Hak-chan refuses, “No, that I can’t do.”

Sung-jae snipes that this is all Yoon-jae’s fault anyway—if he had accepted Yoo-jung’s feelings, Hak-chan would’ve never been in this mess. Uh, I think you’re forgetting the part where Hak-chan lurves her.

Yoo-jung doesn’t seem too broken up about it though. (Is she giving herself a makeshift straight perm at her desk?) A Jang Woo-hyuk fangirl comes running in to ask Shi-won if she’s really the one who’s writing the popular fanfic in the H.O.T. forums.

She confirms it with a bit of a swagger, and the girl squeals that she’s a huge fan, demanding the next installment. Shi-won says her mom kicked her off the internet for the high phone bill, so she’s waiting to upload it all at once.

The girl pleads desperately—she has to know how that scene with Tony and Woo-hyuk in the shower ends! Pffft. Shi-won sighs and hands her the file on a disk (remember those?) and makes her swear not to put it online without her permission.

Meanwhile Tae-woong is busy interviewing each of the students one by one about their future hopes. It’s a sequence of pipedream jobs – the dumb girl who wants to be a doctor, the girl with a thick Busan accent wanting to be an announcer, and Dan-ji who can’t draw but wants to be a painter.

Tae-woong sighs that future hopes are about reachable, nearby dreams—a career you can attain and make a living doing. Who’ll take responsibility if you waste your life on an unattainable dream?

Tae-woong: “That’s why a person has to be content with a close dream. If you chase after a dream that’s far away, your heart will hurt and your insides will burn. A futile passion only leaves heartache. That’s why they say life’s stupidest thing is a one-sided love.”

Aw, no, Tae-woong. Say it ain’t so.

It’s Shi-won’s turn and Tae-woong asks if maybe she could find a future in something sports-related? She insists she has to get into the college Tony oppa goes to, and he has to let her down that with her grades, she won’t get into that college, or any college.

She whines at him to find her some college she can get into, and he figures that there must be something she’s good at, and they’ll figure it out.

It puts her in a funk, and Yoon-jae asks half-jokingly if that monkey asked her to marry him she would, and she sighs no. He perks up. Shi-won: “Oppa deserves a better woman!” Hahaha.

The latest girl with a Yoon-jae crush interrupts to give him a cake, which he snubs coldly. Shi-won calls him a son of a bitch and offers to make sure he gets the cake… and then promptly eats it with Sung-jae.

The boys’ homeroom teacher is livid at Yoon-jae’s future plans, because at first place, he’s got the potential to go to Seoul University, but chose the air force academy instead.

He just tells Teach it’s his choice and suggests he be content to send Joon-hee (Number 2) to Seoul U, but Teach sighs that Joon-hee wants to go to the air force academy too. Yoon-jae: “Eh?”

He comes out to watch Joon-hee run laps in the field, deep in thought.

Dan-ji pesters Shi-won for something in the middle of class, so she takes a set of papers from Yoo-jung and stretches across the aisle to pass it over… when Teach intercepts. Drat. He starts to read: “Woo-hyuk’s lips charge at Seung-ho…” Oh noes! He just keeps reading aloud in this sing-song incredulous voice that cracks me up.

The class bursts into laughter. Shi-won buries her head in shame. Again.

Tae-woong chuckles as he reads the slashfic, while Shi-won stands there completely mortified. She threatens that if he tells her parents she’ll never see him ever again. He just keeps laughing but puts on a bright smile and says this is a good thing: she may go to college after all.

She looks up, say what now, and he digs around for an entry form for a creative writing contest. Nice.

Yoon-jae brings Joon-hee a soda after his run and asks about the air force—aren’t his grades a waste there? Joon-hee just says he’s found a reason to go. He asks if Yoon-jae’s choice was because he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps.

But Yoon-jae says it’s because of someone else. Joon-hee: “Me too. Because of someone…”

Hak-chan sighs in defeat after checking his pager for the millionth time today. Sung-jae asks if maybe he wore the wrong color socks or something, but Hak-chan says it can’t be that easy. Yoo-jung is meticulous, and he thinks it’s something so small that they can’t even fathom. Sung-jae: “What could it be? Or is she just wacko?”

Shi-won gets to work on her next installment of H.O.T. slashfic, which you have to admit, is primed for good titles. I love her I’m-writing-a-naughty-scene face. Hee.

At home, Tae-woong asks Yoon-jae to reconsider the air force: “Don’t just follow Dad’s dreams, but think of Mom’s too. She’ll be sad.”

Yoon-jae in turn tells Hyung to go do what he wants as soon as he’s graduated. “Mom’s dream was for you to be President. I’m all grown up now, so you should live your life. Any more… would make me too sorry.” Aw. So much unspoken between these two.

Yoon-jae digs out Dad’s old military uniform and tries it on, flashing him back to when he was ten. Tae-woong came running to tell Yoon-jae that Dad was home and he’d gone running to salute him and jump into his arms.

But it’s Shi-won’s awe of his Dad that we end on, as she narrates: “It was on that day that I decided no matter what, I would marry a man in uniform.” That’s adorable. And now we know why he’s so dead-set on this path.

Shi-won comes bounding into his room while he’s changing (though of course she thinks nothing of it) and swoons to see his father’s old uniform. She puts it on and sighs that his dad was so handsome in it—he was her ideal man. Yoon-jae says he knows.

She tells him about her plan to get into college, and has Yoon-jae read her latest fanfic. He reads aloud in robot voice: “Hak. Hak. The sound of their breath filled the room… With a trembling hand Woo-hyuk pulls down his zipper…

He’s like, this is getting you into college how? She tells him to read for the way it’s written, not the content, but he just sighs that she should hang out with Hak-chan. She turns in surprise, “Does Hak-chan write fanfic too?” Yoon-jae: “No… the genre’s a little different.” Hur.

But Tae-woong thinks it’s totally fixable—they just change the character names, the shower scenes become basketball scenes, and the kissing into handshakes. Basketball, eh? Am suddenly reconstructing Last Match verrrrrry differently in my head…

At school the next day, Hak-chan sneaks some soju into his thermos. Is this an I-don’t-understand-girls-so-I’m-drowning-my-sorrows-in-the-green-bottle thing? The guys just tell him to ask her already, or they’ll do it, because they’re never going to figure it out.

Yoon-jae asks how he can watch so much porn and not know what a girl is thinking. Pfft, that you had to ask that is funny.

The girl with the Yoon-jae crush comes by, this time with a heart pillow embroidered with a couple in couple-T’s that say “love,” making a heart, in the heart, under a heart. It’s like if M.C. Escher and a valentine’s day card had an unholy lovechild. Joon-hee throws eye-daggers. But as soon as Shi-won runs up to him, Yoon-jae stuffs the pillow behind Hak-chan.

Shi-won: “Take off your underwear.” Wut?

She says that her whole college future is riding on this creative writing contest (first place gets admission into a university), and demands Top Place Underpants Mojo. Hahahaha.

She goes to take them off right there in the schoolyard and Sung-jae helps hold him down. Sadly for all, he complies and tells her he’ll bring them to the post office later, when she mails off her entry. *pout*

She leans in close, “If you don’t want to have them taken off publicly, hurry up and make your underwear delivery at the post office. Got it?” She scratches his chin like a good puppy.

Sung-jae complains that she didn’t bring any gifts to offer in exchange for First Place Underpants, and Shi-won says she’s flat broke—she spent all her money on Yoo-jung’s present yesterday. Er…

They’re like, present? What present? Shi-won: “Birthday present. It was Yoo-jung’s birthday the day before last. Hak-chan should know. Isn’t that why you went to go eat crab?”

Oh no. Hak-chan’s reaction is priceless, but it’s the trio of buddies all slackjawed that do me in. Shi-won guesses he must’ve gotten her something really nice, because she refused to disclose any info.

The guys all leave Hak-chan with slaps upside the head: “Die, you bastard.” He dangles from the steps like dating roadkill.

That night he waits for Yoo-jung outside school, and she coldly dismisses him. But he says, “I’m sorry it’s late,” and takes something out of his backpack…

It’s the heart pillow! Pfffft. Regifting after you’re already in the doghouse?

But she takes one look at it and totally cry-hugs him with a squeal.

One month later, a motel. Yoon-jae and Joon-hee are staying overnight for their entrance interviews to the air force academy. Joon-hee has sample interview questions prepped, and Yoon-jae marvels, “You? The guy who gives the best impression in all the world?”

Yoon-jae offers to quiz him anyway, and gets through all the questions, and then can’t help himself: “Is there someone you like right now?” Joon-hee hedges a moment, but answers, “Yes.” Eep!

Yoon-jae gulps. “Is it someone I know?” Suddenly the air is tense. Joon-hee looks over at him: “Yes.” Omg omg omg. Yoon-jae: “Is it Sung Shi-won?” Joon-hee just looks away and takes another long pause…

And then he changes the subject without answering. Yoon-jae just swallows the silence, sure that it means the answer he fears.

By the time Joon-hee washes up, Yoon-jae’s already asleep. He gets into the bed they’re sharing and closes his eyes.

Flashback to the first day of high school. All the students pile in to find their class and seat assignments, and to their horror, they’re arranged by academic rank. Yoon-jae and Sung-jae scowl, already friends from junior high but obviously on opposite ends of the grade pool.

The students complain that it’s unfair and just get yelled at to fall in line. But Yoon-jae speaks up defiantly that they’ll comply, as long as the teachers post their grades and get assigned by rank as well. Nice.

It’s totally badass. He nearly gets a beating for it, but Tae-woong intervenes, furious. At first it looks like another tense moment between the brothers… but as soon as they’re alone, Tae-woong sighs, “I thought I was gonna pee my pants!” So cute.

Joon-hee just sits down quietly in his assigned Second Place seat, and then Yoon-jae saunters in and plops down in the chair next to his.

They lock eyes for a fateful moment, and then Yoon-jae asks if he has a dictionary. Joon-hee hands him one… which he uses as a pillow to take a nap on. Heh. Smartypants AND a rebel? I totally get why he’s in love.

Joon-hee looks over at sleeping Yoon-jae that first day, and we fade back to the boys asleep in bed.

They get to the physical exams at the academy, and Yoon-jae totally fails the vision test. Flashback shows us that his eye doctor back home is blinder than he is.

He and Joon-hee ride the bus back home sighing that they both didn’t know they had physical limitations, and then we see that the interviewer had called Joon-hee’s name but he never even showed.

They cringe at the thought of everyone teasing them about this, and Yoon-jae figures it’s at least half a year of mockery from Shi-won. As they laugh, Tae-woong narrates:

Tae-woong: You have to be content with a dream that’s close. If you chase after one that’s far away, your heart will hurt and your insides will burn. A futile passion only leaves heartache. That’s why life’s stupidest thing is a one-sided love. But the reason that stupid one-sided love is worth trying is… that passion can sometimes make miracles happen… sometimes go the long way around to help you fulfill a dream… and even if it doesn’t allow you to realize that dream, it allows you to linger near it and find happiness.

We see Shi-won get the phone call that she’s won first place in the competition and she’s going to college. The Busan girl with the thick accent eventually becomes a sportscaster, and Dan-ji doesn’t become a painter, but works in a gallery and gets to be near the art she loves.

Aw, yay. And then we flashback to a follow-up session, and this time Tae-woong tells the students: But just because everyone says one-sided love is doomed, you can’t give up before you even start, and worry about how you’ll eat and live.

Tae-woong: “More important than what you CAN do is what you WANT to do. So let’s start with that. You only live once!” Oh phew. I was really worried about you there, Big Bro, but you came back around in the end.

And then we see that tucked in his notebook is his resignation letter. Good for you.

Reunion, 2012. Yoo-jung swoons that she’s still probably the only girl in the world who’s ever received a cross-stitch from her boyfriend as a gift, and Hak-chan immediately jumps to change the subject. Lol. You take that secret to the grave!

Sung-jae asks if Shi-won is still writing fanfic these days and she cringes. Hak-chan: “What’s fanfic?” Yoo-jung explains.

Hak-chan: “Eh. Don’t do that! If the members read it, do you know how uncomfortable and annoyed they’d be?”

Oh, the meta.

EPISODE 8: “D-Day”


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1998. D-2 till entrance exams. Hak-chan spends his time downloading internet porn. It’s a pretty hilarious sequence where he waits with bated breath for the naked picture to load, only to have his father cut the connection with a phone call just before the goods.

Yoon-jae asks Shi-won to meet him after their exams and she asks if it’s something important. Yoon-jae: “Yes. It’s my life’s D-Day.”

Hak-chan tries to download one more time, only to get cut off again. He whirls around ready to curse someone out, only to be met with a gun to the temple. Whoa. It’s General Dad, holding him up at gunpoint to take an emergency war room call. Uh… message received?

Back to the reunion. Tae-woong introduces a friend to Yoon-jae. Yoon-jae makes mention of a hyung-soo-nim, which means Tae-woong is definitely married. Tae-woong goes to introduce Shi-won, but all we hear is “That I love…. ” and not what he calls her. It’s vague enough that it could be “The wife I love,” or just as well be “The wife of the brother I love,” or any number of other things.

The news report (at D-200 days till the election) says Tae-woong is currently ahead in the polls. Yoon-jae narrates that in 2012, Hyung was finally getting his D-day. And way back when, they were all preparing for their D-days in their own ways.

1998, D-1. Hak-chan sits back while Sung-jae sells his latest hot-ticket item, an edited videotape of all the good sex scenes in movies, with the boring stuff cut out. He’s met a good business partner in Sung-jae, who really knows how to sell it.

The boy asks, “Edited?” and we see Hak-chan’s hilarious low-rent VHS tape marking/cutting/scotch-taping operation. Sung-jae asks what Hak-chan is going to do with all this money, and he says he’s going to buy stuff for Yoo-jung. Apparently Sung-jae is the only one who sees the irony in selling porn to keep your girlfriend in presents, but applauds Hak-chan for his entrepreneurship.

Yoo-jung wakes Shi-won after class, wailing, “What am I going to do?” Shi-won assumes it’s test-day jitters, but no—Hak-chan invited her over to his HOUSE, after exams. But… that’s at night! What could it mean?

Shi-won: “That he wants… to… sleep… with you?” Yoo-jung: “I can’t!” Shi-won: “Of course you can’t!” Yoo-jung: “I’m on my period!” Hahaha.

Shi-won gapes, “But if not, you would?” Yoo-jung swoons at the thought and Shi-won turns into a mom, clucking at the pair of them. She tells Yoo-jung to just be honest then, but she can’t let Hak-chan down, not when he’s probably dying of anticipation.

Yoo-jung yanks at her hair screaming, “It’s my life’s D-Day! How could that day and that day overlap?”

The boys file out of class and Sung-jae asks what they’re going to do after the exam, wanting to play. But Hak-chan and Yoon-jae already have plans, and Joon-hee’s entire family is coming down—all eight of his noonas. Dude. He says he has no interest in a noraebang anyway.

Tae-woong sees the boys come by in the hall and is suddenly a different person—all nice and smiley and patting Sung-jae on the head. They’re like, what’s gotten into Scary Teach?

He confuses them even more by calling Yoon-jae over, and Yoon-jae laughs that Hyung’s gotten brave, talking to him in the hall in front of everyone. But Tae-woong says his exam is tomorrow—what’re they gonna do if they find out?

He straightens Yoon-jae’s tie and checks the pimple on his forehead like a dad, and the boys watch the curious behavior from the other end of the hall, not knowing what to make of it.

He’s holding a tonic in his hand but says it’s for Shi-won, and Yoon-jae laughs that she’ll still sleep through her exams, no matter what you feed her. Tae-woong gives her the thermos and she marvels that he made it himself. “Oppa, can’t I marry you? You should marry me, Oppa-ya!” They’re adorable.

He offers to buy her a present after the exam and asks what she wants. She lights up, “A beer!” He agrees—but just one. She remembers belatedly that she’s supposed to meet Yoon-jae tomorrow, so they make plans to meet after.

Yoon-jae spends the day before the exam playing Starcraft, with Sung-jae and Joon-hee looking over his shoulders in awe. He beats the other player, saying that he knows the guy’s weaknesses. They ask if he knows this “makjang_1” and Yoon-jae says yeah, “It’s my hyung.” Hee, did they name his handle makjang because the brothers will love one girl?

He tells Yoon-jae to head home early because Mom and Dad are making kimbap. Dad’s mostly busy watching Park Chan-ho on TV, and then turns around to find that Mom’s made the world’s largest mountain of kimbap ever. I love the running gag of her just making these unfathomably large vats of food every time she cooks.

Dad sets out on a scouting mission at local high schools, and tells a coach that this kid is being trained wrong—he should be a pitcher. The coach listens to Dad, who tells the kid to put his bat down. He turns around; it’s Choo Shin-soo (who will eventually end up a star pitcher). Ha.

Dad’s feeling frisky so Mom sends Shi-won out on a beer-fetching errand. She plays with the shopowner’s dog, stretching his eyes and calling him Yoon-jae’s little brother. Aw, they do kind of look alike! She wishes she could take the doggie home.

Yoon-jae finds her there and asks if she doesn’t want to have a drink, so they dig into Mom and Dad’s stash and have a beer. He tells her not to forget about tomorrow, and she tells him to just say whatever it is now. But he insists it has to be that day: it’s D-Day.

Yoon-jae gives her taffy (a traditional test-day present, to “stick”/get in/pass), and asks if she doesn’t have anything for him. She quickly runs off and returns with a tiny S that she says is for Seoul U, and puppy-scratches his chin. She clinks cans with him in honor of his D-Day, and he smiles back.

D-Day. Tae-woong gives Yoon-jae a big earnest hug, saying he’s worked really hard. Yoon-jae calls him gross, but totally smiles. Dad walks Shi-won out and tells her that life is 70 percent luck and 30 percent effort. “Our family’s all luck. Don’t trust the other thing.” HA.

He tells her to figure it out and do well, and runs inside because it’s cold. I luff Dad. Even Shi-won’s like, That’s it, that’s the big speech? and stomps off to school.

The test begins, and at the same time Tae-woong starts to pack up his desk—as a teacher to seniors, he’s effectively done as of today. As soon as it’s over, the boys rush up to Yoon-jae to ask if they got this or that question right. He hands them a list of his answers, already prepared.

Yoon-jae runs off to somewhere in a hurry, and arrives at a grandpa’s house, where he greets a little white puppy as Yoon-jae. Flashback to two months ago, when Yoon-jae began a lookalike puppy search, asking the pet shop owner if any of the dogs look like him.

He scours pounds, rescue shelters, and then finally finds one that’s perfect, but he’s already got an owner. So he goes to see the grandpa and begs for the dog, and finally gets him to agree by replacing the puppy with another, and then goes to pick him up on D-Day.

The grandpa asks why this puppy, and Yoon-jae says it has to look like him because he’s going to give it to a girl and ask her to be his girlfriend. He wanted to get her this puppy so she could carry “him” around all day.

Grandpa asks what’ll happen when the puppy gets that big, pointing to the full-grown version, and Yoon-jae says she’ll just use a leash then. “I just don’t have a leash, but I’m the same as that dog.” Awwww.

Sung-jae drags Joon-hee to the noraebang, and starts scouring the rooms for pretty girls. He bombs twice, once with Jung Juri and then Kim Tae-won? HAHAHA. Well, he does have very pretty hair. He finally scores with two pretty noonas. (Another cameo by an announcer from Busan.)

He makes a big presentation of introducing his friend, and Joon-hee sighs, but follows suit with a big dance entrance… only to freeze in shock when he sees the girls. The room goes quiet.

Joon-hee: “Noona…” Sung-jae’s like yeah, they’re noonas… but Joon-hee means the other kind, as in his big sister, and he’s in deep shit. Oh crap. That’s embarrassing AND scary. She yells up a storm and drags him out by the ear, telling Sung-jae to follow.

Yoo-jung paces back and forth outside Hak-chan’s house endlessly, and then finally rings the doorbell. They’re both awkward and jumpy, flinching at everything.

They sit like that for a while, tripping up on every word and gesture. After another excruciatingly awkward minute goes by, he gets up to dim the lights.

She starts to panic. He sits down, and then reaches his arm behind her…

She closes her eyes and screams, “I’M ON MY PERIOD!”

Only to find him holding the TV remote and doubled over in shock. LOL.

They turn on the TV and watch a Sechskies video (Aw, tiny Eun Ji-won!) and then Hak-chan says awkwardly, “If you were expecting… something else… we could… now…” She buries her face, mortified.

Shi-won waits for Yoon-jae to show, and he hurries along with puppy tucked in his jacket, when Tae-woong pulls up in his new car to offer him a ride. He tells Yoon-jae about his plans to buy Shi-won a beer later and Yoon-jae warns him good-naturedly that if he’s too nice, Shi-won’s so immature that she’ll think Hyung likes her. “You can’t kid around with her. She’ll believe you.”

Tae-woong: “I’m not kidding.” *THUNK* Yoon-jae’s heart drops to his feet.

Yoon-jae turns to look at hyung, who confesses, “I like Shi-won. Didn’t you know?” Yoon-jae just remains speechless.

Tae-woong says he’s planning to tell Shi-won how he feels tonight. And he adds that he tendered his resignation at school. “You’ve taken your exams so now I’m going to live my life too. Today is Hyung’s D-Day.”

Oh noooo. He leaves Yoon-jae holding his puppy in the street, reeling.

Yoon-jae slumps against a wall in utter shock and defeat, and we see that Shi-won is just on the other side of the wall, still waiting. Yoon-jae narrates about D-Day like he’s prepping for war:

Yoon-jae: You have to know where your enemy is, understand their situation, and be able to read their hearts. Even if you’re sure you’ve prepared perfectly, you can’t lose your chance, your timing. Because D-Day only gives two results: win or lose. My life’s first D-Day. November 18, 1998. I prepared meticulously… but lost the first post. The cause of defeat: reconnaissance failure.

As he narrates, he starts to see Tae-woong’s concern for Shi-won in a different light. Hak-chan puts his editing skills to use in making a tape for Yoo-jung, called “Couple,” after the Sechskies song, edited with clips of her favorite idol, Eun Ji-won. Aw. That’s what he called her over for?

And even though Shi-won waits and pages Yoon-jae to hurry, he turns away and leaves. Nooooo! Don’t go!

As the closing credits roll, Dad goes to another school to scout a player, and sighs at this coach’s idea of trying this pitcher out as a hitter. Dad warns that such a large kid can’t even run across the bases, and dismisses him entirely.

The kid turns around… and it’s Lee Dae-ho (who basically grows up to become the homerun king). So, Dad, not so much the genius after all.


The way this show plays with the meta of knowing the future is so cheeky. It’s a clever way to make the characters seem either prescient or totally stupid at any given pop culture reference, and make us feel in on the joke. But what I like most is the way the story plays with time, whether across fifteen years or a few days. This writer really knows how to play up a reveal, subvert expectation, and follow through on a narrative arc, whether you see it pay off fifteen years down the line or in a flashback that’s cleverly withheld. Every episode is scripted so tightly with its theme—a coming-of-age motif that’s familiar and obvious, and yet played to subvert expectations.

You think that an episode about future hopes and dreams will be about the kids and their future careers. And it is. But it’s as much about the teacher who’s giving the advice, and about the life that Tae-woong chose in giving up his dreams. I’m glad we got to spend more time focusing on him, because he’s had a nice gradual development and I really love his relationship with Yoon-jae. His decision to hope again and start living his life was such a fantastic arc for his character in these episodes.

But then of course, the brotherly relationship isn’t without its major conflicts. I’m sure we all expected D-Day to fail spectacularly for Yoon-jae. We think he’ll get another kick in the shins, be told he’s crazy. Rejection, we expect. And we even hold out hope that he might succeed. But to have his D-Day thunder stolen by Hyung? Ouuuuch. It’s a double whammy for Yoon-jae, who is (and feels every bit) the goofy kid brother to the warm, charming, smarter, grown-up Tae-woong. He can’t NOT have an inferiority complex about that.

It killed me that he couldn’t speak up and say he liked her first, more, something. And that he gave up on his D-Day confession without even trying. But it felt so real that way—a banner moment for Being a Teenager Sucks Sometimes. I actually don’t mind the brother rivalry on this show because it’s not played for the makjang, but to emphasize the debilitating lack of self-esteem you can feel in adolescence. Yoon-jae can be James Dean in one moment and a blubbering fool in the next, perfect in Joon-hee’s eyes, no different from the neighborhood dog in Shi-won’s, and then made to feel so small next to his brother when he finds out they like the same girl. I love that angst and I just want to hug him and say it’ll get better.

The D-Day concept was one of my favorites because it encapsulates that thing you always do when you’re young—you put all your expectations into one day, one event, one moment that will change everything. You plan, you calculate, you fantasize, you let your expectations rise to such a degree that there’s no possible way they can be met. But you do it every time, I don’t know why, and then always crash and burn. I distinctly remember this feeling. It’s another of those perfectly inexplicable teenage things. You wish you could stop yourself, but your heart just goes like a freight train, no matter how doomed you know you are. I think that’s why Joon-hee’s crush on Yoon-jae kills me the most—because he knows that Yoon-jae won’t love him back, but he can’t help the way he feels. It’s like Drama Second-lead Unrequited Love Super Concentrate, and it does me in every time. Add that to Yoon-jae’s Puppy Love gone literal, and I’m just toast.


187 August 26, 2012January 24, 2016

Answer Me 1997: Episodes 9-10

by girlfriday

We get some twists and turns this week, as confessions come tumbling out, setting us down some unexpected paths. We get to meet Mom and Dad as teenagers, which is maybe my favorite thing about these episodes, Yoon-jae continues to be afflicted with adolescentia foot-in-mouth-itis, and Joon-hee continues to make my heart bleed. The question of the day: How many puppies does it take to say, You’re the one for me?


S.E.S. – “I’m Your Girl” [ Download ]

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EPISODE 9: “The Thread of Fate”

Dad rifles through drawers looking for nail clippers, complaining of his increasingly elderly eyesight, and comes across an old picture tucked away that gives him pause. He smiles, “It’s been a long time, Jun-hyuk-ie. You’re still so young, and I just keep getting older…”

It’s a big family picture: Mom and Dad and their two daughters, and Yoon-jae and Tae-woong with their parents. Looks like Yoon-jae’s dad will be a cameo by Yang Jun-hyuk, baseball player/sportscaster.

1968, Gwangju. Awww yeah. Flashback to Mom and Dad as teenagers? So great. Two young girls from Busan ogle the baseball players eating a few tables away from them. It’s our pair of moms as teenagers (cameos by members of Jung Eun-ji’s idol group, A Pink).

Yoon-jae’s mom decides she has a crush on Number 24—the big burly guy stuffing his face. She tells Shi-won’s mom to deliver her love letter to him because she’s too shy, and tells her it has to be Number 24, and not the little guy next to him.

Shi-won’s mom (Il-hwa) sighs and asks how much their check is, her strange Kyungsangdo accent turning the gaze of everyone in the room. The girls panic and run. Ha.

Shi-won’s dad (Dong-il) is the little guy in the baseball uniform, and he complains to his buddy: “I’m the athlete, and you’re the one eating all the food!” So big n’ burly isn’t a baseball player after all? This is gonna be hilarious.

Yoon-jae’s dad (Jun-hyuk), is training for the air force and says he has to take care of his body too. Dong-il pats his belly, “Do you think the plane will take off with that?” Jun-hyuk angrily takes his baseball jacket off and throws it back at him, and Dong-il puts it back on.

So of course it’s Dong-il that Il-hwa stops in the alley outside the restaurant. She checks his number; it’s 24. She hands him the letter saying it’s his. Dong-il: “What’re you saying?” Il-hwa: “This is yours!” Dong-il: “Did you come from Japan?” Lol. I love that they can’t understand each other.

She checks his number again and wonders if he shrank or something, and sighs at her friend’s weird taste in guys. She leaves him confused but smiling.

Back to the present (er, yunno, 1998). Dad digs through the fridge complaining there’s nothing to eat and jumps back at the sight of Shi-won in her new S.E.S. hair. She asks if she looks pretty, which is just the furthest thing from Dad’s mind.

He asks what the one sliver of bang-hair in her face is for, and she’s like, hello, that’s the focal point of the whole ‘do! She asks for money and he tells her he’ll pay up if she cuts off that ugly hair. Stalemate. Shi-won: “I hate you!” Dad: “I hate you more!” I love these two.

Yoon-jae gives Joon-hee the puppy, saying that he’ll probably raise it the best. Joon-hee gets the puppy?! Joon-hee gets the puppyyyyyyy!

He says he bought it for someone but it didn’t really work out the way he planned, and tells Joon-hee to keep him, but change its name, since he named it Yoon-jae. Joon-hee puts it up to his face to compare and realizes they do look alike, and says he’ll keep the name.

Yoon-jae argues, but Joon-hee just ignores him. To puppy: “Yoon-jae-ya, hyung will buy you lots of tasty things.” *puppy kiss* Yoon-jae (the human): “I told you to change its name!” Joon-hee: “No, I like Yoon-jae.” That he gets to say it, even in reference to the puppy, is so cute.

Tae-woong sits at home in his pajamas, his room littered in filth. Uh, being unemployed does not suit you well. Somebody, intervention! He smiles like a goof while watching FinkL.

Shi-won comes in and immediately changes the channel. She snarls, “No DSP!” Haha, so FinkL, by way of Sechskies, is off limits? She lays on the compliments which Tae-woong recognizes right away as allowance flattery, and tells her to take money from his wallet.

She obliges, and takes more, “Oppa, do you know that I love you? You’re my ideal man! You’re smart, you’re good-looking, you’re tall…” He glares, “You took more, didn’t you?” Haha.

And then on the news is a big story about a website that’s making waves, called I Like School that connects students and alumni to each other…invented by Tae-woong. So… not lying around being a loser, then? (It’s a spoof on a real site is called I Love School.)

The 27-year old creator is announced as the next big thing, worth billions. Shi-won looks back and forth at the television and at Tae-woong sitting there guzzling soda, like This guy? And that guy? Are the same guy?

Joon-hee plays with puppy Yoon-jae in the park, and a little girl mistakes the puppy for her own and picks him up. Her mom gives the puppy back to Joon-hee with apologies, and the little girl cries.

It happens again the next day, and her mom explains that Dad gave her a puppy that looks just like this one before he left with a fishing crew, but she lost him after only a week.

Back to 1968. Il-hwa gives Dong-il note after note after note. Everywhere he turns, she’s there with another letter, and finally she snaps at him to write one back already.

Sometime later, he shows up on her front step, “Eh, Busan!” and hands her a letter. She smiles and says her friend will be happy, but he says she needn’t deliver it: “It’s yours.” AW. They stand there smiling awkwardly on her doorstep.

Their background music goes from up-tempo to slow-and-warped as we transition back to 1998, and Mom stares at a credit card bill: “Is this yours?” Dad: “If it’s not yours it’s mine.” Heh. Oh, how times have changed.

He smiles and ignores her sniping and beams when Yoon-jae interrupts them for some leftovers. Mom calms down and tells Yoon-jae she’ll pack him up some food… and gives Dad’s head a good shove as she gets up. Ha.

He stews in embarrassment and tells Yoon-jae to marry a nice quiet well-mannered girl or he’ll end up like him… as Shi-won bursts out of her room with a ta-daaaa… in her ridiculous hair and wearing makeup to boot.

Both Dad and Yoon-jae do this hilarious lurch backward in shock, as Dad tears into her for going out looking like that, threatening that she can’t go to Seoul if she keeps that up. He swears he’ll wipe her face clean and Yoon-jae adds under his breath: “And the hair too…”

But Mom comes to her rescue and shuts Dad up, saying she looks pretty and he can shove it. Dad sighs and asks Yoon-jae to keep an eye on her in Seoul. He must mean college?

Shi-won says she’s going out for dinner with Tae-woong oppa, and a cloud passes over Yoon-jae’s face. She calls back in a loving voice for Dad to feed “our Yoon-jae” too, leaving Yoon-jae puzzled.

He turns around to find Dad cuddling a tiny white puppy. Huh?

He says he found the little guy all alone in the park, and so he brought him home and Shi-won insisted that he looked just like Yoon-jae and named him so. HA. So this must be the little girl’s dog!

Dad says Shi-won sleeps holding him every night, and Yoon-jae just gapes, totally confused. And then Yoon-jae and Yoon-jae sit side by side at the table, eating the same dinner.

And in the park is Joon-hee, giving his puppy away to the little girl with a wistful sigh. Aw.

Shi-won comes outside to find Tae-woong decked out in a snazzy suit, waiting by his car. He’s on a capital-D Date, which she seems oblivious to.

She just marvels at how handsome he looks and happily goes along, her usual voracious appetite and bubbly self. He goes shopping for a new cell phone and buys a matching couple set, with a smile.

Back in 1968, Il-hwa takes a one-way trip back home to Busan with a long face, and then takes out the letter from Dong-il. It just says one thing in the middle of the page: “Should we… be a couple?”

That’s adorable. Past Dad was so cute! She smiles wistfully.

Tae-woong shows Shi-won his new office, currently just an empty room with one desk, since he’s the CEO and only employee. He gives her a cell phone saying it’s hers, and that he’s programmed his number as 1.

She looks up hesitantly, only now starting to catch on. He crouches down at her feet and asks if she wants to date him. It stuns her, and she asks hesitantly if she has to answer right away.

He hides his disappointment with a smile and tells her of course not; he’ll wait. He gets up and puts his hand out like a gentleman, but she stares at it like she doesn’t know what to do. Has no boy ever been nice to you? He helps her up with a chuckle.

Yoon-jae watches the latest trendy drama Innocence, (Why yes, I DO know the names of all of Ryu Shi-won’s ’90s dramas. Don’t you?) and drools over a handholding scene. Puppy Yoon-jae crashes his fantasy with a finger lick.

He watches Mom and Dad flirt again, having forgotten all about their latest yelling match. Dad gets up, suddenly feeling ill, and bends over to fart in Mom’s face. Pwahaha. Yoon-jae smiles to himself and narrates:

Yoon-jae: They say that people are born with a red string that they can’t see, tied to their pinky fingers, and the end is tied to the one you’re fated to be with. But the thread is twisted this way and that, making it hard to find the other end.

Tae-woong sits at his desk, holding his couple phone. He looks up at the mirror, and then at the picture of him with Shi-won’s sister, still on his desk. He holds it for a long moment, and then with a sigh, he tucks it away into a drawer.

Shi-won sits on a bench and ponders the phone for a long while, and then decides to dial 1. Tae-woong rushes his phone and picks up in an all-too-eager voice that kills me, and she asks if he was waiting for her call.

As they chat, Yoon-jae narrates:

Yoon-jae: People’s countless threads, all tangled together. But when I start to unravel it, I end up face to face with my fate, without even knowing it. If the red thread of fate really exists, then who is the one tied to my red thread?

Back in 1968, we see Yoon-jae’s future mom eat at the same restaurant alone, and then realize she left home without her wallet. Future Dad gets up and says he’ll pay for both, and they smile sheepishly.

And in 1998, both little white puppies play together in the park. The little girl comes running to claim her puppy, and then Shi-won comes running over a moment later calling after Yoon-jae. They end up taking home their rightful puppies after all, without even knowing that they’ve switched.

1988, Busan. The two familes gather for the picture that started the show, as the parents say they should take a nice group photo because you never know—they might end up in-laws.

Yoon-jae’s mom figures they have two sons and two daughters, so they could be double in-laws, and Shi-won’s mom says you never know if it’ll go by age or crisscrossed the other way, and they all have a good laugh.

They pose for the picture, and then we go back to the moment Dad finds it. He puts it out on display and gives it this heartbreaking look that makes me cry, and walks away as we linger on the photo.

Sometime later, Shi-won comes into Tae-woong’s room talking to him on her phone, as he asks her to find an envelope. She digs through the mess and opens all the drawers… and finds the photo of Song-joo with Tae-woong.

She smiles, “Unni, it’s been a while,” and caresses her sister’s face in the photo.

Under it, she finds a little post-it from Song-joo to Tae-woong oppa, telling him how much she misses him already and wants to see him again, and that she loves him very much. She signs it: “Future Wife, Present Lover, Song-joo.”

Yoon-jae comes home and jumps out of his skin to see Shi-won there, and then stews in silent fury as Shi-won talks to Tae-woong on the phone and roots through his room, like a girlfriend. He storms in, finds what she’s looking for in two seconds, and slams it down on the desk.

She comes to thank him by bursting into his room and jumping on his back (I love that she just hangs there like a monkey on a tree), squealing, “Yoon Yoon-jae, what would I without you?”

He tells her to get off, even surlier than normal. She refuses, so he throws her off, screaming at the top of his lungs, “I said I don’t like it!” She says it’s a joke, and wonders what’s gotten him so angry.

He snaps that she shouldn’t act this way in the future, because Hyung wouldn’t like it. “What guy would?” He storms out, leaving her hurt and confused. It’s okay, honey. He just means the opposite of what he says.

Yoon-jae douses his face in water, calling Shi-won an idiot, which cracks me up. ‘Cause clearly, you’re one to talk. But the bottled up pain, that’s just searing—he can’t tell anyone that his brother is dating the love of his life, can he?

Reunion, 2012. Joon-hee says he saw Eun Dokki outside and immediately Shi-won pokes Yoo-jung, “You called her here, didn’t you?” Yoo-jung scoffs, “What’re you gonna pull her hair and throw down right here? How old are you?”

Eun Dokki saunters in with Eun Gak-ha (the two lead Sechskies fangirls), and Sung-jae has a heart attack, confessing that he always had a crush on Eun Gak-ha. Too bad their husbands walk in right behind them. (Cameos by comedians Yoon Hyung-bin, Eun Dokki’s real-life boyfriend playing the other girl’s hubby, and Yang Sae-hyung.)

Even Hyung-bin knows that Shi-won is on Team H.O.T. and that Yoo-jung was a wishy-washy floater. She balks, all I was Switzerland! She thinks they ought to thank her for saving all their hair.

Eun Dokki and Hyung-bin do a round of inside jokes about how they’ve been friends forever but felt zero attraction, and they ask Sae-hyung what he liked most about Eun Dokki. He thinks back…

1998. Shi-won and Tae-woong ride in his car, and she asks, “Oppa, why do you like me?” It’s a simple question, asked in a happy tone, but he’s taken aback.

At the same time, Yoo-jung sits with Hak-chan, asking, “Do you like FinkL or me?” He’s learned some lessons by now and immediately points to her. She asks, “Why? Why do you like me?”

*blink, blink*

EPISODE 10: “The Reason I Like You”


Deux – “Look Back at Me” [ Download ]

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The boys stand outside a club, whining at Sung-jae that this is a stupid idea. Hak-chan sighs at the utter uncoolness of a colatech (heh, nice name for an underage club) and would rather they drink real booze at his house.

But Sung-jae swears it’ll be awesome and they’ll get all the girls. They finally give in and start to head inside, when he says they’re waiting for Shi-won and Yoo-jung to arrive.

They stop in their tracks. Sung-jae says matter-of-factly that Hak-chan was sure to get caught anyway so he might as well just go with his girl, and Shi-won wanted to see Joon-hee dance, so he invited them. They glare.

Hak-chan: “I will kill that bastard tonight.”

They head inside and recognize their classmate Eun Gak-ha up on the stage, and gape as she starts to dance. Sung-jae goes gaga over her, making giant hearts over his head like a fool.

The girls arrive and Shi-won jumps on Yoon-jae’s back again, forgetting his warning the other day. He yells at her again not to do that anymore, and Yoo-jung asks if they fought—she’s never seen Yoon-jae yell like that before.

Shi-won turns her attention to the topic of the day: Turbo or Deux? They agree that Deux is better. And then on cue, Joon-hee takes to the stage. The group goes silent, and then the girls screeeeam.

Deux Dance! I’m pretty sure by now, I’ve seen Eun Ji-won dance this on 1 Night 2 Days more than Deux.

Joon-hee dances his heart out and the girls take turns yelling their fangirl best. But when he’s done and the crowd goes wild, he only looks at one person: Yoon-jae, who smiles back and cheers him on.

When he comes down from the stage, Eun Gak-ha asks if he has a girlfriend, offering up her pager number. But he gives it back, “I have someone I like,” and walks away. She turns around to get a pager number from Sung-jae who’s now madly in love with her, and she sighs, letting him carry her bag like a puppy.

By now Tae-woong’s internet startup has a few college friends as employees. He tells them to go home for a change or go take their girlfriends out, but they sigh that they don’t have time for any.

He brags that he does, and shows off a picture with Shi-won. They give the obligatory “She’s pretty…” but Tae-woong can read their faces and says he knows she isn’t, and she’s last place in school too. They ask, “In her [college] department?” Tae-woong: “No, in her [high school] class.” Their jaws drop.

The gang comes out of the club and the girls playfully fight over who gets to be Joon-hee’s girlfriend. He shows them the backpack and cash he won as his prize for being the best dancer, and offers to buy dinner.

Yoo-jung says she and Hak-chan have movie plans and drags him away. Awkward love triangle, table for 3?

But Shi-won says she has plans too, and picks up a call on her cell. She whispers in Joon-hee’s ear: “Have a good date!” and runs off. That’s adorable.

Joon-hee says they can just go home, but Yoon-jae says he wants to eat, so whatever, they’ll just go on a date, the two of them. He puts his arm around Joon-hee and they head off.

Date night for everyone. Sung-jae and Eun Gak-ha go the movies. Omg, it’s Eun Ji-won in Seventeen, when he was an idol and couldn’t act. I’m cringing for you!

And then, a few rows down… are Yoo-jung and Hak-chan. Aaaaack, the secondhand embarrassment! Hak-chan watches with his head cocked to the side says this acting is terrible: “Even I’d be better than that.”

Yoo-jung: “Let’s break up.” He quickly gets up to buy some soda, and she ogles her oppa in peace. Omg, stop making me watch it. It’s terrible! Oppa, noooooo!

Joon-hee and Yoon-jae go to his noona’s pojangmacha, and he introduces her as Noona Number 7, who’s twins with the noona who caught him with Sung-jae the other day.

Yoon-jae asks about Noona Number 8 then, and Joon-hee says that’s his twin. What the? You have a twin? Yoon-jae has the same reaction and wonders, “What else don’t I know about you? Is your dad a gangster? Do you… have a crazy secret crush on somebody?”

They both pause knowing the answer is yes, but Joon-hee says no, there’s nothing like that. Yoon-jae sighs that he’s got so many secrets.

Joon-hee: “Then what about you? Why didn’t you give that dog to Shi-won? Didn’t you buy it for her?” Yoon-jae turns to noona and asks for a bottle of soju.

On a different date, Shi-won eyes Tae-woong’s beer with a gleam in her eye and asks if she can have a sip. She says she’s going up to Seoul to see H.O.T. tomorrow and asks him to soften the blow to her parents.

He asks why she likes them so much and she says because they’re good looking, and dance well, and just… everything. Tae-woong asks her to like him that much and she nods.

Back to the pojangmacha. Yoon-jae throws back a drink, “How’d you know?” Joon-hee: “How could I not know?”

Yoon-jae asks in turn, “Why don’t you confess to Shi-won?” Joon-hee just looks down, not answering. Yoon-jae: “Why, is that a secret too?”

Joon-hee downs a shot.

Augh, you two and your painfully crossed wires! You’re killing me!

At school the next day, the fangirls are aflutter in preparation to see their oppas win at the big end-of-year music awards, and Eun Gak-ha slams a poster down on Shi-won’s desk, accusing her of vandalizing it.

The top of the first letter has been ripped off, to change “I love Sechskies” to “I love asshole,” which you have to admit, is pretty clever. But Shi-won says that’s beneath her, since they can’t compete with H.O.T. anyway.

She asks why they’re even going to the music awards when they should be going to some movie awards. “Seventeen? The acting was amazing! Al Pacino would cry!”

She is so hilariously awesome with the smackdowns. Eun Gak-ha says H.O.T.’s lipsyncing days are over, and Shi-won says yes, sure, but pray tell, why do only three of your oppas go onstage wearing mics? HA.

The downside of being so quick and witty, of course, is that the other girl has nothing left to do but scream and grab Shi-won’s hair. Fight! Dan-ji just turns her attention back to her magazine, and there in her desk is the evidence of the torn letter from the poster.

1998 Golden Disc Awards. The front of the theater is roped off in different colors in preparation for the fans: one side for H.O.T., the other for Sechskies. It’s a sea of white and yellow.

One yellow-clad girl bravely darts over to the other side: It’s Yoo-jung, wanting to confer with Shi-won. She and Dan-ji yell at her to take that yellow jacket off before they’re mobbed, and then they argue about who’s getting the Daesang tonight.

It starts to rain and the air turns icy. Uh-oh, I smell epic fanwar.

The girls all rise one by one, ready for a face-off. And they’ve brought the big guns this time, because each club’s president steps out in front. (Cameos by comediennes Ahn Young-mi and Kang Yumi.)

It’s mudslinging, not gun-slinging, though you wouldn’t know it by the looks on everyone’s faces. They throw their best insults (and the reference to Sechskies’ see-through pants gets a spit-laugh outta me, ’cause that was surely a highlight of ’90s fashion WTFery).

It of course devolves into a hair-pulling, name-calling, all-out war, as both sides rush the divide.

But just in time, a PD comes out with a bullhorn to announce they’re going in. (Daeju? Aw seeing the old 1N2D crew stick together gives me the warm fuzzies.) Nothing like the promise of seeing their oppas to calm a raging war.

The war resumes in the form of out-cheering each other when the Daesang comes up… and we hear Shin Dong-yup’s voice, so they must’ve just cut in the audio from the original broadcast.

Mom and Dad watch from home… and see Shi-won screaming from the crowd. Oh noes. Mom screams in delight and Dad crushes an orange with his bare hands. Eep!

The MC teases them about whether or not to just give the award to H.O.T. or Sechskies, back and forth, back and forth… and then announces that the Daesang goes to… Kim Jong-hwan.

Pfffffft. Love it. This is so hilarious. Both sides go from screaming to dead silence, and slump down in utter defeat. Yoo-jung and Shi-won look over at each other across the aisle in shock.

The only one who’s happy is Mom, who squeals and sings along, as Dad covers his ears.

The aftermath outside the theater is like a fangirl wasteland. The Sechskies and H.O.T. presidents now sit huddled together, suddenly war buddies who know each other’s pain only too well.

The boys play basketball, and suddenly Sung-jae runs out in the middle of the game because the girls have arrived from Seoul. He rushes away to go pick up Eun Gak-ha. Hak-chan trails after him, to go get Yoo-jung.

That leaves Yoon-jae and Joon-hee alone, and Joon-hee asks why he’s not going to pick up Shi-won. He sighs that there’s someone else to do that.

Yoon-jae: “Why do you like Shi-won?” Joon-hee just turns the question back on him. Yoon-jae tells him to guess.

Joon-hee says he thought they were twins at first—they always fought, but then always went home from school together.

Joon-hee: “Isn’t Shi-won the person you’re closest to in the whole world, like a twin? You like it when you’re together, and it’s comfortable, and even if you’re not doing anything, there’s no awkwardness between you. That’s what I was always most envious of. Isn’t that why you like her?”

Yoon-jae says no, he’s wrong about that. Joon-hee: “Then why? Why do you like Shi-won?”

Back to the scenes that opened the episode. Yoo-jung asks Hak-chan: “Why do you like me?”

Shi-won asks Tae-woong: “Oppa, why do you like me?” No answer. “Because… I’m like Song-joo unni?”

Joon-hee asks Yoon-jae again. Yoon-jae: “Because… she’s pretty.” Awwwwwwwwwww.

Yoo-jung waits for her answer. Hak-chan: “Because you’re cute, and pretty.” She does a little happy jiggle.

Shi-won asks if Tae-woong likes her because she reminds him of unni, but he says no, he did at first, but not now. “Because you’re pretty.”

She points out her un-pretty features, but he says she’s still pretty in his eyes. “Though, not in anyone else’s.”

Eun Gak-ha asks Sung-jae why he likes her. Sung-jae: “Your chest.” Haha. Unsurprisingly, she walks out on him. Sung-jae: “No, your arms! Your legs!” Not making it better!

Back to the reunion, where Eun Dokki’s hubby answers the question the same way: Because she’s pretty. Because everything about her, from her wrinkles to her moles, is pretty in his eyes.

And then we return to the basketball court, where Yoon-jae asks Joon-hee why he likes Shi-won. Joon-hee: “I don’t like Shi-won. I like someone else.” *gasp*

Yoon-jae nudges him, “Who?” He takes a deep breath and bites his lip…


Omomomomomomomo. He said it! He said it! I’m holding my breath…

The longest silent moment in the history of silent moments passes back and forth between them. Joon-hee bravely doesn’t break his gaze, doesn’t take it back.

Finally Yoon-jae processes it in the only way he can, and slaps him on the back, laughing that he got him good. Oh noes!

But his good-natured ribbing actually gives Joon-hee license to keep saying it, because Yoon-jae thinks he’s kidding. “No, it’s really you.” The laugh and joke, which is sweet, even though my heart just breaks for Joon-hee. He narrates:

Joon-hee: The reason I like you? Because you’re that person. Because you’re you. Is there another reason besides that one? I’d rather know the reason if there was one. Then I could find a way to not like you. If I can’t avoid it, then there’s only one thing I want: to remain by your side, unchanged, for long time. Here’s to our love, that chills our hearts.


So I didn’t expect Shi-won to say yes to Tae-woong, but certainly understand why she would. She grew up idolizing their father, and then idolizing him, the cool oppa who’s showering her with attention and making her feel loved, which is something that no matter how much Yoon-jae likes her, has yet to be able to show. So it makes perfect sense that she’d just go along for the ride, despite the fact that they don’t quite fit, which I get the sense that they know, deep down.

She’s young, but she knows enough to wonder if Tae-woong likes her because she reminds him of Song-joo. I don’t think Tae-woong is conflating the two sisters or doing anything bad. Mostly I just feel so sad for him that he lost the love of his life. I don’t think he’s consciously trying to replace Song-joo with Shi-won; but I do think he’s trying to patch his heart and thinks he has a firmer grasp of his feelings than he really does. I believe him when he says he likes her, but I don’t think it’s much deeper than that. And more importantly, I don’t think Shi-won’s heart is there.

Their relationship probably does more for Yoon-jae’s character than anything, because he’s the one who suffers the consequences of letting Hyung be quicker on the draw. I feel such painful empathy for him when he reacts with such anger at Shi-won because he has no other place to direct his feelings, no other way to express his anger at her for choosing Tae-woong. Except he never stepped up to let her know there was a choice between them. I see why he skips that step in his brain, but the truth is, Shi-won mostly thinks he hates her. He spends all day complaining about how immature she is, but he says the opposite of everything he means, and then gets mad at her for not reading his mind. I just want to shake him. But it’s that frustratingly realistic version of teenage love that this show does so well. People behave not like drama heroes, but like people.

My heart stopped when Joon-hee finally confessed his crush, and I almost didn’t even know if I was relieved to delay the inevitable crushing heartbreak of rejection or even sadder that Yoon-jae didn’t take him seriously. Aaaaaaack. Yet another way to put us through the wringer that I didn’t expect. But I do really love how they end that moment with them in the same place in their lives—stuck in these painful one-sided loves that they can’t stop, and can’t win. I’m rooting for you both… except there’s no way that works out, is there? Why so cruel? And why doesn’t Joon-hee get a Puppy of Fate of his own?


196 September 2, 2012January 24, 2016

Answer Me 1997: Episodes 11-12

by girlfriday

As high school ends, it’s time to grow up… and say goodbye. Why do I feel like Mom and Dad, not ready to let these characters grow up and leave the nest? As everyone faces the big changes ahead, we take one step closer to Shi-won’s self-discovery, and perhaps even discovering the one who’s in her heart.

[Note: There’s been a change to the broadcast schedule, because the final two episodes 15 and 16 are running long. So 13 and 14 will air as normal back to back this Tuesday; then 15 airs alone on the 11th, and 16 airs alone on the 18th.]


Lee Seung-hwan – “가족 (Family)” [ Download ]

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EPISODE 11: “The Definition of Relationships”

December 1998. Tae-woong gets a call in the middle of preparing dinner (with an adorable little apron on), asking if he wants to continue payment to store his parents’ ashes. The man asks his relation and he says that he’s their son.

He looks over at a family portrait and narrates:

Tae-woong: Since the day of that accident, I lived having completely forgotten the fact that I was someone’s son. A relationship determined before I was born, a relationship that ends against my will – that’s family. And now I only have one family relationship left.

He opens the door to Yoon-jae’s room and wakes Little Bro with a loving foot to the ass. Yoon-jae wakes at the smell of breakfast, and Shi-won comes by with the most giant tub of pickled quail eggs on earth, courtesy of Mom. How much you wanna bet there’s another five of those at home? She grabs Yoon-jae’s spoon to eat from his bowl, and declares she’ll eat here too. Yoon-jae’s mood turns sour.

Tae-woong opens the container and his jaw drops, “Did she leave any for you guys?” Um, do you even have to ask? Sure enough, there she is with two giant containers of her own, making Dad’s eyes bug out.

Tae-woong joins Shi-won in the kitchen to say that he’ll come by to see her tonight, and laughs at the mountain of rice she’s scooping for her breakfast. She argues, “You said you’d still like me if I was fat!”

He brushes the rice-covered hair out of her face and then calls out to Yoon-jae… who’s long gone. Aw, I don’t blame ya.

Yoon-jae sits at the bus stop and takes out that tiny makeshift “S” that Shi-won scrounged up for him as a present before exams, and finally chucks it in the trash. It hits the edge and falls to the ground.

The rest of the boys goof off in class and listen to a new song (Jo Sung-mo’s To Heaven). Sung-jae declares it a flop, convinced the singer hasn’t revealed his face because it’s hideous. Hur.

They decide to make it a bet: Yoon-jae and Joon-hee think it’ll be a hit, and Sung-jae and Hak-chan vote it’ll tank. But what to wager? Sung-jae suggests the losers run into the girls’ class and shout the name of the girl they like three times.

Hak-chan and Yoon-jae thwack him on the head, obviously the two who have a name to shout. Joon-hee wonders what the big fuss is—they just run in and shout Yoo-jung and Shi-won’s names…

And on cue, Shi-won bursts into their classroom: “Kang Joon-hee, Kang Joon-hee, Kang Joon-hee!” Haha.

Yoon-jae immediately puts his headphones on. She asks Joon-hee to borrow his headphones, but he forgot his, and Sung-jae’s are deemed unhygienic. He motions at her to ask Yoon-jae for his, but she looks at him warily and says nevermind, turning back.

Joon-hee looks down and sees that his walkman isn’t even turned on, and presses play. Of course Joon-hee would be the only one who recognizes his pain.

Dad complains that Mom is taking forever, as they prepare to leave the house for their first overseas vacation. Mom hops out in the cutest trying-too-hard-to-look-young outfit that’s probably straight out of Shi-won’s closet, which makes me love her even more.

Dad the worrywart decides he has to call Shi-won one more time to nag her about coming home early while they’re gone, especially with the rash of crimes against young women these days. Shi-won yells into the phone: “How can I sleep with Yoon-jae? HE’S A BOY.” Oh, so you do know?

Yoo-jung laughs and Shi-won complains that her parents think they’re still children. Yoo-jung points out that her relationship with Yoon-jae is unique though—she thought they were dating too, way back when.

But then she adds that Yoon-jae would be crazy to date her over aaaallllll the other girls lined up to be his girlfriend. Shi-won grumps that she’ll tell Hak-chan about Yoo-jung’s junior-year crush on Yoon-jae. I think he’s a step ahead there.

Yoo-jung swoons to hear that Tae-woong is the one sending Mom and Dad on the expensive cruise, wishing she had an oppa like that. She worries about Shi-won’s secret part-time job at the convenience store and her late hours, but she assures her it’ll be fine.

Hak-chan gets an earful from Yoo-jung, nagging him to show up to meet her friends tonight. He’s taken to just putting the phone down until she’s done yelling and then answering yes, and Sung-jae sighs at his plight.

Hak-chan argues that he doesn’t know about the relationship between men and women, but Sung-jae counters that it seems more like a misery-loving hostage relationship to him. Touché.

Tae-woong sees a news report about crimes against women (thefts ending in violence, sometimes murder) on the rise since the IMF crisis, and calls Shi-won to tell her the same thing that Dad did. She sighs that she’ll be fine, and rolls her eyes at his suggestion that she call Yoon-jae: “I’m stronger than Yoon-jae!” Ha.

But Tae-woong calls Yoon-jae to ask if he’ll sleep at Shi-won’s house tonight because she might be scared. He hears the request as she passes by him in the hallway, and they each look away to avoid eye contact. He sighs. Not exactly sleepover friends at the moment.

Yoo-jung is out with her friends and sneak-texts Hak-chan furiously, waiting to introduce her Seoulite boyfriend for the millionth time to her skeptical friends. He finally screws up the nerve to come in… and then turns right back out, too frightened to face four girls at once. Yoo-jung sees him flee and her face falls.

She keeps buying her friends more and more food to appease them, and then they finally give up. She heads to the counter to pay, but the clerk tells her a guy already paid her whole check. Aw.

She runs out and finds him waiting for her, and finally gets to introduce him to her friends. Whew, I was worried there for a second. But then just as he’s made a good impression, his mother chances upon the group and asks what he’s doing there.

He drops Yoo-jung’s hand like a hot potato, and when Mom asks who she is, he just stammers, “a girl I know.” Yiiiiiiiikes. And in front of all her friends too?

Shi-won finishes up her shift and heads home. I don’t like the look of the suspicious guy in the baseball cap who’s eyeing her exit.

Yoon-jae perks up at another news report of the increased crimes, and this story highlights a particular string of similar occurrences in Busan. He sits upright, suddenly all ears.

Shi-won walks home, and it’s not till she’s in a dark alley that she notices someone behind her. Augh, it’s Creepy Baseball Cap. *shivers*

Yoo-jung runs home in tears, and Hak-chan chases after her, apologizing for his mistake—he was just so flustered that it came out wrong. Tears streaming down her face, she asks, “Am I just a girl you know? And here I thought I was your girlfriend.”

He says he’s sorry, but she tells him he needn’t be, to just some girl he knows. He argues that it was just a dumb idiotic moment of mental paralysis, but she says coldly that they’re really over this time, and goes inside.

Yoon-jae sits at home on edge. Why are you still at home?!

He calls Shi-won’s house over and over, but there’s no one home. Shi-won feels someone behind her, and calls Yoon-jae on her cell phone… but his line is busy because he’s calling her. ACK! GET OFF THE PHONE!

He calls, over and over and over, and so does she, her pace quickening.

She finally calls his landline and he races to pick up. She whispers that she’s been calling and that someone is following her. He just asks where she is, and goes tearing out in his t-shirt and slippers, in the freezing dead of winter.

He runs and runs, and Tae-woong calls to check in on him, but he doesn’t have time to explain. He runs so fast he collides with a guy walking his bicycle, and takes a bad fall. But he just scrambles to get up and keep running. All Tae-woong hears is Yoon-jae huffing and puffing, and taking the fall. Shi-won grows increasingly panicked, and Baseball Cap gets unnervingly close to her… He inches closer, now just two paces away…

When Yoon-jae comes racing down the alley, “SUNG SHI-WON!” Ohthankgod. He runs and puts his arms around her, and stares directly at the creep, who turns and walks in the other direction.

Yoon-jae’s limping, covered in sweat, and shaking like a leaf. But the first thing he says? “I’m sorry I’m late.” And I immediately burst into tears.

She looks down. He only has one shoe. Up. He has blood on his face. He just limps along with his arms firmly around her, yelling at her for being out so late.

They reach her house, and then he finally lets go of her. She walks up to her door and stops to look back at him.

She doesn’t say anything, so he asks if she’s scared—does she want him to stay a while with her? But it’s his arm she’s fixated on: “You’re bleeding a lot.” He says he won’t die from it and brushes it off.

She turns to him and takes his bleeding hand in hers, but he pulls away on contact. He tells her to go to bed and leaves. She watches him limp away.

She sits in her room, still reeling in the aftermath. She narrates:

Shi-won: There are relationships of differing levels of difficulty. To me, Yoon-jae was the easiest of them, to explain or to maintain: that of childhood playmates. But on this day, contrary to everything I knew, I discovered… that there might be the possibility that we’d be the most difficult kind of relationship in the world. The relationship with the highest level of difficulty: that of a man and a woman.

Yoon-jae tends to his cuts and scrapes, and adds his narration:

Yoon-jae: Each expecting different things, each looking at different places, each dreaming different dreams… everything that happens between one man and one woman, is just continuous love and war. You sulk, you pacify, you fight, you make up, you hurt, you embrace. A relationship like a manic-depressive patient who can’t make up his mind. But the hardest thing about the relationship between a man and a woman is the timing—if the love doesn’t begin at the same time, it’s unlikely to ever begin at all.

He sighs that it’s the most fussy, annoying type of relationship, and then sighs that there is one other kind that’s just as messed up…

…as Tae-woong arrives home in a panic, shouting his name. Ha.

He gasps in relief that Yoon-jae is okay, having called a million times, not knowing what had happened. Yoon-jae just says he fell. Tae-woong rushes over to check on his scrapes, and that’s when Yoon-jae looks at hyung and notices that he’s rushed over here so fast his sweatshirt is on inside-out. AW.

Yoon-jae finishes off in voiceover: “The one relationship you can’t ever shake, no matter how sick and tired you get, that leads to a lifetime of tears: Family.”

He narrates it in the most annoyed tone (I love that the voiceovers have attitude), while Tae-woong bandages his cuts and bruises, and blows on the owies like mom. It’s freaking adorable.

Sung-jae and Hak-chan watch the big reaveal of Jo Sung-mo… and collapse in shock. Hak-chan screams accusingly, “He’s good looking!” And three weeks later, he’s still at number one, of course. Just wait till the epic music video explodes. Hak-chan’ll kill you.

This means that there’s the matter of a little bet to settle…

The four guys crouch outside the girls’ classroom, and finally Yoon-jae tells just one of them to do it before the teacher comes. Sung-jae gets up and says he’ll do it, and bursts into the room.

He stares at Eun Gak-ha and goes mute, and then takes a deep breath… when Hak-chan steals the moment and shouts: “Mo Yoo-jung! Mo Yoo-jung! Mo Yoo-jung!” Aw. She beams.

Hak-chan (voiceover): “The one benefit to that top-degree-of-difficulty relationship between a man and a woman is… one word can overturn its mood at any time.”

He makes a tiny embarrassing hand-heart at her, and narrates a big Phew, return to status quo.

Reunion, 2012. Shi-won sighs at everyone drinking beer but her, and finally gets up to stage a big rebellion… by declaring that she will drink coffee tonight. She’s so cute. The others call out drink orders after her.

She runs to the coffeeshop and stops in the bathroom, where she accidentally leaves her ring behind. Meanwhile back at the reunion, everyone’s gaping at the hideous wedding rings Hak-chan’s mother picked out for them.

Shi-won laughs to see it, and Yoo-jung sighs that she wishes hers could be a simple couple ring like Shi-won’s… which makes her remember that she left it on the sink.

Yoon-jae sighs that it’s a miracle she hasn’t lost it till now, and Tae-woong reinforces how special the ring is. Yoon-jae sort of half-smiles, cryptically.

Joon-hee says she never even wears her wedding ring, and always wears that one—the couple ring.

Sung-jae: “She likes comfort more than anything. Just like her husband.” Hm… The be-ringed finger returns and reaches for the extra-whip iced caramel mocha…

EPISODE 12: “The Meaning of a Hand”


Sa Joon – “Memories” [ Download ]

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January 1999. Tae-woong looks out his fancy new apartment window, and opens a tiny little box… with a diamond engagement ring inside.

Yoon-jae narrates: “Hyung always said that earning someone’s hand means you get to have their heart.”

At the same time, Shi-won is shopping for bows to clip in her hair, which says a lot about where these two are at in life. Yoo-jung tries on her best Hyori look, and then says she saw an interview where S.E.S. said they’d make each other their future wedding dresses.

Yoo-jung: “Can you imagine S.E.S. ever getting married?!” Funny how that seemed like such an impossibility at the time. Shi-won says that’s crazy. Yoo-jung tells her to pick out more stuff—she’ll spring for an early birthday present, and Shi-won beams.

But they spot Hak-chan across the street with Dan-ji… looking awfully chummy. They note that she’s expressed interest in Hak-chan on more than one occasion. But before Shi-won can even say a word of comfort, Yoo-jung is out the door and across the street. Whoa, did you teleport?

She confronts them and Hak-chan swears that Dan-ji is just helping him with “something,” and leaves to go meet the guys.

Shi-won packs up her room for college (awwwww), taking care to roll up all her H.O.T. posters and reassure them it’ll only be for a short trip. She kisses Tony oppa to say this was all thanks to him, and Dad interrupts with his usual pleasantries, picking at her nerves.

He does concede that he ought to buy the monkey a meal, since his daughter did get into college because of him (hilariously true). But mostly Dad’s annoyed that she’s so excited to go to Seoul, with no regard for how sad Mom and Dad might feel.

He takes issue with her packing up her room with a month left to go, thinking she can’t wait to get out of here. He sighs that it’s true what they say about kids growing up to become strangers, and decides he’s going to grow unattached to her from now on. Aw, I totally remember my dad doing this passive-aggressive pre-college freakout. Poor papa. Shi-won just sits in silence, watching Dad mutter to himself bitterly.

The boys hang out at Yoon-jae’s place, and Joon-hee makes ramyun while the other guys watch FinkL. Well, Yoon-jae’s mostly staring at the calendar above the tv that has “our Shi-won’s birthday” marked on it.

And Hak-chan is mostly staring at his cell phone. Sung-jae makes fun of his predicament, which turns out to be a biggie: his parents are forcing him to study abroad in Hawaii. How Eun-Ji-won-esque of him.

Yoon-jae says he has to tell Yoo-jung, and fast—she still thinks he’s going to remain in Busan. Hak-chan’s answer, as usual, is to ask for soju.

Yoon-jae grabs a bottle and tells Joon-hee not to pop the eggs in the ramyun, but he doesn’t hear him, with his headphones on.

So Yoon-jae sneaks right up to his ear, pulls back his headphones, and whispers, “Don’t pop the eggs.” But… did you have to whisper it in your sexy bedroom voice? Joon-hee just about has a heart attack.

Sung-jae ooohs jealously that Yoon-jae’s got it made—living with Joon-hee means lots of tasty ramyun like this. Omo, are they gonna be roomies?

Hak-chan asks if they aren’t sick of each other, heading off to the same school and living together too. Sung-jae says that’s silly, calling Yoon-jae the dad and Joon-hee the mom—what’s there to fight about? He snaps at Yoon-jae not to take Joon-hee for granted.

Aw, a sensitive moment from Sung-jae? Though of course he turns right around to call Hak-chan a moron for not being able to call his girlfriend and gets a beating for it.

Joon-hee says that Shi-won’s all packed and ready to head up to Seoul next week, and Yoon-jae just pretends to be disinterested at the news. Sung-jae jokes that if Shi-won could get herself into college with fanfic, he should’ve tried his hand at some girl group fanfic too.

Yoon-jae speaks up to defend her—it might’ve been fanfic, but her writing was good. That just leads Sung-jae to the obvious question: You mean you read the stories? With the guys and the unzipping of pants? Yoon-jae denies it a little too vehemently, almost leading to fisticuffs.

Tae-woong drops off his coworker, who catches a glimpse of the ring box sitting in his car. Tae-woong asks him for his opinion: is it too much to give to Shi-won for her birthday? He opens it, sees the diamond, and nods YES. Heh. He advises Tae-woong take it down a notch, like maybe a pair of simple couple rings. Omo! As in The Ring?

Mom is busy packing up the entire friggin’ kitchen for Shi-won to take to college, and Dad nags in his usual manner, Do you think they don’t have food in Seoul? But Mom, being Mom, packs like she’s feeding a hundred daughters.

Shi-won peeks in and watches them with a loving look, as Mom starts to worry that Shi-won doesn’t know how to use the rice cooker or do the laundry, and sighs, “I should’ve held onto her a little longer before letting her go…”

Shi-won speaks up to reassure them that she knows how to do those things, and Mom insists they go over it again before she goes. Dad takes issue with her going out this late at night and gets huffy, but softens when she uses Yoon-jae as an excuse (though she’s heading out to meet Tae-woong).

Joon-hee stays behind to do the dishes, and asks Yoon-jae if he’s going to Shi-won’s birthday party. No answer. He says it’s turned into a farewell party for all of them—Hak-chan, and the three of them going to Seoul—so he has to go.

He asks if he bought Shi-won a birthday present. After a long pause, Yoon-jae says, “Something cheap.” Cheap… rings? Say it’s cheap rings!

But he adds in a defeated voice that he’s probably not going to give it to her.

Shi-won runs up to meet Tae-woong as he arrives and hands him a present, saying that she feels like she’s always on the receiving end, so she bought him something with the money she earned from her part-time job.

It’s a red tie, and she says it’s for good luck and everything to go smoothly at work. He asks if she knows what giving a tie means between lovers. She shakes her head no.

He puts it on and tells her the meaning: “I want you.” She gapes and swears that’s really really really really not what she meant, and he pouts, saying that he’s disappointed then.

He takes a step closer and put his hands on her shoulders, and admits that it’s what he wishes she meant.

It’s that moment that Yoon-jae and Joon-hee walk out of the house. Oh noes.

And then Tae-woong goes in for a hug. It’s perhaps the most awkward hug ever. Like one of them is a porcupine and the other is a balloon.

But man is it enough to send Yoon-jae reeling. And Joon-hee too, because no one else knew about this relationship besides Yoon-jae.

Tae-woong kisses her on the forehead. And then there’s this great four-way meaningful lookathon: Joon-hee looks at Yoon-jae, who looks at Shi-won, who looks up at Tae-woong. Everybody’s brain explodes.

Yoon-jae finally can’t take it anymore and stalks off, and Joon-hee takes off after him.

Tae-woong tells Shi-won to expect a good birthday present tomorrow: “It has as deep a meaning as the necktie… between lovers.” I actually feel sorry for Tae-woong in this situation, because everything about Shi-won’s body language says I love you like a brother.

Hak-chan stops by to see Yoo-jung, who’s still upset about Dan-ji. She asks again what’s going on with him, and he swears it’s nothing and asks her to let it go. But she’s growing more nervous by the second, saying that he’s being so distant, not answering her calls, being evasive, and demands to know what’s going on right now.

He finally explodes and tells her the truth, that his mom is sending him abroad to become a human being, and he asked Dan-ji to borrow her family’s restaurant after hours so he could confess to Yoo-jung and ask her to wait a year for him, because he’ll do whatever it takes to get back here in a year.

But now his lid is flipped and he screams at her for making him say it like this and not trusting him and waiting a few more days. Seriously, dude? He screams, “Do you still not know my heart?”

She slaps him and says through her tears, “How could I know your heart? You don’t tell me! How could I know your heart?!” She crumples in sobs.

Shi-won tosses and turns in bed, and Mom and Dad sneak in to watch her sleep. It’s maybe the sweetest little family moment ever. They don’t know that Shi-won isn’t asleep, and sit down on her bed, worrying that she might have a hard time up there with all those uppity people in the big city.

Mom worries that she’ll cave and come running home, while Dad sighs that if she had met a Seoulite father instead of him, she might not have had to suffer such a rough transition, and pets her on the head lovingly.

Mom walks out and Dad lingers a little longer, clinging to her empty desk like it’s a piece of his droopy soul.

The gang gets together at a noraebang for Shi-won’s birthday and everyone’s farewell party, though the mood in the room is no party. Yoo-jung and Hak-chan sit silently stewing, and Yoon-jae glowers. Well, glowers more than usual.

Shi-won blows out her birthday candles and Sung-jae MCs send-offs for Seoul-U-bound Joon-hee and Yoon-jae, and Hawaii-bound Hak-chan. He says if they come back for break with uppity Seoul accents, they’re all dead.

But then even jokey Sung-jae’s voice falters as he tells everyone to raise their contraband beers for a toast, “To our… last night…”

It’s really only a party for Sung-jae, Shi-won, and Joon-hee, who sing and dance while the other three sit in silence. Finally Sung-jae calls Yoon-jae out, saying they’ve never heard him sing—is that perhaps the perfect boy’s one weakness? So he takes the mic to sing “Memories” and is awesome, of course. Sung-jae siiiighs, “I hate him… that bastard.” Hee.

As Yoon-jae sings, one by one they start to leave—Sung-jae and Joon-hee because they get calls, and Yoo-jung because she starts to cry. Hak-chan runs out after her. That leaves Shi-won in there with him alone, and she looks up him, singing with such heartfelt emotion about hiding his true feelings and pleading for someone “to return to me.” This song is so perfect for him.

After an awkward silence, she asks if he doesn’t have a birthday present for her. She mentions having asked for something on her birthday last year…

Flashback to last birthday, when he gave her a book of coupons. The theme was “together” and she complained that she’d outgrown coupon books. He asked if there was something she wanted, and she said, “Yes, but from anyone but you.”

She slipped the little key ring on her finger and said she wanted a ring from a boy who likes her.

Oh my gaaaah, she asked for a ring? You had better have a ring in your pocket right now. I love that when she asked for one, she said it would have to be from anyone but him to count, but now he’s the person she’s asking it from.

He finally confronts her about it all, by saying that that’s a present she should get from Tae-woong. “You’re really cruel, you know that? How could you ask me for that right now?”

She just asks why, not getting it, and tells him to explain it to her. He sighs and finally says the words: “I like you. I like you a lot.” HE SAID IT!

He says they’ve been together since they were born, and there hasn’t been a single day of his life that he hasn’t seen her, but… “I still see you as a woman.” He confesses that the first day of high school was when he first thought she was pretty, and ever since then, he was always around her, giving her signs: “that I like you. And for you to like me back.”

He understood that maybe she wouldn’t know because they were such good friends, and so planned to confess on his D-Day. But then Hyung beat him by ten minutes, and told him that he liked Shi-won.

Yoon-jae: “What should I do? There are two people I love the most in the entire world. One is my hyung, who gave up everything because of me. And the other is you. It’s you… and Hyung says he likes you. A lot. Like I do.”

He asks over and over what he should do, erupting in a yell, when Sung-jae comes back in to say they only have a minute left. He picks up the mic and starts to sing “And Now Goodbye,” while Yoon-jae and Shi-won sit in the worst awkward silence.

Hak-chan doesn’t know how else to deal with Yoo-jung’s sea of tears, and yells at her, asking what she wants from him. She asks if he really thought she wouldn’t be able to understand that he has to go abroad, and more importantly, it’s that he told all his friends, but not her.

He finally gets a clue, and she stalks off, leaving him feeling like a heel.

Sung-jae finishes singing his moment-appropriate goodbye ballad and then runs out to get their tape. Ah, good old days.

Shi-won speaks up at last, “Yoon-jae-ya, can’t we just be comfortable friends, like we were before? Like you said, we’ve always been together, from the day we were born. I’m not so smart… you know that… but I do know that you are the most important friend I have in the world. You’ll still be my friend, right?”

She looks up at him so nervously. He gives her a piercing glare and puts his hand to his heart. “A guy emptying out what’s in here, to the girl he likes? It means I have no intention of seeing you ever again.”

Oof. Sock to the gut.

They each hold back their tears, and he gets up. He puts a box down on the table, “You throw it away.” She looks down. It’s a ring box.

He opens the door and says bitterly, “Friends? The hell…” and walks out.

She picks up the box and cries as she opens it… to find a little ring inside. It’s The Ring! It’s The Ring! He fights back his tears outside the room.

Shi-won walks home in a daze, and Tae-woong waits for her outside her door. He holds out his hand to give her a present…

Whatisit, whatisit, whatisit…

It’s a key to his new apartment in Seoul… with a little couple ring attached. OMO. It’s the SAME FRIGGIN’ RING. Aaaaaaaaack. Do you brothers only have like one goddamn jewelry store in town? Was there a two-for-one sale? What the bloody hell!

She looks down at it and then up at Tae-woong, “Oppa… I have something to say to you…” Aw, my heart sinks for Tae-woong. I don’t think it’s good news. But whatever it is, we don’t get to hear it.

Shi-won comes home to find Mom and Dad screaming at each other… over what to turn her room into. HA. Daaaaad! He wants to turn it into a putting green, and Mom’s like, “Where will Shi-won sleep when she comes to visit?” I love that twelve hours ago he was a blubbering mess, and now he’s like, she can sleep on the floor!

She interrupts them screaming, “Should I just pack up and leave NOW?!” They hang their heads and rush out. Pfft.

And then it’s time for Shi-won to leave for college. She tells them to go, and Dad grabs her bags and ticket and climbs onto the bus, sniping all the while just to keep from crying.

Mom cries, and Shi-won wipes her tears away, like the adult in the relationship. It’s so very sweet.

And then she gets on the bus, where Dad is fidgeting over every little thing. He tells her to call as soon as she arrives and then lingers to make sure she wears her seatbelt, and then shows her how to use the footrest…

She tells him to go and keeps saying he will but he can’t bring himself to get off the bus. It’s killing me. He finally turns to go, turns back to reach out for an almost-hug and then stops himself, and just gets off.

I’m crying and laughing at the same time. How can he be so funny while so clearly on the verge of total meltdown?

She waves down at them through the window, and Dad mime-nags her till the very end, as they wave their goodbyes. She starts to cry, and then we see that she’s wearing someone’s gift ring on her finger… Shi-won narrates:

Shi-won: The reason my teen years are like a rushing wind is because I don’t yet know the answers: what it is I really want, who really loves me, who is it that I love. The time of life when I tumble here and there, searching for the answers. And then in the end, the moment when I figure out the answers to everything like a miracle… we had already become adults, and been doing big and small things. And like that, that winter was full of goodbyes.

As the bus heads from Busan to Seoul, the journey marks years that pass and how much the world changes from 1999 to early 2000s. Sechkies breaks up. So does H.O.T. “and the heavens collapse.”

September 11 happens, Incheon airport opens, the World Cup, and then the invention of the KTX, that takes her from Seoul to Busan in two hours. “This is how the 21st century began, and our ’90s disappeared into history. And I thought that my ’90s had ended forever that way…”

We catch up to Shi-won in 2005, sleeping on a bus. Someone calls out for her, “Maknae!” We’ve skipped ahead to after college, when she’s already a maknae writer on staff.

The PD yells at her to hurry up, and she gets on set to find that the star she’s putting a mic on today… is Tony oppa. Aw. She goes weak in the knees and falls to the ground in a stupor, just mouthing “OPPA” over and over.

She narrates that she had lived mostly ignoring her ’90s, but like sense-memory, “My body remembered my ’90s. The moment I saw the person I had once been crazy about, I immediately returned to that ’90s fangirl, and my ’90s, which I thought were over, began all over again…”

A little later, she heads into a coffee shop to pick up drinks for the staff, and a man in a suit steps up next to her, and orders an extra-whip iced caramel mocha. Eep!

At the order, she turns around, stunned, and there’s Yoon-jae, looking all grown up, in a suit.

He turns to her, and they lock eyes, and stand there, completely stunned.

Tae-woong finishes his lecture, now a college professor. Three students plead with him to chat over coffee and offer him his choice of drinks. He picks…

The whipped-cream-topped iced caramel mocha. AAAaaaaaAAAAAaaaahhhh! Must you two have the same taste in everything?! You’re killing me here!

They ask if it isn’t too sweet, and he smiles, “Nope, I like sweet things.”


Just when we think the ring might finally be a definitive clue… it’s another squirrely mislead, along with that iced caramel mocha business. I find it funny that the brothers’ similar taste in girls actually extends to their EXACT same taste in everything, just throwing us for loop after infuriating loop.

But more than those clues, it’s Shi-won’s reactions that inform where she stands, even if that’s in a murky I-don’t-know place. We don’t know what’ll happen in 2005, but at least in 1999, she’s not anywhere close to being in love with Tae-woong or ready for a real relationship, and tellingly, her tacit rejection of both guys is a choice about her, not either of them.

Yoon-jae thinks it absurd that she could hear his confession and then ask if they can remain friends because he’s so far gone in one version of their relationship—a pained one-sided love—that he can’t go back. But she’s still very much at that first realization when her feelings are starting to make her question what their relationship is, and it makes sense that she’d want to hold onto what feels familiar and comfortable. Everything is changing in her life, and Yoon-jae is the one thing that’s supposed to remain the same. He’s her constant. I completely understand her desperation to cling to that, as much as I understand how impossible that is for him. It’s their crossroads, and I appreciate how organically we come to that point with both characters, facing their first real foray into adulthood.

I was grateful for a pair of episodes that stuck closer to our core characters and the shifts in their relationships, as well as a simpler chronology that just focused on that pivotal time before moving away from home. Mom and Dad slay me every time—with the laughter and the tears—but they really blew me away with that perfect balance of mundane-yet-epic as they prepared to send Shi-won to school. They are so mind-blowingly realistic. Dad’s not-a-goodbye in the bus just turned me into a puddle.

The emphasis on family was really touching, especially for Tae-woong and Yoon-jae, whose relationship (in a different drama) could go any number of warped, melodramatic, angsty ways. But at the core, they’re all they have left of their family, and that comes first. We see Tae-woong being both mom and dad to Yoon-jae, and then in Yoon-jae’s confession to Shi-won, we get to hear how much he loves his brother, and that he knows what Tae-woong sacrificed to raise him.

Yoon-jae’s big heroic rescue was amazing, not because it was heroic, but because of his single-minded all-consuming worry for Shi-won. He puts her first, to the point that he’s not even aware of what’s happened to him on the way to get to her. But then when it’s bookended by Tae-woong doing the same to get to Yoon-jae? That blew me away. It’s so simple and yet speaks volumes about how much love there is, in all these relationships, and what they all sacrifice to preserve their friendships and families despite life hurtling them towards change.


239 September 8, 2012January 24, 2016

Answer Me 1997: Episodes 13-14

by girlfriday

I was sad about leaving the ’90s behind, but thankfully all it takes is one long-overdue encounter to bring every tumultuous teenage emotion back to the surface, rendering the six years spent growing up and growing apart… totally moot. It’s the pair of episodes where our characters find that they might not be as grown up as they thought, but then surprise us by taking their first huge strides toward adulthood, truth, and maybe love.


Kim Dong-ryul – “Should I Say I Love You Again” [ Download ]

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EPISODE 13: “Next Time… No, Now”

Seoul 2005. Yoon-jae answers a call from Joon-hee and says no, he’s not going to the reunion dinner. He hasn’t gone to one before, so why start now? He’s already a judge, which seems fast, but I won’t argue.

A sunbae introduces him to another, the only purpose of which is to catch us up on Tae-woong too, who is famous for having sold his mega-billions company in favor teaching. They laugh that if he hadn’t, Yoon-jae wouldn’t have to work at all.

He heads down to the garage. Is that Tae-woong’s old (S)onata? He climbs in through the passenger seat (the only door that works), and curses the old beater, narrating that the only thing Hyung gave him was his apartment, “and this Onata.”

So the life of a judge, not so glamorous. He also makes a call to someone, asking to eat at home tonight. Hm…

Tae-woong, after making it big with his first internet venture, went on to make it even bigger popularizing mini homepages. But in the past year, he decided to donate his wealth and start teaching again, at a university.

Hak-chan apparently didn’t return in a year as planned, and is studying movies in Hawaii. Though from what we see, he’s pretty much the same—glued to his computer screen, watching porn.

Sung-jae revs up the motor… to his tractor? Haha. He’s working in the countryside, in a public works office. And Yoo-jung is a kindergarten teacher. Joon-hee is a first-year medical intern, and then Yoon-jae sighs as he narrates that the last one… Sung Shi-won… “I don’t know what she’s up to.”

He stops for coffee on his way home, and he narrates that he worked hard over the last six years to avoid Shi-won, and now that he’s forgotten, he doesn’t care at all how she’s doing… “Until I ran into her by coincidence on this day…”

So now we’re caught up to the end of the last episode, and the run-in at the café.

They sit awkwardly at a table, and it sort of feels like Shi-won’s a cop and Yoon-jae’s being grilled for his crimes. She asks what he’s doing around here and notes the lack of his Busan accent, and he asks if she hasn’t fixed hers yet. Shi-won: “Yeah I’m loyal that way.” Ooooh, them’s fightin’ words. I love her sass.

Then she looks him right in the eye and asks, “Do you have a girlfriend?” Pfft, no pleasantries before the interrogation? She just sits back with a calm smile as he says he does, and they haven’t been dating very long.

She nods and takes it in, and then picks up her phone. “Hello, Joon-hee? Hey, does Yoon-jae have a girlfriend?” HAHAHA. Omg, she’s such a gangster. Suddenly Yoon-jae’s sweating bullets and fidgeting. Did you make up a girlfriend?

She just keeps talking, “Uh-huh. Uh-huh,” all while watching Yoon-jae squirm. I love it. She hangs up, and he busts out, “Friends! You know, like guy friend, girl friend… You must have one of those.”

She sneers, “Friend? The hell…” Dayum… the last words he said to her? He’s stumped speechless.

As they sit like that, he narrates that he doesn’t go to reunions because of her, goes down a day early for Parents’ Day, and every Chuseok and New Year’s he comes up with some crazy new illness, every year for the last six years…

Yoon-jae: And how can you just end it all in one blow? Sung Shi-won, you awful girl. To ’96 and the first day of high school… To ’97 and the fountain where we had our first kiss… To ’98 when I cried and screamed like a crazy person… I returned to that winter. I have been reset to ’90s Yoon Yoon-jae.

Love it. He freaks out as he dissects the whole encounter back home with Joon-hee (Yay, they’re still roomies?) and asks how she could’ve thought to call him in that moment. “Does it show, like on my face, when I’m lying? But! I have a poker face!”

Joon-hee continues to ignore the rant. He then blames Joon-hee for not being faster on the uptake—couldn’t he read the situation and have answered better? Joon-hee finally snaps at him that he did answer yes. He totally corroborated Yoon-jae’s story, to a tee.

Pfffft. So he outed his own lie, with his face? Hahahaha. Even funnier. He decides he should just die, and throws a tantrum instead.

Shi-won chuckles to herself at home, and then gets a call. Yoon-jae comes out of the shower to find Joon-hee fully dressed in a black suit. Oh no. He tells Yoon-jae to hurry and get dressed, “Yoo-jung’s father passed away.”

Pretty late into the evening, the funeral hall has mostly cleared out, and Sung-jae tends to everything, sweetly covering Yoo-jung with a blanket. Aw. You’re such a good friend.

He brings her a tray of food and tells her gather her strength. There’s two more days of this left to go. And then he smiles. Yoo-jung turns around… to see Shi-won, Yoon-jae, and Joon-hee standing in the doorway.

Oof, that smile of hers when she sees all her friends show up just turns me into a puddle. Shi-won just holds her hand without a word.

Sung-jae says it’s been a really long time since they’ve seen Shi-won and Yoon-jae together, and they throw awkward looks. He figures at least they all saw each other this way, and says all they need is Hak-chan, though he doesn’t know he got the text message all the way in Hawaii. That gets him a big glower from everyone, and Yoo-jung has to remind them she’s fine and they broke up forever ago.

Sung-jae snipes at Yoon-jae for being a traitor with his Seoul accent, and Yoo-jung wonders if Shi-won will ever try to change hers, and she sighs that she had no chance to, and we get a quick flashback to her college friends who all had accents too. Heh.

Yoo-jung tells them to hurry home to their parents before it gets too late, and when Shi-won protests, she says tearfully, “Be good to them while they’re here, and don’t have regrets like I do.”

She says when she moved up to Seoul to start teaching, she didn’t come down for a whole year, and always got so annoyed at their phone calls, hanging up as quickly as she could.

Yoo-jung: “I didn’t even know my own father was sick. How badly must he have wanted to know—if I was eating, if I wasn’t sick, if the other teachers were good to me…” She wonders now why she couldn’t have just let him ask those simple questions. She says through tears that even on his last day, her father told her to hurry back to work, that he was fine, because he didn’t want her to get fired because of him.

The threesome stand outside in the street. Yoon-jae admits to being a little jealous of Yoo-jung, for even having memories of fights with her dad to regret. He doesn’t have any memories, just the fact that he misses them.

Sung-jae pulls up and offers Joon-hee a ride on his way. Joon-hee leaves them alone and tells them to settle anything they need to now, and stop fighting. He goes back to his hometown accent, “You guys are friends, aren’t you?”

Yoon-jae puts a cigarette in his mouth and Shi-won gapes. He’s like, “What, did you think I was still in high school?” But she yanks it out and steals the pack. They play keep-away and then Mom and Dad pull up to pick them up. Aw it’s like they’re kids again.

Shi-won asks if Dad got a new car, and he says that Yoon-jae bought it for them with his first salary, choosing to pointedly call her “Daughter, Daughter, Dog Daughter.” (Seriously, do you and my dad share a brain?)

She snaps at him for smelling of liquor when he’s a cancer patient, and he reminds her that he’s fully recovered and swears he just had one drink because they won today’s game. But when he complains of the cold, she gives him her jacket, which awww.

I love how Dad’s tone totally softens with Yoon-jae, as he asks about work. Shi-won mutters under her breath out how smoothly he’s suddenly back to his old accent around the parents.

Her phone rings, which she says is probably Joon-hee calling to see if they caught a cab, and she asks Dad to hand her the phone in her jacket pocket. Only… what he finds in his hand is a pack of cigarettes. Oh. Noes.

He grabs her by the hair and FLIPS his lid, swearing up and down and shaking her as she screams. And the even more hilarious part is, Yoon-jae just sits there, frozen in fear, and says nothing. Nothing! LOL.

Dad’s screaming that he’s gonna cut off all her hair again, and Shi-won swears that it’s not hers, and rats Yoon-jae out. She turns to him, all Why aren’t you saying anything?

He’s so scared that it comes out like a stutter, “I-i-it’s mine!” Shi-won gives him the side-eye and he nods at her… but that makes it look like they’re conspiring. Dad’s like, YOU THINK YOU CAN FOOL ME?

Hee. This just gets better and better. Then he grabs the both of them by the hair and knocks them around, screaming and ranting all over again. Among the things he yells: “Oh good, it’s a funeral home! Let’s go hold a joint funeral for the both of you tonight!”

Finally Mom comes back from the bathroom, and Dad cries and hugs her as he delivers the news like the world just ended… and she just drives home like eh whatever. Dad continues the hair-pulling screamfest all the way home.

Back to daily life. Sung-jae returns to his job in the public works office, which is mostly a collection of random errands and grunt manual labor—a thankless job to be sure.

Shi-won calls Tae-woong to thank him for his help in writing up quiz questions for a side writing job she picked up. He asks her to make him ramyun as a thank you, and shows up at her door.

She tells him he should be so cavalier about showing up to a girl’s apartment so late at night, “What will the security ajusshi think? Are you going to take responsibility for me?”

Tae-woong, “Of course I will! That’s my wish in life!” As soon as I think, that’s gonna get you a beating, Shi-won attacks his back, “I! Told! You! To! Stop! Talking! Like! That!” Hehe.

She tsk-tsks that he used to be so innocent, calling him greasy. He says it’s because of her; he has to remind her that he likes her, even jokingly like this. Aw, I hope she hasn’t strung you along for six years.

He asks haltingly if he can try to win her heart for real this time. She gets quiet and doesn’t answer. Her non-answer must be familiar to him, because he smoothes over it quickly and changes the subject.

Shi-won: “Oppa is like a daddy long legs to me—someone who’s always dependable, who always protects me by my side—a good person. That’s the same today as it was six years ago.” Ouch.

1999. The moment he gives her the ring on the keychain. He gives it to her so expectantly, and she says she has something to tell him.

Shi-won: “Oppa, I like you a lot… but my heart doesn’t race or flutter. I’m still young so I don’t know exactly how it feels to like somebody, but my heart now… is beating in a different direction. I’m sorry, oppa.”

His face falls. He hugs her gently. Tae-woong: “I’m not expecting anything right now. I’ll wait. Until you like me a lot… I’ll be your daddy long legs. Like now, always… next to you.” Aw honey, that was your mistake right there. Now I feel terrible for Tae-woong. How many unrequited loves must you take, Universe?

Back to the present. Tae-woong asks if he’s still her daddy long legs now, and she doesn’t answer. “Do you know how Daddy Long Leg ends?” (Hint: It ain’t happy.)

Sung-jae gets busy at work and turns away a grandma who needs help changing a lightbulb for the second day in a row. He tells her to come back tomorrow.

Shi-won gets back to work, and then thinks back to the night after the funeral. She pops her head into her old room, “I know you’re not asleep!” and Yoon-jae comes out. They have a beer in the living room and ask if their scalps are still in place after Dad’s epic fit.

He says he’s actually grateful. Everyone is always so nice to him when they learn that he’s an orphan, whether it’s strangers, friends, even extended family, and their kindness makes him lonelier than anything.

“But the fact that I’ve only ever really felt that way a handful of times in my whole life, is because of your parents. The only people in the world to swear and call me this bastard or that bastard are your parents. That’s the thing I’m most grateful for.”

She laughs that he’s never any help to her existence, and he says, “That’s why I left.” Oof. Shi-won: “Then you should’ve disappeared forever…” He muses that he should’ve.

Shi-won: “You… Do you… still like me?” Omo. She brought it up? SHE BROUGHT IT UP. Answer her! He looks over at her in surprise, but then says, “Next time. Let’s talk next time.” But… but… He gets up and goes to bed, leaving her hanging. Augh!

Sung-jae finally has time to help the lightbulb grandma today, and heads waaaaay into the mountains where she lives.

Shi-won and Yoon-jae wait for Joon-hee to get done with his shift at the hospital so they can head down to Busan again for Yoo-jung. But Joon-hee comes running out to say that he can’t go after all, and they’ll just have to go without him.

So the awkward pair head down to Yoon-jae’s car, where he just about has an epileptic fit trying to open the door that won’t open, and just climbs in the passenger side. It’s an embarrassing car, but now that we know he bought Mom and Dad a new one, it’s all the sweeter by comparison.

She whines that she doesn’t want to go down to Busan in the death trap, and wonders if he didn’t have money to buy himself a new car. He sighs that Hyung refuses to sell this one, “Because it has a lot of memories… with you…”

Um. Awkward. She glances over at him, regretting she asked.

By nightfall, Sung-jae and Grandma are STILL hiking up the friggin’ mountain to her house, and he gapes that she came this distance three whole times before he came with her. She starts to get tired, so he piggybacks her, like the adorable good boy that he is.

He asks about her life and if she doesn’t have family to check in on her, and she sighs that she’s just a burden to them now by staying alive. Sung-jae tells her that’s ridiculous and insists she’s not a burden, to him or to anyone. Aw.

Joon-hee just sits around at his desk, and his sunbae asks what he’s still doing here when’s off duty. Did you send them alone on purpose? Why do you break my heart, Joon-hee? He asks if the sunbae is still looking for a new roommate, and considers it. But what about Yoon-jae?

Shi-won and Yoon-jae drive down, and he fills the silence by blabbering about music, while Shi-won just stares…

We finally catch a glimpse at what she’s looking at—it’s that little scrap of an S that she gave him before exams that we saw him try to throw away, now reinforced and hanging on his keychain.

Shi-won: “Yoon-jae-ya, answer me now. Do you still like me? Do you still like me?” If you don’t answer, I will scream. After a pause, he finally says, “And you? Why are you asking me that? Do you like me?”

Shi-won, without hesitation, says, “Yes.” Eeeeeeeeee! He looks over at her, stunned. She turns to him, “I like you. Not as a friend, but as a man. I like you.” Stop the car! Stop the car!

He pulls over, reeling from the confession. She looks at him, and then in his adorable tone, says, “I answered! Now you!” like she didn’t just blow his freakin’ mind. It’s so funny.

He just takes another breath. She asks it again, “Do you still like me?” He doesn’t say anything, so she turns into her thug self and says through gritted teeth: “Answer me. Right. Now.” Yoon Yoon-jae! If you don’t say something, imma kick you!

Yoon-jae (voiceover): I had forgotten. That if she liked something right now, she expressed the fire of that moment directly, and without hesitation. I could’ve just said: I like you. Be mine. I could say it like that right now. Back then, and even in this moment… I was just hesitating.


Sung-jae changes the lightbulb for granny, and she makes him a meal to say thank you. As he chats the night away with her, Yoon-jae continues:

Yoon-jae (voiceover): There is nothing more urgent than now. Because later might never come. Life isn’t long enough to speak of the next opportunity, rather than the now that’s before our eyes.

Then it’s the day of the funeral procession and burial, and Yoo-jung climbs onto the bus where close friends and family are waiting. She goes all the way to the back of the bus to be alone, and starts to cry.

The door closes and the bus lurches ahead… but then suddenly a hand stops it. Omg, is it? Really? Someone gets on the bus, and it makes Shi-won beam. Sung-jae-‘s jaw drops. Yoon-jae smiles too.

It’s Hak-chan! Yay, you came! He goes straight to the back of the bus, just like the first day he saw her cry, and sits down next to her.

She breaks down in sobs the moment she sees him, and he just puts his arm around her silently. She leans on him and cries. It’s a lovely and poignant reunion that needs no words. He came in the moment she needed him most.

Yoon-jae (voiceover): If you give up on now because of laziness or a lack of courage, there is no hope of another opportunity. If you love now, the best timing is now. You have to go before it’s too late, and you have to confess now. Because you never know what’ll happen later. The next opportunity might never come.

The fact that you’re narrating this, after you failed to confess… is just making me angry! Later Shi-won gets a package: a copy of Daddy Long Legs from Tae-woong. If you let daddy long legs scoop you because you were chicken shit, I will never forgive you.

Yoon-jae gets a text from Shi-won asking to have dinner, and he says he’s too busy. He thinks back to the night she confessed.

Tae-woong checks into the hospital for a surgery to remove a colon polyp. What is with all you people and your surprise illnesses? It’s a simple procedure and he doesn’t seem at all worried about it, though Joon-hee says he should let Yoon-jae know because he needs someone to look after him.

Shi-won arrives for the job, though Joon-hee worries more about her—she’s caught a cold. She worries about Tae-woong catching it from her, and he says she’ll have to take responsibility for him for the rest of her life then.

She scoffs and drags Joon-hee out, “Let’s get out of here. If I give that oppa a cold, my life is over!” They run into his sunbae on the way in, and he asks why Joon-hee still hasn’t moved in yet. He looks over at Shi-won nervously.

He takes her to the stairwell and shows her the Truth Chair, a painting of a chair right on the staircase. Cute. She sits down in it and says she knows what it is: “My mom cried a lot in places like this when my dad was sick.”

She asks what the little warning label on the wall is for, and he says it’s to keep an eye out for people before you start crying. He says it’s weird, but when you sit there, you find yourself being true to your feelings.

Shi-won: “Really? Then… should I try being true to my feelings now?” She hesitates, then starts, “Joon-hee-ya…”

But he says it first: “I know. That you like Yoon-jae too. I know. I probably knew before you did.” She can’t even lift her eyes because she feels so bad, but he says that Yoon-jae still likes her a lot.

She finally looks up at him, “And you? You like Yoon-jae too.” He says it’s time to grow out of his first love, and says that a lot of the fantasy is gone now that he’s lived with him: “You know he really doesn’t lift a finger?” Ha. She says Yoon-jae will still be sad to know he’s moving out, and asks what he’ll say. He asks her for ideas because he still doesn’t know how to break the news.

She sighs, “Joon-hee-ya, I’m sorry. You must’ve had a hard time too. But I only thought of myself. And I’m the only one you told everything to, because you thought of me as a friend. I don’t even know what I’m doing to you right now. I’m sorry.”

He tells her not to be sorry—the heart isn’t something she can control. “You, and Yoon-jae both… it’s enough for me to have you as friends.” Aw, Joon-hee.

He gets paged and heads downstairs, offering to get her some cold medicine, and she follows, saying she’ll call Yoon-jae for coffee while she’s out. She makes the call as they walk out of the stairwell…

And a phone rings in it. Omo!

And there’s Yoon-jae, sitting just half a floor above them, jaw hanging practically three floors down. Holy beans! He finally knows!

He just sits there, mind completely blown to smithereens. I don’t even know how many things he just learned in that one conversation. We cut back and forth between Joon-hee and Yoon-jae as he reels.

Downstairs, Joon-hee gives Shi-won some meds and sends her off. He turns around, and there’s Yoon-jae.

Joon-hee smiles and waves, like normal. Yoon-jae talks to him like it’s just another day, but his face… his face… Aaaaaugh. Don’t you break Joon-hee’s heart!

EPISODE 14: “The Heart Is What Makes You Love”


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Sung-jae’s job kind of amounts to being the Village Butler—he gets ordered around by everyone, even the little kid who comes by to report that his school bus is late. He heaves a sigh every time someone calls his name.

But he lights up when Hak-chan shows up with Yoo-jung in tow, ready to go on a hike. He sighs at their instant lovey-doveyness, wondering how on earth they spent six years apart.

He starts to thank Hak-chan for “that movie” that made him the hero at his office, and gets a candy bar shoved in his face to shut him up. Hak-chan tells him to wait after work so they can hang out, and they head up the mountain hand in hand.

Tae-woong spends his time in the hospital working, and Joon-hee shows up to nag him about resting. He gets ready to stick him with the IV needle, and Tae-woong inches back—how can he trust his former student to stick him with a needle? That’s adorable.

To him Joon-hee must just look like a kid playing doctor. But he surprises him with his skill and Tae-woong muses it would’ve been a terrible idea if he had gone into government work like he had planned. Joon-hee says yeah, but “it” would’ve been dealt with sooner though, and doesn’t clarify what.

Yoon-jae sits in his car, still reeling from the discovery. He thinks back to their teenage years, and the times he had asked if Joon-hee liked someone. And the day when he had finally said, “Yes… you,” and Yoon-jae’s laughing response, thinking it all a joke.

Shi-won calls, and he can’t bring himself to answer that either.

Hak-chan and Yoo-jung walk up the trail, and he nervously keeps asking if she needs anything, just filling the silence with chatter while she says nothing in response. Finally after all that’s out of the way, he asks quietly, “Didn’t you miss me?” Her hand falls out of his.

He turns back to face her, “I missed you. I missed you a lot. I’m sorry I came so late.” D’aw. He says he’s a dummy so it took him a long time to graduate—he wanted to show up and be impressive, and at least have a diploma, but it just took too long. She just smiles back.

“I won’t go anywhere anymore. Even if I have to sell bean cakes, I’ll stay by your side. I love you.” Swoon. She tells him to say it again. He looks down at the ground like a kid, mumbling, iluvue.

Yoo-jung: “To my face!” He lifts his head and says it again, this time with confidence. She pulls him by his jacket zipper and plants a kiss on him. So cute.

Tae-woong drops his pen and stoops to retrieve it from under his hospital bed, when a doctor comes into his room thinking it empty and starts to take off her stockings. He gulps. But the potentially sexy first impression takes a left turn when she follows it up with a loud fart.

She’s mortified to discover someone in the room, but he graciously lets her rest there, assuming she’s a tired resident, and steps out. Hm, new love interest perhaps?

At his office, Yoon-jae talks to Sung-jae on the phone about Hak-chan and the latest movies he sent, calling him a genius. Ah, you ARE making porn! He warns Sung-jae to keep it a secret from Yoo-jung. This is not going to end well for any of you.

As soon as he hangs up, Shi-won’s voice startles him, “So that’s what Hak-chan is doing…” Hahaha. That’s how long the secret lasted? Two seconds?

He’s annoyed at the disturbance, saying he’s too busy to play, so she reaches for his laptop to check out these so-called brilliant movies of Hak-chan’s. He leaps up to stop her, and then breathes a sigh of relief that it’s password protected.

But she just smirks, and unlocks it on the first try. Pfft. She reaches for the folder to watch, and he ruuuns over to grab her hand away, agreeing to lunch after all. She beams. He asks how she figured out her password, and she sighs that he’s so easy—it’s the day his parents died.

Tae-woong gets the VIP treatment at the hospital, and he agrees to give a lecture as requested. He just asks that anyone who’s present for his surgery pretend not to know him after the fact, as he can’t really see himself being comfortable giving a speech in front of people who’ve seen his ass.

The doctor assures him he’ll see to it, but it won’t matter anyway, seeing as how it’s not a butt-surgery, exactly. He demonstrates how they’ll go in, saying it’s just like going to see the gynecologist, and mimes feet up in stirrups… and… a fist? Whoa, that’s not like the gynecologist at all. Tae-woong cringes.

The doc says their department head is so good she won’t need much assistance anyway, and Tae-woong cringes again to hear it’ll be a woman getting friendly with his unmentionables…

And in walks Ju-yeon, the pretty young doctor who farted in his room. Ha. Joon-hee’s surprised when she greets him like they know each other, and she says they’re super close—they’ve already farted in front of each other. He actually looks like he might die of embarrassment, right then and there.

He asks Joon-hee for drugs, and Joon-hee prescribes him the Truth Chair instead: “If you go now, you can cry alone.” Hee.

Shi-won digs into Yoon-jae’s food even while sniffling back her runny nose, and he barks at her to stop being so gross. She finally plugs up her nose with a tissue in compliance, saying that she’s taking it because of her crime.

Yoon-jae: “What’s your crime?” Shi-won: “Not knowing whom I liked.”

She breaks the tension by asking the judge what the punishment is for said crime. Yoon-jae: “Life sentence.” She protests, “Did I kill someone or plot a coup de tat? I’m even deeply remorseful!” like she’s actually pleading for a reduction.

But he didn’t mean her—”I’m the one imprisoned forever, because of you. With no end to the term. Alone. Until I die.” Gee, you’re up with people today. He tells her to pay for lunch as payment for her crimes, and leaves her there.

Tae-woong gets a visit from his surgeon, who… asks him out on a date? Should you really be doing that the day before you operate on someone? He turns her down, despite clearly thinking that she’s cute.

I get that they were going for pretty young doctor who would be surprising as the head of a department, but she seems miscast. Oh well.

Yoon-jae sleeps in, and Joon-hee comes to wake him, wearing pink rubber kitchen gloves. He whispers in his ear to wake up, and Yoon-jae tells him to go to work first, but perks up at the mention of breakfast, “Since when do we eat breakfast?”

Joon-hee says if not for breakfast, they never see each other’s faces, and tells him he has something to say. You two are so like an old married couple already.

Joon-hee fidgets over breakfast though, and Yoon-jae suggests they have dinner tonight. He asks about Tae-woong giving lectures at the hospital, and Joon-hee lies that he made the request, not mentioning the surgery.

They both agree that Tae-woong is impressive no matter what he does, and Joon-hee says he seems destined for greatness. Yoon-jae: “I think so too. That’s why I like him… and why I’m afraid. Hyung never makes a wrong decision, whether it’s work… or love.”

Joon-hee looks up, and then hits the nail on the head: “Is it because of your brother that you’re not accepting Shi-won’s feelings? Because Hyung chose Shi-won? Liking someone is not a matter of choice. It’s something the heart makes you do.”

He says that both the brothers liked her all on their own, with no regard for her feelings. So why should she suffer for that now? That’s what I’M sayin’!

He asks what Shi-won did wrong—that she didn’t know how much Yoon-jae liked her or for how long? He says that’s not her fault. “She could have not known. There are times in life when you don’t know… that someone likes you.” Oof. Heart. Break.

He says that Yoon-jae likes Shi-won. “Then the game’s already over. No matter how much you think it over, there’s no answer. You already like her. So what choice is there? What decision to make? Don’t regret it later. Don’t use Hyung as an excuse. Do as your heart tells you.”

Slow clap, Joon-hee. Slow clap.

Yoon-jae just remains slackjawed the entire time, not saying a word. Joon-hee gets up to say this isn’t what he was intending to say, but anyway, he should answer Shi-won’s call. “She’s following her heart. She’s better than you.” Yoon-jae looks down and gapes at his ringing phone, not knowing what to do.

Shi-won and Joon-hee look after Tae-woong, who’s still asleep after his operation. Ju-yeon comes by to check on him. When she sees Shi-won she asks if she’s Tae-woong’s girlfriend in a sharp tone, but Shi-won stares her down, “No, I’m his little sister.” Ju-yeon immediately softens, calling her pretty.

Shi-won nags Yoon-jae to come over and pick up some oranges Mom sent: “You know her! There’re three boxes!” He’s busy and tells her to give them to Hyung instead then. She sighs that Tae-woong can’t eat anything because of his surgery… whoops.

Yoon-jae: “Surgery?!” Cut to Yoon-jae watching Hyung sleep in the hospital, glowering at Joon-hee and Shi-won in turn. They each try to explain that it’s really no biggie, and that goes about as well as can be expected.

Ju-yeon asks in her nosy way who he is, hoping he’s not Tae-woong’s son. He says brother, and then she goes over it again, pointing to Shi-won: “younger sister, younger brother…” Yoon-jae just looks over at Joon-hee, like Who’s this weirdo? I love that he gets tongue-tied saying hyung-soo…, meaning to say “the doctor doing Hyung’s surgery,” but it also happens to be the word for brother’s wife.

The doctors leave and Shi-won tries to make a stealthy exit too, but Yoon-jae grabs her by the backpack like a stray puppy, and she cringes. I love these two.

She takes him to the Truth Chair and says he’ll be true to his feelings if he sits there. Please yes, by the powers of all magical staircase painted furniture! Though in his case, we need it to be a Talking Chair more than anything. She swears Tae-woong’s surgery went without a hitch and that she’d have told him if it were something to be worried about. He thanks her, which is a surprise, and says that Hyung must still be more comfortable with her.

He says shakily that Tae-woong still likes her. “He’s still waiting right now. For you to come back.” Shi-won: “I know. But… what about you? Not hyung, but you.” She says she’s sorry to Tae-woong, but he doesn’t concern her.

Shi-won: “Tae-woong oppa is the closest person I have in my life, as much as you. But the person who concerns me most… is you alone.” She asks again what HE feels, without any other excuse or explanation: Do you still like me?

He just sits there like a lame duck, KILLING ME. Finally she decides to just threaten him instead: “If you don’t answer me in three seconds, I’m going to kiss you on the cheek ten times!”



He beats her the punch, swooping in for a kiss. YESSSSSSS! FINALLY!

She smiles and passes him the cold medicine in her pocket. “You take it. I’m alllllll better now.” Love it.

He takes it and smiles bashfully. And then he kisses her again, and again, holding her hand. Swoon.

Later that night Yoon-jae meets Joon-hee for dinner, listening to his terribly stilted lie about pairing interns with sunbae doctors and forcing them to be roommates. Joon-hee blathers on and on nervously, saying he knows it’s ridiculous.

It’s so adorable how bad he is at lying. He just digs his hole further, I know, it sounds like a lie, but it’s not! Yoon-jae just breezes, “Okay.” Joon-hee’s shocked that it goes over so well, but then gets kind of disappointed that he’s not sadder.

Yoon-jae scoffs, “What, are you not going to see me when you move out? Even if you say you never want to see me again and avoid me, I’m going to follow you around for the rest of my life, just so you know!” And back in his Busan accent, “We’re friends, aren’t we?”

Yay, just yay. And then Yoon-jae coughs, starting to feel the effects of his cold.

The next day Joon-hee gets a call from Shi-won and he says the roommate conversation went well, saying that Yoon-jae is surprisingly dumb sometimes. I think it’s funnier that you think he believed your lie.

He sits down in the Truth Chair as they chat, and she tells him about the kiss. He congratulates her, saying “I told you so” about Yoon-jae liking her.

He asks if it’s been eight years between their first kiss and their second, laughing that he knows about the first ’cause Yoon-jae tells him everything. He gets up to answer another call, and we pan up the staircase… oh no…

And there’s Tae-woong, having overheard. Ouuuuch. I think we’re gonna have to rename that thing the Spill Your Guts All Over Everyone Chair, because “truth” doesn’t really cover the pain part.

2012 Reunion. Dad calls Shi-won to complain about the measly allowance she sent him, insisting it’s not the money, but the principal of it all, and demands to speak to “Yoon suh-bang.”

She hands over her phone… and then both Tae-woong and Yoon-jae stand up, getting an earful from somebody over the phone. They smile at each other.


Really, still playing that game? Okay fine. Baby daddy still unconfirmed, though at this point, we’re just waiting for the final seal of approval. I’m really glad they pulled out the confession by the end of Episode 14, because I nearly disowned Yoon-jae for being so dumb and not answering her when she asked so directly whether he still liked her. I know, in comparison, he suffered a lot more and she never knew how he felt. But I’m with Joon-hee on this: That hurts, but it’s not her fault either. If she has the balls to confess the second she gets the chance, then she didn’t do wrong by her love. She just took a lot longer to know it.

What’s great about her confession is how easy it is for her. You can actually see it on Yoon-jae’s face, the How do you just DO THAT look, like it’s beyond his understanding. Because he’ll never in his entire life be that person. He’s the overthinker, the guy who hashes and rehashes so hard that his thoughts have thoughts and their thoughts have thoughts, until he has eighteen generations of thought-grandbabies, and nothing makes sense anymore.

But Joon-hee is the one who knows him best and says the one thing that finally gets through: there IS no decision to be made, no arguing yourself into or out of anything. Your heart just does what it wants to, and thinking is useless. Could there be a better blow to Yoon-jae, who’s done nothing but think about his love for the better part of a decade? Joon-hee saved this ship in the eleventh hour, because I was seriously starting to get cranky. I’m just glad that Shi-won is such a straight-shooter and cuts through the brother crap. Because yes, it sucks, but she’s not going to start loving someone just because he confessed first. It’s not finders keepers, and I’m so glad she gets Yoon-jae to see past all his guilt and just answer her goddamn question.

Joon-hee had some stand-out character moments in these episodes. When Shi-won tells him that she likes Yoon-jae, I thought it really touching that she apologizes and acknowledges his feelings, and doesn’t discount them just because Yoon-jae will never love him back. I just LOVE that about her. To her, it’s equal. Joon-hee loves him too, and she feels bad about moving in on his crush, like a true friend would. And then of course Joon-hee returns her friendship in kind when he pushes Yoon-jae to face his heart and stop with the excuses. That he does that for both of them despite his own breaking heart is the best resolution to his first love that we could have. But the winner today is Yoon Yoon-jae, who treated his best friend the same, the day after and the day before he found out that Joon-hee liked him. And that is why we love you. Sometimes. When you’re not being a doofus.


167 September 14, 2012January 24, 2016

Answer Me 1997: Episode 15

by girlfriday

Fallout time. Now that everyone knows everything (thanks Truth Chair), it’s time to face the music. The love triangle finally comes to a head in this episode, and though it’s not my favorite plot thread, this show does what it does so well. It subverts expectation and stabs me in the heart, over what else, but family.


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EPISODE 15: “While You Were Loving”

Summer 2005. Yoon-jae gets to his desk in the morning to find a stack of resumes… for a bride. Pfft. How’s that for a good morning? He rifles through them and asks his assistant what they’re for.

She says his sunbae left them, insisting that with his specs, he could get a giant apartment and a nice car out of it, like he’s going dowry shopping or something. Yoon-jae throws them in the trash, and says with a huge smile, “I already have an apartment, a car… and a girlfriend.” Squee.

He gets a call from Hyung asking for a favor to meet someone’s daughter. Yoon-jae refuses, thinking it a blind date, but Tae-woong insists it’s not and urges him to go. Yoon-jae says he has a girlfriend, but Hyung laughs that he has nothing of the sort and won’t take no for an answer.

Hm, is he doing this before or after the big revelation?

Tae-woong then takes a call from Shi-won, and he’s still in his hospital bed after the surgery. She tells him about the contraband can of peaches she put in his drawer and he grabs it to go eat somewhere secret, and then Joon-hee arrives just a minute behind him with a tray. Ah, so before then.

Tae-woong sits down in the stairwell with his secret peaches, as Joon-hee answers the call from Shi-won. He smiles at first to see Joon-hee, but then overhears the thundering words: Yoon-jae likes you… first kiss… eight years… he thinks you’re pretty…

And then the nail in the coffin: “Shi-won-ah, I have another call, I’ll call you later.” Oof. It was already painful the first time.

He flashes back to all the times Yoon-jae had avoided going home for holidays—the sick excuses, the last-minute work. And how Shi-won had seemed unsurprised and resigned every time.

He once tried to have dinner just the three of them, and kept waiting for Yoon-jae’s call. Shi-won told him that Yoon-jae wouldn’t come, and said they’d had a fight. Now it dawns on him just how much was going on between them that he never knew.

In the days that follow, Yoon-jae, Shi-won, and Tae-woong each brood in their own corners, worried about the others. Tae-woong avoids a call from his brother, not ready to talk to him yet.

Shi-won has a work emergency when the guest they cast for a talk show segment (geared towards high school students taking their college exams) falls through at the last minute. The PD and writer ask if she doesn’t know anyone successful who could fill the spot. She smiles.

Enter Yoon-jae, getting primped to go on the air. Everyone fawns over him and they wonder if he really came because Shi-won called him. The show’s MC declares that she’s going to seduce him in under ten minutes, and Shi-won just smiles to herself. Heh.

Yoon-jae joins them and show’s host pulls out all the stops in her tiny dress to impress him, but he just looks right past her and talks to Shi-won, grabbing the drink out of her hand and sipping it in his usual familiar way.

They ask how they know each other—family? Friends? Yoon-jae: “I’m her boyfriend.” They gape. Shi-won blusters that he’s kidding, but he repeats it, adding that there’s no other reason he’d push a case to show up here.

I love the bitter look on the host’s face. Yoon-jae sees the marker streak on Shi-won’s face and licks his finger to wipe if off in front of everyone, and Shi-won grabs his hand to drag him away in embarrassment.

Yoon-jae returns to his hometown accent the second they’re alone and he’s nagging her. So cute.

Hak-chan and Yoo-jung hang out at the same café where he once ditched her with her friends, and even still he darts around to make sure her friends aren’t going to pop out from somewhere.

She complains about his inability to act normal around her friends, and he promises that he’ll be good about everything else, just not that one thing. Hak-chan heads downstairs first, and then runs into Mom. Again?

Haha, it cracks me up that he asks the same thing we’re thinking: Why do I keep running into you here? She says her friend lives down the street.

Yoo-jung comes running down and links her arm in his, and then shrinks back when she sees Mom standing there. Mom asks who it is, and Yoo-jung hangs her head nervously.

But this time, Hak-chan takes her hand and links it back on his arm, “She’s my girlfriend.” He introduces them to each other, and Yoo-jung beams.

Someone prepares for a memorial, and judging from the insane amount of food on the table, it has to be Shi-won’s parents. Holy crap, that’s a lot of food.

It turns out to be for Shi-won’s grandpa, and Dad says his father will explode from all this food and die all over again. Mom wonders if they should expect Uncle to come, but Dad figures he won’t show.

He prods her to do the ceremony early so they can go see the fireworks and *wink-wink* have some alone time, so they finish up quickly and grab some of the octopus off the table to take with them. Heh.

But just when they’re ready to leave, Uncle walks right in the door, spoiling the party. (Cameo by Go In-bum.) He plops himself down on the couch, and Mom and Dad cringe. He even decides they should hurry and do the thing so they can see the fireworks after. Well there goes their night.

Yoon-jae drops Shi-won off at home, and he climbs out after her (I just love that he has to use the passenger door to get out). She yanks him by the collar this time to ask where he thinks he’s going.

He asks why he can’t go upstairs to have a cup of coffee and she laughs and calls bullshit. He gets all defensive and his accent comes back, as he accuses her of overreacting, all why can’t we have a cup of coffee and aren’t we close enough for coffee. All this coffee talk is making me blush.

She points out that his accent comes right back when he’s backed into a corner and asks if he thinks she’s an idiot. She knows what coffee means.

She calls him out for being pervy and they go through this hilarious round of nuh-uh, uh-huh like little kids. His what-omg-I’m-SO-NOT face cracks me UP.

She tells him to stop spinning his wheels and pings him in the forehead to go home, and he finally gives up. He leans in, “Then a kiss instead.” He closes his eyes and puckers up, just standing there waiting. It’s so adorable.

He waits and waits and she cups his face in her hands, and then turns his head away and hugs him.

He’s still got his eyes closed and his lips puckered, and she points out that he should probably stop, ’cause it’s bound to be embarrassing by now. Pffft. She slaps him on the lips and runs off.

Yoon-jae comes home to find Joon-hee already packing up his things, and he sighs at the thought of having to live alone for the first time ever. Aw, they’ve been roomies for so long.

Joon-hee says that it’s probably best for Yoon-jae to have the place to himself—wouldn’t it be more convenient if he were to have Shi-won come over? Yeah… he couldn’t even manage to get invited up for coffee, so I think that’s a ways off.

Yoon-jae lights up at the thought and jokes that he should leave right now, and Joon-hee threatens to stay forever. Stay!

Joon-hee asks why he doesn’t just move her in right now, and Yoon-jae says he’d love to, but his heart sinks, “There’s something I have to do first.”

Shi-won gets a call from Tae-woong that night, asking her to dinner tomorrow. She agrees to meet him, though it’s clearly a conversation she’s not looking forward to. He tells her to dress up and look pretty, and tells her where to meet him.

Dad sets up the memorial all over again, and Uncle complains that there’s no octopus, which was his brother’s favorite thing. He starts to complain that it’s useless having kids, and Dad quickly says it’s on the way.

Cut to Mom and Dad staring at the octopus, legs already chopped off intending to be snacked on. Dad gets the bright idea to put the legs back on with chopsticks, insisting that Uncle won’t notice. They are so cute.

It doesn’t go as planned, but they manage to hide it amongst the other dishes and get on with the ceremony. Uncle takes out one simple loaf of pound cake and puts it on the table.

Yoon-jae shows up unannounced at Tae-woong’s office the next day, asking to go get coffee. Tae-woong braces himself, knowing what’s to come.

They sit over a pair of those friggin’ extra-whip mochas, and Yoon-jae admits he has something to say. He hedges, and then finally starts, “Actually…”

But Tae-woong says it for him: “You like Shi-won?” His jaw drops. Tae-woong says he found out only recently—that he likes Shi-won too, that he liked her first. Why didn’t he say something?

Yoon-jae asks what he would’ve done if he did tell hyung: “Would you have given up on Shi-won? Like me? Did you give up on her?”

Tae-woong: “No.” Oh damn. Not the answer he was expecting. He continues, “You’re the person I love most in this world and I’d give up everything for you… but not a woman.” That floors him.

You know, outside of the fact that it’s not what Yoon-jae wants to hear or that it’s extra heartbreaking for Tae-woong who’s bound to get crushed, I find his reasoning compelling. It’s what I would’ve wanted Yoon-jae to do, six goddamn years ago. You don’t give up on love. Because doing that to be noble does no one any good.

He says that the choice is up to Shi-won, and that he’ll make one last effort, and if she says no for good, he’ll give up cleanly, and even let Yoon-jae tease him for the rest of their lives.

He’s good-natured about it, though he speaks with the confidence that he’s always had—that it could go either way. And it’s that assured confident side of Tae-wong that sends Yoon-jae back to his teenage self, suddenly terrified that he’s back to square one and his hyung will win the girl.

He reminds Yoon-jae about meeting his teacher’s daughter tonight, and leaves. Yoon-jae sits in that same spot for hours and hours until nightfall, reeling.

He gets a text from Shi-won saying that she’s meeting Tae-woong for dinner tonight, which feeds into his worst fears. He chucks the phone to the ground in a rage.

Dad takes his uncle to the bus terminal, and they reminisce about his father. These two actually look like they could be family; they’re so cute together. Dad remembers how close Uncle and his dad were, and how much Uncle cried at the funeral.

He asks now if Uncle loved his hyung that much, and Uncle sighs, “I hated him.” Pffft. It’s equally poignant and funny.

Yoon-jae sits in his office stewing in the dark at his hyung, and then finally decides to go on that not-a-blind-date after all.

Shi-won visits Joon-hee in the hospital and he greets her bleary-eyed from working a double shift. He’s tired, but says he gets cursed at a lot less these days, and Shi-won marvels that anyone would curse at him, while Yoon-jae getting cursed at, she gets.

She asks when Hak-chan and Yoo-jung are due up for their visit, and wonders if they aren’t too sorry to face their friends (for being so happy with their first loves and all). Joon-hee counters they’re not as bad as her and Yoon-jae. Touché.

He says Sung-jae’s coming too, so all four guys will be staying together. She laughs that they won’t get any sleep, not with all that porn to watch. She names Hak-chan’s latest movie that she saw on Yoon-jae’s computer last time, and Joon-hee is stunned silent.

“How did you know? Does Yoo-jung know?!” She laughs and says Yoo-jung doesn’t suspect a thing, and says coolly, “What does it matter if you guys watch? You’re not kids.”

He gives her an Oooooooh, impressed. She says Hak-chan is one thing, but she didn’t expect it of Joon-hee. He admits he doesn’t care for them (obviously) but there’s someone who likes them a LOT.

She guesses Sung-jae, but he corrects her—Yoon-jae. Suddenly her smiley demeanor hardens, “Aiiiiiisssssh.” Hahaha. She grabs her phone muttering, “You’re dead.”

He laughs, reminding her that she said it was fine, but now she’s up in arms about how he’s always attached to that damned laptop of his, and calls Yoon-jae. But he doesn’t pick up, and hasn’t all day. We se him driving, having taped his phone back together, but still not picking up.

Shi-won tells Joon-hee about meeting Tae-woong tonight, and he asks, “Are you going to tell him?” She nods yes, but admits she doesn’t know what to say, or how.

She says that Tae-woong oppa is really important to her, and she doesn’t want them to be awkward or distant because of this, but can’t lie either. Joon-hee starts to say, “The teacher that I know…” but doesn’t finish the thought.

As Shi-won leaves, he says to himself, “…isn’t the average person.”

Uncle tells Dad about how much his parents favored his hyung, and how as a child the day his hate went full-force was when Mom brought home a loaf of pound cake just for Hyung, who wouldn’t share even one bite.

He swore to be better than him, and while Hyung took the civil service exam, he started his own business and was so proud, having become more successful. But it only lasted a month and he went belly-up, having been conned.

With no way to repay the money, he went to jail, and a month later Hyung visited him there to ask he wanted to come live with him. He had repaid all his debts. Uncle says that even then, he hated his brother, and said all manner of horrible things to him, accusing him of showing off.

Uncle: “Do you know what Hyung said? Do you know what he said to me?”

Then we cut to the big night, as Tae-woong, Shi-won, and Yoon-jae each head out to dinner. We see Yoon-jae’s not-a-blind-date (cameo by G.NA) waiting at her table.

Yoon-jae stops and calls Tae-woong. “I’m not going to give up either. I won’t give up.”

He says that he folded right away when Hyung told him he liked Shi-won, without a second thought. Because he’s his hyung. And even when they broke up, he knew he wouldn’t give up on Shi-won so easily, so he ignored his feelings.

Tae-woong just listens steel-faced, and asks, “So?” Yoon-jae: “A person’s heart can’t be turned on and off like a switch. Once it’s turned on… it won’t turn off. I like Shi-won. I sincerely want to marry her.”

And then he repeats what he learned by watching Hyung: “You’re the person I love most in this world, and I can give up everything for you, but I won’t give up on Shi-won.”

Good for you. He says that he’ll go on this date tonight because he promised he would, but to stop setting him up from now on. He hangs up.

Yoon-jae and Tae-woong each head inside their respective restaurants. The two girls wait at their tables.

A door opens, and Tae-woong arrives. Shi-won looks up. Yoon-jae arrives. His date looks up…

Back to Uncle and Dad. Uncle: “Do you know what Hyung said? He said sorry. ‘Hyung is sorry.’ That’s what he said!”

Shi-won looks up at her door in surprise. And standing in her doorway of course, is Yoon-jae. Awwww. I knew Tae-woong would do something to make me cry!

He just stands there, stunned, only now realizing his hyung’s love. At the same time, Tae-woong arrives on Yoon-jae’s date, making apologies for the bait-n-switch.

Yoon-jae just sits at the table, crying without a word, suddenly understanding so much with that one gesture. And then he gets a text: “Hyung is sorry.” *TEARS*

He bursts into sobs.

Back to Uncle’s story: after saying sorry, his hyung took a pound cake out of his bag and handed it to him. He said after all those years, that he was sorry about eating the whole thing when they were little kids.

He sighs, “I didn’t know. But Hyung loved me a lot. I just hated him alone. Just me.”

Yoon-jae breaks down in tears, now realizing the exact same thing.

Fast forward to 2013. Mom and Dad pace in the maternity ward, and then finally the doctor comes out and asks for the father. Shi-won keeps asking for him. Dad frets, and then Tae-woong comes bursting down the hall, out of breath.

And then Yoon-jae arrives just behind him.

Are we still playing this game?


In general I like the framework of the overarching who’s-the-baby-daddy mystery, but I do feel like we’ve been going through the motions on that front, pretty much as soon as we find out where Shi-won’s heart is. But it’s the macguffin they set up and when you build your show around something like a How I Met Your Mother meta-question, there are casualties you get in exchange for the fun, whether it’s because we already know the answer or because the audience gets tired of waiting.

Thankfully the reason I love this show has nothing to do with that, so it’s been a fun mystery, mostly because it’s clear that the writers are having fun with the infuriating clues. Once we see Tae-woong’s choice in this episode, it seems silly to remind us that he might still be the father, but with one episode left we’ll all play along.

While I am glad that we get more of 1997 if just by splitting Episodes 15 and 16, I do think this episode could’ve been trimmed to its usual length and been better for it. Part of what I love about this show is the economy of its storytelling, and it seemed less impressive when allowed to meander for longer than necessary. If there’s one thing I wish they would’ve fixed from the get-go, it’s that tvN should’ve just aired it like a regular 45-minute Monday-Tuesday drama.

I missed the ’90s flashbacks and the characteristic narration in this episode, though I understand the choice to focus on the immediate fallout between the brothers in the present. It just didn’t have the same color as the rest of the series, which I think could’ve been salvaged with one short voiceover from Yoon-jae.

What I did love was the way the Uncle/Grandpa story dovetailed so nicely with Yoon-jae and Tae-woong, which is what this drama does so nicely, without being overly saccharine or bombastic. At first when Uncle puts a measly little pound cake on the table for Grandpa’s memorial we think he’s being cheap, in comparison to Mom’s gigantic spread and after all that nagging over octopus. But then his story is so great—poignant, but not delivered emotionally. He just tells it like a story an old man would tell his nephew, in that gruff fatherly way that gets at my heart because it’s the most realistic.

And then we realize that this episode is really about the love of a hyung. So maybe the title isn’t a bitter While you were in love I was a fool, but from a little brother to his hyung, after realizing that he never knew the extent of his brother’s love: While you were loving me, I was hating you.

It dawned on me that I never once doubted the choice Tae-woong would make, until the moment they pulled the misdirect at the coffee shop. And even in that moment I didn’t hate him even though I was surprised. His attitude towards love being the one thing you don’t give up on was great; it’s just that I had expected him to realize Shi-won’s choice sooner. We know in retrospect that he does, because he’d have to be a dummy not to. And there’s a fine line between giving something your all and hanging on past the point of reasonable denial.

But when we revisit the events knowing that Tae-woong has already set the two of them up to meet that night, the conversation turns into something else entirely—a hyung teaching his little brother about what you do and do not give up on in life, and how he should’ve fought for her then, and now. It’s beautiful, and lovely, and not at all the thing you expect to come out of this awkward love triangle.

So when Yoon-jae makes that call, it’s both awesome and horrible. He finally, FINALLY does the thing he should’ve all those years ago and says that nothing will make him back down or give up on the love of his life. But he does it angry at his brother, hating how much he’s always lost to him his entire life. And then of course it’s another blow when he comes to find out that a little brother’s complex toward his perfect older brother is a one-sided hate. Hyung has loved him unconditionally all this time, and will say sorry, even when he’s the one whose heart is ripped to shreds. That’s family. And the fact that the brothers’ relationship is what we walk out of this episode with is why I love this show.


225 September 21, 2012January 24, 2016

Answer Me 1997: Episode 16 (Final)

by girlfriday

It’s the end of the road for our journey back in time to the ’90s, and the goodbye is bittersweet. We get rewarded with some answers and even some new surprises, as we close the chapter on first loves and find out how everyone grew up—along with, in spite of, and because of them.

The finale set a new record for cable programs: average 6.22% ratings on tvN, a combined 7.55% (with all four networks that aired the episode), and an episode high of 9.47%. Hot damn.


Kim Gun-mo – “Beautiful Goodbye” [ Download ]

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EPISODE 16: “The Reason First Love Can’t Be Realized”

We open the same way we ended Episode 15: Shi-won’s parents wait outside the maternity ward in 2013, as the doctor comes out and asks, “Who’s the husband?” Yeah, get in line, lady. Some of us have been waiting eight weeks for that answer.

Both Tae-woong and Yoon-jae arrive, huffing and puffing.

Fall 2005. Yoon-jae goes out for dinner and drinks with his coworkers, and his boss points out what a nice couple he’d make with the colleague next to him. She’s a classmate from college and admits coolly that she tried for four years, but Yoon-jae never budged.

Another guy says it’s because she drinks too much, but Yoon-jae says he likes it when a woman can drink…

Cut to: Shi-won, downing a giant beer with her coworkers. Her sunbaes wonder if her boyfriend doesn’t mind her drinking like a fish, and she laughs, “He doesn’t know!”

Aaaand, Yoon-jae is standing right behind her. Ha. He came to pick her up after his dinner, and joins them. Here he gets asked the same question, and he growls, “It’s the thing I hate most in the world!”

He mutters at Shi-won that if she drinks and sleeps at the station again, she’s dead meat, and refuses to pour her another beer. Aw, but look at her pout! Give the girl her beer!

Once they’re alone, it turns into a bigger fight, with Yoon-jae naming all the times she slept at the station, got carried in by some other guy, or caused a giant scene with her fanclub friends.

She mocks his awesome memory and scritches his puppy chin, and he runs his hands down her face. Some things never change. He screams, “I’m not kidding! If you do this one more time…”

But that’s as far as he can go, and Shi-won knows it. “What? Then what?! WHAT? You gonna kill me?” She knocks her head into his chest, challenging him to a fight. Pfffft. Don’t do it. She’ll kick your ass.

He backs down immediately, “…then I’d get… really mad.” He whines like a little kid that her boyfriend doesn’t like it, so can’t she just stop drinking so much? She has a demand of her own—can’t he stop with that annoying Seoul accent of his? He immediately changes it back at her request.

He tries to follow her up to her apartment for “coffee” again, and gets denied. He argues that they practically lived together their whole lives, and she points out how different now and then are.

He can’t resist, “Why, do you see this oppa as a man now? Does your heart race when you see me?” She kicks him in the shins and calls him a cab before she heads inside, and he sighs that he’s so close.

He gets in the cab and it drives away… and then zooms right back. Awww yeah. He falls all over himself to run up the stairs, but then gets stumped at her door, wondering how to proceed.

Omg, are you trying to unlock her door without ringing her doorbell? Dumbass. I hope she kicks you where it really hurts. He tries his birthday, her birthday, and then wonders, “Nah, it couldn’t be…”

He looks up Tony oppa’s birthday and tries it… and the door opens. Ha. Once a fangirl, always a fangirl. She gapes to find him walking through her door like he owns the place.

He sits down and demands freshly brewed coffee, and she snaps back that he can shove whatever she gives him in his face. Pfft. He asks if she’s gained weight, and she points out that he asks that every time she ties her hair back. Well that answers that question.

He drinks his coffee and she tries to rush him out, and he desperately searches for ways to bide his time. Finally she’s shoving him towards the door, and he agrees to leave… if she gives him one kiss.

She agrees just to get him out the door, and backs him up against the wall. She grabs his face and gives him a little peck on the lips.

He lets out a sigh and chucks his jacket on the floor, “Are you kidding me?” and slowly starts to back her up against the kitchen counter. Rawr.

She’s practically lying down on the thing by the time he goes in for the kill. Swoon.

They come back up slowly, still kissing, and we fade to black.

Back to the hospital in 2013. If we have to watch this scene one more time, I will hurl something. Tae-woong and Yoon-jae run up, and Yoon-jae stands, barely breathing, “I… I’m the husband.”

Well of course you are! Huzzah!

He hands Tae-woong his stuff, and Hyung gives him a pat of encouragement before he goes in. Mom and Dad wonder how Tae-woong found the time to come by, and urge him to go back to work.

He says he just stopped in to name the baby—Yoon Seung-ho—and rushes back out. Dad figures that since the husband is here, they can go grab a bite to eat, but Mom has a hard time leaving, worried for “our baby.”

Dad says she’ll be fine, but Mom means Yoon-jae: “She’ll pull all his hair out, the poor thing!” Dad: “That’s his lot in life. It’s his fault for marrying a gangster.” HAHAHAHA. I luff Dad, so, so much. They run off like a pair of teenagers playing hooky.

Inside the delivery room, things are going exactly as predicted. Shi-won expends most of her energy yanking Yoon-jae’s hair out, screaming, “THIS! IS ALL! YOUR! FAULT! You son of a bitch!”

They’re crying, and he’s apologizing, and I’m dying of laughter.

Back to the reunion in 2012. By now, Yoon-jae is a judge in Daejeon, and he and Shi-won are a weekend couple. Their friends tease them about when they had time to make another baby (Whaaa?), and worry that Yoon-jae will have a hard time making it up to Seoul when she’s due.

Shi-won says she can do it without him, and Hak-chan tells him it’ll be better that way—he’ll just get his hair pulled out and get cursed at up and down. Shi-won: “I wouldn’t do that! What am I, some gangster?”

Their friends all wonder how they were when they were dating, and Shi-won swears they were just like any other couple, with the coyness and the push and pull. Yoon-jae just stares blankly and completely contradicts her.

Back to 2005. Shi-won’s getting better with the goodbye kisses after each date, and Yoon-jae does his adorable fist pump after she’s closed the door. Why so geeky?

He sends her cute little text messages, wondering what she’s up to, and she sends back replies like: “Pooping.” And “You crazy bastard.”

He sits around getting no attention while she plans fan events for Tony oppa, and he grumps at her to show him half the love she has for Tony. She calls her love for Oppa pure, while Yoon-jae only has a one-track mind.

He stammers, “Wh-wh-what, like I was the only one who liked it?” Ha. He argues that her head is filled with nothing but Tony, and says he’ll crash and burn, calling him a monkey bastard.

Shi-won yanks his hair and they go at it like little kids, punching and screaming. Yoon-jae narrates:

Yoon-jae: Locking a wild lion up in a zoo doesn’t mean that overnight it’ll give up raw chicken for carrots. No matter how much an environment changes, a lion is a lion, and a rabbit, a rabbit. Sung Shi-won is Sung Shi-won, and Yoon Yoon-jae is Yoon Yoon-jae. We met, and dated, and loved, in our own way.

Shi-won visits Yoon-jae’s apartment for the first time, and they share a plate of mandoo sent by Mom. I love that he eats the filling and she eats the cover.

He asks casually if she thinks this is okay for a newlywed apartment… but gets no response from her. It starts to make him nervous, “Wait, are you planning NOT to marry me?”

In their usual manner, she remains completely silent while he jabbers on nervously that he’s not asking but he’s just asking, yunno. After a long pause, Shi-won asks, “Is this… a proposal?”

He swears it isn’t, and then gets upset, wondering if she plans to marry some other guy “after making me like this.” Ha. Or maybe she has a special proposal she wants to receive? But she tells if he does some stupid romantic and mortifying proposal, she’ll kill him and then die of embarrassment.

That gives him the courage to ask now, “So then you’re going to marry me, right?” He uses her own move back on her, and gives her till the count of three to answer, or he’ll kiss her ten times.

He inches closer as he counts: One… Two… Three…

Shi-won: “Okay.” She says it like an answer to Mom nagging her to clean her room.

He smiles and tells her to say it to his face, so she turns and yells it over and over. He leans in to kiss her and she jerks back, “What? I answered!” Haha. He tells her that this is what people in love do, and kisses her.

She looks around the apartment while he does dishes, and stops at a picture of Joon-hee and Yoon-jae. She asks if he’s been to Joon-hee’s new place (he has) and if Joon-hee said anything when he was leaving.

Yoon-jae hesitates, and says no. Shi-won sighs.

Back to the weekend when Joon-hee moved out, right after the big dinner date switcheroo by Tae-woong. Joon-hee marvels at Tae-woong’s honesty—the fact that he was able to be honest about his feelings for Shi-won and not sweep them under the rug, even telling him the winner could tease the other about it. Otherwise they might’ve spent the rest of their lives feeling awkward about it all.

Joon-hee sighs that it’s better to be ridiculed for something than to keep secrets. Aw, Joon-hee. Yoon-jae says he knows Hyung better than him, and suggests Joon-hee go into psychiatry and look into people’s hearts and help them out.

Joon-hee: “But I don’t know my own heart. Maybe after I figure mine out.” It kills me that he can’t say it, and that Yoon-jae knows it already. He packs up the rest and the mover tells him to check one last time to make sure he didn’t forget anything. He goes back up and lingers in his room.

Yoon-jae comes out dressed for work, and asks if it’s so bad if he leaves something behind. Aw. He says he’ll come visit the new place. The only thing Joon-hee can manage to say is to do well on his test at work and buy dinner if he gets a promotion, and with a hand to Yoon-jae’s arm, he just says, “I’m going.” But then Yoon-jae calls out after him, “Joon-hee-ya…” Eeeee!

He stops by the door, but doesn’t let himself turn around. Yoon-jae walks up behind him, and backhugs him (awwwwww) and just stands there without saying a word. *tears*

It’s such a bittersweet moment, and done so perfectly without words. Joon-hee smiles, and Yoon-jae says they should have dinner soon. He just pats Joon-hee on the shoulder, still holding him, as we fade out.

A few months later. Shi-won and Tae-woong chitchat over ice cream, and he teases that he’s better looking and taller and richer than Yoon-jae, but she still likes him better?

She nods with this goofy grin and says in her totally honest way that she never had sparks with Tae-woong, but does with Yoon-jae. She says that she didn’t feel it before even when they kissed, but now, she’s happy just seeing his face. Aw.

Yoon-jae arrives at Hyung’s office to find them giggling together and immediately pouts, “What were you doing?” Shi-won says “date,” while Tae-woong spills the beans that she was telling him how much she liked Yoon-jae.

He immediately changes his tune and sidles up to her, saying she should tell him that to his face. He wants the three of them to go out to dinner, but Hyung says he got roped into going to some concert, complaining that his students are crazy fangirls. That elicits a defensive rant from Shi-won about the merits of fangirldom.

He leaves and they wonder whose fangirls they are. Cut to Tae-woong rolling his eyes as he drives a group of his students singing along to DBSK. His students insist he has to attend, and hand him a pair of tickets, asking him to be the contact for a member of their fanclub, since they’ll be too busy screaming.

He waits near the concert venue and then the ticket owner calls to find him… and it’s the doctor. She’s embarrassed to be caught in full fangirl mode, but he surprises her by (quoting Shi-won) and saying that she must’ve used her fandom passion to succeed in other areas of life.

She’s impressed that he gets it, and he smiles and says he’s got pretty long history with fangirls. Heh.

Shi-won and Yoon-jae go to eat, and she orders the exact same way she did when they were in high school—loads of food for her, nothing for him.

She whines for him to let her have one drink, which connects her to the same request to “jagi-ya” at the reunion, where the boys all tell her no. And this time we see Yoon-jae specifically answer her no, and to think of the baby.

Then we see Tae-woong introduce the doc to Yoon-jae and Shi-won, and he calls Yoon-jae “the brother I love,” and starts to introduce Shi-won.

That connects him to the reunion, where we heard him introduce Yoon-jae the same way, and then we get to hear him finish this time: “and the sister-in-law I love.”

Back to introducing the doc, where Shi-won arrives to the table with a tray of two extra-whip iced mochas and regular coffees, and Yoon-jae reaches for his, wearing his couple ring.

And then to the reunion, where we see the same hand reach for the mocha, and Yoon-jae bop down for a mouthful of whipped cream. He complains that she wears that couple ring because she lost her wedding band not one month after they were married. Ha.

Back again to the meeting with the doc (Show, you’re giving me whiplash here). Tae-woong’s wife-to-be insists they don’t have to cut in line to get married first, but Yoon-jae says Hyung should be first, and they can take their time.

Shi-won agrees wholeheartedly, “and besides, we could break up.” Yoon-jae scowls. Doc says it would delay their baby-having though, and Shi-won gapes, “Baby? Why would you say something so scary?”

She swears up and down that they have ZERO plans to make babies anytime soon, and Yoon-jae scowls again.

The very next morning, Shi-won comes out of the bathroom utterly peeved, and screams at Yoon-jae to wake up, waving a pregnancy test in his face. Hee.

She beats him silly with the nearest stuffed animal, “I TOLD you to be careful! You careless ass!”

Pffft. He doesn’t even know why he’s being pummeled.

Reunion, 2012. A little girl runs up to the table calling for “Mommy,” and runs into Shi-won’s lap. And then Daddy swoops her up in his arms. Aw. She came with the grandparents, who come bearing sacks of food (of course).

They wonder how Tae-woong found the time to come, and he says he wanted to see everyone, and anyway he’s here to give Shi-won his car.

Shi-won tells her parents it’s past Daughter’s bedtime, but Mom says she’s glued to the TV these days, staring at her new idol crush, and running around saying that she’ll marry him.

Dad says that’s right—where you plant beans, you get beans, and where you have one fangirl, she’ll give birth to another. Hee. He tells Shi-won to deal with it, like it’s payment for the hell she put him through.

Yoon-jae says that stuff doesn’t matter to him, and Dad admits now that he always thought Yoon-jae one marble short for marrying Shi-won. HA.

Mom still fawns over Joon-hee, asking if he’s married yet and still wishing he were her son-in-law. Cute. Dad still berates Sung-jae, and smiles at the news that Hak-chan and Yoo-jung are getting married… and then asks if they aren’t getting married after making an accident baby like those two over there. Hee.

Yoon-jae swears they were going to get married on that day anyway, but Mom asks if he thinks them idiots, knowing full well they hijacked Tae-woong’s wedding because of the pregnancy.

Before they head out, Dad turns back to tell them to make good memories, because there’s nothing better (that doesn’t cost a cent) in all the world. He sighs happily, thinking of his memories with Tae-woong and Yoon-jae’s dad.

Tae-woong smiles warmly and says he’ll be home soon so they can play Go Stop tonight. (Awwwww, do he and his wife live with Mom and Dad? So sweet.)

The reunion comes a close and everyone streams out of the restaurant and into the rain. Sung-jae stands in the doorway between Hak-chan and Yoo-jung talking about where to go on their honeymoon, and Yoon-jae and Shi-won cuddling.

He stares back and forth between them, growing increasingly agitated, and finally blows up, asking if they don’t feel sorry in the least. They’re all like, why?

He reminds them of all the teenage tears and recriminations, and sighs, “They say first love doesn’t can’t be realized, but you guys are amazing.” Yoo-jung responds by inviting him along on their honeymoon, and he storms off in a huff. The funnier part is, she wasn’t kidding.

Yoon-jae says that if Hak-chan and Yoo-jung get married, they’ll have attained their first loves, but Yoo-jung corrects him—Hak-chan wasn’t her first love. Uh, awkward, since clearly this is the first that Hak-chan’s hearing of this.

He asks who it is, but Yoo-jung just glosses over it. He pulls her old line, “Let’s break up,” and runs into the rain. She shouts that she doesn’t even remember who it is (and betrays a tiny glance up at Yoon-jae) and runs to his side, saying, “Who cares about first love? The person next to you now is what matters!” And they walk off arm in arm.

Yoon-jae (voiceover): First love. The reason everyone’s first love is beautiful is not only because the love was pretty. At the time of first love, there was a youthfulness that didn’t know how to be wise, a me who was pure to the point of cruelty, and a you whose fire I couldn’t handle. It’s because I already know that I can never go back to that youthful, innocent, passionate time.

Yoon-jae says the weather is nice (“Because I’m with you,” awww) and Tae-woong and Joon-hee come out to join them.

Yoon-jae (voiceover): First love is reckless. Without calculating, it throws everything in with pure passion, and inevitably fails. But that’s why it’s dramatic—the reckless tales wrapped up in experiences or feelings that you can never have again.

Joon-hee comes out and Shi-won offers to drop him off on their way. He says someone’s coming to pick him up. Yay! She smiles knowingly.

Yoon-jae looks at him in surprise, and they just smile at each other. I’m so happy Joon-hee found someone. He’s the last to leave the party, and there’s something so bittersweet about that.

He waits in the rain, and a car pulls up. We don’t see who picks him up, but Joon-hee smiles as he gets in the car.

Yoon-jae (voiceover): First love is a time. Once it passes, it’s gone. Now you have to give a new love and a new time a chance. It might not be the experience or the purity of first love, but out of that scar is a love that grows and becomes a little more mature—you have to wait for an adult love. Only those who wait can dream of love.

We see the fateful moments that we thought were Tae-woong’s first encounters with the doc, but then a flashback shows that they actually ran into each other the day he went into the record store to buy H.O.T. CDs for the first time.

Back to 2012, as Shi-won drives the brothers home. Yoon-jae asks what kind of medical seminar is keeping Hyung’s wife in Japan over the weekend, and he sighs that it’s not a seminar—it’s a DBSK concert. Haha.

Apparently she also became the entire fanclub’s president, which is hilarious, for the two very different reactions it gets from the front seats. Yoon-jae sighs that Hyung’s gonna have a hard time spinning that as a presidential candidate, while Shi-won is freaking out that their family finally has someone important in it.

She grumps that Busan chapter president is as high up as she could get, and blames the city she was born in. She and Yoon-jae bicker the rest of the way, and as Hyung gets out, he tells them not to fight.

Yoon-jae’s like, that’s not fighting. Shi-won (still calling him Oppa), says that when they actually fight, cops have to be called. They drop Tae-woong off and then the rest of the car ride gets dicey, as they start to argue.

Yoon-jae (voiceover): When romance passes, life comes. Purity gets dirtied, passion freezes over, and youth turns to shrewdness as you age. That innocent era’s first love becomes fatigued and exhausted daily routine… and is why first love appears to be something that can’t be realized. Because those who succeed at realizing their first love… don’t tell you.

Yoon-jae says he hasn’t asked in a long time, but if he and Tony oppa fell in the water, which guy would she save first? She vaguely remembers being asked this before, but he says (quite nervously, which cracks me up) that some things have changed since then.

This time her answer is: “You. Just you. Who else would I save before my husband?” He beams, calling it his life’s great reversal. Hee. But then when she says she loves him, he calls her out on being the mother of two and still going to visit Tony’s mother’s store. Well clearly, the girl’s loyal. You should know.

Yoon-jae (voiceover): Succeeding at first love is nice too. There’s comfort that’s even better than your favorite sweater, but also an excitement that you can find when you’re tired of that comfort. As childhood playmates, as first loves, as lovers, and as husband and wife, we live through the same times, share the same memories, and grow old together. A familiar excitement. It’s nice.

As they drive away swearing at each other, we see the license plate on the car: Live forever 1997.

And then the final flashback, to 1997, when the group gathered for a photo in the park. Hak-chan sets up the camera, and Shi-won berates Yoon-jae for ruining her once-in-a-lifetime signed t-shirt from Tony oppa, when he used it to sop up some spilled soy sauce.

Sung-jae says he’s lucky to have walked away with his life. As the camera timer starts to wind down, Shi-won asks if he’s really sorry and feeling repentant, and waves a fist in his face…

And then just before the shutter goes, she opens her hand and he leaps back, terrified at the frog sitting in her palm.

Yoon-jae: “I think I broke my arm!” Haha, so that’s what landed you in the hospital?

Yoon-jae (voiceover): It was fiery and pure, the time I long for. Do you hear me? If you hear me, answer, my ’90s Me.


I feel the same way about the finale as I did about Episode 15—that the show is better when it’s shorter and tightly edited, without letting conversations meander indulgently. But by the last two episodes we’ve come to love these characters so much that we indulge the excess, which probably helps to ease our goodbyes to the show as well. Overall I’m happy about the finale and it delivered exactly what I wanted—a satisfying resolution for everyone and some nice contemplative reflection on what it’s like to be young, told from the perspective of characters we’ve watched grow up over the course of the series.

I would have liked to get Shi-won in on the voiceovers in the end, or even let each character have one that fit their endings, though I don’t mind that Yoon-jae had the job of wrapping up the story for everyone. I think the finale rests entirely on the strength of the past episodes though, in that it made us nostalgic for the young versions of the characters as if we’d known them for years, and not just a few weeks. For me, everything past the time jump (post high school to 2005 and beyond) doesn’t hold a candle to the early years—it’s as if the show is on the same trajectory as its characters, with a fiery passionate youth that blazes so bright… that it can’t help but wane and cool as it gets older. It was still fantastic in the later years, but didn’t have that incredible spark it did when the adolescent rollercoaster was in full swing.

But when it was, man was this show amazingly accurate about the highs and lows of being young. I appreciated everything about the heart, the humor, the gut-wrenching tears, the utter humiliation, and the moments of self-discovery. And of course the attendant soundtrack, which made me feel all the more like I was reliving my own youth along with them. What I loved most was that each character was written as a full person—as if they were the stars of their own dramas. It’s not often that characters are written this way, to feel like real people, no matter how little we might see of them. And despite some conversations rambling on forever, the ones that mattered—the powerful emotional beats—were delightfully sparse, sometimes silent. It’s a two-way street with good writing and good directing, to give a scene the space to breathe, and to direct it so that the moment and the breath matters. This show had that perfect combo in spades.

There were certainly times we all grew tired of the baby daddy mystery, but it certainly laced the show with enough crack that it scored a new ratings high for cable. What the show did right within that overarching story was its whimsical (and sometimes very complicated) use of flashbacks, flash-forwards, flash-forward-and-back-within-a-flash-somewhere. It played fast and loose with narrative time, and built an emotional throughline across decades, days, and minutes between different sets of characters, all converging on a similar idea. Those were the strongest episodes, in a series full of strong episodes.

In the end it was always the family that really got me—the one that Mom and Dad cobbled together out of the rubble when each of the two core families suffered such massive loss. The brother relationship, what it meant to them to have surrogate parents, and how Shi-won couldn’t lose either of the boys from her life because they were family to her—no matter which two characters you paired out of that family, there was something so amazing to come out of it. Dad and Shi-won were a sentimental favorite, but of course the heart of the show is Shi-won and Yoon-jae.

I love that theirs is a relationship that survives not because of some idealized version of first love, but because they acknowledge that first love is beautiful because it’s a moment in time, and is as much, if not more, about who you were in that short burst of time. That you stays in the past, because you have to grow up. It’s the idea that even people who end up with their first loves have to give up on the notion of First Love, as if it’s some magical ideal. Life goes on, passion fades, but love can always change and grow. Their happy ending is not in realizing their first love, but in finding someone to grow up with.