Review: Lost [Human Disqualification]

THE SHORT VERDICT:

Carefully written, tenderly directed and richly layered in every aspect, Show isn’t for everyone, but those who love it, will likely love it deeply.

Show explores themes like isolation and connection, and what it means to be human, in the slow unfolding of its narrative, and it all feels more like a compassionate exploration of our characters’ states of being, than a typical story, which might be more event-driven.

Our entire cast is strong, but the stand-outs are absolutely Jeon Do Yeon and Ryu Joon Yeol, who both inhabit their characters so well, that I often felt like I could understand how they felt, without them having to say anything at all.

Altogether thought-provoking and immersive.

THE LONG VERDICT:

I talked at length in my episode 1 notes, about how this show reminds me of My Mister, in broad strokes.

I still feel that way, but I’d like to emphasize (again) that Show really is its own creature, with its own shape, rhythm and structure. Therefore, I realize that it might not be helpful to some folks, for this show to be mentioned in the same breath as My Mister.

It’s honestly difficult to predict whether you’d take to this one, because I personally know some folks who loved My Mister, but couldn’t get into this show.

What I think might be helpful, is for you to check out at least 2 or 3 episodes, to see if it grabs you. If Show doesn’t grab you, then it’s quite possible that this one’s just not for you.

For me personally, I found that this show has a very particular ache to its watch experience; an ache that feels relatively subtle, but is quietly persistent and unyielding, and it’s also quite magnetic and fascinating, at the same time.

Over the course of my watch, I felt like that melancholic ache was sucking me in, slowly but surely, like some kind of siren song, that I was more than happy to surrender to.

OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE

Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it while you read the review. Overall, I found the OST very well-applied, in that I felt that the music amplified and lifted my watch experience in a significant way. It really helped to bring out the poignant, melancholic nature of our drama world.

If I had to pick just one track that sticks with me, it’d have to be Track 3, Under The Blossom Shadow. I feel that the feel of the song captures a lot of the feels of the show. There’s  an overarching sense of melancholy, but there is also a sense of yearning threading through it, and I find the combination quite.. poetic.

To listen to the OST on repeat, just right-click on the video and select “Loop.”

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS

Here are some things that I think would be helpful to keep in mind, to maximize your watch experience:

1. Don’t rush through this one.

I feel like making time to sit and soak with each episode helps to enhance the watch experience.

With most shows, I find that I’m able to just write out my thoughts right away. With this show, I found that I needed to give myself some time to soak, to let it all marinate for a bit, not just in my head, but in my heart as well.

2. Don’t expect fast developments.

Like I mentioned earlier, Show has a more measured, contemplative vibe to it, and things tend to happen in slow degrees, rather than in big dramatic strokes.

3. Be prepared for setbacks.

Our characters move and grow in very realistic ways, and that can take the shape of them taking 1.5 steps forward, and then 1 step back – just like in real life.

4. Pay attention to the details.

Show is very richly constructed, from the writing to the execution, and I feel like paying attention to the details should really make your watch experience richer. Show does everything with purpose, so the more you connect the details, the more interesting and textured your watch will be.

5. Pay attention to the micro-expressions.

Our leads are especially fantastic at this, and in a drama world where their characters may sometimes say very little, the small changes in their gaze &/or their facial expressions often contribute a great deal to our understanding of them as people.

GENERAL EXECUTION & HANDLING

One of the things that really strikes me about this show, is its handling. Everything feels very deliberate, like no choice was made lightly, and that makes the watch feel rich with potential.

Here are some highlights of when I found the directing and handling particularly interesting.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Contrasting voiceovers with onscreen characters 

E2. I found it an interesting choice, that whom we hear and whom we see on our screens, in that same moment, is often different. When we hear Kang Jae (Ryu Joon Yeol), it’s often Bu Jeong (Jeon Do Yeon) that we see on our screens.

And when we hear Bu Jeong, it’s often the other way around; it’s Kang Jae whom we see on our screens.

It creates this instant impression, that these two people’s experiences are intricately similar, even though they’ve barely spent a few minutes in each other’s presence, in our story.

E3. I’m struck by the fact that Kang Jae’s voiceover about his father waiting for him all day long, is overlaid on a scene of Bu Jeong’s father, lying down on the ground, waiting for Bu Jeong.

It has this very dissonant effect, because we’re hearing from one character, but seeing things related to our other key character instead.

And at the same time, it does this thing of meshing their experiences together, so that it starts to become one, in my mind. It’s quite a fascinating execution choice.

The music choices

E2. Another thing that strikes me, is how the melancholy of our characters is treated with respect. There’s a delicate quality to the melancholy, like Show is acknowledging the desolate emotional landscape of our protagonists, and yet, working to show us a sense of beauty, even in the midst of the melancholy.

For example, even as we see Bu Jeong’s mother-in-law (Shin Shin Ae) go through her trash and pick out the Hermes handkerchief out of her pocket, and mutter shock and judgment all in the same breath, and even as, in the same scene, we hear Kang Jae tell his father in voiceover just how much of a mess he is, the music that is employed in the scene, is light and pretty; delicate and.. hopeful.

The choice to use a mirror image

E7. I find the scene in the hotel room a bit disorientating, and I feel that that is an effect that PD-nim seeks, on purpose.

The biggest clue to that, is the way he suddenly uses a mirror image at one point during the scene, such that Kang Jae, from appearing on the left of the screen, with Bu Jeong on the right, is suddenly shown on the right of the screen, with Bu Jeong on the left.

There’s no indication of why PD-nim suddenly decided to flip the screen into its mirror image, and I can only conclude that PD-nim desired a disorientating result, where we’re not sure what’s what and who’s where.

The only reason I can guess for PD-nim wanting that, is that perhaps this is PD-nim’s way of helping us feel the sense of disorientation that Kang Jae and Bu Jeong feel, as they feel their way through this conversation; an entire expanse of unknown, before them.

[END SPOILER]

SPOTLIGHT ON CHARACTERS AND RELATIONSHIPS

I decided not to have my usual sections of stuff I liked and stuff I didn’t like so much, and have one big section spotlighting various character and relationships.

The reason I’m doing this, is because, even though some characters start out unlikable, Show does a great job of peeling back their layers, to make them more sympathetic.

Essentially, every character has their own struggles in life, and most of them are lonely. I feel like loneliness is the one thing that the majority of our characters have in common. Even the characters who appear to be less unhappy, are still lonely.

Once you peel away the okay outer layer that they show to the world, all of these people are lonely, in their own ways. There’s an uncanny sense of universality that permeates this drama world, in that way.

At the same time, I feel like there is some sense of potential comfort within reach, for our characters, because at least there is the possibility, that they will learn that they’re not alone.

I found our leads and their connection the most interesting, in our drama world, so I will be focusing on them and their relationship with the most depth.

Jeon Do Yeon as Bu Jeong

Jeon Do Yeon is typically a lot more active in movies than dramas, so it was a treat to see her play Bu Jeong on the small screen.

Bu Jeong’s such a restrained, reticent character, that it’s really important that the actress playing her, has the ability to convey a lot more than what’s written in the dialogue, via her body language and micro-expressions, and Jeon Do Yeon does it all so well, and makes it all look so organic and effortless, too. Really impressive.

The journey that Bu Jeong charts, to find meaning in her life, is a key focus of our story, and I found myself very much absorbed by it. In Jeon Do Yeon’s hands, Bu Jeong felt like a real, living, breathing person, with a lot of pain, and so often, I wished that I could say or do something, to help her.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. The more I learn about Bu Jeong, the more I feel sorry for her. It feels like she’s stuck in a life that she doesn’t want.

From her voiceovers about regularly praying for a specific someone’s suffering, there’s some kind of rage (or hate?) gnawing at her heart, towards someone, who’s likely wronged her in some way. And, whatever’s happened, she’s keeping it a secret, even from her husband and father.

She’s left her job at the publishing house, and is doing housekeeping work to make ends meet. But she’s encountering discrimination, rudeness and I’d even go so far as to say, some form of emotional abuse, as she tries to do her housekeeping thing.

To make things worse, it appears that she’s distant from her husband Jung Soo (Park Byung Eun), and not getting along with her mother-in-law (Shin Shin Ae). It doesn’t help that Mom-in-law is demanding, nosy and shrill. And it doesn’t help that Jung Soo doesn’t appear to be all that good at mediating between his mother and his wife.

Plus, it seems that Bu Jeong’s lost a baby at some point, as well. This might explain the distance between her and her husband, and it might well be contributing to her depression as well.

That scene, where she finally breaks down and cries to her father (Park In Hwan! 😍) that she thinks she’s a failure and is unlikely to ever make something of herself, and has no right to, well, anything, is really heartbreaking.

She’s working so hard to hold it together, but the cracks in her armor are so visible, even right now. It feels like she’s really not that far from shattering into a million pieces, because it’s just too hard to hold it together.

There’s this pressure on her, albeit well-intentioned, that she ought to live a better life than her father has.

To Dad, this is just the way of life; that children ought to enjoy a better life than what their parents had. But to Bu Jeong, this is turning out to be a huge burden, because, the way she sees it, her life is likely going to turn out even more dismal than her father’s, and she doesn’t want to disappoint him.

E2. I feel really sorry for Bu Jeong, because the person who’s supposed to be the closest to her, obviously fails to understand her struggles.

Jung Soo seems to have no idea that his wife is suffering from depression, and worse, even if she wasn’t suffering from depression, the way he makes light of her life, like her job’s so easy and laidback, is completely tone-deaf and absolutely aggravating.

He clearly thinks his own job is challenging and that his life isn’t easy; it says so much about him, that he just assumes that his wife’s job is easy and that she has an easy life. It’s enough to drive someone to depression, honestly.

But that’s not all that Bu Jeong’s struggling with. That reveal, that her ex-boss Jung A Ran (Park Ji Young), had gotten violent with her, while she’d been pregnant, and had then fired her, AND HAD THEN gone on to use Bu Jeong’s work, as is, even though it had been the reason she’d gotten violent in the first place, is just too much.

I’m speechless, honestly. And the way Jung A Ran acts all self-righteous about things, is just mind-blowing.

It’s not hard to see why Bu Jeong’s been driven into a state of depression.

I feel like she’s huddling with her depression with a sense of determination, like she doesn’t actually ever want to escape, or let go of the gaping chasm of misery that’s threatening to swallow her whole. Instead, what she wants, I think, is to drag Jung A Ran down into that chasm with her, so that Jung A Ran can be as miserable as she is, herself.

Bu Jeong’s so withdrawn and quiet so much of the time, that it feels, to my eyes, like it might actually hurt her to talk. Not physically, since there’s nothing physiologically wrong with her. But I feel like emotionally, it might actually hurt her to talk.

The way she ekes out her words, it always feels like it comes with some kind of pain. When she’s squeezing out the odd word or two, it feels like this is possibly all she can manage, without breaking down and losing it completely.

And when she’s crying to her dad, it feels like the words are coming from a deep, dark, painful, shameful place. It makes my heart ache, just to look at Bu Jeong, honestly.

E6. Last episode, I’d wondered about Bu Jeong’s connection with Jeong Woo (Na Hyun Woo), and I’d assumed that their texts had to do with Jeong Woo’s assignment from the escort club, to look into Bu Jeong so that Jung A Ran would be able to destroy her, but this episode, that assumption got thrown out the window.

As the pieces come together, I’m stunned to realize that Bu Jeong and Jeong Woo had apparently met on a suicide site, and had connected as potential suicide buddies. I’ve heard of such sites, where strangers who wish to die, but don’t want to die alone, find likeminded people, and they make a pact to die together.

That puts a whole different spin on the text that Bu Jeong had sent to Jeong Woo’s phone, and what it had meant to each of them. It looks like they had agreed to die together, and Bu Jeong had changed her mind on the actual day that they had planned to meet.

This gives me chills, thinking that if Bu Jeong hadn’t changed her mind, for whatever reason, then she and Jeong Woo might have died together, that night.

I’d actually assumed that the reason Bu Jeong texts Jeong Woo again, now, after so many months have passed, was because she’s entertaining suicidal thoughts again, and is therefore seeking out her suicide pact buddy, not knowing that he’s already committed suicide with someone else.

Thankfully, Show proves me wrong later, by showing us that Bu Jeong had, quite decisively, changed her mind about wanting to die. This means that she’d been reaching out to Jeong Woo to check on him, which makes the scene land much less dark than I’d first thought.

It’s heartbreaking to finally hear Bu Jeong’s voiceover, reading the contents of the suicide note that she’d once written to her father.

“Father, for over forty years’ time, I didn’t become anything. And during that time of not becoming anything, I think I’ve disappeared somewhere. I don’t want to tell you what happened in detail.

Actually, I can’t tell you. Because, to be honest, I’m not even sure what made me like this.

If someone were to hear what it was, they might get angry or sneer at me for thinking of dying because of a petty issue. That kind of small and common thing happened to me, too. It’s not a great reason that everyone would nod their heads to. I’m sorry about that. I couldn’t save myself. I couldn’t protect myself. I’m sorry.”

The thing that strikes me most, about Bu Jeong’s suicide note, is her sense of guilt. She feels guilty for not making something of herself; she feels guilty for losing herself; she feels guilty that she couldn’t save herself. Ultimately, it seems that it’s this deep sense of guilt – of shame – that’s been crushing her.

The way she even talks about how she doesn’t have a really good reason for dying strikes me too.

It’s true that you can’t ever truly understand what someone else is feeling, just because you’ve had a similar experience. Someone else might have had their work stolen from them, and continued to live well.

But for Bu Jeong, that’s like taking away her last shred of hope for achieving something in her life, and it’s so huge in her estimation, that she cannot live with it.

Again, it really makes me think about the people around me, and remind myself that I don’t truly understand what they might be dealing with.

E7. Through Bu Jeong’s words, it’s also starting to become clear why she’s still clinging onto life, even though she has been also actively contemplating death.

“I just felt like disappearing. Sometimes, I hate myself so much that I wish I could just disappear. The sun went down. I was hungry, but I didn’t want to do anything. And that thought occurred to me. I want to die like I’m floating away somewhere. But on my way here, I felt good.

I thought, ‘Why did I bring tangerines?’ But the tangerine was sweet. I thought, ‘Why did I wear ill-fitting shoes?’ But it felt great taking them off. The bathroom was large. I was sitting, and now I’m lying down. I also want to go home. I want to see my dad. I think I know what you mean about a stream trickling from your heart.”

It strikes me as extra poignant, that someone who feels as suffocated by life as Bu Jeong, would hang onto it, because of small little positives, like the sweetness of a tangerine, or the largeness of a bathroom.

It makes me think that if Bu Jeong weren’t depressed, what a happy, grateful person she could be. And that’s.. sad. I feel sad for her, that a soul with so much capacity for gratitude, is imprisoned in such overwhelming depression. 😭

E9. We learn more about the circumstances around Bu Jeong’s miscarriage, and while things are not explicitly spelled out for us, we are given enough clues to piece together a rough picture.

From what I can tell, it seems that Bu Jeong had been pregnant when Jung A Ran had attacked her at work. It seems that at around the same time, Jung Soo’s emotional affair with Kyung Eun had come to light.

I’m guessing that this had all proven to be too much for Bu Jeong, who then withdrew into herself for the next 5 weeks, refusing to see anyone.

Somewhere along the way, either before of after Bu Jeong withdrew from the world, the baby had died of cardiac arrest in her womb, and she had been so depressed, that she hadn’t even noticed it. Which is how she had ended up with such a serious infection, which had landed her in hospital for a stretch.

It’s.. a lot to take in, just as a viewer, and I can only imagine how crushing this must all have been, for Bu Jeong. The thing about being betrayed by the people around her, including her husband, who was supposed to have been the closest person to her, is bad enough.

But laid on top of that, is the guilt, that as a mother, she had not even picked up on the fact that her baby had not moved in her womb for 5 whole weeks.

There’s so much emotion to unpack, in the face of this. I can imagine that from Bu Jeong’s perspective, this must have felt like her whole world caving in on her, where the things and people that she’d thought she could trust, proved to be shifting sand.

And the joy that she must have once felt at the baby in her womb, turned into this monstrous specter of guilt that probably still haunts her in a big way, even today.

I can see why Bu Jeong would have entertained thoughts of suicide, particularly with the information that we get around her miscarriage.

That must be a part of her that feels that she doesn’t deserve to live, after neglecting her baby like this, and perhaps she also has thoughts of going to her baby, to care for it in death, to make up for the fact that she couldn’t care for it, in life. It’s all terribly heartbreaking. 💔

E10. In watching that scene where Bu Jeong gets worried for Writer Seo’s lover (Oh Gwang Rok and Jung Yun Ha), because he’s being violent towards her, it occurs to me that Bu Jeong has more ammunition against Jung A Ran than Jung A Ran thinks.

If Bu Jeong decided to go public with what she knows about Writer Seo, that he’s not only having an affair with someone else, but is also actively involved in domestic violence, this could really hurt Jung A Ran’s picture-perfect public image.

However, Bu Jeong doesn’t appear to have any intention of doing that. Instead, she comes across as sincerely concerned for the woman, which I consider very kind and humane of her.

[END SPOILER]

Ryu Joon Yeol as Kang Jae

I’ve had a soft spot for Ryu Joon Yeol since Reply 1988, and I even sat through 2016’s Lucky Romance for him (where he was legit the single best thing about that show), so I was basically primed to like him as Kang Jae.

That said, I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that this is the best that I’ve seen of Ryu Joon Yeol, ever. It feels like in the last couple of years, he’s developed a deep maturity in his acting, and it all gets showcased to excellent effect, in his delivery of Kang Jae.

I find Kang Jae fascinating and complex as a character, in that there often seem to be so many layers at play, within him. Ryu Joon Yeol gives us insight into those layers, and yet, makes his delivery of Kang Jae feel organic and matter-of-fact, at the same time.

There’s nothing belabored about his portrayal of Kang Jae; it just feels like this is Kang Jae, on our screens.

On a completely shallow note, I have to say that I love Ryu Joon Yeol’s voice, particularly in his voiceovers, where he speaks in such low, murmured tones.

The awkward half trailing off sentences, mixed with the extended intakes of breaths, when he gets to those awkward cliffs; the concern mixed with uncertainty; all of that wrapped up in the natural low richness of his voice, is all just quite sexy, to me. Flail. 😍

Finally, dang, he looks good with longer hair. 🤩😅

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. I’m intrigued by Ryu Joon Yeol’s character Kang Jae, in that he already feels a bit like a bundle of contradictions.

Sometimes he comes across as detached and nonchalant, to the extent that he seems aloof, but then, he’ll do something caring, like deciding to hold a funeral for the friend who borrowed 40 million won from him and then committed suicide.

This, even though he’s now really tight for money, or calling friends to persuade them to come to the funeral, or giving Bu Jeong, who’s pretty much a stranger to him, an expensive handkerchief so that she can wipe her tears and not ruin her clothes.

There’s a distinct sense of melancholy about him, though, even as he makes these kind gestures. It kind of feels like he cares, but it also kind of feels like he thinks everything is futile anyway. It almost feels like he’s just going through the motions of living, and hasn’t really figured out if it’s worth it.

Women seem to crave his company, judging from his popularity as a guy for rent, and from the way the ladies at the funeral parlor come to the funeral hall where he’s at, just to gawk and say hello.

At the same time, even though Kang Jae is polite to them all, it feels like he hates this work and wants to distance himself from it.

I’m guessing that’s the case, from the way he politely and smilingly lies to that lady client at the hotel, saying that he has another appointment and can’t extend her time, but then, once she leaves, slumps onto the bed and sinks into what looks like a depressive sort of nap, for an unspecified period of time.

He definitely comes across as at least somewhat depressed.

E2. There’s something unflinching and unwavering about Kang Jae’s gaze, that makes me feel that he feels jaded and perhaps dead on the inside. While his friend Ddak Yi (Yoo Su Bin) is a ball of nervous emotions as the undertaker staff dress their friend Jeong Woo’s body, Kang Jae is stoic and unflinching.

However, the slight tension in his brow, and the occasional tightness in his throat, as he looks upon his dead friend, tells me that this is possibly harder for him, than it is for Ddak Yi.

At least Ddak Yi doesn’t bottle things up, and releases his feelings through his nervous chatter. Kang Jae is absorbs it all, it looks like, and it feels like he has a lot of capacity to swallow it all, I’m slightly concerned at what might happen, if he were to reach breaking point.

I find it interesting that Kang Jae can handle Jeong Woo’s ashes without problems during the funeral proceedings, but jumps like Ddak Yi’s thrown an explosive at him, when all Ddak Yi’s done, is hand Kang Jae a packet of Jeong Woo’s ashes.

I’m thinking that it’s quite likely that Kang Jae compartmentalizes his life pretty heavily, in order to cope. Jeong Woo’s death had been a difficult event, and it feels like he’d compartmentalized a portion of himself to deal with that difficult event and all its associated details.

But outside of that context, he doesn’t seem equipped to manage.

We do learn one thing about Kang Jae, though, and that is how he’s learned to code money as love; that the more money someone spends on you, the more they love you. That’s messed up, but at least we can tell, from his voiceover, that he knows it’s messed up.

At least he’s not in denial?

E3. It feels like Kang Jae’s depression had started back when his dad (Jung Chung Gu) had died.

What a heartbreaking flashback, where we see that his dad had literally pulled himself off life support, with what little strength he’d had left. How haunting, for Kang Jae, to keep thinking about that moment, and wonder what his father was thinking and feeling, at the time, and being convinced that his father had been waiting for him.

That adds a layer of responsibility, and probably guilt as well, to it all, which I imagine would be crushing for anyone, not least a teenager. And I can only imagine how these feelings of guilt have eaten away at him, all these years since.

The other thing that strikes me about Kang Jae’s voiceover thoughts around his father’s suicide, is how.. empathetic he is. His desire to know what his father had been thinking and feeling in that moment, and his various hypotheses around that moment, demonstrate his innate empathy.

He so naturally tries to understand what the other person is thinking and feeling, and that desire doesn’t appear to fade with time, either. I think he’s quite possibly a natural empath.

I also feel that Kang Jae’s possibly more self-aware than the average person. His voiceovers are so reflective, and he’s able to articulate that he’s run away from the day that his father died, to his current life, and he’s also able to pinpoint and say that he doesn’t understand what life or death is:

“I don’t know what death is yet. I don’t know what life is either. Will I understand one day as time goes by? What life is and what death is… What the present is and what the future is… In the last moments of life, everyone is alone. Will I eventually understand that?”

I actually really like Kang Jae’s level of introspection, it not only helps me to understand him, it also makes me feel like he has a lot of potential for growth. After all, awareness is half the battle, isn’t it?

I am intrigued by the way Kang Jae handles the situation with Jeong Woo’s sister (Park Si Hyun).

At first, with him not only getting Ddak Yi and Min Jung (Son Na Eun) to come along, but to front the discussion with Jeong Woo’s sister, it kind of gives the impression that he’s uncomfortable handling the delicate topic of asking for the funeral expenses.

But then, later, when Jeong Woo’s sister turns out to be snooty and nasty, Kang Jae doesn’t hesitate to take control of the situation, and boy does he ever!

I was really impressed, actually, with how he gets straight to the point, and doesn’t give Noona a chance to twist her way out of the situation. He’s firm and a little bit audacious, even, but so magnetic and casually piercing, that I was quite mesmerized.

“Your heart is where your money is. I’m asking you to show me your heart.” He sounds like such an old soul, dropping this kind of wisdom off the cuff, and saying it to Noona, without flinching in the least.

It’s not that he couldn’t handle this situation on his own; he just didn’t prefer to.

It’s interesting to me, that when Kang Jae receives the job on Bu Jeong, his first instinct is to try to understand the situation, and starts looking into Jung A Ran. This is him being a natural empath again, and it’s notable, that he actually has to talk himself into thinking of it as none of his business.

E4. The way Kang Jae turns down the job at the club in favor of paying his mother (Kang Ji Eun) a visit, tells me that Kang Jae does yearn for personal connection and relationship. Rather than take a job that would pay him good money, he chooses to visit his mom, for whatever food she might have for him, on his birthday. And yet, while he’s there, there’s a sense of perplexity and discomfort about him, even as Mom asks well-intentioned questions about his birthday and his life.

I’m guessing that there’s a dynamic at work here with Kang Jae, that’s similar to what we see of Bu Jeong and her dad. He doesn’t want Mom to see that his life is lonely and pathetic, and that no one had celebrated his birthday for him, and he hadn’t had a party.

Instead, he tells her a story about how he’d had a party at a club at Gangnam. It seems like the same pressure on him as on Bu Jeong; to show that he’s living a good life, so that his mom won’t feel bad for him.

Plus, there’s a definite hint of pride in Kang Jae as well, as we see from the story that he tells Mom about why Ddak Yi thinks that they share the same birthday. He’d rather live this lie with Ddak Yi, for years, than admit that he’d had no money for Ddak Yi’s birthday present.

E5. This episode, I’m pleasantly surprised that we get more insight into Kang Jae’s inner landscape and general sense of struggle, with regards to the text that he receives from Bu Jeong.

From Bu Jeong’s perspective, he simply hadn’t replied, even though he’d read her message. And last episode, we’d seen that he’d felt a sense of gratitude for her message; that it had meant something to him. However, this episode, the exploration of just how far and deep that meaning and gratitude reaches, draws me into his heartache, so much.

“I appreciate what you did that day, too. Thanks to you, for the first time in a long time, I felt like I was a good person.

So I felt happy for no apparent reason. It’s been a long time since someone who wasn’t my family, coworker or client spoke to me first. I didn’t know how to reply. So I wrote and then erased what I wrote. And kept writing and erasing.

Then I came to wonder. Maybe what you wrote to me was also words you wrote and erased, and then wrote again. That made my heart heavy.

When you said, “I wish you good health,” I wonder what that sentence originally was. When you said I didn’t have to reply, perhaps it was a sentence you really didn’t mean. A sentence you didn’t want to send.”

Just hearing these words from him in voiceover is poignant enough, because it says so much about his isolation and loneliness, and his desire to connect, in spite of his struggle.

And then there’s his empathy at work again, connecting his own struggle to express himself, to Bu Jeong’s likely struggle, in composing that message to begin with.

But Show goes one further, by laying his voiceover on scenes of him applying himself to his work, switched on and smiling and laughing with others when the work required him to, and hollow, empty and slumped, the moment he’s alone.

That contrast is painful to witness, and I was especially struck by how he responds to text messages from his client, with a dull lifelessness about his face, but choosing only happy, acquiescing emojis, for his text messages.

He hides his personal emptiness behind smiles and smiling emojis, and to my eyes, this just magnifies how empty he must find his life.

It also occurs to me that his exclusive use of emojis echoes the idea that he struggles to express himself in words.

Except in this case, it’s not because he’s overcome with emotion, like with Bu Jeong’s text. In this case, it feels like it’s because he’s so devoid of emotion, when it comes to his work, that he finds it hard to muster words to help him present a cheerful and agreeable persona.

And then, when he’s in a space where he can assured of being alone, he tends to cave into a heap, and just disconnect.

We saw that in episode 1, when he’d slept in the hotel room after getting rid of his client, and this episode, we see it twice, once when he gets home from work, and the other time, at the gosiwon, when he’s visiting Jeong Woo’s old room.

When he gets home from work and collapses onto the couch, it feels like he’s been so drained from being at work, and pretending to be nice and happy with people, that this is all he can do. Just shut down and wait for his mind and body to recharge enough, so that he can do it all again.

It feels like an exhausting, never-ending sort of cycle.

And from the gosiwon thing, I feel like he’s going to his default shut down mode, as a way to cope with what he finds there. From what I can tell, it seems like Jeong Woo’s lady friend had had a son, and that son had died.

Circumstantially, it feels like perhaps Jeong Woo and the boy’s mom had then killed themselves, out of grief. That’s a lot to process – and I think that’s why Kang Jae shuts down right there in the gosiwon; not because he feels at home there, but because he’s alone there.

I like that Kang Jae and Bu Jeong’s dad are starting to form a bit of a connection. Before, Kang Jae hadn’t even noticed Dad, but this episode, he helps Dad to move a bunch of cardboard out of the rain, and they even have a bit of conversation.

It all feels like simple friendly neighborly things, but to Kang Jae, I feel like this is another one of those rare human interactions that he isn’t used to, outside of work.

Notably, one of his voiceovers, where he talks to his own father, happens after his encounter with Bu Jeong’s dad. This makes me feel that Dad naturally gives Kang Jae a father figure sort of vibe, and makes him think of his own father.

I feel like Kang Jae’s voiceover to his father, still resonates so much with a desire to connect with and understand his father.

Even though Bu Jeong’s dad had said this thing which had resonate with Kang Jae, Kang Jae’s thoughts, instead of centering on himself, quickly go back to his father, and apply themselves in trying to understand his father better.

“Hello, Father. How are you? Just now, someone told me youth is harder than growing old. That made me think of you.. You were always young. You never grew old.. Perhaps you were a lot more lonesome than I had thought.”

It feels like the loss of his father has created a massive hole in Kang Jae’s emotional well-being, and he’s still trying to fill it, even now.

E6. I feel bad for Kang Jae that Soon Gyu (Jo Eun Ji) is so obviously disdainful of him because of his job, but I also feel like deep down, Kang Jae doesn’t think much of his job either.

That spiel that he gives Soon Gyu and Woo Nam – that human relationships are the third biggest problems in the world, and his line of work allows him to help people, and become family to people with no family, and a friend to people with no friends – feels like a story that he’s created, to spin his work into something more noble than he actually thinks it is.

Of course, it’s perfectly possible that some of his clients think of Kang Jae’s work as noble, and it’s also perfectly plausible that he’s been a friend to the friendless, and saved some people that way.

However, from his voiceover this episode, where he talks to his father about his life, and how he has certain goals to meet before the age of forty, so that he doesn’t become a worse person than he already is, tells us a great deal, about his true feelings towards his life.

It’d be fine if he really believed his own spiel, but he clearly doesn’t. He only tells that to Soon Gyu so that she’ll stop badgering him. But in reality, he disdains his work as much as she does.

E10. It occurs to me that even though Kang Jae’s told Jong Hoon (Ryoo Ji Hoon) that Ddak Yi is his soulmate, there is so much about Kang Jae that Ddak Yi doesn’t know – down to Kang Jae’s own birthday. Is Kang Jae sincere in that statement about soulmates?

If he is, it really shows how isolated Kang Jae is, that even the person whom he thinks of as his soulmate, doesn’t know much about him, when it comes down to it.

It’s literally painful to watch Kang Jae do that shift at the nightclub, in an effort to secure Jong Hoon’s trust again. It’s obvious that Kang Jae isn’t willing to play along with Jong Hoon and his various demands, but feels like he has no choice, if he wants to prevent Jong Hoon from making the surveillance pictures of him and Bu Jeong into a big deal.

The way I see it, Kang Jae’s entire response to Jong Hoon – agreeing not to have any contact with Bu Jeong, telling him why he’s interested in Jeong Woo, and agreeing to do a shift at the club – has everything to do with protecting Bu Jeong.

Like I said, it’s quite literally painful to watch Kang Jae put on a fake smile and go through that shift. I feel like every time he fakes a smile for a client, he dies a little more, on the inside. That is really tragic to think about, honestly.

And, in making the decision to distance himself from Bu Jeong, it feels like he’s cutting off the one lifeline that he’d thought he’d found. 😭 The sheen of almost imperceptible tears in his eyes feels so full of pathos.

I find it especially hard to watch Kang Jae delete Bu Jeong as a contact in his phone, as well as the reply that he’d composed, in response to her text message. That heartfelt, sympathetic response gets destroyed instead of getting sent, and it’s so sad to think that Bu Jeong will never receive that text from him.

In particular, that scene in the elevator, where he imagines Bu Jeong standing on the other side of the doors, about to enter the elevator, feels extra poignant to my eyes.

That Look, on his face, speaks volumes about how stricken he is, over this whole thing. It’s heartbreaking to think that a little thing like that could mean so much to him – and therefore, the cutting off of that small thing, has big emotional implications for him.

Kang Jae’s loneliness is so thick at this point, that I feel like I could reach out and touch it; it feels so tangible.

I was gutted that he decided to cut his hair (not the hair!!!.. was what I was wailing on the inside, as he sat in that hairdressing salon 😭), but on hindsight, it feels like Kang Jae’s trying to cut off what he can, of his old self – reinvent himself, in a way – as part of his effort to block Bu Jeong out of his life.

Like, perhaps with this new haircut, she’d be less likely to recognize him from afar?

It’s quite shocking to me, that Show casually reveals, mere minutes later, that Kang Jae basically proceeds to hole himself up in his apartment for an entire month, following that haircut. Wow.

Given that we’ve seen that curling up and shutting down has always been Kang Jae’s way of coping and recharging, the fact that he needed a whole month alone, before he felt up to coming out into the world again, tells us just how deeply this whole thing cuts him. 💔

E13. That flashback to Kang Jae and his mom going to scatter his dad’s ashes at sea, is so poignant to me.

I love that he writes that note to his dad. “My Dearest Father, Don’t be sick now and travel as much as you want. You can take your time coming back to us. I’ll be waiting. Love, Kang Jae.” There’s so much care and maturity contained in that short note.

Also, I love how tenderly he puts that note in the water, as a sendoff for his father. It feels so loving and personal.

Additionally, there’s the musing that we hear in Kang Jae’s voiceover, that perhaps all his father had wanted, was to come home.

All this time, Kang Jae had assumed that his dad had wanted to go somewhere else, and it’s only now, perhaps influenced in part by the close connection he’d felt with Bu Jeong on the mountain, that it occurs to Kang Jae that perhaps Dad had just wanted to come home.

Perhaps it’s because it’s only now, that Kang Jae has an inkling of what it feels like, to have someone he wants to come home to?

And yet, Kang Jae follows up this thought, by saying, in his voiceover, “I don’t know what death is yet. I don’t know what life is either. Will I understand one day as time goes by? In the last moments of life, everyone is alone. Dying was a part of living. Eventually, I’ll understand that.”

Clearly, Kang Jae is still uncertain of how to think and how to feel, and is still in the process of figuring things out.

At the same time, I do feel like his voiceovers have taken on shades of contentment, which we hadn’t heard in earlier voiceovers. He doesn’t sound tormented like he’d used to, while thinking upon why his father had ended his life the way he did.

Now, he seems more settled, and more content to not have all the answers, and more willing to trust that he will understand, eventually.

[END SPOILER]

The connection between Bu Jeong and Kang Jae

The growing connection between Bu Jeong and Kang Jae is, without exaggeration, my favorite thing in this show. ❤️

Show paints it as a slow, creeping sort of burn, which might feel excruciatingly slow for viewers, but I feel that this makes their connection feel more natural, and less staged. And the less staged it feels, the more I feel able to immerse myself in it.

On the surface, Bu Jeong and Kang Jae appear to have nothing in common, but the more Show causes their paths to cross, the more we see that they really might be kindred spirits.

Watching them slowly but surely coming to terms with how important this connection is, to each them, was one of Show’s heartfelt pleasures.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. I’m intrigued, as Bu Jeong reaches out to stop Kang Jae from getting off the bus, at the end of the episode.

I’m curious to know how their connection forms, from here on out, and how these two might possibly bring hope to each other, despite them both feeling desolate and hopeless themselves.

E2. On hindsight, it seems that the 50,000 won note that Kang Jae puts in Jeong Won’s pocket, is the note that Bu Jeong gives him.

Because Kang Jae frames that 50,000 won note as Bu Jeong’s act of goodwill to him, it’s dawning on me that Kang Jae is passing on what little goodwill he has collected, on to Jeong Won, for his journey to the afterlife. This feels symbolic and.. selfless, in a manner of speaking.

If Kang Jae believes in luck, then he could use all the luck he can get, given how disappointed he is in himself and his life.

And yet, he gives this piece of goodwill, which I think can be interpreted as luck as well, to his friend. Is this consideration and kindness for his deceased friend who would need all the luck he can get, for the afterlife and beyond? Or is this a concession that no amount of luck could help him anyway, and so it’s probably more useful to someone else?

Or perhaps it’s a bit of both?

Even though Bu Jeong is older than Kang Jae, in their interactions so far, he’s been the one to provide support, help and direction.

When she grabs onto his sleeve in the bus but can’t say anything, he’s the one who takes control of the situation and talks her through it. He’s gentle and matter-of-fact, which I think is quite perfect.

He acknowledges why he thinks she’s holding onto him, tells her it’s perfectly understandable and that there’s no shame in it, and then asks her for permission to alight at the next stop, while thinking to give her the option to reach him again, if she’d like to say anything else to him.

He’s gentle and understanding, without being patronizing (I don’t think?), and I can’t really think of how else he could have handled the situation any better.

And then there’s how Kang Jae finds Bu Jeong on the rooftop, contemplating what it might be like to just jump. His words, “Why die? Just don’t pick up,” sound like they’re spoken from experience; like Kang Jae himself has had the same thoughts, and he’s now offering her the conclusion that he’d reached, when he’d grappled with those thoughts.

Again, it feels like he’s the more experienced one, providing direction to someone who doesn’t know the way.

I’m intrigued by this, and definitely curious to see how their connection grows from here on out.

E3. I also like Kang Jae’s explanation to Bu Jeong, “That’s what humans are like. Normally, they don’t really care. But when it seems like someone’s in trouble, they draw near. They’re inherently meddlesome.”

It feels like a pretty accurate description of Kang Jae himself, in that he normally doesn’t care, but when he sees someone in trouble, he can’t help but get involved. Like the way he’d given her that handkerchief, and the way he’s now intervening, to make sure she doesn’t jump.

I feel sorry for Bu Jeong, because it feels like she has no refuge in anyone. She feels attacked &/or misunderstood by her husband and mother-in-law, and especially Jung A Ran, and then, with her father, who is the closest person in the world to her, she feels the need to put up a happy front, so as not to worry him.

I feel bad for her, that there is no one in her world, with whom she feels she can just be herself, and that being herself would be ok.

I do find Bu Jeong’s voiceovers quite poetic. The way she describes how she feels, like there’s a building collapsing in slow motion, and she’s right there, at the spot that’s likely to collapse first. It’s such an evocative mental image, like Bu Jeong’s actually waiting for that building to collapse on her.

And how interesting, that as she says this, we see Kang Jae looking through Jeong Woo’s things. It’s like Show is pointing out to us, that Kang Jae is also in a similar position, at his lowest point, where he’s teetering on the verge of collapse.

Each time Kang Jae encounters Bu Jeong, he does seem quite intrigued.

Like when he’d overheard her conversation with her father at the bus stop, and when he’d seen her crying on the bus, and when he’d seen her shouting into her phone at Jung A Ran. In those moments, he almost seems like a moth drawn to a flame, like he doesn’t want to be interested, but can’t help being curious, in spite of himself.

E4. It’s so serendipitous, that Bu Jeong’s dad offers Kang Jae a slice of cake when they run into each other outside the elevator.

Neither Dad nor Bu Jeong know that it’s Kang Jae’s birthday, and in fact, Dad later expresses that he’d offered the cake, almost like a dare, to Kang Jae, so that Kang Jae wouldn’t think of Bu Jeong as invisible anymore.

However, to Kang Jae, that slice of cake makes the world of difference to his day, because it just so happens that that day is his birthday.

On a day that runs like any other day, where Kang Jae receives a text for a job at the club, and basically does nothing different, I can imagine that this chance slice of cake would brighten up his day, a little bit.

And though it doesn’t seem like much, when the darkness is very thick, the tiniest flicker of light makes a difference. That’s how I see that slice of cake, in Kang Jae’s world; a tiny flicker of light, that actually does light up his world, because his world is that thick with darkness.

I feel that Kang Jae is still in two minds, about the job that involves Bu Jeong.

Therefore, while it looks like he’s asking to exchange numbers with her, because he’s been told to dig into her life, the way things unfold this episode, it gives me the vibe that this is more personal than professional – at least for now.

After Bu Jeong’s text to Kang Jae, where she conveys her thanks and returns the handkerchief, it feels like something’s shifted between them. That moment when they see each other at the wedding hall, it feels like they are viscerally drawn to each other.

Her text was sent with what feels like a painful amount of tamped-down heart:

“I appreciate what you did that day. I will put the handkerchief you lent me in your mailbox on my way to work tomorrow. It’s been such a long time since I saved the contact number of someone who wasn’t my family or colleague. I appreciate what you did that day… So I wanted to send you a message. You don’t have to reply. I wish you good health. From Unit #1003.”

And his voiceover, where he replies, is just as full of wistful yearning, “I appreciate what you did that day, too. I received the item you returned well. Thanks to you, I had a really good birthday for the first time in a long time. Since you said I didn’t have to reply, I won’t. I wish you good health.”

They are just so drawn to each other; from the way Kang Jae walks towards her at the wedding hall with a hint of tears in his eyes, almost as if he’s entranced, to the way she searches for him afterwards, her entire body tense with what feels like a sense of focus and reckless desperation, it feels like these two people are compelled towards each other, in spite of themselves.

At this point, I don’t feel that the attraction is romantic.

Rather, it feels to me like these two lonely, wretched souls are both suddenly piqued with the tantalizing curiosity of what feels like a kindred spirit, almost-but-not-quite within reach. It feels like if they could just reach each other, they might just be able to prevent each other from drowning, in their suffocating misery.

E5. When Bu Jeong runs after Kang Jae at the wedding hall, it feels like she’s in some kind of trance. I feel like that glimpse of a connection with Kang Jae feels like some kind of lifeline to Bu Jeong, who seems to feel like she’s drowning, as a general rule.

I feel that Bu Jeong running away and hiding from Jung Soo, is very instinctive too. I don’t think she has a logical reason for it. I’m guessing that instinctively, being near to Jung Soo makes Bu Jeong feel like she’s drowning, while reaching for Kang Jae, who seems like a kindred spirit, feels like a potential lifeline that would allow her to breathe again.

The moment when their eyes meet, at the smoking corner where Bu Jeong’s just hidden herself, feels pregnant with unspoken meaning. Bu Jeong’s gaze, as she looks as Kang Jae, feels like it’s full of reproach; reproach for not replying to her text, and reproach for being so hard to find, perhaps.

And in Kang Jae’s gaze, I detect a sense of plaintiveness, just for the initial few seconds, before his gaze takes on a more impassive, matter-of-fact shade.

I find it an interesting feature of their dynamic, that so far, it’s been Kang Jae who’s been driving their conversations.

Here, in the smoking corner, Bu Jeong doesn’t say anything, and it’s Kang Jae who’s asking all the questions, like whether she’s there for a wedding, and whether it’s for a relative, and also, why she’s hiding. It definitely feels like he’s the one who’s more in control, and who is the more dominant personality between them, even though I see them as similarly introverted types.

Kang Jae just is more able to function in a more extroverted space when required (which I’ve seen several of you refer to as being an ambivert). I personally consider Kang Jae an introvert because this episode shows us so clearly, that it takes a great deal out of him, to function in that space, and he needs time to shut down, alone, before he’s able to keep going.

Through this whole episode, from the moment that Bu Jeong had an inkling of what Kang Jae does for a living, it seems that she’s been more and more absorbed by the idea; it’s like she can’t seem to back away from it or stop thinking about it. I feel like she’s seriously considering whether she should buy some of his time.

At this moment, I don’t think she even has any idea what she’d like to do with some of Kang Jae’s time; I feel like she wants to connect with him so badly, on some kind of vague kindred spirit sort of level, that she just might go the professional route.

E6. I tend to think that Kang Jae sending Bu Jeong that text, telling her that his line of work allows people to call him any time for anything, and that if she’s in a situation where she needs someone, to please contact him, is a way of giving Bu Jeong a lifeline.

After all, he’s seen the suicide note that she’d written, when she’d been preparing to die with Jeong Woo, and therefore he knows that she’s struggling, and might still be entertaining thoughts of suicide.

Kang Jae himself is familiar enough with these kinds of thoughts himself, that he understands that sometimes, just having someone be with you, is enough to stop someone from choosing to die. I believe that’s why he chooses to send that message to Bu Jeong.

The reason I don’t think that he’s doing it for the job that Jong Hoon’s been talking to him about, is because the tone of Kang Jae’s conversation with Jong Hoon is subtly but distinctly adversarial.

They pretend like they’re on the same side, but in actual fact, they are testing each other. It sounds like Kang Jae hasn’t actually agreed to take the job, because each time he and Jong Hoon talk about it, it still sounds like Kang Jae’s feeling it out and thinking about it. All the “research” that Kang Jae’s doing, appears to be part of his consideration process.

The way Kang Jae sends the text to Bu Jeong, asking her if she’d like him to book a hotel room for their meeting, feels reluctant.

He hesitates to send the text, and once he sends it, he looks the other way, like he doesn’t want to see her answer. And when she answers that it’s fine (ie, go ahead to book the hotel room), he even looks a little disappointed, like he’d hoped for different or better, from her.

I’m not quite sure what to expect, as Bu Jeong and Kang Jae finally have this private meeting.

I don’t think it’ll be about physical intimacy, because I don’t think that’s what Bu Jeong seeks from Kang Jae. I still think that what she’s hungry for, is the sense of solidarity that she’d glimpsed, from their other brief interactions. In which case, I think she just wants him to be there with her, for a while. Perhaps they will talk; perhaps they won’t.

I feel in my gut that just having his company, will help her, at least for a while. And perhaps it might help Kang Jae too.

E7. This episode, it’s coming together in my head, that both Bu Jeong and Kang Jae feel a gnawing sense of otherness, in each of their lives.

In that hotel room, Bu Jeong articulates to Kang Jae that she just wants to be in a place that isn’t home, with someone who isn’t family, so that she can just be, without expectation on either side.

On the other hand, Kang Jae articulates that Bu Jeong, that he’s often felt like he misses home, even when he’s at home, or that he misses his mother, even when she’s right there with him.

It sounds completely opposite at first glance, but I do think Kang Jae is right, that they essentially work out to be about the same thing, just expressed as opposite sides of the same coin.

And I think that coin is a sense of otherness, as they live their lives. Bu Jeong feels a need to escape away from something, and Kang Jae seems to feel a need to escape into something; it just feels like they both don’t feel at one with the lives they are living.

And I think this is at least one of the main things that draws them to each other.

I appreciate that Kang Jae is the one leading the conversation, as before. As have all agreed, Kang Jae is just more able to function in this space than Bu Jeong is. And I appreciate that as he does so, he keeps presumption at bay.

He doesn’t presume to understand anything about her and why she’d asked to book his time.

He starts from ground zero, asks her questions like what it was that she’d wanted to do with him, and then just lets her talk. It sounds simple, but it really is quite profound, particularly from Bu Jeong’s point of view, where it seems that no one is really listening deeply to the cries of her soul, in her regular life.

I’m not sure what Kang Jae is really thinking, as he asks that question, “If, by chance, we meet again coincidentally, but not like today, do you want to die with me?”

It doesn’t feel like he’s just testing Bu Jeong, but theoretically, it’s possible that he’s feeling her out, to see if she still has suicidal tendencies. After all, he’s seen her suicide note, and learned of her connection to Jeong Woo, via the suicide pact website.

It’s also possible that Kang Jae is perfectly serious, even though his tone is casual and almost absentminded. From what we’ve seen of him, it seems quite clear that he’s a high-functioning depressive. So even though he appears relatively fine from the outside in, it’s very possible that he’s entertaining thoughts of death.

My instinct, at the moment, is to think that Kang Jae isn’t actively seeking to die; more like he finds life so meaningless and unfulfilling that he wouldn’t be opposed to dying, in order to leave it.

E8. In the scene of the rooftop, I am completely sucked into Kang Jae’s gaze. There’s something immediately plaintive about his gaze, the moment he sets eyes on Bu Jeong.

In this scene, I almost feel like his eyes betray him; he does what he can to keep the conversation casual and natural, but the emotion in his gaze is deep and raw. It’s.. quite spellbinding, really.

Up to this point, I’ve felt like Kang Jae’s been the one driving their conversations &/or setting the tone for their interactions, but in this scene, Bu Jeong speaks up and tells Kang Jae that she doesn’t want to talk about their hotel rendezvous. She’s setting boundaries, and like Kang Jae acknowledges, that is a good thing.

I’m also glad that Bu Jeong asks Kang Jae about his invitation to die together. How interesting, that Kang Jae himself says that he doesn’t know why he said that.

In this sense, it feels like something that had slipped out of his subconscious mind, in a moment when he’d felt like they were in a completely open and honest space.

Also, it occurs to me that for the first time, it’s Kang Jae who appears to feel awkward, while Bu Jeong is the one who comes across as more focused, relatively speaking.

Plus, she’s the one asking him questions this time, and it feels like the dynamic between them has shifted to something a little more equal, where Bu Jeong’s no longer always metaphorically curled up in her corner.

I actually like that Bu Jeong feels confident enough to talk more, as she stands there with Kang Jae. I find her sharing, about not having a favorite of anything, and everything basically becoming the same to her, very poignant.

Essentially, she’s describing how her life has become meaningless, isn’t she? There’s nothing to like, and nothing to hate; nothing that is easy; nothing that is hard; everything is just.. meaningless.

At the same time, that sense of meaninglessness is colored with a great deal of pathos; Bu Jeong isn’t indifferent to it, just because she fees indifferent about things in general. Bu Jeong is cognizant of how losing her baby had led to her losing her sense of self, but that awareness, which should be helpful, also seems to be the thing that’s crushing her.

The tears that grow in Kang Jae’s eyes, as he listens to Bu Jeong, and pieces together the fragments of information that he knows, from observing her, are so.. present.

In this moment, it really feels like Kang Jae is fully present with Bu Jeong, not only in listening to the outpouring of her heart, but also, in empathizing with her pain.

For most of the scene, he averts his eyes, almost like the subject is too painful to withstand a direct gaze. And when he does look at her, he sincerely looks like he’s feeling her pain so acutely, that he might cry right then and there. It’s.. mesmerizing, and I find myself unable to look away.

The compassion is so profound, in that single gaze.

I really like the detail, that Bu Jeong accepts Kang Jae’s offer of milk and bread, in this scene. Not only does it feel like their connection is growing stronger and more comfortable, with this episode’s Bible reference of a title, I can’t help but think of the significance of milk and bread, in the Bible: the promised land is a land flowing with milk and honey, and Jesus himself, as the Bread of Life.

I feel that milk and bread represent life and abundance, from a Biblical perspective, and I can’t help wondering if that is the intended significance in this scene, where Kang Jae offers milk and bread to Bu Jeong, and she accepts them and starts consuming them.

Not only that, they stand there on the rooftop side by side, both consuming these symbols of life and abundance, together. That feels.. rich with significance?

Kang Jae does appear very much aware of Bu Jeong. Not only does he notice the run in her stockings and the blister underneath it, he’s also still thinking about the button on her blouse. However, the way he talks about the button, seems to come from a place of genuine (albeit awkward) concern, that her husband might see the undone button and wonder about it.

Also, there’s the thing where Kang Jae appears to be acutely aware of Bu Jeong’s reaction to that baby in the elevator, like he’s afraid that being around that baby will stir up more pain for Bu Jeong. How thoughtful of Kang Jae, to buy bandaids for Bu Jeong, and leave it outside her Dad’s apartment door.

How noteworthy, that Kang Jae denies having anything to do with Bu Jeong, when Jong Hoon calls. Jong Hoon doesn’t look like he’s going to give up easily, though. I’m just relieved to see that Kang Jae seems intent on keeping Bu Jeong protected from Jong Hoon’s destructive intent.

And, how significant, that this evening, as Dad sympathizes with Bu Jeong that she had to go out to meet people during the day, Bu Jeong quietly says that it had been alright. She’s definitely referring to her encounters with Kang Jae, right?

And she even looks rather comforted, as she says that it had been alright.

I’m still not certain of Kang Jae’s intention as he continues to text Bu Jeong while pretending to be Jeong Woo, but for now, it seems to me that he’s using Jeong Woo’s identity as a means to encourage Bu Jeong towards life instead of death.

After all, Jeong Woo had known about Bu Jeong’s suicidal thoughts, so I suppose this it the easiest avenue via which Kang Jae can be more open in his encouragement towards Bu Jeong?

I actually find the content of his text message quite poignant. It feels like this is how he himself has found meaning in life, and is now sharing it with Bu Jeong:

“Hello… It’s been a long time… More than anything, I was glad that you seemed to be doing well… More than anything, I was glad that you seemed to be doing well. I don’t know for sure, but as I live, I think I’ll encounter some good days.

Like when you walk after running. Like when you sit after walking. Even if it’s peace that won’t last for long, there will be days that I can call good because there’s rest. That’s what I believe. Like walking after resting. Like running again after walking. Like rain turning into snow and piling up.”

I think this is why Kang Jae hesitates so much, when he answers Bu Jeong’s question about Min Su. I feel like he knows that this talk about a child’s death, is going to hit a raw nerve with Bu Jeong, and poke at her most painful wound, and he doesn’t want to do that.

And yet, there’s the thing where he doesn’t seem to want to lie either.

E9. In a world where many of our characters feel isolated and pushed away, with no one who’s interested to actually understand how they feel, the text exchange that Bu Jeong has with Kang Jae (who’s still using Jeong Woo’s identity to have this conversation), feels refreshingly empathetic.

We hear Bu Jeong’s text in voiceover, and it’s achingly honest in terms of expressing her sorrow for Jeong Woo’s situation, and her desire to empathize, while not presuming to understand. It’s so poignantly beautiful, yet so clearly touched by her own brokenness.

“What words can I give to comfort you… What can I do… I don’t know if it’s right saying this right now… But for not knowing… For not being of any help… I’m sorry.” … “I haven’t experienced what you’ve been through.

So I don’t know… what shape of sadness you’re in… how great an agony it is… what kind of pain it is.” … “If I tell you I’d been spending time in hell because of something incomparably small… Would you understand me a little? Would you forgive me a little?”

Bu Jeong and Kang Jae don’t share the screen for most of the episode, but when we get that brief scene, of Kang Jae running into Bu Jeong, Jung Soo and Dad at the elevator, I feel like I could have cut the tension with a knife.

From the way Kang Jae tries to hurry ahead, when he overtakes them outside the apartment, to how his eyes dart about, as he considers taking the stairs, and to the way his hand reflexively falls back when Bu Jeong also reaches for the elevator buttons, it is so clear that he’s uncomfortable being in the same space as Jung Soo.

And yet, from his voiceover, which sounds like his reply to her earlier text, it feels like he’s acutely aware of her pain, and in return, is so vulnerable and open about his own pain as well.

“What can I say? What words do you need? The hell you’ll still be experiencing… I also don’t know anything about that nor can I be of any help.”

“I don’t know how I can forgive you. Does sadness have a shape? Does agony have a size?  It’s hardly possible that pain can be defined. No matter how small, nothing hurts more than one’s own pain. Nothing is more difficult than one’s own. Nothing is more precious than one’s own.”

“Was today another day full of deathly agony? I spent a day as long as death today. It was a day when nothing happened and it felt like tomorrow would not come. In a dark room where no one came, I faced the fact that nothing was mine, and I became lonely. I don’t know if it’s right to say this but… I’m sorry.”

It’s so poignant to see both Bu Jeong and Kang Jae put up a strong front for their families – Bu Jeong being cheerful and encouraging for Dad, who forgets his passcode, and Kang Jae being stoic as he goes off to buy coffee milk to add to the dinner table – even as their own pain continues to gnaw at them, so sharply, on in the inside.

The quiet agony on Kang Jae’s features is particularly well done, I felt.. Ryu Joon Yeol really expresses so much, without saying anything at all.

Kang Jae’s loneliness comes across so acutely, in this moment, and I’m hoping that he really has sent that text to Bu Jeong, so that he at least has the knowledge that there’s someone out there, who’s willing to listen to and sit with his pain. 💔

E11. This episode is the first time we see Kang Jae and Bu Jeong share so much screen time, and I have to admit, I couldn’t look away.

Every little detail; every micro-expression; every flick of the gaze; it all feels so rich with meaning, that I feel like I’m not capturing everything that Show is serving up, and may not capture it all, even on a rewatch.

It feels quite significant, that Kang Jae makes a stop in the restroom, to check himself out in the mirror, before stepping into the police station to act as Bu Jeong’s friend.

Considering how he’d told Jong Hoon before, that he doesn’t need to check the mirror because he knows he looks good, this little beat really does tell us a lot.

For one thing, it tells us that Kang Jae isn’t feeling so confident of himself, in this moment. It’s not his looks, that’s for sure, because Kang Jae is so striking, with or without his long hair.

It feels like he’s not so certain of himself in the role of Bu Jeong’s friend, like he doesn’t belong in her world, and isn’t so sure of himself being able to pass off as someone from her world.

Kang Jae’s gaze, as he steps into the police station, is one the most tentative ones that I’ve seen from him, and Bu Jeong’s eyes, in response, look so quietly moved, with a tentative touch of wonder about them.

It feels like she’s kind of blown away, that he would actually come, at her request, even though it’s framed as a job.

As before, Kang Jae appears to take the lead in driving things, in that he looks for a taxi, and makes some conversation.

What strikes me is that Bu Jeong no longer seems afraid to make conversation either. Where in the past, she’d mostly stuck to answering the questions that Kang Jae asked, this time, we see that Bu Jeong asks her fair share of questions too.

I think that’s one of my favorite things about their interactions, this episode. Their wanderings might appear relatively aimless, but over the course of the night, their conversation regularly delves into personal ground. It feel like they learn a great deal about each other, talking like this, and I like that.

It feels significant that Kang Jae would share his story about riding the train with his mom after his dad’s death. This feels like a very personal story, and I am guessing that Kang Jae hasn’t told anyone about this before. Not that he wouldn’t tell Ddak Yi; it just feels like something he and Ddak Yi wouldn’t talk about.

I like how Bu Jeong even asks Kang Jae about the details of his story, like what he was wearing, because she’s that interested in picturing it all in her head, as he talks about it.

The way Bu Jeong asks the question, it’s clear that it comes from a place of genuine and sincere curiosity, which I find – and which I imagine Kang Jae finds – refreshing.

In a situation where it likely doesn’t feel quite right, to simply drop Bu Jeong off at home, because she’d just been picked up for suspected suicidal thoughts, I thought it was a nice suggestion from Kang Jae, to go see the mountains and the sea, before heading back.

It feels like such an organic extension of their conversation, and it also feels like a lovely invitation towards shared experience.

Essentially, Kang Jae’s inviting Bu Jeong to vicariously share his memory of going to that same mountain with his mom, and there’s something that I find so deeply personal about it. It’s like he’s inviting her into his life, in a manner of speaking.

One of the most memorable bits of conversation that Kang Jae and Bu Jeong share, is when she asks him how much she ought to pay him, for acting as her friend. On the surface, it seems like such a mundane, perfunctory question. And yet, when unpacked, there is so much richness there.

Kang Jae: “I was thinking about money. I had a friend. He died. Because he felt empty. I think I told you this before. On the rooftop. Anyway, we weren’t that close.

But we weren’t not close. He was that kind of a friend. When I was signing the form at the police station, I was reminded of him. Because I signed a form after he died. I didn’t want to but somehow it just happened.

Being here with you, I’m reminded of him more. What is it like to feel empty? Did he do it because he didn’t have money? If you don’t have money, you feel empty. And hungry. Then I thought about why you wanted to die.

You studied a lot. You had an office job. You have a father. You have a husband.

But why do you feel empty? Money doesn’t seem to be an issue. That’s what I was thinking. It’s because the cab was taking too long. It wasn’t about how much I should charge you or if I should accept a wire transfer. I wasn’t thinking that at all.”

Bu Jeong: “It was the same for me. ‘How much should I pay?’ ‘How much is his fee per hour?’ ‘Why does he do this?’ That’s not what I was thinking about. ‘Why did he come all this way?’ ‘He probably erased my number.’ ‘Perhaps he was worried about me.’ ‘Does he pity me because of my dad?’ That’s what I was thinking.

Then you talked about your mom and your late father. I just felt sad. ‘On the day you cremated your father, why did you go to the mountain with your mother?’ ‘Why did you go to the sea?’ ‘I’m glad you made it home in the end.’ ‘I think we’re very similar.’

And then I wanted to be nice to you. If I had something to offer, I wanted to give it to you. But what could I give? I have nothing. So I asked you about the fee earlier.”

There’s so much thought going on, on both sides, and I love that they each express it all, to the other, in this moment, without feeling the need to embellish, truncate, or hurry.

I like the fact that they – Kang Jae in particular – seem comfortable sharing their thoughts in a stream-of-consciousness sort of manner.

They simply say honestly what’s on their minds, and the other person simply.. listens. I find it quite beautiful, honestly, that they each listen so quietly and without interruption, when the other person is speaking.

There’s also this moment where Kang Jae talks about his mom crying, and how she says that she’s crying because she was thinking about the milk and bread that she’d left on the bus.

Because we’ve talked about how milk and bread can be representative of abundance and life, I wonder if this is a little Easter egg that Show is giving us; that Mom is crying, because she’s left abundance and life behind.

The scene in the tent feels like an echo of the scene in the hotel room, where Kang Jae and Bu Jeong had shared quiet conversation, and had lain on that bed next to each other.

It feels kind of significant, that in this tent, with the winds howling around them, things feel quiet and secluded. I feel like this is a mirror, of how, while the world around them both is full of noise, and forces that threaten to throw everything into disorder, they have quietude in each other.

In this place of quietude, I find it really quite significant, that Bu Jeong tells Kang Jae that she regrets ever considering suicide, and that she’s no longer thinking that way.

I feel like we learn so much about Bu Jeong, in this moment, as she opens her heart to Kang Jae.

We learn that she’d wanted to become everything, but had become nothing; we learn that she wasn’t even sure what she’d wanted to become; that she’d just wanted to become something; that when she couldn’t even become something, that’s when she’d thought of ending it all, because she’d felt so embarrassed of her life.

It feels like a huge step that Bu Jeong’s taken, to choose to wait, until everything passes. It may not sound like much, but in the context of her having seriously entertained thoughts of suicide, this is a very significant decision.

What an interesting, curious sort of idea that Kang Jae brings up, that the tent is like a pumpkin, and therefore, when the sun rises, everything about this moment will disappear. It definitely has a “moment suspended in time” quality about it, so he’s not wrong.

Perhaps it’s this pumpkin quality of the moment, that gives Bu Jeong the courage – audacity? – to ask if she can touch Kang Jae’s face. It feels like such a personal request.

I feel like there’s some amount of electric hyper-awareness about Kang Jae, in this moment, in the tent, but I feel like the hyper-awareness coming from Bu Jeong, has a more searching, enquiring quality to it. I am admittedly very intrigued to see where this goes.

E12. The scene in the tent, where Bu Jeong asks to touch Kang Jae’s face, “just once,” is so quietly, unhurriedly intense. In case you’re wondering, the actual dialogue includes the phrase “just once,” but my subs omit it.

I do like tentative quality that the phrase lends to the request, though, which is why I thought I’d highlight it.

I am intrigued by Kang Jae’s response to Bu Jeong, in the tent. The way he looks at her is so.. intent. The way he reacts to her request, is so.. quietly open, “Of course,” even though it is a request that seems to come out of nowhere, and that feels rather invasive, even.

And, as she quietly, curiously, with what feels like her heart in her hands, traces his features with her fingers, he just closes his eyes, and.. lets her. It feels like such an open and vulnerable moment; I was completely mesmerized.

I like that when Bu Jeong withdraws, startled by the voices from outside the tent, what follows isn’t an awkward silence, but an honest conversation.

It feels significant, that while everyone in Bu Jeong’s world, including Bu Jeong herself, had assumed that Bu Jeong is always angry, it’s Kang Jae who sees her more clearly than anyone else, and correctly identifies that she’s sad, and not angry.

This feels like a freeing discovery for Bu Jeong, because it changes the way she sees herself, and therefore changes the way she feels about herself too, I believe.

I also like that Bu Jeong is honest and open in telling Kang Jae why she’d asked to touch his face, because she’d felt scared that everything really would disappear like he’d said.

What follows next is such a gentle, vulnerable moment of invited intimacy.

The way Kang Jae  reaches out to touch her hair; the way she turns to face him, thus putting her cheek against his hand; the way he silently draws her to himself, in a movement that feels measured and intent, but not forceful.

The entire moment feels so thick with possibilities. I do think that his primary purpose, in drawing Bu Jeong to himself, is to connect with her, in a real way; along similar lines, as her request to touch his face.

At the same time, it does feel like he’s open to more, if she is, as well. It feels like he’s slowly, gently breaking down the barriers between them, while waiting to see if she’ll stop him.

Although Bu Jeong pulls away just before their faces actually touch, and Kang Jae then leaves the tent to give her some time alone, I do feel like if Bu Jeong had asked him to, he would have been more than agreeable to just hold her, for a while.

I find it fascinating, that Bu Jeong’s response, to Kang Jae’s remark that the pumpkin would disappear in the morning, is to ask to touch his face; ie, find assurance that everything in that pumpkin is real.

In comparison, later, Kang Jae refers to the pumpkin as the fantasy that he offers his clients, and when his clients leave the pumpkin, they return to reality, while he’s stuck there, in the fantasy. In other words, Bu Jeong wants to prove to herself that the pumpkin is real, while Kang Jae feels stuck in the pumpkin fantasy.

These feel like such opposite points of view, even though they are sharing the exact same space.

I also find it significant, that Kang Jae is able to tell Bu Jeong so openly, how he feels about his work.

“During the time reserved, I become someone’s friend, someone’s lover and someone’s family member. The more I do my best, the rougher it gets. When the time is up and the role is over, the other person goes back to reality, but I stay in that fantasy.”

“Have you ever thought of quitting?”

“Quitting? Sometimes. When I choose something I shouldn’t, when I must get off although I don’t want to… Then, once again, I get on a different carriage. I do it because I want to make money and there’s nothing else to do. Also because I’m lonely. It’s too late for me to go to school or work at a regular job.”

“Why? You’re still young. Why do you think that?”

“Because… I don’t want to lose. I don’t want to compete with strangers. I don’t want to fight. I know I’ll lose. I’m a coward. Wasting my life like this. Can you… Can you become friends with a person like me? Instead of staying a client?”

Augh. There’s just so much raw honesty, in Kang Jae’s answers to Bu Jeong’s questions. I love that he has so much self-awareness, and such capacity, for this kind of pull-no-punches, open-book honesty.

And, the fact that he would make Bu Jeong privy to these very personal thoughts of his, also warms my heart, even as my heart also aches for him, that he feels like he lives such a pointless and lonely life.

The thing that I really want to know, is Bu Jeong’s answer to Kang Jae’s final question, about whether she could become friends with him, instead of staying a client.

This feels like a big step for Kang Jae, since Jong Hoon’s made him promise to stay away from Bu Jeong, for her own safety. Yet, he’s so drawn to Bu Jeong, that he’s here, asking her if she’d be friends with him.

Ahhh. I so want her to say yes, but Show doesn’t let us in on whether she answers him at all, this episode.

One thing that I really loved about the execution, this episode, is how the voiceovers that we hear, are no longer only of Kang Jae, or only of Bu Jeong, as they’ve been, in earlier episodes.

This episode, the voiceovers are of the both of them, in conversation. The effect that this has, is a feeling that they have bonded in a very real and enduring way.

They’re no longer addressing their respective fathers in their voiceovers, because they had no one else to talk to who would listen; they’re talking with each other now, and I do love that.

Also, how cute is it, that Kang Jae hitches them a ride in that van, and they both asleep, basically on each other’s shoulders. It feels like they’ve come a long way, even though they really haven’t spent much time in each other’s company, in the grand scheme of things.

I find it significant, that Kang Jae frames his question to Bu Jeong, about going to Chun Cheon together, as an invitation to join him. He’s inviting her into his world, a little more, by asking if she’d like to go with him, to visit his dad at the beach.

I do think that if Bu Jeong hadn’t received that text from Jung Soo, expressing concern about Dad, Bu Jeong would have probably agreed to go. After all, Kang Jae is a safe place, where she can be herself, and be understood.

I feel the wistfulness on both sides, as they prepare to say goodbye. Notably, there are no plans mentioned, to text, or call, or meet again. It seems that they both understand implicitly, that their connection really is of the nature of ships passing in the night.

Through his wistfulness, Kang Jae gives Bu Jeong a smile – that feels assuring and comforting – as she passes him by, in the bus. That feels like a gesture of care, and I find it so precious. ❤️

When they each, on their own, sink into the wistfulness, the tears welling in their eyes, my heart aches for them both, and I really want them to have another opportunity to spend time together again, and soon. 😭

E13. That little scene of Bu Jeong coming home after her adventure with Kang Jae, where her mood is lifted enough, that she’d buy strawberries, and smilingly offer some to her neighbor’s kid, is really nice to see.

Her time with Kang Jae really has brought a brightness to her, such that in that moment, she doesn’t even seem depressed anymore.

In a similar manner, Kang Jae also seems more cheerful and more emotionally generous than usual, after his time with Bu Jeong.

Ordinarily, from what we’ve seen, he would have ignored any and all messages from Min Jung. However, while on that bus to the beach, he even sends Min Jung a photo of the view out his window, and even answers her call.

Sure, it doesn’t last for long, and he doesn’t exactly bend over backwards to give Min Jung the information that she wants, but I do feel like he’s more generous with her than average, and I credit that to the time he’s spent with Bu Jeong.

I love how Kang Jae considers the observatory photos that he receives, then sends them to Bu Jeong, saying, “Lee Bu Jeong-sshi. The Galaxy has arrived so I’m sending it to you. From Lee Kang Jae.”

Ahhh. What a lovely, poetic thought. I love that Kang Jae has that poetry in him, and more than that, I love that he thinks to send the Galaxy to Bu Jeong.

It makes me feel like he not only wants to share the Galaxy with her, he wants to give it all to her. It feels like he’s saying that she deserves the Galaxy, and that’s just.. beautiful. ❤️

I love that flashback to the bus station, where Kang Jae had asked Bu Jeong what she’d like to be saved as, on his phone.

Again, there’s the shifting and redefining of relationships. And I love the choice that Bu Jeong makes, which is to be saved as herself, by her name, on his phone. To my eyes, Kang Jae is asking Bu Jeong what kind of role she’d like to play, in his life, and she’s saying that she wants to be herself; not a client, not a neighbor, but a person.

It feels a huge part of Bu Jeong’s journey, in our story, in that I’ve felt that what’s been causing her soul to feel like it’s wasting away, is not being seen or recognized, for herself.

I’m thinking that that’s one of the reasons why the plagiarism thing with Jung A Ran has touched such a raw nerve with Bu Jeong, that she would even resort to hate comments online. Jung A Ran had taken away her sense of self, by using her work without attribution.

In this context, it feels like a life-giving sort of moment, even, for Bu Jeong to receive that text from Kang Jae, addressing her by name.

Also, how significant, that as Kang Jae says goodbye to Bu Jeong as she makes her way to her bus, he tells her that he’ll see her in Seoul. Notably, and quite regrettably, Bu Jeong doesn’t answer, nor does she look back at him, as she boards the bus.

At this point, it’s clear to see that Kang Jae is more comfortable in wanting to connect with Bu Jeong, while Bu Jeong still has hesitations around it.

E14. This episode, the most intriguing arc, for me, has to be that of Kang Jae and the way he grapples with himself, concerning Bu Jeong. More and more, we see his true feelings come through, and it’s such heartachey goodness.

For example, I loved – LOVED – the text message that he composes to Bu Jeong, because it is so honest, and so vulnerable, and earnest, in the way he’s showing that he’d like to see her again.

“Hello, Lee Bu Jeong-shhi. Thanks to you, I feel I’ve become a better person, and with that cheerful heart, I returned home safely. How have you been? The promise to meet in Seoul next time… The bet that is yet to be settled… The feeling that they’re all valid, makes me endlessly excited and also endlessly afraid. Is this reality?

Or am I in a fantasy, unable to return to reality? I don’t know yet. But I just want to trust this feeling. Saying that you don’t have to reply is something you really don’t mean.”

But then, when he ends up erasing the whole thing without sending the message, my heart aches for the true emotions that had gone into composing that message, because it feels like they’ve been denied their existence and stuffed into a corner.

The way he angsts silently over what to say, and eventually settles on, “Hello, Lee Bu Jeong-sshi. Thanks to you, I returned home safely. You don’t have to reply,” leaving everything else unsaid, feels like such a downgrade of what he really wants to say.

And yet, he continues to check his messages, almost obsessively, just to see if Bu Jeong’s seen his message.

Kang Jae is definitely yearning for Bu Jeong, whether he is cognizant of it or not.

And then there’s the way Kang Jae’s entire mood shifts, when he learns that Jong Hoon has sent the photos of him and Bu Jeong, to Jung A Ran. He tries to act like nothing’s happened, but it’s clear to see, that he’s very bothered by this development.

It feels a touch reckless, but I have to admit that I felt a thrill, to see Kang Jae’s text to Bu Jeong, “Even if I don’t have a reason, can I see you?” Ahhh! This is such honest vulnerability, on Kang Jae’s part. And, he’s definitely pushing the boundaries that they’ve previously set, in asking to see Bu Jeong on a personal note like this.

How significant, that Bu Jeong’s reply, is that she’ll come to him. Ahhh! She wants to see him too, AND she’s being honest about it. Wow. It kind of blows my mind, because Bu Jeong’s been so cautious, all this time.

Even though she is clearly drawn to Kang Jae, she’s been keeping a respectful distance, because of their circumstances.

This is her way of stepping over those boundaries, and I can’t help feeling reckless along with these two, as they throw caution to the wind, even if it’s just for a little while.

The way Kang Jae rushes out of Ddak Yi’s home, because he realizes that Bu Jeong’s on the way to his apartment, to see him; the way he waits for her on the side of the road, his face full of nervous anticipation.

The way he takes a deep, nervous breath, when he sees her across the road; the way his eyes light up to see her, even as he continues to be tentative in his body language.

The way he gestures to the crosswalk, and then walks with her, in parallel, slowly and deliberately; the way his eyes keep darting across the road, to look at her, as if he needs to make sure that she’s really there and he’s not dreaming.

The way a slight – ever so slight – smile tugs at his lips, to realize that she’s there to see him; the way he breathes in, in anticipation, his eyes trained on her, as they wait for the lights to change.

The way he waits for a while, because she’d said that she would come to him, before he can’t hold it in anymore, and crosses the road in wide strides, to grab her in his arms, and just breathe in her presence.

Augh. It’s so much, and my heart feels like it might explode.

It feels significant, that afterwards, Kang Jae leads Bu Jeong by the hand, and walks into an alley – and she lets him, without protest. And I legit feel completely and utterly intoxicated, as Kang Jae looks at Bu Jeong, and, saying, “We meet again. In Seoul,” leans in to kiss her, so tenderly.

Flail. Swoon. Puddle.

This is basically Kang Jae’s heart on a plate, and this mix of tentativeness and courage, of yearning and intensity, is just so, so much.

[END SPOILER]

Park In Hwan as Bu Jeong’s dad

Park In Hwan is a fond favorite of mine (he was so, SO wonderful in Navillera! 😍), so I was delighted to see him here, as Bu Jeong’s father.

I love Dad for his earnest sincerity, which he brings to everything he does, and everyone whom he touches. I love him, too, for how wholeheartedly he supports and defends Bu Jeong, for the simple fact that she’s his daughter, and therefore he believes in her.

I also love Dad for his tenacious good cheer, that doesn’t flag, even in the face of the obstacles that Life gives him.

In short, Dad is awesome, and I love him. ❤️

[SPOILER ALERT]

E5. I’m troubled to learn that Dad is having memory issues, and even forgets his own passcode to get into his apartment. I’m really sad about this; I don’t want Dad to suffer from Alzheimer’s, and lose his memory. 😭

Yet, Dad appears so cheerfully serene and unperturbed, in the way that he talks with Kang Jae about it, and assures Kang Jae that he’s remembered now, and just needs to wait until the system reboots so that the passcode can be entered again.

And, Dad even finds the grace to empathize with Kang Jae, on how youth can be such a lonely time.

Augh. Dad taking it so much in his stride makes this land with even more pathos, somehow. 💔

E13. Bu Jeong’s dad is such a dear heart, honestly. I’d understood that he’d felt compelled to collect cardboard, even though it doesn’t pay much, but this episode, when he shares his thinking around it, it feels so poignant to me.

He cares so much for Bu Jeong, that it hurts him to think that his very presence in her apartment, is depriving her of rent money that she would otherwise make.

There is so much pathos in the way Dad says that he feels compelled to earn even a quarter of that rent money each day. It feels as if he’s trying to justify his existence, in a manner of speaking.

[END SPOILER]

Park Byung Eun as Jung Soo

I found Jung Soo of particular interest, because, as Bu Jeong’s husband, his approach towards her, and his ability – or inability – to understand and support her, is a huge influencing factor in Bu Jeong’s life.

Even before we learn the details, it’s not difficult to guess that Jung Soo’s not equipped to help Bu Jeong. In fact, sometimes, the more effort he makes, the worse things seem to become.

I have to confess that I didn’t think much of Jung Soo, at the beginning of our story.

However, Show does a great job of demonstrating to us, that Jung Soo is human too, and is just doing his best, the only ways that he knows how. This definitely helped me to become more sympathetic towards him, over the course of our story.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E4. I feel a little more sorry for Jung Soo now, in that he really has no idea what’s going on with Bu Jeong, and he has no idea how to draw her out of her shell.

He’s really not equipped to deal with this, and this episode, for the first time, I feel like he’s trying to reach out to her in the ways that he knows how.

It’s just unfortunate that in trying to show his support for her work, Jung Soo pushes the exact button that’s feeding her depression. The more he tries to reach out to her – like by telling her to sleep in the master bedroom – the more she withdraws into herself.

Plus, there’s the issue of the cake. He just sees it as a cake, and doesn’t hesitate to tell Bu Jeong that it’s a cheap cake made with cheap, subpar ingredients.

But to Bu Jeong, that cake is the first positive acknowledgment she’s received in a long time, and she’s proud of it, and it’s precious to her, and so it upsets her deeply, that Jung Soo rejects that cake, because to her mind, this is him rejecting and looking down on, what is to her, a precious acknowledgment of her worth.

Dang, this is complicated. These two are not going to make it out of this together, if they don’t get some professional help, I think.

Also, there’s the thing where Jung Soo doesn’t even seem to remember, when he says something tactless.

Even with his own mother, he doesn’t remember that he’d told her the kimchi was too salty, and instead, remembers (completely incorrectly) that he’d told her it was tasty. Wow. Talk about having an unreliable memory.

E5. Context is everything.

With Bu Jeong overhearing Jung Soo’s conversation with his colleague Joon Hyuk (Kang Hyoung Suk), where Joon Hyuk flippantly gives him advice on how to talk nice with his wife and get her to not be prickly and not lose her temper so unpredictably, it just makes it all land very differently, when he does what Joon Hyuk says, and apologizes to Bu Jeong for how she’s had to run around all day because of Mom.

I feel like without that additional piece of background context, his apology would have sounded pretty decent, actually, albeit a bit out of character.

But, with that additional context, where we now know that all he’s looking for is a way to pacify and manage Bu Jeong, his apology comes across simply as a tactic that he’s employing, for his own comfort.

Shout-out to Trent, for explaining to me, over on Patreon, that there’s probably a guy thing at work here, where Jung Soo likely feels obliged to talk in a more dismissive manner than he actually feels. That definitely helped me to see Jung Soo in a relatively better light.

I think Jung Soo’s doing a relatively decent job of being a “normal” husband.

I mean, he can be tone deaf, but at least he does try to think of ways to help Bu Jeong feel better, and he does try to entertain her with the random tidbit about company for hire, that Joon Hyuk had told him about.

And, he does tell his mother not to say anything about kids to Bu Jeong, and he also articulates that he’s wronged Bu Jeong, by having feelings for Kyung Eun, even though he didn’t have an affair with her.

It’s not enough, certainly, and Bu Jeong’s in too delicate and fragile in both her mental and emotional states, for Jung Soo to help her on his own.

But from a neutral perspective, he may not be an amazing husband, but he’s not such a terrible one, either. He’s hapless and clueless and he can be annoying, but I do see that he’s trying to make an effort, in the ways that he knows how.

It’s tragically insufficient, but I think his well-intentioned efforts count for something.

E6. Jung Soo really is out of his depth, with Bu Jeong. This episode, he again makes an effort to connect with Bu Jeong, and even attempts to put himself in her shoes, and apologizes that she must find him suffocating, because he’s dull-witted and not as smart as she is.

I mean, he’s trying, and empathy is a great place to start, honestly. He’s not being a jerk, and is taking care of the laundry, and is trying to put himself in Bu Jeong’s shoes.

And yet, he’s so pitifully off the mark, and it’s so little, so late, that I feel sorry for him. He has no idea what he’s dealing with. Bu Jeong’s depression is so much deeper and darker than Jung Soo can manage.

E7. To Jung Soo’s credit, I do think that he’s trying to practice empathy, with the way he sits in the room where Bu Jeong spends her nights, in exactly the spot where she usually sits. I think he’s trying to understand what happened, and what everything had felt like, from her point of view.

E9. This episode, I appreciate Jung Soo’s efforts at being gentle and understanding towards Bu Jeong. I mean, he does strike me as being sincere, in the way he buys those macarons and goes to her office, and in the way he chooses to maintain her farce of still working at the publishing house, because he doesn’t want to push her into a corner.

Plus, the tone of his voice, when he talks to her, is gentle. And then there’s how he makes sure to call his mother, to try and make sure that Mom won’t tell Bu Jeong’s father about the fact that Bu Jeong’s no longer working at the publishing house.

The thing is, however, that this is too little, too late, for Bu Jeong. I feel like if Bu Jeong hadn’t been hurt to that degree, one year ago, she might be more receptive towards Jung Soo’s overtures of reconciliation.

After all, he’s being gentle, sincere and really quite thoughtful. But Bu Jeong’s wounds are so deep, that they haven’t healed yet, and as long as they haven’t healed, I don’t think she’s capable to actually accepting these gestures of care, as building blocks towards rebuilding their marriage.

[END SPOILER]

The thing between Jung Soo and Kyung Eun [SPOILERS]

From pretty early on in our story, it becomes clear that there’s Something going on, between Jung Soo and his ex-girlfriend Kyung Eun (Kim Hyo Jin).

I have to confess that I was rather quick to jump to conclusions about Kyung Eun, and the nature of the mutual interest between her and Jung Soo.

It’s true that there are romantic shades to their mutual attraction, but Show does a great job of demonstrating that it’s much more complex than that. I appreciate that Show uses this connection to tease out and support one of its key themes; that we are all human and imperfect, and we are all in need of forgiveness and acceptance.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E3. Jung Soo’s ex-girlfriend Kyung Eun really is going out of her way to connect with him. She definitely seems interested to rekindle what they’d had.

To Jung Soo’s credit, he does look uncomfortable about it, and he doesn’t actually encourage it. However, it’s also quite clear to see that he doesn’t hate seeing her; that there’s something in him that actually savors the opportunity to see her.

Like how he quickly calls his mother to tell her not to come to the store, so that he can sit with Kyung Eun for a while.

Also, there’s that beat, where we see that a year ago, they’d agreed to put a stop to whatever it was, that they’d had going on. To their credit, they’d stopped that despite their emotions most likely having been fired up.

However, this does mean that their interest is mutual, and therefore, Kyung Eun now mounting what looks like an offensive to get Jung Soo’s attention, feels more important than it might have originally looked.

E7. In a similar sort of fashion as Bu Jeong, I feel like Kyung Eun might be trying to escape her life, in some way, in her efforts to connect with Jung Soo.

I mean, on paper, it sounds pretty strange, that she would go out of her way to buy a cake from the department store where Jung Soo works, while her husband is living out his dying days in the ICU.

And, it doesn’t make sense that she would call Jung Soo, while the medical team is still in the midst of trying to resuscitate her husband.

However, putting it together, it does seem that perhaps Kyung Eun’s doing this as a means to escape her life, even for a moment.

Jung Soo isn’t part of her life; he’s outside of it. And connecting with him, is perhaps a means for Kyung Eun to reach outside of her life, where she’s miserable and stuck, to get a breath of fresh air, in a manner of speaking.

While Jung Soo isn’t the one reaching out to Kyung Eun, I would argue that she also represents a channel for him to escape his life, just for a bit.

After all, I don’t think he finds his life easy or enjoyable. In fact, he does seem to be very perplexed by the state of his marriage. Therefore, I do think that any time Kyung Eun appears, Jung Soo doesn’t hate it, even though he might try to.

I’m guessing that for Jung Soo, talking with Kyung Eun, even for a while, and even though he often thinks that she’s being inappropriate or inconvenient, represents a departure – and therefore some form of release and escape – from his regular life.

E8. The more we see Kyung Eun talk about the situation with her husband, the more convinced I am, that she does sincerely love her husband. She’s desperate to keep him alive, even though she’s signed multiple DNRs by now.

She looks genuinely sad and wistful, as she talks about this with Jung Soo, at the pojangmacha. This makes me feel like perhaps all of Kyung Eun’s actions to connect with Jung Soo, have been more innocent than I’d assumed.

Maybe all Kyung Eun had wanted, was a listening ear from someone who wouldn’t judge her, and maybe Jung Soo’s the only person in her world, who fits the bill?

From the way Jung Soo even cries with her, this episode, it makes me think that perhaps I’d misjudged Jung Soo.

In this moment at least, he seems artless and sincere, as he sheds those tears. It feels like he feels sorry to see Kyung Eun in this situation, not as someone who covets her, but as someone who can imagine the torment she’s going through, as a fellow human being.

E11. I’d kind of expected Jung Soo’s connection with Kyung Eun to receive some of the spotlight, with Kyung Eun’s husband passing away and all. What surprises me, though, is the quality of the connection, that we end up seeing.

It kind of surprises me, that now that Kyung Eun’s husband has actually died, the connection between Jung Soo and Kyung Eun actually feels more neutral and pure than before.

While her husband had been alive, each time Kyung Eun had gone to see Jung Soo, it had felt like she’d wanted something more from Jung Soo. And there were all those calls that she’d made to Jung Soo as well.

And yet, now that her husband has actually died, it feels like Kyung Eun’s no longer reaching out to Jung Soo the way that she had been before. In fact, she’s asking why he isn’t leaving with the others, in a manner that makes me think that she actually thinks that he should go.

In the car, where she asks to rest for a while, their conversation strikes me as that between two sad souls. I feel a touch of solidarity there, but I don’t sense a wanting for more, on either side.

All this makes me wonder if Kyung Eun had felt the most anxiety and pain, in the process of waiting for her husband to die (like the way the anticipation of something is usually worse than the experience of the event itself), and that’s why she had reached out to Jung Soo, as a way to cope.

And now that the worst is over, ie, she’s no longer waiting for this terrible thing to happen, she feels more sure of herself and how to deal with the things before her.

E13. We get some deeper insight into what Kyung Eun’s been through, while her husband had been ill in the hospital for so long, and it’s exhausting to even watch her, honestly.

I’m glad Show shines the spotlight on this, because while we are keenly aware of how much the patients themselves suffer, we often overlook how much of a toll this takes, on their family members.

I must say, Kyung Eun’s loyalty and tenacity are impressive, in that she’d pressed on and continued to keep such a dedicated schedule to visiting and caring for her ailing husband, over such a long period of time.

In the context of this, I’m beginning to see more clearly, Kyung Eun’s phone calls and visits to Jung Soo, as her way of looking for a lifeline.

She must have felt like she was drowning in her situation, where her life is basically overtaken by her husband’s illness and impending death. I’d already had it in my head, that she’d been looking for a means of escape, even if just for a while, but with the reveal of the nuances of her life at the hospital, it’s become clearer to me, than before.

E14. It’s starting to come together in my head, that our characters essentially crave intimacy, in their lives.

For example, I don’t think Jung Soo ever set out to cheat on Bu Jeong. In fact, for much of our story, he’s been trying to “do the right thing” by her, in his own way. I don’t think it’s what Bu Jeong needs per se, but it’s what Jung Soo knows to do, in his limited understanding.

In that scene where Jung Soo had sat with Kyung Eun in his car, when she’d needed a quiet place to be outside of the funeral wake, it hadn’t felt to me, that Kyung Eun or Jung Soo actually specifically wanted something romantic with each other. In that moment, it had felt like this was just two people sitting in solidarity.

In this episode, however, it seems that Kyung Eun is struggling on her own, and is reaching out to Jung Soo for companionship – and now, yes, for intimacy too.

In the scene in the noraebang, where Kyung Eun kisses Jung Soo, and he reciprocates, it struck me that I was looking at two people who crave intimacy in their lives. Kyung Eun’s been through a hard time, nursing her husband in his last days, and it’s been a lonely journey. And one area that she would definitely feel the lack, is in the area of intimacy.

It almost feels like a given, that someone in her position, shouldn’t even be thinking about intimacy, with her husband so ill in hospital. And yet, it’s also been widely acknowledged that physical intimcacy is a physiological need. On Maslow’s hierarchy, it’s listed as a basic need, even.

In that context, it sort of makes sense that Kyung Eun would hunger for it, and reach for it with Jung Soo, because he’s the one person in her life who seems to fit the bill of what she’s looking for. She wants intimacy, and he seems best positioned to give it, in a manner of speaking.

On Jung Soo’s side of things, even though he’s married, his relationship with his wife is strained and distant, and even though he wants to work things out with Bu Jeong, that area of intimacy is also greatly lacking in his life.

Therefore, when Kyung Eun taps into her need and reaches for him, in an area where he, too, has a need, I’m not surprised, really, that he responds the way he does. To be clear, I’m not saying he’s doing the right thing; I’m just saying that I understand why he reacts the way he does.

I do find it rather odd, that neither Jung Soo nor Kyung Eun seems able to recall with clarity, whether they’ve ever slept together before.

I find it strange, because, isn’t that something that you wouldn’t easily forget? After all, it’s such an intimate part of a relationship. Surely it can’t be that hard to remember whether you’ve slept with someone?

Of course, Show asks this question on purpose, and I have to wonder what it means. Is Show trying to tell us that the relationship itself was so unimportant to them both, that neither of them remembers whether they’ve ever slept together?

Or is Show saying that their connection has been so abstract and emotional, that it’s become almost unimportant to them, whether they’ve ever had a physical connection?

And, if their memories are correct that they’ve never slept together, is Show suggesting that this could be a reason why they find it hard to fully let go of the relationship that they’d had?

[END SPOILER]

Park Ji Young as Jung A Ran

Jung A Ran really is one of the more complex characters in our drama world.

My impressions of her went through a fair bit of modification, as we progressed through our story. Kudos to Show, for managing to make a character, who’d started out appearing downright evil, humanized, even in the midst of her dysfunction.

I never grew to like Jung A Ran – some of her actions are really destructive towards others, like Bu Jeong – but I grew to see her with more sympathy.

Also, Park Ji Young is just so good at this role. She’s glamorous and smug, and so effortlessly snooty.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E3. I’m intrigued by the fact that Kang Jae’s being asked to do the job that Jeong Woo didn’t finish, and that that job is to basically dig up dirt on Bu Jeong, so that Jung A Ran can destroy her.

Dang. That Jung A Ran doesn’t only play dirty when she’s drunk on anger; she plays dirty when she’s plenty sober too.

E4. We get a clearer look at Jung A Ran’s reality this episode, and I shouldn’t feel surprised – but I do feel surprised – at how her entire sheen of success is a persistently packaged lie. I hadn’t clued in to the fact that Writer Seo is actually her husband, until this episode, and it’s such a sorry state of affairs.

They’re giving interviews together, putting on a show of being a happily married couple, when in reality, he’s involved with other women, and she spends her time drinking alone at the club, with her only company and support being that which she pays for.

The way she has Jong Hoon buy her flowers for her wedding anniversary, so that he can take a picture of it and upload it for her on SNS, says everything, really, about how much of a sham her life is.

And, the way she asks Jong Hoon if he’d like to die with her, tells us just how miserable she is, living like this.

E7. Rather unexpectedly, Bu Jeong’s words, about just wanting to sit and be, with someone who doesn’t have expectations of her, seem to fit Jung A Ran’s life to an uncanny degree.

Jung A Ran pays to do exactly that, on a regular basis. She goes to the club, to just be, with Jong Hoon at her beck and call. Jong Hoon is not family, and has no expectations of her, in that she can do whatever she wants, and it’s his job to make her feel respected and accepted.

It seems that Bu Jeong and Jung A Ran have more in common than either of them would like to think.

E8. I can’t help but notice, in the scene where Jung A Ran tells Jong Hoon that she can’t help but look at the comments online, that Jung A Ran’s a slave to other people’s opinions too. She might appear to be strong and successful on the surface, but in reality, she’s not only miserable, she’s also far more weak than she lets on.

That scene where she breaks down crying on the set, because she just can’t continue acting like everything’s ok, even if it’s just for a drama role, is so telling. She has to act like everything’s ok all the time, and she’s done it for so long, that she’s reached the end of her tether and has no more reserves of pretense to mine, even if it’s for an acting role.

This shows us just how broken Jung A Ran is, and how much she’s stretched herself, to keep up her shiny facade of happy success.

E13. The other surprising instance of compassion this episode, for me, is Jung A Ran’s reaction, when she sees the extent of the injuries that Writer Seo has inflicted on his mistress Ji Na (Lee Se Na).

I feel like in a situation like this, some people would actually gloat, because the mistress is getting a taste of the husband’s unsavory tendencies, which they themselves have suffered. And we see that Jung A Ran had suffered.

I mean, I was shocked to see that flashback, where it’s basically implied that Writer Seo had beaten Jung A Ran up, while she’d been a patient in hospital. (That is so horrible, I don’t even know what to say about that, honestly.)

And yet, instead of gloating, Jung A Ran shows shock and horror instead, at Writer Seo’s behavior, and even goes to visit Ji Na at the hospital, later in the episode.

That’s a surprising demonstration of compassion, which I honestly hadn’t expected from Jung A Ran, who’s been made out to be largely self-focused.

E14. The whole thing with Jung A Ran, Writer Seo and Ji Na leans more than a little strange, to my eyes.

In particular, that scene in the hospital, where Jung A Ran’s on the phone trying to convince a reporter of their cover story, that Writer Seo had hurt Ji Na because he’d gotten carried away with his method acting, all while Writer Seo is trying to pacify Ji Na (his mistress! Whom he’s assaulted!), in the same room, is nothing short of bizarre.

Seriously, it boggles my mind that anyone would try so hard to cover up her husband’s ill treatment of his mistress.

Jung A Ran sums it up best herself, when she tells Bu Jeong that it’s not because she likes Writer Seo, but it’s more because she needs him.

She banks on the image of the perfect family that she’s cultivated with Writer Seo, and even though he’s behaving terribly and doing things that a husband absolutely should not do, she not only bears with it, but even covers things up for him, because she needs that perfect image to endure.

[END SPOILER]

Ryoo Ji Hoon as Jong Hoon

I must say that out of our various characters, I was most bemused by Jong Hoon. Basically, the more I saw of him, the more I felt like I didn’t understand his motivations as a character.

The deeper we get into the show, the more it becomes clear that Jong Hoon has his own agenda, and doesn’t simply take orders from Jung A Ran.

At the same time, I think because he isn’t a main character, Show remains fairly vague about the details of his inner workings, except for some broad strokes.

I don’t mind this, certainly, since he’s hardly the character in whom I’m most interested; I just.. would have liked to have had a little more light shed on what he was really thinking, all this time.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E9. This episode, I’m intrigued by Jong Hoon. As we get deeper into the episode, it becomes clear that there’s a deep, enduring, burning sense of rage within him. What I’m curious to know, is exactly what that rage is about.

We see that Jong Hoon had noticed Bu Jeong, back when she’d still been working for Jung A Ran. What was that about? Was it a sense of other-ness, where Bu Jeong had looked like she belonged in the elite group, while he had been firmly categorized as someone who does not belong with the elite?

But then there’s the beat, where we see Jong Hoon swallow what looks like a whole lot of fury towards Writer Seo in the restroom. Has working with Jung A Ran caused Jong Hoon to sympathize with her to the extent that he’s absorbed her pain and taken it on as his own?

Yet, there are times when I feel doubtful of whether Jong Hoon’s even on Jung A Ran’s side at all. Altogether, I’m not sure what to think.

Could it be a mix of everything, I wonder? The one thing that is clear, is that Jong Hoon’s no longer working purely on Jung A Ran’s orders. He has an agenda of his own, and that’s the thing that’s guiding his actions.

Could.. that be the thing, I wonder? That no one gets to tell him what to do, because he’s his own person..?

The reason I wonder that, is because while we see Jong Hoon sit with his thoughts and plans, we hear Bu Jeong in voiceover:

“Hello, Ma’am. Ever since I last saw you, I’ve been thinking about the right to be human. Not a family member, a friend, or a colleague, but the right to be a human being. The right to judge the world, criticize, be enraged and despair.

The right that you have and I don’t. I’ve been thinking about that.” … “But Ma’am… What is that world you speak of? And what is that human being?” … “Does.. that even really exist?”

E10. I still don’t quite get what the deal is, with Jong Hoon. He seems extremely interested in how Kang Jae may or may not be involved with Bu Jeong, even though Jung A Ran herself is saying that they should cancel the plan to take Bu Jeong down.

With this key piece of background information, it strikes me as seriously weird, that Jong Hoon goes to such lengths, as to make Kang Jae promise not to have anything further to do with Bu Jeong, whether on a personal or professional basis.

Why is that, I wonder? Also, Jong Hoon’s other condition, that Kang Jae explain why he’s so interested in things to do with Jeong Woo, also strikes me as very odd. Does Jong Hoon perhaps have a personal obsession with Kang Jae? It kinda looks like it.

But why, though? Is he jealous of Kang Jae’s laidback almost couldn’t-care-less outlook on life? Or is it really just a simple case of Jong Hoon feeling confused by Kang Jae? It doesn’t feel like he has romantic feelings towards Kang Jae, but it does feel like his interest is personal.

One thing that jumps out at me, is how Jong Hoon appears to be sincerely delighted by the fact that Kang Jae does a shift at the club that night, even though he’s paying Kang Jae triple the usual amount. Is this about making sure that Kang Jae continues to swim in the same swampy waters that Jong Hoon himself is in, then?

E14. I’ve been curious to know more about Jong Hoon and his entire outlook concerning Jung A Ran, and this episode, the way he talks about it with Kang Jae, it sounds like he has grown fond of Jung A Ran. I now wonder if his interest in her is romantic, or if he just feels protective of her, because of the amount of time they’ve spent together.

[END SPOILER]

Yoo Su Bin as Ddak Yi (Just)

I just want to give a shout-out to Yoo Su Bin, for whom I’ve had a soft spot since his very endearing drama-obsessed turn in 2020’s Crash Landing On You.

I love Yoo Su Bin’s onscreen warmth, and I felt he was a perfect fit to play earnest, loyal and sweet Ddak Yi.

On a tangent, my best guess as to why Ddak Yi’s name is translated as Just, in the subs, is that “Ddak” (딱) is often used as an adjective to describe something that’s perfectly fitting, which I suppose can be extended to the idea of “just nice” or “just perfect.”

And the syllable “Yi” (이) is used as a suffix for names ending in a consonant, like Hyuk becoming Hyukie, that kind of thing. Put together, there’s some kind of sense to Ddak Yi’s name being translated as Just – though I still think it’s an odd subtitling choice.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E7. Mainly, I feel really bad for Ddak Yi, because he clearly has such strong feelings for Min Jung, and yet, she doesn’t hesitate to toy with his feelings, while keeping her eyes on Kang Jae.

The way Ddak Yi gets so drunk, crying over Min Jung’s safety, says a lot about how much he worries for her and cares about her.

That photograph that they end up taking together, where and Ddak Yi’s smiling this extremely watery smile, because he’s just so relieved, and has only just stopped crying, next to Min Jung, is so poignant to look at.

And the way Min Jung obsesses about not being able to reach Kang Jae, echoes so strongly, the way Ddak Yi had so recently obsessed about not being to reach her. What an unfortunate, tangled state of affairs.

E11. Poor Ddak Yi. I feel like it’s a bittersweet torture for him, to be in Kang Jae’s apartment alone with Min Jung.

It feels to me that Min Jung doesn’t exactly hate the idea of getting a thing going with Ddak Yi; there’s something about the way she looks at him, and surveys him, and tests him, that makes me think that – even though she seems to have a greater interest in Kang Jae.

[END SPOILER]

The thing with Soon Gyu and Woo Nam [SPOILERS]

I just wanted to say that I felt really sorry for Soon Gyu.

Heartbreakingly, she feels excluded from Woo Nam’s (Yang Dong Geun) life in the most critical of ways, even though he’s her live-in boyfriend. I find this detail particularly sad, and it’s such a great example of how you can be with someone, and yet still feel deeply, acutely lonely.

Shin Shin Ae as Jung Soo’s mom

I wanted to give Jung Soo’s mom a mention, because I’d started out the show feeling like she was utterly awful, and yet, Show managed to make me see Mom in a better, more forgiving light, by our later episodes.

Really well done.

Also, this is SUCH a different role for Shin Shin Ae, compared to her happy granny character in Hometown Cha Cha Cha!

[SPOILER ALERT]

E8. Even Jung Soo’s mother, whom I’d found insufferable and suffocating when we’d first met her, has hidden pain that she only talks about this episode, when she’s drunk.

When she drunk dials Bu Jeong’s dad, and starts talking about how she’s so upset because of Jung Soo, and feels that she’s raised him wrong, she looks so very sad and forlorn, that I can’t help feeling sorry for her, even though I generally don’t care for her character, all that much.

And, it’s poignant to hear her talk about doing everything alone, and how she’d relented and allowed Jung Soo’s marriage to Bu Jeong, because she’d believed that Bu Jeong had so much love in her, that Jung Soo wouldn’t ever feel alone.

How ironic, really, that Jung Soo’s marriage to Bu Jeong now, is in such a state, where they feel massively distant from each other, even when they are face to face with each other. That’s honestly even lonelier than actually being alone, I feel.

E9. I find it interesting that Jung Soo’s mom actually looks quite devastated to realize that she’s already crushed Bu Jeong’s father, by telling him the very thing that Jung Soo’s asking her to keep secret. And, she essentially blames Jung Soo for being nice, because it makes her feel bad.

I feel like hidden in here, is some kind of commentary, on how we tend to use other people’s behavior as a barometer for our own. If other people can be nasty, so can I, and so on. It’s toxic, but it’s absolutely something that happens in the world around us.

E13. I really liked the scene where Jung Soo’s mom seeks out Bu Jeong’s dad, and offers him the pile of cardboard, along with an invitation to share her fancy takeout brunch. I feel like this is the more kind and compassionate we’ve seen, of Jung Soo’s mom, and it both important and refreshing, to hear her story.

With how proud and disdainful she’s tended to come across, it hadn’t occurred to me that she’d come from hardship herself. It’s quite a mind-bender, to learn that she’d worked so many different odd jobs, and suffered so much, in bringing up Jung Soo on her own, in Seoul, after her husband had died.

Her remark to Jung Soo about the gold teeth, which we’d heard Jung Soo tell Kyung Eun, lands with so much poignance, now that we know that she had herself been in a position where she’d had to sell her gold teeth, in order to survive.

Considering how she’s reinvented herself as a comfortably well-off landlady, I feel like this is a very big concession that she’s making, in opening up about her past, to Bu Jeong’s dad. She’s choosing to put her fanciness aside, to reminisce about the past, in order to connect with Bu Jeong’s dad.

The intention behind the gesture, and the decision to be vulnerable, endears her to me a great deal; more than I’d imagined possible, before.

[END SPOILER]

THEMES / IDEAS [SPOILERS]

What does it mean to be human?

E1. The idea, that you have to earn the right to be human, is one that is full of yearning and heartache. It feels like such an unfair concept. We are born human; why do we need to earn the right to be human?

E9. Who gets to judge the world? And, aren’t we the ones who make up that world? If we are, then aren’t we just fighting for the right to judge.. ourselves and one another? How very meaningless, when put that way.

Depression doesn’t all look the same

E3. One of the things that strikes me, this episode, is how different Bu Jeong’s depression looks, on the surface, compared to Kang Jae’s depression.

While Bu Jeong is more obviously distressed, Kang Jae appears to be more in control, and more ok, generally speaking.

And yet, they are both depressed enough, that they both think about dying. It really makes you think about what people might be struggling with, beneath the surface.

Social media is not reality

E3. I’m beginning to feel Kang Jae’s inner melancholy more, so I really liked that little scene of him and Ddak Yi walking along the street, eating takeaway pizza on paper plates, and then stopping to pose for photos in front of a sports car.

It’s such a goofy guy thing, and it just makes me glad to see that at least these two friends have this to share with each other, in spite of the sadness that’s hanging over them.

At the same time, this reminds me of the fact that we can’t judge other people’s lives by what we see on social media.

These boys would definitely post these photos on social media, and people who don’t know any better, would think that they’re living their best lives and having a great time.

But the reality is, for Kang Jae at least, this is only one little pocket of happiness, in what is otherwise a sea of internalized melancholy.

Selective seeing

E3. This episode, there’s the idea of selective seeing. Bu Jeong talks about how, when she was young, she’d only noticed things that she was interested in. If she wasn’t interested in them, they’d be invisible to her. That’s true for many of us, I’d think.

Loneliness is everywhere

E5. Show leans into the idea of loneliness this episode, with the way it shines the spotlight on various people in various situations, as we hear Kang Jae’s voiceover, and the one thing they have in common, whether they are with loved ones or are isolated from other people, is that they are lonely.

The elderly patient for whom Woo Nam’s trying to contact his family; Woo Nam himself; Soon Gyu calling Woo Nam and Ddak Yi in vain, and having to eat alone; Kyung Eun, who’s caring for her sick husband; her sick husband, who sobs at the impending death of the elderly patient, likely also thinking of his own impending demise; it all feels deeply, excruciatingly lonely.

Living like “other” people; like a “normal” person; and what that means.

E6. We hear Kang Jae say in voiceover:

“Who or what are “others?” Wearing similar clothes… Eating similar food… Having similar conversations… Looking at similar things… Mixing in with others, pretending to be like them… Is that not enough?

Working at a decent job that doesn’t need a lot of explaining… Going to a decent school… Meeting decent people… And thinking decent thoughts… If that’s what living like others is…

Father. I guess, over the past years, I wanted to become like others faster and more splendidly than anyone else. Standing next to a person who had lived life looking only straight forward. Finding the shortcut to the place where others live. I guess I thought that was true success. I can only be me when I’ve become one of them.”

And as we hear this voiceover, we see our various characters going about their lives, and I feel like this sentiment rings true. I think a lot of people do focus on doing the things that are expected of them, to keep up with what “other people” are doing.

And so many people do desire to achieve these markers of success as quickly and as splendidly as possible. Yet, everything – all their effort – looks so empty and hollow, when overlaid with this voiceover. It makes me wonder whether people really want the things that they think they want.

Our deep-seated desire to make our fathers proud

E10. It hadn’t occurred to me until this episode, but Kang Jae hadn’t directed a voiceover to his dad, for some time. This episode, he addresses his father again, and I realize that he mostly feels guilty towards his father, for not making something out of himself.

This is likely the reason that his voiceovers to his father are all about him being a mess; a failure.

I hadn’t noticed it before, and I think it’s because I’d just assumed that this was just where his thoughts tended to settle. However, it’s coming together in my head, that when he doesn’t feel so terrible about being a failure, he doesn’t think to talk to his dad.

This strikes me as being really similar to Bu Jeong’s personal burden.

She feels guilty for not making more of her life, because, in her father’s words, it’s just the natural order of things, that a child should live a better life than their parents. It’s about the same time, that I notice that when Bu Jeong’s voiceovers are directed at her father, it’s also around this same idea, of failing him, and disappointing him.

I suppose this speaks to a deep-seated idea, perhaps in most Asian cultures, of needing to do your parents proud. And with fathers being the typically more demanding parent who tends to have higher expectations, perhaps that’s why it feels natural for both Bu Jeong and Kang Jae to direct their thoughts of disappointment and failure, towards their fathers.

SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]

So many conflicting emotions, this episode. And, because Show isn’t at all like a typical kdrama, I can’t even predict where we’ll land, in our finale, given this episode’s developments. It’s a slightly unsettling, in-limbo sort of sensation, which, I suppose, mirrors where our characters are at, quite well.

First of all, I’m struck by Kang Jae’s opening voiceover:

“What should I do, Father? Even now, I still think about what money is several times a day. And I think that the person who loves me the most is the one who spends the most money on me. Like an old habit, I can’t stop.

But sometimes, occasionally, I sink deep into the thought of what love is, which is something I’ve never thought of before. Not being at the receiving end of love, but being the one to give love, and creating space for that person inside me.

The space grows. Then in the end, I am filled with only that person. I think about this kind of listless pain. Though I try hard to be alone, I can’t be alone. I think about this kind of sweet apprehension.

What can I do for that person? What can I be for that person? Maybe not being anything, or trying hard to be something, but rather being honest to myself is the kind of love that I can give.”

He’s still addressing his father, and pondering over himself and his life, but the difference is, he’s started to look beyond himself, in a very significant way. He’d used to obsess – against his will – about how much other people loved him, by way of how much money they spent on him. And now, his focus is no longer on how other people love him, but how he can love someone else.

Importantly, while he reflects on showing love to someone else, it’s scenes of him with Bu Jeong, that flashes across our screens.

I find this idea, that Kang Jae’s learned to love, and therefore now sees the world through a vastly different lens, very moving. Even though the evolution has been slow enough that I barely even noticed it happening, the difference in Kang Jae, comparing him now, with the version of him that we’d met at the beginning of our story, is really quite stark.

And that difference, is so well summed up, in this voiceover. His thoughts are no longer filled with himself and his life; his thoughts are filled with someone else, and how he could possibly make her life better.

That’s huge, and I feel so gratified, over this.

We get to see last episode’s lead-up to the kiss from Kang Jae’s point of view, and what strikes me, is how tentative and yearning he is, through it all. I love that we hear his thoughts, pondering what he can do for Bu Jeong, even as he looks at her, with that disarming mix of hesitancy and anticipation, from across the road.

How perfect, that it’s when Kang Jae thinks to himself, that being honest with himself is the best kind of love that he can give, that he starts to cross the road, in long, purposeful strides, to hold Bu Jeong in his arms. How very swoony, that him being honest with himself, is him wanting to close any and all distance between them, immediately.

This time, I’m very cognizant of the fact that in the alley, Kang Jae pauses, mid-swoop, which creates a window for Bu Jeong to avoid the kiss, if she doesn’t want it – but she doesn’t avoid it, and allows it to happen.

Bu Jeong’s response to Kang Jae’s kiss, is the perfect mix of awkward hesitancy, and shy, tentative hunger.

I love that the kiss grows less tentative and more ardent, as they each get past their awkwardness, and I also love that, when they stop, startled by passers-by, they don’t spring apart from each other, but instead, Kang Jae pulls Bu Jeong into an embrace, and she sinks into it. Ahhh. Lovely.

It’s just perfect, that Kang Jae whispers, “I missed you, Lee Bu Jeong-sshi,” while she just breathes it all in. It feels like the perfect mix of what she needs to hear; that she’s known, as herself, by her name, and that she’s needed. Augh. I love that.

It’s rather ironic, that while Jung Soo and Kyung Eun had made the conscious decision to go to a motel together, with the intention of sleeping together, they end up just sitting and talking, on the couch, with the TV on as a distraction of sorts. It makes me feel like they’re using the TV as some sort of crutch or filler, because they’re too uncomfortable being alone together like this.

Judging from the direction of their conversation, which is all about reminiscing the past, and nothing about a potential future together, and hardly anything about the present, it feels like their current connection is more driven by a sentimentality about the past, than anything else.

I do believe Kyung Eun, though, when she tells Jung Soo that she loves him. It’s not a passionate, ardent sort of love, but more of a warm, familiar, comforting sort of love, I think.

I wonder if Kyung Eun would have approached this situation differently, if Jung Soo weren’t married. It’s clear that she is bothered by the fact that he’s married, based on how she says it drives her crazy every time his phone rings, because she can’t help thinking that it’s his home, calling.

Yet, on the other hand, Kyung Eun believes that her late husband hadn’t wanted her to be with the person that she’d told him she’d liked, so perhaps she would refrain from a relationship with Jung Soo anyway, to honor her late husband?

That said, I find it pretty bizarre that Kyung Eun would even ask her dying husband this question. It’s basically asking him to endorse her next relationship, planned for after his death. Do people actually do this? It strikes me as hugely insensitive.

It seems fitting to me, that nothing comes out of their visit to the motel, because their passion in the moment, fizzles out when faced with the glare of reality.

It’s rather unexpected, to me, that the interaction between Kang Jae and Bu Jeong, after this kiss, doesn’t lean extra awkward, nor extra cozy.

There’s a touch more amusement about their facial expressions and in their words, but in essence, their conversations still sound essentially the same, to my ears. They are still curious to hear about each other, and so they ask, and they listen, as they talk. I like that a lot.

I also really like that in the course of their conversations this episode, they refer to previous conversations in a way that reinforces the fact that they’ve been listening very keenly to each other.

The way Kang Jae asks her what she did that day, so that he can picture it, is an echo of how she’d asked him about what he’d been wearing, when he’d taken that trip to the mountain with his mom, when his dad had died.

And the way Bu Jeong frames what she wants to say about her life, using Kang Jae’s previous words about fantasy and reality, is also a great echo, letting us know that she’s taken his sharing very much to heart. I love that touch.

This episode, we get a little more context around Bu Jeong’s falling out with Jung A Ran, and I’m starting to get the idea that Bu Jeong hadn’t actually done anything wrong to offend Jung A Ran.

I think Jung A Ran had felt mortified that Bu Jeong had seen Writer Seo hitting her, and her shame around this, had basically galvanized her into ill-treating Bu Jeong, to punish her.

That flashback was really awful to watch.

In particular, I found it hard to watch Writer Seo turn his blind wrath on Bu Jeong and hit her, and even grab her in a stranglehold, because, even though he and Jung A Ran may not have known it at the time, Bu Jeong’s pregnant, while all of this is going on. Ack. What a terrible trauma, for both her and the baby!

Just as bad as Writer Seo attacking Bu Jeong, is Jung A Ran, who doesn’t try to help Bu Jeong, but makes a conscious decision to retreat into the house to hide herself – and then makes another decision, to torment Bu Jeong for having the audacity of uncovering her shameful secret.

It’s awful, AWFUL stuff, and I’m beginning to see why Bu Jeong would carry so much resentment in her heart, towards Jung A Ran.

I believe that this is the first time Bu Jeong’s actually been able to talk about it, with anyone, and it feels so meaningful, that the person whom she chooses to share this with, in such a vulnerable yet matter-of-fact manner, is Kang Jae.

“You talked about the pumpkin carriage, right? About coming to reality from an illusion. Actually, until recently, for about a year, I’ve been thinking that. It’s similar but a totally different story.

What was before me was the illusion. In life, there are times the word “reality” is the worst word ever. Life before that moment was nothing. It was a moment my effort and sincerity vanished. Thinking my life was okay, that I was living better than most… All of that was an illusion.

I realized that in that moment. No matter how hard I tried to think good things, to have hope in small things, I couldn’t see anything before me. I was so distressed. I wanted to be free from this nightmare.

But I couldn’t wake up. I couldn’t go back. I realized then. That the past was a dream and the present was my reality. Life without an illusion isn’t life but rather closer to death.”

It’s an interesting juxtaposition, that while we see Bu Jeong slowly coming back to life, in her interactions with Kang Jae, we see that Jung A Ran – who’d been the so-called winning party in her tussle with Bu Jeong, since she’s still successful, while Bu Jeong lost her entire writing career – is slowly dying.

We see this in the way she continues to seek refuge at the club, and continues to avoid her abusive, cheating husband, while still hoping that one day, Jong Hoon will agree to die with her.

It’s ironic to me, that someone who puts forth such a strong front, is so afraid to die, even though she seems to want to die, that she won’t take any action to put an end to her own life, unless someone agrees to take the journey with her.

I really do love the conversation between Bu Jeong and Kang Jae, and in particular, I love what Bu Jeong says about her father.

“My dad? He has everything in his heart. Law, philosophy, literature… They’re all in his heart. No one taught him. He didn’t learn them. But they accumulated over time. My dad is a one and only book of poems.”

The thing about this episode, is that as we see Bu Jeong and Kang Jae connecting and coming to life, we are also confronted with the arc of how her dad is deteriorating, to the point of getting lost, far away from home.

It’s utterly heartbreaking to see him struggle to make sense of the world around him, as well as to see the lostness in his eyes.

It really underscores the entire episode with a sense of pathos, and it effectively gives me mixed feelings about the scenes of Bu Jeong and Kang Jae enjoying an evening of cozy, honest conversation.

On the one hand, I want them to have this connection, because it’s so lifegiving for them both. On the other hand, I want Bu Jeong to hurry up and get to her dad, because he needs her so urgently.

I also feel really sorry for Bu Jeong, because of how guilty she must feel, to realize that her dad had been lost in the rain, and struggling, while she’d put aside her real life, to embrace a fantasy.

Also, how heartbreaking and on-point is Woo Nam’s insight, for the reason that Dad only remembered his in-law’s home phone number, out of all the phone numbers in the world.

That he’d missed his daughter so much, and dialed that number so often, only to stop short of actually making the call, that this would be the one number that would stay with him, when his memory blanked out.

Sob. I feel so much, for Dad, who must have missed Bu Jeong so acutely, and who must have kept it all to himself, as was his habit to do. 😭💔

In that moment, when Jung Soo’s coming to get Dad, and tends to him when he collapses, and gets him to hospital, I couldn’t help thinking that in circumstances like this, Jung Soo is legitimately of more help than Kang Jae could have been.

That’s the harsh reality of the situation.

I love that story that Dad tells Bu Jeong, about how, many years ago, he’d been on the verge of suicide, when she’d saved him, with her earnest request that Dad would buy her some delicious bread, when Dad had more money.

There’s something so poetic about that idea, that both father and daughter have had times in their lives when they’d wanted to die, and that they’d taken turns saving each other.

The way Show is playing it, it feels like we’re about to lose Dad, and I really don’t want to lose Dad, because he’s such a lovely person. But if we really are going to lose Dad, I do think that it’s quite beautiful, that Dad’s last words, are lucid, and so full of love and contentment.

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]

I do think that this show’s finale is unlike any other drama finale that I’ve watched, in that, even as I was getting to the last 15 minutes, I still wasn’t sure where Show would choose to end its story. How would Show wrap this up, given where we are right now, I wondered.

I needn’t have worried; Show ends it in a manner that feels completely true to its nature. It’s inconclusive and open-ended – because, that’s what Life is like, and Show is all about reflecting Life to us – but there are lashings of hope and possibility, and glimmers of happiness, and it honestly feels pitch perfect.

First, though, let me back up.

We do lose Dad, like I’d guessed, last episode, and it’s sudden and heartbreaking, all around. Of course, the person who’s hardest hit, is Bu Jeong herself.

Dad’s been her rock, all these years, and it would have been hard for her to lose him at any time.

But it feels like she loses him at the worst possible time, because I’m sure that Bu Jeong would feel guilty about having spent time drinking and talking with Kang Jae, at the same time when Dad had been lost in the rain, which had led to him catching pneumonia, which had then led to his sudden death.

I’m sure that this guilt is at play, when Bu Jeong decides to delete Kang Jae from her phone – and therefore her life. I feel like this is Bu Jeong’s way of making amends, in a manner of speaking.

Significantly, Bu Jeong chooses to tell Jung Soo about the fact that she thinks she likes someone, even though she has no intention of moving forward with her attraction to Kang Jae.

This scene lands for me, with a raw sense of honesty, that also brings forth the idea that being honest can be liberating – but also hurtful.

The way Bu Jeong talks about it, in the context of how Jung Soo had told her that he liked Kyung Eun, even though he hadn’t been caught, and she hadn’t asked him about it, is oddly empathetic.

At the time, it had hurt her, particularly since that was also the time when she’d lost her baby (the juxtaposition of these two events blows my mind, seriously.

How much pain must Bu Jeong have been in? 💔), and now, as she tells him that she likes someone else, in the same spirit of being open and honest, it’s hurting Jung Soo in the same way it had hurt her, when he’d told her.

Yet, it’s clear that Bu Jeong doesn’t tell Jung Soo in a malicious manner. She really does simply want to express it to someone, and since she’s decided that she can’t express it to Kang Jae, she only has Jung Soo left, to hear her out. This really does bring home just how isolated Bu Jeong is, doesn’t it?

I appreciate Jung Soo’s response, through the entire scene.

Even though this is a thing that would get most men riled up, because, even if their personal feelings aren’t invested, there’s still the question of pride, and your wife confessing that she has feelings for someone else, is definitely of the pride-hurting variety of things.

However, what Jung Soo does, is listen. And I feel like that this is possibly the most satisfied I’ve felt with Jung Soo, all series long. He doesn’t judge, nor does he presume to know what Bu Jeong wants to do. Instead, he listens, and he asks her what she’d like to do. That’s honestly all I could have asked for, from Jung Soo.

It feels fitting, that Bu Jeong concludes, for the both of them, that while they would literally lay down their lives for each other, they are no longer in love. This is a pretty delicate matter, because this means different things to different people.

For some people, this would be enough to warrant getting a divorce, because to them, being in love with their spouse is of utmost importance.

For others, this simply becomes the new basis for their marriage, because they do not demand nor expect that one needs to be in love with one’s spouse, in order to have a committed marriage.

As far as we can see, Bu Jeong and Jung Soo are both willing to continue the marriage, even though they both recognize and admit that they are no longer in love with each other.

It’s just like Dad, though, to have his death give Bu Jeong the most needful lesson, which she’s been searching for all this time; that death is part of life, and it’s not what you become that’s important, but how you live your life.

Dad was a perfect example of that, with his grateful, hopeful outlook on life, always full of kindness and understanding for others. I’m glad that Bu Jeong finally gains this lesson, because it’s such a precious, important one, that essentially sets her free.

As we close out our story, we don’t get very conclusive nor neat endings for our various character arcs. However, it does seem to me, that just about every character is shown having made some progress in the long journey of self-discovery and self-reclamation.

We see that Woo Nam finally decides to move out of Soon Gyu’s home, not to end their relationship, but to define it better.

We hear that Jung A Ran gets a divorce, and comes clean about having a child in Canada, which means that she’s finally being more honest with and about herself. We see that Min Jung really does like Ddak Yi after all, and the two appear to be dating for real.

I think it’s meaningful that Kang Jae gives Jeong Woo’s things to Jeong Woo’s sister, telling her that Jeong Woo was a good person.

That feels like an important step for Kang Jae, who’s been hung up on Jeong Woo and the life Jeong Woo had lived, for the longest time.

The fact that he’s passing along Jeong Woo’s belongings, feels like the closing of an important chapter in his life, like perhaps he’s finally ready to live his own life, instead of examining someone else’s.

Importantly, we see that Bu Jeong’s slowly getting back into writing again, and is able to smile and talk with her ex-colleague freely, without looking like she needs to hide.

It’s a huge deal, that she’s even able to say that she does sometimes write the odd mean comment – and then chuckle about it. Augh. Our Bu Jeong has reached a healing point in her journey, and I’m so happy to see this.

And, even though Bu Jeong had exited the chat room and deleted Kang Jae’s contact from her phone (seriously, the pain and sadness in Kang Jae’s eyes, when he sees that and realizes it what it means – so heartbreaking and so masterful. 💔), we see that Kang Jae and Bu Jeong are drawn to each other, in spite of themselves.

I love that it’s their mutual appreciation for the stars, that leads them to meet again, at the observatory, where they’re gathered with other people, to gaze on the galaxy.

How perfect, that they find each other, without the need for words, texts or appointments. They appear to just feel each other in the vicinity, from the way their eyes are drawn to each other.

I love that. It makes me feel that no matter what life throws at them, they’ll keep finding each other, because of how entwined their souls are.

The look in Kang Jae’s eyes, as he sees Bu Jeong, is so full of emotion. He looks like he’s about to cry, like he’d thought he’d never see her again, and yet, she’s right here in front of him, like she is, in his wildest of dreams.

There’s relief, hope and tentativeness all mixed into one, in his eyes, as he looks at her.

I love that Bu Jeong gives him the smallest glimmer of a smile, as an acknowledgement. That’s so in character, and yet, says everything that he needs to know. It feels like she’s glad to see him, and that she’s open to connecting, all over again.

How perfectly fitting, that even as the galaxy flashes onto that giant screen, in all of its glory and splendor, Kang Jae and Bu Jeong only have eyes for each other.

It is exactly as it looks; they are literally even more amazing and wondrous, in each other’s eyes, than the galaxy itself. ❤️

THE FINAL VERDICT:

Achingly melancholic and poignant, but also, thoughtful, hopeful and quite beautiful.

FINAL GRADE: A

TEASER:

MV:

WHERE TO WATCH:

You can check out this show on iQIYI here.

GETTING AROUND GEO-RESTRICTIONS

If you’re geo-restricted, a VPN service would help you get around that. Not only does it provide online safety, it also gives you access to lots of great geo-restricted content.

I personally use NordVPN. You can find my review of NordVPN here.

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An article on why it’s not illegal to use a VPN to access legal streaming content can be found here.

PATREON UPDATE!

The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of Lost, is The Red Sleeve. I’ve taken an initial look, and I’m feeling cautiously optimistic about this one. Plus, there’s just too much positive buzz around this one, to ignore. 😉

Here’s an overview of what I’m covering on Patreon right now (Tier benefits are cumulative)!

Early Access (US$5): Yumi’s Cells

Early Access Plus (US$10): +The Red Sleeve

VIP (US$15): +The Bond [China]

VVIP (US$20): +Melancholia

Ultimate (US$25): +The King’s Affection

Ultimate (US$25): +My Name (bonus show!)

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Fata Morgana
Fata Morgana
6 months ago

Awesome review! Thank you very much! Usually I read without commenting but this time just couldn’t help sharing some of my thoughts on the ending.

 As this show pays particular attention to details, I think the last episode gives us enough hints to understand that Bu Jeong and Jung Soo have finally come to separation. First of all, as Jung Soo had previously noted to his mother, his married life would have ended much earlier if Kyung Eun permitted him to stay with her. So, I guess, his feelings could hardly change much during all this time, even though he tried so hard (in vain!) to be a good husband for his wife.

But what about Kyung Eun? In the end we see her on her way to Bu Jeong dad’s funeral party when suddenly she decides to turn back and go home instead. Why it could be so impossible for her to express her condolences to her old friend if only she didn’t understand that very moment that she was unable to look at Jung Soo and speak with him, as a “friend”, any longer.  It feels like Kyung Eun understands there’s no way for her to hide her real feelings and that’s why her presence at the funeral party would be improper. But Jung Soo is still married…

I thought for a while, if it was only a feeling of guilt that urges Bu Jeong to delete Kang Jae from her phone… It happens after she notices that Jung Soo checked something in her phone and after their honest talk in bed. I have a strong feeling that for Bu Jeong it’s time to break all her previous ties and relations so that she could start everything from zero. She explicitly tells Jung Soo that their love is over. And this is a bitter moment but at the same time liberation for them both.

 Later, in final scenes when Bu Jeong speaks with her colleague, we can see no wedding ring on her finger. It’s not just accidentally, as details are extremely important in this show. It’s a huge hint for us that Bu Jeong and Jung Soo have chosen to go separate ways and are ready to find their own happiness in life.

As for her deleting Kang Jae from her phone, we cannot forget how often they mirror each other’s actions and words. Kang Jae was the first to delete her contacts, so no wonder that eventually he was treated the same way. But did she really meant to break with him forever? I don’t think so… It rather feels that she needed full reset in relations and some time to think it over.

In the final scene we can see that these two are destined to meet each other again. And the way they look at each other: with a smile, paying no attention to anything else… And a vacant seat next to Bu Jeong is another hint: it’s not just a seat, it’s a place in her life. I guess it will not take long for Kang Jae to take it. That’s the way I see the ending of this show.  

Leslie
Leslie
6 months ago
Reply to  Fata Morgana

@Fata – Oh, I like your analysis of the ending. There had to be tabula rasa for any of our characters to take steps forward. I think we see this in Woo Nam and Soon Gyu’s relationship, and in Jung Ah Ran’s storyline, as well. The first 15.25 episodes get us to that point, and now the future will tell.

I love that Bu Jeong and Kang Jae get the chance to be and shine together right now. I realized at some point though that I didn’t take this to mean forever, although I’d be very happy if it were the case. I do 100% believe that whatever happens in the future, they will be pure positive lights in each others lives, and that is All.

Fata Morgana
Fata Morgana
6 months ago
Reply to  Leslie

Yes, I definitely feel that Bu Jeong and Kang Jae will be together. Nobody knows for how long, but at least they have a chance to try it. 

uyen
6 months ago

I loved this one and so appreciate your thoughts, because this was so rich and your analyses helped me have a deeper appreciation for it. This is a definitely a show that I liked watching weekly versus binge-watching because there was so much to it and it was often heavy. I definitely think it’s due for a rewatch for me to fully analyze the details, but I needed to take a break after the first watch because there was so much.

Ryu Jun Yeol and Jeon Do Yeon are SO good here. The show really hinges on them. And along with that, it helps that the writing was good, particularly the voiceover monologues, so much so that I often had to pause and reflect. There was so much in the silences, glances and small gestures. My favorite relationship had to be the one with Bu Jeong and her dad because it was so natural and loving through all the episodes.

My favorite scenes were actually between Bu Jeong and Jung Soo. There was the first one where they’re in the car with the macarons and when Bu Jeong asks him if he knows what day it is, he quietly replies that the baby was his child too, and ugh the music and the quiet way they looked at each other got my heart. Because that was the first time they were so honest each other, after like eight whole episodes, and it reinforced the fact that the characters in this drama weren’t bad, but some of them, like Bu Jeong and Jung Soo were extremely different from each other. There was something about that raw emotion there and so much left unsaid with pain and regret that stuck with me. My second favorite was that ending scene when they acknowledged that they didn’t romantically love each other anymore, because again, it was one of the moments where they were incredibly honest with each other. Jung Soo washing his face in the bathroom and crying after that scene got me.

After that, then of course it would be all the Kang Jae and Bu Jeong scenes. The tent one, oof that tension! And that backdrop against the sky. Yes, to all you said about their conversations being so honest with each other and deeply personal, more so than they would be with others. I did feel a bit resistant to their relationship turning romantic — perhaps because I was hoping the show would show a platonic connection that still had deep, soulmate vibes. It also may be again, taking breaks between episodes, but I was trying to pinpoint where their feelings turned romantic versus interested in each other/attracted because they understood each other. But reading your points helped and I feel with a rewatch, I’ll come more to terms with the romantic relationship instead of feeling a bit that it came out of left field at the end. I think it’s fair that even with their relatively few interactions in the beginning episodes, the ones they did have were pretty charged and impactful, so it’s not a huge stretch to consider how it turned romantic.

I didn’t love all the side character plots, but at least I appreciated them for being complex, interesting and showing different aspects of human nature. My Mister is my top drama for being intellectually and emotionally satisfying, and agreed that while these two are very different and it’s a disservice to compare them, I did feel Human Disqualification had some similar qualities to me that also made me love it. So glad you liked it too, I had a feeling you would given I generally agree with your takes on shows!

Kellyflower72
Kellyflower72
6 months ago

My comments are going to seem jumbled. Bare with me, please.

Micro expressions – Yes! Although this drama pace was very slow I found myself actually watching some scenes with a slower speed just so I could watch their expressions again. So good!

Ep7 mirror scene – I actually watched that scene twice trying to figure out if it was a mistake.

When Kang Jae sends the text asking Bu Jeong if he should get a hotel room…. that scene.. I was praying that she didn’t say yes. I was so tense.

The tent scene is one of the best scenes I have EVER seen. It was so beautifully done and even though not much touching happened and I am a grown woman with 2 adult children… my face was on fire! 

One scene I didn’t see you mention was the broken teacup with Soon Gyu. That scene where she breaks down, I felt that.

The scene with Bu Jeong and her father when he talks about how she thought he always wanted grandchildren and he tells her he didn’t smile because he loves children and wanted grandchildren but because they reminded him of Bu Jeong when she was little.

Another important scene (to me) is when Jung Soo & Kyung Eun are talking (I think in a car ride) he talks about why he chose Bu Jeong and why he liked Kyung. He knew they were both sad and he wanted to protect them. This scene says a lot because Bu Jeong believed that everyone thought she was always angry, when he actually knew for a while she had sadness in her.

“They simply say honestly what’s on their minds, and the other person simply.. listens.” – This is how I feel about this drama. That I just listened to their stories, honestly listened and it touched my heart deeply. Once a week I visit the mdl page for this drama to be with other viewers who feel lost without this show..

“It’s not what you become that’s important, it’s what you do.
With your eyes, with your actions and your life.”

JJ
JJ
6 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

@KFG – EVERYTHING ❤️

Georgia Peach
6 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

My thought on the mirror image…director-nim was showing/hinting to us that we should look at these characters as mirror images of each other. Kang Jae is Bu Jeong and Bu Jeong is Kang Jae. Each are losing themselves under the weight of their life circumstances. Each are overwhelmed by what is/has happened to them. They aren’t ‘clinically’ depressed..in which case pharmaceuticals should be used to alleviate their symptoms..they each have lost the ability to cope with life around them due to their experiences. They couldn’t see a way over the wall of their depressed existence, but could only walk and sometimes only crawl along that wall.
Liked your interpretation of the rooftop scene where KanJae gives Bu Jeon the bread and milk. I also thought biblically when I viewed the scene. My thoughts also went along the line of Communion and that you’re not able to eat with someone you dislike..this pointing to how their relationship was developing into something more. If I’m correct..I don’t BJ ever ate with JungSoo.
Someone wondered if there was any significance to the new plaque on KJ’s door. Perhaps it was to show us that he now had a new perspective on his job. He no longer loses himself in the person he’s asked to be (I think he called it a fantasy that he was left in after the client moves on), but now has his own sense of who he is because he’s gone outside himself to love someone.
And allow me to say that I’m so glad this was not dubbed a ‘noona romance’. What a disservice that would have been to this exceptional drama..so much like the disservice done to Secret Love Affair. And on that note..the tent scene and the alley kiss scene were on a par with imitate scenes in SLA. Noone presents the tenderness of true love like they do in KDrama.
Agree that Jeon DoYeon and Ryu JunYeol (I’m a halmonie and he so makes my heart flutter)had amazing screen presents..much like Kim HeeAe and Yoo AhIn. I’m sure these younger male actors..so very accomplished in their own right..find new depths of emotions when paired with these competent seasoned female actresses.
So loved this drama..and the way writer-nim and director-nim chose to end it. The slight smiles on our OTP faces told it all.

Trent
6 months ago

I feel like I land in a weird place with this show. I was interested enough in it to follow along through to the very end, but I could just never make the deep, intense connection to it and really fall in love with it the way everyone else following it seemed to.

It’s interesting to me to contrast it to My Mister; I suppose there are indeed broad similarities and they are both often melancholic in tone, but for whatever reason I was very very deeply moved by My Mister, while remaining much more emotionally detached from this show. I haven’t quite worked out all the ins and outs of why. I am glad that so many of you were able to take so much from it, though.

Trent
6 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

It really is a puzzlement to me sometimes, one I’m continuing to wrestle with. Sometimes it’s obvious why you didn’t care for a show in spite of a solid block of folks lapping it up, and other times it’s just…a bit of a mystery?

To be clear, I’m not casting doubt on y’all’s sincere feels and engagement with this–everyone was obviously tapping deep wells of meaning and mining all sorts of nuance and passion out of the narrative and performances. It was just kind of…floating over my head, most of the time?

There’s also a disconnect between intellectual detachment and up-close emotional engagement, i.e. there are facets of this show I can see how they exist and fit together intellectually, but my heart is not gripped and squeezed (contrast once again with My Mister, which has multiple scenes that can get me to tear up just thinking about them).

(Because Rain or Shine just showed up on US Netflix (literally yesterday), I threw out an inquiry about it over on the Exchange last week, which I think was the catalyst for JJ to re-binge it. I did look at the beginning section of your review, and you seemed mostly positive, if not effusive? I did want to see something with Won Jin-ah, particularly after seeing her just now in Hellbound (this is your cue to push She Would Never Know again… 😁 )).

uyen
6 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Just jumping in because Rain or Shine is actually my second favorite drama lol. I deeply appreciate its portrayal of grief and connection, and I’m a sucker for romances too so Junho and Won Jin Ah quickly drew me in there. Also I found the cinematography to be beautiful, and I often call this is the drama of my heart. My main caveats with it are it does involve a number of tropes, but for some reason I forgave it, which is how I know I liked it!

I also loved Won Jin Ah in Hellbound and She Would Never Know! (actually prob would have dropped She Would Never Know but I trusted @kfangurl’s review so tried it out and ended up thinking it was pretty cute. I do think I was more invested in some of the side character stories than the leads though, but overall the main couple was pretty stinking cute)!

JJ
JJ
6 months ago
Reply to  uyen

@uyen – How fun!!! We said some similar things about Rain or Shine especially how we forgave the Show for some of its choices 🙂

uyen
6 months ago
Reply to  JJ

@JJ yes, if the writing had been stronger in places and fleshed out some characters/delved even deeper into certain things, I felt it would’ve been an even more satisfying watch, but again, still personally loved it, flawed and all. I haven’t fully rebinged it bc there are just too many things to watch at the moment, but I’m excited to feel all the feels again when I do

JJ
JJ
6 months ago
Reply to  uyen

@uyen – Oh, I soooo agree with you!!! If they had only fleshed out some of the characters and delved deeper 🥰 I think though I would have been a puddle on the floor if they did do all of that, lol!

My recent binge was completely unintentional and happy that this one still held up for me 🙂 Hope you can get to it soon 🙂

JJ
JJ
6 months ago
Reply to  Trent

@Trent – Yes! Based on your inquiry on the Drama Exchange, I went to watch the first episode again of Rain or Shine also known as Just Between Lovers and off I went with a -re-binge! And funny, I had nearly the same experience as the first time of what I loved, liked, was ok with and what didnt work for me. 🙂

JJ
JJ
6 months ago
Reply to  Trent

@Trent – I know you mentioned this fact prior over on the KFG’s Patreon Drama Exchange about Lost not grabbing you like it did us. And I can tell you my emotional reactions to My Mister and Lost were very different. I love them both for different reasons. Both have captivating Male and Female Leads that give very fine moving performances.

And I think with My Mister I would have more tearing up moments than Lost. But the melancholic ache that KFG describes about Lost is so present and overwhelming.

I wonder if My Mister hits you differently because the male lead is later in life while Lost has a male lead younger in his life?

Trent
6 months ago
Reply to  JJ

@JJ – as I’ve been thinking about it over the course of the watch, I think there is a lot of truth to the observation that it’s easier for me personally to identify with Lee Sun-kyun’s character in My Mister than Ryu Ju-yeol’s in Lost, just due to age and life circumstances.

And perhaps more importantly, although I’ve mentioned a number of times that it was important that there not be an overt romance element between the leads in MM, a crucial entre to emotional engagement is undeniably the urge to protectiveness toward IU’s character, which is such an underdog and which she plays with such ethereal strength.

But no doubt I’m saying too much here, as we’re about to start the group watch…

JJ
JJ
6 months ago
Reply to  Trent

@Trent – Just for the sake of argument, Counselor 😉 Is there no urge to protect Bu Jeong’s character after all her trauma? Granted her story is very different than IU’s character.

Trent
6 months ago
Reply to  JJ

@JJ — I dunno; I feel empathy for Bu-jeong, but once again it’s the divide between intellectual detachment and emotional engagement. My empathy for Bu-jeong is almost more theoretical; her situation is different than Ji-an’s in important ways–her material needs, at least, are covered; she’s educated and has life experience; she has a sort of support net- a father who is good and kind, and a husband who, although inadequate to her needs, is not a bad person and who is trying not to do harm.

None of that is to say that what Bu-jeong is facing and going through is not real, or that the struggles of her interior life are not crushing her; that’s the point of the whole show, after all (along with Kang-jae’s character). It just makes it a lot more difficult for me personally to approach and understand on a fundamental emotional level.

JJ
JJ
6 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

@KFG – Funny thing about Just Between Lovers (aka Rain or Shine) is that it did not intellectually grab me, but emotionally had me from the beginning. And all I can figure when that happens music plays a huge role in that for me with what I am watching. My re-binge of Just Between Lovers played the same notes (pun so intended) in the emotional journey for me. The Show used music very specifically for many of the episodes and then became quiet which I noticed. And by that time, I was emotionally tuned into the characters and the Journey. Intellectually, I can point out LOTS of things which is part of my concern if Trent and Shahz would like this one at all. However, because the Show’s commentary on grief and trauma I forgave all those and went on the Emotional Journey. Once Shahz and Trent decide to either finish or drop the Show, I will take about some key moments in the Show that really worked for me 🙂

uyen
6 months ago
Reply to  Trent

This is completely understandable to me! I loved both, but I did feel Human Disqualification felt slower and even more melancholy, and I had to warm up to the characters more. Whereas for My Mister, I quickly warmed up to the three brothers, their crew of friends, and our temp worker. I also feel My Mister felt a bit more hopeful to me, at least with the idea of community and found family that came through more strongly. I think for me, both shows involve characters who fundamentally feel very lonely but find connection in some way, and that resonates with me. It is hard for me at times to watch both shows, but I deeply appreciate them because I think they convey these emotions in very raw and genuine ways. Glad you had a chance to try it though.

Medea
Medea
6 months ago

I’ve just added this show to my watchlist! The review was awesome, as always! On a shallower note, the screenshots of Ryu Joon-Yeol were absolutely gorgeous – there were multiple instances while reading this when I just stopped and paused to stare at his face. 🙂

Leslie
Leslie
6 months ago

💯on the Grade of A!

JJ
JJ
6 months ago

@KFG – YAY you gave this one an A ❤️!!!!

More later 🙂

JJ
JJ
6 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

@KFG – 🥰