THE SHORT VERDICT:
An earthy, charming slice-of-life drama that manages to add up to more than the sum of its parts – even after taking into account its impressive star-studded cast, AND the gorgeous backdrop that is Jeju Island.
Show’s omnibus approach makes each character come to popping life as we delve into their story, and by the end of our journey, it feels like we’ve come to know an entire community of good people.
Our cast is excellent, all putting in performances that feel pitch-perfect and down-to-earth, and their chemistry is so natural across the board, and feels so genuine, that it’s easy to believe that these people have spent many years of their lives together.
Feels a little meandering at times, but is absolutely worthwhile.
THE LONG VERDICT:
I tend to enjoy slice-of-life dramas a lot when they’re done well, and Our Blues is definitely an example of when it’s done well.
To be fair, it’s true that slice-of-life isn’t for everyone. To some folks, this might feel like a story about nothing very much.
For me, though, Show vibes like a vacation to Jeju Island, where I get to know a whole bunch of good people, so much so that I start to think of them as friends, as a bonus.
And honestly, that’s just the breath of fresh air that I needed.
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.
In general, I thought the music worked really well in this show. The tunes tend to be nostalgia-tinged breezy tracks.
They were effective in giving our drama world a feel-good sunshiny sheen, or a sweet wistfulness, or a wash of bittersweetness, in turn, depending on what our story called for.
I have to confess that none of these actually turned into earworms for me, but when they were playing in the background, I enjoyed pretty much all of the songs.
If I had to pick favorites, I’d say Track 2, The Last, Track 17 Happy Song do stand out to me a little extra.
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS
Here are a few things that I think would be helpful to keep in mind, to maximize your enjoyment of your watch:
1. Show is slice-of-life
Like I mentioned earlier, Show is slice-of-life in its storytelling approach, and while I found this charming, you do need to adjust your lens somewhat, for this.
2. The omnibus approach
What sets Show apart from other dramas, is that it’s billed as an omnibus.
In execution, this means that we dive into certain arcs while keeping others at bay, in turn, in the vein of omnibus movies like Love, Actually.
This means that sometimes, you need to wait a bit, for Show to shine the spotlight on the arc that interests you the most.
3. It can sometimes feel a little heavy
I think it’s helpful to know upfront, that despite its shiny, cheery packaging, Show can and does delve into heavier themes, from time to time.
Sometimes, I needed to take a break during an episode, not because we’d gotten to a particularly difficult plot point, but because I just.. felt a little spent, from engaging with the meaty emotions of the hour, if that makes sense.
4. Show stays engaging, even when it touches on heavier themes
At the same time, I think it’s important for me to mention that Show has a way of dealing with difficult topics and emotions, while remaining engaging.
Even though certain episodes could technically be classified as hard to watch, because of their subject matter, I honestly didn’t find them all that hard to watch.
In fact, most of the time, I couldn’t look away. That’s skillz, I reckon.
STUFF I LIKED
I’ll be doing a quick-ish macro look at what I liked and liked less about Show, before doing a selective deep dive into characters and relationships.
The star-studded cast
When this show was announced, I felt like I had to check it out, if only for the star-studded cast, which by itself is a coup by the production team.
Originally, I’d imagined that with its “omnibus” billing, that these A-listers would only appear for their characters’ arcs, thus making it relatively easier to fit so many big names into one cast.
I was very surprised to find that our characters share more cross-arc screen time than I’d first anticipated. What a nice bonus, not least because so many of our cast members are A-listers.
When these big name stars pop up in scenes that largely seem unrelated to them –
[MINOR SPOILERS] like when Lee Byung Hun’s character shows up at the reunion in one of our early episodes, even though he’s not part of that class, or when Kim Woo Bin‘s character shows up at the carpark to drive the rest of the gang home [END MINOR SPOILERS]
– it gives me an extra thrill.
Like, wow, you got these stars to be around, just to make this drama world feel more interconnected and real? Naise. 🤩
And of course, a big plus of having such an amazing cast, is that the delivery of our cast is top-notch. Almost all our characters end up feeling like living, breathing people rather than characters off a page, which helps to make this drama world feel extra real.
Show’s earthy charm
I really dig the earthy charm that Show serves up, in terms of our drama world.
Unlike My Liberation Notes, where the hard work of the countryside is laid bare, all stark and sweaty, Our Blues paints the Jeju lifestyle in a charming manner that combines the rustic, the chaotic and the beautiful, kind of in the vein of Hometown Cha Cha Cha.
Like, sure, our characters work hard and earn their keep by the sweat of their brows, but they also look amazing while they do it, and their surroundings are gorgeous, and it’s altogether not a bad lifestyle – is the vibe that I get.
Plus, there’s all that laidback breezy music that keeps playing, that makes our story world feel like a beach holiday escape.
I do like a bit of charm and whimsy in my dramas, thank you. 🥰
The characters feel so real
I was pleasantly surprised to find myself getting quite effortless invested in these characters’ lives, from as early as episode 4.
Not that I wasn’t expecting to; it’s just.. I’m surprised by how interested I felt, in each of their stories, even though Show uses an approach where we get to know our characters according to a different rhythm than most other dramas.
I’d imagined that with only snippets shown to us of most characters, until it’s time for their stories to take centerstage, I’d most likely only feel invested in the story at hand.
However, I found that I’m also very much interested in the characters whose snippets get touched on, even before their arcs get the spotlight. That’s pretty cool.
By Show’s halfway point, watching each episode felt like an approachable, relaxing thing, where I feel like I’m just catching up on what my Jeju friends have been up to.
That’s very pleasant, really.
The sense of community that comes through
There’s no single arc dedicated to this, but the sense of community is woven through such that it appears in many arcs in our story.
I liked these touches a lot, and felt that these really bring out the sense of warmth built into the relationships among our characters.
Here are just a couple of examples.
E7. I have to say, it’s pretty great to see everyone coming together to find Seon A (Shin Min Ah) and get her to safety, after it’s discovered that she’s fallen in to the water.
Our haenyeo are the heroes of the day, for diving in there and saving her, because if they hadn’t been there, and been so ready to go in after her, she really might not have made it.
I like the detail, that all the friction among the haenyeo team is forgotten, as they all band together to get Seon A out of the water.
E8. There’s a lot of baggage to unravel between In Gwon and Ho Sik (Park Ji Hwan and Choi Young Joon), and that’s not surprising, because it’s been years of build-up, and it’s understandably messy and difficult to untangle everything.
I’m just glad that they have friends around them, who will stand by them, even when they don’t understand them.
For example, I love how Jeong Jun (Kim Woo Bin) is so gentle and quiet with In Gwon, after pulling In Gwon out of that fight with Ho Sik. Jeong Jun doesn’t need to say anything at all; just his gentle manner with In Gwon tells me that he’s not judging anybody, and just wants to be there as a friend.
Gosh, I like that a lot.
I also really appreciate Eun Hui (Lee Jung Eun), who does her best to be there for Ho Sik and In Gwon in turn, throughout this episode. She’s not gentle and quiet like Jeong Jun.
In fact, she’s sometimes rather gruff with them, but her care shines through a lot, and I feel like both In Gwon and Ho Sik know that she cares, even if they may not admit it.
The way Show weaves themes together
It occurs to me that Show has an interesting way of weaving its themes together.
What I mean is, in episode 5, it had juxtaposed Dong Seok’s mother’s (Lee Byung Hun and Kim Hye Ja) terminal diagnosis, with Yeong Ju’s (Roh Yoon Seo) determination to terminate her pregnancy, which had created this somber, death-themed sort of vibe.
And in episode 6, Show juxtaposes Yeong Ju’s inner conflict over her pregnancy, with Seon A’s struggle to gain custody of her son, to create this overarching theme of motherhood.
It lands interesting to me, because Show uses Yeong Ju’s arc both times, but shines the spotlight on a different theme, while doing it.
Very nicely done, I thought.
Show as an overall reflection of life
In the beginning of our story, everything had felt more scattered, but as time goes by, things come together in a way that feels organic and whole.
By Show’s late stretch, it’s nice to begin to see the Jeju people as a community, where, as we look on each of them, we know their stories, and appreciate the little nods that Show gives to each of those stories, in the small moments.
At the same time, though, as this coming together is happening, we near the end, which is when death comes into the picture, like with the arc focusing on Grandma Kang’s terminal illness.
It kinda-sorta feels like a reflection of life, in that, it often takes us time to get our lives together, and understand ourselves and the people around us.
And, sometimes, by the time we feel like we’ve kinda-sorta gotten our lives together, we’re arriving at a point in our lives where mortality (our own, as well as that of those around us) becomes much more front-and-center.
The beauty of Jeju Island
This is technically a more shallow sort of thing, but Jeju Island is freaking gorgeous, and Show does a great job of showing us that beauty, without taking attention away from our characters and their stories.
Every time we get a pan of the landscape, my breath catches in my throat, from how surreal it looks, like it emerged from a different world, almost.
I feel like this show would likely be worth watching, for that alone. ❤️
STUFF THAT WAS OK
Show’s “roving eye”
Like I mentioned earlier, Show shuffles its various narrative arcs, so that each one takes turns being in the spotlight.
Sometimes, Show does switch away from an arc, just when you think you’re reaching some sort of narrative climax, to focus on another one.
The few times that Show does this, I did find myself feeling a bit perplexed.
It’s not a deal-breaker for me, by any means, which is why it’s in this section, but I thought it was important to mention.
E5. After we’d spent our first 3 episodes in a row on Han Su (Cha Seung Won) and Eun Hui, I’d sort of expected Show to do the same, when it came to Jeong Jun and Yeong Ok’s (Han Ji Min) story.
Instead, Jeong Jun and Yeong Ok take a backseat this hour (while they start delving into their romance offscreen, presumably, sniff), while Show puts other arcs in front of us.
Not that I mind giving time to other arcs, mind you.
I just.. wish we didn’t have to miss out on the early dating days between Jeong Jun and Yeong Ok, because I’m sure they’re extra adorable together in these early dating days, and that Jeong Jun’s adoring gazes are just as potent – if not more so – as his wistful gazes.
By the time Show shifts the focus back to them, in later episodes, there’s still a good amount of cute left for us to enjoy, before Show delves into the harder questions inherent in their relationship, but I have to admit to still feeling rather wistful at missing out on what must have been lots of cuteness between them.
E18. After spending so much time on Man Su’s (Kim Jung Hwan) arc in episode 17, I’d expected episode 18 to give us an immediate update on his condition.
Instead, Show delves into a completely different arc, and only updates us on Man Su’s condition as a side note, partway through the episode.
I thought this was a pretty odd narrative choice.
It takes time for the drama world to come together in your head
As Show focuses on its chosen main arc of the moment, it does often also serve up sparks of story about various other characters and relationships in our story world.
On the upside, this does pique my interest, and give me a flavor for what’s to come.
On the not-so-upside, more so than in other dramas, it does take time for this drama world to come alive in my head, because some arcs only get the spotlight pretty late.
It was really only about halfway through my watch, that I felt like this drama world was coming to life in my head, with all the interweaving of relationships.
As a silver lining, once we’ve gotten to know more of our Jeju friends better, Show becomes more free about interweaving other narrative threads from other arcs with the main episode arc.
I like this, because it feels like the Jeju community is coming together more cohesively in my mind’s eye, as we get into Show’s later stretch.
I mean, they’ve always been an intact community, and everyone’s always had their own stories, but where in earlier episodes, Show would mostly keep the threads separate, in later episodes, it dips us into other threads every so often, even while keeping the episode mostly on its chosen focus.
I really like the effect of that, because I’m still interested to know what’s going on with our other characters.
And on a meta level, it feels like writer-nim’s done an effective job of gathering these characters and their stories together, in our heads, so that there’s a “coming together” effect at work, if you know what I mean.
SPOTLIGHT ON CHARACTERS & RELATIONSHIPS
Because our cast is so sprawling, it’s impossible for me to cover every single character.
Here’s a collection of thoughts around the main characters and relationships that caught my attention, during my watch.
Lee Jung Eun as Eun Hui
I’ll talk more about Eun Hui in the sections where I cover her arcs with Han Su and Mi Ran, but I just wanted to give her a shout-out, because I found her so likable, loyal and good-hearted.
I do love Lee Jung Eun, and loved that she gets so much screen time in this show, as Eun Hui.
I find Eun Hui a very caring character, and I love how she shows up in so many of the other arcs, as a genuinely concerned friend.
Of course, my soft spot for Eun Hui might be amplified by the fact that Eun Hui’s arc with Han Su is the first story that Show chooses to focus on, in our omnibus of stories.
Eun Hui and Han Su
The arc between Eun Hui and Han Su wasn’t one of my personal favorites, mostly because it was hard to watch at points, and because it’s a delicate situation and topic, where you know that someone’s going to end up getting hurt, one way or another.
That said, I do think that Show does a very solid job of teasing out this arc in a manner that feels believable, and then does a just as solid job, of wrapping up the arc in a manner that feels realistic, sensitive and still hopeful.
E1. This episode, we’re focused more on Han Su, who’s a branch manager at a bank, who happens to have a golf prodigy for a daughter, and is now feeling the the financial strain of her golf career’s demands.
That’s a tough place to be in. Daughter Dearest is suffering from a case of the yips, but she’s got potential, and shouldn’t give up. But they’re running low on money, and have already borrowed from just about all of their friends and acquaintances.
It’s a tough place for a father to be.
And now, he’s faced with the fact that Eun Hui, who’d had a huge crush on him in school, is now worth literal millions.
I.. don’t know how I feel about where this is going, but it’s becoming clear to me, that Han Su will at least be tempted to leverage Eun Hui’s affection towards him, to help his financial situation.
I feel like regardless of how this goes, it’s going to be a pretty delicate situation.
That said, I did really enjoy the high school flashback, where we see exactly what had happened between Han Su and Eun Hui, back in the day.
Ahh. I can totally see why Eun Hui would have been smitten.
First of all, he’s tall, good-looking and has a slight rogue-ish air about him. AND he’d defended her in the bus, when the other kids had ragged on her so badly, about the piglet that she’d been carrying.
PLUS, he’d defended her honor, when Eun Hui’s friend had confronted him publicly, to demand to know whether he’d kissed Eun Hui (when it had in fact been Eun Hui who had forced a kiss on him).
The way he casually answers, “But you liked it too,” is so dang cool, even as he covers for Eun Hui. I’d be completely smitten in her shoes too.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Eun Hui still has feelings for Han Su, even now.
Speaking of Eun Hui, I love-love-LOVE that scene, where she spills all the juicy details to Yeong Ok, about her first love.
The way they squeal with glee at every detail at every juncture of the story, is so cute and so pure. It really feels like they’re schoolgirls, all over again. I love it, and couldn’t stop grinning, as they reveled in the thrill of Eun Hui’s love story.
I can also totally see why Jeong Jun would have hearts in his eyes for Yeong Ok. She really is very charming, and in this completely unguarded moment, where she’s squealing with excitement with Eun Hui, she’s lovelier than ever.
E2. I must say, Cha Seung Won, whom I’m so used to seeing in a suave, dapper sort of space, is doing a great job of making Han Su look wan and defeated.
His gaze and his general facial expression just say “exhausted” so loudly, even when he’s trying to muster a bit of cheer, in his face.
The key thing that comes to my mind this episode, is the question of whether Han Su is actually lying, when he tells Eun Hui that he’s separated from his wife.
I mean, I know that the world at large sees him as married, but part of my brain wonders whether this is but a facade, where Han Su and his wife present the picture of a stable marriage to the world, when in actual fact they are separated and on the brink of divorce.
Certainly, Show leads us to believe that too, so that we immediately think that Han Su’s lying in order to try to play on Eun Hui’s sympathies and affections, in order to get money for his daughter’s gold endeavors.
I’m just wondering, somewhat curiously, if Han Su might not be the liar that Show is making him out to be.
If he is, that would suck, though I can see why he would be so desperate, since there’s no one left in his circle, who’s willing or able to lend him any more money. And then here’s Eun Hui, who’s got lots of money and affection to spare.
I can see how this would be a tempting situation for Han Su. I guess I’m just hoping that he doesn’t turn out to be a douchebag, is all. 😅
I have to admit to feeling rather confused by it all, like, when Han Su’s tipsy and saying that Eun Hui was so cute back in high school, is he really tipsy and telling her this in a fit of drunken honesty, or is he not as drunk as he looks, and already putting on the emotional moves on her..?
I do believe that Han Su’s genuinely wistful for his youth, and how he’d been bright and carefree then, compared to the present. That’s probably why he jumps into the water, to join his imaginary past self.
At the same time, his invitation to Eun Hui to go to Mokpo with him, makes that imaginary past self pause and stop smiling; I feel like that’s an indication of some sort, that Han Su’s doing something that his past self wouldn’t approve of.
I really, really love Eun Hui, through all of this; she’s so sweet, kind and considerate towards Han Su, and I genuinely believe that she has no other intention than to be a friend to him.
So it bothers me that Han Su, and his words and actions, which are designed to cause Eun Hui to waver, are getting to her, and distracting her enough, that she’d cut herself while slicing fish.
Plus, he looks so gosh-darned guilty, as he sits there in the car, waiting for Eun Hui to arrive, so that they can take that trip to Mokpo.
I love how Eun Hui thanks Han Su for growing up well, so that she can preserve her shining memories of him from their youth, coz he’d been her first crush. I mean, that’s so pure and wholesome, isn’t it?
She looks so blissfully happy, as she shares that song with Han Su, while he looks more and more guilty and uncomfortable.
E3. Although parts of this episode were hard to watch, I do feel like this arc was wrapped up in the best way possible. Given where this was going, I honestly can’t think of a better conclusion than the one Show gives us, and for that, I’m grateful.
The more Han Su leans into the charade with Eun Hui this episode, the more my heart clenched, because it was hard to watch him do this quasi-romantic things with Eun Hui, knowing that he’s motivated by the idea that she can solve his money troubles.
If Han Su were actually sincere and honest with Eun Hui – meaning, if he actually was in a position to court her, and his romantic gestures weren’t tools, calculated to eventually get her to lend him money – I would actually think they were awkward-sweet.
However, with the context that he’s in this for the money, and is lying about the state of his relationship with his wife, it makes everything very, very cringey, to my eyes.
Brushing alleged crumbs off Eun Hui’s lips; putting his arm around her shoulders; getting skinshippy with her while playing basketball; it made me more and more uncomfortable, as it all wore on, to be honest.
Which, to be fair to Show, is the whole idea. It’s not like this was ever meant to feel romantic, to us as viewers.
I have to admit, through much of the episode, I was rooting for Eun Hui to realize that Han Su was after her money, so that she wouldn’t be duped into lending it to him.
Therefore, I suppose, technically, I was on the side of the rowdy guys telling Eun Hui the truth about Han Su’s situation, and trying to knock sense into Eun Hui, so that she wouldn’t fall for Han Su’s act.
To be honest, I did also find it quite endearing, that In Gwon and Ho Sik would actually band together, because of a shared protective instinct towards Eun Hui. I like the idea that their concern for Eun Hui is bigger than their personal grudges.
And, I just generally didn’t want Han Su to actually dupe Eun Hui, so I was relieved when it all started to fall apart, after Eun Hui has that call with the others, and after Han Su returns from his emotional call with his family.
It had felt like a relief, for the truth to come out, and for Eun Hui and Han Su to be able to talk, without pretense, over why he’d invited her to go to Mokpo with him in the first place.
To Han Su’s credit, he’s honest, which I appreciate. And, I do believe him, when he says that not everything was a lie. I do believe that he cares about Eun Hui as a friend and as a person, beyond his blinding need for money.
What really took me by surprise, though, was Eun Hui’s conclusion, after mulling everything over, in the wake of Han Su’s departure from the hotel.
That lens adjustment on her part, made me feel rather bad too, for judging Han Su along with everyone else.
Eun Hui does have a point, that while Han Su’s actions may not have been great, their own actions in response, weren’t great either. In that sense, they weren’t true friends to him, and I can see her logic, that that’s why he’d acted the way he had.
She’s right, that if they were true friends to Han Su, they wouldn’t have been digging into his background, and judging him for it; they would have taken care of both Eun Hui and Han Su, regardless of their financial credibility.
I really, really like where we end this arc; it feels fitting and right for everyone involved.
I’m heartened to see Eun Hui wire money to Han Su, as a token of friendship.
A friend in need is a friend indeed, and Eun Hui is a champ, for not holding Han Su’s deception against him, and offering him help, because she recognizes that he’s in a difficult place.
At the same time, it makes sense that Han Su would quit his job and leave Jeju, because after all that’s gone down, it would be best for him to have a fresh start.
Plus, it makes sense that his wife and daughter come back to Seoul, and it only feels right, that he should be with his family, now that he can.
I don’t quite get how this severance pay thing works, as in, I don’t understand why the bank is giving Han Su money for his resignation, but it’s great that he gets to pay off his debts and travel for a bit, with his family.
They need some quality family time together, after everything they’ve been through, and after spending all this time apart.
I really love the tone of the text conversation that we see, between Han Su and Eun Hui, as he wires that money right back to her.
I love how grateful and honest his words are, as he thanks Eun Hui for her kind gesture, and tells her that he’s learned a lot during his stay in Jeju, and that he will continue to draw strength from thinking of her and all the other friends in Jeju.
It feels like the right thing for Han Su to do, to just focus on his family for a while, and trust that he’ll find a new way to make a living, as he does so.
And, I do love that promise that he and Eun Hui make, to have soju by the beach with everyone else, the next time they meet.
It feels so.. perfectly fitting, for right now, honestly.
As does the way Eun Hui pulls out that journal and bids farewell to Han Su, as her forever first love.
It’s all very bittersweet, but it feels needful, and it just feels.. right. And I feel like this was the most all-around perfect ending I could have asked for, for this arc, given where we’d started.
Eun Hui and Mi Ran
Because of my fondness for Eun Hui, I was glad that Show gives Eun Hui another round in the spotlight, this time with her best friend Mi Ran (Uhm Jung Hwa).
I love the idea of an odd-couple bestie pairing, and Eun Hui and Mi Ran couldn’t be more different, in personality, sensibility and lifestyle.
The way Show teases out the underlying tension in their relationship is very well done, and I thought the resolution was fitting for the friendship as well.
E12. I’m intrigued by this episode’s focus on the relationship between Eun Hui and Mi Ran.
The entire episode, I was trying to get a read on Mi Ran, because from what I can tell, she shows different parts of herself to different people.
And, for a good stretch, I actually thought that Mi Ran was painted pretty sympathetically, as a character.
What I mean is, she does appear sincere when she’s with Eun Hui. When she learns of people trying to bother Eun Hui, she seems firmly on Eun Hui’s side, and even lets someone else use her car, so that they won’t bother Eun Hui about borrowing money to buy a car.
And, when Eun Hui asks why she isn’t at her daughter’s graduation as planned, Mi Ra does appear to start to give Eun Hui a straight and honest answer – except that she gets interrupted multiple times by the incoming calls to Eun Hui, and ends up just giving a quick excuse of an answer in the end.
I did feel rather sorry for her, when we hear the truth, when she’s visiting with Grandma Hyeon (Go Doo Shim) and Grandma Kang, that her daughter had requested that she not attend, in favor of her stepmother.
That feels legitimately heartbreaking, especially since Mi Ran had clearly looked forward to the graduation and the graduation trip for so long.
And so, as I see Mi Ran act all happy to see all her Jeju friends, I do feel sorry for her, because I know that underneath it all, she’s hiding quite a bit of heartbreak.
Plus, it seems to me that Mi Ran feels some kind of pressure, to be the life of the party. I’m guessing that’s why she’s partying it up, when she probably feels like crying over how her daughter’s rejected her.
All this to say, I was really building up in my head, how Mi Ran’s been misunderstood, especially when Eun Hui rants on her own about how selfish Mi Ran is, to not have attended her daughter’s graduation ceremony because of work.
AND THEN. We get the reveals in quick succession.
The first, of Mi Ran throwing away Eun Hui’s packed lunch back in school, because Eun Hui had remarked that there were no sausages, is less bad.
I can rationalize that this had happened when they’d been kids, and kids can be thoughtlessly cruel.
I am also guessing that perhaps Mi Ran’s family had been going through some hard times and therefore couldn’t afford the sausages as usual, and that’s why Mi Ran had been so prickly and unpleasant then.
She’d probably felt attacked by Eun Hui’s innocent remark, and had attacked her back.
BUT. I just can’t rationalize the second flashback, no matter how I try.
The way Mi Ran had pranked Eun Hui, pretending that she was suicidal, was bad enough in itself. I can only imagine how terrified Eun Hui must have felt, rushing all the way from Jeju to Seoul, to check on Mi Ran, not knowing whether Mi Ran was dead or alive.
What makes it 100 times worse, is the fact that Mi Ran had pranked Eun Hui on a bet. It’s so unbelievably cruel, for Mi Ran to toy with Eun Hui’s feelings like that, knowing that it would frighten Eun Hui out of her wits.
And what makes it 1,000 times worse, is how Mi Ran gleefully introduces Eun Hui to her Seoul friends, as the girl who’s always at her beck and call; the biggest doormat ever.
OH. MY. GOSH.
That is so unbelievably cruel.
And the fact that Mi Ran seems completely oblivious to how she’s hurt Eun Hui, just makes it a million times worse.
THAT’S when I felt like my entire built-up internal narrative about Mi Ran being misunderstood and sympathetic, come crashing down around me.
I don’t feel sympathetic anymore, because even though Mi Ran might have her difficulties, there’s nothing that can excuse the way she treated Eun Hui. And, she hasn’t even apologized for it, either.
I have no idea how Show is going to resolve this thing between Mi Ran and Eun Hui, and whether they’ll come out of this with their friendship still intact, but I’m just putting it out there, that I’m in Eun Hui’s corner, on this one.
E13. It was hard to watch the bond between Eun Hui and Mi Ran disintegrate over the course of this episode.
The way Eun Hui pushes herself to be nice to Mi Ran, going above and beyond, to make Mi Ran comfortable, while she nurses that hurt in her heart, is quite painful to watch.
Clearly, it hurts Eun Hui to keep doing these nice things for Mi Ran, when there’s this gigantic albatross around her neck.
And it’s true that Mi Ran’s got a certain way about her, that can come across as princess-y and entitled. Like the way she drunkenly calls out, “Water,” repeatedly when she’s drunk, until Eun Hui comes in and helps her up to drink some water.
Mi Ran expresses drunken appreciation towards Eun Hui for the water, yes, but it doesn’t take away the fact that the way she’d called for the water in the first place, had been rather entitled.
I do feel sorry for Mi Ran, that she feels sad and rejected by her daughter, but that’s honestly a different matter altogether, and shouldn’t give her any sort of pass, when it comes to how she treats Eun Hui.
It’s clear that Mi Ran cares about Eun Hui in her own way, and it’s rather nice to see Mi Ran put up new curtains for Eun Hui, and clean her house while she’s out at the auction site.
At the same time, Mi Ran’s sense of boundaries and respect for privacy is clearly lacking when it comes to Eun Hui, judging from how she feels it’s ok for her to read Eun Hui’s diaries without Eun Hui’s knowledge or permission.
That said, the way things blow up this episode, is on both Mi Ran and Eun Hui.
I give Mi Ran props for at least trying to find out what Eun Hui was upset at her about. She does give Eun Hui an invitation to just tell her if she’s upset her in any way, saying that she’d like to apologize for it.
That was Eun Hui’s chance to get things out in the open and receive an apology from Mi Ran, but Eun Hui doesn’t take it.
I’m guessing that Eun Hui felt too pained to talk about the memory that had hurt her so much, and that’s why she doesn’t answer Mi Ran’s question.
At the same time, I’m guessing that there’s that dynamic at work, where you want the other person to figure out on their own, what bad thing they did, that they ought to apologize for.
I imagine that in Eun Hui’s mind, what Mi Ran had said was so terrible, that it’s ridiculous that Mi Ran would need to even ask Eun Hui why she’s hurt and upset.
To that end, it really looks like Mi Ran doesn’t remember the incident.
I can see how Mi Ran might have made that bet while drunk, and said those things while drunk, and then blacked out and not remembered having said or done those things.
However! I still can’t excuse Mi Ran for saying or doing that, even while drunk, because people tend to be pretty honest when they’re drunk. They can’t filter their words like they do when they’re sober.
And so, for Mi Ran to pronounce that Eun Hui’s her beck-and-call doormat, with such glee, is inexcusable. It means that on some level, Mi Ran does think of Eun Hui that way, even if she would never admit it while sober.
Mi Ran has a point, that if the person who knows you best in the world, says that you’re selfish and two-faced, then you really must be.
And perhaps that’s the learning point for Mi Ran here, after all these years; that she is rather selfish, and she does take her Jeju friends for granted.
All that said, I do hope that Eun Hui and Mi Ran make up, by the time this arc is done.
There’s a good amount of emotional baggage that’s built up between them, sure, but at the same time, the affection between them was built on something real.
For all of Mi Ran’s faults, she is sincere, when she expresses affection for Eun Hui, so I hope that Eun Hui gets that apology that she deserves.
I’d like these two to be friends again, with a fresh clean slate between them, so that they feel buoyed by this friendship, instead of dragged down by it.
E14. We get a relatively quick resolution of the arc between Eun Hui and Mi Ran, and y’know what, that feels right.
It feels fitting, that their friendship is deep enough, to only need a single honest heart-to-heart confrontation to lay everything out in the open, before they’re ready to embrace each other all over again.
I’m glad that Eun Hui takes that trip out to Seoul to seek out Mi Ran, even though she feels hurt and out of sorts.
While I do think that Mi Ran owes Eun Hui an apology for humiliating her the way she did, when she’d called Eun Hui her doormat in front of her friends, I am mollified by her reframing of the concept of doormat, as someone on whom she can depend unconditionally.
I’m glad that Eun Hui sees it differently too, after Mi Ran’s explanation, and that Eun Hui’s happy and willing to be that someone for Mi Ran, who, despite her colorful life experiences, has no one else on whom she can depend, the same way.
And the same goes for Eun Hui too, even though she’s had very different life experiences than Mi Ran. In her life, Mi Ran’s the only one who understands her too.
Also, I’m glad that Mi Ran makes Eun Hui promise to have it out with her, if she ever feels that Mi Ran ever hurts her again. That feels important too.
The burgeoning tears on both sides, as they blurt out their feelings, is really quite touching to witness, and I’m really glad that their friendship is all good again, just like that.
I mean, yes, there’s a little bit of tentativeness in spots, like when Mi Ran stops to ask if Eun Hui’s upset that Mi Ran’s just doing things her way, but that feels like a healthy component to have, in their friendship, plus, Mi Ran does sound like she’s half joking.
I love the idea of them having identical friendship necklaces as well.
I’d honestly wondered whether their friendship would come out intact, and if so, how long it would take, since the hurt had run so deep.
It’s testament to the strength of their love and friendship, that all it took was a big ol’ spot of mutual honesty, and a few tears, to make things right between them again.
Yeong Ju and Hyeon
I found it a bit of a breath of fresh air, that we get a teen romance arc, among the other various adult arcs.
I thought it was very well-handled and poignant, particularly given Show’s chosen focus.
Shout-out to both Bae Hyun Sung and Roh Yoon Seo, whom I thought did very well in their roles, particularly since they are both relative rookies in the company of so many seasoned A-listers.
On a tangent, I realized during my watch, that Bae Hyun Sung reminds me quite a bit of Park Bo Gum. Bae Hyun Sung’s features are quite similar to Park Bo Gum’s, and he’s got a similar sort of vibe as well.
I’d love to see him and Park Bo Gum play brothers; that would be quite perfect and mind-bendy, I think.
I also think Roh Yoon Seo does a fantastic job of portraying Yeong Ju.
I feel like I can see distinct glimmers of Yeong Ju’s vulnerability, underneath her aloof, tough facade, and that’s credit to Roh Yoon Seo’s delivery, which feels raw and down-to-earth and real.
Really well done, I thought.
E5. We spend most of the this hour on our teen couple and their unexpected pregnancy, and it’s all very heartachey.
When they’d first introduced the arc of the pregnancy, it had occurred to me that our opening snippet might have been about impending death, but this main arc was about life – and then I realized it was about death too, because Yeong Ju is determined to have an abortion.
Which means that this entire episode centers around death, in a manner of speaking. Eep.
I do think that Show does a good job of laying out the difficulties and inner conflict that Yeong Ju grapples with, in coming to this decision.
There is a lot at stake, if she were to keep the baby.
All her plans to leave Jeju Island, and go to college, and get her medical degree, would be upended, if she were to keep the baby. Not to mention the disappointment and heartache that she would be causing her father.
It’s a delicate situation, to say the least, and there’s no perfect answer.
I appreciate that Show also focuses on Hyeon’s struggle, as the baby’s father.
His desire to support Yeong Ju; his fear of the unknown; his uncertainty about whether they should proceed with the abortion; there’s as much on his mind as there is, on Yeong Ju’s and I feel it’s important that Show acknowledges that.
Hyeon really does everything in his limited power, to help Yeong Ju and be there for her, and I find my heart going out to him, because of how torn up he is, and how helpless he feels.
I’m glad that in the end, Hyeon rushes to the hospital to be with Yeong Ju, even though she’d told him that she wants to go alone.
It’s just too much for her to endure alone, and I’m just relieved that Hyeon’s there to hold her hand, at least, even though he feels just as helpless as she does.
I have no idea how Show plans to wrap up this particular story, but I’m taking comfort in the fact that whatever happens, at least Yeong Ju won’t be alone. 🥺
E6. I’m honestly slightly surprised (thought relieved) that Yeong Ju decides to keep the baby.
Honestly, on hindsight, it’s less surprising, because traditionally, in kdramas, some social messaging is built into the narrative, and that messaging tends to be pro-family and pro-life.
It’s just that with things evolving in Dramaland over the last few years, and with this show leaning rather realistic, amid the feel-good Jeju setting, I’d thought that there was a good chance Show would actually let Yeong Ju go through with the abortion, and perhaps grapple with the feelings of loss and guilt afterwards.
Instead, we see Yeong Ju making that dramatic, almost split-second decision to protect (and therefore keep) the baby, when that fire extinguisher leak starts choking everyone on the bus.
That literally negates everything that Yeong Ju’s been saying to Hyeon, that she absolutely will not consider keeping the baby, and that she’s going to get rid of it, and then leave for Seoul, and never see him again.
I do appreciate how loyal and steadfast Hyeon is being, through the whole thing.
He’s scared and helpless too, but he’s so earnest about wanting to be strong for Yeong Ju and the baby, that my heart can’t help but melt, in the face of his wholehearted sincerity.
That little beat in the rain, where Yeong Ju tries to shield the baby in her belly from the rain, with her hands, and Hyeon likewise uses his hands to try to shield Yeong Ju from the rain, is a little clichéd, sure, but it lands with a sweet note of poetry, for me, and I like it.
In fact, I just like how happy they are, now that they’ve come to an agreement, to keep the baby, and do their best for the baby.
The way Hyeon becomes bold to admit that the and Yeong Ju are dating, when their schoolmates start questioning why they spend so much time together, is also very sweet.
I like how he’s stepping up and being loud and proud about his relationship with Yeong Ju – which I’m sure will be very key, going forward.
E7. I really feel for Hyeon and Yeong Ju, as they embark on the path that they’ve chosen for themselves.
It’s really tough to be in a situation like this, where everyone’s looking and pointing fingers and gossiping, but the way they hold their heads up high and encourage each other not to be ashamed, is really quite touching.
I don’t actually want Hyeon to drop out of school, but I do appreciate his determination to provide for Yeong Ju and the baby, instead of having to depend on their fathers.
That’s so sweetly determined and steadfast; I almost want him to succeed at dropping out of school, for this reason. Except that I really also want him to be able to continue with school. 😅
It’s actually really hard to watch Hyeon and Yeong Ju break the news to their fathers, because it’s so clear how upsetting this is, for both dads.
They may express it very differently, but both dads care deeply for their kids, and have sacrificed a lot for them, and they want nothing but the best future for them.
Augh. The way Ho Sik beats his own chest out of frustration looks so painful; I was halfway worried that he might legit hurt himself. More than that, though, his heartbreak and sense of lostness is really heartrending to watch. 😭
The way In Gwon beats Hyeon, and trashes his house in a fit of angry violence, is hard to watch as well.
And the thing that breaks my heart, is how stoic Hyeon is, through it all, like he knew this was coming, and he’s prepared to endure it.
What’s touching to me, is that through all of this, Hyeon and Yeong Ju stay true to the promise they’ve made each other, to not waver, to not say that it was all a mistake.
That is very moving, and I can see why Yeong Ju would find her feelings for Hyeon growing, as she witnesses how steadfast he is, towards her and the baby.
And Hyeon’s statement, that like all typhoons, this, too, shall pass, feels very wise as well. That’s so true, and during my own tough times, this was a statement that I clung too as well; that this, too, shall pass. 🥲
E8. It’s hard to watch Ho Sik give Yeong Ju that ultimatum, to either get an abortion, or leave, because it’s clear how much he loves her, and how much he doesn’t want her to leave.
And yet, we also know how much it’s taken for Yeong Ju to embrace her baby, and now that she’s decided to protect it with everything she has, it’s impossible to support Ho Sik’s demand that she get rid of the baby.
There are no easy answers here, and I can only root for Hyeon and Yeong Ju, as they make the daily decisions to stand by the choice that they’ve made.
Like them, I can’t see the way forward either, and I have no idea how Hyeon is going to be able to make enough money to support both Yeong Ju and the baby, but I know I respect his determination and his courage.
Because, he doesn’t know either, but he’s not letting that stop him.
Honestly, I feel for Hyeon, because going through this is hard enough, without everyone teasing him about it, to boot. I know it’s all good-natured and that there’s no ill intent in all the teasing, but I can’t help feeling bad for Hyeon, when we see that he’s actually close to tears.
I’m glad that at least Grandma Kang is so gently accepting and encouraging towards him.
I feel like those little glimmers of encouragement means so much to Hyeon and Yeong Ju, this episode.
In the midst of so much noise, where it feels like everyone’s telling them that they’re making a mistake, a small voice of encouragement feels like such a light in the darkness.
Grandma Kang is that for Hyeon, and Seon A, who congratulates Yeong Ju, during their chance meeting, is that for Yeong Ju. Sometimes angels don’t have wings, yes?
The thing that makes everything feel extra poignant, is the fact that Yeong Ju and Hyeon know how much they’re hurting their fathers, with their choice, and yet, there isn’t a different choice that they can see themselves making.
That’s got to hurt, especially for Yeong Ju, who knows too well, how Ho Sik would sooner hurt himself, than hurt her.
E9. I’m a little sad for Hyeon, that he really is dropping out of school, but I take his point, that he wants to provide for the baby and Yeong Ju, and that he’s young and has lots of time to catch up on his education later on.
In Gwon and Hyeon
The father-son relationship between In Gwon and Hyeon isn’t a major arc, but I like that Show gives this relationship a bit of time in the spotlight nonetheless, and that we get to see father and son come to understand each other better.
It’s not an easy path to mutual understanding and respect, and I appreciate that Show treats this with realism and sensitivity, while still giving us an uplifting message of hope.
E8. It’s sad to see all the emotional baggage come out between In Gwon and Hyeon, who’ve had a stoic relationship at best, all these years.
From correcting each other’s perspectives of what it had meant, when Mom had left – had Mom abandoned Dad, or Hyeon, or both? – to Hyeon yelling that Dad’s been an embarrassment to him all these years, there’s so much to unpack.
It’s sad to see, because as objective bystanders, it’s not so hard to see both sides of the story.
I can see how having In Gwon be a rough loudmouth who’s too proud for his own good, might be embarrassing from Hyeon’s point of view, but I can also see how In Gwon’s given up a lot, to live the straight and narrow life, selling sundae soup, for Hyeon’s sake.
I want this father-son pair to make up so much, but at a time when In Gwon’s trying to drag Yeong Ju to the hospital to get an abortion against her will, I can see why Hyeon would lose his cool and turn on Dad like that.
I’m glad that Hyeon goes to seek out In Gwon, when he hears about In Gwon’s diabetes diagnosis.
More than that, I’m so glad that Hyeon grabs In Gwon in that backhug, and sobs out his apologies for hurting him.
To my eyes, it feels like there’s so much going on between these two, beneath the surface; so much unspoken hurt and disappointment and misunderstanding, on both sides.
And it feels like this tearful backhug, might be the key to healing it all.
In Gwon and Ho Sik
The arc between In Gwon and Ho Sik might just be my favorite of all the various relationships that Show shines the spotlight on, over the course of our story.
I’m actually a little shocked to write this, since, from the very beginning of the show, I had found the animosity between In Gwon and Ho Sik rather too intense for my taste.
Show does a fantastic job of teasing out the deep-seated issues between them, and healing their relationship in a manner that feels real and raw, yet heartwarming and hopeful.
E7. This episode, we finally get insight into what had happened between In Gwon and Ho Sik, and – sigh – it’s all so sad, really.
It’s heartbreaking to see how close they’d been, from a young age, and how much they’d treasured each other.
As Show unveils all these past memories, I couldn’t imagine what might have torn them apart – until we get the reveal, that In Gwon had trodden on Ho Sik’s pride as a father.
I can see why Ho Sik would be so hurt, because In Gwon had basically kicked him when he’d been down.
But.. the thing is, it’s arguable that Ho Sik had needed a kick in the pants, and it’s hard to say if Ho Sik would have gotten his act together and stopped gambling his life away, if In Gwon hadn’t given him that metaphorical slap in the face.
It’s hard to see them come to blows as we close out the episode, but at the same time, I can’t help wondering if this fist fight will finally get them to hash out everything, and reconcile. I know it’s a lot to ask, but I can’t help hoping. 😅
E8. I want In Gwon and Ho Sik to make amends, so perhaps it really is best, that they end up in a holding cell together, where they’re forced to not fight.
This conversation, where Ho Sik finally tells In Gwon how hurt he’d been, that day when In Gwon had taunted him about using his daughter for money, is arguable the breakthrough that they’ve needed, all these years.
Because, even though they haven’t quite made up, at least they’ve talked about things, and at least In Gwon now knows why Ho Sik’s been so angry and hurt all these years.
And now that Hyeon’s turned away from him, In Gwon now knows what it feels like, to have the closest person to you, hurt you when you’re already hurting.
I actually feel quite sorry for In Gwon, when we see in the flashback, how he’d inadvertently caused his own mother’s death.
Gah. That must have been so horrible. Like he doesn’t already have a ton of sad memories and emotional baggage weighing him down.
Maybe that’s why he’s being so flippant about his own health, and refusing treatment, even when he’s diagnosed with diabetes. It does kinda feel like there’s a part of him that’s tired of living.
E9. Last episode, I’d hoped for a reconciliation between In Gwon and Ho Sik, and this episode, that’s exactly what we open with. I love it.
It’s kind of ironic – in a rather poetic sense, actually – that the thing that would bring these two back together again, after years of being sworn enemies, is being put in the same position.
I mean, it’s very reluctant solidarity, and it’s slow in the coming, but essentially, isn’t that what it is?
With each of them in danger of losing their only child, because their opinions and dreams and those of their kids’ are at loggerheads, they are literally in almost identical positions.
And like they say often in dramas, you can’t win against your kids – or at least, not if you don’t want to lose them.
The reconciliation scene, where Ho Sik seeks out In Gwon, might feel fast or easy to some, but to me, it feels organic and believable.
They’re both so exhausted from fighting with their kids and with each other, that they literally have no strength left, to fight each other.
On top of that, they’ve had some important hashing out time in that holding cell, where the truth behind Ho Sik’s anger towards In Gwon finally comes out. That’s a critical piece in their reconcilitation, for sure.
And, they’ve each wrestled with their kids with all they have, and come out exhausted and with little recourse, if they don’t want to lose their kids forever.
Putting it all together, it makes sense to me that Ho Sik, who’s the milder tempered one between them, would reach out to In Gwon, to suggest a peaceful way forward.
I so appreciate the beat when Ho Sik starts crying and demands that In Gwon apologize for saying those mean and insulting things about Yeong Ju, and In Gwon immediately gets on his knees and apologizes, without a single protest.
It’s clear that he sees how much his words have hurt Ho Sik, and that moment feels really precious, with the both of them crying over everything that’s happened.
I also love that when Ho Sik tells In Gwon that he’ll treat him as his Hyung from here on out, In Gwon corrects him, saying that he’s not Ho Sik’s Hyung; he’s Ho Sik’s in-law.
Ahhh. Their old dream, that they’d once delighted in, of being in-laws, has finally come true.
Sure, it hasn’t come true in the way in which they’d hoped, but sometimes life works out in funny ways like that.
Most importantly, these two friends-turned-enemies have now reconciled and are back on friendly terms again. I almost feel like that is worth its own weight in gold.
E13. I really liked that little tidbit that we got, of Ho Sik getting all exasperated with Hyeon coming over to cook ramyun for Yeong Ju in the middle of the night, and going over to sleep in Hyeon’s bed, effectively making him flatmates with In Gwon, at least for a night.
Tee hee. I actually kinda love this idea of the two dads living together, while Hyeong and Yeong Ju stay together as a little family unit.
Plus, it’d give Ho Sik and In Gwon a chance to make up for all that lost time, when they’d been enemies instead of besties.
Gosh, I hope Show goes that route, I would be so down for that. 😁
E18. I have to admit that my favorite arc this episode, is the mini one, where Yeong Ju goes into labor, and Hyeon, Ho Sik and In Gwon basically have meltdowns, together.
I love the visual of Ho Sik and In Gwon holding hands as they sit outside the hospital, distraught over the fact that Yeong Ju’s been in labor for over 10 hours. They are so cute, heh.
I’m looking forward to the baby’s arrival, and I’m sure that Hyeon’s going to be a sweet dad, and that In Gwon and Ho Sik are going to be the most high-strung, adorable grandpas. 😁
Kim Woo Bin as Jeong Jun
I must say, I really dig how laidback sexy Kim Woo Bin is looking, in this.
Ahhh. Can’t lie; watching him in this show, I am remembering all over again why I fell so hard for him, in the first place. 😁😍
He’s rocking a very nice tan in this show (which makes total sense, given his role and the setting), and he looks strong, without looking overly buff, meaning, the muscles look functional, rather than just made for magazine covers in the gym.
Layer on that lovely deep voice, and the barely hidden wistful gazes Jeong Jun’s wearing in Yeong Ok’s direction, and his casual efforts to be nice to her, while not overstepping his boundaries, and it really adds up to a very appealing package. 😍
Swoon. And rawr. 🔥
E3. I really like how Jeong Jun is so respectful of boundaries.
For example, in the scene where In Gwon puts Eun Hui on speakerphone to talk about such a personal matter, I really like how Jeong Jun gets up and states that he’d like it if they just took it that he was never a part of this.
He doesn’t succumb to the allure of juicy gossip, and I really, really like that about him.
E15. It’s also lovely to see Jeong Jun making an effort to spend time with Yeong Hui (Jung Eun Hye) and get to know her better.
The way he calls her “Noona” is also very endearing, because it indicates respect, whereas it’s easy to slip into treating Yeong Hui more as a child, due to her disability.
Shout-out to Dong Seok, for being the gruff voice of reason for Jeong Jun, because it’s Dong Seok who helps Jeong Jun process the fact that he isn’t about to break up with Yeong Ok, even if his family tells him to.
And it’s because of this renewed clarity, that Jeong Jun’s able to throw himself into bonding with Yeong Hui, with the carefree confidence and affection that we see, this episode. Love that.
Han Ji Min as Yeong Ok
Yeong Ok’s one of our more mysterious characters, in that, for a good stretch of our story, no one in our story world seems to be able to get truly close to her, and she also seems to be quite secretive in general.
I’m glad that Show works it all out such that we get to learn Yeong Ok’s secret and get to know her better.
Extra credit to Show, for making it such that once the secret is out, a lot of Yeong Ok’s earlier behavior starts to actually make sense.
E12. Yeong Ok’s foot getting caught in the net while diving, nearly resulting in a terrible outcome, is not at all a good thing, I’m actually rather relieved that this ends up forcing Yeong Ok to have that conversation with Grandma Hyeon.
We aren’t told the details just yet, but it’s enough for me right now, that we get to see Yeong Ok tell Grandma Hyeon that she’s never lied to anyone, and explain the seemingly contradictory bits of information about her parents.
Plus, we see that Grandma Hyeon listens with compassion in her eyes, so I’m pretty confident that things are going to turn around, in terms of Yeong Ok’s relationship with the other haenyeos.
I mean, I do think that it would’ve been much better if Yeong Ok had been upfront about her situation earlier, without this near-drowning happening, but I guess Yeong Ok’s got that feisty streak in her, where she doesn’t want anyone’s pity.
Jung Eun Hye as Yeong Hui [SPOILERS]
E14. This episode, we’re finally introduced to Yeong Ok’s sibling “Disaster,” and it turns out that she’s Yeong Ok’s twin sister, Yeong Hui, who happens to have Down’s syndrome.
On that note, I just wanted to pause for a minute to say, kudos to Show for being so intentionally inclusive.
We’ve had Byeol (Lee So Byeol), a deaf character, around our story world all along, and I do love how matter-of-factly Show treats her deafness, like it’s no big deal, and this is just who she is.
Now, with the introduction of Yeong Hui, we have another character with a disability as well.
For the record, I do believe that this is the first Down’s syndrome actor we’ve seen in a kdrama, thus far.
All that to say, well done, Show, for being inclusive, without being condescending about it.
I do think that Show’s doing a bit of a public service, in including Yeong Hui’s arc in this buzzy show, because I do believe that spending this story time with Yeong Hui, will help to increase awareness and understanding in audiences, of folks with Down’s syndrome, as well as people with disabilities in general.
That incident in the restaurant is unpleasant to watch, but as Yeong Ok points out, for Yeong Hui, this is a common occurrence.
It sucks that people can be so rude and so cavalier about it, but the silver lining that I see in this, is that we also see that Yeong Hui is more capable of taking care of herself, than most might expect.
The way she has that one-on-one time with that little boy, and explains to him that he doesn’t like it either, when she stares at him, feels seasoned and mature, like Yeong Hui’s experienced similar situations before, and has given them enough thought, to have this insight.
Jeong Jun and Yeong Ok
The noona romance between Jeong Jun and Yeong Ok is one that I definitely looked forward to a little more than the others, not least because Kim Woo Bin is extra charming, when he’s wearing those smitten-wistful looks. 😍
Overall, I do love how steadfast Jeong Jun is, in his love and affection for Yeong Ok, and I enjoyed rooting for him to win his lady love.
I do wish that we’d had a little extra time with this loveline, but overall, I thought Show did a nice job of bringing us the feels, while also balancing this loveline with its other narrative arcs.
E1. Right away, we can see that Jeong Jun is drawn to Yeong Ok. And, it’s clear that while she’s the vivacious life of the party, he’s more of the strong, silent type.
Also, while it’s clear that she’s happy to flirt casually with the men around her, he’s looking for something deeper.
E2. It looks like Yeong Ok’s fully aware of Jeong Jun’s crush on her too, and isn’t afraid to use it a little bit, sometimes.
Like when he shows up at the cafe, and when the customer tells him to leave, he asks Yeong Ok if he should – and she says no.
First of all, I love that he defers to Yeong Ok’s decision; that’s so respectful that it somehow lands as kinda hot. 🔥
Second of all, I’m so curious about Yeong Ok and her attitude towards men in general. Why does she only seem to be interested in casually flirting with just about everyone, and not in a deeper connection, like, at all?
Yet, she’s nice enough to warn Jeong Jun not to like her, because he’ll end up getting hurt.
That’s interesting to me, because I imagine that most women who are just interested in flirting around, wouldn’t care enough, to warn a potential suitor that he’ll end up being collateral damage.
E3. I am very much taken with how Jeong Jun hovers around Yeong Ok, to make sure she’s ok, but doesn’t try to get all up in her face.
He’s lovely, as far as I can tell right now, and I melt at his tamped down, wistful gazes in Yeong Ok’s direction.
E4. I’m half rooting for Jeong Jun to get his girl, because he’s just so charmingly serious about her, and I’m half bracing myself, because Yeong Ok keeps telling Jeong Jun that he should stop liking her, because he’ll get hurt.
Ah, but Jeong Jun is so charmingly steadfast in his regard for her.
I mean, I feel like most men in his position would back away from Yeong Ok pretty fast at this stage, with the warnings that she’s giving off, with descriptions of her colorful dating past, and her overt warnings about getting hurt.
But Jeong Jun just wrestles with himself over this for a bit, decides that he can love her anyway, and asks her to date him.
And, when she warns him again, that he’ll get hurt, it’s downright swoony, the way he tells her to just try not to hurt him, then. Like, why is she so determined to hurt him anyway?
Guh. It’s all very disarming, and I can totally see why Jeong Jun would be able to make Yeong Ok’s heart waver, such that she’d respond to his invitation, with a kiss.
Ahhh!! I don’t know whether to squee, or bite my nails, because while I am rather thrilled for Jeong Jun, that he’s made his move and been rewarded for it, I’m also nervous, because I don’t want him to get hurt, like Yeong Ok keeps saying he will.
E6. We get a bit of time with Jeong Jun and Yeong Ok this episode, and while it’s quite fleeting, it’s just nice to see them getting along, and Jeong Jun shyly opening up about the history of his love life, because Yeong Ok wants to know.
And, how swoony, that when Yeong Ok asks him when he’d started to like her, he whispers, “From the moment I saw you.”
Eee! So sweet, and so swoony. 😍 Why can’t we have more of this, please?
E11. It’s nice to see that Jeong Jun’s still as smitten with Yeong Ok as ever, but it’s also not great, that Yeong Ok’s behavior is still rubbing the other haenyeos the wrong way, so much so that they’re now determined to ostracize her until she drops out on her own.
I find it interesting to watch Jeong Jun navigate this, because he’s always been the sort not to get involved in stuff, but he likes Yeong Ok a great deal, and wouldn’t want her to actually be in danger.
It’s really not an easy position to be in, and I like that he finds an opportunity to talk with Yeong Ok nicely during their trip, to ask her to dive close to the others, so that she’ll stay safe.
He doesn’t get a lot of success, but I just like his approach, where he’s not smothering Yeong Ok, but is still trying to nudge her in a direction that would be helpful.
Also, how cute, that he accidentally confesses his love for Yeong Ok, while trying to persuade her to dive safely, because no matter how much he loves her, he wouldn’t be able to save her, if she got into trouble during a dive. Aw.
They really do very cute and very happy together, as they hang out and snuggle and laugh together, during their trip.
The awkwardness that ensues, after they recklessly decide to miss their ferry, is secondhand embarrassing – though still quite cute and amusing – from where I’m sitting.
The way Jeong Jun fidgets while Yeong Ok’s in the shower, and then does those pushups, before feeling his pecs briefly before clearing his throat, and continuing to pace, is so embarrassingly pitch perfect, ha.
Yeong Ok’s feeling just as awkward too, with the way she fidgets and starting downing more beer, while Jeong Jun takes a shower (which, shower scene alert – Woob’s looking as, er, strong and healthy as ever, ahem. 😜).
I’m actually quite relieved that they end up making a pact that nothing will happen between them that night, because they’re both too tipsy, and they don’t want to wake up not having any memory of what had happened the night before.
I like that they spend the time chatting, and it does feel healthy that they would talk about the expectations that they have of each other.
The fact that Yeong Ok says they they shouldn’t be serious, and should just stay bright and have fun when they’re together, does give me pause. I don’t think that that’s what Jeong Jun has in mind, even though he smiles agreeably when she makes that request.
When Jeong Jun asks Yeong Ok about her parents, and she tells him about them having been painters before she and “Disaster” were born, I do feel that she’s giving him an honest, if not complete, answer.
So.. the mysterious calls that she keeps getting, could be from her sibling “Disaster,” then?
Which means.. that call that Jeong Jun ends up picking up, despite his efforts to studiously avoid it, might just be “Disaster,” as well?
I’m actually a little worried about how Yeong Ok would respond, when she realizes that Jeong Jun’s answered her phone.
Yeong Ok’s struck me as being obsessively private about her phone calls, and even though she’s being open towards Jeong Jun, I somehow don’t think she’s quite ready for him to answer her calls. Eep.
E12. First of all, I’m really glad that the fact that Jeong Jun picks up Yeong Ok’s phone doesn’t become a negative, awkward thing between them.
I mean, it’s a touch awkward at first, with Yeong Ok leaving the cabin to take the call outside, but afterwards, when Jeong Jun comes outside with cans of beer, and casually asks who the call had been from, it goes.. pretty well, I’d say.
Yeong Ok doesn’t give a direct answer, but she tells Jeong Jun what he wants to know: that she doesn’t have some other man, nor does she have a hidden child on the mainland.
I suspect that Jeong Jun only really wants to know that she doesn’t have another man somewhere, honestly, because I’m pretty sure that if Yeong Ok indeed had a hidden child somewhere, that Jeong Jun would be pretty understanding as well.
The way Jeong Jun grins happily that he’s ready to take on anything, “Bring it on. I’ll take care of them. Because you’re mine,” is super cute, and I completely echo Yeong Ok as she looks as him and says, “How are you so cute?”
INDEED. How IS he so cute?? 😍
I’m not at all surprised that Jeong Jun’s unconditional acceptance of whatever things or people Yeong Ok hasn’t revealed, triggers Yeong Ok to declare that she’s no longer tipsy, ie, she’s ready for some sexytimes, after all. Heh.
Yeong Ok and Yeong Hui [SPOILERS]
The story between Yeong Ok and Yeong Hui was one that I really appreciated, among Show’s various arcs.
Not only does this arc give us insight into the life and challenges for someone with Down’s Syndrome, it also shines the spotlight on the psychological effect that this can have, on family members, particularly siblings who feel that it is their duty to take care of them for life.
There are no easy answers to this situation, but I appreciate that Show approaches this delicate topic with realness and sensitivity.
E14. We finally get the details of Yeong Ok’s backstory, this episode.
With the introduction of Yeong Hui, and the backstory of how Yeong Ok had left Seoul on the pretext of earning money, and then had slowly visited Yeong Hui less and less, it suddenly all makes sense, as to why Yeong Hui is texting Yeong Ok all the time, asking when she’s going to visit.
It’s easy to imagine how burdened and suffocated Yeong Ok must feel, given that she’s Yeong Hui’s only family, and foresees that it will be her lifetime assignment, to take care of Yeong Hui.
At the same time, Show does an effective and efficient job, of showing us how lonely and neglected Yeong Hui feels, as she goes about her routine in Seoul, while constantly thinking of her sister.
I can see how frustrated Yeong Hui is, that she would try to just leave for Jeju on her own, right after work, just like that.
In the context of what Yeong Ok’s experienced with past boyfriends, who all ended up leaving her because they perceived Yeong Hui as a burden, I can see why Yeong Ok is so insistent on keeping things light and casual with Jeong Jun.
When they’re together, they are adorable and cute, and that highlight reel of them, happily snuggling together at a bed and breakfast place, is so natural and sparky, that I feel like a voyeur peeping at a pair of real-life lovers.
And the way they play fun little games, like calling pick-up lines to each other when they’re driving side by side, is so cute as well.
It’s like a completely different world, than the one where Yeong Ok sees herself having to care for Yeong Hui, and I can see why it’s a record-scratching moment for her, when she gets that call from Yeong Hui’s caregiver, Ms. Jang, to say that Yeong Hui’s coming to Jeju.
I can understand Yeong Ok’s instinct to keep her two worlds separate, and her conclusion that this means it’s time to break up with Jeong Jun.
That said, it really is pretty heartless, the way she drops that bombshell on Jeong Jun, that she feels burdened by his talk of marrying her, and wants them to go back to just being Captain and haenyeo, like before.
I’m not surprised that Jeong Jun won’t accept her decision, and I’m actually pretty glad that he keeps pursuing her, even though she keeps pulling away.
Y’know, given how Yeong Ok’s been avoiding Yeong Hui for so long, I’m pleasantly surprised at how amiable and affectionate their sibling dynamic is, when Yeong Ok picks Yeong Hui up at the airport.
It’s a little unfortunate that Jeong Jun’s too shocked to respond in a more supportive and accepting manner, but I like that he doesn’t waste much time, in making up for it.
The way he later introduces himself to Yeong Hui as Yeong Ok’s boyfriend is respectful, which is great, and the way he tells Yeong Ok that he will absolutely not break up with her, is likely just the sort of persistence that Yeong Ok needs, to persuade her to give him a chance.
I personally really like the idea of Persistent Jeong Jun, breaking down Yeong Ok’s barriers with patience and love, so I’m keen to see how this develops.
I’m also keen to see how Yeong Hui settles into the Jeju community.
So far, I’m already loving how the fishing group has welcomed her so warmly, and I’m particularly taken with how Grandma Hyeon and Grandma Kang talk to her with so much kindness and affection.
I’d love to see more of Yeong Hui being welcomed and absorbed into the Jeju community.
E15. It really is heartwarming to see how the Jeju folks embrace her and dote on Yeong Hui, like she’s the most precious darling in the world.
While everyone’s so welcoming of Yeong Hui, I can understand Yeong Ok feeling all torn and conflicted about this.
On the one hand, she is very affectionate and loving to Yeong Hui, like in the way she applies cream to Yeong Hui’s face, and medication on her sores, and in the way she snuggles with her.
On the other hand, Yeong Ok knows all too well, how difficult it would be, to live with Yeong Hui, and so she chooses to keep an emotional distance, to facilitate Yeong Hui going back to her caregiver, instead of wanting to stay with her.
It’s a difficult, delicate situation, and I can see why Yeong Hui would have all that emotional baggage on her. Even though she knows that Yeong Ok loves her, she is also fully aware that Yeong Ok prefers not to live with her, and that’s got to be hard too.
There’s a sense of pathos in the scenes of Yeong Hui taking solitude in her art, and then going back to being cheerful again.
She says that she draws every time she misses Yeong Ok, and I get the sense that this isn’t only when she’s apart from Yeong Ok; that sometimes, she feels lonely, even when Yeong Ok’s right there.
I feel for Yeong Ok when she has that outburst with Jeong Jun, because it’s clear that she’s had more than her fair share of struggles, in trying to take care of Yeong Hui, and that, and the guilt that she’s a bad sister, have been wearing on her, all these years.
I do appreciate that even in the midst of her frustration, Yeong Ok is cognizant of the fact that as hard as it is for her, Yeong Hui has it much harder.
Guh. It really is a difficult situation with no easy answers.
I’m glad that Jeong Jun’s there for her, and is non-judgmental and supportive, like the sweetheart that he is.
My heart really goes out to Yeong Hui, though, as she sits out in the cold, drawing, and crying, and pretending that she can’t hear everything that Yeong Ok’s ranting about. That’s really quite heartbreaking. 😭
For all of Yeong Hui’s limitations, I do feel that she has a keener sense and maturity about her, than most people give her credit for.
Notably, after Yeong Ok’s outburst that Yeong Hui overhears, Yeong Hui puts on a cheerful face whenever she’s with Yeong Ok, and never mentions again, the idea that perhaps she should stay on in Jeju instead of going back to Seoul.
I’m so sure that that’s all for Yeong Ok’s sake. That’s Yeong Hui being a caring unni, and it’s so poignant and touching, really.
I’m really glad that Yeong Hui feels comfortable enough with Jeong Jun to show him her art pieces, and ask his opinion of them.
Specifically, she asks if he thinks that Yeong Ok would like them, and I think that that’s very likely the reason Yeong Hui’s kept her art hidden all this time; because she hadn’t been sure that Yeong Ok would think they were good. Aw.
I love that Jeong Jun knows just what to do, in this situation, sweet soul that he is. Not only does he assure Yeong Hui that Yeong Ok will love the drawings and paintings, he guides Yeong Hui to name her paintings, AND he makes an artist’s seal for her, so that she can stamp each one too.
Gosh, I luff him.
And it feels quite perfect, that he and Yeong Hui put up the pieces in his bus, so that Yeong Ok gets to enjoy them in private, after Yeong Hui boards her flight back to Seoul.
Aw. I kind of wish that Yeong Hui would have shown Yeong Ok the paintings in person, but this is meaningful too.
I’m glad that Yeong Ok gets to see just how talented and loving Yeong Hui is; Yeong Hui’s literally poured her love for Yeong Ok, into all of her drawings of Yeong Ok.
It’s overwhelming, and poignant, and bittersweet, and heartbreaking, and I can see why Yeong Ok would be brought to deep, guttural sobs, as she processes all of it.
There’s no easy solution to Yeong Ok’s and Yeong Hui’s situation, but I’m glad that in the time we’ve spent on their arc, they’ve come to a better place of mutual understanding.
And that can only help them going forward, yes?
Shin Min Ah as Seon A
Seon A’s story is one of Show’s more difficult arcs, because it deals with the difficult topic of depression, and its effects, not only on the person suffering from it, but also, on the people around them.
I appreciate that Show demonstrates that there are no easy answers, and that dealing with depression is an on-going process that requires time and professional intervention.
At the same time, I very much appreciate that Show chooses to wrap up this arc on a note of hope and progress.
E4. I already find my heart going out to Shin Min Ah’s character, Seon A, whom we see suffering from depression, as our episode opens.
We don’t really know anything about her, except for the fact that she’d turned down Dong Seok, when he’d tried to make a romantic move.
Now, it looks like she’s gotten married and had a baby.
Perhaps she’s suffering from post-natal depression? Although, if that’s the case, then it means that she’s been suffering from it for some years now, since her kid is old enough to go to kindergarten.
I feel bad for her and for her husband Tae Hun (Jung Sung Il), because it looks like they’re both doing everything that they can, but they’re both exhausted and are running dangerously close to empty. I feel like if nothing changes soon, their marriage could be in serious danger.
Tae Hun is helpful in the sense that he tries to keep the house running, and take care of their son, but he’s also unhelpful in the sense that his words to Seon A are basically only making her feel worse.
You can’t get better from depression just because you want to, and he seems to not really get that. In his exasperated tone towards her, it almost feels like he’s blaming her for not getting better, even though he seems to understand that she needs medical attention.
As for Seon A, it’s heartbreaking to see her try, only to have her mind run away from her.
That scene, where she thinks she’s just taking a shower to clean herself up, only to have the entire day slip by her, such that Tae Hun gets called to pick up their son because she completely missed the timing, is sad, because it feels like Seon A is fighting a losing battle.
E6. Over on Seon A’s side of things, I have to admit I was rather surprised that so much had happened since the last time Show shone the spotlight on her story.
Off-screen, she’s gotten divorced, and then now, in a matter of quick minutes, she finds herself in a custody battle for her son, because she gets into a car accident while driving him home from school.
I feel for Seon A, because it’s clear that she’s trying so very hard to be a worthy mom and guardian for Yeol (Kim Ha Eon), and at the same time, I can totally see that it’s not the safest option, for her to be Yeol’s sole guardian, at least for now.
Show isn’t super clear on why Seon A goes to Jeju Island, but I’m guessing that she goes there for some solace, and to perhaps clear her mind, because, as the flashback shows, she’d lived on Jeju Island, when she was growing up.
I’m guessing that she felt that she might be comforted, in going back to a hometown, after everything that’s happened with her ex-husband and Yeol and the custody battle.
E6. I’m not terribly surprised that Seon A jumps off that pier, because we can see how Yeol’s answer, that Mom is sick and can’t play with him, has been eating away at her all episode, from the moment she hears him say it, in the video.
Plus, she’d told the Child and Family Investigator lady, that she can’t live without Yeol. I’m not surprised that for Seon A, this is literal, and I’m also not surprised, that with her condition, she’d succumb to suicidal thoughts, arising from all this.
I’m just glad that there are people there to help her.
The question is, how will this community help Seon A to heal? Depression’s no small deal, and it’s not something you can just snap out of, with some warm-hearted lovin’ from a community.
I’m curious to see how Show approaches this, going forward.
E11. It makes sense to me that when we wrap up Seon A’s story, her journey is still something that’s very much a work in progress.
I’m glad that she finds a way to talk things out with Yeol so that he understands what she’s going through, and what he means to her.
That conversation that Seon A has with Tae Hun afterwards, where she clarifies that she only plans to appeal for custody of Yeol, when she’s stronger and better, feels very significant.
This is Seon A making a firm decision to concentrate on getting better, so that Yeol will be the one who needs her, and not the other way around.
I’m so glad that Tae Hun sees that too, and tells her that when that day comes, she doesn’t need to appeal; that he’d be glad to have her raise Yeol.
Aw. That is such a gesture of peace and understanding from Tae Hun; I like it a lot.
Dong Seok and Seon A
I have to admit that the arc exploring the connection between Dong Seok and Seon A wasn’t a personal favorite of mine, even though Show leans into this arc quite a bit.
However, I must say that I am impressed that Show finds a way to connect these two individuals in a meaningful and believable manner, even though they are as different as chalk and cheese, and appear to have a great deal of emotional baggage between them.
It wasn’t always easy watching these two, but I have to admit that by the end, I did find it worthwhile.
E6. Now that we know more about Dong Seok, and how he tends to hold grudges for a long time, I’m not sure where Show is going with the connection between him and Seon A.
To my eyes, this looks like a potential recipe for disaster, because Seon A is so mentally and emotionally fragile due to her depression and her personal situation, and Dong Seok is so brusque and judgey.
I mean, I know that Dong Seok’s not a bad person, especially since he helps Seon A start her stalled car, even though he’s peeved about it, but.. I just can’t see him being a significant source of help for Seon A, right now.
Also, I’m uncertain of what to make of the flashback that we get, to their teen years, where Dong Seok, all bruised, reaches out to hug Seon A to himself, while she sleeps.
Um. That seems weird? I’d like to get more context around that.
E7. I do wonder how true it is, that Seon A fell in, because she’d felt dizzy.
I mean, from the way she doesn’t appear to fight her way back to the surface, even a little bit, and instead seems to yield to the water, it seems to me like she’d jumped in there to die, because she was too overwhelmed at the thought of losing custody of her son.
Dong Seok’s right to be suspicious about Seon A’s claim that it had simply been an accident.
Speaking of whom, I find it quite heartening, actually, to see Dong Seok show concern for Seon A, in his gruff way. For all of his angry bluster and bitterness, he does care about her.
And right now, to me, that care feels like it comes from a place of compassion, like one human feeling sympathy for another, and I like that. For someone who holds grudges as fiercely and tightly as Dong Seok tends to do, this feels pretty huge, for him.
E9. I found the flashbacks to Dong Seok’s and Seon A’s younger days so illuminating. Suddenly, a lot more stuff in the present makes sense.
For example, seeing young Seon A being so reticent and silent in middle school, suddenly makes adult Seon A’s behavior appear so much more organic, in that, I suddenly see that this is how she’s always been.
She’s not staying silent with Dong Seok in that 7-years-ago flashback because she’s being weird; she’s not staying silent with her husband in that other flashback because she’s being difficult; she’s always been like this.
And while she’d been like this, Dong Seok had managed to bond with her.
That youthful, almost silent bond between them was really poignant to watch; I felt so drawn in to their connection, even though we only really see a few minutes of it, this episode.
The way Dong Seok speaks up for her and protects her; the way they look out for each other and pass each other snacks; the way he gives her rides on his motorbike; the way she runs over to his house, when she wants to get away from the fighting in her own house.
The way he wraps her up in his blanket; the way he lets her sleep in his room but tells her that he won’t touch her; the way he hugs her to sleep, to keep her warm; the way they seem to talk about the most important things, while not saying a whole lot.
I was so very taken in by this youthful bond, where it’s clear that they’re both suffering, when it comes to their families. They are literally each other’s solace and safe place, and it feels special, and unique, and precious.
This explains why Dong Seok cares so much about Seon A, despite his blustery anger towards her. What they’d had, had been so special, that he just can’t ignore her, no matter what.
And that blustery anger makes so much sense too, once we see how they’d parted, back in the day.
That flashback, of how enraged Dong Seok had been, when he’d thought that his friend had slept with Seon A, is so gutting to watch.
There’s so much hurt, and pain, and fury, meshed into one, as Dong Seok attacks that friend, as well as the half-brothers who’d always beaten him up.
On that note, I thought this was an excellent, pitch-perfect performance by Ryu Hae Jun, who plays young Dong Seok. This looks to be his drama debut, and I’m already quite struck by his screen presence.
I’m glad that Seon A finally provides Dong Seok with the answers that he’s seeking, this episode, for what had really happened that day.
It’s so sad that young Seon A had thought that ruining herself by sleeping with a boy would provide her father with the wake-up call that she thought could save him.
And it’s so tragic to learn that her father had killed himself that very day, and that Seon A had been the witness to that.
It’s no wonder she’d started suffering from depression from that point onwards. Because, seeing your parent kill himself has got to mess you up pretty bad, right?
It’s also sad to hear that Dong Seok had actually run away from Jeju Island that same day as well, in an effort to make a new life for himself elsewhere.
It’s heartbreaking to realize that the special bond which both Dong Seok and Seon A had held so dear, had been wrenched apart, just like that, on that fateful day.
I’m glad that they finally have the truth out between them, all these years later. I do think that late is better than never, and I do like seeing them be friends again.
And, it does seem like Dong Seok’s forthright nature is doing something helpful for Seon A, like the way he encourages her to cuss at her ex-husband if she wants to.
I do think that in some way, it’s liberating for Seon A to articulate some of the hurt and anger that she’s been feeling on the inside.
At the same time, I do think that Dong Seok is right to be concerned, that Seon A doesn’t seem to want to entertain the possibility that she might lose the custody battle for her son.
His question is my question too: what would Seon A do, if she lost? And, the unspoken question here, is, does she plan to die, if she loses..? 😬
E10. We spend almost the entirety of this episode with Dong Seok and Seon A, and I have to confess that one hour later, I’m no clearer on where Show is going, with this arc.
However, as before, I do feel properly invested and interested, in their journeys.
What I mean by not being clearer on where Show is going with this arc, is, I don’t know what the end game looks like.
I don’t know if Seon A gaining custody of Yeol is endgame, and I don’t know what kind of relationship between Dong Seok and Seon A is going to be endgame.
At this point, it looks like things could go either way, for both arcs, and I’m genuinely curious to see how it all unfolds.
While I do think that Dong Seok still has feelings for Seon A, I believe that he’s genuinely respecting Seon A’s stated thoughts on the matter, that she doesn’t feel that way about him anymore, and things are just different for her, now.
Therefore, I think that Dong Seok’s efforts to help Seon A spruce up that house, pulling all-nighters and all, aren’t because he’s trying to woo her.
In fact, I think he’s sincerely concerned for her, and wants to help her. And, I do feel like he would continue to help her, even if she continues to tell him that she doesn’t like him romantically like she once did.
From where I’m sitting, I am of the opinion that Dong Seok’s insistence on going to Seoul with Seon A, is out of concern, more than anything else.
After all, she is going to Seoul for the custody trial, and she’s been in denial that there’s a possibility that she might lose, plus she’s suffering from depression and has some suicidal tendencies.
I imagine that Dong Seok is worried that Seon A would be unable to handle it, all by herself, if she were to lose the trial. And I think that’s why he insists on going with her, even though she seems to find it a bother that he would come along.
On top of that, I do think that he’s trying to help Seon A get any edge that she can, in the custody trial. Like, insisting that they go ride horses, and take photos and videos with the horses, the moment he realizes that Yeol loves horses.
In the moment, with Seon A insisting that she doesn’t want to ride the horse, and wants to leave, Dong Seok does appear to be rather clueless and insensitive to her feelings.
However, on hindsight, when we see Yeol getting all excited at the horse photos on Seon A’s phone, Dong Seok’s good intentions become a lot clearer.
And then there’s how much effort Dong Seok puts into helping Seon A get that horse plushie for Yeol, even though the store owner is reluctant to sell it to them.
He goes to quite a lot of trouble, borrowing a ladder from the next shop, and climbing up to get that horse plushie, all so that Seon A will be able to give it to Yeol, and help him feel better, and sleep better.
It’s really very kind, honestly.
On a tangent, Dong Seok’s repeated mantra, that there’s no next time, might seem really brusque and overbearing at times.
However, when he actually tells the story of how he’d missed the chance of apologizing to his sister, because she’d died suddenly while diving, his insistence on living in the now, and doing everything in the now, makes a lot more sense.
It really is sweet to see Yeol welcome the sight of Seon A, and it’s great that they seem to have such a fun time together, on his birthday.
The fact is, though, Seon A’s mentally unwell, and that does make her an unstable choice as Yeol’s guardian.
Even though she might have stretches of stability and normalcy, it might only take one thing, to trigger her, and then Yeol might end up getting hurt.
The incident where Seon A goes a bit hysterical because she doesn’t want to say goodbye to Yeol, and ends up frightening him, and almost hurting his arm, is just a small example of what might happen, when Seon A’s not doing well.
And when you’re a child’s sole guardian, this possibility of danger lurking around the corner, is just not the kind of chance that you should take.
On that note, even though I do find Tae Hun rather too brusque with Seon A, I can understand his reluctance to leave Yeol alone with Seon A. I would be worried too, that Seon A might have some kind of relapse, and that Yeol might end up hurt because of it.
So while I feel bad for Seon A, that she loses the custody trial, I actually agree with the court’s decision, because I just don’t think Seon A’s well enough to take sole custody of Yeol, at the moment.
In the wake of Seon A losing the custody trial, I appreciate that Dong Seok stays with her and doesn’t leave her side, even when she tells him that she’d rather be alone.
With her depressive tendencies, I wouldn’t feel safe leaving Seon A alone, when she’s just received such upsetting news.
That said, I’m really not sure that Dong Seok’s efforts to help Seon A see things differently, help at all.
I’m no expert on depression, but I do know enough to know that there’s no easy fix here. Which means that Dong Seok’s efforts to give Seon A those little pep talks, are probably not very helpful at all.
However, his point, that if she doesn’t break out of this depression somehow, that Yeol would likely end up suffering because of it, is a rather penetrating one. I can see how that might be true.
If Seon A ends up killing herself because of her depression, or if she sinks into that depression, and allow it to ruin her life, Yeol would certainly feel the ripples of that, in his life, one way or another.
And I do think that if there’s anything in the world that would give Seon A the determination to get better, it would be the thought that she’s doing it for Yeol.
Also, it’s nice to see Seon A smile at the end of the episode, even if it’s over something as random as Dong Seok’s recordings, where he announces his wares in that singsong way.
It feels important and significant, that Seon A finally articulates that she wants to be happy. And it’s nice, that Dong Seok echoes her sentiment for himself, because this shows that she’s not alone.
I’m curious to know what that final handhold at the tail end of the episode means.
The vibe I get, in seeing Seon A reach for Dong Seok’s hand with a smile, is that this is more familial than anything else; that it’s an expression of solidarity, as they both look ahead to the future, in pursuit of happiness.
However, I’m not ruling out the possibility that Seon A might have had a change of heart, and is finally seeing Dong Seok in a romantic light again.
E11. This episode, we get closure for Dong Seok and Seon A’s arc, and I must say, I really like how Show ties up this arc.
For one thing, I’m really happy with how things don’t take a romantic turn, between Dong Seok and Seon A.
I mean, that handhold that we got last episode, had looked platonic to me, but I have to admit to feeling relief, that we get confirmation this episode, that it really had been purely platonic.
I also really like the tone of Dong Seok’s and Seon A’s interactions.
They really do talk openly and honestly with each other, and I’m actually most struck by the fact that Dong Seok would even tell Seon A that listening to her talk about Yeol, has made him curious about how his mother feels about him.
First, it feels like such a significant thing, that Dong Seok would even talk about it, since he’s always seemed consistently touchy about the subject, with a tendency to explode in a fit of anger, whenever anyone tries to talk to him about his mom.
On top of that, I’m amazed that Seon A is able to respond to that, by talking about her own experience with her father, and how she regrets not asking him about things, or encouraging him with her presence, when she’d had the chance.
I feel like Seon A is quite possibly the only person in the world who could talk to Dong Seok like this, and not have him triggered into a deep-seated rage.
While it’s a bit of a bummer for Dong Seok that Seon A decides to stay in Seoul in order to be near Yeol, I do think that this is the decision that makes the most sense for Seon A. I just can’t imagine her living anywhere else, if Yeol is going to be in Seoul.
Additionally, I feel like she’d be in a better position to get therapy while in Seoul, which is something that she needs.
I’m glad that Dong Seok sees the wisdom in her decision, and is quick to brush aside his disappointment, and just focus on helping Seon A get her life together.
It’s an unconventional idea that Dong Seok floats, of bringing Seon A’s bed out into the living room, and turning the master bedroom into a dressing room cum living room for Seon A, but it really does seem like the best solution, given her situation.
I really enjoyed watching them making those changes, and getting the apartment rearranged in a new way, to accommodate Seon A’s new direction in life. That feels fitting and perfect.
Overall, I really like the vibe that Dong Seok and Seon A settle on. They’re not romantic, but they agree to stay in close contact, so that Seon A feels supported whenever she needs it. It’s pretty great.
I’m also glad that Seon A isn’t the only one benefiting from the time that they’ve spent together.
I’m glad that when Dong Seok texts her, he tells her that thanks to her, he now believes in “next time” again. That’s nice.
E15. It’s nice to see that Seon A’s been sending photos and videos to Dong Seok, and it’s great that, in this case, it’s Jeong Jun who acts as the voice of reason, pointing Dong Seok to the fact that this is Seon A’s way of connecting with him, and showing him that she misses him.
It’s down-to-earth and sweet, the way Dong Seok chooses to respond, by sending her photos of the house that he’s been working on, in her absence.
Grandma Hyeon and Eun Gi
Grandma Hyeon’s arc with Eun Gi is a pretty tough one to watch, not gonna lie.
However, like I mentioned earlier in this review, despite the tough subject matter, Show manages to remain engaging.
Without getting into spoilers, let me just say that I found myself fully invested in this arc, even as I braced myself for possible heartbreak.
E16. This was a pretty tough episode. And I get the feeling that Show’s not done with being tough to watch, either. 💔
I mean, we do start with some heartwarming family moments involving Eun Gi and her parents, Man Su and Hae Seon, so it’s not all doom and gloom.
And, I was thrilled to realize that the actress playing Hae Seon, is Min Ji Ah, the actress who played the wonderful Cho Bok in Chuno (review is here, Open Threads are listed here)! I knew that I knew that amazing smile from somewhere! 🤩
But, with the way Show was setting it up, I kind of felt it in my bones, that Something Terrible was going to happen to Man Su, and soon.
The only silver lining, I suppose, is that Man Su’s still alive, rather than dead, after the accident.
At least this way, we can hope that he’ll make it..? Although, with the way Show is playing it, it’s hard to tell which way this is going to go.
I feel that Grandma Hyeon deserves to know that her son is in the hospital, but I can see why Hae Seon would feel that it’s better not to tell her, for fear of shocking her unnecessarily, and causing her to suffer some kind of health setback because of the shock.
I have to say, that even though I understood Hae Seon’s intentions, I still felt conflicted at the scene of her coaching Eun Gi (Ki So Yu) on the lies to tell Grandma. 😔
And, knowing what we know, that Man Su’s in a serious condition in the hospital, gives all the scenes of a happy Grandma Hyeon looking forward to her granddaughter’s visit, a distinct layer of pathos.
Then, when Eun Gi actually arrives to stay with Grandma Hyeon for 2 weeks, it was a little trying to watch her cry so much, to be brutally honest.
I think that the idea is to show us the effect of a generation gap, as well as a gap between the Jeju lifestyle and the mainland lifestyle, but it was really quite exhausting to watch. But.. that’s probably the point.
If it was exhausting for me just to watch, imagine how exhausting it must be, for Grandma Hyeon, to try to pacify this inconsolable little girl?
On this point, even though Grandma Hyeon does appear to be a little bit mean in the way she treats Eun Gi, I don’t think she means to be mean. I think that’s just Show demonstrating the gruff ways of many Jeju folk.
Also, those little threats, like “if you don’t listen to me, I’ll call your mom and tell her not to come get you,” are totally the kind of thing that I would expect of a certain generation. I remember hearing similar things, as a little kid myself.
And, those were certainly not meant to actually be real threats. It’s just.. people of a certain generation just didn’t find it unkind to say such things, for some reason.
Of course, Grandma Hyeon would’ve certainly not said anything like that, if she’d thought for a second, that Hae Seon might have actually abandoned her daughter.
I hate that that other vegetable seller granny said that thing about Eun Gi likely having been abandoned by her mother, because Eun Gi didn’t need that, but it’s also true that sometimes people say thoughtless and unnecessary things, just for the heck of it.
Poor Eun Gi. Like it’s not enough that she’s holding in this secret that her dad is very sick in the hospital. Now she’s grappling with the thought that maybe her mom’s abandoned her like what other people are saying.
I do like how the other folks at the market rally around and dote on Eun Gi, when Grandma Hyeon leaves her with Dong Seok.
It’s heartwarming, the way everyone fusses over the fact that Eun Gi is Man Su’s daughter. Aw. This does make everyone seem like one big happy family.
As we end off the episode, Grandma Hyeon’s getting more and more suspicious that something’s not quite right, and Hae Seon’s sobbing in the hospital, while the doctors work to resuscitate Man Su.
Gah. This is hard to watch.
Is it too much to hope that Man Su will make it out of this alive, so that Eun Gi won’t lose her dad, and Grandma Hyeon won’t lose the only son she has left? 😭😭
E17. We spend the bulk of the episode on Grandma Hyeon’s arc, and it works out to be really heartbreaking stuff.
While it’s nice to see Grandma Hyeon and Eun Gi learn to get along a little better, this just becomes extra poignant, when we put it in the context that Grandma Hyeon’s sole surviving son is on the brink of death at the hospital.
I’d guessed that Grandma Hyeon would find out somehow, that Man Su’s in critical condition at the hospital, and I’d felt that she deserved to know, but it was still heartbreaking to watch, nonetheless.
Normally, Grandma Hyeon comes across as so strong and on top of things, that it’s actually quite startling to see her lose herself to her grief.
A lot of it is internalized, like when she sits silently in the ferry, making her way to Mokpo, to confirm her worst fears.
You can see there is worry in her eyes, but other than that, she’s got it together, and she’s able to function, and get herself to the supermarket to ask for Hae Seon.
Put into context, though, remembering that Grandma Hyeon’s lost every other immediate family member in her life, including 3 other sons before Man Su, and I can only imagine the kind of horror and grief that must be building up within her, as she goes through the steps of finding Man Su.
Even as Grandma Hyeon sees Man Su in the ICU for the first time, there’s heartbreak in her eyes, but there’s also a stoicism and steeliness about her, that comes through in how she’s able to focus on wiping down Man Su’s hands and face, versus, say, breaking down in tears right then and there.
That strength that Grandma Hyeon keeps pushing through, actually breaks my heart, because I can imagine how just much she’s hurting, even as she continues to do what she feels she needs to do.
When Hae Seon tells her that Man Su’s sure to wake up soon, the kind of common sense that Grandma Hyeon shows, reminds me of my own mum.
Of course, as a mother, Grandma Hyeon wants Man Su to survive this, but the stoic Asian in her also sees the practical parts of this equation, and realizes that Man Su’s in a much worse condition than Hae Seon would like to admit.
The way she tells Hae Seon afterwards, to do what the doctors say, and allow Man Su to go, if he needs to go, is, again, her stoicism at play.
It’s not what she wants in her heart, but she can see that this is likely the way things are going to go, and this is her practical way to responding to the situation.
Her statement, that Eun Gi will come to live with her, is also a practical consideration for Hae Seon, because if Hae Seon were to keep Eun Gi with her, there’s enough stigma around single moms in Korea, that it would be difficult for Hae Seon to live as one, let alone start over to find a new life.
On one level, Grandma Hyeon might come across as cold, for how practical her actions are, but for a particular generation that’s seen a lot of hardship and loss, this is not that unusual. This is their way of coping, while the pain is hidden and internalized. 💔
We only really catch a glimpse of Grandma Hyeon’s true heart, when she returns to Jeju and Grandma Kang asks her about Man Su.
You can feel all of Grandma Hyeon’s heartbreak in her voice, as she tells her best friend that she’s informed her daughter-in-law that she should let her son die. 😭
It’s deeply heartbreaking, and my heart goes out to Grandma Hyeon so much, because in this situation, it really feels like there’s nothing to do, but let Man Su go.
I do find it touching, that Grandma Kang feels the pain so acutely, that she would sob and grieve in her own way. That’s how close she and Grandma Hyeon are; she feels Grandma Hyeon’s pain so viscerally, that it feels like it’s her own son who’s in the ICU.
Although it’s painful to watch Grandma Hyeon finally lose her cool when Eun Gi inadvertently pokes at her wounds in asking after the people in the photographs, I do think that it’s needful, for Grandma Hyeon to allow herself to vent and cry and wail and sob, because that pain needs to be acknowledged and processed.
The only silver lining to this story, this episode, is how everyone comes together for Grandma Hyeon, to create the 100 moons that Man Su had promised Eun Gi.
That really is very poignant, to know that Grandma Hyeon and Man Su are so loved by the Jeju community, that every boat captain would go out on the water at night, on short notice, some agreeing even when it was still storming, in order to fulfill Grandma Hyeon’s promise to Eun Gi, to show her the 100 moons.
With so much love pouring out towards Grandma Hyeon and Man Su this night, I can’t help holding out hope, that there might be some kind of miracle for Man Su, before this arc concludes.
E18. First of all, ohthankgoodness Man Su’s ok.
When the episode started, and we didn’t get any update on Man Su, I’d honestly felt kind of weirded out. Like, surely where we’d ended last episode, isn’t where Man Su’s story ends?
Later, we do get confirmation that he’s alive, phew, and YAY. Plus, he’s even able to speak, albeit weakly, so things are looking up for him and his family.
That said, I did think it was an odd choice to end our previous arc like this, almost like in the form of an afterthought, particularly when the arc itself had been so emotional and heartrending last episode.
I rationalize that perhaps the point was that Grandma Hyeon had all the love and support of her community to see her through this tough time, but.. that still doesn’t take away the weirdness of the choice to update us about Man Su in such a casual, tacked-on kind of manner.
But, because I’m so relieved that Man Su’s doing ok, I won’t quibble over this too much.
Grandma Hyeon and Grandma Kang
I just wanted to give a quick shout-out to the friendship and sisterhood between Grandma Hyeon and Grandma Kang.
Even though they are typically so reserved and gruff, the love and care that they have for each other, is so clear to see.
I completely believe that they see each other as family, and for life.
It really moved me, to see them care about each other, and each other’s family, like their own. It literally feels like there are no boundaries or secrets between these two, and I found that very touching indeed. ❤️
Dong Seok and Grandma Kang
The relationship between Dong Seok and Grandma Kang is pretty painful to watch, from the get-go.
There is so much angst and even animosity in Dong Seok, that you just know that there’s going to be a great deal of emotional baggage to unpack.
To Show’s credit, I do think that it does a solid job of exploring this relationship, and providing as much healing and closure as can be realistically expected, given the circumstances.
I talk more about this arc in the spotlight on the penultimate and finale episodes, but because I have some thoughts on this arc in the episodes prior to those, here they are.
E17. We begin the episode being reminded of Grandma Kang’s terminal condition, in that I’m pretty sure that her request to Dong Seok, which is deemed out of character by Dong Seok, has something to do with how she’s been getting her affairs in order, in preparation for her death.
I get the feeling that if she wasn’t preparing for her death, she wouldn’t have made that call to Dong Seok. And, judging from Dong Seok’s incredulous reaction to her request, it seems that she’s gone years without making a similar request of Dong Seok.
It does make me wonder what Grandma Kang has in mind, as she asks this of Dong Seok.
I really hope that they’ll be able to experience some healing – of themselves and their relationship – in the time that she has left.
E18. This episode, Show turns its focus to Dong Seok and Grandma Kang and their painfully estranged, complicated relationship.
It’s a difficult, delicate situation and topic, and I feel that cultural context – your own, as well as your understanding of Korean cultural context – will play a big part in how you receive and digest this arc.
I believe I heard rumblings on Patreon that what Grandma Kang did to Dong Seok was unforgivable, for the simple fact that there was abuse involved.
I can respect that opinion. I do think that this is a view that is most likely coming through a modern and probably Western lens, because in our understanding, this is a big no-no, and no amount of context can make up for it.
On the other hand, I am getting flashes of various period shows, as I watch the flashback scenes of Grandma Kang hitting Dong Seok to make him comply with her instruction to address his stepbrothers’ mother as “Mom,” and her, as (literally) “Little Mom,” which my subs translate as “Aunt.”
This gives me the impression that Grandma Kang had entered into that second marriage as a second wife – which makes me think that it wasn’t officially a marriage, since I don’t believe polygamy is legal in Korea – and therefore, for all accounts and purposes, functioned as a concubine, much like in sageuks.
This leads me to think that she would have therefore craved legitimacy for Dong Seok, so that he wouldn’t be scorned as the son of a second wife, but would be acknowledged as part of the family register.
And of course, part of that process, is that he would need to be acknowledged as the son of the main wife.
Backing up a bit, I do think that Grandma Kang’s decision to become a second wife had been driven by circumstances.
We aren’t yet given specific details of their financial situation, but from the looks of it, with her dragging their belongings on a cart, she likely didn’t have the means to survive alone with Dong Seok.
I believe this is why she chose to become someone’s second wife, and that’s why it became important to her, that Dong Seok agree to address the main wife as “Mother.”
[SPOILER FOR PACHINKO]
The slapping scene reminds me of the scene in Pachinko, where Lee Min Ho’s character Han Su is beaten savagely by his father, who’s otherwise been nothing but loving towards him.
And the reason for that beating, is to convince Han Su to leave his father, for his own good.
[END PACHINKO SPOILER]
I get the same vibe here, that Grandma Kang had beaten Dong Seok so determinedly, because she was determined that he would live a better life by accepting his stepfather’s main wife as his mother.
Of course, this doesn’t take away the fact that Dong Seok had a horrible time, and was miserable for so much of his growing up years.
For the record, I do think that his experience sucked, and it must have been incredibly heartbreaking to believe that your own mother condoned the beatings that you received.
On that note, with my sageuk lens on, I am guessing that Grandma Kang had seen it as not being her place to speak up for Dong Seok as he got beaten, because she had relinquished her right, in having him acknowledge the main wife as his mother, most likely in order to allow Dong Seok to be on the family register.
Perhaps I should state for clarity, that I’m not condoning Grandma Kang’s actions towards Dong Seok.
What I’m trying to do, is unpack Grandma Kang’s context as much as I can, because I don’t think that she treated Dong Seok that way, just for the heck of it.
There must have been reasons for her behavior, and I think understanding those reasons is helpful in coming to a more balanced view of their relationship.
As for Grandma Kang’s reticence with Dong Seok, I am guessing that she doesn’t attempt to explain herself, because she knows that her actions have hurt him, and she’s embracing the punishment that she believes she deserves, in his anger and contempt.
In fact, I tend to think that part of the reason Grandma Kang has refused treatment for her cancer, is because she likely believes it to also be part of her punishment, for not being a better mother to Dong Seok.
As for her loyalty towards her second husband and stepsons, I’m guessing that it probably is because she sees their family as the ones who had given her and Dong Seok a way to live, when they’d been desperate.
Plus, I also think that her reticence is part of her personality, as this episode, we also see Grandma Hyeon expressing some loving frustration at Grandma Kang for being so uncommunicative.
I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing that Grandma Kang’s request for Dong Seok to take her to Mokpo, is, in her mind, a last outing with Dong Seok, before her time is up.
I’m not sure if she intends to tell Dong Seok anything significant on this trip, but I do hope that she does.
Dong Seok may not think so, but I do think that if he could hear some words of explanation and affirmation from his mother, that it would help to set him free from years of rejection and angst.
In terms of the people around Dong Seok, I do think that Seon A is the one who frames it best.
While everyone else is pushing Dong Seok to agree to take Grandma Kang to Mokpo, Seon A is the only one who tells him to do what he feels is right.
But, she also tells him, in her own way, using her own experience as a reference, the same thing that everyone else has been saying, that if he doesn’t do this, he will likely be left with regrets that he won’t be able to fix.
I do think that Seon A’s non-judgmental, non-pushy way of talking to Dong Seok about it, is a key reason why Dong Seok actually opens up and tells her about the slapping incident, which he’s never told anyone else.
All in all, I’m glad that Dong Seok agrees to take Grandma Kang to Mokpo, and that it’s more for his own sake, than for hers.
I’m hopeful that this trip, as frustrating as the beginning has been, will end up being liberating for both mother and son, in the end.
Ki Jun and Byeol
Technically, Show doesn’t give this arc a proper slot in the spotlight, but I wanted to give it a quick shout-out anyway, because I was really rather taken with the idea of it.
At about the episode 14 mark, Show teases that Ki Jun (Baek Seung Do) has a crush on Byeol, and I thought that was very endearing and adorable, particularly since he seems a little bashful about it.
I do wish that we’d gotten more time with this little loveline, but I’m reasonably satisfied with what we did get, in the end.
E14. I find myself suddenly pretty stoked to know more about Ki Jun’s arc.
Jeong Jun’s been teasing him about liking Dal Yi (Cho Hye Jung), and so, when Ki Jun asks to talk with Dal Yi in private, I’d assumed that Ki Jun was finally ready to confess his feelings to her.
BUT, it looks like what he was doing instead, was getting her permission to court Byeol, her sister.
This was a development I hadn’t seen coming, and it feels particularly inclusive of Show, because this means that Byeol, being a deaf character, isn’t just an incidental supporting character.
Instead, Show is making the point that Byeol is someone who’s worthy of love, and I like that a lot.
E15. I’m pleasantly surprised, actually, that what we have is a situation where it’s Byeol, who has the hearing disability, who’s rejecting Ki Jun, because she doesn’t like him.
I mean, this episode, Yeong Hui herself does touch on this topic a bit, and that is that most people with disabilities are viewed as unappealing and unattractive in a romantic sense, and so it’s that much harder for folks with disabilities, to date and fall in love.
And, Ki Jun himself does acknowledge that Byeol would not be considered an ideal daughter-in-law, in the conversation that we see him have with Jeong Jun. Which supports the point that it’s not easy for folks with disabilities to date and fall in love.
With that context, I’m actually appreciative of the fact that Show doesn’t make Byeol desperate for a man’s affections, as if any man would do.
In fact, Ki Jun’s a very solidly attractive young man; he’s good looking, strong, healthy, and has a decent job.
Yet, Byeol rejects him, stating emphatically that she just.. doesn’t like him. And she stresses that she doesn’t need to be grateful that Ki Jun likes her, just because she’s deaf.
It’s true that we don’t really know where this is coming from, ie, whether Byeol really doesn’t like him, or is instinctively reacting this way because she feels it would be too difficult to date an able-bodied person, given society’s prejudices.
I do appreciate that Ki Jun recalibrates his approach to courting Byeol, and chooses to give her more space, even as he maintains that he will not give up.
That beat, where Byeol tells him that she doesn’t like men who work at sea, and Ki Jun immediately promises that he’ll quit, if she’ll just go out with him, is pretty cute and sweet.
Aw. I actually hope that Byeol likes Ki Jun enough to give him a chance, because I think they’d make a cute couple.
SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]
Well this wasn’t an easy episode to watch, that’s for sure.
It’s not all heaviness and angst though, because Show starts us off with a mini arc of Yeong Ok going to visit Jeong Jun’s parents, and that turns out to be a lot sweeter and heartwarming than it first appears.
I gotta say, I love Jeong Jun.
He’s so easygoing and good-natured. Even when Yeong Ok tries to back out of their plans at the last minute, he remains agreeable and smiley, even though he admits that he is a little upset with her.
And then when Yeong Ok tells him that if his parents are mean to her, she’ll up and leave without him, he agrees, but gently negotiates that she give them three chances, as a compromise.
Gosh. Isn’t he such a giant of a sweetheart?? 😍 Man, I think I ought to get me a Jeong Jun of my own, heh.
It does lean a little simplistic, that Mom and Dad turn out to be really kind under their reticence, but y’know, I’m not gonna complain about that.
I like the idea that Jeong Jun’s so sure that his parents and Yeong Ok will get along just fine, because he knows all of them, and believes in all of them, for being the good people that they are.
The rest of the episode is spent on Dong Seok’s trip to Mokpo with Grandma Kang, with Grandma Hyeon along for the ride, so that she can visit Man Su.
I’m glad that we get to see Grandma Hyeon’s in-person reunion with Man Su, and I’m oh-so-glad that he’s improving quickly.
Aw. He really did get a miracle after all, and that miracle might’ve had something to do with Eun Gi and Grandma Hyeon wishing upon the 100 moons.
I find it really touching to see how grateful both Grandma Hyeon and Grandma Kang are, that Man Su is able to move his toes. The way Grandma Kang touches his feet so lovingly, has me convinced that she loves him like her own.
I’m also touched by the deep friendship between Grandma Hyeon and Grandma Kang. They really are in this thing – Life – together, and I fully believe that they would to the end together, if they could.
Grandma Kang’s so matter-of-fact about settling her affairs before her time is up, and I find it quite affecting, that she would try to give her money to Grandma Hyeon, for Man Su and Eun Gi, and that Grandma Hyeon would tear up and say that she’s going to follow right behind Grandma Kang, when she goes. Augh.
And then, it’s even more affecting, when Grandma Kang tells her not to hurry, and to come only after she’s seen Man Su walk again, and Eun Gi start school.
Gosh, these two ladies, they really get me in the heart, with their gruff, matter-of-fact love for each other.
Of course, the toughest stretch this episode, is the alone time that Dong Seok spends with Grandma Kang; with these two, I always feel this underlying tension between them, even when Dong Seok’s doing his best to be nice, like he is now.
Like Dong Seok says, he’s trying, but he just doesn’t know when he might blow up.
And blow up he does, at the memorial service for his stepfather.
On a side note, I thought it might be of interest to some of you, that Grandma Kang and Dong Seok don’t participate in the memorial service.
The ritual is such that male members of the family bow first, followed by female members of the family, which is why Jeong U bows first, followed by his wife and sister-in-law.
The fact that Grandma Kang doesn’t participate at all, indicates that she’s not considered part of the family, as the second wife.
And the fact that the ladies suggest that Dong Seok take a bow, indicates that Dong Seok is considered part of the family, meaning, he had been included in the family register like I’d surmised, last episode.
Most importantly, this is when Grandma Kang finally lets loose and speaks up for Dong Seok, when he and Jeong U get into that scuffle.
It’s heartbreaking to watch, honestly, because Kim Hye Ja plays it, I can absolutely believe that these are thoughts and feelings which Grandma Kang has kept bottled up, all these decades.
Oof. There’s so much raw emotion, as she raises her weak voice to berate Jeong U for speaking ill of Dong Seok, after all that Dong Seok’s endured.
You can just see how affected Dong Seok is, by all of this, because this must be what he’s been wanting to hear from his mother, all these years. It’s nice to see that he softens towards Grandma Kang, after this.
I’m admittedly rather perplexed that Grandma Kang tells him later, when he asks, that she has no reason to feel sorry towards him, but I’m rationalizing that in her mind, she did what she did, in order to keep him alive, back then.
And because she had no other choice, and her choice had kept them both alive, she doesn’t feel the need to apologize.
I feel really bad for Dong Seok, though, because he is very hurt and disillusioned by her words. I sincerely hope that Grandma Kang manages to clarify this with Dong Seok, while she can.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
The fact that I feel wistful at saying goodbye to these characters, despite having spent 20 episodes with them, and despite this finale episode being a whopping 1.5 hours long, says a lot about this show and its characters.
Show’s done such a good job of bringing each of these characters to life, that by the time I got here to the finale, I felt like I was part of the Jeju community, albeit in the capacity of a fly on their walls.
Because of this, it did feel somewhat out of balance, that we spent the lion’s share of screen time on a single arc, this finale, instead of celebrating the community as a whole, but because we don’t have a 21st episode, this finale has to do double duty.
In that sense, I thought this was well done. After we wrap up Dong Seok’s arc with Grandma Kang, we do get a nice spotlight on the community, in the end.
The wrap-up of Dong Seok’s arc with Grandma Kang is as full of pathos as I’d expected, and it did get hard to watch at times, not least because I kept feeling this low-grade tension of whether Grandma Kang would suddenly pass, and leave Dong Seok hanging.
I mean, Show’s demonstrated that it’s gritty enough to do that, with the way it doesn’t shy away from real-life difficulties, right?
Thankfully, Dong Seok’s arc with Grandma Kang wraps up with more closure than not, and it becomes a source of release, not only for Dong Seok, but for Grandma Kang herself as well.
The going is slow and sometimes painful, but it felt good to see Dong Seok slowly warm towards Grandma Kang, and show more care for her, than he has in a long time.
And even though the questions are asked gruffly, I’m glad that Dong Seok asks them, and that Grandma Kang answers, when he asks. It feels like such a precious opportunity for Dong Seok to learn more about his mother, and her life, which he’d never thought to ask about before.
When we learn that Grandma Kang had been orphaned at a young age, and had then proceeded to also lose her older brother, thus leaving her all alone in world, I suddenly begin to understand why she might be as reserved as she is.
Perhaps it’s because she’s been so used to being alone?
Of course, part of her reticence towards Dong Seok is because she’s been punishing herself, as I’d surmised in earlier episodes. When she talks about being a crazy woman, and how a crazy woman doesn’t know how to feel sorry, you can see from his face, just how affected Dong Seok is.
I feel like this is a key moment for him, because for the first time, he understands why his mother has been so unapologetic towards him. Each time she’s been unapologetic, she’s been mentally beating herself up for being a crazy woman who doesn’t know how to care for her son.
It’s after this point, that I feel Dong Seok’s desire to treat his mom nicer, and fulfill her last wishes, becomes more pronounced.
From the way he takes her to a nicer Chinese restaurant for jajangmyeon because she wants to eat it, to the way he mixes and then cuts her noodles for her, to the way he asks her about whether his father had treated her well, it all speaks of care and curiosity to me.
It tells me that he wants to care for her while he can, and learn more about her, while he can. And honestly, that feels like the most that he can do for her, given her deteriorating health.
I love that scene on the ferry, where he realizes that she’s curious to see how various names and places are written in Hangul, and so writes them all on the window for her to see. It feels like such a small thing, but the wonder in her eyes is so real.
And then, because she says in passing that she wants to see Mount Halla, he drives her midway up, so that when she wakes up from her nap, she’ll be able to see the snowy view. Aw. Dong Seok really does have a good heart, doesn’t he?
When Grandma Kang asks him to take her to Baengnokdam Lake, I have to admit I got really nervous about whether she would over-exert herself and end up passing on the way there, but ohthankgoodness, Show doesn’t go there.
And, even though Grandma Kang says, during their conversation while attempting the hike to Baengnokdam Lake, that she wouldn’t want to be Dong Seok’s mother again, if she gets reincarnated, it feels so much more momentous, that when Dong Seok asks her what her favorite memory is, she names that very moment with him.
Even though she’s physically exhausted, and even though she’s dying of cancer, that moment on the mountain with him, is her favorite memory. Gulp. This made me want to cry. 😭
And then when Dong Seok realizes that it’s going to be too hard for her to make it, the way he sends her back down with some kind strangers, while pushing himself to get to the Lake as fast as possible, to get a picture for her, is really touching.
It feels fitting, that as he hikes towards the Lake, he’s finally able to process all of his memories of pain and rejection, and reframe them in a way that brings him healing.
I love that by the time gets as close to the Lake as he’s allowed, he’s able to take that video for her, and address her as “Mom” in it, as he promises to take her to see it properly, in spring. Guh. That is such a touching gesture.
I was half afraid that Grandma Kang wouldn’t get to see the video, from the way she lays down her head at the cafe, but she does, and I feel like the sound of his voice addressing her as “Mom” is extremely healing for her too.
What a bonus, that Dong Seok then thinks to show her the house he’s been working on, and she ends up meeting Seon A there.
We’ve never seen Grandma Kang smile so brightly as she does, when she realizes that Seon A is the woman whom Dong Seok likes, and that Seon A likes him too.
That expression on her face feels like all of a mother’s hope for her son’s happiness, concentrated into one single burst of joy. It’s so beautiful, honestly.
Finally, it feels like another key part of Dong Seok’s heart is healed, when he asks her to make doenjang stew for him for breakfast the next morning, telling her that he’s coming by.
After aggressively rejecting doenjang stew for years, because of the bitterness in his heart towards his mother, this feels like a Huge Deal.
Which is why it seems like such a perfect point for Grandma Kang to breathe her last.
She gets up the next morning and prepares food to feed her babies – both her furbabies, and her son – and then, likely feeling that her work is done, she passes peacefully. It feels so meaningful, doesn’t it?
Afterwards, my heart goes out to Dong Seok, as he discovers his mom’s body, right after tasting her doenjang stew for the first time in years.
Even more poignant, is his voiceover, as he articulates that he realized in this moment, that he’d never resented her; that in fact, he’d been longing for her, all this time. There’s so much pain, sorrow and release here, all at the same time. Glug. 😭
And, it’s also moving, to see each and every member of the community break down in tears, as they hear of Grandma Kang’s passing. She really had been dear to all of them, and that’s touching to see.
Typically, I’m generally not super enthusiastic whenever a drama serves up some kind of sports day or field day, but y’know, I was really enjoying this particular field day, because it brings the entire community together in such a rowdy, heartwarming sort of way.
I love that Show brings back some of our characters from the mainland, like Han Su, Mi Ran, Eun Gi and Yeong Hui.
There’s something so special about seeing everyone in one place, after having gotten to know each of them, during their specific arcs.
As the camera pans over the various sets of characters, I’m reminded all over again, of some of my favorite pairings – like In Gwon and Ho Sik! 🤩 – and it makes my heart warm, to see them all having such a fun time together, and knowing that they will be there for one another, not just in this moment, but for many more years to come. 🥰
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Feel-good and charming, yet poignant and bittersweet, at the same time, and deeply heartfelt, underneath it all.
FINAL GRADE: A-
The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of Our Blues, is Love Like The Galaxy [China]. I’ve taken an initial look, and I’m happy to say that I am enjoying it very well, right away. My E1-2 notes on Love Like The Galaxy can be found here.
Here’s an overview of what I’m covering on Patreon right now (Tier benefits are cumulative)!
Foundation Tier (US$1): Yumi’s Cells 2 + k-ent tidbits + E1 notes of all shows covered on Patreon
Early Access (US$5): Love Like The Galaxy [China]
Early Access Plus (US$10): +Shining For One Thing [China]
VIP (US$15): +Extraordinary Attorney Woo
VVIP (US$20): +A Dream Of Splendor [China]
Ultimate (US$25): +Alchemy Of Souls
K-Dramas are a unique pleasure in the global 500-channel universe. I only became a fan in early summer, watching a crazy comic series about an Autistic lawyer dealing with intensely serious legal issues. I followed that with an often crazy, sometimes funny, occasionally terrifying North/South glimpse of a country torn apart by a post-WW2 nuclear threat that really never goes away. I then eased into a romcom about a young dentist opening a practice in a small fishing village.
The fourth (not counting Squid Game, which falls into a category of its own), and most recent, “Our Blues,” hit me between the eyes. It is essentially based on the subtext of multiple problem-oriented short stories layered into a single longer narrative. Nobody on the little island can escape the themes of isolation and abandonment. The issues jump up and bite them on butt no matter who they are. I am impressed beyond measure with the beauty of the setting and the cross-cultural glimpse into the daily lives of ordinary people.
There’s an old-fashioned quality about the writing (some of the earlier series I watched they seem more influenced by 1940s and 1950s movies), occasionally really old fashioned melodrama rears its head, but generally I connect to the characters and their problems and hope for them to find resolution.
Contrary to those who complain about the subtitles, I personally like the subtitles. If I spoke Korean I might find them poorly constructed, but I don’t. I watch the programs late at night and I can keep the sound to a very low level, read the subtitles and not disturb wife, who goes to bed much earlier than I do. Subtitles are never written by the original screenwriters, so you have to take them as you get them.
Welcome, John, to the Kdrama universe. I found Crash Landing on You on Netflix during the pandemic, then KFangurl Verdict. Next I subscribed to VIKI and now I’m totally hooked! BTW, I totally agree with you on subtitles–I can’t stand dubbing.
Our Blues had the warm characters Reply 1988 with the folksy charm of Hometown Cha Cha Cha, heartwarming stories like Hospital Playlist and a cast of talented stars and background actors. Of course, Jeju Island was a character in itself. My thanks goes to the entire team that made this production happen during a global pandemic. I agree with the A class rating.
Jus a comment on the Kdrama universe: I found that choosing a show by my favorite stars or a preferred genre did not always result in a good experience. I focus on the ratings and review (THANKS, KFG) and have found very satisfying Kdramas that I most likely would NEVER have considered watching, such as My Mister, Misaeng An Incomplete Life, Hospital Playlist, Prison Playbook, Reply 1988, Red Sleeve Cuff, etc. Those dramas are so much more enjoyable than glitzy shows like King Eternal Monarch or Mr. Sunshine.
Let’s hope 2023 is an exciting year for new Kdramas.
I love K-dramas, but the subtitles are terrible. Unlike other Korean shows that I watched, only half of what is spoken is translated. Also, the translation is often too fast to read.
I loved this show. This kind of show, what makes K Drama special to me, the virtuosity of the writing and direction, the multigenerational focus, the ensemble, the selflessness of the big time actors biding their time with what might appear to be small roleees till their time in the sun showed up, the way they all thoroughly inhabited roles which for some were considerably different than previous character arcs was stunning. For me, this was far and away the best K Drama I have seen produced since My Mister, and an A+ hardly would do it credit. This kind of drama is what I have always liked best in K Drama’s non historical tales, and something one cannot really see anywhere else.
I said this in the comment I made a couple months back on the Patreon page, the entire cast was unbelievably good, but the final episodes with Lee Byung Hun and Kim Hye Ja, the two of them together, was something that should be presented in classes for actors everywhere in the world. And to add, as good a performances in single episodes as I have seen of either of them, and I have seen a lot of their work. Lee Byung Hun’s range ins astonishing. I have seen him in many films and on tv series and his character was nothing closely related to anything I have seen him in before. Simply astonishing.
Special shout out to the marvelous Go Doo Shim and Park Ji Hwan, and of course my very favorite K drama and film character acotr the inimitable Li Jung Eun. And finally, the wonderful screen writer who also gave us Dear My Friends, No Hee Kyung who gives us real characters with real human problems and real relationships between ordinary folks–I will be watching for mor of her work as it shows up.
BE, i loooooved this show, it joined my top most favorite shows of all times. and as usual i love your writing and i agree with every word you said.
thank you for that.
I loved this show almost as much as Reply 1988 and more than Hometown Cha Cha Cha. I’m a fan of slice-of-life and appreciate that this didn’t go over the top and turn into a melodrama. The characters were relatable and the arcs were touching.
I just wanted to add to my comment below.
I hesitated watching this due to the coincidence that My Liberation Notes came out at the same time and Our Blues was often compared to it.
I watched MLN first but now I know that I would have loved to have seen Kdrama first because I enjoy the slice-of-life format.
I think both shows are good, but I quickly learned that they are NOT the same genre, even though they are ensemble drama with big stars and a rural setting.
Just completed this one as my optional watch and found it engaging from beginning to end.
I really enjoyed how this show depicted people behaving in non-idealized ways throughout and how characters, more realistically than not, responded to move on in life. I did think at various times that these folks sure do carry grudges (is grudge-carrying an official K-drama trope?). But, larger picture, to me the virtue of the show is encapsulated in the fact that I grew frustrated or angry at nearly every major character in ths show, but by the end forgave each and every one of them.
Great review, you hit on a lot of the things that made this a gentle pleasure to watch. I think in the end, my favorite arc was still the teen pregnancy one (and the fathers’ reconciliation that was adjacent to it).
It was really quite skillful how even though this was an “omnibus,” everyone was just kind of woven into everyone else’s story, so that even when a given set of characters weren’t taking center stage for their own arc, they were still present and moving forward as part of the community story.
Oh, and this is actually the first time I’ve seen Kim Woo-bin acting on screen, and I finally understand what all the shouting’s about. This was a really good role to be introduced to him.
This was a gem of a show. It did meander occasionally, but never so far that I lost faith it would find its way back. The arcs were nearly seamlessly intertwined, giving an organic feel to the whole – like it was a small universe that wouldn’t be complete, without one of the stories. None felt superfluous or weak.
There are few shows, in my experience, that seem to grow stronger in the latter episodes. With Our Blues, I thought the last three episodes were brilliant, particularly Dong Seuk and Ok Dong’s arc. Their story never broke rhythm, dealt with painful and difficult themes head on, and still managed to bring it home in a way that salved saddened hearts. Lee Byung Hyun was inspired and vulnerable, and I kept thinking, give the man an award! Kim Hye Ja was quietly intense, expressing a life filled with pathos, met with the best strength she could muster, and ultimately resolved in deep appreciation of simple pleasure, as well as acceptance.
I’ll enjoy rewatching this one, down the road.
agree with you on all, definitely a candidate for a rewatch. since i have so many new dramas to watch, i had to become very selective of my rewatch dramas, but this one is a must.
i was not very exited about the topic when i first heard about it, but was waiting for lee byung hyun, first korean actor that swept me off my feet. and then… i watched our blues, there wasn’t a thing i did not love with all my heart about this drama.
loyalty, friendship, all embracing warmth of this community, and even the flowery pants of the ladies-divers – it made me feel that i was part of this community, living on jeju island.
i was totally quietly into every nooks and crannies of this little amazing piece of awesomeness, even the flowers growing out of the volcanic stone fences, and the ocean, o this ocean! i almost felt like running to lee dong seok’s van (lee byung hun) and buy something from him – it was so irresistible. i got emotionally invested in every relationship and every character. it was a true shock and bummer learning that the actor kim woo bin (our beautiful wonderful captain) had cancer at such a young age, and my heart just broke for him. it seems though that he’s better.
the production is one of the best – every little detail of it, the acting is uniformly good.