THE SHORT VERDICT:
Show is a pretty engaging second-chance, underdog sort of story, where it’s easy to want to root for our protagonist to do well and flourish, as she sets out to rediscover herself and her mojo, despite her efforts being frowned upon by her husband and the world at large.
What Show lacks in terms of nuance and elegance, it more than makes up for, with heart.
That said, I found Show stronger and more naturally engaging in its first half than its second, which leaned a little too hard into family dramatics for my preference.
In the end, Show still brings it all together in a way that manages to land as satisfying, and overall, I’d say this worked out to be a solid watch.
THE LONG VERDICT:
To be honest, I hadn’t really planned to watch this one, because I typically don’t gravitate towards medical shows and this looked like a medical show.
Also, the promos all have a slightly slapsticky quality to them that made me think that I probably wouldn’t enjoy this one too much, since I don’t often jive with k-humor.
BUT. Whatddya know, this show’s ratings kept shooting through the roof, and everyone kept saying good things about it, and that totally piqued my interest.
Now that I’ve come away from the finish line, I’d say that this was a solid watch that I don’t regret, even though I feel that Show was quite a bit stronger in its first half, than in its second.
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it while reading the review.
I found the music in this show pleasant, though I have to admit that none of the tracks actually got under my skin.
If I had to pick a favorite, I’d pick Track 3, Breath, because I do like the overall rhythm of the song, and the breathy, ethereal quality of the chorus.
Here it is as well, in case you’d prefer to listen to it on repeat. Just right-click on the video and select “Loop.”
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS
Here are some things that I think would be helpful to keep in mind, to maximize your enjoyment of your watch:
1. This isn’t a medical-medical show
2. Instead, think personal journey
This show is more like Twenty Again (review is here!) – but with doctor’s gowns, ha.
Instead of being heavy on medical procedures and medical accuracy, Show emphasizes character development and character journeys as we root for our protagonist while she recalibrates her life and re-finds her mojo, at a point in her life when society at large dismisses her as being over the hill.
3. This isn’t a romance
I thought this would be helpful to mention, for the benefit of those of us who really prioritize our romances.
We do have smidges of romance in our story world, but it’s far from Show’s central focus.
3. An manhwa lens can be helpful to keep handy
..in helping to process at least some of what Show serves up.
[MINOR FOUNDATIONAL SPOILERS]
For example, in episode 1, Show spends most of the time demonstrating to us just how taken for granted Jung Sook is, by her husband, her mother-in-law, and her two children.
And, we also learn that she’s cooperative and docile to a fault, to her unreasonably demanding husband and mother-in-law, AND while she’s doing all she can to live sacrificially for her family, her husband’s cheating on her.
Without the manhwa lens, this feels like it’s all just too much, from every angle, but it all lands much better, with the manhwa lens on.
4. Show leans into the dramatic for a while, in its second half
This isn’t my favorite decision of Show’s, though I still found this a worthwhile watch, overall.
I thought it might be helpful to put it out there, so that you’d be prepared.
HOW I’M APPROACHING THIS REVIEW
First I talk about what I liked and liked less, in a pretty macro sort of fashion, before doing a selective deep dive into characters and relationships.
Following that, I will highlight some of my favorite moments from my watch, before doing a spotlight on the finale.
If you’re interested in my blow-by-blow reactions while watching this show, you might like to check out my episode notes on Patreon here.
STUFF I LIKED
Show’s general vibe
Generally speaking, I liked Show’s vibe, which I would largely classify as light but poignant.
Meaning, Show does serve up pathos, but by and large, it does seem to want to tell its story with a light sort of hand.
And so, even when things get dramatic in Show’s second half (more on that later), the intended light touch is still discernible, like, we’re not expected to take anything too seriously.
Show’s focus on Jung Sook’s journey
Mainly, Show focuses on Jung Sook’s (Uhm Jung Hwa) journey, instead of the nitty-gritty of the medical stuff, or any potential romance, and I am very much here for it.
Her struggle to be true to herself, in tension with the duties that she and her family see as hers, being the mom and wife of the household, is something that I feel a lot of women would be able to identify with.
Also, Jung Sook’s a person who’s got so much heart, that I find it easy to connect with her and root for her.
These two elements come together to make for much of Show’s appeal, I feel.
Here are just a couple of highlights to illustrate what I mean.
E1-2. I love how shocked everyone is, when Jung Sook casually refuses to be their housekeeper any longer, and stops cooking breakfast, and making coffee and juice, and just.. leaves them to fend for themselves.
I appreciate that she starts to learn how to pamper herself, because it’s true that it’s something you need to learn, or re-learn, when you’ve spent years being fenced in by what your significant other thinks.
But, I also appreciate that with Jung Sook, she only gets temporary satisfaction from all the shopping and other luxuries; it’s learning that really gets her blood pumping, and I’m so glad that Mom’s (Kim Mi Kyung) there to remind her of it.
I love a good underdog story, and I love the idea of Jung Sook secretly studying for the residency exam, and then getting an almost perfect score, to everyone’s shock.
E3. It’s never easy being a mom with a full-time job, and Jung Sook’s situation amplifies that, since this job that she’s taking on, is way more demanding than average.
Isn’t it quite impossible not to root for her, after hearing how she’s finally found a desire to become a good doctor, after going through a liver transplant?
Of course we want a doctor who isn’t motivated by money and status, and instead really wants to save lives, the way her own life was saved, yes?
I want her to successfully achieve her dream of becoming a good doctor – in spite of herself, and in spite of the efforts that In Ho and Seung Hee (Kim Byung Chul and Myung Se Bin) are inevitably going to make, to derail her.
Show’s touches of realism
This isn’t a drama that strives to be realistic; it’s got manhwa-esque hyperbole ingrained in its DNA (more on that later), but I do appreciate the touches of realism that writer-nim includes, which I feel helps this story feel more relatable.
Here are a few examples.
E3. The fact that Jung Sook gets rejected at first, despite her heartfelt interview answers, adds a touch of realism to our story, while also amping up our connection with Jung Sook.
E3. Part of me had kind of hoped that Jung Sook would be amazing at her job right away, because she’d been so much better at her medical studies compared to In Ho, back in the day, but I suppose it’s more realistic that she’s pretty rusty now, after taking 20 years off.
E11. The way Jung Sook vacillates between being kind of ok, to not being ok at all, feels very true to life.
When your whole world is crashing down around you, but you’re also expected to show up and do the necessary in life, whether it’s about work, or about family, this is exactly what happens to you.
Sometimes, you’re semi-ok, and you’re able to function, and do needful things. But then sometimes, all you’re able to do is crumple to the floor, and maybe crawl into bed.
STUFF THAT WAS OK
Show’s sense of hyperbole
Show’s got a sense of hyperbole to it that mostly leans more comedic than anything else.
I don’t hate it, but I could have done with less of it, which is why it’s here in this section.
Show’s heartfelt nature, and its ability to bring out a sense of authenticity in many of our characters’ emotional responses, definitely helps to temper the hyperbole, which I appreciated.
Here’s an example of how has the tendency to go ham, especially when it comes to bad things happening to our characters, from episodes 1 and 2.
First, Show establishes just how much Jung Sook is taken for granted by her entire family, and how she bends over backwards with a smile, to accommodate them all.
Then, as if that’s not bad enough, Jung Sook lands in the hospital needing a liver transplant, and her no-good husband refuses to donate his liver to her.
He’s not for the idea, and her mother-in-law’s super quick to suddenly draw lines between her and them, like she’s an outsider – when she’s only spent the last 20 years living like their beck-and-call slave. Ugh.
Seriously, mom-in-law’s talking about how In Ho has to make sure he lives, for the sake of the kids – meaning, it’s ok for Jung Sook to die? It’s audaciously cruel.
It feels all the more unfair, with the context that Jung Sook had given up practicing medicine in order to be a stay-at-home mom to her kids.
Like, wow, she gave up so much, and this is what she gets in return?
It’s enough to make your blood boil, but I realize that the way Show plays it, it’s more comedic than actual blood-boiling straight drama.
Also, I find myself not taking the terrible things too seriously, because Show’s very set-up promises that these bad characters – who are totally leaning like caricatures to me right now – will get their comeuppance soon enough, when Jung Sook finds her mojo and shows them what’s what.
I can imagine audiences getting all primed for these smug, superior characters to have their big fall, and I do think that that accounts for some of Show’s popularity.
Everyone’s united in rooting for Jung Sook to overcome, and they’re also united in hating characters that are just so fun to loathe.
In Ho and Seung Hee are our resident “baddie” characters, since they are the ones who are having the affair, and generally making life difficult for Jung Sook, but I found that I didn’t actually hate either of them that much.
During my watch, I foung both In Ho and Seung Hee to be on the caricature-y side of things, especially In Ho, with his OTT antics and elastic reaction faces.
Perhaps it’s because they’re on the cartoony side of things, I felt like I couldn’t be bothered to hate them, even?
I was mainly just rubbing my hands in anticipation, thinking that surely they were going to fall on their faces, from treating Jung Sook this way.
I will say, though, that between the two of them, I found In Ho funnier and more comedic, and that there were times when I find myself disliking Seung Hee for being unreasonable and selfish.
Overall, though, they both did fall into this caricature sort of space for me.
STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
The way Show leans into the Highly Dramatic in its second half
Like I mentioned earlier in this review, Show leans pretty hard into Drama with a capital D, in its second half.
I had mixed feelings about this.
On the one hand, I understood that this was the fallout from everything coming to the surface – and this had to happen at some point.
On the other hand, I have to say, I do feel like Show went harder into the melodrama than I felt was helpful.
I also felt like Show was throwing a lot of stuff at us, at the same time, so that the watch experience veered pretty close to makjang.
I can see how this kept audiences watching, because high melodrama and makjang tends to do well among domestic audiences.
However, my personal preference would’ve been if Show had dialed it back some, and kept things more in the light-to-moderate melodrama sort of range.
I think I would’ve been able to feel more authentically emotionally engaged.
Instead, I felt like my eyes are glazing over a little bit, at how things sometimes got rather wild, on my screen. 😅
Here are just some of my reactions to what Show served up at episode 8 – at exactly our halfway point.
E8. I honestly wasn’t sure if Show was throwing a fantasy sequence at me, when we get that scene of Yi Rang (Lee Seo Yeon) coming upon In Ho having dinner with his other family.
I was halfway convinced that this was just a makjang flight of fancy, and that we would soon get the real, non-imagined version of events.
It was only when In Ho chases and catches up to Yi Rang outside the restaurant, that it began to feel real to me. Like, Ohhhh, looks like Yi Rang really did find out, after all. 😅
And, I have to confess that, beyond Yi Rang’s initial shock and grief, I’m rather perplexed at Yi Rang’s determination to keep this truth from Jung Sook.
This episode, it’s like the entire family is convinced that they know better, and decide, for Jung Sook, that it would be better for her not to know about In Ho’s affair and other family.
That’s so unfair to Jung Sook; why would they think that it’s their place to decide what’s best for her, right? Jung Sook has the right to know!
I had to roll my eyes that Jung Min’s (Song Ji Ho) first thought is that Jung Sook shouldn’t find out.
I get that he’s concerned about her health, but.. this is Jung Sook’s marriage. She has the right to know, period.
It is sweet, though, the way Jung Min goes to spend some time with Jung Sook, as a way of showing his love and support for her. 🥰
The way the whole family’s stiffly walking on eggshells while they’re around Jung Sook, makes me feel like the secret’s not going to be a secret for very long; they’re behaving so unnaturally that surely, if nothing else, Jung Sook would find it weird?
I appreciate Jung Min pushing for In Ho to make some kind of decision, but the fact that his chooses a deadline that’s several years down the road, doesn’t sit right with me.
So he’d willingly cover up his father’s affair for a whole 3 years, if Dad will just promise to make a decision, at the end of the 3 years? That’s just wrong.
And there’s the thing where Ae Shim states that she won’t allow In Ho to get divorced.
So, in effect, the family’s just giving In Ho 3 years to break up with Seung Hee, eh?
This is utter rubbish.
Some stuff doesn’t make sense
For the most part, Show makes sense within the confines of this manhwa-esque, sometimes hyperbolic world that it creates for itself.
However, there were a couple of occasions when things didn’t actually make sense to me, and here they are, for the record.
E10. Y’know, I’d expected that the outing of the fact that Jung Sook is In Ho’s wife would have made a bigger splash, but it feels like it all comes out and lands with only a small ripple, compared to the tsunami that I’d expected.
Like, everyone more or less gapes for a bit, then they all kinda shrug and move on, more or less?
That’s rather anticlimactic, I have to say – and also, rather unbelievable. But oh well, I guess you just have to suspend disbelief and roll with it. 😅
Kinda like that bit where the woman in labor shows up, and Jung Sook tells Jung Min to get all the doctors who hadn’t been drinking – but then tries to task In Ho – the drunkest person around – with the actual job of delivering the baby.
That didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me either, for the record. But, I realize that with the generally light touch that Show’s keeping, it would make for a more enjoyable watch, to just shrug and move right along.
SPOTLIGHT ON CHARACTERS & RELATIONSHIPS
Uhm Jung Hwa as Jung Sook
I’m more used to seeing Uhm Jung Hwa in more glamorous type roles, though I have seen her take on non-glamorous roles before, like in 2020 movie Okay! Madam (review here).
I felt like this was a very different side to Uhm Jung Hwa that we were seeing in the character of Jung Sook, and I though that Uhm Jung Hwa did a very solid job of filling out Jung Sook, so that we would be able to feel connected to her emotional journey.
And, even though I did feel like Jung Sook as a character was sometimes too understanding &/or trusting for her own good, I did like her, and was totally in support of Jung Sook rediscovering her mojo as a doctor, as a woman, and as a person, whatever that eventually ended up looking like.
Meaning, from the get-go, I did think that Jung Sook would be better off divorcing In Ho, because I felt that she deserved to be free of this prison of a marriage.
Whether that entailed Jung Sook being romanced by another man is something that I wasn’t too fussed about.
Show seemed to be suggesting that Dr. Roy Kim (Min Woo Hyuk) as a possible candidate (more on that later), and I wasn’t opposed to that.
Mainly, I just wanted Jung Sook to glory in her own mojo first, and then think about whether she’d like to have romance in her life.
Here are a Jung Sook highlights from my watch.
E4. As much as I wish that Jung Sook would take much joy in the new life that she’s chosen for herself, it’s definitely shaping up to be a poignant journey.
I feel it, watching her take that motorbike ride with Roy.
There’s wonder and joy in the thrill of experiencing something new for the first time, but there are also tears, and I am guessing that those come from very complicated emotions, mixed in with the difficulties that she has to face, daily.
I’m thinking that there’s likely also a sense of wistfulness, for the things that she could have done, but never did, even though they were fully within her reach, like the way she talks to Roy about never having been by the river at that time of night, even though she had the time and money to do so.
More than that, though, I really appreciate Jung Sook’s gratitude. I love how she’s grateful to be alive, even though things aren’t easy.
That gentle gratitude really comes through, even when she’s dealing with Yi Rang, who’s been demanding and entitled.
The letter that Jung Sook writes to Yi Rang, is so gentle and loving, even as she explains why she wants to live for herself, for once, and asks Yi Rang for her understanding.
E5. I can’t help but feel touched by the happy warmth that Jung Sook feels towards her family, as she uses her first paycheck to buy everyone presents.
It’s clear that she just wants to share the joy, rather than, say, buying them gifts to bribe them because her going back to work has inconvenienced them in various ways.
On top of that, she’s so generous, in wanting to also give Cantankerous Chairman a gift of underwear, even though he’s given her quite a bit of a rough time, up to this point.
That’s so pure of her; I can’t help but like her and want good things for her, y’know?
It means even more, when we see that Jung Sook’s actually physically exhausted, so much so that she can’t even stay awake, when Yi Rang tries to talk to her about college admissions.
Giving is just in Jung Sook’s nature, it seems; even being mentally and physically drained doesn’t put a dent in the generosity that she has towards others. ❤️
E6. Jung Sook reminds me of those pictures of flowers that bloom even in the midst of winter; she’s exactly like that.
Even when things are stacked against her, Jung Sook finds a way to bloom, and I do love that about her.
I love how Jung Sook’s natural affinity for her studies leads her to a different conclusion about the scans than all the other doctors, and eventually leads her to winning that bet against In Ho (which he’d insisted on, all by himself).
YAY for Jung Sook proving her abilities as a doctor, and also, yay that now In Ho has no choice but to stop his antics, leaving her to work in peace.
I’m sure she’s going to bloom even more, without him trying to drag her down.
The way she walks so happily, with a spring in her step, once she’s allowed to resume her regular duties, just makes me happy.
E7. I really feel for Jung Sook, with the way she goes to dig everything out of the trash; like, does poor Jung Sook not have enough going on in her life, that she even has to dig through the trash, because her husband’s a wild, grumpy snoot?
Our Jung Sook’s got such a loving mother’s heart, doesn’t she, with the way she determines to take care of the money needed for Yi Rang’s art school dreams, even though she doesn’t actually know where the money’s going to come from?
Plus, there’s the way she’s so gently protective when talking with Yi Rang, even though Yi Rang’s done nothing but give her attitude, for not being more present.
E8. I’d like to say that I really appreciate the way Jung Sook talks with So Ra (Jo Aram) about the suicidal patient, and how they could have prevented it.
More importantly, it feels like such a perfect answer, when So Ra questions if Jung Sook’s saying that it’s her fault, and Jung Sook calmly and sadly replies that it’s all of their faults.
This could have been prevented if they’d acted to connect him with psychiatric help immediately, and it feels important that someone recognize that things could have been handled differently.
At least this way, they can do better next time, yes?
I’m glad that Jung Sook handles it with a sense of responsibility and grace; I’d say that that is deserving of respect.
And, I’m glad that Jung Sook manages to encourage the patient, by offering him a new perspective on life. That feels so heartfelt; it definitely is the thing that sets Jung Sook apart from everyone else.
E9. Things don’t really go the way I’d expected them to, after Jung Sook comes to the realization that In Ho’s having an affair with Seung Hee.
I’d kind of wanted Jung Sook to announce that she’s had it with In Ho, and then take steps to live a life that is authentic to her, and her alone, but that’s not what happens – at least in this set of episodes.
I have to admit that I was taken aback, at first. Like, why would Jung Sook not take stronger action, given how much In Ho’s hurt and betrayed her?
On further thought and observation, though, Jung Sook’s choices do make more sense to me now.
I mean, we do see her consulting a lawyer, so it seems to me that she did seriously consider divorce, as a next step.
But when she learns that the divorce wouldn’t be clean and easy like she’d hoped, she reaches for a different option, which is to remove herself from the family home, and keep as much of a distance from In Ho as possible.
It almost feels like a de facto divorce, just without the paperwork – and without In Ho’s knowledge?
And you know what, the fact that In Ho seems clueless that he’s being de facto divorced by Jung Sook, somehow gives me a sense of glee? Like, wow, you are such a dumbass that you don’t even know when your wife’s fighting back and cutting you off, pfft. 😏
E12. Arguably the most moving scene, this whole episode, is when Jung Sook goes back to the funeral hall, and cries with Ji Seon’s grieving mother (Kim Min Chae), and offers words of comfort that, to me, seem like the most hopeful that anyone could give, in that situation.
What a consoling thought, that Ji Seon had left that baby behind, in order to help her parent’s cope with her loss, and give them something to live for, in the midst of such devastating loss.
I’m struck by how much compassion Jung Sook has, and how well she’s able to express that compassion, in a way that comforts the hearer.
Kim Byung Chul as In Ho
Kim Byung Chul has been buzzed about as the breakout star of this show, and with good reason.
Even though In Ho as a character could’ve been completely hateful, the way Kim Byung Chul plays it, In Ho’s more entertaining than hateful, and I credit a lot of that, to Kim Byung Chul’s very expressive, very elastic reaction faces.
It’s par for the course, that In Ho would do all kinds of comically terrible things, before having a turnaround by the time we hit our finale, so I’m not super surprised by this.
In fact, there are times when In Ho’s actions don’t actually make a lot of sense, and on hindsight, I realize that I really didn’t have to expend thought and energy towards trying to figure him out.
I do feel that some suspension of disbelief is required in order to appreciate In Ho’s character as well as his turnaround, but this is also not that surprising, considering Show’s manhwa-esque sensibility, and the way In Ho’s presented more as a caricature than a real person.
All in all, this was just a pretty great opportunity to watch Kim Byung Chul hamming it up for the camera.
Min Woo Hyuk as Roy
Given drama law, I’m not super surprised that Show bends over backwards to put Roy in Jung Sook’s orbit, and then present him as a friend and potential suitor for Jung Sook.
In principle, I do like the idea of Jung Sook having someone on her side, who might be able to help her out sometimes, since Roy’s a senior doctor and everything.
I’ll talk more about Roy’s connection with Jung Sook in another section, but for now, I’ll say that I found Roy nice and pleasant, as a general rule.
I have to say, though, that I mostly found him a little flat, as a character, and my fondness for him was mostly related to him either being there for Jung Sook when she needed someone on her side, &/or him being unintimidated by In Ho, despite In Ho’s best efforts.
Myung Se Bin as Seung Hee
Seung Hee is a character that I spent a good chunk of my watch trying to understand, because in my head, I couldn’t see why an attractive, successful woman like her would want to cling to a losery guy like In Ho, and for so long as well.
I think that Show does a decent job of helping us understand Seung Hee’s perspective, though I still sometimes wished that I could knock some sense into her, so that she would make a difference choice for herself.
Here’s a few thoughts I had about Seung Hee, during my watch.
E3. I was wondering why someone like Seung Hee would hang on to In Ho for so long, considering how he’s not divorcing Jung Sook in order to be with her, and she, being such a beautiful, successful doctor, could easily do better than In Ho.
But, Show soon reveals the answer to that, when we see that Seung Hee actually has a daughter, Eun Seo – who’s Yi Rang’s age.
This must be the reason why Seung Hee’s father had cut her off, and why In Ho had said it was his fault.
And this must be the reason that Seung Hee’s hanging on to In Ho, all these years later, even though he’s not promising to marry her.
With this context in place, I have a little more sympathy for Seung Hee, because, as we’ve seen, In Ho had been the one cheating on her, when Jung Sook had fallen pregnant, and yet, now, she’s the other woman.
That must suck, and I’m surprised she doesn’t have more resentment towards In Ho.
E5. I find that I dislike Seung Hee more than In Ho. 😅
Maybe it’s because In Ho is landing as a more hapless, comedic sort of character, even when he’s doing his darndest to be nasty – like, I know that he’s going to fail, and hard, at some point, even if it’s not immediately?
Whereas, Seung Hee’s coming across as more coldly calculative? And not very comedic at all?
And so, I feel especially pleased that Seung Hee’s stewing over the fact that In Ho paid her no heed, and went straight to Jung Sook’s aid, in the moment.
It feels like even though Seung Hee’s been “the other woman” for years, this is the first time she’s actually been confronted with In Ho choosing Jung Sook over her.
In private, he’s always talking negative things about Jung Sook to Seung Hee, if they talk about her at all, which I’m sure bolstered Seung Hee’s sense of security, despite In Ho never talking about the possibility of leaving Jung Sook.
And so, I find it pretty great, that Seung Hee has to confront this now, especially with the fact that when push comes to shove, In Ho doesn’t hesitate to go to Jung Sook, without a care for Seung Hee’s feelings.
Of course, In Ho does everything he can to smooth it over, but Seung Hee doesn’t strike me as the kind of person to forgive or forget easily, and this, too, gives me a sense of satisfaction.
Am I being mean, taking satisfaction in her suffering? I just can’t help myself. 😅
E6. I’m hoping that Seung Hee will figure out that she doesn’t need In Ho, in order to have a meaningful life.
Even though I didn’t care for the spat that Seung Hee had with her brother at her father’s funeral, with Seung Hee biting out that she would absolutely receive every cent of her inheritance, I did like the beat where Eun Seo and Seung Hee hold hands as they walk together.
It’s the first time I’ve felt a sense of solidarity between them, and I rather like the idea of them making a life for themselves without In Ho.
E9. I don’t like Seung Hee any more now that I did before, but I find that I do feel rather sorry for her, when she sees In Ho celebrating Jung Sook’s birthday, and realizes that she will never have the legitimacy that she craves.
The air of sad defeat around Seung Hee, as she stumbles home and crawls into bed with Eun Seo, does make me pity her.
I don’t know what she was thinking when she got into this affair with In Ho and then decided to keep the baby, but I’m sure she hadn’t bargained on being “the other woman” for so many years, and with no end in sight.
I think that she craves legitimacy so much – as in, in wanting a complete family with In Ho and Eun Seo – that it scares her to even think about leaving In Ho. Because if she does leave him, she would have to fully accept the idea of being a single parent.
I believe that that’s why this thing, of realizing that In Ho’s never going to leave Jung Sook in order to give her legitimacy, distresses Seung Hee so much.
Plus, there’s the fact that Ae Shim goes to see Seung Hee, and basically tell her to give up on In Ho, because the only daughter-in-law she will acknowledge, is Jung Sook.
That basically crushes any remaining hope that Seung Hee might have, of becoming In Ho’s legitimate wife.
Jung Sook and Roy [SPOILERS]
Through most of Show’s run, it teases (quite lightly) the possibility of romance between Jung Sook and Roy.
And, in the face of Jung Sook being treated so poorly by In Ho, Roy, being the nice, pleasant person that he is, definitely looks like an attractive trade.
Like I mentioned earlier, though, I was never all that fussed about whether or not Roy would eventually win Jung Sook’s heart.
I was more invested in the fact that he cared about Jung Sook as a friend, and that the feeling was mutual.
I like that they’re able to talk with each other in a friendly, candid sort of manner, and connect in a way that feels real and sincere.
If Jung Sook had felt a romantic kind of way towards Roy, I would’ve been happy to root for them to get together, but through the entire show, I didn’t get that kind of vibe, from Jung Sook.
It seemed to me, that Jung Sook was more interested in caring for her children, and the patients assigned to her, and finding meaning in that, than in seeking out a new romantic relationship.
Because of that, I was perfectly content to see Jung Sook make that clear to Roy, when he finally confesses his feelings for her, in the finale.
Song Ji Ho as Jung Min
I just wanted to say that between Jung Sook’s two kids, I found Jung Min more easily likable than Yi Rang.
He’s more easygoing and more considerate towards Jung Sook as well, and that made me take to him quite quickly.
Jung Min’s search for self and meaning is a secondary arc that I found quite engaging and compelling, and I did root for him, to figure things out in his own way, and understand what he really wanted out of life.
Jung Min and So Ra [SPOILERS]
At the episode 4 mark, we see that Jung Min’s verrryy romantically involved with So Ra, the senior who keeps giving him and Jung Sook and everyone else a hard time, and immediately, I got the message, that this was going to be complicated.
I found it sweet that Jung Min would be able to see past So Ra’s prickly outer shell, and like her for the person that she is.
I also found it sweet that he would like her so much, even though she seems to hold the relationship with such a light grip.
I was bummed when they broke up in episode 11, but I really did like how they made up again, in episode 14.
Jung Min’s decision to go to the military, to have some time to think, and figure out what he really wants to specialize in, makes sense to me. This feels wiser than just pushing through, when he doesn’t feel sure.
Clearly, the incident involving Ji Seon, is a big catalyst to him wanting to step back and think things through.
I’m glad that So Ra won’t let Jung Min break up with her, and insists that he ask her to wait for him.
The fact that she hugs him right there, in public, is pretty huge, and then there’s also the way she matter-of-factly waves the gawkers on, while continuing to hug Jung Min.
Nice. Our girl has decided to go public in her relationship with Jung Min, and that’s pretty cool. I’m happy for Jung Min, because he does really like So Ra, and now, she’s making a public declaration of sorts, that she absolutely does like him. ❤️
Aw. They do look cute together, when they’re happy, don’t they? 🥰
Jo Aram as So Ra
At around the episode 5 mark, I found myself starting to like So Ra, even though we see her giving Jung Min and Jung Sook and everyone else a hard time.
It’s true that she can come across as arrogant at first, but it didn’t take me very long to realize that she’s just a very straightforward and matter-of-fact person, and isn’t actually malicious.
Also, Show does a nice job of allowing us to see more of So Ra’s compassion and kindness, underneath the prickly shell, and on hindsight, I realize that I actually count her as one of my favorite characters in this drama world.
Here are just a few So Ra highlights, from my watch.
E5. When So Ra says to Jung Min that there are power dynamics in relationships, and because he likes her more, she has power over him, it doesn’t feel arrogant or malicious to me; it just sounds.. matter-of-fact.
And because she doesn’t mean it maliciously, I find that I just don’t hate her for saying it, even though it does deflate Jung Min to hear it.
E6. It’s so satisfying to see So Ra acknowledge Jung Sook’s good work, and praise her for it.
Like I said, So Ra just strikes me as a really straightforward person, and I really do like that she has no problems acknowledging Jung Sook’s good work, even though she’s been perplexed at Jung Min spending so much time talking to Jung Sook.
E11. It warms my heart to see that So Ra continues to show care and concern for Jung Sook in her own way, even after the car ride.
Like the way So Ra bring snacks and beer to Jung Sook’s room, and then drinks and talks with her, and even shares her own family story with Jung Sook, so that Jung Sook knows that she’s not alone.
That’s kind of So Ra, isn’t it?
Lee Seo Yeon as Yi Rang
I have to confess that I didn’t like Yi Rang at all, at the beginning of our story. She came across to me as an entitled brat who was completely self-absorbed and had no consideration for Jung Sook.
I just found it very unappealing, the way she acted like Jung Sook owed her the world.
I’m happy to report, though, that Show softens her up nicely by the time we get a little deeper into our story, and I found her much more likable and sympathetic than at first.
So A Rin as Eun Seo [SPOILERS]
I found myself having mixed feelings about Eun Seo.
On the one hand, I did feel sorry for her, because she’s in a situation that’s not of her choosing; she hates being a hidden child, and there’s nothing she can do to change that.
On the other hand, I also found myself recoiling from the spiteful streaks that we see from Eun Seo, as she interacts with Seung Hee and Yi Rang.
I found that it bothered me more, when it had to do with Yi Rang, because Yi Rang is an innocent victim in this too.
Yi Rang had no idea that her dad is also Eun Seo’s dad, but Eun Seo seemed to be more than ready to punish Yi Rang for it, from the spiteful vibes that she lets slip, and I didn’t like that.
I’m glad, though, that by the time we get to the end of our story, Eun Seo’s managed to become more grounded and mature.
Park Joon Geum as Ae Shim
I wanted to give Park Joon Geum a shout-out because she’s quite the scene stealer, and as Ae Shim, she really hams it up for the camera, with all of Ae Shim’s self-absorbed vanity and her various ridiculous antics.
Kinda like Kim Byung Chul as In Ho, I found Ae Shim to be a terrible character, and yet, I found her more entertaining than hateful, even when she was saying and doing very hateful things.
That’s skillz, eh? 😉
Kim Mi Kyung as Deok Rye
Of course, I also had to give Kim Mi Kyung as shout-out as Deok Rye, because Kim Mi Kyung is always wonderful to have on my screen.
As Jung Sook’s mom, I love that Deok Rye’s so grounded and caring, and sensible and loyal, all at the same time.
I also love how Mom is always capable of pointedly speak her mind to Ae Shim, while remaining completely calm and unruffled. She feels like a rock that In Ho’s mother can’t move, and I love that. 😍
Most of all, though, I love how Mom is an unwavering anchor to Jung Sook through everything.
SPOTLIGHT ON MY FAVORITE HIGHLIGHTS [SPOILERS]
E3. The highlight for me, during the department dinner gathering to welcome Roy and the new residents, is when the Chief asks Jung Sook about her husband, and she blithely answers that he’s dead – while In Ho’s right there, and practically imploding from hearing her reply. 😁
Muahaha. So great.
E4. The goodness doesn’t stop at Jung Sook declaring that her husband’s dead; thanks to Chief’s other questions, she also goes on to say that he’s been dead for a long time, and she doesn’t even remember what it was like to be married.
I’m glad that In Ho has to stew in his boots without a peep, while he watches Jung Sook having a good time, chatting with Roy, and then singing on stage, while everyone gets infected by her enthusiasm and gets up on stage with her.
Basically, I like watching In Ho getting punished for ignoring &/or looking down on Jung Sook.
Like, when he pointedly ignores Jung Sook’s indirect request for a ride home after the gathering, it feels like sweet revenge, to see Jung Sook getting a ride from Roy, on his cool motorbike, no less.
Take that, In Ho. 😏
E4. I had to giggle at how Roy saves Seung Hee from a fall at the cafeteria with one hand, while catching all her food on the tray, with the other. That is ridiculous and I kinda love it? 😂
E5. We see In Ho react, big time, when he realizes that Jung Sook’s been electrocuted.
I kinda love the fact that his reaction is such a gut response, that he doesn’t even seem to stop to think about anything; not whether this would make people go “hrmmm..” at him getting all worked up about a resident, and not whether this would upset Seung Hee.
He just goes in there and grabs her in a princess-carry, and I love it.
To be clear, I’m not loving it because I’m actually rooting for In Ho and Jung Sook to have a great marriage; I feel like we’re past that possibility, with the way In Ho’s treated Jung Sook.
But somehow, it just gives me a pretty good sense of satisfaction, that In Ho seems to care about Jung Sook, in spite of himself.
That feels like a nod at Jung Sook’s goodhearted nature, and a slap in Seung Hee’s face at the same time, which is a pretty great combination. 😁
E5. I’m so glad that Cantankerous Chairman makes that huge donation, with Jung Sook’s career as collateral.
That sure wipes the satisfied smirks off In Ho’s and Seung Hee’s faces real quick, HA. 😏
More importantly, it gives Jung Sook the morale boost and encouragement that she needs, to change her mind about quitting. YAY!
Honestly, though, another reason I love this plot point, is that this demonstrates to all the other doctors in the room, that empathy and compassion do have real world value, and aren’t airy-fairy things that only the frivolous care about.
No sir. This proves to everyone, that empathy and compassion have real value and consequence, and that is an idea that I very much love.
E7. I do enjoy the dynamic of Roy making In Ho feel uncomfortable, just by being around him. Muahaha. I am very much on board for anything that makes In Ho’s conscience gnaw at him.
Plus, I do love it when Roy takes him down a peg or two, like when he tells In Ho that he and Jung Sook have other things to talk about besides him, and to not be so full of himself. Burnnn. 😁
E7. As we close out the episode, we’ve got Jung Sook on the roof, talking to that suicidal patient suffering from Crohn’s disease – and both In Ho and Roy reacting in a panic, once they realize that Jung Sook’s in a dangerous situation.
I love how they both bolt to the rooftop without a second thought, and then hug each other in relief, when they realize that Jung Sook’s fall off the building has been suitably cushioned by a safe landing on the inflatable mattress laid out below – and then hastily break apart, when they realize whom they’re hugging, ha.
What a great narrative moment, when we get In Ho getting all up in a worried huff over Jung Sook, in front of everyone – only to be outdone by Roy, who takes her into a relieved embrace, right there in front of In Ho.
SO. VERY. DE.LI.CIOUS. Muahaha. 😁
E8. It’s kind of funny, that In Ho’s got his secret leaking out everywhere, so much so that he doesn’t even have the strength to fight it anymore, when Jung Min confronts him about whether or not he’s cheating on Jung Sook with Seung Hee.
I literally guffawed out loud, when In Ho asks if it was Yi Rang who told him, and then if it was Ae Shim, with Jung Min reacting with increasing shock at each question, because, DOES EVERYONE KNOWWW?? 🤯😂
E10. I love that scene when So Ra comes along, and reaches out to Jung Sook.
In this moment, I don’t even think that it matters one way or another, to So Ra, that Jung Sook is Jung Min’s mother.
In fact, she’s had a fight with Jung Min, and they haven’t made up yet, so.. a breakup with Jung Min isn’t out of the question?
Rather, it feels simply like one human reaching out to another, in a moment of compassion.
And that’s the thing, with So Ra.
Even though she tells Jung Min that she’s just not the sort of person to be nice to others, she’s got a kinder heart that most people would realize.
She didn’t have to reach out to Jung Sook, and she certainly didn’t need to come back for Jung Sook after turning away, but she does, and her gruff, matter-of-fact brand of kindness and compassion is definitely growing on me.
It’s great that So Ra offers Jung Sook that ride in her fancy car, and it’s context-changing, the way So Ra remarks that the whole reason she bought that car, is so that she’d be able to breathe, in moments like these.
Suddenly, she doesn’t look like she’s recklessly splashing money about; suddenly, it looks like So Ra does have her moments of feeling stuck and suffocated too, and that definitely makes my heart soften towards her.
What an unexpected moment of kinship and release, as Jung Sook and So Ra laugh together in the rain, because she can’t get the roof of her convertible to come back up.
E11. I thought the fire at the residents’ dorm was a bit much, but I did chuckle a little, at In Ho’s slo-mo antics, because his reaction faces are really quite funny, and also, because Show scores the whole thing with solemn chamber music. 😆
E14. I’m glad that Jung Sook manages to persuade Deok Rye to stay on in the hospital, instead of switching to a different hospital.
That entire scene is so full of emotion that I was completely sucked in.
The love that Jung Sook and Deok Rye have for each other is so strong, so deep and so palpable.
I definitely choked up, when Jung Sook sobs that she just can’t bear the thought of Deok Rye being somewhere else, sick and alone; that at least, here, in this hospital, she can be by Deok Rye’s side, even if she can’t fix Deok Rye’s illness.
That is a sentiment that I can definitely identify with; you can’t help but worry about your parents’ health sometimes, and when they’re unwell, you feel so helpless.
I am totally with Jung Sook on wanting Deok Rye to be where Jung Sook can be with her.
I’m glad to see that besides Jung Sook, Jung Min and Yi Rang are there for Deok Rye too, to cheer her up and lift her spirits.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
Overall, Show’s second half was not my favorite section of my watch experience, so even though I still had interest to know how Show would wrap up this story, and what would happen in Jung Sook’s life, I was still glad to get to the end of this one, not gonna lie. 😅
First things first; I’m glad that Jung Sook gets out our story ok.
For a while there, Show was teasing that she might not survive, not for want of a liver donor, since we’ve got both Roy and In Ho offering her their livers in this finale stretch, but from Jung Sook toying with the idea that maybe she’s lived well and long enough, and perhaps it’s better not to make everyone suffer because of her.
I don’t feel like Show does that great of a job helping us understand how Jung Sook goes from that state of mind, to suddenly wanting to live again, and I conclude that Show was just throwing it out there to up the dramatic tension in its story, and not really as an organic part of Jung Sook’s story.
But, I do believe Jung Sook, when she says that she’s scared of putting everyone through all that stress and trouble again.
And so, perhaps what was going on with Jung Sook, is that she was trying to convince herself that it was ok to let nature takes its course instead of going for a second liver transplant, even though she really did want to live.
Anyway. Moving on.
I’ve convinced myself that In Ho’s turnaround is, at the end of the day, believable enough.
The main reason I think I can believe it, even though it feels like a bit of a stretch for him to turn around this thoroughly, is because for the last several episodes, beyond the theatrical outbursts and related drama, we’ve seen In Ho sober up in degrees, to become more cognizant of how terribly he’s treated Jung Sook, and how much she’s gone through.
And so, even though I’m still uncertain of how organic it is to his character to be so completely repentant and so earnest in wanting to donate his liver to Jung Sook, I feel that Show’s at least done a reasonable job of giving us a heads-up, that I’m willing to roll with it without questioning it too much.
Also, I do think that it’s a big enough gesture, that it would mean something, in terms of In Ho making up for all the ways he’s done Jung Sook wrong, in the past.
With that in mind, the way the whole family moves on, in a cordial manner and without hard feelings, despite all that’s happened, is more believable too.
Because, yes, In Ho’s been a colossal jerk for years before this, but, now he’s saved Jung Sook’s life and is also turning over a new leaf in general, so it feels like he’s earned the bygones that everyone’s embracing, if that makes sense.
As for Roy and his feelings for Jung Sook, I find myself quite happy with how that’s wrapped up.
The truth is, I’ve never really been completely convinced that Roy really loves Jung Sook as a potential romantic partner. I did believe that he loved her as a friend and perhaps even a platonic soulmate, but I was uncertain of the romantic aspect of his love.
More importantly, is the fact that Jung Sook acknowledges, in this finale, that she’s never been able to see herself with Roy.
And so, even if she does recognize that not being with Roy was a missed opportunity, it’s still an opportunity that she doesn’t regret not taking; it just didn’t feel right for her, in the end.
I know that some viewers were bummed that Jung Sook doesn’t end up with anyone at the end of our story, but I’m very content with this, because it’s more important to me, that Jung Sook puts herself first, and we do see her do that.
We see her carve a new path for herself, with her own clinic, and her own cafe serving healthy food, while she continues to do the medical volunteering work that gives her so much fulfillment.
Importantly, we see that Jung Sook’s happy with her life, as she goes about doing all these things, and that, I think, is the most important aspect of our ending.
Plus, Jung Sook’s life isn’t over yet; she could still meet someone whom she feels is right for her, later on, yes?
All in all, we have a happy ending, with our various characters doing well in each of their new beginnings, with hope at the forefront, instead of the confusion, pain or bitterness of the past.
And that’s exactly the kind of feel-good, optimistic ending that I’d wanted and expected, of Show.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Somewhat uneven, but works out to be pretty solid, on balance.
FINAL GRADE: B+
The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of Doctor Cha, is Hidden Love [China]. I’ve taken an initial look at Hidden Love and I’m happy to say that I’m enjoying it nicely, so far.
You can check out my episode 1-4 notes on Hidden Love on Patreon here.
Here’s an overview of what I’m covering on Patreon right now (Tier benefits are cumulative)!
Foundation Tier (US$1): Entertainment tidbits + the first set notes of all shows covered on Patreon (that’s 2 episodes for kdramas and 4 episodes for cdramas)
Early Access (US$5): +Dr. Romantic 3 [Korea]
Early Access Plus (US$10): +My Perfect Stranger [Korea]
VIP (US$15): +See You In My 19th Life [Korea]
VVIP (US$20): +King The Land [Korea]
Ultimate (US$25): +Hidden Love [China]