Pre-Recap Thoughts: If Episode 121 was about new beginnings–Jin Hee/Lee Juck and Soo Jung/Seung Yoon pairings–Episode 122 revolves around goodbyes as two of our main characters–Ha Sun and Kye Sang–say their respective farewells. In much the same way that Episode 121 didn’t explicitly show the characters becoming couples but instead only alluded to them for the audience’s benefit, Episode 122 reveals more to the audience than to its characters.
*Hand massaging aching heart* With one episode left until the series finale, the writers are not mincing their words or airtime as the characters and the audience say goodbye to two beloved characters, Ha Sun and Kye Sang. Hence, it is with a heavy heart that I recap today’s episode. I can only imagine what I’m going to be feeling tomorrow while I watch the final 25 minutes of this treasured series. *Sigh*
However, I’ll deal with that issue when I cross that proverbial bridge. Until then, I shall relish in the beauty that was Episode 122…yes, despite its melancholy theme of goodbyes. Perhaps the title of today’s episode should be “The Beauty of Saying Goodbye” because there was definitely a bittersweet beauty to the way both characters said their goodbyes and how the affected characters said theirs.
The episode opens with Ha Sun answering her father’s phone call and learning that her mother’s surgery results were not as good as they had hoped. She tells Ji Seok the news that she’s going to have to visit the States for a short while to help her father take care of her mother, even if her mother reassures her that everything is under control.
In the final stages of her preparation to leave for the States, Ha Sun tells Ji Won and Julian what she has put away in the refrigerator. Julian reminds her not to worry; he is Jul Jang Geum (a reference to a drama about a famous palace cook Dae Jang Geum). Heh.
Since they won’t be able to go out on dates for a while, Ha Sun asks Ji Seok out on a “final” date before her trip, and the two lovebirds date to their hearts’ content, bicycling, gaming, taking photos, etc. She wants to spend as much time with him as possible so that she can remember every detail of his face. Aw…
As they eat dinner, Ji Seok laments that he’ll really miss her, too. He’s going to have to make sure to remember every detail of her face, too, since he had such a hard time surviving her absence of one week last time; this time, she’ll be gone for 10 days! Aw…To help him, Ha Sun props her elbows on the table and showcases her face with her hands. LOL. However, the mirth and levity of their dinner date is interrupted by a phone call from Ha Sun’s father. Although Ha Sun passes it off as a casual phone call, the audience can sense that she’s received some bad news, especially when she abruptly tells Ji Seok that they should go see that pre-season baseball game, the one that Ji Seok said wasn’t worth seeing just a few minutes earlier. Surprised yet pleased to prolong his date with her, he agrees, especially since Ha Sun drags him out of the restaurant in mid-meal.
At the baseball park, they cheer their hearts out, especially Ha Sun as though she may never again have such an opportunity.
Returning from the game, Ha Sun asks Ji Seok to stop and simply enjoy the moment. Linking her arms around his, she notices that he’s bashful all of the sudden. He tells her that he feels as though he hasn’t been able to love her the way that he would like because he’s relatively new to this dating thing; most of what he’s done for her is the first time for him. As she reassures him that he is an excellent boyfriend, he comments that at times, he wonders if this is a dream, but if it is, it would be a cruel thing to him because then dating Ha Sun wouldn’t be a reality. As he admits to his fear, Ha Sun reaches up and kisses him, and the two stay that way for a long time. *Sigh* Ha Sun’s kiss seems to have a desperate quality to it, one that Ji Seok doesn’t notice…perhaps because he doesn’t want to notice anything wrong? 🙁
At the airport, Ha Sun bids Ji Seok a tearful goodbye, completely understanding the way Kye Sang quietly departed without saying his goodbyes. Saying goodbye to the people you love–face-to-face–can be extremely difficult.
As she slowly walks toward the gate to her plane, Ji Seok motions in their secret code that he loves her, and Ha Sun does the same, remembering as she motions her love to him her father’s last phone conversation with her at the restaurant: Although her mother says she is fine, the doctors have discovered that the cancer has spread to other parts of her body. He doesn’t know how long her treatment will take, but since her green card application is almost completed, he thinks that Ha Sun should seriously think about living in the U.S. permanently. Unable to tell Ji Seok this new development, Ha Sun silently and tearfully walks through the gate, uncertain of when she’ll be able to return.
With his departure for Rwanda just days away, Kye Sang packs up his belongings from the clinic, no longer an employed physician there.
Before leaving the office with so many memories, he takes one last look, prompting the audience to take one last look as well.
Meanwhile, the Ahn family sits around the livingroom and hears news of political and military unrest in Rwanda and begins to fear for Kye Sang’s safety, particularly Yoo Sun, who has been a surrogate mother to Kye Sang since their mother’s early death. And so, the entire family tries to dissuade Kye Sang from leaving for Rwanda, overriding his protests that he’ll be safe and scope out the situation from a nearby country if things look unsafe. Yoo Sun logically yet hysterically points out that he can do the same scoping from the safety of Korea. She insists that he delay his trip until things settle down in Rwanda; if he’s so bent on volunteering, he can volunteer in Korea. Good point, big sister. Emotionally guilting Kye Sang, Yoo Sun gets him to finally agree to rethink his decision to leave. Instead, he’ll volunteer in the countryside of Korea.
Later in the day, Kye Sang goes into the tunnel to fix the lantern, getting things done before leaving. He runs into Ji Won, who noticed a light from the tunnel while she was in the bathroom and decided to join him.
Together, they reminisce over all the events that happened in that tunnel between them (and thereby take the audience on “a walk down memory lane”), and Kye Sang even discovers a bandage that Ji Won had taped to the wall of the tunnel after her injury there when Kye Sang came back to treat her. They comment that the tunnel is worthy of future excavation. LOL
Later that night, Ji Won sees Kye Sang sitting on a park bench and sits down to chat with him a bit. She’s startled to smell alcohol on his breath, an indication to her of his adulthood and perhaps his sadness over his Rwanda disrupted plans. She’s further startled by his request of a song, but something about his manner compels her to comply. And so she begins to sing the haunting, bittersweet song, “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” and the audience is taken on yet another “walk down memory lane” of all the poignant/amusing/etc. moments between these two characters who are so alike in their life goals and pains. And the way that Kye Sang looks at Ji Won…it makes me wonder what he’s thinking.
In the middle of the night, Kye Sang wakes up Yoo Sun and tells her that he’s leaving on the early morning flight for Rwanda. Eventually able to calm his sister down, he hands her a stack of letters to give to the family–he doesn’t want to wake them up–and promises to be safe and contact her often. When Yoo Sun tries to go to the airport with him, he tells her to just say her goodbye here from home; he doesn’t want her returning home alone.
And so she sees him out to the taxi, where Kye Sang enfolds her in a big hug and solemnly reminds and thanks her for being his biggest supporter.
As the taxi slowly drives away, Yoo Sun chases after it a bit, thereby prolonging the time left with her dear brother who’s also been like a son to her since their mother’s death.
From inside the taxi, Kye Sang wipes at his tears only to have fresh ones replace the wiped ones, his expression resolved to depart for Rwanda yet sad to leave his beloved family behind.
Once the sun rises, Ji Won opens her bedroom door to find a small box that Kye Sang left for her before leaving for the airport.
Inside, she finds the camera she had once lost–the one she received as a birthday gift from her father so many years ago. In his letter, Kye Sang writes that he went to a used camera store to sell him cameras and saw one just like the one she showed him that night on her cell phone. Although he’s not sure if it’s even the same camera (I get the feeling that it is, especially since it has the initials “JW & SH” engraved on the camera just like her lost camera), he thought that this would make a memorable gift for her on her birthday and as a parting gift. He wishes her a happy birthday and promises to return safely back to Korea…someday. Until he sees her again, he bids her farewell. Ji Won rushes out to see if she can still catch him, but to no avail.
And in flashback, we see Kye Sang leaving the box at Ji Won’s door. As he enters the tunnel connecting their two houses, he pauses to see what’s underneath that bandage and gently smiles a small smile when he sees what Ji Won has written on the tunnel wall for safekeeping: “Ji Won & Kye Sang 2011.10.31~” Oh, man…just kill me now…ack! Kye Sang, do you have to leave for Rwanda?!
Utilizing her newly discovered lost camera, Ji Won renews her love of photography and begins to shoot beautiful pictures. As she collects her first batch of exposures from the camera shop (I sort of miss the good ol’ days of film, don’t you?), she unexpectedly finds a photo of Kye Sang. Apparently, he had inadvertently taken one of himself while he was preparing her gift.
With a tender smile, she tacks up the photo…right below her father’s…a clear reminder of the important place Kye Sang holds in her heart. He helped her rediscover her love of photography and found her father’s last gift to her, a physical reminder of his love for her now that her cell phone is completely unusable. The episode ends on Ji Won’s satisfied profile as she looks upon her two important men.
Post-Recap Thoughts: I know that the various “walks down memory lane” is an often-used technique by Kdramas and other shows to get the audience to revisit the previous episodes, but the seamless way it was done left me nostalgic for the past and appreciative of how far we’ve come with these characters.
From Ji Won’s first encounter with Kye Sang in the tunnel to their last, symbolically in the same tunnel, their relationship resounds with healing and empathy, reflecting a bond that will last the test of time in its unique specialness. They were there for each other in that gentle, profound way. And in much the same way that Kye Sang lowered his speech to the familiar form in order to “provide’ Ji Won with a father figure, he is able to “return” her father back to her when he fortuitously discovers her long-lost camera. As a result, although he leaves a void in her life with his absence, he has filled another void left by the dead cell phone.
As for Ha Sun’s departure, I knew that the writers just wouldn’t let these two lovebirds have a conflict-free ending. We’ll have to see how this unravels in the finale tomorrow. Regardless of the results, I honestly think Ha Sun should have told Ji Seok about her mother’s metastatic cancer and the real possibility that she may have to stay in the U.S. indefinitely. At least this way, he gets to say a proper goodbye to her rather than a have-a-good-trip-see-you-in-10-days farewell.
Hmm…so many other things I want to say about this episode, but again, it’s way past midnight. *Sigh* I shall save the final thoughts for my “Series Review” post. I hope you enjoyed this episode just as much as I did…yes, despite the melancholy theme. I truly did find the goodbyes “beautiful.”