It’s finale time (or, okay, technically it was finale time about *coughs* two months ago *coughs*), which means our couple have a decision to make and boy, is it a doozy. Can either one live while the other survives? Read on to find out…
Episode 8 (Finale)
At the police station, Kyung-seok tells his story to a disbelieving police officer, who gives him the side-eye and wonders if Kyung-seok is crazy, or possibly… a gamer? Because of his talk of many-tailed monsters? Ha!
Mi-jin’s arrival has him cowering beneath the desk and begging for protection; so afraid is he that he refuses to leave, even after Mi-jin is cleared of suspicion by the cop.
At Last, Eung-seok asks Mi-jin for the truth and, tired of all the lies and evasions, she admits that she’s a gumiho.
Eung-seok says that her origins don’t matter to him: gumiho or human being, he’ll never break up with her. Perhaps this is just my cynicism coming to the fore, but I can’t help but wonder if he’d say the same thing if he wasn’t (literally) dying.
Mom sits at home, worrying about her wayward won’t-eat-his-liver daughter. Mi-mo calls her from the salon and quietly confirms – to Mom and to us – that Mi-jin has less than a week left.
Mi-jin watches Eung-seok sleep, but when he awakens, she’s gone. He opens up her trunk… and finds the dagger, which leads him to wonder if perhaps there was some nugget of truth to her words.
At home, Mi-jin explains to Mom that she was forced to tell Eung-seok the truth; Mom panics and decides that they have to sell up the business and leave for parts unknown, because discovery never leads to anything good.
Meanwhile, Kyung-seok tries to convince Eung-seok to let go of Mi-jin, because she’s different and, finally, Eung-seok agrees that she is different: because he loves her. Those… aren’t tears you see; it’s just… it’s windy, okay? *sniffles*
The Gu family prepare to move, with Mom and Secretary Park packing up the house and Mi-mo the business. She meets with Woo-hyun, who informs her that he’s enlisted in the army and asks her to wait for him. In a cute call-back to a previous episode (in which she’d said that they should be together in their nursing home days), she lets him in on a little secret: she’s already old enough to be a nursing home, so they may as well get on with the dating already. And then it’s smoochy time (but not really, because these are idols and some of their fans would be scarred for life).
Eung-seok and Kyung-seok are still battling it out, with Kyung-seok arguing that Mi-jin literally needs men to live: meaning, she’s killed before and will again. Eung-seok doesn’t think she’d do that, not now, but Kyung-seok, clearly sceptical of Mi-jin’s inherent goodness, hires some shifty-looking men to kidnap (?) Mi-jin. Oh, Kyung-seok. I get that you’re scared, but this… this is seriously douchey behaviour.
Armed with their instructions to grab either Mi-jin or her family members if she’s not available, the men arrive at the house. Secretary Park takes them down with seeming ease, until he’s overpowered and knocked unconscious. Secret ninja past? We may never know.
Mom is being held at Last, to Eung-seok’s disgust (though he’s not actually doing anything to prevent the situation, either), apparently to try to trap Mi-jin, which… works about as well as you’d expect.
The gumiho of the hour arrives, and when Kyung-seok calls for his men and they show, he assumes that Mi-jin has eaten them, like the evil fox she is. Bitterly, she says that she has, but then, instead of attacking Kyung-seok, or running away (as Mom would have her do), she does the smart, human thing… and calls the police to arrest Kyung-seok for kidnapping. The detective recognises him from his previous ramblings at the station, and sighs that he’s a repeat offender. Into the clink he goes. Hee, this is too good for words (unless one of those words is ‘awesome’).
Mi-jin tells Eung-seok a story about a mama fox and her two babies who one day ate a strange herb. They turned into gumiho, but also had a human form – as they were destined to one day become human – but could only do so after eating the livers of a thousand men.
She herself has, of course, only taken the livers (and, thus, lives) of men who truly loved her; and love her they did, despite her being a mere beast in human form. Eung-seok claps, not wanting to believe it, and wonders if Mi-jin has ever considered a career in script-writing, given her imagination. He glances up, only to find that Mi-jin has disappeared.
He runs through the restaurant but can’t seem to find her; he does, however, find the pictures of Mi-jin, Mom and Mi-mo through the years. He’s flipping through them with growing disbelief when a sudden breeze blows them from his hands. The breeze, of course, signifies Mi-jin’s entrance, in all her gumiho-glory.
Having revealed her true self, she asks – again and again – if he can truly love her, monster and all. He collapses – from the shock or the brain tumour; it’s sort of a toss-up at this point – and Mi-jin weeps.
Newly sprung from the big house, Kyung-seok rushes over to the hospital and, er, reaches beneath Eung-seok’s hospital gown to… grope him? But no, it’s just your usual liver search and he’s relieved to find Eung-seok’s still intact – relieved, that is, until the doctor informs him of Eung-seok terminal brain tumour. Apparently, although Eung-seok improved briefly, he’s now taken a turn for the worse and is on the way out. It comes as a total shock to Kyung-seok and he breaks down in tears.
Mi-jin, having been the one to deposit him at the hospital and having found out his condition from a (very newsy) doctor, wonders if he ever really loved her, or if his feelings were merely sympathy for a fellow terminal patient. She crosses off another day on her calendar and we see that there are now but two days left… Oh, no.
Unsettled by the sudden changes, Mi-mo can’t sleep and climbs into bed with her unni, claiming to love the smell of fox. The girls reminisce about their mother’s joy in becoming human and Mi-mo fiercely orders her sister not to use words with a ring of finality in them, like ‘last’, because she will become human. Mi-jin agrees and the sisters hold each other and cry silently. It’s such a lovely, poignant moment and it’s reduced me to tears. Floods of them.
In another teary room, Eung-seok awakens and asks to see Mi-jin, which Kyung-seok agrees to, despite his misgivings.
From his hospital bed, Eung-seok takes her hand and places it over his liver, telling her that what she is no longer matters to him: he only cares that she lives. Mi-jin, assuming that this is mere sympathy talking, rejects the offer.
He thinks that although she speaks of love, she must not have truly felt it before, because if she had, she’d never have been able to ask for their livers. For him, the thought of her disappearing is worse than the thought of his own death.
He begs for her to take his liver and continue on and to truly fall in love after he’s gone. She rips her hand from his and runs from of the room, crying as though her heart is broken.
In bed, she writhes in pain and remembers the men who’ve died for her. She asks each of them what she should do and they tell her that she was merely learning of love all this time… waiting, and learning until her thousandth man.
Further complicating her thought process, Mom and Mi-mo urge her to just take Eung-seok’s liver: giving it to her was, after all, his choice.
So Mi-jin gumiho’s up in Eung-seok’s hospital room and leans over his prone form…
… as Mom and Mi-mo gaze up at the moon, counting down the minutes and anticipating Mi-jin’s return as a human.
But it’s not to be, as Mi-jin takes Eung-seok to Last and, when he asks if she’s chosen him for her thousandth man, she doesn’t answer, but instead thanks him for teaching her what it’s like to be human. He, in turn, thanks her for choosing to live and they kiss. As they do, she passes to him the essence of her gumiho-self: the souls of those 999 men who loved her.
Mom and Mi-mo, still watching the moon, weep as it slowly turns red, knowing that something has gone wrong, that Mi-jin is… no more.
Mi-jin, having sacrificed herself for Eung-seok, says those magical three little words and asks for them in return: he complies, telling her that he loves her and then, bathed in moonlight, she disappears.
Some years later, Eung-seok stands before the fox enclosure at the zoo, watching the foxes. A little girl – his daughter – tugs on his sleeve, wanting to see the other animals, but he refuses, telling her with a wistful smile that to see a fox… is to see love.
I’m not really sure what to say about the finale.
It was suitably melancholy and a not unexpected ending, given that you knew pretty much from the get-go that one – or both – of them would have to die, but… I found the execution pretty clumsy. Or no, not even clumsy: I feel… lied to, as though they decided for some reason to blindfold us through the majority of the show then, when the truth of Mi-jin being able to heal Eung-seok was revealed in the eleventh hour, expected us to be pleased with this sudden information. Yeah, not so much.
Surely – surely – that fairly significant plot point would’ve been an even greater source of angst, a way to ramp up the tension in an otherwise (let’s face it) pretty tension-free drama? And, okay, perhaps they felt that would’ve made the ending too obvious, but honestly, who really thought Mi-jin was going to take Eung-seok’s liver? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? *crickets chirp*
Aside from the slight let-down of the finale (let’s not talk about the epilogue, because I will throw things, sweartagod), the show was pretty damn awesome: off-beat, with a dark humour that tickled my funnybone, a sweet and mellow (if somewhat slow) romance and a family of gumiho I loved to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach. (Yes, that much. Really.)
If you’ve yet to watch this show, the fantastic familial relationship alone would be reason enough to add it to your playlist. Mom’s relationship with her children was heart-warming (and then heartbreaking, ack) and Mi-jin and Mi-mo’s sisterly strife and support was both relatable and lovely.
All in all, I found The Thousandth Man to be an easy-to-watch, enjoyable show, with a great deal of humour, charm and heart. (And livers.)