Bubblegum 풍선껌 Episode 14
[One Step Between Yearning and Happiness]
Although it is a bit of an emotional whiplash to watch, especially given how dead set Ri Hwan was last episode on breaking up, he and Haeng Ah are on the same page today – no more tomato/to-mah-to stuff. When it’s time to say goodnight, Ri Hwan drags his feet, not wanting to leave, and ends up staying the night. Like I said, they’re on the same page.
When he arrives home in the morning, Ji Hoon doesn’t need anything more than 2+2 to figure out what’s up. Ri Hwan can’t help himself as he grins boyishly and comments that he didn’t realize how the time flew by. Ji Hoon calls after him that happy people never keep track of time. Ri Hwan places the watch he’s been wearing in the drawer; there’s no need to live day-to-day counting the minutes until midnight any longer. It’s the dawn of a new day as Ri Hwan and Ji Hoon throw open the door of the hospital veranda and enjoy a cup of coffee. Even if his own love life is a mess, Ji Hoon is on the ball when it comes to Ri Hwan and Haeng Ah. He wants to be kept in the loop of family affairs and tells Ri Hwan not to rely only on Haeng Ah. He wants to still be there for Mother/Aunt’s situation and Ri Hwan’s looming test results.
Haeng Ah can’t keep her happy news from Tae Hee who, always on Haeng Ah’s side, is cautiously optimistic. Tae Hee tells Haeng Ah to keep her in the loop, too. It pays to have caring, good friends even if they tell you things you don’t want to hear for your own good. Now for her news: Tae Hee tells Haeng Ah that she confessed to Manager Cho and got rejected. “Ninja? Our manager?” says a shocked Haeng Ah. Se Young has her own family issues – her mother is visiting and the nagging won’t stop. Later at her house, Joon Soo is more sensitive than Se Young realizes when he offers to come in and meet her mother. He isn’t prepared for Se Young’s hemming and hawing when she asks if he is going to say he is her boyfriend and he replies, “What else?” When it seems that she doesn’t want him to meet her mother, he realizes he is more serious about her than she is about him. She denies wanting to get married, but when he asks what they are doing together, she acts casual and tells him they are just dating. “Date and break up, then?” he asks, getting out of the car. The age and career gap plays out more than ever before. Both will have to decide where this relationship is headed.
Tae Hee passes Dong Il on her way out. He asks if she likes his new locks; she says no. (I agree. Dong Il’s not my style either way, but I kinda liked his floppy ponytail that matched his sad sack life.) She doesn’t want to make small talk because she still has feelings for him and can’t look at him [since he’s rejected her]. On that rebound, she runs into Ji Hoon in the parking lot. He wants to talk, but she doesn’t trust his motives and doesn’t think he knows his own feelings. Maybe she’s right, he says; all he knows is that when he sees her, her is happy. *song running through my head* If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.
Over carry-out dinner at his place, Suk Joon asks Dong Il to quit and work with him. He offers to let Dong Il live in his apartment, and says that it might be good to get out of this neighborhood for a while. There are uncertainties that both men are facing – Dong Il doesn’t know what’s next for him and he is not getting younger; Suk Joon needs to get away from the daily reminders of Haeng Ah and their lost relationship.
Ri Hwan has very good manners and meets with Yi Seul for two reasons: to return the offer that her brother left and to say goodbye for the last time. He thanks her for all her help with Mother/Aunt. When she asks him to stay for coffee, he doesn’t have to spell out what he means when he says someone is waiting for him. It is rather sad to see the forlorn look on Yi Seul’s as she runs downstairs in time to glimpse Kermit the Frog (oops, I mean Ri Hwan) and Haeng Ah cozily walking down the street arm in arm. Is that the most shockingly greenish coat ever or what?
It’s time to face Mother/ as lovers. Ri Hwan tells Haeng Ah that Mother/Aunt wrote in her journal that she wanted to go with her to see Father (at the tree memorial). He is cautious and wants to prepare Haeng Ah for the possibility that Mother/Aunt may not recognize her or may see her as young Haeng Ah. She isn’t worried and hopes that Mother/Aunt is delighted to see her.
It is a scary moment when a young girl steps off the curb and nearly gets hit. Mother/Aunt has a flashback to the time when Haeng Ah nearly got hit by a car. She calls out, “Heang Ah!” Ri Hwan and Haeng Ah arrive just as Mother/Aunt scolds the driver. It is a moment of past and present mashed together. Ri Hwan walks his mother to the sidewalk; she seems confused. Haeng Ah approaches Mother/Aunt carefully and asks, “Aunt, are you okay?” Mother/Aunt asks, “Haeng Ah, are you okay?” She gives Mother/Aunt a hug and tells her that she is really, really okay.
Ri Hwan has avoided Secret Garden for some time. When he goes into the kitchen and says, “I’m here,” Uncle Gangster firmly but lovingly tells him to treat Haeng Ah well. If he makes a mistake again then – he chops the butcher knife down solidly on the counter, making his point. “I won’t,” Ri Hwan quickly answers.
Haeng Ah and Mother/Aunt talk comfortably at the window table. Haeng Ah isn’t afraid to be herself and reminds Mother/Aunt that she worried about her when she was younger. She tells Mother/Aunt that she is doing well and missed her when they didn’t see each other.
Yi Seul is on another one of those painful blind dates. This time, however, she and the gentleman have some things in common that breaks the ice. Their overbearing mothers are intrusive to an almost hilarious point. They both have had unfortunate dating experiences. But, they discuss these things comfortably and are at ease with one another.
It’s family trip time! Mother/Aunt, Dong Hwa, Ri Hwan, and Haeng Ah pack up the car and head for the ocean. They are doing things Mother/Aunt wrote in her journal: go and see Father with Haeng Ah; visit the sanitarium. It is a cute, carefree moment when the stop for udon noodles at the rest stop. As it turns out, none of them has been on a vacation before. Dong Hwa complains that it will be a failure since no one knows what they’re doing. Ri Hwan promises that starting now, there will be family vacations.
For the first time no one is walking on eggshells. Ri Hwan and Haeng Ah enjoy time together on the beach. Dong Hwa has become a comfortable companion to Mother/Aunt and makes memories taking pictures. Haeng Ah asks Ri Hwan what else Mother/Aunt wrote in her journal. “Let Ri Hwan go; visit the ocean; visit Father with Haeng Ah; that she’s sorry for the school trip,” he tells her. Haeng Ah says it is time for Mother/Aunt to forget her regrets.
It seems as if Mother/Aunt is working hard to face the things she wants to take care of while she still hasher faculties. From a bench on the sand overlooking Haeng Ah and Ri Hwan, she converses with herself – the “her” that helps her work through the change of heart and circumstances in life. Can she make up for what she lacked? Can she do anything for them, now? The fading self says, “Tell them you were happy and tell them to be happy.” Mother/Aunt tells her fading self that she did a good job. An honest, “thank you” clears the air of lingering regrets. When Mother/Aunt looks next to her, the image is gone. In one of those poignant kdrama moments, she looks down to see her hospital badge – the one her old self was wearing – laying in the sand. Mother/Aunt has made peace with herself. (*sniff* I didn’t see that coming.)
What else does a family do on vacation? Grill meat otuside! Ri Hwan takes charge and calls out, “It seems like the meat is burning, but it’s not,” as if to reassure everyone and himself that the uncontrollable flames and smoke mean nothing. Dong Hwa impatiently scolds to hurry up and do a good job, she starving! In a classic, adorable Dong Wook moment, he turns to Haeng Ah and says, “What if we have a daughter and she turns out like that?” to which she replies, “But I was like that when I was young.” So cute! Everyone is having a good old typical family squabbling vacation time.
While they wait on the porch swing for dinner, Mother/Aunt slips into a story about how Chung Hee (Aunt Princess) was mistreated by her father and sneaked to stay at her house as much as she could get away with it. Aunt Princess’ childhood was hard; Dong Hwa is sorry and cries at learning that.
The evening concludes with roasting marshmallows over a campfire. Ri Hwan’s burnt marshmallow on the end of a stick makes Mother/Aunt laugh. “This is fun,” she says over and over. It is nice to see the relief on Ri Hwan’s face that his mother is enjoying the trip and it’s been good all around for everyone. With Mother/Aunt and Dong Hwa tucked in bed, Ri Hwan and Haeng Ah linger at the fire. She requests that he sing her a song. He wonders what will she do for him? Of course, the kdrama answer to that is to grant a wish. Ri Hwan starts out shyly at first singing, If I were to say it, I’m a bit concerned about you … As he sings sincerely, Heang Ah puts her hands to her cheeks, enjoying every moment. She reaches over and kisses him. They embrace.
- I will admit that Mother/Aunt’s turnaround feels less forced and more acceptable, more real. After all, what can be done about the past but to apologize and move forward with a new resolution not to fall into the old habits? Fortunately, Haeng Ah is not one to hold grudges against Mother/Aunt; in fact, that has been her strength all along. There is something to be said about waiting for things to be made right, even if it appears to others that you are nothing but a doormat for doing so. There’s more to one’s behavior – and personality – than meets the eye. It may be a little too neatly fixed, but I’m coming around. Kdramas have that effect on me.
- One thing I like about this drama is that I do care about the peripheral characters. I wonder what will become of our lost soul, Dong Il. I want Joon Soo and Se Young to break the age norm if that is truly what they want; maybe Yi Seul has finally found someone she can relate to and, in time, get to know better; does Ji Hoon deserve another chance with Tae Hee? What will they do with Suk Joon?
- And now, for the biggie – when will we find out THE TEST RESULTS?