Bubblegum wraps up like a YA novel that has taken the reader through the ups and downs of the characters’ relationship crises, reflection, growth, and resolutions. In this way Bubblegum leaves one with a satisfied feeling for where the characters land, though the story is predictable and there are few surprises. Sometimes a non-rocky ending is appreciated in kdramaland and that’s how I feel about Bubblegum. Episode 16 recap provides a final look and a fond farewell to Lee Dong Wook as Ri Hwan, Jung Ryeo Won as Haeng Ah, and the rest of the Bubblegum cast.
Bubblegum 풍선껌 Episode 16
[Tying Up Loose Ends]
Tae Hee and Ji Hoon reconcile their impasse through soju shots. He asks for a chance, she wonders if she can do that. They leave it open-ended, she needs more time, but Ji Hoon holds on to the hope that she will come back to him.
Everyone’s work day starts with a smile as the group picture of last night’s birthday party pops up on their phones. Dong Il shows up for his final broadcast at Black Radio. There’s a bit of a crisis – the scheduled guest has canceled. Se Young arrives with her mother who is visiting and wants to see her daughter’s workplace. She’s sassy and full of spunk and takes a liking to Joon Soo. The staff toss ideas around and wonder if they should invite the spicy rice cake vendor in front of the building to talk about her business. Just then, Se Young comments that her mother ran a spicy rice cake business and before she can blink, her mother is on the air being interviewed. Se Young can barely keep her composure at her mother’s matter-of-fact responses that include unflattering stories about her daughter. (“Her head was that big when she was born. Can you imagine how much I suffered trying to give birth to her?”) When Se Young asks what the secret to good tasting street food is, mother has no qualms admitting that it is plenty of MSG. “I just pour it in.” In the end, mother gushes about how proud she is of her daughter who even bought her a Louis Vuitton bag. The staff goes crazy as mother repeatedly breaks the “no brand names mentioned” rule.
Ri Hwan texts Haeng Ah to ask why she isn’t on the air. She texts back that it’s Manager Cho Dong Il’s last day. He is just checking up to make sure that she i s okay. She tells him be sure to listen to the last song of the broadcast.
Ri Hwan waits in the car to pick up Haeng Ah. Not A Fancy Confession plays to wrap up Black Radio’s midnight show. On the way home Ri Hwan confesses that on that day back in school it wasn’t classmate Woo Bin that requested the song over the school intercom, it was him. He teases, “How could you be so clueless? I’m dating a total idiot.”
Yi Seul and her blind date have agreed to meet again. They are both on a relationship rebound. But, somehow they find common ground in that, and little by little, they let down the walls to have a naturally flowing conversation. They discover that their slightly prickly personalities match and it’s refreshing that they can be themselves. As they drink coffee in a picture window seat, Ri Hwan walks past. Yi Seul and Ri Hwan are face to face and for a moment they are suspended, but then bow cordially as if to wish each other a good and happy life.
Chief Doctor invites Ri Hwan to lunch. He wants to make sure Ri Hwan is okay and not carrying the load of his mother’s illness alone. Also, he heard the results of Ri Hwan’s tests and wants to treat him to a meal. His words are comforting and are meant to instruct Ri Hwan not to feel guilty, as so many people do, caring for an Alzheimer’s patient. People ask themselves, “Can I have fun? Can I eat at such a nice place?” when they are caring for someone who is ill. Chief Doctor wants Ri Hwan to know that he is not alone. Ri Hwan asks Chief Doctor what his mother was like when she was in school and is surprised to hear that she was the dancing queen in med school. It is a light, happy, and much needed conversation between the two.
Hwa Dong has taken Mother/Aunt for an outing for the day. As she packs and bundles up Mother/Aunt, she stoops to pick up something that falls. Mother/Aunt notices a women in a lab coat and follows her into the elevator. The doors close before Hwa Dong can get to her. She frantically calls Ri Hwan and tells him that she’s lost Mother/Aunt. A kind woman helps panicky Hwa Dong and takes her to the security where they spot Mother/Aunt on surveillance footage. They send employees to look for her. Dong Hwa has also notified everyone by phone.
It’s a mad dash to find Mother/Aunt. Meanwhile, a young man stops to help Mother/Aunt who is standing, bewildered, in the middle of the street. Luckily, she has on an ID card and he takes her to the police station. Hwa Dong, Aunt Princess, and Uncle Gangster get word that she is there. Se Young and Joon Soo are the first to arrive at the station to comfort Mother/Aunt.
It’s an extended family reunion as others show up: Ji Hoon and Tae Hee, Haeng Ah, and finally, Ri Hwan who was tied up in traffic. When a tearful Dong Hwa apologizes to Ri Hwan he tells her, “Don’t say that.”
What could have been a scary incident turns out all right and everyone is relieved. As they go their separate ways, Ri Hwan takes Mother/Aunt home, Tae Hee and Ji Hoon eat a meal together, and Aunt Princess, Uncle Gangster, and Dong Hwa return to the restaurant. Joon Soo and Se Young decide not to hide their relationship and to “just love each other and live.” Not a bad solution, but he’ll have to explain that to his mother who comes out of their family chicken restaurant and sees her son hugging an older woman. Ha!
Anchor Suk Joon doesn’t give the guest – a conglomerate chairman – any leeway when it comes to donation loopholes and tax evasion. It’s an exclusive news breaking bust that has the chairman mopping his forehead with a handkerchief. Dong Il is right in step in his new position. And may I say, the suit does make the man. It’s a new career beginning for both of them.
With Haeng Ah moving to the third floor, she can come down and make breakfast for Ri Hwan and Ji Hoon every single day. That’s what worries them; she is on a bland health kick and is not the best cook in the first place, but neither wants to hurt her feelings. In an honest moment, Ri Hwan decides to tell her that her cooking is lacking. She acts like she takes it well, but doesn’t miss the opportunity to be “honest” back. “I want to stop listening to your music,” she tells him. Ri Hwan is shocked and responds with, “What? I thought that’s what you wanted.” She says that the same song every night, over and over, sticks in her head and she can’t think. “I guess you hated it, then,” Ri Hwan replies. The truth hurts. In the end, he says he’ll just send a kiss goodnight over the phone minus the song; she promises to buy buttermilk bread and not bother to cook as much. A final truce ends in a hug. Funny thing, though, they can’t let it go. “Is my singing as bad as your cooking?” he asks. “Is my cooking that weird?” she wonders.
Dong Hwa teaches Mother/Aunt how to play Go Stop. It’s an exercise to help Alzheimer’s, she explains to her. Dong Hwa tells Mother/Aunt that she’ll be nice to her on the first round. But, to her surprise, Mother/Aunt wipes her out and leaves Dong Hwa speechless. Aunt Princess doesn’t hold back on razzing her for her loss to Mother/Aunt.
Apparently, everyone takes Go Stop seriously, and Dong Hwa teams up with Mother/Aunt to slam dunk Aunt Princess in a competitive game. When Uncle Gangster tries his hand at a round, Mother/Aunt catches him cheating. Wow, Go Stop is hardcore in Korea. But a closer and more endearing family time there never was.
With his life on the line – at least he acts like it, Ri Hwan teaches Haeng Ah how to drive. She is determined to be able to take Mother/Aunt to appointments and on outings. Is it ever a good idea for a boyfriend to teach his girlfriend how to drive? And how can she keep her eyes on the road, anyway, with him wearing that pale pink overcoat looking more handsome than ever?
Haeng Ah gets out because Ri Hwan is too unfair and petty. He agrees that it’s a good idea to stop for today. They take a break and relax on a bench. He tells her she did a good job. She says she will practice and be good in a year to help with Mother/Aunt. He thinks it may be two years…
They walk, arm in arm, with an ease that was hard to come by, and a love that has grown through adversity. Although not perfect, it is real and undeniable, and they learn to trust and lean on each other. He whispers his wish to her – we are not privy to the details – but no mind; it’s something between the two of them that Haeng Ah said she didn’t see coming. Gaps from the past that everyone worked so hard to fill aren’t necessarily meant to be filled in the first place. With that realization, a new spring approaches with gaps left unfilled. Sometimes letting go is the best way, perhaps the only way, to move forward.
- Bubblegum finishes up like a neatly tied package whose contents have been pushed and prodded down into the box’s shape and can finally be wrapped with paper and ribbon to make it pretty. Although the melo-est moments were cringe-worthy including the one that I love to hate the most – lover/sibling ambiguity – we got a story that wove its way through those touchy topics and provided a history that cleared up that question for everyone.
- I loved how Mother/Aunt was able to evolve from someone who withheld love to protect herself to a mother who released her son to love who he wanted and and “aunt” who embraced the “niece” she had distanced because her presence was a painful reminder of her lost love. It took the death of her father and regret that she didn’t mend their relationship to make Mother/Aunt see past the walls she had built.
- I also liked Yi Seul even though I commented on practically every post that she was hard to read. Getting over a one-sided love is hard to do, and Bubblegum did a commendable job showing that reality. The cafe window scene where she and Ri Hwan acknowledged each other with a “be well, friend” bow was a wonderful, and the fact that her date got it and suggested they help each other heal on the relationship rebound opened up new relationship possibilities that Yi Seul thought would never come her way.
- Hwa Dong was adorable and came into her own as a member of the extended family and a companion to Mother/Aunt. I liked her perky, flexible personality a lot.
- Dong Il is looking mighty fine in a suit – it’s one of the strong points of kdrama fan service. Suk Joon sort of dropped off the radar for me. I never became attached to his story because he was so aloof. That was one of the weaknesses of this drama.
- Anyhoot, Bubblegum ended on an above average note for me, probably a 7 out of 10. Dong Wook and Ryeo Won were mostly responsible for that score.
- Any final thoughts? Please share them on this post! Thanks for hanging out at cimiart. Look forward to more recaps and fan art in 2016! Happy New Year to all ~