I’m sure you’ll all agree with me that it’s taken way too long to finally bang out this beast. So without further adieu… LET’S LIGHT THIS PUPPY!
Ji-ho runs downstairs clutching Yeong-rang’s handkerchief plaintively calling for his mommy like a little boy lost at the grocery store.
EvilStep returns home with the halibut sushi she was planning on serving to In-ha, but the police took him into custody as soon as the hearing was over. So where’s Yeong-rang… and why the long face, Ji-ho? Ji-ho tells her she’s gone. Vamoosed. DISAPPEARED. The sushi hits the ground!
Speeding down an Euljiro street, we see Secretary Oh driving Yeong-rang somewhere. She pleads with him to not tell her family anything about her eventual destination. Now that In-ha is in prison, she cannot bear to look at his empty room. She was the one that caused him to pay for her sins, and since she’ll be nothing but a blind burden to Ji-ho, it’s best that Yeong-rang run away.
Secretary Oh says that he never imagined that the infant he took away that night would turn out to be her true son. Dead Burnt-Up Dad only said that he was the child of his life-long love and that Secretary Oh should protect him at all costs.
Yeong-rang is stunned to hear that, as Secretary Oh says Dead Burnt-Up Dad always asked after the boy to make sure he was safe. She mutters that Man-se was such an ass for not even trying to be spiteful, and Secretary Oh says that if he had known, he would have put a stop to the plots right away. He insists to Yeong-rang that he bear the blame for everything that happened since the Dawn of Time!
Yeong-rang tells him nopes, it’s not his fault… and it’s not Dead Burnt-Up Dad’s fault either. It’s all hers for not recognizing her own flesh and blood, and turning him into a monster because of her greed. And they speed off into the night…….
ONE YEAR LATER
In-ha is released from prison, looking none the worse for wear (and a little chubbier in the cheeks). He looks over to see Ji-ho standing outside his car, waiting. Everything goes into slow-motion as they share a nice bromance-y moment just staring at each other. (Where’s the tofu, Ji-ho?)
But that lasts for all of three seconds, as In-ha rushes into Yeong-rang’s empty bedroom and then rips Ji-ho a new one for not telling him they haven’t been able to find their blind mother FOR A WHOLE YEAR! EvilStep tells In-ha to chill, since they’re going crazy themselves and don’t blame Ji-ho, because his hyung has done everything imaginable to find her. She just ain’t wanting to be found!
In-ha says he’s not giving up so easily since IT’S HIS MOTHER! Ji-ho reminds him hey dude, she’s his momma too. And he’s not giving up no matter what! In-ha cannot figure out for the life of him where she would have run off to.
But holy moley, whouda thunk that Yeong-rang’s decided to move to Jebu-do, into the same house that Ji-ho spent the first 12 years of his life. She finds her way to the table where her phone announces that it is 2:41 PM on 25 November. (LOL nice inside joke, since it was actually 2:41 AM the same morning that the Finale aired when that scene was shot.)
Yeong-rang finds the picture of her and The Boys taken on her birthday oh so long ago, with the captions written in Braille. She asks if her In-ha is doing okay after suffering for so long in prison.
Jung-wook asks Ji-ho if In-ha was released, and Ji-ho says he’s impressed that In-ha stayed in the whole year instead of being bailed out early. In-ha insisted he finish his time, if only to feel at ease once he got out. Jung-wook asks if Ji-ho’s in a lot of pain due to Yeong-rang’s disappearance, as Ji-ho asks how his own search is going.
Jung-wook says he’s on it every day, calling police stations and hospitals to see if Yeong-rang may have been admitted from an accident or something. Ji-ho figures with everyone looking for her in earnest, she’s bound to turn up soon.
Back at Boosung HQ, Ji-ho passes an envelope to In-ha that contains a share transfer contract. Saying he doesn’t need them anymore (wha?), he orders In-ha to come back to work as a Department Head. In-ha tells him he doesn’t want to since he has no right to take back what is rightfully Ji-ho’s spot anyway. He’d rather start from scratch somewhere else.
Ji-ho calls bullshit on why In-ha thinks he cannot come back to Boosung, since it is In-ha’s to begin with. Ji-ho is the one that shouldn’t be in his position, and he was thinking about appointing an interim CEO anyway. In-ha wants to know why Ji-ho wants out, as Ji-ho wants to go back to composing and performing instead of being a 24/7 desk jockey.
Pleading with In-ha to start over at Boosung, he insists that their mother would want it that way as well. Oh and by the way, she deeded over her own stock shares to be gifted once In-ha sprung himself from the Big House… so what does In-ha think about putting them into Woo-jin’s name instead? In-ha looks like he’s gonna need to think about that.
Nam-joo hears a voice asking for some jackets to be rung up, and as she turns around, sees Jung-wook behind her. She had heard from Woo-jin that he had also been released from prison, as Jung-wook says he was too embarrassed to see her; hence, his lateness in coming by the PPL Store. He also apologizes for not looking out for Woo-jin and Da-mi like he promised, being a sorry sack of shit and all that.
Nam-joo doesn’t agree, as she says the shop is doing well and her kids are doing well. Their wounds are healing little by little thanks to Jung-wook. Oh and by the way for him, how is Yeong-rang doing these days? He admits he hasn’t heard Word One about her for over a year now. Nam-joo is stunned to hear she’s disappeared… but why?
Da-mi meets up with now Resident Woo-jin, who takes her to task for being late. Da-mi proffers some lame excuse about tuning the piano where she teaches kindergarten, as Woo-jin retorts that he’s a busy guy now too, being a weenie doctor and all that. Da-mi insists on them eating at the hospital cafeteria, since she’s saving for her tuition fees, and Woo-jin insists she’s more of a Scrooge than he is. But food is good, so they’re off!
Nam-joo asks Ji-ho if he’s surprised she’s asked to see him, and Ji-ho cannot deny that fact. Saying that he’s looking so thin, Nam-joo mentions his lost mother and has she really disappeared? She dares to ask Ji-ho if there might be a place in the world that has caused pain to Yeong-rang in the past, and maybe she’s hiding there for some sort of repentance?
Ji-ho keeps looking at his hands, as Nam-joo tells him she has finally forgiven Yeong-rang – her family is doing better than before, their wounds are almost healed. And mostly, she believes that Dead Deaf Dad would agree with her assessment.
But that keeps Ji-ho still thinking about Nam-joo’s words. He asks EvilStep if there would be a place where Yeong-rang would feel the most guilt about, as she answers Ji-ho doesn’t have enough fingers and toes to count all the things Yeong-rang would feel guilty over. (*snerk*) But wouldn’t the thing that would weigh most on her mind be the time Ji-ho was living on Jebu-do?
EvilStep goes on to say that she’s sure Yeong-rang would have been heartbroken to hear how Ji-ho lived for those 12 years on the island, especially after she learned he was her missing son. The light bulb finally goes off over Ji-ho’s head, and he rushes out leaving EvilStep sputtering behind. Our Boys hop into the nearest Yoo Mobile and are off to Jebu-do!
Yeong-rang makes a feeble attempt at wiping up her floor, as Ji-ho and In-ha pull up to watch her shake out the floor rag. Ji-ho clamps his hand over his mouth, as Yeong-rang senses there’s someone nearby and calls to them. In-ha walks over and gives her a scolding over her appearance and why she’s on the island all by herself! Doesn’t she remember her two sons who should be taking care of her?!?
In-ha asks why she’s doing this to herself, when she used to be so bad-ass and stuff. Has she exiled herself because of him and his wrongdoings? Yeong-rang tells him she’s fine, eating well and living well so there’s no need for him to worry about her. In-ha thinks otherwise, looking at her hands all bruised and blistered.
He tells Yeong-rang they need to go home now, but she refuses big time. In-ha asks if she plans on dying of old age on a deserted island? Yeong-rang admits she doesn’t have the strength to stay at home in the state she’s in, so In-ha should just play dumb instead.
In-ha then asks if her actions are possibly because… of Ji-ho? Because she feels sorry about hurting his hyung, she’s gonna keep away from the both of them? In-ha turns towards Ji-ho in silent tears wondering if he should tell Yeong-rang of his presence, but Ji-ho just shakes his head no.
Yeong-rang says she doesn’t want Ji-ho to see her in such a state. Even if she dies, she can’t stand to see him hurting because of her. In-ha says Ji-ho will never rest easy if she decides to stay on Jebu-do, so just suck it up and tell Ji-ho she’s sorry and ask for his forgiveness. Yeong-rang screams that is what she is the most afraid of, because a worthless human like her has no right to be called his mother.
Ji-ho can barely hold himself silent hearing those words, and Yeong-rang tells In-ha that she would rather have her heart ripped out than have Ji-ho take care of her for the rest of his life. All three of them cry buckets until Yeong-rang composes herself and orders In-ha to leave. Don’t he DARE tell Ji-ho where she is so he can forget her as time passes.
Yeong-rang wanders back inside her cabin, as In-ha takes the wheel to drive Ji-ho back home. Ji-ho finally loses it, and In-ha turns on the radio to mask his hyung sobbing under the Chopin Valse No. 2. They return home to EvilStep and Jung-wook grilling them over why they didn’t bring Yeong-rang home from Jebu-do. In-ha tells them she refused to return with them.
Jung-wook gets pissed and says they should have dragged her back, but Ji-ho’s answer to that is to shuffle up to his bedroom. EvilStep continues to rail and demands to know how two grown men could not win against their mother – tell her where she is and SHE will bring her back home!
And that’s exactly what EvilStep is all packed for, ordering In-ha to take her to Yeong-rang RIGHT NOW. In-ha tells her to stand down for now; he and Ji-ho didn’t come back because they felt like it. EvilStep goes all mental over finally finding Yeong-rang and finally stops when In-ha says she threatened to disappear again if anyone came down to see her. Will EvilStep take responsibility for her running off again?
Jung-wook takes In-ha’s side in keeping EvilStep from running out the door on her own. At least they know where Yeong-rang is and they can check in on her from time to time. Not exactly what EvilStep wants to hear when she misses her daughter so much… as Ji-ho runs down the stairs and out the door.
Yeong-rang turns on the kettle and takes another lutein pill. She gets up suddenly and starts throwing her clothes, some of Ji-ho’s CDs and the family picture into a suitcase, ostensibly to disappear yet again since she’s been found out. And in another I CALL NO WAY scene, she opens the door to find her kitchen on fire. She stupidly tries to put it out with some oily rags and finally gives up, thinking that dying in a fire is not a bad way to go.
Yeong-rang passes out, but Ji-ho arrives just in time and pulls her to safety. She wakes up in her room thinking maybe that whole fire thing was just a dream, but apparently it wasn’t as Ji-ho is hovering over her. He tells her he won’t force her to come back, so stop trying to run away again. Yeong-rang says that it’s late and driving in the dark is dangerous, so maybe he should stay there tonight.
EvilStep fondles one of Yeong-rang’s pictures and then gets a text from Ji-ho saying he’s spending the night in Jebu-do. Less worry spreads across EvilStep’s face, as we see both Ji-ho and Yeong-rang tucked in for the night. Ji-ho falls asleep with a small smile on his face.
The next morning, Yeong-rang jolts awake and starts feeling around for Ji-ho. He comes back in and says they both need to head back to Seoul today. Yeong-rang begins to protest, until Ji-ho says tells her that CrazyGran (remember her?) just passed away a short while ago.
The nurse ahjumma packs up CrazyGran’s possessions and fake-crabs that Yeong-rang could have at least visited once or twice. CrazyGran always talked about how she had the best daughter-in-law in the world, and that she could die in peace after being treated so well. That sets off Yeong-rang into a sobbing ball of I’m sorry’s and I’m the one that deserves to die, yada yada yada…
EvilStep and In-ha wait outside, but Yeong-rang tries to make a run for it until EvilStep stops her and asks how long Yeong-rang is going to treat her like a mere stepmother. Even though she didn’t give birth to her, EvilStep imagined all kinds of horror heaped upon Yeong-rang while she went missing. Just take her back to Jebu-do and treat her like an ahjumma who rents a room instead of a family member, ne?
Yeong-rang says thanks for the nice words, but she’d be more comfortable by herself. If things change, she’ll bring EvilStep to her side. EvilStep grabs onto Yeong-rang and says she’ll be a good mother from now on, so why is Yeong-rang being such a hardass about this?
In-ha guides Yeong-rang down the ocean path, as all of a sudden, Jung-wook appears in front of them. In-ha gives him a glare… but then wanders off to let Yeong-rang walk by herself. (WTF?) She looks up and chides Jung-wook for finding out where she lives now. He’s amazed she knew it was him, as she reminds him she’s only blind but hasn’t lost her smeller – he’s wearing the cologne she gave him on his last birthday. *headsmack*
Jung-wook says he’s missed her and is really sorry he lived like such a fool for revenge when it was all misplaced. Yeong-rang tells him he needs to be a good daddy to Ji-ho from now on, but he demands she return to join him in being good parents instead. Yeong-rang says she cannot do that after all she’s done against that poor boy… she’d rather remain a bad person in everyone’s eyes than be a hypocrite to Ji-ho.
Jung-wook reaches into his pocket and attempts to put his engagement ring back on her finger, but Yeong-rang pulls away and says she doesn’t deserve that or having Jung-wook in her life. He tells her that is all in the past now – he’s forgiven her and it doesn’t matter! So please let him stay by her side, okay?
Ji-ho has just dropped the bombshell on EvilStep and In-ha that he’s going away to study… and he leaves next Monday! In-ha asks why so suddenly and what’s going to happen to Boosung? Ji-ho says he’s already found an interim CEO and In-ha should stay as the Department Head, so keep your nose clean as he trusts In-ha to do a good job while he’s away.
EvilStep calls him selfish for running away just as Yeong-rang and he have found each other, but Ji-ho says they need some time to accept each other first. It’s not like he’s going away for good, so stop worrying about him!
Nam-joo shoves different clothes at Da-mi as she protests that she doesn’t need any new clothes, dammit! Nam-joo thinks otherwise, since it’s Da-mi’s first recital after returning to university and she needs to look pretty. Da-mi finally capitulates, since there’s no way of telling her mother NO.
As they both leave the store, they run into In-ha walking the mall with his subordinates. A whopping huge uncomfortable silence hangs over their heads.
In-ha tells Da-mi it’s been awhile since they’ve seen each other, and now they meet by chance. Da-mi asks if he had a hard time in prison, but In-ha just sniffs and says that by being away, at least the world could look a bit more favorably towards him. But isn’t she the least interested in what Ji-ho is up to?
Da-mi says since she has not heard from Ji-ho in over a year, he’s obviously doing well. She thinks less and less about him as time goes by. In-ha tells her that Ji-ho is leaving to go study in Germany. Tomorrow. Da-mi looks like she’s been punched in the gut. In-ha says his flight leaves in the afternoon… and maybe the two of them should say goodbye to each other, no?
Ji-ho packs the World’s Smallest Suitcase with the family picture and the Magic Handkerchief, as In-ha walks in and asks why he’s leaving so early? Ji-ho says he wants to go see Yeong-rang before he leaves and wouldn’t In-ha feel better if Ji-ho disappears again? In-ha bites his lip and says that wouldn’t be good, as he finally feels good to have an older brother in his life. And now he’s leaving? PFFFT.
Ji-ho reminds In-ha that while he’s gone, In-ha needs to tell everyone to pound sand and just concentrate on his music instead. No more competing for Number One anymore so In-ha can focus on his talent, because as soon as Ji-ho returns, he’s not cutting In-ha any slack! And one more thing – please don’t be tacky and see him off at the airport; they should just say goodbye now. Ji-ho sticks out his hand and In-ha finally shakes it without ripping Ji-ho’s arm off with it for a change.
But before Ji-ho walks out the door, In-ha apologizes to him. Ji-ho tells him to stuff it… they’re brothers, remember? In-ha doesn’t have to say it for Ji-ho to know it. He leaves In-ha a blubbering mess as soon as he closes the door…
Ji-ho takes the lid off a pot of stew as Yeong-rang complains that he’s there way too early for him to be there. Not letting on that he’s leaving soon, Ji-ho instead makes the excuse that he wanted to recreate his favorite sausage and egg roll recipe for her. She pronounces it delicious, and it’s apparent Ji-ho’s trip was not in vain.
They head outside where Yeong-rang insists that Ji-ho stop coming to see her so often, and this time, Ji-ho agrees with her… he’s leaving to study in Germany today so he’s going to be gone awhile. She shouldn’t wait for him, but amazingly, that upsets Yeong-rang and, still trying to remain defiant, she bitches that she won’t be the one waiting around for him, so go and don’t come back EVAH.
Ji-ho says oh he will most definitely come back, so she needs to eat well and not get sick. He tries to reach for Yeong-rang’s shoulder, but just can’t bring himself to do it. Instead, he asks if there might be anything she wants to say to him? Sure she does – he’ll be late for his flight, so GO!
Ji-ho looks pained, but hops in his car regardless. With one look back at his mother, he takes off down the dirt road away from the cabin, leaving Yeong-rang standing all alone outside. Suddenly, Yeong-rang breaks down and then starts running after Ji-ho’s car, losing one of her shoes in the process.
He’s not taking this too well himself, as Ji-ho tears up as he drives away. Yeong-rang continues to feel her way up the hill to the main road to catch him, but gets lost and ends up on the path to the cliffs instead. FINALLY we hear her tell Ji-ho that she’s really really really sorry for hating him and tormenting him. Falling down several times (and losing her other shoe), she begs the wind for forgiveness and begs her son to accept her apology.
Inching ever so closer to the cliff’s edge, Yeong-rang promises Ji-ho that she will wait for him until he gets back… then slips on some loose rocks and goes tumbling down to the water below.
EvilStep arrives at the cabin with a parcel of mul-kimchi to find no one at home, but Yeong-rang’s Braille book open and a plate of unfinished fruits instead. She being no dummy, EvilStep immediately surmises something’s wrong and runs out to search for her.
She runs screaming Yeong-rang’s name all the way up to the cliff, where she finds one of the shoes she left behind. Pretty much asking her to not keep playing hide-and-seek anymore, EvilStep demands Yeong-rang show herself NOW!!!
Ji-ho walks through Incheon Airport to his gate, but gets a feeling that makes him accidentally drop his passport and plane tickets. We see Yeong-rang on a gurney trying to be resuscitated on her way to the emergency room.
But back at Incheon, Jung-wook is there to say his own goodbyes to Ji-ho while asking if Ji-ho finally found the cojones to call Yeong-rang his mom yet? Ji-ho promises him he will do that the next time he sees her. Jung-wook is satisfied with that answer, but asks if Ji-ho could allow him a hug before he leaves?
Ji-ho complies and tells Jung-wook to stay healthy until then, as Jung-wook tells him not to worry since he’ll take good care of his mother until he returns. But as Ji-ho gets ready to walk away, he looks up to see Da-mi staring at him from across the gate area.
After a good long time staring back at each other while listening to The Position warbelling underneath, Da-mi just turns and walks away. I guess that’s enough of a goodbye for Ji-ho, because he doesn’t run after her for once.
Back in the emergency room, Yeong-rang finally regains consciousness as EvilStep demands that she find the strength to stay alive. She pulls out her phone to call the boys, but Yeong-rang tells her to let Ji-ho leave in peace by not knowing she’s at death’s door. As his mother, even a petty little thing like dying shouldn’t get in the way of his future.
EvilStep begs and pleads for Yeong-rang to hang on because she can’t die before her, but Yeong-rang asks her to take care of In-ha and tell him she’s going to ask Dead Burnt-Up Dad for his forgiveness now. Even suffering massive internal injuries, Yeong-rang still has enough strength to thank EvilStep for taking care of such a horrible person.
EvilStep decides to call Ji-ho anyway, and then gets an earful from him when he hears that his mother is wandering around outside by herself. EvilStep puts the phone up to Yeong-rang’s ear as he tells EvilStep to take good care of HIS MOM while he’s away.
Yeong-rang voices over her thanks for Ji-ho finally calling her ‘mother,’ and with a couple of last gasps, flatlines out. Her boys go on with their lives as EvilStep cradles her dead stepdaughter for the last time.
THREE YEARS LATER
A small girl accidentally runs into Ji-ho and drops a flower bouquet. Ji-ho picks it up and tells her to be careful, as she apologizes and runs off. Ji-ho stays still for a few minutes, as we’re all left to wonder if the writer has thrown us a bone over any possible Ji-ho progeny. But alas, it is not to be.
A bare stage except for two pianos. From one side walks in Ji-ho, and from the other walks in In-ha. In-ha is pleased that after three years (drat!) he finally gets to have a recital with Ji-ho, who is pleased himself that their Mom will be happy to see them both on stage again. In-ha’s face suddenly goes dark.
Ji-ho wants to know if she and EvilStep will be there, and it’s all In-ha can do except to nod and grunt. Ji-ho tells In-ha that since Yeong-rang had sent him an album every month, the songs he’s chosen for the recital are all from those records. In-ha is glad too, since they are all pieces he likes as well.
In-ha says to Ji-ho that as soon as they’re done with the recital, the both of them are going out to get shit-faced drunk afterwards. Ji-ho agrees with him, and reaching out his hand, tells his dongsaeng to break a piano string. In-ha accepts his handshake and tells Ji-ho to do the same. (What, no buzzer or whoopie cushion? LAME.)
Our Boys launch into the Liszt La Campanelle one last time, but at the end of this performance, they’re smiling warmly at each other instead of wanting to rip out each other’s throats. And that’s a wrap!
Air Date: 25 November 2012
Ratings: AGB Nielsen Nationwide 11.4% (8th) / Seoul 11.6% (7th); TNmS Nationwide 11.3% (8th) / Seoul 12.3% (7th)
Flowers and Brickbats
I’ll get the analysis out of the way first before really ripping this Show a new one. But if you were like me (and I know you are), the ending gave me another one of those WHAT. THE. HELL. feelings. Not as bad as the “I was almost ready to throw my television out the window” thoughts I had after the finale of “Warrior Baek Dong Soo,” but I was still scratching my head several days later. It was kinda underwhelming, no? Where was the logic in keeping the news of his mother’s death from Ji-ho — wouldn’t you think that it might be MORE traumatic for him to find out after being away in Germany for three years? Even now, I still can’t figure out the motive of the Writer-nim to pull a ‘wink-and-nod’ towards the viewers. Was this the Ultimate Betrayal to Ji-ho? Even after they kissed and made-up before Ji-ho left for Germany, wouldn’t In-ha out of loyalty have told his hyung what happened with Yeong-rang’s death? Goes to prove that no matter how much money you have, you can still remain a dysfunctional family par excellence. YEESH.
From my calculations, this show progressed a total of 19 years in its story arc (+14 years from the kids to the adults; +1 after Ji-ho left Korea after being framed for Woo-jin’s murder; +1 while In-ha was in jail; and +3 while Ji-ho was off studying in Germany); that’s an extremely long timeline from child introductions to the curtain coming down. All along, I knew that Yeong-rang was going to meet with either a tragic illness or outright death as her cosmic payback. But instead, we get BOTH from this writer, further reinforcing the fact that leading such a downright heinous life deserved a downright heinous demise. Even though Yeong-rang’s tiny admissions of wrongdoing and her baby-steps towards trying to put things right tugged at my heartsrings for a nano-second in the last few episodes, I am genuinely happy that there was no total redemption for her character because it was not deserved. Chae Si-ra absolutely NAILED Yeong-rang’s character; this is one of those portrayals where you hope her next drama role is 180º different so she is not stereotyped and you do not see traces of Yeong-rang at all.
On the other hand, Ji-ho’s character could have used a bit more ooomph in his treatment. Growing up relatively safe and sound and then to be put through the evil machinations that Yeong-rang and her minions subjected him, I would have liked to see Ji-ho plan his revenge on his own accord and go all Mawang against those who wronged him. Blood always being thicker than water, Ji-ho had to come to his senses eventually after learning Yeong-rang was his actual birth mother and I must give the production credit for waiting until very late in the series to pop that plot cork, or else the storyline would have become even MORE plodding. Regardless, kudos to Joo Ji-hoon for accepting this role as his drama comeback vehicle — ya gotta start somewhere! (And next time, ensure that your stylist doesn’t force that fugly haircut upon you EVER AGAIN.)
And In-ha. My poor, delusional, whacko In-ha. Writer-nim must have given up on his character’s trajectory, since his March to the Dark Side was slow and controlled… and then drops of the face of the earth (no pun intended). His own redemption arc felt like the writer just basically gave up on trying to figure out how In-ha would eventually see the light and walk a more righteous path. One minute, he’s Evil Incarnate; the next, he’s Mister Milquetoast. And as I’ve said in the past, I especially wanted to see what In-ha had done during the years he was away in the States (besides brooding about his sorry life and writing hit jingles for some advertising conglomerate). Minor Points deducted for constantly being in a state of tears, though — if you’re gonna be a villain, be a villain that doesn’t make people go ‘awwwww’ and want to pat on the head like a puppy!
But the true ‘elephant in the room’ was the alleged romance between Da-mi and Ji-ho. Never in my LIFE have I seen such a mismatched couple of lovers, to the point their scenes together were almost unwatchable. There were two factors that did not help any with their pairing: (1) Jin Se-yeon was still a relative newbie in the KDrama world, and just because she was working in a crack drama at the right moment at the right time when Yein E&M was scrambling for a replacement, did not mean that she was automatically destined for greatness in this show. I was far from impressed with her role in “Gaksital,” but if she at least had the acting chops to make the Da-mi character noteworthy, then I wouldn’t be so critical. But I’ve seen better acting from a paper bag before; Da-mi was originally written to be a feisty young’un, but I saw nothing of the sort until the Finale when she walked away from Ji-ho at the airport. As she should have — I would have headdesked myself into a coma if she ended up running back to him! Sorry all you Da-Ho shippers — their coupling was never meant to be.
And (b) the 12-year actual age difference between Joo Ji-hoon and Jin Se-yeon was blatantly obvious. Come on, people… she’s 19 years old and still in HIGH SCHOOL; Ji-hoon is out of the Army and 31 years old now! Knowing that fact alone obviously contributed to some viewer squickyness over their interactions. Her naiveté might have worked better with a lead closer to her own age, like Ji Chang-wook (only 7 years’ difference there). Granted, both boys would have great chemisty with a tree stump, but In-ha and Da-mi actually looked like they were a couple in their interactions (before In-ha went all nutsy and stuff). Too bad Da-mi found out so early in the script that In-ha was a baddie, because I would have rooted for their getting together in a heartbeat, only to be thrust apart by their psycho mother.
Music Nerd Ramblings: I was not expecting anything new since there was a fair amount of ground to cover in wrapping up this series, so it was nice to again hear the Chopin Valse (Waltz) No. 2 in C-sharp minor, Op. 64. I don’t remember if we discussed this before, but Chopin wrote this in 1847 as a companion piece to the more commonly-known ‘Minute Waltz’ (No. 1 in D-flat major), using the basic chordal A-B-C/fast-slow-fast progression through its theme. What I learned upon doing research is that the Waltz No. 2 was dedicated to Madame Nathaniel de Rothschild (of the Chateau Mouton Rothschild winery family) and that in 1909, an orchestrated version was incorporated into Michel Fokine’s ballet Les Sylphides. Whoda thunk it?
♬ WHAT A LONNNNNG STRANGE TRIP IT’S BEEN… ♬
So we finally bring down the curtain on “Five Fingers” with an average viewer rating of 11.4% over its 30 episodes (highest being 17.4% for Episode 3 and the lowest being 8.4% for Episode 16). I consider that pretty respectable, because it could have been a lot worse. Just look at the just-ended (and critically-regarded) “The Blade and Petal” over on KBS, and even with heavyweights such as Uhm Tae-woong and Choi Min-soo in its cast, pulled in sub-6% ratings! It’s CHOI FUCKING MIN-SOO, FER CHRISSAKES!!! And because the viewers are staying away in droves proves that the Korean drama watchers are totally schizophrenic. Hmpf.
I actually had the comments for Episode 30 written within a week after the show ended and decided to wait until I got to this recap before posting because I knew it would turn into a flamefest. Little did I realize that 10 whole months would pass between then and now; such is the completist in me. And cut me some slack, since I’ve been existing on 3-4 hours of sleep a night since 1 August. I’ll try to break up my thoughts into categories, so bear with me here…
Recapping the Recaps
THE T-ARA/EUN-JUNG NIGHTMARE
For those of you who were living under a rock prior to 5F’s premiere, here’s some background: It was announced on 27 June 2012 that T-ara member and actress Ham Eun-jung was to be cast as Hong Da-mi, replacing the child playing Da-mi in time for Episode 5. She began script readings, was featured in the SBS promotional pictures for the posters and website, and attended costume fittings for her character.
Then the shit hit the fan. On 30 July 2012, a controversy arose over alleged ‘bullying’ of Hwa-yeong, a fellow T-ara member, eventually ending with Core Contents Media dismissing Hwa-yeong from her contract. The netizens went mental and called for SBS and Yein E&M to dismiss Eun-jung from the cast immediately due to her “low moral standards.” When that did not occur (and the PD-nim even went to bat for Eun-jung, saying that he and the network had no plans on replacing her), calls went out to boycott the entire production and other promotions of the current cast as well (even if they had NOTHING to do with the 5F show whatsoever).
The Press Conference was held on 16 August 2012, with all main cast members on parade. With this being her first public appearance after the controversy, poor Eun-jung looked like a deer caught in the headlights as the other leads tried to make her as comfortable as possible. You could definitely tell she was under the microscope during the usual post-conference press junkets, but the producers and the network stated they were behind her 100% and would not be removing Eun-jung from the show.
Finally push came to shove between SBS, Yein E&M and the sponsors, and four days after the 5F premiere on 22 August 2012 (and the day before Eun-jung was to begin shooting), Yein E&M announced that Eun-jung would be removed from the Da-mi role after all. It was freakin’ obvious that the producers and network were being greatly pressured by the possibility of the product placement drying up if Eun-jung was allowed to continue. This was a high-end makjang, with fancy clothes, fancy cars and even fancier sets than usual. That’s one thing The Beavers have taught us over the years — if you ain’t got those PPL contracts in place before your premiere, you will never have enough money to put on a show of this magnitude.
Rubbing salt into the wound was the announcement a day later (23 August) that Jin Se-yeon would be Eun-jung’s replacement as Da-mi… even though she was still starring in KBS’s “Gaksital” at the same time filming began on 5F. And then get this — Eun-jung and Se-yeon ARE FRIENDS! Actually, strike that — they WERE friends, but after Se-yeon accepted the role, Eun-jung stopped talking to her and even unfriended her on Twitter and Facebook. HA.
Thinking that it was out of the woods for awhile after the T-ara Mess, it was announced on 10 September 2012 through an anonymous blogger’s website that the 5F storyline was very similar to the a novel entitled “Blood Rhapsody,” and this claim led to a full-fledged plagiarism controversy thereafter. From the Nate.com press report:
The suspicions the blogger voiced are mostly centered on the general stories of the two pieces, both of which involve music and a battle to become the heir of a rich family. Little details, such as how the mother of the novel, Young Ae, hurts her pinky finger and becomes unable to play the piano just like Yoo In Ha and how Myung Woo (in the novel) learns of his stepmother′s schemes, have also proven to be similar.
Fortunately for the production’s sake, Yein E&M took the high road on this situation, and although it claimed it would respond eventually, never did and this little nightmare just faded away into oblivion. But this still kept the fire lit underneath the Netizens’ asses and SBS again had to shut down its BBS for another short period to keep the complaints to a bare minimum.
Then on 29 September 2012, it was announced that Eun-jung, CCM and the Korean Broadcasting Actors Union were threatening to file a lawsuit against Yein E&M, SBS and other enjoined parties for “unfair treatment” over Eun-jung’s dismissal, loss of earnings, defamation of character, etc. As far as I can tell, though, this lawsuit never came to fruition and all stayed dormant…
… until 13 February 2013 (almost three months after the Finale aired). In order to appease the KBAU restrictions placed upon Yein E&M after her removal, the 5F production heads made an official apology to Eun-jung. I quote from the Newsen.com report on that day:
Yein E&M revealed the letter of apology it sent to the Association of Celebrity Management on its official homepage on behalf of Ham Eun-jung. It was written, “We one-sidedly reported the stepping down of Ham Eun-jung from the drama she was proceeding with, without complete understanding of the situation then. We also made the mistake of letting her hear rumors of exchange before she was even told about it. We regret the situation in which Ham Eun-jung found out about her dismissal through news reports,” said the producer, adding that citing the singer’s new hair color as reason for firing her was a bad call on its part.”
“We apologize for hurting this actress with media reports that stated she was a loss of production costs even though she was actively engaged in acting practice, piano practice and poster making. We also regret the time we put an all stop to the filming for the reason that she dyed her hair and this is all the fault of the production which didn’t consider facts and situations then.”
Yein E&M added, “We will work hard to recover the loss Ham Eun-jeong may have experienced from the relationships with director and writers. We think actors or actresses should not be asked to step down from their work. We once again, apologize for the trouble caused by us to the Association of Celebrity Management and we promise to never let this happen again.”
Yeah, I agree. Firing an actress because she dyed her hair?!? Get in line behind me for the mutual facepalming. There was also a huge rumour circulating that if Yein E&M did not issue some sort of apology, the production company would be blacklisted for two years by the KBAU. Argh argh argh! The less said about this, the better.
16 November 2012 brought on yet another confrontation, where the Corea Entertainment Management Association (CEMA) issued a notice asking its 130 member agencies to boycott productions by Yein E&M because of its failure to take further measures to make up for Eun-jung′s losses. But to her credit (and probably to spare more embarassment), Eun-jung herself asked that the CEMA take down its notice because she had not given permission for the entity to speak on her behalf. Notice was eventually withdrawn, and this faded quickly from view.
All in all, this production was cursed by really crappy bad timing brought on by small portions of the Korean Populace not thrilled to see SBS lift its ban on Joo Ji-hoon for his past transgressions and the T-ara Situation spiraling out of control as well. If there is anything halfway positive to say, it was good to have it happen at the start of the production instead of after the show began airing. I would have cried bloody tears if the episodes were cut short because the PD-nim ran out of money due to the loss of endorsement contracts. But “Five Fingers” will forever have this taint hanging over its head in perpetuity.
THE SUCKY RATINGS
You gotta admit that two nanoseconds after the whole T-ara Kerfuffle was splashed across the news headlines, this Show was going to suffer badly because of it. And boy, did it ever. Anyone who has been watching Korean dramas as long as I have (1996’s “Open Your Heart” / <가슴을 열어라> being my first foray) has seen the Rise of the Netizens and their wrath can be more vicious than any of Yeong-rang’s evil doings. They came out with swords drawn and fire in their eyes; SBS had to shut down the 5F online BBS until after Episode 10 because of all the vitriol spewed therein. I don’t remember reading about any death threats towards the cast or crew; eventually cooler heads prevailed, but the whole mess left a cloud over the production for months thereafter.
It also didn’t help that the premiere date was pushed back two weeks because of the 2012 Summer Olympics coverage. The initial press release when the cast was first announced put the first episode airing on 4 August… then we heard 11 August… with it finally gracing our airwaves on 18 August. The delay also gave the Internet World a few more weeks of crabbing over the T-ara Incident which was definitely not helping the actors during their arduous shooting schedules.
The SBS show in the timeslot prior (“A Gentleman’s Dignity”) suffered greatly from the two-week preemption as well. There were only two more episodes to run, but SBS erred on the side of over-caution and held them back until 11 August. Its Finale aired on 12 August, which after weeks of scoring in the 29%-32% range, only grabbed a 23.5% share. Again, if it wasn’t for the stigma hanging over the production, I believe the high praise (and resulting numbers) from ‘AGD’ would have flowed-over to 5F as well.
WHAT THE BLEEP IS A ‘MAY QUEEN’?
5F consistently got its butt kicked by its time-slot competition over at MBC: another makjang entitled “May Queen.” This was Kim Jae-won’s return to Drama Land after being injured in a motorcycle accident that took him off our screens for awhile, and the buzz around his casting was immense. I personally did not watch a single episode out of loyalty to both JJH and JCW, and other people I knew that were kinda watching said MQ wasn’t all that and a bag of chips either. So why the laughably high ratings amongst a show that nary a soul was discussing outright?
Simple: THE CRAZY-ASS NETIZENS. I have it on very very very good authority that the viewers gravitated to MQ to prove a point to the SBS production. A good friend who works in Yeouido (but not at SBS) overhead several water-cooler conversations that the only reason they were watching MQ was to punish SBS, Yein E&M and 5F as a whole in the Ratings Wars because of the T-ara Situation. Some went as far to say that they would leave every television and mobile device in their households tuned to MBC… and then go off and do something else. Remember, it’s not all about who’s sitting in front of their teevees watching; the ratings are calculated from the number of electronic devices streaming the show at that time of airing. It seemed to have worked during the 5F show run to keep the average AGB down to that dismal 11.9% number. Everybody funny.
BUT… BUT… BUT…
The show still had some critical praise uttered by several Korean critics, and in their year-end ‘Giving Of Awards Just Because We Feel Like It Show,’ SBS awarded Chae Si-ra their Producers’ Award and Top 10 Stars Award, along with handing Jung Eun-woo (Woo-jin) a New Star Award (for starring in his first SBS production). Several critics threw platitudes towards Joo Ji-hoon, Ji Chang-wook and Cha Hwa-yeon (EvilStep), as well as the ensemble as a whole. Brings to mind the whole “wish in one hand…” adage, as even with all that, the love calls never did translate to stellar ratings.
But we move on, and the cast members have all gone on to newer projects: Joo Ji-hoon has been cast as a lead in MBC’s “Medical Top Team” (finally lifting its ban on his appearances on their network); Ji Chang-wook won an award for Best Male Rookie at the 7th Annual Korean Musical Awards in June 2013 for his role in “The Days,” which propelled him to being cast as a co-lead in MBC’s “Empress Ki” along side Ha Ji-won and Joo Jin-mo. Chae Si-ra told the news outlets in her post-show interviews that she is going to take a well-deserved break and make a comeback in early 2014. Jin Se-yeon is back to modelling for various clothing brands, but has not joined the cast of a new drama to date. Several of the 5F secondary cast are currently appearing in other dramas at present. SBS is still standing, and Yein E&M is back to doing… not much. I’ve noticed a few documentaries in the works on their website, but nothing on a grand scale drama-wise like 5F or their prior productions. That is kinda sad, because it shows that even a mighty award-winning company like Yein E&M can suffer a downfall of epic proportions such as this. Who knows if they will ever return as strong as before? I guess we all just need to stay tuned…
So we come to a screeching halt on all things “Five Fingers”-related. I hope you enjoyed the journey and suffered through my abject fangirling as best as possible; when time allows, I’ll go back through earlier recaps and add in the miniutea that I missed the first time around. I doubt I’ll be taking on any recapping of “Medical Top Team” or “Empress Ki” due to time constraints, but if I change my mind, you know you’ll see it here first. 🙂
Thanks for reading!!!