It’s the final episode, which means we’ll have to say goodbye to these lovely characters. All the way to the end, the show never loses sight of itself, and for a drama about cancer, it spreads a joyful message about appreciating the blessing of life. Though this may be farewell, the lives of these characters will continue on as they march towards the future while enjoying every second of the present.
FINAL EPISODE RECAP
So-hye waits at the park for Hae-sung, and in the distance, envisions Joon-ki standing off in the distance holding a balloon. He walks away from her, and as he lets the balloon go, So-hye loses consciousness. Hae-sung sees her fall, and runs to her side.
At the hospital, Jamie explains to Hae-sung that there’s a clot in So-hye’s artery that they need to remove with surgery, but for now, they’ll try to dissolve it using medicine. However, taking more medicine on top of her treatment for cancer will be difficult, so Jamie encourages Hae-sung to give So-hye strength.
Hae-sung visits So-hye in her room, but as she wakes, So-hye starts to panic. She doesn’t recognize Hae-sung, and attempts to get out of bed. Hae-sung fights back, keeping her in place, and So-hye’s senses return. He explains that she fainted, and So-hye drifts back to sleep.
Outside the room, Manager Oh tells Hae-sung that he has a packed schedule, but Hae-sung requests for everything to be pushed back because he wants to stay by So-hye. Manager Oh complies, and Hae-sung returns to So-hye’s side, dutifully watching over her.
Jerk-face and his mother praise and laugh with each other until Jin-sook comes running in, bearing bad news. They learn about Sul’s post, and Jerk-face reactively calls her. Sul is with Sang-wook when she answers the phone, and she curses Jerk-face before hanging up. Belatedly, Sul realizes that Sang-wook witnessed everything and admits that she used to “play” in the past. Despite his rigid posture, he quickly announces that it’s exactly his style.
They visit So-hye at the hospital who wakes up to see them. So-hye reaches out her hand towards Sang-wook, and tenderly asks him to stay by her side. Jealous, Hae-sung steals away So-hye’s hand, but she fearfully pulls away from him, unable to recognize him again.
Stepping out, Sul asks if So-hye is truly alright, and Hae-sung tells her not to worry. She promises to come back later with food, and Hae-sung suggests that Sang-wook stay behind next time. Hae-sung returns to So-hye’s side, and disheartened, asks a sleeping So-hye why she always leaves him out.
Jerk-face’s home has turned into a meeting room as they come up with a plan to fix this mess. At first, Jerk-face wants to drag Sul through the mud, but his advisor thinks that will only hurt his image. He suggests acting like an accepting husband and then revealing Sul’s scandals. That way, Jerk-face will look like an understanding leader and victim.
So-hye wakes up, and the first thing she sees is a huge heart made out of photos from her wedding. In the middle is a red heart stating, “I’m Ryu Hae-sung! Lee So-hye’s husband! Lee So-hye is Ryu Hae-sung’s wife!”
She gets up and touches the heart, and turns around to see Hae-sung sleeping on the couch. She gingerly pulls up his coat, but Hae-sung wakes up at her touch. Instinctively, he asks if she knows who he is, and So-hye replies that he’s the universal, big-star Hae-sung. He then questions her about Sang-wook, wondering if that’s her style. So-hye shakes her head, and her answer lifts his mood.
When So-hye mentions that she’s hungry, Hae-sung quickly sets up food, but after taking a bite, So-hye starts to look queasy. She continues to shovel food in her mouth because she needs to eat in order to get better, but in the end, runs to the bathroom to puke. So-hye refuses to eat after that, and goes to bed. Just then, she sees Joon-ki standing in the corner, but he disappears when Hae-sung tries to look, too.
News articles reveal Jerk-face’s demise, and we see pictures of him covered in flour and egg while at his rally. The assemblywoman calls another politician and says that she’s abandoning Jerk-face. As her car is about to leave, Jerk-face runs in front, and then grovels at her. The assemblywoman coldly reminds him of her warning that she won’t help him when he falls, and drives away.
At home, Jerk-face’s mom calls her contacts, but everyone seems unsympathetic to their plight. Jin-sook thinks the assemblywoman will help Jerk-face since they were having an affair, but Jerk-face comes through the door, wailing about how he’s been abandoned.
Following behind Jerk-face, his secretary enters, holding the gift Jerk-face gave to his prosecutor friend, and soon after, suited men from the prosecutors’ office barge inside with a search and seizure warrant. They also visit Jerk-face’s law firm and Jin-sook’s management office, and pack everything away.
Sul and Sang-wook leave the prosecutors’ office, and Sul sighs since she doesn’t feel as relieved as she thought she would. She thanks Sang-wook for all his help, but still can’t break her habit of calling him dong-saeng. Cheerily, Sang-wook offers changing his name, and then brings up the issue of payment. Instead of money, he wants Sul to give him more motorcycle rides, and Sul agrees to take him on one right now.
So-hye is surrounded by her friends at the hospital, but tells them to leave since she wants to sleep. However, as soon as they exit, she runs to the bathroom to throw up. Upstairs in the secret garden, Hae-sung meets with Jamie, and she hands him a consent form he needs to sign for So-hye’s surgery.
She explains that the surgery is risky, and So-hye might die during it. Anxiously, Hae-sung asks if So-hye will be okay, but Jamie refuses to give him false hope, telling him that So-hye will die if she doesn’t get surgery next time her blood pressure drops.
Hae-sung wipes away his tears, and enters So-hye’s room with a smile. She doesn’t return his enthusiasm, and informs him that the director called her. She orders him to leave and go about his business, but Hae-sung is more concerned about whether So-hye ate.
He tries to get her to eat, but So-hye screams at him, letting out her frustration. She’s sick and tired, and hates hearing him always tell her to be strong. Hae-sung argues back that she can’t give up, but So-hye yells that willpower alone won’t beat cancer. She’s exhausted from acting brave, and in response, Hae-sung decides to starve with her.
He says that they’ll give up and die together because he’s also tired of acting positive. So-hye cries at him to stop, and Hae-sung tenderly asks if So-hye would continue fighting for his sake because he’ll be by her side. Weeping, So-hye wonders for how long she’ll have to struggle, and hugging So-hye, Hae-sung whispers for her to fight just a little longer.
So-hye finally concedes to Hae-sung’s wishes, and they sit side by side to eat. So-hye apologizes for being weak earlier, but Hae-sung doesn’t hold it against her. He lovingly feeds her, and So-hye tries her best to swallow the porridge.
They escape to Joon-ki’s secret garden, and So-hye appreciates the view of the night sky. She asks Hae-sung when he started to love her, and he says that it was the moment he gave her a ticket to his play. She notes that it was love at first sight, but Hae-sung corrects himself, telling her that he actually saw So-hye days before, sitting on a bench, and worked up the courage to hand her a ticket.
He asks when she first fell in love with him, but So-hye doesn’t remember. She then asks him for a favor to go back home and look at a video on her old phone for her. Thus, Hae-sung runs to the apartment, and finds So-hye’s old phone.
He turns it on, and as instructed, he plays the saved video. It’s a recording of Hae-sung when he was handing out tickets, and in the background, So-hye tells Mi-sun that Hae-sung is good-looking and acts nervous whenever he looks their way. Hae-sung laughs out loud, realizing that So-hye fell in love with him at first sight, too. A call from Manager Oh breaks him out of his reverie, and Hae-sung’s expression darkens after answering the phone.
Jamie carts So-hye towards the surgery room, and luckily, Hae-sung arrives in time to see her. He holds her hand until the last moment, and then the wait begins. More people stop by to wait with Hae-sung, and in the surgery room, So-hye’s blood pressure falls again. Jamie starts compression, but So-hye’s heart fails to respond.
In the woods, So-hye walks up to a tree, and stuck in its branches is the balloon Joon-ki was holding. Sitting beneath another tree, Joon-ki scolds her for coming so early when he specifically told her to play. So-hye expresses her awe at him for living for five more years because she’s already exhausted. Joon-ki says that it’s like hiking: sometimes there are steep, difficult parts, but afterwards, there are always rest and viewing areas.
So-hye admits that she just wants to rest and stay here. Joon-ki asks if she has no regrets, and So-hye replies that she was happy. He pushes her further, asking about her friends and Hae-sung, but So-hye thinks they’ll get better over time just like how she did after Joon-ki died.
Joon-ki tells her that some people believe the dead are reborn in the memories of the living. However, the dead can’t remember. He has one final question for So-hye, and asks if she doesn’t want to touch, hug, and say things to the people she left behind.
Out in the waiting room, Hae-sung suddenly jumps up, and worryingly stares at the glass doors. In the surgery room, Jamie continues CPR, but So-hye flatlines.
One year has passed, and Hae-sung dresses in a black suit while Manager Oh contemplates about how it’s already been a year. Elsewhere, Mi-sun and Pil-ho also get ready to leave, and Mi-sun is pregnant! She wishes the baby to be a girl and wants to name her “So-hye.”
Meanwhile, Sul walks down the streets and witnesses a man chuck his bag at his girlfriend. The girlfriend wants to break up, but the abusive boyfriend threatens to hit her. Sul intervenes like a superhero, and apprehends the boyfriend. She asks if the girlfriend wants help, and once she nods her head, Sul advises her to leave.
Infuriated, the boyfriend throws off Sul, and menacingly growls that he’ll hit her instead. Just then, Sang-wook arrives and stops the boyfriend by citing all the laws against dating violence. He then leads Sul away, and opens the door to a nice car.
He leans over to buckle Sul in, and the awkward tension from their flirting stage is gone. He notices a cut on Sul’s hand and tells her to take care of herself because she’s his most precious person. Laughing, Sul reminds him that they’re late. At least some things don’t change.
Everyone gathers in the woods by a tree that also happens to be the one So-hye visited during her surgery. They comment about Mi-sun’s growing belly, and we learn that Hitman was such a success that Hae-sung is currently negotiating rights to a US remake. They’re still waiting for someone, though, and Manager Oh mentions that Jamie told him she’d be here early. Coming up the hill, the latecomers arrive, and it’s Jamie with So-hye! I forgot that this show is such a troll.
Jamie apologizes for their tardiness since all the patients love hearing So-hye’s talks, and then she exchanges winks and hearts with Manager Oh. (Well, that was random.) Today turns out to be the one year anniversary of Joon-ki’s death, and So-hye comments on how it’s nice to meet up at least once a year.
Sul laughs, saying that they meet up every week, but Hae-sung chimes in that it’s more like every two days. They line up to take a group photo, and afterwards, they each say good-bye to Joon-ki. When it’s So-hye’s turn, she thinks to herself that her heart has been doing well after stopping that day. Some called it a miracle while other’s said it was the power of love. For her, she still doesn’t know why she lived.
In her office, So-hye adds the group photo of their recent visit to Joon-ki to her heart-shaped collage on her wall.
So-hye: “While spending these blessed times heaven has given me, I decided to never again give up on this life full of pain. Although at times it was painful, so what. There’s no greater blessing that being alive.”
As So-hye and Sang-hwa get off the elevator, Hae-sung jumps in front of them, ordering them to stop. He brags that he’s well prepared for the script reading today, and So-hye whispers to Sang-hwa that he really did practice a lot. They walk together to the script reading of their new drama, and it’s the same staff from before.
The time for Hae-sung’s first lines approach, and hilariously, he’s still as awful as he was in the past. The director patiently gives him instructions about the emotions of the scene, and Hae-sung tries again, though he makes no improvements. Everyone watches him read with their jaws to the floor, and when it’s time for him to cry, Hae-sung attempts to wring out tears by not blinking. This will never get old.
So-hye whispers encouragements to Hae-sung, and reminds him to concentrate on his emotions. Something clicks in his head, and Hae-sung recalls his moments with So-hye. Staring at her, he recites his lines and says, “Don’t die.” Tears spring up in So-hye’s eyes, and the room explodes into applause for Hae-sung.
In the lobby, Jin-sook continues her old tricks as she passes an envelope to a fledging actor sitting across from her. She tells him that she made Hae-sung into a star, but right then, Hae-sung and So-hye arrive to interrupt her business.
He advises the young actor to step away from Jin-sook if he doesn’t want to ruin his life since he’s speaking from experience. Then, Manager Oh introduces himself as the CEO of Hyesung Entertainment, and hands the actor his business card, telling him to come talk to him if he wants to turn out like Hae-sung. After they leave, the young actor chases after them, and Jin-sook screams in rage.
At Jerk-face’s house, Mom is dressed in old garments, and cooks ramyun for dinner. Jerk-face complains about the food, so she scolds her petulant son for expecting his old mother to cook for him. She wants to him to find work so they can hire a housekeeper, but Jerk-face is too proud to work under someone.
Jin-sook comes home to see her family eating ramyun, and when she asks for bowls, Mom tells her to do the dishes then. She steals the lid from Jerk-face, and the two bicker again. Mom reminisces about Sul’s cooking, and Jerk-face agrees that Sul’s food was good. Jin-sook yells at them for bringing her up, but admits that Sul made tasty kimchi. Oh how the mighty have fallen.
Hae-sung says good-bye to So-hye who’s going on a trip. He wishes her safe travels, but also warns her against drinking tea with random men while traveling. They hug one last time before she gets on the elevator, and Hae-sung blows her kisses.
On the plane, So-hye is with Sul and Mi-sun who are accompanying her to finally visit Uyuni. So-hye films everything, and they can’t hide their excitement for the trip. Unbeknownst to them, two suspicious men covering their faces with magazines sit behind So-hye and Sul.
So-hye sends a text to Hae-sung, and a familiar ringtone goes off in the plane. The two men turn out to be Hae-sung and Sang-wook, and Sang-wook wonders if Manager Oh is really not coming with them. Hae-sung explains that he’s busy dating, and from across the aisle, Pil-ho eagerly joins the gossip.
Getting excited, Hae-sung tells them that Manager Oh is dating Jamie, and witnessing their bewildered faces, Hae-sung laughs out loud. So-hye recognizes his laugh, and turns around to see her husband sitting behind her. They sheepishly try to hide, but their covers are blown. With the whole gang together, they visit Salar de Uyuni and pose together for one last group photo.
Well, that last episode surprised me to say the least. I’m happy that they’re happy, and a part of me is glad So-hye is alive and enjoying life. This will probably be a very unpopular opinion, but I will admit that I was also a bit disappointed that everything ended so… “happy.” It’s not that I expected a tragedy because that would have been uncharacteristic of the show, but the ending was a bit too neat for me. It’s probably because the show executed Joon-ki’s final farewell so well, that I feel like the actual ending for the drama felt less poignant in comparison. Sure, So-hye learned to appreciate life as a blessing even if it’s painful, and she realized that striving to live is wholly more worthy than giving up no matter what happens. Yet, I feel like we could have still gotten those messages without everything feeling overly saccharine. This optimistic and sweet atmosphere worked for the penultimate episode because there’s the niggling feeling in the back of your mind that So-hye may not live to see tomorrow. Hence, as a viewer, I warmly embraced the happiness because it felt precious and fragile.
However, the ending didn’t really have that feeling, and it’s not because So-hye didn’t die. I feel like the director could have done a better job setting the tone for show after the time jump that still preserved the warmth that was displayed in previous episodes. Even with So-hye surviving the surgery and overcoming that hurdle, the last quarter of the show was oddly chirpy. I still really enjoyed seeing the various characters continuing with their lives, and thought Hae-sung’s foot-acting was hilarious (that bug-eyed expression killed me). Despite all that, I felt that everything ended too perfectly, and while I still thought the final episode was satisfactory overall, I was just hoping for more. It also didn’t help that the show ended with such an obviously photoshopped picture of the group at the salt flats. It added to the cheap feeling of the ending, and if I could make a comparison, it was like finishing a hearty, home-cooked meal but then receiving a Twinkie for dessert.
Despite of some of my complaints, the ending didn’t disappoint me that much. It wasn’t what I was hoping for, but even up to the end, I still think the show stayed true to its roots. The story centered on relationships and living life without regrets, and its greatest strength was the friendships developed throughout the story. It was great to see that everyone’s bonds remained intact through the year, and from the way they acted, it looks like they’ll maintain these friendships until the end. Even with its flaws, I enjoyed every episode and loved watching these fabulous characters grow in their relationships. The show dealt with some heavy topics, but it always tried to stay hopefully. The characters struggled and faced challenges, but they continued to fight and persevere.
I initially watched this show because of Kim Hyun-joo, and this show reaffirmed why I love her. She’s a fabulous actress, and I find her stunningly beautiful. She was charming as So-hye, and struck the right balance between feisty and vulnerable. She never felt haughty, and even when So-hye would say or do hurtful things out of fear and pain, I credit Kim Hyun-joo for making her sympathetic. On the other hand, I was surprised by how much I loved the other actors after this show. Joo Sang-wook was hilarious, and though his hair was a tube too greasy, he really made Hae-sung a loving character. He was very animated and expressive, and I commend him for making Hae-sung an endearing character who’s more than a goof. I also loved Park Shi-yeon who made Sul gorgeous both on the outside and inside. She depicted both the submissive Sul and hot-blooded Sul well, so that neither felt out of place or contradictory. The hot-blooded Sul was always underneath the submissive one, but years of abuse caused the spirited nature of Sul to retract within herself as a defense mechanism.
The last actor I want to mention is Kim Tae-hoon because he blew me out of the water. I’ve only seen him in more serious roles, and I always remembered him as the more evil-looking version of Kim Tae-woo (his older brother who’s also an actor). However, I take back any negative thoughts I might have had towards him, because he was simply amazing as Joon-ki. While So-hye and Hae-sung are the undeniable protagonists of this show (and I loved them both), Joon-ki was my favorite. Much of that was due to Kim Tae-hoon’s performance and ability to make Joon-ki feel infallible yet vulnerable at the same time. His dimples were adorable, but it’s not just Joon-ki’s infectious smile that made me fall in love. It was the interesting juxtaposition of unbounded joy and acceptance of reality within Joon-ki that endeared me to him.
He faced death numerous times, and basically lived with a ticking time bomb in his body. However, he was one of the brightest and happiest characters on the show. Interestingly, humor also seemed to be his defense mechanism, and there’s something tragic about a character that can laugh at death but is also hiding his greatest fears under that laugh. My heart cried every time Kim Tae-hoon would smile or wave, but a quiver in his voice or the tears in his eyes would betray his most inner feelings. Joon-ki was a great character who was more than a second-male lead, vying for the heroine’s attention. He was, in part, the heart of the show who constantly guided our main couple, and I can’t imagine anyone else but Kim Tae-hoon in this role.
One thing that I liked about this show that I haven’t talked about was the concept of reuniting. A lot of the relationships portrayed in the drama, especially concerning So-hye, were those of reunion. She reached out to her old friends she lost contact with, and her relationship with Hae-sung was also a rekindling of their old relationship. It’s obvious how impactful finding her friends again were to So-hye because it reminded her of her past as well as helped her maintain her past identity pre-cancer diagnosis. However, while I usually roll my eyes at the first-love setup, I actually thought it was an important part of So-hye and Hae-sung’s relationship beyond kdrama’s fixation with purity and first loves. Since our leads had a history together, we didn’t need to see the initial stage of getting to know one another or pondering about what would happen if they separated.
The fact that Hae-sung lost So-hye once because of his mistake, gave him more urgency when he reunited with her and learned about her cancer. He had already experienced life without her, so he was fully aware that he would rather have her in his life even if that time might be short. In a sense, So-hye and Hae-sung went through the typical stages of misunderstanding and noble idiocy off screen, so more of the relationship we saw were developments in the later stages of dating. As a result, it was a more mature relationship—as mature as Hae-sung can be that is—and less about gut reactions and awkward tensions (we got those cute moments from Sul and Sang-wook). It also makes it more realistic that Hae-sung would want to stay by So-hye while she battled cancer because his feelings for her weren’t solely based on the initial butterflies you feel when dating.
While on this topic, I found it endearing that both our leads fell in love at first sight with one another and just revealed that fact this episode to each other. It’s cheesy, but these two were truly meant to be. Even if that journey was tumultuous and winding, they found each other in the end, and I would argue that those roadblocks made their relationship stronger. It’s always bittersweet to say good-bye to a show because of the time invested in the characters and their lives, but I’m just thankful to have been able to watch such a charming drama. Though it wasn’t the most exciting or well-paced, I loved every episode wholeheartedly and will remember these lovable characters for a while.