It’s that time of the week again when I wake up to my most anticipated drama of the season wondering what the show has in store. I haven’t been disappointed so far and it’s no different this week. In fact, it could be that Episode 5 is my favourite one so far of this installment. It’s brimming with all kinds of Shin-Lee magic within Yulje and without. For the first time since the new season began, I’ve actually enjoyed the band’s song-of-the-week. I didn’t mind last week’s with its upbeat tempo but this week’s number was more up my alley. And Jo Jeong-seok’s musicianship is amazing as usual.
Since bildugi was foremost in our minds last week I should start there. To be honest, I don’t entirely know what to make of how things transpired — in terms of what that means for Jun-wan in the future. Has the door completely closed on a possible reconciliation? A part of me doesn’t think so since Ik-sun has decided to remain in SK and gone back to her old job in some limited capacity. She’s home and Ik-jun is keeping a sharp eye on her recovery. Obviously she still has strong feelings for Jun-wan who on the other hand is moving along stoically with no one to confide in about the matter. He won’t even talk to his besties about it. At least as far as we know. For me as a viewer, I am in a state of discontent about Ik-sun’s attempt to play the villain with the misguided intention to set Jun-wan free. As a grown man with his own thoughts Jun-wan shouldn’t be deceived in this fashion and that continues to sit uncomfortably with me. For those of you who know Chinese, the expression 敢怒而不敢言 fits the bill here. It’s very frustrating. There’s an old biblical adage that’s often quoted out of context but it applies nonetheless. “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” It seems to me that the entire fiasco hasn’t been resolved to anyone’s satisfaction and everything feels to be in limbo still. As long as no reference is made it and avoidance is the name of the game, it remains an elephant in the room illustrated so poignantly during that montage sequence of the two siblings having meals together.
The truth matters. A great deal. Always.
The fact that we’ve been given two instances of domestic abuse related to Jang Gyeo-ul that sees her rushing headlong to the rescue seems to suggest that something’s not quite right on her home front. The 4 am call from her mother and then her persistent “Is everything alright?” and “Did you and Dad have a fight?” during the conversation seems to add weight to that. For someone who is apparently not in tune with other people’s emotions, it’s interesting that she went there very quickly. Even Jeong-won senses that there’s some underlying preoccupation motivating these impulses. It would explain a number of things about her and it seems suggestive of the possibility that the stoicism is cultivated through force of circumstance rather than some kind of innate flaw.
Biases aside, I think the show has been doing wonderful things with the WinterGarden dynamic in this new season. There’s always something about them in every episode which not only acts as an antidote to the more gloomy aspects of the show but highlights Gyeo-ul’s growth as a doctor and human being. To me she’s a much more interesting, relatable character for having this journey right in front of us. It warms my heart when I see her face light up like a Christmas tree every time she’s with Jeong-won. When they saw each other in the lift, (as opposed to the well-known shy, awkward encounter in Season 1) it was a different story. From the way she immediately lit up when the elevator doors opened, it was obvious that she was greeting him. It’s a facial expression that’s exclusively for his eyes.
The post-arrest scene that spotlights their conversation behind curtains harkens back to a contrasting encounter in the ER all that time ago where he chastised her for not being sensitive and circumspect with a guardian (Episode 2, S1). I don’t doubt that we’re meant to recall that moment and observe the difference. From “she’s not my cup of tea” they’ve reached a different place in their relationship that’s not purely about mentorship but more of a gradual transition into partnership. I like that she’s comfortable enough with Jeong-won to say that she feels dumb and incompetent for charging into a situation in which others were already aware of. It’s true that she put herself in harm’s way and things could have been a lot worse. But I wonder too why nothing was said to her by anyone about the presence of security guards. Even the senior nurse knew about it and said nothing. The other thing that’s changed between them is that instead of pretending like nothing happened when she ran after the DV dad in the last season, Jeong-won took the time to debrief with her. I suppose some might find this laughable but it seems to me that WinterGarden communicate better with each other than bildugi ever did, considering their relative inexperience. Consider too that Gyeo-ul tells Jeong-won that all she’d like is once a day of expressed affection. That shows some healthy honesty. It’s clear that Shin-Lee has a plan for them and I’m loving it.
One of the more interesting pieces of revelation in the episode was about why Seok-hyeong and his former wife Shin-hye split up. Apparently his mother was part of the problem as I had suspected although not to this extent. What it also tells me and perhaps this is not what we’re supposed to be extrapolate from this, is that both Seok-hyeong and Shin-hye were not strong enough to stand up to her meddling ways. Neither of them were able to push back on her infringement on their privacy and choices. All Shin-hye could achieve at the end of their failed marriage was a little payback — a parting shot. It’s disappointing to know that Seok-hyeong’s mother regrettably is the stereotypical overbearing wealthy parent that we’ve all come to know and detest in K dramas.
This leads me to think that perhaps Min-ha might be a different kettle of fish. Her resilience which I admire so much might be just the thing that’s needed in a situation to overcome the obstacles. I don’t think it’s “fair” that Seok-hyeong should live a life of self-imposed seclusion because of his mother although the irony is that she wants him to remarry when she’s never acknowledge that she’s been a part of the problem. What’s worth noting is that he hasn’t outright rejected Min-ha this time. Telling her that she has 4 more attempts indicates that he could be testing her resolve.
Eun-ji’s mother continues to tug at the heart strings with her courage and thoughtfulness. As I said in the most recent podcast, I continue to be moved by her and her actions. It’s a down-to-earth lesson for us all on the importance of gratitude. She was also able to develop empathy for the donor’s family because of the whole time she was standing on knife’s edge with Eun-ji’s predicament. I’m so glad her arc didn’t just end with Eun-ji getting the heart. This follow-up is a much needed call to action. From all of us. Eun-ji’s mum, whatever her name is… is one of the genuine heroes of the franchise.