Just Between Lovers, Episode 15

TL;DR: It was obvious ages ago that we were heading in this direction, yet I’m still upset because all of these characters are upset.

The thing that struck me the most in this episode is how very easily Moon-soo and Kang-doo’s relationship could have become toxic. In a lesser production’s hands, it likely would have. Moon-soo has kept a suffocating grip on her own guilt and trauma, to the point that she is intimately familiar with self-loathing. If she hadn’t asked Sung-jae to meet her at the mall, if she hadn’t crawled through that small section of rubble first, if she could have taken better care of her mother, if, if, if— She has shouldered all this pain on her own, mostly in silence, for years, and every time she learns more about what happened or comes closer to one of her many breaking points, she has new reasons to despise herself.

Meanwhile, Kang-doo has all but accepted that his point in life is to suffer. He has been working physically demanding jobs to try to pay off his debt and support his sister, and he continues to try to take on as many burdens as he can so that the people around him aren’t hurt. If he’s the misery magnet, then everyone he cares about can continue on easier paths. Even when he lashes out, he’s often the one left exhausted and hurt. Yet he is also desperate for love and kindness and Moon-soo’s affection.

These two could have easily fallen into a mutually destructive relationship, but instead both of them are so concerned about the other that they’re doing their best to try to keep one another afloat. Yes, Moon-soo is convinced she ruins good people’s lives, and Kang-doo is pretty sure he’s just going to unfairly suffer until he dies, but in the end they always come back to each other to save one another.

And oh boy, does Kang-doo need some saving. This episode was a painful reminder of Sook-hee’s earlier rant about how people die because of poverty. Kang-doo was too poor to be able to get the follow-up treatment he needed to monitor his liver function, so it’s no wonder he has neglected it just as much as his hands and face and back. He did his best to take care of himself, but good intentions aren’t a substitute for proper care.

And it demonstrates his love for Moon-soo that after the tears with his sister and screaming at the sky, he goes to her and tells her that they should finish the memorial. Kang-doo wants her to complete it to honor the deceased and to comfort the survivors as only another survivor could. He has to know there is a chance he won’t live to see its completion, yet he still encourages her to build something that he never could.

I’m so grateful that Jae-young talked some sense into Kang-doo about not hiding his possibly terminal diagnosis. I’m glad that she remembered what Moon-soo had said about Sook-hee and how it would make Kang-doo feel if he found out too late or from someone else and used that reasoning to encourage him to be honest. And because Kang-doo loves Moon-soo (and is scared, let’s be honest) he listens, and he goes to her house. Now, his half-sobbing/half-yelling combined with dramatic fainting is probably not the most reasonable way to go about it—but he went, and that means that Moon-soo should soon have all the information she needs to act.

(P.S. Jae-young, all the hugs for you. When you got the unfavorable results of the blood test, I cried with you. *clings to you*)

In mildly happier news, I’m pleased that Ma-ri sent Yoo-taek off so coolly. I’m still a little miffed at Yoo-taek’s wife, but I’m glad that moment gave Ma-ri a chance to reconsider what she was doing and whether or not trying to continue something with Yoo-taek was worth it. As someone who soundly hates Yoo-taek, I’m thrilled that she has concluded that no, he’s not worth it. Yeah, breakups suck, but this is one that will move Ma-ri onto much better things than Yoo-taek. Is it too much to hope that she gets to snub him again or find someone who adores her in the one episode we have left?

I also thought it was an interesting touch to have Moon-soo give her apology to Sung-jae’s mother without audible dialog. Kang-doo got to be Sung-jae’s voice briefly, which was important considering Sung-jae never had a chance to deliver his apologies to his mother. It also served as a last chance for Moon-soo to hide her guilt. But in the end, Moon-soo gave Soo-hae her son’s phone back, complete with her own last gift to him still attacked. And since we, as the audience, have known for ages just how guilty Moon-soo feels about Sung-jae’s death, it was a thoughtful touch to allow both her and Soo-hae some distance from the audience in their moment of shared grief. We didn’t need to hear the words or the sobbing or the conversation afterward—what we saw was more than enough to convey their pain.

I’m readying tissues for the finale, even though I know that livers are one of the few organs you can use live donors for, which means Kang-doo’s odds of surviving are practically guaranteed for dramaland. We aren’t in the early 2000s anymore, damn it. (Did I just jinx it?) Here’s hoping this show gives Moon-soo and Kang-doo the happy ending they deserve.

By the Numbers

  • Desperate hugs: 1
  • Dramatic faintings: 1
  • People in need of a liver: 1
  • Unanswered phone calls: 16
  • Scenes mentioning Sook-hee: 2
  • Bechdel Test: 14 episodes passed

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