Go Back Spouses: Episode 12 (Final)
Ban-do and Jin-joo say their goodbyes to 1999, and we finally get to see whether their actions in the re-do have made for a satisfying conclusion in their new present. And while many things are the same, perhaps the changes that do occur are where the two needed it the most.
FINAL EPISODE: “My beloved comrade”
Ban-do receives a call from a tearful Jin-joo and races to find her. Jin-joo darts into the street to save a child from an oncoming car, while Nam-gil watches across the way in shock. Ban-do shoots past him and shoves Jin-joo and the child out of the way, and is hit instead.
Ban-do’s body topples to the ground, and the rings fly from his pocket and clatter on the asphalt. Jin-joo screams over Ban-do’s body, calling him “yeobo.”
Ban-do is rushed to the operating room, and Jin-joo and Nam-gil run alongside Ban-do’s gurney until the doors close on them. Jin-joo collapses to the floor in her anguish, while Nam-gil can do nothing but watch.
At Jin-joo’s house, Mom notes that the revived plant is now looking peaked. Dad warns that it needs consistent watering rather than a lot all at once.
As Nam-gil leaves, he thinks of Jin-joo’s behavior earlier. The doctors needed a family member to approve his surgery, and Jin-joo argued that she was family, rattling off Ban-do’s blood type, medical conditions, and allergies. Ban-do’s parents arrived just then, and Jin-joo let slip a “Mother,” although his parents didn’t know who she was.
Nam-gil’s thoughts turn to the group trip when Jin-joo commented on Ban-do’s lackluster shaving attempt with such familiarity. Looks like someone’s starting to piece things together.
Jin-joo returns to the hospital day after day, but every time the nurse tells her that only family can see Ban-do. Finally, Jin-joo spots Ban-do’s mother and they get a chance to talk.
Mom suspects that Jin-joo is Ban-do’s girlfriend, and Jin-joo plays along. Mom is kind and reassuring, and tells Jin-joo that she’ll call her when she can visit Ban-do.
Jin-joo recalls a moment in the future, after she had spoken to her mother-in-law on the phone. Jin-joo told Ban-do that she loves it when his mom called her “our Jin-joo” rather than “daughter-in-law,” to make Jin-joo feel more included.
Back in 1999, Jin-joo can’t stop herself from giving her mother-in-law a back-hug. She offers reassurance back to Ban-do’s mom in exchange for all the love she’s given her.
Ban-do’s mom returns to his room to report that Jin-joo has finally gone home, but she doesn’t understand why he refuses to see her. Ban-do tells his mom to remember that no matter what, Jin-joo was good to her, which makes no sense to her.
Jin-joo has not, in fact, left the hospital, and Dok-jae spots her first as he searches for Ban-do’s room. She tells him that Ban-do’s doctors won’t let anyone see him, but Dok-jae says that Ban-do called asking for him.
In his hospital bed, Ban-do is thinking of the moment when Jin-joo asked him for a divorce, and in contrast how happy she is every moment she spends with her mom in 1999. Dok-jae interrupts Ban-do’s thoughts, and a glaring Jin-joo steps out from behind him to face Ban-do.
Jin-joo and Ban-do take a moment to talk. Jin-joo confesses that when she saw him hurt, she felt as afraid as she had when her mother died. She felt helpless, forced to watch her husband of eighteen years dying because she couldn’t authorize his surgery.
Ban-do apologizes for avoiding her, and when she demands to know why, he says that he could see, in that near-death moment, what kind of unhappiness arose from his selfish desire (to be with her).
Since they don’t know how or when they’ll return to the future, he suggests that she just live here, forgetting their past. Jin-joo reminds him of Seo-jin, and Ban-do responds that he cares more about Jin-joo’s happiness than his own desire to see his son. Jin-joo begins to cry, while Ban-do can’t even bear to look at her.
Later, a hospital employee returns the pair of rings recovered at the accident to Ban-do. Ban-do cries as he looks at them, and he gasps out an apology, “Daddy’s sorry, I’m sorry Seo-jin,” torn between his thoughts of Jin-joo’s happiness and his decision to not have Seo-jin at all.
Jin-joo sleeps cradled in Mom’s arms that night. Dad is surprised to see that she’s weeping, but Mom just holds her close while she lets it all out.
In the morning, Mom wakes Jin-joo—there’s a man there to see her. Nam-gil waits at the gate and claims it’s his birthday (what a liar! We know it’s already passed!). He asks Jin-joo to join him for the day, and she can’t turn him down.
On campus, Bo-reum worries over Jae-woo’s cheerleading frustration. Seol catches up with her, and she’s excited for Bo-reum to claim the center position for the upcoming national competition and for Jae-woo to become her partner. Bo-reum says that that’s not something that happens overnight.
At the tryouts for spots on the nationals team, Jae-woo gets up for his turn, and when the music starts, he surprises everyone by being much better, his movements precise and assured.
In flashback, we see that Jae-woo actually returned to practice after his frustrated outburst, encouraged to keep working after he recalled Bo-reum’s confidence in him. Fall after fall, he kept working, and it has paid off.
Everyone is impressed with his rapid improvement, and he makes the team—but as part of the ensemble, not as center.
Meanwhile, Nam-gil and Jin-joo drive to their destination: a picnic, complete with packed lunch care of Nam-gil.
Back at auditions, Bo-reum’s friends accuse her of purposely messing up her audition, giving up on the center position to do the ensemble instead. Jae-woo overhears and flees, but Bo-reum sprints to catch him.
Jae-woo’s angry, because he thinks he’s holding Bo-reum back. But Bo-reum says it’s not about the best spot, it’s about the experience, and she wants to share it with Jae-woo at her side. After some cajoling, Jae-woo loses his pout and the two hug.
Nam-gil and Jin-joo stop by the river for their picnic, and Nam-gil offers the lunch he “prepared” for them. Jin-joo is impressed with his kimbap, but as soon as the ddukbokki and soondae come out, she calls him out for buying everything. Nam-gil clarifies that he bought the food but he prepared the lunch box himself (and even asked the store clerk to make it look messy on purpose). Oh, rich boys.
Nam-gil says he wanted it to feel more like a picnic, something he hasn’t done since he was a child. Jin-joo pops a kimbap in her mouth and then feeds one to Nam-gil, both of them enjoying the food, scenery, and company.
Ban-do’s still at the hospital, but the whole gang has turned up to hang out, and they even brought beer. They head to the rooftop to drink and snack, and also help console Dok-jae, who is still moping over getting drafted.
Ban-do talks them through the five stages of grief, as Dok-jae acts each out as he goes: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance.
Seol turns to Ban-do to acknowledge that he got hurt protecting Jin-joo. Everyone chimes in that it’s obvious that Ban-do and Jin-joo like each other, and that Ban-do is the only one unaware of it.
Back at the picnic, Nam-gil gets up to leave, but Jin-joo stops him to thank him for calling for an ambulance the day of the accident. Nam-gil points out how strange it is that Jin-joo and Ban-do always thank him when he helps the other person.
He tells Jin-joo about Ban-do thanking him for helping when Hyun-suk attacked. Nam-gil notes that whatever it is going on with Ban-do and Jin-joo, he sees that he never had a chance.
Meanwhile, Nam-gil’s stepmom goes to the marketplace, and notices Jin-joo’s mother stocking up on anchovies. They’re for rice balls to feed her breakfast-resistant daughters, and they give Nam-gil’s stepmom an idea.
Evening has arrived and Nam-gil and Jin-joo have taken their date to the playground. Nam-gil shares that he’s dreaded playgrounds, because as a child no one would be there to pick him up, and he’d be left alone after the other kids went home. The one thing he wanted, a mom, wasn’t there for him.
Jin-joo shares her motherly perspective—being a mother is more difficult than anyone can imagine. As she talks, she thinks back to all the moments when she struggled as a mother. Jin-joo says that perhaps it’s not that Nam-gil’s mother chose to neglect him, but that she wasn’t able to be there for him.
Nam-gil says that Jin-joo makes him feel like he’s a warm, caring person, and laments that just as he’s started to really like her, he understands that Jin-joo’s heart is already taken. He confesses to Jin-joo again, and says he just wants her to know that.
In response, Jin-joo hugs him, saying, “Thank you for liking me, thank you for letting me know I’m still a woman.” She tells him that he doesn’t know how warm-hearted a person he is and points out that he’s able to see others’ pain, like her and the crying cat, and offer them comfort.
Jin-joo adds that she knew it wasn’t his birthday, but she was happy to play along. Jin-joo asks if she’s Nam-gil’s first love, and she’s pleased to hear that she is.
Nam-gil offers to walk her home, but Jin-joo thinks the perfect goodbye is right here at the playground. And because she doesn’t want to leave him alone here, she tells him to leave first. He does, but he stops and takes one last meaningful glance back at Jin-joo, and then another, before he finally walks away.
Later that night, Jin-joo’s mom invites her to drink with her. Out in the living room, Mom dazzles Jin-joo with her drinking skills. “You’re pretty,” she tells Mom, and Mom responds that Jin-joo is pretty too. “Of course, I’m your daughter.”
They drink and sing into the night, until eventually they curl up together on the couch. And then Mom says, “Jin-joo, go back to your baby now.” She knows?
We flashback to an earlier scene, when Mom was tending to the revived plant on Jin-joo’s desk. Curiosity got to her, and she finally took a look at that letter addressed to her.
In the letter, Jin-joo wrote to her mom about what was happening, and what had happened in the future. Mom thought back to all of Jin-joo’s strange behavior, and no matter how strange her letter seemed, it also made sense.
Mom read Jin-joo’s diary next, where she finds Jin-joo’s bucket list: go to a club, go to a public bath with Mom, go to karaoke with Mom, drink with Mom, say goodbye to Mom.
Returning to Mom and Jin-joo, Mom says, “I don’t know what’s happening. But I know this. You can live without your parents, but you can’t live without your child.”
Mom tells Jin-joo to become strong against what’s been hurting her, but Jin-joo says she can’t get over losing her. Mom promises that by raising her own child, Jin-joo will grow strong and heal. Jin-joo and Mom embrace, Mom whispering words of encouragement.
At the hospital, Ban-do throws on his jacket to get some air. Thoughts of his son only grow louder outside though, as he watches a little boy walking with his mother, and Ban-do starts to run.
He finds Jin-joo on the street, and she turns to him: “Yeobo, let’s go. Let’s go home.” They embrace and cry together in relief.
In the morning, and Nam-gil’s stepmom stops him before he leaves to share that his dad is retiring, and also to give him the anchovy rice balls she made (just like the one Jin-joo shared with him).
The cheerleading national championships have arrived, and Bo-reum and Jae-woo perform to a cheering crowd. Dok-jae and Seol yell for them from the bleachers, and they giggle with each other over their cute friends, hoping they stay together forever.
Later, Dok-jae makes his way to a barber; the time has come to lose the locks. He winces as he sheds it all, and outside he dons a baseball cap to hide his shame and salutes (right before he cries out over how cold his neck is now, ha).
And at Jin-joo’s house, Mom has prepared Ban-do’s favorite meal, and it’s looking like a final farewell meal. Dad is clueless about the significance, as Mom carefully serves a piece of chicken to first Ban-do, then Jin-joo.
Jin-joo and Mom sit together in Jin-joo’s room for a final goodbye. Mom asks that if she’s no longer there wherever Jin-joo is headed, that Jin-joo take care of her father.
We go to a moment in the future, after Dad had told Jin-joo he was getting remarried. Dad woke up alone and spent his time watching TV in silence after eating a meager meal. This does not look like a man who has happily moved on.
Mom’s voice speaks to Jin-joo over the scenes: “Go visit him from time to time, have a drink with him, and bring Seo-jin around often too.”
Ban-do arrived at Dad’s house with his favorite food (classic Ban-do). They sat and shared a drink, and Ban-do asked Dad why he told Jin-joo he was remarrying when he obviously doesn’t want to. Dad said he made a promise to Mom to not live a lonely life after she was gone.
Back in Jin-joo’s room, Jin-joo nods her agreement. She and her mother sit in warm silence, holding hands and sharing a last smile together.
Outside, Ban-do and Jin-joo prepare to return to the present. The moment is sweet, but Ban-do breaks the mood by asking again about why Bo-reum broke up with Jae-woo (someone has to make sure we get all of our questions answered). Jin-joo shares that Bo-reum is infertile, and felt like she couldn’t tell Jae-woo, an only child, about it.
Ready at last, they slip the rings on to each other’s fingers. Just like the scene in the classroom, Ban-do leans in close to ask, “Shall we kiss?” This time, Jin-joo smiles and nods, and the two share a kiss, Ban-do whispering out, “I love you,” and Jin-joo nods, “Me too.” They kiss again and again, and the camera moves to the recently revived plant inside, which has flowered at last.
When we fade back in, we find Jin-joo alone in her bed in the present. She gasps in relief when she finds Seo-jin there as well. She holds him in her arms, and then Ban-do charges through the door, returned to the present as well. The whole family hugs and cries together.
Jin-joo narrates: “Ban-do said that we may have taken a short trip. And that all trips are for us to return home and to love even more what we have.”
Meanwhile, present-day Jae-woo goes on a blind date that is not going great. Behind him, he hears a man lecturing his date about her wrinkles, and he expresses disgust. But then the woman defends herself—it’s Bo-reum, of course. The two stare at each other in surprise.
Jin-joo and Ban-do, meanwhile, take Jin-joo’s dad and Seo-jin out for dinner (yay, Dad!). Dad is so cute as he bounces Seo-jin in his arms and says he waited all week to see Seo-jin.
Jin-joo and Ban-do step outside to await Ban-do’s parents, and Jin-joo shares that Bo-reum and Jae-woo are getting married. Bo-reum finally told Jae-woo what had kept them apart, and they’d agreed to not have kids and to travel the world together.
Ban-do remarks that he and Jin-joo went through that whole time-travel ordeal and nothing changed for them. As he says this, he and Jin-joo smile and talk affectionately, and the actual difference in the way they interact is profound.
An expensive car rolls up, and Jin-joo and Ban-do’s jaws both drop as Ban-do’s parents step out of it, complete with personal driver. It seems that some things have changed since our couple interfered in the past, because Ban-do’s dad took his advice and made a lot of money investing.
Ban-do’s mother worries about her forgetfulness and tells her husband to send her to a nursing home if she ends up having Alzheimer’s, but Dad says he’ll just carry her on his back. Jin-joo and Ban-do, meanwhile, giddily peek in the car windows.
The granddads face off in a contest of who can hold Seo-jin’s attention, and Jin-joo’s dad even brings up the mineral spring fight. It does appear that the little things that happened in the re-do have been remembered.
As for Hyun-suk, he’s up to his old tricks. He tells his wife over the phone that he can’t come home because of a conference, but he’s really meeting a girlfriend. Behind him, a man tells a friend on the phone that he’s having a date with his wife: “She is pretty and kind. To me, she is perfect.”
Hyun-suk’s gapes when Ye-rim joins the man for dinner. Ye-rim spots him as well, but her focus quickly returns to her adoring husband. Justice served.
Jin-joo reads a travel book written by Seol, who happens to call just then to see if Jin-joo received the book and to promise to call as soon as she gets back from Madagascar.
Ban-do returns with Seo-jin, and Jin-joo and Ban-do wonder at how brave Seol became. Both of their phones ring then, with reminders from the district law office that their divorce will be nullified if they don’t turn in their final divorce papers within three months. The two smile at one another, happy to let the paperwork go unfiled.
Out on their walk, Jin-joo spots a familiar face walking by—it’s Nam-gil, who stops to zip up his son’s coat. Jin-joo smiles and turns back to her own family, but she hasn’t gone unnoticed. Nam-gil turns to look at Jin-joo as she walks away, and smiles.
Jin-joo narrates, “When you have to fight this enemy called the world, you need someone to stand by your side without hesitation, your partner forever. We survive in this tough world with comradeship.”
And then, we jump to a new time and place: 50 years ago, in the celestial world.
Jin-joo finishes her narration: “When two strangers meet and spend their lifetimes together, how can everything always be good? It’s not as if we’re gods.”
In a heavenly garden, two gods (Jin-joo and Ban-do with some epic hair) have an all-too-familiar fight, and the woman calls the man a cheapskate. They both call for a divorce, and throw their rings out into the world.
Those two rings fall down, until they end up in the jewelry store where Ban-do and Ji-joo buy them. The store clerk says that the rings are “gods’ rings” that make wishes come true.
Ban-do and Jin-joo buy the rings, and make their wish: “Please make it so we will never separate.” They smile and hold hands, their rings shining on their fingers.
What a satisfying, sweet ending. There were a few moments where it felt like things worked out a little too perfectly, but after spending so many weeks crying, I can’t say that I’m too upset about it.
Jin-joo’s reunion with her mother has been the driving force of the show, and by the end it felt like this wish to travel to the past was really mostly for Jin-joo’s sake, so that she could satisfy that lingering wish to finally say a proper goodbye to her mother. And so I love that Mom believed Jin-joo’s story. Mom’s love and support is the number one thing that Jin-joo’s needed. I don’t think Jin-joo really needed to be pushed to return home to Seo-jin, but leaving her Mom knowing that they shared this knowledge in this one moment is all Jin-joo could have asked for from this trip. With a refilled heart, Jin-joo can fill her life back up with those who are still with her.
For a show that’s been all about two people learning to actually communicate, noble idiocy seemed like such an unnecessary speed bump on the way to reconciliation. I just couldn’t feel for Ban-do as he shed tears over Seo-jin, because he did it to himself. This felt more like the story making an excuse to send Ban-do back into the wings (or in this case, the hospital ward) so that Jin-joo had time to say all of her goodbyes. While Jin-joo was the one who seemed to hate being stuck in the past, she’s also the one with the most to say goodbye to and to reconcile.
I’m glad Nam-gil got to end things with Jin-joo his own way. No surprises or big confrontations; he just got to spend his own mini-birthday re-do with someone who cares for him the way he’s always wanted a mother to. She reassures him that he’s a good person and that he won’t repeat the same mistakes as his parents. When he sees her again, he may feel wistfully towards his first love, but I also suspect he’s full of gratitude for making him believe he could be good to his own family.
Bo-reum throwing her audition was both sweet and not so sweet. On the one hand, don’t pretend you’re not as good as you are just because your boyfriend can’t match you. On the other hand, it also delivers a reminder that sometimes life isn’t about being the best, but also enjoying life just as it is. So if Bo-reum never really cared about the center position, it makes sense that she just wants to spend this time with those she cares about. I feel like there must have been a better way to demonstrate this concept, but I’m willing to look the other direction so that I can watch Bo-reum and Jae-woo be sweet together.
The closure to their story seemed a little too neat at times, and definitely rushed as Ban-do had to ask at the last minute what had happened to them. All the same, I’m glad that they’re traveling the world together.
And with so much tidy wrap up, where were Dok-jae and Seo-young in the new future? Perhaps their lives weren’t so drastically changed by our main couple’s interference, but it seemed odd to catch up with everyone except them.
The entire cast did a great job of balancing poignancy and fun for the full run of episodes. And while the show relied heavily on really only one emotional anchor, the love for a parent and the love of a parent, it was a heavy hitter that brought satisfying emotional resonance every week. While I’m sad to part with the show so soon, I have to admit that a shorter show made sure the story was focused, with little filler.
By the end, the show offered a very satisfying look at what it means to be an adult with a life fully lived, full of heartbreak and sorrow, and also filled with those who stand by our side through all of it, as long as we’re willing to let them in.
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