Go Back Spouses: Episode 5

No matter how many times Ban-do and Jin-joo tell themselves they want to live separate lives, they just can’t stay away from each other. Something keeps pulling them back together, whether that be lingering emotions or the cunning hands of fate. But with so much turmoil in their relationship, it’ll take a lot more than fate to fix all the damage. Fortunately, a little jealousy goes a long way.

 
EPISODE 5: “The criteria for first love”

In 2017, Ban-do reads an article about Seo-young retiring from dance after getting injured and sighs that she should’ve been careful. Jin-joo walks in and he immediately shuts his laptop, which leads Jin-joo to think that he was watching porn.

He opens his laptop again to prove it’s not porn; he was just curious about how Seo-young was doing since she was his first love. He explains that a first love can feel like homework that was never finished, making Jin-joo scowl.

He smiles and says that she wouldn’t know the feeling since she married her first love. Jin-joo scoffs at that and says that she doesn’t have a first love. They start to argue over what “first love” really means, while Jin-joo narrates that the definition itself can be rather ambiguous.

Back in 1999, Jin-joo is shocked to find Ban-do and her mom outside the house. She forces her mom inside and then turns to Ban-do, looking furious. Ban-do weakly lies that he was just passing by, but Jin-joo tells him to stay away before going inside. After taking one last look at the crate of grapes he left for Mom, Ban-do turns away.

Inside, Jin-joo warns Mom to stay away from Ban-do. Mom doesn’t see why she should; the nice young man did help her out. Still, Jin-joo tells her to kick him if he ever tries to help again. She stalks off to her room, leaving Mom confused.

On campus, Bo-reum keeps Jae-woo back after cheerleading practice to give him some private lessons. He asks when he’ll be able to wear the uniform and lift her like her partner did earlier. Bo-reum gets a twinkle in her eye and tells him to stay where he is.

Jae-woo looks like a deer in highlights as Bo-reum comes running toward him, instructing him to catch her. He manages to catch her and lift her in the air, but he loses his balance and sends them falling to the ground. With their lips mere inches apart, Bo-reum takes the chance to give him a quick kiss. Jae-woo freaks out and shoves her aside so he can scurry away, and Bo-reum laughs at his shy reaction.

Jin-joo and her family watch a reality show about a man reconnecting with his first love. They talk about their own firsts, Mom saying she never had one. Jin-joo calls that unfair, glaring at Dad, but Mom merely says that first love is useless—it’s a person’s last love that counts. Jin-joo is still glaring at Dad as they get up to have dinner.

She flashes back (er, forward) to 2010, one year after Mom’s death. She and Ban-do were sharing a meal with Dad when he’d announced that he was getting remarried. Jin-joo thought he was joking at first, but Dad figured it was time they let go of Mom.

Jin-joo was horrified to hear this, saying that Mom’s loss was so new that she still felt as if Mom could come home any minute. She angrily asks Dad how he can let go so soon when she still feels this way. Dad was unable to respond, so Jin-joo had stormed out, Ban-do right behind her.

So now, there’s a lot of tension at dinner as Jin-joo snatches all of Dad’s food and lovingly gives it to Mom. Her parents later wonder about her behavior, Dad thinking he messed up because he read Jin-joo’s diary not too long ago.

Ban-do has drinks in a pojangmacha, his eyes filling with tears as he’s overwhelmed with memories of little Seo-jin. Meanwhile, Jin-joo is huddled in bed as she also cries over the absence of her son. She’s still crying when she wakes up the next morning, still in the past.

Mom comes in to wake her up and is surprised to see her crying. Mom asks if she’s been having bad dreams, like seeing Mom die. At that, Jin-joo hugs Mom tightly, and while Mom is still confused with her behavior, she hugs her back.

As her parents get ready to leave, Jin-joo comes out saying she wants to join them. They go to the hospital for Mom’s dialysis, and Jin-joo makes sure to talk to her doctor about taking any and all kinds of precautions.

The doctor tries to reassure her that Mom will live for a long time, but Jin-joo knows better. She leaves the office and walks over to Mom’s room, stopping at the door to watch Mom get her treatment. She sighs as she thinks about the doctor’s words.

Back in his office, the doctor tells a nurse that Mom’s children did a lot of research into her disease—her son even stopped by yesterday. To the doctor’s confusion, the nurse says that Mom doesn’t have a son.

Ban-do surprises his parents by getting up early and even drinking Mom’s health drink before leaving for school. His folks wonder why he’s been acting so different lately.

As Nam-gil gets his things from his car, he finds Jin-joo’s wallet in the backseat and smiles as he remembers the night she mistook his car for a taxi. Later, he’s watching his ROTC hoobaes run laps when the president of the university approaches him.

The president asks that Nam-gil talk to his father about him, saying he’ll do whatever Nam-gil needs. Nam-gil coldly asks if the president will hand over a diploma or a scholarship then.

The president makes up a quick excuse to leave and scurries off. Nam-gil yells at his hoobaes to concentrate on running, only to lose his cool and jump at the sight of a stray cat at his feet.

Nam-gil sees Jin-joo eating in the cafeteria by herself, so he joins her at her table and explains that the food’s no good if you eat alone. She casually says that she’s not alone, which is right when Bo-reum and Seol appear. Nam-gil hides his embarrassment by saying, “I was talking about me, not you.” Hee.

Taken aback by their sunbae’s presence, Bo-reum asks if Nam-gil is troubled by Jin-joo. She tries to say that Jin-joo’s never gotten a confession from a man before, and Jin-joo insists that it wasn’t a confession. Nam-gil agrees that it wasn’t a confession. But then he adds, “It’s wooing.” Jin-joo’s eyes grow wide, as do her friends’.

Nam-gil gets up and tells Jin-joo to follow him, which she hesitantly does. Her friends smile as they watch them go, Seol looking especially happy. She asks Bo-reum if Nam-gil would still like Jin-joo if she were divorced and had a kid, which Bo-reum takes as a rhetorical question.

Jin-joo and Nam-gil venture outside, and Jin-joo asks why he claims to be wooing her when he said he didn’t want to be friendly. Nam-gil coolly states that it’s Jin-joo who’s seducing him with all her recent behavior.

Jin-joo says that those were just accidents, then stops as she remembers that Nam-gil hurt his ankle in the library. She falls into ajumma mode as she tells him to take care of himself before it gets any worse, and Nam-gil calls her out on it, saying that’s what he means.

He thinks that she should take responsibility for his injury, but she sees no reason to when he looks perfectly fine. So Nam-gil lies that it’s still very painful to walk and then fake-limps away. Pwahaha.

Ban-do sneaks up on Seo-young as she listens to music and surprises her by grabbing an earbud. He finds it interesting that she listens to hip-hop instead of classical music, and she replies that hip-hop has a fun beat to it. She thinks it would fun to dance to it, but she doesn’t know how. Ban-do suggests she dance to it with ballet, but she finds the combination strange.

In the dorms, Ban-do hangs out with Jae-woo (who’s still giddy from that kiss) and Dok-jae (who’s covering his hair with a bandana after the humiliating gate incident). Ban-do learns that Jae-woo and Bo-reum kissed, and he thinks to himself that his buddy is just setting himself up for heartbreak again.

Dok-jae mentions that all they did was a quick peck and says that that doesn’t mean they’re dating. Besides, Bo-reum is known to have a lot of skinship with guys. Jae-woo deflates to hear that.

At cheerleading practice, Jae-woo tries to tell himself that Dok-jae was wrong. But when Bo-reum arrives, all she does is give him a good punch on the arm and walk away. He watches her practice the lift with her partner until he just turns away and leaves altogether.

Jin-joo catches up with Nam-gil when he’s approached by a girl who offers him cookies she baked. He tells her to eat them herself and walks away. Jin-joo follows, sarcastically offering a candy bar and saying that she picked it from the trash can, pointing out the difference between giving something idly and giving something with a lot of thought and care put into it. If a girl baked something for him, he should just take it.

He replies that there’s such a thing as “give and take,” and he’s not about to accept something from someone he doesn’t have feelings for. She argues that the girl probably didn’t offer him cookies expecting something in return; she just wanted to give him something because she likes him. And those feelings are innocent, like a parent giving their child something.

Nam-gil says that parents expect things from their kids too, and Jin-joo sighs at the odd turn this conversation took. She give ups, just as Nam-gil grabs the candy bar from her. He tells her to meet her tonight and then goes on his way, making sure to limp in front of her again.

Nam-gil heads over to the pool, where Dok-jae is stuck volunteering as punishment. Ban-do is keeping Dok-jae company, but Dok-jae puts him to work and asks him to leave towels in the locker room.

As Nam-gil changes into his swimwear, he overhears douchey Hyun-suk talking to his friend about cheating on girlfriend Ye-rim with Jin-joo. He’ll be keeping Ye-rim since she’s guaranteed to make him rich, but Jin-joo looks poor and is thus only worth fooling around with. Nam-gil’s expression turns dark, as does Ban-do’s around the corner.

Nam-gil follows Hyun-suk to the pool, but before he can do anything, Ban-do zooms past him and kicks Hyun-suk into the water. Hyun-suk struggles to the surface, and Ban-do puts on a face of innocence and says, “I’m sorry. I thought you were my friend.” He turns and walks away, and Nam-gil catches his smile turn into a scowl.

A few of Seo-young’s friends bail out of a movie night, so she stays in the studio for a little more practice. As she changes the music, she remembers Ban-do’s suggestion and decides to play one of her hip-hop CDs. The CD starts and Seo-young matches her elegant moves to the upbeat sound of the music. She gets really into it, only to freeze when she realizes Ban-do is standing by the door.

She shyly says that she was just trying it out for fun, but Ban-do tells her that she should do something fun for a living, something she can love. It’s not easy to have something you enjoy also be the work you have to do, but he advises looking for it anyway. If you only focus on what you have to do, when the time comes that you can’t do it anymore, you’re left with nothing. But if you pursue something you enjoy, you still have your enjoyment. “There’s nothing in the world that lasts forever,” he concludes. With that, he asks what they should do now.

Jin-joo meets with Nam-gil as planned and tries to hand over the jacket she’d taken from him, but instead of accepting it, he tells her to follow him to the hospital. Jin-joo gasps that he must really be hurt, but as Nam-gil fake-limps away, he sneaks in a smile.

Ban-do and Seo-young take a crowded bus on their way to see the movie Seo-young had meant to see with her friends. Seo-young keeps falling into Ban-do as the bus brakes too harshly, so Ban-do takes her hand and places it on his arm to steady her.

Seo-young seems to blush at this move, but it’s hard for me to take seriously when Ban-do is just admiring his arm and thinking, “Ah, your blood vessels are alive, Choi Ban-do! As expected, you’re a man!” Lol, this guy.

Ban-do loses a bit of his confidence when they arrive at the theater. He takes a moment before heading inside, thinking there’s no way he’ll bump into “them.” He’s still on edge as he buys popcorn and nearly jumps out of his skin when a concession worker turns to him: Jin-joo’s dad.

Ban-do quickly tells Seo-young he needs to use the bathroom and runs off. He gives himself a little pep talk, saying he shouldn’t feel guilty when he’s not actually cheating. He tells himself to walk out confidently… and then he eases his way out by peeking around the corner, ha.

He sees Seo-young waiting for him at a table, but he’s more surprised to see Jin-joo sitting at the next table with the sunbae from the pool (Nam-gil). He remembers when he and Jin-joo had argued about first loves in 2017, when Jin-joo had insisted she had been a popular boy’s first love.

At her table, Jin-joo asks Nam-gil what they’re doing here, and Nam-gil answers that he’ll feel better when he sees a movie. Jin-joo stares at him incredulously, saying she knew he was faking.

When Ban-do joins Seo-young, he and Jin-joo lock eyes, neither of them happy to see each other. But looking at Nam-gil, Jin-joo raises her voice and decides to bring up the day he asked her out. She side-eyes Ban-do and smirks to see that he’s listening.

Ban-do turns his attention back to Seo-young, who warns him that the movie they’re about to see has been known to make people cry (1999’s blockbuster spy thriller Swiri). Ban-do says there’s no way he would cry for a movie like that and Jin-joo lets out very unsubtle “HA.”

We flash to the real 1999 when Ban-do had cried seeing Swiri with Jin-joo, to 2004 when he had cried seeing it with his dad, and to 2017 when he had cried seeing it with Seo-jin.

The two couples see the movie, and as expected, almost everyone ends up in tears. Nam-gil sneaks looks over at Jin-joo, surprised that she doesn’t shed a single tear, remembering how hard she’d cried in his car and on the bus.

Behind them, Ban-do sits with Seo-young, and this time, he isn’t crying. He’s too busy looking at Jin-joo to concentrate on the movie.

The cheerleading club shares snacks, and Bo-reum asks the others if guys like it when a girl kisses them first, which gets an enthusiastic yes. But when she asks how they feel when the girl asks the guy to date first, they feel that’s too forward and that girls should give the guy the chance to make his move. Bo-reum deflates to hear this, just as Jae-woo joins the group.

Then the talk turns to first loves, and when they get to Jae-woo, Bo-reum smiles, anticipating his answer. But her smile drops to hear him say that his first love was a girl in kindergarten.

Bo-reum snaps that that isn’t first love; it’s unrequited love. Jae-woo hangs his head as Bo-reum continues that a first love is the first person you date, not the first person you like. “If you aren’t in a relationship, it’s nothing. It’s unrequited love!” she concludes, glaring at Jae-woo.

In the men’s room, Jae-woo grumbles that Bo-reum shouldn’t have kissed him if she didn’t want to date, while in the women’s room, Bo-reum sighs that she’s getting sick of waiting for Jae-woo to ask her out.

They run into each other by the stairwell, and Bo-reum warns him that if he takes one more step, they’re over. He almost does, but he turns to face her. He says that a kiss may mean nothing to her, but it meant a lot to him since she’s his first love. She retorts that his first love was in kindergarten, and he firmly states that Bo-reum is definitely his first love.

She demands to know what he’s going to do about it then. “I want to go out with you,” he finally says. “I want to go out with you, not have an unrequited love.” Bo-reum stares at him for a moment and then bursts into laughter. She says that he definitely just asked her out and then jumps up and down, still laughing. Ha, Jae-woo’s puzzled look kills me.

After the movie, both couples run into Jin-joo’s father. Ban-do immediately bows his head and almost calls him “Father-in-law” (must be a reflex), and then quickly says he’s just passing by before hightailing it out of there. Dad turns to the remaining couple, and his eyes harden to see his daughter with a boy.

Jin-joo matter-of-factly states that Nam-gil is just a sunbae she knows. She introduces Nam-gil to her father and he eagerly greets him. Dad ignores him and asks if Jin-joo wants to catch a ride with him, but she coldly refuses. When Dad reluctantly leaves, Jin-joo tells Nam-gil they should go their separate ways. But Nam-gil calls her back, and he takes out her wallet with a smile.

As Ban-do and Seo-young walk back, Seo-young notices people crowding around a hip-hop group dancing on the street and she excitedly joins the crowd to watch. When the group asks if anyone is willing to participate, Ban-do volunteers Seo-young and gives her a push into the circle.

Seo-young looks back at Ban-do in fear, and he just claps along with the crowd and cheers her on. The music starts back up and Seo-young tries what she did earlier, and soon, the dancers are following her lead. Once they finish the routine, Seo-young has the biggest smile on her face, which Ban-do is glad to see.

Seo-young is still ecstatic as they leave, and she notes that it must have been fate for her and Ban-do to go to the theater together. She slips her hand into Ban-do’s, surprising him. They smile at each other and hold hands the rest of the way.

After relocating to a bar, Nam-gil tells Jin-joo that he found her wallet at school. She’s pretty sure she left it in a taxi and feels even more suspicious since there aren’t any identification cards inside. He wonders why she doesn’t just show gratitude, so she softens a bit and thanks him.

Nam-gil rests his chin and his hand and stares at Jin-joo, making her uncomfortable. She tries to change the subject by saying she’ll pay for food and asks what he likes. “You,” he says point-blank. “I think I like you.” (Omo!) He smiles at her, though she’s too shocked to answer.

He walks her all the way home, where they part ways for the day. He’s still got that smile on his face until someone reaches out and grabs his arm.

Dad takes Nam-gil to a pojangmacha for (more) drinks, and Nam-gil seems like a total bundle of nerves. When Nam-gil tries to poor him a drink, Dad snatches the bottle and pours for himself before he starts his interrogation. He asks Nam-gil what his major is, what year he is, and what his parents do.

Nam-gil answers every question, ending it on his father being the director of the university. Dad breaks his bad cop façade and does a spit take. Nam-gil asks that Dad keep that a secret from Jin-joo and Dad agrees. Dad wants to confirm whether or not Nam-gil likes Jin-joo, and Nam-gil shyly answers that he does. A lot.

It’s pouring rain the next day, and Ban-do finds Seo-young by the bus stop without an umbrella. He gives her a smile and suggests they share his. Elsewhere, Nam-gil gives some food to the cat he encountered before. He tells the kitty to eat up and stop crying. “Like someone I know.”

Nam-gil then spots Jin-joo struggling to keep her umbrella open, and he hurries over to cover her. She’s a bit flustered to see him, but she accepts the gesture and walks with him towards campus. She thinks to herself that he could possibly be a player and her thoughts seem confirmed when he asks that she move closer to him.

But he just wants her to move in so he shoulder doesn’t get as wet. Jin-joo shakes her thoughts and moves in… Then her face changes as she sees another couple huddled under one umbrella coming their way. As Ban-do and Seo-young pass Jin-joo and Nam-gil, our ex-couple keep their eyes on each other.

Epilogue: What really happened in 1999.

Dad gives Ban-do the exact same interrogation he’d given Nam-gil. And Nam-gil is eager to answer every question with Jin-joo. When asked what he wants to do after graduation, he answers with whatever would provide for Jin-joo, and when asked what he likes, he again answers with Jin-joo. Awwwww.

Frustrated, Dad asks if Ban-do has any dreams of his own, and Ban-do says that he does have a dream—he wants to live happily with Jin-joo and their future children. He continues that he’ll work hard to pass Dad’s test, and Dad chides him for smiling.

Ban-do tries calling him “Father,” and then stutters out “Father-in-law” and “Ajusshi,” to see what he’s comfortable with, but Dad just sighs. When Dad’s not looking, Ban-do sneaks another smile.

 
COMMENTS

Nam-gil and Seo-young are really stepping up their game as second leads. They both feel like well-rounded characters at this point—they’re sweet, they’re interesting, and they seem to have found a new kind of comfort with Jin-joo and Ban-do. For Nam-gil, Jin-joo takes away some of the stress from his family, and for Seo-young, Ban-do takes away some of the stress from her dancing. I like these people, and I know they like Jin-joo and Ban-do, so I start feeling bad for them when our main couple shows obvious signs of still being in love. It’s funny because if our couple weren’t actually involved, I could see them being in dramas with their respective second leads. Both couples fit pretty well together, and that makes me wonder what Jin-joo and Ban-do’s lives would be like had they not met on that group date.

But come on, when Ban-do is pushing jerkfaces into pools because they badmouthed Jin-joo, how can I not root for them to work out their relationship? No matter how much I like the second leads, I want this couple to power through their problems. It all seems rooted back to the mom’s death—whatever happened there truly damaged the marriage. But they’d been together for a pretty long time, even after Mom died, so obviously, they didn’t want to give up, right? That shows a lot of promise. In some of these flashbacks (in the present timeline), they can be harsh and at times, totally out of line, but in flashbacks like this episode’s, you can see that there’s almost a lightness to their fighting. They’re not as cute and sweet towards each like they used to be, but the playfulness is still there.

I was happy (and quite heartbroken) when we finally got some clarification about Jin-joo’s resentment towards her dad. I’m glad Dad didn’t do anything like cheat, but in Jin-joo’s eyes, he might as well have. Her own father telling her to let go must’ve felt like the world’s biggest betrayal when in reality, he was probably just trying to cope with Mom’s death in his own way.

Jin-joo had been repressing a lot of anger and sadness during her marriage with Ban-do, and I can see this incident with her dad being one of the main sources. She still carries all of this hate towards Dad, and in some ways, this hate found its way to Ban-do as well. I think she felt a very similar betrayal when she got the misunderstanding that Ban-do was having an affair. I was hurting for her before, but now that we’re aware of the reasoning behind her anger, it makes me hurt for her more, if that’s possible.

There’s still the missing piece as to what Ban-do was so sorry for when Mom died, and honestly, I’m not sure if I can take any more of that heartache. But from what we’ve seen, I think Ban-do and Jin-joo weren’t just given a second chance at love, but also a second chance at acceptance. I don’t know if Jin-joo will ever forgive her dad, but I hope she can find some way to understand him. If she can do this, there’s no doubt she’ll be able to understand Ban-do too. After all, it wasn’t just Jin-joo that lost a mother—Dad lost a wife and Ban-do lost a mother-in-law. Instead of isolating herself in her grief, she could really do herself some good by keeping those with similar grief close by.

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