20th Century Boy and Girl: Episodes 31-32 (Final)
It’s time to bid farewell to a wonderful group of characters who have taught us that love comes in many forms. They’ve shown that love of friends, family, and even oneself is a beautiful thing when you are accepting of others and the past that makes them who they are. Most importantly, we’ve learned that a happy ending is not an ending, but the beginning of something new.
EPISODE 31: “Happy ending”
Three months into the future, Ji-won dresses in a nice suit and takes a call from someone asking what time the wedding starts. Jin-jin calls him next, and he says he’s on his way.
Back in the present, Ah-reum winces as Woo-sung sings a love song to her at an open mike night. Afterward, he says he has something to tell her, but she interrupts and says she needs to speak first.
We go back to Ji-won’s proposal to Jin-jin, and she stares at him, wide-eyed. She says that she’ll marry him, but she doesn’t know if it will be now or later. Ji-won nods his understanding, saying that she should take all the time she needs to think, and that this time he’ll wait for her.
Both of their phones ring at the same time, and Jin-jin answers hers to hear CEO Jang freaking out about the breaking news that she’s dating Ji-won. Jin-jin insists that she was careful, but CEO Jang is upset that her image will be tarnished by dating her onscreen husband’s brother.
Frustrated, Jin-jin asks why people can’t tell the difference between reality and television, and when CEO Jang orders her to deny her relationship with Ji-won, she refuses.
Ji-won’s call is from his little sister, who yells at him for being careless and repeats that she hates Jin-jin. Once he and Jin-jin hang up, they go to each other for a comforting hug. But it doesn’t last long, as Jin-jin’s entire family bursts into her apartment and catches them.
Mom has to stop Dad from beating the stuffing out of Ji-won, who apologizes for not telling them sooner. Dad sends Jin-jin to her room and shoves Ji-won out the door, where he stands in his sock feet listening to Mom argue that there’s nothing wrong with Ji-won and Jin-jin’s relationship.
Later, Dad pouts in bed as Mom tells him that they should be happy for their daughter and Ji-won. Dad does admit that he’s glad it’s Ji-won, who’s great son-in-law material, and says that he was only mean to Ji-won out of concern that they weren’t being careful in public.
Mom argues that she sees it differently, that being seen in public means that Jin-jin and Ji-won feel relaxed. She’s upset that people are judging Jin-jin even though she’s never dated, and Dad agrees wholeheartedly.
Ah-reum tells Woo-sung that she doesn’t want to date him anymore, and that it’s because of her, not him. She admits that she thinks she was just excited at the thought of being married, and Woo-sung misunderstands and says they can work towards that.
Ah-reum tells him that she liked his sisters, but it made her hate herself when she found herself being obsequious, doing things for them she doesn’t even do for her own parents. She tells Woo-sung to date someone he can marry, because she’s not cut out for marriage.
Ah-reum and Young-shim show up at Jin-jin’s later to console her about her dating scandal. In fact, they congratulate her that the scandal is actually true, lol. But they can tell that Jin-jin is worried, and she says that a lot of people are affected by this, so she feels a lot of responsibility.
Jin-jin notices that Ah-reum seems upset, and she’s surprised when Ah-reum says she broke up with Woo-sung. Ah-reum tells them that his sisters were nice and she didn’t feel pressured, but that she shocked herself with the way she behaved around them. She sighs that it’s hard to get married, and that she’s probably making too big a deal out of it.
Young-shim says she did the right thing and would probably get divorced anyway, then tells them that her mother wants to divorce her father. But while she doesn’t blame her mother and has even hoped her parents would divorce, now that it’s looking like it may happen, she’s scared. She tells her friends that her mother is coming to her office tomorrow for a consultation, but that she doesn’t know what to say to her.
All three ladies collapse, weighted down by their problems. But they’re glad to have each other since your friends are the most important thing. Jin-jin wonders what will happen to them in the future, or who will lead them.
Ji-won talks to Jin-jin on the phone later, suggesting that she take Mi-dal and get away for a while. He says he has to work but can meet up with her later, and Jin-jin thinks of a place she’d like to go.
She ends up visiting her sister, Ho-sung, who serves her ramyun. They sit awkwardly while Jin-jin eats, and Ho-sung remembers a time when they were young and had ramyun on the beach. She also remembers that their mother only buys one of anything, which is why the sisters fought so much. Jin-jin quips that Ho-sung just hit her a lot, ha.
Ho-sung tells Jin-jin that she watched her on We Got Married, and she growls that she hated it because Anthony is hers. Jin-jin airily says that’s not true, so Ho-sung reminds her that she was the legendary Seoul branch manager of the Candies (Anthony’s fan club).
Jin-jin grumbles that the club president was much scarier than Ho-sung ever was. She asks for a beer, and when Ho-sung goes to get it, Jin-jin smiles to herself.
That night when the sisters go to bed, Ho-sung says that if she’d known Jin-jin would become an actress, she’d have done it first. She sees Jin-jin reading another scandal article and swipes her phone, telling her to stop reading and go to sleep.
Jin-jin sends Ji-won a goodnight text, then Ho-sung takes her phone again and says that unni will read the article so she doesn’t have to. Jin-jin huffs, “What unni?” But she obeys and they go to sleep.
At the office the next morning, Young-shim receives a package from the woman who consulted her about a divorce. It’s a beautiful hand-knit blanket and gloves, and the enclosed note says, “Thanks to you, I’ve started a new life. I’m happy.”
Young-shim tells Kyung-seok that her mother is coming, and her mom arrives before she can say anything else. Mother and daughter sit awkwardly, too nervous to speak, while Kyung-seok waits in the hallway.
Eventually he goes inside and offers to consult with Young-shim’s mom, sending Young-shim on an errand outside of the office. Young-shim goes, hesitant but grateful, and Kyung-seok introduces himself.
Back in the city, Jin-jin does an interview for an entertainment program to talk about her upcoming sageuk movie. The topic of Jin-jin’s dating scandal comes up, but the tone is warm and congratulatory, and Jin-jin confirms that it’s not just rumors but a real relationship.
It turns out that public sentiment actually swung in Jin-jin’s favor after the scandal hit. Initially there was some negativity, but fans rallied back to tell the tabloid reporters to leave Jin-jin alone to date in peace. Tae-hyun marvels that the relationship is out in the open, then says cryptically that he needs to up his game in that department.
Manager Choi is nervous as she drives Anthony to his first day of shooting, worried about Director Kim’s reputation of being tough on her actors. Anthony isn’t concerned until they arrive at the set to find an actor filming a scene while having sand blown in his face, and he turns to Manager Choi and asks, “Should we just go home?” HAHA.
He finally gets to meet Director Kim (cameo by Kim So-yeon, Lee Sang-woo’s real-life wife, how cute!), who barely shakes his hand before getting back to business. But Manager Choi tells Anthony that Director Kim is secretly a fan of his, and he turns back for another look at her.
She may be a fan, but that doesn’t stop her from making Anthony film the same scene over and over until the sun sets. He does his best but he’s exhausted after performing the athletic scene all afternoon.
When Young-shim returns from her errand, she finds that her mother has left, leaving instructions with Kyung-seok not to look for her. Kyung-seok takes her to the park where they sit, and he offers her his hand to dispel her sadness. Sweet.
While holding her hand, Kyung-seok tells her of a day when his mother took him to an amusement park and instructed him not to let go of her hand or he might never see her again. He recalls being scared he would let go accidentally, and Young-shim agrees that when you lose your mother, the world goes bleak.
He continues that holding his mother’s hand became embarrassing as he got older so he let go first, but his mother kept holding his hand. He asks Young-shim if she can let go of her mother’s hand for a while, because her mother’s hand has become too tight.
Young-shim says in a shaky voice that she wants her mother to be happy. His words help her come to an understanding, and that night she calls her mom to tell her that daughters can be friends with their mothers even if they don’t live together. She concludes that if her mom wants a divorce, she’ll support her.
Ji-won and Jin-jin are both getting cabin fever, so Ji-won decides they should go out. Jin-jin pouts when he just takes her to the Bongos’ hideout beneath her father’s chicken place, having had something more public in mind.
They’re joined by Ah-reum, who quickly gets drunk and begins ranting about breakups. Jin-jin and Ji-won say all the usual comforting phrases, only to have Ah-reum grump at them for being a couple.
Young-shim shows up and also starts drinking. She launches into a spiel about custody rights in divorce cases and worries what will happen to herself, wailing, “Who will raise me?!” LOL.
Ji-won walks Jin-jin to her door, and his eyes light up when she invites him in for ramyun (aka, an invitation for sexy times). Before long they’re cuddling on her floor in a blanket cocoon, smiling at each other—until Min-ho knocks on the door, and they sit bolt upright in horror.
EPISODE 32 RECAP
Min-ho enters Jin-jin’s apartment to find the remains of ramyun on the table and a tangle of blankets on the floor. But Ji-won and Jin-jin have escaped to the stairwell, and tiptoe down to Ji-won’s unit.
They tumble inside, giggling madly at the close call. Jin-jin asks why her heart is racing, and Ji-won grins and whispers something in her ear. She whispers, “Me too.” Ji-won gives her a sexy smile, then kisses her face off.
In the morning, Jin-jin can’t stop smiling at the breakfast table after their night together, though Ji-won does his best to keep his cool in front of her parents. Dad tells Jin-jin to move back in with the family, but Mom objects, saying that she has an irregular schedule and needs her own space.
Jin-jin startles Ji-won by playing footsie with him under the table, somehow managing to look innocent while Ji-won tries to get his foot back. He doesn’t hear her dad telling him to move in so he can keep an eye on him, and he accidentally agrees.
He immediately takes it back, then jumps to his feet in alarm when Jin-jin puts her hand in a very personal area. Ji-won does his best to recover, while Jin-jin asks her mom to buy him some tonic for his declining energy levels, hee.
Director Kim picks up right where she left off, making Anthony repeat the same rolling move and discarding every take. Anthony keep at it but he eventually starts to get angry, and he lets it show in the next take. Director Kim calls it good, surprising everyone.
Manager Choi runs over with water, now praising the director for being so passionate. Anthony grumbles that she’s insane, and laughs incredulously when the director shoots him a wide grin and a thumbs-up.
Ah-reum lies in bed, too upset to eat as she stares at pictures of Woo-sung on her phone. She finally gets up and runs out, heading straight to Woo-sung’s hospital. He sees her and approaches, and after feebly lying that she was just taking a walk, Ah-reum confesses that she came here to see him.
She says she missed him, and Woo-sung chuckles that she should do whatever she wants. Ah-reum asks if he’s saying that because she means nothing to him, but he says that in fact, she’s very special to him, and he likes that she does as she pleases.
Woo-sung tells Ah-reum that he’s thought about it, and decided that he should try harder to help her live the life she wants and not worry about what others think. He asks her not to leave him again, she asks him for the same promise, and they hug. Then Woo-sung notices that she hasn’t washed her hair and tells her affectionately never to wash it again.
Three months later.
Ji-won enters the wedding hall in his suit and goes straight to the bride’s room. He finds it empty, and Tae-hyun tells him that the bride is in the bathroom. Jin-jin quickly returns—but it’s Mi-dal who’s wearing the wedding dress. Aww, yay!
She and Tae-hyun are practically bouncing with happiness as they confirm that they’re getting married after only dating for a few months. Jin-jin makes them cringe when she says proudly that she and Ji-won have known each other for thirty-five years, ha.
Mi-dal poses for a photo with Jin-jin, CEO Jang, and Hong-hee, who says that Mi-dal looks her prettiest today. Jin-jin sighs that Hong-hee must be heartbroken that Mi-dal is getting married, and though he weakly denies it, Mi-dal crows that he should have moved faster.
Anthony attends the wedding as the officiant and greets Ji-won. Meanwhile, Jin-jin wanders out to the lobby where she sees Director Kim, of all people, who says that she has an appointment here.
After eyeing her closely for a moment, Jin-jin asks Director Kim if she used to be in the Candy fan club, adding that she heard she was the legendary club president. Director Kim grins, confirming Jin-jin’s suspicions.
On the way home, Jin-jin still can’t get over the fact that Director Kim was president of Anthony’s fan club. Ji-won says that Anthony hates her, and Jin-jin confirms that they fought on set every day.
Looking down at the bouquet that she caught, she muses that she saw a new side of Director Kim today, and also of Mi-dal, who was much more confident than herself. She pouts that she’s twelve years older but still can’t make a decision, and Ji-won sweetly tells her to take her time.
Jin-jin wonders if marriage is their happy ending, when she feels like they just got to the starting line. She thinks that many people her age are married and raising families, and that although they’re a bit late, they’re starting their own now.
Young-shim’s mother is back at home, having decided to put divorce plans on hold for now. But lately when her husband demands rice, instead of serving him, she just quietly points out the rice cooker. HA, I love it.
Young-shim runs out to work, smiling to find Kyung-seok waiting to walk with her. She apologizes for being late with a giant grin, and he tells her not to be late, sounding like this is something they probably say to each other every day.
Ah-reum and Woo-sung have decided to give themselves a year to adjust to each other’s lives. They act like silly kids as he picks her up for lunch, and he takes her for jokbal (pig trotters) and admits that he’s nervous. Ah-reum serves Woo-sung a nice neat cut of meat, but he slips on a glove and picks up the whole joint, gamely biting right into it.
Even Ho-sung is making an effort to repair her relationship with her parents, and they all sit for a dinner of fried chicken. She and Dad keep insisting on giving each other the drumstick, until Mom gives it to Dad and tells him that their daughter doesn’t even like drumsticks.
Always the baby of the family, Min-ho complains that nobody is paying any attention to him. He points out his hair, which is no longer pink, and pouts that he even got a real job. Ji-won gives him a drumstick and congratulates him, and Min-ho grumbles that a stranger is nicer than his actual family.
Dad objects to Ji-won being called a stranger, and Jin-jin thanks Dad for getting those tonics for him. Ji-won also thanks Dad, shyly calling him “Father.” As they dig into the food, Mom looks around at her family and sighs contentedly.
At the office, CEO Jang playfully demands that Manager Choi buy him dinner. He takes credit for the fact that all the big agencies are trying to sign Anthony, whose role in the sageuk has turned him into an instant Hallyu star.
CEO Jang asks if she’s decided who to sign with, and she teases him for a bit before saying that she’s chosen his agency. Hong-hee marvels that Manager Choi and CEO Jang will probably be dating soon, making Manager Choi yell that she’s canceling the deal and chase him around the office. Cute.
As for Jin-jin, she’s decided to challenge herself and try something new. She looks over a new script, this time for a murder mystery.
She and Ji-won head to Hongdae for a date, and all of Jin-jin’s plans involve places to eat. She reads an article on her phone that makes her smile fade, and she shows it to Ji-won, who grins at the news that Anthony is dating Director Kim.
Jin-jin throws a loud temper tantrum, wailing that she’s not one bit interested in who Anthony is dating, making Ji-won stare at her in surprise. Then she grins and teases, “Is that what you thought I’d say?” Cheeky. She says honestly that she hopes Anthony is happy and that Ji-won is the only man she loves.
They end up eating ddukbokki in a little cafe, right in front of the whole world. Jin-jin feeds Ji-won, then says off-handedly, “Ji-won, let’s get married.” He looks at her in disbelief, and she shyly looks down.
Ji-won leans over to whisper something in Jin-jin’s ear, and she gives him a sly grin and asks, “What?” He whispers it again, and she again pretends not to have heard. Laughing, Ji-won says it out loud: “I love you.” Jin-jin says she loves him too, and they go back to their food, happy and in love.
Jin-jin, Ah-reum, and Young-shim run out to the apartment parking lot, superimposed by memories of their younger selves. They jump into each other’s arms happily, exclaiming that it’s been a long time since they’ve been together, but reassuring each other that they’ve always been together.
Ji-won’s voice adds that they always will be, as he drives up in the old Bongo van. The four best friends pose for a photo just like they did in their school days, then they jump in the van and drive off to look for new adventures.
Awww, what a sweet ending for a sweet show. 20th Century Boy and Girl may not have made a splash in the ratings, but I certainly loved its breezy tone and happy feel, and I thought the actors’ performances were more than solid. I particularly liked the overall message that people should be who they truly are and not let society tell them there’s something wrong with them or make them conform, because everyone is worthy of love. And I liked the focus not just on romantic love, but love of family, love of friends, and love of self.
In fact, it was the way that family and friends were presented as equally, if not more, important than romance that really made this drama stand out. So often we see shows where friends fight and break up because of a man or a woman, and it always makes me a little bit sad to see characters throw away their old relationships for romance. But Jin-jin and her family and friends always kept their priorities straight, holding each other close and being there when they were needed. I don’t think shows need evil second leads or nasty in-laws to be interesting, and 20th Century Boy and Girl proved that to perfection.
One of the reasons I originally looked forward to this drama was to see Kim Ji-suk in his first romantic leading role, and in that sense I was not disappointed. I wouldn’t say that this is his best performance, because he’s capable of so much more nuance than this role demanded, but that’s more a symptom of the role than his abilities. He certainly made Ji-won a wonderful character who was sweet, thoughtful, and caring, without coming across as unreal or too good to be true (and that grin-and-head-tilt killed me dead every time). I loved him and Han Ye-seul together, playing two lovers who were definitely made for each other and who, once they found each other, really appreciated what they had. I hope this is the beginning of a long career as a leading man for Kim Ji-suk, because he absolutely has the chops for it.
While this was always a very cute drama, and I loved Ji-won and Jin-jin’s romance, now that it’s over I’m left with a vague sense of disappointment. I think it’s because it could have been so much better. There was just never any real conflict, no genuine stakes that ever made me feel as though everyone wouldn’t get their happy ending eventually. The elements were there, but it’s as though the show pulled all its punches before it ever even took a swing. Anthony could have swayed Jin-jin once or twice, or at least been a bit less of a nice guy and actually told her how he felt. Ho-sung could have had a real reason for disappearing for fifteen years and given the family something to be upset about. One of Jin-jin’s near-scandals could have been an actual scandal and really threatened her career. I would have even taken some more drama in Ah-reum or Young-shim’s stories, but none of them truly faced anything that carried any real consequences.
But still, what I really loved about this show was what a breath of fresh air it was, with adorable friendships and sweet romances and not too much drama to distract from the warm feeling each episode gave me. The Four Bongos were such a great group of friends, and the way they supported and uplifted each other was wonderful to see. I also liked that the ending wasn’t perfect, with perfect relationships for everyone, because life isn’t like that. Not everyone’s happy ending involves love and a ring—sometimes a happy ending just means being true to yourself, like for Ah-reum, or finding a kindred soul, like for Young-shim. Even Anthony found his happy ending, with a revived career and a chance at love. But with everyone, even Jin-jin and Ji-won, I liked that this didn’t feel like an ending, but a beginning for all of them.