Mama Fairy and the Woodcutter: Episode 16 (Final)

Our beloved fairy trio may have found certain answers, but time marches on. Everyone lives their own story, and while some may see the end of theirs, for others, their story is only beginning. There is still more to be learned about life and love, not to mention coffee and rice cakes, as old friends are missed and new friends are welcomed.

 
EPISODE 16 RECAP

After learning that Geum inadvertently returned Ok-nam’s winged dress in the form of the ajumma pajamas, he asks her not to return to the fairy realm. He asks her to stay with him instead, even though he’s lacking, but Ok-nam kisses him and says that he’s perfect exactly as he is.

Soon after, Ok-nam leaves to visit the fairy realm with Jeom-dol.

Jeom-soon stays with Geum, who’s still posing as “Jeom-soon the Tiger,” the author of Jeom-soon’s racy web novel. We see the final installment, which involves the young master and his servant meeting up again thirty years after the servant is sent away. Despite their age and the young master’s insistence that he forgot all about his servant, the sparks between them are as strong as ever.

At a signing event for the final chapter, Jeom-soon sits with Geum in her cat form. She notes that all the people wanting Geum’s autograph are women, and Geum quips that Jeom-soon should have stopped eating meat so she could have revealed herself. Doctor Lee is there for Jeom-soon’s paw print, giving Jeom-soon a knowing wink, and she takes a selfie with Jeom-soon and Geum.

A year goes by — the school year ends and a new one begins. On campus, Bong-dae’s coffee kiosk is now being run by Kaldi, the Ethiopian exchange fairy who taught Ok-nam all about coffee. He sells the same coffee flavors that Ok-nam did (Black Water, Deer’s Tears, etc), and everyone who tastes his coffee for the first time experiences a short burst of truthfulness.

Kaldi asks Geum about Ok-nam, who wilts for a moment, then smiles and says she’ll be back. Kaldi points out that it’s been a year since she left, but Geum says that she waited six hundred ninety-nine years for him, and that it’s her seven hundredth anniversary soon, so she’ll return.

Geum reminds us that a day in the fairy realm is a year in the human realm, so Ok-nam has only been gone a day in her own time. He hopes she doesn’t plan to stay for ten days/years, because he already misses her terribly.

Yi-hyun resigned after the incident at the fairy spring, and rumors have circulated the campus that he’s a doctor on a remote island, or studying contagious viruses in the mountains. In reality he works on a cattle farm cleaning the pens, and when he gets Doctor Lee’s text with her selfie, he grumbles in annoyance.

According to Geum, Doctor Lee had traveled all the way to Ok-nam’s cafe in the mountains on the evening of the incident, crying the whole way, having heard the accident while on the phone with Yi-hyun. She had found Yi-hyun still covered in blood, and she’d sobbed in relief, throwing her arms around his neck to hug him and smacking him for scaring her at the same time.

Yi-hyun told her to pick one, hitting or hugging, so she gave him a few more whacks before glomping onto him. She’d wailed that she wouldn’t tell him what to do, just to be healthy, terrified after having thought she’d lost him in the accident. After all that, she’d taken Yi-hyun’s resignation remarkably well, just glad that he’s alive.

Geum walks around in a perpetual good mood, anticipating Ok-nam’s return any day now. Kyung-shik and Jung-min are dying to know who this girlfriend is that he’s so excited to see, but he keeps that part to himself.

Jung-min gives Kyung-shik some ramyun she’s doctored up fancy, then shows him a note he wrote about her while under the influence of Kaldi’s truth coffee. He gets very defensive, but she thinks the note means he likes her, so he sheepishly shows her that he actually added her to a list of the college’s weirdos. Welp, he’s dead meat.

Geum waits for Jeom-soon, who quit eating meat after her mother returned to the fairy realm. But after only three weeks, she binged on so much pork that she spent the entire summer stuck in tiger form. She finally gets her human form back just in time to join Geum for an outing to Hangang Park, where she complains to a food cart chef whose sausages are much smaller than last year’s.

She’s interrupted by a voice calling her name, and she turns to see Kyung-seul standing behind her. They haven’t seen each other in a year, and Kyung-seul looks small and sorry as he apologizes for the way he treated her.

He saw her at the fairy spring in her tiger form last year, and the shock caused him to lose the ability to speak. He went to Doctor Lee to apologize (Love, Actually style) for filming her without her knowledge, and to give her the file of the videos. He’d thanked her for being the first person to listen to him and accept him, and asked for her forgiveness.

He tells Jeom-soon that when he did enough bad things, he started to think that they weren’t really that bad. He asks her to forgive him for lying to her and taping her, and she generously offers her forgiveness (and her sausage!).

After a while, Geum guesses that Jeom-soon decided to hang out with Kyung-seul. He looks up at a particularly bright star and sighs that he misses Ok-nam, and suddenly the star grows brighter and closer. It lands not far away, and when Geum runs over, he finds Ok-nam lying on the ground in her winged ajumma pajamas. He joins her on the grass and they hug each other, overjoyed to be together again.

Jeom-dol is there too, back in his worm form, and he calls out to his father for help getting up. But Geum and Ok-nam are too wrapped up in each other to hear him, poor little fella.

Jeom-soon has made her way home by the time Geum and Ok-nam return to the house. She’s glad to see her mom again, and her brother, who’s been sleeping in Geum’s pocket. Geum invites Ok-nam and Jeom-dol to stay at the house since the whole family is together, but Ok-nam asks nervously about Yi-hyun.

Geum explains that Yi-hyun recently returned from doing volunteer work in Africa, but he only knows because Doctor Lee told him. He says sadly that Yi-hyun isn’t responding to his texts, but Ok-nam reassures him that Yi-hyun will contact him when he’s ready.

He tells Ok-nam that she’s grown even prettier, making her blush. They’re interrupted by Jeom-dol, who’s woken up and turned on the downstairs boiler for Geum so he can sleep comfortably. Geum thanks him and tells him to head to bed, obviously reluctant to leave Ok-nam just yet, but he’s forced to wish her goodnight when Jeom-dol just sits there watching them.

As he lies on the floor next to Yi-hyun’s bed (which is so sweet), Geum thinks back to the night he first met Ok-nam — he couldn’t sleep then, either. He sits up and takes out a small box, staring at it thoughtfully.

In the morning, he takes Ok-nam to the coffee kiosk, where she and Kaldi catch up with each other. She asks Kaldi to let her make the coffee for a while, and the students are excited to see the coffee halmoni back again. She tells them that she’ll stop by often, like today.

Doctor Lee comes by to see her, and she takes a selfie of the two of them to send to Yi-hyun. Before he sees the picture, Yi-hyun gets a package from Doctor Lee containing a fancy coat she bought specifically to make him want to come back to the city.

It doesn’t work — he figures it’s the perfect coat to scoop cow poop in, or to take with him when he returns to Africa next month. He finally sees the picture Doctor Lee texted, and he gapes to realize that Ok-nam is back.

Geum sits in a classy restaurant, waiting for Ok-nam in a suit and the flowered tie she bought him last year. She looks gorgeous when she shows up in a white dress with her hair down, rendering poor Geum entirely speechless. He remembers himself and gives her a bouquet of tiny white flowers for her seven hundredth birthday in the human realm, joking that seven hundred roses would have been too heavy.

He’s nervous all through dinner, and when dessert is served, he asks Ok-nam if she’s ever regretted coming down to bathe in the spring. She thinks about meeting him as Woodcutter Bausae, their life together as husband and wife, and of the day she lost him. She tells Geum that if she could do it over again, she would make the same decision and be his wife, and mother to Jeom-soon and Jeom-dol.

Moved beyond words, Geum takes out the small box and silently places it in Ok-nam’s hand. He watches her expectantly as she opens it to find a ring, and she looks up at him and smiles with tears in her eyes.

It’s Chuseok again, and Fairy Oh and Shin-seon aren’t quite as romantic — she makes food, but he eats up all the shrimp and leaves the veggies untouched. He wonders where Master Gu is, and Fairy Oh tells him that Master Gu and Geum’s mother went on a trip together now that Ok-nam learned all of Geum’s mother’s recipes and can feed her son properly.

Geum’s mom had told Ok-nam that Geum disappeared one day when he was five. She’d found him sleeping on the mountain, with a soft glow surrounding him and butterflies and birds flying around to protect him.

She’d known then that he was her son, but that he was also a noble being who might leave her for somewhere higher one day. She asked Ok-nam to take good care of her son, knowing that her premonition is coming true.

Fairy Oh hints that she wants to go on a trip, too, but Shin-seon just dithers until Ok-nam calls them in to eat. Geum arrives with flowers and gifts, and when he sees Ok-nam wearing his ring, he gives her a sweet little hug.

They go to the village celebration together, and when Geum puts an arm around Ok-nam’s shoulders, she surprises him with a kiss on the cheek. They both gasp in shock when they realize that Yi-hyun is standing in front of them, acting like they haven’t been apart for a year.

He looks relaxed and at peace, and happy to see them both, and they’re glad to see him though sad to hear that he’s leaving again. He notices the ring on Ok-nam’s finger but only acknowledges it with a smile, then accepts Ok-nam’s invitation to stay with them since he hasn’t showered in days. Ok-nam worries since they don’t have hot water, until Yi-hyun reminds them that he can light fires, ha.

Back at the house, Geum gives Jeom-dol a wooden top — oh no, I’m going to cry. The last thing Geum promised Jeom-dol before he died was that he would bring him a wooden top from his trip, getting Jeom-dol’s promise to take care of Jeom-soon.

Jeom-dol bursts into tears, and Ok-nam explains to Geum that he and Jeom-soon were in the mountains when a tiger appeared. Jeom-dol ran away scared, leaving Jeom-soon to get her finger bitten off by the tiger. Jeom-dol has never recovered from the guilt of that day, and Geum cries for his son’s pain.

Yi-hyun finds them like this, and he pours some wine, catches the reflection of the moon in the cup, then sets it on fire (with a match) before serving it to Geum. He quips that it tastes better with his personal fire, but both Geum and Ok-nam good-naturedly refuse.

He remembers doing this as Izy in the fairy realm with Bausae, who’d teased Izy for carrying a love letter of her own that mentions “a flower that wouldn’t bloom.” He offers to officiate their wedding and pronounces them husband and wife right there, with his wholehearted blessing.

Yi-hyun leaves the following day and backpacks to the orphanage where he grew up. He sees his mother and turns away, but she runs to him and takes his hand, saying that she prays and thinks of him every day. She thanks him over and over until they’re both sobbing uncontrollably, and Yi-hyun clasps his mother’s hands as if to convey that he forgives her.

That night he sits alone in the chapel, where he’s approached by the Master of the Northern Star. The Master of the Northern Star says that Yi-hyun understands now that everything is equal, so he can now overcome the physics of man and return to the immortal realm. Yi-hyun bows his head gratefully.

Doctor Lee is in her office wearing her comfiest clothes when a knock on the door reveals Yi-hyun, in the coat she bought for him. She snaps at him for finally turning up when she’s dressed in her give-up pants, but he just asks her if she’d be interested in going to Africa with him. Doctor Lee slams the door in his face.

When Yi-hyun arrives home, the place is a mess, and he grumbles that he’d kick Geum out if not for the porridge, ha. He gets to work cleaning, and he finds Geum’s lotus plant about to bloom again.

Shin-seon and Fairy Oh head back in Seoul with a cotton candy machine, which they set up next to Kaldi’s coffee kiosk. Master Gu and Geum’s mom come to see them, and they’re all shocked when Shin-seon can suddenly read the sign he just made. They’re celebrating his mysterious new ability when Yi-hyun arrives, with Geum and Ok-nam right behind him.

Doctor Lee also turns up, luggage in tow, having quit her job to follow Yi-hyun to Africa. He warns her that it will be difficult and dirty, but she says it’s all good because they’ll be together, and the assembled couples all share cute little glances. Yi-hyun and Doctor Lee head off, but they stop first to take an all-important PPL photo with the whole gang.

Hundreds of years in the past, a woman and a child lie on the ground outside the shrine where the child was imprisoned. Slowly, the woman sits up and looks to the child, who smiles peacefully in her sleep. In another time, two small fairy children play in the snow, and in yet another place and time, Izy and Ok-nam smile at each other, the closest of friends.

Epilogue: “The illiterate Shin-seon can read now? How?”

At the cabin, Master Gu adds filling to rice cakes before he leaves for his trip with Geum’s mom. He finds a stray bean on the floor, but he can’t read the tiny words inscribed on it that read “to be enlightened.” He adds the bean to the filling, and that rice cake just happens to be the one that Shin-seon eats later.

As Shin-seon spends his time spouting platitudes instead of helping her work, an annoyed Fairy Oh grumbles that she preferred him stupid.

 
COMMENTS

After all of the mysteries were explained and everything put to rights in the penultimate episode, I was worried that this finale might be all fluff, but happily, I worried for nothing. The story was wrapped up with a lot of cuteness and fun while still giving meaningful updates on Geum, Ok-nam, and Yi-hyun, and even the mostly superfluous immortal trio. I even thought the predictable one-year time skip made sense, since it was natural for Ok-nam to want to visit her home after so long, but being home even one day meant that Geum had to wait for her for a full year. I’m happy that we got to see Geum and Ok-nam start their new life together, and Yi-hyun tie up the loose ends of his past and move forward into a healthy future.

I’m so happy that Yi-hyun finally found peace, and started dedicating his life to people instead of avoiding them as he’d done his entire life. He suffered for so long as Izy, believing so strongly that people are horrible and unfeeling, that all that resentment had carried over into this lifetime. He was at risk of being alone for the rest of his life, and would probably have even alienated Geum eventually, if not for Ok-nam shaking them up and reminding them of their history together. But oddly, I think it’s healthy of Yi-hyun to have taken a step away from Ok-nam and Geum, at least for a while, because being close to them as they married and fell even more in love might have reminded him of his negative feelings. Coming to terms with his past, and learning to let it go, was a difficult lesson for Yi-hyun, but it led him to a happier place on the inside so that he could spend his life helping others.

I think that this drama was very well-acted all around — I especially loved Yoon Hyun-min, who showed his acting range as Yi-hyun transformed from an angry, bitter man to one who could cry and forgive. But I really have to commend Seo Ji-hoon for his portrayal of Geum/Bausae, who managed to portray three similar but very distinct versions of his character without losing that essential core of what made him the amazing spirit he was. And Geum did a lot of growing up in the short time-span of the story, yet he still kept his sense of wide-eyed wonder and awe every time he looked at the fairy he loved. I hadn’t seen much of Seo Ji-hoon as an actor until this show, and he really impressed me with his consistency and his ability to wring tears out of me every time he gave that broken-hearted lip-wobble. I never expected him to be the one to get the girl — it’s so rare in Dramaland for the second lead to come out victorious — but I’m so happy that he did. Geum’s expansive heart and pure unselfishness that led to him giving up the love of his existence to save a friend made him more than worthy of Ok-nam’s love and devotion. Seo Ji-hoon is still very young (he’s only 21!) but he has the potential to be a wonderful leading man, so I’m really looking forward to seeing what he does next.

Looking back on Mama Fairy and the Woodcutter‘s story as a whole, I really think that it was a lot better than its storytelling style was able to portray. I don’t think I’ve ever said this before, but this is one drama that I believe would have been much better as a movie. The plot could have been condensed down to two hours and still been complex and complete, while as a drama, it feels as though the writer just had a lot more time to fill than the story needed, leading to a lot of wasteful meandering and confusing time skips. If the story had been told in two hours max, we still would have gotten the rich backstory of Bausae, Izy, and Ok-nam, but without the maze of extraneous fluff that made everything difficult to follow until the very end. Regardless, I did still enjoy the story as a whole, even more than I thought I would at the beginning, and I truly loved the story of the friends who would do anything for each other, even follow each other across lives and realms, to be together.

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