Welcome to the beginning of the end. Or perhaps it’s the beginning of a legacy? Only time will tell if Playful Kiss (Mischievous Kiss) goes down in Korean drama lore – a drama that people remember for good or for bad reasons.
I confess episode 16 was hard to recap – from both a plot angle and from a recapper-comment angle. This is the first time I was glad that I watch twice when recapping, because I liked this final episode of PK much better the second time around. Rather than dwell on the things that weren’t ideal, instead I was able to savor the things that were the essence of PK – the true-to-life interactions between characters, most notably Seung Jo and Ha Ni.
It wasn’t everything I had hoped for, but it had some satisfying bits. It wasn’t terribly well-executed (what’s new?), but it flowed much better than yesterday (not hard to do since the bar was set at negative a billion). It wasn’t the best last episode to a drama ever broadcast, nor was it the worst. I wanted more, but I got enough. In the end, I was indeed happy with it.
Like a bell curve, PK the drama started off in a mellow “is” place, steadily building its own brand of tension, angst, and emotion, allowing it to naturally taper off as the drama wound to a close. In the end, the drama’s mood mirrored its premiere episode (minus the fantasy sequences), except everyone had moved from point A to point B.
As a viewer who relished watching PK, I was grateful for an ending that was as sweet, ordinary, and relatable as the drama has been throughout its entire run. Speaking strictly for myself – PK will not be making it onto my top ten list of favorites, but the experience of recapping and participating in the veritable tsunami of PKisser love here at AKP will be something I cherish long after I have moved on to the next drama.
I have watched too many dramas to know that whatever high we’re experiencing with PK will inevitably dissipate. It is only then we can really assess the quality and the impact of a drama. I shall end this recap with my thoughts both on episode 16 and on the drama as a whole. Who knows how time will affect my recollection, temper my reaction. But that is neither here nor there.
Today, my chingus, we are here to celebrate, and bid a fond thank you and farewell to PK, a drama that has made us feel excited and alive for 8 straight weeks!
Episode 16 recap:
A beautiful Fall day dawns on Parang University, and our newlywed college students Ha Ni and Seung Jo are riding their bikes to school. Seung Jo’s bike is about one car length ahead of Ha Ni, and that is so accurate in a real life marriage where a couple has different paces in their daily lives ergo it’s not the romanticized I’ll-ride-really-really-slow-so-that-we-are-always-together shit espoused in romantic fiction.
They park in front of a building, and Hye Ra approaches Seung Jo to say hi. She notes that they are riding couples bikes, and Seung Jo reveals that it’s courtesy of Mom. He barely made it out of the house without having to don a couples outfit. Hye Ra is fishing for some information, out of curiosity and likely some residual habit. She asks why then Seung Jo isn’t wearing a wedding ring?
Seung Jo looks at Ha Ni and says that’s to be discussed later. He says he’ll wear a ring when their marriage is officially registered. This is like dangling a fish in front of a cat – it’s nip for the catty and teasing side of Hye Ra. To Hye Ra, this means Ha Ni and Seung Jo have no legal relationship with each other. Ha Ni says everyone knows they got married, Hye Ra even attended the wedding!
Hye Ra says that’s different than legal recognition of a marriage – the law and an official government stamp is all-powerful. She murmurs that this means she still has a chance. When Ha Ni looks horrified, Hye Ra pats her and tells her it was amusing to have fun at her expense. She then flounces off to Seung Jo’s side and grabs his arm. As she’s walking away on his arm, she turns around and points out the conjoined arms to Ha Ni.
What I love about Hye Ra, and to the same extent everyone in PK, is that their personalities remain consistent throughout. Hye Ra was never cruel to Ha Ni, and now that she’s out of the picture with Seung Jo, she’s not suddenly BFFs with Ha Ni either. She retains her slighty bitchy, mildly patronizing, but ultimately playful attitude with Ha Ni.
Alone with Seung Jo, Hye Ra asks if its true that Ha Ni is trying to transfer into the nursing program. Upon Seung Jo’s confirmation, Hye Ra is impressed with Ha Ni’s continued perseverance when it comes to being by Seung Jo’s side. Ha Ni is like a star that circles the Seung Jo planet. Seung Jo changes the analogy – isn’t it natural that the Earth revolves around the Sun?
This may sound terribly self-important of Seung Jo (the Sun? really, you think of yourself as the freakin’ Sun!), but the analogy is best viewed as the Earth may need the Sun’s life-sustaining properties, ultimately it is the Earth that fosters life and living beings. Who is more important in the Universe or leaves a lasting impression is hard to ascertain.
Ha Ni drops a mountain of books onto her table at the library, ready to study. But she first has to shoot a few grumbles at Hye Ra (for insinuating she still has a chance with Seung Jo, albeit jokingly) and Seung Jo (for being such a meanie and not registering their marriage until Ha Ni gets into the nursing program). Her fellow students in the library scoot away from this crazy girl. Ha Ni vows that to get back at Seung Jo for his small-hearted ways, she’ll get into that program to show him!
Joon Gu has taken the advice of the cafeteria ahjummas to heart, and prepared for sale the Ha Ni and Joon Gu lunchboxes he made a few episodes back. Christine comes by again, to the annoyance of Joon Gu. He asks her to please eat something other than noodles everyday for a change. She offers him a sip of a special beverage she brought, to bring them closer together as friends. Joon Gu brushes aside all her entreaties.
Since he won’t agree to be friends, Christine goes ahead confesses her feelings to Joon Gu, asking him to be her boyfriend. She tells him that it’s love at first sight. Joon Gu tells her that he likes someone else, and Christine doesn’t believe him since she comes everyday but has never seen a girl around or Joon Gu going out on a date. Joon Gu flatly turns her down, and tells her not to come by again.
Ha Ni runs into tennis sunbae at school, who queries why she doesn’t come to tennis practice anymore? Is it because she’s achieved her purpose? LOL, they are two peas in a pod, aren’t they? Upon hearing that Ha Ni is busy studying so that she can transfer majors, he cautions her that the nursing major is notoriously difficult to get into, and highly competitive once she’s gotten in.
Tennis sunbae excitedly tells Ha Ni that he has news to share. Ha Ni correctly surmises that its related to Hye Ra, but jumps the gun and asks if they are dating? No, they are just at the enjoy-a-hot-dog-together stage of their friendship. Ha Ni’s disappointed for tennis sunbae, who is pretty stoked at his advancement in micro-steps with Hye Ra.
Ha Ni goes to the beauty salon to visit her friends. The salon friend, Joo Ri, confesses that a guy comes by daily asking for a trim. She’s not sure why he wastes his time and money cutting so little off each visit. Her friends deduct that the customer must like her, so he comes by often always cutting a tiny amount so that he has an excuse to frequent her salon.
The illustrator friend, Min Ah, bemoans that she’s now the only one without any romantic prospects. She is consoled a bit when they read her online comic strip which tells the story of Ha Ni and Seung Jo from their high school days, which has become a certifiable hit.
Ha Ni is helping Mom wash and dry dishes, dejected about the daunting task ahead of her. Her entering the nursing program also depends on whether and when a spot opens up. Mom decides to go ahead and register their marriage, regardless of Seung Jo’s position. Seriously, love Mom, but no wonder Seung Jo has major issues when it comes to doing his Mom’s bidding.
Mom does some online research and determines that to register a marriage, they need two witnesses (easy peasy, her and dad, of course), and Seung Jo’s identity card as valid identification (not so easy peasy). When Seung Jo is in the shower, Ha Ni sneaks back to their room and rifles through his pants and jacket for his wallet. I don’t know why, but seeing Ha Ni touch Seung Jo’s pants was strangely very sexy – it really hammers home how really really married they are.
Back to Swiper Ha Ni, who is about to open the wallet when fresh-out-of-the-shower Seung Jo (rawr x infinity) comes upon her. He grabs back his wallet, and remarks that she’s already taking her husband’s wallet. He jokes that some bills are missing, and then slides the wallet underneath his pillow. While they are sleeping, Ha Ni manages to successfully swipe his wallet and sneak his identity card.
When Mom and Ha Ni goes to the government office, they discover that Seung Jo in fact already registered the marriage! Anyone surprised by this not-so-twist? Nope, not I. Back at home, Mom and Ha Ni stand before Seung Jo like two kids caught vandalizing school property by the principal. Ha Ni asks if he knew she swiped his card, and he replies that there is nothing she does that he doesn’t figure out, i.e. she cannot escape his clutches.
Mom asks her son to stop teasing and tormenting Ha Ni. His reply is that teasing and tormenting Ha Ni is his sole enjoyment in life. But he confesses that he did it mainly to give Ha Ni a goal to work for, but he’s disappointed that she would use sly means to circumvent his well-laid plans. Ha Ni pipes up and asks him not to be disappointed in her – she will work hard, she will get into the nursing program.
Joon Gu is working hard at preparing for the launch of his lunchbox venture. Christine goes to talk with Ha Ni about how to pursue Joon Gu. Ha Ni wonders if Christine is mistaking her love of Joon Gu’s cooking for himself, but Christine disabuses her of that notion. She likes Joon Gu’s manly manner, his lilting Busan accent, his looks – everything about him.
Christine confesses that she’s scheduled to go back to England on Christmas, but if Joon Gu likes her back, then she won’t leave. When she asks Ha Ni who the girl is that Joon Gu likes, Ha Ni reassures her there is no such girl.
Everyone goes to the grand opening of Joon Gu’s new eating establishment – a take-out place that sells his delicious lunchboxes. The high school friends all help pass out flyers outside, including Joon Gu’s now famous Bye Bye Sea posse. Hye Ra and Seung Jo arrive first, followed by Ha Ni with Christine. Joon Gu’s not impressed with the huge bag of napkins Christine brought as a present until he hears that Ha Ni helped her pick it out.
Joon Gu gives a speech about the inspiration for his restaurant – he wants to get a Michelin star to symbolize how his food is good at any time, to any person. Christine tells Joon Gu she’s leaving for England soon. Rather than express any sadness or desire for her to stay, Joon Gu tells her that she can leave since he has only Ha Ni in his heart. Seung Jo’s eyes widen at this public announcement, and Ha Ni leaves the restaurant to chase after a dejected Christine.
At home in bed, Ha Ni is wondering how she can help Christine. Seung Jo is in a pissy mood because Joon Gu still has feelings for Ha Ni. He says that Ha Ni must be happy – a married ahjumma being involved in a scandal. He wonders what happened between Ha Ni and Joon Gu in the past to cause Joon Gu to still have feelings for Ha Ni even now.
Ha Ni sees it as just a reflection of Joon Gu’s personality (his version of steadfastness in love). She’s about to discuss something that happened in their first year of high school when she stops, wondering if her Seung Jo is *gasp* jealous? Seung Jo smiles his cover-up smile and says how could he be jealous. Pfft, he’s so stewing inside.
Seung Jo asks Ha Ni not to interfere anymore, let the two of them figure things out on their own. Ha Ni puts two and two together, and asks whether this is what happened with Seung Jo, he figured it out on his own about her? She once again teases Seung Jo that he’s jealous, poking him playfully as this adorable married couple joke and spend time together on their bed. I loved this scene, made me smile from first to last frame for capturing the very essence of a married couple spending time discussing the matters of the day.
Ha Ni can’t stop herself from not interfering, she goes to speak with Joon Gu. She asks him to be honest, does he dislike Christine? He says no, he neither likes nor dislikes her. Ha Ni asks him to consider whether he thinks about Christine when she’s not around, wondering what she is up to. Joon Gu says he feels that way about Ha Ni. Didn’t he say he’s supposed to be Ha Ni’s home?
Ha Ni reminds Joon Gu that she’s married now, Seung Jo is her home. Joon Gu says then he can be Ha Ni’s insurance or backup plan. Ha Ni thanks Joon Gu for all that he has done for her, and asks him to listen to her this time. She says to stop insisting he knows his heart, that it has a defined answer. She wants him to sit on the swing, look at the sky, and open his heart up to a fresh perusal.
Tennis sunbae has a quiet conversation with Hye Ra, revealing that he’s received his mandatory military service notice. He asks her to write to him if she’s ever bored, but she refuses saying that it’s too much of a hassle. As tennis sunbae leaves, he asks her for one more favor, to never cry alone again. It was clear that Hye Ra was kind of messing with tennis sunbae (and his parting words touched her), because she jumps up and tells him that if she’s bored, she’ll go visit him.
Ha Ni is dozing off at the library, until her head hit the books with a thunk. She looks at her wedding picture on her cellphone to give her energy, and her phone scrolls the message “SJ loves HN” and “Fighting”. Ha Ni and tennis sunbae, former stalking colleagues and kindred spirits in the pursuit of love, have a farewell discussion.
He reveals that him and Hye Ra have taken yet another (small) step forward. He thanks Ha Ni, for teaching him a lot. He used to be afraid of revealing his feelings because of the fear of rejection. Thanks to Ha Ni, he has learned that rejection shouldn’t deter him, he can keep moving forward. He thanks Ha Ni for making school more fun for him.
Tennis sunbae wants to thank Ha Ni by giving her a present. He has a friend in the nursing program, a guy friend he rooms with. Once tennis sunbae goes off to the military, that guy won’t be able to afford a room of his own. He’ll have to join the military with tennis sunbae. That means a spot will open up in the nursing program.
It’s the best he can do for Ha Ni, she still has to ace the test herself. Poor unseen sacrificial male nursing student, I hope the program takes him back when get finishes military service. The drama thanks you for your sacrifice. Ha Ni hops around in glee.
The daily hair cut guy comes to see Joo Ri, and reveals that he’s joining the army. Omo, did we have two random plot points that just got tied together. He must be tennis sunbae’s nursing student roommate. Joo Ri is cutting his hair when she leans in and hugs him, telling him that she will wait until he comes back.
Ha Ni shows Seung Jo her nursing program transfer application while they are getting ready for bed. The exam date is fast approaching, and Seung Jo wishes her luck. Ha Ni asks Seung Jo to tutor her, since that’s his specialty. Her OPW on him is strong indeed, even I would relent under the force of her pout and the rapid fluttering blink of her doe eyes.
Seung Jo quizzes her on nursing questions, and Ha Ni asks if they can go on a Christmas date if she gets into the program. Since they married so quickly, they never really dated. Seung Jo agrees, even after she says it has to be for a full day, an entire day. His smile when he repeats his consent melts me so. He also allows her to practice CPR on him.
Seung Jo demonstrates the compression hand motion, and then Ha Ni gets started. She first leans right in and checks for signs of breathing. Then she presses right up to his lips and pretends to be giving mouth-to-mouth. She then starts gentle chest compressions on Seung Jo. He wonders whether she’s giving him a massage or a rub down. She worries that it would hurt him, but does try to increase the strength a bit.
Seung Jo suddenly grabs her and pulls her down next to him, telling her to take a break. She says there is still a lot of homework to be done, and he replies that this is homework, too. Giggles, so sweet. Love love these little beats in their married life.
Eun Jo barges in right as the couples are taking their well-earned snuggling break. He tells the snuggling ones that he’s about to hit puberty, and they should be more cognizant of their behavior around these here parts. Hey pipsqueak, did you or did you not enter into a closed room without getting permission. Sheesh, I vote for more making out!
Ha Ni takes the written exam, which appears to go well, and then goes to the interview. Who is the head interviewer other than the super-meanie from her Parang University interview that rainy day! The interviewer recognizes her as the snail, and is impressed she got into Parang. However, Ha Ni doesn’t do well on the practical demonstration (pressing too hard on the mannequin and not giving the right answers on real-life situation questions), and thus does not get in.
She, as well as the family members, are all disappointed. Seung Jo, rather than chastise or express disapproval, agrees to take her to dinner, saying that he really wanted to go on a date with Ha Ni. She pulls out every item of clothing she owns and finds the perfect outfit. On her way to the date, she sees a woman get struck by a car. Ha Ni takes charge and performs CPR on the injured woman.
Joon Gu runs to the airport knowing that Christine is leaving. He tries to get in through security but is turned away. He dejectedly thinks she’s already gone. It turns out that she didn’t actually leave yet, and wonders if he came to stop her. He tries to pretend he came to see her off, but both realize that each wants the other person to be there.
He tells her he will always carry a part of Ha Ni in his heart, and Christine says then she will place Joon Gu in her heart. I thought of all the loose ends, the Joon Gu-Christine story was very very very poorly done. Unlike Hye Ra-tennis sunbae, which has episodes of small interactions building a foundation, this one makes zero sense unless you know the source material and understand how they really build their relationship. Sigh, its better than leaving this story out, otherwise I would literally bleed to death from heart pains for Joon Gu.
Ha Ni goes to the hospital with the car accident victim, and is therefore unable to make her date with Seung Jo. The doctor commends her on saving a life. When she runs to try and meet Seung Jo, the restaurant has closed already, but Seung Jo is still there waiting for her. He asks her if she’s okay, that he was worried about her. She runs into his arms, and as they embrace, she confesses that she was worried that he left.
As Ha Ni and Seung Jo drive home, he pulls off to the side and parks the car. It’s a place people can’t enter at night, and Seung Jo says its fine as long as they don’t get discovered. Ha Ni is impressed with this side of him, saying it’s attractive. He teases that he has a lot more hidden attractive qualities she hasn’t seen yet. What to do – Ha Ni is falling ever deeper into the Baek Seung Jo trap. Ha Ni smiles broadly at her husband’s teasing banter.
Hye Ra is out by herself on this Christmas night, and walks by the hot dog restaurant. She enters, and it just so happens that tennis sunbae calls her collect from the army. She answers the phone and talks with him, all smiles and laughter. Back at home, Seung Jo’s parents are enjoying a quiet Christmas at home, with wine and a dozing Eun Jo on the sofa. They toast each other, a happily married couple still in love and celebrating a holiday together.
Seung Jo says Ha Ni is his sunbae now, having saved a person’s life when he hasn’t even seen a single patient yet. He says she may have killed a mannequin by using too much force during the practical exam, but she saved a real person today. She confesses that, unlike during the exam with the mannequin, she wasn’t nervous when faced with a real victim. She even forgot she had a date with Seung Jo.
Even though she decided to be a nurse to follow Seung Jo’s profession, saving someone feels real to her, a purpose that is now concrete for her. Ha Ni tells Seung Jo that she will re-apply for the nursing program as an incoming student, which requires her to retake course work, but is easier than waiting for a spot to open up in the nursing program for a transfer student. Seung Jo smiles and says that he will help her. OMG, I love this moment, so meaningful, so hard-earned, so well-worth-it.
Ha Ni says this was such a weird Christmas, and Seung Jo replies that every day is Christmas…..because he is with Ha Ni. Seriously, Baek Seung Jo, you are so jjang right now! He wishes her a Merry Christmas, and Ha Ni jumps him by grabbing the boy for a kiss.
Too bad the camera-I-am-going-to-Korea-to-blow-up-tomorrow films this scene from outside the car, in the dark, and from behind the back windshield, so we see nothing but hear Seung Jo struggling free of the kissy kissy. He tells her that the gentle cat get the cream, or something like that, and wonders when she become such a hellcat? Ha Ni just grabs her hubby back for more kissing.
We cut to a montage scene: Joon Gu and Christine working in the restaurant, Min Ah at her book signing and meeting a guy, haircut dude coming back to the embrace of Joo Ri, a min-Ha Ni giving Eun Jo a love letter and him brushing her off and not even taking it, the three parents off vacationing and enjoying their life, Hye Ra visiting tennis sunbae in the military, and finally, our Ha Ni and Seung Jo still kissing in that car – with Seung Jo ending the drama by telling his wife “I love you.”
We end with a montage of all the sweet moments, big and small, that have paved the road to forever after for Ha Ni and Seung Jo.
Thoughts of Mine:
I liked episode 16 of PK, but I think it’s safe to say that I truly love PK as a drama. A love unrelated to quality, but completely related to its affect on me.
PK was such an enjoyable watch for me. Part of the enjoyment stemmed from recapping it and letting my inner thought bubble fly, and because you guys were there to share it with me. I made this comment once: I probably like PK more than most people, and I probably like SKKS less than some people.
Just on the issue of liking PK more than most people, I think that is true. The rabid PKissers out there are actually smaller than most mania fandoms. Compared to the Goong-craze, the Boys Before Flowers-national movement, the You’re Beautiful-tidalwave, PK-love may have been equally as passionate but clearly not as widespread.
Which is why I felt especially protective of PK, in an emotional and not rational way. My goal in recapping PK was never to convince people to like it, or to admit that it is a good drama. It was to document my own experience watching it, and I hope that came through.
I was predisposed to like PK because I was familiar with the source material and liked it. But still, the structure, directing, and editing lapses in PK were sometimes so jarring I found myself working to get back into the flow of the drama. Yes, I did make a concerted effort to retain my love of watching PK, but in the end it was all worth it.
Rather than describe the love of Seung Jo and Ha Ni as epic, it is the exact opposite. There is nothing epic about it – how could there be when there are no stakes. Without each other, both would do just fine, and find happiness in their own ways.
Haven’t you ever wondered about the whole soulmates argument? I believe there are soulmates, and contend that most people never end up with their soulmate but still live a happy, content, meaningful life. Without Seung Jo, Ha Ni and Joon Gu would be running the noodle restaurant in bubbly wedded bliss. Without Ha Ni, Seung Jo woul be a computer gaming engineer married to Hye Ra in comfortable intellectual parity and companionship.
I find the stake-less nature of their love story is what makes it work for me. It stands out as a fresh take on the K-drama love story, a love without all that drama for once. I loved every single major character in this drama, at a given moment more than the main characters even. That is why PK goes into my personal win pile. I don’t need to produce a PK-cut consisting only of Ha Ni and Seung Jo scenes, I actually love the PK that weaves everyone’s stories into the fabric of the love story between a snail and a genius.
I wish the weaver (i.e. director) had better skill, more consistency, and ultimately a better understanding of the best way to bind together this charming story. But alas, the execution of PK goes down as likely the single worst element of this drama. This is the best place to tell everyone that I’ve confirmed that PK was a co-directed drama. It was helmed by two directors: veteran Hwang In Roi who did the Goongs and Return of Iljimae, and Kim Do Hyung, who has done….nothing, PK is his first drama – three guesses which one did the even/odd episodes.
Acting-wise everyone did a good to phenomenal job. I know many Kim Hyun Joong fans have admitted to coming for him, and staying for Jung So Min. It’s no discredit to Kim Hyun Joong, but rather a startling realization that Jung So Min’s Oh Ha Ni was the heart and soul of this drama. She anchored it, she elevated it, she breathed life into a tableau that would otherwise teeter on precarious ground thanks to that monkey.
I am now ready to confess that I shouldn’t fight it anymore – I think I’ve become an entry-level Kim Hyun Joong fangirl. Not that I’ll go watch his SS501 videos or buy his photobooks or anything, but his performance of Baek Seung Jo was decent and more captivating to me than delivery and skill-wise it ought to be. What do I mean? It means that I’ll watch Kim Hyun Joong’s next drama, even if I don’t think acting will ever become his forte.
I loved all the side characters – from Mom onward to Eun Jo. But it was the two second leads that elevated this drama another notch on the strength of their performance. Lee Tae Sung was wonderful as Bong Joon Gu, and Lee Shi Young was sparkling as Yoon Hye Ra. They were stars in their own right in this drama, neither used to accentuate the leads nor brushed aside when their purpose was done.
I loved the realistic beats of PK. The most mundane of moments could induce squee, the simplest of interactions bringing laughter and tears. No one was a caricature, everyone had their story, even if the time allotted did not allow it to be more fully developed. As a whole, I was satisfied and content I experienced this drama. Sadly, its lapses in quality and execution is likely to become more glaring and less palatable upon future rewatches.
It’s been a pleasure and an honor to share PK with you. I hope my recaps and sundry other PK-related posts made you as happy as it made me. Enough people have asked me that I ought to respond, even though I don’t have a definitive answer – I’m not sure if I will recap another drama, and if I do what drama that will be. Its high praise indeed that people like my PK recaps enough to want to read other stuff I may write. If I do recap another drama, it’ll be here waiting for anyone wanting to read it.
In case there are PKissers out there who are not aware that PK will be continuing on drama-wise (perhaps you just came back from Antarctica? Just kidding!) – Group 8 the production company will be producing nine (9) additional episodes of PK exclusively for Youtube. It was initially only 7 episodes, but has been increased to 9. It’s scheduled to air on November 2, 2010. I’ll likely recap it since it’s part of the PK-story and I want to be a completist when it comes to something I start. Each episode is 10 minutes in length, and will feature the same actors and be a continuation of Ha Ni and Seung Jo’s story after marriage.
[Credits: screencaps from Baidu Playful Kiss Bar, MBC official stills, and soompi.com]