Hot diggity crap. Seriously? Nice Guy wants to continue tossing me side-to-side like a dog with a rag doll in its mouth? I. Cannot. Handle. This. Watching this drama requires more than just anti-anxiety medication, I’d prescribe myself sedatives with a side of painkillers. I just want to run around and plead to some unknown deity to make these feelings stop. The good news is that I don’t feel manipulated, the drama is not just tossing in the kitchen sink of sad things happening to good people in order to justify its thematic melodrama anchor. The story continues to tighten the screws around some very fundamental bad decisions made by the three leads and the ripple effect outward of said decisions that I’m sure each would gladly welcome a chance to do over. Too bad that ship has long sailed and now everyone’s scrambling to make the best bets in an otherwise already stacked deck.
Post-memory recovery Eun Gi frightens me, not because I think she’s gunning for revenge on Maru or Jae Hee with laser-eyed precision, but because she’s this shaky entity that doesn’t have a firm bearing anymore on the world around her. In essence, she’s unstable much like the Eun Gi who drove through that tunnel was unstable. She’s operating under two of her worst fears having happened to her – emotionally opening herself up for the first time only to be rejected by Maru at the beach, and suddenly awakening from a period of memory loss only to discover everyone around her has been lying to her this whole time. If they had told her during the memory loss period the crappy truth, it wouldn’t be such a shock, and would have allowed Eun Gi to realize gradually that the Maru on the beach was lying to her while this Maru is now finally being honest with his own feelings. Alas, that would be too easy for Eun Gi, whose life has always been about living on an emotional razor’s edge.
Episode 17 recap:
Flashback to Eun Gi getting up before the Board of Tae San and coming clean about her current mental state – she lost her memories and has to relearn cognitive abilities since the accident, but she believes that she can fully recover. Maru stares at her as she makes this speech.
Before Eun Gi went to the park that night, she met with Secretary Hyun who is none too pleased that Eun Gi let the cat out of the bag with the Board. Eun Gi claims she wants to give it all to Maru since she can’t do anything on her own. She asks if her dad left anything else, like secret bank accounts. She wants to give it all to Maru. Secretary Hyun is worried and tells Eun Gi not to do it since he may not be a good guy and may be lying to her. Eun Gi says Maru would never lie to her and this makes Secretary Hyun so frustrated. She talks to Eun Gi’s dead dad and asks how she can help Eun Gi when she is like a child who trusts anyone?
Eun Gi’s eyes sudden sharpen and she says Secretary Hyun and Joon Ha are lying to her already, by not telling her that Maru was the other person in the car accident. She asks if they are all in cahoots? We see Maru going to buy a couples ring at the jewelry store. Secretary Hyun realizes that Eun Gi has gotten her memories back and she cries in happiness. Eun Gi makes Secretary Hyun agree to keep her memory recovery a secret for now. Secretary Hyun is upset she didn’t do what the Chairman asked of her and Eun Gi asks what her dad wanted Secretary Hyun to do?
Eun Gi walks to the park to meet with Maru that night collect her four presents that he promised her. She smiles and thanks him for the physical presents and then allows herself to be kissed to collect her last present. During the kiss, Eun Gi’s eyes open wide and she stares straight ahead.
Eun Gi sits in her room and reads her diary. She gets to a page with Maru’s face sketched on it and underneath she’s written that there is no nicer man anywhere else than Maru (though it’s written awkwardly in the same way the title for this drama was originally grammatically incorrect). She’s about to rip it up when Choco walks in wanting to snap a picture of Eun Gi, who musters up a broad grin for Choco, who is clueless about anything amiss with her unni.
Eun Gi walks downstairs and sees Maru preparing breakfast. She says good morning in English and he returns the greeting. She watches him cooking for a moment before walking up to him and wrapping her arms around his waist while pressing her face on his back. She shares a dream she had with a hundred of people all around her claiming to be her family, friend, lover, all talking to her. They all claimed to be on her side and said supportive things to her. The only person who didn’t say a word was Maru.
Eun Gi asks Maru to say that he will support her no matter what happens. Maru doesn’t say anything for a moment before he turns Eun Gi’s earlier request around and this time he’s the one who asks Eun Gi if she’ll go somewhere far away with just him. They can move to the South Pole, to Africa, to a place where no one knows them and they can be together. Eun Gi listens to this and swallows. He asks again and Eun Gi says if it’s with him, she’ll do anything.
Jae Hee sits in the courtyard of Maru’s old home and the neighborhood ahjumma comes and asks why she’s back again? Jae Hee says this is the only warm home she knows, her house is too cold. The ahjumma asks if her boiler is broken at home? When asked if she’s waiting for Maru to return, Jae Hee asks if he’ll come back if she keeps waiting? When hell freezes over, lady! The ahjumma tells her to give up but Jae Hee vows that she will make it happen with her own way.
Lawyer Ahn comes to find Jae Hee and she’s incensed that he’s following her. She scolds him for overstepping his bounds since she’s still his superior. Lawyer Ahn reminds Jae Hee that she’s in imminent danger if Eun Gi regains her memories so she needs to stop being so emotionally waffly and focus on the threat Eun Gi poses to her. That wakes up Jae Hee a bit from her reminiscing about her lost times with Maru stupor. Lawyer Ahn takes his scarf off and wraps it around Jae Hee’s neck, like he’s marking her as his.
Maru is at home looking at the wedding rings he bought. He puts it on Eun Gi’s table and sees crumpled up paper near the trash can. He picks one up and reads it, his face falling when he realizes that Eun Gi tearing up the note about him being a good guy like no other means that she’s regained her memories.
Maru flashes back to before the Board meeting at Tae San and it turns out that he was the person who left the packet of accident documents on Eun Gi’s desk. Oh Maru, you slay me with how much you’re putting yourself out to be the villain and to take all the blame.
Joon Ha and Secretary Hyun are watching Eun Gi pack up at work. She wants to rest at home until the Board decides what to do with her. Joon Ha hands her the wedding invitation for the wedding which is three weeks later. Joon Ha says its necessary to make the wedding seem real since others are saying it’s just a ruse. After Joon Ha leaves, Secretary Hyun wonders if she needs to get married still? Eun Gi says there won’t be a wedding.
Eun Gi then calls Maru about the wedding invitation being printed and acts all happy. He knows inside she is silently raging when he hears her say this is all like a dream. He thinks to himself “Eun Gi is lying and she doesn’t trust me. This is her way of expressing her rage at me, her way of telling me that she will never forgive me.” After she hangs up the smile immediately disappears from her face. Brrr, is it cold in here or what?
Eun Gi goes to Jae Hee and asks her to help plan Eun Gi’s wedding in her role as Eun Gi’s stepmother. Jae Hee reluctantly tags along to help pick out couples gear and Eun Gi’s wedding dress.
I love the totally fake and uncomfortable shopping scene between these two women, with Eun Gi happily selecting pretty household items and asking Jae Hee’s opinion while Jae Hee looks like she rather swallow nails than be there.
At the bridal salon, Eun Gi steps out modeling a wedding dress and Maru arrives. He walks up to a smiling Eun Gi and smiles back at her. His voiceover during this entire sequence says “Eun Gi’s path, which way she is headed, I don’t know. What is she feeling, what is her determination to walk down that road, even if I ask her, she’ll never tell me. All I know is, the Eun Gi who has decided to walk that path, I don’t think I will be able to accompany her.”
Later that night at dinner, Eun Gi walks to the bathroom leaving Jae Hee and Maru alone at the table. Jae Hee accuses Maru of being cruel and putting Eun Gi up to getting Jae Hee involved in planning the wedding. Jae Hee grabs Maru’s hand and rages that it’s so painful for her to plan Maru’s wedding! She asks if his plan was to get her jealous, because if it is, then she is going to misunderstand that he still has feelings for her, and then she will start having hopes again. Maru asks if Jae Hee wants him to tell Eun Gi about their past? But then he asks Jae Hee to consider who will be hurt most by that truth coming out?
Eun Gi returns to the table and sees Jae Hee pull her hand away from Maru. She smiles and says she invited Choco and Jae Gil to dinner. Choco walks in and let’s slip her displeasure at seeing Jae Hee. Eun Gi acts all innocent and wonders how they know each other.
Everone tries to cover up the gaffe but Eun Gi also brings up how Jae Hee once said other things she knew about Choco and Jae Gil. Jae Hee insists she knows nothing about those two since she doesn’t know them from before. Maru looks at Eun Gi being all fake and he looks sad.
During the drive home, Jae Gil and Choco are in the backseat while Eun Gi sits next to Maru who is driving. Maru looks at Eun Gi and thinks “Eun Gi is back, but she is not the same Eun Gi that I knew before. Some things she’s remembered, some thing she might have forgotten. She’s let go of some things and clinging tightly onto others. Seo Eun Gi has returned, but I’m still waiting for the one I knew. I will continue to be patient and by her side until then. I won’t push her.”
That night everyone sits in the dark and broods, Eun Gi and Maru on their respective beds and Jae Hee in her lonely cold mausoleum of a house.
Jae Gil goes to visit his estranged dead daddy’s grave and promises to visit often if his dead dad will look out for Maru from above and make sure that guy lives a long and happy life. Oh Jae Gil, come here and lemme give you a hug!
Eun Gi is in her room being serenaded by Choco, who is happily practicing the song she’ll sing at the wedding. Choco doesn’t have money so her wedding present is the world’s best song as a priceless gift. All Choco asks for is that her unni and oppa get married and live happily ever after. Eun Gi nods. Eun Gi walks downstairs and sees Maru is leaving for work. They face each other with a smile. Eun Gi asks if he’s happy right now and Maru answers that he is very happy.
They embrace and she asks if he’s excited about the wedding. Maru says yes.
Eun Gi smiles and hopes they live a long and happy life together just like what Choco wants. Maru in his mind says “you’re lying”. He then tells Eun Gi that after they get married, they will have to stay healthy and love each other and be happy forever. This time we hear Eun Gi’s voice in her head say “you’re lying.” Oh hell, just shoot me and put me out of this misery.
Maru hugs Eun Gi tighter and repeats his voiceover from the car that Eun Gi has returned but he’s still waiting for the original Eun Gi to return and he’ll be patient and never get tired or frustrated with her.
Maru goes to see Jae Hee at work and she asks him to handle a project and make a presentation. He agrees but she suddenly brings up the past. She apologizes for the incident 6 years ago, if it wasn’t for her Maru would be a brilliant doctor now living the life he hoped to have. She vows to compensate him for what happened but he cuts her off. He plans to get rid of Jae Hee before then, get rid of all obstacles that block Seo Eun Gi’s path to returning to her rightful place.
Maru stands before the Board and makes an impressive project pitch. Jae Hee compliments him but he in turn lays the credit on Eun Gi, saying this was her project plan from before.
After the meeting Jae Hee storms to Maru’s office and she’s pissed that he keeps putting Eun Gi first. She asks if he has anything else on his mind other than Eun Gi? Eun Gi arrives after this and overhears the rest of the conversation. Jae Hee claims that she left Maru not because she didn’t love him, she left him because she wanted to escape poverty. Jae Hee suddenly does a 180 and says she’s okay with Maru marrying Eun Gi to protect Eun Gi and alleviate his guilt. If he does that then he’ll always be around her.
Eun Gi is outside Maru’s door, having come to bring him lunch, and listens to this conversation. Joon Ha walks up and asks why she’s not going inside? Eun Gi walks away and Joon Ha hears that Jae Hee and Maru are talking inside. Jae Hee tells Maru that they can continue meeting like this after he marries Eun Gi if she can’t get him to return to her. At least he’s close by.
After Jae Hee leaves, Maru sits in his office and leans back in his chair, looking exhausted and he closes his eyes. Joon Ha finds Eun Gi and she offers him the lunch she made for Maru. He wants to call Maru and have him join them but Eun Gi says it’s not necessary. Maru comes out looking for Eun Gi and sees her dining with Joon Ha and he doesn’t go join them. Eun Gi asks Joon Ha what he thinks about Maru and Joon Ha says positive things about him. Since Eun Gi chose Maru from the very beginning, he trusts her choice and will support her. Eun Gi asks what if her assessment of Maru was wrong? Eun Gi wonders if Joon Ha is keeping something from her and he says no.
After lunch Eun Gi and Joon Ha walk to the elevator when Eun Gi asks what Joon Ha planned on telling her one day when she regained her memories. He claims he’ll tell her then and still won’t divulge it now. He tells her to let him know if she regains her memory. Eun Gi smiles and wonders again what his feelings are when he’s planning her wedding to Maru? Eun Gi asks why he’s so supportive since he must have liked her since long ago. Joon Ha says no and then Eun Gi brings up how he claimed to be gay. She asks if she ought to believe anything he says?
Joon Ha is flustered and then realizes Eun Gi has regained her memories. He tears up but their discussion is interrupted when lawyer Ahn steps off the elevator and asks to speak with Eun Gi.
Lawyer Ahn pulls Eun Gi into his office and tries to warn her off Maru, claiming that her marriage is very important to Tae San. He asks whether Eun Gi even knows Maru well? He reveals Maru was a murderer before and it was taking the blame for a certain someone. Eun Gi says she knows already.
Eun Gi then changes the subject and asks about her father’s death? Was it true Jae Hee and lawyer Ahn were the first people to find him? Lawyer Ahn claims the Chairman was dead when they found him. Eun Gi asks if he’s heard the rumors that her dad didn’t die of natural causes but lawyer Ahn says this is the first time he’s ever heard such rumors. Eun Gi leaves him rattled by what she just said.
The wedding day has arrived and everyone attending is getting dressed for the occasion. Eun Gi is at the salon all dressed and putting on make up. Adorable Eun Seok, wearing a baby tux, runs up to his mother and is all excited.
Back at home, Jae Gil goes to retrieve Maru. He knocks on the door and tells Maru they need to leave. He hopes Maru will agree to the surgery after the wedding. There is no response and Jae Gil opens the door to find Maru gone and his tux still in the room.
An envelope arrives at the newspaper containing the file dossier on the romantic history between Jae Hee and Maru. Jae Hee is at the ceremony hall dressed as the mother of the bride and welcoming the guests.
Jae Gil is frantic trying to find Maru and he ignores a call from Eun Gi. Suddenly Choco’s phone flashes a news release about the Tae San group scandal between Jae Hee and Maru.
The scandal breaks and everyone is made aware of it – Maru sitting in his car, Eun Gi in her wedding dress in the waiting room, Jae Hee in front of the guests. The reporters descend wanting to interview Jae Hee but lawyer Ahn whisks her away.
The wedding is of course cancelled. Secretary Hyun and Joon Ha urge Eun Gi to go home now but she stubbornly sits there insisting that Maru will come.
Maru finally walks into the waiting room and sees Eun Gi shivering in her wedding dress. He takes off his jacket and drapes it over her. He asks her to leave with him.
Joon Ha talks with Secretary Hyun outside and is shocked to learn that it was Eun Gi who mailed the dirt to the newspapers.
Maru drives Eun Gi to the Han River and stops his car. She asks where he went and left her there all alone? He turns to her and he’s back to being mean and cold Maru. He asks if that is the conclusion she reached? He knows she’s regained her memories and that she must know exactly what kind of a guy he is. Eun Gi stares at him while he looks angry with her.
Thoughts of Mine:
Raise your hand if you feel like watching NG is akin to running a marathon. It’s rewarding and exhilarating, but it’s a grueling and relentless grind. With every happy moment comes two gutwrenching ones, and with every hope for a better tomorrow comes the realization that there is too much crap littering the path from past mistakes. Maru looks like he’s about to commence operation Make Eun Gi Hate Him Even More by pretending he’s still hung up on Jae Hee and helped Eun Gi in the past out of pity and guilt. It’s like he’s lying about him being a liar, which is all sorts of ironic since the last time he did that it ended with a blazing car crash. If I was a psychiatrist I would say emotionally bruised and battered Maru now has a cross between a martyr complex and being a chronic liar. I think Maru knows his medical condition can erupt at anytime which is why he left the envelope on Eun Gi’s desk to trigger her memory return. He needs to get her back to her original self (and place) as fast as he can so he can walk away with her before she finds out that he’s suffering from a potentially life threatening hematoma caused by the accident she was directly responsible for. I hope the confrontation in the car at the end of this episode lays out all the issues between Maru and Eun Gi so they can deal with it directly, but I don’t think he’s willing to be that honest with her yet because of his medical condition.
For a twenty-episode drama NG has managed to remain completely in control of its narrative, neither pandering to the viewer clamoring for more happiness nor prolonging any angst for the sake of milking the casts’ great acting. It took some time for all the characters to truly flesh out their multifaceted personalities and complexities, but once that happened and the narrative solidified its purpose, the drama took off and never looked back. It’s no longer about simple questions of who loves who or who wants what. We’re past that point and now everyone is staring at the abyss of consequences and trying to stay afloat. Lawyer Ahn needs Jae Hee to stay with the program and remove Eun Gi so everything they did stays hidden and they continue to reap their rewards, Jae Hee needs to deal with her choice of money over Maru even in a reality where she realizes she may actually want Maru more than money, Eun Gi needs to decide what lies she’s been living with and what matters the most to her – the truth or the love she so desperate craves, and Maru needs to balance his desire to give Eun Gi back her old life or allow her to dictate the terms of her life going forward.
It’s not easy, these conflicting choices facing the main characters of Nice Guy. Along for the ride is Choco and Jae Gil, who must feel like they are watching a slow motion train wreck where they are powerless to stop the collision because they are rooted in place. In essence Choco and Jae Gil are proxies for the audience, which became even more evident when Jae Gil went to plead with his dead dad (the way we plead with the drama gods) to make sure Maru gets his happily ever after. While Jae Gil knows all the dirty lies and pain, Choco is mostly just the innocent hopeful parts of us that just wish Maru and Eun Gi could have their little happily family regardless of whether it makes sense or practically could ever be accomplished. I’m hoping for the best but steeling myself for the worst because this journey has been so tightly constructed that I know redemption may be something that is at most an illusion. If you rebuild a shattered lamp the jagged edges will always scream out that it’s been broken before. The question is whether the owner of the lamp can overlook that glaring crack and happily enjoy the lamp for being able to provide the light and warmth that was its main purpose for existing.