Can we have an anticipatory standing ovation for the brilliance that is Nice Guy? Unless frogs start dropping from the sky in the final two episodes (I’m still pissed at you, Magnolia), this drama is hands down a masterful brilliant work of art that can take its place in the pantheon of great K-melodramas of all time. Its flaws are overcome by exquisite directing and excellent acting, and even the stretches in the script have built in room for the narrative to breathe and form into a cohesive structure. Isn’t it incredible to watch a melodrama that is so stunningly restrained in the pathos and unwilling to fall back on the hysteria? So this is what it’s like for a melodrama to cut it with the slapping, the hitting, the screaming, the tossing things, the general gloss of male rage and female backstabbing. NG doesn’t rely on any of that, and instead relies on complexities to drive the conflict.
I’ve heard folks bemoaning how Maru and Eun Gi is just one big misunderstanding that can be cleared up, and that is so far from the truth I wonder if we’re watching the same drama. Eun Gi and Maru can never be cleared up with conversation, because the fundamental dagger in their relationship is mistrust and memory distortion. Eun Gi is akin to a woman watching only bits and pieces of a movie and asked to render judgment on it. She can say she likes it, she connects with it her heart wants it, but her mind will always fear the missing pieces that could alter her perception once she sees it all. Maru is never going to use logic and explanation to overcome the choices he made to use Eun Gi, because she was all set to forgive him then and chances are she’ll forgive him a million times more. The problem is that neither have the wholeness of being anymore to render a decision with confidence and acceptance.
Episode 18 recap:
Maru reveals that he knows Eun Gi has regained her memory and asks what the hell she is doing going through with the wedding when she knows what kind of man he is (i.e. not a nice one). Eun Gi asks why he let her keep up the pretense and also why he went along with the wedding prep? Maru wanted to allow her to do things her way.
Eun Gi points out that he should have come to the wedding today if he was going to do things her way. Maru cannot understand her way – if she wanted revenge on Jae Hee and him, why does she have to put her own future at stake? Why marry him for real?
Eun Gi scoffs and says that her father died during the time she discarded him because she was so crazy about Maru. To seek revenge against Jae Hee and Maru, she can do anything. She can spill their blood, she can spill her blood, she will do anything it takes. This is who she really is. If he’s scared, then he can run away now. She’ll give him one chance, she’ll forgive Kang Maru just this once because he took care of her doing her amnesia period out of guilt. Eun Gi asks if there is anything he wants to say to her, but Maru claims he has nothing to say. ARGHHHHHHH!!!!
Eun Gi borrows Maru’s phone and calls Joon Ha, who arrives to pick her up from the river banks. Joon Ha takes Eun Gi to a hotel and she asks him to stay and keep her company, she doesn’t want to be alone right now.
Maru flashes back to the breakfast with Eun Gi when he asked her what she will do if she found out he was a bad man? Eun Gi said she wouldn’t forgive him since she lost so much to be with him. Maru smiled and told her to remember what she said and never forgive him. He sits in his car and smiles ruefully knowing that things are happening as he told her to.
Jae Gil and Choco stand to the side watching Secretary Hyun pack up Eun Gi’s things now that she’s got her memory back and things have ended in such a public way with Maru. Both Jae Gil and Choco are understandably sad but accepting of this turn of events. Choco hands a hair band to Secretary Hyun to give to her unni.
Maru goes home and sees Secretary Hyun taking Eun Gi’s belongings out of the house. He acts fine and asks for something to eat. Jae Gil and Choco watch him eating with relish. He flashes back to Eun Gi saying in the car that she will do anything to take down Jae Hee and Maru. He puts down his spoon and appears to realize he needs to do something (to keep Eun Gi from enacting her revenge and thereby hurting herself in the process).
Jae Hee and lawyer Ahn finally return to her house now that all the reporters have left. Suddenly the headlights shine on them and its Maru sitting in his car. They go inside for a pow wow. Maru claims that he was the one who leaked their previous relationship to the press. Jae Hee is doubtful but Maru reminds her that his plan from the beginning was to yank her off the perch of Tae San and bring her back to his world.
Jae Hee points out that Maru claimed to love Eun Gi. Maru says he was operating under his guilt towards Eun Gi and the one he loves is Jae Hee. All he wanted to do is bring his noona back to his side. That is his love. If he loved Seo Eun Gi then why would he not show up at the wedding? Now it’s completely over between him and Seo Eun Gi.
Lawyer Ahn is there listening to this whole conversation and now Maru dismisses him and asks for privacy to speak with his noona alone. Lawyer Ahn leaves and is looking really pissed.
Joon Ha goes to knock on the bathroom door to call for Eun Gi and finds it locked and hearing no response from inside. He has the hotel staff unlock the door and inside Eun Gi is sitting in the bathtub still wearing her wedding dress.
Eun Gi is totally out of it and she tells Joon Ha that she still cannot hate him – Kang Maru. She ought to hate him, loathe him, rage against him, but no matter what happens she simply cannot dislike him. The guy doesn’t love her and because of her love for him it destroyed her life. He now feels guilty and remorseful towards her, but he still doesn’t love her, he still loves Han Jae Hee. No, Eun Gi! That is not true, think outside the box!
In the beginning, he wanted to get back Han Jae Hee so he used Eun Gi. He thought she was amusing and could toy with her. Eun Gi tries to remind herself countless times that this is the kind of man Maru is, but she still can’t hate him. So…..so she thought by doing this she could end it forever between them. By leaking the news she could make it so that she had no way to go back to him.
She told the world about this messed up love triangle so that she could end her feelings for Maru. So that even if she relented and wanted to be with him again, the entire world would stop her. She did good, right? This is the right thing to do, yes?
Eun Gi asks her dead dad if what she did will comfort his spirit in Heaven. But what can she do now? She misses Maru so much. She misses him, she misses him, she misses him….. Eun Gi says to Joon Ha “oppa, what can I do?” Joon Ha cries as he listens to Eun Gi.
In the House of Lies, Maru and Jae Hee drink and talk. Maru smiles at Jae Hee and she says he’s looking at her the same way he used to, but she wonders if he really is the same old Maru? Maru asks if Jae Hee doesn’t trust him now? He asks if she’s willing to abandon everything now and leave with him. Go somewhere else and leave this place and Eun Gi.
Jae Hee warns him about pissing off lawyer Ahn, saying the man will do anything to get what he wants. Jae Hee warns Maru that lawyer Ahn may even have Maru killed. Maru acknowledges that possibility calmly. Then Jae Hee tells Maru that she knows him better than he thinks. She knows that the reason he wants her to leave with him is still because of Seo Eun Gi. Everything he is doing is still for Eun Gi. Maru gives up pretending he’s still in love with Jae Hee and flat out says that if Jae Hee wants him and is willing to return what is Eun Gi’s back to her, then he will be willing to sell himself to Jae Hee.
Joon Ha has put Eun Gi in bed and sits beside her watching her sleep. Maru goes home and heads to Eun Gi’s empty room. He sits down on her bed and picks up the photograph of them in Aomori. He looks at the picture as the camera fades to black.
Jae Hee is informed by the housekeeper that Eun Gi has moved back home. Eun Gi is in her dad’s study and looking at his picture. Jae Hee goes to see her and says that Maru is like trash and had an ulterior motive towards Eun Gi from the beginning. But now Eun Gi knows and she can finally wake up and stop thinking about him. Jae Hee tells Eun Gi that Maru revealed the scandal to the papers and this leaves Eun Gi puzzled.
Eun Seok (sporting a brand new bowl haircut) comes home crying and tells him mom that all the kids in kindergarten are making fun of Jae Hee’s scandalous past with Maru, who almost married Eun Gi.
Jae Hee goes to work and lawyer Ahn tries to clean up the mess by telling her not to admit her relationship with Maru to the Board and he’ll prevent Maru from being at that meeting. Then lawyer Ahn wants to know if she’s planning to give up Tae San for Maru? Jae Hee refuses to tell him, asking what their relationship is that she has to tell him anything. Lawyer Ahn reveals that he stayed beside Jae Hee with the goal of becoming her love and he warns Jae Hee not to go back to Maru.
Lawyer Ahn brings up everything he did for Jae Hee to get her to this position. He pulls Jae Hee in for a forced kiss and tells her that she can go to Maru when she’s dead. He asks her to get married. Oh yes! You two can get married in the prison chapel! Afterwards Jae Hee wipes her lips. Aww, Jae Hee, did your lap dog bite you?
Maru is at work and handling the project he presented on earlier, ignoring all the gossiping around him. Joon Ha finds him and they sit down for coffee. Joon Ha wonders why Maru isn’t asking him about Eun Gi? Is she well, is she unhappy, is she alright? Maru admits he wants to know but he cannot ask because he will be hurt if Joon Ha says Eun Gi is alright. Maru then says that he’ll be hurt if the answer is the opposite of that. Joon Ha says the answer might not be what Maru expected. Maru gets up and leaves, but tells Joon Ha he’s still got work to do.
Maru goes back to his office and gets a call on his cellphone. He answers and its silence on the other end. He pauses for a moment before he knows who it is because the song “San Francisco, Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair” is playing in the background. It’s Eun Gi, and she’s sitting in her room and calling him. Neither says anything but keeps the call going. Then they start to have a conversation in their head, with her asking him something and him answering, as if they know what each other is thinking. OMG, kill me now!
Eun Gi: Hi.
Maru: Hi, too.
Eun Gi: Did you eat yet? Did you sleep well?
Maru: And you? Did you sleep well? Are you feeling sick?
Eun Gi: Aren’t you tired? I’m so tired.
Maru: That day you were already feverish, and wearing such a thin wedding dress, did you catch a cold?
Eun Gi: Maru-shhi, don’t be so tired because of me.
Maru: Eun Gi……. I miss you so much.
Eun Gi hangs up the phone. Someone give me extra towels here, my eyes have turned into rivers. Maru talks into the phone “I miss you so much, Seo Eun Gi” but too bad she’s already ended the call. He says out loud “call me again tomorrow, okay? Eun Gi-ya, I’ll wait for you to call me.”
Jae Shik comes to visit Jae Gil and Choco and they eat together. Jae Shik wants to know when Maru is coming home because he has something to tell him. Jae Gil notices that Jae Shik is carving Maru’s name on a piece of wood (it reads “Maru question mark”) and he asks what it is. Jae Shik just brushes it off as nothing and leaves without even eating dinner. OH HELL NO. If you are planning to kill Maru and dump his body with a little wooden name marker on some remote ditch, I will personally string your ass up and fillet you alive, you horrible little man!
Jae Hee is at work drinking and thinking about lawyer Ahn’s threat to her earlier, as well as what Maru said to her about them leaving together.
Maru takes her drink and heads to Maru’s office to get some company. Jae Hee sighs that when people are young they give up love and ethics in pursuit of wealth and privilege. But when they age and get sick, they gladly give all of that up in exchange for health. All of these things, wouldn’t it be so much better to be able to let it go? Drunk Jae Hee says she’s giving it all up now.
She picks up her cell and drunk calls Jae Shik and says tells him to stop her from giving everything up for Maru. Jae Shik can obviously tell she’s totally drunk. Maru sits there and watches her.
Maru brings drunk Jae Hee home and Eun Gi sees this. Jae Hee asks Eun Gi to join them and keep drinking. Maru asks the housekeeper where Jae Hee’s room is. On the way inside, Jae Hee keeps saying “I regret it. Maru, I regret it. I regret it so so much.”
After Maru puts Jae Hee to bed, he walks out and looks up towards Eun Gi’s room. She sits inside like a zombie. Maru enters Eun Gi’s room and asks if she lives here? He asks if she slept well? He asks if she’s hurting anywhere? Eun Gi answers a terse yes to every one of his questions. Maru wonders if that is all she has to say to him? If she doesn’t have anything else to say, then he’s leaving.
Maru walks out and then turns back to face her closed door. He picks up his phone and calls Eun Gi, who is standing just on the other side of the same door. Maru says “This is all I can do now. You still look so sad. Don’t hold it all in, let it out. Is Han Jae Hee good to you? Why is your face so drawn? If you are like this, I won’t be able to just look on any longer. Take care of yourself, okay? I’m really leaving now.”
Both of then make a move to open the door but they both stop before turning the handle. After they end the call, Eun Gi thinks “because I got to see your face today, I’m really happy.”ROAR OF RAGE!!!!
Maru tries to leave the house the next morning only to find Jae Gil laying across the entryway refusing to let Maru leave unless he’s going to see the doctor and getting surgery. He tells Maru not to worry and get treatment, he’ll take care of Choco. And if the surgery has repercussions, Jae Gil will take care of Maru for the rest of his life. Jae Gil reminds Maru that if he doesn’t get surgery he’ll die.
Maru steps over Jae Gil and leaves. Choco arrives and wonders why Jae Gil is laying on the dirty floor. Jae Gil says his heart hurts so bad it’s like he’s dying.
Jae Hee wakes up the next morning and asks the housekeeper if Maru saw Eun Gi last night and for how long? The housekeeper says for a few minutes only, though Maru stood outside Eun Gi’s door for a long time afterwards.
Eun Gi meets with Joon Ha and discusses how Jae Hee and lawyer Ahn was at the house when he died. She asks if her dad knew about their relationship, which Joon Ha confirms? She asks him to tell him everything now since she regained her memory. Joon Ha doesn’t reveals what really happened, remembering how he was told that if he revealed what happened then the world will know his father had a hand in the death of Eun Gi’s mother.
Joon Ha goes to see Maru in his office and asks to speak about something very important. Sigh, why does everyone keep getting Maru to do their hard work for them? Joon Ha, you need to have some balls and tell Eun Gi the truth like she deserves to hear.
Maru walks to the park and meets with Jae Hee. She starts crying and he holds her in his arms. The camera pulls back and Eun Gi is standing there witnessing this. She thinks to herself that memories are unreliable because it can be manipulated. Is this true, what she is seeing now?
Thoughts of Mine:
Group hugs, everyone! Gather around for a big-ass group hug so that we can fortify ourselves headed into next week’s grand finale. This has been a truly momentous journey to watch Nice Guy live, and I’m really genuinely honored to have so many folks sharing this experience with me and making it feel so alive and rich with well-written commentary and fascinating asides. This drama has managed to make us all think and not just watch blindly as “just entertainment”, but actually think the way we would if we were reading a good book. We stop to ponder, we rewind to get more insight, we step back and connect more dots that were laid along the way. Every week I wonder how this story could keep getting better, and the next week it keeps getting better. For those romantics who wanted this week’s episodes to be chock full of Eun Gi-Maru moments, I actually thought the two phone calls in this episode were hands down the most romantic interaction between them. It’s the first time that real Eun Gi and real Maru express their feelings for each other, and the brilliance is that they do it without few words and with true acceptance. This is what they feel, they will not deny it even if they cannot say it out loud. I cried buckets and buckets during those scenes, which wasn’t just truly gutwrenching to behold, but was also so innovative and mind blowing.
I’ve watched so many Lee Kyung Hee dramas and loved most of them, but even then I didn’t know she had this level of talent in here. In NG she is exceeding my expectations of her, and I’m so grateful I don’t need to dumb down my commentary of her drama and just accept entertainment on its face value. Her story is really complex with human weakness and hope, and I’m able to appreciate her craft and feel honored we’re seeing it during this day and age when a lot of dramas are written for the lowest common denominator of showcasing famous actors. NG is about Kang Maru, Seo Eun Gi, and Han Jae Hee. They are who I care about and whose story I have absorbed and parsed through for eighteen episodes now. Put in different actors and NG would stand just as well on its own, but Song Joong Ki, Moon Chae Won, and Park Shi Yeon have put their own spin on NG and this drama belongs to them and only them. The closest point of reference would be the subversive What Happened in Bali, one of the classics in melodrama lore, and a drama where I can still recall the characters names of Lee Soo Jung, Jung Jae Min, and Kang In Wook right off the top of my mind because they are just that memorable.
My gut tells me that the most fitting conclusion is for Maru die. He’s always got a death wish, gave up on his life for Jae Hee, and ought to have died in that tunnel considering it was a head on collision. Plus he got to be happy with Eun Gi, albeit temporarily, but that is the fulfillment of his wishes already. He was able to let Jae Hee go, able to move on, able to love again, able to be loved by another woman, able to experience the simplest of happiness being a little family with his sister, best friend, and lover. I don’t fault Maru for not telling Eun Gi that he really loves her and isn’t doing what he did out of guilt. That doesn’t matter. For Eun Gi, it was never about Maru loving her back, because she loved him enough for the two of them. It was always about Maru accepting her, and on the beach he rejected her. Episode 18 shows us that real Eun Gi still loves him, and those phone calls show her that he also loves her. But with Jae Hee still a threat, so Maru would rather use what time he has left to make sure Eun Gi is safe rather than being with her. Especially since he can see Eun Gi struggling so much to control herself, so that any move on his part and her tenuous control will shatter. I appreciate how this drama isn’t resorting to trick solutions for the hard problems and insisting is going to steer everything to a compelling resolution. I’ll be on pins and needles waiting for next week’s sure to be earth-shattering finale.