The drama gods love toying with me. When I was recapping the brilliant The King 2 Hearts, I had to fly to NYC the day the final episode aired. But I still delivered a recap (not sure how, brain fuzzy). This time I’m flying to DC for work during tomorrow’s final episode of Nice Guy. Can I still find time to recap it? I’ll need some special mojo and an extra shot of tequila, so wait and see. As we head into episode 19 of NG, this drama allows the second-to-last episode to unfold like a series of layering cards. It’s quiet and introspective, pushing everyone towards confronting the fine line between want and happiness. NG spent 18 episodes telling us that ownership does not equal happiness, and letting go and accepting what is meant to be is the first step towards contentment. This episode really is surprisingly low key but uses that tension to foreshadow the quiet before the storm. I actually don’t think the final episode will be a doozy, since Lee Kyung Hee dramas tend to wrap up without histrionics even if some of her stories tend to have jawdropping shock endings.
The proceedings are always even keeled and I can see the same care and consideration going into setting up the denouement here. I think we’re long past the “does he love her” or “does she know it” phase and I’m more interesting in seeing how each character deals with the fallout from their own bad choices. This story was titled after Maru’s character, but for most of the drama I felt like all his active choices were predicated on the women in his life. He chose to take the fall for Jae Hee, he chose to use Eun Gi to bring Jae Hee down, he chose to support Eun Gi in her battle against Jae Hee. It’s only now that Maru is finally thinking through how his own choices have helped shape what happened to Eun Gi and Jae Hee, and I’m happy that he is making decisions to put things back where they belong. Sadly something broken can never be fully repaired and what’s left is merely finding acceptance that some things that will always have a scar, but that scar can be a poignant reminder of what once was perfect.
Episode 19 recap:
It’s daytime and Eun Gi walks through the park. She’s following Maru as he walks ahead of her holding a manila envelope. He doesn’t notice her and she follows a few steps behind him. He sits down at a park bench and calls someone. Eun Gi sits down nearby and watches him. Maru grabs his head as it starts to hurt but Eun Gi doesn’t register that it means anything wrong with his health. Can’t say I blame her – migraine v. hematoma isn’t exactly a visual diagnosis one can make.
Eun Gi’s voiceovers that last night she had a crazy thought, despite knowing that it cannot be with Kang Maru. Maybe she’s crazy but what is wrong with that? What is there in this world she cannot have? She wants to believe just one more time, to try to grab on to that man’s hand just one final time. She wants to tell him what she really feels just one more time. Maybe they can walk down the path together then?
Maru gets up and walks off, but he senses someone following him and turns around. Eun Gi quickly turns around as well and he doesn’t see her.
Flashback to Eun Gi’s meeting with Joon Ha when she revealed that she knows her dad’s death was not so simple and demands to know if her dad knew Jae Hee was messing around with lawyer Ahn behind his back. Joon Ha doesn’t say anything and Eun Gi keeps pushing him to tell her.
We see the rest of Joon Ha’s meeting with Maru afterwards. Joon Ha pulls out a tape recording of everything he heard on the phone the night the Chairman died, which reveals Jae Hee and lawyer Ahn were there and did nothing to help the Chairman. He also plays a recording of lawyer Ahn calling him back to threaten him with revealing his dad’s role in the death of Eun Gi’s mom. Maru listens and is greatly pained by this.
Maru asks if Joon Ha wants to give him the evidence? Joon Ha points out that Maru should be asking why Joon Ha is coming forward with this now? Why did Joon Ha help Jae Hee and lawyer Ahn? Joon Ha explains that he wanted to tell Eun Gi the truth when she recovered her memories but she’s one step ahead and is close to sussing out the truth herself. Eun Gi has become very frightening now, determined to find the person who killed her dad. Her rage and vengeance is scary and Joon Ha doesn’t want to see Eun Gi hurt anymore.
Joon Ha goes to see lawyer Ahn and hands him a resignation letter. Lawyer Ahn knows Joon Ha is about to crack and tells Joon Ha that they can go to the cops together and also reveal that Joon Ha’s dad killed Eun Gi’s mother. Joon Ha quietly explains that he kept silent not because of that, but because he lied about wanting Eun Gi to be happy if she chose Maru.
Joon Ha does want to possess Eun Gi, but he didn’t want to snatch her away from Maru. He wanted her to recover her memories and believed that she would eventually choose him. But now he’s learned that he cannot be happy that way, and he learned this from Maru. Joon Ha calls lawyer Ahn “hyung” and asks him to turn himself in.
Maru sits in his office facing the recording and flashes back to Jae Hee killing that reporter and he volunteering to take the fall for her. Jae Hee asks for Maru’s help and initially he told her to turn herself in and claim self-defense. But Jae Hee felt that death was preferable to ending her reporter’s life, which would mean that she would return to that dirty hovel where she came from.
Jae Hee sits in her office listening to her secretary deliver an update when Maru suddenly walks in. He calls her noona and asks if she wants to go on a date with him tonight at the park.
Eun Gi sits in a coffee shop and then heads back to the park after it gets dark. Maru walks to the park and sits down next to Jae Hee on the bench. She asks what’s wrong but he smiles and says nothing. He gets up to buy them a drink but she stops him and asks that he sit down. Maru grabs Jae Hee’s hand and says its icy cold like it’s always been.
Maru bends down and tries to warm up her hands with his breath. Even when Jae Hee is now the Chairman of Tae San Group, she still can’t find a way to keep her hands warm. In the past, he was most worried about her cold hands. Maru starts to cry and Jae Hee notices it, asking what is going on?
Maru tells Jae Hee that he’s been thinking about that incident years ago, when he went to the hotel after Jae Hee killed someone. If he had let Jae Hee go turn herself in, then what might’ve happened? He would have never left her side. No matter how many years, he would have waited for her to return. Would they have been happy? He would spend the first few years working hard and being busy, but after some time he would earn enough to take Jae He, Coco, and Jae Gil on trips overseas and buy Jae Hee a designer purse.
On Jae Hee’s birthday, he would buy her steak to celebrate. Would all of that have been enough for Jae Hee to be happy? Would she be happier than she is right now? Maru starts to cry as he admits that he was wrong back then. What Jae Hee did was wrong and she needed to take responsibility for it. Where a person can’t go, what a person needs to do, Maru forgot all those basic tenets.
Maru apologizes to Jae Hee for turning her into this. Back then he thought he was saving her, but in truth he was the one who caused Jae Hee to become like this. Because he wasn’t around, she lost her way. Maru cries and admits he was wrong. Jae Hee also sobs her guts out and Maru hugs her. Eun Gi stands in the distance and watches this.
Maru tells Jae Hee that he will return to her side. He cannot promise that it will be based on love, but he will promise never to leave her side. Wherever she goes, he will wait for her, understand her, accept her. He will hold her hand forever. So now Jae Hee needs to let go of the burden of all the wrongs she committed and accept whatever punishment is meted. No matter how long, he will wait for her to return to him.
Jae Shik is hanging out with his homies Choco and Jae Gil, the latter continues to eye Jae Shik suspiciously. Jae Shik continues to ask if Maru is around? Choco mentions that this meal was made because its Jae Shik’s birthday today so Jae Shik tells her go out and buy him a cake. Choco asks Jae Gil to come too and Jae Shik pushes them out the door, telling them to turn it into a date.
Jae Shik finds Maru shaving in the bathroom and comes right out and says he has a knife in his pocket and he was promised an building if he kills Maru. Maru is nonplussed and continues shaving, telling his hyung to go right ahead and do it if he wants to.
Jae Shik doesn’t do anything and walks out of the bathroom. He runs into Jae Gil in the foyer and Jae Gil drags Jae Shik out and punches him. Jae Gil says Maru is going to die soon. Even if Jae Shik doesn’t kill him, Maru will die. Jae Shik is shocked to learn that Maru is gravely ill. He tells Jae Gil to stop crying since he’s not dying nor is he being asked for money. Jae Gil calls Jae Shik a bad guy but begs him not to do anything to Maru.
It’s a round robin of flashbacks galore. Maru, Eun Gi, and Jae Hee sits in their own rooms thinking about all the big bombshells dropped left and right recently.
Eun Gi suddenly gets a call from Secretary Hyun about Joon Ha getting into a car accident and is hospitalized right now. Maru also finds out from Secretary Hyun and he thinks back to the last thing Joon Ha said – he was going to turn himself in, but if it failed for whatever reason, he asks Maru to hold onto the evidence and take care of things.
Maru heads to the hospital and sees Eun Gi by Joon Ha’s bedside calling for him to wake up because he still had things to tell her. Maru takes Eun Gi outside and she announces that someone tried to kill Joon Ha and she knows who it is. She checked her dad’s call record and on the day he died, he had a long phone conversation with Joon Ha.
Eun Gi demands to know what is being kept from her? When she asked Joon Ha if Han Jae Hee and Ahn Min Young killed her father, Joon Ha just cried and wouldn’t answer her. Maru asks if Eun Gi has any evidence of who did this to Joon Ha? If she doesn’t have any evidence, then she needs to calm down and not take any rash action.
Eun Gi asks if Maru can sit still at a time like this? She tells him to do what he wants. If he wants to protect Han Jae Hee, then do it, because starting now Eun Gi will put everything on the line to bring Han Jae Hee down.
Eun Seok is moping over his homework and Jae Hee asks if her son is still mad at mommy? She asks Eun Seok a question – she wanted to give him the best money can buy so no one can tease him or look down on him, does he want that? Is he willing to give that up? Eun Seok says he doesn’t want any of that. Jae Hee tells him to not regret it later. Eun Seok says toys that money can buy are for babies and he’s not a baby anymore. Jae Hee hugs her son with a smile and says she understands.
Jae Hee walks through the house says that these past 8 years have been like a dream. All this never belonged to her. Jae Hee goes to her room and looks at the bling in her jewelry box. She finds a thin simple gold band and puts it on. Jae Hee smiles and says that it looks pretty. She calls lawyer Ahn and asks to speak with him.
Jae Hee goes to lawyer Ahn’s office and stands outside his door hearing him speak with Maru inside. Maru asks if anyone who grabs onto lawyer Ahn’s tail is marked for death? Lawyer Ahn is uncowed and asks if Maru has any evidence that he tried to kill Joon Ha. Maru hands him the envelope with the recording of the day the Chairman died.
After Maru leaves here he’s going to find Jae Hee and convince her to turn herself in. He will promise to stay with her for the rest of her life and protect her. He’s giving lawyer Ahn 24-hours to turn himself in.
Jae Hee sits on the stairwell and thinks back to what Maru said to her at the park bench, understanding that he made the offer because he knew about her part in the Chairman’s death and was giving her a way to make things right.
Secretary Hyun and Eun Gi are at the hospital looking over Joon Ha’s accident report. There is a picture lawyer Ahn’s car behind Joon Ha’s car that night and Eun Gi asks to get a copy of it. She then answers a call and returns to Joon Ha’s hospital room.
Once inside, she sees lawyer Ahn standing there and yells at the guards for letting people in. Lawyer Ahn asks her to go home and rest and he’ll have the nurse take care of Joon Ha. She refuses because she doesn’t trust anyone else in this world so she intends to do everything by herself.
Jae Hee arrives and Eun Gi asks to check to see if she’s carrying anything suspicious before letting her in to see Joon Ha. Jae Hee asks if Eun Gi suspects her? Eun Gi says yes. Jae Hee takes her jacket off and starts to undress, asking if Eun Gi wants to check her undergarments. Maru arrives and takes Jae Hee’s jacket from Eun Gi and puts the jacket around Jae Hee.
Eun Gi storms off and Maru helps Jae Hee first then rushes off after Eun Gi. They sit down in the empty hospital lobby. Eun Gi asks why he followed her? Maru smiles and says he came to see her. She tells him to scram but he refuses. Compared to Joon Ha, he thinks Eun Gi is in more danger. Now that Joon Ha is in a coma, getting rid of Eun Gi would be the next step.
Eun Gi asks why he cares since he’s on Jae Hee’s side. Maru smiles and says that’s a good idea, he’ll use his own hands and get rid of Eun Gi, then he’ll hit two birds with one stone. He can protect Jae Hee and he can be with Eun Gi forever. He calls Eun Gi a rockhead and says that where she goes from now one he’ll stick to her side. Eun Gi asks if he thinks she’s kidding? Does he wants Eun Gi to kill him? Maru’s not joking and he intends to stick by her side even when she goes to the bathroom.
Jae Hee sits in her room and thinks back once again to what Maru said to her on the park bench. Lawyer Ahn arrives bringing her stuff back from the hospital. She asks if lawyer Ahn caused Joon Ha’s accident? Is he capable of doing anything now? The first time is the hardest, but afterwards everything bad gets easier, no?
Lawyer Ahn says he will take responsibility for all the crimes. Jae Hee asks if she ought to cry tears of gratitude for what he’s doing? She didn’t do anything he forced her to do. She did it because she wanted it to happen. She killed the Chairman because she didn’t want him to live anymore. If he lived, then her and Eun Seok would be dead. So when lawyer Ahn appeared, she just used his hands to kill the Chairman. For that she needs to thank him.
Jae Hee demands to know why lawyer Ahn ought to say it was all his fault, that he killed the Chairman alone. She calls him a bastard, a cruel bastard. It’s her life but why are they doing things for her and determining what happens. All of them are the same, lawyer Ahn is just like Kang Maru.
Eun Gi is brushing her teeth in the bathroom at the hospital and Maru waits for her outside as he said he would. He follows behind her as she returns to Joon Ha’s hospital room. She knows it but ignores him. He watches her tend to Joon Ha until she falls asleep, and then he walks over and drapes his coat over her.
Maru goes back to his old house and this time he knocks on the door. Jae Hee opens the door and Maru’s expression is like “Da Fuck?” when he sees her there. She invites him in and reveals that she owns this house now. She wanted to come back, but when she came back, he wasn’t there anymore. Maru says he’s back now. Jae Hee points that it’s just his physical shell because his heart is with Eun Gi.
Maru goes inside and sits with Jae Hee in the courtyard. Jae Hee hands him a manila envelope containing evidence of all the Chairman’s crimes. She offers to exchange that for the original and all copies of the recording of the Chairman’s death. She doesn’t intend to turn herself in like this.
Another choice would be for Maru to give everything of him to her – his body and his heart. Then she will turn herself in knowing that he’ll be waiting for her.
Maru goes back to the hospital and finds Secretary Hyun in Joon Ha’s hospital room. He asks where Eun Gi went and is told she is out getting some air. He looks around and sees her sleeping on the bench all exhausted.
Maru sits down next to Eun Gi and puts her sleeping head on his shoulder. After Eun Gi wakes up, she turns and stares at Maru. He greets her and asks if she’ll run away with him. They will go where she wants to go. It doesn’t matter where they go, as long as no one can find them. He asks her to run away with him.
Thoughts of Mine:
I’ll keep this section short since the bulk of the discussion needs to wait until tomorrow’s finale to tie everything together for me. I can’t believe we made it to episode 19 and still no one other than Jae Gil knows of Maru’s magical non-exploding hematoma and said hematoma hasn’t exploded yet either also boggles the mind. I don’t know if it’s good writing or bad to throw in a major plot jerker and not actually use it. I do think that Eun Gi’s suicide-induced amnesia was brilliantly used in this drama and its resolution is really fitting with both the theme and her personality. She’s regained her memories and is back to being the prickly distrustful Eun Gi of yore, but as I suspected, she still loves Maru beyond all rhyme or reason. What’s keeping her at bay is not her own self-control but what Maru is doing to keep her safe by going back to Jae Hee. I appreciate the drama not trying to sell the bullshit that Maru still loves Jae Hee, but allowing both Maru and Jae Hee to admit that he’s doing it because he feels culpable and he wants to keep Eun Gi from self-destructing. If he was capable of making such rational decisions 8 years ago, Jae Hee would have served her short time in prison for a self-defense killing and come out to marry a successful young doctor and live a happy and materially satisfying life.
It’s high time Maru took a long hard look at how his decisions have impacted others, and accept that he is also the king of making bad decisions. Leaving Choco to rush to Jae Hee was a bad decision, taking the fall for Jae Hee was an even worse one. I can’t say his offer to Jae Hee was wrong, because Jae Hee knows all she’s getting is security and not love. I don’t know whether Jae Hee is insisting he let her off the hook or else give her his heart again is a true ultimatum or she just wants to push him because she’s ready to finally accept responsibility for her own life. She can’t keep running and she can’t keep blaming a shitty childhood for her desire for material security. I think in the end everything will turn out just fine, but whether or not Maru and Eun Gi will get their happily ever after remains up in the air. I don’t even know if I think they deserve it necessarily, but having spent so long with such well-written characters makes me care about their fictional lives and I want a happy ending to give me a peace of mind as I say goodbye to what’s likely the best K-drama I’ve watched all year. Tomorrow cannot come fast enough!
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