The penultimate episode of Cheongdamdong Alice laid bare all its limitations (and then some) while confirming for me that I’ve wasted my time with this drama that doesn’t actually have a meaningful story to tell. It’s not entertaining anymore, and I’m not getting any insightful takeaways at the end of the day? Then what is the point? I’m finishing for the sake of completion and recapping til the end because I don’t want to feel like a runningback who is inches from the goal line and doesn’t break the plane. Episode 15 was yet another giant drag, only this time revealing something that further raises my ire with this story. Seung Jo doesn’t have PTSD? He’s merely an attention-starved immature wanker who acts loco to get his friends and family to notice him? He’s not at the edge of a mental breakdown upon learning Se Kyung deceived him, and instead his running away is merely that of a kid avoiding the big talk. The last few episodes wasn’t just draggy and pointless, it was actually based on incorrect assumptions of Seung Jo’s emotional and mental competency. Jesus Christ, what is this horrible characterization going on here?
Everyone’s attempts to keep the hard truth from Seung Jo turned out to be a grand waste of time. He found out and promptly went about trying to figure out all that went on while dealing with his still lingering feelings for Se Kyung. At this point I not only don’t feel the love between the OTP, I don’t like either of them as well. Seung Jo is annoyingly self-centered and has the EQ of a 9 year old while Se Kyung alternates between laying down the cards and being all reactive to everything around her. I do like all the talking that finally went on in this episode, too bad it came 5 episodes too late. The only person I care to see a happy ending for is Yoon Joo, but sadly its not with her asshole husband and his even more horrible family. I want Yoon Joo to win the damn lottery and buy half of Cheondamdong and end the drama with her using her smarts and will power to run a big company. I guess if there is one thing that is innovative about CA is how its one of the rare K-dramas to have a second female lead that is more compelling than any of the other main characters.
Episode 15 recap:
Se Kyung drags Seung Jo out of the airport line and pulls him aside to talk. He says things are over but she says not like this. She’ll show him her true self and then he can end it. Seung Jo says he already saw her true self, so Se Kyung asks what did he see? A Candy version of her? The her who used him? She is both. But now she can’t tell where her real heart lies and where she was using him.
Seung Jo says that is exactly why he’s going crazy. He wonders if what he saw is a dream, but he knows its reality. In fact, he compares this to what happened 6 years ago but Se Kyung cuts him off and says she’s not Seo Yoon Joo and won’t leave him this time. He can’t run away either.
Se Kyung pulls Seung Jo away from the crowd and Tommy stands in the back and watches her boss Seung Jo around with a slight smile.
Seung Jo pulls free of Se Kyung’s grasp and tells her its over again. Se Kyung changes the subject and says people are worried that Seung Jo will die because of this. Seung Jo is all like “die, who thinks I’m going to die, why would I die?” That’s what I’ve been saying for episodes now! Se Kyung says Dong Wook and Seung Jo’s dad both think so. But Se Kyung agrees with Seung Jo, she doesn’t think he’ll die because of this either.
Se Kyung asks why others think that though? In fact, she thinks his supposed mental illness has all been an act. He just wants people to care about him so he pretended to be sick. He’s like a kid who wants attention and a kid who runs away from dealing with hard issues. Seung Jo is offended that she thinks he’s a kid and claims he just doesn’t want to see her face or be in the same country as her. Oookay, spoken like a true adult, Seung Jo. Se Kyung says running away is what a kid does, and if he’s not a kid, then he can prove it by keeping his promise. Didn’t he promise that he would die if he lost her? Seung Jo says he won’t die whether or not he loses her.
Secretary Moon and Dong Wook arrive at the airport and are relieved Seung Jo is fine and hasn’t left the country. Seung Jo wonders why everyone is overreacting. Se Kyung tells him that if he didn’t try to run away people wouldn’t overreact. Secretary Moon and Dong Wook take Seung Jo back home.
Se Kyung watches him leave and then Tommy approaches her.
In the car headed home, Seung Jo wonders when everyone found out (about Se Kyung deceiving him)? Dong Wook says he heard from Seung Jo’s dad today and Secretary Moon says he just heard from Dong Wook. Seung Jo wonders what Dong Wook said to Se Kyung to make her so worried about him?. Dong Wook offers to deal with Se Kyung from now on but Seung Jo says he’ll handle it.
Tommy drives Se Kyung home, with her determined to go everyday to see Seung Jo and allow him to ask her all the questions he must have. Tommy says Seung Jo may not ask her anything, maybe the answer will hurt even more. Tommy wryly says he wishes she would stop right now, sharing how he once ended a relationship with a girl when they loved each other very much. It was because they saw too much of each other. Se Kyung shares that she had the same experience (with In Chan). Nevertheless, its hard for a person to change and now she can’t let it end this way.
The camera pans across Yoon Joo’s grand closet which is now completely empty. She sits in the empty closet with a few suitcases and stoically looks around. I seriously love her more and more. Can I get a drama where she’s the lead?
Seung Jo goes home and finds his dad waiting for him. He accuses his dad of knowing the truth but keeping it from him to make him a fool. His dad tells Seung Jo that this is no big deal, once it passes its no big deal. Seung Jo tells him to leave now, and Dong Woo, too. He claims to be fine. Dong Wook and Seung Jo’s dad leave and dad wonders how Seung Jo was dragged back? Dong Wook says Seung Jo came back all on his own. He fought with Se Kyung at the airport and then left the airport himself.
Seung Jo sits at home and remembers Se Kyung saying that he can’t die until after she leaves. He gets angry again, but at least he’s not depressed anymore.
Ah Jung tells Se Kyung’s family what she did to Seung Jo and how they are now broken up. Mom is stunned and wonders how she could do that and strikes her over and over. Dad looks very sad.
Later Se Kyung joins her dad outside and he is staring at the night lights. She apologizes but he says its all his faults. How could she have hope for a better tomorrow when she sees him so hopeless. She knows that her dad tried his best and still he lives like this, it’s not his fault. Dad says Seung Jo is not at fault either, he’s a good person and she cannot treat him this way.
Seung Jo looks at the emoticon rabbits and thinks back to Se Kyung asking his name and making the rabbits for the President of Artemis. He wonders what is going on? He remembers Se Kyung saying that she cannot tell the difference between her real heart and using him.
Seung Jo calls Secretary Moon and finds out the exact day he went drinking with Ah Jung and she told him that Se Kyung liked Secretary Kim. Secretary Moon admits he kept something from Seung Jo – when he heard that Se Kyung liked Secretary Kim, he told Ah Jung that Secretary Kim was the President of Artemis. Seung Jo confirms this all went down the day before the Christmas party. He says “Han Se Kyung, you’re so dead.”
Se Kyung tells Ah Jung that she plans to track down Seung Jo everyday and explain until he’s satisfied. Even if he doesn’t want to see her, she’ll go everyday. Seung Jo comes over and asks to see Se Kyung. Seung Jo confronts Se Kyung with the proof that on the day before the Christmas Party, Secretary Moon told Ah Jung his real identity. He tells Ah Jung that she is the witness but Ah Jung runs inside and locks the door.
Seung Jo lays it all out – Se Kyung knew who he was right before the Christmas Party, she hid from him, wrote the letter that she liked Secretary Kim, and made Seung Jo run around looking for her. All of that was fake. Se Kyung says no, even earlier than that Seung Jo was already her White Rabbit. He’s confused and she brings up Alice in Wonderland. She needed a White Rabbit to enter Cheongdamdong. Seung Jo is upset that she can talk so calmly about using someone.
Se Kyung says she used Secretary Kim but doesn’t answer when he asks if she also lied about liking Secretary Kim. Se Kyung says she did like Secretary Kim before knowing he was the President of Artemis. Seung Jo asks why she fired poor Secretary Kim then, is she that ambitious? Se Kyung says she liked Secretary Kim first, so she continued to like him after finding out he was the President. Se Kyung says she loved him regardless of who he was, and Seung Jo knows this deep down. Seung Jo says no, he doesn’t know that deep down. Right now he doesn’t know Se Kyung at all.
Se Kyung goes in and Ah Jung asks if things are better? Seung Jo is here because he wants to know more from her, right? That means there is still hope, right? Seung Jo goes to his car and thinks back to all his earlier meetings with Se Kyung and wonders when it all started between them when he supposedly became her White Rabbit. He wonders what the hell he was as a White Rabbit?
The next morning, Se Kyung plans to go to Seung Jo’s place first before going to work. Ah Jung asks about work and Se Kyung knows there is bound to be problems but she plans to face it. There is knocking on the door and Seung Jo is there to ask more about the White Rabbit. He calls Se Kyung very calculating and asks when it started? Se Kyung repeats his words when he asked her to become the stylist for the President. Se Kyung admits she grabbed onto that opportunity like Seung Jo told her to.
Seung Jo opens the box he brought with all the emoticon rabbit and she grabs one and asks if he’s been thinking about when everything happened, right? She takes the box down to the recycle bin toss since if these have no significance for him then it has none for her. He mentions how she asked his name and said thanks that day. She must have been genuine then, right? Se Kyung says this is exactly his problem – he hears and sees only what he wants. That is why he cannot see people clearly and love them for who they are. She sees his immaturity and still loves him. He needs to see the real her as well and stop living in a fantasy.
Seung Jo takes the box of rabbits back to his car and thinks about Se Kyung saying he lives in a fantasy world. He tracks down Se Kyung and asks her to explain about the letter she wrote to the President of Artemis about In Chan. Se Kyung gets into his car and takes him to the park where she and In Chan broke up. She explains that she wrote the letter because she was trying to throw that relationship away.
To In Chan, she cannot stay by his side and be better for him. She is a designer no one will hire. She she decided to throw herself away and choose a life where someone can save her. So she went to Cheongdamdong. Seung Jo asks if he saved her? Se Kyung says he has everything she needs in life. Seung Jo says she broke up with a poor man and found herself a rich man. Se Kyung says yes and he asks if she doesn’t want to lose him now? Se Kyung says she wanted Seung Jo to save her, yet he turned it around and said she saved him and need to protect him. He said she was his home. For her, someone who felt completely useless in this world. Seung Jo rescued her and gave her purpose and importance again. That is what Seung Jo means to her. Se Kyung finishes talking and leaves Seung Jo standing there absorbing what she said.
Se Kyung goes to meet with Seung Jo’s dad who asks if she ended it completely with him? Se Kyung says she can’t do that. Everyone thinks Seung Jo will do something bad if he found out but that didn’t happen. She doesn’t want his dad to keep saying he is weak and needs to be protected. Seung Jo is showing that he’s capable and is actually working towards the goal Seung Jo’s dad wants – to inherit the family business.
Seung Jo’s dad says his son has always refused but Se Kyung points out that he could have kept painting but he chose to run Artemis. He wanted to combined art and business. She asks Seung Jo’s dad to validate what Seung Jo loves for once, and also let her and Seung Jo deal with their relationship on their own. If he wants to end it, she will accept it and not run away. She loves Seung Jo very much.
Se Kyung arrives at GN Fashion to find her things packed into a box already on orders of In Hwa. She calmly accepts its and prepares to leave when In Hwa arrives. In Hwa claims this is best since neither side will feel at ease working together. Se Kyung is fine with it. In Hwa says its such bad fate, they lost a billion dollar business deal while she lost her entire charade. Se Kyung smiles and says she used to think she was very different than In Hwa, but now she sees they are the same. She tells In Hwa to let go of that business deal now, but she hasn’t let go of Seung Jo and won’t let him give up either.
Min Hyuk calls Yoon Joo into his office and gives her an final chance – he wants that business deal with Royal and Artemis no matter what. If she can make it happen through Seung Jo, who has the final say in this matter, then he will take her back. Since she said their marriage was a business arrangement, he wants her to have a choice in whether it ends or she can help him grow the business. If his business succeeds, her business would succeed as well. Yoon Joo cries and asks if he’s doing this to punish her? Min Hyuk says this isn’t punishment, it’s business. Plus her life can’t be worth a billion dollar business deal. He tells her to think about it.
Yoon Joo heads down in the elevator and runs into Se Kyung leaving with her box. Yoon Joo asks if she’s been kicked out and Se Kyung says yes. Se Kyung apologizes to her and Yoon Joo says no need. The good news is that she has a choice now about her future. Yoon Joo asks if Seung Jo ran away and Se Kyung says he tried but she stopped him.
Seung Jo sits in her car and reads Se Kyung’s letter to him about In Chan. He drives off looking for her. Se Kyung comes out of GN Fashion and gets a call from Tommy. He’s had to close a few stores due to GN Fashion screwing with him, but the good news is that no one is asking him to match make anymore and he’s been wanting to stop for awhile now.
Seung Jo arrives outside GN Fashion and sees Se Kyung waiting by the side of the road. Tommy pulls up and puts her box in his car before helping her into the passenger seat. Seung Jo watches all of this and is very displeased. He follows Tommy back to his store and watches them go inside. He flashes back to Tommy arriving at the dress fitting.
Se Kyung asks Tommy if he has any regrets and he smiles and says he definitely regrets it. In fact, Yoon Joo asked him earlier why he accepted this losing proposition, especially since neither him nor Yoon Joo are that gullible. Se Kyung sighs that she thought she was so convincing. But she points out that Tommy doesn’t look regretful in the least right now. Tommy claims this is his regretful expression before asking how things are going with Seung Jo? Se Kyung says she’s trying and Seung Jo came to find her before she went to him.
Seung Jo watches Tommy sending Se Kyung off, and gets even more annoyed with the way Tommy smiles at her departing back. He storms into Tommy’s office and asks him who Han Se Kyung is? Tommy says she is Seung Jo’s fiancee, right? Seung Jo asks why Se Kyung was just here, and why was Tommy giving her a ride and all chummy with her. Tommy says he is just helping Se Kyung enter Cheongdamdong, would Seung Jo believe that? Seung Jo asks why he could do that, and what Cheongdamdong means to them?
Seung Jo asks if Tommy is the Alarm Clock Rabbit? Tommy asks if he means White Rabbit? Tommy admits he wasn’t in the beginning, he was trying to arrange the marriage between Seung Jo and In Hwa and Se Kyung was an obstacle. He was the one who recorded the video. Tommy says he knows Se Kyung’s real heart and he knows what its like for a person to be pushed to the edge of the cliff. Seung Jo says he’s been pushed to the edge before many times as well so don’t think he doesn’t know anything. Seung Jo storms off and Tommy calls Se Kyung to reveal that he told Seung Jo the entire truth. Se Kyung says Tommy did well and expects Seung Jo to come find her soon.
Seung Jo arrives as expected and Se Kyung goes out to talk with him. Seung Jo asks when she found out that Seo Yoon Joo was his ex? And when was the video recorded? Se Kyung says she found out about Yoon Joo on the day she got the USB drive from him so she couldn’t confess to him. Then the day she received the blackmail video from Tommy was the day he proposed to her. And she accepted. He asks why she accepted his proposal despite the threat of that blackmail? Is Cheongdamdong that important to her?
Se Kyung does want to live because of love but that’s not enough. Seung Jo says that is just an excuse. Se Kyung wants to believe in this world, but the world never gives her hope that poverty can be overcome with hard work. Seung Jo asks if she wants to use poverty as an excuse to use someone’s love. Seung Jo claims he was poor as well but climbed to where he is now, so she can’t use that as an excuse. Se Kyung says Seung Jo had luck – the painting he sold. That’s not luck that everyone can have. Seung Jo claims someone saw his painting as worth that much so don’t insult him.
Seung Jo says he lived well during his poverty and this is how the world has rewarded him. Se Kyung smiles and says that kind of world doesn’t exist for people like them. The kind of world that rewards those who are poor but work hard. Se Kyung says he is a lucky man and can believe in hope, she doesn’t have that. He yells at her to stop thinking like a loser! Se Kyung asks if he also thinks that those who are poor live that way because they are foolish and don’t know how to work hard to overcome it? Does he think she is poor because she didn’t live her life correctly to climb out of poverty? Seung Jo says yes. Se Kyung has no response to that and goes inside.
Se Kyung sits in her room and cries while Seung Jo stands outside. He wants to knock on the door but doesn’t.
Yoon Joo meets with her brother and invites him for a drink. They discuss how their family was plunged into poverty when the stock market crashed and their father went bankrupt. They had to move into a basement and it was horrible. Even living there, their mother still insisted on buying her pretty and expensive clothes. Her mother said Yoon Joo was born pretty and would be rich one day. Her brother says their mom said he would be poor all his life and had to follow his sister to eke out a living. He asks what she plans to do now?
Seung Jo meets with Dong Wook and admits that he is grateful to Se Kyung for coming to the airport. He did want to grab onto her again then. Dong Wook asks if he is considering reconciling? Seung Jo says not so fast and brings up the painting. Dong Wook thinks it was bought by someone who appreciated its worth, which is what Seung Jo also thinks. But he reveals that Se Kyung doesn’t think that way. So he needs to find out who bought the painting. He once suspected someone but he thinks it can’t be true.
Seung Jo’s dad walks into the gallery and looks at Seung Jo’s painting. Of course he’s the guy who bought it, and back then he ordered it donated somewhere. Seung Jo says normally he listens to Se Kyung because she is so wise, but this time he really can’t agree with her or understand her. Even moreso than her lying to him, he cannot believe that she would think his painting selling was due to luck. He doesn’t know now what is more painful – losing love because one doesn’t have a genuine heart, or giving up love because one doesn’t have money.
Seung Jo goes to see Se Kyung while she heads over to his apartment. Both of them stand outside each other’s apartments but not knocking.
Seung Jo wakes up the next morning having slept in his car. He watches Se Kyung leave the house and follows her. She takes the cramped subway and he gets in and experiences how the rest of the world lives. Se Kyung heads to various places to apply for work and hand in her resume. Seung Jo watches people working hard in various stores in Cheongdamdong. He walks down the streets of Cheongdamdong and wonders what this place is? Why would Han Se Kyung do everything in her power to enter here? To him, this is merely a place he grew up.
Secretary Moon has coffee with Dong Wook and hears that Se Kyung and Seung Jo have been fighting. Dong Wook admits he’s disappointed in Se Kyung since she was at fault for lying to Seung Jo, though this time they fought about the painting.
Seung Jo comes home and finds Yoon Joo waiting for him. They sit down and he asks if she is getting a divorce? Yoon Joo admits that her husband has given her one last chance. Seung Jo says his appearance in her life again, and getting involved with Se Kyung, ruined her marriage. He is willing to do anything to help her. Yoon Joo says its nothing and moves to leave, not asking Seung Jo for help. Seung Jo brings up the painting and asks if she bought it. Secretary Moon says to Dong Wook that he might know who bought it.
Seung Jo brings up his father giving Yoon Joo money, so did she use that money to buy his painting? Yoon Joo says she is not the kind of person to use all her money just to help him. Seung Jo wonders who it was then? Yoon Joo is surprised and asks if he really doesn’t know or is just pretending? Secretary Moon says it’s Seung Jo’s dad, isn’t it so obvious? Yoon Joo says its Cha Il Nam, Seung Jo’s dad.
Se Kyung meets with Tommy to talk about the painting and says Seung Jo will never suspect who really bought it. Se Kyung says she can see the ending now – the ending of Alice in Wonderland is to wake up from a dream.
Thoughts of Mine:
So………let me lay bare the mess that has been steadily muddying the waters of the narrative. The last 5 episodes have been about keeping the truth from Seung Jo because, in the words of the steely Colonel Jessup, “You can’t handle the truth!” Turns out Seung Jo (1) isn’t crazy and suffering from PTSD and (2) can handle the truth just fine. Great, I sure love a drama spinning in circles on an issue that is a NON-ISSUE. *headdesk* And then at the end of the episode, the drama actually tackles an interesting actual issue – Seung Jo thinks like the entitled rich boy that he is and believes hard work yields opportunities and success. Yay. So that means Se Kyung and her family are poor because they simply haven’t worked hard enough to be rewarded with the fruits of their labor. Finally! An impasse that is worth exploring, too bad it’s coming at the 11th hour and we’re so worn down by the waste of time I simply want the OTP to kiss and make up without even bothering to discuss any open items.
I still can’t get over how the drama just swept the entire PTSD misconception under the rug and expect viewers to be fine with them stringing that over our heads for ages only to say “ooops, everyone got it wrong.” That is the worst kind of deus ex machina, especially since the time wasted on it could have been spent exploring Seung Jo and Se Kyung’s philosophical differences and real class barriers, which remain a very real barrier between their happily ever after. They can get married because they fell in love, but making that marriage last a lifetime means getting over each and every one of their very marked life experiences. I am happy that Seung Jo isn’t acting anymore like a love sick fool who refuses to acknowledge reality, and that Se Kyung isn’t putting on a charade in front of him. Similarly everyone else seems to be dealing just fine with the fall out from the entire deception, so once again, why all the fuss over nothing, drama? Let’s hope tomorrow the drama can get its act together in the very end and actually deliver an ending that isn’t as stupid as the last few episodes.