It’s emotionally exhausting watching dramas live. It’s like walking towards something with a leap of faith and no certainty for what awaits at the end. I can handle the weekly waits because patience can be an acquired virtue. What I will never ever be able to reconcile is the feeling of devastating disappointment that guts you like a child at Christmas opening the biggest present under the tree and discovering Grandma knitted a year’s supply of holiday sweaters in an array of hideous yarn colors she picked up for sale at the craft store. A child wants satisfaction of the most visceral and straightforward of ways rather than being told to like Grandma’s present because its the thought and effort that counts. Prime Minister and I wrapped up today like a lame present hidden in an exciting package. Perhaps I can takeaway the effort of the cast and crew, maybe the moral of this story was true to life and subtly stirring, it could be this drama works better with time and distance between us. None of that matters though in changing my gut punch reaction when the last scene rolled in episode 17. That’s it? That’s all? Am I supposed to be happy?
Should I call foul and ask for the last four episodes to be completely rewritten so that even if nothing makes sense and hobbits and orcs suddenly show up in the story as least the rest of the episode is filled with Da Jung and Yul in bed reading, kissing, and making babies. If a drama is far-feteched and silly but ultimately works, then it’s almost unfair for the writer to make an about turn at the end and try to be serious at the expense of giving viewers a satisfying pay-off. I’ll never understand the K-drama predilection to start off a rom-com with so much absurdity to sink a barge (A contract marriage? Agreed to by a Prime Minister?) and then insist on ending in a whimper of trying to please the sticklers for convention and housewife morality clucking. So Yul’s first wife isn’t dead – big fucking deal. It’s a legality only that Yul can rectify with a divorce and a practicality of integrating her back into the lives of their kids gradually. The end. So easy, so why did this drama make it such a prolonged bout of angst and woe. I’m finally ready to say out loud that Da Jung had a lobotomy in the last few episodes. She had a functioning brain about to think but her thought processes and personality morphed into a wet blanket of a passive giver without any of the courage to be bold and forge a new path in her own life. Yul remains the stand out in this drama from the first frame to the last, a male lead of amazing emotional fortitude and moral character who remained true to his own heart. Once he decided on something, he never wavered even if the going got tough. I lost all ability to connect with Da Jung in this episode and by the end just wanted this story to be over so I can move on.
Episode 17 recap:
Yul is walking around Seoul thinking things through when Da Jung finally tracks him down. She is worried that he resigned and wasn’t answering his calls but wants to leave now that she’s confirmed he’s fine. Yul stops her and asks if she can really live without him? He’s been thinking about what his life would be like without her. He’s lived a long time without her and it was tiring, but once he thinks about a future without her then he’s losing confidence in himself. Before he met her he never worried about the future but now he’s scared and uncertain.
Yul stops and looks at Da Jung before saying “I miss you.”
Na Young lurches like a zombie through the streets of Seoul thinking back to her accidental meeting with her three kids in the hospital. Man Se remembers her as the ahjumma near school while Na Ra thinks Na Young looks like their dead mom. Woo Ri lashes out that their mom is dead because otherwise a mother would come back and look for them! YOU TELL HER WOO RI! He takes Man Se and Na Ra away while Na Young just looks totally devastated. Serves you right witch!
Na Young cries on the street and I totally want to throw a party.
Yul accompanies Da Jung to visit her dad and she’s all smiles thinking her dad will be so happy to see him. They find her dad asleep already and he can’t be roused by Da Jung so she goes to summon the doctor.
The Kwon kids sit at home discussing how that ahjumma looks just like their mom. Na Ra is certain she looks just like their supposedly dead mom, she remembers all the things her mom did with her. Woo Ri says that woman looks nothing like their mom and then storms off. Man Se is left being all sad that he doesn’t have any memories of their mom.
The doctor has stabilized Da Jung’s dad who went into cardiac arrest when his blood pressure dropped during sleep but he’s fine now. Da Jung sends Yul home but he wants to stay there and keep her company and has already told the housekeeper he might not be home tonight.
Na Young is crying to Joon Ki and Yoon Hee about how Woo Ri totally rejected her. She explains running into them at the hospital and Woo Ri saying out loud in her face that his mother was dead because if she was alive she would have gone back to see them. Na Young thinks what Woo Ri said is correct but Joon Ki tells her to be strong so she can reclaim her past. Joon Ki storms off but Na Young tells Yoon Hee that she never thought about reclaiming the past and just seeing the kids is comfort enough for her. She is sad Woo Ri hates her but Yoon Hee says Woo Ri loves his mother. Yoon Hee wonders if Yul told the kids everything including about Soo Ho?
Yul and Da Jung sit beside her dad until he wakes up the next morning. He’s fine and can recognize them both. Da Jung walks Yul out and thanks him. There is nothing to thank since her dad is Yul’s father-in-law. He reminds Da Jung to eat and not to cry too much in front of her dad, promising to call her later.
The doctor goes to visit with Da Jung’s dad who is totally alert and not even exhibiting any signs of dementia. He asks how long he has to live? The doctor doesn’t answer and dad knows he doesn’t have much time left. Da Jung comes by later and dad asks for the diary because he wants to write down what he did yesterday since the kids were by and so was his Kwon son-in-law. The pen is missing from the diary so Da Jung grabs one from her purse and finds the present left by the kids. Dad shows her his furry hate present as well.
Da Jung opens the box and its Woo Ri telling her to come back soon because he’s being annoyed to death by Man Se. Da Jung smiles at the pretty necklace present. She gets called out to meet with a doctor so her dad rifles through her purse to look for a pen. He finds Da Jung’s diary and flips it open to read and looks totally shocked and dismayed.
Da Jung is wearing the necklace immediately and texts Woo Ri her thanks for the present. She returns to her dad’s room and he confronts her about the contract marriage and the kids birth mother being alive.
Na Young calls Yul out to meet and accuses him of telling the kids the everything including Soo Ho. OH SHUT YOUR TRAP! If you don’t want people to know the shit you did, then don’t do the shit you did! Yul says he never told the kids anything but Na Young claims he must’ve have since Woo Ri rejected her. Yul tells her the kids are angry and hurt and will need some time to get use to it. Na Young apologizes for her accusation that Yul told the kids. She turns to leave and Yul stops her because he never told her something very important. He thanks her for being alive.
Da Jung tries to explain to her dad but he’s angry that she lied to him. Da Jung apologizes for the earlier lies but right now she and Yul really love each other. Dad says that isn’t enough especially with the kids mother being alive now. How could they have done something like that and lied to everyone? Did she do it for him? Because he was dying? Dad says it’s all his fault and Da Jung did nothing wrong since he was the reason she made the mistake. He should have died faster and him being alive is the mistake. Da Jung cries.
Dad sits in his hospital room that night and flips through Da Jung’s diary. He ends up writing in it but we don’t see what he wrote.
In Ho visits his hyung and finds Na Young by his bedside. He asks if things are well after meeting Yul and Na Young nods because Yul told her that he was happy she was alive. She’s become greedy since going back to being Park Na Young, being alive is a miracle and getting to see her kids is a miracle. So now she will be patient and wait for the miracle of when her kids will be willing to see her. And she will be patient for the miracle that Soo Ho will regain consciousness one day. In Ho smiles and says he will wait for that same miracle.
Da Jung calls Yul to reveal that her dad knows everything, the contract marriage and Na Young being alive. She ends the call and doesn’t see In Ho standing there watching her. Da Jung goes back to her dad’s room and he’s no longer lucid and thinks Da Jung is coming home from school. He wants to go outside for a snowball fight and make a snowman.
Da Jung cries and pushes him outside on the roof in a wheelchair. Dad is happy that it’s snowing while Da Jung tears up because it’s not snowing at all. Yul arrives at the hospital and finds the room empty.
In Ho is called back to his hyung’s hospital room by Na Young who thinks Soo Ho recognized her. In Ho runs back and calls his brother and we see Soo Ho’s eyes look towards In Ho. He asks if Soo Ho can hear him talk and recognizes him? Soo Ho stares directly at him and blinks. In Ho cries big fat tears of happiness.
Da Jung wants to take her dad inside since it’s so cold up here. Her dad compliments his considerate and beautiful daughter and thinks no man is good enough for her to marry. He wants her to marry a man who only thinks about her and wants what is best for her. Da Jung assures him that there is such a man. Dad wants to walk her down the aisle on a snowy day and Da Jung reminds her dad that it already did happen. Dad suddenly has a memory of walking Da Jung down the aisle, and then his head lolls to the side and his hands fall limp.
Da Jung finds her dad not responding to her and calls him a few more time before breaking down in tears since he’s passed away peacefully. Yul walks through the hospital and finds Da Jung crying beside her dad on the roof.
Yul stands before Da Jung’s dad’s memorial display and apologizes.
Da Jung talks to the kids at the memorial hall and Man Se asks if they won’t be able to see grandpa anymore? Da Jung explains grandpa will always live in Man Se’s heart and he can talk to him anytime. Yul walks over and asks Woo Ri to take his siblings to the car first. Na Ra cries during the walk to the car and Man Se comforts her that she can talk to grandpa in her heart. Na Ra calls Man Se an idiot for believing that since grandpa died. If that was true then they could see their mom as well. Man Se cries and Woo Ri says that it’s true they can’t see grandpa but they can still see their mom.
Da Jung thanks Yul but he wants her to just cry it out. Da Jung feels like she has no right to cry because she hasn’t gotten her dad’s forgiveness yet. But she’s fine if her dad doesn’t forgive her as long as he is around to yell at her. Instead he passed just like that and she can’t forgive herself.
Da Jung packs up her dad’s hospital room and puts all his belongings into a box. She opens his diary and finds only a few lines written down. Dad wonders what to write in the diary? His son-in-law played cards with him. His daughter’s birthday. His name. Then he writes Nam Da Jung over and over again. Da Jung clutches the diary and breaks down sobbing and apologizing to her dad.
Yul is at the basketball court with Woo Ri and asks why he changed his mind to meet his mom. Woo Ri says the passing of grandpa made him grow up because passing is the only time he can’t see someone again. Joon Ki and Yoon Hee bring Na Young to meet Woo Ri and mother-son slowly walk towards each other. Woo Ri greets her awkwardly while holding back his tears.
Na Young touches him on the cheek and Woo Ri calls her mom. She asks if she can hold him before pulling him into a tight embrace. Woo Ri cries on her shoulder.
Yul and Joon Ki discuss that the meeting with Man Se and Na Ra will happen later since they are still young and its harder to explain. Joon Ki agrees and then asks him to forget what he asked of him with respect to taking Na Young back. He knows he did a lot of wrong things in the past and asks if Yul will accept his apology. Yul laughs that this is not like Joon Ki but he is willing to let time take care of it since they are friends after all, right? He asks Joon Ki to take care of Woo Ri. Before Joon Ki leaves, Yul says he’s learned a lot from Na Young being alive which is to not let the people close to him be lonely. He advises Joon Ki to not make the same mistake as him.
The Scandal Duo discuss what is going on now that the Prime Minister has resigned and Yul doesn’t have a job. They wonder if Da Jung should be given her old job back? Da Jung arrives and asks to store a box with them and she’ll retrieve it later.
Da Jung sits with In Ho and reveals that she’s going on a trip to visit all the places she wanted to go with her dad. He asks if she’s going alone but she’s going with her dad. She congratulates him on his hyung waking up, it’s such a miracle that the day her dad passed his brother regained consciousness. In Ho says this is her dad’s gift. He wonders if Yul knows she’s leaving and she hasn’t told him and she doesn’t know when she’ll be back.
In Ho reports to Yul that tomorrow is his last day because the new PM is taking office. The kids have moved to their new residence but Yul wants to spend his last night at the mansion. In Ho tells Yul that Da Jung is going on a long trip alone. In Ho is worried about her and thinks Yul should stop Da Jung. What if she doesn’t come back? Yul reminds In Ho that he said the contract marriage will one day require them to pay a price. He knows Da Jung may not come back but he doesn’t think he has a right to stop her from leaving.
Yul walks through the mansion and thinks back to all his memories with Da Jung. He turns around and sees the real Da Jung standing there as she’s come to say goodbye in person.
In Ho runs into Hye Joo as he’s leaving work and she reveals that she quit her job with Joon Ki today. She’s not going back to Yul but is going to walk her own path. She’s here wanting to have a drink with Yul but In Ho smiles that she’s a step too late since a guest arrived first at the mansion.
Yul and Da Jung sit across from each other at the dining table and he doesn’t feel like he’s really leaving. He thanks her for teaching him a lot during their time together. He doesn’t regret any of it. Da Jung tells him that she’s going on a trip and he asks if she really has to go? Da Jung thinks if they are fated and can begin properly at that time, she’ll take his hand first. She asks Yul to be well going forward. She was very happy during their time together. Da Jung leaves Yul sitting there alone.
Yul bids farewell to his ministerial staff including Hye Joo who is there to see him off. He shakes hands with Hye Joo and In Ho and thank them for their hard work. Yul takes one final look at the mansion before getting into the car.
Some time later, reporters are gathered waiting for someone to arrive. A car pulls up and Hye Joo gets out of the car and is immediately flanked by reporters. They ask which party she is planning to join but Hye Joo says she is planning to start her own party. He wants to know if she’s putting her name into the election and she derides Reporter Byun for the stupid question.
Joon Ki and Yul are watching their kids play basketball. Yul is getting ready for the presidential election and asks Joon Ki for help. Joon Ki will doing it secretly since he’s the son-in-law of a chaebol. He teases that Yul can’t get elected since he’s divorced and not remarried – Na Young is with Soo Ho and Nam Da Jung has left him.
Yoon Hee arrives pushing a stroller and complains about being tired. He goes to check on their baby girl while Yoon Hee invites Yul to eat lunch with them all. Yul declines since he has somewhere to go. Joon Ki notices he’s holding a kids book called The Bread Loving Frog’s Happy Adventure and asks if Yul is trying to be a good dad. Yul laughs at that.
Da Jung is showing her new kids book to the Scandal News duo with her editor laughing that she spent all her savings and traveled the world for a year just to write this lame book. Hee Chul thinks the book is awesome and Da Jung smiles and explains she’s back because the book is being published today and its also the anniversary of her dad’s passing. Hee Chul tells her to wait here since they have to head out for a quick interview and will be right back.
Da Jung grabs her box stored there and looks through it. She takes out her dad’s diary and flips through it first. She then takes out her own diary and in flipping through it she finds a new entry written in the back. It’s the one her dad wrote before he passed. Dad wrote a letter to his beloved daughter Da Jung, who he loves so much. What he wished for wasn’t that she got married but he wished for her to smile and be happy. He tells her to be happy with the Kwon son-in-law that she loves. Even though they didn’t start in love he believes they will end in love. Da Jung cries as she reads this.
Da Jung heads to the memorial hall with flowers and her book but finds that someone has already been by and put her book in his case. Da Jung talks to her dad that she read his letter left for her. She brought her book for him and asks if she did well?
Yul is waiting for an interview with Reporter Byun in a garden, and it’s a testament how bored I am that I first recognized it was the Schedulers garden in 49 Days before registering Yul sitting there. Reporter Byun is running late so In Ho moved the next interview up. He heads out to check that other reporter is ready but pauses as he walks away and gives a small grin.
Yul sits there and checks his watch and remembers Da Jung wanting his time to continue forever. He hears a voice call out “Prime Minister!” He stands up and Da Jung walks towards him. They stare at each other and she corrects her greeting to “Presidential Candidate”. She officially introduces herself as the writer of the frog book. She’s here to interview him for the new book she is planning to write.
Yul asks her what the title of that book is and Da Jung reveals it’ll be called “Prime Minister and I”. Yul asks her if the lead in the book is the “I” or the “Prime Minister”? Da Jung says it ought to be both. Yul asks how long the interview will be and Da Jung wonders if he’s going to give her ten minutes like last time? They smile at each other and Da Jung asks if he’ll help her? Yul says he’ll help her but not sure how much help that’ll be.
Da Jung holds out her hand and introduces herself again. She is Nam Da Jung, and Yul takes her hand and introduces himself as Kwon Yul. They shake hands and Da Jung smiles and says “shall we get started?”. If by “get started” you mean promptly take off your clothes right after the handshake and make love right there in your own personal Garden of Eden, then by all means do so. All things else, please talk to my hand.
Thoughts of Mine:
So in the end this fairy tale the Prime Minister and his Scheherazade reunited together by shaking on it. Lovely, I couldn’t figure out if I was watching a CBS drama aimed at the geriatric set who can’t handle too much sizzle or a Saturday morning sitcom for the tween set who needs to be shielded from the more adult side of romance. The fact that this drama ended slightly less aggravating than it’s predecessor Marry Him If You Dare (Mirae’s Choice) is like being pleased the bomb hidden in the mailbox didn’t go off. Dude, I still got a freaking bomb in my mailbox!!! Way to limp to a finish, PM. Even the knowledge that Yul and Da Jung got together in the end doesn’t erase the bitter and annoyed taste from my mouth. I said this was slightly less aggravating than MHIYD since in that drama the camera cuts away before the audience sees the leading lady actually make a choice. The problem with PM is once again the writer forgetting one of the basic tenants of rom-com writing – you have to give your loyal audience S.A.T.I.S.F.A.C.T.I.O.N. See, I spelled it out for her because I’m nice like that. Otherwise I might as well live my life gobbling up entertainment of any form that basically consists of three lines “A meets B and they fall in love. Trouble arrives and they face adversity together. They conquer obstacles and end up happily ever after.” That basic Romance for Dummies outline is everywhere and the job of a writer is to flesh it out and shows us the details. We got NONE OF THAT in the final episode of 17. Everything happened off camera and the reunion was so anemic I actually felt for the first time ever in this drama that it was uncle Lee Bum Soo shaking hands with his niece Yoona. Way to ruin my ardor and cool my love for this story and pairing, writer-nim. It’s no longer enough that the ending is one where the leads are together in principle, I refuse to sit back and accept second rate knock-offs for what ought to be soul swooning moments of grand passionate union.
It almost feels like everyone BUT Da Jung and Yul got satisfying conclusions. The most well-written bits were probably Da Jung’s relationship with her father and watching him enjoying his final days before passing away peacefully. His letter to Da Jung ended up being the catalyst to give her the courage to begin anew with Yul, and his passing also brought Soo Ha back to life from laying there like a vegetable. Selfish twat Na Young not only got her kids back, she got her other man back as well. I have no clue what type of moral of the story this writer was trying to accomplish by making Na Young part of the story in the second half but for me it backfired in every conceivable way. She ruined the OTP happy times together and created an artificial reason for them to be apart. She was also such a wholly unpalatable human being that her redemption arc (if you call it that, I call it “Na Young gets away with everything” arc) was neither deserved and made all the worse because she ruined the drama narrative for me. The last few episodes were all about her and people dealing with her return and I could care less about her! I would have loved to see Hye Joo’s story get more screen time, more In Ho would be fine, hell even more Yoon Hee and Joon Ki would not piss me off nearly as much. Instead the fires of this drama got put out in the hands of a last minute interloper and PM became a dour after school special on forgiveness rather than a rom-com. What is the first rule in writing a rom-com? It has to have romance and comedy! By the end PM had neither and the so-called happy ending for Yul and Da Jung made me stare at this screen with an “I am not amused” face. It’s even more painful because I loved their characters so much and their romance had me fully invested in their eventual happiness with each other. The damn drama didn’t even have the decency to give us a hug at the end (forget a kiss, that’s like asking a pig to fly at this point). A handshake? A freaking handshake! I get the symbolism what with Da Jung saying she’ll take his hand if she sees him again, but a handshake is like paying money to go to a strip club and you end up watching a Sunday school teacher sing a choir song and take only her jacket off during the performance. I want my money back!
Because the ending was so unsatisfying, it triggered my angry buttons so much that it’s harder to analyze the actual rationale behind everyone’s decisions in this episode with a discerning eye. I see red and man it’s hard to parse through that and try and be objective. Da Jung felt guilty her dad died and therefore continued to stay away with Yul, this time going on a trip around the world? Oh c’mon! It’s like the Na Young returning bit was already a stretch to give her a reason to stay away, the drama there in another lame reason. If her dad died before finding out about the contract marriage would she have gone back to Yul? She ought to go back to him no matter what. The whole ending arc felt like the writer manipulating story lines to give Da Jung a reason to leave Yul rather than an organic development. I hate writing the means to an end. The writer didn’t even bother delving into the negative effects of Da Jung leaving three kids who have bonded with her already, it was like “sayonara” and she was outta there. Na Young’s return isn’t the same, it’s not like you can switch out one mother figure for another. This type of shoddy writing in the end if what is so hard to stomach since the beginning was all sorts of practical and delightfully sane. The set up was far-fetched but the conversations and interactions totally relatable. Joon Ki and Yoon Hee got tossed a tacked on happy ending along with Joon Ki’s abrupt turn to the good side. If I cared enough about them I would be annoyed but I don’t so at least it was one loose end that did wrap up nicely with a bow. This drama was ultimately about Nam Da Jung and Kwon Yul and the writer’s number 1 priority ought to be maximizing the sweetness of their romance above all else. Instead that very fundamental requirement was shelved for everything else and it’s sad that my takeaway from PM will be disappointment rather than delight. I don’t hate this drama and may in fact still harbor fondness for it after some time has passed, but it’s such a sad place to be in when the early parts were so promising and my dream of a perfect rom-com once again cruelly dashed against the rocks by the waves of K-drama’s inexplicable aversion to crafting a brave ending.
Click here to watch Prime Minister and I.