I don’t blame anyone for getting frustrated with this episode of Bride of the Century but I for one loved it. I think it was written with such understanding of the main characters and how they would think and behave. I also think there are a few other lingering narrative threads that bubbled to the forefront and was handled really well by throwing the OTP into another quandary. Can they be happy if everyone around them are suffering? I think this question goes beyond the easy answer that some of the suffering is self-inflicted and others are likely just well deserved. That still doesn’t mean Kang Joo and Doo Rim can turn a blind eye, and sometimes the noble idiocy just comes from taking a step back to see if there is a wider path available that more people can travel on. Many times lovers myopically see the world only in the bubble of their romance and I like that BotC drops still hard problems even if the main obstacles have been overcome. Good thing this episode finally revealed the back story of the family ghost who was indeed much involved with the Choi family.
Episode 15 recap:
President Ma barges into Doo Rim’s restaurant blaming her for all her problems which culminated tonight in Yi Kyung’s suicide attempt. She seems to think that if she kills Doo Rim then her Yi Kyung would be fine. She wraps her hands around Doo Rim’s neck and starts choking. Suddenly Doo Rim morphs into the Choi family ghost and President Ma is so scared she lets go.
The family ghost rages at President Ma, calling her an evil thing who has finally revealed her true colors. She waited for a hundred years for her to finally remember the past. Now that she remembers in her soul what her evil deeds were, the family ghost can punish her at last.
Flashback to the past life of President Ma choking the family ghost to death. The past life of Doo Rim walks in and stares in shock at what just happened. When President Ma goes to choke the baby as well, Doo Rim pushes her aside and grabs the baby to run away.
An even earlier flashback shows us a bubbly Doo Rim gathered in the Choi family courtyard to welcome home the young master. The title card tells us this is exactly one hundred years ago in the Choi family. President Ma assists the lady of house over to greet her husband the young master. He’s been gone for some time to Tokyo so he notices that young Doo Rim has grown up into a young lady now and teases her mom President Ma that she’s ready to be married. President Ma is the housekeeper of the Choi family and grouses that her Doo Rim is wild like a horse and no one will want her.
Doo Rim pulls the family ghost over and says she won’t get married and will be with unni forever. The young master asks this new servant what her name is but doesn’t get any response because she’s deaf and mute. The wife tells her husband that when she went to pray in the temple in the mountains, she was struck with stomach pain and it was that girl who helped her so they brought her back to work for the family since she has no one. The young master feels bad that she probably doesn’t even have a name.
The young master runs into the family ghost who is very nervous around him. When she bumps him in the courtyard, she pulls him aside and takes his pulse before giving him acupuncture that helps relieve his chronic headaches. He marvels at how good she is and that her needles can save a life and she is the giver of life. He wants to reward her for treating him and gives her the name Byul (Star) as a reward.
Byul is hanging sheets out to dry when the young master comes and kisses her. The young master is the one who gave her the bracelet.
This is witnessed by his wife and she clenches her skirt in rage to know her husband has fallen for a servant girl in the house. President Ma is standing beside the wife and sees this scene as well and she takes the wife’s hand to reassure her that she is on her side.
After sleeping with the young master, Byul gets up and takes out her acupuncture needles and gets ready to kill the young master. She thinks to herself that she is killing the son of the man who killed her parents and doing this will end the Choi family line forever. But she hesitates when she is about to make the killing strike and cannot bring herself to kill him because she has fall in love with him who loved a woman as lowly as she is.
President Ma tells the young master that Byul is here as the daughter of someone who holds a grudge against the family. She hid her identity and is here to harm the young master. He refuses to believe her so she shows him the poisonous pills that Byul carries on her to carry out her revenge. The young master believes her now while she smirks.
The young master takes a sword and goes to confront Byul in the side residence. He gave her his sincere heart while she wanted to end his entire family line by killing him. Byul shakes her head but she cannot explain that she gave up her revenge plans. He can’t forgive her for the deception while Byul accepts death by his hand as long as he understands that she loved him for real. He raises the sword over her before tossing it aside and tells her to leave. She’s already dead to him and he will treat her as a stranger he never met. The promises and love he shared will all be erased.
After he storms out, Byul cries and cries and then starts to retch, because of course she’s pregnant. The wife finds out and worries that her husband won’t send her away anymore if he learned she was pregnant. President Ma assures her that she has an plan.
Doo Rim and President Ma help Byul deliver a healthy baby boy. When Doo Rim goes outside to get more fresh water, President Ma tells Byul that she died along with the baby when she gave birth before proceeding to strangle Byul and then attempts to kill the baby as well. Byul begs for her baby to be saved as she is being choked to death. Doo Rim comes back in time and pushes her mom off the baby before taking him away to safety.
The wife is holding a baby in her arms while President Ma kneels before her. The wife says this baby is her now since she can’t have a baby and then orders President Ma to dispose of Byul’s body so that no trace is ever found. She tosses money to President Ma and tells her to leave here as well. President Ma sits in her room with the body of Byul and screams in fear.
Back in the present, Byul asks if President Ma thinks she can avoid punishment? She cannot, she will never be able to escape punishment! President Ma runs out of the restaurant and Byul turns back to Doo Rim who collapses on the ground in a faint. Kang Joo wakes up in the car and runs in to the restaurant to find Doo Rim passed out on the ground. He shakes her until she wakes up.
President Ma sits in her room cowering in fear. She doesn’t believe she did anything wrong, either now or a hundred years ago. She did what she needed to do to survive, to keep on living. There is nothing wrong with that.
Yi Kyung isn’t dead and Yi Hyun keeps her company as she lays in bed looking like she’s zoned out. He knows she’s shut everyone out and apologizes as oppa for not being there for her or understanding her reasons. He takes her hand to reassure her that he’ll stand by her even if no one else does. Yi Kyung closes her eyes and ignores him.
President Ma is sitting in front of a lavish dinner even though it’s morning time and eating like there is no tomorrow. Yi Hyun notices the strange behavior and she invites him to sit down and eat. They need energy to face the world especially with Yi Kyung like this. She has trouble cutting her steak so just grabs it with her hand and eats it. Her hand is oily just like she has something dirty on it. She screams about whether she has a hunger demon living in her stomach, otherwise why is she hungry no matter how much she eats. Yi Hyun stares at her so she wipes herself and grabs the wine to drink. She vows to bury the people who made Yi Kyung this way, bury them in darkness where they will rot. Yi Hyun is so freaked out.
News breaks about Doo Rim’s substitute princess gig and how she stole Yi Kyung’s man and got paid for the deception. Secretary Kim and Roo Mi inform Kang Joo that the news was leaked by President Ma and right now they can’t hold a press conference to explain the truth because Yi Kyung attempted suicide and has stopped talking so she looks really victimized.
Kang Joo goes to visit Yi Kyung but can’t get past President Ma who demands him to leave. Yi Kyung is barely alive and isn’t even talking now. She knows Kang Joo isn’t here because he really cares about Yi Kyung and must want an exchange with her. To take down the news in exchange for something? He offers an investment in her construction company but President Ma tosses it back in his face. The people who made their Yi Kyung like this she will never forgive, even if she becomes a monster she will drag them down to hell! Kang Joo has no choice but to leave today.
President Ma warns Yi Hyun to not help Doo Rim, if he shows up to help her then it’s killing Yi Kyung a second time and also severing ties with the family going foward.
Kang Joo and Doo Rim sit with Kang Joo’s mom who openly says the entire world thinks now their family is getting a liar and swindler as a daughter-in-law. Kang Joo pipes up that the public sentiment isn’t based on knowing the truth. Mom doesn’t care and won’t be giving her approval now because Mom is planning to leave this family. Both Kang Joo and Doo Rim’s eyes open wide and stare in shock at her.
Doo Rim wonders if it’s all because of her, what happened with Yi Kyung and now Kang Joo’s mom. Kang Joo assures her it’s not her fault but Doo Rim points out that if Mom leaves the family then Doo Rim won’t be able to marry in either. Kang Joo is taking a backseat and that issue between his parents needs them to resolve.
Kang Joo’s mom packs up everything and gets ready to leave. Kang Joo’s dad runs into her outside the side residence and asks what she is doing? She was getting rid of the side residence before she left since that was something he also wanted to do. He knows her decision to leave is the way she always does things, to not leave a trace. He allows her to leave because there is nothing he can do for her other than allowing her to do this. He apologizes as she walks away.
The entire household is trying to talk Kang Joo’s mom into staying but she’s determined to leave. Kang Joo tells his mom to cut it out but she tells him to marry Doo Rim after she leaves. She doesn’t like this family or Doo Rim, so after she leaves he can do what she doesn’t like. Kang Joo demands to to know why she is pushing Doo Rim away? Because of her education, class, background? No, Kang Joo’s mom doesn’t want to see Doo Rim because it reminds her of how she used to believe in that curse and did all those things because of it. She wonders if Doo Rim isn’t cursed since her existence has brought so much misfortune to everyone.
Doo Rim is being confronted outside the restaurant by swarms of media demanding to know if she took money for her substitute princess charade? Some ahjummas run up to toss eggs at her for stealing someone else’s man. Halmoni confronts those ahjumma and a scuffle breaks out. Kang Joo drives up and get out of his car and stands before the media to stake his claim. He tells them to leave and if anyone dares to harm that woman, he won’t let them off the hook.
Kang Joo asks Doo Rim to close the restaurant for now and go somewhere to lay low. Doo Rim refuses to lie but Kang Joo points out that public anger is too irrational. He takes her hand and asks her to please listen to him on this one.
Doo Rim goes to visit Yi Kyung who remains curled up in bed ignoring the outside world. Doo Rim sits down on Yi Kyung’s bed and takes her hand which startles Yi Kyung out of her stupor and she pulls her hand away and turns her back on Doo Rim.
Doo Rim sits and thinks about how everyone is pinning what happened on her. Since she was born she never desired anything and never desired anyone as much as she did Kang Joo. It’s her first time so why isn’t she allowed to just this once? Byul appears in her scary black form and says Doo Rim should hate the world and hate everyone who doesn’t allow her to be happy. Of the two girls, one of them is destined to be the light and the other will become the shadow. If Doo Rim is happy then Yi Kyung will lock herself in her room forever and waste away, just like Byul died without even being able to scream once.
Doo Rim cries and Byul leans down and says “If you love him then don’t consider other people’s misfortune, just go be with the man you desire so much.” Doo Rim cries and shakes her head because this isn’t how she lives her life.
Doo Rim lays in bed with halmoni and asks if halmini misses the ocean. Doo Rim misses the smell of the ocean and her parents, living in Namhae with halmoni was so free. They ate warm sweet potatoes and watched halmoni’s favorite dramas. Doo Rim curls into halmoni and asks to go back to live by the beach. Halmoni wonders if Doo Rim can forget that boy and Doo Rim admits can’t because she can’t live without Kang Joo. But she also can’t build her happiness on other people’s unhappiness. She cries and asks halmoni what she should do? Halmoni can only hug Doo Rim and comfort her.
Doo Rim sits with Kang Joo’s dad who notices she’s looking wan lately. Doo Rim assures him she’s fine though she’s more worried about him. Doo Rim brings up how Kang Joo initially seemed so far away from her and she couldn’t ever get close, but with time she did. Wasn’t that the same between Kang Joo’s parents? She hopes Kang Joo’s dad can keep the place ready for Kang Joo’s mom to return one day.
The butler walks Doo Rim out and asks her to stay since Kang Joo is coming home soon from work. She declines and makes an extra point of wishing the butler good health until the next time they meet.
Kang Joo and Doo Rim talk on the phone that night and she’s uncharacteristically quiet. Doo Rim asks how his mom is doing living with his aunt and Kang Joo assures her that his mom is fine since he visited yesterday. He suggests they visit her this weekend together. Before hanging up Kang Joo asks Doo Rim to sing for him.
Doo Rim sings for him and cries as she remembers their time together.
Kang Joo comes by the restaurant the next morning and finds Doo Rim and halmoni already gone and leaving him with only a note. She asks him to endure and says this isn’t the end of their love. She’s not running away and will protect him in her own way. She wants to find a place that he can’t find and continue to love him more, and love the others around her more. She ends the letter with “I love you”, which doesn’t do much to alleviate the pain of the letter that tells him you left.
Yi Kyung reads a note from Doo Rim that she’s leaving Seoul with halmoni now and hopes life can return to normal for Yi Kyung without her around. Yi Kyung remembers all her interactions with Doo Rim and Kang Joo. Doo Rim wishes Yi Kyung can let down her anger and despair and fill it with laughter and happiness instead. She wishes Yi Kyung’s health will recover and she can regain normalcy in her life. Yi Kyung gets out of bed for the first time and lets the bright sunlight shine on her face from the window.
Yi Kyung goes to see her mom and President Ma is sleeping in bed. She immediately gets up and asks if Yi Kyung is ill? Yi Kyung calls her “mom” which makes President Ma so happy that she can talk again. Yi Kyung asks why her mom did all that? Why did she hurt Doo Rim when Doo Rim did nothing wrong and they were the ones who are in the wrong. How could her mom try to make Doo Rim disappear, that wouldn’t make Yi Kyung feel better. Yi Kyung chose to lock out the world so she could think clearly and by herself. She thought through everything they did and realized they committed so many wrongs! They did things human beings should never do.
President Ma says Yi Kyung cannot talk this way to her because she did it all for Yi Kyung but that isn’t true and Yi Kyung says her mom did it for her own desire and wants. President Ma suddenly sees Doo Rim instead of Yi Kyung and tries to choke her but quickly realizes it and lets go. Then Yi Kyung morphs in scary Byul and President Ma shrinks back in fear. She cries for Yi Kyung to stay away from her because she doesn’t know when she’ll hurt Yi Kyung again. Yi Kyung cries for her mom.
President Ma is committed to a mental hospital for evaluation. Yi Kyung and Yi Hyun tend to her but President Ma has already deteriorated so much she doesn’t believe Yi Kyung is her daughter and asks where her Yi Kyung is. She recognizes Yi Hyun and asks him for Yi Kyung. Then she has a moment of lucidity and hugs Yi Kyung.
Kang Joo scrolls through pictures of Doo Rim on his cell and tells himself not to smile. He’s angry that she left and wonders why she came into his life if she was only going to leave in the end. Kang Joo has a dream that night of the previous Choi family male head of households and then he wakes up to find Byul stroking his head. He asks her not to hurt Doo Rim and then falls asleep again.
When Kang Joo wakes up the next morning he looks determine like he had an epiphany. He goes to the side residence and walks up to the altar and thinks that he never knew what his purpose was to exist in this world until he met that woman. She is his only and no matter where she is in the world he will miss her and love her. Waiting is also a form of love and even if they are far apart they are still together in their hearts.
Doo Rim walks to a cliff and seems to be having a past life recollection. Servant girl Doo Rim tells her unni Byul that she understands what Byul is thinking from her eyes. It’s filled with love and longing. Byul smiles. Doo Rim wonders why the young master couldn’t understand Byul without hearing her explain, it’s written so clearly in her eyes. Doo Rim promises to tell the young master when he gets back from Tokyo how much Byul unni misses him and loves him. The baby in Byul’s belly kicks and the two girls smile.
We now jump to when President Ma killed Byul and then tried to kill the baby. Doo Rim pushes her mom side and runs away carrying the baby in her arms. Byul thanks Doo Rim for saving her baby. This debt of gratitude that she couldn’t repay in this life she will repay even in another life. Doo Rim holds her stomach like an expectant mother would.
Suddenly Byul appears beside her this time dressed in all white. She takes Doo Rim’s hand and smiles at her. She assures Doo Rim that this isn’t the end but is instead the beginning.
Thoughts of Mine:
This episode was both chock full of important exposition yet felt strangely light and missing on the intensity. That’s probably due to the family ghost Byul’s story coming across like the telling of a woeful tale that doesn’t really stick because it’s so long ago in the past in this story timeline. It was also glossed over so we don’t really feel the love between her and the Choi young master. I do think the Choi family men having not a lot of trust in people comes from that first young master who didn’t believe in his love with Byul and was easily swayed to forsake her. If this story in the beginning was about Doo Rim earning the right to be with Kang Joo by breaking the so-called curse and later earning his live, I find the separation at the end of the episode also a huge test for Kang Joo in learning what it means to love. He passed the test by understanding that love means waiting and trusting that he will be with Doo Rim in the end. I thought past life President Ma and Doo Rim showed up much too quickly to play the antagonist and savior before that segment ended. I was surprised President Ma didn’t kill Byul for her daughter’s sake such as trying to have her take Byul’s place. But it was still cold-blooded murder and the scene remains really hard to watch.
This drama definitely pulls a lot from the Buddhist beliefs about fate and reincarnation, the way President Ma and Yi Kyung appear meant to be mother-daughter like she was in the past life with Yi Kyung’s lookalike Doo Rim. This story also talks about how sins need to be repented and the sinner must suffer even if it’s many lives later. I thought President Ma going crazy was scarily intense to watch, and I think it’s a fitting ending for her. Being locked in her own mental prison cell is far worse than serving a few years for attempted murder and then getting out to continue on as if nothing happened. I don’t mind Yi Kyung finally snapping out of her self-delusion and realizing she was totally in the wrong for what happened with Doo Rim. Love and forgiveness really did turn out to be the key that breaks the destructive chains of anger and resentment. Only by letting go can people move on. I think it’s symbolic that both the Choi family brides left their men in this episode, Kang Joo’s mom and Doo Rim both left and it was because they loved too much and also knew they did some wrong that they needed to walk away. Doo Rim did lie, she did agree to the substitute princess deal, she did keep on pressing forward with Kang Joo to earn a chance to be with him. He may have forgiven her but she hasn’t really forgiven herself. I think that’s the key for both Kang Joo’s mom and Doo Rim’s leaving as each is seeking absolution that comes from within.
It’s a little disappointing to see a lot of characters fall by the wayside as the drama sped towards resolutions for the major conflicts. Secretary Kim and Jin Joo’s budding romance fell off a cliff as did Kang In’s character who showed up like twice in six episodes. Roo Mi turned awesome only to have her screen time drop precipitously, which goes to show that it’s a lot more fun to write an antagonist who immediately spices up the action but harder to write scenes involving sensible considerate characters. Yi Hyun has been effectively a passive character since he got bonked in the head and went into a coma. Even after waking up he’s been relegated to reacting to the crazy women around him and being a bit sad that he really doesn’t have a chance with Doo Rim. I don’t think it hurts this drama but it would have made it even better if the writer could have kept such nice and interesting characters a bit more central to the story even towards the end. It’s pretty clear that everyone is getting a happy ending that deserves it while the those who have done something wrong are atoning in ways big and small. Now the big question is – how many Kang Joo-Doo Rim kisses will we get for the final episodes, and how juicy will it be? I’m praying for loud making out but resigned for sweet chaste pecks will still deliver all the feels I’m waiting for.
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