I want to start off my recap for episode 16 of Bride of the Century by giving a heartfelt thanks to the cast, crew, and production team behind this drama. It’s not easy gaining viewership or traction when a drama airs on cable, even harder when it’s one of the most niche and small cable networks such as Chosen TV. Right off the bat Bride of the Century was off-putting with its silly name and a cast of no known audience lures outside of F.T. Island and/or Lee Hong Ki fangirls. If anyone claims to be a Yang Jin Sung fan and that was the reason for checking out this drama, then you’re likely the first and only. Becoming a drama veteran means losing the element of surprise these days, I write about castings and previews and always have an ear to the ground so rarely does a drama sneak up on me. So the chance encounter with BotC felt like a double dose of pleasure to be surprised about a drama I never noticed and have it end up being so delightfully entertaining a watch. Perhaps it ought to be a triple dose of pleasure since I also acquired two new acting loves in Lee Hong Ki and Yang Jin Sung.
The pleasure I derived from this drama, it all came from a place of zero expectation so I can’t say future viewers who watch BotC after hearing raves and recommendations will necessarily like it as much. I do think a lot about it will stand up to the test of time. BotC was a throwback K-drama that used plenty of tropes but in ways that worked. I can’t tell you how hard that is since some dramas end up sinking on just one trope done wrong. While the drama did have a stronger start than finish, it didn’t putter to a conclusion and actually allowed the final two episodes to say something meaningful and heartfelt about what the central premise of this story was all about. All the mysteries were revealed by the end without any threads left hanging which was also quite a feat. Admittedly some of the heady romance mellowed into loving companionship but I think this drama’s nicely plotted and paced trajectory still delivered on what it set out to do. I watched a fantastic OTP fall in love and overcome all odds to be together and did so in a way that left a positive impression on the world around them. That’s a pretty nifty thing to pull off these days and for that I’m pleased as a peach with BotC when all is said and done.
Episode 16 recap:
Doo Rim stands on a bluff overlooking the ocean and holds her stomach while smiling contently. Byul appears and takes Doo Rim’s hand and reassures her “This is not the end but is instead the beginning. You have taught them that missing and longing is still a form of love.”
Byul tells Doo Rim to endure this painful journey now so that once she walks the path she will be able to see what awaits her at the end of the road. Doo Rim stares at Byul and then the two of them look out over the water together.
Kang Joo sports a different hairstyle and is walking the department store floor with Roo Mi and Secretary Kim. Roo Mi mentions that the department store won the highest honor in Korea this year which is a good image booster for the company. Kang Joo’s plan to convert part-timers to full-time employees has also garnered good public feedback. Roo Mi knows what is behind Kang Joo’s change and that brings a smirk to Kang Joo’s face.
Kang Joo stops when he sees a VVIP customer being difficult with a sales clerk insisting on returning a purse past the return period. The sales clerk remains polite but stands her ground so the customer angrily tosses the purse at her.
Kang Joo walks over and calls the customer “ahjumma” and says she doesn’t match up to the purse anyway so he orders the sales clerk to process the return. But in turn the customer has to apologize to the sales clerk. The customer storms off and Kang Joo tells Roo Mi to go handle it.
Kang Joo runs into the department store endorsement model who is clearly interested in him and asks to have dinner when he has time. She whispers in his ear wondering why he’s not married?
Kang Joo whips out his left hand with the wedding ring on it and informs her that he is already married. He walks off leaving the model wondering if she got rejected for that Na Doo Rim or some ghost bride.
Kang Joo finds a toddler crying in the play area and picks him up. He suddenly sees Doo Rim walking towards him but it’s just a figment of his imagination as the toddler’s mother comes to take him back.
Kang Joo’s dad visits his dead first wife’s memorial spot with Kang Joo’s mom. He mentions that it’s been two years since she left home but he’s been waiting for her daily since. In the days ahead he wants to live as her man. He understands know that it was fate which brought her to him. When he dies he will go back to the earth but if he becomes the wind then he hopes the first person he meets is her.
Kang Joo’s mom asks “What if I say no?” Kang Joo’s dad smiles and embraces her and she smiles and hugs him back. Well that was easy.
Kang Joo stands in his room and stares at the wedding ring and thinks “It’s been two years since that woman left. As she wanted, a peaceful world has been created. Those who have left have now returned.” Kang In comes in to call Kang Joo out to have a snack.
The Choi family sits down to a roasted sweet potato with kimchee late night snack. Kang In discusses his upcoming showcase and asks his mom why this particular dish for a snack? It makes him miss Doo Rim noona and he wishes she could come to his next showcase. Kang Joo hands a peeled sweet potato to his mom which gets everyone to want one as well.
As Kang Joo watches his family happily eating he thinks “After that woman left I realized she left us a lot of gifts. The empty spot where she would be has been filled with laughter instead of tears. But I still miss her so much.”
Another Spring arrives and Doo Rim heads to work but not before kissing her son Kang Rim goodbye. Awwww, his name! Halmoni hands Doo Rim her lunch and then waves her off.
Doo Rim heads to the pier to run her daily fresh fish stand at the outdoor market. A high school girl walks by and tells Doo Rim that she got number one on her exams. That makes Doo Rim happy and she hands some food and medicine for the girl to take back to her grandfather and then gives her a bit of pocket money for doing well in school. The girl promises to keep doing well in school.
The girl notices Doo Rim knitting something for Kang Rim and moans about missing that baby boy. Doo Rim welcomes her to visit this weekend. After the girl heads off, Doo Rim sits down to continue knitting but then she stops and looks up at the sun and thinks “Are you doing well? I’m doing pretty well. Our son who looks like us is the present you gave me. Looking at him helps alleviate my missing you, and is how I endure missing you. I hope to see you at the other end of the road under this same blue sky. I miss you very much.”
Kang Joo’s dad finds Kang Joo kneeling by the momma cat grave and mentions how the Spring has made the flowers bloom and is also when the birds come back to nest. With his waiting and patience good news will come soon.
Kang In and Roo Mi go to see the fortune teller who thinks they are here for marital fortune but Roo Mi cuts him off and explains she is here to look for a Na Doo Rim. The fortune teller snarks that they ought to go to the police or a detective agency to find someone since he has no power to find people. Roo Mi doesn’t know why this fortune teller can’t help.
The fortune teller says Kang In and Roo Mi are a match made in Heaven and fated to be. That makes Kang In smile but Roo Mi says that won’t happen. The fortune teller says if they don’t get married then misfortune will befall both. He tells Roo Mi to not be blind to the precious gem before her otherwise she is ruining her own future.
Roo Mi still doesn’t believe him and heads out. After she leaves, Kang In winks at him and says “thank you” before handing him an envelope. He takes it out and wonders why he has no spiritual eye lately and needs to take money from the youngsters to tell them what they want to hear. Heh.
Roo Mi hands the latest Doo Rim sighting location to Kang Joo and he heads there like he always does even if he comes home empty handed. After he walks out, Roo Mi prays to the Heavens to let them finally find each other.
Kang Joo arrives at the port town where Doo Rim now lives and he walks around showing her picture to people while we see Doo Rim doing her daily deliveries around town. They end up just barely missing each other a few times.
Kang Joo is about to give up when night falls and he gets a call from Roo Mi about a new lead elsewhere. As he’s walking away, Doo Rim is nearby and someone bumps into her which makes her drop her bag. A ball of red yard rolls down the hill and stops next to Kang Joo’s feet.
He picks it up and looks back to see Doo Rim standing there staring at him. FINALLY. They stare at and slowly walk towards each other. This moment might call for some slo-mo running towards each other motion but I’ll take what I can get.
Doo Rim starts to cry while Kang Joo smiles with his eyes filled with tears. He has to look down for a second to compose himself.
Kang Joo heads to where Doo Rim lives with halmoni and baby Kang Rim. We see a Kang Joo dedicated wall covered with news articles about him, which isn’t stalkerish at all in this context. Doo Rim tells baby Kang Rim that his daddy is here. Daddy Kang Joo has truly learned major patience over the years because he doesn’t flip his lid and instead smiles at the baby warmly. He hears that the baby is named after both Kang Joo and Doo Rim but all his features look like Kang Joo.
Halmoni is so grateful that Kang Joo didn’t forget Doo Rim and came to find her. Kang Joo asks halmoni to accept a full bow from him, which is the greatest respect he can pay her as Doo Rim’s elder. He apologizes for coming so late, he is so sorry. Kang Rim starts saying “appa, appa”. AWWWWW.
Jin Joo is now running the restaurant and customers come now because this restaurant is now known as where Choi Kang Joo and Na Doo Rim’s love story began. They have read their love story and it made them cry. They want to know where Doo Rim is now so they can get her signature but Jin Joo says Doo Rim is visiting her in-laws.
Halmoni sits down with the entire Choi family and unwraps one red bridal shoe. Kang Joo’s parents both recognize it. Flashback to fifty years ago when Doo Rim’s grandmother was marrying Kang Joo’s grandfather. During their wedding night, she purposely drugged the drink.
Kang Joo’s grandfather sits down and asks if she believes in the curse that the first bride of the family will die as an offering to the family protector ghost. Doo Rim’s grandmother says nothing. Kang Joo’s grandfather gets up to sit next to her and takes her hand. He reveals that he actually purposely spread the curse because it was the only way he could marry her. The first time he met her was that Spring when she came to sew for the family. He saw her smile as she was complimented for her skills. He fell in love with her at first sight.
Kang Joo’s grandfather is told that they can’t find the body. He also asked for another investigation and is told that another man who lived in the same village also disappeared last night and he was formerly sweethearts with Doo Rim’s grandmother. Kang Joo’s grandfather realizes that Doo Rim’s grandmother left him intentionally for another man. He’s so angry but because he loves her then he will let her go. He ends up taking her one left behind shoe back to the family altar and leaves it there.
Yi Kyung is jogging towards the mental hospital where her mom now lives when she stops and smiles. Standing there is Doo Rim and the two lookalikes smile at each other warmly.
The fortune teller is pulling a late night studying booking on divination. Suddenly Byul appears before him and he quickly gets up to welcome her. He notices Byul is smiling and wonders what good thing happened? Byul ate the worship food prepared sincerely for her and it’s so delicious and she’s all full now. The fortune teller dares to ask Byul how the two girls look identical even though they are not related.
Byul smiles and we see baby Doo Rim in her mom’s arms while President Ma smiles at her baby Yi Kyung. Suddenly a darkness descends in the room and President Ma faints. Byul appears and waves her hand over baby Yi Kyung’s face and changes it to be identical to baby Doo Rim’s face. Byul says that from now on, the two girls will no longer be one sun and one shadow but will instead both continue on their own lives as two different suns.
The fortune teller wonders if Byul is leaving now that her wish has been fulfilled? Byul knows that his business isn’t doing well so he wants her to stay. He asks if she really needs to leave? Byul says that parting only allows meeting again and that is an unchangeable truth about life. She disappears and the fortune teller goes back to studying to earn his keep himself.
Kang Joo’s mom finds the dining room empty even thought Doo Rim asked to learn tea from her and looks towards Kang Joo’s dad’s study. Everyone is inside playing hwatu with Doo Rim winning over everyone else. She walks in and Doo Rim immediately apologizes and sticks the blame on Kang Joo for this game. Kang Joo doesn’t help out his wife and says it was all Doo Rim’s idea. Kang Joo’s mom notices her husband is losing and tells Doo Rim to pass the cards out. She warns Doo Rim not to cry when she loses. She then chides Kang Joo’s dad for losing to the kids. Heh.
Doo Rim offers up a cup of tea she brewed to Kang Joo’s mom who takes a sip and compliments her on doing well. Doo Rim asks if the butler and the housekeeper can have some time off so they can visit their married daughter who lives far away. Kang Joo’s mom likes the idea and tells Doo Rim to go ahead. She then hands the side residence key to Doo Rim and asks her to handle it going forward. She can see Doo Rim taking care of the family and even the help and she knows Doo Rim will lead the family well.
The housekeeper rushes over because Kang Rim is missing and appears to have wandered off in the blink of an eye. Doo Rim knows he’s in the side residence. The ladies laugh that he’s just like Kang Joo that way. We see Byul dandling little Kang Rim happily.
Doo Rim and Kang Joo walk through the courtyard and he suggests planning a new tree to name after Kang Rim so that it can grow up tall and strong as well. Doo Rim tells Kang Joo that it’s not easy to plant a tree and to ask for help. Kang Joo refuses and wants to do it himself since it’s a tree for his Kang Rim. Kang Joo looks around the courtyard to find the right spot for the new tree. Doo Rim points out that all the flowers are blooming on the existing trees and they walk off arm-in-arm.
Thoughts of Mine:
I thought the writer of BotC did a really good job telling an unique story. The writing stuck to the confines of the mythology of the curse, the ghost, and the idea of reincarnation with good being rewarded and evil being punished. Most importantly it adhered to the mantra that love is the key to break the chain of anger and used that platform consistently to the end. I quite liked it even if the final major plot point was the much-disliked OTP separation sequence. It worked here for various reasons, but that’s not to say it didn’t still have the same effect of sucking some of the romance out of the air. The separation wasn’t milked for tears and really did solve all the lingering knots left in the story. It did so by using time to mellow out the public disdain for Kang Joo and Doo Rim’s romance, it did so by making Kang Joo’s dad realize that he’s always loved Kang Joo’s mom but took her for granted by carrying around his first love, and it taught Kang Joo the final lesson he needed to learn which was humility chiseled by patience. It was also the period of penance for President Ma, whether gaining Doo Rim’s forgiveness means she was going to recover from her mental illness or not, she still spent two years trapped in that hospital bed going crazy. Yi Kyung kept her mother company and in that love and devotion she regained her own humanity.
The lack of tears, recriminations, and needing to discuss issues in the final episode was a mature way to let the lover’s reconcile after their time apart. Kang Joo was sad but not angry, Doo Rim was resilient but not delusional. He missed her, she missed him, and perhaps their separation wasn’t 100% unavoidable or absolutely necessary but to argue that is beside the point, it’s a choice she made and he respected. I don’t think Kang Joo started looking for her again until after that Spring talk with his dad about bringing her back. I think he respected her choice and let her leave, and only when he saw that everything around him was back to the way things should be did he reach out to her. It was nicely done because the circumstances which propelled Doo Rim to leave had changed over time. Because Korea is a country that has strong Christian and Buddhist beliefs, dramas sometimes incorporates elements and ideology from these two religions into the storytelling. BotC was one of those dramas that was constructed solely out of Buddhist theology and the ending came about using a very Buddhist belief of not forcing things.The water will never be able to pass through the rock in the stream but by parting it can move through. Buddhism has a very central tenet that says a person cannot covet what does not belong and an off-shoot of that says if something is meant to be then sometimes the forceful method is not right and stepping back means preserving a state of harmony for all. It’s definitely a more passive philosophy but I quite appreciated the sensible use of it in this drama.
The whole first bride curse and the family ghost was delightfully thought out and followed through on and was definitely one of the highlights of this drama. The supernatural element wasn’t just used for kicks but instead allowed to permeate through the entire story and even gets it own happy ending. Halmoni’s connection with the Choi family was kept secret until the very last episode which worked because it wasn’t all that important anyways. She was one of the first brides but didn’t die because she used the curse to her advantage and ran away with her lover. How cool is that for her to turn her poverty and an unwanted marriage to her own advantage. While Doo Rim and Kang Joo remain a couple for the drama screen only, it was nice to spend time with people who recognize good in others and was capable of change. Doo Rim’s positive influence radiated outward to everyone she touched and in the end it was that kindness which probably brought her the love of her life in the form of the unattainable Kang Joo. They really are a pair one hundred years in the making and it’s been a lovely ride to spend watching them spar and snuggle their way to a happily ever after. This drama was a winner from start-to-finish and for that it’s a keeper in my book.
Click here to watch Bride of the Century.