The final episode of Pinocchio is as perfect as it gets. Time was spent on all the main characters to wrap up their threads while reaching satisfying resolutions on the central conflicts. I couldn’t have asked for a better finale, except perhaps more fan service and that’s something I can never get enough of when it comes from a drama I love. I definitely love Pinocchio without reservation, a drama that’s highly recommendable and thoroughly satisfying a watch. I wouldn’t change a thing about it, except perhaps wished this drama had a bit more stickiness with viewers. For fans of Lee Jong Seok and Park Shin Hye, this show is absolutely a new career high for them and they earned every bit of praise garnered.
Writing a drama can’t always please every single viewer and perhaps some will find the resolutions for all the antagonists here too light or underwhelming. I find it realistic even if my inner justice rager wants a heavier hand for people who careless and cruelly hurt others for personal gain. But the second half of this drama was all about forgiveness and doing the right thing much as the first half was about truth and consequences. Ha Myung’s journey took him through every conceivable up and down until he earned the right to decide his own actions. He chose to move on and with it came the happiness that eluded him due to childhood circumstances and his own nagging guilt. That happiness included In Ha, herself earning a happily ever after because she toughed it out. All in all, it’s win for the good guys wrapped in a hopeful conclusion whatever the future brings.
Episode 20 recap:
Bum Jo falsely confesses to ordering the newsroom attacks, being the last of the noble idiots on this show but still oh so moving in his attempt to be a good son and good human being at the same time.
In Ha and Ha Myung try to explain to the investigating officer that Bum Jo is lying about his involvement. The officer figures as much but with Bum Jo’s confession then he’s on the hook as the perp unless and until another person confesses to the crime. Ha Myung then hears the other MSC rookie discussing how Bum Jo’s mom is planning to go to the police station for investigation and also to confess. The sunbae reporters in command central are all atwitter about this turn of events and orders their rookies to wait outside the police station.
Cha Ok isn’t surprised that Bum Jo’s mom is going in for investigation because that’s the only way to get her son out of jail. She also thinks Bum Jo confessed on purpose to get his mom to agree to face the media and be forced to answer the reporters’ questions. Cha Ok has lost the right to be a reporter and reminds In Ha not to waste this opportunity.
The lawyer tries to dissuade Bum Jo’s mom from going in personally for investigation, assuring her that they will get Bum Jo out of jail. Mom has nearly lost her marbles and screams that she can’t wait another second and wants her precious son out now and this is the only way. The lawyer then asks Mom to keep her cool in front of the media and she barks back that she’s not an idiot!
The reporters are all primed for Bum Jo’s mom’s big arrival moment, setting up their cameras and looking through their question notes. Ha Myung finds In Ha crossing out her notes and practicing her questions on him. Cha Ok mocks In Ha’s questions and brings up the strategy Bum Jo’s mom will employ. She will promise to cooperate with the investigation and apologize for letting the public down. Sure enough Bum Jo’s mom practices saying this with her lawyer in the car.
Cha Ok tells In Ha and Ha Myung to push Bum Jo’s mom to admit that confessing means she’s the real mastermind. Cha Ok specifically tells Ha Myung to ask the questions to Bum Jo’s mom that he wanted to ask Cha Ok, and Cha Ok will watch from the sidelines and not miss a word.
Ha Myung flashes back to taking the brotherly picture with Jae Myung before he turned himself in. The photographer marvels over the two handsome young men and urges the little brother to smile. Jae Myung turns to Ha Myung and tells him to be happy. Ha Myung wants to know what Jae Myung planned to say to Cha Ok and he will one day say it to her.
Bum Jo’s mom arrives outside the police station and immediately adopts a sincerely chastened and apologetic attitude. She bows low and promises to cooperate fully with the investigation. The reporters run forward throwing questions at her but she just keeps repeating the same statement back. Ha Myung flashes back to the pain his family endured after the false reporting and then to Jae Myung saying that he has nothing to say and wants Ha Myung to ask the questions he would ask as a real reporter. He wants to see Ha Myung become a reporter the way Cha Ok is not.
Ha Myung walks up to Bum Jo’s mom and asks if she thinks her son is innocent. That finally gets her attention and she quickly says of course he’s innocent. Ha Myung follows up asking what she feels seeing the reporters falsely accusing her son of a crime he didn’t commit? Bum Jo’s mom tries to stick with the script but can’t stop herself from saying that it was all a mistake. Ha Myung asks if she believes a mistake should be corrected?
Bum Jo’s mom’s lawyer can’t stop her as she screams that Ha Myung must feel aggrieved and if so he needs to correct the mistake himself! She yells that her son is innocent and he’s a good boy who will not hurt anyone. In Ha chimes in that Bum Jo wanted to shoulder the crimes together with his mom. The other reporters ask if her son didn’t contribute to any criminal wrongdoing? Bum Jo’s mom screams that her son did nothing wrong, he was trying to cover and protect her so the reporters need to stop smearing him. The reporters take her outburst as confession of her crimes while her lawyers try to usher her into the police station while Bum Jo’s mom glares at Ha Myung.
The media is dispersing outside the police station as Ha Myung and In Ha realize Bum Jo’s mom will not squirm free this time. In Ha wonders why Ha Myung didn’t ask the questions he’s been holding inside all this time? Ha Myung claims he doesn’t know which is when he sees Cha Ok staring at him. Cha Ok says “you always have a way of making me feel so pathetic” before walking away.
In Ha feels bad for Bum Jo but Ha Myung assures her that the truth will eventually come out one way or another.
Chan Soo watches the news coverages and gets a call from Ha Myung to ask for a favor. He wants Chan Soo to dismiss the complaint against Cha Ok because Ha Myung has gotten what he wanted from her.
Yoo Rae is working on the big news story when PD Hwang walks by telling her that he’s looking forward to her report on the big story. Yoo Rae is even more certain that he has a crush on her and is all twirling her hair and skipping into the meeting.
PD Hwang wants to hear from the rookies what other angles they can coverage the story. Ha Myung thinks she’s misusing company resources to get her out of this crime. Yoo Rae suggests covering Bum Jo’s mom’s fashion, the way she showed up at the police station dressed down to look remorseful. That gets her yelled at for her frivolous suggestion and all the rookies are reminded to take this case coverage seriously.
Yoo Rae is in a foul mood after getting yelled at during the meeting. Reporter Jang walks by and Yoo Rae asks for his headband now because she thinks it suits her. Reporter Jang happily puts it on her before all of them are yelled at by their sunbae to get back out there to do their jobs!
Ha Myung reports that Bum Jo’s mom has confessed to everything during the investigation but she never ordered anyone to be killed and the newsroom attack was just to threaten the reporters. Her connections with the congressman are also revealed and the other network reporters wonder what will happen at MSC. Yoo Rae reports that Bum Jo’s mom has decided to sell all her shares in Bum Jo Group and the company has suffered immense losses during this time.
Ha Myung welcomes Bum Jo out of detention and is asked by Ha Myung didn’t ask his mom all those questions he must be harboring inside? Ha Myung thanks Bum Jo for everything he did and offers to do whatever Bum Jo needs. In Ha arrives and Bum Jo immediately asks for thirty minutes alone with In Ha so he can say his farewells.
Bum Jo takes In Ha to the convenience store where she worked after failing her reporter interview. Bum Jo remembers that day was In Ha’s birthday and her mom came by to offer her an intern job. Bum Jo actually came that day to give In Ha a birthday present which he didn’t end up giving her which was his biggest regret. Bum Jo takes out the present and wishes In Ha a happy birthday. He always wanted to meet her and is very happy to have finally made her acquaintance.
In Ha thanks Bum Jo who tease whether he’s super cool right now. He then bear hugs In Ha and teases that he can’t leave empty handed. Bum Jo walks off coolly leaving In Ha with a sad smile.
Cha Ok reads the charges dismissal notice that indicates Chan Soo dropped the charges against her. Reporter Kim is happy for Cha Ok and gossips that rumors are their MSC chief will be fired in the next few days. Cha Ok hands her resignation letter for Reporter Kim to pass on even though he wants her to endure. She’s ready to move on but asks Reporter Kim to hang in there.
Bum Jo pays a visit to his mom in jail and she’s still worried about how he must’ve suffered to be in detention and sleeping on the hard floor. She’s chubby so it’s not as bad but her son is skinny so that must be uncomfortable. Mom assures Bum Jo that she’ll be let out soon with a fine and do some community service since she did so much for this country. Bum Jo cries while Mom thinks people will forget soon and she’ll be out and can start over. Bum Jo doesn’t want to be in business going forward and wants to do her own thing.
Cha Ok is leaving MSC when the Chief runs out asking why the prosecutor’s office is investigating him? Cha Ok has already told the prosecutors what they want to know and coolly gets into the elevator to head down while the Chief screams at her.
Cha Ok thinks back to Ha Myung yelling at her for all her failures as a reporter and she answers his questions now. With his last question “Are you really a reporter?” Cha Ok answers “No.”
Ha Myung and In Ha are folding laundry and he tries to find out where she went with Bum Jo for 42 whole minutes! In Ha’s phone rings with Ji Hee emailing her pictures from the housewarming party. Ha Myung leans in to see the pictures and both pause when In Ha gets to the picture of them holding the little baby.
Dad comes by wondering what they are looking at before spotting the picture and ordering the two into the bedroom to talk. The two immediately try to explain about the picture but Dad isn’t here to talk about that. He tried to hint to Grandpa about In Ha and Ha Myung but Grandpa is vehemently against it, saying it was incestuous for an uncle/niece to be in love. Grandpa doesn’t want to lose two sons. Dad is against trying to convince Grandpa and tells them to just lie, live as uncle-niece in front of Grandpa only.
Ha Myung remembers he also said that when he was a kid and pretending to be Grandpa’s son. Ha Myung agrees but asks for more time. Ha Myung lays in bed remembering his vow to Dad that family is also most important to him and he won’t break up the family. In Ha stands outside his room when he suddenly opens the door and she falls in his arms. Ha Myung asks to talk but In Ha makes an excuse to go to the bathroom and avoids the conversation.
Reporter Kim has moved up from MSC and is leaving the news command central. He asks if the other reporters will miss him and hears that the locks will be changed so he can’t get in anymore. Reporter Kim then remembers a YGN rookie who used to get drunk and sleep here? How could she have gotten in if she didn’t know the passcode? PD Hwang pretends to read a newspaper and we see that he carted Yoo Rae there to sleep on the sofa after finding her drunkenly making a scene.
In Ha finds a post-hangover Yoo Rae in the rookies lounge and wonders if she slept in the news central last night? Yoo Rae did but even she’s clueless how she gets in there. Ha Myung finds In Ha and asks to talk but she makes a lying excuse and runs off.
Ha Myung finds In Ha hiding behind the vending machine and forces her to talk. In Ha doesn’t want to talk because she knows what he’s going to say. Ha Myung then surprises her by saying that he won’t give up on her. He will convince Grandpa to let them be together. He won’t lie anymore because he realized that happiness cannot come from living a lie. Ha Myung flashes back to living a lie and missing a chance with his brother. In Ha also understands because she learned what her mom was really like and through the pain discovered the truth.
Ha Myung wants to go with In Ha to ask for Grandpa’s approval now. She asks what he’ll do if Grandpa doesn’t approve? Ha Myung will accept it because there is nothing they can do. Grandpa saved Ha Myung and raised him, he also brought Ha Myung the opportunity to meet In Ha. Even if the entire world approves of them, if Grandpa doesn’t then Ha Myung can’t go against him to be with In Ha. She cries and understands. They embrace each other.
Ha Myung and In Ha walk into Grandpa’s room together and kneel down to talk to him. We don’t hear what they say to Grandpa or what his reaction is as the scene fades.
The scene cuts to January 2015, a time jump of nearly a year later. The YGN field team duo are bickering as usual outside the network when Reporter Lee walks up to chide them for being so immature still. He wonders if Reporter Jang isn’t sick of Reporter Im’s nagging but she kisses her husband who aegyos that he loves it. They flirt with each other in front of Reporter Lee before Reporer Jang covers this year’s YGN open reporter auditions.
Ha Myung is back living at his brother’s apartment and is on the phone with In Ha as both get dressed for work. They keep talking while Ha Myung picks up In Ha who is holding two coffees in hand. She mentions talking with Bum Jo recently and heard he’ll be auditioning with MSC this year.
In Ha points out Ha Myung is dressed nicely, is he headed to the prosecutor’s office to cover that beat? Ha Myung wonders why In Ha is dressed and she teases about all the hotties interviewing at MSC this year and gets Ha Myung’s jealousy raging before admitting she’s teasing him.
Ha Myung arrives at YGN to call in newbies to their interview. He sees a young man and stops him to ask his name, and we see the character is played by the same young actor who played young Jae Myung. Ha Myung watches the interview and pays special attention to that young man. He’s asked a question about whether he wants to hear news about winning concert tickets or being diagnosed with cancer? He appears to already know the details to it and admits hearing the same question once during a college lecture.
Cha Ok is now a lecturer in news reporting and we see her asking the question to her students.
The MSC interviewees are impressed to meet Reporter Choi In Ha but then gossip behind her back that she’s a reporter because she was chosen for promotional purposes because she is a Pinocchio. Reporter Kim stands up for In Ha and says she can only report the truth because of her condition. In Ha calls the interviewees to get in and finds Bum Jo in the group. They are happy to see each other and In Ha offers him a fighting hand slap which he accepts before screaming in pain.
Grandpa and Dad are stocking Ha Myung’s fridge when Grandpa finds Ha Myung’s wallet left at home. He opens it and sees inside the picture Ha Myung and In Ha snapped at Chan Soo’s housewarming. Grandpa stares at the picture and is shocked that the two look so cute together. Dad takes the chance to tell Grandpa that he was also surprised that they look so well suited. Dad knows Ha Myung has liked In Ha all this time but stopped out of respect for Grandpa’s objection. Dad asks Grandpa to reconsider.
Yoo Rae is now sunbae to the new YGN rookies and has adopted Reporter Jang’s brusque attitude to order them around much to Reporter Jang’s approval.
Grandpa finds Ha Myung near the administrative offices and hears that Grandpa just submitted the legal documents to void his adoption into the Choi family. Grandpa is ready for Ha Myung to get back his real name and will no longer throw angry fits to keep Ha Myung as his son. He apologizes for doing that because he loved Ha Myung too much. Grandpa asks Ha Myung to take good care of his family’s In Ha going forward.
Ha Myung cries and promises to do that. Grandpa hugs Ha Myung thanks him for being his son while Ha Myung thanks Grandpa for raising him well.
Ha Myung does his on air report while Grandpa smiles happily watching from the side. The report is on Bum Jo’s mom getting a three year sentence while she screams and yells from inside the jail that she’s innocent. All the reporters we’ve come to love deliver their reports one after another.
The camera films a beautiful wedding hall as Dad and Grandpa voice-overs. Dad wants his daughter styled gentle and feminine. Grandpa wants the best European tux for his son. Ha Myung and In Ha are dressed in wedding finery and the curtains are pulled back to show the pleased elders.
The curtains are pulled closed again when In Ha suddenly has a question for why Ha Myung went on that quiz show in high school. His answer is a kiss followed by the confession that he did it because he liked her. In Ha smiles as Ha Myung pulls her in for a deeper kiss. The engaged couple kiss and smile to finally earn their happy ending.
Thoughts of Mine:
Clap, clap, clap. Thank you, Pinocchio! I really want to give this drama a big warm hug in gratitude and appreciation for delivering on everything it promised. There was heartwarming family happiness, delicious romantic development, probing of social failings and the weakness of human nature, and above all else, it was an exploration that people should fight for truth and can learn to grow stronger from adversity and failure. The good guys faced all the same dilemmas as the bad guys, but perhaps seeing the pitfalls of doing the easy/wrong thing made them even more determined not to follow in those footsteps. It’s not that Dal Po/Ha Myung was any better of a human being when he started out than when the antagonists used to be, but along the way he kept facing his struggles head on and then making the harder yet right decisions. That’s how he overcome the limitations of humans to choose the easy way out, to avoid conflict and cast judgment, to pretend everything is fine by ignoring the truth. I loved the message this drama sent and applaud the writer for doing a story nowadays with such a resounding moral hopefulness.
I didn’t take away from this drama the idea that justice was properly served. Even if Cha Ok quit her beloved reporter job, the MSC chief got indicted, and Bum Jo’s mom was sentenced to serve time, none of that felt viscerally all that satisfying. Their callous disregard for the consequences of their actions was cold and their cover up afterwards appalling, but there wasn’t the narrative of intentional harm with regards to the tragedies that spawned from the misconduct. Ki daddy was already dead so his injured reputation hardly could hurt him in the grave. That the false reporting led to Ki mommy committing suicide was the biggest fallout but it’s one that we lawyers understand is hard to prove was the intended or likely consequence of the initial set up. Could she have been stronger and withstood the public castigation until the public moved on to the next sensational incident? Probably, but it’s victim blaming to say she chose death hence the culprits who put her in that terrible bind are wholly blameless. It’s like the entire drama explained – tragedies happen and people want to find blame, but sometimes blame isn’t one person or one trigger but a series of events and contributing factors. I loved seeing both Ki brothers come to the acceptance that vengeance needs to stop somewhere and they were ready to move on.
I thought the drama faltered on the Pinocchio narrative in the second half, putting aside In Ha’s struggles to be a reporter who couldn’t lie, but the way it was approached in the first half was dang impressive. It built up In Ha’s personality, explained Ha Myung’s decisions, and further strengthened their relationship because they could only ever face problems head on without the ability to live a lie. Following the rookies for twenty episodes felt much too short even if the time was used wisely in showing their professional growth coupled with emotional maturity through the hard times. I’m satisfied that the rookies earned their stripes and will strive to be real reporters going forward. Especially Ha Myung and In Ha, having lived through the consequences of bad, false, and irresponsible reporting, they are primed to be reporters who will always listen to their moral center and never take the easy road. All of the tears was well earned, making me feel tied to their struggles and successes because life really isn’t full of easy answers to never ending hard choices. I appreciated the drama not painting Cha Ok as redeemed because she never had a valid reason for being the puppet of the powerful. She wasn’t struggling as a woman in a male dominated field, she chose the easy path to avoid being a whistleblower and we also saw Dad still living the struggles of having taken the righteous road.
The approach In Ha and Ha Myung took with gaining Grandpa’s approval for their relationship was realistic and moving. He means sooooo much to them, probably more than any typical grandfather with how he was instrumental in Ha Myung’s very existence not to mention the unconditional support he’s given to the kids their entire life. How could they go against him for their own happiness if it meant bringing him pain? Explanations are meaningless until Grandpa comes to that decision himself, and the story’s time jump ended up perfectly delivering that so we saw Grandpa gradually reach the realization that he couldn’t stop the inevitable. If Ha Myung and In Ha’s future happiness was together and he was the only one standing in the way, then he would have to budge to make the kids he loves so much happy. That he finally reversed the adoption for this, and not because of Ha Myung’s earlier guilt ridden request, was icing on the wedding cake. The fan service at the end had me grinning from cheek-to-cheek, unable to stop oooohing and aaaahing like Grandpa and Dad over the glowing dual specimens of pretty onscreen. Seeing Ha Myung and In Ha modeling wedding finery is the final flourish needed to cap off this excellent drama. Until the next great story comes along, this one will satisfy on rainy days when I’m craving to rewatch something smart, funny, and oh so moving.
Click here to watch Pinocchio.