Side dish: Anyone who is not watching “Heart to Heart” may not understand your tears as you watch this episode. Rather than explain, just say that you ate a Crying Tiger. Follow the Serious Eats recipe for this Thai-style grilled steak dish so that you can point to it as you sob.
The episode starts with psychiatrist, Ko Yi Seok (Chun Jung Myung) telling former severe anthrophobe, Cha Hong Do (Choi Kang Hee) that he loves her before they kiss. This peek into the future will get us through the present.
Presently, Yi Seok has just found out that Hong Do is actually Young Ji, the little girl who set the fire that killed his brother, Il Seok. Yi Seok refuses to believe, until Hong Do proves their previous association with a group photograph of them from 23 years ago.
Yi Seok rushes to see his grandfather, the Chairman (Joo Hyun) to challenge the idea that Hong Do is actually Young Ji. The Chairman produces the legal document that Hong Do’s grandmother submitted in family court to have Young Ji’s name changed to Hong Do. Yi Seok accuses the Chairman of fabricating evidence.
When Yi Seok runs into Butler Ahn (Choi Moo Sung), he reiterates his belief that the document is a fake. Butler Ahn shows Yi Seok a group photograph much like the one that Hong Do had provided to Yi Seok. In the face of mounting evidence, poor Yi Seok desperately grasps at Hong Do’s lack of memory of Il Seok as proof that she is not Young Ji.
Yi Seok decides to go and ask Hong Do about her memories of the past. As he is driving to her house, he remembers the self-assured little girl who used to draw him out from being alone. When Yi Seok confronts her, Hong Do admits that she has vague memories of their childhood. Yi Seok feels betrayed that Hong Do did not reveal her identity to him sooner. He angrily lays the blame for the destruction of his life and his family on her.
Police detective, Jang Doo Soo (Lee Jae Yoon) is reviewing the 23 year old case files on the fire that killed Il Seok. Though the report indicates that Young Ji had played with matches, he notices that a lighter was found on the scene. His investigation is interrupted by the arrival of Yi Seok’s sister, Ko Se Ro (Ahn So Hee).
Se Ro has come to return Doo Soo his winter coat, freshly laundered. She confirms with Doo Soo that he was with Hong Do when she called yesterday, but instead of being jealous, Se Ro is sympathetic to the hardships that Hong Do is facing. No one in her family has bothered to tell Se Ro what is going on.
As Se Ro leaves, Doo Soo catches her shoulder. Se Ro accuses him of getting girls’ hopes up with his acts of kindness. Doo Soo insists that his concern is platonic. Se Ro seems resigned to the fact that Doo Soo is not interested in her, but as she walks away, she remains hopeful that Doo Soo will stop her again. She makes a peevish face when he does not.
At home, the Chairman takes Yi Seok’s mother, Hwang Moon Sun (Jin Hee Kyung) to task for blowing Hong Do’s secret wide open, and hurting her only remaining son. The Chairman is joined by Yi Seok who starts chugging hard liquor before confronting his mother. Yi Seok wonders if Moon Sun feels relieved of guilt now that she has Hong Do to blame. He points out that Hong Do was a child, as was he and Il Seok, but it was Moon Sun who sent them outside, because she was arguing with her husband.
The Chairman attempts to stop the conversation, but Yi Seok angrily blames their inability to talk freely about the tragedy for causing arrested development and poisoning the present. Yi Seok then claims responsibility for killing Il Seok, revealing that when he locked his brother in the container, Yi Seok was intensely jealous of his favoured status. He then accuses his mother of wishing that he had been the son that died.
That night, Yi Seok’s father drunkenly breaks into his father, the Chairman’s bedroom. He apologizes for being the source of many of the Chairman’s troubles, and blubbers about being at fault for Il Seok’s death. When he passes out, the Chairman muffles his son by covering his face with a pillow.
Binge drinking fails to block out Yi Seok`s memories of locking the container with his brother in it, then seeing the same container in flames as Il Seok screams for his mother. Se Ro comes to check on Yi Seok, and he blames himself for causing Se Ro to have to grow up in boarding school. Se Ro attempts to comfort her brother.
Se Ro meets up with Doo Soo to ask him to call Hong Do, because Hong Do is not answering her phone. Doo Soo is confident that Hong Do will overcome this difficult situation, though she is not answering his calls, either. Se Ro makes it clear that Doo Soo needs to take care of Hong Do until her brother returns to his senses. Se Ro decides to try finding Hong Do at her home.
Having been brought up to speed by Butler Ahn on the current calamity, Yi Seok’s mentor, Uhm Gi Choon (Seo Yi Sook) goes to check in on Yi Seok, and finds him reeking of alcohol. Yi Seok realizes that the tragedy probably triggered Hong Do’s anthrophobia, and he claims responsibility for that, too. When he admits to resenting his brother before the fire, Gi Choon points out that he was only 12 years old. She encourages him to forgive his 12 year old self, so that he can forgive others.
Hong Do is called out to a meeting with the Chairman by Butler Ahn. The Chairman wants to forget the past, and offers her money to move house. Though Hong Do initially refuses, she tearfully accepts the money in the end. After the Chairman leaves, Butler Ahn gives Hong Do a ride home. Unlike his employer, he encourages her not to give up on Yi Seok. Yi Seok needs her, because everyone else has been too preoccupied with their own pain to focus on him.
Doo Soo is unable to concentrate on work, knowing that Se Ro is waiting in the cold outside of Hong Do’s home. He advises her to call her brother, since Hong Do might be with him, but she cannot risk revealing that Hong Do is missing, and causing Yi Seok worry. Doo Soo decides to call Yi Seok himself, and finds out that Yi Seok is on his way to meet Hong Do. Yi Seok appears to have regained a bit of his obnoxious self, warning the cop that he and Hong Do are not breaking up.
Since Yi Seok has located Hong Do, Doo Soo brings Se Ro in from the cold to a restaurant. Se Ro believes that Hong Do and Yi Seok should be together. When Doo Soo objects, because their relationship affects others, Se Ro accuses him of having ulterior motives. She riles him up, then laughs at his temper. Doo Soo instantly deflates.
Hong Do is reliving memories of Yi Seok in his clinic office. When Yi Seok arrives, she is sitting at his desk, ready to provide him with counselling. Yi Seok plays along, admitting that he is suffering from insomnia. He apologizes for blaming Hong Do for Il Seok’s death. Every angry word he shouted at her was actually directed at himself. Hong Do confirms that she will stay by his side until he says otherwise.
Yi Seok goes to beg his grandfather to forgive and accept Hong Do. The Chairman refuses, and Yi Seok threatens to cut ties with the family. The Chairman is threatening to disown Yi Seok when he collapses, clutching his heart.
Gi Choon runs into Hong Do at Yi Seok’s clinic office. She mischievously advises Hong Do to butter Yi Seok up with compliments to keep him by her side. However, Gi Choon states that what is most important is that Hong Do forget the past, even if it means breaking up with Yi Seok.
At the hospital, the pressure for Yi Seok to break up with Hong Do mounts. The Chairman is in a medically induced coma, because his heart is severely weakened by shock. His mother begs him to give up Hong Do for everyone’s sake.
Se Ro finishes a productive day of filming only to find that she cannot start her car. Doo Soo calls to ask about her meeting with Hong Do, which apparently, went well. He senses that she is in trouble, though Se Ro denies it, and rushes to her aid. Doo Soo changes the fuse on her car, and Se Ro fishes for deeper feelings from Doo Soo. The moment is interrupted by news about the Chairman. Doo Soo offers to drive a distressed Se Ro to the hospital.
Hong Do has been waiting for Yi Seok when he finally calls to reveal the critical condition of the Chairman. He cries as he ends their relationship, then hangs up before Hong Do can respond. Yi Seok refuses to answer Hong Do’s calls as he sits alone in the hospital, sobbing apologies to her. Over the next few days, Hong Do works in Yi Seok’s office, waiting for him in vain. Yi Seok finally texts confirmation to Hong Do that they cannot be together.
The Chairman’s health improves sufficiently for him to go home, and he is eager to cover up the past again. Butler Ahn begs him to let Yi Seok know who is really at fault for Il Seok’s death, so that Yi Seok can make an informed decision. The Chairman dismisses the idea by asking for his pills.
Yi Seok holes himself up in bed, and refuses to acknowledge his mother and sister when they visit. He finally emerges to meet Hong Do one final time. It is a heartbreaking sight, because to all appearances, it looks like a date, with Yi Seok holding a bouquet, and inviting Hong Do into his arms.
We have arrived at the introductory scene with Yi Seok and Hong Do walking down a road in the woods. The couple exchange advice for the future, and Yi Seok kisses Hong Do, telling her that he loves her while memorizing her face, then kissing her one final time.
As Yi Seok walks away, Hong Do finally declares her love for him. Yi Seok stops, at war with himself, but with a heavy heart, he decides to leave Hong Do behind.
The ending of the last episode made me fear that Yi Seok would just join everyone else in condemning Hong Do for his brother’s death, and initially, that is exactly what he did. It was a relief to see Yi Seok turn around his opinion so quickly. He zeros in on his mother’s scapegoating of Hong Do, exposes the resentment that guided his own hand in his brother’s demise, and acknowledges the hardships that Hong Do and her grandmother suffered in the aftermath of the tragedy.
His sister, Se Ro continues to be such a sweetheart. I am glad that the writer decided to forgo the jealous, evil second female lead character. Instead, we get a character who feels sympathy for her supposed rival, encourages Doo Soo to take care of Hong Do for her brother’s sake, and refuses to give up despite Doo Soo’s repeat rejections. It is her sassy resilience that prevents Se Ro from becoming an object of pity.
It appears that Only’s fears that the the show will find someone other than the lead couple to blame for Il Seok’s death may be correct. Hints include the lighter found at the site of the tragedy, Butler Ahn asking the Chairman to reveal the true culprit to Yi Seok, and the Chairman carefully asking Hong Do if she remembers the actual event, then acting relieved when she admits to being hazy on the details. I think the writer is going to scapegoat Yi Seok’s father, because he has never been a sympathetic character. In this episode, the father appears to feel overly remorseful about his son’s death, especially for someone who has been pretty shameless about the havoc he has wrought on his family.
One final note: the music during the sad moments of this episode was great. K-drama musical accompaniment tends to veer towards sentimental, trying to wring emotion from the scene rather than trusting the writing and the actors to do the job. In this case, the music was the perfect accompaniment as Hong Do attempts to carry on without Yi Seok, and the moment when the couple prepare to say goodbye.
In case a torrent of tears marred your vision, here are some screen caps of the couple’s final good bye.