While I wish that some of the conversations that happen in this episode had happened several weeks ago, so that we could have taken more time with the fallout and rebuilding, at least they’re happening now, and that’s a good thing. The truth can be painful, especially coming from those you love, but at some point we all have to take a good hard look at how our actions may be hurting others. Love isn’t something you earn or deserve, it’s a gift freely given, and it’s well past time for both Gong-myung and Jung-seok to learn this difficult life lesson.
EPISODE 15 RECAP
Jung-seok and Gong-myung put aside their animosity for a while, to honor their father’s memorial day. As the brothers bow, their mother sadly asks her husband’s photograph why he had to leave them so soon, and miss seeing their sons grow to be men.
Gong-myung leaves as soon as the ceremony is over, rolling his eyes when Mom asks him to go back to school with Jung-seok tomorrow. Jung-seok doesn’t interfere, remembering how Gong-myung had been furious when he found out he was dating Hana. Jung-seok scoffs, wondering how Gong-myung intends to hold onto her, but he seems more worried than angry.
Jin-woong shows up for work in full makeup as a female celebrity chef, complete with aegyo shoulder-wiggles, hee. As usual, Director Kim is less than amused, and calls the instructors in for a staff meeting.
It’s time for student-teacher conferences, and Director Kim impresses upon everyone how important it is that they really listen to the students’ concerns. Jung-seok thinks it’s a waste of time, since delivering high-quality lectures should be all they need to keep students coming back, but he agrees to stay for one hour, no more.
When Jung-seok leaves, Director Kim grumbles that he feels bad for the woman who’s dating him, and Hana chokes on her coffee. Surprisingly, it’s Jin-yi who comes to Jung-seok’s defense, saying that he’s a good catch.
She pulls Hana into a private room to give her an envelope, with tickets to a gallery showing, so she can take Jung-seok somewhere nice. Hana is touched, and Jin-yi says that she plans to help their relationship however she can.
Hana is horrified when a condom falls out of the envelope, but Jin-yi says that they can go see some nice art than have an erotic afternoon afterward, rawr. Hana prissily tries to give the condom back, but Jin-yi says that her ex left tons of them in her apartment, so she’ll resupply Hana whenever she needs them.
The school has little tents set up for the conferences, and students line up to talk to their teachers. Jung-seok’s line is naturally quite long, and Jin-yi’s line is all male students, while poor Jin-woong sits in his tent all alone.
Jin-woong is surprised when his first student turns out to be a former school sunbae of his, who’s going back to school to be a civil servant. He’s a bit sheepish to be here, but he was laid off and he has a family to support.
Sunbae says he hasn’t looked up Jin-woong before now because he was a bit embarrassed to be seen as an older student. But now, he says that he’s got a lot of worries, and he needs someone to talk with. Jin-woong urges him not to be ashamed, because there are lots of older people studying in Noryangjin these days.
Jin-woong even offers to let Sunbae take his class for free, but Sunbae says he’s only taking top-level instructors’ classes. Well, ouch. He also asks why Jin-woong’s impressions are so bad — turns out they were in an impressions club in school, and they end up in a hilarious impression war.
Jung-seok finds Dong-young and Ki-bum in his tent, here to use this opportunity to talk to him about Gong-myung. They’re worried about their friend, who’s been staying with Ki-bum and annoying them both with his moping.
Jung-seok says that Gong-myung’s behavior has nothing to do with him, so Dong-young tells him how Gong-myung’s one-sided crush got a boyfriend, and now he’s really upset. Jung-seok shifts uncomfortably and blusters that students shouldn’t have time for one-sided loves, but Ki-bum says that Gong-myung is stubbornly determined to keep carrying this torch.
Gong-myung studies harder than ever, but his friends are distracted by a happy couple nearby, reminded of their own love woes. Ki-bum waxes nostalgic about their college days when they used to date a lot, and recalls one group date with a trio of dancers.
It was five years ago, and HAHA, Ki-bum’s sparkly tracksuit sure looks familiar. He remembers making the girls laugh with his dorky pop culture jokes, and they’d applauded when he footed the bill for the night.
Dong-young remembers it fondly too, as he’d been the girl’s white knight and drank for them when they lost the drinking games. One of the girls had compared him to “Nations’s MC” Yoo Jae-suk, and he’d done a pretty funny impression of the famous TV personality.
Gong-myung thinks they’re both pathetic, as his recollection of the evening in question is much different, though he keeps his reason to himself. We see that the girls had talked about the boys in the restroom, calling Dong-young rude and Ki-bum ugly (pfft).
But since Ki-bum was paying, they’d pretended to be interested in him, and had fought over who got to pursue Gong-myung. Of course, they ran right into him on their way out of the restroom. He’d never told his friends the truth, and to this day they thought he’d complained about wanting to go home because he was jealous.
Chae-yeon summons Gong-myung to the roof to talk, unable to get Dong-young’s outburst out of her mind, when he’d said that Gong-myung likes Hana. She confronts Gong-myung, asking if he’s really only studying so he can pass the test and date Hana. He confirms it, and Chae-yeon tells him to knock it off.
She says that Hana is dating someone, so Gong-myung should stop wasting his time on her. She reminds him that he said he’d do whatever she told him to do as his Master, but Gong-myung says that’s the one command he can’t obey. He shuts down any further discussion, so Chae-yeon blurts out that she won’t study with him anymore. Gong-myung says that he’s been feeling bad for holding her back anyway, thanks her for her help so far, and leaves.
Chae-yeon goes straight to Hana’s conference tent, and tells her that there’s a guy she likes, who likes someone else. She says that the other woman doesn’t like him back but won’t draw a clear line, asking rhetorically why Hana thinks that is.
Hana doesn’t follow what Chae-yeon is getting at, but she guesses that maybe the other woman doesn’t want to disrupt the guy’s studies by hurting him. But Chae-yeon says that if she cared, she would be honest with him, because it’s wrong to give him false hope.
Chae-yeon says that she understands now that the woman is rude, and rushes out, leaving Hana confused. Hana may not know that Chae-yeon was talking about her, but she does wonder if she should cut Gong-myung off for the same reason.
Jin-yi finds her outside, and when Hana thanks her again for the gallery tickets, she teases that Hana should have been honest with her from the beginning. She honestly tells Hana that she was upset that she lied to her, and says to just be honest from now on.
Once she’s alone, Hana realizes that her dishonesty was what hurt her friend the most, and asks her phone if she should be honest with Gong-myung. Her phone says that she should.
With Ki-bum’s words about Gong-myung ringing in his ears, Jung-seok watches his brother studying almost frantically. He moves on down the hall when Gong-myung steps out to take a call from Hana.
Director Kim offers to set up Jin-yi on a blind date, making Jin-woong sigh heavily and ask why he’d want to ruin the guy’s life like that. He complains about how much he suffered after taking Jin-yi home the day of the hike, and Director Kim decides to think a bit more about setting her up.
Jin-woong gives Jin-yi a triumphant glare, made all the funnier by his (frankly gorgeous) cat’s-eye eyeliner. She threatens him not to interfere with her love life anymore, and he yells at her retreating back that he was just telling the truth. Okay, what happened between these two?
Gong-myung meets with Hana, looking nervous just to be sitting near her. She says that she wants to be honest and not hurt him further, and tells him that she’s dating someone. She acknowledges that he’s been studying hard, and apologizes for not being able to return his feelings.
Hana tells Gong-myung not to stop studying, and he asks if she really likes that person that much. She says she does, and Gong-myung tries not to cry in front of her.
Chae-yeon throws herself at her studies extra-hard, determined to forget about everything but passing the test. Ki-bum notices and wonders if she’d be able to focus like that if she knew Gong-myung likes Hana, and Dong-young doesn’t confess that he already spilled the beans to her. Ki-bum takes the conversation to text, and warns Dong-young not to dare tell her about Gong-myung’s crush on Hana.
Hana takes Jung-seok to the gallery after work, but they’re both preoccupied with thoughts of Gong-myung. They each notice the other seems down, but both deny that there’s anything wrong.
Gong-myung starts to text Hana saying that he can accept her dating anyone but Jung-seok, then immediately erases the text. He starts another saying he can’t give her up, then erases that one, too.
Hana and Jung-seok are having coffee when she gets a text from Gong-myung, simply asking her to meet with him later. It unnerves her and she spills her coffee, so she goes to clean up. Jung-seok sees the text on her phone, and he can’t resist looking at her and Gong-myung’s text history.
Through his texts to Hana, Jung-seok realizes exactly how deep Gong-myung’s feelings for her run. He seems to understand for the first time that this isn’t just some crush, but that Gong-myung sincerely loves Hana. He remembers how long Gong-myung has been speaking highly of Hana, and knows that even when he himself still looked down on her, Gong-myung already respected and cared about her.
We go back to the night of their father’s memorial, after Gong-myung left. Their mother had mentioned how Gong-myung is always studying whenever she tries to call him, and had asked Jung-seok why he was trying to move out of Jung-seok’s place into a gosiwon.
She’d worried that the brothers are having problems getting along, but Jung-seok had denied it. Mom had known he wasn’t being truthful, and begged him to take care of Gong-myung, as head of the family. As Jung-seok had looked at a family photo from when Gong-myung was just a little boy, Mom said that she always felt bad for him, growing up in his brother’s long shadow.
Dong-young’s stomach growls loud enough to startle Ki-bum from his nap, so they decide to go eat. Still texting their conversation, Ki-bum asks if Chae-yeon ate anything while he was sleeping, and Dong-young says she didn’t. On their way out, Ki-bum stops to text Chae-yeon, asking her to eat lunch with them. She refuses, and he wonders why she’s studying so hard.
At the gallery, Hana asks about a particular artist, and Jung-seok suddenly looks disgusted. He berates her for not knowing the artist, and blurts out, “Let’s break up.” He cruelly says that she just doesn’t measure up to his standards, and he doesn’t want to waste his time anymore.
When Hana reaches out to touch his sleeve, Jung-seok jerks away sharply. Without looking her in the eye, he leaves her standing alone and confused.
Gong-myung also refuses to meet his friends for dinner, and Dong-young says they must both be going through a lot. Ki-bum asks what he means by “both,” and Dong-young’s fake-innocent expression gives him away.
Ki-bum yells at him for telling Chae-yeon that Gong-myung likes Hana, and poor Dong-young gets smacked for his loose lips. He hollers that he did it because he felt bad for Ki-bum, but Ki-bum is more concerned about Chae-yeon’s hurt feelings.
Director Kim, Jin-yi, and Jin-woong go out after work, and Director Kim says that the guy he wanted to set Jin-yi up with saw her photo and wants to meet her. Jin-woong laughs that her picture is photoshopped and she looks nothing like that in real life.
Director Kim waves him off and tells Jin-yi that the guy’s family is super-rich, but again Jin-woong snarks that Jin-yi will spend all that money in no time. Jin-yi tells him to shut it and agrees to meet the guy, but Jin-woong snatches Director Kim’s phone before he can send over Jin-yi’s number.
Jin-yi loses her temper and smacks him upside the head with her purse, and storms out. Jin-woong follows her and gets to the root of the problem, asking how she can go on a blind date after what happened between them. Oh. Ooooh, did they… ? She says she has no idea what he’s talking about, and runs off.
Ki-bum pulls Chae-yeon outside and hands her some dinner, but she tells him not to worry about her and just study. He gripes that she’s rude, then softly asks if she’s having a hard time, knowing that Gong-myung likes Hana. Chae-yeon says she’s too busy to think about such things, but Ki-bum tells her she doesn’t have to suffer alone.
Chae-yeon insists that she’s just fine, but Ki-bum can tell that she really wants to cry. He tells her to go ahead and cry her heart out, then let it go. Awww, he’s such a good friend.
Chae-yeon grabs the food but fumbles with it, so Ki-bum opens the package for her. He sits with her while she eats and cries, allowing her to lie that she’s only crying because she bit her tongue.
Jin-yi is still angry when she gets home, but a beer doesn’t help her feel better. She remembers Jin-woong bringing her home the night after the hiking trip, and he’d stayed when she started sobbing again.
She’s cried that nobody would ever love someone like her, and he’d told her that of course she deserves love. He’d given some helpful, if ill-timed, advice to stop losing her temper, work on keeping her promises, and not spend so much money, and poor Jin-yi had just bursts into tears again.
She’d woken up in bed later that night, and turned over to find Jin-woong in bed with her. I knew it! They were both naked as jaybirds, making it pretty obvious what happened, and Jin-yi had shrieked and kicked Jin-woong out of bed.
He’d been confused when she made him get dressed and get out as fast as possible. She’d screamed after him that nothing happened, but Jin-woong had left her place with a cat-that-ate-the-canary grin on his face. HEE.
After he’d left, Jin-yi had been scandalized all over again to find his underwear tangled in her sheets. Now she tries to drink the memory from her mind, but she finds his undies in the trash can and freaks out again.
Heartbroken and dazed, Hana walks past the restaurant Jung-seok once took her. She remembers saying that she can’t drink alone in restaurants, since she worries about what others will think, and she decides to change that right now.
She goes in to eat and drink, and for once she doesn’t worry about what others may be thinking. She says to herself that this is no big deal, wondering why Jung-seok bragged about it so much.
Jung-seok also sits at his favorite bar, drinking alone. He tells himself that this is best for everyone, and thinks about how Hana said she talks to her phone when there’s no one else to talk to. He tries it out, asking his phone if breaking up with Hana was the right thing to do.
Siri says that breaking up is sad, and Jung-seok agrees, but says that once he learned how sincere Gong-myung is about Hana, he had no choice. He does wonder if he was too harsh to Hana, and his phone tells him to be nice. Heh.
But Jung-seok has to keep telling himself that he did the right thing, and that Hana knows how selfish he is. If he’s going to break up with her, he needs her not to think he’s a good person.
In voiceover, Jung-seok says that today, he’s drinking solo to forget. Hana’s voice joins him, and they say that they want to forget both the happy memories, and the sad moments they’ll regret. They drink to forget this moment when they realize they’re alone, when what they most want is to be together.
Gong-myung heads to Hana’s place to talk to her, and he spots her sitting in the restaurant alone, head on the table. He runs in and rouses her, and she asks if he’s heard of that artist Na Yoon-chan. He hasn’t, and she smiles wryly, a tiny bit cheered not to be the only one who doesn’t know him.
When Gong-myung asks what’s wrong, Hana can barely get the words out, “I’ve… been dumped… because I didn’t know Na Yoon-chan.” She sobs that Jung-seok said she didn’t measure up, then tries her best to stop crying and asks what Gong-myung wanted to talk to her about. He says he’ll tell her later, and Hana starts crying again.
Gong-myung arrives at Jung-seok’s place just as Jung-seok’s taxi pulls up, and he bravely confronts his hyung, asking if he broke up with Hana because of him. Jung-seok scoffs, but he pauses for a bit too long before denying that he would do such a selfless thing.
Gong-myung grows angry, so Jung-seok gives him the same excuse he gave Hana, that she’s too low-quality for him. He says he was embarrassed to be with her, and Gong-myung grabs his shirt and demands to know if he’s even human.
Jung-seok shakes him off, then he spots someone standing behind Gong-myung and freezes. Oh no, it’s Hana, and she’s heard everything. She’s stunned to learn that they’re brothers, and both men just stand there looking guilty.
Jung-seok tries to go inside but Gong-myung yanks him back, guessing that Hana came here to see him. But Jung-seok looks right at Hana and says he has nothing to say to her, and nothing he wants to hear. Oh, you ass. He goes inside, and Hana leaves, with Gong-myung watching her sadly.
He follows her to apologize for not telling her sooner that he and Jung-seok are brothers, but Hana says he has nothing to be sorry for. On the contrary, she says she feels guilty for coming between brothers, and she asks him in a shaky voice to let her go.
Gong-myung lets himself into Jung-seok’s house and finds his brother working, and asks accusingly if he’s not worried about Hana. Jung-seok intones that they broke up, so she has nothing to do with him, and it looks like it takes real physical effort for Gong-myung not to punch his lights out.
He controls himself and says that Jung-seok should never have started dating her if he wasn’t serious. Gong-myung says that Hana is too good for Jung-seok, so now he’ll protect her so that she won’t be hurt again.
Jung-seok just looks at his brother dismissively, and asks if he’s finished. Disgusted, Gong-myung leaves, and Jung-seok tries to get back to work.
But once he’s alone he can’t hold back anymore, and tears spring to his eyes. Jung-seok tries to fight it, but his broken heart gets the better of him, and he cries pitifully.
While I do understand why Jung-seok broke up with Hana (more on that later), I’m just frankly furious with him about the way he went about it, because where in all his sudden sacrificial selflessness did he take Hana’s feelings and choices into account? Setting aside the fact that he gave such a big decision approximately ten minutes of thought, if he did it because he can’t take the guilt over being with the woman his brother loves, then that’s all about Jung-seok’s feelings, and a fair reason to break up.
But if he’s doing it because he thinks Gong-myung has a prior claim on Hana since he had feelings for her first, then that’s just stupid. Liking someone first or second has exactly nothing to do with who they should be with. The person should be allowed to choose who they want to love, regardless of who “got there first,” end of story. So if that’s Jung-seok’s reasoning, then he’s done all three people involved a disservice — himself for not trusting Gong-myung enough to deal with heartbreak maturely, Hana for not allowing her to make her own choices, and himself for shutting the relationship down without even discussing it with either Hana or his brother. Does he not feel that Hana is worth fighting for, even a little bit?
But as angry as I am at Jung-seok for not giving Hana the opportunity to make her own decisions, there’s a huge part of me that’s so proud of him for the way he’s finally respecting Gong-myung’s feelings. I may disagree with the way he’s decided to respect them, but it’s a big step for Jung-seok to realize that Gong-myung’s attraction to Hana isn’t just a schoolboy crush. Little Brother is a grown man, and he loves Hana in the same adult way that Jung-seok loves her. It could even be argued (and this is what I think Jung-seok is so upset about) that Gong-myung loves Hana better. Not more, just better — as I’ve been saying for weeks, Gong-myung treats Hana with respect, supports and cheers her when she’s down, and is always there when she needs someone. At times, yes, he’s been a bit relentless with his feelings, but it’s not entirely his fault, because it’s true that Hana let him think he had a chance with her in order to get him to keep studying.
So in that sense I do understand why Jung-seok broke up with Hana, because it has to be a real blow to see those texts from his brother and realize that he’s treated Hana better than Jung-seok ever has. Jung-seok knows that he’s an ass, but he’s always told himself it was okay because those other people are beneath him anyway. Now he’s had it hammered home to him that, far from being a bratty little kid, Gong-myung is now an adult who loves the woman that Jung-seok loves, and loves her in a more respectful way. It’s no wonder Jung-seok had the knee-jerk reaction to break up with her, thinking that she’d be better off with someone who loves her better. But it was arrogant and disrespectful of him (again) to not discuss it with her, or give himself time to think about this new development. He just lashed out in his own pain, and hurt Hana in the process.
I’ve had my issues with Hana as a character throughout the course of the show (I love her, but damn I wish she’d stick up for herself more) but one thing I can say for her is that she has one of the most tender hearts I’ve ever seen. It was really great to see her talk to Gong-myung as an adult — having already completed his Army service then spent a year lazing around, he’s at least 23 years old — about his feelings, giving them the respect they deserve. It’s nice to see that at least, if she can’t return his feelings, she honors them as something precious. It’s the very thing he’s wanted from Jung-seok and not received, just to have his feelings acknowledged as the man he is, not the child Jung-seok treats him as. So even though Hana wasn’t telling Gong-myung what he wanted to hear, I love that she didn’t talk down to him or diminish his feelings for her.
With only one episode left, I just don’t see how they’ll be able to resolve this in a way that doesn’t leave me still angry with Jung-seok. He’d just barely earned my approval for him to be with Hana by being able to admit when he was wrong, and laugh at himself in the process, but now he’s behaving like his old arrogant self on purpose to push Hana away. With Gong-myung stepping up and showing his newfound maturity, his willingness to change and become the man Hana needs, I just don’t see how the show can flip things in the space of one hour to make me believe that Jung-seok is the right man for Hana. Even though I think she should be with the one she loves, regardless of reasons, the show does have an obligation to give the audience a reason to accept it, and at this point I just can’t think of anything Jung-seok can do to prove that he’s worthy. I hope I’m wrong, and that the show has a big ace up its sleeve. I’ve loved Drinking Solo from the beginning, and I really want things to end in a way that leaves us all feeling that our Noryangjin friends will have happy futures.