It’s time to close out this chapter of Noryangjin life, and send off both teachers and students to their next big adventures. For some that means big changes, while others still have a lot of growing up to do before they’re ready for the next step, and not necessarily just the students. Either way, I’ll miss them dearly, and hope that maybe we’ll see them all again soon.
FINAL EPISODE RECAP
Jung-seok informs Director Kim that he wants to move his office, though he refuses to say why. When Director Kim kicks up a fuss, Jung-seok threatens to just teach at a different school, and Director Kim relents.
Hana tells Jin-yi that Jung-seok is probably moving offices to avoid her, admitting that he broke up with her. Jin-yi is shocked that Jung-seok would break up with Hana so suddenly, and when she asks Hana why, Hana just bursts into big ugly sobs.
Jin-yi holds Hana while she cries, and this is the scene Gong-myung sees when he steps outside. He watches while Hana’s heart breaks, looking unsure of what to do.
Dong-young bums some of Ki-bum’s coffee, and Chae-yeon tells them to settle down and study, because the exam is coming up soon. Dong-young sighs and vows to pass the exam this time and never come back to Noryangjin. Ki-bum says he’ll come back often to do the fun things he didn’t get to do, swearing that he’s kept his slacking to a bare minimum. Now that’s a scary thought.
Ki-bum starts to ask Dong-young and Chae-yeon what they want to do when they pass, and it gives him an idea. The three of them write their goals on slips of paper, which they bury and promise to dig up when they all pass the exam.
Hana has difficulty focusing enough to prepare her lessons, so she tells herself that she can’t afford to wallow. But she barely gets started before a neighbor starts playing loud overwrought music, so Hana starts drinking along with the morose songs.
Soon she’s drunk and sobbing, and before much longer she’s lip-syncing along with the distraught tunes. AHAHA, she does her hair and clothes like she’s in a sageuk and performs a dramatic dance, ending up prostrate on the floor.
While she’s down there she notices water dripping in from her open window, and moans that even the sky is crying along with her. She goes to the window, but instead of clouds, she sees a man peeing just outside. Eeewwww. Talk about adding insult to injury.
The loud music continues late into the night, keeping Hana awake. She groans and flops in her bed, finally rolling right onto the floor. She lies there in a heap of blankets, crying her heart out.
The next morning at work, Hana steps out of the elevator to see Jung-seok standing in front of her. He doesn’t acknowledge her, but walks right past her into the elevator without a word. She goes outside to cry in private, and again Gong-myung happens on her, but doesn’t approach.
Gong-myung passes Jung-seok’s classroom while he’s teaching, and takes in how his brother is smiling and relaxed. He sighs that he’s shameless, but later as Jung-seok eats his solo dinner, he stares at the pictures of himself and Hana on his phone, and drinks.
Soon it’s the day of the written portion of the civil service exam. Noryangjin is in a tizzy, and Director Kim and his teachers set up a table outside the testing place to pass out information on their school.
Director Kim nearly passes out when Jin-woong shows up dressed as none other than Jung-seok, with a hilarious mask of his face and a dead-on impression of his voice. Everyone yells at him for scaring them, and Hana is so unnerved that she moves down the street to pass our her packets.
Gong-myung stops to talk to her, looking serious and subdued, and asks her to talk to him after he’s finished taking the exam. He moves on and she watches him walk away, remembering the day he asked her to promise dating him if he passed the exam.
The boys and Chae-yeon take the civil service exam, their entire futures riding on this day.
The teachers go out to lunch, but Jin-yi isn’t feeling well and goes to the ladies’ room to be sick. Hana asks if she should go to a doctor, but Jin-yi says she’s already seen one, and reveals that she’s pregnant.
She admits to Hana that she had a one-night stand, but she has no plans of telling the father for fear of being hurt again. She’s excited about the baby since she doesn’t have any family, and she swears Hana to secrecy.
At the table, Jin-woong gets whacked again for his Jung-seok impression (it’s really very good, lol), though Director Kim quips that he’s just always wanted to hit Jung-seok. They talk about why he didn’t come to help today — he’s preparing for a special live televised presentation, where he gives out all the test answers after it’s finished.
The ladies rejoin the men, but the grilled octopus makes Jin-yi nauseated again, so she leaves. Director Kim notes that she’s been sick and picking at her food, then at other times she has a huge appetite.
He casually says that she acts like his wife when she was pregnant, and Jin-woong has a sudden coughing fit. Hana completely overreacts, yelling that it’s just gastritis, and Jin-woong shakes off his suspicion.
As Jung-seok’s special live televised class grows closer, Hana sends Jin-yi and Jin-woong back to the school while she stays to clean up. She gets a call from Gong-myung while she’s heading back to the school, and sees that he’s right across the street waving at her.
She starts to cross the road, and a car comes from nowhere straight towards her. Gong-myung screams, but he can’t reach her in time, and she’s hit.
Jin-yi worries when she hasn’t heard from Hana, but when she tries to call her, Gong-myung answers her phone instead. He tells Jin-yi that there was an accident and that Hana is still unconscious, and Jin-yi asks which hospital she’s in. From around the corner, Jung-seok overhears them talking, and his eyes go wide with worry.
Dong-young worries when Jung-seok doesn’t show up on time for the live broadcast, and we see him speeding to the hospital and ignoring all calls. He bursts into the ER to see Hana still unconscious, but as he starts towards her, the nurse pushes the curtain aside to reveal Gong-myung by Hana’s bedside.
Jung-seok stops at the sight of his brother, and though it looks like it kills him, he turns away. He sits in the hallway, fighting his need to go to Hana’s side, but he never goes back to her.
He barely makes it back to the school in time for the live broadcast, scaring Director Kim half to death. But he arrives with seconds to spare, and the broadcast goes off without a hitch.
Gong-myung stays with Hana until her eyes flutter open, refusing to leave her for even a second.
Dong-young and Chae-yeon compare their test answers with the live broadcast, and they both hope that their high scores are good enough to pass (the pass/fail cutoff score differs each time). Ki-bum isn’t so happy, sure that he’s got a failing grade yet again. But he tells his friends not to pity him, because he’s still got a couple of years left in his five-year plan.
Ki-bum suggests they open their wish jar since they surely passed, so the three go dig up their jar. Chae-yeon reads her wish, to take a cruise boat and see the 63 building up close. Dong-young’s got five wishes, and he shows two of them: to throw away a yogurt lid without licking it, and to eat a whole roast chicken himself.
Ki-bum cuts him off, saying that his wishes make him sound like a bum. Dong-young wants to see Ki-bum’s wish, but Ki-bum grabs it away, saying that it will just make him feel bad since he didn’t pass. It’s about Chae-yeon, isn’t it?
Ki-bum goes back to his room, admitting in private that he’s disappointed, having to start all over again. He overhears a neighbor telling his mother that he did well on the test, and tells himself not to be upset. He finds an old picture he took of himself with Chae-yeon in the background, and says to himself that her leaving Noryangjin will make him sad.
Hana recovers quickly and goes back to work. Jin-yi tells Hana that her plan is to take a leave of absence when her tummy gets too big to hide her pregnancy. She calls the baby “Nae-bang,” which means “my room,” because it was conceived in her room, ha.
Hana gets the good news that her next class has three times the student enrollment of her last class, and everyone congratulates her. The ladies head out, and Jin-woong goes looking for a stapler in Jin-yi’s desk. When he opens her drawer, he finds an ultrasound photo, with a tiny infant clearly visible.
He confronts Jin-yi right away, asking if she’s pregnant and if it’s his baby. Jin-yi refuses to answer his questions, yelling at him to shut up and telling him that she just keeps the picture because it’s cute. Her violent reaction doesn’t seem to ease Jin-woong’s worry.
Ki-bum takes his laundry to the gosiwon roof, to find Chae-yeon up there gazing at the 63 building. She’s leaving tomorrow, since her perfect score on the test guarantees that she’s passed, and Ki-bum asks why she’s here instead of fulfilling her passing wish.
Chae-yeon says that she has nobody to go with, but she can always do it later. But she looks wistful, so Ki-bum says that he’ll go with her and make her wish come true before they stop seeing each other at school.
Dong-young decides to make his wishes come true, even though the formal test scores aren’t out yet, just as a pick-me-up. He has some trouble with the first wish, very nearly breaking down and licking the yogurt top, but he finally tosses it forcefully in the trash. Ha, I feel that struggle.
The chicken is easier, and Dong-young devours the entire thing with relish. His third wish is to throw away the side dishes without finishing them, and with only a moment of hesitation, he tosses those too. Wish number four is to buy brand-name clothing, but when the price tag nearly gags him, Dong-young manages to find a secondhand brand-name tracksuit at a street vendor.
Gong-myung invites Hana out to eat, since he still has something to speak with her about. He takes her to a fancy restaurant, and tells her that today is special. She’s uncomfortable, but he pushes through, trying to show her a nice time.
Jin-woong isn’t about to let Jin-yi off the hook, so he lets himself into her car as she’s heading home. He tosses her purse in the backseat, accidentally dumping her things out, so he reaches back to clean up. He sees Jin-yi’s pregnancy diary, and her secret is out.
Jin-woong tells her to stop the car, and checks the diary to find that her conception time matches with their one-night stand. She confesses that it’s his baby, and Jin-woong looks stunned. Jin-yi tries to laugh, and assures him that she has no intention of making him be a father.
Jin-woong starts to cry, and Jin-yi says again that she’s going to raise the baby herself. But Jin-woong says he’s not crying because he’s upset, “I’m crying because I’m so happy.” Awww, love.
He says that he’s wanted to be with Jin-yi ever since that night, but he felt like he didn’t measure up to her expectations. Now Jin-yi starts to cry, as Jin-woong says that they could be a family. He says he’s felt alone in the world after his mother died, but now there’s Jin-yi and his baby, and he bursts into tears all over again.
They both start to wail, and Jin-yi admits that she was scared to raise the baby alone. She says she thought Jin-woong would run away if he knew the baby was his, and she thanks him for staying. Jin-woong grabs Jin-yi in a big hug, and they cry the happiest cry ever.
Chae-yeon notices that Ki-bum isn’t wearing his tracksuit on the cruise boat, though he says it’s just because he doesn’t get to leave Noryangjin often. He offers to take some pictures of Chae-yeon, and even gets her to smile. She asks him to take a picture with her, which makes Ki-bum the happiest boy in the world.
Chae-yeon really lights up when they draw close to the 63 building, which Ki-bum notices. He says that she’ll start wearing pretty clothes and makeup once she gets a job, and warns her not to get too pretty — she’s already pretty enough, and guys will just run from her personality anyway. You smooth talker, you.
Chae-yeon snaps at him to just look at the building since they came on the cruise (using the same phrasing she uses about studying), and Ki-bum chuckles. He looks a little sad as he says that he won’t forget her way of talking, and Chae-yeon looks at him as if seeing him for the first time.
Dong-young marks off his accomplished list items, but there’s one left to do. He sees a happy couple nearly, and sighs at his last item, “Tell Joo-yeon that I love her again,” thinking that one will have to go undone.
After dinner, Gong-myung is ready to tell Hana what he wants to say. She tries to stop him, thinking he means to cash in on her promise to consider dating him. But he says he already knows her answer to that question, and that he’s here to let her go.
He tells Hana that Jung-seok still likes her, that he even rushed to the hospital on the day of her accident and nearly ruined his live lecture. We see that Gong-myung had seen Jung-seok in the hospital hallway, agonizing over whether to go to Hana.
He explains to Hana that his brother’s professional reputation was on the line, yet he nearly gave it all up to be with her (are we going to ignore the fact that he didn’t, though? I guess we are). Gong-myung says that Jung-seok gave up Hana for his sake, even though it goes against his personality. So Gong-myung feels that giving her up is the right thing to do.
Gong-myung says all this with a smile, but after he leaves her, his heartbreak shows on his face. He remembers when she opened her eyes at the hospital, but instead of seeing him, in her haze she’d called his brother’s name.
Now Gong-myung listens to Hana’s recording one last time, promising to think about dating him when he passes the exam, then finally deletes it. The finality of his decision hits him, and he sits alone, crying.
Dong-young arrives at the gosiwon that night to find Joo-yeon waiting for him. She looks nervous, and she asks how he did on the exam. Dong-young says that he thinks he passed, and that he wanted to call her but chickened out.
Joo-yeon says that she hasn’t been doing well, adding, “How could I be okay when you’re not with me?” Awww. Dong-young grabs her in a big hug, and fulfills his last wish: “I love you, Joo-yeon.”
Ki-bum starts to nod off on the bus ride home with Chae-yeon, and he eventually flops over onto her shoulder. She remembers his first love confession, and how he’s been a good friend lately, supporting her and making sure she eats. She even remembers his song at the noraebang, and it looks like she knew it was for her.
As they walk home later, Ki-bum asks if there’s anything else from her list she wants to do, offering to do it all with her. She tells him not to even think about hanging out with her anymore, then clarifies that she means he should study with her. She offers to tutor him, and that’s enough of an opening to put Ki-bum over the moon.
Chae-yeon says that he should study hard to make his passing wish come true, but that it will take a lot of work. Ki-bum gets so excited that he has a coughing fit, and skips off happily to get some water. Okay that was adorable.
Even more adorable is that Chae-yeon had grabbed Ki-bum’s wish after he tossed it away, and seen that he’d written, “I will become Chae-yeon’s boyfriend.” Ha, and she just told him to work hard so he can get his wish.
Hana is floored by Gong-myung saying that Jung-seok still likes her, since he was so hurtful when he dumped her. She goes back to the gallery and stands in front of the painting where he broke up with her, and wonders if he did that because he was hurting.
She leaves, and not seconds later, Jung-seok walks up to stand in front of that same painting. He gets a text from Gong-myung, who says that he knows Jung-seok still cares for Hana. He urges his hyung not to give up his selfish ways on his account, and to follow his heart.
One last text says that Hana still likes Jung-seok, and tells him to go make her happy. But Jung-seok wonders to himself if Hana could forgive him after the way he hurt her.
Hana stops at a nice restaurant that has a sign in the window welcoming solo drinkers. As she drinks alone, she thinks about all the forgotten memories, like the time Jung-seok gave her the dorkiest high-five ever, and their accidental fireworks kiss.
Jung-seok also drinks alone, recalling his sweet memories of Hana, like watching her watch the movie, and helping her with her online class. Hana remembers the time she said, “I love you,” and they both smile, recalling how they were happy for a few days. Hana’s heart still flutters, and Jung-seok wonders if they could make new happy memories.
They both sit until late into the night, as the restaurant patrons clear out around them. They each finally look up from their drinks, to see that they’ve been in the same restaurant all along, just a few tables apart.
They stare at each other for long moments, then Jung-seok smiles. Hana smiles back, hesitantly at first, then her smile grows wide.
The boys sit in a circle, holding their phones and bracing themselves for their exam results. Gong-myung counts down, and the boys hit the button simultaneously. Gong-myung freezes, Dong-young gasps, and Ki-bum has to sneak looks at their screens to see how they did. Then he moans, “How could it be just me?”
Then he screams, and crows, “I thought I was the only one who didn’t pass, but you two didn’t either. Whoo!” BWAHAHAHAwheeze. All three of them failed. Ki-bum is thrilled not to be left behind in Noryangjin, but his buddies throw him the stinkeye, then grab his feet and split him like a wishbone.
Dressed in a snappy suit, Chae-yeon arrives for her first day of work, but she’s stopped by a fellow trainee before she can even enter the building. He asks her out for a drink after work, but she gives him her trademark sneer, and says that if he became a civil servant then he should just do his job. Oh Chae-yeon, never change.
Director Kim and Jin-woong go for drinks after work, at least until Jin-woong’s alarm goes off at eight o’clock. Director Kim whines that he goes home too early, but Jin-woong says that his wife is due any day now, and does a perfect impression of Jin-yi’s whiny voice. HA.
He runs home to snuggle with Jin-yi, and read unborn Baby Nae-bang a bedtime story. Of course he works his impressions into the story, though they don’t seem to annoy Jin-yi nearly so much anymore.
Jung-seok enjoys a pizza with wine at an outdoor restaurant, and narrates that drinking alone is his relaxing time after talking all day at work. He has rules for his drinking: he must drink in a luxurious atmosphere, he must eat something decadent while he drinks, and he never lets his blood alcohol level rise above the legal limit.
He gets a message from Hana when he posts his meal on Instagram, apologizing for not being able to join him this time. She’s at home working and eating pizza chips, and she enjoys her own solo beer while she coos that she and Jung-seok have the exact same taste.
Gong-myung focuses on his studies, though he also takes a break for a beer. Director Kim calls his wife and lies that he’s still working, bowing so low he whacks his head on the table. He pours himself another makgeolli, to help him endure his wife’s nagging.
Jin-woong has a soju with his dinner, while Jin-yi toasts the baby with her own tall glass of milk. Dong-young hits the books, determined to pass the exam and marry his love Joo-yeon. He only allows himself a tiny drink, but life’s too short to do nothing but study.
After work, Chae-yeon has a beer and takes a selca of herself with her employee pass, which she texts to Ki-bum. He’s on the gosiwon roof, and he smiles at his Top Beauty Civil Servant, then tosses back his beer.
Let’s just get the negative out of the way first, shall we? This will be ranty, so I want to make it clear that on the whole, I’ve loved Drinking Solo. My issues are just with the last couple of episodes.
While I understand that the romance between Hana and Jung-seok wasn’t the main point of this show, I can’t help but be disappointed right now. The last couple of weeks have been about nothing but them and their desire to be together, yet the last episode gave us pretty much nothing. Not one single scene with the two of them together (at least with them less than ten feet from one another)? No make-up apologies? No reunion kiss? Just… vague smiles? After the way Jung-seok behaved, I expected to see him groveling for forgiveness at the very least, so it feels like a cop-out that after months of separation, all it takes is for Gong-myung to send a text and everything is reset with no consequences. We got more romance from Jin-woong and Jin-yi in this last episode, than from Hana and Jung-seok. Not that I’m complaining, because they’re just as cute together as I thought they’d be, but I would have liked to see Jung-seok and Hana sharing a meal together, a hug, something.
Instead, this last episode wasn’t about Jung-seok being sorry, apologizing, and sincerely changing his rude ways, which I would have liked to see and frankly expected, and more about Gong-myung’s maturing and letting go of his own wishes for the sake of the woman he loves. In fact, in retrospect, the entire romance angle of the show now feels like it was about Gong-myung’s journey into adulthood, rather than Hana and Jung-seok’s love story. Which is fine, if we’d known that that was what it was about from the beginning. Instead I kept expecting the focus to shift to Hana and Jung-seok, and to see their relationship make them better people, but it just never did. Their ending was practically an afterthought, while Gong-myung got all the emotional growth. It still bothers me a lot that neither brother ever once asked Hana what she wanted, but I suppose I’ll just have to get over it.
And it’s such a shame that this finale week was such a letdown, because for the first fourteen episodes, I really enjoyed Drinking Solo and its cast of quirky characters. In particular I’ve been very impressed with Gong Myung’s portrayal of Jin Gong-myung — having only seen him once before in Entertainer, where he was adorable but really didn’t have much to do other than be grouchily endearing, I’m very impressed with the depth of emotion he brought to Jin Gong-myung. His bond with Dong-young and Ki-bum, his crush-that-became-more on Hana, his conflicting emotions regarding his brother and his eventual maturing into a responsible young man were quite well done. He was cute when he was called to be cute, and when it was time for the more serious moments, I never felt as if he was trying too hard or acting with just his facial expressions, as newer actors can tend to do. I was always right there with Gong-myung and his poor broken puppy heart.
Looking at the show all together, I think Drinking Solo did a great job telling the story it set out to tell, and it never suffered that droop in pacing that some dramas encounter in the last third of the show. I never felt that the show was giving its audience filler, or dragging out plot points for dramatic purpose. The story was good throughout, with all the little vignettes about life in Noryangjin — except in one aspect, Jung-seok’s and Hana’s relationship, which really suffered pacing issues from the very beginning. I remember a few weeks in wondering why the show wasn’t doing anything with Jung-seok at all, other than as some looming jerk who sometimes made Hana’s work life difficult. It wasn’t until halfway through the show that the romance kicked into gear, and thus it felt like all the angst was crammed into these last two episodes. I do wish there had been more push-pull between them earlier in the show’s run, and that we’d been able to explore the dynamics between the brothers, and their respective relationships with Hana, a bit more thoroughly instead of having to do it all right at the end.
It probably sounds like I didn’t absolutely love this show, and that wouldn’t be true at all — I’ve adored every minute of it right up until the finale, and even now I can safely say that it’s my favorite drama in the Let’s Eat/Drinking Solo franchise. The characters were so relatable and their stories played out in mostly realistic ways, especially the ebbing and flowing of the boys’ friendship. I’ll miss their little corner of Noryangjin. I’m hearing murmurs of a sequel and while normally I’m not a fan of second seasons, I’m all for it in this case. There’s so much more to be explored with our wonderful teachers and adorable students, and so many characters were left with much to learn about life. I’d love to see Ki-bum finally buckle down and make his family proud, or watch Dong-young finally pass and marry Joo-yeon, and can we please give Puppy Gong-myung an age-appropriate love interest who actually likes him back this time? I wanna see Jin-yi and Jin-woong’s baby dressed up as drama characters by its daddy, and most of all, I want to see Jung-seok become a nicer person because of Hana’s example, and for Hana to become an amazing, respected teacher. I’ll be right there raising my glass to their success.