39 – Felt Like a Bait and Switch

This show is about three best friends who are 39 years old and have been friends since high school. Mi Jo (Son Ye Jin) is a dermatologist who started her own practice. She was planning to take a sabbatical to learn to play golf for a year. Joo Hui (Kim Ji Hyun) is the sweet sensitive friend who works in a department store at the Skinceuticals counter (loving the age appropriate product placement in this show). She has been working in customer service for a long time and is looking for her place. Chang Young (Jeon Mi Do) is an acting coach and she is dating a married man.

I love that this show is about the friendship of three women in their late thirties. None of them are married or have children. It’s nice to see a show where it’s perfectly normal for women in their thirties to be single and living a great life. There is no pressure to have kids and no nagging mother setting them up on blind dates. This space was so needed for Korean women. Typically, strong women in KDramas are shown as alcoholics or obnoxiously loud and clumsy. There is none of that in this show.

This show is very well made and definitely worth watching. Just have the tissues handy because there are tears in every episode. Not the warm fuzzy kind. It’s the sad cathartic kind.

There are some spoilers starting here so you can stop reading if you don’t want to read any spoilers.

I was fully expecting a smart comedy from the trailers of this show. I wanted to see the daily lives of three grown-ass women and laugh while feeling seen. It was a total bait and switch. Things got real in episode two when Chang Young diagnosed with terminal stage IV pancreatic cancer. She was a smoker which is a risk factor for pancreatic cancer and dating a married man for 10 years.

After finding out about her diagnosis Mi Jo, Joo Hui and Chan Young are determined to have the best time together. You go through the episodes knowing that it could be the last time they’re doing something together. Life events like birthdays and trips could be the last time.

Chan Young has the opportunity to sort everything out and make things right for everyone around her. She unselfishly wishes to find Mi Jo’s birth mother and find Joo Hui a boyfriend before she dies. She wants to make sure her parents are set up before she leaves. She makes all of her own funeral arrangements and gets gifts for her loved ones before she leaves.

Everyone’s life can have meaning when they’re looking straight at their last days. Chan Young seemed to have lived a happy life that was full of love from her friends and family. There were two big things in her life that were unfulfilled. Her career as an actor and her love life. She gave up on acting and became an acting teacher. The man she loved for ten years was never fully hers. She wanted to make sure that her friends will be fine without her and she took care of her career and her love life after she knew her parents and her best friends would be fine.

The entire show is not about Chan Young and her illness. It’s mainly through the point of view of Mi Jo and how she deals with her dying friend and carry on with her own life while doing it. Mi Jo is fighting her own demons with being abandoned by her mother, her panic attacks, and her fitting in her new love, all while doing everything to prioritize her limited time with her best friend.

The last two episodes killed me especially the surprise brunch that was set up by Mi Jo and Joo Hui. Everyone who was on Chang Young’s list of people she wanted at her funeral were there. It was a chance for her to say one last good bye to everyone that made a difference in her life in some way. I was a hot mess of ugly crying during this scene.

Chan Young’s stupid boyfriend finally got his act together and left his wife. There was some controversy over this relationship. Without knowing the background, it appears that the show is somehow making it okay to have an extramarital affair. After knowing the story of how Jin Seok (Lee Moo Saeng) was tricked into getting married and how his wife lied to him about being the father of her child, there is some empathy felt for their relationship. He’s still a moron and wasted so much precious time but now we get to see Chan Young be with the love of her life.

There are so many scenes in this show that really make you envious about their friendship and appreciate the family-like friends that you have. Chan Young’s early death felt like a blessing. It was chance for her to connect and do what she wanted for the people she loves and a wake up call for Jin Seok. It’s a ridiculously sad story that is told in a beautiful way.

 

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