Episode 14 Review: Mr. Back (2014)
The more i look at the 14th episode of Mr. Back the more complete it feels. There were many things going on within nearly an hour’s time and everything was so masterfully presented. Talking about the storyline? It progressed a lot without feeling rushed. Some questions were answered, some others have yet to find their answer. Some masks fell, a few ones have yet to fall. Everyone changed, for better or for worse, the steady transformation of characters we were witnessing throughout the episodes is slowly reaching a climax that will reveal itself in full grandeur, hopefully, during the next two episodes.
The more the time approaches for Mr. Back’s final episodes the more i feel like i will be missing this drama. It’s one of these dramas whose actors really offered a soulful testimony. Jang Na Ra’s seemingly tranquil character as Ha Soo in this episode shines full of emotion, especially during the second half her facial expressions and heartfelt recitations are moving and internally powerful. Lee Joon as Dae Han was steadily maturing throughout the episodes and finally he knows the real face behind the Shin Hyung mask. He got to know himself and his father as he’s learning his feelings step by step. Park Ye Jin’s transformation as Ji Yoon was omnipresent during the 14th episode. Ever since Dae Han promised her that he will try to realize his feelings he’s kinder towards her and the trip played its own part. Ji Yoon on this episode has a different air, she unfolds her personality on the surrounding environment, she’s a brighter person now and it’s painted all over her face. Shin Ha Kyun as Go Bong tries to remain positive whereas at the same time he has compromised with the fact that he might not be around in a few days, all he cares about are his loved ones and he’s trying his best to make them happy. Our supporting characters progressed as well, we can witness Gyung Bae’s agony over Go Bong’s possible departure, but also his omnipresent help towards him, doctor Kim’s refreshed character after the journey and the struggle to help Go Bong, Yi Gun’s real face, Ki Chan’s realization that nothing was just like it seemed, Mi Hye, Young Dal and In Ja’s plots, but also their second thoughts when it comes to matters like family, etc.
The 14th episode continues from the moment Go Bong collapses in Dae Han’s arms and refers to him openly as his son for the first time while Ha Soo on the phone clearly understands that something’s wrong and she rushes to the Gold House. Our once happy figures when it comes to their joyous trip all together found themselves in a tragic situation. Go Bong’s bedridden and unconscious, Ha Soo and Dae Han try to figure out what’s going on and how bad is his condition. They can’t do much at the moment, all they can do is wait and hope for his health to get better. Ha Soo intends to stay by his side, but there’s no need for that, Dae Han asks her to go home and he will inform her when he wakes up. Inside her room, Go Bong’s words from his lantern wish keep echoing, wishing to leave without hurting anyone would be divine, but if he leaves in the end, how can his absence not hurt anyone while his people close to him are already weeping? Ha Soo’s lost in her tears while Dae Han remains by his father’s side. Go Bong wakes up and tries to explain briefly the sinkhole accident, but he’s too weak to deliver the whole truth at the moment, he offers the generic idea behind his rejuvenation incident. Dae Han’s internal world is crumbling, everything he tries to think seems in vain and he spends the night staring at his father’s memorial picture.
Yi Gun informs Ji Yoon that everything’s flowing just fine according to his plans when it comes to Cruise Hotel, he doesn’t seem to be worrying at all and his ambitious self won’t let him see behind the shadows that Go Bong so masterfully crafted around the original papers he gave to him. He even considers Go Bong quite desperate and that’s why he handed him over the papers he asked for, i’m really curious to find out what’s behind Go Bong’s plan! Mi Hye ruins their conversation and wants to talk to Yi Gun in private. Quite an awkward moment dare i say. There was just once that i thought Yi Gun could have feelings for Ji Yoon, his careerist stare towads Mi Hye as he says that he needs Ji Yoon just for work will never let me get fooled by him again, he’s clearly a person who doesn’t know what love is, all he cares about is personal success. Go Bong clearly created a monster that reflects the darkest shades of Go Bong’s business portrait. Mi Hye though doesn’t intend to surrender that easily and she informs Yi Gun that she acquired more company stocks. She’s playing with fire, no matter how Go Bong himself told her to be careful and more sane when it comes to her actions and no matter how Yi Gun informed her to remain out of the company’s business in order not to be framed by the prosecutor she’s still proceeding, one could imply that she’s still involved as a form of defense, but the more she dives in this pile of dirt the harder it will be to prove herself innocent when the occasion asks for it. I don’t want to ruin the magic or the distress of the episode in the future simply by putting in between a scene with Mi Hye, i will add it here since it paces really well with the overall Mi Hye flow. Later on she meets Ji Yoon in private, she wants to find out Ji Yoon’s real feelings and intentions. Mi Hye seems kind of attracted to Yi Gun and she wants to know what’s going on in Ji Yoon’s mind, although Ji Yoon would never like to have such a discussion with an untrustworthy person like Mi Hye and her words are specific and measured so as not to be misinterpreted or misunderstood.
Dae Han puts aside his worries, he doesn’t want his father to see him like that, if there’s not much time they can spend together he wants every single moment to be a bright one, of course to the extent that something like that is possible. The aura in Go Bong’s room is positive, both of them are wearing their smiles and Dae Han tries to feed his father as a humble act of caring; and he cares a lot about his father. Even when he hated him, he deeply loved him. A new gentle trouble arises in Dae Han’s mind, how should he call Go Bong from now on? Father? Hyung? Hyung fits perfect to their current relationship and hyung it is! Dae Han’s already become more specific when it comes to his feelings towards Ha Soo, he’s trying to abolish them for his father’s sake, all he wants is Go Bong and Ha Soo to treasure their mutual feelings and we witnessed his palpable change of heart during the previous episode by spending time all together and remaining unaffected by Go Bong and Ha Soo’s interaction. And let’s not forget his promise to our beautiful Ji Yoon who looks quite refreshed in this episode!
Shortly after, Go Bong gets ready and meets Gyung Bae, it’s about time Gyung Bae expressed how anxious he had been all this time whenever he got questioned about Go Bong’s real identity or health conditions, he had to say just whatever was coming to mind or flow according to plan in order not to reveal anything crucial! He witnesses that Go Bong’s wearing the late chairman’s suit and accompanies him somewhere. It’s not a pleasant surprise, Go Bong intends to take a memorial picture just in case, his smile hides all agony, he has no regrets and he’s more than grateful for the chance to cherish life in terms of everything he was missing for decades. All these feelings are being depicted in an appropriate way at the picture, no matter how sad the thought of it might be. Later on he meets Ha Soo at the company, she’s worried that he had to get up so early and come to work while he should be resting, but he reassures her that he’s just fine by doing some of his special Choi Go Bong dance moves! All these sudden dancing, exercising, jumping reactions are quite priceless because they catch you off guard and you can’t help it but laugh! A surprise awaits Ha Soo at night!
Yi Gun’s on a meeting with one of the main foreign investors and an agreement turns to life. Ki Chan notices that something’s not right and asks Yi Gun for explanations. The wages will be cut off by 30% and 30% of the employees will become temporary workers. Apparently his promise towards Go Bong was a fraud, people like Yi Gun have no honor and their speech holds no value, all he cares about is his personal ambition and it’s more than present. Ki Chan feels used and deceived, i always thought he was kind deep inside, but the more i was watching him doing business with Yi Gun the more i was despising him, he just joined the bright side of life when it comes to Mr. Back’s figures! Go Bong meets the prosecutor and he’s sharp towards him, even if he’s a prosecutor Go Bong’s isn’t going easy on him and he accuses him indirectly of being an unrighteous person. The prosecutor feels overpowered and he’s pretty sure that he’ll find something to accuse Go Bong’s family, but i’m rooting for Go Bong’s plan and i hope that all that he’ll find is his doom! Shortly after a discussion with Dae Han occurs as he wonders why Go Bong would hand over to Yi Gun the plans of the Cruise Hotel. First of all, he wanted to protect his family and we start getting a slight glimpse of what Go Bong has in mind, he wants Dae Han to take back the Cruise Hotel by completing the plans for it in the first place! The trust towards his son’s face is immense. Let’s see what hides behinds his thoughts!
Go Bong and Ha Soo are dining at one of Go Bong’s favorite restaurants, it even has a portrait of the late chairman hanging from its wall, it feels victorious! Go Bong wants to talk about something to her, he probably wants to reveal his real identity. Ha Soo tries to avoid this conversation at all costs, she’s anxious and starts talking about anything in order to prevent Go Bong from talking, she doesn’t want to hear anything he’d like to say to her because she’s got an intuition that it’s not going to be something positive and she’s right. Whether he wants to talk to her about his health condition or his real identity it’s going to be harmful, so she wants to avoid it. She will let him unfold his thoughts by the time he fulfills his fifth assignment when the times comes for it. For the the time being she wants to go ice-skating with Go Bong! Her agony’s painted all over he face, the thoughts wandering in the corridors of her mind are quite negative, she’d wish she could stop thinking for a while and put to an end all these thoughts that feel more real as time passes by. At the same time Dae Han’s drinking alone, although Ji Yoon’s worried about him and finds him at the bar. She doesn’t want to see Dae Han this way but she must let him know that the situation at the company is not very hopeful, they must acquire Cruise Hotel’s majority of stocks in order to remain on the lead. They must come up with a plan in order to keep by their side the board directors. Dae Han’s thoughts are stuck on Go Bong’s condition, he doesn’t know what’s the best for him and he can’t help him, it’s one of these moments that no matter how much you’re willing to help someone, you simply can’t, it’s a situation out of your hands and this hurts you even more. Both Ha Soo and Dae Han are breaking down, steadily and piece by piece, it’s a fragile balance between self-destructive thoughts and hopeful wishes that’s cracking more and more as time passes by.
Ha Soo’s desire for ice-skating is being fulfilled, but to a wider extent! Go Bong reserved the whole ice-skating part just for himself and Ha Soo, we’re talking about their moments, their very own moments and nobody else has place inside these precious memories! The overall ambiance is dreamlike and playful and they’re having some great fun! Go Bong’s a master at ice-skating, he learned how to ice-skate fifty… five years ago that felt like fifty years of experience! The moments they end up falling on the ice plateau are not few and they’re enjoying themselves even then, that was the purpose of this outburst of happiness and that’s how it flows, with the cinematography complimenting even more the dreamy aesthetic of Ha Soo and Go Bong’s surrounding environment. The end of the scene when they’re lying down reminded me of a specific scene from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Ha Soo’s face shines among colors and delight and Go Bong’s more than glad to witness the grandeur of happiness depicted on the contours of her face.
After the ice-skating fairytale Go Bong and Ha Soo are relaxing. She notices the late chairman’s name stitched on the interior part of Shin Hyung’s suit and it’s the same suit her father had tailored for him about thirty years ago, the same suit Ha Soo’s gentle parents gave him even though he couldn’t pay for it at the moment. Ha Soo feels emotional by holding in her hands one of her father’s pieces at a time when her mother was still pregnant at her, Go Bong’s mind wonders whether it could be fate that they met under all these circumstances. The time hasn’t arrived yet for the fifth assignment, she’s trying to avoid referring to it because that specific time of the year hasn’t arrived yet, but also she doesn’t refer to it yet in an attempt to keep Go Bong in her life for as much as she can. Deep inside she knows that his health worsens day by day, it’s just that she wants to believe that he’s leaving on a journey or something and that’s why she wants to keep it as a secret. As she’s leaving for a while she drops her bag and her diary appears. Go Bong’s happy to witness her thoughts and drawings that are related to their beautiful relationship, he also witnesses the fifth assignment which is no other than watching the cherry blossoms together which is one of the ultimate acts of love and romance in South Korea for a couple.
Later on Go Bong meets Gyung Bae who’s one of the most honest people around him, he must be suffering a bit more than Go Bong at times, we’ve watched him before being devastated even at the thought of Go Bong passing away and once again he states that whenever he thinks of Go Bong’s condition insomnia breaks in and he can’t sleep. Buddhism’s four pains and eight sufferings keep floating around Go Bong’s thoughts. He’s already gone through four of them, birth, aging, sickness and death. Wondering whether he could live on forever if he goes through the other four sufferings is plain nonsense in terms of daydreaming and Gyung Bae’s pretty much aware of that, he urges him to think positively no matter what. Go Bong has reached an agreement with himself that so far, so good and it really doesn’t matter to him by now if he passes away. All he cares for is the people he dearly loves and the hurt they’ll have to go through. Telling Ha Soo the whole truth is something he has to do, he also has to accomplish the fifth assignment, but how? Springtime’s far away from Xmas period and he doesn’t have that much time. His ingenious mind must come up with another plan in order to fulfill Ha Soo’s wish.
A big day arrives! Zen doctor Kim has finally arrived from his research journey and Go Bong can’t wait to meet him! I like it how relaxed he always is even if it’s a matter of life and death. There are times he leaves you with the impression that one of his phrases would last forever before reaching completion! And that’s the moment when Go Bong or Gyung Bae pressure him to keep on talking! He’s like a modern wise shaman under the effect of relaxing herbs! And his face looks quite refreshed after the journey, he must have had some special shaman treatment in Africa! The only situation that resembles the one of Go Bong is the one of the village leader who eventually died. The nasty personality of a powerful man in combination with the meteor ingestion are the hints, Gyung Bae agrees on the nasty behavior and Go Bong’s giving him the stare of doom! Go Bong, deal with it, you were nasty! Doctor Kim has an idea, like he stated in the beginning, it depends on how you look at it, is it poison or is the cure? During the next meteor shower Go Bong must consume an odd remedy at the scene of the sinkhole accident, nothing’s for certain, but it’s worth giving it a try, let’s hope everything will be fine with this odd remedy!
I like how nothing remains unanswered as Mr. Back processes and steadily marches towards the end. Not everything’s been answered yet, but piece by piece the puzzle naturally reaches completion. Go Bong recalls that Ha Soo’s dream work incorporates elements of creating memories for the people who come across your service, making people happy and see through their shiny smiles is one of Ha Soo’s personal ethics in life and Go Bong wants to bring something to life that will help her reach her working goal. He arranges some special educational courses for the interns and the title is “People who Create Memories”. The interns have to design a special event that will take place at the resort, the interns with the highest scores will be chosen and they will go through professional party/event planning programs. Ha Soo becomes aware that only Go Bong could be behind this and she becomes thoughtful. Come to think about it, she’s a person who creates memories already, she created so many beautiful memories to Go Bong that she’s already successful in this factor, to a personal yet vast extent. And that’s where the center of her thoughts will be, organizing an event for someone you love and what kind of memories you would like to create for the person who stands by your side. She’s drowning in her own thoughts once again, Go Bong has taken over her thoughts’ fortress in a not so positive way.
Gyung Bae’s having a discussion with Go Bong, the odd remedy might not work and they don’t know what side-effects it might possess so he’s not quite sure whether Go Bong should use it or not. Go Bong though feels more hopeful even at the small possibility of finding the cure if the remedy works well on him. It’s one these crossroads where the answer is not quite clear, “what if it works” and “what if it doesn’t” are the only two possible answers, but it’s worth trying, is it? Ji Yoon’s watching them talking from the stairs and the more she looks at Shin Hyung the more he looks like the late chairman, Choi Go Bong. Dae Han expresses his concerns once again since he feels unable to be of any help towards Go Bong, once the meteor takes its place in the discussion he can’t actually support his opinion because he would have to reveal more details and it’s not the right time. Needless to say that Ji Yoon’s looking way more refreshing, the more she appears the more renewed she looks, always classy and elegant! Yi Gun’s watching from a safe distance, he receives a call from Mi Hye, she tells him something, we don’t know what, but shortly after he calls the prosecutor and asks him to check if Shin Hyung’s fingerprints match the ones of the late chairman. They must have started suspecting something! After the phone call ends, In Ja enters his office. She hasn’t learned anything, but that’s how most devious people are, they’re so devious they forget to think and they fall into their own traps from a moment and on. She reveals to Yi Gun that she’s the one that got Go Bong’s inheritance from him and burned it, but Yi Gun doesn’t seem to care either for this or whatever she has to say or propose. In Ja starts threatening that if she’s going down, he will follow her downwards. I don’t think Yi Gun falls for such cheap tricks, it’s the phrase he was looking for to get a hold of her stocks in order to gain the majority in the company. We all know he’s two-faced and that he doesn’t value his own words when it comes to promises, so if he gets In Ja’s stocks he doesn’t intend to help her, he’s not the manager of a philanthropy center, he wants wealth and power and to achieve this thinking in a humane way is not the right thing to do.
Earlier during the episode we witnessed Ki Chan’s discomfort when it comes to Yi Gun’s decisions. The only way to redeem himself is talking to Go Bong, the only one who can offer a proper fight and put an end to Yi Gun’s sinister ambitions. And we get to know the reasons why he followed Yi Gun up to this moment, he thought he was following a noble cause in order to achieve better conditions for the employees, one of Yi Gun’s many lies and broken promises. Go Bong arranges a meeting with Young Dal and In Ja. As expected, In Ja thinks she’s doing the right thing to help herself and Young Dal simply by thinking of passing over her stocks to Yi Gun, they’ve been fooled so many times it has become a habit by now. Go Bong appears and he tries to get close to them by reminding them how it was when they were poor and how kind and generous Choi Go Bong was towards them, everything he orders from the Gold House personnel to bring on the table and every phrase he utters work as a symbolism to remind them specific memories and how they used to be and how low human beings they became in the process with Go Bong’s money. He’s not being harsh on them, his words even hold a sense of affection towards his siblings and he manages to strike an emotional chord on Young Dal who utters periodically throughout the scene “oh my, my brother”. A special reference must be done to the suit Ha Soo’s father had tailored for him back in the days, Go Bong mentions that from the moment he put it on everything started going exceptionally well and by that he means that his suit was made with love from kindhearted people and it felt like a wishing well when he most needed it.
Another mirror session takes place, the electrocuted-seeming veins and arteries still diffuse their glowing blue light underneath Go Bong’s body every time he touches his chest. It’s just like the zen doctor said, his body recognizes that it’s almost time and reacts to it. He has another plan in mind, a plan the hyper energetic Go Bong is going to adore! A plan Gyung Bae and doctor Kim are going to hate, but they can’t do otherwise if they don’t want to feel the four pains and eight sufferings of Go Bong being inflicted upon them! Hillside running upwards! Exercising and mineral water, exercising and mineral water! Go go go, Go Bong! He’s showing his boxing reflexes and then he drinks like an international champion the water of redemption! And then turning upside-down! It’s all about how you perceive the remedy, if you think it’s poison then it will work as a poison, if you consider it as medicine, then it’s medicine what you’ll probably receive! It’s all about a patient’s positive thinking and bright psychology and Go Bong must remain positive all the way to the end so that he might be able to prevent the end from withering his life’s petals.
Back at the company, Yi Gun appears with a bunch of directors and future investors. He exchanges stares with Go Bong and everyone realizes that it’s going to be a fierce battle. Yi Gun’s marching forward, Go Bong and Dae Han alongside Ji Yoon must proceed with something more powerful. Everything started with the five billion ₩ that were placed at Go Bong’s car, if they can solve the riddle of who placed them there everything else will be quite easy.
Go Bong has assigned a mission to Woo Young and Myung Soo! Woo Young’s overenthusiastic inside the store and Myung Soo tries to calm her down simply because they’re there for a specific cause and if they don’t unlock the achievement Go Bong’s going to punish them! He’s already irritated that they haven’t brought him yet everything he asked for! Myung Soo’s grimaces are priceless, he simply hates being in there! It’s Gyung Bae’s torment time since he has to help Go Bong create about a thousand paper cranes. One small yet important detail, the day he must take the remedy is on the 25th of December, Christmas, it’s the same day the 15th episode will air. Let’s wait and see how the Xmas spirit will treat Go Bong along with the remedy!
Ha Soo’s approaching at the surprise spot and Go Bong calls her on the phone to stop right there for a while! If they can’t see together the springtime cherry blossoms, they can at least treasure together the wintry artificial cherry blossoms, it’s a heartfelt equivalent on Go Bong’s behalf. Ha Soo’s losing herself in the beauty of the moment and slowly Go Bong appears. They’re having a discussion, Ha Soo mentions that watching the cherry blossoms together was her fifth assignment and she relates it to a memory from the past. She always wanted to go to an amusement park with her brother, but her parents were always working and they didn’t have enough money to invest on such a precious moment for their children. Suddenly one day their father took them to the amusement park and they had a really beautiful time, they ate pizza all together and they bought some presents. As Ha Soo states, it wasn’t a special occasion, it wasn’t their birthday or something to celebrate for, but for someone it was a special occasion, it was the last time both children had such a precious time with their father because later on that winter he passed away. It was a final heartfelt present from someone who would never see his children so happy again in the future. No matter how beautiful this moment is alongside Go Bong, she can’t help but relate it to her father and it’s pretty much something like that. She can’t hold back her tears, she can’t hold back watching the person she dearly loves fade away like a memory, it’s definitely one of the most powerful scenes in Mr. Back so far. You can sense the longing and the departure colliding in a single moment, the urge to be together for a long long time, something like forever, and the fear of nonexistence. An utterly beauteous and at the same time heart-wrenching scene. Go Bong is grateful, for everything. Ha Soo wants to create more memories for him. Let’s hope that everything will flow well for our koong koong da couple.
A flashback parade takes place in Ha Soo’s thoughts as she’s touching the couple meteor bracelet, thoughts that relate Shin Hyung and herself to the sinkhole accident, but Shin Hyung wasn’t there, it was the late chairman Choi Go Bong. She’s heading towards the accident sight. At the same time Go Bong’s re-watching the black box video of the accident and realizes that it was Ha Soo who held his hand after the accident, he feels obliged to reveal to her his real identity since he considers her utterly important to his survival. He’s heading towards the accident sight as well, Ha Soo is surprised to see him there, but surprise is not even close to how she’s going to feel when she finds out that actually he’s…
It was one complete episode by all means, quite representative of the role it possessed, to keep the interest of the audience to the highest level in deepest longing of the final two episodes. Let’s dive into the world of Mr. Back’s swansong during this week and let’s hope the ending will be representative of the journey so far, no matter how it might feel.