Mi Rae’s Choice: Episode 16 (Final)

We’ve travelled all the way with our characters to the end of the line, but whether the journey is ultimately rewarding or even satisfying for characters and viewers alike… is up in the air.

The final episode brings us back full circle as we once again consider the role of human choice in fate’s dictates. The running theme of “hope” also continues to drive Mi Rae’s motivations in her fight for her career and her dreams, but I find myself left with more questions and loose ends than answers, coupled with the unsettling feeling that hope is more often empty than it is fulfilled.

EPISODE 16 (FINAL) RECAP

Everyone waits with baited breath as Shin pauses for a seeming eternity over his prompts: Will he defy his superiors by reporting on the deadly humidifier sterilizing agent or will he remain quiet and choose self-preservation?

Gathering himself, Shin finally begins to report… and it is not on the humidifier story, but on a more mundane matter. Ahhh, Shin, your principles! His decision is blatantly clear and shoulders slump in disappointment around the NTN studio while Mi Rae switches off the TV in disgust.

Meanwhile, Oppa has a private chat with Ineffective Time Cop #1 and #2 about Ajumma’s condition; their expressions suggest that the outlook is not positive if she attempts to return to her own time in her weakened state.

Se Joo clocks Mi Rae’s reaction to Shin’s broadcast, but asks after Ajumma instead and reacts with more scepticism than surprise when Mi Rae reveals that the older woman came from “far away.” Mi Rae confesses that Ajumma is like a long-lost twin sister and thus her distresses feels like Mi Rae’s own (as ludicrous as it sounds), but Se Joo merely reminds her to get some rest.

At NTN, Shin finishes the broadcast and strides out of the studio, straight past the silently disappointed faces of the two reporters.

Mi Rae visits the home of the man whose son died from the sterilizing agent and he offers her his painstakingly-compiled notes chronicling his son’s illness. The man’s voice catches as he thanks her for listening to his story, but dismisses her concerns about his anonymity. He adds resignedly that it no longer matters now that he’s lost his son – the only thing that is important is that the “murderers” are exposed for their unethical behaviour. So sad.

Ajumma finally wakes up in hospital, but Oppa finds himself gaping in stunned amazement as he arrives to be confronted by a grey-streaked and drastically-aged Ajumma, who wails in confusion to find herself being forcibly restrained from leaving by her doctor and nurses. The arrival of Mi Rae prompts a startled shriek from Ajumma.

When quizzed by the doctor, Ajumma replies that she’s 32 years old (prompting questioning frowns from everyone in the room) before turning her curious gaze on Mi Rae and remarking, “Oppa, that girl looks exactly like me. It’s scary.” Oh, you’re not serious…

Why yes, yes they are. Ajumma is apparently suffering from amnesia due to trauma and her mind has retreated to the time when she was at her happiest as a method of self-preservation. She may regain her memory in natural order… or she may not.

Oppa flashes back to his conversation with Ineffective Time Cop #2, who had revealed that Alternate!Kim Shin is actually alive. He had received surgery after Ajumma time travelled and thus survived his attempted suicide – he is waiting for Ajumma Mi Rae to return.

Mi Rae holds vigil at Ajumma’s bedside, wondering aloud whether it was so painful for Ajumma that she had wanted to forget everything. Or did she simply not want to go back? Her ruminations are interrupted by a call from Se Joo inviting her and Oppa to lunch with him and Miranda. Lunch? Sounds harmless enough.

Miranda: “Let’s set the wedding date.”

Oppa promptly spits out his water, HA. Even Se Joo reacts with a startled protest. Well, she certainly doesn’t dance around the subject.

Miranda clearly intends to make things difficult for Mi Rae if she wants to be a suitable partner for Se Joo, but Oppa hilariously fields her every requirement (for cooking skills or flower arrangement) by listing Mi Rae’s ample qualifications in each area. Miranda’s given no room for argument and finds herself forced to agree when Oppa suggests that Se Joo and Mi Rae should be engaged before proceeding to marriage. Haha, outmanoeuvred.

At the hospital, Ajumma wonders why Shin hadn’t come yet; he usually visits her with flowers every day without fail.

Shin can hear the sounds of the protest clearly in his office at NTN and asks Hee Kyung bluntly whether she had planned the party and golf as distractions to prevent his involvement. Her defensive reply is cut short when Yoo Kyung’s pops in to visit Shin – you can almost see Hee Kyung’s inner green-eyed monster come out when she demands to know who Yoo Kyung is.

The reaction doesn’t escape Yoo Kyung’s notice either and she introduces herself as Shin’s ex-girlfriend in response. HA.

Yoo Kyung is actually there to ask for Shin’s help with her overseas scholarship application form and her lofty goals leave Shin suitably impressed. She jokes that he should have liked her instead of Mi Rae, but her tone turns serious when she asks whether Shin had heard of Se Joo and Mi Rae’s impending engagement. Yoo Kyung is concerned and wonders whether he’s really okay despite his feigned disinterest, but his reply is forestalled by a panicked call from Ajumma.

Se Joo apologizes for springing the marriage talk on Mi Rae, admitting that he was unaware that Miranda had planned to bring it up then. But Mi Rae finally tells him that Miranda had spoken to her about it before and had given her the ultimatum: quit her job, or stop seeing Se Joo. Well, yay for not hiding that particular tidbit.

Whatever it was that she’d expected, it wasn’t Se Joo’s casual non-reaction and she’s speechless when he merely responds with, “Ah. What do you think about it? Would you be able to quit?” Ha, he’s just joking, though. She’s utterly relieved when he assures her that, as much as he’d like for her to be by his side always, he recognizes that she’s happiest when she’s working and only wants her to be happy. How sweet.

Se Joo does look thoughtful, however, and asks hesitantly whether she’d ever thought about doing further studies. Don’t tell me he’s going abroad, too.

Shin arrives at the hospital in answer to Ajumma’s frantic plea for his presence and finds himself ambushed upon entry by an overly-familiar hug around the middle. LOL, his face. No one told me that Ajumma/Shin was the real OTP around here.

Shin finally hears from Ajumma how they had met through a car accident in the past and comments sadly that they are both running away – Ajumma to the past and he from the correct path. Ajumma has a faraway look in her eyes as she remarks, “Trying to run away from fate means that you are still tied to that fate.” Food for thought, Shin.

Shin has to make an effort to steel himself on the way past the protestors at the NTN lobby the next morning. The bereaved father of the dead child intercepts him with a plea to report on the humidifier matter – he saved people in the subway incident; could he save him from the hell he’s living in after losing his son? Shin is visibly affected, but nevertheless refuses and turns away.

Mi Rae’s story is met with a reluctantly negative response at her new workplace; they are just a small company that has to shop the programs they’ve made around broadcasters. If the channels refuse to air it, then there is little they can do. The situation makes her think of Kim Shin and she smiles sadly.

Meanwhile, the words uttered by the father of the deceased boy continue to haunt Shin and he thinks inadvertently of the son that he and Mi Rae had lost in Ajumma’s timeline.

An old man interrupts Shin’s internal debate and blames him for ruining his life. Shin assumes that he is a victim of the humidifier fiasco, but the old man reveals: “I am you, from the future, 35 years from now. I am the you who never reported on that and kept my mouth shut until the end.” Whut, so we have Ajusshi Shin from the future of this current timeline?

Conveniently, he’s here with some advice – he had achieved all of the financial and career successes that Ajumma’s Kim Shin had not, but the result was that he had regretted the decision to keep mum about the humidifier incident for every day of his life. There is no win-win outcome, it seems; in exchange for materialistic comforts, he lost the respect of everyone around him and Na Mi Rae remained only a fond name in his memory. With that, he disappears, and Shin is left to ponder whether ignoring his conscience and keeping quiet is a choice that he can live with.

Mi Rae and Ajumma watch Shin’s next broadcast together later that night and Ajumma gushes over Shin, noting that he’d visited her earlier in the day. The comments incense Mi Rae, who wonders whether Ajumma is going that far to escape from reality when she had earlier accused Mi Rae of doing the same.

What they could not know is that Shin is fighting his own internal battle over the dilemma at that very moment. After a pregnant pause and anxious queries from the crew, Shin finally delivers his closing statement – and it is not what was on the script. “There’s something I need to say. I have received orders from the top not to report on this special news…” YES.

All eyes turn to the NTN 9 o’clock news, which prompts a variety of responses – the Pandora’s Box team is stunned, Se Joo monitors the report in his office with an intense frown and Mi Rae tries to calm an agitated Ajumma, who cries for Shin to stop until she is sedated. At his home, the bereaved father quietly utters a heartfelt “Thank you… thank you” as he watches the broadcast.

The crew restrains the furious NTN president, who continues to rail abuse at Shin as the latter walks off set. A fuming Hee Kyung threatens ominously that he’ll pay for disappointing her. Shin just replies calmly that he reported facts as stated on his contract, and it’s awesome.

Mi Rae returns to Ajumma’s room to find the older woman crying and she turns in confusion to Oppa and Time Cop #2, who reveal that AU!Kim Shin is alive and waiting for Ajumma. Wait, that’s good news, isn’t it? But Ajumma is struck by guilt and shame – how can she face Shin after what she’s done? Mi Rae advises her to beg forgiveness, but Ajumma observes that she’d ruined Shin’s life in this reality as well.

So Mi Rae promises to do whatever she can to prevent that from happening and pitches her story idea to Oppa the next morning – not only will they report on the life-threatening sterilizing agent endorsed by Tae Geuk Group, but they must underline the shady connection between NTN and Tae Geuk Group as well. Oppa is aghast at the risky and possibly futile move, but Mi Rae argues that this is the hope they’d wanted to spread through Pandora’s Box. Great changes start from small beginnings.

At the same time, Se Joo receives a warning from Miranda to keep his eyes peeled in his management of YBS; don’t make the same mistake as Shin by angering those with such power in the industry. Se Joo just sighs, obviously troubled.

Mi Rae speaks to Writer Bae and Yoo Kyung and both gutsy ladies agree to put their jobs on the line to help with the special broadcast. PD Lee and Clueless Announcer takes a bit more convincing, but they change their tune once they hear that Shin’s career is threatened after reporting on the issue. Ha, I just wish Shin could hear them chortling over Ajumma’s prediction of his downfall coming true.

Final stop for Mi Rae: Se Joo’s office. He turns down her proposal, though, and she’s almost accusing when she questions whether he’s being pressured by Tae Geuk Group. Se Joo is in a difficult position and says as much; he understands where she’s coming from and wants to help, but he also has to protect YBS’s interests. Making an enemy of their biggest advertiser is not the way to protect his company and his staff.

When Se Joo asks perceptively whether she’s motivated by a desire to protect Shin, Mi Rae denies the fact (pfft, she seems to have forgotten her words to the team about ‘protecting the anchor’) and cites it as something she feels morally bound to do. She adds: “I thought that you were similar to me. You are different from the chairwoman.” Well, that’s a guilt trip if ever there was one.

Shin finds his office occupied by someone else when he arrives at work the next morning and smiles wryly. I’m guessing he’s fired.

Mi Rae’s words about him being different from Miranda continue to weigh on Se Joo’s mind and he finally calls Oppa with his decision: Go ahead with the broadcast.

It’s full steam ahead for the Pandora team and their broadcast makes the connection clear between the dangerous humidifier sterilizing agents, NTN’s unethical practices and Shin’s subsequent dismissal. The top dogs are furious – the NTN president and Miranda are livid while the CEO of Tae Geuk Group is literally hopping in rage – but it is a resounding triumph for the victims and even Ajumma smiles from her hospital bed. Shin watches the broadcast with silent gratitude as Yoo Kyung speaks firmly about protecting the anchor who had placed his career on the line for truth.

The successful broadcast results in a wave of public support for Shin and even prompts petitions in his favour. Gah, I actually miss the whole Pandora team working together all of a sudden.

Miranda is furious that Se Joo green-lighted a broadcast that attacked one of their own major advertisers and demands to know what he’ll do to fix the situation, adding accusingly that Mi Rae must be the culprit who controlled Se Joo. (And I can’t help but think… well, perhaps you shouldn’t have listened to Ajumma, then? I wonder whether she regrets dismissing Yoo Kyung as the lesser choice compared to Mi Rae.)

But Se Joo declares that he cannot keep his mouth shut on such matters due to external pressure and does not want to run a company that his employees are ashamed of. With that, he hands in his resignation.

He and Yoo Kyung have a chat outside, during which he notes that she has a gift for being a show host and encourages her to pursue that path. She reveals that she’s managed to win her scholarship and will be heading to the States to study, though, and asks laughingly what his plans are now that he’s unemployed. LOL.

At his pause, Yoo Kyung guesses that he’s planning a few days of vacation at Jeju, which Se Joo admits sheepishly. HAHA, he’s so predictable. He is silent when she inquires whether Mi Rae will be accompanying him, however, and eventually she asks, “Se Joo, if you had met me first instead of Mi Rae… do you think you would have fallen for me instead?”

He replies honestly, “Maybe… I’m sure…” He would have.

They smile at each other for a moment before Yoo Kyung looks away with a sigh. The two of them sit side by side in companionable silence, each perhaps contemplating what could have been.

Mi Rae (in what appears to be a fluffy pink rug) has been summoned by Miranda, who cuts to the chase: “Break up with Se Joo.” Miranda accuses her of being the cause of Se Joo’s sudden resignation and threatens to ban Shin from the media industry forever if Mi Rae refuses, but Mi Rae stands firm; she will not break up with Se Joo because of Miranda’s words.

You go, girl! But wait, someone remind me – when did Mi Rae start to return Se Joo’s romantic feelings, at least enough to defend their relationship? Nothing about their interactions so far has convinced me that it’s anything more than a one way street.

Se Joo is in the midst of saying his silent goodbyes to YBS after his ridiculously short stint as director when Mi Rae calls him with an invitation to dinner at her house. She’s gone all out with her home-cooked spread for him, but her face freezes when he half-jokes that it makes them feel like newlyweds. Awkwardddd.

Both of them have something to say, but perhaps sensing what she had in mind, Se Joo asks to deliver his news first: He’s resigned and will be studying abroad. The Pandora’s Box broadcast showed him that he’s always done what he should do, but now he plans to pursue his own interest, which is to build a broadcasting network of his own outside of his grandmother’s shadow. “Mi Rae, will you go with me?”

Mi Rae: “I’m sorry. I don’t think I should be next to you anymore.” She admits that she’s always been at the receiving end in her relationship with him and she’s frustrated at her inability to give him anything. She wants to become someone who can give back to him, but won’t ask him to wait for her. Slipping the ring off her finger, Mi Rae offers it to it to Se Joo, who hasn’t looked the least bit surprised at her decision: “If you haven’t changed your mind later, will you give it to me then?” He just smiles and wraps her fingers back over the ring, telling her to hold onto it.

She breaks the tense moment by jumping up with the excuse of getting him tea, but Se Joo follows close on her heels and wraps his arms around her in a tender backhug. After a moment, she places her hand gently over his.

Ajumma has finally decided that it is time for her to return to her own time, although it may now be too late; her body is too weak and the journey alone may kill her. But she is determined to return so that she can spend her remaining days by Shin’s side – she still has to tell him that she’s sorry.

Mi Rae and Oppa accompany Ajumma back to the elevator to say their final farewells. Embracing her fondly, Oppa thanks his “pretty younger sister” for coming (awww) and Ajumma responds by nagging him to get his annual check-ups and find himself a wife. Gah, theirs is probably the relationship that touched me the most in the end.

To Mi Rae, Ajumma advises her to live her life well so that she doesn’t run away in regret like she did. Tears stream down Mi Rae’s cheeks as she thanks Ajumma: “Thank you for making me a better person.” She presses a key into Ajumma’s hand, which she explains is the key to Pandora’s Box – she’ll bury something next to their front door, so Ajumma must make it back to the future and find out what is in it for herself. “You can’t change the past, but you can change everything about the present.”

Smiling through their tears, they wave one last goodbye as the elevator door closes between them.

Shin has indeed been fired, but cheering supporters greet him as he exits NTN and he’s clearly touched by their encouragements. When he turns around, Mi Rae is standing there and watching with the faintest hint of a smile on her face.

As they take a walk together, she teases him lightly about Ajumma’s words on his downfall coming true and jokes that he doesn’t need her by his side since he’s received so much support. Shin turns to her at that, his expression serious, but she pretends not to notice the underlying meaning when he comments that he’d seen the broadcast and had planned to go to her. “You wanted to say thank you, right?”

He’s relieved to hear that Ajumma has returned to her own time and that her Kim Shin is alive and waiting for her. But Mi Rae clarifies in a light tone that it doesn’t mean she wants to date Shin – who would want to date a man with a billion won debt? HA. Shin wonders whether she’ll date him after he pays back that debt, then, and Mi Rae replies with a non-committal “maybe.” The future is yet to come, so she prefers to concentrate on the present instead.

Shin sighs in understanding and reaches out to ruffle her hair fondly: “You’ve matured a lot, Na Mi Rae.” Then the two of them walk down their own separate paths, heading in different directions.

We jump to Christmas Eve 3 years later, where we find Mi Rae wrapping up a guest stint on “Seo Yoo Kyung’s People Zoom In” – she is now a best-selling author, while Yoo Kyung is the successful host of her own show. HA, and PD Lee is the one behind the helm. He suggests that they should dine with him if they don’t have plans and Mi Rae and Yoo Kyung quickly make themselves scarce. PFFT.

Ooh, guess who has returned? Se Joo is greeted by Secretary Choi as he walks out of the airport, sporting a haircut that makes him look more punk rocker than chaebol heir, heh. He has no special reason for arriving a day early, but there is somewhere he needs to go…

OMG, that adorable baby! Aww, Oppa is now happily married and baby Geon (in memory of Ajumma’s child?) is his little boy. Oppa’s wife is pregnant with their second child and asks Mi Rae to intervene on her behalf – stop Oppa from going on yet another overseas trip! Ha, Oppa is apparently off to the North Pole for his next documentary.

Writer Bae is teaching a broadcasting class and takes a minute to brag that she is friends with Writer Na Mi Rae, which earns impressed murmurs from the class. She jokes that she only looks older than Mi Rae because she has to match her old-looking husband, heh.

Meanwhile, her lawyer husband is meeting with Shin and congratulates the latter on finally winning his battle against NTN. Shin thanks him for taking on his case and the husband invites him to dinner with him and Writer Bae (third wheel!) but Shin apologizes, politely citing existing plans for the day.

A gorgeously-dressed Mi Rae (those three years have been good to her fashion sense) walks into a bookstore and picks up a book… titled “Mi Rae’s Choice.” (Groans.) She walks past and just misses Shin, who has stopped by to pick up the same book, smiling as he looks down at it. Guess who’s also here to buy that book? Se Joo beelines for the book stand, slipping just past Mi Rae without seeing her in the crowd.

At the store exit, Mi Rae remembers something and turns to walk back in, spotting someone as she does so. We don’t see who it is, but her eyes widen slightly… and then she smiles.

In the future, Ajumma unearths a wooden chest from the front yard, which she opens with the key that Mi Rae had given her. She flips through the photographs from the chest to reveal the life in reverse of a young man, and at the end of the pile is a picture of a smiling Mi Rae with the baby boy in her arms.

As Ajumma’s hands begin to shake in an emotional response, another wrinkled hand – presumably Shin’s – reaches out to cover hers.

HANJAE’S THOUGHTS
Well, what the HECK.

Any hope that the drama will right its course had been pretty slim since Episode 13, what with the plodding developments (it took Shin a whole 2 episodes to decide to sign on the dotted line with NTN and another 2 episodes to finally reach the climax of Ajumma’s “prediction” about his career downfall), but a good ending could do a lot to erase the logical inconsistencies and annoyances. Thus I held out for the finale… and ARGH. Empty hopes.

Let’s start with the good. If there was one thing the finale episode did right, it was the way it brought the debate over the power of human choice full circle. When a person is given the once-in-a-lifetime chance to receive advice from their future self on the obstacles they will face as a result of their choices, what should one do with it? Run away and attempt to avoid that fate, ignore it or resign yourself to inevitability or choose to use that knowledge to overcome the obstacles and create a better future for yourself? Shin and Mi Rae learn the hard way that there is no easy way out; escaping one’s fate will simply result in a different set of obstacles and perhaps even result in eternal regret. The lesson at the end of the day is that one should follow their heart and brave difficulties head on; choosing the tougher road may be challenging, but the fulfilment at the end of the journey is that much greater. It’s an inspiring and uplifting message.

The irony, of course, is that in a drama titled “Mi Rae’s Choice,” the one crucial choice which formed the centrepiece of the story – i.e. the choice between following head or heart as far as her own future happiness is concerned – is never resolved. By chickening out, the writer has turned Mi Rae into the quintessential flake who cannot decide between two men and instead sends them mixed signals. Really, what was with asking Se Joo to give her the ring again in the future and then turning around and giving Shin a non-committal “maybe” when he asked whether they might meet again further down the road? Talk about leaving your options open. The audience is left to make their own conclusions on whom Mi Rae was fated to meet again and presumably choose. It is the worst sort of ending in which no one is entirely satisfied, particularly since both Shin and Se Joo are great guys who deserve to either find their happy ending with Mi Rae or be free to move onto another relationship.

I personally took the final dialogue and epilogue to suggest that Mi Rae had eventually found her way back to Shin – the snapshops of her with her baby son followed by him at various stages of his life underlines that Mi Rae had managed to achieve the happy future that Ajumma had wanted, but couldn’t have. And since the future that Ajumma had truly wanted was one where she was happy with Shin, he seems a more likely option. Additionally, the ending narration about Christmas bringing miracles such as the “return of old friends who have left” and “a call from a lover whom you’ve lost touch with” clearly indicates Se Joo as the friend (who has returned from abroad), leaving Shin the lover whom she’s lost contact with (I can’t see Mi Rae ever referring to Shin as a friend, anyway). But it has been pointed out that Mi Rae’s photo with her baby is taken at the YBS office, which would suggest that Se Joo was her eventual partner. The conclusion? We’ll never know, because it appears that the writer herself refuses to “choose,” instead offering contradicting hints and forcing viewers to compensate.

There is a great looming question which I find myself repeatedly asking: What on earth was the point? We’ve established that Ajumma’s time travel had no effect upon herself, so there must be another point. Up until Episode 13, I would have concluded that the four leads had to learn life-changing lessons that would eventually make them better people and bring success to their relationships where they had failed in the past, but the last four episodes leave me questioning even that. I will allow that Mi Rae had gained motivation for work and now fights to chase her own dreams, while Shin had learned to balance his principles with flexibility. But outside of work, neither had really changed significantly; Mi Rae remained indecisive and easily-swayed by public opinion while Shin had tried to drive Mi Rae away with his stubborn defensiveness until the very end.

The futility is even more pronounced when we look at Se Joo and Yoo Kyung, whom I now consider the ultimate victims of this silly exercise. Since we know nothing of their “past,” we cannot even be sure that their current selves had made any positive strides. There is nothing to suggest that this “new future” is at all an improvement and the only apparent difference is that they have lost their chance at (what I believe) was mutual love with each other – that moment of quiet regret they shared before Yoo Kyung went to study abroad broke my heart. Aside from becoming gentler after meeting Mi Rae, I’m not convinced that Se Joo had become a “better person” either, merely a more idealistic one who had tripped over the first hurdle at YBS. Unlike Mi Rae and Shin, everything points to Se Joo and Yoo Kyung having been a successful couple in the past and the current timeline has shown that Yoo Kyung is just as capable of affecting Se Joo positively, softening his edges and teaching him compassion and understanding in broadcasting without allowing him to wallow in idealisms as he has done with Mi Rae. Yoo Kyung herself may have found career success in the present, but the positive change was nevertheless inspired by Se Joo and could thus have been achievable in the past – the actual difference here is that she has lost the person she loved through no fault of her own.

More annoying is the fact that neither of them has ever received an apology from Ajumma. She may have touched the lives of Oppa, Mi Rae and Shin, but to the end she’d felt not the faintest ounce of remorse over the way she had dragged Se Joo and Yoo Kyung into this mess out of her own selfish, misguided desire for a happier future. Instead, she was allowed to return to her own happy ending with Shin. What sort of a message is that for the drama? Selfishness will result in a positive outcome for yourself regardless of the pain you cause others?

Speaking of Ajumma, the otherwise sweet epilogue basically underlines how little sense the last third of the drama made – the writer manages to forget even the few rules that she had established for the time travel aspect. Since Ajumma is from a parallel timeline and is not Mi Rae’s future self, how can she find the box buried by Mi Rae in a past that is not her own?

I also had a problem with the way the writer forced her message through the humidifier storyline. In order to spread “hope” with Mi Rae’s idealistic perspective of news reporting, the whole outcome is wrangled in her favour so that even Se Joo’s (very reasonable) protests are overridden and portrayed as cold-hearted. Rather than convincing me that her actions are justified, Mi Rae’s conversation with Se Joo simply made her look manipulative (how many writers get to pressure their director boyfriend into green-lighting their story?) and unreasonable (Se Joo had every reason to think about the practical consequences of what was essentially a direct attack on their biggest source of income).

It is all very well and good for Mi Rae to insist on “doing the right thing” and for Shin to get his hero moment – all they have to worry about is their own careers. Se Joo, on the other hand, stands at the top of YBS; if the company stock plummets, who will be blamed? If YBS staff lost their jobs as a result, he will not be remembered as the brave young director who chose justice over profit – he’ll simply be known as the idealistic idiot who ruined the company through mismanagement. I honestly can’t buy the writer’s overly-simplistic handling of such a complex situation and it brings back memories of the Episode 6 subway incident or the Episode 8 house renovation project. What happened to finding the middle ground between morals and profit? Is it always such a bad thing to find another option that doesn’t require you to throw yourself under a bus? What truly rubbed me the wrong way was that for all the harping on about justice, truth and hope, the final message Mi Rae imparted was that the anchor’s position must be protected. If the real underlying point was to save Shin’s career, then the writer would have been better off being clear about this goal from the outset rather than having Mi Rae guilt trip Se Joo in her self-righteous crusade for justice.

It is frankly disheartening to see a drama derail so completely, considering how much early promise it showed and the effusive praise that it had garnered at the outset. Even the character development, which was a highlight, ended up being ripped apart by the writer herself. Where was the strong Mi Rae who had determined to become more decisive in life and love? Did Shin just mellow out overnight after his noble idiocy over Mi Rae? And where on earth was Yoo Kyung, who had become almost a non-entity by the end of the drama?

The most galling of all is what the writer had done to Se Joo, who was arguably her best written character up to Episode 9-12. Where was the practical, sensible and strong-minded Se Joo who had all the makings of an inspiring boss, pre alien kidnapping? I simply could not reconcile him with the Episode 15-16 Se Joo, who was seemingly bewitched by Mi Rae and could so easily hand in his resignation letter over a disagreement. He was going to assume full control of YBS soon; why not effect change that way instead of resigning?

The one thing that I can take away from this drama (which was in no way diminished by the jolly mess that was the script) is the performance of all four leads. Lee Dong Gun was impressive in his sensitive portrayal of Kim Shin, a character who could easily have remained merely prickly and irritating, and I actually loved Shin by the end. Yoon Eun Hye is always likeable and perhaps imparted Mi Rae with a lot more charm than the indecisive and weak-minded character she turned out to be, and likewise Han Chae Ah masterfully portrayed Yoo Kyung’s strength of character, inner vulnerability and loveable charm without ever being grating (too bad she was so underused). Jung Yong Hwa might still be in the formative stages of his acting career, but he has shown himself to be the ultimate professional with poise and dedication far beyond his years and experience would suggest. If nothing else, Mi Rae’s Choice has been the platform through which he has proven that he can act and displayed remarkably improved acting skills in order to do full justice to the Park Se Joo character. That he deserves the fervent praise he has received from Korean viewers is unquestionable; a recent article even applauds the way he continued to shine despite the drama’s faltering storyline.

In the end, despite the disappointment over what the drama could have been, I prefer to remember my enjoyment of the first 12 episodes, the excellent character development up to that point and the winning performances of all actors involved. I came away with renewed love for Lee Dong Gun and Yoon Eun Hye, found myself a new fan of Han Chae Ah and couldn’t have asked more from Yong Hwa in his portrayal of Park Se Joo; I thoroughly look forward to better roles from him in the future as he continues to improve through association with other great senior actors. I don’t regret having watched and recapped the drama – it’s too bad that it couldn’t have been better, but onwards and upwards, right? More dramas await!

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