Wow, I never thought writing the recap for the final episode of YFFM would be this hard. I’ve been here before, that is, feeling the pangs of saying goodbye to a drama I love, feeling the giddiness and sadness of the last episode and the odd emptiness the ending eventually leaves behind. But having to recap a final episode of such beloved drama feels very different. To be honest, I dislike final episodes on principle(or rather based on experiences with many dramas). With a very few exceptions, they are usually rushed, at best, or, at worst – well, the last episode of Damo comes to mind(it ran a stampede over my wee soul and I have yet to fully recover). So in short, I was keeping my expectations limited for the last episode of Heartstrings and hoping for a quick and relatively painless resolution of conflict and many, many hints at a happily ever after. For someone who has thrived on a steady diet of cute interactions, youthful energy and lovable characters, the fulfillment of those hopes seemed like a pretty sweet deal. Now that it’s done and I am yet to collect my thoughts fully, I couldn’t really say the ending was what I expected. Well, not entirely anyway. But I’d have to say I’m overall satisfied with it, aside from one qualm, namely Shin’s situation. I mean seriously, I don’t know what this boy did to deserve being dealt the “life sometimes sucks” cards all throughout the show, but I’m less than pleased with how they handled his injury. I get that his hand still needs time to recover and that he will keep playing guitar, singing and writing songs, but still, something about taking THAT away from him(even if not completely, even if just for a while), the thing that makes him magical and makes the audience fall for him, well… sucks. On the other hand, I am overjoyed that Kyu Won has become a successful singer, it’s something I was hoping for from the moment I saw her get up on that stage to play with Stupid back when everything began. I also love that we finally got our kiss and reciprocated hug and that we got to see Shin and Kyu Won on stage together, so… all’s well that ends well?
We’re still at Catharsis, where Shin’s wrist has caused him to stop playing and fall to his knees in pain, to everyone, and especially Kyu Won’s alarm. But when they ask him what’s the matter he brushes it off, claiming it has nothing to do with his hand and refuses Kyu Won’s offer to go to the hospital, starting to play again. After the performance, we see Shin in the bathroom, holding his hand under cold water to reduce the pain. Back at the table, Kyu Won remembers the fall and the patch on Shin’s wrist the other day and shares her concerns with Suk Hyun and Yoon Soo, also confronting Shin about it when he returns. However, he puts on the brave act once again and denies having any problems with his hand whatsoever.
As they walk home, Yoon Soo and Suk Hyun talk about Shin’s problem. Yoon Soo is worried, thinking about what happened to her in the past, but Suk Hyun tries to look on the bright side of things, such as the way Yoon Soo’s return brought them back together. I’m all for optimism and everything but I’m not sure how well Suk Hyun would be able to handle having his directing abilities taken away from him in the blink of an eye. This storyline, aside from digging a hole through my heart because of what’s happening to Shin, is really making me feel for Yoon Soo, in retrospect. Back when the show began and we knew little to nothing about her back story, she contrasted a lot with the rest of the cast’s cheerfulness and let’s face it, was a total downer, to an annoying extent, but she was the only one at the time who had lost something incredibly precious, who had had a big chunk of who she was, of who she liked being taken away from her. So basically, as my heart breaks for Shin and I look back, I pretty much get why she was like that. Hell, I’m not sure how many people wouldn’t be that way after what happened to her. So in that sense, I would say job well done tying loose ends, show.
The next day, Kyu Won meets with the manager and finds out that she’s set to leave for England very soon. She’s to spend six months there and receive intensive training, from singing lessons to jazz-dancing, as well as getting to watch musicals. He also tells her that she should take a year off from school for this purpose, and that she might consider giving it up altogether, since she was majoring in gugak anyway. But Kyu Won says she plans to return to school after her year off because she doesn’t want to let go of gugak completely.
The other half of the couple however, isn’t faring so well. It turns out that his hand needs surgery, and fast. The doctor wants to schedule it as soon as possible to avoid any further complications, but Shin insists that they postpone it for a while, for fear Kyu Won would find out. Shin also asks what the chances of recovery are after surgery, and the doctor says it depends on several things, and that some patients never regain full use. A disheartened Shin leaves the doctor’s office and sits down on the stairs thinking about what he’s just heard. Wow, show. Is this how far you are willing to go? Is my becoming a blubbering mess that important to you that you’d be willing to sacrifice Shin’s hand to get me to do it? Bah, I hope you’re happy.
Back at her house, Kyu Won fills grandpa in on her plans to take a year off school to study abroad. Gramps doesn’t dignify her with his interest, saying she can do whatever she pleases because he doesn’t care. Now that Shin’s sister is his new apprentice, gramps seems to have gotten over the disappointment that Kyu Won isn’t following in his gugak footsteps, but like the old baby that he is, he’s not about to actually be civilized about it.
Kyu Won calls Shin and asks that they meet. She shows him her passport picture and he asks her to give it to him so he can study it in detail. Kyu Won talks about the departure plans, saying that she’s happy and excited to be going but at the same time sad to be separated from him. He cheers her up, saying that they can always keep in touch and see each other online, joking about the fact that she seems to like him too much to be able to be away from him. I know this is supposed to be funny, but what’s a girl to do if what you say is true? Have you met you? If you were her, would you be able to stay away? Pah.
Kyu Won is already packing her things when her father drops in. They talk about Shin and the father is curious whether he’ll be able to let Kyu Won go, but she complains that it’s quite the opposite and that he seems eager to send her away. The dad interprets this as Shin not wanting her to know he is affected by her leaving, and then, seeing that Shin isn’t doing the clingy thing he gives it a half ass attempt himself, saying something along the lines of them not being meant to live together since she’s going away just as he moved in. I love seeing Kyu Won’s eyes sparkle with excitement and I’m really happy that she is getting the chance, but at the same time I feel guilty being happy for her and knowing what poor Shin is going through. Come to think about it, if I feel this way, Kyu Won would feel a gazillion times worse, so I (reluctantly) get why Shin isn’t telling her.
In the meanwhile, Shin keeps trying to play guitar but the pain in his hand won’t let him. Aw man, this is just too sad.
Suk Hyun and Yoon Soo talk about their own travel plans to the chairman and it turns out they’ll be gone for about a year as well. Time jump, here we come! But not yet.
Kyu Won is meeting the girls who gush about her good fortune and tell her they are jealous of all the things she will get to do and see, but Kyu Won tempers their enthusiasm saying she’s seen her schedule and basically she’ll barely have time to breathe. This leads the girls to conclude that Shin has quit Catharsis in order to make the most of the time they still have together, except this comes as a total surprise to Kyu Won. She thinks it a bit suspicious, but the girls say he probably wants to surprise her with the news later, and she lets herself be convinced because it’s the last episode and following the suspicion trail would not advance the story as quickly it needs to be advanced at this point.
Well, at least one couple is making the most out of the Catharsis time out, with Joon Hee and Hee Joo meeting for coffee and Joon Hee being super attentive and caring to Hee Joo, thus showing that Shin’s not the only Stupid boy to be a great boyfriend. We knew that already, Joon Hee, but as cute as you are, we still like Shin better.
Shin meets his doctor to schedule the surgery. The doctor suggests that they set it soon, but Shin asks that they schedule it after Kyu Won’s departure date. The doctor warns him that chances of recovery worsen as time passes, but Shin is adamant about needing the time he asked for. NO! This isn’t how it’s supposed to be, it’s not supposed to be your future for Kyu Won’s, you’re both supposed to have it, together. PD-nim, this is pissing me off more and more.
It appears that of all people, Suk Hyun has caught on to the fact that something’s up with Shin so he asks to meet him. When Shin says he’s fine, he grabs his hand rather harshly, causing Shin to shriek in pain and give himself away as a result. Shin asks Suk Hyun that he doesn’t tell Kyu Won, fearing that she would drop everything and stay behind. Suk Hyun understands his reasoning, and after offering some words of encouragement, they part ways.
Shin goes to meet Kyu Won, who shows him her plane ticket, to which he replies that her going away seems real now. Their order is up and he offers to get it, but drops the tray because of his painful wrist. Okay, Mr. Indestructible and Stealthy, if you’re really going to keep it from her, best try not putting yourself in a position where your cover will get blown, m’kay? Or better yet, just tell her and put me out of my misery, eh? Pretty please with a cherry on top? Of course, Kyu Won thinks his dropping the tray is weird and asks him again what’s wrong, if his hand is hurt and if that’s the reason he stopped playing at Catharsis. He denies it again and the conversation ends there, except Kyu Won isn’t about to let it go quite as easily. That night she keeps thinking about the various incidents involving Shin and pieces things together.
The next morning she goes and tells the manager she won’t be using that plane ticket after all and that she’ll refund them for the costs, because she’s decided to stay behind and be by someone’s side. When the manager asks her if she won’t regret it, she confidently says she won’t. And that right there, that confidence is what makes me realize she has to go. Because she is willing to wave away a brilliant opportunity as if it’s nothing, just like she always has in the past. Maybe if I’d seen more regret on her face rejecting the chance of a lifetime, I would have been inclined to think that staying behind wouldn’t be so bad since she’d fight for her chance anyway, but like this, with her happily stepping behind the curtain again… well, let’s just say it wouldn’t be her if she didn’t offer like this, but I would be twice as heartbroken if she did stay behind. I mean, at this point, Shin’s hand is busted anyway, and while it would be great to have her next to him through the thick of it all, it would be doubly tragic if both were to miss out on opportunities because of it.
After speaking to the manager, she goes to meet Shin and tells him that she’s decided not to go anywhere but that she will stay and be there for him because he is injured. His reaction is to reply, rather coldly, that he is fine, but that he wants to break up as he doesn’t see himself pulling off a long distance relationship. Nooo! I knew this had to happen, but… why does it really have to happen, why? Why, PD-nim!? On the other hand, this is the same spot where she told him a while back that she would stop liking him, and look how well that turned out.
He takes her bear off his phone and gives it back to her, but when she refuses to take it, he leaves it next to her on the bench, says he’s sorry and gets up to walk away. She goes after him and grabs his hand but he doesn’t let her hold on to him and leaves. Seeing him walk away from her, the distance between them growing with every step is just so painful to watch. On one hand I know it’s just a stage of this whole final episode thing, but on the other hand, I really, really didn’t want to see this happen. And sure, she could have fought it more, but when you think about it, with the changes going on in her life, friends acting just a tad differently around her, everything feeling strange and new all of the sudden, being hit with this after your boyfriend has been acting strange for a while… well, it’s not like it couldn’t happen. I can actually see it happen to a couple. It’s just that it’s not supposed to be happening to them.
That night, they both cry, Kyu Won holding their bears and Shin looking at her picture. Aw damn. As if it wasn’t enough with me tearing up over here.
The next scene shows Kyu Won heading to the airport as Shin is in the hospital waiting for his surgery with his mother.
Next thing we know, it’s a year later.
Kyu Won is already a star and I’m loving that they went all out with this and didn’t leave it at a possible maybe in the future if this or that. She’s an established artist, popular enough to be holding press conferences and giving interviews to music magazines (Shin’s mom’s magazine, for one) and having her albums selling well in stores. So, you know, pretty cool. I love seeing her confident and in her element at that press conference(I’ve been waiting two shows long for this) and having the press fawn over her. A year ago she was the girl deemed unfit to date the campus idol and now she’s a star in her own right. Also, the longer hair? Awesome. Not only does it make her look more mature and gives her an air of confidence as opposed to the playful/youthful hairstyle she’s had throughout the show, she looks absolutely gorgeous wearing it like that.
Shin’s mom and Kyu Won’s dad meet up to talk about the kids. She praises Kyu Won and makes him a job offer, granted, one that pays less than his current one but that offers more satisfaction. I’m betting he would have done it for free, but like this, how could he not accept? We also find out that Shin is doing better, recovering slowly, and constantly practicing guitar, but the mom adds that Kyu Won should still be kept in the dark about the surgery. Why the need for secrecy now, I wonder? Should I suspect a small case of manly manliness and of “I don’t want you to see me when I’m weak and vulnerable” on top of Shin’s selflessness? Hmm. You can take the narcissistic prince out of Catharsis, but you can’t take the narcissism out of the prince. No, that doesn’t sound right to me either.
Over at Shin’s house, his sister is bugging him about resuming his Catharsis performances but he says it will take a while longer, to which the sister retorts that he always says that. I’m guessing little sis has figured out that money don’t grow on gugak trees and that grandpa is a stingy old bugger(just ask Kyu Won) so her finances would really need that extra push only having a campus idol brother could give. Especially since his relationship status would now ensure the return of his entire fan base. Speaking of grandpa, though, he seems to have met his match, and then some in Jung Hyun. Not only has she memorized his entire life story(an impressive feat), but she will take none of his nagging and is not afraid to send him away when he is interrupting her lessons. Poor grandpa and his disciple from hell.
Suk Hyun and Yoon Soo return home to find that everything is the same as they had left it and completely different at the same time. For instance, Soo Myung’s crapmobile is still the same, but his love life seems to have blossomed since he is dating the head Scene Stealer and even bragging about it. Catharsis also seems to have suffered a change in administration in the name of… love, or at least that’s what we suspect Gu went in search of on the other side of the globe.
On the other hand, Hee Joo’s mother is still her scheming self, except this time she’s trying to make her younger daughter into the next diva. The only problem is the girl is about as much of a diva as… well, her mother is, really. That’s not a problem though, in the world of Model Mom, since she has already instructed Frsutrato-guy to make her daughter a star. Tae Joon and his minion talk about the matter, lamenting daughter no.2’s lack of talent and saying they have to find a part for her regardless, especially since this year Suk Hyun won’t be there to bother them about casting those pesky talented people instead of those who need to be cast. That moment, Suk Hyun and Yoon Soo show up, sending both members of the production team into a panic. But not to worry, Suk Hyun is not there to foil their plans, he just came to escort Yoon Soo and say hello to the chairman. Suk Hyun is in fact preparing his own show, and on hearing the news about Kyu Won’s success, he goes to find her.
Kyu Won is practicing at the studio and showing some awesome dance moves. I’m glad ShinHye got to show off her dance skills at least a little bit, because she really does move very well. The director goes in and applauds her performance and both of them are glad to see each other again. Suk Hyun asks Kyu Won how she is doing and how things are going with Shin. She tells him about the breakup a while ago and he asks for details, realizing what was behind it. Kyu Won however seems to think it was for completely different reasons and even says something about how she understood where he came from when she got to England. Bah, if only you knew, Lee Kyu Won, if only you knew. Suk Hyun scolds her for not telling him earlier and she excuses herself saying it wasn’t happy news so she didn’t think to report it. Suk Hyun hands her the script for the new show he’s working on and wants to know what she thinks. He points out that if she likes it, she will have to audition for the part like everybody else. Darn this Suk Hyun and his work ethics. Why can’t he be more like Tae Joon and just give her the part? Juuuuuuust kidding. Love you, Suk Hyun! *waves* The director also tells Kyu Won that he’s thinking about asking Shin to work on the music for the show. Kyu Won is surprised but says she’s okay with it and he can go right ahead.
Not one to waste time, Suk Hyun goes to meet Shin to tell him about the project and ask him about his hand. Shin tells him that his hand is still not 100% but that he’s working hard to get there. Suk Hyun asks Shin to create the music for his show, telling him to take a look at the script and to show him whatever songs he might have that fit the story. I have to say, Suk Hyun has a really bad case of art-imitating-life-itis. First it was a show about him and Yoon Soo, now it’s about Shin and Kyu Won(obviously). That’s the thing about being friends with artists, you never know when your life will end up in a novel or a play. That being said, I would so TOTALLY watch Heartstrings II – Theater Days or Heartstrings II – The Show Does Go On or Heartstrings II – Fan Service. Either is fine with me. Just don’t end, show! *ahem*
Over at Catharsis, the gang is welcoming Suk Hyun and Yoon Soo, with Suk Hyun being his old wise ass self and wondering why the reception hadn’t been more impressive. After a bit more banter, talk of the musical comes up and Hee Joo asks whether the director had already assigned the part to Kyu Won. The director asks if Hee Joo wants to compete for the part as well and she admits that she does, but then the conversation turns to Shin making the music for the show and as such his and Kyu Won’s possible collaboration, which pretty much brings on the melancholy.
Kyu Won looks for something in her book case and finds Shin’s dad’s disc that he had given her. Since the circumstances had changed dramatically since then, she decides to return it to him. She waits for him outside his front door, hesitating, just as Shin happens to come up behind her. They share an awkward moment before she blurts out that she hasn’t had a chance to return it before and that she’s sorry about that, to which he simply tells her to go back inside. Wow, this reunion, seeing them distant and hurt is more painful than the breakup scene, especially since she is returning the disc that pretty much held the promise of their relationship… *gulp* You better make it up to me soon, show, you’re running out of time!
Suk Hyun and Shin meet up the next day to discuss the musical. Shin likes the idea of the show and offers the songs he’s been working on but refuses to participate in the actual production because he doesn’t want Kyu Won to know that his playing still isn’t up to snuff. Suk Hyun, do me a favor, will you? Slap some sense into that boy? Kthx.
On the other hand, Kyu Won is delighted by the idea of being in the show and playing the lead, and she’s even up for the audition, not one to be intimidated by the likes of Hee Joo. Kyu Won really has changed and I am loving it. However, when she hears about Shin not partaking in the musical she assumes it’s because of her and she decides to give Shin a call to set things straight. Shin is in Stupid’s practice studio, working hard on his guitar but with less than satisfying results when he receives her call. He asks her what it’s about but she insists that they meet in person. Ouch, I can tell by the tone in their voices this isn’t going to go down well.
Suk Hyun and Yoon Soo talk about Kyu Won and Shin’s situation(and do some last minute product placement), comparing their own experiences of having been in an accident/finding out their loved one was in pain and weighing in on which would be better, for Kyu Won to know or not to know.
Shin and Kyu Won meet and she asks him why he doesn’t want to take part in the show and says she’ll make sure they don’t run into each other if that’s what it takes, but he rebukes her every attempt and eventually tells her to leave him alone. Yep, it didn’t go down well.
In this situation, what’s a girl to do? Go to Catharsis and get really drunk. Wow, you can tell she’s been to England. Not knowing what to do with a passed out Kyu Won, Bo Woon calls Shin to ask him to take her home. Shin doesn’t know what to do, or rather, what he wants to do isn’t the same as what he thinks he should do, so eventually calls Kyu Won’s father and tells him about the situation. He still worries about what might happen so he waits for them outside their house and the dad sees him. After depositing Kyu Won in her bed, he comes back out and talks to Shin, telling him that he should make an attempt at patching things up with Kyu Won since they obviously still have feelings for each other and gives Shin’s mother and himself as an example of something that might have worked had they insisted a little and that he ended up regretting letting go.
The next day Kyu Won wakes up to grandpa’s fury of having raised a drunk. Kyu Won doesn’t really know what’s going on, but her dad fills in the gaps and she realizes she does have reasons to be embarrassed. The dad also tells her it was Shin who called him to pick her up after Bo Woon had called him, and Kyu Won is a little disappointed, thinking for a moment that Shin could have taken her home himself.
Suk Hyun listens to the songs Shin had written and realizes he has to step in and force some sense into the two. He meets Kyu Won the next day and tells her to listen to the songs, saying that a fool had written them. As she listens, Kyu Won flashes back to how she and Shin had met and built their relationship over time, and eventually realizes that it was he who had written the song. By golly! We have progress!
The next time she meets Suk Hyun she questions him about the author of the song and he confesses that it’s Shin, at the same time filling her in on the whole situation with his hand, his over-protectiveness and his pride. Kyu Won is furious and as a result goes to find Shin to give her a piece of her mind. She tells him that she had tried hating him all this time but that now she will hate him for real. Ha, we’ll see about that. Finally, it’s out in the open. And not a minute too soon, in fact, some 40 minutes too late, but oh well.
Kyu Won leaves Shin in the practice room and then wanders around campus, retracing the steps of their relationship, the coffee spot, the place where they took shelter from the rain together, the park where they walked hand in hand. After his meeting with Kyu Won, Shin leaves the studio as well, and is retracing their same steps, until they find themselves face to face in the park. Seeing each other in that place really leaves little room for explanations, especially in light of the day’s occurrences, so they just smile and Shin runs to Kyu Won and holds her in his arms, telling her that he missed her. She replies that he missed him as well, and he tells her that he loves her, and then leans in to kiss her. Wow, we’ve waited all series long for this kiss and it really is… well, a lot of what we’d hoped for. I love that she finally puts her hands around him when they kiss, and that there’s movement and not just a simple peck-type static thing. And I also love that their reunion is marked by a declaration and a kiss and not much else, because, really, what else could there have been to say? I’m still a little bummed that last episode’s kiss didn’t happen because the setup for it was perfect, but I’ll take this and be thankful for it.
The final scene finds everyone at Catharsis, where Kyu Won takes the stage with her newfound confidence, followed by Shin. They sing the songs that show what they mean to one another. Aside from the fact that I love ending on a musical note(uuh, pun!)I’ll take this to mean that Shin’s hand is back in working condition and that he has in fact returned to the stage and is playing guitar again, and of course, that they keep being in love, with one another and with music, which is the very best that we could wish for.
Hmmm… what to say? I was going to love this show no matter what, but I just happened to fall in love with it on its own merit. I’m not sure how much time will go by until a new drama that has the ability to reach its viewers on so many levels will come along, but I’m thankful that this one did get made and that we had a chance to watch it because it’s a very special bit of television.
If you think about it, the structure of the storylines has been fairly concentric, with elements that had been set up in the first episode reappearing in the last, while other storylines that appeared mid-show got resolved almost immediately. The time jump closes the circle with the beginning of the show, with Kyu Won returning after succeeding in her career, like Suk Hyun did in the first episode, only to find a wounded/recovering Shin, not unlike Yoon Soo was. Now, if Yoon Soo’s trajectory throughout the show is any indication of the message they were trying to send(as the earlier dialogue with Suk Hyun pointed out), then it’s a lot about getting up even when life knocks you down. And about taking chances and believing that your dreams are worth it, and that more than that, you are worthy of your dreams.
I was going to talk more about how tightly wrapped the storylines were in the end, but in all fairness, even with this ending, I could see this go on for another season or two. In fact, one of my greatest regrets about this drama is that it’s not going to have any more seasons, any more episodes. I would have loved to spend more time with the Dooleys but it’s not just them. It’s all the other characters that I would have liked to get to know or get to know better. You could build a show around Ki Young, or even around Hee Joo and Joon Hee. And thinking about it, maybe the story would have been better served if this had been one of those 50-something episode dramas that gives all of the characters a chance to develop, instead of packing everything into a 16 episode-turned 15 episode typical weekday format. But like I said, I am thankful that I got to experience all the wonderful moments this show had to offer and I look forward to getting my greedy paws on the DVD and hopefully on the loads of goodies and extras that will come with it.