3 Moments We Loved & 3 That Hurt In Episode 17 Of “My Dearest”
We have a truncated week this time around as “My Dearest” aired only episode 17. But this heartrending drama is back to making viewers weep as Yoo Gil Chae (Ahn Eun Jin) and Lee Jang Hyun (Namgoong Min) endeavor once more to find joy in the middle of societal and political upheaval. Here’s what we loved and what hurt in this week’s episode!
Warning: spoilers for episode 17 below.
1. LOVED: Gil Chae’s strength
It’s no small feat for a women to agree to a divorce in Joseon. Women were already treated like second-class citizens, and to relinquish their husband, aka their only means of social currency, resulted in divorcees being treated like pariahs. To make things worse, Gil Chae is also seen as unclean on account of having been captured by the invaders. Her only means of making money was her ex-husband Goo Won Moo’s (Ji Seung Hyun’s) forge, and now, even that is lost to her. So she decides to leave to the outskirts of town to build a home of her own.
Her best friend Kyung Eun Ae (Lee Da In) sobs and pleads with her not to go, but Gil Chae points out that she can’t risk Eun Ae and her sister being affected by Gil Chae’s rock-bottom reputation. So she and her maid Jong Jong (Park Jong Yeon) reside with the other poorer folk. Gil Chae scrapes every penny she has to purchase a ramshackle house, and they try to make ends meet. She bravely keeps her head up through every insult in her direction and tries to live life proudly so that Jang Hyun’s efforts on her behalf won’t be wasted. Alas, Jang Hyun has no idea of the situation she’s in and is in a fine pickle of his own.
2. DISLIKED: Jang Hyun being confused regarding Gak Hwa
This is one of those moments where the writing seems to be trying quite hard to manufacture a conflict here. Jang Hyun has been stabbed, threatened, and manipulated by Gak Hwa (Lee Chung Ah). He has witnessed her trying to kill the woman he loves and round up slaves for selling because she can. He has refused her time and time again. There is no way that this man suddenly has a crisis where he wonders if he feels something for Gak Hwa. Yet, that’s exactly what the show does.
It’s a beautifully-shot and acted moment where Jang Hyun wonders why he keeps thinking of Gak Hwa despite her being “evil, foolish, and selfish.” The show seems to be trying to contrast Gak Hwa’s proud front with Gil Chae’s and making Jang Hyun confused because Gak Hwa is about one percent similar to Gil Chae, but the comparison just doesn’t track. Seeing him hesitate for a long moment when she kisses him again doesn’t sit right, especially because it leads him to an even more dangerous decision.
3. LOVED: Jang Hyun keeping his promise to the freed slaves
With Crown Prince So Hyun (Kim Moo Joon) finally getting to visit Joseon after a few years, the freed slaves under Jang Hyun’s care are ecstatic, believing that they can go home too. Until the devastating news drops that the Prince can’t take them. His father King Injo (Kim Jong Tae) has gone from paranoid to downright insane, and he fears that the incoming slaves could be an army to oust him from his position. He’s seeing conspiracies in his sleep. The Crown Prince, who has shaped up to become a fine human being, is aghast and wants to take the slaves with him, but both him and Jang Hyun know that they risk civil war by doing so.
To keep his promise to the slaves, Jang Hyun vows to head to Joseon first and prepare a path for the slaves to be smuggled out. His longtime mentor Goo Yang Chun (Choi Moo Sung) agrees to stay with the slaves as a show of faith and prove that Jang Hyun isn’t going to abandon them. Unfortunately, that means that Jang Hyun requires a favor from Gak Hwa. And the price he promises is that he’ll be with her once he returns. Uh oh.
4. DISLIKED: Gil Chae feigning pregnancy
Communication has never been this couple’s strong suit, but Gil Chae nearly goes into a tailspin with this tactic. She learns that Jang Hyun is returning to Joseon with the Crown Prince and can’t bear for him to witness the squalor that she and Jong Jong live in now. Gil Chae has always had a ton of pride, and it comes out in full force here. She rents expensive fabric from a disapproving Ryang Eum (Kim Yoon Woo) and a palanquin to boot, and she stuffs cloth in her dress to pretend that she’s pregnant and that her husband dotes on her.
Jang Hyun buys it hook, line, and sinker at first. He’s devastated but also eagerly runs from store to store to assuage her “pregnancy cravings.” It’s adorable and a heartbreaking glimpse into what their life could have been life if they were on the same page at the same time. Gil Chae keeps the act up all the way, and if it weren’t for Jang Hyun’s friend Goo Jam (Park Kang Sub) finding the truth and revealing to Jang Hyun that she’s divorced, then these two could have fallen apart once more.
5. DISLIKED: Gil Chae not being direct with her feelings
Jang Hyun is heartbroken to see how little Gil Chae has now but tries to give her a chance to come clean in one last meeting. He invites her to one of Ryang Eum’s shows, where he sings the same song that brought her to tears years ago, when war wasn’t even a speck in the distance and Jang Hyun had barely realized that he was in love. He says it’s the last thing he’ll ask of her, and Gil Chae goes, prepared to say farewell. But she starts sobbing when Ryang Eum sings, thinking back to all the good times and hard times and how they nearly had happiness.
Jang Hyun follows her as she runs out (leaving a heartbroken Ryang Eum, who knows where this is going). He reveals what he knows, and Gil Chae and her pride take it poorly, saying that she wants nothing more of him. Ryang Eum storms by afterwards and rightfully calls Gil Chae out for being a coward. It’s painful seeing him in near tears as he points out that if he had even a corner of Jang Hyun’s heart, let alone his whole heart like Gil Chae does, he’d do so much more. And he has a point. Gil Chae’s strength is so quiet, and she’s held on and taken care of people who haven’t taken care of her for so long that she literally doesn’t know how to reach out for her own happiness. But thankfully, Jang Hyun knows and loves her through everything.
6. LOVED: Jang Hyun holding Gil Chae
He comes back to her, and she makes him a meal, and it’s like they’re husband and wife in a space where no king or country can come between them. He places all his cards on the table, saying that her being divorced changes everything. He’s going to fight hard for her now. She tears up, but when he asks why she got divorced, she can’t bring herself to tell him what she told Goo Won Moo: that she gave her heart to Jang Hyun. And Jang Hyun tenderly begins what is possibly the most romantic speech of all time, finally revealing just how much and how long he’s loved Gil Chae in every imperfect, perfect iteration of her.
He’s just amazing. He doesn’t shy away from her or shame her but gently hugs her and commiserates with how much pain she must have been in. It’s the most swoon-worthy moment, and when Jang Hyun follows up by asking if he can hold her (aka stay with her) from now on, Gil Chae finally just goes for it.
We’ve machinations a plenty going on the background. Nam Yeon Joon’s (Lee Hak Joo’s) role in all this remains unclear. The king is insane, his wife is a schemer who’s happy to kill innocent palace maids if it means unseating the Crown Prince (which doesn’t bode well for Gil Chae and Jang Hyun), and Gak Hwa is about to hunt down Jang Hyun to make him stay with her forever. But finally, finally having our leads get a well-deserved moment of happiness feels like a great moment to leave off on. All bets are off next week though!
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Shalini_A is a long time Asian-drama addict. When not watching dramas, she fangirls over Ji Sung, and spins thrillers set in increasingly fantastic worlds. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, and feel free to ask her anything!
Currently Watching: “My Dearest,” “Moon in the Day,” “Daily Dose of Sunshine,” “The Killing Vote,” “Song of the Bandits,” and “Twinkling Watermelon.”
Looking Forward to: “Gyeongseong Creature,” “Ask The Stars,” “Queen of Tears,” “Vigilante,” and Ji Sung’s next drama.