Thursday, July 26, 2012

K-Drama Review: Big, Episodes 15-16

Read Episode reviews for:

Big--Episodes 1-2
Big--Episodes 3-4
Big--Episodes 5-6
Big--Episodes 7-8
Big--Episodes 9-10
Big--Episodes 11-12
Big--Episodes 13-14

Contains Spoilers for Episodes 15-16

My thoughts prior to viewing the final two eps: Big is ending, and I don't want it to be ending. Nooo! I almost don't want to watch any more. Because these are the episodes that make or break the entire show and plot arc as a whole. I've loved this show, and I don't want it to turn into a train wreck at the finish line, to mangle a metaphor.

Brace for an epic recap, because my reviews of finales tend to be long. Case in point, Rooftop Prince.

We open with a dream sequence. Kyungjoon is dreaming that he's walking through a sort of desolate waterscape reminiscent of the place where he nearly drowned. He's walking toward...

Himself. Reading a Book to Him(other)self.

It's only 20 seconds into the episode, and I already want to dissect this image. Kyungjoon is dreaming of watching Yoonjae reading the Angel Miracle book to Kyungjoon-body as it's lying in his childhood racecar bed. Yoonjae looks protective of his little brother. Kyungjoon looks at Yoonjae, who is identical to him in appearance, and asks if he has been waiting all this time. Man. It's really got to mess with your sense of identity when you've been bodyswapped with your long-lost twin brother who is 12 years older than you.

Dream-Yoonjae extends his hand. Kyungjoon knows that if he takes that hand, he will wake up in his own body, losing all the memories of being Yoonjae for a year and a half, and of loving Da-Ran and being loved by her. Should he take the offered hand and make the switch?

Nope. 안이요. Not a Chance.

Kyungjoon wakes up the same as ever and rushes to check on his body. There's no change, and we flashback to the dream where Kyungjoon begs Yoonjae to let them stay switched a little while longer so he can have some more time with Da-Ran.

But....Kyungjoon pretends to Da-Ran that he has already lost his memory. He addresses her formally, like he doesn't remember their time together. What was the point of getting extra days with her if he wasn't going to make use of them? To slowly wean her off of loving him? But the thing that should be giving him away is the fact that he's not freaking out over being told about the bodyswap. Da-Ran, don't you remember how he flipped out in the morgue when he switched bodies the first time? This is all a ruse!

Put Two and Two Together, Girl!

Kyungjoon admits to Mari that he remembers everything, but that once he makes the bodyswap, he won't. He's trying to spare Da-Ran the pain of losing him suddenly. Because losing him slowly will surely hurt less, right? Da-Ran is still hoping like mad that he'll remember her. 'Cause she loves him. She keeps trying to force the issue, but Kyungjoon says not to make him recall things he'll have to leave behind anyways.

She hands him the bag full of stuff he gave her and tells him to throw it out if it's really meaningless to him now. Kyungjoon complies, but goes through the bag and finds that Da-Ran retrieved the note he wrote her, promising to take her to the moon someday.

Further Proof That She Loves Him.

He stuffs the note in his pocket so Da-Ran won't know he cares. He throws away her precious memories, which she herself tried to throw away a few episodes ago, but couldn't. She's reduced to pitiful tears after seeing that he doesn't care for her anymore, and he locks himself in his room and cries, too.

Why????? Kyungjoon's doing what he thinks is in Da-Ran's best interest, but aaaaaargh, it's not a good decision.

Mari has plans for Kyungjoon's wake-up, now that she knows he'll lose his memory of Da-Ran. In her fantasy, he will wake up in full princely regalia, as she sits by in Snow White attire, ready to welcome him.

Mari Has a Very Vivid Imagination.

But even in the dream, Kyungjoon has to be coerced into liking her. Heh. And all this is having an adverse effect on Choongshik.

Remember Me? Your Pizza Slave?

Mari says she'll forget about her time with Choongshik when Kyungjoon wakes up, neatly mirroring Kyungjoon's attitude toward Da-Ran, albeit with different motivations. Choongshik insists that she can't forget him and he won't forget Mari, either--love is not bound up in the memory, but in the heart.

Ah, is that a hint, Show? Are you telling us that Kyungjoon will remember Da-Ran in his heart anyways? He'd better! His random high-handed nobility is ridiculous right now.

Why Errybody Gotta Try to Be All Sacrificial?

Da-Ran leaves their house and goes to apply for a teaching job far away. Kyungjoon looks around in a panic at her packed-up things, worrying that he won't see her again, but he reminds himself that this is what he wanted. Then he thinks about how he won't see her today or tomorrow. Or the day after that. The rest of his life will be one long endurance session of not seeing Da-Ran.

Clearly, this is a Feel-Bad episode, only here to wring every drop of hurt out of this relationship and make us feel dreadful.

Dad Offers a Sympathetic Ear. Tries Logic. Fails.

Kyungjoon takes Da-Ran to the last place that they were together before the bodyswap. He finally breaks it to her that he's going to lose his memories entirely.

Should've Told Her Two Eps. Ago.

He throws the watch she gave him into the lake. I kind of wish she'd slug him for that. But instead she spends hours searching until she finds the watch in that muddy lake.

Isn't He The One Who Should Be Making the Grand Gesture?

At a dinner involving both sets of parents, Kyungjoon explains that no such person as "KKJ" exists, and Da-Ran and Yoonjae will continue their relationship when he returns from Germany. Just then Da-Ran rushes in, scraggly and covered in dried mud, to say that KKJ does exist! She says she's gone crazy and fallen for him. This whole speech is meant to be beautiful and moving, but it really sounds more humiliating to me.

I can't find anything to like about episode 15. Lots of old hurts, no new info, no emotional or psychological growth,and nothing in the plot moved forward at all. Kyungjoon isn't even acting like Kyungjoon, which is half the fun of the show.

Please, please, Show. Get better in the finale. You must.

Episode 16 begins.

Da-Ran Still Looks Like a Bedraggled Orphan.

She takes off her ring and puts it on the dinner table in front of both families, then Kyungjoon drags her out of the room to avoid any backlash. Brave move, Da-Ran, but are the two families going to accept you getting together with the younger son later when you're breaking up with the older son so publicly? Food for thought.

Da-Ran tells Kyungjoon that even if he loses his memory, she will break the spell and make him remember.


And the cuteness is back at last. Thank you, cuteness, don't stay gone so long next time. Kyungjoon sits at home, prodding Da-Ran to confess when she first started to like him.

At the hospital, Evil Mom is feeling maternal feelings for her younger son! At last! I feel sorry for him, too.

Poor Shin Won Ho Has Spent 95% of This Drama Unconscious.

Da-Ran gets her parents to accept her decision to leave "Yoonjae" though of course they're heartbroken. It's not as if Da-Ran can explain that the cool son-in-law they think they're losing is actually still the son-in-law they'll be getting in the future.

Kyungjoon remembers that Yoonjae actually died for a few moments when they swapped bodies the first time. What happens if something goes wrong with the second switchover?

There are also a lot of little inconveniences, for comedy's sake. Da-Ran has moved back in with her family, and they have her under house arrest, so she has to sneak out to meet Kyungjoon.

She Jumped Out of a 2nd-Story Window to Get Here.

She puts the special watch back on him, now that it's been repaired after its swim in the lake. She kisses his cheek, then runs back to her house. He touches his cheek and grins like an idiot. Oh, you could die from this cuteness.

Then Mari kidnaps Kyungjoon's body. Kidnaps. A guy in a coma. Kyungjoon negotiates the return of his body, but it's a scary moment. Mari, I like you crazy...

...But Not This Crazy.

And we're getting more and more omens that someone's going to die when the brothers switch over.

Kyungjoon starts to worry about Yoonjae's feelings. If he really did love Da-Ran, maybe Kyungjoon shouldn't openly move in on his girl right after the switch. Ah, so we're going to wait another couple of years before Da-Ran tries to meet Kyungjoon again?

Kyungjoon tells Mari once and for all that he's sorry for hurting her, but he will never return her feelings. She leaves for America. Choongshik marks on her handbag with marker again and says he'll devote the next ten years of his life to her. He saunters away and Mari gets a big smile on her face. Stalker, meet stalkerette. They fit, somehow.

Da-Ran finds the umbrella she lost the day she and Kyungjoon first met, when she mistook his umbrella as hers.

It's a Nice Call-Back.

And Kyungjoon admits he was the one who switched their umbrellas two years ago, so he would have an excuse to follow her. Dawww. Love it. This also makes Kyungjoon hopeful--remembering that he liked her at first sight makes him think he'll fall for her again even after losing his memories.

Umbrellas Haven't Been This Romantic Since "Singing in the Rain".

He says, "I wanted to say this after I came back, not before I left, but...Gil D-Ran, I love you." He leaves her holding the umbrella and walks away into the distance.

Timeskip to 1 year in the future.

Da-Ran is teaching in the boondocks.

And Has Acquired Teacher Spectacles.

Mari returns to Korea, and tells Choongshik she's been feeding her dog the dumplings he mails to her. Why are you sending dumplings through international mail, honey?

Same Old Mari.

Mari has come back to receive a photography award, since she honed her paparazzi skills so well in the past. Mari admits that she has eaten some of the dumplings, and she's just the teeniest bit fond of them. Choongshik does a fist-pump over Mari liking anything he does, because this could go places in the future.

Da-Ran rides the bus and the radio says it's June 24th, which happens to be Kyungjoon's 21st birthday. Da-Ran has called in and asked a radio program host to say some sweet words about her situation, with the names removed, and Da-Ran whispers along with the radio, lost in her own little world of happy memories. She looks down and sees...

Ruh-Roh! Swappable Umbrellas!

Someone chases her out of the bus, calling "Gil Da-Ran!"

It's Yoonjae?

But no, it's Da-Ran's memory of Kyungjoon from the past, encouraging her to hold on to him if they ever meet again, no matter how bratty he may act.

In the present, Da-Ran smiles and says "Hi, Kyungjoon". Yoonjae's voice says, "Gil Teacher. I hadn't seen you in so long. I was just curious." The camera angles don't let us see the two of them under the umbrella, and Kyungjoon marches away, still hidden by the umbrella, leaving Da-Ran in the rain.

She remembers more of Kyungjoon's words from the past, and we end on a shot of Da-Ran and Kyungjoon (in Yoonjae's body) in the past, with the assurance that in the present she will follow Kyungjoon to tell him she loves him and all will be well.


No love, no hug, no kiss, not even the original actor being shown with Da-Ran! Just a lame attempt to let us know they'll work things out.

Show, you did some impressive flips, but you failed to stick the dismount.

Episode Evaluations: Ugh. I am one grumpy Tiger. This funny, insane, lovable show ended in almost the least-satisfying way possible.

The whole point of Da-Ran falling in love with Kyungjoon was that she loved him, no matter which body he was in. And to not even let us see her with the original guy almost entirely defeats the purpose of showing us her struggles. Were the show's creators afraid that we'd get squicked out by seeing a 21-year-old guy with a 27-year-old woman? I dunno.

I myself was worried about the disconnect between losing actor Gong Yoo as Kyungjoon and then snapping back to Shin Won Ho as Kyungjoon--I wondered if the romance would still be believable, and if the audience could maintain an emotional attachment when the actor changed. But now we'll never know, because of the cop out ending that didn't even give us a chance to see if it worked!


What have I learned from this drama? Good shows should not be afraid to take risks. If you can make bodyswapping coma-brothers work as a plot device, you can make an actor switch work. Go there, Shows--just go there. You may find that there's payoff for a plot risk.

This is Tiger Holland, signing off and looking for a new K-drama that packs a little more tenacity and conviction.

P.S. If we're going to go into plot-logic....What was Yoonjae's illness and why did it relapse after 19 years of remission? How did Yoonjae feel about the divorce from Da-Ran, assuming there was one? How did Mari kidnap a coma patient from a  hospital and return him with no police involvement? Why did Evil Mom suddenly grow a heart? Why was Birth Mom subjected to a gangland-style assassination death that didn't even pretend to be a mugging? What happened to that crossed-love sub-subplot with Assistant Principle and Kyungjoon's Uncle? Why didn't Yoonjae try to find Da-Ran after the switch? Did Evil Mom and Weak Dad repair their relationship in order to raise Kyungjoon? Why didn't Yoonjae die after the second bodyswap, since he was the one to die in the lake? What happened to that memory journal Kyungjoon was supposedly keeping to remind himself of Da-Ran? Why was Kyungjoon's body going into cardiac arrest at the hospital? 왜 왜 왜!

7/27 ETA: I normally pay zero attention to alternate "fan endings" to shows, but this one is just about ideal. It's old Kyungjoon footage intercut with the final scene and it just works.


  1. I was waiting for your review so I could gipe. You took the words outta my mouth: WORST ENDING EVER!!! My expectations were so high for the end of this show.. I am oh so badly disappointed! It made me wonder: What was up with refusing to let the poor young actor get another 5 min. of screen-time? Was he that diffcult to work with? That bad an actor? Imo anything would have been better than what they pulled, even a death! And I hate sad endings, but that's how ticked-off I was with the one they gave us. :( There was sooo much more that they could have done with the last 4 eps. Instead we got a lot of repetition and unnecesary sadness and frustration from decisions that didn't make sense but that it seems to me they just threw in there cuz they thought tht'd make things more interesting. It's like they couldn't figure out how to make it work with the age difference, like you said (which I personally think is increadibly lame but really appears to be the case), and so gave up and just slapped that lil bit on and called it a day. GAH! A legit-letdown. Now I need ice cream.

    1. I want ice cream, too! Man. The ending of a romantic comedy should /not/ leave you feeling so low. It defeats the purpose of romcom.

      As far as I could tell, the younger actor was just fine! Nobody's going to be as good as Gong Yoo, but the kid held up his role fine in episode 1 and I assume he could do it again.

      I agree about the repetition. Instead of getting 4 eps of meaningless angst that led nowhere, the guys could have switched back in episode 12 and created some awesome fallout, plus some brother-brother bonding. How great would that have been?

      The thing is, "noona" romances have worked before, like in "What's Up, Fox?" and "The Woman Who Still Wants to Marry". In those shows they were working with a 10-year age gap so I don't know why the writers would get so squeamish over this one.

      So glad to hear your comments! I needed to vent. :-)

    2. What do you think of this ending? I liked it so much I embeded it above.

    3. I've never paid any attention to fan-made stuff b4, I'm gonna have to start doing so for shows with lame endings, lol. That was so much better than the actual ending! Why in the world couldn't the writers think of that, at least? It seems most of the ppl who saw this show wanted cleaner resolutions in general, which they could have used the last 4 eps on instead of all the meaningless and rpetitive run around. Like actually getting to see what happened when the 2 brothers were finally awake and together, etc. But at the very least an ending like the fan-made one wouldn't have left me feeling quite so deflated. Thanks for sharing it! :)

    4. You're welcome! It does seem like most viewers weren't cool with the end. The comments section over at Dramabeans was getting downright viscious--those ladies were not happy! :-D

      Right now I'm trying to find a replacement for Big. Nothing new airs until next week, and there are all kinds of delays on new shows because old ones are getting 22 or 24 episode extensions.

      Time to watch, Protect the Boss and wait for something fresh and fluffy to come out, hopefully soon!

  2. I'm surprised you kept at it all the way to the end...then I'm surprise so many people have.

    I watched the show in passing waiting for the swap...and it happened off screen. YJ doesn't even get a closing call. He's like the perfect guy. I don't care for KJ and all his hang ups, for me he will always be a little twerp who so full of himself.

    YJ was the character I was waiting for from the start, I knew he was a good guy and wanted him to come back and clear the air with DR. He is a good guy to the end, the only truly decent person in the whole drama. Crazy people don't count.

    So what did they do...they threw him out the window without barely a thought.

    What a cop out!

    1. Eh, I kept watching because I loved Kyungjoon, brattiness and all. He felt like a real person.

      But I /did/ want to see more of Yoonjae. It feels like Yoonjae got totally overlooked in the plot, and he was a decent guy who was worried about his little brother all along! Why couldn't we see Gong Yoo as Yoonjae again, and give his character some closure and a chance at a happy ending? Now it feels more like he was merely a plot convenience and not an actual person...

      When I think about it, the show itself treated Yoonjae as a disposable convenience, the way Yoonjae's parents treated Kyungjoon. It feels kind of cold.

  3. I'm sad for you Tiger. It's MJ all over again lol

    1. I know! It's so much easier to accept a bad ending when they start off bad. But if they start really well, my expectations go up, up, up! And then down, down, down I come.

  4. I think this is the type of ending that you hate at first, but the more you think about it the more you realize it isn't so bad after all.

    I read an interesting comment by another fan. Kyungjoon and Yoonjae were fraternal twins, so Kyungjoon would probably look a lot like Yoonjae when he grew older. The ending was probably meant to show that Kyungjoon was not the same little kid as when he first met Da-Ran, he had grown.

    And I know a lot of fans wanted to see more romance after the swap back, but it wouldn't have made sense because there was still a lot of kinks that needed to be sorted out before that could happen.

    The ending left the audience with the strong assurance that nobody would be left alone for long. Even though Kyungjoon had no memories of his time with Da-Ran after the swap, he still came to meet her on the bus because he was "curious". His heart did feel something drawing him to her even though his read couldn't remember. Da-Ran promised she would make Kyungjoon remember her, but it will take time.

    Before he left, Kyungjoon told Se-Young to flirt with Yoonjae some more, hinting that they would probably end up together and Yoonjae wouldn't be left abandoned. The two other teachers would get married and have babies. Ma-Ri and Choong-Sik would grow closer. It really was a happy ending, but a believable and not over the top cheesy type of ending where everything is rainbows and butterflies.

    There is always a struggle with love, but that's what makes it interesting. That's how you know that it is something serious and worth fighting for.

    Have you ever read a really good book or watched a really great movie and instantly wished that you could erase it from your memory just so you would read or watch it again and experience it as if it were your first time? Maybe Kyungjoon is lucky in that way, because he can fall in love with Da-Ran all over again, but the right way this time. In his own body. And Da-Ran can fall in love all over again as well, without all the doubts and insecurities she had the first time.

    1. Good points! I'm glad you found some enjoyment and closure in the final episode. :-)

    2. I just have to say: for this particular show I personally would SO have prefered the rainbows and butterflies, lol. :D

  5. The fact that that this ending made me so angry just shows how unnecessarily into K-Dramas I am!!!
    I need an action/mystery one soon. Even though, because it's a K-drama, there'll be romance.
    But I don't think this beats IRIS for worst ending ever. That one STILL pisses me off so bad. Every single moment of the show was for nothing. Absolutely nothing!! I could scream! This one definitely ranks #2!!!!
    I am watching I Do, I Do with bated breath, hoping the entire show delivers. Especially the end. Since K-dramas have trouble with that part!
    (49 Days & Marry Me Mary are my fave endings. BOF just because it finally ended--worst drama ever. Lol)

    잘가 언니 타이거!
    - Shanise.

    1. I think one of the reasons I get so angry at a bad ending is because I know /exactly/ how much time I spent on the show, with no ultimate payoff--16 hours, plus writing time! Grr.

      I wanted to watch IRIS for TOP's sake, but I don't think I could stick it out knowing there's a futile ending.

      My fav ending so far is probably for Shut Up Flower Boy Band--bittersweet, but mostly sweet, and more awesome than a finale had a right to be.

      사랑해요 샤니스!

  6. if korea knows how to do something than how to end a fucking perfect drama in the most fucked up way ever... I still remember A love to kill.. this heart drenching, sad, making teary eyes and killing emotions drama was so perfect and then they had to end it with them dying in the snow... that was so fucked up.. for god's sake korea.. get your shit together and make some good happy endings! what's the big deal with having a younger man and older woman being in love? gosh..