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Life (2018) Episode 16 (Finale) Recap

Mixed feelings about this one!

Jin Woo confronts Seung Ho on whether he is fighting against the doctors or against the Chairman, “You know a way, don’t you?” Seung Ho retorts and yells that Jin Woo must be blind, for forgetting that Seung Ho works for Hwajeong. Seung Ho also reminds Jin Woo that doctors find change bothersome and that’s the only reason why they are rebelling.

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However, Jin Woo brings up an excellent point – if the hospital develops according to Hwajeong’s plans, it will just become an amusement park which doors only open to those with premium tickets. But the hospital should be a place where everyone can access.

Seung Ho stalks off as if annoyed, but he IS convinced by Jin Woo. He heads to the headquarters and tries to talk the Chairman out of privatising the hospital. Chairman smirks angrily and tells Seung Ho to stay out of it, “Wait for my order.”

The next day, Kang is shocked to find that Seung Ho has been fired, on the grounds of having brought the company into disrepute. Seung Ho accepts the decision and Kang, out of consideration for Seung Ho, deletes the ‘disrepute’ part before posting it on the hospital’s intranet.

One thing that the show does well though is to create sympathy for Seung Ho – we see his struggles through 16 episodes, how much he has developed, and how difficult a position he’s been in. Yet, to those doctors and staff who aren’t in the know, they simply note that it’s good Seung Ho has been fired, since he has been making those bad decisions on privatising the hospital and firing people.

Kang learns from the chaffeur that Seung Ho went to the headquarters the night before, and also incidentally finds out that Seung Ho likes No Eul. She returns to the office to find the Restructure Team leader brazenly waiting for Seung Ho. When Seung Ho returns, he delivers the words of the Chairman – that Seung Ho is to take the blame, exit without giving any interviews and just get out as soon as possible.

Woo Chang, the Glutton, meets Seung Ho on the rooftop and notes that one thing’s for sure, life won’t go back to before the time Seung Ho took over as the president. The Chiefs meet to discuss on the next step, wondering if Seung Ho will take their side and fight against the Chairman. In a slightly awkwardly-done self-awareness move, I would say, the doctors hang their heads in shame when reflecting on their past behaviour of internal fighting, glaring and selfishness.

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While walking out, the nurse grumbles that Seung Ho should have never come. No Eul agrees, but without dislike on her face. Kang overhears this but walks away. No Eul catches up, so Kang cannot resist and asks if No Eul also thought Seung Ho shouldn’t have come to the hospital. No Eul explains that it’s because Seung Ho didn’t gain anything from his time here, which must have been like a nightmare to him. Kang wants to tell her that isn’t the case but drives away without further explaining.

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Meanwhile, the nurse notices that the Sun Woo is obviously angry about her remark and confronts him about knowing Seung Ho. Sun Woo finally bursts – why can’t he know Seung Ho? The nurse retorts that it isn’t their fault for fighting; the nurses are tired and the shifts keep coming. Sun Woo points out that in the army, more stress gives rise to camaderie. I like it that the drama shows how humans just like to push the blame around, never once thinking that the root cause can lie with themselves.

On the way home, Kang recalls all her conversations and feels bad for Seung Ho. In an off-scene, she must have given information to No Eul, who gave it to the Chiefs. We don’t see the exact action happening, but we hear from a furious Chairman who bursts into Seung Ho’s office that the Directors had gone to the Minister with evidence of the bribe.

They had intentionally gone to the Minister because they knew he would freak out and pressure the Chairman into giving what the directors what they want.

If you had expected a big show down between all the characters, you would be disappointed because this is as far as the show down goes. Seung Ho gives Seung Ho the solution of dealing with the Minister – the lease signed to provide housing for the Minister’s parents and the other 20 families on the Songtan land. The Minister wouldn’t be able to threaten Hwajeong with a hefty fine since he wouldn’t want the public to know why his parents are living on state-owned land (I don’t quite understand the backstory to this. If anyone does, please explain to me!)

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In return for the lease agreement, Seung Ho requests for the Chairman not to tear the hospital apart. He implicitly accepts but tells Gu that Sangkook Hospital will end up just catering to the rich; he hasn’t seen anyone who would reject money. Give it 10 years, he says.

At night, Seung Ho tells Director Oh that their plan worked but not to be arrogant since it would only work as long as this Minister is in office. Director Oh is surprised that Seung Ho is really going to take the fall and leave the hospital. Seung Ho tells Director Oh to take care of the pioneers and give them easy custodial work. I guess Director Oh inherently knows that Seung Ho is a good man, for she feels sad as she steps out of the office.

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For the last time, Seung Ho looks out of his office window. The camera pans down to the lobby and when it’s back up, it’s the next morning and Seung Ho has vacated his office. Sun Woo, being jaded with the hospital, also resigns.

Director Oh calls a meeting for somewhat trivial matters that can be settled via emails, much to the doctors’ annoyance. However, turns out that was just a sweet move on her part for Chief Joo to bring Seung Ho up to the room for his last farewell. The conference room full of doctors stands up instinctively for him. Hur, I can’t help but smile looking at Director Oh’s cheeky smile and Seung Ho’s face.

Before speaking, Seung Ho flicks the mic, which Director Oh and Chief Joo notice. He addresses the doctors and tells them that someone told him Sangkook Hospital will change in 10 years, “Until when can you prevent the core values of medcine being compromised?” Whilst speaking, he keeps exchanging glances with No Eul and Jin Woo. “Some will give in, some will peservere, and some will…go against the flow.” He will continue keeping an eye on them. With that, he leaves the room and Director Oh adjourns the meeting. Privately, the two directors wonder since when the mic has been recording.

Jin Woo notices No Eul’s conflicted face and tells her, “Go,” before murmuring to himself, “Sorry, my little brother.” Seung Ho doesn’t want to take the company car anymore but the chaffeur insists on driving him home one last time.

No Eul rushes out and Kang so discreetly hides herself. No Eul confesses that she had wanted to ask why Seung Ho treated her that way but didn’t know why she didn’t dare. But now she knows. She didn’t dare to ask why he fired her because she was afraid he’d say he hated her, “That it was annoying to have me around.”

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Seung Ho takes it all in and looks like he’s going to say something, but alas, his chaffeur arrives with his car. He merely smiles and tells her to take care, before stepping into his car and leaving. Kang steps up and taps No Eul’s shoulder whilst she watches him leave.

After some time, the two brothers dress up for something – and it’s only after a while that we find out it is for their date with Reporter Choi. Reporter Choi so thoughtfully chooses a quiet, spacious cafe aww. Jin Woo jibes that Choi has low standards, “Once she called you cute, it’s all over.” When Seon Woo hears that, he lowers his head shyly HAHAH.

Choi points out that the two look alike, and they go, “Ehhh?!” at the same time. Jin Woo excuses himself for the gents and instructs them not to talk about him in his absence, “Talk about the weather!” While en route to the toilet, he spots his fictional brother. He is grateful for him.

For 25 years, he has been by his side and it’s thanks to this fictional brother that he could hold on. But he still isn’t his brother; he’s just a fragment of Jin Woo’s mind.

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“However, I no longer hate the fact that Seon Woo can’t walk. I can carry him on my back for the rest of my life. I don’t mind that. I wish my brother would leave a long life. I wish he wouldn’t leave much sooner than I do.”

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Jin Woo looks at Seon Woo laughing with Choi and smiles gratefully.

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At night, they take a walk outside the cafe. Choi joins Seon Woo by sitting on the floor and tells Seon Woo that he should go for a vacation if he wants and not worry about being a nuisance to others. Jin Woo joins them and the trio sits in companionship.

The next morning, Chief Lee jokes that Jin Woo must be apply for leave to go out with the pedatrician, now that she’s quitting. Jin Woo suddenly reacts, “No Eul resigned??” It’s quite funny how he had to hear through the grapevine.

Turns out, she has decided to go to a rural area. I like that she’s pretty consistent – she’s idealistic, she brought Seung Ho into her perspective, and she’s working hard to be the doctor she wants to be. Although I do think it’s a little sad that the only two critics of the hospital have left.

During lunch, Director Oh indicates for No Eul to sit with them and she pulls Jin Woo to join. The higher ups wonder if the Chairman will send his brother to be the next president of the hospital, given that his brother is also a doctor. No Eul incidentally suggests that the hospital should distance themselves from Hwajeong by setting up an independent foundation. The Chiefs immediately point out the obstacles of such a plan, but Jin Woo adds on that they can ask the alumni for donations. If it takes a decade to gather the money, then so be it. But the Chiefs aren’t convinced – because to do so is to expose Sangkook’s shorcomings to the outside world.

Back at home, Jin Woo notes that there will be new Chiefs eventually who will be willing to take up the idea. The brothers bring up Seung Ho and the fact that many people hated him. No Eul interjects at this point that she heard he fired people in advance to stop more disasters from happening, such as them committing suicide or getting into an accident. I’m glad that this point at least came to light, even though us as the viewers already know how kind-hearted Sueng Ho is!

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When No Eul goes to the toilet, Seon Woo lies on Jin Woo’s lap and tells him that Director Lee isn’t their Dad, and neither is Seung Ho a bad, bad guy. He knows Jin Woo spent his teen years protecting Seon Woo and his mother and it’s time he takes a break.

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When No Eul comes out of the toilet, Seon Woo smashes a pillow in Jin Woo’s face, and Jin Woo does the same to No Eul. Her make up must have imprinted on to the pillow so they make fun of her, and she smashes the pillow back onto Jin Woo’s face.

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Sun Woo, now in his unemployed life, wonders why he doesn’t feel like doing anything. I hope you find something meaningful to do!

Meanwhile, the Chairman receives an email from Seung Ho, with a proposal on having biomedical chips built into clothings. They must do this in order to get ahead of those who are saturating the market with wearable devices. He realises that Seung Ho didn’t betray him after all. Restructure Team Leader gets caught for spying on the doctors’ meetings through the recording mics, and Chief Joo fires him, before throwing his ID card into the bin. An eye for an eye.

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Chief Lee finally figures out the bank account – it was set up for a hiking club 20 years ago and Director Lee was the secretary, so the account was set up in his name to collect funds. After him, Doctor Kim was the secretary, and that was how he could take the incentive using an account in Lee’s name. Chief Joo points out that if that’s the case, then there’s nothing they can do against Kim because he didn’t technically embezzle the money. I’m lost here but okay.

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Jin Woo is disappointed that they cannot prove more and to clear Director Lee’s name. Chief Lee comforts him that they have done enough. Jin Woo replies that he wanted to know what Director Lee meant when he asked, “How did you know?” Now he understands. Director Lee wasn’t being evasive about the money. He was just taken aback that Jin Woo knew about the matter. At least that is what I gathered from the conversation.

Before leaving, he tells the Director Lee in his memory, “I’ll be back.”

Jin Woo then has the same run-in as in first episode, where a car drives past him, the president steps out of the car

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and exchanges a glance with him.

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And guess what, it is a 5 second cameo by Lee Joon Hyuk, but that guy sure has the aura. He’s playing the Chairman’s brother who is indeed the next president of the hospital. If there’s a season 2, he will for sure be amazing to watch!

The two brothers then go for a vacation finally. They drop by to visit No Eul at her rural hospital (but it isn’t quite as rural as they made it sound like?) before making their way to the seaside. As the car drives away, Seon Woo turns back to glance at No Eul. Aww.

The brothers take a ship to the sea and suit up for snorkelling. For the first time, Seon Woo’s limbs are weightless in the water, and the joy that appears on his face as he touches the cold water has such amazing feels. Hit the right spot in my heart.

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Jin Woo joins Seon Woo in the waters and the two have a sweet, quiet time snorkelling/diving. Jin Woo sees his imaginery Seon Woo snorkelling, diving, swimming and finally coming face to face with him.

Imaginery Seon Woo takes out his snorkelling mask, smiles and waves goodbye. Jin Woo smiles too and bids this part of him farewell. Gahhh, very reminiscent of Kill Me, Heal Me. Although this is a sign of recovery and is a good thing, there’s always something bittersweet about such scenes.

The brothers hug in the waters and finally emerge. They take photos and send them to No Eul, who laughs happily. Seung Ho walks up behind her and calls out her name. Gahh, her expression of joy and shyness, and his face of happiness gives me squeals.

As the music plays, Seon Woo lies in Jin Woo’s arms and the two laugh, while the other couple smiles as they walk away.

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-the end-

The symbolism is deep with this one and I really appreciate that (nobody tell me that I’m thinking too much alright). In the promotional poster, Seung Ho is clearly pitched in black against Jin Woo in a white doctor’s gown. But as the show proceeds, you find out that Seung Ho is obviously not ‘black’, but grey, and perhaps, even ‘white’ in his own way. I don’t think it’s quite a coincidence that Seung Ho is in a black company car for the entire drama and leaves the hospital in his own white car at the end.

It’s not something that you are meant to comprehend with one take, I think. It seems like a deep-flavoured cake that you savour more with each bite. That being said, I don’t quite have the patience to keep going back at it, and so I let the parts which confuse me fly over my head.

My favourite bits 

Each character evolves in an unexpected way – unexpected by Korean Dramas’ trajectories, but I would say in a very realistic manner. How many of us thought that there will be some form of power battle between Chief Joo and Director Oh? Well I at least thought just for a while that Director Oh would turn out like what Dr Ye said – elitist and selfish. And I don’t think we are at all wrong to think that way, since the drama crafted Director Oh’s introduction to be just that – someone who got interested in becoming the director and being slightly manipulative in her own ways. But she turns out to be just the firm foot, authority and power we need – it was always so satisfying to watch her shut down the Restructure Team that cowers in front her.

In the same vein, I always thought Chief Joo would be the beacon of hope the hospital needs. He was after all, brought to the hospital by Director Lee, who intended him perhaps to be the next director. But on hindsight, Chief Joo has the heart and Director Oh has the brains (simplistically speaking) and they make the perfect combo as just that – the deputor director and director respectively. I do like him as a character though, no matter what others say of his and Jin Woo’s rashlessness. He is one of the most compassionate doctors amongst the entire crew and he would undoubtedly put others before himself. That’s something extremely admirable.

I can go on even further. Almost each character that was placed in one camp – black or white – touches foot in the other camp by the ending. Sun Woo Chang (the Glutton) seems to be the bad spy for Seung Ho but ultimately, he shows that his heart is in the right place. He is just jaded with the workings of the doctors and the hospital. I would say the only characters that remain untouched by this -black,white,grey- demarcation is Jin Woo, No Eul, Sun Woo and reporter Choi. And perhaps the Chairman on the other side.

Other than the characters, I love the progression of the three love interests – Jin Woo & Reporter Choi, No Eul & Seung Ho and Seon Woo & No Eul. The first two were super cute and light, while the last was bittersweet. And in each pairing, you can see how one has an incredible influence on the other throughout the drama. My favourite part though, has to be at the adoption center for dogs and also how Seung Ho sneaks his dog home afterwards. That was sooo funny and adorable.

The acting by everyone is also top-notch and engaging to watch. Cho Seung Woo really performs as a stoic, clever businessman, with a soft side to him. I also like that despite being one of the main leads, Lee Dong Wook isn’t a high up with power but rather, just a ‘minion’ doctor that fights against power in his own ways.

Finally, I like the brother love that stands at the center stage of this. In almost every episode, there is a different tenet of the relationship displayed to the viewer. From love, to guilt, to desperation. And it is the most fitting that at the ending, the two brothers are shown in each other’s arms, happy.

Not so favourite bits 

Nonetheless, I didn’t quite like the way the drama deals with the conflicts of the show. I can’t put a finger on the exact reason but I feel that it has something to do with the secrecy surrounding each conflict. In EP 15 for example, Seung Ho asked Kang for a report on the subsidaries’ business/profits and Kang asked him with troubled eyes, “Why are you asking for this?” Seung Ho gives his usual, contemplative, secretitive look. Looking back, are we given the answer to this?

Essentially, what I’m trying to say is that the show tries very hard to keep its viewers in the dark about the end goals. It intentionally leads us on a ride. What this means is that Seung Ho often has to be secretitive. But secrecy only works as a plot tool if the light shines later and everyone goes like, “Aha!” I guess, it’s just not for me. Too many times, the music and scene builds up but fizzles to nothingness. Take the opening scene of this episode – Jin Woo’s interrogation, “You know a way to fight against the Chairman, don’t you?” But what was Seung Ho’s trump card in the end? It was never made clear. Is it the fact that he housed the pioneers on the land? Or is there a subdued point about how Jin Woo is simply mistaken? In that case, that makes the scene anti-climatic.

Sometimes, it is also quite difficult to understand Gu’s business decisions. I know it probably makes a lot of sense if you were already running a business or attuned to such logic flow. It also probably doesn’t matter to a viewer whether Gu is spouting genius proposals or not, but the effect it has on me personally, is disengagement. Whenever there’s something I don’t understand, I just let it fly over my head because it takes too much effort to pause and re-think given that there are just too many minute things like that. I know, this is a brilliant writer with a deep, complex script and I appreciate that (as clearly seen from the favourite bits section). But the complexity in this case works against my attachment to the show. There are just too many scenes where Seung Ho and Kang are bouncing off ideas rapidly about management and profits and subsidiaries, or where the doctors have this long, complicated planning session on how to get back at Seung Ho and I zone out. In each scenario, the conclusion fed to us is simple and understandable, which is why I can still follow the show. But when I can’t see how A+B+C = D, I feel slightly frustrated.

Conclusion

I actually really like this show for its characterisation, depiction of the hospital life and the exploration of humanity. The cast is also extremely talented (what a bunch of Chiefs wow!) (also, I kept typo-ing as Chefs…). I quite liked the progression of the three love interests too. However, the secrecy and jargon ultimately prevents a deeper emotional attachment other than appreciation. When the show is over, I go, “Hmm that’s a good watch!” but that’s it.

Let me know your thoughts below!

<3thoughtsramble

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12 Comments

  1. I agree with your review! Honestly I feel pretty letdown by the last episode. I expected more answers but I felt like there were many issues left unexplained and the scriptwriter went for a convenient feel-good ending instead.

    I had stuck with the drama all the way to the end because the cast is great and I really liked the characterization as you said (where nobody is really black or white). But I am disappointed that the story was not more tightly written, and there were so many loose ends left. I had high expectations after the scriptwriter’s previous drama, Stranger, but I’m sad to say this one ultimately paled in comparison.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah I felt like the story tried to be as tight as it could be, but the fact that it tried to be complex kinda overreached in my honest opinion. I haven’t watched her previous drama before but have heard so many good things about it!

      Thanks for reading my review!<3

      Like

  2. Thanks for recapping the last episode. I liked the first few episodes but something about it makes me impatient to continue watching the rest so I’m just stuck at episode 7 but so curious about the ending. I agree with the cast and characterization you mentioned too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for reading! Hopefully the recap was of some help. I would say the rest of the show is worth checking out for the acting and character development, but not for the plot.

      Like

  3. Anonymous says

    I am still confused with the death and money being moved out of the account. Did he just really fall off the roof? Maybe since they showed how close Director Lee and Dr. Kim really were as was shown in the stair scene flash back. But why did they used the shot of Dr. Ye staring at Dr. Ji Woo? I thought oh, did Dr. Ye finally put two and two together? Did he think that Dr. Ji Woo had ulterior motives? The scene confused me.

    Like

    • Hi there! Yeah I get your confusion and this also adds to my point about how the show builds up a lot of secrecy, without a proper resolution. It just lets its secrets fizzle out, which is so unsatisfactory. But I’m guessing that he really did fall off the roof, given that Dr Kim wasn’t shown to be guilty/have a guilty conscience at the end.

      I’m not sure if I forgot some names but do you mean the shot of Dr Ye staring at Dr Lee at the elevator? because isn’t Dr Ye and Dr Ji(n) Woo the same person…?

      Like

  4. Shush says

    “the backstory” of the Seosan Pioneers or “vagrants”
    This Drama is acknowledging a “truth” from Korean history.
    Nearly 2,000 people were once held in a small village in Seosan, South Korea, and forced to work without pay for years and are now largely forgotten.
    “Some died after they were beaten and got sick. Others died of malnutrition or in accidents. They were “starving slaves.”
    They were victims of social engineering orchestrated in the 1960s by then-South Korean president Park Chung-hee, the father of ousted president Park Geun-hye.
    His 18-year rule was marked by both a dramatic economic rise and enormous human rights abuses.
    President Park cleared city streets of so-called “vagrants” and put them to work on land and road projects as free labor to help rebuild after the Korean War.
    The victims were made to work without pay in land reclamation projects.
    They lived in army-style barracks. Some were ordered to marry female inmates, mostly former prostitutes sent from government-run shelters, in two rounds of mass weddings.
    Former workers have said local officials told them repeatedly that they would be given some of the land they reclaimed, but that never happened.
    Only about a dozen of the workers, mostly in their 70s, still live in the village. Those remaining pay rent to authorities to farm rice on the land they reclaimed.
    So that is “the backstory”
    This drama gives Gu Seung Ho credit for providing/including housing for the remaining “pioneers” as curators or stewards on the land “he” purchased.
    P.S. Thank you very much for your “end of drama” wrap-up! I was so glad to find you because I really enjoyed this drama!
    Information taken from this article: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/world/archives/2017/04/07/2003668258

    Liked by 1 person

    • Omg thanks for the heads up! But why did the father end up with such a big plot of land? Was that given as a ‘bribe’ for keeping silent on what they had gone through?

      Thanks for popping by too and for helping me with this piece of information!<3

      Like

  5. Anonymous says

    I loved watching you this drama but felt sort of let down at the final episode. I thought they would have tied up the loose ends about the money in the account.Why was No Eul surprised when she saw the news that Mr Gu was president of Global Plant Engineering? Did I miss something? Is the company close to where she had moved.

    My favorite parts were with Ms Kang, her relationship with Mr. Gu showed his soft side.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Honestly, I have no clue either. That’s the flaw of the show – relying too much on the actors’ expressions where there is zero context for us to even infer anything from. Me toooo – I really liked Ms Kang here.

      Like

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