16 hours of entertainment has come to an end, and I smiled sadly to see The Time We Were Not In Love sign off with a deeply satisfying ending. In fact, the ending was more than just satisfactory; It gave me, as a viewer, more than what I could’ve asked for. Admittedly, the drama disappointed many of its viewers—myself included—and worse, some dropped it midway like a hot potato, and I couldn’t blame them for doing so. The beginning was undoubtedly riveting, the middle part was arguably frustrating, but the ending—its happy ending—had me love it again, the same way I’d loved the first 4 episodes. And honestly, this is probably the best ending of any Korean drama I’ve ever watched (I’ll explain as I go on), not because it was a happy ending ’cause not all happy endings are good, but because the show wrapped up everything without so much rush, at least, and left us with a proper ending for ALL the characters—characters that we loved and loathed. It was bittersweet to see 17-year best friends Oh Hana and Choi Won put a period to their purely platonic relationship and vowed to be playmates for the rest of their lives as husband and wife, not just for years but for infinity.
This is an incredibly long review/recap of almost everything. Read at your own risk.
Just as expected, Hana gave Seo Hoo a very undeserved second chance. Granted, she tried to push him away, but she still loved him, thus, a second chance. She agreed to rekindle their relationship with the hope that he’d change, but he didn’t; He wanted to win her back expecting that she’d never change, but she did. (But of course we didn’t see how exactly they got back together because apparently the writers couldn’t think of any way that would’ve made sense, so they had to resort to the lame idea of a one-month-time-jump and boom, they got back together while Won was hibernating in Santiago, Spain after indirectly confessing his feelings to Hana and her indirectly rejecting.) Personality clashes had always been a major conflict between Hana and Seo Hoo, hence, they’d simply never work. Hana had been a completely different person—like someone under the hypnosis of her crazy love—the first time she’d dated Seo Hoo, and I was glad, at least, she wasn’t the same Hana as she’d been this time. She loved Seo Hoo and wanted to try to make it work this time albeit it was him-and-her-against-the-world. Won had never liked Cha Seo Hoo, too, knowing he wasn’t the right guy for his best friend, but Hana liked the guy, she loved him, and for that reason alone, as Hana’s best friend, Won turned a blind eye and stood as Hana’s only supporter even though he was hurting himself. And I loved him ten thousand times for that!
I was proud of Won for he mustered all his courage and expressed his true feelings to Hana though in the most subtle way possible, “I don’t think I could hang out with you. I don’t think I could be friends with you forever,” showing her the necklace he’d been planning on giving her, “I think my opportunity is right here. I’m sorry I can’t be by your side.” As subtle as it might be, Hana understood what Won meant. When she told Won she couldn’t push Seo Hoo away no matter how much she tried, she was basically telling him she still loved Seo Hoo and wanted to go back to him. Albeit it was a stupid decision to make, Hana being transparent and expressing her true heart to Won showed that she did take him and his feelings into consideration because she let him know first before anyone else. Won was against the idea, of course; He’d always been against Cha Seo Hoo, but he loved Hana—genuinely and selflessly—that he wanted to be able to stay on her side, but he needed time to accept or at least to bear seeing her with another man, and on top of that with Cha Seo Hoo. “Oh Hana. From now on, if you’re with someone else, our relationship will change. We won’t have one of those cliché relationships though. I need time to get on your side no matter who you are in love with. And you need time to think without me. That’s exactly where we are right now.” And Won was right. They couldn’t be best friends forever because they were not really just best friends to begin with, a fact that they were oblivious of. Won’s girlfriend would always get jealous of Hana; Hana’s boyfriend would always get jealous of Won. Won needed time to be able to bear with Hana, and she needed time to think by herself, because looking back, they’d been stuck on each other for the past 17 years. Won added that he’d be going on a trip for the first time in 7 years. He was giving her the space she needed; He was leaving to make it easier for Hana to go back to Seo Hoo without holding back. Tears gushed out from Hana’s eyes, and he gave her a friendly hug. “It’s okay. I’ll return as a friend who can be on your side no matter what. And no matter what happens, you need to continue being the brave and bright Oh Hana. A Hana who can eat and sleep well without me here. The necklace…think of it as a prize for our seventeen year friendship.” He then left her alone and slowly walked away, silently crying himself. And man, I was crying with the two of them! He let her go to Seo Hoo because he knew that’d make her happy. It was like a goodbye because although he said he’d come back as a friend, they both knew things wouldn’t be the same, especially that she already knew his feelings. It was the turning point in their relationship, and that scene was perhaps the only scene in the entire series that moved me to the core.
For me personally, the drama went downhill in just a span of an hour—Episode 10. One month had passed, and Hana was dating Cha Seo Hoo again. The friends gathered for Chang Soo and Jung Mi’s wedding, with Won arriving late straight from Santiago. “I’m late, ain’t I?” Talk about the double meaning: (1) He came late; and (2) he’d confessed his true feelings quite late. I could see in Hana’s eyes that she’d missed him. Naturally, their relationship slightly changed. Although they remained friends as Won had promised, they were no longer glued to each other. I thought the new situation was just right if Hana was serious in making her relationship with Seo Hoo work. Even if it wasn’t Seo Hoo, sooner or later, there’d be some other guy (or girl for Won) who’d keep the two of them apart. As Hana and Won tried to be independent from each other, time kept making ways for them to meet. Their feet kept taking them to the same places, and they always ended up bumping into one another—at the grocery where they’d used to shop, at the neighborhood park, at the restaurant they’d used to frequent, and at the convenience store. It was like time and fate were in cahoots with one another as they repeatedly brought the two together. Whenever they met, Won would casually ask Hana how things with Cha Seo Hoo were even though he already knew the answer by just reading her face. Hana would always give a concise answer, like she’d say things were ‘good’ or sometimes she’d lie and say they were okay when in fact they were not albeit she knew lying was useless because Won would always know if she was lying. Won would just nod, acting as if he was buying her answer. And that was another thing I loved about their relationship. Hana didn’t want Won to know whenever she and Seo Hoo had a fight because she badly wanted to show him and to all who were against the relationship—but mostly to Won—that things were going better the second time around so that she could say she’d made the right decision. Mostly to Won, because she didn’t want to look woebegone in front of the friend she’d basically sacrificed and the man she’d indirectly rejected; And if I were in her shoes, I’d probably have done the same. But Won always knew the truth, but he pretended to be oblivious because he knew why she was lying to him—of all people—and he didn’t want to put her in an awkward position.
I loved Hana’s family. When her parents first found out that she was dating Cha Seo Hoo again, they got mad—Dad especially. Even I was mad that I wanted to literally shake Hana so that she could come back to her senses. Dad met with Won and asked him if he knew that Hana was dating Cha Seo Hoo again. Of course, Won knew about it, which made Dad more disappointed. “You should’ve told us about it then. Or you should’ve tried to stop Hana.” He did try to stop her, Dad. He did. Dad added, “You should’ve held her back. You’ve been friends with her forever. You couldn’t win Hana’s heart all this time? What have you been doing?” Dad knew Won had always liked Hana, that was why he’d paved the way for him to take action for so many times (e.g. leaving Hana alone with Won in their house), but Won had never done anything until recently. I loved how Dad saw Won as a son and/or son-in-law; Hence, I could understand why he was disappointed that Won couldn’t win his daughter’s heart within the past 17 years. Dad also had a father-daughter talk with Hana, and I just loved what he said, “For me, even if you say the man you’ve picked is the best man in the world, I’d still think you’re too good for him. No matter how rich or powerful he is, if he makes my daughter shed a single drop of tear, I’d be totally against him. My daughter is the best in the world.” Hana was crying by then and kept apologizing. She told Dad that she’d do well this time, “As the daughter you’re proud of, I’ll try my best.” Her family, her friends, and Won were all against Cha Seo Hoo, but she really wanted to make it work to the point that she was practically fighting for that love. And that was something I couldn’t fathom about Hana’s concept of love—why fight for someone who’d hurt her for so many times before and still hadn’t changed, still a jerk; Is love really blind that it can make someone so smart pathetically stupid?
One important thing that I hadn’t seen coming was that Won turned out to be the reason why Hana and Seo Hoo had met in Paris. Hana had planned to take college graduation photos together with Won even though they wouldn’t graduate at the same time because Won would have to do his military service first, therefore, she’d graduate first. And so, Won had managed to leave the army for a moment and showed up at Hana’s graduation for the picture-taking session, wearing his complete army uniform. (Let me take this moment to commend how utterly good-looking Lee Jin Wook was in uniform! 😉 ) On Won’s graduation, Hana had also showed up. Coming to Won’s graduation, however, had caused her to not leave for her Paris training, and she’d had to wait for another 3 years to be able to receive the same offer again. She’d chosen Won over an opportunity like that. “In my life, training abroad isn’t more important than you. My fate won’t change just because I’ve delayed it for 3 years.” But her fate did change. Most likely she wouldn’t have met Cha Seo Hoo in Paris if she’d just left 3 years earlier. Maybe Cha Seo Hoo hadn’t been in Paris that time. But she’d chosen Won, thereby going to Paris 3 years later and meeting the pianist. See how fate had played them. Back in Episode 8, Hana asked Won:
“If you’d told me not to go, would there have been no chance to meet Cha Seo Hoo?”
“If I’d told you not to go, would you have stayed?”
“There’s no way you’d have told me that.”
There’s no way you’d have told me that. because Won knew Hana had lost her first opportunity to go abroad for the training because of him, so it’d have been selfish of him to stop her from leaving 3 years later. The sad truth was Won, somehow, had been the bridge that had brought Hana and Seo Hoo together.
Hana: “The choices we made to be with each other then have become the reasons we can’t be together now. How could we have known then?”
At the same time, I have to mention how I liked Hana and Won’s amazing circle of friends. I wish someday when my high school classmates/friends and I grow up, we’d be like them. They might have had small roles, but they always rocked whenever they appeared—the 17-year friends turned couple Chang Soo and Jung Mi, the cute chubby friend, the doctor friend, and above all, Kang Na Yeong. I loved Na Yeong and her candidness whenever she deliberately showed her disgust of Cha Seo Hoo, letting Hana know that he was never the right guy for her. A friend like her is someone I’d want to be my partner in crime. “That’s why…just become a bad girl. This time, don’t get hurt by him. Hurt him first instead.” I so loved that friend!
The awkward dinner of Hana and Seo Hoo with Na Yeong and Jung Mi, which was requested by Seo Hoo himself, made me want to kiss Na Yeong. She made it so obvious that she disliked Seo Hoo enough for her friend, much less being at the same table with him. Hana and Seo Hoo tried to break the ice by telling the girls how things were going between them, but Na Yeong was all like, “Then what’s up with not showing up for three years?” They got more awkward, so Hana had to change the topic, which was when Na Yeoung unnecessarily brought up Won’s name, getting under Seo Hoo’s skin. Until Seo Hoo mentioned about marrying Hana…
Marriage. Which made Hana upset again. She’d gotten mad when Seo Hoo had first brought it up with her parents without her permission, and this time, with her friends. Then they fought again, which was a common thing. Seo Hoo started putting the blame on Choi Won again and again as to why Hana didn’t want to marry him, until he ended up bringing up their engagement 3 years ago, “I can’t forget that, Oh Hana. The fact that you were crying in Choi Won’s arms that day. And your smiling face in front of that bastard despite the pain I caused. I can never forget that. When I said I wouldn’t make the same mistake twice, I meant I wouldn’t lose you ever again whether it’d be due to Choi Won or not.” And I kinda understood him. He was partly right when he said that Choi Won had always been in between him and Hana, and whoever Hana’s boyfriend was would always feel inferior to her relationship with Choi Won because even though Hana repeatedly said that Won was just a friend, it’d never change the fact that Won was still a man. But I couldn’t tolerate Seo Hoo blaming everything on Won because he had his own share of faults in this relationship. Selfish, conceited, and not considering Hana’s wants and feelings were just some of the many reasons why they couldn’t and wouldn’t work.
So Hana decided to build a wall between Won and her despite Won reminding her of his promise that he was still a friend who was on her side, but she was deluded by what she thought was love to even bother to think of how important their 17-year friendship was. But when Won asked her to go back to being friends, she accepted him. All because our female lead didn’t know what she truly wanted, and her life was quite a mess. She’d just practically thrown away their 17-year friendship for her good-for-nothing boyfriend, then she agreed on becoming friends again. Kinda bipolar, no? *deep stares at the writers*
Won: Let’s not get to the point where we can’t even be friends. Let’s go back. To the time when we were carefree and could hang out together happily.
Ha-na: Choi Won. Won-ah. When you left for your long trip, I felt like I lost something really precious to me. I lost my closest friendship. So I was scared. And the thought of becoming close to you again would be too selfish of me.
Won: The long time that we’ve spent together…it doesn’t have to become dating or love [relationship]. I think there’s still a meaning to it though.
Ha-na: As friends?
Won: Yes. As friends.
The appearance of Min Ji Soo (cameo by Park Tam Hee), president of Top Classic, Cha Seo Hoo’s agency, magnified the cracks in Hana and Seo Hoo’s relationship. Apparently, President Min had a suspicious relationship with Seo Hoo that she had him in the palm of her hand and even threatened him with the secret that she’d been keeping—the absolute truth why Seo Hoo hadn’t showed up at his engagement with Hana 3 years ago—which was never revealed, so I assumed Seo Hoo had been with President Min that day and that their relationship wasn’t just strictly business. On top of that, President Min had the nerve to candidly tell Hana that for the sake of Seo Hoo’s career she could date him for a while and break up with him in the end. Hana had brushed off all the gossips in her office about Seo Hoo’s scandals with different women, including President Min, but hearing what President Min said, she finally started to open her eyes and realized something. Likewise, Seo Hoo deciding to leave for Austria with President Min despite her begging him not to go sealed the deal for her. “If you leave this time, it’ll really be over.”
Won had seen Seo Hoo intimate with different women twice—the first time at the pub where they’d celebrated Hana’s job promotion, and the second time was at the airport with President Min—but he never told anything to Hana. Won could’ve let Hana know, she might have decided to break up with Seo Hoo then, and Won could’ve turned things in favor of himself, but he never did. Instead, he chose to turn a blind eye again and said nothing because he could see Hana’s efforts in trying to make the relationship work, and so, he didn’t want to be the one to uncover the one thing that would fracture what she was building up. He might have wanted Hana to know that her man was being cozy with other girls, but he wanted her to see it herself. And just in case, I didn’t think Won would like to win by default.
Won and Hana’s high school teacher played a key role in the development of the story. Won’s original dream had been to become a film director, and back in high school, he’d actually written a screenplay—a love story featuring Hana and himself—which the teacher had kept. Now that they met again after so long, the teacher gave Won one last lesson, “Won-ah, live every moment without regret. I really want you to do that.” Alas, the teacher soon passed away, and his students gathered to pay final respect. The teacher had left behind some stuff for his former students, and one of those was Won’s script. Through that script, everyone’s question, why did Won say he’d never love Hana, was finally answered; It was because of his deceased friend—Eun Dae Yoon. Dae Yoon had liked Hana in high school. He’d written her love letters, but he hadn’t had the courage to hand them to her personally, so he’d asked Won to give his letters to Hana on his behalf. But Dae Yoon’s letters had never reached their destination because Won hadn’t given them to Hana because he’d secretly liked her, too. Until the rainy night Dae Yoon had been caught in an accident and passed away, Won had been guilt-ridden, and thus, his I-will-never-love-you vow. Getting ahold of his script after 17 years, Won decided to pay Dae Yoon a solemn visit at the cemetery. With tears, he said in voiceover, “Back then, for failing to deliver your letters, I won’t be sorry anymore. Now, I’ve realized the true feelings in my heart. I couldn’t confess properly… I was immature and young. I’m leaving my old self from then here,” and to Dae Yoon’s picture, “Stay well.” That was a very poignant scene! Seeing Won finally unloading the burden that he’d been carrying for so many years was such a relief. It was more than just the fear of losing Hana as a friend that had been stopping him from confessing his love. He thought it was selfish of him to profess his love for Hana after everything that had happened, and maybe it was, ’cause people are sometimes selfish because we’re all human beings.
I think if it hadn’t been for the teacher, Won wouldn’t have handed Hana his script, and she wouldn’t have known all the things that she should have. So it was all thanks to the teacher for pushing Won to man up. After leaving the script in Hana’s mailbox and assuming that she’d read it that day… I liked how Won went to Hana’s office from the airport where he’d seen Seo Hoo leaving with President Min, “I figure out you’ll be walking home alone, so…” I was pretty sure he got it that Hana and Seo Hoo had broken up, but he never asked her because he wanted her to be the one to open up to him. We then got a series of revelations from the past: (1) Back in high school, Hana had told Won that she’d know her ideal man by a kiss, and after their seemingly accidental kiss in the library, she’d confirmed her feelings for Won since then, but Won had just acted nonchalantly as if the kiss hadn’t happened; (2) How upset Hana had been after telling Won in return that she’d never love him, too, because obviously she hadn’t meant that; (3) We knew Hana had liked Won both in high school and in college, but we never knew that she’d been that serious into him—(3.1) She’d been happy when Won had broken up with his girlfriend; (3.2) She’d written him heart-shaped sticky notes, “I like you,” not just once; and most of all, (3.3) she’d personally asked him to try dating her seriously, but again, he’d just rebuffed her. Perhaps Hana had liked Won first and more back then than he did now.
I also liked Won’s birthday, present vs. past, how he celebrated his birthday with Hana every year at their hideout and how she’d always attempt to make surprises for him but her surprises were always an epic fail, so she’d end up saying, “Sincerity is important in a gift,” which I totally agree on. Meanwhile, Won finally got straight to the point…
Ha-na: Are you like this to everyone?
Ha-na: Do you always take care of people and act warm-hearted to everyone?
Won: No. Just to you.
Won: (looking straight at Hana’s eyes) I’m only like this to you, Oh Hana.
Through this period of time, Hana had been thinking about a myriad of things—Won, Won’s script, Seo Hoo, and what she truly wanted for herself. Her relationship with Seo Hoo, technically, should’ve been over right when Seo Hoo had picked Austria with President Min over Hana, but he ditched President Min at the airport and came back to Hana like a crazy dog, begging her to just marry him. It was loathsome how this guy asked for marriage like marriage was just a piece of candy. But Hana must have grown up because the heart-fluttering moments which she’d perceived as love no longer affected her the way they’d used to, and she wondered if she’d mistaken those heart-fluttering moments as love, “Did I really love him?”. When I said Hana wasn’t the same foolish Hana when she’d first dated Seo Hoo, I was right because this time, she was the one who called it quits. “Surely as we continue to fight and hate each other, we’ll slowly get tired of this. That’s why let’s end this now. So that we can remember it as a love that made our hearts flutter. Let’s break up.” She was crying, and I knew she’d never wanted it to end like that—she’d poured every single ounce of her effort into that relationship, after all—but she’d also realized that she had to wake up from this crazy love dream of hers that had now been turned into a nightmare. Right after the break-up, when the heel of Hana’s shoe broke and she changed into slippers… That was a very symbolic scene. Those pair of heels may look glamorous on her feet, but as she continues walking in them for a long time, not only will their glamour fade, her feet will also hurt and she’ll be tired herself, just like the crazy love that she used to dream of; It’s only beautiful and passionate as long as the heart-fluttering moments can move her heart, but once their effect is gone and once she realizes that they aren’t what make up love, she’ll be hurt. While a pair of slippers may look so simple, she’ll always feel comfortable in them anytime, and who knows, they may last longer; It’s the same as when she feels comfortable whenever she’s with Won, she can be herself, and he’ll still accept her despite her flaws because love is about being yourself and still be accepted by that person.
Having been together for more than half of their lives, Won and Hana had the same places they usually went to, besides their hideout; Having lived in the same neighborhood for more than 17 years, they always ended up meeting each other at some point, unplanned. And so, Hana suggested a bet, how about going to places that they were not familiar with instead, “Aren’t you curious if we’re going to meet or not? Is it really a habit or not?”. But of course no one followed the rule. They ended up taking the same routes they’d always taken. Then we went back to Won’s script, how he deleted I will never love you and replaced it by the time I’ve loved you, and how he sent an excerpt of the newly written script set at the present time to Hana via phone before calling her, “If we meet again like a habit or not… Do you want to make a bet? Come to me now.” Come to me now. He purposely didn’t tell her where he was, she’d just have to go to the first place that came to her mind. And they did meet at the neighborhood park, like they had some sort of mental telepathy. Won noticed something was off with Hana, so he asked. She finally told him the truth, admitting that she couldn’t hide anything from him, and told him that she’d just broken up with Cha Seo Hoo that was why she needed time. Won didn’t say anything and remained seated beside her, giving her the time and space she was asking for at once.
Hana then told her family about the break-up. “Before, it was enough for me if I liked him. What was only important was my feelings. But now, I also want to consider whether he can get along well with my family and friends or not, someone who not only can make me happy but also everyone around me. Should I say that my judging criteria have changed to someone whom I can trust to be with me until the end?” I was so proud of my girl, she’d finally gotten over it. I was glad she’d moved on better and faster than the first time. It was such a relief that the show’s female lead had finally matured.
The last quarter of the series made Won an even better guy for being modestly expressive of his feelings for Hana. He no longer beat around the bush. He even told Hana that he could be a lover or a friend depending on what she wanted as a company but also admitted that what he truly liked to happen was for them to walk together with her hand wrapped around his arm. But one thing that didn’t change was that he was always Hana’s best friend—first before anything else—who was there to support her decisions. For her job transfer in Paris, he admitted it was disappointing for him, but he knew it was a great opportunity for her, so he encouraged her to go. He even prepared a mini farewell party for her with just the two of them, “If it’s necessary for you, I’m always in favor of it.” Awww. He also set up a projector in his window and played a slideshow of their couple pictures through the years on Hana’s room’s ceiling, “Remember. Don’t forget even a single moment,” which made her slightly cry. I knew it was his way of sending her off since it was harder to send someone you loved off personally. So Hana took the job transfer…only to back out suddenly after realizing that her recruitment was suggested by Seo Hoo. The guy didn’t want to give up, but Hana was just so done already. A week later, Dae Bok handed Hana the continuation of Won’s script, the one he’d just started working on, with a task left for her—to write her own script from her own point of view. Hana didn’t know Won had applied to be in-charge of the airport’s service training program in Paris because of her, so that they could be together in Paris. (So I guessed she’d had one week to tell him that she wasn’t leaving for Paris anymore but hadn’t done.) Won was leaving for Paris, and it was time for Hana to rush to the airport and find her man…
Hana finally told Won upfront and with a peck that she liked him (too), and they had their airport kiss. An airport kiss is such a cliché; In fact, there were many clichés in the last 2 episodes, but Ha Ji Won and Lee Jin Wook’s chemistry was just oh-so-good they weren’t even trying that I couldn’t bother to care about the clichés. It was all about the delivery after all.
Some said it took Hana so unbelievably fast to switch gears from Seo Hoo to Won, that she realized she liked her best friend very suddenly, but I didn’t think things happened like that. Hana had liked Won since high school, and she’d still had even after his I-will-never-love-you confession, but because of meeting Cha Seo Hoo, her liking for Won had waned substantially. Thinking that she’d been dumped by Seo Hoo at their engagement, she’d tried her best to move on, and 3 years later she found herself doing well, dated Ho Joon, was dumped by him on her birthday(!!!), but she still managed to get up all because she had Won by her side. And again, she considered the possibility of Won as more than just a friend, but Seo Hoo abruptly came back, which stirred up her feelings once again. This time, however, although she dated Seo Hoo again, it was no longer the same as before—the feelings, the passion, and even herself—and as she dated him for the second time, she eventually realized all these things herself. Hence, it was easier for her to break up with him this time. She got a consolation though; It was knowing that she’d done her best in their relationship, thus, she wouldn’t have any sort of regret or what if questions anymore. Won gave her the time that she asked for, the time that she needed to empty out her heart and her mind. It was when Hana saw how Won sincerely supported her Paris job transfer that her feelings for him were evoked, and I believe the sad smile she gave him when they were looking at each other from their respective windows the night he sent her off that confirmed her feelings for him again. Hana only realized something that she’d already known for so long but had been buried by time and missed timings.
Won still had to leave though because he was already committed to the job. Hana took the necklace that Won had given her from her bag, telling him that it was always with her in whatever bag she used. He gladly put it around her neck, and they hugged. Hana asked, “Will we be able to make it?,” to which Won nodded, “Even if we’re apart or close, we’re always together.” It ended with Hana sending Won off, instead of him sending her off. As Won walked away, he gave her a big heart sign. And I could tell that he was crying.
2 months later. Despite their busy schedules, Hana and Won found time to talk via video call, but because of the time zone difference between Korea and France, it was so early in the morning in Korea that Hana dozed off. On the other end of the line, Won was enjoying the sight of his sleeping girlfriend. “I love you,” he said. They were both beaming with cuteness. And I loved Won’s eye smile.
We then saw the history of their hideout—the rooftop. How nice that the writers included this in the story! Hana had found the place especially for Won and for the two of them. “It’s a place where you can cry your heart out,” she’d told him. At present, we heard Hana in voiceover as if she was talking to Won, “The place where you can cry to your heart’s content became our hideout. When your mom left, it was the place that consoled your loneliness. When you left for Santiago, it was also here where I sometimes spent time by myself. It was in this place that I realized how deeply rooted you are to me and where I realized how stupid I was for not figuring that out sooner.” Which means, she lied when she told Won that she’d never dropped by their hideout while he’d been in Santiago. She’d realized it then—Won’s place in her life—but she’d already decided to be with Seo Hoo. She cried to herself, “I miss you, Choi Won.” In voiceover, she continued, “Even if you’re not sad, crying when you miss someone is what I’ve realized because of you.”
Won was supposed to stay in Paris for 3 months but came back after 2 months because he’d missed Hana so much. The way they hugged when they met after 2 months felt so real, I was grinning from ear to ear in front of my screen. Won’s luggage even danced with them. Lol 😀 (See GIFs above.)
Besides us, the viewers, Hana and Won’s friends were the happiest to know that they were finally an official couple since they’d always known the two would end up together. Na Yeong: “Hey, Oh Hana. It’s because it’s you that’s why I’m giving up on Won. I’m telling you this in advance. Since you’ve started it, you two should go until the end.” I just loved that girl!
Moreover, I was glad the writers solved Won’s issue regarding his mom. With Hana, he visited his mom at a nursing home, where she was being taken care by her man. Won asked Mom why she hadn’t told him that she was so sick; She said she couldn’t tell him because she’d been a bad mom who’d left her son. But Mom remembered Hana, “I knew you’d be by Won’s side. It’d be nice if you do that in the future as well.” “I will,” Hana promised. Mom told Won she had no confidence to meet him at the end, that was why she’d wanted to have a small talk with him while she still could. She started talking about dying and asked Won to just continue to live as if she wasn’t there just as she hadn’t been there for her son, “I’m sorry, but I did love you in my own way, son.” Crying, Mom said, “It’s such a relief to have seen you.” That was such an emotional scene! Won’s mother arc was an essential part of the story. I was afraid the writers would skip this part, so I was relieved they included this.
Won took Hana to a beautiful, peaceful, grassy hill, the place he usually went to whenever he felt frustrated. I loved how Won knelt and took off Hana’s shoes for her so they could walk through the grass barefooted. They took couple selfies, and Hana took pictures of their feet. Cuties. I can only imagine how fun and romantic it is to go on dates with a guy like him.
…followed by another date in their favorite restaurant…until they ended up fighting over petty things, as in really petty things, like why Hana never once said I love you to Won, “Are you doing this on purpose because I told you I’d never love you?,” and Won’s complaint about how Hana’s super red lips were too sexy. Ha. So on their way home, Hana decided to call a friend and seek advice, which was when Won’s phone began to ring, which he gladly answered.
Ha-na: I’ve told you I’m dating someone new, haven’t I?
Won: Yes. I heard he’s a really good man.
Ha-na: He keeps complaining and picking fights during our dates. What do I do now?
Won: I think he’s only asking you to open up to him more.
Ha-na: He can smoothly convince me and create the mood though.
Won: He must like you more than you like him. Usually, the person who likes more is the one who rushes things and makes mistakes.
Ha-na: How can you be sure? That he likes me more than I like him? Sometimes, I miss you, friend.
Won: Should we go back to being friends?
He smiled and extended his arm for her so they could walk and talk with his arm wrapped around her. The friend call scene was one of my favorites. I loved how Won gave her unbiased advice as what he would’ve done as a friend, while telling her what he truly felt as her boyfriend.
And of course, Hana’s parents—the most hardcore shippers of Hana and Won—were the happiest to hear the news. Mom looked like she’d just won the lottery. Finally, their baby daughter was over piece-of-trash type of guys and was now dating a real man. Although Hana’s parents had known him for the longest time, Won still let them know his desire to properly date their daughter. So much love for this guy!
For their first official date, Hana arrived looking like Ha Ji Won. Just kidding! 😀 But seriously, that style was so HJW style, from the long straight hair down to the heels. Well, she looked like she was attending a party, so Won’s jaw dropped upon seeing her. Inside the theater, Won lifted the armrest between them so he could hold her hand. Hana smiled and popped her straw into his drink, and they shared the same cup. Their movie date was like that of young people, which I thought was just right, since they’d missed dates like that when they’d been 17. After the movie, Hana found herself in an awkward position in a crowded elevator facing Won. Inches away from him, she noticed a loose thread on Won’s button and pulled at it, but the whole button came off, opening his shirt up. “You did that on purpose, didn’t you? Take responsibility!” This scene really cracked me up!
In Won’s house, Hana was going to sew the button back on, but they somehow ended up in Won’s room, in that position (as pictured above). “Oh Hana. Don’t you have to feel the tension now every time you go to my room?” I knew it was supposed to be sexy, but for some reason, I found it funny in a good way rather than sexy. Hana slipped out of Won’s grasp and moved to the post near the bed. He slowly approached her, and they kissed deeply. I liked how he kissed her with so much care as if she was a fragile thing. It was done slowly yet naturally and passionately that I could feel they were being extra careful. They just put their 17-year friendship on the line, after all. It was all or nothing in the end. I loved the kiss because it conveyed so much feels coming from these two characters. (I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: Lee Jin Wook kisses like it could be his job. It’s like he’s mastered this art. The way he moved his lips during the kiss…such a pro! Can’t say the same thing for Ha Ji Won though.) The way they stared at each other when they pulled away after the kiss—that was oh-so-sexy to me! He slowly and carefully led her on their way to the bed—I loved their synchronized steps!—when she playfully pushed him down onto the bed before joining him. And the rest was self explanatory.
Remember the drunken night back in Episode 4? Comparing the morning after the drunken night and the morning after the deed: Back then, they’d been in the same position only with their clothes on. Won had been the first one to wake up, and he’d stroked her hair as he’d marveled at the sight of the sleeping Hana. When Hana had awaken, it’d taken her a few seconds to realize one thing, “It’s Won.” But this time, it was Hana who woke up first and stroked Won’s hair affectionately. Won woke up smiling, “Oh. It’s Hana.” To this drama’s credit, Episode 4 and Episode 15 were written by different writers, but the new writers were able to think of making a little connection like that. Good job!
I loved how Episode 15—which was the second to the last episode—ended with that hug. (See pictures above.) Won was informed that his sick mother had passed out. He asked Hana for some time alone and cried by himself at their hideout—the place where you can cry your heart out—when it lit up like a Christmas tree, with the lights on the wall arranged forming the letters MY ONE, as Hana had decorated. And that was when she showed up. He then talked about his mother and confessed that he was sorry for not knowing that she was sick and that he was worried he might not be able to see her again, “I’m scared I’ll really be alone.” “But I’m here,” Hana said, “I’ll be by your side. I’ll never leave you alone. This must be what love is to me,” before adding, “I love you, Won-ah.” She opened her arms, and he leaned into her embrace as he cried to his heart’s content. We always saw Won comforting Hana—both as a friend and as a man—that was why whenever Hana did her part, it always felt so real and special.
In addition to the supporting characters, there were only 3 things from the finale which I’d like to mention—(1) the proposal, which includes the pre-proposal; (2) the wedding; and (3) the post-wedding. But first off, Won’s mother was alive. So thank you, writers!
Won proposing to Hana’s parents first with Hana right beside him was such a cute proposal that not all men would do. He hadn’t actually discussed marriage with Hana yet, but she didn’t get angry when he proposed it to her parents, she was just surprised. On the contrary, she’d been so upset when Seo Hoo had mentioned marriage to her parents. This just showed how different Hana behaved when she was with Won and when she was with Seo Hoo. It was Won—the perfect guy next door—so of course, Mom and Dad were very happy to marry their daughter off to such a man.
Ha-na: I’ve never once thought we’re getting married.
Won: I have.
Won: When we were in third year high school. After my mom left, the first person who turned on the lights in the house that I was left alone in was you. And if you didn’t help me to study, would I have been able to get into college? At that time, I thought, ‘Ah, I want to live with this friend.’ That’s what I thought. You really haven’t?
Ha-na: I always thought that you, the person who was always behind me, the person who was always next to me, was so absolute. So if I just turned around, you were always there.
What made this drama’s ending a really good one was that not only Hana and Won had their happy ending, but ALL the characters were given their own time to make their final walk on the show. Starting in Hana’s office, Team Leader Hwang was now a pro-Hana (I must admit, this was so out of the blue), and they buried the hatchet. Likewise, Min Ji and Ho Joon were now on good terms with Hana. But what I liked most was how the writers gave Hana and Seo Hoo a proper closure because that was what they both needed. I knew Seo Hoo still had feelings for Hana, but she’d never been his priority. Then and now, it’d always been his career as a pianist. He might have realized his mistakes, but it was already too late. “I’ve tried really hard. I have to succeed that much in exchange of losing you.”
While flying on her business trip, Hana was given a flower by one of Won’s steward colleagues who said it was a courtesy service, then a ring box by another steward who thought she dropped it while boarding. She looked up only to see Won smiling. He hadn’t had a flight on this day, but he’d changed his schedule so that he could personally serve her. He knelt in front of her, “Have fun and play with me forever,” and he opened the box. The passengers and the other stewards began chanting for her to accept him. Smiling, Hana took the box before giving him her answer, “Fine. I’ll hang out with you forever.” They hugged as the people around clapped for them. I absolutely loved this proposal! I thought Won had already proposed to her when he’d asked her parents, but then there was this. A plane proposal was perfect since it was in line with Won’s job. I was glad it wasn’t the too mainstream will-you-marry-me question. Perhaps it was because they were best friends first, so to be playmates forever sounded perfect.
Meanwhile, Dae Bok was now popular for his webtoon thanks to Won’s script. The webtoon would be adapted into a movie, and since it was their story, soon-to-be married Hana and Won were interviewed. (Dae Bok got his sister to agree to do the interview by promising her 80% of the profit but only if she and Won would get married. Lol.) When asked to describe their feelings about marriage, Hana gave the perfect answer, “Living with this friend in this friend’s house forever.” That was a precise answer that made Won and Dae Bok (and even me) smile.
Although I’m a sucker for elaborate weddings, I loved their simple yet very meaningful wedding that took place just outside their houses with all the people close to them in attendance. As Dad walked her down the white aisle from their house to Won’s house where Won was waiting with a big smile (and honey eyes), Hana narrated in voiceover, “Those painful times we’ve hurt each other for being clumsy and untruthful…,” as we saw different scenes from the past episodes that took place outside their houses, “…those times took us to this path.” Then Dad gave her hand to Won, “I’m leaving Hana to you from now on.” Won took her hand and declared, “Let’s go. To the house you’ll live in.”
As the two walked down the aisle, their friends started chanting their names Oh Hana! Choi Won! like what they’d done back in high school whenever Hana and Won would compete with each other. Hana continued in voiceover, “We didn’t need formalities or preparations.” (So I guess they’d already signed their marriage contract then.) And before they entered the house they’d live in, Won looked at his Mi Hyang noona—now pregnant with Pianist Park Jong Hoon’s child—who gave him a thumbs up. Awww. “Following the path we both walked back and forth on countless times, with us entering Won’s house from my house, our small wedding has come to an end.”
Inside their home, they exchanged rings and wedding vows, and they kissed. And as they kissed, Hana finished the voiceover, “In this very familiar place, we must give our utmost effort to fill the new moments with happiness.”
8 months later. We saw a glimpse of their married life. They still had their childish fights, which was realistic enough considering the transition of their relationship through time.
We saw Dae Bok and Eun Jung doing well. Eun Jung was proud of Dae Bok since he’d gotten more popular for his webtoon that had been turned into a movie. We also saw Pianist Park and Mi Hyang who’d just given birth to a healthy baby girl. While looking at the pictures of Won’s new niece, the 7-week pregnant Hana could see in Won’s smiling eyes how excited he must have been to have his own child. So she visualized the family that she had in mind, “About our child… When I’m holding one of your hands, the child’s going to hold the other hand. At the same time, a child on your back and a child seated in front of you. I want to make a family just like that.” She added, “I’ll show my love to you by giving birth to children who look like us.” Won was so happy to hear what his wife was saying that he couldn’t say anything and just wrapped his arms around her. That was probably the most sincere and lovely thing I’d ever heard from Hana.
We also So Eun on a date with one of her coworkers. I’d honestly grown fond of So Eun in the second half of the drama. She’d given up on Won, but she didn’t regret liking him, which was nice. They ended up as close colleagues and friends, and she could comfortably call him sunbaenim now than the awkward oppa. It was thanks to this girl, after all, that Won had learned that he had to express his feelings.
Meanwhile, Seo Hoo sent Hana a ticket for his concert in Korea. (There was only one ticket, so I guessed Won wasn’t invited? 😛 On a serious note, I didn’t think there was a need for closure between Won and Seo Hoo. As long as they were acquaintances who didn’t fight over one girl anymore, then they could live their lives just fine.) In return, Hana sent Seo Hoo flowers with a message stating that she was looking forward to a masterpiece, which uplifted his mood. It was nice to see their new relationship—he as a pianist and she as his fan.
Casting-wise, I personally think Yoon Kyun Sang was badly miscast in the second male lead character equivalent to what Taiwanese actor Sunny Wang had pulled off in the original. Yoon Kyun Sang is a rookie actor with not much experience in the field of acting. He might have stood out in Pinocchio as what most drama viewers say (I didn’t watch Pinocchio), but the role of Cha Seo Hoo was too heavy for him. If only PD Jo got someone more mature, more charismatic, and manlier, the character Cha Seo Hoo would’ve been more realistic and closer to its Taiwanese counterpart Ding Li Wei. I mean I can imagine Lee Jin Wook making a 180 degree turn from his boy next door image to the bad guy image and rocking the Cha Seo Hoo role. But my personal pick to play Cha Seo Hoo would’ve been Jin Yi Han.
“From being long-time friends to being a married couple, we fought and made up countless time. We hated each other and then we loved each other, repeating the cycle over and over again. You must give as much love as you receive. We learned to put that into action so we can maintain our love.”
For the final scene of the final episode, we saw Hana leaving the office for the airport where she waited for Won. Once Won arrived, she held up a sign for him: “I’m waiting while longing for you everyday. I love you. ONE TO ONE.” He affectionately showered her with kisses. As they left the airport arm in arm, Hana gave one last voiceover, “That magic that turns everyday life into something special thanks to a special someone… It happens in me and in us every single day. Because we love each other.”
Taking all 16 episodes into account, The Time We Were Not In Love was not your best drama. It had flaws, faults, and weaknesses. It had a very simple story of a man and a woman who’d been best friends for 17 years, but for some reason (which is why you should watch this drama), a romance had never bloomed between them. But its simplicity and the heart of the show was what made it stand out. It was a drama that gave me feels, so much that it made me feel as if I was in the same world as our two main protagonists. I want to thank Ha Ji Won and Lee Jin Wook for bringing Oh Hana and Choi Won to life excellently and realistically and for their effortlessly awesome chemistry. Their portrayal felt so real; Now, every time I see them, I see Hana and Won instead. To all the other actors and actresses, to PD Jo Soo Won for giving us the best visuals, to Writers Lee Hana and Jung Do Yoon for the first 4 episodes, and even to the writers who were given the burden to write Episodes 5 to 16 ASAP, for being able to make it to the end, they all deserve a big warm round of applause. Won’s script didn’t have an ending because their story hasn’t ended; They just opened a new chapter of their lives as husband and wife, and for what happens next, it’s up to our imaginations. What was important was that they picked each other and chose to be together after loving each other in their own ways for 7000 days.
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