“Having a tumor doesn’t mean you have to act like a melodrama protagonist. C’mon loosen up!” says patient x. (Aside: this is a double irony. The writer is poking fun at the 101 melodramas out there. But the slap in the face is that: this drama isn’t all that different.)
If Mucheng and Guangxi are the “glass-half-empty wanting to be half-full” kind, then patient x and girlfriend y are the “glass-half-full, carpe diem” kind. They saw Mucheng and Guangxi walking out of the cancer patient sector and decide to share their own two cents. X has a ticking time bomb in his head too but he ain’t letting no self-pity get in the way. To him, everyday is to be celebrated and cherished. In fact, after x’s upcoming operation, he and his girlfriend are getting married! (Watch, he dies tomorrow.)
If that isn’t inspiration enough to renew Guangxi’s hope, then Mucheng’s home cooking surely is.
Now that the tumor secret is out, there’s no need to waste perfectly good food. (*Ahem*) And so Mucheng prepares her father’s favorite dish for Guangxi again. They promise each other that this — Mucheng fixing Guangxi’s meal — will not be a memory. He will get better to eat her cooking everyday.
The following day, Guangxi heads to the hospital to hear his diagnosis. He deliberately sends Mucheng away to shield her from the bad news. She goes for a physical check up (Guangxi’s worried what the past few days’ intense care might do to Mucheng’s health). Heading out of the check up, Mucheng bumps into girlfriend y.
Only yesterday girlfriend y was laughing and sharing the joy of her forthcoming marriage. Today, it’s as if she’s lost a piece of her mind.
She sinks into a nearby chair, letting a piece of paper fall. Mucheng picks it up; it’s a death certificate. Needless to say, there will be no wedding to attend.
I was joking about patient x dropping dead… But, what do ya know, this is a true melodrama. And all true melodramas have the part where the disapproving rich parent — Ah yes, the parent has to be rich. Why else would (s)he disapprove of an other wise innocuous relationship between the rich and the poor? — separates the sick love birds. (Notice the key word “sick”?) And here, we get our fair share of the stale plot, recycled from… Winter Sonata maybe? But with a little tweak:
In short, Mama Ren tells Mucheng about Proton Therapy, divulges her plan to coax Guangxi into accepting the treatment, and guilt trips Mucheng to carry out the deception. How can Mucheng deprive Guangxi of his last chance of survival? Oh no she can’t. So the only alternative is to ensure that Guangxi undergoes the therapy. Assume the intervention does save Guangxi, what should Mucheng do then to repay Yiqian and her father for providing the capital necessary for the procedure? (Nothing. Because they offered to help.) She will leave Guangxi.
It is now clear to Mucheng that whether Guangxi lives or dies, she won’t be with him for long. If you are in the same situation, what would you do? Make the best out of what you have right? Same with Mucheng. She takes the initiative and asks Guangxi out on a date, “For one day, let’s forget about the tumor, forget about the meds. We’ll have fun. We’ll relax before your big day.”
When the sun shines the next day, Guangxi and Mucheng are off to make memories.
There is no dining at a fancy restaurant, no snuggling in the movies, they simply walk the bridge and swing the swings. But to Mucheng, this is the best date she’s ever had (not that she’s been on a lot of dates to compare it to) because being with each other is worth more than diamond rings and empty promises.
They walk into a photo studio upon Guangxi’s request. The photographer tells them the story of his wife, whom he lost to an accident some 40 years ago. The old man laments how memories fade, only snapshots capture the moment. The comment provokes a reaction in Mucheng, will she forget about them? Will Guangxi?
At the end of the photo shoot, the photographer sells Mucheng a lucky bracelet with SD card storage capability. She gives it to Guangxi as a good luck charm for the next day’s operation (and something to remember her by).
Their last stop is happiness (← pardon my corniness there) to the church. They pray and watch the wedding procession of a pair of strangers together. As the priest asks the groom whether he would take the woman next to him to be his wife, Guangxi turns to Mucheng and answers, “I do.” Off Mucheng’s stunned look, he repeats, “I do”. But Mucheng lets go of Guangxi’s hand and runs out. When he follows her out, she has recollected herself and lies that his sudden confession startled her. Guangxi suspects nothing.
The date is over at the end of the day. The rest is saying goodbye and going into the Operation Room.
As promised, once Guangxi is carted in, Mucheng is pushed out. She boards a bus home and packs her belongings.
In the OR, a nurse attempts to removes Guangxi’s lucky bracelet. He flinches but the nurse assures him that no bracelet is allowed during the operation. Guangxi eventually relents, but it is not without reluctance.
Soon Guangxi is sedated and ready to be transported for Proton Therapy. (The drama treats Proton Therapy as if it’s a surgical procedure when really it’s a type of radiotherapy that requires multiple sessions. What I’m saying is that the whole kicking Mucheng out of the picture once Guangxi is in the OR doesn’t work. To me, it’s little things like that that brings down the quality of a drama.)
What’s a melodrama without a weepy bus chase and a hurtful breakup forcibly bestowed on our characters? No sir, that’s no way to be. So we’ll have them both because I don’t think we’ve met our tear quota for this episode yet. (Haven’t even used a singled tissue! And that’s definitely NOT what should happen during a melodrama.) There is only one problem: Guangxi is unconscious.
No worries because the next thing you know, Guangxi has suddenly woken from the sedative that’s designed to put him down for three to four hours and wills himself to find Mucheng in his half-drugged state. But hey, when all else fails, we can always plant something improbably and call it a miracle right?
When Guangxi stops Mucheng and implores her to come back to him, she puts on a good show to discourage him. (I guess it’s fair. Last episode he pushed her away, this episode it’s her turn to “avenge”. So to speak.) She tells him about patient x’s death. “Did you know it took Huici (girlfriend y) two hours to write the name on the death certificate? One moment he’s fine, the next he’s dead. Did you remember how Jiada (patient x) was in a more promising condition than you? And now? There’s only the name on the death certificate left. When I met her that day, I realized how naïve I was to want to be there for you until the end. I’m really scared. I’m afraid that one day you will suddenly disappear. Just like my mother… my father… and auntie. I’ve watched too many people go. I don’t want that to happen to me anymore. So this time, I’ll go first.”
Despite Guangxi’s pleading, she gets on Tuoye’s van and drives away, leaving Guangxi to chase in bare feet.
Inside the car, Mucheng opens the letter she received that morning: it’s the photograph of her and Guangxi. She fingers the image lovely and turns to the back, where Guangxi wrote:
When you read this, I may still be in the OR fighting for our future. Or maybe I failed…. Whatever the case, thank you for entering into my life and bringing with you what’s to become my happiness memory since my father’s death.
… If a man’s memory capacity is reduced to one second then this is the moment I want to capture and frame for the rest of my life….
I promised you that I will prevail against life’s cruel joke but if I were to lose, please promise me you will do the following: go home and go to sleep. When you wake up again, pretend Ren Guangxi and everything about this person is but a dream. A long, long dream. When you wake up again, it’s time to forget. Don’t cry. Don’t feel sad. And when the man who can bring you happiness appears, accept him and live happily. Just, think of me occasionally. I’ll watch over you from another place.
Like a leaking faucet, tears drip down Mucheng’s cheeks. No longer able to conceal her feelings, she bids Tuoye to turn around.
Meanwhile, kneeling on the pavement, Guangxi is sobbing uncontrollably. Ah Cai, who was lurking in a dark alley, makes a beeline towards Guangxi and stabs him in the abdomen. With a thud, Guangxi falls…
This episode is basically the obligatory tearjerker before we can move on to the next stage, which hopefully will be more exciting. I think the reason I don’t find myself investing much of my energy with the past three episodes has to do with how the angst is handled. To me, good angst is situational where irony, bad timing, or other nonhuman factors key in to provoke a helpless feeling (Tangent: You are Beautiful has a lot of that, which I dig.) In contrast, the kind of trite angst we see a lot here is artificially induced via parent intervention or financial necessity. There is a surrealism about these situations that makes it hard to relate.
Of course, there’s also the matter of conflicting values and beliefs. On a personal level, I find the idea of separating Guangxi and Mucheng so Guangxi can be with Yiqian and save the family business absurd. Money can be earned and businesses can be saved, but it is not everyday that you can find someone you’ll love and be loved in return.
Despite my general disappointment, there are two things I like about this episode. The first is the argument Mucheng uses to elucidate to him her change of heart. It’s convincing, understandable, and way better than the “I don’t love you” explanation we often get. The second is the stab at the very end. While the physical assault add to the angst factor, I like the neat (probably unintended) parallel between the physical pain and the mental pain.