Next Stop, Happiness Episode 13 Recap

Foreword:

Some readers have expressed their hopes for me to continue recapping this drama — thanks for letting me know, otherwise I would’ve stopped at episode 11 — while others are curious where recaps 7-10 went. To clarify, 7-10 weren’t written. When in doubt, the complete list of recaps for any given drama can be found in the archive page for dramas or by browsing the drop down menu under Categories on the right-hand panel.

As for future recaps, with Bloody Monday 2 premiering later this month and a few back burner projects still going on (this being one of them), I’m inclined to only recap selective episodes at a slow pace. How many will I write and how slowly will I write them? I can’t say exactly. All I can promise is that there will be a few more recaps before I wrap it up with the recap for finale.

Episode 13 Recap:

Conventionally, the past and the present run their course in a linear fashion and hardly intersect, but they don’t have to be. The reality is that they aren’t as compliant as we expect them to be and when they do collide, we find ourselves in a sticky situation.

The good news is that not everyone’s life is as superfluously dramatic as, say, a protagonist in a melodrama. The bad news is that we are looking at people’s lives through a dramatized lens and Liang Mucheng, girlfriend of the past, has indeed found herself face to face with He Yiqian, fiancée of the present.

As you can see, everything about this screams awkwardness. The vis-à-vis orientation of the characters, their stiff posture, the banal mid shot, and the inherent ramification of such an encounter… the list goes on. But the worse part of this frame is in fact the poles. The damn metal poles that rigidify and separate the two women who couldn’t be more alike — they love and they deceive.

Yiqian approaches Mucheng for the question that has tormented her for the last six years: Why did she leave Guangxi when he would have risked the whole world for her? “No one could walk away knowing how much she was needed. Unless she didn’t love him enough,” expecting Mucheng to jump on her defense, Yiqian probes gently. She is disappointed.

“I did love him,” Mucheng lies, “but that was before the reality of his sickness hit me. I felt helpless against the uncertainty; knowing my need for security, I let him go.” (Minor point: I like how she doesn’t deny her feelings and offers a plausible, even understandable alternative instead.) “So you left him and met Xiao Le’s father?” exasperated, Yiqian makes the erroneous logical leap. “But if you have the courage to raise Xiao Le alone, why didn’t you have courage to stay by Guangxi’s side?” In no haste to correct Yiqian’s misconception, Mucheng explains that whether Xiao Le gets born is within her power to decide but whether Guangxi lives or dies isn’t.

Further upset by Mucheng’s seemingly objectivity, Yiqian reveals the various hardships Guangxi endured post-surgery. She questions Mucheng’s morality after making the misled observation that Mucheng appears to be waltzing between three men (Tuoye, Guangxi, and Xiao Le’s father).

In the end, both women concede that it’s perhaps best for Guangxi to remain ignorant of the past.

After breakfast, Guangxi and Yiqian pack to leave. Upon departure, they are showered with gifts from grateful villagers.

However, their happiness is in stark contrast to the teary confession occurring inside.

After administering Xiao Le’s daily insulin, Mucheng spots Tuoye and thanks him for pretending to be her boyfriend. (He claimed himself man of the house to convince Yiqian that Mucheng no longer harbored any feeling for Guangxi.) But Tuoye shakes his head, when he promised that he will take care of Mucheng and Xiao Le, it wasn’t just an act. Sitting down in front of her, he places a soda lid in Mucheng’s palm.

“Six years ago, you saved me in the bookstore and gave me this lid for luck. I had felt that it was my lucky day because we met.

“The moment I accepted the lid, I told myself that whereever you go, I will follow you there. Because you are the one I want.

“I keep the lid with me so when I think about you, I can take it out and look at it. Sometimes I tell myself that it doesn’t matter how long it will take for you to notice me, I will keep waiting. Because I know you knew, and that you don’t want to change our relationship.

“I thought I would continue waiting forever but at that moment then, I realized that I don’t want to let your hand go anymore. I don’t want to see you hurt anymore. I don’t want to see you cry anymore. So please don’t tell me you can take care of yourself. Because you are lying. And please don’t tell me to let go. Because I don’t know how. Don’t ask me what I like about you either. Because I will only keep liking you.

“So Mucheng, will you let me be the family that will protect you and Xiao Le?”

Mucheng clasps the lid and gives Tuoye a small nod. But the look of disbelief mingled with the hurt of not being able to reciprocate is unmistakable.

Little do they know, both Chixin and Guangxi have witnesses the scene.

The consequent goodbye is drenched in tears. Neither Xiao Le nor Guangxi want to part ways. But leave Guangxi must, he has a life to get back to.

So he does the best he could and leaves Xiao Le with his treasured bracelet and promises to keep in touch.

As Guangxi drives away, memories of the happy moments spent sweep by Guangxi’s mind’s eye. What’s left is a hollow feeling of void and the sound of Xiao Le’s cry.

That night, Xiao Le is not the only one missing Guangxi. Despite her callous pretense, Mucheng misses Ren Guangxi very, very much…

After witnessing Tuoye’s confession and his happiness at Mucheng’s acceptance, Chixin makes up her mind to leave. It’s a gesture of letting go but it’s also a statement of self-imposed exile. (More on this later.)

When day breaks and Tuoye’s mother discovers Chixin’s note, a comic twist explains Tuoye’s indifferent reaction: whenever Chixin was crossed with him, she always wrote him notes (e.g. You stood me up; I’m mad and won’t talk to you again.) He’s seen one too many and has ceased to take her seriously. Besides, what could possibly go wrong for a twenty something adult? It’s the child that you should worry about, because Xiao Le disappeared as well. (Two disappearances in one night, tell me this is not superfluously dramatic.)

So where has Xiao Le gone? He’s packed himself a few belongings (stuffed in an all-too-cute Spongebob tote) and is heading into town to find Guangxi.

Mucheng is in a state of delirium, trying to find Xiao Le. If she had known that Xiao Le has hailed himself a cab and arrived at the law firm safe and sound, she would be mad but much more relieved.

Inside the law firm, Xiao Le runs into grandma walking out in a rush. He hands her the fallen files with a smile and a gentle nudge to “walk carefully”. In her haste, grandma leaves behind a folder. To return the folder, Xiao Le follows grandma until she stops at a shoe store (in her fall she had broken her heels). The exertion plus the skipped dose of insulin weakens Xiao Le. As grandma walks Xiao Le back to the law firm (She was impressed by his good manners and when he said he had forgotten the way back, she volunteered to help.) he reaches forward and grabs grandma’s hand for support. Surprised but pleased by the contact, grandma doesn’t break away.

But then Xiao Le faints, eliciting a series of moments of truth. The first of which is when Mucheng arrives at the hospital and sees, to her utmost surprise, Guangxi’s mother waiting outside ER. The two women exchange loaded glances and if looks can kill, this would be the instance. The second moment of truth arrives when Yiqian walks out asking for blood donor. According to her, relatives are not suitable for donation as it increases the risk for complications. Tuoye and Guangxi both offer to give blood but Mucheng interjects, “Guangxi can’t. Let Tuoye do it.”

With that, Yiqian confirms her suspicion.

Comments:

Xiao Yu – Sitting in a Corner Observing A, B, & C [download]

Xiao Yu is one of the — I consider — more talented songwriter/producer-turned-singers in TW and this song is about a bystander watching the love triangle panning out between A, B, and C.

The story goes like this: B cheats; A endures; C watches. A leaves; B begs; A hesitates. When A and B finally split up, the expectation is for A to end with C (as per drama logic). But the bystander posits the question: How much is C’s feeling for A sympathy from witnessing A’s abusive relationship firsthand? How much then is love?

The reason I’m mentioning this song here (aside from liking it and wanting to share) is to make the point that the unrequited devotion the second lead harbors for the protagonist here isn’t so winning. I’m saying this not because I’m gung ho about the Mucheng-Guangxi pairing nor do I think Tuoye’s confession isn’t an emotional packed moment (although the writer should really work on the dialogs. Tuoye’s confession is so poorly written that I had to parse it into ugly chunks because there’s no transition anywhere between different ideas.) My main problem is the lack of character development.

When things happen, we are called upon to emote. But here, we weren’t given sufficient reasons to do so (i.e. enough insight into the character or characters). So why then, should we care if xyz were to happen to so-and-so?

Echoing Tuoye’s sentiment is that of Chixin’s. I might be reading too much into this but I think under Chixin’s smiles and chatters, is a sense of insecurity that derives from her childhood abandonment. The issue is downplayed but we know that her biological parents traded her in to be the Hua family bride in place of a hen — not an uncommon practice in China back in the poor, old days. Since entering the Hua household, Chixin has branded herself with the label of future wife and it’s this belief that anchors her to the family. Without it, she’s just another “stranger”. When Mucheng accepted Tuoye as a member of her family (Note, “family” is an intimate but broad term. It’s interesting how Tuoye suggested to be “family”, not Mucheng’s “man” or “boyfriend”.) Chixin thinks  she is deprived of her reason to stay and leaves.

The reason I’m taking the time to discuss a seemingly small matter is that I’m enthralled by the drama’s attempt to get at the theme of family value as will be seen when Chixin returns to the Hua household, when Tuoye reconciles his feeling for Mucheng, or even, when Guangxi’s mother accepts Mucheng and Xiao Le.

Finally, there is a jump-ahead complain I want to make: The concerto motif seemed to have faded out. I was half expecting it to play a role in Guangxi’s memory recovery and believed it would be more powerful a device than discovering the pictures in the bracelet — it would signify the depth of connection these two people made during their courtship six years ago and give us more reasons to hope they end together.

7 thoughts on “Next Stop, Happiness Episode 13 Recap”

  1. I haven’t kept up with this drama since episode 8, but thanks for the recap! I’m not sure if I have the time and patience to get back into this drama, so I’ll definitely look out for your recaps. Based on the episodes that I’ve seen and recaps I’ve read, I am a supporter of Muchen and Tuoye, although we all know that’s not going to happen. I like that he is not being unrealistically proactive in trying to get Muchen, but giving her a chance to make the decision to let him in as a part of her family.

    1. I actually have a slightly different take on that. I think Tuoye desires to be needed [by Mucheng] but knows he can’t ever get there [because of Guangxi]. So he’s falling back to the next best thing — “family”.

      1. It’s pretty heartbreaking that Tuoye realizes that “family” is the closest he’ll ever get to Muchen. I like that the realism in their relationship gives the plot more believability. Even though this is a melodrama, it’s always more emotionally effective when the plot and relationships are relatable.

  2. Hi. This is my first time writing a comment, tho I have read your recaps for Black and White and enjoyed them tremendously. I absolutely LOVE your sense of humor as well as your insight into the relationships between characters and situations that I have missed. I don’t understand Chinese at all so in between having to read the subs, admiring Vic Zhou’s face, goo-goo eyeing GuangXi’s hot body… let’s just say that I’ve missed many crucial points which you kindly mentioned in your recaps.

    I hope you will continue to share your thoughts on Next Stop: Happiness. Really appreciate it!

    P.S. Three Questions:
    1. Is VanNess’ mandarin accent THAT bad? His English is perfect tho..
    2. Why does Xiao Le call his mother by her name? Is that common in Taiwan?
    3. The people in Hua Chun Village… what language are they using? it doesn’t sound like mandarin at all!

    1. Thanks for commenting!

      To answer your questions:
      1. YES, it’s THAT bad. He’s born in the states that’s why he has impeccable English.
      2. No it’s not common. It shows he’s mature for his age and that he’s close to his mother in the way a brother is close to his big sister.
      3. That would be Taiwanese. =)

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