Episode 10: A Woman's Life, the Final Choice
Junpei and Mizuki go back to his place and kiss. Junpei isn't really into it, and Mizuki pulls back. When he asks her why, she says that she doesn't need to rush things—once they get to Paris, they'll have forever to be together.
However, Chiharu and Takahara do sleep together. Although Chiharu is consenting, it's clear she's not happy. Especially when she has to close her eyes just to get through the first kiss. (And not in a sweet/romantic way.) In the morning, she's sitting up and staring out the window, and it's pretty clear she stayed up all night. As a tear falls, Takahara wakes up and asks her what's wrong.
She wonders the same thing, telling herself that she should feel relieved. Takahara wraps his arms around her and tells her that he'll always be there for her and that he wants to marry her. Isn't that why they're dating? She agrees and he pulls her closer as she forces a smile, but it doesn't last.
Haruko wakes up to her empty house and realizes she'll have to make her own breakfast. She's also unhappy. When she leaves for work, she forlornly stares at the extra helmet on the back of her bike.
Junpei gets up and leaves to buy breakfast. Mizuki wanders around and notices his painting. She slides it out and admires its beauty, and the card from Chiharu falls out. She reads it and her expression changes to one of determination. When he gets back, she eyes the painting for a while and then asks him if he wants her to send it off to Paris along with her own paintings she's sending. He reluctantly agrees.
Takahara drops Chiharu off at her family home. Before he leaves, Mom comes out and he introduces himself. Much to Chiharu's surprise and dismay, he also tells Mom that they're dating and have a good relationship. He apologizes for not making his formal greetings, but promises to come back later in order to do so.
Chiharu's family congratulate her at the breakfast table, and Chinatsu is the most vocal about her excitement, despite Chiharu's protests that she hasn't really decided to marry Takahara yet. Chiharu asks if she can move back home for a while, and Dad decides it's because she wants to leave as a bride from their home. Chinatsu starts making plans to help with the wedding, and suggests that "he" should make Chiharu's bouquet, too. Chiharu protests again that it's not a set thing, but Mom notices her sadness at the thought of Junpei.
When she gets to work, Playa and Boy Crazy awkwardly try to express their sadness that she's leaving. Boy Crazy tries to say reassuring things, but just keeps making it worse. Takahara comes in as Chiharu head outside to sweep, and asks her if she's free the next night. They set up a date.
At the shop, Mai hangs up a flier advertising for a part-time worker and asks about Junpei's going-away party the next night. (Uh-oh. I sense conflict.) She chatters about how fun it will be, especially with Chiharu. Haruko replies that Chiharu can't come, and makes an excuse that she's so busy with work that she moved out for a while. She runs upstairs to get something.
Mai admires the Cymbidium orchids Junpei is setting out and asks what they mean in flower language. He answers that they mean "With an Honest Heart." (Good, I can only hope that this foreshadows more honesty in this episode.) Mai tells him that her friend has been urging her to be more honest lately, so Junpei decides to make her a bouquet of orchids as a farewell and good luck gift. As Haruko runs back downstairs, she almost passes out.
Mai stops by the travel agency to invite Chiharu to the party. Chiharu glances at an apprehensive Takahara and says that she's busy. Chiharu repeats what Haruko said about her being busy, but urges her to come anyway, since they don't know when they might see one another again.
Chiharu says that Junpei leaving for Paris is a good thing, and has to explain to Mai that he's moving forward with his life. He'll be striving to do his best, so Chiharu feels that she needs to do the same. After Mai expresses her wish to see Chiharu at the party, Takahara interrupts and encourages her to go.
Haruko visits the doctor and finds out that she has uterine fibroids that are quite large and will require surgery. They may have to remove the entire uterus, even. She goes home and tries to call Mother, but only gets her voicemail. She reflects on the need to have a guardian present for her surgery.
Mai waits for her crush and then works up the courage to tell him she loves him. She even gives him her orchids. Awww.
As Junpei packs, he gets a call to meet with Gallery Owner. Gallery Owner expresses his surprise that Junpei is the person going with Mizuki to Paris and asks if he thinks he'll make it big by going there. He admits that he heard from "that woman who made a scene to get the painting back." She came to apologize and told him
"Because a person's potential is infinite, to brand them as having no talent is strange. When a person who doesn't understand what a painting is trying to say just laughs it off, that's just harassing them. Even if they aren't shining now, then tomorrow more than today, and 10 years from now more than tomorrow, with effort and passion, there's a possibility they can open up their talent."
Gallery Owner apologizes and says that he's already a great painter, since he has such a fan. Junpei barely holds in his emotions—wonder, sorrow for losing/never going after Chiharu, and pleasure at the compliment.
Haruko prepares food for the party. Hilariously, it's take-out. She offers an excuse of being too busy, but we all know it's because Chiharu was the cook of the family. Mai laments Chiharu's absence, and both Haruko and Junpei brighten up when they hear that she invited her and she was planning on coming. They look at each other awkwardly and try to pretend not to be excited.
Chiharu approaches the building, but stops outside and stares at her key. Mai asks to visit him in Paris and wonders if Mizuki could really be Junpei's girlfriend. She admits that she always thought he was more suited for Chiharu. She asks Haruko to back her up, and Haruko agrees. Junpei argues that it's not true, and changes the subject by asking Haruko to come to Paris some day with Chiharu. Haruko turns and stares at the door regretfully and Chiharu runs away from confronting her friend.
Later, Junpei heads to the kitchen to clean up, but stops short when he notices the sponge. He remembers back to drawing the lifeline on Chiharu's hand. Haruko insists on doing the cleanup, but crashes into a shelf on her way to the kitchen. She pretends that she's just a bit tipsy. She hides out on the terrace.
Junpei joins her, bringing her a coffee and a blanket. He remarks that Chiharu won't be coming after all, and Haruko admits that they had a fight and she left. When he asks why they fought, she says that Chiharu can't find her own path if she's always dependent on Haruko. She admits that she feels a bit ashamed, and that even though Chiharu often annoyed her, once she was gone, she started to miss her. Junpei says that because she came to know someone, she also came to know loneliness.
Chiharu heads to the garden, and gets there just as the fountain starts spraying. Haruko comments that Chiharu brazenly entered her solitary life that she loved. She always worried about others, and plunged into things without worrying about getting hurt (except her feelings for Junpei, that is). But, for all that, Chiharu is honest, and she saved Haruko. Junpei agrees and says that she saved him too.
Mai and Junpei walk home, and Mai laments the fact that Chiharu never showed up. She recounts their earlier conversation and says that Junpei is taking one step forward. He's also inspired her to take one step forward and confess, like he told her, with an honest heart.
Chiharu waits in the garden, and Junpei considers Mai's last words "With an honest heart." Suddenly, he takes off running. We cut back and forth between Chiharu waiting in the garden and Junpei running to see her.
But when he gets there the bench is empty, and Chiharu is headed home. He collapses to his knees.
The next day Takahara takes Chiharu to the waterfront. He asks if she remembers when he said that he wasn't doing this halfway. He holds out a ring and asks her to marry him. I love her answer: "But I'm 35." Haha! He asks what's wrong with that, and she answers that she probably can't meet his conditions. He answers that his only condition is having feelings for the other person. She protests that she may not be able to have kids, and he responds that medicine has improved so much. Besides, if they can't have kids, they'll just be a family of 2. What about her unemployment? He offers to support her as she finds what she wants to do.
"You're important to me. That's why I want to marry you. It may be sudden, but I feel this is the timing for getting married." He hands her the ring and offers to wait for her answer. Seriously, the man said all the right things, and he's so sincere, and if Chiharu had feelings for him, I'd totally be swooning right now. Now, if Junpei said those things, it would be a different story.
Junpei pulls out his phone and pulls up Chiharu's number, but he chickens out. Instead, he pulls out a sketchpad and happily sets to work. His phone rings, and he jumps for it anxiously, but his face falls when he sees it's just Mizuki. Apparently, there's a change in their departure date.
Tanigawa takes Haruko to a nice restaurant. He talks about feeling lonely, and how that loneliness has increased since his mother's death. He admits that it may seem foolish at his age, but it's precisely because of his age that he's realized that he wants to spend the rest of his life with someone. Haruko cluelessly encourages him, but stops short when he asks if she would spend the rest of her life with him. He asks if he's not good enough. Haruko pauses, then thanks him and admits that she doesn't have the confidence for that. She apologizes.
Chiharu searches through the kitchen and her mom asks what she's doing. She admits that she suddenly wanted coffee for some reason. (Aww! She's missing Haruko but won't admit it!) She runs off to her room and stares at The Ring. When she hears a knock, she hurries and hides it.
Mom comes in with some instant coffee she found. Chiharu's room is practically a nursery now, filled with baby things. But there are also some bridal magazines courtesy of Chinatsu for Chiharu to study. Mom asks about Takahara, then asks Chiharu if she loves him. She says that she hasn't reached that point yet, so Mom shouldn't make any plans for now. Mom admits that she feels some regret towards Chiharu. She's always pushed her to get married, but she might have just pushed her into a corner instead. Chiharu says that's not true.
Mom tells Chiharu that marriage isn't a goal—instead, "it's a point you pass through, and it goes on every day from there. That's why I feel it's important to want to be with the person you can accumulate the always-unchanging days with." Mom asks if Chiharu has consulted with Haruko, since she's her closest friend.
Haruko and Chiharu stay up thinking. Junpei excitedly draws all night.
At the shop Junpei is finishing his last day, and the women ask about his travel plans. He explains that his plans changed and he'll be leaving that night at 9 on the bus to the airport. Haruko is troubled and worried. Junpei writes up the card for the orchids and pauses to think about their meaning, but sighs and continues on.
Chiharu finishes with some customers, and Takahara asks her if she's free at 9. He wants to hear her answer.
Junpei says his last goodbyes, and Haruko asks if he's been able to meet with Chiharu. He tells her he hasn't, "But it's okay." He pauses, then pulls out his sketchbook and asks Haruko to give it to Chiharu. "It's best if you reconcile, right?"
At home, Haruko opens the sketchbook and sighs in regret at what she sees.
Chiharu sits in the garden contemplating The Ring again. Haruko calls, and she reluctantly answers. Haruko tells her that Junpei is leaving tonight, and Chiharu says it's okay, because there's nothing between them any more. So please just let it go. "I'm sorry, however angry you may be. The one thing you shouldn't do is betray your own feelings. It seems that to Junpei, there is no one more important than you." She has the drawing he did of Chiharu with a big smile, and at the bottom he thanks her.
Haruko urges her to make her choice for her own future, too. She needs to choose the person she will share her life with. "It's your future, so don't regret it." Chiharu starts crying and Haruko yells that she needs to be honest with herself. "Honesty is your truest characteristic, so you need to apply it to yourself. If you don't move now, I will never forgive you." Finally, Chiharu laughs through her tears and stands.
Haruko wishes her luck, then collapses, clutching her stomach in pain.
Junpei waits at the bus station, then heads to his terminal.
And Chiharu runs.
What a cliffhanger! I have to say that this show is pretty good at them—they usually feel natural, yet keep the suspense going. Not all dramas are able to work that balance so well. Yeah, Faith, you are a particularly bad example. But it's just another of the many things I think Kekkon Shinai does right. I also love that there's drama and tension here, but it's not unbelievable or over-the-top. Sure the plot twists are nothing new, but they're still executed well, so things don't feel uneven or unbalanced.
Another thing I noticed in this episode is the frequency of people handing things to others. Mai did it with the flowers, Takahara with the ring, Mom with the coffee, and Junpei with the drawing. Each time they hand something over, it's symbolic of opening their hearts and being honest. It's just too bad that Junpei and Chiharu didn't give anything to each other. (They actually never even interacted in this episode. So weird.)
This drama is also so good at exploring the many options available to us in our lives, especially in the field of romance and dating. I know I've mentioned it before, but Takahara is such a great catch. He's not some sleazeball, or jerk, or secretly married man. He's really quite perfect as far as we've seen.
But the choice here isn't between the nice guy and the bad boy, or the funny guy, or the immature-yet-adorable guy. The choice presented is between two great guys who have lots to offer. Both are kind and sweet and talented and patient. The choice Chiharu is given is to find out which guy she is happy to be with. Which man is the one who pulls at her heart. And which guy, despite his flaws, does she want to make a future with. The answer is clear to everyone. And, finally, I think it's clear to Chiharu.
I'm so happy that Haruko is such a meddler. Really, she only meddles in Chiharu's affairs, and it's always in the best way, with the best intentions. If it weren't for her help, Chiharu would still be stuck in Denialsville, and Junpei wouldn't have had the encouragement he needed to even think of approaching her. Now, if she could just open up to Tanigawa.
So now the question is this: is Chiharu running to catch Junpei or to save Haruko?