Takahara apologizes for kissing Chiharu out of the blue and tells her he loves her and wants to start dating. She hesitates to answer, so he reassures her that he'll wait until she's ready.
Junpei walks dejectedly away, and for just a moment I fear he'll throw his painting off the bridge. (Noooo!) But he doesn't. (Whew!)
Haruko is working on the garden design for Tanigawa when Chiharu comes home in a daze. Chiharu tells her roomie about the kiss and confession. Haruko asks how she feels, and she thinks about it a moment before saying that she's relieved, since Takahara wasn't influenced by past promises or conditions for marriage. He fell in love with her just for who she is.
At work, Chiharu finds out that her company will be restructuring and her contract won't be renewed in a month. She leaves her boss' office with a stunned look, but deflects all attempts by Boy Crazy and Playa to find out what's wrong. Takahara also notices that she's upset.
Haruko makes an appointment over the phone with Tanigawa to talk about her garden design. Mai overhears and teases her about having a date, but she staunchly denies that it is a date. "At my age? Ha!" Mai admits that she has a date with the guy she likes, too. Junpei brings in the new poinsettias he picked up, and Haruko comments on his yawning so much. He lies and says that he was worried about getting in their new stock, so he couldn't sleep well. Mai guesses that he must have slept at the shop again.
Mai notices the covered painting sitting out and rejoices that Junpei has started painting again. She begs to see it, but Junpei says that he's not done with it and is considering painting over it. (Again, nooooo!) He explains that until he feels a painting is complete, he can't show it to anyone, and he doesn't sign it until he's decided he can part with it, he won't even sign it. He gets a call from Mizuki asking him to meet for lunch.
Chiharu heads to the convenience store to buy her lunch. Takahara surprises her and correctly guesses that she's economizing on her lunches. He asks to join her. As they walk, he tells her that he knows that they won't be renewing her contract, but even though the boss asked him to take her off the project, he wants to work with her until the end. He asks if there's anything he can do for her, and volunteers to take her on a trip or take her out to eat at an expensive restaurant any time she wants to eat something nice.
She thanks him and says that for now, she wants to do things on her own. She suddenly feels that she's always been a bit too dependent on her family and friends to help her out, but now she wants to stand on her own two feet for a change. She explains that she plans to go to Hello Work (a government sponsored unemployment agency) and start over.
He offers his support and says that he'll do anything for someone who is important to him. In answer to her stunned expression, he reminds her of his confession and says that those are his real feelings. If she ever needs help, he will be right there, ready to give her whatever she needs.
Inside, Boy Crazy runs up and asks Chiharu if she's going to marry Takahara and retire from the business. Chiharu awkwardly points out the fact that she has customers and heads to her desk. Junpei looks like all the air has been knocked out of him, then shuffles after Chiharu and Mizuki. During the consultation he's distracted and withdrawn.
Mizuki takes a phone call, leaving Chiharu and Junpei alone. They sit there uncomfortably for a moment, then Chiharu asks if he was able to paint anything. He says yes and she congratulates him on his fresh start. He congratulates her back, and when she looks confused, he explains that he's referring to her upcoming marriage and retirement. She tries to deny it, but can't seem to find the right way to explain the situation, so she excuses herself to make some copies. As she walks away, Junpei watches her intently, and Mizuki notices.
Back at work, Haruko asks Junpei if he saw Chiharu. He says that he did, and he even met her boyfriend. "He's a nice person, and seems like a great boyfriend. They go very well together." Haruko's face falls when she hears his answer and recognizes his defeated tone, even though he tries to cover it up.
That night, Chiharu researches unemployment, but gets distracted by a guide book about Paris. She sits deep in thought.
Junpei contemplates his painting, then picks up a scraper to scrape it clean. His hand hovers over it for a while, but he comes to his senses and drops the scraper.
Haruko waits and waits for Tanigawa, drinking coffee and reading gardening books. She's even brought him a bouquet of poinsettias, but he doesn't show up or answer her calls.
Chiharu reviews her resumé and realizes she doesn't really have any licenses or certifications. Haruko comes home and Chiharu asks about the bouquet. She explains that she was going to give it to Tanigawa, who asked her to design a garden for him. Chiharu teases her about that garden becoming her own garden some day, and Haruko denies any attachment to Tanigawa.
Haruko asks about Chiharu's attachments, and Chiharu thinks she's talking about Takahara. Haruko clarifies and says she means Junpei—doesn't Chiharu love him? Chiharu answers that she's already given him up. Haruko asks if she's okay with that. Didn't he start painting again. Chiharu says he did, but that he also came to make plans to go to Paris with Mizuki. "So there's nothing I can do about it. I can't do anything. I guess there's nothing I can do at all." (Methinks the lady doth protest too much.)
The next day, Mai and her friends show up for class, but see it's been canceled. The guys head off, and she stares after Yamada, the guy she likes. Her girlfriend asks if she's going to confess to him, since she can tell just by looking how much Mai likes him. Mai hesitates, and her friend says that she needs to ask herself who is the most important person to her.
Mai draws a Wizard of Oz doodle for that question at work. When Haruko comes in, Mai explains that Tanigawa cancelled class. She then asks Haruko who the most important person for her is. This makes Haruko think, and while Mai is busy helping a customer, she tries to call Tanigawa again. He doesn't answer.
Chiharu goes to Hello Work and has a consultation. The consultant tells her that companies don't want workers over 35, even if they can't admit it for legal reasons. And Chiharu doesn't really have any other qualifications to recommend her. (I sincerely hope that ageism isn't as bad in Japan and Korea as dramas have led me to believe. Especially in the workplace. I mean, I know it happens here in the United States, but it's not as common or as blatant as it is in dramas. It really upsets me. Grrrr!)
Mai tells Haruko that Tanigawa called to order poinsettias. She speculates that he took time off to plan a Christmas party. Haruko decides to deliver the flowers herself.
When she gets to his house, she notices the mourning drapes and plaque. Tanigawa apologizes for missing their meeting/date and explains that his mother died and it was too late to call when he had a chance. Haruko offers her condolences (the subs say "I feel your grief," which I find to be such a beautiful sentiment).
Tanigawa tells her that he decided to use poinsettias at the altar, since his mother requested it in her will. When his father proposed, he gave her poinsettias. Tanigawa was surprised at her reasoning, since he remembers his parents always fighting when he was a child. In flower language, poinsettias represent "Praying for Your Happiness," and he speculates that that is the essence of marriage. After two strangers join their lives together and live together for 50 years, they may not survive for long after one of them dies. But they've spent their lives praying for each other's happiness. Haruko repeats "Praying for happiness for the one closes to them until the end." Although Tanigawa wasn't able to make that happen in his own life, he thinks that it is the best way to live.
At the shop, Junpei makes a tag for the poinsettias and then studies his painting. He rereads the card Chiharu sent, and then tucks it in to the frame of the canvas. Haruko comes back and he gives his notice. She offers to have him over for drinks before he leaves, and then asks if he's really going with Mizuki. He resignedly answers yes, since she's the one who supported and encouraged him all this time.
He wanders off and Haruko spots his painting. She smiles at it, and then realizes that it's the bouquet of navarra flowers Chiharu gave him. She runs over to confront him, but isn't quite sure what to say. He picks up his painting and she asks about it. He tells her that it's finally time for him to sign, and she asks if that means he's going to say goodbye, realizing that it means he's saying the same thing in his heart to Chiharu.
Later, he returns to the garden and sets up his easel. As he signs his painting, I think it's interesting that we can hear the sound of an airplane overhead, as though it's a symbol of him leaving Chihaur behind. He hears a voice asking if he's finished his painting, and a flash of disappointment crosses his face when he realizes it's Mizuki. She asks if she can see the painting—or does he still have a promise to show it to someone else first? He answers that he's already said his goodbyes, but wraps it up and puts it away before she can see it. Chiharu shows up, but stops cold when she notices Mizuki. She smiles to herself regretfully and leaves. Mizuki spots her, but doesn't say anything.
Chiharu sits at home, sadly staring at the poinsettias. Haruko come in and tells her about the get-together for Junpei. She asks if it's okay for Chiharu to let him leave without telling him how she feels about him, and Chiharu answers that it's okay, because she wants him to be happy with Mizuki.
She chatters about getting married and retiring, and how dating Takahara is the perfect answer to her dilemmas about marriage and work. Haruko interrupts and asks if she really wants to marry someone she doesn't love. Shouldn't she try to make everyone happy? Isn't Junpei the most important person in her life? Chiharu replies that she's not good enough for him and that she can't make him happy. Haruko says that she can't know that, but she argues back that it will be best for him to go to Paris with Mizuki. That way, he can find happiness. They are already on different paths, so telling him her feelings would change nothing.
Haruko points out that those feelings are very important, but Chiharu snaps back that she can't just live on her feelings. She begs her to leave things alone and stalks off, but Haruko yells after her to ask if she's just trying to convince herself. She tells her she thinks this is wrong. Chiharu shouts back that trying to force her is what's wrong. Isn't she just trying to make up for her regret of not going off with Boss-man? She accuses her of being dishonest with herself, pretending that she's strong and doesn't need to marry.
Haruko slaps her and defends herself by saying that she chose this life carefully, and made that decision for her own happiness. "Someone like you couldn't understand that, since you always have someone to lean on whenever things don't go your way." Chiharu asks what's wrong about leaning on someone. Can't she make Takahara her most important person?
Haruko says that she's just doing it out of convenience, and she will never learn to walk her own path. She's always being babied by others. When she first took her in, it was because Chiharu was searching for her own path, and although she was impudent, she had courage. But now, she's pretending to be happy by suppressing her own feelings, and Haruko can't tolerate such a freeloader. If she's going to be like this. . . .
"Then I should just get out?" Chiharu points out that Haruko is always right, but being right isn't everything. She's not strong like Haruko. She thanks Haruko for taking care of her and then packs her bags. Outside, she wonders where she'll go, then gets a phone call, which she hesitates to answer.
Haruko sits alone in her house with her coffee and her poinsettias. She looks at them and thinks about their meaning, and you just feel that she's saying goodbye to Chiharu, praying for her happiness.
Junpei and Mizuki stroll towards the subway station. Mizuki admits that she doesn't want to go home, then grabs Junpei's arm. She asks if he really wants to be with her and confesses that she feels a little uneasy, since he's such a kind person. She leans in and rests her head on his shoulder.
Chiharu waits, and Takahara shows up, explaining that he worried since she didn't answer her phone all day. She makes an excuse about being busy at Hello Work, and he says that it's good that everything is okay. Her face falls, but she pretends that nothing is wrong. He asks if it's because he told her he'd always help her if she needed it, as though he's worried she felt he was moving too fast. She turns away and says that she's hopeless.
He grabs her in a hug and tells her "I will be the place where you belong."
Mizuki continues to hug Junpei, and he finally puts his arms around her too.
I'm not sure which upsets me more: the fact that Chiharu and Junpei are embracing the wrong people/relationships, or the rift between Haruko and Chiharu. Both are heart-wrenching developments, and I just want things to get better soon. But it feels as though these are things that could end relationships.
In the fight, I understand both Haruko and Chiharu, and I think that their points of view are both valid—to a point. I've always felt that Haruko's decision to remain single is a good thing for her—as long as she doesn't completely close the door to any other possibility in her life. I don't think choosing to be single is sad or wrong in and of itself, especially when it's a matter of choice and not just giving in to what one thinks is the inevitable outcome. I feel that Haruko has carefully planned things out and has chosen to fill her life with other worthwhile things.
However, I think that she could also find happiness with Tanigawa. Not if she were motivated by the fear of being alone, but because they work well together, and I think they have learned enough about themselves to be able to make each other happy. It's a future of possibility and hope, and not one of settling or conforming to the ideals of others.
Chiharu is right about it being okay to lean on others. It's good to be strong and independent—and Chiharu hasn't quite learned that for herself yet—but we all need to have people in our lives that we can rely on and in whom we can find the support and acceptance we need. It's good for Chiharu to consciously choose to lean on someone, but I don't think she should choose Takahara just because he's convenient. I think they could be fine together, and even make things work out okay, but since she has another person that she truly loves, I think she would always have regret. With Junpei, she could find true happiness and compatibility, and not just some shadow of joy.
I like Takahara. He's a very nice and sincere person. (I do have to admit that I was worried Takahara had another family somewhere, or that he had a secret past, but after finishing this dorama, I can say that's not the case.) His sentiments about being the place Chiharu belongs were some of the sweetest ever. And Chiharu was right when she said that he likes her for herself and not for outside reasons. He's a bit boring, and for some people, having a partner who is "boring" is ideal.
However, for Chiharu, there's really only Junpei. There's just not the depth of feeling between Takahara and Chiharu that exists between her and Junpei. Choosing Takahara over him would be like having just a lawn when you could have a beautiful blooming garden. The grass is nice, but for a flower-lover the garden is ideal. And for Chiharu, Junpei is already that garden where she belongs, and the person she cares about the most.