As we dive into the final episode of Soundtrack #1, distance begets loneliness. Eun-soo (Han So-hee) dives back into her life – writing lyrics, drinking mandarin tea, finally cooking for herself and sending Sun-woo pictures of the fruits of her labor. A year passes: Eun-soo becomes a coveted lyricist, and Sun-woo’s (Park Hyung-sik) messages dwindle from throughout the day to once every week.
Even as Sun-woo’s absence pervades her senses – in the moments where she wants to share the joy of getting to write for her dream artist, or simply when she wants to talk someone’s ear off – she holds on to the scarf Sun-woo had given her before leaving. The tables, truly, have turned – still, she gets on splendidly, if she does say so herself.
Or so she thought. She finally comes clean while on a supposed “date” with Producer Kang (Kim Joo-Heon). As he proposes to her once again, her heart, admittedly, is miles away – probably with Sun-woo who hasn’t called her in ages. “Even when I’m sitting here with you in this beautiful, fancy place – for some reason, I don’t feel any excitement at all.” she tells Producer Kang, “I thought I would hate wine less if I kept drinking it, but it never got better.”
The meaning is painfully, arduously, easily clear. Even Producer Kang – who had only met Sun-woo once – understands.
Back home, Eun-soo’s mother (Lee Jung-eun) pays her a surprise visit and the former coaxes her daughter into doing a Tarot reading. Ironically, Eun-soo’s last card is the same as Sun-woo’s in a previous reading, although her mother confesses that the meaning wasn’t quite what she had told him previously – the card referred to someone close, but still seemingly far away. Now, Eun-soo is stuck with a vague message: she might get a new opportunity to do something, and if it feels right, she should waste no time.
Said opportunity comes right away – while moving a plush toy that Sun-woo always kept on his table, she finds a necklace and a message with Sun-woo’s confession inside. Perhaps, the new opportunity was this – telling Sun-woo how she feels. She shoots him a text about wanting to talk, but he never replies.
Eun-soo, however, doesn’t need to wait long. Turns out, the reason for Sun-woo’s elusive behavior was that he was on a plane back to Korea. He isn’t back for good, though – this is only a short visit, but Eun-soo doesn’t care. As if a child, she monopolises his time, regaling him with tales of her grocery runs and career wins. The only thing she keeps under wraps is her confession – this, she says in so many words yet none at all, much like Sun-woo had. She stares at him longer, scoots closer to him when they sit together, gives him a scarf because he’d “freeze himself for the sake of fashion”.
As if to expedite this particular confession, life throws a wrench in her plans in the form of Kim Seo-yeon (Yoon Seo-ah) – Sun-woo’s junior from art school who’s helping out in his studio. Perhaps it’s because Eun-soo’s gotten used to Sun-woo’s undivided attention, but witnessing him interact with Seo-yeon sparks something confusing and ugly inside of her. It should be her who brings him sweets from the bakery down the road and sits next to him on the sofa. Who is Seoyeon to tell her not to fiddle with cameras in Sun-woo’s studio? For the first time in 19 years, Eun-soo understands why Sun-woo would turn to juvenile tantrums whenever he spotted her with a new man.
Her fears prove true when she overhears Seo-yeon confessing to Sun-woo. It wasn’t the first time either, from what she infers. Sun-woo, however, politely turns Seo-yeon down, citing professionalism. As if to see where his leanings are, Eun-soo prods him with one more question – what if she asked him out? Would he say no? Apparently he would, citing what Eun-soo had said about remaining friends all their lives if they didn’t want to break up and hurt each other.
The optimistic Sun-woo seems to have changed: even when Eun-soo brings up Mari (Park Min-jung) and Gyeol-han (Park Hoon) – the couple who owns their regular bar Married Couple, friends for years before they became partners – he seems resistant. They’re an exception, he says, seemingly resigned to his lot.
In a very Eun-soo way, she won’t accept it. In a very Eun-soo way, she borrows Married Couple for a night and finally shows Sun-woo the song she had been working on. For some time, she’d been trying to get the last line right, but nothing fit. As he mulls it over, she confesses that the night he left for the military, she had bawled her eyes out (he knows). At first, she’d thought that it was because she was losing a constant companion, but when Sun-woo had left the country the previous year, she’d realised it was love.
“I thought unrequited love was supposed to be something cute, like a little crush,” she says. “But every time I thought of you, my heart ached so much that I barely had energy when I got home. But what made it most painful was realising how lonely it must have been for you to do this for the past eight years.”
Sun-woo mulls it over for a long time, enough to make questions race. Has he moved on? Has he found someone else? Has he, in a cruel turn of fate, realised that what he had felt for Eun-soo all this while was some misplaced infatuation? Or a crush of convenience? When he completes the last line and finally shows it to Eun-soo, it’s enough to make one release a breath they didn’t realise they’d been holding.
In Eun-soo’s diary, he writes: “Please stay by my side. I love you.”
It’s at this moment we realise that perhaps, like all other things with Eun-soo, Sun-woo knew. They’d gotten out of step on their way to the same destination, and perhaps Sun-woo had gotten there faster, but everytime he turned out and looked back, he knew Eun-soo (along with us) would be making her way to him slowly and steadily.
- Supporting the aforementioned theory is another moment confirming just how Eun-soo and Sun-woo were always in each other’s orbits. In a flashback, we see Eun-soo and Sun-woo celebrating the start of her career as a lyricist, where she promises him that one day, she will write songs for Taeyoon. It’s not, however, because of her affection or adoration for the singer – it’s because Sun-woo likes his music.
‘Soundtrack #1’ is available on Disney+