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Midway Impression & Thoughts — “Answer Me 1988” (응답하라 1988) Up to Episode 14

I’ve been mulling whether to hold this writing until the series wraps up in January 2016, or just go with the speculation. Because part of me wants to gloat if I got the husband right. Sure, if I got him wrong, I’m digging my own hole of shame.


As of this post (22 December 2015), “Answer Me 1988” has already run 14 episodes.

About The Show

So far into episode 14… I like what I see. I love the emphasis on family. And I love the feel of the eighties in this drama. The teenagers behave as a teenager in the eighties would, so do the neighbours. They are concerned about the mundane bit of life, as well as the extraordinaries. Most of the time, nothing big happens, but the small and mundane moments make them who and what they are today.

Does it pass the Bechdel Test? Long story short, yes it does. Or, you know… the girls have lives besides their romantic threads, and so do the boys. Thank goodness!

The “Who’s The Husband” Question

This is not me getting aboard any ship. I am just enjoying doing the detective work, putting two and two and what-nots, trusting the writer and director with their clues and red herrings. So far, for the franchise’s signature husband-watch adventure, the “1997” and “1994” have given quite consistent clues, never a deus-ex-machina kind of denouement.

In previous instalments, the game was harder because the same casts remained throughout. Here, there is a disconnect in which their older selves are portrayed by different actors, which can be an advantage.

So what have we got…

  1. The husband smokes.
    • Taek has been seen to smoke a number of times.
    • Does Jeong-hwan smoke? If he does, it is never shown so far. I suspect having an older brother with a heart condition and he himself having immune system issues (episode 8), Jeong-hwan does not smoke.
  2. This is something I might have conjured out of thin air: the husband’s body language shows “left-handedness”. Taek is left-handed.
  3. There is also the pop music references at the end of episode 6. Deok-seon and the husband reminisced about a singing contest at the end of 1988. They argued whether they had seen it live and who had been the award winner. The husband cited Jeon Yoo Na’s “That Thing Called Love”. Doek-seon got it right that in ’88, Endless Orbit’s “To That Person” won the contest.
    • Could Jeong-hwan get it wrong? Probably. However, Jeong-hwan strikes me as someone who’s into popular music. His brother has huge collection. He goes to concerts. I doubted he would have forgotten the winner that year since he, and everyone, had been very enthusiastic when watching the show.
    • Could Taek have known at all? Probably, and very likely IF he had experienced it himself.
    • In episode 7, it is shown that the kids, sans Taek, were watching the ’88 contest on TV at the Kim’s. So I am expecting that the kids are going to go to similar contest, maybe at the end of ’89, in which Jeon Yoo Na’s “That Thing Called Love” won the award, to validate husband’s point.
  4. In episode 14, Jeong-hwan takes a look at Taek’s notebook, in which the photograph of Taek and Deok-seon in China is kept. This gives glimpse of a date written at the bottom right, the direction that the Husband has pointed at in episode 9.
    • Deok-seon and husband talked about the photo

      The husband points at the date (January 1989), written at the bottom right.

    • The photograph of Taek and Deok-seon, taken after the Baduk tournament in China in January 1989

      With Taek. The date is written at the bottom right.

    • The photograph of Jeong-hwan and Deok-seon, taken after a concert in January 1989

      With Jeong-hwan. The date is printed on the poster at the bottom left.

As of episode 14, the chance of the husband being Taek has gone up to 70% in my book after the sighting of the photograph of Taek and Deok-seon in China.

However, I could not write off Jeong-hwan because of Deok-seon’s “first snow” story and postcards that only he could have known. This lends a lot of weight to Jeong-hwan being the husband. Unless the others somehow learnt about it which I suspect they, and Taek, would.

Lessons and Recommendations on how to watch and enjoy “Answer Me 1988”

  • Better leave behind the thoughts of “shipping”, if you can.
  • If, however, you find yourself itched on the husband-watch adventure like I do, be brave in getting it wrong. It still is fun.

Now that the franchise has proven that it is capable of doing an “ensemble” piece, give me “Answer Me The Jeoseon Chronicles”. It takes a village to raise a kid.


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