This episode gave me all the feels. As the college selection deadline approaches, Zi Qiu and Ling Xiao must both make some difficult decisions, torn between their biological families and the one they grew up in. Plenty of tears to be had.
Zi Qiu tells Hai Chao and He Ping that he’s been thinking about studying abroad. He’s realized that there are more pros than cons and if he has the means to, then he should. Hai Chao and He Ping fall silent. Zi Qiu says that he doesn’t want to see his father working so hard. If he accepts Zhao’s money and goes abroad, that will relieve some of the burden from Hai Chao’s shoulders. Zi Qiu wants him to hire additional staff and rest more.
He looks up at his father and says that he genuinely wants to go. Besides, going to university abroad won’t be that different from going to university in a different province. He’ll still come back after he graduates.
The roles are reversed as He Ping starts trying to convince Hai Chao that studying abroad will be a good thing for Zi Qiu. Hai Chao doesn’t respond. He and Zi Qiu both start tearing up. He turns away and stands up to hide his face.
Hai Chao steadies himself against the door frame, then chokes out a, “Okay. Go,” before heading into his room. Zi Qiu cries as he resumes eating. He Ping tries to reassure him that Hai Chao is happy for him — he just doesn’t want to let him go.
Ming Yue asks Jian Jian what her brothers plan on doing for their college selection. Jian Jian thinks it’s a done deal — Ling Xiao will go to Peking University and Zi Qiu will go to Beijing Jiaotong. She tells Ming Yue that Chen Ting seems to be doing okay — she woke up, but after hearing about her mother and husband’s deaths, she was inconsolable. Ming Yue agrees to lend Jian Jian some money to buy matching shoes as presents for Zi Qiu and Ling Xiao.
After getting home, Jian Jian excitedly pounds on Zi Qiu’s door. He opens it just as Hai Chao leaves to go to the restaurant. Jian Jian senses the awkwardness between them, but Hai Chao tells Zi Qiu that he can be the one to tell Jian Jian what’s going on. Or they can wait until Ling Xiao gets back. Jian Jian thinks they’re talking about what to do for Ling Xiao’s birthday, and Zi Qiu doesn’t bother correcting her.
Ling Xiao smiles as he reads the text messages from his family on his birthday. His uncle comes out of his mother’s hospital room and catches him smiling, then asks how he can smile when his mother is like this. His uncle has to head back to China in a few days. He tells Ling Xiao to stay in Singapore and look after his mother until school starts.
But Ling Xiao says that he needs to go home in a few days, too. He misses his sister. His uncle is furious that he’s thinking about his sister when his mother is so inconsolable that she had to be sedated. He calls Ling Xiao cold-blooded and heartless, bringing up how he didn’t shed a tear after he caused his sister’s death.
Ling Xiao doesn’t respond to his uncle, but his words clearly bother him.
At night, he’s contemplating his college selection form when Mei Yang turns off the lights. She brings out a cake and sings “Happy Birthday” to him, then tells him to make a wish. He smiles sadly as he tells her that he never makes a wish on his birthday. He’s never seen a miracle and doesn’t believe that a god exists.
Mei Yang tells him that gods do exist, but they live so high up in the sky that he has to wish very loudly in his heart for them to hear. “Really?” he asks. She nods.
Mei Yang smiles as she watches Ling Xiao make a wish for the first time. She apologizes to him for not being able to buy him a bigger cake. He murmurs that maybe he’s destined to have only a small slice.
Ling Xiao looks at his college selection form again, where he’s listed Peking University as his first choice. He remembers telling his siblings that becoming an adult happens in a single moment, one that only you will know. Then he closes his laptop without submitting the form, biting back tears.
Ling Xiao finally returns home and Jian Jian greets him with a flying hug. She clings to him like a monkey and refuses to let go, so he just smiles and keeps walking with her holding on.
It’s just Ling Xiao, Jian Jian, and Hai Chao at lunch. Ling Xiao smiles and teases Jian Jian about talking too much. She reminds him that he won’t be able to hear her talk once he goes to Beijing for college, so he better appreciate it while he can. His face falls at the sobering reminder about college, but they don’t notice.
At night, Zi Qiu and Ling Xiao drink their first beers together on the rooftop. Zi Qiu says that when he was younger, all he wanted to do was grow up. But now that he’s grown up, he realizes how much he misses being a child. Zi Qiu and Ling Xiao both have things they want to tell each other. Zi Qiu tells Ling Xiao to go first.
Ling Xiao tells Zi Qiu that he plans on going to college in Singapore so that he can care for his mother and sister. He leaves in a week. Zi Qiu is stunned. He yells at Ling Xiao. Didn’t his mother give him to Jian Jian? Why is he going to take care of her? Has he forgotten about Jian Jian?
Ling Xiao just calmly says that once he leaves, he’ll count on Zi Qiu to look after Jian Jian.
Zi Qiu drains the rest of his beer and angrily throws the empty can onto the ground. He punches Ling Xiao, then says that he can’t do anything. He’s leaving for England soon.
He starts crying as he yells that they’re both ingrates, fleeing at the first sign of disaster, him to his biological father, Ling Xiao to his biological mother. Ling Xiao attacks him back.
Jian Jian finds them grappling on the roof and throws herself in between them, demanding to know why they’re fighting.
He Ping is out of the city for work and won’t be back until the next morning. Hai Chao wants to wait until he’s back to discuss things, but Jian Jian says there’s nothing to discuss. She won’t allow either of her brothers to leave. Hai Chao tries to make her see reason and tries to say that their going to college in other countries is the same as going to Beijing — it’s still a plane flight away. But Jian Jian says that if it’s really the same, why were they too afraid to tell her?
Jian Jian feels betrayed. Her father always told her that as long as they supported one another and stuck together, they were a family, no matter what others thought of them. She thought that these other people were outsiders. Why are her brothers all going to them now? Why did they not even bother asking her or telling her?
She asks Ling Xiao why he has to take care of Chen Ting. He’s still a student — what about everyone else? Ling Xiao says, “She’s still my mother,” without looking at her. Jian Jian looks at Zi Qiu, who doesn’t say anything. She storms toward her room, but not without angrily kicking her chair.
Jian Jian cries in bed under the covers. Ling Xiao goes into her room and sits by her side, but when he tries to move the covers, she lashes out and tells him to leave. Zi Qiu comes in and says that he understands she’s angry, but she still needs to eat. When he tries to put his hands on the covers, she shifts away. He turns and leaves the room, crying.
Ling Xiao continues to sit silently by Jian Jian for a while, but eventually stands up to leave. She suddenly sits up and says, “We never had anything to do with each other, right?” They were always just neighbors and Zi Qiu was always just a boy that another family sent to them. They were never a family.
Ling Xiao says that she’s wrong. He turns to look at her and says, “When you grow up, let’s be together forever.”
But she doesn’t believe him and instead says that if they leave her, they will never be her brothers again. She crawls back under the covers to cry. Ling Xiao also cries as he leaves her room.
Hai Chao gets up in the middle of the night and has a small scare when he goes out into the living room to find Zi Qiu sitting in the dark. Hai Chao tells Zi Qiu that Jian Jian just needs some time. They’ve never been apart before in her life, and she just needs to adjust, but no family can stay together forever. Children will always get married eventually and go off on their own.
Zi Qiu says he’ll never get married. He’ll spend the rest of his life protecting this family. Hai Chao says that Jian Jian will get married. Zi Qiu says she’s not allowed to — what if her husband abuses her? Hai Chao just chuckles and says they can talk about this more when he gets older.
Zi Qiu is worried that Jian Jian will be bullied without him and Ling Xiao here to protect her, but Hai Chao says that if that happens, she’ll just have to stand up for herself. It’s the same for Zi Qiu — he’ll be on his own so he’ll have to stand up for himself. It’s the same for everyone. Hai Chao says that as he gets older, he’ll find that he’ll have to carry a larger and larger burden. Eventually, he’ll find that the whole world will be on his shoulders: parents, wife, kids.
“What about siblings?” Zi Qiu asks.
Hai Chao gently says, “They’ll have their own worlds.”
For Zi Qiu, the people he has now are enough of a world for him. Hai Chao tells him not to overthink things. Life is like a marathon. He has to save some energy for the later parts of his life. He nostalgically reflects on how Zi Qiu was just a little kid when they first met, yet look at him now. He’ll be back after he graduates. It won’t be too long. Zi Qiu continues crying. Hai Chao goes over and pats his shoulder gently as he embraces him.
The next morning, Hai Chao goes to wake up Jian Jian for breakfast, but finds that her room is empty and bed made. He calls her and finds out that she’s on her way to her grandmother’s house.
He Ping returns home and notices that both Zi Qiu and Ling Xiao look beat up. He demands to know what happened.
After breakfast, He Ping rages at Ling Xiao’s uncle on the phone, calling the whole Chen family selfish, hypocritical, and a whole host of other unflattering words before disowning the man as Ling Xiao’s uncle.
When he hangs up, he shifts his anger to Ling Xiao, demanding to know why he made such an important decision without consulting him. And since when did he want to study medicine?
But, as Hai Chao points out, the decisions have been made and can’t be changed. There’s no point in yelling at the children.
Zi Qiu and Ling Xiao each pack their bags to leave the country. They both open their drawers to find the shoes Jian Jian bought for them, along with a note from her. Zi Qiu hugs his shoebox and cries, while Ling Xiao tries on his new shoes and walks around his room.
It’s been years since I was a teenager and years since I left home, but this episode brought me back to that summer between high school graduation and starting college. That time is so special because it’s the first true taste of freedom and independence, but also a painful period of being on the cusp of adulthood and realizing that everyone is going separate ways and that nothing will be the same again. Especially parent-child relationships. Your parents will always be your parents, but at some point in time, you stop being their child and start becoming an adult yourself.
Zi Qiu is in some ways very simple and hasn’t changed at all in the way he has so easily claimed and recognized this family as his own. He’s also such a big softie even though he’s also quick to anger. Just like how he was so quick and uncomplicated in his recognition of Hai Chao as his father, he also has a very uncomplicated view of who he wants to be to his family and who is family is to him. It might be a bit too simple for the adult world, though, and we’ll see how he reacts to complex realities of adult relationships.
The love between the siblings is so clear this episode, as is the fact that Ling Xiao loves Jian Jian so so much. I hesitate to say in love right now, because their relationship is so pure and platonic. It seems to me like he’ll be whoever he needs to be to keep Jian Jian by his side, whether that means being the brother she needs, or perhaps something… else? In the future?