The past never really passes.
Previously on Back in Time/Cong Cong Na Nian… ep 15 recap
When I was thinking about how to capture the essence of this finale (and drama) in just one sentence, it became clear that the show already did it for me. That’s why the tagline I chose for this final episode recap of Back in Time is the same one that was actually used by the drama. We all have something or someone in our past that we want to either forget or remember, but the reality is that the past remains with us forever no matter what. And over the course of these 16 episodes, we’ve witnessed these characters grow up and experience that unavoidable truth. Let’s journey with them for one final glance back at the past that never really passes.
Remember how excited I was at the end of the last episode when it looked like Fang Hui finally accepted Qiao Ran’s love? Well, scratch that. The show played a cruel joke on our hearts because that beautiful embrace between Fang Hui and Qiao Ran wasn’t the entire scene. After Qiao Ran confesses his love and asks that she let him take care of her, Fang Hui tells him that everything would have been so much better if the person she had fallen in love with was him. He is the nicest boy that she has ever met, but it’s impossible for her to be with anyone else after Chen Xun. She says that they’ve already missed their chance. Qiao Ran tells her that it doesn’t matter who it is that’s by her side, he just wishes that she will be happy. Gahhh! Two minutes into the episode and I’m already a crying mess.
After the rejection is when Fang Hui actually walks over to embrace him. Qiao Ran sits on a bench outside of Fang Hui’s dorm the entire night, thinking about how as people grow up, they come to learn that missed opportunities are a beautiful thing. From the very beginning, Fang Hui was his secret. He was afraid that she would know his feelings, but also afraid that she wouldn’t know. He never said anything and she never said anything, so they ended up distant but still close to each other. From now on, he wants to use his “friend” title to continue loving her. When the morning comes, Qiao Ran leaves for his return to London. So. Many. Tears.
Fang Hui overhears her roommates talking about how Chen Xun and Xiao Tang moved in together. The next day, she sees the two of them leaving campus together and follows them. She follows them all the way to their new apartment, and sits on the bench outside for the entire evening. When the lights inside finally turn off, she continues to just sit and stare at the building. Fang Hui spends the whole night sitting there, thinking about her and Chen Xun. She finally gets up to leave when the sun is rising.
Jia Mo goes to the nightclub again to find Zhao Ye, but he maintains his cold and distant attitude towards her. Despite her insistence that they’re friends, he tells her to stop bothering him because they belong to two different worlds now. When she doesn’t immediately leave, he screams at her to leave him alone.
Jia Mo sprains her ankle while walking in heels on campus, and Song Ling appears out of nowhere to offer his shoes for her to wear. Totally copying Zhao Ye’s move. He tells her he knows that she doesn’t like him, and that the person who occupies her heart will continue to occupy it. Jia Mo tells him that she once really liked someone too. She tried to love and care for that person from afar. Later on, she realized that she was wrong and even missed out on the most important person in her life. Song Ling tells her that he understands all of it, and promises that he will stop trying to be by her side. He just wishes that she will be happy.
Song Ling goes to the nightclub, and introduces himself to Zhao Ye as Jia Mo’s friend. Zhao Ye gets annoyed and tries to leave, but Song Ling stops him. He tells Zhao Ye that he likes Jia Mo, but she rejected him because of him. Song Ling yells at him for being stupid and crazy for not treasuring a girl like Jia Mo. He warns Zhao Ye that if he makes Jia Mo shed one more tear, he will definitely go after him. Wow! That’s the first time I’ve been a fan of Song Ling.
Jia Mo finds Chen Xun while he’s walking on campus with Xiao Tang, and pulls him aside to talk. She asks him if he’s talked to Fang Hui lately because she hasn’t been able to reach her. When Chen Xun notices Xiao Tang looking uncomfortable, he quickly says that he hasn’t been in touch with Fang Hui in awhile. But before he leaves, he runs back to tell Jia Mo to let him know immediately when she finds her. Uh oh…where’s Fang Hui?
That evening, Zhao Ye finds Jia Mo on the basketball court by herself. He apologizes and says that he has been really stupid. He admits to her that he feels useless and doesn’t think he can’t give her anything. When he tells her that he wanted her to find someone better than him, Jia Mo slaps him and screams that she hates him. He pulls her into his arms and yells aloud that he likes her. After a second-long pause, Jia Mo hugs him back. Yay, Jia Mo & Zhao Ye!
Chen Xun gets really drunk at dinner with his childhood friends when he still doesn’t get word from Jia Mo or Fang Hui about her whereabouts. When Xiao Tang comes to pick him up, he’s keeps blabbering on about how if she likes him, then say yes, and if she doesn’t like him, then say no. Not sure if Xiao Tang realized that he was talking about Fang Hui, but she definitely knew when he starts to drunkenly sing “Cong Cong Na Nian” to her.
Chen Xun goes back to his dorm to pick up some stuff when one of Song Ling’s douchey friends stops by. The guy starts bragging to them about how he recently slept with some girl who was a virgin. He tells them that she goes to their school, so Song Ling asks him who she is. Oh no… The guy says that her name is Fang Hui, and the entire room literally goes silent. Even though the reveal didn’t completely take me by surprise, I still gasped when he said her name.
Chen Xun legit goes insane in that moment and attacks the guy. Two of his roommates have to restrain him while Song Ling drags his friend out of the room. I’ve been pretty harsh on Chen Xun these past few episodes, but I still teared up during this scene because his heartbreak and pain were so tangible. Outside, Song Ling tells his friend that Fang Hui is Chen Xun’s ex-girlfriend and first love. Chen Xun trashes the entire dorm room, and can only sit in a corner to cry afterwards. Song Ling tells him that Fang Hui must have loved him too much, and when she lost him, she just didn’t care about anything anymore.
Chen Xun runs over to Fang Hui’s dorm and screams for her to come outside. When she does, he asks her why did she have to degrade herself like that. She tells him that there’s nothing wrong. Chen Xun tells her that he knows better than her what kind of person that guy is. Fang Hui replies that if he can live and sleep with Shen Xiao Tang, then she can do it too. He asks her if she loves that guy and explains that he does what he does with Xiao Tang because he loves her. Fang Hui says that she loves him.
Chen Xun tells Fang Hui that she can hate him or hit or yell at him, but he just wishes that she wouldn’t hurt herself. She says that she stopped caring about anything a long time ago. He says that he still cares, and that his heart hurts when he sees her doing this to herself. Fang Hui asks him if he knows what heartbreak really feels like? She explains that heartbreak is seeing him use the hand that once held hers to hold someone else’s. Heartbreak is dreaming about him every night, but then waking up to darkness. Heartbreak is when she’s sleeping with someone else, she’s still thinking about him. He tightly hugs her, and she asks him if they can go back…but he doesn’t say anything.
Qiao Ran’s back in town, so everyone meets up to have dinner. Chen Xun brings Xiao Tang with him…and it’s super awkward. While Zhao Ye and Qiao Ran are pretty welcoming towards her, Jia Mo and Fang Hui both refuse to get up or make any eye contact with her when they walk in. Fang Hui doesn’t look like she’s feeling very well, and mentions how she’s just having some stomach cramps. Uh oh. Qiao Ran urges her to stay and promises to take her home later, but Fang Hui suddenly bolts from the table.
Chen Xun quickly follows her and sees Fang Hui throwing up. He asks her what’s wrong, but she says everything’s fine. He knows she’s hiding something from him, so he asks if she got her period this month. Fang Hui shakes her head and Chen Xun freaks out, knocking over the nearby furniture. The rest of the group rushes in to see what’s going on, and Fang Hui suddenly needs to throw up again. She tells them that she might be pregnant. Before anyone can really react, Chen Xun jumps in and says that the baby is his. WHAT.
Xiao Tang asks Chen Xun what he just said. When he doesn’t say anything, she slaps him and runs out. Fang Hui tells them not to listen to him and that the baby isn’t his. Chen Xun yells at them all to stop asking questions, and says that this is a matter between him and Fang Hui. He tells them that it’s none of their business, and takes Fang Hui outside with him.
Chen Xun tells Fang Hui that he can’t stand by and watch her destroy herself. He says to her that Fang Hui is a “clean” aka innocent girl, and always will be.
All four of them accompany Fang Hui to the hospital to get an abortion. When her name is called, Fang Hui walks into the surgery room by herself. But before she lets go of the door handle, Chen Xun holds onto her hand for a second longer. When she does finally let go, she goes in alone while the four friends wait outside.
Fang Hui’s voiceover says that the phrase, “Don’t hate that the dream is over, hate that it was so fleeting,” kept floating in her mind. She says that she slept for a long time that day, and kept dreaming of him running towards her, smiling. This person represented everything wonderful about her youthful memories. He left quickly with time, and she just couldn’t manage to keep up.
After the surgery, Chen Xun carries Fang Hui out of the hospital in his arms, and the three friends follow behind them. This scene of the five of them together was utterly heartbreaking, especially when compared to the youthful exuberance they once showed.
With the SARS outbreak keeping everyone on high alert, Chen Xun tries to call Fang Hui but to no avail. He discovers that from that day forward, that phone number would become unreachable. The girl named Fang Hui disappeared from his life, and never appeared again. He went to all the places that were associated with her, but she didn’t leave behind a single trace of herself for him. That year was also the year that Leslie Cheung passed away. All over the streets, they were playing his songs. Everyone says that he’s still around, but just went to a faraway place. But Chen Xun thinks, if the entire world wants to find one person, why can’t they find him? Chen Xun goes back to the tree that bears the last remnants of the Fab Five’s friendship, and lingers on Fang Hui’s name.
In the present day, he’s also at the tree and his gaze is still lingering on that name. He’s quickly joined by Zhao Ye, Jia Mo, and Qiao Ran. Qiao Ran’s now a doctor and Zhao Ye and Jia Mo have a successful business empire. Jia Mo asks Qiao Ran if he’s had time to meet the girl that she wants to set him up with, but he claims that he’s been too busy lately. When they ask about Jia Mo and Zhao Ye’s upcoming wedding, and Zhao Ye says that he’ll definitely find two pretty bridesmaids for Chen Xun and Qiao Ran. Jia Mo tells him to stop talking nonsense because there will always only be one bridesmaid for her. Omg, all the tears.
All four of them look up to the sky and take turns saying, “Happy Birthday.” Jia Mo turns to Chen Xun and reassures him that she will definitely come back. He says someday. MY HEART.
Qiao Ran suggests that they all go grab a bite to eat, but Chen Xun says that he wants to stay here by himself for a little while longer. After the three of them leave, Chen Xun stares at the sky and knocks his beer bottle three times (his secret code for Fang Hui that means, “I’m thinking of you.”). *tears*
Chen Xun imagines himself walking down the road to leads to their high school. He walks by all the students around him. He suddenly stops when he sees Jia Mo and Zhao Ye walking together and goofing around. He sees himself laughing with Qiao Ran. Then, behind them, he sees Fang Hui. With tears in his eyes, he smiles to himself.
When Zhao Ye encounters Su Kai at his nightclub, he tells Zhao Ye that he comes to these places because it’s the only freedom he has left. His father controls every aspect of his life that he no longer has his own dreams. Su Kai encourages Zhao Ye to really live his life and not be like him. As Su Kai’s walking away, Zhao Ye yells out one last time, “Captain!” with Beyond’s “Boundless Oceans, Vast Skies (Hoi Foot Tin Hung)” playing in the background. Very fitting.
During the end credits, there’s a fantastic picture montage of everything wonderful and great about the ’90s, the ’00s, and just youth in general (Meteor Garden, Sailor Moon, Huan Zhu Ge Ge, Beyond, Teresa Teng, Leslie Cheung, Gameboys, instant ramen, and so much more!). Bringing back the memories!
Even though the ending left me extremely heartbroken, I still thought it was absolutely beautiful and am hopeful that Fang Hui will come back to them. Someday; one day, they’ll all be reunited. What did you guys think about the ending? Heartbroken? Satisfied? Let me know!
As always, thanks for going through the highs and lows of Back in Time with me! I hope you all enjoyed this lovely drama as much as I did. Since I’m not quite ready to bid farewell to the Fab Five just yet, I’ll be doing a series review on the whole drama, as well as a comparison post between this and the movie version. Until then, dust off your Walkman or Discman and listen to some of your favorite throwback tunes!