After today’s episode, I have a strong feeling people are going to hate Teh. And Jai.
I’m not one of those people, but I can see why others are.
If I said the third episode of I Promised You the Moon didn’t leave me feeling uneasy or disconcerted, I’d be lying. In the end, confusion, hurt, and shock barreled through my body like a truck with faulty brakes. Even though I knew it was beyond the point of no return and that the brakes weren’t going to work, I kept yelling, “Stop!” to no avail.
So, why am I not angry? Why do I hurt for both of them equally?
First off, I want to thank the writers of this drama for showcasing a changing relationship rather than focusing on the same-sex aspect. If you remove gender from the equation, same-sex relationships are no different than any others. We love. We hurt. We change. We question ourselves. We make mistakes.
Relationships have stages. People change. This is even more notable in relationships that start out young when an entire life spreads out before the couple, when dreams have yet to be attained, and when there’s still room for maturity.
At no point in the second part of this series does Teh and Oh Aew question their sexuality. Instead, I Promised You the Moon finds them questioning their relationship. Three years. Different dreams. Different friend groups. Lots of distance. They chose to pursue different goals while attempting to walk down the same life path together.
One coin. Two sides. Oh Aew has a healthy friend group and a clear life direction. He’s become confident in himself and his choices. He’s driving a nice car and dressing to express himself. He’s happy, and it’s beautiful. His confidence and happiness are why the shock at the end leaves viewers feeling as lost as he does. Although Oh Aew questions the distance between himself and Teh, he doesn’t realize how large that distance has become.
Picture it like this. If you take a handful of seeds and throw them into a grassy field, they’ll take root and grow. However, there will be little sense to the growth. Some of the seeds may die. Others will spring up wild and uncontrollable while weeds choke the weaker plants. Only the strong will survive, and even then, what’s left may not be beautiful.
Teh is one of those seeds. Thrown into a rabid entertainment world full of competition and rejection, he doesn’t have the same kind of friend group Oh Aew does. Top has found success. Khim has decided on an alternative future. This leaves Jai. Like a weed, Jai is beautiful and drawn to the flower. Teh is lonely and lost inside a world where he constantly needs to be good at being someone else. He is lost inside a world of stage plays and pursuing a dream he wants so badly to be good at. His dream has eaten part of who he is while also making him desperate to feel more. To be more.
Jai and Teh remind me a lot of each other. Both of them are jaded by the dreams they’ve chosen to pursue, the same dream they love. Both of them are seeking approval, especially from people inside the entertainment industry. Both of them are searching for feelings, thoughts, and outside ideas that most people wouldn’t stop to think about. Actors need to know how to understand their personal emotions and the feelings of the characters they take on. However, if an actor isn’t sure of himself or his own feelings, it’s easy for him to confuse personal feelings with those of the character he’s trying to understand.
Teh is lost between the young man he used to be, the actor he wants to become, the loneliness he doesn’t know how to overcome, and the character he wants so badly to get right. Teh spends his time spilling his personal thoughts onto the page of a notebook being shared with a mentor rather than the person he should be sharing them with. While there is nothing wrong with sharing thoughts and seeking advice from friends, Jai isn’t the unbiased healthy person that Oh Aew’s friend group has become. Jai seems as lost as Teh.
Teh’s the flower that grew next to a weed in an untended, unwatered field. The weed is taller, more robust, beautiful, and on track to becoming highly successful. Jai is alluring, and he holds Teh’s secret feelings about his relationship in the palm of his hands.
Does this make the kiss at the end of this episode right? Does this make Teh any less responsible for his actions? Does this make Jai completely despicable? No, no, and no.
In no way am I defending Teh, but I also don’t want to invalidate his feelings any more than I want to invalidate Oh Aew’s.
At one point, I found myself looking at Teh and Jai and thinking, “Teh is who Jai used to be. Jai is what Teh could become if he doesn’t take control of the field he’s been thrown into.”
I don’t know if the writers of this show penned Jai and Teh with this intention or if it’s my age, life, and experiences that led me to that conclusion. Either way, I fear Teh is setting himself up for a future full of regrets and mistakes he may not be able to mend. I fear he’s setting himself up for a future full of drinking plum wine alone. I fear he’s going to find himself lost in thought the same way Jai does. I feel Jai hasn’t completely let go of the ex he walked away from, the same ex he shared the plum wine with. Like in the play, Teh seems to be reliving Jai’s story.
Sometimes people grow out of the relationships they started out in. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I don’t think that’s the case for Teh. I don’t believe he loves Oh Aew any less than he did before, and that’s why I hurt for him. I fear he will lose something he genuinely cares about. I fear he will become the tainted and jaded weed Jai has grown into.
Maybe it’s the empath in me, but I found myself feeling bad for Jai. He’s so busy looking for a feeling he can’t let go of. He seems desperate for that spark a “first time” gives a person. He is seeking the excitement of a first kiss, a first love, a first touch, and a first time having sex rather than allowing himself to enjoy what growing into a relationship can feel like. The electric feeling a person has when he first meets someone he’s attracted to can be addictive, so addictive that many believe it has to constantly be there for a relationship to be healthy. Truth is, the electricity fades, and that’s okay. What comes after the initial excitement can be just as beautiful. It’s just about discovering ways to enjoy the comfort of long relationships by finding ways to continuously reconnect with that person.
With time, Teh and Oh Aew can learn that, but first, they have to overcome the wild overgrowth trying to choke the grassy field they’ve been thrown into.
Teh and Oh Aew stand on the edge of a precipice in danger of falling into a dark hole of broken hearts where neither of them is sure he can be what the other needs.
Can they mend this? Or has Teh lost it all with his actions?
I also find it interesting the way the show portrays acting as a profession. I don’t think Teh kissing Jai is meant to paint actors in an unfavorable light, but I do think it expresses how easy emotions can be swayed in an industry where actors are encouraged to feel a certain way. It also shows how mentally exhausting acting can be. Khim is a prime example that personal responsibility while pursuing an acting dream can be heartbreaking. As bystanders, we simply see the success a famous actor attains. We don’t see the steps it took to get there, the relationships it may have affected, and the emotional pain rejection can cause. Sharing a home with an actress, I’ve had a front row seat to the turmoil it can cause as well as the happiness it can bring. I am also not excusing Teh for his actions because of this or even suggesting his career prompted his feelings, but I do see the same hunger to succeed I’ve seen in the actors I know. I know from experience how that hunger can divide people. I simply hope he doesn’t lose himself and everything he loves in his search for approval.
I came out of this episode feeling raw and hurt. As much as I loathe feeling raw and hurt, it proves how potent this story and these characters have become to me. And, although I don’t hate any of the characters, I certainly understand those who do. I’ve been a victim of cheating, and I know the heartache it causes. I’ve also made mistakes in my own life when I was a teenager, moments I look back on and wish I could tell Teh, “The excitement that Jai poses will fade. True love won’t.”
I’m a little terrified of what the next two episodes will bring, but I also anticipate them.