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Que Sera Sera: Episode 9

Please pardon my French, but:

Oh my holy fucking lord.


Clazziquai – “Flower” [ zShare download ]

Bejeebus, I need a drink. And I’m not even kidding. Mm, wine.

This episode was shock after shock… and just when you thought they were out of shockers, they pulled another. It was fucking awesome. Proceed at your own peril.

It seems some people are starting to condemn Tae Joo’s character — which is by no means unwarranted. But while I’m completely onboard with the criticism of his cavalier and sometimes mean behavior up through Episode 8 (I’ll discuss Ep 9 separately), I don’t think that makes Tae Joo a hateful person. Frankly, I get satisfaction in watching Tae Joo’s current misery, because it’s one of his own making, but it doesn’t mean I hate him or wish him horrible things. Suffering builds character, and Tae Joo needs to suffer in order for him to become the person he’s capable of being.

He and Hye Rin are people I can sympathize with, without feeling too bad for them, because they are essentially the authors of their own demise. They’ve brought their current circumstances upon themselves, so it’s only fitting that they deserve to suffer through the consequences — but they can also get themselves out of their misery, and that’s what I want to see.


Needing distraction, Tae Joo calls his friend out to karaoke and proceeds to get massively drunk. This will be a recurring theme in this episode.

Tae Joo’s friend answers a call from Hye Rin and takes the unconscious Tae Joo to his apartment. Assuming that Tae Joo’s acting like this because he’s having a hard time with Hye Rin’s family, he advises her to go easy on Tae Joo. Tae Joo hadn’t admitted his troubles outright — he’s not the type to openly say such things — but this is the first time his friend has ever seen him drink himself into such oblivion.

Hye Rin looks at Tae Joo, and kisses him in his sleep. (I’m inclined to believe that in addition to her growing feelings for him, she’s particularly drawn to him in such a vulnerable state.) And because irony is cruel, as Hye Rin leaves, she hears Tae Joo mumble Eun Soo’s name.


Hye Rin asks Tae Joo to accompany her to Asia’s largest fashion showcase next week in Singapore — they can take the opportunity to relax and clear their heads. Tae Joo flatly turns her down, saying he’s a new employee and is in no place to ask for time off. But learning that Joon Hyuk is taking Eun Soo along strengthens her resolve to convince him.

Hye Rin goes so far as too call Eun Soo out for drinks, and apologizes for having treated Eun Soo poorly before — it was because she knew Eun Soo liked Tae Joo, but now that she’s dating Joon Hyuk, it’s all in the past.

Hye Rin explains that Joon Hyuk and Eun Soo are also going to Singapore for the showcase — and knowing how Tae Joo will react to that news, she reverse-psychology’s him, apologizing in advance to Eun Soo for being a third wheel on their dates. Tae Joo changes his mind, saying he’ll ask for the week off. Hye Rin says he made the right decision — who knows, the four of them might become family, so they should all try getting along.


So the foursome arrive in Singapore — and Tae Joo can’t tear his eyes from the happy couple, pleasantly minding their own business. At the hotel, Tae Joo and Hye Rin share a large suite with two bedrooms, while Eun Soo and Joon Hyuk take separate rooms in the same corridor.

They attempt to maintain a semblance of pleasantly double-dating, but Tae Joo can’t stop himself from taking opportunities to needle Eun Soo.

At dinner, for instance, Hye Rin mentions the notorious designer Torino, who’s stirred much gossip for succeeding based on two things — stealing designs here and there from other designers, and whoring his body out for success. But because they are in polite company, Hye Rin uses a euphemism instead, saying that Torino’s built his success thanks to his lovely backside. Eun Soo innocently wonders what that means, and Hye Rin wraps the answer in yet more polite wording, saying there are ways for people to succeed other than skill — Torino gives people what they want in exchange for their support.

Amused, Tae Joo tells Hye Rin that if she doesn’t spell it out directly for Eun Soo, she’ll never understand. Hye Rin and Joon Hyuk might see that but would prefer to let the matter rest, but Tae Joo can’t help but persist. Eun Soo insists that she does understand. He tells her to explain it, then, but she says she doesn’t want to; it’s too complicated.

Tae Joo lays out the situation plainly and crudely: What’s so complicated about explaining a man selling his body to those with power? Using sex for success is a simple concept. Eun Soo naively says, “But… he’s a man. Men do that too?” Tae Joo exults in his petty victory, saying, “See? What did I tell you? She didn’t understand it at all.”

Hye Rin asks what Tae Joo thinks he’s doing — it almost seems like he’s making a play for Eun Soo, in front of everyone. Tae Joo says he’s merely making conversation — Hye Rin was the one who wanted everyone to hang out together and try to become friends. It would be odder if he and Eun Soo remained silent. Joon Hyuk tells him that’s fine and all, but he should first pay attention to his own woman. Tae Joo then asks how Eun Soo’s classes are going. Joon Hyuk’s surprised that Tae Joo knows, and Hye Rin’s surprised because she has no idea what they’re talking about.

(Contrary to outward appearances — that Tae Joo’s being an ass — I actually felt sorry for him here. He’s been feeling out of control recently, at the mercy of his own choice to prostitute himself as Hye Rin’s fiance, meanwhile having to witness Eun Soo and Joon Hyuk embark on their own relationship. This is Tae Joo’s feeble attempt to regain some control, even if it comes at the expense of Eun Soo and everyone else. At least, in this one instance, he can show that he’s the one who knows Eun Soo best.)

(This is turning out to be a very long conversation, but I think it’s significant, so bear with me please.)

Eun Soo’s surprised at Hye Rin knowing things about her background, and Tae Joo tells her that their family has a hobby of following people around. The same thing happened to him when he first started dating Hye Rin. Joon Hyuk asks why Tae Joo went into the relationship, knowing that would happen, and Tae Joo replies he got a thrill out of the anxiety and excitement. But now, he’s grown tired. Hye Rin demands to know if that means he wants to quit now, and he says maybe.

Angry, Hye Rin leaves the table.

She can’t believe he said that in front of the other two, but Tae Joo says they’ll just figure it’s a lovers’ spat. It would be weirder if they only ever displayed passion and affection, without arguing. But to make up for it, he’ll make sure to play the loving boyfriend from here on out. Hye Rin, seeing Eun Soo excusing herself from the table, hurriedly asks if Tae Joo means it — can he take responsibility for what he just said?

He says yes, and she grabs him and leads him quickly to the women’s restroom, where she practically jumps him and kisses him — and surely, just as expected, Eun Soo appears to witness the sight. With his eyes wide open, Tae Joo can only stand by and watch her shocked reaction.

Back in their room, Tae Joo comments that Hye Rin’s constant awareness of Eun Soo seems to suggest she’s not over Joon Hyuk. She says it’s the same for him — but he should get over it: “Shin Joon Hyuk and Han Eun Soo aren’t like us. They’re for real.”


As the showcase opens, Joon Hyuk shows Eun Soo around and teaches her about merchandising and buying, while Hye Rin takes a look at the design offerings with Tae Joo. Once again, Tae Joo spends most of his time staring intensely at Eun Soo.

Hye Rin and Eun Soo take a look at some of the displays together, and Hye Rin describes the showcase’s most expensive gown — each button is worth thousands, and those are real diamonds embedded into the dress. Eun Soo sees a man pluck a diamond off the dress, and shouts at him to stop. The man slips the diamond into Eun Soo’s bag, and in turn accuses her of being the thief.

Joon Hyuk arrives to see the situation, and senses something fishy about the culprit — and as the guy tries to make a quick getaway, Joon Hyuk chases him. It’s freaking hysterical — Joon Hyuk’s so wiry and thin, while the guy’s big and bulky — though I’m not sure if it’s meant to be funny.

Hye Rin notes that she’s never seen Joon Hyuk so worked up about anything before. It’s strange, but she doesn’t feel as bad about Joon Hyuk and Eun Soo’s relationship as she thought she would. She used to think they weren’t good for each other, but now she thinks they’re all right. Maybe it’s because she can sense their sincerity.

So, she tells Tae Joo, “Let’s end this. Let’s stop playing this kid’s game.” Tae Joo reminds her they still have time left on their agreement, but Hye Rin says they can break their agreement. It’s nice to see her so calm and mature, after being so coolly manipulative for so long.

Hye Rin continues: “Let’s end this all… and start over. Let’s start dating for real now. Just like Shin Joon Hyuk and Han Eun Soo.”
Tae Joo: “Why?”
Hye Rin: “Because I’ve come to like you. Now that I like you for real, let’s date for real.”

Tae Joo laughs at the absurdity, but Hye Rin tells him she’s serious. He says he’ll think about it — he’d only thought of her as someone he’d cleanly leave behind when they ended their relationship. Hye Rin asks, surely he can’t be in love with another man’s woman. She can’t believe his pride would allow such a thing — so he should just look at her, in front of him. Hye Rin leans over and gives him a kiss, as he just stares past her, eyes wide open.


Restless and frustrated, Tae Joo goes to Eun Soo’s room that night, and interrupts her as she’s with Joon Hyuk. He wants to talk to her privately, because he has something to tell her — but Eun Soo tells him, “Joon Hyuk’s not a stranger. Whatever you have to say, you can say it in front of him.”

Tae Joo reveals that Joon Hyuk and Hye Rin used to be in a relationship, living under the same roof together. Joon Hyuk throws the first punch, and the two men scuffle briefly before Eun Soo breaks it up. She slaps Tae Joo, who takes that as his cue to stalk out silently.


Alone together, Joon Hyuk admits that it’s true about him and Hye Rin. But Eun Soo tells him that she understands why he didn’t tell her — it’s all in the past, and Hye Rin is someone he has to continue to see every day. It’s okay. Joon Hyuk says he’s a bit disappointed that she understood him so quickly, because it was so easy.

Joon Hyuk: “When Hye Rin first suggested coming here together, I hesitated. I was nervous, having all four of us together. But thinking it over, I thought it was an obstacle I’d have to face. To make you mine, I’d have to overcome that mountain. To be honest, I’m still a little uneasy about whether I can do it.”
Eun Soo: “What are you talking about?”
Joon Hyuk: “Will you marry me?”

(I know!!! I squealed in surprise.)

Seeing Eun Soo’s hesitation, Joon Hyuk says, “I see. Have I come this far alone?” Eun Soo’s caught off-guard, but tells him she’ll think about it.

Meanwhile, Tae Joo is literally beating his head into the bar…

He isn’t sobbing exactly, more like having difficulty breathing, mixed in with extreme frustration, self-loathing, and some tears. It was difficult to watch this scene, because it felt like it crossed from acting into reality, like I was voyeuristically witnessing someone break down. I have to commend Eric for the job he’s done thus far in the series, particularly in this scene and the rest of this episode. However you feel about the story, Eric’s tackled Tae Joo with a fearlessness that I find brave, taking Tae Joo to such extremes, even knowing the dangers of “unlikability” and tarnishing his own image. I don’t know much about acting, but in my opinion, that’s what takes an actor who’s made his career in large part from his pretty face and youthful popularity into the realm of actual artistic expression.


At breakfast the next day, Hye Rin wonders at the strange atmosphere and asks if something happened between Eun Soo and Joon Hyuk. Eun Soo tells her about Tae Joo’s late-night visit, explaining that she thinks Tae Joo brought up their past relationship hoping to drive Eun Soo and Joon Hyuk further apart. On the contrary, though, it brought them closer together — Joon Hyuk even proposed to her.

Hye Rin takes Tae Joo along with her as she sightsees around the local markets, but looks around in surprise to see Tae Joo has disappeared…

…because he’s gone running back to the hotel, to Eun Soo’s door.

He pounds on the door, and the instant Eun Soo opens it, he literally assaults her — kissing her forcefully, throwing her on the bed, and climbing atop her as she resists.

It’s violent, and intense, and desperate, and uncomfortable.

I have to believe that Tae Joo wouldn’t have gone so far as to rape Eun Soo — and I don’t say that in an apologist sort of way, because I have no particular desire to make excuses for Tae Joo’s behavior — because he seems to stop and calm down, lifting himself up from Eun Soo…

Which is when both look up to see Hye Rin, shocked out of her mind.

But rather than take out her anger — and hurt? betrayal? — at Tae Joo, Hye Rin grabs Eun Soo and starts beating her, causing Tae Joo to intervene. He slaps Hye Rin and picks Eun Soo up off the floor.


Tae Joo takes Eun Soo by the arm and leaves Hye Rin sobbing alone, while Joon Hyuk happily picks out jewelry for his fiancee…


Outside, finally calm, Tae Joo tells Eun Soo: “I love you.” And again: “I love you, Eun Soo.”

Eun Soo withdraws her hand from his, and walks out into the rain… Tae Joo follows, calling her name —

And Eun Soo turns to Tae Joo, taking the initiative —

— and Tae Joo can finally close his eyes.

Additional thoughts:

I anticipate this episode lost Que Sera Sera some fans. It’s just bound to happen. And I’m not going to try convincing anyone that they should give the show a second chance, or try to defend the choices made by the writing or the characters. I have a feeling this is just one of those things that you can, or cannot, look past.

Frankly, I’m hugely discomfited by the last scene(s) as well. There are some things that people do out of passion or anger or fear or whatever that they are able to redeem themselves for. But aside from being a morally reprehensible act, I just personally know too many women who’ve been victims of sexual assault to gloss it over with any notions of romanticism. I’m just speaking for myself — nobody’s god, so nobody can speak for more than themselves, really — but rape is one of those things you just don’t get forgiven for. I can understand the psyche and the thought processes that drove Tae Joo thus far, but had he actually raped Eun Soo, I don’t see how he could’ve been redeemed.

Things are further complicated because Tae Joo didn’t actually perpetrate the act — so if rape is irredeemable, what about if a person almost committed it but didn’t? I have no idea where that falls, but I do find a sliver of hope in the fact that Tae Joo stopped himself — he wasn’t forcibly subdued, but rather seemed to come to his senses and pull himself off Eun Soo, before both of them looked up to see Hye Rin there.

Complications are added onto these complications when Eun Soo kisses Tae Joo at the end. I firmly believe Tae Joo’s responsible for his part of the act completely independent of Eun Soo’s reaction, so you’ll have to judge Eun Soo for her reaction separately. If she forgives Tae Joo — and it’s not certain she will, although it looks like it — it doesn’t diminish his culpability. But I think we all have differing notions of the extent of Tae Joo’s guilt. That’s fine with me.

I have to say that despite the mixed feelings I have about Tae Joo’s actions, I loved this episode, and I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. I’m uncomfortable that the series went there, but glad they did anyway — I appreciate that they’re challenging my comfort level, and doing it skillfully so as to keep me entertained while they do it. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill romantic comedy, so it’s not going to be for everyone. And that’s fine with me too.

Some people might be jumping off the QSS love wagon, but I say: Bring it.

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