Coffee Prince: Eighth Cup
I really like where they’re taking this story. I’m so pleased to discover that they’ve taken what could so easily have been a bit of fluff — cotton candy entertainment — and somehow made it thoughtful, even poignant at times.
In other kdramas, I frequently get frustrated at some of the obvious plot manipulations that could be so easily resolved with one honest conversation (I know I’m not the only one yelling at my computer screen, “Just tell her already!” or “Woman, how can you not know?!”). But here, I find myself feeling the reality of these people’s quandaries and why they feel the way they do… Particularly so in this episode.
SONG OF THE DAY
웅산 / Woong (or Oong, or Ung) San – “아무말 말아요” (Don’t say a word). Female jazzy-blues singer, similar in style to Madeleine Peyroux, with a vocal quality that kinda reminds me of Rachael Yamagata.
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EPISODE 8 SUMMARY
As Eun Chan and Han Gyul kiss, Han Gyul closes his eyes for a moment… before he pushes Eun Chan away, alarmed. Eun Chan’s unbothered — she says the kiss worked in reviving his energy. She reminds him of his blind dates, how Han Gyul kissed Eun Chan in exuberance. Han Gyul blusters in denial, and Eun Chan mutters, “So why’d you close your eyes then?” and makes a face imitating him.
But thankfully, that doesn’t ruin anything between them, and they drink together outside. Eun Chan makes kissy noises to annoy Han Gyul until he threatens her into stopping.
Eun Chan: “How Han Gyul-ian of you. Do you know what that means? To preserve appearances, you won’t admit you’re going through a hard time when you are. You can’t say you like something when you do.”
Han Gyul wonders how to act around his grandmother, and Eun Chan relates a story about her father, who was sick for a long time before passing away. She’d lay beside him in bed while he slept, or go to him when she got scolded by her mother. The day he died, as she was leaving for school, she thought: “When I come home from school, dad might not be here.”
Eun Chan tests the waters by asking Han Gyul, “What if I were a girl?,” and he looks at her curiously. “If I were a girl, could we date?” Han Gyul answers it’s a good thing she isn’t; if a girl like her pestered him to date, it would be a headache.
Han Gyul tells her his time for playing around has passed: “I’ll have to get married, so I should meet a good woman that my grandmother and mother would like.” Eun Chan figures that means a daughter of some corporate family, and Han Gyul says that’s the kind his grandmother likes.
Talking it over with Eun Sae, Eun Chan wonders if she should just reveal that she’s a girl. She says, “The other day at work, I had this thought: Even if I could just be by his side, that would be nice. Then I wouldn’t have anything more to wish for.”
Eun Sae lays out her two options: Either she tell him the truth, or forget about having a romantic relationship and just go on acting as a male to be near him.
Eun Chan tags along on Han Gyul’s visit to his grandmother. While playing Go Stop, Eun Chan sees grandmother and grandson conspiring, and accuses them of scamming. Although the grandmother acts like she’s annoyed, she likes not being treated specially because of her illness, and Eun Chan does just that.
Also visiting are Han Sung and Yu Ju, and because I’m feeling a little more generous to Yu Ju these days, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt in this scene. Yu Ju marvels at Eun Chan’s ability to be comfortable around everyone, and Han Sung answers that Eun Chan treats everyone well — if he had the opportunity, he could do anything he put his mind to: “He’s a unique guy.”
Yu Ju offers her shoulder to lean on for comfort, but Han Gyul prefers her lap. He lies down, admitting how bad he feels for not spending more time with his grandmother.
However, Eun Chan and Han Sung see the scene, and Eun Chan feels the blow of seeing them together. Han Sung looks over and reads the expression on her face.
Driving back to work, Eun Chan is pissy and short-tempered, causing Han Gyul to wonder what’s with her. She uses Han Sung as the reason to vent her own hurt, saying he’s really got some nerve laying in the lap of another woman, knowing she’s his cousin’s girlfriend.
The mood thus soured, Eun Chan arrives at the cafe in an awful mood. Alone in the dressing room, she wipes away angry tears:
“I even kissed him. I went to the hospital with him. I made him laugh. And still, it’s her?”
Yu Ju asks Han Sung what she was like in her twenties (which I guess means she’s in her thirties), and he tells her: “Busy, dizzying, hurried. It was like something was always chasing you, but you didn’t know what.” Eun Chan makes Yu Ju think of her own younger days, wondering why she wasn’t as lively and exuberant.
Understanding the subtext of this conversation, Han Sung assures her, “She’s cute and pretty, but that’s all.” Yu Ju half-seriously tells him she’s not going to let it slide anymore. (As in, he’s paying Eun Chan a lot of attention, and she wants to be understanding, but there’s a limit.)
At work, Min Yub swears to Sun Ki that he’ll keep his secret (about his devotion to his former love), and Sun Ki, warming to him, asks if he wants to know another one. He’s actually Japanese (later we find out he’s half-Korean). Min Yub feels so grateful to be trusted with a secret that he wants to give something in exchange… so he whispers one of his own to Sun Ki: Eun Chan’s really a girl.
Eun Chan is still feeling upset with Han Gyul, and avoids him while working. Since she won’t speak to him, Han Gyul tries to engage her attention by giving her tasks, but no matter what he says or how he provokes her, she makes no response. Finally he brings up the subject directly.
Her comments about his behavior toward Yu Ju must have connected with his conscience, because he stumbles over his words as he explains: “The thing about me and my cousin’s girlfriend… well, about me and Han Yu Ju… so we used to… now, we’re…” But Eun Chan just walks off.
Eun Sae goes on an audition amongst some truly terrible acts, and although they like her telegenic appearance (but what’s with the phallic wand?), her singing is pretty awful. She sings the Korean remake of Blondie’s “Maria” from 200 Pound Beauty and cracks on the chorus.
Finally, Han Gyul takes Eun Chan aside to ask what’s wrong. She says it’s nothing, but he has too much to worry about — just say it: “What’s the problem?” And without missing a beat, Eun Chan tells him: “I like you.” That stops him short, and she repeats: “I like you. But that can’t happen, right? Since we’re both men.”
Han Gyul tries to brush it off as a joke, but she continues: “That’s why I’m trying to get over you. So just leave me alone.”
While in the hospital, Han Gyul sees a sign for psychiatry and consults with a doctor. He answers no to the questions of whether he’s ever wanted to be a woman, or use makeup to look like one. But the doctor, who’s clearly unhinged, doesn’t listen to his response and jumps to the conclusion that he’s attracted to all men, and gives him a few days’ worth of medication. Ah, Korea, aren’t we progressive. They revised the DSM-III in the ’70s, you know.
Min Yub presents Eun Sae with a bouquet of flowers, but she’s in a foul mood due to her failed audition, and is feeling no desire to be nice. She insults Min Yub, saying she hates ignorant guys like him, and when he won’t leave her alone, she throws his flowers to the ground. Aw.
That night, Eun Chan tells Eun Sae it really seems it can’t work with Han Gyul, but she still likes him. Eun Sae tells her to get over it, rather than being strung along. Hearing Eun Sae’s choked voice, Eun Chan comforts her sister, who cries over her failed audition.
DK (I assume) arrives at Yu Ju’s gallery to recruit her services for a restaurant he plans to open. He wants her to design everything.
At work, Sun Ki looks pointedly at Eun Chan’s chest and asks how she managed to flatten it. Eun Chan realizes Min Yub has told, and goes to give him a piece of her mind. He’s feeling depressed over Eun Sae (Ha Rim offers to help him win her over), but their confrontation is cut short by Han Gyul, who orders them to stop disturbing customers and get back to work. Eun Chan retorts that Han Gyul’s being more disruptive with his yelling, and he talks to her sternly — but as he’s finally gotten Eun Chan to talk to him again, he smiles to himself.
Han Gyul asks her if she’s gotten over her feelings for him, and she answers that she’s almost done. She’ll let him know when it’s complete.
At Han Sung’s house, playing around with the instruments, Han Sung notices that Eun Chan looks good today. She answers that she’s found that it’s better to follow your heart, even if it’s difficult. (I infer that she’s talking about confessing her feelings for Han Gyul.)
She compares Han Sung to Santa (“Whenever I see you, it’s like I’m getting a Christmas present”), and they play “Heart and Soul” together on the piano, side by side.
Bringing Eun Chan along as he takes his grandmother for dessert, Han Gyul watches as they get along. He promises his grandmother he’ll work hard to succeed.
Meanwhile, in a park at night, a couple of thugs harass Eun Sae. Look closely and you’ll recognize them.
Eun Sae isn’t intimidated, and snaps a photo to send to the police. Alarmed that their simple plan to make Min Yub look good is going awry, Ha Rim and Sun Ki chase Eun Sae with the aim of getting her phone. That freaks her out, and seeing her reaction, Min Yub bursts in and goes overboard in retaliating against her attackers. As a result, though, Eun Sae is both thankful and impressed, which makes Min Yub adorably happy.
At Han Sung’s house, he plays another song for Eun Chan, and it looks like he’s starting — has been, over the last episode or two — to see her in a new light…
Shocked at his kiss, Eun Chan pushes him aside and runs out, running into Yu Ju in the front yard. Yu Ju goes in the house, reads Han Sung’s troubled expression, and tells him simply, “I’ll call you tomorrow.”
The next day, Eun Chan asks Ha Rim if he’s kissed before, and if people really do it so easily. Ha Rim jumps to the conclusion that Eun Chan has found a girlfriend and tells Han Gyul, saying they should all help Eun Chan along. Han Gyul tells Eun Chan to bring her by the cafe, then hurriedly goes off into the empty kitchen to take some of the doctor’s medication.
Like Eun Chan recalled doing with her sick father, Han Gyul visits his grandmother and lies beside her as she sleeps. On his way out, his father calls him over for a drink, and tells him to enter the company. He’s set aside a job in marketing for him. Han Gyul finally stands up to him, saying his father doesn’t know what Han Gyul wants. He’ll do as he promised his grandmother — in three months, he’ll return to New York.
His father sneers at his interest in making toys, and Han Gyul notes that whatever he does, his father gives him only silence: “If you were going to neglect me like that, you should never have taken me in.” (More on this below.)
Han Gyul calls Eun Chan over to lift his spirits, and tells her the story of his youth. He was born of an affair his father had, and his mother, being kind and generous-hearted, took him in as her own son. (His birth mother is dead.) He found out one day when he came home early from school and overheard the adults talking. His first thought was that he had to leave without revealing that he knew, and thus he lived till now… But today, the truth finally came out, and he regrets it.
After Han Gyul passes out from drinking, Eun Chan carries him in on her back, dropping him on his bed, his arm strewn across her torso. Lying next to him, she stares at his face, his eyes closed, for a long moment before getting up — but his arm suddenly tightens and pushes her back down.
Han Gyul asks, “You’re gay, aren’t you?”
Eun Chan tries to get up again, and he pushes her back down again. He continues: “But I’m not. So stop trying to tempt me.”
She mutters that he’s the one who called her over, and one more time, she tries to get up, and one more time, he pushes her down: “Let’s be sworn brothers.”
Eun Chan tosses his arm off, gets up, and sits at a distance while Han Gyul alludes to a story about sworn brothers who are closer than blood brothers. Understanding his meaning, Eun Chan says, “So that means… we wouldn’t have to separate till we die, then.”
Han Gyul: “Call me hyung from now on.” He suggests her getting an earring or something to be a mark of proof of their brotherhood.
She shrugs him off, but the mood lightens as Low-End Project’s song “연애를 망친 건… 바로 나라는 걸 알았다” (which translates loosely to “I know I’m why the romance failed”) plays as Han Gyul chases Eun Chan around, telling her to call him hyung, until she finally does.
Eun Chan’s voiceover: “And so, even if it was as a younger brother, I wanted to be by his side.”
Han Gyul’s voiceover: “And so, even it it was as an older brother, I wanted to keep him by my side.”
Some additional thoughts:
I particularly like — love? — this latest development. I think someone mentioned how one wonderful thing about the relationship between Han Gyul and Eun Chan is that the friendship component is just as important to Han Gyul as the gay aspect. After wrestling with his own emotions, he’s concluded that he values Eun Chan too much to lose her. He showed that in Episode 7 a little, but Episode 8 really seals the deal, because regardless of the nature of the relationship, they want to be with each other. Even if that bars anything romantic (and they both clearly feel something romantic).
I don’t think it’s necessarily a homophobic reaction for him to arrive at this decision that he’s not gay. (Someone else might feel it is, and I can understand that.) Despite having feelings for Eun Chan, when he saw the doctor, none of those conditions applied to him, and he knows he’s not attracted to men in general.
This also further highlights Eun Chan’s dilemma. Even if she wants more from him, she now has more to lose. There’s a special closeness that comes from male bonding (and female, too, for that matter), and even if she were able to win him as a lover, she’d lose him as a hyung.