Coffee Prince: Tenth Cup
Oh holy frijoles this was a good episode.
I’ve been careful (I think) to indicate that I’ve been enjoying Coffee Prince, but held off on a verdict… Given a history of disappointments, I kept expectations low in starting this series; I just hoped it would be light fun. As of today’s episode, I can say with certainty that I love Coffee Prince. I was so curious to see how they’d handle the pseudo-homosexuality angle, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised.
The story works whether you see Eun Chan as a girl, of course, but also if, like me, you find yourselves occasionally forgetting and thinking she really is a male, or at least some kind of new hybrid gender. I’m telling ya, the actors are selling it, particularly Mr. Gong Yoo (Yoon Eun Hye is doing wonderfully as well, but I’m speaking specifically to the struggle with sexuality-questioning here). I actually believe Han Gyul as someone struggling with feelings of homosexuality, rather than merely thinking, “But she’s a girl so this is all moot.” It’s NOT moot — because the way they’re exploring his struggle is really rewarding for me.
(Background) SONG OF THE DAY
Arco – “Alien.” One of a few songs used in today’s episode.
EPISODE 10 SUMMARY
Eun Chan runs into Han Sung at a neighborhood convenience store, and they sit down for an awkward talk. Han Sung apologizes to her for startling her with his kiss, and she says she’s been having some trouble with that, too: “Should we just forget about it?” Han Sung replies he has a good memory, and she revises: “Then, should we pretend we’ve forgotten?”
Han Sung asks why they need to forget, and seems disappointed in her answer that they should, in order to be friends again. Han Sung: “Friends? You want to be friends with me?” Eun Chan readily answers yes, so he says (not totally convincingly), “So I’ve made another good friend. It feels great.”
Eun Chan tells him about Han Gyul wanting her to quit the cafe. “I guess I like him. No, I really do like him, a lot.” She asks if he’s surprised, and Han Sung says he’s not — he already sensed it. “But things are bound to get complicated, since he thinks you’re a guy. Are you going to confess to him?” Eun Chan answers, showing her insecurity: “I think it’s better to get along as a male than to be rejected as a female.”
Worried about Han Gyul, Ha Rim goes to his place and is concerned to see the place in such a wreck and Han Gyul looking so rough. Ha Rim asks what’s wrong, persisting until Han Gyul responds.
Han Gyul: “I… I like him. Go Eun Chan.”
Ha Rim: “My Chan? Come on, I like him too…”
Ha Rim trails off, realizing the implication. Stunned, Ha Rim asks if Eun Chan knows, and Han Gyul just says, “What’s there for that guy to know? Don’t worry. I’ll get over it soon.”
Ha Rim’s concern for Han Gyul puts him in an irritable mood. He sees Eun Chan’s (feigned) indifference to Han Gyul’s continued absence, and snaps at her. Doesn’t she care about their boss at all? Without knowing the full story, Ha Rim assumes that Han Gyul is alone in his personal torment, and that Eun Chan is blissfully unconcerned, so her attitude fills him with indignation.
Just as Ha Rim’s accusing Eun Chan of being rude and uncaring, Han Gyul arrives. He greets everyone but Eun Chan, whom he ignores and won’t even look at.
Eun Chan fights back tears as she tells Sun Ki, “He looks like he went through a lot of pain.” Sun Ki agrees: “Yeah, looked like it.”
Yu Ju’s considering going back to New York for work. Han Sung asks if she’s decided yet, and she replies, “Choice one, I go. Two, I wait. Three, I don’t go or wait, but we break up. Which number will it be?”
Han Sung: “Can you give me some time?”
Yu Ju: “How much? A week? Ten days?… Looks like you’ll need more than that.”
While cleaning up that night, Han Gyul and Eun Chan steal glances at each other, but Han Gyul looks away immediately every time. Ha Rim asks him: “Is it that hard just to look at him? It’s written all over your face — you’re so tense you can’t even turn in that direction.”
Eun Chan waits for him outside, but he keeps her firmly at a distance. He tells her not to hang around him, to stay away (physically), and not to concern herself with his affairs: “If you don’t like it, you can pack up and leave.” Eun Chan bristles at his coldness, and rides her scooter in front of his car, forcing him to look at her. Unable to move, he angrily honks the horn. Throwing a resentful glare his way, she leaves.
Still thinking that Eun Chan is ignorant of Han Gyul’s feelings, Ha Rim asks her what she thinks about homosexuality (she doesn’t really have an opinion on it). In a misguided attempt to help, Ha Rim prepares to go on a coffee delivery run with Han Gyul, then fakes a stomachache and calls Eun Chan to take his place.
Eun Chan keeps trying to smooth things over to maintain a friendly conversation, but that just makes Han Gyul angrier. Upset that he won’t talk to her, as soon as she gets in the car, Eun Chan turns on the radio, which he turns off. That fuels her mood, and after a brief battle over the radio dial, Han Gyul orders her out of the car. When she won’t leave, he walks over to her door and drags her out by the arm. She glares at him furiously, and asks why he’s toying with her.
Eun Chan: “You said you liked me! You said you wanted to be sworn brothers!”
Han Gyul: “Do you really want me to be your brother? Would you really like that?”
Eun Chan: “I don’t like that either. Do you think I do? You said you wouldn’t like me as a girl, that you liked me as a guy. And in a month, you’re going off to America. What do you expect me to do?”
Starting to blink back tears, she goes on: “I really liked being at the beach… I was doing fine all on my own, and you came and made me into this…” Han Gyul reminds her of the time she asked him to leave her alone so she could get over her feelings for him: “Let me borrow those words. Leave me alone.” This time, when she doesn’t follow him back to the car, Han Gyul grabs her and drags her back.
Han Gyul: “It’s only a month at most. In one month, it’s over. I’ll bear it till then, so you do the same.”
Eun Chan: “It’s over for you as soon as you leave, isn’t it? You don’t bother thinking about who you leave behind. Fine. Let’s get along for the remaining month.”
Barely able to control himself, Han Gyul tells her to shut her mouth. One more word and she’s asking to be hit.
Arco’s “Alien” (also posted up top)
They drive in silence. Han Gyul looks over surreptitiously while Eun Chan wipes away angry tears. In a small gesture of remorse(? compromise?), he turns on the radio.
Eun Chan tells her sister (who’s annoyed that Min Yub is ignoring her, which is driving her crazy) that she and Han Gyul had a huge fight. But:
“He says I’m making things hard on him. Why am I so stupid? Thinking about it, he’s the one who’s been wronged. What did I do that gives me a right to cry, or yell? What do I do now? It really seems like he’s hurting because of me.”
Eun Sae tells her to tell him the truth.
Eun Chan: “If I tell him… I might not see him again. I’m afraid of how angry he’ll be that I lied to him. It might not be the right thing to do, but he’s going to America in a month anyway. Just for one month… just… I’ll just…”
Over the next few days, the Coffee Princes prepare for their public performance (meant as a promotion for the cafe). They start off haphazard and unskilled, but gradually manage to pull it together.
Han Gyul and Eun Chan continue not to talk. The most they can do is look at each other.
In a nicely poignant, wordless scene, Han Gyul carries dirty plates to the kitchen, where Eun Chan is washing the dishes. Slowly, he moves next to her, first washing alongside her, then using the dishes as an excuse to reach across her for closer proximity. And finally, they both reach into the soapy water — and freeze completely still, alarmed, unsure how to react to the accidental touch. Han Gyul quickly withdraws his hand from the sink and leaves.
While setting up for their performance, Eun Chan is greeted as “oppa” by a flock of girls (Eun Sae and company). Han Gyul witnesses the scene from above, disturbed to see Eun Chan receiving so much female attention. He’s even more bothered to see Han Sung arrive to give Eun Chan congratulatory flowers.
The performance gets off to a lively start with Min Yub as the MC. They use instruments made of coffee-related implements (beans, crates, utensils) in keeping with their coffee theme, as well as singing and dancing. Even Eun Sae is impressed to see Min Yub onstage, getting lots of attention. One of the songs they sing is “Java Jive” (this is the song, although this track itself isn’t used in the show).
After the performance, Han Sung sits with Han Gyul while the Coffee Princes dance around energetically. Han Gyul fights his jealousy when Sun Ki grabs Eun Chan to dance (Min Yub intervenes, taking Eun Chan’s place).
It worsens when Eun Chan gives Han Sung a present — her first attempt at roasting coffee beans. Han Sung happily accepts: “How can I drink this coffee? I’ll want to save it.”
Unable to contain his jealousy, Han Gyul needles them both, telling Han Sung he’s treating Eun Chan like she’s a girl. Han Sung merely smiles knowingly while Han Gyul keeps picking on her. He asks Han Sung how he can stand Eun Chan’s attention — he couldn’t. “Ugh, I can’t look at you guys — you look like a couple.”
He deliberately brings up the name Yu Ju to provoke Eun Chan, and she gets the message, leaving right away. Han Sung walks her home as she tells him despondently how Han Gyul wants her to quit work. Starting to cry, Eun Chan explains:
“But I don’t want to quit… because I need to earn money. No, that’s an excuse. It’s because I like coffee… another excuse. He’s so warm, and fun, and I like him. I like him so much I wish I could forget about the lie I told… I know I was wrong… but still…”
Now crying in earnest, she continues, in between sobs:
“I wish I could have him by my side… that he’d like only me… that he wouldn’t go away to America… But what is this? I’m not a man or a woman. And I’m so scared I can’t say a word.”
Han Sung can only offer her a silent pat on the back (and he seems to see that there’s no room for him in her heart). As they near her house, Eun Chan regains her composure and thanks Han Sung for his comfort.
Han Sung: “I don’t really know what this is… but I’ve found I like being with you, whether you’re laughing or crying. Promise me something, that in front of me, you’ll act however you want. That you won’t hide your mood or your emotions. What do you say?”
Han Sung talks to Yu Ju on the phone while she’s with Han Gyul, who tries not to notice when Yu Ju mentions Eun Chan. Han Sung tells her that Han Gyul and Eun Chan both like each other.
Yu Ju doesn’t know what to do with that knowledge, but tells Han Gyul she’s sorry, though she doesn’t explain why: “I wish nobody would get hurt… but that’s too much to ask for.”
At work, Ha Rim asks Eun Chan if she’s good friends with Han Sung, and she says yes — they meet often, hang out, ride bikes, eat and drink together. Around the corner, Han Gyul overhears this with dissatisfaction.
Finally, Han Gyul looks up to see Eun Chan, and notices the belt on her apron has come undone. Without warning, he goes up her, putting his arms around her to retie it.
Uncomfortable, she takes over. Min Yub rushes in, elated that Eun Sae has texted him to meet for dinner, and grabs her in a huge hug. Unable to stand watching that, Han Gyul immediately breaks them apart.
Later, Han Gyul overhears Eun Chan talking cheefully to Han Sung over the phone as she does the dishes. Ha Rim brings in an improperly washed cup (a customer complained), and Han Gyul vents his jealousy by scolding her. She apologizes, and offers to do the after-hours cleaning.
Yu Ju tells Han Sung she’s decided to leave for New York and start over with DK. She tries to make it sound like she’s leaving him (like she’s cold and flighty), but she’s merely pretending to be. Alarmed, Han Sung tells her not to go:
Yu Ju: “Thanks for saying that.”
Han Sung: “All right, like you said, I wavered. No, to be frank, I still am. But don’t leave. I know I’ll come around soon, so don’t go!”
Yu Ju: “You’re not just wavering. You’re in love with her. How foolish of you, not to realize you’ve found a new love.”
Done for the night, the Coffee Princes leave without Eun Chan, to whom Han Gyul has given instructions to clean the entire cafe as punishment for her carelessness.
Ha Rim: “He’s leaving My Chan alone to suffer by himself.”
Min Yub: “Yeah, no matter how strong he is, it’s too much to make him do it alone.”
Ha Rim: “How much nicer would it be if he were a girl?”
Mr. Hong: “Leave them alone, if they like each other, what does it matter if they’re men or women?”
Ha Rim latches on to Mr. Hong’s words —
Ha Rim: “Do you know something?”
Sun Ki: “There were people who didn’t know? What’s wrong, they’re good together.”
Ha Rim: “You talk so easily about other people’s—”
Sun Ki: “Eun Chan’s a girl. Where’s the problem?”
Ha Rim can’t believe it (Min Yub carries him inside before he can react), and becomes angry with Eun Chan for tricking Han Gyul. He’s also upset with the others for keeping it a secret, though they’re of the opinion that it’s not their decision to say anything. Ha Rim has seen Han Gyul’s suffering up close and feels how unfair it is to him, but Sun Ki says he can understand Eun Chan, needing to take care of her struggling family — “Do you think she found it easy to lie?”
Ha Rim tries to call Han Gyul immediately, but is stopped. He yells out furiously when Min Yub snatches his phone and shoves him in a room to prevent him from going to Han Gyul.
어른아이 (Adult Child) – “Sad Thing”
Han Gyul drives home, assailed with memories of Eun Chan along the way. How she cried in his car earlier that day… how he tied her apron… how she blew air in his face while he slept…
Coming to some kind of decision, he turns around and heads back to the cafe. He runs in to face Eun Chan, staring intensely at her face…
Startled, Eun Chan starts to explain that she’s trying to fix some damage to Yu Ju’s mural drawing.
Still silent, Han Gyul swoops in purposefully —
After a brief kiss, Han Gyul backs off. This time Eun Chan grabs him and initiates another, longer kiss.
Breaking apart, Han Gyul tells her, “I’ll say this just once, so listen to me. I like you.”
As a small smile appears on his lips: “Whether you’re a man, or an alien… I don’t care anymore.”
And, continuing as Eun Chan absorbs this: “I tried getting rid of my feelings, but I couldn’t… So let’s go, as far as we can go.”
I know a lot of people didn’t see Que Sera Sera or read my recaps of it, but for those of you who did, hopefully you know what I mean when I say that this episode reminded me a lot of QSS’s Episode 9 — you know, the big one. That one.
Not because of the content — but rather in the feeling that everything has been cracked wide open. The heroes (Han Gyul here, Tae Joo in QSS) have tried — and failed — to contain their feelings. Their jealousies have caused them to lash out at the source of their affections, because deep down they’re actually upset with themselves. And they spend all episode alternately trying to ignore the source of their frustrations, and being unable to tear their eyes away.
And now that our heroes’ efforts prove ultimately futile, the denial is swept away. Where we go from here is completely up in the air.