Let this be a lesson to me: A drama featuring someone with whom I have fundamental character issues, no matter how well-done the series, will be as much disappointment as enjoyment. It’s turned my initial admiration for a well-crafted series into a love-hate relationship. (Well, more like-dislike.)
I imagine the series is sweet and wonderful if you’re not bothered by Eun-soo or Choi Kang-hee, but let me pose a question to the rest of y’all: If you’re having issues with Eun-soo, does that affect how you feel about the series as a whole? Are you still enjoying My Sweet Seoul? Or are you like me, wanting to give up the series at those frequent flashes of disgust but convincing yourself to stay when those flashes fade?
SONG OF THE DAY
Lee Jung – “빈자리” (Empty place) [ Download ]
EPISODE 10 RECAP
Episode 10 starts with Jane at Eun-soo’s door, somber and serious. She tells Eun-soo it’s urgent and pulls her along, barely giving time for Eun-soo to put on shoes as she goes.
But it turns out to be a fake-out, because Jane and Yoo-hee have just come to spirit Eun-soo away for a much-needed girls’ day trip. Jane’s realized she can’t make her marriage work and is getting a divorce — to which her husband coolly responded that at least things would be simple legally since they hadn’t registered their marriage yet. Yoo-hee has hit a rough patch with her boyfriend, while Eun-soo is getting over her breakup. She’s also missing work and has left her phone at home, but having had a crappy few days, she opts not to worry about it.
At the beach, the three friends take turns shouting out names of people they hate and things that irritate them. After venting a while, Jane steps up and gets a little more honest, shouting out her own name and cursing herself for her mistakes and failures.
Yoo-hee steps up and shouts out her reply, “Jane! I love you!” She then shouts out her own name and lists all the reasons she hates herself. So Eun-soo steps up shouts that she loves Yoo-hee. Last but not least, Eun-soo shouts out her own name and how she hates herself for being a stupid coward. The others chime in, “Eun-soo, we love you!” And they all end in a chorus of “I love you! I love you! I love you!”
It is so embarrassingly lame. I’m sorry, My Sweet Seoul is usually nicely subtle, but this scene was clunky and artificial and made me cringe all through it. It was so precious.
Eun-soo gets back that night to find a long list of missed calls, mostly from her office. She stares indecisively for a long while at the phone before writing a quick text message to Tae-oh, which simply reads, “Tae-oh… Tae-oh…” He responds with an un-angry but simple message: “You never loved me.” He cries alone, while Eun-soo reads his message and realizes that this break-up is final, and that the Tae-oh whom she’d always expected to come running at her beck and call has decided to leave for good.
Deciding she needs a change and feeling fed up with the current state of things, Eun-soo submits her resignation. She takes a few days to hand off her projects to her co-worker (the nosy but well-meaning one), which includes the Fresh Cat account.
After her last day, Eun-soo wanders past a storefront and is drawn to something in the window. She buys herself a compass — looking for direction in her life? — and treats herself out to a solo steak dinner in a nice restaurant.
Timing-wise, Eun-soo’s career move crosses paths with Yoo-joon, who’s just taken up a job after a long stretch of unemployment. (I wonder if the fact that she and Yoo-joon happen to make the opposite career move at the same time is an indicator of how they’re always missing their timing. I’d wondered why they’d never gotten together if they’re supposedly such “soulmates,” but perhaps they’ve always just missed their chance.)
While she celebrates her impending life of leisure, he’s taking a job as a cram school (hakwon) teacher. He tells Eun-soo that after being without work for so long, he feels like he’s lived a hundred years.
It’s a feeling Eun-soo soon grows used to; old habits are hard to break, and on her first jobless morning she tries to force herself to sleep in, to no avail. She spends her time lying around watching television, but admits it didn’t take very long for her to feel that sensation of having lived a hundred years.
Eun-soo and her older brother meet their mother to talk her out of her intention to divorce their father. (I suspect this is more the brother’s intention, as Eun-soo remains silent until he leaves in frustration, saying he just doesn’t understand.)
Eun-soo tells her mother she understands how she feels… but can’t she put up with it? Can’t she let this go and stay with her husband? Eun-soo’s mother (perhaps feeling there’s nothing she can say to make someone understand her who doesn’t) can only look at her with tears in her eyes.
Relationships are falling apart all around us, as Yoo-hee and Chan-seok have an argument. Apparently she’d been trying to reach him for days, but he’d been unresponsive and kept his phone off. Now he’s here at her training academy, and Yoo-hee’s angry at him for once more running away instead of facing their relationship.
He tells her, “I’m sorry,” but she hates the sound of that and asks bitterly, “How much longer do I have to hear those words? You run away, say sorry, run away, say sorry. Why do you always have to be sorry to me? Let’s call it quits.”
Yoo-hee’s goofy classmate happens to arrive to hear most of the argument, and although he doesn’t know the particulars, he gets the gist, and tries to be (misguidedly) helpful. He suggests she let the boyfriend off the hook, and that “all men are like that” (as if to say, apologetically, that men are stupid and please forgive him). Yoo-hee’s in no mood to humor him, and tells him darkly, “Don’t kid around.”
Jane packs up her belongings from her apartment, and I LOVE HER for what she does to her husband’s CDs. He’d yelled at her previously for throwing away the plastic shrink wrap on a new CD and for placing a CD in the wrong case, blowing a small thing out of proportion. She now gets his CD collection out and swaps the discs and cases of ALL of his albums, then replaces the cases on the shelf, looking untouched. She giggles to herself for this one little bit of satisfaction.
Eun-soo’s helping Jane pack, and in the process of wrapping dishes with newspapers, Jane sees an article featuring Young-soo and the Fresh Cat company. She marvels at how handsome he is and prods Eun-soo to get him back, particularly when she senses that Eun-soo still likes him. Seeing that Eun-soo won’t make the first move to bridge that relationship, Jane grabs her cell phone to text Young-soo.
Eun-soo freaks out, but Jane’s already put a message through, which reads, in a cutesy tone, “I miss you… ♥ ♥” When no response is forthcoming, Eun-soo is mortified and Jane apologizes meekly for adding the heart, which she’d automatically entered without thinking, “out of habit.”
Young-soo gets the message while he’s in a (frustrating) meeting with Eun-soo’s co-worker, who is on a totally different wavelength — she doesn’t get the company’s purpose or spirit at all. Her suggestions comprise all those flashy, empty topics Young-soo had said early on that he wanted to avoid, like promoting “diets” and “beauty” rather than health and well-being.
To Eun-soo’s surprise, he calls back after getting the text message and asks if she can meet him tomorrow.
Eun-soo arrives at the café the next day with nervous anticipation, looking forward to seeing Young-soo but unsure how to act. When they first sit down together, conversation goes in fits and starts and is mostly awkward pauses. He’s heard that she quit work, and very briefly worried that it was because he’d made her uncomfortable. She assures him that it wasn’t that at all.
Young-soo asks if she’d written the text message herself, because he’d thought perhaps that somebody else had written it as a joke. Eun-soo laughs nervously at his correct guess, but answers that she was the one who wrote it.
Eun-soo seems to be working towards mentioning the elephant in the room, starting by asking if he’s “forgotten everything” as he said he would do. Young-soo answers thoughtfully: “I think I’m waiting for the time when I can forget. Feelings of pain, or angry, or yearning… One day you find the time has come that you can live as though you’ve forgotten even the things you tell yourself you can’t forget.”
That’s probably not the opening Eun-soo was hoping for, and she doesn’t pursue the topic. Therefore their date ends on an awkward, quiet note as they part ways in the parking lot. He drives off, and she walks along, thinking, “I know this. The moment love starts, so does loneliness. That boundless sweet and bitter taste, hidden like a black hole inside that rosy fever. However…”
Eun-soo summons her courage and calls him. There’s a moment, a really lovely sort of pause, when Young-soo looks at his phone and registers who’s calling with a mix of surprise, alarm, hope. He pulls over and answers. Eun-soo completes her thought (“…we end up calling someone’s name once more”) before asking him, “If… if perhaps… If meeting you wouldn’t hurt somebody else… in that case… could we meet again?”
Young-soo answers simply, “Yes.”
Two things. First, I really liked this ending. It’s sweet and touching and Lee Seon-kyun is such an understated, nuanced actor. It’s lovely.
Second, unfortunately this great ending is spoiled by the rest of the episode for me.
I was SUPREMELY annoyed with Eun-soo for telling her mother she’d like her to stay with her father. I think Eun-soo is just like her father — uncommunicative, selfish — and perhaps she’s projecting onto her mother a desire not to be abandoned (without making any changes to herself). I was starting to think (hope) that Eun-soo would now begin phase 2 of her road to self-actualization by learning from her mistakes, and I was preparing to give her a clean slate when that happened. But it didn’t, because even after she saw how miserable her best friend was, even after she drove away someone she cared for with her self-absorbed behavior, she STILL advises her mother to do something she knows would make her miserable.
I no longer want Young-soo to end up with Eun-soo, because I think he’s too good for her and deserves better. As a result, the moments that should have made me happy (his call after her text message, her phone call at the end) filled me with foreboding. When she told him that she’d written the text message, I know it was supposed to be a sweet moment because she’s openly admitting she missed him. Instead, I cringed because it was another lie, and that way badness lies. This means Eun-soo’s romantic life holds no more interest for me, so I am now watching purely for Yoo-hee.
Sorry for the downer, folks. It’s a shame. If anyone would like to rebut and express how much you like this drama, please go to town.