Only three more episodes to go…
I was watching this episode, again really pleased with the visual palette, the acting of Lee Jung-jae and his interactions with Min Hyo-rin, the cute and resilient Poong-ho, and the lovely music. And those attributes just irritated me even more with the story, because Triple really, really deserved a better plot. It has everything but story, but unfortunately, that’s really the only one thing that’s essential.
SONG OF THE DAY
Triple OST – “Feel Alright” by Zitten [ Download ]
EPISODE 13: “Step”
As Haru comes home, she’s surprised to see Hwal back, carrying several bags out of the car and into the house. She opens this episode with narration about the theme (“Step”), saying that people cheer on a baby’s first steps… “but when that turns into the second, third, and fourth step, that happiness fades.”
I suppose that correlates to her immediate gladness to see Hwal at home again, which soon fades as the implication of his return becomes clear.
Hwal tells his friends that he and Su-in broke up again, which Hyun-tae takes particularly hard. His frustration probably makes sense because he’s dying to be with Su-in but can’t, and it upsets him to see that Hwal gave it up just like that. But it still annoyed me to no end that his first response is to demand, “How could you do that to her?” — how could he leave her when she’s going through an already difficult time with her mother? (Hwal is clearly unhappy and has been Hyun-tae’s friend for seventeen years; you’d think he’d show a little concern for his friend first.) But at least he tacks on the afterthought, “Are you having a tough time too?”
How’s this for some manufactured drama? Hae-yoon and Sang-hee are all set to move into their new apartment in a day’s time, until Hae-yoon receives an upsetting phone call from home. His younger brother has gotten into some trouble and they are calling on big bro to pick up the slack and come up with the money to fix it — this nebulous, unspecified “it” that they don’t bother defining, whose only purpose is to throw a wrench in Hae-yoon’s life.
Without any great savings stowed away, Hae-yoon has to use the money he was going to use as their apartment deposit, and asks Sang-hee to understand about the delay. She takes it well, although she’s disappointed and had been looking forward to life as a non-married, living-together couple.
When Hwal checks on Haru, she asks if his breakup was because of her — it was because he was with her that he missed his anniversary. Hwal answers that she had nothing to do with it, and if his relationship had been steady in the first place, they would have been fine regardless of anyone else.
With both unable to sleep, they both turn to stargazing, leaning back and looking up at the sky. Hwal mentions having seen a comet once before, and comments that Haru would have liked it. He adds, “I’m sure we’ll see one together someday.”
They sit for a while and eventually fall asleep. Hwal wakes first in the morning, and Hae-yoon comes upon them while Haru is still sleeping. He jokingly comments on finding them together, but Hwal’s expression is decidedly grim, and he ignores his friend’s questions as he leaves the room.
Hae-yoon follows him, teasing him about Haru, and prodding, “It can’t be, right?” Yet the more he teases, the more grave Hwal becomes, and Hae-yoon catches on to his mood. His joking turns into disbelief, and finally he arrives at the conclusion we have already made, that Hwal has feelings for Haru. Throughout this all, Hwal doesn’t answer — it’s like he can’t confirm them, but he can’t lie and say it’s not true, either.
Another surprise arrives in the form of Sang-hee, who has come bearing her own luggage, announcing she’s moving in, too. It’s only for a short while, until they can move out to their own place as planned.
Everyone’s startled, particularly Hae-yoon, who is more frustrated than happy. It seems that he’s feeling guilty about not telling her exactly why they can’t move in right away, because he’d love to move in as planned, too. But it’s a private issue, and he doesn’t want to air his family’s dirty laundry, either.
Today, when Poong-ho greets Haru at the ice rink (he’s playing a game of “freeze” and asks her to unfreeze him), Haru tells him honestly that she still has feelings for Hwal. Poong-ho’s face falls, but per his normal upbeat personality, he accepts this and tells her that’s fine: “You can keep liking him, since I keep liking you.”
Haru sighs that it must be nice for Poong-ho, because he can keep liking her and approaching her despite her feelings for someone else. In contrast, she feels stuck with Hwal — she can’t leave, nor can she approach.
Hwal picks up Haru from the rink after practice, and as he waits outside, Su-in spots him as she exits the building. After gathering her nerves, she approaches with a friendly smile.
She keeps her tone light but it’s still awkward between them, and Haru senses Hwal’s heavy mood on the drive home. Haru tries lightening the atmosphere by enthusiastically breathing in the fresh, rain-damp air and suggesting a detour.
Thus Hwal and Haru stop for a while instead of heading straight home, walking barefoot on the wet grass while the rain comes down in a drizzle.
Haru brings up her training and her current difficulty in finding ways to express emotions through her skating. As Hwal has done in the past, he gives her some practical, common-sense advice: all she has to do is recall times in her life that evoked those emotions, and let those specific emotions come to her as she skates.
When they pull up at home, Poong-ho is waiting and asks for a word with Hwal. He tells him straight-out, “Do you know that Haru has been through a lot of tough times because of you? There’s something I want to ask you — do you like Haru?”
Rather than give a straight answer, Hwal smiles (almost to suggest this is such a ridiculous question that he has to laugh) and asks, “And if I do?” Poong-ho asks, a bit ticked off, “Do you think that you can feel that way, as her oppa?” Hwal says with another smile, “Of course not.” He advises Poong-ho to spend his time hanging out with Haru rather than asking him things like this. Hwal is friendly in a brotherly sort of way, but the way he responds has the effect of dismissing Poong-ho’s concerns as ridiculous and unfounded.
After Poong-ho leaves, Haru apologizes for him. Hwal tells her that when time passes, her feelings will change, and says that if she wants to go to Canada, he’ll send her. She understands that it’s another rejection of sorts, and feels slightly hurt.
Meanwhile, Su-in is starting to miss Hyun-tae now that he’s so completely removed himself from her life. When some neighborhood boys let a basketball roll onto her balcony, she’s reminded of the hoop that is no longer in her yard, and looks through the amusing text messages Hyun-tae had previously sent her.
For a second, she dials his number, but nervously hangs up mid-ring. However, the call goes through and alerts Hyun-tae, so he texts her a message, and what follows is a simple chain of short messages between them. The texts are nothing special, but the mere act of exchanging them leaves both feeling slightly giddy. The message exchange goes thus:
Hyun-tae: “Why did you call?”
Su-in: “I dialed the wrong number. I’m sorry.”
Hyun-tae: “I understand.”
Su-in: “How have you been?”
Hyun-tae: “How have you been?”
Haru tentatively asks Hwal to drop by practice if he has time, wanting to show him something. She half-expects a curt rejection from him, so she’s excited when he agrees.
Once there, she shows him the routine she’s been putting together using his advice. As she goes through each movement, she tells him what the basis is for the emotion — the butterflies she felt from liking him, the uneasiness that he would push her aside again, the happiness at being able to skate, and to be with him. At the end of this, she faces him and says, “Staying by your side because I like you must be difficult for you. I don’t want to do that to you. I’ll think about Canada.”
Su-in comes upon them as she arrives at the rink, and sits down for a talk with Hwal. It’s still uncomfortable between them, but they both admit that it’s not as bad as they thought it would be. Su-in feels more comfortable now than she did before, admitting that it’s a little lonely without him around, but she’s getting better.
It’s partly true and partly bravado, I think, because I think there’s a hint of fear or hope (or both) in Su-in’s eyes when Hwal calls out to tell her one last thing. He says, “You’re a woman with many good qualities.” She thanks him, and tells him likewise, “You’re a really good person.”
Hyun-tae and Su-in run into each other at the supermarket, and this time their interaction is warmer than in the past. The mood is lightly teasing, and they linger outside for coffee and a chat.
Again, their conversation is pretty ordinary, but it’s the company they enjoy as they sit together.
That night, Hyun-tae faces Hwal with a serious face, and Hwal guesses that he met up with Su-in. Hyun-tae answers yes, “because I thought I should tell you.” Hwal answers, “Why, do you want my approval to date her?”
I suppose he does, and Hwal gives it (sort of) in a roundabout way, admitting, “Thinking about it now, I wonder if I felt as strongly for Su-in as you do.” It’s not like he doesn’t have lingering feelings for her, because it’s natural that he does, “but I don’t know that I can tell you and Su-in whether or not to date. I don’t know about you, but I want Su-in to be happy.”
And lastly, Poong-ho returns to the house in the morning, having thought long and hard about Hwal’s dismissal of him the day before. Now he announces, “As you said, I’ll spend my time enjoying being with Haru. Even if she says she likes you, I won’t give up on my feelings. And whether you like her or not, whatever your feelings for her, I won’t let go of mine.”
Of course, in steps another plot contrivance of the day, as Coach Nam — in town for an undisclosed reason — overhears this last part and flips out. What?? Haru and Hwal like each other? Sputtering and shocked, he grabs Haru and drags her away.
Ah, the plot contrivances.
Certain plot inevitabilities are fine; telegraphed endings are bearable; clichés are endured. A drama will usually have some points that we viewers feel are familiar, but if the rest of the story moves things along, we don’t necessarily mind. (It depends on the circumstances, but I know that I’ll forgive a lot when a drama is entertaining.)
However, Episode 13 felt so obvious in its manipulations that it seemed annoyingly desperate to me. What, you couldn’t think of a better reason to inject real, organic conflict into Hae-yoon’s relationship with Sang-hee, so you had to invent a wayward sibling to create an unexplained problem? (And then you didn’t bother to tie up the plot contrivance neatly and explain the whys or wherefores, but felt that we would just swallow your last-ditch plot-bump without complaint?) And you couldn’t think of a better way to “out” Haru and Hwal’s attraction other than to bring in a tertiary character from out of town to coincidentally overhear a damning conversation?
Clumsy, clumsy, clumsy. Or maybe the better word is lazy.
I have nothing against a foreshadowed plot point. What I find irritating is that this shows a lack of inventiveness?skill?trust? with the relationships that have been established, a lack of faith in one’s own stories and conflicts. For instance: Hae-yoon and Sang-hee’s relationship is so fraught with issues that they could have easily found a more logical reason to delay their move, one that comes from an organic place and reflects on the characters, instead of a simple phone call from a random outside party. Urg.