I think this drama is going to exhaust me. One, because it looks like the emotions will be gripping. But also two, because it’s a drama that has little moments that pack a punch, which can be parsed in so many ways. These kinds of dramas are tons of fun to cover, but also tiring. A lot more time- and brain-consuming than, say, an easy throwaway where there’s not much going on under the surface. (I’m not dissing those; those are nice relaxers.) I think I’m going to be glad this one’s only 16 episodes — a packed, emotional, intense 16 episodes, but thankfully no longer.
SONG OF THE DAY
Casker – “창밖은 겨울” (Winter outside my window). Tonally, I wouldn’t have picked this song for this episode, but I do like the appropriate winter and window motif. [ Download ]
EPISODE 5 RECAP
We backtrack slightly from the end of the previous episode, which we saw from Ji-wan’s perspective as she lingered in front of Kang-jin’s door, and jump to Kang-jin’s perspective.
After the near-accident in the street, Kang-jin can’t sleep and goes on an early-morning run. On his way back, he’s shocked to find Ji-wan standing in front of his door, and ducks around the corner unseen. He watches her pick up the milk carton — an item with carryover significance for both of them — and then approaches.
After she tries to make a quick getaway, Kang-jin presses her, “Do you really not know me?” At her non-response, he lets go of her arm and moves to open his door, as though to let the issue go. But he stops to ask, without looking at her, “Why did you leave so suddenly? Have you ever thought of how your parents felt, and how I… when you left without a word? Even once? Why are you so selfish, doing things your way? Could you only think of yourself?”
She answers stiffly, “I don’t think it’s any of your business. I don’t think it’s something for you to be so upset about.”
Then, she tries to wave it off and forces a laugh: “Have you been unable to forget me all this while? How shocking. So much time has passed. If you’re still like this over some childish emotions, it makes things quite awkward for me, ajusshi. How crazy, I really hadn’t thought about it at all. I’d forgotten it all. I’d even been hazy on whether your name was Cha Kang-jin or Kim Kang-jin—”
She looks up to see the look on his face. It wipes the smile from hers.
Kang-jin is staring at her intensely, and the words die on her lips. He reaches to pull the hood up over her head, saying, “You’ll catch cold. The wind is chilly. It’s good to see you again, Han Ji-wan.”
He smiles, as though her words didn’t register, and enters his apartment. But acting casual takes effort, and once inside, he has difficulty breathing. After a moment, he bolts outside and runs downstairs to chase her.
Racing outdoors, he sees Ji-wan walking off slowly, but doesn’t follow.
Chun-hee has changed her attitude dramatically, to the chagrin of her regular clientele. They want their cute, flirty tea madam back, but she has turned serious and professional and refuses to smile on command anymore.
Suddenly, she grips her midsection and starts moaning in pain. She urges Bu-san to take her to the doctor immediately. Panicking, Bu-san carries his mother out and starts running frantically while she groans loudly… but she’s not too sick to correct his path. Not THAT hospital, the other one! “There’s only one place in this country that can cure my disease.”
Thus Bu-san takes her to Jun-su’s practice. He bursts in anxiously and begs for help. He’s not so bright so he doesn’t catch on to her hints to leave, but Jun-su catches on to her scheme. Playing along, he dismisses Bu-san and gets his acupuncture kit out, asking where she hurts.
Chun-hee keeps up the exaggerated whimpering and answers, “Everywhere.” That’s no help, so he takes a large needle and instructs her to tell him when it hurts. With a totally straight face, he explains that he’s using an “especially strong” needle that could injure and possibly even paralyze a healthy person. Chun-hee falls for it, and when he reaches to stick her again, she sits up hurriedly and claims she’s all better.
She apologizes, and he assumes she’s referring to the faking. However, her apology also refers to something in their past: “I was wrong for not keeping the promise. You told me not to smile in front of other men, and to only smile in front of you. I’m sorry I didn’t keep that promise, Han Jun-su.”
Outside the door, Young-sook overhears the conversation, looking shocked. (I don’t think she’s surprised to hear their history, which she must know, but unhappy to have it come up again.)
Kang-jin pulls in to work to see Woo-jung drunk again in the parking garage, stumbling in front of her car. She tells an employee over the phone that she’s on her way to the presentation, and that he should stall just a little longer. She’s in no condition to drive and he offers to call her secretary, but she tells him no. She adds sardonically that since she’s being sent off to Paris, it must be good news for him, eh?
He drives. His initial disgust for her may have faded but he still isn’t too keen on fostering a friendship, so when she brings up her bad behavior from before, he suggests, “You still seem drunk, so why don’t you sleep until we arrive?” She understands that he’s asking her to shut up and that he’s not interested in flirting, and wonders, “Are you gay?” Clearly she’s not used to being rebuffed so summarily.
By the time they arrive, Woo-jung is more or less sober. Her attitude is, as ever, careless and nonchalant, but Kang-jin isn’t one to respond to her taunts or gibes. Instead, he launches into a litany of facts about the Misong company. The president’s son died in a construction accident and his current project bears his son’s name. Woo-jung looks down at her folder — Misong is the client for a proposed cultural arts center — and understands that he’s giving her business tips for her presentation.
She eyes him with new interest, and alters her presentation accordingly. As she discusses their proposal, she addresses the client with firm conviction that their number 1 priority is the people and safety. They will take the time to ensure a sound building: “People come first, and people are at its core.”
While waiting at a bus stop, Ji-wan becomes so lost in memories (the embrace in the street, and how Kang-jin said he’s glad to see her again) that she misses her bus. She reaches around her neck and unlatches the necklace to take a good look at it.
A disgruntled call from her professor jolts her back to reality; he asks why she isn’t in class. What about her insistence that it’s her life’s goal to be an Oriental doctor? Now remembering she had a class, Ji-wan hurriedly puts the necklace back on and races onto the next bus. But the clasp has been left unfastened, so the pendant falls to the ground.
Meanwhile, Tae-joon catches a glimpse of Ji-wan from the car and pulls over. When he reaches the bus stop she’s already gone, but he spots the necklace on the ground and picks it up. Initially, he takes it to a jeweler’s for a full restoration — it’s pretty battered — but changes his mind at the last minute, and asks merely for it to be wrapped nicely.
By the time Ji-wan arrives at school, her class is over. In chagrin, she berates herself for being stupid — and then realizes she’s missing her pendant. She fumbles frantically around her neck and in her bag, but there’s no mistaking it: it’s gone.
She races back to scour the bus stop, then the bus itself, but it’s not there. She writes notices describing the lost necklace and posts them at the stop. (At least this is consistent with her character — she’d always been tenacious about that pendant.)
Meanwhile, Kang-jin has dropped by the cafe to put in a food order for the office. Seeing the cafe owner with some heavy bags (electric blankets), he offers to help. His attention is piqued when she mentions that they’re for Ji-wan’s room.
He carries the blankets to the back room and takes advantage of the moment to get a glimpse into Ji-wan’s life as an adult. Slowly, he registers the shabby room with its peeling wallpaper, dark lighting, and meager personal belongings.
This is a short scene but possibly my favorite in this episode, because it’s so fraught with emotion. I freaking love how Go Soo plays this moment — Kang-jin cautiously walks into her world and takes in the sight, so overcome that he hardly knows what to do with himself.
When he gets back to the office, he’s still disturbed. He can’t NOT act, so takes out his design materials and starts to draw. Soon he’s completely absorbed in the project at hand.
Jae-hyun comes by with some confounding news — Woo-jung won the bid for the art center. It’s unbelievable; everyone had expected her to fail. But, he concedes, she is pretty smart when she puts her mind to it. Seeing that Kang-jin is hardly paying attention, Jae-hyun is shocked that he’s actually working on something other than the big presentation.
Kang-jin only gives the brief explanation that he’s working on making a window, “So [she] can see the sky, the sun, the moon, the wind and stars.” He asks for materials and heads out — he’s going to construct the window himself.
In fact, hearing that Kang-jin left early for the day also makes Tae-joon wonder why. Everyone in the office is stressing out about the upcoming presentation (particularly Tae-joon, with his competing proposal), but Kang-jin isn’t even working on it? Is Kang-jin so confident in his own presentation?
When Ji-wan gets back late that night, she learns from the cafe owner that Kang-jin insisted on working on her room. The owner is impressed, saying, “He must be the kind of person who can’t leave things alone when he sees someone less fortunate — just like you!”
Ji-wan bursts in and angrily demands that he go — how dare he barge in and mess with her room? The owner points out that if she wants to be accurate, it’s HER room. Surely if she can’t thank Kang-jin for the kindness, Ji-wan could at least refrain from being angry.
She’s not really angry with him, more thrown off her guard, which makes her incredibly nervous. Ji-wan’s reaction seems to stem more from the fact that she’s powerless to stop Kang-jin from working himself into her life, and that scares her. He’s clearly in control, and she’s not.
The owner tells Ji-wan to stay the night in a motel, and urges her to give Kang-jin something to eat before she leaves. He hasn’t eaten all night.
Ji-wan struggles to complete her homework with the loud noise in the background, which keeps her on edge. Feeling hungry, she checks her watch — 1am — and recalls the owner’s words that Kang-jin hadn’t eaten dinner.
She starts to cook ramen for the both of them, but when he comes out to the kitchen, he sees and tells her to add an egg for him. She vacillates between whether she should include him, and sets down two bowls at the table.
When it comes time to call him in, though, she chickens out. She claims both bowls and eats alone, then sits down to resume studying.
But that makes her feel guilty. So she gets up again and heads to the kitchen, this time making him sandwiches (which are, might I add, much nicer than the initial ramen).
Ji-wan takes the food into the room, where Kang-jin has fallen asleep. She sees his bloody finger — he had hammered a nail badly — which is wrapped with a torn rag and reaches out to touch his hand, but stops herself just before making contact. (Note that this echoes an earlier moment when Kang-jin tended her fever and reached up to touch her face, but held back.)
She leaves the food for him and covers him a blanket.
In the morning, Jae-hyun is called to bring Woo-jung some work materials, (and has to tamp down his embarrassment at seeing her in the bath). She asks if he’s friendly with Kang-jin, which makes him think she’s still hell-bent on firing him. Woo-jung contradicts him; rather, she has developed an interest in Kang-jin.
Jae-hyun reminds her that she has a boyfriend she’s crazy about, which makes her pause for a tiny moment. Rather than correct him about breaking up with Tae-joon, she returns, “It’s fun to have a spare.” Jae-hyun asks, “Haven’t you seen his awful temper? Plus, you’re not his style, and he doesn’t care that you’re the daughter to Bumseo Group’s president. He hates people in power.”
As the cafe door is closed and Ji-wan’s phone off, Tae-joon bangs on the door and shouts for her. She’s inside, asleep at her table. She’s also now wearing the blanket, brought to her at some point during the night.
Ji-wan gets up to let Tae-joon in, but maintains a cool distance. She tells him that she has to open the cafe and asks him to come back later.
Ignoring the dismissal, Tae-joon says that the soup she cooked for him (the morning after he was drunk) was delicious, and gives her a box with “a necklace that would look pretty on you” as repayment for the soup. Since the necklace is wrapped and she doesn’t see that it’s her pendant, Ji-wan’s face hardens and she tells him to take it back.
Tae-joon’s cautious smile fades, and he turns to go. But he leaves her with the parting comment, “I have nowhere to go but you now, so don’t keep telling me to go.”
Now fully awake, Ji-wan leaves the wrapped box on the table and rushes to check on her room. Magically, it’s fabulous.
She looks around in wonder. Kang-jin is gone now, but the room has been cleaned up and prettily decorated with new paper. Kang-jin has even taken her family portrait and hung it on the wall. (Yes, the room is decorated to the tastes of a prissy ten-year-old girl, but I’ll forgive Kang-jin for that.) Best of all, there’s the new window.
I’ll admit to not finding the parents’ generation incredibly thrilling, but at least it (1) has its share of dry humor and (2) is acted well. Chun-hee looks through old photo albums and smiles to see herself with Jun-su back when they were younger. That smile twists into a grimace at a photo of herself with Young-sook; they were once best friends, but now Chun-hee grumbles about Young-sook’s disloyal sense of friendship, calling her a bitch.
Young-sook calls her husband to suggest a visit to Ji-yong’s tomb, and buys flowers. Bu-san, thinking of buying some flowers for the pretty nurse he has a crush on, also comes to the shop. He thanks Young-sook for her husband’s help in curing his mother. (Like I said, no bright bulb he.)
Therefore, when Bu-san is later accused by police of a hit and run incident, he insists upon his innocence. The policeman asks for an alibi, and he remembers being at the flower shop, where Young-sook saw him. He begs his mother to talk to her to get the alibi.
This is bound to be a sticky request, but Chun-hee grits her teeth and finds the couple at the gravesite.
(It’s rather telling that Young-sook calls her husband “Ji-yong’s father” rather than Ji-wan’s, even though her son has been dead eight years. It’s also rather pathetic to see how she comes to life at Ji-yong’s tomb — at other times she’s mousy and reserved, but now she positively glows.)
Chun-hee wants to get this over with and makes her request grudgingly. But Young-sook balks, and says she didn’t see Bu-san. She must be mistaken. At this, Jun-su looks at his wife sharply, because he saw them exchanging words with his own eyes.
Chun-hee doesn’t accept this and grabs Young-sook, ready to drag her to the police station straightaway. She protests, and Jun-su raises his voice and yells at Chun-hee to let go. He tells her firmly, “My wife doesn’t lie. Surely you’re not asking her to lie and say she saw something she didn’t.”
Weak, weak man. We don’t know what happened between this trio 30 years ago, but I can definitely see how the dynamics must have been. I’m sure Jun-su loved Chun-hee, but he made his choice and built his respectable life with Young-sook, and most of the time he likes to believe that Chun-hee doesn’t exist, because her presence is an unsettling reminder.
After working all night, Kang-jin is exhausted and falls asleep at his desk. He takes some time out of the day to drop by the doctor, who admonishes him strongly — he doesn’t have tetanus, but he should be careful and not dismiss the danger. It could have been a serious issue; he’s lucky it’s not.
On his walk back to the office, a car pulls up to the curb, honking to get his attention. (Kang-jin is on the phone with Jae-hyun, and amusingly he asks, “Huh? Be careful of what?” just as Woo-jung steps out.)
Cheerfully, she offers him a ride to the office. He declines and advises that she move out of the bus lane.
Not daunted, she comes right out and asks, “Do you have a girlfriend? Well, not that it matters. I’ve set my sights on you! I’m just letting you know!” She gets back in her car and zooms away.
Kang-jin walks on, but belatedly registers something out of the corner of his eye. He turns back to the bus stop window for another look. They’re the flyers posted for a lost necklace.
Eyes widening in recognition, Kang-jin reads the description of the broken pendant, then zeroes in on the name posted as the contact: Han Ji-wan.
This was the first episode where I was actively disappointed in Han Ye-seul’s acting. Disappointed might be too mild a word. And I’m not talking about Ji-wan’s character or her lost spunkiness or that aspect of the writing. I’ve accepted that Ji-wan was broken after her brother’s death — in essence, grief and guilt arrested her development. Rather than working through it, she tried to move on and just forget, tried to metaphorically clap her hands over her ears and insist that she was fine living her life her way. I’m onboard with that choice.
But what I DO have issues with is the… shallowness of Han Ye-seul’s acting in some scenes. I was fine accepting her as Ji-wan earlier, because there’s no use in thinking, “If only Actress X played her.” That’s just the fast track to frustration, and I thought she did pretty well in Episodes 3 and 4 in portraying Ji-wan’s uncertainty. Her crying scenes were fine, even her startled deer-in-headlights look fit the context.
In this episode, though, I was supremely frustrated in what should have been a big emotional beat — a quiet one, but big nonetheless. The camera lingered on her face for a long moment at the bus stop, and I wanted to be there with her character… but nothing. I was really frustrated — she wanted to be sad, but she just wasn’t. I wanted to feel for her, but I couldn’t.
I mean, look at that face and tell me what she’s thinking. Is she upset? Sorrowful? Wistful? Happy? Hungry? It’s just so curiously blank.
Compare that with Go Soo below — we know exactly what Kang-jin is thinking and how he’s feeling, and there is a whole slew of mixed emotions that play across his face and in his body language. You could say I’m not being fair since this is an emotion-filled moment for Kang-jin…but the necklace scene is a big moment for Ji-wan, too.
I won’t compare Han Ye-seul to other actresses who aren’t in this drama and who were not cast to play Ji-wan. But WITHIN this production, she’s starting to stick out, and not in a good way. The other actors are so present in their roles, and she’s skating on the surface. This tends to take the viewer out of the story, because it creates a noticeable discrepancy between that actor and the rest of the world they’re supposed to be a part of. I’m going to cross my fingers for improvements.
Here’s how I see the whole “Did they know each other?” issue. I’m pretty sure they both knew who the other person was almost right away. At first they were operating on hunches, but every encounter has reinforced the feeling, even though they acted like strangers. So the issue isn’t whether Ji-wan really knew it was him, but that she’s in denial. I don’t even consider her denial over whether it’s really Kang-jin, but denial that she wants it to be him. Admitting it’s him would force her to re-confront her guilt over her brother’s death, and that’s too painful.
So I interpret Kang-jin’s actions — the way he pushes her to be honest, then backs off — as trying to break through that denial. And when she tosses hurtful words casually at him, like pretending she’d forgotten all about him, it’s a rejection of his feelings and he backs off again.
It’s too bad that she has to push away one person in order to push away the other, but such is the messy entangling of people’s lives in Korean melodramas. She’s tried to staunch the bleeding, so to speak, by cutting off that entire part of her life and cauterizing it shut but good. Ironically, it’s the loss of both these people in her life that has contributed to her (for lack of a better word) broken spirit as an adult. Oh, it’s gonna hurt when she has to reopen that scar and bleed it out… but she probably can’t grow or move on until she does.
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