With this drama’s break last week, I wonder if it lost some momentum for the viewers. That week off may have also allowed some stirrings of discontent to grow, which had been mere traces at the end of Episode 8. Without new content to occupy our thoughts, all we had was to analyze the stuff from the last episode two weeks ago.
That aside, I liked Episode 9, and was pleased to see that the plot takes some big strides forward and we have a few reversals. (I love reversals.)
SONG OF THE DAY
IU – “기차를 타고” (Riding the train) [ Download ]
A brief refresher: In the last episode, Kang-jin and Ji-wan had started to meet again, happy to be reunited. He faced difficulties at work after Tae-joon set him up to fail on a project, but Woo-jung found out Tae-joon’s underhanded dealings and fired him instead. Ji-wan was unable to reconcile her love for Kang-jin with her guilt and anger over her brother’s death, and her body had rebelled. Realizing that he was the reason Ji-yong died, Kang-jin backed off, and to drive home the message, he kissed Woo-jung in front of Ji-wan.
EPISODE 9 RECAP
And now, we are one year later.
Ji-wan attends to an ailing grandmother, assuring her that she was at the top of her class and will administer the acupuncture needles without pain. She brags of her own skills to ease the woman’s worry, and afterward even offers to do her laundry.
While she’s washing, Tae-joon appears and offers his help. He had heard from her boss at the cafe where she had gone, and Ji-wan gratefully accepts his assistance.
He also has good news to share with her — he just won a bid on a big project. Their vibe is easy and friendly, but not perfectly back to normal. For instance, when Tae-joon gets water into his eye, Ji-wan takes a close look at it, and he comments, “A stranger would think we’re extremely close.” At that reminder of their past awkwardness, she asks if he still feels uncomfortable, but he smiles and answers, “I think I’m okay now.”
Tae-joon asks Ji-wan to have dinner with him on his upcoming birthday. She hesitates for a moment, then agrees with a smile.
Kang-jin is brought to a fancy restaurant under false pretenses, thinking it’s just dinner with Jae-hyun. When he finds out that this is a meeting with the company president, Woo-jung’s father, his face hardens. Woo-jung had begged Jae-hyun to bring Kang-jin here and even threatened her father that if he didn’t accept Kang-jin, she’d move to another country. The whole office knows that she has her sights on him and assumes that he’s going to be the president’s new son-in-law.
When Kang-jin presents himself in front of the dour president, Woo-jung looks on him fondly and calls him “honey” like he’s her long-term boyfriend. But her smile fades as Kang-jin starts speaking, saying bluntly that contrary to all the rumors, he is not dating Woo-jung. Furthermore, he will never be anything more to her than one of her employees, and therefore would be obliged if the president would ignore all future rumors involving him.
With that, he excuses himself and leaves. Woo-jung is put out by Kang-jin’s swift rejection of her carefully planned meeting, but to her surprise, her father laughs.
Woo-jung hurries outside to catch up to Kang-jin, pleased with this response. She even congratulates him for the clever way he managed to make a good impression with her father. This moment is supposed to confuse us for a second — wait, are they dating for real, or not? — until Kang-jin makes it clear that this wasn’t just a tactic. He apologizes again about the kiss (from Episode 8), for which he has by now apologized dozens, hundreds of times; it’s his way of reminding her that he doesn’t accept her romantically.
Woo-jung honestly can’t see why he doesn’t see her appeal — even disregarding herself as a woman, if he takes her, he could have Bumseo Group. She’s willing to accept him knowing how he feels, and he has so much to gain.
Kang-jin responds with a kind smile, “I could have liked you. If you had been first, I could have liked you, as a woman.” He clarifies that even without her connection to Bumseo, she is plenty attractive as a woman.
Woo-jung guesses, “Is there a woman you love?” She prods, “If I try harder, could I steal you from her?” Is there even 1% of a possibility? He answers, gently but firmly, “No.”
And sure enough, we see that Kang-jin isn’t over Ji-wan, not even close. He still pauses outside the cafe at night after closing hours, while she sits inside unaware of his presence. Meanwhile, Ji-wan chats with her boss, who sings Tae-joon’s praises and urges her to stop holding back. Tae-joon has built himself back up after leaving Bumseo and now has his own firm, and he’s devoted to her. Ji-wan has been keeping him at a distance, probably because she knows her true feelings don’t lie with Tae-joon.
Back in Sancheong, Chun-hee tries to work up her courage to approach Jun-su, but can’t. She preps all sorts of excuses to come to his clinic, but chickens out and can’t go inside. She’s muttering her frustrations out loud, and doesn’t see that Jun-su arrives just in time to hear her exclaim, “I miss you so much I’m going crazy!” He doesn’t say anything, and lets her walk on in dejection.
Despite Young-sook’s obvious favoritism for her dead son, we finally see a glimpse of something else when she looks over a stack of newspapers, where missing child ads were placed for Ji-wan. She hides them when Jun-su enters, but he sees the ads and asks, “Do you still hate Ji-wan that much?” He tells his wife philosophically that Ji-yong’s death wasn’t her fault, no matter how much Ji-wan had said it was — it was just his time to go.
He also suggests that they order out today — coffee from the tearoom. It’s a peculiar suggestion, but Chun-hee is thrilled to get the order, especially upon hearing that Jun-su asked for her to deliver it personally.
However, she’s in for a surprise, because Jun-su treats her coolly. When she sits at the table, he makes it a point to say that she’s sitting in his wife’s seat, as a direct reminder of her place. Startled, Chun-hee prepares coffee with shaking hands, but when she adds cream and sugar to Young-sook’s, he sternly tells her that his wife takes it black. If she can’t make coffee properly, shouldn’t she run a bar instead, like her mother?
His attitude is hurtful, but he ignores her indignant tears and says, “You say that you’re like this because of me, but don’t be ridiculous. This is your original self. This is what your fate has brought you. No matter how you try to shed your fate—”
Chun-hee dumps coffee on him, cutting him off. Still Jun-su continues, saying that he’s glad he never took that train to Seoul with her. He’s thankful for people who held him back, saying that they weren’t right for each other.
For Tae-joon’s birthday dinner, he takes Ji-wan out to a nice restaurant, and she gives him a tie. He’s pleased, and puts it on right away — which is when another patron returns from the bathroom to seat herself at the next table. It’s Woo-jung.
Tae-joon’s hands fumble, so Ji-wan offers to tie it for him. I wouldn’t say she’s faking their closeness, but she’s making a show of looking happy with Tae-joon in front of Woo-jung. Especially when her dinner companion arrives, upping the tension in the room another few notches. It’s Kang-jin.
Everyone freezes for a few beats before doing their best to resume acting normally. Now it’s Woo-jung’s turn to exaggerate her affection, and this time Kang-jin accepts her touch. He even returns it, holding his hand to Woo-jung’s face, acting for Ji-wan’s benefit. At the next table, Ji-wan’s hands tremble as she tries to act like nothing’s wrong. She doesn’t know that Kang-jin is really here for a business meeting, and he presents Woo-jung with some documents to look over.
Dinner sours further when Tae-joon receives a phone call that immediately turns his mood dark. The news is very bad, and right away, he knows what happened to ruin his project.
Hanging up, he storms over to the other table and accuses Woo-jung of messing with his bid — he had clearly won the bid last night, but all of a sudden Bumseo Group has come out the winner. What kind of dirty backdoor deals did they make to steal his work out from under him? What bribes did they make and who did they lobby? Tae-joon’s voice starts to break as he calls them dirty bastards and rants that he’d put everything he had into this for the past year.
Kang-jin steps in front of Woo-jung to confront Tae-joon, his calmness contrasting with Tae-joon’s emotion. He asks if Tae-joon has any proof of his accusations, and challenges his charge — so when Tae-joon wins it’s based on skill, but when Bumseo wins it must be a result of dirty tricks?
Maintaining his composure, Kang-jin then directs his gaze to Ji-wan, saying, “It seems like fists will fly pretty soon, so why doesn’t your partner stop you, instead of just looking? It seems like you’d listen to her.” She’s startled at his cold formality.
Back at the cafe, Tae-joon still shakes with anger. Ji-wan tries to cheer him up, but he gets up to leave, determined to find out what really happened. With a heartbreaking look, he tries to keep his emotion under control as he tells Ji-wan:
Tae-joon: “I was going to propose to you again. If this project went well, when I became more honorable, I was going to officially propose. I wanted to start over with you.”
The implication is that he can’t, now — that his goal to right his life and make things good again has been ruined.
Back at the restaurant, Woo-jung has shaken off the confrontation and resumes her lighthearted attitude, but Kang-jin is troubled. Tae-joon’s accusations still ring in his ears, and he asks Woo-jung if the claims were true. Did Bumseo really bribe the client and lobby illegally to win the project? (Always one to fixate on the less-significant point, Woo-jung is pleased: “You mean you took my side without knowing the answer?”)
Kang-jin presses, “Is it true?” She shrugs, “Maybe.”
He’s dismayed to hear this, and starts to ask, “Why does Bumseo have to go that far—”
Woo-jung cuts him off: “You mean, why does someone who has 99 of something have to steal away the last one from someone else? That’s how the world is.” She calls Kang-jin naive for thinking otherwise.
He still can’t understand her blase attitude, especially after she even risked her life for her love of Tae-joon.
Woo-jung: “Do you think there’s such a thing as love on this earth? I don’t think there is. That’s just like hypnotizing yourself. That’s why I think you’ll come to me at some point, because I don’t believe in that thing you call love, either.”
Not knowing of Kang-jin’s displeasure at the truth, Ji-wan is still smarting over his defense of Woo-jung. In the morning, she hears from Tae-joon’s No. 2, a worried Sung-min, that Tae-joon is being held at the police station. He had stormed into Bumseo’s offices in a fury, saying that he couldn’t just let himself be played and had overturned desks in his rage. Furthermore, the client won’t even vouch for Tae-joon’s claim that he’d won the bid first. Sung-min worries that they’re ruined now.
At the station, Ji-wan approaches a defeated Tae-joon; his head hangs and his voice is low as he says, “It’s all over.” She embraces him in consolation as he cries — which is when Kang-jin walks in. They meet eyes, but Ji-wan looks away and keeps holding Tae-joon.
Kang-jin turns silently to leave, but Ji-wan chases him out. She confronts him angrily, declaring, “I’ll do it! I’ll do what Tae-joon can’t do. I’ll reveal to everyone all the dirty things you did to wrong Tae-joon!”
Ji-wan vows to find the client’s office, where she’ll talk to every employee one by one to get the story. She’ll call the press, circulate the story on the internet. She’ll do everything in her power to reveal what they did. Kang-jin remains silent and continues down the stairs while Ji-wan chases him all the way, shouting that people like him can’t get away with stomping on the less powerful. “I’ll do it all!” she challenges him.
What I love about Kang-jin in this episode is that the writing shows layers — he acts one way on the surface while thinking another way inside. For instance, he accompanies Jae-hyun on a shopping trip for digital cameras and causally tells him that he’s decided to take up Woo-jung’s offer and marry into Bumseo Group. This is a prospect that greatly relieves Jae-hyun, since this would make his life easier, and he congratulates Kang-jin on finally making up his mind.
However, with a casual attitude that doesn’t betray his intention, Kang-jin says that first he’ll need to find out everything he can about Bumseo Group to impress the president. For instance, who did the lobbying for this latest project?
Bu-san sits with Young-sook and the nurse at the clinic, paying his respects since he intends to marry the nurse, who is almost like family for the Hans. As he leaves, he greets Jun-su cheerily, and when asked about his mother, he answers that Chun-hee is doing much better these days. She isn’t caking on the makeup, she isn’t hanging out at the tearoom, and she has stopped drinking at night.
This is probably exactly why Jun-su was so cruel to her earlier, and this is good news. But he’s bothered when Bu-san adds that she’s currently by the river, “waiting for the water to warm up.”
Jun-su finds her at the river where, as he has guessed, she says she’s here to die. (She says this in her typical way, more for effect that for real intent.) She reminisces that they first met here, when he’d saved her from drowning: “If I died here, I wouldn’t feel lonely. My mother’s [ashes are] here. The son that resembles you is here. And unforgettable memories are here.”
Irritated, Jun-su grabs her and pulls her from the water, depositing her in the car. She shouldn’t joke about life — she should forget him and live better than him. He says in exasperation, “What am I?” (with the tone of, “I’m not even that important, why are you so hung up over me?”) Chun-hee retorts, “You’re everything in my life!”
Growing more tearful as she speaks, Chun-hee confesses that she thought that he’d felt a tiny shred for her deep inside, just a tiny fraction of her feelings for him. But after hearing that he doesn’t, “Now I have no reason to live.”
Contrary to what he thinks, she wasn’t stupid — she never even hoped to hold onto him forever. When they were going to run away together, “I just thought, I want to live with Han Jun-su just for a little while.” She’d enjoy being able to love him and live with him for a while, then send him back to Young-sook’s family (who had owned the Oriental medicine clinic).
Toward the end of her speech, Jun-su’s vision starts to blur, and he falls unconscious.
After gathering the information about the recent project, Kang-jin asks for a meeting with the president. The documents show that they had unfairly lobbied for the bid, and he asks the president to return the project, which was taken through cowardice. The president asks, “Why?” Kang-jin: “Because that’s robbery.”
The president seems to find Kang-jin’s conclusions amusing, and asks what he’d do if he didn’t agree. Kang-jin doesn’t have a concrete plan, but surmises that he could go to the press with the information. The president asks, “Do you understand the meaning of what you’re doing?” Kang-jin answers, “I know.”
Woo-jung is frantic to hear that he’d met with her father — does he think he can do this and still remain safe? Kang-jin replies evenly, “It doesn’t matter.”
She demands incredulously, “You’d die to save Park Tae-joon? Don’t you know who he is? Have you forgotten what he did to you?” He repeats, “It doesn’t matter.”
He avoids her gaze all the while, and leaves with Woo-jung still shouting after him for an explanation.
Ji-wan comes by Tae-joon’s apartment, which is a wreck of alcohol bottles and scattered papers. He lies on the couch and mumbles for her not to clean up, but she does anyway, ignoring his words to leave.
We can guess the reason for Kang-jin’s behavior, but in case it wasn’t clear, Kang-jin looks over his father’s pendant that night, confirming that this is for Ji-wan.
But even he hasn’t anticipated what comes next. Woo-jung wasn’t kidding about the direness of his actions, and in the morning, he receives a frantic phone call from Jae-hyun warning him that he’s in big trouble. Men are cleaning out his desk, and he has been accused of selling his project’s master designs to another company. Kang-jin has been charged with being a corporate spy. Jae-hyun urges him to get to a lawyer immediately.
Just then, an angry pounding sounds at his door — it’s Ji-wan. She’s furious, having tried to talk to the client, only to be run around in circles and given nothing. She asks accusingly, “Have you already covered your tracks?”
He hesitates to open the door, which she takes for stubbornness. Defiantly, she decides, “Fine, let’s try it. Let’s see this through to the end, and see how far I can take this!”
Kang-jin opens the door and faces her calmly, again treating her with that infuriating indifference. He tells her that she can try, but she’s not strong enough to get anywhere. She should go back home, eat up, and prepare herself before she attempts to take him on: “Sorry, but I don’t find you scary in the least.”
A voice interrupts: “Is it because of Han Ji-wan?”
They turn to see Woo-jung standing there in the hallway, watching them. She continues, her voice incredulous as she looks from Kang-jin to Ji-wan:
Woo-jung: “Is the reason you’re killing yourself to save Park Tae-joon because of this woman? Is the woman you said you love… her?”
Oh OH! My first thought when Kang-jin started to doubt his company was that I want Tae-joon and Kang-jin to team up. They can leave the ladies behind, or bring them along, whatever. But I want them to join in together! Kang-jin is being portrayed as the superior one in terms of business AND in morals, but it’s clear that he can’t last at Bumseo. Tae-joon doesn’t deserve Kang-jin’s help, but before this stuff happened, they had respected each other professionally.
I believe that Kang-jin would have felt the same way about the stolen project even if Ji-wan weren’t involved, but his efforts to save Tae-joon are also motivated by her — it appears she’s devoted to Tae-joon, so the best way to help her is to help Tae-joon. Furthermore, it’s a way for him to repay the debt of her brother’s death (any scene with the necklace must now carry symbolism regarding Ji-yong, right?).
By the way, angry Ji-wan is by far my favorite version of her character. Although she has the wrong idea about Kang-jin, I’m relieved to see her fired up in indignation over Tae-joon’s mistreatment. Finally, Ji-wan comes alive to be an active character I can root for, rather than a passive vessel for other people’s emotions to be dumped upon!
Song Jong-ho has been doing a really wonderful job as Tae-joon, and you know the actor is rocking it when his character is weak and unscrupulous (when push comes to shove), and yet you still feel for him. I actually like the year skip because it allows us to see that he has moved on and tried to grow from his low point. And if not for Bumseo’s corruption, he would be doing so well. The time skip also gives us a flip of the dynamics, where now Tae-joon is the underdog and Kang-jin is (briefly, before he’s scapegoated) the one in power.
The scene when Tae-joon confesses his intent to propose, and the scene at the police station — great, quiet, emotion-filled moments. It almost — almost — makes me want to root for Tae-joon and Ji-wan to end up together, which is saying something, because I still love Go Soo.
Only, the less said about his newly shellacked hair, the better. I get it, there are only so many ways you can give a guy a different hairstyle. But I’m going to cling to these instead, if you please:
I also really liked Kang-jin’s moment with Woo-jung, when he says that he could have liked her if he’d known her first. I like that this drama’s relationships are fairly realistic, in that they’re not all Great Loves. That’s sort of my beef with the traditional Korean melodrama, where everything is so Big and Meaningful. Yes, there’s a Great Love in this drama, but not everyone’s love is one.
Tae-joon said once that there are some loves that aren’t meant to be revisited, like his with Woo-jung, and Kang-jin with Ji-wan. Because I still want the latter to win out, I’ll amend that to say that certain loves will cause great turmoil when revisited. For Tae-joon and Woo-jung, their love wasn’t worth that turmoil, and they’re better off moving on to more mature relationships. I’m sure Tae-joon doesn’t love Ji-wan in the same way, but he’s committed to making it work, and a marriage is never only about the passion, right? There’s effort and dedication and living with one’s choices.
Even within that purview of the Melodramatic Great Love (aka Kang-jin and Ji-wan), I still think we’ve got a pretty realistic representation. Ji-wan was the one who got away, but until Kang-jin saw her again, he was doing okay. In fact, he’d brought three serious girlfriends home, with whom he presumably could have married, if they hadn’t turned up their noses at his mother. But there’s the thing about childhood loves — they’re potent. Most of us grow out of our experiences — or maybe that’s the wrong choice of wording. We grow from them and change out of the person we were, and gradually those feelings evolve.
With a childhood love that suffers a traumatic event and is abruptly cut off soon thereafter, those feelings get crystallized. Which isn’t to say that the person can’t grow up and turn into a normal, mature adult — clearly one can — but when those feelings are revisited, you see them in stunning clarity because time has preserved only the keenest memories of that person. With those moments drawn out in sharp relief, the memories of what was already pretty intense grow even more intense. So when you shatter that stasis and let the memories free, you get a tidal wave of an emotional mess. That’s why I find their love credible even though one could argue that their childhood basis isn’t strong enough for such a strong adult attachment.
Also: Jun-su did to Chun-hee exactly the same thing that Kang-jin is doing to Ji-wan. Both men pushed the women away with lies — denying their true feelings — because they felt that that was better for the women. In Jun-su’s case, there’s a tragic hint to it, because he’s dying and because there doesn’t seem to be a happy way to resolve the three-way conflict. But that gives me hope for the young’uns, because Kang-jin will most likely diverge and not repeat the mistakes of the past generation. Right?