Ladies and gentlemen, we have THE KISS. This drama has been pretty stingy with the smoochies, but the build-up was so good that I may or may not have shouted, “Kiss her! Kiss her already!” at my tv more than a few times. I haven’t anticipated a kiss like this since Coffee Prince, and although the chemistry with this couple leans more towards cute than put-out-that-fire, it still wore out my rewind button. What? That’s not embarrassing.
EPISODE 11 RECAP
Shin-young and Min-jae celebrate the end of their Ten Days and the beginning of the rest of their relationship, sans deadline. Min-jae leans in for the kiss…and is thwarted by…Mom? Oh, crap.
Sang-mi freaks out, first at Min-jae’s silver hair (understandably strange for a mother to see), then at his being with Shin-young, a woman she knows to be Bu-ki’s age, and not to her general liking.
Min-jae tries to play the situation as casually as possible, thinking, hey, great, now you can meet my mother. Only that’s not really how Sang-mi wants this interaction to go. She storms out, and even though Min-jae says she’ll be fine, Shin-young insists he go after her. Good girl.
Min-jae runs after Sang-mi, and as expected, he gets an earful and a complete dismissal of his feelings. It’s clear that their relationship is already pretty strained; this is the first time Sang-mi is learning that Min-jae is staying at Ban-seok’s house, and they haven’t cleared the air over the music issue either, so there are more than a few things these two need to iron out.
As much as people are against Sang-mi, I think she’s a necessary character, and an interesting one too. She isn’t immediately likable because compared to our three leading ladies, she’s out of touch with her own heart and therefore out of touch with people, including her own son. She’s repressed and downtrodden, which are results of choices she’s made, but instead of making new choices, she’s staying in her quicksand life. It’s frustrating to watch. But I think the possibility of her life is what makes us all want to live like Shin-young, Da-jung, and Bu-ki. And my hope is that she realizes that it’s never too late to make your own way in life.
The other important role Sang-mi plays is as a foil to Min-jae, which is crucial in making him more than just a boytoy in the story. At twenty-four, Min-jae’s biggest hurdle in life is asserting himself as an adult and separating his life from his parents and their expectations. These are things that Shin-young has already done, but Min-jae is just now struggling with, and his interactions with Sang-mi make me empathize with him and take him more seriously.
Shin-young overhears all this, and although it’s the reaction she and all of us expected, she’s stricken with disappointment. Min-jae returns to the table and white-lies that his mom was just shocked by his hair and that he sent her home amiably.
Shin-young puts on a brave face and doesn’t let on that she knows. What I love is that both people know what the other is feeling, but are feigning ignorance in order to protect each other. I love Min-jae’s looks here, saying I know that you’re being brave for my benefit and I’m sorry that I can’t change that.
Sang-woo, still sick and lovelorn, calls Sang-mi. She’s conflicted, but decides to drop off some herbal tea for his cold. Sang-woo intercepts her at the mailbox, and she ends up cooking him dinner at his apartment.
The way these two look at each other is starting to mirror the way Min-jae and Shin-young look at each other, which is an intentional move to draw parallels between the couples.
Min-jae and Shin-young continue to reign as the cutest couple ever, by buying ridiculously giant furry hats and wearing them in the street like a couple of crazy people, which is exactly what people in love do.
Later that night, Min-jae decides to go to his old apartment, thinking that his mom just changed the lock code to spite him. Sang-mi, who is in the apartment RIGHT NOW, tells him frantically on the phone that she really did rent it out, and not to go back there.
Sang-woo overhears the conversation and asks Sang-mi about her son. She tells him that she got pregnant in college and that her son is twenty-four. Sang-woo in turn tells her about his ex who he was, until very recently, trying to win back. But he explains that her heart is elsewhere now, as is his.
Suddenly they hear a noise at the door. Min-jae has come up to try the lock anyway, hoping that his mom was just bluffing. Sang-woo and Sang-mi panic, but then Sang-woo says he’ll just answer the door as the new tenant. Only he doesn’t know that it’s Ha Min-jae standing on the other side of that door.
In a tense moment, Sang-woo reaches for the door handle, and Min-jae waits on the other side, and I’m totally conflicted here. Open the door! Wait, don’t open the door! On the one hand, I want him to open it and give Min-jae some leverage with his mom over the whole dating-a-woman-ten-years-his-senior thing. But on the other hand, I don’t want to put the brakes on Sang-woo and Sang-mi’s relationship so early, before either of them has made any real life changes, and this would surely put a damper on their secret love affair.
Sang-woo feels the same way, because he hesitates and decides not to open the door. He’s not ready to confront the reality of Sang-mi’s life, and is afraid that meeting her son would push them to part.
Outside the two continue to struggle with their conflicting feelings towards being together. Okay, you guys are starting to get a little whiny for my taste. Yes of course you have conflicting emotions, but don’t pretend like you’re just a victim of your own circumstance. You are grown adults. Pick a thing and go with it. You could learn a thing or two from a 24-year old.
Bu-ki comes home later that night to decompress from her day, but is bombarded by Shin-young, rattling off questions about Sang-mi. Bu-ki only tells her that Sang-mi is less than ten years older than them, and that she’s a regular customer at the restaurant.
Gotta give props to Bu-ki for remaining neutral here. It’s hard to be Switzerland when everyone wants something from you. But when you know everything in the universe, that’s the cross you have to bear.
Shin-young, riddled with self-doubt about Sang-mi, mopes in bed. Da-jung, still on the outs with Ban-seok since the birthday fiasco, joins her in a rather comical pouting session. They decide that they should just die and hug each other for comfort. I know it seems silly, but this is the stuff that gets you through life.
It turns out that Ban-seok is sick, not angry, and Da-jung stops by and apologizes to his doorbell, saying that she’ll take back all the clothes (ha) if he just gives her another chance. But Ban-seok is too sick to hear her apology.
At work everyone gives Shin-young knowing looks and snickers behind her back, and it makes her suspicious that her evil sunbae Myung-seok outed her relationship with Min-jae. She confirms the rumor with her staff, as they all make bets on how long it’ll last, right in front of her.
Min-jae consoles her as they walk down the hallway holding hands (aw). Shin-young asks if he’s close to his mom, which he confirms, and wonders if they should lie about her age to say that she’s 29. Min-jae says no without hesitation, which is why we love you! He invites her to lunch with his mom and she politely declines, saying that it’s too soon.
Min-jae goes downstairs to meet his mom. And Boy, are you sweet-talking your own mother right now? You are! And she’s totally falling for it!
I see now that these two used to be really close (which would have been helpful information earlier on, but whatever. It’s not like I need to know things).
Sang-mi’s good mood doesn’t last long, as she lays down the gauntlet at lunch. She tells Min-jae that a “woman like that” would have no trouble seducing a kid like him. To his credit, Min-jae makes several attempts to have a civil conversation with his mom about his new girlfriend. He actually seems surprised when he realizes that his mom isn’t going to jump on the Shin-young bandwagon just because he’s in love with her. Oh, Min-jae, sometimes you are so naïve it’s cute.
Sang-mi doesn’t budge an inch, and Min-jae realizes that convincing his mom is going to take some doing. He puts on his resolve face.
Meanwhile, Shin-young’s news team comes upon the conversation, wondering who Min-jae is with in the cafeteria. One of them muses, “You don’t suppose he’s got an even older girlfriend on the side?” which made me laugh out loud and then feel gross about it.
So they eavesdrop on the entire conversation, then blab about it publicly in the elevator, (I hate people who lay your beeswax bare at work!) which Myung-seok overhears. He of course goes straight to Shin-young to rub her nose in her younger boyfriend’s mother flipping her giblet in the cafeteria. Shin-young bites right back, retorting sarcastically with Myung-seok’s own words that she’ll just use Min-jae and leave him. Only that’s when…
…Sang-mi appears. Dag nab it, universe! It’s like you hired a team of writers to foil her every move! Shin-young runs after her, calling her “mother,” which Sang-mi does NOT like at all. Have to admit; it’s weird.
This is one of those language-age pickles that this drama does so well. You would normally call your boyfriend’s mom “mother,” but they’re so close in age that it’s decidedly unnatural. But you can’t call her by her name, as that is disrespectful. So basically you’re screwed. It’s something you can’t escape if you’re speaking Korean, as the cultural hierarchy (predicated on age) is built into the language itself, as javabeans so succinctly summarized in the last recap.
Sang-mi asks Shin-young not to see Min-jae anymore and asks for her business card, saying that she hopes she won’t have to use it. Shin-young tries to gloss over that part and be friendly, but Sang-mi’s not having any of that and she walks away.
Ban-seok is still sick in bed when his dad arrives with a fruit basket that someone left on his doorstep. Ban-seok reads the card, and realizing it’s an apology from Da-jung, rushes over to her apartment. Da-jung is too busy wallowing to answer the door, but her expression when she sees that it’s Ban-seok is priceless:
They reconcile their birthday fight and Ban-seok announces happily that his father has agreed to meet Da-jung one more time. Da-jung of course cannot leave anything to so fickle a thing as fate, and decides that they need a plan to win his father over.
Shin-young spends some time alone, reflecting on the age/mother conundrum, and avoids Min-jae, giving an excuse when he asks her to go to a friend’s concert.
Sang-mi seeks some dirt on Shin-young from Bu-ki, but Bu-ki not only remains Switzerland, but gives her some sound advice too. She tells Sang-mi that she’s just driving the kids to be together, and that she should just let it be.
Sang-mi admits that she’s less cosmopolitan than she thought; she might be able to understand their relationship as a woman, but as Min-jae’s mother she cannot accept it. Bu-ki, taking the words right out of my mouth, tells her why not be both then? Cause, uh, last time I checked, one’s kind of a prerequisite for the other.
Sang-mi ends up at Sang-woo’s mailbox again with some new tea to drop off. She’s made it a habit of coming here in her emotional distress, only she fails to recognize it. Or she’s lying to herself about what it means. Sang-woo, who has taken to stalking his mailbox for this very reason, takes her out for a date.
Shin-young wallows alone at work that night, and what is with all the pity parties in this episode? I hate being invited to pity parties. No matter how many nice things you say and how much wine you drink, nobody hears you and nobody has a good time.
The perfect cure? One adorable Ha Min-jae to put on his pouty face because you’re being a no-fun fuddy-duddy and leaving him dateless. I challenge you to resist!
They end up at the club and Min-jae manages to break Shin-young out of her funk. The looks they steal at each other…they kill me.
We get back to Sang-woo and Sang-mi’s date as they arrive at…oh my god…it’s the same club. Listen, Show, you’re making Seoul seem like some tiny town with one restaurant and one bar with all the coincidental run-ins in one episode. I suppose since Sang-woo picked the club because of the musician, and he’s already been established as a Ha Min-jae/indie band fan, it could be explained, but I feel a little piece of my soul die as I do it.
Both couples are oblivious to each other’s presence, but when Sang-woo leaves to answer a phone call, Sang-mi takes a look around and sees Min-jae and Shin-young, doing a little bit of this…
And a little bit of that…
As Sang-mi watches from behind, Min-jae kisses Shin-young on the cheek, then taps his own cheek to solicit a kiss in return. Aaack! I am totally falling for your playful charm, you cheeky little man-child!
Shin-young looks embarrassed at first, but then leans in to kiss his cheek, as Min-jae turns his head…TOWARD her…omo! And they end up in a liplock. We have contact!
I like that the kiss had a slow build, as in all kdramas (which is something I’ve always liked because it’s more narratively satisfying that way) but I like even better that it wasn’t a dramatic slow-motion conflict-driven kiss, but rather something cute, fun, and realistic, in keeping with this drama’s levity.
Both Shin-young and Sang-mi are surprised by the kiss, but their reactions are not quite in the same ballpark, or you know, stratosphere.
Sang-mi runs out of the club, making excuses to Sang-woo, who thankfully has not witnessed any of the kissage. I say thankfully more for Min-jae and Shin-young’s sake, as I would hate the moment to be spoiled by the untimely realization that your mother is dating your girlfriend’s ex.
Sang-woo follows her out of the club. Sang-mi gets recognized by her husband’s colleagues, who make the assumption that she and her husband are of a kind when it comes to philandering. It calls attention to her sticky situation in an unflattering way.
Sang-woo returns with flowers and two cans of beer. You sneaky man, are you trying to win me over this late in the game? The two of them take one step forward, two steps back, as always concerning their will-they-won’t-they affair, and do some kissing of their own.
Bu-ki and Da-jung come up with a plan for Ban-seok’s father, and go to recruit Shin-young in their scheme, only she’s busy STILL wallowing. Have to say, getting tired of all the downers moping about this episode.
Da-jung and Bu-ki tell her to snap out of it, that she can’t expect everything to be so easy right from the get-go and that she should fight for Min-jae, confirming why I love these characters.
Looks like the girls got the job done; Shin-young sneaks into Min-jae’s practice studio and yanks out his guitar cable, mimicking their meet-cute in the first episode. Then Min-jae gives her another guitar lesson, which I’m going to have to start using as a metaphor for something naughty if they keep this up.
They go out on a date, and while Min-jae buys her flowers, we get a patented Shin-young voiceover. I’ve missed these.
Shin-young (voiceover): “We walk, and walk, and face mountains to climb.
We live and live, and encounter new things to learn.
We eat three times a day, but digest it all.
How can we live a lifetime on one experience?
Every time we love we learn
When a mountain appears we climb it
The times I thought I knew life
The times I was thrown by a small rock
Now I’m learning anew
Spring is coming
This man who brought spring to me
I want to remain by his side for a long long while
Today, with a hundred times the courage
This is Lee Shin-young”
And now it’s time for sketch comedy hour as the girls stage their Operation: Father-in-law. Ban-seok and Da-jung are having a passive-aggressive chat with his father, when in bursts Shin-young, looking like…I can’t even describe this…
…as Ban-seok’s ex-girlfriend/stalker who is still in love with him. And right behind her comes Bu-ki, looking funktastically hilarious as the older sister who is demanding Ban-seok take responsibility and marry her right away.
They overact the whole thing (the characters, not the actors, if that makes sense) and Ban-seok’s father is so shocked that he hastily approves of a marriage with Da-jung. Cut to:
Oh my goodness, we finally got here! I’m so happy for this character right now. She wanted it so badly and dragged us along on the wacky adventure to putting on this dress, but it all seems worth it now.
Bu-ki and Shin-young come out in ridiculous pink bridesmaid dresses, and Shin-young appropriately asks, “Do I have to wear this? Can’t we just skip it?” And even though that’s exactly how I would feel, something about this moment between the three of them is so sweet and perfect, hideous pink dresses and all.
Min-jae makes another attempt to convince his mom about what a great person Shin-young is, to no avail. Sang-mi tells Min-jae that his father asked for a divorce, but that she’s not granting one until after Min-jae is married, as it may lessen his desirability as a potential marriage partner. Excuses! You really have to stop thinking you can live your life for other people. That way leads to tears and gnashing of teeth.
Min-jae rightly tells her not to do that, and to live the way she wants to. Sang-mi says it’s because she fears what she will give into if she divorces, and Min-jae picks up on the implication that she’s got a man in her life. He sweetly says that whoever her boyfriend might be, he would treat him well, like a friend. Oh, honey, you are so going to eat your words.
Shin-young hits another homerun at work and is celebrating with her team when she gets a call from Sang-mi asking to meet. Uh-oh. I know Sang-mi’s pretty toothless when it comes to dating, but she’s kind of scary as a mom.
They meet at the café downstairs and we commence with a face-off. She asks Shin-young if she’s introduced Min-jae to her own parents yet. Damn. Point, Sang-mi. She asks if Shin-young is dating Min-jae seriously, considering him as a viable marriage partner. Shin-young doesn’t flinch as she answers yes. Point, Shin-young.
Then Sang-mi is reduced to threats, as she tells Shin-young that she’s just an unsophisticated mother, and that she’ll drag Shin-young out by the hair and announce to everyone that she’s seducing her 24-year old son. Basically she’s pulling the I’ve-got-nothing-to-lose-while-you-have-a-career-to-save move. Sneaky. Point, Sang-mi.
Shin-young doesn’t back down and asks what Sang-mi will do if she keeps seeing Min-jae, implying that she’s not going to stop. Nice. Point, Shin-young. I like that she doesn’t fold here. I hate when kdrama characters get one stern talking to by a spiteful mother-in-law, then cower, break up, get sick…you know the rest. Looks like we’re going to have to call this one a draw.
Shin-young goes to see Min-jae, but is interrupted by a call from Sang-woo. He’s drunk and seeking a friendly shoulder to lean on, as he is heartbroken over the woman he loves…who is married…with a son. Shin-young senses the gravity of the situation and offers to come over.
Now, normally you would next be reading my rant over their co-dependency and using each other. But these two are now clearly in love with other people. So this feels more like two people who used to date eons ago, seeking each other out as old friends. Once you take the dating and marriage out of the equation, these two are actually sweet and chummy as friends.
Shin-young meets Sang-woo down in the lobby of his apartment building. They head upstairs with Shin-young saying, “Let’s drink all night!” which is of course the very moment that Sang-mi walks in and witnesses the whole thing.
Damn. This woman is having one messed up day.
The only thing I don’t like about this reveal is that now Sang-mi will assume that Shin-young is cheating on Min-jae, so I hope that isn’t something she uses against her. I would’ve rather had all four of them run into each other on the world’s most awkward double date, but it wouldn’t be a kdrama if one character didn’t agonize over something that everyone should be knowing.
I do like the way these two couples are set up to mirror each other. The age difference is the same, and the way they look at each other is mirrored both physically and metaphorically. Both women are in a stage of their lives that the men can’t know or empathize with, but they happen to be the perfect remedies for each woman. It’s a nice commentary on the ideal that love knows no age, while not being glib about the fact that society does.
- Park Jin-hee: Calling Shin-youngs everywhere!
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