Personal Taste: Episode 4
While Personal Taste is generally playing it safe in the traditional man-will-teach-bumbling-woman-how-to-live setup, we do start to see some cracks in Jin-ho’s armor, which makes me warm up to him a little more. Nobody likes a know-it-all who actually knows it all. In this episode the roommates start to bond, and we finally get an emotional connection between them that makes a future attraction credible. The pace is still a little awkward and not quite as zippy as one would like for a drama of this tone, but the character moments keep it moving from scene to scene. Not as funny as the last episode, but perhaps more serious and emotionally engaging, toilet humor notwithstanding.
EPISODE 4 RECAP
After Jin-ho’s (ahem) satisfying foot massage, Kae-in drops dead on the couch and Jin-ho goes into his room, trying to tell himself to calm down and not flare up at her for her latest GAAAY blunder in front of Do-bin. This is, of course, for the sake of the project and in no way to spare Kae-in’s feelings.
The next morning, Kae-in wakes up on the couch and remembers her very public declaration of Jin-ho’s sexual orientation.
She fears the wrath of Jin-ho, so when she hears him come out of his room, she falls to the floor and pretends to still be asleep. Jin-ho tries to wake her, notes her increasing weirdness, and leaves. Once she thinks it’s safe, Kae-in heads to the bathroom…and Jin-ho uses that opportunity to sneak up on her, swinging open the windows to the bathroom and scaring her. Wasn’t one set of naked shower encounters enough to teach you kids to knock?
Jin-ho asks if she has anything she wants to apologize for. Kae-in chooses the way of cowardice in her hangover haze, and tells him that when she drinks she doesn’t remember anything…yeah, that excuse never works. Jin-ho looks annoyed and skeptical, but lets it go for the time being.
Jin-ho and Sang-jun go to the site of the future Dahm Museum, and Sang-jun talks about all the different parts of the complex while Jin-ho air-doodles a design. Sang-jun mentions, “that person seems to like you.” Jin-ho jumps to a gay conclusion, blubbering that a man can’t be attracted to another man! This leaves Sang-jun perplexed, as he was talking about Kae-in. Methinks the man doth protest too much, eh? God, how much would I love this drama if it ended with: “And then Jin-ho and Sang-jun lived happily ever after.” Someone get on that fanfic!
They run into President Han and exchange more pleasantries as veiled threats, and Jin-ho takes a jab, saying that his father’s only mistake was in trusting his right-hand man. President Han doesn’t seem to be the type to be shocked when confronted with his own evilness so for today it’s another draw.
Later that day, In-hee and Hye-mi both show up at Jin-ho’s office, eyeing each other up and down like the territorial predators they are. Hye-mi announces herself as Jin-ho’s fiancé, which of course has In-hee doing a double take. She’s thinking, either that girl is delusional, a beard, or both.
When Jin-ho arrives, he is extremely deferential and polite to In-hee (as Do-bin’s right-hand woman), while ignoring Hye-mi and her feeble attempts at posturing. In-hee is here to invite Jin-ho to a gala where he’ll meet a lot of professional contacts, and she’s come in person to thank him for his participation in the awkward situation with Chang-ryul at the museum briefing.
In-hee also tips him off to Do-bin’s habit of walking around the gallery on days when he doesn’t have afternoon appointments, so Jin-ho drives her back to the museum in hopes of running into Do-bin. On the way, Jin-ho says he wants to properly thank In-hee for her help, so she suggests he buy dinner. He readily accepts, causing her a moment’s pause: is this man really gay? Isn’t it possible he’s just being polite, and not casting off MEN to be into YOU?
When they reach the museum, Chang-ryul is there waiting for In-hee, and he witnesses them arrive together and exchange phone numbers.
Exactly how many love triangles are there going to be here? There’s Jin-ho/Kae-in/In-hee, Jin-ho/In-hee/Chang-ryul, Hye-mi/Jin-ho/In-hee, In-hee/Chang-ryul/Kae-in, then presumably later Jin-ho/Kae-in/Chang-ryul, not to mention the misunderstood Jin-ho/Sang-jun/Tae-hoon one. My head is spinning from the merry-go-round of crushes.
In the men’s room, Jin-ho practices an explanation to Do-bin about Kae-in’s GAAAY outburst. He starts with, “What you heard last night about my preference…” then tries, “I don’t like men….” And finally, he shouts, “I’m not gay!” just as another man walks into the restroom. Heh. I do enjoy an embarrassed Jin-ho; not going to lie.
Jin-ho strategically “runs into” Do-bin in the gallery, and they have coffee in Do-bin’s office. Jin-ho starts his rehearsed rendition of “How I Am Not Gay,” but Do-bin cuts him off, saying that he doesn’t care about personal matters, and just wants Jin-ho to do his best for the design. Jin-ho offers some random unsolicited curatorial advice, suggesting a Kandinsky instead of the Klimt. Do-bin’s curiosity is piqued by this strange young man, and perhaps there are…sparks? Or is that indigestion? Hard to tell.
Young-sun comes over to visit Kae-in, bringing her a fresh batch of shellfish from her mom, and Kae-in confesses to messing up yet again. Young-sun can’t believe she blabbed about Jin-ho in such a public way and they worry what Jin-ho might do in retaliation this time.
Young-sun decides that Kae-in needs to offer up a grand gesture. She drags Kae-in to the grocery store, and goes with the old adage, “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” citing her husband’s proclivity to zoom toward happiness when she makes dinner. Young-sun suggests that Kae-in cook dinner for Jin-ho, then act cutesy (do they even know Jin-ho?) Kae-in replies that she doesn’t know how to act cutesy, which is a total lie, as we’ve seen her pout and passive-aggressively act cute about kalbi to get what she wants. But Young-sun looks her up and down and agrees that if she were a guy, she’d find her about as cute as a rock. Nobody tells it to ya like a girlfriend! Ouch.
Jin-ho, meanwhile, gets a call from his new best friend In-hee. (Tamping down the urge to boo and hiss every time I write her name.) She informs him that Do-bin wants to have dinner with him, and Sang-jun is so impressed that Jin-ho is apparently winning everyone over to his side.
Back over at Project: Forgive Me for Outing You, Kae-in and Young-sun riffle through movies, as Young-sun suggests she initiate some roommate bonding time with Jin-ho. Kae-in refuses at first, but when Young-sun tells that she needs to fill the hole that In-hee left in her life, Kae-in doesn’t argue. Sad, to think that the person who hurt her so badly used to be such a huge part of her life.
Kae-in chooses Brokeback Mountain, (Ha) saying that Jin-ho has had a hard enough time hiding who he is from the rest of the world; he should be able to be himself in front of her. I like that the gay misunderstanding not only provides endless comical situations, but also sweet character revelations such as this. If only every gay man in Korea had a friend like Kae-in.
As Jin-ho is leaving for the day, his staff is busy googling what women want for Christmas, and they find that the number one thing is a gay friend, for the obvious reasons: talking freely about relationships, going shopping, etc. Jin-ho’s curiosity is piqued as he listens in, but denies his interest in the matter when Sang-jun notices him.
When Jin-ho drives away from the office, Tae-hoon follows him home, fulfilling his promise to Hye-mi that if he found out where Jin-ho was living, she’d go out with him. He notes truthfully as he follows, “You know there isn’t a soul in the world you can trust, right?” Well, nobody trusted you to begin with, silly.
Hye-mi, meanwhile, is bonding with Jin-ho’s mom at the spa, and it’s clear that Mom likes Hye-mi because she’s an old family friend from Jin-ho’s toddler days, and they’ve already settled into a mother/daughter-in-law relationship. She encourages Hye-mi to stay by Jin-ho’s side and persevere. Listen, there’re a million reasons why you’ll never marry Jin-ho, least of which is your hair color, but even that’s enough to rule you out. Seriously, go back and look at all your kdramas of old. Has the orange-haired girl ever gotten the guy? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Tae-hoon follows Jin-ho all the way home, and deciphers the Chinese characters above the house, reading: Sang-go-jae, and runs off to give this tidbit back to his master.
Young-sun and Kae-in set up to cook dinner, and Kae-in spends the whole time begging Young-sun to do it for her. You should have just played it like you did the cleaning session with Jin-ho. But it’s too late, as Jin-ho walks through the door. By her reaction, you’d think Godzilla just came home.
When Jin-ho arrives, Young-sun tries to facilitate some roommate bonding, telling them to cut the formalities and use banmal, saying they should “Rip words and rip farts…” But Jin-ho is unsurprisingly against the ripping of both, in anyone’s presence, let alone Kae-in’s.
Jin-ho cuts the bonding short and goes in his room. Young-sun leaves to tend to her son, leaving Kae-in alone to fend for her own forgiveness. She handles that about as well as you’d think.
Jin-ho comes out of his room, and they rehash the events of last night. Kae-in maintains that she doesn’t remember a thing, while Jin-ho recounts all of her actions, including a fake loan, which she vehemently denies. Uh….
Well, no one said you were the brightest bulb. Once Kae-in is caught in the lie, Jin-ho totally has the upper hand, as he makes her write and sign a contract that says if she ever utters anything about his orientation again, she promises to do anything he asks. How long should we give her before she’s cleaning his room and febreezing his jackets?
She reluctantly lets him stamp her thumbprint on the contract, then tells him to wait while she cooks dinner for him. What follows is a fiasco of mild proportions, not unlike what happens in my kitchen when I’ve lost a bet or lied to someone that I can cook.
After one failed attempt, she finally presents her dish at the dinner table, but Jin-ho stringently sticks to his own side dishes, ignoring her painstakingly earned gesture.
With some passive-aggressive prodding, Jin-ho finally tastes it. Eager to know how it tastes, she waits for a response, and he says: “Well, it’s fit for humans to eat.” Sometimes I want to shake you violently by the throat.
He does eat it all, despite his lackluster review, leaving Kae-in none for herself. She tries again to be friendly, putting out her hand for a shake, declaring that they should do their best to make it work. Jin-ho does the worst thing ever in return: the limp-fish handshake. And he adds that he has no intention of making it work with Kae-in. Okay, rude-o.
Kae-in, ever the dogged optimist, tries again by inviting him to watch a movie (please let us see his reaction to Brokeback, please!) but he turns her down, saying he doesn’t have the time or the inclination to hang out and watch movies with her. Killjoy.
Over in the land of the happily un-wed, Chang-ryul and In-hee have it out again over the apartment, this time with Chang-ryul on the inside, having changed the lock code on In-hee. They argue about the apartment, about Jin-ho, and whether or not In-hee will give Chang-ryul another chance.
He ends up begging her to take him back, showing him to be the far more vulnerable and human character in this relationship, although that’s not saying much.
In-hee’s reply is so cold that I actually start to feel sorry for the bastard that dumped Kae-in. She says that once her heart has left, she can’t go back, and tells him that she’s moved on. She talks about men like the latest handbag, saying that she likes the newest and best things, and he didn’t turn out to be the best thing out there. Chang-ryul’s face falls, but he’s not ready to give up just yet. He says fine, then they’ll just have to live like this, since neither of them is about to move out of the apartment. In-hee agrees reluctantly, as long as he stays out of her business.
Left to her own druthers, Kae-in chooses Nacho Libre for movie night. Jin-ho comes out for a glass of water, and Kae-in asks for a glass, calling him “In-hee ya” by reflex. Both realize the slip, and Jin-ho brings her water, musing that In-hee must have been her roommate for a long time, for her to call out to him like that. She confirms they were friends and roommates for TEN YEARS. My jaw and my opinion of In-hee drop to the floor.
Kae-in offers him some of her popcorn, and he replies exactly how a gay friend would: “You know that’ll go straight to your thighs.” Okay, he says belly, but close enough. Kae-in doesn’t care (no surprise), and when he finally caves and eats some, she asks him what about the belly fat? He retorts that he’s not the body type to retain belly fat, inciting Kae-in to snark that he must’ve gone to a snappy comeback academy.
They watch the movie and start to bond a little, being more comfortable in each other’s presence. Kae-in asks Jin-ho when he first knew he was gay, that he was different from everyone else. When he doesn’t reply, she says that she was seven when she knew. Startled, Jin-ho asks if she’s a lesbian. No, it’s when she realized that she was different from the other kids; when she saw that other kids’ moms came to school events and that she would never have that.
Kae-in adds that she thought maybe Jin-ho would know what that was like. Jin-ho doesn’t open up about his own father’s death, but I think this speaks to him and moves him to see Kae-in in a more substantive, less superficial light.
She keeps pestering him cutely to tell her when he knew he liked boys, so he just shoves popcorn in her mouth to shut her up. Aww, cute.
The next morning, Jin-ho starts feeling sick at work, resulting in a series of diarrhea escapades, complete with noises, contorted faces, and his desperate attempts to hold it in while running about town. It’s not the cleverest or most sophisticated, but damn if it isn’t funny watching Jin-ho try to walk on tip-toe with his hand on his butt to stave off the…impending deluge.
Turns out he’s got a bout of food poisoning from Kae-in’s shellfish, but she’s fine since she didn’t get to have any. Heh. He plots her slow and painful death while sitting on the toilet.
Kae-in goes out on a job interview, thinking she’s applying for a furniture designer position at a large company, but it turns out that it’s for a secretarial position, and she gets dismissed readily. Chang-ryul happens to witness this, as he is checking out the manufacturer as a candidate for his Dahm design.
Chang-ryul feels compelled to follow Kae-in, as she despondently leaves the interview, eats ramem alone in a convenience store, then walks home in the rain. He watches her from a distance feeling bad and drawn to her too, but all I can think the whole time is, why aren’t you giving her a ride home, doofus?
Later that night, Jin-ho meets Do-bin for dinner, despite his…uh…condition. Do-bin notices that he’s not doing so well, so he graciously insists they reschedule, and gives him a handkerchief to wipe his flop sweat. Do-bin asks that he return the handkerchief, as it has sentimental value to him. Hm, what compromising position will this handkerchief get Jin-ho in? Can’t wait to find out.
Jin-ho and Kae-in return around the same time, with Jin-ho noticing that Chang-ryul was outside the house when he arrived. Jin-ho is fuming mad about the shellfish and his cancelled dinner, but Kae-in is so concerned for him that she runs her sopping wet self all over the house looking for diarrhea medicine for him.
She keeps asking him about the diarrhea, which just makes him angrier, as he can’t even say the word. All day he’s been saying, “dia…” like the word is as disgusting as the affliction. He finally shouts at her, “Stop saying DIARRHEA!” which makes me laugh, which means I’m five years old, I know.
He softens a little when he sees her scrambling to get him medicine, and starts out yelling at her for dripping water all over the floor, but ends up getting her a towel and telling her to dry off before she catches cold. Aww, cute again!
Later, Jin-ho isn’t even surprised when he hears something shatter in the kitchen. Kae-in’s broken a dish, and he helps her clean it up, asking if she can’t go one day without making a mess. She asks if he can’t go one day without pestering her. Touché.
Kae-in makes him some rice porridge (the Korean staple food for sickies) and he makes her taste it first, in case it’s poisoned. Not an irrational fear, given the events of the day. I would even insist she eat half, for the karma factor, in case it’s a replay of the shellfish debacle.
He notices the cuts on her finger, which she explains are from last night’s cooking, or attempts thereof. And then…the calls start coming. It’s Chang-ryul, drunk-dialing her from outside the house.
Jin-ho sees the look on her face and knows the score right away. He tells her not to go. She insists that she won’t, but Jin-ho and I both vote that she’ll end up going out to meet him. They always do.
Aaaand? She caves. Kae-in runs out of the house, just as Jin-ho comes out of his room, band-aid in hand for her cut finger. He mutters, “Jeon Jin-ho wins.” But his face says the opposite.
Kae-in finds Chang-ryul outside, and the gist? He’s still an ass. The nitty gritty: Kae-in wants to know why he chose In-Hee, of all people. He replies that In-hee gave him everything, all of herself (yes, I think the sexual implication is intended, while not being the sole meaning), while Kae-in always kept him at arm’s length. He claims that she had one foot out the door, by acting immature and naïve. That makes no kind of sense.
Kae-in is floored. She replies that she was just so happy to be with him, that she melted over every little kiss, every phone call, and dashed out to see him without a care for how she looked because she was so anxious to see him. Chang-ryul says they were too different, and that she didn’t meet him as an adult, an equal.
Kae-in has the realization that it might have been her fault. Well, yes, your stuff is your fault. But Chang-ryul being an ASS is totally not your fault. Maybe she would’ve given herself completely if you had been a trustworthy boyfriend, dude. Ever think of that?
Then, the guy has the nerve to take a call from In-hee, thereby proving me right, so thank you very much, Show. He lets it slip that he’s living with her, which is the blow that Kae-in needs to be disillusioned. She can’t believe he’s here to see her, while still living with In-hee. Once a cheater…you know the rest. Kae-in can’t believe how pathetic he’s making her feel, up to the bitter end—this makes her angry, (good girl—use that anger) and she tells him to go.
Kae-in trudges back in, and Jin-ho is lying in wait. He rips into her for not having more pride, calling her stupid: “You really are a puppy, getting abandoned, then forgetting all about it, running out happily when you’re called. Do you know how pitiful you look right now?” She tells him to stop, but he’s all riled up. But so is she, so she responds with violence, hitting him with pillows and beating his chest in frustration. There now, was that cathartic? Was it sexy? Oh, is that not where this is going?
Kae-in cries out, “Why does everyone think I’m such a pushover? What did I ever do that was so wrong? Why are you all making me so pathetic? Why?” Jin-ho unhelpfully but truthfully tells her that she’s doing it to herself.
Kae-in: “A person like you has never waited all day for a phone call from the person you like. Or felt that your heart might burst, just from looking at this person. You could die and come back from the grave and never know. The person who made me feel that way told me to come outside. No matter how wrong he was, I want to hear him out. What can I do? I’m just built like this, so what can I do?”
Both of them have tears in their eyes as she says this, and the way they feed off each other’s performances in this scene is their first real connection for me.
They drink, and Kae-in recounts what Chang-ryul said. Jin-ho appropriately calls out Chang-ryul’s BS, and advises her to forget him. When she says she can’t let go of the realization that the whole thing may have been her fault, Jin-ho tells her to make him regret losing a woman like her.
That sparks an idea in Kae-in’s head. She looks over at him longingly and leans onto his arm, asking, “Will you…make a woman out of me?”
Oh, my. Is it getting hot in here?
Either someone’s getting laid or someone’s getting a makeover. Is it sick if I’m equally happy either way? I like that the dynamic has shifted in this episode from straight-up nagging and hating to a more tolerant tenuous friendship between our leads. They show their affection (still platonic) in very different ways—Kae-in wanting to let Jin-ho be himself around her, Jin-ho wanting for Kae-in to value herself—but both are finding a home in each other that they desperately needed. The first three episodes were set-up and near-naked hijinks, fun to be sure; but now we’ve got some real emotional openness and vulnerability, so I’m excited to see how we’ll mix all those elements up from here on out.
Also, some speculation as an afterthought:
Jin-ho has yet to figure out the design “secret” of Sang-go-jae, because he knows that the han-ok fusion style isn’t all there is to it. This is pure speculation on my part, but I think it has something to do with the layout, and in particular the layout of windows and doors, creating visibility through spaces. I don’t know if it’s because the director just likes to shoot through windows and mirrors, but every room in that house has an opening through which you can see the rest of the house.
I have an idea that if you were to open up all the windows and doorways, you could see every part of the house from another. If that turns out to be true, it might have something to do with the architect’s obsessive love for his wife, wanting to see her at all times (in the loving doting way, not the creepy stalker way, one hopes).
Just a thought. Please don’t spoil me either way if you know. It might be a much more complicated architectural answer, but it’s a writerly thought (as in that’s how I would do it) because it’s romantic to think of Kae-in’s father, young and in love, not wanting to be parted from his love for more than five minutes, so keeping her always in his line of sight. Well, both co-dependent and romantic. No one’s perfect.