Personal Taste: Episode 6
I know this couple had their detractors, but come on, they’ve totally stolen your hearts, right? In this episode entitled “Sweet Roommate,” Jin-ho and Kae-in give us a lesson in chemistry, and share noodles, heartaches, cramps, and a bed. I know…I always get the toilet ones. In one deftly crafted episode, we go from friends to I-might-go-un-gay-for-you, with a lot of heart along the way.
EPISODE 6 RECAP
After getting a cold splash of bitterness from Hye-mi, Kae-in wonders aloud what on earth she could have done to deserve this. Jin-ho, furious, drags Hye-mi and Tae-hoon out of the party. Hye-mi screams and pouts and cries her makeup off, but Jin-ho sends her home and out of his hair. I find this girl very shrill and tediously childish, so the less said about her, the better.
Kae-in dries off in the bathroom, and suddenly, she’s hit with a stomachache. She enters the stall, and yelps in surprise. Oh dear.
Chang-ryul, who has witnessed all the hysterics, goes up to Jin-ho, demanding to know why Kae-in has to endure such experiences for being his date. Jin-ho throws back that the man who stood at the altar with her friend shouldn’t really be concerned about such things, should he? Well played, Jin-ho, well played.
In-hee, also having watched the events from a safe distance, stops Jin-ho and muses that his female relationships seem complicated, and that perhaps there are more than a few women who feel Jin-ho as a man. Back away slowly from the barracuda.
Kae-in finally calls Jin-ho, who rushes over to the bathroom to see if she’s okay, but she tells him that she needs…those things…you know…with the wings. Jin-ho: “What’s the what? And who’s got wings?”
Next thing you know, Jin-ho runs down the street to a convenience store, where we commence with the most hilarious thing ever: Jin-ho in a Mexican stand-off with a group of teenage girls, and a box of ultra thin flexipads with wings.
And the award for best friend of the episode goes to Jeon Jin-ho, who endures public embarrassment and overcomes his own discomfort to come to Kae-in’s rescue. Who needs a white knight when you’ve got a guy who’s not afraid to buy you tampons?
Jin-ho brings the pads to Kae-in in the women’s restroom, and when she comes out, he chastises her for calling herself a woman and not preparing for such things. Dude, life happens. Sometimes you need to borrow a pad. Kae-in tells him as much, but he attributes it to her lax grip on reality; a little harsh, but not untrue.
Kae-in doesn’t want to waste the rest of the pads, so she starts to stuff them in Jin-ho’s pockets. That’s just going too far for Jin-ho, who immediately pulls them out and tells her to throw them away. They wrestle back and forth, and it’s silly to say that it’s only funny because they’re arguing about pads in Jin-ho’s pockets, but well, IT IS. Finally Jin-ho gives in and takes the bag to the car, while Kae-in waits.
It’s the perfect opportunity for Chang-ryul to swoop in, as he’s been looking for her. He ego-maniacally assumes that Kae-in is here on Jin-ho’s arm to use Chang-ryul’s rival against him, and prove something to him. Kae-in stops him cold, saying that he’s not important to her anymore, and not to overreact. Chang-ryul starts in with the oldest string-along trick in the book, saying that HE knows what she’s really like and how she can’t close her heart to someone so easily.
Jin-ho walks in to hear the exchange, and he’s about to step in, but Kae-in stands her ground, telling Chang-ryul not to assume she’s heartbroken over him, and that she’s doing fine without him. Good girl! Chang-ryul doesn’t relent though, and puts his hands on her shoulders, insisting that she still has feelings for him. Jin-ho steps in between them and pushes Chang-ryul aside, saying that there is nothing left between them, and gets an assertion from Kae-in. And then? He grabs her HAND and they walk out the door.
Buh? You mean no wrist-grab of manly ownitude? He actually takes her by the hand as a romantic equal? Who said this was a kdrama? Not that the gesture was completely without some testosterone-laden posturing. But for me, there’s a vast difference between dragging a woman around by the wrist and holding her by the hand.
Outside, things heat up pretty quickly as Jin-ho lets his gesture sink in, and the look on his face tells me he’s more surprised than anyone. Kae-in is quick to thank him for pretending to be a man (oh THIS isn’t going to get complicated), and says that it was more satisfying than slapping Chang-ryul in the face. They hesitate, and then unlock hands just as it gets too awkward. Jin-ho says that’s what friends are for. Oh, is that what they’re for?
Back at the party, Do-bin makes a speech about the Dahm Museum project being about dreams and art, and it makes Kae-in recall something her dad wrote in his dissertation (but never said to her): “Sang-go-jae is a small world that allows my wife and my child to dream.” She adds woefully, “That’s why I’m always sorry to my father, because I’m living like a person without dreams.”
Later at home while Jin-ho ponders those words, Kae-in comes out of her room hunched over in pain, looking for some pain-killers. She’s got monster cramps and she’s all out of medicine, and the drugstores are all closed. Anyone who’s been to Korea is familiar with the infuriating practice of running around in search of a drugstore that isn’t closed by dinnertime. Try it. You’ll never leave the States without a bottle of Advil again.
Jin-ho wonders if she shouldn’t go to the hospital, and Kae-in and all the women in the audience scoff at the silly boy. Go to the hospital for menstrual cramps? That’s adorable. She says she’ll just have to suck it up and get through the night. Unable to do anything to help, Jin-ho does the cutest possible thing: he googles how to relieve cramps. I mean, who does internet research on how to relieve cramps for his roommate? I need to trade in my roommate for a new model.
He brings her ginger tea, and Kae-in says that even in her pain she’s happy because she has a boyfriend to share her cramps with. (She’s saying “boyfriend” here in the platonic, gay way). She drinks the tea and they say goodnight. But a while later, Jin-ho comes back to check on her, and she’s still writhing in pain, so he decides he can’t just sit around anymore. He gets into the car and rushes over to his mom’s house and endures clingy whining from Hye-mi (brave lad) to score some pain-killers.
He rushes back and gives Kae-in the medicine. She wonders where he got them at this time of night, and when he says “home,” she asks why he’s renting from her if home is so close. He has to lie about it being far from work, and tells her to take the pills. But she’s so moved by his gesture that she bear-hugs him, saying, “I love you. I love you, Friend.”
And I have to say, moments like this make me appreciate this drama’s slow build from roommates to friends to future goodness, because if that’s the result of the gay misunderstanding, I’m all for it.
Jin-ho is taken aback, because although Kae-in thinks of him as her gay best friend, he is actually starting to feel her presence as the kind of woman that he’s teaching her to be, first with the hand-holding, and now again with the hug. He tries to escape, but Kae-in asks for one more favor…
…and Jin-ho concedes to rub her tummy, grumbling at first, but then lovingly reciting children’s rhymes to her in the end. Kae-in tells him, with tears in her eyes, that In-hee used to do this for her. She knows that she ought to hate her, so it would be easier to let it go and walk away, but because of all the good memories, she can’t do that.
So Jin-ho softly recites the same rhyme, substituting “father” for “mother,” as he rubs her tummy. It’s kind, and sweet, and innocent. Kae-in thanks him, saying that her father never did that for her when she was a kid. She tells Jin-ho that he’s like a friend and a father to her, and it makes me sad to think how lonely she’s been all this time. Jin-ho reassuringly pats her on the shoulder, making her smile through her tears.
The next morning, Young-sun and her young son come over to the house, and when Kae-in doesn’t answer, they go to wake her up…only they find this little tableau instead…
The little boy looks up at Mom, asking “Did aunty Kae-in get married?” Jin-ho sees them and bolts up, and the kid follows him to the bathroom, demanding an explanation. “When did you marry aunty Kae-in?” Jin-ho says he didn’t. “Then why are you sleeping with her?” Hahaha. What an apt question, kid. Jin-ho has no answer, and he shoos the boy away, so he doesn’t have to be the one to explain, “Well, there’s birds and bees, and some of them are gay…” Yeah I’d run away too.
In the kitchen, Young-sun asks how they can sleep in the same bed, gay or no gay. Kae-in explains that Jin-ho went to great lengths to relieve her cramps, from getting her medicine to rubbing her tummy. She adds that Jin-ho is a really good person, and that sleeping in his arms was surprisingly comfortable, like falling asleep in dad’s arms, something she’s never been able to do. Young-sun wonders if Kae-in must’ve saved a nation in a past life (a common Korean idiom to mean “you’re lucky beyond all measure of reason”).
Young-sun has actually come by because she needs the roommates to help model for her, and convincing Jin-ho takes some doing, but Young-sun’s poor-me sob story plus little boy’s cute “ajusshi is mean!” pretty much seals the deal. What follows is a family-concept photoshoot, where they go from stiff and awkward, to downright adorable as Young-sun makes them do all manner of cutesy things like kiss each other on the cheek. If only we all had best friends orchestrating such convenient excuses to get all smoochy.
Jin-ho acts put out and against all the kissing, but his glances reveal a much more complicated reaction. When Young-sun has Kae-in sit in Jin-ho’s lap and kiss him on the cheek, Jin-ho smiles instantly, and they feel a spark, causing both of them to avert their eyes from all the awkward tension.
It’s clear that Jin-ho’s starting to feel something for Kae-in, and it’s been building with every moment of physical closeness between them. Kae-in has yet to feel it as strongly, or perhaps as coherently as Jin-ho, since she thinks he’s gay. She assumes he’s not smiling in the photoshoot because he can’t see a woman in that way, leading to Young-sun’s hilarious suggestion that he pretend Kae-in is Sang-jun. Now THAT’S a photoshoot I’d like to see.
In-hee and Chang-ryul are having it out again, this time because Chang-ryul wants In-hee to come to dinner with one of his stepmoms. In-hee refuses, of course, saying that she’s no longer his fiancée, and also that she thinks it’s weird for him to be so close to all seven of his stepmoms. Yes, it’s weird, but it’s probably what he needed to do in order to deal with his scary evil father his whole life, so I’d cut the weasel some slack.
After a hard day’s work, Kae-in sets up Jin-ho with a foot spa and some lemon tea, even trying to give him a massage…up his thigh…uhhhh. Are you new? Jin-ho puts a stop to that right quick before the censors call the network.
They sit down to have dinner with all the side dishes that Young-sun gave them as a thank-you, and Kae-in doesn’t even get a bite in before Jin-ho starts lecturing her about her eating habits. Kae-in thinks she did a really great job at the party and made Chang-ryul regret losing her, so she doesn’t need any more training, thank you.
But Jin-ho corrects her, saying that Chang-ryul’s reaction was about Jin-ho, not her. Hello, ego much? Isn’t it interesting that both Chang-ryul and Jin-ho are insisting to her that it’s about them, when in fact it’s really all about her? Silly rabbits. Jin-ho decides that she still has a long way to go, and cuts her dinner portion down to a third. He also tries to correct her speech to be more sophisticated and polished, less slangy and blunt. Thankfully, she doesn’t listen.
Later Kae-in comes out and presents Jin-ho with a present. She’s made him a coat rack with a funny little bird’s nest on top, as a way to say thank you for his cramp-relieving ways. He just says brusquely that it seems like it might be useful, but it’s clear that he’s touched by the gesture. Kae-in asks why he can’t just be nice and grateful, to which he responds in her favorite way: by offering to take her out for food.
They go to a rest-stop for tourists to eat noodles, and Kae-in eats to her heart’s content, and even lets out a belch afterward, promising not to do such things in front of other men. She asks why they came all the way out here for noodles, and Jin-ho replies that he likes to come here sometimes because he likes seeing people on their way to somewhere else. He hasn’t really been on any trips since he went as a child with his dad.
Kae-in asks why he never went on college trips, and Jin-ho says that he was too busy studying. He had promised to be strict on himself in order to win back what he had lost. Kae-in asks him to take her on that trip that he’ll take when he finally gets back what was his. Jin-ho says he’ll think about it.
On the drive back they play a word game, and Kae-in thinks to herself in voiceover that her heart is full because of her friend that the Spring wind blew into her life—not a man, but not a woman. (Recalling the quack fortuneteller’s words from a while back). “But a feeling I can’t understand has begun…” Batten down the hatches, people. Hurricane Gay-But-Not-Gay-Love is rolling in!
The next day, President Han meets with President Choi, head of MS Group, the company behind the Dahm museum. Han plants an evil seed of doubt in the President’s mind, suggesting that he need not waste time with small-time architects who can’t give assurances as to the successful completion of such a large-scale project.
Over at Do-bin’s gallery, Kae-in has arrived for her meeting, much to the surprise of In-hee, who can’t suffer Kae-in to have anything of her own. I’ve decided that In-hee is like a bizarre version of an All-About-Eve doppelganger; she puts Kae-in down for being less than her, but in the end she wants everything that Kae-in has—true love, real heartbreak, loyal friends—all of which she’ll never have because she’s empty.
Do-bin wants Kae-in to create a space for kids to run around and play freely while their parents tour the museum, and Kae-in asks to consult with the designer on what kind of furniture they’ll need. Do-in informs her that she’ll be doing the remodeling herself, design, furniture, and all. Do-bin believes that she can do it, since she must’ve learned things from her father, and at that Kae-in is quick to declare that she can’t, and she doesn’t want to smear her father’s good name either. Do-bin insists he chose her based on her own talents, and challenges her: “Don’t you want to test yourself and find out what you can accomplish?”
Kae-in accepts the challenge and thanks Do-bin for the chance to prove herself. She impresses him by saying that bumping into In-hee won’t be a problem, and Do-bin comments that although she and Jin-ho are totally different, there’s an inherent similarity there too.
At Jin-ho’s office, Sang-jun receives a disturbing email from MS Group, outlining new prerequisites for architecture firms submitting designs. Basically they have to have boatloads of experience and truckloads of money to back the project, or they needn’t bother apply.
Do-bin rushes over to President Choi, who as it turns out, is his father. He argues that the whole point of the Dahm project is to find innovators, and if he shuts out small firms, it prevents him from finding the best ideas for the museum. Do-bin asks his father to entrust the project to him like he agreed to initially, but Dad doesn’t want to lose face with such a large project. So Do-bin throws down his last hand: he threatens to leave again.
Over with the other estranged father-son pair, Chang-ryul is upset that Dad made another backdoor deal to eliminate Jin-ho from the competition, when he said that he could win, fair and square. Dad thinks that’s childish, since winning is what’s important. And it says something that Chang-ryul doesn’t agree with Dad and would rather put up a fair fight.
Dad has also called In-hee to his office, where he blabbers on about the marriage, and In-hee awkwardly has to tell him that she and Chang-ryul are over. This is news to Dad who insults her by implying that she’s beneath them. In-hee comes back with a harsh truth of her own, saying that she may have fallen for him based on his wealth, but realized there were things that money couldn’t buy, and at the wedding she realized the kind of man she wanted to marry—someone she could trust and respect—wasn’t Chang-ryul.
Chang-ryul needs to have some words, so he takes her to the river. Again with the river! You’re just going to get dumped there!
Chang-ryul recounts the night that he decided he was going to stay the night at Kae-in’s (read: finally get some) and then got kicked out, and In-hee invited him to grab a drink. He wondered then why Kae-in didn’t see him as a man, and In-hee had replied that she did. If I had even an ounce of sympathy left for you at this point, it’s pretty much gone now.
Chang-ryul says he started to fall for In-hee from that night on, and eventually fell in love with her and wanted to get married. He asks why she said that to him that night. Was it because of his wealth or status? In-hee replies that it wasn’t…it was because Kae-in loved him so much. She saw Kae-in so happy and in love that she began to want what she had, and found herself falling for the man that Kae-in saw in Chang-ryul. But then in the end she realized what she loved was a figment of Kae-in’s perception, of her pure and undying love, and not who Chang-ryul really was. See? She’s totally single-white-female-ing her. And so…unaware of what love is. It’s sad, really. Okay, it would be sad if she weren’t such a snot.
Jin-ho and Sang-jun brood, and Tae-hoon brings news that President Han was behind MS Group’s new prerequisites. Well duh. Jin-ho gets fired up, and goes to see Do-bin at the gallery. In-hee tells him that Do-bin is out, probably trying to talk his father out of the changes, but she says that President Choi is not one to change his mind once it’s set. In-hee sees that he’s upset, so she offers to buy him a drink. Really? Well you’re nothing if not transparent. When he declines, she tries again: she could use a ride home…but Jin-ho declines yet again.
He wants a drink, but not the social kind. He sits alone at a pojangmacha and drinks soju…until he collapses on the ground.
In-hee comes home, and Chang-ryul is waiting. He tells her that she can have the apartment and that he’s leaving. He apologizes for causing her any trouble, and tells her not to confuse fantasy with reality anymore. His voice is sad and defeated, but also at peace too. He tells her to live well, and walks away.
Something stirs in In-hee, and she says tearfully that she’s sorry for getting in between him and Kae-in. Chang-ryul, heartbroken, tells her next time to love someone that she loves, not someone else’s love. She says she will. Bets on how long that’ll last?
Chang-ryul says that he really did love her, which maybe In-hee really hears for the first time ever. She’s sort of discovering this love as it’s leaving her, and even though I assumed she was dead inside, she sheds a tear. He goes, and she cries, as Chang-ryul listens to her from outside the door.
Kae-in decides to wait outside for Jin-ho because she’s worried that he’s still not home and not answering his phone. He stumbles home, drunk as a skunk and teetering back and forth. Kae-in rushes over to help him home, and he greets her hilariously: “Oh! My friend Park Kae-in!” He blathers on and on about his friend Kae-in, who’s like an enemy, doesn’t have a worry in the world, and everything is new to her. Basically he chatters away about his dear friend while Kae-in struggles to get him inside and coherent again.
Inside, Kae-in asks why he drank so much, and Jin-ho answers that there are days like this, when you need to drink. Tears welling in his eyes, he starts to open up to her.
Jin-ho: “I raced to the death, hearing people call me crazy. I raced to the death, but I’m always just a child. A child who couldn’t do anything when his father died. So unjust it makes me crazy. There was nothing I could do. Just a child hitting the wall. No matter how far I run, I’m always in the same place.”
His tears fall in little droplets as he talks about his father, and Kae-in listens, her own eyes filling with tears in empathy. She reaches over and cups his face in her hands, saying, “Jin-ho-shi, are you crying?” He looks into her eyes as she wipes a tear from his face. They lock eyes and melt in each other and in the moment. Jin-ho leans toward her, closes his eyes, and gives her a kiss.
Woo! I don’t know about you guys, but I did NOT think we were going to get to first base so quickly. I’m impressed at Jin-ho’s moves (not to mention Kae-in’s), although we’ll have to wait to find out how much of it was fueled by liquid courage. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of back-peddling and excuse-making, but now we’ve upped the ante and the entanglements should be delightfully explosive.
This was the first episode where I was happy about the speed of events and the development of plot points, for the most part. They seemed more carefully thought-out: for instance Jin-ho and Kae-in’s growing friendship and intimacy marked by the level of physical contact—from hand-holding, to hugs, to cheek kisses, to lips. We followed a trajectory from the beginning of the episode to the end, and it sped along nicely in between. I feel like the drama is hitting its stride, and hope that it’ll continue to race along, now that there’s going to be a little angst added to the mix.
I have to say, I love Sohn Ye-jin’s skills as a seasoned actor in scenes like this one. Both players are doing a fantastic job in these quiet, soulful scenes with each other, but what gives me a lump in my throat is not Lee Min-ho’s tears, but Sohn Ye-jin’s reaction to his crying, like she can’t bear the thought of his unhappiness. The empathy just shows on her face, and these two are quite magnetic in moments like this. I’m actually anticipating the angst in this series, because I think they’ll play the hell out of it.