Personal Taste: Episode 8
What a difference a week makes. Everyone comes flying out of the closet, and the ensuing angst isn’t even the half of it. The comedy, the sincerity, the confluence of events—all hit a high this week as our characters discover that their hearts are doing things separate from their minds. In this episode, entitled “Kae-in’s Revenge,” exes pop out of the woodwork and fuel the story forward in unexpected ways, leading our couple closer together…and further apart.
EPISODE 8 RECAP
Jin-ho continues driving like a madman down the streets of Seoul, and I can’t even focus on the angst because I’m like “Stop the car! Boy, I will reach right in there and MAKE you stop!” Crazy driving makes me anxious. People end up in comas and forget who they loved only to discover it the day their soulmate is standing at the altar with someone else…oh, I’m getting carried away. Are you at least wearing your seatbelt?!
Back with Kae-in’s B-side and ultimate smack-a-thon with Chang-ryul, he tells her to stop feeling sorry for Jin-ho because he’s just a low-down scumbag who’s using Do-bin’s sexual orientation to manipulate his way into getting the Dahm project. In-hee of course is witnessing all this and stows that tidbit away for her future wily plans. Kae-in spits back that there’s no way Jin-ho would do that; he’s not the kind of person to use and abuse, unlike YOU, Han Chang-ryul. Nice. She defends Jin-ho’s honor, saying that she truly knows him.
Kae-in leaves Jin-ho a voicemail, telling him not to drive in that mood, and to just pull over and take a deep breath. Thankfully he listens and pulls over by the river. But it turns out he’s got other things to ponder, as today is also the anniversary of his father’s death. He goes home, where Mom, Hye-mi, and Sang-jun are preparing the table.
Sang-jun comes into Jin-ho’s room, commenting on Jin-ho’s perfect penmanship, saying that Jin-ho should consider himself lucky that Sang-jun stays by his side, since he’s the type to be singled out and rejected by other men (he means this in a juvenile, schoolyard way). But when Jin-ho doesn’t respond right away, he squeaks: “Are you mad at me?” Haha.
Sang-jun wonders if something happened with the Dahm project, and starts sniffing around (literally), saying that he smells something fishy. And who could resist eau de Min-ho? Hye-mi catches him mid-sniff, and points out how weird this looks. She asks, “Do you like men, Sang-jun oppa?” Jin-ho’s like, what’s the deal with all the gay in my life right now?
Hye-mi gets called out by Mom, and Sang-jun turns to Jin-ho: “Do you think…could it be that I’m really in love with you? If that clueless girl Hye-mi noticed something, then maybe…I’m in love with you?” YES! Yes, that’s what I’ve been saying all along!
Jin-ho doesn’t even bat an eyelash: “Get out.” Sang-jun: “Oooh, jagi, you’re being so cold right now it’s sexy.” AHAHAHAHA! You are SO in love with him!
But Jin-ho’s not in the mood for jokes: “I said get out.” Sang-jun gives a playful “okay,” giving up the games, and shouts out at Mom for a blind date set-up. Omona, I love this guy. Jin-ho is just infinitely better because he’s best friends with this guy; that’s how awesome he is.
Jin-ho honors his father, and I’m sure he’s wondering if his actions of late are letting his father down, but in my book, that courageous outing—out of compassion and sensitivity—makes him the best kind of man. Well, initial lie to Kae-in notwithstanding. But that was a misunderstanding that snowballed into lunacy, and it’s sort of too late to be straight with her. Heh…heh, heh. Come on, you have to let me have ONE pun. I’ve been such a good girl!
Back at home, Kae-in debriefs Young-sun on the events of the day, and Young-sun agrees that Jin-ho was very brave. Kae-in adds that she also slapped Chang-ryul. Young-sun, mouth agape, asks how on earth she had the balls to do that, all of a sudden. Kae-in says she doesn’t even know what came over her, but when Chang-ryul called Jin-ho “dirty,” her hand just came up out of nowhere. Young-sun wonders if maybe Kae-in’s got some other feelings towards Jin-ho, since this is such an uncharacteristically bold thing for her to do. Kae-in insists (a little too much) that it’s just friendship, nothing more.
Jin-ho and Sang-jun are out for a drink, and Sang-jun notices that something’s wrong with Jin-ho. Was it the telltale kdrama sign of angst: pounding soju? Jin-ho wonders why life is so hard, as he silently drinks, and thinks back to Do-bin and Kae-in’s reactions to his coming out.
He comes home, where Kae-in is up waiting for him. She timidly asks why he went to such lengths, outing himself that afternoon. Jin-ho replies that when Chang-ryul asked him if he was using Do-bin, in that moment he could see Do-bin’s face. “Those eyes…looked so sad. I couldn’t not say it wasn’t true.”
But he wonders aloud, “Could that have been it? What if it was my competitive streak with Chang-ryul? Or maybe, I really was using Director Choi.” Kae-in is quick to prove him wrong. Jin-ho asks why she’s so firmly on his side. Kae-in: “Because we’re friends. Friends are supposed to take your side no matter what.” Jin-ho smiles, and points out that she’s always getting hurt that way. Kae-in scoffs that she’d never be hurt by Jin-ho. That makes him feel guilty enough to start confessing: “Actually, I…” But she cuts him off. No! Why must you interrupt the man when he’s about to confess his un-gay-ness for you! Why?
She goes back into her workshop, and Jin-ho follows, offering his help. They banter back and forth about work, and Jin-ho offers to buy up all her furniture if he does well, but Kae-in is quick to veto that. She’s got her pride as an artist—it’s the one thing that’s kept her going all these years, and it’s clear that Jin-ho’s impressed by this aspect of Kae-in’s otherwise doormatty personality.
He goads her, “Do you even know what pride is?” At that, she reaches slyly over to her chainsaw, making Jin-ho jump back and cry out for her to put it back down. HAHA. Jin-ho reacts like a little girl who’s seen a mouse: “When I moved in I almost died of a heart attack from that thing! Put it down!” Kae-in picks it up and moves closer: “How’s my pride, now?” Jin-ho finally concedes, with a thumbs up: “It’s the best.” Oh my god, how much more do I love their interactions when there’s heavy machinery involved? I’d love to see her wield a nail gun to make him do the dishes.
The next morning, they’re off in Jin-ho’s car, and Kae-in has done her version of looking nice, wearing a cute bowler hat and some lipstick. She adorably points it out to Jin-ho, seeking his approval, but he’s like, isn’t it because you didn’t wash your hair? Heh. She concedes. He drops her off at her bus, where she runs to barely catch it, being her usual bumbling self. But this time instead of getting exasperated, it makes Jin-ho smile as he watches her.
She gets on the bus and opens the window, leaning out just to wave at Jin-ho as he drives by, and the smile that breaks across his face…I can only describe that as pure unadulterated joy. I don’t know if it’s just because he’s been such a stiff serious fellow until now that the contrast is so stark, but his smile just makes me involuntarily grin from ear to ear, clutching my cheeks from smile ouchies.
When Kae-in goes to work, Chang-ryul is lying in wait, and wants to have a word. Instead of kicking him in the groin, like she ought, she goes to have coffee with him. When she’s short and snide with him, he has the nerve to wonder why she wasn’t like that when they were together—he would’ve grown less tired of her, see. Oh, is THAT what you dragged me here to say, jackass?…is what I want her to say. But she listens for a while as he tells her he wants to get back together. He’s sorry, he’s regretful, he’s hurting, blah, blah. Listen, buddy…you blew your shot the day you walked the queen of the vampires down the aisle. But you’re free to grovel anytime.
At Jin-ho’s office, they find out that MS Group has changed the prerequisites for the Dahm designers, and celebrate the news. Jin-ho feels guilty, but doesn’t betray why he’s in no mood to celebrate. The Hans over at Mirae also hear the news, and get very upset, and I’m thinking, what’s the big deal? If you’re such a big architecture firm, can’t you just use your big resources and make a good design? I know they’re the “bad guys,” but I hate one-dimensional villains more than anything. I mean, this is just the qualifying round. If you’re such stiff competition, let’s see it in the work, people.
But then, the real villainy begins. Chang-ryul meets with a private investigator, and assigns him to do a background check on Jin-ho. Private life, the gay, everything. Okay, that’s more like it. Bring it on, dirtbag!
In another coffee shop, Young-sun has just told Sang-jun about Jin-ho’s coming out, and Sang-jun omo-omo-omonas all over the place. Young-sun asks if he knows about Jin-ho’s relationship with Do-bin, causing Sang-jun’s eyes to roll into the back of his head.
And when he reacts badly, she adds that he can’t be mad since he’s been two-timing with Tae-hoon anyway. Kae-in told her about the two of them wearing couple-tees (HA!) and being lovey dovey with each other. Sang-jun is on gay overload from all the news, and even the way he hangs his head down is funny.
Young-sun asks if Sang-jun cheated on Jin-ho first, and Sang-jun’s “Omo, what are you talking about?” seems more like a declaration that he would never cheat on his Jin-ho. Heh. Young-sun muses that relationships between men and women are hard, but perhaps the ones between men are even more complicated. Oh, you haven’t even uncovered the first layer of complicated in gaydom, sister. There’s levels and sublevels, and branches with words you’ve never even heard of. He’s so agitated that when he gets up to leave, he walks right into the glass wall of the coffee shop, making me die of laughter. That sight gag’s a classic for a reason.
Sang-jun rushes back to the office to ask Jin-ho how he could have outted himself in front of Director Choi and Chang-ryul. Jin-ho asks how on earth he found out about that, and Sang-jun says that “Young-sun unni” told him. Jin-ho, no matter how gay-sensitive, is not cool with the male appropriation of the word “unni,” heh, so he puts a stop to that. He heads out to meet with Do-bin, and Sang-jun asks, “To go out on a date?” Jin-ho looks back at him like, dude, seriously? And Sang-jun looks back all, what?
Jin-ho leaves, and Sang-jun tries to convince him that re-outing himself as straight now will only make the situation worse; maybe they should use the opportunity as a gift from heaven and work hard on the project, righting wrongs later. But Jin-ho doesn’t see it that way, which is why he’s the hero, right?
He meets with Do-bin, and thanks him for creating the opportunity for him with such good feelings. (Note that he calls Do-bin’s feelings for him “good” as opposed to Chang-ryul’s very pointed use of the word “dirty” in reference to those same feelings.) Jin-ho: “But…I can’t return those feelings to you.” Do-bin closes his eyes, not wishing to betray his heartbreak.
Jin-ho says that he knows it’ll seem like he used Director Choi, but he wanted to be honest now, rather than use his feelings. It’s the best thing he can say under these circumstances, but I would really rather him just fess up to being straight, since what’s one more confession to add once you’re already breaking his heart, one way or another?
Do-bin reacts very graciously, asking if Jin-ho’s trying to make him out to be the bad guy. He didn’t make the opportunity for Jin-ho’s firm because of his feelings; he simply wants Jin-ho to do his best for the Dahm project. But his eyes betray tears and a wounded heart. He’s not ready to take Jin-ho’s rejection at face value, and offers a fishing trip. The hope in his eyes kills me. Jin-ho tells him that he’ll repay the kindness by putting his all into the project, and leaves. Methinks this conversation is not over, and Jin-ho will be making me cry if he breaks Do-bin’s heart any further.
In-hee catches Jin-ho on his way out, and asks him to buy her dinner to thank her, and am I the only one who’s thinking, who asks for someone to buy them a thank-you dinner? If you have to ask someone for a thank-you dinner, chances are, they’re not thankful anymore! Anyway, Jin-ho finally takes her out to dinner, if only to shut her up, and In-hee tells him about Kae-in’s slap the other day, wondering if maybe Kae-in has other feelings for Jin-ho. Okay, nosey noserson. Jin-ho’s clearly not interested in what she has to say, either, because the entire time, he’s doing this:
She adds that when she started to work for Director Choi, she had entertained aspirations of becoming Mrs. Choi and the heir to MS Group (well why don’t you just tattoo “Golddigger” on your forehead, then?), but she never felt that Do-bin was a “man,” the way that she keeps feeling toward Jin-ho. Jin-ho, annoyed, asks why he has to talk about this, and gets up to leave. In-hee lays on one last thing: “What made him move into Sang-go-jae? Must have just been coincidence, right?” Oh, you bug-eyed twit! Jin-ho doesn’t answer and leaves. In-hee smirks, making me want to slam that plate of food in her face.
Speaking of characters who make me want to do petty things, Chang-ryul’s father lies in wait for Kae-in to come home, then takes the time to tell her things…that shouldn’t be said. I mean, even from his perspective, these are stupid things to say. He tells her that he’s sorry for what Chang-ryul did, and that if they had known who’s daughter she was, they never would have treated her that way. Er, what now? Is there someone on this planet to whom that speech would give the warm fuzzies? I don’t get you, scarface. An actually effective evildoer would ply her with compliments about her person, not her birthright, revealing the truth of your evil ways. Dumbass. Kae-in responds like anyone would—in abject horror.
She goes home, huffing and puffing in disbelief, and then Young-sun comes over to send her over the edge: someone has bought all of Kae-in’s furniture off of Young-sun’s website, and the buyer? Han Chang-ryul. Kae-in can feel herself going stark raving mad under the surface.
Jin-ho comes home to the sound of chopping wood, and rushes over to find Kae-in bleeding all over her workshop. He rushes over to help her, but she goes straight to the bathroom to run her bleeding hand under water. He knows something’s wrong, and says, “You know people have a funny habit of hurting themselves when they’re angry.” Kae-in: “Because I’m stupid. They all think that I’m so easy.”
The next day she meets with Chang-ryul and coldly asks why he bought all her chairs. He says that he was trying to contact Young-sun (to try the friend angle) and saw the chairs, so he bought them because they’re important to her, adding that he’s going to donate them because he wants to be like her. Kae-in looks like she might be softening a little bit, and then she asks if he really wants to start over with her. Chang-ryul beams in surprise.
Back at home, Kae-in does a head-stand to help her think better, and when that doesn’t work, she goes for a run. Jin-ho sweetly stands watch over her as she does all this, finally stopping her to ask what on earth is going on. She just looks up at him with determination and says, “I’m going to get my revenge!”
On their way back home, Jin-ho tells her she’s not cut out for vengeance, and Kae-in insists that she can do it. Jin-ho tries to convince her by telling her about his mom, the person he loves most in this world. Aw. He says that Mom wants to get her revenge as well, but she’ll never be able to, because she’s too sensitive—the second she lays eyes on her opponent, tears come flowing first. Jin-ho: “Do you know why I became friends with you in the first place? Because you are exactly like my mom. That means you’ll never be able to get your revenge.” It’s sweet and actually a compliment, but it’s not what Kae-in wants to hear right now.
She bangs her head against Jin-ho’s back in frustration. It’s so cute that Jin-ho is constantly this giant wall that she’s running into and hanging off of in comical ways. Back at home Kae-in gets sworn in as Lady Vengeance, under the tutelage of Teacher Jin-ho. Jin-ho asks her again if she really feels the need to do this; he’d rather her just move on. Kae-in: “What about an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose?” Jin-ho: “It’s eye for an eye…and a tooth for a tooth.” Heh, well you said she’d be bad at revenge.
They stand in the bathroom, and Kae-in looks at herself in the mirror, about to say something, then losing her nerve. She insists she can’t do it, but Jin-ho teases her: “You don’t want revenge, do you? With confidence, now!” Kae-in looks timidly at herself in the mirror, and says: “I am pretty.” HA. Jin-ho’s teaching her to say self-affirming things in the mirror!
It’s simultaneously cute, funny, embarrassing, and empowering—because what woman doesn’t deserve a friend who will teach her to do this? But man, is it hard to do. Kae-in hilariously tries out statements like “You’re sexy!” and “You are perfect,” all the while with Jin-ho smiling to himself at her utter adorableness. Hands down the cutest scene of the episode.
The next day she’s ready for her final test—they go on that date that Jin-ho proposed in the last episode. Kae-in comes out all dolled up, making Jin-ho’s face go gaga. Such a sucker for that moment. Such a cliché, but oh so satisfying.
She walks over to the car, but he stops her, opening her door for her, saying, “Get in, princess.” Kae-in tells him to stop grossing her out with the sweet talk (heh) but he reminds her that a woman who values herself gets treated well. So he tries it again: “Get in, princess.” And she responds royally, making him laugh.
They go to the movies, and Jin-ho asks her what she wants to see. As per usual, Kae-in defers the choice to him, but Jin-ho teaches her to assert her opinions. Jin-ho suggests an action-adventure. Kae-in: “Don’t be ridiculous! We will watch a romantic comedy!” Haha. She’s learning!
But the fun gets interrupted by Yoon Eun-hye’s cameo appearance. She’s Eun-soo, Jin-ho’s ex, and although they never say as much in front of Kae-in, she can pick up on the more-than-friends vibe. She asks if Kae-in is Jin-ho’s girlfriend, which he denies, but then Kae-in says, “then what am I, your boyfriend?” speaking of course platonically, not knowing the context.
The three of them go on a really awkward coffee date, where Eun-soo asks how they met. Kae-in starts to tell her of the encounter involving butts…but Jin-ho shoves her drink in her mouth, shutting her up out of embarrassment. Eun-soo and Jin-ho reminisce a little about their college days and all the time they spent studying in the library, and then Eun-soo gets up to leave. There’s a quick nod to Coffee Prince on a close-up of the mug (they are at a Coffee Prince shop) and overall Yoon’s cameo is nicely understated and not fourth-wall-collapsing.
Jin-ho walks her outside, and she asks if he ever regrets not stopping her from going abroad. He just says he’s sorry. Eun-soo says that she wants to have someone to watch movies with before she runs into Jin-ho again, say in ten years. It’s a nice sentiment and of course well-acted, that implies that she knows he’s moved on, and she will too. She adds that Kae-in seems like a good person, and walks away.
Kae-in comes out, and tells Jin-ho that he and Eun-soo seem like exes. He replies, “Apart from being a man or a woman, she’s the person who bewitched me most. She was a kindred spirit to me.” Kae-in: “I want to be like her. Someone you consider a kindred spirit.”
Later they sit outside, overlooking the city, and Jin-ho surprises Kae-in with a confession: “I like you. I always end up laughing because of you.” Kae-in is totally confused because he seems so sincere, but it turns out he’s teaching her another one of his “lessons.” Really? I’m pretty sure you don’t know the difference between reality and “lessons” anymore, pal. Stop tugging a girl’s heartstrings!
Jin-ho flashes back to when he really confessed his feelings for Eun-soo, asking her if she wanted to stop being friends. It’s adorable and it helps to flesh out Jin-ho’s character too, knowing that he has this past love and loss in his life, and is not a total workaholic who is out of touch with his heart.
They get up, but before they leave, Kae-in stops Jin-ho to write something on his back with her finger. She writes a diary entry, where she says in voiceover: “In the next, next, next life…come back to me as a man…who can love a woman.” Eeee. It’s so heartfelt, and accepting, and wistful and sad.
On the way to work the next day, Jin-ho imparts another lesson: a good sense of humor will totally reel in the men. Really? Where’s my line of dudes? Kae-in’s confident in this one: she’s got humor in spades. Jin-ho: “You slip and fall and break things…that’s slapstick, not a sense of humor.” Heh, he’s got a point. So she tells a joke, which doesn’t go over well, and then asks him to demonstrate, since he’s the teacher. But he can’t think of one right now. So she tells him to call her when he does.
Commence cuteness, with Jin-ho asking Sang-jun and Tae-hoon for jokes, and calling Kae-in all day long with new attempts to make her laugh. Meanwhile, Kae-in goes to a lumber yard to buy some materials for the playroom project. She gets a call from Chang-ryul who insists on coming to get her, and she’s cold but decides to let him dig his own grave for her sweet revenge.
Jin-ho calls her back with another joke, this time succeeding in making her laugh (with a pun, not really funny in translation), but while she’s still on the phone with him, she gets squashed by some wood beams, knocking her unconscious. Jin-ho rushes over and calls the lumber yard, where they tell him she’s been moved to the hospital.
But when he finally arrives, he’s too late. Chang-ryul is by her side…and that’s when it hits him. I know, it’s cliché that he has to see Chang-ryul there, taking care of her to know that that isn’t right—that HE should be the one at her side. But I DON’T CARE, because it makes my heart stop, the look on his face. I can’t breathe.
And then? He goes right over there, sweetly asking if Kae-in is okay, and when Chang-ryul gets in his face, he says, “I’m going to start a love with this woman, so butt out.” He pushes Chang-ryul out of the way and takes Kae-in gently by the hand, as they walk out of the hospital.
Only when he looks down at his hand, it’s empty, and she’s not there. NO! Aaaaaaack. Why art thou trying to kill me, Show?
He looks down, heart shredded, saying to himself: “You even trained her to take revenge. Why are you getting in the way, Jeon Jin-ho?” He leaves, thinking that he’s walked in on Kae-in and her white knight.
Only that couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality Kae-in isn’t letting Chang-ryul anywhere near her, physically or romantically, and won’t even let him feign concern for her (even though I do believe he’s really concerned here).
Jin-ho asks the nurse about Kae-in’s condition. She asks if he’s her guardian, which he wistfully confirms. Once he finds out that she’ll be okay, he leaves, saying to himself that this is as much as he can do for her. (Implying the larger context, for her in general, because he’s probably still planning to move out.)
Chang-ryul begs her to let him take care of her, so after a pause, she asks him where his car is, and he runs after it gleefully, telling her to wait there. And then…it ends. Whaa? Okay, that’s the weirdest ending ever. It should’ve ended with Jin-ho’s empty-hand realization. I’m going to pretend it ended there, okay Show? I think you’d rather I did that than rant about the lack of dramatic tension when you end an otherwise dramatic episode on a puzzling facial expression following unimportant minutiae about cars. Gah.
Anyway, pretending it ended where it should have, this was a rapid-fire episode filled with sparks, peppered with cuteness, and loaded with drama. I feel like with the last episode and this one, we’re finally getting the show that we’ve all been wanting Personal Taste to be, and while it shouldn’t take a show seven episodes to get there, I do love it now that we’re here.
I love that Jin-ho realizes his love, or the beginnings of love, for Kae-in in a big moment, because he’s been touting all his lessons and fancy ideas about men and women, but he’s the one who got blindsided by love. The music cues in that moment were finally spot-on, and Lee Min-ho’s performance in the last two episodes was a standout.
Kae-in’s journey is a little rougher, what with the big gay elephant in the room, but she’s got such an upbeat outlook that even her wish in her diary—that Jin-ho be reincarnated in the next lifetime as someone who could love her—is so accepting of who he is and full of love that I can’t help but want to hug her, all the time. Mostly I envy her openness, even if she’s a little on the dim side.
Now that we’re halfway through, my drama clock tells me a separation is due; I hope it’s short-lived, otherwise I’ll have to wave my chainsaw about until the cuteness resumes!
- Personal Taste: Episode 7
- Personal Taste: Episode 6
- Personal Taste: Episode 5
- Personal Taste: Episode 4
- Personal Taste: Episode 3
- Personal Taste: Episode 2
- Personal Taste: Episode 1
- Cinderella, Prosecutor, Taste: First episode impressions
- Personal Taste (the novel): Part 3
- Personal Taste (the novel): Part 2
- Personal Taste (the novel): Part 1