Personal Taste: Episode 9
The drama picks up some steam, gaining on the momentum of last week’s episodes. At this point, there are a lot of characters with partial information and who misunderstand the full truth, and nobody’s misperceptions are quite the same as anybody else’s. This could get confusing, but I think it’s to the actors’ credit that they get so into their characters that we aren’t lost about where they stand in this whole tangled mess of gay-not-gay-ness. Well, except In-hee; it’s easy to hate her. But it’s the fun kind of hate!
SONG OF THE DAY
Standing Egg – “La la la” [ Download ]
EPISODE 9 RECAP
Titled “I’m Your Man,” Episode 9 begins with Jin-ho walking away from the hospital, unseen by Kae-in, having realized his feelings for her but unable to act on them. And can I say that I do enjoy that the theme song of this scene blares, “Like a fooool…” Of course, the song means it in a romantic way (are we not all fools in love?) but I choose to also interpret this in a “Dummy, just tell her the truth!” sort of way. I know that’s what I’m yelling at my screen.
At the office, Sang-jun worries about Jin-ho, who has been out of touch since running out so suddenly. Is something wrong? This doesn’t have the ring of a work-related problem, so Tae-hoon speculates that Jin-ho’s suffering from women troubles. Enter In-hee! How appropriate — that girl never misses her cue.
While driving Kae-in home, Chang-ryul takes a call with his father. Reference to Kae-in’s name makes her think back to her degrading meeting with his father, although Chang-ryul remains unaware of this.
Surreptitiously, she texts Jin-ho asking for a response. Upon receipt, Jin-ho contemplates opening the message, but doesn’t read it.
Sang-jun and In-hee have gone out to dinner, where In-hee plies him with liquor and asks questions about whether Jin-ho is “dating anyone.” With feigned hesitation, she says that Jin-ho doesn’t seem interested in women, as though sad that he’s not available to her.
Sang-jun is drunk enough — and In-hee wily enough — that he assures her that Jin-ho is totally fair game. In fact, his “coming out” was a complete misunderstanding and therefore he can, in fact, love a woman. O liquor, mine enemy!
Arriving home, Kae-in prevents Chang-ryul from entering the house, ostensibly because she’s not ready for him to reach that level of closeness but also thinking of Jin-ho. That would be awkward.
Chang-ryul is bummed that he’s got to start all over from the lowest rung in the intimacy ladder (funny how heartbreaking betrayal does that to a girl), and Kae-in is learning from Jin-ho’s lessons and tells him that their progression may take even longer this time around. He agrees to abide by her wishes and promises to be a better man, admitting that he loved himself too much before; now he’ll love her more.
And then Young-sun arrives and pokes Chang-ryul aggressively in the chest, like all good friends ought when our besties have (seemingly) lost their minds and gone back to horrible ex-boyfriends. I do love her.
Kae-in calls Jin-ho to check in and gets a cooler response than she was expecting. She explains that the accident is why their call got cut short, and while she’s not fishing for sympathy, she’s not expecting a mere “So?” from his side. He tells her curtly that he’s spending the night at the office to work. (Because he loves you! Because it hurts too much to be in the same house when he thinks you don’t love him back! Why oh why can you not read my mind??)
Though she’s disappointed, she defends Jin-ho when Young-sun complains that he ought to show some more concern for her and her injury. Young-sun also thinks she’s off her rocker for going back to Chang-ryul, but Kae-in assures her that she knows what she’s doing. She adds, in a low mutter, that if she didn’t do this much (i.e., revenge), she “wouldn’t be able to handle it,” although she doesn’t specify what “it” is.
Alas, Jin-ho is too nice to ignore a frantic phone call from evil wench-ho In-hee, who fakes a burglary to lure him into her clutches. Ugh. She creates a mess to make it look like her apartment was ransacked, and plays the damsel in distress who needs a big strong man at her side.
When Jin-ho reluctantly comes to make sure she’s okay, she latches on to him in gratitude, explaining that she couldn’t call Chang-ryul or Kae-in. You’d think she’d refrain from bringing up how she’s forced to call someone who really doesn’t want to be here because she’s backstabbed everyone else. Not exactly a sterling character reference, yunno?
Having done the minimum and seeing that she’s safe, Jin-ho tries to leave. In-hee asks him to stay with her today (read: tonight), but he answers that it’ll be uncomfortable. She plays the gay card, saying that it shouldn’t matter with him, especially since he’s always with Kae-in. She says mock-sadly, “So Kae-in will do, but not me,” and I’m thinking, DUH!
Finally, Jin-ho sighs and concedes, staking out a spot on her couch with work to occupy him. In-hee notes that he seems very uncomfortable around her, smiling that “To me, that’s hopeful.” There’s a name for when people delight in others’ discomfort, and I’m not talking about the sexy-leather-times kind of sadism here.
At this, Jin-ho changes his mind and decides to leave, telling In-hee that it will be daylight soon.
All the while, Kae-in waits at home, glum. Clutching her Jin-ho doll, Kae-in counts sheep and tries to fall asleep. Wondering why Jin-ho is acting like this, she demands an answer from the doll.
In the morning, Kae-in peers into Jin-ho’s room, which is empty. A thought occurs to her, and she starts to look through his dresser, though she turns away at the sight of his underwear drawer, muttering, “He might think I’m a strange woman.” Oh, I think you had that covered from day 1.
Sang-jun apologizes to Jin-ho for going out for a drink with In-hee last night. Sang-jun can’t quite recall what they talked about, although there was some mention of Jin-ho…
Sang-jun asks if he’s made any progress on the Sanggojae, urging him to take some photos. Jin-ho is abiding by Kae-in’s rule not to take any, but Sang-jun has no such qualms, even offering to slip inside to take photos himself while they’re out.
Clocking Jin-ho’s reluctance, Sang-jun asks if it’s because of Kae-in. Jin-ho doesn’t respond, but when you’re best friends with this guy you’ve got to learn how to read a lot from a look, and Sang-jun seems to get how he’s feeling.
Which is when Kae-in walks into the office, giving him a mild version of the evil eye. Not a real one, just one to say, “You’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do, buddy.” She has brought him a change of underwear and socks, then she asks if he’s feeling guilty for not rushing to her side when she got hurt, only to have her looking after him like this. He denies it, but he’s touched at the gesture.
Her mood is light-hearted until he asks, “Why do you need my concern?” Shouldn’t she be focusing on her revenge? She asks, “You aren’t interested in anything but success in your job, are you?” He says yes, although his eyes say otherwise. And when she turns to go, he lets her. (Run after her, you wuss!)
Kae-in buys Do-bin a cup of coffee to thank him for all his efforts, and I like that both Jin-ho and Kae-in are becoming friendly with Do-bin, each in his/her own way. Do-bin asks if she knows the upside to unrequited love, and boy if that isn’t looking at that glass as half-full. They start listing things, like not needing to spend money on the other person, or not expecting anything in return. Kae-in adds that it’s something she can end on her own, since she’s hurting alone.
He can tell she’s got some experience in this arena and asks if she’s involved with an unrequited love now. While Kae-in isn’t sure if it’s love, she’s trying not to be a burden to him, which is something Do-bin figures he’ll also have to do.
She knows where his affections are directed, and without mentioning Jin-ho’s name she suggests that the rejection may not be because of dislike for Do-bin, but because the person may be focused on work. Or they’re acting out of courtesy. One-sided love happens when you don’t have courage to love together. He interprets this to mean that she’s telling him not to give up. (Aie, as if this weren’t complicated enough, right? I know she has good intentions, but you are going to break Do-bin!)
In-hee finds Jin-ho at the museum just as Kae-in comes by to witness the exchange. She overhears In-hee asking if he’s tired from spending the night at her house, as it didn’t seem like he slept much.
Meanwhile, Chang-ryul’s father is eager for him to win Kae-in over, and pushes him to up his game. (Love advice from Dad, eeeek.) President Han grumbles that Kae-in ought to have gotten his message, which clues Chang-ryul into the fact that Dad sought her out. Chang-ryul demands to know what he said, raising his voice to his father. Dad has no shame in admitting he told her that if he’d known who her father was, she would have merited special treatment.
Do-bin has called Jin-ho to give him helpful materials like building plans he likes. Do-bin explains that it’s not crucial info — it’s just a friend looking out for another friend — but Jin-ho feels like this is an act of pity and declines, saying that he is grateful in spirit.
Do-bin knows that this was a flimsy excuse to see Jin-ho, and says rather abashedly that he called him because he was feeling lonely. As the director here, he often finds himself left out. When he self-consciously calls his action “weak,” Jin-ho lets out a small laugh and agrees.
With Kae-in’s encouragement bolstering him, Do-bin nervously works up the nerve to suggest that they can “get to know each other better” — which might be an innocuous statement if one of them hadn’t just confessed to liking the other. Do-bin repeats Kae-in’s comment about one-sided love, and confesses that his weak move here required a lot of courage.
Chang-ryul presents Kae-in with flowers, just in time for In-hee and Jin-ho to witness the scene. In-hee sizes things up and congratulates Kae-in, then expressing gladness that Chang-ryul recovered quickly. She wishes Kae-in well, which I’m thinking is like the Kiss of Death, coming from her.
All the while, Jin-ho’s face remains stern. He knows Kae-in is doing this for her “revenge” but he’s past that stage of listening to reason, and seeing her being romanced by someone else (particularly Chang-ryul) has got him bummed.
He ends up at dinner with In-hee, who prattles on about how Kae-in looks good now that she’s on the receiving end of love. And all the while, this is Jin-ho’s face:
I mean, really! Is there any way to make it more clear that he’s just not that into her?
In-hee invites him home for a drink in thanks for yesterday, which he declines. So she pops a few pills, which naturally pique his curiosity. (Jin-ho’s too much of a nice guy to ignore my screams to IGNORE HER, she’s only after attention!)
In-hee lays it on thick, saying she got a prescription because she was so anxious after the burglary, and is still afraid of going home tonight. Won’t he spend just one more night with her? Geez louise, this girl has balls.
Jin-ho sees her home, checking to make sure it’s safe inside before sounding the all-clear. Now that they’ve confirmed that she’s safe, he’s ready to go and In-hee’s out of stalling techniques — so she moves in for the kill and swoops in for a kiss.
Angrily, he shoves her aside and tells her that she has picked the wrong guy. (Don’t you get it? HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU.) She asks, ‘Do you dislike women, or me?” and announces that this is her “declaration of war.” Romantic! She’s giving him the “courtesy” of letting him know of her intentions. One courtesy in exchange for a larger discourtesy — oh, where’s that anvil of irony?
Chang-ryul drives Kae-in home, and tells her that he heard she met with his father. He didn’t come back to her because his father made him, however — he’s not THAT calculating. (Which I can believe, if only because being calculating would require him to be a lot smarter.) He adds, if he was doing this because of her father, he wouldn’t have broken up with her the first time. His father may have other ideas, but that’s not what he’s doing.
Chang-ryul asks her to believe him, but she very naturally cannot. Though glumly, Chang-ryul backs off, conceding that it’s okay if she doesn’t believe him. His mood takes another hit when he sees that she has left behind her flowers in the car.
You know, I can’t hate Chang-ryul even though he is a toady wimp. If only he’d had this change of heart earlier, his worst side may not have gotten a chance to manifest itself. Now, he’s most certainly a douchebag in more ways than one, but I kinda like that he’s not a simple bad guy — unlike, say, In-hee.
Sang-jun is overwhelmed with suspicions regarding Jin-ho’s behavior and decides to go to Sanggojae. Tae-hoon resists the idea so Sang-jun resorts to begging him, which Hye-mi happens to see as she walks up to the office in search of Jin-ho. Although she has been saying it half in jest all along, now she wonders if Sang-jun may in fact be gay.
Grabbing a taxi, Hye-mi follows their car, which pulls up to Sanggojae. Aha! Now Hye-mi knows where Jin-ho lives, and she starts to march toward the house.
The guys hold her back and shove her into the car. Alas, she looks out the window and recognizes Kae-in, who is taking out the trash, which infuriates her. Jin-ho is living with another woman??
She’s determined to get out and confront her, but the guys shush her and protest. Finally, Sang-jun loses his patience and orders the other two home. He has business here, and he will take care of it without them.
Hye-mi goes home sobbing and blurts to Jin-ho’s mother that he’s living with a woman. Tae-hoon hurriedly gives a confusing explanation about Jin-ho being forced to do so for his career, so Hye-mi vows to uncover his reason for living there.
Sang-jun invents a story about Jin-ho leaving behind some really important documents, then asks Kae-in for a tour of the place. When she looks at him quizzically, he whips up an explanation that he’s always dreamed of living in a place like this with a wife and kids. Kae-in furrows her brow at this very un-gay dream of his, so Sang-jun hurriedly amends that it’s his mother’s dream for his life. This gives him a chance to appeal to her sympathies as he fakes tears over the heartache of not being able to do that for his mother.
Sang-jun asks for some hot tea, and while she goes to the kitchen, he whips out his camera and starts snapping away.
Jin-ho arrives home, sees that Sang-jun is here, and finds him busily taking photographs. Noting Jin-ho’s reluctance to go forward with this use-Sanggojae-for-our-project scheme, Sang-jun reminds Jin-ho why he came to live here in the first place — are his feelings for Kae-in impeding his ability to differentiate business and personal matters?
Jin-ho answers yes, that he no longer knows what’s business and what’s personal, which is tantamount to declaring that he’s in love with Kae-in. Jin-ho knows this project is important but doesn’t want to hurt someone in order to succeed — what he’s doing “will kill her twice.” Sang-jun sees that Jin-ho’s got it bad, and asks if he can really give up his work for a woman.
Jin-ho faces Kae-in and says he has something to tell her. In a grave tone, he starts to say, “I came to live in the Sanggojae…” And just then, Sang-jun interrupts, calling after a cat to cut Jin-ho off before he says something he can’t take back. Effectively distracted, Kae-in goes off in search for it while Sang-jun urges him not to say a word.
After Sang-jun leaves, there’s tension in the air between the two roommates. She’s thinking of his night spent with In-hee, while he’s thinking of her flowers from Chang-ryul. He congratulates her, which makes her think he’s being sarcastic. He asks if she can end it easily — judging from her expression when she got the flowers, she seemed to like it. She retorts that she’ll end it as soon as Jin-ho declares that the game is over and she’s made her point. He tells her that it’s her choice whether to end it or not.
It’s a pretty roundabout argument with no resolution. When he goes to his room, Jin-ho mutters to himself, “Why are you so immature, Jeon Jin-ho?”
Jin-ho turns his phone off rather than accepting a call from In-hee, so the she-devil calls Kae-in and asks her to put him on the line. Balls of steel, this one.
Kae-in hands off the phone to him like it’s diseased and slams the door behind her. Here’s one case where I wish she’d eavesdropped, because In-hee only gets a few words out before Jin-ho hangs up on her. HA.
When Kae-in takes back the phone sullenly, he asks if she’s so unperceptive that she couldn’t tell that he didn’t want to take the call. She demands, “How do I know that?”
Kae-in lets slip that she knows he spent the night with In-hee, surprising him enough to stammer. (So basically, this fight is just one big jealous, insecure mating dance.)
Jin-ho explains how In-hee’s home was burgled, which takes some of the sting away. She mumbles that even though she knows he’s not like other men, when she heard that, she felt hurt — her best friend was being stolen by In-hee again. He assures her that that won’t happen.
They’re halfway to reconciliation, but a call from Chang-ryul interrupts. She looks apologetically at him as she answers, and you practically expect Jin-ho to roll his eyes in anger (i.e., “she falling for it again!”) as he leaves.
Brooding time, which means an overuse of montages and split screens. This would be really annoying if the acting weren’t spot-on. Jin-ho’s frustrated and conflicted, Kae-in feels wounded.
In the morning, Kae-in talks to the lumber salesman, who asks if she’s better now and wonders which of her two men was her boyfriend. This is news to her, as she hears that the second guy identified himself as a friend, but his voice sounded like a boyfriend who was worried to death.
Knowing it must have been Jin-ho, she calls him out for a picnic in the park. She’s packed a lunch for him — bought, not cooked — and says she’s always wanted to do this with a boyfriend. (He snits, “Then shouldn’t you have done this with Chang-ryul?” Oh, you.) But then she explains that she’s thanking him for coming to the hospital, which he should have admitted to her. How did he even find which lumber yard she was at? He says he called them all until he found the one.
Kae-in wonders how things would have been if she had been a man — would he have felt differently about her? This is your chance to confess! But no, Jin-ho says he can’t imagine such a scenario at all.
That just gives her an idea, and she uses a piece of seaweed to fake a mustache. Since she’s wearing a bowler hat, I’m going to give her credit for going for a Chaplin vibe and not a Nazi one. Still, you couldn’t have used a bigger piece of seaweed?
And then, she actually goes and affixes a ‘stache. What I love about Jin-ho’s response is that he clearly finds her adorable, and it’s not even like he’s trying to hide it anymore.
Chang-ryul’s private eye turns up no evidence of Jin-ho’s gayitude. Somehow the investigator can assure with certainty that Jin-ho’s not gay, ’cause don’t you know all gay guys go out and register once they’ve come out? But Chang-ryul takes him at his word and immediately tries to call Kae-in, who ignores his call.
Instead, she and Jin-ho enjoy their day, playing games at an arcade and going for a walk.
Kae-in pretends to act like a guy all the way home (although, from her mannerisms and speech, her persona is more like a 60-year-old country grandpa than a chic counterpart to Jin-ho).
Jokingly, she asks Jin-ho to try dressing as a girl later “in the name of friendship.” He retorts, “I’d rather die in the name of friendship.” I love her response — she pretends to be excessively moved at this indication that he’d die for her, going down on one knee and gesticulating dramatically. Jin-ho hurries away in embarrassment.
As Kae-in watches him walk, she narrates another journal entry:
Kae-in: “I’ve deliberated for a long time about what I can do in thanks to you. I wanted to say that I love you. But I didn’t have the courage, so I decided to become a man instead. Like I am with you, I want to see you trembling because of me. Growing less and less sure of tomorrow’s weather, this has been Park Kae-in’s weather forecast.”
On the drive home, Kae-in says that in her next life, she’d like to be born a man, which is a really lovely sentiment that makes me awww. Previously, she had hoped that Jin-ho would be born straight in a next life, so that she could love him romantically. But now rather than wishing for him to change to suit her, she wishes for her to change to suit him.
He says, “I like Park Kae-in just as she is.” (Double awww. Just do it already, you two!)
Chang-ryul is in a tizzy to tell Kae-in about Jin-ho’s straightness, and calls In-hee to ask if she’s with Jin-ho. He tells her that Jin-ho’s been acting gay all along — which, of course, gets her attention. Thus In-hee rushes over to the Sanggojae to talk to Chang-ryul, trying to take him elsewhere to talk before Kae-in and Jin-ho arrive home.
Chang-ryul fixates on this revelation that Jin-ho lives in the same house as Kae-in, which infuriates him.
Before In-hee can convince him to leave, Kae-in and Jin-ho pull up together, and without warning, Chang-ryul slugs Jin-ho in the face.
Chang-ryul asks how Jin-ho can dare interfere with his life. What is he doing to Kae-in, “you dirty bastard?” Again, that word. Funny how those so obsessed with purity display so little of it in their own lives.
Jin-ho says evenly that he didn’t do anything to her. Chang-ryul orders, “Stay away from my woman.” Jin-ho returns, “Who are you to tell me what to do? Does it bother you so much that I’m with her? Do you have so little confidence?”
Chang-ryul swings to punch him again, but Jin-ho blocks him this time. So Chang-ryul backs off… then suckerpunches him in the face.
Now In-hee speaks up in defense of Jin-ho, who tries to walk away from the fight. Chang-ryul ain’t having it and winds up for another punch — so this time Jin-ho beats him to it, knocking him to the ground.
But it’s like the fight saps out of him as Kae-in rushes reflexively to check on Chang-ryul. And no matter the stuff about museums and projects and family histories, this is really the crux of the matter, isn’t it?
I’m really enjoying the performances so far, almost all the way across the board. Kae-in and Jin-ho, naturally, and Sang-jun and Young-sun. But also Chang-ryul, whose character contains aspects that are equally sympathetic (his relationship with his father) and detestable (his adherence to the epithet “dirty”). I credit Kim Ji-suk, whom I’ve never really found compelling as an actor until this year. (He has seemed so cardboard-y in prior dramas.) Chuno was his big breakout, but I love him here, and he does a wonderful job showing Chang-ryul as a rounded character.
And despite my griping, I actually find it funny to watch In-hee, because she’s just so ridiculous. This girl isn’t just confident; she’s downright delusional. While I’m not going to go into raptures over Wang Ji-hye’s acting, I think of so many versions of this character in other dramas, and so many times I hate them with a passion. The mere fact that I enjoy In-hee’s character — enjoy anticipating her downfall, to be precise — rather than itching to carve out her heart with a spork means she’s doing something right.
Do-bin is another delightful surprise, because the unwanted gay admirer could so easily devolve into a stock character, but Ryu Seung-ryong imbues his character with such vulnerability that it’s almost painful to imagine how he will handle the final rejection. When he invited Jin-ho over and tried ever so subtly to re-open that door, all his hope and uncertainty was written on his face. I appreciated Jin-ho’s letdown, which was gentle but honest, so it made me sad to see him light up again, knowing that he’s got yet more disappointment in his future.
- Personal Taste: Episode 8
- 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