These episodes were pretty tongue-in-cheek, bringing back the charm that’s been missing in the last umpteen episodes. Track suits aside, the moment above reminded me of the Royal Tenenbaums—this ensemble cast has really hit its stride, having established their character quirks and playing off each other for comedic effect.
Two things: Jung-kil bonding with Hyun-soo is actually really fun to watch. And the cute factor between Jung-in and Hyun-soo is BACK. Which means, this series is officially back in action. Let’s roll!
“If you drive a car for 70 years, it costs a lot to fix it up,” Grandpa Man-bok tells Jung-kyung, who is trying to encourage Grandpa that his illness isn’t past hope. She tells him that he can pursue treatment, but he seems resigned to his fate and asks her not to tell the family yet.
At the ddukbokki restaurant, Hyun-soo continues to meddle in the Seo family’s business. He has the Seo family dynamic to a tee, and is able to pull their emotional strings like they’re marionettes. Despite his antics, Hyun-soo’s motives couldn’t be any clearer: he wants to be near Jung-in and is trying to make space for himself within this family.
Hyun-soo lets slip that there’s a bank account for the business. Jung-kil perks up at that, and much to Ji-soo’s anxious dismay, he puts the cash in his jacket.
Though Jung-in is still keeping an emotional distance from Hyun-soo, their arguments have returned to the bickering tone they had back when Jung-in still had her spunk. “I’m Seo Jung-in!” she yells at Hyun-soo. “Do you think you’ll be able to bend my will??”
“I’m Kang Hyun-soo, I’m not a pushover either, what’s wrong with you!” he yells back.
Since the tiff with Jung-in, Jung-kil has been very careful when talking about the house, even sidestepping the topic whenever it comes up. Geum-ja calls him to say she’s heading to the house (since she thinks the Seos are there and Hyun-soo with them). He runs off to meet Geum-ja there.
He brings along some construction workers who claim they’re doing renovations on the house. It seems like Jung-kil is just putting on a show, but the crew really does inspect the house for repairs and rings up a $3,000 bill to do the necessary repairs. Jung-kil hesitates since he doesn’t have enough money… technically, that is; he does have the restaurant money in his pocket.
At Joon-bae’s restaurant, Grandpa Man-bok is buying meat—the very thing Geum-ja so long resented him for never doing. Joon-bae is surprised by the sudden change in Grandpa and jokes, “It makes it seem like you’re about to die.” The unwittingly incisive comment turns Grandpa’s mood serious.
When Grandpa gets home, Sang-hoon and Geum-ja ask about the test results, which he waves off, saying he’s just fine. The hunk of meat that Grandpa Man-bok brought is pretty ginormous, and Geum-ja calls Hyun-soo home to join the meat feast. Grandpa is in a surprisingly good mood, and he cracks a joke or two to the family’s surprise, and earns some hearty laughs.
Jung-kil is on the scent—he’d seen Grandpa leaving Joon-bae’s restaurant with the meat—and he calls Hyun-soo out of the house during their dinner. He tells Hyun-soo to take of his track jacket. Confused but eager to please, Hyun-soo asks, “Why—are you cold?”
To which Jung-kil replies, “No no, just my neck,” and takes off. He shows it to his family as Exhibit A—proof of Hyun-soo’s betrayal. (I’m not too sure I follow this rationale, but it’s cute so I’ll go along with it.)
It takes Hyun-soo a while to figure out what Jung-kil’s intent was in taking away his track jacket, but as soon as he does, he takes off running to the Seos’ halfway home. He yells from outside the window, “I’ll never eat meat again! I’m sorry! I love you Jung-in!”
It’s no Juliet-on-the-balcony moment, especially when Jung-kil opens the door and Hyun-soo love-tackles him, expecting Jung-in. Hyun-soo runs away, dodging shoes, while Jung-in giggles at how Hyun-soo has been hamming it up all day.
The diagnosis seems to have made Grandpa Man-bok a new man. He slicks his hair, puts on a suit and goes out for a date with So-nyeo. He cracks a few more corny jokes, which she says aren’t very funny at all—the family is probably just pretending to laugh at his jokes for fear of getting yelled at. But Grandpa says, it’s good to laugh—it’ll make you live longer.
Over lunch, she speaks to Grandpa more directly about having run into money issues, saying she borrowed money from Joon-bae that she is struggling to repay. She’s beginning to make her move on him (read: his money) in earnest.
Hyun-soo takes Jung-kil back to the construction site to earn back the restaurant money he’d lost. On break, they have a heart-to-heart that shows how far Jung-kil really has come, and that Hyun-soo still has room to grow.
Though Jung-kil is warming up to Hyun-soo, he still tells Hyun-soo to give up on Jung-in. Just as the Kang parents’ main objection to the marriage is Jung-kil, Jung-kil’s main objection is Hyun-soo’s parents, especially Geum-ja. He tells Hyun-soo that sending Jung-in to live in the Kang house is relegating her to a lifetime of doing laundry and delivering ddukboki under Geum-ja’s domain. It wouldn’t be long before the situation would erupt.
“I never thought about that,” Hyun-soo acknowledges.
They’re interrupted by a phone call from Secretary Kim, who agitatedly tells them that Han-se flew in his father’s face, even submitting a letter of resignation. He’s now disappeared, and is in hot water if he doesn’t return by the next day.
Han-se’s mother comes to seek out Jung-kil and Jung-in, and for the first time she’s genuinely subdued, asking Jung-in to contact to Han-se; he won’t answer the phone, but he will if Jung-in calls.
Jung-in refuses; there’s no reason for her to give in to Mrs. Lee, nor to bear any responsibilities for Han-se’s decisions. But it’s actually Hyun-soo who tells her that she should call Han-se. “You’re the only one who can reach him,” he says.
(BWAHAHAHA…. I just thought this was so ridiculous. Han-se’s hideaway is where, in the English countryside, hunting fowl???)
Jung-in has been waiting for Han-se, who comes back with the game he’s caught. He doesn’t seem surprised to see her, but he says he’d thought she would have come with Hyun-soo.
Han-se burns his hand while cooking dinner, and Jung-in runs it under cold water. Han-se steals a glance at her, but the moment is broken off when Secretary Kim turns on the mood music. They’re bemused rather than put off, indicating that Han-se has moved on from trying to win Jung-in back in earnest, or Jung-in from feeling threatened by Han-se’s attempts.
But Hyun-soo does look worried, as though he realizes he’s sent Jung-in off to the wolves. Jung-kil comments as much, but Hyun-soo smiles confidently and says that he wanted to give Jung-in the chance to choose.
Picking up their conversation from earlier in the day, Hyun-soo says Jung-in might end up regretting her choice to live with his family. If he’d had more money, he would have wanted to help Jung-kil get back on his feet and also buy the house back for Jung-in. But instead, there’s so little he can do, and he can only watch as Jung-in goes through hard times on her own. Jung-kil is moved by Hyun-soo’s thoughtfulness.
Over dinner, Han-se says he can’t believe that Jung-in truly can no longer be his. He’s sincere without being pushy, and Jung-in feels comfortable responding in kind.
“I didn’t want to tell you this because it might make your feelings linger, but I did like you,” she says. “When we broke up, it’s true that I was angry and upset. At the time, I didn’t know what to do. But I figured it out when I met Hyun-soo: if you love someone, you can’t break up, no matter what.”
She means these as parting words, and she says she’ll wait outside. But he holds her back, saying, “What will you do if I don’t let you go today?”
“Even so, I’ll still love Hyun-soo.”
FINALLY THE AWW FACTOR IS BACK, YESSSSSS.
Geum-ja has given Jung-kil an ultimatum: if he doesn’t make a decision about the house by the next morning, the option is off the table. Which means it’s time for Jung-kil’s Grand Gesture proving his true change of heart.
He goes to the Kangs’ house and loudly summons everyone, then he takes out the deed and throws it to the floor, saying he doesn’t need it. “If you’re not going to consent to my daughter, you can forget it!”
Having noticed that the deed was missing, Jung-in comes running into the house to find out what her dad is up to. She’s there to hear him say, “A son-in-law is a son, too. I’m taking Hyun-soo with me.” He grabs Hyun-soo and begins to leave.
Geum-ja stops them, saying they have to leave over her dead body. If Hyun-soo leaves, Geum-ja says she will disown him, but Jung-kil says that in that case, he won’t take in Hyun-soo, ever.
But despite the serious implications of these threats, the scene is actually light and heartwarming, which is the charm of this series—family will always be family. Though it may be trying to get through these daily kerfuffles, in the end, there’s no love lost.
Jung-kil’s fed up with how Geum-ja has treated Jung-in, and when Jung-in apologizes and tries to pull Jung-kil away, he yells in exasperation, “What are you sorry for all the time? I’m sick of hearing that, so I’m trying to take Hyun-soo with us. Is liking someone a sin? What’s wrong with my Jung-in that you’re opposed to her?”
He tells Geum-ja to stop insisting that he has to become a human being. Geum-ja can’t claim to be human herself—how dare she wage a war in the name of protecting her own son while cutting someone else’s child to the heart?
Grandpa Man-bok acknowledges that he understands Jung-kil’s intentions, but they should resume the conversation at another time. Jung-kil raises some more hell, leaving Geum-ja positively flummoxed, but he and Jung-in leave without Hyun-soo.
“Thank you,” Jung-in says, finally able to believe in her father. They have some adorable father-daughter bonding.
Grandpa Man-bok, meanwhile, tells Geum-ja to reconsider her opposition to Jung-in. Since the past can’t be changed, he says, the only thing to think about is what to do moving forward. Alone with his thoughts, Grandpa Man-bok is pleased to see how Jung-kil has matured.
Hyun-soo stops by the Seos’ place again, and Jung-kil points out that he chose Hyun-soo over a several-million dollar home, so he’d better live up to expectations. Hyun-soo tries to get Jung-kil to go back to the construction site, and they wrestle their way to the door.
Sang-hoon meets with Jung-kyung, and he clearly has something on his mind. Jung-kyung asks, “You come here because of Grandfather, right?”
Sang-hoon explains that Grandpa insists he’s fine, but Sang-hoon wants to know more. Concerned, Jung-kyung replies that despite Grandpa’s wishes, she feels she should tell him the truth: it’s liver cancer, and he likely has only six months more to live..
Sang-hoon is unable to take this news in, insisting, “But this is my father I’m talking about… I’m talking about my father.”
He breaks down in tears before he can go back and face Grandpa Man-bok, but he continues to act as though he doesn’t know.
The moment that follows is understated and touching; sometimes silence says it all.
An interesting thing I hadn’t previously observed was how similar Geum-ja and Mrs. Lee are. Partly because they can both be supreme bitches, but also in that they cling to their respective only sons as their only hope and try to define their futures for them. (Is it a Korean mother thing? Shrug.)
Mrs. Lee tells Han-se to name what he wants—if it’s Jung-in, she’ll bring her—whatever it takes to prevent him from leaving the company.
Hyun-soo walks in at that moment, observing the dynamic as though he is beginning to understand Han-se as well. He asks Han-se if they can talk, but Han-se says, “Maybe later,” and leaves.
Han-se tells Hyun-soo that he’ll be joining Hyun-soo’s new team in the Manager position. Han-se intends to prove himself first in this role, in order to deserve the Director position that his mother had opened up for him. Hyun-soo’s not exactly delighted to hear he’ll be working with Han-se again, and now in the same office no less, but he shakes Han-se’s outstretched hand.
(I thought Han-se’s big rebellion was to get off his father’s coattails by leaving the company, but I guess he decided instead to breezily walk in and claim a new, if slightly more junior, position for himself. Buddy, you’ve still got a ways to grow.)
When Hyun-soo had left for work that morning, he’d told Geum-ja that he’s taken another position at Global. Her suspicions roused, Geum-ja finds out from dragon lady (i.e. Mrs. Lee) that Hyun-soo received a sizeable sum for taking on this next project—approximately $150,000. She immediately assumes that he took this job to give the money to Jung-kil.
When Jung-kil stops by the house that evening with fried chicken he bought for his new “son’s” sake, Geum-ja mutters bitterly about the cost of that chicken, insinuating that it was bought on Hyun-soo’s tab.
But Grandpa Man-bok is pleased with the gesture, and despite the fact that he doesn’t feel well, he begins to eat the chicken. Out of concern for his father, Sang-hoon is willing now to do anything, and he begins to eat the chicken too. But Geum-ja bursts out that she can’t eat chicken that costs $150,000, accusing Jung-kil of taking money from Hyun-soo.
It’s Grandpa instead who explains what Hyun-soo did with his signing bonus: he’d given it to Grandpa as the cost of his graduate studies abroad.
This is the last straw for Sang-hoon, who has already been getting annoyed with Geum-ja and is now shouldering the additional emotional burden of his father’s illness. He bursts out that the only way to get some peace and quiet in the house is to send Hyun-soo off with Jung-kil.
He runs downstairs and starts packing Hyun-soo’s bags, and tells Hyun-soo to go with Jung-kil and not come back until he’s married with kids and there’s nothing Geum-ja can do about it.
Hyun-soo stands frozen outside the house, looking forlorn.
“You’ve been kicked to the curb,” Jung-kil says and gives him a sympathetic hug.
Hyun-soo keeps his puppy face on, but we see his true feelings in that sneaky smile.
The Seo family (in which I’m including Ji-soo now) is surprised to see Jung-kil bring Hyun-soo home. But Hyun-soo continues to play to their pity, as Jung-kil explains that Sang-hoon kicked him out with the stipulation that he shouldn’t come back til he’s had babies.
Sung-joon: [jealously mutters] “Lucky bastard.”
Hyun-soo says he’d like to be alone. Sung-joon closes the curtain to give him “space” – LOL.
That night, Jung-in sneaks out to give the sleeping Hyun-soo some TLC. But he’s not asleep, and he teases Jung-in that they can sleep together—they have his father’s consent! As they’re flirting, Hyun-soo warns her not to wake Sung-joon, but Sung-joon stirs and grumbles, “Don’t mind me—as if you ever cared what I think. As you were.”
HAHA. Don’t rouse a sleeping giant, does the saying go?
Role reversals: while Sang-hoon and Geum-ja continue to argue, the Seo family has a harmonious breakfast with Jung-kil doling out advice and instructions. He relishes the role, saying, “So this is what it feels like! The head of the household must be upright for the household to be upright.”
Same thing that night. Having heard that Ji-soo is considering a new recipe for the restaurant, he calls a family meeting in track suits. He asks Ji-soo for a proposal regarding the new menu item, to which she says, “Um, well, you see, I was going to deep-fry some chicken breast meat and serve it like tang-su-yook.” (She stops herself from adding, “DUH.”)
Jung-kil asks for metrics, but the family settles it the old-fashioned way: a taste test! Even that’s no fun by itself, so they have an arm-wrestling contest to see who gets to eat it all.
And whaddya know, Ji-soo beats Jung-kil, while Hyun-soo loses to him.
Geum-ja, meanwhile, has been brewing some mental witch’s brew. She calls Jung-in out to the pagoda, and tells her measuredly, “If you marry Hyun-soo, you’ll become my daughter-in-law. Jung-in, let’s do this right.”
By golly, I’m determined to finish recapping this series along with my indefatigable & fearless fellow recapper dw4p. But I really think this series is meant to be watched, not recapped. The series is most enjoyable and meaningful not in grand gestures or themes, but just in the small moments as the relationships strengthen and the characters grow.
Smile really works because of its ensemble cast. I love watching the families interact, because after 30 episodes these characters have history with one another and can create understated comedy by referring back–for example, when Sung-joon doesn’t even bother to open his eyes while he grumbles at Hyun-soo and Jung-in’s public display of affection. While some of the individual characterizations are problematic or slow or just weird (hello Geum-ja what is your ISSUE), as an ensemble, this cast just jives. If the plot is finally finding its groove again, the actors have long been doing their groove thing together.
I didn’t include it in the recap, but in episode 33 Jung-in gives Geum-ja (she-who-must-not-be-named or recapped more than necessary) a run-down on how her family has been making incremental progress. They haven’t changed overnight, but they’ve made small changes for the better. Jung-kil’s transformation has indeed been gradual, but by the time he makes his grand gesture, the change of heart is convincing and welcome.
And thank goodness he’s finally had his change of heart cuz Geum-ja has reincarnated as Jung-kil 2.0, only too happy to throw other people in harm’s way for her own objectives. I really think the writers have got to move on quickly to their next plot point because this Geum-ja angle is really tired; there’s nothing left to say or convince a woman who is A) Creepella DeVille with her possessive obsessions, and B) impervious to logic or reason. Perhaps Grandpa’s cancer will get through to her, although I dearly hope that the revelation of his diagnosis doesn’t bring mega-angst again.
- Smile: Episodes 30-31
- Smile: Episodes 28-29
- Smile: Episode 27
- Smile: Episode 26
- Smile: Episode 25
- Smile: Episode 24
- Smile: Episode 23
- Smile: Episode 22
- Smile: Episode 21
- Smile: Episode 20
- Smile: Episode 19
- Smile: Episode 18
- Smile: Episode 17
- Smile: Episodes 15-16
- Smile extended to 46 episodes
- Smile: Episodes 13-14
- Smile: Episodes 11-12
- Smile: Episodes 9-10
- Smile: Episodes 7-8
- Smile: Episode 6
- Smile: Episode 5
- Smile: Episode 4
- Smile: Episode 3
- Smile: Episodes 1 & 2