The characters in this drama bring a smile to my face, both individually and in the way they relate to each other. Especially Jin-soo, who is charming in a way that is similar to Chep in Pasta but without all the shouting and misogyny and throwing of food. I enjoy that he’s a charmer, but not exactly a natural one — he’s definitely got a grouchy side, even if he only lets it out to himself (and Eun-young). Even so, he’s not a stoic Mr. Darcy, nor is he a Prince Charming. He’s just… an eccentric writer. (Which just endears him to me even more.)
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Page 2 Recap
After telling Seung-yeon the truth about her job, Jin-soo makes coffee to his precise specifications while Seung-yeon stews over how incredibly rude he is. The phone rings, and as usual he lets it go to voicemail on speakerphone. Out booms Do-sang’s voice, saying that Seung-yeon had called to complain about not being given any work. Do-sang describes hers as a pitiable situation — all her schoolmates have gotten full-time employment, plus she got dumped by her boyfriend of three years — and urges Jin-soo to give her work to stop her suspicions.
And that, my friends, is what we call rubbing salt in the wound. Actually, it’s like mixing that salt with rubbing alcohol and soaking the wound in it. Then taking a picture. And uploading it to Facebook with the caption “Seung-yeon is gullible and stupid.”
For the moment, her embarrassment gets forgotten as she sees Jin-soo making coffee in a fancy machine, and asks if he always makes it with such precision and care. Was he a barista in a previous job? He answers that he learned because nobody else could match his taste, so he figured he’d match it himself. (Ah, a man after my own heart — I know that dissatisfaction well. Yeah, I know Kang Ji-hwan is not Lee Jin-soo, but I can conflate my love for both.)
On her way home, Seung-yeon leaves an angry message for Do-sang, telling him not to worry about her — who is he to give her that money? Has she ever asked for money? Is he that careless with 10 million won to throw it around like that?
Eun-young finds herself showered with roses from random passersby on the street outside her office, and by the time she makes it back inside, she’s got an armful of them. Bewildered as to who could have sent them, she tries to make out the sender line on a recent postcard from Hong Kong, guessing that it’s from the same person. The name on the card has been obscured in transit and she scratches at it.
Her flattered good mood takes a sudden dive when she thinks of a possibility. Surely… it can’t be…!
Ah, but it is. HAN JI-WON (Jung Woong-in) makes his appearance, bold as brass and totally impervious to Eun-young’s reaction, which can best be described as speechless with outrage. He’s the ex-fiance who’d ditched her for a friend, but there’s no hint of shame in his re-entrance into her life. They haven’t seen each other in two years, and he announces that he has moved into the consulting firm next door as though expecting Eun-young to be thrilled with this. The guy is either really ballsy or totally deluded. With the gleefully loopy way Jung Woong-in portrays him, it could really be either.
Completely flummoxed, Eun-young tries to get in touch with Jin-soo, but getting him on the phone is like trying to catch an eel with chopsticks: Even if you did somehow manage to get a hold of it, it would just overpower you and wriggle free anyway. First Jin-soo hangs up on her, then he throws the phone in the trash.
Now incensed, Eun-young storms into his office (which is located just above the book cafe, provided courtesy of the publisher) using an emergency key. Can’t he act with a modicum of respect to her, his publisher? Jin-soo sighs and says in an exaggerated, put-upon demeanor: “I apologize, Ms. CEO. What seems to be the problem? What astounding event has occurred for you to rant to a person who is working to avoid being served another lawsuit? I don’t believe I have committed any sin but for working diligently to wring what I can out of my lack in talent.” Oh, you wiseass. I love that he’s cheeky.
Eun-young sighs that they’ve known each other for ten years — can’t he just listen? To that, Jin-soo so thoughtfully reminds her of the words she’d tossed in his face when she was toasting his lawsuit — in that scene, he’d reminded her of their long-standing relationship, and she’d scoffed that they’re merely business associates, and sometimes enemies.
With his smartassery out of his system, Jin-soo offers to listen, but now she’s calmed down and tells him to forget it. He asks what’s the deal with the flower in her hands, which makes her realize in horror that she’s still holding one. Immediately, she stomps on it, then does the same with the others in the bouquet. Gotta say, I’m loving this hot-tempered Park Shi-yeon.
Do-sang gets back from his trip and turns on his phone to hear Seung-yeon’s angry message. Immediately, he calls Jin-soo to demand to know what’s going on, and hears that Seung-yeon hasn’t been back to “work” for a week now. Do-sang freaks out, not at all receptive to Jin-soo’s retort that he should be thankful for getting the truth out in the open — now that she’s single, it’s good that she knows Do-sang likes her. Do-sang yells petulantly, “I’m not thankful at all!”
But there’s still the issue of the money to take care of, and Jin-soo just wants to get rid of it and wash his hands of the matter. Do-sang insists that it’s for Seung-yeon, but she would hardly accept the charity. So Jin-soo drops by the coffee shop, where Seung-yeon has returned to her part-time work.
He finds her adjusting the misspelled “Caffee” sign, and although he points out that they could simply replace the “A” with an “O,” she says that getting an extra letter would cost money. Hence she’s removing letters to spell “Cafe” instead.
Offering to wait inside while she finishes, Jin-soo borrows the phone and makes a call, just as Seung-yeon loses her footing on the ladder, which crashes to the ground. Barely hanging on to a light fixture, she cries for help, and Jin-soo bolts outside, arms outstretched…
…just in time to break her fall. And possibly his back. Definitely his pride.
But even in this situation, the ever-polite Jin-soo tamps down his aggravation and forces a smile, asking her politely to call someone for him. He has landed on top of the light fixture and lays sprawled in the street, unable to move. I’m betting he’s thinking to himself, “What could possibly get worse?” because then, it starts to rain. Of course.
Back in her office, Eun-young vents to her friend on the phone, bemoaning the fact that her reaction to the flowers made her lose face in front of all her employees. Calming down, she tells herself to gain her composure and listens to soothing music with a cup of coffee, looking outside the window at the view of the rain. And also her new next-door neighbor.
Jin-soo’s polite facade is tested by the pushy members of the Kang family, who pester him for autographs (Seung-chul), force him into an ugly vest because of his rain-soaked clothes (Grandma), press some godawful instant coffee (horrors!) upon him (Dad), and attack him with medicinal spray (Grandma again).
Seung-yeon won’t accept the rest of the money owed to Do-sang — 9 million won — and resists Jin-soo’s exasperated instructions to work it out with Do-sang. Jin-soo offers a sort of compromise — she can continue to “work” for him and accept it as her salary. Her family would like that, and he can stop resenting his buddy for his meddling. But that still means she wouldn’t be doing any real work, as she points out to him, and she can’t accept money for doing nothing.
When Seung-yeon gets called away for a minute, Jin-soo takes advantage of the moment to tell Grandma something, then makes his hurried getaway. Seung-yeon sees that the envelope is no longer on the table, so she assumes he has taken it back.
Until, that is, she hears Granny counting, and peers over to see that Jin-soo has slipped her the money, calling it severance pay. Sneaky bastard. It’s so much money that Grandma gasps in awe even before realizing she has dropped a zero.
Seung-yeon races out in the rain to chase the taxi, and pleads with Jin-soo to settle upon a different compromise — make proper use of her as an employee. In fact, if she can’t do a satisfactory job, he doesn’t have to pay her at all. She insists, “I want to become a pro!” And I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking she’d best be careful with those words — they could take on a vastly different meaning in a different context, if ya know what I mean.
Jin-soo tells her not to bother — it’s impossible to satisfy his persnickety preferences, and he has no faith that she’ll be able to no matter how hard she promises to try. Getting worked up, Seung-yeon declares that she’ll become such a perfect pro that he’ll be dying to hire her.
Well, that’s going overboard and she winces after saying it, but Jin-soo motions her into the car — he’s giving her a chance. But he smirks a bit when he asks her to define what a pro is, and all she can do is fumble and say that it’s the opposite of amateur.
The next morning, Seung-yeon arrives while Jin-soo and Eun-young sit outside the cafe and greets them both. Eun-young sizes up the situation and says that Jin-soo’s awfully mean to bring her back just so he can have someone to take out his stress upon, which just goes to show how well she knows him.
Ji-won pauses in the street to call out a greeting to Jin-soo and invite him to lunch, after which he drives off with a salute and a wink. This is all news to Jin-soo — when the heck did this guy move back to Seoul, and why is he as cheesy as ever? Mimicking his wave makes Eun-young burst into laughter and spray her coffee all over his face. Ah, the spit-take — one of the oldest comedic devices in the book, and yet, no less amusing.
Seung-yeon has come early to ask the book cafe baristas for a lesson on brewing coffee, taking notes as they demonstrate. She then makes coffee according to her new tips, and studies Jin-soo’s pencils in minute detail to note exactly how deeply he carves the wood and how many times.
He still throws away most of her batch, but at least two pencils survive his inspection this time — progress! But when he drinks her coffee, he spits it back out and asks sardonically, “Surely you didn’t mean for me to drink this and die, did you?”
For her first day as a proper employee, Seung-yeon is no longer relegated to reading pointless encyclopedias, but her new task is hardly more pleasant. Jin-soo sets a helium tank in front of her, instructing her to inhale the gas, then read his dialogue.
A bit apprehensively, she does as told, and her Mickey Mouse voice sends him into fits of laughter. Feeling misused, she protests, but her indignant exclamations come out in a squeaky pitch and only make him laugh even harder.
Next he makes her hula-hoop while he works, and finally she guesses his M.O.: he’s doing this just to laugh at her, isn’t he? Jin-soo points out that a secretary’s biggest task is to help the boss relieve stress. That’s the difference between amateur and pro — an amateur gets angry and quits while the pro takes it like, well, a pro.
She mutters that the author of such unique novels was bound to be a weirdo. But how to know that he’s just weird, and not a true psycho? Seung-yeon watches The Shining that evening, unnerved to see the writer breaking under the stress and going crazy. Seung-chul helpfully points out that that’s why she has to make sure Jin-soo doesn’t get too stressed. This is not a comforting thought, as she hadn’t realized she’d have to worry about not being murdered by a crazy boss when she took up this job.
Ji-won’s an odd (but hilarious) character in that he’s fairly shameless. He acts like he’s on great terms with Jin-soo and Eun-young, not seeing that they’re obviously uncomfortable with him — and given how very obvious they are with their disdain, we have to wonder if he’s blind. Or dumb. This is a question we’ll be asking ourselves throughout the episode.
Furthermore, he has the chutzpah to spin the situation around and make it seem like HE was the victim in the relationship, saying that he’s ready to forgive Eun-young despite all the hurt she gave him. He’s got the whole situation flipped upside down, and Jin-soo’s comments flip them back right-side up; he replies that it’s more appropriate to say that Ji-won’s the one who hurt her, and she’s the one who’d have to forgive him.
Ji-won just laughs, not offended at all, thinking Jin-soo’s a funny guy for making such a joke. However, the mood takes a sudden serious turn when Ji-won quips that Jin-soo should help him since he “must have a lot of regrets.”
Next on Seung-yeon’s list of Tasks to Perform To Transform From Amateur to Professional is the capture of a feral cat. Who knows why Jin-soo wants a cat, but he’s pretty much got a penchant for random demands, and this is just another one of them.
She and brother Seung-chul fail to capture a neighborhood stray, but Dad manages to bring home a cat bought from a friend. It’s not actually a stray, but they figure they can disguise the domesticated cat as a feral one by messing with its appearance. Thus they get it muddied, and then Grandmother shaves its fur off in patches (and I’m thankful they didn’t show the actual shaving).
(By the way, this scene elicited not a little outrage from fans, who felt the cat was mistreated. Lemme tell ya, as a fairly new cat-servant myself, I found myself squirming in my seat even though I knew this was coming. I am not impressed, Drama Gods! In fact, I’m demoting you to demigods. Or maybe just fairies.)
In any case, it’s all for naught because Jin-soo sees right away that it’s not a feral cat. When she insists that it is, he presents her with cat food and cat-related research. And cat books. And cat novels. Yeah, you’re not gonna fool the cat enthusiast with some half-assed shave job, kiddo. (Also: Jin-soo loves cats! As though I weren’t already halfway in love with him, now I’m convinced we are soulmates. What? Love can transcend dimensions, don’t judge.)
Seung-yeon weakly counters that a housecat can become a feral one, so it’s almost the same thing. Jin-soo points out that her “almost as good” theory is why she can’t sharpen a simple pencil to satisfaction — a housecat that’s 99% similar to a feral cat is still a housecat. If she was going to lie, she should have stuck to her guns and brazened it out, because then he could have called her a pro for the lie.
Jin-soo calls Eun-young to invite her to dinner, which strikes her as odd coming from He Who Eschews All Telephone Communications. What I love about the next scene is that Jin-soo tries multiple times to clue Eun-young in to the situation, asking pointedly, “Yes, WHY would I do such a strange thing? THINK about it.” He even makes that silly salute gesture and winks furtively, trying to signal her to turn away.
But she doesn’t get his drift and joins him in the car, only to find that the meeting has been engineered by Ji-won. She calls Jin-soo a traitor for leading her into the trap, while he grumbles that it’s her fault for not finding his behavior more suspicious.
Ji-won finds it odd that these two are so close now, and Jin-soo retorts that appearance of an outsider makes the insiders band together. At that, Ji-won asks, “Who’s the outsider? Huh? Oh, North Korea?” Snerk. Maybe he really IS stupid?
Jin-soo and Eun-young don’t even bother correcting him, but Jin-soo does ask incredulously how she could have been engaged to the guy. She replies that she was really immature (read: stupid and maybe crazy) back then. Plus, Jin-soo’s the one who introduced them, remember? At that, Jin-soo mutters, “I must’ve been incredibly immature too.”
The car pauses at a red light, which is when Jin-soo sees his chance. Leaving Eun-young with a cryptic “Sorry,” he jumps out and dashes to safety, leaving her shouting after him. Ji-won, on the other hand, doesn’t hate this turn of events. In fact, things couldn’t have turned out better if he’d planned it himself. Given his questionable intelligence, I’d say he’s lucky the smart guy in the party gave him a hand here.
Jin-soo returns to his office, and soon has a visitor: Seung-yeon bangs on his door enthusiastically and presents him with a cage containing a cat — a real feral cat this time, not a fake one. She’s covered in claw marks and mud, but brimming with pride at her first real “pro”-like accomplishment.
Too bad Jin-soo informs her that his one isn’t feral, either. Seung-yeon feels wrongfully accused and tells him she caught it all on her own, insisting that it’s a real feral cat or she’s a monkey’s uncle. Jin-soo doesn’t doubt that she worked hard to get it, but he says they can’t do anything about it — a housecat is a housecat.
Seung-yeon is so incensed that she declares that if it’s not really feral, she’ll take her clothes off and dance around for him. And as we know, you should never make promises you can’t keep to Jin-soo, right?
And so, they go to the vet for an expert opinion and await his judgment. And when it comes — it’s not a feral cat — Seung-yeon can’t take it and runs out just as Jin-soo ponders where and how she’ll dance for him.
The vet continues to inspect the cat and marvels — how’d she catch this on her own? Jin-soo’s satisfaction is cut short when the vet clarifies that it’s not a stray cat — it is, in fact, a lynx. As in, a true wildcat, of a different classification than housecats and strays. Oops! Jin-soo was wrong after all, but his astonishment turns into amusement.
Meanwhile, Seung-yeon goes home to treat her wounds, crying more at the indignity than at the pain.
In the morning, she shows up to work with some hesitation, wondering how Jin-soo will treat her. Although she’s firmly convinced she was right, the vet’s declaration gives Jin-soo the upper hand. Therefore, she’s relieved to see him acting normally, thinking he’s letting this whole incident slide.
Until, that is, some cheesy pop music blares on — New Kids On The Block, omg for old people like me who recognize it! — and he holds up his remote triumphantly. This is the song. Now she will dance.
With resignation, Seung-yeon dances around to the song while Jin-soo sits back and watches. At the same time, Eun-young storms up to the office, ready to give him a piece of her mind for ditching her last night, and wonders at the loud music blaring from the room.
Now Jin-soo remembers the part where she declared that she’d dance naked, and reminds Seung-yeon in a bored voice like he’s asking for a mere book or a cup of coffee. He doesn’t really think she’s going to do it, and in fact, this whole thing is an exercise in his amusement. I’m pretty sure he’s just seeing how far to go because he knows he didn’t technically win the bet — so when Seung-yeon silently raises her shirt to take it off, he lurches forward yelling, “W-w-wait!”
What makes this drama fun for me is, first and foremost, the relationship between Kang Ji-hwan and Park Shi-yeon. I love their dynamic, and how we can see the shades emerging even though the characters themselves haven’t defined what they are to each other. Or rather, they’ve actually overdefined it — publisher-author, potential plaintiff-defendant, old friends, enemies — and none of those descriptions fully embodies the true nature of their friendship. But I love seeing that there’s something there that spans multiple categories. True, they infuriate each other — and know how to push each other’s buttons — but there’s also grudging respect and camaraderie. Jin-soo’s loyalties are clearly aligned with Eun-young’s with regard to the wacky ex, and she goes to Jin-soo first to vent her anger about Ji-won’s sudden re-entry into her life. If they don’t end up together I will probably be disappointed, but even if so, I hope they end the series as good friends as they are now, or better.
The character of Seung-yeon is being portrayed in the typical mold of the main female character, but I don’t know that she actually IS. There were a lot of questions in the previous recap about who was the main character, and frankly, I don’t think it really matters how you define it — I mean, if you watch the drama and you’re happy with what you see, that’s good enough, right? I think it’s possible she will not hook up with Jin-soo, which would make the scenario akin to that of Ji Jin-hee and Kim So-eun in The Man Who Can’t Marry, as some commenters pointed out. Of course there’s always the chance that there will be romantic developments, but I don’t think this will be a typical love triangle (or square), and I’d like to see this drama treat the romances differently than what we’ve come to expect after watching a million and one trendy kdramas.
In this regard, I’m actually finding encouragement in the fact that the writer came from Unstoppable High Kick. Although I didn’t like everything in that series, some of the relationships were treated in a nicely subtle way. It had a way of giving the cute pairing a few moments that made you squeal, but also had a hint of realism in leaving a few threads loosely tied. This is a miniseries rather than 160+ episode sitcom so I’m expecting more definition in the relationships, but I’m just saying that it may not follow the norm, and that’s fine with me.
And have I mentioned how I love Park Shi-yeon’s energy level in this drama?
- Coffee House: Page 1
- Coffee House production press conference
- Coffee House couple photos, Eun-jung’s MV stills
- Coffee House preview is out