Coffee House isn’t wildly original, but so far I’m getting a kick out of it — it has just the right touch of wackiness to twist the comedy into quirky territory, and the characters are still winning me over. Also, for those of you who were worried or displeased about relationship vagueness, I think this episode clears a lot of that up. Maybe not definitively — a trendy kdrama’s gotta have several viable lovelines to be effective, right? — but enough to point the various romances into their respective directions.
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AB Avenue – “너뿐이냐” (Only You) [ Download ]
PAGE 3 RECAP
Jin-soo hurriedly stops Seung-yeon from stripping, shocked that she would take him seriously. In fact, he’s so shocked that he has to laugh at the ridiculousness. That’s when Eun-young rings the doorbell, prompting Jin-soo to hide, knowing she’s bound to take him to task for ditching her with Ji-won last night. He sneaks off to his room and instructs Seung-yeon to say he’s not at home.
This means Seung-yeon has to make up a story about dancing around to aerobics while Jin-soo is out, which doesn’t exactly make her look like the most respectful employee, but thankfully Eun-young doesn’t make too much of an issue of it. She does, however, find Seung-yeon’s coffee too awful to ignore, giving us another example of how she and Jin-soo are simpatico. Eun-young tosses out the brew she’s given and watches as Seung-yeon attempts a new batch.
Now, I consider myself somewhat picky about my coffee — I’ve also been known to toss out a really bad batch of coffee rather than drink it — but even I’m going to say your barista’s posture and the angle of the pour-over is taking it a bit far. Then again, Jin-soo DID warn her he was too picky for her abilities, so it’s not like she wasn’t warned.
In any case, Eun-young takes her down to the book cafe and piles a stack of coffee-related books into Seung-yeon’s arms, explaining that her grandfather was a coffee specialist who was a significant force in giving the drink a greater platform in Korea. Thus, if people treat coffee with disdain, it can feel like disrespect towards her grandfather. As a result, she gives Seung-yeon a homework assignment, cheerily informing her that even though she’s Jin-soo’s secretary, as the publishing CEO Eun-young technically pays her salary and therefore it’s not out of line for her to put her to work.
Seung-yeon says wryly to herself that now she gets why the two are friends.
On her way back upstairs, Seung-yeon runs into the book cafe manager Dong-wook (played by Park Jae-jung), whom she greets with some basic sign language she has taught herself after hearing that Dong-wook cannot speak. He’s the cool, reserved type so he just bows in return, looking nonplussed at her awkward signing of “Hello” and “Good work.” Seung-yeon, on the other hand, is quite proud of herself for getting to use her new skills.
Ji-won heads to the office with her, which is the only reason he manages to push his way into Jin-soo’s office. Although Jin-soo’s clearly not thrilled to see him, Ji-won is totally oblivious and expects Jin-soo to greet him with as much enthusiasm as the former has for him. If Ji-won were any denser, I’d expect him to have his own gravitational pull.
In addition to being as giddy as a schoolboy, Ji-won is just about as immature. Eager to show Jin-soo something he bought for Eun-young’s upcoming birthday, he leans in close, deliberately trying to hide it from Seung-yeon’s view because it’s a secret. Seung-yeon doesn’t really care what he’s got (nor can she hear their conversation), but she does relish the way Ji-won manhandles Jin-soo’s face. She urges him mentally to pinch harder. Heh.
Ji-won has bought a big gaudy sparkler of a necklace for Eun-young, anticipating that she’ll scream in delight. Jin-soo confirms that she’ll let out a scream, all right, but of a different variety.
Eager to use any excuse to escape this situation, Jin-soo leaps up when a cell phone rings, ignoring the fact that it’s Seung-yeon’s. He pretends the call is for him, and when he’s in the next room, he drops the act and tells her caller to try back soon.
This leaves Seung-yeon in the room with Ji-won, who thinks that Jin-soo hired her purely to hit on her and comments that his taste is skewing a lot younger. He tells her that if Jin-soo gives her a hard time, let him know — he’ll set him straight. He went to high school and university with Jin-soo as his sunbae, and they were great buddies — along with Jin-soo’s wife.
Wait, wha–? That’s a shocker. Jin-soo was married (and divorced)? Ji-won figures the news never made it out because it happened before he hit it big.
Listening from the other room, Jin-soo’s expression darkens, and after Ji-won leaves, he informs Seung-yeon that Ji-won is strictly forbidden from entry here. He scoffs at Ji-won calling them friends, muttering, “I’ve never been friends with him.”
Seung-yeon tries to sneak in some internet searches about Jin-soo being married or divorced, braving Jin-soo’s constant staring, which unnerves her. But her searches yield nothing; it’s truly a well-kept secret.
Then he decides that they’ll head out, and without explaining things, they end up at a department store. He’s here to buy her an outfit, for what purpose nobody knows, least of all Seung-yeon. But if you’re groaning at what looks like the makings of a trite Pretty Woman montage, rest easy — this shopping trip takes a decidedly different turn.
First he has Seung-yeon try on one outfit, which he finds dissatisfactory because it’s too loose. He wants something more fitted, and asks the sales clerk to take more precise measurements in order to alter the garment to fit better. I’m thinking this guy’s about to take a step in to pervy territory by demanding his assistant wear tight clothing, but thankfully the drama doesn’t fail me here — in fact, this is just a big excuse for him to get Seung-yeon’s measurements, which he swipes from the notepad.
I suppose that might still be construed as skeevy behavior, if not for his next trip — the luggage department — where he holds up a suitcase to her frame to compare it to her torso. We’re still not quite certain what the deal is, but he does take the opportunity to take a few digs at her very odd proportions, which he declares all out of whack. And all the while, Seung-yeon is so bewildered that she doesn’t know if she should be surprised or offended.
On their way back to the office, Dong-wook sees Seung-yeon struggling with the luggage, and silently takes it to carry up for her. She thanks him, again using her newly acquired signing skills while mouthing along, “Thank you.”
And then, we find out what this whole shopping excursion was really about:
Bwahaha! The measuring and comparing were all to see if Seung-yeon would fit inside the luggage, and he instructs her to get inside. When she balks, he reminds her about all that stuff she said about being a pro. Well, how about she get in the bag like a pro?
In she goes. Resigning herself to whatever craziness he’s got in mind, Seung-yeon sighs for him to go ahead. He snaps some photos, then hands her her phone, telling her to call him from inside the bag. After confirming that she’s not suffocating, he zips her up.
But wouldn’t you know it? Just as she’s about to dial, she receives an incoming call — it’s from her family, who have attended a wedding in the neighborhood and have decided to drop by. Seung-chul and Dad have some sense and wonder if they’d be interrupting the writer’s work (well, if we take a pretty loose definition of “work”), but Grandma says there’s nothing wrong with seeing her granddaughter in action and pushes them onward.
Yikes! Before they know it, the visitors are at the door. Jin-soo tries to yank Seung-yeon out of the suitcase, but she’s lodged in there tightly and can’t work her way out, not that their panic helps things any. With the family calling from the hallway and no chance of getting Seung-yeon out anytime soon, Jin-soo wheels her into the bedroom, then opens the door.
He tries to get rid of them, but Korean grannies aren’t exactly ones to take a hint, and she pushes their way inside. She also presses a gift on him — an ugly cardigan — that he accepts uneasily.
Jin-soo tells them that Seung-yeon is out on an errand that will take her far away, which means she won’t be back until late. However, they notice that her things are still here, and wonder how she could have gone so far without all her belongings.
In a nervous outburst, Jin-soo reaches for the cardigan as a diversionary tactic and squeals (yep, literally squeals!) in “excitement” as he pulls it on. Alas, the distraction is only temporary; Seung-chul reaches for his phone and calls his sister, whose phone begins to ring from the other room.
Hurriedly, Seung-yeon tries to reach for her phone to turn it off, but in her cramped position she can’t maneuver her way to the phone and topples over. The Kang family hears the sound and points to the room. Jin-soo tries to cover up for it and heads to the room, but he’s stopped by the sound of the doorbell. Forced to answer it (it’s Eun-young), his detour to the door allows for the family to follow the sound of the ringing phone to the spare room.
Jin-soo knows it’s all over, so he bangs his head against the wall while the family tries to make sense of why Seung-yeon is on the floor, crammed into a suitcase.
Enter Eun-young to the rescue! Swooping in, she introduces herself to the family and explains that Jin-soo is currently working on this really exciting mystery-murder novel, and this is all research. She soothes their concerns over coffee as she tells them about the serial murders that occur when a group of women tourists travel to Ulleungdo (the island where Jin-soo got his idea). Apparently the killer hacks up the bodies and puts them in suitcases: hence Jin-soo’s curiosity to see if Seung-yeon would fit. Hahaha.
Thanks to Eun-young’s intervention, the family isn’t outright angry with him, but the incident is still enough to give them serious misgivings about Jin-soo’s mental state. Eun-young wonders if Jin-soo’s going to end up sued, and somehow she looks more excited at this possibility than worried. (I love her.)
No surprise that Seung-yeon’s father calls that night to tell him that she won’t be able to work for him anymore. Seung-yeon protests and makes a grab for the phone, handing it to Grandma and telling her to hang up quickly before Dad continues his conversation. Too bad Granny doesn’t know what she’s doing with that newfangled phonegadgetry, and she pushes a button or two and puts the phone down. Instead of hanging up, that keeps Jin-soo on the line, and therefore the family’s conversation comes through loud and clear as he and Eun-young listen in:
Dad asks if the writer is crazy, to which Seung-yeon answers that he’s not entirely wacko. With a sigh, she says that after observing him for a few days, she thinks he’s on the brink of insanity. (Jin-soo’s offended, while Eun-young cracks up.) So basically, in Seung-yeon’s estimation Jin-soo isn’t a permanent resident in the land of crazy — more like a frequent visitor with a traveler’s visa.
Granny comments that he’s good-looking and therefore a good person. Lol.
Eun-young wonders if Seung-yeon will show up to work tomorrow, and Jin-soo predicts that she will, saying that Seung-yeon has “one strong point,” and that’s that she’s foolish. That’s an odd comment, but he clarifies, “That’s a big advantage if she’s going to work for me.”
Sure enough, she shows up the next morning, her coffee as bad as ever (he quips that it’s becoming more and more like poison every day).
Jin-soo can’t resist making a dig at Seung-yeon’s comment last night about his mental stability. Using her specific words immediately clues her in that he’d heard what she said, and she cringes in dismay while he rolls those words around again and again in amusement.
That evening, Eun-young’s employees present her with a surprise birthday party, dragging her from her office to the event. Everything has been planned in detail, and all of her friends are gathered in the audience. Jin-soo is also invited, but he sends Seung-yeon along with the employees first, saying he’ll be there later.
Blindfolded, Eun-young is seated in the guest of honor’s spot, and wonders who is responsible for this whole shindig, just as the sounds of a piano start up. The smile fades mighty fast, however, when she recognizes the voice: Ji-won’s.
He serenades her as a photo montage starts up on the projection screen behind her, and bubbles float from the ceiling — a cheesily romantic event worthy of a cheesy guy like Ji-won.
Eun-young rolls her eyes in exasperation, but plasters a big smile on her face as she stands up and heads over to the piano, where she takes his mic away while he’s still mid-song. Rather than throwing a fit, she takes charge with a smile, greeting her friends and acting as her own host. She welcomes everyone warmly and kicks off the festivities, which has the dual effect of maintaining the cheery atmosphere while also taking control away from Ji-won, who pouts to be thus undermined.
Only after the party is safely under way does Eun-young shoot a glare at him and tell him he has no right to sing that song.
And then she goes to the bathroom with her doctor friend (Byung-hee) to scream in frustration. I love that she was so professional and in control out there, and then comes inside to whine and moan like a teenager with her best friend. Apparently Ji-won told all her friends that they’d gotten back together and that she’d forgiven him. He’d insisted the party was a surprise, which is why her friends didn’t warn her about what he had said.
Bummed at losing his spot helming the big event, Ji-won gets drunk and calls Jin-soo to whine to come and support him. He crashes Eun-young’s table as she’s opening gifts to present her with his birthday gift, but she dashes away for a business call to avoid that awkward moment. He joins her anyway, following her to the office while she makes her call.
By the time Jin-soo makes it to the party, it’s in the latter stages and Eun-young is nowhere around. He hears that she headed back to her office and goes to find her.
Meanwhile, Ji-won makes his drunken complaints of how Eun-young is too well-off, too successful and self-sufficient. She makes everyone feel inferior, which is why she’s remained single all these years, right? He bets that no men have made passes at her because they can’t handle her. Which… seems to me to be THEIR failing, not hers, but Ji-won seems to be operating on chauvinistic gender ideals.
In fact, he says that the reason he couldn’t bring himself to apologize all these years “is because of you.” Huh. And here I’m thinking it’s because he’s got insecurity issues — don’t you love it when the wrongdoer makes his wrongdoing into your fault? He takes out the sparkly necklace and tells her it was expensive, but sees how she’s not moved in the least. (You know, since I suppose we’re all supposed to swoon in gratitude when cheating exes shower us in jewels?)
In contrast, he points out, Young-mi (who must clearly be the Other Woman) was grateful for the little things he did for her, unlike Eun-young who isn’t moved at even the big gestures.
Well, he finally hits a nerve — but not the one he was meaning to hit — and it’s obvious that this Young-mi woman is a huge sore point between them. That look on her face? It’s pure OH NO HE DI’N’T. Even in his drunken haze, Ji-won registers that he screwed up royally and quickly backpedals. But the damage is done.
Eun-young can’t help the tears from springing to her eyes, and she looks at him in a mix of hurt and revulsion. He knows he’s just shot himself in the foot and starts to leave.
Which is when Jin-soo bursts in just as Ji-won goes for the door, and knocks the door into him. That sends Ji-won sprawling to the ground, and the other two briefly worry that he’s hurt. But nope — just sleeping.
Sensing the strained mood, Jin-soo fumbles in his pocket for a birthday gift, but he has nothing to offer her. Eun-young knows him well enough to guess that he purposely came to the party late because he know what would go down, and accuses, “Jerk — is everything fine as long as you’re comfortable? You and he are just the same.”
Bitterly, she mutters, “I really hate it,” the “it” being the whole situation of having Ji-won back and going to work next door and having to deal with him again. She wishes she could send him far away… and that gives Jin-soo an idea. Since he came empty-handed to her party, he asks if he can offer this as his birthday present, and proceeds to get the ball rolling by depositing Ji-won in a taxi and paying the driver to take him far away.
Seung-yeon has plenty to drink at the party and gets on a bus to go home, which carries another passenger from the same party — mute manager Dong-wook. She sleeps most of the way and jolts awake at the last minute, and alights from the bus half-asleep.
Dong-wook disembarks behind her and grabs her arm just as she stumbles, and tells her, “Be careful.” With that, he heads off.
It takes Seung-yeon a moment to register the import of this moment — he spoke! — and she gapes after him, then decides she must have imagined it in her drunken and sleepy daze.
In the morning, Ji-won wakes up to the sun beating on his face and slowly gets his bearings. He’s lying down… on the grass… in his suit… in a field of bleating sheep?
He has no phone, no wallet, and no recollection of how he came to be here. He staggers along the empty road until he comes upon a bus stop, where he sees a lone grandma sitting on a bench. He asks to know where he is, but it’s such a remote backwater that the name of the location doesn’t even ring a bell.
He begs for change to make a phone call, and gratefully accepts her coin. Unfortunately, in his eagerness to run to the nearest pay phone, he drops the coin, which rolls down the hill to plop into a pool of stagnant water.
Seung-yeon arrives at Jin-soo’s office in the morning, ready to greet Dong-wook with her usual signed hello. But to her shock, he answers Jin-soo’s question readily, perfectly able to speak (albeit with an accent). Stunned speechless (ironically?), she stands frozen as Dong-wook returns the signed hello, then remarks on his way out, “You’re here.”
Confused, Seung-yeon asks Jin-soo for clarification — so he wasn’t mute? She’s sure the cafe workers said he couldn’t speak! (I think it’s more accurate to say that they said he didn’t speak. Ah, it’s the little things that’ll get ya!) Jin-soo merely figures they said that because he’s a man of few words.
Ji-won uses his precious call to contact Jin-soo, who goes down to the cafe and promises to show Eun-young something really funny. She doesn’t know what he’s talking about until Ji-won pulls up to the cafe in a cab, and steps out looking like an utter mess — feet caked in manure, clothes wrinkled, hair disheveled, the works.
Eun-young suppresses a laugh as Jin-soo launches into concerned-friend mode, gasping to see him looking like a mess as though he hadn’t had everything to do with it. What happened? Surely he wasn’t abducted by a UFO or anything?
Ji-won is almost paranoid enough to take that leap, but right now he’s got other concerns, like washing the manure stink off him. Jin-soo pays the cab driver, and Ji-won heads off to clean up.
As he turns, he sees Eun-young watching with amusement. Well, that’s just humiliating, so he puts on some bravado and gives her his trademark wink-salute. (She returns the gesture wryly.)
Turns out that Jin-soo sent him to Daegwallyeong, which is a few hours’ drive from Seoul to the east. I know you could interpret Jin-soo’s prank as pretty mean, and yeah, I have that thought too, but I’m willing to go with the lighthearted tone of this move, particularly as Jin-soo did it entirely to cheer Eun-young up. (She’d hardly do such a childish thing herself, but that doesn’t mean she can’t enjoy the spoils.)
Amused at the joke but also touched at the gesture, Eun-young gives Jin-soo a sincere “Thanks” — which is just heartfelt enough to take him aback a little.
She adds, in a lighter tone, “I really love my birthday present. It’s awesome!” With a big thumbs-up, she says, “Thank you!”
As Jin-soo prepares to head out, he smiles that there’s more on the way: “You like sequels. Look forward to it.”
Like I said, I’m really getting a kick out of this drama — the off-kilter situations, the erratic behavior from Jin-soo (which is totally random and crazy-looking to the outside viewer but operates on its own brand of weird logic), and the hilarious facial expressions, which I find endearing but not too exaggerated to feel corny. I love comedy that is situational, more than the gag-based or slapstick variety, and so far Coffee House is fulfilling my need.
Also, I think this episode really sets us up for the pairings of Seung-yeon and the manager Dong-wook, as well as Jin-soo and Eun-young. If we get a Seung-yeon/Jin-soo loveline, I won’t be surprised or upset, but based on the dynamics so far, I’m really liking him with Eun-young. We’ve all noted that the cliche is to pair him with Seung-yeon, and while I’m not averse to cliches in and of themselves, I love exploring alternate routes, and in this drama the alternate route is much more endearing to me. It’s especially noticeable in the last scene, when there are very small undertones of this couple having more feelings for each other — deep under the surface — than they’re letting on, but it’s also visible in previous scenes too. Like when Eun-young and Jin-soo listen to the phone call together on speakerphone, or when Jin-soo comes to the party and sees her crying.
I wonder if this whole bad timing thing was their issue — he was married, and then she was engaged — but whatever the history, I’m invested in finding out what it was.
And honestly, how cute is Seung-yeon with Dong-wook, right? They’re infinitely more appealing than a Jin-soo pairing at this stage, and the goofy way their relationship gets started has got to be one of the cuter ways to get a couple set up, right? It adds an oddball charm to that couple that a straightforward Seung-yeon/Jin-soo coupling lacks.
But anyway. Onward to Page 4!