SO MANY cute couple scenes in this episode! We’re definitely in the calm before the storm, so again I’m gonna gloat to girlfriday about getting the floofy, candy-sweet episode. Then again, maybe she’s not so jealous since, other than the coupley goodness, the plot was a little slow. (But who cares when you have adoring Jin-ho, right?)

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EPISODE 13 RECAP

Episode 13, titled “A Special Birthday Present,” opens as Kae-in falls unconscious from the shock of her Sanggojae memory, wherein she crashed down through the glass ceiling onto her mother below, which presumably killed the latter. The shock takes a physical toll as well as emotional, and Kae-in suffers through a feverish night, during which Jin-ho takes care of her attentively. He doesn’t know anything of her Sanggojae trauma — which she doesn’t recall when she wakes up — and thinks she has just fallen sick.

In the morning Kae-in wakes up shuddering, feeling like she had a nightmare. He lets her rest while returning to the secret basement to look around, where something resting against the wall catches his eye. But just as he steps toward it, Kae-in calls him from upstairs. She’s feeling better now.

It may be just a little ridiculous how much I love that he draws a scented bubble bath for her, replete with rose petals. And then he sits outside the bathroom to wait, asking if she likes the gesture. Which is about as unnecessary a question as “How hot am I right now?”


And then, as if that’s not enough, he DRIES HER HAIR. This is one of those gestures that is sweet but not actually helpful, as Kae-in would be more comfortable doing it herself, which makes it that much sweeter — they’re both putting up with the inconvenience because it’s so enjoyable being together. Like a couple where both people read their own books while holding hands, for whom the compromised mobility is worth the closeness. Eventually she takes over, and Jin-ho looks down at her bared neck as she dries her hair. Leaning close, he kisses her and asks her not to fall ill again. Dude, if I got this kind of treatment every time I fell ill I’d never stop faking it.

Sang-jun and Young-sun head over to Sanggojae, the latter carrying provisions to for sick Kae-in’s recovery. Young-sun tentatively broaches the subject of Kae-in potentially offering Jin-ho money to help with the business, wanting to ask Sang-jun not to accept it. But she doesn’t have to ask, since Sang-jun replies that there’s no way they could accept anyway — they have found out that Kae-in’s big furniture order came from Chang-ryul, and we know that the day they take his money is the day the In-hee Bot discovers compassion. So we’re not holding our breaths here. He adds that although they’d like to tell Kae-in the truth about the source of her income, Jin-ho saw how happy she was and couldn’t bring himself to burst her bubble.

Just as they arrive at the house, Jin-ho gets a call from Tae-hoon with bad news: they’ve been served with a lawsuit. Jin-ho doesn’t want to let on that it’s serious and uses words like “printer cartridge” for Kae-in’s benefit, and apologizes for having to leave to deal with work.

Kae-in busily eats, wanting to recover quickly to relieve the burden on Jin-ho. Young-sun thinks of Jin-ho’s business problems and uses this comment as a segue, saying that he’s got bigger problems on his plate. But she can’t quite spill the beans either, so she just mumbles how Kae-in has to become “a real woman” in order to know what what’s best for Jin-ho.

Interpreting that comment in a different way, Kae-in bows her head bashfully and says, “I think I’ve become a real woman now.” Young-sun gets excited, thinking all sorts of sexy thoughts and imagining a home run until Kae-in clarifies that she’s talking about a kiss. Boo! (First base at best.)

That’s nothing to get impressed about, so Young-sun starts to explain the meanings behind different kinds of kisses. (On the hand, on the forehead, etc.) Kae-in asks what one on the neck means, and Young-sun gets excited again, since a neck kiss connotes desire. (Maybe a setup for a stolen second base?)

The lawsuit comes out of nowhere — the plaintiff is the construction worker who had been injured on the job, who had been released from the hospital with no complaints. The contractor asks his man why he’s suddenly suing, suspicious that this has to do with that stranger who had been asking questions. The worker has obviously been coached by a separate mastermind.

Well, maybe “mastermind” is overstating things a bit. Jin-ho confronts Chang-ryul, who doesn’t even bother with a denial; Chang-ryul says he’s just playing sneaky to counter Jin-ho’s sneakiness. Jin-ho has no idea what he’s referring to, until Chang-ryul asks pointedly why he moved into Sanggojae and insinuates that he knew it was the concept behind the Dahm project. He suggests that Kae-in would be hurt to know that Jin-ho had faked everything just for the project.

Jin-ho asserts that no matter his reason for moving into Sanggojae, his feelings toward Kae-in are sincere. She’ll believe that. Chang-ryul calls him the boy who cried wolf whose explanation won’t be believed, challenging him to see what happens when le shit hits le fan.

Do-bin notices that today is Kae-in’s birthday and confirms it with In-hee, who plays along despite having forgotten herself. Do-bin takes out three tickets to an ice rink, which breaks my heart a little — he knows he’d be the third wheel but considers them such friends that he’d go out with them together.

In-hee sees an opportunity to shove Chang-ryul toward Kae-in and brings the birthday to his attention. He had let Kae-in down last year by forgetting the day after promising to do something big, and this is a chance for him to make an impression.

Chang-rul asks hesitantly if it’s okay for him to give Kae-in a birthday present, which strikes me as being rather like a mouse asking a cat for advice about wooing another mouse, not knowing the cat sees them all as dinner. His first impulse is to buy roses and jewelry, but he changes his mind — Kae-in isn’t In-hee, so those gifts aren’t appropriate. The boy is learning! Too bad it’s too little too late, but I give him credit for the honest effort.

When Chang-ryul drops by, he comes bearing not flowers or jewels but an envelope. She tells him she’s uncomfortable being around him, which he respects. He hands her an envelope, and has managed a pretty good present — or at least a good explanation for it. He has decided that the most meaningful thing to give her is something that would help Jin-ho, and therefore offers her money with which Jin-ho can secure a new office. Since Jin-ho would never take money from Chang-ryul, he might accept it from her.

Kae-in has forgotten her own birthday and gives back the envelope — she can’t give that money to Jin-ho by lying. And again Chang-ryul reacts maturely, a bit disappointed but admitting that it was a mistake in judgment for him to try.

Which is, of course, when Jin-ho arrives on the scene. As we know, this is the one area in which he is completely irrational and often allows his jealousy to pre-empt his reason, so he glares at them both and lets his anger get the better of him.

Kae-in tells him not to misunderstand, because she didn’t accept the gift in the first place. She defends Chang-ryul (mistake!) by saying that he’s actually being quite thoughtful of Jin-ho, which makes the latter scoff, “Then are you thinking of me at all?” She’s hurt by his words and the implication that she doesn’t care about him, while he leaves angry.

Do-bin sees her downcast mood and joins her, guessing that Jin-ho is at the root of her distress. Rather than asking her about the problem head-on, he draws an analogy with math, asking if she was good at the subject in her school days. She says no, and neither was he; he explains that he used to think his math-savvy friends must also be good at solving real-life problems. If they could figure out love like a math problem, they could avoid hurting each other and just love. I adore Do-bin’s conclusion: “I’m certain that Jeon Jin-ho was worse at math than we were.”

Do-bin takes out his envelope and removes one ticket before handing the others to Kae-in, which is such a heartbreaking gesture — he’s removing himself from the equation. He offers it to her as a prime opportunity to make up with Jin-ho, and notes that it’s only valid through today. He wishes her happy birthday, crumpling up the third ticket in his hand so she doesn’t see it, which KILLS ME. Arg, Ryu Seung-ryong is wringing my heart over and over with his thoughtful, sensitive portrayal. Love him.

Young-sun and Sang-jun brainstorm about how to prepare Kae-in’s birthday (and the ensuing seduction for the two of them). They imagine setting out a cake, candles, and wine and pretend to pop the imaginary cork. While enacting the toast, they meet eyes and a flare of awkward awareness springs up between them. Uh-oh! Lady’s got a husband! And you’re still calling her unni!

Shaking off that nervous moment, Young-sun turns back to the topic at hand, saying that their scenario would totally work on her — she’s only experienced the poor man’s (or lazy man’s) version of the birthday celebration with a candle in a Chocopie, soju, and so on. As they meet eyes again, Sang-jun says, “That doesn’t sound bad either.”

And then they jump up nervously when Jin-ho comes in. They inform him that it’s Kae-in’s birthday, which is a fact he hadn’t known.

He comes home to find Kae-in still a little miffed, although he’s back to his good humor. He tells her to get dressed — her narrow-minded boyfriend wants to take her out to make up for getting angry. Her response? “That woman tells me to tell you she doesn’t want to go on a date with a narrow-minded man.” He replies, “Isn’t it more narrow-minded not to accept an apology?” Touché.

After thinking about it, Kae-in grudgingly agrees, but qualifies that she’s only agreeing because the tickets will go to waste otherwise. He doesn’t know what she’s talking about until they arrive at the ice rink.

Although she insists that she’s only here because of the tickets (which he is jealous to hear came from a man, until she clarifies that they’re from Do-bin), Kae-in marvels at the fun in participating in this quintessential date activity. In dramas, the couples always go to ice rinks and hold hands and act cute, which she always wanted to try. Jin-ho smiles, reading between the lines — she’s practically declared her feelings for him, then, by comparing this date to those drama dates. Hehe.

When she falls, Jin-ho offers her a hand to get up, and she pulls him down to the ice with her. She lands on top of him (because why waste a good excuse for some physical intimacy?), and the two share a moment of sexual tension, which Jin-ho responds to by giving her a quick peck on the lips.

Jin-ho had left the gate open for Sang-jun and Young-sun to prepare a surprise while they were gone, so upon their return to the house, they find a romantic spread with candles, cake, and wine.

Gah, I just melt at the way Jin-ho looks at Kae-in — not just in this scene but repeatedly throughout this episode — because boy is so smitten and he doesn’t even care about letting it all show.

He tells her to make a wish before blowing out her candles, but the smile fades from his face when she says her wish was for them to not lie to each other anymore. She made the wish in a lighthearted spirit, thinking of his gay masquerade, but naturally this is more meaningful to him in light of his Sanggojae deception.

He decides to come clean and tells her that he’d made a wish for his “true feelings” to come through. He means that he’d like her to believe that he loves her after hearing the truth, but the vague statement puzzles her. Working up the nerve to tell her the whole truth, he asks her not to get angry with his confession. But she gets scared at the last moment and cuts him off, changing the subject by asking if he prepared a gift for her.

Jin-ho answers that he’s her gift, teasing, “Aren’t I good enough?” But Kae-in — who had been taken shopping by Young-sun for sexy lingerie earlier — interprets that comment more literally. Asking for a moment to “prepare,” she excuses herself. Jin-ho doesn’t quite know what she means by that, but figures that alas, today’s not the right night for this confession.

He heads back to the basement to take note of necessary steps to restore the room, thinking it’ll be a nice gesture for Kae-in. This boy is just killing me with all the sweet displays of affection. This is the complete opposite of Chang-ryul or In-hee, who see romantic moves as strategic plays, which of course is the very opposite of romantic. In contrast, Jin-ho loves doing things for her just for the sake of making her happy, which makes me all gooey inside.

The item propped against the basement wall catches his attention again, which turns out to be a poster tube. Pulling out the paper inside, he finds a rolled blueprint of the house. Bingo!

Upstairs, Kae-in is a bundle of nerves as she calls Young-sun — she thinks Jin-ho was going to tell her he wanted to spend the night with her, but she chickened out because she was so nervous her heart was racing. Plus, he called himself her birthday present, which Young-sun agrees was a physical invitation.

She worries over whether to wear her sexy new lingerie, while Young-sun advises her to build the mood toward intimacy rather than charging into the situation head-on.

Which means… Jenga?

I actually love that Jin-ho gets pissy when she flicks his forehead (a punishment for losing his round), because this aspect of his character has been consistent. Kae-in feels sorry to see the bright red mark her flick has left, and leans in close to blow on her forehead. Yet now they’re both thinking of more physical impulses and the proximity makes them both nervous.

Jin-ho jumps back and they both abandon the game, retreating to their rooms with racing hearts (and libidos).

Kae-in frets to her Jin-ho doll, afraid of putting herself out there and then having Jin-ho disappointed in her. She remembers Jin-ho telling her during that long-ago night that Chang-ryul broke up with her because she didn’t sleep with him. And that men’s instinct is to hold and touch the women they love.

Meanwhile, Jin-ho tries to work through his hormones, recalling the same conversation — particularly Kae-in’s wish to have a man love her no matter whether she slept with him or not.

But maybe the gods are getting a little impatient with their uncertainty, because a bolt of lightning rends the sky and a thunderstorm swiftly commences. Kae-in bursts into Jin-ho’s room, scared of the noise, pleading to spend the night here.

Some time later, Jin-ho cradles Kae-in while they lie in bed together, and he relates stories of his student days. Finding that she has fallen asleep, he wonders, “Have you forgotten I’m a man? If you keep doing this, it’ll give me a hard [hehe] time.”

He kisses her forehead, which is the type of kiss Young-sun had called an example of “faith and trust.” That forms the basis of Kae-in’s next diary entry:

Kae-in: “Using the thunderstorm as an excuse, I tried being courageous. However, you protect me with faith and trust. Did you really not understand my clumsy confession? This has been the weather forecast of a shy Park Kae-in, who hopes for rain again tomorrow.”

I appreciate that her diary narration demonstrates that she recognizes that the storm was just an excuse; it shows that she was trying to take the first step, even if he didn’t interpret the move as such.

In the morning, she wakes up in his empty bed and Jin-ho teases over the phone how she had kept him up all night with her snoring and grinding of teeth.

Sang-jun overhears his part of the conversation and congratulates him, assuming that they’ve consummated the relationship. Jin-ho replies that he’s got the wrong idea, but neither Sang-jun nor Tae-hoon believes him.

On the flipside, Kae-in tells Young-sun they slept together last night, but Young-sun doesn’t consider this to be the proper definition of “sleeping together.” She’s disappointed in Jin-ho for dropping the ball, but Kae-in moons over his gallantry, sighing, “Isn’t he so cool?” He’s a man who knows how to watch over the woman he loves, and therefore is the man of her dreams. Young-sun retorts, “Then just hold hands forever and stick to dreaming.”

In-hee intrudes, sarcastically commenting how impressive it is that Kae-in received a birthday gift from her ex. As if I didn’t already love Young-sun enough, she gets right in In-hee’s face and jabs her in the chest, then approaches with a fist. Alas, Kae-in holds her back, cheating us of the gratification of the impending smackdown.

However, Young-sun finds her attempted intervention unwarranted, as Kae-in sticks up for herself impressively. She tells In-hee that she’s so busy that she forgot her own birthday and asks In-hee to leave — those are fairly mild words but the punch is in the implication. She is pointing out that In-hee is playing little kiddie games while she’s busy being an adult, and therefore, even though the setdown is mild, it has its intended effect and In-hee storms off feeling pissy.

Jin-ho takes out the blueprint from the tube he’d retrieved from the basement, but this time he notices something else — another set of papers inside. Yahtzee! These blueprints are something quite different, something beyond the scope of the Sanggojae itself. He hasn’t quite cracked the nut of the house’s secret, but he’s right there on the verge…

Meanwhile, Scarface is also trying to figure out the same secret, having heard that Sanggojae is more than a simple house. It’s part of a bigger picture, and if only he could find the blueprints… (Anvils away! Who else expects immediate hijinks landing the papers in his evil clutches?) He sighs and grunts as he mulls this over, and I swear it’s like this guy is taking his acting cues from Darth Vader.

Time for another adorable date between Kae-in and Jin-ho, who are on a coffee break. They laugh at each other’s whipped-cream mustaches, while she reaches up to wipe his from his upper lip.

Acting on the romantic current flowing between them, Jin-ho moves the table aside and leans closer… which makes her lean backward and almost tip backward in her chair. How she could be leaning away from him when he’s wearing that intent expression on his face is beyond me; I’ve barely got enough restraint to keep MYSELF from jumping up and assaulting his face with kisses. I don’t know how she does it.

After getting her royal setdown by Kae-in, In-hee fumes and reaches for the phone to call Hye-mi. She’s an unlikely ally, but she’s In-hee’s best contact for getting in touch with Jin-ho’s mother, who is the next step in Operation Break Jin-ho’s Romance Up So I Can Have Him, Even If He Hates Me, Because His Agency In This Relationship Is A Nonissue When We’re Talking About What I Want, Dammit. Beep boop beep.

In-hee plays the part of a concerned friend, feigning hesitation over sharing Jin-ho’s work troubles with his mother. She reveals that Jin-ho is in a lot of difficulty these days, with his office in danger and the lawsuit hanging over his head. And it’s all because of Kae-in, she explains, because Chang-ryul is meddling with Jin-ho because of her. She didn’t end her relationship with Chang-ryul cleanly, and kept dating him even when she was seeing Jin-ho.

Ohh, In-hee is so crafty. I’m actually impressed! This is all true, but Mom is still getting the wrong idea. Even the two-timing part is technically right (given the “revenge” plan), but it conveys a distorted truth. Which elevates In-hee from mere manipulator to evil genius, frankly.

Shaken, Mom asks what she can do to help, but also expresses her skepticism over In-hee’s role in telling her this. After all, if In-hee used to be with Chang-ryul, isn’t it better for her that Kae-in and Jin-ho continue dating so she can take Chang-ryul back?

In-hee answers that it’s not about her personal feelings (because she has none), and merely feels it would be a terrible waste for Jin-ho to ruin his life this way. She suggests that Mom try to persuade Kae-in herself, as it’s unlikely Kae-in will be able to ignore her.

Oblivious to this storm brewing on the horizon, Jin-ho and Kae-in are shopping for housewares like a blissfully happy couple. Kae-in urges Jin-ho to go back to his mother’s house to avoid her ire, but he answers that he has nowhere to go other than Sanggojae. On nights he doesn’t spend there, he has been sleeping in his office.

Jin-ho declares that he’ll be fine continuing to “just hold hands” with her — an assurance that he won’t press himself on her physically — because that’s how much he wants to be with her.

 
COMMENTS

So. Like I said, we’re pretty light on story development in this episode, as the main storyline hits two basic points: Jin-ho finds the blueprints, and In-hee drags Mom into this mess. The rest of the episode is dedicated to giving us lots of yummy couple bonding moments, and if Jin-ho and Kae-in weren’t so damn lovable I’d probably think it was excessive. But one could argue that in a romantic comedy that gives a lot of weight to the growth of its main characters, the bonding itself is a necessary activity to show the trust being built between them so that it can break our hearts appropriately when that trust is infringed upon.

I recall that early in the drama, there were a lot of disgruntled comments about what was seen as a mismatched pairing between Sohn Ye-jin and Lee Min-ho. It seems that tide has been turning as the drama progresses, and I’d like to chime in and say that I’m LOVING this team. Romantic dramas that are successful tend to evoke a strong fan loyalty to the pairing even long after the drama is over, and I think this definitely was one issue here, seeing as how I read a lot of comparisons between Gu Hye-sun and Sohn Ye-jin which were pretty irrelevant to this drama.

I think that Lee Min-ho had chemistry with Gu Hye-sun, but I love that Sohn Ye-jin brings out his mature side. Being teamed with her allows the romance in this drama to be an adult one, rather than the youthful first love of Boys Before Flowers. Nothing wrong with youthful love, and I’m not knocking it — it just brings with it certain limitations, story- and chemistry-wise. For instance, I recall reading that a certain kiss in Boys Before Flowers was edited way down because it was more passionate than was deemed appropriate. There’s also no way they would have broached the topic of the main characters — and especially the female lead — struggling with their sexual desires. Kae-in is allowed to be mature, adult, and aware of her sexual feelings while not being labeled a pervy tart, and Jin-ho is allowed to be sexually frustrated AND respectful of her boundaries. It’s stuff like this that really makes Personal Taste a breath of fresh air.

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