Coffee House: Page 12
I liked this episode. There’s a lot that happens here, a lot of movement. Generally I’m not a fan of artificial time skips and big life changes occurring off-camera, but it helps that we’re not dealing with a finale episode here. With several episodes still ahead of us, we’re given time to explore the developments wrought by the time skip, so I accept it. Even if I almost always prefer dramas NOT to employ them.
SONG OF THE DAY
Vanilla Acoustic – “Goodbye June” [ Download ]
PAGE 12 RECAP
Following the fight with Jin-soo, Ji-won staggers back to his office and grimaces in pain and thinks back to Jin-soo’s rant against him. And yet, of all of his insults to fixate on, Ji-won settles upon this one: “Am I really unfunny?”
Jin-soo returns to his temporary office and ices his hand. The injury is severe enough to require him to bandage his hand for a few days, so the next day he calls Seung-yeon, who is still laboring over her list of reasons to be re-hired.
Jin-soo tells her to go ahead and read them, even though she doesn’t think they’re good enough. She starts reciting — she’s mealtime company, she sharpens his pencils — but to her surprise, he cuts her off before she’s done and says they’re good enough. Come to the office, and bring clothes for a few days. He’ll need her to work with him for the next ten days.
Seung-yeon’s a little bummed to hear that the real reason he brought her back was purely because he needs a typist. He needs to finish the book, and make up for the last 50 pages that were lost because the fight damaged his flash drive.
When Seung-yeon tells Jin-soo that he should have just told her the real reason, he counters that he couldn’t — if he’d said that up front, he would have put himself in the role of the supplicant. A pro never willingly shows his weak side. And we know how protective Jin-soo is of himself.
At this, Seung-yeon grumbles that she should’ve known, because she found it odd that he was so quick to deem her “reasons” adequate. Jin-soo points out that she ought to take note that when a person acts out of character, there’s always a reason.
They work for a while like that, with Jin-soo dictating his story and Seung-yeon typing madly, trying to keep up. When Jin-soo leans over her shoulder to read the computer screen, she stiffens a bit, feeling an awareness to which he, feeling no attraction, is oblivious.
Dong-wook arrives bearing a cake from the cafe as a snack, and Seung-yeon happily invites Jin-soo to partake. I love the way Dong-wook frowns and jumps in to say that Jin-soo doesn’t like sweets, and Jin-soo catches on. He sees Dong-wook’s displeasure at having his coupley moment interrupted, and declines the offer to join them. Jin-soo calls for a break and sends the two off to have cake amongst themselves.
Jin-soo gets a phone call from Eun-young, who received a text message from him earlier asking for a meeting that night. She figures that it wasn’t actually sent from him, which he confirms, and they both guess that this is another of Ji-won’s antics to lure her out.
Employing his knowledge of Ji-won’s character and some thoughtful deductions, Jin-soo makes predictions as to Ji-won’s planned gesture, guessing correctly about the presence of big yellow ribbons. He also predicts that Ji-won will be kneeling in supplication, and again he’s right. He and Eun-young laugh over Ji-won’s childish predictability, as well as his simplistic idea of a grand moment.
As he sees Eun-young’s approach, Ji-won waves a white handkerchief in the air, and now accepts 100% percent of responsibility for their failed relationship. Eun-young laughs in incredulity when he proposes, declining him coolly and warning him not to ever propose again.
Hurriedly, Ji-won speeds through his prepared speech, trying to get through it all before she leaves. Like how giving up is the easiest choice, and leaves the most regrets. Love is a bridge that takes you to a place you can’t get to. Et cetera. Unmoved, Eun-young merely wonders where he stole his speech from.
Time for the big guns. Ji-won makes his grandest gesture by taking out something and brandishing it, crying out, “Love returns!” It’s a boomerang, and he throws it, hoping to win her over with this poetic (?) gesture. She scoffs.
As she leaves the scene, Eun-young calls Jin-soo again to laugh over this bout of ridiculousness. Jin-soo even guesses the boomerang move, and they both call Ji-won utterly predictable.
Jin-soo allows his tone to get a little more serious as he tells her that that’s why he introduced them — because of Ji-won’s predictability. He thought that would be most comfortable for her, so it wasn’t out of total random thoughtlessness that he paired them together.
After hanging up, Eun-young loses herself to thought as she walks through the park, seemingly reconsidering Ji-won’s proposal. Turning back, she returns to the be-ribboned tree, where Ji-won brightens at the sight of her.
His excitement takes a hit when Eun-young announces that she will keep going on marriage blind dates — that jajangmyun lawyer was just the first of a hundred. If she doesn’t meet anyone she likes, and if Ji-won is faithful to her while she goes on all hundred dates — by which she means he will give up dating entirely — she’ll “consider it once.”
She concedes that the only reason she’s giving him this shot is because she bears some responsibility for their failed relationship — say, 10% of it.
Doing some quick mental math, Ji-won protests — that means that even if she goes on one date a week, it would take her two years to go on a hundred! And all this just for a possibility of dating her? He thinks it’s grossly unfair, to which Eun-young tells him simply that he can give up now, then.
During their cake break, Dong-wook hesitantly broaches the topic of his birthday, which is next week. He wants to spend it with Seung-yeon, who reacts with some awkwardness, using the excuse that she may have to work.
Jin-soo comes up to their table to assure Dong-wook that he’ll be done with the manuscript by then, which makes Dong-wook perk up. Annoyed at his interference, Seung-yeon mouths to Jin-soo, “Why’d you do that?” Thankfully for Dong-wook’s poor puppy-dog heart, he doesn’t see that.
Now Dong-wook’s mood is entirely restored, and he stops by the bathroom to find Jin-soo. Patting him on the shoulders in a friendly gesture, Dong-wook tells Jin-soo to enjoy the cake — his way of extending an olive branch after his earlier disgruntlement. Aw!
Jin-soo calls it a night and sets up his cot to sleep, and gives the comfier couch to Seung-yeon. Uncomfortable with the idea of sharing a room at night — no matter how uncomfortable and un-romantic the room — Seung-yeon balks. She’d thought there’d be another room, and protests, “But still, I’m a woman….”
Jin-soo is so far from seeing her as a woman that her words completely stop him short, and he clarifies that she’s just a secretary to him, not a man or a woman. She’s like an object or a table sharpener, i.e., without gender.
He makes his point so thoroughly that Seung-yeon gets a little pissy at him, practically hmph-ing in his general direction as she stomps over to shut off the lights. She informs him that even if he doesn’t see her as a woman, she’s still a person with feelings.
As they settle into their makeshift beds, Seung-yeon asks a tentative question: Does she have any potential as a writer?
Jin-soo answers tiredly that if she works hard for the next ten years, maybe she might have some possibility. He was able to publish at a younger age, but that’s because he had writing talent, which she lacks. And insisting that effort is more important than talent is another mark of an amateur. Jin-soo adds that maybe she’ll be able to write a decent book once she’s in her forties.
Seung-yeon’s dismayed — that long? He says that ten years is the minimum for her, so she should turn her attention to another job: “It’s not a good profession.”
When Dong-wook’s birthday rolls around, Jin-soo is nearing the end of his work and lets Seung-yeon go, intending to finish up on his own. She drops by the book cafe to talk to Eun-young, and on the way in she briefly talks to Dong-wook to confirm their date that evening. Dong-wook’s little cheer of excitement is adorable, as is the glare he shoots at his baristas for making fun of him.
Eun-young passes along a mock-up of the book cover for Seung-yeon to show Jin-soo. (The book is titled “Page One,” which as you know was first supposed to be the drama’s title, and then the name of the book cafe. I still contend that it ought to have been the drama’s title.)
With Seung-yeon’s secretary duties coming to an end, Eun-young asks what Seung-yeon has planned for the future, and offers to help Seung-yeon if she has an interest in publishing. Seung-yeon is enthusiastic, and thanks her for her kindness.
And then the smiles fade a bit when the conversation turns to the topic of the manuscript’s imminent completion. Now that the book is almost done, the reality of Jin-soo’s likely departure is also approaching.
Seung-yeon shows Jin-soo the cover, and also informs him of the publishing company’s anniversary party that night. The employees don’t expect that he’ll come, but wanted to extend the invitation anyway.
Jin-soo asks for a cup of coffee, and today, his reaction is different — even before tasting it, he sniffs at it quizzically, noting a difference. Seung-yeon looks at him hopefully, awaiting his appraisal… but he ends up spitting it out anyway. Ha. He had her hopes up for a second there.
Jin-soo reminds Seung-yeon of her rash promise early on to satisfy all of his instructions, and identifies her challenge as an amateurish act. However, he concedes that she’s halfway to success by realizing that much, and even gives her some praise, saying that she managed pretty well, all things considered. He hadn’t expected her to manage the pencils, but she did that and the fossil book translations successfully.
Jin-soo identifies Seung-yeon’s one strength as being foolish, which she doesn’t take as a compliment. However, Jin-soo adds that it is, and that if wielded in the right way, it can even lead her to success. She ought to adopt it as her life concept.
Seung-yeon had assumed Jin-soo was teasing her as he always does, but now that she sees he actually means it as a compliment, she accepts it with pleasure. Wishing him well, Seung-yeon tells him they’d better have their own wrap party when he’s done and leaves him to his work.
However, Jin-soo’s expression grows serious as continues writing after she leaves. As Seung-yeon descends the stairs in the school, he types: “Seung-hee descended the staircase slowly. She didn’t know where that end was. For a moment, the thought came to her that it might be too steep. END.”
Jin-soo then picks up the phone to call the airline and books a ticket to the States.
Seung-yeon continues on in her good mood, arriving at her meeting spot for her birthday date with Dong-wook. She notes that today marks the six-month mark since she met Jin-soo, and reminisces about everything she’s been through in that time.
But in the process of recalling the past events, she also remembers Jin-soo’s words from last week — that you should think of the reason behind the behavior when somebody acts out of the ordinary. And Jin-soo was acting out of the ordinary when he praised her.
Suddenly gripped with foreboding, she calls the office, but it’s already empty. Rushing away just as Dong-wook arrives, looking forward to their date (poor guy!), Seung-yeon takes a cab back to school.
And yes, the sight of the empty office confirms her fears. Jin-soo has already cleared out and is on his way off to goodness knows where.
He makes one brief stop on his way out of the country, and arrives at the publishing office, where the party is in full swing. Eun-young greets her guests and plays the part of the gracious hostess, but as she crosses the crowded room, she catches a glimpse of Jin-soo, standing off by the exit unseen by the others.
She starts to make her way to him, but he holds her off and instead picks up the nearby phone to call her cell. It’s a touching callback to their train station phone call in the last episode — the conversation carries the weight of the kind of honesty they can only share in moments like this, where goodbye is imminent.
Eun-young: “So you’re leaving now.”
Jin-soo: “I wanted to see your face before I left.”
Eun-young: “I’ll forget you entirely. Don’t worry, and be well. I won’t even wait, wondering when you’ll return. Even if you don’t return, I won’t look for you. So if you’re happy somewhere else, settle down there.”
Jin-soo: “I’d like that, too.”
Eun-young: “You can do it.”
Jin-soo: “I’ll go.”
Jin-soo heads for the exit, looking back at her one last time. Eun-young sends him off with a reassuring smile, but after he goes that smile slowly fades and is replaced by a stricken expression. It’s a lovely bit of acting, as the camera stays on her face for that long moment and captures her emotional transformation, beat by beat.
It’s a nice touch that she keeps that phone held to her ear even after he has gone, as though she can’t bear to let the connection go.
Some time later, Jin-soo’s book is published. Seung-yeon starts to read, engrossed for the hours it takes her to finish the book. When she gets to the end, she lays her head down, feeling a mix of emotions at coming to an end in this chapter of her life.
And then, seasons pass. The drama’s comic-book framing device comes into play as we skip from season to season, seeing little slices of life as the rest of our characters continue living. Snow falls, then spring flowers bloom, Seung-chul gets accepted to university, Children’s Day comes and goes, the summer heat encroaches, and even Dad gets a little flirty with a new neighbor.
(Normally I hate when a drama time-skips without a particularly compelling reason, and I have been known to howl in frustration when a chyron pops up reading “__ YEARS LATER.” However, this drama mitigates that by showing us scenes from the elapsed time, which makes the transition smoother and works to bridge the time skip, I think.)
When we resume, it’s two years later.
Seung-yeon looks more professional and polished now — at age 27, she is now a career woman and moves with a confidence she hadn’t had before. But it’s not like she’s morphed into a completely new person, and today she is rushing in to work with what appears to be habitual lateness.
She is now the writer for a radio program, and manages to make it just in time to distribute the scripts for the morning. And here, she’s known for her particularly good coffee.
Her boss asks Seung-yeon about her experience as Jin-soo’s secretary, having heard about it from Do-sang, her sunbae from university. The boss is disappointed at Seung-yeon’s answer, that she hasn’t kept in touch with him over the years.
The boss was really counting on using Seung-yeon’s connections to score a phone interview with Jin-soo, whose media-shy personality makes him an awesome get. Plus, the more reclusive he gets, the more people’s speculations grow about his whereabouts, and there are even some outlandish death rumors circulating in the absence of real news. Even if she hasn’t spoken to him recently, the boss asks Seung-yeon to try looking into it.
As for his true whereabouts? As it happens, Jin-soo is now on his way back to Korea. Whatever he’s been up to, it looks like he’s been roughing it for a while, probably wandering from remote locale to remote locale.
But it’s nothing a shave and a change of clothes can’t remedy, and when he emerges from the airport bathroom after landing, he’s looking mighty spiffy — aside from the new hairstyle, he’s looking crisp in all-white duds, and has a few flashy bits of jewelry. (To be honest, he looks like a nallari — a sort of frivolous partier.)
Jin-soo rents himself a stylin’ sports car — his first time behind the wheel in six years, which is when we can presume his ex-wife died.
As he peels out of the airport parking lot and zooms off into the street, he passes by a car that’s parked — it’s Eun-young, who is arriving at the airport on her way to a trip of her own. The sight of his car catches her eye, and while she doesn’t get a good look at Jin-soo, something about the scene makes her think of him….
So. I suppose the big question is what Jin-soo’s been up to all this while, and why he’s back. We already know that he tends to go on two-year stints abroad, so I suppose he could be feeling the pull to return, maybe get a little work in, and then leave when he’s feeling the urge to split again. The thing about actively avoiding maintaining a home base is that you won’t feel home anywhere, and no place will satisfy him for too long.
I particularly liked the goodbye scene on the phone, for a few reasons. One, it was nicely acted in an understated, subtle way. They kept their words honest despite the light tone, and didn’t make grand promises or big statements. At this point Jin-soo and Eun-young know how they feel about each other, and the problem isn’t a misunderstanding of some sort (thankfully) — they both understand why they can’t be together, so there’s no use angsting over it.
But another aspect I like is that the telephone is an interesting motif in Jin-soo’s life, and particularly between him and Eun-young. This goes back all the way to the beginning, when he ignores phone calls and refuses to answer. He not only throws away the phone connections but the physical phone receivers, too. Seung-yeon was the reason he allowed himself to grow tethered to the phone, after she was injured and he couldn’t get in touch with her. However, I don’t read this as a romantically symbolic thing — it’s in keeping with Eun-young’s comment that Seung-yeon is the connector between her and Jin-soo. She helped bridge that gap of miscommunication, albeit against Jin-soo’s will, and allowed — forced? — them to finally be honest with each other.
I’m sure it was no coincidence, either, that their first kiss occurred in a phone booth.
Then, Jin-soo finally comes clean to Eun-young about how he feels — he cares for her but can’t separate her from his dead wife in his mind — over the phone just as she’s about to leave.
And here, at the party scene, the phone again keeps them physically apart — Jin-soo actually tells her not to come to him in person, that they’ll keep their goodbye conversation to the phone line — while simultaneously acting as a connecting force as they say their goodbyes.
The phone brings them together, but it also keeps them apart. So now, in the last stretch of the drama, what remains to be seen is how they can be brought together without need of these devices, both physical and metaphorical. If they can, that is.
Note: I’m traveling early next week so Episode 13 recap will not be up Monday. Fair warning!