All right, we’re in our last week! Last week was a hectic mess and I fell behind on recaps, but I’m hoping that this week will be much more productive. It’s been a fun ride but I’m ready for this one to wrap up and make way for some new, potentially fun dramas that are on the horizon. (And there are a LOT on the horizon.)
SONG OF THE DAY
Misty Blue – “낮잠” (Afternoon nap) [ Download ]
PAGE 16 RECAP
After recalling her embarrassing drunken behavior, Seung-yeon frets that evening — to call Jin-soo, or not to call? She had apologized for kissing him twice, only to be corrected — it was actually six times. Mortified to be facing him (and her transgressions), she had grabbed her phone from his grasp and tried to escape. Unfortunately, he’d grabbed onto her bag, and she’d had to forgo her bag in order to run away.
Just then, the phone rings, and she jumps in fright to see that it’s Jin-soo. She can’t bring herself to answer the call, so she foists that job on her brother, who says that she’s out and takes a message. Too bad he’s none too bright, because he mumbles, “Noona, give me a pen,” alerting Jin-soo to her lame attempt to avoid him.
Jin-soo leaves the message that if she wants to recover her bag, she will have to bring by a set of documents tomorrow. Among the papers are an explanation for her behavior and a “contract relinquishing one’s body.” The implication is that he wouldn’t be held liable for her safety (it’s not a sexual thing, but rather a danger issue), and she finds this particularly mean of him.
That night, Jin-soo looks over at Seung-yeon’s notebook, trying to ignore it at first and then giving in to his curiosity. As he flips through her notes for a novel idea, he is unexpectedly entertained — they make him laugh, and then, accordingly, a solemn part draws him into a pensive mood.
Seung-yeon’s notes: Faraway (far away is good!), across the Pacific Ocean (the sea embraces dreams), in the Galapagos archipelago where Darwin’s theory of evolution was born…
After hearing about Jin-soo’s ring purchase, Ji-won puts two and two together, and this puts him into an uncharacteristically somber mood. When he visits Eun-young, he does so without his usual cheesy moves, and he asks her if Jin-soo said “anything particular” to her recently. He’s testing to see how much she knows, while she’s feeling guilty about keeping that whole I-love-Jin-soo-romantically-but-chose-you-because-I-can’t-be-with-him thing a secret. She says no, and Ji-won accepts that with some relief.
The next day, Seung-yeon drops by with the requested (demanded) documents. Jin-soo is out for a morning jog, so she goes inside to wait when a button pops off her shirt. Naturally she must fix it. And naturally Jin-soo must walk in upon her. So saith the Kdrama Comedy Laws.
What I love about this very cliched scenario, however, is Jin-soo’s reaction. Not just the girlish scream he emits, but the way he screams in supposed shock as he takes a closer look (men!). I wonder if he’d blame that on manly instinct too, like he blamed his phone-booth kiss.
Then he turns away rubbing his face in an “Oh, my eyes!” gesture. (A couple seconds and one long stare too late to be convincing, as far as I’m concerned.)
Jin-soo explains why he wanted those documents from her, saying that she’s done pretty well for herself in attracting men, like Dong-wook (who’s now wealthy). How does he know she’s not a gold-digger? This isn’t all an elaborate ploy to get at his money, right? He’s not being entirely serious, again having some fun at Seung-yeon’s expense, but she still finds this unfair and excessive. Especially with him demanding she give up rights over her body — what horrible things does he have in mind?
At that, Jin-soo says she’s got it all backward — the contract is for HER to give up any claim to HIS body. Basically, it’s to keep him “safe” from her unwanted advances, and now Seung-yeon glares at him even more at this unfair charge.
In annoyance, Seung-yeon signs the contract. Jin-soo retrieves her belongings to return to her, but pauses at the sight of her notes. Making the excuse that he just “happened” to see them accidentally, he starts to say he read her idea, and Seung-yeon gets defensive, anticipating that he’ll tear her to shreds.
True to her expectation, he does knock it as shoddily written — but he adds that the idea is good. He finds her concept fresh and entertaining, which is hugely exciting for her to hear. She explains that she thought her idea was pretty good too, but didn’t have the confidence to show it to anyone.
Jin-soo wipes that huge smile from her face with his next statement, which is to offer to buy the idea from her. He explains that even if her idea is sound, she’s still so lacking as a writer that she wouldn’t be able to do it justice till she was forty, at least. He’d be able to take the idea and turn it into a bestseller by next year. Plus, she doesn’t have the time or luxury to travel to the Galapagos Island, whereas he could leave tomorrow.
He offers her 10 million won (approximately $8,000), then ups that to 50 million when she balks ($40,000). Seung-yeon says haltingly that even if it takes her years, she wants to give it a try. Finally, he offers 100 million won ($80,000).
Seung-yeon bursts out that it doesn’t matter, she still wants to keep the idea. She reminds him that he’d told her that being foolish (foolishly stubborn) was her one strength, and that she might succeed if she used that as a guiding principle in her life.
Mention of his old words brings him up short, as he had no idea she’d hold his words so close. He backs down, while Seung-yeon bursts out that of course she would — aside from him, nobody else in her life would bother to give her life advice. He may not remember his words because he’s so cocky and well-off on his own, “But I’ll remember those words all my life and use them as my life’s goals. Don’t make me disappointed in you!”
He accepts her refusal, but says wryly that for a person who supposedly “respects” him so much, she sure was forward in forcing a kiss (or six) upon him. She retorts that that was because she’s foolish — she’s dumb that way, and can’t “act” like she likes somebody without actually developing those feelings.
This abrupt confessions surprises both, and she realizes what she has admitted. Embarrassed, she dashes out, then chides herself for being that frank with Jin-soo.
Time for some Dong-wook interaction, but alas, I fear this will not end well for him. Today is Seung-yeon’s birthday, and she doesn’t have anything planned other than a family dinner (and Grandma would rather she partied with friends — or a guy — instead). Dong-wook offers to buy her a birthday meal, which surprises Seung-yeon because he’d remembered her birthday after all these years. Alas, her surprise comes without any hint of romantic interest, so Dong-wook’s excitement when she agrees to dinner is sad to behold.
Especially since it is quickly dashed. Jin-soo pulls up in his car and tells Seung-yeon he sent her a text message about a birthday dinner. Immediately she perks up and joins Jin-soo, leaving Dong-wook with a perfunctory apology.
However, to her dismay she learns that Jin-soo’s text was about Ji-won’s birthday party — Jin-soo has no idea today is her birthday. He’s just using her as his fake date for the gathering, and she tries to hide her disappointment.
They arrive at the dinner late — purposely, to avoid as much of the tedious festivities as possibly — although still early enough to be forced to sit through most of the evening’s plans.
Eun-young and Ji-won look pretty happy together, and Jin-soo remains quiet for much of the proceedings. He excuses himself and kills time outside in the hallway for much of the party, preferring to remain at a distance.
He runs into Eun-young in the hall, who requests that he remain out of the room for a while. It’s out of bashfulness, because she’s prepared a gift for Ji-won and it’s pretty cheesy so she’d rather not leave herself open for that embarrassment. Jin-soo’s perfectly content to oblige.
The gift turns out to be a magic show with basic tricks, like producing a rose out of a handkerchief. However, this little demonstration is surprisingly moving for Ji-won, who had requested the magic show but never in a million years thought she would actually indulge him.
In response, he unveils a surprise of his own, and grabs Eun-young for a dance as a violinist enters the room, playing that famous tango song, “Por Una Cabeza” from Scent of a Woman. Oh, are we ignoring the fact that this song is obviously a duet while the lone violinist plays an impossible range of notes all by her lonesome? Okay, I guess we are. Would it really have cost you that much more to get a second extra to fake playing the violin?
Ji-won dips Eun-soo in an exaggerated backbend, and Jin-soo picks this very moment to step back inside the room. The sight makes him turn around and head back outside, where Seung-yeon finds him.
Jin-soo is just biding his time until the evening is over, so when he comes back inside he asks if things are over yet. Apologetically, Eun-young mouths that no, Ji-won is doing a treasure hunt to find his birthday gift, and Jin-soo heads back outside.
Ji-won jokingly turns to Seung-yeon to ask if she’s hiding his gift, and she laughingly protests. But he notices her ring, and can’t resist testing out his hunch yet again. He asks when she got the ring, and this unexpected question leaves her stammering for an explanation. She says that Jin-soo gave it to her a month ago in Japan, and that’s a direct contradiction of what he knows — that Jin-soo bought it right after he came back to Korea.
He doesn’t press her beyond that, but Eun-young sees that Seung-yeon is rattled by the question. She sends her an understanding glance, and indicates the ring — it’s a subtle acknowledgment that she knows the ring story is fake and is offering her sympathies.
At the end of the night, Ji-won finds Jin-soo in the hallway, and finally decides how he’ll react. He sits him down for a talk and addresses the issue plainly. (Thanks be! I was afraid they’d draw this out in an extended sequence of angst, with him trying to trap everyone in a lie. It speaks well of Ji-won that he’s being forthright about this.)
Ji-won informs Jin-soo of what he knows, and how he guessed that the ring was for Eun-young. Jin-soo can’t find a way to lie his way out, so he comes clean and admits the truth, although he covers up Eun-young’s part in this and says that she doesn’t know. I suppose you could interpret this in a negative light, but it’s really to preserve Eun-young and Ji-won’s happiness. All dinner long, he has been seeing how content they look together, and it’s easier for Ji-won to think he’s the only one who realizes how Jin-soo feels about Eun-young.
Ji-won explains that he’s very happy these days. Life is good. The first time he was engaged, he and Eun-young had fought all the time, but now they’ve mellowed out. They don’t fight these days — they’ve learned to give and take, and be comfortable.
Ji-won loses a few points with his next statement, but I can’t hold it against him too much as he asks Jin-soo to leave before the wedding. He understands why he came, but now with things the way they are, Jin-soo has nothing to gain by staying her. And Ji-won would feel better not to have him around on his wedding day.
Jin-soo’s hurt is apparent, and even despite his disappointment over losing Eun-young, it means something to be there at her wedding, as she asked him to do. But Ji-won suggests that they both stop upsetting Eun-young now, and makes this request. Jin-soo says, “If you ask, I should go.” He agrees to look into airline flights tomorrow.
This weighs heavily on Jin-soo, who returns to the party in something of a daze. When he enters the room, Eun-young gives Jin-soo a friendly smile, not noticing anything amiss.
His attention is distracted by Seung-yeon’s phone, which lights up with a text message. She’s away from her seat so he looks at the messages — which are all happy birthday messages from her friends.
When it’s time for last words, the other friends pressure him into giving the speech. So he rises, starting out with flowery words. But his words grow more serious as he starts talking about how seeing such people harboring hopes and dreams about protecting what is important to them makes him wish for their wishes to come true.
Something in the way he delivers these words makes the easy smile fade from Eun-young’s face, and she starts to look at him with a stricken expression — perhaps she realizes that this is goodbye, for real. He looks straight at Eun-young and tells her, “I hope you’ll be happy.”
Excusing himself to go to the bathroom, Jin-soo walks out the building instead and leaves alone. Meanwhile, tears start to collect in Eun-young’s eyes as she senses that something is amiss.
As the other party guests filter out, Eun-young looks around for Jin-soo, but by now he’s gone. She finds Seung-yeon waiting alone, and feels apologetic toward her but unable to do anything to fix it. Eun-young says, “I’m sorry, it’s my fault.”
They don’t address the situation directly, but it’s enough to tip Seung-yeon off that Eun-young knows everything and that their dating is a sham. Seung-yeon wonders why Jin-soo bothered with the act if she already knew.
There’s no reason to indicate that Jin-soo will come back for her but Seung-yeon waits, clinging to the belief that he will. It’s her foolish stubbornness kicking in, and even though she doesn’t seem 100% sure he’ll arrive, she stays on the sidewalk anyway.
And sure enough, after some time he pulls up to the curb. She doesn’t hassle him for leaving her behind, and plays down her wait as a short one. As he drops her off, he asks when the first radio guest spot happens, and she tells him that it’s on Saturday.
Seung-yeon finds a curious object in her pocket — a fountain pen with the message HAPPY BIRTHDAY written on it. That explains the awkward moment in the car when he’d suddenly leaned into her — knowing Jin-soo, he couldn’t just give her a simple present but had to sneak it to her to save face.
Excited, Seung-yeon immediately calls Jin-soo to thank him. She’s in cheery spirits, so it takes a moment for her to register his serious, heavy mood as he tells her to never sell her Galapagos idea, and to protect her goal to publish it at age forty, no matter how much money someone offers: “Having something you have to protect is an incredible fortune.”
She starts to understand that he’s saying goodbye as he releases her from the fake-dating agreement, and apologizes for skipping out on the radio guest spot. He promises to repay her some other way.
Seung-yeon cries out that he can’t do this, that he promised to appear, bitterly disappointed. He starts to wave that aside and wrap up the call, but she interrupts, and asks why he came to Korea — why did he fake the relationship? Why bother making her sign the contract? Didn’t he come here with something to protect of his own? He must have a reason for his behavior, even if she doesn’t understand it — so how can he just leave like that? She declares that she has something else to protect other than her novel idea:
Seung-yeon: “You may be difficult to please and constantly lie and not see me as a woman and treat me badly. But in the end your words are right and you’re someone I respect — I want to protect that faith in you.”
Seung-yeon insists that she’ll have faith in him and urges him to make the Saturday radio spot.
When Saturday comes, her co-workers are in emergency mode because nobody believes he’ll make it. They assume that he has already left the country and assemble to come up with a backup plan. Seung-yeon is the lone dissenter who insists upon waiting, certain that she is right and that he will come.
Eun-young hears that the writer’s workshop has been emptied and realizes that Jin-soo has left again. She calls Seung-yeon in miserable spirits, blaming herself for pushing him away by asking too much of him and apologizing to Seung-yeon for the trouble this has caused her.
Seung-yeon sticks to her belief that he will arrive, and there’s an interesting directorial moment as she looks down the hallway at the sound of footsteps. At first the images are the same on both sides of the split screen, but then the reactions diverge — the one on the right continues to look blankly down the hallway, but the one on the left focuses in on an approaching figure. Initially this choice confused me, but now it seems to be the director’s way of showing the two sides of Seung-yeon in this moment. Disappointment mixing with hope, dejection and surprise.
Next thing we know, Jin-soo is calling Ji-won, who is happy to hear from him — at least, until Jin-soo clarifies that he’s calling from Seoul. That makes Ji-won’s face fall as he registers the significance of that, and Jin-soo tells him that he’s sorry he couldn’t obey Ji-won’s request, and although he understands how he feels, “There’s something I have to protect, too.”
Ji-won asks cautiously, “What… are you protecting?” Jin-soo answers, “A lot of things. One by one.”
With that, he hangs up the phone and the camera pulls back — he’s in the radio station, about to begin his guest spot
The screen splits four ways this time, to show us Ji-won furrowing his brow in frustration, Eun-young crying out of guilt and remorse, Seung-yeon cheering Jin-soo on, thrilled that her faith in him was not unfounded, and Jin-soo readying to “protect” the first of his goals (that being Seung-yeon’s unwavering trust in him).
Okay, this episode brought me back to the conviction that Eun-young and Jin-soo will have a happy ending. At the end of the previous episode I was thinking an open ending wouldn’t be so bad — and I’d still accept one — but in this episode, Eun-young is jolted out of her conviction that this is the life she wants.
I still believe that there’s far more to marriage and commitment than a romantic compatibility, which makes her engagement to Ji-won understandable. Like Ji-won says, they’ve all grown up and mellowed out, and he’s very content with this life. Eun-young also seems content with her compromise — and it IS a compromise — until she’s faced with the prospect that she hurt Jin-soo again.
The fact that Ji-won finds out the truth works for this line of thinking, because at this point he’s the one who has the best chance of letting go and allowing the two lovers to be together. I feel like there’s too much hurt and history for any two out of these three to be in a relationship without the third one’s blessing — which is why both Eun-young and Ji-won were relieved when Jin-soo seemingly approved. I think that allowed Eun-young to continue, until it became clear how much he’s hurt by it and that throws her into emotional disarray. So in a similar way, I think an Eun-young/Jin-soo pairing requires Ji-won’s approval. Ultimately.
I have to say that one of the things I like about Coffee House is how very flawed the characters are while still being very likable. The incident with Seung-yeon’s Galapagos Island story is one such example, because frankly I thought Jin-soo was an ass for trying to buy it from her. He didn’t force her and he wasn’t being unfair or sneaky about it so there’s no illegal shenanigans going on, but as her mentor and (sometimes) role model, it almost feels like an abuse of trust. So that wasn’t his most shining moment.
But that is a necessary beat, and Seung-yeon’s refusal actually teaches him something important, something that recharges him at the end of the episode. That there are some things worth protecting. And that he has something worth protecting, too. When he was giving the birthday speech, he spoke as though he were the odd man out, that everyone else had something beautiful worth protecting. He echoes that sentiment when saying his goodbyes to Seung-yeon, acting like she’s blessed for having something whereas he doesn’t.
But she reminds him that he does, too, and I love that his flawed moment earlier on turns into a teaching moment. The drama isn’t afraid to make its hero less than perfect, and allows him to make big epiphanies about his own shortcomings, which I appreciate.
- Coffee House: Page 15
- Coffee House: Page 14
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- Coffee House: Page 9
- Elle’s interview with Coffee House team
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- Coffee House: Page 1