We’re halfway through the series, already?! I feel like we just started! This ninth episode aired just about a month after the series began, and struck a milestone with ratings at the 40% mark. While a lemmings effect probably contributed to the 50% end-of-series ratings, it doesn’t quite explain why MNIKSS became so popular in the first place. What WAS it about this drama?
Current and former math nerds will appreciate this
more at all, but in mathematics there are things called Euclidean algorithms, which are used to derive the greatest common factors. Not that you have to channel Euclid to figure this out, but clearly the greatest common factor of the drama is Sam Soon, charming both men and women alike. Still, this begs the question. What IS it about Kim Sam Soon, anyway?
Episode 9 – You Played With My Heart As If It Were A Toy.
Sam Soon’s dad, dead for many years, has re-appeared to his depressed daughter to share a drink with her. Sam Soon pours out her troubles to him, ending with her wish that her heart would harden so much that she wouldn’t feel any more pain. Maybe she’s right.
Still, Sam Soon’s dad is able to answer Sam Soon before going. He reminds her that he died because his heart hardened too much. Sam Soon’s dad smiles and says that he’s happy that Sam Soon can love, because it means that her heart is powerful and healthy. This lifts Sam Soon’s spirit quite a bit and Sam Soon wonders whether she should tell Jin Heon how much she likes him.
Sam Soon’s dad concurs wholeheartedly. But what if Jin Heon says, “no way!” and embarrasses Sam Soon?
Sam Soon’s dad: Embarrassment? Come on… Is life so complicated to live? If he says he doesn’t like you, then you just tell him, “Go Have A Nice Life!” and give him a nice knuckle-sandwich to eat.
Sam Soon (snickering): You know, even without you telling me, I did already give him a good punch earlier. That boy is always getting beaten by me. He ALWAYS stirs me up to the point where I have to hit him. He’s totally my bap.
Note: “bap” means food or rice, but in this case, you could say that Sam Soon is referring to a cruder word that also starts with a “b” but rhymes with iatch.
But when Yi Young comes back, their dad disappears and it’s back to reality. As they are walking back from the restaurant, Yi Young tells Sam Soon that she should forget about Sam Shik. Yoo Hee Jin is the real deal – nice, pretty and fun to hang out with. And if Yi Young were a guy, even she would choose Hee Jin over Sam Soon, sorry.
It appears that both Yi Young and Jin Heon have the same taste in women. Across town, Jin Heon is lying in Hee Jin’s lap as she cleans out his ears. This slightly-gross activity is something that married couples do for one another. And looks like nothing that Jin Heon’s mom said in the last episode (go back to America, stay away from Jin Heon) has made a difference to Hee Jin.
Still, Hee Jin knows that she’d better not show up the next day at the Buddhist Temple with the rest of the Hyun family. Tomorrow being the anniversary of the accident that killed Jin Heon’s brother and brother’s wife, Jin Heon’s mom won’t be any mood to accomodate Hee Jin.
Not that Sam Soon knows anything about this. Jin Heon’s mom calls her up and cryptically orders her to be outside of her house in the morning without telling her why. In the car ride to the temple, Sam Soon tries to say that she and Jin Heon broke up but Jin Heon’s mom curtly dismisses it. Jin Heon has no say in this! You’re not dumped! Yet!
So, Jin Heon’s mom, Assistant Yoon, Mi Joo and Sam Soon arrive in one car, and Jin Heon and Manager Oh arrive shortly thereafter. Jin Heon is surprised to see Sam Soon there. Hey… didn’t I just dump you? Hehe! But this is interesting – why is Manager Oh there?
Inside the temple, the names of Hyun Jin Tae (Jin Heon’s older brother) and Kim Shin Young (Jin Tae’s wife) are written on one paper tower. Surprisingly, there is another paper tower with another name written. Who could that be? In front of the paper towers, a wide array of foods are placed on a dining table. Jin Heon takes the spoons, and places each one into the respective rice bowl before each paper tower. With the metal chopsticks, he taps on a plate twice and then backs away from the table. Before a smaller table, Assistant Yoon pours rice wine for Jin Heon, who then circles it over the incense twice before bringing the wine to the table.
What’s going on here? In simplest terms, the tradition is called Jae-Sa (in Korean 제사 and in Chinese 祭祀), a unique mix of Buddhism, shamanism and Korean Confucianism. The spirits of the dead are honored with food and drink. Jin Heon, as the oldest surviving male of the family, has the task of performing this ceremony.
In an adjacent building, the women sit and wait (for the spirits to finish their meal and depart). Here we learn that Manager Oh’s son was the motorcyclist who was killed in the same car accident. Manager Oh then tells Sam Soon the whole story about the accident.
Sam Soon is touched by the story and cannot help but see Jin Heon in a new light. It is almost like Jin Heon has been caught in a time warp and never had a chance to grow up since the accident, just living in the tiny space allotted between anger at Hee Jin and regret for his own actions that took the lives of three people.
Jin Heon’s mom asks Manager Oh to lunch and takes Mi Joo as well, leaving Jin Heon and Sam Soon to find their own way. Two people, one car… sounds easy enough. After Jin Heon’s mom’s car is safely away, an annoyed Jin Heon tells Sam Soon to just listen to him and not to listen to his mom anymore.
Sam Soon has other ideas. Sorry, but she’s not going to listen to either Jin Heon or his mom from now on. Sam Soon won’t be used in the Hyun Family chess game any longer. Sam Soon shoves a resignation letter into Jin Heon’s belly and walks off, not even asking Jin Heon to drive her home.
But when Jin Heon drives off without Sam Soon, it is Sam Soon who appears surprised. It looks like she expected him to still give her a ride. Since Sam Soon is the one who is giving the gesture of resignation, is it her expectation that Jin Heon will now beg for Sam Soon not to quit?
Well, it worked? Jin Heon is there at Sam Soon’s bus stop waiting for her, flowers in hand, begging Sam Soon to stay on as pastry chef. But rather than reject the flowers out of hand, Sam Soon tells Jin Heon to offer the flowers while on his knees. Really? Is this a test for Jin Heon or is Sam Soon just giving a little pay back?
After grumbling, Jin Heon finally does get on his knees. The choices aren’t great- either he has to go back to Chef “Oh My God” Chris to beg regularly for pastries, or he has to beg Sam Soon to stay (but this is a one-time thing).
Sam Soon enjoys the view and takes the flowers. But then she STILL refuses to come back. Unexpected backbone! Jin Heon pulls his final trump card and calls on Sam Soon’s integrity. That forces a concession out of Sam Soon. 2 weeks. 2 weeks to train In-Hae and to give time for Bon Appetit to find a replacement, and then Sam Soon is out.
On the other side of town, Hee Jin has lowered herself to begging as well. She begs Jin Heon’s mom, and then Assistant Yoon, to buy her lunch to show she can eat. It is a weak tactic and one that has little chance of success on its own. But Hee Jin isn’t expecting short-term results. Her rather shameless strategy is long term – Hee Jin is trying to tear down the wall that has been built between her and Jin Heon’s mom, one brick at a time. She might get rejected 100 times, but she only needs to succeed once. Sooner or later, Hee Jin expects to succeed.
Meanwhile, Chae Ri makes a surprise appearance at Bon Appetit, to pester Sam Soon. Chae Ri accuses Sam Soon of trying to seduce Hyun Woo. An annoyed Sam Soon pours baking flour over Chae Ri and chases her away, past the Bon Appetit staff on their lunch break. Sam Soon’s mouth is in rare form, threatening to throw whoever bothers her next into her oven. She’ll mix them with eggs and flour and turn them into pastries, DON’T TEMPT ME! RAWR! I’LL BAKE YOU ALL!!!!
A pissed Sam Soon plops down on the toilet in the stall next to Jin Heon who initially tries to hide his presence. Oh poo, but Jin Heon’s stall is out of TP. Could Jin Heon borrow a square or two? Suddently, Sam Soon’s crappy day just got 1,000 times better. Oh noes, Sam Soon lies gleefully, she’s out of TP too! Sooo sorry!
Instead of toilet paper, Sam Soon offers advice. She describes various methods used by different blood types to escape this untenable situation.
1. Type A’s would wait for help.
2. Type B’s would utilize the two finger method (use your imagination).
3. Type AB’s would scrounge for used TP (ew).
4. And Type O’s would just wipe later.
Which type is Jin Heon? A desperate Jin Heon reverses the question and asks what Sam Soon would do, and Sam Soon replies, “Socks.” Karma warns me from snickering too much here, for who knows when this could happen to any of us. Must not laugh too much!
That night Sam Soon goes out with the Bon Appetit girls at a club but is ditched by her co-workers when it is clear that clubs aren’t really for old maids like her and Jang Captain. Minorly drunk but majorly depressed, Sam Soon arrives home in a disconsolate mood. The days of her youth are gone, and her heart is being pulled by yet another guy who has dumped her. What’s wrong with her?
Sam Soon cries on her swing and then again, lying on her bed. Unfortunately, she is caught crying by her mom. Being caught crying by a Korean parent is not a good thing, it’s bad. This is because Korean parents always blame the child first for crying. And blaming is generally followed by hitting. So Sam Soon is getting blamed, hit and yelled at her mom, and a stressed-out Yi Young spills the beans about Sam Soon dating and getting dumped by her boss. But that causes MORE hitting, not less, and so Yi Young opens her mouth AGAIN, admitting it was a fake relationship! In the immortal words of Chef Chris, “Oh. My. God…”
Panic often makes people blurt out things when they should just keep quiet. Yi Young clearly panicked here, and so I can’t really blame her too much. But Korean kids learn dissemblance and obfuscation skillz when dealing with their parents (survival instinct to avoid further hitting and yelling), so I’m a little surprised at Yi Young’s cracking under pressure and lack of survival skillz. Yi Young, what do you THINK is going to happen now that mom knows?
Witnesseth from Sam Soon’s mom’s point of view: Sam Soon has seriously screwed up. By engaging in chicanery and falsehoods, she has brought shame to her family. And worse, she has turned herself into a fake prostitute and what if other people find out? The whole family will be the laughing stock and Sam Soon will NEVER get another match-maker to help her out. For what? For mere money? To save her home, she destroys everything that the home stood for? And finally, what’s this, Sam Soon is the one who is crying her eyes out like a baby? How can a girl have so little sense or pride in herself?!
Sam Soon’s mom is deeply shamed, hurt and angry. How can anyone face their ancestors after something like this? How can she face any of her friends or neighbors now? All to save a house? Sam Soon’s mom would rather be a homeless person than be faced with the humiliation of this.
Samsooki Note: every time I watch this drama, when I get to this point, I am always surprised at myself. For 8+ episodes, I get suckered every time and I forget how desperately foolish Sam Soon was in doing the fake relationship thing. It seemed so innocent, silly and not a big deal. But it IS a big deal. It should never have been done. Ever. And it takes Sam Soon’s mom getting really upset before I wake up to how poorly this whole thing could play out.
The next morning, Sam Soon’s mom is on the warpath. She storms into Bon Appetit and starts yelling for Sam Shik. Manager Oh blocks the path and gets her cooking goons to “escort” Sam Soon’s mom out. But Jin Heon arrives and Sam Soon’s mom is free to start beating on him. Free, until Manager Oh splashes a pot of cold water on Sam Soon’s mom and yells at her to stop. How dare she come into this establishment and lay a hand on the owner! How dare she?! Ruh Roh x10.
The opening guitar riff to The Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black leads into the drums of war as Sam Soon’s mom launches herself into Manager Oh. Oh the humanity! I see a red door and I want it painted black. No colors anymore I want them to turn black… [ Download ]
Sam Soon and Yi Young arrive in a taxi and rush to the battle. Sam Soon’s shriek carries through the restaurant and everything stops, including Paint It Black (awwwww).
Sam Soon and Sam Soon’s mom finally settle down and have a face to face with Jin Heon. Sam Soon’s mom hands over the deed to her home. Jin Heon tells her that it’s not necessary since he settled things with Sam Soon already. This sets Sam Soon’s mom off again, as it did Sam Soon the first time.
Sam Soon’s mom makes a second point before leaving. Sam Soon is done with Bon Appetit. There is no more bargaining. This is it.
Jin Heon looks at Sam Soon, but Sam Soon’s face warns him from speaking. This thing is written in stone.
Sam Soon heads to the lockers and picks up all of her stuff and takes off her name tag. In the short time she was at Bon Appetit, she sure was part of a lot of interesting things. But didn’t all of this have to end? I mean, if Sam Soon is ever to be able to look at another person in the eye, be it Jin Heon or anyone else, she has to (1) pay back the money and (2) not be subordinate to the whims of Jin Heon as her boss.
In Hye comes to see her unni as Sam Soon is packing up. Sam Soon smiles warmly at In Hye but apologizes for leaving like this. In Hye is a wreck but Sam Soon gives In Hye a gift on loan: her prized scrap book of French pastry notes, private thoughts and recipe diary. I absolutely adore this scene, as it reminds me of everything I love about Korean culture- how knowledge, culture and tradition is passed from person to person through the unni / dong-seng relationship. This is how dong-sengs learn to become unnis (or hyungs).
Finally, as Sam Soon is walking out of Bon Appetit, word has spread to everyone that Sam Soon is done. Every rank and file staff member gathers near the front to give her a cool send-off. Sam Soon is touched but she gruffly tells them not to follow her out. Of course, they follow her out. Even Jang Captain is upset. This isn’t how things are supposed to be.
And in the window, Jin Heon also watches Sam Soon leave. Is all of this his fault? I think, maybe. Yes.
This can be a difficult episode to watch, with many embarrassing moments and scenes that bring back painful memories of one’s own childhood. Moreover, in ways that may not be entirely suited to many palates, as there is is a strong Korean flavor to this episode. From the Jae-Sa ceremony, to the crude jokes, to the way that Koreans can make rather extreme statements as a starting point for negotiations, to the (over?) protective Korean parenting, there is a pungency about this drama that may not be as agreeable to the wider audience, especially when compared to more recent k-drama fare.
But like Sam Soon herself, this drama makes no apologies for being how it is. Koreans DO bargain and base their preliminary negotiating positions upon age and social status. They DO enjoy a bit of toilet humor. They DO place a tremendous amount of consideration into honoring one’s ancestors. They DO act shamelessly to protect their own. And Korean parents DO create paradoxes in the way they raise their kids. This is just how it is, and Koreans, like Sam Soon, wouldn’t have it any other way.