Aw, this week finally got a few tears out of me. High Kick 3 is pretty good even on an ordinary episode, but when it’s good, it can be really good, which we get with this week’s last installment.
Note: Only three episodes aired this week, due to yet more pre-emptions. The constant pre-empting of High Kick 3 has some viewers abuzz with complaints, but given that I always have too much to watch, I can enjoy the lighter load. Although when the episodes are as strong as they are, sometimes you just want more regardless.
SONG OF THE DAY
Kim Yeo-hee – “반쪽” (Half) [ Download ]
EPISODE 22 WEECAP
Julien brings over some of his grandfather’s special Halloween pie to share with Nae-sang, who is so amazed that he falls into a stupor. He imagines turning the pie to a successful franchise — ha, even in his fantasy, Julien’s a mere grunt-worker while Nae-sang basks in the credit.
He manages to convince Julien to join him in this business venture, but the hitch: Julien’s grandfather refuses to give up the recipe. Nae-sang pesters Julien to try again, then enlists Yoo-sun to re-create the pie based on taste. She gets pretty close, but lacks that certain Texan je ne sais quoi, until finally Yoo-sun gives up in a fit of frustration.
Meanwhile, Jin-hee prepares for the test for the internship at Kye-sang’s health clinic. He gives her a book to help her study and wishes her well whenever they cross paths, smiling in such a friendly, warm way that she melts at the sight. Swoon. We all know how that feels.
So when Jin-hee runs into a college sunbae (Lee Kyun) who’s in search of models for his photography exhibit about smiling faces, she suggests Kye-sang for the part.
Finally, Nae-sang decides to take it upon himself to make the appeal to grandpa. Armed with some English phrases translated by Soo-jung, he racks up the minutes calling and re-calling Texas over and over, even though he gets a solid no and a bunch of hang-ups.
Finally, Grandpa enlists some help of his own: When Nae-sang calls next, he busts out his own prepared speech in Korean: “Don’t call anymore, punk.” His Korean aide gives him a thumbs-up.
On the day of her exam, Jin-hee works her way through the questions while Kye-sang proctors the test. She freaks out over the last question, which she knows she studied, and in a fit of growing panic, she gives in to the impulse to crane her neck…just a little…to eye the test in front of her…
Only, Kye-sang steps in front of her and cheerfully tells her that she’ll have to be dismissed from the test. Jin-hee begs for lenience since she didn’t actually cheat, but he says, with that perennial smile, that she’s out.
On her way home, Jin-hee fumes, saying that Kye-sang was way harsh, given that she didn’t actually cheat. Spotting the photo exhibit — of which Kye-sang’s photo is the centerpiece — and her indignation wells up more and more until she decides to take her revenge by spitting in the photo’s face, and draws up all the saliva in her mouth…
Only to have Kye-sang come up to her and say sympathetically that she must be feeling quite glum. He sends her that trademark smile, and Jin-hee gulps back her resentment.
EPISODE 23 WEECAP
Jong-seok’s perpetual inattention in class causes him to guess at answers when he’s called on. That leads to ridicule, which in turn stirs up his adolescent angst. But he’s not the type to express that outwardly, so instead he bottles it up internally and asks Ji-won for a ride on her scooter. He doesn’t care where they’re going, just that they go away for a while.
Kye-sang invites his sunbae Lee Juck over for lunch the next day, while Future Lee Juck narrates (in his How I Met Your Mother-like voiceover) that this was the day he first tasted his future wife’s cooking. Actually, that’s what the phrase sohn-maht refers to, but it becomes apparent that he means the literal meaning, “taste of the hand.”
Based on that loose interpretation of hand-taste, his future wife might indicate Yoo-sun (who has done the cooking), or it might refer to Soo-jung (who offers a “taste” of her massage skills). Or maybe it’s Jin-hee, who claps her hand over his mouth when he embarrassingly mentions her butt injury.
The entire afternoon is an exercise in patience for Lee Juck, who finds the Ahn family overbearing and unlikable, but keeps up polite appearances, all while his inner monologue tells us how he really feels.
For instance, Nae-sang hears that Juck’s medical practice is doing well and tries to grease the wheels about business investment. Soo-jung butters him up with flattery before hitting him up for some spending cash. When the family decides to have an impromptu limbo contest, Ha-sun accidentally slaps Juck in the face during a round of high-fives, adding to the potential mate count.
The scooter ride takes Ji-won and Jong-seok out to the countryside, and they don’t speak much as they enjoy the quiet. She takes photos of the scenery, and when he’s not looking, some of Jong-seok as well. The mood is pleasant…until Jong-seok swipes Ji-won’s scooter keys and says he’ll borrow them for a while, not too sorry that his getaway will leave her stranded.
Ji-won succeeds in knocking him off the scooter and hits him with her guitar, now fuming at his attempted ditching. Broken scooter, broken guitar, partially broken Jong-seok. Ji-won wheels her scooter along, glaring at Jong-seok when he follows her meekly.
They’re hungry, so Ji-won urges Jong-seok to catch a wayward chicken, but neither of them have the nerve to actually kill it, and they end up just taking it along with them. They succeed in hitching a ride with a friendly ajumma, and as they sit in the back of the truck, Ji-won asks why Jong-seok keeps trying to run away from home. She’s picked up on this aspect of his character that the others seem to be blind to, which is probably why they get along. Sorta.
Jong-seok admits that he doesn’t know exactly why. She replies in her matter-of-fact way that she can’t understand him — after all, family time together is something that could be taken away in a flash. That’s something she knows too well, and Jong-seok looks at her curiously, maybe seeing her in a different light for the first time, and when flipping through her camera, she finds a shot of her that Jong-seok took when she wasn’t aware.
Finally they arrive back in the city and walk home, pushing the scooter along while Ji-won eats the cotton candy that the ajumma’s daughter gave her. And thus Juck gets another taste of a potential mate’s hand when Ji-won offers him some candy.
EPISODE 24 WEECAP
On an errand to school, Kye-sang spots Ji-won working on a rocket in an empty classroom and asks her to let him know when she launches it. She tells him it won’t be lit, though, since it’s for a competition.
Julien insists on giving Ha-sun a payment for living expenses, which makes Jin-hee aware of how little she is able to contribute to the household. The burden is entirely on her end, because Ha-sun doesn’t expect her houseguests to pay, but it’s something they need to offer so they don’t feel like moochers.
Jin-hee gets an unexpected payment from the job she was fired from, excited to finally be able to pay Ha-sun some living expenses. Finally she can hold her head up with confidence… Or at least she can until her mother calls needing money right away. And then she’s launched into the throes of dilemma: Take back that money and go back to feeling like a freeloader, or leave Mom hanging.
Ha-sun is super nice about returning the money, but Jin-hee insists she’ll eat as little as possible and waste nothing until she can contribute again.
Ji-won spots Kye-sang trying to hail a cab and offers him a ride on her scooter. She takes him to see one of his poor elderly patients, and asks to join him on the call. Kye-sang treats the sickly woman and sees that her refrigerator is empty, so he makes an excuse to step outside so he can buy her some food, as though he’s not perfect enough already.
Meanwhile, Ji-won stays and reads for the grandma, who gives her a lollipop in thanks, and even entertains her with a song and dance. Kye-sang is touched when he returns and sees grandma enjoying Ji-won’s company, and tells her at the end of the day that she did very well.
Jin-hee decides that she wouldn’t be mooching if everything she uses is part of the household’s waste. For instance, she only eats leftovers that the others mean to throw away, and insists that apple peel is tastier than the fruit. Appalled, Ha-sun tries to insist Jin-hee doesn’t have to go this far, but this is the only way Jin-hee can justify her life to herself.
Julien jokes that she’s Hybrid Jin-hee — small and fuel-efficient, like the car. Jin-hee goes overboard with the frugality, even whipping up a song, rapper-style, about the merits of thrift. HA.
Kye-sang gets an emergency call about the grandmother, who has collapsed, and rushes to bring her to his old hospital. Ji-won, who’s with him at the time, accompanies him as they wait for her to come out of surgery. Kye-sang watches surgery from inside the OR, so caught up in his worry that he ignores his former colleagues.
Ji-won overhears those same colleagues when they come out into the stairwell to chat, and learns all about Kye-sang’s history at this hospital. He used to be a successful surgeon here, but he’d insisted on performing surgery — which had been cancelled by a superior — on a poor woman. Juck had warned him against it, but helped him along and joined him in quitting after the shit hit the fan for his insubordination.
Ji-won holds her breath for the answer when one colleague wonders whatever happened to that woman Kye-sang lost his job over, and breathes a sigh at the answer: “She lived.”
When Kye-sang steps out of the operating area, Ji-won reads his dejected body language as he sits next to her, then shakes with silent sobs. She’s quite affected by the death as well, since she’d had a moment of bonding with the grandma, and decides she wants to shoot her rocket after all.
Ji-won tapes the grandma’s lollipop to the side of the rocket, and Kye-sang tells her that the light given off by stars is actually incredibly old, meaning that the stars may not even be around anymore. But that light is like the experience of having dead loved ones: Even though they’re not here physically, their presence is still felt.
As the rocket flies into the sky:
Ji-won: “Grandma’s lollipop flew into the night sky in seconds. Like that grandmother and my parents, Ajusshi and I will disappear in a brief flash. Sometimes life seems like a mirage. Compared to the eternal universe, we live such fleeting lives, and it makes me want to tell the universe that I lived. But just as those stars that died millions of years ago become light for us, perhaps our short lives can become a comfort to someone else, many years later.”
Aw, Episode 24 totally made me cry. With all the characters and relationships firmly established, the show has some space to explore different moods and topics, and while the High Kick franchise is generally light and comedic in its storylines, they don’t shy away from more emotional ones. In fact, it’s the thoughtful episodes that often remain in my memory more than the lighthearted ones, because the charm of this series is in the slice-of-life feel of its complex, realistic characters, and that naturally includes some of life’s darker emotions.
For instance, I have this weird reaction to Baek Jin-hee, because she’s one of my favorite characters and yet she’s also sometimes among the most aggravating. But it’s not sheer annoyance, not like the kind that Soo-jung inspires with her pettiness and lack of dimension. It’s the kind of exasperation that comes when you care for somebody and see them making mistakes, and you want so badly for them to pick themselves up and succeed that it can be frustrating when they fall. But you can’t blame them for their failings, at least not entirely — the cheating thing was entirely her fault, but her money woes are part of a problem that’s bigger than herself. I admire her work ethic, and I feel for her situation in life, and I want her to do better. It’s that kind of complexity that makes her feel like a real person, not just a side character in a fluffy sitcom, which is another of High Kick’s strengths.
As for the pairings, I like that not all the pairings are romantic in nature, and I’m even starting to hope that Kye-sang and Ji-won’s never takes that turn. If they do, I’ll probably be onboard, but I love where they are now — they have this interesting bond, which is meaningful but low-key, realistic and touching at times. There’s probably a BIT of a romantic tinge because Ji-won certainly harbors a bit of a crush on him — who wouldn’t? — but even then, it’s not the usual schoolgirl crush. She’s not a usual schoolgirl, and her feelings are partly friendliness, partly admiration, and partly the warmth of finding a kindred spirit.
On the other hand, I suspect her relationship with Jong-seok does end up taking on romantic overtones, but again, I appreciate where they are right now. Sort of tentative, sort of platonic, sort of “I don’t even think we’re friends but we’ve come to this weird understanding.”
Ji-won’s the only one who has caught on to Jong-seok’s angst about his family — they all laugh at his mistakes and make fun of his stupid answers, rather than try to understand the root of his behavior. He puts on that standoffish shell, but everyone thinks he’s just a slacker dummy who can’t do better, while he’s actually quite insecure and protects himself by being emotionally distant. Ji-won sees a bit of that, but she doesn’t push, and that allows them to reach this common ground. It’s interesting, and one of my favorite parts of the show. Much more than the Nae-sang / Soo-jung stories, that’s for sure.
- High Kick 3: Episodes 18-21
- High Kick 3: Episodes 14-17
- High Kick 3: Episodes 10-13
- High Kick 3: Episodes 5-9
- High Kick 3: Episodes 1-4
- High Kick 3’s family tree, relationship chart, and lovelines
- Official posters for High Kick: Counterattack of the Short Legs
- Promo photos and poster shoots for High Kick 3