Operation Proposal: Episode 4
What Operation Proposal does so well at is taking little details and tying it into its narrative. Our characters never say what they mean, but always take each other’s words at face value. Everyone has their little quirks and unlike other romantic comedies, this show takes the time dig a little deeper into its side characters as well as round out their leads. When I can watch a show when my hero isn’t on the screen and be okay with it, that’s always a good sign.
Note: Apologies for the delay folks! Expect to see following recaps on Fridays and Saturdays!
EPISODE 4 RECAP
Out for a brisk run in the morning, Baek-ho finds himself in front of Yi-seul’s house. His mind reflects back to the events of last night – the excitement, the hug, the kiss… and he breaks into a smile. This is how Dad finds him, upset to find the boy who kept his daughter out late in a giddy mood.
Yi-seul pops out as Dad drags Baek-ho by the ear into the car. Mom assures her that Dad’s gruffness is just an act and that they’re on their way to the baseball field. She smiles at Yi-seul’s worried words that Baek-ho hasn’t fully recovered yet.
Baek-ho spots an interesting sight from the bleachers – it’s Jin-won and the other players buzz at his appearance. He overhears them that Jin-won used to be quite the star player in his day – scouted to the pro league straight from school, but everything quickly fizzled when he suffered an arm injury in training. To the elbow.
Iiinteresting. Jin-won and Baek-ho both sustained similar injuries that ended their baseball dreams. Baek-ho vows to himself that although Jin-won’s dreams were dashed, it’s not too late for him.
At school, Chae-ri is stopped by a stranger who tells her that she has the potential to become a star. With her vanity boosted, she accepts his business card without a second glance.
Fanning the flame, she compliments Chan-wook for his videography skills – an uploaded video has attracted a horde of agents her way. Oh honey, you’re 16 and impressionable. Didn’t Mom tell you never to accept gifts from strangers?
Thankfully, Baek-ho thinks so too and he chucks the cards out the window. He prevents Tae-nam from retrieving them by assuring him that doing so will protect her, and turns to Chan-wook to tell him to pursue movies.
Baek-ho insists despite Chan-wook’s hesitation that even if he doesn’t succeed, he’ll know that he tried his best anyway. Chan-wook stammers that he’ll give it a go and the friends are left confused at another one of Baek-ho’s strange outbursts.
Ready to face-off “man-to-man” against Jin-won, he finds his office empty and discovers a pile of papers left on his desk. It’s beyond me why such information is just sprawled for anyone to find but Baek-ho notices that they are personalized assessments of the team. Before he gets the chance to read the descriptions, Jin-won reappears at the door, and he stuffs them behind his back.
Jin-won is not amused to have an unannounced visitor, let alone one who asks him if he believes in miracles. He replies that he doesn’t – he prefers cold hard science to frilly fairy-tale talk. His expression darkens as Baek-ho declares that he’ll overcome his knee injury and asks that Jin-won doesn’t transfer his own failures onto him.
Baek-ho continues that he understands that there’s more to life than simply baseball, but for some people like him and Jin-won, there’s nothing outside of it. He tells Jin-won not to stop him, which tests Jin-won’s patience. “I have to treat the wounds in my life to become stronger, like you.” Something tells me they’re more similar than sharing an injury.
Baek-ho states that he’ll press on and that they’ll see who the true victor is – a statement that gets lost by Jin-won. We know he refers to Yi-seul later down the line, but for now, Baek-ho says that it will become clear in the future.
So he can’t quit baseball, because he’ll be losing what he cherishes most and end up regretting his choice. Baek-ho crumples the resignation form in his hand, and Jin-won muses that he just might have the qualifications to make it.
Yi-seul heads to the baseball field to eavesdrop on Jin-won and the coach. It infuriates her that Jin-won states that it’s his duty as an alumnus to tell his juniors if they’re chasing after empty dreams, and Jin-won’s overall lackluster attitude.
So she draws up petitions for the players to sign, and Baek-ho realizes that Yi-seul didn’t like Jin-won at first. He wonders if this incident would have prevented the two from getting married and imagines himself as the groom in Jin-won’s place.
Some of the players are still bitter about the change and before Baek-ho can warn Jin-won, a rogue ball flies straight to his back. Jin-won doesn’t flinch and lets the incident pass, and Baek-ho smacks his juniors for their immature stunt.
Inside, Yi-seul finds Jin-won in mid self-care, and covers her face in embarrassment. He simply replies that she didn’t care to knock again. She barks and steps in to help apply his medicated patch.
The kind gesture doesn’t go unnoticed and Jin-won asks if it’s an act of sympathy. Yi-seul glares, replying that she’s believes in humanism and then smacks the patch onto his back. Heh.
She asks why Jin-won let them be, and he tells her that he expected as much from a team who are trying to adapt to a drastic change. When he asks after why she’s visiting, she proclaims a declaration of war, warning that Jin-won’s methods won’t stand for much longer. If he wants to fit in here, he’ll have to adapt to their rules.
Needless to say, Jin-won is left slightly impressed at her feisty attitude.
Reading the notes attached to his report, Baek-ho is moved by the personalized words: He’s aware of the despair of losing baseball in his life. For a lonely kid who only has baseball, he’s convinced that baseball is his life.
The next morning, the reports are attached to each team member’s lockers. Chan-wook and Tae-nam read over theirs. In each meticulously lists their baseball in adequacies, but also notes their interests and strengths in different subjects, and Jin-won’s assumptions of why they’re on the baseball team. For Chan-wook, he has a love for the arts and is loyal to his team, while Tae-nam has a flair for business.
As they continue to read, we see flashes of Jin-won meeting the teachers and friends, jotting down these personal and unique qualities. The truth that the cold-hearted coach might actually care for them hits hard.
This is how Jin-won and Yi-seul find them as they walk into the locker room. Jin-won makes a declaration: He was an athletic jock who knew nothing but baseball. So when he lost it, he gave up on everything. “I learned that there was life before baseball and life after it. That took a very long time.” He’s ready to continue with his original plan and hopes it isn’t the end—when Chan-wook interrupts him.
He asks for his signed petition from Yi-seul and tears it in front of everyone. With a bow, he declares his resignation from the team and the other boys follow suit.
Soon, Yi-seul is left in an empty locker room with Jin-won. She asks what he wrote in hers – a rude and ill-mannered team manager? He’s impressed…that she knows herself so well.
Tearing the last letter in her hands, she won’t go down without a fight and Jin-won reminds her that they’ll just wait and see. They both chuckle in response, finally on the same page.
Meanwhile, right outside the locker room, we see Baek-ho observe this scene and murmur, “Don’t regret it….don’t regret it. Don’t regret it, I told you!” You know, with his baseball team disbanded now.
At their hangout, Chan-wook asks if Yi-seul was the report hanging culprit, which she denies. They wonder how Jin-won obtained so much detail about each one of them and the owner, JO GOOK-DAE (Lee Do-il) remarks that Jin-won must have actively sought out friends and family to know them so personally. And then he sweats when the kids ask if Jin-won dropped by the place.
Chae-ri offers a snack for Baek-ho to eat (to Yi-seul’s slightly stunned reaction). It spurs Tae-nam’s jealousy, but Chae-ri explains that Baek-ho was right about those business cards – thanks to him, she avoided getting trapped into fake contracts.
Then Chan-wook thanks him too – he’s going to look into movies. He adds, “Listen up ’cause I’m only gonna say it once: ‘Thanks friend, for knowing me better than myself.'” The others cringe but I love me some bromance.
In voiceover, Baek-ho says that at a certain point, enough time had passed for him to forget that he came from the future and wonders if he’ll ever return to 2012.
Jin-won solemnly looks over the baseball field, haunted by memories of being delivered the bad news that his baseball career was finished, contemplating death on a ledge. His old teacher joins him for a drink, who reminds him that Jin-won turned out for the better than before he was injured.
The kids here call Jin-won names, like the Parachute Hitler, but a bad nickname is better than having none, and sincerity will always speak for itself. And though he can’t send his students off to a prestigious university, he can shape them to be decent people. He assures Jin-won that there’s a student who will break out of his shell and become a better man, just like Jin-won did.
In an adorable scene, Yi-seul packs some meds for Baek-ho before sneaking out of the house. Mom and Dad both catch on to the act, and Mom comments that she might as well have taken the entire thing.
Dad sighs at his love-struck daughter, warning that Baek-ho better make it to the major leagues or he’ll go and wreck his leg himself. Mom jokes that Yi-seul will just end up burning down the house again trying to make Baek-ho well. They have a good laugh over it – so cute.
Baek-ho is out late throwing practice pitches again, missing his target until he zeroes in and hits the strike zone. His audience, Yi-seul, praises him and they settle on the swings for a chat. There, she calls him out as the culprit and Baek-ho sputters in response, saying that she’s got nothing on him.
But she’s sharp – his report was the only one missing and the Baek-ho she knows would never want to be left out of anything. Even when three of them were punished, he’d whine to join them. She asks why he did it and he tells her that he knows a side of Jin-won that no one else does, and that it’s cowardly to fight against someone who is misunderstood.
Taking out a baseball from her bag, Yi-seul asks if she can keep the ball he hit in the strike zone. When asked why, she says that wants to remember that moment forever.
Baek-ho breaks into a smile, and adds that it’s the least he can do for a fan, and signs it, “I’ll take you to the Major Leagues. Kang Baek-ho.” He laughs, she laughs, we all laugh.
Yi-seul wants to commemorate this moment in a photo, and tells him not to take his words back later. As the flash goes off, Baek-ho whirlwinds back into the future.
It’s Valentine’s Day 2012 (again), and we get a scan of Baek-ho’s room again. This time, there are a collection of trophies, and a uniform hanging on the wall versus a tux. Baek-ho bolts awake, trying to remember the events of that day.
The date of Yi-seul’s wedding, now the 21st, is noted on his dartboard and he remembers getting a phone call…
But this time it’s from his coach who berates him that he’s late to practice. So we get a repeated sequence from Episode 1, only this time, he’s running in his uniform in glee. It turns out that his position on the field isn’t much better than a water boy. The coach asks him what value he brings to the team and Baek-ho squeaks, “A farmhand?” HA.
The coach says that he should think of himself as invaluable and that the team can’t run without… its team manager. As the snotty coach and the bratty players trot all over him, Yi-seul watches in the distance with a pained expression.
After a brief encounter with Yi-seul in the hall, Baek-ho contemplates how not much had changed – once an outside spectator of the sport, he became one working inside of it. He realizes too late that he’s missing a button, (Yi-seul had picked it up) and gets called into a meeting.
And there’s Jin-won again, who’s happy to see Baek-ho, telling the coach that his short time at school had happy memories and many fated encounters. He’s speaking about Yi-seul, of course, and he hands Baek-ho an envelope, presumably the wedding invitation.
Baek-go gets called away, but he overhears Jin-won comment that it’s too bad that Baek-ho never became a pro baseball player, given that he was so talented.
After dance practice, Chae-ri spots her friend sitting on the bleachers, busy sewing on the fallen button from Baek-ho’s uniform. She criticizes Baek-ho for enlisting someone else’s soon-to-be wife to do such a menial task. It’s no big deal, and the fact that it was the second button that roped Yi-seul to attach it for him.
Chae-ri astutely points out that Yi-seul mentioned once that she wanted the second button from the guy she liked. She asks why it was particularly the second, and Yi-seul replies, “Heart. It’s the button that’s closes to the heart. It holds memories from school, romance, and feelings. All three years are tucked away in that second button.”
In response, Chae-ri sighs that it’s a good thing no one ever asked for hers since there are so many guys who would want it. Oh man if she wasn’t so sweet, I’d call her out for being such a tease.
Ah so it was a wedding invitation that Yi-seul was to give to Baek-ho earlier. When Chae-ri asks if she gave it to Baek-ho, she simply shakes her head in reply. And Baek-ho opens up the invitation, and the date now reads: March 14, 2012.
He thinks to himself that everything he did – overcoming his injury, not quitting baseball – simply pushed the wedding back for another month. He beats himself up, calling himself a pathetic fool for wasting the time in the past, and buries his head in his hands.
Baek-ho is confused when Chae-ri returns his uniform and tells him that he should take a closer look because someone sewed his heart back on. She relays Yi-seul’s earlier story about the second button. He initially finds her words silly until he hears it was Yi-seul who attached the button again. Baek-ho runs to find her, but loses her at the last moment.
Scrolling through some old photos again, it triggers another memory. Before they started high school, he and Yi-seul had spotted their school uniforms through a store window. Baek-ho called the boys’ old-fashioned, but it appealed to Yi-seul.
She asked that Baek-ho would give her his second button on their graduation day. Its meaning was lost on Baek-ho, who said that he’d give her his entire uniform instead. He reluctantly agreed and now notices that it’s missing in the picture.
He shouts to himself that he wants to go back, give Yi-seul that button, tell her that he didn’t forget…and cue the Conductor.
He explains to Baek-ho that forgetting it all is deceiving Yi-seul. Then again, he remarks that this entire time lapse journey is also deceiving her. Really, I’m with the Conductor on this – you’ve really no reason to be surprised that he turned up Baek-ho. Not after your constant “I want to go back,” phrase.
Baek-ho asks if he can return to his graduation day if he drinks that vial again. Curiously, the Conductor responds, “Of course you could, but would what you want to occur, happen?” He explains that fine, Baek-ho was adjusting to the first trip – he got his gift and left a clue about his feelings on the chalkboard. But that was erased overnight by accident, so he gets a B.
“But what was the second?” He couldn’t possibly blame it on a lack of time. They spent a lot of time together and all he could muster was a mundane note of, “I’ll take you to the Major Leagues,”? Was that really his confession of love? Baek-ho:”Wasn’t…it?”
No, Baek-ho. Far from it. I love it that he still acts like a teen even though he’s an adult being sent back to his adolescent days.
The Conductor laughs in response, and asks how sure Baek-ho is that he’ll successfully give that precious button to Yi-seul. Baek-ho says that’s why he’s going and the Conductor challenges, “Just because you’re set on that, you think that will change anything? In Kang Baek-ho’s life?”
What Baek-ho needs, is confidence. “That’s a given for a hitter.” He hands him another golden vial and wishes him luck.
Now in 2004, Baek-ho’s found himself in the middle of brawl and the two sides clash together, throwing punches and kicks. In another part of the school, Yi-seul tells Chae-ri to break up the fight, but she contends that you never send the prettiest to battle. Like Helen of Troy. But Helen of Troy caused massive destruction and death on both sides too, honey.
Yi-seul is appalled at her romanticized tales of schoolboy fighting, and heads down there herself.
HA – it’s an epic slow-motion fight only to be dispersed at the sound of the teachers with their megaphones. Each side retreats and Chan-wook fills him in: Tae-nam declared Chae-ri was his and challenged the rival gang leader. With bloodied faces, Tae-nam says that there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for Chae-ri.
Baek-ho tries to dust himself off when it occurs to him – his second button is missing. So much for travelling back in time to give it back to her. When he can’t find it in the vicinity, he darts back to the schoolyard.
The problem is that the area is filled with fallen buttons. Baek-ho falls to his knees, and rifles through them meticulously, in hopes to find his. With several buttons in his hands, he mutters, “No…this can’t be.” and angry tears fall from his eyes.
So THAT’S what the Conductor meant when he asked if Baek-ho was confident that he’d be able to find that second button. I like that he’s traveled back to a time that completely throws him off guard, as usual, but that no matter what he did, he was bound to end up losing that button anyway. It’s an interesting way of teaching him that sometimes it’s just so much more than the tangible object, but the heart and genuine intention behind the action that gets you those brownie points.
It’s extremely poignant that already the Conductor is teaching tiny lessons to our hero – just because you’ve been given a second chance, don’t waste the time you’ve got. There are some things that are simply out of your control. Just because you changed one particular gesture isn’t going to completely alter the future.
What I particularly like about this show is how it deals with the consequences of Baek-ho’s actions in the past to how it directly affects his future. I didn’t necessarily buy the first jumpback into the present in a random period of time, but to its credit, finding his special glove did make a dent into their relationship. Personally, I found this episode’s back to the future much more convincing even if it was Groundhog Days-esque because Baek-ho seems like he’s returned to his original reality, but it’s made a world of a difference. I honestly believed that he became a star baseball player and nearly spilled my milk when I found out he’s a team manager. It’s those little twists that I find so delightful.
What’s so convincing about Yoo Seung-ho’s ability to sell Baek-ho is that he strikes me as normal. Either because he’s interacting with his longtime friends, the adult Baek-ho still interacts with them the same way teen Baek-ho would. This leads to those instances when he forgets that he’s traveled back in time, and sometimes the task at hand. But throughout the entire journey, I’m with him every step of the way, through every scream, through every scream.
The wrench about Jin-won’s injury wasn’t that much of a stretch, but it makes sense how they connect if they had eerily similar experiences. This development makes for an interesting conflict. It’s a battle between personalities and endurance – how does each man tackle and deal with their obstacles? Does he hit rock bottom and then strive for others to pursue other dreams or does he continue to chase them with the unknowable ahead?