Damn, they weren’t kidding when they called Sung Joon (well, Ji-hyuk) “laser eyes.” This was his episode to shine — or, should I say, smolder. He pretty much embodies the adage “if looks could kill”; steer clear when you find yourself in his sightline lest you burst into flames. And not in a good way.
We lose a beloved member of the posse, but the others step it up and our main story really kicks off in this episode. I appreciate how complex each character feels, even the smaller sideliners who haven’t gotten their solo moment yet; you can just tell that everybody’s been given a lot of care and thought. I hate when only the main characters get fleshed out and given multiple facets, with the rest just buzzing around like plot-necessitated satellites. I want everybody to feel like they’re the hero of their own story, and you really feel that here.
SONG OF THE DAY
Lee Min-ki – “Not In Love” from the Shut Up: Flower Boy Band OST, which played in the first episode. [ Download ]
EPISODE 3 RECAP
Byung-hee staggers into the street, smiling to see his friends waiting for him on the other side… which he’ll never reach because a truck slams into him, killing him instantly.
In a short montage, we see some of Byung-hee’s recent happy moments, and the image of him blissfully crowdsurfing superimposes over his funeral picture. If there’s any small consolation, it’s that the hybrid image reminds us that Byung-hee had said he’d like to die in his happiest moment, with his friends, surrounded by music.
At Byung-hee’s tiny funeral, his grandmother sobs next to his drunkard father. The boys sit in grim silence but ticket girl/roadie Woo-kyung is inconsolable, crying loudly, and finally Ji-hyuk can’t take the sound — he’s just barely holding onto his own control — and stalks out of the hall.
Ji-hyuk runs, seemingly no destination in mind other than away. Recent conversations with Byung-hee ring in his head — of Byung-hee wondering if they’d ever get to play at a rock festival, of Ji-hyuk sighing sardonically about the state of their lives, of both of them assuring each other that they’re all right in the end. And then Byung-hee’s voice says, “I want to die in my happiest moment,” and Ji-hyuk screams.
At school, desks remain conspicuously empty, noted by three anxious students: Su-ah is worried in general, Seung-hoon is grim after witnessing the death, and his bandmate Pyo-joo practically twitches in his seat from fear over jumping Byung-hee.
The principal announces to the class that a student had an accident last night but leaves out the details, so the students fly into a flurry of gossip. The two boys shoot each other a look.
Ji-hyuk storms into the classroom, overturns a desk, and grabs Seung-hoon by the jacket. He asks why he did it, then demands, “Bring Byung-hee back to life!”
Seung-hoon counters, “And what did I do?” Ji-hyuk decks him in the face, and Su-ah jumps in to tell Ji-hyuk to cut it out. He ignores her, but his old teacher arrives on the scene to break up the budding fight, holding back Ji-hyuk, who tries to furiously break away. All the while, cowardly Pyo-joo huddles in his seat silently.
Ji-hyuk storms off fuming, the students resume gossiping, and Su-ah feels certain that something happened between the guys that involves Byung-hee’s death. Deo-mi suggests going shopping later, but Su-ah calls Deo-mi out for being so frivolous when a classmate has died. Deo-mi at least looks abashed, but Su-ah observes her chattering class and says, more to herself than anything, “You’re really something, all of you.”
In the bathroom, Pyo-joo freaks out to his friends Seung-hoon and Maro. He only wanted to scare Byung-hee, he says, but he fought back and things got out of hand. Nerdy Maro reasons calmly, “If a dolphin gets caught in a fishing net and dies, is it the fault of the dolphin or of the person who cast the net?” Pyo-joo, alarmed: “Are you saying I killed him?!”
Pyo-joo panics, sure that Ji-hyuk & Co. are going to kill him. Seung-hoon grabs him and tells him forcefully that he didn’t kill anybody — it was an accident, got it? Sniveling, Pyo-joo agrees.
At the funeral home, Ji-hyuk waits while holding Byung-hee’s funeral photo, watching as a rich-looking man hands an envelope to Byung-hee’s father, asking if it’s “enough.” You know, to compensate for the death of his son.
The five friends seethe, but Do-il holds Ha-jin back from engaging. No goodness there.
The friends make a sad little funeral procession carrying the photo, until Kyung-jong shrugs off his jacket and wraps it around the frame, saying that Byung-hee hated being cold. Such small gestures that have such impact.
They set up the photo on a pool table as a memorial shrine, alongside the cue stick that has “Byung-hee jjang!” carved into the handle. They reminisce about how great he was at pool, how he hated losing — and how he never caught on to the fact that Ji-hyuk lost on purpose to let him win.
They’re interrupted by the arrival of another group — the other Dongnae gang that used to be second best, after them. With Byung-hee gone, the leader’s feeling smug and invincible, sneering that the Eye Candy leader got himself crushed at the hands of Jungsang’s top dogs.
Ji-hyuk approaches with a look so menacing that the leader loses nerve, but he grabs a bottle and wields it, challenging Ji-hyuk to fight. Ji-hyuk hits the bottle with his bare hand, breaking off the fat end, then grabs the broken neck in his hand without batting an eye. His palm ends up torn up and bloody, but he doesn’t register any emotion.
Cut to: Short minutes later, the brief fight already over. The Dongnae gang cowers and cries while Ha-jin suggests a treaty. Just then the Dongnae leader’s backup arrives — his gangster hyungnim with two minions in tow. “Who did this to my kid brother?!” he demands.
Ice Prince Hyun-soo shoots him a glare, but Hyungnim guesses right away that it was Ji-hyuk. To everybody’s surprise, it’s Do-il who steps up and says that he did it. Even more surprising is that Hyungnim registers Do-il’s face, then backs down, telling his brother he should’ve been more careful. Hyungnim even switches to jondaemal, and the minute he tells his brother he’s been fighting with a bigshot’s son, even little bro cringes in fear.
That’s news to the boys, who marvel that Do-il’s father is really that gangster guy with the frightful reputation. Ji-hyuk admits he knew to some extent, but he’d kept quiet.
So now Ha-jin calls Do-il “jjang!” and Kyung-jong adorably jumps on him like a doting puppy. Hyun-soo corrects him, saying their boss commands respect, not affection. Lol. I love that they defuse a potentially awkward situation by joking about it.
Su-ah finds Seung-hoon in the music room, and asks him about the rumors — they’re not true, right? That he and Pyo-joo had something to do with Byung-hee’s death?
He asks if she believes them, and she says she wants to hear it from him directly. I don’t think she seems entirely convinced, but she’s relieved at his denial and thanks him for not being involved. Seung-hoon grimaces, feeling a tug at his conscience for the minor part he did play.
The boys stop by a food cart for fishcake skewers, and Ha-jin says sadly that they still taste good even though their friend is dead. Kyung-jong breaks down into sobs, and that threatens to push Ji-hyuk over too so he makes an quick exit.
On the roof, they root through a box of fireworks left by Byung-hee, which he liked to buy for the neighborhood kids. Hyun-soo suggests setting them off, so they send up a shower of sparks into the sky, shouting, “Can you see them, Byung-hee?”
Su-ah peers out of her front door to watch them. Ji-hyuk is the only one to notice her, but he doesn’t do anything about it.
In the morning, Su-ah knocks on Ji-hyuk’s door and asks how he is, and now Byung-hee’s funeral went, which she’d wanted to go to. If Ji-hyuk hadn’t liked her before, this makes him downright contemptuous: “Why, are you sad that you have nobody chasing you around school anymore?”
Ji-hyuk calls Byung-hee the idiot for liking her, and starts to shout that he wouldn’t have died if she hadn’t come by that night. But he cuts himself off angrily, then shakes off her arm when she asks him to explain. He leans in close and bites out, “Get lost.”
Ji-hyuk locks himself up in his rooftop room for days, and Woo-kyung worries to the guys about how to draw him out. Ha-jin fixates on paying back the bastards who did this to Byung-hee. Aside from the death itself, he’s fuming at the injustice of having this swept under the rug as a simple traffic accident. They all saw his condition before the truck came along and know that Pyo-joo had a hand in the beating; he wants to track them down and return the favor.
Do-il says they’d better leave Ji-hyuk out of this, and when Hyun-soo protests saying that he’d want to fight back more than anyone, Do-il points out that that’s exactly why — they don’t know how far he’ll go.
Ji-hyuk is awakened by a phone call, and the caller assumes he’s Byung-hee and tells him he needs his school ID and demo CD. You know, for that high school rock festival he entered.
Ji-hyuk beelines for the festival office and learns that Byung-hee had submitted them to the National High School Band Competition, which is sponsored by a big-name music label. Now he realizes this is what Byung-hee had been alluding to, and confirms the rest of the application process.
They’ll need to submit a demo of a song, as well as proof of school enrollment since only students are allowed. Aha! Clever clever, giving the boys tangible motivation for staying in school.
That ups the ante when the principal speaks to the former Dongnae teacher about the truants, who haven’t been in school for a week. The teacher starts to rant about how he’d like to round ’em all up and kick ’em out, but the principal has a smoother proposal in mind. Rather than making waves, he’d rather they got rid of the boys quietly, and according to their school rules, ten days of truancy equals automatic expulsion. So let’s wait it out.
The other guys lie in wait for Pyo-joo and grab him unawares, dragging him off while calling Seung-hoon from his phone. Hyun-soo takes the lead and instructs his group to ignore Ji-hyuk’s calls, since they don’t want this situation spiraling out of control.
So Ji-hyuk tears around town looking for his friends, growing more worried when Woo-kyung mentions hearing them talk of revenge. He frantically leaves messages for them to stay out of trouble and not do anything.
The four friends manage to drag the story out of Pyo-joo with the help of some fists. When he admits to luring Byung-hee with the promise of replacing Do-il’s drums, Do-il takes over and punches him in the face several times.
Ji-hyuk runs into the fray and drags Do-il off, but Hyun-soo turns on him, angry. Ji-hyuk has been shut up in his room for days, and now he’s telling them to back off?
Seung-hoon and Maro arrive and demand to know what’s going on. Hyun-soo fires back, “Why, does it piss you off that your friend got beat up? But hey, at least your bastard friend is still alive.” You can’t really argue with that.
Maro argues logically that doing this won’t return Byung-hee from the dead. Okay, yes, that is true, robot boy, but your way of dispassionately spouting facts can be a real pain in the ass.
Ji-hyuk yells at his friends to back off, earning him a stare-down from a furious Hyun-soo, then steps up to face Seung-hoon, leader to leader. He suggests they let today go — his friends protest incredulously — and Seung-hoon can’t argue with his point that this is best for his side too. They’d just end up hurt, plus they can’t claim complete innocence in Byung-hee’s death.
Ji-hyuk declares an end to the fight, and announces that they’re all going back to school. After explaining the festival situation to the band, he argues that if they want to honor Byung-hee’s last action in entering the competition, they’d better go to school and steer clear of trouble.
This means reshuffling and a new vocalist, although Ha-jin says there’s no discussion needed — obviously it’ll be Ji-hyuk. Hyun-soo challenges the assumption, and it looks like an argument might break out. Thankfully he’s mollified when the friends say he’s better at guitar and that Ji-hyuk’s just like Byung-hee anyway — in being crazy, that is.
They designate Ji-hyuk the new leader, and just as they’re wondering what to do about practice space, they find an enveloped tucked in Byung-hee’s notebook, marked “Demo recording dough.”
The rich boys gather in Pyo-joo’s hospital room, the latter seething and eager to send the boys to their early demise. Using Daddy’s influence, of course. Seung-hoon’s conscience niggles at him — or maybe he just doesn’t want to lose Su-ah — and he advocates letting this go.
Maro reasons that if he tried to retaliate, one false move could ruin Pyo-joo’s own future. Even if he got away with it legally, he could end up damned by the court of public opinion: “People always side with the dead.”
Seung-hoon tells him the way to ensure his own safety is to let it go, and Pyo-joo reluctantly agrees.
Su-ah looks at her dwindling bank account; she’s only got about 40 bucks to her name. She works up the nerve to go back to that fancy restaurant Byung-hee took her to, which is still hiring servers.
Ji-hyuk flips through Byung-hee’s music notebook, smiling at a recent scrawling: “Muse… Seeing you makes my chest go thunk!” He picks up his guitar and sets out to work on Byung-hee’s unfinished song. Su-ah hears the playing from her rooftop and listens, taken with the music and also relieved at the signs of life from Ji-hyuk’s roof.
Thus the boys reappear at school, quietly bowing to teachers who gape in surprise. The students eye them with reproach, having heard that they beat up Pyo-joo; they call them shameless for showing their faces.
Deo-mi fills Su-ah in on the details — that Pyo-joo beat up Byung-hee, and the boys retaliated. Deo-mi sniffs at it (“Do they think they’re Won Bin in Ajusshi, thinking revenge makes them look cool?”). But while the boys aren’t participating in school, at least they pass the time quietly, to themselves.
Ji-hyuk passes out the song that he finished, which they’ll record tomorrow. Next on his list is securing practice space; he watches Maro locking up the room and tucking the key in a grate in the floor.
That night, they duck back into school and Ji-hyuk argues that they shouldn’t spend Byung-hee’s hard-earned cash on recording space when they’ve got such great facilities at their disposal. They slip past the security guard, set up shop, and get to recording.
It’s a great song (though the sound is purposely kept raw — probably to keep us on the edge of our seats to hear the real version), and Ji-hyuk sings Byung-hee’s muse-inspired lyrics about the moment he first saw her.
Su-ah paces her rooftop looking across the way, waiting for Ji-hyuk. He finally trudges home, replaying Byung-hee’s phone call in his head — the happy one where he’d declared, “I love you, Dog Ji-hyuk!” He follows it up with the voicemail of Byung-hee’s last call, desperately urging him to pick up the phone.
He looks up to find Su-ah standing there, having heard the message. She’s stunned and guilt-stricken, saying he was right in blaming her — if she hadn’t come over, Ji-hyuk would have been able to find Byung-hee the night he died.
Ji-hyuk isn’t angry anymore, though, and he tries to downplay it. He’d just left his phone in his room, and it’s not her fault. Tearing up, she says, “Now I understand what you mean by ‘Get lost.’ I’m sorry.”
Su-ah hurriedly leaves and Ji-hyuk grimaces, feeling guilty. He sighs, “Sorry, friend, for making your muse cry.”
Ji-hyuk hits up his old teacher for his proof of school enrollment, but when the teacher hears why, he refuses to allow the boys to enter. The kids at this school are debaters, mathletes — you know, fancy activities. They don’t associate with that loser rock band stuff.
Ji-hyuk actually resorts to bribery… with a sausage stick, ha! Your skills of persuasion are so terrible that it’s endearing. The teacher dismisses him and turns eagerly to address newly arrived Seung-hoon, happy to dote on a promising student… until Seung-hoon says he wants to enter the same competition and needs the same form. Ji-hyuk actually smirks.
He and Seung-hoon trade a few polite taunts about the competition, and Kyung-jong worries that they’d really better win, because it’ll be humiliating if they fail. Ji-hyuk assures him not to worry, since they’ve got Byung-hee’s song on their side.
But the principal arrives with a cop in tow, who cites that a report has been filed for Pyo-joo’s assault. The principal orders the boys in for questioning — all except Ji-hyuk. Either he’s dividing and conquering, or Pyo-joo doesn’t hold him responsible for the beating.
The boys don’t utter a peep, though, and the cop relents for today, though he warns them that he’ll be back. Ji-hyuk is left outside to stew in his thoughts, remembering his warning to the boys to stay in school and out of trouble. But that caution seems to fall by the wayside as he storms off with murder in his eyes.
Seung-hoon and Su-ah are joined by Maro, who informs them of the cop’s visit. It’s not hard to guess that even if Pyo-joo kept his mouth shut, his father surely didn’t.
As they digest this, Ji-hyuk charges up to Seung-hoon, who braces for confrontation just as the Eye Candy boys emerge from the office behind him. Ji-hyuk says, “I won’t ask you to lie. Just don’t forget what you saw that night.”
And then, to everybody’s shock, Ji-hyuk falls to his knees, right in front of Seung-hoon. Gasp!
The band and everybody in the hallway gape in astonishment as Ji-hyuk requests, “Let us stay in school. Please, Yoo Seung-hoon.”
The fall-to-you-knees supplication is a common maneuver in dramaland, meant to shock and subvert expectations. Sometimes you see that expectation coming, though, so it fails to grab you the way the story wants it to, because you know that’s how your emotions are being manipulated.
In this case, though, I was totally taken by surprise — even though I know that the expectation was for Ji-hyuk to lose his shit and therefore cause further problems while we’re screaming at him not to engage. This drama does a fantastic job of putting you in the moment, though, so that I’m riding the twists along with the characters. And in three short episodes, the show has done such a solid job of developing these characters so that Ji-hyuk’s humbling really feels like a humbling — we know exactly what it takes for him to shove aside his pride. And that, in turn, highlights just how great his love for Byung-hee, that it supersedes himself. Agh, it kills me.
I knew I would miss Lee Min-ki, but to its credit, the show is still standing without his incredible magnetic draw, an appeal that comes from Lee as an actor and from Byung-hee the larger-than-life character. While I could have happily watched a full drama with Lee Min-ki as the star, I’m loving where we’re going without him. As I suspected, now we get a chance to see the others step up; maybe they’ll get a chance in the rock spotlight, but also as characters with their own conflicts and strong personalities of their own.
Sung Joon in particular rocked this episode, and I’m relieved to see that the promise he showed in previous projects wasn’t a fluke. It’s hard to judge acting performance when your last project was as big a mess as Lie To Me with its many directorial and storytelling flaws. He’s still raw as an actor, but this is a project where raw serves you well. He was aloof and sardonic with Byung-hee around, but with his friend gone Ji-hyuk’s intensity level has just shot through the roof.
We also got a look into Hyun-soo, and I’m intrigued by the simmering tension underneath his surface. I noticed his barely veiled bitterness in previous episodes and suspected there’s more going on with him. For instance, he shot a few pointed barbs at Do-il last week, blaming the drums for always being their big problem, which made me wonder whether he had beef with Do-il in particular. In this episode he demonstrated alpha-male friction with Ji-hyuk, and now I wonder what the angst really stems from. He has a tendency to hold himself apart from the group, making the Ice Prince moniker especially appropriate. For now it appears that the group knows how to defuse the tension before it can escalate, but this sets us up for rich conflict later.
Overall, I continue to be in love with this drama, and execution-wise, I find it pitch-perfect. Moody, dark, raw, and moving, I think it’s such a shame that the Flower Boy branding has automatically made people dismiss it as stupid or brainless. Fangirls may like pretty boys, but hey, I know a lot of fangirls who also like taut storytelling, kickass musical score, and cinematic directing. To dismiss Shut Up: Flower Boy Band as silly teen fluff is like assuming Veronica Mars was a candy-coated sugarpuff, just because it was set in high school and had a quippy blonde heroine.
I love the sense of unease always under the surface and the immediacy of the emotions; I’m all-in with these characters, who all feel vibrant and real.
- Shut Up: Flower Boy Band: Episode 2
- Shut Up: Flower Boy Band: Episode 1
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- Press conference day for cast of Shut Up: Flower Boy Band
- Shut Up: Flower Boy Band’s new poster and group stills
- Jung Eui-chul joins Shut Up as a rival flower boy
- Female lead and second teaser for Shut Up: Flower Boy Band
- Relationship charts and stills galore for Shut Up: Flower Boy Band