You know you’ve got a killer lead couple when they aren’t afraid to speak the truth to each other. Better yet when beta male can ruffle alpha girl’s feathers. Ji-an learns that it’s lonely on top and Tae-kang finds out that earning a buck is harder than it looks.
This episode took a slight dip in ratings from 10.5% to 9.8%.
EPISODE 2 RECAP
In a darkened street corner, both Ji-an and Tae-kang recognize each other. He bolts and she chases after him barefoot.
They end up at the police station as she demands the name behind the knockoffs. Interesting that she doesn’t accuse him of making them himself. Tae-kang insists on his innocence despite the evidence pointing to the contrary. As to why he ran? “A perverted woman was running after me! You think I wouldn’t run?”
Ji-an raises a heel which is when the police officer who’d been fully amused at their bickering finally steps in. He orders Tae-kang to out the culprit (Dad) but his lips remain tightly sealed, his eyebrows furrowed, conflicted.
Meanwhile Dad’s been calling incessantly, concerned that Tae-kang’s no-show might indicate he’s been caught. Choong-baek, however, assures him that Tae-kang is a pro at slipping away safely.
Clink. Before he’s hauled off in cuffs, she sits him down in the interrogation room. Tae-kang fesses up that he stole, made, and sold the shoes himself – it’s not so hard to nail a few soles together, right? He could make it in his sleep.
She breathes, “Liar.” and explains that that level of caliber can only be achieved through decades of experience. Grabbing his hand, she says that his should be calloused, his fingerprints rubbed off, his nails blackened to the point one couldn’t tell if it was a hand or not. Only through that amount of labor can one heel be made.
Genuinely concerned now, she warns Tae-kang that he can actually be jailed for this – what would his father think? Tae-kang glares at the audacity of her words and throws them back at her that she should be worrying about her own family.
Now he gets where her parents are coming from, “How hard must it have been on them to have such a cold and heartless daughter? I would have disowned you too by now.”
Ji-an looks at him, her eyes glazed in tears, and she seethes, “You…really are trash.” Angry, Tae-kang admits to it that he’s a piece of trash who had to throw away his conscience to make a living because he was less educated and less skilled. “What about you?” Why is she trying to milk money off of some who has none?
It would be pointless to throw at him jargon like intellectual property rights and leaves him with one word of advice: there are plenty of other people who are worse off than he is but lead their lives differently. So what she’s hearing is just excuses coming from a dropout.
Dad’s eyes grow wide when the news report on the recent crackdown on knockoff sellers. Then we see Tae-kang, his face and voice disguised (I know it’s not supposed to be funny but it is) and Dad’s face falls.
So it’s Tae-kang’s turn to be surprised when he’d led out only to see Dad being cuffed. He’s turned himself in and softly tells his son to return home. As he’s taken away, Tae-kang is held back as he shouts for his father. It breaks my heart seeing the lengths to which they’d protect each other.
When he gets home, there’s a handwritten note from Dad telling Tae-kang not to worry. And then my heart breaks into a million pieces as the tears drop from Tae-kang’s eyes looking at the lonely dinner laid out for him.
At the airport, we’re introduced to YEOM NA-RI (Im Soo-hyang). It’s been 15 years since she’s been in Korea and she heads straight to the office. She moseys to Uncle that there was a particular office she liked…
… and then we see Ji-an things packed and see her fuming at the sudden move out. Nepotism has reared his ugly head since Na-ri’s MBA from the States and a stint in Milano has bumped her to Vice President. She’s polite, though she carries a pretentious air as she introduces herself to the staff.
A clunking sound down the stairs alert Na-ri to greet Ji-an. She’s annoyed (as she should be) and rolls her eyes at Na-ri’s attempt to shake her hand when her hands are full. Na-ri barely blinks at eye at Ji-an’s honesty and steps closer to put out her hand again, the friendly gesture thinly veiled by a challenge.
Ji-an takes it this time, however reluctantly, and turns to leave. Yet Na-ri picks up a conspicuous brochure about menopause and brings it to everyone’s attention.
Despite trying to downplay the embarrassing moment, Na-ri oh-so-innocently comments that Ji-an does everything quickly from her work to her age. Ouch. Looks like newbie can spit fire.
She’s still seething in her new office when Mom calls to give her the third degree about her date with Eun-sung. It surprises Mom when Ji-an tells her that she likes him given that he didn’t. She smiles as Mom reports that they said she wasn’t funny, unladylike, and so strong-willed that Ji-an could never get married.
All seems to be going according to plane until Mom drops that Eun-sung must have a strange taste in women because he liked Ji-an.
She rips him a new one on the phone while Eun-sung plays dumb that it’s all their parents doing and he’s totally sick of meeting her too. She raises her voice at his suggestion to play along for the time being – what if their parents push them to get married? What will he do then? Eun-sung: “Then we’ll just get pushed into it.” Omg, you totally love this.
Eun-sung asks why she takes life so seriously and that they’ll take it as it comes. That does little to settle the mind of a successful shoe designer and she interprets this as romantic interest.
He claims no such thing, jokingly accusing her of being a snob. Doesn’t she know that getting angry for no reason is a classic sign of menopause? DUDE you are pushing your luck here.
Ji-an refuses his invitation to dinner (tofu stew is supposedly good for those with menopause) and barks that he was the one who got themselves into this mess so HE can be the one to get them out of it.
Tae-kang waits for Dad outside prison. When he appears, he shoves a bottle of soymilk instead of tofu (given to eat after release to symbolize a new beginning). HAHAHA. Dad’s annoyed, wondering how Tae-kang made bail to get him out. Yes, how did you manage it, Tae-kang?
Cut to Dad groaning loudly at the jjimjilbang (sauna). HA – you sold your house to get Dad outta jail? So like you to not see things through.
Tae-kang defends that he needed the cash and even selling Beyonce wasn’t enough to make bail. The house turned into a living hell and he couldn’t sleep a wink knowing Dad was locked up (aw).
Dad reminds him that even renting a room is difficult in this economy and cringes as Tae-kang pipes that he’ll get them a house or get a job. Tae-kang declares that he can do it if he just puts his mind to it and stands up, “I’m the head of this household! So I’ll take responsibility!” Aw you’re so adorably earnest.
He instructs Dad to rest and storms off to find a job. Dad calls out, “Don’t go! It’ll cost money for you to come back in!” HA.
So Tae-kang finds every odd job under the sun (a nude model to a window washer to a farmhand). The best is when he’s at a morgue trying not to psych himself out in front of a corpse.
His hands betray him, trembling, when the lights flicker out like a bad horror movie. The body opens its eyes and stares at Tae-kang, who chokes and faints.
Na-ri’s changes at the store don’t go unnoticed by Ji-an who confronts her about it. The line she put up for sale was going to be used for a charity event and Na-ri merely answers that she was just getting rid of extra inventory.
She thought Ji-an would be onboard as the most adventurous and progressive person in the company. What’s the point of rehashing the same concept? Shouldn’t they move towards more groundbreaking ways for the company to move forward?
Both women are strong-willed and Na-ri doesn’t skip a beat when Ji-an challenges that they simply can’t change things around according to her whim. But Na-ri stands firm that they’ll just need to find a way to make those changes with the least amount of loss possible.
The staff complain in the office about being overworked and its toll on their health and personal lives. Ji-an stops to listen in on their woes about how they hate shoes and their stress is leads them to spend their money on hospital fees.
It runs on the dramatic edge, but it must be news to her that not everyone is a workaholic like she is.
They clam up when Ji-an walks in and further surprised when she compliments them on their efforts. As an attempt to boost morale, she invites them out to an office dinner.
Why am I not surprised that Ji-an equates office party to a fancy dinner? Ji-an waits and waits at the nearby restaurant, growing angrier by the minute. She does her best to pretend that she hardly cares but her words indicate that she does by keeping track of the clock.
It’s then the meekest office worker runs in to relay the others’ excuses (“Tell Medusa I stayed up all night to fix the designs!”, “Tell her I have stomach cramps…I don’t know. Tell her I died!”).
Ji-an bites down on her emotions that they can eat together then but sadly, she too has a reason to leave.
Ji-an wanders the streets alone as people pass by happily. I’m not sure if it’s intentional, but seeing that nearly everyone has a companion is a nice contrast to Ji-an’s lonely walk.
She sits on a bench, contemplating how to cure her loneliness and hunger. Her friend Jun-hee is no help (she’s at a club which makes me think that she’s an irresponsible divorced mother).
As she searches through her contacts on her phone, Ji-an realizes that there’s not a single person to call. Tears well up in her eyes as she solemnly sighs, “I don’t want to eat ramyun today.”
Choong-baek laughs at his friend for taking on the most difficult of menial jobs. He’s amused at Tae-kang’s explanation that he wanted to test himself like the main character they read about in the comics; to become stronger through adversity. “I thought I’d have that kind of super energy too.”
Tae-kang laughs at the “It takes hard work and time” speech, still fixated on snagging a job that pays well and is cool. Choong-baek clucks at him that his friend hasn’t suffered enough to learn the meaning behind earning a dollar.
Suddenly Tae-kang has a brilliant idea – what if he works here? I love how Choong-baek immediately stutters that he should rather do something he’s good at like fighting or being a con artist.
They nearly get into a small tussle when Ji-an sudden appearance catches both off-guard.
Tae-kang hilariously frets in his seat and silently mouths Why is she here? Why?!. Deciding to slip out without notice, he grabs his bag to hide his face. But either he resolves to face the truth or his vanity trumps his fear as he plops down in front of her, slamming his hand on the table to grab her attention.
She’s hardly surprised to see him out and about and doesn’t appeal to his vanity in the slightest, “You think I came here to see you?” Tae-kang scoffs in response that SHE’s been constantly on his mind. Are you backhandedly telling her that you’ve been thinking about her?
He instructs Choong-baek to drop the act and discloses that they’re childhood friends and that he deliberately brought her here to get her drunk. He drills, “Understand?”
Much to his surprise, Ji-an coolly replies, “So?” Did he think she would get upset or be shocked? He must be more naïve that she thought since disappointment can only come from expectations. That certainly doesn’t apply to them since they’re not in any kind of relationship.
He must be upset that she turned him into the cops but some people turn that anger into motivation to succeed, she explains. “They turn that hatred into a strength.”
She continues, “What would a loser like you know about that?” Tae-kang glares.
Ji-an gets up to leave when Tae-kang raises his voice, “What about you? Do you consider your life a success? You make a lot of money, drive a nice car, and wrote an autobiography. Is that considered a successful life?” She’s been cast out by her parents and has no friends. In his eyes, he regards that as pretty pathetic.
She fights the pain from his words – how would he know? Tae-kang answers that he doesn’t, since he’s never experienced such loneliness. “For some reason I think that you won’t have anyone around you and all you’ll have left is your shoes. But no matter how many you have, shoes are just shoes.”
He finishes off that she seems like the loser. The tears start to form in her eyes and it’s not until she leaves does Tae-kang begin to regret his harsh words.
Ji-an returns to her disheveled apartment, strewn with clothes and old food. Tae-kang’s words ring in her ears. As she digs her chopsticks into her ramyun she finally breaks into tears, “How am I supposed to eat ramyun without any kimchi?” Just like his words, she sleeps in the shoe closet, surrounded by the array of shoes for company.
At the same time, Tae-kang mulls over her words. Taking Dad’s calloused hand in his, he breaks into tears, asking sleeping Dad why he worked so hard. He lies down and places his hand over Dad’s before falling asleep.
At work, Ji-an introduces a Shoe Reform Contest to promote their company’s image and to hire a new designer. The credit initially gets passed to Na-ri who pipes that it was Ji-an who came up with the contest idea. Ji-an gives a slight smirk, knowing that something else lies beneath the compliment but can’t help be pleased to be credited appropriately.
In the bathroom, she figures that Na-ri’s been coached to say the right thing since the Ice Queen suddenly turned into Soft Serve. She’s simply changed her tactic, Na-ri explains, from a whip to a carrot. Playing on that metaphor, she adds that the dangling carrot will help Ji-an stay young longer.
Bringing up the topic of age again, she hands over coupons for spa treatments, “At your age beauty requires effort and money, right?” They’re open 24 hours so Ji-an can fit it in despite her busy schedule.
The job search continues to look bleak for Tae-kang. But a promotional poster for the Design contest catches his eyes, particularly the grand prize: 30 million Won (about $30,000 USD) and a job offer. He gasps and a lightbulb pops above his head.
I find it absolutely hilarious that he brings the poster to show Dad, constantly reminding him about the prize money. Dad’s understandably less than thrilled about the idea – there’s no way a newbie could win over those who studied abroad to learn design. Plus, they’ll need to buy a shoe to redesign.
Dad doesn’t budge about investing money for a slim chance at winning and like a petulant child, Tae-kang gets up and peevishly tells Dad that he won’t give him a cent if he wins.
Tae-kang gets to work and scratches his head over how to redesign the shoe, examining it from every angle. He sighs deeply when Dad chides him on the rooftop, asking if he’s come to see him struggle.
He’s not but brings up the time when their store was destroyed in a fire. He lost the will to live and contemplated about jumping off a bridge into the Han River.
That’s news to Tae-kang and he listens as Dad continues that he was just about to when he remembered that Tae-kang had a school picnic the next day. Dad laughs as he recalls that he stepped down to prepare for it as planned, thinking that he couldn’t even die when he wanted to.
Placing a hand on Tae-kang’s shoulder, Dad reminds him that Tae-kang is the head of the family. “I’m alive because you’re here. I can endure because you’re here.” Gah, break my heart Dad.
Dad softly asks for the shoe but Tae-kang clings onto it, vowing that he’ll do it himself to rub it into Dad’s face. His pettiness is an attempt to make Dad proud – how sweet. Dad runs him through several rounds of, “Then you take care of it!” until Tae-kang finally picks up on the undertone of You can do it!.
Then Dad grabs him for a playful headlock. *sniff* I’M NOT CRYING.
Jun-hee stares open-mouthed at the luxurious spa treatment. She asks about updates about Eun-sung and Ji-an answers that she’s considering it given his persistence (he texts three times a day without fail).
So she’s surprised when Jun-hee bursts laughing that there’s a smartphone feature that sends text messages at preset times. Ji-an is slightly annoyed at having been fooled at a trick that even a child would know.
But as she sips her drink, there’s the inevitable lurch to vomit and we all know what that means…
Cut to Eun-sung’s voice, “Congratulations, you’re pregnant.” He tells the couple (what a tease) that it’s a crucial period for them and to take care of their health.
He’s naturally confused at his next patients (Ji-an’s parents) and he hesitantly asks after her age. “I can suggest a really good adoption agency.” Keh. Dad snipes if he intends to change his specialty (“You look under women’s skirts all day.”). When Dad clarifies that they’re Ji-an’s parents, he bolts up to greet them properly.
At dinner, Dad asks his opinion about a working woman and Eun-sung starts, “Well most women work nowadays so… she’ll need to stop.” Dad continues on his traditionalist women-need-to-stay-at-home tirade and Eun-sung amuses him, calling him “father-in-law.”
He maintains the well-behaved future son-in-law act to the end. He calls Ji-an to gripe about the sudden visit but she hangs up before he gets the chance. After contemplating on his next move, a small smile spreads across his face.
Not surprisingly, Ji-an opposes Na-ri’s vote for finalist, using her words of “fresh” and “original” against her. She absentmindedly picks up a shoe (Tae-kang’s) as her choice. It’s more of an act of defiance and when Na-ri pipes that she’ll choose the winner, Ji-an pointedly notes that that’s her job as event coordinator.
Ji-an argues that this is a company and here, “Professionals aren’t born but made.” Na-ri asks if this is attempt to sabotage her first major event but Ji-an bites back what could possibly make her think of such a thing – does Na-ri have something against her?
The news about the standoff travels fast as the employees whisper that Ji-an must really be the Medusa to stand up to the VP and snicker when Na-ri arrives at work.
Tae-kang nervously bites his nails at the restaurant and Choong-baek reports, shell-shocked: “Dropped.” Tae-kang’s tries to hide his disappointment and Dad adds that these kinds of contests are always rigged.
Which is when Choong-baek clarifies, “$30,000 dropped! You’ve won!” (The former sentence and initial confusion makes sense since a pronoun isn’t necessarily needed.) Heh, I love that Dad and Son both yell at Choong-baek before they grab each other for a victory hug.
Tae-kang steps out of the room of finalists, all women, commenting that the gabbing is just like inside a women’s locker room. He gets annoyed when the vending machine eats his coin and he proceeds to kick it to release his anger.
So who should walk by at that very moment as he bashes the machine from every which angle and steps forward to yell… when a spray of coffee splashes on her front.
He apologizes profusely but places a hand to his mouth, recognizing her. Ji-an’s eyes grows wide as she stutters, “Y-you…”
Tae-kang laughs awkwardly, “We meet again.”
Suffice it to say that I really love our lead couple and for the first time in a long time, both seem perfectly well-rounded. Usually you’ll see one character (often the heroine) getting the short end of the character description stick, but there’s depth and potential exploration in each.
Starting with Tae-kang, I adore the relationship he has with his father. They’ve been through good and bad and both strive to protect the other, no matter the cost. Dad might appear gruff but under that tough exterior is a father whose pull back into the world was his son. Their interactions are both hilarious and sweet. It tugs at and warms my heart.
Then there’s Ji-an who despite all her success in life, still longs for a steady relationship in her life. Her loneliness just about kills me and her unkempt apartment was a great way to show us what that drive to success has lead to. Even a bowl of ramyun needs kimchi. Kim Sun-ah is great at these soft, heart-breaking vulnerable moments where Ji-an’s pain almost becomes your pain.
All signs are pointing to pregnancy and perhaps motherhood will break down her strong front and help her face what it means to love another. Until then, she’ll be asleep in her vast array of shoes alone.