Alice in Cheongdam-dong: Episode 3
For a drama that’s incredibly bleak and melodramatic in its portrayal of poverty, there are plenty of golden moments in this episode – all thanks to Seung-jo. If this drama is supposed to be a comedy, it’s all because of him. The beloved In-chan oppa ends his cameo with this episode, and while many are sad to see him go, I think it’s good that he’s gone. We need to move on – just like Se-kyung. At least, Kim Ji-suk shows his bright face for a mere three seconds today. I’m looking forward to more of His Yummy-ness.
SONG OF THE DAY
“It’s Okay” by f(x) for Alice in Cheongdam-dong OST [download]
Episode 3 Recap
Se-kyung is convinced to learn the secret to Yoon-joo’s success, which makes Yoon-joo slightly suspicious. Se-kyung explains that she’s now found hope in Yoon-joo’s story. She’s lately been told that life is predestined and one cannot change their circumstances no matter how hard they try… except for Yoon-joo.
That’s kinda bleak.
Meanwhile, Seung-jo is arriving at the sobering realization that he’s not feeling as happy as he was the other night about his little revenge against Yoon-joo. He calls Dong-wook to come over, then tries to validate his revenge as a way of healing his wounded heart by excitedly telling him of the dinner. Dong-wook sighs – why doesn’t Seung-jo just cry?
Dong-wook hits the issue right on the button: doesn’t Seung-jo feel terrible and empty inside after finally having completed his revenge? Isn’t he wondering what he did all this for? Seung-jo is incredulous, but Dong-wook says, “Are you afraid your tears won’t come out?” Seung-jo is suffering from a mental breakdown of depression and anger, and we see flashes of his instability as he forces Dong-wook to leave.
Back at Yoon-joo’s home, Se-kyung doesn’t believe that Yoon-joo could have done any better than she did, but somehow she did. So if Yoon-joo can do it, why can’t Se-kyung? Yoon-joo seems like she’s not sure if she’s being complimented or insulted. Of course, Se-kyung can only succeed if Yoon-joo helps her, which we’re not sure she will.
As Se-kyung leaves, she doesn’t notice a motorcyclist nearly stop in his tracks at the sight of her. It’s Ho-min, Yoon-joo’s younger brother and classmate of Se-jin. Yoon-joo gives him a little allowance and he asks her to help out Se-kyung; let her take advantage of Yoon-joo’s status. That’s strangely kind of him, which makes me wonder if Ho-min has a crush on Se-jin. He then comments on the strange coincidence of Se-kyung and Seung-jo arriving both from her past. Are they in cahoots or something?
Se-kyung hears from Ah-jung that Artemis has decided to sue In-chan for his illegal distribution of goods, but what’s worse is that his mother has just passed away. Se-kyung rushes to the hospital, where Dong-wook happens to work.
Dong-wook reviews Seung-jo’s medical record, laying out the symptoms that may explain his uncontrollable anger. But Seung-jo takes a marker and starts X-ing it all. Wrath comes about when one is blocked from his desire, or is forced into doing something. Was he blocked from his desires? No. Was he forced into doing something? No… well, until Dong-wook tried to make him cry. Watching Seung-jo frenetically cross out the entire board makes him look a little crazy.
Dong-wook tries to calmly tell him to cry, as accepting his condition is the first step for proper treatment. Seung-jo would rather just take his medicine and stop talking to Dong-wook about crying. What man goes about crying all the time?
He returns to his car and classical music turns on. Almost immediately, Seung-jo starts crying. Huh? But after about a minute, he stops, and checks the rearview mirror. Nope – no tears. HA. Oh well.
At that point, he sees two people arguing in front of his car, with the guy telling the girl he never wants to see her again. The girl turns, and Seung-jo recognizes her as Se-kyung. So that means the guy must be In-chan. He gets out of the car, but Se-kyung begs him to give her ex a break.
Seung-jo reenters the hospital to see In-chan in the funerary parlor for his mother. He calls up Secretary Moon and tells him to send a floral arrangement and spots Se-kyung again, who is waffling between going into the room and staying outside as In-chan wished.
*Click click!* And Ho-min is surreptitiously sending photos of Seung-jo and Se-kyung back to Yoon-joo. It looks like those two could be working together. Ho-min is now Yoon-joo’s personal private eye, as she orders him to snoop around for more information on their relationship.
When Ah-jung meets Se-kyung outside the hospital, she reminds her friend to butt out of In-chan’s affairs. Se-kyung reassures her that she will end it for sure, and then they spot Secretary Moon and the legal team for Artemis arriving at the hospital.
Se-kyung intercepts Secretary Moon before he can see In-chan and asks if she could write a letter requesting leniency for In-chan. Secretary Moon encourages it; he’s not sure how it will be received, but he will forward her letter.
Seung-jo has gone for his yoga lesson, except he’s incredibly wobbly standing on one leg. He falls out of form when he gets an unexpected classmate – his father. Il-nam can be such a flirt though, winking at the teacher.
Seung-jo accuses his father of following him around, but then Il-nam brings attention to the photographer snapping pics behind the rows of lockers. Did Seung-jo sleep with a married woman? Il-nam tsks at his son’s taste in women and leaves for Tommy Hong’s studio.
Yay! Kim Ji-suk!
Il-nam is escorted through the store to a fashionable basement that looks like an upscale party lounge. Though Tommy Hong is a fashion designer, he also has a side business of being a successful matchmaker for the rich. Il-nam is here for a request regarding ‘Jean Thierry Cha.’
In the parking lot, Ho-min reviews the photos he’s snapped that day, and doesn’t notice Seung-jo creeping up to his car, his face rising up to the window as he finds his prey… cue Jaws theme music. Hehe. He finally knocks on the window and confiscates the camera.
Dinner at the Shin household is a reserved affair as Mrs. Shin asks how GN Fashion’s deal with Artemis is going. She even hints to In-hwa that Seung-jo is single but In-hwa isn’t interested, and Yoon-joo covers up her shock over having him even closer around her. Mrs. Shin also has Yoon-joo visit a different doctor to see if she can get pregnant.
Yoon-joo then gets a text message from “Ho-min’s friend.” It’s actually Seung-jo, and he tells her that he’s just moved into the house across the street from her. Stalker! Yoon-joo goes to see him, asking what on earth he’s trying to do.
Ever since she left him, Seung-jo has been afraid to fall asleep, as all he can replay in his mind is her leaving. He suffered from a mental breakdown, but those feelings of shock and rage fueled his revenge. All he wanted to do was appear before her a changed man… so how’d he do? Does she now regret throwing him away?
He only wanted her to feel some regret, so now that that’s done, she doesn’t have to set a photographer on him anymore. Yoon-joo: “I may have been surprised (about his reappearance) but I don’t regret it.” She doesn’t think he’s changed a bit, and calls him an immature child. On top of that, she didn’t leave him because he was penniless; in his mind, she must appear completely selfish.
Seung-jo cutting ties with his father was not as grand of a move as he thought. Instead, she calls it a rash move that never considered her position or her circumstance in life. Seung-jo: “You mean, what you really wanted was my father’s money?” He laughs at her for accepting a measly 30 million won when he expected her to ask for a billion. She ended up just throwing away a man worth 10 billion. Doesn’t she regret all that?
Yoon-joo: “Only people who have nothing will regret like that.” But not her. She threw him away, washed her hands of him and the money. “I told you, right? It was all just business.” Despite having had his revenge against her, she still manages to be the only one who can hurt Seung-jo deeply.
But Yoon-joo herself can barely hold it together until she gets out of his building. Acting cool may have seemed easy, but she seemed really hurt by reliving her experiences with Seung-jo. She gets a call from her brother, who affirms that Seung-jo and Se-kyung have no ties other than the fact that In-chan works for him, and is Se-kyung’s boyfriend. Yoon-joo wants to bring Seung-jo down, so she tells Ho-min to gather more details on Se-kyung and In-chan.
At that moment, In-hwa appears behind her, wondering why Yoon-joo is out so late. Whoa – how much did she see, and what did she overhear?
Seung-jo thinks of Yoon-joo’s hurtful words, and tries to cry once again. He fails. “Only a child can cry,” he wryly notes.
Se-kyung struggles to compose a letter for leniency to the CEO of Artemis, and finds it easier to write than to type it out. The following day, Secretary Moon tries to find the perfect moment to hand the letter to Seung-jo, who is mildly surprised to see it handwritten.
Se-kyung introduces herself as the ex-girlfriend, saying that she hopes that despite his wealth, he understands that life is not easy. Life and love is not easy for her, especially since she and In-chan broke up over money. After everything they’ve gone through, she now believes that the opposite of saying “I love you” is “I can’t do anything for you.” Because she couldn’t do anything for In-chan or his mother.
She now understands that it’s foolish to think standing by the man you love is called “love.” Rather, love is doing everything she can to help him. Yet all she can do is to give him her savings, and Seung-jo finds her seal and her bank book enclosed, reading Se-kyung’s deposits and the hopeful messages of what she wishes for the future. The deposits are measly but there are pages of them. Her total only amounts to 5 million won (approximately $5,000), with her final wish being to go to Paris.
Suddenly, a tear drops on the bank book. Seung-jo is startled to feel a tear stream down his cheek, and he hurries to the bathroom. He laughs with joy at the sight of himself actually crying, and finishes the letter. Se-kyung knows that her savings aren’t enough for all the trouble that In-chan caused, but hopes that the CEO can accept it as the last thing she could do for In-chan.
By the end of it, Seung-jo is bawling like a baby. Hee. Now he’s really happy, because Se-kyung has just proven to him that love truly exists. Relationships are not all based on business, as Yoon-joo said.
Seung-jo victoriously exits his office and commands Secretary Moon to drop the lawsuit. Secretary Moon reminds him that there may be other lawsuits and fines to pay, so Seung-jo tells him to do everything he can to just drop the lawsuit on In-chan.
Next thing we know, Secretary Moon and the lawsuit team march (like the playing cards/guards) into the funeral home, where Secretary Moon announces to In-chan and Se-kyung that the matter will be settled with a fine – which CEO Jean Thierry Cha will take care of.
He presents the CEO, and Seung-jo comes in with the poise and manner of a king greeting the crowds. Se-kyung’s jaw drops, and my stomach hurts from laughing at the cheesiness of all this. (Please let this be a dream!)
Seung-jo hands over the bank book, then makes a grand speech about love. Poverty cannot end love, so they should use that money to help Se-kyung’s dreams and protect their love. In-chan covers his mouth like a little child, and I feel like he’s just covering his mouth to stop laughing.
Se-kyung is so overcome with emotion that she cries out, “Truly, I don’t know what else to say to show my gratitude!”
And with that we end up in Seung-jo’s office, as he practices this entire scenario in front of the mirror. HAHA! He sure has grand delusions. He practices the second part of his speech: it is not that they should be grateful towards him, but that Se-kyung and In-chan exist for each other. He follows up with a quote from Winston Churchill: “Immature love says I love you because I need you. Mature love says I need you because I love you.” Then he finishes off with a grand statement that all they need is love and each other.
What a romantic. Has he been watching too many dramas lately?
He gets ready to leave with the bank book in his pocket, but Secretary Moon rushes in. Se-kyung already came by to visit and express her gratitude. Already?! Seung-jo wasn’t even ready! He was going to do his grand gesture at the funeral home for her with the big reveal! Now it’s too late! Secretary Moon also has two gift boxes in hand – and gives Seung-jo the smaller white one.
Inside is a handmade leather bracelet that looks very cheap. Seung-jo is confused over why his gift is so shabby, and so he grabs Secretary Moon’s maroon gift box. In that one is an expensive set of cuff links. Seung-jo: “Why is your gift so pretty? Did you switch it?” While angry, Seung-jo’s country accent starts creeping out, which is funnier because he’s not the elite Seoulite we think he is.
Seung-jo runs out, and manages to catch Se-kyung not too far away. She’s confused over why a secretary would have the gifts, but Seung-jo wants to confirm which gift is for the CEO. If she’s more thankful to the CEO, shouldn’t he get the more expensive gift? Se-kyung clears the matter: she’s thankful to Secretary Moon for helping her with In-chan’s situation and his tips on how to approach the CEO. And that leather bracelet is handmade! It’s the first thing she made when she got to college.
Seung-jo’s eyes widen in admiration. She commands him to wrap it nicely and give it to the CEO. She turns to leave, but Seung-jo stops her – he has more to say. He hands her the bank book and says that the CEO wanted to give it back. Se-kyung stares at the book, and Seung-jo continues chanting “grateful” in his head, hoping she’ll say it so that he can go into his whole speech about love. Ha!
“I’m grateful,” Se-kyung says, and Seung-jo’s eyes light up. But before he can get into his speech, she says, “I can’t take it.” Poor Seung-jo’s balloon is deflated – this wasn’t part of the imaginary script in his head.
Se-kyung refuses to accept, because then all of her resolve would have been for nothing. She already had resigned herself to losing that money for the sake of In-chan, so she’s not about to take it back. More than being grateful, she feels more sorry.
Seung-jo gets all frustrated over why she can’t just say she’s grateful, and his accent comes out again. Se-kyung’s confused – why is he acting like he’s the chairman, as if he’s being magnanimous and cool? Se-kyung adds, “You sound like a country bumpkin with your accent!” and leaves for home.
Yoon-joo meets her brother at a cafe he seems to work at, and he tells her that all Se-kyung wants is probably money. Her boyfriend’s in debt, and she’s in debt. If Yoon-joo just gives her money, Se-kyung will go away. But Yoon-joo thinks there’s more to her request for help, so she tells her brother to keep digging.
When Se-kyung arrives home, she sees her parents discussing their bills. The bank has already demanded that they pay back 50 million won in the first few days, otherwise they’ll lose their house. Her mother has already determined that they can get a loan as long as Se-kyung signs it in her name.
Se-kyung heads to her room and looks fondly at her room, as if ready to say goodbye to her childhood dreams. She heads back out and flatly tells her parents no. She wants them to sell the house, pay back the mortgage and use the extra money to move into a small rental. Their house’s worth has gone down, but Se-kyung doesn’t want them to wait for the market to get better. If they wait, they’ll be in even more debt. It’s better to cancel out as much debt as they can now, because she still has to pay off her school loans.
Se-kyung loves this home just as much as they do, but she will never borrow again. She’s seen how borrowing money from banks has just sunk her family further into debt.
Yoon-joo looks into her safe and takes out an envelope, one that seems to hold the secret to her success. She still seems unsure about whether she should share it. As for Seung-jo, he cheerily puts on the bracelet and has In-chan come to his office the following morning.
When In-chan arrives, Seung-jo begins with the fact that In-chan’s resignation has been processed, and then hands him a card to another fashion company. Seung-jo’s already given him a recommendation to make it easier for In-chan to get a job in the same industry. “In life, there are things that can be weathered, and matters that cannot,” Seung-jo says, while turning to the window. He smiles over the brilliant line he just said and then continues his speech: “Poverty is something that can be weathered. I’ve lived through it.” I love that with every line of guidance, Seung-jo gives himself a mental high-five.
He hands In-chan Se-kyung’s bank book and seal, and tells him to return it to Se-kyung and be grateful to her. In-chan is shocked over the kindness, and Seung-jo repeats that there’s nothing to be sorry over, as what he really really wants to hear is someone saying, “Thank you.” In-chan finally gives him that satisfaction, and Seung-jo launches into his speech about love and Winston Churchill.
He’s on such a roll that In-chan is intimidated and confused – especially when Seung-jo takes his hand and kisses it. Whut? Seung-jo is secretly most grateful to In-chan and Se-kyung for proving to him that love still exists.
That evening, Seung-jo invites Dong-wook over for dinner, and the doctor is stunned to see Seung-jo in high spirits. He just did some “volunteer work” that completely “healed” him, giving him a warm wriggly feeling in his heart. Dong-wook: “Maybe a bug got in there?” HA!
Seung-jo explains his “volunteer work” in helping two people reunite and restart their lives. He imagines Se-kyung knocking on his apartment door, hurt by the fact that he lied to her about his status. Then she thanks him for helping protect her love and kisses Seung-jo on the cheek, which makes him so very happy that he ends up dancing to “Barbra Streisand.” Haha! My poor tummy!
Dong-wook finally wakes Seung-jo from of his reverie and reckons that he must be crazier than before.
The following day, Seung-jo receives no word from Se-kyung or In-chan; he had been so sure that they were going to come running in gratitude. He finds out something more shocking from his secretary, which prompts him to find Se-kyung after work.
He asks her if In-chan’s contacted her at all. Se-kyung reiterates that they broke up, so why would he? Seung-jo’s disappointed – so that means In-chan never gave her the bank book? It turns out In-chan left for Brazil yesterday, having found a job there. As Se-kyung processes the news, Seung-jo tries to defend In-chan, saying he must have had his reasons for not giving her the money. Se-kyung takes the news surprisingly well; she had already given up on the money so whether he took it or not was none of her concern.
Seung-jo isn’t assured, so he follows Se-kyung home to make sure she won’t fall into despair like he once did. She nearly falls into oncoming traffic a couple times, giving Seung-jo a scare that she might contemplate suicide. But she doesn’t, and ends up taking a long path home.
Se-kyung ends up by the Han River (of course), and Seung-jo watches with concern, contemplating purchasing life preservers just in case. At that moment, Se-kyung receives a delayed message from In-chan. He explains that he had planned to give her back the bank book, but decided to use it to pay off all his debts. He went to Brazil for a fresh start – without his debt, his mother or his girlfriend.
The cold hard truth finally sinks in, and Se-kyung dissolves into tears.
She cries her heart out before finally returning home, with her guardian angel still watching until she enters her building. Se-kyung is in for a surprise when she sees that of all people, Yoon-joo is in her house.
Se-kyung is angry, and orders her to come out and talk. Guess even though she wanted a favor from Yoon-joo, she doesn’t want her to be with her family at all. Se-kyung hopes that all Yoon-joo is here for is to answer her request. Yoon-joo nods – she has two answers fro Se-kyung. First, she hands her an envelope of money; even though she’s rich she doesn’t have unlimited resources, but the amount should be enough to keep the house. Once the debt is paid off, Se-kyung ought to protect everything she has – the way she’s lived her life now, her values, and her love.
Wow – Yoon-joo is surprisingly kind. It’s like she doesn’t want Se-kyung to become her.
Se-kyung still wants to know what else Yoon-joo can do for her. For all the hard work she and In-chan put in, they’re still saddled by debts. On top of that, Se-kyung’s been told she lacks the eye for fashion. And as for love – well that just ended hours ago. Will that envelope of money solve all those problems for Se-kyung?
Before Se-kyung can get all “oh poor me” on Yoon-joo, she says that In-chan broke up with her for money – and for that she’s relieved. She’s finally free from one relationship full of financial burdens. No matter what they or others say about their love and sacrifices for each other, in the end their relationship is done.
Se-kyung is once again coming to that hard realization that the means don’t matter – only the result. At that same moment, Seung-jo arrives at Dong-wook’s home, again in tears. That girl who loves for the sake of love still exists – and he thought she was an extinct species. It’s this girl that made him cry.
Since she will always be poor no matter what, Se-kyung bitterly vows to change herself. If the world won’t change, and she can’t change the world to help her with all her efforts, then she’ll change herself. She will live exactly like Yoon-joo and become ruthless with her goal of being rich. It seems like Yoon-joo is trying to hold in her pride and happiness right now, as her one-time rival now aspires to be her, but she also looks like she wants to say, “The Cheongdam-dong life ain’t all you think it is.”
Se-kyung doesn’t want the money, but Yoon-joo hasn’t even finished her offer. She hands Se-kyung that envelope from her safe. In it holds a locked journal with the secret of how Yoon-joo got into the Cheongdam-dong elite circle despite not having the merits that Se-kyung has.
I’m really interested in this series now on its own merit. I enjoy watching the complex characters because every time I think that they are going to act all haughty and elite, they show a human insecure side. And every time I think that Se-kyung and the poor people are going to be noble, they end up being bitter and jaded. Seeing Se-kyung stand up to her family was a sign that she was not going to let others walk all over her, and she was going to try to dictate her life from now on. Seeing Yoon-joo waffle between wanting to help Se-kyung for good intentions or selfish ones was an interesting development; it appeared that Yoon-joo truly sympathized with Se-kyung’s plight, but at the same time probably just wanted to bring Seung-jo down with Se-kyung as her pawn.
What I loved the most was seeing Seung-jo and his quirkiness come out on full force. He had some little idiosyncrasies that were amusing – such as instead of walking around a standing lamp, he walks under it. And then he had all these grand delusions of what he thinks will happen, and what we think would happen after watching K-dramas – but they end up not happening. I love that he romanticizes everything as if he’s living in a movie, but reality is not like that, and he gets crushed every single time.
There are some nice parallels already being drawn of Seung-jo and Se-kyung. They’re both very similar in that they want to appear different to the people in their past. They want to show that they’ve changed, or can change. There is something about their former selves that they hate and wish to hide forever. For Seung-jo, I believe that it’s his naivete, and for Se-kyung it’s her pride when it comes to work. Seung-jo is ahead of Se-kyung on this, because he’s already transformed himself into the elite Jean Thierry Cha, while Se-kyung is at the cusp of changing now. What’s sad is that Seung-jo is falling for the hard-working Se-kyung, and has no idea that she’s about to change into the very woman he hates. His transformation is being undone because he’s slowly going to revert back into that young idealistic Seung-jo who believed that love can conquer all. But her transformation is just beginning.
Will he be able to fall for her once she’s transformed into a mini-Yoon-joo? And will Se-kyung eventually turn back into the hard-working girl we know with Seung-jo’s help?
- Alice in Cheongdam-dong: Episode 2
- Alice in Cheongdam-dong: Episode 1
- Namgoong Min’s cameo for Alice
- Posters and more stills for Alice in Cheongdam-dong
- More Moon Geun-young stills and another trailer for Alice
- Alice in Cheongdam-dong’s first teaser
- Alice in Cheongdam-dong’s family portrait
- Alice in Cheongdam-dong begins filming