Alice in Cheongdam-dong: Episode 4
Our obligatory makeover episode! More revelations to be made, but what I’m most thankful for is that despite Se-kyung’s 180-degree reversal in her perspective towards life, she still cannot get over her own values. That’s the only thing slowing her down in her journey through the
depths of hell rabbit hole.
Episode 4 Recap
Before we can get sentimental over Yoon-joo’s kindness in helping Se-kyung with the secret to her success, Yoon-joo says that it’s up to Se-kyung to do everything else on her own. She will only promise to get her started, and with the envelope, the score between them is settled.
Se-kyung accepts it, but has a moment’s hesitation – is she doing the right thing? Pushing aside those thoughts, she opens the envelope to find a journal. “Chapter One: If you’re going to be ‘dirty,’ might as well be dirty all the way!” Whoa – this is some journal.
Seung-jo is concerned over how Se-kyung must feel after learning of In-chan’s betrayal of sorts. It gives Dong-wook the fuzzies – here’s his childish, selfish friend who’s now concerned over the well-being of another girl who just got abandoned, like he was. Does Seung-jo like her? That notion comes as a shock to Seung-jo, who never seemed to entertain the thought. “If you cry, does it mean you like someone?”
But Dong-wook thinks Seung-jo is acting like a Daddy Long Legs. Seung-jo: “It’s HEALING!” Haha – so this is just part of his own process to get better?
Se-kyung returns home and is accosted by her mother and sister, who are excited that Yoon-joo may be their savior. But her father interrupts: he’s put the house up for sale, and the bakery too. Ever since the mega chain store JK Mart opened across the street, he’s been unable to make a profit. Se-kyung’s words have hit him deep.
It’s sad to see the father feel so useless. He had hoped that at his age he would have a house to own to give to his daughters. But now he has no legacy and he doesn’t know what they’re going to live on: All he has left is 5 million won ($5,000).
Man… it’s as if we just saw an older In-chan doing this to an older Se-kyung.
That strengthens Se-kyung’s resolve. She meets Yoon-joo in a bakery, ready to get “dirty.” Yoon-joo shows her Chapter 2: “Follow the White Rabbit.” Omo – the “Alice in Wonderland” allusions are here! Yoon-joo tells her to visit the French restaurant Etoile, where the meals are expensive and all the women want to be seen. Why? Because Tommy Hong frequents that place, and the easiest way to get into the Cheongdam-dong elite is through him.
Meet your White Rabbit, Tommy Hong. Former personal stylist to the madames of Cheongdam-dong, he began to fashion prospective daughters-in-law to their tastes, and successfully matched 58 marriages. Everyone wants him to find their daughter-in-law; everyone wants to be found as that daughter-in-law.
Se-kyung finds all of this excessive, but Yoon-joo points out that Se-kyung doesn’t know a single wealthy man in Gangnam, or anyone who could introduce her to one. Even if she were to get into an accident with a chaebol and get into an argument with him (um – which did happen), or accidentally fall in love at first sight, Se-kyung still has to meet him first. Tommy Hong can do that.
So fine – what must Se-kyung do to meet this Tommy Hong? Yoon-joo sighs in exasperation – must she give her all the answers? (Haha – I’m tickled to the bone by this new sarcastic side to Yoon-joo.) She tells Se-kyung to meet her at Etoile at 4pm tomorrow – wearing something that she thinks is “Cheongdam Style.”
On her way out, Yoon-joo smacks her brother with her bag. Ho-min is curious as to why his sister is helping Se-kyung, but she tells him to concentrate on his business. (That cafe she frequents is actually owned by her brother.) Yoon-joo admits that Se-kyung is not the type of girl she hates since she knows what she wants, so that’s why she’s helping her.
Se-kyung spends all night sketching and figuring out what might be considered “Cheongdam Style.” Frustrated, she turns to Chapter 3: “It’s not being a knock-off that makes it cheap, it’s the mind that makes it cheap.” All about perspective!
So Se-kyung arrives at Etoile the following day wearing black patent heels, a classic handbag, and a tweed coat. She didn’t buy a single piece, having borrowed them from the stores. (Because you could?!) To her, “Cheongdam Style” doesn’t mean expensive brands; instead, she is going for a sweet and virtuous look with conservative clothing. Besides, her coat is a 1954 Chanel tweed coat.
Yoon-joo laughs – how naive Se-kyung is. Though it’s nice to wear classic items, looking around she’d notice that none of the women are carrying classic bags like hers. They’ve got the latest trends. A girl carrying classic-styled products appears to be wearing hand-me-downs from her mother. That means she only has enough money to purchase one expensive thing in her life. Therefore, even though Se-kyung’s wearing expensive brands, they’re so old-fashioned that she ends up looking poor.
Yoon-joo suggests that next time, Se-kyung should carry a bag that makes everyone ask where she got it. Uniqueness is key. Looks like Se-kyung didn’t really understand Chapter 3.
Yoon-joo: “Cheongdam’s style isn’t focused on designer labels. Instead, it’s that everything must look new, because Cheongdam girls have no reason to run.” Se-kyung begs to differ – doesn’t everything come down to money in the end? Nope! Yoon-joo says it’s all in the mind. It’s not about how much you paid for your clothing, but why you’re wearing it. Make it seem important, and they’ll think it’s important too. Don’t bother imitating, as it’ll lead to nowhere.
So does Se-kyung know what she needs to do? Se-kyung nods: “I’ll need a part-time job here.” Yoon-joo’s jaw drops – why is Se-kyung looking for a part-time job in Etoile when she’s trying to capture Tommy’s attention? Se-kyung says she doesn’t have the money to get what she needs, so while Tommy watches the other girls, she’s going to watch him and use a different tactic to approach him. Yoon-joo is skeptical, but she leaves Se-kyung to her own devices.
A white car comes up to the restaurant, and Tommy Hong steps out – in scuffed white shoes and a basic briefcase. He just had to defy all of Yoon-joo’s teachings. He enters a gallery and greets Mrs. Shin, who wants Jean Thierry Cha to be matched with In-hwa. Tommy is intrigued – he already received a request regarding Jean Thierry Cha, though not of the matchmaking kind. So he’s already got plans to meet this CEO.
Seung-jo heads back to his office, still bothered by Dong-wook’s presumption that he may like Se-kyung. He receives his daily schedule from Secretary Moon, who adds that since In-chan paid off his debt with that bank book, Se-kyung must be very upset. Seung-jo interrupts: “Please take care of So In-chan completely so that his name never shows up again in this office.” He sends Secretary Moon to check whether he has more meetings, then hurries to his desk… to compose an all-important text to Se-kyung.
It’s harder than it looks. He introduces himself as Secretary Kim first, and then starts off with “About So In-chan…” Thinking it inappropriate, he changes it to “The president is worried…” That’s strange as well so he settles on, “Are you all right? ~~^^” (Emoticons included.) Then he heads off to another meeting.
Se-kyung is actually quite busy researching Tommy Hong, enlisting the help of Ah-jung to dig up all the information she can find on him. When Se-kyung receives the text, she types off a quick reply, then tosses her phone back on the table.
During the meeting, Seung-jo is antsy waiting for Se-kyung’s reply. It finally comes, saying merely: “Yes. I’m fine.” There’s no emoticon! It’s just periods! All those agonizing moments – for this type of response? He quickly texts back, “How are you doing well?” Annoyed, Se-kyung is about to text “Mind your own business,” when the manager asks her to pick up more items. She hurries out, his text forgotten.
Poor Seung-jo. He keeps checking his phone, waiting for an answer. He tries to come up with excuses: “I’m just curious…” “The president is curious…” He gets so distracted that he ends up typing out words from the presentation, which elicits a loud groan from him. Everyone thinks Seung-jo doesn’t like their ideas regarding the collaboration between Artemis and GN Fashion, but he manages to cover it up smoothly like a true professional. And he goes back to texting: “You’re not responding. Are you busy?” “Why aren’t you replying?” “Are you ignoring me?!” HAHA!
Fed up, he tells his team to just go with the contemporary New York style, then runs off. He goes all the way to GN Fashion and sees Se-kyung just arriving from her trips. Why hasn’t she been responding to his messages?!
Se-kyung checks her phone and finds that he’s sent a lot of messages. She’s worried something may be wrong again, and he says there is: “We were having a conversation! How could you stop replying in the middle of it?” If someone she was talking to stopped responding, wouldn’t she wonder if the other had fainted? Or gotten into an accident? HA. Someone’s definitely watched too many soap operas.
Se-kyung is confused – is he fighting with her because she didn’t respond? She’s sorry but she’s really busy, as she had to pick up a lot of things for Yoon-joo. Seung-jo grumbles under his breath, as if Yoon-joo is the root of all his problems with Se-kyung right now. Hee. Seung-jo finds it ridiculous that a public company such as GN Fashion would hire someone just to be an errand girl. Do the stockholders know this?
Tired of his irrationality, Se-kyung points out that Artemis must have temps like her too. Seung-jo doesn’t have an answer, as he doesn’t know, and she leaves him standing outside.
When Seung-jo returns to the office, he sees profiles on all the designers at GN Fashion except Se-kyung, because she’s a contracted employee. Seung-jo is aghast that she was hired to be an errand girl rather than a designer, so he orders Secretary Moon to get him Han Se-kyung’s missing “designer profile.”
In-hwa and the manager at GN Fashion have no choice but to submit Se-kyung’s designer profile. In-hwa asks Se-kyung if she knows anyone working at Artemis, and she replies no. (I guess Ah-jung or Seung-jo don’t count?) Se-kyung then shows the manager the shoes she picked up for him (as a favor for him) and he embarrassingly tells her to put it away. Too late – In-hwa saw it. But she also notices Se-kyung’s shinier leather booties. Hmmm.
Seung-jo goes over her resume and realizes that the only reason she’s a contract employee is because she didn’t go abroad to train as a fashion designer. But successful designers like Tommy Hong didn’t go abroad either. He is outraged (for Se-kyung) that she must be worked to death for one year as a contractor and then let go. Secretary Moon points out that they do the same thing, so Seung-jo cries, “Why do you keep mentioning our company?” Hee. If Seung-jo is so agitated by Se-kyung’s job, Secretary Moon suggests that they hire her – or recommend her to another company. Seung-jo: “She’s a designer! Our company doesn’t hire designers. Just get out! Out!”
I love wacko Seung-jo. After successfully kicking out his secretary, he gleefully calls up a few of his contacts: “Hey, do you want to hire a designer?”
At Etoile, Se-kyung starts her first day as a waitress, and she presents the menu of the day to Tommy. He’s not too psyched about the menu, so she says that she can have the meat portions of the meals replaced with vegetarian substitutes. Tommy’s impressed – she must be new, so who told her that he was a vegetarian? Se-kyung brings attention to his clothing – all of the brands that he’s wearing are by designers who don’t use natural leather in their designs. To her, that means he must be a vegetarian.
Tommy likes her already. He agrees to the revised menu and, as she walks away, notices her leather booties and the bracelet she’s hanging by her waist (similar to the one she gave Seung-jo). Unique factor – check!
He finishes his meal and heads out, disappointing Se-kyung that he can’t stay any longer. However, he does compliment her on her perception and her eye. All the fashionable ladies around gasp – Tommy just complimented… a waitress? Score for Se-kyung! Yoon-joo later arrives to check up on Se-kyung, still doubtful that her waitress approach would succeed. Se-kyung only smiles: “It’s already begun.”
Tommy meets with Seung-jo in his office, and is pleased to find that Seung-jo isn’t like what the rumors had purported him to be. He invites him to his private party, and Seung-jo wonders how many designers Tommy has in his shop. Perhaps he prefers designers who were trained in Seoul (and didn’t go abroad)? Tommy’s amused by this presumption, but since he doesn’t deny it, Seung-jo has a recommendation to him for a designer.
Back at the restaurant, Se-kyung explains her methods. With her and Ah-jung’s intense research, Se-kyung discovered Tommy’s likes (all things British), the stores he frequented, and his upcoming events. She spent all day following him around, discovering that he was a vegetarian. (Danggit – so it wasn’t her spontaneous knowledge of fashion that clued her in on it.) Yoon-joo’s impressed by Se-kyung’s hard work, though it’s what she used to hate about her back in school. In this instance, it just might work. “Just don’t rush it too much,” she cautions. “You’re moving too fast already for this.”
Meanwhile Seung-jo is recommending Se-kyung to Tommy, telling him that she’s extremely diligent and sweet, and may want a new start as a designer. He mentions her name, and Tommy wonders if it just may be the same Han Se-kyung who served him in the restaurant. Tommy agrees to meet her, promising not to mention Seung-jo’s name in the interview. They shake hands, and Tommy notices the handmade bracelet on his wrist. It’s quite unique… Seung-jo blushes as he says he received the handmade bracelet as a present. Tommy – are you thinking that Se-kyung may have seduced Seung-jo into a new job?
Not quite sure what to make of it, Tommy calls up Il-nam at the parking lot. Is it possible that perhaps Seung-jo already has a girl? Tommy doesn’t think Se-kyung could ever be his type, but he will look into it.
Il-nam arrives in front of JK Mart with his men, as Royal Group is planning on their own mega-mart not too far from here. He happens upon a huge scene where Deuk-gi is throwing all the $2 bread that he bought on the ground. He’s so angry – how could bread like that sell so cheap, when he, a baker of 30 years, could never make it that cheap? Some employees try to stop him, and Il-nam tells his associate to photograph and video everything that follows…
He steps forward, and bows to Deuk-gi. A wealthy president bowing to a small store owner? The video makes waves on the internet and netizens get vocal about mega-marts destroying small stores in the area. It doesn’t look good for JK Mart either, so Il-nam relishes his win. He meets with Deuk-gi; it’s a shame that he’s getting pushed out, but that’s what happens when it’s a case of “survival of the fittest.”
Deuk-gi despairs. Survival of the fittest? Can’t they just all try and survive together? Just because he couldn’t compete with other heavyweights because he’s only a “lightweight,” does that mean he has to “die”? He gets up to leave, and Il-nam changes tack – perhaps they can work together. Deuk-gi – who just moments ago had been advocating harmony – now says, “Is that even possible?”
Turns out it is. Il-nam makes Deuk-gi part of his “White Balloon Project,” where he gives former small shop owners jobs after they lose their stores due to the expansion of the mega-marts. Deuk-gi is the first to receive such a job, and the news is all over the TV. What no one realizes is that the job is only for a yearlong contract. But Deuk-gi has no choice but to accept it – they need it.
Tommy arrives at Etoile again, this time for coffee. Se-kyung correctly gives him decaf, his preference. She admits that she’s his fan, as he is one of the few designers who never trained abroad and still managed to make it in Cheongdam-dong. Tommy asks how she got that bracelet hanging from her pocket, and when she admits it’s handmade, he becomes confident that she is the designer Seung-jo recommended. He invites her to his exclusive party over the weekend, which makes Se-kyung squeal in happiness (privately, of course). She’s made it!
Afterwards, Tommy phones Seung-jo to confirm that he met Se-kyung. That brings a huge grin to Seung-jo’s face, but he quickly composes himself so that he can sound cool and aloof. He pretends that he’s busy, not confirming whether he’ll attend the party. But we all know he’s definitely going.
Se-kyung happily updates Yoon-joo, who’s apprehensive over how fast things are moving. But it’s a good thing for her too, because it’s one day closer to not having to deal with Se-kyung anymore. She helps Se-kyung shop for a dress, giving tips on which styles to pick out, as well as giving her a store to go get dresses from in case Se-kyung doesn’t have enough funds. Simple dress, simple make-up. She’s going to a party where no one will know her, but there’s one way to get attention: stand at the foot of the entrance for 10 seconds and act as if she is waiting for someone to escort her. Welcome to Chapter 4: “Be confident, and don’t be shy.”
Se-kyung does exactly that, and starts garnering looks from the other partygoers. It’s enough to attract Tommy’s attention to the fact that she’s her, and he personally escorts her to the drinks table. She takes champagne and remembers her wine lesson from Yoon-joo: take a sip while looking away, instead of looking into the glass to see how much left there is to drink. Tommy takes note of her class, and offers to introduce her to some of the guests.
Per Yoon-joo’s advice, Se-kyung already has a mental database of all the guests and their occupations. Therefore it’s no surprise to her when she’s introduced to Park Sang-yeon, writer of Tree with Deep Roots (and sunbae to the main writer of this show – in-joke!) She manages to find a way to connect to every male guest – but they’re not the important people she should be impressing. According to Yoon-joo, she should be impressing Tommy by showing how appealing she can be to men.
Tommy receives word that Seung-jo has arrived, and hurries to greet him. “Han Se-kyung is here too,” he adds, which elicits some frantic glances across the room. He can’t be seen by her! He decides to head up the stairs between two men dressed in similar coffee-colored suits. (Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum? Heh. Kidding.)
Too late – Se-kyung finds him, surprised. Seung-jo blubbers that he escorted the CEO, which gets Se-kyung even more excited. Where is this benevolent CEO?
Seung-jo gets a call from his chauffeur (who’s the real Secretary Kim) and he uses the call from “the CEO” as an excuse to make his getaway. At that moment, Se-kyung is offered a mojito by another man at least twice her age – Jang Myung Ho. Of course, she’s also done her research on him, and appeals to his taste in mojitos. Happy Mr. Jang means Happy Tommy, which means Se-kyung will hopefully find her happiness.
As the party winds down, Tommy congratulates her on meeting such a good guy like Mr. Jang. He hands her a hotel key card – this is the next place she’ll be meeting him, since he hopes to see her more often. Se-kyung is confused, so Tommy tells her to drop the act. Didn’t she want help from people in this world? Isn’t that what she hoped to gain by coming to this party? Se-kyung had not thought of it that way; she’d hoped that Tommy himself would be helping her, not handing her off to others.
Tommy thought she was looking for sponsors, which is actually a huge misunderstanding. Se-kyung returns the key card, which makes Tommy wonder if she really has a relationship with Jean Thierry Cha. She learns that the CEO had recommended her as a designer to Tommy. He still can’t get over the fact that she’s not looking for a sponsor, and tells her that they need to settle on the price. That must be why she seems so offended. He starts talking about nightly rates – ohmygod that sleazeball – and she splashes a glass of water in his face.
Except, to deal with this indignity, Tommy splashes soy sauce right back in her face. WHAT THE HELL!? Humiliated, Se-kyung leaves first.
Seung-jo’s chauffeur finally arrives to pick him up outside the party, but by the time he gets into the car, he notices Se-kyung walking out, her head hanging low.
He catches up to her on the sidewalk, and notices the stains on her cheek. He laughs at her, thinking she spilled soy sauce on herself, but she quietly asks if it’s true that the CEO recommended her to Tommy Hong. She extends her gratitude, but she doesn’t want the CEO to worry about her anymore. Clearly, things did not work out well.
She has no idea why a CEO who’s never met her is acting like Daddy Long Legs, and being so kind when no one ever has. Unfortunately, the way that the CEO has been helping hasn’t really been helpful. Seung-jo demands further explanation, and she finally admits that she was just asked by Tommy if she was being sponsored by Jean Thierry Cha.
It angers Seung-jo to see that the soy sauce stains on her cheek must be Tommy’s doing.
Se-kyung wanders the streets alone, and realizes she has no one to confide to. It just so happens Yoon-joo calls her up to check up on her. Se-kyung can’t help but admire Yoon-joo even more. What must Yoon-joo have done to get to the position she is in now… She apologizes for looking down on her all that time. She reckons that Se-kyung must have been propositioned with a sponsor as well.
Yoon-joo: “So, you just took off?” She calls her a dumb bitch – Se-kyung knows nothing of how she felt when she was going through this. (I wonder what Yoon-joo had to do for her experience…) Se-kyung is unsure if she can become completely dirty – transforming from a white swan to a completely black one. Yoon-joo: “You just lost the best White Rabbit. You need to find another one.”
Back at the party, Tommy has changed into a fresh new suit and apologizes profusely to Mr. Jang, who merely orders him to find a “new one.” Damn. Next thing we know, soy sauce is being poured all over his head… by Seung-jo. And it’s a little vase full of it too.
OMIGOD I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!
Seung-jo: Remember this. That the new Artemis CEO has a bad temper.
And BAM – he punches Tommy to the ground.
Oh my god – I’m so excited! My new crack! Whee! I love you Park Shi Hoo! You’re back to cheering me up like in Prosecutor Princess!
That little ending twist cheered me up considerably. First was Yoon-joo’s biting comment that Se-kyung is nothing like her, and will never understand her. I thought she was going to be sympathetic, but she’s not. She gave Se-kyung very harsh feedback regarding the world of Cheongdam-dong. Nothing is ever easy, and there’s no way Se-kyung can come out of it unscathed. I do wonder what Yoon-joo’s experience was like – if she was also sponsored or if she managed to stay away from that route. No matter what happens though, I feel like she and Se-kyung may become best buds!
The second twist was seeing Seung-jo take control of his wackiness, but use that same spontaneity to go and take revenge for the girl he clearly likes on Tommy Hong. I loved the punch, as I thought his threat was sufficient enough.
It’s surprising to see how much of a sleaze Tommy Hong is, as I don’t really believe he’s a terrible man. He’s terrible because he’s in that industry, but probably doesn’t really believe in everything he’s doing. I am also hoping he’s not really a vegetarian, but became one to help explain away why he doesn’t wear real leather. (Because maybe in the past, he couldn’t afford it? So he just chose good quality shoes and made up a reason why he wore something so different from all the other rich?) He’s a man full of references too – always wearing white as if to emphasize on the White Rabbit reference, and I have to stop myself from calling him Tommy Hilfiger every so often.
It’s hard to capture all the wonderful performances by the actors in the still images and recap, because it’s a drama better watched than read, for me. I really appreciate the complexity of this drama as it never tires out my brain while watching. It manages to be light and understandable, while also leading us through the dark complex world of the rich. I hope this keeps up.
Just as a side note – the recaps may not come out on the day the episodes air, but let’s keep the spoilers and references to ourselves until the appropriate episode’s recaps. Let’s keep it a surprise for others!
- Alice in Cheongdam-dong: Episode 3
- 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