I really enjoy how small this story is. When you have a collection of characters this quirky, you don’t need high drama to make your story interesting—every little interaction is peppered with laughs, surprises, and depth. All we really do is follow the daily ins and outs of characters in and around this apartment complex, but I find that the time passes so quickly I’m always left wanting more. I feel a little like the crazy neighbor, pounding on the door for Show to come out and play just a little longer.
EPISODE 5: “I Make A Hundred Reasons to Run Into You By Chance”
Thanks to faulty electricity and ghost stories, Dok-mi and Enrique open their eyes from their freak collision to find that they’ve accidentally gotten to first base. They sure do take their time to un-lock their lips though. Just sayin’.
Enrique backs off and huddles in the corner like HE’s the one who just had a traumatic experience. He starts rambling that it was just an accident, and then realizes that Dok-mi hasn’t moved.
He waves his hand over her face to try and get her to snap out of it, and when she darts up, he crosses his arms over his chest and scrunches in fear—are you scared she’s going to hit you, or kiss you?
But Dok-mi runs outside, leaving Enrique wondering aloud, “What did I just do?”
She stands there, stunned for a while, until a flashback makes her smile. It’s Do-hwi, who says that she’ll break up with the first boy she kisses, to leave it as a pristine memory. She plans to kiss their teacher on the day they graduate, and never see him again.
Dok-mi says that’s ridiculous, and the girls giggle behind their books. Oh wow, this changes everything—they were friends? They were best friends, from the looks of things too.
And then Dok-mi says she’s going to be with her first kiss forever.
She comes back, and Enrique launches into this prepared defense about how he didn’t do anything wrong, really, really… only to have Dok-mi say without any reaction that it’s time to go if he sobered up enough to drive.
Back in the city, Dong-hoon continues to complain about Jin-rak’s taste in women, which blows up into another heated argument. This time Jin-rak asks for liquor, and for whatever reason, Dong-hoon’s eyes turn to saucers and he flips out.
He refuses to let Jin-rak drink, and literally shoves him out the door before he can argue. Hm, is he a mean drunk or an embarrassing one?
Dok-mi and Enrique get ready to leave, but then he darts back out at the last minute to bolster his sandcastle’s defenses against the waves. I don’t know why, but that wrings my heart, that futile hopeful exercise.
He does it with tears swirling in his eyes, as he thinks back to Dok-mi’s last passage that she wrote on her phone. He found it in the room and read it—the one about choosing to hide behind a bright smile and lies to cover her truth. I’m sure he knows a thing or two about that.
Jin-rak gets to drink after all, and about two bottles of soju in, he starts waxing poetic about how he likes Dok-mi as a human being, in a pure, untainted, soulmatey way.
Dong-hoon just nods, muttering to himself that he’s already exhibiting his drunk behavior—spouting random bits of English. Ha. Jin-rak says even his first meeting with Dok-mi was Fated to Be.
Flashback to the day he moved in… the same day that Dok-mi did. Their stuff got mixed up, and she came over to say that the box he was holding was hers, marked with a little smiley sun face. He was smitten right away.
Dong-hoon asks the obvious question—then why didn’t he get her number that day? Jin-rak scoffs at the idea of using such low, common tactics with his Dok-mi-sshi. I love that throughout the course of the night, she’s become “our Dok-mi-sshi.”
He insists that you can’t do that with a person like her. You have to maintain the proper distance! She has to be protected! Dude, you have some seriously Victorian fantasies. He finishes his speech in slurred English: “Y’know whatI’msayin’?” LOL.
Enrique pulls the car over for a few minutes with the excuse that he’s sleepy, and presents Dok-mi with a video on his phone, of a talking elephant. He says that this elephant was famous for speaking Korean, having learned it at the zoo where he grew up, all alone.
“He was so lonely, and wanted to communicate so badly that he learned the language of the zookeeper.” He suggests that Dok-mi try and learn a way to communicate with people too, instead of asking them to pretend they don’t know each other.
Dok-mi starts to cry, and he promises that the elephant got a happy ending—he got an elephant girlfriend, and no longer speaks Korean, because he can speak Elephant with her now. How cute.
Dong-hoon manages to get Jin-rak a few steps away from home, only he can’t seem to get him off the pile of recyclables sitting outside. Jin-rak keeps rifling through them, muttering to himself like a crazy person.
Dong-hoon decides now might be a good time to sate his curiosity, so he asks Jin-rak why he changed his name. Suddenly he answers in a completely sane-sounding tone, “I told you not to ask me about that” …and then lies down for a nap on the pile of trash.
He wakes up early the next morning, suspiciously at the same time that the milk delivery comes by. And this time, we see him in the act of sticking a post-it on Dok-mi’s milk carton.
He decides against it, and takes out a blank one and starts writing something different…
And then down in the street, Dok-mi and Enrique arrive after driving all night. Enrique tells her, “The sandcastle I built will be washed away by the waves soon, without a trace. Then our one-sided love and first love will be washed clean.”
She says thanks and sorry for last night, and makes her way toward the door. He sighs that she’s never once asked how long he’ll be in Korea, musing that she’s not interested in him. “Seo-young was the same. She was never interested in me, who lived next door, but only in my hyung who lived in Seoul.”
She tells him to enjoy the rest of his time here and go back safely, sticking to her guns about this being their last encounter. Suddenly he quotes her words, asking if she really thinks it’s true that lies are better than showing the truth.
She whirls around angrily, asking how he could read someone’s private diary-like thoughts. He says it was the first thing on the screen and he couldn’t help it, but he’s not going to lie about not reading it either.
He argues that even if he experienced the worst possible thing in life, the truth would be better. Dok-mi: “Have you ever experienced it? Lies that are like truth. That are so like truth that they become it. Please, forget me and forget what I wrote.”
He calls out to her that there’s no such thing as lies that become the truth. He tells her to look inside herself to figure out what went wrong. She doesn’t answer.
Inside, Jin-rak has just finished his new note: “Even if you’re far away, I know you. –This is Apt 401, Oh Jin-rak.” Finally, a confession.
He puts it down and turns around with a start… Dok-mi is standing there looking straight at him. Omo!
He scrambles up, looking like a crazy bedhead neighbor who might’ve been sleeping in the hall. He says he heard she might stay out all night from her friend, which isn’t making him seem any less crazy right now.
But it gives him a chance to take the post-it back as he hands her the milk carton. She doesn’t think much of it… until she sees him walk away with the post-it stuck to his ass. HA.
She goes inside and looks at her stack of milk notes. The little cartoons drawn on them are a little flipbook story of a boy who falls for a girl at first sight and proposes in the park with a bouquet of flowers. How adorable. She realizes now it was her next-door neighbor.
Jin-rak goes back and takes it out on Dong-hoon, of course, asking why he didn’t stop him. Dong-hoon wakes up groggily, wondering what the big deal is—what, did he confess his feelings to 402 while he was sleeping?
Jin-rak gapes, “How did you know?” Dong-hoon finds the incriminating post-it on Jin-rak’s backside, and they both scream, “OOOOOOH MYYYYYY GOOOOOOOD!”
Seo-young comes by to check on Enrique, complaining that Tae-joon is worried that he’s being avoidy. He makes her feel better by saying that means Tae-joon likes her. I don’t dislike Seo-young, but I wish she’d get a girlfriend for these kinds of conversations.
She marvels at how well she can see the next building from the window, and asks what that phrase is, written on rearview mirrors. Enrique smiles, realizing he had said the same thing to himself the first day he arrived and looked out the very same window.
“Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” He adds now: “They’re not actually as close as they appear.”
Do-hwi arrives in the neighborhood with her posse in tow, and goes from evil dictator to damsel in distress as soon as she sees Jin-rak and the boys on their way out.
As usual, she fails to get the attention of the one man she’s interested in, but quickly thinks of a way to keep seeing them. She offers Dong-hoon and Ryu jobs as models for her online shopping mall.
Her minions wonder what they’re supposed to do with male models when they only sell women’s clothing, and she says they’ll just have to expand. Dong-hoon tells Jin-rak that he’ll still draw webtoons when he becomes a famous Hallyu star, and boasts that 402’s friend hired him as a model.
Jin-rak stops in his tracks, “They’re really friends?” and turns right around, to go be polite and welcome her to the neighborhood. Ha, ulterior motives all around. He says that Dok-mi came in at the crack of dawn, “So it doesn’t count as staying out all night,” and she should wait till later in the day to see her.
But days pass and Jin-rak practically haunts the hall, but the door to 402 never opens once.
Inside, Dok-mi opens up her work in progress, called “That Woman.”
When she goes out into the world, that woman often becomes invisible. When she gets pushed aside by shoulders, stepped on by feet, and stuck in between the lines, she feels like she’s not visible to the world. So she hid in her room. The small room was soft and comfortable, like a nest to a bird that’s injured its wing. In that space, that woman can breathe freely. She never once missed the outside world or dreamt of it.
At least until now…
At least until now…
At least until now…
At least until now…
Her doorbell rings. As if on cue, Enrique calls out from the other side of her door, “Ajumma! *cough, cough* I caught a cold!” She rolls her eyes.
“I’m bleeeeding!” HA. When that doesn’t work, he comes back the next day with a shiny new pin in his hair.
“You left a hairpin in my car!” This is so cute I can’t stand it. Open the door!
The next day he comes back saying he can’t sleep because she owes him money. Thinking she’s sly, she texts him for his account number, but he doesn’t have one and refuses to give up Tae-joon’s. He warns her that he’ll be back.
Every day that he comes by, Jin-rak pokes his head out to do the whole grumpy old man fist-shake, all, Git offa my lawn! But really, he doesn’t say or do anything. That is, until one day when he’s finally had enough.
He puts on his coat and follows Enrique out. He calls out, “HEY!” Enrique turns around, and the music builds as Jin-rak walks up to him…
…And promptly starts coughing in embarrassment. Oh no. I’m laughing and cringing. He manages to eke out Enrique’s name, and Enrique perks up immediately, “Do you know me?” He jumps in delight to find a potential friend, wailing that he was so lonely.
Before Jin-rak has a chance to get a word in, suddenly Enrique is asking for his phone number (Interestingly he gives his real name Oh Jae-won instead.) and clinging to his arm like they’re going to be best pals.
He calls him hyung and finds out (from his shirt) that they’re soccer-fan rivals, “Who knew I’d meet a rival here?” Heh. Jin-rak finally finds a moment to ask why he’s here every single day pounding on 402’s door, and gets carried away with the yelling as he tells him to cut it out.
There’s an awkward silence… before Enrique apologizes for making so much noise, and drags his new bestie away to go play a round of Zombie Soccer. Hahahahaha. This is the best reversal ever.
Enrique’s sweetness is just more fuel to the fire, as Jin-rak becomes more and more incensed, thinking about him manhandling Dok-mi all the time.
He burns with fiery cartoony rage as they play. Because nothing says battle of manly honor like a video game, naturally. Enrique still beats him, and with a smile.
By morning, both Dong-hoon and Tae-joon are looking around for their respective bunkmates, who have spent the entire night camped out in the PC room becoming fast friends.
Enrique looks up at Jin-rak with this adoring puppy look, totally impressed that Hyung went to army and Hyung is all grown up and manly. Jin-rak says pointedly that he was special forces, and pretty much a trained killer. HA. I love these one-sided conversations where he thinks he’s saying So stay away from Dok-mi, only he’s not saying it at all.
Enrique says he’s good at running, so Jin-rak doesn’t pass up an opportunity for another competition. They race home, laughing and smiling.
Meanwhile, Dok-mi has finally run out of toothpaste and toilet paper, and is forced to venture outside for supplies. The boys happen to run past her, and Jin-rak thinks quickly, ending the race so he can go wait outside the door for her to come back home.
But Enrique saw her too, and he does the faster thing and walks right up to her on the street.
She ignores him, trying to will the food stand ajumma to pack up her lunch faster. Enrique just talks aloud anyway, “So you’re really going to pretend like you don’t know me, huh?”
He starts talking to the street vendor, pointedly calling her “Ajumma!” every time, making Dok-mi jump. Hee. She scurries away as soon as she has the chance.
Jin-rak waits by the door, writing something down and checking his hair every ten seconds. He doesn’t notice Do-hwi going into the building with a stack of rice cakes in her hands.
Dok-mi finally arrives, and he jumps into her path with a terrible rendition of: “Oh! What a coincidence! How weird to run into you like this!” He hands her the money she lent him to pay his rent.
She takes it and heads in without a word, so he tries to keep the conversation going, and finally manages to bring up the incident with the milk carton the other day. He starts and then has to pause, suddenly asking for a moment as he turns away to check his notes. Aw, for talking points? That is so cute.
He starts in on this really stilted and prepared speech, about how he lives close to her but doesn’t know her at all, the opposite of what he had written on the milk carton. He finally stops speechifying and admits that he’s really curious—if she’s eating well, if she’s happy in that room.
He says that writing little notes for a happy day was his own little happy secret, a game he played by himself. That suddenly reminds Dok-mi of what she called her own unrequited love—a secret game that started and ended with her.
He awkwardly sort of trails off and gives her an out, instead of sticking it through. He sighs at himself and follows her inside, not knowing what else to do.
And then in the distance, there’s Enrique, watching them with a curious expression. He sighs, “I must really be here to shoot Cupid’s arrow. There’s another couple right here.” He pouts, and then scampers off brightly.
Jin-rak follows Dok-mi into the elevator with this hangdog expression, apologizing if he’s burdensome in any way. He says he’ll stop the notes if she wants. “Don’t close your door any tighter because of it.”
He says he won’t even step onto her side of the hallway anymore, and she stammers “No… I like saving the pictures and flipping through them. Thank you.” He breaks out into the dorkiest smile ever, rambling on about how he drew them to be seen that way, like a flipbook.
Upstairs, Do-hwi arrives at Jin-rak’s door, where Dong-hoon opens the door nagging at hyung for staying out all night, only to realize it isn’t him.
She fixates on the staying out all night part… when Dok-mi and Jin-rak walk out of the elevator together. “Go Dok-mi…”
What a great unexpected turn to have Enrique latch onto Jin-rak as a new friend. I can’t wait to watch more of their interactions, with all of Jin-rak’s stewing subtext and Enrique’s adorable hero worship. I hope he’s not going to take playing Cupid too far though, because that’ll just end in tears for everyone involved. But the petty rivalry in the form of video game wars? That I could watch all day.
I can’t say I find our antagonist Do-hwi very interesting as a character (she certainly serves her purpose in the story, but she isn’t very layered), though I do like that she and Dok-mi have a more complicated past with a real friendship behind it. I think we’ve seen enough hints at Dok-mi’s traumatic adolescence that I don’t necessarily want them to recover their friendship, as much as I’d like to see Dok-mi confront her to get past her pain. As much as Do-hwi’s presence will grate on her nerves, I hope it forces her to stop being outwardly nice.
In this episode we saw the first change in Dok-mi’s attitude about her four walls—before they were always her comfort, her safe little haven. But in today’s passage she describes being invisible in a negative way, being stomped on, passed up, and unseen. The very invisibility and transparency that Jin-rak thinks is her most winning trait is perhaps the one she dislikes the most about herself, and another way that she’s exactly the opposite of what she seems. I find her frustration with that to be so relatable—the idea that people won’t stop seeing you as one thing when the real you is the very opposite.
The fact that she likens herself to a bird that’s injured instead of happy, and finally admits to longing for a life outside felt like a signficant shift. I love this gradual development, because it’s not a happy or welcome change for her. I’m sure she’d rather be content to stay in there forever. But she’s changing against her own wishes, which means scary and unpredictable things for her, and great things for the story. Who knows, maybe she’ll give tongue-tied Romeo the milkman a chance (though if that makes him any less geeky, it would crush me), or she’ll finally open that door and learn to speak Elephant.