Flower Boy Next Door: Episode 6
The show continues to drop in stirring beats when you don’t expect it, proving that it’s got a solid plan for how its emotional throughlines play in with our comedic plot developments. That is not always (or often) the case, with dramas often letting those two threads unfold independently of each other. I love having that faith in a show to know where it’s heading, and to get there in a well-paced, well-calibrated way—especially since that’s so rare. Comedy that reveals character depth and stirs pathos is something to relish. And I do.
SONG OF THE DAY
J Rabbit – “Talkin ’bout love” from the drama soundtrack. [ Download ]
EPISODE 6: “The keywords for meetings are ‘fateful’ and ‘ill-fated'”
Enrique scampers back to his hyung’s place cheerfully, but Tae-joon waits with a stern paternal glower, all, Where were you all night? Seo-young shoves Enrique’s suitcase at him, scolding him for his irresponsibility and saying that if he’s just going to spend nights out without calling, he can do it elsewhere. Aw, I like them as scolding parents to Enrique’s 5-year-old hyperactivity.
Then Seo-young furtively mouths a few words at Enrique, hinting that what he really needs to do right now is say sorry. Enrique immediately starts apologizing elaborately, but that backfires since Tae-joon’s no dummy. He asks, “Is it fun for both of you to make me into the fool?”
Enrique leaves with his suitcase, texting Seo-young to say that it’ll just take a while to smooth things over with hyung, and not to worry. He pauses in the street to glare up at Dok-mi’s apartment window, vowing to drag her out of her hideout: “I’ll be your elephant trainer.”
On the fourth floor, a different confrontation is taking place as Do-hwi registers Dok-mi arriving with Jin-rak. Who spent all night out. Which means… they spent it together?
Dong-hoon pops out and arrives at the same conclusion, eyes wide and finger pointy. Do-hwi has to get a mental grip on her jealousy and acts like she’s just here to see her friend. Dok-mi finds her pathway blocked and pulls a feint to get past bulldozer Do-hwi. At the end of her patience, she asks Do-hwi, “Can you get lost?”
Faces drop all around. Dok-mi adds, “That’s the last thing you said to me.”
Another flashback sheds more light on their past:
As we’ve seen, Dok-mi and Do-hwi were initially close friends. The mean girls of their class start to pick on Do-hwi, mocking their years-long friendship. They tell Dok-mi to go be a loner by herself and reduce Do-hwi to tears.
Dok-mi gets some encouraging words from her literature teacher—the one Do-hwi has a crush on—who encourages her to enter a nationwide writing contest and lends her a book he likes. Do-hwi sees their friendly exchange, and the next thing we know she’s defected to the dark side, giggling with the mean girls and leaving Dok-mi high and dry.
But that’s not even the half of it, because Do-hwi’s vindictiveness isn’t satisfied till she’s ruined lives all around, and she accuses the teacher of having an inappropriate relationship with his student. Ah, so here’s the “lie that turned into truth” that Dok-mi mentioned to Enrique. Apparently he was helping Dok-mi write outside of school, but it doesn’t take much to turn this into something salacious.
The teacher is taken by surprise and the gossip breaks him down a bit; he asks his class to allow him to leave quietly and find a new position without being dogged by this gossip. He leaves with head hanging, keeping his distance from Dok-mi.
So now we have context for the flashes of bullying we saw earlier, as the girls crowd Dok-mi and demand to know what she did to the teacher, how she seduced him first, and all the ugly details. Not long after she leaves school for good, and Do-hwi just smirks from the crowd.
With that memory fresh on her mind, Dok-mi turns the lock on her door and says, “Let’s end it now. Let’s not thwart each other’s fates anymore.”
Wow, so this puts a different spin on things entirely. I’d actually really enjoyed Do-hwi’s character—I didn’t like her, but she was ditzy and amusing comic fodder. Now, though, it’s sort of difficult to contain the urge to shoot mind-bullets at her face. If only they made mind-bullets.
Currently Do-hwi sits in Jin-rak’s apartment as he asks about the tension in their past. I love how he has such a hard time remembering Do-hwi’s name, and even now when he’s corrected on it he just waves it aside, all, “Whatever. Now about Dok-mi…”
She pulls out her camera to show him old photos of them as schoolgirls, and Jin-rak smiles adorably at this proof that Dok-mi used to know how to smile. Do-hwi tries to sidle up into his side… and he cringes and sort of folds himself awkwardly out of her range. HA.
Enrique kills some time in a “4D” cineplex, where the salesman is eager to sign him on as a hot new creative director, but Enrique just wants to sit and watch movies. Heh.
He gets a text from a publisher pushing him to release his memoir with them, which has come with an attached roster of editors with autobiography-writing experience. Enrique dismisses the idea… until one name catches his eye. Go Dok-mi. “OooOOOOooohhh,” he breathes.
That publisher gives Dok-mi a call telling her to drop her current project and work on the new one she’s sending over.
Do-hwi enjoys being the center of Jin-rak’s attention as she tells him about Dok-mi’s youth—how her parents divorced when she was young and both remarried. Dok-mi lived with her grandmother, and for whatever reason, perhaps because both parents went on to have kids in their new marriages, she stopped seeing them. She takes credit for looking after Dok-mi all through their school years, and when asked why Dok-mi would be so cold to her now, she feigns ignorance and says, “I dunno.”
Dok-mi receives the book materials via courier (who slides it through a crack in the door), and the first thing she sees is a familiar photo—of that sand castle on the beach. Another photo shows Enrique himself.
As Dok-mi gets to work reading up on Enrique’s background, he speaks at a lecture sharing some of those same details to his rapt audience. He arrived in Spain as a child, unable to speak the language, and developed a game as his mode of communication. (Aw, he’s an elephant too. This just makes it perfect.)
He isn’t exactly modest, saying that he created his first game at the age of ten, at an age “where you couldn’t escape using the word genius,” but perhaps that’s an accurate descriptor. He describes seeing the castle Alcázar for the first time, appearing in real life like something out of a fantasy and marrying the idea that what you dream has the capacity to be real.
Dok-mi underlines meaningful passages and makes notes about his character, like how nothing was as interesting to him as work—so much so that he lost his adolescence to it.
This explains a lot, doesn’t it?
Enrique emerges from his lecture to see all the posters with his faced defaced and graffiti’d. He deduces that this is the work of people who’ve done this before, and asks why they hate him so much. His handlers rush to say they don’t, but that turns to sarcastic eye-rolls when Enrique muses, “I suppose I AM awesome enough to inspire jealousy.”
He asks them where Korean teens would go if they ran away from home. On to the jjimjilbang!
He’s adorably excited as he wheels his suitcase up to the admission desk, ready to experience another quintessential moment in the life of a Korean adolescent.
As is his wont, Enrique is soon befriending young boys at the sauna and playing his phone games with them, while Dok-mi gives the same game a try at home. He chugs down the traditional shik-hye sweet rice drinks and reads manhwa books and has a grand ole time.
Dok-mi finishes up her preliminary edit and sends it off. Enrique gets the word with a glint in his eye.
Dok-mi takes a call from the publisher about the manuscript. Her eyes narrow. “The writer didn’t like it?” Her publisher says that Enrique insists on meeting his editor in person, despite the terms of Dok-mi’s contract that explicitly state that she doesn’t take writer meetings, but Enrique is so important that they’re willing to bend to his whim. And it is his whim.
Jin-rak takes a look at his webtoon trailer online, his forehead furrowing when he discovers an additional graphic inserted into the frame. In dripping blood-like red letters, somebody has written petulantly, “Let your one-sided love drive you crazy!”
Dong-hoon already knows about it and complains that the preview is totally lousy with spoilers. Jin-rak vows to figure this out, while Dong-hoon turns to the drunk noona on his arm. He’s currently out on the town in his night guise, looking every bit the womanizer with the roving eye, though we’ve had enough hints to suggest some sort of reversal down the line. One of these days we’re going to learn that he’s just some spiffy designated driver or something, aren’t we?
Dok-mi hears that Enrique is on his way over to meet her right now, and starts panicking. It’s ten-thirty at night, and she is just not up for this. Enrique arrives at her door, suitcase in tow, and buzzes. “Omigod what now?” she worries. Ha, is she even starting to talk like him?
Dok-mi opens the door a crack, resigned to her fate. Enrique wears glasses and feigns seriousness, talking in uber-professional clipped tones and introducing himself as if for the first time. She asks for a moment, madly clears up her workspace, and then lets him in with great reluctance.
She rears in alarm at the sight of his suitcase, and Enrique drops the professional demeanor to play the pathetic urchin, telling her how his hyung threw him out and he’s been living at the jjimjilbang. Pout pout. Sniffle. She softens the teeniest bit, and that’s all the sign he needs to barge right in.
Jin-rak comes out of his apartment just in time to catch Enrique’s entrance into 402, and this has him madly pacing the hallway outside, trying to peer through windows.
Enrique buzzes around her apartment looking around (calling himself the Neil Armstrong of her apartment, aka its first visitor), gleaning way too much about Dok-mi for her comfort level. Like how she likes the idea of travel (from all the photos) but gets everything from television (from her TV watching schedule).
They turn to the matter of the manuscript, with Enrique finding fault with anything he can use as an excuse. Like how she’s too slow, given that he wrote the manuscript and she just has to edit it. And did she try all his games? And read all his articles, after translating them into Korean? She nods yes, taking all the wind out of his sails.
So he reaches for another excuse, saying that she must’ve just jumped to conclusions about his character and how she wrote about his first love/castle connection, which was supposed to be a secret between them, and now this is a violation of their contract. That backfires, though, since Dok-mi agrees to cancel that contract and send him on his way. Heh.
Enrique pouts, out of ideas, and asks why she’s so mean to him and only him. She’s nice to everyone else. Dok-mi has to think about that.
Jin-rak heads to the broadcast office to hash out the matter of the webtoon teaser with his director, who’s even loopier than usual from overwork. She hears his complaints with a pleasant smile on her face, but then blows up all at once, yelling that he’s encroaching on HER turf, and how would he like it if she told him how to write? And that his pathetic hero’s a loser for not being able to confess his feelings?
Jin-rak blows up in turn, roaring that there’s a specific progression to plot development (intro, escalation, climax, resolution) and she ruined it all with her clumsy trailer. His fiery outburst actually wins her admiration, and she sits him down with a pat on the arm, asking if things are going that badly with his neighbor ladyfriend. Haha. “Go confess, right now!” she orders.
While Dok-mi works, Enrique flutters around her apartment like a hummingbird on crack, irritating her with his nonstop movement. She shoves some papers at him and instructs him to read the manuscript at least.
Jin-rak gets home and immediately resumes monitoring Dok-mi’s apartment. When Enrique yells something from inside, Jin-rak leaps up trying to simultaneously remain quiet while also barging in. Ha. Two things that don’t exactly work together, as you can imagine.
Then he strings up two paper cups and tries to listen through the walls. By the time Dong-hoon gets home, he finds Jin-rak slumped on the ground, asleep with his ear still pressed to the wall.
Jin-rak smiles like a dolt in his sleep, dreaming of the moment in the elevator when Dok-mi told him she enjoys his milk-carton notes. Aw.
Enrique falls asleep watching TV. Noticing him shiver, Dok-mi drapes a blanket over him, which is the same blanket he then drapes over her later that night when she falls asleep at her desk.
He notices the toy binoculars and takes a look through them, marveling at how well he can see Tae-joon through the window.
He notices a piece of lint in her hair and reaches to pluck it out, then decides to try blowing it away instead. He inches closer… closer… closer… until Dok-mi stirs awake and finds him hovering over her with his lips pursed. Yeah, that doesn’t look suspicious.
She screams, and Jin-rak bolts awake. He fumbles for his paper-cup earphones like they’re any good, and then—oh, Jin-rak—actually screams back into a cup, “What the hell are you doing?!”
Enrique grabs the lint and brandishes it as his proof, launching into a hurried explanation of how he was only trying to remove it, but thought that she might freak out if she woke up and he was touching her, especially since their trip to the beach where she might have misinterpreted his actions as, you know, slightly perverted or whatever. Ha. He really needs to work on his explaining skills. On the other hand, they do make sense and Dok-mi calms, seemingly accepting that.
Jin-rak enlists Dong-hoon’s aid in evicting Enrique from Dok-mi’s apartment, his face crumpling to hear that it’s really too late for him to do anything, since that ship has sailed. Dong-hoon points out, “They’ve already… you know… all night… long…”
Jin-rak buries his head in misery, and Dong-hoon finishes, “I’m sure they were debating world peace and all that.” I think it’s even sadder for the way Jin-rak looks up at that with the teeniest shred of hope.
Living at Dok-mi’s, however temporarily, means that Enrique gets the lowdown on all her rules, which are seriously cramping his style. Only cook what you eat, don’t keep opening the fridge, only do one thing at a time.
Later that night, Dok-mi turns to her work in progress, “That Woman.” She writes:
That woman believes that fate is when the thread of her heart connects quietly with another’s. She thinks that that invisible string is what allows people to feel and understand each other, even with the smallest vibration. That woman feels uneasy when one heart suddenly gets mixed together with lots of different ones. So, Fate, please—don’t pull my heart so hard…
Do-hwi makes good on her offer to use Dong-hoon and Ryu (or, as they call him, Wata-san) to model for her shopping mall. Dong-hoon gets all into it, like he’s been preparing for the gig by watching too many reruns of Top Model.
Do-hwi praises their modeling, then gets right to the point: “Does Jin-rak like Dok-mi?” He whispers the question back at her—does she like Jin-rak? She makes a big denial, then quickly cops to it, admitting she fell at first sight.
Dong-hoon’s a little put out that she fell for Jin-rak instead of him, but he advises that this is her chance, saying that she should start with her friend.
The apartment security guard has good news to announce over the PA today, stating that their legal battle is at an end and that they will be receiving their compensation fees after all. There’ll be a meeting later to handle the matter.
The boys of 401 cheer and celebrate, with Dong-hoon exclaiming, “I wonder how much we’ll get!” and Jin-rak rejoicing, “Then she’ll have to come out of her apartment!” Aw.
Dok-mi thinks otherwise, though, telling the security guard that she can’t accept her share of the compensation, since she never participated in any of the protests. He tells her to come to the meeting regardless, and also informs her that she has a package for pick-up. Then he turns around and wonders, “Where’d they go? Did they already head up?”
Immediately Dok-mi’s door buzzes. The peephole only shows the deliverer carrying a stack of boxes, and with reluctance Dok-mi cracks open the door. A platform heel shoves its way in.
It’s Do-hwi, looking pathetic and pouting, “Let’s not be like this. Let’s get along, okay?” A flashback informs us that Dong-hoon had set her on this path, telling her that Dok-mi has started living with a guy—it’s Game Over, Jin-rak.
So now Do-hwi tries to push her way in to “talk,” but Dok-mi pushes her out to have the talk in the hallway, just wanting to get rid of her. Do-hwi talks extra-loud in the direction of Jin-rak’s door, piling on the hurt act like she’s really doing this for their friendship.
Enrique has to stop himself from barging outside to step in, while inside Apartment 401 Dong-hoon makes sure to draw Jin-rak’s attention to the conversation.
Dok-mi balls up her fist and tells her to leave, but when Do-hwi starts to “sob” loudly, and as usual everybody ends up in the hallway. The boys of 401 step outside and so does Enrique, who offers to leave so the ladies can talk inside.
But Dok-mi just says, “Don’t leave. Stay.”
Dong-hoon makes a big show of defending Do-hwi’s side, but Jin-rak tells him not to interfere.
Back to simpering, Do-hwi says it was her fault for dropping by unannounced, since she thought Dok-mi lived alone. “You two look good together,” she says pointedly. She leaves her boxes for Dok-mi (clothes from her shopping mall) and tells her to drop by her office nearby.
Enrique’s flustered by the couple comments and says they’re not a couple, that they’re just working together briefly, and accepts the boxes on Dok-mi’s behalf. Jin-rak surprises them by speaking up: “Don’t you think she has a reason for refusing them? If you’re just hanging around temporarily, why don’t you step out of it?”
Enrique says that the friend is doing a nice thing, and besides, Dok-mi can’t avoid or hide forever.
Jin-rak steps forward, looking thunderous: “Let’s have a chat.”
Woo, way to step it up, Jin-rak! This episode went a long way to stirring my sympathy for him, because although I love him as a character I was more on the other team. It’s one thing to feel lovelorn and do nothing about it, and that’s heart-tugging in its own way, but it’s a lot more admirable to step it up and try to be more proactive. The fact that he’s so terrible at it just endears me to him more, because he’s still trying.
And one thing that I do have to respect about him is that he’s always, always looking at Dok-mi first. At the outset it was really to his own detriment, going so extreme as to make himself invisible so that he wouldn’t impose the burden of his presence in her life. The way she shrank back from the world and removed herself entirely from it. These two are sad figures, but you could hardly put ’em together for all the avoiding they’d do.
Imposing yourself is the very trait that gets Enrique where he is, and I think that’s a double-edged sword. It’s the thing that breaks down Dok-mi’s walls, and I’d argue that she actually needs it. But you have to be careful not to bulldoze over her—the way Do-hwi does—and make that imposition something more pernicious. I don’t think Enrique’s crossed that line, especially since he’s been so insightful that he does seem to know where things stand. It’s just that it’s nice to have Jin-rak feel SO MUCH on Dok-mi’s behalf, and in a genuinely empathic way—not just to get something out of it.
I also love the little reveals we get of Enrique’s character, who is so loud and talkative and expressive that it’s easy to assume that we know him. That’s his shield, and Dok-mi’s reading into his autobiography shows us how much more there is to him as a person. I appreciate the way she writes (in her entry this episode) of fate and connection as a thread of the heart, linking a person to another in spirit. It’s not something you see or feel, but she reads those threads in the text of his life, gleaning understanding out of them.
It’s a sweet realization to see Enrique’s childlike personality as a way of experiencing the childhood he gave up to his genius—not to say that it’s a forced persona. More of a reclamation of that emotionally pure spirit. It’s another thread linking him and Dok-mi—two souls in a state of arrested development.