Flower Boy Next Door: Episode 8
When I step back from this drama after it’s done, I feel like I’m going to be amazed at how much the characters grew, and how their trajectories were in character, complete, and most of all natural. Episode to episode the growth is there, but subtle—characters remain true to their stubborn natures, but we see little shifts as they form bonds and learn from each other. And this episode in particular marks a nice step forward in the communication department—even for Enrique. Or perhaps I should say especially for him, since he has the habit of talking so much and saying little. It’s rewarding to see that balance shift a bit in the other direction.
SONG OF THE DAY
Raspberry Field – “Can You” [ Download ]
EPISODE 8: “There’s a Hazardous Tunnel Zone Ahead”
When we resume the scene outside the apartment building, we get a bit more from the other perspective, this time staying with Dok-mi while Enrique comforts a distraught Seo-young.
Dok-mi recalls Enrique telling her earlier (while he turned a crack in her ceiling into a painting of a tree, aw) that he wanted to give his hyung and Seo-young space—he didn’t want to be an interfering presence between them. So when she catches sight of Tae-joon approaching, she breaks up the embrace by pulling Enrique toward her.
The others are shocked, not seeing Tae-joon till he’s right there with jacket and shoes for Seo-young, who rushed out in her slippers. Enrique finally notices Jin-rak standing there and belatedly realizes how this looks, pulling his arm free.
Tae-joon ushers Seo-young back to his place. Enrique thanks Dok-mi for stepping in to prevent his hyung from jumping to the wrong conclusion.
Dok-mi and Jin-rak both head toward their building, but she changes her mind at the last minute. There’s this terribly sad moment when she starts walking back toward Jin-rak and he gets ready to say something… only to have her brush by to confront Enrique instead. Heart, crushed.
Jin-rak heads inside alone, grumbling that when he asked for a word she said she was tired. But he also changes his mind, turning around and glaring outside like a man on a mission. A bumbling spy mission.
Dok-mi requests that Enrique take her name off his book, which makes him wonder why. She transformed his half-assed manuscript into a piece of good writing, so why doesn’t she want credit for it? Is she that ashamed to be associated with his work? Aw, he would think that, interpreting it as scorn.
She tells him that writers are fiercely protective of the work they pour themselves into—they don’t just offer shared credit like a favor. She actually uses a word that he doesn’t know, and he has to pause to look it up: “Oh, it’s a good meaning.” It’s telling that he thought she meant it negatively when she hadn’t.
He calls himself thoughtless for not thinking of it her way, as befitting the cocky hollow shell he is. Dok-mi apologizes for going overboard in calling him a hollow shell, but he argues that it’s evident that that’s really how she sees him. In fact, that must be why she interfered just now, because she assumed that he’d hurt his hyung, since he’s just “human garbage.”
Dok-mi counters that she did it because she knows how he really feels and was afraid an irrevocable misunderstanding might arise: “Stop doing that, comforting Seo-young and worrying about her. That’s not your duty.”
Enrique argues that he can’t turn a blind eye to a hurting friend, and if misunderstandings arise, they can always be unfurled later. Dok-mi says in her sad way, “There are knots that can’t be unraveled.” He says exasperatedly that he’d dearly love to know what that knot is—this is the first time he’s been this curious to know someone else’s thoughts.
Jin-rak huddles by the trash bins watching when his phone starts to ring. He fumbles to silence it, popping his head up to see if he’s been noticed—he totally has—and ducks down cringing. Then he gets up and takes his phone call acting perfectly normally, like he totally wasn’t just caught snooping.
As Dok-mi turns to go, Enrique leaps in front to point out that she talked to him first, so they’re back on speaking terms (voiding his earlier agreement to leave her life). He darts off, not giving her a chance to argue.
Jin-rak’s call is with his hilarious PD, who has a few notes. She starts out as a corner insert in his screen, but gradually takes over more and more screen space as she cuts him down.
She starts with his rival character from Spain—is he for real? He’s a genius and warm and candid, all rolled into one? She muses that Rapunzel is likely to fall for him, which has Jin-rak sputtering why, why, WHY? The guy’s leaving in a month! How can that be the basis for love?
The PD informs him that it’s the perfect length of time to fall in love, enjoy yourselves, and then leave keeping all your secrets intact. A prospect that Jin-rak finds horrifying. His PD tells him to turn Mr. Spain into a dirtbag.
As if that weren’t bad enough, his PD tells him not to leave the character drawings to his assistant because they pale in comparison to the gorgeous backdrops. She hangs up (with a hilariously casual “bbyong”) and leaves him protesting sadly, “But… I drew the characters.” Oh, Jin-rak. Poor, pathetic Jin-rak.
He slumps down right there in the street, where he’s approached by an energetic pitter-patter of feet. Enrique’s head bobs into view, all smiles.
Enrique practically skips alongside Jin-rak (who’s doing more of a droopy plod) asking to watch the soccer match together. He’ll even root for hyung’s team tonight, since his own has been winning so much that it’s getting boring. Ha.
Jin-rak shoots him this incredulous look, wondering how he can be a fan who roots for one side and then another, arguing that he’s steadfast for one side through the end. But Enrique cuts through all the side talk and arrives at the conclusion: that Jin-rak will hate anything he says right now, and he’s already come to hate him.
I do love Enrique’s way of getting right to the crux of matters that everyone else talks around, and that actually has the effect of pulling the other person back. You can see it in Jin-rak, where he comes back to himself and realizes that no, he doesn’t hate Enrique after all. Enrique assures him that his own interest in Dok-mi is purely curiosity—that he wants to know why she lives the way she does, and how she can be so different from himself.
Jin-rak sighs, “That’s how it started for me too. Because I was curious, I’d get worried, then worrying would make me keep thinking of her, then thinking of her made me miss her. And so… and so… don’t be curious either.”
Enrique pouts that still, Jin-rak must be a little thankful to him for always barging in on Dok-mi and dragging her out into the world, which benefited him since Jin-rak got to confess his feelings and all. Jin-rak yells, “I told you, I haven’t confessed!” Heh, well not in your waiting-and-waiting-and-gradually-slowly-recognizing-our-feelings way, perhaps, though you’ve basically said everything but the literal “I like you, let’s date.”
Enrique points out that he’s going back in a month anyway, but Jin-rak orders him not to talk about that anymore since it just makes him seem more interesting. No more talk of expiration dates! Enrique grumps, “What, am I a tin can now? A hollow shell, cocky devil, human garbage tin can!”
Jin-rak’s idea of consolation? “A tin can has a really long shelf life.” So cute. Enrique follows after him like an excited puppy and Jin-rak grumps at him to go home. Enrique calls out a cheery g’nite and sleep well, to which Jin-rak barks, “You sleep well too!”
Enrique thinks back one last time to the way Dok-mi stepped in and pulled him away, and he smiles to himself, saying, “I was kinda touched, ajumma.”
Dong-hoon makes his way through a crowded nightclub, which seems to be familiar territory for him. He finds who he’s looking for—a pretty woman at the bar—and makes his approach smoothly, leaving with her. He offers to bring her car to it, pausing to take a call from Jin-rak. He assures him that he’s done his work for the day—all the backgrounds—but Jin-rak tells him gruffly that he’s no longer his apprentice. They’re drawing together now, so he’d better get his butt home since he’ll have no time to go partying anymore.
Dong-hoon’s date finds her friends just outside, who wonder who he is. Only now he’s no longer the smooth operator but a solicitous employee, introducing himself as her driver. HA! I knew it! Dong-hoon even has his own business card bearing the title “Flower Boy Designated Driver.” At the end of the drive, he gives his bill (about 50 bucks) a long look. He works hard for that money.
Also busily drinking is Do-hwi and her cadre of copycats, who are impatiently waiting to go to the clubs, which she suggested. Do-hwi tells her friends to go ahead without her tonight, glowering, “For me, it’s showtime.”
Dok-mi finally does open the box Do-hwi had brought over, the box containing their old memories, and finds old photos and mementos from their schoolgirl days. Just then Do-hwi calls her (while slitting her eyes on the other end of the line, vowing, “Let’s see who wins”), and after a long moment to prepare herself, Dok-mi picks up.
Immediately Do-hwi launches into happy drunk mode, slurring her name over and over. She says she’s so hammered she doesn’t even know where she is and hangs up the phone mid-retch. Lovely.
Dok-mi sighs to herself that it’s been a while since she heard her name said that way, and tries out Do-hwi’s old nickname before shaking herself out of it.
In a dark room, a shadowy figure downloads the photos from Enrique’s stolen phone—it’s his ajumma attacker. I did wonder if she knew him, and by the looks of her displeased expression at the cozy photos of Enrique and Seo-young, I’d say she does—obsessed stalker fan, perhaps.
The photos soon leak onto the internet and netizens start to comment on the “ulzzang couple.” Tae-joon comes home wearing a long face and asks if Enrique just texted him. Enrique tells him about his stolen phone, then gapes to see the message, supposedly from him, with a link to all the leaked photos.
Realizing now that some of them look super coupley, he hastily explains to hyung that they were next-door neighbors for ten years so of course they’d have a lot of pictures.
Then Tae-joon drops the bomb that he’s leaving tomorrow, actually, not next month as originally planned. Enrique gapes, then tells him that his tendency to decide things all on his own makes everyone around feel lonely. Tae-joon just sighs, “I’m lonely too.”
Enrique suddenly has A Thought, and it makes his eyes bug out and his voice kick up a few registers. He wails that this is gonna make HER (points at Dok-mi’s window) think he uploaded all those photos on his own, and has this whole tantrum in superspeed, going from despair to moaning to wallowing to hope in the span of seconds. He’s totally having this conversation to himself and decides that he’ll use his panda hat as an excuse to head over and set this misunderstanding to rights. Off he goes.
Dok-mi gets the same text Tae-joon did, which is written like Enrique is sharing personal photos with all his friends, and she clicks over to the photo gallery.
Jin-rak gets it too, and seeing the couple photos makes him think back to the other night, seeing it in a more complete light. But how is Dok-mi involved in all this?
Dok-mi anticipates Enrique’s visit, so when he buzzes her doorbell she grabs the panda hat, thrusts it at him, then shoves the door closed. At least she tries to, though he jams his foot to keep it open.
Dok-mi glares at him and KICKS his foot aside. While he’s gasping in pain, she shuts the door. Hmph.
But then the scene rewinds. It plays out the same way at first, with her scrolling down to see photos of Enrique sleeping in bed with Seo-young (clothed) in the foreground. The door buzzes, but when she reaches to grab the panda hat she pauses this time—it’s either Panda Hat or Memory Box right next to it, and she doesn’t know which.
But the face in the peephole is Jin-rak’s, nervously primping. She opens up, and he stutters his way through a nervous explanation of having received a call from drunk Do-hwi, who thought Dok-mi might not know where the bar was located and requested that he accompany her over.
She asks him to take care of it alone, though, and he bends over backwards accepting her answer. Then he berates himself for stumbling over his words and being unable to just say confidently, “Let’s go together.”
He’s briefly waylaid by his drunk ajumma neighbor, who insists she’s been drinking champagne like an elegant lady (though the security guard smells makgulli on her breath and she pulls a can of beer from her purse). Haha. Onward Jin-rak goes, just missing Enrique hurrying on his way in, after convincing himself that his panda hat excuse is perfectly solid.
Enrique warms up his fingers to buzz away at Dok-mi’s door, stunned when it opens readily. She’s stunned too, not having expected him, and then she slams the door shut. Ha. He figures that’s more what he was expecting, and starts buzzing furiously.
Dok-mi opens the door, hands him his hat, then steps out to leave. He follows.
Jin-rak finds Do-hwi at the bar and walks her home. She acts tipsier than she is as she stops him in the street to confess that she fell for him at first sight. Hm, interesting that he doesn’t react to her calling him Jae-won-sshi by accident, rather than Jin-rak.
She says she was really encouraged by his behavior, looking after her so thoughtfully, and it made her happy. He blurts, “No, I’m not like that! Don’t be happy! Why are you all happy on your own?”
Do-hwi grabs his face, then swoops in for the kill. Er, kiss. I meant kiss! (But only kind of.)
Jin-rak struggles to push her away but she gets in a good, long sucker before he finally breaks free. Do-hwi resumes her demure pose while Jin-rak looks frankly traumatized and rubs at his lips.
As Enrique bounces around Dok-mi asking where she’s headed, he brings up the strange text she may have gotten today and says he’s been hit by a sasaeng fan (the highly intrusive ones that meddle in celebs’ private lives). He holds up his scraped palm as proof and wins a few sympathy points. Surely she didn’t think he sent the text on purpose, did she?
One look at her face tells him she did, and he asks what kind of guy she takes him for. Wow, so she thinks she’s that rotten, huh? Dok-mi at least seems sorry to have jumped to the worst-case scenario, but just then they stop in their tracks: Approaching from the other direction are Jin-rak, still furiously wiping his lips, and Do-hwi. Awkward.
Mostly I feel terrible for Jin-rak, whose face falls. Do-hwi all but smirks to have “won” this round, especially since Dok-mi did in fact come out to get her—but Jin-rak tells her firmly that she has the wrong idea, and that he likes somebody else. With that, he excuses himself.
Do-hwi’s voice hardens as she asks Dok-mi, “Is it you? Do you think you’re the one he likes?”
Dok-mi asks, “Do you like having your feelings exposed to other people?” Do-hwi fires back, “It’s better than being sneaky.”
Dok-mi says resignedly, “Always so like you. When will I be able to understand you?”
Only now does Jin-rak recall Do-hwi using the wrong name on him, in addition to earlier slips indicating that she knew who he was from the start. Hm.
Dok-mi writes a new segment of her story:
“To somebody, love is like medals or trophies, the result of a victory to boast of. To somebody, love is the process of waiting endlessly on for the other person, which turns into true feeling. To that woman, love is a secret she cannot allow to be exposed, not even to herself.”
Tae-joon packs his suitcase to leave for training, while Enrique tries to get a hold of Seo-young, who’s being stubbornly unresponsive. Enrique gives some extra loving to the dog… and then a sneaky look crosses his face. Idea!
Dok-mi gets a text from Tae-joon (who IS Enrique’s cousin—finally there’s confirmation) asking her to meet him briefly downstairs. A quick peek over confirms that he’s not in his apartment, and he texts again to say he’s waiting.
Dok-mi heads out to meet him, stopping at the sight of a new Post-It milk delivery, this one showing the cartoon man proposing to the cartoon lady with a big heart drawn in. Aw, it’s his boldest non-confession yet. The note reads: “Starting anew today!”
Dok-mi primps on her way out, but it’s Enrique who pops out to surprise her. He does assure her that hyung wrote the text himself, though he knows she wouldn’t have come if it was Enrique asking to meet.
He presents her with the dog, Hippo (aw, is it for Hippocrates? Doctor hyung’s a nerd), and she lovingly fusses over him. Enrique tells her that Hippo’s going away with hyung, and proudly congratulates himself for doing a good job giving her a goodbye.
Tae-joon pulls up in his car and exchanges goodbyes with Dok-mi, just as Seo-young makes her appearance after all. She says she’s here for her final goodbye, like she’s ready to finally give up on him, and Tae-joon says he’s sorry.
She chides him not to use sorry, and the echo of her rejection of Enrique makes him step in to press his hyung—”Do you really know what that means? You’re saying it’s over, stop coming to me.”
Tae-joon says that’s right, and Seo-young tells him she’s sorry for being a pest. Also, she’s going to return to Spain with Enrique.
That startles everybody. Enrique warns her not to speak rashly, but she says she’s seen the leaked photos, some of which she didn’t even know existed, wondering why he held on to them so long. “Now that I’ve been hurt, I finally understand your hurt.” Oh, that’s sweet of her to realize how he feels, but pretty misguided if she means to give him another shot out of sympathy.
But she already has plane tickets in hand and wants to leave right away: “Let’s go together.”
I find the Tae-joon and Seo-young couple interesting from a distance, in that I think there are enough hints of conflicted feeling on Tae-joon’s side to make it a dynamic worth exploring. When it seemed like it was just Seo-young chasing after him without any encouragement on his part I didn’t care much for it, but with little signs that Tae-joon cares more than he lets on (or lets himself admit), I’m cool with them being a couple.
On the side, that is. Waaaay off to the periphery, working through their problems off-camera, preferably. Because when you bring them front and center they have a lot less oomph, and I don’t want Seo-young to be this spoiler in Enrique and Dok-mi’s budding relationship because that emotional ship has long sailed—Enrique’s feelings seem to be well on their way to letting go, so I’d rather that continued.
But I suppose that this twist isn’t so much about Enrique and Seo-young so much as it is about putting distance between Enrique and Dok-mi, just when they’re really starting to get somewhere. And something tells me that drawing someone out of their painful shell isn’t exactly a long-distance proposition.
That aside, I liked what we got to see of Enrique this episode, and what sticks out particularly notably was the way he reacted to negative judgment—first by Dok-mi, then Jin-rak. Or should I say perceived judgment, since he jumped the gun in assuming Dok-mi was judging him in wanting her name taken off his book. His knee-jerk response was to turn defensive, and even after she apologized for calling him a shell of a person, he turned that bitterness on himself, calling himself all those names. Tae-joon noted that he never used to care about being call names before, but I think the issue is two-fold: He may not have let on that it hurt, and also, it matters a lot more when the person leveling them at you actually knows you.
So just as Dok-mi is being drawn out of her silent shell by Enrique, their association is also slowly changing him as well—we’re starting to see more cracks form in his facade, more instances where things get past the sunny exterior. It’s the trade-off, as we saw in the previous episode, where opening yourself up puts you at more risk of being hurt. But it’s also meaningful that this drama is exploring not romance as the thing drawing people together, but understanding. Before we even can get to love, we’ve got to back up and learn to communicate, person to person. I find that a poignant point to be making.