You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episode 7
Yay, now with all that setup out of the way, we get to have fun with the main storyline — and all the misunderstandings, foibles, and conflicts that crop up as our heroine begins her new path and our hero manages, in his trademark way, to guide her with equal measures shrewdness and bumbling dorkiness. How does he manage to mix those two sides so seamlessly? I don’t know, but it’s one of my favorite things about the show. One minute smooth, the next minute totally flummoxed. The fact that Soon-shin is usually the cause of it just adds to the fun.
SONG OF THE DAY
Lee Ji-hoon – “Goodbye.” From the comments, I realized that not everyone is aware that Lee Ji-hoon (aka our Voice of Reason restaurateur Young-hoon in this drama) had a first career as a ballad singer, because I’ve gotten so used to knowing him as that singer that I take it for granted. But it has been a few years since he’s released solo recordings, aside from the one-off OST track. [ Download ]
EPISODE 7 RECAP
At the restaurant, Soon-shin has her patience tried by bratty princess Yi-jung, who blames Soon-shin for spilling coffee and water all over herself rather than admit it was her own damn fault.
Yi-jung goes pouting to Mi-ryung, assuming that Mom’s best friend is going to take her side and coddle her, only to have Mi-ryung calmly apologize to Soon-shin for the brattiness. Not for the first time, Soon-shin is impressed by Mi-ryung’s cool, glamorous aura and it kills her indignation.
Mi-ryung and Yi-jung head up to the agency offices, where Mi-ryung offers up some advice: If she wants to be a star, Yi-jung is better off spending her time working on herself instead of fighting with random servers.
Jun-ho joins them in his office, and Yi-jung pouts some more about how Oppa could work with a nobody like the waitress girl but pass his own sister over. I love that she expects him to take her side but his knee-jerk reaction is concern for Soon-shin; he practically barks, What the hell did you do to her?
Mi-ryung finds this interplay verrrrry interesting and guesses that Jun-ho has decided on a new protege. She tells him she’ll look forward to seeing how he does with the rookie.
I’m really warming to Soon-shin’s Mom, who faces her new tribulations with a quiet resolve. She packs up all of Dad’s clothing and tells Hye-shin not to worry about their money situation, because she’ll figure out a way to manage. The last thing she wants is for her kids to worry unduly, although finances aren’t in great shape — Dad’s retirement was advanced for Hye-shin’s wedding and with Soon-shin’s debt weighing on them, money is tight.
I suppose the more practical thing would be for everybody to tighten their belts together and pitch in, and maybe Mom’s being stubborn by keeping her worries to herself, but it’s her way of coping and I respect that she does the opposite of Grandma (which is to blame others and get pissy). Mom goes to the bank to ask about a loan, but finds that she isn’t eligible for much.
Jun-ho parks himself at a table in the Only Restaurant In Seoul, determined to get a word with Soon-shin regarding his Pygmalion scheme. She steadfastly ignores him, which is hilarious for the way it pokes a hole in his ego-balloon and deflates his pride, little by little. He even changes seats around his table everytime she moves around to stay in her sightline, to no avail. I could honestly watch this for hours. I know we can’t maintain this power dynamic forever, but I thoroughly enjoy it.
Finally Jun-ho gets her attention, and starts by apologizing for Yi-jung’s behavior. He doesn’t clarify that she’s his sister, not realizing that it looks like she was one of his throwaway girlfriends, and Soon-shin deadpans that they’re made for each other.
In-sung manages to drag Jun-ho away for a meeting, and finally realizes that Soon-shin was one of the con man’s victims. And now things start to make sense…
The sisterly strife is still ongoing, which means Soon-shin is still roomless — unni Yoo-shin refuses to share with her and pointedly asks how she’s going to handle her debt issue. Evicted again, Soon-shin heads back downstairs to sleep on the living room floor.
This time Hye-shin actually intervenes and chides Yoo-shin for being so harsh, but sadly Big Sis holds no sway over Middle Sis, who snipes at her too — if Hye-shin has a problem with things, she can move out.
I’ll give Yoo-shin a tiny bit of credit, though (which is an improvement from previous weeks where I couldn’t see anything about her to like), in that she is probably thinking practically about the debt. Soon-shin thus heads in to work the next day to ask her boss for more hours.
She’s intercepted today, though, by Secretary In-sung who pulls her away from her work — Gabi Entertainment will pay her wages today, he promises — and escorts her to an awaiting car.
Cue makeover montage! Soon-shin gets the starlet treatment, with hair and makeup to accompany the fancy party duds she’s given.
It’s for an industry party — a screening of Yeon-ah’s movie, to be specific — and Jun-ho is just itching to show off his handiwork. I know he’s driven by ulterior motives at this point, but there’s a certain way Jun-ho brightens every time he sees Soon-shin that totally gets me, and I love it. Ya just can’t hide that kind of inner light. Today he laughs to see Soon-shin, all dolled up, clunking her way down the stairs in her glittery heels.
It’s only now that she gets that he really is Shin Jun-ho, Midas-touch-having bigtime agency CEO. He’s so proud of himself and it’s adorable — he assumes her gaping is in awe and puffs up accordingly. He tells her he’ll turn her into a star and give her a chance in the spotlight.
Then Yeon-ah approaches and accepts his introduction of the new rookie actress he’s cultivating, and he laughs triumphantly, asking if she really doesn’t recognize her. She has no idea what he means, even when he leans in to warn her to get ready to sign his contract.
All the while, he doesn’t let Soon-shin get in a word edgewise and makes his smooth exit. You just know he’s replaying every satisfying bit of that Yeon-ah encounter in his mind, and he drags off his protege to show her off to the reporters, hinting vaguely to pique their curiosity.
But of course, Soon-shin isn’t all awash in gratitude and adoration like he expects her to be, and she finds his high-handedness infuriating, stomping off in the middle of the party. They relocate in his office to talk it out, and he tells her he understands that she’d be wary given her recent scamming incident. However, his proposal really is legit, and he’s offering her a real contract with a real signing fee.
Soon-shin is naturally confused at being chosen for stardom, and asks why. For all his reputation as being a star-maker, I’m thinking Jun-ho needs a lot of work on his bedside manner since he tells her plainly that he picked her expressly because she lacks any potential — thus this is really a test to prove himself. Still, he points out, she’ll get a lot out of the deal and there’s no chance of harm to herself.
Thus his confusion when she turns him down flat. He reminds her that he if she got scammed with a fake contract, she must have had an interest in acting in the first place. Blinking back tears, she bites out, “I have no right to that kind of dream now.” Telling him to mind his own business, she stalks out.
Mi-ryung pays a visit to Dad’s grave, trying to convince herself that she doesn’t feel guilty for his death. She insists, “It wasn’t my fault, right? So don’t hate me.” She declares that she won’t be spooked by his ghost, though it would sound more convincing if she didn’t look so terrified saying it.
She heads back to her car just as Mom arrives with flowers, and they pass each other in the road. Mom appears to recognize the movie star, but she makes nothing of it and continues to the grave, where she promises her husband that she’ll live on bravely from now on.
That plan involves taking up a job as a cleaning lady, which she does quietly without telling anybody. Her best friend (Chan-woo’s mother) finds out, though, and practically wails in grief over her poor, pathetic friend’s plight. To be honest, I’m not sure whether Best Friend Ajumma is legitimately sympathetic or indulging in a little judgy condescension — there’s a fine line with her.
Grandma finds the decades-old photo of Dad with young Mi-ryung (then called Kyung-sook), and it wigs her out much more than it does Mom, who laughs that it’s just one of his old girlfriends back when he was young and popular. I thought Grandma knew all about Mi-ryung’s secret baby, but from her reaction I’m thinking she only has part of the story, and that her dislike of Kyung-sook is mostly because she was “so mean.” Mom notices that the woman looks a lot like Mi-ryung, but Grandma tells herself that it can’t be the same girl.
Meanwhile, Baker Man Jin-wook feels bad about his faux pas the other day, when he had been so harsh about the cake order, not knowing Dad had died. So when he spots Hye-shin walking by with her daughter, he hurriedly fills bags with tons of pastries and chases them down.
Hye-shin gets distracted by a phone call so there’s not much time for conversation, but that’s fine with Jin-wook, who makes a few funny faces at Woo-joo and dashes off. Aw. I think I’m going to like watching their relationship blossom — it may not be one of the big dramatic arcs, but the little gradual steps can be just as cute to watch.
Hye-shin hears from her mother’s friend that Mom has taken up a cleaning job, and the news is appropriately disheartening. It’s worse because the ajumma urges Hye-shin to ask her husband to step in and help out — he’s rich, after all — and Hye-shin can’t explain why that’s not possible.
Hye-shin shares this information with Yoo-shin, and already my heart is sinking to suppose how she’ll handle this. If history is any clue, it’s badly.
It’s not quite as bad as I fear, because Yoo-shin’s first response is to take out her bankbook of savings, which has a big chunk of cash in it (about as much as Soon-shin owes). I must be warming to Yoo-shin after all because this endears her to me a tiny bit — although she undoes most of that goodwill by snapping at Soon-shin that Mom has been driven to work because of her. We get it. Everything is Soon-shin’s fault. You’re the martyr.
Yoo-shin storms out and proceeds to drink away her frustrations at the neighborhood pojangmacha. Chan-woo happens upon her on his way home, and joins her at the table despite her typically gruff attempts to shoo him away. She snaps at him to go hang out with the Soon-shin he’s so fond of, which suggests to me that their friendship bothers her a lot more than she’s like to admit. Chan-woo starts to protest (“She’s not the one I like…”) but cuts himself off since that sentence is heading to a confession he’s not ready to make. Aw.
Yoo-shin displays her first real bit of vulnerability by asking, “Do you know how I’ve lived since Soon-shin started living with us?” (Side note: This suggests she knows Soon-shin isn’t her blood sister, although it seems like Soon-shin is still in the dark. Hm.) She says bitterly that her parents turned all their attention to Soon-shin, their poor little girl, and Yoo-shin always had to compromise and give in.
Chan-woo says diplomatically that Yoo-shin always took care of herself, but that’s not much consolation. She starts to cry when she mentions the cake Dad left for Soon-shin, as though overlooked even in his death. They all think she’s the mean one, but she parted ways with Dad on such a bad note and it feels terrible.
They drink their way through a few more bottles, and by the time they’re done they’re both pretty drunk. She wants to keep going but he argues that she should stop, and as they fight over a soju bottle she falls to the ground, hitting her forehead by accident.
Chan-woo rushes to check on her, and while he’s fussing over her scrape she leans right up and plants a kiss on him. And then another one. She laughs drunkenly, “You’re kinda cute. Hee.”
Annnnd… in the morning Yoo-shin wakes up in a hotel bed, next to a topless Chan-woo. Maybe also bottomless. Panicking, she checks her own state of undress, wondering how far things went… and judging from her level of freakout I’m pretty sure it’s all the way. She rushes out of the hotel in a flurry, and Chan-woo spends the day fighting the urge to call her.
Early in the morning, Soon-shin catches Mom on her way out the door, and Mom lies that she’s heading out for some exercise. By now the sisters all know that Mom’s got some kind of job, but it’s still a shock for Soon-shin to hear (from her best friend) what the job actually is.
She decides to see for herself, and it’s a rude awakening to see her mother on her hands and knees, scrubbing floors and being yelled at by huffy rich brats. The job is clearly tough on Mom’s old bones, and Soon-shin cries to see her fall over and stumble.
Meanwhile, Mi-ryung checks in to the skin clinic for a treatment, and Jun-ho’s father, Dr. Shin, makes up an excuse to pass off the appointment. I get that he doesn’t like the actress on a personal level, but there’s something so pointed about his avoidance of her that makes me wonder if he’s secretly in love with her or something. Thankfully (?) for him, he can just pass it off as rudeness, but there’s weird tension in the air, that’s for sure.
Mi-ryung won’t stand being passed over and storms in to ask why. But she stops short when Dr. Shin asks how she was “that night” — and alludes to seeing her drinking at the VIP room at the bar (the night Dad died). She feigns ignorance and he backs off, but somehow his words sound ominous.
That night Soon-shin finds Mom with a swollen and bruised ankle, and it makes Soon-shin break down into tears. Mom doesn’t understand her reaction, but all Soon-shin can do is repeat, “I’m sorry.”
So the next day, it’s back to Gabi Entertainment. She bucks up her courage and tells Jun-ho, “I’ll do it. Please sign me.”
I know this setup is so familiar, and this drama is working with a lot of commonplace themes, but I give it credit for serving up its story in a palatable way. Last week we had to sit through some necessary gloom (gotta give everyone time to react to the death, sigh), but now that we’re in the aftermath I’m enjoying the light, funny tone again. I so enjoy the upside-down dynamic between Soon-shin and Jun-ho that I’m frankly a little bit nervous at what’ll happen once Operation: Star-Maker kicks off — it’s a hoot watching him grapple with such confusion at her rejections, and trying to get her interested in him. Not in that way, at least not yet, but the sublimating of personal feelings onto your professional ones is what makes this story fun.
I’m glad we got more of a look into Yoo-shin’s thought processes this week, even though it’s pretty much what we already guessed. It’s the classic case of the well-behaved ignored child for the problem child, and in response to that she’s built up a whole wall of self-defense mechanisms that have made her prickly and unapproachable. I expect that she’ll mellow out in degrees, and just as long as she continues on this trajectory I think I’ll be fine — it’s just the unexplained lashing out of the past weeks that was so hard to watch. Even when you understood that there was motivation driving the behavior, you can only stand to watch nasty behavior for so long before you just want to slap that character off your screen.
So now it’s Soon-shin’s turn to give herself up to the pros handling her transformation, and I’m curious to see how the show brings this about. There’s got to be much more than a simple Cinderella/Ugly Duckling/Eliza Doolittle story here because the show’s so long and we’ve got so many episodes to cover, and it’s a little hard to swallow the whole line about Soon-shin being quite THAT hopeless.
I’m okay with them painting her as the ordinariest of ordinary girls, with no star sparkle or actress potential, and I’m even willing to buy that standard movie line about a gorgeous actress playing a character who’s supposed to be something less than gorgeous. At least they’re not harping on her being ugly, because I’d have to roll my eyes pretty hard at that. But her backstory with her father adds a little dimension to her position right now, which combines both guilt over leading him to his death (or so she believes) and a desire to help her family and spare Mom added grief. It’s a nice conflict, especially since that’s an emotional complexity Jun-ho isn’t aware of, which will probably take a while for him to discover. Till then, I look forward to the clashing wills and heo-dang hero antics ahead.