Monstar: Episode 9
Monstar continues to send me into such a whirlwind of emotions each week that I don’t know how to prepare myself when Friday rolls around. As I watch, it feels like I’m going through both the highs and lows of adolescence all over again. With so much happening in this episode, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at any given moment. Since when did asking one simple question to yourself seem so confusing?
But I suppose that’s all part of facing life when you’re a teenager when your own issues seem like the biggest ones in the world.
SONG OF THE DAY
EXO – “Baby Don’t Cry” [ Download ]
EPISODE 9: “If You Want Help It Will Come”
On the ledge, Kyu-dong braces himself to jump, unaware that Seol-chan and Se-yi are rushing up the stairs at the same time. Ack, I can’t bear to watch what’s coming…
He steps forward … and a mysterious hand yanks him back. Ohthankgod. Seol-chan and Se-yi burst onto the roof and they stop short at the sight of Kyu-dong lying on top of his rescuer: Nana.
They break apart and Kyu-dong runs off, mortified. When Se-yi tries to call after him, it’s Nana who tells her in a bitter tone to think of how humiliated he must feel right now, adding that he won’t try to jump again anytime soon.
It’s no surprise that Kyu-dong is absent from class for the rest of the day. Se-yi is disheartened to hear that Eun-ha didn’t stand up for him back in the classroom, and she cuts her friend off before she can get in another word.
Se-yi beelines for Do-nam and demands that he find where Kyu-dong is. Do-nam retorts that he kept his own trap shut, but that’s the very reason why she’s upset with him, and she points the finger of blame at him.
Do-nam lashes back at her, barking that she doesn’t know a thing about their past. But that’s not what she’s talking about—his silence drove Kyu-dong to try and jump off the roof.
The suicide attempt is news to Do-nam, and Se-yi continues, telling him that if Kyu-dong had succeeded, then it would have been no different than Do-nam pushing his friend off that roof himself.
Meanwhile, Seol-chan criticizes Sun-woo for professing his feelings for Se-yi earlier, calling him a coward for deliberately saying it in front of him. Sun-woo: “Did I confess my feelings to you?” Oh… it wasn’t like that?
Sun-woo suggests they drop the subject since Seol-chan’s predicament of being unable to date Se-yi still stands. But at least Sun-woo came up with one answer the day they met the PD at the movies (i.e., making Se-yi his girlfriend).
“Then is your answer the right one?” Seol-chan returns. And does Se-yi think that as well? Sun-woo tenses before he answers that he thinks she does.
Sun-woo runs into Se-yi as soon as he walks away. He breaks the awkward silence and softly encourages her to act like she normally does around him because he was merely conveying his feelings for her.
She starts to answer, but he tells her not to, since it wasn’t a question. He’s heard that the truth always reveals itself in time, and gives her time to think it over.
Seol-chan spots the two from a distance, but he’s suddenly spooked by Hyo-rin, who sends him a wink and calls him “Oppa” before walking away.
The ajusshi thinks back to the night he ran into Se-yi’s mother and takes out the old high school photo of them together. That brings us back to the year 1986 when the trio was still in school, and a younger ajusshi (whose name is Han Ji-woong) smiles at his buddy, Min Kwang-ho aka Se-yi’s father.
They’re soon joined by Se-yi’s mother, Choi Kyung, and she pouts when Kwang-ho invites her to sing with them. Though she claims that she can’t sing, we see that the opposite is true as they sing and play to Departure’s “Someday.”
From the way that he looks at her, it’s enough to tell us that the ajusshi also had feelings for Se-yi’s mother. In the present, he pulls back a sheet where his dusty guitar still lies within its case.
There’s a knock at the door—it’s Kyu-dong. His head bowed meekly, he explains: “I have nowhere else to go.” Kyu-dong’s quick to notice the changes to the basement and informs the ajusshi that they lost the battle. He adds that he also skipped school today because: “I… tried to kill myself.”
Dying would have been his final act of revenge against the students who taunted him, he explains. He already knows that doing so wouldn’t have achieved that end, but it was already too late by the time he realized his mistake. “Realization always comes at the moment you can’t turn back.”
It was Nana who saved him, he says (and he hilariously puts on his best angry Nana impression, ha) and the ajusshi tells him never to harbor those thoughts again.
“It’s only difficult in the beginning, but it gets easier the second time around.” Kyu-dong replies. Eek, don’t say things like that! Thankfully, he means in other situations, and says that he won’t do something that cowardly again. Oh, phew.
Kyu-dong breathes a sigh of relief, like a huge weight has been lifted off his shoulders. He asks the ajusshi if he ever thought about killing himself.
The ajusshi readily answers yes—who hasn’t thought about it before? There was a time he also hit rock bottom, but whereas Kyu-dong had a friend, he was all alone. Now it’s his turn to answer what it was that saved him: a chopsticks wrapper.
It had been a darker period in the ajusshi’s life where he was living off of the bottle. In an attempt to end his life, he was just about to ingest a handful of pills when a quote on a chopsticks wrapper gave him pause: “If you want help it will come, but never how you thought.”
He later learned that it was a quote by a famous Japanese writer, and those words were what brought him back from the brink.
As Se-yi waits for the bus, she gets a call from Kyu-dong, who asks that she keeps today’s events and his current whereabouts a secret before abruptly hanging up. Nana sits down next to her and guesses that Kyu-dong doesn’t want to be found.
Then Nana blurts out that Sun-woo agreed to hang out with her ten times. Which is when Sun-woo’s car passes by and she doesn’t miss how he looks at Se-yi.
At the recording studio, Seol-chan contemplates his earlier conversation with Sun-woo before letting out a frustrated yell. He happily greets his fellow MIB members when they arrive, and I love it how one of them (with whom he’s often paired off in fanfics) stiffens at the hug.
Seol-chan balks when he’s told that he’ll participate in an upcoming music video with the group. Overseas. Tomorrow. He searches for reasons to stay, only to be told that the school has already been informed.
He grumbles to himself: “You want me to record a drama OST? I’m in a drama right now.” HA.
As the MIB boys record their single, we check in with our other characters via montage: Kyu-dong cleans the ajusshi’s basement, Do-nam carries Kyu-dong’s backpack that he previously chucked away (aw), Eun-ha buries her head on her desk, and the ajusshi looks at his old guitar in his now tidy home.
At home, Se-yi speaks to the lamb doll Seol-chan bought for her. (It’s cute how she talks to it like the sheep she spoke to in New Zealand.) She asks how it felt when Seol-chan answered that Se-yi wasn’t his girlfriend. Her phone rings and it falls on her lap.
It’s Seol-chan and the two meet outside her house. He warily broaches the subject of Sun-woo’s confession, and then he blurts out his congratulations.
To his surprise, she thanks him for caring enough as her seat partner to tell her in person. He asks if this means that she accepts Sun-woo’s confession. She says it does.
He hides his hurt by saying that if he knew she felt this way, he would have urged Sun-woo to confess his feelings sooner. It’s only now that she connects the dots—did he already know of Sun-woo’s feelings?
He counters that she must have known how Sun-woo felt about her. Why else would she have latched onto Sun-woo so readily that day at the movies? He sarcastically laughs at his own stupidity. D’oh, don’t be that guy, Seol-chan!
Angry tears well up in her eyes as she levels at him: “Did you just figure that out? You’re really dense.” Seol-chan walks off in a huff.
Se-yi returns to her room, crying. Grabbing the lamb doll on the desk, she marches out of the house to catch up to Seol-chan. She chucks it at him, saying that she’s giving it back now that she has a boyfriend, the same words he said when he gave it to her. She runs off in tears.
At school, Kyu-dong’s continuous absence worries his teacher. We learn that both of Kyu-dong’s parents are deceased and he lives with his grandmother. Teacher Dokko asks Sun-woo if he knows anything, and he answers that he doesn’t.
We know that Se-yi does, and she calls Do-nam out into the hall. She hints that Ky-dong is in “the basement.” Just then, Sun-woo appears and notes her alarmed reaction at Kyu-dong’s name.
He informs her that Teacher Dokko intends to check on Kyu-dong at home, and offers to stall for time so that they can meet him themselves.
Poor Eun-ha’s face falls when her friend gives her yet another raincheck on hanging out together. She musters up the courage to ask Nana, who scowls back at her.
Back in the classroom, Se-yi is just about to leave with Sun-woo when they’re interrupted by Joon-hee, who asks him to fill in for their cellist at practice today.
The orchestra starts and Nana appears from just outside the door, having followed them. She closes it and leans against the wall, still listening with her eyes closed.
As the classical piece continues, we hear Se-yi’s voice narrate as she waits in the classroom: “It doesn’t matter whether he has an interest in me or whether he likes me. He would never consider a girl like me.”
As she peruses through her playlist to find the appropriate song to her current mood, she continues: “So… so… I can’t tell whether I’m mad or sad right now. I don’t know what to listen to… Dad.”
After practice, Sun-woo is surprised to find Nana waiting for him. Her face darkens when he mentions he has plans with Se-yi, who appears just then and suggest that they all go see Kyu-dong together.
At the basement, the ajusshi asks if Kyu-dong plans on never going back to school. He wonders if Kyu-dong is also waiting to see when and how his help will come. Once the ajusshi is back in the main house, we see him stuff an envelope with money, and a circled date on the calendar. Curious.
There’s another knock at the door, and this time it’s Eun-ha with the same explanation: “I have nowhere else to go.”
She brightens at the sight of Kyu-dong and parking a seat next to him on the piano bench, she asks if he plays.
Kyu-dong answers that he stopped learning after a few months when he was younger, a decision he regrets after he saw Seol-chan and Sun-woo play together. But Eun-ha cheerily encourages him to try anyway since it’s better than nothing.
His piano skills are elementary at best, but as he plays, we see that the courtyard and grounds are enriched with new fauna. Then as the ajusshi enters the bank, he briefly runs into the same Thai street musician we’ve seen a few times now.
Once he’s finished, Eun-ha cheerily applauds his performance. When Kyu-dong’s eyes land on the bruise on her leg, she quickly covers it with her skirt and makes up an excuse. Uh oh, I can’t help but suspect something’s going on at home.
Changing the subject, Eun-ha frowns at the various instruments—if she had only learned to play an instrument, then she could play it whenever she felt like this. “Now that I think about it, there isn’t anything I know how to do.” Aww.
Kyu-dong asks if something’s the matter but Eun-ha slaps on a smile. The next thing we know, they’ve set up the band instruments and microphone.
Eun-ha taps into her creativity bank and her imagination runs wild. As she assigns the Color Band members to various roles, we see them pop up behind their respective positions, dressed in rock outfits.
Her imaginary band rocks out to Crying Nuts’ “Run the Horse,” and it takes a minute for Kyu-dong to imagine it with her. They start jumping and bopping their heads to the music.
Aww, I really like how we’re using Eun-ha’s forte (her imagination) to give herself as an emotional outlet. Not only that, their imaginary counterparts look so happy about playing together as a group that it puts a smile on my face.
They yell out the lyrics together and freely dance to the music like there’s no tomorrow. At the song’s climax, they let out one last scream and collapse onto the ground, exhausted.
At that moment, there’s another knock at the door to see Se-yi and crew, along with that same Thai street musician as before.
Which makes it all the more interesting that the ajusshi is at the bank to send money… to Thailand. Wait a minute—are we dealing with a long-lost son or something?
He runs into Se-yi’s mother on his way out, and the two relocate to a cafe to chat. It’s the way that she makes these references to his past partying lifestyle that makes me like her a lot less right now, especially since she can tell how uncomfortable he is.
The ajusshi brings up his friend and her late husband. But she isn’t keen on opening that can of worms and asks (in formal jondaemal, no less) if she looks like a pitiful widow. She insists that she’s fine but makes it clear that she hopes that they don’t cross paths again.
Back at the basement, Eun-ha pouts at always being left out, but she’s more understanding when Kyu-dong intervenes that he’s to blame. There’s an awkward silence that follows, so she shifts the conversation to their mysterious guest.
He introduces himself as NAWIN and we learn that he ran into the group when he lost his way. He’s looking for someone and the address brought him here.
Se-yi follows Kyu-dong outside to apologize for not keeping his secret. She urges him to come back to school and tells him not to worry since she’ll be there. Aw.
She asks why he came here, to which he answers that he couldn’t think of anywhere else to go. He in turn asks after Seol-chan and realizes that he probably has no need to come here anymore.
He remembers how much he enjoyed spending his free time in that basement with them. “I really like it here,” he wistfully remarks, “It’d be nice if I could keep coming here.”
When the ajusshi returns and learns who his guest is, he demands the students to leave immediately. They wonder about the sudden outburst, and Kyu-dong hangs back to murmur a word of thanks to Nana, who tersely replies, “All right.”
As they leave, someone walks into view—it’s Seol-chan, who took an earlier flight to return to Korea.
There’s a reason why Nawin has come to see him, and he mentions a certain Choi Si-young. Oh, is this the dead woman who keeps haunting your nightmares? He refers to an incident six years ago… but the ajusshi cuts him off, saying that he knows of no such person and shows him the door.
He’s still angry when there’s another knock at the door a minute later. It’s Seol-chan and the ajusshi grits that he doesn’t have the strength to argue with him. Neither does Seol-chan, who adds, “I don’t have anywhere else to go.”
The same nightmare continues to plague the ajusshi in his sleep and the sound of furious knocking jolts him awake.
Now I just find it plain funny that all of the Color Bar members have visited him today. By now, he asks if Do-nam doesn’t have a place to go either. But no, he’s here to see if Kyu-dong is around, and they find that he isn’t, Do-nam leaves.
Sun-woo tries to tease Se-yi in order to lift her spirits as he walks her home. When he jokes that she’s oddly comfortable around someone who confessed his feelings for her, she returns a sad look.
He steps aside to take a call and afterward, he asks Se-yi: “Do you want to meet my girlfriend?” The look of astonishment on her face is priceless.
They head to the hospital where a pint-sized terminally ill patient runs up to him, shouting: “Sun-woo Oppa!” This is the “Angel Hye-rim” whose name pops up on his phone, and I love how she gives Se-yi the ol’ up-and-down, all, Who’s she?
As Sun-woo sets up his guitar to play for the children, he explains that little Hye-rim was the reason why he couldn’t show up to practice with Se-yi in the park that evening. She had called him over, crying, because one of her friends “went to heaven.”
However, Se-yi does manage to break the ice by promising to talk to Hye-rim about sheep if she lets her sing. And the stern look on Hye-rim’s face slowly turns into a smile as Sun-woo and Se-yi sings “When Yesterday Comes” (originally sung by the trio Oh-Jang-Bak, abbreviated for the members Oh Suk-joon, Jang Pil-goon, and Park Jung-woon)
As the song continues, we see Do-nam standing behind a streetlamp with Kyu-dong’s backpack in hand outside Kyu-dong’s place. And then we see Seol-chan sitting alone on Se-yi’s usual park bench.
As Sun-woo walks her back later that night, he notes that she looks much brighter than these past few days. Her face falls at the statement, realizing that it means he’s been paying close attention to her.
Sun-woo offhandedly remarks that Se-yi must not think of him as a man and that she’s probably the first girl who hasn’t seen him for his charm. But those words trigger memories of Seol-chan telling her how she doesn’t see him as a man or as a celebrity.
Se-yi stops in her tracks, thinking back to her argument with Seol-chan. When Sun-woo asks what’s wrong, she lowers her head and insists that it’s nothing
But all it takes is Seol-chan’s name for her to crumple on the ground in tears. Sun-woo pats her comfortingly on the shoulder… a sight that Seol-chan sees. Ack!
Se-yi is just outside her door when Seol-chan’s voice calls out to her. He emerges from the shadows and asks: “Why were you crying?” Ah, you’re actually asking her this time! In person!
They sit on the steps and Seol-chan asks her again why she was crying. He grows frustrated at her silence, saying that she always cries but never tells him why.
Se-yi asks why it should matter to him and he retorts that it does. He is after all, her jjak.
She says she’s grown tired of the word, which Seol-chan thinks that she means she doesn’t even want to be his jjak anymore. She clarifies that she’s tired of hearing him use that word as an excuse. Preach it, sista.
Thinking aloud he asks himself why they became each other’s jjak in the first place, and she answers: “You were the one who said we should be!” Ha.
He asks himself why he did that… and then we briefly cut to a pair of snails crawling on a leaf. Oh, I think we all know what’s coming next…
Seol-chan turns to her and calls her name. He gazes at her for a long minute…
Then he cups her face and swoops in for a kiss. Her eyes widen and she grabs his arm in alarm before closing her eyes.
Ack, how this show continues to take my breath away from start to finish.
There were so many little things that rippled throughout this episode that I often found myself trying to grasp for all the straws, just to make sure I didn’t miss anything. And yet, the show continues to give reminders that all of those little moments are still there, that this world continues to turn and breathe in the background. So then I let out a relieved sigh knowing that all of those little beats keep the story running.
We see this in the way that Do-nam is affected by the news of Kyu-dong’s suicide attempt, and that even under that gruff exterior, he cares more than he lets on. Furthermore, I love how we see that the ajusshi’s home and basement is cleaner now to illustrate the changes that are going on in his life. In that same vein, I nearly dismissed Nawin’s earlier appearances (played by Thai singer Natthew) in the beginning of the series, and we have still yet to know how he ties into the ajusshi’s past.
I feel like Eun-ha also deserves a mention in this episode. At this point, we can only draw guesses about Eun-ha’s situation, but I admit to harboring suspicious thoughts that the bruise points to a form of abuse. It wouldn’t be too far-fetched of a guess given the tiny clues. Given how the show has managed to touch up on some graver issues thus far in the series, I rest assured knowing that we’ll explore it with her if or when it comes.
Throughout the series, we’ve seen how Se-yi and Seol-chan use the word jjak countless times in their interactions. Lately, we’ve been seeing how the word has been used as an excuse to hide behind their feelings and mask their hurt, especially when they spit hurtful words at each other. I mentioned in the premiere that there are various meanings to the word jjak in Korean. So there’s a reason behind why I kept the work jjak in its original Korean romanization than providing a specific translation like “seat partner,” which is how they’ve been using up to this point. Something more along the lines of acquaintances and friends than anything else, you might say.
So I’d like to think that as our romance continues to blossom, the word will start to take on its other, more romantic meaning. Because sooner or later, when it comes to being each other’s jjak, we’re not just talking about being seat partners anymore.