There’s a twist or two in today’s proceedings, as both brothers smarten up and batten down the hatches in anticipation of warring with Dad. We’ve been building up to this showdown all series long, and with futures—and hearts—on the line, the stakes climb ever higher in this game of family strife. It’s a bit of a relief to see the battle begin after spending so much time watching characters maneuver their pawns into position, though sadly to say I think the drama sort of folds back on itself in making its point. But it’s not like that’s news to anybody, is it?
SONG OF THE DAY
Dickpunks – “Goodbye Girlfriend” [ Download ]
EPISODE 16 RECAP
So Eun-sang takes the deal with the chairman devil, accepting his plane ticket to exile in exchange for a two weeks all-access pass to Tan. Not really a fair trade, but it’s not like she sees a better option.
Mom receives a flurry of text messages from people to whom she owed money, thanking her for paying back the loan. Mom’s first thought is that her severance came in early and she asks Madam Han about it. That makes Madam Han panic at the thought of losing her favorite housekeeper and she huffs, You’re wanting your pay NOW? Are you thinking of another boss right now? Who is she? How far have you gone? It’s cute.
Eun-sang doesn’t know about this either, though she realizes that the chairman must have paid off their debts behind their backs, wasting no time shoving her out of their lives.
Now she’s allowed up the staircase and puts on a smiling face for Tan, who pulls her inside, thinking she sneaked past the guards. She lets him think that, saying she missed him so much she had to see him. He pulls her into a hug, and she apologizes for being the cause of his captivity, but he sets her straight and takes responsibility for it: “I came back of my own will, so that I could stop being locked up. Because the way to be with you isn’t being with you.” Okay, I get what you’re saying, even though semantically what you just said makes no sense.
He asks her to trust him no matter what he chooses: “Now all I have left is you.” He holds her close, and she cries silently.
Won has a drink with Manager Yoon, who even now is playing neutral and not taking his side, which Won notes wryly. Manager Yoon suggests that he try understanding Tan’s position, but Won has lived through the past generation’s bitter sibling strife after Grandpa died and his aunts and uncles turned on each other. Why try to understand Tan when that fight is in his future? I guess the option of not fighting is not on the table.
Won had offered Manager Yoon a new job as his vice president, an offer Manager Yoon is still considering. He says he’ll answer soon.
In the morning, Tan keeps a close eye on the front gate security feed. Are we back to the stalking-is-romantic line? Eun-sang anticipates that Tan may be watching and writes him a greeting, sending a wave up at the camera.
Eun-sang gets a few snide remarks on her way in to school, and then is accosted by reporters eager for an interview with anybody who knows Tan. She’s rescued by her tormentor-turned-black knight Young-do, who takes over the conversation and sends her along. When asked if he’s close with Tan, Young-do quips that he’s Jeguk’s third son, and Myung-soo(k) chimes in with a girlish “And I’m the youngest daughter.” Lol. They both win points for that, defusing the situation in the best way possible.
Eun-sang finds her locker trashed and her gym clothes soaked in soy milk. So Young-do orders a whole stockpile of the stuff from the store, then winds up to throw a box at the other lockers. (I always wonder at the stuff that happens off-screen in moments like this—so are they just standing around for twenty minutes, twiddling their thumbs while waiting for the delivery?)
Young-do’s thought process is that he’ll get the culprit if he just throws milk everywhere, to which Eun-sang exclaims, “You’re going to ruin everything just to ruin the culprit?” Uh, are you unfamiliar with his style by now? He is Mr. Scorched Earth.
She thanks him for the thought but declines the gesture. Young-do leaves the soy milk to her, and she hands them out to Bo-na and Chan-young. They’re suspicious, of course, and ask if she’s experiencing any ill effects, heh.
Eun-sang gives Bo-na the promised photo of childhood Chan-young, and then apologizes to Bo-na before giving Chan-young a hug. I love the look on his face, all discomfort and confusion, which is then mirrored on Bo-na’s face when she gets the next hug. Eun-sang can’t explain that she’s saying her goodbyes, so she just says it was a whim.
Manager Yoon shows up for his tutoring session with Tan, and clues him in to the possibility of Dad sending Eun-sang to study abroad. Phew, thank goodness that secret’s out. Tan storms into his father’s office, takes back his phone, and calls stepmom Madam Jung—he requests her aid in getting to school, knowing she’ll agree because of the stock he now holds, and stocks are leverage in this family.
Dad barks that that isn’t why he gave him those stocks, but Tan says that Dad was the one who gave him that sword to wield now as bargaining chip. Tan warns his father to lay off Eun-sang, because if he doesn’t, he may have to swing that sword and strike somebody down.
Madam Jung picks Tan up, and their conversation on the way to school is dripping with thinly veiled antagonism. She helped, but he’ll have to pay a price for it later. Upon arrival at school, they present a united front for the benefit of the reporters, and the friends marvel that they’ve never seen the two looking so close.
Tan walks straight into class, packs up Eun-sang’s things without a word, and pulls her into Myung-soo’s workshop. Digging through her bag, he finds the plane ticket for Buenos Aires. Feeling betrayed, he asks, “Do you even like me? Or trust me?” Ripping the ticket to shreds, he asks how she could accept the ticket, knowing it would banish her from Korea forever, and then smile at him.
She says that she was scared, but he says she should have let him fight his father directly—after losing everything but her, he can’t then also lose her. He apologizes for making her cry.
Young-do joins them, and Tan surprises them all by asking him to hold onto Eun-sang until Tan can come back for her. I’m not sure what’s worse: that they’re back to passing Eun-sang back and forth between them, or the fact that it actually seems to be a viable way to handle the situation. Ugh.
It’s a full-fledged spectacle as the Jeguk family arrives at a restaurant like it’s a red-carpet event. The family dinner is mostly for a convenient photo op, but it’s also when Chairman Dad drops the bomb that the next stockholders meeting will be about Won’s dismissal as president. Gasp.
Won is blindsided, stunned that the directors he personally put in place would then vote him out, but Dad decrees that their loyalty is to him above all else. This is what Won gets for acting behind Dad’s back, and for treating the company as his own when he had always been warned that it wasn’t yet. He will give that seat to whichever son performs better, which is almost comical for the suggestion that a last-place high school junior could possibly outperform an experienced corporate exec. Whatevs, Dad, you never make any sense to me anyway.
Tan gets up to leave shortly after the parents do, and Won orders him to sit. Tan makes the jab that Won only wants something to do with him now that he has something he wants, and tells hyung to spend his energies running around to save his neck. Then he can deal with Tan, since Tan always figured last anyway.
Won calls Manager Yoon to ask if he’d been planning to backstab him all this while. Manager Yoon, to his surprise, urges him to beat his father and keep his position—and if he does, then he’ll take that VP seat. Aw, did Manager Yoon finally pick a side?
Myung-soo’s workshop is empty by the time Tan gets there, and when he calls Eun-sang it’s Young-do who answers. He asks where they are, and Young-do quips, “In your heart.”
They’re at a snack shop, where he guesses the situation with Tan’s father and advises Eun-sang to memorize his phone number, and also Tan’s, so she can call them for help if she needs to. That’s sweet, and a handy tip to boot.
He sends her home in his car and remains behind, sitting at his sad little table, which is where Tan finds him. You know, I can’t say I follow why these boys are suddenly over their previous violent hatred, but in this case I’ll have to gloss over the personality transplants (as the show did) because I much prefer them being glib and friendly.
Tan thanks Young-do for helping with his escape the other day, and Young-do does this hilarious fidgety thing. Then Tan orders him to leave with him, rather than staying behind alone.
Tan comes home to find Mom sitting on the floor drunk with an enraged Dad ordering her to her room. He actually sneers, “This is why I can’t let you out of the house,” which just tells you so much about him. Mom says in a hurt tone that she didn’t make a baby on her own, you know, and Tan yells at Dad not to berate his mother. He even dares to tell him to stop being such a coward, referring to the way Dad has hidden his messy personal life from the public with such dedication.
Dad bristles at being threatened by his son, but Tan warns him not to test his threat, because he’s finding that he’s capable of doing quite a lot—Dad had best not press his luck to see what he’s willing to do.
Won goes to Hyun-joo’s home and pleads with her to escape to America for three years, after which point he’ll come for her. Sigh, sometimes I think Won is his own obstacle in the romance department, because he seems to act in all the wrong ways with her. He clings to the belief that they can still be together once he figures out how, but she’s long accepted that they can’t be.
She softens once she realizes something new is happening to make him so distraught, and Won pleads with her to go because he doesn’t want her to see him hitting bottom. He begs her to not read stories about him either, and she promises that (though not to leaving for the States).
That night, Tan texts Eun-sang to meet him with passport in hand, then proceeds to take it from her, fearing that she’ll leave without letting him know. He pulls them into the storeroom again, entreating her not to go anywhere and then swooping in for a kiss. (A much better kiss than the last one, thankfully. And not just because this time it’s about feelings instead of one-upping a rival.)
The Rachel-Hyo-shin kiss makes them the source of gossip at school, and she asks him to avoid her when they find themselves in the same hallway, because she’s uncomfortable. He teases that she never cares about people gossiping about her, and she snaps that their gossip isn’t why she’s making the request. He wonders for one blank second until the realization hits, and then he awkwardly agrees to leave. Oh does she like him now? Okay.
Won gets busy meeting with stockholders in preparation for the upcoming vote, and makes a few important deals. Rachel’s mother declares herself on his side because that’s the side that opposes the chairman, while Young-do’s father agrees once he secures a hotel contract in the process. Madam Jung asks what’s in it for her, the answer to which we don’t hear.
Last is Tan, and Won states that the brothers will have to stand together against their father. Tan corrects hyung, saying that this should be a request rather than an order, but agrees to side with him anyway in exchange for a few necessities: an apartment and car, for instance, to keep his girlfriend out of Dad’s immediate reach.
Won is a little incredulous that Tan would do this huge thing of siding with him, all for “just some girl.” Tan states without hesitation that he’d do everything for that girl, and instructs his brother not to call her just some girl, “because now she’s my everything.”
Young-do loiters outside Tan’s house for a while, but gives up when it’s clear Eun-sang isn’t coming home. He drops by the convenience store next, where he finds her sitting alone and gives her his coat. Only now does he tell her of the first time he saw her here and how he’d stood up to those noisy little kids for her benefit, and it makes her comment, “It would have been nice if I knew sooner that you were both a bad guy and a good guy.”
He says that it’s not too late to make that realization, but his hopeful smile fades painfully when she declines and urges him to treat the next girl well instead. Don’t trip her to hold her hand, she advises, or blackmail her into eating noodles together.
She gets up to leave, and Young-do grabs her arm, suddenly serious. He asks her not to go, and although she says she’s got plans to meet Tan, he suspects that she’s going to let him go.
Won prepares the new apartment and car and reminds Tan multiple times not to miss the stockholders meeting today, and how he should vote. Tan notes that even now Won doesn’t trust him, not even sad anymore. Just resigned, maybe.
Won warns that Dad will be able to track down Eun-sang in a heartbeat even with the new address, which Tan knows. Still, that’s not his point: “I’m just showing him. That for the past eighteen years I’ve loved him and you greatly, that now the love is over, that the only thing I have left is her. So it doesn’t matter to me who I am, what the circumstances of my birth were, or how old I am. Because I’m going to use everything I have to protect her. It’s a warning to not dare lay a finger on her.”
Won hears this speech with something akin to disbelief and surprise, and maybe some realization. Are you learning, hyung?
Eun-sang window-shops as she waits for Tan, thinking back to her meeting with Dad and his accusations that she’s ruining Tan. Uh-oh. I don’t like the placement of this flashback, in this context. Please don’t do anything noble now.
Tan greets her with a back-hug, which Young-do watches with sadness from his stalker seat in a nearby car. Eun-sang’s the one who buys their matching pair of pink couple sneakers, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Tan wearing those is proof enough that he loves her. Also, I’m doubly nervous that she’s gifting him shoes, per the old Korean adage that one shouldn’t buy a lover shoes because they’ll use them to run away from you.
Tan takes Eun-sang to see her new apartment, apologizing for doing things one-sidedly and promising that he’ll improve. While I never expected Eun-sang to react with joy to such a move, her dismay is making me super uneasy. As is her ready agreement, as she tells him she can move tomorrow and urges him to make it to his meeting.
She sends him off first, and he says it feels like they’re a married couple. So she gives him a goodbye peck in response, which makes his day. She promises to wait for him at home, but the moment he closes the door she bursts into sobs. Agh. Stupid study abroad cliché, why are you back?
Won’s dismissal is put to a vote. Dad smiles through the proceedings, but the reason turns out to be the opposite of our expectation—it isn’t because he’s assured that Won will be fired. Not only does the vote get shot down, it gets shot down with a whopping ninety-five percent opposition. That means Dad must have also voted not to oust Won, despite bringing this whole thing up in the first place.
Won staggers out with shoulders drooping in defeat despite having won his seat, because he was basically outmaneuvered by a father who was teaching him a lesson. Tan asks what his father meant by putting on this show, and Dad replies, “I was giving him a fleeting moment’s humiliation—and you, too.” He finishes with the kicker: Eun-sang left Korea an hour ago.
At home, Madam Han reads Mom’s farewell letter in tears. Tan races home and finds Eun-sang’s room empty, then races around town looking for her. Instead he finds signs of her departure, from the cafe job she quit to the school locker that’s empty.
As he stands in his empty new apartment, he replays Dad’s words: “Never forget today. The price you pay for swinging that sword was losing that girl.”
I’m glad the brothers stepped it up and set the ball rolling as they both took formal stances against their father, even if they ultimately were outwitted. Given the extreme parallels between Won and Tan’s romantic tribulations, it’s interesting to watch how each brother reacts differently—both are committed to the idea of being with their girlfriends despite the odds stacked against them, but their tactics diverge in meaningful ways. (This makes me wish even more that we’d gotten to this point earlier, not in the final stretch, because the first three-quarters of the show is stuff that’s played out according to every cliché in the K-drama playbook. Would’ve been much nicer if we had some time to play out the comparison.)
I can concede that Won’s tactic has a few things going for it; by keeping his connection to Hyun-joo on the downlow, and in trying to send her away to come back for her later, he gets to at least keep seeing her. The downside is that nothing about their relationship has been satisfying (for them, I mean) in the many years it’s been going on, because it’s not a full-fledged relationship in any sense—it’s being strung along without a lot of payoff, without a clear sense of future happiness or even present bliss. But it’s what he has chosen in order to keep even that small connection alive.
Tan has the same inclinations at first, and there was a real chance he would follow Won’s sad footsteps. But when push comes to shove he’s gone the other way, pushing back against his father and fighting in the here and now. He knows that tucking Eun-sang away isn’t going to be a viable strategy for the long term, but he’s not hiding her away as the end goal—it’s symbolic more than anything.
The problem is that Dad is just crazy at this point, taking up the role of blanket villain. I get that the stockholders’ vote was supposed to be a demonstration of his craftiness, but mostly I’m just confused. What was even the point of that show, if the end result was the same? We knew at the end of last episode that Eun-sang took the deal and played noble idiot to go away, and in this episode, she took the deal and played noble idiot to get away. Dad gloats that Tan lost the girl because he wielded his sword… but to be honest, he lost her to Dad’s machinations before he even picked up the sword (i.e., joined in the stock/voting game), so isn’t that a moot point? The drama played the revelation of her departure for a moment of shock, only, were any of us shocked?
It’s just such a bummer when your hero and everyone he loves is basically impotent, and there’s no fun watching Dad lord it over everyone all the time. I can see the chairman’s point (however dickish) about pulling the vote stunt to humiliate both his sons, because it warns them not to even think of beating Dad, because he’ll always win. It’s what abusers do to keep their victim-partners in line, so scared that they don’t dare mutiny in the future. He’s a tyrant at home and at business, so it fits his profile. It’s just that I feel like we got shafted of a real conflict—of the brothers banding together and fighting smart—and the buildup and tension were sapped away in one instant, like soap bubbles popping in the air. I feel deflated, just like Won.
One of my long-held beliefs/pet peeves about dramas is that if the vast majority of everybody’s angst can be solved by one person changing his/her mind, then you have a bad conflict. The entire premise starts to crumble because not only do you have some egomaniacal patriarch pulling puppet strings and making everyone cry, this also means that we aren’t going to get a satisfactory resolution either—because all he has to do is change his mind. Wah wah. How deflating. How weak.
Well, I guess he could die. I wouldn’t cry about that.