There’s a whole lotta fighting in this episode, without the makeup smoochies to make it worth all the bruising and angst. And most of that has to do with this guy right here—and yunno, I get why Young-do is arguably the most dynamic character in the bunch and therefore the most interesting, in that he is wild and unpredictable and played by an actor with charisma.
On the other hand, there are many things in this world that I find fascinating that I don’t necessarily like, respect, or care to have anywhere near me. Serial killers, for instance, or the bubonic plague. Interesting does not equate to sympathetic, and in that regard I find much of this drama’s central conflict hard to swallow, since I just don’t get it; I’m half-convinced Young-do is descended from cavemen, or maybe aliens. Although, Cavemen Alien Idols—now there’s a show I’d watch.
SONG OF THE DAY
Thomas Cook – “청춘” (Youth). If you’re thinking this voice is familiar, it’s because Jung Soon-yong was previously part of the band My Aunt Mary, which is a band I’ve missed.
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EPISODE 9 RECAP
After Young-do’s cafeteria terrorizing, Tan finds Eun-sang crying on the roof and stops her from answering Young-do’s call by moving in for a kiss. I do dearly wish their first kiss were more about wanting to kiss than, say, staking a claim over your rival, but I think I have to give up hopes of that drama ever happening in this world.
Tan has grabbed her by the wrist, and the phone (which has accepted the call) falls out of her grasp. Gah, I hate that subtext So Damn Much, that he has subdued the girl’s protests with his manly romantic aggressiveness. This writer.
Tan breaks the kiss and warns her not to answer calls from Young-do, or he’ll go crazy and also kill Young-do: “I have no middle ground.” Is that supposed to be romantic? That’s an honest question. I feel like I’m in alienromanceland and need an interpreter.
Eun-sang hurries away, missing more of Young-do’s incoming calls, though he sees her on her way down and grabs her by the wrist. She flings his hand off angrily, and gratifyingly he looks a bit stunned at that (as though tripping her and smearing her with lunch earned him a better response?).
Myung-soo wonders at Young-do’s behavior, pointing out that he never bullied girls before. Nice to know you had boundaries. Young-do says that this time was different—he tripped Eun-sang “because I wanted to know how I would feel if I did that.” Biggest facepalm in the history of the world, insert here. Myung-soo tells him that if he’s interested he ought to confess rather than bully.
Bo-na finds Eun-sang washing her soiled jacket in the bathroom and shoves a change of clothes at her. Aw, I love how she’s grudgingly coming around, even though she says grumpily that she’s only doing it because of Chan-young. Or maybe it’s because she’s so reluctant to care that makes it all the more endearing.
Tan spots Young-do in the lobby and charges at him, which erupts into a full-fledged fight. A crowd gathers in no time and Rachel guesses at the cause, which explains (I guess) why she finds Eun-sang in the bathroom and yanks on her hair. Oy. When did this turn into a Neanderthals: A Love Story?
Eun-sang and Bo-na hear about the fight and run to the scene, which has been interrupted by students pulling the boys apart. Into the mix comes Madam/Director Jung, who’s all, “You two again?”
She calls them in for an explanation and gets none, the boys as tight-lipped as ever. But this time won’t get glossed over with a lecture, and she states that they’ll investigate footage to see exactly who started it, and states that she won’t have them putting a stain on her workplace—they get to graduate and leave, but this is her career.
Young-do pokes at Tan’s sore spot on their way out, taunting that his mother worried about her career more than his safety, saying that it must because she’s not his biological mother. God, can you shut it with the mom barbs? It’s one thing to be a charming smartass, but now he’s turning into a one-trick bully. Young-do smirks, “Aren’t you all wound up to know when and how I’ll use the ‘Kim Tan is Jeguk Group’s Illegitimate Son’ card?”
Tan is unfazed: “You can’t use that card. Without it, you’re nothing, and you can’t do anything to me.” Boo-urns.
Eun-sang worries with Chan-young, thinking that she’s been marked as the new bullying target (it hasn’t even occurred to her that Young-do’s interest may lie elsewhere). Chan-young promises to fight on her side, but worries about something worse than her status being revealed: Tan liking her. That would open her up to even more abuse.
He explains that the school is full of kids who’d dearly love to see Tan fall, but aren’t able to go after him directly—so if they found out he likes Eun-sang, they’d go after her as punishment by proxy. That’s how he interprets Young-do’s attacks on her, in fact.
Tan waits outside the front gate for Eun-sang, first putting on his teasing face to pout about his injuries. He doesn’t get much of a reaction and switches to his serious face, getting upset when she tries to brush aside his attempt to talk.
Big Bro interrupts with his arrival, and Eun-sang quickly heads inside. Tan tries to talk to him about moving back home, but Won counters, “Then do you want to be the one moving to a hotel?” Tan insists he doesn’t want to take anything away from his hyung, but Won replies that Jeguk Group decides Tan’s feelings for him, and therefore Tan’s very existence is a thorn in his side: “That’s what being an illegitimate son is.”
Tan rattles off a warning text to Eun-sang telling her to stay away from the wine cellar tonight, to avoid a run-in with Won. Cut to: the wine cellar, said run-in already in progress.
Eun-sang cowers nervously, but Won is polite as he makes small talk and says it was nice seeing her again. Won grabs some wine and heads to his hotel, where Hyun-joo waits for him. He’s waylaid in the lobby by Rachel, however, and he invites her for a cup of tea, leaving Hyun-joo unseen and deflated.
Rachel comments on Tan’s bruised face, saying that he fought over a girl, and Won has a pretty good idea of who that girl is. It’s too bad a Won-Rachel pairing seems unlikely (not merely because of the age gap but because of Hyun-joo’s presence), because I think these two are at their best when they’re together. They’re even able to make wry comments about their own weak spots, which you’d never see them admit to other people.
And so, our main love triangle spends the night in meaningful flashbacks and broody stares. Young-do looks particularly mopey, but I’m a bit confused as to why I should feel sorry for him, and so I don’t. Moving along.
Tan gets up extra early the next morning to take Eun-sang to school, waiting for well over an hour before realizing that she left even earlier just to avoid him.
She’s absent from school, and Tan and Young-do take turns casting dark looks at her empty seat in class. That goes noticed by Rachel and Chan-young— it’s a veritable stare-o-go-round. You practically expect that chair to burst into flames from all the concentrated attention it’s getting. The second the bell rings, Tan bolts from class to go in search of her.
She’s spent the day wandering the city streets in a funk, killing time. The school calls her mother to ask about her absence, and as Mom cannot speak, the caller hangs up. Still, she mutters enough about Eun-sang’s truancy to give Mom the general idea.
Tan calls Chan-young for ideas on where to find Eun-sang, and gets directed to a certain free movie theater where she sometimes goes. Sure enough, Tan finds her sitting in the audience, and watches her throughout the screening.
He follows her out, keeping his distance until she stops in front of a storefront to look at the dreamcatchers in the window. He then takes her by the hand (thank you) and pulls her along, informing her that he won’t let go even if she tells him that she’s causing his life more damage. I’d argue that the reverse is more true, but in any case he keeps his grip firm and says, “I’ll keep going like this, and if I do, you’ll still be there at the end of the road, won’t you?”
But she says no, pulling her hand from him in a meaningful slo-mo edit, telling him that she will have long run away. He vows to find her anyway, but she urges him not to because she’ll have nowhere to retreat. In frustration, Tan asks what he’s supposed to do when he likes her this much, and she actually admits to liking him back—it’s a bit of a surprise to be dropped with such little fanfare, but I like it better for the way that her delivery emphasizes that her feelings aren’t the point. Liking each other doesn’t solve anything.
She points out that nobody knows about his family background, reminding him, “You can’t protect me. Worry about protecting yourself.”
That lands with him, and Tan takes that in for a long, hard second… and then turns and walks away. What? Way to give up, bro.
Young-do uses Eun-sang’s visa information to track down her old address, which confirms that she’s no rich kid. I suppose you could argue that she moved out of the place after a recent windfall made her rich, but this is enough to confirm his hunch.
Hyo-shin gets a new tutor after Hyun-joo quits. Hyo-shin ignores his new tutor and sends Hyun-joo a product-placement-laden message asking how she could quit without saying goodbye. She replies about sending over materials, and he sighs that he’ll always be a student in her eyes. Well, yes, have you seen Won?
Hyun-joo takes another meeting with Manager Yoon, and now we find out the reason for their regular contact: She’s been offered a position with Jeguk Group. She understands that if she were to take it, this would be publicized in the news, and she’d be touted as a successful case of a Jeguk-sponsored plebeian making good on their investment. And that, essentially, keeps her as Jeguk’s puppet.
Hearing Hyun-joo’s take on it makes Manager Yoon wonder anew at whether it’s such a good thing for his son to be going to Jeguk High as one of those charity cases. Or Eun-sang. He’d sent Chan-young there thinking to take advantage of its resources and connections, but now he’s not sure.
Eun-sang gets harassed at the cafe by a couple of rich high school kids who pressure her for her number. She warns them that she’ll call the cops if they don’t back off, but before anybody can challenge the threat, Young-do shows up to kick over the prats. He recognizes them from middle school, and they know enough about him to skedaddle on sight.
Young-do’s feeling cocky for playing the white knight, though Eun-sang is far from keeling over in gratitude. He sniffs that if she’s going to be bullied, she should be bullied by HIM, not those wimps, which… there’s so much wrong with that statement I can’t even. I have lost the ability to even, where Young-do’s concerned.
Eun-sang snaps that he’s way worse than they are, and asks why he’s made her his next bullying target. He tells her he saw her old house and starts to threaten her with that info, but she cuts him off to say that yeah, she’s a charity case, so what? Is he going to chase her away too?
To her great shock, he says frankly that he likes her. Well then.
At home, Tan resorts to scanning the house’s CCTV screens for sign of Eun-sang (secret surveillance is romantic, not creepy! Said no one ever). He finds her sitting outside the house and starts to go after her, but refrains when he sees her mother joining her there.
Mom understands that Eun-sang is going through hard times at school, which is why she doesn’t rip into her for playing hooky. Eun-sang is touched at Mom’s consideration and assures her that her tough spell was only temporary, and that she’ll be back at school tomorrow.
The next day, Eun-sang ignores the stares and gossip as she returns to school, and when she and Tan run into each other in the hallway, they make a pointed effort to pass in silence, as though they’re strangers.
Rachel corners her wearing her usual bitchface to sneer that she thought Eun-sang was quitting. She states that she and Tan are engaged, which in their world means that their respective companies have made a deal to join assets, and it’s Eun-sang who has wriggled her way in the middle of a massive business deal. Therefore Rachel feels justified in demanding, “Who the hell are you?” Eun-sang merely tells her she’ll know soon enough, since Young-do knows the truth.
Mom gets another call about the parent-teacher meeting, and looks to Madam Han with pleading eyes. So Madam Han answers the phone for her and lets the PTA chair assume she’s Eun-sang’s mother, though she barely gets in a word before essentially being ordered to show up to the PTA meeting.
Madam Han huffs at the rudeness, then decides maybe she’ll go to the meeting after all, screw the rules (which basically keep her housebound so that the outside world doesn’t know she’s the mistress). Mom scrawls a warning that “You’ll get found out as concubine” before scribbling out the offending word concubine—ha, how can you put your foot in your mouth when you’re writing?
But Madam Han says coyly, “Who said I’d go as Tan’s mother?” Hahaha. Okay, this is a pretty great turn.
So Madam Han arrives at school in all her finery and hauteur, and the room full of wealthy matrons puzzles over the new face. She announces herself as Eun-sang’s mother, and if anything, this is the absolute perfect woman to play up Eun-sang’s image as nouveau riche, without even having planned it. (Elegant clothes with just a hint of gauche, the slightest ditz tone to her voice…) Talk about serendipity.
The mothers discuss an upcoming leadership camp for the students, and parents are thanked for their generous sponsorship. With Rachel’s mother and Young-do’s father earning all the praise, Madam Han charges forward and volunteers to handle the leftover slots—all of them.
Then she hears that Director Jung is on her way in and has a mild moment of panic, haha. Director Jung narrows her eyes to see La Concubine at the table, but plays along with her ruse as Eun-sang’s mother. Madam Han gets caught up praising Tan to the skies, which is hilarious given how inappropriate her familiarity sounds to everyone’s ears. She lies that she heard about Tan from Eun-sang, who gushes about him, and how she’d want him for a son-in-law if she had a daughter. Director Jung: “You do have a daughter.” Ha, I had a feeling her brainpower wasn’t quite up to the demands of such an elaborate lie.
Director Jung follows Madam Han to the bathroom to rip into her for this stunt, warning her to use her mothering energy on her son so that he doesn’t fight all the time. Madam Han sniffs that boys will be boys, not that the childless Director Jung would know. She also takes a jab at that shrewish-looking woman among the group (Rachel’s mother), only to be told that that’s her future in-law.
The threat of endangering Tan’s engagement, at least, has Madam Han deflating. But she’s already made an impression on the other mothers, who get on the phone to find out about Eun-sang’s family.
In class, Eun-sang is pestered by some girls to prove her rich status, either with a parent’s or company name. Tan tries to ignore the conversation, but it’s Young-do who beats him to the punch by telling the lead harasser to back off.
It’s enough to stop the questioning for now, and then Myung-soo comes bursting in with news of the PTA meeting. He crows that Eun-sang’s mother showed up in the best clothes, the best car, and bowled over the whole meeting. Plus, she offered to pay for practically everything on the class trip.
Eun-sang and Tan are stunned, Young-do is confused, and Rachel bristles to be proven wrong. After school, she pumps her mother for information and hears that Eun-sang’s mother was carrying an exclusive handbag that even Rachel’s mother hadn’t been able to buy.
Bo-na puzzles over the gossip, knowing it to be impossible, while her friend is mortified at being told off by Young-do. (I’m thinking crush.)
Tan and Young-do get stuck with clean-up duty as punishment, and they both try to pawn off the task on each other. Young-do goes in for his favorite cheap shot (“Why, you wanna go home to your birth mommy?”), and Tan fires back with one of his own (“Was your mother at the PTA meeting? Oh right. She ran away”). Young-do chafes at that, but Tan reminds him that it was Young-do who started things, both then and now.
Madam Han is positively chipper about her trip to the PTA meeting, though Tan scolds her for it. A bit tearfully, says she was just curious—she wanted to know what his friends’ families were like, and what school parents do. Tan relents and asks his mother to cut her drinking, and she agrees.
A surprise visitor drops by, catching Tan off-guard: Young-do strolls in with a gleam in his eye and pointedly asks where his mother is (the school director) so he can say hello. Madam Han tries to make a discreet exit, and Young-do stops her to ask for a glass of water, treating her like the maid. Aw, and poor Madam Han bows her head and agrees. That’s really sad.
Tan stops her, though, calling her “Mom” openly and introducing her directly to Young-do. Even she knows this is against the rules and protests, but Tan doesn’t wilt and orders Young-do out for a chat.
Outside, Tan says that Young-do has proven himself to be a bastard beyond all expectation, and says he’s barking up the wrong tree if he’s doing all this just to see Tan kneeling at his feet. And then, Young-do gets distracted with a wholly unexpected sight: Eun-sang, marching up the walk, distracted (as ever) with her phone.
By the time they all realize what’s going on, it’s too late. “Jackpot,” Young-do smiles.
God, Young-do. He’s really ruining the show for me, which was definitely not one of my concerns when I heard Kim Woo-bin was cast as the rival. My problem isn’t that he’s a violent asshole, because though those are undesirable traits, admittedly you can make that kind of character sympathetic with the right set of circumstances. My problem is that I have no idea what the hell is driving Young-do, and therefore his actions seem to be not the rebellion of tortured youth, or the misguided actions of a boy seeking love. Instead, I see a loose cannon who likes stirring the pot for the sake of his own amusement, and who delights in others’ pain, most of all when he’s the cause.
Let’s say Young-do isn’t that guy, which would frankly make my day because that guy would be a sociopath. Let’s say he really is misunderstood, and that there’s a decent human being underneath the psycho suit, and we’re just waiting for that vulnerable layer to peek out (and with real, fleshed-out reasons that amount to more than “Kim Woo-bin stares really well”).
Well, in that case the writing has failed you mightily, because I don’t get you, Young-do. What do you want? Attention? A hug? A cookie?
Tan was also a puzzler this episode, in that he was literally vowing to hold onto Eun-sang forevah and hunt her down if she left, and then she reminds him about his parentage issue (which he’s known about his whole life), and he’s all, “Oh. Right. Backing away now.” What the heck, Tan? I get that you’re weak, I get that you’re a puppet to your father and his corporation, and I even get that that is part of your appeal as a hero (with a trajectory away from those things, that is). And I am certainly willing to understand that he is choosing to disengage from life as a defense mechanism.
It’s just that I thought the point of the show would be to move him away from that and allow him to find himself. I think at halfway through a run, it is not asking for too much to have your characters grow, or even look like they may be pointing in the direction of future growth. But I don’t get that from any character in the whole show, and that is frustrating.
I did, however, love Madam Han impersonating Eun-sang, and for that scene alone I found this episode enjoyable. (Only just.) I hope this is more than a one-off joke, because Madam Han is one of the best characters around and by nature of her place in the story she has been cut off from the rest of the cast. With this excuse to insert herself into the mix, there might be room for a lot more fun.