Trot Lovers: Episode 4
The show continues to delight as it balances humor with heartache, as the plot continues to move along in the quick pace we’ve grown to expect. Chun-hee tries to return to original plan of working part-time jobs to pay off her father’s debt — however she rethinks that decision when she realizes she could could reunite her little family much sooner. Or maybe she’s just influenced by Joon-hyun, who becomes her shadow, willing to do whatever it takes to convince his little trot-ticket back to stardom that he can make her a successful singer by being her manager. Pardon me: by being her producer.
EPISODE 4 RECAP
In the nightclub alleyway, Joon-hyun gets down on his knees, begging Chun-hee to forgive him and give him just one more chance. He tells her that she doesn’t have to work at the nightclub anymore and that he’s talked Shine Star about signing a contract, promising that he’ll work hard to make her into a singer.
She angrily asks him if he’s only coming to her now that she’s hit rock bottom, adding that someone who has always been successful and well-off like him can’t understand how it feels to perform in a room salon. With tears her eyes, she tells him that she wants to quit, and walks away.
But Joon-hyun knows how miserable it is to work room salon, because he’s now in disguise and playing back-up guitar for drunken businessmen who would rather spit out their gum in his hand instead of giving him a tip.
In the morning, Chun-hee is taking Byul to school when they find Joon-hyun sleeping on the platform outside, exhausted after working in the nightclub all night (and Byul is adorably concerned about him, especially since he reeks of alcohol). He quickly wakes up and follows them, asking if Chun-hee’s changed her mind about working with him. She hasn’t.
Joon-hyun dons his disguise as he follows her around all day, including to job interviews (where he butts in to try and “helpfully” let the interviewer know Chun-hee’s debt situation with the loan sharks).
She finally can’t stand it anymore, and calls him out for following her and ruining her day just for the fun of it. He tells her that he’s not doing it because he’s bored — it’s because he’s serious about his promise to make her a singer.
Chun-hee reminds him that he’s not exactly the most trustworthy person, considering he sold her to the nightclub and ran off with the money. Even though he sincerely apologizes, she wants nothing more to do with him and asks him to stay out of her life.
But of course that’s not going to happen, as he follows her to her new job at her coach’s mother’s restaurant, where she’s been hired on as a server. His attempt to hide behind a menu is not exactly successful, but Chun-hee just rolls her eyes when her coach asks her about him.
A group of customers recognize Chun-hee from her audition that went viral, and soon as Joon-hyun hears them ask her about it, he leaps up and confirms that she’s indeed the “Hot Pepper” girl. When the men ask for an autograph, he puts her audition video on the restaurant’s television and cheerfully dances along with it. This catches the attention of the rest of the patrons, who are delighted to recognize her.
Chun-hee dies of embarrassment, but her ex-coach reminds her that it’s pretty special to be able to do something that makes so many people happy.
Later that night when Chun-hee returns home, she sees bags of groceries on her doorstep. She’s a little confused because she didn’t order a delivery, but she and Byul are thrilled to find the bags hold their favorite snacks, and now they won’t have to eat expired kimbap for dinner.
The mystery behind the grocery delivery becomes clear when Chun-hee discovers an envelope full of cash and a note from her father, which says that he’ll work hard to make money and he’ll come back for them soon. She rushes out of the house, screaming for her father as she frantically runs around the neighborhood.
But he’s not to be found, and Chun-hee returns home, deflated. Byul also read the note and hands over her piggy bank of change, asking if it will help bring their father home sooner. Aw.
Chun-hee works through her emotions the best way she knows how — by running at the track (with Joon-hyun running behind her as her ever-present shadow). She thinks back to when she was a young child and her father was trying to unsuccessfully sell vegetables at the market. In order to attract attention, young Chun-hee stood up and started singing “Hot Pepper,” and soon everyone wanted to buy vegetables from the cute little girl singing trot.
She finally stops running, and an exhausted Joon-hyun stumbles to a halt behind her, gasping and looking like he’s about to be sick. But he immediately perks up when she asks if she’ll be able to pay back her father’s debt if she signs a contract with Shine Star. If money is the only thing that will bring her father back, then there seems to be no other way.
But she makes it clear to Joon-hyun that she’s not agreeing to work with him because she forgives him — she’s aware that he might betray her again at any minute. She’s going to use him like he’s using her. He’s just happy she’s agreed to finally become a singer.
At the Shine Star office, they meet with Geon-woo to sign the contract. Joon-hyun’s pride balks at being called her manager instead of producer, but a phone call with President Jo reminds him that his return to a music career is riding on her success, no matter what his job title is.
Yang Hoo-jee is busy with charity work as she hands out food to the homeless, but she’s shocked and (suspiciously) distressed when she sees Chun-hee’s father, calling him “Myung-sik Oppa.” But it was too brief of a glimpse of him for her to be sure.
Now that Chun-hee is part of the Shine Star family, Joon-hyun begins to teach her how to act as a trainee and hoobae (while still calling himself a “producer,” ha). There are three main rules she must follow: (1) to greet everyone with a deep bow; (2) to always have a bright smile for her sunbaes as she cheerfully asks them to take care of her; and (3) to always eat anything her sunbaes give her, even if they’ve already chewed it.
Chun-hee’s strong personality balks at his lessons, but she still tries her hardest, and eventually gets her first test when Pil-nyeo beckons her over to eat ramyun together. Chun-hee greets her with an absurdly wide smile, pretending that she’s hungry and loves ramyun.
While Chun-hee’s busy eating, Pil-nyeo “accidentally” drops her chopsticks on the floor. When Chun-hee jumps up to get them, Pil-nyeo also “accidentally” spills ramyun broth all over Chun-hee’s shirt.
As Chun-hee undresses in an empty recording studio, Pil-nyeo pretends to hand her a new set a clothes — before snatching them back and locking her in the studio. Pil-nyeo dumps the soiled clothes in the trash, pleased that her plan to prevent Chun-hee from attending Soo-in’s party (celebrating her album debut) has worked.
Joon-hyun is worried because he can’t reach Chun-hee on the phone — because it’s on the other side of the studio door. But her ringtone can be heard from the hallway, and Geon-woo pauses briefly as he’s walking by — and then continues walking.
Only to return to discover a pitiful Chun-hee huddled in the corner of the dark and empty studio. He’s amused to find her in such a strange situation, but he covers her up with his jacket while he goes to find her some clothes to wear. He takes one of the dresses that Soo-in has in her practice room, and Chun-hee makes quite the fashion statement with her sporty trainers and borrowed pink dress.
At Soo-in’s party, everyone cheers for her debut success, only no one clinks glasses with Chun-hee. Pil-nyeo hands her a glass of beer, laughing off the fact she locked her in the studio as just an initiation prank. She then snidely points out that there’s no one else from Chun-hee’s trainee year because Chun-hee is a “parachute” (as in, she’s only there because of her connections, and not because she earned it).
But Geon-woo cheerfully points out that there’s another in her year: him. After all, he’s only there because of his father. He toasts her with a cheer for the “parachute class.”
Meanwhile, Joon-hyun is getting another stamp in his debt-book as he gets ready for another night as back-up guitar player in the room salon. He reminds the shady nightclub owner that he only has to work three more times and Chun-hee’s debt will be cleared. He also makes the nightclub owner promise he won’t tell Chun-hee that he’s working off her debt. (And we know he’s working hard because he gets a nose bleed.)
At Soo-in’s party, Geon-woo notes Pil-nyeo putting powder into a glass of beer before handing it to Chun-hee (who must drink it, as per hierarchy rules). He intercepts it, declaring himself to be her black knight — and then straight-out asks Pil-nyeo if she put a laxative in it.
When she denies it, he says that there will be no problem if she drinks it, then. Which of course she does, because even if she’s Chun-hee’s sunbae, Geon-woo is her boss, and so the hierarchy rules come back to bite her.
Joon-hyun is busy looking for Soo-in’s party, and tries to stop a waiter in the hallway of the nightclub. But it’s his ex-manager Tae-song, who hurriedly scurries away, afraid of being seen. He ends up hiding in a stall in the women’s restroom, and in the stall next door is Pil-nyeo, suffering from her laxative.
She discovers that her stall has no toilet paper, and politely knocks on the stall wall to ask for some from who she assumes is another woman (but is Tae-song). He keeps quiet for fear of discovery, and her polite demeanor becomes rude as she pounds on the wall until he finally slips some under the wall for her.
As she’s leaving, though, she notices that those are men’s shoes under the door, and when he opens the stall door to come out, she throws a bucket of mop water in his face. She’s surprised to see that it’s the same guy who stole her ddukbokki. He just silently and wearily takes his tray of drinks as he squelches out the door.
Pil-nyeo emerges from the stall a second time (the laxatives continuing to do their job), and finds Soo-in at the mirror, touching up her makeup. She’s full of complaints about Chun-hee, but Soo-in tries to support the newbie by saying Chun-hee’s actually talented.
When Pil-nyeo says it’s strange that a trainee is better-dressed than the person of honor, Soo-in admits that pink dress is actually hers, and she was planning on wearing it at her concert. But since it was Geon-woo who took the dress, there was probably a good reason Chun-hee needed it, even though she was surprised to see it on her. Pil-nyeo thinks Soo-in is too nice and promises she’ll fix it for her.
Pil-nyeo puts her mean girl skills to work as she confronts Chun-hee in an empty hallway. She asks if she made it into Star Shine by sleeping with Geon-woo, since she’s wearing clothes he gave her. But Chun-hee’s not taking any of her crap, and reminds her that the only reason she needed another set of clothes was because Pil-nyeo locked her in the recording room.
As she reaches out to slap Chun-hee, Pil-nyeo stumbles, and once she sees her trainee minions down the hallway, fakes a fall while shouting that Chun-hee pushed her. Both her minions believe her, and so does Joon-hyun, who’s just arrived.
But once she and Joon-hyun are alone, Chun-hee cuts off his lecture about not acting like a proper hoobae. She asks him what kind of manager (or producer) he is to not only believe her when she says she didn’t push Pil-nyeo, but also to disappear without notice. When she asks what was so urgent that he couldn’t be there for her that night, he says he can’t tell her (because it’s about him paying off her nightclub debt).
She walks away, disappointed with him because he thinks she’s always to blame. Unnoticed, Geon-woo stands in the hallway, having overheard everything.
Back at the party, Chun-hee chugs down glass after glass of whiskey while Joon-hyun looks on with concern and tries to get her to stop. But she reminds him that she was a marathoner, so once she starts, she has to go all the way to the end.
A drunken Director Wang tells her that he hates parachute people, and Geon-woo takes that opportunity to suggest they play Yaja Time, the game where people get to ignore honorifics for a set time. Everyone else is drunk by this point, and even though Pil-nyeo protests, he says that this is their chance to tell him what they really think about him.
Chun-hee immediately leaps up (and tells Pil-nyeo to “shut up!” when she tries to interrupt, ha!). Geon-woo can’t hide the grin on his face as she chooses Director Wang as her first target, asking why he only told her that he hates “parachutes” when Geon-woo is one, too.
But Geon-woo isn’t safe from her drunken truth-telling, as she points a finger at him, asking if they’re really in the same class since his connections are of a much higher status than hers.
And then she sits back down and immediately passes out. HA.
After the party is over, Joon-hyun tries to guide a happily blitzed Chun-hee outside. Geon-woo notices her barely-able-to-stand drunken state and offers to give her a ride home, much to the envy of all the other Shine Star ladies. Joon-hyun doesn’t seem so thrilled either as he watches Geon-woo drive off (but there seems little cause for jealousy, since Geon-woo spends most of his time trying to keep her from vomiting all over his car).
Chun-hee tipsily thanks him for driving her home and saving her when she was locked in the recording studio, and he exaggerates his astonishment that he’s always saving her when he sees her, because he’s not the type to help people. Joon-hyun looks thoughtfully on as Geon-woo drives off, and when he tries to get Chun-hee’s attention, she just waves him off, telling him to go sleep on his platform.
When Soo-in arrives home, her mother wakes up with a start from a nightmare about a car accident that happened long ago. She brushes off the lingering memory to ask Soo-in how her party went, surprised that the new president seems to be taking an interest in the company.
The next morning, Chun-hee returns the dress to Soo-in, apologizing that she didn’t know it was hers. Soo-in says it’s okay, but as soon as Chun-hee leaves, Soo-in tosses the dress into the trash.
Geon-woo announces to the entire staff that Shine Star’s annual market performer this year will be Chun-hee (who is just as surprised as anyone). This will also be a chance to prove that she belongs to the Star Shine family, because she will need to convince five hundred people at the market to vote for her by dropping a ball in a box. By the end of the day, if all five hundred balls are in the box, then she will be allowed to debut.
The ever-egotistical Joon-hyun confidently swaggers that they could move a thousand balls if needed. Pil-nyeo and Director Wang immediately jump on this, saying they should raise the limit to a thousand then, if it seems like it will be so easy. A thousand balls it is, and Chun-hee shoots daggers out of her eyes at Joon-hyun.
At the market, Chun-hee begins performing, but her only audience is the chickens for sale. Joon-hyun shoves her out the way to try his hand as the “king of busking.”
But Chun-hee immediately drags him away and gets the Star Shine crew to move further into the market, where she dons an adorable animal costume head (and makes Joon-hyun wear one, too), and goes around asking the market ahjummas for song requests. Finally she gets one, and as Joon-hyun accompanies on her guitar, she becomes a walking trot jukebox.
Everyone in the marketplace is enjoying singing along and dancing to Chun-hee’s singing. Pil-nyeo looks on in disgust as ball after ball is put into the box, until she realizes that every single ball has been used. This won’t do, and she takes matters into her own hands by causing a diversion with firecrackers, which gives her a chance to “accidentally” spill the box and send the balls rolling across the market.
The Shine Star crew (except for Pil-nyeo and Manager Wang) frantically try to collect all the scattered balls and return them to the box. Joon-hyun spots a man taking a ball with him as he rides off on his bicycle, and Joon-hyun runs after him.
Meanwhile, Soo-in is the middle of a television interview for her debut album, and Yang Hoo-jee stage-mothers off-camera, trying to correct answers and requesting other answers be edited out. When she berates her daughter later for not giving “proper” answers, Geon-woo jumps in to say that it was refreshing to hear Soo-in’s honest responses rather than the perfect answers everyone expects. Her mother may not appreciate him butting in, but Soo-in is totally thrilled at his support.
Joon-hyun finally catches up with the man outside his small farm, and as he reaches for the Star Shine ball, a grandmother accuses him of being a thief. When he’s recognized as a famous singer, the grandmother promises to return the ball to him if he sings something.
He starts in on a ballad, but she cuts him off — she wants a trot song. Joon-hyun is vehemently opposed to singing trot, insisting that he’s Korea’s best singer and an artist.
Once he realizes that it’s the only way to get the ball back, he tells her that this is the first and last time he’ll sing trot, so she should be aware of how special it is. Grandma’s just like, “Shut up and sing already.” Which he does, despite his initial pouting, and soon the whole family is singing and clapping along.
Pil-nyeo is counting the balls and fakes sadness when there are only 989 of them. But just when Chun-hee thinks she’s lost, members of the merchant association rush up to give their thanks for revitalizing what was a slow day for them. They also found a few more of the Shine Star balls, which is handed over to Pil-nyeo to count: 999, one ball short.
Just then Joon-hyun comes running up with the last ball. Director Wang tries to argue that it’s cheating if Joon-hyun puts it in the box himself, but one of the merchants snatches it away and declares it to be from them as he puts it into the box.
Everyone (except Pil-nyeo and Manager Wang, of course) is all smiles when Geon-woo declares that Chun-hee has completed her mission. Chun-hee and Joon-hyun are so overwhelmed with joy that she’s managed to prove she’s worth being a part of the Shine Star family, they excitedly embrace each other in a happy hug — until they remember that they don’t actually like each other and quickly break apart.
But that doesn’t stop their giddy celebration at her success.
I love this show. I don’t care that the plot is a predictable rom-com because the characters are so. Much. Fun.
Chun-hee is perfection. I love that Jung Eun-ji has managed to keep an undercurrent of spunk beneath everything she does (which is why when Chun-hee breaks down over her father, it hurts more since you know how strong she is). And I’m really looking forward to when Chun-hee eventually takes down Pil-nyeo, and on her own terms — no assistance from her ever-present savior, Geon-woo.
Although, to be fair, I think Pil-nyeo is a riot, and I enjoy her as the mean girl. She’s hard to hate when all her plans are foiled, and maybe she’s hard to hate because Shin Bora is hilarious. But I also can understand her motivations — after all, Pil-nyeo has been at Shine Star for the longest, and has yet to debut. Yet here comes this no-nothing upstart who’s suddenly incredibly popular, as well as the president’s favorite.
Which does make me wonder how long it will be until Soo-in has her own mean girl transformation. I’ve enjoyed the fact she’s appeared genuinely nice and supportive to Chun-hee, but when she threw out the pink dress, I was like, “Uh-oh, the competition starts now.” Not to mention there’s definitely something shady about her mother’s past with Chun-hee’s father. Thanks to that car-accident dream flashback, I’m assuming Yang Hoo-jee was responsible for Chun-hee’s mother’s death. But that doesn’t explain why she’d call him “Myung-sik Oppa.” Since Chun-hee’s mother was a professional trot singer, it makes me wonder if there was some rivalry between the women, and how that will play out within the younger generation.
Speaking of rivalry, I am enjoying that there seems to be growing fight for Geon-woo’s affections. Soo-in is clearly smitten, and not just because he’s more likely to help her succeed in her career. I think she genuinely appreciates his weirdness and the fact that he isn’t taken in by her charms. After his multiple opportunities to rescue Chun-hee, I’m also thinking she’ll eventually be swayed by the handsome, rich man who is constantly amused by her. As someone who chronically suffers from Second Lead Syndrome, it’s refreshing to know that the ladies on the show appreciate the second lead, too.
But I have to admit I’m totally loving Joon-hyun (and his ridiculous — or possibly hawt — disguise). Yes, he’s still an ass who longs for an easy life of the celebrity — but there are strong promises of character growth, which I find reassuring (not to mention Joon Ji-hyun’s excellent portrayal of a burgeoning glimpse of a conscience). I also still believe he’s better suited for Chun-hee because they both have similar (or at least complimentary) temperaments. Their motivations may be different, but when they put their minds to it, they work extremely hard to achieve success. Music is his life and his passion — when he contemplated never being able to do music again, his first thought was suicide. For Chun-hee, music is her family and her heart.
Not to mention, for a guy who refused to run the marathon in the beginning of the show, he’s sure done a lot of running in this episode.
This is why I’m still not completely sold on the second lead, as delightful as I find him. At least not for Chun-hee, because I think he and Soo-in are well-matched. Because even though he’s taken an interest in her, and by default the company, he’s not the passionate hard-worker that Chun-hee is. He’s there to work for a year because his father told him to, and then he’s happy to find something new to entertain himself.
Really, that’s the big reason why I haven’t gone all Second Lead Syndrome over Geon-hee yet: he’s entertained by Chun-hee. The looks he gives her are often of pure amusement. True; he’s saved her over and over. But he also saves Soo-in (his awareness of how uncomfortable she was with her mother berating her for her interview answers was totally a “knight in shining armor” moment).
Chun-hee is the type of girl that needs someone to be passionate about her and fight for her. Or, rather fight along side her. Right now, I’m not getting the sense the Geon-woo is a fighter. But Joon-hyun definitely is, even if he still needs to learn how to fight for her and with her, and not just use her for his own gain.
But there are still plenty episodes left for them to bicker and fall in love (and bicker some more!). As well as hopefully sing lots more trot. Because that little performance for Grandma can’t be the last time he sings trot, it just can’t!