On the Way to the Airport: Episode 3
As Su-ah and Do-woo try to adjust to their new lives, they increasingly find comfort and understanding in each other. But when you’re used to following a procedural instruction manual your whole life, it’s not easy to adjust to new changes. Su-ah starts to feel more and more uneasy with her own emotions, but what can she do when the only person who can ease her troubles is the one who is causing them?
EPISODE 3 RECAP
The morning brings a new day of business at the airport. Jin-suk briefs his crew, including the young flight attendant who keeps eyeing him, about their next flight to Kuala Lumpur. At home, Su-ah checks on sleeping Hyo-eun before receiving a text message from Jin-suk: “Planning to send you a manual re: Hyo-eun.” Su-ah can’t stop thinking about Do-woo’s expression at the river, however, and finally has to bury herself in chores to shake away the memories.
Meanwhile, Uncle Suk is waiting at Grandma Eun-hee’s shop for Do-woo to return from Malaysia. Do-woo unloads the suitcase that Su-ah packed for him from the trunk, holding Annie’s belongings. When Uncle Suk asks who was kind enough to take care of Annie’s things, however, Do-woo just smiles secretively to himself.
Inside the house, Do-woo checks on a sleeping Hye-won. Just like Su-ah, however, Do-woo can’t stop recalling the night before. A flashback shows us that the drive back from the river to Su-ah’s house was awkward and silent, and only when they arrived did they break the silence. When Do-woo had asked if they could see each other again, Su-ah had agreed, thinking that he meant with Hyo-eun as well—but he’d looked straight at her when he said decidedly, “I’ll see you again.” Now, both Su-ah and Do-woo sit in their respective homes, thinking of each other with conflicted expressions.
Do-woo checks on Grandma next, who asks if he brought Annie’s belongings back safely. He assures her he did, and Grandma expresses her gratitude at the kind person who packed Annie’s things for them.
Later, Hye-won notes the umbrella Do-woo left outside to dry and asks him about it over breakfast. She muses absently that it didn’t rain at the house, before suddenly realizing where it did rain—Incheon.
Realizing that Do-woo went back to Malaysia for Annie’s things, Hye-won rushes to the room to find Annie’s ashes and luggage. A flashback shows us Hye-won and Annie’s conversation on the phone, when Hye-won ordered her not to return. Annie had whimpered: “I want to go home. I did well. I can do well. I won’t make any mistakes.”
Frantic, Hye-won digs through Annie’s suitcase in desperation. Do-woo watches her sadly from the doorway, telling her that he had to bring it back because of his promise to Grandma, but Hye-won demands that he throw it all out—she doesn’t want to go through all of her belongings for fear of what she might find. “What if she wrote that she hates me?!” she demands.
Hye-won tells him that she knows she wasn’t a good mother—she’d given birth to Annie when she was barely twenty and was forced to juggle school, work, and childcare all at once. She’d taken Annie to her father’s, then brought her back multiple times, both sobbing at their hardship. “What if she wrote that she hated me—how do you expect me to live then?” She begs for him to end this at bringing back Annie’s ashes, and to throw everything else out.
Do-woo listens carefully, then tells her he wants to make one thing clear: “Annie’s father abandoned her—but you raised her.” Even if Annie did hate her, Hye-won did nothing wrong; she has no reason to feel guilty. Do-woo promises that he’ll throw out her things if she wants, but this time Hye-won stops him: She’d like to go through Annie’s things alone. Do-woo places a hand on her shoulder in comfort.
At the airport, Mi-jin overhears two flight attendants gossip about Su-ah, calling her the “Ironing Woman” (darimi-nyeo) because there’s a rumor that she irons everything. Mi-jin calls Su-ah to inform her of this nickname, but Su-ah misunderstands her nickname as the “Woman with Beautiful Legs” (dari-minyeo), LOL. Mi-jin is quick to clarify that the ironing rumor stemmed from the iron Su-ah had in her bag.
Su-ah is unperturbed, telling Mi-jin about the truth of the rumor: The iron belonged to Do-woo’s daughter, who died. Mi-jin demands details when Su-ah mentions that she already delivered the iron, but Su-ah only looks out the window, wistful and distant: “The airport, the rain, the dawn… It was only a few hours ago, but that’s all I remember.”
Do-woo places Annie’s ashes in a columbarium and pins her baby pictures to her grave, lamenting that he has no recent photographs. At the same time, Su-ah unpacks Hyo-eun’s things, where she finds piles of pictures of Hyo-eun with Annie. She texts them to Do-woo right away, and he immediately prints them out, writing back: “You must be able to see me. You always seem to know what I’m struggling with.”
Later that day, Su-ah and her brother watch Hyo-eun practice dribbling a soccer ball. Telling Su-ah that he’s working hard to make up for the easygoing life he led when their mother was still alive, her brother asks for 55,000 won per day to babysit Hyo-eun. Su-ah adds in free soccer lessons and agrees to the price.
Su-ah’s mother-in-law, whom we’ll finally name as KIM YOUNG-SOOK, goes to visit Grandma’s ornament shop, upset that there isn’t a lecture scheduled. Once she learns that the lecture schedule is dependent upon how Grandma feels that day, she scoffs, accusing the shop of having irresponsible business practices. When she finally leaves, Hye-won’s assistant fumes at her irreverence, but Hye-won muses that people never appreciate things when they’re free.
Young-sook speaks with Jin-suk over the phone, but her face falls at his next statement. Su-ah, who also gets a phone call at the soccer stadium, reacts similarly, and we soon find out why as Su-ah and Hyo-eun chase after a moving truck. Furious, Su-ah calls Jin-suk, who only tells her that the truck took Su-ah and Hyo-eun’s things—because they’ll be moving in with his mother.
Su-ah snaps at Jin-suk’s sudden decision, but Jin-suk shoots back that after Su-ah’s mother died, New Zealand and Malaysia fell through, and now they need help to get back on track. Su-ah demands to know why he didn’t even discuss this with her, but Jin-suk replies dryly that she never discussed bringing Hyo-eun back from Malaysia with him, either.
When Su-ah tries to get him to explain the situation to Hyo-eun himself, he tells her that he’s busy, but Su-ah knows her husband: “No, you’re just drinking beer!” Sure enough, Jin-suk is sitting alone at a bar, helping himself to a cold beer. Lol. Freaked out but shameless, he hangs up on her and sits back, praising his own problem-solving capability.
At her house, Young-sook sits with her arms crossed, telling Su-ah that she needs time to accept this. She shoos Su-ah away before she can ask a single question.
So Su-ah goes outside without a clue of what to do. She considers calling Do-woo, but ends up at Mi-jin’s place instead. Promising she’ll only stay for a bit, she lies down on the couch to rest. Mi-jin complains that she wanted to stay at home alone for once, and Su-ah sighs for her poor mother-in-law, who probably felt the exact same way.
Su-ah decides to call Jin-suk to check whether he spoke to Hyo-eun as she told him to, putting the phone on speaker mode. When the line picks up, however, it’s a young female voice that answers, calling out, “Choi-sunbae?” Both Su-ah and Mi-jin pause as another laughing, female voice joins in, asking Su-ah not to misunderstand—Jin-suk left his phone behind for a moment, but they’re only having a team dinner.
Su-ah switches off speaker mode and coolly assures the girls that she won’t misunderstand, and hangs up unperturbed. Mi-jin, by contrast, is incensed, demanding if the flight attendants were giggling. Su-ah: “Hm, were they?”
Unsurprisingly, the two flight attendants at the bar include the young girl who was flirting with Jin-suk before. Her friend scolds her for lying about it being a team dinner and for answering Su-ah’s call at all, but the girl just brushes it off, unable to stop grinning.
Mi-jin asks if Su-ah is really cool with the situation, and Su-ah nods that she is. That piques Mi-jin’s interest—then where does Su-ah draw the line? Su-ah says that talking at a bar and even at a hotel is fine if it’s only for a few hours. But when Mi-jin asks if even talking all night is okay, it triggers Su-ah’s memories of sitting in the airport with Do-woo. “Well,” she says quickly, “if they’re in a lobby, the conversation could get long, right?” Mi-jin lauds Su-ah’s standards, calling her level of indifference amazing.
Su-ah points out that she’s not the type to get insecure easily. Mi-jin finds this strange and asks if Jin-suk really does have something going on, but Su-ah denies it, asking Mi-jin to let her know if she hears any rumors. When Su-ah gets up to leave, too drained of energy to pack as she’d originally planned, Mi-jin assures her that their young coworkers are infatuated by Jin-suk’s charisma, but in the end, everyone knows he’s married to Su-ah.
Back at the bar in Sydney, Jin-suk returns to pick up his lost phone. He starts to ask one of the waiters for it when he spots the pair of flight attendants waving at him. After recovering his phone from them, he looks through it for any suspicious activity, although the girl explains willingly: She “accidentally” answered a call from his wife. Jin-suk, however, only checks to see whether they know that his wife is Su-ah, their sunbae. They do, of course—they just don’t care. She tells him he’s welcome to join them, but he declines the offer and leaves to pay his bill.
Annoyed, the girl whips out her phone to text him: “Did I do something wrong?” Jin-suk reads the text and ignores it, right in front of her. Later, he receives another text from her, which he ignores.
Back in her hotel room, the girl fumes at her phone. We flash back through their relationship: On their first flight to Sydney, they happened to see each other at a bar. Their eyes had met as soon as she’d walked in, and his unfaltering gaze had pushed her to talk to him. They’d bantered flirtatiously, shared a few secretive smiles, and she’d even ended up at his hotel room a few times for extra drinks. They’d gotten to know each other, with her sharing her difficulties at work and him his emotions of loneliness, and she thought they were getting rather close—and yet, when they returned to Korea, he’d started ignoring her completely.
Meanwhile, Hye-won digs through Annie’s luggage, flipping through her diaries and books, apparently in search of something. At the same time, Do-woo pulls up to his friend’s restaurant. His friend complains that he was just about to close up, though he nods Do-woo inside.
Do-woo reflects to himself that so much has happened in just one day since his time with Su-ah; back at home, Su-ah thinks the same. Later, Su-ah sits at the edge of Hyo-eun’s bed and watches her sleeping face, while Do-woo spends the night in his office, looking at the pictures of Seoul’s sky that Annie loved so much.
The next morning, the young flight attendant appears at Jin-suk’s hotel room, but Jin-suk flatly tells her that just because they had a few conversations doesn’t mean they have some kind of exclusive relationship. He strolls out, leaving the girl humiliated and furious. As the crew checks out of the hotel, he greets each of them with an unperturbed and professional smile. Creepy.
Back at Do-woo’s house, Grandma surprises him by pushing an ornament she worked on all night toward him, asking him to give it to the person who packed Annie’s things. She tells him that relationships are precious: “Everyone is connected to each other, thread by thread.” He accepts it, looking both surprised and touched.
Su-ah, meanwhile, reads Jin-suk’s “manual” out loud to a miserable Young-sook, which instructs them to stay at his mother’s house for six months and reorient themselves. He’s already arranged for Hyo-eun’s transfer to a local school, and so Su-ah walks an uneasy Hyo-eun there for her first day.
When Su-ah turns around, a plump woman with short hair is looking curiously at her. Su-ah takes a moment before she recognizes her as an old friend: “Hyun-joo unni?” Su-ah and Hyun-joo find themselves at a café to catch up, where Hyun-joo helps herself to a waffle. She tells Su-ah that she regrets being so self-conscious about her body when she was young, and now that she has three kids, she’s sworn herself to sugar and enjoying herself for a few years.
Su-ah tells Hyun-joo about moving into her mother-in-law’s house so that someone can reliably take care of Hyo-eun. She knows that everything could be solved if she just quit her job, but Hyun-joo cuts her off to tell her not to quit—she’s good at her job. Besides, they both note that they married the right men for them.
Young-sook texts Su-ah just as she’s about to enter her house, asking if she is perhaps going home “by accident.” Su-ah is freaked out, but Young-sook just replies that she’s on her way there to talk to make plans about Hyo-eun, as per Jin-suk’s manual. At the same moment, however, Do-woo texts her, asking if they can meet up. Eager to get out of the house, Su-ah makes up an excuse to leave, feeling frustrated.
Su-ah runs outside to find Do-woo waiting in his car for her. He’s about to get out when she suddenly walks away, trying to get out of view of the house. Surprised, he follows her slowly in his car until she approaches him, asking what he’s doing here. In response, he hands her Grandma’s gift bag, telling her his mother made it for her for packing Annie’s things. Su-ah, however, is dodgy and distracted at the thought of someone seeing them, and even ducks behind the car when someone who looks like Young-sook walks by, though she knows that she has no reason to hide.
Su-ah reaches for the bag, but draws her hand back at the last second—if Young-sook finds out that she skipped out on their conversation to pick up a gift for herself, she’d be furious. She asks if she can accept it the next time they meet, and he agrees.
Their gazes keep lingering for too long, however, and Do-woo tells her she can join him for a drive if she feels frustrated. Once again, Do-woo has pinned her emotions exactly, and she seems to feel even guiltier. She gingerly takes Grandma’s present, telling him that they probably shouldn’t meet again. Do-woo’s expression falters, but he takes it in stride and drives away.
When Do-woo catches sight of Su-ah in the rearview mirror, however, the sight of her watching him leave gives him pause. He brakes, watching her, and Su-ah even starts to look hopeful… before he goes back into gear and drives off again.
As Do-woo drives away, Su-ah runs in the opposite direction until she arrives at the edge of the Han River. She looks over the water and talks to Annie:
Su-ah:“When I talk to him, I feel sorry to my husband and to the world. But feeling sorry gives me the strength to live on. I know it’s an awful excuse, but can I just go on a drive with your father as if we’re friends? Just one drive?”
Su-ah waits at the school gate to pick up Hyo-eun, now sporting a sour expression from a bad first day. Su-ah pushes her to try to be happy with the fact that Dad let her come back to Korea at all, and tries to lighten the mood by asking Hyo-eun about her classmates, but Hyo-eun just stomps away.
When she finally spins around, she asks Su-ah to let her return to Malaysia. School in Korea is too suffocating, and the soccer club won’t let her in. Hyo-eun even blames Su-ah, telling her that she should have convinced her to stay in Malaysia.
Su-ah tells her sternly that no matter what, Hyo-eun’s opinion will be her priority—and that way, Hyo-eun will figure out what she really wants and take responsibility for her actions. Even more annoyed, Hyo-eun tells her not to expect so much from a kid and storms into the house, leaving Su-ah to pound her chest in frustration.
Alone, Su-ah gets in a taxi and calls Mi-jin, asking her about the name of the beer restaurant they went to for Ji-eun’s party, pretending she’s just curious. She arrives at the restaurant but then feels suddenly ridiculous: “I must be crazy.” She sighs and turns around, but not before the Do-woo’s restaurant owner friend spots her walking away through the window.
In Do-woo’s office, Do-woo and Ji-eun are conversing about work. Ji-eun tells him that she made a promise with her mom that she’d become successful within three years, or else she’d have to quit. Ji-eun’s mom is giving her a hard time even though it’s only been two years since she and Do-woo started working together, especially since their first client in two years is Ji-eun’s grandpa, and especially since Ji-eun was so happy about it that she threw a party.
Do-woo listens sullenly, telling her that he’s not here just to gain experience. Ji-eun shoots back that she wasn’t, either, but she can’t live like this, unrecognized and ridiculed for her passions. Do-woo, flatly: “You’re pathetic.” She giggles cutely.
Do-woo’s restaurant owner friend, whose name we finally learn is JANG HYUN-WOO, comes up to tell them he thinks someone’s here for them. Surprised, both Do-woo and Ji-eun look over the balcony to see who it is. Ji-eun doesn’t recognize her, but of course Do-woo does; his face lights up and he tells Ji-eun to leave and leaps away in search for his phone.
Hyun-woo stops Su-ah on the street and brings her back to the restaurant; meanwhile, Ji-eun assures Do-woo that whatever he’s doing with this woman, she’s on his side, not Hye-won’s. Do-woo waves her away, still looking for his phone.
Su-ah heads up the stairs to Do-woo’s balcony, at the same time that Do-woo starts to go down to see her. They look at each other on the stairs, unable to hide their happiness.
Meanwhile, Hye-won works with a business friend wrapping ornaments. The friend mentions that Ji-eun and Do-woo’s business isn’t doing well—they need to get their act together. Hye-won’s friend then asks about Hye-won, since she’s always had a habit of bottling up her emotions.
Hye-won tries to change the subject, but when her friend needles her to spill her feelings, Hye-won says coldly that she couldn’t share something that hurt so much. She suggests they stick to discussing work instead.
Do-woo invites Su-ah in and offers her a drink, looking blatantly thrilled to see her; Su-ah, on the other hand, fidgets awkwardly and avoids eye contact. She finally opens up about her situation, explaining that her husband moved her stuff to his mother-in-law’s house, and that she’s been wandering around ever since. She really did want to go on a drive with him, she adds, but couldn’t say it then.
But Do-woo just smiles gently and tells her he’s glad she came. Su-ah says that she’s used to working like crazy and taking care of Hyo-eun. Everyone else has it just as hard as she does, she says, but somehow it’s so hard for her. And yet, she says:
“When I board a flight to an unfamiliar city, I go for a short walk. The wind blows, and my worries are gone. It makes me wonder why I was worried earlier. It helps me back on my feet. It feels like that when I’m with you.”
Do-woo listens quietly, and then smiles at her: “That’s the greatest compliment in the world.”
At the moment, Hye-won drives up to Do-woo’s office and notes his car parked in front. She calls his cell, but Do-woo ignores the call without even checking the phone, telling Su-ah that he doesn’t have any urgent business. Spotting Hye-won, however, Hyun-woo heads outside to stall for time, but he doesn’t have an excuse as to why he can’t let her in. Thankfully, Hye-won suddenly remembers that she forgot the brochures in the car and turns back for a moment.
Do-woo’s phone rings again, and even though he insists that he doesn’t have to answer, Su-ah goes to find the phone herself and hands it to him. It’s from Hyun-woo, who tells him: “I don’t know if it’s unnecessary to tell you this, but… Hye-won is here.”
Do-woo’s face freezes, but he takes it in stride. Hanging up, he takes Su-ah’s hands and tells her earnestly that she’s welcome anytime she feels frustrated. But for now, his wife is coming upstairs, so she’d better go downstairs to Hyun-woo. Su-ah is shocked at his words, and hurries down the stairs, gripping the railing. Thankfully, Hyun-woo keeps Hye-won distracted so she won’t look up and see Su-ah coming out of Do-woo’s office.
When Hye-won goes inside the restaurant, Su-ah is sitting at the bar as if she’d only come for a beer the whole time. She sits with her back turned to Do-woo and Hye-won, listening as he rejects her offer to have a drink. Hye-won nods good-naturedly and orders a beer to go from Hyun-woo, but when he tells her he’s just sold out, she unthinkingly offers up her own beer—and immediately regrets it, having drawn attention to herself. Hye-won doesn’t think it strange, however, and thanks her for the drink.
As Do-woo follows Hye-won out, Hyun-woo pours Su-ah a shot of hard alcohol. She takes a sip, and the burning reminds her of her time with Do-woo: the airport, the rain, the sunrise—and most of all, seeing the lunar eclipse in the cockpit of the airplane. She recalls the pilot’s words: “You feel like you’re going to burn up, but you’ll be fine.”
Gasping for air, Su-ah relates: “I feel like my body is going to burn up… but nothing is happening to me.”
Oh, man, the inner turmoil as a viewer here is so real. Do I want the leads together? Do I not? On the one hand, they seem so right for each other. They understand the other’s emotions, frustrations, and fears as if the other’s needs are inherent to themselves; but at the same time, isn’t it possible that their connection is just a fleeting infatuation, grounded on nothing concrete? How can they justify giving up the rest of their families and values to pursue a relationship that is so irrational and sudden?
It’s a sticky situation to be in but I’m all for it, particularly because (1) the show does seem to acknowledge that these aren’t happy problems to have, (2) I still have hope that we can resolve this non-romantically, and (3) that weird, guilty type of nervousness that we’re feeling? It’s exactly what Su-ah and Do-woo are feeling, too. I actually think that I care more about this drama because the showrunners have so vehemently insisted that it’s not an adultery drama—if so, that must mean that they have a non-romantic resolution planned for Do-woo and Su-ah. While I expected to be disappointed in the leads’ romantic development, then, I’m surprised to find that I’m actually more invested in the story now than ever. Will Do-woo and Su-ah be able to hold onto their vital connection without romance, even though the current trajectory seems to point every arrow toward a sultry secret affair?
Interestingly, it’s that exact turmoil that makes me root for our second leads as characters as well—or at the very least, to hope that they will have a narrative competent enough to keep us interested. It’s clear from this episode that Do-woo’s friends don’t like Hye-won for some reason, though we’re also given plenty of reason to sympathize with her—she was a teenage mom, she’s a loyal and hard worker, and she seems to genuinely feel sorry for Annie’s death, though her coping methods are a little unconventional. So what is Hye-won’s deal—with Hyun-woo, with Ji-eun, with Grandma, and even with Do-woo? Is her woeful teenage pregnancy really all there is to Hye-won, or is there something more to her story and motivations?
In that same vein, Jin-suk became both more interesting and less interesting in this episode to me. I can’t really figure out where the writing is taking him—is he morally ambiguous, or just an asshole? It’s his faults that so often force Su-ah to live like she’s stronger than she is, cool and professional in all situations. She never lets herself have a victim complex, no matter how hard she has it at work or at home. But where the first two episodes began to define Jin-suk as a closet kind and caring father, this episode only served to accentuate his worst qualities almost to a point past redemption, especially when Jin-suk got really creepy and condescending with the young flight attendant (what was up with that bar scene?). I hope that the writing will refrain from making either Jin-suk or Hye-won into simplistically hateful characters, and instead work to flesh out their desires and motivations the same way they are doing for Do-woo and Su-ah.
Best of all, with both of our main leads being parents, there seems to be an implicit parallel between Hye-won and Su-ah as mothers and between Jin-suk and Do-woo as fathers. While the comparison between Jin-suk and Do-woo’s methods of parenthood seems to be a lot easier at this point in the show, it seems that the question of whether Hye-won and Su-ah are “good mothers” will resurface in the future. Hye-won explicitly states that she knows she’s not a good mother in this episode, while Su-ah makes interesting insinuations about her parenting style when she gives her first lecture to Hyo-eun after school. She loves Hyo-eun, yes, but is it better to treat Hyo-eun as an inexperienced child, like Jin-suk does, or to give her free reign to figure out the weight of her own decisions, as Su-ah wants? There’s no real manual or answer key to parenting, after all, but comparing these two sets of parents promises to provide some interesting observations about their lives and values.
All in all, I’m surprised at Airport’s addictive quality, especially as a show with relatively little action. It’s only Episode 3, but as the questions keep coming, I’m excited for the show to fly us to an unfamiliar place and reveal a new and interesting world—and I sure hope we won’t be burning up in the end.
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