Individualist Ji-young: Episode 1
Sometimes it’s nice to have a little snack between main courses, and that’s where Individualist Ji-young comes in. This two-episode mini-drama is a sweet little slice of life story about a boy who’s desperate for human contact, and a girl who wishes all humans would just go away and leave her alone. With plenty of cute and even more heart, this is a lovely little show that I won’t be forgetting any time soon.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
We meet our heroine NA JI-YOUNG (Min Hyo-rin) as she’s getting ready for bed. She takes a few sleeping pills and ignores an “I miss you” text from someone, but just as she’s drifting off, the neighbors strike up a loud argument. A few minutes later, the male half of the couple next door is at her door asking for her wi-fi password.
Ji-young refuses to open the door and instead talks to him through the intercom, but only long enough to hear what he wants. She takes another pill and goes back to bed, but the neighbors’ conversation is still loud enough to keep her awake.
The next day, she sees her psychiatrist JUNG SOO-KYUNG (Oh Na-ra), but the doctor literally sleeps through Ji-young’s appointment then refuses to refill Ji-young’s medication. Instead, she tells Ji-young to do something to tire herself out, suggesting that she spend some time with her boyfriend (wink wink).
Ji-young tells Soo-kyung that she’s a bad doctor, but Soo-kyung fires back that Ji-young is a terrible patient who doesn’t follow any of her doctor’s recommendations. But she promises Ji-young that if she writes a journal, she’ll give her more medication.
As she rides the train home, Ji-young narrates that she’s twenty-eight years old, and that two years ago, she quit her job in this very hospital. She’d thought her life would change drastically, particularly in the area of one particular relationship, but she’d been wrong.
Interestingly, the commuter next to her has a cat in a carrier, and something about the animal makes Ji-young cringe. She continues her narration, telling us that a true relationship is balanced between not harming others and not being harmed by others. She adds that she has her own definition of happiness, which is that she’s happiest by herself.
The cute neighbor with the big smile is PARK BYUK-SOO (Gong Myung), an engineering student. He greets Ji-young every time he sees her, whether in their building or around the neighborhood, but Ji-young never acknowledges him. He’s confused by her, but it’s adorable how he never stops trying.
One day, a package is delivered for Byuk-soo, but the mail carrier leaves it with Ji-young. She carelessly drops it by his door, but when he comes by later to thank her, they realize the package has been stolen. Byuk-soo’s girlfriend YE-JIN (Jang Hee-ryung) is furious with him and says that she wants to break up.
Ji-young is also in the middle of a breakup, though in her case, she’s the one doing the breaking. Her now-ex-boyfriend YEON-SEOK (Ji Il-joo) demands to know her reason, but Ji-young leaves him without an explanation.
Yeon-seok follows Ji-young back to her building and climbs the stairs to her floor, but all he can do is yell through the locked door as she heads to her apartment. At the same time, Ye-jin bursts out of Byuk-soo’s place with Byuk-soo hanging off of her suitcase, begging her not to go.
Ye-jin drags the whining Byuk-soo all the way down the hall and opens the stairwell door, letting Yeon-seok slide inside. It’s pandemonium as Byuk-soo steals Ye-jin’s phone in a pathetic attempt to keep her from leaving, while Yeon-seok pounds on Ji-young’s door.
He kicks up a fuss and accidentally shatters the potted plant that Ji-young set in the hall. She finally opens the door but only as wide as the safety chains will allow. She stares at Yeon-seok as she thinks, “Are everyone’s problems my fault? Did all of this happen because of me?”
All four of them end up in the police station with the girls filing complaints against the guys. Ye-jin requests that Byuk-soo be held overnight, but he pleads with her to change her mind. Ye-jin says that she feels like he’s using her to ease his loneliness and refuses him, and he’s tossed into a cell.
Yeon-seok asks Ji-young if the plant he broke is the one he gave to her to give to her parents for their anniversary. She says curtly that she never got a chance, and that she left it in the hall to die because she hates taking care of living things.
He complains that in the three months they dated, she never let him inside her apartment, introduced him to her friends, or even told him her birthday. When she continues ignoring him, Yeon-seok asks her what she’s actually planning to do when she said that she’d be working on Christmas Day. But Ji-young snarls that it’s none of his business.
Yeon-seok admits that he looked at her texts, and he demands that she tell him who sent her the message saying they miss her. Ji-young just finishes her written complaint and storms out, while Yeon-seok yells that she should be grateful he dated her instead of just sleeping with her. Yeah, he’s a gem, all right.
She doesn’t stop until she gets to the street, and she tells herself that this is her own fault for not being careful. She recalls going to see him at work one day and overhearing him telling a coworker that he feels like she’s abnormal, so he looked through her phone to see what her Christmas plans are, but that day is blank.
On the bus ride home, Ji-young reminds herself of all the reasons that personal relationships only let you down. She congratulates herself on strengthening her defenses against all of that.
Poor Byuk-soo spends the night in a holding cell going crazy from the isolation. In the morning he drags himself home, arriving just in time to see Ji-young meeting the locksmith to have her door code changed. She takes a call from someone who sounds like her mother, but she hangs up on the woman mid-sentence.
Byuk-soo stalks over to snap at Ji-young for causing his breakup by letting his package get stolen. She just walks right past him, leaving him gaping at her back. He sees her half-dead plant, considering it one more bit of proof that she’s a nasty piece of work.
Ji-young gets a text from the woman who just called her saying that someone is dying. Whoever it is gives her the hospital’s information, but instead of answering, she blocks the number.
At work later, Byuk-soo checks Ye-jin’s Instagram account to discover that she’s blocked him, and a dummy account he set up is being ignored. A glance at a family photo on his desk has him calling his mother to say that he’s thinking of visiting her after work, but she tells him not to come since he’s already visiting this weekend. He calls his dad next, but his father also declines his invitation.
Byuk-soo asks the office at large what everyone is doing after work, but he only gets silence and blank stares in response. He spots a chat conversation on a nearby computer and sees his coworkers warning each other that he’s fresh off a breakup, and they call him annoying as they make plans to meet somewhere without him. Awww.
Byuk-soo is momentarily cheered when Ye-jin accepts his dummy account friend request, only to see that the most recent picture is of her with a new guy. Double awww.
Ji-young is just as cold with her coworkers as she is with everyone else. When two girls work up the courage to ask her to go for a beer after work, she rudely tells them to stop being annoying, aware that they only want her to switch Christmas Day shifts with them.
When one explains that her daughter asked Santa for a trip to the amusement park for Christmas, Ji-young just says that the world won’t end if her daughter learns there’s no Santa. Damn.
On the train home, Ji-young ruthlessly deletes every picture of Yeon-seok from her phone. At the same time, Byuk-soo struggles to do the same with Ye-jin’s pictures, but he can’t make himself do it. He’s out drinking with his coworkers after all, but he ruins their fun by spending the whole night whining about his breakup. Eventually they leave him there clutching a table leg, sticking him with the bill.
Unwilling to go back to his empty apartment, Byuk-soo heads to the movies where he sobs through an entire film (HA, it’s Gong Myung’s movie Susaek). He’s still two-thirds drunk when the movie ends, and he decides to see another. He posts a picture of himself with the poster, tagging the photo with vague hashtags to make it sound like he’s with someone while enjoying the curious responses.
He’s tickled pink to see Ji-young enter the lobby and bounces up to ask her to “like” his picture. She refuses and goes to buy her ticket, making sure that she’ll be the only person in the theater. When Byuk-soo waves his ticket at her, she tries to cancel hers, but it’s already been printed.
Ji-young is annoyed when Byuk-soo sits in the same row as her, so she scoots as far away as she can. But the movie is a horror film, and chicken Byuk-soo creeps closer as the show grows scarier. Even when Ji-young changes rows, he just follows her until he finally ends up in the seat next to hers.
Distracted by the movie, Byuk-soo drains the cup of soda, then belatedly realizes that he accidentally drank the last of Ji-young’s drink. Oops. He sets the cup back, hoping she won’t notice, but of course she does when she tries to take a drink and it’s all gone. Byuk-soo’s denial of guilt fails when he burps right in her face, ha.
Byuk-soo follows Ji-young home, hovering right inside her personal bubble. She rushes ahead and tries to close the elevator door on him, so he gripes at her for ignoring him. When another tenant calls for them to hold the elevator, Ji-young hits the “close door” button, so Byuk-soo starts jabbing at the “open door” button, sparking a small but fierce war.
Byuk-soo wins and the tenant joins them. On the ride up, Byuk-soo complains about Ji-young’s lipstick, which got on his mouth when he used her straw. With growing horror, he asks if this means they kinda sorta kissed, and he assumes that this is why Ji-young is upset with him.
Ji-young rolls her eyes and snarks that she’ll just pretend she kissed a stray dog. Byuk-soo protests a little too loudly that she shouldn’t assume he’s interested in her, because he most definitely is not, but she’s just all,
Sure, okay, whatever. She makes a grand exit off the elevator, only to realize they’re not on their floor yet. HAHA.
Byuk-soo peppers Ji-young with questions all the way to her door, fascinated by the fact that she does everything alone. He casually asks if she was an outcast in school, but that seems to hit a nerve and she calls him rude, saying that being an “individualist” doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with her.
Byuk-soo tells Ji-young that she’ll die alone, but she says that he’ll get married and have a kid to avoid being alone, then his wife will die and his kid will send him to a nursing home and he’ll end up alone anyway. She spits that it’s better to be confident and alone than a fool like him.
They trade sarcastic insults while Ji-young enters her new, impossibly long passcode. Ji-young gets the last word when she quips that Ye-jin goes through men like tissue paper, leaving Byuk-soo sputtering in the hallway.
Byuk-soo deliberately makes a lot of noise in his apartment, so Ji-young calls the desk to complain. When she goes to bed, she gives the wall between their bedrooms a petty smack. Frustrated, Byuk-soo lies in bed and hammers on the wall with his feet in retaliation, hee.
In the morning, Byuk-soo finds a note on his door. In it, Ji-young says that she hates him, and since he hates her, she proposes that they just pretend not to know one another from now on. Ji-young leaves her apartment at that moment, and Byuk-soo sends her a nasty little snarl.
Ji-young takes her journal to Soo-kyung, who laughs to see that it’s all about Byuk-soo. She says that he sounds perfect for Ji-young, but Ji-young just impatiently asks to have her medication refilled. Soo-kyung asks why Ji-young is so depressed when she claims that her family is normal and that she’s suffered no traumatic incidents.
Ji-young snaps at her, then denies Soo-kyung’s observation that she’s hostile, saying that she just reacts truthfully to her feelings. Soo-kyung asks if she’s ever missed anyone, and Ji-young gets a faraway look and admits that she does, sometimes. Soo-kyung ends the session by saying that she can’t treat someone who isn’t honest with herself.
Ji-young’s nervous stomach pains her on the ride home. She rushes to her building only to find Yeon-seok waiting outside for her. Badly needing the bathroom, she tries to run past him, but he grabs her arm and causes her to trip and fall. Unfortunately, she lets loose a loud, embarrassing fart on the way down.
She tells Yeon-seok to leave and runs inside, but she can’t remember her complicated passcode. Yeon-seok climbs the stairs and calls to her through the door, so Ji-young tries Byuk-soo’s door. Luckily she remembers seeing him enter his passcode, so she hurries inside and into his bathroom.
The only hitch in Ji-young’s plan is the fact that Byuk-soo is home at the moment, and is now panicking because some rando just let themselves into his bathroom. He runs in brandishing a tennis racket to find her sitting on his toilet, and they both scream bloody murder. PWAHAHA, this is awesome.
Ji-young jumps up to slam the door in Byuk-soo’s face, and Byuk-soo is so flustered that he actually apologizes. Then he remembers that she’s the interloper and yells at her, and Ji-young is forced to admit that she forgot her passcode.
Byuk-soo suddenly realizes that Ji-young was so frantic to find a bathroom because she had an accident in her pants. Her denial is extremely transparent, which diffuses his anger, and he offers to go to her place for some clothes once the locksmith comes.
Ji-young reluctantly agrees, but she makes him swear that he won’t touch anything. Byuk-soo meets the locksmith and tells him to make her code 1-2-3-4, and she can change it later. He takes a good look around and finds an ancient flip phone in a drawer, which he turns on to see a younger, smiling Ji-young holding a cat.
As he’s leaving, Byuk-soo accidentally knocks a cup of water onto some papers on Ji-young’s desk. He picks up the soggy paper to see that it’s a family registry, which reminds him of overhearing Yeon-seok at the police station talking about Ji-young’s parents’ anniversary.
Ji-young pokes her head out of Byuk-soo’s bathroom, wondering what’s taking him so long. She sees photos everywhere, but sadly, the older the Byuk-soo in the pictures grows, the fewer friends he has. The last photo is of Byuk-soo holding a cat.
He finally returns, and after getting cleaned up, Ji-young exits the bathroom with her dignity firmly back in place. She notices her abandoned plant in Byuk-soo’s sink, now looking much healthier, and he explains that he felt bad for it. He asks if she wants it back, but she haughtily refuses it. Byuk-soo asks why Ji-young is so arrogant, but she just (arrogantly) sniffs at him and turns to go.
They both go about their day in very different moods. Ji-young can’t stop cringing at the embarrassing spectacle she made of herself in front of Byuk-soo, but Byuk-soo keeps giggling whenever he thinks of Ji-young.
Byuk-soo goes to visit his mother, who packs up food as she fusses at him for paying his sister Yeon-hee’s tuition. He notices a new family portrait on the wall with just his mother, father, and Yeon-hee, and his smile falters for just a second.
Yeon-hee wheedles more money out of Byuk-soo for books and spending cash. Byuk-soo’s mom invites him on the trip the family is taking on Christmas, which just about makes his year. When Yeon-hee says that their father is almost home, there’s an odd awkward moment, then Byuk-soo says that he has to go.
His mom calls him before he gets a few steps from the building to say that he took the wrong containers of food and that Yeon-hee is on her way down to trade. Byuk-soo thanks his mom for always making food for him, even though he’s grown and on his own.
Ji-young talks to the leasing agent about moving out, but she changes her mind after learning that Byuk-soo already gave notice that he’s moving. She heads to the grocery store where she sighs to hear Christmas music, then her day grows even worse when Byuk-soo approaches her.
Noticing the Christmas music, Byuk-soo asks Ji-young why she and Yeon-seok fought about it, but she tells him to butt out. He starts to offer to spend Christmas Day with her tomorrow, but then he dramatically “remembers” that he’s going on vacation.
He falters on the word family, giving away that he read the family registry on her desk. Byuk-soo cheerfully says that his parents are divorced too, but it doesn’t calm Ji-young as he expects. Instead she turns on him, asking if her sadness amuses him. Byuk-soo stammers that it’s just something they have in common and mentions her cat as another interest they share, but then he realizes that he just admitted to snooping. Oops.
He steps closer as he explains that he just wanted to know more about her. But Ji-young jumps back, stating that when a murderer comes at you with a knife, you stab first to protect yourself. Poor Byuk-soo murmurs that she keeps stabbing him over and over. Ji-young shoves some cash at him for the locksmith and says that their relationship ends here. Hurt, he refuses the money and leaves.
Byuk-soo’s mother calls while he’s shopping to uninvite him from the trip, and he manages to be gracious even though he’s deeply disappointed. Then he realizes that his mother didn’t hang up her phone, and he hears her berating Yeon-hee for being mean as Yeon-hee retorts that Byuk-soo should be glad for what crumbs they throw him. Byuk-soo hangs up, and it takes him a minute to recover.
On Christmas Day, Byuk-soo checks his messages, but all of his holiday greetings and requests to get together go ignored. He gets excited when a friend calls, but he only wants a favor.
That evening, Ji-young gives in to her curiosity, listening to the wall between her apartment and Byuk-soo’s and wondering if he’s on his family trip. She turns on some music, puts in her earplugs, takes her last two pills, and lies down to sleep.
Byuk-soo finally gives in and destroys all of his pictures of Ye-jin. He calls his friend and angrily says that he won’t do him that favor, yelling that he only calls when he wants something. Then the operator’s voice comes on to say that the call wasn’t connected. Awww.
In her bed, Ji-young begins to hallucinate from the double dose of medication. She sees a cat lying on her stomach and reaches out to pet it, but then her hand falls limp. It hits her stereo remote and turns her music up loud enough for Byuk-soo to hear it. He goes over to pound on Ji-young’s door, but when she doesn’t answer, he grows concerned. He tries the temporary passcode, and luckily, Ji-young hasn’t changed it yet.
Still hallucinating, Ji-young relives a memory from when she was very young. She wakes on Christmas morning to the sounds of her parents arguing, and when she plucks her mother’s sleeve to ask about the kitten she asked Santa for, her mother slaps her hand away and tells her curtly that there’s no Santa.
A few years later, as a serious and sullen teenager, Ji-young comes home from school to hear her parents fighting about which of them would take Ji-young after their divorce. Sadly, they’re not fighting because they both want her — instead, they’re each trying to give her to the other parent. Ji-young bursts in to say in an emotionless voice that neither of them needs to raise her, because she’ll raise herself.
As a teen, Ji-young strikes out on her own and finds one thing that makes her happy — a lost cat she discovers in an alley. She and the cat live together, as adult Ji-young narrates that pity is insulting to a child who had to become an adult. To this day, she avoids pity above all things.
Ji-young hears a faraway voice begging her not to die, and the cat fades away as she comes back to reality. She sees Byuk-soo hovering over her as she weakly asks what he’s doing here on Christmas. He wilts with relief and helps her sit up, then he yells at her for being here alone on Christmas.
Byuk-soo flops to the floor, saying that he decided not to go on the trip with his family. He snaps at her for not changing her passcode or using her chain locks, but Ji-young only wonders why she makes life so complicated.
Byuk-soo asks Ji-young why she hates him, and she says honestly that she hates everyone, and everyone hates her. She surprises Byuk-soo by apologizing for hating him when he was so nice to her, though she says that she’ll keep doing it.
Ji-young asks why he’s here, and Byuk-soo hesitates. He says that he was watching TV and thinking that with all the people in the world, hundreds of numbers in his phone, and thousands of Instagram followers, he has nobody to be with. Ji-young is surprised, thinking that people like him must be surrounded by love. Byuk-soo says that love is a given for some people, but he’s just not one of those people.
Ji-young figures that his family must love him, but Byuk-soo fights through his tears to explain that he’s adopted. He tells Ji-young that even though they try not to, they still discriminate against him, and it hurts. Ji-young says that he should get angry and tell them to stop.
But Byuk-soo counters that he doesn’t want to be abandoned twice, since he was adopted once before, but the adoption was dissolved. Oh, puppy. Ji-young tells him angrily that the people who abandoned him did wrong, not him.
Byuk-soo asks why she’s getting so worked up about his life, but she doesn’t have an answer for that. She tells him that he should give up like her and stop expecting anything. But he worries that he’ll be lonely if he gives up.
He suddenly realizes something and wishes Ji-young a happy birthday, explaining that he saw it on the form at the police station. Slowly, nervously, Ji-young asks, “Do you want to come up here?” Whoa.
Taken aback, Byuk-soo says he’s leaving, pointing out that her single bed is too small anyway. But she says it’s not too small if they “put them together,” and that makes Byuk-soo jump up in surprise. He asks if she really means it, and Ji-young says shyly that yes, she really means it.
Well, that escalated quickly. I don’t know if Ji-young is inviting Byuk-soo up for a cuddle or something more, but whatever it is, I hope he takes her up on it. If anyone ever needed a hug, it’s that poor lonely boy. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to have your own family reject you, even when you’re going out of your way to be a good son and brother. He just makes me so sad, as desperate as he is for love and companionship, and I can hardly bear to see him smile whenever someone is being mean to him. He’s just so pathetically needy that I don’t blame people for shying away for fear that he’ll latch on and never let go.
At first, he seemed oblivious to the way people feel about him, but after his confession to Ji-young, I think that he just needs human interaction so badly that he doesn’t care. What I found the most interesting is that when he dropped his defensive smile and was just honest about his feelings, he was like a whole different person, in a good way. The bouncy puppy Byuk-soo was grating and made me feel so bad for him that I just wanted him to go away to ease my own discomfort (which is probably how he makes everyone around him feel). But honest Byuk-soo was interesting and vulnerable, which made me want to know more about him.
Ji-young is possibly even sadder than Byuk-soo, because her isolation is entirely self-inflicted. I can even understand her reasons for withdrawing, having been traumatized from a very early age by uncaring parents and left to her own devices. It’s no wonder at all that she’s developed an almost pathological fear of relying on anyone else, because in her experience, the only person she can count on is herself. I’m not surprised that she’s completely withdrawn from human interaction, preferring to stay in her safe little bubble where nobody can hurt her. Her analogy about stabbing a murderer first was interesting, because while she’s not wrong, the problem starts when you see everyone as a threat. It would take someone like Byuk-soo, who mostly lets those things roll right off him, to get in under her defensive walls.
I think that Gong Myung is doing a great job playing a character so clingy and off-putting that even his good looks and cheerful demeanor don’t earn him people’s good will. This is my third time in a row recapping his dramas, and I can see him slowly but surely gaining confidence as an actor. He’s got a lot of natural charm, not to mention that great big happy-boy smile, so I’d initially worried that he wouldn’t be able to convince me that people don’t like him. But he’s made a smart acting choice for Byuk-soo — instead of trying to turn off his naturally friendly personality, he’s just dialed it up so far that it comes across as slightly manic. But then when he told Ji-young that he has nobody to be with on Christmas, it was such a difference from the happy-go-lucky Byuk-soo I’d gotten used to that I couldn’t help crying. It’s not easy to get your audience that emotionally invested in only one hour, but I was right there with him. I hope we get to see a lot more of Gong Myung in the future, because I think he has a unique style and a great talent for connecting with his audience, and I’m anxious to see more.
I also like what Min Hyo-rin is doing with the character of Ji-young, taking her beyond a mere lack of interest in others to give her an edge of misanthropy — she’s not just wary of people, she actively dislikes them and aggressively pushes them away. That hurt little girl has turned into an angry young woman, and she takes the opportunity to jab at others every chance she gets. But the girl who was abandoned by her parents is still in there, and I think she sees a kindred spirit in Byuk-soo. Though they may have dealt with it in different ways, they’ve both been let down and cast aside by their parents, and it’s a good place for them to connect and see if they can help heal each other.
There’s nothing wrong with being introverted or extroverted, but by taking it to such extremes, Ji-young and Byuk-soo only end up hurting themselves. They can’t see past their own needs to understand the needs of others. What I really hope for them both is not for them to fill in the empty voids in each other, but to learn from each other how to fill their own spaces. What I mean by that is that I hope they find a middle ground, with Ji-young learning from Byuk-soo how to open herself up to others, and for Byuk-soo to see that being alone can sometimes be a good thing.
I want Byuk-soo to know that there’s nothing wrong with a little self-reliance, and that learning to be happy in your own company is a very healthy skill to have. At the same time, I would love to see Ji-young lose her fear of leaning on another person and let someone else be in charge for a while. But mostly, I just really like their chemistry and their interactions, especially when they both get all upset and petty. They have a lot of potential to be super adorable together. I think that if they can each find ways to temper their extremes, they could find something really wonderful waiting for them in the middle.
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