Strongest Deliveryman: Episode 2
The show doesn’t hesitate in tackling some dark subject matter as everyone deals with the various setbacks and surprises that life — or their families — throw at them. A few of the characters’ actions may be a little questionable, but when survival is on the line, all that really matters in the end is making it through another day.
EPISODE 2 RECAP
As they precariously balance on the edge of the roof, Kang-soo demands that local delivery “boss” Gong-gi return the stolen bowls. Gong-gi, freaked out by the thought of falling to his death, frantically agrees to give them back. After the bowls are returned to Kang-soo, the rest of the delivery guys rush up to Gong-gi, desperate to know what happened on the rooftop. Gong-gi sagely tells them he won the fight, but Kang-soo’s will was stronger.
Kang-soo triumphantly arrives at the restaurant with his bowls. Dan-ah slaps him on the arm as she mockingly says “Good job, oppa!” In return, Kang-soo shoulder-bumps Dan-ah as he heads to the counter. When she yelps out in pain, he turns around and offers to “blow on it for her.” Ha!
Their little spat is interrupted when the grandmother who owns the local ox bone soup shop arrives with lunch for everyone. She’s one of the restaurant owners in the alley that Jung Family CEO Hye-ran is hoping to force out of business, and the grandmother sighs that even though her restaurant is popular, it’s barely enough to cover rent and her staff’s wages.
Kang-soo reaches for a piece of kimchi, but it slips out of his chopsticks and goes flying… right onto Dan-ah’s chest. Kang-soo reaches for some napkins to wipe it off for her, but Dan-ah grabs his hand and squeezes the nerve center. In pain, Kang-soo insists that he was just trying to wipe off the kimchi, but Soon-ae casually says that Kang-soo had a perverted look in his eye so Dan-ah should flip him.
That’s exactly what Dan-ah does, wordlessly sending Kang-soo to the floor with just a twist of his arm. Amused, Soon-ae adds that she was just kidding about the perverted look. Dan-ah continues to calmly eat while Kang-soo warily keeps his distance.
Ji-yoon’s father discovers that she returned home during the day and retrieved her belongings. He finds an apologetic note from her which tells him not to worry — she’s stronger than her father thinks she is. Haha, I love that she packed up her belongings in a bunch of designer shopping bags, which she lugs down the street as she clutches a giant teddy bear.
Ji-yoon sets herself up in Kang-soo’s room, unpacking all her clothes and multiple handbags. Kang-soo’s understandably surprised to find her there, and she adorably tells him that she’s taking his advice and starting an independent life — she even got a job at a nearby coffee shop. She promises to pay him back for all his kindness after she gets her first paycheck, asking if it’s okay that she stay until she can afford a place of her own.
Kang-soo orders her to get out. Ji-yoon’s chin starts to tremble as she asks why he’s being so mean, and Kang-soo points out that she she barely knows him, so she shouldn’t act like he’s so trustworthy. Plus, she shouldn’t move in with a guy she just met.
Ji-yoon tearfully tells him that she doesn’t see him as “a man” but simply as a good person — the gender isn’t important. Kang-soo sighs, pointing out that there’s no such thing as a purely good person and reiterating that she should leave.
She starts to cry as she gathers her belongings, and Kang-soo hesitantly asks where she plans to go, encouraging her to return home. Still under the belief that Ji-yoon is seventeen years old, Kang-soo says that she should focus on graduating high school. Ji-yoon tearfully asks if the problem with her staying is that she’s a “minor,” and when Kang-soo says it is, Ji-yoon dries her eyes and hauls out her passport.
Stunned, Kang-soo realizes that Ji-yoon is actually twenty-three, like she originally told him. Ji-yoon explains that she’s always followed her mother’s bidding, at least up until a few days ago. Ji-yoon was at the airport, about to head overseas to continue her education for a few years before returning to Korea to marry whomever her mother picked out, when she was overcome by the suffocating feeling that something was wrong. That’s when she decided to run away.
Kang-soo switches to jondaemal (instead of banmal like when he thought she was a teenager), but Ji-yoon tells him that he can still speak to her casually. She then offers to call him “oppa” instead of “ajusshi,” but Kang-soo, undoubtedly thinking of Dan-ah’s sarcastic use of the word, tells her he hates to be called “oppa.” Ha!
Aw, but he does tell Ji-yoon she can stay, provided she leaves the restaurant by 7:00 a.m. and doesn’t return until after 11:00 p.m. That way, no no one will find out she’s living upstairs.
It’s early in the morning when Dan-ah arrives at the English language learning center. She sighs that her greatest wish is to be able to sleep more than six hours, then reminds herself that she can sleep when she’s dead. She spends the morning cleaning the center, a task that allows her to take classes for free.
Before class starts, Dan-ah gets a call from her mother begging for money for Dan-ah’s brother’s college tuition. Dan-ah retorts that he should quit school if he can’t afford it — it’s not like a college degree guarantees a job these days, anyway.
Mom says that she’ll just have to sell her organs in order to get the tuition money. As Dan-ah tries to focus on her studies, Mom sends Dan-ah increasingly dramatic texts about going to get her kidney removed and not even being allowed anesthesia. The way Dan-ah ignores the texts makes me think this is not the first time Mom has asked for money (or has been so dramatic about it).
After class, Dan-ah learns that her landlady is raising the rent by 100,000 won a month. The landlady explains that the price of properties in the neighborhood is increasing. Dan-ah thinks it’s ridiculous that the landlady is asking so much for a place that isn’t exactly in a desirable location, but the landlady dismissively says that if Dan-ah has a problem, then she can just move.
Dan-ah grumbles that the landlady is the epitome of “Hell Joseon,” having sold her morals for houses. Dan-ah angrily adds that she works her butt off to make enough money for rent, but the landlady doesn’t have to do anything when takes Dan-ah’s money, all because the landlady happens to own some property.
Ji-yoon is delighted to start her first day of work at the coffee shop. Her eagerness amuses the other experienced part-timers, and Ji-yoon’s manager reiterates that no matter how rude the customers are, Ji-yoon must be polite or else she’ll be fired.
Ji-yoon’s first customer walks in, and it’s Jin-gyu. Oh boy. It isn’t until she’s handing him back his credit card that he realizes she’s the one who ran over the top of his car.
Even though she recognizes him, Ji-yoon says that he must be mistaken. Jin-gyu’s convinced she’s the same girl, but Ji-yoon’s desperate and apologetic bowing finally makes him drop the issue. Jin-gyu eyes her suspiciously as Ji-yoon nervously makes his cup of coffee.
Dan-ah tries to retrieve something from the restaurant storeroom on the second floor, but when the door is stuck shut, she heads to Kang-soo’s room for a tool to pry open the storage door. The sight of a pink, gauzy garment caught in Kang-soo’s door gives her pause. As she unlocks his room with a master key, Dan-ah stares in wide-eyed surprise at all of Ji-yoon’s clothes, accessories, and cosmetics.
Dan-ah assumes it all belongs to Kang-soo and imagines him wearing the feminine outfits. She tells herself that she should have never hired a crazy guy like Kang-soo in the first place. But then she gets a crafty gleam in her eye, realizing how this information could benefit her.
Ji-yoon’s mother, CEO Jung Hye-ran, looks over photos of Jin-gyu, considering him as her future son-in-law. Even though all the photos make him look like a typical playboy chaebol, Jin-gyu is actually pretty clean-cut, since he’s never had a scandal with a girl or done any drugs. The only questionable thing would be his illegal street racing, but Hye-ran smiles when she hears how competitive and ruthless Jin-gyu can be about racing, assuming he can be taught to be just as competitive and ruthless in business.
Jin-gyu drinks his coffee, still keeping a suspicious eye on Ji-yoon. But when Jin-gyu nearly chokes on an earring in the bottom of his cup, he waves Ji-yoon over to him. She cautiously approaches, gasping in surprise when she realizes he’s holding her missing earring.
She profusely apologizes and offers to make him a new cup, but Jin-gyu demands to see the manager. When the manager arrives, Ji-yoon meekly explains that “this customer” called her over to tell her that he found an earring in his coffee up. When the manager asks where the earring is, Ji-yoon says she doesn’t know.
Jin-gyu looks around in surprise, realizing the earring is no longer on the table where he left it. That’s because when Jin-gyu turned around to flag down the manager, Ji-yoon snatched it off the table and quickly put it back in her ear. Frustrated, Jin-gyu loudly demands that Ji-yoon tell her manager that she put her earring back in while he was distracted. Jin-gyu angrily warns Ji-yoon that he can easily ruin her life.
Ji-yoon starts to bawl as she gasps out exactly what Jin-gyu told her to say: She accidentally dropped her earring in his coffee cup and, when he wasn’t looking, she snatched it from the table in a split-second and put it back in her ear. It’s the truth, of course, but the manager and all the other customers make it clear that they think Jin-gyu is a bully coercing a confession from Ji-yoon.
Ji-yoon drops to her knees, begging for forgiveness. When Jin-gyu realizes that all the other customers are filming and that he’s looking like the bad guy, he tries to rein in his anger as he leaves the coffee shop.
In the back room, Ji-yoon compliments herself on her acting. She tells herself she’s only doing it to survive, but she clearly feels bad about how she’s treated Jin-gyu.
Hye-ran and Jin-gyu’s mother meet for lunch, where Hye-ran suggests that Ji-yoon and Jin-gyu should marry. Hye-ran thinks that she’ll be able to teach Jin-gyu how to be a successful businessman, prepping him to take over the Jung Family corporation since she doesn’t have any faith in Ji-yoon.
Hye-ran is undeterred by Jin-gyu’s mother’s blunt declaration that her son just doesn’t have the acumen. Hye-ran is convinced that, as the son of the ruthless Chairman Oh, Jin-gyu must have business skills in his blood. Jin-gyu’s mother’s “Yeah, right” look is priceless, but Hye-ran won’t be dissuaded.
As Dan-ah and Kang-soo post flyers for the restaurant, she tries to casually bring up the concept of secrets. Kang-soo mostly seems suspicious that Dan-ah is acting friendly towards him, which is when Dan-ah finally mentions the clothes she found in his room.
Shocked, Kang-soo asks how she found out, but Dan-ah promises to keep his secret for 100,000 won a month. Of course, Dan-ah thinks his secret is that he likes to wear women’s clothes, but Kang-soo assumes she’s found out about Ji-yoon living there. At any rate, he agrees to pay, and Dan-ah is happy that her savings won’t take a hit from the rent increase.
Later, when Dan-ah returns home, Gong-gi is waiting for her. He introduces himself and asks that they take a walk together. Haha, she doesn’t budge from her scooter as he starts to walk away, assuming that she’s following him. Gong-gi’s forced to return to her, where he reveals that he’s been protecting her from the other delivery guys (because, per their code, they don’t bother women and children).
Dan-ah’s amused by Gong-gi’s serious warning that she is in danger due to her association with the “psycho” Kang-soo. She tells Gong-gi that she already knows that Gong-gi is crazy, then she suddenly asks Gong-gi if he’s the pervert who’s been stealing her mail and underwear. He awkwardly tries to deny it, but Dan-ah knows it must be him.
She tries to beat him up for his perverted-stalker actions, but Gong-gi’s just as skilled at Hapkido as she is and evades all her attacks. When one of his blocking movements results in his hand on her breast, Dan-ah utilizes her classic kick-to-the-groin to get him to let go. He squeaks out that she’s cheating, but she doesn’t care about how she wins the battle — she just doesn’t want to see him hanging outside her house again.
Even if Gong-gi weren’t infatuated with Dan-ah before, he certainly is now that he’s seen that her Hapkido skills match his. He calls out that he loves her, but she just shoves him, sending him rolling down the hill.
Ji-yoon’s first day of work is over, and she happily skips her way down the sidewalk, thrilled to have made her first real wage. She calculates that she’ll make approximately 800,000 won a month, then stops in her tracks when she realizes that’s not even a third of the cost of the designer goods she’s currently wearing.
Jin-gyu drives up alongside her, still bitter about what happened at the coffee shop. Ji-yoon starts to run down the sidewalk away from him, but Jin-gyu follows until Kang-soo suddenly swerves and stops his motorcycle in front of Jin-gyu’s car.
Kang-soo goes into full protective mode as Jin-gyu dismissively says he was just messing around. Kang-soo is ready to fight Jin-gyu, but Ji-yoon says that she’ll take care of it. She profusely apologizes to Jin-gyu, begging him to accept her apology since she doesn’t have any money.
She then warns Jin-gyu that if he causes a problem, she’ll have her “guardian” Kang-soo take care of him. Ji-yoon holds onto Kang-soo’s arm as she proudly warns Jin-gyu that Kang-soo is a really good fighter. Annoyed, but knowing he doesn’t really have a choice, Jin-gyu gets in his car and drives away.
Later, Kang-soo meets up with his buddies and fixes their delivery scooter. One of them, Hyun-soo, is the grandson of the ox bone soup restaurant owner — what a small world. Hyun-soo says that if Kang-soo’s restaurant is hiring drivers, he’d like a job there.
Kang-soo asks Hyun-soo why he left his hometown to work in Seoul, leaving his mother to live alone. Hyun-soo grumbles that he never got along with his mother, since she nagged him too much. Kang-soo smacks Hyun-soo upside the head in an annoyed, brotherly way, pointing out that some people should be so lucky to have a mother who nagged them for twenty years.
Kang-soo orders Hyun-soo to visit his supposedly nagging mother, and Hyun-soo agrees, especially if it will make Kang-soo stop being angry at him. Aw, the two of them have such a nice hyung/dongsaeng dynamic.
Hyun-soo keeps to his promise, but as he drives to see his mother on his delivery scooter, he speeds through a yellow light and then crashes. A taxi driver tries to rush Hyun-soo to the hospital, but the road is blocked due to construction, so the driver is forced to go a longer way around.
Except the road isn’t really blocked due to construction, but for illegal street racing. Jin-gyu challenges another chaebol with a fancy race car, and soon the two of them are zooming down the closed-off road to the cheers of the fans watching them. Jin-gyu easily wins the race. Unbeknownst to him and the rest of the street racing crowd, they’re being secretly filmed.
The next day, Jin-gyu happily hands over the promised bonuses to his car guys. As they’re celebrating, Kang-soo walks in with a delivery. Jin-gyu’s mood drops, but it’s not like Kang-soo is thrilled to see him, either.
Footage of the illegal street race has been leaked, but Chairman Oh’s people have managed to block it from being released to news sites. The public would have a field day if it was discovered that chaebols were illegally blocking off roads, and Chairman Oh’s company would be dragged through the mud once it’s discovered that Jin-gyu was involved.
Jin-gyu arrives at his father’s office, unsure why he’s been called there. Sensing that something seems off, Jin-gyu cheerfully suggests a round of golf. Chairman Oh agrees and retrieves a golf club. Jin-gyu ruefully smiles to himself as he realizes what’s going on: “Ah, I’m the golf ball, aren’t I?”
Chairman Oh beats Jin-gyu with the golf club, and it’s brutal enough that Jin-gyu can’t stand up when it’s over. But even sprawled out on the floor, Jin-gyu still maintains his composure as Chairman Oh orders his son to never appear in front of him again. Furious, Chairman Oh says that Jin-gyu should just find a way to quietly die.
Jin-gyu tries to hide his emotions as he says that he’ll think about it, but his face momentarily crumples when Chairman Oh pats him on the back one final time before ordering the security guards to drag Jin-gyu away.
Dan-ah gets ready to leave the restaurant after closing, all the while happily teasing Kang-soo about the “upstairs” secret. But her face falls when she sees her younger brother waiting for her. Dan-ah’s brother pleads with her to give him the tuition money he needs, promising he won’t lose his scholarship again.
Dan-ah resolutely refuses to give him money, though. She points out that all the good jobs go to the top graduates of the elite colleges, and that he doesn’t stand a chance with a degree from a no-name college. Dan-ah once again rails against Korea’s socioeconomic system where her brother is virtually guaranteed to end up like his parents, forever struggling to get out of debt.
If she has to help out her family every time they need money, then she’ll never be able to escape the system, either. Dan-ah stands to leave, fighting back tears as she tells her brother he no longer has a sister and she no longer has a family.
Kang-soo goes through Ji-yoon’s belongings, finding her phone. He turns it on and tries to figure out her passcode, but his phone rings instead. It’s one of his delivery buddies, telling him that Hyun-soo was in an accident. Kang-soo speeds to the hospital, where an unconscious Hyun-soo is in ICU. Hyun-soo’s mother and grandmother tearfully sit by Hyun-soo’s bedside.
Meanwhile, Jin-gyu gets drunk at the empty car repair shop, calling himself an idiot for being caught racing. He staggers out, leaving his phone behind, unaware that his brother is trying to reach him.
Jin-gyu stands on the edge of a bridge, trying to convince himself to do the honorable thing and kill himself, just like his father ordered him to. He tries to count down to his final leap, but can’t bring himself to let go no matter how many times he desperately repeats “one.”
Dan-ah, passing by during her early morning commute, spots him and hurries over, yelling at him to climb over to the other side of the guardrail. She tries to help him, but due to his drunkenness, he slips.
Dan-ah clings to Jin-gyu’s hand as he dangles from the bridge. Jin-gyu pleads with her to save him as she struggles to hold onto him, but Dan-ah isn’t strong enough and her feet lose their balance, sending the both of them over the side and into the river below. As they splash into the water, a flashback reveals that Dan-ah once stood at that very same bridge, contemplating suicide.
Epilogue. A teenage Dan-ah holds a knife against a loan shark’s throat, promising to pay him back and warning him that she’ll kill him if he ever tries to harm her family again. Later, she packs a bag and heads out. Her mother follows, begging Dan-ah not to go.
But Dan-ah is frustrated that her mother, who’s hard worked every day of her life and yet she doesn’t even have 10,000,000 won saved up to pay off a loan. Dan-ah vows to never live like her mother. Teenaged Dan-ah literally rips up her college dreams as she rides the train to Seoul — and she happens to be only a few seats away from a young Kang-soo.
Just like I’d hoped, we’re getting more information about our characters’ true goals and why they act the way they do. While Dan-ah seems tough and ruthless, the epilogue reveals that she gave up on going to college so she could work to pay off her family’s debt. Even if she paid back the original loan within the six month deadline, that leaves four-and-a-half years where she’s been working tirelessly in her determined effort to save up enough money to have a new start. If she continues to help bail out her family, then she’s essentially dooming herself to forever live in a minimum-wage hell where there’s no real escape. It’s no wonder, then, that she finally had to decide to cut them out of her life.
Which seems harsh, but it’s not like any of our characters are perfect, anyway. They all have their failings that could make them difficult to root for as a “hero,” but their rough edges are actually what makes me love them even more, since it makes them that more relatable. Even though I feel Dan-ah is a little extreme at times with using force to get guys to leave her alone, I have to remind myself that she experiences potential sexual assault every day while making her deliveries, so she’s probably learned to have a very, very low threshold of what she’ll tolerate from someone.
On a lighter note, I love that Ji-yoon takes such joy in her independence. At first I was worried her cheerfulness would immediately disappear once she discovered that minimum-wage work is a thankless, hard job. But she definitely seems to be made of much stronger stuff than a constantly cheerful attitude. If Ji-yoon did ever decide to turn her attention to business like her mother originally wanted, she could be pretty ruthless. Which means her mother should have more faith in Ji-yoon instead of trying to put all her eggs in the questionable basket of Jin-gyu’s supposedly latent business skills.
It’s interesting that one of the main threads tying all our characters together is this idea of “survival.” Dan-ah is trying to get through each day without too many creepy guys leering at her so she can tick off another day on her “escape to America” countdown. Kang-soo just wants to go two months without incident so he can mark off another section on his map. Ji-yoon is, perhaps, the most excited about surviving since it now promises more freedom than being her mother’s obedient robot. As for Jin-gyu, well, his will to survive was even stronger than his drunken and depressed determination to kill himself.
Another universal thread is the loss of family. Whether it’s by choice (such as Dan-ah disowning her family or Ji-yoon running away from home) or circumstances (such as Kang-soo’s father dying and his mother abandoning him or Jin-gyu being literally tossed out on the street), all four of the main characters are adrift, floating along the best they can. I’m fully expecting a begrudging “found family” to emerge between them. I don’t know exactly how those friendships will come to fruition, though, since Jin-gyu will have hell to pay once Kang-soo realizes that the reason Hyun-soo is in ICU is because it took so long to get him to the hospital due to the illegally blocked road.
But I expect that Jin-gyu will imprint on Dan-ah just as much as Ji-yoon has imprinted on Kang-soo, and I’m already giggling thinking about the exasperated delivery drivers dealing with their respective clueless ex-chaebols. Kang-soo and Dan-ah may have had a five-year head start on how to live an independent life, but I have a feeling that Ji-yoon and Jin-gyu will be fast learners. I hope, anyway.
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