Because This Life Is Our First: Episode 2
As our heroine is forced to face new challenges, she wonders if she’s been foolishly running down a tunnel with no end, and finds herself alone and tired. However, support comes from an unexpected source, as she comes to rely on her new housemate without consciously realizing it herself. Sometimes home is a physical place, but often what makes a place home is something intangible and beyond the four walls that cover you.
Episode 2: “Because this is my first kiss”
Ji-ho thanks Se-hee for telling her about the neocortex, even though she feels like she’s already failed in this life. She offers a handshake, and Se-hee accepts, wishing Ji-ho luck since everyone is going through life for the first time anyways.
Se-hee gives her a small smile, and in the spur of the moment, Ji-ho closes the gap between them and kisses him. The bus arrives, and she quickly gets on, leaving Se-hee staring after her in a daze—he’s just missed the last bus.
By the time Se-hee arrives home, Ji-ho is asleep, and in the morning, her room is empty when he wakes up.
Se-hee’s boss and friend Sang-gu calls, begging him to accompany him on his blind date today, but Se-hee flatly refuses. Sang-gu doesn’t understand why he won’t come since he knows Se-hee is just eating pre-made lunch boxes by himself, so Se-hee explains that these moments are like an oasis for him since he deals with people like Sang-gu all week.
At the store, Ji-ho shops for cleaning supplies while talking to her friend Su-ji, who tries to set Ji-ho up on a blind date since she has never dated, let alone kissed anyone before. Ji-ho accidentally lets slip that kissing isn’t a big deal, and Su-ji asks if she’s secretly seeing someone.
Ji-ho avoids answering the question and frantically hangs up. Returning to her task, she picks up an expensive tile and grout cleaner and buys it as a gift for her landlord.
In the park outside the apartment building, Ji-ho watches a couple kissing and remembers last night’s event, much to her embarrassment. She’s thankful that he was a complete stranger, and misses Se-hee passing right by her.
Ji-ho gets on the elevator and holds the door open as a man runs up to her. Once the doors close, both passengers look at each other for the first time, and immediately freeze. Not saying a word, Ji-ho and Se-hee slowly face the front and stand in awkward silence until they reach the fourth floor.
As Se-hee shuffles out of the elevator, Ji-ho crumples to the ground, mortified by the unlikely coincidence. Realizing that the apartment is the best place to avoid Se-hee, she decides to run home and notices the landlord’s large shoes in the entry.
She jumps up to greet her landlord for the first time, but is in utter shock when she sees Se-hee standing in front of her. They both ask the other why they’re here, and the truth dawns on him first. Ji-ho thinks that she’s in the wrong apartment, but Se-hee calls her number and hesitantly asks if she’s Yoon Ji-ho.
Meanwhile, Ho-rang’s boyfriend Won-seok prepares a hot towel to wash her feet, and she playfully tells him that her period just ended. They eagerly jump into bed for some fun times, but are interrupted by two phone calls, informing them of the housemate gender mishap.
Won-seok meets with Sang-gu, and both parties accuse the other for misleading them about the housemate/landlord’s gender. Sang-gu says that Ji-ho was described as a handsome former smoker, and Won-seok points out that Se-hee was called a quiet cat owner. Though both descriptions are technically true, it doesn’t rectify their current situation, and the two men slump back in their chairs.
Ji-ho and Se-hee return each other’s identification cards and explain that the names caused their misunderstanding. Suddenly Ji-ho’s stomach growls, and she desperately tries to hide it with a coughing fit. Unsure of what to do, Se-hee excuses himself because of “work” and quickly leaves the apartment. Alone, Ji-ho rolls around on the floor in humiliation while Cat watches her.
Ji-ho eats at the restaurant where Ho-rang works, and feeling guilty, Ho-rang blames Se-hee for having a pretty name. Su-ji points out that pretty names don’t belong exclusively to women, and Ho-rang agrees since Su-ji also has a pretty name, making Ji-ho laugh.
While Ho-rang grabs her water, Ji-ho tries to tell Su-ji about her kiss mistake, but her friend jumps to conclusions, asking if the landlord tried to hit on her. Ho-rang returns right then, and her two friends bombard her with questions about Se-hee. Shaking her head, Ji-ho tells them to forget it and resumes eating.
At the office, Se-hee watches Sang-gu eat Chinese takeout since his blind date bailed, and though Sang-gu tries to ignore him, he finally cracks under Se-hee’s silent glare. He asks what Se-hee wants from him, offering his cheek for him to hit.
Sang-gu can’t believe Se-hee didn’t call his housemate even once to check everything, and Se-hee berates him since the company vision is about dating someone via data, not phone calls or feelings. Se-hee says that the data was perfect.
More importantly, Ji-ho kept all his rules making her the perfect housemate, but Sang-gu points out that it was all under the assumption that Ji-ho was a man. As Sang-gu badgers him about whether Ji-ho is pretty, Se-hee gets a text message from her, telling him that she’ll sleep over at a friend’s place tonight.
Su-ji drives Ji-ho to her place for the night, but a call from her boss forces her to go back to work even though she could finish the task tomorrow. Ji-ho muses, “If it’s something you have to do, it’s better to finish it today.”
She asks Su-ji to pull over at the bus stop, and her friend advises Ji-ho to get rid of Se-hee if he dares to make a move. Watching Su-ji drive away, Ji-ho admits that it was her who made the move.
Se-hee arrives home, and to his surprise, Ji-ho is waiting for him. They sit awkwardly on the sofa, keeping a good distance away from each other, and she apologizes for kissing him at the bus stop.
Se-hee calls the kiss an offside offense, and Ji-ho asks if it angered him. He calmly explains that anger involves emotions, whereas forced contact causes people to feel perplexed and unpleasant. Ji-ho’s eyes grow wide at his words, and she stammers about not intending to attack him.
Ji-ho understands that she should leave right away, but she has nowhere to go right now. She promises to move out once she gets work, and apologizes one more time before scurrying to her room.
Ji-ho emails a drama director and sends another copy of her edited script, and closes her laptop with a sigh. Across the hall, Se-hee locks his door before going to bed, which Ji-ho hears, making her hang her head in shame. Heh.
In the morning, Ji-ho groggily answers a call, and bolts up when she realizes it’s the director. Rushing to the meeting place, Ji-ho checks her reflection before going in, but stops in her tracks when she spots her crush of three years, assistant director Yong-seok.
The meeting goes well as the director tells Ji-ho that he wants to make her youth drama Turtle Gosiwon, and afterwards, she relocates to Yong-seok’s car where he suggests some changes to the script. He thinks a Seoul National University graduate wouldn’t have such unrealistic dreams of becoming a writer, since becoming a writer is like walking in a dark tunnel.
Back home, Ji-ho looks at her old Seoul University notebook, and puts on her glasses to work on editing her script. She spends all day and night editing—her room growing messier as time passes—and starts to clean the bathroom grout to help dispel her writer’s block.
Ji-ho ends up cleaning every inch of the apartment, and the tasks help her with her writing as she runs back and forth between editing and cleaning. Finished with the script, Ji-ho cheers and plops down on her bed for a well-deserved rest.
At work, Se-hee receives a text from the bank, detailing his total loan amount and installments on his home. He writes down all his expenses and income for the month on a board, calculating that he’s around 300,000 won short this time. Thus, Se-hee cuts down on his expenses from insurance to food, but can’t bring himself to cut down on the cost of cat food.
Sang-gu enters the office, asking Se-hee what he’s doing, and comments on how it’s unbelievable that someone like Se-hee lives with another person, thinking him not capable of it. Se-hee rationally explains his plans for the future, which include his retirement and spending the rest of his life in that house, but to reach his goal and pay off his mortgage in the time he spends working, he needs a tenant to supplement his income.
Sang-gu points out that Se-hee isn’t getting rent next month, and Se-hee scowls at him, asking in an exasperated tone why that might be. Ha, cranky Se-hee is hilarious.
Once Se-hee comes home, he’s greeted by the adorable Cat and then looks frightened at the sight of Ji-ho, who has fallen asleep looking like a ghost straight out of a horror film. Looking away, he carefully closes her door, and as he gets ready for bed, he notices how clean his apartment is.
In bed, he looks over all the data he’s collected on his previous tenants, and the reasons for terminating past contracts range from personality clashes to negligence in duties. Ji-ho is Tenant 7, and scores an impressive 4.7 on Se-hee’s 5-point scale.
Sang-gu advised his friend to just live with Ji-ho if she was such a perfect housemate, but Se-hee told him there’s too big a risk to living with her. Remembering the kiss incident, Se-hee types “opposite sex” into his spreadsheet for Ji-ho’s reason for disqualification.
The next morning, Se-hee finds Ji-ho recycling, and though he tells her that she isn’t obligated to follow his rules, she wants to do it until she leaves. He asks her if she fixed the bathroom tiles and cleaned the windows, and Ji-ho explains her habit of cleaning when writing.
Se-hee then bluntly asks why she kissed him, and Ji-ho wonders to herself if he’s a crazy person. She asks why he’s asking that suddenly, and he tells her that it’s important for their future. She motions towards their neighbors chatting nearby, and Se-hee quickly catches his mistake, taking them to a more private area—a park with school children, pfft.
Ji-ho tells Se-hee that she just wanted to kiss someone since she’s never been in a relationship because she has neither the time nor the money to date. Since it looked like she might never get the chance, she thought, “Why not?” But after explaining everything out loud, Ji-ho realizes how crazy she must sound.
To her shock, Se-hee finds her explanation completely reasonable since, to him, relationships are costly, and in this scenario, she simply wanted the results without the cost. As long as she’s not looking for love, he thinks it’s perfect.
Showing Ji-ho the data he collected, Se-hee describes her as his ideal housemate, but she reminds him of her critical disqualification: She’s a woman.
Se-hee tells her that it’s no longer a problem since they don’t have the slightest chance of falling in love. They’ve already kissed and proven that there’s no spark between them, so nothing is going to happen. Just to make things clear, Ji-ho clarifies that he isn’t her type, and he quickly responds that she isn’t his either. She asks hesitantly if that means they can continue living together, and he affirms it.
Ji-ho informs Ho-rang of her living arrangements, but her friend is still worried since Se-hee is a man. Ji-ho reassures her that nothing with happen anymore, and when Ho-rang catches the slip, Ji-ho simply says that it’s a win-win situation: He needs to pay back his loan and she can’t afford a deposit on a new place.
Ji-ho arrives to work early and eager, but her mood soon deflates when the senior writer she worked for on her last drama walks into the room. The director says that Writer Hwang is only here to help, and tells Ji-ho that they’ll both be credited as main writers. Ji-ho pretends to be honored by her presence, but notices how the senior writer marked up everything in her script.
Se-hee comes home to see Ji-ho cleaning the floor, and loudly calls for her to catch her attention. He correctly guesses that work didn’t go well, and compliments her habit of cleaning. Ha!
Se-hee watches the Arsenal soccer game with headphones on, and Ji-ho watches from the side during her break. They both loudly groan when their team misses, and Se-hee asks if she wants to join him. She turns down his offer because of work, but in the end, watches the game with him.
Remembering Ho-rang’s question of whether Se-hee might be gay, Ji-ho cautiously asks him why he isn’t married, and he tells her that he plans to be single forever. She then asks how much longer he has until he’s paid off his loan, and Se-hee answers, “30 more years.”
She learns just how meticulous Se-hee’s plans are, since he chose an apartment close to a hospital for when he ages, planning to die in this very apartment. He also explains how her room will serve as his deathbed since it’s nicely ventilated… leaving Ji-ho speechless.
The next day, Ji-ho takes out the garbage and rides the elevator to the fourth floor with an older lady. When she walks towards the apartment, the older lady stops her since that’s her son’s place.
Pacing in her room, Ji-ho strains to hear Se-hee’s conversation with his angry mother, which mostly consists of Mom begging him to get married. Apparently, his dad threatened her with divorce if Se-hee refuses to marry. I guess that’s one way to motivate your child.
Se-hee walks with Ji-ho outside, apologizing for his mother’s sudden visit. She excuses his mom’s actions as a normal parent’s concern, but Se-hee has a more cynical outlook, interpreting such behavior as parents living vicariously through their children.
He assures her that she can simply ignore his mom and continue living in his apartment, but Ji-ho says she can’t possibly do that. She knows of an empty workshop, and with her new job, she’ll be able to get a room soon enough.
Ji-ho packs up her things while Cat sits in her suitcase (aw), and gets an email with some irksome news.
With Yong-seok’s help, Ji-ho moves into the dingy extra room of the workshop, and complains about the changes the senior writer made. Yong-seok isn’t sympathetic to her predicament, and accuses her of acting like an amateur. He belittles Ji-ho for graduating from a top school but living in a place like this. Why I oughta!
As Se-hee promises his mom to go on a blind date, he comes home to an empty apartment. He sees the goodbye post-it from Ji-ho, and forlornly looks at her room. In the workshop, Ji-ho tosses and turns in her sleeping bag, uncomfortable on the couch.
Se-hee and Sang-gu attend a friend’s wedding, and Sang-gu points out how marriage isn’t a big deal: You spend an hour for the ceremony and then go home, urging Se-hee to just get married once. Se-hee likens his statement to telling him to go to army twice, but Sang-gu argues that there are all sorts of marriages out there, like show window spouses, weekend spouses, and sexless ones too. The key reason he should just do it, Sang-gu reminds him, is that Se-hee’s father promised to pay off his mortgage if he got married.
Across the aisle, Ji-ho and her two friends attend the same wedding. At the reception, old classmates fawn over Su-ji since she works at a big company, but she turns down their compliments, mentioning Ji-ho as the real key figure since she attended school on a full scholarship. The old classmates ask what Ji-ho does, and Su-ji proudly says that Ji-ho writes drama scripts.
They ask what she wrote, but the mood quickly turns sour when none of the old classmates recognizes her past credits, which are mostly dailies and morning dramas. Su-ji demands that they look up the shows right now, but Ji-ho excuses herself from the table awkwardly. When Su-ji gets up to follow her, Ho-rang stops her.
Ho-rang finds Ji-ho at the bus stop and jokingly asks why well-off people want to be humble, too. Ji-ho wonders if maybe her major wasn’t a good choice, and perceptively, Ho-rang asks if she’s on bad terms with her writing. She notes that Ji-ho was always happy when she wrote, and asks if it doesn’t make her happy anymore. But Ji-ho can’t answer her question.
After Se-hee abandoned him to go to a blind date, Sang-gu bumps into Su-ji, and the contents of her purse fall everywhere. He helps pick things up, and notices a condom on the ground. He’s confused by the item since he swears he used it yesterday (ha), and Su-ji sighs in annoyance since that’s hers.
Sang-gu chases after Su-ji but loses her in the crowd of guests. He remembers her from a party, and can’t believe she didn’t recognize him.
During their script meeting, the senior writer describes a convoluted plot consisting of half-siblings, fake identities, and murders. They ask Ji-ho for her opinion, and she finally just speaks her mind, calling it a makjang. She asks why there’s a third-generation chaebol hiding in a gosiwon youth drama, hee, and Writer Hwang gets offended. But Ji-ho firmly tells her that she gets the final decision since this is her script.
In the evening, Se-hee comes home and notices Ji-ho’s missing presence from the backlog of recycling to Cat’s empty bowl. After feeding Cat, Se-hee stares at Ji-ho’s old room and thinks aloud that what they need isn’t marriage. Aw, he already misses her.
As Ji-ho tries to sleep, the director texts her to apologize to the senior writer, but she ignores his messages. Suddenly, the door opens and drunk Yong-seok staggers inside. Plopping down next to her, he makes the situation about him (of course) and blames her for messing up his first drama as a main PD.
Growing uncomfortable, Ji-ho tells him to talk when he’s sober, but Yong-seok abruptly asks if she ever liked him. He starts to make advances despite her protests, pushing her onto her back forcefully even though she fights and yells at him to stop. She struggles and starts to panic, and thankfully, Ji-ho is able to push him to the floor.
In tears, she calls him terrible, not because he played with her feelings for three years, made a fool out of her script, or flirted with her even when he had a girlfriend. It’s because all she wanted was a place to sleep, but he came and ruined that for her too.
With nowhere to go, Ji-ho considers calling Su-ji, but seeing her reflection in a shop window stops her. She narrates, “There’s a side which you never wish to show others, no matter how close you are with them.”
She goes to her old apartment next, but can’t ring the doorbell when she hears sounds of her brother flirting with his wife and coaxing her into bed. Somberly, Ji-ho narrates that sometimes family can be the farthest people to you.
Ji-ho continues her aimless trek and walks down a tunnel as cars zip past her.
Ji-ho: “When I decided to follow my dream, I thought my life would be like walking through a dark tunnel. But I didn’t know it was going to be this dark. I didn’t know it was going to be this lonely.”
With tears streaking down her face, Ji-ho cries to the heavens, asking how much longer she has to go, and crumples to the floor in sobs.
After wandering the streets of Seoul, Ji-ho ends up at Se-hee’s apartment and wonders why her body led her here. She turns to go, but finds Se-hee staring at her from a few yards away.
They watch the Arsenal game together at his place, and Ji-ho explains that she woke up from a bad dream where she was walking in an endless tunnel by herself. Se-hee answers in his usual nonchalant way, and Ji-ho asks if he’s been well. He says that he’s been all right, and after taking a sip of his beer, he poses a question to Ji-ho: “If you have some time, would you marry me?”
Ji-ho stares at Se-hee with a blank expression and narrates that all she wanted right then was to collapse into anything or any hole. She answers, “Yes,” and thinks to herself that all she wants for tonight is a good night’s sleep.
The strength of this show is the subtle way they handle situations and characters. There’s a very low-key vibe that helps the show feel grounded, and despite what could easily become a wacky premise, the show chooses to be thoughtful about the lives of these characters and the events that lead up to their predicaments. The humor comes from small beats and juxtapositions that aren’t dwelled upon or milked for laughs, such as the way humor is drawn from the reaction by others to the character’s action. For example, when Ji-ho falls to the ground—mortified after seeing Se-hee on the elevator—a little boy enters and backs into the corner to avoid the crazy lady. Also, the show is great at making little situations humorous by making the characters act in the opposite way of what’s usually expected, which is especially evident through Se-hee and Ji-ho’s banter. Take the scene where Se-hee finds Ji-ho cleaning the floor because of a stressful day at work. In his usual candid manner, Se-hee proceeds to compliment Ji-ho’s cleaning habit as “ideal,” completely ignoring the fact that she was having a hard day, and then Ji-ho happily laughs and accepts his compliment. It highlights both the characters’ quirks—Se-hee often sees the world through his algorithms and doesn’t always follow conventional thought, while Ji-ho seems to accept this side of him and takes all his comments at face value without any ulterior motives—while I just found them funny because of their randomness. You would think Se-hee would continue his observation about her having a hard day, but he couldn’t care less about that and only focuses on what he thinks is important.
In addition to the humor, the show has done an excellent job so far of subverting gender stereotypes in a subtle manner. The most obvious example is the housemate/landlord mishap where Ji-ho was thought to be a man while Se-hee sounded like a woman. Without forcing it down the viewers’ throats, the creators show how Ji-ho and Se-hee are both humans who fall on a spectrum, and these misunderstandings of gender only occur because of arbitrary assignments of feminine and masculine traits. Just as guys can have “pretty names” and be quiet cat owners, girls can also be smokers and look handsome. Another source of destroying gender stereotypes comes from Sang-gu, which is an interesting choice. On one hand, he seems like a typical, chauvinistic male who’s preoccupied with appearance, but he also enjoys manicures and likes the color pink, both of which aren’t usual qualities of characters that fit his type.
As someone who loves shows because of characters, I think Because This Life Is Our First has a plethora of interesting ones that might actually have more nuance than initially shown. I unexpectedly found Ho-rang fascinating this episode because though she came across as ditzy in the beginning, she’s surprisingly considerate and observant. She could feel like the outsider compared to her smarter and more accomplished friends, but there doesn’t seem to be any bitter resentment or outward jealousy because she also understands that their lives aren’t perfect. She used self-deprecating humor to cheer up Ji-ho and also instantly recognized her friend’s source of woe, which requires her to understand Ji-ho as a person in order to know what makes her happy.
Ji-ho is shaping up to be a winsome heroine who tugs at my heartstrings. At the core, her struggle is a universal one that many people face. It’s hard to pursue dreams when everyone around you tells you otherwise, and even when chasing after something, the journey isn’t always rewarding. Even though she knew becoming a writer would be hard, it’s the feeling of walking down the dark tunnel alone that really destroys her spirit. She’s not necessarily lamenting her fate (though in some part, I wouldn’t blame her if she did because her father is infuriating), but is wearied by the fact that the end seems nowhere in sight and things seem to only be getting progressively worse for her. As she searched for a place to sleep after that horrible incident with jerkface Yong-seok, she realizes that she doesn’t even have this basic necessity, and there’s something sad about Ji-ho’s wish at the end just being about a good night’s sleep. It’s such a simple wish, but maybe it’s what everyone strives for in the end.
Overall, I’m most excited about delving deeper into our main couple and learning how their relationship will grow. It’s refreshing how Ji-ho and Se-hee aren’t starting off as enemies, but neither are they quite friends. They respect each other and have developed this undeniable attachment for one another (even if they haven’t fully realized it themselves), but as our two main characters have professed this episode, they aren’t in love or even attracted to one another at this point. They’re going through the process of knowing each other, and I’m eager to see love blossom between two people that isn’t based on carnal attraction, as they propel themselves towards contractual marriage that will probably require them to fool those around them. It’s not a unique setup, of two individuals pretending to love one another and then being unable to differentiate between what’s real and fake, but with these two lovable characters who are both earnest, awkward, and caring individuals struggling to reach their goals, I’m looking forward to seeing them eat their words and realize just how well they match each other.
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