Because This Life Is Our First: Episode 5
Every once in a while, special dramas come into your life that not only leave a lasting impression, but also alter how you emotionally connect and interact with Korean dramas. For me, this is one of those dramas. I know it’s a really grand statement, and I know we’re really early in the show, but every week this show brings something new, interesting, and utterly human to its viewers. What’s the level above “obsession?” Because I think that’s where I am right now.
Episode 5: “Because this is my first promise”
Ho-rang arrives at a cafe to meet Ji-ho and spots Su-ji already sitting down at one of the tables. They exchange outraged glances before turning away, and Ji-ho finds them sitting back-to-back at the same table waiting for her. Heh.
They complain about being tricked to meet up, until Ji-ho announces that she has something tell them both.
Meanwhile, Se-hee interrupts a meeting to ask how many of his colleagues bet on his sexual orientation during their last outing. Sang-gu clumsily tries to deny that such a bet ever took place, until Se-hee begins taking a count of hands on the various possibilities: gay, straight, or asexual.
Only Bo-mi had chosen straight, so Se-hee congratulates her on winning the bet, before promptly getting up to leave. Sang-gu follows him out and tries to placate Se-hee, assuming he’s lying about his marriage and lashing out because of the bet.
He peppers Se-hee with questions, certain that his marriage is fake, until Se-hee says directly that his bride is pretty—very pretty. This seems to be enough to convince Sang-gu, and he becomes giddy with excitement, then cheers happily about how Se-hee is in love at last.
Back at the cafe, the girls are equally confused by Ji-ho’s announcement. Su-ji is suspicious and starts asking pointed questions about Ji-ho’s relationship timeline, because the math doesn’t add up. The biggest plot hole is how quickly her relationship with Se-hee developed, since Su-ji knows that Ji-ho is not the type to warm to someone so fast.
Ji-ho replies that Se-hee is someone that she “needs” in her life, and the word only makes Su-ji more skeptical, until Ho-rang excitedly chimes in that Ji-ho must’ve fallen in love with Se-hee at first sight, and that’s why they are getting married so quickly.
Ji-ho nervously confirms it, awkwardly calling their meeting fate to convince Su-ji, which causes Ho-rang squeal with glee.
After she leaves, Ji-ho cringes just thinking about her fate comment, and guesses that she must be getting better at acting after writing a few dramas.
On the way to Se-hee’s parent’s house, they exchange accounts on their friends’ reactions to their news. They aren’t totally truthful with one another (Se-hee says that he “took advantage of the nature of male evolutionary psychology,” and Ji-ho says she used a “storytelling method”), but neither presses for more information.
Inside, Ji-ho scans the house for some clues on his parent, and easily pegs Se-hee’s mom as a typical caring mother character, whose main concern is for her son to quickly marry and bring peace back within their family. She categorizes the father as a run-of-the-mill educator character (having been a civics teacher for thirty years), both character types that Ji-ho is very familiar with from writing daily dramas.
She starts to think about how easy handling Se-hee’s parents will be, but her thoughts are cut short when Se-hee’s father grumpily enters the house before walking right by the new couple. He registers their presence just as he reaches his bedroom door, then turns to look at Ji-ho fiercely, and Ji-ho whimpers internally.
They sit down for dinner, and Mom comments on her misunderstanding that Ji-ho was Se-hee’s tenant, so Ji-ho apologizes and says that she was too flustered at the time to tell Mom the “truth.”
Mom is understanding, but remarks that it would have been nice for the man in the relationship to clear things up—alas, Mom states, the men in her family are on the shy side. She does note that shy men are the type to take care of a woman wordlessly—the tsundere type. LOL!
Ji-ho remarks that a lot of men from Namhae are the same, so she’s familiar, and Mom makes kind of a backhanded compliment about it being rare for people from Namhae to go to Seoul National University.
Dad cuts to the chase and bluntly asks Ji-ho why she wants to get married. Dad points out that that since she was a writer, she must’ve been passionate about her career, so he wants to know why she would quit her job and rush to get married so suddenly.
Se-hee shoots back hotly at Dad’s invasive questions, and Ji-ho gathers herself to provide an explanation, however, when she refers to Se-hee very politely (and distantly), Dad zeroes in on it, which causes Se-hee to asks sarcastically if this is some kind of interview.
It looks like a fight is imminent, so thinking quickly, Ji-ho employs some aegyo (calling Se-hee “Oppa”) and says that she loves Se-hee, complete with some finger hearts.
The next day, Se-hee receives a text from Mom gushing about his lovey-dovey new romance. Se-hee only sighs and discusses the meeting with Ji-ho. Ji-ho mentions how nervous she was, and so Se-hee asks how she could have said that when she was so nervous.
He doesn’t have to say the phrase again for her to remember it, and he asks if she’s so good with bold lines because she writes dramas.
Ji-ho chokes on her bite after hearing him repeat her words, but then explains that his father seems like the straightforward type, and seemed to be waiting for her to say those exact words.
Se-hee replies offhandedly that the phrase “I love you” is something really easy to say, which surprises her, but she doesn’t say anything. They agree that the next step in their marriage ruse is to have the in-laws formally meet, and then they should be set.
After Se-hee leaves, Ji-ho looks at her group chat with Ho-rang and Su-ji, where she had asked if people are free for dinner. Su-ji replied that she can’t because of work, and Ho-rang notably never replied, which sends a worried look across Ji-ho’s face.
We cut to the two friends enjoying some drinks on Ho-rang’s rooftop, where they’re lounging around (and definitely not busy working).
Ho-rang looks and sounds a bit delirious, but when Ho-rang asks if she’s crazier than Ji-ho, Su-ji replies, “No.” LOL. Ji-ho texts Su-ji right then to ask if Ho-rang is okay, which Ho-rang immediately guesses (knowing Ji-ho’s personality so well), and in turn she asks Su-ji if she seemed jealous during Ji-ho’s announcement.
Su-ji smiles and says “just a little bit.” (Aww, I just love these girls.) Ho-rang finally texts Ji-ho to advise her on which dress to wear to meet Se-hee’s parents, which breaks the ice, and Ji-ho texts back with an apology for suddenly getting married now.
Ho-rang replies that Ji-ho can feel sorry only for today, but then remarks aloud to Su-ji that Ji-ho shouldn’t feel sorry at all, since it isn’t like she’s marrying Won-seok.
She suddenly starts getting excited for Ji-ho and begins asking Su-ji questions about what she knows about Se-hee (which isn’t much). Su-ji suggests they asks Won-seok when he comes back, but notes Ho-rang’s dour expression and realizes that they’re still fighting. Ho-rang states gloomily that Won-seok hasn’t come home in five days…
Turns out, Won-seok has been spending his time drowning himself in soju, and forcing Sang-gu to hang out with him. On this day, Sang-gu attempts to draw the line, and persuade Won-seok to go home, which naturally leads them to discuss Sofagate for what appears to be the umpteenth time.
Sang-gu racks his brain for something he misread about Ho-rang, while Won-seok seems ready to throw it all away.
At the same time, Ho-rang briefs Su-ji on her side of the argument, and Su-ji is incredulous that Won-seok would dimly conclude that she actually wanted a sofa. She chalks it up to his innocent personality.
Su-ji suggests Ho-rang just be upfront with Won-seok on what she really wants, but Ho-rang refuses because she doesn’t want to seem desperate.
Sang-gu actually hits the mark and mentions wanting a marriage proposal to Won-seok as a possible reason, but Won-seok argues derisively that Ho-rang isn’t like other girls. He lists all the ways Ho-rang went out of her way to curry favor with Won-seok’s professor while he was in school in order to help him with his career, and how she understands what an “important phase” he’s going through right now. Siiigh, this guy.
Sang-gu accepts Won-seok’s conclusion, and then has an epiphany: He tells Won-seok that Ho-rang is probably mad because he bought her the display sofa instead of a brand new one, and Won-seok is immediately convinced that they’ve solved the mystery.
That night, Ji-ho calls her mother to talk about the upcoming meeting of the in-laws, but instead, Mom just gives the phone to Dad before letting Ji-ho speak. Ji-ho comes out of her room as she ends her call with her Dad and tells Se-hee that she informed her parents about their no-wedding plan, and her Dad was okay with it.
Likewise, Se-hee says that he informed his parents of their plan, and received no pushback.
After a beat, Se-hee asks specifically how Ji-ho’s mother handled the no-wedding news; he explains that he can’t recall her mother having any kind of reaction before. Ji-ho thinks for a moment, surprised by the question, then says dismissively that since her family is so patriarchal, her mom usually doesn’t have an opinion. Oh Ji-ho.
She piggybacks on Se-hee’s question and asks specifically about his father’s reaction, since he too hasn’t said much for or against. Similarly, Se-hee becomes dismissive of his father’s opinion and says that he isn’t interested.
In her room, Ji-ho looks through her family chat room and realizes that her mother never really replies.
She texts Mom to ask if she’s sleeping, and Mom replies curtly that she is, which makes Ji-ho annoyed, since clearly, she isn’t. She then wonders if Mom is angry about something before going to bed.
The next day, the in-laws meet, and initially Se-hee’s mother and Ji-ho’s father dominate the conversation, expressing support and compliments for each other’s child. Se-hee’s mother mentions to Ji-ho’s mom how impressive Ji-ho is to go to Seoul National University when she’s from the countryside, and also how polite, innocent, and kind Ji-ho is.
Things become awkward when Mom snaps back that Ji-ho is just like everyone else, and at times can be immature and selfish like others her age. The mood becomes tense, but since everyone is desperate to get along, they seem to move on.
Ji-ho finds Se-hee outside settling the check, and when she offers to split it, Se-hee politely refuses since he calculates that her parents had to pay for extra transportation fee, and spent time traveling a long distance. Swoon. Fairly dividing the true cost of a meal was never so romantic.
They walk together back to their table, and Ji-ho comments on how much easier the process of getting married is than she had thought. She admits that she was afraid her family wouldn’t give their consent, so Se-hee replies that they probably did because they really do suit each other.
He points out that he has a house (though on loan), and she’s from a good university, but doesn’t have a job. He explains that his dad is an educator so of course he wants someone well-educated, but doesn’t necessarily want to look up to his daughter-in-law, so Ji-ho’s circumstance satisfies his hypocritical needs. She’s glad it worked out that way, and they head back.
Outside the door, they overhear Ji-ho’s mother firmly state that she wants the kids to have a wedding. Se-hee’s mother starts to defend the children’s decision, but her husband cuts in to agree with Ji-ho’s mother.
Afterward, Ji-ho and Se-hee go separately with their families to try and convince the opposing parent to give up on the idea of a wedding.
Mom won’t budge even under Dad’s pressure, then tells her family that Se-hee’s mother sounded so cocky when she was talking about Ji-ho being so kind and innocent, when she really means that Ji-ho should stay home and raise the children.
Mom storms off, and so Ji-ho follows after her to ask why she’s acting this way, since she has in the past said that weddings are a waste of money. Mom replies that it feels as if Se-hee’s family is looking down on them and wants Ji-ho to be a compliant daughter-in-law that they can control.
Ji-ho calls Mom’s thinking twisted, so Mom asks her the same question that Se-hee’s father asked her earlier in the episode: “Why do you want to get married?”
Ji-ho tries to downplay the powerful truth of that question and protect her lie, so Mom changes her question and asks about Ji-ho’s job as a writer. Ji-ho tells Mom that she quit, which is news to Mom. She begins demanding to know why they paid her college tuition if Ji-ho was just going to give up on her career so soon.
Her question cuts deep and Ji-ho becomes defensive, asking Mom if she expected her to become a famous writer and give Mom money someday. (Oof. Man, this show really just goes for it.) Mom criticizes Ji-ho for being stupid and not greedy enough to ask her in-laws for an expensive bag since she isn’t having a wedding, so Ji-ho hisses back:
“How can I get anything from them when I have nothing to give? What do we have? You can’t even afford a place for me to stay. You should feel guilty about what you are saying now. Writing? That’s what you can do when you have a good background. If you don’t have money, all you do is sleep. You can’t dream of anything.”
Meanwhile at Se-hee’s, things aren’t going much better: His mom is acting as a messenger, delivering barbed remarks from father to son across the living room (but also hilariously and ineffectively translating their words into more diplomatic statements), since they refuse to speak to each other.
Se-hee soon explodes and tells Dad to just be honest and say that he wants a wedding so he can show off his son and well-educated daughter-in-law to their relatives, and get back the money he gave out to other weddings.
He warns Dad to uphold his promise not to threaten Mom with divorce and stay out of his affairs if he got married, but Dad growls back that he won’t acknowledge Se-hee’s marriage without a wedding.
Ji-ho meets up with her girls after her blow-up with Mom. She reasons to them that they don’t have the money for a wedding, and so Su-ji wisely points out that wedding ceremonies aren’t really for the couple getting married—it is for the “investors.” She compares a wedding to a press conference before a drama, which is to draw attention to the show, and hopefully make a profit for the investors.
Su-ji argues that Mom is an investor in Ji-ho’s life, and would probably like to be compensated, but not necessarily with money, maybe just the act of seeing Ji-ho in a wedding dress is enough. Aww, these girls give great advice.
Ji-ho continues to push back that she and Se-hee don’t have the desire or finances to have a wedding, but keeps referring to Se-hee as her “housemate.” Luckily, Su-ji just attributes Ji-ho’s slip-ups as some kinky role-playing the couple does in the bedroom. Hahaha! Please no, omg.
Se-hee is also getting a drink with Sang-gu, who tries to convince Se-hee to go through with the wedding. Sang-gu describes a wedding as a strange event where people get excited to pay for their own meals, resulting in Se-hee’s benefit after they collect all the money gifts.
Se-hee refuses to be used as a tool to help his parents cash-in, and so Sang-gu sagely asks if Se-hee is willing put up with a lifetime of nagging, or lose two hours of his life and live peacefully for the rest. He finally makes the most compelling argument and calculates a very low-cost estimate for the shindig by using their acquaintances and trimming non-essential items, which has Se-hee seriously reconsidering.
Sang-gu recommends asking “him” for some help, and points to Won-seok passed out next to them. He identifies Won-seok as the friend who introduced him to Ji-ho.
Ji-ho and Se-hee return home after to report their failures and regroup. It seems like their conversations with their respective friends really helped, because they both simultaneously suggest having a wedding after all.
Later, at another company-wide meeting, Sang-gu tells everyone to clear their schedule for their company dinner on Monday. Se-hee excludes himself because he has a wedding to attend. He isn’t explicit about whose wedding it is, so Sang-gu makes a comment about the odd day of the week, and the strange people that chose it.
Se-hee points out that he’s getting married, and Monday is the cheapest day to host it. Oh also, he tells Sang-gu, he’s hosting it. Hahaha! This friendship is really cute too.
At Su-ji’s, Ji-ho gets a lovely, secondhand wedding gown from one of Su-ji’s friends. Ho-rang is worried that the dress isn’t good enough, but Ji-ho isn’t bothered by it. They discuss the guests that will be attending, and Su-ji asks if Se-hee has any dateable friends (hehe).
Ho-rang asks about the last guy she was talking to (Sang-gu), but Su-ji says that he was good-looking, but too distracting. Ji-ho then warily tells Ho-rang that she called Won-seok to invite him to her wedding, and says that he sounded pretty bad from drinking so much.
She asks if Ho-rang is going to call him, but Ho-rang is already referring to him as her “ex-boyfriend” since he hasn’t called in a week, and tells her friends cheerily that she’s going on a blind date soon.
Ji-ho and Se-hee finalize everything for their wedding, and go over the terms of their contract. Importantly, after two years, the contract will end. Additionally, they won’t officially register their marriage, and agree that the reason for divorce will be irreconcilable difference.
Later, Ji-seok comes by to deliver some banchan from Mom, and to ask for Se-hee’s number at Mom’s request. Ji-ho grows irritated with Mom’s meddling, and over-complication of her arrangement, and refuses to give Se-hee’s number.
She complains to Ji-seok about Mom’s weird behavior, and Ji-seok concurs. He leaves Ji-ho with one final thought and tells her cryptically, “Getting married isn’t as simple as you think,” but adds that she’ll understand what he means after she gets married.
On the day of their wedding, Ji-ho comes out of her room in her wedding dress, and Se-hee watches her for a long moment. He tells Ji-ho honestly that the dress suits her, and she thanks him.
They wait for Su-ji and Ho-rang to pick them up, but are informed that there is a huge traffic jam delaying them. Together, Ji-ho and Se-hee spot the exact bus they need to take them to the wedding hall, and soon, they are running down the sidewalk to catch it.
They find seats in the back of the bus, when suddenly, Se-hee asks if Ji-ho thinks she might need a handkerchief for the ceremony. He explains that his friend told him to bring one to wipe his bride’s tears when she cries.
Surprised, Ji-ho asks if she’s expected to cry, and her response comforts Se-hee, who was worried that she would. Ji-ho assures him that she isn’t the crying type.
Ji-ho sits in the separate bridal room to greet and take photos with incoming guests, with Bo-mi as photographer. Ho-rang and Su-ji show up in time before the ceremony, and together they gush about how beautiful Ji-ho looks and how unexpectedly handsome Se-hee is while taking photos.
At the entrance, the family members greet the incoming guests. Ji-ho’s mom sneaks away to “go to the bathroom,” but is caught by Ji-ho (who actually went to the bathroom) coming out of her bridal room.
Ji-ho accusingly asks what Mom was doing in there, but Mom pretends she got lost on the way to the bathroom. Annoyed, Ji-ho rudely asks why Mom wants Se-hee’s phone number, and Mom shoots back that she has every right to contact him.
Ji-ho harshly adds that she’s doing what Mom wants by having a wedding, so Mom needs to leave Se-hee alone—otherwise, Ji-ho warns, she’ll be angry. Her words hurt Mom, and she says bitterly, “I wish you could have a daughter like you.” Gahhhh.
Ji-ho returns to the bridal room, and Bo-mi informs her that Mom was looking for Se-hee’s bag to put something inside. Immediately, Ji-ho tears into Se-hee’s bag, furious with Mom.
We cut to the wedding hall, where Sang-gu tells all the guests to be seated for the ceremony. Bo-mi rushes over and whispers something into Se-hee’s ear, which catches him off-guard. He hurries to the bridal room and finds Ji-ho sobbing over Mom’s gift to Se-hee.
Se-hee looks over and sees an old photo album of Ji-ho’s life, and picks up a note addressed to him from Mom.
In the letter, Mom apologizes to Se-hee for her behavior at the dinner with his parents, and says that Ji-ho resembles her father at times, and other times, she’s like her friend. Mom adds that Ji-ho is afraid of her father, and has had to give up a lot because of her younger brother.
Mom states that thankfully, Ji-ho is really smart, unlike her, and because of this, Mom felt relieved because she thought that Ji-ho would not have to live like she did. Oh god, the TEARS.
To close, she asks Se-hee for two favors:
“If Ji-ho says she wants to write in the future, can you let her do that? I will do the house chores if that helps. So if she ever wants to write again in the future, please don’t let her give up on her dream. I don’t want her to live like me. Please do that for her. And… it’s hard for Ji-ho to stop crying when she starts. So, please don’t let her cry alone. Even though you make her cry, just be with her when she’s crying.”
Se-hee looks over at his crying bride, hunched over and trying to fight her overwhelming emotions as she tells him to go on ahead without her. He leaves as requested, but then returns shortly after, kneels down to the floor beside her, and says sweetly, “Is it hard to stop crying? If that’s the case, we should go together. It’s okay to cry. Let’s go together. I’ll be right next to you. I’ll be with you.”
She looks up at him as he extends his hand to her, as if seeing him in a new light, and thinks to herself, “I thought getting married was going to be simple. This is where we meet our needs. Maybe, it could be where our hearts meet. Something that’s not simple just started.”
Then, slowly, she takes his hand.
You know that stage in a relationship when you definitely know you’re in love with your boyfriend/girlfriend but are afraid to say the words aloud because you think it might be too early—that’s roughly how I feel about this drama right now. Episode 5 seems really early to be full on sobbing, but it happened, and it was amazing.
Not only did I cry those deep, chest heaving sobs in this episode, but on my way to work the next morning, I teared up just remembering how much Mom’s words resonated so deeply with me. Her actions and heartfelt letter to Se-hee made me feel a kind of bone-deep fragility you only feel when someone (especially your parents) says to you, “I understand that you think you know everything in the world about your life and feel like you have to shoulder everything on your own, but I have your back even if we disagree, and even when we don’t fight fairly and kindly, because I know you, and I love you so, so much.” It’s a reminder that we are all definitely making things up as we struggle along, but that’s okay, as long as we remember that we’re not doing this alone.
I knew that Mom and Ji-ho were going to break my heart, but I underestimated how much and how soon. I spend hours upon hours of my life trying to anticipate and be ahead of these kind of emotional punches in media, but at the end of the day, when it’s executed in just the right way as it was today, I am always utterly defenseless. Bravo.
It’s funny because even though we all know the entire point is for Ji-ho and Se-hee to fall in love (and influence each other as they grow and become who they are meant to be whether they end up together or alone, etc.), since we still need to cement the full premise of our story, I’ve actually been getting swept up in Ji-ho and Se-hee’s strange but seemingly very rational decision-making that I almost actually believed this loveless marriage was the perfect solution for them. Thankfully, Mom righted me, and her taking a stand to spare Ji-ho from what she fears is her same fate was very moving. I’m scared to think of how hurt Mom will feel when she learns that the marriage is fake, but that just gives Ji-ho and Se-hee more incentive to make it real, right!? No one will ever know!
I’m also really excited to explore Se-hee and his father’s relationship a bit more, in the same way we did with Ji-ho and her mom. I liked that Se-hee’s father backed Ji-ho’s mom up during the wedding talk—it was sweet, and gave us some important insight into his character. I know Ji-ho assumes Se-hee’s father is this gruff, rule-abiding teacher cliché, but I’m hoping there’s much more than meets the eye. I also liked seeing Se-hee’s more rebellious side with his father today, because I found it to be very humanizing. Se-hee is written with just the right balance of aloofness, quirkiness, and compassion, but we haven’t had a chance to truly connect to him yet, so I’m waiting for that to happen.
On a technical note, I’m relieved to hear that they aren’t registering their marriage and that it has an expiration date, because I honestly wasn’t sure what exactly they had in mind legally for this very sensible madness—turns out that this is my favorite kind of madness!
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