Because This Life Is Our First: Episode 10
Now that our heroine has experienced some of the bliss that comes with marriage, she learns that this newfound happiness also comes with some strings attached. As always, the show continues to shed light on the realities of life, love, and marriage as the characters navigate through their relationships, trying to understand those around them as well as themselves. Though in part frustrating, but always frustratingly good, the show consistently delivers a fun and contemplative story.
Episode 10: “Because this is my first time having in-laws”
Kim Jong-kook’s 2005 hit song “Lovable” plays, bringing the show back to Ji-ho’s high school days. Ho-rang takes the seat next to Ji-ho, and expresses her joy over being in the same class as their school’s top student since her goal is to study and get into a university in Seoul. Ji-ho stares at her in confusion, and asks why she’s still speaking in a Seoul dialect since she’s been living here since kindergarten. Pfft.
A new student joins their class, and it’s Su-ji, who only nods silently when the teacher introduces her. Later in the school year, report cards come in, and everyone crowds around Su-ji, the new top student, which moves Ji-ho to second place.
Ji-ho and Ho-rang walk home together, looking like they’ve grown closer, and Ho-rang tells Ji-ho about the scandalous rumors surrounding Su-ji’s mom and why they moved. Ji-ho warns Ho-rang to not tell other people about this, and Ho-rang assures her that she won’t.
While out for errands, Ji-ho happens upon Su-ji staring up at the night sky, cursing this boring country town. One morning at school, Su-ji confronts Ho-rang about spreading rumors about her mom owning a brothel, but Ho-rang acts defensively, saying that she only repeated what she heard. Su-ji scoffs at her explanation, and grabs Ho-rang’s hair while Ji-ho futilely tries to stop their fight.
The three of them end up in the hallway with their arms raised as punishment. Teachers who walk by and scold them, but only bop poor Ho-rang on the head, leaving the other two alone. After school is over, Ho-rang bursts into tears in indignation, and slumps to the ground as she wails over the injustice of being treated as lesser because she’s not as smart as the others. Her accent comes out as she cries, and though Ji-ho rushes to comfort her, Su-ji tells her to study harder if it bothers her.
Some time later at school, Su-ji walks up to Ho-rang since she came to her house last night to give her an apple (homophone with apology). Accepting her apology, Su-ji gives Ho-rang a study guide with questions on the next exam circled. Aw, I love them so much!
The three of them become friends after that, and Ho-rang giddily boasts her improved grades to Su-ji and Ji-ho, who genuinely congratulate her. The three girls do everything together as they draw in the sand, get scolded by their teacher, fish in the ocean, and shoot off fireworks at the beach.
Sitting by the ocean, they share their dreams with each other. Su-ji says that she’ll become her own boss since she doesn’t want to live under someone else’s orders, and Ho-rang’s dream is to become a homemaker with a self-made engineer. Ji-ho surprises her friends when she shares her dreams: love.
They assume she wants to date someone, but Ji-ho clarifies, “I want to meet someone that’s like fate.”
In the present, Ji-ho texts her friends that she’s found someone she likes: her husband. She stares at their wedding album and thinks to herself that she still doesn’t know what marriage means.
Ji-ho happily brushes her teeth, replaying Se-hee’s words about having one love in life, and in the living room, she stares at the back of his head, finding it charming. She continues to gaze dreamily at his face, thinking that he’s handsome, but her actions make Se-hee paranoid as he checks his reflection on the television screen to see if something is on his face.
Finishing her narration, Ji-ho says that she may not know the meaning of marriage, but if it allows her to see the person she likes every day, then marriage is a really nice. Lovestruck Ji-ho is adorable.
Her marital bliss comes to a screeching halt when Se-hee’s mom comes for an unexpected visit, and the stereotypical mother-in-law behaviors emerge as she passive-aggressively hints for Ji-ho to put away the food she brought and cut the fruit.
Se-hee grabs the apple from his mother, though, offering to do it instead (while remembering to switch to informal speech to seem more like a couple). His mom mentions their family memorial service tomorrow, and Se-hee says that he won’t join since he hasn’t in the past either. I’m pretty sure the message wasn’t for him though.
Ji-ho gets a text from Su-ji, telling her that they’ve arrived at the cafe, and Se-hee mentions that Ji-ho has a prior engagement, allowing her to escape.
At the cafe, Ho-rang faux-complains about a headache while waving around her hand, showcasing her new ring. Ji-ho realizes that Won-seok proposed, and they start screaming in excitement, ignoring Su-ji’s attempts to quiet them.
Meanwhile, Se-hee walks his mom out, and she cautiously broaches the topic of his father paying off his home loan. She tells him to forget and move on now that he’s married, but Se-hee firmly says that his marriage has nothing to with his father. He tells his mom to not visit again without notice since it’s impolite to the person he lives with, but his mom finds his word choice odd since Ji-ho sounds more like a tenant than a wife.
Ho-rang tells the others about Won-seok’s proposal, and Su-ji is surprised that he managed to do a good job. Their conversation turns to Ji-ho and her mother-in-law’s sudden visit, but they seem more outraged than Ji-ho, who starts to defend her mother-in-law’s actions as not that bad. They note that she’s catching the “nice daughter-in-law syndrome.”
Sitting at a hair salon, Se-hee remembers Ji-ho’s constant staring from this morning, and wonders if it was because of the bandage on his forehead. He asks the hairdresser if he looks strange, but she says that he appears to be the same as always.
After separating with her friends, Ji-ho mulls over their words about the nice daughter-in-law syndrome, which causes newlywed wives to act overly submissive to garner favor from the in-laws. Looking at questions online, she scoffs at the thought of being unable to say no, but down the street, Ji-ho spots Se-hee walking towards her, sporting a new haircut. She narrates, “It’s just that I can’t say no to that man.” Hahaha, she’s completely smitten with him!
She compliments his new hairstyle, and on the elevator ride up, he apologizes for his mom’s visit and changes the passcode to the apartment. She thinks back to her conversation with Bok-nam, when he told her about Se-hee’s explanation for marrying her: He married for her rent, but also because he respects her as a defender (as in soccer).
Ji-ho contemplates Se-hee’s description while watching a soccer match, and then gapes at his Adam’s apple as he drinks a can of beer. He excuses himself to go grocery shopping, and Ji-ho joins him since she needs to shop, too.
Of course, they each push their own cart at the store, and Ji-ho brings up the conversation he had with Bok-nam, asking what he meant when said he respected her as a defender. He tells her that it means just that, explaining how she’s the only tenant he has respected in his life. He says that no matter the situation, he knows that she can properly defend herself and handle those around them concerning their marriage, and Ji-ho looks disappointed to finally realize the bland truth behind his words.
Ji-ho remembers a moment with Ho-rang where she told him about Se-hee’s nickname at work and how he only thinks about his loan and cat. Ho-rang asked where Ji-ho is in Se-hee’s brain, but answered her own question, happily pointing out that Ji-ho must be in his heart.
Having separated at the store, Ji-ho watches Se-hee at the cash register, and narrates, “I know that it’s not it. I know I’m not the one in his heart. I’m just his tenant who guarantees him a steady rent income. I’m just a great defender allowing him to maintain his life without marriage.”
As they walk home together, Ji-ho asks Se-hee about his dreams, and after thinking about it, Se-hee replies, “I just want nothing to happen in my life.” He wants every day to be the same, drinking beer while watching soccer, and eventually to die in his own home. Watching his receding back, she wonders if there’s even a path to his heart.
It’s Won-seok’s first day at Sang-gu’s company, and Ho-rang helps him with his tie even though he doesn’t need to dress up. She mentions how his old coworker unfriended her on Facebook, and when she asks if things didn’t end amicably at his old place, he lies, saying that everyone was happy he got a job. Won-seok is fine as long as Ho-rang is happy, and leaves for work after a goodbye kiss.
Sang-gu sits at his desk remembering his kiss with Su-ji. He had asked then if this meant they were dating, and she told him yes, but under a few conditions. She proposed a dating contract with five rules: keep their relationship confidential, always meet outside, never ask about each other’s private lives, do it twice every time they meet, and renew the contract every 100 days.
Though Sang-gu thought it was overly dramatic and unnecessary at first, he was persuaded by Su-ji’s reasoning and sexual appeal. However, after mulling over things, Sang-gu decides that he should end this here and delete Su-ji’s number. His finger hovers over the delete button, but images of Su-ji stop him from doing the deed.
He berates himself for his weakness, and slaps his face repeatedly. Outside his office, his staff watches his crazy behavior, and Se-hee turns to the newly hired Won-seok, asking if he’s really okay with working here. Heh.
Se-hee shows Won-seok around the office, and corrects him when he calls him the more familiar “hyungnim” instead of his name. He then introduces Won-seok to his immediate superior: Bo-mi.
She asks him a series of questions which also include his love life, and Won-seok answers all of them, even the probing ones. She tells him to freely ask her questions, and then goes back to her desk which is directly behind his. Turning around, Bo-mi smirks at Won-seok… or maybe it’s more like an evil grin, heh.
Sang-gu still contemplates deleting Su-ji’s number, and calls over Won-seok. He asks if Su-ji was popular back in college, and Won-seok tells him that a lot of guys hit on her even though he never did because she’s too scary and out of his league. Sang-gu asks if he’s on the same level as her, and Won-seok innocently compares them to an infected program, telling Sang-gu that his life would be ruined.
Ho-rang admires her new ring at work when a customer calls her over to complain about the bland food. She asks for a new dish or a refund, but Ho-rang doesn’t back down from the customer, even telling her that she eats her food too salty.
Ho-rang’s superior scolds her outside and asks if it’s that time of month. (Really? Not cool.) Unafraid of getting fired, Ho-rang speaks her mind, and tells him not to insult her womb every time she or the others make a mistake. She excuses herself since her break is almost over, and in the breakroom, her coworkers ask if she isn’t worried about getting fired. Ho-rang reassures them that everything is fine since she’ll quit before then.
At home, Ho-rang shuffles through all her papers about weddings, and happily greets Won-seok as her husband when he comes from work. She tells him about all the things they need to prepare if they’re going to get married next year, but Won-seok asks her, genuinely shocked, how they could get married in the next two years.
Sang-gu arrives at hotel room 304, where Su-ji is already waiting for him. He agrees to her terms but adds a condition of his own. He takes out a new phone and hands it to Su-ji, telling her to use this one only for him. He’s already saved himself as “Sang-gu oppa” (with a heart), and shows off his own phone where she’s saved as “My baby.” Su-ji laughs at his adorableness, and tells him to quickly shower. Rawr.
At work, Bok-nam astutely notes Ji-ho’s one-sided love on her husband, and she asks him if it’s that obvious. He tells her that their gazes are different, and explains that hers says “I’ll do anything for you.” On the other hand, his gaze is just him, and Bok-nam impersonates Se-hee’s natural resting face. Pfft.
He advises Ji-ho that love should be reciprocal, otherwise she’ll simply work too hard and then get tired by herself. After their little chat, Ji-ho gets a call from her mother-in-law. I didn’t think I would say this, but listen to the dimples!
Ji-ho arrives at Se-hee’s parents’ house for her first family memorial service, and is greeted with a whole table of food to prepare. As soon as Se-hee’s mom calls her “my daughter,” Ji-ho lights up and immediately gets to work.
Meanwhile, Se-hee looks out the window of the bus at Ji-ho’s stop and notices her not there. He gets off at her stop (aw) and texts her, asking if she’s still at work. Ji-ho tells him that she’s at his parents’ house for the memorial service, causing him to stand up in surprise.
While Se-hee’s father and his sister’s family watch television, Ji-ho slaves away in the kitchen with her mother-in-law. The aunt walks in, expecting Ji-ho to cut her some apples, and tells her young daughter to watch Ji-ho in order to grow up smart and good like her.
The aunt wishes she had a son so that she could have fun with a daughter-in-law, and Se-hee’s mom talks about how she’s no longer jealous of aunt for having a daughter because she has one now. Their praise makes Ji-hoo feel good, but they then leave her to finish the rest of the work on her own.
Se-hee shows up, to his family’s surprise, and joins the ceremony. Afterwards, he enters the kitchen to do the dishes instead of Ji-ho, but his mom shoos him out calling his presence is a hindrance. Although he insists, Ji-ho finally pushes him out, resigning herself to her fate.
Stepping outside the house, Se-hee smiles as he sees two cats nearby, but stops in his tracks when he sees his father feeding them. Before Se-hee can leave, his father brings up his promise to pay off his loan, but Se-hee calls this “promise” a notification or delusion since a promise requires both parties to agree.
His father yells at him since he only wants to buy a house for his married son, but Se-hee asks if they’ve ever been in a father-son relationship. He always thought they were just a landlord and a tenant ever since he kicked him out of his house twelve years ago.
His father simply says that it was the only thing he could do as his parent, but Se-hee refuses to accept his explanation, calling him a landlord and not a parent. Se-hee calmly explains, “Even though you are my father, if you just act like a landlord, I can only treat you like one.”
Their conversation is cut short when everyone marches out of the house to leave, and it seems that only Ji-ho notices the tense atmosphere between the father and son.
On the bus ride home, Se-hee asks why Ji-ho went, and doesn’t understand why she made this mistake when she’s usually a good defender. Ji-ho stares at him in disbelief and narrates, “I thought I didn’t have nice daughter-in-law syndrome. I thought I wasn’t going to be like those people. But why did I do that today?”
In their apartment, Ji-ho asks if Se-hee has heard of the nice daughter-in-law syndrome, and explains it as the tendency for married women to act nice and obedient to their in-laws. Se-hee notes that it’s like the levels of desire he mentioned before, and calls it a basic psychological desire for recognition from others.
Disappointed, Ji-ho suddenly asks him if that’s the only way he can interpret it, and says that it could also be about caring. Rather than animalistic desires, she explains how the behavior could come out of a desire to please the person one likes.
She decides to shower first, but Se-hee stops her to hand her an envelope with money. Though not part of their contract, he thought she should be compensated for the unfair labor tonight, and apologizes for making her go through that as his tenant.
Ji-ho stares at the money (100,000 won) and repeats her disappointed monologue from earlier about how she’s only a dependable tenant and good defender to Se-hee. She grabs her phone to call Se-hee, and asks him how he calculated her compensation. He explains that he used her hourly wage plus overtime charges, but Ji-ho says that it’s not enough.
However, she doesn’t want him to pay her back in cash. Instead, she requests for the rest of her compensation to be paid through labor. Just as she went his parents’ house to work, she tells him to go down to her parents’ house this weekend to help make kimchi (which is notoriously time-consuming).
Hanging up, both parties exit their room and meet face-to-face in the middle of the hallway. Ji-ho narrates, “There’s no more defending in my life. At least when it comes to my heart, I’m going to protect it as a forward.”
I adored the beginning scenes as we got to learn more about the three girls’ friendship and its origin because their relationship is one of the highlights of the show for me. In some ways, their friendship hasn’t changed much from high school. The way Su-ji and Ho-rang fight is still the same in 2017 as it was in 2005 (word for word, in fact) and each one’s role in the group hasn’t deviated much from the past to the present. However, even from the short glimpse into their past, it’s evident that they have changed, both individually and as a group. While they still talk with each other and support one another, they no longer occupy the same social space called school, and after entering the workplace, each friend has started down a different path towards their separate goals. They have more secrets and believe that the others won’t truly understand some of their woes because it’s different to hear something and empathize versus actually experiencing it firsthand. However, though they might not be the exact same hopeful girls from their high school days, this only makes their relationship stronger in the present because it’s evident that they’ve each worked for it. Thus, their friendship can weather the inevitable storms and fights that will come their way in the future because their bond is something all three of them cherish and wish to maintain.
The show has consistently portrayed sexism at work, and it’s interesting to see how the three friends’ personalities as well as their “dreams,” once echoed in their youth by the nighttime ocean, influence how they each react to their situation. Ji-ho, the one who strived for an emotion rather than some material state, eventually left her career because it broke her. As the friend of the group that least worries about the far-off future, Ji-ho’s reaction is immediate, and while wholly gratifying (and a definite display of strength), it leaves her vulnerable. For Ho-rang, she endures the sexist remarks because of her dream, but once she thinks that she has reached her goal (getting married and becoming a homemaker), she’s unafraid to speak her mind and leave the workplace behind.
As for Su-ji, out of the three, it looks like she has given up on her dream the most, and is resigned to her fate as an employee working under someone else for the rest of her life. As a result, she doesn’t fight back and relies on tactics to soften the blow of sexism she experiences on a daily basis because, unfortunately, there’s very little that she can do. Part of the problem is that the environment is toxic, and the workers have become complicit with it. If she wants to keep her job, the odds are stacked against her to seek reform because it’s very unlikely that the company will change or listen to her complaints which will only leave her ostracized if she speaks up.
Ji-ho is adorable as always, and her lovestruck expressions are super cute. However, as Bok-nam advised, having a one-sided relationship with her husband isn’t healthy for her in the long-term. She will continue to pine after Se-hee, and when he doesn’t reciprocate her efforts and feelings, she will inevitably feel disappointment and burn out. This was already evident near the end of the episode as Ji-ho reminds herself again that he doesn’t see her as a “wife,” regardless of what her feelings towards him are. Part of the problem is that Se-hee isn’t obligated to return any of her feelings, and just as Ji-ho has all the right to have a crush on Se-hee, he also has the right to withhold from their relationship on an emotional level.
The harmful relationship between wife and mother-in-law acted as the catalyst for Ji-ho to finally make a stand and realize that her one-sided love was only hurting herself. It’s not just the fact that she had a hard time at his parents’ house or was forced to do the bulk of the work, but the thing that pushes Ji-ho to make the change from defense to offense is that fact that Se-hee doesn’t recognize why she acted the way she did. This seems to be a necessary step for Ji-ho as a character as well as for their relationship because Se-hee isn’t going to magically realize his feelings like most romantic leads.
He isn’t as ready as Ji-ho to make the leap into a new relationship because he doesn’t see the need (though there also seems to be a backstory here, too), and so, she can’t wait passively for him to initiate. I love that her response for more compensation wasn’t ridiculous or overly petty. She wants him to repay her the exact same way she did for him, and I hope her family does make him work. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ji-ho’s dad tries to convince him come inside and avoid making kimchi, but I trust Se-hee and his rational thinking as well as mom who I’m sure isn’t afraid to make her son-in-law do some manual labor.
- Premiere Watch: 20th Century, Witch’s Courtroom, This Life Is Our First, Mad Dog, Revenge Club, Go Back Spouses, Package, Black, Revolutionary Love
- A cat and two humans bunk up for tvN’s Because This Life Is Our First
- Poker-faced housing negotiations for Because This Life Is Our First
- Yoon Doo-joon to cameo in Because This Life Is Our First
- House-poor Lee Min-ki finds house-hunting Jung So-min in Because This Life Is Our First
- Supporting cast secured for tvN’s Because This Life Is Our First
- Jung So-min becomes Lee Min-ki’s housemate in Because This Life Is Our First
- Lee Min-ki offered new tvN drama Because This Life Is Our First