Because This Life Is Our First: Episode 11
Today our couples learn that it’s impossible to ever know the exact distance between you and someone else’s heart. Sometimes it feels like only inches, but is actually long, winding miles that seem to go in circles. Other times the distance seems to be perfectly measured lengths, with mutually agreed upon terms that determine when, where, and how many steps forward each person takes. And other times, the distance is the realization that every step you’ve taken is toward each other.
Episode 11: “Because it’s the first time for today’s ocean”
Se-hee wakes in the morning, recalling Ji-ho’s request that he go to her family’s house and participate in their annual kimchi-making. He tried protesting that Namhae was too far, but Ji-ho sharply replied that that wasn’t her problem.
He walks out to kitchen and sees her there, but her mood is frosty. She tells him that she’s leaving their marriage contract at the cafe since his mother went through their things the last time she was there, and Ji-ho doesn’t want to risk being discovered.
He tries to assure her that his mother won’t barge in unannounced anymore, but ignores that and advises him to hide his copy of the contract at his office, which he obediently agrees to do.
She maintains her cold attitude until she’s out the door, then praises herself for doing a good job maintaining her poker face.
Inside, Se-hee talks to Cat, catching the hint that Ji-ho is upset with him. He does as he’s told and dutifully gets his copy of their marriage contract for safe storage.
At work, there’s a crisis afoot as the entire company discusses a new rival app on the market called “Marriage, Not Dating,” which, as the name suggests, focuses on matching people based on their marriage potential, and without the emphasis on just dating.
During the meeting (after Se-hee unhelpfully praises the rival app’s design layout), Won-seok suggests they change their app’s dating concept and then criticizes the name of their app, “Dating, Not Marriage.” When everyone looks toward Se-hee after being asked who named the app, Won-seok points out the irony that Se-hee is actually the only one who is married, and Se-hee fires eye-daggers at Won-seok from behind his tablet.
At the cafe, Ji-ho recalls Se-hee’s words about her not being as great of a defender as he had thought, and how he had given her money to pay for her labor. She scoffs at his arrogance and asks if he thinks he’s Won Bin or something (a la Won Bin’s famous line from Autumn Fairy Tale).
Meanwhile, Bok-nam nosily reviews Ji-ho’s marriage contract and deems the terms acceptable and even teasingly contemplates entering into his own contractual marriage to reap its benefits. He calls the most appealing aspect the benefit of having someone there when he returns home instead of being lonely.
Ji-ho begins complaining about the difficult life of a daughter-in-law and how husbands don’t take their wife’s side during family matters.
Bok-nam watches Ji-ho with an incredulous expression and tells her that she sounds just like the ajumma living next door to him. He tells Ji-ho that she used to be so sweet when they first met, and decides it’s better not to get married after all.
Sang-gu announces Se-hee’s brazen request for a day off during their time of crisis, but Se-hee explains that he needs to go to Namhae to make kimchi with his in-laws, shocking the room. He adds that he hasn’t taken a personal day off the entire year, and Sang-gu marvels at the power of marriage.
Won-seok gets called out of work by his future mother-in-law, who heard he proposed. She tells Won-seok that Ho-rang will make a good housewife, but is disappointed to hear that Won-seok has yet to announce his engagement to his parents or set a date for their wedding.
Unaware that he and Ho-rang live together (thinking Ho-rang lives with Su-ji), she encourages Won-seok not to let their engagement drag on. Won-seok remains polite, but his eyes grow troubled.
Su-ji goes out to lunch with her colleagues, but is forced to wear her coat since she can’t find her bra. Manager Park casts a sneaky glance toward her, then actually throws food at her jacket to force her to take off her coat.
The instant it’s off, her workers notice that she doesn’t have a bra on. After lunch, Su-ji takes a smoke break outside and overhears Park collecting money from the male colleagues, apparently having bet that Su-ji doesn’t wear a bra. BRO, it ain’t any of your business. STOP BEING A CREEP.
They disgustingly speculate on Su-ji’s bra size, and once Su-ji decides that she’s heard enough she joins the group, asks for a light for her cigarette, and blows out a stream of smoke right at Park’s face.
She asks Park if he won a lot of money, then sizes Park up to assess that his breast size looks to be about the same as hers. She offers to lend him her bra before popping her cigarette into his cup of coffee.
In the elevator, Sang-gu eyes Se-hee strangely, which makes Se-hee uncomfortable. He can’t comprehend how words like “kimchi” and “vacation” entered Se-hee’s closed-off brain. Se-hee explains matter-of-factly that Ji-ho helped out with his family’s memorial rites, and he’s returning the favor.
This makes sense to Sang-gu, since he knows that it’s common for memorial rites duties to sow discord between couples. Se-hee agrees with the logic and offers his own two cents on the matter regarding the “social illness created by Korean parents, who exploit their children’s partners by calling them family.”
Se-hee adds that a rational person would never pick a system such a marriage that lends itself to so many irrational outcomes, which leads Sang-gu to ask why someone like Se-hee would get married. Se-hee looks away guiltily, realizing his slip-up.
Sang-gu becomes dogged and throws out possible reasons for why Se-hee would agree to get married such as Ji-ho being a cat lover, and paying rent. Gulp.
With Sang-gu getting dangerously close to uncovering Se-hee and Ji-ho’s contractual marriage, he tries to distract Sang-gu by reiterating that Ji-ho is “Preeeeetty.” But the way he says it is so weird and almost deranged, and I can’t stop laughing.
Sang-gu doesn’t seem to be buying it, so Se-hee tries again, but this time takes Sang-gu through an extended logical explanation of why a man would want to marry a pretty woman. Sang-gu is convinced at last.
Su-ji texts right then, and suddenly Sang-gu is hurrying toward the door to meet her. He bumps into Se-hee and a few of their folders fall to the ground in a pile. He hastily grabs a few folders without checking then sprints out. Oh no, he has the contract, doesn’t he?
Sang-gu gets into Su-ji’s car and immediately she attacks him with kisses. He tries to convince her to get dinner first but she complains that she’s feeling too frustrated, and he guesses that something happened at work.
She tries to deny it, but he urges her to tell him the truth. She eventually does, and the disclosure sets him off. She tells him that she already took care of things, but he continues to rage about her co-workers’ behavior, then puts his foot in his mouth and asks, “What kind of women don’t wear bras at work?” She tells him plainly that she’s one of those women.
Ji-ho joins Se-hee on their commute home, but sits next to him in icy silence. Hilariously, there’s a married woman in the back of the bus talking angrily on the phone with her husband, speaking uncannily in time with Se-hee’s questions to Ji-ho. When Se-hee asks Ji-ho if she’s eaten dinner, the woman snarks, “Of course I haven’t yet, at this hour.” Se-hee suggests to Ji-ho that they eat out, and the woman barks, “Eat out? Just eat what’s in the fridge!”
The longer this goes on, the more it sounds like the woman is speaking up for Ji-ho, and it makes Ji-ho remember Bok-nam’s comment that she sounds like his neighbor.
At home, the two prepare their separate dinners, and Ji-ho decides to eat on the coffee table instead of with Se-hee at the table. He watches her for a beat, then announces that he’s taken the day off to help with kimchi-making.
Ji-ho looks pleased, then remembers to tell him that she can’t go since she has work. Se-hee already knows, but is prepared to go alone because Ji-ho went alone to his parents’ house, and plans to work the same number of hours as she had.
She asks about the contract, and Se-hee tells her that he keeps it in his briefcase since Sang-gu will occasionally go through his documents. Ji-ho agrees that it will be troublesome if Sang-gu were to discover their secret, and Se-hee adds that if Sang-gu found out, Su-ji would know too.
Ji-ho’s eyes widen in shock to hear of Su-ji and Sang-gu’s relationship, having been unaware. Se-hee agrees that it’s surprising, noting how strange it is that Su-ji and Sang-gu don’t really match, but are together anyway. Internally, Ji-ho remarks that they are married after all.
In their hotel room, Sang-gu is having a mental breakdown over Su-ji’s braless lifestyle. He asks if she understands his feelings of worry and concern, and she replies that it feels like he’s only rationalizing himself, and romanticizing his feelings of possessiveness. Hear, hear.
She continues that his behavior is a breach of contract since it intrudes on her privacy, so he takes out the contract, but it doesn’t look like the one Su-ji drafted…
Meanwhile, Se-hee is likewise reviewing Su-ji and Sang-gu’s dating contract. He smirks when he sees Sang-gu and Su-ji’s signatures, then shows it to Ji-ho.
He seems very smug when he tells her that he had said they didn’t really match. Ji-ho finds the contract ridiculous, but then remembers that they shouldn’t be casting judgment.
She asks how he obtained the document, and he explains that it got into his files when he bumped into Sang-gu. As a joke, she says disbelieving that there is no way their contracts got mixed-up or anything… right?
But of course there is, and so they panic. Alas, it’s already too late because Su-ji now knows everything. Su-ji mentally flashes through all of Ji-ho’s strange behavior and slips of the tongue, understanding now what they meant.
Ji-ho calls Su-ji out right away to give her some food from Mom, and as they make small talk, Su-ji slips in mention of the contract. She finds the contract absurd, asking sarcastically if she can be Se-hee’s next wife-tenant after two years since the rent is so cheap. She calls Ji-ho crazy, which is exactly what Sang-gu is doing to Se-hee elsewhere.
Notably, Sang-gu is more amazed that Se-hee would even suggest marriage as a potential solution just to pay off his mortgage. Se-hee notes Sang-gu’s wording, as though mortgages and money are frivolous things, and says that having a home and money are extremely important. But mainly, through their contract he was able to help someone who really needed a place to stay, which happened to also benefit him.
Sang-gu watches Se-hee thoughtfully then asks if Ji-ho reminded Se-hee of “her.” Se-hee blinks, a bit stunned, but doesn’t answer, and Sang-gu doesn’t say anymore.
Ji-ho apologizes to Su-ji for not telling her about her contractual marriage, and Su-ji is understanding, and even a bit worried that Ji-ho is having a hard time. Ji-ho confirms that she’s doing okay, and adds that she isn’t the type to regret her decisions, but Su-ji isn’t so convinced since she knows that Ji-ho likes Se-hee.
Su-ji asks pointedly if Se-hee likes her back, and Ji-ho admits that he doesn’t, nor does he even know about her feelings for him.
Ji-ho narrates, “There must be a way to reach someone’s heart. If there is a way, there must be a place where it starts.”
On her rooftop, Ho-rang looks at her and Won-seok’s shared bank account. They’d agreed at the outset to both deposit small monthly amounts, with grand dreams of buying a home together. But while Ho-rang had faithfully made her monthly deposits, we see that Won-seok’s deposits became smaller and smaller until eventually they stopped.
Won-seok opens the gift from Ho-rang’s mother and sees that it’s a necktie. Ji-ho narrates on, “If there’s a way to reach someone’s heart, then there must be somewhere we can meet at the end.”
Won-seok returns home and finds Ho-rang in bed. He whispers into her ear, and she turns toward him sleepily. He suggests a date on the weekend, and she agrees to it half-asleep. He watches her face for a long beat, then she turns away and slowly open her eyes, casting a serious look. Beside her, Won-seok stares up at the ceiling deep in thought.
At home, Ji-ho finds a note from Se-hee telling her he explained things to Sang-gu. Her narration continues, “At the place where our hearts meet, can another path begin? But what I’m afraid of most is not that we have different paths, or that we’ll never meet on the way. It’s that there’s no path to your heart. That there might not be any way to reach your heart at all. That’s what I’m most afraid of.”
But still, she smiles to read a second note, which tells her he’ll be going to Namhae tomorrow. She thinks, “But for now, I can’t do anything about it. I don’t know the road to his heart, but he knows the road to make kimchi. That’s him. I came to like him. For now, that is enough.”
The next day, Se-hee makes his way to Ji-ho’s parents’ home. He has a brief movie moment enjoying the sea breeze from the bus window until a grumpy passenger behind him orders him to close the window. Haha.
He has trouble getting accurate direction from his GPS in the rural area, but he eventually arrives. Mom hurries over to meet him—surprised to see him there (Ji-ho had told her that “someone” was coming, but didn’t name them), while the gaggle of ajummas compliment Se-hee’s good looks.
Dad comes out and ushers Se-hee in to rest and let the women finish making the kimchi, but Se-hee is adamant about working. Everyone is unsure what to make of his insistence, so Se-hee explains that Ji-ho helped with his family’s memorial rites.
Dad insists that helping with memorial rites is nothing special and urges Se-hee to rest. But Mom seems to understand what that’s about and gets Se-hee set up to help with the kimchi-making, which Se-hee is eager to do.
He reports an update to Ji-ho about his arrival, which Ji-ho receives while working. Su-ji stops by for coffee, and so Ji-ho tells her about Se-hee and his kimchi journey. Su-ji is amazed, but Ji-ho doubts that her family will actually make Se-hee lift a finger, and figures that he’ll just eat kimchi and come back.
She couldn’t be more wrong, as Se-hee gets decked out in ajumma work clothing as sets his timer for six hours. The ajummas are happy to make him run around doing all sort of things for them, but also cackle at/mock his newbie form. This is amazing. He’s so fabulously weird. Mom defends Se-hee after her friends give him too hard of a time, which brings a tiny smile to his face. Hehehe!
Ji-ho receives photo updates from her brother, and is alarmed to see Se-hee actually working (and even grows indignant to see him being harassed by the ajummas). Bok-nam proves to be Cupid in disguise and tells Ji-ho to go be with her husband if she’s worried by letting her swap shifts.
It looks like the hours of hard kimchi labor are finally getting to Se-hee, but unfortunately for him, it’s only stage one. LOL, all these sounds are killing me. Give the sound person a raise already!
Ji-ho feeds Cat before she heads up, and finds Cat hiding in Se-hee’s closet. She spots the book of poems Se-hee was looking at last week, and asks Cat if she can borrow it, since she’s wanted to read it.
She brings the book with her on the bus, and finds a note written inside to Se-hee, “my love and my everything,” from “your everything.”
Mom tries to let Se-hee off the hook, but Se-hee is intent on persevering through the six hours. However, when Ji-ho appears at the gate his jaw literally drops with a smile and he springs to his feet. That smile!
Outside her office, Sang-gu hands Su-ji a big bag filled with bras. He tells her that he picked out the most comfortable bras that he could find, and asks her to find one that she likes, and if she can’t find one, then he’ll keep looking. He apologizes for pressuring her about his preferences, and promises to fix his tendency, but asks that she think of him a little too.
He admits that it’s hard for him thinking about all the men looking at her and thinking weird stuff, and she apologizes for going overboard.
She tells him to wait for her so they can go get dinner together, which makes him light up adorably. She begins walking back, but runs back to give him a kiss on the cheek, which of course has him melting.
Se-hee rests in Ji-ho’s childhood room, and she asks how he’s feeling. He confesses to having some aches and pains, but assures her that he’ll be all right. She decides to buy him some pain relievers, but before she leaves he asks about her job today. She tells him not to worry about it, so he asks if she came because she was worried about him. She pauses for a beat then confirms it, and so he admits that he was really happy to see her arrive, and
She goes to the pharmacy, but on her way back she stops by the beach and takes out the book she borrowed. She flips to a poem:
The fact that someone comes to you
is actually a tremendous thing.
and his past
and the present
also his future come with him.
Because his life comes with him.
It’s easily broken
and therefore could have broken
the heart that comes.
Under that poem, there’s a handwritten Post-It note that reads: “Go back and live as though nothing happened. But don’t ever love someone. You don’t have the right to love.”
She wonders about the paths to Se-hee’s heart, and thinks, “The moment I knew what that path was, the reason my heart hurt so much was not because of jealousy or frustration. It was because twelve years ago on the same day, I had dreamed of love, and you ended your love, and that was just a bit sad.”
Back in her room, Se-hee looks over all of Ji-ho’s things, including her photos on the wall. He finds her diary, with an entry from twelve years ago where she had written down her friend’s dreams, and wrote for herself: “Love?”
After kimchi-making winds down, Se-hee sits with Dad and the husbands to eat and drink, and Dad praises Se-hee for coming to help. One of the husbands makes a comment about Se-hee’s actions not being manly, so Mom replies hat Se-hee is here because he adores Ji-ho.
Suddenly, the man orders Se-hee to confirm Mom’s claim and begins forcing Se-hee to drink nonstop. Se-hee struggles to keep up, but thankfully Ji-seok calls him over to save him from the torture.
At dinner, Sang-gu comments on how it’s the first time they’ve eaten together, instead of just drinking like they usually do. Su-ji doesn’t really see the importance, but Sang-gu claims that eating together is the best way for people to get closer.
Su-ji smiles and agrees, commenting that that is after all how Ji-ho fell. She realizes her slip, but also has said too much and explains that Ji-ho likes Se-hee. She asks him not to say anything to Se-hee, and calls Ji-ho’s love one-sided.
Sang-gu’s face is unreadable as he asks if she really thinks that Se-hee doesn’t know that Ji-ho likes him. What!? OMG!
Su-ji questions Sang-gu about that, but when she asks how Se-hee feels about Ji-ho, Sang-gu changes the topic. Su-ji slams her hand on the table in frustration, worried about Ji-ho since she lacks experience in love. Sang-gu finally says that Se-hee must scared because he knows what love feels like.
In Namhae, Se-hee finds Ji-ho on the beach and calls out to her. As she looks up, he runs over to join her, taking a seat next to her.
They sit down on the peer as the sunset, and Ji-ho sees that he’s tipsy from all the drinking. She wonders in exasperation why he just accepted the drinks when he’s usually good at refusing.
He remarks that this must be how she felt when he said that she was usually a good defender. He calls it a sad feeling, but then comments on how nice the sea looks. She says that it’s the first time she’s seeing the ocean with someone who isn’t a friend or part of her family; it’s her first time seeing the ocean with a man.
He remarks that she hasn’t done many things before, and she replies that she was really busy during her twenties, so she doesn’t know about many things.
Se-hee tells her about a poem he liked when he was in his twenties, and starts to recite the poem she’d read from his book. He admits that he didn’t really know what it meant at the time, but when he understood its meaning, he couldn’t like it anymore. He adds, “There are a lot of things you can never do again when you actually know about them. So I’m envious of you. Not knowing is a good thing.”
Ji-ho replies that it’s the same for Se-hee because although he’s seen the ocean before, the one he’s looking at now is for the first time. Even though someone has done something before and knows it well, every moment with another person is the first time… like their marriage, and their first kiss.
She says that the way things transpire in life isn’t anyone’s fault; it’s just the way that things happened. Therefore, she tells Se-hee not to worry too much, since “It’s not like you know all about today just because you lived yesterday.” Deep.
Se-hee looks at Ji-ho as if her words are breaking down a wall inside of him, and he slowly smiles as he recalls their memories, thinking of the lines from the poem about a person’s heart coming to another.
He says that he now understands why people go to the beach when they feel suffocated, because, “You can meet your heart here.” He continues that there is something he’s wanted to correct. He tells her that the kiss she initiated that the bus stop was a “peck,” and not a real kiss. Omg, omg, omg, omg.
She’s a bit annoyed when he starts to nitpick her technique, and thinks he’s doing one of his condescending lectures again. She cops to being bad at kissing, and so he says, “This is how you kiss.” He then leans in and kisses her.
He pulls away after a moment to ask if she understands what a kiss is now, or where they need to do it again. She asks for more, and this time they embrace as they kiss. Ji-ho narrates, “Easily broken, the heart that might have been broken… that heart came to me.”
That kiss was so perfect. Honestly, I totally forgot about their spontaneous kiss at the bus stop until now, but I may have blocked it out because it was really embarrassing, and overshadowed by everything else about Se-hee and Ji-ho’s amazing relationship. I keep getting wrapped up in these thoughts that we need to move at these tiny caterpillar steps in the romance department with Se-hee because we don’t want to scare him off, but in this episode he took those crucial steps toward Ji-ho, and crossed the boundary to her, blowing away everything I hoped he would do and so much more. I really was not expecting that to happen. Nor would I ever had expected their kiss to feel so right, and natural, and a culmination of all these perfect little moments. This romance operates in the mundane, but the big moments are bold, brave, and overflowing with warmth and tenderness.
In every episode (or pair of episodes) I keep thinking that I’ll adapt to the show’s ability to surprise me by revealing sides of these characters that I overlooked or underestimated, and yet again and again the show pulls it off in these remarkably organic ways. I never thought Se-hee would be so far along emotionally in his feelings for Ji-ho, and I was shocked when Sang-gu asked Su-ji if she really thought that Se-hee knew nothing about Ji-ho’s feelings for him. I would really, really love to see certain scenes from only Se-hee’s perspective, but if I went back and watched the episodes again I probably would realize that everything was already there for me to see, just like with Se-hee’s exchange with Mom at the wedding.
I love how determined Se-hee was to participate in the kimjang and fulfill his end of the bargain and make up with Ji-ho. But nothing tops Se-hee’s pure excitement to see Ji-ho show up unexpectedly. I also love how he just told her how happy he was to see her, and how even though he’s been hurt by love, he knows what he feels and can’t turn away from it.
I found it fascinating how Ji-ho learning about Se-hee’s previous love wasn’t an obstacle or this huge thing that divided them; instead it was their way forward. Ji-ho ended up telling Se-hee just the words he needed to articulate his path to her, and make sense of these feelings he has for her, because words that he knows to use like “love” are tainted by a painful experience. These two really are astonishingly great at communicating and finding that specific wavelength they need to reach one another. And I believe they’re going to get through the truth of Se-hee’s first marriage/love like total champs.
Another thing I’m totally loving is Sang-gu and Se-hee’s deep friendship. This isn’t the first time this writer has used something in a humorous way and then turned around the suckerpunched me right in the tear ducts with the same things. By having Se-hee manipulate Sang-gu early on while trying to get him off his back regarding his marriage, then seeing Sang-gu profound understanding of Se-hee’s emotions could not have been more perfectly executed. Gah, the relationships in this show make my heart do somersaults. How cute was Se-hee’s smile when Mom defended him? Adorable.
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