Clean With Passion for Now: Episode 9
The plot undulates in choppy waves this week, as reconciliations are quickly dashed by new problems that keep our CEO and his unkempt employee apart. While Seon-gyeol’s own neuroses have been the culprits in the past, it’s the world around them this time that conspires to separate them. As each of them find themselves embroiled in legal battles, they quickly discover that the law isn’t always working to protect the innocent, and that the honorable way is not always the easy way.
EPISODE 9: “Saying ‘I like you’ isn’t always necessary”
It’s a night of uneasy sleep for both Oh-sol and her father after their latest confrontations with Seon-gyeol. Dad gets up in the night, wondering if he hears a rat rustling through the pantry. But the overgrown rat turns out to be Oh-sol, who snuck out of her room earlier to taste the supplements Seon-gyeol dropped off earlier. While she blusters, her father suggests some late night soju.
With some alcohol in them both, Dad laments how working in cleaning jobs all his life has affected him. He shows Oh-sol his fingernails, permanently darkened by labor, and tells her how he sees others judge him in restaurants. Oh-sol tells her dad that she’d meant to only work at the cleaning company temporarily, but that she’d found it fun, and she enjoys how it made her feel needed. But she says that he’s never questioned any of her decisions before, so she’ll honor his request now and quit.
Their reconciliation is interrupted by Oh-dol, who refuses to be left out of late night drinking. He and Oh-sol bicker like the siblings they are, as Oh-dol grabs for her food.
Meanwhile, Yeong-shik has tagged along with Jae-min for a role as an extra in a historical drama. They cower, cramming rice balls into their mouths as the set rattles above them. After the scene, Jae-min runs into a fellow actor who is playing a lead part in the drama. The actor wonders that Jae-min is still doing roles as just an extra before he turns away. Yeong-shik is angry on Jae-min’s behalf.
The next morning, Oh-sol’s dad gasps at the horrific smell fermenting in his still-sleeping daughter’s room as he nudges her to wake up and get to work. Oh-sol begs for just a few more minutes, until she realizes her father wants her to go to work. He’s even made her favorite breakfast, steamed eggs.
At Seon-gyeol’s house, he learns of Oh-sol’s return to work from Secretary Kwon by phone, and he is way too obviously excited about it, and he spends the rest of the morning fussing over what to wear to look his best.
Oh-sol’s dad fusses over Oh-sol as she gets ready to head out the door, even lint rolling her coat for her. He tells her to do her best, and then says that he thought her CEO was a thoughtful, responsible young man. Oh-sol totally agrees.
Just outside her house, Oh-sol sits with Mr. Choi before heading off. He’s happy to hear that her dad has come around about her job, but he knows that Oh-sol has something more to say to him. He tries to joke, but Oh-sol grows serious as she tells him that while it felt really wonderful to know that a guy like him likes her, she has to admit that she likes someone else, and even confesses to Mr. Choi that it’s her boss.
Mr. Choi does his best to smile and shrug it off, and asks that Oh-sol still take care of the cactus he left in her room alongside the pebble. He asks her to water it, just ever so often, and it’s clear he’s talking about more than the cactus, as he asks to stay in her life as her really cool doctor friend.
The staff lounge appears empty when Oh-sol first arrives, but her coworkers soon pop out to surprise her with party hats and treats. They clam up a bit when Seon-gyeol arrives with Secretary Kwon, but he just gives Oh-sol a heartfelt welcome back and a smile.
The boys take Oh-sol out after work for welcome back meat and drinks. Meanwhile, and unaware Seon-gyeol practices how he’ll offer to give Oh-sol a ride home. But he finds the lounge empty, and Secretary Kwon turns up to let him know that everyone has gone out for drinks.
Seon-gyeol lurks outside the restaurant from his car, but he’s disgusted by the grease and dirt he can imagine filling up the restaurant. But then, he watches as Jae-min leans in to grab Oh-sol’s shoulder, and his face is in her hair again.
Inside the restaurant, Jae-min’s teasing Oh-sol about her smelly hair again, until Yeong-shik shares the video of Jae-min eating rice balls in that drama that has now gone viral, and the tables turn as they tease Jae-min good-naturedly. They all stop laughing, however, when they hear a greeting from the doorway, and Seon-gyeol appears, dressed in a plastic jacket and wearing a face mask, his own folding chair in his hands.
Seon-gyeol pretends that he came to the restaurant for research, to figure out the best way to clean up grease like this. He calls out for cuts of meat and wine way beyond the class of the establishment, and everyone at the table looks down in embarrassment.
Dong-hyun receives a call, and he’s up and rushing for the door immediately without explanation. Jae-min jumps up and tries to wheedle him to stay, but Dong-hyun gets frustrated fast and yells at him before exiting.
After they’re finished eating, Seon-gyeol disposes of his plastic suit, and when Yeong-shik and Jae-min head for the subway together, he gets his chance to offer to drive Oh-sol home. But just as he makes the offer, he watches as a tow truck goes by with his car attached (must have parked illegally in his rush to interrupt their meal…)
Oh-sol suggests taking the bus with her, but Seon-gyeol takes one look at the crowd as it rolls by, and he shakes his head like a scared puppy. He suggests a taxi, but as one stops near them, it lets off a guy who immediately pukes on the curb, which garners another head shake from Seon-gyeol. So finally, Seon-gyeol suggests they walk home, and he strides off before he can hear Oh-sol’s protests.
There’s a light installation along the path, and a lighted sign reads, “Shall we take a walk?” Seon-gyeol gawks when he hears Oh-sol say, “Do you dream of love?” until she points to the next sign in the installation.
Oh-sol remarks how good a walk feels, and how she would rarely make time for moments like this when she was studying and trying to find a job. It’s her turn to gawk when she hears Seon-gyeol say, “I love you, forever and ever,” but it’s still just another sign in the installation.
Oh-sol smiles, and then pulls out a present from her bag. She made chocolates for Seon-gyeol, but she hesitates as she realizes that he probably hates things like chocolates. Seon-gyeol declares them his favorite things and reaches for the box. Oh-sol tells him that she’s included something in the box that she really cherishes.
She thanks him for helping her return to work, and he thanks her for returning, and starts to say that she’s important… to the company as an employee. Awww, that isn’t what he really wanted to say…
Oh-sol stays up in bed when she gets home, thinking of her walk with Seon-gyeol. She doodles in her planner, and writes in, “Saying ‘I like you’ isn’t always necessary.” Awww, she gets what Seon-gyeol meant to say.
Seon-gyeol sits on his sofa and opens the present. Inside he finds a tiny card that reads “5th place,” and while he doesn’t know what it means, he knows it’s something that Oh-sol cherishes. Underneath, Oh-sol’s chocolates aren’t the most attractive things. But Seon-gyeol only hesitates for a moment before he pops one into his mouth, and he smiles.
The next morning Seon-gyeol’s mother pays him a visit, and the chocolates don’t go unnoticed. Mom can’t help but point out his previous dislike of something that would get his hands and teeth dirty, but Seon-gyeol tells her that the chocolates are something he cherishes.
The Cleaning Fairy crew is on assignment at a law office, with specific instructions to not touch any of the papers in the office, since they have important documents. Yeah, I definitely have a bad feeling about this…
Oh-sol picks up the empty food containers littered across desks, while the camera zooms in on a writ of execution document sitting on top of the desk. An employee ducks in, and asks Oh-sol to take care of a spill in front of the elevator before she finishes the room, and then return and shred all the paper in the recycle bin. Once she’s busy, the employee ducks back into the room. He glances up at the CCTV in the corner of the room, and then grabs that writ of execution and sends it through the shredder.
Oh-sol runs into Dong-hyun as she mops up the spill, and she checks in with him about his sudden departure the night before. Dong-hyun gives her a small smile and promises that nothing’s going on with him. Knowing she’s not going to get anything out of Dong-hyun, Oh-sol returns to the office and heads to the recycle bin, where she shreds the big stack of documents sitting there.
Cut immediately to the board room, where the head of the firm now berates Oh-sol and the other cleaning staff for the missing document. The blame is all on Oh-sol, since she was the one assigned to that room, though she swears that she didn’t touch any documents.
Seon-gyeol arrives to defend his employees. He demands that the company provide proof that Oh-sol is responsible and requests the CCTV footage. This further infuriates the law firm’s boss, who immediately threatens legal action.
As he walks away, Secretary Kwon corners him in the hallway. Seon-gyeol says that this is just like the last time, when he blamed Oh-sol right away rather than looking at the situation. But Secretary Kwon says that this time is different, because of the company’s legal prowess and the bad press that is already spreading.
Seon-gyeol responds that he knows that Oh-sol wouldn’t do this, and Secretary Kwon counters that she doesn’t understand why he’s so protective of Oh-sol. She asks if he would respond the same way if it was anyone else accused, and Seon-gyeol gives her a firm yes, that he learned his lesson from the previous incident with the broken action figure.
It isn’t long before Secretary Kwon calls Seon-gyeol with news that they’ve got the security footage. Seon-gyeol returns to the law office, where he finds Oh-sol still there, asking employees in the lobby if they’ve seen the document. Seon-gyeol gives her a kind yet concerned look and tells her to go home. As Seon-gyeol walks away, the shady employee who shredded the document walks by, and Oh-sol stops him to ask about the document. He says he has no idea, and then when she asks if he knows about the shredded documents, he says that the security company has already picked it all up.
Upstairs, the security footage shows Oh-sol picking at the trash on the desk, and then immediately moves to her shredding documents, the moments when the employee snuck in conveniently missing. Seon-gyeol leaves behind the smug smile of the firm’s boss and instead asks Secretary Kwon for information about the shredding security company. She suggests going there first thing in the morning and checking in with their legal team instead, but Seon-gyeol wants to go now.
When he arrives at the shredding compound, he hears the workers there yelling at someone to just go home. As Seon-gyeol rounds the corner of a towering pile of shredded paper, he finds Oh-sol crouched at the foot of it, digging through the shreds. Her hands are bleeding from paper cuts. Seon-gyeol calls her name, and it takes a moment for Oh-sol’s eyes to focus on him as she looks up. He holds out his hand to help her up.
The next day, Oh-sol overhears some fellow Cleaning Fairy employees gossiping in the bathroom about lawsuit that is likely coming due to the incident, and how vicious that law firm is. Oh-sol spots Seon-gyeol and Secretary Kwon in the hallway as she exits the restroom, and she stops to listen in. Secretary Kwon reports to him that customers are already calling to cancel their reservations as news of the lawsuit spreads. She warns that the suit will have a major impact on the business, and Seon-gyeol nods and says that he’ll consider it.
Secretary Kwon then asks if he plans to fire Oh-sol. He’s surprised that she would even suggest it, but Secretary Kwon says that Oh-sol has negatively impacted the company’s image and the atmosphere in the building, and that Seon-gyeol needs to look at things with a neutral eye and do what’s best for the company.
The next day, Seon-gyeol is on the phone struggling to secure legal representation for the suit when Oh-sol stops by his office, a letter of resignation in her hand. She tells him that she doesn’t want to damage the company anymore, and she thanks Seon-gyeol while ignoring his protests. Seon-gyeol calls her name, his frustration building, but Oh-sol doesn’t turn back.
Yeong-shik is in tears while Jae-min does his best to change Oh-sol’s mind as she walks towards the door with her belongings packed in a cardboard box. She makes them all promise to keep in touch, and then looks up to the top of the stairs, where Seon-gyeol is also watching her departure. Across the lobby, Secretary Kwon is on her phone. “I carried it out as you told me,” she tells the caller. Uh oh…
Oh-sol trips on the neighborhood stairs as she heads home, and as the contents of her box go flying, she drops to her knees and begins to sob in frustration. Trusty Mr. Choi appears on the stairs and gathers up her things, and then hands her a handkerchief. They sit together on the stairs in silent commiseration.
Dad is busy with his car washing business, and he’s even gotten approval by the board of residents to keep working there. But the competing cleaner thugs turn up again and kick his supplies over. When Dad protests, they start to push at him as well. Joo-yeon happens to be walking by and watches as Dad falls to the ground. She rushes to his aid, and calls Oh-dol for help.
Oh-dol rushes straight from taekwondo practice, still in his uniform when he arrives. Dad begs him to stand down and not fight the guys, and he manages to just push the guys away. But as he crouches down to help his dad up, one of the guys grabs him and takes the first swing, and Oh-dol retaliates. With just a couple kicks, the man in on the ground, while Dad looks on in horror.
Oh-sol and Mr. Choi have moved to the hilltop benches in their neighborhood, and he brings Oh-sol a yogurt drink, her beverage of choice when she needs consoling. She tells him that she feels like a coward, but she couldn’t think of anything else she could do but quit her job. Their talk is interrupted by a call from Joo-yeon, and soon Oh-sol and Mr. arrive at the police station.
Dad is there, begging the cops and the cleaning thugs to have mercy. Oh-dol remains stubborn though, as he knows that he was just defending his father.
After they leave, Mr. Choi reaches out to a friend for legal advice for Oh-dol and Dad. The friend recommends settling, even though the thugs have priors for intimidation. The problem is that Oh-dol is a trained athlete in martial arts, and that will work against him in court, since his attacks could have been lethal.
Oh-sol has been making her own efforts to convince the thugs to settle, visiting them in person for several days. But the guy refuses to budge, and tells her that he’ll teach them all a lesson for attacking an untrained civilian. Oh-sol wants to keep begging, but her phone reminds her that it’s time for job number three.
She’s back to working several part-time jobs, and number three is as a waitress. She looks up to welcome a newly arrived customer, and it turns out to be Secretary Kwon in the entrance. Hmmm…
Seon-gyeol locks up, and on his way out, his red umbrella by the door triggers his memories of Oh-sol, and the way that she protected him at the airport when he began to panic. In his car, Seon-gyeol bangs his fist against the steering wheel, and then heads inside to his apartment.
But when he enters, he finds a figure standing there in his living room. It’s Oh-sol, complete with a fresh hair cut. She stands before him, and then says, “Hello, I’m Gil Oh-sol. I’ll be working at your place, starting today.”
I have no clue what this ending is supposed to mean. This makes so little sense, I wouldn’t be surprised if this newly-styled Oh-sol is actually a robot replica, here to introduce Seon-gyeol to friend mode. I kid, I think, but I have no clue what angle Secretary Kwon and Seon-gyeol’s grandfather are playing at here, and why having Oh-sol work with Seon-gyeol at home is any better than just letting them get close to one another on their own terms. Secretary Kwon, I trusted you with Seon-gyeol’s heart, and now I don’t know what to do with you. While I can appreciate that she has selfish reasons for trying to find a cure to the phobia, she’s playing with people’s lives here — Oh-sol’s livelihood! The lawsuit certainly made things more nebulous in terms of her motives, but even then the Secretary Kwon of this episode, recommending Seon-gyeol fire Oh-sol, certainly doesn’t feel like the one who defended Oh-sol and the other employees in the past.
It was clear as soon as the Cleaning Fairies received their special instructions at that law office that something was going to go horribly wrong. And at first, I was not excited to retread the same old conflict that seems to revisit Oh-sol over and over again at this job. But then Seon-gyeol acknowledged to Secretary Kwon that the first time this had happened to them, he’d handled it the wrong way and blamed Oh-sol immediately, and he wanted to learn from his mistakes and do the right thing. And then, doing the right thing wasn’t easy for him, and my feelings about it began to thaw.
When Seon-gyeol blamed Oh-sol for the broken action figure, it was the easiest path for a company CEO to take, and the one I think we’d all expect to happen. He apologized to his clientele, even bought the guy a replacement figure, and did everything he could to make him happy, at the expense of his employee. It’s “the customer is always right” at its most modern interpretation.
This time, Seon-gyeol tried to go the other route and protect his employee, and he quickly discovers that this could mean losing his entire business. No one is confident that the law will side with the innocent, regardless of the lack of actual evidence. And with the incident with Oh-dol and the cleaning thugs fight running in parallel, it’s clear that looking out for others is not the easy thing to do.
And I think that’s why I’m frustrated with the idea that Secretary Kwon has fabricated some strange new reason for Oh-sol to stay close to Seon-gyeol by working for him. Now, do they even have a reason to keep fighting the good fight, if they still get to be close without any effort?
The Gil family members are great at being a family to one another. I loved when Oh-dol turned up for late night soju with his older sister and dad, and the way that they tease, bicker, and listen to one another. This fight with the thugs and their legal actions again Oh-dol, it surely threatens his college acceptance, and with his dreams yanked away the same way that Oh-sol’s were, could Oh-dol find himself in need of a cleaning job as well? It’s not what I want for him, though I think he still needs some time to understand that a cleaning job isn’t the worst thing in the world.
And man, that love triangle ended before it ever got the chance to begin, didn’t it? I’m glad that Mr. Choi didn’t have to wait long to hear her answer, and I’m even happier that she told him exactly who it was that had her attention instead. And while I knew from the start that he would stand by her no matter what, it’s difficult to think of Mr. Choi standing around like a sweet puppy for seven more episodes. Maybe Secretary Kwon can get over her streak of misguided intentions, and she and Mr. Choi can find one another in the end.