One Spring Night: Episodes 1-2
The latest from director Ahn Pan-seok, One Spring Night promises a complex story about love and expectations, and how the two ideas come into conflict in many different ways. Our heroine Jung-in has grown accustomed to her uneventful days and “boring” relationship, until she has an unexpected meet cute with our leading man, Ji-ho. Fate and coincidence start to work against her, even as Jung-in tries to stick to her easy, undramatic life.
It’s a late winter evening, and our heroine LEE JUNG-IN (Han Ji-min) jokes with her friend SONG YOUNG-JOO (Lee Sang-hee) as they stumble back to Young-joo’s apartment for some after-drinking drinks. Jung-in’s phone rings, and she and her boyfriend KWON KI-SEOK (Kim Joon-han) have a mundane conversation about what their plans are for the next day.
Young-joo notes that Jung-in doesn’t even say, “I love you” as she hangs up and laments that long-term relationships are the worst. Jung-in insists that she and Ki-seok have never been overly affectionate, and Young-joo retracts her earlier joke that she’d like to take Ki-seok off Jung-in’s hands. “You can keep him,” she smiles as they toast.
While the ladies drink, our leading man, YOO JI-HO (Jung Hae-in) plays rec basketball with some friends. As he’s leaving, his friend stops him at the door to introduce him to a new guy joining their league, Jung-in’s boyfriend Ki-seok. The guys trade some gentle competitive jabs at one another before Ji-ho departs.
The next morning, Jung-in wakes up on Young-joo’s floor, late for work. As she rushes out, she stops at the pharmacy in her friend’s neighborhood, where it just so happens Ji-ho works as a pharmacist. He opens the hangover medicine for her and Jung-in gulps it down, but then she realizes that she’s left her wallet behind at Young-joo’s.
Jung-in asks if she can return later to pay, but she gets suspicious when Ji-ho seems to amenable to that. So she demands his account number so she can just transfer funds, and when he stays silent at that, she digs herself in deeper and tries to place the blame for her taking medicine she didn’t have money for on Ji-ho, ha. She offers to give him her number, just in case he doesn’t trust her to return. Instead, Ji-ho recites his own number to her, even though she doesn’t have her phone out to save it.
Jung-in heads out to figure out how to get to work, and Ji-ho follows out with some money for a taxi. He says he knows she’ll pay him back, and they finally introduce themselves right before she heads off to work. In the car, she finally gets a hold of Young-joo and confirms that her wallet is at her place. Jung-in doesn’t tell her friend about her run-in in the pharmacy, but she recalls Ji-ho’s number, and types it into her phone to add him as a contact.
While Jung-in struggles to get her day started, newscaster LEE SEO-IN (Im Seong-un) has already recorded her news segment. As the cameras stop filming, Seo-in ducks down to check her phone. She’s got a text from her husband, NAM SHI-HOON (Lee Moo-saeng), that reads, “don’t touch any of my stuff.”
Seo-in winces as she reads it. Meanwhile at home, Shi-hoon mutters to himself as he picks up a picture frame, only to shatter it against the wall in a growing rage.
Jung-in eats lunch with her coworker Oh Ha-rin, who wishes she could meet a guy and let the relationship grow like her growing friendship with Jung-in. Jung-in suggests that a single meeting could be enough, like destiny, and Ha-rin scoffs that “boring” Jung-in doesn’t even believe in horoscopes, let alone destiny.
As they eat, Jung-in’s phone rings with a call from Ki-seok. It seems that she sent a message to him by mistake, asking for an account number. Jung-in doesn’t mention her pharmacy encounter to him either, and lies that she meant the message for a client at work.
Jung-in manages to sent a message to the correct number, but Ji-ho is too busy closing the pharmacy and heading home with two of his friends to respond. Meanwhile, Ki-seok picks Jung-in up at work and they head to Young-joo’s neighborhood to pick up Jung-in’s wallet.
On the way, Ki-seok broaches the topic of marriage, but it’s very casual, as if he were just continuing on with the discussion of his day. Jung-in shoots him a look, and the conversation further declines when Ki-seok suggests that Jung-in just get dinner with Young-joo while he goes and works at home. Ki-seok accuses her of sulking, but Jung-in’s eyes are actually on the pharmacy where she met Ji-ho as they drive past.
By the time Jung-in meets Young-joo at the door to her apartment building, her scowl lets Young-joo know exactly how she’s feeling. But instead of eating with Young-joo, Jung-in grabs her wallet and hops back into Ki-seok’s car. The next floor up, Young-joo’s neighbor, who just happens to be Ji-ho, catches a brief glimpse of the scene as he grabs supplies from the balcony.
Ji-ho turns inside to his friends who are over for food and drinks. They talk basketball, and mention that Ki-seok’s dad is the chairman of the foundation that supports their team, and that Ki-seok helped them rent the gym. That gym also happens to be in the school that Ki-seok’s girlfriend’s father (i.e. Jung-in’s dad) is the principal of. They’ve heard that Ki-seok’s girlfriend is hot (you’re not wrong), but they’ve never met her. But they’re hoping to get the whole group together to meet some girls, and one of Ji-ho’s friends suggest that Ji-ho get back out there instead of spending all of his time at the pharmacy. “I mean, it’s not like he committed a crime,” his friend says. Uh-oh. Sounds like Ji-ho’s got some baggage…
The awkward drive home continues for Jung-in. Ki-seok moves on to the topic of moving in together so they wouldn’t have to worry about making dinner plans. Jung-in asks if he wants to move in together to avoid hassles. By the time they finally arrive at Jung-in’s door, all he can muster is a cheek pinch, and Jung-in heads inside.
Huddled in an alcove outside Jung-in’s apartment is her little sister, LEE JAE-IN (Joo Min-kyung). Jung-in is surprised to see her, but brings her inside, along with her luggage. Inside, Jung-in wonders if their mother knows she’s returned, while Jae-in grouses that Jung-in’s kimchi isn’t their mother’s kimchi and digs in to the ramyun her sister prepares for her.
Jae-in confesses that while she was in France, she was pursuing a guy, and he eventually issued a restraining order against her. Jung-in is scandalized, while Jae-in just shrugs that she returned to Korea to avoid becoming a criminal.
Ji-ho finally gets a chance to rest after his friends leave, and that’s when he notices the message from Jung-in demanding his account number. Even though he looks exhausted, Ji-ho throws on his coat and heads out.
Back at her apartment, Jung-in stares at her phone from the floor as her sister sleeps in her bed. Ki-seok sends her a coupon for fried chicken with a reminder to not get fat eating the whole thing, and Jung-in musters a smile at it. But there’s still no reply to her message to Ji-ho.
Ji-ho arrives at his parents’ home. He walks in, and his dad ushers his mom away as Ji-ho enters a darkened room quietly. He sits down on the bed, and a young boy wakes up. “Dad!” he exclaims, and hugs Ji-ho. Surprise! Ji-ho is a single dad.
In the morning, Ki-seok meets with his dad, Chairman Kwon. Dad is also thinking about marriage for Ki-seok, but he has a colleague’s daughter, not Jung-in, in mind. Ki-seok reminds him that he’s dating Jung-in, and Dad reminds his son that marriage isn’t a game, but a part of their business.
Chairman Kwon hops in a car and heads directly to Jung-in’s dad’s office at the school. Jung-in’s dad is busy reading up on how to get rich quick before retirement, and his expression turns from friendly to concerned when Chairman Kwon asks why it’s taking so long for their children to get married and insinuates that maybe they’re not that serious. “Your oldest daughter married well, I’m sure Jung-in will do the same,” he says, and just as quickly as he arrives, Chairman Kwon is out the door.
But this encounter sends Jung-in’s dad into a panic, and soon Jung-in receives a call from her mother, who wants them all to meet for a family dinner. Young-joo, who is also Jung-in’s coworker at the library, confirms that Jung-in will turn up at her place afterwards, and Jung-in demands that she stock up on booze. When Young-joo mentions stopping by the pharmacy, Jung-in immediately pounces and asks if Young-joo goes there often. Her friend wonders about her interest in the pharmacy, but Jung-in plays it off.
Shi-hoon is on the phone with Seo-in, and asks if she told her mom what’s going on, since they invited him over. She tells him to just come over, and he refuses. Jung-in catches up with her older sister, Seo-in, just as she hangs up on Shi-hoon, and the two sisters head in to dinner with their parents together.
Their mother wonders about Shi-hoon’s absence from dinner, and Seo-in says that he’s just busy. Dad brings up Ki-seok with Jung-in, and Jung-in refuses to say whether or not she plans to marry him. Dad gets more upset as he pushes her to make a decision, and Jung-in apologizes to her sister before she retorts that she won’t be forced into a marriage like her older sister. She plans to weigh her options. Dad turns to Seo-in and asks her if he forced her into marriage, and her response is, “Yes.”
After the dinner, the two sisters decompress together in the car. Seo-in confesses to Jung-in that she’s getting a divorce. She says that it’s not happening right away, but she’s determined to get there. Jung-in asks if Shi-hoon has agreed to it, and it sounds like that’s still in progress. Jung-in shares that Jae-in is hiding out at her apartment, and they laugh at what a mess the Lee sisters all are. Jung-in promises to be there for Seo-in no matter what, and the two hug.
At the pharmacy, Ji-ho’s fellow pharmacist spots the falling snow and is excited to leave work and maybe find a date. As she leaves, in marches Jung-in, ready to repay Ji-ho. She asks why Ji-ho never sent her his account info, and he responds that he’d hope that she’d have to see him in person one more time if he didn’t.
Ji-ho asks if she’d like to get dinner, and Jung-in responds that she doesn’t eat with strangers (not, you know, that she has a boyfriend). Ji-ho laughs that she memorized his phone number, so he can’t be such a stranger, and Jung-in says that she just has a good memory.
Ji-ho watches as Jung-in leaves, and after a beat he feels compelled to race after her. He runs down the street through the snow, but Jung-in is already gone. As he turns back, Jung-in exits the corner store that she ducked into and heads for Young-joo’s place.
At Young-joo’s, the door buzzes and Jung-in goes to retrieve the chicken they’ve ordered. But ahead of the delivery guy is Ji-ho. Jung-in assumes that he’s somehow followed her, but Ji-ho says nothing and just keeps walking up the stairs, until he opens his own door and goes inside.
Jung-in grabs the chicken and goes back inside flustered. She begins to ask her friend what she knows about her upstairs neighbor, the good-looking guy. Young-joo isn’t really sure, she thinks it may be a couple living together upstairs. Young-joo teases her friend about constantly thinking about this guy. “It means you’re interested. Just know though, that qualifies as cheating too.”
In his apartment, Ji-ho cracks a beer and looks at his messages. He’s got a text from Jung-in, apologizing for the misunderstanding. He smiles, and then peeks out the window as he hears Jung-in outside getting into a taxi. He texts back for her to have a safe trip home. And then suddenly, Ji-ho has his coat on and he’s running down the stairs of his apartment and into the snow.
Outside the pharmacy, Jung-in is waiting for him. She almost wimps out and leaves, but he arrives just in time and lets her into the pharmacy so that they can talk. He brings over paper cups of hot tea, and at the same time, Jung-in confesses that she’s in a relationship, and he admits that he has a son.
Jung-in asks if he’s married, and he shakes his head. Jung-in’s suspicion clears from her eyes, and she says that him having a son doesn’t make him less of a good person. She says it quickly, but a smile spreads over Ji-ho’s face just to hear it. Jung-in smiles and suggests that they could be friends, but Ji-ho says that he wouldn’t be comfortable with that arrangement.
The scene changes as the time passes, and now Ji-ho sits alone in the pharmacy next to Jung-in’s tea cup. Jung-in is back at home, scrolling through her text messages in the dark.
It’s Jung-in’s day off, and she just wants to stay in and read, while Jae-in begs her older sister to take her out for Ki-seok’s basketball dinner party. Jae-in notes that it’s probably the last snowfall of the season, and that drives Jung-in out of her sweats and out for the dinner.
The sisters arrive at the gym as the game is still in progress, and Jung-in’s face freezes as she spots Ji-ho out there on the court. Ji-ho and Ki-seok collide in a foul, and as Ji-ho shakes it off, he glances up into the bleachers and spots Jung-in. His face freezes on her and he totally zones out as he misses a pass to him. He returns back to the game, but he keeps darting glances up into the stands.
The game ends, and Ki-seok smiles widely to see Jae-in in the stands. While those two catch up, Jung-in stays seated, and she and Ji-ho stare at one another.
Ah, what a cliffhanger. I love shows like this that focus in on the emotions of the core characters right away, and let the action and plot build slowly around them. There’s no life or death stakes here, and yet I am desperate to watch the next two episodes to see how this dinner works out (or rather, how it doesn’t).
What I think is especially great about this final moment is the imbalance of awareness the two characters have, and how that builds for even more anticipation from the audience. Jung-in knows what forces brought her to the gym, but Ji-ho has no clue how she’s related to this. My chest filled up with such anticipation, awaiting that moment where he gives himself a second to hope that she’s there to see him, only to have that moment taken from him when Ki-seok strolls up to her. So yeah, I’m watching the next episodes as soon as I’m done writing this.
But it’s not just the ending that has me impressed with this show. There’s just something so earthy about all these scenes. There’s no flash, no big boardroom or chaebol company (well, not yet anyway. We’ll see how Ki-seok and his dad shake out as things progress). The big scenes happen in dimly lit hallways and basketball courts inside schools. The action is all internal, what these characters are thinking and processing and then taking baby steps towards. It’s the perfect kind of show for those who love slow, emotion-driven stories.
Jung-in’s reaction to her meet cute with Ji-ho unfolds slowly over the days. Their meeting is really nowhere near cute, much more uncomfortable and awkward. But even as she reassures everyone around her that she loves her boring, predictable life, she withholds from everyone any detail about that moment in the pharmacy. She won’t even admit to her closest friend that she had a strange interaction with someone, let alone that she has any kind of mixed feelings about it.
But just because she refuses to admit things doesn’t mean her friends don’t notice, and I so appreciated that Young-joo knows her well enough to read between the lines, and also to be the one to push Jung-in towards the realization that even the smallest indulgence of these feelings, even if she never acts on it, was perhaps a betrayal of her current relationship status quo.
I’m very glad that Jung-in went right away to confess the truth to Ji-ho about her availability. Even as they both inevitably realize that even with these barriers, they have an undeniable attraction, they’re going to do so now without the burden of anyone leading anyone else on. When Jung-in admits quietly to Ji-ho that she was briefly enjoying the small bit of attention, it’s so honest and heartwarming. Now they have a strong foundation of raw honesty to build on.
But Ji-ho doesn’t allow her to get by and have it both ways, and I think he was right to decline her offer of friendship. Of course, I say so fully knowing that by the end of Episode 2, he’s staring up at her in the stands, so…
And what makes this all the more complex is that Ki-seok isn’t a monster. He’s not the only one at fault for the blandness in his relationship with Jung-in. Both of them have contributed to that over the years. And Ki-seok is loyal. He doesn’t jump at the chance to move on with a marriage that would benefit his company. He wants to move forward with marriage and moving in together with Jung-in, he just doesn’t see how that might not be what either of them actually wants. This relationship is nebulous, and while I suspect it will be impossible to not root for Ji-ho, it is definitely going to come with a healthy dose of regret for Ki-seok, who perhaps had the chance to see this all coming, but didn’t.
This is looking to be a larger ensemble cast, but there’s great pacing to the introduction of characters that keeps it from feeling overwhelming. Rather than slamming them all out at once to keep up the pace, these episodes take their time and give characters one-on-one time. I loved how slowly each of the sisters was introduced and woven in, and I’m so excited that each of them has something to contribute to the larger picture of what this show wants to say about love. The three Lee sisters are all at different odds with love, but they are united together as a front determined to get what they want from it, not what others want or think is right for them. I’m so excited to watch them support one another.
I’m also a little nervous, honestly, to continue watching, because I liked what I saw in these episodes so much. I really want this show to make it to the end with a great, quiet achievement in hand. But I’ve also seen the reactions to this director’s other recent show, Pretty Noona Who Buys Me Food, and I can’t help but be wary. I’m glad that I’m going in without the baggage of the previous show, and am willing to trust this show to hurt me in all the right ways by the end.
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