Itaewon Class: Episode 6
While our hero is focused on plotting his revenge war against Jang Ga, he seems blissfully unaware of the one being waged by the two women in his life. Both are determined to hold their ground, and although one woman’s allegiances are clear, her counterpart’s remain murky despite her declarations otherwise. Can you love someone and still stand against them? These star-crossed lovers may have to find out the hard way.
EPISODE 6 RECAP
Soo-ah stares at Sae-ro-yi through a drunken haze as he gently reassures her that no matter what she does, he’s okay with it. It triggers a flashback and Soo-ah is suddenly a small girl standing in the rain outside an orphanage as her mother tearfully bids her goodbye. Soo-ah narrates that through it all, her mother never promised to return for her. A few years later, Soo-ah overhears one of her classmates tell another that Soo-ah is an orphan. The female classmate sympathizes and offers Soo-ah a treat when she sits at her desk.
Swallowing her emotions, Soo-ah thanks the girl… but later tosses the contents of the girl’s backpack into the toilet. Their teacher calls Soo-ah to the office to speak with her, but Soo-ah insists she’s innocent. Not fooled, the teacher warns her she’s lost her chance to reflect and repent, but Soo-ah coldly declares she doesn’t need it. Soo-ah further narrates that she had vowed that since no one else loved her, she would love herself.
Thinking back to when President Jang had first called on her, Soo-ah continues that since that day she has been justifying herself. In the present she thinks that it would’ve been better to have been rejected by Sae-ro-yi for betraying him. Countering her thoughts, Sae-ro-yi repeats aloud that she hasn’t done anything wrong by living her best life. Soo-ah starts to tell Sae-ro-yi she thinks he’s always shined too brightly but trails off as she leans in for a kiss… only to be blocked by Yi-seo clamping a hand over her mouth. Heh.
Yi-seo and Soo-ah stare each other down until So o-ah finally yanks Yi-seo’s hand from her mouth. The spell broken, Sae-ro-yi demands to know what Yi-seo is doing and she blinks back innocently, asking if he’d given consent for Soo-ah to kiss him. He’s too embarrassed to respond, but Soo-ah declares the incident sobered her up. Yi-seo reminds Sae-ro-yi that everyone is waiting for him so they can have their grand opening team dinner and Sae-ro-yi promises to join her as soon as he sends Soo-ah home.
Pulling out her phone, Yi-seo breezily offers to call a taxi herself. She turns to Soo-ah, pointedly asking where she lives. Ignoring Yi-seo, Soo-ah sighs that she drank on an empty stomach and asks Sae-ro-yi if she can join their dinner. Yi-seo balks at Soo-ah’s brazen request, but her protests fall on deaf ears because moments later she’s glaring at Soo-ah across the table.
Seung-kwon attempts to break the tension by pouring Sae-ro-yi a drink and Soo-ah awkwardly hopes she’s not interrupting. Yi-seo scoffs that she’s the one who insisted. Hyun-yi recognizes Soo-ah and she admits she works across the street at Jang Ga Pub. Soo-ah thinks that Geun-soo also looks familiar and he deflects that she’d kicked him out of Jang Ga for being a minor. Soo-ah nods, but insists she knows him from somewhere else…
Thankfully, Geun-soo comments on the food and the conversation returns to Danbam as Yi-seo reveals she chose this restaurant to show the others what she considers a 4-star establishment. Sae-ro-yi asks about Danbam and Yi-seo gives it 3. Seung-kwon grumbles, but Yi-seo explains that means Danbam is a pretty decent pub. Soo-ah asks if there’s a 5-star worthy bar in Itaewon and Yi-seo confirms there is…. Jang Ga.
Location, service, and interior are all contributing factors, but Yi-seo says the thing that sets Jang Ga apart is the food. “I heard the chairman makes the recipes himself,” Yi-seo adds. Hyun-yi narrowly avoids a spit-take when Sae-ro-yi announces she’ll be just as good. Yi-seo says Hyun-yi is already a good cook and notes that Jang Ga is an established, successful brand with different goals. Sae-ro-yi disagrees, “My goal is to franchise Danbam.”
Yi-seo starts to argue franchising is difficult but Sae-ro-yi smoothly replies he’s aware. What’s more, Sae-ro-yi cheerfully points out he has them to help and holds out his glass. Seung-kwon is the first to thrust his own glass forward, quickly followed by the rest of the team. Sae-ro-yi looks expectantly at Yi-seo and with a smirk, she adds her glass to the toast while Soo-ah looks uncomfortable.
Afterwards, Soo-ah washes up in the bathroom and reflects on President Jang’s statement that now is the time for action (to prove her allegiance). Yi-seo finds her there and questions why Soo-ah lied about reporting Danbam to the police. Soo-ah ignores her and Yi-seo admits she was shocked Soo-ah tried to kiss Sae-ro-yi earlier. Soo-ah reminds her that Yi-seo said she didn’t like Sae-ro-yi. “I like him a lot,” Yi-seo trills.
Soo-ah seems unperturbed and Yi-seo shares that when she was younger, she was diagnosed with a 79 percent probability of being a sociopath. Soo-ah assumes she’s trying to intimidate her but Yi-seo merely insists that she’s the type of person that gets what she wants no matter what. “I like my boss,” Yi-seo repeats and Soo-ah laughs that Sae-ro-yi likes her. Yi-seo smirks that she’ll just have to destroy Soo-ah. “Good luck,” Soo-ah smiles patronizingly, “Cutie.”
Geun-won shows up to his date with the daughter of Jea Foods, Seo Jeong-in. She wonders if Geun-won’s discomfort is because this is his first blind date or that he doesn’t like her. Her smile falters when Geun-won assures her Jea Foods is a great company. The food Jeong-in had ordered while waiting arrives and it’s Geun-won’s turn to grimace as a chicken is placed before him. Recalling breaking a chicken’s neck as a teen, Geun-won chokes out that he doesn’t like chicken. Jeong-in scoffs that the son of Korea’s largest food company doesn’t like chicken but calls for a menu to be brought.
At Jang Ga HQ, Soo-ah delivers a file to President Jang and catches sight of a photo on his desk, immediately recognizing Geun-soo. She asks if that’s his son and when President Jang confirms it, Soo-ah asks if he sent Geun-soo to Danbam. It’s news to President Jang and he wonders how Danbam is doing. Soo-ah reports that business is booming just as Geun-won arrives back from his date. President Jang asks how it went and Geun-won is quick to assure Soo-ah that nothing happened.
President Jang sits them both down and opens the file Soo-ah brought – on Yi-seo. She explains that Danbam’s recent success is due to Yi-seo, noting Yi-seo’s marketing skills and excellent judgement. President Jang muses that quick-wit and sharp judgment are adjectives he’d use for Soo-ah as well. He asks her opinion on Sae-ro-yi and she says that while he’s rash and foolish, Sae-ro-yi has good insight (to hire Yi-seo). “Once he sets a goal,” she adds, “he makes it happen although it may take some time.”
Furthermore, Soo-ah says his employees are loyal. Geun-won scoffs that it would be embarrassing if he couldn’t handle a handful of people and questions why President Jang cares about a tiny pub. “Our company also started out as a small street pub,” President Jang snaps, “A person with a clear goal can achieve many things.” Soo-ah reveals Sae-ro-yi’s goal is to franchise Danbam. Geun-won bursts out in giggles, but President Jang orders Soo-ah to keep an eye on Danbam. Meanwhile, the secretary that brought their tea texts Min-jung everything she overheard of the meeting.
Elsewhere, Yi-seo’s mother finds out about Danbam thanks to a coworker following Yi-seo’s social media account. Over at Danbam, Yi-seo smirks as Geun-soo shyly rebuffs some drunk women’s advances. She stomps upstairs to see Sae-ro-yi, unaware of Geun-soo staring longingly after her and informing the drunk woman he has someone he likes. Oof. My heart.
Yi-seo asks Sae-ro-yi about her proposal to gain exposure for Danbam via TV and he gives her the green light. She warns him not to go back on his promise to change her pay from a fixed salary to 20 percent of net sales once they start doing well. Sae-ro-yi laughs that he was always going to pay her, regardless of profit. Grinning, Yi-seo adds that they’re actually becoming short-staffed and plans to post the job offer online.
Returning home after work, Yi-seo finds Mom waiting for her. Mom announces that she called the admissions office and Yi-seo’s eyes fall on the suitcase in the middle of the living room. Mom demands to know why Yi-seo is working at a bar instead of attending college. Yi-seo corrects that she’s the manager of the bar, but Mom knows this has to do with their conversation about falling in love. Yi-seo admits she likes the owner and Mom says she packed a bag and Yi-seo should leave.
Mom cries that she only wanted good things for Yi-seo. She says she was born poor and worked hard to raise Yi-seo well. Mom says she thought Yi-seo was smart enough not to end up like her. “I’m not like you,” Yi-seo replies, “I’m smart and clever. I can achieve both love and success.” Mom assumes she means to help Sae-ro-yi’s business and become a pub owner’s wife.
Yi-seo shakes her head and says she’s not depending on someone else’s dream or plans to live up to Mom’s either – she’s going to live for herself. “It’s my life,” Yi-seo smiles. She thanks Mom for raising her well and promises that she won’t take long, “I’m a lot more competent than you think.” Grabbing the suitcase, she bids Mom farewell, telling her to be sad for just a little while.
Sae-ro-yi is on a run when he spots Yi-seo on an overpass. He asks what she’s doing and Yi-seo replies that she was thinking about him and then asks what he’s doing. Sae-ro-yi admits his hobby is jogging and, seeing the suitcase, asks if something happened. Yi-seo sighs that she mad Mom cry because she’s not following the path Mom wants her to. Sae-ro-yi nods that Geun-soo had told him she was working instead of going to school.
“Why didn’t you stop me?” Yi-seo asks, guessing he was respecting her autonomy. Shaking his head, Sae-ro-yi admits that he needs her. He awkwardly adds that if Mom wants Yi-seo to work at a big firm, maybe they could grow Danbam into one. He wonders if he’s being selfish, worrying that he’s never consoled someone before. Beaming, Yi-seo assures him that comforted her more than anything. She laughs at his brazen declaration and Sae-ro-yi says, “Well, I have you.”
Yi-seo guesses that Sae-ro-yi intends to make Danbam the best in the food business. He simply replies that he’ll make it happen. She laughs and wonders if he’s full of it… but adds, “Let’s make it happen together.” Sae-ro-yi agrees and the pair look out over the city as the sun rises.
On her way to work, Hyun-yi passes a salon and thinks of Yi-seo’s words that she looks prettier with black hair. Everyone else is gathered to do their warmup stretches when Hyun-yi bursts into Danbam, her hair now it’s natural shade. Yi-seo grins proudly and Geun-soo prods Seung-kwon to begrudgingly agree that it looks nice. Sae-ro-yi confirms that it looks great and Hyun-yi beams. Meanwhile, President Jang is irked that Geun-soo is working for Sae-ro-yi.
Interviews for their new team member commence and Seung-kwon gapes at the long list of applicants. The first few are a bust, but then a pretty woman walks in and Seung-kwon nearly tips over himself. Sae-ro-yi recognizes her from Hong Seok-chan’s pub, but Yi-seo takes one look at Seung-kwon drooling and the way she calls Sae-ro-yi “oppa” and (politely) rejects the application. After she leaves, Seung-kwon demands why she wasn’t hired and Yi-seo trills, “My gut?”
Seung-kwon demands to know what’s wrong with Yi-seo and keeps pestering her to hire the pretty woman until someone walks into the pub and everyone falls silent. The man is quite obviously a foreigner and Sae-ro-yi asks Yi-seo to translate that they’re not open yet. She sweetly asks in English for him to come back later… only for him to ask in Korean if she’s the owner. Hee.
Reverting to Korean, Yi-seo asks what he wants, and the man replies he saw the post for a server. His name is Kim Tony and he excitedly interviews for the job, saying that his father is Korean, and he’s been there for a year. The rest of the team debate whether Yi-seo will approve and Sae-ro-yi is stunned when Yi-seo easily hires him on the spot.
She says that since it’s Itaewon (a district known for expats), it’ll be good to have another English speaker in the pub. Yi-seo adds that it’ll be nice having a foreigner around and Tony interjects that he is Korean. Sae-ro-yi asks if he can start tomorrow and to his confusion, Tony answers, “Yes, cool.” Tony repeats that he can start tomorrow, and Sae-ro-yi parrots “cool” back. Hehe.
Geun-won swings by Jang Ga Pub, looking for Soo-ah and teases the manager that they should’ve done so well when he was in charge. Meanwhile, Geun-soo helps Yi-seo move into her new apartment. He asks why she moved and nearly chokes when Yi-seo coolly says she got kicked out. Before she can answer, Yi-seo receives a call from a PD she’d approached about getting Danbam on TV. When she hangs up, Geun-soo asks if she secured a spot but she waves him off to call Sae-ro-yi.
As she brags about getting Danbam introduced to a program, Geun-soo flips through the folders she’d set down and sees the apology letter she’d had to write when they were caught at Danbam as minors… complete with a sketch of Sae-ro-yi. His heart breaks as he looks at her, realizing her crush. Meanwhile, Soo-ah walks up behind Sae-ro-yi just as he’s ending the call with Yi-seo. She guesses something good happened and Sae-ro-yi admits Danbam has a chance to appear on a show called, “The Best Pub.”
Sae-ro-yi is impressed Soo-ah has heard of it, since he’d been told it’s new. She congratulates him but her face falls when he praises Yi-seo. Sae-ro-yi asks if she got home well the other night and Soo-ah apologizes for causing a scene. She says she feels better after Sae-ro-yi had told her she was just living her best life and Soo-ah says she’ll continue to do so… as a Jang Ga employee. “Thank you for what you’ve done for me,” Soo-ah tells him, “You seriously shouldn’t like me anymore.”
Across the street, Geun-won sees the pair and scowls at what appears to be an affectionate exchange. He meets President Jang for lunch and pointedly asks what his father plans to do about Sae-ro-yi. President Jang points out that Sae-ro-yi is an ex-convict who never graduated and lost his dad. He admits Sae-ro-yi has done well and may even build a Danbam brand someday. However, 10 years is a long time to work and only have a small pub to show for it.
Geun-won wonders why President Jang is bothered by Sae-ro-yi, if he poses no threat to Jang Ga. President Jang says that if Geun-won can convince Soo-ah to marry into their family, he won’t force an arranged marriage. Geun-won is excited but doesn’t understand the correlation. “He’s like an assessor,” President Jang explains, Sae-ro-yi is merely a test to see whether Soo-ah is one of his people.
Sae-ro-yi arrives at the PD office for “The Best Pub” and freezes at the sight of Geun-won sitting across the table. Geun-won balks that the other bar being featured in his episode is Danbam. Their animosity is palpable, and the PD awkwardly jokes that it’s not like they’re arch enemies… “We are enemies,” Sae-ro-yi confirms, taking his seat across form Geun-won.
After the meeting, Geun-won accosts Sae-ro-yi as he waits for the elevator. He comments that Sae-ro-yi looked good with Soo-ah the other day, jealously musing that they’ve stayed in touch for ten years. Geun-won tuts pityingly at Sae-ro-yi, declaring that both he and his father are fond of Soo-ah. “I guess she talked to you out of pity a few times,” Geun-won says, pointing out that dating a middle-school graduate ex-con doesn’t even compete with marrying the son of Jang Ga Group.
Sae-ro-yi retorts that Soo-ah certainly wouldn’t go for a murderer. He wonders if Geun-won is threatened by a middle-school graduate ex-con and Geun-won spits back President Jang’s assessment of Sae-ro-yi. “He said you’d never be a threat to us,” Geun-won seethes, continuing that Sae-ro-yi is just an “assessor” to judge Soo-ah’s loyalty. He warns Sae-ro-yi that Soo-ah is in trouble at work because of him, urging him to be more considerate as the elevator doors close between them.
Geun-won calls Soo-ah to brag about ousting Sae-ro-yi from “The Best Pub.” She’s shocked and he screams at he not to like Sae-ro-yi. Geun-won starts to warn her that if his father finds out (about her relationship with Sae-ro-yi) … but she hangs up on him. Meanwhile, Yi-seo gets the call from the PD that Danbam has been cut from the program, with no explanation. She announces that the show has been cancelled to the staff just as Sae-ro-yi returns to the pub.
Drinking on the roof, Sae-ro-yi thinks about what Geun-won said and all the things Soo-ah has said from confessing to turning Danbam over to the police to saying he shouldn’t like her anymore. Yi-seo finds him up there and Sae-ro-yi apologizes for the TV program falling through. She waves it off, saying there’s other shows and beams when Sae-ro-yi suggests they take a walk.
As they wander, Yi-seo asks what happened at the station but he assures her it was nothing. Before Yi-seo can argue, Soo-ah calls out to Sae-ro-yi. She eyes Yi-seo suspiciously and asks if they’re on a date. Yi-seo looks expectantly at Sae-ro-yi and rolls her eyes when he denies it. He guesses Soo-ah is getting off work and she starts to say something about the TV program, but to both women’s surprise, Sae-ro-yi cuts her off. “It’s okay,” he smiles, “I can do it some other time. It’s not like there’s only one TV show.”
The implication is clear – he thinks Soo-ah is responsible, and she’s visibly stung as he breezes past her with Yi-seo. She watches them walk away, and then turns to go her own way. Yi-seo assumes something big happened for him to react this way and Sae-ro-yi agrees he’s being pathetic. He tells Yi-seo he feels like he’s against a wall and she asks if he likes Soo-ah that much. Despite knowing Soo-ah got the pub suspended, she observes that Sae-ro-yi remains unchanged.
Sae-ro-yi chuckles that she’s talking about betrayal again, but Yi-seo tells him, “My mother said studying hard doesn’t guarantee success these days.” Because of that Mom let Yi-seo learn music, sports, and everything in between. She really liked playing baduk so she stuck with it a long time. She tells him that even when she played someone better, she never used a handicap. Sae-ro-yi comments that she’s always been quite daring and Yi-seo sighs that she feels like she’s playing with a handicap these days.
He doesn’t understand, so Yi-seo confesses that Soo-ah was not the one that reported Danbam and got them suspended. She explains someone who held a grudge against Yi-seo called the police and Sae-ro-yi’s eyes widen. He tells Yi-seo to go ahead and he’ll catch up before running after Soo-ah. Yi-seo narrates, “No matter who my opponent was, I eventually won. So, I’m not giving up.”
Thinking back on what Soo-ah and Geun-won had said, Sae-ro-yi races to catch Soo-ah at the bus stop. She’s stunned to see him arrive out of breath, but Sae-ro-yi demands to know why she lied about reporting Danbam. He asks if she wanted him to hate her and she replies that President Jang is watching him but falls silent when Sae-ro-yi grabs her hand. He apologizes for being selfish and making her struggle between Jang Ga and himself. He asks her to wait just a little longer.
The bus arrives and Soo-ah breaks away but Sae-ro-yi calls after her that he doesn’t care what she does, and she shouldn’t worry about him. “So that you won’t suffer, I’ll destroy Jang Ga Co.” he vows, “I’ll make you quit to ease your mind.” The bus pulls away and Soo-ah collapses into a seat, muttering that Sae-ro-yi is a fool. Watching the bus disappear, Sae-ro-yi pulls out his phone and dials LEE HO-JIN (Lee David).
A young man perched in front of a wall of monitors answers and Sae-ro-yi asks about the money he’d invested in stocks. Ho-jin says in total with the money Sae-ro-yi had invested with Jang Ga eight years ago it amounts to 1.9 billion won (roughly 1.5 million USD). Ahhh!!! Ho-jin is the boy Sae-ro-yi saved from Geun-won 10 years ago! Sae-ro-yi orders Ho-jin to invest everything in Jang Ga.
When President Jang arrives at Jang Ga HQ the following morning, his secretary runs up with the stockholders’ list and the bad news that Sae-ro-yi now has 1.9 billion won invested in the company. President Jang thinks back to Geun-won’s scandal 8 years ago -which caused a dip in Jang Ga stocks – and cackles wickedly that it’s time to eat.
Seung-kwon greets a group at the door, apologizing they’re not open. Geun-soo greets President Jang and Seung-kwon innocently greets Geun-soo’s father, not realizing the implications. President Jang turns to see Sae-ro-yi standing with Yi-seo and the men walk towards each other. President Jang realizes that Sae-ro-yi surely received a significant amount of money from Dad’s death and then invested it in Jang Ga upon being released from prison.
“It had to be meaningful,” Sae-ro-yi’s inner monologue replies, echoing what he’d said to Soo-ah of the money Dad left behind. President Jang muses that he’d thought he was done trampling on Sae-ro-yi after expelling him from school and putting him in jail… but looking at him now, he realizes that Soo-ah’s words that Sae-ro-yi always accomplishes his goals were true. “So, your goal is my doom,” President Jang thinks, “It’s funny I’m feeling this way at my age.”
In response, Sae-ro-yi welcomes them to Danbam with a bow. President Jang admits he’d wanted to see Sae-ro-yi and Sae-ro-yi returns the sentiment.
Epic showdown time already?! We’ve known (and been repeatedly reminded) that Sae-ro-yi thinks in terms of the long-game. As Soo-ah said, he’s the type to wait however long it takes in order to achieve his goals and he said as much to Geun-won when they reunited at the police station. So, I just hope he knows what he’s doing by acting now and isn’t just swept up in his feelings for Soo-ah. Her character grows more complex and confusing by the day and every time I think I understand her, another wrench is thrown into the works. The revelation that Soo-ah didn’t report Danbam to the police was surprising, but it did nothing to ingratiate her towards me.
I stand by my statement that she takes Sae-ro-yi’s feelings for granted and no amount of conflicted crying after she makes choices – fully knowing she’s casting allegiance and what that means for Sae-ro-yi – is going to soften my opinion. In fact, the flashback at the top of the episode only reinforced the sour taste she leaves in my mouth. Despite my disappointment in her as a person, Soo-ah makes for a fascinating character that refuses to let me write her off as a villain. A small part of me even hopes that there’s things we don’t know, and that Soo-ah is playing her own revenge game. But then she gets into a catfight with Yi-seo in the bathroom and I hate her all over again.
Yi-seo, on the other hand, continues to shine. She lost a little favor when she tried to fire Hyun-yi last episode. It wasn’t out of character that she would sooner oust a member of the team than try to find a solution… but the fact that it came on the heels of Hyun-yi’s trans revelation, only served to color her argument in a bigoted light. I tend to agree with @dramallama, although I understand that not everyone was satisfied. I also acknowledge that I’m not in a position to pass judgement on whether or not this was the right approach. All I can say is, that I appreciated the show not shying away from a sensitive topic and being willing to show what I imagine is (unfortunately) a fairly common reaction. For me, at least, it made Sae-ro-yi’s words and the support of the rest of the Danbam team for Hyun-yi that much more endearing.
Sae-ro-yi’s relationship with and influence on the Danbam team, and Yi-seo in particular, is lovely to watch. Their moment on the overpass was beautifully shot and I loved that Sae-ro-yi admitted he’s being selfish because he needs Yi-seo. It makes for such an interesting contrast to his relationship with Soo-ah. I’m still unsure how the show plans to thread the romance, but I would argue that it doesn’t even matter. The rest of the story is so rich, that the romance really takes a backseat – especially now that the revenge plot has moved out of the shadows. The characters are interesting on their own and for once the romance seems to serve more to facilitate the rest of the story, rather than the other way around. It’s both refreshing and gratifying to watch, because I dearly love the characters and how the drama has so far managed to respect them rather than simply delegate them to plot devices. It makes the journey that much more worthwhile and I can’t wait to see where it takes everyone, not just our leads.