Smile: Episode 17
OMG, WOW. There isso much heart in this episode—the best so far!! Someone remind me to close my slack-jawed mouth before I start drooling over Kang Hyun-soo.
Special shoutout: at last! The Han River appears in a Kdrama as more than just a place to scream/vent or have secret arguments/trysts. When Hyun-soo first pulls up to the Han River, I thought, “Oh no! An argument? Already?” but was very pleasantly surprised by the scene’s fresh spin on this ubiquitous location.
(Housekeeping notes: Call us fickle, but dw4p and I decided to go back to single-episode recaps for now, because did we mention that this is getting SO GOOD? So much happens and there’s so much to say about it that the dual-episode format has been a bit cumbersome. Plus, we gotta keep feeding the addiction, hehe.)
Hyun-soo suggests they go see a movie, since the evening hasn’t panned out as Jung-in hoped. He parks by the Han River and brings her ramen, saying, “They don’t have popcorn at this theater.“ He tells her to look out at the serenity of the water and the lights of the city: “This is a movie!”
She reminds him of her advice to plan a date thinking about how much to spend, not what to eat, yet he’d only bought her a bowl of ramen. He says they’re not on a date, but he can’t stop looking at her. Jung-in asks if he wants some, saying he’s been staring at her eating this whole time.
“But why do you think I was looking at you because I wanted the ramen?” he asks. He tells her he’s been thinking about what she is to him, other than a frog.
They sit out on the steps to watch their ‘movie.’ Jung-in touches Hyun-soo’s cheek, saying his face is cold. “Your hand is colder,” he says, holding it in his. “If you’re cold, lean on me. In the future, lean on me if you want to.”
At home, Jung-kyung mulls over her conversation with Hyun-soo. In a voiceover, we hear his response to her question: “I’m going to start thinking about what kind of person she is to me. I’ll give you an answer once I figure it out.”
Geum-ja is waiting up for Hyun-soo to come home, still suspicious of their three-way date. Just who exactly the third wheel was in that configuration, she can’t quite tell. Sung-joon sees her waiting up and warns Jung-in, so she hops out of the car a block away, leaving Geum-ja to inspect an empty car.
Jung-kil wakes everyone up at 4.30 a.m. the next morning. He makes a fuss per usual, and asks what his father’s last wish was. He wants to know if there’s money involved, because if there isn’t, it’s not worth working for.
“There is!” Grandpa Man-bok yells gruffly. But he says if Jung-kil brings it up one more time, it’ll be as if the money never existed.
Han-se goes to see Jung-kil and says he thinks Hyun-soo likes Jung-in. He asks Jung-kil to move out of the house as soon as possible, saying he’ll find them a place. Sensing an opening, Jung-kil tells Han-se that Jung-in was very attached to their old home. She might be swayed if he gets the house back for her.
As Jung-in gets ready to leave for work with Hyun-soo, Geum-ja is quick to jump on her case. She says if people in the neighborhood see them together, they’ll jump to conclusions, which could dim Hyun-soo’s marriage prospects. Jung-in is sensitive to Geum-ja’s critique and apologizes. (We saw her this way around Han-se’s mother too—she seems to clam up when strong mother figures call her true intentions into question.)
Hyun-soo runs out to catch up with Jung-in and says that his mom is picking on her because she’s too pretty. He says, “Who told you to be so pretty? Let’s see. Eyes, nose, mouth; how can there be no flaws? No, I guess your forehead juts out a little.”
Jung-in slaps him on the forehead.
Hyun-soo: “Hey, it hurts when you hit someone out of the blue like that!”
Jung-in: “I’m hurting too.”
Hyun-soo claims he’s still figuring out how he feels about Jung-in, but HELLO could it be any more obvious? When he and Jung-in arrive at work, Han-se’s in the office with the staff. Hyun-soo seizes the opportunity to speak to Jung-in informally, which they’ve never done in the office. There’s awkward silence as Jung-in, along with everyone else, takes this in.
Hyun-soo explains that their families know each other, apologizing for not telling everyone sooner. When Han-se asks if they’re going to speak informally in front of everyone, Hyun-soo says they won’t during office hours. He looks at his watch and disingenously says, “Oh dear. We only have five minutes left.”
Han-se cuts in to make his own statement, saying he and Jung-in are extremely close. “Jung-in, you know how I like my coffee, right? Go pour me a cup.”
Jung-in angrily retorts that he shouldn’t be asking her to fetch him a coffee. Awkwardly trying to save face, he chuckles, “Jung-in…” Hyun-soo wordlessly enjoys his little victory.
(Especially since the staff all know about their past, HOW AWKWARD would this be for them to watch?)
Hyun-soo, Jung-in and the team are assembling a model car. Hyun-soo asks Jung-in to bring him an airbag, and he winks as she hands it to him. She notes that his wink is much smoother than last time, winking back. “I practiced a lot,” he says. (Hehe!)
He tells her to sit in the car and is utterly adorable as he asks, “Now that you see me in action at work, don’t I look dashing?” She smiles and nods an admiring yes.
Han-se has his secretary look into the Kang family’s finances to see if Hyun-soo can actually pay up for the ring. The secretary only finds the ownership of the car center under Grandpa’s name, and can’t find anything else since he can’t see their bank account information.
Han-se asks Hyun-soo when he intends to pay back the cost of the ring, to which Hyun-soo, even-keeled, replies: “Do you need money?”
Han-se doesn’t flinch, either: “I need money to buy sweet potatoes.”
Hyun-soo promises to deliver the money within the week. As Hyun-soo is leaving, Han-se tells his secretary to look into the ownership of Jung-in’s old house so the Seos can move in soon.
Hyun-soo gets pensive over Han-se’s comment. Jung-in is worried, knowing it has something to do with Han-se. Seeming to have something up her sleeve, she ducks out for a moment.
She comes back with Han-se, who has bought nutritional drinks for the team. Hyun-soo’s wondering how this is supposed to make him feel better, but she merely closes her eyes and begins to do anger-management meditation. As she intones, “Hyun-soo, let us now work together to release our anger,” he sees a white “meditation spot” on the back of Han-se’s head and spits out his drink in surprise.
He feels MUCH better now. (BWAHAHA! I love this unexpected, hilarious twist on a prior plot detail.)
Jung-in asks Hyun-soo to present an idea for a cosmetics company where she’s hoping to get a part-time job collecting surveys. Jung-in says that this job will get her closer to paying back her ring—she stops and corrects herself—er, get her house back. She says she’ll keep her promise to Hyun-soo once she has the house. He doesn’t remember, and she says, “You forgot again? We said we’d have a barbecue party in the backyard.”
She asks Hyun-soo if he’s decided what to call her, and he says he’ll call her Seo Jung-in. She’s disappointed; she was hoping for something along the lines of Beatrice-Audrey-Hippocrates-Mermaid, like he’d called her sister.
Hyun-soo: But you’re Seo Jung-in. Seo. Jung. In.
Jung-in: Can’t I be something else? Like Cinderella or Snow White.
Hyun-soo: But I like ‘Seo Jung-in.’
Jung-in: I don’t like it.
Hyun-soo: I said I like Seo Jung-in.
Jung-in: I don’t like it!
Hyun-soo: I said I like Seo Jung-in!
Jung-in: [Walking away] Forget it.
Hyun-soo: [Yelling after her] But I like Seo Jung-in!
(Two things. First, this scene brings in moments and details that had seemed pretty small in previous episodes without fanfare or flashbacks. These blink-and-you’ll-miss-it references are part of how this drama makes you feel like you’re really experiencing these moments with the characters. More on this later. Second, the dialogue shows how Hyun-soo’s matured. Jung-kyung had been a set of ideals for him, but here, he’s obliquely telling Jung-in that he likes her as she is, without any of the Cinderella-story nonsense. More on this later, too.)
Hyun-soo shows Grandpa Man-bok his bank account records, where he’s been saving up money to repay Grandpa for his studies abroad. He says he’d intended to repay double the tuition, but a sudden circumstance came up where he needs to spend the money. What he’s saved so far isn’t enough, so he asks for another year to repay the tuition fees, and asks for help fulfilling the rest of the sum.
Hyun-soo later sees Jung-kyung in the kitchen and asks if she has time to meet the following day. She suggests they meet at their college campus. Jung-in overhears from the living room, disappointed.
The next morning, Hyun-soo gives Han-se money for the ring, but Han-se refuses to take it.
Han-se: Did you really think I would have accepted this money from Jung-in?
Hyun-soo: Yes. I thought you would, at least in consideration for Jung-in’s feeling that she needs to return it.
Han-se: But why would you pay for Jung-in’s wedding ring?
Hyun-soo: I’m taking responsibility for what I said I would do.
Han-se: I don’t need this. Take it.
Hyun-soo: I don’t need this either. With this, the relationship between you and Jung-in is completely over.
(Oh man. These two would be an excellent matchup in a fight-to-the-death if this drama were a sageuk. They are both so steely in this scene, it gave me the chills.)
He runs into Jung-in in the hall, and he tells her that he’s leaving to go to visit campus. She feels precarious because she thinks he still has feelings left for Jung-kyung, so her responses are rather tepid. But to her surprise, he asks her to go out with him in the evening.
Han-se fills Jung-kil in on his findings from looking into the Kangs’ finances. He says there’s definitely no inheritance left to Grandpa Man-bok. Talking more to themselves than each other, they commiserate in their woes: both had thought they could get back easily what they’d had. Han-se acknowledges that Jung-in’s heart can’t be won over by money, while Jung-kil is puzzled that Grandpa would try to use money to sway him. They dwell egotistically on their own predicaments, but see eye to eye on the solution: Let’s get it back.
Grandpa soon gets a call from the construction site, saying that Jung-kil has disappeared with his son-in-law, i.e., Han-se.
Jung-kyung walks around the campus before she meets with Hyun-soo, and while there she finds a photo of herself pinned to a photo collage. Hyun-soo had kept the photo in his wallet for years while he liked her, but he took it out and clipped it to the board in episode 9, when he’d resolved to let Jung-kyung go.
When they meet, he has only kind words for her, but he says them with a strong sense of finality:
Seo Jung-kyung. I liked you so much. Do you know how much I liked you, without regard for my pride? Those eight years… I have no regrets. Jung-kyung, thank you for filling that time with beauty. I’ll tell you now the answer to your question.
She says she doesn’t have to hear, but he continues, “Jung-in is…”
Jung-kyung later tells Jung-in the rest of this response, but Jung-in misunderstands it. Jung-kyung says, “I asked him what you mean to him, and he said you’re someone who [he] likes a lot.” In Korean the pronoun is implicit, so the literal English translation is, “He said you’re someone who likes a lot.” Since this can be understood either way, Jung-in misunderstands and responds, “Yes, I like [him] a lot.”
Trying to keep her from going out, Jung-kyung tells Jung-in that her first date with Hyun-soo was at Namsan (mountain). But Jung-in says, “I’m going to go. So don’t say something like that about Hyun-soo again.”
Hyun-soo is waiting for Jung-in at Namsan, and she calls him to ask if they could meet somewhere else. But she meets him there anyway, and he takes her to eat at a restaurant where he’d also taken Jung-kyung on their first date. He recalls Jung-kyung’s glum face while sitting in the same chair, and says to Jung-in, “If it were you, I knew you’d eat it well.”
She asks if he’s been here with someone before, and Hyun-soo says it was Jung-kyung. At first she makes light of it, but his words begin to pierce her bravado:
Jung-in: I like this kind of place, but other women, even if it weren’t Seo Jung-kyung, would slap you too.
Hyun-soo: Hit me if you want to. I came here knowing I might get hit.
Jung-in: What does that mean?
Hyun-soo: You know, don’t you, how excited I was to come here with Jung-kyung? Even though it was just me, I liked her for eight years, and in that time, I broke up with her and got back together with her, on my own, because she was the first person I liked. It’s possible that until the day I die, every time I hear the words ‘first love,’ I’ll think of the name Seo Jung-kyung, Beatrice-Audrey-Hippocrates-Mermaid. With Jung-kyung, I never dated her in six years—four years of college and two years of graduate school—yet I never once regretted it, because I liked her that much. The first love that I liked that much is Seo Jung-kyung. Jung-in, your sister…
Jung-in has been silent all this time. But it’s too much to bear. How could Hyun-soo say such hurtful things, knowing full well the situation this puts her in? She says, “I get what you’re saying. You’re truly cruel.”
She gets up, and he tries to stop her, saying he hasn’t finished yet, but she leaves anyway.
He runs out after her, and finishes: “Can it work with someone like me? Can someone like me, like Seo Jung-in?”
She turns around, and her wordless answer as she runs to him is yes.
(OMG OMG. Please look away for a moment while I get all fangirly and SQUEEEEEEEEE!!! I totally want to BE Jung-in in this scene. I think this is Lee Min-jung‘s best scene in the whole episode–the emotions look so real and raw.)
Seriously, there is so much to love and most of it goes like this: Kang Hyun-soo Kang Hyun-soo Kang Hyun-soo Kang Hyun-soo! I was watching the last scene, wondering how could he be so cruel and—frankly, sick—as to take Jung-in on the same first date as Jung-kyung?! But it all makes sense with his final line; he clinches it with a confession and catharsis all at once.
In fact, he spends the whole episode tying up loose ends so he can start anew with Jung-in. He gets the money to close the Han-se chapter in Jung-in’s book, then closes the Jung-kyung chapter in his own. He even says hard words to Jung-in, knowing it’ll hurt her, so that his first love doesn’t become the elephant in the room. Imagine that! None of the “I’m still in love with my ex” stuff, which dw4p aptly called “signal crossing antics.” In so many plots, a couple experiences entanglements and misunderstandings until the guy comes through at the end with a Big Gesture to prove his love. But here, Hyun-soo does the big gesture first by offering to pay for the ring… and Jung-in doesn’t even know yet what he’s been up to behind the scenes.
So, they’ve made it this far, but I suppose the question now is: Can writer Moon Hee Jung continue to pull this off? I think she can, given how this episode unfolded. It’s amazing how every detail matters! Small things come into play from earlier episodes that at the time I excluded from the recaps, thinking they weren’t significant. The writer drops references to those moments with a very light touch and gently gives them new meaning. This subtlety again contributes to Smile’s organic quality, and I think it’s why I find it so addicting. I’m more invested in Hyun-soo & Jung-in than characters from any other drama I’ve watched, and I think it’s because it feels like we’re truly witnessing their development, and we’re even in on their inside jokes and memories.
For example: in the scene when Hyun-soo tells Jung-in he’s decided to call her Seo Jung-in, he re-emphasizes each syllable, Seo. Jung. In. He’s quoting her in episode 9, when she’d given him back the phone, saying “I’m Seo Jung-in! Take a good look. I’m not Seo Jung-kyung, I’m Seo Jung-in. Seo. Jung. In.” It’s a shame that she misses the significance of his words! He’s finally proving that yes, he does take what she says to heart, but the best part is his underlying message that he likes her for who she is.
I love that there’s none of the “part-of-that-world” syndrome prevalent in so many rom-com dramas. The cause of romantic tension is so often because the protagonists inhabit different spheres in life—the spunky/poor girl and the chaebol son, the celebrity and the commoner, or a variation of these themes. Invariably, some fairy-godmother wand-waving has to equalize the playing field before the two can have a happy ending.
But in Smile, the characters (with the exception of Jung-kil, Han-se and the Chief, none of whom are the good guys) have no interest in money/power/status. Jung-kyung takes a sabbatical from work; Jung-in is more at home with the Kangs than with her own family; Geum-ja and Sang-hoon have been completely disinterested in the Kangs since day one. The real standout of course is Hyun-soo, a confident professional who stands on his own two feet. I just love that he doesn’t back down or kowtow to Han-se or Han-se’s mother. Growing up around money but without it has made him a very grounded person, and he won’t give up an inch of that.