Equator Man: Episode 8
What a creepy thrill ride. This episode will get under your skin and then some, manipulating you into letting your guard down with cute romantic moments just so it can pummel you in the face with the depths of its own characters’ depravity. How anyone will make it out in one piece is beyond me, but my faith is in Sun-woo and his maybe-dad. But then he has that other maybe-dad. And then there’s that dad he’s trying to get revenge for. Wait, am I watching City Hunter again?
EPISODE 8 RECAP
New record: it took less than two minutes to creep me out this episode. What I hoped would be a misunderstanding turns out not to be, and Sun-woo ends up on the bed with Chairman Jin to administer a massage. I can’t help but cringe in my seat. It’s nine kinds of weird.
There’s no beating Chairman Jin’s poker face, so it’s hard to tell if he knows that the man giving him a massage (a free one, at that – is Chairman Jin just manipulating the system?) is Sun-woo. But you know what’s creepier? He gets to watch Sun-woo while he administers the massage via a nearby full-length mirror.
Sun-woo compliments Chairman Jin on his voice, though he claims he can recognize it. Without missing a beat, Chairman Jin claims that he once had a son like Sun-woo – though he died two years ago from a car accident. Speaking of, how did Sun-woo go blind? Curiouser and curiouser.
Chairman Jin insists on giving Sun-woo a tip before he leaves, “It’s because you’re like a son to me.” But it’s what Chairman Jin says next that triggers Sun-woo’s memory, and in vain he asks for Chairman Jin’s name. Chairman Jin doesn’t give it, and we know now that this was all orchestrated by him.
Acting on his suspicion, Sun-woo asks a friendly maid to get a look at Chairman Jin for him. She reports that he was a well dressed gentleman – so what’s he doing getting free massages?
Geum-jool hovers around Soo-mi while she paints, his crush on her evident. Their rapport is close to sibling-level as they discuss Sun-woo and his basement apartment, while Soo-mi is encouraged to go to Jang-il’s apartment to retrieve some clothes she left. Convenient for her.
Sun-woo is on the case of finding out Chairman Jin’s identity, and takes the one picture he has of him, his father, and Moon Tae-joo to the maid. She can’t really tell by that picture specifically, so Sun-woo takes to the phone to ask Geum-jool to find a recent picture of Chairman Jin. If he can’t find one in the newspaper, steal one from his house.
In Seoul, Soo-mi goes on her side mission from Geum-jool to find out more about Ji-won. Ha, I love that Geum-jool is such a mom to Sun-woo – he wants Soo-mi to use her woman’s instincts to tell if Ji-won is sincere.
However, upon recognizing Ji-won as the object of Jang-il’s affections, Soo-mi’s face falls. She takes Ji-won aside to explain to her that she’s Sun-woo’s friend from elementary school, and that she hopes Ji-won isn’t merely playing with him.
Then we begin to see Soo-mi’s real agenda – maybe part of her is concerned about Sun-woo (the reason why she came in the first place), but now that she knows who Ji-won is, she encourages her to love Sun-woo even more… that way she can have Jang-il for herself. Of course, she doesn’t say that part.
Ooh, I like Ji-won. She’s really quick on her feet. When she offhandedly mentions that Sun-woo got hit in the back of the head, Soo-mi immediately jumps all over her – did he really say that? (As far as everyone else thinks, Sun-woo can’t remember his accident.) Ji-won takes notice and maybe out of an inherent distrust, covers it up by saying that she heard it from someone else and just got her stories mixed up.
Jang-il gets taken on a tour of a courtroom for his class, and looks at the prosecutor’s seat with longing. He has a fantasy wherein he’s already a prosecutor filled with a sense of justice, passionately calling for a life sentence on a guilty man.
…Only we pan to the guilty party, and it’s Jang-il’s father. Whoa. It’s clear that this wasn’t part of Jang-il’s fantasy agenda, but his guilty conscience creeping in. With tears in his eyes, Yong-bae looks upon the son accusing him. Talk about a nightmare.
To make matters even worse, Sun-woo enters his fantasy to point an accusing finger at Jang-il: “He hit me in the back of my head. He hit me in the back of my head, and pushed me off the cliff. He tried to kill me.” Oh man.
Back in the real world, Jang-il looks like a frightened child in the middle of an empty courtroom.
He splashes water on his face, and looks startlingly reminiscent of when he did the same as his younger self. Just like the time before, when he practiced his reaction for the police, this time Jang-il practices his reaction if Sun-woo were to confront him with his crime. Only the fear as a teen is gone now, and Jang-il has grown much more adept at lying, looking as though he’s almost taking pleasure in the deception.
In the mirror, as though talking to Sun-woo, he asks him why he would attack him. “I never hit you,” he says with a small smile. “I’m your friend.” Then he repeats, “I’m your friend. I’m your friend.”
He passes Ji-won in the library, and the two don’t say a word. Soo-mi calls him to help her retrieve her clothes, but his replies are short.
Wow – so Chairman Jin really was running reconnaissance on Sun-woo, to see if he was capable of writing the blackmail letter. He’s still not sure one way or the other, as he shares with Yong-bae – after all, Sun-woo wouldn’t have a reason to tell the truth to a complete stranger. So the sender is either Sun-woo, or someone who saw Yong-bae that night.
Yong-bae swears up and down that no one could have seen him, but his blood runs cold when Chairman Jin turns to him and asks, “The reason he became blind is because of Jang-il, right?” Ohhh. Did everyone in this drama eat their Wheaties this morning?
Sun-woo writes down his investigative findings in Braille, though the question remains: If it was really Chairman Jin, then why?
Soo-mi invites herself in for the night, citing an exam tomorrow morning. Sun-woo lies that he was merely practicing his Braille, knowing that Soo-mi won’t know better.
She’s happy to report that she saw Sun-woo’s girlfriend (which he denies like a kid), and that she seemed to be a good person. It’s so hard to tell with Soo-mi – is she genuinely in it for Sun-woo, or for herself? I guess if Sun-woo and Ji-won were to really date, it would be mutually beneficial for both him and Soo-mi.
Soo-mi finally asks if Sun-woo ever said he got hit in the back of the head. He covers quickly by saying that most people get blinded that way – so he assumes that he must have hit his head, somehow. Soo-mi seems happy to hear this theory, and claims that it’s a miracle he’s alive.
Sun-woo: “There must be a reason that I survived, right?” Soo-mi: “Of course. There has to be.”
The words Sun-woo said to Soo-mi before about being unable to do anything for Ji-won are weighing on him, as evident by his uncomfortableness to hear Ji-won straining her voice in order to read for him. Just when he’s feeling down she’s there to pick him up by saying he can do something for her – how about a movie?
Okay, this is cute. They’re watching something suspenseful so Ji-won is literally narrating the events of the movie as they happen to Sun-woo, and he gets all into the story like a kid. She gets too scared and has some lapses in her narration, but Sun-woo can’t help but smile as she buries her face into his clothes each time she’s frightened.
Next up is clothes shopping, so that Ji-won can pick out some inoffensively colored jackets for him (the ones Geum-jool picked for him stood out too much). Acting only on touch, Sun-woo takes another man’s jacket from the dressing room and ends up in an altercation outside with him because of it.
The man is violent as he accuses Sun-woo of stealing on purpose, and Ji-won steps up to defend him. The man pushes Sun-woo to the ground, and Ji-won retaliates by punching him back (go her!). It turns into a scuffle with egg-throwing involved. Sun-woo looks lost, not knowing how to protect her.
Finally when she gets hit again, Sun-woo has had enough and starts beating the man wildly with his cane.
On the bus ride home, the two exchange quiet apologies. She shares an earbud with him of one of her audiobooks (the dialogue exchange within is about love… between fish, but that’s not the point), and then she kisses him. Aww.
We find Chairman Jin’s wife and stepdaughter in an art gallery, though thankfully Soo-mi is there. She sees them dressed in all their finery and sizes them up, especially taking note of the fact that they want young artists for a gallery opening.
So Soo-mi, crafty girl that she is, surreptitiously drops some of her paintings in front of them. Oops. Nothing comes of it, unfortunately.
Jang-il then has an awkward dinner with Chairman Jin’s wife, where she introduces her daughter to him. She’s not interested in setting them up, but she wants Jang-il to find someone suitable for her amongst graduate friends. Yoon-joo leaves in a huff (if you remember, she’s got a poor man that she wants to elope with), and Hee-jun tells Jang-il that she’ll set him up with a daughter from a good household.
Of course, not her daughter, because that’s aiming too high. Jang-il seems to sense this vibe from her as well.
Meanwhile, Geum-jool sneaks into Chairman Jin’s house to get a recent picture per Sun-woo’s request. He narrowly misses Yong-bae in the process. Once the hotel maid sees the picture she affirms to Sun-woo that Chairman Jin was the man he gave a massage to. Uh oh.
Suddenly, Sun-woo and Ji-won are walking down a street while Chairman Jin careens toward them in his car. In an effort to save Sun-woo, Ji-won pushes him out of the way and gets hit by the car instead.
Luckily it was all a dream, but it has Sun-woo in a cold sweat. Now that Chairman Jin knows who he is, he knows things can get dangerous for Ji-won. Is this a precursor to noble idiocy?
…It is. Sun-woo starts to treat Ji-won coldly, though she doesn’t notice at first and hands him a picture of her. She offers to write the date on the back, but instead writes, “I think I like you, Sun-woo. Can you ask me to be by your side?”
He’s not outright mean, but he’s pretty dismissive. He leaves Ji-won more confused than anything as he puts distance between them (by referring to her as “Hemingway” again) and tells her that she should put time into helping others now.
Kwang-choon writes another letter to Chairman Jin, this time asking for $100,000 to keep his secret. Chairman Jin flashes back to a memory of Sun-woo, thinking he’s the author.
Sun-woo finds one of his Braille diary pages missing – and it’s because Soo-mi has taken it. Not knowing any better she thought that the Braille would be neat for an art piece… uh oh.
Ji-won can’t find Sun-woo at his Braille classes, and doesn’t see any recent audiobook checkouts from him. She even goes to his home, but gets no response. Sun-woo has gone to the water’s edge to brood.
Jang-il ends up as a bystander in time to see Sun-woo pass Ji-won, who’s been waiting in front of his house for his return. She follows him inside, where he remains cold and mostly unresponsive to her attempts to be friendly. Until finally he says, “Do you feel that good, acting like an angel?”
He makes it clear that he wants to break up – so she can stop helping him now. He keeps his back to her, and she addresses him with tears in her eyes. “It might have just been volunteer work to you, but you’re my first love.” She asks him if he remembers the girl who broke the windshield – that was her. She remembered him since then, and he was her first love with only a glance.
“I’m not the same Kim Sun-woo as before,” he tells her. “Even if you’re by my side, I can’t see you. Even if a miracle happens and I can see, I won’t be able to recognize you on the street.”
She replies that she’ll recognize him instead – all he has to do is stand there. But he stays the course, and remains cold to the end. All he ever saw her as was a kind samaritan, so she can stop the act now.
Ji-won has no choice but to leave, struggling to hold back her tears. Jang-il watches from the other side of the street.
Now regretful, Sun-woo decides to go after her. Only Jang-il is there to stop him outside, and presumably lies about having seen Ji-won in order to put the kibosh on their romantic reunion. Well, you can always count on Jang-il to be cold and calculating.
Once in Sun-woo’s apartment, Jang-il decides to offer some friendly advice in the form of telling Sun-woo to forget about Ji-won until he can see again. In that way, he’ll stop being a burden to her.
Sun-woo’s voice grows quieter as he tells his former friend, “I could have died. Why did I survive with just my sight gone? It’s better to just die. I can’t do anything. I can’t see anything.” He wants to know why he’s being punished like this.
And Jang-il, without a hint of remorse in his eyes, simply replies that he doesn’t know either. Sorry.
Sun-woo’s entire demeanor goes stiff. “What are you sorry for?” Jang-il: “Because I couldn’t help you.” Sun-woo’s eyes go wide. “What do you want to help me with?” When he receives no answer, he loses his composure and shouts, “What do you want to help me with?!”
Jang-il’s eyes widen briefly. “You and that woman won’t work. Keep that in mind.”
But that’s the last thing Sun-woo needs to hear, and he punches Jang-il square in the jaw before wrestling him to the ground. He punches Jang-il over and over again. Is he only a burden to her? “I love that woman!” he yells. With another punch, he assures Jang-il that he’ll regain his sight and make her his.
Jang-il doesn’t hit back until the last moment out of fear – and you can see it written all over his face. Once he gets Sun-woo off him he’s meek as a puppy as he leaves the apartment. How does it feel to be scared, Jang-il? I’m not going to lie, you needed that dose of reality.
He ends up drinking at home before Soo-mi storms in, upset that he bought her new clothes instead of returning the ones she’d left. He shrugs it off, knowing that she left clothes at his apartment purposefully so she had a reason to come back. “Because I like you?” she asks. Jang-il: “Isn’t it true?”
Soo-mi: “I feel bad for you. Because we’re alike.”
Now that is a true statement, and at least she realizes it. She cites their mutual ambition as the main reason, but Jang-il counters that while she thinks they can one day be happy, he doesn’t. That’s how they’re different.
Soo-mi calls him pathetic, and he asks why she likes him. “Do you think there’s a reason for liking someone?” she replies honestly. He’s got Ji-won on the brain as he says that there’s no reason for liking someone, but then again, everything becomes a reason. That person being there, that person smiling.
He wonders if it’s true for Sun-woo, but he highlights the difference between that situation and his. Sun-woo has a person who likes him always beside him, but he’s probably not thinking for her to get lost, right? (Basically, he’s insinuating that these are the feelings he has toward Soo-mi – for her to just get lost.)
Fed up, Soo-mi throws a drink in his face. “You can’t treat me this way.”
Jang-il asks, dead serious, “Why?” Good gracious, that’s mean. He keeps going, “Tell me. Why? I said tell me. Why?!” So, you’re asking her why you can’t treat her like dirt?
Soo-mi doesn’t reply, though she’s not given much of a chance to. All of a sudden Jang-il pulls her into a violent kiss – and though she tries to pull away at first, she eventually gives in.
Cut to morning. Whoa whoa whoa whoa waitaminute. They slept together?
Soo-mi wakes up first, and watches Jang-il as he sleeps. Only… he murmurs Ji-won’s name, and asks her not to go. Ooouuuuuuch. Ouch. Poor girl. She leaves his apartment in the rain, haunted by memories of their first meeting, when he offered her shelter under his umbrella.
Wearing the jacket Ji-won picked out for him, Sun-woo tries searching for her in vain. She’s quit her work at the volunteer center. We see her alone in a classroom wearing the scarf he gave her, like she’s been doing the whole episode.
Sun-woo ends up waiting until nightfall, and Jang-il passes him right by without a word. Left on his own Sun-woo finds himself in the middle of the street while rogue motorcyclists nearly run into him. One of them sideswipes him, breaking his cane and bloodying his leg.
As he lies on the road clutching his leg in pain, rain begins to fall. What begins as a mere chuckle turns into full-on laughter at the absurdity that is his life.
He hobbles back to his house, though his spidey senses start tingling and he flips on the light. He knows someone is there, and asks if it’s Ji-won.
Alas, it isn’t, as the camera pans to reveal none other than Moon Tae-joo, who remains silent as Sun-woo slides to the floor and cries, “Father, I just want to close my eyes and live. Just make me into a fool. Father… erase Jang-il. I just want to live like an idiot. Please just help me!” He goes into a rage, throwing things around his apartment like a madman. “Help me!” he rages. “Please, Father!”
It’s only once he’s about to harm himself by repeatedly breaking a mirror that Tae-joo intervenes by holding him back. Tae-joo’s minion is there as well, and Sun-woo’s eyes go wide in fright as they finally restrain him to the floor.
His voice shaking, Sun-woo asks, “Is it you, Jang-il?”
But it’s Tae-joo holding him by the collar, who finally proclaims, “I am your father. I’m going to change your life now.”
I giggled a bit at the “I am your father” line – I just couldn’t help it.
All kidding aside, I had the feeling that Tae-joo would be a sort of deus ex machina for Sun-woo, and for good reason. Though this episode maintained an excellent pace with nice surprises, there’s only so many more places for the story to go were these characters to stay exactly as they are now. Sun-woo is pretty much powerless to do anything, Jang-il is a cold-hearted bastard, and Chairman Jin apparently never has a business to run and only reads random books from his library at all times. Something has to change to sustain us for the rest of the show, and I have a feeling that this impending time skip is going to be it.
It still surprises me how much Jang-il has changed. Compare this Mirror Scene to his younger counterpart’s Mirror Scene, and there’s a huge difference. It’s almost sad how cold he’s become, because while I found him sympathetic at first, that sympathy is starting to wear thin. I always knew he was being painted as the villain, but when you have this amazingly tragic setup and backstory with two people who once loved each other – why not play that up a bit? Hammer in the heartbreak, if you will? It’s probably just wish-fulfillment on my part, but if Jang-il were to show even one ounce of humanity toward Sun-woo, it’d make a world of difference. As of now, his foray into really villainous territory is putting their fleshed-out backstory at risk of becoming irrelevant. If they’re just going to become good ol’ fashioned enemies, will there be a point to them ever having been friends?
Still, his courtroom fantasy scene was one of the best in the series so far. It’s nice to know that he’s still got a conscience under all those layers – and if not that, at the very least he knows how to feel fear. And while he knows what it’s like to be treated like dirt he still doesn’t understand why he should treat others humanely, so the kiss-and-sex scene with Soo-mi was even more grotesque. She couldn’t come up with an argument as to why he couldn’t treat her like trash, so he slept with her on a whim when all he really wants is Ji-won – effectively using Soo-mi’s feelings for him to his advantage with no regard for her whatsoever. That’s low, even for Jang-il. Narratively awesome, but low.
I like that this show pays attention to detail, even with small things such as clothing. Ji-won wears the scarf Sun-woo gave her, Sun-woo wears the jacket Ji-won picked for him, while Ji-won doesn’t wear the scarf Jang-il gave her, nor does Soo-mi wear the clothes Jang-il bought. Because whatever Jang-il gives is meaningless, because he treats money (even though it isn’t his) like it’s nothing. The last time he bought something out of genuine desire was Sun-woo’s suit – and we all know how that turned out. Maybe it’s a good thing Ji-won never wore his scarf.