You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episodes 19-20
I think we’ve gotten past the slump: This week’s episodes move things along quickly, outing some secrets, changing relationship dynamics, pushing along romances, and giving us a glimpse at a world where Bitter Mom is Slightly Less Bitter Mom. I’m not sure that we’ll ever have her being warm and sweet again, but it’ll take this development as a step in the right direction. Huzzah.
SONG OF THE DAY
옥상달빛 (Dalmoon) – “새로와” (It’s new) [ Download ]
So Yeon-ah wants Jun-ho back, and now Jun-ho knows it. After Mi-ryung drops that bomb (though I’m pretty sure Jun-ho’s the only one surprised by this), she fills Yeon-ah in and advises her to take active steps to pursue the relationship.
Jun-ho’s immediate reaction is to be pleased, and he confers with Young-hoon about giving the relationship a shot. Ever our voice of wisdom, Young-hoon suggests that perhaps it’s not possible to just return to the past (and Jun-ho asks naively why not).
Asked about Soon-shin, Jun-ho says he’ll continue with the plan, not realizing until Young-hoon points it out that the bet is over, and hence his reasons (or excuses, ahem) to launch Soon-shin as an actress are gone. If he isn’t going to see this through, Young-hoon warns, end it right away and don’t hurt an innocent person.
Dinner at the Lee residence is a scene I wish I could fast-forward, but since I can’t I’ll describe it so you can. No reason all of us should suffer. Mom is handing out the bowls of rice to everyone in the family and skips right over Soon-shin, which is so cold that even Grandma shoots her an Oh no you di’n’t face.
Mom just looks up blankly like she didn’t even notice she had a third daughter and says Soon-shin can get her own rice. I guess we should be glad she hasn’t banished Soon-shin from meals entirely?
In-sung tells Jun-ho about the rumors painting Soon-shin as his casting-couch girlfriend, and he sputters that it’s ridiculous. Perhaps, but that doesn’t stop it from being believed.
Soon-shin doesn’t feel good about hearing how she took the video from the other actress, and hesitantly suggests to Jun-ho that perhaps she ought not do the video. After all, she doesn’t want to steal roles.
Given the lengths to which Jun-ho has gone to get her the role, he is frustrated with her sudden turnaround and argues that winning is a skill too. In his exasperation he barks, “Fine, don’t do it!” but clearly doesn’t mean it, worrying after the fact that she might actually quit.
Things come to a head with Hye-shin—finally, and thankfully. She keeps up the pretense that she’s still happily married, but the strain gets to Woo-joo, who is resentful to both Bread Man (for encroaching on Mom’s affections) and her father (for obvious reasons).
When Hye-shin takes a call from her ex, she rips into him for ignoring Woo-joo on Children’s Day. Hye-shin hands the phone off to Woo-joo, who barks at her father, “Don’t call us anymore. We’ll live fine on our own. Dad, you live well with that ajumma.” Just our luck, Mom comes by and hears the phone conversation from the hallway, just as Woo-joo starts sobbing, “Did you think I wouldn’t know why you and Mom split up?”
So the secret is out. Mom asks if the cause of the split was another woman, a subject that’s close to her own heart. Thus when Grandma starts insisting that divorce is out of the question, Mom cuts in and tells Hye-shin she did the right thing. Yay for maternal support, which I wasn’t sure we’d ever see from her again.
Poor Bread Man comes upon Woo-joo crying in the yard, and thanks to his perennially terrible timing, Yoo-shin arrives and thinks he’s harassing her. Aw.
Grandma wants to get the couple back together and tries to get Mom on her side. Instead, Mom calls Bastard Ex and rips into him for being a terrible human being and general asshat until he hangs up on her.
Mom is perhaps displacing some of her personal hurts onto the ex, but here’s one occasion where I’m fine having her misdirect her anger because at least the jerk has earned it. Mom tells Grandma to give up her hopes for a reunion, saying that men like that never quit being men like that. Truer words, y’all.
Both Yoo-shin and Soon-shin try to comfort Mom, but now Mom turns that anger onto Soon-shin (a displacement I am not okay with) and snaps at her, “What do you know? How can you understand how I feel?”
Soon-shin checks on her unni, who admits that her marriage was really hard. But she’s also adopted a philosophical tone about why it failed, admitting that she felt a constant pressure to be perfect and do things as they “should” be done—which includes marrying him. So she doesn’t blame him entirely.
Hye-shin advises Soon-shin to follow her heart in everything; don’t only do what people tell her to do: “Don’t disappoint Mom like me.”
Jun-ho tells himself he doesn’t care whether Soon-shin quits, though his gaze keeps wandering around when he’s in her orbit. Which turns out to be rather inconvenient when he’s on a date with Yeon-ah, who really should’ve known better than to suggest lunch at The One Restaurant To Rule Them All.
Now that they’re working at being back together, Yeon-ah reminisces about their past, remembering how they were poor but happy. Jun-ho notes pointedly that at the time, she’d been sick of eating the cup ramyun and vending machine coffee that she waxes poetic about now.
She asks him to play his guitar for her sometime, but he turns her down flat—he doesn’t play anymore, and his fingers are out of practice. She wheedles, but he says that the passing of time renders some things impossible, and we’re not just talking about the guitar anymore now. Yeon-ah says that “it” (his guitar skills, but also the elephant they’re beating this bush around, aka their relationship) will return to its place because it’s familiar. He merely wonders, “Will it?”
Soon-shin arrives at the restaurant while the other servers gossip about the couple, and seeing them together brings down her spirits. If only she realized Jun-ho spends more of his time looking for her than at his date.
Manager Hwang hears that there were no orphan baby girls matching the criteria he supplied, which has him uneasy. As well it should.
Yeon-ah tells Mi-ryung about her lunch date and says they’re working their way toward reconciliation. She thanks Mi-ryung for her help and gets back the reply, “It’s only natural for a mother to help her daughter.” Oh, but just wait for the irony bitchslap when you realize you’ve helped your surrogate daughter by sabotaging your biological one.
Yi-jung pops by the clinic again, and Chan-woo has to refrain from rolling his eyes. He treats her curtly and confirms that yes, he does have a girlfriend… and then Dr. Shin comes along and he realizes that Yi-jung is the boss’s daughter. You can practically hear the monologue running through his head: Crap. I have to be nice to her now?
Yi-jung whines to daddy to help her suit with Chan-woo, calling him her ideal type and her fate. To my relief, though, Dr. Shin shakes his head no: “I’m too embarrassed of you to introduce you to him.” HA. Admittedly, it’s unsporting for a father to say this to his daughter, but she’s the one making a pest of herself at the workplace. She needs a reality smackdown.
Chan-woo picks up Yoo-shin after she has a round of drinks with her colleagues, and she sighs about sister’s divorce. She swears she won’t ever marry, saying that it’s pointless, which has Chan-woo balking that there are plenty of marrieds who are happy. Yoo-shin retorts that it’s still a gamble, and one she won’t risk her life on.
That dampens Chan-woo’s mood considerably, so Yoo-shin gives him a surprise smooch on the cheek, telling him not to be mad. Kiss-kiss-kiss. It’s cute.
Chan-woo leans in for a proper kiss… only to get shoved back in alarm: His mother is approaching. Talk about a buzzkill. In a panic, they duck down and hurriedly drive off, leaving Chicken Ajumma scratching her head in confusion. It’s a good thing Chan-woo’s got such a clean record about being honest with the family, since they decide that Mom must’ve seen wrong.
Soon-shin runs into In-sung and tells him she isn’t going to do the music video. He can’t believe it and gives her an earful about how this was all because of her mother in the first place. Soon-shin hadn’t known the particulars of the one-month agreement and reacts in surprise as In-sung informs her that Mom made that deal as a way to force Soon-shin to quit, only Jun-ho is working his butt off to prove Mom wrong. But now Soon-shin won’t even try, after all that…?
She runs into Chan-woo on the way home, and admits her dilemma to him. (Jun-ho sees them chatting pleasantly and grumbles to himself, though he tells himself he doesn’t care. Suuure.) Chan-woo suggests that doing the video would be best, because refusing to do it won’t fix anything, and it’ll just make things harder for the guy who worked to support her. He even concedes that Jun-ho’s a lot more loyal than he looked, revising his opinion of him.
Mi-ryung throws a dinner party with Yeon-ah, all in the name of cozying things up with Jun-ho and family. They invite his mother and Yi-jung for an elegant evening at home, and chat pleasantly—everyone but Jun-ho, who is too distracted to pay attention.
He excuses himself to make a call—to Soon-shin, of course. He starts to berate her for quitting, for missing her meeting with the director, for going out on dates instead of rehearsing. Ordering her to stay put, he heads out using work as his excuse, though it doesn’t take a genius for the ladies to guess that Jun-ho went to see “her.”
Jun-ho meets Soon-shin all in a fluster (which she seems to reciprocate) and trips over his words as he suggests dinner. There’s an adorable moment when he turns away from her and unleashes this goofy smile, which he has to wipe off his face before facing her again. So cute.
He tells her that if she does a good job, nobody can say anything about her. He stumbles through the encouragement, “You can do… a good job. I… have f-faith in you.” All while looking everywhere but at her.
They both loosen up over dinner, where she asks why he quit singing and pokes fun by saying he must’ve sucked at it. She’s totally winding him up and he’s just falling for it—when she asks whether he plays guitar, he says self-importantly, “Sure, I do.” He doesn’t pick up on her teasing when she goads, “Chan-woo oppa was really good at guitar…” Immediately, he retorts, “I’m better.”
She tells him to show her, and he surprises her by saying that if she does well with the music video, he will.
It’s such a sweet and smile-inducing dynamic that it’s a shame it has to end so quickly, but we can’t let the angst monster get too restless: Mi-ryung is surprised to hear that Soon-shin is doing the video after all, and decides to “help” by offering up some cold hard truth. With that, she informs Soon-shin of the bet. (End of Episode 19.)
What makes Mi-ryung so crafty (and successful at playing saboteur) is that all of her meddling is based in truth. She doesn’t have to invent lies when the truth is just as damning, when wielded with a manipulative hand. Under the guise of “for your own good” concern, she warns Soon-shin not to fall for Jun-ho’s lies, because he was only taking care of her because of the bet, not because he really believes she has talent. Furthermore, that bet was motivated by his desire to get Yeon-ah back. Ouch. Wrong, but also true.
This helpful little pep talk occurs at the salon just before Soon-shin is slated to begin filming, which wrecks her mood—the scene calls for hopeful excitement, and she produces tears. Particularly with Jun-ho sitting by proudly, watching her film.
The director calls for a break and Jun-ho talks to her encouragingly, assuming that she is just freezing up out of nerves, and tells her she can do it.
Grandma still has hope of getting Hye-shin’s husband back in the marriage, and asks Bread Man for help calling internationally. Jin-wook complies and starts to hand Grandma the phone, only to have the husband cut him off and hang up. Seeing how hopeful Grandma is, Jin-wook doesn’t have the heart to tell her that the ex is being a douchebag and pretends that the phone connection is bad. Aw.
Later that afternoon, Jin-wook sees Hye-shin walking by his bakery and calls her inside, wanting to cheer her up somehow. First he lies that he “accidentally” made tons of extra sweet buns by mistake, and then enlists her aid in bread-making, pretending his arm is injured.
With that, he sets her to beating up a loaf of dough, encouraging her to give it a real strong whack. He prods her to think of the dough as a hateful jerk she can’t stand, and she sends the dough slamming into the board. Ha.
Mom tells Chicken Ajumma about Hye-shin’s divorce, recalling when Bastard Ex was declaring undying devotion to her. She says bitterly that her own husband must have been nice to her purely out of guilt, and Chicken Ajumma advises Mom to get a DNA test and move on, because she’ll develop a mental illness if she keeps this up. Lordy, when did she become the sensible one?
Soon-shin wraps up the music video shoot, and thankfully things come out well. The director admits to Jun-ho that he was worried at first, but she ended up being fine. Jun-ho brightens to hear it and invites Soon-shin to a fancy lunch, only to have her walk off listlessly.
Yeon-ah arrives by surprise to take him to lunch, only to have Jun-ho fob her off with an excuse that he’s busy. Yeon-ah then finds Soon-shin and congratulates her on her first shoot. She refers to the bet openly, now that Mi-ryung has outed it, and says that she’d only meant it as a joke. After all, they both know that the idea of Soon-shin being a successful actress is too ridiculous for words. She says with a smile.
Jun-ho goes home and pulls out his guitar, which I assume has been gathering dust for years. Are you practicing for Soon-shin, you dork? Frustratingly he doesn’t actually sing properly (just half-hums the song “More Than Words”), but I’m going to believe they’re just saving the money shot for later. Right?
Soon-shin confides the whole bet story to best friend Chan-mi, who is outraged on her behalf. However, she asks something Soon-shin hadn’t considered: “Then was all of Song Mi-ryung’s praise just because of that?”
That hits Soon-shin hard, and she barrels out of there to ask Mi-ryung just that. Did she praise her just because Jun-ho asked her to? She says it’s important that she hear the answer, because Mi-ryung was the first one to show her recognition and the joy of acting. Confirming it is the fastest way to get what Mi-ryung wants, so she just says sorry and advises her to put this all behind her as quickly as she can.
And while Soon-shin is still there, her mother arrives, thinking to give Mi-ryung a piece of her mind. But Soon-shin thinks she’s here about the acting thing and drags her mother out, saying that she’ll quit so there’s no need for confrontation.
Crying, Soon-shin apologizes to her mother for being a bad daughter, saying that Mom was right all along—they were all just using her. Like a fool, she fell for it—and yet, even more foolishly, she still wants to believe it was true and that she has talent.
To give Mom some credit, she does look moved by Soon-shin’s misery, especially when Soon-shin cries, “I really wanted to do well this time and make you happy.” But it’s too bad she pushes down that sympathy and hardens her face anyway, not betraying any of that feeling.
Manager Hwang sees them leaving the house, which makes him wonder. And then he hears that his contact (Mi-ryung’s childhood friend) has had a reporter sniffing around about Mi-ryung’s past. He asks her to confirm whether Soon-shin’s Mom was the person who came around asking about Kyung-sook and her baby, and sweats bullets when he gets the confirmation.
Mi-ryung has now gotten what she wanted by driving Soon-shin to quit the industry, but she’s not satisfied. She notes that she has a curious way of unsettling her, and therefore instructs Manager Hwang to keep feeding those rumors so “that girl won’t be able to skulk around in this neighborhood again.” Dayum. She’s mostly acting out of paranoia, wanting all connections to her hit-and-run case out of her orbit, but that last bit is definitely crossing over into spiteful territory.
With rumors fueling the fire, the music video uproar grows with the band’s fan club getting their panties in a twist about the no-name who would dare sully oppa’s music video. Sigh, fangirls. They even show up at the restaurant asking after Soon-shin, acting sweet and friendly to get access to her and then pelting her with eggs.
Soon-shin says that she’ll quit everything now, so that’ll settle the rumors. Jun-ho’s shocked, thinking her decision is purely motivated by the music video incident, and assures her that this is nothing to get upset about.
She challenges him angrily, turning it around on him and pointing out his failures to fix the problems. Like with he audition, and the video casting. Jun-ho acknowledges that she has a point, but assures her that he’ll find her something else: Just trust him.
Only she asks accusingly, “How can I trust you?”
Soon-shin gives Young-hoon her notice to quit working at the restaurant, and confirms that he knew about the bet too. He’s stunned to realize she knows, and dismayed when she accuses him of enjoying how stupid she must have been thinking it was all real. He apologizes for not telling her, but couldn’t bring himself to burst her bubble when she was so happy about this path.
Chicken Man worries more about the birth secret, but Chicken Ajumma says that since Soon-shin is quitting acting, the matter is all resolved. Everything will die down as long as they keep their mouths shut. Good luck with that.
Thus they’re both jumpy and weird when the Lee girls show up at the restaurant for a sisterly drink. It’s Hye-shin who picks the place, which has Yoo-shin frustrated because of the whole sneaking-around-with-Chan-woo thing.
So when ajumma chastises Yoo-shin for drinking and tells her to marry in that nagging ajumma-knows-best tone, Yoo-shin can’t suppress her temper and talks back. Ajumma says Yoo-shin would be a great catch if she fixed her personality, and that she would hate to have her for daughter-in-law. Yoo-shin retorts that she’d hate to have ajumma for her mother-in-law. Ha, this is actually entertaining, because at least Yoo-shin stands up to Chicken Ajumma. Chan-woo’s gonna have so much trouble peacemaking, muahaha.
Speaking of whom, Chan-woo hears about the ruffled feathers and calls Yoo-shin out that night to apologize for his mother and asks her to understand. He pulls the ol’ sneak-peck-on-cheek, which is considerably effective in melting her annoyance—at least until she gasps to realize Bread Man has seen the whole exchange.
They stop him to ask him to keep it a secret, but Bread Man just deadpans, “I saw nothing.” He goes home wondering why this family has so many secrets, then wistfully thinks that everybody’s dating. And that makes him think of Hye-shin.
One good sign: Mom tucks Soon-shin in that night. It’s a tiny gesture, but given our lack of any maternal warmth from her, I’m taking this as a sign that the worst is behind us. And not a moment too soon.
Manager Hwang suggests to Mi-ryung to leave Soon-shin alone, rather than pushing forward with her sabotage mission. After all, Soon-shin is quitting and there seems to be no inkling of the family making any connection about the accident. Mi-ryung would rather be safe than sorry, and in this case it means crushing potential risks completely.
Despite all urgings to give up on Soon-shin, Jun-ho doesn’t appear to be any closer to actually letting go. Thus he’s flummoxed when Soon-shin’s mother arrives to hand him an envelope of money to repay the contract fee and end their connection.
As Mom leaves, she sees Mi-ryung arriving and informs her that Soon-shin has quit. Mi-ryung is pleased to hear it and congratulates Mom, since this is what she wanted, isn’t it?
That riles Mom’s temper, and she yells after her, “Who are you to tell me that?” Is that all she can say after trampling over someone’s child like that? She screeches that the only reason Mi-ryung can say that is because she has no children of her own, and warns her not to live like that.
Jun-ho practices the guitar some more, but abandons it to go looking for Soon-shin at the restaurant. He complains that she’s driving him nuts and asks how she can be so weak-willed as to quit acting because of that one fangirl incident, and Young-hoon realizes he doesn’t know about the bet.
But before he can explain that, Yeon-ah shows up with her impeccably inconvenient timing. She notices his callused fingers and think she’s practicing guitar because of her request, only to have him answer that he promised Soon-shin he’d play for her if her video went well. Her face falls.
Young-hoon tells him Soon-shin quit the restaurant, and Yeon-ah clues him in, saying that Soon-shin found out about the bet. A beat as he registers what this means, and then he whirls to go out.
Yeon-ah grabs his wrist (heh) and first asks him to stay, then gives him an ultimatum: If he goes now, she won’t see him again.
Jun-ho pushes her hand off, and starts running for the door.
I’ve said this before, but it continues to be true: This drama is pretty predictable and the story points are things we expect, but they’re still really very satisfying. By all rights it shouldn’t be—I would think that any drama where I expect something to happen and get that very thing would be a letdown. It’s the endearing characters of this one that make the anticipation enjoyable, though, and thus the payoff gratifies rather than disappoints.
For instance, Jun-ho’s continued denseness regarding his feelings for Soon-shin. Yeon-ah can see it, Mi-ryung can see it, Young-hoon can see it, even In-sung can probably see it. The only person who can’t see it who should is Soon-shin, but she’s feeling too battered and insecure, so it’s understandable that those sentiments take the fore. And we’ve seen this trajectory play out in numerous dramas before, so we all know the drill: Clueless hero ignores, clueless hero denies, clueless hero finally pushed to realization by outside forces.
But it’s still such fun to watch Jun-ho lying to himself despite the obvious signs, like the fact that he’d pick up his guitar for Soon-shin but not his girlfriend, or that he’s never present in the moment when he’s with Yeon-ah but instead looking for excuses to remove himself. He’s gotten exactly what he wanted, and there’s nothing like that to jolt you into seeing that you never wanted it in the first place.
Bread Man Jin-wook continues to be another favorite, and while he won me over with his goofy comic antics, it’s really the deeper character stuff that makes me love him. The more we see of him, the more he proves himself to be a stand-up guy, and he does it in exactly the opposite way that our opportunists like Mi-ryung and Yeon-ah do: out of the public eye. I love that he does nice things not for any sort of recognition—in fact, most of the time his deeds aren’t recognized—but to make people feel better. Like softening the blow for Granny, or giving Hye-shin an emotional outlet without confronting her about it in a way that would mortify her.
In that way Jin-wook is actually a lot like dearly departed dad, waiting undemandingly until Hye-shin is ready to face things in her own way. If Hye-shin picked her first husband based on what she thought others wanted of her, at least her own instincts are picking well the second time around. All she has to do is learn to listen to them.
For the first time in a while, I’m actually perking up in anticipation for the next episode, because I’m invested in where this new turn is taking us. (Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t disliked previous episodes; they just haven’t had that addictive marathon quality to them.) With Soon-shin fully aware of the bet and Jun-ho’s initial motivations, the power dynamic has swung back all the way around to her side again. I don’t see romantic relationships in terms of power, so it’s not because of the power shift that I’m liking it. But recall back in earlier days when she had Jun-ho constantly off-guard and off-kilter, and how much fun it was to see him struggling to assert himself. Then she decided to take his terms seriously and started listening to him (which carries its own brand of sweetness, but lacks the humor of earlier moments). Now that she’s going to be pushing him away completely, I can’t wait to see how he deals with it. Some groveling might be in order.
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episodes 17-18
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episodes 15-16
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episode 14
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episode 13
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episode 12
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episode 11
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episode 10
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episode 9
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episode 8
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episode 7
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episode 6
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episode 5
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episodes 3-4
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episodes 1-2