Bubblegum: Episode 3
Sometimes a show is so charming that it’s impossible to pull away. Such is the case for Bubblegum, with its endearing friendships that have captured my heart. Dealing with the aftermath of a breakup is never easy, so it’s lucky that Haeng-ah is surrounded by people who care for her—if only she would let them help her instead of sitting alone with those building emotions.
As for Ri-hwan and his amazing kind heart, it’s a wonder why more people haven’t fallen in love with the doctor yet. His loyalty to his longest friend is unyielding, and only time will tell until these best friends realize that they may share deeper feelings for one another that’s apparent to everyone else but themselves.
SONG OF THE DAY
Kim Feel – “변하지 않은 마음 (Unchanged Heart)” [ Download ]
EPISODE 3: “What I Want Is What You Want”
At Ri-hwan’s request that Suk-joon doesn’t head up to see Haeng-ah, Suk-joon returns, “What if what Haeng-ah truly wants isn’t to break up?” With that, Suk-joon heads for the elevator, leaving Ri-hwan alone with his thoughts of those nights when it feels like everything is about to fall apart and the smallest things interrupts one’s dreams.
Although the elevator stops at Haeng-ah’s floor, Suk-joon doesn’t get off and lets the doors close once more. He returns home with the cake and opens a drawer, where the sight of a roll of tape triggers a memory: He and Haeng-ah had dined out once, and she’d taped up her hands in hopes that he would feed her.
When he’d said he’s not that kind of boyfriend, she had pouted that everybody does things they don’t normally do when they’re in a relationship. In the end, Suk-joon had given in and fed her a bite, to her delight (and his).
As for Ri-hwan, he abruptly steps on the brakes when a driver cuts him off on the road, inadvertently sending the pastries to the floor. Pulling over to the side of the road, he recalls the time when he and Haeng-ah were out with their friends and he asked about any plans for her upcoming birthday.
She had yawned that she’ll likely be working, but then a text exchange lifted her spirits and she’d left them all behind, smiling. Back in the present, all three of them spend a restless night.
Over breakfast, Ri-hwan poses a hypothetical with Ji-hoon: Say he went to a bar asking them not to sell Ji-hoon any alcohol because seeing him drunk upset him. Could that be for his sake or Ji-hoon’s?
He points out how Ji-hoon says he feels sick after a night of drinking, to which Ji-hoon retorts that he loves the bottle in spite of the pain it brings. If Ri-hwan plans on doing something about it, then he should’ve consulted him first.
So when Ri-hwan tells him to keep on suffering then, Ji-hoon is oblivious to the fact that this conversation is really about whether Ri-hwan should be meddling in Haeng-ah’s love life. However, Ji-hoon knows that his friend’s love for him eclipses his own love affair with liquor, so Ri-hwan would have every right to intervene.
Looking thoroughly agitated, Haeng-ah barely takes two steps inside the hospital before exiting through the revolving doors again. The reason becomes clear when Mom explains how she first noticed Haeng-ah’s phobia of hospitals when the latter was a high-schooler and had collapsed at the sight of blood.
Both of her parents came to the hospital with what they thought were minor symptoms, but unfortunately died of stomach cancer before the age of 40. Haeng-ah is already 33, and with a family history of cancer, she should be checked out. And since Haeng-ah avoids hospitals like the plague, she hasn’t received any psychiatric help either.
But maybe we should also be worrying about Mom because her colleague reminds her how she reached out to him for a consultation. Hm, sounds like it’s more serious than momentary forgetfulness, and it gives Mom pause.
Ri-hwan sees an elderly woman at the clinic, who pleads with him to send her back to the countryside. Everything she holds dear is still there, and she only came to live with her daughter in the city after she had a fall last year.
Moreover, there’s an old sheep dog she misses terribly. She took the poor animal in, and one day, it stared up into the sky and started barking. Following his line of sight, she saw that the clouds formed into a shape of a sheep. She likens herself to that dog and its yearning to return to the countryside.
We see Haeng-ah sitting outside on the steps with a beer and admiring the blue sky while the granny cries how she feels so sorry to her daughter that’s taking care of her.
Ri-hwan’s call to Haeng-ah afterward goes unanswered while she throws out her can of beer. By the time she returns his call, Ri-hwan is called away. Instead of wallowing on the steps, Haeng-ah picks herself back up and marches away.
Yi-seul is met with immediate criticism from her mother as soon as she joins her and her older brother for lunch. Thankfully, Jung-woo lightens up the mood and asks if she’s sporting new shoes for a date. He’s curious about the mystery guy that makes his sister smile at the mere thought of him, but their mother is eager to point out that the other family is keeping Ri-hwan’s father’s identity under wraps. Interesting.
Anyhow, her mother tells her to act aloof whereas Oppa suggests that Yi-seul just go for it. So Yi-seul calls up Ri-hwan right then and there, asking to meet at Secret Garden today, much to her mother’s surprise.
Ri-hwan, for one, is puzzled by the call and Ji-hoon couldn’t be more excited for him. Her tone of voice sounded too serious for it to be a date, and then it occurs to him—what if she’s trying to sue him for possibly injuring her hand from the hammock yesterday? Realizing that his friend will need all the luck he can get, Ji-hoon returns all the “luck” he stole from Ri-hwan’s cheeks.
Upon hearing that Ri-hwan is on his way, Chef Ajusshi demands that Haeng-ah be called to the restaurant so the two can resolve yesterday’s dispute. Speaking of whom, Haeng-ah is still hanging outside the hospital entrance, unable to bring herself to walk in when she’s called over.
Neither Ri-hwan nor Haeng-ah can look at each other in the eye until he asks if she ate a lot of cake last night. She has no idea what he’s talking about, and he’s surprised to hear that her only visitor was the security guard who came to change her lightbulb.
Before Haeng-ah can apologize for last night, Ri-hwan beats her to the punch. She doesn’t get why since she feels that she was in the wrong, but he says he acted selfishly without considering her feelings. She concedes that that’s because she kept lying to him.
Haeng-ah lights up when she’s told that she can meet the chaebol woman Ri-hwan met on his seon if she sticks around. She knows of Jung-woo because he attended the same school district she did, and recalls how cool and handsome that oppa was.
Haeng-ah introduces herself when Yi-seul arrives, recognizing her as the dentist that kicked her out of the clinic last time. She’d barely been in there long enough for her phobia of everything hospital-related kicked in, and when she introduces herself as his noona, Ri-hwan corrects her that he’s the oppa because his birthday is sooner.
Haeng-ah is quick to chime in that Ri-hwan’s better known by his nickname “Younger Bro Park,” and Yi-seul picks up on their synchronous back-and-forth explanation about how Secret Garden, which once belonged to her late father, is now run by the current restaurant family, including Chef Ajusshi who used to be an actual gangster.
Ri-hwan sees Haeng-ah out when she excuses herself, and when he notices her reddened face, she admits to day drinking earlier. He scolds her for drinking after getting a flu shot, but she says it was the other way around. But… we didn’t see you get your shot, let alone walk into the hospital.
She covers her ears to block out his nagging, but Ri-hwan will have none of that and grabs both her arms to pull her close. The sudden proximity startles her, and Ri-hwan tells her not to be so negligent before childishly calling up his mother to rat her out while keeping Haeng-ah’s head away at arm’s length. Lol.
While Yi-seul admires the photo wall of Ri-hwan and Haeng-ah’s families hanging inside, she’s told of how Haeng-ah’s parents both died due to illness, and that the two kids spent much of their childhood in this restaurant. It’s at that moment Ri-hwan and Haeng-ah return to the restaurant bickering as their younger selves though still dressed in their adult clothes.
Chef Ajusshi breaks up the fight, picking Ri-hwan up and soon they’re all giggling together. What a nice picture of the present and past converging.
Ri-hwan and Yi-seul take a stroll outside, where he acknowledges that Haeng-ah was the first friend he ever made after living in the countryside. Stopping at a convenience store, he asks if she’d like some ice cream, which she declines because it’s fattening. He doesn’t believe that one ice cream could make such a difference, but her weight is a sensitive for Yi-seul, so he drops the subject.
But then he asks if she ate a lot yesterday… because she grew overnight. He wonders if her sparkly heels aren’t hurting her, and Yi-seul shrinks back, feeling self-conscious. Just then, a bike comes flying out of nowhere and Yi-seul falls and feels embarrassed yet again.
Ever the gentleman, Ri-hwan helps her to a bench. He feels bad that Yi-seul always hurts herself whenever he’s around, and she shoves him off when he tries taking a look at her injury. That’s because she’s sensitive about her supposedly chubby but are actually normal ankles, so Ri-hwan sweetly opens his mouth for her to examine his teeth so that he can return the favor.
Turns out it’s a mild injury, and he remarks it’s a good thing she has such sturdy ankles. He likens it to having strong teeth, and tells her to wait while he fetches her some new shoes. When she protests, he offers her a choice: either wait or climb on his back. Climb on his back, climb on his—oh wait, he can’t hear me.
He returns with his own winter boots, which Yi-seul admits is quite warm. Aw, like his heart?
After the meeting, Manager Jo reveals to Suk-joon that Haeng-ah will likely attend a team outing tonight. It’s a good thing Suk-joon doesn’t plan to go because Haeng-ah’s been getting along with that writer of hers lately.
He’s talking about Tae-hee, who has to deal with a whiny radio host about tonight’s broadcast. The team tosses around the idea about inviting a non-celebrity guest to the show, and cutie Joon-su says he’s always been curious about Suk-joon. The topic understandably makes Haeng-ah uncomfortable and Tae-hee quickly diffuses the situation.
Tae-hee does confront Haeng-ah about it afterward, however, asking what she can do to help Haeng-ah feel better about Suk-joon. She wants to help Haeng-ah to deal with the breakup, but she won’t if Haeng-ah will show up the next day and back with her ex.
“If that happens, I’d lose the only friend I’ve got. I don’t want that,” Tae-hee finishes. Haeng-ah replies that a part of her wants to believe that Suk-joon can’t live without her while the other part of her knows that sets her up for disappointment.
She felt useless when she was with Suk-joon, whom she left alone on his birthday as his gift instead of spending it together. As Haeng-ah leaves the studio, a part of Se-young’s broadcast narrates how love must often make people into fools if there are so many songs out there entitled “Fool.”
When Yi-seul visits Ri-hwan’s clinic after hours so he can treat her ankle, she marvels at the many travel books he owns as well as the map on his wall. Hearing that he’s never been outside the country surprises her, and Ri-hwan explains that he’s studying up in advance. When the time comes, he’ll throw a dart on that map and go wherever it lands.
They’re interrupted by a drunken call from Ji-hoon and soon find themselves joining the radio team outing. Haeng-ah arrives a bit later, and she sets down the pint of beer, having made a promise to Tae-hee about staying sober tonight.
And Tae-hee makes sure she sticks to that progress as the night progresses, while Haeng-ah thinks back to Suk-joon’s words on the rooftop. Back at Secret Garden, the restaurant family wonders what Yi-seul was looking at, perplexed when they find out it was a photo of Haeng-ah.
After sending everyone else home, Yi-seul offers to take Ri-hwan and a drunk Ji-hoon home. Noticing Haeng-ah waiting on the street, she offers to take everyone home. Still, Haeng-ah sends them off without her.
She also sends the taxi that pulls up away to re-enter the restaurant. A couple of hours later, Haeng-ah emerges in an inebriated state and tunes in for her own radio show. Se-young’s voice reads of how the lyrics of their next song request reflects one of their listener’s lives: too late to regret having met that someone, yet too early to call it a breakup.
As Haeng-ah drunkenly teeters around town, the lyrics go on: “I’m too old to be crying in random places / yet my heart is still too young to say, ‘life is meant to be lived alone anyway’ / We already ended things when I was about to say ‘I love you’ / I want to be able to say that I loved you / but I still like you.”
Next thing we know, Haeng-ah drunk calls Yi-seul, though the former thinks she’s calling to complain about her drink. Yi-seul on the other hand, couldn’t be more puzzled, though when she hears how drunk Haeng-ah is, she asks if anyone else is around.
So Yi-seul doubles back to find Haeng-ah happily inviting her to sit and eat together. Even though Yi-seul draws away from Haeng-ah’s snorting laugh, I find it wonderfully endearing. She takes issue with Haeng-ah calling her “unni” since they’re the same age (though Yi-seul started school sooner because her birthday’s in January).
Haeng-ah practically jumps to her feet upon hearing that Ri-hwan’s here. Ha, did you drunk call him too? But no, Yi-seul called him over, and Haeng-ah freaks out that her drunkenness is so apparent.
They dive inside a convenience store so she can grab a snack to sober up, but Haeng-ah snorts at a balding man’s head. “Barcode,” she chuckles. Yi-seul simply stares back blankly, so Haeng-ah slyly takes the scanner and “reads” the man’s head. Heh.
Ri-hwan bursts into the store before Haeng-ah can create more of a scene and deposits her into his car. He apologizes on Haeng-ah’s behalf, then barely catches her in time when she crawls out of his backseat.
Slurring her words, Haeng-ah says she just wants to say goodbye and give Yi-seul her parting gift: one of the sea cucumbers she bought so that they can each raise one. Plop! into the bag it goes. It takes all of Ri-hwan’s willpower not to claw into her right then and there.
He barely gets to explain Haeng-ah’s behavior before the latter climbs into a taxi. He makes sure to snap a picture of the license plate, then doubles back to Yi-seul.
Haeng-ah heads back to her workplace, and Suk-joon finds her passed out in the recording studio. He watches her sleep and picks up when Ri-hwan calls in worry.
Telling him to call back later, Suk-joon hangs up. Furious, Ri-hwan rushes into the building, only to be barred access by the security guard. But as soon as the elevator doors open, he jumps the barricade and hops inside.
Needless to say, Haeng-ah is taken aback when she finally wakes. Ri-hwan locates the still-lit recording studio and walks in to see Suk-joon and Haeng-ah together. Before he can do anything about it, however, Suk-joon pushes Haeng-ah back into the door and closes it.
No matter how much Ri-hwan tries and thumps on the door, it remains securely closed. He moves over to the glass, but then Suk-joon moves Haeng-ah over to a blind spot. Walking out into the hallway, Ri-hwan tries breaking the fire alarm before using a fire extinguisher to smash it.
The alarm sounds, and Ri-hwan walks back in time for Haeng-ah to open the door. Now that he has a clear path, Ri-hwan charges at Suk-joon with a right hook: “Doesn’t matter if I’m an oppa or not. It can’t be you, you bastard.”
Today’s flashback: Haeng-ah’s father scolds Little Ri-hwan and Haeng-ah for touching the elderly pet store owner’s head (they were curious whether it was warm and shiny, ha). They apologize once they hear their new goldfish could end up eaten.
To keep them from fighting, Haeng-ah’s father had given each of them a goldfish, advising them to raise their new pets with care. No matter since both fish end up in the same tank anyway, though the two little ones bicker like an old married couple.
I love how young Ri-hwan is the stay-at-home dad in an apron, complaining how Haeng-ah doesn’t appreciate him. She in turn barks back that she’s out playing all day earning Pogs, and that he can’t even maintain a clean fish tank. Ri-hwan: “Am I raising them on my own? They’re your fish too!” Hahaha.
Haeng-ah’s father arrives in time for wee Ri-hwan to declare that yes, he wants Haeng-ah to stay at home with him. Smiling, Dad tells them: “Why don’t you wait four weeks and see?”
I really love the little flashbacks we get at the end of these episodes. Whether they harken back to happier times or sorrowful memories, they provide insight into these characters whom I’m quickly falling in love with. By looking into the past, these flashbacks serve to partly explain Ri-hwan and Haeng-ah’s present-day behavior from the importance to the bracelet to Ri-hwan’s remote control car and Haeng-ah’s drunken declaration to raising marine life.
In regards to the past, what I’m most interested in is learning about how Haeng-ah’s past has shaped her as an adult. We know that she has a family history of cancer and lost both parents to the disease at a young age, but it’s also apparent that she’s set up a wall between the facade she puts on for others and any emotional pain or fears that come her way. I wouldn’t be surprised if her phobia of hospitals began as a teenager soon after she traumatically lost her father before her eyes, and it’s heartbreaking watching how her fear of the place triggers such a visceral response out of her. Like Mom, I do worry how Haeng-ah is at risk for the same illness that took her parents’ lives, though at present, I feel as if we should be worrying more about Mom’s tendency to forget instead.
So I’m glad that Haeng-ah has someone like Tae-hee by her side if only somebody other than Ri-hwan should also be looking out for her. For a girl who always seeks to deal with her emotions alone and is known to keep her colleagues and friends at arm’s length, it’s sweet that it’s Tae-hee who reaches out to her and considers her as a dear friend. These two are such a delight to watch, and I hope their friendship turns into one we can adore as well.
Theirs isn’t the only relationship blossoming in this series, of course. Even though I know that there’s only heartache for Yi-seul and her crush on Ri-hwan, I hope she can find a friend in Haeng-ah. Their awkward interactions crack me up so far, but I also get that she considers Ri-hwan’s best friend more of a rival in love than a possible new friend. Her exchanges with Ri-hwan are wonderfully sweet (even if they lead to minor injuries), and I simply love how he doesn’t criticize her own insecurities but rather uses them to boost her self-confidence. Even if he doesn’t know it yet, Ri-hwan has been a positive influence on her already, and I can’t wait for the day until Yi-seul breaks out of her meek shell and stands up to her critical mother.
I can’t say this enough—I love Ri-hwan to pieces. Moreover, I thoroughly enjoy how his friendship with Haeng-ah has barely changed over the years. There are times when they still fight like little kids, and those disputes are followed by the cutest of resolutions. Given his constant overbearing concern for Haeng-ah, it was about time that he needed to learn how to back off and give her some breathing room in her break up. His intentions are in the right place—he simply needs to find the right time (instead of every time) to speak out of love. But for Ri-hwan… I would always opt to stay home and raise goldfish together.