Bubblegum: Episode 5
A lifelong friendship is a precious gift, and it’s not an easy thing to change. But when one person decides that friendship isn’t enough for them anymore, can you ever go back to just being buddies? It’s a difficult leap to take — but if you want more than you’ve had, sometimes you have to put it all on the line in order to gain even more.
EPISODE 5 RECAP: “Those Are Your True Feelings”
We rejoin our star-crossed quartet, with Suk-joon and Yi-seul watching helplessly while Ri-hwan thoroughly kisses Haeng-ah in the middle of the street. Haeng-ah finally breaks the kiss by pushing Ri-hwan forcefully away, and it takes her a minute to collect her thoughts, which gives Suk-joon a chance to saunter over to them and casually hand her phone over.
Haeng-ah pretends they were still putting on an act, and quips that it looks like Suk-joon didn’t fall for it, but Ri-hwan seems to want to say more. Haeng-ah jumps away from him and says not to come closer, telling him that she’s staying at Tae-hee’s place so he needn’t worry about her or check in on her.
Ri-hwan tries to at least guide her out of the street, saying that it’s dangerous, but Haeng-ah squeaks that letting him touch her again is more dangerous. She hails a cab, leaving Ri-hwan still standing in the road. He holds his hand to his lips, remembering that emotional (for him, at least) kiss, and never even notices that Yi-seul is still watching from her car.
He goes home to collapse on his bed, touching his lips again. He wants so badly to see Haeng-ah again that he nearly rushes out, but settles for calling Tae-hee to see if she’s gotten back yet. Haeng-ah arrives while he’s still on the phone, and she and Tae-hee sit down for ddukbokki.
Tae-hee can tell something happened tonight, and asks Haeng-ah why Ri-hwan sounded strange on the phone. Haeng-ah claims it wasn’t a real kiss, just an act, but Tae-hee isn’t falling for that. She asks for details about Ri-hwan’s hands, lips, and even his tongue, wondering if it felt like incest.
When Haeng-ah swears it didn’t, that they just kissed like regular people kiss, Tae-hee says that that’s it then, that’s how Haeng-ah really feels — that Ri-hwan is a man, not a brother. Later, Tae-hee muses that now the three of them — Haeng-ah, Suk-joon, and Ri-hwan — are hopelessly entangled. One of them is bound to get their heart broken, and she hopes that person is Ri-hwan.
The next morning Ri-hwan stops to help a couple whose cargo of oranges gets scattered all over the street. More people stop to help, and they give Ri-hwan several bags of oranges in thanks. He takes a bag to Haeng-ah, and insists on giving her his coat against the cold. She tries to decline so he asks, “Why, because we kissed?” which makes her sputter in confusion.
Ri-hwan’s hilarious repetitions of the word “kiss” annoy Haeng-ah, and he definitely gets a kick out seeing her so flustered. She tells him to stop talking or even thinking about it, so he gets right up in her face and asks if she feels awkward. He’s still having fun teasing her, but when Haeng-ah asks if it was a joke to him, he suddenly turns serious and says that it wasn’t.
Determined to have his say, Ri-hwan lays it all out for her — he knows how he feels about her, and he’s felt like this for a while now. He tells her to think about how she feels, but Haeng-ah refuses, and orders him to re-think his own feelings. She leaves, but Ri-hwan trails after her, repeating for her to think about it.
Haeng-ah goes back to Tae-hee to whine that Ri-hwan is acting weird, and asks why Tae-hee isn’t on his side. Tae-hee says that it’s because, if he’s not the one who’s hurt, then it will be Haeng-ah.
Ri-hwan goes home to find his mother organizing her closet, and he asks about the third-floor apartment, which his grandfather wants kept empty. He notices his mother’s sexy leopard-print bikini with horror (which she says would look good on him, hee), and tries not to imagine men staring at his mother while she wears it. Aww, they’re so cute.
Back in the kitchen Ri-hwan finds his mother’s medicine, but she declines to tell him what it’s for. He asks again about the third-floor apartment, since his hyung Ji-hwan won’t be coming home any time soon, but again Mom crushes off his inquiry. Is he thinking of it for Haeng-ah?
Ji-hoon comes for Ri-hwan, and Mom sends him out with a smile even as Ji-hoon notices that she never took in yesterday’s yogurt delivery. Once she’s alone, she takes her vitamins… the same vitamins she just took not two minutes ago.
Ri-hwan and Ji-hoon go for coffee and bagels, which Ji-hoon eyeballs suspiciously, being used to hangover soup nearly every morning. He says he’s giving up drinking as of last night, but refuses to go jogging, because he’s not crazy. He admits that Tae-hee slapped him the previous night, and Ri-hwan makes his own confession about kissing Haeng-ah.
Ji-hoon isn’t even surprised, except that it took this long. Ri-hwan muses that he thought kissing Haeng-ah would feel strange, and he can’t stop smiling as he thinks about it. He even coquettishly admits that he liked it.
Haeng-ah goes to see Yi-seul, fidgeting nervously as she listens to the sound of the dentist’s drill, and eventually goes to wait outside. Yi-seul is in her office, spinning her globe and thinking about Ri-hwan, uninterested in talking to Haeng-ah. Instead she looks up gifts for men online, and prices yachts as if she’s seriously thinking of buying one for Ri-hwan.
When Haeng-ah is finally let into Yi-seul’s office, she explains that she plans to replace the purse she ruined. Yi-seul looks downright miserable, but she has some tea with Haeng-ah, though she peevishly refuses to share a macaroon with her. Haeng-ah gets the point and leaves, and Yi-seul trashes the macaroons, but eyes the oranges that she knows came from Ri-hwan.
Haeng-ah runs into Se-young and the cute intern Joon-soo on their way to the dentist — these two sure do spend a lot of time together. She leaves, heading to the station, and they wonder why she’s smiling so much.
Manager Jo looks for Haeng-ah, and gets his tender little feelings hurt when Tae-hee prickles at him. He asks how she and Haeng-ah ever got to be friends, and Tae-hee says that they were college roommates, and that she hated Haeng-ah on sight. Haha. But then one day Haeng-ah’s foot was run over by a car, and she insisted she was fine and refused a hospital visit.
When Tae-hee forced her, she fainted at the ER entrance. Upon awaking, she told Tae-hee that she had no family members to contact, and even then she was smiling and apologetic. Of course Tae-hee couldn’t help but become her friend.
Manager Jo agrees that Haeng-ah smiles even when it’s not the right time, and he starts to say that Tae-hee isn’t as gruff as she seems, but she cuts him off. HAHA, it’s so cute how she whips him into shape.
Se-young chats with Yi-seul from the dental chair, and Yi-seul is surprised to hear that Haeng-ah left her office today smiling ear-to-ear. She asks shyly if Se-young and Joon-soo are dating, since he’s hovering mere inches from Se-young, and Se-young denies it a little too vehemently.
Yi-seul grudgingly admits that she met Haeng-ah through Ri-hwan, and asks Se-young if the two are dating. Se-young says she doesn’t know, but that Haeng-ah is a dangerous woman, having had her heart recently broken.
Ri-hwan’s mom meets with her colleague, who asks if she’s been confused or forgetful lately. He wants to run some tests, but she claims it’s just normal forgetfulness that comes with age. But he’s worried, because it’s started affecting her treatment of her patients. He makes her pause by calling her by name familiarly, and saying that he’s scared for her.
Back in her office, Mom takes a call from Yi-seul’s mother, who’s concerned about Ri-hwan and her daughter not progressing faster. Mom assures her that her son isn’t dating anyone else.
She calls Haeng-ah next, and says she needs to talk to her. But when a nurse brings her a chart she can’t remember requesting, she forgets that Haeng-ah is still on the phone. Haeng-ah hangs up and texts her, and the words swim alarmingly in Mom’s vision. Then she finds a melted ice cream cone in her desk drawer, and it scares her enough to agree to the testing.
Ri-hwan finds Ji-hoon singing loudly (and inexplicably digging in the dirt) outside their office, and says he’s going to Secret Garden and may run into Haeng-ah. Does he want him to relay the news that he’s stopped drinking to Tae-hee? Ji-hoon tells him to do it, and breaks into song again. Are we sure he’s stopped drinking?
Haeng-ah goes to Secret Garden for lunch and gives Dong-hwa a lipstick she bought while looking at replacement bags for Yi-seul. Dong-hwa licks it, grossing Haeng-ah out when she says she wants to know how it tastes before Ri-hwan tastes it. She waxes poetic about his gorgeous lips (yeah, no kidding) which makes Haeng-ah deny ever having looked at them, not ever.
Uncle Gangster notices that Haeng-ah is ignoring a call from Ri-hwan, and asks if something is wrong. Haeng-ah denies anything is up, but hilariously pauses for just a beat when he offers to beat up Ri-hwan for her.
Dong-hwa brings her own phone with a call for Haeng-ah, and she assumes it’s Auntie, but is surprised when it’s Ri-hwan. HAHA, he’s standing right outside the window, and warns that he’ll barge in if she hangs up on him. It’s an absurd way to talk, but he’s dead serious, and he says that he knows he can’t force his feelings on her. Even though he’s known how he feels for some time, it’s sudden for her.
Ri-hwan says that Haeng-ah can come to him slowly, but he hopes that it doesn’t take too long. He hates that she’s feeling the way she does right now.
Even though he can see her through the window, Haeng-ah ducks behind the curtains anyway, and says that she once had a dream that she kissed a classmate. Then every time she saw him after that, she felt weird, like she liked him but didn’t know it. She says that that’s all that Ri-hwan is feeling right now.
Ri-hwan pops up on the other side of the window right by her face, and asks if she’s saying this is a dream. Dryly, he quips that he would touch her in less than ten steps — it’s not a dream. In his opinion, the dream was everything up until they kissed, and that now he’s woken up. How are you so swoon-worthy?
HAHAHA, Haeng-ah tries to crawl away below the window, and Ri-hwan just rolls his eyes as her butt passes by. He meets her at the door and says again to think about it, and Haeng-ah just gulps at him.
At work later, Tae-hee tells Haeng-ah to write a few more fake letters for Se-young to answer — HA, you mean the letters from her advice show aren’t even real? Tae-hee warns her not to fake it, as it’s too obvious, so she should write about something from her own life.
It’s clear that one of the letters is from Tae-hee, regarding a man she likes who drinks too much (and Tae-hee’s shifty eyes give her away) but he swears he’s stopped. Should she believe him? The advice expert says that if she wanted to believe him, she would, and wouldn’t have written in to the show.
But the “expert” is actually pretty bad, and Haeng-ah and Tae-hee grow wide-eyed when they realize that most of his advice boils down to, “you won’t listen to what I say anyway.” But when Haeng-ah’s letter about whether it’s possible to have feelings for a lifelong friend finally comes up, she listens expectantly.
The expert says that if one kiss made her wonder if she could have feelings for him, then they were never “just” friends to begin with. He suggests kissing the friend again, to see what happens. Haeng-ah looks like she’s dying to ask more questions, and Tae-hee’s “I’m SO onto you” expression kills me dead.
After the show is recorded, Tae-hee makes note that Haeng-ah is spending a lot of time on her lipstick — is it because of the kiss? Meanwhile Manager Jo visits Suk-joon in his office, bringing him a couple of Haeng-ah’s oranges.
Yi-seul meets Ri-hwan after work, armed with another fancy shopping bag. It’s a couple’s tea set, and they sit down to tea. Ri-hwan gives Yi-seul his blessing as a doctor to use her ankle as usual, and she asks him out to eat for the next day.
Ri-hwan tries to politely decline, saying that he has plans, and Yi-seul pushes for details. He tries to tell her honestly that he has feelings for Haeng-ah, but she interrupts, not wanting to hear it. Ri-hwan apologizes if he gave her the wrong idea, and Yi-seul asks why — is it because she’s not thin or pretty like Haeng-ah? He says it’s not like that, so she asks why she can’t like him.
Very serious now, Ri-hwan says that she should like someone better than him. Disappointed, Yi-seul says that they won’t be seeing each other again, then. She gets an emergency call, and as she grabs her purse, she knocks her half of the tea set to the floor where it shatters.
Whatever the news is that she’s gotten, it shakes Yi-seul badly, and she barely says goodbye when Ri-hwan drops her off at a fancy hotel. Her mother is driven there a minute later, and asks her assistant whose car Yi-seul just got out of.
Yi-seul rushes to an older man’s side — it’s her grandfather, and he’s in pretty poor health. He greets her warmly, and they seem very close.
Ri-hwan listens to Se-young’s radio show while he drives home, as does Haeng-ah, now back in her own apartment. She thinks about how Ri-hwan rescued her belongings from Suk-joon’s place, but when he calls her, she ignores his call yet again. She flings herself on the couch, but that only allows her to see a glowing star she pasted to the ceiling, and she whimpers in frustration.
She reads a text that Ri-hwan sent from his drive home, asking which way he should turn — toward his house, or left, toward hers? She laughs that he says he’s going straight, to the station, unaware that tonight’s show was pre-taped. Haeng-ah doesn’t respond, and Ri-hwan makes his decision. He turns left.
While Yi-seul’s grandfather lies ill, she and her mother sit in awkward silence. Her mother asks what her grandfather said to her, but he only said what he always says, and had asked if she wants anything. Mom actually criticizes Yi-seul’s messy hair, worried that the whole world will know her grandfather is dying from her disheveled appearance.
Yi-seul hits her breaking point, and screams, “Mom, please!” She begs her mother not to do this, today of all days, and she leaves the room, accidentally dumping her purse onto the floor on her way out. Of course, Mom starts going through her purse, and finds an open bottle of water and the two oranges from Ri-hwan (by way of Haeng-ah).
Haeng-ah sits on her porch, drinking one of the herbal drinks that Ri-hwan brought to her a while ago. Suk-joon is still at the office, and he tries calling her, while Ri-hwan sits in his car staring at his unresponsive phone.
Yi-seul sits with her grandfather, and tells him that there’s something she wants. We see in flashback that the bottle of water in her purse also came from Ri-hwan, given to her on the drive to the hospital. Now she tells her unconscious grandfather, with a catch in her voice, that she wants Ri-hwan.
Suk-joon arrives home, and Ri-hwan arrives at Haeng-ah’s place. He tries to call her again, and when she doesn’t answer, he looks towards her building and a smile spreads across his face anyway. Haeng-ah is standing there, waving shyly, and she slowly walks towards him.
Well, at least now we know that if nothing else, Haeng-ah feels the same attraction to Ri-hwan that he feels towards her. It’s hard to say if it goes beyond the physical for her, yet, but there’s definitely something there. Her warning him not to touch her after the kiss, that it’s too dangerous, was pretty telling. I’m glad that she didn’t spend many episodes denying that she feels something for Ri-hwan, or admitting it but refusing to give it a chance, as would happen in so many dramas. It’s something I love about Bubblegum, that nothing is drawn out too long and things are addressed quickly, allowing for even more story to unfold.
It’s a pleasant surprise that Ri-hwan has made his feelings known so soon, but it introduces an interesting dynamic that I wasn’t expecting. Haeng-ah can’t pretend she doesn’t know when he’s saying it right to her face, so one way or another, she was going to have to address this change in their relationship. And he won’t be easy for her to resist, because he insists on being so perfect. I adore him for admitting his feelings, to himself and to Haeng-ah, but also for letting her know that he doesn’t plan to push her. It’s refreshing to see a male lead who loves the heroine, but understands what she’s going through with her breakup, and respects her enough to tell her how he feels but give her space to process. Even when he says that he hopes she comes to him soon, it’s not because he’s being selfish, but because it hurts him to see her hurting over her breakup. He just wants to see her happy.
Is anyone else becoming concerned about Yi-seul? At first she just seemed shy and socially awkward, but this growing obsession with buying things for Ri-hwan in an attempt to make him like her is concerning. First an expensive watch after meeting him one time, and now she’s looking at yachts, when they haven’t even had an official second date. And her attachment to material things extends both ways, as proven by the way she holds onto the smallest thing given to her by Ri-hwan, like an open water bottle, or even oranges that came from him indirectly.
I can’t exactly put my finger on why this bothers me so much, except that it just feels sort of… broken? Like Yi-seul doesn’t even know how to show affection without putting a price tag, or a material item, on it. As much as she hates how much her mother focuses on appearances and the outward signs of wealth, Yi-seul has obviously still been shaped by her upbringing, and places (possibly subconscious) value on things as if they prove how someone feels. And I could understand that if her mother were her only family influence, but her oppa seems so sweet and genuinely loving, I wonder how she didn’t escape the money means love mindset.
Somehow, this material focus of hers worries me, in a “something could be terribly wrong with her emotionally” sort of way. I want to like Yi-seul, because there’s something so vulnerable and lost about her, so I hope I’m reading more into it than there is. But there’s no doubt that she’s falling hard for Ri-hwan, which isn’t difficult to do. He’s caring and solicitous of her, and it’s not a stretch for her to misinterpret his general caretaking nature as particular interest in her.
I can’t say enough, how much I love this show’s floaty, dreamy feel. I love that Ri-hwan and Haeng-ah even discussed whether this is a dream or reality, because the show certainly gives us a feeling of quiet introspection that makes it feel very dream-like. It’s the soft lighting and the gentle background music, and the way that none of the scenes feel rushed. Moments are allowed to breathe and conversations to flow naturally. It reminds me in tone of Coffee Prince, in fact, which is a very good thing. The whole show feels like a comfortable nostalgic memory, as if all of the players aren’t living these things in the moment, but remembering them fondly from a far-off future.