Cheese in the Trap: Episode 2
Another strong episode continues the positive momentum from yesterday’s premiere, and we get much more of a lot of things: a deepening of the relationships, an intriguing glimpse of the hero’s backstory, cuteness, and a heavier undercurrent of angst.
And now that we see more of the developing plotline, I start to see a little of why Cheese in the Trap has amassed its fanbase. It’s not something you can get from the setup alone or hearing it described, because the appeal of the story is in the interactions and characters, and how they fit goether—there’s a loose, episodic feel to the surface events, which are rooted in a stronger emotional base. So the characters and the world grows on you the more you see of them, but describing the day-to-day plots don’t convey the actual feeling of the show.
The good news is, the cast and director have already shown they know how to work with the material to preserve that effect, so I feel my confidence growing in the show. It’s a tentative faith, but on the right trajectory.
(Side note: If you’re experiencing some wonkiness on the site today, we apologize! We’ve been coming across glitches too, and hope they’ll be resolved soon. They’re driving us nuts too.)
SONG OF THE DAY
Twenty Years Old – “Cheese in the Trap” from the drama’s OST [ Download ]
EPISODE 2 RECAP
Jung materializes in Seol’s class unexpectedly, throwing Seol into a panic. As the professor starts wrapping up the lecture, Seol quickly packs her belongings, bolting out of her chair the instant class is over. Jung calls after her, but she zooms off before he can even finish saying the word “lunch.”
He tries again another day as she walks across campus, catching up to her to invite her to lunch. She mutters an excuse, but he continues walking behind her for a spell, spiking her indignation. But when she whirls to confront him, she starts to argue before realizing he’s already left, ha.
“The suspicious sunbae began acting in suspicious ways,” Seol tells us.
One day he squeezes his way onto her elevator, and she lies that she’s already eaten while clutching a meal ticket and trying to hide a growling stomach. She shrinks in mortification, while he seems to find her amusing.
“No matter how I struggled to avoid him, I’m certain he’s doing this on purpose,” she thinks as she spots him in the stairwell, bolts in the other direction, and knocks over a group of students.
She finally decides it’s time to talk it out, and starts by bowing deeply at the waist, apologizing for accusing him of canceling her class, and asking him to forgive her. Jung withholds his forgiveness until she agrees to eat a meal with him, which is how, finally, he gets that dinner together.
She picks the simplest option—store-bought triangle kimbap—despite him wanting to buy her something nicer. She notices that Jung doesn’t know how to unwrap his properly, having never had it before, and gives him hers. When he thanks her, she’s struck for a moment before warning herself firmly not to be taken in by his smile. “That guy is just like a snake,” she thinks, “all sly—”
“I’m sorry,” Jung says, taking the wind out of her sails. He admits he’s pestered her a lot about eating together, but he’d only wanted a chance to talk. He says he understands her reaction to the class snafu, and he’s so nice that Seol has to keep reminding to herself to stay firm, even as her thoughts get confused: “He’s sly, like a snake! He’s sly. Is he?… Is he not?”
She tells him it’s okay, and that she should have bought this dinner, and Jung just tells her to buy the next time. She finds herself agreeing despite herself, and is once against convinced of his snake-like charms.
As they head out, Seol deliberately picks the direction opposite to his, eager to get away. Just then, she runs into a hoobae friend who just started school, AH-YOUNG, who’s immediately smitten by Jung’s good looks.
Seol grudgingly makes the introductions, then pulls the girl away, warning Ah-young to be wary of guys who look nicer than they are. “I just want you to pick a guy carefully,” she says. Ah-young asks, “How do I pick a guy?” Something tells me she’ll figure it out.
That night, our rumpled drifter Baek In-ho arrives on campus, having heard this is where Jung goes to school. He wanders for a while and asks a man where to find the business administration building. The man instructs him to follow him and In-ho does, wondering if he’s a professor, apparently missing the signs (grimy appearance, rank smell) that point more to homeless.
Seol starts dreaming that Jung keeps asking her to eat together, and wakes up to his voice with a groan. She heads to campus and bumps into the homeless man, and notices that he’s set up camp off to the side—where In-ho apparently slept the night like a fellow hobo.
In-ho calls out to her to ask for directions and is affronted when she ignores him, which makes him even pushier as he asks where to find the business department. He tries to hold her back and she falls to the ground, just as campus police come running to catch the homeless ajusshi.
The homeless man orders In-ho to run, and the two men end up running across campus, taking cover behind piles of trash.
Seol rushes to class feeling frazzled, unable to print out a report for class thanks to the run-in with In-ho. But her laptop broke in her fall, and when she asks her classmates to borrow theirs, they all turn her down.
Jung notices her predicament and offers his computer to her, and she needs it too much to refuse. As the professor begins class, Seol madly retypes her report, not even registering when the professor is ready to single her out for not paying attention to the lecture.
Jung jumps in before Seol gets scolded and asks a question about the material that impresses the professor enough that she continues with her lecture, allowing Seol to continue writing. She’s still not done by the time class is over, so Jung steps in again, offering to be the one to collect the reports and deliver them to the professor’s office.
With twenty minutes till he has to hand in the stack, Jung sits by quietly as Seol writes. The attention is distracting, and she tells him that his staring bothers her.
“I’m glad,” he replies, to her surprise. “Because you bother me a lot too,” he adds. (“Bother” in this sense suggests something like “I keep thinking about you.”)
It startles her, but there’s no time to dwell on it. She rushes to print, only to find her account is too low on funds, which makes her wail (internally) in frustration. Jung leans over her to log in with his ID, totally calm while Seol has a minor freak-out about being trapped in his arms.
She thanks him sincerely for his help today, and Jung adds to his list of helpful gestures by offering his notes from today’s class. Jealous Joo-yeon happens by to witness their exchange, clocking Jung’s niceness and Seol’s gratitude with slitted eyes.
After he leaves, she makes catty comments to Seol about being a hypocrite to act disinterested while flirting on the downlow, and tells her not to get her hopes up. Jung’s just nice to everyone.
In-ho wanders campus aimlessly, not sure why he bothered coming. He takes a call from a friend at a construction site, who warns him to lie low from the boss. In-ho’s not worried, though, saying he quit that job and has nothing to worry about.
This conversation informs us that In-ho didn’t finish high school—his friend calls it an expulsion, while In-ho calls a voluntary quitting. He eyes the students on campus with something like wistfulness, then takes a slip of information from the student job board.
Jung turns in the reports to the office, and the assistant professor asks about his plans to graduate early and go abroad. Jung says he won’t be graduating early after all, and intends to attend every semester he has left: “In all the time I’ve been attending school, right now is the most fun.”
Joo-yeon drops by the office later and sees the reports sitting on the counter, and in a moment of spite, she swipes Seol’s from the pile. Agh, like you weren’t hateable enough already? She’s surprised at herself for doing it, and does a bad job hiding it when Seol comes across her path and sees the paper in her hand.
Caught red-handed, Joo-yeon says it wasn’t right that Seol should benefit from Jung’s help, assuming Seol didn’t write it herself. Seol asks if she likes Jung so much that she’d stoop this low, and Joo-yeon retorts that yes, she does. Furthermore, if Seol thinks that dangling after Jung will get him to pay her special attention like he does to Joo-yeon, she’s mistaken.
Too bad for her, Jung overhears this conversation, and he tells Joo-yeon that he’ll forget what he heard—but he never paid her special attention.
The professor refuses to accept Seol’s late paper, but Jung arrives and takes the blame for leaving it behind accidentally. The professor accepts the story and the paper, with the caveat that she can’t give it more than a B+ grade considering its tardiness. It’s mostly a relief, though Seol worries that she has to pull perfect scores on the remaining assignments now.
She thanks Jung yet again for his help, and Jung encourages her to buck up, promising to help her on the remaining grades. She wonders if he’s being sincere, just as Jung starts to ask her to eat lunch with him. But he catches himself, remembering that she doesn’t eat lunch. Aw, something tells me he could’ve asked her today.
The boys of the department take a vote of which girl in their department has the prettiest face, and Eun-taek is adorably biased in Bora’s favor, and happy when she wins. Bora storms in and breaks up the vote, calling it childish, and is affronted to hear that Seol was at the bottom of the vote pile. She decides she has to do something about it, and settles upon a blind date. The logic is a little sideways, but I suppose it’s to show Seol’s appeal to men.
Eun-taek is all set to be upset that Bora got set up to go out with a really hot guy, but brightens in a flash when she says she’ll set up Seol instead. Seol is more concerned with studying, but her friends pester her to agree to go.
Their trio comes across Jung’s trio in the library lobby, and Jung pulls his arm free of Jealous Joo-yeon and offers to find Seol a seat inside, declining the one Joo-yeon saved for him.
But Seol thinks of another idea and asks to borrow Eun-taek’s club’s empty room, studying all day in there. Later that night Joo-yeon walks by to see her out on the terrace, and she’s still feeling spiteful; when she’s accosted by the drunk homeless man for money, she directs him to Seol’s building, promising that the girl there will give him what he wants.
The man stumbles inside the dark building, dropping his bottle in the hall with a loud crash. Seol starts at the sound of the shattering glass and hears the loud mumbling, which spooks her.
Joo-yeon finds Jung and feigns concern over Seol’s safety, telling him that she’d seen Seol get into an altercation with a homeless man. Jung initially alerts to Seol’s name, but his face hardens as Joo-yeon goes on with the lie and says Seol was upset yesterday because she couldn’t handle that Joo-yeon and Jung were close.
Jung gets into his car and says Seol will be fine, and Joo-yeon smiles at his lack of interest. But he adds that she ran all the way across campus to find him, rather than next door to campus security: “You caused a situation, you solve it.” Hm, that’s a chilly way to respond.
Seol tries to slip quietly out of the building without running into the drunk hobo, but he catches her on the stairwell and grabs her arm. Seol recoils as he waves around his broken bottle and struggles against his grip, but the glass cuts through the air and into her arm.
Thankfully, security guards arrive in time to apprehend the man and help her up.
The next day, Jung finds Seol and asks about her bandaged arm, which she says is a minor scrape from a can of tuna. Jung must know it’s a lie, and he just leads her outside and insists on tending to her arm. (The song punctuates the moment: “Oh, you must always hate me, I sometimes hate myself too…”)
As Jung dresses her injury, he asks why she suffers for the sake of others—she ought to take care of herself first, before thinking of the other person: “I’m saying this because I’m concerned. If you’re going through something difficult, don’t keep it inside and say so. I’ll help you.”
Seol thinks, “This feels different now from all the other times.”
He mentions Joo-yeon, but before he can say anything, Seol says that Joo-yeon likes him a lot, so it must’ve upset her to see Jung’s attention toward Seol. She asks if she’s been too forward in saying that, but he smiles and remarks, “You’re interesting.”
Bossy sunbae Sang-chul bullies his classmate into letting him see his project from his class last year, snatching his laptop away and handing it to Seol, telling her to find the files for him. She starts looking, but finds instead a folder containing incriminating photos—the party receipts that outed Sang-chul as a thief last year. The laptop owner grabs the computer away and they exchange stricken looks, and she promises not to say a word.
That confirms that she was wrong in suspecting Jung of being the informant, which fills her with new guilt. She finds Jung and returns his class notes, and surprises him by lingering, working up the nerve to say something. He’s even more surprised when she offers to buy him a meal.
“I think I’ve misunderstood you a lot,” she says. “Last year, and this year too. I’m a little sensitive, so I sometimes judge people and misunderstand them…”
He agrees with that, and she promises to fix that about herself. Jung pulls out his phone and suggests a sel-ca together, ignoring her ineffectual protests. The picture comes out less than attractive (he insists it’s cute), but he cheerfully refuses to delete it.
The computer owner/informant happens by to see them looking friendly, and it sends him flashing back to last year, when he’d left that drinking party fuming about Sang-chul and his bullying ways.
Jung had caught him on his exit, saying sympathetically that he understands how he feels, and that everyone knows Sang-chul’s in the wrong. He’d even prodded, “Are you going to keep letting him pick on you?” He’d offered him the receipt for the party, merely asking him to pass it along to Sang-chul and letting the informant figure out the rest.
Seol’s hoobae Ah-young calls to suggest lunch together, then asks Seol if she could help set her up with Jung. Seol thinks it over, and agrees.
The next day, Bora and Eun-taek ambush her on campus, attacking her with a makeover to make her ready for her blind date at 6 o’clock. She wobbles to class feeling highly self-conscious, hiding her face behind notebooks. Jung looks at her in surprise, but seems to find her pretty.
Hoobae Ah-young texts her about meeting up, and Seol decides today’s a good a day as any to set them up. She checks that Jung is free after class for their dinner date and gives Ah-young the okay, and the girls feign surprise when they “coincidentally” run into each other in the cafeteria.
So Ah-young joins them and they converse lightly before Seol moves into matchmaker mode. She goes conspicuously overboard, heaping on the flattery so much that it gets a little uncomfortable. When she suggests, “The two of you would suit really well,” it goes over like a lead balloon.
Seol excuses herself early, and Ah-young comments how pretty she looks today. She mentions Seol’s blind date today and hopes the guy is nice, and Jung suddenly looks rather unhappy about it.
In-ho applies for a job at a fancy restaurant, barreling forward in the interview in his straight-spoken, blunt way that’s one part refreshing, five parts jarring. He’s an interesting contradiction, displaying a lack of social graces despite having a direct line to money (courtesy of “the chairman”), although he seems penniless at the moment.
In-ho is rejected for the job, then recognizes one of the diners—it’s Seol, on her date with a rich guy who’s busy blowing smoke up his own ass. The date asks questions that are really just excuses for him to brag about all the far-flung places he’s been and all the exotic hobbies he enjoys, throwing around names of classical pieces and bits of English.
He finds her boring and provincial, and the date is going nowhere fast. It’s In-ho who steps in, tired of hearing the date blather on about himself, and he freely insults both the guy and Seol’s taste. The men almost come to blows, but Seol jumps in to point out that he can’t afford the ramifications of messing with this guy.
She starts to leave, but her date stops her with a scornful comment about her unfashionable style. At that, she storms up to him and gives him what-for, and points out all the mistakes he made while bragging (using the wrong words), and tells him not to use English lest he embarrass himself. In-ho chuckles, calling her nuts (apparently a plus in his book), and the date beats a hasty retreat, unnerved by the two of them.
Seol limps painfully home in her heels, and stops short to see Jung standing outside. She asks about his dinner with Ah-young, which makes Jung laughs to himself, maybe a little bitterly.
“I thought we’d gotten to be good friends lately,” he says. “But there was a reason you approached me.” His face shutters, and he says bitingly, “You’re just like everyone else.”
Taken aback and unable to say anything, Seol is dismayed as he continues, “It’s quite difficult to eat a meal with you.” He walks off.
In-ho finds Seol’s phone left behind at the restaurant, and flips through the address book intending to return it. He pauses at the name “Yoo Jung sunbae,” though he figures there are tons of people with that name. But then sees that photo of Seol and Jung together and gapes in shock at the sudden smallness of his world.
He assumes Seol is Jung’s girlfriend and decides to give the ol’ bastard a surprise, and calls. Jung sees her name pop up on the display and steels himself before answering, only to hear In-ho’s voice, which he recognizes straightaway.
When the old friends (?) meet up, the air is thick with tension. In-ho comments on the lack of friendly greeting after years apart, and Jung retorts that their relationship isn’t that kind. That clearly hurts In-ho, though he agrees.
Jung wants the phone, while In-ho wants to know what Seol is to him. Jung declines to explain, and In-ho supposes he’ll just ask her directly: “But does she know? What kind of bastard you are?”
Jung warns In-ho to stay away from the people in his life. In-ho challenges, “What if I do? What, you’ll pull the same stuff you did before?”
Jung scoffs, “Are you still on about that? I thought you’d have come to your senses when you returned, but you haven’t changed a bit.”
“You’re the one who hasn’t changed,” In-ho retorts. “You turn somebody’s life into a mess and show no guilty conscience about it.”
Flashback. A schoolyard fight, In-ho battered and bloody. Jung looking cold and unfeeling. In-ho clutching a wrist in pain. Later, In-ho in a hospital gown, shedding a tear.
Jung asks, “Guilty conscience? Why should I?”
He tells In-ho that when he graduates, he’ll work at his father’s company, and their financial support for the Baek siblings will be over. He’d been lenient till now, considering In-ho pitiable, but won’t continue.
“And tell your noona too,” he adds. “There aren’t a lot of years left. Find your way before then.”
Jung drives off, leaving In-ho dealing with his emotions. It triggers another flashback—this one of Jung, In-ho, and In-ha laughing together, looking happy.
In-ho’s eyes are shiny as he sighs, “Ah, what were you expecting?”
There are lot of aspects to Cheese in the Trap that I like, like its solid cast and its quirky tone, but I think most of all I am drawn to the characters, all of whom I find interesting and developing in intriguing ways. Okay, perhaps the secondary tier is less complex than the main cast, but I really like that the main characters are, so far, evading categorization as standard cliches.
They all have elements of the usual types, of course—Jung is the cold hero who just needs a nice girl to warm his heart, Seol is the plucky poor heroine who doesn’t know her own appeal, In-ho seems poised for that doomed (but oh-so-sympathetic) second lead trajectory. But they’ve all got so much going on beyond those boxes that I don’t feel like I’ve got them all figured out, or that they’re ticking off boxes on some character checklist. They’re quirky and unpredictable, which I really like since I enjoy not knowing how someone will react and being surprised at the outcome.
That element of surprise gives me a thrill of discovery as we get to know these people. In-ho is particularly intriguing for me, and his emotions are more readily accessible to us as viewers even though he seems to live out his carefree, unfettered existence as a sort of emotional shield. I’ve read his character description so I have an idea of the history, but until the show discloses anything I’m taking things as they are depicted, so we are left to wonder about the dark history between them, and why they’re both clearly not over it. Jung doesn’t seem the greedy kind, so cutting In-ho off can’t be about the money, but the extent of his coldness is a little unnerving—I don’t believe Jung hates In-ho because what kind of story would we have then, but if he’s suppressing his feelings under that coldness, well, I have to marvel at how in command he is over his feelings.
I’m inclined to see his reaction to In-ho as similar to his reaction to Seol—that he was hurt, so he shut down and cut them off. What I’m wondering is whether it’s pure self-defense, or whether he really does have a darker underbelly.
For instance, just when we think we’ve got Jung’s number—that Seol just misunderstood him and he was a helpful nice guy all along—the show hints that we don’t know him at all. I was expecting him to either come to Seol’s aid with the homeless man or to not believe Joo-yeon’s story, because surely he wouldn’t have believed the story and walked away anyway… But he thwarts our “rules” for hero behavior by leaving Seol in that situation, whatever it may be (even if the director adds some narrative subtext by narrating his actions with that “I hate myself sometimes” song lyric later). Just as he left her computer logged on the other time—he didn’t hurt her, but he didn’t help her, either. He just kind of lets things be much of the time, occasionally steering things along with a word or two (as in the receipt incident).
So while he may be interested in Seol, he’s not some pure knight character who’ll do anything for her—he still strikes me as selfish or maybe just self-interested, and I’m intrigued by the seeming contradictions of him stepping in to help her sometimes, but not universally.
Mostly I’m pleased that our drama has lightness and darkness and also plenty of shadows, and that somehow, when you mix up all its disparate parts, it comes together in a compelling flow. I’ll be waiting impatiently for next week, I’m pretty sure.
- Cheese in the Trap: Episode 1
- Oh Snap! Everybody say cheese
- Fortunes of romance and fate for Cheese in the Trap
- Character posters for Cheese in the Trap’s campus crew
- First official still from tvN’s Cheese in the Trap
- Campus drama Cheese in the Trap completes cast
- Cheese in the Trap casts Nam Joo-hyuk, delays broadcast
- Cheese in the Trap finally has a heroine in Kim Go-eun
- Suzy bows out of Cheese in the Trap
- Suzy up to headline tvN’s Cheese in the Trap
- Anticipated webtoon adaptation Cheese in the Trap goes to tvN
- Park Hae-jin signs on for webtoon-adapted drama Cheese in the Trap