Drinking Solo: Episode 2
When office politics and student expectations threaten to get in the way of Hana’s ambition, she decides to take action. But it’s never a good idea to let your emotions guide your decisions, no matter how righteous they may seem at the time. And when you fumble and find yourself with nobody around to support you, a nice drink may seem like the only thing that can provide comfort.
EPISODE 2 RECAP
Sitting with a tall beer and a mountain of steaming crab legs, Jung-seok repeats his personal drinking rules: First, that he do so in a classy atmosphere. Second, there must be high-quality food to accompany his drinks (and damn, that crab looks downright luxurious). And third, that he always strives to promote a mindful, high-quality drinking culture.
Sitting at home, Hana checks Jung-seok’s social media posts and sneers at the photos he’s posting of his sumptuous meal. She treats herself to her own beer and “crabs,” or crab chips anyway.
She’s running late to work in the morning, and stops in the bathroom to straighten up a bit. She ducks into a stall when she can’t find paper towels, and overhears a couple of students discussing the post on Jung-seok’s website, the one asserting to have evidence that he forged his academic credentials.
Hana had seen the post herself, but someone keeps taking it down every time it’s re-posted. Jin-yi has also heard the nasty rumor, but she tells Hana that rumors like that pop up all the time, and it’s not worth worrying about.
The ladies find Director Kim fawning over Jung-seok, since his classes have attracted over a thousand students each. Director Kim even goes in for a hug, but Jung-seok ducks him and walks away. Jin-yi is excited to hear that her classes will have about one hundred fifty students, while Jin-woong (who’s dressed as Song Joong-ki from Descended From the Sun today, please let this be a running gag because I’m dying here) has only netted fifty students for his classes.
New instructor Hana has ten students, which is only one student away from cancelling the class. Jin-yi defends her friend, since her classes weren’t well-advertised, but Jung-seok comes in to snark that that’s pretty good for their “No Geu-rae.” He tells everyone that he nicknamed her that since she’s the “Jang Geu-rae of Noryangjin,” and everyone gets a good laugh at Hana’s expense.
Dong-young receives a small money transfer from his big sister, and we see that his family members keep him afloat with these little deposits, aww. He wonders how long he’ll have to keep living off his family, then smacks his own mouth and reaffirms his determination to pass the civil service exam.
He heads to Ki-bum’s room and interrupts his shower (he has a full-sized shower in his gosiwon room? LOL), reminding his friend that it’s the first day of new classes. Ki-bum prissily covers himself with his hands, and Dong-young quips that he hasn’t got much to hide.
Hana stops to peek in on Jung-seok’s class, gaping at the sheer number of students crowding the room. She swears that someday she’ll be that popular, too.
Dong-young will be working at the university in exchange for free classes, and he and Ki-bum head for the building. They witness a male student asking a girl named JUNG CHAE-YEON (Jung Chae-yeon) for her number, but she’s already turned him down once before, so she tosses his phone in the garbage bin.
Dong-young is impressed with her charisma and her looks, but Ki-bum doesn’t think she’s all that pretty. Chae-yeon is known to be the prettiest girl in Noryangjin, but Ki-bum only sees how mean she is, and wonders if all the other guys have gone blind from studying.
On the other hand, Ki-bum finds his new teacher Hana to be extremely pretty, and he’s signed up for her class just to check her out. Chae-yeon is sitting nearby and grumbles that this isn’t a girl band concert, and Ki-bum snaps at her to mind her own business.
Ki-bum is disillusioned when Hana finally enters the classroom, and gives them the world’s most awkward nervous grin. He complains to himself that she looks so old and tired (because she didn’t have time to put on makeup this morning), and spends the class time taking notes about how her photo was altered, hee.
Jung-seok teases Hana after her class for using a microphone when she only had ten students, sarcastically saying that it must have been very cozy. Hana tells him to just watch and she’ll have full classes soon, making Jung-seok wonder what she’s got to be so confident about.
Hana’s confidence immediately takes a blow when she overhears Ki-bum demanding his money back for her class. He holds up her poster and complains that she looks nothing like this, saying that he’d rather give up on having a pretty teacher and take Professor Lee’s class. And of course, Professor Lee is right behind him, bristling at that last statement.
Hana takes Ki-bum and Dong-young out to lunch and asks Ki-bum if her looks are really that disappointing, and Ki-bum haltingly says that her picture was very photoshopped. She explains that with proper makeup, she looks just like that, and Dong-young nearly spits his mouthful in her face.
Hana states that what matters isn’t a teacher’s face, but their ability to teach. Ki-bum says that he’s always been able to focus better if his teacher is pretty, so Hana desperately promises to be prettier. Ki-bum is skeptical that Hana could make herself any prettier, and she jumps up to get more radish pickles. She locks eyes with Jung-seok sitting at a nearby table, and he sees the dish in her hand and immediately knows what’s going on.
Gong-myung calls Dong-young to come out with him and Ki-bum, but Dong-young declines, determined to study as much as possible. Ki-bum says that he thinks Dong-young will pass the exam this time, and Gong-myung asks if Ki-bum has given up. Ki-bum swears that he was planning to study today, but then Gong-myung got kicked out by his mom, so Ki-bum showed up to be a good friend.
Gong-myung accuses Ki-bum of coasting because his family is rich, though he really can’t blame him. Ki-bum gets an idea, and agrees that what he needs is a good dose of desperation to motivate him to study.
Jin-yo and Hana watch a student considering joint classes — a pre-set schedule with several courses included automatically. Jin-yi is jealous of the teachers who manage to snag spots in a joint schedule with celebrity instructors, since it means their classes will be chock-full of students.
Director Kim overhears, and tells the ladies that they and Jin-woong will be in a joint class with Jung-seok. He even promises them a bonus per student registration, sure that they’ll have a thousand students each, just like Jung-seok.
Ki-bum’s big idea is to spend his entire allowance, so that he’ll be poor for the rest of the month, and the desperation will motivate him to study more. Gong-myung rolls his eyes at Ki-bum’s armful of tracksuits, and Ki-bum tells him that tracksuits are like a student’s business card.
Jung-seok is not interested in being a part of this joint class, and refuses point-blank. He feels that he would be lowering himself to help weak instructors, and reminds Director Kim that his contract stipulates that he gets to choose which instructors he works with.
The other three instructors go outside to complain about Jung-seok’s arrogant, condescending attitude. Hana keeps quiet, figuring that as a newbie, it’s only natural that she’s not accepted quickly. Jin-yi explains that the joint classes are specifically for the better-known instructors to help out the lesser-known ones.
Jin-woong is prepared to enact some shocking revenge, like hiding all the coffee, ha. Jin-yi screeches that with his salary, Jung-seok could open his own coffee shop. Jin-woong suggests they post online about Jung-seok’s bad attitude and awful classes, but Jung-seok could just track their IP addresses and find them.
Jin-yi wonders why he hasn’t done that with the posts claiming that he forged his credentials, and instead just deletes them. They cook up a scheme to use Hana’s cousin’s student ID from Seoul University to look into Jung-seok’s background, though Hana seems uncomfortable with the idea.
Jung-seok just happens to be on his site right now, as another post calling him out as a fake pops up. He quickly deletes the post.
Hana signs onto the Seoul University alumni website, and a search of Jung-seok’s name pulls up zero results. In shock, Jin-yi drags Jin-woong off to tell Director Kim that Jung-seok never graduated from Seoul University, but Hana stops them.
She says that if Jung-seok is deleting those posts on his site, then he knows all about this. She thinks they should leave him alone to resolve the issue himself, but Jin-yi doesn’t believe that someone as nasty as Jung-seok would ever confess.
Jin-woong agrees with Jin-yi, saying that the students deserve to know the truth. Jin-yi and Jin-woong offer to leave Hana out of their tattling, which isn’t exactly what Hana meant, but she’s not confident enough to argue with them.
Hana worries, but she tells herself that she needs to straighten out her own life before worrying about High-Quality Trash. She asks her phone if she’s being a coward, and the phone gives her a definition of “coward” that offends Hana, ha. But she mutters that she is being a coward, because she isn’t brave enough to risk her career. She decides that she can’t let Jin-yi and Jin-woong take all the responsibility, and runs to help them.
The two instructors go straight to Director Kim, but he thinks they’re here to talk about the joint class. He tells them that he was able to convince Jung-seok to do it, and Jung-seok condescendingly says that he made the very tough decision to give them a chance.
He’s still unwilling to let Hana in on the classes, and Hana hears him talking about her sub-par credentials and gets all huffy. She loudly asks if a fancy education is so important to him that he forged his own, then is taken aback when she realizes that Jin-yi hasn’t said anything yet. But she forges ahead, and accuses Jung-seok of forging his academic credentials.
She shows everyone the Seoul University website, and how nobody with Jung-seok’s name has graduated from the prestigious school. Jung-seok looks embarrassed as he logs onto the site with his real name, Jin Sang (jinsang is a clingy busybody who doesn’t know when to quit).
He shows Director Kim his ID card, which proves that Jin Sang is his real name, and explains that he started using the name Jin Jung-seok when he came to Noryangjin. He asks Hana if she’s satisfied, and says that this just confirms his decision not to allow her into the joint class with him. To make matters worse, Jin-yi and Jin-woong pretend total innocence when Director Kim they were in on this. Hana can only gape as they throw her under the bus.
Even though Ki-bum has shopped himself into a state of poverty, he still takes Gong-myung out for drinks, saying that he can’t just abandon his friend after he ran away from home. Gong-myung calls him out, saying that he just wants an excuse to drink, and Ki-bum doesn’t deny it. He says that he was wrong, that being broke doesn’t make him want to study any more than before.
They call Dong-young out to join them, but Dong-young has plans with his girlfriend Joo-yeon this weekend so he’s got to study to earn time with her. Gong-myung doesn’t blame his friend, whose girl has been waiting patiently for him for years, and that gives Ki-bum another idea — maybe a girlfriend would motivate him.
He hits on the girl at the next table, who grimaces and tells him to get lost. Ki-bum strikes out with a couple more girls before Gong-myung drags him back to their table. He tells Ki-bum to spend his time actually studying, instead of trying to motivate himself to study.
Joo-yeon texts Dong-young to say that she’s downstairs, and she takes him out to dinner. She asks if he would stay out with her a bit and not go right back to studying, reminding him that it’s their fifth anniversary. Aww, he forgot. Dong-young feels like a big fat jerk, and agrees to hang out with Joo-yeon for a while.
To counter the rumors about his education, Jung-seok decides to start going by his real name. Director Kim argues that the name Jin Jung-seok is practically a brand now, and changing his name will confuse students (and lower enrollment numbers). Jung-seok says that he’s prepared to go through a transition period, but Director Kim doesn’t see why he has to go through it with him, ha.
Jin-woong snickers at his desk, and guesses that Jung-seok must be debating whether to apologize or confess, quoting Song Joong-ki’s famous line from Descended From the Sun. He even starts singing the Descended theme song, but Director Kim stomps out and shuts him up, telling him that this is no joking matter.
Director Kim turns his ire on Hana, blaming her for Jung-seok’s wanting to change his name. Hana chases Jung-seok to the lobby to apologize, and ask if they can talk. He looks down his nose at her, and derisively asks if she wants to treat him to a meal like she did her students.
Hana slumps back to her desk, where Jin-yi apologizes for hanging her out to dry, and offers to take her out for a drink. Jin-woong joins in, but even their apologies don’t cheer up Hana, so they browbeat her into going out against her will.
Dong-young and Joo-yeon share earbuds and listen to a song, which Joo-yeon remembers Dong-young once singing for her at a noraebang. He admits that he was really nervous, and they marvel that they’ve been together for five whole years.
They walk hand-in-hand back to Dong-young’s gosiwon, and Joo-yeon gives him an anniversary gift. He apologizes that he doesn’t have anything for her, but Joo-yeon is understanding and just sends him inside to study. She watches him go, with a sad expression on her face.
Over drinks, Jin-woong tells Hana that she’ll do fine even without Jung-seok’s joint class. Jin-yi calls Jung-seok a bastard for not including Hana, but Hana says that she’s still happy for their good luck.
Jin-woong collapses when Hana excuses herself, moaning that it’s hard to hold in his happiness in front of her. He and Jin-yi share a little congratulatory toast to their good fortune in landing the joint class with Jung-seok.
Hana checks her phone, but her apology text to Jung-seok hasn’t been viewed yet. She follows it up with a second message, and Jung-seok takes a break from his fancy meal to grumble that earlier she was accusing him of forgery, and now she’s trying to flatter him. He curls his lip, hating her no-talent type.
We flash back to five years ago, when Jung-seok was working his first job. He’d staying up all night studying, but his efforts went unnoticed by his professor in favor of a sunbae’s expensive gift. That sunbae had been a known kiss-up, and he’d been awarded a professorial position before Jung-seok.
Jung-seok had confronted his sunbae for plagiarizing his thesis without giving Jung-seok credit, but the man hadn’t been concerned, since starting a rumor to ruin him would only make Jung-seok look bad. He’d promised to help Jung-seok with his new professorial clout, but Jung-seok had pridefully refused.
Jin-yi and Jin-woong happily discuss what they’ll buy with their juicy incentives from the joint class, and they decide to sing a song while Hana is away from the table. She walks back in while they’re singing, and they quickly turn off the music. At ten o’clock Jin-woong has to leave, then a call from Jin-yi’s boyfriend has her skipping off.
Dong-young stays up late studying, and he gets a text from Joo-yeon. She breaks up with him without any explanation, just a short apology, and he stares at his phone in shock.
Joo-yeon is sitting at the train station when she gets a reply from Dong-young. He says that he’s the one who should apologize, for making her apologize to a guy like him. As she reads his message, Joo-yeon starts to cry.
We go back to earlier in the day, when Joo-yeon had excused herself to the restroom and left her phone with Dong-young. Her mother had texted her that Dong-young may never pass the exam, telling her to break up with him. Dong-young had seen the text, and had known the breakup was coming. That just breaks my heart.
His message to Joo-yeon goes on to say that he should have let her go a long time ago, apologizing for not being a better man for her. He shuffles to a restaurant to drink soju, and the ajumma serves him a plate of food. She explains that the girl he always comes with left a big chunk of money to pay for his favorite dish every time he comes in. It’s too much, and Dong-young breaks down.
Hana stops for some beers on her way home, and drinks one right outside the store, thinking that she drinks alone because there aren’t many people who can comfort her when she’s had a bad day. Because of that, she’s in the habit of internalizing everything, and doesn’t share her pain. At those times, drinking solo is the only thing that comforts her.
She ends up at that bus stop with Jung-seok’s poster glaring down at her, and she checks her phone to see that he’s never responded to her messages. Hana sighs that she wouldn’t want to deal with her either, if she were him.
Gong-myung and Ki-bum walk nearby, and Gong-myung spots Hana nodding off at the bus stop and recognizes her. He shakes her shoulder to wake her up, but she barely even registers him as she runs to catch the last bus of the night, and Gong-myung smiles at her speed.
They both realize at the same moment that Hana got on the bus without her shoes, and Gong-myung runs to toss them to her through the bus window. He manages to get one to her, but she fumbles the second, and the bus drives away leaving Gong-myung holding one shoe like Cinderella’s prince, ha.
Ki-bum catches up, and tells Gong-myung that Hana is an instructor at his school. Gong-myung’s mom calls and Ki-bum hits “Accept” for him, hee, and whatever Gong-myung’s mom says seems to startle him.
Later that night, Jung-seok’s mother lets herself into his house to ask her son for a favor. She says that she wants his little brother to live with him until he gets a government job. She goes back to the door to drag the kid inside, and presents Gong-myung to his big brother.
I knew that was coming, but the looks on their faces still made me bust out laughing. Poor Jung-seok, he only wants to be left alone, and now he’s got little brother Gong-myung to look after for the next several years. Neither of them is going to enjoy this, though I’m sure that I’m going to enjoy it immensely. Anything that shakes up Jung-seok’s arrogant, smug attitude is a good thing in my book.
I’m surprised that the show seems to be less about drinking than I expected. It’s certainly something that’s used to help define the characters’ personalities, as their drinking habits reflect their inner selves, but not to the extent that I had anticipated. There are no long, gratuitous scenes of pouring fancy drinks and leisurely discussing their merits, as I initially expected from the team that produced the food porn that is Let’s Eat. I’m still enjoying the show quite a lot though, even more than I thought I would, which is a surprise since workplace dramas aren’t usually my thing.
But what I do love is great characterization, and I find the people that make up our little slice of Noryangjin life to be endearing, sympathetic, and just quirky enough to give them that slightly-not-quite-real feel that this franchise specializes in. And the show never feels slow or as if the plot is dragging, even though the basic story is pretty simple. The conversations are interesting, and the scenes are always chock-full of cute little visual jokes if you pay attention, making it seem as though there’s always something happening. Even when some conversations go on a little longer than is strictly necessary, the cast is made up of actors who are highly visually interesting, with a lot of fun facial expressions and body language that give even the filler scenes a sense of fun.
One of my favorite parts about dramas like these is when the two leads hate each other’s guts, and spend all their energy pettily sniping at each other. So I’m happy to see the petty will soon be out in full force with Jung-seok and Hana — I was worried that Jung-seok would consider himself above such crass behavior. Seeing him sneer and snarl when Hana showed her confidence just made me cackle with glee, because for once he’s met someone who doesn’t coo and fawn all over him, and it’s got to be driving him nuts. He’s welcome to hate Hana all he wants now, because it’s the best thing ever when a haughty man finds himself falling for the object of his former derision, and I can’t wait to see Jung-seok laid low by his own feelings.
I got a better sense of Jung-seok in this second episode, especially when it comes to his extreme standoffishness and refusal to socialize with others. The way he was betrayed early in his career was bound to leave its mark, and Jung-seok just seems to have swung to the extreme, avoiding other people at all costs and trying to be everything all by himself. Not that I blame him – after that experience, it’s no wonder that he refuses to rely on anyone else and insists on doing things his way or not at all. I have a feeling that his drinking alone preference is more about isolation for self-preservation purposes, than any real desire to do everything alone. So while I’m looking forward to the downfall of his pride, I’m also anticipating his discovery that it’s okay to let people in, and be a little vulnerable.
My only (very small!) complaint at this point is that it almost feels as if I’m watching two dramas — one about teachers, and one about students. It makes both worlds feel very small, as there aren’t many side-characters to flesh out the Noryangjin academy life, so I’m ready for the students and instructors to interact more and meld their worlds together. I’d especially like to see more of our trio of young friends, who are all three adorable and engaging, but I feel as though their backstories have been thin at the expense of making them cute and likable. Dong-young in particular tugs at my heart — he’s worked so hard to pass the exam so that he and Joo-yeon can be together, but his inability to pass so far has caused him to lose her. I also want to know more about Gong-myung and why he’s been kicked out when he’s considering doing exactly what his mother wants, studying for the civil service exam. I’m glad that we’re finally getting to the point where the two worlds collide, because I have a feeling that this is where the story will really take off.