Fantastic: Episode 2
With obligations of work, family, and overly-demanding Hallyu stars, it can be difficult to figure out how to pursue the freedom of living one’s life to fullest, especially when that life will be shorter than one had hoped. So-hye begins to realize that perhaps it’s time for her get her nose out of her laptop and do all those things she’s wanted before it’s too late, while Sul struggles to maintain the façade that her life is as perfect and happy as everyone assumes it to be.
EPISODE 2 RECAP
As an ambulance gets ready to take Sul to the hospital, So-hye finds her friend’s ringing phone. She answers it when she sees that the caller ID says “husband,” and tells him that she got into a car accident and she’ll update him from the hospital.
So-hye hurries to hop into the ambulance but Hae-sung grabs her arm, asking her what she’ll do about his car. She tells him she’ll worry about it later and leaves him behind to fend off the crowd of onlookers and reporters. Which he does by putting on his sunglasses and flashing his “top star” smile.
Sul’s husband arrives at the hospital after wrapping up a tense, whispered phone call with the assemblywoman, and plasters on a friendly smile as he apologizes for the shock they must have endured because of his wife. So-hye and Mi-sun give each other the side-eye as he explains that his wife isn’t a good driver because she’s naturally timid — that’s not the Sul they used to know, who would recklessly ride a motorcycle one-handed.
The doctors will be keeping Sul overnight to monitor her and run more tests, and even though she looks tense, she tolerates her husband tenderly settling her into the bed. Mi-sun is charmed by his attentive actions, but So-hye can tell from Sul’s expression that something seems off. She excuses herself and Mi-sun, and as soon as they leave, Sul starts tearing about the hospital room in her anger towards her husband.
As he dodges a vase thrown his direction, he demands to know why she’s suddenly acting like this. Furious, she tells him she was just pretending everything was okay so she wouldn’t be embarrassed in front of her friends. Her husband defends himself by saying the incident with the assemblywoman was a foolish mistake between coworkers who had too much to drink.
It’s just a small mistake on his part, unlike her family with her father’s debt, her mother in a nursing home, and the fact that Sul is infertile. She should just get over it, but she angrily tells him she can’t wear a mask like he does and pretend everything’s okay. By way of appeasement, or at least to buy her off, her husband calls his assistant to find a better nursing home for her mother.
Manager Oh finds So-hye (and the way she casually and happily greets him makes me wonder if they were part of the same friend group once, too), but he’s really only there to escort her to the mechanic’s where Hae-sung hands her the bill for his car repairs. It comes to a whopping $16,000, which he tells her to get from her friend who caused the accident.
He then tells her he’s expecting a revised “loco-loco melo-melo” (a cute way of saying romantic-comedy melodrama) script. She’s so irritated when she gets back to her studio that she cracks her knuckles, prepared to revise the script as requested, knowing that he won’t be able to handle it with his limited acting capability.
It’s the first table read, and Hae-sung is happy to sign autographs for the crowd of waiting fangirls as he promotes the drama, telling them to spread it around social media. He also dresses like his character (and brings in a few racks of other wardrobe suggestions), complete with a gun that he points at So-hye as soon as he emerges from the elevator. It’s just one of those fake guns with a “bang!” flag, which she rolls her eyes at.
The table read is closed off from everyone except for the primary players and immediate staff, and it’s probably for the best as Hae-sung hilariously struggles his way through the script. He tries and fails to force out tears with an intense gaze (an his manager discretely offers him a tube of fake tears). The director is slowly losing patience as Hae-sung overacts and strangely emphasizes even simple words.
So-hye has been fighting to keep a straight face, but finally she bursts out laughing at his strained and awkward attempts. Afterwards, So-hye walks out with the leading actress, who worries that Hae-sung won’t be able to match her level. So-hye reassures her that he’s just not used to this kind of role and will get it eventually.
As he leaves, Hae-sung overhears them laughing at him. On the drive home, he pouts in the backseat of the van until he suddenly shouts at Manager Oh to “stop!” (which is also the very word that caused So-hye to laugh during the table read).
Hae-sung practically forces him to pull over, but even his dramatic run to the edge of the river is marred by him stumbling. Dropping to his knees, he lifts his arms and gives a monstrous yell to the heavens.
Sul is still in the hospital, and as she tries to figure out how to word a text to her friends, the assemblywoman suddenly arrives. Her large fruit basket makes it seem like a friendly visit, but her main purpose is to apologize for what happened that day and to make sure everything is back to normal. She just assumes that Sul will accept her apology, and is surprised when Sul recoils from her attempt to hug her, pushing her away.
That’s not the reaction she’s supposed to have, and affronted that Sul would dare act so defiant, she slaps her. But it’s Sul’s fault, because if she had just accepted the assemblywoman’s apology, she wouldn’t have been slapped. She leans in, warning her that she will forget anything she saw that day ,and if she doesn’t, well, the assemblywoman can be a very scary person.
Shocked by the slap, threat, and the way the assemblywoman so easily can switch personas to appear pleasant and helpful to everyone, Sul cradles her cheek as she fights off tears.
Hae-sung cradles a pillow as he sits in his bed, watching his elaborate collection of model trains chugging along their tracks. When Manager Oh arrives to let him know that Jin-sook wants to see him, Hae-sung charges over and leans intimidatingly as he demands to know why Manager Oh looks so nervous. But then he grins, revealing that he was just acting. Who’s the “foot actor” now, huh?
He arrives at his agency in time to catch Jin-sook terrorizing one of her writers, threatening to sue the poor girl if she doesn’t write the script according to Jin-sook’s wishes. When it’s time for Hae-sung’s meeting, she offers to swap out writers for him if he wants. But instead he warns her that if she continues to mess with the drama, he’ll cancel his appearances and disappear for a year (which will lose her money).
Jin-sook knows about his car accident, and that So-hye was there. She asks if he still has feelings for her. His face is serious when his back his turned, but as he faces her, he just smiles and lightly tells her she should just focus on all her lawsuits and not worry about So-hye or the drama.
So-hye giggles to herself, thinking of Hae-sung’s ridiculous attempt to read the script, but then she also remembers how earnest and desperate he was about trying to get it right. She receives a text from him just then, which she deletes, grumbling that he never leaves her alone. No kidding, because Hae-sung is right next to her, carefully disguised with his mask, sunglasses, and jacket hood.
He demands the money for his car, and So-hye tells him she hasn’t been able to talk to her friend yet because she’s still in the hospital. But don’t worry — she’ll get it. He then asks if Jin-sook has gotten in touch with her, and if so, she should just ignore it. He says it’s just because she’ll want to put annoying PPLs in the script.
Then he begs her for cash for a taxi, making sure it’s enough to take a luxury one, and then informs her that he’ll deduct the amount from what she owes him for the car. Sighing, she watches him scuttle from one corner of the playground to the next. His attempts to avoid being noticed are more amusing than successful.
So-hye stops by a travel agency to book a trip. She’s well known there, and the agent is pleased that So-hye will actually be going through with the vacation instead of merely getting information. So-hye requests that everything be first-class and five-star, and her destination of choice is the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia.
As she watches a film about the salt flats, she’s surprised to see that the handsome doctor Joon-ki is there, too. He happily drags her along to help him finish his errands as penance for her avoiding him the past few days, and as they walk along, he confesses that he’s been planning to travel to the salt flats for at least four years. Aw, it’s cute how they reveal that their phone home screens are the same picture of the salt flats.
Since she’s spent so much of her life cooped up indoors writing, she’s decided to finally take the trip of her dreams and experience the stunning natural beauty she’s always dreamed of visiting. Besides, it might be nice to just “disappear” before she dies.
Joon-ki understands, because that’s how he felt when he was first diagnosed with lung cancer. She’s stunned by this revelation, and he’s surprised that she didn’t know — everyone else does. He laughs at the irony of a doctor who specializes in cancer has it himself. Then he jokingly welcomes her to the “cancer club.”
He invites her to his place, showing off his favorite spot — a greenhouse with a skylight just above a hammock that So-hye calls his “secret garden.” Even though she’s sorry he has cancer, she admits that it’s somehow comforting to know doctors can get cancer, too. But since he doesn’t act like he has cancer, then it must not be too severe, right?
Nope. It’s stage 4, and he was sure he’d only have a year to live. But it’s been five years now. When he was first diagnosed, his friends were attentive and doing everything they could to help, but now they greet him with “you’re still alive?” He cheerfully tells her that he’s come to the realization that no one knows how or when they’ll die, so they should just live each day to its fullest.
She then hesitantly asks him what kind of symptoms she should expect, and he tells her that if she doesn’t seek treatment, she’ll first get pneumonia, followed by high fevers and coughing up blood. Cringing at the unpleasant image, she then asks what she has to do to get ready for the trip, and all of his suggestions have to do with eating. She laughs at his cute way of getting her to agree to join him for a meal.
Sul’s husband barges into her hospital room to confirm what his assistant told him — she’s gone, and they don’t know where she is. But he pretends to the nurse that he’s just there to sign the discharge papers for his impulsive wife who decided to head home early before he could stop by and pick her up. Must keep up those appearances.
Over their dinner (take-out, of course, since no one but Sul knows how to cook in this household), he lies to his mother that Sul needs to stay a little longer in the hospital for more testing. When his mother and sister grumble that it’s a waste and she could get tests done at home, he points out that it’s not like she’s their maid. Except of course she totally is.
Director Yoon has convinced So-hye to join them for drinks in an effort to cheer up Hae-sung after his disastrous table read. She firmly avoids Hae-sung’s effort to get her “caught up” on shots, but at Director Yoon’s pleading look, she relents for one drink, although she sets it down before taking a sip.
Hae-sung then bugs her again for the money for his car. Annoyed, she says she’ll pay him out of her pocket instead of waiting to get in touch with Sul. As she goes to the ATM to get the money, Manager Oh follows, letting her know that actually Hae-sung paid for the car repairs himself. But instead of taking it like the joke Hae-sung intends, she’s furious that he’s trying to get double the compensation.
She’s full of fighting spirit as she charges back into the room to confront him, stopping short when Hae-sung whines that she never answers her phone, which means she’s breaching her contract. She denies any such contract, but Hae-sung has proof as he reveals that his text tone is a recording of So-hye telling him that she’s sorry.
He gloats that the ringtone is an even longer version, and in her frustration, she head-butts him right in the face. That results in a broken nose, and his cries can be heard throughout the hospital as the doctor resets it. Director Yoon is stressing over the fact that they won’t be able to film tomorrow’s title shoot since their lead actor has a broken nose. So-hye is apologetic, but there’s not much they can do except reschedule.
When Jin-sook storms into the hospital, demanding to know what happened to her precious actor, the staff awkwardly explain that Hae-sung had too much to drink and fell on his face. Aw, at least they’re protecting So-hye.
She slips away to answer a phone call, which results in her hurrying to a police station where Sul sits in a holding cell. She was arrested for stealing a motorcycle, and So-hye says she’s willing to help work things out with the original owners, taking responsibility for her friend.
Now freed, So-hye treats her to a meal. They make small talk about Mi-sun and her family, but then Sul hesitantly confesses that she doesn’t know what came over her to steal the motorcycle. But So-hye just says she wouldn’t be the “legendary Baek Sul” that So-hye has always known if she didn’t steal it, reassuring her friend that she’s happy to help her out for as long as she can.
As the women eat their meals, they both silently start to cry. When it turns to noisy sobs, two drunken ajusshis at the table next to them complain that hysterical women should stay at home during the day. One takes offense at the way Sul glares at him, but when he raises his hand to slap her, she swiftly stops him.
With a nod at So-hye, the two women fight off the ajusshis — just like the old days! — and make their escape on Sul’s stolen motorcycle. The two women ride through the beautiful countryside, enjoying their freedom and the fresh air.
Finally Sul arrives at So-hye’s studio, apologizing that she’s now stolen the motorcycle twice. But So-hye hands her the keys, telling her the bike is actually hers, since she made an agreement with the original owner to buy it from him. Sul can think of it as a present of gratitude — it’s So-hye’s chance to give back some of the money she’s made as a writer since Sul gave her that laptop back in high school.
So-hye apologizes for not keeping in touch, and Sul renews her allegiance as So-hye’s bodyguard. The women are adorably happy to have rekindled their close friendship once more.
But Sul can’t keep running forever, and her husband arrives to pick her up to take her home. He hands her a very plain and modest dress to change into, demanding to know where she’s been. She tells him not to worry — it’s not like she’s done anything to ruin his reputation. He tells her that they’ll just put the whole assemblywoman thing behind them, and then warns her not to act so rashly in the future.
Once she returns home, she politely apologizes for causing any worry to the family. Her mother-in-law doesn’t even glance at her as she tells her that a sick wife is a burden to her husband, so she should be sure to stay healthy. Jin-sook snidely asks if she had a nice vacation.
Back in her hanbok, she sighs when she sees the chaotic mess in the kitchen — apparently no one else is capable of doing the dishes but her. When her mother calls, delighted that she’ll be moving to a nicer nursing home, she tells Sul that she should treat her husband well since he’s clearly a good man. Uh-huh. But Sul is just happy that today is a good day for her and her mother is having a moment of clarity in her dementia.
So-hye treats her assistant Sang-hwa to lunch, and on their way to the restaurant, they run into So-hye’s sunbae writer. Her sunbae shows off her fancy new designer handbag, and So-hye wastes no time detailing all the money she’s loaned her sunbae over years, then holds out her hand for payment, even pointing out the fancy bracelet that could probably cover it if her sunbae doesn’t have the cash.
As they eat their meal of expensive beef, Sang-hwa worries that this is actually the last meal before So-hye fires her. So-hye simply says that it’s good for them to get out of the office and eat something other than kimbap while working without a break.
Sang-hwa gets a call from her boyfriend, reminding her that it’s their 300-day anniversary, and So-hye tells her to finish her meal and then take the day off to spend with him. She than hands over some cash so they can go somewhere nice, encouraging her to do “it” — in fact, do “it” as often while she can. Ha! Cute Sang-hwa says that So-hye should date, too — maybe Joon-ki, perhaps, since she knows he’s single and would be a good catch. So-hye seems pleased by that suggestion.
Later that night, after her shower, So-hye wipes away the fog from the mirror and slips out of her robe to study her chest, knowing that inside lurks cancer cells. She sighs as she echoes her assistant’s words, saying she’s still pretty and that it’s such a waste.
She settles in to watch old movies with a beer (purposefully ignoring the healthier option of water), and then perks up when she gets a text from Joon-ki, asking if she listened to the song he recommended. Aw, they’re adorable as they text back and forth. He tells her that the sky is pretty where he sits in his “secret garden,” and he wishes she could see it.
Their charming and flirtatious texts are rudely interrupted by a selfie from Hae-sung, pouting about his broken nose and demanding she compensate him. Annoyed, she texts back, asking for his account number. But he won’t respond because she didn’t apologize first.
So-hye tries not to let herself get too riled up about Hae-sung, and instead thinks about how Joon-ki told her it would be nice if she could see the sky from his secret garden. She impulsively heads out to surprise him, but as she quietly creeps around the corner, she freezes at the sight of pretty young woman settling into the hammock with to him.
The sound of her accidentally dropping her purse seems to catch the young woman’s attention, and it appears she notices So-hye, but doesn’t say anything as So-hye quietly tiptoes out.
Hae-sung sighs over the way his nose looks — it’s not the ideal visual for taking a selfie, but he knows that his “Baobeis” (his fans, that is, not his car) will worry if they don’t see him post on social media. So he uploads a broken-nose selfie which causes all his fans to flood the comments, asking if he’s okay.
Then he surprises Manager Oh as he practices his lines for the kiss scene on him. Ha! But when he tries to figure out what “hitman” style outfit to wear, he pulls out an older jacket that he remembers So-hye buying for him back when he was a penniless unknown actor. She had told him that he could pay her back when he became famous after getting his break starring in her drama.
They were both much more comfortable and familiar with each other back then, but he also remembers accidentally overhearing So-hye tell the drama director that he’s not worth the director’s time — he’s a terrible actor who’s only asset is his looks. He doesn’t have any star power. Ouch.
Present-day So-hye slowly walks home, taking time to admire the stars. But then she sighs, wondering what’s the point of having so many of them. Hae-sung is waiting for her, and he strides over, pulling her into his arms and leaning in for a kiss. Or acting like he’s going to kiss her, because he asks if he made her heart flutter just then. He’s trying to prove that the way she wrote the kiss scene was too cringingly old-fashioned.
He tells her that what’s trendy today are intense surprise kisses are what’s popular, but before he can finish his argument for a “loco-loco melo-melo” kiss, So-hye grabs him by the neck and kisses him. Wide-eyed in shock, he freezes, but then he slowly pulls her closer and starts to kiss her back, much to her own surprise.
I’m convinced the show is setting us up for some “gotcha!” moments. For example, I refuse to accept that the adorable Joon-ki would send those kinds of flirtatious texts (and ask to go to the salt flats together!) just to lead So-hye on. That woman has to be a relative or at least someone who has no desire for romance, and So-hye is just misunderstanding the situation. (Why, yes, I have been overcome with second-lead syndrome and am already rooting for the “cancer couple” because apparently I enjoy setting myself up for heartbreak.)
I’m also determined to believe that whatever Hae-sung overheard those many years ago was also not the full story — I’d rather think that So-hye was trying to protect him somehow by convincing the director that Hae-sung wasn’t worth his time. But that has less to do with me wanting them to rekindle any kind of romance they may have once had and more with me refusing to believe that So-hye is the type of person to talk badly behind the back of someone she used to champion. Hae-sung, despite his bravado, is a sensitive soul, and I can see how those words of hers have cut deep and scarred him until this day.
Surprisingly, I’m actually enjoying the way the show is handling the cancer issue. I’ll admit that the bathroom scene was utterly heartbreaking, watching So-hye start to realize that her body is failing her, even if she can’t see it yet. I almost want her to take a lesson from Hae-sung in how to love herself as much as he loves himself (or at least the way he looks). Perhaps I’m just relieved that the show is willing to explore some of the realities of the disease and not just use it as a convenient plot device.
By far my favorite part of the episode were the scenes with Sul and So-hye. I may have second-lead syndrome, but somehow these two women have swiftly become the pairing that really matters. Sul’s cancer is her family, and watching her try to stifle her true spirit in order to appease them makes me so angry. I want to set her free to ride her motorcycle, letting the wind whip through her hair, without a care in the world. Maybe instead of Joon-ki, she could be the one to join So-hye at the salt flats, where the two of them could ride along where the earth meets the sky, somehow free of the physical and emotional cancers that plague them.
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