Introverted Boss: Episode 9
Ro-woon figures out an interesting and colorful way for Hwan-ki to communicate, and it somewhat works despite how rudimentary it seems. Although Hwan-ki continues to be a source of frustration due to his unreadable nature, he does begin to open up and smile more, and he even bridges the distance to one person in particular in a surprising act of bravery. The hood comes off in this episode, and Hwan-ki’s the one who removes it.
EPISODE 9: “If You Listen”
Ro-woon’s stuck in the middle while Hwan-ki and Woo-il try to outdrink each other even though they’ve clearly had too much. Neither is willing to lose so Ro-woon urges them to quickly talk out their beef. Hwan-ki slurs that he doesn’t speak because he’s considerate of the other person and wishes Ro-woon would understand.
Woo-il states that he doesn’t get to say what he wants either, and Hwan-ki scoffs, but Woo-il explains that he, too, thinks carefully and holds back. He gets up to grab another drink, but falls to the floor, and Hwan-ki rejoices, claiming victory. Ro-woon lugs Woo-il to his room first, then goes back to the bar for Hwan-ki.
Hwan-ki has his head down on the table, and Ro-woon wonders if he’s crying, but he throws back his head and laughs maniacally at the unflattering photo of chinless Ro-woon, even as she schleps him to his room. While hauling him onto the bed, she falls in between him and Woo-il and finds herself trapped. Ro-woon freezes as Hwan-ki opens his eyes and touches her face.
“You’re really ugly,” he says, and Ro-woon smiles, amused by his capacity to laugh. “Beautiful,” she says as she gazes at his relaxed face. Meanwhile, Se-jong searches for Ro-woon at the resort, but she’s fast asleep in between Woo-il and Hwan-ki.
The next morning, the guys groggily complain about who’s hogging the bed and jolt awake when they see Ro-woon sleeping beside them. They tiptoe out and converse over coffee. Woo-il laughs about the incident and tells Hwan-ki that it’s thanks to Ro-woon that they might be able to return to how things were in the past; they fought and laughed like they used to because of her. Woo-il opens up to Hwan-ki and says that in order for them to maintain their friendship in the future, he’d better not marry Yi-soo.
He asks for Hwan-ki’s understanding, but Hwan-ki’s unnerved by his words. Woo-il brings up the incident from three years ago and says he feels guilty for staying with Yi-soo, and that the biggest mistake he made was not choosing Ji-hye. He doesn’t want to make the same mistake again, and Hwan-ki interjects that he doesn’t either.
Hwan-ki divulges to Woo-il that the person he’s about to choose (Ro-woon) is Ji-hye’s younger sister. Woo-il’s gobsmacked to hear this, and Hwan-ki warns him to leave her alone because he can’t let her go just yet. Meanwhile, Ro-woon finally wakes up.
She checks to see that the coast is clear before exiting Hwan-ki’s room, but Se-jong’s right there and demands answers. He calls her out on her fib and heads to where Kyo-ri is to see if Ro-woon was in last night.
Back to the boys. Woo-il’s mind is spinning, and Hwan-ki informs him that Ro-woon joined the company to exact revenge; she was also the one who broke the power abuse scandal. Woo-il can’t believe Hwan-ki kept this to himself, and Hwan-ki explains that he did this to protect Ro-woon. He urges Woo-il to keep it a secret from his dad and not tell Ro-woon about what he knows. Just then, they spot Ro-woon chasing after Se-jong below. Hwan-ki says that he wants to protect Ro-woon this time and that if Woo-il feels at all guilty about Ji-hye, he should follow suit.
After Kyo-ri’s yoga class, Se-jong asks her if Ro-woon was with her last night, but Kyo-ri answers that she’s unsure because she tucked in early. She walks out, discomfited by his focus on Ro-woon. Se-jong asks Ro-woon if she slept with Hwan-ki and Woo-il last night, and Ro-woon defiantly answers that she did, fed up with his nosiness.
Hurt by her answer, Se-jong replies that he knew she liked Hwan-ki. She clarifies that she merely fell asleep after dragging the men to their room, but Se-jong doesn’t believe her. Ro-woon tells him to stop messing with her in public and making others feel uncomfortable, but Se-jong takes offense at that since he spent all of last night looking for her.
Next we see Ro-woon apologize to Hwan-ki for falling asleep in his room. She updates him on the Se-jong and Kyo-ri drama, but Hwan-ki doesn’t say anything, and Ro-woon sheepishly notes that he’s no longer his giggling self from last night.
She says she thought about how best to communicate with him, and he’s surprised when she tucks a red hibiscus behind his ear. She says it’s a “red light” for when he doesn’t want to be bothered by anyone; yellow is for when he’s available for urgent matters only, and green is for when he’s ready for all kinds of discussions. Hwan-ki objects and removes it, but she tucks it back in knowing that he’s in red light mode.
She stays quiet for him, which makes Hwan-ki smile for a brief second. Meanwhile, Se-jong’s hollering at the ocean, upset that Ro-woon doesn’t like him. He even bought limited edition sneakers to impress her, but he realizes that his good looks were what obscured his sincerity.
He flings his shoe into the ocean, only to frantically try and retrieve it by wading into the water. Kyo-ri sees him and assumes the worst. She tries to pull him back to safety, but figures out that he’s flipping out over a shoe.
Reunited with his shoe, Se-jong sits with Kyo-ri on the beach. He thought she disliked him; after she learned about his wealthy background, he noticed her growing distant, but he says it’s normal for people to act differently after finding out. He’s unaware of Kyo-ri’s crush on him and mentions that Ro-woon was the only one who treated him the same despite his wealth.
Back to Hwan-ki and Ro-woon. She asks why Woo-il left early, but Hwan-ki doesn’t answer. He walks away reminding her that the red light is on, but she begs him to answer just one question: “Did I snore?” She worries that her snoring drove Woo-il to head back early, and Hwan-ki smiles as she follows him.
The Silent Monster crew is back in Korea at Incheon Airport. Hwan-ki spots a sign with the words “Welcome Yeon-jung” printed on it, and he’s reminded of a moment that took place ten years ago while he was in college. He had plastered the same signs all over the walls for Yeon-jung (the artist friend he stood up three years ago). Back in the present, Yeon-jung notices him and calls his name, but he doesn’t hear her.
Ro-woon asks Hwan-ki when he started wearing the hoodie, and he replies that it began in college. She wonders if it was due to heartbreak involving his first love, but he says nothing.
Ro-woon’s dad stubs a cigarette into a pile of other butts and looks around impatiently as if he’s waiting for someone. His two pals watch from the side and figure Ro-woon’s not back yet. One of them remarks that Ro-woon’s been gone for a few days, and she didn’t even leave him a note.
Ro-woon’s father sweeps away his cigarettes only to smoke some more. To his relief, Ro-woon finally arrives, carrying her big suitcase up the steps. His pals are ready to watch him scold her, but he merely takes the suitcase from her and asks if she’s eaten, heh.
Woo-il appears and watches Ro-woon ascend the steps and is reminded of when he told her that she reminded him of someone he once knew. Then, he answers a work call.
Cut to a company wide message sent from Hwan-ki’s father to all the Brain employees, announcing the upcoming marriage of Woo-il and Yi-soo. Woo-il arrives to congratulations from his employees, but he had no say in the matter.
He finds Hwan-ki’s father sitting inside his office again. Woo-il mentions that the announcement was made while he was away and without his input, but Hwan-ki’s dad misses the point and instructs him to help his son emerge from his shell so he can lead properly. Woo-il tenses and asks, “You want Hwan-ki to stand out more than I do, right?”
Hwan-ki’s dad reminds him that he gave him Yi-soo and orders him to not let the wedding get to his head since he needs to focus on the company and the upcoming election. He adds that they still don’t know who blew the whistle on Hwan-ki’s power abuse.
When Woo-il gets home, Yi-soo explains that things got out of hand after her mom thought he had no interest in marriage, which led to the announcement. Woo-il tries to speak, but she interrupts and apologizes for not being able to postpone their wedding anymore. She holds him and asks him to stay with her.
The next day, Woo-il informs Hwan-ki that his dad got him good with the wedding announcement, and that he’s already stressed because of Ro-woon. Woo-il wants to fire her, but Hwan-ki assures him that she no longer has devious intentions. Woo-il angrily wonders if Hwan-ki’s keeping her here knowing full well that the incident from three years ago is his greatest weakness, but Hwan-ki denies it and asks for more time to think.
Ro-woon overhears them arguing. Woo-il shouts, “I always get caught by you. You see through me. Why can’t I see who you are? Can’t I know what’s on your mind?” Hwan-ki notices Ro-woon’s presence and is reminded of the night Ji-hye overheard everything.
Later, the Silent Monster crew discusses the wedding announcement. Yoo-hee believes war has begun and that Woo-il and Hwan-ki will fight over management rights. The Brain crew arrives and offers their two cents — Woo-il has the leg up over Hwan-ki. Sun-bong sides with them and adds that Hwan-ki can’t do anything without Woo-il.
In the office, Yoo-hee determines that they must all help Hwan-ki. Their latest project involves renovating an old, tiny theater, and because Woo-il’s team is also working on a theater project, she sees this as their chance to prove themselves. She instructs Ro-woon to check out the theater with Hwan-ki, dismissing Se-jong’s request to join and giving Hwan-ki a knowing wink.
The tiff from earlier weighs heavily on Hwan-ki’s mind until Se-jong confronts him on his alleged crush on an employee. Ro-woon pushes past him and sticks a red stickie on Hwan-ki and informs Se-jong that red means “stop.” She says she’ll meet Hwan-ki at the theater and tells him to come once he’s “green.”
Ro-woon snaps photos of the venue, then settles into her seat inside the theater. Meanwhile, Hwan-ki waits at a crosswalk clutching two coffees. He bumps into a woman as he crosses and recognizes her as Yeon-jung, who’s very happy to see him.
The movie starts, but Hwan-ki hasn’t arrived yet because he’s catching up with Yeon-jung in the middle of the street. She says she saw him at the airport, but isn’t surprised he didn’t notice her since he stood her up on Christmas Eve three years ago. Hwan-ki apologizes, but she’s over it now after leaving mean comments on all his power abuse articles.
She asks him to treat her to coffee if he really wants to make it up to her, but he replies that he has somewhere to be. Just then, the light changes and Hwan-ki quickly moves her out of harm’s way. She’s smitten and takes the coffee that he bought for Ro-woon.
Yeon-jung says she’ll visit him at work to discuss PR for her new exhibition and figures he can’t stand her up if she’s a client. She understands that he couldn’t disclose why he left her hanging, and Hwan-ki agrees to help her out with PR needs.
Hwan-ki finally arrives at the theater, but takes a seat in the back and smiles while watching Ro-woon nod off. After she’s fallen asleep, Hwan-ki sits next to her. Her head sways to his shoulder, and Hwan-ki gazes at her beauty. “I wanted to be by her side like this just a little longer,” he thinks to himself.
The movie ends and Ro-woon snaps out of slumber and stumbles out of the theater without realizing that Hwan-ki was present. He smiles, wondering if it’d be okay to stay by her side if he kept a distance.
The next day, Hwan-ki sits with his employees, still beaming from yesterday. Yoo-hee is surprised to hear from Ro-woon that Hwan-ki wasn’t at the theater, and Se-jong says he was probably with another woman since he’s been in a good mood today. Ro-woon passes her VR theater proposal to him, and he’s about to share his thoughts when Sun-bong the smart aleck points out that there’s not enough VR film content to justify a VR cinema.
Hwan-ki agrees with him internally, but Yoo-hee chides him for being so cynical. Sun-bong then mentions how VR headsets cause motion sickness to drive home the point that Ro-woon’s proposal isn’t feasible. Still, the others criticize him for putting down others while not having an idea of his own.
Ro-woon asks Hwan-ki for his thoughts so they can act fast and build the first VR cinema, but he says he needs more time to think, and Sun-bong chuckles because Koreans love superlatives like “first” and “best.” Hwan-ki again, internally agrees with Sun-bong’s input despite his blunt delivery. He also overhears Sun-bong saying that the traffic light method of communication is silly.
That night, Sun-bong tries to ask Kyo-ri to grab dinner with him, but Se-jong asks her out on a date, making sure to speak loudly so Ro-woon notices. Yoo-hee and Ro-woon decline which leaves Sun-bong with Hwan-ki, the only other person left in the office. Hwan-ki senses that Sun-bong needs a dinner buddy and wonders if he should offer, but once again, he goes into overthink mode before deciding to take a leap of faith and wear a green stickie to show Sun-bong that he’s available.
He eagerly calls out Sun-bong’s name, heh, but Sun-bong’s already left the office and is unhappily eating instant noodles, grumbling about how his boss never treats him to a meal.
The next day, Woo-il presents his team’s VR cinema proposal, and the Silent Monster crew watch with regret since his team moved quicker than they did and the concept was received favorably. Se-jong states that Woo-il won this round of the battle between son and son-in-law, but Ro-woon’s optimistic that Hwan-ki has an alternative idea.
Cut to the Silent Monster crew at the old theater. Ro-woon is stunned to hear that Hwan-ki doesn’t actually have any ideas after requesting more time; he proposes that they all put their heads together to come up with one. They check out the theater and observe how unwelcoming and anachronistic it is.
But Se-jong begs to differ saying that it’s perfect for a date with Kyo-ri. Sun-bong sees right through his act, and Ro-woon frowns at Se-jong’s flagrant display of affection. She pulls Kyo-ri aside to ask if she’s really intent on dating Se-jong, and Kyo-ri admits he wanted them to pretend they were together so Ro-woon would feel jealous.
Ro-woon wonders why Kyo-ri doesn’t profess her feelings for him, and she answers that not everyone can be so honest like Ro-woon — self-confidence is easier said than done, and it’s only possible when there’s someone paying attention. Kyo-ri laments that she has no one and asks Ro-woon to pretend she doesn’t know so that Se-jong can continue to make her happy.
The Silent Monster crew determines that without a concept as unique as VR, it’ll be hard to attract customers. Sun-bong jokes that because they lost “best,” “first,” and “biggest,” they’re left with “worst” as a superlative and suggests turning this into a horror movie theater; they wouldn’t even need to renovate.
Hwan-ki’s been listening the whole time, and to everyone’s surprise, he declares that he likes Sun-bong’s idea. Sun-bong says he was just kidding around, but Hwan-ki’s serious about proceeding with his horror concept. Ro-woon notes that the green light is finally on.
They return to the office, and Sun-bong hits it off with Hwan-ki, eagerly guiding him through his ideas. The others watch in awe, and Ro-woon’s reminded of Kyo-ri’s statement about needing someone to listen in order for the other person to become confident. Sun-bong the cynic suddenly turns motivated, and Ro-woon narrates that Hwan-ki is a good listener.
Next we see Sun-bong presenting Silent Monster’s proposal for “the worst movie theater in the world,” and he makes a compelling case for it, declaring that the worst day ever can also be enjoyable at the worst horror movie theater in the world. The audience loves it except for the jealous Brain team. Hwan-ki beams, and Ro-woon narrates that Hwan-ki’s silence wasn’t because he didn’t want to talk, but that he wanted to listen. She proceeds to secretly stick a green stickie on his back.
Cut to the theater where viewers are engrossed in the horror film playing on screen. Suddenly, zombies spring up from behind the seats and chase the terrified viewers out. Ha! Sun-bong, Kyo-ri, Yoo-hee, and Se-jong all dressed as bloody zombies and pose for pictures.
Woo-il’s there observing, and he tells Se-jong that Hwan-ki made the right decision for this theater. But Se-jong says work isn’t Hwan-ki’s priority at the moment since he has a crush on Ro-woon and has turned into a romantic, which comes as news to Woo-il.
Ro-woon applies zombie makeup on Hwan-ki and asks him to close his eyes. But he gazes at Ro-woon instead, focusing on her eyes, nose, and lips. He removes his hood, and continues to fixate on her face. She’s surprised he’s not avoiding eye contact and wonders if this is a staring contest.
Hwan-ki says to himself that he’s doing his best to avoid, but we see that he can’t take his eyes off her. He finally heeds her instruction and closes his eyes, but as Ro-woon’s about to apply makeup on his eyelids, he clutches her arm and opens his eyes again. He moves in closer, his eyes unwavering upon her face.
Oh my. Those piercing eyes. I think I felt my heart beat a little faster during that last scene. Did it suddenly get warmer in here? Hwan-ki has fallen hard for Ro-woon, and when he slipped off his hood of his own volition, that small moment revealed just how much he likes her, so much that he’s putting himself out in the open for once. He’s a reticent man, but honestly, who needs words or colorful stickies when the eyes say everything?
Hwan-ki took some major leaps forward in this episode, beginning with the revelation to Woo-il that Ro-woon is Ji-hye’s sister. He cut straight to the chase and basically warned Woo-il not to mess with her, and I think Woo-il got the message loud and clear. I’m starting to feel a tiny bit sorry for Woo-il because he’s basically being puppeteered by his future father-in-law and can’t get a word in with him or Yi-soo, but I wish he’d take a firm stand and defy them instead of resorting to passive aggression. I get that he’s under a lot of pressure and risks losing a lot, but how long can he sustain living under his father-in-law’s thumb? It’s interesting how Woo-il and Hwan-ki hold back for different reasons. For Woo-il, his reputation and future are at stake. For Hwan-ki, he refrains from speaking up because he thinks of the other person first. Woo-il’s reasons are rather selfish, and Hwan-ki’s selfless almost to a fault.
I really enjoy all the storylines involving the Silent Monster employees. Se-jong and Sun-bong are a hoot, Yoo-hee is so sweet, and I can’t help but root for Kyo-ri who really doesn’t give herself enough credit. I hope she realizes her self-worth soon, although I’m not sure pretend dating Se-jong is the right way to go about it. It seems she and Se-jong are the only ones left who have yet to truly connect with Hwan-ki on a personal and professional level, so I’m looking forward to their narratives.
My favorite aspect of this series continues to be Hwan-ki, his internal turmoil, his growth, his burgeoning romantic feelings. He’s tried his best to avoid Ro-woon, but clearly his best isn’t enough, so why fight the feelings? After turning on the red light for so long, he’s ready to turn green. That means he’ll be more vulnerable, probably get hurt, too, but at least he’ll have Ro-woon and his Silent Monster team by his side. Vulnerability is the driving force of connection, and Hwan-ki’s already showing glimpses of courage and determination which will carry him a long way.