20th Century Boy and Girl: Episodes 5-6
These two are so cute I can’t even stand it! I love them together, so I’m still frustrated that we haven’t gotten more scenes between them. But we do get a chance to learn more about their history together, though Ji-won remains a mystery to Jin-jin, which is bound to cause all sorts of confusion down the line.
EPISODE 5: “Love letter”
We go back to 1999 as a narrator tells us that four friends lived in a building called Seoul Mansion. One of them, Sa Jin-jin, stakes out a corner hoping for a glimpse of her favorite idol, Anthony. Han Ah-reum, the spoiled brat, is known for getting into trouble. Jang Young-shim is the brain of the group, and the fourth is Gong Ji-won, the only boy.
They call themselves the Four Bongos after the van they take to and from school every day. Once, while the girls are being driven home late at night, the driver warns them that they’re approaching the Magic Tunnel. He tells them that true love will come to those who can hold their breath through the entire tunnel.
The girls grumble that he’s lying, but they all hold their breath as they enter the tunnel. Jin-jin gasps for air first, and our narrator says that she didn’t know then that breathing would bring her such misfortune — she would never have a single romantic relationship.
The narrator turns out to be Doctor Woo-sung trying to impress his date, who’s a cellist with the Hanyang Symphony Orchestra. Woo-sung spouts musical knowledge that he just picked up from the internet, and it seems to work on the lady.
Jin-jin and her friends are also discussing what they call the Bongo Curse, though Ah-reum wonders why she and Young-shim have never dated when they were able to hold their breath through the tunnel.
Ah-reum waits eagerly for a text from the cute copilot, Dong-hoon, but when he finally sends something, it turns out to be a screenshot of a game app. Ah-reum thinks it’s a ploy to get her to contact him, and when Jin-jin scoffs, Ah-reum snaps that she’s never even dated (though Jin-jin coos that she’s the queen of melodramas, lol).
It’s as she’s heading home to her building next door that Jin-jin runs into Ji-won in the elevator. When he gets off on his floor, he asks her cheekily how it is that she’s never dated.
Jin-jin’s parents watch the interview, in which she reveals that she’s never been on a date. She tells host, Heo Ji-woong, that she’s been approached by men, but she prefers the company of her friends. Her mom sighs that she thought Jin-jin probably had a secret boyfriend, and she wonders if there’s something wrong with her daughter.
There’s something wrong with her all right, and it definitely has to do with a man. Jin-jin is so flustered after seeing Ji-won that she puts her hoodie on backwards and flings herself into bed screaming and flailing. She remembers Ji-won rescuing her from the reporters and swoons happily to herself.
Ji-won also watches the whole interview, taking particular note when Ji-woong tells Jin-jin that falling in love is insane, so she’s probably just not ready to go crazy yet. He asks Jin-jin what she thinks is the signal to the start of love, and Ji-won listens intently, but we don’t hear her answer.
During another evening, Jin-jin finally tells her friends that Ji-won is back, and they exclaim that they thought that he was dead, since they never could find him online or on social media. Young-shim asks a million questions, like where he’s been, whether he’s seen his mother, and what he does for a living, but Jin-jin doesn’t know. She is happy to report that his face hasn’t suffered the same misfortune as Woo-sung’s, HA.
Ah-reum asks the most important question: What’s Ji-won’s marital status? Jin-jin goes straight for the internet and does search after search, trying to discover if he’s married or not.
Later, Ah-reum lies in bed, willing Dong-hoon to call her. When her phone rings, it’s just Woo-sung, but Ah-reum takes advantage of the opportunity to ask him if there’s ever a time when a man is interested in a woman, but doesn’t contact her. Woo-sung says it can happen, and advises Ah-reum to think up an excuse to contact him first.
Ah-reum takes his advice and invites Dong-hoon to a work gathering, as if it’s just a general invitation and not her trying to finagle a date. Next, she looks up Ji-won to see if he’s married.
Meanwhile, Jin-jin finally finds the information she’s looking for, but it’s not good news. She stares at a wedding photo showing Ji-won standing next to a woman in a wedding gown, whose name is listed as Bella.
The bride’s face is obscured by her veil, but it’s obviously Ji-won in the picture, looking like a man very much in love. Storm clouds gather over Jin-jin’s head, and she’s drenched in an emotional downpour by the discovery that her first love is married.
While unpacking a box of photos, Ji-won finds the photograph of himself and his bride. He looks at the picture for a long time, his smile fading.
In the morning, he runs into Jin-jin in the parking lot, and when he notices that her hair is wet, he asks if she still swims. She just snaps, “Why do you care?” and goes inside.
Young-shim heads to her first day on the job, and she cringes when she’s a few minutes late. Her new boss, Kyung-seok, doesn’t mention it, and just points her to her desk. He startles her when he’s the first person to address her as Lawyer Jang, which makes her smile.
Kyung-seok piles work into Young-shim’s arms, assigning her several projects. Young-shim invites him to speak casually to her, but he doesn’t respond.
As Jin-jin looks over some potential commercial offers, CEO Jang squints at her suspiciously, then says that she looks like she’s just been dumped. He gives her some movie scripts to consider, but they all have titles like “Just Single” and “I Can Do Anything but Dating,” HA. Jin-jin decides to just take some time off instead.
That evening, she bumps another car’s fender as she’s parking in her building’s lot, and of course, the car turns out to be Ji-won’s. He brushes the damage off as nothing, more concerned about Jin-jin, and he invites her to dinner. She barely even looks at him, her body language stiff and closed off as she says that she’s busy.
Ji-won is obviously disappointed, but he’s pleased to have her number after she called him about his fender. He confirms that she has his number, which she got from his dashboard, making sure she knows that it ends in 0710.
We flash back to the year 2000, when a younger Ji-won had waited for Jin-jin by a fountain. He’d gotten right to the point and asked her to date him. We don’t hear her answer, but she’d circled the date in her calendar as their first day, which just happened to be July 10th – 0710. Awww.
Back in the present, her friends notice that Jin-jin is quiet and subdued that evening, and they know her too well to believe her when she says that nothing is wrong. She mentions Ji-won, and Ah-reum reveals that she saw online that he’s married. Jin-jin tells them that she bumped his fender, and Ah-reum demands her phone so they can see if his wife’s face is on his profile (it isn’t).
Jin-jin is called away by her mom, and Ah-reum and Young-shim note that Ji-won’s number ends in 0710, the same as when they were kids. Ah-reum screams just as Jin-jin returns, because copilot Dong-hoon answered her text accepting her invitation to the get-together.
Jin-jin mutters, “It’s starting again,” and we’re treated to a montage of Ah-reum over the years, coming on too strong to guys who aren’t into her and getting her heart brutally broken. Jin-jin and Young-shim were supportive in their college days, but by the time Ah-reum was lugging entire pots of chicken soup to her crush in 2005, they were both exhausted.
On his ride to work the next morning, Ji-won finally calls his mother, though his end of the conversation feels stilted as he fends off invitations to visit. Meanwhile, Jin-jin prepares for a job narrating a nature documentary, and she’s waved past security at the broadcasting station without having to sign in.
Ji-won’s assistant, TAE-HYUN, has followed Ji-won to Korea, and he asks about Jin-jin. Ji-won insists that they’re just friends who’ve known each other since childhood. Tae-hyun asks if Jin-jin was pretty as a young girl, and Ji-won grins like a lovesick fool as he remembers her as a teenager.
Tae-hyun clocks the smile and teases Ji-won for liking Jin-jin. On his way home, Ji-won sees an old lady selling roses on the street, and he looks at the flowers thoughtfully.
When Jin-jin arrives home, she stands in the parking lot peering up at the building, counting floors to find Ji-won’s apartment. She wilts when she sees that his lights are off, and as she’s gazing at his apartment, a voice asks in her ear, “What are you doing?”
EPISODE 6 RECAP
Jin-jin is shocked to see Ji-won leaning right in her face, and she tries to scurry off. He stops her and gives her a whole handful of roses, which he says with a smirk that he just found on the way home. Jin-jin smiles despite herself.
They’re joined in the elevator by an older couple, and they’re forced to listen as the wife berates her husband the entire way up. She even advises Jin-jin not to give her heart away for a few roses, because even dogs can give roses, making Ji-won pull an offended face.
When they’re finally alone, Ji-won starts to ask Jin-jin why she isn’t married, but his phone rings and interrupts. Jin-jin hears a female voice chirp, “Oppa!” and assumes that it’s Ji-won’s wife, especially when Ji-won says he misses her and will be home soon.
What she doesn’t know is that Ji-won is talking to his younger sister, who wasn’t born yet back when they dated. Ji-won makes his way into his apartment as his sister begs him to pay for her to get double-eyelid surgery, and he’s shocked when she informs him that she’s in high school already.
Jin-jin goes home and contemplates the roses from Ji-won angrily, but she softens when Ji-won shows up at her door, tears in his eyes. He grabs Jin-jin in a hug and asks her to run away with him, and she readily agrees. Later, Jin-jin is attacked by Ji-won’s angry wife and her career is destroyed. Of course, Jin-jin is just imagining everything.
Downstairs, Ji-won is happily texting someone just named as “Hyung” in his phone, saying that there’s someone he wants Hyung to meet. He admits it’s a woman but says she’s just a friend, though Hyung is skeptical.
Anthony, Jin-jin’s idol crush, is having dinner with his manager, who fusses at him for taking money to her mother again when he hasn’t got much to begin with. She reminds him that he got scammed by a fraud scheme because he cares too much about others, but he tells her not to worry about him, because he’s Anthony.
His manager mentions that Infinity Challenge wants to do a comeback show featuring the former members of his band, Boys Be Ambitious. She says that they just have to convince one last member, Terius.
But Anthony sighs that Terius is too distant now, and they both look over at a poster featuring the former idol. His manager complains that Terius ignored her recently at the broadcasting station, but she mentions that Sa Jin-jin was on a talk show, and that she’s still a huge fan of Anthony’s.
Anthony goes to the station, but unlike Jin-jin, he’s not allowed to enter without signing in first. Ouch. He writes down what must be his real name, Lee Chul-min, and gets a visitor’s pass.
He’s here to speak with a director, but he sees that Terius is in a dressing room and goes in to say hello. Terius now goes by his real name, Jung Chang-hoon (cameo by Shim Hyun-tak), and he barely looks up from his video game as Anthony invites him to have a drink sometime.
Chang-hoon mentions the Infinity Challenge invitation, but he scoffs that legends should remain legends. Anthony looks disappointed, as if he was hoping Chang-hoon would agree to go on the show.
Jin-jin’s younger brother, Min-ho, spiffs up in a suit for a job interview, with his orange-and-pink hair toned down to a natural brown. He assures Mom that he’ll be bringing in good money soon, and he makes a great impression on the interviewers compared to the slouching, long-haired candidate next to him.
After the interview, Min-ho’s friend (who works for the company) tells him that he’s got the job so long as he makes a decent score. He says he’ll call Min-ho within three days, and tells him to have a lot of fun with his remaining free time.
Young-shim is a few minutes late to work again, but again, Kyung-seok doesn’t mention it. He spends the morning in meetings with shady clients, who either offer him bribes, defend their loan-sharking ways, or are just plain whackjobs.
The building’s cleaning lady comes in that afternoon, and Kyung-seok smiles a real smile for the first time. He steps out for a call, asking Young-shim to make the cleaning lady a cup of coffee. She does, though she seems to feel weird about it.
Min-ho makes himself some ramyun for lunch, using a book as a hot pad. He gets a call from a friend who invites him to an internet cafe, and he tries to call the friend who works for the company, but he doesn’t answer his phone.
While on the phone with Young-shim, Ah-reum sees a poster at a bus stop advertising that the movie Love Letter is in the theaters again. They know that Jin-jin loves that movie.
Ji-won also sees the poster and looks thoughtful. Jin-jin hears a commercial for the movie on the radio, and she and Ji-won both remember seeing the movie together as teenagers.
They had been adorably nervous, jumping when their hands bumped and sneaking shy peeks at each other. Jin-jin had deliberately kept her hands within easy reach, and Ji-won had obviously wanted to hold her hand, but he’d chickened out.
Adult Jin-jin takes herself to see Love Letter, and neither she nor Ji-won realize that they’re in the same theater, only a few rows apart.
At his home, Anthony flips through the channels, stopping at Jin-jin’s Hong Kong interview. In response to the host’s question, she says that love begins with a movie, because you’re hyper-aware of everything your date is doing — how they move and breathe, even their scent. She says that because you can’t focus on the movie, but instead are feeling those feelings, you end up falling in love.
Ji-won had seen that part of the interview too, and it had reminded him of seeing the movie with Jin-jin back in their school days. The host had asked Jin-jin to think of a movie right now, and without hesitation she’d replied, “Love Letter.”
As he watches the movie again now, another scene recalls the past for Ji-won. The hero had drawn a picture of the heroine and given it to her, and young Ji-won had worked hard to make a similar drawing of Jin-jin.
He’d left the drawing in a book, with the note: “I’ll be back.” That book now sits on Jin-jin’s parents’ table, and the wind flutters the pages, revealing that the drawing of Jin-jin is still there.
I just love the little scenes of Ji-won and Jin-jin as kids. Aside from the fact that the actors playing them are so cute I can’t stand it, seeing how they went from friends to dating (and I’m assuming, their eventual split) is so much more fun than just being told what happened. Besides, seeing them so young and innocent lends a lovely wistfulness to their present-time interactions, because no matter how they’ve cultivated slick, professional facades as adults, you can just see them become those shy, smitten teenagers all over again whenever they’re near each other. It will be interesting watching them spend more time with each other, and seeing that immature love blossom into something more adult.
While I really find nothing lacking in the story as it is now, I’m finding myself anxious to see how Anthony is going to fit into the plot. So far all we know is that he used to be a very famous idol, but now he’s struggling to find work, and that Jin-jin still carries a teenage torch for her oppa. Anthony seems to be a sweet, generous guy, whose fall from fame still bothers him even though he tries to hide it. I won’t blame Jin-jin one bit for being swayed when they start working together, because goodness knows, the thought of actually having a chance with the guy who’s been your fantasy boyfriend for most of your adult life.
And while normally I’d be frustrated by the fact that Jin-jin and their friends think that Ji-won is married, because it’s such an easy misunderstanding to clear up, in this case I’m interested to see how it feeds into the love triangle that’s surely about to take place. Jin-jin obviously still has feelings for Ji-won, feelings that are real based on an actual history of having dated him, as opposed to her frivolous fantasies about Anthony. But she truly believes that Ji-won is married, and his pursuing her will only put her off and make her think that he’s a cheater. And it’s not like Jin-jin and Ji-won have a history of talking much – their teenage romance seems mostly based on attraction and the natural closeness you feel towards your friends. So it’s very easy for me to see how Ji-won won’t get much chance to explain himself.
And for that matter, do we even know that he’s not married? I’m working on the assumption that he’s either divorced or widowed, but we don’t really know. He doesn’t wear a ring, and he lives alone, but that’s not always an indication of single status. Ji-won doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would hit on a woman while he’s married, but I suppose it’s always possible that his wife is elsewhere (with the name Bella, she’s probably foreign) or maybe that they’re just separated. I’m sure there’s a lot more to his story that we don’t know.
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