Because This Life Is Our First: Episode 6
Our main couple quickly realizes that marriage isn’t as easy as they first thought, and though they might have agreed to this matrimony for financial reasons, emotions are unpredictable and messy, which throws a wrench into their perfectly laid plans. Growing up in a time of prosperity only to be met with unanswered dreams and closed opportunities, our heroine and her friends continue to struggle with the seemingly mundane, and once again, the show continues to depict life in a way that captures both its joy and pain.
Episode 6: “Because ‘us’ is our first time”
Ji-ho cries in her wedding gown, unable to stop her tears, and Se-hee kneels beside her. He asks her if it’s hard to stop crying, and offers to walk down the aisle with her. He gently tells Ji-ho, “Let’s go together. I’ll be right next to you.”
Going back in time to 1988, it’s the year of the Seoul Olympics as well as Ji-ho’s birth. Born during Korea’s golden age, Ji-ho explains that her childhood was a time of rapid growth and abundance, where having a house and car was only natural. As things changed, crises naturally came, but hope always persisted. However, that trust didn’t last long. Ji-ho narrates:
“Even dreams started to have class. We weren’t 1988 babies anymore. We became the 880,000 won generation. The vote of a 20-year-old did not have any power. The world no longer looked at Korea. In a world of competition, my friends threw themselves for a line on their resume. In between them, I was a snail chasing after dreams.”
In the present, Ji-ho wonders how her 20-year-old self would react to her current self as she walks down the aisle alongside Se-hee. As people clap for them, Ji-ho says, “The 30-year-old Yoon Ji-ho who was born in 1988, instead of becoming a writer, took the hand of man who gave a discounted rent. I really got married because of housing.”
After the family pictures, the bride and groom’s friends are called next, and as Su-ji and Ho-rang get up, they both freeze after seeing who’s standing next to Se-hee: Sang-gu and Won-seok.
Once Su-ji and Ho-rang take their place next to Ji-ho, Bo-mi tells Sang-gu and Won-seok to move over to the bride’s side to balance out the photo. Despite Su-ji and Won-seok’s protests, Sang-gu eagerly ushers Won-seok to the other side, and because of Su-ji’s height, Bo-mi directs her to the back, next to Sang-gu. Thus, the three potential pairings end up standing beside each other in the final picture.
During the reception, Won-seok begs Sang-gu to ignore Ho-rang, but of course, Sang-gu does the exact opposite, making a beeline straight towards her table since Su-ji is there. However, before he can sit next to her, Won-seok pushes him away, and Ho-rang shoots daggers at her boyfriend.
Sang-gu introduces himself to Ho-rang, and she introduces herself and Su-ji, though he correctly “guesses” Su-ji’s name. He passive-aggressively says that Su-ji looks like someone who blocks people on chats, and Su-ji explains to the utterly confused Ho-rang and Won-seok that she met Sang-gu before, through work.
As their table falls into an awkward silence, Ji-ho and Se-hee enter the hall, and everyone happily claps for the newlyweds. Ho-rang can’t believe that Ji-ho is married, recounting the time she got drunk and threw up at their place, and Won-seok chimes in, recalling their shared memory. They banter easily with one another until they quickly realize that they’re still fighting.
Sang-gu notices something on Se-hee’s face, thinking that it’s hot sauce, but in fact, it’s a double nosebleed.
Relocating to a private area, Ji-ho helps Se-hee clean up the blood, and he notes how draining weddings are. He says that he wants to go back to their home and rest, but Ji-ho stares at him in shock, surprised by his use of the first-person plural.
Sensing her surprise, he asks if he said something offensive, and flustered, Ji-ho excuses herself. Escaping to the bathroom, Ji-ho remembers Se-hee’s comment about “our home,” and a smile slowly spreads across her face.
Ji-ho returns, but stops outside the room when she spots her mom sitting next to Se-hee. Mom hands him an energy drink, and wonders about what to feed her skinny son-in-law since he probably won’t eat snake soup. Se-hee interrupts her, and suddenly says that Ji-ho is a determined woman.
He tells Mom that Ji-ho made all her choices up to this point, including her decisions to quit writing and get married. Though he doesn’t know Ji-ho that well yet, he does know that she’s strong and won’t do anything that makes her unhappy. Therefore, while he’s married to her, he promises Mom that he won’t block her path to happiness.
He apologizes for not being able to promise something grander, but Mom thinks his honest words are much better than empty phrases. She offers to make him snake soup next time, and on the other side of the curtain, Ji-ho stifles her laughter.
The two families exchange farewells after the wedding, and before she leaves, Ji-ho’s sister-in-law tells Ji-ho that Se-hee is handsome. At the bus stop, Ji-ho stares at Se-hee, earnestly considering her sister-in-law’s comment, but Se-hee suddenly turns away to check his nose, assuming that he had another nosebleed because she kept staring at him. Heh.
Changing the subject, Ji-ho thanks him for his comments earlier to Mom, and apologizes for making him deal with something that doesn’t concern him. Se-hee disagrees, saying that it was his duty to relieve her mom of her worries, and tells her that it’s now both their concerns. His use of “our” catches Ji-ho off-guard again, and she hides her smile from him.
Ho-rang takes Su-ji to a crowded restaurant, where Sang-gu and Won-seok already have a table. Su-ji sees right through Ho-rang’s ploy, but before she can escape, Sang-gu intercepts them and leads them to his table.
After drinking a whole glass of beer in one go, Ho-rang explains to Sang-gu that she’s recently single and thinking of joining his dating app. He asks what kind of man she likes, and she says that she doesn’t care about anything as long as they didn’t study engineering.
Sang-gu shoots furtive glances at Won-seok, who asks what an engineering student did that was so wrong, but Ho-rang doesn’t want to talk about it since they’ve already separated. They continue to trade barbs until Won-seok finally declares that he does understand why she’s upset.
Ho-rang turns quiet, and Sang-gu uses this moment to explain how much Won-seok regretted his actions… of getting the display sofa. Su-ji audibly sighs, and though she warns Sang-gu to stop, he continues to talk about the sofa, which only makes Ho-rang more miserable. Realizing that this is how Won-seok thought of her, Ho-rang leaves the restaurant upset, and he dashes after her.
Won-seok grabs Ho-rang, demanding that she tell him why she’s angry, and she points out the bouquet she caught today. He doesn’t understand why she keeps beating around the bush, so Ho-rang decides to beat him with her bouquet. Bursting into tears, she blurts out that she wants to get married, and in response, Won-seok hugs her.
Sang-gu can’t believe the sudden plot twist he just witnessed, and Su-ji asks if he’s ever been in a real relationship like Ho-rang and Won-seok, where the line between “you” and “I” begins to blur. He turns the question back on her, and Su-ji replies, “I don’t date guys. I just make memories.”
Sang-gu turns away from Su-ji without a word to play on a claw machine, so she leaves him behind to get in a taxi. As she shuts the door, Sang-gu stops her and hands her the doll he just won, calling it her “daughter.” He tells her that this can be a memory, and sincerely asks to be unblocked as he promises to stop sending stupid messages. Heh.
Meanwhile, Won-seok brings Ho-rang home, and after tucking her in, he goes outside to sit alone and think.
The next day, Ji-ho makes breakfast for two, but Se-hee politely declines. Seeing Ji-ho’s dejected face, he changes his mind, and Ji-ho positively lights up, grabbing another bowl for Se-hee. After eating the food she made, he compliments her cooking, and she mentions how this is the first time they ate a proper meal together.
At lunch, Su-ji asks Ji-ho what she did yesterday, and she nonchalantly describes how they watched soccer separately. Su-ji probes her friend for more details about her relationship since she shared everything about her past dates, so Ji-ho admits that she likes it when he mentions things using “us.”
Su-ji interprets this as her fetish, and Ho-rang joins her in teasing Ji-ho. Jokes aside, Ho-rang asks why Ji-ho is out the day after her wedding, so Ji-ho explains that she’s looking for a part-time job to help pay their living expenses.
Ho-rang shares her disbelief with Su-ji over Ji-ho getting a part-time job, since she personally plans to be a homemaker once she’s married. Su-ji asks if she seriously discussed with Won-seok about getting married, but Ho-rang brushes off her friend’s concerns, since she thinks he would be a scumbag if he dated her for seven years without considering it.
Meanwhile, Won-seok seeks advice from Sang-gu, who tells him to just marry Ho-rang (since someone like Se-hee even got married). Sang-gu also offers Won-seok a position in his company, but he declines, since he invested a lot of time into his own app and doesn’t want to give up now.
The bigger problem for Won-seok is that he still doesn’t understand what marriage is, and he asks Sang-gu for his definition. Uncharacteristically thoughtful, Sang-gu says that it might be having someone by his side who understands him unconditionally, but then he plays it off with a joke when Won-seok asks if he’s thinking of someone in particular.
Sang-gu yells at Se-hee, who’s working nearby, to ask him what marriage is. But to his surprise, Se-hee actually approaches him. He yells at Sang-gu for disturbing him while working, and barks at him to keep personal issues out of work.
Ji-ho interviews for a position at a coffeeshop, but the manager rejects her since she’s too old. She heads to another shop looking for part-timers, but before she can get through the door, the owner comes out shouting for a “Bok-nam.”
Unable to leave the shop, he asks her to look for Bok-nam in his stead, and describes Bok-nam as having brown, curly hair, wearing pink, and being pretty-looking. He also tells her that Bok-nam likes corners, so off Ji-ho goes to look for Bok-nam, the runaway dog.
Ji-ho calls for Bok-nam while roaming the nearby alleys and runs into a young man with brown, curly hair, a pink sweater, and a pretty face. Definitely not a dog.
The young man looks up when she calls for Bok-nam, and asks her who she’s looking for. Ji-ho explains that she’s looking for a café owner’s dog, and begins to describe Bok-nam—her description also matching the man standing in front of her.
Ji-ho doesn’t make the connection, and tries to excuse herself when the young man says that he didn’t see the dog. He suddenly asks for her number since he needs to contact her if he finds the dog, and Ji-ho agrees with his logic, though she scratches her head afterward, since it’s not her dog.
Ji-ho returns to the café empty-handed, but the owner tells her that Bok-nam returned and thanks her for her help. As they sit down to talk about the part-time position, she tells him that she loves the name Bok-nam, and in the back, the young man from the alley (the real Bok-nam) smiles at her.
Coming back from their snack errand, Bo-mi tells Sang-gu that Park from HK (Ho-rang’s despicable coworker) called her about a company dinner today. Though he knows that they’re only calling him to have him pay, he perks up since it’s Su-ji’s company, and asks for more details.
Staring at Bo-mi’s relatively empty hands, Sang-gu belatedly realizes that he’s carrying all the stuff, but before he can accost her, she points toward Ji-ho, who’s walking toward them. Sang-gu invites her inside for snacks, and though she refuses at first, Ji-ho accepts their offer in the end.
Since this is her first time inside the office, Ji-ho looks around and notices an employee introduction board that also has Se-hee’s information (likes cats, hates things like this). Meanwhile, Se-hee finishes up his meeting, and is stunned to find Ji-ho standing in the office.
During snack time, Se-hee’s coworkers fawn over Ji-ho, still in disbelief that she’s real, and Bo-mi even asks for a photo to put in their database, since she’s Se-hee’s ideal type. They tease Se-hee for describing Ji-ho as very pretty, and while Ji-ho looks like she’s enjoying herself, Se-hee looks gloomier than usual.
At Su-ji’s company dinner, Sang-gu arrives just as they finish, and as soon as he sits, Park announces a second round of drinks elsewhere. They all march out of the restaurant, leaving Sang-gu to foot the bill, but Su-ji meets him at the counter to pay for the meal. She tells him to spend his money on claw machines rather than on people who take advantage of him, and watching her receding back, he says aloud that she makes his heart flutter.
During the second round, Park asks why Su-ji hasn’t accepted his friend request, and as he keeps pressing her to answer, Sang-gu intervenes, saying that office culture has changed, since he was also rejected by an employee recently.
This doesn’t stop Park, who then blames women for the “problem,” but before things escalate, Su-ji says that she’ll accept his friend request. He calls her a cool person and creepily tells her not to erase her bikini photos. The inappropriateness of his behavior isn’t lost on anyone at the table, but Su-ji dissipates the tense atmosphere with a joke, letting Park’s comment slide.
Sang-gu finds her outside putting out a cigarette, and confronts her about not getting mad after hearing such appalling things. She lays out the facts for him, explaining that company dinners are part of work for people like her, and as a female employee in a big company, it’ll be her on the chopping block if things get noisy.
Walking home together, Ji-ho happily chatters about Se-hee’s coworkers, but Se-hee seems to barely register her words as he responds to her in a tired tone. Shyly, Ji-ho notes how this is the first time they’re going home together, and she mentions how she imagined walking home with the person she married.
Once they arrive, Se-hee bends down to greet Cat, but Ji-ho cuddles with Cat first. She tells Se-hee that she gave Cat a new name, “Woori” (which means “us” in Korean), but he walks past her in silence to fill up Cat’s bowl.
She tentatively asks if he doesn’t like the name, but he says that it’s not about liking the name or not, he just feels uncomfortable. Ji-ho doesn’t understand, so Se-hee tells her in his blunt manner, “[She’s] my cat, so someone else calling [her] by a different name is uncomfortable.”
Ji-ho realizes that this must also mean that he felt uncomfortable when she visited him at work, and Se-hee admits that it did. He reminds her that they’re only in a landlord-tenant relationship, and thus, he would like to avoid situations where they have to pretend to be a couple. Though clearly hurt and shaken by his words, Ji-ho agrees with him, and returns Cat to Se-hee.
Ho-rang waits for Won-seok to return from his meeting, and once he’s home, he complains about the haughty investors he met today. Being direct, Ho-rang brings up the topic of marriage, wanting to have a serious discussion about it with him, and Won-seok honestly tells her that he isn’t sure about marriage.
Though he loves her and wants to live with her, he sees marriage as having kids and being responsible instead of love. In this moment, he isn’t confident he can do that, and thinks love and marriage are two separate things. Unable to disagree, Ho-rang simply listens with a downcast expression.
Each of the three friends sits alone — Ji-ho in her apartment looking over an old album, Ho-rang in her place staring at a board with pictures of her and Won-seok, and Su-ji in a taxi reading Sang-gu’s apology message but unable to respond back.
Ji-ho: “We are the unlucky ones born in 1988. Born during the golden age of our country, we are now going through the worst recession. We experienced both prosperity and poverty. That’s why we are called the unlucky ones born in 1988. For us, getting married, dating, and even ‘us’ are not natural givens. The simple idea of bonds and romance have become expenses and energy.”
Ji-ho remembers all the little moments with Se-hee that made her overthink their relationship, and how his words made her believe that maybe there was an “us” now. Looking at the nametag she made for Cat (*sniff*), she throws it away in the trash, and admits that for a little while, she was happy thinking that there was an “us.”
The next morning, Se-hee gets up to see Ji-ho making breakfast again, and naturally takes a seat at the table. He notices her glum expression, but ignores it as he grabs the nearby utensils.
Ji-ho apologizes for overacting yesterday, and says that it’s been a while since she heard words like “we” and “us.” It made her feel like she belonged, so to make sure it doesn’t happen again, she asks Se-hee to refrain from using those words.
Though taken aback, he agrees, and then Ji-ho asks him to return her utensils. Realizing his mistake, Se-hee hands them over and goes back to his original spot on the couch next to Cat. As Ji-ho eats alone, she thinks to herself that she knows why she’s angry right now: She got the wrong idea, hurt her pride, and embarrassed herself.
Ji-ho answers a call from an unknown number, and it’s Bok-nam, who she only knows as the alley guy. After asking if she has a pen and paper, he asks if she has a boyfriend, and Se-hee looks up at her. Meeting his gaze, Ji-ho tells Bok-nam that she doesn’t have one, and narrates, “Though there may be many reasons, I’m sure of one thing… I want to hurt you.”
SO. MANY. FEELINGS.
If the last five minutes of Episode 5 made me go on an emotional rollercoaster from crying to swooning, then the last five minutes of Episode 6 put me through an emotional wringer. Despite experiencing such a wide range of emotions that feel almost contradictory, I’m loving it because everything feels so real and rich. With a potentially wacky premise of contract marriage and cohabitation, the show could have gone down the fluffy route and have our main couple experience butterflies and try to deny their budding attraction without ever exploring problems people face in actual relationships by giving them the stamp of “happily ever after” at the end. However, this show turns that upside down and gives a completely brutal reversal with the two breakfast scenes. It’s a decidedly unromantic moment between the two leads with a lot of raw emotions being thrown around at the end. The show doesn’t shy away from making the characters prickly, not because that’s their archetype, but simply because relationships are complicated, and human emotions are messy.
Thinking through the confrontation between the leads, I understand Se-hee’s response, and think that his request was completely in character for him. Se-hee is being his blunt self, and as usual, he fails to see what’s wrong with his straightforward tactic that disregards the feelings of others. The show even highlighted it during his office meeting, so the eventual “blowout” between him and Ji-ho wasn’t abrupt. However, even though I understand his point and saw it coming, the pain his words brought Ji-ho (and consequently, me as the viewer) wasn’t lessened by it. The way Cat’s new collar acted as a metaphor for Ji-ho throwing out the “us” she constructed between her and Se-hee was devastating to watch because we saw how she opened up and made herself vulnerable, only to be shut out by Se-hee in the end. The way she lit up when he joined her for breakfast the first time was absolutely precious, and in contrast, the second breakfast where she told him to give “her” utensils back with an icy stare made my heart drop because of the wall she was building around herself. Ji-ho displays her emotions plainly on her face, making it easier to read her mind.
Though she knew they were only a landlord and tenant, the comments from friends and family about Se-hee as well as the words he used himself made Ji-ho hope that their fake relationship could actually become real. These new feelings she experienced blurred the line between them, and unconsciously, she approached Se-hee much more quickly and openly than she would ever had with anyone else. As a result, her reaction was one of bitterness when she realized how wrong she was about their relationship. Though it’s a bit petty, who hasn’t wanted to hurt someone who hurt them first? Even if Se-hee’s intentions weren’t such, he still inflicted pain, and in a way, I also think Ji-ho’s harsh actions at the end weren’t just out of spite, but an act of self-preservation. Ji-ho is redrawing the line between them, moving them back to the when they first met (her at the table and him on the couch). This way, she’s removing everything that once caused her confusion, and is overcompensating for her previous mistake. I am once again amazed by Jung So-min’s tremendous performance — she’s doing a splendid job expressing the different facets of her character, and in making Ji-ho such a real character with her own charms and faults.
Compared to Ji-ho, Se-hee is still more of an enigma, but that’s not a bad thing. It seemed like he was genuinely surprised by her sudden cold behavior at the end, but it’s hard to tell if he’s feeling anything beyond that, like what we saw with Ji-ho. I think at this point, like our heroine, it might be fair to say that Se-hee doesn’t understand all of his feelings either, because from time to time, we see little smiles sneak up on his face because of her that weren’t there before. However, what exactly these little moments mean is up in the air at the moment, especially when taking into account his confrontation with Ji-ho about “his” cat. That’s not to say that I don’t think Se-hee hasn’t changed, because I do think Ji-ho’s presence in his life has made him shift in subtle ways. The natural way he sat at the table without a second thought (even though it was only their second meal together) makes me think that Ji-ho is influencing Se-hee’s normal patterns, but it’s just that she’s moving at a much faster rate than he is. However, now that Ji-ho has forced her feelings to come to a screeching halt, perhaps it’s now Se-hee’s turn to catch up and realize that life isn’t always as rational as he claims.
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