I’m Not a Robot: Episodes 15-16
With the saddest start in the world, things can only get better, right? But with Min-kyu still struggling with the fallout of his emotions, Jia is forced to bear the brunt of it (it’s not his fault, he thinks she’s a robot!), and that makes hard watching for the tenderhearted. Now that his illusions are lying in ruins around him, maybe the time is right for him to build something real?
EPISODE 15: “I’m not a robot”
“If you wished that robot were a person… fold,” Min-kyu whispers, folding down his last finger. His head drops to the table.
Jia lays hers down next to his. “I’m… not a robot,” she tells his sleeping form.
Baek-gyun and Pi walk slowly back from their drink-buying run, which Baek-gyun thinks Sun-hye meant as a punishment to him. He guesses that he must have wronged Jia badly, and says he feels like he’s caught now in a one-sided love. “Still, you made it this far,” Pi encourages.
Elsewhere, Hok-tal gazes up at the sky and tells Sun-hye how bright the moon is, while Ssan-ip sleeps in his lap. Mirroring his earlier comment, she points out that it’s only a crescent.
Jia wakes up the next morning to the sound of glass breaking and discovers the team trying to stabilize Aji-3’s grip and motor functions. Jia’s excited that the robot is mobile again, but Baek-gyun explains that they still need to synchronize Jia’s input with Aji-3’s system, especially so Min-kyu never realizes the change-out.
Baek-gyun tells Jia it’ll be another few days before the robot’s ready, and then he plans to tell Min-kyu the truth. She thanks him for explaining everything to her in a straightforward way.
Dr. Oh is back in Korea, and calls Min-kyu. He wants to meet Aji-3, but a solemn Min-kyu tells him no. There’s not a problem with the robot, “There’s a problem with me,” he says, and plans to resolve it within the day. After they hang up, Dr. Oh wonders what went wrong when Min-kyu was so happy about the robot before.
Jia makes her way to the mansion, nervous but excited about seeing Min-kyu. But Min-kyu grimly just tells her to get changed because they’re going out. Dissatisfied with her choice, he stops off at department store where he tersely orders the outfit on a mannequin.
He says nothing to Jia except a clipped, “Let’s go.” They enter a fancy restaurant, but Jia’s face falls when she’s seated alone at a separate table and Min-kyu doesn’t look at her once.
Instead, he warmly receives Ri-el and her father. Jia looks on, increasingly upset, wishing he’d told her in advance, so that she could emotionally prepare. Ah, but there’s the rub! Only she is aware of what a big deal it is when Min-kyu—who can only eat food of his own making—takes a bite of steak, and struggles to keep it down.
He turns a collected face to his guests, though, and says to Ri-el’s dad that he wants to get engaged. Dad thinks that’s a great idea and is eager to solidify their position in the company. “Excuse me,” Ri-el objects, “I’m the one who’s going to get married, do you think you could listen to my opinion, too?” I know, right?
Min-kyu excuses himself from the table, and then rushes for the bathroom where he throws up the bite of steak. When he returns, Ri-el’s dad asks him when he started liking Ri-el. Min-kyu says it started fifteen years ago, and he was touched by the birthday cards she sent him every year.
Ri-el looks up at that in confusion, clearly about to deny it when her father cuts her off. He covers for her, saying that she was always a thoughtful person. Has he been sending them all along? Oh my god, Min-kyu’s whole life is a lie. For the first time since they came in, he looks over at Jia, who gazes back at him in anguish.
Afterwards, Ri-el confronts her dad, and he admits he sent the cards in her name. Angry, she wants to tell Min-kyu the truth, but her dad points out that the truth now would only hurt him. That thought stays her hand, but she’s furious. Aw, you’re a good egg.
At the restaurant, Jia has to endure the neighboring table’s gossip about her not touching the expensive meal in front of her. When Min-kyu comes to collect her, she ignores his hand and leaves on her own.
On the drive back, Jia asks if he’s okay. “Are you really worried, or is it just a line you’re regurgitating from your input?” Min-kyu mutters. She wonders if he even remembers what he said last night.
“I said I wished you were a person. So what, what meaning does it have? Will you marry me then?” he snarls. He tells her she can erase those words if they bother her, because he doesn’t care whether she remembers or not.
“You’re really horrible,” she tells him, eyes full. He reminds her that he said he’d reset her if she went back to Friend Mode, and she yells at him to do it: “Why on earth are you being like this to me?”
Pulling over, Min-kyu turns those words back to her, full of emotion. He asks why she, as a robot, makes him think of her thoughts and feelings.
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It’s not like you’re going to marry me!
“You, without feelings or thoughts! Why are you doing this to me?” he yells. I think I want to cry. Turning away, he collects himself and tells her to select a wardrobe for Ri-el, since that’s what she’s good for as a robot. Jia struggles to hold back tears.
At the barn, Jia heads straight to her bed, shaking off Baek-gyun’s questions. With the curtain drawn, her tears are finally allowed escape. She leaves soon after, when her sister-in-law calls her out for a favor.
Min-kyu takes out his box of keepsakes from Ri-el, and at last, he notices that the handwriting is different on each card. “Why didn’t you realize all this time, Kim Min-kyu?” he asks himself, with a broken little laugh-sob.
When he gets up, his bookshelves on the upper level catch his eye: The books have been formed to make a display in the shape of a heart, and we see that Jia did it earlier.
As Min-kyu heads out, Baek-gyun blocks his path and orders him out of his car so they can talk. He reminds Min-kyu that he’d asked him not to be careless with Aji-3, who’s precious to both of them. Min-kyu retorts that it’s all meaningless in the end, since she’s just a robot without feelings.
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Did your robot suddenly grow feelings?
Impassioned, Baek-gyun asks how all the time and effort he put into her can be nothing. “If it’s not nothing, then delete it. It’s as straightforward as that,” Min-kyu replies, and drives off.
Baek-gyun returns to the barn where Pi sits him down for a presentation… on Jia? Lol. She starts by professing that Jia may not be as simple as they thought, and asks why she came back to work for them without pay.
“Because of me?” Baek-gyun asks uncertainly. Pi agrees that he’s the constant, but then why did she bring those heart lamps with her? She tells Baek-gyun that Jia entered her preliminary design in a college competition four years ago, and she’s now a finalist in KM Financial’s contest.
“You fixed these lamps without even recognizing them. There’s one item that connects the past and the present… might these heart lamps be your broken part? That’s my deduction,” she finishes.
Jia pops in to her sister-in-law’s to collect her niece Dong-hyun for her appointment with the country’s leading allergy specialist, who of course, is none other than our Dr. Oh. Dong-hyun turns out to have several allergies, for which Dr. Oh gives a prescription.
Before leaving, Jia asks him if he’s ever come across an allergy to human contact. He tells her it exists, though its causes are psychological. He says he came across someone who got better after meeting someone he could trust. “The human heart is really quite mysterious,” he smiles.
On the bus, Jia wonders why Min-kyu is fine with her when she’s a human. They stop off at Sun-hye’s, where Jia leaves Dong-hyun for a bit to run some errands. She doesn’t see Min-kyu’s car pull up as she leaves. Ohh this should be good!
Sun-hye leaves Dong-hyun eating her rice balls while she pops to the bathroom. Masked and batoned, Min-kyu jerks the door open, but turns to leave when he only sees little Dong-hyun, who stares at him with frank curiosity.
“It’s peanuts for me,” she confides, “What are you allergic to?” Taken by surprise, he says (a little sniffily) that his is worse than hers. Haha. Introducing herself first, she asks him his name, and Min-kyu finally unhooks his mask and answers.
“My aunt doesn’t have a boyfriend,” Dong-hyun says in reply. HA. She shows him her rice ball and tells him her aunt made it. This girl is hilariously full of non-sequiturs, it’s killing me. Min-kyu smirks, clearly getting ready to turn her down, but she grips it possessively and says they’re hers. Hahaha!
She tells him the story of the first time Jia made them for herself for a school picnic, explaining matter-of-factly that it was because Jia didn’t have anyone to make her kimbap. The kids must have made fun of her, he says in gruff sympathy. Dong-hyun says only her mom ate with her, “And that’s why my aunt became my mom’s guardian angel.”
Sun-hye returns just then, and he tells her that he got engaged thanks to her. He says the person who stole his first kiss knows too, since she was right beside him. “Lousy jerk,” Sun-hye says. Min-kyu stares at her in shock and she pretends she was talking about a passerby.
He asks Sun-hye if she thought the friend he was with last time (Jia) seemed interested in him. “Very much,” she replies, and says that friend was always looking at him: “The eyes follow where the heart goes.”
He says that there’s no way to confirm that heart, and Sun-hye agrees, saying you can only measure your own feelings. In lieu of the fist (jumok) Sun-hye wants to throw at him, Dong-hyun launches a foil-wrapped rice ball (jumokbap) at him instead and pumps a fist supportively.
Before he leaves, Sun-hye asks him if he’s thought at all about accepting that friend’s feelings, “No matter what she turns out to be?”
EPISODE 15: “One person is enough”
Jia returns just as Min-kyu leaves, and Dong-hyun tells her about the “pitiful ajusshi” who just came by. Sun-hye wonders whether Jia can still confess her feelings.
Min-kyu ponders Sun-hye’s question, which reminds him of what he said to Jia before, about hoping she would recognize him no matter what face he showed her.
At work, Ri-el thinks back to when Yoo-chul called her out mid-date. “Let’s get married,” he’d said, pointing out that the fact she cut out of her date to see another man meant she had feelings for him. “Man? You’re a friend,” she told him. Angered, he grabbed her arm. She shook it off and warned him to watch his behavior.
Yoo-chul approaches her now and she tells him of her engagement. She says the three of them should have a meal and work things out.
Jin-bae scrambles away from Yoo-chul (why, lol) and hides when he gets a call from Jang Doo-sam, Daeyang’s late chairman’s driver, whom Min-kyu commissioned him to find. Jang says he’ll turn over secret recordings he has if Min-kyu promises to send Chairman Hwang to prison.
Director Yoon accosts Jin-bae and takes him to Chairman Hwang himself. The chairman says he knows Jin-bae is working for Min-kyu, but asks him to share his information with their side first, intimating that there’s about to be a change in leadership.
Chairman Hwang privately tells Director Yoon that it will be enough if they can get Jin-bae to betray Min-kyu. A flashback shows that he met Daeyang’s late Chairman Park and urged him to sell to Bold Group, claiming that Min-kyu wouldn’t invest in robots.
They were unaware of Jang Doo-sam secretly recording the meeting. Chairman Hwang says they have to find Jang before Min-kyu’s side does.
The girls shop for Jia’s disguise for the contest presentation, which is the next day. Sun-hye tells Jia to just confess to Min-kyu, since it’s no problem for a person to love another person (“It’s not even like you’re an alien!”). Jia says she planned to tell him after the test, but worries that he might be even worse to her after.
Meanwhile, the hapless Curly tries to convince Director Yoon that he saw the robot eating, but also that she’s definitely a robot. Director Yoon is frustrated with their failure to kidnap the robot and gives them one last chance to bring Aji-3 to him within three days.
Baek-gyun treats Jia to a steak dinner that evening. His weird niceness makes her suspect that he wants her do another job for him, but he reveals that he heard about her making the KM finals. Jia swears that Min-kyu had nothing to do with it, plus she’s totally going in disguise so that not even her brother will recognize her.
She says she’s confident this time since someone called her a genius, but outraged, Baek-gyun says whoever said that was out to scam her. Ouch. Dude, you really suck sometimes. Hesitantly, he asks about the competition she failed four years ago, and she confirms that that was the day they broke up.
We flash back to the competition four years ago, where the judge slammed her idea as an attempt to pad her resume. Upset, she tried to call Baek-gyun afterwards, but he didn’t answer, so she went all the way to the university. At his lab, she was sad to discover her design plans wrinkled and stained from being used as a placemat for their food.
A colleague told Baek-gyun that Jia was waiting for him, and added that he shouldn’t help her too much. Baek-gyun pointed out that Jia never asked his help, and told the woman to mind herself talking about his girlfriend. But when he entered the lab and found Jia clearing up, he angrily tore into her for it.
Later at the sandwich shop, he said she should come to the US with him, where she could do what she wanted, instead of wasting time struggling on pointless things. She pointed out that his work was also a struggle, and he had casually replied, “Are you and I the same?”
Hurt and incredulous, she broke up with him. “Let’s not see each other again,” she said, before leaving the shop in tears. In the present, Baek-gyun revisits the sandwich shop—and the memory—with a heavy sigh, finally understanding.
Min-kyu learns from Jin-bae that Chairman Hwang knew that Santa Maria was a robotics team, and that he’d met the Daeyang chairman the night before he died. Jin-bae says it’s proof that he tried to sell the team out, but the recording isn’t legally admissible; the best they can do is remove him from his position. They guess that Chairman Hwang must have pocketed a substantial sum in brokering that sale.
Determined to protect the Santa Maria team, Min-kyu decides to connect with Jang Doo-sam directly, and gives Jin-bae his KM Financial master ID and password to gather more evidence. Oh no, is that a good idea?
Before he leaves, Jin-bae apologizes for misunderstanding Min-kyu all this time. With an awkward splutter, Min-kyu promises him a one hundred percent bonus after this is over. “Three hundred,” Jin-bae says. “Two hundred. That’s it,” Min-kyu decides. Oh, I saw that tiny smile, Min-kyu!
Ssan-ip has finally cottoned on that there might be something between Hok-tal and Sun-hye, and he argues with Hok-tal outside her coffee shop, convinced that they went off together behind his back. Inside, both men gaze at Sun-hye, who comments that they must like her coffee (Hok-tal: “Because it’s cheap”).
She says coffee is like dating, in that you have to try many blends before you find the one that’s right for you, but it aggravates her that Hok-tal keeps criticizing the taste. Baek-gyun bursts into their complicated interlude and urgently asks Sun-hye’s help, acknowledging that he’s wronged Jia a great deal.
Jia returns to the barn and and the team surprises her with a party. They’re even wearing matching T-shirts which spell out a message cheering her on to first place tomorrow. She’s touched, and even little Beetle cheers.
Baek-gyun offers the team to act as judges so she can have a mock run. She explains how when one lamp lights up, the other will too, no matter where it is in the world, so they’re always connected.
The scientists listen a little agape, Hok-tal explaining that she’s grasped quantum entanglement just like that, when it took him years of busting his brains. Thrilled, Jia asks if she can consider herself a member of their genius group now.
As Min-kyu works, he keeps getting distracted by the sight of Jia’s heart-shaped display of his books. Unable to concentrate, he finally opens Jia’s petition that has been on his desk all this time.
“There was something my father used to say all the time,” she wrote, “If there’s just one person, that’s enough. If there’s only one person, you can bear it without breaking.”
She continues that they endlessly search for that one person who’ll be the star to light their way, and hope to become that one person for them, too.
Min-kyu takes Dong-hyun’s rice ball and unwraps it. Slowly, he takes a bite. “Perhaps you are already that one person for someone,” she finishes.
The next morning, Dr. Oh tries to get through to Min-kyu to tell him that his latest blood results are really good, but Min-kyu ignores his phone.
Decked out in a curly wig and novelty glasses, Jia’s ready in the presentation hall, where her friends and fellow inventors laud her efforts in getting the competition reinstated. The atmosphere is festive and they agree to cheer for whoever wins.
At the last minute, Yoo-chul decides to attend, too. Director Yoon explains to her that it will have a good effect on her performance evaluations. On the way, Yoo-chul bumps into her dad, who thanks him, though he doesn’t look happy about it. Yoo-chul says he’s doing it for Ri-el.
Baek-gyun also makes his way to the hall. Ri-el opens the final round and introduces CEO Yoo-chul. He takes the podium with a smile, but it fades as he looks up at the gallery and sees Min-kyu looking down at him in challenge.
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The boss shows up for the show
Agh, what a place to stop! I just want him to properly meet (and fall in love with, obviously) real-Jia already arrrrgghhhh! Seriously, though. The previous episodes were so sad I thought I would die. I didn’t think I’d be particularly invested in this competition, but it’s been built up with so much emotional tension that it’s become a surprisingly high-stakes affair for a lot of our characters.
Let’s talk Baek-gyun before we talk Min-kyu. Firstly, I rate a man who knows how to change. (But wow, was he bad.) I’m really rooting for him and Pi, though. They obviously understand each other really well, and I love that Pi is helping him with Jia. These scientists are ultimately problem-solvers, and whatever the outcome, it feels like it’s in Pi’s nature to uncross what tangled wires she finds. She strikes me as someone who would be decent at a relationship, which is more than we can say about our (lovable) romance-impaired dunderheads, Hok-tal and Ssan-ip.
I also want to rewind a bit and deal with Baek-gyun’s assertion that Min-kyu’s apparent recovery is all the robot’s work. To put it plainly, he’s wrong, and this week’s episodes prove that beyond a shadow of a doubt. Aji-3 is responsible for one thing: what happened in their first meeting. That is, a contact with her that didn’t elicit an allergic reaction. While that laid the foundation for his belief in the robot, his current state is much more complex than that: It’s no longer about simple contact. With Jia, he’s become practically normal, able to have contact even with other people and function in the outside world. All that stems from the very real trust he began to place in her after the second time she saved his life (with all those needles). The fact is, the real robot would never have been able to achieve the relationship Jia-as-fauxbot did, because it came from doing things the robot could never have done. Put even more simply, that relationship came around because Jia was a human. She reacts to him with human sympathy and warmth, not to mention that she now has feelings for him of her own.
Here’s the thing: Min-kyu is very definitely in love with her, and I think he knows this on a visceral level, even if it’s unthinkable to admit it. But she’s not “real,” and that’s what kills him. It was all fun and games when the emotions weren’t serious: you know, “Cool, a robot likes me!” But the second his emotions turned out to be real—more real than he anticipated or imagined—then it’s immediately a tragedy. It’s not even comparable to being “a man or an alien” because those offer a possiblity of resolution, where a robot offers none. And that, as Min-kyu proves, is utterly, absolutely soul-crushing. When you’ve felt loved, encouraged, supported and understood, and then you face the reality that it’s nothing but the result of algorithms and computations from a system you’ve trained to understand your input…there’s no way to reconcile that.
Having experienced all the best parts of a real relationship with fauxbot-Jia, he’s now had to confront the fact that it was nothing but the illusion of a relationship—the illusion of closeness, reciprocity and authenticity, as created by a robot. And he’s at last reached the point where illusion no longer suffices, because what he really needs is something real. That’s what he’s needed all along, even though he’s only realizing it now; that’s what Jia was giving him, even though he doesn’t know it. But therein lies his crisis: The robot can never be real in the way that he wants and needs. That’s what makes the truth about Ri-el an even worse blow, as everything crashes down at once.
All that said, however, I think he will accept his feelings, if harshly tempered by the reality that comes with it. But I don’t know if he’ll be able to hold onto that “truth” as long as Jia does things like make heart-displays with his books. That’s not the result of input—that’s all Jia! (That’s why he keeps falling for her!) It’s just as well that he’s inching ever closer to the real Jia, and I kind of love that the whole Jo family has a hand in helping him step back into the world. Jia aside, Min-kyu’s actively chosen to trust Jin-bae (even though I’m scared that it’ll go badly somehow), who’s acknowledged him in a way I don’t think anyone has before.
Dong-hyun is even more fantastic, because she kind of meets him on his level, and that at once disarms him and forces perspective on him. I don’t know about you guys, but I found his moment of eating the rice ball a thousand times more emotionally affecting than any kiss. It just means so much more. As much as he was provoked by Dong-hyun, he was touched by her and the story of her lonely, outsider-aunt. It’s emotional closeness and relating to that experience that brings him to the point of trying her rice ball. Lastly, real-Jia herself has reached him in so many ways, and the letter was really lovely because it offered that closeness to him again, literally speaking to him personally. I am just dying waiting for him to put all those separate pieces of Jia together. I know there’ll be angst first (whyyyy?) but then there’ll just be puppies and rainbows forever, right?
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