Let’s Eat 3: Episode 5
The trip down memory lane is all fun and games — until someone gets hurt. At least physical pain is easier to deal with than the emotional and psychological trauma of caring for a parent with dementia. Thankfully, Dae-young is there to help everyone in his quietly intuitive way, proving once again why we love this foodie the way we do.
EPISODE 5: “Busan Cuisine”
Ji-woo runs out into the street, not paying attention to traffic, and Dae-young narrowly saves her from being hit by a car. His anger turns to concern when he sees how hard she’s crying, and when he asks what’s wrong, Ji-woo sobs out that her mother had an accident and is in the hospital.
They grab a taxi and Dae-young orders the driver to head to the train station, thinking that Ji-woo’s mother still lives in Busan. But Ji-woo instead guides the driver to a local hospital. Dae-young reaches over and holds Ji-woo’s hand in comfort, but she seems so lost in her thoughts that she doesn’t react to his touch.
Back to 2004. The boys are busy playing computer games at the local PC room. Well, at least Dae-young and Byung-sam are, since Sung-joo is busy posing cutely for the webcam. Jin-seok arrives, asking them if they’d like to go to the beach today. They all agree, and soon they’re on the road to… Busan?
Dae-young is irritated because he has to work in the morning, and he thought they were going to a more local beach instead of one that’s a five-hour drive away. Byung-sam grumbles that they should have taken the brand new high-speed KTX train that only takes three hours, but Jin-seok chirps that they’re saving money this way.
Sung-joo also gripes that it’s pointless going all the way down to Busan for one day and that they should have planned ahead for a weekend getaway. But when Jin-seok’s phone rings, they discover the real reason he was so eager to head to Busan at the last minute — Seo-yeon had called him and asked him to bring him her phone to her mother’s house in Busan. She’d threatened to drop out of the soccer club if he refused.
The other boys are frustrated with Jin-seok and his servant-like love for Seo-yeon, but resign themselves to their fate.
Ji-woo’s visiting her mother in Busan since it’s her deceased father’s memorial day. Mom wonders why Seo-yeon agreed to come down, too, since she doesn’t need to participate, but Ji-woo assures Mom that Seo-yeon is fine and can entertain herself. Seo-yeon pops in, showing off the new marketing signs she created for Mom’s store, and Mom coos in delight over them, much to Ji-woo’s annoyance.
Seo-yeon drags Ji-woo out of the store, saying that they’re going to the beach. Ji-woo doesn’t think that’ll be any fun until Seo-yeon mentions that Jin-seok is bringing her phone — and that Dae-young is coming, too. Seo-yeon smirks as Ji-woo suddenly changes her mind.
The boys continue to crawl down the highway in Jin-seok’s junker of a car. Despite having all the windows down for airflow, the boys are sweating to death. Dae-young convinces Jin-seok to turn on the AC — but it causes the car to start overheating. So they reluctantly roll down the windows and turn the heater on, resuming their sweaty drive to Busan.
Finally they arrive and meet up with the girls on the beach. Ji-woo’s happy to see them, and Seo-yeon’s just happy to have her phone back. Jin-seok adorably thanks Seo-yeon for giving him the chance to see Busan, and she chirps, “Have fun!” as she relaxes on her towel, not wanting anything to do with them. Jin-seok’s determined to stay close to Seo-yeon, and passes on the offer of lunch.
The other boys are starving and Ji-woo takes them to a local restaurant that specializes in hagfish. Okay, this show has done amazing propaganda for various food groups over the years, ultimately making me want to stuff my face with so many things that I’d normally avoid. But there’s just no way that I’m gonna find something that looks like a big ol’ albino worm appetizing.
However, Ji-woo and the boys happily enjoy their feast, and the rest of the boys are delighted to discover her “stuff the meat and the lettuce in your mouth at the same time” trick. Ji-woo’s disappointed to learn that they’ll be heading back to Seoul later that night, so they won’t be there long.
Their bellies full, they wander back to the beach, passing by a kiosk where you can win a prize by smashing enough tiles, taekwondo style. Dae-young challenges his friends to a contest to see who can smash the most bricks — the loser pays for coffee. All three boys line up, and Dae-young is the winner! Poor Byung-sam is the loser, having barely even smashed one tile (and nearly breaking his hand in the process).
Dae-young wins a cute kitschy keychain of a pink bear and nonchalantly offers it to Ji-woo. She’s thrilled by the gift and clutches it tightly.
Jin-seok is relieved to see them all return since he can abandon his post of watching Seo-yeon’s personal items, and runs into the water, splashing away all the handsome admirers around Seo-yeon — except he seems to splash Seo-yeon even more, much to her displeasure.
As Seo-yeon returns to relaxing on the beach, the rest of the gang enjoy playing around in the water. Ji-woo eventually drags her back in since they want to play cavalry battle, and they need her to complete a team. As Dae-young and Sung-joo hoist Ji-woo, Byung-sam and Jin-seok do the same for Seo-yeon and the two women attempt to be the first to steal the other’s hat.
Ji-woo’s more distracted by the fact that Dae-young’s arms are wrapped around her thigh than she is focused on grabbing her sister’s hat. But when Dae-young reminds her that if they lose, he’ll have to pay for dinner, she suddenly refocuses and manages to grab Seo-yeon’s hat. Seo-yeon whines that Ji-woo scratched her cheek on purpose when she reached for the hat, despite Ji-woo’s denials that it was an accident.
Seo-yeon’s ready for the next round, though, and sneakily whips out one of her long legs and knocks Ji-woo out of the boys’ arms and into the water. Seo-yeon smirks as she tells the sputtering Ji-woo that “it was an accident.” Then she starts laughing at Ji-woo’s wet hair, calling it seaweed.
Ji-woo’s not about to take that insult lying down and the two girls start fighting in the middle of the water. In the midst of their hair-pulling, the keychain Dae-young gave Ji-woo falls out of her pocket and disappears into the ocean.
The game is effectively over once the girls end their fight, and everyone agrees to take a break and relax. Ji-woo, realizing the keychain is missing, says that she’ll stay a little longer “playing” in the ocean. She ducks her head down beneath the water, looking for the keychain, but she can’t find it.
The boys enjoy the rest of the afternoon at the beach until it’s time for dinner. After they get cleaned up, they realize that they haven’t seen Ji-woo for hours. Since it’s dark out, there’s no way she’d still be playing in the water, but just as Dae-young’s about to call her, Ji-woo bobs out of the water like an errant dolphin.
Shivering, she returns to the beach. Concerned, Dae-young wraps his jacket around her, and then notices that her feet are scraped and bloody from the rocks in the water.
Without hesitation, he scoops her up in his arms as literal fireworks begin to go off around them. It’s a super romantic setting as he princess-carries her to the local first aid station, reassuring her that she’s “light as a bean.” Awww, his new nickname for Ji-woo is the same as her dog’s name, Kongali (“small bean”).
As the nurse tends to Ji-woo’s injuries, Dae-young calls the guys and tells them to have dinner without him — instead, he’ll walk Ji-woo home. He’s curious why Ji-woo was out in the water for so long, and Ji-woo reluctantly confesses she lost the keychain he gave her.
She’s afraid that he’ll be mad at her, but Dae-young wonders why she spent her day looking for a cheap worthless trinket. Ji-woo’s face falls — it wasn’t worthless to her!
After Ji-woo changes, Dae-young surprises her with a new keychain. He didn’t win it, but he saw one for sale and bought it for her. Aw, it may not be the exact same as the one he won, but it makes Ji-woo smile just as big.
While they wait for Dae-young, the other three boys decide to check out the nightlife (aka the ladies) on the beach. Sung-joo agrees to be the wingman for the other two, but Jin-seok torpedoes his chance by barging in and introducing himself, and being a general annoyance to the tough local girls. Byung-sam, of course, can barely look at them, much less say a word.
Dae-young slowly escorts Ji-woo home, letting her lean on his arm to make it easier for her to walk. She’s adorably cute as she tries to hide how happy she is to be walking by his side.
They arrive at her home, and Ji-woo’s joy fades when she sees Mom and Seo-yeon being as chummy and comfortable as though they were blood-related. But once Mom sees Ji-woo, Mom yells at her for being out so late without calling, and also for scratching Seo-yeon’s face.
Ji-woo pouts that she was hurt, too, showing off her bandaged feet. But Mom isn’t having it, and Ji-woo grumpily walks into the house.
Mom then turns her attention to Dae-young, demanding to know if he was the reason Ji-woo got hurt. Dae-young reassures her it was just due to Ji-woo playing so long in the ocean, and Mom grumbles that of course Ji-woo would be that clumsy.
Mom thanks Dae-young for walking Ji-woo home and gives him a few won to buy himself a snack, getting serious when she warns him that if he hurts Ji-woo, he’ll answer to her. But she smiles and waves as he walks away.
Back to 2018, and Ji-woo rushes into the hospital where Mom is being treated for broken ribs after falling down the nursing home stairs. Dae-young’s there too, and familiarly greets Mom.
Except, because of her dementia, she doesn’t remember him and wonders if he’s “Miss Ji-woo’s” boyfriend. Dae-young, with his intuitive sixth sense that something isn’t right and this is creating an awkward situation for Ji-woo, politely excuses himself to pick up a few items for Mom’s hospital stay.
The manager of the nursing home arrives to inform Ji-woo that it’s all Mom’s fault that she fell down the stairs. Ji-woo’s ready to yell at them for not taking proper care of her mother, but the manager continues to insist that it’s written in the contract that the stairs are off limits to patients and Mom violated the rules. This, plus the other issues they’ve had with her, mean that they won’t be able to care for Ji-woo’s mother anymore.
Dae-young arrives with his purchases in time to overhear the manager tell Ji-woo that Mom is kicked out of the nursing home and they’ll be demanding that Ji-woo pay for the fire damage in the kitchen as well.
Pretending that he didn’t hear anything, Dae-young gives her the bag of supplies. Ji-woo is impressed that he seemed to think of everything, and Dae-young reminds her that he’s been an insurance salesman for years, so he knows what people need in the hospital.
Ji-woo doesn’t understand why he purchased two pairs of slippers for her mother, though, and he points out that Ji-woo’s wearing mismatched shoes. One of those pairs is for Ji-woo. Aw, he really did think of everything!
Over at Sun’s apartment, the maintenance man has cleaned up from the fire in the bathroom. Seo-yeon is feeling guilty not just for the fire, but for Sun’s arm injury from when he slipped on the foam-covered bathroom floor. Seo-yeon promises that she’ll pay him back for all the expenses once she finds her missing business partner. Sun says that he’s reinstating “the line.”
Later, Seo-yeon accepts a delivery for Sun, and once she discovers it’s the ingredients for a meal, she makes it for him. When he discovers her plating the meal, he yells at her for ruining it. She points out that she was just trying to help as a way to apologize, plus she knows it would be hard for him to cook with his hurt arm.
Sun dumps the meal into the sink, yelling that accepting the delivery, opening the box, checking the ingredients, and cooking the meal are all a part of his work, and she ruined it. Seo-yeon angrily points out that she put effort into making it for him, but becomes even angrier when Sun mutters that he wishes his cousin never came in contact with someone who’s so “low-class.”
Following after Sun, Seo-yeon catches her foot on the edge of the table and trips, landing on Sun as they fall on the floor. No accidental kisses, though — just accidental nose bumps. And maybe an accidental something else, as Sun suddenly makes a hasty exit out from under Seo-yeon. She’s confused until she realizes that “little Sun” must’ve been happy to see her, and smiles in satisfaction that she was able to provoke such a reaction.
Ji-woo’s busy trying to figure out what to do with her mother. The waitlist for a government-provided caregiver is at least a month long, and Ji-woo needs someone right away. Ji-woo asks her coworker Yoon-ji if she knows of any private hospitals that are hiring since Ji-woo needs a regular schedule and won’t be able to work nights once Mom moves in with her. It would mean less pay and less respect since she’d be the newbie, but Ji-woo needs to do whatever it takes to help her mother.
Ji-woo also dementia-proofs her house (which seems similar to baby-proofing) and adds a security camera so she can keep an eye on her mother while Mom’s at home and Ji-woo’s away. Ji-woo brings Mom home, explaining that she’s looking for a new place on the ground floor, but for now Mom will need to be careful going up and down the flight of stairs.
Dae-young arrives just then, finishing up a walk with Kongali. Kongali’s happy to see Ji-woo, but Mom is terrified of dogs and hides in fear. Ji-woo frets that she forgot about Mom’s fear of dogs, and Dae-young offers to temporarily take care of Kongali. Aw, poor Kongali is so sad that she can’t say “hello” to Ji-woo. Mom wonders who the handsome stranger is, and Ji-woo simply says it’s her neighbor.
In the morning, Sun’s adjusting his tie as he gets ready to leave for work, and suddenly Seo-yeon leans into him to “help” him fix his tie. She then “innocently” asks him to help her zip up her dress because she can’t reach, but he nervously ignores her. Ha, she easily zips it up herself, anyway.
When he arrives at the parking garage, Sun realizes he can’t find his car keys. That’s because Seo-yeon has them, and offers to drive him to work since she knows it’ll be difficult for him with his hurt arm. She leans over, getting super cozy as she reaches for the seatbelt to buckle him in. Sun finally snaps, asking what she wants from him so she’ll stop acting like this.
Seo-yeon’s demands are simple: She just wants an apology from him for calling her low-class. Refusing to apologize, Sun decides to take a taxi instead.
Ji-woo emerges from her shower to find Mom trying to turn on the gas stove but having difficulty getting the burner to light (thanks to Ji-woo’s mother-proofing the kitchen). Mom just wants to make some of her eight-year-old daughter’s favorite foods, but Ji-woo reassures Mom that she’ll take care of it — right after she cleans up the mess Mom made in the kitchen.
When Ji-woo looks up from cleaning, she realizes Mom has disappeared. Ji-woo races outside to find Mom hurrying down the street. Mom stops a young girl in pigtails, calling her “Ji-woo,” but the young girl sasses back that Mom’s crazy. Ji-woo catches up just then and tells Mom that the little girl isn’t Ji-woo.
Mom’s concerned, since, in her mind, Ji-woo is eight years old and coming home from school right now. Mom’s worried that since she’s moved, young Ji-woo won’t know where to find them. But “Miss Ji-woo” reassures Mom that she’ll once again take care of it as she escorts Mom back to her home.
Seo-yeon’s putting on her classic crocodile-tear sob-story at a restaurant, pleading for the ingredients of their famous Japanese herring soba noodles so she can take them back to her “sick friend.” Except Dae-young just so happens to be eating lunch there as well, amused that Seo-yeon hasn’t changed at all over the years.
She’s surprised that he’s there (although perhaps it isn’t a surprise, if he’s also researching the restaurant for CQ Foods). She wonders if the herring soba noodle dish is any good, wrinkling her nose as she says it smells fishy. Dae-young: “What? What?”
He launches into a spiel about the importance of drying and cooking herring (“It’s like a love story!”), which makes the dish so special and delicious. He happily slurps down his noodles while Seo-yeon watches. She marvels at his foodie enthusiasm, which reminds her of how Ji-woo used to act when they used to eat together.
Seo-yeon grumbles about the way Ji-woo threatened her in the hospital elevator. She gripes that Ji-woo’s temper is as bad as ever, but Dae-young muses that Ji-woo probably had her reasons. After Seo-yeon leaves, Dae-young wonders if Seo-yeon knows about Mom’s dementia.
Seo-yeon and Sun meet in the elevator on the way up to his apartment, and she hands him the bag of food, telling him it’s repayment for ruining his dish last night. He accepts it, then cautiously sidles away, practically squishing himself against the wall to keep his distance from her (much to Seo-yeon’s amusement).
She throws her “low-class” act into high gear as she “helps” him cook his dinner, and Sun finally cracks and stutters out an apology. That’s all Seo-yeon wanted, and she saunters away in satisfaction, leaving him unmolested. But Sun suddenly swoops her up, carries her to her room, and dumps her on the bed.
Now she’s the panicked one as he leans down, telling her that he can cross the line, too. But instead of kissing her, he just whispers a warning for her to be careful. Seo-yeon’s surprised but also annoyed (and possibly impressed) at being schooled in her own game.
Ji-woo looks online for other nursing jobs while her mom sleeps, then gets a call from a realtor that she has a ground-floor apartment available ASAP and if Ji-woo’s interested, she’d better come see it right away before someone else snaps it up.
Worried about leaving her mother behind, Ji-woo wrestles with the idea of locking Mom inside the house, but does it anyway as she hurries to see the new apartment. But Ji-woo’s attention is only half there as she looks around the other apartment, since she keeps one eye on the camera feed of her mother sleeping. When she notices Mom get out of bed, Ji-woo runs home.
Dae-young also returns home, concerned that Kongali seems to be barking at Ji-woo’s apartment. He hears pounding on Ji-woo’s door — it’s Mom, pleading to be let out. Ji-woo runs up the stairs and starts frantically unlocking the padlock. Ji-woo tells Dae-young that she had to run an errand and couldn’t have Mom wandering around the neighborhood while she was gone.
Once Ji-woo opens the door, she sees the childlike fear in her Mom’s eyes over being left alone. Undoubtedly still conflicted over the need to lock her mother inside at all, Ji-woo hugs Mom tight.
Ji-woo takes Mom to the hospital to receive more care for her broken ribs. Ji-woo gets a call from Dae-young, asking to see her right away. Leaving Mom in the care of the nurses during her treatment, Ji-woo meets with the nursing home manager, who bows and hands her a large gift basket as Dae-young watches. The manager apologizes for what happened to Mom and takes all the blame, then reassures Ji-woo that they will pay for the hospital bills.
The manager leaves, and Ji-woo’s stunned by this sudden change in attitude. Dae-young explains that he followed up on a suspicion he had, and even went undercover to find out that the nursing home was in violation of fire codes and hadn’t changed their light in the stairwell in months — since it was so dark in the hallway, that makes the accident the nursing home’s fault.
Dae-young also gives her a brochure for another nursing home, encouraging her to check it out since not all nursing homes are as terrible as the one she’d been using. It’s definitely a much nicer one, and Mom is thrilled to have her own little space again. Dae-young helps Mom get settled in, and she thanks him by giving him a few won to buy himself a snack. Aw, it’s just like she did back in 2004.
Dae-young tries to return the money to her, but Mom insists he take it. She adds that if he hurts “Miss Ji-woo,” then he’ll have to answer to her. Yep, just like 2004, and Dae-young tells her that he hasn’t forgotten.
As they leave Mom behind in her new nursing home, Dae-young reassures Ji-woo that she’s making the right decision, so she doesn’t need to feel guilty. Ji-woo tells him that another name for guilt and responsibility is “burden.” She admits that she actually feels relieved, as though she just set down a huge burden. Ji-woo: “I’m a terrible person, aren’t I?”
Epilogue. Sun and Ji-woo head to a small hole-in-the-wall (but super popular) restaurant for lunch. It’s his way of apologizing for being a hassle the night he got drunk. As they enter the restaurant, they see Dae-young stroking a woman’s hair. The woman turns and it’s Seo-yeon, who rests her head against Dae-young’s chest. Sun and Ji-woo stare in shock.
Is Dae-young the perfect guy or what? I loved how he quietly sussed out the situation with Ji-woo and her mother and did what he could to help while making sure not to step on any toes (or “cross the line,” as Sun would say). He’s so obviously worried about Ji-woo but I’m sure he feels like he can’t really say anything since she hasn’t particularly opened up that part of her life to him, and Dae-young isn’t exactly the nosy or pushy type. Yet it’s proof he cares, right? He wants to make sure Ji-woo is taken care of, and her family is taken care of, and is willing to help her shoulder the “burden” (so to speak) without letting on that’s what he’s doing until it’s resolved to her benefit. There’s just something so appealing about that kind of guy that I can’t even get mad he gets a new love interest every season because now I wanna know how I can sign up to be the love interest in Season 4 (fight me, Ji-woo! I’ll high-kick you just like Seo-yeon!).
But in all seriousness, I really loved how the show is portraying the difficulties of dealing with a family member who has dementia. Okay, maybe I hate it, too, since it cuts a little too close to home, but I have so much admiration for Ji-woo because she was willing to jump in and do whatever it took to care for her mother without thinking about how it would effectively ruin her life. Being the primary caretaker for someone with dementia — especially if it’s someone you love that no longer recognizes you for who you really are — is hard. Even with all of Ji-woo’s medical training, there’s nothing that can properly prepare you to try and be the only one there for someone who is essentially like a lost toddler every hour of the day. It’s exhausting, physically and mentally, and impossible to do by yourself.
Which is, perhaps, the lesson that Ji-woo is learning. I get the feeling she has been doing everything on her own for the past few years, so it’s shaking her up a bit to have Dae-young suddenly and quietly swoop in with his gentle encouragement and assistance. It’s no wonder, too, that Ji-woo might be furious every time Dae-young mentions Seo-yeon, since even thinking beyond the basic “something very bad went down between the sisters” assumption, I’d be jealous, too, if a guy that considerate and thoughtful (even in college! Hello, swoon-worthy princess-carry to the infirmary and thoughtful replacement of a cheap keychain!) seemed interested in my pretty stepsister who has no end of guys falling for her.
Sometimes literally “falling” for her, too. Heh. I’m still giggling over Seo-yeon’s over-the-top flirtation with Sun. Yeah, she should have probably been less manipulative, but this is Seo-yeon we’re talking about. She seems to like pushing people’s passive-aggressive buttons until they finally burst out with how they’re really feeling or what they really think (or just finally saying the simple words she wants to hear, like “I’m sorry”). So yeah, Seo-yeon is manipulative, but I think she has a lot of respect for honesty — or at least people who call her out on her BS and refuse to be pushed around.