Chocolate: Episode 3
Just when you thought things couldn’t get more complicated. Our chef was so sure that moving to Greece would fix everything, for her and for everyone else, but thanks to one bowl of dumpling stew, she’s right back to where she started. She’s already thinking of running away again, but maybe it’s time she stop running and start facing her problems head-on.
EPISODE 3 RECAP
On a plane to Greece, Kang thinks back to hanging out with Min-sung back when he was dating Cha-young. Min-sung wanted Kang to try her food and fall in love with it just as he did. “If you ever fall for Cha-young,” Min-sung joked, “swallow your feelings. I don’t want to be in a love triangle with you.” Uhhh…
Kang explores Greece, and we see him and Cha-young walking the same paths but at different times. He finally finds the restaurant she works at and learns from her co-worker that she’s participating in a cooking contest. Kang goes to said contest and watches her, remembering how distraught Min-sung had been when she’d broken up with him. Min-sung suspected that she liked someone else, making Kang furious.
To Cha-young’s horror, Kang raises his hand when the announcer asks for volunteer judges. He reaches her table, his gaze cold, and tries her dish, while she falls into a memory. Min-sung hadn’t been able to make their movie date, so Cha-young watched the movie with Kang.
Exhausted, Kang kept dozing off until he passed out on her shoulder. That’s when she decided to go to Greece. “I keep falling for him,” she thought. “And missing him. So I’m going to a place where I’ll never see him.” She looks up at Kang now as he thanks her for the food, emotionless, and moves on.
Cha-young ends up as a finalist, but she’s too focused on Kang to care. She’s thinking about the last time she saw him, when he’d confronted her at a bus stop. He’d asked over and over if she ever really loved Min-sung, and all she could say was that she liked someone else.
The announcer asks Kang what he thought of Cha-young’s dish, and Kang looks right at her as he answers. He calls her cooking methods daring and sexy, “but also conniving and heartless.”
He reveals that the base of her dish was actually the Korean-style beef bone soup and that her poor execution of that deserves the subtraction of 50 points. The crowd, as well as the other judges, erupt into critical whispers. Cha-young holds Kang’s gaze, hurt but helpless.
Afterwards, Tae-hyun is cursing Kang for making them lose (unaware Kang is his sis’s first love). Cha-young just sighs and wonders where she should run away to now. Meanwhile, Kang calls Min-sung to check up on him and lies that he’s in China for business.
Back at work, Cha-young soon finds out that Kang isn’t finished with her. He comes as a customer and asks for dumpling stew, which she must decline since the restaurant only serves Italian cuisine. To butter up the manager, Kang orders two bottles of their most expensive wine. And with that, Cha-young has no choice.
Cha-young tells Kang to wait until after closing. By the time she’s hard at work on the stew, Kang walks in and asks if she’s even curious about Min-sung. Frustrated, Cha-young snaps that she has no responsibility over a relationship that ended four years ago.
Kang tells her to forget the stew and starts to walk away, only to turn back. “[Min-sung] is on his deathbed, saying that he wants to eat your dumpling stew one last time,” he seethes. “So I came all the way here like a madman. But I don’t want the last meal of his life to be made by a woman like you.” Ouch, I felt that.
Kang ignores Cha-young’s tear-filled eyes and walks away — straight into Tae-hyun. Still upset, and seemingly drunk, Tae-hyun recognizes Kang and demands to know why he ruined his sister’s chance in the contest. Cha-young comes out and tries to hold Tae-hyun back, making Kang assume that he’s her boyfriend.
Tae-hyun slurs that Kang should call his mom and ask for help, unknowingly hitting a nerve. Kang punches him, sending him to the ground, and Cha-young yelps. Kang walks off, flinging Tae-hyun to the ground again when he tries to cling on. Cha-young rushes out to catch him but stops when she hears him on the phone with Min-sung. She looks on sadly as he tells his friend to pick a different last meal.
The next day, a tired Cha-young goes out to an abandoned building (from the first episode) and looks out at the water. Behind her, Kang sees her but says nothing and goes on his way.
Kang returns to Korea, welcomed by his grandmother’s wrath: a teacup thrown at his head. Apparently, the doctor who was supposed to operate on Min-sung was the son of an important sponsor.
The doctor scoffs that Kang couldn’t even save his friend, and Grandma apologizes by saying that Kang was raised by an incompetent mother. Grandma orders Kang to beg for forgiveness. We don’t get to see if he does, but he leaves with a bitter expression on his face.
Kang visits Min-sung in the hospice, delivering dumpling stews from the best restaurants he could find. Min-sung appreciates Kang’s efforts, but after one bite, he can’t eat anymore. “You should’ve tried Cha-young’s stew,” Min-sung says. “If you had, you wouldn’t be able to eat just anyone else’s.”
It turns out that Cha-young has returned to Korea, too. She calls Min-sung’s law firm to ask where he is and then travels all the way to the hospice. However, once she reaches his door, she’s too scared to go inside.
She heads back outside, ready to leave, when she hears Kang’s voice behind her. She quickly picks up a nearby basin and holds it over her head to hide. Once he’s gone, the hospice’s cook snatches the basin from her and, mistaking her for a new employee, orders her to peel the onions.
Instead of setting the cook straight, Cha-young stays and peels onions, crying, all evening long. The cook eventually stops her, knowing she wasn’t the real employee, and asks why she silently did as she was told. Before Cha-young can answer, the cook invites her over for dinner.
The cook takes her to her restaurant (she volunteers at the hospice once a week) and presents a full spread of food. But Ajumma keeps coming out with more rice, forgetting that she’d already brought it.
Alarmed, Ajumma asks how many times she came out. Cha-young smiles and lies that she’d asked for two bowls of rice. A few moments later, Cha-young watches with concern as Ajumma gets another customer and freezes, having completely forgotten her own recipes.
At the hospital, Kang tries to enter the OR but is stopped by security. His uncle Seung-hoon pops in and explains that this is his punishment for disrespecting their sponsor’s son.
Around the corner, Joon stands by and overhears his dad tell Kang that all of his surgeries will be carried out by other doctors. Really? Really? Dad talks about these patients like they’re freaking chess pieces.
Then, when Kang pulls into the family home, he sees the kind housekeeper waiting outside with his suitcases. On top of being kicked out of work, Grandma also wants him kicked out of the house for a while.
Resigned, Kang asks that the housekeeper bring him a box from his room. She retrieves it, and he smiles to see a childhood photo and his mom’s journal for recipes. He flashes back to when he was a kid, some time after his mom passed.
The housekeeper had wondered why he was storing the journal away when he wanted to become a chef. “I don’t want to be a chef,” he’d answered. “I’ll become a doctor. I have to become a better doctor than Joon.” Present-day Kang flips through the journal’s pages until he lands on one particular recipe — dumpling stew.
Back at the ajumma’s restaurant, Cha-young has taken over cooking duty. Ajumma asks where she works and, hearing she came from Greece, then asks what she’s doing here in Korea. Cha-young smiles and says that she’s here to cook for someone. From there, she revisits the hospice and runs into Min-sung’s father.
Cha-young asks Dad (not knowing who he is) if she can use the kitchen, but Dad informs her that someone’s already using it. When she heads inside and finds the kitchen, she discovers that that someone is Kang.
Cha-young lingers by the door, unsure of what to do, while inside, a determined Kang works on his dumplings. But then Kang gets a phone call from Seung-hoon saying they need him for an emergency surgery.
Apparently, a chairman — and close friend of Grandma’s — collapsed and his chance of survival is slim. Once at the hospital and all suited up, Kang learns that the patient was initially Joon’s. This tells Kang that Seung-hoon is just using this chance to make him look bad.
Seung-hoon rushes to his son’s office, finding him suited up as well, and asks what he thinks he’s doing. Joon insists that he must operate on his patient, but Dad presses that he should stick to his story of being out of town.
Joon sighs, saying that Dad needs to stop with the cheating. He’s already told him time and time again that he can beat Kang. “Why don’t you believe me?!” he demands. Besides, doesn’t Dad realize that if Kang succeeds, it would make Joon look bad?
Still, nothing gets through to Dad. He stutters that Joon can go to the OR as long as he makes up some excuse as to why he can’t operate. Joon, nearly crying from frustration, pulls himself together and joins Kang and his team, stating he’s there as backup.
Joon’s excuse is that he had a couple of drinks, but Kang sees right through that. “You’re not, by any chance, lying to avoid the surgery?” Kang asks. Seeing the fear in Joon’s eyes, Kang encourages him to do the surgery himself.
Joon hesitates before accepting the scalpel and taking Kang’s place. But right off the bat, Joon goes into a direct clipping, which Kang warns is dangerous due to the patient’s condition and old age.
Joons snaps at Kang to stand back, so he does. Kang quietly watches the procedure until Joon accidentally snips at something, causing serious bleeding. With the patient close to cardiac arrest, Kang orders Joon to switch out.
Still in shock, Joon stays where he is and tells Kang to get out. Kang pushes Joon aside, saying that if he wants the chairman to live, then he should get out. As Kang and the team scramble to stop the bleeding, Joon stands in the back, utterly defeated. When the patient’s vitals return to normal, the whole room lets out a sigh of relief. Joon, however, whips off his gloves and wordlessly exits the OR.
Thankfully, Kang comes out of the surgery successful. He later calls Min-sung to confirm their fishing plans, but he’s interrupted with news of nine emergency patients from a bus crashing into a truck. He rushes to the ER, where it’s total chaos, and tosses out orders before getting ready for multiple surgeries. He tells a disappointed but understanding Min-sung to wait for him — he’ll make their fishing date no matter what.
Meanwhile, Cha-young had been in the hospice’s kitchen all night finishing what Kang started. Once her dumpling stew is complete, she finds Min-sung’s fiancee In-ju and passes it along to her.
In-ju sadly reveals that Min-sung was presented with dumpling stew from various restaurants but hasn’t been able to eat any of it. Cha-young smiles and tells her that Kang made the food himself. “Please tell Min-sung to enjoy the meal,” she says. “And that Dr. Lee Kang put in his best effort to make it.”
In-ju delivers the food to Min-sung, telling him exactly what Cha-young said. Min-sung is a bit hesitant, but with one bite, his entire face lights up. He looks out the window, out where Cha-young now stands. Though it’s unclear if he can actually see her, he knowingly smiles.
Outside, Cha-young silently cries as she looks up at the hospice, thinking, “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.”
Hours later, Kang trudges back into his office, completely wiped out. And looking at his clock, he’s already missed his fishing date with Min-sung. He tries Min-sung’s cell, but there’s no answer. Oh no. Don’t tell me…
Seconds later, his phone starts ringing, but it’s not Min-sung. “Kang,” Min-sung’s dad sighs. “Min-sung is gone.” Min-sung had waited at the fishing spot and passed soon after, Dad explains. At that, Kang is stunned into silence, his eyes filling with tears.
What a tragedy to have lost the sweet Min-sung so soon. The character was such a bright light in our hero’s dark world, and I was expecting to enjoy him and the bromance a little bit longer. What makes it worse is that Kang is sure to feel guilty for being too busy to see him. Still, Min-sung’s death, while sad, was a beautiful one. Even with all the best food in the world, nothing beat the taste of Cha-young’s dumpling stew. I’m not sure how much Min-sung knew of Cha-young and Kang, or if he knew at all, but the whole thing with the stew seemed entirely personal to him. I doubt Min-sung was still hung up on Cha-young; there just wasn’t any closure. And the stew, which signified the taste of home for him, was the closure he needed before passing on.
But going back to Kang — I did not like him at all in the first half of this episode. I understood where he was coming from, but it didn’t make the viewing process any easier. He purposely brought Cha-young out to publicly embarrass her and then pretty much harassed her at work. (I will say, however, that Tae-hyun kind of had that punch comin’.) Like his family, he used his money and power to get what he wanted. Because yeah, he was technically looking out for his best friend, but he was also conducting his own personal revenge. On someone he, frankly, doesn’t know at all. I knew that it was too soon for Cha-young to tell the truth, but seeing her so hurt, I wanted her to explain herself anyway. After all, from Kang’s perspective, she’s not exactly making herself look good.
Moving forward, I’m not sure how our couple will get from point A, where we are now, to point B, when we saw them being all heart-eyed in the premiere’s opening. Things are far too complicated, with Min-sung stuck in the middle of them even after death. It’s going to take a lot of rebuilding just to become friends, but it’s best they start somewhere. And it might be best for them to start anew. I’d really love for Kang to warm up to Cha-young without actually knowing their connected pasts. I wouldn’t want him to look at her as someone to pity, and I certainly wouldn’t want him to look at her as Min-sung’s ex-girlfriend forever.
This episode also reminded me why I struggle with medical dramas. I don’t handle the theme of corruption well (it makes my blood boil), especially in a hospital setting. We have powerful people who view the medical field as one huge bank account, and who spend most of their time trying to fill it. Then for people like Joon and his parents, it’s a freaking competition. The patient on the table becomes an object, a prop essentially, and it frustrates the hell out of me. Even Kang, who sort of has his heart in the right place, frustrates me since he doesn’t actually want to be there. That has to be a problem, right?
In my head, people who don’t want to be doctors probably shouldn’t be doctors. And now that we know that Kang is sticking it out to prove himself, as well as his mom, it just doesn’t feel right. I’m hoping that with Min-sung’s death, Kang will remember his friend’s advice of retrieving his old dream. He’s lived in torment for so long, though, that his mindset will be hard to change. Joon, too, is proving to be a tough nut to crack, but he’s showing improvement. But Joon’s parents? And Grandma? They’re lost causes. Which is why I fear that Kang may never get the approval he so desperately wants.
- Premiere Watch: People With Flaws, Chocolate
- Yoon Kye-sang and Ha Ji-won begin a romantic journey in Greece for JTBC’s Chocolate
- First teaser for JTBC’s Chocolate with Ha Ji-won, Yoon Kye-sang
- Jang Seung-jo confirms JTBC drama Chocolate with Ha Ji-won, Yoon Kye-sang
- Ha Ji-won, Yoon Kye-sang up for JTBC melo Chocolate