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Itaewon Class: Episode 5

Forced into a hiatus, Danbam uses the time to work on their brand and quality. Our hero and Danbam owner, Sae-ro-yi, is confronted with an offer to improve the establishment, and he goes with his gut, taking a chance on people who are taking a risk on him. As the Danbam team grows, Sae-ro-yi builds his bench of his people, who he trusts and protects with his all. Slowly but surely, in classic Sae-ro-yi style, he teaches his people to trust and protect each other as well.

   
EPISODE 5 RECAP

Yi-seo announces to Sae-ro-yi that she wants to work at Danbam, but he rejects her offer because he already hired someone else. Geun-soo walks out of the bar, and Sae-ro-yi introduces her to his new hire. Geun-soo greets Yi-seo with a smile, and she looks perplexed by this situation.

Geun-soo thinks back to 11 years ago, when his older brother, Geun-won, came home from school with a busted-up face (courtesy of Sae-ro-yi). Geun-won released his anger on Geun-soo, who suffered the unfair beating. Geun-soo explains, “I am an illegitimate child.”

President Jang noticed Geun-soo’s injured face and learned that it was Geun-won’s doing, but he went on with his business and showed no affection toward the child. “I was born by mistake,” he continues. Geun-soo’s mother ran out of the house and noticed her son’s injured face, but she quickly brushed it off to head out for her shopping spree. “I was never loved by anyone.”

17-year-old Geun-soo asked his father to allow him to attend high school in Seoul on his own. President Jang finishes painting the four-character phrase “survival of the fittest” in hanja, and he says that it’s his favorite idiom. Geun-soo comments that it’s fitting. When asked why he wants to leave Jang Ga, Geun-soo responds that nobody needs him here and that he also doesn’t need anyone.

President Jang reminds Geun-soo that he’s an illegitimate child, also incompetent and young. He asserts that the weak can only survive by submitting to the strong, and Geun-soo responds that his father should have raised a dog instead. Oh, bold. President Jang gives up and lets Geun-soo have his way.

As we see Geun-soo moving out and making his own living, he narrates, “If you have no expectations, there is no disappointment. As long as I wasn’t in this house, I could find freedom anywhere. I’m living well on my own, without anyone’s help.” Then, Geun-soo recalls Sae-ro-yi accepting the consequences on his behalf and realizes that this is the first real adult he’s met.

Geun-soo only experienced this moment once, but that was enough for him. He asked Sae-ro-yi for a part-time job, and Sae-royi asked why he wants to work there. Geun-soo responds that he wants to make some pocket money, but he shares his real reason with us: “He’s someone I want to rely on. I didn’t want to do nothing after causing trouble.” Sae-ro-yi cleanly accepts Geun-soo as a new worker, and Geun-soo looks a bit surprised by the quick deal.

Back to the present, Seung-kwon and Hyun-yi return from their errands and meet the two delinquents in front of the bar. Seung-kwon immediately flares up in anger by their nerve, but Sae-ro-yi introduces Geun-soo as their new employee. Hyun-yi teases Seung-kwon that a good-looking worker will liven up their bar, and Yi-seo agrees. She then offers to be the manager, and Seung-kwon erupts in anger once more.

Inside, Yi-seo makes the case for her as Danbam’s manager. She asks Seung-kwon to serve their basic appetizer, and he reluctantly does so, per Sae-ro-yi’s orders. When he brings the soup dish, Yi-seo stops him and asks what the problem is here. Sae-ro-yi timidly guesses if it’s Seung-kwon’s face, and Hyun-yi cracks up. She points out how he holds the bowl from the edge with a finger on the inside instead of holding the bowl from the outside.

Then, Yi-seo flips through the menu and asks what their signature dish is. Sae-ro-yi says that all their dishes are well-made, but they don’t have one signature dish. She calls the menu disorganized and says that she doesn’t know what she should order.

Next, Yi-seo takes out her phone and pans around with the selfie camera. She says that their lack of concept is a secondary concern to the brightness inside and criticizes their fluorescent lighting. To further her point, she asks for one of the bestselling dishes, which Hyun-yi cooks up. Yi-seo takes a photo and shows them how unappealing the lighting makes the food look. Then, she takes a bite and says that the taste makes her want to gargle with soju. Yikesss.

When Yi-seo makes the staff move the tables around, they struggle to move the clunky and heavy tables. She shakes her head that they should account for parties joining tables and decides to stop there, since she’s made her case.

She tells Sae-ro-yi, “I’m Zhuge Liang, Merlin, and Rayleigh. I’m someone you absolutely need on your path, and I came here voluntarily.” She says that she’ll deny her services to someone foolish enough to believe that he’s doing fine on his own and refuses her advice because she’s just 20 years old. Geun-soo looks impressed by her confidence.

Sae-ro-yi acknowledges that her advice is helpful, but they can’t accommodate an extra staff member with the current size of their bar. Yi-seo argues that she’s more valuable that some of his current staff, but Sae-ro-yi refuses to cut his current staff to hire Yi-seo. He asks why she wants to work here, and she has a feeling that he’s worth betting her life on.

Sae-royi scratches in head in bewilderment but cracks a smile. He finds her response interesting and announces to the team that Jo Yi-seo is Danbam’s new manager. Hyun-yi and Geun-soo welcome her with an applause, but Seung-kwon refuses to join.

At Jang Ga Corp, Secretary Kim updates President Jang on Min-jung’s increase in company shares. President Jang asks what her total percentage would be with her team, and Secretary Kim reveals that it would be over 25%, which is awfully close to President Jang’s 30% share holdings. President Jang remembers his conversation with Min-jung about gambling her shares through a fund manager and questioning whether she has other intentions behind growing her shares.

At Danbam, Seung-kwon knocks down a wall to reveal unused space, proving Yi-seo’s point that they can expand with more tables. Then, Yi-seo looks through the freezer and instructs Hyun-yi to reduce their menu size. She asks Hyun-yi where they learned to cook, and Hyun-yi admits that they never had formal training. Yi-seo bluntly comments that her food tasted that way and assigns her the task of deciding their signature dish.

As the lights and decorations get their final touches, Yi-seo looks around for Sae-ro-yi. Geun-soo says that Sae-ro-yi was working on the light fixtures all night but still came in the morning to work on the rooftop. Yi-seo joins Sae-ro-yi on the rooftop and asks if he slept at all. She worries that he’ll collapse from overworking again.

He shares that he couldn’t sleep, and Yi-seo remembers his drunk confession that he can’t sleep most nights because he’s yearning, lonely, and angry. Yi-seo helps Sae-ro-yi hang the decorative plants and says that she hopes that he’ll be able to sleep better. Sae-ro-yi looks confused by her concern.

The night before Danbam’s re-opening, Sae-ro-yi pours a glass of soju for himself and for his father. On his phone, he monitors the Jang Ga stocks and looks at his watch. Huh, curious.

At Jang Ga the next day, President Jang summons Geun-won to order him on a blind date with the daughter of another large food corporation owner. Geun-won says that he wants a love marriage rather than an arranged marriage, but President Jang doesn’t give him a choice. He reminds Geun-won of his incompetence and that he will need the powerful in-laws to be a qualified heir to the Jang Ga throne.

Geun-won doesn’t protest further, and once he leaves, Secretary Kim tells President Jang that Geun-won likes Soo-ah. This is news to President Jang, who never had the same proximity to Geun-won as Secretary Kim.

Geun-soo catches Yi-seo on their way to Danbam, and he asks Yi-seo if her mother approves of her skipping college to work. He notes that she makes enough money through her blogs and wonders why she wants to work instead of going to school.

Instead of responding, Yi-seo asks Geun-soo the same question, and he says that he felt like he owed Sae-ro-yi for the trouble they caused him. Yi-seo remembers Geun-won at the police station hinting at his involvement in the death of Sae-ro-yi’s father, and she asks if Geun-soo knows anything about his brother and Sae-ro-yi’s relationship. Geun-soo has no idea, and Yi-seo decides not to meddle in another family’s business.

Geun-soo then wonders why Sae-ro-yi hired Yi-seo, and the Danbam team also wonder this. Sae-ro-yi tells Hyun-yi and Seung-kwon that he had a hunch, specifically an investment hunch. He says that he sensed a confidence with her, and they agree that she’s good at her job.

Hyun-yi notes that Yi-seo doesn’t seem to like them, and Seung-kwon says that the disgust is probably due to Hyun-yi’s bad personality. As revenge, Hyun-yi decides to make Seung-kwon’s least favorite dish for dinner, and Seung-kwon wonders if he should just punch Hyun-yi and go to jail. Ha!

Yi-seo and Geun-soo arrive, and Sae-ro-yi decides that they can open now that their full team is here. Yi-seo stops him and asks that they all put their hands in the group huddle. Everyone joins, and Yi-seo thanks the team for trusting and following her lead, especially as a young 20-year-old manager. She pledges that they’ll take over Itaewon and they cheer for their first day. Hwaiting!

Danbam’s first opening night is a huge success, largely thanks to Yi-seo’s social media and blog postings. The line is out the door, and the bar comes alive with customers. From outside, Soo-ah observes the unexpectedly popular opening night. Inside, Yi-seo catches Sae-ro-yi’s eye, and they smile at each other in midst of the rush.

At the end of the night, Sae-ro-yi reports that they reached their peak profit today, and Seung-kwon seems alarmed that they reached their peak on a weeknight. Yi-seo notes that the popularity is only temporary with their current marketing tactics, and they need to find a way to retain their current customer base. Sae-ro-yi asks who they do that, and Yi-seo wonders the same thing but looks straight at Hyun-yi, implying the answer.

President Jang pays an unannounced visit to the Itaeown Jang Ga bar and taste tests the food. He compliments the chef on the food and acknowledges Soo-ah’s contribution to raising the bar’s profits. Apart from the taste test, he’s there to talk to Soo-ah about Geun-won. He shares that Geun-won is going on a blind date, and he gauges from her response that his son has a one-sided crush on Soo-ah.

Soo-ah seems flustered by President Jang’s observation, and he surprisingly shares that he wouldn’t have rejected the pairing. He dismisses himself from further discussion on their relationship and says that he merely wanted to express how much he values Soo-ah. President Jang comments on Soo-ah’s split loyalty between Min-jung and himself, and he explicitly asks her to be on his side.

She assures him of her loyalty, and President Jang notes that Soo-ah always says the right things. He challenges her to show her loyalty through actions, not mere words, and brings her to Danbam. Soo-ah says that Danbam’s popularity will be short-lived and won’t be worth their time, but President Jang wonders if she truly believes those words or if she’s being protective of her friend.

Yi-seo walks through Itaewon with Sae-ro-yi after closing time for most shops and suggests that they extend their hours past the last train departure. She notes that there are still people roaming the streets at those hours, and they could also catch the workers from the closed shops.

They run into Soo-ah as they walk, and she tries to ignore them. Sae-ro-yi stops her and asks why she hasn’t responded to his messages, and she says that she ignored them on purpose. She tells him not to contact her and walks off.

Sae-ro-yi runs the kitchen on Hyun-yi’s day off, and he seems at ease with the load of orders and special requests. At the end of the night, Geun-soo expresses his awe of Sae-ro-yi in the kitchen, and Seung-kwon confirms that Sae-ro-yi’s a great cook. Seung-kwon reports a slight dip in their profits, but it’s still a success for a weeknight.

They wrap up the night with dinner made by Sae-ro-yi, and Geun-soo compliments the soup as the best he’s ever tasted. Yi-seo seems to agree and asks how Sae-ro-yi picked the kitchen oppa (Hyun-yi). He responds that they while working at a construction site and says that Hyun-yi made him a delicious meal once.

Sae-ro-yi offers to wrap up the shop on his own, so the three workers wait at the bus stop. The bus nowhere in sight, Geun-soo suggests to Yi-seo that they go to the club, and Seung-kwon slides closer to them in interest. He asks the youth if the club is fun and admits that he’s never been. He says he can’t dance, and Yi-seo says that he doesn’t need to dance well in a crowd of people.

Yi-seo stands up to show him how to move to a rhythm, and Seung-kwon tries to imitate the movements with limited success, making Geun-soo giggle. Seung-kwon then asks if people grind and meet lovers at the club, and Geun-soo laughs. Seung-kwon asks if that makes him a pervert, but Yi-seo assures him that it’s normal for people go to the club to listen to music, dance, and meet people. Seung-kwon admits that he wants to do the grinding, and Yi-seo says under her breath, “Pervert.”

Yi-seo grabs Geun-soo for her demonstration and starts with the basics. She instructs Seung-kwon to dance behind the person and raise his arms so that they’re visible to the person he’s courting. Seung-kwon asks what happens if the person doesn’t like him, but Yi-seo says that most people will experience a confidence boost regardless, unless the courter is very ugly. Yi-seo assures him that he’s passable, but Geun-soo’s response makes it obvious that she’s giving Seung-kwon too much credit.

Grabbing Geun-soo again for the next step, Yi-seo dances again and demonstrates that they’ll make slight physical contact while dancing and never explicitly. Geun-soo looks quite uncomfortable being the subject of this demonstration. Then, Yi-seo teaches him the next sign of courtship: If the person looks back and smiles, it’s a go; if the person looks back with disgust, you’re done. If it’s a go, then Yi-seo says that he can make more physical contact, and she demonstrates on Geun-soo, who jumps in alarm.

As a final step, Yi-seo instructs Seung-kwon to invite the person to a table for drinks, and she says that it’s a guaranteed success. Seung-kwon looks convinced and paces in excitement. Geun-soo expresses concern with paying for a table, but Yi-seo assures him that Seung-kwon will pay. Seung-kwon can’t wait and grabs the two of them to go to the club.

At the club, Seung-kwon notices the steep prices for drinks, and Yi-seo says that the prices are cheap compared to the weekend. Geun-soo feels bad that Yi-seo is duping him and offers to pay a portion of the bill, but Seung-kwon insists that he’ll cover the bill. They raise their glasses to Seung-kwon’s first club experience, and he stands up with a determined look, which cracks up with Geun-soo and Yi-seo.

Seung-kwon heads to the dance floor and thinks about Yi-seo’s advice about his first advance being the most important. He scans the dance floor and decides on his first target. He approaches the woman from behind and robotically dances with his arms outstretched, per Yi-seo’s instructions. Geun-soo and Yi-seo watch from above and worry that aimed too high. The woman turns around, and Seung-kwon smiles. It’s Hyun-yi!

Hyun-yi smile falls in recognition, but Seung-kwon continues to dance and smile while throwing her some finger hearts. She calls Seung-kwon by his name to ask what he’s doing. He doesn’t recognize her and says that he wants to know her better. She approaches him and gets up in his face while Geun-soo and Yi-seo also watch from above, and Seung-kwon finally realizes that it’s Hyun-yi.

Hyun-yi shares that she’s a transgender woman, and Yi-seo asks if Sae-ro-yi knows. Hyun-yi confirms that he knows, and she’s saving up for surgery. Yi-seo interrogates why she’s at this club instead of a trans club. Hyun-yi notes Yi-seo’s unexpectedly conventional perspective and responds that she can go to whatever club she wants.

She asks if they’re celebrating, seeing that they got a table, and none of them respond. Noticing the discomfort, Hyun-yi leaves and tells them to have fun. Geun-soo tries to stop her, but isn’t sure what to call her — hyung or noona.

At a café, a group of young women find Yi-seo’s social media and notice that she’s working at Danbam. They wonder why she’s working when she could make money off of her blogs, and one girl (the high school bully) curses Yi-seo for going on with life after ruining hers.

At Danbam, a customer complains about hair in their food, and another group asks for salt for the unseasoned soup. Yi-seo storms into the kitchen and relays the complaints. Yi-seo harshly asks why Hyun-yi works as a cook without any skills and suggests that she quit. Sae-ro-yi enters the kitchen to find out what’s going on, and Yi-seo storms out in frustration while Hyun-yi remains silent.

After hours, Hyun-yi washes dishes and looks dejected by the interaction. Yi-seo confronts Sae-ro-yi about Hyun-yi being trans, and he acknowledges that he knew since their construction site days. Yi-seo asks why he hired her as a chef and points out the food as their greatest weakness right now. She says that Hyun-yi needs to be fired, and we see Hyun-yi listening from around the corner.

Yi-seo acknowledges Sae-ro-yi’s kindness, but she can’t accept a chef that is less skilled than the owner. She adds that Hyun-yi being trans could also hurt their business, since this truth could be met with intolerance. Yi-seo argues that this decision would be for the best. Sae-ro-yi solemnly orders Geun-soo to bring Hyun-yi.

With Hyun-yi at the table, Sae-ro-yi asks how she likes working at Danbam, and Hyun-yi confirms that she likes it. He says that the one of the biggest problems currently is Hyun-yi’s mediocre cooking, and Hyun-yi nervously looks down. Sae-ro-yi says that Hyun-yi must also know that they can’t continue like this, and Hyun-yi understands this.

Sae-ro-yi hands Hyun-yi an envelope of money, and Seung-kwon expresses disapproval. The envelope has Hyun-yi’s salary for the month, and Hyun-yi accepts it as if it’s her last. But then, Sae-ro-yi clarifies that he just gave Hyun-yi twice the amount because they need twice the effort and value from her. He asks if she can do it, and Hyun-yi nods.

Yi-seo starts to protest, but Sae-ro-yi looks to all of them to make something clear. He says, “I’m an ex-convict that the world avoids.” He points out that Yi-seo, Geun-soo, and Seung-kwon recently caused Danbam to shut down while Hyun-yi diligently did her job without causing harm to any of them.

He asserts, “Just like you all, Hyun-yi is one of my people. To me, that’s important. You may find Hyun-yi uncomfortable, and though it would be great for you to understand, I won’t force it. If Hyun-yi being transgender will disrupt your work, speak now. Whoever it is, I’ll make a decision.”

Sae-ro-yi looks at each of his people and finally looks to Yi-seo for her response. She surrenders to Sae-ro-yi’s decision, and Hyun-yi promises to work hard. Yi-seo leaves to check on the order list, and the Danbam team resumes closing up shop.

The next day, Yi-seo walks to work and comments on how eventful Danbam life is. She’s stopped by a trio of girls, lead by the high school bully. The ringleader tries to provoke Yi-seo, and Geun-soo steps in to stop them. They warn him to stay on their good side, but he doesn’t see any benefits to that.

Bully Bok-hee grabs Yi-seo and seethes that she suffered a harsher punishment because she’s a politician’s daughter while Yi-seo barely got a slap on her wrist for underage drinking. To get revenge, Bok-hee claims that she reported them to the police for underage drinking. Geun-soo gets angry for the harm caused to Danbam by reporting them, and that fact triggers Yi-seo, who asks if Bok-hee was really the culprit.

Bok-hee insults the owner of Danbam for being a pushover, and Yi-seo finally gives them the fight they’ve goaded for. Yi-seo approaches Bok-hee and pokes her, inciting a fight. When Bok-hee pushes back, Geun-soo grabs her, and Yi-seo slaps Bok-hee. Yi-seo notes the similarity to the slap she delivered to Bok-hee’s mom, and the friend pounces. Without a blink, Yi-seo slaps her to the ground.

The last friend standing backpedals in fear, and Yi-seo pities Bok-hee for thinking that she could win this fight. She grabs Bok-hee’s hair and slaps her repeatedly for the harm she caused to Danbam. Geun-soo holds her back, and she recalls when Soo-ah admitted that she reported Danbam to the police, which was a lie. She shakes off Geun-soo with an insult and walks away.

On the patio of the Jang Ga bar, Soo-ah sees a police car, which reminds her of the night that she almost reported Danbam. She called the police but decided not to report the underage drinking, but as soon as she hung up, two girls recognized Yi-seo inside the bar. It was Bok-hee and her friend, and they reported the underage drinking to the police.

Yi-seo broods on the rooftop of Danbam and curses Soo-ah for her lie. Sae-ro-yi finds her on the rooftop and asks if she looks serious because of Hyun-yi. Yi-seo responds that someone who accepts losses because of attachment is called a pushover. She says that she’ll honor his decision, but she won’t change her opinion about the losses.

Sae-ro-yi says that it’s a good thing that Yi-seo isn’t a pushover and tells her to stay firm in her opinion. He asks that she push and lead Hyun-yi with honest feedback. He’s hopeful that with rounds of feedback, the food will get there.

Following Sae-ro-yi’s orders, Yi-seo gives her honest opinions on the food — incohesive, bad aftertaste — and Hyun-yi responds with adjustments. Geun-soo and Seung-kwon observe the latest taste test nervously, but Geun-soo isn’t too optimistic because Yi-seo is so picky.

After tasting the soup, Yi-seo shares that she didn’t understand why Sae-ro-yi wouldn’t just fire Hyun-yi and just followed his orders about giving feedback. Interpreting that as disapproval, Hyun-yi promises to try harder, but Yi-seo says that the food is delicious.

Hyun-yi looks shocked and finally lets out a smile, and the nervous observers celebrate the achievement. Before Yi-seo leaves the kitchen, she notes that Hyun-yi’s hair looks damaged from the coloring. She adds, “Your natural hair is prettier, unni.” Hyun-yi looks touched and smiles at her breakthrough. Her avid fans, Seung-kwon and Geun-soo, give her a thumbs up.

Yi-seo finds Sae-ro-yi outside the kitchen, and he acknowledges their achievement. She seems defeated that Sae-ro-yi knew that this would happen, even with the risk of losing the money to no improvement. Sae-ro-yi says that he trusted them, Hyun-yi and Yi-seo both. He pats her head to recognize her hard work, and she looks satisfied.

Soo-ah drinks alone at a bar and thinks about President Jang’s challenge to showcase her loyalty through her actions against Sae-ro-yi. She laughs like a mad person in the bar, and she drunkenly walks through the streets, thinking about Sae-ro-yi’s acceptance of her decision to take Jang Ga’s scholarship. She’s irritated by the straddling of loyalty and screams in the street.

Sae-ro-yi grabs her and asks who’s causing her annoyance. The rest of the Danbam staff watch as Soo-ah responds that it’s Sae-ro-yi who’s annoying her. He sweetly asks what’s going on, and she asks for his honest thoughts, assuming that he finds her repulsive. Sae-ro-yi turns to his staff and tell them to go ahead without him, but Yi-seo stays behind.

Yi-seo blatantly watches as Soo-ah continues her drunken conversation. She asks Sae-ro-yi to share how his business is doing so well, and he looks to Yi-seo as he responds that he hired a talented manager. Soo-ah turns to Yi-seo, who smiles in acknowledgement.

Sae-ro-yi tries to escort her home, but Soo-ah isn’t done. She admits, “I’m not apologetic to you at all because I most value myself and am the fondest of myself. Is there something wrong with that?” Sae-ro-yi says that it’s only natural, but Soo-ah calls bullshit. She feels insulted that Sae-ro-yi, an ex-convict who only graduated middle school, acts like he knows everything.

Reading through her hurtful words, Sae-ro-yi asks why she’s having a difficult time. He tells her to stop because no matter what she says, he won’t be affected. He assures her, “You’ve done your best with your life, and you haven’t done anything wrong.” Soo-ah looks affected by his kindness and begs him not to say things like this.

Sae-ro-yi tries to steer her home once again, but she stops him. She starts to admit the truth and approaches him. “To me, you’re always…” She doesn’t finish her sentence as she goes in for the kiss, but she tells us, “… shining too much.” Sae-ro-yi closes his eyes as Soo-ah closes in on him, but someone interferes.

Yi-seo clasps Soo-ah’s face and pushes it away – “Defense,” she calls it. She quotes criminal law on a kiss without consent being categorized as assault, and Sae-ro-yi looks mortified. Yi-seo looks at Soo-ah with a hard look, determined to keep her strong defense.

   
COMMENTS

This show keeps getting better by the episode! I love how this show is unapologetically bold with the characters and their messages. Every character is so full of rich background and history, and they’re all brimming with potential for their own spin-off show. Though the set-up and backstory for our hero is the foundation of this show, Sae-ro-yi’s mission doesn’t overshadow anyone else’s story. In a meta way, Sae-ro-yi’s own story seems to reflect the kind and forgiving nature of Sae-ro-yi himself. His story feels incredibly humble and accepting of the others’ stories as they’re weaved into his own.

Yi-seo was definitely a highlight of this episode, with her spunk and confidence in full throttle. In both her lecture on ‘Grinding 101’ and her marketing pitch to Sae-ro-yi, she handled herself with confidence, candor, and charm. I was definitely Geun-soo in that marketing pitch scene, gaping at Yi-seo’s persuasion. Like damn, Yi-seo… I kind of want to be you. Kim Da-mi is really nailing this character, and I applaud her for making this often malicious character likable. You can see her range of expressions in the way her eyes soften at Sae-ro-yi’s protectiveness with his people and how her look hardens when she deals with her enemies. I think the portrayal of Yi-seo as a sympathetic and flawed heroine with a growing crush is an interesting juxtaposition to the sociopath tendencies that make her a fundamentally unapproachable character.

Learning that Hyun-yi is transgender was a big moment, and this clarified so much about the gender confusion in previous episodes. I’m unfamiliar with the original webtoon and didn’t do enough research on the characters, so I was face-palming at my ignorance about the character. I had been using the gender pronouns of the actress, Lee Joo-young, without investigating further. I think honoring the character’s gender pronouns (she/her/hers) is important, and I think it’s also important to respect the storytelling process and timeline. It’s a delicate balance that I wish I had been privy to before so that I could honor both the character and the story.

I did not expect a mainstream Korean drama to introduce us to a trans character so openly and without any reservations, but I’m glad we’re at this point. Lee Joo-young has played LGBTQ+ characters in the past, and I would consider her a trailblazer in representing these characters on screen. It seems fitting that she’s taking on this character on a more mainstream (albeit cable) platform. My heart broke when I saw how Hyun-yi accepted rejection and how she nervously eavesdropped on the conversation disputing her identity. The scene prompted points of conversation (on trans representation and visibility, the general public reception of trans folks), and I’m interested to see how viewers, both the Korean audience and international audience, will respond to these prompts.

The tension between Yi-seo and Hyun-yi was an unexpected point of drama, and I got emotional about their resolution. Did anyone else tear up when Yi-seo called Hyun-yi unni?? I think Yi-seo’s one track mind for success, though admirable and a necessary contrast to Sae-ro-yi’s forgiving nature, showed its ugly side in dealing with Hyun-yi’s incompetence as a chef. The harsh reaction to Hyun-yi’s mistakes from Yi-seo was ill-timed, right after she found out that Hyun-yi is trans, and it almost seemed like she was reacting from a place of prejudice and hate. Digging deeper into the character, I was convinced that Yi-seo’s reaction came from a place that was well-intentioned in Danbam’s success. She just didn’t consider that success meant something different to Sae-ro-yi, who trusts his people more than they trust themselves.

I love this contrast between Sae-ro-yi and Yi-seo, and I think they make a compatible pair as business partners for now. Sae-ro-yi is steering the ship on the business front and carries many more years of valuable experience that make him a strong leader of Danbam, but he needs Yi-seo. She’s sharp and unforgiving when it comes to achieving success, and she understands the value of hard work and talent. On the personal relationship front, I think Yi-seo may have taken the reins with her bold interference. I loved that record-scratch moment, complete with Sae-ro-yi’s mortification and Yi-seo’s merciless gaze. I need more of this Yi-seo — more of her clumsy and reckless defense and, hopefully one day, her offense.

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This drama is surpassing my expectations and I'm totally loving it!

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me too!

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I find the potential of Yi-seo much more interesting than the actual character. I hope the fact that we are not in present day means that we have some character growth coming her way.
Right now she comes across as more of a spoiled child than a badass or even a sociopath. With the sociopath aspect it seems uneven. It feels almost like she could give or take her mom and only friend but then is completely besotted with Sae-ro-yi. I'd find it more believable if she just found him interesting or an anecdote to her boredom than an actual love interest at this point if they are going the sociopath route.
I do think her reaction to Hyun-yi came from a place of bias and then she saw it as an opportunity to get her way. Though she was not wrong that Hyun-yi's skill in the kitchen was a weak link. At first I found the "Unni" moment sweet and then had my own record scratch moment. Hyun-yi worked her ass off to reach a higher level in the kitchen and that should be recognized, but an acceptance of her identity should be separate from that. I find Sae-ro-yi's prior knowledge and Geun-soo's reaction in the club to be much more sincere and touching.
Also, girl needs to back up on the skinship with men who are passed out and maybe offer to put your drunk "friends" in a cab or offer to call someone for them before you leave them with men you suspect to be predatory.

Ok, I watched 4 eps in a row and so maybe just got a little Yi-seoed out.
Putting her to one side for a moment I cant wait to see more of the pub crew and even more of Soo-ah who I find to be a complex character and I still hold some sympathy for her.

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if she doesnt get better......i have skipped so much because of yi seo. and you're totally right about the gender stuff. shit. like she messed up but when she succeeds you call her by her name?

honestly i cannot stand this girl lol. i want ep 8 to come around or someting so she can be an actual character with heart, she could have been so different...

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I love a well written character arc with growth. Not even really redemption or for the characterto become perfect, but a chance for the character to grow into their best qualities. If we get that with Yi Seo I'll love it.

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I'd love that

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she could still be incredibly obnoxious but also like a human being and trying her best. she doesnt have to be perfect some of the most interesting women are really smart and weird like if she can just grow into herself, the actual person she could be she woulud be fine but no it's whatever the hell this is

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I don't know what people see in Yi-seo. I can't stand her. She reminds me of Kim Hye-na (Kim Bo-ra) in SKY Castle whom I also hated. At this point, I am only putting up with Yi-seo because Danbam needs her.

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hye-na actually made sense. and they had a point with her. also hye na was 15. and like every circumstance she was under was just horrid and her ending was also really sad if you think about what it means (being valueless)

yi seo is just...there. for no reason

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If she's truly a sociopath, and not just a spoiled brat, she won't necessarily become a character with heart but she might become a character who learns not to harm everyone around her to get her way. So far she's consistently acted to get her way and justified it in that moment.

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That is true and it does have me intrigued with how they will move her forward.

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i wouldnt see the point in putting her there if she really is a sociopath but i don't think she is. i am pretty sure sociopathy comes with antipathy as well. her immediate falling in love, her defending those girls, getting angry that someone would even hurt her. seems just like a bit of a narcissist with a shitty mother and bad personality lol ubt every other part of her besides her entitlement has pretty much shown that she rly isnt a sociopath..

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I think the reaction to Hyun-yi came just straight after the warning of that highschool bully that she must be on ward because she'll destroy her. She walking on needles after that, because she knows what those connections can do and accusing a bar, I would call it bistro, which is providing a food of a hair found in their order or other unfortunate things can do lots of harm even if it wouldn't be true. She reacted that way to protect what she built up. She was shown that a trust is what's important and that by trusting and learning together they can be a perfect team. I didn't see there any prejudice I thought that she needed to blame someone and as she is clever she twisted her cautious self "to throw the exposed flesh to the wolfs" but it turns out that the alfa wolf is very wise and caring.

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Absolutely, she had a right to call Hyun-yi out on her lack of cooking skills and for the hair. She is her manager and that is her job.
I think she is showing prejudice when she asks Hyun yi why she doesnt go to a transgender bar, asks her if the boss knows, and then tells the boss herself.
I dont find those actions ok, but having a character that has a prejudice is.

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uhhhhhhhh i skipped that part about outing her??????? that's disgusting. fuck this girl LMAO

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That is how I remember it, but it doesn't hurt to fact check me.

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she asks him if he knew so basically yes. WHEW that's something else. if she was half as smart as we're told she is she woulda thought b4 she opened her mouth

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I would compare her thinking in this case to a cooking robot for patisseries. The old ones are almost indestructible because all parts in it are made of stainless steel. The new ones, depends on the price, even if it is the same mark, have parts made of plastic which can easily be overstrenghted while making meringue or other thick goodies. I think Yi-seo might consider Hyun-yi that weak plastic part - it's looking the same but from different material. Hyun-yi needed to prove even if she could seem the weakest part of the machine that she is the right one. Yi-seo wants to succeed by any means, I'm sure a horrible comparator, but she reminds me of Josef Mengele, maybe I think of WW2 too much.

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Without consent? He was clearly receptive to the kiss by closing his eyes. Yi-seo needs to mind her own business and stay out of Sae-ro-yi's personal life. If a kiss without consent is assault, then what is putting your hands on a person's face and pushing them away categorized as?

It was so satisfying when Sae-ro-yi called out Yi-seo, Geun-soo, and Seung-kwon for getting Danbam suspended. When Yi-seo slapped the bully with "Do you know how much damage you caused?" girl, you and Geun-soo were the ones who caused it! So Soo-ah didn't call the cops but confessed because she had intended to.

Yi-seo is a total inssa (인싸 insider). She is so trendy and arrogant but clearly genius at marketing and promotion. I figured a hipster like her would be open to LGBTQ. I love watching underdog Danbam be successful.

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He WANTED that kiss. I dont ship anyone yet, but I felt so bad for both of them.

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I'm not shipping anyone. They don't deserve him. He's too good for them.

Still Sae-ro-yi has more chemistry with Soo-ah. When he patted Yi-seo's head, Sae-ro-yi clearly just treats her as an employee or "one of his people."

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Because he's still head over heels about her, because she's his first love

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Let's hope it stays that way.

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That was so unexpected for me. She stole his first kiss and she didn't want Soo ah doing the same

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I am hoping for some reason that it might be a dream.

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Or an imagination

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If Yi-seo's kiss is not a fake out, then she is a total hypocrite. Not only did she kiss Sae-ro-yi without consent, but she kissed him while he unconscious.

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It might be annoying to some, and we might not agree with her choice. But it's pretty consistent with Yi Se's character. She act of what she think. She is jealous. She is unaware with someone feeling is her strenght but also her weakness.

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She was just jealous, and i understand that, because she's like that, she acts on whatever she feels. For example, when she realized she liked Sae royi, she chose to go to him, and when she felt like slapping that woman she did. But I didn't expect that reaction at all.

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the transphobic in this episode was yikes

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I was actually pleasantly surprised by how they are handling Hyun-yi's storyline. She isn't used as the butt of jokes, but they are also not pretending that transphobia doesn't exist. Yi-seo's comments were close-minded but realistic (especially for Korea), but Sae-ro-yi (the drama's moral compass, basically) let her know that if anyone has a problem with Hyun-yi being trans, they're out This is my first time seeing trans representation in a K-drama and it was is better than I ever would have expected.

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Yi-seo only use the right pronounce after Hyun-yi made the plate right. That's problematic. The validation should have come separately.
I will not congratulate kdrama for doing the bate minimum for the lgbtq+ community

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The pronoun use we see in subs are slightly misleading though because the Korean language does not have gendered pronouns. However, do I find it frustrating that Yi-seo only seems to validate Hyun-yi's gender identification after she cooks something up to standard? Sure. However, the drama is also portraying transphobia as real and complex, and I appreciate that they aren't simplifying it and making everyone's acceptance easy and without reservation.

After seeing other lgbtq+ representation in kdrama (*cough, Strong Woman Do Bong Soon) I'm gonna give some kudos to this production team for their work here because right now, there are young Koreans watching this and seeing this topic handled with respect and a trans woman treated not as the butt of a joke or as immoral, but as a human being deserving of respect and compassion. I hope this starts a trend.

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This lack of gender pronouns is why I wasn't sure where they were going with Hyun Yi until we saw her in the club. I watched this almost entirely because this actress was in it and she seems to pick interesting characters.

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I was chatting on Discord while watching this episode and questioning the pronouns used in the subs, and then was full on shocked that the drama took on this topic with such finesse.

And yes, Lee Joo-young has a resume full of interesting characters.

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She called her "unnie" I don't think nothing is more clean than that. The show seems to set up the whole scene like a big moment of acceptance, but it was not. It was bad taste.
I can't say that the show is portraying transphobia real and complex when Hyun-yi barely had any scene and I found it very simple and didn't tackle any major issues (yet) about the trans community. I will wait for the next episodes. But I will not hold my breath.

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@lafrede I didn't understand the character prior to the club scene - those are the gender pronouns I'm talking about. The translations said "he" prior to the club scene. Since I knew the actress, I was confused as to whether it was a mistake in pronoun, or if they were headed in this direction.

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i agree with op and agree with you actually.

i don't think accolades would be the right word. at least, for me, i would say it's hm...cool or more progressive i guess. but my big problem is that kdramas have a tendency to want to moralize and justify everything so there's always a reason why people do shitty things. besides the heteronormativity, gender essentialism in kdramas is RAMPANT and i am guessing will continue to be (cos...capitalism.) and, as we know, just because something is there doesn't mean it's the greatest reflection either.

as a show i can't stand it's ok it's love but the least of that show's problems was the rep of a trans woman (sorta.) i think it's a good storyline to incorporate but they fucked up on some points; if there's always an opposite side then you have to show why some things you do are unacceptable. case in point would be OUTING SOMEONE but that's also clearly an issue they have with yi-seo as a character and the writing.

for the most part, this was a pretty easy/fluid thing. the major part i have to agree with is calling her unnie. that actually made me furious lol but it's so classic kdrama writing. from a CaPiTAliSt standpoint tho it makes sense: justify and affirm after you've been productive to a team. unfortunately, i dont think that was the point.

i honestly have no idea what the hell they're doing with the way she presents tho. although hyun yi and the actress look..wtf is that worrrrddd...like ambiguous with gender. one would probably err on the she/her side (i wont hold my breath on introducing they/them so) i dont particularly get what others currently see her as. from a visual standpoint in terms of story and production her putting on a wig at a club v. her presentation in store is so strange to me? the most i remember is "you are a him right" from a previous episode but even that was weird. they probably should have floated in the "cant tell" via presentation realm but then again this is what happens when you don't think things through which i think this show has shown to do

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@lafrede, you used the word pronoun, so I thought the pronouns used earlier and not Yi-seo's use of the honorific unnie in that scene was what you were referring to. I agree that that moment was simplified, and its framing was not without problems, but the whole arc was a huge step forward in compassionate representation in kdramas. Yes, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. I agree with you there.

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I thought the transphobia in the episode was portrayed quite well. Both the pub crew's reactions and Hyun-yi's resignation were realistic, and what I was surprised by was that not once was Hyun-yi's gender identification used as a joke or device for some slapstick misunderstanding or misguided moralizing. To be honest, like @mindy, I was not expecting this from a South Korean drama, and I am most pleasantly surprised by it.

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Like I said adobe Yi-seo only use the right pronounce after Hyun-yi made the plate right. That's problematic. The validation should have come separately.
I will not congratulate kdrama for doing the bate minimum for the lgbtq+ community

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I'll congratulate them for taking a step in the right direction.

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As a trans person living in Asia, I will tell you that a trans person being portrayed even neutrally in a Southease Asian drama without being fetishised or mocked is very difficult. Please don't use a Westernised lens to scrutinise something that is a step in the right direction, because as little as it is it already opens a lot of doors to a neutral portrayal to LGBT characters. We've had quite a few (Be Melodramatic comes to mind almost instantly, as with Prison Playbook despite its sad ending) and to get so stingy and uppity with actual progress is honestly quite aggravating for someone still closeted and living this.

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Matrimonial Chaos also had two women who were accepted and treated well (I don't remember if they became a true couple or just remained friends).

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Let's all celebrate a step in the right direction, be it baby step or giant leap! Hoping for a more accepting and compassionate society for all of us.

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do you now where OP is from? also there is cultural relativity but i dont think it's, "uppity and stingy" nor can be oversimplified with 'westernized lens'

a good ex of being understanding would be my reaction to you using the term 'uppity' which i cannot stand but knowing that people who are not my race or where i am from (black, US) probably don't understand its connotations. your contribution and existence is respected and should be deferred to you for expertise and understanding but asia is a huge continent, with all types of human beings, people, all types of activism, and a plethora of media and just because it's difficult and the manifestation is different doesn't mean it is closed to critique. if that's the case, there would be no point in a forum for discussion existing.

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I don't appreciate the usage of people stating that this is the "bare minimum" and "shouldn't be applauded" with no context of what and how this affects us living it. I'm not saying it's immune to critique whatsoever, but diminishing actual concrete progress as "the bare minimum" is what I take offense with more than anything.

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@poliwag, I appreciate your input on this topic, and your coming forward with your own personal lived experience. I will continue to stand by my own statement that any movement in the direction of empathetic, non-fetishizing representation in a space where we have seen little to none is a step in the right direction. Can we want more? Of course. Should we expect more in the future? Hell yeah. But right now, I am going to applaud this production for what I saw on screen in this episode.

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Yes, they are not using it as an easy joke.
As I stated above I didnt like the kitchen scene, but I appreciate when a show or book looks at our biases. Everyone has them. Everyone in regards to something.

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I appreciate that not only are they not using a trans person as an easy joke, they're also not using it for shock value (*cough*Graceful Family).

It's not the bare minimum having Yi-seo use the correct pronouns after she approves of Hyun-yi's food. I think it's important that she uses an honorific title that is exclusively for women after the food meets her standards. She isn't just acknowledging Hyun-yi as a woman, but also as someone who she respects. That is very different to me. Otherwise, from my understanding, there are no gendered pronouns in Korean only gendered titles. I think it's notable that Yi-seo doesn't really use gendered honorifics/titles with the others i.e. no "Oppas," and only "Boss" for Sae-ro-yi. Unfortunately this doesn't really translate well.

Yi-seo is a sociopath - which means she doesn't care about the feelings of others. Is she transphobic? Absolutely. I won't pretend otherwise. But, she also changes her thought processes. We have to remember that Yi-seo is not biased only because Hyun-yi is trans - she's biased because Hyun-yi wasn't good at her job. She made this criticism before she knew. If you want to argue that it wasn't until Hyun-yi got good at her job, sure, maybe that's true. But that change is nonetheless significant. That's all we can ask of anyone, and for a character who already lacks the ability to care for people, that's an even bigger step.

I also think it's really important for us as viewers to remember that this show is not Hyun-yi's story. Giving her dignity and a story where she is accepted for who she is is probably the most that this story can ever really give her, and I think we need to remember that going forward. I dislike characters, especially marginalized ones, being used purely for plot purposes but sometimes done right it can be the start of an important conversation. For this to have done it pretty decently and with some dignity is actually amazing to me, especially given Korea's relationship with the LGBTQ+ community.

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Frankly I think Yi Seo is looking for any wedge she can find to drive between Sae Ro Yi and anyone he deems as his friend. Yi Seo is looking for ways to make herself the ONLY indispensable person in Sae Ro Yi's life--she doesn't give a fig about Hyun Yi's trans status.

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@kdnomore I would actually argue the opposite - Yi-seo goes out of her way to understand those Seo-ro-yi sees as friends. Remember: sociopath means that she doesn't care about the feelings of others and possesses very little guilt/self-reflection/empathy herself. That is why she's so blase. But because she wants to get close to Sae-ro-yi, she's making an active effort to understand the people around him. Sociopaths aren't incapable of empathy and understanding - it's mostly that they don't really care about those things. I don't see how she is making herself the only indispensable person in his life if she is actively working to make his business and employees better? She's working to become important to him, but she isn't trying to get rid of anyone except Soo-ah, and that's because she sees Soo-ah as a threat; but even then she tells Seo-ro-yi the truth about who called the police. If she really wanted to drive a wedge, she would never have told him.

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I don't believe Yi Seo is a sociopath, I believe she's a spoiled brat.

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I'm going to agree with @snarkyjellyfish on the topic of Yi-seo. There's more to her than the spoiled brat persona. She's smart, and quick, and willing to adapt. She's observing everything, and she is very upfront about who she is and what her goals are. She's learning how to be interact with the other's on the pub crew, and even if her motivations to do so were originally to get closer to Sae-yo-ri, I think the challenge of making this business viable and competitive is energizing her, and not just for the sake of profit. Does she have bratty tendencies? Sure. But I'm not going to write her off quite yet.

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@snarkyjellyfish maybe I have too rigid of an idea of what her personality should be like. I keep thinking of SIG in A Hundred Million Stars and expected her character to be more like that.

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Half the reason this show piqued my interest was because the female lead was was explicitly a sociopath. I was excited to see that explored as a lead character and to see how it would explain that sociopaths are not necessarily evil, they just function in the world a bit differently.

@egads Yi-seo definitely has bratty tendencies - but there's nothing that says the two are mutually exclusive. She's a sociopath who was also taught to lean into those tendencies. I think that spoiled her, but also, coupled with her inability to give a f*ck about how others forget the sociopath part or think it's just an excuse for her behavior. I think she was bored because she was so brilliant but never had any real focus or use for her natural intelligence. More than Seo-ro-yi, the pub gives her some focus. It gives her a purpose that just learning never did. I actually have a lot of thoughts on her but I haven't had a chance to write them out yet.

@bcampbell1662 I haven't seen A Hundred Million Stars, but I suspect that it's not so much being a sociopath so much as an introvert that led to his more subdued personality. As I noted, Yi-seo has been taught to lean into her sociopathy by her mother. As a result, she is confident and up front with who she is, including her sociopathic tendencies. (I'm also pretty sure my ex-roommate was a sociopath and she was evil incarnate, but appeared to be a nice normal person when you met her.)

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Both @kdnomore and @snarkyjellyfish are right in a way.

I mean.. we all know Yi Seo’s only goal is to be with SRY and we also know about her being sociopathic. She doesn’t care about people’s feelings.

YS would be fine and okay with berating everyone around SRY and creating wedges between SRY and his people. Heck, with her psychological tendency, I dare say that she would absolutely love it if she managed to be the only indispensable one in DanBam and SRY’s life.

The only thing that’s stopping her to be that kind of a person is that it would betrays SRY’s own values and that it would piss him off. YS’s knowing that makes her to resort and show her adaptive qualities by trying to understand and accept the people around SRY.

For sure YS’s character brings us a breath of fresh air in a kdrama with her brashness. But TBH, I also find YS to be a bit manipulative and hypocritical.

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I cheered when Hyun-yi put Yi-seo in her place. "I can go to whatever club I want. Who would have thought uri Yi-seo was so conservative?"

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Yes!! I was so proud of Hyun-Yi for the clap back!

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I'm most invested in the revenge part than the love triangle.

The story of Hyun-yi wasn't clear. I thought she was a girl disguised in guy so I'm happy that we know more about her now. But her situation is not very clear, she's herself only in club the night?

I don't understand why Sae Ro Yi took her if she's not a so good cooker neither. He wants Danbam to be a franchise for that he needs a signature for his food. I mean no need to be a genius to understand that the food part is not a detail.

I don't understand Geun-soo's father, his son is not weak. Just the fact he wants to leave the house proves itself he's pretty strong.

For the love triangle, I don't like any girls for Sae Ro Yi for now. Soo Ah must find what she really wants and Yi Seo must grow up.

I love the OST! All the songs suit really well the story.

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He just liked her food when she made it for him once. A very simple reason. He is supposed to be like that.

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Yeah but between making one meal and being a chief there is a difference. I understand he trusts people and makes his choices about it. But he should have waited for her to be ready and not open his restaurant without good food. They didn't have clients before and he didn't think about it?
I understand Sae Ro Yi is the heart and Yi Seo the head but it's his revenge.

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He trusts his gut.

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Yeah, I know. He chose her when she wasn't a real cooker. But I hoped at least she would be a good cooker... But no and it's Yi Seo who told something about it. I think Sae Ro Yi should have been more concerned about it, gut or not.

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I know what you mean though

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I feel like we're not seeing something, something sae ro yi knows about hyun yi. We'll probably see it once the show shows us how they met. I mean, everyone else got flash into their past. I'm looking forward to that episode.

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Yeah, I understand the meal she did was important for him. And I want to know more about it.

But his ennemy is a big CEO famous for his own recipes. So, the food is important in his plan.

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It seems to me that Sae Ro Yi is a collector of the needy--all the people he's surrounded himself with to this point have a huge need of one sort or another.

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I think he collects people who need to be accepted as they are and are rejected by the society. Like him, he's a ex-convict.

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@kurama
Good points.
1. I am sure more of Hyun-yi’s backstory will be revealed;
2. The issue with the food at Danbam should have been dealt with way before Danbam opened and Yi-seo arrived on the scene. Sae-ro-yi is a fantastic cook. Making sure the food is right should have been maybe priority 1A (after location). So he brings Han-yi onboard. Fine. He should have taught this inexperienced cook how to cook and prepare food so it tasted and looked how he wanted it. I am firmly placing some of the blame (as much as I hate to) for the food on the boss SRY;
3. I am usually a sucker for the maknae in a drama so that means (unlike his real Dad-marks to Yoo Jae-myung) I am concerned about Guen-soo. “Please Guen-soo let go of
Yi-Seo asap. She will bring you nothing but trouble.” GS is way out of YS’s league. Notwithstanding his childhood he is a caring guy with a conscience. YS maybe a sociopath with a tendency to violence (easy with the slaps). I certainly don’t like the way she has treated him already; and
4. I totally agree with you about the OST. Terrific. I have even learned about the musical artist Gaho!

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Personally, i like Yi seo very much, and after this episode I like her even more. I don't know about the "Sociopath" thing, and I don't care, i just know that she and Se Ro-yi are not very social.
Soo-ah, am not sure what to say. May be the next Ep

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I don't like her as much as I'm fascinated by the character. She consistently acts on what she wants without regard to the consequences for others around her.

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What about Soo Ah.. I mean at least Yi Seo is a 20 year old with issues, what’s Soo Ahs excuse because she’s hurt Sae Roi more than Yi Seo has .. no she didn’t report him but she didn’t warn him either, she just sat back ..Yi Seo didn’t get his business suspended on purpose

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Soo Ah will lean more and more into villain teritory, so might be that's why some viewers here not as harsh as critics Yi Seo, our female lead. I predict she will more heartless in the future and planning it to do so.

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I think her love for Sae royi might bring us miracles. So far she's never cared about anything, not until she met him. That is why I think her transformation will be worthwhile.

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Hopefully. I don't see love as much as I see something/someone she wants to possess at this point.

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So glad I picked this up again after being put off by its first episode, which seemed too violent for me. This is becoming a gem of a show, and it's gradually shining... like Sae-royi. Hihihi. *finger hearts like a dancing Seung kwon*

I am utterly charmed by Yi-seo! I am also amazed that for such a cute face, she is amazingly tall. Will she really succeed in love and success? The chemistry and history between Sae-royi and Soo-Ah seemed hard to beat, but we'll see.

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At this rate I don't care whether she succeeds in love or not, as long as she doesn't regret the choice she made.

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yes Soo ah vs Yi Seo is core plot apart from Sae ro yi vs company Jang ga. I am finding it a bit irritating. the "history" between Sae ro hi and Soo ah wasn't very strong in earlier episodes. To me it seemed he met her just a few days before his life turned upside down due to his father's death. I couldn't "buy" the "obsession" Sae ro hi has for Soo ah.

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Loving the drama. Even though I am unable to understand why Soo-ah is so obsessed with the company Jang ga that she is willing to stoop to any levels and even harm Sae ro yi. Also, Sae ro yi's "love" for Soo ah feels extremely artificial, one romantic encounter 10 years back, then he went through so much in life yet he is shown as obsessed with Soo ah that it is completely fine for her to harm him too!! Well, any ways, they have to build a plot so understandable, The writers will keep Soo ah vs Yi Seo thing for rest of the episodes and we will keep wondering IF IF Yi Seo will get his love or not!! Other wise the twists in the tale is really really good. Acting wise also nobody goes overboard, very controlled acting. I will also appreciate the cinematography, they do try put context to Itaewon and Itaewon does come up like a character in the drama. One does feel like wanting to visit Itaewon :) :D

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Yes. I find myself thinking the same. Why doesn’t Soo Ah just leave Jangga and help Sae ro yi. I do understand that she said many times she will not live like sae ro yi and his dad, but keeps going back and forth between wanting to stay with him and her career. They are essentially rivals and she’ll have to decide - like what everyone’s been asking her - whose side she’s really on

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I think she's choosing to stay where she thinks the power is and right now that's Jangga. Sae ro yi does tell her it's ok every time she chooses them so she might not have any reason to choose Sae ro yi at this point.

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I must mention that I was extremely surprised by handling of trans character Hyun-yi in this drama. Very very normal and without bias but still discussing the confusion on the gender. Looking forward to further development of character Hyun-yi

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He is too good for them? Are you serious? Yes if you said he is too gud for soo-ah becouse she is vindictive bitch but yi seo man she is amezing in every way possible and i think sae ro-yi unknowlage that

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True DAT👌👌👆

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I love hyun-yi she is so adorable as transgender I have to say i am very proud of myself becouse since from my teen time i have been very supportive of transgenders when my sister came out as trans i am the first to accept her choice despite coming from very strick muslim family

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But what exactly is a trans-gender?

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Are you asking for a definition?

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Yes please.

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Transgender people are those who feel that the gender assigned to them at birth does not match the gender that they identify with inside themselves. This is the simple definition. So, the character Hyun-yi was identified as male at birth, but she identifies as female.

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While I have almost no interest at all in any love triangles, and find the romance plots of the drama to be its weakest links, I am quite frankly looking forward to the character growth that we will get from Yi-seo and Soo-ah. Too often the women on screen are two dimensional or almost caricatures of either the personification of the good or the evil woman.

At this point, would I want to be friends with either of these women? Well, no. But you know what? Humans, even the female kind of human, are complex and come in many physical and psychological forms. When we see a flawed character in a piece of fiction we can know that those flaws may be used to give the story conflict and to make it interesting.

Sae-yo-ri's character is so upright, with such an intense sense of justice and right and wrong, that of course the people around him are not. They are potentially going to shake his moral core, and he is going to influence their more flexible, shall we say, moral compasses.

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Quite agree @ "When we see a flawed character in a piece of fiction we can know that those flaws may be used to give the story conflict and to make it interesting. "
I guess its even more fun to identify the flaws in the characters and predict the behavior! :D

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I love the women in this drama. I really like Yi Seo, spoiled as she is. I maintain she is spoiled more than anything, because she doesn't act like a sociopath for the most part, in fact her temperament is more that of a psychopath. So I will stick with she has been spoiled and gassed her entire life, in addition many things come easy to her, so she hasn't had to work hard for much. That being said I enjoy how her selfishness moves her, it makes her interesting because as of yet she hasn't done anything for anyone but herself. When she gets to that point, when she does something not because it benefits her, but solely because it benefits someone else we will see growth.

I also really enjoy Soo Ah too, she is incredibly complex. Her love and affection for Sae Ro Yi interfere with her plans to do well at Jangaa. She is weak to both her job and the man who loves her. I hope she finds her medium and is able to thrive happily.

Finally Hyun Yi, I really wish they had made it clear instead of going for the surprise twist. I was genuinely confused. I didn't understand if she was a trans man or trans woman. Even when they saw her in the club, I was confused. However, now that it is cleared up, I hope they show her transition because they keep using he/him pronouns.

Anywho, I am enjoying every bit of this. I hope it gets better.

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I think "spoiled" is a wrong word. She is clear about what she wants to do. She has been shown to be very good student to earn university admission in good place AND earn her own money through her social media activities. Thus neither she is "spoiled" nor "many things come easy to her, so she hasn't had to work hard for much". She doesn't seem "selfish" either because she is considerate of her friends. She is shown as strong will women who is very intelligent and knows her mind and takes responsibility for her actions.

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Nope, I respectfully disagree. Spoiled in this case means that she has been treated too leniently and indulgently by her mother and she has. That was shown in the scene where she pushed that girl in order to win and her mother said it was fine. Yes, many things do come easy to her. It is difficult to be both a social media star and a good student. Yet, she did it easily. She says so in the club dancing scene. She is bored because she knows she can do it easily. She wasn't stressed about not going to college, she was annoyed she had to tell her mother she wasn't going to college. In addition, none of these things aren't to say she didn't work hard but merely that she didn't put in as much effort as Soo Ah or even Sae Ro Yi because it has just been easier for her. Also she is incredibly selfish, everything she does is for herself. She didn't out those girls for bullying because she cared that the girl was being bullied she did it because she didn't like them. She only became interested in Sae Ro Yi because he took responsibility for his actions and didn't pass the buck. Everything she does is based on how she feels about it, is she slowly starting to change? Yes, is she there yet? No. That being said I do agree that she is a strong will woman who is very intelligent.

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Yes Soo Ah is incredibly complex character. She is shown as intelligent and college educated and supposedly very good brand manager. I don't understand why she has to stick with Jang ga company. Why can't she take up another job! Jang ga's boss seems a crazy person who runs a sweat shop as if he is the king.

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Jangga provided her with financial support, she has worked there for years, it is a solidly good company, and she has an excellent mentor in the vice president. Why would she move elsewhere and have to start up all over again. At the same time as mentioned above she is weak in terms of wanting an easier life for herself, Jangga provides that.

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Yes I agree with @kafiyah-bello. Soo ah is definitely feeling guilty for working at jangga when she knew what they’ve done/covered up. But her life story tells you why she’s reluctant to leave even though she knows those people are immoral and crazy

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Okay see I don't have a problem with characters being complex but I don't have to like their problematic actions themselves. Think of a male character whom you dislike. Think about the reason they might be that way. Now say you are okay with their actions themselves cause you understand why they are that way and you'll see what I mean.

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I understand what you mean, amy1009. I dislike what Yi Seo does so much that I quit watching this drama. For me nothing can justify her type of behavior. Did you notice how quickly she changed from her disgust at Hyun Yi being transgender, to Hyun Yi being a bad cook? Yi Seo knew Hyun Yi wasn't a good cook from the beginning, but when he discovered that being transgender didn't matter at all Sae Ro Yi, food became the BIG issue.

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I don't hate her. She is interesting in some ways. She will develop was character of that I am sure, I am just not okay with a couple of her actions is all. There has been only one lead I ever hated till the end and that's Kim Tan from Heirs.

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I used to be close minded myself. Not someone who would say something but I had these thoughts in my head. It takes time to understand and change.

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However, it would take a heck of a lot longer than 16 episodes, and 6 years for that 20 year old leopard to change her spots.

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The comments are interesting to read because you get to see how other people are viewing the drama. @kdnomore I did not view that scene as Yi Seo was disgusted with Hyun Yi because she was transgender. I did think she was closed minded when she asked why Hyun Yi was not at a transgender club because Hyun Yi is allowed to be wherever she wants. But the cook scene would have happened regardless if Hyun Yi was transgender or not. A bad cook and a new restaurant don't mix well.

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Remember the look on Yi Seo's face when she learns that Hyun Yi is transgender--like "how can I use this"? Then she seizes on Hyun Yi's cooking. Then later when Sae Ro Yi says, "Transgender. What about that?" At that point Yi So knows she's not going to get rid of Hyun Yi that way, later she says, "What if people find out he's a transgender? It will definitely make some people feel uncomfortable. We're not here to play around. DanBam can do much better." Now to me that "can do much better," has a duel meaning. Bad food and a person that's transgender.

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@kdnomore I see Yi Seo as an opportunist. If something won’t work to her advantage she’ll want to get rid of it. Hopefully having a boss like Sae ro yi who has the right morals and principles will teach her to be more accepting and open minded. I’m looking forward to seeing how YiSeo develops as a character

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I'm coming to a point of obsession, I love this drama. Character development is so intriguing to me and I am drawn to each one (though Sae-ro-yi is still the shining star ofc). Usually in dramas I get somewhat bored during the politics or scenes not involving the main, but wow for Itaewon Class I am fully invested each second ^^

Ya I was also confused by why everyone was referring to Hyun-yi as a guy. I thought it would be a case of hiding her gender for some reason but now I seeee. LOL, how funny was that reveal at the club though? Seung-kwon's facials expressions killed me.

And then ofc Yi-seo. Yeah, she's super interesting to me and I am so glad she is on Sae-ro-yi's team because she's so capable. I also loved her "defense" at the end when she stepped in. Very smooth interjection lol. But I still lowkey ship Soo-Ah with Sae-ro-yi. I'm glad she was suffering a little being stuck in the middle here and Sae-ro-yi does seem too good for her but- please Soo-Ah come to the good side. Not gonna lie, I gasped when Soo-Ah leaned in for that kiss and Sae-ro-yi closed his eyes for it???? Like omg, what if that kiss happened...

Waiting for the next episode is killer, but DanBam's slow rise to success is so so satisfying to see and I'm here for it ^^

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I am past the point of obsession, I have rewatched the episodes so much that I think Netflix may tweet about me as some sort of weird person. I also have googled everything I can on this drama and the characters. I am soooo addicted to the drama because its the BEST drama on tv right now. I literally was screaming when I saw [SPOILER REDACTED]. This drama is everything!!!

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Whoa whoa whoa.. people are taking this show too seriously, I ADORE IC but please note its just a show. I don't think they were trying to be trans phobic, and I ADORE Yi Seo and Sae Roi, she is so perfect for him. Yi Seo has always supported Sae Roi (even knowing his background) and Soo Ah really doesnt. Yi Seo saw Sae Roi potential and wanted to build something great with him and Soo Ah has never ever done that, she just states the flaws, like when he said he wanted to destroy Jangga she called him a fool but Yi Seo said lets make it happen without hesitation. As soon as Sae Roi said he wanted to franchise DanBam you could see the doubt in Soo Ah eyes but I could see Yi Seo mind automatically calculating on how they can make it happen.

Yi Seo really loves Sae Roi and shes patient, she could have kept the information about Soo Ah and the business suspension but she didnt, she told him the truth because like she said she going to be with him. I actually see Soo Ah with the eldest son of Jangga and not Sae Roi.

Plus if you review the other episodes you can see how much Sae Roi and Yi Seo are alike. Sae Roi and Yi Seo both defended classmates from rich bullies. I also noticed that Sae Roi has lots of compassion but Yi Seo has lots of business sense, together they are one helluva team. I love Yi Seo and Sae Roi, this drama is soooo good and I am totally addicated, way better than Crash Landing on You.

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I actually see Soo Ah with the eldest son of Jangga

No. That murderer does not deserve love. He needs to be in jail.

In my opinion, Sae-ro-yi and Yi-seo will always have a generational gap. Besides their 10-year age difference, she is an Instagram influencer, while he doesn't even have social media.

I am so tempted to spoil myself on who Sae-ro-yi ends up with in the webtoon. (Please be no one.)

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Well, the way the story is evolving, it seems Soo Ah will hook up with eldest son of Jang ga. She always knew he liked her and she is sticking with Jang ga as if obsessed with company Jang ga. Keeping in mind her "I will do whatever it needs to grow in Jang ga even if it hurt Sae ro yi" attitude, she will hook up with Jang ga's son, it seems to me.

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Soo-ah hates Geun-won. Everyone hates Geun-won.

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I actually noticed that she's intentionally mean to him. Always was, but seems to be even more dismissive of him, knowing what he's done. He literally murdered the one father-figure in her life.

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her hate or love are meaningless. She likes Sae-ro-yi but is doing everything to destroy him. I think she is obsessed with Jang ga as a company and to get control on it, she will hook up with Geun-won especially since his father is also indicating his interest in Geun-won getting together with Soo Ah

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" He literally murdered the one father-figure in her life." But Soo Ah is going all along with his father even though its his father who saved him from prison by framing Sae ro yi. So I think she thinks that is the way powerful handle the powerless and she wants to be powerful. To be powerful she will hook up with Geun Won

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I actually kinda want a spoiler. My tears might never cease if my ship doesn't sail, but waiting is killing me too.

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I joked with my sister that in the U.S., Yi-seo would be considered perfectly fine. The more I watch, the more I tend to think that Yi-seo’s actions may be viewed as antisocial because they tend to be at odds with accepted Korean social behaviors: no respect for age, no qualms using using violence, (a rarity for a woman), isn’t shy about her voicing her opinions, and is confident and self-assured for her age and gender.

Yi-seo has sociopathic tendencies, but she’s not a full-blown sociopath.

On Hyun-yi: I wanted to see her backstory as we did with Seung-kwon, but what little was shown was more than what we would receive from a Kdrama. I thought it was handled well and not as though we’re watching a PSA-fantasy on tolerance. Yi-seo represented a perspective that is real, but that is tempered by her sociopathic traits, so she only saw Hyun-yi’s trans status as a possible issue for SRY’s goal and not as a personal affront. I appreciated the representation and the societal issue tackled, and I am sure it will be brought up again as the DanBam/Jangge war heats up.

Since it’s a PSJ drama, I am biased and was hooked from minute one, but I am so pleased that this drama has four complicated, complex female characters. I know, violence is wrong, but I got such a thrill when Yi-seo slapped the color back into that girl’s face. Years of watching leading females having to rely on perceived moral superiority and turning the other cheek to prove their virtue has left me super cold. Yi-seo is electric.

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I really like (and agree) with your analysis of our characters so far!

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I came to this show for PSJ and I'm staying for Ahn Bo-hyun. I kept getting this feeling that I recognized him from some other drama, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Finally looked him up and was shocked to see that he's the second lead from Her Private Life! What a complete turn around from that puppy to this guy.

I am loving this show. Loving it.

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I knew Ahn Bo hyun from Wednesday 3:30PM. That was a web series that was too damn good to be a web series.

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Oh, wow. I did not recognize him.

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Ahn Bo Hyun is damn good and talent. He makes his character fascinating to watch here. I think the writers will make his character more involve into the plot.

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I’m confused about Hyun-yi. I’m not sure if this is a language misunderstanding or what, but is Hyun Yi a male to female or female to male transgender? It seems like the characters believe she is female to male, so I guess I will go with that, but I just assumed that Hyun Yi was a female to male trans from the beginning, so I am a little perplexed.

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She's male to female, but so far it seems she only really presents as female at the club. I don't think she has fully come out yet, and has yet to start physically transitioning but intends to in the near future.

The language is confusing because Korean doesn't have gendered pronouns the way English does, so I'm guessing the subbers were confused as to what they should do. It was ambiguous in the first few episodes as to how she identified but her coworker seemed to think of her as male (and she didn't correct him) so the subs used male pronouns (this confused me because I knew the actress was female and thought maybe it was just the drama commenting on her androgyny). After Yi-seo calls her "unnie", though, the subs seem to have switched to female pronouns.

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I see. I thought that she was female to male and that her co workers just assumed She was male because that is how she presented. I guess maybe because the actor is female I was unclear. Now I can make more sense of what I am watching. Thanks for clearing that up.👍

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This is the only drama I'm actually looking forward to watch every week at the moment. The characters are interesting, the social context engaging, top notch acting, directing and styling.

It does concern me that Sae-Ro-Yi did not address Hyun-Yi bad cooking earlier. I mean, you don't need to be a genius to tell if a good taste great or not, especially if you're in the business. It clash with his character being a compotent and driven man. I mean if you can beat the odd and raise from the bottom to run your own business, surely you can train your chef to cook a decent meal? Why bother running restaurant otherwise?

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I was surprised that they didn't use the money he gave her to get her some lessons or hire someone to come in and help her develop recipes.

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Yeah, I was puzzled too. Also, since he is such a great cook himself he could giver some, y’know, recipes?

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I really thought he was giving her double her pay so she'd get lessons!

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I liked it that way, because you learn by your own mistakes the best. When you are influenced by someone it's hard to get your final touch, your own spark to dishes because you tend to follow the recipe exactly as you've learned. There're not many schefs who will guide you by learning the best techniques and highlight your strengths but not interfering in your cooking. It's like in fine arts.

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Maybe her cooking was to the standards of some street stalls so he'd considered it was ok for a bar in Itaewon. But the competition is big so the food is important and you need to do something extra to make people come back.

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Thank you for the recap, @dramallama !
I zipped through the 1st 6 episodes and re-watched them, all in a single (long) weekend. That’s how much I love it. Stay good, Show!

About Sae-Ro-Yi:
Park Seo Joon, you are the very embodiment of this character and, yes, now the hair cut sure suits you. Ha ha ha. What I love about his character is that he’s just but not in a naïve way. He’s not self-righteous, just very determined to stay on the straight path of fairness, to attain his goals. His earnest nature reminds me of officer Hwang Yong-Sik in When the Camellia Blooms – in a muuuuch more subdued way of course, ha ha ha. He says what he feels and means what he says. In short, he’s a really good man without being the unicorn of good KDrama Leading Men.

About Yi-Seo:
I really truly enjoy any and every time she's on screen. Is she a sociopath? I don't really think so. I believe that this is just a descriptor that the Writer (of the webtoon or kdrama?) used to make her character more interesting. You don't have to be diagnosed as a sociopath to behave the way she does. Like some have observed, she seems more spoiled than anything else, and yet, she's the most interesting spoiled character I have watched in a while.

The Kiss Interception: best record scratch moment ever! Ha ha ha ha !
Yes, she’s jealous. Yes, Sae-ro-yi was clearly leaning into the kiss, so there was implicit consent. So what? Would either of us just sit there like a lily flower, watching their newfound love interest get kissed by their non-committal 1st love? NOT ME! Good for you, Fiesty Yi-Seo ! Get your man!
(or try… I know a few don’t like the pairing but I’m shipping it. Is this a safe boat? Not in the least, but I enjoy their screentime together too much to not keep my hopes up. The constant reference to her age in this episode seems to indicate that it might take a miracle, though. Hwaiting, my little fox!)

About Soo Ah:
I’m loving not liking her. She is indeed a complex character, with so many shades of grey and a tough childhood that has taught her to only rely on herself and get whatever she can to move forward in life. I don’t blame her. But her arrogance – shamelessly and constantly asking or telling some that Sae-Ro-Yi likes her, without ever bothering to return the feelings, like some trophy – is what bothers me most. She takes his undying almost-unconditional love for granted. And I have zero appreciation for it.

About the show's take on a Transgender character:
This is the 1st time I have seen the matter brought up in a KDrama and my opinion is that it was done tastefully. Could they have hired a real transgender actress for this? Yes. But I’ll take the baby steps towards better inclusion of the LGBTQ+. I’ve read a lot of comments about Yi-Seo’s bias against Hyun-Yi. My response? I was just as shocked and disappointed as Hyun-Yi that Yi-Seo was so narrow-minded. This is the sad reality we live in and it sucks. I am still glad that...

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(damn, my comment got cut off in the previous post)

Back to the Show addressing a Transgender character:

I read a few comments about people being upset that Yi Seo “rolled in” her acceptance of Hyun-Yi as a transgender woman (by calling her Unnie) in the same sentence as accepting her improved cooking skills. I can see why it would irk some and yet, Yi-Seon’s action and Hyun-Yi’s reaction are aligned with their personalities, in my opinion. Neither of them seem to be the type to linger too much on apologies, whether as the giver or receiver of said apology. So a 2-for-1 may seem brash for more sensitive people, however, I really don’t see either of their personalities enjoying the labour of an explicit and elaborate acknowledgement of Hyun-Yi’s gender orientation.

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Thank you @dramallama for the excellent recap on a very important episode. A lot of information was provided to the viewer.
Thank you for this very important piece of information:

At Jang Ga Corp, Secretary Kim updates President Jang on Min-jung’s increase in company shares. President Jang asks what her total percentage would be with her team, and Secretary Kim reveals that it would be over 25%, which is awfully close to President Jang’s 30% share holdings.

This helps me understand the business part of the drama. I did not realize that President Jang owns only 30 percent of his "own" company and he is vulnerable to getting the heave-ho given the right circumstances. I don't think Min-jung made an appearance in this episode but stay tuned.
Also O/T. Re Secretary Kim. I am waiting to see his character arc. At some point he will be put in a situation and required to take the morally right action. Will he?
I hope he does not wind up in that hell where the despicable Secretary Oh of HEALER resides.

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Yes, that is the problem when a company goes public, Yes you make more money but you lose control. Honestly, its better to stay private. MARS Corporation is a prime example ( although it was sold to Buffett) but it was a multi billion dollar private company still in the hands of the original family that started it.

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I only picked this show up after Crash Landing ended and now I'm on this episode and I can't tell you the last time I've hated a main character (Yi Seo) this much. There is no redeeming qualities about her, she is mean and selfish.

I'm also bothered by the age difference, I hope they don't consider her an actual option for Sae-ro-yi while she is 20 years old because there is a huge difference in maturity between them.

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Who is Merlin and Rayleigh?

I get the Zhuge Liang (from 3 kingdoms) but don't get the other 2.

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Merlin from the King Arthur legends, Rayleigh from One Piece.

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I don’t like Yi Seo yet but I like Soo Ah even less, so thanks for blocking that kiss. Even if it meant sticking her nose in Chestnut’s business.

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With much trepidation I approach the recap comments section.

I'm here to say that this show is about the tensions within Korea itself. Jang represents the old Korea being almost Joseon in his traditional Chaebol values. While Yi-Seo represents new Korea being an exemplar of neoliberal hypercapitalism.

The fact that Yi-Seo - especially in her internal monologue - almost perfectly embodies all the elements of modern Korean culture and the fact that she is accused of being a sociopath because of it is by far the most interesting thing about being a viewer of the show in real time.

Yi-Seo is the epitome of Korean social psychopathy. She is - in all her image-obsessed, tech-savvy, super smart, hard working, over-achieving, connections-using, uncaring self - what Koreans tell themselves success is in the modern world.

So for people to label her sociopathic is extremely interesting to me, since her internal monologue matches exactly modern Korean hyper capitalism.

The question then becomes - is modern Korean culture itself sociopathic?

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