Itaewon Class: Episode 8
Danbam continues to take hits, but the more adversity our hero faces, the stronger he seems to come out on the other end, much to the chagrin of his nemesis. It’s gratifying to see the little guy not only stand up against the Big Bad, but get under his skin. Alas, antagonizing the enemy only puts you on their radar and we can only hope Sae-ro-yi knows what he’s doing… for his sake as well as those who believe in him.
EPISODE 8 RECAP
Sae-ro-yi calls the new owner of Danbam’s location to negotiate the raised rent and his smile vanishes as President Jang cackles back over the line. President Jang coyly denies any motives beyond a good business investment, further praising Sae-ro-yi for raising his company’s stock. He invites Sae-ro-yi to visit Jang Ga HQ tomorrow and hangs up. Turning back to his Danbam crew, Sae-ro-yi confirms that Jang Ga is responsible. Fury blazing in her eyes, Yi-seo rails on Soo-ah for shamelessly borrowing Danbam’s ice and starts to attack Geun-soo for working there when Sae-ro-yi bellows at her to knock it off.
He warns her not to say anything more and Yi-seo snatches Soo-ah’s ice bucket on her way out of the pub. Dumping the contents onto the sidewalk, Yi-seo grinds the ice beneath her boots before storming off down the street. Inside, Geun-soo offers to fetch her while Soo-ah takes her leave. Sae-ro-yi apologizes for Yi-seo’s outburst and Soo-ah comments that he and Yi-seo are awfully close. She agrees with Yi-seo, saying she feels too bad to borrow ice and leaves.
Geun-won is at Jang Ga Pub when Soo-ah returns with ice from the store. She rolls her eyes as he insists on carrying the bag and grins that she can ask him for favors outside of the office. Vying for a date, Geun-won tells Soo-ah he has a spare musical ticket and she finally stops to look at him. “Do you like me?” she asks coolly. Geun-won smiles sheepishly and confirms he does. “I don’t like you,” Soo-ah answers, snatching the ice back. His expression hardening, Geun-won demands if it’s because of Sae-ro-yi.
Soo-ah: “Because of ajusshi, the one you hit with your car and killed. He was like a father to me. So please… Stop hitting on me.”
The next day, Sae-ro-yi pays President Jang a visit at Jang Ga HQ. Right off the bat, President Jang suggests Sae-ro-yi sell the building quickly in order to secure the premium Danbam racked up. He warns that the Lease Protection Act won’t save Danbam, as President Jang can basically do whatever he wants. President Jang adds that he could even complain about the wall they busted down… but he doesn’t care about being petty. (Ooohhh what a lie)
Having calmly listened to the entire spiel, Sae-ro-yi asks what he does want. President Jang orders Sae-ro-yi to release Geun-soo and Sae-ro-yi retorts that Geun-soo’s decision. President Jang questions whether having Geun-soo work for him boosts Sae-ro-yi’s self-esteem. He sneers that Geun-soo called Sae-ro-yi strong and that he plans to show Geun-soo what real strength is. President Jang is aware of Sae-ro-yi’s tenacity and vows to buy every building Sae-ro-yi tries to set up business in.
“Is that your definition of power?” Sae-ro-yi asks. President Jang confidently declares that he can easily control and influence all of Sae-ro-yi’s achievements. Sae-ro-yi doesn’t respond so President Jang continues that this all started because Sae-ro-yi was too stubborn to get on his knees. “What would I get for ruining your life?” President Jang asks and says the way to fix the situation is for Sae-ro-yi to correct his behavior and kneel.
Sae-ro-yi asks if kneeling will mean he can continue his business. President Jang agrees, chiding Sae-ro-yi that he can’t get what he wants by being emotional. He promises to put the past behind them and stop taking things from Sae-ro-yi. “What I want out of this fight isn’t money,” Sae-ro-yi corrects, “Because I am… your enemy.” He explains that the day he got expelled, Dad told him he was proud. “Getting expelled? Getting kicked out?” Sae-ro-yi scoffs, “You took absolutely nothing from me.” He says that power comes from people because their trust gives him strength, vowing to become even stonger.
President Jang sneers that if Danbam fails, Sae-ro-yi will lose his people, but Sae-ro-yi counters that they’re the reason he can continue to run it. He turns to go, and President Jang calls out this was his last chance and that he’ll regret it. Turning back, Sae-ro-yi says there’s only one way their ill-fated relationship ends – with President Jang kneeling and receiving punishment for his sins.
On his way out, Sae-ro-yi runs into Soo-ah. He tells her he met President Jang and Danbam will have to move. “I’m just upset my plan to make you quit is going to take longer than expected,” he smiles. Sae-ro-yi leaves, saying he’ll see her later in Itaewon. Meanwhile, Ho-jin catches Min-jung up to speed and they both agree that it would be smart for Sae-ro-yi to work on Min-jung’s business, rather than trying to revive Danbam. She muses that Sae-ro-yi must be discouraged, but Ho-jin assures her that while he may feel upset, throughout their 10-year friendship, he’s never seen Sae-ro-yi discouraged.
Geun-soo catches up to Yi-seo on their way to work, but she’s salty at the Jang family and shuts him down. Frustrated, Geun-soo demands she explain and Yi-seo agrees. By the time they arrive at work, everyone is already there. Hyun-yi good-naturedly chides Yi-seo for leaving yesterday, adding that Sae-ro-yi was particularly worried. He blinks back at her and she grins cheekily. Hee. Yi-seo asks what the battle plan is and Sae-ro-yi suggests they eat first.
Soo-ah approaches President Jang in his office to ask about the acquisition of Danbam’s location. He warns her he’s in a bad mood, but she pushes ahead, saying he’s acting out of character. Soo-ah admits that while President Jang is a shrewd businessman, even when his choices defied social custom it was all for the good of the company. This, however, seems like an emotional decision. President Jang silences her and kicks her out of his office. Recalling Sae-ro-yi’s parting words, President Jang wonders if he really considers “that little kid” his enemy.
Over drinks, Seung-kwon excitedly tells Tony the story of his and Sae-ro-yi’s first fight while Hyun-yi grumbles that he’s told it a million times. Sae-ro-yi notices Yi-seo and Geun-soo’s sour expressions, but Yi-seo denies they fought. Seung-kwon waves it off, saying they fight all the time and suggests going clubbing for round 2. Hyun-yi snickers that he must’ve had a lot of fun last time and Seung-kwon shushes her. Having never been clubbing, Sae-ro-yi asks if it’s fun and Seung-kwon jumps up to give him a lesson.
He starts Yi-seo’s spiel about smiling and announcing your presence, but when he moves close, Sae-ro-yi tells him to sit down. Heh. As they make their way to the club, Seung-kwon continues the lesson for Tony and Sae-ro-yi sends them all ahead so he can have a word with Geun-soo. Once they’re alone, Geun-soo admits Yi-seo spilled the beans and asks why Sae-ro-yi never told him. Sae-ro-yi replies that it’s between him and Geun-won and President Jang.
In turn, Sae-ro-yi asks why Geun-soo came to work for him. Geun-soo shrugs that he wanted money but Sae-ro-yi says it looked like he needed someone to lean on. Sae-ro-yi: “I thought Danbam and I might be able to give you something to lean on.” Geun-soo bristles at being pitied, but Sae-ro-yi insists he merely sees himself in Geun-soo. He apologizes for not considering Geun-soo’s feelings when he found out about Sae-ro-yi’s past. Crying, Geun-soo apologizes for his family and swears that they’ll pay. Sae-ro-yi just pulls him into a hug.
The rest of Danbam enters the club, but while the girls and Seung-kwon easily gain access, the bouncer turns Tony away, declaring citizens from Africa and the Middle East aren’t welcome. Tony cheerfully replies that he’s Korean, but the bouncer calls for security when Tony doesn’t produce his passport. Hyun-yi and Seung-kwon leap to Tony’s defense, but Yi-seo suggests they just leave. Tony desperately insists that he’s Korean, but Yi-seo rudely points out he has dark skin.
Tearing up, Tony calls her on being mean and runs out. Just arriving, Sae-ro-yi calls after him and then asks the others what happened. Yi-seo matter-of-factly says that the club doesn’t accept Africans. She says the owner has a right to refuse service and sighs that Tony got all upset when she didn’t side with him. Sae-ro-yi is startled and warns Yi-seo that she’s been getting on his nerves since yesterday. She just pouts that Tony isn’t Korean. That night, Geun-soo scrolls through Yi-seo’s feed, wondering what he’s going to do.
The next morning, Yi-seo, Hyun-yi, and Seung-kwon smirk at the graffiti emblazoned on the club’s entrance, calling them out for being racist. Meanwhile, Sae-ro-yi meets with Ho-jin (aww… there’s spray paint all over his jacket) and turns down Ho-jin’s suggestion that he invests rather than reopen Danbam. Ho-jin points out that President Jang will continue to buy up every building they rent. Handing his phone to Ho-jin, Sae-ro-yi says there’s a way. He plans to call Min-jung that afternoon and apologizes to Ho-jin.
Over at Danbam, Geun-soo arrives first and starts setting up. The rest of the crew arrive, and he asks to speak with Yi-seo. He tells her that he plans to return home in exchange for President Jang to leave Danbam be and Yi-seo’s expression finally softens. To his disappointment, Yi-seo just smiles she’d be grateful if he did. She continues to grin, even as he tells her she’s mean. While waiting for the bus, Geun-soo thinks back to the night she used him as a dummy to teach Seung-kwon clubbing etiquette and smiles ruefully.
Sae-ro-yi meets with Min-jung and she asks if he needs to borrow money. Instead, Sae-ro-yi wants to withdraw half of his investment in Jang Ga. She points out he’ll lose any influence in the company, saying she’d thought Ho-jin would convince him to help her instead. Min-jung wonders why he’s risking so much for a tiny pub that President Jang can easily take away. Sae-ro-yi says the pub is all about the people he works with.
Back at work, the rest of the team worries that they haven’t heard from Tony. Seung-kwon urges Yi-seo to apologize but she doesn’t bother to look up. Soo-ah arrives to return beer that she borrowed and Yi-seo glowers at her. They’re joined by Sae-ro-yi and Yi-seo announces that Geun-soo has something to say. Geun-soo awkwardly says he wants to quit, denying there’s a reason. Sae-ro-yi asks him to stay if this is about his family, adding, “I like you. You’re like my younger brother.”
Yi-seo pipes up that Geun-soo promised to barter with President Jang to secure Danbam’s location. She said that moving will cost a lot of money and they can easily run the pub without Geun-soo. Turning on her, Sae-ro-yi asks her opinion and when Yi-seo supports the idea, he rips off her nametag.
Sae-ro-yi tells Yi-seo she doesn’t deserve to be Danbam’s manager and shuts Soo-ah down when she tries to intervene. Yi-seo argues that he’ll never beat Jang Ga if he insists on treating Danbam like family rather than a business. Sae-ro-yi snaps that if all that matters is profit, he won’t do business. Yi-seo tries to plead with him, but Sae-ro-yi barks, “If I were to become like him, I wouldn’t have started this.”
Growing emotional, Yi-seo tearfully shouts that she doesn’t want him to get kicked out and suffer a loss. Sae-ro-yi counters that it’s only natural for his enemy to attack him. “What makes me upset now,” he shouts, “is you whom I thought was on my side.” Yi-seo sniffles that she only said it for his sake but Sae-ro-yi can’t understand why she needs to fire someone he cares about for that. He apologizes for yelling but Yi-seo stops him from leaving, saying, “I bet my life on you. You have to take responsibility. I need a realistic alternative.”
Her words echo what Min-jung had told him earlier. He had explained that’s the reason he’s retrieving his investment in Jang Ga – to protect his people. He’d vowed not to be swayed by President Jang anymore. In the present, Yi-seo accuses him of not having an alternative and Sae-ro-yi declares he’ll buy a building. Calling it the realistic alternative, he leaves. Yi-seo doesn’t believe him but Soo-ah points out Sae-ro-yi never lies. Turning to the younger woman, Soo-ah asks her to talk.
The women relocate and despite Yi-seo’s prickly demeanor, Soo-ah says she wants to help. Yi-seo growls at her to butt out of Danbam’s business but Soo-ah wants to talk about Sae-ro-yi. She recalls Yi-seo declared she liked Sae-ro-yi and wonders whether she’d still like him if he were a sly guy who was a more practical businessman. Soo-ah explains that for Sae-ro-yi, it only counts when he proves himself using the opposite methods of President Jang.
Soo-ah admits it’s hard – both for Sae-ro-yi and the ones watching – but she insists that no one can change him. She tells Yi-seo that to be on his side, she shouldn’t try to change him, but support him. Yi-seo sniffs that Soo-ah understands him well but Soo-ah says she’s not on his side precisely because she doesn’t. Yi-seo’s suspicious of Soo-ah’s motives but Soo-ah assures her she hasn’t given up on Sae-ro-yi. She maintains her confidence in Sae-ro-yi’s feelings and Yi-seo snidely reminds Soo-ah she hates her. Soo-ah admits she knows that too, “Keep your chin up, Cutie.”
For all her grumbling, Yi-seo considers Soo-ah’s words as she walks back. She recalls Sae-ro-yi’s abhorrence of bowing to others despite making life easier and his confidence in Hyun-yi. Stopping at the corner to see the bouncer and his men scrubbing Sae-ro-yi’s graffiti, she smiles to herself that she likes him. Yi-seo takes off at a run and finds Geun-soo outside his apartment. She gruffly apologizes and when Geun-soo doesn’t react, she admits he must be mad and cheekily asks what she should do.
Geun-soo says he’s not mad but Yi-seo is unconvinced, agreeing that she was heartless. He points out she’s always been heartless, inconsiderate, and selfish. She scoffs that he must really be peeved and Geun-soo finishes, “But I like you the way you are.” Yi-seo confesses she’s in love with Sae-ro-yi and is apologizing because she wants to stay with him. She tells Geun-soo to stay out of her way and skips off while he stares sullenly after her.
Tony is at the district office the next day, trying to get information on his father. The clerk tells him that he can’t relinquish personal information without consent and Tony thrusts forward an adorable photo of him and his father when he was young, arguing he’s not a stranger. The clerk sighs that a picture isn’t proof of paternity and implores Tony to return with his family certificate. Meanwhile, the rest of the Danbam crew read Yi-seo’s latest social media post bashing the club for discriminating against Tony based on his skin color.
Yi-seo arrives at work and admits to the post, pointing out Sae-ro-yi said messing with his people was like messing with him. “So I made up my mind,” she declares, “I’ll just kill those who mess with you.” She asks where Tony is and Hyun-yi suggests Yi-seo call him. Just as she dials, Tony arrives and he asks Yi-seo about the post, arguing that he is Korean. Everyone sighs when she counters that he doesn’t look Korean, asking why he insists that he is.
Tony reveals that his dad came to Korea to meet his mother (Tony’s grandmother) and that as soon as he finds him, Tony can acquire Korean nationality. Yi-seo points out that he hasn’t acquired it yet and so he’s not Korean. Sae-ro-yi starts to chide her, but Yi-seo continues that she’ll help Tony find his dad. She apologizes for not siding with him and Tony sniffles, feigning a stomachache. She tsks that Sae-ro-yi’s graffiti was childish and he should use his brain.
Smiling like a proud papa, Sae-ro-yi reaches out to pat her head but Yi-seo demands her nametag back first. Her eyes widen when he immediately produces it from his pocket, and she insists he put it on her. He does and Hyun-yi and Seung-kwon high-five. Yi-seo pouts that it’s hard dealing with Sae-ro-yi and he grins as he pats her head. Geun-soo arrives just then and looks up at them sadly.
President Jang’s assistant informs him a new tenant has moved into Danbam’s location and Geun-won laughs, suggesting President Jang buy wherever Sae-ro-yi moved to as well. President Jang asks his assistant who reports that Sae-ro-yi bought a building. Across town, the crew busily sets up the new location while Tony hands out fliers. A woman warns them that all the businesses that take up that building fail and hands them her card (heh, she’s a loan shark).
Min-jung thinks about Sae-ro-yi’s declaration that what matters in business is people and smiles that Dad had once told her something similar. Min-jung meets with Sae-ro-yi, who apologizes for causing her trouble by removing his investment. She laughs that it didn’t make much of a difference and that her challenge had been for him to rankle President Jang… which he did. When he confirms he still wants Min-jung’s help, she says they should have a shared goal.
She wonders if revenge is all Sae-ro-yi wants and he says after that, he’d like freedom. “I want my words to have power so no one can mess with me and my people,” Sae-ro-yi continues, “I don’t want to be swayed by anyone or any injustice.” He tells her he wants to live a life where he can make his own decisions and not have to pay for his principles. She chuckles that he’s an idealist but accepts his goal and proposes they enjoy that freedom together.
Stewing in his office, President Jang recalls Sae-ro-yi’s assertion that President Jang had stolen nothing from him. “As I grow older, I’m becoming pettier,” he tells Geun-won. The next morning, Soo-ah meets up with Sae-ro-yi and muses that she’s not even surprised he’s become a building owner. He admits he’s been told he picked a bad location, but she notes the doesn’t look concerned. Sae-ro-yi smiles that he believes in his people.
Soo-ah admits she’s jealous of how much he cares for them – Yi-seo in particular. “On your way to make me unemployed,” Soo-ah clarifies, “You need her, right?” Sae-ro-yi thinks about it while across town, a visitor arrives at Jang Ga HQ. “It hasn’t been long since she came,” Sae-ro-yi finally answers, a smile spreading across his face, “but I can’t imagine Danbam without Yiseo.” The doors open and Yi-seo strides into President Jang’s office.
Ooooooh! This show has been great at consistent cliffhangers. I’d like to think Yi-seo is going to tell President Jang where to shove it, but she’s such a loose cannon, who knows what’ll happen. Yi-seo finally crossed a line this episode and as much as it sucks to see a beloved character act in such a disappointing manner, I love that show did it. Yi-seo’s sass is much of her charm, but her disregard for anything that doesn’t personally concern her was something she needed to be held accountable for.
I had hoped that Sae-ro-yi’s influence would be enough for her to realize this shortcoming on her own, but when she sided with the racist bouncer/club against Tony, there was no excuses to be made for her behavior. Shamelessly using Geun-soo’s crush on her and his guilt towards Sae-ro-yi to leverage to keep Danbam’s location was painfully still within the bounds of her character and it (rightfully so) is what sent Sae-ro-yi over the edge.
My heart absolutely broke for Tony. He is Korean and yet he is continually judged (be it discrimination or simply assuming he can speak English) for his appearance. I must applaud the show for tackling discrimination from so many different angles. From financial status, education, family background, criminal history, gender identity, to skin color, Itaewon Class has crafted such a lovely unit in Danbam and continues to explore their stories and the unique, yet uniting, struggles they all face. It’s gratifying to see Yi-seo’s growth through it all.
While her behavior is often ugly, I don’t think that she’s prejudiced so much as she doesn’t empathize with anyone else’s pain (save for Sae-ro-yi). That’s not an excuse, but it is a sociopathic trait. She’s learning the proper way to treat people through Sae-ro-yi and the relationships she’s building at Danbam. She may never be as compassionate, but she’s not beyond adapting to Sae-ro-yi’s way of thinking and that’s a start.
Finally! An episode where I found myself genuinely liking Soo-ah a little bit. As frustrated as I’ve been by her character, she’s not an easy one to hate. Especially when she took Yi-seo aside to tell her why she was wrong. Plus, the contrast between this cafe scene and the previous one was lovely. Both women understand that Sae-ro-yi would have it a lot easier if he would bend his principles, but the difference is that Soo-ah also understands that it goes against Sae-ro-yi’s nature.
While Soo-ah doesn’t agree with Sae-ro-yi’s methods, she knows that it’s important to him. I do think her confidence could bite her in the rear later, but I was proud of her for recognizing Sae-ro-yi needs allies, even if she can’t be one of them. It was the first truly selfless act we’ve seen her exhibit and the fact that it was following up her cold rejection of Geun-won’s advances, left me cheering for her. I doubt she’s done wavering, but where I find that infuriating in other shows, Itaewon Class manages to express its characters in such a human light that I respect the nuance. I can’t believe we’re already at the halfway point and I’m thrilled with the story thus far. I can only pray that the show manages to keep this momentum for the second half because Sae-ro-yi and the Danbam team deserve a happy ending.