Itaewon Class: Episode 11
Danbam takes a risk to grow their brand, and the promising results gives the team hope in their growing success. The Big Bad Jang Ga seem ever-threatened by Danbam’s growth, and the pressure to maintain their title as the top company of the industry feels more imminent with Danbam creeping into their territory. While the Itaewon Class business flourishes, the Danbam team confronts truths about their relationships and the personal/professional boundaries that are never quite clear cut in Danbam.
EPISODE 11 RECAP
As the Danbam team prepares for opening, Sae-ro-yi receives a call from “The Best Pub” producers, the show that previously dropped them with Geun-won’s bribe. He hangs up and asks the team about their thoughts on participating on the show. Yi-seo suggests that they capitalize on their underdog story, and the team agrees that participating in the show would benefit Danbam. Geun-soo also agrees and then announces that he plans on quitting Danbam.
Sae-ro-yi asks to talk privately, and as Geun-soo follows Sae-ro-yi to the rooftop, Yi-seo wonders why Geun-soo suddenly decided to quit after senselessly enduring the tension thus far. Geun-soo curtly responds that it’s because of Yi-seo and heads upstairs.
Sae-ro-yi asks Geun-soo if he’s quitting because of his family, and Geun-soo responds that he has other reasons. He shares that as a child out of wedlock, he grew up with warnings to not be greedy, know his place, and ingratiate himself, so he learned to never wanted anything.
Seeing Sae-ro-yi’s approach to life, he says that he’s motivated to make a change. Geun-soo remembers Yi-seo’s challenge to take over Jang Ga if he ever wanted to pursue her, and he asserts th Sae-ro-yi that he’ll live differently. Sae-ro-yi isn’t sure what Geun-soo means, but he can’t argue with Geun-soo’s convictions. He wishes Geun-soo luck, and Geun-soo responds that he’ll do his best.
Soo-ah visits Geun-won in jail, and he seems delighted until she shares that she’s visiting on President Jang’s orders. She slides an envelope across the table and says that it’s a contract to transfer his shares to President Jang. Geun-won looks betrayed and responds with an incredulous laugh.
Secretary Kim reports to President Jang that the shares were successfully transferred, and they notice an unlikely face at the company: Geun-soo. In President Jang’s office, Geun-soo tells his father that he plans to learn the business. He knows that President Jang has no better option and would never bequeath his company to an unrelated stranger.
At Danbam, Seung-kwon regrets not giving Geun-soo a proper farewell party, and Tony notes that the pub feels incomplete without him. Then, Hyun-yi makes an entrance with her new look, visiting before her official return tomorrow. She reports that her surgery went well, and Yi-seo comments on how Hyun-yi is prettier than her. Tony echoes the compliments while Seung-kwon looks at her in awe.
Regarding the updates on Danbam (Geun-soo leaving and “The Best Pub”), and Hyun-yi notes that a lot has happened during her absence. Sae-ro-yi asks her opinion on their participation in “The Best Pub,” and Hyun-yi immediately agrees to participate, since this is an obvious opportunity for them.
President Jang instructs Soo-ah to conclude her management of the Itaewon pub and return to her original role at headquarters. He also passes on Geun-won’s responsibilities with “The Best Pub” to her and has one more request. He summons Geun-soo into his office and asks Soo-ah to teach him well.
Soo-ah shows Geun-soo to his desk and shares large binders of information on the planning team. She asks why he left Danbam, and he vaguely responds that there is something he wants that he can only gain at Jang Ga. He promises to do his best, and Soo-ah seems uncertain about his motivations.
Loan shark Gran collects her dues from a neighborhood father, who begs Gran to return his money because he has no other means to feed his son. Gran glances at the soju bottles outside the home with scorn and tells the father that he shouldn’t have brought his son into the world if he couldn’t feed him.
Tony watches this at the end of the street and tells Gran that she’s mean. He disagrees with her callous ways, but Gran defends her actions as simply collecting money that she’s owed. Tony asks how the father will feed his son, but Gran points out that the father spends money on alcohol but claims to not have money to feed his son.
It’s a busy night at Danbam, and in the kitchen, Hyun-yi asks Tony to add seasoning to the mussel soup, but he accidentally adds curry powder. Seung-kwon checks in on the kitchen, and he asks why the kitchen smells like curry. Hyun-yi realizes that Tony put curry powder into the mussel soup and yells at him for his mistake.
Sae-ro-yi pokes his head into the kitchen to check on the orders and also notices the curry smell. Seung-kwon tastes the soup and tells Hyun-yi that it’s pretty good. Sae-ro-yi looks at the soup curiously, and the next thing we know, it’s being cooked up at “The Best Pub.”
The Danbam team watches the broadcast, and they wait eagerly for the winner of the first round among 16 pubs. The host announces Danbam’s Ma Hyun-yi as the winner, and Seung-kwon and Tony yell in celebration. Seung-kwon overreacts and gives Hyun-yi a big hug, and then he immediately apologizes for overstepping their boundaries.
Yi-seo tells Hyun-yi that she’s the obvious winner, and Seung-kwon notes that Yi-seo once wanted Hyun-yi fired. Yi-seo denies this and cuddles up to her unni, saying that she can’t live without Hyun-yi. Their celebration is interrupted by an early guest, who asks to meet with the owner.
Sae-ro-yi brings the guest to the rooftop with Yi-seo, and he introduces himself as Do Joong-myung, the CEO of Joong-myung Holdings. He expresses his interest in the Danbam franchise, and Yi-seo correctly identifies his investment offer. He saw Danbam on “The Best Pub” and claims that he was looking to find a suitable business for a franchise.
President Jang sees the news of Danbam’s win, and he tells Soo-ah that he must have overestimated her. Soo-ah apologizes, but Geun-soo assures his father that Jang Ga still got second place in the tournament and will move on to the next round. Soo-ah tries to stop him, but President Jang dismisses Soo-ah from his office to teach his son directly.
Geun-soo doesn’t understand what’s wrong with second place and asks if President Jang feels threatened because they lost to Sae-ro-yi. President Jang reminds Geun-soo that Jang Ga is the pinnacle of food companies, and that title comes from maintaining first place — anything less than first place erodes their title. President Jang reproves Geun-soo’s naivety and threatens to get rid of Geun-soo, citing his abandonment of his first-born to maintain Jang Ga as the pinnacle.
Geun-soo apologizes to his father and heads out to find another scolding awaiting him with Soo-ah. She admonishes him for his poor judgment, that he would speak up against President Jang in front of his superior. She asks if his confidence comes from his blood relation to President Jang and reminds him that Jang Ga is different than Danbam in that it’s a top-down organization. She doesn’t need a foolish employee on her team and tells him to adjust quickly.
As Soo-ah walks away, Geun-soo tells Soo-ah not to allude to bloodline being his crutch, since she doesn’t know how he was born and raised. Soo-ah approaches him and fixes his tie as she points out that he was given this job with a high school degree and no interview. She advises him to do better if he doesn’t want to hear more about his nepotism.
Sae-ro-yi announces to his Danbam team that they’re ready to expand their brand, and Yi-seo presents a binder that she organized during their re-opening. The binder contains their interior concept, recipes, and their employee manual. Sae-ro-yi looks impressed, and Yi-seo rightly seems proud of herself.
Sae-ro-yi says that they can use this guide to start a second location, but Yi-seo asks why he’s approaching this in the roundabout way. They have an investor who wants to build Danbam’s franchise, so they can take his money to start up multiple locations at once. But Sae-ro-yi wants to slowly prove to investors that they can manage multiple locations and start from there. Yi-seo expresses frustrations with Sae-ro-yi’s slow approach and asks when he plans on catching up to Jang Ga.
Later that night, Sae-ro-yi consults Ho-jin, who says that Yi-seo has a point. Sae-ro-yi knows that Yi-seo always has a valid argument, but he wants to be more cautious. Ho-jin recognizes CEO Do but offers to do more research. Sae-ro-yi then asks about something else he asked for, and Ho-jin gives him a set of documents for Tony’s visa and to help him find his father. Aww. Ho-jin doubts that the search will be successful, but Sae-ro-yi isn’t fazed by doubt.
Yi-seo answers a call from CEO Do about his investment offer, and he seems annoyed at Sae-ro-yi’s lack of response. She assures him that they’re interested and adds that Sae-ro-yi is approaching this investment carefully. CEO Do says that he doesn’t have much time with his offer, and Yi-seo promises a response soon. After she hangs up, she angrily asks Seung-kwon where Sae-ro-yi is. Sae-ro-yi tapes posters on the streets, and we see that they’re for Tony’s dad, Kim Dong-gil.
Sae-ro-yi returns to Danbam and accepts Gran’s order, despite Yi-seo’s insistence that Gran can’t just order a side dish. He hands Tony the documents for his visa, and Tony thanks him sincerely. Seung-kwon notes how difficult it is for a foreigner to stay in the country, and Tony reminds him that he’s Korean. Gran wonders where Tony is from, and when Tony responds that he’s from Guinea, she seems shaken with recognition.
Gran grabs a poster on her way out, just as the police enter the pub with a handful for the posters. The police officer received a report about the illegal posting of the flyer, and Sae-ro-yi apologizes as he accepts the fine. Sae-ro-yi apologizes for not being much help to Tony, but Tony is still grateful for his efforts. Seung-kwon assures him that they’ll all pitch in to find his dad.
Yi-seo asks Sae-ro-yi to talk, and Seung-kwon shakes his head in recognition of Yi-seo’s impending outburst. Tony turns to serve Gran, but she’s gone. Gran walks in shock with the poster in hand. She seems the recognize the man in poster, but we don’t know how just yet.
On the rooftop, Yi-seo asks about Sae-ro-yi’s consultation with Ho-jin, and he says that Ho-jin recognized the investment company. Yi-seo acknowledges Sae-ro-yi’s dedication to his people, but she reminds him of their priorities and the importance of timing with this investment offer. She accepts that she’s just mean and heartless in comparison to him.
Yi-seo says that she’ll follow whatever Sae-ro-yi decides, but she asks him to trust her. Sae-ro-yi asks if she’s confident, and she confirms that she is. He decides that they should go ahead then, and Yi-seo asks why he suddenly changed his mind. He says that he trusts Yi-seo more than anyone and puts his arm around her. He apologizes for making her the villain under a dumb boss, and he tells her to set a up a meeting with Joon-myung Holdings.
Before their meeting, Sae-ro-yi met with Min-jung, who advised him to determine the value of his pub in order to stand his ground. In the meeting with CEO Do, Sae-ro-yi asks why he’s interested in Danbam. CEO Do explains that he found interest in Danbam’s connection with Jang Ga and admits that he knows about President Jang from his father, who was a former politician. He knows Danbam’s full backstory through the recent scandal and finds their story compelling.
CEO Do finds all the pieces — a small pub fighting against the top food corporation, the owner’s humble beginnings, a talented and sensible manager — worthy of his investment. Sae-ro-yi then asks how much CEO Do estimates Danbam to be worth, and CEO Do promises that Sae-ro-yi won’t be disappointed. Sae-ro-yi says that Danbam is worth 5 billion Won (about 4.2 million USD), and CEO Do seems alarmed by the high figure. Yi-seo smiles nervously and tries to stop Sae-ro-yi, but he remains firm in his offer.
Min-jung sees the news of Joong-myung Holdings investing 5 billion Won in Danbam, and she comments that he put an extraordinary value on Danbam. She smiles and acknowledges that Sae-ro-yi is an extraordinary person.
At Danbam, Sae-ro-yi, Yi-seo, and even Seung-kwon are busy answering phone calls about investments. Yi-seo and Sae-ro-yi meeting Ho-jin, who shares that Joong-myung’s lead investment has resulted in additional investments in others who are following Joong-myung, so their total investment exceeds 10 billion Won. Yi-seo gets giddy at their well-timed action, and Sae-ro-yi looks at her with pride.
Secretary Kim reports the news of the investments and Danbam’s plans for expansion to President Jang, but President Jang doesn’t want to hear any more about Danbam’s success. Per Secretary Kim’s report, we see Danbam expanding into a full company and moving in a large corporate building. They set up their offices and present their signature menu to their investors, and we see Sae-ro-yi running up alongside Namsan tower as Danbam also moves up in the food industry.
Loan shark Gran runs into the poor father on the street and scolds him for buying alcohol again instead of food for his son. When she digs into his bag, she finds a briquet, which he intends to use for gas to kill himself. Gran quarrels with him about his irresponsibility, and the father pushes Gran in defense. To his alarm, she falls and rolls down the street.
The Danbam team walks through the streets of Itaewon, and Hyun-yi still can’t believe all the investments. Seung-kwon says that Sae-ro-yi stays true to his word, and Sae-ro-yi says this achievement is thanks to all of them. Then, they see the poor father crying next to injured Gran and run to help.
Thankfully, Gran hasn’t suffered major injuries and just needs to rest at the hospital. The poor father apologizes to Gran, who continues to hit him for his poor decisions. She scolds him for having the courage to die but not to live, and the father cries that she wouldn’t know his struggles because she has no family. Tony tells the father that the son needs his father’s presence more than food. From experience, he shares that a son misses and longs for his father when he’s not around.
Gran buys the briquet from the father and generously gives him money to bring back to his son. The father cries in gratitude and leaves the hospital. Sae-ro-yi asks Gran if they should call any family members, and Gran says that she used to have family. She shares that her son lived obediently by her wishes but then decided to marry a woman from Guinea. Ah, Gran is Tony’s grandma!
Gran says that she opposed the marriage, even though it was the one thing that he did that he truly wanted. Tony shows Gran the poster with the photo of his father, and Gran strokes the photo gently. Yi-seo asks about her son’s whereabout, and Gran regretfully shares that he passed away in a car accident. Tony tears up, and Gran takes his hand, apologizing with heavy regret.
The Danbam team drive to “The Best Pub” competition, and Seung-kwon worries about Tony. Yi-seo says that he’ll have less trouble staying in the country now, and Seung-kwon finds that comment unsympathetic in this situation. Sae-ro-yi tells his team that they’ll have to wait for Tony’s decision on his return to Danbam and tells them to focus on their competition ahead.
Soo-ah tells the Jang Ga competition participant that she found out the theme of the next competition: soup with no seasoning. She suggests fermented soy bean paste soup, and he boasts that he can make a great soup. Geun-soo marvels at Soo-ah’s connections, and the chef says that he has lots to learn from Soo-ah.
At the hospital, Tony slices apples for Gran, who asks if he hates her. Tony says that his father talked a lot about Gran — that she made sure that they lived fully despite their hardship, that she would always make sure he was well-fed even though she didn’t eat, that he only understood how incredible she was once he had Tony.
Tony assures Gran that his father never hated her, and he says on behalf of his father, “Thank you.” Gran begins to cry, and Tony holds her hand as he thanks her again. He holds her and comforts her as she continues to weep.
Geun-soo visits Hyun-yi’s room before the competition, and they seem happy to see each other. He says that he was surprised when he saw her on the show, and she looks down at her body self-consciously. She admits that it must be awkward, but he assures her that he was surprised because she was so pretty. Hyun-yi smiles at the affirmation.
The host narrates the mission of this week’s competition — soup without any seasoning — and notes that most competitors are choosing to cook stews. He interviews Hyun-yi, who shares that she’s cooking soondubu stew, Danbam’s signature dish. She asks him to get out of the way of her cooking, and he obliges. The Danbam team watches from afar, and Soo-ah also watches with Geun-soo at her side. Since he’s had both dishes before, she asks who he predicts as the winner. While both dishes are good and the result will depend on the judges’ preference, he predicts that Jang Ga will lose.
The judges taste the competitors’ dishes, and the host announces the winner: It’s Danbam again! Hyun-yi looks shocked, and the Danbam team celebrate their victory. Soo-ah looks surprised, but Geun-soo seems to understand the reason for Jang Ga’s loss.
After the competition, Jang Ga chef hums as he enters the waiting room and asks why Soo-ah and Geun-soo look defeated. Soo-ah brightens up and thanks him for his hard work, but Geun-soo says that Soo-ah will suffer the consequences of this loss. He notes that the chef, Manager Park, has been attending autograph events after gaining fame through the broadcast instead of preparing for the next competition.
Manager Park says that he can still get second place by doing a half-ass job, and Geun-soo remembers his father’s assertion that always being first is what earns them the pinnacle title. Geun-soo admits that he agreed that second place was fine, but he adds that President Jang disagrees. He quotes President Jang as he warns Manager Park that those who are satisfied with second place don’t belong at Jang Ga.
Geun-soo lightens up the tension with a smile and says that he was simply worried for Manager Park. As they leave the building, Geun-soo apologizes to Soo-ah for speaking up again inappropriately. She says that his warning was warranted and compliments on his stern warning. They run into Sae-ro-yi and Yi-seo in the lobby, and they congratulate each other.
Sae-ro-yi invites them to their team dinner, and Yi-seo protests the invitation to the enemy. Soo-ah defers to Geun-soo, who says that he wants to join. Soo-ah takes Sae-ro-yi’s arm and walks away while Yi-seo glares at them from behind. Geun-soo asks why she isn’t intervening, and she says the timing isn’t appropriate now, though she’s confident that things will be different in two years.
Yi-seo asks how Jang Ga has been, and Geun-soo responds that he’s still adjusting. He asks how she’s been, and he says that he already misses Danbam (or is it Yi-seo?). Yi-seo seems suspicious of his attachment to Danbam since he left immediately, and Geun-soo reminds her that he left because of her. Sae-ro-yi asks the two if they’re coming, and Yi-seo runs after them. She separates Soo-ah and Sae-ro-yi and takes his arm.
At dinner, Yi-seo flatters Hyun-yi by saying that she fell for her, and Seung-kwon seem grumpy for no apparent reason. Geun-soo congratulates Hyun-yi, and Soo-ah asks her to go easy on them. They fill their glasses to celebrate, and they later find themselves spinning the soju bottle for a truth game. The bottle points to Yi-seo, and Geun-soo asks if Sae-ro-yi has any questions. Yi-seo looks eager to answer any questions, but Sae-ro-yi says that he already knows everything.
Geun-soo decides to ask the question: “Do you remember when you said that you would come to me if I took over Jang Ga?” Omo, that’s a confession. Yi-seo says that she does remember and tries to explain further, but he stops her, having already confirmed the truth he wants to hear. Seung-kwon teases them, but Yi-seo denies that they’re romantically involved and makes it especially clear to Sae-ro-yi.
They spin the bottle again, and it points to Sae-ro-yi, much to the delight of Hyun-yi and Seung-kwon. Hyun-yi asks about Sae-ro-yi’s first kiss, and both Yi-seo and Soo-ah glance at him with interest. He responds that he’s never had a first kiss, and both Hyun-yi and Seung-kwon look mortified on his behalf. Yi-seo remembers kissing drunk and collapsed Sae-ro-yi, and she smiles to herself.
Next, Seung-kwon asks about Sae-ro-yi’s relationship with Soo-ah, and Sae-ro-yi honestly admits that he likes Soo-ah. Yi-seo looks saddened by the response. Hyun-yi notices her mood change and quickly moves onto the next question, but it only makes things worse. Geun-soo asks if Sae-ro-yi has been attracted to Yi-seo as a woman. After a tense moment of silence, Sae-ro-yi responds that Yi-seo just a younger sister and business partner to him.
Yi-seo looks completely deflated by this response, and she tears up. She’s known this all along, but somehow hearing it has made her cry. Seung-kwon notices Yi-seo’s tears first and brings it to everyone’s attention. Sae-ro-yi sees her crying, and Yi-seo quickly leaves in embarrassment.
Hyun-yi tells Sae-ro-yi to go after her, since it’s clear why she’s crying. But Geun-soo argues that he shouldn’t, since going after her will give her false hope. Hyun-yi tells Geun-soo that they have no reason to make a fool out of Yi-seo any further, and she turns to Sae-ro-yi to instruct him to follow Yi-seo, since she’s valuable to him.
Sae-ro-yi heads out to find Yi-seo, and Seung-kwon freezes in shock at this situation. Hyun-yi tells Geun-soo that he was acting out of character and calls him a jerk. Oof, this unni is only spouting truths.
Sae-ro-yi chases after Yi-seo and tries to bring her back inside, but she refuses because he doesn’t have any affection for her. She says that her 2-year plan is ruined because of Geun-soo, so she says that she’s falling back on Plan B. She looks at Sae-ro-yi intently, her heart nearly bursting, and confesses, “I love you.” She confesses her love multiple times so that Sae-ro-yi doesn’t misunderstand her.
Taken aback, Sae-ro-yi tries to rationalize that she’s misunderstanding her familial comfort with him as love, but Yi-seo denies this. Tears falling, she says that her feelings were clear from the first time she met him. Sae-ro-yi says that she should go to Geun-soo when he becomes successful, but Yi-seo brings him back on topic. She admits that she proposed the deal to Geun-soo to manipulate him in the interest helping Sae-ro-yi, and Sae-ro-yi seems aghast that she would trivialize someone’s feelings like that.
Yi-seo acknowledges that it’s immoral, and she doesn’t expect him to understand her. She just wants to tell him to truth and present herself as she is. She says that she won’t do any of this anymore because Sae-ro-yi doesn’t like it, and she asks him to see her instead of talking about Geun-soo.
Sae-ro-yi starts to comment on their 10-year age gap and the work he needs to do, but Yi-seo stops him there. She says, “If you don’t like me, just say it. Don’t make excuses. It’s cowardly.” She asks him to answer if she’ll never be the one, and a tense silence passes between them.
Finally, Sae-ro-yi tells her point blank that they’ll never happen. “Don’t like me.” Yi-seo cries at this truth and runs off as it begins to snow. As Yi-seo crosses the street, she remembers her trajectory with Sae-ro-yi, how she fell for him, how she hurt for him. She can’t take her heartbreak anymore and crouches down in the middle of the street to cry it out.
Heartbroken Yi-seo makes me so sad! While this rejection wasn’t a surprise to anyone, it was a harsh awakening for Yi-seo, who still held onto that last thread of hope, the ambiguity and possibility that Sae-ro-yi could one day give her a chance. Even with Sae-ro-yi’s clear rejection, I think the future of their relationship and romantic potential remain uncertain. In the present, it’s clear that Yi-seo’s love will remain unrequited, but I wonder how that could change over two years or more. I don’t doubt that Yi-seo will remain by his side, and I wonder if Sae-ro-yi will ever consider this possibility, now that he can’t ignore her affection.
Kim Da-mi really killed it with that last scene. Throughout the truth game, she went from earnest and eager in one moment to impish to devasted and crushed. It’s been a real treat to see Yi-seo find little pockets of delight in her interactions with Sae-ro-yi, and it’s obvious that Kim Da-mi is capturing all those tiny moments perfectly. She’s showcasing some incredible range, and while I don’t always agree with the character, I definitely find the acting commendable and just a joy to watch.
I’m also enjoying the snippets of affection between Yi-seo and Hyun-yi, and I appreciate how they’ve grown closer, despite starting off on the wrong foot (which Seung-kwon will always remind us of). Hyun-yi’s read of Yi-seo’s expressions throughout the truth game showed how in tune she was with Yi-seo’s rollercoaster of emotions, and I appreciate someone with that level of empathy, though it’s ironic that she extends that empathy to someone who rarely chooses to be empathetic. Hyun-yi also knew that Geun-soo needed to hear how big of a jerk he was. If he wants to pursue Yi-seo, he can’t break her and then expect her to come through on their deal. This isn’t the Geun-soo we know, and Hyun-yi wasn’t about to let him think he was doing the right thing by hurting people with untimely truths.
Geun-soo really did Yi-seo dirty by setting her up for heartbreak, but I’m simultaneously impressed by his boldness. This new Jang Ga version of himself resembles Yi-seo’s sociopath persona, and while I don’t have a great feeling about this change, I’m glad to see him taking risks. We’ll have to see how he (and those around him) adjusts and calibrates into his new self, and I desperately hope we don’t lose sweet puppy Geun-soo to the darkness of Jang Ga. I have a sneaking suspicion that Geun-soo will overcompensate and start making poor and immoral decisions to make up for his meek existence. I hope that Soo-ah will be able to reign him in, as she did in this episode. While she was degrading, she was being completely honest about Geun-soo’s place.
I like that women in this show are the ones who are in charge. While the story revolves around Sae-ro-yi, I find that the women — Yi-seo, Soo-ah, Hyun-yi, even Min-jung and Hye-won — are the ones that determine how this story moves forward. They’re powerful and confident, and they’re often the ones that determine the relationships with the people around them. They own their decisions and accept the consequences of their decisions, good or bad. They’re an understated part of this show, and I love how they’re the village around Sae-ro-yi to turn these grand dreams into reality.
Editor’s Note: Please don’t discuss spoilers because we’d hate to delete your comment! This includes anything shown in previews.