Itaewon Class: Episode 12
If heartbreak didn’t already feel like one of life’s greatest challenges, the Danbam crew get hit with a few more just to make it interesting. Meanwhile, the competition for “The Best Pub” rolls into the final round and President Jang lays down an ultimatum that drives Geun-soo to desperation and a decision that will decide whether or not he’s cut out to be a “Jang Ga person.”
EPISODE 12 RECAP
After a painful rejection from Sae-ro-yi, Yi-seo returns to Danbam to drink her sorrow away. She’s discovered by Hyun-yi, who ignores Yi-seo’s weak plea to be left alone. Hyun-yi gently muses this is the first time she’s seen Yi-seo cry and guesses she got rejected. Yi-seo grumbles it was expected and Hyun-yi agrees Sae-ro-yi would have a lot of excuses – age, work, Geun-soo – and asks if Yi-seo plans to give up.
Over at Jang Ga HQ, President Jang is furious Soo-ah and Geun-soo failed a second time to beat Danbam in “The Best Pub” cooking challenge. Soo-ah gives no excuses and President Jang growls that he can’t fire her over it, but if they lose the final round, he’ll fire their chef. Rounding on Geun-soo, he warns if that happens, Geun-soo is out as successor. Considering this, Geun-soo demands full authority over show since the results decide his fate.
President Jang questions whether his abilities would surpass Soo-ah, but Geun-soo says that at least this way he won’t have regrets. President Jang grants Geun-soo authority and dismisses them. In the hall, Geun-soo apologizes for not consulting Soo-ah beforehand but she lets it go since he’s volunteered to take responsibility. She admits she pities him, thinking the conversation between him and his father lacks all familial warmth. Soo-ah notes he’s changed from the person he was at Danbam.
Business is booming for Danbam as a line of patrons snakes down the street. Sae-ro-yi notices they’re out of soju and tells Seung-kwon to borrow some from next door. Before he can, more customers arrive, and Seung-kwon bustles off to attend them while Sae-ro-yi sighs and thinks back to the morning… when Yi-seo had requested a break from work. She’d denied it was because of his rejection, assuring him she can separate personal and business matters.
Yi-seo says she just needs time to clear her head and Sae-ro-yi cuts off further explanation by granting her a vacation. Snapping back to the present, Sae-ro-yi returns to work while Yi-seo sits despondently on a park swing, replaying his rejection. She pouts that she misses him and we see that the break was actually Hyun-yi’s suggestion. She’d thought both Yi-seo and Sae-ro-yi could use time to think but Yi-seo sighs that she should return to work soon.
Geun-won calls President Jang from jail, admitting he was unsure whether he should despite being President Jang’s son. He’d thought President Jang had no other but to throw him away, but that he’d at least be heartbroken. President Jang asks him to get to the point and a tear rolls down Geun-won’s face as he asks why. “It’s all for Jang Ga’s sake,” President Jang replies and hangs up on his son.
Geun-soo reports to President Jang and wonders why President Jang seems unconcerned despite Danbam’s massive investment offers and plans to franchise. Meanwhile, the Danbam crew is prepping for the investors’ meeting at the new Itaewon Class HQ when Ho-jin bursts into the room looking panicked. He and Sae-ro-yi rush over to the offices of their primary investor, CEO Do, only to find them cleared out with a “for lease” sign on the door.
CEO Do isn’t answering his phone but no sooner does Sae-ro-yi say they have other investors than his phone blows up with text messages. Yi-seo is on her way to catch a flight for her vacation when she receives the same flurry of messages, all withdrawing their investments in Danbam. Sae-ro-yi and Ho-jin explain the situation to the rest of the team and Seung-kwon fumes that they’ve already sank 500 million won (over 400,000 dollars) into a new office and staff.
Ho-jin doesn’t understand why they didn’t wait to receive the investment before spending money and Sae-ro-yi drowns out Seung-kwon’s accusation of Yi-seo to say it was his choice. Tony is confused why this happened and Ho-jin glowers that a malicious attack like this has someone’s fingerprints all over it. Meanwhile, President Jang welcomes CEO Do to his office.
On the bus home, Yi-seo tries in vain to contact the lost investors as she’s overwhelmed with guilt for pushing the investment root and failing to live up to Sae-ro-yi’s trust in her. Meanwhile, Soo-ah arrives at IC’s HQ with an opening gift-plant to find an angry mob demanding Sae-ro-yi present Yi-seo to answer for their losses. Sae-ro-yi sees Soo-ah and she looks ashamed as his eyes fall on the plant. A cheerful ribbon reads: “From Chairman Jang Dae-hee. Know your place and be satisfied with what you have.” Ouch.
Geun-soo realizes President Jang planned this from the beginning (duh). President Jang chuckles that Danbam has now lost people’s trust so future investments will be difficult. Geun-soo is appalled President Jang would go so far but President Jang says that while crushing Sae-ro-yi would be incentive enough, his actual goal was to control JM Holdings by showing how petty he could be.
President Jang wonders whether Geun-soo still considers Sae-ro-yi strong and Geun-soo admits President Jang is impressive. However, he thinks if Sae-ro-yi was this easy to destroy, there’d be no reason to be bothered by him and President Jang’s expression sours. Over at Danbam, Sae-ro-yi has had enough of the screaming and orders everyone to stop. Silence lasts for a beat and then starts up again as the enraged investors blame Sae-ro-yi for their misfortune.
Sae-ro-yi points out he’s done nothing wrong and no one has gone bankrupt so there’s no reason to abuse his employees. The mob cries that they put their trust in this investment and Sae-ro-yi points out they didn’t sign based on the article of CEO Do’s hefty investment, but after they’d come and tasted Danbam’s food. He shouts that nothing has changed but welcomes them to withdraw their investments instead of causing trouble.
The loudest of the mob demand if he can afford to do that and Sae-ro-yi declares he can. He says there needs to be trust in business and won’t take their money or trust for granted. Sae-ro-yi vows to accomplish all he’d promised. Soo-ah avoids his gaze as he brushes past her. She chases after him, questioning how he’ll follow through. Sae-ro-yi replies that he’ll take out a mortgage on the building.
Soo-ah asks him to stop, instead. Sae-ro-yi assures her he’s fine, but Soo-ah says she’s not. “Do you know how I felt when I had to bring that plant over here from President Jang?” she asks, wondering how long she’ll be forced to hurt him. Soo-ah reminds Sae-ro-yi he let her define their relationship and asks him to forget his revenge and resentment and come to her. Crying, she begs him to be happy but before Sae-ro-yi can answer, his phone rings.
It’s Yi-seo and she apologizes for pushing the investment. Sae-ro-yi cuts her off, saying the final decision was his and not to be hard on herself. “You told me I’m worth betting your life on,” he reminds her, “So I want you to trust me.” Locking eyes with Soo-ah, Sae-ro-yi tells them both this isn’t enough to destroy him. He continues, “This doesn’t bother me at all. What bothered me was when my dad got fired just because I stuck to my principles.”
Soo-ah tries to interject, but he says that he collapsed when Dad died and the truth was covered up but the reason he got back up and continues to fight is because he wants revenge. “And before I achieve that,” he says firmly, “I will never be happy.” He vows to never give up until he destroys Jang Ga and Soo-ah collapses into tears. Sae-ro-yi hangs up and apologizes to Soo-ah.
Loan Shark Granny tsks at the investment withdrawal headlines and tells Tony “Chestnut” is in trouble. Tony confidently says Sae-ro-yi told them everything is okay, so it is. At IC HQ, Ho-jin gives Sae-ro-yi a list of investors interested in the food industry and Sae-ro-yi mutters it’s a long list to visit everyone personally. Yi-seo arrives and he sighs that she’s supposed to be resting. Yi-seo concedes that Sae-ro-yi is the boss, but she’s the manager and she felt so ashamed, it was hard to brazenly return.
She asks that if he still considers her a manager to let her regain his trust. Ho-jin agrees that it’s silly to refuse help from such a smart manager and hands her a copy of the list. Ho-jin has highlighted names most likely to invest and Sae-ro-yi pauses when he sees the name KIM SOON-RYE. Ho-jin explains that she’s retired and owns a ton of real estate, but sometimes invests a lot of money in startup companies.
The woman in question stalks up to President Jang’s office and when he greets her we see that it’s Loan Shark Granny! She tells President Jang that he’s aged and recalls the days when he slaved away for Jang Ga, admitting she as impressed by him then. President Jang picks up on her disapproving tone and Soon-rye tells him there’s a kid that reminds her a lot of a young President Jang – Park Sae-ro-yi.
She wonders why President Jang is bullying a kid at his age and President Jang growls that he made Geun-won go to jail. Soon-rye barks that Geun-won is paying for his crimes and President Jang darkly reminds her he’s not a child anymore. She laughs and says she’s indebted to Sae-ro-yi and would like him to stop messing with him. President Jang spits that it depends on Sae-ro-yi’s behavior and Soon-rye questions why he’s so bothered by Sae-ro-yi.
“At first, I just wanted to teach him a lesson,” President Jang answers, “But now, my goal is to get him on his knees.” He calls it his last purpose in life and Soon-rye calls him crazy. Downstairs, Geun-soo notices Soo-ah seems preoccupied and she shoves her resignation letter into a desk drawer before he can see it. He guesses it’s due to the investment withdrawal and admits he’s amazed at President Jang’s scheme.
Soo-ah rounds on him for being impressed by someone ruining others’ lives. Geun-soo sees the framed selfie Soo-ah took with Sae-ro-yi the Halloween before he left for deep-sea fishing and snaps that Sae-ro-yi would do the same if given the opportunity. “My dad and Sae-ro-yi are the both the same,” Geun-soo continues, “They don’t care about how others feel. They only care about their goals.” He adds he’d thought Soo-ah would be that way too.
Danbam has closed for a week and Sae-ro-yi orders Hyun-yi to focus on the final round of “The Best Pub” with Seung-kwon’s help while he and Yi-seo track down investors. Seung-kwon curses CEO Do but Yi-seo admits she’s the one at fault. Sae-ro-yi starts to chide her but Yi-seo says she’s confident that the four of them will overcome this. Seung-kwon and Hyun-yi agree and all four smile.
Afterwards, Sae-ro-yi thanks Yi-seo and asks if she’s sorted everything out. “About what?” she wonders, “About how I like you?” Yi-seo tells him she likes him too much for words and liking him is the reason she works here instead of going to college. She doesn’t mind that his feelings aren’t the same and agrees with his statement that feelings aren’t give or take. Yi-seo declares she likes him anyway and orders him not to tell her what to do with her feelings.
Yi-seo adds that he can fire her for her feelings and when Sae-ro-yi doesn’t reply, she asks if he really means to fire her. Sae-ro-yi instantly denies it, admitting he can’t imagine Danbam without her. Yi-seo accuses him of being selfish but smiles that she’s satisfied with this for now. The following morning, Sae-ro-yi is at IC HQ with Ho-jin when Yi-seo calls to demand he return to Danbam immediately.
Min-jung pulls up and tsks at Yi-seo for using her has a chauffeur. Yi-seo thanks her and then politely greets Soon-rye sitting in the backseat. Pulling out chairs for them, she assures the women Sae-ro-yi is on his way. Min-jung asks how Yi-seo knew she was close with Soon-rye and Yi-seo whispers Ho-jin told her Soon-rye was Jang Ga’s first investor. Sae-ro-yi arrives and greets the women, cheerfully telling Soon-rye he’s heard she’s a business mogul.
Soon-rye tuts that she heard all the investors withdrew and Yi-seo pouts that it’s been hard, especially with Tony taking time off. Sae-ro-yi remains silent and Soon-rye questions why he won’t ask for her help despite knowing she’s rich and indebted to him. Finally, Sae-ro-yi says he doesn’t want to use Tony as leverage. “Wildcat, he must give you a hard time,” Soon-rye says to Yi-seo. Taking the nickname as a comment on her behavior, Yi-seo says she’s only rough with Soon-rye because she views her as her own grandmother.
Sae-ro-yi repeats that Soon-rye doesn’t need to invest and Soon-rye snorts that he’s getting ahead of himself. She says she doesn’t invest in useless things, listing that he has no money, is incompetent, but has a huge dream. Soon-rye accuses him of ignoring his struggling employees to keep his pride. She leaves and Yi-seo chases after her while Min-jung tells Sae-ro-yi that she agrees with Soon-rye.
“You told me you’ll never let anyone mistreat you or your staff,” Min-jung says, “You think you can keep your pride and also have freedom?” She warns him freedom comes at a price and leaves. That evening, Geun-soo sees Yi-seo’s social media account is blocked to him and flashes back to earlier when he’d told Soo-ah that Hyun-yi has been gaining popularity in the competition. He’d thought the show was focused less on taste and more on popularity and then told Soo-ah he had a high card that he didn’t want to use. (Oh no… don’t you dare…)
Sae-ro-yi is outside when Soo-ah leaves work and tries to sneak by but he notices her. He explains he’s in the area looking for investors and asks if she’s avoiding him. Sae-ro-yi apologizes for the other day and Soo-ah accuses him of dumping her. They go to eat and Sae-ro-yi laments that he can’t remember the last time he’d bought barbeque for his employees, sighing that they met the wrong boss. Soo-ah points out they can always work somewhere else.
Thinking of her accusation, Sae-ro-yi asks her to explain how he dumped her. She says he’d placed revenge over being happy with her. Sae-ro-yi doesn’t deny it and Soo-ah understands but wonders if he’ll really be happy after he gets his revenge. Returning to Danbam, Sae-ro-yi finds Seung-kwon and Hyun-yi taking a nap and recalls Soon-rye’s warning that his employees are suffering for his pride.
Seung-kwon wakes up and explains they were preparing for the finals and he needs to hit the market with Hyun-yi in the morning. Sae-ro-yi asks about Yi-seo and learns she’s been searching for investors all day. He calls Tony and asks if he could meet Soon-rye tomorrow, but she’s in Jeju on vacation. Tony’s confused Yi-seo didn’t tell him and when Sae-ro-yi calls Yi-seo he finds she’s already in Jeju.
She asks if he’s mad at her for acting without telling him but Sae-ro-yi just apologizes. When asked when she’s meeting Soon-rye, Yi-seo looks to her left and Soon-rye takes the phone. Soon-hey chides them for making a fuss so late at night. Hehe. Sae-ro-yi requests she invest, promising to make sure she doesn’t experience a loss. Soon-rye grumbles at him for doing this over the phone and Yi-seo snuggles up to her.
Sae-ro-yi tries to backpedal but Soon-rye says that if she invests, it won’t be for Tony. She reminds him she’s a businesswoman and it’s not even about the food or the restaurant – but Sae-ro-yi, his insight and the care he showed for the whole alley. She warns him she hates wasting money and asks what his goal is. Sae-ro-yi answers, “The first place in the country.” Soon-rye likes his spirit but says he needs to prove himself by winning first place on “The Best Pub.”
They agree that she’ll invest if he wins and Soon-rye tells Yi-seo to stay the night and have breakfast before she goes. Yi-seo hugs her and then tells Sae-ro-yi she’ll come back tomorrow evening. He stops her from hanging up and apologizes. Yi-seo tuts that he says that a lot but he apologizes again and thanks her. Yi-seo replies that she loves him and says she’ll see him in his dreams and hangs up giggling while Sae-ro-yi stands there, shook.
Seung-kwon drops Sae-ro-yi and Hyun-yi off at the competition and awkwardly wishes her luck. Inside, Sae-ro-yi tells her they might be able to score an investment from Soon-rye and tells her the condition is winning. Hyun-yi balks and yells at Sae-ro-yi for telling her right before the competition. Sae-ro-yi smiles that he trusts her, cutely telling her “fighting” and running before she can wring his neck. Heh.
Seung-kwon sits in the van and his eyes widen as he sees the headlines buzzing around the competition: Hyun-yi is transgender. Inside, everyone is gossiping about Hyun-yi and Seung-kwon races inside to show them the articles. The whispers around them aren’t nice and Seung-kwon barks at them to watch their tongues. Mortified, Hyun-yi runs out. Meanwhile, Soo-ah confronts Geun-soo about his “high card” and he coldly confirms that he contacted the press yesterday.
If the competition is influenced by Hyun-yi’s popularity, Geun-soo reasons, they need to destroy that popularity. Soo-ah is appalled and says even if he hates Hyun-yi… but Geun-soo says Hyun-yi is one of his only friends. He tells her he did this to win and it’s what people from Jang Ga do. Soo-ah asks what’s going to happen between him and Danbam and Geun-soo declares he’s done with friendship.
Hyun-yi ducks into the bathroom and the women inside sneer that it’s the women’s bathroom. Eventually, Sae-ro-yi finds Hyun-yi and she apologizes for running away. She says she’ll pull herself together and get ready, admitting she knew it would happen someday, and promises to win so they can get the investment. Taking her hand, Sae-ro-yi tells her it’s okay and reminds her she’s the bravest person he knows: “Whatever they say, you’re a brave and pretty girl.”
Hugging her, Sae-ro-yi suggests they go back to Danbam but Hyun-yi doesn’t want to run away. Sae-ro-yi says she didn’t do anything wrong to call it running and adds, “You don’t have to convince others about who you are.” Hyun-yi bursts into tears and Sae-ro-yi holds her closer, assuring her it’s okay. He flashes back to his wish to be able to have the power to protect his people and not pay for his principles. As his face hardens Sae-ro-yi thinks, “I’m burning with anger.”
Geun-soo and Soo-ah find their chef talking with the PD and Geun-soo asks where the Danbam crew are. Their chef reports Hyun-yi ran out after reading the article and confirms that they probably gave up. Sae-ro-yi appears to announce they’re not giving up and approaches the PD while Hyun-yi answers a call from Yi-seo. Hyun-yi guesses Yi-seo saw the articles and tells her Sae-ro-yi said it was okay to run away and she didn’t have anything to prove.
Yi-seo asks about what she thinks while back in the competition room Sae-ro-yi asks whether there’s a rule against him taking Hyun-yi’s place. The PD says that’s fine but Geun-soo warns there’s no way Sae-ro-yi can win against 4 top chefs. Sae-ro-yi points out Geun-soo likes his cooking and then chides him for saying Hyun-yi ran away when she did nothing wrong. He warns Geun-soo to be supportive before he gets upset and walks off.
Tony arrives at the venue and finds Seung-kwon. Worried for Hyun-yi, Tony asks what they should do but Seung-kwon simply says there’s nothing to do – Hyun-yi is the chef, she needs to compete. He says that if you’re born a boy you should live like one, same for girls, that’s just nature. Tony is disgusted but Seung-kwon continues that Hyun-yi defies nature and lives by her own rules. “Don’t worry, and don’t underestimate Hyun-yi,” Seung-kwon says, “That woman is stronger than anyone.”
Hyun-yi storms into the competition room as we hear that Yi-seo telling Hyun-yi she’d read a book of poems that made her think of Hyun-yi: “I’m a rock. Go ahead and sear me. I won’t budge an inch because I’m a rock. Go ahead and beat me up. I’m a solid rock. Go ahead and leave me in darkness. I’m a rock that will shine all alone. I don’t break, ash, or decay as I go against nature’s way.”
Hyun-yi takes her place at her station and uses her mic-check to declare that her name is Hyun-yi, she’s transgender, and she’s here to win. Her team smiles proudly back at her as Geun-soo looks like he’s about to be sick. Yi-seo’s voiceover concludes, “I survive. I’m a diamond.”
Atta girl!! Hyun-yi is a character near and dear to my heart and I’m so glad her story has been spotlighted again. She’s worked hard in every aspect of her life and to have all of that washed away by a narrow-minded article was absolutely infuriating. I’ve never wanted to slap a character in this show as hard as Geun-soo this hour. To say that he still considers her a dear friend after taking complete advantage of her and priming her for a witch hunt was so disgusting and I’m extra proud of Hyun-yi for not shying away.
Sae-ro-yi was right, that it would’ve been okay for her to bow out. She didn’t deserve the backlash and as much as I wanted her to go back in and kick ass… I wouldn’t have thought less of her for not subjecting herself to unnecessary and unwarranted pain. Still, I was crying when she burst into the competition room to Yi-seo’s narration of the poem. I love how the Danbam team rallies around each other and even though Seung-kwon’s cool demeanor shocked Tony, it was because he had no doubt Hyun-yi would rise above the hate. And rise she did.
Alas, sweet puppy Geun-soo has now fully gone to the dark side. One could argue his demeanor at Jang Ga was a misguided attempt to fit in and the crap he pulled with Yi-seo last episode was an emotional outburst… but outing Hyun-yi was neither of those things. If his sole reason for going to Jang Ga was to win Yi-seo – which was a problematic goal from the start and not how love works ever – his actions since have been completely undermining his purpose. Instead of getting the girl, he’s losing the only people that ever genuinely cared for him, while proving that perhaps the apple doesn’t fall so far from the tree.
I have been loving Soo-ah knocking Geun-soo down and reminding him that regardless of his tumultuous relationship with his family, he still got there through nepotism rather than competence. She tried her best to teach him and seemed just as unnerved as Hyun-yi with his change. Sadly, the only words that seemed to reach him were President Jang’s. I find it so odd how he went from idolizing Sae-ro-yi, to looking down on him and I know jealousy can do crazy things to people, but I don’t think it can truly turn a person cruel… and yet here we are.
To the surprise of literally no one, the investment offer was a trap. It’s frustrating because Sae-ro-yi had the right move in mind but Yi-seo has been right with business decisions in the past so I can understand him choosing to trust her confidence. He knows there’s a certain risk in being too cautious… but Yi-seo is still young and impulsive. So as much as it sucked when everything backfired horrifically, there was an important lesson to be learned.
Yi-seo needed to be knocked down a peg and honestly a little chaos was probably good for her relationship with Sae-ro-yi. It gave her a reason to come back early and focus on solving a problem rather than the pain and embarrassment of her rejection. I love how quickly she bounced back and realized that it was okay if he didn’t like her back which was very healthy and mature. On the bright side, Yi-seo can now love Sae-ro-yi openly and Sae-ro-yi doesn’t seem entirely unaffected.
But romance is probably the least interesting thread of this show because the beating heart will always be Sae-ro-yi and the strong relationships he’s built with the people around him. Sometimes the connections are a little on the nose like Loan Shark Granny Soon-rye not only being Tony’s grandmother, but also a crazy rich mogul that helped kick off Jang Ga… but I still love the characters and her affection for Sae-ro-yi and the Danbam crew is so adorable, I’m willing to let the obvious plotlines slide.
Editor’s Note: Please don’t discuss spoilers because we’d hate to delete your comment! This includes anything shown in previews.