Itaewon Class: Episode 13
The Danbam team perseveres through endless obstacles and rises above their rivals beyond expectations. They’ve learned to thrive under pressure, stronger together and stronger for each other. As Danbam grows steadily into IC, their enemies grow alongside them, constantly strategizing and preparing for their next move.
EPISODE 13 RECAP
Despite controversy around Hyun-yi, “The Best Pub” producer proceeds with the show to let the judges decide the winner. The final round begins, and Hyun-yi remembers her promise to become stronger for the Danbam team after hearing Yi-seo read the poem about the diamond. She looks at Sae-ro-yi and remembers his encouragement.
The judges partake in a blind taste test for the final round, and the host interviews the top chefs. At Hyun-yi’s turn, she stares into the camera and announces that her personal information was disclosed without her consent. She confirms that she’s transgender, and the studio audience murmurs at this shocking acknowledgement.
The flustered host quickly summarizes Hyun-yi’s comments and frames this competition as a stage to prove herself. Hyun-yi looks at Sae-ro-yi and confidently responds, “I don’t need others to understand who I am.” The host asks why she’s taking the stage, and Hyun-yi looks to the Danbam team as she shares, “For the people who make me strong, I stand here to repay them with my delicious food.”
The host asks her to predict her ranking, and she says, “I work at the best pub with the best people, so I will remain the best.” The Danbam team looks at her proudly while the Jang Ga team looks irritated, though Soo-ah looks impressed.
It’s time to reveal the winner of the show, and the Danbam team eagerly awaits the results. The host announces the winner (drumroll please) — it’s Hyun-yi! Overcome with emotion, Hyun-yi bursts into tears and immediately runs into Sae-ro-yi’s arms. Geun-soo frowns in defeat as he watches his former team celebrate their win. The Danbam team embraces each other in utter joy, and Yi-seo watches the live broadcast as she exits the airport. She smiles and says, “Unni, you’re the best.”
President Jang confronts Soo-ah and Geun-soo about the results of the show and asks what he should do, given his threat to oust Geun-soo if they lost the final round. He asks Soo-ah what methods Geun-soo utilized, and she shares that he changed the rules of the final round to a blind test to neutralize Hyun-yi’s popularity and pressured their chef to up his game.
These two methods don’t impress President Jang, but when Soo-ah shares that Geun-soo also disclosed Hyun-yi’s personal information to the press, he approves and gives him points for this dishonest tactic. President Jang dismisses Geun-soo and asks Soo-ah in private if Geun-soo would be a suitable successor to his position. Soo-ah responds that Geun-soo takes after President Jang, and he laughs in satisfaction.
As Geun-soo walks down to the lobby, he recalls Soo-ah’s dismay at his unfair blow at Danbam. He seems disappointed in himself, but then he sees Yi-seo in the lobby. He reminds himself that she’s the reason why he’s doing this, and he happily greets her. She approaches him and slaps him across the face.
Yi-seo accuses Geun-soo of disclosing Hyun-yi’s personal information to the press and reminds him that she has connections to reporters through her three years of modeling. Geun-soo admits that he’s the culprit but justifies his actions in the spirit of competition. He says that Yi-seo wouldn’t have gone easy on her opponent just because they were friends, and Yi-seo tells him to act like himself and that a pushover suits him better.
As Yi-seo turns to leave, Geun-soo says that he’s doing everything because of her challenge to pursue her. Yi-seo breaks it to him that her challenge was all nonsense, but Geun-soo won’t let her brush aside his emotions. He angrily argues that she can’t disregard him because for the first time in his life, he’s doing something for himself and abandoned everything to be here.
Yi-seo says that she doesn’t want to wreck Geun-soo and starts to quote Sae-ro-yi about emotions not being something you give and take, but Geun-soo yells in annoyance at the mention of Sae-ro-yi. Yi-seo apologizes and rejects Geun-soo, and he looks devastated by her blatant rejection.
As Yi-seo walks back to Itaewon, she finds Sae-ro-yi waiting for her. He awkwardly tells her that she should have taken her break, but Yi-seo knows that he doesn’t mean it. Yi-seo confirms that they delivered their side of the deal for the investment with their win on “The Best Pub,” and Sae-ro-yi commends her for her hard work.
She leans in and asks him to pat her head as he always did, and Sae-ro-yi doesn’t know what to do. Yi-seo looks amused at Sae-ro-yi’s awkward reaction, as he changes the topic to their investment contract.
The next day,
Loan Shark Investor Gran meets with Yi-seo and Sae-ro-yi to sign the contract. She assures them that she stays true to her word and tells Sae-ro-yi to stay true to his word — his promise to be number one. Sae-ro-yi assures her that he’s always stayed true to his word, and she signs the contract.
Yi-seo’s mom sees the news of IC’s 10 billion won investment (approximately 8.2 million USD) and seems impressed by Sae-ro-yi. She remembers the last argument she had with Yi-seo before she left the house. Yi-seo had claimed that she wouldn’t be satisfied being the boss’s wife because she’s smarter than that. Yi-seo’s mom smiles and seems to have hope in her daughter’s future.
As Soo-ah wraps up for the night, she notices that Geun-soo isn’t picking up a call from Seung-kwon. She assumes that he feels bad, and Geun-soo shares that Yi-seo found out about him outing Hyun-yi. Soo-ah says that if Sae-ro-yi found out, he would just say that nothing can stop him.
Geun-soo tells Soo-ah that he knows about her relationship and history with Sae-ro-yi. With this knowledge, he implies to Soo-ah that he knows what could stop and ruin Sae-ro-yi. He warns Soo-ah that he’s different from her, and Soo-ah fearfully asks what he plans to do.
Seung-kwon gives up trying to call Geun-soo and drunkenly gets up to share an old memory of Sae-ro-yi with the very drunk Danbam team. Hyun-yi tries to stop him, and he asks why she’s always so feisty with him. He says that she can’t do everything she wants just because she’s pretty. Hyun-yi blushes at the compliment.
As Seung-kwon continues on with his repetitive story about Sae-ro-yi’s commitment to achieve his goals, Yi-seo lovingly looks at drunk and sleepy Sae-ro-yi. Seung-kwon finishes his “I told you that Sae-ro-yi is great” story and wakes Sae-ro-yi for a toast. Sae-ro-yi reminds his team that they can achieve anything together and asks who they are. They all yell, “IC!” and toast to their company.
Sae-ro-yi says that his wins are all thanks to them. He also remembers how his father was proud of him and begins to tear up. He says that Jang Ga can come at him because he’ll win, and taking his hand, Yi-seo confirms that he will. They smile at each other, and Sae-ro-yi passes out drunk. Seung-kwon drunkenly cries for unconscious Sae-ro-yi not to die (lol) as Yi-seo looks at him earnestly.
Later that night, Yi-seo watches Sae-ro-yi sleep in Danbam and strokes his head. Referring to his lonely and bitter nights, she asks, “It’s still bitter, right?”
President Jang plays baduk with Geun-soo and tells him that Danbam scored an investment while Manager Park (the chef) was fired after Jang Ga’s loss on “The Best Pub.” Geun-soo places his stone on the board, and President Jang seems impressed by his game. He brings Geun-soo to his meeting and introduces his board to his second son. Then, he announces that Geun-soo will be his successor, and we see Soo-ah, amongst others, reluctantly applauding this news.
Mob Boss Hee-hoon (Sae-ro-yi’s ex-cell mate and Seung-kwon’s former boss) reenters prison, and he’s greeted respectfully by his cell mates and the guard. He notices a cell mate in the back doing push-ups without acknowledging him, and we see newspapers on the ground with headlines reporting Geun-soo’s succession. The sweaty cell mate stands up, and we see that it’s Geun-won. Oh, what interesting potential this brings…
On Danbam’s rooftop, Sae-ro-yi meets with Yi-seo and Ho-jin to discuss their plans with this investment. Ho-jin says that they have 7 million won remaining, even after finishing their building and operationalizing all the franchise shops, and Yi-seo excitedly suggests that they scale up a national franchise. Ho-jin sighs in relief and congratulates Sae-ro-yi for achieving his dream. Sae-ro-yi remembers how he scraped by to make money from deep-sea fishing and manual labor, and Yi-seo acknowledges his hard work.
Sae-ro-yi notes that it didn’t take long to grow the investment to over a billion won and comments on how interesting the capital market is. He notes that the phrase “low risk, high return” becomes more attainable as you gain more money, and Yi-seo wonders if he wants to grow their investment through stocks.
Sae-ro-yi shows the two his next plan: a franchise exhibition in Shanghai. He tells them that he wants to expand to China and then the world. He reminds them that his goal is to beat Jang Ga as number one in the country, they need to act accordingly with more ambitious dreams. He says that this is just the beginning.
Four years later, we’ve finally caught up to 2020. Sae-ro-yi drives to work in his car, and he walks though his thriving company as the CEO. Yi-seo, now sporting long hair, sits in a meeting with their management team, and questions a manager’s proposal to invest money and guanxi (networking) in a new partner in China because their current distributor, Masa Distributions, isn’t doing well.
Sae-ro-yi asks for Director Choi’s opinion, and we see that it’s Seung-kwon, ha! He says that Masa supported their entry into China, so he would consider this a betrayal. Also at the table, Hyun-yi argues that spending 3 billion won for guanxi seems outrageous, but the managers defend that guanxi is the core of business in China. They claim 3 billion won can go far and that they understand guanxi as the people on the ground.
Yi-seo asks if the managers know what guanxi really means and spells it out for them. Guanxi is all about relationships, and Masa Distribution’s oldest son will be marrying the daughter of online platform Tancent’s CEO. The managers look surprised, and Yi-seo smiles as she scolds them for their ignorance of such big news while being the people on the ground.
Sae-ro-yi asks the team what their company’s values are, and Seung-kwon responds that their values are people and trust. He says that following their principles will bode well for them this time and decides to continue with Masa as planned.
The Danbam team meet in Sae-ro-yi’s office, and Seung-kwon complains about how hard this position is for him. He asks “hyungnim” to send him back to the pub, but Sae-ro-yi says that he’s doing well. Yi-seo scolds him for using informal titles at work and orders him to maintain professional work etiquette.
Then, Yi-seo proceeds to call Hyun-yi “unni,” asking her to cook for a buyer in China at the end of the month. Seung-kwon points out that they’re treating him unfairly, and Yi-seo says that he’s different from Hyun-yi. Haha, poor Seung-kwon.
Yi-seo presents Sae-ro-yi with references for his next meeting and briefs him on his schedule, now packed with meetings and seminars. Seung-kwon tells Yi-seo to take it easy, but Sae-ro-yi says that they’re not ranked number one yet. Jang Ga still holds that title. He says that Yi-seo is setting him up to achieve that number one status, and Yi-seo comments that this is why she fell for him. Sae-ro-yi reminds her to stop making these comments, but he seems used to them now.
Since they’re all together, Seung-kwon suggests that they have a team dinner together with Geun-soo, who’s returned from Jang Ga’s branch in the States. Yi-seo seems surprised that Seung-kwon still keeps in contact with Geun-soo, who hasn’t reached out to Sae-ro-yi in a while.
When Geun-soo exits the airport, a familiar voice calls to him as Director Jang. It’s Soo-ah, and she complains that she needs to work as his chauffeur. He says that he has an excellent superior, and Soo-ah laughs in annoyance. Then, Geun-soo puts on his earphones and listens to a recorded conversation with Seung-kwon, in which he shared Sae-ro-yi’s frequent visits to Pajin to meet with Min-jung.
Min-jung meets with Officer Oh and comments on how much Hae-won has grown. Officer Oh laughs louder than necessary, and Min-jung asks what he finds so funny. He responds that he’s just enjoying himself, and she asks if he likes her. He denies it with a straight face and then shares pictures of Hae-won when she was younger. Hae-won sees the two together and looks at them knowingly.
At Jang Ga HQ, Geun-soo presents his proposal to invest 40 billion won to buy property in an obscure neighborhood with struggling businesses. He presents this as an opportunity for Jang Ga’s brand and affiliated companies to rejuvenate the area with a unified look and create a popular street as a cultural hot spot.
Doubts about the temporary popularity of such streets and the value of the investment arise, but Geun-soo argues that even the temporary popularity increases the real estate by three or four times, growing their 40 billion won investment to 120 billion. He adds that this value increase will also benefit the Jang Ga brand.
Soo-ah asks what happens when the value of the street declines, and Geun-soo has a solution. He proposes that Jang Ga sell their assets in the neighborhood at their peak, leaving the buyers with the consequences of their sudden retreat. He says that their marketing team will frame the street’s inevitable decline in the absence of Jang Ga as a sign of Jang Ga’s incredible value, even though it’s just a consequence of a dying fad. President Jang grants approval for Geun-soo to carry this forward.
As Geun-soo walks with President Jang, he advises his father to maintain good relations with the district mayor of the area they plan to buy out. Weaker and coughing occasionally, President Jang agrees to this plan. Then, he tells Geun-soo about Sae-ro-yi’s growth during his absence and warns him that Sae-ro-yi will come after them.
Ho-jin consults Min-jung on the culture street-building plan from Jang Ga, and Min-jung shakes her head at the plan to foster gentrification. Ho-jin notes that Geun-soo is well-received by Jang Ga insiders and could easily be the successor of Jang Ga. Min-jung agrees and says that she has no clout anymore to pose a formidable challenge.
Sae-ro-yi finds Yi-seo looking up jewelry on his computer and asks what she’s doing. She marvels at a pretty necklace and asks him to buy it for her tomorrow. He says that his schedule is full tomorrow, so Yi-seo suggests another day. Sae-ro-yi tries to remind her again to restrain her advances, but Yi-seo argues that she decides how she wants to express her feelings.
Feeling burdened, Sae-ro-yi asks if she thinks about his perspective, and she understands that she’s putting him in difficult spot. Yet, she confesses her feelings for Sae-ro-yi again. She suggests that he just fire her, but he can’t because she’s too good at her job. She knows that her absence will make his life more difficult, and she continues to tease him.
Yi-seo says that there’s a solution to this situation: he could just like her back. Sae-ro-yi doesn’t know what to say, and their interaction is interrupted by Hyun-yi. Cheerful Yi-seo heads out, and Sae-ro-yi lets out a breath in relief. Then, Yi-seo turns around and whispers, “I love you.”
Hyun-yi seems more used to this situation than Sae-ro-yi, and he tries to pretend nothing happened. As he looks through payment for signature, Hyun-yi notices the nice pen that Sae-ro-yi pulls out. Sae-ro-yi says that it was a gift from Yi-seo on his birthday last year, and Hyun-yi asks what he got Yi-seo for her birthday last year. From his blank stare, it seems like he didn’t get her anything.
As Ho-jin crosses the street, he freezes in recognition of a familiar face. It’s Geun-won, and he looks away in panic as Geun-won walks past him. He seems shocked but calls out to Geun-won, who looks back at him blankly. Geun-won asks who he is, and Ho-jin trembles in anger and fear.
President Jang struggles to eat porridge, and Secretary Kim worries that he isn’t eating enough. Geun-soo enters his office and asks President Jang to attend a dinner with the district mayor to help their case to establish the popular street. Secretary Kim says that President Jang’s health is not good enough, but Geun-soo insists that President Jang’s presence is important, since he’s the face of Jang Ga. President Jang agrees, but as soon as he stands up, he collapses.
At the hospital, the doctor informs Geun-soo and Secretary Kim that President Jang has pancreatic cancer that has already spread and potentially metastasized to other organs. Considering age and stage of cancer, radiation and chemotherapy are the only viable options. Geun-soo asks how long President Jang has, and he estimates about six months.
Geun-won visits President Jang at the hospital and admits that he was hesitant to visit him because he’d been abandoned. President Jang didn’t visit him a single time. Geun-soo enters the hospital room and barely acknowledges Geun-won. At the news of President Jang’s remaining time, Geun-won looks surprised and says that he made President Jang get a physical exam every year when he was director. Geun-soo questions whether that’s within the director’s responsibilities.
Geun-soo says that they blocked media coverage this time and advises that their announcement should be carefully messaged. He asks if President Jang is well enough to go into work, since a successor selection meeting due to declining health will result in a dip in Jang Ga stocks. He advises President Jang to announce the next president while he’s in better health.
Enraged by Geun-soo’s insensitivity, Geun-won grabs his brother’s collar and notes how much he’s changed. Geun-soo responds that Geun-won hasn’t changed at all, and President Jang demands that they stop. Geun-won lets go of his brother, and Geun-soo tells his father that he’ll attend the dinner on his own.
After Geun-soo leaves, Geun-won comments that President Jang made an exact replica of himself in Geun-soo. President Jang says that the resemblance is what makes Geun-soo qualified for his position. He defends his decision to protect Jang Ga and says that he doesn’t regret putting Geun-won in jail.
Geun-won looks hurt and angrily asks what all of President Jang’s commitment to Jang Ga is for. Before he leaves, he tells his father that he knows why his life turned out like this. He vows to protect his father’s precious Jang Ga and walks out. What does that mean?!
Soo-ah waits outside of IC and runs into Sae-ro-yi on his way out. She claims that she was just passing by, and they head to Itaewon together. Sae-ro-yi receives an urgent call from Ho-jin and apologizes to Soo-ah for having to bail. She understands that he’s a busy person, but she looks bummed as he runs off. As Soo-ah continues to walk onward, she runs into Yi-seo.
The two rivals meet at a café, and Soo-ah claims that she was in Itaewon on a date with Sae-ro-yi. Yi-seo laughs because she saw Sae-ro-yi bail, and she wonders when Soo-ah will let him go. Soo-ah tells Yi-seo to ask Sae-ro-yi when he’ll let her go. She claims that Sae-ro-yi promised to become rich for her and defeat Jang Ga to free her from being in the middle of their fight.
Yi-seo reads through Soo-ah’s bluff and notices her uneasiness. She says that Soo-ah used to confidently claim that Sae-ro-yi likes her, but she’s sensing insecurity now. Yi-seo presumes that Soo-ah is scared that Sae-ro-yi may like her instead, and she’s disgusted by Soo-ah’s selfishness. Yi-seo points out that becoming rich and destroying Jang Ga are all in Soo-ah’s interest, and all Soo-ah does is wait with expectations.
Bothered by Yi-seo’s presumptions, Soo-ah says that Yi-seo knows nothing. But Yi-seo claims that she knows at least this one thing: She loves Sae-ro-yi more. She shares that after hearing Sae-ro-yi’s story, she was determined to make him rich and destroy Jang Ga for him — not expecting him to do this for her. Yi-seo tells Soo-ah to continue standing by doing nothing if she really loves him and walks out.
Sae-ro-yi meets with Ho-jin at Danbam’s rooftop, and Ho-jin asks if he still remembers the sentiments towards Jang Ga’s unforgivable harm. He shares that he ran into Geun-won today and says that he forgot that he was released. He says that Geun-won didn’t remember him at all while he’s remembered him every day. Though he’s changed and Geun-won lost everything, Ho-jin admits that he was still a bit scared. Sae-ro-yi comforts his friend.
Ho-jin shares that he’s making new plans with Min-jung on lining up a successor, since it looks like President Jang will select Geun-soo. He explains that President Jang has terminal cancer, and Sae-ro-yi looks shocked at this news.
In his office, President Jang wheezes as he remembers his days running a small shop with his friend. He fed his younger sister and insisted that she ate despite her poor appetite. He reminded her to eat well so that she could achieve her dreams of becoming a doctor, and she asked him what his dreams were. He responded that he wants to own a 10-story building, and his friend doubted that such things existed.
Back in Jang Ga HQ, President Jang laughs at his doubtful friend. He says, “I begged, bowed my head, betrayed, expelled, stole, trampled, and dedicated my whole life to achieve Jang Ga.” He coughs as he laughs, sounding closer to death. Then, he receives a call from Sae-ro-yi.
It’s been a while, and Sae-ro-yi says that he heard about President Jang’s condition. He says that President Jang shouldn’t be allowed to die so easily. Sae-ro-yi says, “Divine punishment? Not so fast. You deserve to be punished by me. Don’t die just yet.”
President Jang finds it amusing that Sae-ro-yi is the one person that wants him alive, and he responds that Sae-ro-yi will be his final fate. Sae-ro-yi promises to meet him soon, and with a new vitality, President Jang says that he can’t wait long.
Though President Jang has become physically weaker, I doubt that this handicap will have any effect on his wrath against Sae-ro-yi. He looks close to death, and his zombie wrath will surely be as violent and repulsive, if not more. He’s nurtured a copy of himself in Geun-soo, who’s smart and nimble, and his ticking clock will probably make him more merciless in his attacks.
I’m mourning the loss of our sweet Geun-soo, who really just took a deep dive into the dark side. He’s a lost cause at this point, having zero remorse for outing Hyun-yi and rationalizing his immoral actions. Competition is no reason to violate someone’s personal information, especially when this information could endanger and threaten someone’s safety. He took advantage of Hyun-yi’s trust and the friendships from Danbam. He’s still taking advantage of these friendships through pure Seung-kwon, and I’m sad that he’s such a lost cause.
Every one of the Jang Ga men are significant threats to Sae-ro-yi at this point, but the biggest wild card is definitely Geun-won. What the hell has he been up to? What is his connection with Mob Boss Hee-hoon? What did he mean when he promised to protect Jang Ga? From his conversation with President Jang, I could tell that he was still hurt and resentful of his father’s abandonment. The betrayal could manifest in many ways for Geun-won, who lacks the brains but definitely has the impulse to make some big irreversible mistakes. Will he prove his loyalty to Jang Ga or will he get revenge? My bets (and hopes) are on President Jang having to confront a demon of his own creation, because unlike Sae-ro-yi, I believe in divine punishment and can count on karma to be a bitch.
Big Bad Jang Ga aside, I really loved seeing the Danbam team come together as a stronger unit in the face of adversity. Sae-ro-yi’s team is full of quality humans, and I love that this team has really become Sae-ro-yi’s family, and family to each other. Sae-ro-yi’s dreams are BIG, and he follows that up with a big vision and a big heart. Nobody is left behind as he manifests his dreams and goals, and I love that Yi-seo makes it known that his ambition and conviction are very attractive, chestnut hair and all.
Yi-seo’s sharp observations about Soo-ah really turned the tables, and I can tell that Soo-ah is losing her momentum with Sae-ro-yi. It seems like Soo-ah continued to wait through those four years, during which Danbam, Sae-ro-yi, and Yi-seo all grew and achieved new milestones. That’s four years of complacency while your love and rival built something together. At this point, I don’t know how to make a case for Soo-ah to win over Sae-ro-yi. Their long history now seems more like a nostalgic childhood first love than something real. Hustling alongside Sae-ro-yi is something very real and tangible. Yi-seo has witnessed and contributed to the success of Sae-ro-yi as a CEO, which is intimately tied to his personal endeavors. Something like that can’t be beat by nostalgia, and I’m rooting for Sae-ro-yi to realize that the person at his side, the person who constantly confesses her love, the person he can’t fire, is the person he’s come to depend on beyond just as a business partner.
Editor’s Note: Please don’t discuss spoilers because we’d hate to delete your comment! This includes anything shown in previews.