Itaewon Class: Episode 14
After a 4-year time skip, the Danbam team is flourishing but despite his failing health, President Jang continues to be a thorn in our hero’s side. As the old foes butt heads once more in an attempt to dethrone Jang, rivalry isn’t the only feeling that rises to the surface and our characters contemplate whether it’s possible to have a change of heart.
EPISODE 14 RECAP
Leaving the office late at night, Sae-ro-yi spots Yi-seo asleep at her desk. Ever the gentleman, Sae-ro-yi drapes his jacket over her shoulders only to try and take it back when Yi-seo smirks that she’s touched. He questions why she’s sleeping here and Yi-seo yawns that she has a lot to prepare for. Yi-seo senses something is bothering him and the next morning Sae-ro-yi holds a meeting with her, Min-jung, and Ho-jin to reveal President Jang’s critical condition.
They agree President Jang will attempt to appoint Geun-soo his successor before his health is leaked. In order to prevent Jang from stepping down quietly, Ho-jin suggests they weaken Jang’s power by ousting one of the board members he’s close to. Min-jung worries about Geun-soo but Sae-ro-yi points out Geun-soo won’t pull any punches either.
A new board member will need to be selected and Sae-ro-yi is ineligible (as CEO of his own company) so Yi-seo volunteers. Ho-jin is concerned by Yi-seo’s young age, but Sae-ro-yi is confident in Yi-seo’s capabilities. Afterwards, Sae-ro-yi worries whether Yi-seo can handle vying for the board member position on top of her current hefty workload. Yi-seo cheekily suggests he grant her wish for a date if he feels bad but Sae-ro-yi reminds her not to cross the line.
President Jang knows the article regarding corruption allegations about a Jang Ga board member is Sae-ro-yi’s doing. He resolves to dismiss the board member himself and Geun-soo offers to compile a list of replacement candidates. Jang waves him off, knowing Sae-ro-yi will already have a candidate in mind so they’ll have to fight fair. Geun-soo agrees that it’s more important to focus on Jang’s public image and comments that he’s looking better. Thinking of Sae-ro-yi’s order for him not to die yet, President Jang chuckles that he feels relieved.
While looking over voters they’ll need to meet with and convince, Yi-seo suggests Sae-ro-yi get some rest. His phone rings and Sae-ro-yi hesitates when Soo-ah’s name flashes on the screen. He answers and glancing at Yi-seo, declines Soo-ah’s invitation for drinks. Yi-seo correctly guesses Soo-ah as the caller, and pouts that Sae-ro-yi is flirting while she’s working.
Sae-ro-yi tells her to stop vocalizing her feelings when he’s firmly rejected her. Yi-seo’s playful demeanor drops and she warbles that he can meet Soo-ah – she’d planned to do the work by herself anyway. He angrily accuses her of making him feel uneasy and Yi-seo sobers, asking if he knows why he feels that way. He denies having feelings for her, but Yi-seo is confident she knows him best and smiles that he finally sees her as a woman.
At Jang Ga HQ, Soo-ah tells President Jang they’ve handled the dismissal of tarnished board member. Geun-soo asks how they should retrieve the stocks Jang had gathered under that board member’s name, but Jang decides to leave them. Over at IC HQ, Ho-jin wonders how Jang easily dismissed the board member and asks about Yi-seo. Sae-ro-yi says Min-jung is introducing her to influential voters.
Ho-jin still worries Yi-seo’s age will work against her but Sae-ro-yi remains confident, “Because it’s Yi-seo.” Meanwhile, Yi-seo gives her all at both work and schmoozing the shareholders for the upcoming board meeting. When she checks on Tony at a store location, her nose starts bleeding and Tony urges her to rest. Yi-seo waves him off, saying she has to meet more stockholders.
Hyun-yi pops into Sae-ro-yi’s office to tell him today’s meeting is cancelled due to someone’s wife going into labor and suggests Sae-ro-yi take the opportunity to rest. Yi-seo gets out of a cab and runs into Geun-soo for the first time in 4 years. He guesses she’s meeting stockholders and cheekily says he just left them. Geun-soo tries to make small talk and Yi-seo blurts that she heard President Jang was dying.
At Geun-soo’s expression, she wonders if she was too direct but Geun-soo’s merely surprised she already knows. He asks why she hasn’t used that against them yet, and Yi-seo says she prefers to collect many cards before playing her hand. Geun-soo suggests they get a drink and when Yi-seo starts to refuse, Geun-soo says he might divulge more cards when drunk. Meanwhile, Sae-ro-yi drinks with Soo-ah and she comments that he’s a hard man to get ahold of.
Soo-ah proudly announces that she bought a house and Sae-ro-yi congratulates her, admitting he hasn’t bought one himself. Soo-ah tsks that he spends all his money on stock and sighs that she’d dreamed of owning a car and house and leading an independent life when she was young. Sae-ro-yi praises her for achieving her dreams and Soo-ah agrees she’s lived diligently, but admits it feels empty.
Turning the conversation to Sae-ro-yi, Soo-ah wonders if she’ll be quitting her job after the stockholder’s meeting (as Sae-ro-yi always promised to make her do). Soo-ah’s face falls when Sae-ro-yi pauses and responds vaguely. She points out that he’s rich and close to achieving his goal and asks if he still likes her. Sae-ro-yi says he’s told her many times and Soo-ah orders him to say he likes her.
The silence stretches and then Sae-ro-yi looks up to see Yi-seo enter the bar with Geun-soo. They stare at each other for a long moment and then Yi-seo runs out, Geun-soo close behind her. Sae-ro-yi looks down and tears prick Soo-ah’s eyes as he rubs his head. He stands without a word and Soo-ah grabs his arm, telling him not to go. She asks if he likes Yi-seo and then cuts off his answer to say it’s been 15 years.
Soo-ah reminds him he’d promised to make her quit her job, her voice cracking as she says, “You of all people should still like me.” Sae-ro-yi acknowledges his words and starts to say something else, but Soo-ah drops her hand. Without meeting his eyes, Soo-ah lies that she was just kidding and urges him to find Yi-seo. She tells him she’ll call and after an awkward moment, Sae-ro-yi runs out, while she cries alone.
Outside, Yi-seo is already gone. Instead, he finds Geun-soo, who angrily accuses Sae-ro-yi for using Yi-seo’s feelings. He says he understands Sae-ro-yi can’t accept her feelings, but also can’t push away such an important asset of IC. “If IC disappears,” Geun-soo wonders, “will you let go of Yi-seo?” Sae-ro-yi doesn’t answer and Geun-soo says he’ll see him at the shareholder’s meeting.
Soo-ah steps out shakily and runs into Geun-won. They go for drinks and Soo-ah admits she hadn’t realized he was out of prison. Geun-won jokes that he broke out because he missed her, but upon seeing Soo-ah’s alarmed expression, explains that he was released early for good behavior. She asks if he plans to return to Jang Ga, but Geun-won vaguely replies he’ll do “something else.” Changing the subject, Geun-won happily notes this is their first time drinking together and thanks her for granting his wish.
Soo-ah grimaces and Geun-won clarifies that he’s not hitting her. “I know I’m a jerk,” he says, “But I don’t want to ruin the life of the woman I like.” His words are unnerving but instead of elaborating, Geun-won asks if she still likes Sae-ro-yi. Soo-ah says Geun-soo hasn’t changed and he accepts that she’ll always think he’s a jerk.
Yi-seo returns home to find Mom waiting for her. Mom says she’s been there 5 days and Yi-seo sighs that she’s been busy on business trips and sleeping at the office. Mom tsks that she’d thought things might’ve been going well with Sae-ro-yi and wonders if after all this time, something will ever happen between them. Mom assumes Yi-seo’s fallen asleep and leaves, while Yi-seo cries quietly to herself.
The next day, Sae-ro-yi finds Hyun-yi and Seung-kwon hovering over Yi-seo. Hyun-yi says Yi-seo has a cold but Yi-seo assures Sae-ro-yi she’s good for the meeting and pops up. They head out, but Yi-seo grows dizzy and Sae-ro-yi barely manages to catch her when she faints. Sae-ro-yi texts Ho-jin that they’re taking Yi-seo to the hospital and he reports it to Min-jung. Thankfully Yi-seo’s presence isn’t mandatory, but Sae-ro-yi’s is as a major shareholder.
President Jang heads down to the meeting and Min-jung greets him. Realizing she’s still aligned with Sae-ro-yi, President Jang admits she never was the obedient type. She says she heard about his condition and President Jang tuts that she should’ve used that information against him. Min-jung says she’s doing it for Jang Ga but President Jang tsks that she always makes the wrong choice.
Geun-soo asks where Sae-ro-yi is and neither Min-jung nor Ho-jin seem inclined to answer until Sae-ro-yi runs in. Geun-soo looks for Yi-seo but Sae-ro-yi says she won’t be here today. With a parting snide remark that Min-jung does always make the wrong choice, Geun-soo saunters off. During the meeting, Sae-ro-yi can’t stop worrying about Yi-seo, while at the hospital Seung-kwon tells Hyun-yi he wishes Yi-seo would take a break.
Yi-seo wakes up and immediately asks about the meeting… where it’s announced that her appointment has been rejected. Turns out Geun-soo had approached the US investors that had previously held no allegiance. On his way out, Jang pauses to gloat at Sae-ro-yi and say that he can’t wait much longer. Min-jung wants to calm the investors on their side but allows Sae-ro-yi to run out to see Yi-seo.
As soon as he enters her room, Yi-seo asks how the meeting went, ignoring Sae-ro-yi’s inquiries to her health. Seung-kwon and Hyun-yi assure him Yi-seo just overworked herself and will be fine after some rest. Sae-ro-yi tells Yi-seo she was rejected and Yi-seo grumbles that Geun-soo must’ve convinced the US stockholders. She assures Sae-ro-yi she has a Plan B and pops up to meet with stockholders.
Sae-ro-yi orders her to stop, warning that he’ll fire her if she moves. He tells Hyun-yi and Seung-kwon to let him know if she moves and begs Yi-seo to rest before leaving. Seung-kwon follows him out and guesses Sae-ro-yi’s sullen expression is over Yi-seo. Sae-ro-yi doesn’t know what he means when Seung-kwon says to follow his heart. “Yi-seo has feelings for you. And you like Soo-ah,” Seung-kwon explains. When Sae-ro-yi doesn’t respond, Seung-kwon wonders if he’s confused. Sae-ro-yi starts to argue about the age gap, but Yi-seo had told him not to make excuses.
Seung-kwon sees no issue with the age gap or even about hurting Soo-ah’s feelings. Sae-ro-yi says he’s being talkative, but Seung-kwon points out this isn’t like him and leaves. Seung-kwon passes a van of masked men on his way to his car. Hmm. Sae-ro-yi walks by an advertisement for the necklace Yi-seo had liked and heads back to the hospital. He stops when he overhears Yi-seo and Hyun-yi chatting and ducks around a corner.
Hyun-yi assures Yi-seo that Sae-ro-yi was just concerned, but Yi-seo is adamant that had she moved, she would’ve been fired. She whines that timing is important and she can’t waste it in bed, begging Hyun-yi to cover for her (so she can work). Hyun-yi refuses and Yi-seo pouts, questioning her loyalties. Hyun-yi says she’s on Yi-seo’s side, pointing out that she should trust Sae-ro-yi will handle the China deal while Seung-kwon manages the stores.
Yi-seo explains she’s been running around confessing to Sae-ro-yi and told him he could fire her over her feelings. Hyun-yi balks that the company can’t run without her. Yi-seo agrees that she can show her affection because she’s someone Sae-ro-yi needs. “I just need to justify my actions,” Yi-seo concludes, “I need the right to say that I love him.” Sae-ro-yi pulls out a small Tiffany’s bag and sighs, unable to approach the women after what he’s heard.
In his office, Geun-soo passes management of Jangmun Market Street to Soo-ah. She notes things are uneasy at the company and Geun-soo informs her President Jang is dying. Soo-ah goes straight to visit him and Jang grumbles at Geun-soo for telling her. He says next to his assistant, Mr. Kim, Soo-ah has been with him the longest… but for a different motive. Jang admits he’s always been aware of Soo-ah’s feelings towards him: her resentment over Dad’s death and yet she feared Jang.
He nods that it should be a good thing someone she hates is dying… and asks why she’s crying. Soo-ah sobs that she doesn’t know, and Jang admits he’s been hard on her. “You’re a competent woman, but you didn’t leave your boss whom you hate,” Jang says, “Do you know why.” Soo-ah repeats that she doesn’t know, and Jang explains that she’s been tamed to his preferences.
Jang tells her he’s pressured everyone around him to tame them like that, saying it’s easy to control them and he despises them. He questions whether that’s the impression Soo-ah wants to leave at the end of his life. She asks why he’s telling her this and Jang admits he’s becoming strange at death’s door. Meanwhile, Geun-won stalks through a dark building where Mob Boss Hee-hoon (Sae-ro-yi and Geun-won’s cellmate as well as Seung-kwon’s former boss) and his men operate. “What we talked about before,” Geun-won says dropping a duffel onto the table, “I’d like to start.” Hee-hoon simply asks when.
Tony delivers a stack of files to Sae-ro-yi from Yi-seo’s office. Sae-ro-yi awes at the amount, but Tony says the other half are locked in Yi-seo’s safe and no one knows her passcode. Sae-ro-yi heads to Yi-seo’s office and finds Seung-kwon signing paperwork for her. Seung-kwon warns him Yi-seo’s safe is locked but Sae-ro-yi knows the password: his birthday. Seung-kwon grins that Yi-seo is devoted and Sae-ro-yi awkwardly asks what proposal Seung-kwon is looking over.
He explains it’s an event and reads the through the promo which calls for customers to bring a person that they hate, the first person they want to thank, the first person they want to apologize to, the scariest moment that comes to mind, the best luck in their life. In response to each prompt, Sae-ro-y flashes through the night Yi-seo got Geun-won’s confession, the night he rejected her confession, Yi-seo fainting into his arms, and finally her promising to help him achieve his dreams. “Are you in love with someone?” Seung-kwon finishes the promo and Sae-ro-yi finds the laminated sketch Yi-seo had done of him after they first met.
“It’s all you,” Sae-ro-yi realizes. He races out and thinks of Yi-seo’s confession to Hyun-yi as he speeds to the hospital. Geun-soo arrives first, but the receptionist informs him she’s refused anyone but relatives and authorized visitors. Sae-ro-yi calls out to him, while in her room Yi-seo finds the necklace Sae-ro-yi had bought her in her drawer with a note: “Get better.” She gleefully puts it on before a nurse says he’s here for an IV injection. And I get the sinking feeling he’s not a medical professional.
Geun-soo and Sae-ro-yi talk outside and Sae-ro-yi confirms Geun-soo needn’t feel bad over the shareholder’s meeting, as he was just doing his job. Geun-soo confirms he’d read the articles of Yi-seo’s collapse and came running. Sae-ro-yi asks if he’s still in love with Yi-seo and Geun-soo says he’s thought of her every day for the last 4 years, adding she was the reason he left Danbam to take over Jang Ga and destroy IC.
Sae-ro-yi agrees Yi-seo is someone you can bet your life one. Geun-soo senses a shift and snaps to look at Sae-ro-yi as he continues that even if he has feelings for her, she’s a woman his friend loves so he should give up. He calls it a betrayal and an awful thing to do as realization dawns on Geun-soo. “I’m doing it now,” Sae-ro-yi declares, “The betrayal. The awful thing.”
Geun-soo jumps to his feet, but Sae-ro-yi remains firm. He says Geun-soo can curse or even hit him. “I like Yi-seo,” Sae-ro-yi says meeting Geun-soo’s eyes, “I won’t apologize though.” He walks away and freezes when he finds Yi-seo’s room in disarray. A text comes through with an address and an order not to call the police or bring backup just as Geun-soo catches up, railing on Sae-ro-yi for always denying feelings for Yi-seo in the past.
Sae-ro-yi doesn’t even hear him and runs off as Geun-soo checks Yi-seo’s room. Sae-ro-yi drives erratically, unaware Geun-soo is in hot pursuit. They wind down a road and pull up to where a crowd of gangsters have blocked the way. Hee-hoon watches from one vehicle and Geun-won from another as Sae-ro-yi approaches the blockade. To Sae-ro-yi’s horror, Geun-soo runs after him.
Stepping out of his car, Geun-won smirks that the two people he hates most are here. He ignores Sae-ro-yi’s demand to know where Yi-seo is, wondering why he cares when he’s about to die. Geun-soo rushes forward but freezes when a car careens towards him. Sae-ro-yi shoves him out of the way just in time, but takes the full brunt of the car, rolling down the hill. Geun-won looks shocked as Geun-soo screams Sae-ro-yi’s name. Sae-ro-yi’s voiceover: “Follow my heart and be myself. A life without regrets regardless of consequences. That’s how I wanted to live.”
He flashes back to when he first rejected Yi-seo and admits he regrets that day. “I miss you like crazy,” Sae-ro-yi thinks as his eyes close.
Throughout its run, there’s been a certain level of suspension of disbelief needed when watching Itaewon Class. It has very strong comic overtones – which is to be expected since the source material is a webtoon – but realism has never been much of a factor. This episode, however, takes the cake! How did we get from revenge story of underdog Sae-ro-yi vs Big Bad Jang Ga (with a sprinkling of romance) to kidnapping and attempted murder?! I had thought we were pretty much done with Geun-won once he was abandoned by President Jang to rot in jail… only for him to come back and decide that if he can’t have daddy’s love, at least he can eliminate the boy whose father he killed 15 years ago. Because that makes sense?
It’s all a bit convoluted at this point and I find my investment has waned in the past week or so as the focus has shifted from the ensemble to just the main leads. I was expecting more of an emotional impact with Sae-ro-yi finally realizing his feelings. Turning down Soo-ah – his first love that he’s held onto for 15 years – and coming to terms with the fact that he’s in love with Yi-seo should’ve been this grand moment and while I can see how logistically it made sense, perhaps I am just so fed up with the lackluster romance arc, because I didn’t care. I can understand how Sae-ro-yi has come to value the woman that has stood by him and supported him over the one who never even admitted she liked him back… but I didn’t feel that elation from a good OTP climactic moment.
For as much as I’ve voiced my frustration with Soo-ah, I feel her character was done a disservice. She showed glimmers now and then of being more than a pawn for Jang to taunt Sae-ro-yi with or act as romantic rival to Yi-seo… only for her to do something that seemed to remove all her agency or was selfish to the point I couldn’t excuse it as self-preservation. I think Yi-seo summed it up perfectly in their last encounter. Soo-ah has been coasting on what Sae-ro-yi can do for her and never thought of what she could do in return. That’s not how love works, and it was clearly jarring for her to realize she’d lost the one person she’d been confident would always be by her side. Ironically, the person she’s built the closest relationship with has been President Jang. In his own twisted way, Jang had a deep affection for Soo-ah that he never possessed for his own children and for as much as she resented and feared him, he’s been the true constant in her life and a warped father-figure in place of Dad.
I’m glad to see Yi-seo has experienced growth, but I feel that all her crazy charm has dissipated leaving only her unwavering affection for Sae-ro-yi in its wake. Most of the characters feel really watered down after the 4 year skip and it’s a real shame because it would seem that as the show loses the emotional thread, it’s just amped up the crazy in an attempt to keep the momentum going. Jang is dying and while I can see how Sae-ro-yi would feel poetic justice isn’t enough for everything he’s gone through… I harken back to Ho-jin’s comment last episode after his encounter with Geun-won. Ho-jin had said that despite becoming successful and Geun-won losing everything, he’s still afraid. And to drive the stake in deeper, Geun-won didn’t even recognize him. I wish Sae-ro-yi had listened more closely, because whether he realized it or not Ho-jin was telling him that revenge doesn’t matter. The people that hurt them will never atone for their sins because they don’t care while Ho-jin and Sae-ro-yi are the ones that have to bear the scars. Revenge was a good fuel to get them where they are, but now that they’re out of those dark days, it’s time to let it go because revenge only makes those wounds fester.