Backstreet Rookie: Episodes 5-6 Open Thread
Much of this week’s action spawns from a simple, ubiquitous drama act: a piggyback ride. It’s almost funny how a piggyback can stir this much plot, but it’s rather appropriate for a drama like Backstreet Rookie. It makes our characters question motives, relationships, reputations — and it has some big repercussions for our store manager and his part-timer.
EPISODES 5-6 WEECAP
Last week we ended with Saet-byul’s congratulatory bouquet and the granting of her wish for the now-infamous piggyback by Dae-hyun — wacky and ridiculous, yes, but it kinda works. She monkey-clings to him in a way that reminded me of Lee Min-jung on Lee Min-ho in Boys Before Flowers. But what’s important, of course, is that Yeon-joo walks in during said piggyback, and witnessing this not only fans the flames of their unspoken rivalry, but makes Yeon-joo question her relationship with Dae-hyun even further.
Turns out, questioning that dating relationship is actually a good thing. Dae-hyun and Yeon-joo are both trying to keep their relationship going, but it feels so forced, and like it’s more about effort and intention than it is a byproduct of affection, attraction, trust, and so on.
I’m torn here — they obviously want to be together, and are fighting to keep their relationship, but I don’t really think they’re that great as a couple. Even so, Yeon-joo fends off the advances of Seung-joon, and Dae-hyun is willing to accept the humiliation Yeon-joo’s mother heaps on him. But of course the biggest issue coming between them is Saet-byul.
It’s interesting that at this point in the story, Dae-hyun has absolutely no interest in Saet-byul, and has fallen into this protective older brother role that’s quite sweet (now that she’s proven herself and he’s less terrified by her). Still, it’s important that even the mere presence of Saet-byul in the store brings up conflicts in the Dae-hyun/Yeon-joo relationship. Perhaps the problems were there before and just needed a catalyst to come to the surface?
The piggyback might cause relationship mayhem for Dae-hyun, but for Saet-byul, she’s on cloud nine — until the iljin gang that she flattened in the ladies room last week come back for vengeance. With a 2×4.
Thankfully, in a drama like Backstreet Rookie there’s no blood and no damage — but Dae-hyun winds up rushing Saet-byul to the ER anyway. As he tells her, “You got hit on the head but you have appendicitis.” It’s for the comedy, surely, but it also brings the two a little closer, because for as much as Dae-hyun wants to ask Saet-byul to quit (and thus kill the friction she’s creating in his relationship), he can’t bring himself to do it.
While our characters are at the hospital, who is conveniently available to watch the store but Dal-shik? Just when I was ready to forgive the show for its awful introduction of Dal-shik during the premiere week — boy, they really outdid themselves when he has a random encounter with a Black customer. (This is actually Awetairus, a Nigerian man who’s something of a name in Korea due to the success of his son, model Han Hyun-min.)
I don’t want to detail the scene here, but suffice it to say there’s a major problem with how this drama is choosing to portray Black people (and particularly Jamaican culture and reggae). It’s as upsetting as it is unfortunate — and anytime Dal-shik appears onscreen I find myself bracing for impact and pre-cringing. At this point, I wouldn’t mind a peek into our PD’s brain to be able to qualify our problematic Dal-shik a little better.
For all the gallstones this drama gives, there are also some sweet moments this week, and it wouldn’t be fair to only talk about what’s problematic about Backstreet Rookie, and not mention what it’s doing well. For instance, one of my favorite moments this week was when Dae-hyun’s mom (Kim Sun-young — what a chameleon she is!) washes Saet-byul’s hair for her in the hospital. It’s such a warm and loving act for a girl that has been motherless and on her own for so long. I also love how these two seem to “get” each other — in Backstreet Rookie, weird recognize weird.
The other strength of the show, for me, is definitely the banter between Dae-hyun and Saet-byul. He’s still treating her like an annoying kid sister at this point, and it makes their interactions all the more silly. They’re particularly great when silently fighting through the store windows (via gestures and lip-reading), or when Dae-hyun is trying to “subtly” coach her through her Employee of the Month interview to get her to promote the store in the way he wants.
Just when our duo is beginning to understand each other and their relationship as store manager and part-timer stabilizes, Saet-byul decides to pull the plug. Yeon-joo has asked her to stop making waves in their relationship, but it’s the weariness and conflict that she seeing in Dae-hyun that makes her tell him she’s quitting her position at the store. More than noble idiocy, I’m liking Saet-byul’s maturity here — the fact that she is putting Dae-hyun’s happiness above her own says a lot. I’m sure she’ll be rewarded for that by the end of our tale.