Start-Up: Episodes 11-12 Open Thread
So many feelings! It’s a real rollercoaster this week as we see Samsan Tech navigate their highest of highs, and their lowest of lows. Relationships are impacted as we watch some dreams being realized, and others cruelly crushed.
EPISODES 11-12 WEECAP
It’s game on for everyone at Sandbox, because after all their hard work, it’s finally demo day. This is the moment that all the teams have been working for — there can only be one winner, and the 50 million won prize means success or failure for a lot of these companies.
Even though Samsan Tech is facing quite a bit of emotional turmoil (what with the “bug” reveal and tension between Do-san and Dal-mi), the team rallies. Their group spirit is one of my favorite things about this drama, and that really came together not only during demo day, but with the other issues they run into later.
But first, it’s time for Dal-mi and Samsan to shine on stage again. They nail their presentation, and Do-san’s technology has a serious wow factor. Things have to come full circle again, of course, so once again Samsan Tech and Injae Company’s algos are made to compete against each other. And this time, it’s Samsan for the win! Their accuracy rate might be lower, but their program is smaller and more agile. Alex is blown away (as is everyone), the team WINS!
They really earned this moment of rejoicing, and it’s so fun to watch them overjoyed and on top of the world — especially because this was a test of the team’s (and especially Do-san’s) integrity. They’re tempted to inflate their accuracy number to match/exceed Injae Company’s, and this moment of will-they-won’t-they is suspended for a while. It was an agonizing few minutes. Thankfully, Do-san and Dal-mi side with honesty, and I love that this choice brought about their win. How can we not rejoice with them?
Samsan Tech might have won, but there was a judge noticeably missing from the entire event: Han Ji-pyeong. Yong-san’s accusations against him caused Ji-pyeong to do some serious navel-gazing, and he goes through a rather heartbreaking tailspin this week.
He questions what he said to Yong-san’s brother as much as he does how he’s treated Samsan Tech from the get-go. Ji-pyeong is so hard on himself, but I love that we get this look at his inner workings. The ever-wonderful Director Yoon knows exactly what Ji-pyeong is going through and tells him not to blame himself, and later, even Dal-mi tells him all his criticisms of them were necessary — but either way, Ji-pyeong removes himself during this point in the story. And it has some dire consequences.
Do-san has been courted by 2STO’s Alex for a long time now, and now that they’ve won demo day, it’s clear that the companies will now have a formal relationship of sorts. Do-san previously told Alex that any deal has to include keeping the entire Samsan team, and continuing to run their app Noongil, and Alex agreed.
So, between being high on success, and having built some level of trust with Alex (and his enthusiastic interest in their algo), the team flies into signing a contract with 2STO. And they really do fly into it. They’ve no sooner won demo day than Alex presents them with a 3 billion won acquisition deal. The overwhelming sense of having succeeded supersedes any questions or suspicions, and our team looks over the contract and signs it soon after.
It might seem like a rash move on behalf of Samsan Tech (and indeed it did to me), but I guess here we can rationalize this by their naiveté around business and their desperation to succeed. Both of these things work against them most horribly in this instance.
When Ji-pyeong finally gets wind of what’s going on and reviews the contract, it doesn’t take him long to see the truth: not only is this not an investment, but it’s not an acquisition. It’s an acquihire, where Alex is basically buying the company for its engineers. Ji-pyeong tries to warn the team, but their desire to succeed, and Yong-san’s animosity towards Ji-pyeong, means that the warning doesn’t get to Dal-mi and Do-san.
The team’s excitement over the sheer magnitude of their success doesn’t last long. Samsan Tech goes from being on the top of the world, dreaming up new ideas and imaging their lives in Silicon Valley, to being crushed — quite literally.
Alex immediately dismantles the team, dismisses Dal-mi and Sa-ha, and makes it clear he has no intention of continuing the Noongil service. Ugh, it’s one of the roughest scenes in the drama thus far, and everyone (well, everyone from Samsan Tech) is crying by the time it’s over. They’ve been played in the most humiliating way possible, and their dreams have been dismantled by the very contract they thought guaranteed them success.
It’s heartbreaking! The team has come so far that watching them become shattered like this after they landed such a huge, impressive deal is one of the worst things ever. And everything starts to crumble because of it.
Do-san (rightfully) loses it and confronts Ji-pyeong. They have a huge fist fight in the Sandbox courtyard, and sad though it is, the raw emotion in this scene was killer. Do-san’s hopes and dreams are shattered, but one of the things he seems most upset about is Noongil and halmoni. He tells Ji-pyeong the secret of halmoni’s failing eyesight, and then it’s Ji-pyeong’s turn for a heart-wrenching breakdown.
In his bloodied, beaten state, Ji-pyeong seeks out halmoni, and it’s the saddest thing in the world to see him sobbing over her, and telling her that he’s not really a “Good Boy.”
So much crying, but even more coming! The Samsan boys have to decide what they’re going to do, since the contract is impossible to back out of. Here we get some nice character development for Yong-san, and a strong sense of what that “revenge” against Ji-pyeong really means to him: it means proving him wrong, and succeeding.
It’s hard for Do-san to accept what’s going on, though, and who can blame him. He goes from being happy and successful, packing for San Francisco with his mom giving him (adorable) dating advice, to being robbed of all the things that gave that success meaning.
He and Dal-mi clearly care for each other, and despite the lies around the letters, it really looked like their closeness and affection would win out. But this second humiliation is almost too much for Dal-mi to bear, and she chooses the difficult path of letting the failure go by breaking up with Do-san to further encourage him to leave.
Interestingly, this doesn’t feel a bit like a bit of noble idiocy swooping in — sure, her denial of him breaks his heart enough to get him to go, but I also feel like Dal-mi is done. The story digs into her character a bit here, and this idea of resiliency. I have to hand it to her. She takes her loss with real grace, and after mourning, she’s back on her feet, interviewing for a position at Injae Company. The girl has gumption.
These two episodes went so much further than I expected, in terms of how broken our team would really become. I never exactly trusted Alex, but he stooped to a cruel low. Our puppies! One might want to chide them with an “act in haste repent at leisure” sort of sentiment, but really, their youthful energy and expectation of good things coming is what makes them all so wonderful. I wouldn’t take that from them.
At the close of this week’s episodes, it certainly feels like we’ve hit the climax of the drama (and possibly warrant the time jump that seems pre-built into the story). From Sandbox, to Samsan Tech, to Dal-mi’s relationship with Do-san — things have shifted irreparably. What happens next? How will our characters respond to the challenges they are facing, whether that is a different kind of success than they wanted, or having to start over from rock bottom? I know what I hope we’ll find as our story continues, but I’m sure the drama has some surprises in store for us yet.
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