Run On: Episode 12
What happens after a charming art student and a prickly CEO finally give in to temptation? Surprise, it’s angst! (no one is surprised). But instead of a wallowing art student, it’s Dan-ah who must finally ask herself what she really wants and whether she’s willing to let herself have it. And while the power balance shifts for our secondary couple, our main couple hits the first hurdle in their relationship, and it is shaped like a meddling assemblyman father.
EPISODE 12 RECAP
We start with Dan-ah and Young-hwa, mid-kiss in Dan-ah’s office. It feels like a big moment, but Young-hwa pulls away looking upset. He’s not ready to set aside the frustration he’s been feeling about Dan-ah’s brush off. In fact, the kiss further upsets him, and he accuses Dan-ah of kissing him not because she actually likes him, but because he wasn’t pining away for her anymore.
He suggests that she sent her tough guy Mr. Jung to drag him to her and now he wonders if he can even leave or if the doors are barred. Dan-ah assures him the doors are open, and he storms out.
Dan-ah can’t stand to watch Young-hwa leave upset though, and she catches up with him in the lobby. Young-hwa’s harsh words dissolve into sloppy sobs, and Dan-ah offers to get him some food and drive him home at least. They end up at a fried chicken restaurant, and while Young-hwa seems to have calmed down, he refuses to respond to Dan-ah’s attempts to ask him if he really intends to stop liking her.
After eating, Young-hwa’s face remains grim as he tries to walk away. Dan-ah suggests they go for a drive as a peace offering. She recalls when she put him down the last time he made the request, and Mi-joo even scolded for treating Young-hwa so harshly. Dan-ah knows she can’t change her past actions or words, but she’s willing to treat Young-hwa to a drive to try to make up for things.
At the office, Mae-yi pounces on Mi-joo, eager to hear whether she’s decided to take on the translation work. Mae-yi waves a cute note Sun-kyum left behind thanking Mi-joo for the movie, and Mae-yi makes her friend grovel for the note. Mi-joo’s gravelly aegyo is super creepy though, haha.
Mae-yi seems happy for Mi-joo’s new romance, but also wants to check in on this new development, especially since not too long ago Sun-kyum’s dad was offering her bribes. Mi-joo doesn’t seem too concerned and says she plans to steer clear of the family drama.
Meanwhile, Sun-kyum keeps just as busy in his new role as Woo-shik’s agent. He even accompanies his athlete to work and forces him to do strength training while he cleans, haha. After practice, Sun-kyum wraps Woo-shik’s leg in ice, and Woo-shik expresses his gratitude. He knows Sun-kyum could be doing something else with his life, and he’s grateful that his hyung has decided to stick by his side. Sun-kyum brings up running records and new goals, and they tease each other as they consider the prospect of doing some actual running soon.
Young-hwa is not anymore cheerful or forthcoming when Dan-ah drops him off at home, and Dan-ah says that she’s not sure how to feel about being clingy. Young-hwa says that the discomfort he felt being clingy is why he’s decided to stop chasing after her at last. As Dan-ah pressures him for an answer, Young-hwa admits that he can’t seem to stop liking her, no matter what he does, and that’s why he’s so mad about the whole situation.
As Young-hwa heads up to the apartment, Sun-kyum spots Dan-ah lingering in front of the building. He wonders how she ended up here, and she similarly wonders what he’s doing in the neighborhood, since she heard from Mi-joo that he’d moved out. Ah, so tangled are all these friendships.
Dejected, Dan-ah goes to her usual bar spot to drink. Tae-woong crashes her pity session to offer his sister the gallery, since he heard Myung-min has managed to steal the charity run from her. Dan-ah scoffs at his efforts as usual, but then an idea seems to pop into her head. She asks Tae-woong to side with her when she asks, possibly in a moment when he wouldn’t want to.
Tae-woong tells her that he’s always on her side though, and we’re treated to a flashback of the first time the two siblings met. Tae-woong was bedridden, and a school uniform-clad Dan-ah seems confused to find herself there. She tells Tae-woong that she’s only come to America to seduce his tutor, but Tae-woong just seems completely in awe to have a sister.
Back in the present, Tae-woong retreats to another part of the bar and orders himself a drink. Mr. Jung joins him, though he orders a club soda so that he can drive Tae-woong home. Mr. Jung compliments Tae-woong for trying to behave more maturely towards Dan-ah, and Tae-woong says that he still cries in front of his fans even if he’s stopped doing it in front of his sister. He suspects it’s because he hasn’t become immune to love yet. He asks Mr. Jung if he’s ever cried in front of someone, and Mr. Jung mentions that he cried when he took his sick cat to the vet (oh no, the sweet tuxedo cat!). Tae-woong feels bad for the vet, ha.
Tae-woong then tells Mr. Jung to stop Dan-ah from seeing Young-hwa, and Mr. Jung agrees that dating a young student would be one more weakness others could exploit in addition to Dan-ah’s illness and the fact that she’s a woman. Tae-woong mutters that though his dad brought him to Korea to take over things, Tae-woong suspects that he might die before either of his siblings. When Tae-woong pressure Mr. Jung one last time to blow off work and have a real drink, Mr. Jung finally caves.
Mi-joo works late into the evening, and her alarm buzzes at two in the morning to remind her to go to bed. She turns it off and hedges that she can work at least one more hour. Cut to the next morning, as Mi-joo hits snooze on her early alarm several times. But she’s committed to training for the marathon, and eventually she wills herself out of bed.
She’s got her new sneakers tied, a training app on her phone, and she sets off for her run. Pretty quickly she’s huffing and fatigued, even as the training app encourages her to keep going.
Woo-shik is officially running again too, and his form is looking good. After a while, he begins to catch up with Sun-kyum’s strides. Eventually, Sun-kyum sets up the starting block and Woo-shik settles into a starting stance. He stops though when he spots Young-il on the track. Woo-shik sprints and jumps into his former teammate’s arms. Young-il is curious about Sun-kyum’s new role as Woo-shik’s agent, and the boys all tease one another.
Mi-joo is energized after her morning exercise, and calls Sun-kyum to request a date. So after Mi-joo does some PPL hairstyling, they meet up. She takes Sun-kyum for an eye exam when she notices him squinting at her. Mi-joo is not excited about the idea of Sun-kyum’s face hidden by frames though, so she eagerly presses him to purchase the PPL contact lenses, haha. The couple is very cute as they babble and offer to walk each other to work so they can spend as much time together as possible.
Eun-bi, meanwhile, is getting more and more demands from her father to show up for his golf outings. When Eun-bi heads out to the course, her father’s overly eager golf-fanatic colleague is waiting for her. Eun-bi is cold and distant, and when the guy suggests that he wants his daughter to be a golf pro, she suggests that he ask his daughter what she really wants to do with her life.
Mi-joo has been busy working on her new translation, and she and Mae-yi discuss some of the nuances and possible considerations for some especially difficult lines. Mi-joo hints that she doesn’t mind avoiding the criticism that can come with translating a big blockbuster, but that she wouldn’t mind getting to translate a movie starring her favorite, Ji-woo. Mae-yi’s expression clouds as she chastises her friend for her arrogance and lofty dreams, haha.
Mi-joo gets an unexpected visit from Eun-bi as she arrives home. It turns out that while Eun-bi was snooping around her father’s office, she found evidence that Assemblyman Ki has been gathering background information about Mi-joo, and possibly has someone following her to take photos. Ick. Mi-joo jokes that the assemblyman might turn up and throw water in her face (a reference to Ji-woo’s own call-out of her husband’s bad behavior), but it’s clear that this news bothers her, and Eun-bi warns her to be careful.
The news bothers Mi-joo so much that she stress-works right through the night, and is still awake from the day before when her alarm goes off. There’s no way she’s going running after not sleeping all night, and she swipes the alarm off.
Dan-ah broods in her office, and asks Mr. Jung if she should ask Young-hwa to meet her in a public place, or somewhere more private. Mr. Jung answers honestly that he doesn’t think that Dan-ah should meet him at all, and she sighs as she acknowledges the truth in his words. She tells him that she wishes she could just feel how she feels right now forever, but she knows that isn’t how it works.
Dan-ah decides to spy on Young-hwa from her car as she finally gives him a call. Through the window of the coffee shop, she can see that he’s still unsmiling and cross when he hears her voice. Young-hwa asks if Dan-ah has figured out what she wants yet, and she tries to convince him to meet with her in person. He knows that will give her the advantage and refuses. He tells her he’ll let her know at some point when and where he’s ready to meet, and then hangs up.
And finally, though Dan-ah can’t see it, a sly smile spreads across Young-hwa’s face. He’s absolutely giddy as he takes his drink from Ye-joon. Someone is having fun watching Dan-ah squirm, bwahaha. He brags to Ye-joon, in poker terms, how things weren’t going well but then he had an opportunity so he went all in, and now he’s got a heart.
Dan-ah does catch a glimpse of Young-hwa’s smile as he basically skips away from the coffee shop, but she doesn’t quite yet get that it’s all about her. She heads into the shop to get her americano, and Ye-joon is uncomfortable as he indicates that his mom works for Dan-ah.
At home, Sun-kyum needs a break and calls Mi-joo to ask her to get dinner. She tells him that she’s too busy working tonight, but it’s a total lie. She submits her finished work via email just after hanging up. But Assemblyman Ki’s actions have her stressed out and she’s avoiding the situation for now.
In the morning, Sun-kyum worries about Mi-joo being so busy that she’s skipping meals, though Young-hwa thinks his worries are about him. Sun-kyum also has a bunch of contact lenses he’s not totally comfortable putting in yet, and he asks for Young-hwa’s help. This results in a beautiful, totally platonic moment where Young-hwa hold’s Sun-kyum’s face tendering in his hands, teehee.
Mi-joo, meanwhile, hasn’t been able to stay away that long and is lurking outside the apartment. It seems she’s just missed Sun-kyum though, and Young-hwa spots her instead. Mi-joo asks about anyone suspicious creeping around, and Young-hwa points out that he’s only seen her being weird.
Young-hwa asks if she’s been running, and Mi-joo mentions the charity run she’s prepping for. She also asks Young-hwa to keep her training and her lurking a secret from Sun-kyum for now. He’s willing, and also offers to treat her to breakfast.
Once they’ve settled in at a restaurant, Young-hwa asks if Mi-joo offers English tutoring. He still needs to prep for the opportunity to go abroad, and the test Mi-joo gives him affirms that he’s really not great at English. She’s too busy for tutoring, but she offers to send him some study materials to help. Mi-joo asks again about anyone suspicious around Sun-kyum, and Young-hwa asks if he has a stalker. Mi-joo swears it’s nothing so scary, but asks him to be careful.
Ms. Dong picks up her daughter Ye-chan at school. Ms. Dong notes bruises and a pain relief patch and first asks if Ye-chan has been bullied (or is doing the bullying), but then asks if Ye-chan has been boxing again in secret. Ye-chan asks which would upset Mom more, boxing or being bullied, and Mom says that the boxing would because it would be something bad Ye-chan chose to do.
Once the siblings are home, both Ye-chan and Ye-joon are temperamental. While Ye-chan’s frustrated about her mother’s rejection of boxing, Ye-joon worries about whether he should change jobs to avoid Dan-ah. Even Ye-chan has noticed that Young-hwa seems to really like someone, and Ye-joon continues to look troubled about it.
It seems Young-hwa has finally set a day and time to meet with Dan-ah, and she turns up a little late. Young-hwa can no longer keep up the stern facade though and one of his big dopey grins graces his face at the sight of her.
Dan-ah finally admits that she’s found comfort in Young-hwa’s paintings, but that it’s also caused her despair, because while the paintings used to be enough, now she wants more. She says she hates how she was wasting time without him at her side. Young-hwa cheekily tells her to let that go and instead hold onto something she can, and sweeps her into a hug.
The two bat each other with comments as usual, but there’s a look of relief on Dan-ah’s face as well as she gently scolds her “Student.” Young-hwa tells her this is the worst time to still refer to him as a student, and she doubles down on it for fun.
Dan-ah returns to the office in better spirits, until Ms. Dong shows her a term in Eun-bi’s contract about her weight. Dan-ah immediately calls Eun-bi to schedule a meeting about it, but Eun-bi is stuck yet again golfing with her dad and his buddies.
Dan-ah knows exactly who to call to get immediate action on this, and Sun-kyum is at the golf course and dragging his sister away before anyone can complete their golf swings. Assemblyman Ki yells at his son, and even Eun-bi resists being dragged away, but Sun-kyum will have none of it and yells forcefully at his dad that the way he uses his children to his advantage disgusts him.
Eun-bi manages to pull away from Sun-kyum once they’re in the parking lot, and Sun-kyum tells his sister that he won’t allow their dad to use either of them like this. When she asks why he’s doing this for her, he says that he feels bad since she’s covered for him countless times before.
Embarrassed in front of his friends, Assemblyman Ki goes after the one person he knows means the most to Sun-kyum. The man is absolutely terrifying as he lurches out of a dark corner in front of Mi-joo at her home. He blames her for “ruining” his son, while Mi-joo does her best to deflect his hurtful words. She tells him that Sun-kyum isn’t an object to be owned, though of course Assemblyman Ki thinks his children are exactly that, to do with what he pleases.
Mi-joo warns that if the assemblyman returns to her home, she’ll call the police, and then she marches inside. Mi-joo manages to seem strong and defiant until she’s alone inside, but then the veneer chips off and she’s left crying on the tiled floor.
Sun-kyum doesn’t even know about the damage done to Mi-joo yet, but he’s already snarling in wait for his father at his office. Dad is only too eager to let his son know that he’s gone after Mi-joo, out of all the available weaknesses Sun-kyum has. Sun-kyum retorts that Mi-joo is his strength, not a weakness.
Sun-kyum heads to Mi-joo’s place, but she’s neither answering her phone nor coming to the gate to answer his shouts. He keeps it up though, even though the gate isn’t locked and he could technically go in to look for her, until she eventually turns up at the gate.
Mi-joo’s cheeks are still tear-stained, and she says that she doesn’t want to talk now for fear of making a mistake. It’s an echoing of a moment when things were reversed, when Sun-kyum had learned about his father’s bribe and Mi-joo’s acceptance of it. Sun-kyum encourages her to make mistakes, and he takes his chance to tell her how humiliated he feels.
For Mi-joo, she asks if she should really risk ruining herself for this, and says that she just wants a normal life like anyone else. Mi-joo says she’s not interested in being disappointed in Sun-kyum or talking badly about his family. She just doesn’t want to do the drama, any of it. “I value myself more than anyone else. So I want to give up.”
The two lock eyes, pain on Sun-kyum’s face, as Mi-joo stands in front of him ready to break up.
And so this is the conflict Mi-joo refuses to endure. Faced with a life without Sun-kyum or a battle with his family, Mi-joo chooses the lonely life (for now, at least). This is not an uncommon obstacle for the classic rich boy / poor girl pairing in a drama, and yet this instance may be one of the first where it feels completely earned, as if every moment we spent with Mi-joo was about understanding why she would make the choice to walk away instead of fighting for her happiness with Sun-kyum.
It’s no secret that Mi-joo has led a difficult life, but the exact details of her past have remained a mystery so far. And because we don’t know the details, it’s been easy to get comfortable with the Mi-joo who is an impenetrable wall of self-confidence. That cocky attitude has always clearly been a shield meant to deflect those who want to hurt her, but it’s that approach to life that got Mi-joo through the bribery and the confrontation at the theatre with barely a blink.
But there have been small details along the way that have hinted that Mi-joo’s youth may have been even tougher than we might imagine. I can’t help but recall the way she panicked when she heard Sun-kyum running up behind her and thought someone might attack her. Mi-joo walks around with prop guns in her purse and a prickly attitude to make sure everyone knows how capable she is. The thought of someone lurking in the shadows has her on edge in a way we haven’t seen before.
So while the most obvious power shift in this episode was between Dan-ah and Young-hwa (which we will celebrate soon), there’s a parallel shift that happens with Sun-kyum and Mi-joo here at the end. Mi-joo spent her time with Sun-kyum trying to introduce him to her world. Not just her favorite movies, but also trying to show him when he’s too closed off or not understanding where she’s coming from. Now, the threat of the makjang overbearing father has sent Mi-joo into a complete retreat. If they’re going to figure this thing out, it will be Sun-kyum’s turn to put in the effort and try to see things from her perspective. Mi-joo has always seemed to understand and sympathize with Sun-kyum and the life he’s experienced, and now Sun-kyum is going to have to return the effort.
So while Assemblyman Ki has gotten away with his crime for now, I find his accusations against Mi-joo so funny because of how very untrue they are. So often in dramas the new person in someone’s life gets the blame when family members or friends don’t like the changes they see, but Sun-kyum never needed Mi-joo to inspire him to quit running or to stand up for his fellow runners. He was well on his way to doing all of that regardless of his growing relationship with Mi-joo. She didn’t change him, she just made sure his words were heard.
The show has been about transformation for Sun-kyum, but it’s been gloriously self-driven. The show doesn’t make it his romantic partner’s responsibility to help him grow. He takes that on himself without any pushes. Mi-joo is there entirely as support, as it should be. Her work hours are too weird for her to have time to hold his hand through a revolution.
The conflict with Eun-bi that triggered this confrontation felt a little overblown to me, but that may be because I’ve become as accustomed to Eun-bi’s lack of frustration with it just as much as everyone else. Sun-kyum has finally figured out that it’s worth it to hold his ground and resist his family, and he wants to show the sibling whose always been there covering for him that it’s worth it for her too. I guess I just wish it had seemed more like Eun-bi’s choice, rather than Sun-kyum dragging her off the green.
We ended on a distressing note for the main couple, but our B couple dominated most of the episode with some lows and then a big high note. You could say that their cat-and-mouse game finally came to a head, but I have a hard time imagining who is the cat and who is the mouse when it comes to Dan-ah and Young-hwa. I’ve always seen them both as two very different breeds of cat circling one another. Young-hwa is the uber cute kitten who gets stuck clinging to your pant legs, while Dan-ah is the housecat who thinks she’s a panther, and can’t decide whether to play with the kitten or eat it.
And for a few moments, I wasn’t really sure how to read Young-hwa’s reaction to everything. It seemed so unlike Young-hwa, and I was just as unsettled by his lack of smiling as Dan-ah was by the midpoint of this episode. I loved what @laica had to say about Dan-ah’s demand for a smile from Young-hwa in Episode 11 and the societal role-reversal it was, but I also love Young-hwa because he is that carefree lovable guy with a big smile for everyone all the time.
So thank god that playful grin finally crept out again at the coffee shop, and it was clear that the kitten had just learned how to use his claws a bit. While it felt tortuous to both me and Dan-ah, this felt like a necessary mind game. It gave Young-hwa a chance to really show Dan-ah what her actions have been doing to him, and tip the scale until they landed on slightly more balanced ground.
Of course, all of the challenges that Dan-ah likely faces still exist, and Mr. Jung will be just as right as he is sympathetic to her cause. Young-hwa will be one more “weakness” that Dan-ah’s father and Myung-min will try to use against her. I hope that like Sun-kyum, Dan-ah gets the chance to see that what others see as her weaknesses are really her strengths.
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