Run On: Episode 5
Our translator and athlete face some hard truths about each other, but will that be enough to counter the magnetic pull that keeps bringing them into each other’s orbit? As Sun-kyum tries adjust to life after running, Mi-joo needs to decide if her very strong feelings for him can outweigh her fears about having someone like him in her life.
EPISODE 5 RECAP
It turns out Assemblyman Ki’s chief of staff is the one who tipped off Sun-kyum about the bribe, neglecting to mention that Mi-joo returned it, and painting her as a two-faced villain. Sun-kyum tells Mi-joo that he’s always been embarrassed by his father, but he wants to know why she took it—what if it left her at a disadvantage?
Mi-joo replies that she’s been getting paid off since she was young, precisely because she’s already in a position of weakness. She tells him to be disappointed in her, to hate and forget about her, but he doesn’t want to. Even if her words and consolations were all fake, they were meaningful to him.
Mi-joo says that will only make her miserable—she’s always accepted money easily, but for the first time, he made her feel guilty, like she could be a good person and she’s failing. She wants to go back to being strangers, but he refuses, holding her gun hostage, so she gives in resignedly and leaves. Both of them spend a lonely evening, she with sleeping pills and him with alcohol.
The next morning, Sun-kyum calls a baffled Young-il and tells him he drank last night, but couldn’t sleep in and ended up going for his usual early run. He called Young-il because he has no friends to talk to. Aw.
Meanwhile, Sun-kyum’s parents are on a performative repentance tour at their church. His mother Ji-woo runs into a fellow parishioner, Ms. Dong, and her daughter Ye-chan. Ms. Dong assures Ji-woo that things will be all right with Sun-kyum, but Ji-woo admits that she has a hard time getting close to her kids—being an actor is far easier than being a mom.
Sun-kyum takes an enormous pile of gifts to the kids he’s promised to coach. They’re excited to see him, but they ask him if he really hit someone, and why. He replies lightly that they shouldn’t ask why, and just think of him as a bad person.
They urge him to apologize and start over, but he muses that he’s unsure whether he’s at a starting line or a finish line right now—if this is the beginning or the end.
As expected, a teacher apologetically tells Sun-kyum that he won’t be able to mentor the track and field team anymore due to the scandal. He promises to continue to sponsor them financially under a different name. He says he’s fine with it, but his eyes are in full sad puppy mode as he drives away.
Mi-joo confesses to Mae-yi that she took money from Assemblyman Ki, but returned it for Sun-kyum’s sake. Now that Sun-kyum has found out, she’s most worried that Ki told his son about her underprivileged background: “I’m scared that he might have found out I’ve got nothing to offer, despite how confident I was acting.”
Mae-yi points out that Mi-joo never hid that in the first place, but Mi-joo says she’s embarrassed and feels like a loser. Mae-yi observes that Mi-joo’s clearly still interested in Sun-kyum, despite her protestations, and Mi-joo stays stubbornly silent.
Dan-ah’s father sends her a list of potential grooms, with Sun-kyum included. She asks Mr. Jung to schedule a meeting with the chairman.
Young-hwa, easygoing and well-liked on campus, admits to his friend Ye-joon that he’s into someone cool, unlike the cute girls he knows at school. Someone so high up that he can’t reach her—he wants to drag her down.
Mi-joo finds out that her director ex-boyfriend has been going around telling people that they used to date, implying that’s the only reason she got the job to translate his film. She’s soon distracted from her anger by an invitation to lunch at the hotel where Sun-kyum lives—which she is definitely not attending, she insists repeatedly to Mae-yi. As she dolls herself up.
Lunch with her rich friend turns out to be an exercise in humiliation, as the woman manages to criticize Mi-joo for not getting married and look down on her for being poor and a foster child in the space of a couple of minutes. Ugh.
Mi-joo ducks out of the lunch early, finding some cigarettes planted in her bag by Mae-yi and isseriously tempted to smoke just one despite how hard it was to quit. Sun-kyum finds her asking a disapproving staff member for a light and says to follow him.
She realizes he was sitting near her earlier in the lounge, but he didn’t overhear the conversation, to her relief. Sun-kyum says that Woo-shik wants to treat them both to a meal. She’s uncomfortable with Sun-kyum being there, but asks him to send her Woo-shik’s phone number.
As Mi-joo walks away, Sun-kyum says that he saw her movie playing, the one she’d said they had to see before it left theaters. Mi-joo admits that was an excuse to get him to stay. Sun-kyum says he’s doing the same right now—finding an excuse to keep her from leaving.
She shuts him down, politely but completely, but also asks why he told her to follow him earlier. He was going to lead her to a smoking area, he says, and she finally laughs and says she likes this aspect of his personality. “I thought you hated it,” he responds, and oh, he looks so quietly forlorn that I want to cry. She tells him she feels better now, and thanks him sincerely for not asking what’s wrong.
Young-hwa is surprised to find out that Ye-joon’s mother works for Dan-ah, and tags along when the friend needs to stop by there on an errand for his mom. Oh! His mom is Ms. Dong, Yook Ji-woo’s friend, and Ye-chan is the girl Young-hwa is tutoring. Ms. Dong introduces the two young men to Dan-ah, whose first question is about their age. HA.
Once Ms. Dong and Ye-joon leave, Dan-ah comes close to him with the comment that he smells of varnish, and he asks why pretended not to know him. Dan-ah responds that there was no need, and he’s disappointed by the realization that she only acknowledges people when she needs them. He pays her the 500,000 won (about $500) she said he owed for her broken bracelet, which he describes as “a lot of money.” Dan-ah laughs at this.
Dan-ah runs into her older brother Myung-min on her way to meet her father. He nastily tells to quit trying to compete for the company and quietly get married to a suitable man—wasn’t her coming out as a lesbian just a ploy to avoid marriage anyway?
She gets in his face and snaps that if they’re going to compete with dirty tricks, maybe she should expose that he’s illegitimate and younger than her to boot. She storms out of the building, no longer in the mood to meet the chairman. Myung-min violently takes his anger out on Mr. Jung like the A+ human he is.
Later, Dan-ah stands studying Young-hwa’s painting at her regular coffee shop. The artist passes by and, seeing her through the window, stops to sketch her, though he quickly puts it away when Ye-joon arrives, making an excuse not to go inside. He takes Dan-ah’s bracelet to a neighborhood jewelry store to get it fixed, but the owner says she can’t fix it. She recognizes the brand right away and tells him it’s worth about ten million won.
Mi-joo and Sun-kyum both show up at a restaurant to eat with Woo-shik, who “cancels” at the last minute—he’s trying to get them to make up. Mi-joo and Sun-kyum awkwardly catch up over their meal, Sun-kyum sharing that he’s been fired by the school track and field team.
He tells her that runners are born being able to run a certain speed, but it’s a matter of training kids at a young enough age so they can reach their full potential; South Korea hasn’t won the gold because they don’t have a nurturing environment for young athletes to grow.
Mi-joo points out that he’s been doing that, with his coaching and with his support for Woo-shik, comparing him to Jerry Maguire. Sun-kyum says that’s not really what agents do—they’re more like representatives for their players. The closest thing he has is Dan-ah, who scouted him, manages him and acts like a human shield to protect him. Mi-joo point out that he does all that too, but Sun-kyun says that he failed.
Mi-joo asks him why he doesn’t consider failure to be part of the process—even Jerry Maguire hit rock bottom before he succeeded. When Sun-kyum shows no sign of recognition, she even acts out a bit of the iconic “Show me the money” scene. Sun-kyum promises earnestly to look it up and watch it later.
Mi-joo praises his habit of asking questions, saying he’d have been a good student, and he wonders if he should go back to school now that he’s unemployed. She smiles at him like he’s the cutest thing she’s ever seen and tells him to call her when he’s bored. He grins tipsily and asks her to re-enact the movie again.
As they leave the restaurant, Sun-kyum thanks Mi-joo for helping Woo-shik. She tells him that when she was Woo-shik’s age, she met Mae-yi and her life got much better thanks to her—Woo-shik must think of Sun-kyum the same way.
After they part ways, Mi-joo sees that Woo-shik’s interview has finally been published, and she runs home and spends all night translating it into Korean. She posts her translation and the original article to every forum she can think of, telling her gaming buddies to share it widely.
We hear Mi-joo’s translation of Woo-shik’s words in voiceover, describing how the two older boys started abusing him when he joined the track and field team in high school and never stopped. How he’d accepted it as normal until Sun-kyum became the first person to tell him the violence was unconditionally wrong. Woo-shik describes Sun-kyum as his inspiration and the only person on his side.
The story causes enough of a stir on social media to become headline news in the press. When Sun-kyum sees it he tries unsuccessfully to reach Woo-shik. As Sun-kyum runs around in the rain looking for him, we hear the most heartbreaking part of the interview: Woo-shik has decided not to return to sports after his rehabilitation. (Love how the interview switches from Mi-joo’s voice to Woo-shik’s here, as we go from translation to flashback.)
Drenched, Sun-kyum finds Mi-joo and asks why she didn’t tell him that Woo-shik was quitting running. She replies that Sun-kyum did all this so that Woo-shik could continue his career; she knew it would break his heart.
When Sun-kyum protests having to find out this way, she calls him out for being considerate to everyone else, but not expecting that Woo-shik would want to do the same. “No one is born used to enduring pain,” she tells him. He doesn’t need to pretend to be okay.
She pulls him under shelter so he’s not getting rained on, and into a hug, patting him on the back. Mi-joo makes sure he knows what this is, and he confirms, “Comfort,” and leans into her.
I’m jumping in on these recaps from Episode 5, so I want to first say that I am loving this drama to the nth degree, and that Shin Se-kyung and Im Shi-wan have completely stolen my heart! Sun-kyum is scooping out my innards and walking all over them with every quietly devastating declaration, and Mi-joo is deeply weird, capable but underemployed, and constantly frustrated by life in a way I find delightfully authentic. This episode takes the protagonists into a new stage in their relationship. If the first four episodes were about them meeting and falling for each other, even if they didn’t admit it out loud, the moment when Sun-kyum confronted Mi-joo about taking the bribe, that initial rosy glow around them shattered.
If they want to build a relationship now—and I think both do, even if in Mi-joo’s case it’s despite herself—they’ll need to start over with this new knowledge between them. I don’t believe either of them really had illusions about the other; one of the things I find so refreshing about their dynamic is how honest they’ve been from the beginning, even in situations where most people would find that much frankness uncomfortable. That’s why they clicked so quickly when they first met, because neither of them shies away from unpleasant truths, and for the first time they’ve met someone else who doesn’t get awkward in response to that bluntness. But now they’ve found a truth that directly affects their relationship—an ugly one.
I was confused at first when Mi-joo not only rejected Sun-kyun’s forgiveness, but left out the important fact that she returned the money. She only confessed that part to her best friend—but that conversation with Mae-yi was so enlightening. The obstacle that lies between them isn’t the fact that Mi-joo took the bribe, even temporarily, but as she explained to Sun-kyum, that she’s the kind of person whom society sees as being vulnerable to them.
Their class difference isn’t something that will be solved by an apology or explanation from Mi-joo, and I totally understand her frustration at feeling so deeply sympathetic towards someone so materially privileged that he has no concept of the difficulties she’s gone through. That hotel lunch must have brought all of that viscerally home for her—it’s no wonder that she cut off his attempts to be friendly. She likes him so much, and she really wants to never have to talk about any of this with him. And yet he is pitiable, and cluelessly earnest, and good, in a way that easily brings down her walls no matter how hard she tries to keep them up.
We see this class difference with Young-hwa and Dan-ah, as well. I’m not quite sure where that storyline is going given that he’s totally crushing on her and she’s into women, but I find Dan-ah herself fascinating in every scene. She does have that typical chaebol heir storyline, with a family whose high expectations and zero regard for her personal agency have twisted her personality, but there’s a lively yet melancholy sharpness to Dan-ah that makes her stand out. This drama is full of lonely people, not just the leads but Dan-ah, Ji-woo, even Eun-bi, who despite her bubbly manner avoids her family as much as Sun-kyum does.
In particular, Woo-shik’s interview underscored how alone he was, how unable to reach out for help, but that having one person acknowledge and stand up for him was enough. It puts the ugly cycle of bullying and abuse we see with Woo-shik and Sun-kyum into context as something that doesn’t just happen between people, but a systemic problem that has to be tackled at the roots. Sun-kyum understands that, which is why he’s so committed to coaching kids, and was so devastated when he was fired. And I loved how Mi-joo brought the whole thing full circle by pointing that the system is the people in it, so Sun-kyum’s individual efforts were absolutely meaningful. Such a smart reminder of the truth that institutional and personal injustice are two edges of the same poisonous knife.
That hug at the end was really lovely, but I was even more moved by Mi-joo’s unwillingness to let Sun-kyum continue to ignore his pain for the sake of others’ feelings. He’s been conditioned to do that by a lifetime of his father’s abuse and his mother’s neglect, and it’s painful to witness. Watching him hear for the first time that he doesn’t have to just endure being hurt, that he has a right to show his pain and seek comfort, made my my heart hurt. Sun-kyum is a deeply considerate person, but his matter-of-fact manner causes most people to think that he doesn’t have feelings, so they lash out at him without guilt. Mi-joo truly sees him though. Maybe it’s because she’s a little bit the same—she tries to put up an unruffled front, but we saw how anxiously she kept checking for the article to be published, and poured her heart into translating it as quickly as she could. I’m so glad she insists on making him confront his own self-sacrifice. It’s such an important step for Sun-kyum to finally break free of living someone else’s life, and claim his own.
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