Run On: Episode 9
Our protagonists make some progress with their reconciliation, and work hard to get on the same page with each other. But wires are getting crossed all over the place this episode, between all sorts of people. We’re treated to a lesson on the power of a single word, and how difficult communication can be, especially when emotions are raw.
EPISODE 9 RECAP
The morning after that swoonworthy sickbed scene (better than an Episode 8 kiss!), Mi-joo wakes alone, but Sun-kyum has left medicine and water for her. She glimpses her bedraggled appearance in the mirror, and pouts at him having seen her this way.
Sun-kyum is already in the hotel dining room when Mi-joo goes down, and she joins him for breakfast. He asks worriedly how she is, saying she looks better, and she says bluntly that she’s prettier this morning because of her makeup. “You were beautiful yesterday too,” he says, silencing her on the subject.
She apologizes for calling him here so abruptly, and wonders why he came so easily when they could have put him to work doing something terrible. He says plainly that he came because Mi-joo is here. Wow, just slay me continuously, why don’t you.
She asks if he was angry when she called, but he says he was happy because it feels like this time, he didn’t miss his chance to treat her well.
Mi-joo introduces Sun-kyum to James, the lead actor; Sun-kyum will be James’ boyfriend’s driver. Sun-kyum drives the two men to the set, and Mi-joo tells him his main job will be waiting. He settles in with an empty journal. Mi-joo brings him coffee, and he tells her he doesn’t know what to write.
She tells him to write in his journal later, and shares her login info so he can stream a movie on his phone. Once she’s gone, he puts the phone away and writes short factual statements in his diary. Heh.
Young-hwa tutors his friend Ye-joon’s little sister, Ye-chan. As eager to distract him from math as always, she offers to help with the synopsis he has to write for his hated film class. It’s a romance—as he describes the scene, he and Dan-ah act it out in his imagination.
Ye-chan points out that he’s just copied the famous umbrella scene from Temptation of Wolves.
At nightfall, Sun-kyum is still struggling with his diary, and complains to Mi-joo that writing is hard. (I feel you, bro.) She tells him to write whatever he feels—it’s not as though anyone but him will see it. He absorbs this epiphany.
She leaves him to it again and he goes back to writing short, robotic sentences, smiling this time. Sun-kyum considers his entry for yesterday, where he has written, I came to an unfamiliar place. Mi-joo was sick. He adds, I was scared.
Young-hwa wonders aloud to Ye-joon, who’s watching him paint, if he’s bitten off more than he can chew with this commission. Ye-joon asks how he knows when a painting’s complete, and Young-hwa says sometimes that moment comes the same day he starts—and sometimes never.
Ye-joon asks why Young-hwa met with Dan-ah. The business students all recognized her immediately—she’s an executive director at one of the biggest conglomerates in Korea. He asks if Dan-ah is Young-hwa’s “Rapunzel,” and his friend laughs it off with a joke. But Young-hwa’s smile fades as he wonders what Dan-ah meant by his art being “dark and unsettling.”
Eun-bi reluctantly joins her father for golf with his friends. He asks eagerly how it’s going with Ryan, and she warns Assemblyman Ki away from him. Despite signing with Dan-ah, she’s agreed to these golf outings—so he’d better keep his promise too.
Young-il calls Sun-kyum for his regular grumpy check-in…and shows up at the set while Sun-kyum is writing in his diary about how he doesn’t know why Young-il is coming to see him. OMG, this deadpan bromance kills me.
Young-il complains that Sun-kyum didn’t come to see him even when he’s so close to the training center. Sun-kyum seems unaffected by Young-il’s presence, but he tells him to be careful on his motorcycle, and introduces him to Mi-joo as his friend. (Mi-joo: “You have friends?”)
Sun-kyum gets called away, and Young-il asks Mi-joo awkwardly what she and Sun-kyum are to each other. Mi-joo says she’s not quite sure yet. Young-il’s surprised to see her around, since it’s been over a month since the Jeju trip, and usually girls who chase Sun-kyum give up after a month because he’s so boring. Mi-joo remarks that Sun-kyum doesn’t bore her at all.
Later, Young-il asks Sun-kyum why he doesn’t come back to running—what’s Young-il supposed to do without him? Sun-kyum tells him to keep coming first like always, but Young-il says that before he had Sun-kyum to motivate him. Sun-kyum admits that he was able to consistently get second for the same reason. Young-il wonders if track would’ve been more popular if Sun-kyum were the top athlete instead.
We flash back to a memory of Woo-shik taking a picture of the three of them, and Young-il sighs that he didn’t even know what was going on—Woo-shik smiled all the time, so Young-il thought he was happy.
Sun-kyum says he hopes Woo-shik comes back and runs so well he shows them all. Young-il’s surprised at this sentiment from Sun-kyum, who says he wishes he could promise that he’d remove every obstacle from Woo-shik’s path. Young-il assures Sun-kyum that Woo-shik still has a chance.
Due to a disagreement between the movie star, James, and the film’s production team, James goes MIA, and the staff are in a panic. Thankfully, Sun-kyum brings James back to the set against his wishes.
Not only does Julie, the Korean producer, blame the staff when she’s the one at fault, the American cinematographer who caused the whole problem yells racist insults at Mi-joo and the other staff.
When she stands up to him, he starts swearing at her, so she gives as good as she gets. Sun-kyum silently gives Mi-joo thumbs ups from the car as she drops F-bombs. HA.
Into this lovely scene strides the city mayor, accompanied by Assemblyman Ki. Ki asks Mi-joo to translate for him, and as they walk he assures her he’ll push for the city to approve the funding the film still needs. Mi-joo might be a “passing acquaintance” in his son’s life, but he wants to treat her with value. He apologizes for what happened at the theater.
He picks at Sun-kyum for being a lowly driver, but Sun-kyum tells him to just leave. Once he’s gone, Mi-joo grimaces that she’s become indebted to Assemblyman Ki. Sun-kyum says he can’t figure out what the man is up to.
Julie tells Mi-joo to get lost—the cinematographer doesn’t want to see her on set anymore. She takes great pleasure in passing on the message. Mae-yi is going home today, but Mi-joo doesn’t let on that she’s been fired a day before the end of the project as she says goodbye.
Sun-kyum finds Mi-joo morosely drinking alone that evening. He’s brought her a glass for her soju, and food to eat. Moved, she thanks him for his hard work since he came. She tells him his name will even be in the credits as a driver. He says he’s happy that both their names will be there, together.
Mi-joo says that when they see the credits roll it’ll feel worth it to put up with so much, seeing the names of others who worked so hard alongside them. Sun-kyum acknowledges how exhausting it must have been for Mi-joo the past few days.
She replies that she’s careful of every message she relays, but others can so easily throw around words that secure funding, discriminate against or fire someone. “Should I just get lost? Go back to Seoul?”
“Don’t do anything you don’t want to do. I thought I’d be the one to say it for once,” he says with an adorable smile, referencing Young-il’s earlier advice to him. Mi-joo smiles back at him and says she suddenly, for once, feels like she could do anything. He’s a good influence on her. Sun-kyum feeds her a seaweed wrap.
Young-hwa’s feeling the pressure of final assignments and Dan-ah’s commission, and like many a student at semester’s end, having an existential crisis. He asks a friend if he’s ever had someone notice something he hid in a painting—for Young-hwa, it was the first time.
Mi-joo finishes her work the next day, appeasing the cinematographer with a perfunctory apology. She gives her friend a warm goodbye and goes to find Sun-kyum. She teases him about his popularity; the female staff let her know where he was, and Young-il came to see him.
Sun-kyum says he’s the one who’s always liked Young-il. He used to follow him around, amazed by how Young-il always drew the same lane and got first place. “I’m more amazed at this moment,” says Mi-joo. “I’m glad I waited for you.” They lapse into a bashful silence and watch the water.
At the hotel, Sun-kyum gives Mi-joo a pair of sneakers as a thank-you gift for letting him stay with her, and informs her he’s already moved his things out of her apartment. Hurt, she asks why he’s only telling her now, and says that whenever she thinks they’ve gotten closer, it feels as though he’s pushing her away. She’s not angry, she explains, but this is what she meant by him putting those walls between them.
He reiterates that there are no walls, and he wouldn’t want her to be outside them. She says she doesn’t either. “If I’ve become boring, just say that,” says Sun-kyum, looking braced for rejection. Mi-joo says that when she’s with him, she feels left out at the most important moments. “I hate this,” she mutters, and goes into her room.
And returns immediately, to assure Sun-kyum she didn’t mean him, but her own pathetic state. She asks him not to hate her. He tells her he doesn’t—he’s been doing what she asked him to all along: liking her. But Mi-joo says that was her being brave, not asking for a favor. She tells him they shouldn’t go back together, or she’ll say something she regrets. Ahhhh someone help these two dense idiots out!
Woo-shik calls Sun-kyum on the drive home, and they make a date to meet the next day. Sun-kyum apologizes to Woo-shik for making him call first.
Dan-ah and Young-hwa run into each other. Young-hwa says happily that he’s missed her, and she says she’s been waiting for updates. He tells her he’s exhausted with schoolwork, but she doesn’t see why that should matter. He tells her she has garbage empathy skills. She asks if she’s recyclable at least, and he calls her cute and walks off, leaving her sputtering.
Dan-ah keeps thinking of him later that night. “Am I cute?” she asks Mr. Jung, batting her eyes. He laughs awkwardly.
Sun-kyum helps Woo-shik with his grandma’s cleaning work. Woo-shik thanks Sun-kyum for the hotel room, and asks where he’s been staying. Sun-kyum says he lived with Mi-joo, and Woo-shik asks in shock if they’re cohabiting before marriage. Did Sun-kyum propose already? Pfft.
When Sun-kyum asks about his future plans, Woo-shik says that in sports, he’ll always be seen as a whistleblower, and his grandma would love for him to be a civil servant. Sun-kyum tells him to care less about what others will think and figure himself out. Woo-shik admits that he does still want to be an athlete, but he feels like he shouldn’t. He promises to think more about what he wants. Sun-kyum offers to be a sounding board.
After another unpleasant encounter with Fake Oppa Myung-min, who goads her for not having a painting to put in the gallery yet, Dan-ah barges into Young-hwa’s studio. She demands he hand over her painting—she’s been insulted enough by “the bastard I was going to humiliate with your painting.”
Young-hwa’s disappointed to learn his art was only a means to prop up her reputation, but she doesn’t care about the person behind the painting. If he’s going to keep wasting her time, she snaps, he can give up—there are other vending machines she can get art from. Ouch.
He picks up a palette and smears it all over the painting he was working on—which she belatedly realizes was for her. “You ruined it,” he says. She protests that it’s her painting, but he responds, “It’s mine. Until I hand the painting over to you, it’s mine.”
Oof, both our couples are at cross purposes now. Communication continues to be a major theme in this drama, and this hour we saw how hard it can be to communicate effectively even when everyone involved has sincere intentions. I’ve talked before about how refreshingly honest all four leads are, but now that they’re getting closer, it’s clear honesty isn’t always enough, and can sometimes even be detrimental. The same bluntness and lack of filter that Mi-joo initially found charming is now hurting her, because it feels to her as though Sun-kyum isn’t considering her feelings before he speaks—or, at the very least, that he doesn’t understand what she wants from him. She’s trying her best to explain, but it’s hard when he doesn’t even know what he doesn’t know. And Mi-joo’s tendency to put her own walls up instinctually whenever she feels threatened doesn’t help.
There’s also the fact they are different in almost every way—his favorite food is a traumatic memory for her; he’s an adult with a career behind him, but in many practical matters, as Mi-joo observes, he’s a babe in the woods. Mi-joo shares her movie streaming account with him, but he’d rather write in his journal. (To anyone else, sharing that password is basically a confession of love! But Sun-kyum doesn’t even blink.) And then there’s the wording, from both Young-il and Assemblyman Ki, about women being fleeting acquaintances to Sun-kyum, which he indirectly brings up when he asks if Mi-joo has become bored of him during their confrontation. No wonder she’s insecure.
They fundamentally don’t communicate, think, or form human bonds the same way, and that’s on top of their huge class difference. But what I appreciate so much about this drama is that it shows us Mi-joo and Sun-kyum putting in the work, even if it’s painful and hard, to get through to each other. Even now, I don’t get the sense that either of them has given up. Mi-joo needs a bit of space, but they’ve admitted to each other that they want closeness even if their wires ultimately crossed. And any observer can see how obviously goofy they are for each other—it’s just a matter of them explaining it to each other in a language they both understand. Mi-joo is the translator, but Sun-kyum is trying hard to meet her halfway. He’s learning to express his feelings bit by bit, as we saw with the journal and his various weird expressions of comfort and support. Even the announcement that he’s moved out came with a thoughtful gift. If Mi-joo sharing her movie app with him was a type of intimacy, what about him bringing her cups and food; unwrapping and breaking apart Mi-joo’s chopsticks for her; being pleased that their names will be in the credits together?
Because we saw how hard Sun-kyum was trying, at first I felt like Mi-joo overreacted. But I understood better when I recalled Mi-joo’s frustration with the difference between how carefully she chooses every word, and how those with power over her speak so easily, careless of the destructive consequences. She’s felt all along that she was the more invested and vulnerable one, so I hope she recognizes soon that Sun-kyum was not, in fact, “doing her a favor” at all. I’m also really glad Sun-kyum is making an effort to hold on to his friendships with Young-il and Woo-shik—especially awkward marshmallow Young-il, who’s become one of my favorite characters. It’s good to see Sun-kyum’s social circle slowly expand.
Another of my favorite things about Run On is how it depicts work, possibly the best portrayal I’ve ever seen in K-drama. This episode was so much about the artistic struggle that I felt a little called out. We got an up-close look at more of the hardships of filmmaking, Sun-kyum sweated over writing a simple account of his day, and poor Young-hwa had the unenviable task of finding artistic inspiration while in the middle of finals. I know from experience that the more pressure you feel to come up with a brilliant piece of art, the blanker and more numb your mind begins to feel. On top of that, Young-hwa discovered that the painting he was putting his heart and soul into, trying his best to make it worthy of hanging in a gallery, was simply a tool in Dan-ah’s power struggle with someone else. Not only has he been totally crushing on her since they first met, he implied that Dan-ah noticed something only he knows about his art. Her comments about his paintings having a dark uneasiness to them must have made him feel seen in a way that only inflated his infatuation for her—so the revelation that she has no respect for his artistic process, or him as a person, was probably devastating.
As much as I love Sun-kyum and Mi-joo, I’m becoming more and more invested in Dan-ah and Young-hwa too. More so even than our protagonists, they’re having a fascinating clash of worlds and values. Dan-ah is constantly confrontational, because her fiercely competitive upbringing has made that the only way she knows to deal with others—she wields words like weapons. Young-hwa is a natural peacemaker, but she’s finally pushed him too far, and the puppy has bitten back for once. I can’t wait to see where their dynamic goes, because Dan-ah might act as though Young-hwa is just a commission to her, but as we saw in this episode, he absolutely gets to her. Maybe it’s his turn to freeze her out now, and hers to pursue him—not just professionally, but personally.
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