Run On: Episode 15
Love is in the air, but a dark cloud lingers above our happy couples, because the sins of the fathers are catching up to their kids. Our protagonists have learned to stop running away and instead step toward what they want—it’s time to stand their ground and fight for their future together.
EPISODE 15 RECAP
Mi-joo sees Sun-kyum standing at the finish line, smiling as he tells her he waited for her, the way she waited for him all those times. She reiterates that she’s glad she waited, and makes him chase her in the corny way of lovers.
Young-hwa grumbles as Mr. Jung drives him and Dan-ah home from the hospital, resenting the third wheel’s presence. Young-hwa’s still sore about not being allowed in her hospital room, even though she watched him sleep. She tells him to shut up, conscious of their audience.
As they watch Young-hwa walk up to his apartment, Dan-ah asks Mr. Jung if she’s doing the right thing. When’s the right time to end things? He tells her not to think about the end when she’s just starting. She’s surprised at his sudden support, but he says that he should root for her, since she’s not even rooting for herself.
“Every time I started to like something, it ended,” Dan-ah tells him, like soccer. Mr. Jung asks if she’s scared the same thing will happen with Young-hwa, but she replies that she’s sad.
Over dinner and drinks, Sun-kyum tells Mi-joo that his dad told him to date whoever he wants, as long as he marries Dan-ah. She asks if they should just apologize to his father and get it over with, but he says not to even consider it. She’s done nothing wrong.
Mi-joo reflects that she’s starting to understand how Sun-kyum lives—step by step, always facing what’s immediately in front of him. She says that when he smiled at her for the first time, about almost breaking nine seconds, it was beautiful, but she also felt like crying.
He says it was an unforgettable moment for him, too—the nine second barrier is so huge for runners that they’re afraid to mention it out loud. The first time he was able to say it was to her, about a moment that happened with her. “That’s what the nine-second record means to me now,” he says. I’m as twitterpated as Mi-joo.
Later, Sun-kyum tells Mi-joo about Ms. Dong’s offer, which she responds to with another hilarious Jerry Maguire impression. It would be better for Woo-shik to have a whole agency behind him, but Mi-joo encourages Sun-kyum to think about what’s best for himself.
Dan-ah calls them for an emergency meeting, since her father just informed her of her own wedding plans. Sun-kyum shares what he knows, and Dan-ah asks what Mi-joo thinks, since she’s “meeting” them both (the word can be used to mean dating). Sun-kyum: “You’re seeing each other behind my back?” HA.
Sun-kyum proposes they go along with the plan for now and back out later, since all Assemblyman Ki really needs is the chairman’s support in the presidential election. The other two agree.
We’re back in Code Name: Candy, and this time gangster “Anthony” is trying to coax a sweaty Young-hwa into working with him—until he straight up confesses he’s a cop.
In reality, Sun-kyum works on his resume for his application to DANN, fretting that it’s empty except for his time as a national athlete. Young-hwa rolls his eyes and tells him to put a large picture of himself.
Woo-shik takes Young-il to lunch. Young-il asks if he feels that sorry for him over coming second. Woo-shik says he made some money by selling the books he was using to prep for the civil service exam. Young-il absorbs this, then says he’s determined to never get second place again, and Woo-shik should too.
A man approaches Ye-joon outside the cafe, but runs away when Ms. Dong and Ye-chan arrive. Ye-joon begins to explain, but Ms. Dong stops him and tells him he’s coming to church on Sunday.
He tells her he’s gay, but she responds that he’s not, walking away from him and pulling Ye-chan into the car.
“You can deny it, but this is who I am,” says Ye-joon. She drives off without responding, but pulls over and says tearfully that she was too busy with other people’s kids to see her own clearly.
Ye-chan finds Ye-joon crying outside their house, and tells him, “I like men, too. What’s the big deal?” She gives him a tissue, and tells him to come inside—she’ll take his side against Mom.
Mi-joo goes to Young-hwa’s place for a barbecue party, and he jealously watches her being cute with Sun-kyum. He wants to invite Dan-ah too, but he’s forbidden from contacting her personally. Sun-kyum suggests the obvious solution, so Young-hwa calls Dan-ah and asks her to come see the “finished” painting. Yes! I’ve been waiting to see these four together.
Dan-ah arrives, excited to see her painting, but all Young-hwa has for her is cuteness. She grabs him and threatens him with the tongs, promising him to pay well if he sues. Sun-kyum mildly stops her, so she half-pushes Young-hwa over edge of the roof instead.
Dan-ah finally sits down to eat with them, and eagerly opens her mouth for her first taste of samgyupsal as Young-hwa makes a wrap…and eats it himself. Hahaha.
Dan-ah suggests “Athlete Ki” make one for her instead, but Mi-joo nips that in the bud—does she even know Sun-kyum’s first name? She has to look it up online, though she does know Mi-joo’s.
Sun-kyum is genuinely offended, Young-hwa gets called a vending machine again and tries to feed Dan-ah a wrap like she’s a baby, and I’m laughing my head off.
They walk out of the building that evening to find Mae-yi sitting on the slide, Mr. Jung emerging sheepishly to confess he always wanted to have his first date at a playground. We get a flashback to their fateful first meeting at the disastrous birthday party, when Jung fell hard for Mae-yi at first sight. Dan-ah is disturbed but promises not to call Mr. Jung too much on weekends from now on. Mae-yi approves, saying he’s too sweet to stand up for himself. HA.
As Dan-ah leaves, she warns Young-hwa not to lie to her again. He gives her the present meant for her birthday: a pair of sneakers, in support of her lost dream. He’s moved by the sight of her under the streetlights, which is so unexpected, but more beautiful than anything he could have imagined. He says he’s happy this moment is really happening, and she agrees.
He has a new goal: “I’m going to keep some distance from you, so I can always see you. If I’m too far away, I won’t be able to see you, and if I’m too close, you’ll block my vision.”
Ji-woo shows up unexpectedly at Mae-yi’s office. Mi-joo, disheveled and nervous, expects her to bring up Sun-kyum, but Ji-woo recognizes her fan from the film festival, and is full of praise for Mi-joo’s translations. Then she surprises Mi-joo again by smoothly suggesting that she and Sun-kyum send a coffee truck to her set. Aw, Mom.
In the final scene of Code Name: Candy, Ji-woo shoots up the entire operation, and Little Orphans Mi-joo and Dan-ah wonder where they’ll go next. Ji-woo tells them to come with her—she’ll give them everything they’ve never had. “Call me Mom.”
Mi-joo and Mae-yi see the news about Eun-bi’s scandal, and Mi-joo suddenly remembers Assembyman Ki’s threats. Worried, she invites Sun-kyum over, and texts Eun-bi to offer a hiding place and a listening ear.
No one can get in touch with Eun-bi, not even Sun-kyum. Mi-joo tells him about Eun-bi’s visit to her home. Eun-bi had made it sound as though their father keeps files on them, and Mi-joo’s worried about something he said. (Given that the politician involved in the scandal is Ki’s main competitor, I have a bad feeling about this.)
Eun-bi arrives and says Ryan hasn’t been answering her calls. She’s worried he’ll believe the article, but she can’t explain if he won’t talk to her. Mi-joo suggests a text or email.
Then Eun-bi begins to worry about the election, and Sun-kyum tells her to think about herself. “Let’s be selfish for once,” he says irritably. Yes, listen to Sun-kyum!
Eun-bi goes to see her father, who assures her that he believes her and it was just noise marketing by the other politician. He apologizes for dragging her into this. Oh no, I think he really did do it. Assemblyman Ki vomits, then blubbers to his chief of staff that his punishing schedule is too difficult. Ugh, what a despicable man-baby.
Dan-ah tracks down Eun-bi at the golf course, checking in on her with her usual blunt manner.
Young-hwa promises Dan-ah the painting is really done this time, but she shows up with a weapon just in case. It’s not his usual style—it has the same floral motif, but with her face taking up one side of the painting. “It’s noisy,” she says.
Young-hwa’s confused, but she clarifies that since he’s still young, he can’t help but put all his feelings into his work. “It just screams ‘I love you’” she says.
“I love you,” he replies. “That’s what I felt as I made this art piece.” She’s moved to tears, although she teases him for calling it an art piece. She bashfully says there’s no way she can hang this in an art museum—she’ll have to keep it for herself.
Mr. Jung calls with some bad news, and Dan-ah is shaken, although she doesn’t tell Young-hwa what’s wrong.
He stops her as she’s about to leave. “You will call me, right?”
She replies that not all children grieve for their parents, and not all parents love their kids unconditionally. “Live a long life—you know geniuses die early,” she tells him, and it feels like a goodbye.
At first I thought that phone call was a revelation that Assemblyman Ki was behind Eun-bi’s scandal, but Dan-ah’s words at the end made it clear that it has to do with her family. There’s been a melancholy to Dan-ah since she got together with Young-hwa that she finally gave voice to—she’s not scared this will end, she’s sad because she knows it will. She’s never seen this as a permanent arrangement, despite Young-hwa’s declarations that he wants to stay with her. It’s not that she doesn’t believe him, but she doesn’t trust a world that snatches away whatever she wants as soon as she decides she wants it. That’s why, almost from the beginning, she’s been caught between her twin desires to push him away and keep him close. It was telling that she didn’t think to include her boyfriend in the meeting about her arranged marriage until after Mi-joo pointed it out. Dan-ah’s emotional response to Young-hwa’s “I love you” might seem out of character, until you consider that she’s probably never heard those words from anyone before. And to have that beautiful moment immediately crushed by that phone call, and her leaving him—my heart hurts for both of them.
I talked a lot when I first started recapping Run On about how honest all four leads are in their different ways. Dan-ah really shone in these last episodes, because once she decides to let someone in, she doesn’t lie, even by omission. She’s refreshingly willing to put everything out there, even if it doesn’t flatter her, and accepts the truth immediately when she recognizes it. In that way, she’s a lot like Sun-kyum, although he processes things more internally. She was open about her feelings for Young-hwa once she realized them, but she never made him any promises, or responded with more than a sad smile when he vowed to be with her forever. Her pragmatism is a survival tool, and that’s both admirable and heartbreaking.
I appreciated the contrast between Dan-ah’s communication style and Ms. Dong’s in this episode. Ms. Dong has always come across as a competent, kind, put-together person, but we saw in these last couple of episodes that she has a tendency to ignore things in the hope that they’ll go away. She clearly had an idea about Ye-joon’s sexual orientation but refuses to listen to him about it; she stopped Dan-ah from asking Eun-bi about the scandal, the first time rumors popped up; and she absolutely refused to allow Ye-chan to pursue boxing. And in each case the drama clearly showed how wrong she was for shutting down the conversation before it could begin—in her own way, like the Bad Dad Duo, she’s another parent who refuses to see her children for who they are. I love how this writer explicitly advocates for open dialogue, in a drama landscape where miscommunication and ghosting have become ingrained tropes that lazily stand in for actual conflict.
After the events of last week I was expecting Assemblyman Ki to pull out the big guns against Sun-kyum, but it seems as though he orchestrated Eun-bi’s scandal instead, which is gross and horrifying beyond belief. Sun-kyum and Mi-joo have bought some time with their temporary agreement to the marriage, so it makes sense that the final showdown will come in Episode 16. It was good to see everyone drawing their battle lines and gathering allies in this hour. Personally, Dan-ah, Mi-joo and Sun-kyum have joined forces, although poor Young-hwa is still in the dark. Professionally, Sun-kyum rejected his father’s offer and chose to hitch his wagon (and Woo-shik’s) to Dan-ah’s agency instead. Mi-joo, Sun-kyum and Eun-bi coming together as a fierce little family unit was beautiful to see, and then there’s Mr. Jung and Mae-yi’s weird but adorable romance. Even Ji-woo tracked Mi-joo down expressly to show her support. Ji-woo is certainly an imperfect mother with a lot to answer for, but I appreciate the complex portrayal of a woman who devoted herself to work over family and now wishes she could connect with her kids—but is unwilling to give up on her hard-fought career.
It’s fitting that Dan-ah, Eun-bi and Sun-kyum are now all at DANN (if he’s hired, which I’m sure he will be), because none of them have the tools to fight their villainous fathers alone. Sun-kyum has come a long way since the beginning of the drama, and he’s learned to stand up for both others and himself, but Eun-bi still believes her dad wants what’s best for her, and feels an obligation to support him no matter what. The scene where she pleaded for Assemblyman Ki to believe her and he played the benevolent father was hard to watch. It’s clear she hasn’t been able to completely break free from his abusive gaslighting yet—she bravely protects those she loves, but that ferocity disappears when it’s time to fight for herself, and I’m so glad Sun-kyum pointed it out. And Dan-ah, of course, doesn’t have the kind of sibling support the other two do, although maybe now she’ll cash in on that promise of support from Tae-woong. Together, they hold a lot of leverage that they could use against their fathers, if they can figure out a good strategy. Over the course of the drama these three lonely, standoffish people have collected a community around them that they can trust with their lives. I want to see that community come together in the finale and drag down Assemblyman Ki, Chairman Seo and Myung-min from their high horses permanently, causing great damage along the way.
Run On has been one of the best recapping experiences I’ve ever had (I think only Forest of Secrets compares). What an incredibly funny, complex, beautiful story full of characters who seem like people I could know, and insights about life so deep and real that they occasionally take my breath away. This is one of those lightning-in-a-bottle shows where the writer, director, cast and crew are excellent on their own but have created a very special synergy to make a drama unlike any other. Run On showed us the money, to borrow one of Mi-joo’s movie references. On a personal level, I related so much to the show’s explorations of the nature of translation, whether between languages or perspectives; its detailed and loving film nerdiness; Mi-joo’s upside-down freelance lifestyle; its portrayals of art and the artistic process. I know I’ll be returning to this world again and again, and these weird, wonderful characters will live in my heart for a long time. Is it too much to hope that Mi-joo’s prediction about Code Name: Candy is a hint that we’ll get a second season? A girl can dream.
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