Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha: Episode 9
When our dentist’s parents show up for a visit, a misunderstanding turns into a white lie that gets the whole village involved. With two suitors vying for her parents’ approval and lots of hidden feelings bubbling to the surface, things are about to get pretty messy.
EPISODE 9 RECAP
Spooked by a shadow in the dark alleyway behind her, Hye-jin runs straight into Doo-shik’s arms. He gently scolds her for being out alone in the dark. She only grabs him tighter, so he does the same, holding her close until she pulls back to look him in the eye. They’re interrupted by Yong-hoon (the person Hye-jin thought was following her), who picked up the phone Hye-jin dropped in her panic. He chuckles as the two of them jump apart, and tells them to carry on with what they were doing. Hye-jin retrieves her phone, and she and Doo-shik try to laugh it off as they bid each other goodnight.
As Doo-shik heads home, he clutches his pounding heart, and Hye-jin sticks her head in the freezer to cool down. Neither can sleep that night, and they end up trying all sorts of exercises to distract themselves. (And LOL – does Hye-jin’s hula hoop remind anyone else of a different Shin Mina show, Tomorrow with You?)
The next day, Doo-shik stops at a gas station to fill up his truck. And wouldn’t you know it, Hye-jin’s dad and stepmom are there, too, though of Doo-shik doesn’t know them, nor they him. Doo-shik steps over to help Dad with the touchscreen instructions on the gas pump, ruffling his feathers with his use of banmal.
As Hye-jin goes for her morning run, she can’t get last night’s embrace out of her head. And she’s not the only one: she meets Nam-sook, who’s heard the whole thing from Yong-hoon but swears she hasn’t told anyone else. It’s only after Nam-sook leaves that a nearby truck pulls away, revealing Hye-jin’s parents standing right there.
Flustered, Hye-jin takes them to her home. Dad heads to the restroom, only to come face-to-face with Doo-shik, who’s on his way out of said restroom, with obviously wet hair. Apparently, Mis-eon had asked him to fix their leaky showerhead. Hye-jin tries to push him out the door, promising to pay him later, but Dad takes offense at Doo-shik’s continued use of banmal and introduces himself, clearly hoping for Doo-shik to change his attitude.
Instead, Doo-shik accepts the proffered handshake and pulls Dad in for a hug. Even more offended, Dad clamps down in a vise grip on Doo-shik’s hand. He grills Doo-shik about his relationship with Hye-jin, fully admitting he heard they spent the night together. Hye-jin’s attempts to intervene are brushed aside, and finally Doo-shik says he’ll explain: “I’m Hye-jin’s boyfriend.” Dad finally lets go.
While Hye-jin and Doo-shik prepare fruit for her parents, she asks him in a furious whisper why he’d say such a thing. He whispers back that he had to save his hand from being crushed, and that it was the only answer her dad would accept at this point. Besides, it’ll be easy to say they’ve broken up later, after her parents have gone back home. She glares, but he says this is just another part-time job – and he’ll only charge her for the shower head.
They all sit down with the fruit (which Doo-shik has cut into adorable little bunny shapes). Dad tries to get a private talk with Doo-shik, but Hye-jin shoots it down, so Dad fires off more questions. Doo-shik has to be prompted to tack on polite endings to his sentences, and when he claims they’ve been together for about three months, Dad’s eyes bug out since Hye-jin hasn’t been in Gongjin much longer than that. Asked about his occupation, Doo-shik says vaguely that he has many part-time jobs. Dad takes that to mean he’s unemployed, which Doo-shik doesn’t outright deny. Hye-jin says defensively that her job ought to be enough, and makes a point of mentioning Doo-shik’s engineering degree from Seoul National University. That earns a few brownie points, and Dad invites Doo-shik to join them in visiting Hye-jin’s clinic. Doo-shik agrees, quietly assuring Hye-jin that he has a plan.
Next thing we know, a message from Hye-jin goes out to the whole village that due to undisclosed circumstances, Doo-shik is pretending to be her boyfriend. As a reward for their cooperation, she offers a 30% discount to whomever puts on the most convincing act. Meanwhile, Sung-hyun calls for a break in filming due to the heat.
Hye-jin and Doo-shik show her parents around. Dad is still grumpy, and Stepmom complains that he’s always this boring. Just then, an excited cluster of villagers approaches. They’re painfully awkward in their acting, and Hwa-jung barely saves the moment by introducing herself as Hye-jin’s landlord. Fortunately, Dad’s main point of confusion is the fact that everyone seems to already know who he is.
Writer Ji-won catches Sung-hyun folding a script into a paper airplane, and shoos him away. He stops to tease Joo-ri about hanging around in hopes of seeing June, and that’s when he spots Hye-jin and her entourage. Joo-ri explains about the ruse, making his jaw drop in horror. He rushes over and loudly introduces himself, charming both parents with his polite speech (and fame). He invites them to come in and view the set, promising Hye-jin that he understands the situation and won’t embarrass her. She doesn’t look convinced.
Sung-hyun serves refreshments and regales the family with stories of Hye-jin’s university days, much to her parents’ delight. But every time Doo-shik tries to join the conversation, it instantly kills the mood, so he eventually gives up and just listens with an awkward smile. Dad eyes the last piece of the bread for a long time before deciding to reach for it… just as Doo-shik grabs it and stuffs it in his own mouth, commenting that no one ever seems brave enough to take the last piece.
Before anyone can react, Stepmom spills her drink. Hye-jin rummages in her purse for wet wipes, pulling out her keychain – with Sung-hyun’s llama doll attached – and setting it on the table. Sung-hyun grins, Doo-shik frowns, and the staff member who’s come to tell Sung-hyun they’re ready to resume filming eyes the doll with confusion.
As the group heads out, Sung-hyun pulls Doo-shik aside and warns through gritted teeth that Doo-shik had better do his part-time job well. Doo-shik just smiles back and says he’ll do a great job as Hye-jin’s boyfriend. Sung-hyun fumes, then turns to face the accusing glares of his team, who are hurt that he gave away their good-luck charm.
Eun-chul finds Mi-sun killing time at a bus stop, and she jumps at the chance to spend time together. She offers to help him with his job, which right now is delivering lunches to the elderly, but the passenger seat of his police car is packed with lunches. So she jumps in the back and strikes up conversation about the waterproof seat. But she immediately wishes she hadn’t asked, because it turns out that’s to make it easy to clean when drunk people throw up or use the bathroom back there. To make matters worse, Eun-chul informs her that he had to clean the seat for that very reason just last night. Mi-sun raises herself up as far off the seat as her seatbelt will allow, until the car in front of them makes an illegal U-turn and Eun-chul follows, forcing her to sit properly or be thrown around.
Her mood lifts considerably, though, as she watches Eun-chul in action. When he comes back from issuing a ticket, she tells him he’s also guilty – of invading her heart. He stares, frozen, as she giggles and names the penalty: that chicken he gave her the other day. Then she adds, “Let’s date!” Eun-chul shakes himself out of his stunned silence, and says gently but firmly that he’s not ready to move so fast. Suddenly Mi-sun “remembers” that she has somewhere to be, and promises to help him deliver lunches another time. He has to let her out, since the door doesn’t open from the inside, and watches sadly as she practically runs away in embarrassment.
At Hye-jin’s clinic, Dad asks if Sung-hyun has a girlfriend, adding pointedly that he seems like a great guy. He also asks about the orchids he sent Hye-jin, and when Stepmom teases him about letting his own orchids die, Doo-shik can’t resist analyzing exactly what went wrong. (Turns out his job in the military was taking care of the trees and flowers that were used for special events.) Dad looks at him with new eyes and asks about a different type of orchid.
They’re still talking about orchids when they arrive at Hwa-jung’s restaurant. At least, until Dad gets distracted by the baduk game Yi-joon has just won against another villager. With a gleam in his eye, Doo-shik challenges Dad to a game, which Dad enthusiastically accepts, and Hye-jin and Stepmom leave them to it. They find a table upstairs, where they sit in uncomfortable silence. Noticing that Stepmom is drinking a lot of water, Hye-jin asks if she’s unwell, and Stepmom says self-consciously that she’s been diagnosed with burning mouth syndrome. Hye-jin gives her a hard candy and offers advice about keeping her mouth hydrated, and Stepmom smiles just a little. Downstairs, Doo-shik wins the baduk game, but Dad sulks until he removes the winning piece and the game continues.
Young-guk visits Cho-hee with a gift basket, so she asks him out to talk. They end up at Chun-jae’s café, where Nam-sook gleefully snaps a photo. She sends it to Hwa-jung, who brushes it aside as Doo-shik and Dad stand up from their game. (Dad’s sulky expression says it all.)
Young-guk tells Cho-hee he has something to say, and dramatically recites: “To the love of my life. I will never forget you until my very last breath. I know my chance will never come. Please stay beautiful as you are.” Cho-hee recognizes the poem, but she doesn’t appear pleased. She says while she’s grateful for his friendship, she’s never had romantic feelings for him. In denial, he assumes she must be saying this because of Hwa-jung.
Doo-shik senses that Hye-jin and her family aren’t extremely close, and suggests they play an icebreaker game. They shoot that idea down, so he tries to feed Dad a bite of sea squirt. Dad pulls away in disgust, saying he doesn’t eat anything slimy, but Doo-shik urges him to trust him and try it. “Why should I trust you?” Dad asks. Doo-shik thinks it over and says, “Because we played baduk together?” He says his grandfather always used to say playing games makes you instantly friends with someone. That softens Dad just enough to accept the sea squirt, and he even admits that it’s not that bad after all. He resists the next bite, but the atmosphere has turned from hostile to playful, and Hye-jin thinks to herself that they all seem to feel a little more comfortable with Doo-shik present.
After the meal, Dad declares he ate well because he was with his entire family. He asks about Doo-shik’s family, so Doo-shik explains about his parents and grandfather passing away when he was young. Suddenly Dad shuts down again. After Doo-shik leaves for the bathroom, Dad asks Hye-jin with an accusatory tone if she knew Doo-shik was an orphan. Hye-jin asks incredulously if that’s a sin, and Dad actually says it is, and demands she break up with Doo-shik immediately. (I’m sorry, I need a moment. WHAT?!) Doo-shik starts back up the stairs just in time to hear Dad say she mustn’t date someone with such a “flaw.” Outraged, Hye-jin throws it right back: in that case, losing her mom gives her just as much of a “flaw.” Dad storms out of the room, only pausing for a split second when he comes face-to-face with Doo-shik on the stairs. Doo-shik lets him pass, but follows him out.
Doo-shik sits next to Dad, gently nagging him about the pack of cigarettes he’s holding, and Dad muses that even Hye-jin doesn’t do that. After a beat, he apologizes. Doo-shik smiles that Hye-jin really does take after him, since she’s also quick to admit her mistakes. Dad says it isn’t an excuse, but that he just doesn’t want Hye-jin to be lonely like she was as a child. He’d turned to alcoholism when her mother died, neglecting her care and causing her to grow up too fast, and has never forgiven himself. He knows it’s selfish, but he wants her to marry into a big family so she’ll finally receive all the love she deserves. Doo-shik says he’s wrong – Hye-jin must have received a lot of love growing up, since she gives so much to others.
Still inside, Hye-jin also apologizes to Stepmom for implying she was less of a parent, to which Stepmom says Dad crossed the line first. She says it’s hard for parents to be objective about their own children, and asks Hye-jin not to resent him, because he actually adores her. He went to dozens of florists to find those orchids, keeps her childhood photo as his phone background, and keeps up with Gongjin’s weather far more than their own. And while he’s quiet at home, he never stops talking about Hye-jin when they’re out and about.
Dad asks if Doo-shik likes Hye-jin a lot. Doo-shik pauses and gives a genuine yes… but as a friend. He comes clean about the lie, assuring Dad that nothing happened that night, and says he sincerely hopes she finds someone who’s as good as she deserves. “That could be you,” Dad finally says. They rejoin Hye-jin and Stepmom, and decide to go for coffee.
As filming continues, Sung-hyun sits staring into space, murmuring that he can’t be too late again. He thinks back to university, when he’d planned to ask Hye-jin out on a date, only to learn she was already dating his friend. He’s so lost in thought that when the idols hit a problem while filming and wonder if it’s too late in the day to fix it, he snaps at them that it’s absolutely not too late.
Hye-jin and Doo-shik send the parents off. Dad motions Doo-shik over to his window for a private word — he wants to know why Doo-shik keeps using banmal. Doo-shik says it sounds friendlier that way. Dad whispers, “Not to me, you bastard,” and drives off with a huge grin, leaving Doo-shik stunned.
Hye-jin follows Doo-shik up to his boat at the top of the hill, which he explains belonged to his grandfather. (And getting it up there involved a truck, a helicopter, and lots of work.) Hye-jin asks about his secret years, but he doesn’t seem keen on answering, so she decides what’s past is past and asks if he’s taking a break here to figure out what’s next. But no: he plans to live here forever. She likens that to playing Minesweeper on a high-tech computer, or driving a sports car through rice paddies. With a smile, he tells her not to look down on the beauty of simplicity, and she sighs that she must be a lunatic to try having a normal conversation with him. (Doo-shik: “Do you want to put a flower in your hair, so you’ll be a pretty lunatic?”) After she leaves, Doo-shik sits on his boat, staring thoughtfully out into the distance.
The next day, Mi-sun gets word that her mom fell and injured herself. Eun-chul happens by as Hye-jin is bundling Mi-sun into a taxi, and runs over to ask Hye-jin where she’s going. When Mi-sun arrives at the bus terminal, Eun-chul pulls up beside her, saying he’ll drive her to Seoul.
Sung-hyun is also heading back to Seoul, as filming has wrapped up. He hesitantly asks Doo-shik if the “part-time job” finished well, and although Doo-shik says yes (and rattles off exactly how much he earned), they agree that it might not actually be over.
Hwa-jung and Nam-sook are out for a walk when they spot Young-guk sitting dejectedly by the side of the path with a bottle of soju. When Hwa-jung tells him to go home, he cries that this is all her fault. Hwa-jung denies it, so he brings up what happened three years ago: according to him, all he did was take off his socks wrong, and she kicked him out. Hwa-jung refuses to tell him the real reason (thereby confirming there was a different reason), and leaves him to his distress. Nam-sook doesn’t press, but advises her not to bottle up her emotions and make herself sick.
Doo-shik sits by his boat, now floating on the water.
On his way to Seoul, Sung-hyun calls Hye-jin, apologizing for not telling her in person that he was leaving. He says he has something to tell her when he comes back, and they make plans to meet up. Just then, Hye-jin realizes the broken streetlight has been repaired. In a flashback, we see that Doo-shik had hounded Young-guk until it got done. Sung-hyun hangs up, worried about being late again. He makes a decision. And a U-turn.
Doo-shik passes by Hwa-jung’s restaurant and thinks about his conversation with Hye-jin’s dad, and quickens his pace. Hye-jin stands in the alleyway, smiling up at the streetlight, unaware that two people are on their way back to her.
Doo-shik’s doctor observes that he’s sleeping better and suggests lowering his dosage… and addressing Doo-shik’s deepest fear. We see young Doo-shik at his grandfather’s funeral, where guests had whispered that some people bring death to everyone around them. An older Doo-shik enters another funeral hall, though we don’t see who the deceased person is this time.
The doctor asks, “So everyone you love has left you?” Doo-shik cries as he says yes, and that it’s his own fault.
Whew. Even though there weren’t actually all that many things that happened this episode – Hye-jin’s parents came, toured the village, had lunch, and left, and a few side characters had conversations about their respective relationships – it feels like we covered a lot of ground, and that there’s a lot to unpack.
Let’s start with the big one: Hye-jin’s dad. I have very complicated feelings about him, but in a way, I appreciate that fact. It’s easy to write people off or lump them into categories based on one trait we deem their defining point. (So for example: Hye-jin’s dad = prejudiced = bad.) It’s harder to look for the root cause of his extremely hurtful words and try to really understand him like Doo-shik did. I’ll admit, I probably wouldn’t have tried, at least not immediately. But, in a parallel to what we learned about Nam-sook last episode, people are usually more than we perceive them to be. People say hurtful things out of their own hurt, and Hye-jin’s dad acknowledging that this was exactly what he was doing says a lot about who he is as a person. Though, again, that’s not the only measure of his character either.
As for Doo-shik, he’s starting to make more and more sense too. Instead of using his hurt to lash out at people, he channels it into self-defense in a very covert kind of way. By creating a seemingly open and friendly dynamic with everyone he meets, he can control how intimate the relationship actually gets: people feel as though they’re very close, because he listens to and helps them with their deepest fears and problems, but he keeps his own vulnerabilities locked away out of reach. And by turning nearly every social interaction into a professional contract of sorts, he maintains even more rigid boundaries without most people even realizing that’s what he’s doing. Is this a “better” way to cope with one’s insecurities than lashing out? I don’t know. It makes people around him happy, but I can’t help wondering if it isn’t hurting him even more than it would to let all the pain out.
And then there’s Sung-hyun, who’s all charm until he isn’t. I don’t think he’s a bad guy at all, but I do find him pushy, especially when it comes to Hye-jin. But since we’re trying to understand people today, I suppose he had to be that way to become the superstar PD that he is. I just hope he’ll confess soon so Hye-jin can reject him and we can move on, because I like him best when he and Doo-shik are reluctant friends instead of rivals.
Lastly, about our other couples: Mi-sun and Eun-chul are beyond adorable, and I hope she won’t be too embarrassed to spend that extra time getting to know him. While it stung to hear that Eun-chul wasn’t ready for a relationship with her, it also wasn’t a complete rejection, and it’s clear he already cares about her a great deal. Young-guk, on the other hand, was of course completely rejected – by both of his primary love interests. I was a little surprised to learn that his and Hwa-jung’s marriage was something he did solely because she wanted it, and I wonder if she divorced him for his sake or her own. Either way, there’s a lot she’s not telling, and it probably goes way back to the time when Cho-hee lived with her and they were all friends.
Even though this episode took place over the course of a single day, it was also a turning point for several of our characters (both literally and figuratively). It’ll be interesting to see what secrets come to light next, and what people choose to do with that information.
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