Human Disqualification: Episode 7
Everyone is lonely in their own way, and all our characters strive to make meaningful connections while struggling through life. Our leads open up to each other, growing closer as they realize they have more in common than they thought. Meanwhile, our ex-writer’s husband notices a few oddities and begins to suspect that his wife isn’t telling him something.
EPISODE 7: “Broken hallelujah”
At work, Jung-soo gets a call from the ever-persistent Kyung-eun who’s having trouble finding a cake for her mom and wants his help. Jung-soo acts dodgy when Joon-hyuk conversationally asks where he’s going as they get off work. When Joon-hyuk sees Kyung-eun waiting for Jung-soo with a smile, he grins and gives Jung-soo the guy shoulder bump.
Jung-soo is as reserved as usual with Kyung-eun but walks out with her nonetheless. She’s disappointed when he can’t tell that she got work done to zap the wrinkles around her eyes.
Meanwhile, Ddak-yi isn’t feeling great after his drinking binge and lies in bed, still sad about Min-jung. He pretends to be asleep when Soon-kyu walks in, but she knows he’s faking. She chides him for getting so drunk and making a mess.
Soon-kyu asks Ddak-yi to pick her up from work that night – she’s not sure when Woo-nam will be home. Before she leaves, she checks to make sure Ddak-yi isn’t involved in Kang-jae’s work. She’s relieved to hear he isn’t but gets mad when Ddak-yi says he’s not qualified. He rolls his eyes at her you’re-just-too-special-for-them pep talk.
We flash back to Ddak-yi’s drunken night. After he’d shown up at Kang-jae’s, he’d been worried sick about Min-jung. They couldn’t get ahold of her, so he dragged Kang-jae along to help look for her. In the taxi, Ddak-yi abruptly become melancholy and supposed that Min-jung was just having fun with those guys.
Kang-jae snapped at Ddak-yi for again playing “Hallelujah” on his phone. Ddak-yi got contemplative and wondered what the lyrics mean. He then started crying. Startled, Kang-jae asked if something happened. “Nothing … nothing ever happens,” Ddak-yi choked out between sobs.
When Kang-jae finally located Min-jung, Ddak-yi sobbed harder in relief. They took a group photo after they met up, Ddak-yi smiling widely.
While Ddak-yi stares at the photo the three of them took together, Kang-jae sits alone on the motel bed. Bu-jung hides out in the bathroom with the water running. Once she calms her nerves enough, she takes off her jacket and exits the bathroom.
Bu-jung stands there awkwardly until Kang-jae suggests she sit. He finds an expired tomato juice in the fridge, but Bu-jung encourages him not to drink it. Since tomato juice is naturally sour, it’s hard to tell if it’s gone bad.
She pulls a tangerine out of her purse and offers it to him instead. Kang-jae plops down next to her on the bed while they eat tangerines. (She pulls two more out of her purse, ha.)
Kang-jae chuckles and says the tangerines are sour too. Hers is sweet, she says, and offers him a piece. After eating it, he suddenly asks what she wanted to do together. Bu-jung sighs, “I just wanted to sit in a place that isn’t home.”
Sometimes, she has the urge to be away from home beside someone who isn’t family. A person with whom she doesn’t have to say anything, think anything, worry, or have expectations. She can just be still.
As Bu-jung talks, we see Kyung-eun and Jung-soo shopping while Chang-sook sells the boxes he’s collected. Ah-ran wipes off her makeup in the back of a car while checking the time in Ottawa on her phone. (Are the rumors of a secret child abroad true, then?) Jong-hoon watches her arrive at Akira but leaves without responding to her texts or meeting her.
When Bu-jung tells Kang-jae she sometimes wants to lie down without doing anything, he encourages her to do just that. “Lie down without doing anything. Together.” Kang-jae lies back and closes his eyes. He’s never voiced this out loud, but he thinks he understands what she feels.
For him, it took the opposite form. He always longed for home even while he was there. As a kid, he’d sometimes feel like there was a stream trickling from his heart. He’d miss his mom terribly despite her being beside him. He was already home, already with his mom, so he couldn’t ease the longing.
After listening to Bu-jung, he finally understands. “Lying beside someone, doing nothing, together.” Bu-jung quietly sets aside her purse (and tangerine) and lies beside Kang-jae. When he asks what’s up with the tangerines in her purse, she says she doesn’t want to talk about it. But then she explains anyway.
It’s been so long since she’s had a social engagement that she didn’t know what to bring, so she just grabbed the tangerines on the table. Aw, that’s kind of adorable. Kang-jae muses that this is akin to a picnic for her.
Bu-jung says she sometimes wants to disappear and then hates herself for the thought. “The sun went down. I was hungry, but I didn’t want to do anything. I suddenly thought, ‘I want to die like I’m floating away.'” Kang-jae blinks back tears.
On her way here, though, she felt good. She put tangerines in her purse, but they were sweet. Her shoes were uncomfortable, but it felt good taking them off. She’s now here, lying down and missing home and her father. Bu-jung can’t explain how exactly, but she gets what Kang-jae was saying about the stream in his heart earlier.
Kang-jae speaks up. If they happen to meet again by chance, not arrangement, “Do you want to die together?” Bu-jung sighs which Kang-jae takes as a scoff, but she assures him it wasn’t. She still doesn’t answer and just says she’ll lie here another 30 minutes. If she happens to fall asleep, he can go ahead and leave.
Min-ja stops by the pharmacy and vents to Soon-kyu about her woes. She starts to tell her about Bu-jung but is interrupted by a customer. While Min-ja is aggressively trying to buy the woman’s soju from her, Soon-kyu gets a text from Woo-nam saying he’ll be out all night because Ji-yeon (His ex? Or does he have a daughter?) is sick.
On their way back from picking out a cake, Kyung-eun remarks on how Jung-soo is still wearing that same winter coat from last year. He retorts not everyone needs new outfits all the time and compares her to his mom’s rich friends.
Kyung-eun assumes Bu-jung bought the coat for him, but he says it was Chang-sook. Kyung-eun muses that he must feel like trash wearing the coat his father-in-law bought him when they meet.
But she thinks he lucked out. If he’d married her, her mother probably would’ve killed him by now. Instead, he gets a loving father-in-law who buys him warm coats. Jung-soo scoffs when she recalls he used to get hit by her mom. It was her who got hit, not him.
Kyung-eun complains that her mom somehow doesn’t realize Kyung-eun is no longer rich. Her husband owned a small business, so of course it went under when he got sick. “Are you the only one who knows?” she asks Jung-soo. He doesn’t play along with her flirting.
Meanwhile, Min-jung calls Ddak-yi while she works out at the gym above the internet café. She says she gets paid to “up the standard” of clientele. Min-jung heard Ddak-yi was out sick today and asks if he’s okay. Ddak-yi says he’s just exhausted.
Min-jung recently learned Ddak-yi’s real name is Soon-ju and has decided to call him that from now on. His face falls when she reveals what appears to be her real reason for calling. Has he talked to Kang-jae? She hasn’t been able to reach him.
Kang-jae wakes in the motel bed to see Bu-jung is now curled up facing him. He stares at her sleeping face for a few moments before sitting up. At Akira, Jong-hoon peeks in on Ah-ran as she sleeps and texts Kang-jae to ask if he met with Bu-jung yet. In the motel room, Kang-jae drapes Bu-jung’s jacket over her before he quietly leaves.
Elsewhere, Jung-soo arrives at Chang-sook’s, but he’s not home. He calls and is alarmed to hear Chang-sook got lost, although Chang-sook assures him he’s fine now. Jung-soo still hurries out to meet him and almost bumps into Kang-jae as they pass in the elevator.
Jung-soo catches up to Chang-sook outside. Chang-sook asks where Bu-jung is and looks away guiltily when Jung-soo says Bu-jung is working late because of the new book. Jung-soo insists on pulling the cart on the way back and gives Chang-sook the cake he bought for him.
Chang-sook says he had cake a few days ago, the one Bu-jung got as a gift. Didn’t Jung-soo eat it too? Jung-soo awkwardly lies that he did. He assures Chang-sook that this cake wasn’t expensive and tells him Bu-jung plans to spend the night at his place after work.
When Chang-sook insists on giving Jung-soo gas money, Jung-soo threatens that he won’t visit anymore. “Don’t come. I’m not afraid,” Chang-sook quips nonchalantly. HA. Suddenly, Chang-sook stops and looks right at Jung-soo. “Please accept Bu-jung.”
Jung-soo argues she’s the one tolerating him, but he sobers when Chang-sook sincerely entreats him to really see Bu-jung. To notice if something’s wrong or if she’s sick. Jung-soo hangs his head and apologizes, but Chang-sook doesn’t want him to feel sorry. Chang-sook then checks in with Jung-soo, making sure everything’s good with him. (Jung-soo really did win the in-law lottery.)
While Bu-jung washes her face at the motel, Jung-soo arrives home. He sees the shoes she usually wears at the door, but all the lights are off. He checks her office and is surprised to find her desk dusty from lack of use.
Min-ja calls him, he can immediately tell from her dulcet tones she’s been drinking. Jung-soo suddenly recalls that Min-ja called Bu-jung’s office but the number was out of service. Min-ja hedges and ends up hanging up on him to avoid talking about it.
While Jung-soo notices Bu-jung’s work calendar is months outdated, Bu-jung arrives at her father’s door. She looks down at her high heels and then the expired tomato juice she put in her purse. Bu-jung thinks of Kang-jae asking if she wants to die together.
At home, Jung-soo goes into Bu-jung favorite hiding place – the little room off the kitchen – and sits on the floor like she often does. He spots Kang-jae’s business card almost hidden underneath the fridge. He stares at it in surprise but then slides it back where he found it.
He takes a call from Kyung-eun and is startled by the sobs on the other end. Her husband isn’t breathing. Machines are going off and medical personnel are trying to revive him. Kyung-eun sinks to the ground in grief.
Meanwhile, Bu-jung climbs up to the roof of her father’s apartment building. She spots Kang-jae leaning against the railing, listening to “Hallelujah” as he eats a sandwich. He turns and sees her standing there. They lock eyes from opposite sides of the roof.
I wonder how many ways Bu-jung and Kang-jae can meaningfully stare at each other. Did Bu-jung go up to the roof looking for him or was it yet another coincidental meeting? Just last episode, Kang-jae was baffled by why Bu-jung would want to die, so I was a little surprised he suggested dying together. Was he gauging her reaction since he knew Jung-woo had told Ddak-yi that he and Bu-jung might die together? I’m not sure why Kang-jae is keeping his connection to Jung-woo a secret from Bu-jung. Best case scenario, she helps him answer some of his questions about his friend. Worst case, she stays quiet.
Although the drama was clearly teasing that Kang-jae and Bu-jung were going to sleep together, I did wonder when Bu-jung first booked him if she only wanted company. I’m glad that ended up being the case since it really could’ve gone either way. Kang-jae didn’t even know what she wanted and seemed surprised when Bu-jung said she just wanted to sit there together. I doubt that’s the usual request he gets. I loved their heart-to-heart which ended up being cathartic for both of them. Sometimes, you just need a safe place to rest. When they’re together, they don’t have to pretend to be okay or be anything, really. In a world that judges them for their choices, they can simply exist for a brief time without being scrutinized.
I like how this drama explores the comfort you can get from a stranger or, at least, someone not directly involved in your life. Bu-jung and Kang-jae don’t have an easily quantifiable relationship that fits neatly into one of the expected boxes. Not every relationship adheres to rigid social labels, nor does it need to. Defining their relationship isn’t necessary – it’s about connection in its rawest form between two lonely people who derive comfort from each other. It’s very reminiscent of the core relationship in My Ajusshi, one of my all-time favorite dramas.
One of my favorite things about this drama is how unhurried it is; every scene is given room to breathe. The beautiful, detailed filming creates such texture and atmosphere. Everyone’s loneliness is palpable without anyone having to utter the words. And we know communication is no one’s strong suit in this drama. There are so many secrets still, although they’re all in danger of spilling out at any moment. Chang-sook and Min-ja already know about Bu-jung no longer working at the publishing house, and it looks like Jung-soo is close to figuring it out too. He also found Kang-jae’s card in Bu-jung’s hiding spot, so that little secret might be outed soon. Although, given that Jung-soo also has a secret relationship, maybe he won’t be too eager to press the issue. They’re both seeking comfort outside of their relationship and hiding it from each other, which doesn’t bode well. If they keep up this wall between them, it’s only a matter of time before their relationship is beyond repair.
- Premiere Watch: Lovers of the Red Sky, Human Disqualification
- Meet the two lost and dejected souls at the center of Human Disqualification
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- Jeon Do-yeon, Ryu Joon-yeol to star in JTBC drama Human Disqualification