Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha: Episode 11
It’s time to lay all feelings out into the open… or is it? Our dentist is ready to be honest about how she feels, but she’s not quite ready to let everyone in on it just yet. But trying to keep their new relationship a secret may just give our couple more problems than it’s worth…
EPISODE 11 RECAP
After Hye-jin confesses her feelings for Doo-shik, and he reciprocates, they share kiss after kiss. But then they seem to come to their senses and pull slightly apart. Hye-jin says she should go, since she said and heard everything she needed to. Doo-shik protests that he didn’t get to say everything, and even though she says bashfully that the kiss was more than enough, he wants to give a proper response. “I like you,” he says. And since they’ve confessed and kissed, it’s obvious what they should do next: hold hands as they walk home.
When they reach Hye-jin’s house, she asks if they’re official now. Doo-shik grins and says she can go ahead and mark it on her calendar if she wants. But then she remembers that she hasn’t given Sung-hyun an answer yet, and asks if they can hold off making it officially official until after she can do so. Doo-shik grumbles about it, but agrees that she needs to give Sung-hyun a clear answer. She asks why he never said anything if he knew all along that Sung-hyun liked her, to which he says, “Back then, I didn’t know I liked you this much.” With a sly grin, she asks exactly how much he likes her, then, and he beats around the bush a bit before saying, “As much as Lake Baikal.” Hye-jin promises to tell Sung-hyun about her feelings tomorrow, and they decide not to call each other until after she does.
Later that night, Hye-jin googles Lake Baikal, and immediately breaks her own vow and calls Doo-shik to share what she discovered: “Lake Baikal is the oldest lake in the world at 25 million years old. With a depth of 1,743 meters, it’s also the deepest lake in the world.” They get all shy together, and he tells her to take a look at her desk. He asks if she remembers who took the family photo (she doesn’t), and reveals that it was his grandfather. Awed by the coincidence, Hye-jin wonders about the boy who helped her pay for snacks the day she ran away from home, and they piece together that meeting, too. Hye-jin calls it fate, while Doo-shik says it’s a natural coincidence, since Gongjin is so small, but either way, they-re both amazed to have found each other again after all these years.
The next day, Hye-jin calls Sung-hyun while he and his team are editing their show. Sung-hyun tells the team to take the afternoon off, promising to be back by the evening, and leaves immediately for Gongjin. The two meet in Chun-jae’s café, and Sung-hyun remarks that he feels like he’s been handed his report card: delaying opening it won’t change the result, but he’s still scared to look. But he takes a deep breath and tells her he’s ready to accept whatever she has to say.
Hye-jin starts by saying that meeting him again brought back old memories she hadn’t visited in a while. She recalls how, at the time, she’s been working herself to exhaustion and living off sausages, and he’d been the first person to really take care of her. He’d invited her to eat together at every opportunity, but he hadn’t always meant it literally – sometimes it was his way of telling her she’d worked hard, or that he wanted her to be happy. Then she confesses that she’d also had feelings for him back then. Even though she’d known he liked her back, she’d been too embarrassed and afraid because he’d seen her at her lowest point. With a few tears in her eyes, she says that she’s always regretted not being honest about her feelings for him, but that she likes someone else now.
Sung-hyun takes it all in without interrupting. When she finishes, he manages a slight smile and says he’s relieved to hear her honest answer. But he also says that he never pitied her: rather, he loved her for working so hard and trying her best not to lose herself in the process. “I’m honored to have someone like you as my first love,” he says. Hye-jin says the same. Across the room, Chun-jae is tearing up (me too, man, me too) and letting the ice melt into their Americanos so he doesn’t have to break up the moment.
As they leave the café, Hye-jin returns the llama doll, and although Sung-hyun would like to tell her to keep it, he says that he’s glad it gave her comfort, even for a short time. Hye-jin thanks him for everything. Doo-shik arrives then, and Sung-hyun asks for a word with him. They walk off together, leaving Hye-jin fretting that they’ll fight it out.
Cut to: Sung-hyun and Doo-shik hammering away at a halfway-constructed table. When Sung-hyun comes out and says Hye-jin turned him down in favor of someone else, Doo-shik accidentally breaks the table leg he’s holding and mutters that it must be defective. Sung-hyun continues: “She didn’t say who it was, but I bet he doesn’t deserve her.”
Doo-shik jumps up defensively, saying he shouldn’t judge people based on hunches. But Sung-hyun knew all along it was him, and asks him to make her laugh a lot and treat her to plenty of good food. He says he doesn’t like things to be complicated and admits, “I like Hye-jin… But I think I’m pretty fond of you, too.” Awwww. He says he’s always hated trigonometry, so love triangles aren’t for him. Doo-shik says he doesn’t mind Sung-hyun either, though he sure does need a lot of care, and Sung-hyun asks for another surfing lesson when they have time. Doo-shik laughs and says to let him know when he’s free – so he can schedule something else that day.
Young-guk agonizes over what he did so wrong. Neglecting the laundry? No, he had his own chores. Snoring? No, Hwa-jung snores even more. Yong-hun interrupts him to ask about trash bags that Hwa-jung asked for, so Young-guk decides to deliver them himself (but acts as though it’s a huge inconvenience, ignoring Yong-hun’s protests that he doesn’t mind taking them).
Hwa-jung, meanwhile, sits down with an old friend, who offers to set up a blind date. Young-guk listens at the doorway as Hwa-jung’s friend says she’s exactly this guy’s type. Just as Hwa-jung seems about to agree, Young-guk makes his presence known. He shouts at her for “making” him deliver the bags on a weekend, when she’s not even busy with official business. He tells her to resign, and she shrugs, since her term is ending soon, anyway. He leaves in a huff, and Hwa-jung tells her friend she was joking. She has no intentions of remarrying.
Doo-shik goes over to Hye-jin’s house, where she peppers him with questions about what went down between him and Sung-hyun. With a grin, he tells her Sung-hyun likes him – and even prefers him to her – and that Sung-hyun is a good friend. With that hurdle crossed, he’s ready to make their relationship public, but Hye-jin isn’t. She doesn’t want the villagers to spread rumors about impending marriage or pregnancy. He agrees to try keeping it a secret, though he’s certain it won’t last long.
Still, they determine that today is their first day as a couple. And since they’re official, she demonstrates what they can do together: hold hands, embrace, and cuddle. He recommends she read Georges Bataille’s book Erotism, and when she asks what it’s about, he grins mischievously, says “Stuff like this!” and grabs her in a nother hug, making her squeal with delight. But they’re startled out of their revelry by Mi-sun, who has just arrived home and flatly tells them to lock the door next time.
When Sung-hyun doesn’t show up to finish editing that night, Ji-won calls him. But he doesn’t answer, because he’s out drinking alone. Not for long, though, as Young-guk happens by and joins him. They commiserate over needing to de-stress, agreeing that relationships are far more difficult than work. Young-guk lights up to have found someone who understands what he’s going through. Several drinks later, Young-guk pours out the whole story about Hwa-jung being offered a blind date, and how she always speaks harshly to him. Sung-hyun, whose head is drooping lower toward the table by the minute, says he thought meeting Hye-jin again was a sign they were meant to be. They seem to be having two conversations at once, until Young-guk laments the horrible timing of losing and meeting Cho-hee again. Sung-hyun agrees that timing is exactly the problem.
In the morning, Hye-jin hurries into the café to see Doo-shik before Chun-jae arrives. She orders a mocha with extra whipped cream, since she’s “overflowing with sweetness.” He happily invites her behind the counter to watch him make it, somehow getting whipped cream all over his own face. She reaches up to wipe it off… and at that moment Chun-jae walks in. Hye-jin slaps Doo-shik across the face and pretends to be angry as she rushes out. Later, she texts him heart emoji-laden apologies and asks what other jobs he has today.
Young-guk sits at his desk nursing a massive hangover. Yong-hun brings him soup, and when Young-guk gets enough wits back to ask where he got it, he says he bought it. Young-guk eyes him suspiciously.
Doo-shik delivers jjajangmyun to the clinic, to Hye-jin’s excitement and Mi-sun’s (mostly feigned) annoyance. Mis-un requests he work at other restaurants, too, so they can have a variety of lunch options. When he leaves, Hye-jin follows him out to apologize for slapping him. She fawns over his face… and kicks him when Nam-sook appears.
His leg is still hurting when she calls later, though he says he’s not angry – his emotions are a lot more complex than just that, and he’d like to know if she wants to date or kill him. But he promises to continue keeping their secret.
Sung-hyun finally arrives back at work, and dramatically apologizes on his knees. Since Ji-won pulled an all-nighter due to his absence, he tells her to name any punishment she wants. She rolls her eyes at the display, and tells him to buy her lunch. As he rummages through his bag for his phone, she sees the llama doll, but doesn’t say anything.
Hye-jin finds Doo-shik working at the supermarket, and he quickly tells her to stay at least two meters away. She cutely inches closer and closer, and asks him out on their first official date this weekend, suggesting that they take a walk, eat, and maybe some “other stuff,” too. She giggles loudly as he ruffles her hair. But of course Yoon-kyung and Geum-chul walk in on them, and she bangs her head against his nose, making it bleed. Doo-shik can only laugh at this point.
Hye-jin texts Doo-shik more apologies, but the rest of the day goes by without him even opening the messages. Hye-jin agonizes over what that might mean, and Mis-un wryly apologizes – now, on the receiving end, she realizes how annoying she must have been when she was in a relationship.
Hye-jin goes looking for Doo-shik at his house. He’s not home, so she decides to go inside and wait. But when Doo-shik arrives, he’s accompanied by the granny trio. Hye-jin runs to the bedroom to hide, and he scrambles to throw her shoes out of sight behind the door. In his panic, he urges them not to look in the bedroom (claiming it’s messy), which of course entices Sook-ja to have a look. She throws the door open before he can stop her, revealing a very tidy room and no Hye-jin. Doo-shik distracts the grannies with homemade candles and ushers them quickly out the door.
Once they’re gone, he finds Hye-jin huddled in the closet. It’s only after she asks about her text messages that he realizes his phone is missing. He helps her stand, but her legs have fallen asleep, so he scoops her up in his arms. At her request, he promises to check his messages even when he’s busy, and asks her to tell him everything she doesn’t want him to do. His face freezes a little as she says she doesn’t want any secrets between them, but he nods in agreement. Then she spots the calendar on his desk, where he’s marked their first day with a red circle and a heart made out of stickers. She laughs while he swears it means something else. He takes a step backward, trips, and falls, and they both fall onto the bed. There’s a supercharged moment, and he leans down to kiss her… and her phone rings. She gets up to see who’s calling (Mi-sun), and he goes to get her a candle to take home.
Then he walks her out, still holding her hand as she asks if he has a candle-making license (he does), and exactly how many licenses he owns (he’s lost count). He names a few notable ones: youth counseling, etiquette teaching, cooking pufferfish, origami teaching, etc. Just then, Hye-jin spots a group of villagers walking toward them, and quickly twists Doo-shik’s arm behind his back. The villagers run over and separate them, and Hwa-jung says it’s best if they keep their distance from each other for a while. Doo-shik argues that the village is too small for that, but the others assure him they’ll help.
Hye-jin shows up at Chun-jae’s café the next morning, smiling to see Doo-shik behind the counter, but Chun-jae cuts in front of her with a mop. He takes her order and relays it to Doo-shik, not letting them speak a word to each other. Doo-shik addresses Chun-jae while making eye contact with Hye-jin to say that he lost his phone and can’t be contacted until he finds it, adding, “So don’t worry if you can’t reach me.” When Ju-ri comes downstairs, the couple take advantage of the distraction to communicate silently through gestures.
At the clinic, Hye-jin complains to Mi-sun about the forced separation. She cheers up as she remembers she can have him deliver jjajangmyun, but Nam-sook delivers it herself instead.
Sung-hyun and his team prepare to board a boat for their next program, and poor Sung-hyun looks seasick already. He grabs his stomach and collapses, and they take him to the hospital for suspected food poisoning. Ji-won refuses to leave his side despite him assuring her he’s fine, because she knows the problem isn’t an upset stomach.
Hye-jin and Doo-shik meet on a street corner, and she runs into his arms like it’s been much longer than half a day since they last saw each other. She urges him to get a new phone so they can talk, but he still has nearly two years left before it’s paid off and asks for one more day to look for it. Their brief moment together comes to an end as Yoon-kyung and Geum-chul spot them and forcibly steer them in opposite directions.
Ji-won takes Sung-hyun to their lodging and makes him lie down, saying it’s for the sake of their show. He thanks her softly for putting up with him, and confesses that he’s suffering because he’s getting over his first love for the second time.
Eun-chul comes to the clinic, hesitating to meet Mi-sun’s eyes. As she starts to work on his teeth, he says (with his mouth still wide open), “It’s not that I don’t like you. I just want to get to know you slowly.” She pretends not to understand, but smiles to herself after he leaves and refuses to tell Hye-jin what he said.
While Hye-jin pouts about missing Doo-shik, she gets a call from an unknown number – and of course it’s him. He’s busy today, but tells her they can meet tomorrow night, when everyone else will be gathered for a village meeting.
The next morning, they both leap excitedly out of bed, and count down the hours all day long. When evening arrives, Hye-jin runs out of the clinic with a joyful squeal. Doo-shik wraps up at Chun-jae’s café, and fakes a cough to get out of the meeting. As soon as he turns the corner outside, his face lights up, and he breaks into a run.
As the villagers gather for their meeting, Cho-hee and Hwa-jung greet Young-guk awkwardly. Once everyone has arrived (including Mi-sun who’s taking Hye-jin’s place), Nam-sook calls them into a huddle to announce the meeting’s agenda.
Hye-jin and Doo-shik meet near the lighthouse and express how much they missed each other. Just as she’s getting all giddy about him calling her by name, the entire village meeting converges on them. Doo-shik jumps to explain that this is all a misunderstanding, but Hye-jin has had enough and announces that they’re dating. The villagers all gasp dramatically as she tells Doo-shik she doesn’t want to hide it anymore, and Hwa-jung finally shouts, “We know!” Everyone laughs at their shocked faces, and reveal that they’d seen everything, even the heart-filled text messages on Doo-shik’s phone (which he’d left at the supermarket). Forcing them apart had been Hwa-jung’s idea, because she knew they’d become even more desperate to see each other. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and all that.
Everyone congratulates them, and Gam-ri even says she has nothing more to wish for in life. Doo-shik laces their fingers together and shyly thanks everyone for their support, while Hye-jin playfully asks them not to interfere anymore.
On the night Hye-jin confessed, after learning she’d met Doo-shik as a child (twice), she’d taken out her old sketchbook, which holds a drawing of their first meeting. We see young Hye-jin drawing the picture, calling Doo-shik the “sea prince” who made the “star princess” smile when she was crying, and wishing for the chance to meet him again.
Meanwhile, Doo-shik had indeed circled the date on his calendar, then decided it looked too plain and added the stickers.
I take back every negative thing I said or thought about Sung-hyun. The whole scene where Hye-jin confessed that she’d liked him once upon a time was so beautiful. It’s such a poignant truth that, with the right timing, they could have been very happy together. And it’s devastating to think about how close two people can come to living happily ever after together, only to let the moment pass without truly acting on it. But even though they both found the courage to express their feelings later down the road, Hye-jin especially is no longer the same person she was then, and there’s no going back to that time now.
I’ve seen a lot of second leads say they’ll accept the other person’s decision, only to redouble their efforts to win that person back once they’ve been rejected in favor of the main love interest. But that goodbye scene carried a definite sense of finality, so I really don’t expect Sung-hyun to go that route. (Thank goodness!) And did I shed almost as many tears hearing him say he’s also grown fond of Doo-shik as I did hearing him bid farewell to his first love? Maybe…
But on to the real bulk of this episode: aren’t Hye-jin and Doo-shik just the cutest? Every time they smile at each other, I just melt. And every time she does something cute, he just melts. Like Doo-shik, I never expected the hidden relationship to last in this village, but I didn’t expect the village to turn right around and make their own secret plan, or that they would end up entangled in such hilariously dramatic forbidden-love-type antics.
I do have to say, I’ve never liked the trope (is it a trope?) where characters hurt each other to avoid being found out as dating. I just can’t laugh at a person intentionally inflicting pain on someone they love, even if they don’t technically mean it. But I appreciated that it came back to bite Hye-jin, and it was sweet to see the villagers defending Doo-shik, even if they were just playing along. I also liked the fact that Doo-shik respected Hye-jin’s wishes in not revealing their relationship, instead of blustering on ahead with what he thought was best, as he’s been known to do in the past. (And that look on his face when she announced she was ready to go public with their relationship!)
Is it too much to ask that the rest of the show just be the two of them falling more and more in love and maybe just exploring the side characters and their love lives? I know there’s bound to be more bickering and probably even conflict between the two of them as these honeymoon feelings settle into something more mundane, but I would love to just see them learning to operate as a team instead of the all-too-common last-minute external conflict cropping up out of nowhere. There is still the matter of Doo-shik’s secret years to deal with, but I hope it can happen in such a way that Hye-jin is there to support him through dealing with it, and not such that it drives them apart for an episode or three. (Knocking on all of the wood right now.)
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I might just go make myself a mocha with extra whipped cream…
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