Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha: Episode 13
There’s a storm brewing this hour, in more than one sense of the word. For many of our characters, patience is wearing thin, and complaints that have long been held in are about to come bursting out. But while some are finding the grass much greener on someone else’s side of the fence, that’s only because they aren’t seeing the entire lawn.
EPISODE 13 RECAP
It’s Doo-shik’s birthday, so Hye-jin cooks seaweed soup. Mi-sun side-eyes the concoction, but Hye-jin force-feeds her some anyway before skipping over to Doo-shik’s with thermos in hand. When she arrives, there’s a whole party already underway, and Doo-shik explains that the villagers do this for him every year. As Hwa-jung serves her own seaweed soup, Chun-jae leads everyone in singing Happy Birthday. Doo-shik smiles broadly while protesting that they really don’t have to do this (they assure him he deserves it). After he blows out the candles, everyone insists Hye-jin help him cut the first slice of cake.
The couple slips inside to get watermelon, and he notices her thermos. Hye-jin hesitates, since he’s already eaten seaweed soup, but he just says there’s nothing wrong with having a second bowl and happily drinks it down. Meanwhile, at home, Mi-sun rinses her mouth out, complaining that no one deserves to eat something so salty. Doo-shik gives no sign, though he does refuse to let Hye-jin try any of it.
When they reappear outside with the watermelon, everyone starts making up excuses to leave early. Yoon-kyung, Geum-chul, and a sleepy Bora are the last to leave, and as they make their way home, Yoon-kyung asks Geum-chul if they can go on a date this weekend. With the baby coming soon, it might be their last chance for some alone time for a while. But Geum-chul tells her to rest instead.
Hye-jin wishes Doo-shik a private happy birthday. She also notices a new addition to his wine shelf, which he says is for her – but she’ll have to wait a year for it to get sweet enough. Hye-jin sticks a label on the bottle to mark it as hers, and sentimentally wonders what things will be like a year from now. Doo-shik looks thoughtful… and repeats that the wine will be sweeter by then.
The next day, Young-guk and Yong-hun drop by to see Hwa-jung while some of the ladies are helping her clean. They all proceed to criticize the watermelon and coffee the men brought (their palates now prefer the fancy coffee Sung-hyun used to buy them), and put them to work taking out the recycling.
Between shoots, Ji-won and Do-ha worry over Sung-hyun, who hasn’t been eating much. Do-ha blames the news that Ji-won is leaving them, urging her to reconsider. Both Sung-hyun and Doo-shik come up from different directions in time to overhear, and Ji-won decides to go for lunch alone.
Doo-shik drags Sung-hyun and Do-ha to his house and cooks chicken soup for them while Do-ha admires his array of herbs. Doo-shik offers the soup as an apology for stealing both drumsticks the other night, and sternly tells Sung-hyun to eat up.
But Sung-hyun still doesn’t eat much of it, and afterwards Doo-shik asks point-blank if it’s because of Ji-won leaving. Sung-hyun confirms that the timing of his lost appetite does correlate with her telling him the news. Doo-shik asks if her only reason for leaving was to try something different – she’d mentioned that she admires Sung-hyun, and he suspects she meant more than just as a colleague. Doo-shik ribs Sung-hyun for being so slow, going so far as to say that’s why he lost his chance with Hye-jin, too. Stung, Sung-hyun tells him not to rub salt in his wound, but Doo-shik says he has a bigger wound to deal with: he seems a lot more shaken up over Ji-won now than he ever did over Hye-jin.
Two of Hye-jin’s old classmates show up at her clinic out of the blue, having been in the area for a seminar. They giggle over how small and empty it is, so Hye-jin suggest catching up over coffee to get them out of there. At Chun-jae’s café, the two women insult his design choices right in front of him and then drop the news that Hye-jin’s ex is getting married soon. When they comment on her singleness, Hye-jin jumps at the chance to flaunt that she isn’t – and, right one cue, Doo-shik walks in.
They women recognize him from the photo taken at their other former classmate’s wedding, and Hye-jin quickly changes the subject (since she’d told them he was chasing her and she wasn’t interested). She calls him “oppa,” much to his confusion. The women invite him and Hye-jin to play golf with them tomorrow, and although Hye-jin tries to get out of it, Doo-shik readily agrees. As the two of them walk home later, Hye-jin worries that he might be hurt by her former classmates’ attitudes. Doo-shik assures her he won’t be.
The next morning, Doo-shik borrows golf clubs and an entire golf outfit from Young-guk. When he and Hye-jin arrive, she asks for a favor: just for today, speak formally to her former classmates. The women are taken aback to see him all dressed up, and at Hye-jin’s prompting, he awkwardly answers their small talk with polite, formal language.
Naturally, Doo-shik is amazing at golf. The two women gush about his skills over coffee, and Hye-jin happily brags about his other accomplishments, too. When they ask about his job, he says vaguely that he “paints, brews coffee, and sails,” and that he chooses to live his life however he wants instead of being bound by a formal job. Living like this, he has everything he needs: a bed, his surfboard, and the love of his life. Hye-jin beams. In private, her former classmates sigh over how romantic and refreshing he is, but also ask her if she plans on marrying him, wondering if their relationship is very realistic. Hye-jin looks troubled.
On the way home, Hye-jin bring up Doo-shik’s secret years, curious when and why he decided to live this way. She offers up her own guesses, the first of which is that he was the mystery lottery winner. That makes him laugh, since he wasn’t even in Gongjin at the time. So she throws out more ideas: he became a super-successful CEO, or a disillusioned former assemblyman’s aide, or an illegitimate chaebol heir (Doo-shik: “Don’t speak ill of my grandfather!”).
She’s still trying to guess by the time they get back to his house, and pouts when none of her guesses are correct, reminding him she doesn’t want any secrets between them. After a bit more pouting from her, he says that he had an ordinary desk job. She doesn’t seem to notice that his eyes are wet with tears and moves on to whether he plans on ever returning to Seoul (he doesn’t). She says hesitantly that she doesn’t plan to either right now, but that it’s always a possibility, and they both let the suggestion hang in the air until Doo-shik brushes it off and heads to the kitchen to make lunch.
Young-guk stands outside Hwa-jung’s restaurant, holding the slip of paper with her name on it from when they were deciding who would get to be on Sung-hyun’s show. He’d found it in her recycling and knew immediately that she’d given him her spot, and cries at how she keeps taking care of him. Inside the restaurant, Hwa-jung sends her employee home early and falls asleep at one of the tables. When she wakes up, she goes to finish the dishes, only to find them already done.
Mi-sun and Eun-chul walk back from a date. He shyly reveals that he researched the movie and restaurant ahead of time to ensure he was taking her to the very best. But Mi-sun tells him he doesn’t need to work so hard: she’d enjoy even a terrible movie or simple meal as long as it was with him. Aw, that makes him so happy. She tells him dating doesn’t come with a manual, and to follow his heart. So he grabs her in a giant hug, apologizing for skipping the handholding step. Mi-sun smiles and says he can probably skip some other steps, too.
Hye-jin thinks back on her conversation with Doo-shik, upset that he didn’t even pretend to consider moving to Seoul with her if that’s what she chose to do. Doo-shik, meanwhile, gazes teary-eyed at a suit hanging in his closet. In a flashback, we see him nervously trying it on for a woman named Sun-ah – who’s also the woman with the baby in his photo – and them laughing together. Now, in the dark, he says bitterly that he couldn’t bring himself to throw the suit away.
Yoon-kyung sits in her supermarket listening to news reports of an imminent typhoon, and calls Geum-chul over to carry her boxes of fruit inside. He nags at her for putting them out in the first place, and her frustration grows by the second, though she tries to tamp it down.
With their current show almost finished, Sung-hyun asks Ji-won if she’ll be jumping right into her new one. She scoffs that she’ll take a proper rest this time, since someone always called her up immediately after each show’s end, bursting with ideas for the next big thing – once even flying all the was to Florence to talk about it in person. Sung-hyun can’t deny it, and asks why she put up with him for so long. With a wistful smile, Ji-won says it was thrilling to brainstorm with him and finally land on that one electrifying idea. He asks if there are no more sparks now, but she says no: now there are constant sparks, and that’s the problem.
Yoon-kyung realized her shoestring has come untied, and asks Geum-chul to tie it for her. He’s just finished lugging the fruits inside, so he insists on getting a drink of water first. This time, Yoon-kyung fails to hold back her tears. Geum-chul blames the hormones, wishing out loud for the baby to come soon so she can be comfortable again, and that’s the last straw. She snaps that childbirth isn’t at all easy, and neither is caring for a newborn. He tries to apologize, but she’s too worked up, finally letting out how lonely and afraid she is, and that he can’t even see it, let alone understand. She screams at him to get out, and he finally does, leaving her sobbing.
Hwa-jung tries taping her window in anticipation of the storm, and has to stand on a chair to reach. Of course, she slips and falls – right into Young-guk’s arms. He yells at her for almost hurting herself. Then he rips up (today’s unread) newspaper to brace the window with. Once he’s done, Hwa-jung makes him tea. She reveals that she knows he washed her dishes, because he left a mess of soap and twisted-up towels. He accepts the scolding and sincerely apologizes for having been a terrible husband. He encourages her to go on the blind date, which Hwa-jung informs him she’s already accepted. Yi-joon comes in then with Bora in tow, and Young-guk tries his best to force a smile.
Geum-chul goes over to Doo-shik’s to complain about Yoon-kyung. Doo-shik, however, says she’d probably bottled up her struggles for a long time. He reminds Geum-chul that Yoon-kyung used to be a social butterfly, but now she spends all her time working and being a wife and mother. He also points out that she’d been the one to propose to Geum-chul (while pregnant with Bora), even though she must have been terrified, and that she’s likely suffering more than Geum-chul because she’s so much younger. Geum-chul frowns, but know he’s right, and leaves without his phone.
As the typhoon hits, Hye-jin stops by the supermarket and, finding Yoon-kyung in tears, immediately steps in to help tie Yoon-kyung’s shoe. Yoon-kyung thanks her and says through her tears that she envies Hye-jin for her respectable career and fun boyfriend. But Hye-jin says she’s to be commended too – raising children isn’t easy, and Yoon-kyung is doing it really well. Just as a clap of thunder sounds overhead, Yoon-kyung’s water breaks.
Hye-jin calls Geum-chul, but Doo-shik answers and speeds over to the supermarket in his truck. As he and Hye-jin help Yoon-kyung into the truck, he calls Eun-chul to ask if he’s seen Geum-chul (Wait, they’re brothers?! That explains a lot about their denseness). He hasn’t, but he does know that the road out of Gongjin is blocked by a landslide – not even an ambulance could get through. With Yoon-kyung’s condition getting increasingly urgent, Hye-jin tells Doo-shik to drive to her house instead. It’ll be better than Yoon-kyung giving birth here.
At Hye-jin’s house, a very terrified Doo-shik calls Gam-ri for help, and puts her on the phone with Hye-jin. Meanwhile, Geum-shul returns to the supermarket carrying Yoon-kyung’s favorite fruit. Confused to find it empty and unlocked, he calls Yoon-kyung, and his eyes widen in fear. Hye-jin assures Yoon-kyung that she has enough basic knowledge now to manage, and coaches her on breathing. When Geum-chul arrives, Yoon-kyung screams at him for leaving her alone. He apologizes in tears, and rushes to her side as Hye-jin encourages her to keep pushing.
Bora wakes up next to Hwa-jung with the storm raging outside. Terrified from stories she’s heard about childbirth, she starts crying and wanders out to the living room. Yi-joon comes out of his room to comfort her. He flinches at the lightning and thunder, but tells Bora that if she wishes on a flash of lightning it will come true. Bora drops to her knees, wishing for her sibling and Yoon-kyung to be healthy and safe, and Yi-joon joins her.
Doo-shik paces outside Hye-jin’s bedroom, wringing his hands. But he sighs in relief to hear Yoon-kyung’s screams turning into curses instead. Inside, she pulls Geum-chul’s hair and curses him out for wanting more than one kid. Hye-jin urges her to conserve her strength, and Yoon-kyung yells at her, too.
It’s morning (and sunny) when Doo-shik finally hears the baby cry. Geum-chul breaks down again and apologizes to Yoon-kyung for being so insensitive. Yoon-kyung is all smiles now, though, and just happy to have her beautiful new baby. He promises to treat her better going forward, and even change the diapers. Yoon-kyung thanks Hye-jin and transfers the baby to her arms just as Doo-shik knocks to be let into the room. They all joke that the baby looks just like Geum-chul. Yoon-kyung lets Doo-shik hold the baby, too, and he tears up with joy and awe.
He and Hye-jin leave the new parents to get some sleep, and Hye-jin rests her head on Doo-shik’s back, finally feeling her own exhaustion. He praises her for being so coolheaded, joking that the village will go to her now instead of him when they have problems that need solving. Hye-jin changes clothes, and the two head over to his place to take a nap. He tucks her into bed, and then crawls under the covers with her at her request. Hye-jin muses that it’s strange how emotional she felt while holding the baby, and asks if he’s ever thought about having kids. He says he hasn’t, and drifts off to sleep almost before he can finish the sentence.
Hye-jin leaves him in the bedroom and goes out to the bookshelf. She pulls a book off, leafs through it, and finds the photo of the family. Doo-shik comes out looking for her at that moment, and snatches the book and the picture away. They both apologize, her for looking through his things and him for snapping. When she asks who the people are in the photo, he says they’re just people he knows, and tries to get her to come back to the bedroom.
But Hye-jin confronts him about deflecting her questions about his past. She points out that she’s an open book, but he keeps parts of himself hidden. Out of all her bucket list items, this is the one she considers most important, and it’s also the only one he refuses to complete, and she wants to know why. She likes him enough to want to know everything about him – and to daydream about becoming a family one day – so why can’t he open up to her? Tears welling up, he says simply, “I’m sorry.” Hye-jin’s own eyes fill with tears as she says he’s becoming a stranger. “I don’t know what kind of person you are anymore,” she says. “I don’t know either,” Doo-shik responds.
One day while Bora and Yi-joon were at Doo-shik’s house with the hedgehog, Bora had again asked why he’d refused to take the hedgehog in for them. With a sad smile, he’d said that he must still be afraid of goodbyes.
Goodness, that was intense.
Most of all, I really felt for Yoon-kyung in this episode. Her frustration with Geum-chul has been building over the past few episodes, and it was hard to watch her sunny smile slip lower as she felt less and less appreciated. I cried when Hye-jin tied her shoe and validated everything she’d just expressed to Geum-chul and watched bounce right off his ears. I do hope the two of them have arrived at a place of better understanding and partnership (though I also know it’s easy to make promises when you’ve just come through a traumatic event together). After Doo-shik’s speech to Geum-chul, I also wonder just how young Yoon-kyung is, and what kind of dreams she’d had for her life before getting pregnant and married.
I found it interesting that she and Hye-jin were so envious of each other’s relationships, and yet simultaneously feeling insecure in their own. Yes, it makes sense that insecurity leads to being envious of someone else, but what I mean is it’s interesting that the very object of one person’s envy could be feeling that same level of insecurity, if not more. And, as we saw with Yoon-kyung, placing someone on a pedestal by only focusing on the enviable parts of their life only serves to isolate them in their fears and struggles.
And I guess, in a way, Doo-shik has done that to himself. No one can pity him for what he’s gone through, but at the same time, no one can offer him sympathy or support. I get Hye-jin’s desire to know what Doo-shik is hiding from her, and even her frustration with him evading her questions. But at the same time, it frustrates me that she’s so insistent on pushing him to tell her before he’s necessarily ready. The sentiment of not wanting to have any secrets sounds nice on paper, but I’m not convinced it’s always healthy – or possible. And I definitely don’t think it’s ever something that should be demanded.
The question of how they’ll reconcile their lifestyles and dreams is a big one, and I’m not sure it’ll be resolved in the best way. I’ve seen real-life examples of one spouse giving up their dream in favor of the other, and while it can work, it can also breed resentment. Hye-jin clearly loves her job as a dentist and cares about her patients, and enjoys the Seoul lifestyle, but it’s also pretty clear that she’s still driven by a need to impress people. It feels like the show is aiming to have her choose love over money, and perhaps even frame her love of the city as nothing more than materialism. But the only choices in life aren’t enjoying the small things vs. chasing material wealth. There’s a lot more nuance and variety of preferences out there.
Speaking of different dreams, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the Sung-hyun/Ji-won angle until this episode, but I actually kind of like it. It seemed odd that he was still so hung up on Hye-jin after so many years and yet never contacted her – but like Doo-shik said, I don’t think he was quite as hung up on her as it seemed. Rather, bumping into her by coincidence brought all of those feelings he’d had for back to surface all over again, and he genuinely thought he’d been given a second chance. But at the same time, he had his own life with complex relationships outside of that. I wonder what it would be like to watch this story with him and Ji-won as the leads, and Hye-jin as the first love side character – I would really love to see those hotel room brainstorming sessions.
And then there’s Young-guk and Hwa-jung. I will say, this was the first time I felt actual sympathy for Young-guk (when he sincerely apologized and wished for her to find someone better suited for her). But – while I’m all for reconciliation as a general concept – I’m honestly not of the opinion that they ever should have gotten married in the first place. It only made the both of them miserable for years on end, to the point they can’t even be in the same room without sniping at each other. Sure, people can change and find both love and forgiveness for someone who once deeply hurt them. But they don’t have to. Regardless of whether Hwa-jung does go on that blind date and/or remarry, I’d much rather see her and Young-guk learn to celebrate Yi-joon’s birthday together without fighting, while still living their separate lives.
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