Human Disqualification: Episode 9
There’s a lot of third-wheeling this episode – or at least, feeling like the third wheel. Our characters all struggle to find their places within complicated relationships, leading to all sorts of feelings. There’s the jealousy of being on the outside, the shame of being a pushover, the helplessness of being unable to provide protection or comfort, and the grief of loss. Relationships are hard.
EPISODE 9: “Three people”
We open on Bu-jung’s monologue to Ah-ran about who has the right to be human and the privileges that right bestows. That right, Bu-jung argues, that Ah-ran has and she does not. While Ah-ran sleeps in Jong-hoon’s car, he looks through the photos Manager Ahn sent of Bu-jung and Kang-jae. He thinks of the lies Kang-jae has told him.
In a flashback, Bu-jung is with Ah-ran at Akira. While she handles Ah-ran’s affairs, Jong-hoon runs interference to ensure customers don’t see Ah-ran at the club. Now, as Ah-ran sleeps, Bu-jung gets a medical exam done and wonders if that qualified human even exists.
When Ah-ran wakes up, she’s ready to go right back to work, although Jong-hoon wishes she wouldn’t. Ah-ran argues living is about doing things you hate, too. Jong-hoon starts to bring up Bu-jung but decides against it.
At the pharmacy, both siblings pine for their crushes. When Ddak-yi can’t get ahold of Kang-jae, his thoughts wander to the fact that Min-jung used to crash at Kang-jae’s place. Soon-kyu ruminates on how Woo-nam went running when his pretty ex-wife was sick.
Soon-kyu tells Ddak-yi off for being too distracted to help her stock the shelves. The siblings have a petty argument about who’s worse, but their fighting is interrupted when a customer arrives. Soon-kyu freezes and exchanges an awkward greeting.
She introduces Ddak-yi to Woo-nam’s ex Ji-yeon who came looking for Woo-nam. He won’t answer his phone, so she hoped to catch him at home. Soon-kyu tries to hold her off while Ddak-yi tries to get ahold of Woo-nam who’s asleep after his night shift.
At the filming site, Jong-hoon lurks and scoffs at Jin-seob dispensing his actorly wisdom to his young, female colleagues. When he and Jin-seob run into each other in the bathroom, Jong-hoon glares daggers while saying he’s a fan. Pfft.
Meanwhile, Ddak-yi creeps downstairs, avoiding the living room where Woo-nam is effectively icing Ji-yeon out. In the kitchen, Soon-kyu is rummaging for the nice tea set Ddak-yi bought her with his first paycheck.
Ddak-yi worries he’ll be late for work, but she begs him not to leave her here alone. They can both duck out after they serve tea. He sighs sadly as he watches Soon-kyu hurriedly put on makeup to hide her dark circles.
At work, Jung-soo consults with his life advisor Joon-hyuk about Bu-jung’s dinner refusal. Joon-hyuk thinks it’s normal to have late meetings, but he recalls Jung-soo saying Bu-jung never apologizes.
Jung-soo argues that she never apologizes because she’s always right. He’ll often start off thinking he’s right, but after reflection, he inevitably realizes that Bu-jung is right. They’re both baffled by why she apologized about not going to dinner, then.
Joon-hyuk suggests Jung-soo take some of her favorite snacks to her office. Uh-oh. Jung-soo used to do that often when she’d work late, but he hasn’t stopped by her office in years.
At the hospital, Bu-jung sits the with gynecologist for her first follow-up since being hospitalized. It’s been one year to the day since her miscarriage. The doctor reminds her how serious her situation was – she had a miscarriage at an advanced maternal age and ended up with an infection that led to surgery.
She was hospitalized for a long time and was spent five weeks with her baby, so of course that led to mental and physical trauma. The doctor emphasizes that Bu-jung isn’t at fault and encourages her to share any pain she’s having. Bu-jung cries silently.
As she waits to pay her bill, Bu-jung stares at the text about Min-soo’s death. She watches a nearby little gaggle of kids in hospital gowns. Bu-jung walks through the pediatric ward while Kang-jae reads her long reply to Jung-woo. She’s not sure how to comfort him and apologizes for being clueless and unable to help.
Kang-jae looks through a few photos among Jung-woo’s belongings. He flips through Min-soo’s many medical bills and sighs.
While Jung-soo buys macarons for Bu-jung, a small group prays and sings hymns at Kyung-eun’s husband’s bedside. Across the city, Ah-ran acts yet another scene where she is abused and drags herself up for some PPL coffee afterward. At the closed pharmacy, Soon-kyu sits alone.
Bu-jung narrates that she can’t fathom the exact agony Jung-woo must be going through. Even though her pain was comparably less, can he understand her a little? Kang-jae finds a bankbook for Min-soo’s savings account and sees that Bu-jung made multiple deposits. “Would you forgive me a little?” Bu-jung asks.
In the hospital, the nurse who took that photo of Bu-jung with Min-soo and Hee-sun sees Bu-jung in the hallway. But she’s called away before she can say hi.
Bu-jung ignores a call from Jung-soo and doesn’t look at his texts until she’s in the taxi. He sent a photo of the macarons and wants to know if he should wait for her or leave them in her office. Jung-soo ends up going inside and runs into Bu-jung’s ex-colleague who’s put in the awkward position of either pretending Bu-jung still works there or telling him the truth.
Based on Jung-soo’s stunned expression as he leaves, she told him the truth. In the car, he texts Bu-jung that he’ll wait for her outside. When she arrives and pretends to come out of the building, he plays along with her lies and drives her home. He asks if she ate and remarks that she looks tired.
Bu-jung asks if he knows what today is. Jung-soo is silent for a moment before saying he does. “The baby was mine too.” They both blink away tears.
Jung-soo wonders if Chang-sook has eaten. He bought him a pair of shoes he has yet to give him. Bu-jung encourages him to call. “Dad is even happier to hear from you than from me.” Jung-soo says the same is true of his mom – she’s happier to hear from Bu-jung.
In his apartment, Kang-jae stares at the flower he kept from that piece of cake. Ddak-yi texts him a link to Min-jung’s live broadcast about living at an internet café for a week. Kang-jae chuckles and turns it off after a minute, but Ddak-yi is invested. He even ignores a call from Soon-kyu so he can keep watching.
Ji-yeon is still at their place for some reason – it’s super awkward as she and Woo-nam sit in front of the TV silently – and Soon-kyu understandably doesn’t want to go inside. She calls Woo-nam, but he doesn’t pick up and just texts back that he’ll talk to her soon.
Elsewhere, Bu-jung and Jung-soo go to her father’s together for the first time in a year. She reminds him they stopped coming together after his affair. It was embarrassing. Jung-soo bristles at that.
Jung-soo hangs back to take a call from his mom. He starts panicking when he hears her ragged breathing, but she’s just hula hooping. Jung-soo sits at the end of the hall (right outside Kang-jae’s apartment) and tells her he went to Bu-jung’s office today.
He heard from Bu-jung’s colleague that an older woman he assumes is Min-ja called and asked a bunch of questions. He hasn’t talked to Bu-jung yet and asks Min-ja not to tell Chang-sook. “Bu-jung is father’s whole world just like I’m your whole world,” Jung-soo says.
Jung-soo can hear Min-ja crying on the other end and worries she already told Chang-sook, but she lies that she didn’t. Meanwhile, Kang-jae gets a notification that his mom sent him his monthly allowance.
Soon-kyu returns home to an empty house that night. She goes into the kitchen and sees one of the nice teacups Ddak-yi bought her broken in the trash. Woo-nam arrives shortly after and explains they accidently broke it when cleaning up.
She stares at the cup with tears in her eyes. Is this his house where he can throw the cup away as he wishes? Just like how he includes her one minute and throws her away whenever he wishes, too. “Am I yours?” Soon-kyu’s voice breaks but she says firmly that she may like him one-sidedly, “But I’m mine.”
Soon-kyu turns away and buries her face in her arm as she cries. Woo-nam tears up listening to her heartrending sobs and wraps his arms around her.
Back at the apartment, Kang-jae almost walks into Bu-jung in the hallway as she steps out of her father’s. They lock eyes, and Kang-jae swiftly walks by before Jung-soo sees him. He tries to take the elevator down first, but it doesn’t come quickly enough.
Kang-jae spins around looking for a place to hide, but there’s nowhere to go. He settles for standing on the far side and turning his back to them when they arrive, which does little good because Chang-sook immediately spots him.
As usual, Kang-jae and Bu-jung studiously ignore each other while Chang-sook makes small talk. When Kang-jae says he’s going to his parents’ house, Chang-sook is all, “You have parents?!” Bu-jung is horrified and scolds her dad, but Chang-sook assures Kang-jae he was surprised in a positive way. Ha.
Things get even more awkward when it’s just Kang-jae, Bu-jung, and Jung-soo riding the elevator down. Kang-jae wonders to himself what to say. “What words do you need?” He slinks to the corner and buries his head in his phone (ignoring a call from Jong-hoon) until the doors open.
Kang-jae continues in voiceover that he doesn’t know anything about the hell she’s experiencing and can’t be of any help. He’s not sure how he can provide the forgiveness she asked for. Jung-soo remarks that Kang-jae seems familiar, which Bu-jung suggests is natural since he lives down the hall.
“Does sadness have a shape?” Kang-jae wonders. Jung-soo realizes he left his employee ID at Chang-sook’s, so Bu-jung tries calling her dad. When he doesn’t pick up, she goes back up to his apartment. Regardless of the scale, Kang-jae muses, no pain hurts like one’s own.
Bu-jung finds Chang-sook sitting in the hall outside his door. He looks so small and lost. Chang-sook nods when she asks if he forgot his code and explains he has to wait 10 minutes to put in the code again. Bu-jung wraps her scarf around his neck and sits beside him.
Chang-sook says he put pieces of paper with the code in his coat, vest, and even shoes, but they’re all inside. Bu-jung smiles and calls her dad a pro. She texts Jung-soo to go home without her – she’ll stay with her dad tonight.
Bu-jung tries to help Chang-sook think of what the code might be, asking if it’s his birthday. That jogs his memory, and he brightens as he says it’s her birthday. She laughs and calls him a genius as they head inside.
“Was today another day filled with agony?” Kang-jae walks to his mom’s and says his day was unbearably long. Mi-sun and Chang-kyu are busy cleaning the house, preparing for his visit. She beams when she sees Kang-jae out the window, like by showing up he just gave her the world.
Mi-sun even cooked a simple meal but worries it’s not enough. Kang-jae looks down at the ground, his hair covering his face. Without a word, he gets up and walks off. Chang-kyu is shocked, but Mi-sun stares after her son knowingly and says he just went to buy coffee-flavored milk.
Kang-jae narrates it’s been a day where nothing happened and tomorrow feels like it’ll never arrive. “In a dark room where no one came, I faced the fact that nothing is mine and became lonely.” Kang-jae wipes his tears under the light of a streetlamp. He’s not sure if it’s the right thing to say, but he’s sorry.
It’s always the homecooked meal that does it. I really hope Kang-jae lets down his guard with his mom more. The fact that he went to see her after having a rough day is telling. And Mi-sun wants to do the mom thing so badly, but he always keeps her at a distance. Kang-jae withdraws whenever he’s reminded of his father or things get too sentimental. He still comes home, but he never looks at ease there. Kang-jae is simultaneously stuck in the past yet running from it. He disconnects emotionally so as to avoid dealing with the loss and change in his family. Until Kang-jae faces his past head-on, he’ll never be able to move forward. Maybe now that Bu-jung has started opening up to him about her trauma, he’ll be more willing to talk about his own.
Speaking of Bu-jung, her secret is now out – her whole family knows she’s no longer working at the publishing house. Jung-soo handled the fact that she’s been lying to him better than I anticipated. It would’ve been fair for him to get angry at her, but instead he took a step back to consider everyone’s feelings. I have to say, I have warmed to him a little. He’s made mistakes and can be inadvertently insensitive, but he tries. In fact, he seems to be trying harder with Bu-jung lately. Did Kyung-eun’s situation with her dying husband shift his priorities? Or maybe he’s just finally processed his own grief over what happened a year ago. The miscarriage might not have been as traumatic for him as it was for Bu-jung, but it still had an impact. It’s not surprising that the two of them drifted even further apart as they each dealt with the loss in their own ways.
I was a little confused when the doctor mentioned that Bu-jung spent five weeks with her baby. If that’s the case, it sounds like the baby wasn’t stillborn but died after a premature birth. Learning what Bu-jung went through in more detail sheds light on her reaction. A miscarriage would be hard enough but having serious medical complications and having the baby die after birth could make it that much more traumatic. Knowing that she spent so much time hospitalized also explains how she got to know Min-soo and Hee-sun. Bu-jung seemed to really bond with Min-soo – she even deposited money in his savings account. Did she meet Jung-woo at the hospital as well, or is there more to their story?
On another note, this episode is the first time I really connected to Soon-kyu. Her and Woo-nam’s storyline has felt so tangential to the main plot that it’s been hard to feel invested. But Soon-kyu had a moment this episode. We’ve seen hints that she’s overlooked and underappreciated, but the weight of that hit this hour. Her feelings for Woo-nam are painfully obvious, and it was inconsiderate of him to spend the entire day awkwardly holed up with Ji-yeon in Soon-kyu’s house. He could’ve taken Ji-yeon elsewhere, but as usual, Soon-kyu was expected to accommodate. With all the lying and hiding going on, Soon-kyu’s vulnerable honesty was even more impactful. I loved seeing her assert her own worth, reminding Woo-nam (and herself) that she is her own person who belongs to no one but herself. Now if we can just get everyone else to tap into some of that personal honesty.
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