Once Upon a Small Town: Episodes 7-9
As our vet regains his memories he also starts to recognize and act on his feelings. He and our leading lady may differ in how they handle relationships, but they know when to meet in the middle if it means stopping the other from being hurt. Mix in some floral dresses, a beachside date, and a baby bunny and we’re on our way to the most feel-good set of episodes we’ve seen so far.
EPISODES 7-9 WEECAP
I loved every minute of these episodes. We move straight past the forgotten friendship and on to the thing that really matters: how our leads handle their feelings. They’re sparky from start to finish as they progress from anger and awkwardness to fun and flirtation. I also love that the opening scenes this week have our leads situated in separate places but coordinated in all white outfits. It’s the perfect way to show them starting anew with each other — and also tell us time is winding down as we hit the dog days of summer.
The drama uses a very cute device to show us how Ja-young and Ji-yool are dealing with each other after Ji-yool remembers meeting Ja-young the year his parents died. It comes in the form of two kids with a sick bunny. They go to Ji-yool for help with the rabbit, but wind up getting relationship advice as well. The girl is mad at the boy for forgetting something, and the boy just wants to apologize and have it be over. The girl will not accept his apology.
Ji-yool has advised the boy to just wait, while Ja-young counsels him to keep apologizing until the girl accepts it. Through the kids’ woes, the adults each learn what the other expects in a relationship. Ja-young thinks waiting is nonsense. Ji-yool thinks the boy didn’t do anything to be sorry about. Both are killing me with their cuteness. And watching Ji-yool with these kids is beyond adorable. He’s perplexed and attentive, as the boy’s fears are mirroring his own in how to deal with someone he likes.
When none of the advice helps the boy, Ji-yool instructs the nine year old to play hard to get. The boy interprets this to mean he should disappear completely and runs away from home. As Ja-young and Ji-yool search for him, they each release their feelings under the guise of talking about the kids. Ja-young wants an apology. Ji-yool thinks the timing matters — you can’t just keep saying you’re sorry because it makes you uncomfortable that the other person is mad.
After they find the boy, both calm down and Ja-young admits that even though telling a child to stay out of sight probably wasn’t the best advice, she doesn’t completely disagree. It might make the girl come around because “nothing’s more concerning than to have someone disappear.” Ji-yool tries to ask if she was concerned when he disappeared on her all those years ago, but she pretends she doesn’t understand the question. Given what we know about Ja-young’s mother’s disappearance, it likely had an even greater effect on her when Ji-yool left.
The plan works. The girl is worried and wants to be friends with the boy again, and the boy thinks Ji-yool is awesome for giving great advice. After Ji-yool sees his way work, he gives Ja-young her way as well. As she’s turning to leave, he clutches her wrist, in a classic, heart-flipping way, and he says she’s the best memory he has from that year and he’s sorry he forgot. Then he calls her by her name. She is freakin’ smitten and I am right behind her. Of course he apologized because he’s sorry, but also because he knew she needed to hear it.
From here on, he doesn’t hold back his feelings. When there’s an emergency in a town an hour away, he hesitates to go, wanting to make sure Ja-young is comfortable with it first. She is, driving him there to prove it. On the way, Ja-young drops an informal word and he says he’s a year older, maybe he should speak informally. Ja-young retorts, “I’m not going to call you oppa!” making Ji-yool super uncomfortable (“I never asked you to!”). But after “oppa” is out in the open, it’s clear she likes the idea.
As drama luck would have it, once the emergency is resolved, the two get a flat tire and have to hang out at the beach for the afternoon. Ji-yool is the type to keep a schedule but admits that he’s not minding small town life where nothing goes according to plan. He gets to spend a spontaneous afternoon with someone he didn’t expect (his smile is going to be the death of me). As Ji-yool loosens up, they eat street food, play fight on the shore, and have an all-around good time.
Just as our pair is getting cozy in their smiles, they get back to town and Ji-yool’s ex-girlfriend, CHOI MIN (Ha Yul-ri), shows up. She wants to get back together and she’ll be in Huidong a week trying to make it happen (and she has no problem calling him oppa). At the same time, Ji-yool’s friend and colleague, CHOI YUN-HYUNG (Na Chul), arrives from Seoul. He’s the one who publicized Ji-yool’s whereabouts, which is how Min located him. Ji-yool is angry about his two worlds colliding (but this is the show I came to see).
The only place the good people of Huidong can find for Min to stay is the spare room at Ja-young’s house (come on). Back when Ji-yool first arrived in town, he told a little fib about having a girlfriend in Seoul. Now, everyone assumes this is said GF. He helps Min get her luggage to Ja-young’s and misunderstandings mount. Ja-young thinks they’re a couple, and when Sang-hyun arrives, Min thinks he’s Ja-young’s boyfriend. Sang-hyun is all too ready to play the role, putting his arm around Ja-young.
Sang-hyun later uses the opportunity to ask if Ja-young has thought anymore about his confession. But just then, Ji-yool comes around and matter-of-factly states, “She’s not my girlfriend. I don’t have a girlfriend.” (He’s racking up points with me here.) This doesn’t seem to have much effect on Ja-young, though, since she looks at Min and sees perfection. While the two women are staying together, Min asks for Ja-young’s help in getting Ji-yool back.
The next day, Ji-yool goes on a house call and, since Min is also a vet (they met at vet school), she goes with him. Ja-young sees them working together and her insecurity climbs. That morning, Min had put a face full of makeup on Ja-young and now, just as Ji-yool spots Ja-young, the makeup is melting all over her face. She turns away from him and finds a place to wash it off, and I can feel her heartbreak in this scene.
Ji-yool, wearing his feelings on his sleeve, asks Ja-young if he can go along as she heads off to can peaches with the ladies from the women’s association. Min realizes Ji-yool likes Ja-young and starts to try to construct walls between them by bringing up “her boyfriend” Sang-hyun. Ji-yool gets jealous, and no one tells Min that Sang-hyun isn’t really her boyfriend.
Ja-young hauls some jugs of peaches to a storage room and Ji-yool follows. Packed tight together between the shelves, Ji-yool asks Ja-young about her feelings for Sang-hyun. Does she want to be with someone she feels completely comfortable around? Or someone who makes her heart race? (Swoon!) They are looking mighty close to a kiss when one of the always-screaming ajummas yells for them to come to the house. Ja-young makes an excuse to leave and bolts out of there. The observant aunties know something definitely just happened in the storage room (Haha. Okay. They get credit for being funny here).
Later, Min catches Ji-yool alone and, in a last ditch attempt at his heart, kisses him. (No! Wrong kiss!) To make matters worse, Ja-young happens to be approaching just at that moment.
I can’t believe how much I’m loving this drama. I was hoping for nothing more than total cuteness but we’ve got a real plot happening here. The characters, as clichéd as they appear on the surface, are deeply relatable. Ja-young is super insecure and doesn’t believe that this amazing guy could like her, especially when he has someone like Min right in front of him. And Ji-yool is torn between the old life he had and the new life he’s developing. It’s just a good, homegrown story and I feel for them both.
Sang-hyun has worn out his welcome for me. Rooting for Min to get back with Ji-yool — right in front of Ja-young — is just bad form and not enjoyable to watch. If he really cares about Ja-young, he should be more concerned about her feelings. Min is an annoying, tropey ex, but I don’t find her vindictive. She really thinks Ja-young and Sang-hyun are a couple and seems to be clueless that Ja-young might not want to be friends with her.
I’m a little worried about next week. As communicative as Ji-yool has been, Ja-young’s insecurity could have us headed straight into the territory of noble idiots. Fingers crossed. Less separation, more heart flutters in the storage room, please!
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