CEO-dol Mart: Episodes 5-6
Our ex-idols face one hurdle after another, testing their business savvy and creativity as well as their friendship. But each challenge brings with it a lesson to help them grow — and maybe even start fixing what went wrong in the past.
Young-min stays hidden until Gina’s manager convinces her to leave — but not before she yanks off her necklace and tosses it behind the counter. As she exits, Ho-rang quietly but firmly asks her not to return. Instead, she shows up a few days later (masked this time) and manages to exchange a few words with Young-min before he disappears into the back again. He calls her a dummy for having kept their couple necklace as long as she did — never mind that he’s still wearing his.
Photos of Gina’s mart visit circulate online, along with rumors that the mart employee must be either her stalker or her boyfriend. At her manager’s request, Young-min agrees to upload a prewritten explanation post, in exchange for Gina staying away.
Meanwhile, Yi-joon arrives triumphantly with a truckload of mackerel, only for the sale to flop spectacularly because the fish aren’t very fresh and he doesn’t have a clue how to prep and package them for customers. Tae-ho scolds him for wasting mart money, and though Ho-rang tries to mediate, Yi-joon dejectedly removes his nametag and goes back to making videos at home.
But Tae-ho isn’t immune to mistakes, either. He falls prey to a smooth-talking appliance salesman, and doesn’t realize the grill he buys for his noona is industrial size until she calls and demands he get it off her property pronto. Ye-rim, who witnessed the entire debacle, sweetly gives Tae-ho a package of snacks and urges him to stop letting Noona hit him. (She advises him to hide behind the snacks, since most people will think twice about damaging good food, but judging by the way he cradles the package, I’m not sure he’ll be willing to eat them, let alone risk Noona crushing them.)
Ho-rang gives Yi-joon an adorable pep talk that consists of tossing mackerel paraphernalia at him until he laughs and then saying, “Let’s laugh the mistake off like that and let it go.” Newly inspired, Yi-joon diligently practices cutting and salting mackerel, and he and Tae-ho make up via forehead flick. The next day, Yi-joon secures a better-quality load of mackerel, and Young-min has the bright idea to fire up Tae-ho’s grill. Soon they have a long line of customers excited to get their mackerel grilled onsite.
The good news is, either the Thunder Boys have finally learned to lock the door during off-hours, or customers have taken the hint and stopped barging in whenever. The bad news is that a creepy stranger is slinking around in broad daylight trying to sabotage them. When criticizing Yi-joon’s mackerel display yields no response, he resorts to tricking Tae-ho into paying for another order of fish that doesn’t exist (that’s strike two on Tae-ho’s falling-for-scams record). Turns out, this is the guy CEO Yoon promised the mart to, and he’s also the owner of a weird mummy-esque mask that he accidentally drops while leaving. Incensed at having been swindled again, Tae-ho draws a wanted sign that’s honestly not a terrible rendition of the guy’s shifty-looking profile.
Between inexperience and scammers, the boys keep losing whatever money they made the previous day. But then, opportunity walks through their doors: two local restaurant owners known for making exclusive supplier deals (in other words, a steady income source) but being extremely difficult to work with. Sure enough, they pick through Boram Mart’s vegetables, declare themselves unimpressed, and turn to leave. Tae-ho tries to insist they pay for the items they touched, which only makes them respond even more rudely. Ho-rang, still trying to salvage their chances of winning the supply deal, scolds Tae-ho for not being more accommodating.
What I like most about this conflict is that there’s a lesson in it for both Ho-rang and Tae-ho. With some help from his shopkeeper mother, Ho-rang learns that he can — and should — stand up to people who have no respect for them or their business. And Tae-ho learns that there are more effective ways to win people over than just arguing with them.
At the sweet potato seller’s suggestion, Tae-ho secretly delivers vegetables to the restaurant owners every morning for a week. Then he stops. The owners march over to Boram Mart and demand their daily shipment, at which point Ho-rang and Tae-ho point out how entitled they’re acting. After the ladies begrudgingly agree to a (paid) supply deal, Tae-ho offers one last free delivery for today, and they can begin paying tomorrow. Everybody wins!
This is followed by another exciting opportunity. Radio broadcast PD SONG JI-SEON (Lee Sang-kyung), who approached Sang-woo while he worked at the other mart, reveals herself as a longtime Thunder Boys fan. And that’s how Ye-rim learns that the boys were once idols. PD Song has pulled some strings and arranged an interview broadcast about their post-idol lives. The boys ecstatically accept — except Ho-rang.
After much hesitation, he agrees to a preliminary interview, but then announces day-of that the Thunder Boys will absolutely not be appearing on TV. He doesn’t offer a reason, but given how CEO Yoon keeps roping him into seemingly innocuous agreements with hidden agendas, I’m betting there was a lot more to the Thunder Boys’ disbandment than most of them realize.
There wasn’t a lot of movement on the romance front this week, aside from a cute scene where Ho-rang and Ye-rim are stuck cleaning up together after closing one night. The lights go out, Ye-rim trips over Ho-rang, and as soon as she says she doesn’t like romance cliches where one person falls into the other person’s arms, she slips and does exactly that. Ho-rang says he rather likes it himself, and doesn’t elaborate on whether he’s talking about romance cliches in general or her specifically.
Then there’s an interesting dynamic between Ye-rim and Tae-ho that could be the groundwork for a love triangle, or could just be an adorable budding friendship. Much of Tae-ho’s growth this week came about through Ye-rim’s advice, and currently Tae-ho is the only one who knows that Ho-rang is renting a room at Ye-rim’s house (having been kicked out by Noona for the grill fiasco, he went looking for Ho-rang’s new residence and found them together).
In my opinion, Ho-rang and Tae-ho have enough conflict fodder between them without becoming romantic rivals. But then again, maybe a bit of jealousy will push Ho-rang to stop being deliberately vague and instead be direct about his feelings for Ye-rim.
And while we’re at it, hopefully seeing how much the others miss the idol life will push Ho-rang to open up to them about whatever he agreed to five years ago, so they can all find a solution together. He’s a natural leader and quite selfless, but he also has trouble standing up for himself, which — as we saw with the restaurant owners — sometimes prevents him from standing up for the group, too. Even when, ironically enough, protecting the group is his #1 goal.