Watch on DramaFever
Note : because of licensing, videos won't be to be had for your country
Watch on DramaFever
Note : because of licensing, videos won't be to be had for your country
Watch on DramaFever
Note : because of licensing, videos won't be to be had to your country
We open at the SBS building, where we waste no time in meeting today’s guests aka our water fairies: actresses Kim Seo-hyung (A New Leaf, Empress Ki) and Ye Ji-won(Cantabile Tomorrow). Seo-hyung immediately brings on the laughs by striking a hilariously confident pose without saying a word. Ha, just take a look at that expression.
Ji-won also happens to be Jae-suk’s college classmate, though tries to avoid the same-year association by greeting Jae-suk as “oppa.” Then she momentarily forgets herself a second later when saying that “Jae-suk-ie” is the most popular alumnus in their year.
This week’s Water Fairy Race is to promote and create awareness of the upcoming 7th World Water Forum taking place in Daegu in April. The team breakdown is as follows: Gray (Seo-hyung, Jong-kook, Haha), Blue (Ji-won, Jae-suk, Kwang-soo) and Black (Ji-hyo, Suk-jin, Gary).
The goal is simple: our teams will take their “magical” water bottles and use it to clean the dirty water waiting for them at the finish line. Additionally, the teams will take two forms of transportation to get to Daegu.
Although Ji-hyoCo. have the latest departure time, their express bus and taxi combination appears better than the others. For instance, Seo-hyung’s team has to first take a plane down to Busan and another bus back up to Daegu. Jae-suk: “You might as well have told them to go to Jeju Island instead!
But then Ji-won and her boys don’t have it much better either: they must get off at one of the first two stops on the KTX, then take the bus the rest of the way. Ji-won: “We’ll ride there on bicycles.”
Seo-hyung is in a cheery mood in the van with her younger teammates. Married man Haha takes it upon himself to play matchmaker again, apologizing for sitting in between her and Jong-kook. When he suggests that they hold hands behind him, Seo-hyung says she’ll do it on her own, thank you very much. Hehe.
All Seo-hyung has to do is knock at Jong-kook’s heart, Haha continues. “Just say that you like him three times.” When Jong-kook tries to be polite by saying that Seo-hyung might like a different type of guy, she whips back, “Are you trying to be picky about types at your age?” Touché.
Ji-won serenades her teammates in the van with the French tune “Paroles Paroles.” It’s not long until the guys start singing along, and when she falls back to using banmal with Jae-suk, he reminds her that she called him “oppa” earlier.
They run into the train station and board the train with less than six minutes to spare. Once they find out that they’ve boarded a train headed for Busan, Ji-won is the only one excited about it: “Doesn’t that mean we get to see the ocean?” But thankfully getting off at the second stop Daejeon should put them in a good position.
Over at Gimpo airport, Jong-kook deduces that the team who has the most “magical” water in Daegu will have the advantage. A little while later, Ji-hyoCo. are satisfied that their bus ride will be a straight shot to Daegu.
On the train, Ji-won says she feels a little embarrassed about being called her given name Yoo-jung. I love how she keeps forgetting to address Jae-suk as “oppa,” even though she’s the one who started the running joke.
She then explains that Jae-suk was already a celebrity during their college days thanks to his appearance in a comedian contest back then. But she keeps tripping up over her words today, like calling the “Gag Contest” as “Gag Concert.”
Over lunch, after Jae-suk identifies that Kwang-soo’s ideal type of girl is cutesy and doll-like, Ji-won whispers that in their university days, Jae-suk used to like stick thin women. Ji-won isn’t at all shy about divulging tidbits about Jae-suk, like how she held onto the misconception for yeeearrrrsss that Jae-suk and singer Ha Soo-bin had dated in the past.
At the time, Ji-won had convinced herself that Jae-suk must’ve been a chaebol if he was dating someone as pretty as Soo-bin. Ji-won even thought that the van taking Soo-bin around was Jae-suk’s car. Then she admits that there weren’t any especially handsome fellows in their year. Jae-suk: “Because I was in the top three.”
After arriving in Busan, Seo-hyung and her boys board a bus, where she asks how Jong-kook’s speaking and singing voices could be so different. She hints that it’d be great if her boyfriend was a great singer (nudge), then asks if he likes it when the lady makes him laugh (nudge nudge).
When Jong-kook says he likes it, she gets half-annoyed that he keeps calling her noona. Hahaha. Meanwhile a traffic accident up ahead forces our express bus crew to take a detour, which might put them behind the other teams.
After Ji-won and her boys are barred from taking a taxi to the Daejeon terminal, they take a bus instead. There’s a mission waiting for them when they arrive: tip 10 soda cans so that they stand on their sides. Kwang-soo resorts to trying to smash a side in, but I have this awful feeling that it’s going to burst…
… and then it does. HA. His next brilliant idea is to try leaning the cans against one another, but that idea is quickly shot down too. Kwang-soo’s third idea is to use chewed gum as a stand, but he’s told that the cans must lean on their own.
A bystander suggests that the team consume some of the drink, then try to find a center of balance. So the trio enlists the bystanders’ help in drinking the soda, and when Kwang-soo tips the can… it stays up. Eureka!
At the Busan bus terminal, our team must transfer five onion ring chips in under a minute in order to get on the bus. The first attempt is a dud thanks to Seo-hyung and Haha trying to hook under the onion chip, but a switcharoo speeds them up enough to succeed.
Ji-hyo and her boys have less than 15 minutes to complete their mission at a rest stop. Trying to make their hard-boiled eggs stand on their own only makes them annoyed until Suk-jin’s does… and then falls over.
Things start to look bleak when the bus gives a five-minute warning, but then one by one, all three eggs are left standing.
Despite that detour, Ji-hyo and her boys are the first to arrive at the park in Daegu. Here they must successfully complete a mission to grab the car keys and drive to the final mission location. Should they fail, they’ll need to dump 100 mL of water.
Ji-hyo and her boys’ faces fall just at listening to the instructions: travel down the mat by swinging Ji-hyo around their waists and “ring” the gong with her head. Oh, all within 30 seconds. This game has failure written all over it.
As expected, Gary and Suk-jin struggle to carry out the mission. Ji-won and her boys must complete a baton relay wearing flippers within 15 seconds, which means each of them need to run around the mat in five seconds or less. And in order to do that, Jae-suk says he needs to take off his pants.
So Jae-suk strips down right then and there, arguing all the while that track and field athletes wear these because they cut down on air resistance. Gary: “Those athletes wear another layer on top of those!”
Next thing we know, Kwang-soo starts stripping too, insisting that he’s wearing super-short shorts. Dude, anyone can tell that those are boxer briefs. Gary chimes in, “Does ‘Calvin Klein’ count as an athletics brand?”
It looks like those leggings really do help as Jae-suk whips around the mat pretty speedily. So do Kwang-soo and Ji-won, but they fail by 1.31 seconds. Ji-won: “What happened? You guys stripped down, too! You may as well have kept your pants on.”
All of these missions sound sort of possible if only there wasn’t such a short time limit. But 10 seconds is all Seo-hyung and her boys have to traverse down to the finish line in a human pyramid format. When Jae-suk says he heard that Seo-hyung’s been flirting with Jong-kook all day, she smiles and says it’s no big deal. Lol.
Pairing Seo-hyung’s forwardness with Jong-kook’s hesitance towards those flirtatious advances, Ji-won starts her serenade on her guitar. As soon as the whistle blows, however, Seo-hyung slips over to Jong-kook’s back, which the group uses as joke fodder for her preference for Jong-kook.
When Seo-hyung’s team chooses the game Ji-hyo and her boys failed earlier, Gary asks if Jong-kook can’t swing Seo-hyung down the mat on his own. Jong-kook and Haha do a better job at this swing-and-pass system, though they stay in place rather than move down the mat.
That is, until the final swing and Seo-hyung yelps as she falls. Frustrated, she goes to kick Haha, and now their team is down 200 mL. Next, Ji-hyo’s team must run around the mat in ten seconds while holding soda cans between their cheeks. When Kwang-soo blocks their way by bending down and pretend to tie his shoe, the trio simply knocks him over.
Everyone is willing to play a little dirty if the staff is willing to give a green light. But that’s a no, and Ji-hyo’s team gets a do-over. And this time, they succeed and head out.
The two remaining teams face off in the 15 second flippers race. Jae-suk loses a flipper right away, which puts a pause button on the race. Seo-hyung is none to happy about the interruption, lost flipper be damned.
But when Seo-hyung slips and falls right before the finish line, her team calls for a time-out. Both teams start arguing about the rules of the game and whether Seo-hyung was actually hurt or not. For some reason, Ji-won asks Jong-kook to show off some taekwondo moves to er, appease her somehow? She’s lost me.
In any case, the teams get ready for a final showdown. And when Taek PD says the production crew will just sit back and watch, the teams cry out that the staff MUST intervene and set appropriate boundaries.
This time, Kwang-soo pulls in first, and then Ji-won rallies her teammates to celebrate with the cancan dance. In the end, our water tally is as follows: Black (800 mL), Blue (700mL), and Gray (600 mL).
Upon arriving at the final mission location, Gary relays the instructions to his teammates: collect at least one liter of “magical” water to clean the dirty water. And to do that, they’ll need to swipe some water from the other teams.
Kwang-soo notices that the Black Team keeps in step with their team, not believing that they’re still looking to find what they need to do here. Ji-won catches on that the others are trying to steal their water and confirms her suspicions when she reads the mission card on the roof.
Kwang-soo and Jae-suk notice that Jong-kook’s gone missing and are thus hesitant about heading downstairs. Kwang-soo takes one for the team and gives chase, only to be led right into the Tiger’s lair.
After insisting that he’s empty-handed, Kwang-soo yells loudly in warning to his teammates. They leave him for Jong-kook and crew to deal with him. Seeing Kwang-soo pinned down to the floor, Seo-hyung asks, “Doesn’t this [position] usually mean that he’s out?”
The Black Team decides to hide Ji-hyo among the staff while the guys head out and check in on her every five minutes. She grows nervous when the Gray Team shows up a minute later, and Jong-kook also parks himself a seat next to the staff.
Downstairs, Ji-won threatens to drop her water bottle if Gary draws any closer. And when he does, she chucks it down and everyone rushes down the stairs. It’s Gary who picks it up first; he calls for Suk-jin… who is still on his way down in the elevator. LOL.
Gary chucks the bottle away, which gets picked up by Kwang-soo, who makes a safe pass to Jae-suk. Up to the roof everyone goes, and Kwang-soo walks into the pool, threatening to pour out his bottle.
He does moments later, much to Jae-suk’s ire. Seo-hyung notices that Ji-hyo’s missing too, then Suk-jin volunteers to confront Kwang-soo in the water.
Kwang-soo runs back inside, taking the group with him. And in the meantime, Ji-hyo feels a pair of eyes on her: Jong-kook. She runs out, and her appearance alerts the others. Jong-kook looks on as the others try wrenching the bottle away from her.
Once Haha steals it, Jong-kook finally makes his move and enters the safe zone with both bottles. The Gray Team pours and mixes the water in, and just like magic, the liquid inside turns clear.
The victors are awarded gold rings for their Water Race win, to which the others joke that Jong-kook and Seo-hyung can use them as couple rings. And because no victory is complete without Seo-hyung giving us one last laugh, she strikes the same confident pose.
Yeol collapses while working out, and team doctor Mi-rae comes running. She panics, when he opens his eyes and asks her what she thinks of him as a man. “Let’s date,” he says, coming closer, as if for a kiss. She closes her eyes.
…and wakes up in a hospital bed. We’ve rewound a bit, and her doctor colleague tells her she was brought in for fainting. Mi-rae is relieved that she covered for her with the directors, and makes to leave. But the doctor tells her it’s not from overwork — preliminary scans show a biliary tumor (i.e. gall bladder and bile ducts, also affecting the liver). Mi-rae looks at the doctor in surprise.
We catch up to the present, and Yeol looks for Sa-rang. He’s about to chuck the kitbag when he spots her in a taxi. Mi-rae turns around at the sound of his voice. Yeol narrates in voiceover that that the chance of meeting an ex again is 82%, but the chance of it working out again is only 3%. I want to know where he’s getting these numbers…
He runs alongside the taxi, bag in hand, and his narration continues that the chance of staying together for life is 0.1%. Mi-rae watches his diminishing figure in her wing-mirror, and the irony has to be deliberate, “objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.” Aren’t they just. He finishes that there are some couples who challenge the numbers to the end, “Because love isn’t a probability, it’s a miracle.”
Mi-rae doesn’t quite believe her eyes, and asks her daughter if she met anyone. Sa-rang is mad at mom, and tells her she met a kidnapper-style baseball ajusshi, which more or less confirms her fears.
When they get home, they’re met by Mi-rae’s hoobae admirer, Dr. SHIN WOO-HYUK, whom Sa-rang called when she couldn’t get her mom. Sa-rang signals to him to put the moves on mom. They exchange winks and low-fives, and she leaves them to it.
Woo-hyuk tries to invite himself in for ramyun, or at the very least coffee. Aw, you’re going to be this hapless all show, aren’t you?
Mi-rae follows her daughter up, but Sa-rang shuts her door in her face. She thinks of Sa-rang’s tearful confession about wanting a dad who’ll be there for her when mom isn’t. Her mind goes back to the running figure, but she shakes it off — lots of people must look like him. Her diagnosis weighs on her. Just one year to live?
The next morning, Yeol ignores his calls to sleep more. The machine takes Coach Bang’s message, to turn up at the disciplinary hearing tomorrow. He warns Yeol that if he gets fired now, it could spell the end of his coaching career.
Out of bed, Yeol picks up an old record, and handwritten across the front is the message, “You’re my meaning, I’m your meaning.” He scoffs at it, but is unable to throw it away. A different record sees him bopping to the fridge, and it’s Coke for breakfast in a bachelor’s world! But he’s interrupted by buddy and colleague SHIK SANG-HAE (Choi Dae-chul).
The two men go shopping. Sang-hae sobs pitifully about his over-jealous wife, while Yeol points out that he has been playing around. Sang-hae envies Yeol’s solo life, but is then touched by the sight of a happy family.
From his extremely negative reaction, Sang-hae wonders if he’s still stuck on Mi-rae. But Yeol says she’s not even in his dreams anymore. He used to wonder how he would react to meeting her again, and now he thinks he’d just walk right past without even recognizing her.
Stuck in solid traffic, Mi-rae sees happy couples and families all around her. She’s still haunted by Sa-rang’s wish for a father, and her patient’s desperation to protect her child.
A horn breaks her contemplations, and the surprise makes her rear-end another car. The driver (cameo by Heo Jung-min, lol) asks if she’s okay, but his nice-guy front cracks in two seconds. He yells his head off, dissing her driving skills: “If you drive like this, you’ll die, I’ll die, everyone in the whole damn world will die!”
She stares at him wide-eyed. “If I drive nicely, will you let me live a long time?” she asks. Tearfully, she tells the stranger that she’s going to die. She’s only got a year to live, can he save her? She sobs inconsolably, while the man desperately tries to escape.
Mi-rae walks right past Dr. Choi in the hospital, completely out of it. He asks why she vanished the night before, and tells her the new center’s head is going to be picked soon, so she should go for it with life-or-death fervor — it’s that important. His words “life or death” catch her, and she wants another shot at the aborted party.
At the noraebang again, the lecherous elder cozies up to her, plying her with sympathy and drinks. He puts his hand on her thigh and slimes about how lonely she must be as a single mom.
She picks up his hand and puts it to her heart — he wants to touch her there, right? “You dirty, perverted asshole,” she says with a sweet smile. She twists his arm and dashes the drink in his face, and finishes with her foot at his neck.
Dr. Choi is agape. He told her it was as important as life and death, she yells at him, but she’d have to live to find out if that’s true. She is mad, she screams: “I’m mad for wanting to live! I don’t want to die!”
…and comes back to herself, mute and glassy-eyed, facing her seniors. Damn, it was too good to be true! She sings for them, and this time it goes smoothly.
Walking home, Mi-rae scrolls through her contacts list, empty of friends. Sa-rang texts her saying she could make up with mom depending on what her next year’s birthday present is. The message makes her sad. What if Sa-rang ends up alone like she did?
She ends up in some nearby batting cages, holding a bat with the look of someone who hasn’t picked one up for a while. Yeol’s voice comes back to her, telling her that the worst thing to do is go down and take your team with you. We flash back to a time when Yeol taught her how to swing a bat, and both of them look happy and relaxed. The best player, he says, is the self-sacrificial batter who strikes out but hits with runners scoring, because while he goesdown, he saves everyone else.
In the present, every ball she hits gives her satisfaction. But a tear slides down her cheek all the same. Sa-rang texts her that she wants a bike for her birthday. Another flashback shows mom teaching Sa-rang to ride. Sa-rang begs her not to let go, but mom does, and she crashes. Mi-rae realizes that what her daughter needs isn’t a bike, but a person to be with her.
The next day, the cancer patient tells Mi-rae she’s decided against chemo, and wants to spend that time with her family instead. She says that even if she’s gone, she wants her husband to protect their child. Mi-rae asks, what would happen if there were no father, no other family, only a mom?
The patient hesitantly replies that she’d have to make one somehow — a family she can trust — but having a dad would be best. Mi-rae hangs on her words.
Mom joins Sa-rang on the school racetrack, and runs alongside her. She asks her if she wants a dad for real – one she can eat, talk and play with. Sa-rang stops running. “A real dad?” she asks. Yes, says Mi-rae, “Mom will make a dad for you.”
Mi-rae finds Woo-hyuk at lunch and opens with, “You wanted to be Sa-rang’s daddy right?” and he spits out his mouthful of rice all over her in shock, lol. But does he want to be a dad or a husband? Puppy Shin says she’d come first, of course. Wrong answer! He’s out, she tells him.
Elsewhere, Dr. Hwang tells Hyun-woo that reporters are clamoring for dirt on his altercation with Yeol. He says it was no big deal, but it seems coach Ki-tae sicced them on to the story.
Ji-hye bursts in, and Dr. Hwang (her mom) rebukes her for being interested in the coach — a team doc’s priority is the player, and Yeol can look after himself. Ji-hye tells them that Yeol’s fate is to be decided tomorrow, and Hyun-woo looks troubled.
The doctors talk about who can do Hyun-woo’s surgery. Mom has someone in mind — someone Yeol also knows, but it’ll be hard. Hyun-woo offers to get rid of the reporters and clear Yeol’s name, but they have to get him the best doctor.
Over a meal, Sa-rang tells Woo-hyuk about her mom’s promise to make her a real-life dad. She pityingly tells him to have more confidence. It can only be him, she figures: Mom is too busy to have anyone else. With an awesome present and a proposal, he can win her, she says. But her mood dips when she spots her crush walk by, hand in hand with classmate Bo-mi.
“It’s hard, isn’t it? Love?” she declares. This girl, lol.
Dr. Hwang drops in on Mi-rae, and they meet for the first time in over ten years. She explains Hyun-woo’s surgery but Mi-rae is too busy. We find out that she used to be Dr. Hwang’s student in rehab medicine, before she switched to neurosurgery. Dr. Hwang admits it’s also to do with Yeol, who is the rehab coach.
Before she can say more, they’re interrupted by… Woo-hyuk ‘s proposal, which is all balloons and a banner that reads, “I want to be Sa-rang’s dad as much as I want to be your husband,” lol, I’m pretty sure that’s still the wrong answer. Dr. Hwang notes Mi-rae now has a kid.
Mi-rae marches up to him and kicks him in the shins, which brings him to his knees. Catching her foot mid-swing on the next kick, he puts some pretty shoes on her (no! Don’t you know you’re not meant to give a woman you like shoes?). Before he can confess (again), he gets one in the nuts, and rolls on the ground, crying. Kicking the shoes off, Mi-rae warns him not to propose again.
She runs back for Dr. Hwang, but she’s gone. In her place is a newspaper bearing Yeol’s assault story, and a note in which the doc observes that Mi-rae looks ill, and that she should rest. “Life is shorter than you think,” it finishes.
Meanwhile, Yeol isn’t faring well at team practice. The players walk out when he arrives, and buddy Sang-hae gives him the news that until the committee decides his fate, he’s off the job.
Ki-tae takes over, undermining Yeol and his whole approach with every word. Yeol insists he’s still rehab coach until tomorrow at least, and these are his kids. Ki-tae sneers and instructs the assembled players vote with their feet — if they’re Yeol’s kids, then to get in line behind him.
A long moment passes, and one or two players twitch, but Yeol stops the farce. He tells Ki-tae to have it. Rather than put his injured players in an awkward position, he walks out. Sang-hae is disappointed in the players, and follows Yeol.
From a distance, Mi-rae watches them go, thinking how he hasn’t changed.
Over dinner, Sang-hae laughs his head off about how not one player supported Yeol, and then (belatedly) curses their lack of loyalty.
Ji-hye crashes their meal, asking Yeol if he’s going to the hearing tomorrow. Sang-hae helpfully says he’s fired regardless. Yeol more or less agrees, comparing himself to a decrepit car, ready for the scrapheap, rather than a magical fixer of other cars.
He tells them what Hyun-woo said about him being wrapped up in his own pain, and so they couldn’t trust him. Ji-hye and Sang-hae both disagree — they trust him. They’re going to help plead his case tomorrow, but Yeol’s tired of it and just wants to quit. Coach Bang texts him the meeting time — 1pm tomorrow.
Ji-hye follows him out. I wonder how many times she’s confessed to him. By now, she can recite his script of objections, and imitates him: He wants to be alone and doesn’t want to take responsibility for anyone else. Not being in a position to look after anyone, he’s sworn off marriage and kids. Aw, I like her! Yeol nods, struck dumb.
So that’s why she wants to start off just dating, Ji-hye says, and encourages him to go for it so he doesn’t have regrets. But Yeol shrugs that he won’t regret it, and walks off. Sang-hae congratulates her on her millionth out, and tells her she should give up. She sighs that she knows he’s still stuck on his first love or whatever.
Yeol is convinced he’s being followed home, but can’t see anyone. From behind a pillar, Mi-rae watches him go inside. She wonders why he was alone all this time, but at the same time, she’s relieved.
A flashback takes us to when she told him she was going abroad. But what about them, he asks. “Game over,” she shouts, because he won’t even hold on to her and beg. Furious himself, he rips off a chain with a pitcher’s glove pendant and throws it at her feet. Even more hurt, she stalks out.
Yeol gets in to find his dad snoring on the couch. Coach Bang’s words come back to him, about how he’d look after his dad without a job, and what losing tomorrow could mean for his future prospects.
Woo-hyuk is waiting again when Mi-rae gets home. This time, he boldly swoops in for a kiss, but Mi-rae kicks him again before he can land it. Poor hapless hoobae. Frustrated, he asks why it can’t be him — there’s someone else, isn’t there? Whether there is or not, he isn’t the one, she tells him. He’s better off being a doctor. Dejected but not defeated, he promises not to give up on her.
By the time Yeol wakes up the next day, it’s already 12.30. Run, Yeol, run!
Sa-rang can’t make sense of Woo-hyuk ‘s rejection — it’s not as if a dad she’s never had is going to suddenly appear, after all. She exhales a long sigh, “Ah! I want to get married, too.” Just then, she spots a group of high school girls pushing around her crush.
Yeol rounds a corner in his car. Swerving to avoid a sudden cyclist, he ends up mounted on the pavement with a flat. Frustrated, he starts walking, and immediately passes the high school girls. He doesn’t notice it’s pint-sized warrior Sa-rang brawling with them, and walks on, shaking his head.
Sa-rang spots him, and calls out, “Dad!” She runs and throws her arms around him. He’s mystified, and she beseeches him with big eyes. Loudly, she orders him to tell the girls off. They’re dead, she tells them fiercely. Yeol sorta waves at them, and half-heartedly tells them to work hard. After they go, she limps over to crush-boy.
Dr. Hwang and Ji-hye worry about Yeol’s hearing, and are suddenly met by Mi-rae.
Speaking privately in her office, Dr. Hwang remembers that Mi-rae used to be the attending physician for the team’s president. Mi-rae agrees to do the surgery, on one condition.
Yeol applies a makeshift splint to Sa-rang’s injured ankle. He criticizes her for jumping into other people’s fights, and bets she’s a bad student. Riled by his assumptions, she tells him to get lost. But he suddenly notices the time and runs.
Sa-rang shakes her head, unimpressed. She notices he’s left behind his keys. The pitcher’s glove pendant is attached to them, old and chipped.
In Yeol’s hearing, Coach Bang fights his case, but Ki-tae points out that Yeol’s absence shows how much he cares. He asks the other coaches if any of them are against his firing, and even Sang-hae backs down. The official is about to pass the verdict when he gets a call from the president.
Everyone is on the way out when Yeol finally arrives. They pass in silence, and Yeol assumes the worst until Sang-hae congratulates him for surviving (no thanks to you!). Ki-tae derides him for using connections, but even with a three-month probation, Yeol’s thrilled by his reprieve.
Coach Bang explains that he has to take remedial classes in the three months, and he’ll get hired back if he does well. He tells him that the person who persuaded the president will also be his tutor.
Dr. Hwang arrives with Mi-rae. Yeol stares. “You…” he says. She wasn’t sure he’d recognize her, she laughs, and holds out her hand. He realizes she was the one who intervened on his behalf. Furious, he quits on the spot, not caring if they fire him or sue him. “If it’s this woman, I’m never doing anything!” he vows.
He marches out into the rain, the voiceover of his statistics of exes meeting, working out, and staying together plays again, while we get glimpses of his dad, Sa-rang, Ki-tae and Woo-hyuk, each occupied in their own concerns.
Yeol angrily growls to himself that Mi-rae did the same thing ten years ago, selfishly coming and going as she pleased.
But she followed him out, and now Mi-rae calls out to him. “Let’s get married,” she says. “Be my daughter’s father.”
Surprised at finding Kang-chul leaning over Ho-gu for a kiss, she backs into the wall, making enough sound to catch Kang-chul’s attention. He covers up the near-kiss by slapping Ho-gu on the cheeks, telling him to wake up and go home.
When Gong-mi meets Ho-kyung for dinner with Chung-jae and Tae-hee, and Gong-mi and Tae-hee immediately recognize each other from when he and Ho-gu barged into the office. He pulls her aside, making her promise not to tell Ho-kyung about their visit or the baby.
Ho-kyung notes that they seem to have a connection, and apologizes to Chung-jae because she had originally intended to set him up with Gong-mi instead. But Chung-jae is offended that Ho-kyung, who he has a crush on, would be setting him up with girls. Ho-kyung: “What, should I be introducing you to boys instead?”
A phone call from Kang-chul quickly distracts her. He wants to know if there’s another way that someone could find out if he’s gay that doesn’t involve kissing the guy that makes his heart flutter. Ho-kyung offers to bring all her research and information to a lunch date tomorrow, and after Kang-chul agrees, he wonders why it feels like he’s been lured into a trap.
Ho-gu is reluctant to leave the baby and Do-hee has to practically shove him out the door. But they get distracted by all of Kang-chul’s trophies. Do-hee and Ho-gu are impressed that Kang-chul climbed Mt. Everest last year, and the dates on the certificate make Ho-gu realize that he would have been climbing Mt. Everest around the same time Do-hee got pregnant.
She just rolls her eyes, reminding him she’s already told him that Kang-chul isn’t the father, but with the photographic evidence of Kang-chul standing at base camp, Ho-gu starts to actually believe it.
Despite Do-hee and Kang-chul’s protests, Ho-gu still tries to find a way to cling his belief that Kang-chul is the father (even suggesting that Do-hee went to Everest with him). He can’t get over the conversation he overheard in the hospital, when he thought they were talking about Kang-chul not using condoms.
Do-hee has no idea what he’s talking about, but Kang-chul looks a little shifty as he orders Ho-gu to go home. Ho-gu refuses, and when Kang-chul reminds him yet again that he’s not the father, Ho-gu says that’s why he can’t go home — he can’t leave Do-hee alone with another man.
In a happy voice, he says to himself: “My name is Ho-gu. Kang Ho-gu.”
After they finally convince Ho-gu to leave, Kang-chul wonders how they’ll keep the real father a secret. Do-hee begs him not to tell Ho-gu the truth, and Kang-chul reassures her he won’t. After all, he’s not a high-priced lawyer for nothin’ — he knows how to keep client confidentiality.
The next morning, Ho-gu makes an important decision — a hair-cut. As the barber snips off those adorable curls, he says that Ho-gu must be about to confess to a women. Ho-gu, very seriously, answers “yes.”
Sporting his new ‘do, he marches with purpose to Kang-chul’s apartment building. He’s determined to ask about Do-hee’s relationship with Kang-chul and the baby-daddy — as Geum-dong’s “hyung” and the fact he was her guardian in the hospital, he has the right to know. But when he sees Do-hee walking to the bus stop, he quietly follows her.
Unnoticed, he gets off at the same stop as her, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. He continues to follow her to a cemetery, where she greets an older couple, and it’s apparent that they’re all there for a memorial.
Ho-gu returns to Kang-chul’s apartment, where an annoyed Coach is surrounded by dirty diapers as he struggles to get a fresh diaper on Geum-dong. Ho-gu quickly takes over, asking about Kang-chul and Do-hee. They’ve gone to meet potential adoptive parents.
Aw, Kang-chul is the one who interviews them while Do-hee hides a few tables away, listening in. She shakes her head when Kang-chul asks her about them, but it’s the last couple they had lined up as Geum-dong’s prospective parents. He sighs that they’ll have to find another place to look, as well as figure out more selective criteria.
Curious, Do-hee asks him why he’s working so hard to help her. He tells her it’s because she promised him a huge fee when hired him as the lawyer to oversee Geum-dong’s adoption. He swears it’s not because he has any feelings for her, it’s just…
Do-hee asks if it’s because he’s sorry because he didn’t use “that thing” originally. Hesitating, Kang-chul quietly admits that if he had filed a complaint for her, it would have made her life even more difficult. She confesses she really resented him because of it, but the more she thinks about it, the more she agrees with him. Especially for Geum-dong’s sake.
Kang-chul is back to business when he reminds her not to forget to pay him for his services, and after he leaves, Do-hee grumbles that a woman is about to cry and all he can do is leave: “It’s no wonder he can’t get a date.”
Ho-gu watches over the sleeping Geum-dong and remembers earlier in the morning, when he saw Do-hee at the cemetery. He had greeted the other couple as they waited at the bus stopm (sans Do-hee), and the woman had explained that Do-hee and their deceased child were close friends.
He wonders if their son was the baby’s father who died in an accident, since it would make sense — both why she should seek out Kang-chul for legal advice as well as her statement that both she and the baby’s father made a mistake. Not to mention her breakdown, wondering if she’d ever be able to love again.
Even so, Ho-gu can’t back down from his purpose today. He came to ask her some important questions (and even cut his hair!). Kang-chul and Do-hee arrive home, and pfffft, when Kang-chul sees Ho-gu, he sighs that they really need to change the passcode.
When Do-hee notes that Ho-gu got a haircut, he screws up the courage to tell her why he got it cut — because it’s a hindrance when taking care of babies. Buhhh? Holding out the “babysitter needed” notice Kang-chul had posted on the apartment community board, he tells them that he’s Geum-dong’s new babysitter.
Do-hee pulls him aside, demanding to know if he’s being serious. Ho-gu swears he is, and Do-hee asks if he’s really not curious about the father or how Kang-chul is involved. Ho-gu admits that it doesn’t matter to him anymore. All he cares about is Geum-dong.
Even if she broke off the potential relationship she might have had with him, he asks Do-hee to at least promise not to break apart the relationship he could have with Geum-dong. They agree to write up a contract that will allow him to babysit and keep their relationship professional.
The doorbell rings, and Kang-chul answers it, annoyed that the video screen isn’t working so he can’t see who’s at the door. Surprise! It’s Ho-kyung (with her hand over the camera). She’s there to give him the information he’d asked for last night.
Kang-chul’s trying to hustle Ho-kyung out the door, and she teases him that he must be hiding a girl when suddenly Do-hee appears. Ho-kyung is ready to face-off and defend her turf when Ho-gu arrives with the baby. The twins are surprised to see each other, and Ho-kyung is even more shocked to see the baby. Do-hee cooly tells Ho-kyung that, yes, it’sher baby.
The men can sense the tension as they slowly back away, and Kang-chul tries to explain that it’s not his baby. But Ho-kyung curses him out as she kicks him in the face, giving him a bloody nose and sending him sprawling on the sofa.
Ho-gu tends to the dazed Kang-chul as a furious Ho-kyung tries to talk sense into Ho-gu (while Do-hee once again insists that Kang-chul isn’t the father — this assumption seems to run in the family). She wants to know why her brother is caring for a baby that isn’t his, especially when he said his fling with Do-hee had ended. So why is he still here — is he dating Kang-chul, or what?
When Ho-gu realizes how close his face is to Kang-chul’s, he slooooowly slides away. But Ho-kyung is putting together all the clues and figuring out why the atmosphere is so weird — is the story Kang-chul told her about his client actually his? Is Kang-chul gay? Is thatwhy Ho-gu is here with him?
Kang-chul scrambles up, insisting that’s not it, and sputters out that Ho-gu is actually the babysitter. Congrats, Ho-gu — you’ve officially got the job.
Ho-kyung follows Ho-gu home, trying to talk sense into him. How can he be taking care of a baby when he also has be working on the webtoon? He tries to bribe her to go along with it (and not tell Mom, heh) by promising her he’ll help her get in with Kang-chul’s good graces, but when that doesn’t work, he threatens to show Kang-chul her pre-cosmetic surgery pictures, instead.
Thus Ho-gu begins his career as a babysitter. During the day, while Do-hee trains, he watches Geum-dong. When Do-hee returns in the evening, she takes care of the baby while Ho-gu works on the webtoon. In the meantime, Kang-chul interviews potential adoptive parents (and vainly tries to tolerate a messy baby in his apartment).
Even Ho-kyung gets in the act, stopping by to visit Kang-chul but getting put on baby duty so Ho-gu can do some chores. When Do-hee returns home, she finds Ho-kyung napping next to Geum-dong. She warns Do-hee not to seduce her brother. This is just another source of charity for the kind of guy who takes in all the neighborhood stray cats.
Do-hee says that it’s not about her, but about Geum-dong. When Do-hee admits that she’s using Ho-gu’s goodwill to have someone take care of her baby, Ho-kyung marvels that Do-hee isn’t the “nation’s mermaid,” but rather the “nation’s bitch.”
But Ho-kyung’s found her match in Do-hee, who pointedly reminds her that Ho-kyung’s been speaking informally to her when she’s supposed to be Do-hee’s dongsaeng. Ho-kyung scoffs, saying that Do-hee shouldn’t be so presumptuous — if she keeps acting like that, she’ll be abandoned by the baby’s real father.
Do-hee gives her the death glare as she asks if Ho-kyung knows who the father is. Ho-kyung gulps and says she doesn’t, then smiles, adding honorifics for her “unni.”
When they meet in the elevator, Kang-chul pitches a fit that Ho-gu’s wearing the wrong cleaning gloves to take out the trash. But Ho-gu just ignores him and as they ride up together, instad asking if Do-hee sought Kang-chul because the baby’s father died in an accident.
As a lawyer, Kang-chul can’t answer that. But as a friend, he admits that Do-hee came to him, asking for help, but he turned his back on her. He swears he’d do the same again, though, even though he knows he’d be called a selfish bastard.
But Ho-gu admires him because Do-hee considered Kang-chul someone dependable enough to ask for help, and is relieved that Kang-chul was her ex-boyfriend. Kang-chul is just amazed that Ho-gu found out about the accident.
Ho-gu’s mother intercepts a delivery for Ho-gu, surprised that it contains baby diapers. She tracks him down to Kang-chul’s apartment, where Professor Mok is also there to see her son. The women side-eye each other, since their style is so opposite — Ho-gu’s mother with her colorful, bohemian ensemble, and Professor Mok with her subdued, fashionable outfit.
But both women are equally astonished to see Do-hee leave the apartment with Geum-dong, and they retreat to a coffee shop to get over the shock. Hahahaha! The moms think their children are dating and had a secret kid together, as they assume Do-hee must be the other’s daughter. Ho-gu’s mom is excited to call each other in-laws while Professor Mok bursts into tears.
Kang-chul is meeting with another national athlete from Do-hee’s company, NO KYUNG-WOO (Kim Hyun-joon), who wants to sue whomever started the rumor that he’s gay. When Kang-chul tells him it seems pointless to sue for such a minor thing, Gong-mi pipes up that in many Korean companies, if it’s found out that you’re gay, you automatically become an outcast, potentially ruining your career and reputation.
Kyung-woo adds that’s why the company told him to seek out Kang-chul — they said he’s the best in this field. Kang-chul, having become progressively anxious throughout the meeting, suddenly demands to know who told Kyung-woo that he’s the “gay expert.” But Kyung-woo just meant that Kang-chul is the best at defamation cases.
Ho-kyung’s gives Kang-chul documents to help support Kyung-woo’s case, including an assessment for Kyung-woo to take to prove that he isn’t gay. She convinces Kang-chul to go with her for some drinks, and when he insists that he won’t drink alcohol, she pops open a bottle of soda for him.
But when the bottle cap hits him on the forehead the same way that “Ho-gu” had opened the bottle of beer back in high school, he begins to wonder. After Ho-kyung excuses herself to use the restroom, he reaches for the gay assessment test.
Do-hee meets with CEO Park, who has a new concept image to present to her — a sexy photo-shoot. Do-hee’s a little hesitant and CEO Park reassures her it shouldn’t be too awkward since she’ll be doing it with fellow swimmer, Kyung-woo. The sound of his name makes Do-hee even more determined not to do it. But CEO Park tells her that they can dispel all those childbirth rumors with this photo-shoot — it’s not a request, it’s an order.
At the restaurant, Kang-chul is totally drunk now, and he tipsily asks Ho-kyung why she likes him. He cutely tells her that she shouldn’t like him, though, because he’s… he lowers his voice… gay. She laughs it off, but he repeats it, yelling: “I’m gay! Gay!” until he passes out drunk at the table. She spots the crumpled up assessment next to him.
When Do-hee returns home, she sees Ho-gu to the door. But Ho-gu notices that she’s looking tired, and offers to hug her — when someone in his family is having a rough day, they give each other a hug, no questions asked. She agrees, and he comforts her, telling her she’s doing great, working hard to make money to pay for diapers.
She smiles as she hugs him back, telling him he’s also doing great, working hard to change those diapers. As he pulls away, she stares at him a moment, then… kiss!
Do-hee bids him good-night, and Ho-gu calmly walks out of the apartment, only to go all rubber-legged once the door closes. Awww, Do-hee also falls to her knees as she wonders what she just did. She spots the old sketchbook that Ho-gu gave her, and then she starts to cry as she remembers finding it and seeing the story of the girl who was a mermaid.
Ooohhhh, it turns out that Do-hee actually recognized Ho-gu on the street corner before he first saw her in his camera; that she immediately knew he wasn’t the waiter (aw, the smile she tries to hide when she sends him off for more chips is adorable); and when she walked away from him in the crosswalk, she’d sighed that he was as clueless as ever.
Do-hee clutches the sketchbook to her chest, and with a hankie over her eyes, cries as she remembers their night in Yeosu. At the sound of Geum-dong crying, too, she turns to comfort him. She’s still weeping as she apologizes to Geum-dong, telling him that she’ll pull herself together — she’d tried so hard to hold it in. But she breaks down, sobbing even harder after she admits that it’s her first love.
CEO Park is astonished to discover that Do-hee had the baby, wondering who Do-hee is dating. But her assistant says that Do-hee isn’t dating anyone — it was sexual assault. Ooof.
As Do-hee comforts her baby, she looks at the sketchbook and smiles. “My name is Ho-gu. Do Ho-gu.”
After dropping the bomb that she publicly outed Robin as Seo-jin’s pen name, Hana sits there waiting for Seo-jin to blow up at her.
He doesn’t, and though he seems shocked, he’s mostly amused. He sees this as an extension of what she secretly wants—both of them—and even thanks her for finding a good way for the three of them to be together.
He supposes that Robin was more upset, and she doesn’t deny it, but says that he’s being understanding. She’s still a little shocked at Seo-jin’s ease, and he just asks her to eat with him in honor of turning him into a webtoon artist overnight.
Chairman Dad gets himself all wound up in a tizzy about the news and chews out his minions, only to be told by his publicity team that this is the best thing that’s ever happened for them.
Dad doesn’t really understand what could be good about his son having a secret manhwa hobby (as if he’s not a famous published author), but the publicity team spells it out for him: If Seo-jin takes over Wonderland, he could be the next Walt Disney. You can practically see the dollar signs in Dad’s eyes.
They run with that, and cousin Seung-yeon fumes to have yet another evil plan backfire on him. Seriously, you’re more helpful for Seo-jin’s career than anyone—keep being terrible at your villainy!
Woo-jung bursts into tears as she reads the news about Robin being Seo-jin’s secret creative identity, and admits that she’d never have come up with the idea herself. She acknowledges Hana as a good manager AND girlfriend, finally letting go of Robin (never mind that you already have the adoring Eun-chang).
Hana watches curiously as Seo-jin goes about making breakfast, which is definitely a first. He catches her staring at him, so she asks about the necklace that he always used to wear. He tells her that he spent a lot of time trying out every single religion, and that necklace was some kind of talisman made to ward off evil.
She chuckles that he got taken, and he agrees that it did nothing—but it still made him feel better to wear it. He says that everyone seeking out religions is just looking for something to believe in, and she asks what it was that he wanted to believe. Seo-jin: “That I’m getting a little better, every day. That I’m becoming a better person, little by little.”
All it takes is one flashback to what an asshat he used to be, and she tells him that the talisman totally worked—he’s already a better person. Well that’s the understatement of the year.
He flashes a little grin at her, and then he’s interrupted by a call from an old college friend who wants to meet up. His phone is filled with messages from classmates, all guys that he’d lost touch with who are suddenly open and warm after learning that he moonlights as a webtoon artist.
He shows her the messages and they laugh at how his friends have all turned into ajusshis. Hana is the first to suddenly be aware of how close they are as they lean over the counter, and she steals a glance at Seo-jin’s smiling face while he isn’t looking.
Taking that look right there—that’s the mistake, because you can see how it makes her heart flutter and go off-kilter. It’s just a split second, and when Seo-jin looks up to meet her eyes, she’s flustered.
They’re saved by the bell when another classmate calls, and Seo-jin murmurs to himself that this is such a strange new experience, and wonders if he really had so many friends. Hana tells him that this is just the beginning, and lots of things will change, “For the three of us.” It’s the first time she’s said it like that, using Seo-jin’s words.
She says that they need to sit down with Secretary Kwon and go over a strategy for how to pass Robin and Seo-jin off as one guy. So they sit down to do just that, with both Seo-jin and Robin spliced into the same meeting as if they’re both there.
It’s kind of adorable how Robin raises his hand every time he wants to ask a question. They go over some basic rules about pretending to be one another, and Robin requests a chance to attend a webtoon convention, and declines any business-related meetings of any sort.
Seo-jin declines to share his cell phone password, though he wants Robin to share his, and even though I know he’s imagining Robin sitting there for his turn at this meeting, in the scene it looks like he’s being haughty right to his face.
Hana decides to just pass out pen and paper to both boys, and demands a list of 100 things that Robin wants to know about Seo-jin, and 200 things that Seo-jin wants to know about Robin.
Seo-jin complains about his load being double when he’s not even curious about one single thing, but Hana gripes that he would just fill the first list with bullshit, which is why he gets 200. Secretary Kwon barely stifles back a laugh and Seo-jin scowls.
Both boys spend the next day writing lists of questions (Seo-jin only comes up with four!) and then answering each other’s lists, and then later, Hana and Robin read over Seo-jin’s answers.
Robin is shocked at the number of favorite movies listed, and Hana says that Seo-jin is practically a movie critic these days. She realizes that his favorites are all stories about children, which gives her pause.
Seo-jin does it interview-style by asking Hana to read Robin’s answers aloud. He’s annoyed to hear that Robin’s stress-relief is just to sleep, which he interprets as dumping all stress onto Seo-jin to deal with.
He scoffs to hear that Robin’s favorite movies all feature Batman, Spiderman, or X-men, but is doubly pissy that Hana thinks it’s cute. He whines, “Is it cute for a grown man to watch the Batman series?” like he’s suddenly questioning her taste in men.
Seo-jin gets even grumblier when Robin answers that he’d like to try a triathlon: “Is he trying to kill me?” But he sighs that in all this time, he’s exchanged countless messages with Robin and tracked his every move… but he’s never known anything about him. Hana says that Robin admitted the same thing—that they’d shared a body for fifteen years but never bothered to learn what the other wanted in life.
Robin’s big webtoon convention rolls around, and he and Hana are both a bundle of nerves. He notices her shaking as she helps him get dressed and thinks she’s scared that he’ll make a mistake in public, but she says that it’s nervous excitement about going to their first official function as a couple.
They walk in holding hands, and are stunned when the elevator doors open onto a crowd of screaming fans all waiting for Robin. They’re so surprised that neither of them moves a muscle before the doors close on them, and Hana smiles up at Robin to reassure him before opening the doors again.
This time they smile and walk onto the red carpet, and another reassuring smile from Hana gets Robin to try and enjoy the moment, even if he is adorably stiff and awkward about all the sudden attention.
Woo-jung is subdued all evening, and she admits to her father that she’s happy for Robin, but she’s fantasized about being on his arm for this big moment for a very long time. Eun-chang doesn’t have to be told to know what’s going on in Woo-jung’s head, and he shows up unannounced with a scooter and two helmets.
He insists on going for a ride, and once they’re driving down the street, he tells her that they aren’t really going somewhere—he just knows she has stuff on her mind, and encourages her to shout it out while the engine is roaring and no one can hear her.
With some nudging, she finally shouts a congratulations and a goodbye to Robin, and then asks Eun-chang to shout too, so that she feels less embarrassed. Eun-chang complies with the sweetest declaration at the top of his lungs: “Be mine, Min Woo-jung! Come to me, Min Woo-jung! I’ll be good, Min Woo-jung!” That puts a smile on her face, and she tightens her grip around his waist.
Hana and Robin cuddle on the couch as she admires his trophy, and he asks if she thinks it would be okay for him to go on a radio talk show that invited him. She tells him to do it, and he’s amazed that he’ll get to leave further proof of his existence out in the world.
She asks him to draw something new so that they can go back to the convention next year and the year after that, and he takes the pen portion out of his award and hands it to her. He tells her that she’s his pen, and she squeezes his cheeks together until his lips pucker, and plants a kiss.
He traces his finger along her lip and then goes in for more kisses, and wraps his arms around her as they blissfully swoon between smoochies.
The next morning, Hana excitedly gives Seo-jin the play-by-play (well, minus the lip action), and though Seo-jin rats Robin out for having prepared an acceptance speech for the award he swore he didn’t expect to win, he seems genuinely happy for Robin.
Hana accompanies Robin to the radio show (cameo by K.Will), where he shares his thoughts on adulthood and how most people are still kids at heart and just struggling to catch up to their bodies and act as adult as they’re supposed to.
It’s a call-in radio show where they give dating advice, and when Seung-yeon spends his evening obsessively listening to the show instead of paying attention to his girlfriend, she finally picks up her phone to call in and complain that her boyfriend is the obsessive type and it’s starting to wear thin. Seung-yeon has even more reason to hate Robin when he advises her to break it off, keh.
Seo-jin wakes up the next morning with a splitting headache, and to Secretary Kwon’s surprise, he can quote verbatim the stuff that Robin said during the radio show. Ooooh, he’s getting Robin’s memories now?
Robin wakes up that night with a headache as well, but this time something new happens: He can’t remember his radio show, beyond arriving at the station with Hana. OH.
He goes to see Dr. Kang, and she says that Seo-jin came by earlier as well. She didn’t think much of Seo-jin’s condition because sharing memories wasn’t entirely new for them, but Robin’s memory loss is a significant change, and she asks what they’ve done differently lately.
After learning about how Robin and Seo-jin opened up to each other, Dr. Kang sees this latest development as a sign that they’re merging, and Robin is understandably alarmed at that. She tries to tell him that this means they’ll fuse personality traits and he wouldn’t be destroyed, but Robin’s face hardens as he says that melding IS destruction, for him.
He gets up to go but then asks in a quiet voice, “If I disappear, where do I go? Seo-jin’s body stays alive, but did I never have a soul or a body to begin with?”
Robin sits in the dark trying to process everything, and Hana pounds on his door, worried because he blew her off with a message that the was sick. After a while he finally comes out, and she hugs him in relief to know that he’s okay.
He lies that he’s just feeling overwhelmed with all the changes lately and needs a day to himself, and convinces her to go.
When Dr. Kang explains what’s going on to Seo-jin, he panics just as much and says that this would mean Robin’s destruction. She notes that they’re having the same reaction to the news, and Seo-jin tells her that they aren’t ready for this yet.
Seo-jin finds Hana looking a little lost, and she feels his forehead to make sure that he isn’t sick. She asks if something’s going on with Robin because he didn’t seem like himself and wanted to be alone, and Seo-jin covers for him, insisting that this is perfectly normal and that she’s the one overthinking things.
Robin spends that evening locked away in his room downstairs, and Hana sends texts pleading with him to come out and just let her see his face. He doesn’t reply, but says to himself that he can’t face her right now because he doesn’t know what he might say, or if he might even blame her.
Hana asks if she did something wrong and sheds a tear, and inside, Robin begins to cry as he says to himself, “I’m sorry. I’m not ready yet. How am I supposed to leave? How am I supposed to say goodbye to you?”
Seo-jin finds her asleep on the couch and tucks her in before making breakfast. When she wakes up, he presents her with seaweed soup because it’s her birthday, and she’s touched, though her mind is still swimming with thoughts of Robin.
She tells him that she waited all night, but Seo-jin already knows that Robin never came out. She asks with tears brimming in her eyes if Seo-jin is happy living this way, and if Robin is. Seo-jin tells her to eat first, and that he’ll make it so that she can ask Robin directly: “I can’t answer for Robin’s happiness or his life.”
Only when he wakes up that night, he’s still Seo-jin. Ruh-roh, is Robin hiding or is he fading?
Seo-jin jumps to block the door when Hana comes knocking, and in his panic he does his best Robin impersonation and buys some time. And then Woo-jung calls from the radio station to say that everything’s ready for his birthday surprise for Hana.
Seo-jin texts Secretary Kwon to sneak into his room quietly, and greets him pretending to be Robin. He asks if something doesn’t feel off, and Secretary Kwon practically jumps out of his skin when Seo-jin switches gears and tells him that Robin never woke up.
After telling the whole story, Seo-jin rifles through his closet while Secretary Kwon turns into a blubbering mess, thinking that Robin already disappeared and he never got to say goodbye. Seo-jin assures him that he isn’t gone gone, because Seo-jin and Hana aren’t ready to let him go. Secretary Kwon wails, “And do you think I’m ready? I’m not ready either!” D’aw.
Seo-jin has to bark at him to get it together, and promises to cry with him tomorrow if Robin still doesn’t show by then. They finally come out and Hana demands an answer for why he wouldn’t see her for days, and Seo-jin blurts, “Because I was happy.”
He says that he’s been so overwhelmed with happiness that it started to make him nervous, worried about how long it would last and if it was all a dream. Hana takes his hand and assures him that this isn’t a dream, but makes him swear not to do that again. She says that she hates guys who don’t answer calls, and Seo-jin nods a promise.
Secretary Kwon rushes them out the door for Robin’s radio show, but then when they get to the car, Seo-jin stops in his tracks. Oh crap, he has to drive it! He mentally chides himself for not taking driving lessons, and gingerly gets into the driver’s seat looking pale.
He looks seconds away from confessing the truth, when Secretary Kwon knocks on the window and asks if he can’t tag along to visit the station. I love the crazy eyes that they exchange as they fake their way through a conversation to justify Secretary Kwon kicking him out to drive.
Seo-jin doesn’t even have to try that hard to play Robin during his radio show, the reactions and speech patterns coming so naturally to him now. He reads the last caller’s story of the night, describing the city of Venice, which might sink into the water at any time.
He asks if the people who love that city aren’t afraid that it might disappear, or perhaps that fact is what makes them love it. He then confesses that he’s a person who resembles the city of Venice, and it’s clear that Seo-jin is reading a message from Robin.
He admits that he’s lived always fearing that he might disappear one day, but he’s made a decision to live differently from now on, and looks up at Hana. “Even if someone left me yesterday, or if I disappear tomorrow, I’ll live today.. Jang Hana, with you.”
Seo-jin is surprised as he says the words, but when he looks up at Hana, he breaks into a smile. On cue, the circus troupe arrives with cake and balloons to sing happy birthday to Hana on the other side of the radio studio. She radiates happiness in that moment, and Seo-jin gets to feel it for the first time—what it’s like to make her smile that way.
A ruckus in the studio sends the DJs’ headphones blaring with feedback noise, and for some reason it triggers a headache, and Robin comes out even though Seo-jin didn’t lose consciousness.
Robin is startled to find himself sitting in the station, and after the show ends, Secretary Kwon whispers in his ear in jondae that everything was perfect and nobody noticed. He’s shocked to realize that Seo-jin pretended to be him and didn’t even mess up once, and he confirms it with Woo-jung that nothing was weird about the radio broadcast or his birthday surprise.
Woo-jung hands him the footage she recorded during the show and mentions that Hana’s face says it all—she’s totally in love with him. That’s really not a comfort to Robin right now, given the circumstances. Woo-jung says goodbye with some finality and walks off.
Robin watches the recording when he’s alone, and is floored to see Hana so happy and unaware that Robin wasn’t Robin. He thinks, “She didn’t know…”
But what shocks him even more is the look on Seo-jin’s face, and it starts to dawn on him: “That’s… me. Seo-jin… is me.” Closing caption: Before I knew it, we surpassed “you and me” to “us.”
Kang-ja mulls over recent events—her daughter’s victimization, the broken system that won’t help—before coming to a decision. She makes a call, asking her contact whether they know where to find “Princess Han” these days.
That’s what takes her to the nightclub, where Princess Han is waited on hand and (literally) foot by a team of minions. (I love the detail where the men wear tiny crowns in their hair, to match the boss’s big one.) Princess Han orders her gangster army to tighten entry checks, to prevent underage girls getting pushed into drinking with adults. (Her bloodthirsty threat makes the men simultaneously shield their crotches, ha.)
So Kang-ja fights her way through the gangsters, then orders Crowny to tell his boss that “Beolgupo Sashimi” has arrived. Princess Han, a tattooed ajumma with a saturi accent, recognizes the name and description (“She looks like a high schooler, all skinny with huge eyes”) and asks, “Could it be Bang-wool?” (A nickname referring to large eyes.)
Thus Princess Han comes out to meet her visitor, decked out in an elaborate royal getup with ornate gown and glittery scepter. Somehow the absurd costume looks menacing rather than ironic.
The two ladies come face to face, and then we flashback to their high school days, when Kang-ja was better known as Beolgupo Sashimi (her mother ran a fish restaurant), better known as Bang-wool to her circle of friends. Ah, and the boss’s real name is actually Han Gong-joo (which means Princess Han—she’s since adopted the literal meaning as her persona).
Gong-joo narrates as we see Teenage Kang-ja sneaking out of school. Gong-joo tags along as Kang-ja finds a pervy teacher outside a restaurant, after he’s just bragged about all the girl students he leers at freely.
Kang-ja slams him against the wall he just peed on, warning him to stop groping his students. Gong-joo explains that she could never stand to see injustice, and always delivered payback in double measure.
With a father in prison and a mother who works every single day, fearless Kang-ja rules the school. She helps at her mother’s fish restaurant, and one night while prepping sashimi, Kang-ja casually mentions that the school wants Mom to come in. We can see that this matters to her, but she acts blasé and says that she knows Mom doesn’t care and wouldn’t come anyway.
This is the scene we saw previously, when Mom says her life could have been better and Kang-ja retorts, masking her hurt, “Did I ask to be born?”
Then Kang-ja hears that Gong-joo’s in trouble at a huge showdown between the various high school gangs, and hurries to help her friend. Gong-joo is a pretty mean fighter but ends up bested by a mean-looking guy, who’s about to wail on her.
Kang-ja’s appearance comes in the nick of time and she flies at the guy, thereby securing her reputation as a legendary badass. (She was in the air so long that in Gong-joo’s exaggerated memory, the bully has time to rest, while Kang-ja cracks open a book and takes a nap midair.)
So now we return to the nightclub. The former friends stare each other down, eyes narrowed to slits…
And then Gong-jo grabs Kang-ja in a bear hug, saying that she thought Kang-ja had died after she left without a word—she’d worried that that bastard Ahn Dong-chil (now the school foundation’s Chief Secretary Ahn) had gotten to her. Kang-ja explains that she needs a favor, and asks for Gong-joo’s help in going to school (which Gong-joo first misinterprets to mean prison, heh).
At home, Ah-ran wakes up in the middle of the night and trembles at the memory of the alpha bully, Bok-dong, threatening her at knifepoint. She huddles into herself as she recalls Bok-dong’s warning to forget “all about that business” if she doesn’t want to die.
Kang-ja explains the situation, and her plan to pose as a student. Gong-joo’s first reaction is to scoff, but she concedes that Kang-ja always did look young (and her minions pipe up that they thought she was a high schooler). Once she sees that she’s serious about there being no other way to protect her daughter, Gong-joo readily agrees to help.
There’s one complication: One person from school knows Kang-ja’s face. There’s the homeroom teacher she’d tried to appeal to, but Gong-joo says she’ll handle things.
Gong-joo sees her friend off and marvels at Kang-ja being a mother. Then she does the math, and the timing strikes her—this means Kang-ja got pregnant her second year of high school. A flashback fills in the blanks to the attack Kang-ja suffered at Ahn Dong-chil’s hands… and now we see that after he kicked her brutally, he started fumbling with her clothing. Ackkk.
Looks like Ahn Dong-chil never changed his ways, because in a dark room somewhere, he confronts a scared Yi-kyung, who doesn’t know who he is or why he had her brought here. He comments, “You’re pretty. But why don’t you obey?” He reminds her that she was told to transfer schools, which she ignored. He pulls out a switchblade and says that because of her loose lips, she’s made trouble for him and put her friend in danger.
He tells Yi-kyung to transfer, and lets her go. Worried about Ah-ran, she calls her right away. The phone rings unanswered while Ah-ran huddles to herself, and then Kang-ja returns home and checks on her. She promises, “Don’t worry. Mom’s here. There’s nothing to be afraid of anymore.”
In the morning, the judge Kang-ja had sought out gives her a call, wondering why she disappeared on him. He leaves a message urging her to let him help using the law (rather than brute force)—and then we see that he is Teacher Noah’s father. Well.
They have a warm father-son relationship, and Noah has taken all of his father’s teachings over the years to heart, reciting them back to him. But then a phone call casts a pall over the mood—Noah’s just been fired from his academy teaching job. Judge Dad says the principal is blind, but Noah sighs that seven principals can’t all be blind, and that he must not be a good teacher.
Then Dad says that he just wasn’t suited to teach at academies, and Noah points out that schools don’t like him either—he’s failed every interview. Dad counters that in a country of one-eyed people, the one with two eyes is the oddity, and all those one-eyes don’t know how to pick good people. Aw, this is a sweet pair.
We get a bit more insight on bully Bok-dong, who reports to Ahn Dong-chil and calls him hyungnim—he’s a gangster minion in training. Ahn gives him money for his recent terrorizing job and a letter from his brother in prison, whose release he has promised to look into.
Ah-ran isn’t better by morning, and her family is upset to find her on the bathroom floor, having hacked her hair off with a utility knife.
On a more lighthearted note, Gong-joo makes good on her word to take care of the homeroom teacher problem: She has her minions stuff the teacher into a refrigerated snack box and tells him to admit his wrongs. Is it her fault he’s committed so many that he honestly doesn’t know which one she means? She leaves him there and says he’ll have to stick it out until he can figure out what he’s done.
Gong-joo sends his resignation letter to the school via courier, leaving them in the lurch. Two of the administrators (who, just as a reminder, are closely affiliated with the shady school foundation’s shady chairman), Vice Principal Oh and Teacher Do Jung-woo, wonder what to do. Rather than bothering with a lengthyl hiring process, the VP fishes through a stack of resumes and picks one at random. Teacher Noah!
We still don’t know exactly what kind of nefarious deeds our education officials are up to, but everything we’ve seen points to some kind of corruption. Myeongseong Foundation’s Chairman Hong blatantly sucks up to the minister of education before asking his favor: He wants to make Teacher Do Jung-woo the foundation director. The minister rejects this idea.
Kang-ja takes Ah-ran to the hospital and trims her hair while Ah-ran just stares blankly. The doctor had explained that this kind of behavior can arise in witnesses of school violence and had advised keeping her for observation, and allowing Ah-ran some alone time without Mom around.
Kang-ja swallows back her tears and tells Ah-ran that she doesn’t want her to just be nice and still like a doll. She wants her to be like before, and get angry and yell. “The feeling of being wronged and enraged—pour it out to me,” she asks. “You can tell me anything. I can hear it all.”
But Ah-ran is frozen in fear of Bok-dong’s warning: Telling Mom would make her a target.
Kang-ja steps aside to listen to her voicemail from Judge Park, which only makes her look grimmer. The mood lightens when Gong-joo takes her to a salon for a makeover and briefs her on the cover story she’s put together. Oh, this is awesome—Gong-joo’s set up a whole elaborate operation here, so it’s not just a fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants scheme.
Some pertinent details: Gong-joo is listed as Kang-ja’s mother, and their address is Gong-joo’s office. Kang-ja supposedly left school in her second year because of heart surgery, and they can say the illness aged her. Last but not least, her fake name is now Jo Bang-wool. Hee.
The makeover complete, Gong-joo asks what Kang-ja means to do when she identifies the culprit. Kang-ja replies that she’ll make them pay double, and kneel in apology before Ah-ran. Gong-joo wisely says that while dishing out a beating is easy, changing someone’s heart is not. Then she adds that although Kang-ja’s real mother never came to school for her, she’ll go right away: “So if you need a mother, call me anytime.” Aw, tears. These ladies are awesome.
And like a true mother, Gong-joo says that she’s holding back from asking all the questions she wants to, because she’ll wait until Kang-ja is ready to tell her. The sweet scene even has Gong-joo’s goons fighting back tears, though I can’t blame ‘em because so am I.
Kang-ja comes home to (what else?) a grumpy mother-in-law and weak husband, who are surprised at her new look. She just says that she’ll be coming home late for a while, and her mother-in-law huffs that Kang-ja’s totally overreacting about Ah-ran being ill. She grumbles, “You’d think it were her kid, not her dead unni’s!”
But that’s just another cover story, as we find when Kang-ja flips through Ah-ran’s journal looking for clues. Pages and pages have been torn out, but one that’s left intact grabs Kang-ja’s attention.
Ah-ran has written that the world is full of liars, and the worst is her mother, because there is no dead sister. “If she couldn’t tell people openly I was her daughter, why did she have me?” Ah-ran writes. “Mom has turned me into a liar too. I hate her. Mom has no right to be a mother.” Hard words to hear.
Although Teacher Jung-woo has been denied the foundation director post, Chairman Hong is fond of his protégé and suggests an alternative: corporate planning chief, which is the foundation’s most important position. He calls it the “washing machine” that needs to run in order for the foundation and the school to work properly. Jung-woo thinks it’s too early to make such a bold move, but Chairman Hong says that the education minister is gearing up to make a bid for presidential election, and that means he’s wanting money. He needs Jung-woo to run the washing machine.
The chairman makes it sound like good news, but Jung-woo knows better and leaves the meeting sneering, “You’ll use me as your bulletproof vest?”
Sharp-eyed Secretary Ae-yeon watches the whole exchange, and afterward the chairman asks what she thinks of Jung-woo. Ae-yeon gives a noncommittal answer about trusting the chairman’s opinion, but he flies into a temper and starts to beat her around. He accuses her of trading looks with Jung-woo and having a secret relationship with him, and backstabbing him.
The chairman’s son, Sang-tae, overhears the sounds of violence and hardly reacts, though he does rev his motorcycle (parked in his bedroom) loudly enough to cover the noise.
Yi-kyung crumbles more when she receives a torrent of abuse via text messages from her classmates. She tries calling Ah-ran again, begging her friend to pick up, but only gets the dial tone. Ah-ran lies in bed crying, not hearing her phone.
Kang-ja thinks to herself that her daughter was right; she doesn’t have a right to be a mother, but she became one anyway. Perhaps her decision is wrong, and perhaps her daughter will hate her for it: “But even so, I only have one choice. As I did seventeen years ago, this time also, I’ll protect my daughter.”
Noah greets his father with good news that night: He got a job with Myeongseong High School. Judge Dad just says he’s not at all surprised, because his son is exactly the type of person who should be an educator. Curiously, Judge Park seems to know more about this than he lets on, though all he says is for Noah to continue walking steadfastly on the right path.
“Like you?” Noah asks proudly. “You can’t be like me,” Judge Park says. It’s a strange way to react, but Noah doesn’t pick up on it. Judge Park says that judges shouldn’t judge children lightly, whereas teachers have to kneel down to see them eye to eye. He encourages Noah to try to win as the two-eyed oddity in the land of one-eyes.
In the morning, Kang-ja hurries through her housewife tasks like making breakfast, then heads out to put her plan into motion. She puts up a “temporarily closed” sign on her restaurant, and dressed in a school uniform, she heads off to school.
Noah arrives on campus with bright eyes and full heart, making a painfully earnest introductory speech to the faculty, promising to do his best. He’s happy to hear he’ll be a homeroom teacher in addition to teaching literature.
Then Kang-ja arrives at the faculty room, and Noah ushers her to homeroom. He tries to place why she looks familiar and tries to chat with her, but she remains stony and silent.
Noah is introduced to their class first, and some of them already recognize him as the “sleeping pill” teacher from academy. The whole class cringes and gags when Noah starts to recite literature, though it doesn’t dampen his enthusiasm at all.
Next is Kang-ja’s turn, and the class bursts into laughter to hear her name, calling it dog-like. (Bang-wool is a little silly-sounding, but not completely ridiculous.) Kang-ja scans the room, already scoping out the scene here, and notes how Yi-kyung protests to have the new girl assigned to Ah-ran’s desk.
In a spare moment, Jung-woo asks Noah how he got this job, surprised that he didn’t have connections through the administration. Vice Principal Oh ruffled Jung-woo’s feathers by selecting the new teacher without his input, and now Jung-woo thinks Noah bought his way in. But Noah is so innocent he doesn’t get the subtext, and answers in his guileless way.
Kang-ja takes a seat and is shocked to see all the graffiti written on Ah-ran’s desk—hateful comments calling her all sorts of epithets. She wells up in rage, and that’s when the trio of mean girls descends on her desk, led by Jung-hee, who says Bang-wool was her dog’s name. Jung-hee laughs at her tears, thinking it’s from her teasing, but Kang-ja asks if Jung-woo wrote all the stuff on the desk.
Jung-hee readily admits to it but assures her that Bang-wool is safe, since she reminds her of her dog. Quick as a flash, Kang-ja grabs Jung-hee’s head and slams it into the desk. Damn, that was satisfying. I know, I know, violence doesn’t solve violence, but still: satisfying.
Kang-ja grabs Mean Girl 2 and snaps at 3 to lock the doors. Jung-hee whimpers in pain and switches to jondaemal, asking to be let go. Now she’s polite.
In the faculty room, Noah takes a look at Bang-wool’s file, trying to place how he knows her. Only now does he remember the foul-mouthed girl from the pojangmacha and the academy, and he makes the connection.
By the time he makes it to the classroom, a crowd has already gathered outside the windows, watching Kang-ja wield a mop inside. The three mean girls kneel penitently, as she snaps off the mop’s head and demands answers. Did Jung-hee do that to Ah-ran’s desk?
Jung-hee mumbles feebly, “It’s not like that… just once… as a joke…”
Kang-ja slams the stick into the desk and screams, “A joke?! The stone you throw as a joke could kill a frog!” She raises the staff to use it again, but this time a hand stops it.
It’s Bok-dong, and he tells the new girl to give it a rest: “If you keep it up, you could die at my hands.”
That rings a bell. It’s exactly what the mysterious voice said in her ear the night Ah-ran was cornered and collapsed.
So rather than being intimidated by Bok-dong’s languid menace, she whirls around, whipping the stick out of his grasp, and grabs him by the throat. She pulls her other fist back for a punch—but this time, it’s Noah who grabs that arm to stop her.
She glares at Noah for a second, then reverses his grab easily, yanking him near and grabbing him in a headlock. Jaws drop—even Bok-dong’s—and the class stares in amazement. Bully in one hand, wimp in the other. Badass in the middle.
Ho-gu breaks down in great sobs at the thought that they may have sent Geum-dong away with bad people, as Do-hee hides her tears and Kang-chul sits stone-faced. Ho-gu grabs Coach and drags him out of the apartment to help him find Geum-dong, refusing to give up. Do-hee asks Kang-chul if he thinks those were bad people, but Kang-chul just asks in return if his answer would change anything.
Out in the street, Coach admits that he didn’t really know the adoptive parents, that he just met them at a cafe. Is he saying that he sold Geum-dong?? He tells Ho-gu that it wasn’t a physical cafe, but a website, and Ho-gu goes to an internet cafe to do some research.
He’s horrified to find that the website is basically a place for unwed mothers to sell their babies to the highest bidder. The mothers post about their situations, and potential “adoptive” parents choose which child they want and make a monetary offer. As Ho-gu digs deeper, he finds posts where the biological parents are concerned about the motives of the adoptive parents, wondering if they can get their babies back.
Coach had told Ho-gu that Do-hee chose which internet cafe to use, so Ho-gu goes back to Kang-chul’s place to confront her. With dead eyes and a flat voice, he asks if Do-hee just sold Geum-dong. She swears she didn’t accept any money, only asking the parents to raise him well and saying she had no other choice.
Kang-chul comes to Do-hee’s defense, saying that in order to adopt her baby out legally, she’d have to go on record as having a baby. Even after adoption, Geum-dong would have been on Do-hee’s family register, and her secret would be out.
Ho-gu doesn’t understand, saying that they’re the adults in this situation and even if there are consequences, they still should have done the right thing by Geum-dong. At the end of her rope, Do-hee yells that he’s her baby, and that it’s her right to decide how to handle the situation. Ho-gu screams that Geum-dong may be her baby but she’s no mother, and Kang-chul neatly puts him in his place.
Ho-gu agrees — this is not his house, and Geum-dong is not his baby. It’s none of his business. He wipes his tears, tells them it’s their business and to do whatever they want, and leaves. He wanders the streets, thinking of Geum-dong but admitting to himself that he really has nothing to do with him. It’s hard to admit, as he remembers cutting the cord and Geum-dong’s tiny hand gripping his finger.
When Ho-gu gets home he finds his mom feeding the stray cats, and she asks him the name of that little gold kitten. He says it’s “Geum-dong,” and Mom says she hasn’t seen Kitten Geum-dong in a while.
Gasping for breath, Kang-chul and Do-hee jump in his car and he asks for the last time if she won’t regret this. She says she won’t, for now, and suddenly Geum-dong’s adoptive parents run up and pound on the car windows. Kang-chul peels out, and holycrap they just kidnapped Geum-dong, didn’t they? They did!! AWESOME.
Kang-chul asks what Do-hee plans to do now, wondering what she was thinking, but she says there’s nothing to think about. It was the only thing she could do. Despite being her getaway car, Kang-chul marvels at her audacity, but she reminds him that she’s a badass single mom and she’s not scared of anything. HAHA, Kang-chul’s all, “Are you seriouslybragging right now??”
Meanwhile Ho-gu calls for Kitten Geum-dong from his bedroom window, who he can hear mewing but can’t see, and pleading with him not to cry. “My name is Ho-gu. Kang Ho-gu.”
Ho-kyung comes down the next morning and runs to call Ho-gu to breakfast, sure she’s about to catch him with a woman in his room. Instead she finds him alone in bed, wide awake and staring at the ceiling. She demands the truth about him and Do-hee, but poor Ho-gu only moans that he wishes there was no such thing as morning, and turns his back.
They go to the manhwa shop to talk, and Ho-gu tells Ho-kyung that there’s nothing to tell about Do-hee — it’s been over between them for a long time (wait, does that mean there used to be something?). She asks why he was crying, but he just says it was about someone else. Crying again, Ho-gu says he thought he really had something with that person, and leans into his sister for a sweet, comforting hug.
Tae-hee and Chung-jae see Do-hee on television doing a press conference, and figure she really did give her baby up for adoption. When Ho-gu wanders in to work, he wilts to see Do-hee promising her fans that she’ll win an Olympic gold medal.
At his home watching Geum-dong, Kang-chul frowns to see all of the baby stuff (not to mention, the actual baby) taking up space on his precious furniture. He gripes at his housekeeper for using the same gloves to clean the kitchen as she used to clean his trophies, which is an impressive new level of nitpicky, sheesh.
Kang-chul’s parents come to see him again, Dad swearing to break open the door if necessary to get inside. They run into Do-hee in the elevator, and obviously Dad is a fan, since a huge smile breaks over his face and he starts to fawn over her (while Mom glares daggers at him, hee).
Dad is so goofily thrilled to meet Do-hee that it’s embarrassing, and he even digs in his wife’s purse for paper for an autograph. He hands Do-hee his business card, offering his services as a lawyer if she ever needs it, and they all get off at the same floor (Do-hee’s face is hilarious!). Kang-chul’s parents screech to a halt to see the famous athlete Do Do-hee going into their son’s apartment, and can only stare open-mouthed.
Kang-chul orders Do-hee to get a babysitter, since his housekeeper is making mistakes because she’s too busy looking after the baby. He thinks Do-hee is rich, but she says all her money goes towards paying off her parents’ debts. Kang-chul is chastened, but mutters that she should use the money she’ll get for a recent CF she made to get a babysitter.
Do-hee lights up like a Christmas tree when the doorbell rings, but wilts again when it’s just the housekeeper looking for her scarf. Awww, she misses Ho-gu. Kang-chul clocks her behavior, but Do-hee strongly denies it when he asks if she’s waiting for Ho-gu.
Ho-kyung waits outside Kang-chul’s building, wondering over some things Ho-gu said to her that morning. He’d said he would have held onto the person he cares about more, if he’d known he’d have to send them away like this. She wonders who the new woman is that displaced Do-hee, which leads her thoughts to Do-hee and Kang-chul. She refuses to accept losing, and takes off after Kang-chul when he comes out for a jog.
Ho-gu also thinks over his talk with his sister, who’d reminded him of his own words that a heart is like paint — you have to use it or it hardens. She’d said that she still has a lot of paint, but when the person you want to draw goes away, you have to wash away the paint quickly.
Ho-gu takes out Geum-dong’s discarded belly-button, and seems to come to a decision. He goes to the bank and stops the automatic payments he’s been making to a children’s charity, asking the bank employee to stop when she laughs at his name.
Ho-kyung pretends it’s a coincidence that she just happens to be biking in the same place Kang-chul is jogging, and the incredulous look on his face is priceless. He doesn’t stop, pointedly mentioning that he likes to exercise alone. When he refuses her offer to get something to drink, she skids to a stop in front of him, forcing the issue.
Next Ho-gu goes to Kang-chul’s place, surprised to see that Do-hee is still there. He stops her when Do-hee starts to talk, and gives her a photo of the Tibetan child that he’s been sponsoring. He says that sponsoring the child made him proud and happy, but that he stopped that sponsorship on the way here.
Ho-gu says that he realized that that happiness was pointless, because a one-sided love isn’t love. He tells Do-hee that when he stopped the sponsorship, he also let go of his feelings for Geum-dong. He gives Do-hee Geum-dong’s belly-button which he had made into a seal stamp, and Do-hee asks if this isn’t a bit strange.
Ho-gu insists that he’s totally done with caring about Geum-dong, and says he feels soooofree now. In fact, he realizes how much trouble babies are, and the amount they poop is just gross. Do-hee just calmly turns and says, “Geum-dong-ah, Ho-gu made you a seal stamp and says you’re nothing but trouble.”
Ho-gu’s head whips around so fast it gives instant lie to his insistence about being over Geum-dong, and he gasps to see Geum-dong laying right there on the couch. Do-hee stops Ho-gu from going to him — you know, since he’s so annoying. She picks up Geum-dong, and Ho-gu is so overcome he can only run and hug them both. He wails that he missed Geum-dong so much that he wanted to die, and kiss-kiss-kisses the baby’s head while Do-hee smiles.
Ho-kyung gets Kang-chul to sit, and even manages to maintain her sweetness-and-light demeanor when he gulps a drink down and tries to go. She drags him back down onto the bench, denying that this meeting was anything but an accident, and swears that she heard him when he said he’s not interested and only wants to be friends.
In fact, Ho-kyung reminds Kang-chul that she’s a psychology major and that he may need her help in his future cases, but he starts to leave anyway. He stops and asks if she’s ever heard of someone’s sexual preferences changing, and suddenly their talk looks more like a therapy session.
Ho-kyung uses pickled radish as a metaphor — some people eat it, and some don’t. But some people are like her, who likes pickled radish alone but picks it out of kimbap. So, is she a person who eats pickled radish, or a person who doesn’t?
Kang-chul wonders, what does pickled radish have to do with sexual preference? She says there’s a deep connection, and wheedles him into going somewhere more comfortable before she’ll tell him. They sit down with some ramyun (and pickled radish, naturally), and Ho-kyung says that liking pickled radish actually IS like sexuality, in that there’s more than two simple and distinct answers.
Claiming that a man came to him for legal advice, Kang-chul asks how you can kiss someone of the same sex without knowing your sexuality, and without permission at that. But Ho-kyung wants to know, who asks permission? Asking breaks the mood.
Ho-kyung asks how that man felt when the other man kissed him — was he shocked, and did his heart pound? Kang-chul says that he was shocked at first, because the other man just came at him, and that now every time he sees the man his heart pounds from the trauma. Ho-kyung says that it’s not trauma — the man is gay.
Kang-chul’s voice squeaks on the word “gay,” and he insists that it’s not true, his “client” is NOT gay. But to Ho-kyung, if your heart pounds when you see a certain person, it means you like them. And if that person is another man, then you’re gay. She tells Kang-chul to advise the “client” to kiss the other man again, and if his heart pounds again, he’s gay.
Ho-gu can’t stop grinning at Geum-dong, even turning his back on Do-hee, his possessiveness over Geum-dong making her smile. Ho-gu asks how this happened, and we see that after he left Kang-chul’s that night, Kang-chul had asked Do-hee if this was all over, sighing in relief when she said it was.
Oh but by the way, Kang-chul mentions, he got the adoptive parents’ license plate. He asks Do-hee one final time if this is really over, and apparently her answer changed. Back in the present, Do-hee says that it was Kang-chul who’d found out where the parents lived and taken her to get her baby back. He’d even climbed a wall to get to Geum-dong. MELT.
Kang-chul innocently comes home just then, and Ho-gu relinquishes the baby to Do-hee so he can tacklehug Kang-chul at the door (as an instrumental version of I’m Your Ladyswells in the background, HAHA). He yells that Kang-chul should have called him before doing something so dangerous, but Kang-chul doesn’t register Ho-gu’s words over his suddenly racing heart.
Kang-chul staggers to his office, clutching his chest and gasping for air. Desperate, he texts Ho-kyung to meet with him tomorrow to talk. When he gets himself together and goes back out to the living room, he’s startled to see Ho-gu and Geum-dong, sleeping beatifically together on the floor.
Kang-chul asks Do-hee how she and Ho-gu got to be friends, and a strange smile comes over her face. She remembers back in high school, going to class early one day and finding Ho-gu’s sketchbook in her desk. She finds the naked picture he drew of her, only now she’s clothed in a beautiful colored dress.
She flips through the sketchbook and her smile grows wider and wider — it’s entirely filled with amazing manhwa-style drawings of her. The pictures tell the story of a girl who goes to the sea and is drawn into the water, swimming deep and meeting amazing sea creatures. Slowly the girl’s legs change into a beautiful tail, and she transforms into a mermaid.
It was the same day that Ho-kyung had worn Ho-gu’s jacket to school, and we see the twins screaming at each other over it at the family’s manhwa store. Do-hee comes into the store while Ho-gu is working, chooses a couple of books, and asks Ho-gu hesitantly if the girl turns into a mermaid every time she goes into the water.
Ho-gu misunderstands and thinks she’s asking about the girl in the manhwa books she chose and corrects her, since Elize is a warrior. Annoyed, Do-hee pays and leaves in a huff, but Ho-gu realizes what she meant and goes after her. He calls out that the girl was a mermaid from the beginning, which is why she’s happier in the water and isn’t comfortable around people.
After that, Do-hee had visited the manhwa store often, initially turning down Ho-gu’s tentative gifts of fruit. Slowly she begins to accept the tangerines, and eventually they’re comfortable enough to sit knee-too-knee and silently share fudge pops. That is so freaking adorable — it wasn’t a one-sided love!
But one day, Ho-gu and Tae-hee go to a restaurant, and Ho-gu’s face falls to see Do-hee and Kang-chul eating together. He watches as Do-hee asks if Kang-chul looked in the book she returned to him, disappointed that he hasn’t mentioned the four-leaf clover, and unaware that Kang-chul doesn’t even know it was from her.
Turns out, Do-hee brought Kang-chul here to ask him if she can use the pool at the club he belongs to, since the pool is regulation-size. He flatly refuses her, citing the high dues for members, and says they can’t just let any loser use the pool. Do-hee’s temper flares, and she splatters ddukbokki sauce on his hand and leaves.
Kang-chul uses the sketchbook that Do-hee had with her to wipe his hand, which has Ho-gu (who’s still watching for a couple of tables over) rising from his chair in horror. He leaves with Tae-hee right behind him, so they miss Do-hee coming back for her things. She sees the sauce smear on the sketchbook, and her loud threats have Kang-chul’s hands shaking violently.
Unaware that Ho-gu witnessed her conversation with Kang-chul, Do-hee goes to the manhwa store with snacks as usual, but Ho-gu isn’t in any mood to hang out. He shuts her down so Do-hee leaves, but Ho-gu only watches her go.
Back in the present, Do-hee leaves Ho-gu napping with Geum-dong, but before she goes she asks Kang-chul why Ho-gu had earlier mentioned a fast food restaurant that had been outside their school. Kang-chul just reasons that Ho-gu is abnormal, ha.
Do-hee goes to a cemetery with flowers, though we don’t see who she’s visiting. She apologizes to the person for not coming in a long time, and cleans up the grave while saying the person’s parents should visit more often. No, she should come more often, but she’s been busy, hiding and looking into adoption while also trying to make a comeback.
Do-hee’s smile falters as she says that she got “our” baby back (although in Korean, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything other than a term of endearment). She asks if she did well, and starts to cry in earnest: “I miss you. I really miss you.”
Chung-jae waits nervously for Ho-kyung in a cafe, adorably dressed in a suit, but she shows up in her ratty old tracksuit. He tells her he likes her, and even presents her with flowers and a song, but gets no reaction whatsoever. She bounces up when Gong-mi enters the cafe, leaving him hanging mid-note.
Kang-chul watches Ho-gu sleep all day, and finds the sketchbook that Do-hee is still carrying around with her. He lays on the floor to get a closer look at Ho-gu, remembering Ho-kyung’s words that if your heart pounds for someone, it means you like them.
Kang-chul searches Ho-gu’s sleeping face, looking simultaneously worried and fascinated. Softly he asks, “Kang Ho-gu… do I… like you?” He thinks about Ho-kyung’s advice to kiss the man again and see if his reaction is the same, and he reaches out but stops short of caressing Ho-gu’s face.
Kang-chul slowly leans down, determined to see if another kiss with Ho-gu will make his heart pound. Just before their lips touch, Do-hee comes home and sees Kang-chul leaning over Ho-gu, and claps her hands over her mouth in shock.
We backtrack a little to Seo-jin confronting Chairman Dad, after Robin warns him that Dad is messing around in his (their?) love life. Dad shows Seo-jin a story about Robin’s recent interview cancellation, which has drummed up more interest over his mysterious hidden identity.
Chairman Dad doesn’t try to sugarcoat what he did: He asked Hana to leave, hoping he’d be able to put a stop to things before Robin decided to go public. Dad is meddling, but he asks astutely whom this relationship is for, if Seo-jin isn’t even the one that Hana likes. Ouch.
Seo-jin simply counters that he’ll tell the world about Robin first. He points out that Dad has always wanted to keep Seo-jin hidden away from the world, while Dad argues that it’s called protecting, not hiding, so that he can inherit everything.
But Seo-jin finally says that he doesn’t want any of Dad’s things, and pleads for him to stop making Seo-jin live a life he doesn’t want, just to protect what belongs to his father. Chairman Dad doesn’t see what’s left of his if Seo-jin doesn’t want his inheritance, but Seo-jin argues that what’s left would be what he really wants, and truly his own. Seo-jin: “From now on, I’m going to protect what’s mine, not what’s yours.” With that, he walks out. Good for you!
Cousin Seung-yeon isn’t done with his meddling, though, and makes calls to every reporter he knows to leak Robin’s officetel address. In no time the hall is teeming with reporters, and Hana and Jin-ju are trapped inside.
Jin-ju asks why they can’t get Robin to do the interview anyway, not really understanding Hana’s reservations. She also lets it slip that Seo-jin is on leave from work because he was basically ousted at the board meeting, adding to Hana’s worry.
Hana calls Secretary Kwon for help, and Seo-jin immediately tells him to bring the car around so that he can go in person. That seems risky given the situation, but Seo-jin says he’s trying to clean up his own messes, “So that I can start a new life.”
Seo-jin insists on going upstairs alone, where he walks right past the wall of reporters and all cameras turn on him. One reporter in particular heard from Seung-yeon that there was a connection between Seo-jin and Robin, and asks the question directly.
He faces them and begins to say, “Robin and I…” but before he can get the words out, Hana comes busting out to wrist-grab him out of there. These must be the least athletic reporters ever, because they manage to dodge the entire group by slipping into the stairwell and going up to the roof, in like ten seconds.
Hana is pissed, and wants to know what on earth he was about to do when she just barely convinced Robin to back down yesterday. She seems more protective of what Seo-jin has to lose than he is, and complains that he’s making her worry about him.
Seo-jin startles her by shouting, “Don’t worry unless you’re going to love me!” Flutter. He takes a step closer and says calmly, “You said I was confused? You’re the one who’s confused. You like me.”
She starts to interject, but he adds that she loves Robin and she’s loyal, which means that she feels like she can’t love another man, not that she doesn’t love another man. Semantics, maybe, but I can’t disagree.
He tells her to think carefully about why she’s worried about him. He doesn’t discount the possibility that it’s just her compassionate nature, but then points out how many times she’s risked her own life to protect him. He asks her to think about why she stopped Robin from doing what he wants, in order to protect Seo-jin.
That one stumps her, and she hesitates. She finally shakes it off and gives the excuse that she’s just too caring for her own good, but Seo-jin tells her that it’s the wrong answer. He’d be infuriating if I didn’t think he was right.
Secretary Kwon finds them up on the roof and tries to get them to escape quietly so that the reporters can’t see, but Seo-jin says that nothing has changed—he still plans to give a statement.
Secretary Kwon suddenly bursts into a feet-stompy fit right then and there, crying that Seo-jin could at least be considerate enough to wait until he and security team have found new jobs before giving the interview that will cause them all to become unemployed. Kekeke.
Seo-jin just stares, wide-eyed, as Secretary Kwon complains that he has a family to support, and asks if he hasn’t he earned this much consideration after all he’s done. Seo-jin can’t form words, but he does as asked and lets them escort him out the back.
As he and Hana wait for the car to be pulled around, she has an answer for him and says that she stopped him from doing the interview because this isn’t the way Robin would’ve wanted to do it—he’d want to be here as himself.
But Seo-jin calls her out on avoiding the issue, since he asked her why she stopped Robinfrom doing his interview. He thinks it’s because of Seo-jin: “I know why you worry about me. Think about it carefully.”
The reporters catch up to them just as they get into the car to leave, and all of them are busy snapping pictures of Hana. She’s shocked to realize that they think that she’s Robin, and soon her blurred-out picture accompanies a series of news stories speculating that Robin is a woman, and Seo-jin’s girlfriend.
Hana spends the rest of the afternoon lost in thought, and texts Seo-jin that her answer is no. He tells her to actually think about it instead of insisting, but she replies that she doesn’t need to.
Robin wakes up that evening and reads the news, and has a memory flash of Hana dragging Seo-jin away from the reporters. Hana warns him not to go to the officetel for a while, and asks him to meet her at Woo-jung’s café.
Hana sits there smiling at Woo-jung and Eun-chang, as they bicker about how Eun-chang should go see a doctor about his back pain because Woo-jung is worried about him. Hana asks if she likes Eun-chang, and Woo-jung swears that she doesn’t—she just worries about him is all, like whether he’s eaten or if he’s okay.
The truth starts to dawn on Woo-jung, and she asks Hana if that’s what it means to like someone—to worry about them. Hana goes silent at that. Is… Woo-jung actually being a useful character right now?
Robin comes to pick Hana up, and at first they joke about how she’s Robin and he ended being Seo-jin’s girlfriend. Chairman Dad had all the initial articles taken down, but the rumors and speculation remain online.
The air is a little strained between them, and Robin admits that he doesn’t like it that Hana and Seo-jin are rumored to be a couple. He asks if anything else happened, and she only tells him that she argued with Seo-jin, and nothing more.
They go on an obligatory PPL shopping date where they buy matching couple looks from head to toe. Hana is happy to go along with whatever Robin picks out, remembering how desperately he had wanted an identity and a life of his own.
In the morning, Seo-jin goes to visit Tae-joo in prison. Seo-jin asks if he remembers sneaking into the theater together as kids because his father forbade him, and admits that he hasn’t properly seen a single movie or television show since then.
Tae-joo seems to have found some peace, and tells Seo-jin without bitterness to start over, and do all of the things he never got to do before. Seo-jin asks what about him, and Tae-joo suggests that he come back and report on his new adventures, like when they were kids and Seo-jin would tell him about his trips abroad.
Their visiting time is up, and the two old friends exchange warm smiles before Tae-joo gets escorted out.
Hana sends Seo-jin another text that she thought about it and her answer is still no. But she’s the one staring at her phone for three hours when he doesn’t reply, and she’s dumbfounded when she hears that Seo-jin had lunch with her circus troupe members, and asked them for movie recommendations because he’s never really seen any.
When she hears that Seo-jin is riding the rides at Wonderland, she decides something’s up with him, and asks Secretary Kwon about it. But he’s just as confused and asks Hana if she knows why Seo-jin is acting so strangely.
He tells her that Seo-jin asked him if he wanted to drink in the middle of the afternoon, and while he doesn’t think it’s a bad idea for Seo-jin to let off some steam, he’s worried. He mentions Seo-jin’s latest conversation with Chairman Dad, and how he gave up his inheritance to protect Hana and her love, which further confuses Secretary Kwon: “The one you like is Robin, so doesn’t that mean he’s protecting Robin? But what does that mean?”
Secretary Kwon wonders aloud if Seo-jin doesn’t intend to be cured… and that seems to get through to Hana. She seeks Seo-jin out and confronts him about giving up on treatment, clearly worried about him.
He asks if she’s realized yet that worrying about Seo-jin is a road that leads to Robin’s destruction, and Hana stares at him in shock. He points out that she insists that she loves Robin and that he and Robin are two different people: “So why do you worry about me?”
He gets down to the heart of the matter, why she can’t admit that she likes him: “Because you’re afraid that loving me will lead to Robin disappearing. But you love Robin and me, me and Robin both.”
This time, she doesn’t deny it and she doesn’t argue that he’s got it all wrong. She asks if that’s the reason that he’s given up on treatment—has he decided to live with his illness?
That’s clearly what he intends to do, because he answers without hesitation: “Everyone lives with illnesses. Luckily my illness is that there’s a better person inside of me. And you love him. So let’s live the rest of our lives, the three of us, fighting with each other.”
She digs her heels in and says that she won’t change her mind about how she feels, but Seo-jin surprises her by saying that that’s good, because it’s the only thing keeping their three-way relationship alive. She asks why he keeps trying to confirm her feelings then, and Seo-jin says that it’s the only thing he can do, because acting on his feelings would break their tenuous arrangement. He leaves her lost in thought.
After failing with the reporters the first time, Seung-yeon decides to take a more direct approach and tells one reporter the real story behind Seo-jin and his condition. He still doesn’t have any proof though, so his plan is to speculate in the press and create an incident to draw the truth out.
Hana asks her friend Jin-ju what she would do if, hypothetically, being with someone meant that he would be sick for the rest of his life. Jin-ju says that’s too big a burden to bear, because what if he began to resent her down the road? But then Hana adds that leaving him would lead to his death (thinking of Robin now), and Jin-ju balks, hating both choices.
Seo-jin spends the day watching movies and drinking beer, and he even reads comic books. Robin wakes up on the couch surrounded by books, and picks one up to read an underlined passage in Notes to Myself, about preparing oneself to change and communicating that change to others.
Robin is further shocked to find a post-it on a comic book—his comic—asking when he’s going to publish the next volume. He knows something is going on, and calls Secretary Kwon to ask what happened yesterday.
This time he learns that Seo-jin almost outed their secret, and that Hana stopped him, not to mention that she omitted these details when he saw her last.
He rushes over to see her, not realizing that he’s being tailed by the reporter sent by Seung-yeon. Robin confronts her about stopping Seo-jin yesterday, and when she points out that she wasn’t picking a side, he’s hurt by the fact that she wouldn’t pick his side, and cries that if Hana disavows him too like everyone else…
But she swears that she’d never do that. Hana wants to do everything with him, but she asks if they can really be happy if it costs them another person’s happiness. Robin argues that there’s no way for him and Seo-jin to both be happy, and there’s no way for Robin to be acknowledged without negative consequence to Seo-jin.
Robin says that he might disappear at any moment, so how can he ask to love her and be loved?
He stalks out angrily, and Hana chases after him to continue the conversation. They get into his car, and the reporter tells the hired henchman next to him to do a good job and gets out of the car. When Robin is stopped at a red light, the guy slams the accelerator and rear-ends him on purpose.
It’s not a big accident, but the guy is immediately hostile and demands Robin’s driver’s license and national ID number. Oh no, so that’s what Seung-yeon wanted. The cops are called, but Robin remains as stubborn as ever. No matter how much Hana pleads, he insists that he’s not Seo-jin, and refuses to give them any other information beyond the name Robin.
This continues down at the police station, and Seung-yeon pumps his fist to hear that Robin’s only helping him along by being so stubborn. Hana steps away to call Secretary Kwon, and notices the reporter lurking nearby, recognizing him from the other day.
But she doesn’t have time to react before the reporter asks Robin if he’s the webtoon artist. On cue, more reporters swarm around them and ask for a confirmation. Robin hangs his head, and Hana struggles with what to do, knowing that outing him would hurt Seo-jin, but disavowing him would hurt Robin.
She startles Robin when she speaks for him and confirms his identity as the webtoon artist. He beams proudly as flashes go off around them, and then Hana squeezes her eyes shut to add, “But it’s a pen name.”
She says that this is Gu Seo-jin, and that he overcame his traumatic childhood experiences by creating webtoons under the pen name Robin. Hana looks like she can barely believe what she did, while Robin gapes at her, too stunned to even speak.
Seung-yeon fumes like an impotent little gnome, thwarted yet again. The circus members are quite confused since they still believe that Robin and Seo-jin are twins, but they chalk it up to more attempts to hide the chaebol birth secret.
Seo-jin is alarmed to find Hana and Secretary Kwon waiting for him first thing in the morning, and asks if Robin caused some kind of trouble. Hana cops to being the one to cause it this time, and apologizes.
Seo-jin sits down to read the news feed, which is filled with stories about Seo-jin’s double life as a webtoon artist. He turns to her slowly: “What… did you do?”
Closing caption: Final fireworks—brilliant and strong.
I’m honestly confused as to why they all think this is a huge revelation—Robin as Seo-jin’s pen name is pretty much the first cover story that comes to mind, no? It’s way better than the twin story, since that’s so easy to disprove, and this way Robin is accounted for and even glorified as Seo-jin’s better half. It just doesn’t strike me as an actual solution though—it’s a bandaid, much like the twin cover story. And if Robin is still feeling threatened, this doesn’t change the overarching problem that he faces. It’s a smart way to buy some time and save both Seo-jin and Robin from having to make their condition public, but the truth is that it still boxes Robin into being Seo-jin’s alter ego. To be fair, that’s what he is, and his dream of becoming his own person is unrealistic at best. But he might see this as Hana protecting Seo-jin above all. Though maybe it’s really the thing that she wishes were true.
It’s kind of nice to have everything else fall away and focus almost entirely on the love triangle, though would it kill them to pick up the pace? When we do get to the revelations and important conversations, I’m usually satisfied with the characters’ growth and the ways in which they’ve changed, but I still feel like I’m waiting for them to really dive in, to let things get messy rather than talk about the relationship instead of having it. I’m glad that Seo-jin was able to crystallize Hana’s fears and reservations about admitting her feelings, because I was starting to wonder how she could be so in tune with her feelings for Robin but so out of tune with her obvious feelings for Seo-jin. But Seo-jin understands it better than she does herself—that admitting her feelings isn’t as much about being unfaithful to Robin romantically, as it is about opening the door to Robin’s disappearance for good.
I did expect Seo-jin to make the sacrifice to keep Robin around, but it was still really touching when he did it. We’ve seen how much he’s suffered and how desperately he’s wanted to live a normal life, but now the choice is simple for him: He loves Hana, Hana loves Robin, so he won’t be the one to take Robin away from her. I think that’s the point at which Hana sees Seo-jin’s love for her as something real, because he’s actually giving up his own happiness to put her first. I can’t believe he’s suggesting that they actively maintain a love triangle though. I mean, I get it… but it still weirds me out.
The one thing that (barely) keeps it from twisted threesome territory is that Hana is still choosing Robin. Seo-jin knows that this is the only thing keeping their situation in balance, if you will. Because the second she chooses him, all bets are off and he wouldn’t be able to guarantee Robin’s existence. I don’t know how she wouldn’t love Seo-jin when he’s willing to split himself in half to give her what she wants, and something tells me that Hana isn’t the kind of person to let him stay broken for her sake, despite her loyalty to Robin. But if she lets herself love Seo-jin, does that mean Robin disappears forever? And if Hana is already arguing that she and Robin couldn’t be happy if Seo-jin sacrificed his happiness for theirs, has she already disrupted the balance?
In a small restaurant named Pig Mom, a woman narrates that a power dynamic emerges in every relationship, pitting strong versus weak. Sometimes age is the determining factor, and at other times fists are more effective. Demonstrating her point is a table of three, where a minor tiff escalates into a full-blown brawl.
That brings our narrator out from the kitchen to break up the fight: She’s JO KANG-JA (her name happens to mean Strong One; she’s played by Kim Hee-sun), an ajumma with frizzy hair and a (pixelated) mouthful of swears. She screams at the men, shutting them up into contrition.
As the conflict resolves, Kang-ja notes that there’s a third way to assert power: a loud voice, which she’s just proven she’s a pro at. But there’s a force even more powerful than that: money. And those with it always win.
Kang-ja arrives home to her family: There’s the snappish mother-in-law who complains about the dinner that’s not made, the wimpy husband (Im Hyung-joon) who slinks off to avoid having to defend her, and the teenage daughter AH-RAN (Kim Yoo-jung) who shrugs her off with monosyllabic answers.
Ah-ran is in that adolescent phase where she doesn’t want anything to do with Mom and pushes aside any attempt to help. Kang-ja takes it in stride and watches her daughter heading off to her night academy, explaining to us that there’s one exception to all those rules of power, because the person who loves more is always in the weaker position. “To me, my daughter is like that,” she thinks. “I am a mother.”
Outside the academy, Ah-ran gets pushed around by a trio of bullies after defending her friend Yi-kyung. Ah-ran is remarkably composed in the face of the violence, telling the girls to keep their jealousy in check since head bully WANG JUNG-HEE (Lizzy) is only picking on Yi-kyung for being prettier than her.
Ah-ran’s refusal to back down and strong words (calling Jung-hee pathetic) escalates the violence. It also attracts the notice of other students nearby, particularly a boy (Baro) who dials a number on his phone.
It’s to a friend, GO BOK-DONG (Jisoo), who shows up just as Jung-hee’s about to flip her lid. His presence makes the mean girls instantly deferential, and they stop bullying to do his bidding. What is he, the alpha bully? Yet Bok-dong’s intervention acts to help Ah-ran, which makes this an interesting dynamic.
Jung-hee and her mean girls shuffle off apologetically, and Bok-dong kneels down to look Ah-ran eye to eye. She’s trembling, and he drawls that they’re seeing a lot of each other lately: “Let’s not see a lot of each other.”
Ah-ran hurries away with her friend, who apologizes for causing her trouble yet again. Smiling, Ah-ran just tells Yi-kyung to run since it’s raining, and the two girls laugh and twirl in the downpour.
At home, Kang-ja worries about Ah-ran being caught in the rain, but her immature husband and naggy mother-in-law are more interested in having her whip up a snack for them. She excuses herself to go out looking for Ah-ran, leaving them griping after her.
Kang-ja arrives at the academy just as class is being let out by its teacher, PARK NOAH (Ji Hyun-woo), for whom the word hapless seems tailor-made. He’s super earnest as he encourages his kids to try harder and not sleep through class, and they just yawn and grimace in his face.
Kang-ja lights up when Ah-ran exits the building, calling her over. Ah-ran pulls Mom aside in annoyance and rejects the ride home and the umbrella, leaving Mom frustrated. Kang-ja asks why Ah-ran never wants to be picked up from school, why she locks herself up in her room, why she recoils from touching her, why she won’t say a word.
Finally Ah-ran bursts out that she dislikes talking to Mom. Her twitchiness makes me think this is more about the bullies than about hating Mom, but Kang-ja doesn’t understand, wondering if she did something wrong. Then Ah-ran flinches from Mom’s hand on her shoulder and says harshly, “You being my mother is the mistake.” Ah-ran runs off, and Kang-ja swallows her hurt.
Ah-ran joins her friend Yi-kyung, and they head off with Teacher Noah’s umbrella. Upset, Kang-ja drops the umbrella she’d brought for her daughter, and Noah hurries after her to return it, calling her “student” since she’s wearing Ah-ran’s old gym clothes.
Kang-ja ignores his help and heads into a nearby pojangmacha to order a bottle of soju. Noah bursts inside the tent to cancel that order, determined to keep this student from a path of delinquency (which is adorable). He puts on his deepest teacherly growl (which really isn’t very deep) and orders her to go home.
Kang-ja snaps that she’s not a student, but he points at the school name on her jacket and demands her class number and name. Temper flaring, she jumps up and lets loose a torrent of bleeped swears, mixing in her hometown saturi accent. Noah just stares in shock. Blink, blink.
Kang-ja storms off, replaying Ah-ran’s words in her head. It makes her think back to her own schoolgirl days, and the strained relationship she had with her own mother, a tough ajumma from Busan who’d once grumbled to Kang-ja, “If you weren’t here, I wouldn’t have lived like this.” Teenage Kang-ja had snapped back, “Did I ask to be born?”
Ah-ran takes the bus home, and flinches in pain when bumped into. Now we know her real reason for pushing Mom’s touch away, since it looks like she’s pretty bruised under that uniform.
When Kang-ja returns home and finds Ah-ran’s door locked yet again, she lets herself in with the key, determined to have a talk. But Ah-ran is asleep, and Kang-ja sighs and starts to tuck her in… revealing Ah-ran’s badly bruised wrist. In alarm, Kang-ja pulls back the covers and finds more injuries all over her arms and legs.
Ah-ran snaps awake, but it’s too late to hide. Kang-ja demands to know what happened, not buying the “I hurt myself in gym class” excuse. Ah-ran says Mom couldn’t do anything anyway and tells her to butt out.
Kang-ja sits down to discuss it with her husband Jin-sang, ready to barge into school tomorrow to demand a solution. Jin-sang argues that they should be more careful; they don’t want this to backfire on them, and that there’s not much they can do legally. He suggests inquiring quietly and transferring Ah-ran to a new school.
Jin-sang’s words make sense, but Kang-ja eyes him with bitter disappointment. “If she were your biological daughter, would you say that?” she asks.
Jin-sang declares that Ah-ran was his daughter from the moment he married her, and then returns, “She’s not your biological daughter either!” Huh. That’s interesting, but we don’t get an explanation because Jin-sang realizes he went too far and backs down.
Kang-ja leaves the room and finds Ah-ran standing outside, having heard everything. She agrees with Dad, not wanting Mom to do stir the pot, saying that whatever Mom does to help her might not in fact help. “Don’t do anything,” Ah-ran requests.
Kang-ja drinks by herself for a while, then takes a deep breath and tells herself to act like an adult, like a mother. Don’t act rashly. So the next day, she meets a teacher at a cafe to discuss this calmly.
Meanwhile, let’s meet the players behind the bureaucracy: Myeongseong Foundation runs Myeongseong High School, and there are a handful of players we’ll have to get to know. I can’t promise it’s exciting, but it is important so here are the nuts and bolts: The foundation is headed by Chairman Hong, who’s been accused of misusing public funds. He’s wheelchair-bound and sickly, so his secretary, JOO AE-YEON (Oh Yoon-ah), handles the media and ushers him off. The sharp look in Ae-yeon’s eye tells us to watch out for her.
Also worth watching out for is Myeongseong High teacher and planning chief DO JUNG-WOO (Kim Tae-hoon), who has a distinct shark-like quality. He’s also well-connected, putting in a courtesy call to the minister of education.
Kang-ja’s meeting with the teacher prompts Do Jung-woo to inquire into the bullying allegations, and he interviews the students. They predictably downplay the accusations: Head bully Jung-hee swears that she never laid a hand on Ah-ran (only scared her a little), and the indifferent HONG SANG-TAE (Baro), who happens to be Chairman Hong’s son, feigns ignorance. Clearly a lie, since he was the one who called alpha dog Bok-dong to intervene the other night.
Bok-dong tells Do Jung-woo to ask the victim herself. If she’s too scared of retaliation to say anything, well, then she can just keep getting beat up. I can’t read this guy, but it’s intriguing.
Hearing that students are being questioned, timid Yi-kyung worries that this will escalate and involve her mother. Ah-ran assures her that Yi-kyung won’t get dragged into this, but urges her friend to tell her mother before things get any bigger. But Yi-kyung can’t have her mother knowing, ever.
Chairman Hong is wheeled into a meeting with the school’s vice principal, then leaps at the man in a fury, completely able-bodied after all. You big stinkin’ faker! He attacks the blubbering vice principal for passing along internal information to the prosecutor’s office, getting quite violent. The music in this scene is disturbingly lighthearted.
Chairman Hong’s definitely a baddie but we aren’t told much about the particulars; all we know at this point is that everybody in his camp seems incredibly sketchy. His two underlings, secretary Ae-yeon and her chief secretary boss, snipe at each other and about him; Ae-yeon seems to hold herself above her crude boss, but Chief Secretary Ahn insinuates that she only got this far via sponsor relationships.
She’s disappointed that the education minister stepped in and prevented something, having thought it would happen this time. Everything about the scene direction hints that she’s Up To Something.
At school, Teacher Jung-woo calls Ah-ran in next for questioning. She tries to deny the whole situation, but he doesn’t believe that. He suggests that Ah-ran not ruin her own prospects with her friendship with Yi-kyung, which is the source of her trouble. She replies, “Yi-kyung is my friend. I will protect her, so nobody can mess with her.”
Kang-ja has a follow-up meeting with the high school teacher, whose only solution is to transfer Ah-ran to another school. He says that Ah-ran’s troubles stem from her friendship with another girl (which has spurred lesbian rumors) and tells Mom that the safest thing to do is keep quiet and move. Don’t rock the boat.
Kang-ja blows up at the teacher, demanding to know if the teacher would just shut up and let it slide if his daughter were beaten from head to toe. She threatens to take this to the police, the government, the court—as far as she can take it.
But Kang-ja finds herself thwarted at every turn. There’s no proof, no witnesses, not even a victim’s statement. The police won’t help, and can’t file a report.
Even so, Kang-ja’s aggressive stance has the teachers nervous. Jung-woo puts in a call to someone to “proceed as discussed,” in order to take care of the problem.
Kang-ja heads to the courthouse next, calling in a favor with a judge she knows. He’s in trial, and Kang-ja sits in as a bullying student reads a tearful statement apologizing for taking out his pain and anger on his victim. Both boys cry and the judge guides the victim into accepting the bully’s apology. The judge commends the bully for recognizing his wrongs and sentences him to community service.
Afterward, the judge greets Kang-ja warmly and asks her to wait in the cafe nearby. Her spirits lift, but while she waits she overhears a disturbance nearby—the sobbing bully is right back to threatening his victim, having put on a convincing show.
Kang-ja heads back to the courthouse, where she sees a distraught mother clinging to the judge, demanding that he save her child: “You told me to fight till the end, and I’d win! But my child died! My child committed suicide while the bully lives well!”
Stone-faced, the judge stands there looking away while the mother wails that the law can’t be trusted. That rocks Kang-ja deeply.
Ah-ran walks to her night academy, and senses that she’s being followed. She starts running, and with her stalker in hot pursuit, Ah-ran comes to a dead end in an alley. In a panic she tires climbing over a wall, but as she falls, her pursuer catches up to her and corners her.
She trembles as a knife is held to her throat—it’s Bok-dong, reminding her that he’d warned her to stay out of Yi-kyung’s business. “If you want to live, shut your mouth, shut your ears, and erase everything in your head. I know nothing.”
She protests, “But Yi-kyung…” He says that everyone “who knows about that” could end up dead, and that the world is a lot meaner than she thinks. Ah-ran is nothing to “them” and they’ll think nothing of swatting her dead like a fly.
“If you don’t wanna die, live like you’re dead,” he growls. Terrified, Ah-ran agrees.
Bok-dong leaves her with a final warning that telling her mother could get Mom killed too, by somebody even stronger than him. Ah-ran collapses into a sobbing, scared heap.
Kang-ja trudges home feeling helpless, then hears something from around the corner. It’s Ah-ran, bloody and shaking from shock. Kang-ja rushes to her side in alarm, holding her as she starts to fade. “M-mom,” Ah-ran murmurs before her eyes roll back into her head.
Kang-ja takes her home, the warnings ringing in her ears about retaliation and blowback. A text from Yi-kyung arrives asking why Ah-ran isn’t in class, and suddenly Kang-ja is bursting out of the house and driving to the academy in a hurry.
Poor Teacher Noah, whose earnest literature lecture is slept through and thoroughly ignored. As he leaves his classroom, he spies Kang-ja in the halls, asking everyone if they know Yi-kyung, and recognizes her from the pojangmacha. Given what he thinks of her (she’s tough, she drinks, she swears), he assumes she’s going to terrorize Yi-kyung and threatens to report her to police—although when Kang-ja snatches his phone away, she finds that he just called the operator. Haha, he’s adorable.
When Noah tries to stop her, she grabs him by the throat (thereby reinforcing his misunderstanding), just as she hears Yi-kyung’s name down the hall. Thinking to protect the girl, Noah lies that it’s not her, but then Yi-kyung is snatched and yanked away by somebody.
Kang-ja runs after them, but loses them in a crowd of students outside. While trying to make her way through them, in the commotion a low voice (Bok-dong’s?) growls into her hear, “If you keep going, ajumma, your daughter might die.” And then he’s gone.
In a darkened room, a man kicks down a student and issues a warning to shut up and butt out. It’s Chairman Hong’s Chief Secretary Ahn, who proceeds to violently kick the bejeezus out of her… and then we see that his victim is Teenage Kang-ja, and we’re in her memory. He tells her to stay away from his younger sibling or have her face torn off.
Kang-ja considers everyone’s warnings and suggestions, understanding just how much the system won’t help her. She goes into Ah-ran’s room that night and finds her daughter huddled under her desk, mumbling, “Save me, Mom. Save me…” Oof. What could a mother say to that? Kang-ja holds her close and cries.
Kang-ja tends to Ah-ran’s injuries, then heads out to a nightclub, ready to do some kind of battle.
It looks like a club for the middle-aged gangster set, rowdy and roughneck. A bouncer grabs Kang-ja and tells her this is no place for kids, just as a ruckus breaks out. A disgruntled ajusshi is shoved over, and grabs the nearest person ready for a fight.
Kang-ja easily strikes him in the throat and steals his belt off his trousers to use as a whip (though she doesn’t have to when his pants just fall down). She handily dispatches all the men who come swinging at her, then tells one of the gangsters to pass the message to his boss: “Beolgupo Sashimi is here.”