Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! Ji An’s headlining our post today, because this thing, of her listening in on Dong Hoon’s world, feels like such a key part of our story.
IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENTS, before we begin:
1. ZERO SPOILER POLICY ON THE OPEN THREAD
We will be adopting a ZERO SPOILER POLICY for this Open Thread, except for events that have happened in the show, up to this point.
The spoiler tags don’t work in email notifications, therefore, please take note that WE WILL NOT BE USING SPOILER TAGS FOR THIS OPEN THREAD. ANY AND ALL SPOILERS WILL BE REDACTED to protect first-time viewers in our midst (although, I’d appreciate it if you would save me the trouble of having to redact spoilers, heh 😅).
*This includes (but is not limited to) how characters or relationships evolve over the course of the story. Just pretend that this is Past You, on this Open Thread!*
2. SPOILER ZONE AVAILABLE
HOWEVER!! If you’d like to discuss spoilers from a rewatcher’s point of view, I’ve created a SPOILER ZONE for you, where you can discuss all the spoilers you’d like, without the need for spoiler warnings. You can find it here!
Without further ado, here are my reactions to this set of episodes; have fun in the Open Thread, everyone! ❤️
Ji An kicks her plan into gear this episode, and, just judging from her abilities so far, I feel like she’s really quite formidable when she wants to be, and whomever she sets her mind to taking down, likely doesn’t stand a chance. And right now, she’s got her mind set on taking down Dong Hoon. Yikes. 😬
Before I go any further, I thought it’d be relevant to state upfront, that I don’t support or endorse Ji An’s espionage efforts, so she doesn’t “get a pass,” as Beez put it. In fact, I think the characters in this drama world are as interesting as they are, because of how gray they’re written.
There’s nothing morally right about what Ji An is doing to Dong Hoon, but given the context of her situation, where we see what she has to deal with in Kwang Il, and with her grandmother’s needs on top of it all, it becomes understandable, why someone in her position would make the choices that she does. And that, by extension, might also trigger the question of, “What would I choose to do, if I were in Ji An’s shoes?”
Similarly, Dong Hoon’s portrayed as a very decent person, and yet, even someone like him was tempted, when 50 million won was suddenly put in front of him, and his family had a need that he couldn’t fulfill. We don’t know what would have happened, if Ji An hadn’t first stolen the money, but it’s clear that Dong Hoon was tempted, at least for a while.
There are no paragons of virtue in this drama world; our characters feel like real people who have real struggles and experience real temptations. I think that’s part of the reason we find them so unforgettable.
We get more of a glimpse of the relationship between Dong Hoon and Yoon Hee this episode, and it seems to me that there are bigger, deeper issues that they are likely ignoring, in the interest of carrying on with a “normal, daily life.” Yoon Hee’s touchy about Dong Hoon ripping open that bag of dried cuttlefish, and Dong Hoon’s perplexed that Yoon Hee appears to care more about him ripping open the bag, than the fact that he’s found the missing money.
Of course, there’s the affair in the equation, but it does seem to my eyes, that they likely had been having these communication / relationship issues even before Yoon Hee had started having an affair with Joon Young.
We don’t know what those issues are yet, but I do think it’s important to note that Dong Hoon puts away the cuttlefish in a new bag and apologizes to Yoon Hee. He may not be digging into the heart of their relationship troubles, but he does desire to mend the relationship.
I find Ji An’s strategy of asking Dong Hoon to buy her dinner for a month intriguing. It makes makes me wonder what her specific intention was, in making that request. Did she have a specific outcome in mind?
Could it be to see what kind of information she could get out of him, over the various meals, since she’s specified that alcohol needs to be part of each meal and he might let something useful slip, if he were tipsy? Or might the dinners be an avenue to create a rumor, that Dong Hoon’s seeing the temp girl, and have that rumor be Dong Hoon’s undoing? At the moment, I can’t tell.
Importantly, Dong Hoon attempts to negotiate with Ji An. Even though it’s important to him that she keep his secret, he’s still uncomfortable spending time alone with her outside of the office, and is careful to draw that line. And, even though he goes along with Ji An’s demand for dinner (and even declines an invitation from the Chairman, in order to meet Ji An’s demand), it really isn’t that long before he feels like he can’t deal with the sneaking around any longer, and demands that they stop.
Even more than our last set of episodes, this episode, Ji An’s aptitude for subterfuge is really coming through. I mean, she effortlessly observes Dong Hoon’s code for the main door of his building, and steals his and Yoon Hee’s mail (although for what, I’m not super sure at the moment). And then there’s how she later takes the opportunity to pickpocket Dong Hoon’s phone right out of his coat pocket, install the spyware and replace the phone, all without Dong Hoon noticing.
Not only that, I’m pretty impressed, actually, at Ji An’s quick thinking, when she realizes that Dong Hoon doesn’t take his phone with him, to meet Director Park. Her solution, to get Ki Beom to call Dong Hoon several times, so that she can chase him down and put the phone in his hands, is so sharp and so effective.
On a tangent, Ki Beom’s really fast on the uptake too, with how he makes up a plausible wrong number, for when Dong Hoon actually picks up the phone. These two just born for spy work, I feel like!
Ok, I have to confess that I struggle a little bit, with the slick manner in which Ki Beom goes undercover at that room salon, in order to drug Director Park’s drink. It doesn’t seem logical, that he’d have that exact waistcoat hidden under his hoodie.
I tried to rationalize that he perhaps stole it on his first foray into the room salon with the kimbap in tow, but.. we follow him in and out of that place pretty closely, and it still seems a stretch, that he’d have had time to nick one, let alone put it on under his hoodie, before coming back out.
It certainly feels that Ji An starting to listen in on Dong Hoon’s daily conversations, is the beginning of her being able to see him in a different light.
I don’t think she could care less before, but the fact that she seems to do that double take, when he hears Dong Hoon stop his brother from joking about a possible relationship between Dong Hoon and Ji An, says something, I feel.
She’s essentially nobody to him, and yet, he defends her to his brother, and refuses to allow Hyung to talk disparagingly about her, telling Hyung that she’s just a kid, and someone’s precious daughter. It feels like it’s a new and unfamiliar thing to her, to have someone speak up for her like this.
That doesn’t stop her from trying to trap him with that staged attempted kiss at the end of the episode, though. I’m sure that it’s a combination of, 1, the fact that all she’s heard by bugging Dong Hoon’s phone, has only been enough to give her slight pause, and 2, Kwang Il’s exerting pressure on her to remind her of just how in debt she is, and how precarious her situation is.
Given the desperation of her situation, I can see why Ji An would think of any means possible, to achieve her goal, even if it means getting Ki Beom to take a compromising picture of her and Dong Hoon.
This episode, Dong Hoon and Ji An are starting to see each other more clearly, and, as it turns out, that’s quite an uncomfortable thing, for both of them.
In that scene in the meeting room, where Dong Hoon confronts Ji An about messing with him, she’s definitely lying about trying to kiss him because she’d felt bored, but there is enough truth in her observations about him, to give him pause.
“I wondered how someone could look so bored when he makes over five million won a month? Even while knowing… that your college junior who is above you is trying to fire you, you play dumb. You’re struggling through your life sentence of earnestness. It looks like your life sucks just as much as mine.. and I’m the most miserable looking person here.”
It is true that despite the income that he makes, Dong Hoon is less than enchanted with his life. And it’s also true that Joon Young is his college junior, and Dong Hoon’s playing dumb that Joon Young’s trying to get rid of him. It’s even true, that Dong Hoon strives to be earnest in life – but that value of his, is turning out to be something of a life sentence.
Ji An’s cutting to the heart of some of Dong Hoon’s most private thoughts, some of which it feels like he doesn’t even admit to himself. I can see why this would make him feel uncomfortable.
Perhaps, aside from Ji An’s overstepping in attempting to kiss him, that discomfort could also be part of what’s driving Dong Hoon to try to get Ji An fired. After all, Dong Hoon doesn’t strike me as a “fight” kinda guy. When something makes him uncomfortable or fearful, I’d peg him more for “flight,” where he finds a way to avoid the situation. And getting Ji An to leave is his way of avoiding this very confronting sort of thought.
I’m actually a little sorry to see Director Park leave, though it does look like this is meant to be temporary. I just rather like how sharp he is, when he’s in investigative mode. I mean, he manages to figure out a fair amount of stuff about his drunken kidnap to the East Sea, just by studying CCTV footage, and piecing together the clues that he finds. I feel like he’d make a pretty good detective.
This episode, I feel more for Dong Hoon’s brothers, for the first time.
I like the fact that they’re no longer jobless, and are applying themselves to their new business, even though cleaning isn’t something that either of them had imagined themselves doing for a living. The earnest, stiff-upper-lip determination to do something with what they have, appeals to me.
And therefore, I feel really sorry for Hyung, when he gets humiliated on the job by that tipsy guy. It’s not just the harsh, derogatory words; it’s also the fact that the guy recoils from Hyung’s touch, like Hyung is the vermin of the earth. That’s gotta sting, especially since this is all new to Hyung. He’s never done this type of work before, and therefore isn’t yet familiar with the kind of stigma or prejudice that can come with it.
The way he can’t help but cry, and yet, tries not to show that he’s crying, is really quite poignant. It makes me feel sorry for him (and it makes me willing to overlook his more annoying tendencies, like eating out of Ki Hoon’s doshirak just because the food looks better to him). Also, how awful that Mom sees and hears everything. That really does make everything ten times worse.
The way Dong Hoon intervenes, by going to see the tipsy guy, and getting him to apologize is nothing short of badass. I mean, I kinda didn’t realize he had it in him, because when it comes to his own life, he’s the sort to keep his head down, and roll over, if that’s what it takes to keep the peace.
Yet, when it comes to his family, he’s not afraid to speak up and unleash some fire, in order to protect the ones whom he loves. It’s really quite touching, to see him do this for the love of his family. It also makes me feel that he values them, more than he values himself. Because if he has it in him, to fight for their dignity, why doesn’t he use that same fire, to fight for his own dignity, right? The only logical answer I can see, is that he instinctively values their lives more.
In a similar-but-different way, Ji An fights for her rights – and Gran’s too – like with Kwang Il, this episode.
Even though Kwang Il is determined to torment Ji An to her dying day, and is violent with her, it doesn’t deter Ji An from demanding that he write her a receipt for the 10 million won that she’s returning, with that additional promise that he will not break into her home again, failing which he will free her from her remaining debt.
Kwang Il doesn’t take kindly to her demands, and beats her up for it, but later, we see that Ji An’s secured that receipt, and we also see that her little finger is extremely bruised and injured. Dang. Show doesn’t allow us an explicit look, but from these circumstantial details, it’s enough for us to deduce that Ji An had fought Kwang Il for it, and had made herself clear enough, that he’d actually given in to her condition.
Sure, it’s possible that Kwang Il might have some sort of soft spot for her, despite obsessively stalking her and beating her up, and perhaps that’s why he gave in, but it remains abundantly clear, that Ji An had fought for what she wanted.
It’s debatable whether Ji An would have fought Kwang Il as hard, if Gran hadn’t been in the picture. I tend to think that if it hadn’t been for Gran, Ji An wouldn’t have fought Kwang Il. After all, when we first saw her interacting with Kwang Il in last week’s episodes, she’d ignored the fact that he was sitting there in her apartment, when she’d come home from work.
On a similar note, this episode, we learn that Ji An had actually killed a man, just like she’d told Dong Hoon. She’d stabbed Kwang Il’s father, when he’d started beating up Gran.
First of all, dang, she really did kill a man, after all. Ji An’s been through more in her short life, than others do, over many more decades.
Secondly, this, again, is an example of how she would tolerate someone beating her, but can’t tolerate someone beating up Gran. This is why she’d killed Kwang Il’s father; not because he’d been beating Ji An up, but because it had been Gran on the receiving end.
In this sense, it feels like Ji An and Dong Hoon have something very fundamental in common.
Earlier in the episode, Ji An feels offended when she listens in on Dong Hoon’s conversations, and hears him say about her, “I feel bad for people who look tense. It gives you an idea about their past. Kids grow up quickly when they’re hurt. I can see it. That’s why I feel bad for her. I’m scared to know what happened to her.”
Although Dong Hoon says it in a compassionate manner, Ji An takes it as an invasion of her privacy, judging from the way she cusses him out for having the audacity to say that about her.
And then at the end of the episode, when Dong Hoon tells Ki Hoon, “There’s someone… who knows a lot about me,” and Ki Hoon asks if that makes Dong Hoon happy, Dong Hoon’s reply is a somber, “I’m sad… that she knows who I am.”
Oof. That’s such a painfully honest answer. It tells us – and Ji An, who’s listening – that Dong Hoon’s essentially ashamed of himself and his life. And that it hurts him, to have someone be able to see the truth of who he is.
That look on Ji An’s face, as she hears this, looks like sadness and compassion, to my eyes.
At the same time, couldn’t it also be empathy, because she knows how he feels, in the vulnerability of being seen, in all of his misery, because he’s also able to see her, in all of hers?