Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! I thought this was the perfect shot to headline our post today, since this conversation between Dong Hoon and Ji An feels like such an important milestone. So much honesty up in here!
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! ❤️
This episode, a couple of things are coming into focus for me.
One of those things, is just how liberated all these ahjusshis feel, as they hang out together, at Jung Hee’s bar. All their troubles – and perhaps more importantly, all their failures – are forgotten, as they drink, and cheer, and just generally behave like a bunch of carefree boys.
When they finally do move to leave, I feel like I can almost see their shoulders start to slump again, from the weight of their burdens and worries returning to their consciousness.
I don’t know that I was this cognizant of it before; Jung Hee’s bar really is an oasis for these men. Hanging out here, together, they can escape their realities for a while, and forget the failures of their careers and family lives.
I thought Ki Hoon’s spiel to Dong Hoon about underwear was a bit off-the-wall, but I do think that underneath that sense of quirk, there’s an aching sense of poignance there.
It tells me that, fundamentally, Ki Hoon is ashamed of himself and how his life has turned out. And, that idea, that wearing expensive underwear would vindicate him in the eyes of whomever was handling his corpse, is such a desperate one, when you think about it. He wants dignity in death, but even that is a false dignity, in the sense that he can’t actually afford that expensive underwear.
The general vibe of acceptance and trust, at Jung Hee’s bar, is so welcoming, when contrasted with what these people face in real life. You can see it in the way Jung Hee has no qualms about getting drunk herself, because she knows that the boys will take care of her and of things in general.
And you can see it, in the way Dong Hoon collects the money from everyone, opens the cash register to take out the rest of the day’s takings, and then put it in her kettle, for safekeeping. There is so much familiarity and implicit trust here; it’s really great.
This episode, the connection between Dong Hoon and Ji An becomes more and more tangible, and I realize that I cheer internally, every time they take a step towards understanding each other better, or helping each other.
I like that Dong Hoon’s so consistent in defending Ji An in front of other people, and I like that Ji An is privy to those conversations.
Like, I know that it’s wrong of Ji An to be listening in on Dong Hoon’s life like this, without his knowledge or permission, but it still gives me a thrill of satisfaction, when Ji An just keeps learning that Dong Hoon’s a very decent person, and that Dong Hoon’s consistent about defending her from getting dragged in idle gossip, even though it’s gossip that she would logically never hear about.
Plus, she’s definitely becoming more sympathetic towards him in degrees, as she observes him at and around the office. It doesn’t escape her eyes when Director Yoon tries to lord it over him, both at the office and at the work gathering (hoesik), and it doesn’t escape her eyes either, that Dong Hoon does his best to keep his head down, and just bear with it.
Over and top of this, there’s how Dong Hoon spontaneously helps her, when he encounters her taking Gran out for a walk at night, to see the moon.
I love the fact that Dong Hoon is so proactive in waiting for Ji An and Gran to return, so that he can help bring Gran home, and I love even more, how respectful Dong Hoon is, when it comes to Ji An’s home. He doesn’t enter any further than absolutely necessary, and leaves the minute it becomes clear that Ji An can handle Gran on her own.
And, importantly, he tells Ji An that she’s a good person, after he sees how she takes care of Gran. I feel like that’s something that Ji An might be hearing for the first time ever, in her life, and the fact that this is unsolicited and basically just Dong Hoon’s natural first reaction to seeing how she lives, must be quite touching to her.
Of course, there’s the thing where Ji An tells Gran, that it’s easy for people with money to be good, so there’s definitely still some cynicism there. Plus, there’s the thing where Ji An’s still working for Joon Young, to get rid of Dong Hoon.
However, it’s also becoming clear, that Ji An’s softening towards Dong Hoon, bit by reluctant bit. In this vein, Ji An’s small concessions towards Dong Hoon give me a thrill. Like when she kicks his foot in the train, to alert him that it’s time to get off.
And what about how she slaps Assistant Manager Kim, for drunkenly talking smack about Dong Hoon, at the tail end of the hoesik? I really hadn’t seen that coming. I mean, I fully believe that Ji An would dare to slap someone, because that’s just how she is. What surprises me, is that she would care enough, to get involved.
And then, there’s how Ji An breaks into a run, when she hears Dong Hoon fall in the snow, but doesn’t hear him get up to keep walking. Again, it doesn’t surprise me that she’s sharp enough to piece together what she’s hearing; it surprises me that she would care enough to run in his direction, to make sure that he’s ok.
Augh. That scene, of Dong Hoon laying on ground, breathing hard, is so full of pathos. It hits me, that he’s miserable enough with his life, that he considers just freezing to death there on the ground, at least for a while, before he tells himself that he can’t die that day, because he’s not wearing expensive underwear.
I’m glad (and relieved) that Dong Hoon’s resilient enough, to pick himself up off that icy ground, to just keep on plodding along.
I realize on this viewing, that I am less repulsed by Yoo Ra. I think on my first watch, I felt grossed out by her habit of throwing up in her stairwell, DAILY, no less, and I also found her statement to Ki Hoon – that she’s so grateful that he’s a failure – extremely insensitive and rude.
I still think both those things are not cool, but this time around, I’m trying to reframe how I see things, in hopes that I can perhaps find her character less distasteful.
For example, while I think that a reasonable person who sincerely doesn’t want to inconvenience her neighbors and the cleaners, would simply drink less, or leave for home a little earlier, from wherever she’s drinking, so that she’d be able to avoid throwing up in the stairwell.
But I realize that that assumption presumes that Yoo Ra is in enough control of herself and her emotions, to actually stop herself, or regulate herself as needed.
Thinking that she is somehow incapacitated, emotionally and mentally, helps. And, Show does hint at that, with how Yoo Ra talks about how working with Ki Hoon had turned her into a stuttering mess who couldn’t function like a normal person.
If her current inability to moderate her behavior stems from the mental and emotional distress she’d felt while working with Ki Hoon, then it does make me feel differently about her.
Meaning, I feel grossed out by her throwing up daily in the stairwell, but I also feel a bit sorry for her, that she’s so incapacitated that she can’t even deal with herself, in this basic manner. Does that make sense?
I still do think it’s a weird and rude statement, to say that she’s thankful that Ki Hoon’s a failure, but I suppose, in the context of her experience, I can kind of see where she’s coming from. That, if Ki Hoon had become successful without her, then it would have proven that she really had been the problem.
From my neutral third party standpoint, I find it curious that Ki Hoon would have cast her as the lead in his movie, if she was such a terrible actress. Did he not get her to go through an audition for the role? Did he just give her the role, because she was pretty?
The way her lack of acting ability is described, it’s shockingly bad. Which begs the question how someone this shockingly bad at acting, could have even secured the lead role in his movie?
We’re not given any answers at this point, but my guess is somewhere in the region of him having some feelings for her. After all, even though he says now, that he’d like to kill her, and that she’d ruined him, he did go back to her apartment and give her his name card, and tell her to call, if she needed someone to clean up the stairwell.
This, despite how gross he and Hyung find it, to actually clean up the vomit, and how they’d vowed to only go back there on Thursdays, no matter what.
Plus, Ki Hoon doesn’t push back for quite a while, even though Yoo Ra says a number of things that I’d consider insensitive and rude. He’s either feeling guilty about how he’d treated her in the past, or he has feelings for her, or both.
Later in the episode, I’m pretty shocked, really, when Ji An tells Dong Hoon that what he’s looking for – a number that can make calls but cannot receive them – is a public pay phone. Honestly, without her tip-off, he might have never made the connection, and he might never have traced the number to its location.
Given that Ji An’s working with Joon Young to take Dong Hoon down, it feels surprising to me, that she’d help him like this – which basically gets him to the very cusp of confirming Yoon Hee’s affair with Joon Young.
It feels like Ji An’s not quite following Joon Young’s direction now, since Joon Young does not want his affair with Yoon Hee to come to light, and has explicitly told Ji An so. I wonder what’s driving Ji An’s actions, and I also wonder whether she’s cognizant of it herself?
This episode, the Main Event is Dong Hoon grappling with the circumstantial evidence that Yoon Hee is having an affair with Joon Young, and then wrestling with his findings.
It’s all very tamped down and understated, and that just underscores just how much Dong Hoon is internalizing all of this, and trying to deal with this, all on his own.
The scene of him just sitting in that cafe, frozen in place, as he grapples with the various pieces of information that he’s learned, is so quietly heartbreaking. I feel like his whole world is imploding on him, on the inside, while his outer expression barely holds it together, to maintain a semblance of normalcy. 💔
I have to give credit to Dong Hoon, though. Instead of jumping to conclusions, he actually tests his theory, by conducting his own little experiments. Like calling Joon Young’s number from the pay phone, just to see what would happen.
Plus, there’s how he sees both Yoon Hee and Joon Young driving into the same apartment building, and then calls Yoon Hee to talk to her, while at the same time calling Joon Young’s phone from the bartender’s phone.
It’s a really clever way to test if Joon Young and Yoon Hee are indeed together in the same place, but more than that, it’s Dong Hoon’s way of giving Yoon Hee the benefit of the doubt, isn’t it?
I mean, part of it, I’m sure, is his denial at work. He doesn’t want it to be true, and so I’m guessing that while conducting his experiments, he’s hoping to prove his own theory wrong. At the same time, though, I do think that he’s also giving Yoon Hee the benefit of the doubt.
Altogether, I do think it tells us a lot about Dong Hoon’s personality. He’s not one to jump to conclusions or rush to action, even when it feels like his whole world is falling apart.
It’s poignant and somewhat excruciating to watch Dong Hoon wrestle with all this, this episode.
And, Ji An’s right there, listening to every tortured, labored breath that Dong Hoon breathes.
I find it significant, that this episode, Ji An finds another reason to worry about Dong Hoon potentially killing himself, and starts running to him, again, so soon after the last incident.
For one thing, it tells us just how badly this is all hitting Dong Hoon. It may not look it, to the casual observer, but the fact that he stands for such a long time, at the bridge overlooking the Han River, breathing all those tortured breaths, implies that he really is toying with the idea of ending it all.
We don’t know how seriously Dong Hoon contemplates this, but the fact that he’d thought about dying in the snow so recently, and then now makes his way to the Han River, which is a known suicide hotspot, and spends such a long time there, just breathing, makes me think that it might be more than a fleeting thought.
I don’t think he’s serious about committing suicide, but I do think that things are bad enough, that he’s wondering whether it would be better to just end it all. Y’know, semi-casual and semi-serious, like people sometimes do.
The other thing is, I can’t get over just how much Ji An seems to care about Dong Hoon now, compared to at first.
Not only is she slapping someone for talking trash about him, she’s frantically tracking his location and running to him, to make sure he’s ok.
And, when she’s listening to him and his labored breathing, she literally doesn’t even hear Kwang Il banging on her door. That says A LOT, because Kwang Il makes such a loud and prolonged racket of it.
On that note, I found that scene with Kwang Il hard to watch. I mean, I guess I shouldn’t be disappointed that he doesn’t keep his promise to Ji An not to invade her space again, because he’s a gangster loan shark who’s not to be trusted, but somehow, I still feel let down, that he went back on his word.
His feelings towards Ji An are definitely complicated, judging from the way he comes to her house on his father’s death anniversary.
He’s like, sad, and angry, and resentful, and wistful, all at the same time. It does feel like he’s there to take it out on Ji An, but in a weird way, it also feels like he’s there to get company, from Ji An. It doesn’t quite make sense, but.. it’s the weird vibe that I’m picking up.
Of course, I hate that Gran gets a fright, and I hate that Ji An feels the need to protect Gran by trying to attack Kwang Il, which only gets her beaten up.
But, it feels so significant, that afterwards, Ji An turns to the recording of Dong Hoon telling her that she’s a good person, for comfort. She looks so sad, as she listens to that sound bite over and over again. It’s like Dong Hoon’s words are a life source, and she’s clinging onto that life source as best as she can.
When Assistant Manager Kim starts yelling at Ji An in the office, I do appreciate how Dong Hoon handles the situation.
He gathers the facts, and then calls Assistant Manager Kim, and, cutting through Kim’s excuses, tells him to apologize, 10 times. And when Kim’s apologies are done, all Dong Hoon says, is simply, “Let’s not live like this,” and that’s it.
He doesn’t attempt to guilt-trip Kim, and neither does he bear a grudge. His aim is to settle it cleanly, and move on. I like that about him.
And then there’s how he then approaches the Ji An side of things.
That conversation where they sit side by side in a bar, feels so raw and honest. Dong Hoon tells Ji An:
“This is so humiliating. I’m sorry. This is all my fault, and yet… Thanks. For hitting him.
If you hear someone talking trash about someone else… don’t tell the other person. Just pretend that you didn’t hear it.
In your generation, it may be the norm to tell people those things. But that’s not the case for us adults. It’s more polite to pretend as if you didn’t hear. If you end up telling them… the person who you told will start avoiding you.
It’s difficult to be around a person… who saw you so vulnerable. And you end up not wanting to see them. It’s fine, as long as nobody knows. Things like these aren’t a big deal. If nobody knows… then it’s not a big deal.”
It feels like such a painful thing, that Dong Hoon’s trying to keep the status quo, trying to convince himself that as long as nobody knows, then it’s not a big deal – even as he thinks about Yoon Hee’s affair with Joon Young. Gah. That’s heartbreaking, isn’t it?
And then there’s how Ji An answers:
“Then… they’ll be scared until someone does find out. In case someone finds out… and they’ll always wonder who might know. And, whenever you meet someone new you’ll wonder, “How long will it be until they find out?” “Or, do they already know?” Sometimes… I wish that I could just have it displayed on the LED billboards for everyone in the world to see… instead of living in such fear for the rest of my life.”
This, as she thinks about how she’s been convicted of stabbing a man. It’s such a brutally honest, raw and vulnerable moment, I feel. This is the most forthcoming Ji An has ever been, in our story, in terms of sharing her inner fears, and it feels very significant, that she shares this with Dong Hoon, and not anyone else.
Dong Hoon’s answer is just as raw and honest:
“I’ll pretend that I don’t know. No matter what I may hear about you… I’ll pretend that I didn’t hear it. So, promise me this. That you’ll pretend that you didn’t hear it. I’m scared…. because I feel like you know everything without me even telling you.”
Aside from the promise that he makes, it strikes me that he’s being remarkably vulnerable, in telling Ji An that, 1, he’s scared (which I think is a huge deal in and of itself), and 2, it’s because she seems to know everything about him, without him having to tell her.
This feels like a very significant milestone in the connection between Dong Hoon and Ji An because you can’t share such personal things with someone, and not have that relationship change.
This episode, I’m less inclined to talk about Yoo Ra, but I did want to say that I was glad that Ki Hoon spoke his piece, informing her that it was partly her fault too. That’s something that I’ve been thinking, since last episode, because the way Yoo Ra puts it, her failure was all Ki Hoon’s fault. And from the sound of it, that’s just not true. It sounds like they were both at fault, honestly.
I don’t know exactly what Dong Hoon has in mind, as he hikes up that mountain, and approaches the Chairman having his campfire time with Joon Young, but what strikes me about the scene, is that while we’d started the episode with Dong Hoon lost in thought and not actually doing a lot, Dong Hoon in this moment, looks poised to act.
And I’m absolutely curious to see what he chooses to do next.