Have I mentioned that I LOVE this show? It’s got some pretty. It’s got some cute. It’s got some SOUL. This particular episode had several ‘moments‘ for me: that scene, or bit of a scene, that steals your heart and makes you feel however the hell it wants you to feel whether you like it or not. Jung Woo-sung, you are my hero. He was at the helm of each of the ‘moments‘ for me.
“To Live” – Noel (from the Padam Padam OST)
episode 3 recap
“Who are you?” Yang Kang-chil asks, eyesight blurry.
Startled, Ji-na is unsure of how to reply but the lights go out.
Hyo-sook and Kang-chil’s mother, Mi-ja, talk about him. The day that Min-ho was murdered and Kang-chil was stabbed and framed, Kang-chil called Mi-ja, but she ignored the call. Hyo-sook comments that if she were in Kang-chil’s shoes, she wouldn’t be able to make amends without the the truth behind that day. Just tell him about his father, she urges, but Mi-ja adamantly refuses.
“Why did Kang-woo die? He died running away from his father after taking a beating in Kang-chil’s place.”
She says that Kang-chil would kill his father over his brother’s death. Hyo-sook points out that Kang-chil will find out his father is alive sooner or later, but Mi-ja remains firm.
Suddenly, Mi-ja and Hyo-sook notice that Gook-soo is sitting behind them, sucking on a frozen yogurt, casually listening in on their conversation and grinning like an idiot. He rises to greet them and addresses Mi-ja as “eomma”. CUTE!
Both women are surprised to see the young man who beat up Kang-chil, but, of course, Gook-soo oh-so-logically explains that he did it to keep Kang-chil from causing trouble just after his release – that could get him sent back for good. He also introduces himself as Lee Gook-soo, “a prison mate and model prisoner.”
In the broken-down animal hospital, Kang-chil fixes the fuse box despite Ji-na’s cold, sarcastic protests. He warns her that she’ll have to fix a lot of things because the place is old and falling apart. When she says nothing, he comments that she seems educated but does not seem to know how to say thank you – she’s disrespectful.
But Ji-na counters with “Why did you grab my wrist?”
“I’m sorry. It was similar to someone I know.” Then he cuts to banmal as he begins to bandage himself, pissed that yet another person is judging him because he has nothing and is no one. He gives her back most of the money she gave him and calls the bit he used fair exchange for what he did earlier.
Then, in respectful language that nonetheless sounds nasty and distancing, she cuts him down to size with her cold logic. You may think you helped me, but you did it illegally and in a way that would make anyone be suspicious of you, she argues. Then she tells him to sit so she can look at his wound but he gets defensive and tries to leave. But she forces him to sit and rips of his bandage. Hyo-sook asked her a favor and she will honor it.
“You do whatever you want, don’t you?” he comments with a grudging admiration. As she leans in close to gently clean his face, he winces at the pain and becomes incredibly, adorably aware of their close proximity.
“You’re hands are pretty,” he compliments and she looks surprised and unsure of how to respond. He gets self-conscious and rambles about how she gets angry at whatever he does. Luckily, the socially inept ex-con gets cut-off by the phone. It’s the doctor who took care of the hit-and-run victim who informs Ji-na that the victim has liver cancer. Does she know where he is?
*Raises hand.* Pick me! Pick me! I do!
The nurse finds Yang Kang-chil’s release papers and we jump back to the animal hospital where Ji-na begins to clean up, shocked by the news. Kang-chil heads out, but is stopped when he sees Kim Young-chul, Ji-na’s sunbae, come in and sneak up on her. When Young-chul surprises her by throwing his arms around her Kang-chil stares in earnest as the vets chat. Aw, you’re so cute being all curious and jealous.
Young-chul notices that the lights are flickering and goes to check it out. Master-of-all-things-awkward Kang-chil asks if she’s married but she is startled that he hasn’t left yet. He retorts that he’s leaving, bumps into a low shelf, and hurries out, mortified. Ji-na can’t help herself and smiles.
Gook-soo finally gets what’s coming to him as Kang-chil chases him up the path to a battered house. “I beat you for your own good!” he declares and gets a shoe to the face and a nosebleed. “Little angle of death,” Kang-chil mutters.
Hyo-sook comes out of the house and Kang-chil notes that its more like a dog house than a human’s house. Mi-ja walks up the path and mother and son stare at each other before she asks why he’s standing in front of another person’s house. Hyo-sook has tricked him into coming to his mother’s house but he says he’d rather stay at a hotel.
Then Hyo-sook tears into him as Mi-ja listens from inside and puts melons into a bowl. You think your life has been hard, she says. Your mother has been living horribly to buy this crappy house so she could live with you. Just as she wasn’t by your side, you weren’t by hers.
Mi-ja has heard enough and tells him to go stay at a motel. Out of all the words said, all she heard was motel. AW! Both she and Hyo-sook stomp away leaving a stunned and overwhelmed Kang-chil. He immediately decides to stay just to ‘annoy’ his mother and orders a grinning Gook-soo to set up the blankets, which his mother refuses to provide.
Aw, familial love.
In the morning, Gook-soo is washing and sees the vision of sitting beside a schoolkid on a bus. Then, half-dressed, he follows a grumbling, but secretly pleased, Mi-ja around the house, calling her “eomma” left and right.
Why does he greet her half-clothed? He’s growing wings and his back is itchy. HAHAHA! It may be true, but damn that’s funny.
He helps her walk her cart to work because she has two sons and it’s only proper. He also knows she bought the melons for Kang-chil who loves them.
When he wakes, Kang-chil finds the melons beside him and digs right in. He sits on the platform and it breaks. Cursing, he peruses the mess and makes his way into the house, which is also in shambles and decides to fix it.
As Mi-ja is fighting for a fish shipment, Hyo-sook and Kang-chil pull up with a picnic. Gook-soo waits for permission from Kang-chil to eat, which the women find strange, but he is adamant about. He digs in when Kang-chil says “eat”.
Kang-chil asks Hyo-sook to borrow money because the damn house is in shambles. He’ll do whatever it takes to repay her. When she doesn’t answer right away he says, “Forget it. What do I care if snow caves in during winter?”
Then Mi-ja demands how he can build a house and puts meat onto his plate and I just about cry. MOMENT!!!
Gook-soo explains that Kang-chil earned all kinds of certifications in prison: carpentry, plastering, electrical. He’s an engineer. Then, Hyo-sook asks why Gook-soo is in jail and he says for bank-robbery and attempted murder. The women almost spit out their drinks. That’s the reaction I had, he said, when they told me that at the trial. He explains that he took an axe to an ATM to pay for his mother’s medication and then held it up out of fear when the police officer came.
“But I’m a first time offender and I’m repenting now, right hyung?” he asks Kang-chil who taps him on the head with a spoon. “Watch our for him. He’s scarier than me.” I love the backwards form of love this show explores.
In the hardware store, Kang-chil is buying supplies for his mother’s house when the vets walk in. When Hyo-sook hears that the carpenter doesn’t want to take on the clinic because it’s too big a job, she suggests Kang-chil, tooting all of his certifications. She accidentally blabs that he learned it in prison and then waves it off as fist-fighting offenses. Young-chul says to try him out and Ji-na makes Hyo-sook promise to take responsibility.
Gook-soo recognizes Ji-na and a rather moony-eyed Kang-chil reminds him its the woman from the train. “Ah, the woman of your destiny,” Gook-soo replies, which sobers Kang-chil.
As they load up a truck with the supplies, Kang-chil notices someone watching him. Last time Chan-gul framed him but he’s let him go free. What does Kang-chil have on Chan-gul? Both ex-cons pause and then tear after the figure stalking Kang-chil. “Is it Yong-hak?” they wonder as Cap watches from around the corner.
In case you haven’t put two and two together, Cap is Yong-hak, the very same man who was scouting Chan-gul down by the docks in episode two. He’s got something on Chan-gul. Finally, something to take that greasy bastard out.
As Detective Jung shoots a drug dealer, DA Park gets a text reading “I’m next to Kang-chil. I still haven’t received the money.” Hrm. What’s this about?
Back in their neighborhood, Kang-chil and Gook-soo are unloading supplies when they see warden Kim who has come to take Kang-chil to Seoul for tests. Ji-na is also going to the hospital to check on the hit-and-run victim because she wants to truly make sure he’s alright.
Over lunch, Young-chul informs Detective Jung that Ji-na decided to wait a year before going to America, which thrills him. We learn that the detective was alone on his birthday and that Young-chul has an aversion to marriage and cheated on Ji-na.
Kang-chil is at the hospital getting an MRI. As he’s complaining, Gook-soo is ready to punch Ji-na’s wimpy insurance agent who keeps offering them compensation money, but warden Kim stops him and promises that they won’t make trouble. When the insurance agent sees Ji-na walk in, he quickly places the compensation beside Gook-soo and drags Ji-na off, warning her against talking to the victim – he’s a criminal. The worst. Since bears no after-effects from the accident, just be at ease and go home.
The doctor tells Ji-na that the only way to help Kang-chil now is through a liver transplant.
Kang-chil promptly leaves to go have a drink. Gook-soo says its time for a plan but a shell-shocked Kang-chil says he won’t cut open his mother, Gook-soo isn’t a match and even if they did have a match, they don’t have the money. Let’s go drink.
At the bar, Kang-chil says that when your life is crap, it continues to be crap. It’s a river of crap. He doesn’t feel cheated or angry. He needs someone to blame to feel either of those.
Suddenly, he smacks Gook-soo upside the head, deciding to blame him, the guardian angel who let this happen to him. After being beaten by his father in childhood, losing his brother, spending sixteen years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit and then being taken out by a crappy death, Kang-chil wants to know, “Why me?”
He expects anything but what Gook-soo says next. “Why can’t it be you?” Gook-soo’s life was incredibly hard. Should he have it? Should Kang-chil’s mother have it? Should the warden have it? Would that make it more fair?
Kang-chil is furious at his words because the unwanted truth in them punches him in the gut. But Gook-soo doesn’t stop there, “What’s important is what you do from now on.”
Then, Gook-soo remembers the vision he had of the boy on the bus and quickly leaves.
“Angel? You?!” Kang-chil mutters. “You’re a grim reaper.”
The next morning, Ji-na wakes up from a nightmare about hitting Kang-chil. The insurance agent had told her that the only path for Kang-chil was a transplant. This troubles her and she decides to go to the mountains to make herself feel better.
Warden Kim drops Kang-chil drops him off ten minutes from a bus stop. “Don’t quit,” he says. “You have things to live for even if you’ve had a hard life.”
Kang-chil admits to being upset the night before but now he won’t let it bother him. He’s fine now. “I don’t need to be sad already. Cancer doesn’t mean death, right?” The warden smiles, pleased with that response.
As the warden drives off, Kang-chil pulls out his talisman and tells himself it was just a dream and that there are no miracles. His words sound more like a plea than a statement of fact.
Ji-na is feeding elk in the mountains and comes across a baby elk she’d saved named Taily. When she returns to her car, she sees Kang-chil leaning against it. Her stone mask of protection comes down. When he sees her, he smiles adorably and asks for a ride, explaining that he was walking but his feet started to really hurt. Ignoring him, she packs up and gets in the car. He takes that as a “no” and starts to walk away, mumbling that she’s rude. But she honks and he climbs in with a huge grin.
In the car he asks her a million questions but she remains silent. He asks about her “husband/fiance/boyfriend.” When she says he’s just a sunbae, Kang-chil laughs awkwardly, relieved. Then he wants to know why her face is always so stony when she’s around him and she says it’s just because she’s driving. Riiiiiight.
Spying something on the side of the road, she slams on the breaks and runs down to the river with him on her heels. They see Taily lying, unmoving, by the water. Kang-chil pokes it to see if it’s dead and it bounds away, scaring them both.
He is hysterical, clutching his stomach and doubling over. At first she is baffled by his laughter, but his joy is so infectious that soon they are both laughing.
He shyly asks her name and age after giving his: Yang Kang-chil, 35. He starts babbling nervously, wondering if its still rude to ask a person her age. She can’t help but smile.
They make their way up the bank and he offers her a hand up. As he pulls her up, we get a cute moment where the character’s and the actor’s sexual tension is SIZZLING. He’s supporting her and asks for her name…and gets it! Score! When he asks for her age, she smirks and he guesses until she finally tells him, 29. He promises not to lower his speech to her because its ungentlemanly.
On the car ride home, they’re smiley and cute and when she asks why, he explains, “I smile ’cause I’m happy now.” His good mood is infectious and she can’t help but smile. I spy a crack in Ji-na’s stony mask of defense!
Next we see Mi-ja duking it out with her neighboring fish vendor ahjumma style: hair-pulling, screaming, banmal. What are they fighting about? The neighbor ahjumma said there was a rumor that Kang-chil was a gangster. Kang-chil pulls up with Ji-na and runs over to break up the fight, screaming that he is a gangster, full of self-loathing. He helps her pack and realizes how much his mother cares when she says, “I’m just so upset.”
Back home, he finishes fixing the broken platform and they sit down for some soju and a nice little argue. He manages to coax a song out of her and she begins to sing, a full throaty ahjumma wail that is both harsh and incredibly tender. Kang-chil hollers in chorus, “Kick your worries away! Kick it all you want! No one told you to leave! No one says they didn’t like you!” He is smiling like a fool and the moment is so full of heart, that I cried…and rewatched it.
Kang-chil works on the house all night and watches his mother sleep. The next morning, Ji-na awakes and finds Kang-chil working early in the morning. When she asks why, he says he needs to hurry and make money (to take care of his mother.) Ji-na sees Mi-ja peeking in to quietly watch her son before stealing away with a smile.
During his lunch break, Kang-chil goes outside to sit on a wall and look out over the city. He notices Ji-na sipping at a drink and reading a magazine, looking all pretty and feminine. After a moment of hesitation, he joins her to ask a question.
He knows a guy who is around his age whose led an unfair life. He’s older, never been on vacation, never made or spent loads of money, never properly been with a girl, never truly lived as a human. Can someone like that still date a girl like other normal people?
They stare at each other.
This show gives so much fodder for discussion I almost don’t know what to do with myself, I’m so happy. I warn you, this is not going to be short.
1) Secrets of Min-ho’s murder: We get some more information about the murder Kang-chil was framed for sixteen years ago. Here’s what we know so far:
- There were four people there that night: Kang-chil, Min-ho, Chan-gul and Yong-hak.
- Kang-chil was stabbed and then framed by Chan-gul for Min-ho’s murder.
- Yong-hak has something on Chan-gul about that night, but we don’t know what.
The most obvious thing I can think of is that Yong-hak witnessed the murder, took a picture or something like that. We’ll see. I just hope Chan-gul goes DOWN.
2) Mother and son: Highlight of this episode for me. They are painfully estranged but absolutely adore each other. This episode showed all the baby steps they are beginning to make towards each other: his mother putting meat on his plate; he fixing up her house; they watching each other, happy to have the other back in his or her life; he making money to take care of her as best he can while he’s alive.
It’s a beautiful journey that I’m really going to enjoy watching. I’m really curious why Mi-ja didn’t pick up the phone that day, but I have a feeling it was to protect Kang-chil from his father.
3) Kang-chil: Have I mentioned that I LOVE this character. Let me enumerate the ways:
- I really love the fact that he lives in the moment. It is a strength and a flaw. It’s a strength because it allows him to enjoy each moment to the fullest. I hope he keeps that part of him. But I also hope he allows himself to look to the future and hope. We see the joy of living in the moment when he laughs over the deer and sings in the car. We see it when he decides not to worry about how long he will live – he’s not sick now. Of course, I hope he does take some steps to try and live longer than a few months.
- He’s finally starting to look a bit towards the future: making money and doing things for his mother’s future comfort; hoping that the words Gook-soo spoke about miracles is true; being thoroughly upset he won’t have a long future; asking Ji-na about the possibility of a man like him dating. The last one is a serious referral to the future. This love is really pushing him to step outside his zone of comfort.
4) Ji-na: Man, I really love seeing her try to fight the smiles that Kang-chil coaxes out of her. He is saving her from behind her stony mask that hides her fear, attraction, worry and guilt. Behind it she can remain silent to her heart’s content and not have to face anything. She can say, “I’m driving. I don’t like talking.” But he’s going to do away with that, isn’t he?
She also uses logic to push people away. Objectively, she is normally correct. But socially, she’s got it all wrong. Telling him off for helping her the way she did was just WRONG. She should have approached it differently…like a human being.
5) Budding romance: Man, do these two actors have chemistry or WHAT? They flirt like kids and I really like that. It’s not all hot kisses and sex, but about the little things. The things make make butterflies go haywire in your stomach. More please. Now.
6) Hyo-sook: As a plot connector, normally this kind of character bugs me. It’s so obvious that she’s there to bring characters together and fill us in on story. But, she is really well-executed on the parts of the writer and director and by the actress, Kim Ji-yoo. The character actually has a right to intervene as a childhood friend and the person who looked after Mi-ja for sixteen years. She’s not just a busybody. I think it’s the heart of the character that really makes her useful and a good character. I can dig it.