Bubblegum 풍선껌 Episode 2
Suk Joon tells intruder Ri Hwan that his and Haeng Ah’s relationship is none of his business. That doesn’t stop Ri Hwan from accusing Suk Joon of being unforgivably inattentive to Haeng Ah, enough to cause her loneliness and pain. At the very least, he should have helped her move out! Ri Hwan demands the bracelet he assigned himself to retrieve. He childishly grabs anything in sight he thinks might belong to Haeng Ah – a toothbrush, a charger, a pink lamp, a hair tie. He rips the sticky fluorescent stars from the ceiling above the bed. Who else would they belong to but her? Suk Joon asks if she is doing okay. “Of course, did you think she wouldn’t be?” Ri Hwan grunts, but thinks to himself that the bad guys in this world believe it at face value when you say that person is okay. A fuming Ri Hwan asks Suk Joon if he even knows anything about Haeng Ah. Suk Joon knows enough to answer, “If you know Haeng Ah so well, you know she doesn’t like this behavior,” and turns away. Ri Hwan bitterly admit to himself that, in the end, he lost.
Now he’s mad at himself for creating an incident in the first place. How is he going to face Haeng Ah who told him that she’d take care of it? Funny thing is, after all that, he forgot the bracelet.
Director Jo Dong Il and Producer Haeng Ah have been summoned for a meeting with the station president. Dong Il is bent out of shape – he can’t remember the last time he wore a suit. Neither is sure what the meeting is about, but Dong Il reminds Haeng Ah that she was responsible for the last on-air Christmas Horror disaster that turned into a fiasco. They wonder what they will be quizzed over and reprimanded for this time.
Ri Hwan calls out, “Mom, I’m home.” Sun Young asks after Ji Hoon. Ri Hwan makes an excuse that he’s sleeping. We still aren’t sure who this Ji Hoon character is in the bigger family picture. Roommate? Shirt-tail relative? Beholden friend? She is straightforward about labeling Ji Hoon an alcoholic who needs counseling. After all, he is always late, untrustworthy, doesn’t wash, and drinks every day – classic alcoholic behaviors. Ri Hwan only listens. The phone rings. Panicked, he says, “If it’s Haeng Ah, tell her I’m not here.” Sun Young acts like Haeng Ah is on the phone and tells her that Ri Hwan says he’s not here. Ri Hwan flips out. Spam call, gotcha!
Mom nonchalantly asks if he sees Haeng Ah often and wonders if she said anything to him yesterday. Ri Hwan doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Mom serves up an undrinkable green brew that dribbles out of Ri Hwan’s mouth. “Tastes like barfed-up grass.” Mom doctors up the smoothie and tells Ri Hwan to be sure to let his grandfather know how the arranged date goes as he will be curious about the prospect. Ri Hwan asks when she will make up with Grandpa. When he marries into a good family, she replies. There is a rift between Mother and Grandfather that apparently has gone on for a long time and remains a sore topic of discussion. Ri Hwan pushes further, but Mother conveniently revs up the blender to obscure whatever it is he is saying about the youngest daughter…. She doesn’t want to hear it.
It’s blind date time. Yi Seul’s overbearing fashionable mother has nothing good to say about her daughter’s outfit, demeanor, timing, and especially her shoes. Yi Seul heads out to meet Ri Hwan. She seems depressed. With a mother like hers, who wouldn’t be? The date couple have agreed to meet at Ri Hwan’s hospital veranda. As he finishes lunch with Ji Hoon, Ri Hwan manages to casually ask him what he think about Kang Suk Joon. (Ji Hoon doesn’t like the guy.) Consumed with the thought of having to tell Haeng Ah about his unasked for confrontation in Suk Joon’s apartment, Ri Hwan directs the conversation in a “I have this friend who…” manner. He asks Ji Hoon how he would feel if Ri Hwan broke into a bar to retrieve something that he (Ji Hoon) left there. Ji Hoon is distracted and isn’t really listening, what kind of a question is that, anyway? Poor Ri Hwan’s brain is working overtime to undo, or at least lessen, the fallout that he knows will come over what he did.
As Yi Seul pulls up, she mistakes Ri Hwan for the valet and hands him her keys. It is not until he meets her on the veranda that she recognizes he’s her date. Ri Hwan makes her feel comfortable even though she is awkward. She tells him he is more handsome than his picture. When he mentions her picture, she’s surprised; she doesn’t usually take photographs. It’s an older picture of her in her cap and gown. Although Yi Seul is reserved, Ri Hwan is charming and keeps the conversation going in a weird Eastern medicine doctor way. He finds out that she is close to her brother. Suddenly he poses a scenario as if it’s off-the-cuff date talk: “Suppose you left something very important at someone’s house. Your brother went to get it without telling you. How would you feel?” It’s squirrel-y, but she replies that her brother would probably tell her to buy another one. “What if it is irreplaceable?” he continues with his one-track mindset. In that case, she’d send her lawyer. Ah. Next thing they know, someone is snapping pictures of them. She assumes her mother has sent a spy, but Ri Hwan realizes that it’s the annoying “neighborhood idiot” Ji Hoon who doesn’t seem to have any boundaries when it comes to Ri Hwan’s personal life. Ri Hwan chases him away.
Yi Seul comments on the relaxing-looking hammock and Ri Hwan invites her to try it out. As he holds it for her to sit, it disastrously flips over sending her somersaulting backwards. It is hilarious as Ri Hwan turns away flustered with his hands up as she cries out, “I’m wearing a skirt!” They are both embarrassed. Ri Hwan apologizes, checks her scraped hands, and gently wipes them off. “Your shoes are pretty,” he comments as he brushes them off. He has complimented the very shoes her mother ridiculed. It is an awakening moment and Yi Seul gazes through starry eyes at her prince, Ri Hwan.
Se Young stops by at the station. She unexpectedly finds Haeng Ah working and compliments her on her dressy, more professional outfit. Se Young has an interview and, wanting to make the most of it, snatches Ye Joon Soo (the male radio station intern) to pose as her manager so as not to appear shabby. As it turns out, the meeting with the president wasn’t a reprimand at all. Haeng Ah holds out an envelope with bonus money for the team to go out to dinner for handling the on-air emergency well. Se Young is just thankful that she wasn’t fired for revealing her “Always Last” status. In the car on the way to her interview, Se Young asks Joon Soo if he knew that Producer Kim didn’t have parents. Also, the guy she saw in front of the station with the “white flour face and big eyes” is that the guy she broke up with? (Pausing to chuckle at that description of our Dong Wookie.) Joon Soo says that’s not her ex-boyfriend, but the Eastern medicine doctor who is a relative-like person to Haeng Ah. Their parents were close so they grew up together. When her father died, she lived with his family. It’s a kdrama life, for sure.
Haeng Ah experiences the messy emotional aftermath of an office romance gone bad and finds herself madly dashing away to avoid Suk Joon. Like a reflex reaction, she scurries off to hide whenever he appears. She climbs the stairs to escape, but loses a shoe and turns to find herself face to face with Suk Joon who is right behind her. He kneels, places her hand on his head, and slips her shoe on her foot. Without a word, he grabs her arm and heads for the elevator. She tries to step off, but he holds her wrist to keep her in. A flashback reveals a similar scene of the two of them in an elevator. That time, as she steps off, he pulls her back in and passionately kisses her in the CCTV’s blind spot. Now, they stand silently staring ahead, until they reach the rooftop. Because every kdrama relationship gets down to brass tacks on the rooftop.
Suk Joon doesn’t know why she is doing this. Does she have something to say? Is she going to run away like this? When Haeng Ah doesn’t answer, Suk Joon says, “Let’s go.” Wrong thing to say. As always, they are on parallel universes in the communication department. She asks why he followed her up to the rooftop, to find out why a woman left him? He doesn’t even know why she left? Saying nothing or saying it all, does it even matter? She didn’t expect to be number one, she tells him, but she wasn’t even number ten. Everything else came first; she was always last. Saying “let’s go” tells her how unimportant she really must have been to him. He says he never spoke that way to her. She tells him that he is wrong about that; he always spoke that way. When he didn’t have time, when she was sick and he wasn’t there, when he couldn’t say, “I love you,” she should have known and now she feels stupid. She confesses that she dumped him to avoid being the one who got dumped.
After the rooftop conversation, Haeng Ah sits alone for a very long time in the empty radio studio. She heads over to Aunt’s restaurant for some carbs and salty comfort food. Ri Hwan, who is busy avoiding Haeng Ah these days, stops by the restaurant unaware that she is there. When he tries to escape, Aunt swings him her way. He sits at the table next to hers. When she asks for a hairpin, he forgets himself, and says he didn’t see hairpins but he did bring back a hair tie. Oops! He exposed himself. Clearly Ri Hwan is going to have to explain exactly what he means….
Yi Seul browses through the lingerie in an upscale department store. She has an awkward encounter with the sales clerk who tries to skirt around Yi Seul’s larger size and difficulty in fitting her. (C’mon people, Yi Seul is not, I repeat, not large by any means except in the crazy Korean entertainment world. In general, the Asian build is often slighter than Western builds, but the focus on size, weight – the whole cosmetic and plastic surgery obsession to the point of being grossly unhealthy – is out of control. The pressure and shame that even an educated woman like Yi Seul feels and practically apologizes for is outright wrong.) Store Vice President Jon Woo receives respectful bows from the employees. With a smile, he informs them that Yi Seul is his youngest sister who had a date today. When she tells him that there’s nothing that fits her here, he mockingly scolds and holds up teeny weeny bikini undies saying, “Doesn’t it look like it’s for a hamster?” He asks about the blind date and she is hesitates in a good way. Like a protective older brother, he teasingly wonders if his youngest sister is moving too fast, shopping for lingerie. Find something and take it – his treat, he offers. What a swell brother. Yi Seul continues window shopping, and stops to admire a lovely pair of sparkly high heels. Yi Seul seems unsure, but when the clerk learns that her boyfriend is tall, she cinches the sale with a smooth pitch. Yi Seul leaves with a shopping bag and a big smile.
Now that the cat’s out of the bag, there is no way poor Ri Hwan can come out okay over the scene he made by barging into Suk Joon’s apartment. Outside Aunt’s restaurant Ri Hwan sheepishly shows a ballistic Haeng Ah what he retrieved for her. It is a pile of worthless stuff; worse yet, most of it isn’t even hers. His brotherly chivalry goes down the drain as they bicker. He is only protecting her against evil guys like him. She doesn’t want him suffocating her. He says that’s what big brothers do. She says no brother acts that way. He tells her to just go back to that evil toxic person. She says his attention is causing Aunt (his mother) to not want to see her because it makes their relationship look blurry. She wants her space. In wanting to protect one another, they push each other away.
An unsure Ri Hwan wonders if this is how Mother felt being pushed away, becoming a person whom another no longer needs. Young Ri Hwan confides in Aunt at the restaurant. In his mind he is like a young boy telling Aunt his deepest heartache, that it hurts. His heart, it hurts a lot.
Director Dong Il and Suk Joon drink together at a bar. Dong Il has plenty to say to Suk Joon who he has known for a long time, and scolds him for his unemotional relationship-ruining self. Along with everyone else, Dong Il heard everything that Haeng Ah said about her breakup on the air and is thoroughly disgusted with Suk Joon. He knows they were dating (unlike others in the office) and knows Suk Joon well enough to guess that he treated Haeng Ah with little emotional commitment and fewer words. “You couldn’t buy her a cake? Seriously?” It is a monologue with Dong Il doing all the talking and Suk Joon remaining maddeningly silent. Dong Il pines over his own relationship failures and tells Suk Joon that he’s not a screw-up like him. What gives? The only thing Suk Joon wants to know is who that guy who acts like Haeng Ah’s brother really is. Dong Il says, “You dated her and don’t know?” He can only tell him that he is not her brother because she is alone. She takes holiday shifts so that others can be with family.
As Haeng Ah gets ready for bed, she wants to text Ri Hwan after today’s bickering, but what does she say? Ri Hwan listlessly plays with a remote control car. Neither likes how the fight ended. He decides to go see Haeng Ah and stops to pick up red bean fish bread.
Someone else is on his way to see Haeng Ah, though. After Dong Il wouldn’t let go that, of all things, he didn’t buy her a birthday cake, Suk Joon stops by a bakery and chooses the biggest cake in the display. The rooftop conversation that day revealed more about his stark personality; it wasn’t that he didn’t care about her, he tries explain, but not complicating his life is just a habit. It’s the way he is. He tells her that if he could live without her, he would have ended it long ago. One thing hasn’t changed: these two need a love language interpreter in the worst way.
Haeng Ah sits in her small apartment. The flimsy light flickers. Ri Hwan walks up with the bag of bread. At that moment, Suk Joon gets out of his car with a ribbon-tied cake box. “Of all pastries, Haeng Ah likes fish-shaped buns best,” Ri Hwan comments. “To Haeng Ah, the most important thing is whom she eats with,” replies Suk Joon, and walks past him. Ri Hwan can’t believe this guy who didn’t even know how lonely and hurt his girlfriend was dares to show up. When Ri Hwan stops him, Suk Joon asks,”Who are you?” “I told you I’m her brother.” Suk Joon knows he is not her brother and tells him to answer properly. “Choose. Either don’t act like her man or don’t act like her older brother.” And therein lies the complication. Ri Hwan takes off the boxing gloves. He respectfully asks Suk Joon for a favor. He has a reason for this. His protection of Haeng Ah goes deeper than two people’s relationship.
Flashback: High school student Ri Hwan stops by to see Haeng Ah’s father in the hospital. Uncle, as Ri Hwan calls him, offers him his first taste of alcohol that he has stowed away in his room. He pours Ri Hwan a drink and teaches him to return the favor by pouring him a drink with both hands. It is Ri Hwan’s initiation to being all grown up. Uncle has a favor to ask of him now that he can count on Ri Hwan. He asks him to keep Haeng Ah by his side to protect her from drinking, bad guys who would follow her home, and the harsh world out there. If he will promise, Uncle will buy him a remote-control car. Ri Hwan acts burdened. Uncle bows his head and says, “I’m asking you this favor.” Ri Hwan replies, “Of course.”
Next scene: Uncle is being resuscitated. Haeng Ah and Ri Hwan’s mother (who is a doctor and who Haeng Ah calls Aunt) tearfully stand by and watch. Ri Hwan runs up to the room with his car under his arm; he must have gotten news that Uncle collapsed. Just as he turns the hallway corner, he overhears the doctors discussing how it is that Father died that way. It could only happen, they say, if he drank. But, they debate, how could that be since he was in the hospital?
The car drops from Ri Hwan’s grip as he falls to the floor believing that the drink they shared killed Haeng Ah’s father. It is no wonder that the promise he made then still weighs heavily on his heart years later. Being Haeng Ah’s protector especially since he blames himself for her father’s death is a role Ri Hwan takes as seriously as a blood brother. Or lover.
- I like the radio station setting where so much of the story either takes place or is revealed. Director Dong Il is a curmudgeon-like character who is crusty around the edges but knows more about our silent brooder, Suk Joon, than anyone else. No one is afraid of his ill-tempered personality, although he wishes for a little respect in that way, and only shows up when there are fires to put out.
- Watching Haeng-Ah work through relationship woes could be uncomfortable and cliche, but I find the way she paces work and alone time endearing. She doesn’t close anyone out and is surrounded with people who love her and will give her space. Except for Ri Hwan, who she has to push away. The deep-rooted responsibility that he carries for her goes way back, however, and I am curious how that will play out in terms of what he will become to her. His mother, Sun Young, must know more about all this, and has watched her son act as Haeng Ah’s umbrella to the point that it looks less like brotherly love and more like a love relationship. Speaking of Sun Young and Ri Hwan, it is nice to see that they get along, but there are hints of a separation brought on by Grandfather that still can’t be talked about. Nor have we met Grandfather, owner of the hospital where Sun Young works.
- So, beetle-shelled Suk Joon has no parents or siblings either. A lone soul, much like Haeng Ah. I don’t dislike him at all. Furthermore, in the arena with Ri Hwan, the count so far is 2-0. Ri Hwan is going to have to decide if he is going to fight like a brother, a lover, or at all, because if he doesn’t Suk Joon will continue to win.
- I wonder if Suk Joon brought the bracelet along with the cake? Is the cake going to be too little too late, or a romantic apology and tender gesture?
- I really like Si Yeul. The fact that she could live on that awakening moment spark with Ri Hwan is exciting considering the deadpan mother she has to deal with. I love that she has a charming older brother who is rooting for her. If anyone can make her comfortable in her own shoes, it is Ri Hwan. Wait, that spells love triangle. Ri Hwan and Yi Seul. Ri Hwan and Haeng Ah. I am actually conflicted.
- Dong Wook is just so good, so handsome, so sincere. Such great boyfriend material, does it even exist in reality?
- Only two episodes in, and I want to know more about everybody. That makes for a good drama in my book.
- Thoughts? Criticisms of the story? Happy comments? I’d love to hear them all.