Dae-young settles into a new neighborhood and wastes no time in finding the most delicious places to eat. Seo-yeon waltzes back into town and chaos follows, which is apparently another way to say “the sky is blue.” A new character has a very tantalizing proposition for Dae-young, and 2004 continues to be filled with nostalgia.
EPISODE 2: “Hairtail and Kimchi Sujebi”
Ji-woo is surprised to discover that Dae-young is her new neighbor. He cheerfully tells her that he liked the neighborhood when he was there last night, and he needed to move anyway, so when he saw that the building next door had a vacancy, he immediately signed the lease.
He offers to buy her a meal, and asks if there are any good restaurants nearby. Dae-young’s surprised when Ji-woo says she doesn’t know of any, and he assumes she must eat a lot of her mother’s home-cooked meals. Ji-woo hesitatingly confesses that she eats most of her meals at the hospital cafeteria.
That’s okay, because Dae-young has found a nearby restaurant for lunch, anyway. Ji-woo thinks it’s unusual that he wants to eat hairtail since traditionally people have jajangmyun on moving days. Dae-young chides her for falling for food stereotypes, something she never used to do back in college.
Even so, Ji-woo wonders why they went all this way just to eat some fish. Dae-young: “What? Just eat fish?” Off he goes on a detailed (and passionate, of course) explanation of the history of hairtail and the importance of grilling them whole. Then he ends with, “Isn’t that right?”
Ji-woo’s bewildered that he would ask for her opinion, until Dae-young points out that she was the one who made him this way. Ji-woo taught him that no matter how simple or small the food, it was important to consider the best way to consume it. Ji-woo doesn’t remember that at all, and Dae-young just sighs as he starts to expertly filet the fish.
They devour their meal, and this time Ji-woo is following Dae-young’s lead as he exuberantly enjoys his food. Dae-young even puts some of the fish in her bowl, telling her that it’s good for people who suffer from indigestion, just like she used to. Ji-woo’s pleasantly surprised that he remembered and she discreetly pinches the pressure point on her hand.
They walk back home, their bellies full. Ji-woo confesses that it’s been some time since she’s eaten like that, and Dae-young admits it’s hard to have whole grilled fish when you live alone. But he also recalls that Ji-woo used to not care and would grill fish at home, even when it made Seo-yeon angry because all of her clothes would stink of fish.
At the mention of Seo-yeon, Ji-woo freezes. She asks Dae-young if he has something that he just doesn’t want to talk about with anyone, ever. For her, that’s Seo-yeon. Dae-young agrees to not discuss Seo-yeon anymore, admitting that everyone has those things that they can’t talk about.
The flash of sadness on his face seems like he knows all too well what that’s like, but he quickly continues his cheerful patter. He explains that one of the reasons he was so eager to move in next door is that he’s been feeling a sense of lethargy, both with work and life in general.
But running into her and discussing their college days seemed to spark new energy, and he thought being close to that energy would help him figure out a new direction.
Dae-young gets a call from an unknown number. The caller asks him to meet at a restaurant, but Dae-young’s surprised that he’s been asked there after the meal has already been consumed.
But that’s because SUNWOO SUN (Ahn Woo-yeon), the head of development at a large food corporation, is a huge fan of Dae-young’s foodie blog, where Dae-young posts photos of empty plates as reviews.
Sun is eager to test Dae-young’s knowledge and asks Dae-young if he knows what Sun ate just based on the empty dishes. Sun is impressed when Dae-young easily — and correctly — rattles off a list of all the food that would have been on the plates, but Dae-young says it’s because he’s eaten there before.
Even so, Sun is eager to scout Dae-young to become part of their new product creation team, where the focus is on people who eat and drink alone, and how to give those solo people a restaurant experience at home. Dae-young finds it strange that Sun is more interested in him not for his actual job as an insurance salesman but because of his foodie blogging hobby, and asks to have some time to think it over.
As Ji-woo does her laundry, she can smell the hairtail on her own clothes, which reminds her of when she would cook her fish and annoy her sister with the scent.
Flashback to 2004, where twenty-year-old Ji-woo eats her mackerel while plopped in front of the TV, eyes glued to the mega popular drama of the time, Full House (starring Rain and his floofy hair). Seo-yeon is annoyed that the mackerel smell has even permeated her shoes and refuses to wear them, swiping Ji-woo’s brand new pair of sneakers to wear instead.
Once Ji-woo realizes what her sister has done, she runs after her, determined to take back the new shoes. The girls start fighting in the middle of the street, with lots of screaming and hair-pulling as Ji-woo attempts to force the shoes off Seo-yeon.
Dae-young walks up to see them fighting and tries to intervene, but only gets repeatedly pushed away and ends up just sitting in a daze as he watches the sisters fight. Ji-woo manages to successfully take the shoes off of Seo-yeon, then stomps back home.
Seo-yeon turns on the waterworks as she demands to know if she’s supposed to go barefoot now, but as soon as Ji-woo is out of earshot, Seo-yeon wipes away the tears, dusts herself off, and walks away shoeless.
Later, Seo-yeon returns home, and Ji-woo is surprised to see her wearing a new pair of shoes. She wonders how Seo-yeon could afford them since she can’t even help Ji-woo pay for rent, and Seo-yeon nonchalantly says it came from her allowance. Ji-woo is furious that Seo-yeon lied about her ability to chip in for living expenses, so she grabs Seo-yeon’s new shoes and throws them outside, ordering Seo-yeon to leave.
Seo-yeon retaliates by throwing Ji-woo’s shoes outside, too, and soon both girls are chucking each other’s clothes and belongings willy-nilly out the front door while screaming that the other person should leave.
Dae-young, Jin-seok, and Byung-sam arrive just then, shocked to find all the random belongings outside. Jin-seok decides to try and intervene, determined to help the girls make amends (while also creating an excuse to get closer to the two girls). But Dae-young — speaking from experience — knows that won’t end well. And he’s right, as Jin-seok is thrown aside while Ji-woo and Seo-yeon wrestle to see who will be able to close the front door first.
Ji-woo wins and Seo-yeon’s left outside, sitting in the heap of discarded clothing. She’s still angry, but once she sees the three boys staring agog at her, she begins to cry, wondering aloud what she’s going to do now since she’s been thrown out without any money. Byung-sam and Jin-seok immediately dig into their pockets and give her all the cash they have, but Dae-young’s like, “Nope!”
The two other boys bug Dae-young for not helping out a neighbor in need, but soccer-obsessed Dae-young is saving up for a trip to Germany so he can watch the 2006 World Cup in person. He’s also thrilled that he just got a job at a cool new place: Bennigan’s, the American-style family restaurant that was once super popular but went bankrupt in 2008. But in 2004, working there is considered an excellent part-time job.
Ji-woo’s happy to have her apartment all to herself, until she watches a news report about the rise of murder and sexual assault of young women. Ji-woo starts to worry about Seo-yeon, especially as the hours tick by and she doesn’t hear anything from her stepsister. Ji-woo tries calling her, but Seo-yeon’s phone is turned off.
Worried that something terrible has happened, Ji-woo hurries to the bus stop, anxiously looking for her sister as the passengers disembark. The only passenger she recognizes is Dae-young, who wonders why she’s carrying an umbrella on such a clear night. She avoids explaining her weapon of choice, and instead is furious when she sees Seo-yeon get out of a strange car, her arms filled with shopping bags.
Seo-yeon realizes that her phone’s battery must have died, but is appreciative that her sister came to meet her. Seo-yeon hands Ji-woo a gift — a box with a pepper spray in it, suggesting that it would be more useful defense than an umbrella. Dae-young watches in amusement as the girls walk home, talking as though they hadn’t fought earlier that day. They’re definitely sisters after all, he muses.
As the girls hang out at home the next day, the doorbell rings. Seo-yeon scurries to hide, but it’s just Ji-woo’s mother. Whew.
Mom is thrilled to discover that Seo-yeon is there, too, and they help Mom unpack a huge assortment of side dishes. Since it’s Seo-yeon’s birthday, she pleads with Mom to make kimchi sujebi (hand-torn noodle soup) instead of the traditional seaweed soup. Cue the montage of home-cooked deliciousness, and Ji-woo suggests they invite their next-door neighbor since Mom has made so much food.
Ji-woo barely needs to extend the invite because Dae-young’s already got his head in the hallway, savoring the scents coming from Ji-woo’s apartment. Mom is hilariously apologetic that she didn’t make enough food despite a heaping table full of dishes.
Seo-yeon is delighted with her kimchi sujebi. Dae-young is impressed with the kimchi pancake, and Ji-woo explains the little tricks they do to make it perfectly crispy. No wonder 2018 Dae-young so easily assumed that Ji-woo would prefer to eat her mother’s food rather than go to a restaurant.
Dae-young returns home with his bounty of leftovers, much to the delight of his friends. But they also latch onto the discovery that it’s Seo-yeon’s birthday and decide to surprise her during the lunch that Dae-young is treating her to — at Bennigan’s. Pfft.
Ji-woo and Seo-yeon get there first, and Dae-young is of course their server. Haha, I love that he gave himself the English name “Beckham” because of his love of David Beckham, the soccer star.
Ji-woo is intimidated by the menu filled with American-style dishes she’s never heard of before, but Seo-yeon orders confidently, revealing that she’s been to these kinds of restaurants many times before thanks to blind dates.
Aw, Ji-woo is excited to show off a coupon that she printed from the internet and flashes her mobile points card, a cell phone loyalty card that also offers a discount (and serves as a reminder of how far technology has come, since those kinds of discounts are now easily available via an app).
The other three boys crawl out of Jin-seok’s beater of a car. Jin-seok is eager to impress Seo-yeon with a giant stuffed bunny. Apparently Seo-yeon didn’t know the boys would be joining them and dies of embarrassment as they arrive with the giant bunny and a cake.
But nothing is quite as embarrassing as the entire serving staff parading out with their instruments and ridiculous hats to sing a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday” to Seo-yeon. Dae-young looks like he’s dying a little inside as he sings along with his coworkers, much to his friends’ amusement.
In 2018, Seo-yeon returns to Korea for the first time in twelve years. We know this thanks to her expository (and endless) selfies that she immediately posts on Instagram as soon as she lands. She’s there to track down someone named Jung Hyun-ah, but the address she has is wrong.
Stomach grumbling, Seo-yeon realizes she’s hungry — and it’s her birthday. She searches for the best nearby place to eat kimchi sujebi. There’s a long line outside of the restaurant, which is a good sign that it’s a tasty and trendy place. Seo-yeon takes some selfies to post on Instagram while she waits.
Dae-young and Ji-woo’s dog Kongali arrive home from a walk just as Ji-woo returns home from work (aw, Ji-woo gives Dae-young full permission to walk Kongali whenever he wants). They grab a bite to eat so they can continue to catch up.
Dae-young’s delighted that Ji-woo’s skill at making soju bombs is as good as ever, and as they enjoy their fried chicken, Dae-young wonders if Ji-woo’s “medicine” (her soju bomb) will be able to clear his headache. He tells her about Sun and being scouted because of his foodie blog.
Ji-woo is surprised that Dae-young’s hobbies have transitioned from soccer to food, and she looks up his blog. She wonders why all his photos are of empty dishes, and Dae-young explains that’s what sets him apart from all the other bloggers. He adds that his blog is all because of her — she was the one who introduced him to the foodie world.
Ji-woo says that he should buy dinner then, and is surprised when Dae-young readily agrees. He explains that he plans to buy all their meals from now on. He’s noticed that his once foodie-mentor seems to have lost her tastebuds, so he plans to help her rediscover them. Aw.
When Dae-young gets distracted by a text message that makes him smile, Ji-woo assumes it must be from his girlfriend.
Seo-yeon has finally made it through the line at the restaurant and settles in to enjoy her kimchi sujebi. But she’s disappointed — it doesn’t taste right. She leaves the restaurant, dragging her rolling suitcase behind her, only to be stopped by Sun who asks if she’s Lee Seo-yeon, the person who borrowed money from his cousin Woo-young back in America.
As a response, Seo-yeon throws her suitcase at him and runs away. It’s the scene from the previous episode’s epilogue, as she runs terrified through the streets of the city. Her heel gets caught in a grate and she frantically tries to free it as Sun arrives with her suitcase.
He reveals his cousin told him to find Seo-yeon and get back the money that was stolen. Seo-yeon insists she wasn’t the one who stole it — it was her partner, Hyun-ah, who Seo-yeon is also trying to track down so she can get the money back. Except Seo-yeon has no idea where Hyun-ah is.
It was easy for Sun to track Seo-yeon down, though, due to all the Instagram posts where she tagged her location. He face-times his cousin to let her know he found Seo-yeon, and in between labored breathing, Woo-young tells him to not let Seo-yeon out of his sight for now. “Labored” breathing is right — Woo-young’s currently in the middle of giving birth.
Seo-yeon doesn’t have a place to stay — she left in a hurry and hadn’t thought that far ahead. They stop at the closest hotel — a love motel, where the proprietor asks if they’re going to be there for a few hours or overnight. Seo-yeon hauls out her wallet to pay for the overnight stay, then realizes she doesn’t have enough money.
Realizing he has no real choice, Sun reluctantly pays for the room. Seo-yeon thinks he’s going to help her with her luggage, but instead Sun takes her suitcase with him, pointing out that this is the only way he can make sure that Seo-yeon won’t try to run away. He promises to return it to her in the morning.
Except that doesn’t even stop Seo-yeon, since she tries to sneak out of the hotel and grab to a cab to, well, anywhere, but the cab driver isn’t swayed by her charm, just money. She has no choice but to stay at the hotel since she can’t afford to go anywhere else.
Ji-woo’s eating her usual homemade meal of cornflakes, wondering if it would be inappropriate to invite Dae-young to have breakfast together since he has a girlfriend. Ji-woo decides that her intentions are pure and sends him a text. She’s thrilled when it’s marked “read” right away, but grows increasingly disappointed when he doesn’t send an immediate response.
That’s because he’s chosen to respond in person, and shouts across the balcony that he’ll meet her downstairs. Delighted, Ji-woo hurries to get ready.
As promised, Sun has returned to the hotel with Seo-yeon’s luggage. But he tells her to just leave — and to stay off Instagram, since his cousin would kill him if she found out Sun let Seo-yeon go. But Seo-yeon realizes that her passport is missing and demands that he take her to his home so she can search for it.
She rifles through the living room before finding the passport under the sofa, where it had accidentally fallen out of her suitcase. She’s thrilled to have it back, but stops and stares in awe at the Sun’s huge fancy apartment. You can practically hear the gears in her head turning as she starts to tear up, offering to selflessly stay here as a willing prisoner, out of the goodness of her heart, until Woo-young’s money is returned.
Sun isn’t falling for her tricks. He doesn’t want her staying with him, but before he can argue any further, Woo-young calls, showing off her newborn son. She asks if he knows where Seo-yeon is. Sun is about to lie that he lost track of her, but Seo-yeon pops her head into frame and congratulates Woo-young on her new baby.
Seo-yeon cheerfully adds that she’s agreed to stay with Sun until the money matter is cleared up, and Woo-young orders Sun to keep Seo-yeon in his house for at least the next couple of weeks until Woo-young can return to Korea. Sun knows when he’s been had, but he can’t argue about it because of his cousin.
Ji-woo gets another nurse to switch shifts with her so she can enjoy a meal with Dae-young, but Dae-young apologizes because he has to be somewhere else. Noticing the bouquet of flowers, Ji-woo assumes he must be meeting his girlfriend.
So it’s back to the cornflakes, and even those give her indigestion. A phone call interrupts her solitary meal, and Ji-woo rushes to a nursing home. The manager of the nursing home shows Ji-woo the mess her mother made in the kitchen after she set the stove on fire.
This isn’t the first time that Mom has wreaked havoc in the nursing home kitchen, and the manager warns Ji-woo that if it happens again, they won’t be able to keep caring for her mother. Ji-woo stops by her mother’s room, and her mom cheerfully greets her as “Miss Ji-woo.”
Mom has dementia, and doesn’t recognize her adult daughter — instead, she happily tells Ji-woo about her eight-year-old daughter who happens to have the same name, and that she was just trying to make some kimbap for her daughter’s school picnic.
Mom asks if “Miss Ji-woo” is dating anyone, and Ji-woo sighs that it’s just not the right time. Ji-woo asks if Mom enjoyed getting married and having kids, even though she worked all the time. Mom happily says that her daughter was the best gift she could ever have. She’s referring to the eight-year-old in her mind, but Ji-woo hugs Mom tightly, anyway.
At the same time, Dae-young arrives at a colombarium. Oh no. Oh no, oh no, oh no.
As he enters the building, he thinks back to this day two years ago, when his girlfriend Baek Soo-ji (cameo by Seo Hyun-jin, of Let’s Eat 2) visited him for a weekend and then got on a bus to return home. He was on the phone with her, telling her of his plans to come down next weekend, when a truck swerved into the bus, which caused the bus to flip — and Soo-ji didn’t survive the accident.
Dae-young studies the photos of the two of them smiling and posing with their couple rings, then leaves the flowers next to her urn and resolutely walks away.
He returns home late at night, astonished to find Seo-yeon waiting outside his apartment. He wonders if she’s really waiting for him and not Ji-woo. Seo-yeon’s startled to hear her stepsister’s name, but even more surprised when Ji-woo walks up. The two women stare at each other long and hard.
Oh, show, I’m so disappointed in you. Did we really have to go there? Did we really have to kill off Soo-ji? Was that really necessary? Was it? Dae-young may have had two years to get over Soo-ji’s death, but I’ve barely had five minutes, and I’m not okay.
I can’t say I’m too surprised, though, based on the hints from the first episode. But I’d been hoping it would be one of those “long distances are too hard” breakups — not making a beloved character be Truck of Doom’d out of the picture so that our hero could learn some important lessons about himself while being conveniently free to explore a relationship with someone else. It’s textbook fridging, something that always infuriates me, but especially here when there could have been so many explanations (moving to another country is a classic for a reason!) — anything other than the shock-factor of killing off a character who was so important.
I’d almost rather accept the ghosting of Soo-kyung, where there was no explanation of what had happened with that relationship between Season 1 and Season 2 — just that Dae-young was no longer dating anyone. At least then I can imagine Soo-ji living a long and happy life, doing whatever she wanted (and eating lots of delicious food), just as I did for Soo-kyung. Right now, Soo-ji’s death feels like a weak contrivance to give Dae-young the requisite manpain so that Ji-woo can heal him. Ugh.
But there’s still so much about this show that I genuinely love, so I’m going to force myself to look past all that and just accept it for what it is, hoping that there’ll be some mild redemption in between the cute flashbacks and delicious food. Because I can totally relate to that crisis in your life when you realize you’ve strayed far from the path you once dreamed for yourself, and you’re on one that’s “okay” enough but maybe not where you really want to be, and then trying to rekindle the passion you once had.
I also appreciate that Dae-young is determined to help Ji-woo find her tastebuds again, wanting to give back to his “mentor” who helped him become the Dae-young we know and love, and I’m excited to watch Ji-woo blossom as she rediscovers the joys she once had. After all, her life hasn’t been particularly easy, either, with having to care for an ailing parent while still working full time. Sometimes you forget what gives you joy when you’re just trying to survive day to day.
Then there’s whatever epic fallout that made the squabbling stepsisters ignore each other for an entire decade. We’ve seen how they can fight but still end up caring about each other, so it has to have been something super serious — more than just stealing a pair of shoes. I’m still trying to get a feel for Seo-yeon — she doesn’t seem like she’s exactly matured in the past fourteen years, since she still rushes headlong into things without a plan, relying on her flirtatious charm and crocodile tears to get what she wants. But I feel like she’ll be a fun foil for Sun, and now I’m hoping for lots of hilarious forced cohabitation hijinx for them.