Love is in the air! At least it is in 2004, when crushes are in full bloom. But they don’t call ’em crushes for nothing, since some first dates don’t go as you would think (unless, perhaps, you think that they’re really embarrassing). But 2018 shows us that no one really forgets their first love, no matter how mature and successful — or sad and lonely — they’ve become.
EPISODE 4: “Abalone Feast”
Food company exec Sun is too excited to receive a call from Dae-young agreeing to work for him that he doesn’t take his “houseguest” Seo-yeon’s call seriously as she demands the code to be let into his apartment. But when he finds her collapsed in front of his door, he rushes her to the hospital.
The doctors say it’s mostly stress and exhaustion, but they’ll run more tests. Sun gently makes sure the blanket covers her while he waits, looking genuinely concerned.
His cousin calls just then to make sure Seo-yeon is still with him, and says that she won’t be able to go to Korea as soon as she hoped since she still needs time to recuperate from giving birth. Ha, she even starts breast-feeding while still on FaceTime, much to Sun’s horror.
He heads back to Seo-yeon’s room, but on the way he sees Seo-yeon’s sister Ji-woo in her nursing garb. He recognizes her, and she realizes that he’s the middle-school student she used to tutor. Ji-woo’s surprised to see how well he’s grown, and he gives her his phone number so they can get together for a drink sometime.
Seo-yeon is released from the hospital, but Sun is still concerned for her. She gripes that she’s been strong enough to not collapse when her business partner ran off with all her money, or when Sun caught her — but today she collapsed because Sun wouldn’t give her the lock code.
When they arrive back at Sun’s apartment, he purposefully stands so she can see him enter the code. Aw. Her mood also brightens when Sun tells her that Dae-young’s agreed to sign the contract. She asks if she’ll have her expenses paid now, and Sun agrees — but only until his cousin returns to Korea. Seo-yeon even gets Sun to remove his demarcation line and allow her access to the bathroom.
Dae-young signs the contract to work at CQ Foods, but adds a clause that he can keep his current job. They join the rest of the team who are in the middle of presenting their research on what restaurant they should try.
The research is focused more on marketing and business aspects than the food itself, and Dae-young looks a little uncomfortable trying to follow what everyone is saying. Sun says that Dae-young should suggest something, since he knows what’s the most delicious. Dae-young admits he’s been to all the restaurants everyone has mentioned, but they’re so popular that if they went to lunch at any of them, they’d be waiting in line forever.
Instead, he suggests a relatively unknown place. It’s a little hole-in-the-wall that focuses primarily on abalone. Sun worries that abalone would be too expensive and tricky to deliver as a solo meal, but Dae-young bursts into one of his informative rants about the health and importance of abalone and how solo people would be thrilled to be able to eat a kind of food that normally needs to be properly prepared by more experienced hands.
He shows his new team members the best way to appreciate their abalone feast, and everyone digs in. Sun seems a little disgruntled that his team is suddenly listening to all of Dae-young’s suggestions instead of his, and decides to take his leave.
Dae-young wonders if they have mandatory work dinners, but Sun says that’s old-fashioned and he doesn’t feel the need to make his team socialize outside of work hours. Except they all want to go out to dinner with Dae-young as a way to welcome him to the company.
Sun declines their invitation, saying they’d be more comfortable without their boss there. But he looks kinda jealous that his team is so happy to follow Dae-young.
Ji-woo looks at Dae-young’s blog and assumes the empty abalone plates mean his team took him out to lunch. She decides to leave him an encouraging comment, but discovers that Seo-yeon left one first, telling Dae-young that he owes her lunch for helping him get the job. Ji-woo follows the link on Seo-yeon’s profile and scrolls through Seo-yeon’s Instagram.
Sun calls her just then, asking if she’d like to meet for drinks. That’s definitely more appealing than a bowl of cornflakes. Aw, Sun still calls her “Teacher.”
Ji-woo says that he doesn’t need speak so formally now that they’re both adults, but he says he can’t help it because she hasn’t changed. She thinks it’s because she still looks young, but he says it’s actually because she’s still as short as ever. Ha!
Flashback to 2004, where twenty-year-old Ji-woo goes to her tutoring assignment. Aw, teenaged Sun is an adorably chubby kid who’s more focused on ordering food for delivery than his math homework.
He happily rattles off all the phone numbers and menus of the delivery places, and Ji-woo marvels that he’s able to memorize all that information yet can’t memorize a math formula. Sun says that it’s because he orders delivery every day since his parents work all the time.
After tutoring, Ji-woo rushes home so she doesn’t miss her favorite drama, Phoenix. She flings herself in front of the TV just in time to catch Eric Mun say the immortal line: “Do you smell something burning? It’s my heart.” Seo-yeon scoffs at Ji-woo’s love of dramas, saying that she wastes her weekend watching stupid dramas instead of dating (hey now!). But Seo-yeon can’t help watching the romantic kiss scene, either.
Next door, Dae-young gripes at how messy his friends are, but they don’t care — they’re too focused on watching the new porn video they just received. Even Dae-young watches in anticipation as the camera pans up a woman’s bare leg — but the film switches to a boring nature documentary instead. The boys are angry that their blackmarket porn seller ripped them off.
Jin-seok is sent on a mission by Seo-yeon, who requests him to buy her a new tube of lipstick. He ends up getting the color wrong, and the rest of the boys lean out of the doorway, watching as Seo-yeon loudly berates him. Ji-woo steps out to intervene, but Seo-yeon just yells at Jin-seok to exchange it and then storms off. Ji-woo reassures Jin-seok that she’ll take care of it, but his friends are all amazed at how whipped he is.
Their shaman neighbor arrives just then and says that she feels a strong “erotic energy” in the air and predicts that someone will be kissed soon. It’s not exactly the most earth-shattering prediction, since the shaman’s talking to a bunch of horny college students, but it’s enough to make Ji-woo wonder who it could be.
Ji-woo daydreams a romantic and totally drama-worthy scenario where Dae-young confesses his love to her (haha, of course his cheesy line involves bread) and then kisses her. It’s a perfect drama kiss, with twinkling background music and multiple angles.
Seo-yeon returns home to find her sister lost in her daydream. Seo-yeon wonders who Ji-woo is pretending to kiss, and embarrassed at being caught, Ji-woo retorts that it’s nothing.
Seo-yeon says that Ji-woo should just confess to Dae-young how much she likes him, but Ji-woo continues to insist she doesn’t like him. If that’s the case, then Seo-yeon says she’ll set up a blind date, and Ji-woo hides her disappointment at the idea of Dae-young going on a blind date with another girl.
At soccer practice, Ji-woo is dreamily distracted by Dae-young’s lips. She also offers to help him practice by playing the goalie — except when she sees him running down the field towards her, she ends up hugging him instead of the stopping the ball. Pffft.
The other boys arrive and are thrilled to reveal to Dae-young that they’ve lined up blind dates. Annoyed, Ji-woo kicks the ball at them — smashing it straight into Byung-sam’s face and causing his nose to bleed. Aw, poor kid, he always seems to be the one needlessly getting hurt.
When Ji-woo returns home, she finds a package waiting for her from her mother. It’s a bunch of side dishes, and the note tells her to make sure that Seo-yeon doesn’t skip meals. Ji-woo loses her cool with her selfie-obsessed stepsister and says that if she’s not even going to help out around the house by putting away the food, then Seo-yeon can just leave.
But her irritation is more about Seo-yeon setting Dae-young up on a blind date. Except Seo-yeon didn’t — she actually set Ji-woo up on a blind date. Seo-yeon marvels that the other boys are going on blind dates and pities the women they’re set up with.
Jin-seok fails in yet another mission for Seo-yeon where her extremely picky beauty habits end up causing him to purchase the wrong pantyhose. She yells at him, but he actually stands up for himself when he says that he has a blind date at Bennigan’s. Ji-woo, realizing that this means Dae-young must also be having his date at Bennigan’s, calls her blind date to change venues — to Bennigan’s, of course.
When Ji-woo arrives, she’s surprised to see Dae-young working instead of on a date. He said he’d prefer to work since saving up for the World Cup is more important than dating. Once Dae-young realizes that Ji-woo is on a blind date, he cheerfully escorts her to her table and cutely wishes her good luck.
Ji-woo decides that she and her date should grab a drink elsewhere (uncomfortable that her crush would be their server perhaps?).
Byung-sam and Jin-seok arrive for their dates, and Byung-sam drags along his guitar so that he can impress his date even though he’s too shy to talk. Except the girls are definitely unimpressed, especially when Jin-seok tries to use Eric’s “Do you smell something burning?” line on them.
But the girls perk up when they realize that Jin-seok and Byung-sam are friends with their handsome waiter. The girls find excuses to bring Dae-young back to their table, even using their own cheesy pickup lines on him.
But the worst (or the best?) part of the disastrous blind date is when Byung-sam — wearing similar clothes to the Bennigan’s uniform — is mistaken as an employee and forced to play his guitar with the rest of the staff while they sing “Happy Birthday” to a customer.
Ji-woo cuts her date short, citing that she has to be up early. Her date isn’t taking the hint, and says they should get together later that weekend. She finally has to tell him that she doesn’t think they’re compatible, but she’s still nice about it and her date continues to steamroll her, insisting that they should find out if they really match.
He leans in for a kiss, ignoring Ji-woo’s terrified expression. Seo-yeon runs up just then and shoves him away. The creepy date demands to know what right Seo-yeon has to intervene, and without hesitating, Seo-yeon kisses Ji-woo.
The creepy date finally gets the hint when Seo-yeon says that she can’t hide how she feels about Ji-woo anymore, and she knows that Ji-woo only went on a date with a guy to try and hurt her. Pffft.
Ji-woo is irritated that her first kiss was with her stepsister (Seo-yeon: “You were my first girl kiss, too!”) and they bicker all the way home. At least the date is over (and the shaman’s prediction was correct, after all!).
Next door, Byung-sam and Jin-seok are annoyed that their dates found Dae-young more attractive. But Dae-young nonchalantly says he can’t help his handsomeness, that’s just how he was born. Sung-joo bursts in and lets them know he’s found a new reputable blackmarket porn source — OMG, it’s baby Sun! He ships out the porn order just as Ji-woo arrives for his tutoring.
She’s worried that he’s selling things because he’s being bullied in school and having his lunch money stolen, but he says he’s actually saving up for a CD player. The college boys receive Sun’s delivery, and they’re even impressed that he included a roll of tissue as a freebie.
Maybe he should have kept that tissue since he spills his food down his shirt. Sun isn’t too bothered about it, though, since he knows he’ll just spill more later, so what’s the point of trying to clean it up now?
In 2018, a drunken adult Sun is just as messy an eater as he was when he was a teenager. Ji-woo tells him that she always felt sorry for his dirty clothes since it reminded of her own mother being busy while she was growing up, too.
Sun wants to impress Ji-woo and attempts to retrieve his business card, then tipsily confesses that she was his first love.
The next morning, Sun wakes up shirtless in bed next to — Dae-young? It turns out that Dae-young called Sun that night to see when their next meeting would be, and Ji-woo answered the phone because Sun passed out after his confession (which wasn’t a surprise to Ji-woo, since she knew all about his crush and the fact that he had crushes on a lot girls).
They both agree it’s a small world when they realize that they both know Sun, and Dae-young arrives at the restaurant to help Ji-woo deal with a barely conscious Sun. As they carry him to Dae-young’s place (since they don’t know where Sun lives), Sun recites the takeaway menus he’s memorized since his youth.
The reason Sun is shirtless is because Dae-young didn’t want the dirty shirt messing up his sheets — plus Dae-young cleaned his shirt for him. Aw.
Sun hurries to get dressed and says that Dae-young should speak formally to him because he’s Dae-young’s boss. Dae-young points out that drunk Sun wanted to speak informally, but agrees to speak formally at work even if he won’t do it in his own home.
Sun still thinks that would be crossing a line — this man is all about respecting the boundary of imaginary lines, isn’t he?
When Sun returns home, he finds firemen just leaving his apartment. Seo-yeon had a candle in the bathroom to help her relax while taking a bath, but the towels caught fire. Seo-yeon’s attempt to ease her stress is only making Sun more stressed.
Dae-young meets with Ji-woo’s coworker Yoon-ji to finalize her insurance, and Yoon-ji’s delighted by his thoughtful new customer gift since it shows that he pays attention to small details — which is just the kind of man Ji-woo needs, hint, hint. Ji-woo arrives in time to shoo off her matchmaking coworker, and agrees to have lunch with Dae-young.
By the time she’s changed out of her scrubs, Dae-young’s on the phone with another client who demands to meet with him right now. Ji-woo’s disappointed, but understands, since he needs to do his job. But the “client” is Seo-yeon who’s cashing in his promise to buy her a meal. At least Dae-young has the presence of mind to feel guilty, like he’s cheating on both sisters.
Seo-yeon takes a selfie before eating, and Dae-young muses that she hasn’t changed. She asks Dae-young to tell his manager that she was the one who persuaded him — which is the real reason she wanted to meet with him today. He’s surprised that she’s not eating despite calling him out because she had no one to eat with, but she says she doesn’t really have an appetite.
But she does ask him if he knows any place with good kimchi sujebi, since she’s been craving some but can’t find any place that satisfies her taste buds. Dae-young says that he knows some places, but it wouldn’t live up to her expectations since he knows she only wants kimchi sujebi like Mom used to make.
Ji-woo resigns herself to her cafeteria lunch, but lights up when she sees the notification that Dae-young updated his blog. She assumes that it was a regular client, but loses her appetite when she sees the photo Seo-yeon took of two of them together, in one of the comments.
She heads upstairs — and gets into the same elevator as Seo-yeon. The two sisters ride silently side by side, avoiding eye contact, but Ji-woo notices Seo-yeon’s fancy outfit and shoes that make her own comfortable attire look shabby.
Seo-yeon, remembering Dae-young’s comment that only Mom’s kimchi sujebi will satisfy, finally breaks the silence by remarking that Ji-woo must have passed all her nursing exams since she’s working here. Ji-woo refuses to engage, but just as she’s stepping out of the elevator, Seo-yeon tells Ji-woo to say “hello” to Mom for her. Ji-woo hits the button to close the elevator door and then slams Seo-yeon up against the wall.
Ji-woo warns Seo-yeon that if she mentions Mom again, Ji-woo will kill her so she doesn’t have to see Seo-yeon again. From this point on, they’re strangers, and Seo-yeon shouldn’t attempt to speak to her. She’s terrifyingly intimidating, but Seo-yeon just grumbles that Ji-woo hasn’t changed much.
It’s the weekend, and Dae-young hollers across the balcony to ask if Ji-woo wants to have dinner with him later. She says that weekends are for dating, so he assumes she’s the one with a date. But she tells him to enjoy his time with his girlfriend.
Ji-woo visits her mother, who’s concerned that she’s looking older even though, to her mind, she’s still in her thirties. Mom wonders if she should get married again so that her young daughter can have a father again.
Ji-woo yells at Mom that they wouldn’t have gone through having their hearts broken and being backstabbed if Mom hadn’t married again. Mom is shocked that her friend is reacting so strongly, and Ji-woo leaves in anger.
Dae-young gets dressed and notices the couple ring still on his finger. As he leaves his apartment, he sees Ji-woo run down the stairs without noticing him — in mismatched shoes, so something is definitely wrong. She runs straight towards the street without paying attention to traffic.
He spins her out of the way of an oncoming car and yells at her to look where she’s going. As they stand in the middle of the street, Ji-woo seems to wake up from her daze and begins to sob.
Okay, show, you need to seriously cool it with the traffic accidents, even just the threat of one. There’s no need to send Dae-young (or me) into a panicked heart attck that someone else he cares about might have a fateful encounter with that insatiable Truck of Doom. I’m assuming whatever reason Ji-woo ran pell-mell into traffic was due to news she received about her mother, since that seems to be the only person who could shake her up like that. But I’m hoping it’s not, because I’m not ready for these characters to endure more grief. I want my lighthearted foodie show! Not people dealing with very serious issues in their lives that can’t just be solved by a delicious meal! Ugh, show, why do you have to be so serious and depressingly relatable, instead of mere escapism?
I had started this show with reasonably low expectations. I was mildly disappointed with the second season after how much I enjoyed the first, and I figured I would only watch this season because, no matter what, I can’t resist Dae-young’s foodie charms. But I was determined to not get invested in the new characters — I’ve been hurt too much by the knowledge that they would just magically disappear in the next season. I figured this new season would be pleasant because of yummy food, but I really didn’t anticipate enjoying it beyond the simple pleasure of seeing a favorite character again.
But I’m loving this season, and I think I would love it even without knowing anything about Dae-young or the previous seasons. In fact, I’ll even go so far as to state that this season is actually good. There’s some solid writing that doesn’t feel like half-hearted excuse to jump from one foodie scene to the next, as well as characters that feel real and relatable. I somehow care about everyone (yes, even Seo-yeon) and am invested in finding out what happened to make them become who they are all these years later.
I also love the technical details. It feels a little weird to be so appreciative of the graceful way the 2018 and 2004 timelines switch the aspect ratio (in the goodway, not the squishy Signal way) so it’s obvious what year we’re in. The slightly hazy, muted filter for the 2004 scenes spark just the correct amount of nostalgia without making me feel like I’m watching through cloudy lenses. For once, tvN’s filters and aspect ratio tweaks are actually serving the story instead of distracting me from it.
With only four episodes in, I’m not saying it’s the greatest show ever, but I’m pleased that it’s shaping up to be so much more than I’d hoped for and I can’t wait to see what happens next. Just no more Truck of Doom, please.