Thirty But Seventeen has delivered the laughs but this hour it’s all about heart, thanks to a certain rower. Chan blends his experience as team captain with mother-hen tendencies to hold his makeshift family together. It’s a tall order since that family includes a woman who is thirteen years behind the times and an uncle who experienced severe emotional trauma, but if anyone can pull it off, it’s Chan. Fighting!
EPISODE 5: “The Lands of the Unknown”
Chan answers the doorbell for Deok-soo and Hae-bum but before they can enter, Hyung-tae asks if they’ve seen a woman in her thirties near the house. The boys share that a woman did show up, convinced that she lived there, but she left and they don’t know where she went.
Hyung-tae hands his card to Deok-soo and asks him to call should the woman reappear.
The boys check the card once he’s gone and wonder what a neurosurgeon wants with Seo-ri. Deok-soo shoves the card into his pocket just as a food cart approaches.
The boys greet Chan but when they see Seo-ri, Deok-soo blurts out that a man just asked about her. Chan wonders if it was her uncle so Deok-soo reaches for the man’s card but it’s gone. He realizes that he lost it at the food cart so the boys try to remember what was on it. Deok-soo asks if Seo-ri’s uncle is a doctor while Hae-bum adds that card was from a hospital.
The boys are about to run after the doctor but they stop when Seo-ri admits that she knows why the hospital is searching for her, confused when she vows that she’ll never go back there. Seo-ri then asks Chan to use the internet but she’s utterly confused when he puts his cell phone in her hands.
Seo-ri uses a laptop to search for her uncle’s company and discovers that it’s long gone. She remembers that she saw him drive by on the day of the accident when he was supposed to be in Japan on a business trip. A call to her aunt confirmed that he was still away and Seo-ri realizes that if she really saw her uncle that day, it means that he lied to them.
At work, Woo-jin ends a phone call with his father and assures him that the buyers agreed to wait a month. Hee-soo overhears him and asks if something happened only to be told, “I’m not sure. I hope it’s nothing but I think it might be something.” A confused HYUN asks Hee-soo if she understands Woo-jin but she confesses that even though they’ve known each other since Germany, he remains a mystery.
Woo-jin can’t seem to concentrate and sighs, “One month…” An alarm on his phone signals that it’s time to feed Deok-gu and he runs home just as Hee-soo announces a meeting. Incensed, Hee-soo admits that if Woo-jin wasn’t so talented, she’d fire him.
Woo-jin is surprised to find Deok-gu playing with Seo-ri but carefully measures out his lunch. He coaxes Deok-gu to eat but when the dog belches, Seo-ri rattles off everything that he’s already eaten.
Woo-jin puts Deok-gu down and walks towards the stairs, straight into a potted plant. Seo-ri tells him it’s the perfect spot for the wilted plant but Woo-jin tells her it has to go back. He won’t relent even when Seo-ri promises that it will have new leaves in a few days, so back it goes.
Before he returns to work, Woo-jin looks jealous as he watches Seo-ri and Deuk-gu play together. When he leaves, Seo-ri moves the plant back to the special spot but she’s caught when Woo-jin returns for his car key. Back it goes to its original spot until Woo-jin leaves for good, then she moves it into the special place in front of the stairs.
Outside, Woo-jin frets, “Why did Deok-gu burp in my face like that,” and then reminds himself, “One month.” A few steps later he stops, “Why did she have to move that potted plant,” and then recites what has become his new mantra, “One month, just one month.”
After rowing practice, Hae-bum wonders what Seo-ri meant about not returning to the hospital. Deok-soo thinks that she escaped from a mental hospital but Chan silences them with orders to focus on their boat.
Troubled, Chan thinks back to Seo-ri’s explanation that she’d never used a phone to access the internet. Seo-ri confessed that she was a long-time patient at a hospital and Chan guessed that’s how she lost contact with her uncle. Seo-ri begged him not to tell the hospital her whereabouts but he wonders, “But what was she there for?”
While Chan and his friends wipe down their boat, he’s asked about LEE RI-AN, who hasn’t been seen since she announced her plan to meet her future in-law. Ri-an runs to a friend in class to ask if a shorter hairstyle makes her unrecognizable, only to be told that she looks the same, only with a wig.
Seo-ri waits while a violin technician studies her mother’s violin, shocked when he estimates that it will cost $2,000 to restore. She takes back the violin with a promise to come back but as she leaves, he tells her, “Even the best things become junk if you neglect them, whether it’s an instrument or a person.”
Seo-ri is outside when Chan comes home but she collapses when she stands up to greet him. Chan is ready to run her to the hospital on his back but she assures him that it’s only a leg cramp. Once she’s fine, Seo-ri asks to use his laptop.
Seo-ri types up her resume, which begins and ends with her acceptance to the music school in Germany. Chan has a stack of violinist job postings but realizes that Seo-ri needs a phone number. His number is unavailable when he’s at practice so Jennifer appears out of nowhere and recites hers.
Chan helpfully suggests that Seo-ri could list any competitions that she won but there’s nothing because competitions are about precision and she always improvised. Chan sees Germany listed on her resume and shares that not only was he born there, Woo-jin attended high school and college there. Seo-ri excitedly shares that she was supposed to attend college in Berlin.
When Woo-jin comes home, Seo-ri greets him excitedly with news that she was supposed to study music at a school in Berlin. She bombards him with questions all the way to his room but when he reaches his door, Woo-jin confronts Seo-ri, “Are you a child?” Her smile diasppears as Woo-jin continues, “If you’re not hearing a response, that means someone doesn’t want to talk. Shouldn’t you be able to catch on to that at your age?”
Laden with a platter of corn dogs, Chan overhears Woo-jin tell Seo-ri, “I’m really grateful that you saved Deok-gu’s life but please keep your promise of living quietly in your room.” Chan tries to smooth things over and tells Seo-ri that Woo-jin doesn’t like to talk to people but then sadly remembers that his uncle wasn’t always that way.
Woo-jin lies in bed and remembers how his worried parents knocked on his door after the accident and begged him to talk to them. Crouched on the floor of his room, he wept, with the charm from Seo-ri’s backpack nearby. In the present, all Woo-jin can do is sigh heavily.
When Seo-ri informs Jennifer that she’s on her way to look for a job, she’s told, “Stop.” The two women stand in front of Jennifer’s closet as the maid recites, “Time. Place. Occasion.”
Jennifer explains the importance of dressing appropriately for an interview and opens her closet to reveal nothing but white shirts and black skirts. Jennifer invites Seo-ri, “Take your pick,” and soon Seo-ri walks up the street, smartly dressed in a white shirt and black skirt.
At her first interview, Seo-ri is told that she’s just a middle school graduate since she never graduated from high school. Seo-ri’s next application is turned down because she didn’t know enough to bring her own instrument.
Hee-soo holds a meeting to discuss an upcoming three-day music festival. Hyun thinks it sounds like fun while Woo-jin complains about the stress it will cause. Hee-soo warns Woo-jin that he’s to attend the meeting with the festival staff or she’ll throw him out. Woo-jin doesn’t mind as long as she sends him to Croatia.
While Seo-ri waits for another interview, she suggests to a class of pre-schoolers that they should hold their bows like a rabbit, with their outside fingers pointed up like ears. In her interview, Seo-ri is dismissed as unqualified but she convinces the interviewer to evaluate her skills.
Seo-ri plays the violin surprisingly well until the bow falls from her stiff fingers. It’s obvious that Seo-ri hasn’t played in some time even though she feels as if it was just yesterday.
Outside, Seo-ri drops onto a bench and remembers the warning of the violin repairman — something great can become worthless if neglected. Seo-ri reassures herself that all she needs is practice.
At the hospital, Hyung-tae’s friend is surprised to learn that he’s no longer interested in the long-term hospitalization. When an unconscious female in her twenties is brought in, Hyun-tae pushes his way to her side and drops to the floor in relief when he sees that it’s not Seo-ri.
Woo-jin busies himself with a sketch of Deok-gu as the meeting with the festival staff gets underway. Tae-rin runs in with an apology for her tardiness and introduces herself as Rin Kim (her stage name?).
Seo-ri thinks about the $2,000 needed for her violin and perks up when she walks by a help-wanted notice. A restaurant hostess reviews the job’s benefits but Seo-ri thinks that she meant gas money, not days off. Woo-jin steps away from his meeting and sees Seo-ri just as the hostess asks about her age and this time she remembers to answer that she’s thirty.
Out on the street, Seo-ri recalls the hostess’ rejection, “We’re only hiring people in their twenties. Our boss is twenty-nine, so we can’t hire anyone older.” She thinks of everything that people expect her to know by the age of thirty but then her attention falls on two high school girls. Suddenly, she imagines herself laughing with Su-mi.
Seo-ri asks herself, “What about the eighteen-year-old me? What about the twenty-year-old me?” Seo-ri imagines her arrival at the college in Germany as planned and playing for her teacher. Years later, all grown up, she introduces herself in German as the second violin.
Seo-ri’s imagined future includes a concert hall with a banner that announces her solo performance and onstage, she sparkles in an elegant gown, her aunt and uncle in the audience, a standing ovation her reward. Suddenly, the scene blows away like dust and Seo-ri sits alone on a bench with tears in her eyes.
EPISODE 6: “Replacement”
Chan waves to Seo-ri happily until he sees her face. He joins her on the bench, indignant that her admission to the German music school doesn’t help her job search but Seo-ri admits that she isn’t good enough.
Seo-ri sees Chan’s calloused hands and he explains that all rowers’ hands look that bad. Seo-ri shares that violinists get blisters and callouses on their fingertips but then she sees that hers are perfectly smooth.
Chan wonders, “Were you so sick that you couldn’t play the violin?” Seo-ri confesses that she was unconscious for thirteen years because of an accident, which is why she still feels like she’s seventeen. Seo-ri’s disappointing day served to remind her that she’s really thirty and she observes, “I’m a strange thirty-year-old who doesn’t know anything.”
Chan takes a deep breath before he speaks. Haltingly, he tells her, “Thirty is not that old anymore…Don’t get discouraged yet. Good days will come as you live on.” Chan apologizes for his weak vocabulary but Seo-ri knows that he wants to tell her to cheer up.
Chan proposes that spicy food will improve their mood and Seo-ri proves that they’re on the same wavelength when she excitedly suggests spicy rice cakes. When Chan mentions seaweed rolls as well, Seo-ri practically skips in delight by his side.
Woo-jin gets home just as Jennifer goes shopping and a deliveryman arrives with a stack of packages. Woo-jin has to carry everything inside by himself and when he sees boxes for Hae-bum, Deok-soo and Chan, he can’t imagine why the friends’ packages were delivered to his address.
Woo-jin slams into the potted plant and then the doorbell rings just a he has a clean shirt over his head. He bumps into a bookcase on the way to answer it and is confused by a food delivery. Before Woo-jin can send the deliveryman away, Deok-soo and Hae-bum appear and claim the food.
The boys dance in as they chant, “Pigs’ feet! Pigs’ feet,” and tell Woo-jin that they’re expecting Chan. Distracted when the boys call to him, Woo-jin walks into the potted plant again, not at all thankful with the hearts and the wink that the boys send him as thanks for bringing in their packages.
Woo-jin retreats to his room to work but the doorbell rings and then Hae-bum barges in to announce that there’s more food. Hae-bum is disappointed that Woo-jin won’t join them and returns when he remembers to mention another dish.
Hae-bum looks dejected when he finally leaves but Woo-jin doesn’t care and locks his bedroom door. Seconds later, Deok-soo walks in to ask why Chan isn’t home and an exasperated Woo-jin suggests that he call him.
Woo-jin can’t get back to work so he goes to the bathroom to throw some water on his face. There’s an urgent knock on the door before Deok-soo barges in. He wriggles as he explains that the downstairs bathroom isn’t available because Hae-bum decided to take a bubble bath.
Deok-soo can’t wait and pulls down his pants which forces Woo-jin into the hallway. He announces that all he wants is peace and quiet and is rewarded with chirps from Chan’s escaped chick.
The next day, Woo-jin and Chan are startled by a scream. They run downstairs, weaponized with the umbrella and bamboo stick and find Seo-ri jumping for joy. She got a call to fill in for the teacher of the toddler class who’s out due to an appendectomy. It seems that all of the kids asked for the rabbit teacher.
Chan and Seo-ri jump in celebration as Woo-jin watches her with curiosity. Deok-soo and Hae-bum show up and decide that something good happened and join in. Jennifer finds herself smiling at the kids and then composes herself just as Woo-jin returns upstairs.
Jennifer expertly prepares fresh noodles as Seo-ri asks for flour to prepare some dough. Jennifer offers her some of the noodle dough and Seo-ri takes a handful.
Woo-jin walks downstairs in the middle of the night and overhears Seo-ri in her room. Deok-gu serves as her audience while Seo-ri practices what to say to her class. Woo-jin manages to avoid the potted plant, unaware that it’s much greener.
In the morning, Chan wishes Seo-ri luck on her first day at work and shares his words of inspiration, “Don’t think! Feel!” He sees the dough and Seo-ri explains that it’s for an exercise to loosen her fingers. Chan tells her, “Fighting,” just as Deok-soo and Hae-bum show up and wish her luck.
Chan stares after Seo-ri and when he remembers how she jumped for joy, he tells himself, “She really must be seventeen-years-old.” Woo-jin walks in just as the boys leave for school, horrified when they all promise to see him later.
Seo-ri drops off her violin with the repairman and announces that she’ll never allow herself, or her violin, to become junk.
Woo-jin walks downstairs and manages to avoid the plant on his way to the kitchen. While he grinds some coffee, Jennifer’s phone rings but Woo-jin doesn’t hear it and sits on it when he hops on the counter.
When the grinder stops, Woo-jin is spooked when he hears, “Hello?” The caller is from the violin school and she tells Woo-jin that the parents don’t want Seo-ri as a teacher so she doesn’t need to report to work. The caller hangs up before he can ask her to call Seo-ri later.
Woo-jin has finally learned to avoid the potted plant as he leaves for work. He comes right back to leave a note for Seo-ri about the job but a call from Hee-soo causes him to race out for a meeting before he’s finished.
Seo-ri returns and sees the note on the bookcase to her room. All it says is,”The violin academy…,” so Seo-ri adds something to it and goes into her room.
At work, Hyun answers a phone call and it reminds Woo-jin about the half-written note. He tells himself that Seo-ri will hear the news from the school and then remembers how giddy she was when she was asked to teach.
Woo-jin looks guilty when he remembers that Seo-ri stayed up late to prepare and then we see that he overheard the restaurant hostess tell Seo-ri that she was too old for the job. He notices that it’s 3:15 and remembers that Seo-ri told Chan that she had to report to the school at 4:00 p.m.
Woo-jin happens to drive by while Seo-ri walks to the violin school. He stops but a car behind him honks so he asks Seo-ri to get into his car. Seo-ri points out that she only has a ten minute walk but Woo-jin tries to explains that’s not his reason for the ride. She shows him the note, certain that it’s from Chan, and explains that she finished it for him by adding, “Good luck.”
Woo-jin tries to explain that the note isn’t from Chan but Seo-ri interrupts with directions. Seo-ri excitedly shares that she’s so happy because now she can afford to repair her mother’s violin and then she adds that she doesn’t feel useless anymore.
Seo-ri apologizes for talking so much before she happily hops out of the car. As Seo-ri walks away, Woo-jin moans, “Why did I pick up that call?”
There’s a promotion for a new store on the sidewalk where Seo-ri literally runs into Woo-jin. Woo-jin tries to explain that he has something to tell her but he’s interrupted when he’s given a promotional tissue pack. Unfortunately, he’s drowned out by large speakers when he finally manages to tell Seo-ri, “The music school told you not to come in.”
Woo-jin tries again and this time he yells so that Seo-ri can hear him just when someone trips on the cords. When everything loses power, Woo-jin’s words, “They fired you,” echo around them.
Woo-jin looks miserable while Seo-ri holds his note and realizes that she was fired before her first day at work and he nervously pulls out the end of a tape measure.
When Seo-ri realizes that she won’t be able to fix her mother’s violin, huge sobs escape her body. Woo-jin looks around uncomfortably while Seo-ri reaches for a tissue and then blows her nose loudly. Seo-ri pulls herself together and exclaims, “I feel so much better after crying.”
Seo-ri thanks Woo-jin for worrying that she’d be hurt by the news and acknowledges that he’s a good person, in his own way. Woo-jin insists that he just happened to answer the phone and doesn’t plan to get mixed up in her business anymore, so she shouldn’t make any assumptions about him.
Chan has just started on a huge bag of popcorn when Seo-ri and Woo-jin get home at the same time. He asks how everything went, surprised when Seo-ri announces that she was fired before she started.
Seo-ri runs off to use the computer to figure out how to earn $2,000 and Chan chases after her. Woo-jin walks by the potted plant but stops when he sees that it’s green and has new leaves. He admits to himself with a smile, “She was right. It came back to life.”
Woo-jin can’t get Deok-gu away from Seo-ri for his checkup because he won’t leave her side. Chan announces that Woo-jin’s been dumped and then points out the obvious, “Deok-gu doesn’t want to be separated from her again. It looks like she’ll have to go with you.”
On the way back from the vet, Seo-ri is relieved that the doctor proclaimed Deok-giu much improved. Woo-jin’s phone rings with a spam call and when Seo-ri returns it to his bag, she sees the ChocoPie.
Woo-jin recalls how he waited for Seo-ri to return after he bought her the treat, but when she asks him about that day, he insists that he bought it for himself. Stopped at a light, Woo-jin tears open the ChocoPie and takes a bite but he can barely get it down.
Seo-ri laughs while Woo-jin forces himself to eat the treat but stops when she sees her uncle walking on the other side of the street. She jumps out of the car and runs into traffic calling out, “Uncle,” as cars honk and screech to a halt. Woo-jin cowers in the car and envisions the bus accident as Deuk-go begins to bark.
Seo-ri is in the middle of the street when Woo-jin grabs her arm. She starts to explain that she saw her uncle but Woo-jin can only say, “Don’t move.” Seo-ri tries to jerk herself away but Woo-jin begs, “Don’t go,” and she freezes when she sees tears begin to form in his eyes.
That sickly plant that Woo-jin constantly runs into reminds us that Thirty But Seventeen deals with rejuvenation. The right circumstances not only heal but unlock unrealized potential and that’s what Seo-ri, Woo-jin, and now, Hyung-tae are poised for. All three were horribly damaged by that bus accident and though they survived, they certainly haven’t thrived. The perfect place for that plant turns out to be in the middle of everything and everyone and that seems to be the same situation that Woo-jin finds himself in.
The running gag about the ridiculous amounts of food that Chan and his friends’ blow through on any given day is amazingly accurate. Teenaged athletes are always in “eat” mode and Thirty But Seventeen has lots of fun with that fact. It’s work to track all of the different ways that the boys find to consume enough calories and their search for food even impacts the story, such as when Deok-gu lost Hyung-tae’s business card to buy those yogurt drinks. It gives Chan and his friends so much personality plus it wreaks havoc in Woo-jin’s once peaceful life.
Woo-jin has gone from the remoteness of the Alps to having his doorbell ring constantly with deliveries. I think it’s amusing that everyone in the house has adapted to the pandemonium and are able to coexist while Woo-jin stumbles and bumbles his way around, constantly out of sorts. Woo-jin is meant to be restored in the same way as that plant, in a busy and bustling household, I’m just not sure that one month will be enough time for his transformation. This hour demonstrated just how much that bus accident scarred Woo-jin when he suffered from post-traumatic stress when Seo-ri ran into the street. No wonder he craves serenity and quiet and wants to avoid stress. He’s not just grumpy and uncooperative, he’s traumatized.
The friendship between Seo-ri and Chan continues to grow and I appreciate that there’s been no hint of romance because I love these two in a brother/sister type of relationship. In fact, I’m actually not in a hurry for any romantic developments because everyone has a lot of growing to do before any romance would feel appropriate. As the second lead, Ahn Hyo-seop has been onscreen as much, if not more, than Yang Se-jong. Maybe it just feels that way because he plays such an energetic character. He’s really killing it as Chan and displays not only the character’s emotional maturity, but his youthful exuberance as well.
I wasn’t expecting Ahn Hyo-seop’s character to be so pivotal to the drama, but at this point, he’s the glue that holds everyone together. Chan is a rock of support and as the questions and mysteries pile up, that support will be in high demand. What is the truth about Seo-ri’s uncle and what on earth happened to her aunt? Were they both involved in something or did the uncle betray his wife? Whatever we learn, it’s sure to be devastating for Seo-ri and the support of a true friend will help her to keep moving forward. Because that’s what Chan is best at, instilling hope and a stick-with-it attitude. As an athlete, he knows about teamwork and pushing yourself beyond your boundaries but he’s always ready with a smile or a shoulder to cry on, even though he’s only seventeen. It’s the older adults who will learn a thing or two from Chan as they deal with their wounds.