Feelings are discovered and clean breaks are made, but a lull never lasts long in dramaland, and it’s time to bring skeletons out of closets, have long-overdue fights, and then maybe fight about not fighting. And I don’t know about anyone else, but this hour really leaves me craving—crazy craving!—ramyun.
EPISODE 20 RECAP
Hwa-shin leans over Na-ri and they kiss. In voiceover, he asks her to date him now, please. When they take a breath, she laugh-cries about how wronged she feels and hugs him tight. He declares they’ll date starting today.
Hwa-shin sneaks Na-ri into the kitchen of the empty staff canteen. He starts to make ramyun for her and, but his technique and frequent questions make her guess that he doesn’t actually know what he’s doing, although he insists he does. She remembers his ex saying how he never used to lift a finger, and he replies indignantly that she and Na-ri aren’t even comparable—he never made her ramyun.
She peeks over his shoulder to see if it’s done, and his eyes crinkle with a smile as she squees that it’s exactly her style. They sit down to eat, Na-ri still trying to get him to admit it’s his first time making it. In his mumbly way, he says they’ll have ramyun together a thousand more times, but in the face of her smirk, he finishes with a huffy, “Can you just believe me?”
Falling into giggles, Na-ri asks, “When you say, ‘Let’s eat ramyun a thousand times,’ is that a proposal?” She says that if they have it every three days, it would take three thousand days and that’s nearly ten years. “It’s not a proposal,” Hwa-shin laughs in reply.
Na-ri decides to sleep at the station and they part in front of her room. But before Hwa-shin turns the corner, he turns back to her. “I’m sorry. For making you lonely for so long,” he says, with a heavy sigh, “I regret wasting that time, too.”
He’s heartened by her reply that she hasn’t been so good lately either, and asks her to hang out with him instead of sleeping, plucking at her sleeve like a 6-year-old. Finding it endearing, she laughs and sends him on his way. Back in his dorm, he growls to himself that she’s so cute. Hahaha.
In the morning, Na-ri practices her steps for the election broadcast, thinking to herself that it’s possible she can do better than Hye-won. Ja-young watches her from the mezzanine above, pleased by her diligence.
Madam Kim drops in on Jung-won. She remarks on not seeing Na-ri around lately, but he just says she’s been busy. Madam Kim’s also heard that Na-ri is doing election coverage, and tells Jung-won to prepare outfits for her to wear for it.
Meanwhile, the news comes though of Hye-won’s father’s resignation from his government post. Announcer Uhm and PD Oh sigh that it’s a shame, but from behind his newspaper, Hwa-shin pipes up that they needn’t worry, “Our Pyo Na-ri can do well, too.” The other two turn to him in surprise. “Our Pyo Na-ri?” repeats PD Oh. Out of view, Hwa-shin smiles giddily to himself.
Hye-won finishes a call with her father. Looking bitterly at Na-ri, she says to herself that if he were going to resign, he should’ve done it just a bit sooner.
Hwa-shin shares an elevator with Sung-sook. Still bursting with little smiles, he tells her she’s pretty today, and says he understands now why his brother married her. Sourly, she points out that they also divorced, then his brother died, and now she’s about to lose her daughter. If he understands why his brother married her now, when will he understand all the things that happened after that, she asks. Lols. A good question. She guesses he must be dating, but smiles to herself all the same.
In the studio, they run through a full-team rehearsal for the election coverage, and Hwa-shin coaches Na-ri on diction, presenting in time with the graphics, and placing her steps correctly. Hye-won comes to watch, just as they switch off the autocue to simulate a broadcasting accident.
Hwa-shin improvises smartly by discussing the two opposing candidates’ election promises. He hands over to Na-ri, who talks about past turnouts, and then looks at him for approval. “Is that it?” Hwa-shin asks, and tells her it was dull. Hye-won steps onto the stage and makes a lively case about key historical figures who had all once been mayors of Seoul.
That was interesting, Hwa-shin says proudly, and Hye-won hands each of them a coffee. Having made her point, she tells them to do well and sees herself off.
Jung-won comes to Na-ri’s building and drops off the outfits—one for each part. She tries to turn him down, but he says that he’s also dressing Hwa-shin. “You really are stubborn,” she says, giving him a hard look. She asks him to stop coming, and he reproaches her for being so cold towards him. “I’ll do well,” she tells him. “Of course,” he replies.
Election day is here, and Na-ri prepares herself. Looking in the mirror, she tells herself that she can do it. Ja-young comes in with coffee and advice, and says that the most important thing is not to be nervous. Since it’s live and unscripted, she says Na-ri also has to pay close attention to reading numbers.
Ready to go at the newsdesk, Hwa-shin notes Na-ri’s nerves and snaps his fingers for her attention. He proceeds to make faces at her and makes her do mouth-stretches to loosen up. He slides a note over to her: “Don’t be nervous.” And another: “You’re not alone.” “You have me.” He hesitates a moment before sliding over one more: “I love you ♥” They look at each other, smiling, and Na-ri slips the notes into her pocket.
The live broadcast begins. But disaster strikes when one of the graphics shows the bar graph for the percentage of votes to each candidate the wrong way around (which Na-ri reads first), while the number of votes remains correct. Not noticing the problem, she thus reports the wrong candidate in the lead, while panic builds behind the cameras.
Amid the confusion, they confirm the numbers are correct, so Hwa-shin cuts in to take over from Na-ri. She at last realizes the mistake, and Dong-gi finally gets rid of the offending graphic. Hwa-shin hands over to a field report, and as soon as the on-air light is off, he goes to a wide-eyed Na-ri and tells her it’s okay. Smiling, he encourages her to forget this. But on his way back to the desk, he growls at Dong-gi to do his work properly.
Hwa-shin’s mom and Madam Kim are watching at Rak Pasta. Hwa-shin’s mom remarks that Jung-won’s girlfriend is making mistakes, and figures Jung-won must like her a whole lot, to choose her over Soo-jung. Madam Kim fierily rejoins that it’s Na-ri who likes Jung-won more.
Back in the studio, they begin to report regional results across a map of Seoul’s districts, but the CGI team mess up with another wrong graphic, and Na-ri finds herself pointing at a blank space, even though she’s on her mark. As she tries to adjust to it, the team change it, and she’s in the wrong place again. This is terrible!
Dong-gi has a meltdown up in the control room, and they find out that they’re tanking in the ratings. Na-ri’s uncertainty shows, and once again, Hwa-shin strides in and smoothes it over, to the seniors’ collective relief.
In the interval, Na-ri clips out of the studio. PD Oh tells Hwa-shin that the SBC president just said that Na-ri will be fired from the morning news if she makes another mistake. Hwa-shin goes in search of her, but pauses uncertainly outside the bathrooms. Inside, Na-ri tries practising a few lines. “I can do it,” she repeats to herself, reminding herself that she does live broadcasts every day.
Finally, Hwa-shin goes in, and takes Na-ri’s hands in his. She churns in agitation and he tells her again not to dwell on her first half mistakes—she can do this…can’t she? She calms, but a tiny flicker of uncertainty crosses his face.
Bursting into an empty stairwell, Hwa-shin locks a cigarette between his teeth as he thinks. He seems to come to a decision, and stops Na-ri on her way out of the loos. He warns her that making one more mistake would have big consequences for her, and says, “You decide. Can you do part two?” There’s a long pause, and he asks if he should swap her out.
She still hasn’t said a word, when he nods and says, “Let’s take it up to here.” She’s still wordless, when he tells her she could lose her morning slot. At long last, she nods, and with a loving caress, he sends her home. On his way back to the studio, he makes a call.
PD Oh breaks off arguing with the president when Hwa-shin returns alone. Hwa-shin merely takes his seat. A moment later, Hye-won comes in and takes the seat beside him, and PD Oh immediately calms. Ja-young watches this unfold. “Broadcast sure is cold-blooded,” she says in distaste, before turning heel and leaving. Hwa-shin’s head remains lowered, as he struggles with his feelings.
With new energy, Dong-gi kicks off again, but everyone is taken aback when Hwa-shin roars at him to get his act together—the previous mistakes were because they messed up the graphics, so they’d better take responsibility. Hye-won coolly takes in the impassioned outburst.
Ja-young searches for Na-ri, but she’s not in the building. At Rak Pasta, Chef Rak and the moms notice Na-ri’s been swapped out. Jung-won, watching with Secretary Cha, leaps to his feet. “That cold-blooded bastard,” he whispers. Heading for his car, he growls that he won’t stand for it if Hwa-shin is the one who swapped her out.
Looking up at Hye-won and Hwa-shin on the big screen outside the SBC building, Na-ri can’t stop a few tears escaping. Jung-won nearly passes by, but stops the car as he catches sight of her. Wiping her eyes, she leaves without noticing Jung-won, who gets out of his car and follows at a distance (while Cha follows behind him, lol).
The broadcast wraps up and PD Oh tells them they finished top. Sung-sook catches Hwa-shin at the desk and asks, “Wasn’t that your girlfriend?” She remarks that he hasn’t changed at all—still willing to hurt his lover or his family if for the sake of his job.
“Are my words wrong?” she asks with a cutting smile. Announcer Uhm breaks in and tells Hwa-shin he did a good job, but Hwa-shin can’t stay there a moment longer. He heads straight to Na-ri’s place, but she isn’t home.
Still on her sad way home, Na-ri pauses at the sight of Hwa-shin’s car, and turns around only to be faced with Jung-won. He asks if she’s okay, and she says she is, but he steps in front of her as Hwa-shin approaches. Na-ri looks back at Hwa-shin over Jung-won’s shoulder, and then walks past him without a word.
Jung-won confronts him about swapping Na-ri out. Hwa-shin replies that it would have been worse if she panicked and made more mistakes. He says Na-ri can handle herself, and must go through this pain now in order to overcome her fears.
But Jung-won really becomes incensed when Hwa-shin says there are things he doesn’t know. He says he watched over Na-ri crying, while her pride prevented her from crying in front of Hwa-shin. And while Hwa-shin ran away to Thailand, Jung-won watched his family suffer. Voice hard, he says that Hwa-shin would do the same again, all for the sake of his beloved job.
“That’s my way of loving my brother, and loving Pyo Na-ri,” Hwa-shin says passionately, “Even if it looks like injury and hurt in the eyes of the world, that’s just what other people think. I did that to my brother because I loved him. I made Pyo Na-ri step down because I love her. I don’t need other people’s understanding, and I don’t want it.” But he says he thought Jung-won, at least, understood him.
“You might say you loved them,” Jung-won replies savagely, “But a wound is a wound all the same to the person receiving it.” He adds that if Hwa-shin took Na-ri’s heart from him only to hurt her like this, he won’t forgive him. But Hwa-shin says that, hurt or heal, Jung-won doesn’t get to judge.
“This is why I can’t send Pyo Na-ri to you,” Jung-won answers, as the men remain nose to nose, and the silence stretches between them.
Na-ri lies on her bed, arm over her eyes, replaying Hwa-shin’s words. Chi-yeol checks in, asking what happened. More to herself than to him, she says she’d be even more pitiful if she were mad, and wonders if she should’ve asked to be let off since she’s his girlfriend. It takes Chi-yeol a minute to clock the word “girlfriend”, but Na-ri sends him off before he can ask.
The next day, Sung-sook marches into PD Oh’s office where he’s having a meeting with Ja-young, and asks her if she plans to marry Chef. Ja-young admits she wants to make a family for Pal-gang, but Sung-sook tells her to stick with just dating him. Ja-young realizes Sung-sook is afraid of being kicked out of the house.
Tone flippant, Sung-sook says she’ll do all the housework from now on, and Ja-young scoffs. Unfazed, Sung-sook shares that Chef can hug, so she’s sure Ja-young can awaken his desire (“since you’re sexier than me”). I’m not sure it works like that, but Ja-young perks up. Trapped between the two women, PD Oh gives up.
Na-ri arrives chipper and cheerful for the morning news, although her partner Announcer Park is an ass to her about last night. Hwa-shin comes to watch her, too, and she smiles brightly at him. After she finishes, she finds Hwa-shin waiting outside the studio. He can barely speak, but translating his awkward twitching, she easily agrees to coffee.
She remains cheerful with Hwa-shin, although her face falls when she meets Hye-won’s eyes across the floor. He brings up yesterday, and she apologizes. Lightly, she says that she wanted to do well in front of him, although she doesn’t know if she’ll get another chance now to stand next to him. He just looks at her with tormented eyes.
Na-ri finds Hye-won is waiting for her at her desk. “[Hwa-shin] might be dating you, but at work, I’mhis partner,” Hye-won says, “He also matches well with me. I’m his workplace girlfriend. You acknowledge that, right?”
Na-ri quirks into a smile and agrees that she’s lacking at the job, but asks Hye-won if she’s ever had ramyun at work, cooked by Hwa-shin himself. “It’s to die for,” she tells a confused Hye-won.
Hwa-shin finds Na-ri leaning tiredly in the elevator, but she perks up when she notices him. Frustrated, he pulls her into a stairwell. He sits her down and says she must hate him to death after he—her boyfriend!—changed her out like that. He gets more and more worked up, angry that she’s not angry with him, that she’s smiling.
He demands she fight with him, and doesn’t understand why she won’t—if they won’t fight about this, then what? She says there’ll be lots to fight about later, “Let’s not fight. I’ll do better.” Still smiling, she tells him to get to his broadcast, which is about to start any minute.
Back in the office, Na-ri makes Ja-young an offering of vitamin drinks. In sympathy, Ja-young tells Na-ri that Hwa-shin was really reprehensible and she should ditch him. Aw. But Na-ri asks Ja-young to teach her everything about her job from the beginning: “I want to become a capable person.”
That night, Hwa-shin joins Na-ri and Beom outside Stepmom’s store. After a moment, he plants a kiss on Beom’s cheek and asks Na-ri if he should give her one, too. She shakes her head, and Hwa-shin kisses Beom’s other cheek, but Na-ri doesn’t want one there either. Pacing, he finally asks Stepmom for ramyun.
Back at Na-ri’s place, Hwa-shin brings her a pot of freshly-cooked ramyun, and says it’s the second time. Once she’s eating, Hwa-shin goes into teach-mode, telling her how anchors who were field reporters respond better in real-time broadcast emergencies than studio announcers. She offers to get him kimchi, but he sits her back down.
He tells her that she needs to practise more, read the newspapers every day for a variety of perspectives (instead of watching him read them, ha), and put more thought into writing her openers to keep viewers interested in what’s to come. He doesn’t notice Na-ri’s darkening expression, until she throws down her chopsticks.
“You didn’t believe in me one bit, that I could do the second half well without mistakes, did you?” she accuses—that’s why he changed her out. Na-ri sighs that she’d held it in, not wanting to look petty, but now she can see that he thought she was lacking from the start.
She crosses her arms, ready to be frank at last, and says that tried to understand him, knowing he must feel awful after doing that to his girlfriend, “Still, I’m your girlfriend! You could have believed in me a bit, but you kicked me out.”
She’s embarrassed that she’s ended up saying it to him after all. Taking a moment to collect herself, she says she still doesn’t quite believe that he really likes her: “If I get angry, we’ll fight, and if we fight, you’ll say ‘let’s break up.’” She tells him she was so afraid of that that she couldn’t even get angry. “Do you feel good now?” she yells. His head is bowed, and she turns her back on him.
“Marry me,” Hwa-shin says, raising his head (and he says he’ll have that kimchi, too), “When you’re fierce and furious like this, you’re so beautiful, so lovable to me.” She looks back at him in disbelief.
Eyes alight, he says that he’ll make her ramyun a thousand times: “I’m proposing. Let’s get married.”
(And as the credits roll, there’s a ridiculously cute little alien Love, Actually re-enactment with the notes! Hee!)
That was a lovely proposal in itself, but I’m pretty sure marriage won’t solve your problems, Hwa-shin! Although it might solve some of them? This relationship is wonderfully tangled in a way that makes it exciting to watch but torturous to write about, because there’s so much to unsnarl.
I was glad that the broadcast let Na-ri’s inexperience at her new job show, and at first, it seemed to me like the question was whether it was wrong of Hwa-shin to switch Na-ri out. I didn’t think so, as their romantic relationship has no place in their working relationship. I also didn’t think this situation was comparable or similar to what happened with his brother. No, Hwa-shin was maligned by the world because without the worse outcome playing out, people can’t properly comprehend that this is the best of a bad situation. And like he told Jung-won, he’s entitled not to explain himself. So with Na-ri’s job at risk, he did exactly what he should have done and made a good call.
And until Na-ri confronted him with her side, I didn’t see it. But after seeing it, I can’t unsee it, and it changed the entire second half of the episode to me. Because her complaint isn’t that she doesn’t get preferential girlfriend treatment, it’s that he decides things relevant to her by himself. He had already made up his mind when he told Na-ri that it was up to her if she wanted to carry on in the second half or not. He didn’t actually wait for her to answer—all her silences have been so telling, and in that moment, the betrayal is actually written clearly on her face.
It’s the same thing that Jung-won accuses him of, and that’s what’s exactly the same between what happened with Na-ri now and what happened with his brother. While what he did might have been kindest—changing out Na-ri quietly, or exposing the corruption in his brother’s company himself before someone else did it in an overblown way—in both instances, Hwa-shin acts on his own for someone else’s good, and makes decisions about them as if they don’t have the right or ability to decide for themselves. And it’s an insidious thing, this undermining and overbearing. And accompanied by a caress or an “I love you,” it becomes a total mindscrew. I wouldn’t say in this instance that it’s abusive, but it’s an abusive pattern, this iteration of “daddy knows best,” which makes it a dangerous trait to go unchecked.
So when you rewatch these scenes, suddenly her silences stand out; that’s not gratitude on her face, it’s something much more complicated. And that placid front masks how much Na-ri struggles to reconcile herself to something that seems on the surface like it was right but feels subtly wrong, and even I never guessed it until she said it. And that is what marriage or popping the question doesn’t solve.
However, the other thing I realized from Na-ri’s confession, that I’d almost forgotten from last week, is that her relationship with Hwa-shin, though now official and mutual, is still something she doesn’t have any security in, and maybe marrying her really is the only way that he can prove to her (or she can prove to herself?) that he won’t change his mind, that he wants to be with her for keeps. After all, it was the sense of constancy and reliability with Jung-won that kept her at his side so long, so in that respect, a serious proposal from Hwa-shin might be as important to her as the fight was to him.
I feel like that stairwell fight, and the blowout they have at the end and Hwa-shin’s reaction to it, reveals his relationship priorities in a really interesting way. Where hers right now are trust and security, his are closeness and communication. I think to him, a frank and open fight is the indicator that they’re alright, or at least they will be. Actually, looking back on his character, with the exception of his cancer, this frankness tends to play out for better or for worse in the way he interacts with everyone around him. He’s blunt and precise and doesn’t mince his words. I think he suffers from not receiving the same candor in return, and maybe he knows it, since he craves it from Na-ri.
This is why the other highlight of this episode is his fight with Jung-won. The boys’ friendship isn’t perfect and probably never was, despite early appearances, but it never needed to come to a head before. It adds an interesting depth to Jung-won to know that he reserved judgement on his friend in the past, and I wonder whether his criticism now is a response to the moment, or if it’s been latent in his mind for years. Even if Hwa-shin believed in his own reasons, Jung-won’s accusations of causing pain and suffering hold as much truth, and that truth clings to him. Like Jung-won said, pain is still pain, however good your intentions.
But the first half really did a great job of showing us how natural our couple can be when they work. They have an easy camaraderie that is as warm as it is prickly, in the way of best friends, and that’s always been their best dynamic. But maybe sometimes, everything has to be broken, before it can be remade again.