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Sweet Stranger and Me Episode 3 RECAP

 

I’ve been looking forward to sinking my teeth into this show, and I’m happy to report that it continues to deliver a lot of laughs, tempered with a compelling mystery that just grows deeper with each newly discovered clue. Na-ri’s biggest problem is figuring out whom to trust — when both Nan-gil and Deok-bong stand to gain something from her, whom can she rely on to tell her the truth?
EPISODE 3 RECAP

Na-ri watches in shock as Nan-gil threatens someone (Na-ri’s uncle?) on the phone, then takes his shirt off to reveal two large tattoos on his back. She remembers a conversation with Deok-bong, who’d said that even if Nan-gil were legitimately married to her mother, it’s suspicious that he’s still hanging around at her house nearly a year later.

Deok-bong earned a sharp glance from Na-ri when he said that she must have the same taste in men as her mother, and quickly apologized. Na-ri said that her job has taught her that not all journeys are happy ones, and that everyone has their story.

But people can’t hide their expressions, and the happy expressions on her mother’s and Nan-gil’s faces in the photo she saw told her all she needed to know. Deok-bong had scoffed, saying that expressions are easy to fake, and that conmen have a lot of practice at it. In Deok-bong’s opinion, Nan-gil is an excellent conman.

Na-ri had asked why Deok-bong hates Nan-gil so much, but Deok-bong just handed her his business card. He’d said he studied law, and told her to call him when Nan-gil shows his true colors.

Back in the present, Na-ri gets a good look at Nan-gil’s frightening tattoos, but she scoots out of the doorway before he sees her. Thinking fast, she knocks on the door as if she’s just arrived, and it’s Nan-gil’s turn to freak out as he scrambles to hide his tattooed back from her.

Hilariously, his solution is to stand awkwardly with his back to the wall, and he throws the first thing in reach over his head. HAHA, it’s an apron, which does nothing to hide his back, and he swears to Na-ri that this is how he prefers to make dough when he’s alone. Oooo-kay then.

Na-ri hands him the gift she brought, and the flustered Nan-gil nearly thanks her in jondae before correcting himself. Na-ri decides to have a little fun with him while she has the advantage, and makes him open the gift, bare-chested in an apron with his back plastered to the wall. This is awesome.

Nan-gil’s hands are shaking so badly that he drops the gift, and Na-ri pretends to be offended just to watch him try to pick it up. He opens the gift, and when he sees the set of men’s lotions, he can’t speak for a moment.

Awww, he’s genuinely touched, and he says he feels like a father getting a gift from his child. Annoyed, Na-ri stomps and starts to walk out, but she whirls back to ask Nan-gil why her uncle would use the supermarket phone to call her.

She asks if there’s something going on between Nan-gil and Uncle, but Nan-gil just says that he has to knead dough. Na-ri calls him out for avoiding the question, knowing that he’ll refuse to answer a question if he can’t answer without lying.

Suddenly Nan-gil leaves the wall and walks right up on Na-ri, then takes her by the shoulders to hold her still. He leans closer… closer… then spins her around and shoves her out the door with a hurried, “Goodbye!”

Na-ri pounds on the door, demanding to know what happened to her uncle. When Nan-gil doesn’t open, she goes to the fridge to chug water straight from the pitcher, and narrows her eyes at the stocked fridge. She tells herself that it’s all part of Nan-gil’s act.

Later that night, Nan-gil watches the house, then goes inside looking determined. He sees Na-ri going through her mother’s room, and when she opens an old wooden box, he comes in.

He looms over her and asks what she’s looking for, reminding her that she said she’d trust him, and Na-ri nervously answers that she wants to know what he’s like. He says that he’ll just tell her then — he’s Go Nan-gil. He asks if that doesn’t seem familiar to her, but it doesn’t, and Na-ri demands, “Who are you?!”

In answer, Nan-gil beckons her closer, then says, “I’m your father!” His voice changes into an echoing bass, and his face morphs into that of Darth Vader. Ha, Na-ri is dreaming, and she wakes with a start. She tries to think if the name Go Nan-gil rings a bell, but nothing comes to her.

Outside, Nan-gil really is watching the house, looking thoughtful. He doesn’t go in, but just sighs and turns back to his room at the restaurant.

In the morning, Na-ri peeks into the restaurant and sees Nan-gil busily making the dough for today’s mandoo. She texts Deok-bong and meets him at his building, her face hidden in her hoodie like she’s on a top-secret mission.

At her questioning, Deok-bong says that he really did study law and even passed the bar exam, but decided it wasn’t what he wanted to do. He clarifies that he never said he’d help Na-ri, but he’d be willing to create a win-win situation with her, and hauls her inside by her hoodie strings.

Deok-bong’s little sister, DEOK-SHIM, peers at them curiously from behind a statue. She seems to recognize Na-ri from her photos of Nan-gil, and doesn’t look happy to see her with her brother.

Deok-bong shows Na-ri a map, with Hong Mandoo’s location marked on it. He explains that the land is important for a development he’s working on, and Na-ri wonders how this relates to her uncle’s disappearance.

She asks Deok-bong why he would be on the run when he has his home, and Deok-bong explains again. All of the land that contains her mother’s house, Uncle’s house, and Hong Mandoo used to belong to Na-ri’s mother, but now it belongs to Nan-gil.

Na-ri is shocked, as her mother never mentioned any of this. Deok-bong tells Na-ri not to feel bad — parents don’t always tell their kids everything, especially when their secrets are shameful. Deok-bong offers Na-ri a contract hiring him as her lawyer, and honestly says that this is dirty-fighting. He says that how Nan-gil got control of everything isn’t important, but that he may try to kick Na-ri out with nothing. Na-ri decides to trust Deok-bong, and signs the papers.

Back home, she goosesteps past the restaurant and into the house, just as Nan-gil steps outside. He hears a scream from inside the house, and runs upstairs to find Na-ri on the floor, clutching her lower back and moaning in pain.

Nan-gil scurries back and forth getting Na-ri a pillow and blanket, and she says there’s a certain medicine she takes when this happens. She writes the name down for him (which she totally makes up) and Nan-gil runs off to buy the medicine. Na-ri hops up, perfectly fine.

She runs over to the restaurant office to get into the computer, but she can’t guess Nan-gil’s password. She rifles through his desk and finds what look like love notes from customers (“Oppa, you sealed my heart like you seal mandoo skins,” HA), but then she finds photographs of Nan-gil and her mother looking happy.

Nan-gil rushes to several pharmacies, but nobody has heard of the medicine Na-ri wrote down. Deok-bong’s Secretary Kwon sees Nan-gil running around, and seems to recognize him.

Eventually Nan-gil’s phone alerts him to someone trying the password to his computer. He even has a hidden camera set up, which sends him photos of Na-ri snooping around his office. Busted.

Na-ri leaves the office, unsuccessful, but she does notice that the warehouse door is padlocked. She takes a picture of the lock, thinking this could be her clue.

Secretary Kwon stops Nan-gil and shows him Deok-bong’s dossier on Na-ri. Nan-gil wonders why, since she’s not on his side, and she says that Deok-bong is also investigating him. She knows he wants his past kept secret, and advises him to leave town.

Nan-gil asks why she suddenly cares, and she tells him not to insert himself into someone else’s life. Nan-gil counters that it’s his life to live, and this isn’t about others — it’s about his family.

As he rides off, Nan-gil sees Deok-shim being bullied by some mean kids at the bus stop. She decides to walk, and Nan-gil follows her, getting her attention by popping a wheelie (then nearly tipping over, ha).

He says that he saw her bike in a used bike store in town, and he knows she didn’t sell it. Deok-shim ducks her head, so Nan-gil makes her laugh with a dumb joke, then gently says that once people start taking things from her, they’ll never stop. He says to come find him if she wants her bike back, and she takes a few pictures of him riding away.

Yeo-joo and Dong-jin go on a date at a coffee shop, where Yeo-joo is in full aegyo-girlfriend mode. She sweetly tells Dong-jin to answer when Na-ri calls, only showing her annoyance once he walks away.

Na-ri tells Dong-jin to cooperate with her if he wants his money back, reminding him that today is Mom’s memorial day. Na-ri says that she knows he’s still dating Yeo-joo, but she needs him to come to the ceremony and get Nan-gil passed-out drunk.

Dong-jin ends the call and finds Yeo-joo behind him, crocodile tears shimmering in her eyes. She’d overheard him calling Nan-gil a gold-digger, and asks in a quivering voice if Na-ri called her that. Dong-jin reassures her, and says that Na-ri needs him today for her mother’s memorial.

Yeo-joo slumps in her chair, pretending to fight tears. She dramatically says they should break up, since it’s obviously not over between him and Na-ri. Dong-jin falls for her act, and tells Yeo-joo that this is just about money. Her tears dry up instantly at the mention of money and she says they should both go to the memorial, promising to wait in the car, but Dong-jin insists on going alone.

Nan-gil finds evidence of Na-ri snooping in his office, and his expression goes dark. He goes back to the house to find her feigning sleep, and threatens to call an ambulance.

He tempts Na-ri with fresh mandoo, wondering loudly how she’ll manage to get to the bathroom after she eats. Na-ri says she doesn’t go right after eating, and Nan-gil’s voice grows hard as he says it’s no wonder she’s getting wrinkles. Na-ri sits straight up at the offending word, before remembering and clutching her back again. Heh.

Na-ri eats every last mandoo, and of course, she needs the restroom when she’s finished. She sneaks downstairs and past Nan-gil in the kitchen, but he’s distracted when the doorbell rings and Deok-bong lets himself in.

Deok-bong needles Nan-gil, thanking him for introducing him to his “daughter.” Nan-gil says that Na-ri is injured and can’t move, and refuses to let Deok-bong into her room.

Deok-bong wonders who that is behind Nan-gil then, and both men turn to see Na-ri trying to sneak back up the stairs. She ignores Nan-gil’s huff of annoyance, and enthusiastically invites Deok-bong upstairs.

Once alone, Deok-bong asks if Na-ri found anything in the office, but she says everything was locked. He urges her to find something before Nan-gil catches onto their scheme, but Na-ri is unsure, since Nan-gil hasn’t actually done anything wrong.

Deok-bong is sure that Nan-gil’s marriage to Mom was a scam, and tells Na-ri to distrust everything. He says he’s also investigating Mom’s accident, then Nan-gil wanders in with the excuse of offering their guest a drink.

Deok-bong takes a drink to be polite, which Nan-gil makes him spit back out by asking paternally what his father does for a living. HAHA. He peppers Deok-bong with questions about his family, and Deok-bong corrects him — he’s not here to court Na-ri.

He very nearly gives away their plans, but Na-ri interrupts, screaming, “FATHER!” She asks Nan-gil for a drink too, and Nan-gil’s face nearly splits from happiness that she called him father.

Once he leaves, Deok-bong fusses at Na-ri for calling him “father,” saying it’s dangerous. Na-ri spits back that he nearly exposed her as his client, correctly guessing that he’s never actually represented anyone.

She leads Deok-bong to the door, and the men exchange glares. She pushes Deok-bong out the door before a fight breaks out, and he reminds her that he’s being patient because he needs this land.

Na-ri goes back inside and watches Nan-gil at the stove, wondering where he keeps the warehouse key. He turns just as she’s eyeing his pockets, and she huffs that she most definitely was not checking out his butt.

Later, Na-ri watches Nan-gil peeling chestnuts and mentions that when she calls her mother’s old phone number, it still goes through. She asks if Nan-gil has the phone, and his lack of answer is answer enough.

She asks why the warehouse is locked, as it was her mother’s “place of memories.” But Nan-gil remains annoyingly silent, and Na-ri demands to know why he’s trying to put a wall between her and her mother.

Nan-gil just tells Na-ri to be reverent on Mom’s memorial day, so she swipes his bowl to get his attention. She demands the truth — he knew that the land containing both houses and the restaurant all belonged to Mom, didn’t he? She asks if that’s why Nan-gil approached Mom, but he informs her that actually, Mom approached him first.

She asks if he lives in the restaurant because his conscience bothers him, and Nan-gil explains that the dough has to be tended to all night, so he needs to be close to the restaurant. Na-ri asks if that means he didn’t share a bedroom with her mother, but Nan-gil takes offense and asks if she’s just upset that the house belongs to him. Angrily, he asks if she needs money.

Not at all scared, Na-ri says that the “Legendary Go Nan-gil” is frightening when he’s angry. She asks what exactly he did to become legendary, and Nan-gil leans in close to whisper that a legend never tells their own legend.

He says that he plans to stay in this house forever, making mandoo, until a tree he planted by the lake grows tall. He refuses to talk anymore today, saying that they’ll have time later.

They dress, and put aside their differences to honor Na-ri’s mother. Na-ri watches Nan-gil as he looks at Mom’s picture, and there seems to be genuine sadness in his expression.

Na-ri says that when she was young she didn’t have many friends, and when Nan-gil absently says, “I know,” Na-ri asks if Mom told him. He looks cornered and doesn’t answer. Na-ri continues that she got teased a lot when her dad left and their mandoo started tasting bad. From then on, Mom was mother, father, and friend to her.

She says that she intends to find out exactly what happened to Mom, and asks if there’s anything he wants to confess first. Nan-gil says that he will confess, and tells Na-ri that truthfully, the mandoo was awful before he came. Na-ri nearly smacks him, but the doorbell rings and saves him.

It’s Dong-jin, armed with liquor, and Nan-gil cheerfully yanks him inside. Dong-jin performs his bow to Mom while Na-ri sighs impatiently, urging them to get to the drinking.

She leaves the room and Dong-jin asks Nan-gil if she really doesn’t know anything. In flashback we see that Nan-gil went to Seoul to talk to Dong-jin, and pay off Uncle’s debt to him (and I have to laugh at Jessie J’s “Price Tag” playing in the background).

Nan-gil says he’s doing this for Na-ri, and Dong-jin objects to the familiar way Nan-gil says her name. Nan-gil admits that it’s awkward for him too, but he doesn’t know how else to address her.

Seeing that Nan-gil is parting with a big chunk of cash, Dong-jin apologizes for thinking him a gold-digger, but says that the house still belongs to Na-ri. Nan-gil says he’s not paying him back because of the house — he just doesn’t want there to be a money issue between Na-ri and Dong-jin.

He tells Dong-jin to say that Uncle paid him back, and leaves. Dong-jin follows him out to return the money, but he finds a very different Nan-gil outside the restaurant. He’s gasping and staggering, seemingly unaware of his surroundings.

Nan-gil shoves off Dong-jin’s hand, looking almost scared, and walks right into traffic. He narrowly avoids being hit, then just stands there in the road, sweating and clutching at his throat. What on earth??

Back at the house, Dong-jin asks if Nan-gil is sick, but Na-ri comes back in the room and Nan-gil shoves Dong-jin away by the face. Nan-gil sees the tray she’s brought, which has no food on it, and starts to go get something to eat. Na-ri orders, “Sit!” and he does, ha. Can’t overcome a lifetime of socialization that easily.

Dong-jin gets to work pouring drinks for himself and Nan-gil, and soon they’re good and tipsy. Na-ri sneakily pours water for herself, while the guys try to outdo each other with their drinking prowess. Honestly, they’re both pretty bad at it.

Yeo-joo fumes when her texts to Dong-jin only result in him saying he’ll call her later. She guesses he’s drunk, so when her friend Yong-chul calls, she angrily says she has to go drive someone home.

Nan-gil and Dong-jin are rip-roaring drunk by now, and still going strong. They even do love shots, which might just be my new favorite thing. Na-ri heads back to the office for a second snoop, and finds Nan-gil’s wallet with his driver’s license.

Noting that he’s twenty-six, she takes a picture, then spots a photo tucked behind the license. It’s a shot of the lake and her mom’s land, and Na-ri remembers Nan-gil saying that he plans to stay until a tree he planted there grows tall. The real jackpot is Nan-gil’s key ring, and Na-ri makes an impression of the warehouse key on a piece of tape.

She returns to find the boys chanting her name, and she glares at Dong-jin’s peace offering of a drink. Nan-gil slurs that they’re supposed to fight over silly stuff before marrying, then grabs Dong-jin to ask why he cheated. They dissolve into giggles and topple over, where Dong-jin passes out cold.

Yeo-joo runs into Deok-shim and asks where Hong Mandoo is located, but Deok-shim just looks her up and down warily. She points vaguely towards the restaurant, creepily silent.

Na-ri is angry at Nan-gil for calling Dong-jin’s cheating “silly,” and he apologetically pours her several drinks. Now tipsy herself, Na-ri says that the day Mom died was one of the worst in her life, yet Dong-jin cheated on her.

She snaps that some things just shouldn’t be said, but that man (cue Dong-jin snoring) got tired of her crying for her mother, then betrayed her. She says it’s really over, and Nan-gil offers to get rid of him.

He can barely stand, but he somehow manages to heave Dong-jin up and drag him towards the door. He says he’s just going to throw Dong-jin out, but when he hauls Dong-jin to the street, Yeo-joo sees them and starts yelling, “Oppa!”

Na-ri lights into Yeo-joo for coming here, while Nan-gil valiantly struggles to keep himself and Dong-jin vertical. Yeo-joo lies that Dong-jin asked her to pick him up, so Na-ri tells Nan-gil to throw the trash in her car. Her loud voice wakes him up from where he was nodding off, and he drags Dong-jin towards the car.

Yeo-joo asks if Nan-gil is Na-ri’s little brother, then goes all flirty when she gets a look at his pretty face. Na-ri sees this and shoves her away, accidentally knocking the guys down.

Hilariously, it’s Nan-gil that Yeo-joo rushes to help up. Nan-gil drunkenly sing-songs that he’s not Na-ri’s brother, and Na-ri quickly covers his mouth before he can say any more.

Deok-shim watches this whole scene from behind a nearby rock, while Secretary Kwon and Deok-bong try to contact her. Deok-bong wonders if his sister needs therapy, then leaves Secretary Kwon to deal with things.

Nan-gil eventually wrestles Dong-jin into Yeo-joo’s car, then collapses on top of him. Yeo-joo drops the coy act, saying that she didn’t come here because of Na-ri. Na-ri retorts that she wouldn’t have come at all if she had any respect, but Yeo-joo just tells her to cut ties cleanly, and stop calling Dong-jin.

She has the nerve to say she’s the victim, and Na-ri viciously kicks her car several times. She calls Yeo-joo stupid and shameless, and threatens to pay her back with her worst fear. She vows to tell everyone, Dong-jin included, all about Yeo-joo’s sordid past.

Yeo-joo suddenly changes her tune, and tries to snuggle up to Na-ri and apologize. Na-ri throws her off, and Yeo-joo gets on her knees, begging her not to tell Dong-jin. Na-ri says she’ll do what she wants, so Yeo-joo can live in fear. With one final kick, she goes inside.

The kicking wakes Nan-gil, who drags himself out of the car. He straightens Yeo-joo’s bent rear-view mirror with a goofy grin, and warns her not to get into an accident or Na-ri will blame herself. Okay, that’s kind of sweet.

Yeo-joo leaves in a huff, and Nan-gil finds Na-ri waiting for him and gives her a big bright smile. She tells him to come inside, and he cheerfully says, “Okay!” before tipping forward into her arms.

COMMENTS

So many mysteries, I love it! Nan-gil is both great and terrible at keeping secrets, with his rule that he won’t answer a question if he has to lie. While he gives practically no information away, sometimes just his very silence is answer enough in itself. Na-ri is already figuring out to ask yes or no questions, and deduce the answer by whether or not Nan-gil responds (though, is anybody getting the sense that his “I need to knead dough” is a more honest answer than it seems? I can’t help but wonder if he’s giving her a clue). As a pretty straight-shooter, Na-ri doesn’t think deviously, but she’s being pretty clever about finding ways to counter Nan-gil’s refusal to tell her anything about her uncle or his own past. And I love how she just asks the questions she wants answers to, and lays it all out openly. Na-ri is no shy young drama heroine, scared to show her hand, and I can’t wait to see how that trait serves her when feelings start to get involved.

In addition to it being a smart way for Na-ri to get roundabout answers, Nan-gil’s habit of not answering when Na-ri asks a question he can’t answer truthfully, has a way of making me as a viewer want to analyze every little thing he says. It’s fun, because so much of what he says and doesn’t say can be interpreted many different ways. Such as when Na-ri asked if her mother told him she didn’t have many friends, and he doesn’t answer. Is he just refusing to discuss his relationship with Mom anymore today like he said, or is he not answering because to say “yes” would be a lie? And if it’s a lie, then how did he know? Is he someone from Na-ri’s past that she doesn’t remember? Dream Nan-gil asking if his name sounds familiar seems to suggest that they have met before, and Na-ri just doesn’t remember yet. Which leads me to my next suspicion…

There’s something about the way Nan-gil looks at Na-ri when she’s not looking, that makes me wonder if he doesn’t have feelings for her already. He seems to know a lot about her, and his concern over her health sometimes feels less fatherly to me and more like a guy who likes a girl. He likes to yank her chain to get a reaction out of her, and the way he acts like a dad to her sometimes has always felt like he’s just pulling Na-ri’s pigtails, to me. He’s very difficult to read, especially when hearing her call him “father” makes him so happy, but then other times he looks at Na-ri like there’s something more there.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it, and I could turn out to be completely wrong, but I don’t think Nan-gil married Mom for love — I agree with murasakimi’s take on things, that Mom and Nan-gil probably had an arrangement in order to protect the house and business from Na-ri’s uncle. There’s no doubt there was a lot of affection between them, but I don’t think it was romantic. HE mentions things like how bad the mandoo was when he came, and that Mom approached him first, which makes me think this was never a love arrangement. It feels to me as if Mom hired him to save the restaurant, and they became close. It’s possible that Mom sensed that something may happen to her and everything would go to Uncle, who is clearly wrapped up with Very Bad People, and she married Nan-gil in order to make sure the land and restaurant eventually go to Na-ri. And I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if Mom talked about Na-ri so much that Nan-gil started falling for her a little bit before they even met. But then again, maybe they have met before.

And maybe I’m okay with that because for me, their stepfather/stepdaughter relationship isn’t really terribly off-putting. Weird, yes, because of course having a stepfather who’s younger than you, much less one who has the nerve to look like Kim Young-kwang, has got to be bizarre. But because Nan-gil and Na-ri never knew each other while he was actively her stepfather, it makes their inevitable attraction to each other less icky for me. And maybe, if my theory is correct and Nan-gil found himself interested in knowing Na-ri while her mother is still alive, it’s possible he avoided her (as he admitted previously) because of that very reason. Again, it’s pure conjecture this early in the show, but it’s an interesting thing to think about.

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