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Sweet Stranger and Me Episode 2 RECAP

As Na-ri tries to grapple with her new and unusual family, everyone around her is determined to make her see just how suspicious and crazy this situation is. Admittedly, they’re not wrong for being wary, but she needs to decide for herself what is true and what is false, and what truths may have been around her all along, just underneath the surface.
EPISODE 2 RECAP

We jump right back into the tangle, as the mysterious mandoo shop owner Go Nan-gil attempts to explain to a bewildered Na-ri that he is in fact her stepfather. He wanted to break the news to her slowly, but now that she knows the truth, he won’t watch her ruin her health. Of course, nothing Nan-gil says sounds acceptable to Na-ri, so he further explains that he and her mother registered their marriage a year ago.

She demands to know why he didn’t tell her earlier, not that that means she believes him or anything. And she’d like some photo evidence of their marriage, thank you very much, she adds. He sighs before providing a snapshot of him and her mother holding up their marriage certificate on his phone.

Back inside the hospital, the doctor tells Na-ri that she gets stressed easily, which probably caused her temporary blindness. Na-ri isn’t even listening to him, as the absurdity of her situation dawns on her. Instead, she peppers the doctor with questions on the process of registering one’s marriage.

In the waiting room, prickly toy company CEO Deok-bong saunters over to Nan-gil and hands him a contract, offering to buy Nan-gil’s land for half the price he previously offered. Deok-bong suggests Nan-gil sell his estate now, since he’ll lose out once Na-ri takes him to court for fraud, thereby nullifying his marriage and reclaiming her inheritance.

If that’s what he believes, Nan-gil asks why Deok-bong would want to sign a contract with a fraudster. According to Deok-bong, legally the land does belong to Nan-gil, so whether Nan-gil is sued at a later point, it’s still a legal transfer of assets.

Whatever the case may be, Nan-gil ain’t selling, but Deok-bong expresses confidence that he’ll get Nan-gil’s land eventually. When he accuses Nan-gil of conning a woman twice his age, Na-ri cuts in to demand that Deok-bong apologize for insulting her mother. Surprised to be overheard, he apologizes, then leaves in a huff, wondering why she’s so pissed at him and not the conman.

Alone, Na-ri’s imagination runs wild again as she envisions confronting Nan-gil, exposing his deception, and kicking him out of her house. Unfortunately, before she can speak, her phone rings, so she steps out to take the call.

It’s Boyfriend’s mother who clearly hasn’t been told that her son ruined his engagement. Na-ri pretends to be busy and her almost-mother-in-law assumes she must be flying, then hangs up.

Deok-bong drives by and offers her a ride; she isn’t interested until he mentions her mother. He explains who he is, namely a buyer very interested in her mother’s land, but Mom had refused to sell it to him. Na-ri flippantly upholds her mother’s decision and starts to get out of the car. Thinking fast, Deok-bong tells Na-ri that technically, it isn’t that Na-ri won’t sell her land to him, but rather that she can’t. It isn’t hers, after all, because everything belongs to Nan-gil.

He takes Na-ri through the strange series of events surrounding Nan-gil’s marriage to her mother, chief among them being her fatal car accident so soon after her new marriage.

Na-ri agrees with his analysis, since it makes more sense than the version she heard from Nan-gil. However, before Deok-bong can feel like he’s become her ally, she jumps out of his car to stalk Nan-gil. She doesn’t make it far unnoticed, and Nan-gil suggests they get some grub.

The ajumma at the restaurant mistakes them for a couple, but when Nan-gil begins to say that he’s her father, Na-ri cuts him off and ushers them inside. Once alone, she instructs Nan-gil not to clarify their relationship to outsiders. Nan-gil thinks she cares too much what people think, and that she should accept their relationship for what it is.

Na-ri ignores his advice and demands to know his age. He tries to divert her by emphasizing the unimportance of age—which leads her to conclude that he’s probably younger than her. She recommends that they speak formally to each other since their relationship is so unusual.

She then warns him not to pretend to be her father, because she doesn’t accept that. Then she implores him think of their situation from her perspective. In response, he asks her to clarify what exactly her perspective is—is she mad that her mother got married without telling her, or that a strange man is living in her house?

Na-ri admits that if her mother were alive she could understand the fact that she married a younger man and gave him everything she had. She’d be okay with it; but her mother isn’t here to defend the marriage. Nan-gil’s eyes turn red as he says that he tells himself the same thing every day, “If she were alive…” He wonders aloud why she had to be there of all places where the car accident occurred.

His expression of grief compels Na-ri to admit that her mother had tried to tell her something important before she died, but Na-ri kept making excuses that she was too busy to go home. She understands now what was so significant.

Nan-gil explains that Na-ri rarely came home, and when she did it was always late at night, so she just went straight to her room, which made it easy for him to avoid her. She asks why he was avoiding her, but he merely shrugs. When asked if he goes to visit her mother’s tree often, Nan-gil replies wistfully, “I often go during her favorite hour.”

The statement triggers a sweet memory of young Na-ri and her mother sitting by the water during what looks to be dusk. Her mother explains that she likes the listlessness of the hour, not yet time to eat or start anything, but just kind of laze around. Na-ri remembers then that her mother also tricked her by calling out “Snake!” as Nan-gil had when they first met.

She asks if he married her mother because he loved her, and though it takes him a long time to answer, he says yes.

The two cheaters, Yeo-joo and Boyfriend (who should probably get a name if he’s going to stick around—Jo Dong-jin), meet up at Yeo-joo’s request, since she felt like they didn’t end things properly. She acts cute and sweet to him, even expressing concern when Dong-jin tells her that Na-ri was in the ER, and he’s headed over to meet her.

In the car, Yeo-joo asks if he can stay just a little while longer since it’s their last meeting. His nostrils flare up in excitement, but she saccharinely calls him a dummy for being swayed, and tells him to be good to Na-ri from now on.

After thanking him for everything, she gets out of the car and walks off. She takes only a few steps before Dong-jin jumps out of his car and calls after her. With her back still turned to him, she smirks.

Na-ri and Nan-gil head over to Hong Mandoo, and she’s surprised to see so many people lined up outside. One of Nan-gil’s employees greets her, excited to see the “daughter” his boss waited every day to meet, but Nan-gil quickly pulls her away and sends her outside.

Unable to figure him out, Na-ri sneaks into the restaurant’s office which looks like Nan-gil’s bedroom now, wanting to uncover his deepest, darkest secrets.

She’s caught before she finds anything (except his underwear), and stumbles out to leave, but not before tripping and dunking her hands in two containers of mandoo dough. A few of the employees witness the scene and notice that Na-ri’s hands are covered in dough, wondering if she’s allowed to knead since she’s family. Immediately, Nan-gil tosses the two “tainted” containers of dough and demands that they be thrown out.

Nan-gil follows Na-ri outside to warn her that if she’s trying to find some dirt on him, she won’t. She demands to know why he has a drawer with a lock then—what’s he hiding? He replies with his own question: Why did she show up with a shovel that night? He guesses that she bought it to pull out the weeds that grow easily in their yard. After all, she’d abandoned her house, while he stayed and took care of it.

He tells her that the fact that he’s her stepfather isn’t going to change even if she discovers something about him. Then they go round and round trying to get the other to leave the house, to no avail. After Na-ri gives up, Nan-gil suggests she make dinner because he’s invited a guest.

At the unveiling of his new robot museum, Deok-bong discusses the construction of a resort with his secretary, who reminds him that they haven’t received all the funding yet. Deok-bong dismisses her concerns and explains that corporations need to make bold moves if they want to avoid bankruptcy.

She casts him a withering look, and he identifies it as the same look Na-ri gave him earlier. He marvels at how easily Na-ri saw through him after having met him only once. He admits to being a scumbag, but muses that it’s usually hard to reach that conclusion based on just his first impression, since he hides it so well.

Intrigued, he asks his secretary to look into Na-ri.

Despite being appalled by Nan-gil’s arrogance, Na-ri automatically opens the refrigerator door, then hilariously asks herself if she’s really going to obey and make dinner. What she sees inside catches her attention: All the food is neatly organized into containers, something her mother never did. She then remembers noticing the organized fridge once before when her mom was still alive. She had asked her mother about it, only for her to cryptically reply that she wasn’t the one who did it. Looking back now, Na-ri makes the connection.

She closes the doors of the unfamiliar looking fridge then sinks to the floor. With her head tilted toward the sky, she asks her mother if everything Nan-gil said is true.

In his room, Nan-gil stares at his wife’s phone—the one he told Na-ri he’d gotten rid of—before unlocking his drawer and putting it in the safe inside.

Na-ri whips up a feast for Nan-gil’s guest, then goes out to call him in for dinner. She struggles to figure out what to call him, deciding that “father” isn’t right. She switches to her super polite jondae, which bewilders him. They talk for a moment about the garden, and how it only ever grew weeds, but under his care flowers bloomed.

She notices that his tie is crooked and reaches out to fix it, but he instinctively deflects her hand and moves away awkwardly. Noting his reaction, she goes on to explain that she’s decided to accept him, because she trusts the choice her mother made.

At first, she felt like her mother was keeping a huge secret from her, but in fact, if she had been a better daughter she would’ve learned about him a long time ago. Nan-gil is quick to defend her and says that Mom called her the best daughter in the universe, and she accepts the compliment. Then, like a good daughter, she fixes his tie.

Boyfriend Dong-jin pulls up to their house right at that moment, and asks Na-ri what she’s doing. Nan-gil is first to greet his “son-in-law,” but Dong-jin looks on, confused. He then recognizes Nan-gil from Na-ri’s mother’s funeral, realizing now that he was part of the family.

Na-ri tersely asks Dong-jin what he is doing at her house, and he hurries to ask how she’s feeling. Na-ri is surprised to learn that Dong-jin knew about her trip to the ER, and Nan-gil clarifies that he got Dong-jin’s contact info from the funeral and called him.

While father and daughter argue about Nan-gil’s interference in Na-ri’s life, Dong-jin is just trying to figure out what the heck is going on, and why this young man is speaking informally to Na-ri, and to him too. Even more confusing is the fact that Na-ri is replying formally.

Na-ri doesn’t have the desire or patience to explain anything about her life to Dong-jin anymore, and shouts at him to leave before storming back into the house. Left alone, Nan-gil asks Dong-jin what he did to piss her off.

Having heard a version of their current situation, Nan-gil comes back into the house to apologize to Na-ri about calling over Dong-jin without getting her consent.

She complains that if he’s her father, then he should punch Dong-jin’s lights out, not bring him home for dinner. On cue, Dong-jin walks in, in search of an explanation. At first it seems as if Nan-gil will follow through with an ass-whooping, but once he gets close to Dong-jin he merely recommends that he leave for the day.

Disappointed and frustrated, Na-ri flees to her bedroom. A few moments later, Dong-jin comes in, now up to speed on the stepfather business. He accuses Nan-gil of being a conman who seduced her mother, asking Na-ri if she’s in her right mind to go along with this charade.

Na-ri doesn’t want to hear his concern and shouts at him to leave, but he persists. He berates her for being so blind and insists that she to look into the circumstances surrounding her mother’s death. Just as she begins to be persuaded by his suspicions, his phone beings to ping from a barrage of text messages from Yeo-joo.

Yeo-joo pretends to be super concerned about Na-ri’s well-being, when in actuality she’s still playing her long-game. After her friend comments on how pleased she looks as she texts, Yeo-joo replies that Dong-jin is lying to her now. In the past, he used to talk about his girlfriend and she was never allowed to text him when he was with Na-ri. But now, he pretends to have a meeting when he’s with Na-ri, so that means Yeo-joo is considered first priority in his eyes. Okay, whatever floats your boat, girl.

When Dong-jin replies to Yeo-joo’s texts in Na-ri’s room mind you, Na-ri remembers he’s a scumbag and tries again to kick him out. But this time he tells her something she didn’t know—apparently the land her house is on is worth a lot of money these days. He theorizes that Nan-gil knew that beforehand and targeted her mother. He tells Na-ri that even if they break up, she must protect her house.

Nan-gil comes by having heard everything, and Dong-jin doesn’t even hide his contempt. He demands that Nan-gil leave, warning that he won’t get away with what he’s done. Nan-gil just looks on as Dong-jin barks, then announces that he’s going to go knead dough.

At the robot house, a bespectacled girl clicks through her Nan-gil photo collection, all shots taken from far away. She zeroes in on Na-ri who appears in her latest batch, and fumes. Her oppa Deok-bong barges into her room and asks why she’s skipping school lately. He confesses that he doesn’t really care what she does, but since he’s going to take over the town, he can’t have his little sister not go to school. Wait, is his little sister Nan-gil’s stalker? Omo.

He warns her that if she skips school one more time, he’s going to take away everything she has, since it’s all his money anyway.

At the manddo shop, Nan-gil is positively giddy as he recalls Na-ri suggesting that they get along. He hoots loudly to himself as he kneads. He’s so lost in his own happiness that Na-ri sneaks up on him unnoticed to ask for his phone number, causing him to scream. She calls him and pauses when she hears that his ringtone is a song her mother often sang.

Abruptly, she asks him to sing the song for her. He complies, but isn’t very good, and his voice fades awkwardly. She then asks what he does when he misses her mom. He replies that when he closes his eyes, he can see her smiling face.

She declares suddenly that she’s going back to Seoul, and Nan-gil struggles to hide his relief, but insists that she’s welcome home anytime. As he walks her out the door, he nags her about eating and sleeping well, and most importantly, not getting stressed out.

Outside, Dong-jin offers her a ride back to Seoul. He admits that he was wrong to have an affair, but she broke up with him as if she were waiting for it all along. She doesn’t care and tells him to let his mother know so she stops calling. He reiterates that she can’t just throw away this house and she accuses him of being materialistic. This prompts him to demand that she give him the money her uncle owes him, right now.

At that moment, Deok-bong drives by, asking Na-ri if Dong-jin is bothering her. And because we must never forget what a dirtbag he is, Dong-jin’s phone pings again with texts from Yeo-joo. While he scurries to answer them, Nan-gil comes back out with some packed mandoo for Na-ri to take home.

Nan-gil glares at Dong-jin and asks Deok-bong to take Na-ri to Seoul if he’s going there, which Deok-bong willingly agrees to. Once his daughter is gone, Nan-gil tells Dong-jin that he’ll repay the money that Uncle owes, so he is not to see Na-ri again, capisce?

In the car, Deok-bong says it looks like Nan-gil will kill Dong-jin once they’re gone, but she says it’s okay since he deserves it. Na-ri asks to be let out, but Deok-bong refuses, explaining that she was left in his care. Na-ri shamelessly expresses her relief since she didn’t want to ride the bus anyway. Baffled by her boldness he fishes for some gratitude since he’s already given her a ride twice today, which earns him a prompt but short, “thank you.”

A little time passes, but before we know it, Na-ri is back on the bus headed home for the anniversary of her mother’s death. She calls up her uncle, who still doesn’t answer. Instead, she texts him to invite him to the ceremony. He calls her back eventually and tearfully apologizes for not being able to make it, then ends the call. Thinking quickly, she calls back the number and an elderly woman answers. Na-ri realizes that her uncle called from a market near Mom’s house and hurries home.

She ends up missing him, but now she knows that Uncle is nearby. On her way home, encounters a bunch of men in suits hanging around her uncle’s house. But before she can get any closer, Nan-gil pulls her out of view and tells her to go home. She lets him know that her uncle is back, but he seems to already know. He then leaves her to confront the mysterious men.

A man who appears to be the leader greets Nan-gil in a friendly way, and the henchmen subsequently bow. Nan-gil looks over the group and asks the leader if he’s still scared of him. The man just laughs and replies that his underlings wanted to meet a “legend.”

He then says that he heard that Na-ri’s uncle has returned. Nan-gil accuses the man of having a spy in this town, and suggests they trust each other.

Na-ri watches the men leave from her house, and grills Nan-gil on their identity the moment she sees him. She accuses him of being friendly with them and he denies it. But she’s able to put everything together and suspects that her uncle is on the run. She demands to know how much his debt is, and begins to freak out.

Nan-gil tells her to just throw her uncle him away. “He’s your mother’s brother, so I’ll take responsibility for him,” he clarifies. Nan-gil is clearly concerned about the stress making her ill again, and tells her to forget all about it. Then he walks off pretending that he needs to knead.

As she unpacks her bag, Na-ri realizes that she forgot to give Nan-gil the gift she got for him. So she heads to the restaurant where she overhears him talking on the phone. From the context, it sounds like he is talking to her uncle.

Nan-gil: “I told you never to call. Why did you come here? Didn’t I tell you never to think about coming back here again? This is my final warning. If you do this again, I can’t say what will happen to you. You know I always keep my word.”

He then hangs up, and moves over to the wardrobe to take off his shirt. Na-ri watches from the door, shocked to see two large tattoos on his back. Slowly, he turns around and their eyes meet.

 
COMMENTS

I like that Na-ri has started training Nan-gil not to tell anyone the true nature of the relationship, because I’m already tired of hearing how suspicious their situation sounds. That said, Boyfriend did bring up some really good points that Na-ri needed to hear, like the soaring price of their land, but I think it’s safe to say that Na-ri understands how peculiar her own circumstance is.

Speaking of Boyfriend Dong-jin, Kim Ji-hoon is cracking me up as this character. He adds dashes of comedy that endears Dong-jin to me almost as much as I dislike him. I laughed more from his antics than anyone else’s so far. Lee Soo-hyuk as Deok-bong is also doing a good job keeping his character from appearing too cartoonish, even though everything about Deok-bong screams comic book. But Dong-jin was the most entertaining in this episode.

As for Na-ri, I really related to her mature reaction to Dong-jin’s affair—but then I found myself wondering why she’s being excessively childish with Nan-gil. She often comes off as petulant and fussy with him, which I understand may be a way to play up the comedy or emphasize the juxtaposition of her two relationships, but it kind of undermines what we know about the character. Based on all her (sober) actions in the previous episode, Na-ri seemed capable of taking the high road, inclined to even, like with her treatment of Yeo-joo after the fallout. Her relatively rapid acceptance of Nan-gil and her trust in her mother’s decision-making ability seems consistent with the Na-ri we know. However, a lot of the things she did and said in this episode (like the way she snuck into his room, and her attempt at stalking him), seemed like a different person. I feel like they are trying to go for a father vs. rebellious teenage daughter angle at this point, but something about it just didn’t fit to me.

It’s clear that gaining her approval means much more to Nan-gil than Na-ri, who is actually handling her absurd situation pretty well, all things considered. I’m just going to assume that everything Nan-gil feels for her right now, is totally paternal, or at least fully aiming to be. Because anything else at this point would be too weird. The show will need to strike that difficult balance of justifying Nan-gil’s relationship with Na-ri’s mother and portraying it in a believable way, while trying to move Nan-gil and Na-ri forward as the main couple.

Although, what I think might make more sense is that Nan-gil married Na-ri’s mother in order to protect her and subsequently her daughter’s assets from Uncle and these shady gangsters. I have no doubt that Nan-gil cares deeply for Na-ri’s mother, but their arrangement was probably not romantic. I found it moving when Nan-gil insisted that Na-ri’s uncle was not her responsibility, but his because he’s the father. This provides valuable insight into what he perceives his responsibility in this family to be. Besides, you know, nagging Na-ri about her stress level. And sexy mandoo making. (Side-note: Maybe it was only me, but when Nan-gil took off his shirt at the end, was anyone else momentarily disappointed that there was another shirt underneath? I was fully prepared for a shirtless scene and then that little fake-out happened.)

I really enjoy the way in which the show is validating the existence of Nan-gil’s marriage by highlighting the smaller details from their relationship, like his ringtone and the fridge arrangement, then letting Na-ri put the pieces together. Sometimes it is so much easier to find the flaws in ourselves before others, especially in those we love most. So the argument of Na-ri being completely caught up in her own life, so much that she missed such a big development in her mother’s, leading to her acceptance of Nan-gil, seems pretty realistic. At the same time, it allows Na-ri to use her memories and everything she knows about her mother as a measurement against Nan-gil’s claims. It helps to illustrate to both Na-ri and us as viewers, that the relationship between mother and daughter was as loving and warm as Na-ri believed it to be. Because I think her distrust of Nan-gil is also a manifestation of her guilt for feeling like a bad daughter—something she admits to Nan-gil in this episode.

Overall, the show is off to a very fun start, but it looks like larger questions brew in the distance, about what makes a family, and what makes a home. I hope there is more to this show than fluff and streusel, but so far it tastes delicious.