Not everything goes according to plan, but that’s what makes life so spectacular. In episode four of Reply 1988 there’s a lot of losers. But losing isn’t always a bad thing.
I was reminded this week of the real heart of the Answer Me dramas. It’s not in the character’s future choices *cough* husbands *cough* but in the stupid everyday decisions, like trying to ride a bus that’s way too full.
Before we begin with the actual plot, let’s take a moment to enjoy the fashion in Korea 1988:
Any girl who lived during the 80’s owned at least one pair of these. I was born in 1984, so I know.
2. Air Jordan’s.
Only the truly wealthy could afford these coveted shoes. Owning them made you almost as cool as Michael Jordan himself. Not saying I’ve switched teams to Jung Hwan or anythi- oh wait, yes I have. #stilllovetaek #teamtaekforever
3. Shoulder Pads and Puff Sleeves.
You can’t tell me fashions are sexier today. This outfit WINS.
Things are never easy for any drama heroine, and poor Duk Seon isn’t an exception. We start the episode with a surprising announcement–Duk Seon wants to go to college, and she demands a tutor. (Never mind that tutoring is illegal in Korea. There’s already competition enough.) But Duk Seon’s parents are tight on cash and tutors are expensive. They suggest she learn from her sister instead.
Loss 1: Duk Seon trying to do anything with her sister without it ending in a fight.
We get a flashback to a time when Duk Seon was tutored by Bo Ra, and it’s miserable failure. Bo Ra can’t do more than than insult her sister’s intelligence. No wonder Duk Seon has a hard time studying, she gets zero support at home.
Her parents, however, think of it as a lack of concentration and send her to Taek (Squee!) to learn Baduk. She loses on her first move.
Loss 2: Marriage problems
While eating at Jung Hwan’s house, Duk Seon’s mom notices that her husband is…shall we say…downright selfish. Jung Hwan’s father graciously gives his wife part of the fish he’s eating while Duk Seon’s dad hogs the whole thing.
Worse yet, Jung Hwan’s father seems to be ignored by EVERYONE. He brings home ice cream and not a single family member eats it, nor do they participate in his stupid jokes. (The sliding thumb thing is total classic, by the way. I used to do that all the time as a kid.)
Both parents seem to have a loss of love in their marriages, and I worry for the future of their relationships.
Loss 3: Rice Face and The Bus
Okay, so this one isn’t a total loss, but she seriously just started getting Jung Hwan’s attention (Double squee!) and now she has rice on her face. I was embarrassed for her. But I can’t say it didn’t make me secretly happy to see another girl so clueless about what was going on around her. This is me in high school, to a T.
They proceed to get on the crowded bus together and Duk Seon keeps getting thrown into a bunch of men every time the bus turns a corner or stops abruptly. One guy even looked like he was enjoying it. Jung Hwan notices, but stays where he is. Serious missed opportunity.
Until she rips open his shirt, anyway.
Speaking of not noticing what’s happening around her…
Loss 4: Sun Woo
Ever since Duk Seon’s friends mentioned the possibility of Sun Woo liking her, she does everything she can to win his heart. This time she leaves him some candy and tape with the song The Only Thing I Can Give You is Love.
What she doesn’t know (in my humble opinion–thanks for the tip Jenkaddict) is that Sun Woo doesn’t have any interest in her. We all know he’s Mr. Nice Guy, and his hospitality would naturally spread to Duk Seon. Furthermore, hints have been dropped as to who in the Sung household Sun Woo really likes, but we’ll get back to that in a minute.
Loss 5: Taek’s Winning Streak
The Baduk champion has fallen. After all he’s won, Taek has started to lose. People on the news are calling it slump, claiming he gave up on the game halfway through. Now he’s home, dejected, and practicing harder than ever.
The adults tell their children not to mention it, because it’ll probably make him feel worse. As a parent myself, I initially agree, until I see poor
puppy Taek’s face. That kid is being unusually hard on himself, and his Baduk friends make the situation worse.
“You can’t always win,” everyone tells him. “It’s okay to lose.” but is it really?
Loss 6: Tutoring
Genius parents are at it again and decide to form a tutoring group with Bo Ra at the head. Duk Seon is hesitant about going until she hears Sun Woo will be there. She then proceeds to put on too-tight pants. She even plucks her eyebrows.
Duk Seon isn’t the only one spiffying up. Jung Hwan washes his face until his nose bleeds. (Is it weird I find this cute? Maybe it’s payback for the rice thing, and the ice cream she had all over her mouth the last time they saw each other.)
Sun Woo is trying his best, too. He grabs his favorite shirt–even though it’s still wet–and puts it on. He’s never seemed to do anything like that around Duk Seon before, but she’s not the only girl under the Sung’s roof.
The funny thing is, if Sun Woo likes Bo Ra as I suspect, it’ll be an interesting coupling. The nicest guy on the block paired with the meanest girl. ha.
Loss 7: Taek’s happiness
In the wake of the baduk loss, Taek is ultra depressed. It seems there’s no getting him out of his slump and he’s blaming himself.
And here’s where the magic starts. All of his friends enter the room and remind him of something glorious. Losing really isn’t the end. Sometimes when we lose, we gain something more. And in this case…
Win 1: Friendship
As quiet and reserved as Taek is, he needs those four loud, rude kids to be his friends. Who else would tell him to curse until he’s laughing? No one could get him out of that slump the way his friends could.
Win 2: True Love in a Marriage
I’ve been married for twelve years, happily. But I know it is NOT easy. When you know someone intimately nitpicking isn’t hard. The focus can shift to what you don’t like about them, rather than remembering what made you fall in love in the first place.
Duk Seon’s mom has fallen into that trap, noticing other happy couples who give each other food, and tuck locks of hair away from their faces, while only seeing the selfish man across from her.
To further add to her angst, Dong Il rushes out into the rain with his own umbrella, leaving her behind.
Il Hwa takes a moment at the umbrella bin, and notices a crystal handled umbrella with beautiful shiny floral fabric. After making excuses–out loud, and to herself–about someone else taking her umbrella, she decides the pretty umbrella is now hers and runs out like a toddler with her first giant sucker.
Problem is, the second she gets outside and opens it, there’s a giant hole.
Dong Il comes back to her side, complaining about why she’s taking so long. Then, in the most romantic part of the series yet, he flings her broken umbrella away and says: “No matter how much better others’ things may seem, they all have their faults.”
There is nothing hotter than a curly-haired ahjumma realizing she still loves her man.
Win 3: Fixing a family
Jung Hwan’s usually happy-go-lucky dad has been feeling so neglected by his family, he’s gone into a major depression, not even accepting the kimchi his wife got for him as he eats his ramyun, alone.
#teamjunghwan who has already stolen my heart by being the hard-shelled kid with a tender center (like M&M’s) notices his dad’s depression and asks Dong Ryong what to do about it. “It’s the easiest thing in the world to make your dad stop being angry,” he says, “All you have to do is accept it.”
Cut to Jung Hwan’s house where the door opens, and his mother assumes Duk Seon is entering. Jung Hwan’s dad gets excited to greet “President Sung.” But Duk Seon isn’t the one at the door.
In a show of complete selflessness, Jung Hwan takes his father’s hand and pretends to be President Kim. If that’s not a man who values his family, then I don’t know who is.
The look on Jung Hwan’s face here spoke volumes. He may have been clumsy in his impression, but the love was immense.
Win 3: Friendship, again and forever.
The show winds down with a scene of all the friends studying, and Taek conquering the rubix cube (next profession, maybe?)
They finish with a shared pot of ramyun, a true sign of friendship. The five of them are called out by the adults, and three boys exit, leaving Jung Hwan and Duk Seon alone. Jung Hwan is about leave when he gets a serious cramp in his leg. He tells Duk Seon to do something about it and she…
Well, despite his pain, he can’t help but laugh at her cuteness–and I couldn’t either. If these two get together, I’ll be one-hundred-percent rooting for them. Any relationship built on that strong of a friendship is meant to last through all of time.
Win 4: First Love begins
The next morning, we find Jung Hwan waiting for Duk Seon to come out. Although he quickly denies it by saying he’s waiting for Sun Woo. When they discover Sun Woo has already left, they haul it to the bus that’s once again crowded beyond capacity.
As the passengers start rolling around—sending Duk Seon into a horde of males again–Jung Hwan no longer stands idly by. I won’t dare describe it though. It is something that can only be witnessed by seeing:
And the story comes full circle with title of the episode (can’t help ~ing). The background song, Can’t Help Falling in Love, goes perfectly with Duk Seon’s English Lesson, and for the first time she understands what the English words mean.
I take back my previous comment, this is the most romantic scene in the series yet. Let’s hope for many more.
What an emotional journey this episode took us on. They really contrasted the sweet and sour of the average human existence, and I truly felt connected to each one of the experiences.
Every moment in this episode was meaningful in a way I didn’t understand until the end. Bravo writer-nim for putting us through an emotional ringer. I, for one, can’t wait until next week.