A boxing ring decided it for me: I’ll devote an entire post to Episode 13.
Haha, pulled your leg for a moment there, didn’t I? In such an important episode like this one, think I would be led (astray) by inconsequential things like sweaty abs and furrowed brows?
C’mon, you know me better than that. I did not take two dozen (or was it 30?) screencaps of Jun-se working out in the ring when this episode is all about…
That’s right. Episode 13 is where our royal jerk finally experiences that moment of awakening that is going to turn his life around, making this my favorite episode yet. It’s powerful stuff, so get ready.
At the end of Episode 12, Grandma Jang drops the bombshell about her new will. Unknown to us, the invitation card to the bombshell party apparently also stipulates a dress code. It is only when Episode 13 begins that I realize everyone is clad in the same somber colors. No wonder a smile feels out of place here.
Lawyer Kim, who has replaced Lawyer Park (Jun-se’s multi-tasking dad), reads out the new will:
All of Jang Sook-ja’s assets, including company shares and property, will be inherited upon her death by Go Eun-sung. This is conditional on Go Eun-sung raising revenues in Jin Sung Food’s second seolleongtang branch by 20% in two months.
As expected, howls of protest greet the announcement.
A disbelieving Hwan accuses Eun-sung of being in cahoots with his grandma. But Eun-sung, with the calm of a person who has found a new life goal and will allow nothing to sway her, simply bows and says she will accept the inheritance with gratitude. She is then asked by Grandma to escort Lawyer Kim out of the room. The two of them exit center stage, leaving Grandma with four very unhappy people (three wastrels and one deposed lawyer).
As the recriminations fly, we see Grandma Jang at her most broken.
This company does not belong to me or to you, it belongs to my employees. I based my decision on the livelihoods of thousands of people. Do I leave my inheritance to my pampered grandchildren who will likely squander it away, or do I entrust it to someone who will ensure the company’s survival?
Your dad and I would have starved to death if not for the kindness of a lady who allowed me to peddle my rice cakes in front of her restaurant, who carried your dad on her back, who bequeathed her restaurant to me when she passed away. She, unrelated to us, reached out and helped me gain a foothold to begin what we now have today. She showed me what it means to change another person’s life.
I did not make my decision lightly. How could I, when I loved you all so much? If you asked me to pluck a star from the sky and turn it into soup for you, I would. That is how much I have loved you.
It’s not money I’m giving to Eun-sung, it’s my life’s principles. The ideals that established the company… I’m bequeathing them to her. She will continue what I have started, she will never sell the company. Until my death, you have a roof over your head and food to eat. When I’m gone, you’re on your own. Plan your lives accordingly.
What is sadder than Grandma’s words and tears?
The glaring fact that none of it is meaningful to her aggrieved daughter-in-law and grandchildren. All they know is that they’ve been robbed. That it is Grandma’s money, earned by her with zero contribution from them, is beside the point. They’re her kin so of course the money also belongs to them!
How their accusations must hurt her. It hurts as much as the memory of her dead Min-suk, as much as the realization that her cherished company will now pass into the hands of someone who was just a stranger mere weeks ago. Because let’s not kid ourselves here; there’s no joy in bequeathing her inheritance to someone other than her beloved Hwan. Doing that is simply acknowledging that he is useless and that she has failed to raise him well.
Hwan knows the implications of that public humiliation, of course. Earlier he had yelled in front of everyone: “Why must it be Eun-sung?!” It’s a question loaded with meaning.
Now he storms into the grandma’s room, demanding to know why he had to foolishly follow Eun-sung everywhere the last one month, from restaurant to factory, if the grandma had already decided to cut him out of her will.
Here is how she replies:
All I wanted was for my grandson to live well even after my death. I wanted you to observe Eun-sung, to learn from her. If you do not know what you’re supposed to learn from her, then obviously you have learned nothing at all.
His eyes filling with tears (Lee Seung-gi is riveting in this episode), Hwan yells back: Do you know what it’s like to follow the person who will take away my inheritance? DO YOU KNOW WHAT THAT HAS DONE TO ME?!!
Just like Grandma, we ponder the unspoken meaning behind Hwan’s words.
Why are you in tears, why are you so angry? What has happened to you as a result of following Eun-sung around? Is it your pride that is wounded, or is something else tormenting you? This girl living in your house and stealing your inheritance… Has she somehow crept into your heart, stolen it even? Hwan, what is happening to you?
But those aren’t questions that he can answer, not now.
It’s all still so bewildering to him, these conflicting feelings of disliking Eun-sung and yet missing her when she’s not around, of curiosity and guilt, of wanting to goad and also please her, to be a somebody in her eyes.
Unable to sort out his inner turmoil, he runs to the one who is the cause of it all.
(I wrote in my previous Brilliant Legacy recap that Hwan is growing on me and here’s another reason why. Whatever his flaws, this guy is an open book. If something bothers him, he wants to thrash it out, not keep it simmering inside. Isn’t that what every girl wants, a communicative boyfriend?)
Perhaps it’s the sight of her sitting quietly on the garden bench that stops him in his tracks. Perhaps it’s coming up from behind her and thus not needing to rearrange his expression to fit one who’s supposed to be at war. Whatever the reason, the look in his eyes is strangely soft and gentle. Then she looks up and of course the haughty veil comes back down and the accusations fly afresh.
Accusing her of dishonesty (pretending to be kind and virtuous when her real motive is to steal his inheritance), he lashes out:
Why are you making fun of me? Pretending to discipline me when it was all unnecessary. Saying you’ll accept the inheritance gratefully. Ha! You say it’s because of your situation? Fine, tell me what is that situation. Because I caused you to lose your brother? So now you want to take my inheritance away? Is that it? (She replies that it’s unimportant what he thinks of her. She will not reveal to him her reason for accepting the inheritance.) I still want to know. TELL ME!
I don’t want to over-analyze Hwan’s persistent questioning and ascribe wishful intent behind it because I believe he still isn’t fully aware of his own feelings. But I can’t help thinking that perhaps subconsciously the one reason above all else that he wants to hear from her is this: She wants the inheritance because of him. She’s doing it for him because… she cares.
Based on that (wild) conjecture, I can understand why he’s outraged when she replies that it’s because of money. (On the surface it may look like Eun-sung is fibbing, but she really isn’t. Without money, how can she win her battle with the witch?)
You say it’s because of money that you’re taking my inheritance? Because of money you caused me to lower my defenses. You… You changed me… and now you say it’s only for the money?
But don’t blame me, she retorts. You’re the one who drove Grandma into giving her inheritance away to an outsider. It’s your fault.
After all that spillage of tears and angry words, everyone is spent that night, everyone except Grandma (now back to her usual feisty self) and the butler whose culinary skills rise above all worldly strife (or thrive more because of it).
Eun-sung pokes at her food and is chided gently by Grandma who tells her that this is only the beginning, so quit looking so weary. Only the two are at the dining table, which must disappoint our butler chef. Jung and her mom have retired to their comfortable rooms to commiserate with their beds while Hwan sits on his and mulls, trying to make sense of the night’s events.
Grandma is right that the fun has just started. The next day the three wastrels stage a mutiny, refusing to go to work.
But Lawyer Park is at the office as usual, except today he will dispense with the niceties.
This is the angriest we have seen of Jun-se’s father. Not only did President Jang stab him in the back by engaging another lawyer and altering her will, she is reviving the second branch of the company that he had proposed selling. She is giving the company to Eun-sung which means he will be junior to a mere child! His dedication now perceived as unbridled ambition, everything he has done in the last twenty years for Jin Sung Food gone to nought!
Also at the head office is Eun-sung, there to receive instructions from the president. She bumps into Seung-mi as she’s leaving the office but ignores her.
Unknown to Seung-mi, Eun-sung has learned (easily from an online search, egads!) that her stepsister lied to her about the purchase of her apartment. Seung-mi and her mom aren’t as poor and pitiful as they have made themselves out to be.
Eun-sung’s curtness troubles Seung-mi and she alerts her mom. The witch is in a frenzy, trying to locate Eun-woo before his sister can, and aghast that her potential son-in-law might soon become as penniless as that husband of hers now wandering the streets.
Even as her stepmom is plotting more mischief, our Eun-sung is hard at work, checking out the company’s languishing second branch and meeting with her two closest friends, Hye-ri and Jun-se, to tell them about the inheritance.
Somehow this scene with Jun-se makes me really sad. The sweeter he is to her and the happier she is with him, the more bummed I am that they aren’t meant to be together. The fact that he is the first one she tells about this life-changing event speaks volumes of her trust in him. And see how astute he is, sensing that beneath her bright smiles is a burdened heart.
Brace yourself now, Jun-se, so that your pain won’t be as acute as what your fans fear it might become. Chin up, Jun-se!! (But psst, if being down means more trips to a certain boxing ring, then we absolutely do not mind.)
But this is a pivotal episode for Hwan, so let’s return to him.
After a sleepless night, Hwan marches into his grandma’s room (she’s at the office) and grabs the car keys. As he’s driving aimlessly, his mind keeps remembering the events of last night. He seems particularly hurt by the grandma’s words that he must fend for himself after her death; she is not making any provisions for him.
Let me reiterate how much I’m liking Lee Seung-gi’s acting in this episode. It’s controlled and finely balanced between rage and retrospection. He is still a work in progress, so we see the old Hwan who is ill-mannered and self-centered, but we also see more restraint. I love a thinking man and Hwan sure ruminates a lot in this episode. The entire time I was fixated on his eyes and did not once notice his hair!
(But Thundie does have a hair fetish, so guess whose coiffed glory deserves honorary mention?)
(The Good: Butler Pyo’s hair is weather-proof. The Bad: It reminds me of my mom’s hair whenever she has a wedding to attend. “Mom, not that awful hairdresser again!” The Weird: Whoever did our butler’s hair also worked on another character’s hair, resulting in a most uncanny resemblance. Keep reading.
Oops, sorry for that diversion. This recap has been so serious my laugh muscles need defrosting.)
Hwan’s aimless (and at times scarily reckless) driving takes him to a row of bars where he experiences his second public humiliation in as many days. He reverses into a car coming out of an alley, can pay only 70,000 won out of the 100,000 that the other driver asks for, and is scoffed at by the waiters who mistake him for a chauffeur.
The condescension stings, but Hwan reacts in a surprisingly mellow manner, not drawing anyone’s blood. Craving wine but unable to afford any, he makes his way to his friend’s bar. Yes, that wine bar where our Eun-woo is temping as cheap underaged labor: a pianist in return for a constant supply of hamburgers.
This makes for a tense minute or two because we know Seung-mi is coming to the bar to meet Hwan. Will she see Eun-woo?
Several episodes ago we wouldn’t have been worried because Seung-mi seemed to truly care for Eun-woo. But now that she has been infected by her mom’s poison, Seung-mi is unpredictable and there’s no telling what she will do to protect her mom and her own future with Hwan.
As usual in this drama (how about we rename it Brilliant Avoidances?), Seung-mi misses Eun-woo by a split second and he is safe for now. Phew.
Not as lucky are the shrubs along the street.
Hwan has drunk too much, so naturally some of it must come back up. He gets a drink, a hanky and a hug (in that order) from Seung-mi. (The two sure are touchy-feely, aren’t they? Which makes us wonder about Hwan’s feelings for her; ain’t nice to be stringing her along if you don’t love her, mister. May I add that my overly sharp powers of observation have noted a certain spark in Lee Seung-gi’s eyes whenever he’s in a scene with Moon Chae-won. Anyone else saw that? No? Okay, I erred.)
Seung-mi drives Hwan home. As he opens the gates into the sprawling garden, he is greeted by… SUSAN BOYLE!!
Seriously, I shrieked when I saw Grandma Jang’s hair. Good grief, how did the butler’s hairstylist morph our grandma into the above likeness?
It turns out Hwan is having a flashback (and this episode is chock-a-block with them) and remembering the day that Grandma had surprised them with the completed house. She had built it with an especially large lawn for Hwan’s future children (sorry, Jung, you be wedded off anyway; enjoy the garden while you can).
The memory of that long-ago day brings a slight smile to our Hwan’s face. Had they once been so happy and close-knit?
(Everyone’s hair, in an admirable attempt to convey youthfulness, is hysterical, except for Hwan’s. After 13 episodes I have accepted that his hairstyle will never change.)
Standing in that garden, gazing up at the house his grandma built for her grandchildren and great grandchildren, yesterday’s events must feel like a dream.
Would she really give all this away to Eun-sung and not to him? What had he done to deserve a treatment so implausible no one would believe it until its actual execution?
But soon Hwan learns it hasn’t been a bad dream, it is all real.
As he sits on the steps leading up to the house, his grandma and her faithful butler emerge at a garden table. (I love that porch. Great place to read!) It is dark and they have no idea Hwan is sitting nearby. What he overhears will cut him to the bone.
The seasons come and go, but when will our Hwan understand the true meaning of life?
Why did I decide to leave the company and everything else to Eun-sung? I thought Hwan would grow out of his ill temper but he is still the same, still full of anger and self-pity. His dad was the same way, but he eventually changed and understood the value of a person. I had hoped Hwan would change, too. But the moment he flung the money at the restaurant manager, I gave up on him. He’s beyond redemption.
If only he could be like Eun-sung, be even half of Eun-sung…
In the past he might have reacted to that damning condemnation with rage, but our Hwan is changing, even if Grandma thinks he is beyond hope. Thus he sits there unmoving, except for the tears that fall.
And soon our own tears fall, too, except they are of wonder. Because what follows is too delightful for words, a boxing match with only one boxer!
If you’re an avid kdrama viewer, I’m sure you’ll recognize scenes like the one we’re seeing.
You know, the ones which aren’t intrinsic to the plot or even to characterization. They exist simply because we have a writer and director who understand that prolonged watching (anything more than six episodes is long) leads to all kinds of pent-up feelings and that we need an outlet. We need to squeal.
Thus we have So Ji-sub swimming. Kwon Sang-woo bathing. Uhm Tae-woong changing. Bae Soo-bin boxing.
You get it now? Don’t ask any questions about the why. Just squeal as loudly as you can before writers and PDs decide to change tactics and give us So Ji-sub and company gazing into the distance fully-clothed. Like what Eric Mun did ad nauseam in the drama Phoenix.
Following that much-needed diversion in an episode heavy on angst, we return to Hwan.
What did he do after that indirect dressing-down? He goes to his room, studies his wardrobe, and decides whatever change he undergoes must first come from without. He will henceforth dress like a laborer, with a branded scarf (because branded is all he owns) passing off as a cheap towel around his neck. No wonder Grandma stares at him, too stunned to comment.
Give me another chance, Hwan tells Grandma. If you still regard me as your grandson, don’t give up on me. If you refuse, how can I lift my head as a man and go on living? If you still insist on giving everything to Eun-sung, fine. But send me to the second branch. I can’t do anything else.
(I know I should feel sorry for dear Hwan here, but all I can do is try to stifle my giggles. First, because he looks so un-Hwan. Second, because saying it’s the second branch or nothing simply gives away the fact that he’s missing someone. He could have picked the main office to be near Seung-mi, right? Or the main restaurant where he knows every tile, having personally mopped it. Why the second branch, Hwannie?)
Grandma caves in. (I knew the minute he used the “I’m your grandson” bargain chip that she would soften. Sneaky Hwan.) So, to Eun-sung’s horror, guess who should turn up at the second branch?
If Hwan manages to win Eun-sung’s heart (at this stage still harder than training toads to tap dance), I foresee this conversation on their honeymoon:
“Remember the first few times you held my hand?”
“Hmm, not really. Why, baby?”
“I still have the marks you left on my wrists. Wanna see?”
If Hwan continues to manhandle Eun-sung or to talk rough with her, he can wave a honeymoon goodbye. He could have said, “You know, the two of us will be awesome managing Grandma’s company together. This could be a life-long partnership.” Instead he barks, “If you think I will allow you to take Grandma’s company away from me, you can forget it.”
Oh boy, oh boy. Looks like more fireworks ahead.
Also, a most juicy twist has just been introduced near the end of this episode.
To teach Grandma a lesson, Jung and her mom will pretend to move out in a huff, and they will pretend not to have anything more to do with Grandma unless she reverts to her old will. The wise butler warns them that it’s easy to move out but hard to move back and they reply, “Hoho, she’ll be begging for us to move back in the wink of an eye” or something to that effect.
But without money the two deluded wastrels can’t wait it out in a choice hotel, so guess who offers them a place to stay as long as they like?
I tell you, Episode 14 is going to be so good. I can’t wait!