EPISODE 2 (FINAL) RECAP
Although they’ve agreed to meet, both Joo Yeon-ae and Cha Ki-dae get held up in their rooms with their respective partners.
Jung Jin-gook has surprised Yeon-ae with candles and rose petals, and he uses the romantic set up to make his move. Yeon-ae claims she’s nervous, so he pulls out a bottle of wine and pours them a drink. She asks for another glass as Ki-dae stops Choi Sae-rom’s advances by claiming he needs to run to the drug store to buy protection.
Instead of going to the store, he asks for directions to the nearest lighthouse. Yeon-ae heads to the lighthouse too (after Jin-gook passes out from too much wine). Too bad there are two lighthouses on the island and they’re both at different ones.
Sae-rom finds Ki-dae at one of the lighthouses and asks what he’s doing there. She thinks he’s come to the lighthouse to surprise her. She roots around in his pocket for the surprise and the mood suddenly changes when she doesn’t find a ring. She was expecting him to propose on the trip. Apparently telling him she needed assurance and asking him to give her certainty meant she wanted to get married. Ki-dae is just as confused as I am that she’s angry because he didn’t figure out what she was thinking.
Yeon-ae wanders around the platform at the lighthouse where she’s waiting for Ki-dae. She sits down as Sae-rom gives Ki-dae an ultimatum. He has one month to propose or else. It better move her too, she adds, because her pride’s at stake (instead of more important considerations, such as ensuring she’s compatible with the man with whom she claims she wants to spend the rest of her life).
In the morning, Yeon-ae wakes up. She’s still at the lighthouse. She looks around in confusion and realizes Ki-dae never showed up. She goes back to the hotel and looks around the courtyard. It’s her turn to wonder which couple is Ki-dae and his partner. Ki-dae texts her as she’s standing there. She doesn’t reveal she waited for him all night. Instead, she claims she forgot about him because she was busy spending a steamy night with her boyfriend.
Luckily for her, Jin-gook is still asleep when she gets to their room. He’s dismayed to discover they never slept together though. As they’re leaving, he wants to see the lighthouse before they go. She’s not interested, but he asks someone for directions anyway and Yeon-ae learns there are two lighthouses in town.
Ki-dae has caught a cold from his nighttime ramble. When Yeon-ae texts him and tells him there were two lighthouses in town, she reveals she caught a cold too. He decides they need to talk instead of just texting and calls her. It takes them a few tries to get used to hearing each other’s voices, but eventually she asks if he ate and he admits he hasn’t. He looks in his fridge and only has an onion, some cheese, and a slice of bread. She tells him he can make onion soup with that and they both cook the same meal as she gives him directions over the phone.
When she’s better, she and Jin-gook meet for a date. He asks what she’d like to eat and Ki-dae texts her that it’s a good thing he’s asking. It means he’s trying to adjust himself to her. She points to a restaurant down the street, and he agrees to go.
At a restaurant with Sae-rom, she looks at the menu and says she wants the gongonzola pizza and the Carbonara pasta. She decides she’ll order the pizza and Ki-dae will order the pasta, thus showing she wants Ki-dae to adjust to her instead of trying to adjust to him.
Jin-gook’s attempt to adjust to Yeon-ae doesn’t go well. The ddukbokki (spicy rice cakes) she ordered makes him drip with sweat and the blood sausage makes him throw up.
Ki-dae obviously didn’t enjoy his meal with Sae-rom either. He caps off the night at his favorite blood sausage stew restaurant. As usual, Yeon-ae is at the table behind him. He sends her a text asking if she likes blood sausage stew. She responds that she does. They both claim to know the best restaurant for it.
Yeon-ae uses the friend location app to check where he is. She sees he’s in her restaurant right as he leaves (of course). He gets on a bus and belatedly decides to check Yeon-ae’s location on the friend app too. He’s surprised to see she’s nearby and looks around as the bus pulls away.
Jin-gook and Yeon-ae go on a tandem bike ride. She sits behind him with her headphones on listening to music and imagines she’s with Ki-dae instead.
The next time they’re together, Do-kyung warns her she may be crossing the line with Ki-dae. She points out they’re always texting, and Jin-gook notices too but puts up with it because he’s sweet. She thinks Yeon-ae has fallen for someone she doesn’t even know while ignoring the one who’s right next to her.
With that settled, Do-kyung then announces she’s getting married. Even though they haven’t been dating long, Do-kyung says her fiance has the right qualifications and she has to secure a husband while she’s still young. After all, as women get older the likelihood of meeting a good man goes down exponentially, she declares.
At dinner with his friends, Ki-dae admits he’s reluctant to get married. They understand and start lamenting all the preparation marriage entails. Philip starts by pointing out he needs a place to live and, for a Seoul wife, the average lease for an apartment is about 200 million won. Another friend points out he’ll need to find a job now. Still another brings up his loans. He looks from friend to friend in confusion as they rattle off the things he needs to do.
In the next scene, Sae-rom asks him how the preparations are going. He tells her he got a job, but apparently that’s not good enough. He should be opening his own dental office instead of working for someone else, she says. And having a job is nice and all, but she was actually asking about the preparations for the proposal. She tells him he knows her well so she’ll wait for him to surprise her. He actually has no idea what she wants, but he doesn’t have the courage to ask her to tell him.
Jin-gook, on the other hand, has no problem asking Yeon-ae what she wants. He’s so heartbreakingly earnest that I want to hug him. They’re at the movies, and he interrupts her every other minute to ask if she wants something. She has to implore him to just watch the movie, but he interrupts her about a minute later asking if it’s okay to kiss her. She stuffs her mouth with popcorn to avoid him, and he finally sits down.
After the movie, Ki-dae turns to Yeon-ae for advice to help him propose. Yeon-ae, who hates over-the-top public displays of affection, advises him to do something small and meaningful with just the two of them. She mentions Namsan Tower as a good place so, as expected, both couples end up going on dates there.
Jin-gook tries to make it a memorable event, but he gets it all wrong. His first mistake is making her walk all the way up the steps leading to the tower—in heels. He wants to play rock, paper, scissors to boot. She humors him at first, but eventually she leaves him and hurries to the top.
Ki-dae and Sae-rom are at the top of the tower already. Ki-dae has a lock for them to add to the others along the fence, but he loses the heart to pull it out when Sae-ron sees the other locks and thinks they’re cheesy.
As they leave, Ki-dae and Yeon-ae unknowingly cross paths when they bump into each other and Yeon-ae’s phone falls from her hand. Jin-gook then gets Ki-dae to participate in the second part of his surprise—a sequence of events I find romantic and cute, but Yeon-ae hates.
One by one men approach her and present her with a rose. When Ki-dae gives her his rose, he also gives her the lock he brought to use with Sae-rom. He suspects she’d much prefer the lock to being a public spectacle. When he walks away, Jin-gook appears with a huge white teddy bear and more flowers.
Later, they all end up at the same restaurant atop the tower. Ki-dae is finally ready to propose. He kneels at Sae-rom’s feet and presents her with a pair of athletic shoes. He says they are for comfort as they travel down the road that lies ahead of them. She thanks him for the shoes, but her main concern is the ring. She thinks it’s in the ice cream and she’s delighted when she finds one at the bottom of her dessert. Ki-dae looks on in shock.
At Yeon-ae’s table, Jin-gook panics when he sees she finished all her ice cream. He asks if she’s okay as the manager approaches. It’s a cameo by Joo Sang-wook! The manager explains that their desserts got switched and, much to Sae-rom’s chagrin, he takes the ring back from her. He wants to make a new dessert for Yeon-ae, but Jin-gook points out she already knows about it so he should just give her the ring.
Sae-rom stomps out and berates Ki-dae for not asking how she wanted him to propose if he didn’t know. She accuses him of doing things his way instead of considering her (and I am just about done with her selfish and delusional tantrums, ugh!). Her friends start texting to ask how the proposal went and she cries because he hurt her pride again. He apologizes (instead of cursing her out and leaving) and she asks him to propose in front of her friends so she can show off how much she’s loved.
Back outside the tower, Jin-gook asks Yeon-ae to accept the couple ring he bought even though the event he planned to present it to her failed. She hesitates so he takes her hand and puts the ring in it, then he asks her to go home with him. She thinks he planned everything just to get her in bed and gets angry that he’s pressuring her and trying to move forward without thinking about how she feels.
He’s speechless at first, but then he points out he has to guess how she feels because she doesn’t talk to him. Instead, she’s always on her cellphone and when they’re together, she’s not really with him. He says he’s just looking for confirmation that she’s his girl. They’re both near tears by the time he finishes speaking, and he walks away.
Yeon-ae stays behind and puts the lock Ki-dae gave her on the fence. She texts Ki-dae, who’s still at Namsan Tower too, and asks if he thinks it’s okay that they communicate so much. They both seem to be having relationship issues and she concludes they may have to keep their distance. They decide to text each other less often. As she walks away, there’s a screenshot of the lock she put on the fence. It says “Yeon-ae and LoveMento (Ki-dae’s username).”
Ki-dae goes on to give Sae-rom the proposal she wants. She stands among her friends and he drives up in a convertible decorated with balloons. Balloons fly from the trunk when he opens it, and there’s a banner inside with a sweet message asking that they not let go of each other’s hand so happiness will always be with him. He caps it all off by presenting her with a ring. Her friends surround her admiring the ring as Ki-dae steps back and lets them have their moment (and I guess I’m the only one who sees the irony of her moment being with her friends instead of her future husband).
As he watches them, Ki-dae flashes back to ring shopping with Sae-rom. She’d chosen the ring and paid for it. Ki-dae dragged her out of the store to protest, but she told him she refused to wait until he could afford to buy her a ring that fit her station in life. Paying for her ring wasn’t what she wanted, but it was a compromise she was willing to make to marry him. In exchange, she wanted him to stop trying to change her. Instead, he needed to change to fit her.
As the flashback ends, Sae-rom finally leaves her friends and hugs Ki-dae. She thanks him and invites him to dinner with her parents over the weekend. Jin-gook, of course, conveniently invites Yeon-ae to dinner at his house too.
They both go to their prospective in-laws’ houses bearing gifts. Yeon-ae is in for a surprise though. Jin-gook’s parents are out of town and they have the house to themselves—all weekend. He wants to start the evening by cooking together, but when she heads toward the kitchen he swoops in for a kiss. He has more intent than finesse though, and they bump into an armoire and some items on top of it fall and hit Yeon-ae on the head.
Yeon-ae puts her hand over her heart and starts crying. She says it hurts, but she’s not talking about her head. Jin-gook thinks she’s fine and she hits him and runs into the bathroom.
At Sae-rom’s house, Sae-rom’s father is not very welcoming to Ki-dae. He shoots disparaging looks his way. Ki-dae doesn’t help the situation when he gets a text from Yeon-ae and he excuses himself to read it. In it, she asks if it’s okay to sleep with her boyfriend. He texts back for her to do what she wants and says he’s busy with his girlfriend’s parents.
She stares at her phone and admits she wanted Ki-dae to tell her not to sleep with Jin-gook because she wants to be with Ki-dae right now instead of Jin-gook.
When Ki-dae goes back to Sae-rom’s family, her dad pours him a drink and quite rudely brings up the fact that he doesn’t have a car or a house. Ki-dae tells them he’ll start looking for a house soon, but they’ve already got it covered. The in-laws plan to buy the newlyweds a house in their neighborhood.
Sae-rom tells him they need to live nearby so her parents can help raise their children. Ki-dae doesn’t understand why they need her parents to raise the kids when she plans to be a housewife. Sae-rom says the fact that she won’t be working is why she will need help. Depression is a serious issue for women trapped at home raising children, she claims.
Ki-dae tells her she should have discussed something like this with him first, but daddy comes to his daughter’s defense. “If you had the ability to prepare a house, there wouldn’t be any problems between us,” he declares.
Sae-rom tells her dad to lighten up, but he makes matters worse when he offers to open a dental office for Ki-dae. He says it’s common for poor doctors to benefit from their rich in-laws then run off. If Ki-dae wants his money though, he’ll have to prove his devotion to Sae-rom, he says. Ki-dae has finally had enough (thank goodness). He kneels before the family and apologizes but says he can’t marry Sae-rom.
They’re shocked and confused, but I honestly can’t see why. No one with even a scintilla of self-respect would stand for the way they’ve treated him. When he walks out, Sae-rom finds his cell phone on the couch and reads Yeon-ae’s final text congratulating him on his marriage and saying goodbye.
Back at Jin-gook’s house, he knocks frantically at the bathroom door. His parents are home early! He already has her things in his arms and sneaks her out the back door before they can see her.
Her cellphone is still in the bathroom though. Jin-gook finds it and runs after her to return it, but she doesn’t hear him calling her name. He sees her fingerprints on the screen and follows them to unlock the screen. He starts reading her text messages as she walks into her favorite blood sausage stew restaurant.
Ki-dae is already there. They both reach for their phones at the same time and realize they left them behind. Ki-dae rushes back to Sae-rom’s house as Jin-gook walks into the restaurant.
He gives Yeon-ae her phone and apologizes for reading her texts, but he already knew she had someone else in her heart, he says. Yeon-ae explains Ki-dae was just a dating consultant to her, but then he became a friend who was easy to talk to. Jin-gook insists she could have talked to him. She also could have come to this restaurant with him instead of coming hoping to meet Ki-dae. He grabs her bowl of blood sausage stew and forces himself to eat it to prove his point.
She begs him to stop and says they should just end things now. He asks if she wants to break up because of Ki-dae. She nods and says she’s sorry. He pushes all the dishes off the table and throws her cellphone across the room too. (So he’s just lost his damn mind now. Not cool man. Not cool.) Then he yells at her not to meet Ki-dae. They’re both teary-eyed as they sit staring at each other.
Meanwhile, Sae-rom and Ki-dae go to a coffee shop. Sae-rom tells him to meet Yeon-ae and see that Yeon-ae is human just like she is. She’ll let the words he said when he was drunk slide and pretend she never heard them.
Ki-dae tells her it wasn’t drunk talk. The words “I can’t marry you” were sincere, he says. She apologizes for hurting his pride, but she says he crossed the line too. According to her, he should have smiled and put up with her father’s behavior because her father just wanted assurance from him.
What exactly is that assurance? he asks. Money? A car? A stable hospital? Sae-rom scoffs and says if she’d hoped for all of that, she wouldn’t have dated him. Then should he just have taken everything her family dished out without regard to how he felt or what he wanted, he asks. Is that the assurance she’s talking about?
Sae-rom responds by saying marriage is just a business deal with each side complementing the other’s strengths and weaknesses. It requires give and take, she tells him. He says he also thought marrying without love was possible, but not anymore. Sae-rom gets offended because he admitted he doesn’t love her.
She claims she really loved him, but he sets her straight. Who you loved is not me, but yourself, he says. He tells her she chose him so she could be comfortable and do everything she wanted the way she wanted. She interrupts him and tells him he doesn’t have the right to lecture her about love because he tried to use love as a business deal. (Now I’m confused because didn’t she just say this was all a business transaction?) She accepts that they’re over, but she tells him not to say he didn’t marry her because he didn’t love her. He didn’t marry her because he didn’t dare reach the status worthy of marrying her. She stands up and walks away.
Back at the restaurant, Yeon-ae leaves and Jin-gook follows her yelling for her not to go. He’s crying and looks like he may very well have a nervous breakdown. (And my heart genuinely hurts for him. Yeon-ae, you’re such a nappeun yeoja.) He yells after her asking how could she do this to him, and she cries as she finally realizes how it feels to be the one breaking someone else’s heart. She realizes that love wasn’t easy for the men who left her either.
Yeon-ae and Ki-dae both contemplate their relationships that night. Yeon-ae sees that it wasn’t love that turned her into Octopus Girl, but her pride. She thought she’d be happy just dating, but she was wrong. Ki-dae says there’s not actually a strategy to dating well. After his last heartbreak, he thought marriage was the answer, but he now knows that wasn’t it either. He decides he and Yeon-ae should meet for real this time.
They agree to meet by the Han River. On the big day, it’s raining and they’re both carrying umbrellas that obscure their faces. All Ki-dae can see are her rainboots as she approaches. When they’re a few feet apart, they slowly start to lift their umbrellas.
Just before she’s about to see Ki-dae’s face, Jin-gook appears out of nowhere and blocks her path. He’s soaked with rain and declares he was wrong but promises he’ll do better. He tells her he will listen to her just as that person listened to her. He will like what she likes too.
Yeon-ae tries to tell him it’s too late, but before she can finish her sentence, he drops to his knees. He says he loves her and he refuses to get up until she accepts and forgives him.
Ki-dae texts her. “You said that pride came first for the octopus girl, right? To that person, you are first before anything else. There are times when the person who loves more wins. When that person is sincere.” He turns and walks away.
Yeon-ae stares after him, then she steps forward to cover Jin-gook with her umbella and kneels down in front of him.
Four years later, Ki-dae walks into a restaurant. He’s there for a matseon. As the host leads him to his table, he bumps into a woman and sends the contents of her purse spilling to the floor. When he helps her pick the things up, he sees her nametag. It’s Joo Yeon-ae! She apologizes for bumping into him and starts to walk away, but he stops her and introduces himself as her blind date.
So of course that ending begs the question, what ultimately happened between Yeon-ae and Jin-gook? We know they broke up. But when? Why? This is the blessing and curse of a drama special. It’s short and sweet so it’s low commitment. But it’s short and sweet so there’s a high chance of leaving a lot of loose ends dangling. Since we’ll never know what happened between the ill-fated pair, let’s move on to discussing that rain scene at the end.
I oftentimes find certain scenes or moments in a K-drama can make or break the entire show for me. If I really liked it, then even if the show was objectively mediocre, I leave with an overall favorable impression of the whole thing. That’s not quite the case here because I enjoyed this K-drama special throughout its short run. But I really liked the rain scene when Jin-gook swooped in and totally broke up the moment between Yeon-ae and Ki-dae. So much so that I could forgive the show for the things I disliked (like the misogynistic and materialistic undertones). It was just so unexpected and a fresh spin on the usual machinations of the second male lead who just can’t let go of the girl even after all signs point to the fact that he just isn’t the one.
Having said all that, Jin-gook was wrong, wrong, wrong on so many levels. I think it’s been clear throughout the recaps that I adored Jin-gook. However, my adoration for how Si-wan portrayed the character has never blinded me to the fact that Jin-gook needed a good dose of self-confidence and a reality check. At some point, I really wanted him to wake up and love himself enough to walk away. Not seeing him being able to do that was a little disappointing, but at least there is a chance for him to move on to someone who can appreciate him the way I do!
Yeon-ae is a different matter altogether. She too was wrong. There was definitely this aura thrown over her actions that appeared to condone her emotionally cheating with Ki-dae all in the name of him being her true love. I could never buy into it though. I was absolutely fine with Ki-dae being the one for her, but that didn’t mean she had to hurt Jin-gook along the way. Jin-gook was decidedly smitten with her from the beginning and he showed it would have been hard to repel him, but Yeon-ae could have done just that had she been honest from the beginning. She didn’t have to continue seeing him, especially when she got to the point where she found everything he did annoying and could finally admit to herself she wanted to be with Ki-dae instead of Jin-gook.
The part that bothered me most about Yeon-ae and Jin-gook though was the feeling they could have actually done well together if she had not decided to use the dating subscription to get advice. There was certainly some irony in her seeking help with her love life at the moment she needed it the least. This is especially so when in hindsight we realize the dating subscription, which she turned to for help, was actually the cause of her problems and ultimately hurt the relationship as well as everyone involved in the love square.
I was happy Ki-dae found a backbone and put an end to his relationship with Sae-rom. I think she stayed true to her character to the end, but I have to admit I was still surprised she tried to hold onto Ki-dae after he announced his intention to break off their engagement. I expected her pride to kick in, but apparently she really wanted to press for a doormat husband and Ki-dae was a good prospect for that role.
Overall, I found Hope for Dating a watchable Korean drama. Im Si-wan and Daniel Choi were the standouts to me. I’d never seen BoA in anything else before, but she did a solid job here. I’m not sure she can carry a full drama at this point, but she was perfect for something this length.
Hope for Dating: Episode 1 Recap