This was a great episode in terms of forward character growth, because while lovelines are growing tangled and confusing, some important revelations are also made that could change the whole game. Certain truths come to the surface, making everyone rethink what they know about themselves and each other. It’s a good reminder that people aren’t always what they seem on the surface, and their behavior could mask some deep hurt and insecurities.
EPISODE 12 RECAP
Hana leaves for work, confident that she made her feelings clear to Jung-seok the day before — she’s not interested. But she’s startled when he calls out to her, “No Geu-rae-sshi!” with a suspiciously cheerful offer of a ride to work.
Hana reminds him of her text asking him to leave her alone, but Jung-seok says that text is why he’s here. He wants to talk on the way to work, but Hana scurries away, uncomfortable.
At school Hana tells herself that now she’s said it to his face, so surely Jung-seok gets the message. But no — he approaches her with an offering of “top-quality” coffee, which Hana also declines. Jung-seok can’t understand why she’s being so cold to him when she said she liked him, so Hana tells him that she’s decided it’s better if she forgot him.
Jung-seok explains that he knows he hurt her and is trying to make things right, but Hana tells him he can stop trying. She leaves, and Jung-seok figures this is understandable, as mean as he was to her. That’s… surprisingly self-aware, good for him.
Chae-yeon is surprised when Ki-bum remembers that it’s her birthday, and he asks if she’s having a party. Chae-yeon says she’s not, since she hasn’t contacted her friends much lately, and sneers that they don’t have the luxury of birthdays in Noryangjin.
Dong-young overhears, and Ki-bum grows adorably fidgety when he asks how Ki-bum knew it was Chae-yeon’s birthday. Ki-bum hotly denies that he cares, but Dong-young ain’t stupid. When Ki-bum leaves his phone behind in his haste to flee Dong-young’s questions, his phone chimes with a reminder that it’s Chae-yeon’s birthday, and Dong-young laughs to see that he’s set an alarm to go off every hour, on the hour.
Jung-seok hears from Jin-yi that Hana isn’t eating lunch, so he brings a cheesecake to her desk. It’s made of the finest ingredients, naturally, but Hana isn’t impressed by his offering.
Director Kim and Jin-yi return from lunch, and Director Kim hilariously assumes the cake is for him. Jung-seok glares at them from his office while they dig into the cake, noticing that Hana really isn’t eating any. He wonders how to get Hana to warm up to him (Maybe if you stopped calling her “No Geu-rae” and tried, I dunno, her name?).
Chae-yeon starts to text Gong-myung then decides to let him rest, but he pops up around the corner, just fine after his little mishap and ready to study. From a distance, Dong-young notices how Chae-yeon lights up when she sees Gong-myung, and connects the dots — Chae-yeon likes Gong-myung.
The boys are surprised to see Gong-myung sitting at the front of the class, and Ki-bum teases that it’s to be closer to his beloved teacher. Gong-myung rolls his eyes, but the way he lights up when Hana walks in gives him away.
Ki-bum watches while Gong-myung enthusiastically participates in class, and notes the lovesick look in his eyes. Then he turns that exact expression to Chae-yeon, which Dong-young notes. He also sees that Chae-yeon is giving the puppylove-eyes to Gong-myung, and draws lines in his mind from Ki-bum, to Chae-yeon, to Gong-myung, to Hana. So complicated.
Ki-bum gets a mischievous glint in his eye when he sees Gong-myung talking to Hana after class, and pretends to bump into Gong-myung. Gong-myung lurches into Hana in an impromptu hug, then quickly lets go and rounds on Ki-bum, who innocently swears he just tripped.
Gong-myung calls him out, and Ki-bum admits that he totally did it on purpose. HA. That earns him a throat-punch and a headlock, and Dong-young shakes his head sadly, feeling bad for Ki-bum that he’s the only one nobody likes.
Jin-woong isn’t prepared to go back to work yet, so Director Kim asks Jung-seok to take over his classes for a week. Jung-seok actually has a point that that much lecturing will lower the quality of his classes, but he’s so high-handed about it (and he actually says that Jin-woong should just get over himself) that he comes off as a jerk anyway. One step forward, two steps back.
Director Kim turns to Jin-yi, since Hana is busy writing the next mock exam, but Jin-yi says she’s too busy. Director Kim grumbles that she doesn’t even see her boyfriend anymore (thus she should have time), and says she should just break up with him. Jin-yi blows up and bursts into tears, leaving Hana to offer to teach the class.
Jung-seok isn’t happy when he hears that Hana volunteered to teach Jin-woong’s classes, and he follows her outside to ask why. Hana starts to say they should help each other, but Jung-seok yells at her. He’s worried she’s taking on too much, but again his delivery leaves much to be desired, and he comes off sounding bossy.
He compares Noryangjin to a battlefield and says she can’t afford to take care of others, but Hana just sighs and says that’s so like him. She calls him self-centered, though she guesses that he wouldn’t know any better since he’s never needed anyone’s help.
She makes it personal, saying that he’s just ignoring her wishes and continuing to pursue her, even when she’s repeatedly said she’s not interested. But she says she’s different — she needs help, so she has to give it first, because she doesn’t want to become selfish like him.
Ki-bum catches sight of Chae-yeon eating triangle kimbap while she studies, and tsks to himself. He knows she likes pork belly, and figures she should have at least that on her birthday. He heads back to the gosiwon to set up a huge pork belly picnic on the roof, and Dong-young joins him.
Ki-bum insists this is just for him, but Dong-young gasps at the vast amount of pork belly he’s bought, ha. Ki-bum lies that he butcher gave it to him for being so handsome, and pretends that he just now thought they should invite Gong-myung and Chae-yeon.
Dong-young says that he knows this is all for Chae-yeon’s birthday, and Ki-bum is all Oh right, birthday, sure! Dong-young isn’t fooled, and sighs that Ki-bum is pitifully unaware that Chae-yeon likes Gong-myung. He calls Gong-myung and tells him what’s happening, and asks him to make sure Chae-yeon comes over.
Tasked with convincing Chae-yeon to stop studying long enough to eat, Gong-myung makes a big deal about it being her birthday and thanks her for being born. She takes his words more personally than he means them, and lets him convince her to show up at the picnic when he pretends to be weak after his hospital stay and needing the meat.
While Hana works on the practice exam and Jin-yi tries to get a response from her boyfriend, Director Kim runs in to tell Hana she has a special class next weekend. If she teaches a great class, they can expect a lot of new enrollments. Jin-yi whines that she’s not being given the chance, but Director Kim points out that Hana offered to teach Jin-woong’s classes, so she gets first choice.
Jung-seok walks through the room, and Hana makes a point to loudly thank Director Kim for rewarding her for helping out, hee. Jung-seok gets the message, but Jin-yi assumes the message is for her, and gets all upset again.
Jin-woong is at his mother’s home clearing out her things, and he’s surprised to find her wardrobe empty of clothes, with only a note in one of the drawers. It’s a letter from Mom, explaining that she took care of her belongings before she moved to the hospital.
She hadn’t known how long she’d be mentally competent, but she hadn’t wanted her son to have the added burden of disposing of her things after she was gone. The note asks Jin-woong to let go and live happily, and Jin-woong can barely hold back his tears as he reads his mother’s last wishes. He’s sad that she didn’t even leave a single thing behind that he could keep.
Director Kim takes a call from his mother-in-law, who seems pretty angry judging by the screeching coming down the line. He tells Hana that he wondered why Jung-seok got him the coffee and the cake (ha), but now he knows there was a reason — he thinks Jung-seok is apologizing for dumping his sister-in-law.
Director Kim tells Hana that Jung-seok told his date that he kept thinking of another woman, and Hana looks horrified. She asks her phone if this means Jung-seok really does like her, and for once, her phone gives good advice — don’t ignore someone’s sincere feelings. But Hana is worried that by being with someone so selfish, she’ll only get hurt.
Director Kim confronts Jung-seok for details on his disastrous date, and Jung-seok admits that she hit him with a lobster. Three times. He demands an apology from Director Kim, then excuses himself.
But he overhears Director Kim take a call from another teacher, complaining that Hana is getting special treatment with the special class. He offers to cancel the class, then tells Jung-seok that that teacher has already got her nose out of joint because she didn’t get asked to his joint class, and she’s threatening to quit.
While at his mom’s house, Jin-woong gets a call from a dry cleaner, who has a sweater of his mom’s that she left behind. He picks up the sweater and holds it to his face, glad to have something of his mom’s to remember her by.
Jung-seok seems to feel bad that Hana’s free class opportunity is being taken away, but he thinks to himself that this proves what he said to her, that you have to look out for yourself first.
He finds himself in the elevator with the teacher who demanded Hana’s class be canceled, and she brings up the subject first. The rumor is that Director Kim insisted Jung-seok allow Hana into his joint class, and the teacher implies that there’s something going on between Hana and Director Kim.
Jung-seok asks if that’s why she threatened to quit if the special class wasn’t canceled, and the teacher sneers that Hana relies on her looks to get her way. Jung-seok scoffs and tells the truth — that she feels threatened by a new teacher who’s getting a good reputation.
He says that Hana is a good teacher and a good person, and that she even switched her schedule around to help with Jin-woong’s classes. He asks if it’s a problem that she earned the special class, and leaves her spluttering.
Ki-bum is pleased as punch when Chae-yeon shows up for his picnic, and watches closely as she eats the meat he got for her. Dong-young gives Ki-bum this pitying look, knowing that she came for Gong-myung, not him.
Jin-yi mopes that her boyfriend isn’t even reading her texts, but she perks up when Hana offers to treat the office to drinks to celebrate her special class. Director Kim invites Jung-seok, who declines, but without the snooty attitude for once.
Ki-bum urges Chae-yeon to eat more, telling her to just relax today. He asks how she relieves stress and she says she imagines singing at a noraebang, so he decides they should all go out tonight.
He runs off to take a call from his mom, and Gong-myung says he also wants to go to a noraebang tonight. Chae-yeon tells the boys to go without her, so Gong-myung pulls his I’m so stressed but I can’t go if my Master doesn’t go, oh whatever shall I do? act, and it totally works.
The foursome end up having a blast at the noraebang, and Chae-yeon actually lets her hair down, singing and dancing to GFriend’s “Me Gustas Tu.” The boys smile at what a great time she’s having, but Ki-bum takes the credit and Dong-young thinks he’s pathetic, since she really came for Gong-myung.
They drink and sing all night, and Chae-yeon sings every single song, with various combinations of male background dancers, hee. They even do “Pick Me” by Produce 101 (you can see Jung Chae-yeon at 2:40 in the video), and they’re all having a blast. But Dong-young continues to watch as Chae-yeon makes eyes at Gong-myung and Ki-bum never even notices.
Ki-bum sings “Truth in Wine” by Exhibition later in the night (wow, his voice is gorgeous), obviously intending the sentiment behind the words for Chae-yeon. But rather than make her notice Ki-bum, she watches Gong-myung, her heart in her eyes.
Jin-woong meets the group for dinner, noticeably more subdued than usual. He’s says he’s fine, since his mom was sick for a long time and he’s had time to get used to the idea of her being gone. He thanks Hana for picking up his slack, and she says it’s fine because she got a special class out of it.
Director Kim tells her about the teacher complaining and how he nearly canceled the class, but luckily, the other teacher backed down. Hana is dismayed to hear that people try to keep the new teachers down all the time.
Director Kim figures that Jung-seok must have said something to get the other teacher to stop, and Jin-woong speculates that he must have been reminded of his own early days teaching. He tells them that an old colleague told him how Jung-seok had a hard time when he first started.
We see in flashback that Jung-seok had been struggling to become a professor, and was offered a job in Noryangjin. His sunbae promised more money than a college professor makes, so he’d taken the job, and had worked hard to be a good teacher.
He’d been eager to please, and he’d gone out drinking with his colleagues often. But he’d started to gain a reputation as a good instructor, which had made his sunbae jealous, so he’d lied that Jung-seok stole his teaching material.
His boss had explained that his sunbae brought him here to take advantage of him and lighten his own workload, but now he feels threatened that Jung-seok turned out to be a great teacher. Jung-seok had been fired, and he’d changed, refusing to befriend anyone and pursuing power to ensure it never happened to him again.
Hana looks at her reflection in the restroom mirror, and now Jung-seok’s words, that Noryangjin is a battlefield and she can’t afford to help others, seem to take on new significance.
Chae-yeon ends up passed out on the table, and Gong-myung tells Ki-bum to carry her home since he likes her so much. Ki-bum refuses, but when he wins the first rock-paper-scissors throw, he pretends that he thought the winner had to carry her. HA.
Gong-myung and Dong-young know it’s all just an act, and mutter that Ki-bum even looks like he’s smiling from behind as he carries Chae-yeon. It’s true, he’s grinning ear-to-ear, and his smile gets even bigger when Chae-yeon wakes enough to whisper in his ear that she’s happy he made her celebrate her birthday. Ki-bum practically floats the rest of the way home, unaware that Chae-yeon thought it was Gong-myung carrying her.
Jung-seok goes out to drink alone again tonight, thinking that after a long hard day, what he really wants is a drink. Hana is also drinking alone outside a convenience store, looking at Jung-seok’s behavior today in a different light, now that she knows about his past.
Director Kim carries Jin-woong home and drops him on his bed, wondering how he passed out when he didn’t even drink much. Kim takes a beer from Jin-woong’s nearly-empty fridge, and while he’s downing the beer, Jin-woong’s ten o’clock alarm goes off.
Jin-woong jumps up reflexively, but Director Kim stops him, and reminds him he doesn’t have anywhere to go now. The finality of his mother’s death seems to finally hit, and Jin-woong realizes that now when his alarm sounds, nobody is waiting for him. Tears stream down his face as he wishes for one more meal cooked by his mom, and he sobs for his loss.
Jin-yi also drinks alone at home, and she sees that her boyfriend still hasn’t read her texts. She sends one more message saying that if this is how he deals with things then they should break up, and he suddenly reads them and sends back a simple, “Okay.” Stunned by his easy acceptance, Jin-yi cries her heart out.
Jung-seok narrates that at the end of a lousy day when you’re forced to accept a tough reality, it’s natural to want to drink. But as he watches others eating and drinking with their companions, he wonders how anyone can get through lonely times with just a drink for company.
Hana finishes her beer and happens to wander past the spot where Jung-seok is drinking. She sits with him, and says softly that he was right — Noryangjin is a battlefield. She asks why he helped save her special class when she was so harsh to him, and he says that he didn’t want her to end up like him.
Hana asks why, when he was right all along, that you can’t trust anyone but yourself. But he replies, completely honestly, that he’s been living that way for a long time. He thought he’d gained by being selfish, but now he realizes that he lost a lot. The people around him, the woman he likes – he lost them all, and now he thinks it’s not a good way to live.
Jung-seok and Hana start to head home, and Jung-seok sadly says goodbye. But he turns back, admitting that this is probably him being selfish again, but he really wanted to say that he meant it when he said he liked her. He apologizes sincerely for hurting her feelings, and promises not to try to hold onto her anymore.
He walks away for real, but this time it’s Hana who calls him back. She says that he really is selfish to walk away after saying what he wants to say, and she strides to him and plants a kiss on his lips.
She also apologizes and says she’s the selfish one, and that she misjudged him. Jung-seok looks at Hana for a long moment, then he curls his hand around her neck and pulls her in to kiss her. And whoa, does he kiss her.
Aww, Jung-seok, I knew he could do it! I had faith that he had the capability to just be honest, with himself and with Hana, and have a little humility. Not only that, but he had the self-awareness to understand that he’s been behaving very selfishly, not taking Hana’s wishes to leave her alone into account. Apologizing for that in particular, without expecting Hana to change her behavior towards him just because he apologized, was a huge turning point for him. An apology and a heartfelt declaration of emotions goes a long way, even for a guy like Jung-seok — I don’t doubt he’s still got a ways to go to rid himself of his Premium Trash reputation, but this episode was the first time I saw evidence that he was actually capable of changing.
It helps to know that Jung-seok is the way he is not because he’s just a pompous ass, but because he was badly hurt early in his career. He must have felt so betrayed by his sunbae, who used him to do his work then got him fired when he became successful. I can’t really blame Jung-seok for drawing away from others, though he did go way too extreme with it, and it makes a lot of sense now why he refuses to help others and always thinks of himself first.
In fact, knowing all this about Jung-seok softens me up towards him so much, I wish we’d been given this information several episodes ago. It would have made his treatment of Hana and his other coworkers much more bearable to watch, if we’d known sooner that he was coming from a place of hurt. It also sheds light on the way he constantly tells Hana not to depend on others and refuses to help her — I’m sure that in his mind, Jung-seok is trying to be supportive, but he’s been a jerk for so long he just doesn’t know how to turn it off.
I’m feeling very proud of Hana too, first for standing up for herself and saying no to Jung-seok throughout the episode, then for demanding he hear her out when he was finished saying his piece. And how much do I love her for kissing him first?? I don’t think she’s really letting him off the hook for his bad behavior — she even pointed out that he was being selfish again — but I think that by kissing him, she’s recognizing that Jung-seok’s feelings are genuine. I’m expecting her to hold him accountable for his bad behavior in the future (an attitude like his won’t change overnight), but we’re all works in progress. We don’t have to be perfect to deserve love, we just have to be honest about who we are and what we need to improve about ourselves. I think Hana is fully capable of loving Jung-seok as he is, and also of letting him know when he’s being a completely unacceptable ass.
Both Jin-woong and Jin-yi broke my heart there at the end of the episode, which was surprising since they both seemed to fade back a little in the story this last few episodes. But they both came rushing back with their painfully broken hearts, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I ugly-cried right along with them both. Maybe my wish for them to end up together isn’t meant to be, but I just really hope it is, because they’re both just so crushingly lonely and I think they’d really be a comfort for each other. Jin-yi’s intense loyalty would be so healing to Jin-woong’s hurt from being abandoned twice by women he loves, and Jin-woong’s deep capacity for love would be so good for Jin-yi’s need to be adored. I can see them filling each other’s empty hearts and being really happy together. Can this happen, pretty please drama gods?