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Sweet Stranger and Me Episode 5 RECAP

 

Nan-gil has been telling lies for so long, it’s hard for him to finally admit the truth when faced with it. But his truth is so heavy and old, it’s a relief to lay it out, even if nothing can change for now. But his honesty gains him a loyal ally, and together they have the strength to beat any adversary that comes their way. 
EPISODE 5 RECAP

After rescuing Na-ri from the gangsters, Nan-gil leads her outside by the hand. But as soon as they leave the building, Nan-gil goes pale and becomes disoriented. Na-ri demands answers, but he’s unable to speak, and he soon collapses to the pavement.

We see a flashback to little Nan-gil as a young boy, while adult Nan-gil tells us in voiceover that he was abandoned without even a note about who he was or when he was born. He’d been teased by the other kids for not having a mother, and Na-ri’s mom had befriended him at the orphanage where she volunteered and said that she would be his mom.

Little Nan-gil was jealous of Na-ri for being her real daughter, but he’d defended her against bullies like a tiny warrior. He’d decided to marry Na-ri one day, in order to make her mother his real mom. He’d watched Na-ri from a distance for years, as she grew up and moved away. He never realized that she was his first love until she was gone.

Soon after, CEO Bae had adopted him, and as they drove away, Nan-gil had looked back to see Na-ri’s mother running after the car. He never got to say goodbye, and he didn’t see her again for many years.

But CEO Bae didn’t want a son — he’d adopted a group of boys and raised them to be his own personal gang. He would make the boys fight in groups, and Nan-gil had stood out as a particularly able fighter, because he had to be.

But at night he would write home to Na-ri’s mom, and once he went to Na-ri’s college to see her. She’d been walking with boyfriend Dong-jin, smiling and happy, and Nan-gil hid his bruised face from her. He’d gone back to the gang and viciously beaten the other boys, but he never stopped watching over Na-ri, even after she became a flight attendant.

He never showed himself to her again, ashamed of the way he was living. And then he landed in prison. When he was released, instead of going back to the gang, he went to the only place he ever felt safe — Mom. She’d been thrilled to see Nan-gil, and happily taken him in.

She’d showed him the demands from Dada Finance because of Dad’s old debts, and Nan-gil hatched the idea of becoming the head of the family to protect her. Mom thought the idea was nuts and suggested she just adopt him, but he argued that marriage was easier and faster. Mom argued that this would make him Na-ri’s stepfather, suggesting that she was aware of his feelings for her daughter, but Nan-gil had said that Na-ri was getting married anyway and never needed to know.

But soon after registering their marriage, Mom was killed in an accident. Nan-gil had grieved for the only mother he ever knew, but he’d promised to protect Na-ri. He narrates, “And with that promise, my long-term love came to an end.”

After a few moments, Nan-gil becomes conscious enough to speak to Na-ri. He puts his hand over hers and tells her that he’s okay, and she helps him stand. He says he’s just allergic to the sun and that he needs to go knead dough, but Na-ri stops him with a hand on his arm.

She tells him, “Don’t be sick,” and her earnest wish stops him cold. Na-ri says she’s just being selfish, because he’s the only person she can count on right now, but Nan-gil still looks incredibly touched. He promises that he’s super-healthy, and tells her not to worry about anything.

Her friend Ran-sook arrives to pick her up, and Nan-gil watches the car until it’s out of sight. Na-ri notices and muses that he seems uneasy that she let him off that easy.

CEO Bae takes a look at the USB that Nan-gil brought him, which appears to be a list of names and bank account information. He erupts in fury, throwing his laptop across the room, then he calls in McCreepy (whose name is really WAN-SHIK) and a few other minions.

He tells them that Nan-gil knows how much money they’ve been laundering through fake accounts, including the most recent ones. Since the people in this room are the only ones who know about this list, CEO Bae wonders who could be leaking information to Nan-gil. Wan-shik looks suspiciously shifty-eyed at that.

Ran-sook picks up on something between Na-ri and Nan-gil, and says that they were acting like a couple back there. She thinks Nan-gil is Na-ri’s rebound guy after Dong-jin, and urges her to turn him in to the police instead of date him.

Na-ri just repeats Nan-gil’s words, telling her friend that stress gives you wrinkles. She says confidently that she intends to get to the bottom of everything, and for that she needs to stick close to Nan-gil and ask a lot of questions. But she can’t stop thinking about how he took her hand to lead her to safety, or the way he carried her into the hospital when she lost her vision, or even the time he was drunk and collapsed into her arms.

As she’s cleaning out her place, Na-ri takes a call from Deok-bong, who whines that she forgot to call him after receiving the “court documents.” It’s cute how he smiles when Na-ri says that she should tell him what happened in person… then she hangs up on him again, ha.

Dong-jin waits for Yeo-joo at a spa, looking uncomfortable that she wanted to meet here (and… is she wearing any pants??). Yeo-joo adopts her wide-eyed innocent persona and asks if Na-ri paid Dong-jin back the money Uncle borrowed, and he says absently that she did.

Yeo-joo claims that Na-ri took out an illegal loan, and now collection notices are being delivered to her at work. She pretends to be concerned for Na-ri, but Dong-jin says that if she’s that worried, she shouldn’t gossip about it.

Na-ri walks in with their coworkers, and their sunbae looks ready to tear Yeo-joo’s hair out when she sees her with Na-ri’s ex. Yeo-joo pouts to Dong-jin that this is a total coincidence. Riiight.

Dong-jin pulls Na-ri outside against her protests, and apologizes for coming here. He asks if she’s really in financial trouble, but Na-ri refuses to either refute the story or tell him the truth, and she bristles when Dong-jin calls Nan-gil a con artist.

Yeo-joo joins them, and Na-ri notices that she’s carrying a purse of the same brand Na-ri owns. Na-ri snaps to Dong-jin that at least he got them different colors before emptying hers and handing it to him with a smile. Ouch.

Later, Na-ri drags a massive suitcase right into the Hong Mandoo dining room, and tells Nan-gil that she was fired when her bosses heard a rumor that she borrowed money from a loan shark. Nan-gil offers to explain to her employer, so Na-ri admits it was a lie. She just took a leave of absence, so she’s going to live here for the time being.

Nan-gil is not pleased, arguing that the debt is his and not hers. Na-ri says that’s why she’s here, to find out why he became her stepfather and took on the family debt. She sweetly says she has plenty of time to ask questions, and Nan-gil grumps off in a huff.

Na-ri goes to visit Deok-bong, and asks questions about the resort he’s building. He gets cagey when she asks why the lake isn’t in the model in his office, and asks if her interest means she’ll be selling the land.

Instead of answering, Na-ri asks him to withdraw the complaint they filed about her mother’s marriage. He says it’s too late, and Na-ri tells him about her father’s involvement with Dada Finance, and that they’re demanding the land as payment.

Deok-bong assumes she means Nan-gil when she says “father,” so she clarifies that she’s talking about her real dad. Deok-bong tells her that Dada Finance seems legit, but their debt collection methods are illegal. He advises her to pretend she doesn’t know about the debt, and let Nan-gil take the fall.

She tells him it’s too late, that the debt is the very reason why Nan-gil married her mother. She says that Nan-gil is the only person she can trust right now, but Deok-bong says it’s too soon for that. He offers to look into things for her, and his reaction seems more jealous than concerned.

Na-ri calls Nan-gil out to the playground and orders him to speak jondae to her from now on. She accuses him of pretending to be her stepfather (meaning, pretending that his marriage to her mom was based on love), and he admits that he just didn’t want to confuse her. Because what he did was less confusing?

Na-ri still asserts that her mother would never have agreed to such a crazy scheme, but Nan-gil says that Mom knew it was the only way. Na-ri asks what their relationship was, exactly, and Nan-gil gets a faraway look in his eye.

He’s staring right at Na-ri, which flusters her. Nan-gil asks softly, “Do you really not know?” then just says he’s disappointed. He starts to walk off and she stops him, holding up the handkerchief with his name on it, asking how long he’s known her mother. It’s marked that he was in first grade, and seeing it makes Nan-gil smile wistfully.

He sits and says that he grew up in the nearby orphanage where her mother used to volunteer. He tells Na-ri that her mother came to see him every day, and he owes her a huge debt. He tells Na-ri not to pity him, then pouts when she says she doesn’t, ha.

As it turns out, the mandoo restaurant used to be the orphanage, which is why Mom bought it. Na-ri says she remembers the old orphanage, making Nan-gil scoff that she never once visited, then he has to backtrack when Na-ri asks if he remembers her from back then.

Na-ri admits that she used to get annoyed when Mom would go volunteer, and Nan-gil says he’d get annoyed when she’d go home. That’s so cute. Na-ri asks what school he went to, but he just says they need to work on their stepfather/stepdaughter act, since Dada will probably send people soon.

Unwilling to let it go, Na-ri asks why she didn’t know him if he was so close to her mother. Nan-gil scoots up on her, making her inch backward, and asks why she’s so curious. He asks if her curiosity means she’s interested, leaning in very close, and says, “You can’t see me as a man.”

Na-ri barks at him, unsettled, and he says he needs to go knead dough. Yeah, I’ll just bet he does. Na-ri stops him with a hand on his arm, and says that she’s in no position to question, so she’ll just thank him.

Nan-gil says that if she can’t pretend, to at least be careful not to speak banmal to him. He walks away, muttering that Na-ri really doesn’t remember a single thing.

Deok-bong looks at his files on Nan-gil and Na-ri, remembering how Na-ri said Nan-gil is the only person she can trust. He bursts into Deok-shim’s room to ask why she left their parents’ house to come live with him, wondering if he was the only person she could trust.

Deok-shim refuses to talk to him and just climbs into her bed, but she can’t hide her smile when Deok-bong asks if she trusts Nan-gil. He asks why she trusts him, but she just screams at the top of her lungs until he leaves the room. Kid is seriously unhinged.

Na-ri has a pen that records sound, which she’d activated when she talked to Nan-gil earlier. She listens to it, hearing him grumble that she doesn’t remember anything. She doesn’t understand most of it, though, and she drives herself nuts wondering what he was saying.

Dong-jin calls to tell Na-ri that he closed their savings account and transferred the entire balance to her. She orders him to take back enough to cover Uncle’s debt, so Dong-jin admits that Nan-gil already paid him back.

She hangs up on him (that will never not be funny) and goes outside, nearly running into Nan-gil. She hides and follows him all the way to a greenhouse, and slips inside. She can’t see what’s growing, since it’s dark out, and gets drenched when the sprinklers turn on.

Her screech brings out Nan-gil, who hands her a towel and tells her to stand up, because she’s sitting on compost. Ha. He giggles at her good-naturedly, and she openly admires his lovely smile.

That has him dropping the smile and warning her to please pretend their relationship is strictly father-daughter. She asks what’s so bad about saying someone has a nice smile, and he concedes the point, but says they shouldn’t be out here alone together.

Na-ri asks why Nan-gil paid off Uncle’s debt to Dong-jin, and he just says it’s what Mom would have wanted. Na-ri thanks him sincerely and promises to pay him back soon, which makes Nan-gil smile.

He shows her the plants he’s growing, and how they’re all in flower, getting ready to produce strawberries, eggplants, and pumpkins. He says that even though the flowers aren’t pretty, they’re more beneficial than roses because they’ll grow and bear fruit, and he feigns surprise when Na-ri asks if he’s telling her to grow up.

He says that he only means that she’s showing growth, and that he’s decided how to use the money she’ll be returning to him — to hire her a matchmaker. Na-ri shoves him over onto his butt, HAHA.

But she can’t help but imagine her wedding, with “father” Nan-gil looking impossibly handsome as he walks her down the aisle to give her away. He leads her to her groom, and Na-ri looks up to see… Nan-gil. Whoa, there’s two of them. Na-ri lets out a little scream and wonders if she’s going crazy.

Nan-gil leaves the greenhouse, then holds a hand over his suddenly-pounding heart. He quickly collects himself when Na-ri joins him, but it’s clear that being so near her flusters him.

Na-ri stumbles downstairs in the morning to find the four chefs staring at her from the kitchen table, ha. Nan-gil hollers at her to eat breakfast then go home, but she just sweetly tells them she’ll do the dishes from now on.

Deok-bong comes to the restaurant to talk to Nan-gil, and asks exactly how much debt the family is in. Nan-gil refuses to speak to him, and Deok-bong wonders why he doesn’t just sell the land to him and repay Dada Finance. He needles Nan-gil, musing that he must be trying to impress Na-ri.

Nan-gil only says he won’t sell, and Deok-bong asks if it’s because he’d have to part with Na-ri. He says that Na-ri believes he became her father only because of the debt, but Deok-bong thinks there’s more to it.

Na-ri walks right into the middle of all this tension, though both guys hilariously deny it. Deok-bong asks her to come by his office, because he has something important to talk about.

As soon as Deok-bong leaves, Nan-gil crabbily asks Na-ri why she told Deok-bong about the debt. She says he’s her lawyer, and Nan-gil suddenly changes the subject and tells her to make oxtail soup for the guys’ breakfast, intending to annoy her enough that she goes home. Na-ri says she’ll make enough to last all winter, and Nan-gil complains that she’ll never go back to Seoul.

Dong-jin tells Yeo-joo that he doesn’t feel well since seeing Na-ri. She pretends to understand while rolling her eyes, and Dong-jin asks for a break. She acts like it’s fine, but when they hang up she explodes and turns up the treadmill she’s on, wondering why he’s feeling so guilty suddenly.

Na-ri befriends a local grandmother and asks questions about Hong Mandoo. The grandmother knows who she is and tells Na-ri that her mother used to call her a stinging insect.

Na-ri makes the oxtail soup while listening to recordings she made of local elders, whom she’d asked the same questions. They all seem to have good things to say about Nan-gil.

Nan-gil grows suspicious, and asks Na-ri where she goes every day. She throws his words back at him that she needs to grow, and informs him that flowers have meanings. She says that eggplant flowers stand for truth, which she loves, but Nan-gil just tells her to go back to Seoul.

Deok-shim follows Na-ri as she heads to the toy museum. Na-ri runs into Secretary Kwon and asks her about Hope Orphanage, but Secretary Kwon flatly refuses to talk. Na-ri asks, “Why do you hate my mom so much?” That stops Secretary Kwon, and she asks why she can’t hate her in an uncharacteristically emotional voice.

Na-ri wants to know the reason, but Secretary Kwon says that she just disliked her, no reason. As she walks away, Deok-bong calls out from a staircase that Secretary Kwon hates him too, and she shoots him a glare before continuing on her way.

Deok-bong asks Na-ri why Secretary Kwon hates him, and she tells him that he’s just generally unlikable, pfft. He feebly argues that being aloof is chic, then tells Na-ri that he withdrew the marriage cancellation complaint.

He reveals that she and Nan-gil both grew up here, but Na-ri already knows, so he changes tacks. He asks what would make someone do something shocking, like register a marriage, become a mandoo chef, and fight against Dada Finance. Na-ri doesn’t really know.

Na-ri calls Nan-gil to the lake to talk, and as she waits, she remembers Mom telling her that people lie for lots of reasons. She’d designated the lake a no-lying zone. When Nan-gil arrives he confirms that he knows he can’t lie here, and he gives Na-ri her mother’s phone. He’d kept it from her in case someone from Dada tried to call, and she unknowingly answered.

Na-ri tries to release Nan-gil from his promise to protect this place now that Mom’s gone, but he says that he made a promise to Mom at her funeral. Na-ri complains that Mom called her a stinging bug behind her back, and Nan-gil laughs that she called her a pig toenail to him, because she’s sharp and scary.

Na-ri asks Nan-gil for a promise — that if Dada threatens him, he’ll quit. He agrees, and she asks for another promise, that he’ll leave if the life of a mandoo-making monk stops suiting him. She asks if he’s ever dated or liked anyone, and since he can’t lie, all he can do is run away, hee.

Na-ri looks at her mother’s phone that night, and smiles through her tears at the photos of the two of them saved in the device.

The next day, Na-ri is drinking and singing (horribly) with some local elders when McCreepy Wan-shik drives up. She runs over to confront him, and makes him stay for a drink (which he doesn’t drink). Na-ri asks him about Nan-gil’s legend.

Deok-shim is at Hong Mandoo admiring Nan-gil, and sous chef Young-gyu brings her some water and tells her to sit up. She glares at him until he gets scared and runs off, ha.

Nan-gil spots Wan-shik and goes out to his car. Wan-shik obliquely mentions the USB that Nan-gil left behind, and Nan-gil says he has no other plans other than to keep making mandoo.

Wan-shik says that “Father” Bae thinks someone is helping Nan-gil, and they both know this means he suspects Wan-shik. Nan-gil starts to go, but Wan-shik mentions that he spoke to Na-ri.

Na-ri sits alone, thinking about everything she knows about Nan-gil (I assume Wan-shik told her his legend, though we don’t know for sure). Suddenly she jumps up and runs back to the house.

Nan-gil growls that he asked Wan-shik never to see Na-ri, and Wan-shik smirks and says he didn’t tell Na-ri that Nan-gil went to jail. Nan-gil says that he’ll take that as Wan-shik refusing to do him that one favor, though Wan-shik swears she asked him first and he didn’t say all that much.

Na-ri doesn’t stop running until she sees Nan-gil, walking back to the house after sending Wan-shik away. She stops and gasps for air, thinking, “I’m sorry I couldn’t remember anything, Go Nan-gil.”

Then she reaches up and grabs Nan-gil’s neck in a desperate hug. He tries to get loose for a moment, looking almost scared, but Na-ri doesn’t let go.

COMMENTS

I had guessed Nan-gil’s real reasons for marrying Mom, and I suspected that his real love was Na-ri all along, but I didn’t expect his love for her to be so heartbreaking. It started from his earnest, innocent wish to have a mother, and the only way he could get that mom was to marry Na-ri. But along the way his childlike desire became an adult love, and it’s clear that he’s loved Na-ri nearly his whole life, and still does. Such a simple story, but it really just gets me right here, to see that still-innocent longing in his adult face now. All he’s ever wanted was a real family, and now I just want him to get that more than anything.

It was hard to see Nan-gil being raised in that gang, forced to literally fight for his life. I wonder if, at that point, any family was better than none, or if he was just doing what he had to to survive. We know that he has a very gentle nature, so it’s a good thing he’s so physically large and strong, or he would have been eaten alive. I’m glad that when he had a chance, he chose to run back to the one place he felt safe — Mom.

It makes sense now why Na-ri doesn’t remember him, because Nan-gil always watched and protected her from a distance. Their entire relationship has been in his mind, though thank goodness he’s always been acutely aware of that. So I don’t see his actions as stalker-ish, because he’s never tried to approach her or interfere with her life in any way. He’s just a boy who wants to see that the girl he cares for is happy and safe. I didn’t get the sense that he saw her often, just frequently enough to check in on her. And it’s good that he’s finally opened up and told Na-ri the truth, so they can tackle this Dada Finance problem together.

It was interesting to watch Na-ri’s loyalties shift to Nan-gil for a solid reason in this episode, because in the past I’ve been confused by her rapidly-changing trust between him and Deok-bong. But after seeing Nan-gil defend her against the gang members, it makes sense now that Na-ri would find him worthy of her trust, because it’s obvious that he’s putting the land and restaurant first, even if Na-ri doesn’t quite yet understand why. As adamant as Na-ri is to discover every last detail, I was worried the show would use this as a way to keep a distance between them, so I’m happy that that didn’t happen. Na-ri is willing to at least give Nan-gil the benefit of the doubt that he’s here for the right reasons, even if she isn’t privy to those reasons at this point.

Watching her becoming aware of him as an attractive man is just a fun bonus. Frankly, I’m surprised it took this long (have you seen the guy??) so again, it’s natural that Na-ri is beginning to notice that Nan-gil is sexy as well as a good man. I’m glad we got the explanation of Nan-gil’s true motivations behind marrying Mom, and learned of his lifelong love for Na-ri this early in the show’s run. It’s comforting to know that neither Nan-gil nor Mom had any romantic feelings for each other whatsoever, and that in fact, I’m pretty sure Mom knew all about Nan-gil’s love for her daughter. This way we can let go of any lingering ickiness regarding the growing attraction between them, and just enjoy watching their relationship unfold.

It will be difficult for them to hide their feelings though, in order to keep Dada Finance and CEO Bae believing that their relationship is strictly familial. It’s getting harder for Nan-gil to keep Deok-bong buying his story that he married Mom for business reasons and nothing more, and Na-ri has an even worse poker face. The moment she falls for Nan-gil, everyone will know, but it’s crucial that they keep up their ruse until both Dada Finance and Deok-bong give up on buying the land. They’re going to fall for each other at the most critical time for it not to happen, and it makes me worried that in finding each other, they could lose everything.