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Strongest Deliveryman: Episode 13

Finally, the optimists are wearing the pessimists down. Dan-ah begins to see hope in her hopeless Hell Joseon, and it’s just in time to help Kang-soo recover his faltering faith in himself. Meanwhile, Jin-gyu seems determined to wallow in his self-pity, but Ji-yoon is equally as determined to have the best second love ever.

 
EPISODE 13 RECAP

We return to Kang-soo and Dan-ah’s embrace from last week’s episode. Kang-soo asks Dan-ah to stay as the tears pour down Dan-ah’s cheeks, before he leans in and kisses her.

In her room at the retreat, Dan-ah recalls this scene with a mix of emotions. In the other, more crowded boys’ room, Kang-soo is also still up, a wistful smile on his face.

The next morning, Kang-soo finds Dan-ah outside. She asks why he’s smiling at her, and he responds, “Because you’re pretty.” Dan-ah laughs at him, but her smile is appreciative. Their teasing continues lightheartedly, neither mentioning the night before.

Once everyone is awake, they head out, but Min-chan breaks away to go visit his father while he’s home. With Min-chan out of earshot, Gong-gi tells the others that he’s worried that Min-chan’s family will be angry with him for giving up on getting hired by a large company.

Min-chan finds his father at a local baseball field, where he apologizes for giving up. But his father takes it all very well and encourages his son to just keep doing his best. Over Min-chan’s shoulder, his dad spots the rest of the SD retreat crew, who couldn’t leave Min-chan to face his family alone.

Min-chan watches in wonder as Kang-soo introduces himself to his dad, and Dad asks him to take care of his son.

And then, of course, the boys play a game of baseball. Dan-ah and Min-chan’s dad cheer on Kang-soo’s pitching, but Min-chan smashes a homerun.

Finally home, the SD team disperses. Kang-soo offers to take Dan-ah home, but Dan-ah declines and leaves Kang-soo waving at her back. Dan-ah takes the opportunity alone to reminisce about the kiss and Kang-soo’s request, but her reverie is interrupted by Yeon-ji.

Yeon-ji accuses Dan-ah of having spent her entire night kissing, and then yells for backup with a single call for “Dad!”

Out strides Yeon-ji’s dad, Master Choi, dressed in his martial arts uniform. He tells his former student, Dan-ah, to get her own uniform on.

Both dressed to spar, Master Choi beckons Dan-ah to approach. Dan-ah gives several excuses in an attempt to resist, but Master Choi won’t hear them and strikes first. Dan-ah makes a few feeble attempts to block, but Master Choi easily throws her to the ground.

Master Choi accuses Dan-ah of having lost her spirit, and Yeon-ji chimes in from the sidelines that it’s because Dan-ah started dating. Master Choi scolds his daughter for interrupting, and Yeon-ji straightens up.

Master Choi warns Dan-ah that he’ll make her pay back all of her free lessons, which will cost at least 10 million won. At the threat of a significant debt, Dan-ah’s fighting spirit is reinvigorated, and she manages to send her master to the ground with a mighty flying kick to the chest. Master Choi makes his own excuse of having drank too much, but he’s impressed to see that his best student still hasn’t lost her skills.

Post-sparring match, the trio have a beer right there on the hill, and Master Choi inquires in earnest about what kind of man Dan-ah is dating. Dan-ah describes Kang-soo as really kind, and Master Choi is satisfied with that as he turns to see what his daughter has been up to.

Dan-ah tattles that Yeon-ji has been staying out late drinking lately, and Yeon-ji lashes out at Dan-ah’s betrayal with a yell. Master Choi’s voice turns cold again as he demands that Yeon-ji put on her martial arts uniform, but Yeon-ji says she only ever learned self-defense before collapsing against her dad’s shoulder, declaring herself too drunk to fight. Yeon-ji demands a drunken piggyback ride from her father, and her father laughs heartily at that.

Over at Lucky Noodles, Kang-soo takes his own moment to consider last night’s confessions until Hyun-soo shows up and interrupts his musings. Hyun-soo is tired of being left out of SD and manages to convince a reluctant Kang-soo to let him stay with him.

Meanwhile, Ji-yoon has tracked Jin-gyu to a jjimjilbang and demands that he come with her. Jin-gyu is enjoying his time loafing and eating eggs, but Ji-yoon complains about him using up all the money on the check card he gave her.

Ji-yoon is firm, but that doesn’t stop Jin-gyu from trying to make one last break for it before he’s carried back by the photographers that now follow Ji-yoon’s orders.

Outside a convenience store, Master Choi takes a moment to privately ask Dan-ah to keep an eye on Yeon-ji. Yeon-ji exits the store and offers her dad a hangover recovery drink for the train home and gives him a big hug before he hails a taxi.

Yeon-ji is disappointed that her father lost to his former disciple and laments that he’s getting old. Then Yeon-ji suddenly recalls their new third floor apartment neighbor and tells Dan-ah that she had a message for her: “Ji-hoon has moved in.”

And in that third floor apartment, Jin-gyu sits on the floor, his wrists and ankles bound by pink ribbons, while Ji-yoon makes a list of things she needs to buy for her new place. Jin-gyu asks why Ji-yoon would bring him to this neighborhood of all places, but Ji-yoon can’t understand why it would be bad—this is where all his friends, like her and Kang-soo, live.

Jin-gyu promises to stay where he is if Ji-yoon will just untie him, but she reasons that if he’s going to sit still, it doesn’t matter whether he’s tied or not. They’re interrupted by a knock on the door from Dan-ah, and panic flashes across both Jin-gyu and Ji-yoon’s faces, and Ji-yoon throws a blanket over Jin-gyu before she goes outside.

Dan-ah demands to know why Ji-yoon moved in when Dan-ah forbade it. Ji-yoon promises to be a quiet neighbor, and Dan-ah storms upstairs.

Ji-yoon heads back inside, and Jin-gyu panics when he learns that Dan-ah also lives in the building. Ji-yoon is totally oblivious and asks if Dan-ah beat him up too when he was working at Lucky Noodles. When Jin-gyu says no, Ji-yoon responds that he has nothing to worry about then. Ha.

Ji-yoon decides that it’s time for bed and rolls Jin-gyu like a ball over the sheets. He begs to be freed, but Ji-yoon ignores him and just throws a blanket over his twisted body.

Over at Lucky Noodles, Kang-soo rolls out bedding for Hyun-soo. Hyun-soo gets a call from his mom, who demands that he return home. Hyun-soo turns the phone over to Kang-soo, not realizing what he’s asking of him. Kang-soo tries to stay vague while Hyun-soo is listening and simply says that Hyun-soo is an adult who can make his own decisions before hanging up.

Hyun-soo is impressed with Kang-soo’s ability to handle his mom. Kang-soo claims that he might need to stay up all night to work and makes a quick exit. Once outside his bedroom door, Kang-soo takes a deep breath to steady himself.

The next morning, Ji-yoon wakes Jin-gyu up with a sweet “good morning” and finally cuts his bindings. Jin-gyu groans as his muscles are finally able to stretch, and Ji-yoon responds to Jin-gyu’s complaints with the assessment that it had to have been better than sleeping in the park.

Jin-gyu tells Ji-yoon that he doesn’t need anyone, though he stutters over the words, and Ji-yoon counters that it seems to her that he does need someone. Ji-yoon announces that she has taken on the role of guide, as Kang-soo did for her, and she intends to help steer Jin-gyu in the right direction.

She hopes that if she successfully pays it forward and helps Jin-gyu, he’ll eventually be in shape to help someone else. Jin-gyu asks if Ji-yoon is running for office, ha. Even so, Jin-gyu begrudgingly eats the morning ramyun Ji-yoon offers him. Ji-yoon leaves for the day and leaves Jin-gyu untied since he has nowhere to go.

Ji-yoon runs into Dan-ah as she heads out. Dan-ah tries to pass quickly, but Ji-yoon wants to use Dan-ah as a personal Google to find out where to buy household goods. Dan-ah gets flustered as Ji-yoon peppers her with directional questions.

Ji-yoon then requests that Dan-ah walk more softly in her apartment, but Dan-ah just recommends earplugs and drives off. Finally, Ji-yoon loses her patience with Dan-ah’s rude behavior and declares that Kang-soo has bad taste in women.

Dan-ah stops to watch the Jung Family Foods employees hand out food samples and advertise their morning hours. The neighborhood is crawling with the workers who are using Jin-gyu’s old strategies to lure in different groups of patrons.

Dan-ah reports it all to Kang-soo once she arrives at Lucky Noodles. Kang-soo wonders how they can handle so many customers, since the deliverymen were able to lure people waiting in line away from the Jung Family’s ox bone soup restaurant. Kang-soo suggests they scope out the new Jung Family building.

Inside the Jung Family building, restaurants that are all full are able to send customers to a neighboring Jung restaurant in the building while still serving them the food they want. Dan-ah astutely compares it to a giant Jung Family food court.

Outside the building, Kang-soo and Dan-ah overhear Hye-ran’s assistant gloating that at this rate, they’ll be able to crush the local restaurants even faster here than they have at other locations. Hye-ran spots the pair and warns them that even if they’re there to spy, not everyone has the skills to be a businessman. Kang-soo intends to see this through to the end, and Hye-ran smirks that that’s how young people in this country end up losing “ten things just trying to learn one.”

Inside the Jung building, Hye-ran congratulates the new restaurant manager for her ideas and offers to appoint her director of the building if she keeps it up. The manager smiles and thanks her, so it seems Jin-gyu’s ideas are paying off for her.

However, Hye-ran’s attention shifts when her assistant calls out that Jin-gyu’s mother is here to see her.

In an empty restaurant, Jin-gyu’s mother asks about her son’s whereabouts, since she heard that CEO Jung fired him. Hye-ran contradicts her and says that she was ready to appoint him as director when Jin-gyu disappeared. Hye-ran tells Jin-gyu’s mother that Jin-gyu said that he had no interest in being the second heir of Ohsung Group (which is true).

But then Hye-ran’s words begin to twist as she explains that she told Jin-gyu the truth about her plan. She’s not technically lying, but she does omit parts, like her own selfish reasons and Jin-gyu’s feelings of betrayal upon hearing her plan.

Jin-gyu’s mother wonders where her son is, and Hye-ran fibs that she’s doing everything she can to find him.

Meanwhile, Jin-gyu takes his opportunity to flee Ji-yoon’s apartment. He leaves her a note taped to a stuffed doll that reads, “You know that ugly dolls look uglier when you put them together, right?”

In the neighborhood, the restaurant owners report to Dan-ah and Kang-soo that they haven’t had a single customer all day. They finally reveal to Kang-soo their troubles, including the bank’s demands that they repay their loans immediately and the building owners’ plans to raise rent by 50%. Kang-soo argues that that kind of rent hike is illegal, but the restaurant owners insist that the building owners here are above the law.

As the restaurant owners leave, Dan-ah laments the way South Korea operates. “We never protect the poor,” she says. Kang-soo won’t stand for it, and for once, Dan-ah doesn’t try to convince him to give up.

Instead, she and Kang-soo round up the building owners and threaten to report their forced contracts and tax evasion. That is, unless they decide to not raise the rent this year.

The building owners scoff at Dan-ah’s proposed blackmail, but Kang-soo interjects that if the restaurants go down, the building owners will lose out too. He explains that they all need to survive together, and the building owners give in.

At Lucky Noodles, Soon-ae grouses about being left alone to eat with Chef Jang again. Chef Jang approaches with a tray of jjajangmyun, singing a song about it as he approaches. He’s even shaped a little heart out of peas for Soon-ae, aww.

For a moment, it seems like Soon-ae is touched, but then she growls at Chef Jang that she doesn’t eat peas. Hehe.

Night has fallen, and Jin-gyu is determined to sleep in the park. But security spots him and tells him to leave.

Out on the street, Ji-yoon spots Jin-gyu and rushes over. She’s excited, thinking that she telepathically communicated with Jin-gyu to meet her. Jin-gyu’s resolve is wavering, and then he recalls the note he left in Ji-yoon’s apartment and insists on rushing home ahead of Ji-yoon, to turn the lights on for her. Sure.

Back at the apartment, Jin-gyu rips the farewell note into pieces. “Oh well,” he says, officially giving in.

At Lucky Noodles, Kang-soo congratulates Dan-ah on her blackmailing skills while they wash dishes together. Dan-ah tells Kang-soo to learn a little blackmail to survive as a business owner. She hesitates, and then tells him that he has to do the dirty work as CEO so that his employees can live as kind people.

Kang-soo says that she sounds like a chairwoman, and Dan-ah teases that she’ll fire him if he doesn’t do as she says. They giggle, and Kang-soo points out that they sound like newlyweds. “And what do newlyweds do at times like these?” Kang-soo closes his eyes and puckers up for a kiss, but receives a wok to the head instead before the teasing and giggling and false attempts at kisses continue. They’re so cute.

Afterwards, Dan-ah asks about Hyun-soo staying with Kang-soo. Kang-soo tells her he’s doing okay with it and sends her home.

On her way home, Dan-ah spots Yeon-ji as she leaves her yoga studio and decides to follow her. Yeon-ji’s made her way to a bar, and Dan-ah pulls up to ask her about it. Yeon-ji starts to make excuses, but then Min-chan runs out of the bar and greets her.

Yeon-ji claims that they’ve been dating this whole time, and that things have been pretty hot between them, which sends a nervous flush to Min-chan’s face. Yeon-ji drags Min-chan into the restaurant. As Dan-ah drives off, knucklehead trio member Ho-young steps out from behind a tree and drops his fried chicken at the shocking news he’s just heard.

Ho-young meets up with Gong-gi, the exact person he doesn’t want to know the news about Yeon-ji and Min-chan. He keeps his mouth shut and nods along as Gong-gi gushes about his determination to woo Yeon-ji.

At the bar, Yeon-ji and Min-chan are having that drink that Yeon-ji promised. Min-chan struggles to keep chugging his beer along with Yeon-ji’s long gulp. Yeon-ji offers to feed him a cherry tomato, and then at the last minute, she yanks it away and eats it herself, causing Min-chan to laugh at her goofiness.

At Ji-yoon’s apartment, Ji-yoon has built a line out of chopsticks to separate her sleeping space from Jin-gyu’s. But it seems as though Ji-yoon only built the barrier in order to break it, and she drops her leg down onto Jin-gyu’s legs with a “Boom!” followed by an explosion of giggles.

Jin-gyu’s scolding doesn’t stop her, and she grabs his hand with a declaration of “Jump!” and then gets Jin-gyu screaming from just saying the word “Zoom!” Jin-gyu huddles in the corner away from her.

Morning arrives, and a still-huddled Jin-gyu lifts chopsticks up like a cross to ward Ji-yoon off. But Ji-yoon wants to take him shopping with her so that they can get deals and drags him (literally) out the door.

At the department store, Ji-yoon pretends that she and Jin-gyu are a married couple in front of the store employees. Jin-gyu mutters to her that he’ll do all the cooking and cleaning if Ji-yoon will just leave him alone at night, and Ji-yoon twists his statement into sexual innuendo.

Meanwhile, Kang-soo spots bank employee Section Chief Na running a food event for the bank and offers to help. Section Chief Na gladly accepts, but asks if Kang-soo’s efforts mean that he has a favor to ask. Kang-soo is looking for help for the neighborhood restaurants, and after briefly hesitating, Section Chief Na heartily agrees to help out.

At SD headquarters, Dan-ah watches as Kang-soo pecks at a computer with his pointer fingers. He needs to write a business plan for Section Chief Na to present to management, but Kang-soo’s never bothered to learn how to use a computer.

Dan-ah can’t stand to watch struggles and offers to write the plan. As she types, Kang-soo responds to her every demand for water, coffee, and of course ice cream, which he hand feeds to her.

They revise together, and Kang-soo tries to take a moment to lean in for a kiss. Dan-ah snarls at first, but then rushes in to give him a peck on the lips, which causes Kang-soo’s eyes to grow wide.

Dan-ah refuses Kang-soo’s offer to take her home, but he runs alongside her bike anyway. They arrive at Dan-ah’s building just as Ji-yoon and Jin-gyu return with their housewares, shocked to see the two together.

The men go off to a convenience store, and Kang-soo inquires about Jin-gyu, wanting to know where he’s been and how he ended up with Ji-yoon. Jin-gyu’s response is just a shrug. Jin-gyu then asks about Kang-soo’s business, and encourages Kang-soo to hold on for just six months.

Jin-gyu was paying attention during his time with the Jung Family, and it turns out that the restaurant can’t sustain the low prices for more than six months. After that, they typically raise their rates significantly once the competition is gone.

Meanwhile, the ladies are in Ji-yoon’s apartment, where they discuss Ji-yoon’s arranged courtship with Jin-gyu. Dan-ah is scandalized when she hears the two are living together, but Ji-yoon swears they haven’t crossed any lines.

Before Dan-ah leaves, Ji-yoon asks if Kang-soo would consider hiring Jin-gyu as a deliveryman. Dan-ah says they aren’t looking for anyone, but Ji-yoon says Jin-gyu will settle for intern or part-time. Haha.

At Gong-gi’s apartment, Ho-young agonizes over his Min-chan and Yeon-ji information while Byung-soo and Young-taek take phone calls outside. Both are calls for money (Young-taek’s little sister and credit card debit collectors for Byung-soo), and they turn to the only ones they think can help: the neighborhood loan sharks.

Back at Lucky Noodles, Kang-soo finds Sung-jae sitting with a passed-out Hyun-soo. Sung-jae wants to know if he’s going to let Hyun-soo work with them or not, and Kang-soo insists that Hyun-soo needs to go home. Sung-jae heads out, and Kang-soo tucks Hyun-soo in.

Dan-ah finds Kang-soo sleeping in the restaurant the next morning, and she’s followed in by Hyun-soo’s (and Kang-soo’s) mom. Mom asks about Hyun-soo, but Kang-soo refuses to answer and only tells her to leave.

Hyun-soo comes downstairs, and his mother drags him towards the door. Hyun-soo looks to Kang-soo for help, but Kang-soo yells at him to go home and not come back. Kang-soo heads upstairs while Hyun-soo and his mom leave.

Dan-ah finds Kang-soo upstairs in the SD office. She’s surprised to see that he’s not upset, or pretending not to be, and is focused on the business plan they drafted. He asks Dan-ah to call all the SD employees and restaurant owners together.

Kang-soo brings his good news to the restaurant owners, including the agreement with the building owners and the proposal with the bank. Instead of joy, however, Kang-soo only gets downcast stares in response. The restaurants still face the problem of having no customers.

Kang-soo suggests competing with Jung Family Foods by offering lower prices and fresh, domestic ingredients. But the restaurant owners protest that they can’t afford any of that. Kang-soo offers to help with everything, and begs them to just last the six months they need for Jung Family Foods to fail. But the restaurant owners have no more hope left, and they ask him to give up.

One by one, the restaurants go up for rent, and the SD affiliate signs are removed. The SD crew laze around with no deliveries to make, and Kang-soo sends them all home, with Dan-ah being the last to go.

At home, Dan-ah tells Yeon-ji that one person can’t change the whole country. Yeon-ji sees this as proof that Dan-ah should go to America as planned and forget about everyone, but Dan-ah no longer wants to let everything go.

Dan-ah returns to Lucky Noodles and finds Kang-soo still in the SD office. “Try again,” she says. “I want to see someone like you succeed. So show it to me and make me happy.” Dan-ah promises that she won’t leave if he succeeds, and then confesses, “I love you.”

 
COMMENTS

Confessions are officially made! Kang-soo has been the one steadily delivering the dreamy eyes at Dan-ah all episode, but it’s Dan-ah who had the courage in the end to confess the full strength of her feelings right when it counted.

Up until this episode, I really wanted Dan-ah to make it to America. While Kang-soo is a great guy, I didn’t want to watch Dan-ah give up on her dream just to stay with him. But the more time we’ve spent with Dan-ah, the more apparent it is that there’s nothing particular in America that she wants—she just wants to not be in South Korea anymore. She blames the country for all of the horrible circumstances and has used America as this stand-in for the solution to all her problems.

And it seems that maybe Dan-ah’s been waiting for someone like Kang-soo to step forward and change her mind, but at the same time, she’s been fearing it, because Kang-soo reflects back to Dan-ah the hope that she had before her aspirations were crushed. Kang-soo is what Dan-ah could have been if she hadn’t felt the need to harden herself against the world. So now, Dan-ah not fleeing to America is more palatable to me. Kang-soo isn’t her great romance that holds her back from her true dreams—he’s the miracle that she’s been looking for all along, some proof that things can be fixed and proof that the wealthy and cruel can’t always win.

The shift in Dan-ah is remarkable. I like that the show took its time getting us here, and we’ve spent so much time with Dan-ah’s dour expressions that her smile seemed beyond giant every time she flashed it this episode. I barely recognize Dan-ah in these moments, and it’s for the better.

The burn of capitalism discussed last week arrived as promised to try to destroy Kang-soo’s dream. Everything was going so well for so long, but it appears that even when all the problems are solved, the big businesses always win. Kang-soo’s faith has always been unwavering when it comes to the strength of his own will, but it wasn’t enough to keep the restaurants afloat. Kang-soo’s power of kindness only works when everyone believes that good things can happen. So it’s a good thing that Dan-ah is now a convert. We’ve just got to get the restaurants back on board. I’m wondering if Jin-gyu might have the ingenious solution they need, once Ji-yoon sends him away to work at SD.

And Jin-gyu and Ji-yoon… man. I knew cohabitation was going to be fun to watch, but I can’t believe how masterfully they were able to keep increasing the aww factor with each shift of the scenes. I thought nothing could be cuter than Ji-yoon rolling Jin-gyu across the floor like a roly-poly bug, but then her playful attacks as they lay next to each other… I don’t understand how Jin-gyu managed to stay cross with her (I guess maybe the whole kidnapping thing).

Some minor character subplots resonated with me, while others really fell flat. Yeon-ji’s dad subplot was the kind of gentle side character expansion that I enjoy in this show. I enjoyed seeing Yeon-ji’s close relationship with her father, and I better understood how she and Dan-ah became friends. In contrast, the impending confrontation between Min-chan and his dad was so non-confrontational that I couldn’t understand why we even bothered, other than to give the guys a chance to run around a baseball field. I’m a little bitter that I bothered to feel some apprehension when there was zero actual conflict.

The two knucklehead boys turning to loan sharks just makes me angry too. Why on earth wouldn’t they think of Kang-soo first? Do we really need to keep the loan sharks around to the final week? I say no, and I hope as we’re getting so close to the end, we get to shed the extraneous non-conflicts and focus in on Kang-soo and Jin-gyu’s amazing bromance as they triumph against The Man.

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