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Strongest Deliveryman: Episode 14

The struggle to survive in Hell Joseon takes its toll on everyone this hour. While Kang-soo battles the Jung Family head on, everyone else must chip in on their end to make sure the rest of the dominoes don’t fall. But will it be enough to secure a future for themselves, or will the power of the rich prove their resistance futile?

 
EPISODE 14 RECAP

In the Deliveryman office, Dan-ah urges Kang-soo to succeed and show her that she can be happy in Korea. She confesses her love for him and pulls Kang-soo into a warm hug.

Kang-soo hugs her back, and promises that he will succeed for her. He leans in for a kiss, but Dan-ah stops him in his tracks and says to wait until he actually succeeds before doing that, kissing him on the cheek instead.

Back at Gong-gi’s place, the remaining crew are all sound asleep when Kang-soo and Dan-ah suddenly arrive. Kang-soo flicks on the light and sends them all into a frenzy trying to hide their half-naked bodies from Dan-ah.

Once order is restored, the boys apologize to Dan-ah for the inappropriate view they gave her, but the Knucklehead Trio quickly undermines the apology with some questionable jokes about who looked best among them, earning a slap on the back from Dan-ah.

The group refocuses on the purpose of the meeting, as Kang-soo reveals that his goal is to reopen all of the restaurants that the Jung Family are crowding out, and the group make plans to convince the owners tomorrow morning.

In the morning, as the owners grumble about how stubborn Kang-soo and the gang are being, Gong-gi arrives to usher them outside to meet Kang-soo. Kang-soo is not empty-handed though, and he offers truckloads of fresh ingredients, which he tells the owners that they won’t have to pay for until later (in exchange for selling their food at the same price as the Jung Family).

The owners are still unsure — after all, the Jung Family doesn’t face the same financial pressure that they do. But soon the landlords arrive, and Dan-ah attempts to persuade them into not collecting rent from their tenants this month.

Dan-ah argues that there are no prospective tenants who could replace the current restaurant owners, so there’s nothing to gain from kicking them out. Kang-soo explains that all of them are in the same boat, and they’ll all either survive together or fail together, so they might as well at least try to survive.

Additionally, Kang-soo wants the landlords to help with advertising Restaurant Row when it reopens, since they’re also advertising the buildings for prospective new tenants. They tentatively agree, and as the restaurant owners happily leave, Gong-gi makes a point of giving each of them a Strongest Deliveryman affiliate sign to hang again at their stores.

Back at Jung Family headquarters, Hye-ran fumes as she wonders why sales suddenly dropped so significantly today. She and the branch manager then head to Restaurant Row and find it bustling with customers.

They run into Kang-soo, who is out making deliveries, and Hye-ran trades barbs with him over his new strategy. She warns him that he and the restaurant owners who live day-to-day on the money they make from sales won’t be able to last long with such a small amount of profit being made.

But it’s the opposite, Kang-soo argues. “It’s because they live day-to-day on the money they make that they will be able to last, because it will truly be the end for them if they’re kicked out of here,” he adds.

At Ji-yoon’s new place, Jin-gyu slaves over lunch to bring to Ji-yoon, and when he brings it to her on her lunch break, she doesn’t move a muscle as he begrudgingly feeds it to her himself. She even makes him move her water closer to her face so she can drink from it. Ha.

She smiles happily and expresses her satisfaction with their date, pointedly referring to Jin-gyu as her “Wife.” Jin-gyu starts to protest the term, but quickly relents and passively acquiesces, “Yes, Husband.” He tells her to earn a lot of money for them, and she wastes no time with her reply, “All right, Wife.” Oh, you two are too cute.

Ji-yoon tells him that he should look for a job for himself as well, even though he doesn’t think any company would hire him. She encourages him to go for it, though, before heading back to work . After she leaves, he begrudgingly admits that feeding her feels good.

At the bank, Kang-soo brings some of the restaurant owners to meet with Han-tae. Kang-soo hands over his proposal, and Han-tae reassures the owners that he will get them a loan at the best possible rate.

When he brings the proposal to his manager, Han-tae passionately argues in favor of the loan and vouches for Kang-soo’s upstanding character.

Back at Jung Family headquarters, the branch manager informs Hye-ran that Restaurant Row owners got a new loan from Han-tae’s bank, and that they aren’t even paying rent this month to their landlords.

The branch manager speculates they must be using the Jung Family strategy to hang on in spite of losses for a few months, and wonders if someone inside Jung Family tipped them off about the strategy.

Hye-ran orders her henchman to look into all the employees of Strongest Deliveryman for any kind of weak link she can use against them.

Kang-soo leads a meeting at the Deliveryman office, complimenting everyone on their work to bring Restaurant Row back. Gong-gi echoes the sentiment, and calls attention to Dan-ah for how well she helped her boyfriend, adding, “It’s crucial for a man to meet a good woman in order to succeed”.

Dan-ah flinches at the comment but admits that she plans to look after Kang-soo from now on, earning a teasing cheer from the rest of the table. Gong-gi follows up with another remark about Dan-ah and Kang-soo’s relationship, and she smacks him on the back in response.

Kang-soo brings matters back to business, stating that things will get difficult starting tomorrow, but he coyly refuses to reveal the details of his plan to everyone.

Just then, Ji-yoon interrupts the meeting to try to convince Kang-soo to hire Jin-gyu. Kang-soo says he was planning to scout Jin-gyu anyway, and sends Ji-yoon off looking pleased.

There are murmurs of discontent at the idea among the rest of the crew, but Kang-soo reveals that everything they did today was Jin-gyu’s idea, and this pacifies any further resistance.

Back at Ji-yoon’s place, Jin-gyu erects a fence-like contraption between the two sides of the sleeping area to stop Ji-yoon’s advances. Ji-yoon won’t let that stop her, however, and she playfully bugs Jin-gyu over the fence until he shoos her away.

Not long after, she’s right back at it with her best The Grudge impression, lifting Jin-gyu right out of his bedding in fright.

Just then, a knock on the door signals Ji-yoon’s dad’s arrival, and the couple scrambles to erase any trace of Jin-gyu’s existence from the immediate area as Jin-gyu hides in the bathroom.

Dad is just there to check in on his daughter, but not wanting to arouse suspicion on herself, she quickly turns him on the defensive by bringing up his private detective spies. Dad admits to it, but claims he stopped spying when he found out that Ji-yoon ended things with both Kang-soo and Jin-gyu.

Ji-yoon asks if he really hates her dating that much, and he sweetly tells her that he just wants her to stay as his daughter forever.

It’s only now that Dad notices the fence contraption in the middle of the room, and he suspiciously interrogates Ji-yoon about its purpose. Thinking quick, Ji-yoon claims she set it up for her stuffed animal, which is a good enough cover story for dad.

Dad suddenly feels the need to use the bathroom, and Ji-yoon scrambles to come up with an excuse for why he can’t use hers as Jin-gyu nervously tries to not give away his position. Dad relents to his daughter’s request and heads back home.

Jin-gyu sheepishly exits his hiding place and offers his sympathy for Ji-yoon’s dad. Ji-yoon tells Jin-gyu that he can just make it up to her by making her happy instead, and he smiles to himself at the thought.

As the Deliveryman crew wrap up their meeting, Dan-ah and Kang-soo stay behind together, which prompts yet another teasing comment at Dan-ah, this time from Sung-jae.

Kang-soo brushes off Dan-ah’s frustration at the comment, and instead tries to pull her in for another kiss, but Dan-ah skillfully dodges it. She pushes him forcefully against the wall in the same seductive manner Soon-ae taught him in the past, and Kang-soo closes his eyes and readies his lips in anticipation of a kiss. Dan-ah, though, flicks him on the forehead instead. Ha.

Dan-ah heads downstairs and decides to spontaneously cook for Kang-soo. He gratefully accepts and says it’s the first time someone has ever cooked a meal for him.

Kang-soo is curious why onion rings are the only thing Dan-ah knows how to cook. Dan-ah hesitates before she reveals the story of her past. She tells Kang-soo about how she gave up studying to start working instead, and how miserable she was giving up on her dream of going to college.

She confesses that she tried to kill herself back then, but survived after a woman pulled her out of the river. When the woman brought Dan-ah back to her Chinese restaurant, the woman’s husband offered Dan-ah some of his onion rings, and she still remembers how delicious they tasted in her revitalized state.

She tells Kang-soo that she made up her mind then to never attempt suicide again, and that she makes onion rings whenever she feels really upset as a way to boost her spirits. She offers to make them for Kang-soo, too, whenever he feels down.

Dan-ah and Kang-soo stare into each other’s eyes for a moment, and this time, it’s Dan-ah who leans in and plants a soft kiss on Kang-soo’s lips. She pulls back and cheerily tells Kang-soo to do his best, and he smiles in agreement.

The next day, Chef Jang catches up to Soon-ae outside her apartment because he wants to walk her to work. She protests, but he ignores her biting retorts while smiling to himself, and heads off as Soon-ae follows close behind.

As they walk together, they happen upon Hye-ran, who is discussing business with Soon-ae’s bank manager ex-husband, and the mood quickly turns sour. Soon-ae ferociously yells at her ex-husband, who swiftly scurries away to avoid making a further scene.

Meanwhile, Jin-gyu tracks Ji-yoon down outside their place because she forgot her phone, but Ji-yoon explains that she bought it for him, and tells him to make sure he answers it if someone calls.

She runs off without explaining, and immediately the phone rings. It’s Strongest Deliveryman calling to tell him he is hired. Ji-yoon’s meddling agitates Jin-gyu, but as he turns to storm back home, the Deliveryman crew surround him on all sides and force him to come work for them.

Cut to: Jin-gyu in a full-body cow costume. Ha. Jin-gyu moans about his task, but when Gong-gi points out that his other options are dressing as a cheerleader or becoming a target for water balloon tossers, he relents and dutifully hands out fliers in his costume.

Back at the office, Min-chan reveals that a large construction company, Sunjin, is planning to get rid of its cafeteria, meaning that they’ll need to find a new source of food for their employees. Kang-soo plans to bid with all of the restaurants under the Strongest Deliveryman banner.

Jung Family Foods is aware of this opportunity as well, and Hye-ran plans a bid of her own. The branch manager estimates that Sunjin’s business could be worth almost five hundred thousand dollars per month.

Sunjin’s employees will vote on the best bid, so now, it’s a competition to see who can woo more employees to their side. Kang-soo knows this deal could make or break Strongest Deliveryman, and the team strategizes over a round of drinks.

Ji-yoon is out on the curb when Jin-gyu gets back to ask him all about his first day on the job. Ji-yoon worries about Jin-gyu being an outcast, but he assures her that they treat him well, even if he finds the atmosphere a bit awkward.

Meanwhile, Chef Jang walks a distraught Soon-ae back to her apartment, and he advises her to forget about their encounter with her ex-husband that day. Soon-ae breaks down in tears, and when Chef Jang tries to console her, she yells that it’s his fault — if he had just listened to her back then, she cries, then none of their hardships would have happened.

She sends him away, but before he leaves, she warns him not to cause any more trouble. Through sobs, she ekes out, “I’ll be fine after crying a bit. Don’t worry and just sleep.”

Meanwhile, the Deliveryman crew visits a noraebang to blow off steam after work, but as they leave, they all spot Yeon-ji as she receives orders to get to work from the manager.

Yeon-ji tries to slip by, but Dan-ah stops her briefly to question what she is doing there. Yeon-ji just brushes her off and gets back to work. Dan-ah starts to chase after her, but Min-chan attempts to intercede. He’s only temporarily successful, and Dan-ah drags Yeon-ji out of the building.

Outside, Yeon-ji cattily argues over her new job with Dan-ah. Yeon-ji needs money, and with Dan-ah planning to leave soon and no other means to get money, this was her only option. Yeon-ji admits that working there is scary, but what’s even scarier is living without money. She refuses to listen to Dan-ah and heads back in to work, leaving Dan-ah stunned.

At Gong-gi’s house, the rest of the gang express their shock at finding out about Yeon-ji’s job, and Min-chan eventually springs up to chase her down and comfort her. He finds her outside walking home, and she collapses into a ball of tears in front of him.

Back at Lucky Noodles, Dan-ah worries over Yeon-ji’s troubles and blames herself for not seeing the truth sooner. Kang-soo counsels that Dan-ah shouldn’t blame herself, and that the best course of action is to wait for Yeon-ji.

Kang-soo advises that he did the same for Sung-jae in the past by trusting him and waiting for him to come back, and he holds Dan-ah close to him as she contemplates his words.

When Yeon-ji returns home that night, she finds Dan-ah already lying down in their room, and heads to sleep herself without a word.

The next morning, the Deliveryman crew continues to strategize, and Jin-gyu suggests they take a more emotional tack and try to connect with the workers on a more personal level, and they all agree.

Kang-soo tells Jin-gyu to come with him to submit their bid to Sunjin in case there are any difficult questions. Jin-gyu casually agrees, and Dan-ah teases that he should answer formally when talking to the CEO.

Outside the Sunjin building, Kang-soo and Jin-gyu bump into Hye-ran and the branch manager, who are here to submit their own bid. It’s Hye-ran’s first time seeing Jin-gyu since he quit, and he cheekily reveals that he joined Kang-soo’s company.

Hye-ran quips that Kang-soo even knows how to steal people from her, but Kang-soo bites back, “I didn’t steal him away. You lost him.”

Inside, both groups hand in their bids and are told the vote will take place in three days. Meanwhile, Jin-gyu catches up with the branch manager, and tells her that he’s okay with her using his old notes for her business, though she seems quite reticent about it.

Elsewhere, Gong-gi prepares the restaurant owners and the landlords for their campaign to win over the voters, and leads them all in a cheer of solidarity against the Jung Family menace.

Soon after, the campaign is in full swing, the restaurant owners go out of their way to be more welcoming to guests, and the delivery drivers all take time to help out the office employees with odd jobs when they go to deliver food.

After the final day, they retreat to get some rest before the big vote tomorrow. Dan-ah finds Yeon-ji home early, and Yeon-ji tentatively calls for Dan-ah’s attention before she launches into a heartfelt apology, confessing her fear about what to do when Dan-ah leaves.

Yeon-ji recalls something Dan-ah once told her: “People who are poor aren’t living. They’re just surviving.” Yeon-ji felt that same way, that she was just trying to survive and earn money for living expenses, so she had to take that job because she had no hope otherwise.

Dan-ah agrees, but offers a slight change on her old outlook, “If you don’t do anything, there’s nothing. But if you put your mind to it and try, I think you could make hope.” She tells Yeon-ji that Kang-soo is the reason for her new outlook, since he can make hope for everyone when he tries.

The next day, contingents from both Strongest Deliveryman and the Jung Family greet the Sunjin employees as they arrive to vote, and once the vote concludes, all of the bidding parties wait anxiously for the results.

The CEO of Sunjin enters the room, and he heads to the podium to announce the results. He opens the ledger containing the results as the Strongest Deliveryman and Jung Family contingents wait in anticipation for their name to be called.

 
COMMENTS

Though I don’t think it was intended, the offhand comments Dan-ah received from several of her coworkers in this episode feel so bizarrely out of place to me, given the overall arc of Dan-ah’s character throughout the show. So far, we’ve seen Dan-ah grow from someone hell-bent on escaping Korea for a better life elsewhere into someone who is realizing that maybe the Hell Joseon she’s running from is not as bad as she thought it was.

Yet here we are, nearing the end of said arc, and she is being subjected to what is (at best) questionably friendly ribbing, but which reads more like sexual harassment from her colleagues to me. Just last week, Kang-soo was opining about how difficult it must be for a woman in this line of work dealing with horrible, misogynistic customers, and now we’re treated to a litany of comments from the Deliveryman crew.

While I don’t believe for a second that there is any malicious intent on their part, that doesn’t make it okay to say these things to her. Dan-ah seemed visibly uncomfortable with each comment, and it is kind of upsetting to me that nobody, not even Kang-soo, stepped in to put a stop to it at some point. I get that this is a much larger problem with extremely deep roots in society, and that these kind of comments might seem good-natured to the people who make them, but I can’t help but feel sad for Dan-ah, who is trying so hard to accept the idea of staying in Korea, but still faces a tough task just to earn the respect she deserves for her work.

What makes it feel even more out of place is that the rest of Strongest Deliveryman features some extremely strong female characters who subvert this same dynamic themselves. Consider Hye-ran, who built her business empire by ruling with an iron fist, taking charge herself, and steamrolling anyone who got in her way. How about Ji-yoon, who not only completely took control of her relationship, but even acknowledges her gender role swap with Jin-gyu by switching the “husband” and “wife” labels around in their speech?

Clearly these women are capable of taking on these roles without demeaning comments about whether they are fit for them. So why must Dan-ah’s own place in the overall hierarchy of the show regress to the point where she sits through way too many inappropriate remarks without anyone batting an eye? It’s a shame, because I like this show a lot when it’s being fun and cute and full of heart, and I think they’re trying to do that here, but are just way off the mark.

That said, there is still a lot to like in this episode, like the aforementioned Chaebol Couple, who actually couldn’t get any more adorable if they tried. Kim Sun-ho has been an absolute revelation in this series, and it’s hard to believe that not long ago I despised his uncaring, stuck-up brat persona, while now I’m actively rooting for him to pick himself back up and find his own way in the world. He’s still a bit of a childish guy at heart (I mean, look at his solution to Ji-yoon’s grabby bedtime distractions), but he’s grown up a lot recently, and his fleeting realizations of how much he enjoys caring for Ji-yoon are so gratifying to watch.

Ji-yoon, meanwhile, is forging her own path through life, and despite her chaebol roots, she’s managing to do okay for herself. It was nice to see her dad’s concern for her well-being, and how even though she wants to to gain independence from her parents, he still makes the effort to ensure she’s living well, which is more than we can say for her mom. Seriously, have they even talked to each other in the past ten (or so) episodes? Ji-yoon’s come a long way too, from a sad homeless puppy to a strong, independent working-class girl. It’s touching that she and Jin-gyu are finding love not because of their parents’ materialistic matchmaking, but because they both share a similar goal of wanting to succeed in life by their own volition.

But others, like Yeon-ji, are still struggling to get by every month, and it’s hard to fault her for doing what she can to try to survive, even if it meant swallowing her pride and hiding the truth from Dan-ah. Dan-ah, of all people, should be the most understanding of Yeon-ji’s choice. Dan-ah devoted her life to escaping the country to avoid the very situation Yeon-ji finds herself in, where she’s unsure of how she is going to make it through the next month without losing everything.

I think it’s fair that Dan-ah reacted with anger initially when she found out her friend lied to her, and the portrayal of their argument and eventual reconciliation felt very realistic to me. And at the end of the day, Yeon-ji is still her friend, and Dan-ah realizes that she should be there to support Yeon-ji when she needs it most. If there’s any lesson that Dan-ah should have learned from Kang-soo so far, it’s that the hope that can carry you through the darkest times comes from the love and support of the people around you.

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