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Thirty But Seventeen: Episodes 9-10

As much as he tries, Woo-jin can’t ignore Seo-ri because there’s something about her that brings out his protective side, and his increased worries coincide with Seo-ri’s deepening interest in Mr. Gong. Chan officially makes it a triangle, though the poor boy doesn’t quite realize that he’s suffering from the first pangs of love. As if matters aren’t complicated enough, Woo-jin is forced to confront his greatest fear.

 
EPISODE 9: “Moonlight”

Woo-jin is at work in his bedroom when a leaf flutters down from the open skylight. He sees the moon overhead and twirls the leaf with a smile, until he hears someone wailing.

Woo-jin and Chan run to Seo-ri’s room but before they can investigate, Jennifer appears out of nowhere and calmly guesses, “I think it’s coming from the room under the stairs.” Something rolls out of the room just as Seo-ri stumbles out and cries, “My eyes!” She feels her way around while a panicked Chan blurts out, “Are you blind?”

Seo-ri tells him that her eyes burn and fumbles her way to the kitchen. Woo-jin holds up an onion and when the men peek inside her room, they’re taken aback by the bags of onions from a Chinese restaurant.

Seo-ri sits with an ice bag on her eyes while Woo-jin summarizes — she has a part-time job peeling onions for a restaurant, one of the few jobs that doesn’t require experience. Seo-ri explains that she must repair her violin and hints that she’ll have more expenses if she doesn’t find her uncle.

When Woo-jin notices Deok-gu in Jennifer’s arms, she explains that onions are harmful to dogs so she wants to keep him safe. Barely able to open her eyes, Seo-ri insists that she’s fine and sends everyone back to bed.

Woo-jin shares that he was once hit in the face with leeks and learned that fresh air relieves the burning. Chan looks ready to take on his uncle’s attacker so Jennifer slips away.

Chan finds Seo-ri in the garden and checks on her eyes but his gaze falls on her lips (Uh-oh). He backs away but becomes curious when he sees Seo-ri’s special way of looking at the moon.

Seo-ri explains that her mother taught it to her and a flashback shows Seo-ri with her mother on a walkway. Her mother insisted that the rabbit bow hold would coax a wish-granting rabbit from behind the moon. The memory ends as mother and daughter gaze together at the moon while Chan smiles at the thought of Seo-ri as a child.

Seo-ri holds up her hand to look at the moon while Woo-jin opens his window, unable to see her signature pose below. For just a few seconds, we flashback to Seo-ri and Woo-jin as teenagers, as he watched her gaze at the moon from a walkway.

In the morning, Seo-ri mixes up some dough in the kitchen until she hears Deok-soo and Hae-bum yell to Chan that it’s time for school. When Chan asks the boys to help with the onions (now enclosed in a small pen), Seo-ri runs out, worried about their eyes.

When Jennifer reminds the boys that it’s time for school, she’s confronted by four masked helpers peeling onions. Deok-soo complains that he can’t breathe and pulls off his mask and everyone else follows his example. Hae-bum offers to buy Seo-ri a new violin until Jennifer explains that Seo-ri’s violin is a two-hundred year old masterpiece from Italy worth up to 500 million won.

Deok-soo wonders how Jennifer knows all that information and she suddenly remembers that she has to get back to work. Hae-bum and Deok-soo want more information on the housekeeper but Chan and Seo-ri know nothing.

Deok-soo suddenly thinks Seo-ri should find something that will earn lots of money right away but Chan warns, “It’s either a scam, or a really big scam.” When Woo-jin walks in, Hae-bum announces that they can help a bit longer if he drives them to school. Deok-soo barks at Woo-jin to hurry up and get ready for work and he races upstairs when the boys yell, “Go, go!”

Seo-ri’s dough sits in a bowl, her hand print visible on the surface. Chan places his hand over it and observes with a smile, “She’s smaller than I thought.” When Woo-jin finally comes downstairs, Deok-soo irritably announces that he’ll be outside.

In his hurry, Woo-jin almost trips on the plant so Seo-ri promises to put it back. He tells her to leave it so that it can bloom and spreads out his fingers for emphasis just like Seo-ri does. Suddenly self-conscious, Woo-jin walks out while Se-ri beams.

Ri-an calls to Chan when he arrives at school but covers her head with her gym shorts when she sees his uncle. Woo-jin is about to measure a pot but stops when he remembers Seo-ri’s quesstion, “Can you stop pulling out your tape measure when you’re out in public?”

Hee-soo arrives at work and complains when Woo-jin fails to greet her. She blames his lack of friends on his lack of manners but suddenly remembers Seo-ri.

Hee-soo wants to know why she calls him “Ahjussi” and Hyun wonders if it’s the “pink” woman who dropped off an elaborate lunch. Cornered, Woo-jin leaves for a meeting with the promise that he won’t be back.

At home, Seo-ri calculates how much money she needs to support herself, disappointed that her meager earnings are nowhere near enough. She takes a moment to wonder if there is a way to earn money quickly.

Woo-jin meets with his clients at a restaurant and becomes distracted when he sees Seo-ri through the window, wearing makeup. His voice drifts off when he sees her walk into a bar and he remembers that she pledged to do anything to fix her violin.

Woo-jin rushes to wrap up the meeting and then races out of the restaurant. He walks into the bar and interrupts a couple of beefy bouncers on a lunch break to ask if a woman just walked in. They insist that no one entered but Woo-jin doesn’t believe them. He calls out for Seo-ri and then runs to check the private rooms. The bodyguards carry Woo-jin out to the street while he yells out frantically for Seo-ri, just as she emerges from the building in bright makeup.

Seo-ri assumes that Woo-jin was measuring things again and after she gets the bodyguards to release him, explains, “He’s not a crazy person or a perverted bastard…he has an occupational illness.” The bodyguards look at her and wonder, “Who is this pink raccoon?”

Woo-jin wants to know why Seo-ri is in the area so she shows him some socks that she just picked up for work. Exasperated, Woo-jin asks about her face and Seo-ri suddenly remembers the bright makeup samples that she applied too heavily.

When Woo-jin explains that the makeup gave him the wrong idea, Seo-ri realizes that he assumed that she went into the bar. Embarrassed, Woo-jin walks away and leaves behind a shoe that fell off when he was carried out. Seo-ri returns it but discovers gum on the bottom of his sock, so she offers him a sample that the factory owner gave her.

People on the street stare as Woo-jin wears one lace trimmed sock. Seo-ri worries about how it looks and when he insists that he doesn’t care, she remembers that he said the same thing when it looked like he had poop on his pants. She tries to understand why Woo-jin thought that she was at the bar and when he refuses to answer, she follows him with even more questions.

Chan’s rowing team skims across the water until he suddenly drops his oars. His chest itchy, Chan assumes that he was bitten by a bug. On shore, Hae-bum and Deok-soo look at Chan’s chest and decide that he must have dry skin.

Woo-jin and Seo-ri stroll through a park when she asks how long he’s known her name, because he never used it before. She’s thankful for his concern and he can’t help but smile when she promises that she won’t do anything shameful to earn money.

Woo-jin finally asks why Seo-ri calls him “Ahjussi” when they’re the same age. He’s confused when she answers, “You’re the same age as my homeroom teacher. Oh, I forgot. I’m thirty, aren’t I?”

Seo-ri runs off when she sees a fountain, surprised by a sign on the ground that reads, “Drinking water.” She can’t believe that fountains now contain drinking water even though Woo-jin isn’t confident that’s true.

Seo-ri drinks the fountain water and encourages Woo-jin to join her. When a park employee finds the sign on the ground, he returns it to a drinking fountain nearby. Woo-jin can’t help but laugh at the look on Seo-ri’s face when she’s forced to spit out a mouthful of water.

Woo-jin carries the socks while Seo-ri tries to decide whether or not her stomach hurts. She suddenly remembers the socks and is about to run back for them until Woo-jin shows her the sack. Seo-ri declares Woo-jin a good person but she finds it strange that he tries to hide that fact.

Woo-jin stops in his tracks as Seo-ri continues, “It’s as if your heart is all curled up.” When she sees him, Seo-ri apologizes, “Oh I forgot, You told me not to make assumptions.” A well timed phone call from the valet at the restaurant rescues Woo-jin — it seems that he forgot to pick up his car.

Woo-jin sends Seo-ri ahead and watches her walk away as he ponders her words, “I think you’re trying to hide that you’re a good person.” Once he continues on his way, Seo-ri turns and sees Woo-jin puts his earbuds in his ears.

Woo-jin apologizes to the valet when he picks up his car and then asks himself, “What am I doing?” In his car, Seo-ri’s explanation that Woo-jin is the same age as her homeroom teacher puzzles him.

With his chick by his side, safe in its pen, Chan finishes some exercises in the garden and then stares into the sky. He thinks of Seo-ri and wonders, “How does she still believe that? It’s cute.” When he tries to copy her rabbit hold, Chan’s chest gets itchy.

In her room, Seo-ri sorts the socks and recreates Woo-jin’s screaming of her name outside of the bar. The memory makes her giggle bashfully and then she begins to hum.

At his desk, Woo-jin catches sight of the lace trimmed sock and thinks of Seo-ri at the fountain. Then he remembers how she confronted the bouncers in his defense and admits, “I guess she’s kind of cute.” A breeze blows in from the skylight and Woo-jin looks up at the moon with a smile.

EPISODE 10: “Flashbacks”

On the way home, Jennifer turns and points a dried fish at Ri-an, only to realize that she’s headed for Woo-jin’s house. When Ri-an learns that Jennifer is the housekeeper, she introduces herself as Chan’s girlfriend only to be told, “Tripping over the same rock twice will result in humiliation.” Ri-an correctly credits the words to Cicero, to Jennifer’s surprise.

When Chan and his friends arrive, Ri-an is relieved to hear that his uncle isn’t home. She’s confused by Seo-ri, certain that Chan doesn’t have a sister. Hae-bum explains that she’s is a former resident who arranged to live at the house for a month.

Ri-an introduces herself as Chan’s girlfriend but when he insists that they’re just friends, she explains that’s because he won’t date until he wins the nationals. Seo-ri can’t take her eyes off of Ri-an and the girl assumes it’s because she’s pretty but it’s the school uniform that Seo-ri finds pretty. Hae-bum and Deok-soo burst out laughing but Chan looks at Seo-ri sadly.

Everybody helps to fold socks and when Ri-an complains, the boys laugh that it’s better than onions. Deok-soo is stunned when Seo-ri winks at him and whispers to Hae-bum,” I think Ms. Stairs likes me.”

Chan notices Seo-ri’s eye twitch and when she blames it on some dust, he leans in very close to help her. A jealous Ri-an manages to spill juice on Seo-ri’s only clothes and when she runs to the bathroom, Chan decides to offer her some of his clothes. Ri-an stops Chan when she grabs his ankle but he sends her upstairs to wash her sticky hands.

When Ri-an walks out of the bathroom and realizes that Woo-jin is home early, she dons a Buddha mask and runs past him all the way to the street. Vowing not to give up, Ri-an walks away while the mysterious woman in yellow stares at Woo-jin’s house from the street.

Woo-jin gets an impish smile when he sees Seo-ri drinking water and deadpans, “I put fountain water in that one.” She spits it out and then he admits, “I’m kidding,” and gives her a fresh glass of water. Pleased with his joke, Woo-jin smiles to himself all the way up the stairs.

Seo-ri walks home with another bag of socks when she sees a banner about a missing person. She informs the installer that she needs to look for someone but discovers that the ad is expensive and there’s a months-long waiting list.

Seo-ri gets home just as Jennifer walks by with the plunger for the skylight. The housekeeper plans to use it on a toilet that won’t flush properly and suspects that Woo-jin is responsible since she found the plunger in his room.

Horrified, Seo-ri tries to explain that it’s not that kind of plunger just when Woo-jin shows up and explains that it’s for the skylight. Thrilled that he saved the plunger from a terrible fate, Seo-ri hums and skips away, her good mood witnessed by Chan.

Seo-ri prepares to give Deok-gu a snack but she can’t remember how Woo-jin wanted her to serve it. She finds him asleep at his desk and can’t resist walking into his room to gaze at his face. Seo-ri smiles as she studies every feature but when Woo-jin stirs, she drops to the floor and crawls out to the hallway.

The next day, Seo-ri calls Chan and Woo-jin to breakfast only to learn that his uncle already left for a meeting. She’s about to close his bedroom door when she sees the plunger labelled, “For the window.”

Seo-ri runs out to the street and when she seesWoo-jin, she chases after him and calls his name. A cramp stops her but Seo-ri sees Woo-jin walk away with the earbuds in his ears and remembers that they’re never connected to anything.

Seo-ri walks home in mismatched sandals and arrives just as Ri-an steps out of a taxi, laden with bags. Inside, Ri-an offers clothes to Seo-ri with the excuse that she planned to donate them anyway.

Seo-ri can’t bring herself to accept them but when Ri-an asks for the nearest donation center, she relents. Chan compliments Ri-an’s generosity while her sister stands in front of her empty closet and yells out, “Mom! Ri-an stole all of my clothes!”

In a tae kwon do studio, Jennifer expertly breaks board after board with one high kick after another. When one of the fragments hits her in the back, she falls to the floor.

Dressed in her new clothes, Seo-ri lets herself into an apartment as we hear Jennifer’s explanation that she cleans it every other week after her workout. She asked Seo-ri to go in her place and she cleans the apartment per Jennifer’s detailed instructions.

When she dusts a table, Seo-ri knocks over a picture that includes Hyung-tae in a group photo. Seo-ri then sees an award for Kim Hyung-tae and thinks about her old friend.

Seo-ri exits the apartment building just before Hyung-tae returns. She remembers that she was supposed to pick up the payment on her way out so she returns to the apartment, unaware that Hyung-tae is asleep in the bedroom. Hyung-tae wakes up when he hears someone but the only proof that someone was there are some mismatched slippers.

The sight of the slippers triggers a flashback for Hyung-tae, who remembers Seo-ri in the days before the accident. Young Hyung-tae ran up to Seo-ri at school and informed her that she had on one black shoe and one white shoe.

Hyung-tae argued that her absentmindedness was reason enough for him to accompany her to Germany. She giggled when he made her a heart with his hands and as the sound of her laugh echoes in the present, Hyung-tae sighs heavily.

Seo-ri walks home and crosses over a street on a walkway just as Hee-soo drops Woo-jin off nearby. Woo-jin sees her and waves just as Seo-ri pauses to look at the moon with her rabbit hold, which triggers another horrific flashback of the bus accident.

The ring of a bell is heard as Woo-jin’s shaking hands cover his ears and his eyes fill with tears. He manages to turn around and stagger away while everything around him spins.

Seo-ri does her best to mimic Jennifer when she brings her some fruit. Seo-ri notices a music box with a small ballerina on a shelf and marvels at its beauty while Jennifer looks at it sadly. (Is that a German music box?)

Seo-ri offers the payment to Jennifer, who insists that is belongs to the person who did the work. They go back and forth until Jennifer tries to get up, which convinces Seo-ri to keep the money. When she turns to leave, Jennifer comments that Seo-ri looks beautiful tonight, like the moon.

Seo-ri washes her hands and then turns from side to side as she takes in her appearance in the bathroom mirror. She waits outside on the street for Woo-jin and notes that he’s late. Chan sees her and assumes she wants to ask him about the internet and reminds her that she can use it whenever she wants.

Chan suddenly notices Seo-ri’s clothes and asks, “Why do you look so pretty today?” Determined to record the moment, Chan takes out his phone and snaps a photo. Seo-ri keeps looking for Woo-jin but Chan waits for her to follow him inside.

Woo-jin sits in the dark at work and stares at an online article about the bus accident. It lists No Soo-mi as one of the two people who died and he flashes back to her funeral. He saw Soo-mi’s classmates crying and when her father thanked Woo-jin for his attendance, he turned around and ran out.

In the morning, Seo-ri is back in her regular clothes when she runs to Woo-jin’s room, only to hear from Jennifer that he got home late and left early. Seo-ri peeks into his room, regretful that she hasn’t been able to thank him for labelling the plunger.

The man who ran into Woo-jin at the veterinarian’s office looks up and sees the teenaged Woo-jin in his doorway. That image is displaced by the present day Woo-jin, looking extremely fragile. According to a flashback, the doctor, a colleague of Woo-jin’s sister, first meet Woo-jin in 2005 and had trouble connecting with the non-responsive teenager. The doctor finally managed to get through to Woo-jin when he asked for drawing lessons.

Woo-jin explains to the doctor that his memories returned when Seo-ri showed up. The doctor isn’t convinced that Seo-ri is the trigger because similar sounds and circumstances could have provoked his flashbacks.

The doctor counsels Woo-jin to accept that Seo-ri is not the same person as the girl who died and urges him to find out how she’s different. Woo-jin wants to know what to do if he experiences another flashback and the doctor suggests thinking about a happy and comfortable experience.

Tae-rin talks with Hyun on the phone and asks to speak with the female employee that she spoke with previously. Hyun hands the phone to Hee-soo but after she hangs up, she wonders who Tae-rin spoke with.

An exhausted Deok-soo and Hae-bum wonder why Chan isn’t tired after their practice, but he shares, “I’m not tired at all. The world is so beautiful.” He marvels at the clouds only to be told that they’re gray and then describes a crow’s cawing as beautiful. Chan answers a call from Hee-soo, who has a question for him.

Before Woo-jin returns to the office, he calculates how many more days are left in the month that he promised to Seo-ri.

Chan and the team are on the water when he drops his oars, suddenly aware of what that itch in his chest is all about.

When Woo-jin walks into the office he’s greeted by a cheerful Seo-ri. He’s stunned when Hee-soo explains that she’s been hired to help with the music festival. Woo-jin stares at Seo-ri in disbelief as she smiles broadly, while in voiceover he admits, “I’m scared.”

Woo-jin recalled his encounter with the young Seo-ri on the bus and confessed to his doctor, “I’m scared that as I get closer to her the memories will come back.” His eyes red and his face soaked by tears, an anguished Woo-jin choked out, “I’m scared that I’ll get tangled up in someone’s life again.”

Unaware of her effect on Woo-jin, Seo-ri smiles brightly as his new colleague.

COMMENTS

I spoke too soon because this hour introduced the romantic triangle between Seo-ri and her two roommates — the bubbly Chan and his subdued uncle. This has to be one of the most unusual triangles ever with one teenager, a thirty-year old woman who feels like a teenager and an emotionally delayed thirty-year old man. Without a doubt, Chan is the most emotionally mature of the three but he’s never been in love before so there’s no telling how his feelings for Seo-ri will impact him. What really twists the dynamics is the return of Woo-jin’s nightmarish memories of the bus accident and the fact that Seo-ri is the trigger.

Up until this point, I’ve appreciated Yang Se-jong in this drama solely for his scenes with Ahn Hyo-seop because they have such good comedic chemistry, but this hour changed all of that. I know that Yang Se-jong is capable of so much more but he’s had to deliver a subdued performance to convince us of Woo-jin’s repression, an after effect of the accident. His emotional distance disappeared when he sought out his former doctor for help and confessed his deepest fear. Woo-jin was enveloped by his anguish and Yang Se-jong brought such depth to his character’s suffering and terror that it brought tears to my eyes. It was tragic to think that Woo-jin has been bottling up that fear for so many years and I can understand why he doesn’t want to experience those memories — he’s raw with unresolved guilt and grief. What a powerful scene. But Woo-jin isn’t seventeen anymore, plus the girl that he thinks died lives in the room under his stairs. It’s such a shame that he’s suffered unimaginably over a loss that never was.

Seo-ri’s budding feelings for Woo-jin caught me by surprise because I didn’t expect them so soon. But that’s ridiculous because inside, she’s a seventeen-year-old girl. I’m more comfortable with Seo-ri’s feelings for what amounts to an older man than I am with Chan’s feelings for a girl who’s the same age as his uncle. There are layers of complications that make this romantic triangle feel downright weird at times. I’m going to trust that the writer will manage to smooth everything out so that the relationships make sense by the time we get to the end. One thing I don’t want is to see Chan end up with the stalker/potential-girlfriend, Ri-an. She’s just not worthy of the sweet Chan-chan.

As Thirty But Seventeen prepares to deal with Woo-jin’s deep emotional trauma along with romantic angst, the sweet and funny character interactions are an even more welcomed respite. The writer has done an excellent job of giving the side characters screen time to develop the secondary relationships and I hope that continues. The clues continue to pile up as well and the questions that they raise heightens interest. Jennifer’s role in the lives of Woo-jin and Seo-ri grows with each episode and I can’t imagine how she figures into their pasts. That music box must be from Germany, so does she know Woo-jin, who grew up there? But then why does she know so much about Seo-ri’s violin? And of course we have the mysterious woman in yellow, who has yet to show her face. But my most burning question has to do with Hyung-tae. Why is he so haunted by Seo-ri and what was he running from the night of the accident? There’s obviously so much more to the man whose boyish heart belonged to the young Seo-ri.

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