Jugglers: Episode 7
I like how this relationship is sneaking up on both Chi-won and Yoon-yi, and that it’s growing naturally from a professional connection, to mutual respect, to hints of something more. Neither of them really sees the other as a romantic possibility at this point, at least not consciously, but it’s impossible to spend the majority of every day with someone and not develop some sort of deep feelings. I appreciate that it’s happening slowly and realistically, even as I find myself giggling madly every time Chi-won does something nice for Yoon-yi without even knowing why.
EPISODE 7: “To trust and understand”
After his meeting, Chi-won goes looking for Yoon-yi on the building’s roof. He finds her in the midst of being berated by her old boss, Director Bong, just as he accuses her of giving mixed signals, which he took as proof that she liked him.
It reminds Chi-won that he similarly accused Yoon-yi of sending mixed signals to Chang-soo, her ex-boyfriend. He follows Director Bong into the elevator, and quotes Usopp from One Piece (“There comes a time in a man’s life when he must never avoid a fight. When his friend’s dreams are laughed at.”) before slamming his fist into the wall next to Director Bong’s head.
As fear reduces Director Bong to a quivering excuse for a man, Chi-won tells him that this is just the preliminary round, and that he won’t miss during the final round. He warns Director Bong never to mistreat his assistant again and leaves him huffing impotently.
Unaware of the confrontation, Yoon-yi heads to the lobby in a daze after Director Bong’s verbal attack. She sees Chi-won waiting for her, looking like an angel with a beautiful backlit glow, and she smiles at him as if she’s finally found a safe place to relax.
They go to a convenience store for ramyun, and when Yoon-yi asks why they’re eating hangover food, he says that he just thought she needed it. Awww. Chi-won surprises Yoon-yi by apologizing for his mixed signals comment, admitting that he made a mistaken assumption and that it was a terrible thing to say. Double awww.
Later, Bo-na sees Chi-won turning in an application for the Best Boss Award competition (BBA). She finds Yoon-yi having coffee with Jung-ae and Kyung-rye, and asks accusingly why Yoon-yi didn’t mention it. It’s a complete surprise to Yoon-yi, who picks up on Bo-na’s annoyed tone.
She asks if Bo-na is upset that she and Chi-won will be competing against her and Assistant Director Jo, noting that she often speaks negatively about Chi-won. Bo-na says defensively that they all talk about their bosses behind their backs, then she realizes that Yoon-yi never does that and asks if she’s dating Chi-won.
Just when it looks like things might get really nasty, Bo-na rushes off at the sound of Assistant Director Jo’s laughter. He’s excited that his department swept the Cannes Lions awards (a prestigious global advertising festival), and his toadies, including Bo-na, all say that he’ll win the BBA and become vice-president in no time.
Yoon-yi asks Chi-won why he had a change of heart about the BBA, and as usual he asks if he has to explain himself, though he can’t hide his mischievous grin at her obvious delight. She does a little happy dance at her desk, then gets to work planning.
But Team Leader Gong is worried about something, and whatever it is upsets Assistant Director Jo so badly that he storms into Chi-won’s office, literally kicking the door down. He’s angry that today’s news didn’t include his Cannes Lions wins, and Chi-won calmly explains that he removed that segment from the broadcast because his work was all plagiarized.
He reminds Assistant Director Jo that whenever they hold a student contest, he declares no winner, then edits the contestants’ work and turns it into ads. Assistant Director Jo pales, then splutters it’s an homage, not plagiarism. Chi-won says that gives him a good idea for next week’s feature, asking Assistant Director Jo how he likes the sound of “Is It Okay for Companies to Steal Ideas,” hee.
Later Yoon-yi reminds Chi-won that she has to do a presentation about him in the third round of the BBA competition. She asks if she can interview him, but before she even completes the sentence, he refuses. He tells her to stop trying to learn more about him and just to present what she sees and feels.
She actually likes the idea and gets to work, but she’s interrupted by a summons by Assistant Director Jo. In the boiler room, he asks dramatically if it’s true that Chi-won is participating in the BBA, then he lunges at Yoon-yi… but only to give her an aggressive thumbs-up.
He assumes she persuaded Chi-won and applauds her skills, elated to have a chance to crush Chi-won in front of the entire company. Assuming that Chi-won is so secretive because he has a dark background, Assistant Director Jo tells Yoon-yi to do some digging and see what she can find.
After Yoon-yi leaves, Assistant Director Jo makes a call to someone, telling them to find out what Chi-won and Yoon-yi do every day and report back to him.
Yul grows frustrated when he loses yet again to his online gaming nemesis, a player who goes by the handle “T-Rex Claw.” He’s grumpy enough to instant message T-Rex Claw and invite him to fight, and surprisingly, the player tells him to meet him at a nearby internet cafe.
While making Yul a drink (with about six inches of whipped cream), Jung-ae gets a call from her younger sister, Mi-ae, who lives in Chicago and whose identity Jung-ae used to get this job. Mi-ae complains that she hasn’t been able to reach Jung-ae’s husband and has been worried sick, but when a coworker enters the break room, Jung-ae loudly calls Mi-ae “unni” and hangs up on her.
Chang-soo, Yoon-yi’s ex, brings a gift of dried persimmons for her mother. Yoon-yi rolls her eyes and shoves the box back at him (nearly hitting him in the jewels, ouch!) and snaps to give them to his mother, but he just says she’s thoughtful to think of his mom.
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Chi-won plays defense to keep the ex-boyfriend away
During a meeting, Chi-won glares at Chang-soo as he gets up in Yoon-yi’s personal space, inviting her to spend Christmas with him. Chi-won peevishly assigns Chang-soo to cover an out-of-town story over Christmas, making Chang-soo pout and Yoon-yi grin in amusement, ha.
It’s obvious to everyone that Chi-won gave Chang-soo the assignment as retaliation for something, but although he remembers the confrontation with Yoon-yi and Chi-won at the team dinner, he acts as though he did nothing to deserve being sent away.
Chi-won spends the afternoon at his boxing gym, and he turns down an invitation to go out for beers afterward. His buddy complains that he always says he’s busy, and Chi-won just quips, “I know, it sounds like a lie, doesn’t it?” HA.
His water is out when he gets home, and the plumber tells Yoon-yi that the repairs will take some time. Since Chi-won refuses to go to a sauna, she invites him to use her shower. It’s hard to say which scandalizes Chi-won more — her filthy bathroom, or her bras and panties hanging all over the room.
While Chi-won is showering, Yoon-yi’s mother calls to yell at her for not having a date on Christmas. During Mom’s tirade, Chi-won steps out of the bathroom and thanks Yoon-yi, and although she frantically shushes him, Mom hears him. Yoon-yi quickly hangs up, but her mother is too happy to care.
Over coffee, Yoon-yi apologizes for the old pipes in the house, complaining that nobody wants to buy it. Chi-won is surprised that she’s trying to sell the house, but she says that it’s too locally famous for being haunted after a fire where someone died. When Chi-won stiffens, Yoon-yi apologizes for not telling him sooner, but he says flatly that he doesn’t care.
She asks why he wants to live here when he could afford a much nicer place with his salary. Chi-won sighs, then says that the ginkgo tree in the courtyard must have possessed him.
On Christmas morning, Yul goes to the internet cafe to meet with “T-rex Claw,” the online gamer. He finds him, and HAHA, it’s Gun-woo, Jung-ae’s son. Yul challenges Gun-woo to a game, and gets soundly trounced by the kid.
He hands over his business card and brags that he’s going to turn his department into an e-sports business. He starts to ask if Gun-woo would be interested in playing for him, but Gun-woo just rolls his eyes and walks away while Yul is still talking.
He runs into some older boys on his way outside, who have apparently been shaking him down for cash regularly. They start to bully him, but the leader suddenly finds his hand in Yul’s death-grip.
Evidently Yul is a better talker than a fighter, because they all end up at the police station, Yul sporting the most bruises. Jung-ae runs in to fawn over her baby, and she and Yul freeze when they recognize each other. The cop asks whose guardian she is, and she thinks fast and answers, “Both of them.”
At Yul’s questioning look, Gun-woo says that Jung-ae is his aunt. After they’re released, Yul invites Gun-woo and Jung-ae to eat, but Jung-ae says they have plans to eat at home. Yul says sadly that you should be with family on Christmas, and he turns to go.
A few steps down the street he doubles over, clutching his side. Jung-ae takes pity on him and says they can go eat together somewhere nearby, making Gun-woo glare and Yul grin. Aw, he’s so happy.
He insists on serving Jung-ae and Gun-woo at the restaurant, saying that he’s not her boss on their days off. Gun-woo gives Jung-ae major side-eye when Yul calls her “Mi-ae,” which makes Yul scold him and say that he’s probably bad to his mother, too.
He tells Gun-woo to be a good son, adding, “I can’t be no matter how much I want to. She died so young.” Still smiling, he says they should invite Gun-woo’s mother too, but Jung-ae fibs that she’s at home cooking for the holiday. Yul tells Gun-woo that he’s jealous that he has a mother waiting with a home-cooked meal and he’s a good gamer, and his smile falters a bit when he says that he never ate his own mother’s cooking.
The plumber took the day off for Christmas even though Chi-won’s pipes are still broken, so Chi-won says he’ll just stay at a motel. But they all turn out to be booked for the holiday, so Yoon-yi sets up a tent in her living room for him to sleep in.
Chi-won seems nervous that she might have canceled plans because of him, but she assures him that’s not the case. It’s a big fat lie — Yoon-yi was supposed to go to a party with her friends, but she tells them she can’t make it.
Chi-won loses sight of Yoon-yi as he’s looking at her old photos, so he creeps around the tent looking for her. She pops up right in his face, and they freeze there, nose-to-nose, Yoon-yi stammering and Chi-won just staring.
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Christmas slumber party
The moment is broken when Yoon-yi’s brother Tae-yi walks in unexpectedly. Yoon-yi shoves Chi-won into the tent and zips them both in so that all Tae-yi can see is her face. She claims she’s sleeping in the tent tonight because it’s warm, so Tae-yi climbs in too and finds Chi-won inside, looking guilty as sin (and with hilarious static hair, lol).
Yoon-yi pulls Tae-yi aside to explain the situation, warning him not to think anything strange, and above all, not to tell their mother. Tae-yi solemnly swears, then immediately texts their mom to tattle that Big Sis has a man, who just happens to be the upstairs tenant.
In the middle of the night, Yoon-yi stirs at the sound of Chi-won’s coughing. She takes him some extra blankets, tucking him in without waking him, then zips him back into the tent and tiptoes off.
The next day, Yoon-yi’s mom goes to Kyung-rye again for information about her daughter’s love life. Kyung-rye accidentally lets slip that not only is Chi-won Yoon-yi’s tenant, but he’s also her boss, which makes Mom even more upset.
At the office, Yul narrows his eyes at Chi-won and Yoon-yi, then gives them both a good sniff. He asks why they both smell like the same shampoo, starting the office rumor mill churning and Chang-soo banging his head on his desk. Luckily the team isn’t too bright, and concludes that they just bought shampoo together in a buy-one-get-one deal.
But someone sends out an email blast to the whole company, mentioning that Chi-won and Yoon-yi use the same shampoo and attaching a picture of them leaving Yoon-yi’s house together. When he sees the email, Assistant Director Jo lets loose an evil cackle, which Bo-na witnesses from her desk.
At lunchtime, Yul’s team all make excuses so they won’t have to eat with him, making him sigh heavily (I don’t understand why nobody likes him, he’s such a sweetheart). Jung-ae takes him to the break room and unpacks a home-made feast, and when he tastes the food, Yul looks for a moment as though he might cry. But he perks up and says it’s delicious, digging in gratefully.
Jung-ae confesses that she’s nervous about the BBA presentation, but Yul tells her not to copy what the others are doing, but to just be herself. So she shuts off the computer and takes out a simple pen and paper, and gets to work.
Yoon-yi’s mom goes right to the source, meeting Chi-won for lunch to ask why he didn’t mention that he’s Yoon-yi’s boss when he signed the lease. Hee doesn’t offer excuses, but just apologizes. Mom asks why he’s renting such a run-down place, but Yoon-yi arrives, having been alerted by Kyung-rye.
She’s frantic to get her mother away from Chi-won, but Chi-won calmly invites her to sit. Her mom asks again why Chi-won moved into their tiny apartment, and he says hesitantly, “It’s… where I used to live.”
Putting that information together with Chi-won’s cryptic statement that the ginkgo tree possessed him, Yoon-yi starts to look very uncomfortable. Her mother keeps pushing for information, so Chi-won tells her that he lived there with his uncle, but that he has no family now.
Yoon-yi finally gets her mother to leave, and once they’re out of the restaurant, her mom orders her to kick Chi-won out immediately. Yoon-yi refuses, saying that it’s her house, and her mother accuses her of having feelings for Chi-won.
She forbids Yoon-yi to have any kind of relationship with Chi-won, saying that he must have gotten divorced because he’s either poor, abusive, or a cheater. Yoon-yi jumps to his defense, but when her mother asks what she knows about him, there’s nothing she can say. She still refuses to kick him out, so her mother says that it’s that, or go on a blind date.
Back at the office, Yoon-yi finds Chi-won and apologizes. He says that it’s natural for her mother to be curious about him, but Yoon-yi asks why he was so honest, when he’s been so vague with her.
He says, “Because she’s your mother. She was worried about her child, and left early to take the first bus from the suburbs, so I couldn’t lie to her. I’m not that shameless.” He says it with adorable sheepish smile, and Yoon-yi can’t think of anything to say.
She stays up late that night working on her BBA presentation, and she texts Chi-won to look forward to it. She promises to show his humane side that nobody knows, and he grins as he stands there in his poofy panther slippers.
The BBA competition begins the next day, and each boss starts by making a speech about what it means to be a leader. It turns into a bit of a debate between Chi-won and Assistant Director Jo, with Director Bong growing agitated as he tries to get a word in edgewise.
Director Bong finally demands a chance to speak, but as soon as he starts, Yul stands up and bellows loudly, “Your Majesty! We still have twelve ships remaining!” HA, he’s quoting General Lee Soon-shin, which gives Vice President Do a fit of the giggles.
After the first round, Chi-won is in first place, followed by Assistant Director Jo, Director Bong, and Yul, in that order.
When it’s time for the assistant’s speeches, Bo-na goes first, and her presentation about the kind of boss Assistant Director Jo is, is obviously geared more towards winning than truth. Jung-ae does a Love, Actually-inspired presentation, listing Yul’s faults honestly on a series of poster boards, like how he gets to work just in time to eat.
She describes how he’s always asking people, “Did you eat?” She says that she realized after coming to work for Yul that nobody had asked her that in a long time, and she thanks him for asking if she’s eaten and showing that he cares. That’s super sweet.
Yoon-yi’s speech is last, and she begins by saying that assistants change the soles on their shoes more often than anything else. She calls them the most pathetic things an assistant owns, something they don’t want others to see, and tells the story about how Chi-won rescued her shoe when she was fired.
Yoon-yi says that despite his cold exterior, Chi-won has a surprising twist hidden deep inside. She turns on the video projector, but instead of whatever she’d prepared, an old news story about a tragic car accident begins to play.
Chi-won sits, bewildered, as the newscaster describes the couple and their twelve-year-old daughter were killed, and that their eight-year-old son was rescued after spending nearly twenty-two hours trapped in the vehicle. Oh damn, this is horrifying.
The audience puts the clues together, guessing that Chi-won is the little boy who survived. Yoon-yi is shocked, and she tries to explain to Chi-won that this isn’t what she prepared, but he’s too far inside himself to hear her. He just stares at her, then turns away just as fireworks start to fly from the edge of the stage.
The fireworks trigger Chi-won’s flashbacks, and he sees flashes of a fire and a mangled car, and hears voices calling him bad luck and asking how many people he’s killed.
Chi-won rears back from the flying sparks, then falls to the stage, unconscious. Yoon-yi hovers over him, begging him to wake up.
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The boss goes down
When Chi-won was at lunch with Yoon-yi’s mother, she’d asked him if he’s interested in Yoon-yi as a woman. He’d thought about it for a long moment, then answered, “Yoon-yi is someone I want to trust.”
He’d looked up to see Yoon-yi running into the restaurant, looking frantic with worry. He’d smiled, and repeated, “Yes, she’s someone I want to trust.”
Well, just pardon me while I swoon forever. I just love Chi-won’s answer, that Yoon-yi is someone he wants to trust, because to him, trust is something he almost never gives away. More than happiness, or friendship, or even love, I find Chi-won’s declaration that he wants to trust Yoon-yi to be the most romantic and truthful thing he could say, because I have a feeling that he can count the people he trusts on one hand and still have fingers left over. To Chi-won, the most vulnerable thing he can do is to trust another person, and while he may not trust Yoon-yi yet, just wanting to is a huge step.
Which is why I’m scared to death that when he wakes up, he’s going to blame Yoon-yi for that disgusting personal attack in front of their entire company. It was hard enough for him to begin to trust her when he had no real reason not to, but if he thinks that she betrayed him, it could irreparably damage the tentative relationship that’s grown up between them. What happened to Chi-won as a child is so much more tragic than we knew, with a car accident killing his parents and sister, then a fire taking the life of his uncle. No wonder he’s terrified to form any deep connections with people, having lost everyone he loved at such a young age and believing that somehow, he’s the bad luck that brought about their deaths.
I often find backstories like Chi-won’s childhood trauma to be superfluous to the plot of a drama, or even worse, blatant grabs for sympathy towards an otherwise unsympathetic character. But it’s handled very well in this case, and it’s one of the things that rivets me the most and keeps Jugglers from being a standard workplace drama, because it’s about more than just office politics. In some ways Chi-won’s struggle reminds me of the struggles of the Suicide Squad from Radiant Office in that it gives the characters a humanity that we wouldn’t otherwise see in a drama about corporate machinations, and gives the audience a periodic reminder that people aren’t just what you see, but the sum of their experiences. Chi-won has one of the most severe cases of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that I’ve ever seen in a drama, which gives him a valid reason for his cold behavior, and lends him a sense of humanity and sympathy that we might not otherwise feel for his character. It’s hard to hold onto a negative opinion of someone when they’ve been through something so horrific that it scarred them for life, both literally and figuratively.
It’s obvious that Yoon-yi’s presentation was tampered with, and the natural assumption would be that it was Assistant Director Jo, but I have a couple pf differing theories. Assistant Director Jo is a nasty little man, but there’s very little personal malice in him — he’s the type to stir up trouble and manipulate people to get what he wants, but I don’t believe he would actually hurt someone. I think that it’s more in Director Bong’s nature to commit real harm, considering that he does so every day by cheating on his wife, and that he masterminded the cyber bullying of Yoon-yi that led to her losing her job. Considering that Chi-won issued a clear competitive threat to him, I think that it’s very plausible that it was Director Bong who set up Yoon-yi and Chi-won to fail.
Of course, there’s also the chance that it was really Bo-na, who has never seemed to like Yoon-yi and is taking her participation in the competition a bit too personally. Bo-na has been rude and dismissive of Yoon-yi from the beginning, and I’ve thought that she only hangs out with her and Kyung-rye out of habit rather than any real affection or loyalty. She seems very jealous of Yoon-yi’s increasingly positive relationship with Chi-won, and I can absolutely believe that Bo-na would compromise Yoon-yi’s presentation in a way that’s highly likely not only to lose the competition, but to ruin her professional and personal connection with Chi-won.