Thirty But Seventeen: Episodes 19-20
All the progress made in the last few weeks seems to get undone in this hour. In Woo-jin’s case, it’s because trauma that goes ignored and buried can’t help but resurface until it’s confronted. For Chan, it’s because denial is preferable to coping with feelings of jealousy. And with Seo-ri, it’s because getting what we want doesn’t always fix everything in our lives. For each of them, the only way is forward, but not all of our trio may be prepared to take those next steps.
EPISODE 19: “Schumann’s Träumerei”
In voiceover, Woo-jin considers how he’s grown to enjoy living in this house with his found family. As we return to Woo-jin and Seo-ri in the darkened kitchen, both recall the hints supplied to them, by their friends and their own interactions, that they might just like each other.
They look into each other’s eyes and then… they’re interrupted by a gurgling stomach. Seo-ri just ate, so Woo-jin must admit that he’s the culprit. Seo-ri breaks away to find him food, but he wants to show her the coupon they won first.
The coupon is a perfect solution to his hunger, so he and Seo-ri agree to go get ready and head out for their free ddeokbokki.
Chan has settled down for his own meal with his team after training and all that running. His friends wonder if he feels okay, since he’s sweating profusely and not really focused. He starts seeing double Deok-soo right before he collapses on the floor.
Just as Woo-jin and Seo-ri are about to leave, he receives a call from the boys about Chan’s collapse. Woo-jin rushes to the hospital and leaves Seo-ri at home, forgetting that she doesn’t have a phone to get any updates from him.
At the hospital, it turns out Chan’s just got a severe case of indigestion. Coach comes in to herd Deok-soo and Hae-beom away, and also to let Woo-jin know how Chan’s been overworking himself in training, which likely also contributed to his condition.
While the rest of the family deals with this emergency, Jennifer meets with the mysterious woman from her past at a temple, who brings along an older man in a wheelchair. He’s glad that Jennifer has come, and the pair stands outside while Jennifer stands before a grave marker in the temple and cries.
Chan wakes up in the morning to the sound of radishes being grated. Woo-jin has prepared a radish drink for his indigestion, one that he used to prepare for his nephew when they were both younger. When Chan hears Woo-jin’s still empty stomach grumble, he tells his uncle to worry about his own gut.
Chan registers that Woo-jin’s presence here at the hospital means that Seo-ri spent the night at the house alone, and the now concerned Chan shoves his uncle towards the exit to send him home.
Seo-ri has spent the night on the couch, waiting for news. She jumps when she hears the door, but it’s Jennifer, not Woo-jin. Jennifer does have a phone though, so Seo-ri finally calls Woo-jin.
Woo-jin receives the call and passes the phone to Chan, interrupting his jumping jacks demonstration. Chan brightens to hear Seo-ri, safe from the island and her evening alone.
As Woo-jin leaves, he reminds his nephew not to work too hard. Chan notes the house slippers still on Woo-jin’s feet, and sighs.
Jennifer is glad that Seo-ri made it back home and has heard from Chan. Seo-ri asks about Jennifer’s own days off, and Jennifer hesitantly tells her she had to see someone. Jennifer quickly changes the subject and tells Seo-ri that the violin shop called to let her know that her violin is fixed.
Seo-ri abandons her dough to go pay for her violin. She dumps her savings out on the repairman’s desk and offers to pay the rest at a later date. But our gruff, kindly violin repairman doesn’t want any additional money. He tells her to leave what she has and take her violin, after she cleans off her hands, still caked in dough from her rush out the door.
He also tells her to never come back. Seo-ri catches the kindness hidden in his comment, and promises that she’ll never let the violin deteriorate again.
Outside the shop, she runs into Conductor Shim, who wants to talk with her.
Chan finds his friends eating bread on a bench as he’s released from the hospital. Woo-jin found time to buy them the bread while he picked up the radishes, though still managed to not feed himself.
Chan receives a call from Woo-jin to check in, and the boys rush at Chan screaming thanks at the phone. Woo-jin reminds Chan to call Jennifer to reassure her that he’s okay and to ask about her recent days off.
Woo-jin says it’s the least they can do as family, and this concept makes Chan reconsider the last few days. He thinks back to a recent “family” chicken dinner with everyone there, Woo-jin’s nonchalant response to the polaroid in his backpack when Chan asked about it, and the moments he caught Woo-jin and Seo-ri looking at each other.
Chan explains all the clues away as normal “family” behavior and scolds himself for overreacting. His friends watch on as Chan waves his hands at himself, until Chan steals their bread in retaliation.
Seo-ri has retreated to the office roof with her violin. She’s absorbed in her thoughts, as she recalls her earlier encounter with Conductor Shim.
The conductor tracked her down with an offer, for Seo-ri to play a piece in the music festival with him. The director of the festival made the offer when he heard about Seo-ri’s story. But instead of being excited for the chance to play in public, Seo-ri looks dejected.
Woo-jin finds her on the roof, but Seo-ri’s response to his greeting is lackluster. Woo-jin spots the violin, but when Seo-ri’s response is underwhelming, he assumes that she was unable to get it fixed. When she tells him it’s fixed, he can’t understand why she looks so upset.
Hyun joins the pair to ask for help cutting a shirt, and he mistakes each of Seo-ri’s mutterings as responses to his questions. “What if I ruin it? What if I’m not qualified to do it?” Woo-jin understands what she’s talking about though.
Seo-ri is a distracted mess at work, nearly sitting on the floor before Woo-jin swivels her chair under her. Woo-jin stands by and watches, not sure what to do to help.
Jennifer is also preoccupied with her own concerns. Deok-gu races to get her attention when the pot she left on the stove boils over. As she tries to shut it off, Jennifer burns her fingers on the lid. Deok-gu looks on with his expressive little eyes in concern, not unlike Woo-jin as he watches Seo-ri.
Hyun finally decides to just send Seo-ri home. Woo-jin is worried about her making it home though, when Seo-ri can’t even seem to find the door.
He chases after her and offers her a ride, but Seo-ri wants to walk to take some time to think. Woo-jin pretends that a child’s toy in the trash is something he needs to take home to turn into “art,” and he needs Seo-ri to protect it in the car while he drives home.
When they get home, Seo-ri almost loses the toy as it starts to roll down the hill, and worries about his important art project. Woo-jin groans, “How can this be art? I was worried you’d get hurt.” He asks Seo-ri if this is about the violin.
She’s surprised that he knew, but he says that obviously, when someone who gets excited about something as little as ddeokbokki isn’t excited about her fixed violin, something’s wrong. He says it’s frustrating for him to stand by and be of no help to her, because he knows that he can’t help with anything concerning the violin, so all he can do is worry.
At Woo-jin’s words, Seo-ri snaps out of it. She seems excited to head inside and do what she needs to do rather than just worrying. Woo-jin’s not so sure how he helped, but he accepts Seo-ri’s thanks.
Violin in hand, Seo-ri begins to practice. She remembers playing with Conductor Shim as a child, confident, and that image transforms to her as an adult. But now, instead of playing, she saws at the violin with her bow. Conductor Shim’s face melts into disgust, and a string snaps.
Thankfully, Seo-ri wakes from this stress dream. Her violin is still intact, but the dream and all of her recent struggles are enough for her to push the violin away.
Elsewhere in the house, Jennifer receives an encouraging text from the mystery woman of her past, who encourages her to move on with her life. Jennifer opens up her music box and sets the ballerina up. Just as a single tear rolls down her cheek, Seo-ri stops by to ask to use her phone.
Seo-ri notices Jennifer’s demeanor and asks if something is wrong. Jennifer reassumes her stoic countenance and says that she’s always okay.
At a café, Conductor Shim shares the news about Seo-ri playing in the festival with Tae-rin. Tae-rin rushes to the bathroom in a panic to try to collect herself. She recalls a moment from the past, one where she considered smashing Seo-ri’s violin in a jealous rage. She swings the violin high in the air, but then drops her arm limply to her side instead.
In the present, Tae-rin exits the bathroom, just in time to overhear the conductor’s phone call with Seo-ri, who has declined the invitation to perform. Tae-rin takes this as her moment to appear gracious, so she returns to the table to say that of course they should try to help their good friend. She pretends to be disappointed as the conductor shares that Seo-ri has declined to participate.
Seo-ri, meanwhile, turns her focus to her work planning the festival instead of participating in it. She pulls out the plans for the classical portion and begins adding handwritten notes.
Woo-jin returns home and wants to check in on Seo-ri, but he worries that it’s too late at night and doesn’t knock on her door. Instead, he heads up to his room, where he finds a sticky note from Seo-ri thanking him for worrying about her. He wonders if she’s really okay now. At the bottom, the note says to turn over to the other side. Woo-jin does, and finds a final note: “I really am okay now.” He smiles.
Seo-ri hears scratching at her door and lets Deok-gu in. He’s here on delivery, as Seo-ri finds a sticky note from Woo-jin on the edge of the door frame. His says that he’s glad that she’s feeling better, and then there’s a cut off word. At the bottom, his note says to turn it over, and it says, “This time I really did mean to say fighting!” Seo-ri smiles at the excellent callback to the last sticky note he left on the bookshelf.
At the office the next day, Hee-soo is impressed with Seo-ri’s extensive (and attractively arranged) notes for the classical stage. Woo-jin needs to head to the factory to check in on the stage production, and when Hyun says he can’t come along, Seo-ri volunteers in his place.
At the factory, the workers there are impressed with Seo-ri’s ideas and even recall her idea with the rosin from the stage fiasco previously. The man asks her if she’s married, and when she says no, he excitedly says, “My son isn’t either!” Woo-jin’s face freezes as the man’s words echo in his head.
EPISODE 20: “Performing at the festival”
The factory worker sits Seo-ri down to brag about his tall doctor son who even has an apartment in Gangnam. Woo-jin throws his shoulders back and butt out in an effort to seem taller as he listens in.
When the man goes to show Seo-ri a photo on his phone, Woo-jin interrupts by calling him, even as he stands just a few feet away. Woo-jin splutters out all sorts of interruptions to prevent him from sharing the photo, until Seo-ri gets a chance to admit she’s not ready yet to be dating anyway.
The factory worker finds Woo-jin later, and chuckles that Woo-jin’s feelings are really transparent sometimes, ha.
As Seo-ri crosses the factory floor, a “stone” wall tips over towards her. Woo-jin runs, throwing paint on his shoes and pants as he dives for her. The factory workers grab it before it falls on her, and point out that it’s just a styrofoam wall, not real stone. All the same, Seo-ri has instinctively crouched in an effort to protect her hands from injury.
Outside, Woo-jin brings Seo-ri water and says that she should take care of her scraped up knees. Seo-ri responds that she only cares about her hands. Then she admits that she wants to try, and Woo-jin knows immediately that she means to perform in the festival. He admits that the director contacted Hee-soo and Woo-jin already about it, but they didn’t want to mention it since Seo-ri hadn’t brought it up.
Protecting her hands proved to her that she isn’t ready to give up, but Seo-ri is still hesitant about balancing her work at the design company and practice. Woo-jin reminds her of her own words, that you never know until you try, so you should give everything a chance. With his encouragement, Seo-ri commits to working hard towards her goal, and he nods that she’ll be able to end her intermission soon.
Seo-ri fusses over Woo-jin’s ruined jeans and shoes, and he tells her she should be more worried about her injured knees. “Don’t ever get hurt in any way,” he tells her. Seo-ri notes his earnest feelings, and then laughs at him as he struggles to open his still locked car door.
Back at the office, Hee-soo is excited for Seo-ri’s opportunity and promises to hold the classical program planning meetings when Seo-ri isn’t busy at practice, and makes Seo-ri promise in return that she’ll really stand out on the stage.
As Chan returns home from training, he’s scouted by the coach of the top national rowing team. While his friends want to congratulate him on the scouting over food, Chan is more focused on getting back to training so that he can get first place.
Chan leaves the boys at their table, where they consider working hard as well to earn a team medal. They worry that they’ve wasted away their time together, but Chan returns to the table to collect his forgotten phone and reminds them that there’s still time to work hard together. They stand and shout, “Medal! Medal!” until they realize they’re a little loud for a restaurant.
Chan can hear a violin from the street outside his house, and finds Seo-ri out in the yard practicing. When she sees him, she rushes over, but it takes a moment to catch his attention, as he remains in thrall of her playing.
The two sit down and trade stories, catching up on all the things that have happened to them over these last couple of days. They smile and laugh, Chan brags a bit about the scouting, they show off their blisters of hard work, and both agree to remain dedicated to their goals.
Jennifer has made an epic seafood spread for Chan, but he’s already dashed upstairs to exercise. Woo-jin stops in to tell him not to work too hard, and even tries to muster a “Don’t think, feel!” But it’s really awkward and both he and Chan shudder.
On her way to orchestra practice the next day, Seo-ri envisions the notes of the song she’s practicing in the sky and begins to dance down the street to it, just as she did when she was younger. Woo-jin spots her just as a rogue bouncing ball hits her in the head.
Woo-jin rushes up to her, but Seo-ri is still smiling, since her hard head is at least useful in protecting her from injury. When he asks why she’s so distracted, Seo-ri explains the way she pictures the music. She trails off as she considers how weird it must sound and then darts off for practice, leaving Woo-jin smiling at her back.
In his memories, images of young Seo-ri distractedly dancing through the streets start to emerge, but Woo-jin doesn’t let them surface as he heads to the office.
In a meeting, Tae-rin tries to argue against including Seo-ri in the festival. She backs down quickly though when she sees how eager the director is to include Seo-ri.
In mismatched shoes, Seo-ri arrives at the noisy orchestra practice. Conductor Shim introduces her at the front of class, while Tae-rin watches on nervously.
Time passes. Seo-ri works hard staying on top of work at the design studio and also with the orchestra. Woo-jin and the team plan the stage and lighting for the festival. And Chan keeps on rowing with his team.
The mother of the boy Chan saved, who also happens to be Seo-ri’s aunt, gives Chan a call. Chan is washing his face, so he asks Seo-ri to answer his phone, though they don’t recognize each other. He washes off the soap as quickly as possible to speak with the woman, who thanks him.
Chan acts cool while on the phone, but once he hangs up he’s eager to not-so-subtly brag about the woman calling him a savior to Seo-ri. Alas, Seo-ri is already on her way to her room.
After hanging up, the woman asks her son when he wants to go thank Chan in person for saving him. But her son’s already fast asleep in the backseat.
At work, Hee-soo, Woo-jin, and Hyun are struggling with the design of the classical stage. Hee-soo asks if Woo-jin read over the notes, and turns a sharp eye on Hyun when she suspects that he never copied them. Hyun nudges Woo-jin’s foot in desperation, and Woo-jin covers for him.
When Woo-jin asks about the notes, Hyun can’t even remember what notes it was that he was asked to copy.
The next day, Woo-jin and Hee-soo meet with the director and Tae-rin to discuss the stages. Hee-soo almost hands over a mock-up of the design, but Woo-jin stops her. He knows it isn’t right yet, and he asks for more time.
The director says that classical stages are all the same and there’s no need to try to do anything original, but Tae-rin wants to wait and see what they can do. The director agrees, but he says the stage won’t matter, that people are going to be fighting to get tickets regardless.
Even Tae-rin is surprised by his comments, but when asked, the director says that she doesn’t need to know what he means by it.
On his way out, Woo-jin gets a text reminder of his appointment with his psychologist. His thoughts are interrupted however, when Conductor Shim finds him in the lobby. The conductor wants to thank him for reuniting him with Seo-ri.
Seo-ri is distractedly walking again, and Woo-jin shows up just in time to prevent her from falling over a construction sign. In parallel, we see Seo-ri’s memories of when her friend Soo-mi would yank her out of similar situations.
Woo-jin is surprised to hear her mention a friend, and he asks if she’s lost contact with everyone from her past. She nods, and Woo-jin recalls his talk with Conductor Shim earlier. The conductor was sad for Seo-ri, and thinks about how different her life would have been if she hadn’t been in the accident.
Seo-ri shows off a bruise she got from practice, and Woo-jin stares at her. When she asks why, he responds, “Because you’re pretty.” As she blushes, Woo-jin drags a stunned Seo-ri through their gate.
Woo-jin and Hee-soo are still struggling with their stage design. While Hee-soo steps away for a break, Woo-jin discovers the notes Seo-ri left. He also recalls how Seo-ri said that she “saw” her music as she walked.
Suddenly, he has the inspiration that he needs, and she bolts to find Seo-ri. Hyun says that she left for mail duty, and Woo-jin runs after her.
At the hospital, the man in the hat returns to Seo-ri’s room, now occupied by an elderly man. The nurse spots the man there, and recognizes him as the man looking for Seo-ri earlier. At the mention of Seo-ri’s name, the man turns to face the nurse.
At the office, Hyun knocks over Seo-ri’s notebook, and when he picks it up, he spots the orchestra photo from Conductor Shim. He wonders which of the students might be Seo-ri when she was younger.
Woo-jin finally finds Seo-ri blithely walking down the street. She doesn’t notice the woman ahead of her watering her plants, and it looks likely that she’ll get sprayed right in the face.
Woo-jin, on the opposite side of the street, shouts to warn Seo-ri. As he does, he recalls a similar moment, calling to help young Seo-ri, though he’d called her Soo-mi then. Woo-jin drops as a panic attack consumes him.
Seo-ri heard his last yell though, and runs across the street when she sees him panic. Images of the past rush at Woo-jin, and he recalls his psychologist encouraging him to disassociate Seo-ri with the girl from his past.
He looks up, and whispers “Woo Seo-ri” as he looks up at her. He dives into Seo-ri’s shoulder for support, tears tracing down his cheeks.
Ack! I desperately wanted him to call her Soo-mi by mistake! There’s just so much everyone avoids talking about in this show, things that would resolve all conflicts so quickly. But alas, that’s the whole point of the show, right? Easily resolved misunderstandings aren’t what we’re here for.
Even so, the more that Seo-ri reveals, and the more she acts like her old self, the more Woo-jin struggles with keeping Seo-ri and the girl from his past separated in his mind. While Woo-jin has lightened up, he still hasn’t dealt with his trauma. Hopefully he keeps that appointment with his psychologist and they are able to talk through a few things.
So much is going on for everyone in the house, but I couldn’t help but notice that things seem to be brewing around Jennifer, maybe particularly because Jennifer managed to dodge talking about herself so much in this episode. Jennifer has been this group’s rock, but all the things keeping them busy are also keeping them from noticing that their foundation needs some support from them too. I doubt that Jennifer will be the first to ask for help, so it will be up to them to notice something is awry.
The women in the show have been so strong. While Jennifer is their zen strength, Seo-ri has been their perseverance, always able to cope and keep a smile as things get bad. So it’s nice to see Woo-jin step in to take care of Seo-ri when those moments of self-doubt knock at her. And I like that it isn’t about finding a solution for her. It’s about supporting her. Little things, like grabbing a chair before Seo-ri deposits herself on the floor, are ways to help without taking control of others’ problems, and taking away their agency as well.
Chan maybe still doesn’t get this yet. Chan still thinks of Seo-ri as someone who needs his protection, and in this way he may have been correct in thinking of her like his baby chick. I wonder more and more if he’s actually feeling romantic love, or if this attraction is more like a response to the changing relationships in Chan’s life. Chan’s used to taking care of his uncle, and when his uncle starts to take control of his own life again, Chan finds replacements in Chick Jr. and Seo-ri. That he can’t even imagine Seo-ri staying at home by herself for one night is so telling of what he thinks of her. Chan doesn’t want to have a real relationship with Seo-ri. He just wants to take care of her.
Love (sticky) notes made me squeal, but the shining moment of this episode was Seo-ri and Chan’s reunion. Little Chan’s been left all alone with his feelings and no reassurance from Seo-ri for a while. It’s nice to see them reunite and realize how much has happened in the couple days they’ve been apart. They reflect back at each other the same giddiness and feelings of accomplishment. They’re so similar, down to their shout of “Don’t think, feel!” in unison. Now if only Chan can figure out his feelings without any big confrontation.