K-Drama Recaps

How to Buy a Friend: Episode 2 Recap

There are limits and lines that can be crossed and then there are some boundaries that should be respected and confined. Chan-hong explores these limits firsthand in the process of navigating his complicated relationships with those near him.

How to Buy a Friend Episode 2: The Limits of Poetic License

The episode starts off with Lady Jo Pyeong-sub – the same lady who was torturing Chan-hong in the first episode – meeting with a City Councilor in a private room. The City Councilor hands Lady Jo a note consisting of a name and email address on it. In the next scene, Seo-jung replies back to an instant DM she had received on her SNS account and the next thing you know, she is seen being dragged unconsciously by an unknown man in a dark alley.

In the present, Chan-hong attempts to focus in class while Teacher Woo lectures about poetry once again. However, it doesn’t help much that Chan-hong is in the same classroom as both Don-hyuk and Dae-yong which he finds super distracting. Luckily, Chan-hong is safe after almost getting killed by an angry and curious Don-hyuk who wanted to know where Chan-hong had heard the line “because wet sand remembers one’s footprints.” Chan-hong was let off the hook when he claimed that he heard it from Seo-jung herself who was standing next to a flower bed at that time. Don-hyuk secretly passes a note to Chan-hong for them to meet up after school that day. Teacher Woo too wishes to speak with Chan-hong after class.

Teacher Woo assigns Chan-hong another poetry assignment: he gives Chan-hong a week to write a poem about Chan-hong’s wisdom tooth. LOL. In an effort to get away from a waiting Don-hyuk, Chan-hong decides to join Teacher Woo for dinner that day. However, he retreats when Teacher Choi and Se-yoon join in a few seconds later and ends up meeting with Don-hyuk.

Don-hyuk takes Chan-hong to his apartment to interrogate him on his knowledge of Seo-jung. Chan-hong is wary of how scary and dangerous the situation seems, but he answers Don-hyuk’s questions to avoid any harm. After being asked to reveal any memories of Seo-jung, Don-hyuk starts off by telling that he encountered Seo-jung by a flower bed at school after searching for his phone that Kyung-pyo had hidden. He noticed that Seo-jung was wearing white dirty sneakers and was carrying a pink cell phone with an Ironman figurine on it. However, that’s all that Chan-hong recalls since he was also involved in a hit and run accident that day so his memories are quite fuzzy.

Right at that moment, Don-hyuk’s landlord is heard banging at his door and nags at him for rent money again. Just when Don-hyuk begins to apologize, Chan-hong pops up from the door and hands her enough rent money for the month. Chan-hong hopes that by paying rent, Don-hyuk will let him go, but Don-hyuk is keen on staying in touch with Chan-hong. In one last plead, he requests for Chan-hong to assist him. All Don-hyuk knows for now is that Seo-jung was last seen with a man with a tattoo on his ankle. He only has Chan-hong to rely on since Chan-hong was the last person who saw Seo-jung’s cellphone which is no where to be seen. Plus, her cellphone might have evidence on it so it’s crucial that they find it. If Chan-hong assists Don-hyuk, Don-hyuk will protect both Chan-hong and Se-yoon from Dae-yong. As much as Chan-hong wants to accept the offer (or contract as Don-hyuk termed it), he politely declines. His memory is failing him so he wouldn’t be of much help anyways.

Just like Don-hyuk, the guilt also starts to eat Se-yoon up. She recalls two specific memories related to Seo-jung: the moment Seo-jung asked for her to not believe the rumors that were spreading around school about her as well as the moment after her death when Se-yoon discovered Seo-jung’s cellphone in her high school locker. Se-yoon has trouble sleeping that night. Chan-hong passes by Se-yoon’s place while biking home and notices her flicking her lights on and off. Though tempted to meet with Se-yoon, Chan-hong bikes back home. On that same night, Lady Jo meets with her subordinate/hitman, Kwak Sang-pil (Kim Do-wan), who she has hired to find the current owner of Seo-jung’s cellphone (aka Se-yoon). Se-yoon unfortunately takes the bait by clicking on a link in a text message on Seo-jung’s cellphone, giving away the cellphone’s location to Sang-pil. He continues on his hunt to recover the cellphone, especially since there’s a video of Lady Jo on there the night Seo-jung was kidnapped.

Dae-yong is still torturing and beating up Chan-hong for not properly setting him up with Se-yoon. Chan-hong debates with Kyung-pyo whether or not to accept Don-hyuk’s offer since Dae-yong’s beatings only seem to get worse. If Chan-hong helps Don-hyuk out, he’ll be protected by Ironman Don-hyuk. But Chan-hong still isn’t quite sure if it’s something he wants to get himself involved in, especially since his memories of the day of Seo-jung’s death aren’t too vivid.

So Chan-hong and Kyung-pyo set out to retrace their steps of the day of Seo-jung’s death. They visit the school on a holiday and try to recall any memories or details that they remembered on that specific day. While nothing pops up in Chan-hong’s mind, Kyung-pyo remembers seeing someone in the hit-and-run car throw a cigarette butt out of the car before driving away. To their luck, Ironman Don-hyuk creeps up from behind Kyung-pyo and demands for more details. While sitting in a cafe, the three discuss about Seo-jung’s death, but the cigarette butt is the only thing that Kyung-pyo remembered specifically about that day. Chan-hong is still hesitant in accepting Don-hyuk’s offer.

In a desperate attempt to get Chan-hong to recall his memories, Kyung-pyo hypnotizes Chan-hong and throws him back to the day of Seo-jung’s death. Kyung-pyo’s hypnosis actually works and Chan-hong returns to the day he encountered Seo-jung at school. After failing to search for his cellphone by himself, he had requested for Seo-jung to assist him in his search which she eventually does. As the two walk throughout the school to find his phone, they end up somehow walking behind a building. Unfortunately, Chan-hong’s mind begins to give up on him and everything suddenly turns dark for him. Kyung-pyo hypnotizes Chan-hong once more so Chan-hong restarts his memories once again.

This time, he finds himself standing in a field across from Se-yoon. However, all Chan-hong can focus on is well.. Se-yoon and he begins to start gushing over her out loud in front of Kyung-pyo. Chan-hong’s parents eventually arrive home and barge into Chan-hong’s bedroom only to find a panicked Kyung-pyo and hypnotized Chan-hong in the room. They grow confused and so is Chan-hong.

Don-hyuk attempts to log into Seo-jung’s SNS account, but fails to input her correct password to her account. Meanwhile, Sang-pil starts on his plan to capture the owner behind Seo-jung’s pink cellphone. Dae-yong is one of the boys hired by Sang-pil to do so and grows alarmed when he finds Se-yoon’s name on the list of students at his high school he should capture. NOOOO.

Lady Jo pays a visit to Se-yoon’s high school to take a look at the art pieces that the art club at the high school has put together. Se-yoon and her friend, Mi-ra, stand close by while Lady Jo is focused on the drawings. However, she shifts her focus to Se-yoon and Mi-ra upon seeing photos of Seo-jung with the two girls. Before leaving, she warns the girls to not try too hard to forget about what had happened to Seo-jung and to remember as much as they can about their former friend. Se-yoon quivers in fear upon interacting with Lady Jo.

Se-yoon and Mi-ra have a discussion about Seo-jung later on that day. Se-yoon can’t help but notice that Mi-ra is acting suspiciously when talking about Seo-jung. Mi-ra claims that Seo-jung didn’t contact her at all before her death. More so, she hesitates in checking incoming text messages on her phone in front of Se-yoon. It’s not until Mi-ra rushes outside and is alone that she checks who the text messages are from. Mi-ra too is being threatened and targeted.

Dae-yong makes his move on Se-yoon and confronts her about Seo-jung’s cellphone at school. When she freezes in response to his confrontation, Dae-yong takes it as a sign and demands for her to turn in the cellphone. Chan-hong watches the scene unfold in front of his eyes, but he’s hesitant in rescuing Se-yoon alone knowing that he won’t be able to win against Dae-yong. So he calls Don-hyuk and agrees to help him in his investigation of Seo-jung’s death in exchange for some back-up. After making the agreement over phone, Chan-hong jumps first to rescue Se-yoon and then is shortly joined afterwards by Don-hyuk who easily defeats Dae-yong (YAY, IRONMAN TO THE RESCUE!). He warns Dae-yong to never mess with either Se-yoon or Chan-hong ever again or else.

Don-hyuk takes care of an injured Chan-hong after the fight with Dae-yong. He encourages Chan-hong to be honest with Se-yoon and tell her how he feels. In regards to their contract, they can talk about it the next day. While walking home that night, Don-hyuk is reminded of a specific interaction he had with Seo-jung. On that night with Seo-jung, he pleaded her for answers once again. Rumors of her floating around on the internet.. the photos of her that was spreading around.. they weren’t true right? Seo-jung avoided the question by asking for Don-hyuk to just believe in her instead. It doesn’t matter what the photos or the rumors are saying; what’s more important is that Don-hyuk is there for Seo-jung to rely on. However, Don-hyuk grows upset with Seo-jung’s indirect answer and he storms away. In the present, Don-hyuk reflects on the emotions and feelings he felt during that moment with Seo-jung.

Chan-hong follows Don-hyuk’s advice and confesses to Se-yoon the next day. Se-yoon isn’t too surprised by the confession and in a way already sort of expected it. The two take a casual stroll on the beach before taking a break to sit down on the beach. While laying her head on Chan-hong’s shoulder, Se-yoon expresses her comfort in being with Chan-hong. She feels as ease whenever she’s around him. Aww.

And so the two start dating. While on a date at the beach, Se-yoon finally musters the courage to reveal the truth to Chan-hong: she’s the one who has Seo-jung’s cellphone. Se-yoon shows Chan-hong the cellphone which Chan-hong ends up taking home with him. Kyung-pyo isn’t too happy with the situation and suggests they give it to Don-hyuk right away, but Chan-hong worries that Don-hyuk might do something to Se-yoon if he knew that Se-yoon had the cellphone the entire time. So the two best friends come up with a plan to save both Se-yoon and their lives: they log into Seo-jung’s SNS account and hunt down any suspicious guys on her profile.

After venturing through her DM’s, they find photos of a man who was in contact with Seo-jung on her SNS account. It’s the perfect opportunity to catfish the guy so Chan-hong and Kyung-pyo set up a fake account to get in contact with the man. They eventually discover that the man attends a university in Seoul so along with Don-hyuk, the three go on an adventure to visit the man at his college. Omg, I’m loving this.

Thanks to the many posts on his SNS account, our trio is able to track the man’s class schedule down. They follow him late into the evening and manage to finally flag him down on the school’s football field. Right as Don-hyuk searches the man’s ankles for any tattoos, the football players on the field notice our group in the way of their practice so they run after our trio to chase them away. While running, Chan-hong accidentally trips and falls down, but it’s not only him who falls down — Seo-jung’s pink cellphone which he had on him ends up dropping out of his pocket and onto the floor too. Even worse, the cellphone lands right in front of Don-hyuk. GAAAAAH. Don-hyuk notices the cellphone in front of him, but is unable to go for it due to the football players holding him down.

Things aren’t looking so safe for Se-yoon either. While walking back home, she is followed by Dae-yong and two other guys. Mi-ra also finds herself in deep trouble. While chatting with Se-yoon online, she receives a message from the username ‘Mithra’ who accuses Mi-ra of killing Seo-jung. Scared and shocked, Mi-ra immediately closes her laptop and panics.

My Thoughts:

Look, I like this drama and I’m enjoying some parts of it to some level, but this drama also gives me a lot of anxiety. And sometimes it gives me too much anxiety to the point where I have to pause and stop to take a short break before I can go back to watch it again.

I know the journey into discovering the truth behind Seo-jung’s death isn’t going to be easy or pretty or nice at all. But I also am having such a difficult time watching all the details and all the truth unfold. It’s too painful for me to watch Seo-jung be ridiculed, embarrassed, and accused by everyone including those who she thought she could rely on: Se-yoon and Don-hyuk. It’s heartbreaking to see that not even her closest friends who she loved and thought she could trust not trust her. Even they doubted her, even they were hesitant in supporting her, even they were quiet when she needed them to defend her, even they maintained their distance from her when she needed them the most. Don-hyuk and Se-yoon’s guilt is eating them up in the present, but Seo-jung wouldn’t have made the decision she did if they were just there for her in the first place. Of course, things were a lot more complicated than this. There were so many complex, complicated, and conflicting thoughts and feelings behind Seo-jung’s situation and as much as Se-yoon and Don-hyuk wanted to believe in Seo-jung, they were afraid to do so as well. Believing in Seo-jung would mean the rumors were true and that the photos and videos circulating of Seo-jung would be true and that wasn’t the reality that neither Don-hyuk or Se-yoon was prepared to face or accept. However, it was this inability to accept reality that unfortunately lead Seo-jung to her death.

This episode did a great job in showcasing the complexity behind Seo-jung’s death as well as just how interconnected everyone is in regards to her incident. Even Chan-hong who so far was deemed as just a random passerby plays a big role in solving the mystery behind Seo-jung’s death. We learn in this episode that Mi-ra was possibly the person behind Seo-jung’s death and played a much bigger role in it than we had thought. Out of all the characters, my heart breaks for Don-hyuk the most. Everyone misunderstands him to be this tough, rough, and unexpressive Ironman and while this is somewhat true to an extent, he also just really wants to know the truth behind his former partner/friend’s death. He’s desperate to get answers behind Seo-jung’s death after what was an entire year of him burying feelings of guilt and invisibility. While it’s unclear as to whether he had been spending this entire time on investigating Seo-jung’s death or suppressing any feelings he had about her death, it’s clear now that he’s set to solving the mystery. Along with Chan-hong, they’ve started a mission and a journey together that they can’t go back on.

It’s the context and backstory of Don-hyuk’s involvement in Seo-jung’s life that I enjoyed about this episode. And as cautious as I was about Don-hyuk and Chan-hong’s relationship with each other, I’m kind of glad that they have each other to solve the mystery together. Of course, Don-hyuk has a much bigger reason and motivation to hold the investigation than Chan-hong, but I’m also glad that Chan-hong also gets something out of this contract with Don-hyuk. It’s a mutual partnership between the two and I think Don-hyuk and Chan-hong will gain a lot more out of this contract than they originally expected (maybe a friendship? Some bromance?). Of course, their partnership might be damaged now considering that Don-hyuk is aware of how Chan-hong had Seo-jung’s cellphone on him. How will Don-hyuk react to the revelation? Where will things go from here?

While the drama continues to remain a dark and disturbing show because of its primary premise which centers around Seo-jung who was sexually assaulted and raped before her death, this episode displayed moments of lightheartedness and fluff. There were even some comedic scenes in this episode which helped distract me from really remembering what the drama was truly about and capable of. Scenes of Chan-hong with Se-yoon or even our three musketeer’s mission to hunt down the man involved with Seo-jung entertained me for a bit. But it didn’t take too long afterwards for me to be reminded of why all our characters are doing this in the first place: to find out the truth about what really happened to Seo-jung.

As sad as this might be, I’m glad that this drama is only four episodes long. I know for a fact that I wouldn’t have been able to take it if the drama was the usual 16-episode series. This isn’t anything against the writer or the cast per se, but it’s difficult to watch a drama about situations and incidents and cases that is often heard about in reality. So yes, while ‘To Buy a Friend’ is a drama at the end of the day, what happened to Seo-jung is a reality for many and it’s this realistic rawness that makes this drama so painful but intriguing to watch.

Pretty screenshots from the episode~

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