Sometimes things get worst before they can get better. Ae-jung has many damaging and concerning thoughts looming over her head and there’s never a moment that goes by where she’s uncertain of her future. However, not all hope is lost and there might be ways for her to come out of this alive, survived, and thrived. Things might get better for Ae-jung and all it takes is that first step. Though small, it can be a huge turning point.
Was It Love?: Episode 3 Recap
Ever since she was young, Ha-nee tried not to be curious about her dad or to really think of him at all. She merely went on with her life pretending as if he never existed. However, all of that has changed. She’s now more curious than ever as to who her father could be and her investigation starts with Yeon-woo. Her P.E. teacher stops by their house to grab dinner with both Ha-nee and Grandma. Upon entering the house, Yeon-woo excitedly greets Ha-nee and glances around the house at family photos and other items hung up on the walls. Meanwhile, Ae-jung and Dae-oh stop at a restaurant to chat and discuss about Ae-jung’s proposal. She acknowledges that Dae-oh’s made a name for himself now, but she still wants to work with him given that he wrote a story about her without her permission. Dae-oh takes Ae-jung’s proposal into consideration, but there’s something more pressing on his mind: where was Ae-jung the last 14 years? Where did she go?
Ae-jung attempts to bargain with Dae-oh and responds that she’ll reveal the reason as to why they broke up if he commits to working with her on the film adaptation. For a second, Dae-oh gives it a thought and is nearly close to giving in, but he quickly snaps out of it and rejects the offer. No, he’s not the same Dae-oh that Ae-jung knew back in college. He’s different now. Who knows, he might rescue her one of these days out for old time’s sake.
Ae-jung splashes the cup of soju into Dae-oh’s face as a result of the comment and she expresses her anguish and resentment towards the famous author. She was willing to work things out with Dae-oh and finally give him the answers he wanted regarding their breakup. However, considering just how difficult he’s making things, he will never get answers at this point. Plus, the book was only written from his perspective since he never knew the reasons as to why they broke up. Ae-jung won’t give their collaboration another thought; she’s certain she never wants to work with Dae-oh.
After the book concert, Jin finds himself stuck in the men’s restroom in order to escape from the crowd of fangirls waiting outside of the restroom for him (GAAAAH, one’s biggest nightmare!). He calls Manager Myung for help; it’s an emergency! Lol. Back at Grandma’s house, she and Yeon-woo catch up on old times, such as the time when Grandma was a body scrubber back at the sauna that she used to run. But wait, does Yeon-woo have any memories with Ae-jung? Grandma quickly quiets Ha-nee by stuffing her mouth with a piece of gimbap, lol. Enough about Grandma. They chat about Yeon-woo who reveals that he also enjoys eating tofu (just like Ha-nee) and that he’s in search of a new place to move into soon. Grandma proposes that he could move in with them since they have a few spare rooms. Since Ae-jung and Yeon-woo are close with each other, Grandma argues that they wouldn’t need to notify Ae-jung ahead of time. Of course, all of this gets Ha-nee thinking about Yeon-woo’s relationship with her mother even more.
After dinner, Ha-nee catches up with Yeon-woo to hand him his cellphone that he forgot back inside the house. She also asks him what his connection with Ae-jung was to which Yeon-woo replies: someone who he wanted to take care of. A flashback of Yeon-woo standing outside of Grandma’s closed sauna with a pair of baby shoes in his hand is shown as Yeon-woo reflects on what Ae-jung means to him. Grandma calls Sook-hee, Ae-jung’s friend and their landlord, right after dinner to inquire on Yeon-woo’s living situation. Sook-hee agrees to the request and Yeon-woo is given the green light to move in with them. Ha-nee is still suspicious of Grandma’s intent and wants to know why she let Yeon-woo move in with them. Ae-jung arrives home right at that moment so the two approach her to give their sides of the story. However, Ae-jung isn’t in the mood to talk to anyone after her encounter with Dae-oh at the restaurant. Lol.
Back at his house, Dae-oh searches for the same copyright contract that Ae-jung has with her. He’s going to use it as leverage against Ae-jung and sue her. While searching for the contract, he comes across something else instead: a group photo of them and their classmates back during their college retreat. Dae-oh’s taken back to 2005 on the night when he and Ae-jung were at the river. After bluntly confessing to her and almost kissing her, she pushed him off into the water. However, this didn’t stop Dae-oh from holding onto any hopes of being with Ae-jung. He extends his hand out to her and asks for her to help him up. If she isn’t rejecting him, she’ll help pull him up from the cold water. Ae-jung gives it a thought, but she ultimately slaps his hand and runs away. Rejected it is.
The next morning, the entire group gathers for a photo in front of the house. Of course, Dae-oh stands right next to Ae-jung. As everyone is preparing for the photo, the two have a small talk on the side. Dae-oh’s pretty sure Ae-jung touched his hand the night before which Ae-jung tries to deny. Dae-oh takes it as a sign that Ae-jung feels the same way about him and he grabs her hand right as the photo is taken. Jin, who’s standing a few people apart from the two, can’t help but stare at them. He peeks at Ae-jung and Dae-oh and is seen staring at them even when the photo is taken. Dae-oh crumbles the photo in his hands after remembering about the specific memory.
Manager Myung comes to Jin’s rescue and he’s able to escape the popular actor from all the fangirls waiting outside of the men’s restroom. On the drive back, Jin glances through all the SNS photos that the fangirls posted of him outside of the restroom and many allude to how they still love him despite their concerns for his health. Omg, lol. It doesn’t take long for CEO Song to notice all the photos so she gives Manager Myung another call (and more scolding). Jin reassures her that he’s fine and that he doesn’t have constipation or any of the things that the fangirls assume. While scrolling through the photos, Jin notices one picture in particular that stands out to him: a photo with Ae-jung in it. He regrets attending the book concert. It only lead him into this mess and it wasn’t worth it.
Dae-oh hosts a guest lecture at a university about writing and his experiences as an author. Sure, experiences are important elements to a writer’s work, but so are emotions. There are many different emotions that one can feel, such as hostility, displeasure, resentment, and regret — emotions and feelings that Ae-jung is experiencing as she struggles to come up with ways to pay back her debt to Pa-do. She doesn’t qualify for loans and it would take her 40 years to pay back the debt with part-time jobs. After emphasizing on the importance of emotions as a writer, one of the students in the class poses a question about Dae-oh’s book “Love is Nonexistent.” If emotions are so important as a writer, what type of emotions did Dae-oh experience as he was writing the novel?
Dae-oh assumes the student is speaking about the male protagaonist’s emotions in the story, but the student clarifies her question. She’s curious as to what the female character’s feelings and emotions were in the book. Dae-oh didn’t really show much of that in the novel. The popular author struggles to come up with an answer to the question since, well, he never knew Ae-jung’s side of the story to their breakup. The student elaborates that he should have given some kind of insight on the emotions of the female character who betrayed the man she loved. Maybe the ending to the book would have been different.
Pa-do and his right-hand man, Director Kim, stop by Thumb Films studio. However, Ae-jung and Hye-jin were convicted since they’ve been behind on paying rent. Pa-do recalls the moment back in the hospital when Ae-jung voiced her concerns about her situation to him. She was worried that if she relaxed for just a bit and let down her guard, she might just really collapse. She’s trying her best to hold herself together. The episode then takes us back to when Pa-do listened in on a woman (who looks like Ae-jung) expressing the same exact concerns to him in Mandarin (?). She’s sitting while holding a cigarette in her mouth while Pa-do stands from behind. Pa-do snaps out of it and meets with Ae-jung outside near the building of the studio.
Ae-jung puts on a fake smile as she approaches Pa-do and Director Kim. She suggests they chat at a nearby cafe, but her plans are ruined thanks to Dae-oh who shows up right at that moment. Ae-jung isn’t so thrilled at the sight of Dae-oh, but it’s different for Pa-do who introduces himself to Dae-oh upon seeing him. He extends his hand to the author for a handshake. Back at school, Ha-nee has a talk with her friend, Dong-chan, about her investigation behind who her father is. She’s come up with her own version of a paternity test with questions asking about their blood type and favorite food just to name a few. Ha-nee plans on giving this to Yeon-woo who she suspects is her father. If no one’s going to tell Ha-nee anything about her father, she’ll need to set out and find out for herself. So later on that day, Ha-nee hands Yeon-woo the paternity test — a piece of paper with all the questions on it. She merely describes it as just a tenant checklist.
Ae-jung, Pa-do, and Dae-oh stop by a cafe to chat. After properly introducing himself as the CEO to Nine Capital, Pa-do assumes Ae-jung and Dae-oh had a talk about their upcoming collaboration and film project. With Dae-oh in the picture, things are going well, right? Ae-jung finally musters the courage to admit that she won’t work with Dae-oh. But wait, Dae-oh argues that it’s not up to Ae-jung as to whether or not she wants to work with him on the film adaptation of his book. He also has a copy of the copyright contract to his novel and he’s going to sue Ae-jung for it. Pa-do explains Ae-jung’s situation to Dae-oh and why he was committed to investing in her project: she has 1.05 billion won that she needs to pay him back. If the movie adaptation succeeded, she would use the profit from the movie to pay him back.
Dae-oh is puzzled and flustered upon hearing the payment amount. Pa-do reminds Ae-jung once again what will happen if she doesn’t pay back the debt, but Ae-jung is certain she will. She promises to pay back the amount of money she owes him; she just needs a bit more time. Ae-jung rushes out of the cafe after the sticky situation, leaving Pa-do and Dae-oh behind. Dae-oh establishes Pa-do’s role as Ae-jung’s creditor. So how is Dae-oh exactly connected to Ae-jung? Dae-oh doesn’t specify, but he notes that he’s closer to her than Pa-do is. However, Pa-do isn’t sure it’s such a good thing. Dae-oh might be closer to her, but he doesn’t trust her. Plus, Ae-jung lost many things in life due to Dae-oh. Oof. That was a rough one.
Upon arriving home, Ae-jung finds a bike parked right in front of the gate to her house. She marches into the house only to find Yeon-woo inside with Grandma and Ha-nee. Confused, the three have a separate talk inside one of the rooms about Yeon-woo’s living situation. Although Grandma initially thought it was a good idea to have Yeon-woo move in with them, Ae-jung feels otherwise. He’s Ha-nee’s teacher before he is Ae-jung’s acquaintance and she wouldn’t want people to see him going in and out of the same house as his student. Things are already as tough as it is. Ae-jung storms out of the room after expressing her anger and frustration and encounters Yeon-woo on the way out. She excuses herself to visit Sook-hee once again for another ranting session. As her landlord, Sook-hee can’t blame herself for siding with Grandma who wants to pay the overdue rent. It only made sense that Sook-hee agreed to Grandma’s idea. Ae-jung worries especially knowing that Grandma isn’t aware of her debt. She cries on Sook-hee’s shoulder over her difficult situation.
Dae-oh tries not to worry too much about Ae-jung and the financial burden placed on her with her debt. He shouldn’t be worrying about her, right? At that moment, Chief Editor Hong bursts into his room with news that Dae-oh’s received another offer from Hollywood: they’re interested in creating a film adaptation for his book “Love is Nonexistent.” This is a great opportunity for Dae-oh! He sure isn’t going to turn this chance down, right? Although Chief Editor Hong is thrilled at the news, Dae-oh seems conflicted. Meanwhile, CEO Song isn’t so happy with Jin’s results from his Hollywood audition for his upcoming movie. Instead of landing the major character role, Jin has been placed as a supporting character (“bodyguard #3”). It’s not great enough for CEO Song and she scolds her staff for not doing enough. However, Jin interrupts the meeting by giving grace to his staff. He argues that if CEO Song wants different results, she should do the heavy lifting herself. Although Jin attempts to look strong and confident in front of his staff, he stumbles and panics after exiting the meeting. He’s not that happy with being a supporting character for the movie himself.
Ae-jung spends some time with Grandma later on that night. She’s friendlier this time and she feels apologetic for the way that she yelled at Grandma earlier that evening. Grandma notes that she moved some boxes from the attic to Ae-jung’s bedroom — boxes that include her photos and memorabilia from college. So with that, Ae-jung takes a glance at all the items inside of the box. She comes across the poster for the graduation film that she created with Director Dae-oh, Actor Jin, and her as the producer. The episode then flashes back to when the three were all friends and filming for the film together. Just like in the present, they all had dreams of making it into Hollywood back then. Ae-jung smiles upon finishing the film and looks back at it with a smile on her face. Times sure were better back then.
Dae-oh and Jin meet up that night to talk about their Hollywood dreams. Dae-oh brags about the offer he received from Hollywood for a movie adaptation of his debut novel. Of course, this doesn’t sit well with Ryu Jin who landed a supporting role after being hyped up to be the main character for the movie. Nonetheless, Dae-oh considers accepting the grand offer. If he does, that means he won’t have a reason to meet with Ae-jung anymore, right? Dae-oh claims that he cut ties with Ae-jung back during the book concert. However, Jin feels different. If anything, it’s more of a loss to Dae-oh than it is for Ae-jung. He needs her more than she needs him. The only reason as to why he had an open-ended conclusion for his book was because he never knew the reason as to why she broke up with him. After expressing his honest thoughts, Jin leaves Dae-oh behind. He really was not a big fan of Dae-oh that night.
Ae-jung’s boss, CEO Wang, is caught by other loan sharks that he’s borrowed money from. Fortunately, Pa-do and Director Kim come to his aid to help him escape. Since CEO Wang is also their client, it’s their responsibility to look out for him until he’s able to pay back the money he owes. So with that, Pa-do rolls up his sleeves and fights against his opponents. He (unsurprisingly) wins and comes out with a blade injury on his hand. While wrapping up his wound with a cloth, Director Kim notes how it seems like Pa-do is doing all of this for Ae-jung. She’s indebted to him, but it seems like it’s the other way around for Pa-do.
Dae-oh thinks long and hard about all the comments he received from Jin and Ae-jung about finding out the reasons to his breakup with Ae-jung. He gives the group photo he found from their college retreat one last glance before crumbling it again and throwing it away in the trash. The next morning, Ae-jung comes across Yeon-woo so the two sit down to talk. Ae-jung apologizes for the reckless and awful behavior she committed the night before. She’s been dealing with a lot, but Yeon-woo understands. He too should have thought thinks through. Yeon-woo manages to cheer Ae-jung up and she lets out a smile on her face. Ae-jung remains optimistic.
Ha-nee shares her results of the paternity test with Yeon-woo to Dong-chan. He scored 98% on the test — only 98%. Lol. Since a DNA test is too costly, they decide to go another route to further her investigation on whether Yeon-woo is her father. She digs out Ae-jung’s old phone from back when she was in college and they look through her call history. They find a phone number from the outgoing calls list so Ha-nee gives the number a call. If the phone number doesn’t belong to Yeon-woo, who could it be? The number on the list belongs to none other than our popular actor, Jin. He’s still nervous and anxious about landing the role of a supporting character in his upcoming Hollywood movie and he has to eat tons of candy in order to calm himself down. Manager Myung reassures him that CEO Song will work her magic in Hollywood and get him a better offer. Once gone, Jin receives a phone call from an unknown number which he picks up. It’s Ha-nee who’s on the other line and she immediately hangs up upon hearing his voice. She sends him a text afterwards introducing herself as Ae-jung’s daughter.
Chief Editor Hong and Dae-oh meet up with a buyer from Hollywood who’s interested in the movie adaptation of Dae-oh’s debut novel. While walking out of the building together, Dae-oh catches Ae-jung entering the cafe in the same exact building. Ae-jung is meeting up with two employees from another film company who wants the copyrights to Dae-oh’s novel as well. They pitch the idea that Ae-jung should get at least some kind of money from selling them the copyrights. Plus, they have way more competent and qualified staff who can produce the movie. But Ae-jung is confident that she can do just as well too if given the opportunity. Why are they not interested in working with her? At that moment, their meeting is interrupted by Dae-oh who approaches the group. The two employees are confused at the sight of Dae-oh, but it’s not until Chief Editor Hong comes trailing after and shouting his alias name, Cheon Ok-man, that they finally understand the situation.
Dae-oh announces there and then his decision to sign a contract with Ae-jung. He’s going to work with her on the movie adaptation for his book. With that, he drags Ae-jung out of the building and across the street. However, Ae-jung isn’t so happy. She doesn’t take him seriously and assumes he must be pestering her and messing around with her again. This must all be a part of his revenge scheme against her. However, Dae-oh makes it clear to her that he’s serious this time. He genuinely wants Ae-jung to produce the movie. She’s the only one who can complete his work since she’s a part of the story as much as he is. With that, Dae-oh extends his hand out to Ae-jung to seal the deal. Just like how he did 14 years ago at the river, he extends his hand out to Ae-jung in the present in hopes that she’ll reciprocate the same feelings. The situations from both moments might be different, but the emotions still stand the same: Dae-oh wishes for Ae-jung to feel the same way.
And this time, Ae-jung does. Unlike 14 years ago, she grabs Dae-oh’s hand and shakes it. She agrees to work with him. Upon reaching a consensus, the water fountains right next to them turn on and the two are immersed in a mist of water for a few seconds. While the two smile at each other with this new found opportunity, there’s another set of eyes focused on the past lovers. Yeon-woo arrives at the same building not too long afterwards and he catches sight of the two holding hands.
I’ll just admit it — that ending scene was what ultimately sold me in this episode. Compared to the first two episodes, episode three felt a little bit less interesting and entertaining for me. It wasn’t a bad episode at all, but it also felt a little flat for me at times which kills me to say because I love our characters and relationships in this drama so much. However, the ending to this episode changed the uncertainty I was feeling and it made me excited for what was to come.
I’m glad that the drama didn’t spend too much time on Dae-oh’s revenge scheme. To be fair, there was never really a revenge scheme in the first place. Dae-oh is still clearly curious and hurt from his breakup with Ae-jung 14 years ago and as it was mentioned multiple times in this episode, their breakup was something that he never received closure to. In that sense, Dae-oh is still somewhat not really over Ae-jung as much as he wants to be or sets himself up to be. He’s still very much interested in knowing what she’s been up to or how she’s been doing as illustrated by the question he asked her at the restaurant they visited in the beginning of this episode. He wanted to put up this image and facade that he was fine without Ae-jung and that he was doing perfectly okay without her in his life. While this rings true to an extent because he was able to make a name for himself and succeed as an author, it’s obvious he’s still not completely over her and their relationship given that he wrote a successful novel about their relationship. There’s still many things he wants to know and questions he wants answers to. With this collaboration with Ae-jung, maybe he’ll finally get some of the answers to those questions he’s been seeking.
It’s been obvious that Dae-oh never really resented Ae-jung in the way that he wanted to present himself to be. On the outside, he thought of getting back at Ae-jung and poking at her pride and ego and proving to her that she did him wrong by breaking up with him. As we saw in this episode, this didn’t last for too long because he still missed her. Dae-oh still wanted to know what happened 14 years ago and why they broke up. It’s been more than a decade since they’ve met and seen each other and it also didn’t help that he never received the kind of closure to their relationship that he wanted. Combine this with comments that he never knew the reason to their breakup so his book “Love is Nonexistent” is incomplete could be a reason as to why he chose to work with Ae-jung. A part of it is for himself and the hopes that he’ll learn the truth behind their breakup, but it’s also for Ae-jung who he knows needs the film adaptation to succeed to alleviate her financial stress and burdens. Ultimately, he wants to work with her because he still cares for Ae-jung, the relationship they had 14 years ago, and the possibilities of a new beginning for the both of them.
And that’s what that handshake at the ending resembled: a new beginning, start, and chapter for Dae-oh and Ae-jung. The two might not have ended on the best terms when they broke up, but that doesn’t mean that things can’t be different in the present. I absolutely loved the way the ending compared the two times that Dae-oh extended his hand out to Ae-jung. The first time being in regards to Dae-oh’s confession to Ae-jung while the second being more work-related, but the overall sentiment and emotions still remained the same. Dae-oh wanted him and Ae-jung to be on the same page and a handshake is what would solidify and allow for that to happen. He wanted Ae-jung to feel the same way that he did and that’s what the handshake signified. When you think about it, it’s just a simple handshake and maybe even for a second, it feels cheesy with how big of a deal Dae-oh is making the handshake out to be. But it means the world to him because in receiving a handshake from Ae-jung, it means that his feelings are acknowledged and that there is hope for something between him and Ae-jung. He didn’t get a handshake 14 years ago, but he was still able to win her heart. Fast forward 14 years later and he finally earned the handshake plus Ae-jung’s trust again in the end.
The drama is obviously playing the game of who Ha-nee’s father is which I have no complaints about. I just hope that this isn’t what the drama is entirely about and that it also spends time giving us insight as to what really happened back then with Ha-nee’s father. I would hate to watch 14 episodes of Ha-nee trying to figure out who her father is and none of the aftermath. Since we’re still pretty early into the game, it’s uncertain as to who her father is (which is completely fine). I think I’ll get a better understanding of things once Grandma is to reunite with either Jin or Dae-oh. However, I also hope this isn’t the only thing that the drama focuses on and that the father revelation is revealed by the middle of the show. I want to see the truth behind the past and what lead to Ha-nee’s father disappearing from her life. I also want to know what’s going to happen in the future once Ha-nee’s father is revealed. I want to know why Ha-nee is a single mother. I want to know why Yeon-woo was standing outside of Grandma’s sauna with a pair of baby shoes in his hand. There are so many things that I want to know about and I enjoy all the mini-flashbacks that we get. I would appreciate it if the drama provided us with effective storytelling and hopefully with great pacing to execute all of this.
I love this drama and the characters and all the complicated relationships and whatnot, but I also realized something as I was watching this drama. It suddenly dawned on me that as much as I respect and support Song Ji-hyo (as a religious ‘Running Man’ viewer, I love her on the show), it’s so interesting to watch her in her original profession as an actress. A part of me is enjoying her portrayal of the stressed, frustrated, and uncertain single mother and determined film producer Ae-jung, but another part of me also craves for more from her. The biggest scene that prompted these feelings was the restaurant scene at the beginning of the episode. I loved watching Ae-jung confront Dae-oh and put him in his place. He thinks he’s this big hotshot and that he’s much better than Ae-jung or that she absolutely needs him in order to succeed so I loved watching Ae-jung spit the truth to Dae-oh and yet, I also wished there was a little bit more emotion in that scene. That scene was so pivotal and important because Ae-jung was finally belting out all the frustration and rage she had been holding inside towards Dae-oh and she was finally giving him a piece of her mind. However, I wanted a bit more punch and oomph from Song Ji-hyo who I felt was merely reciting her lines while yelling at him. A part of it was that Ae-jung was yelling at Dae-oh, but she was also so raw and honest in that moment and I didn’t necessarily get that from Song Ji-hyo’s acting in that scene. Don’t get me wrong, she’s been doing great in other scenes throughout, but for such a critical moment in the episode, it made me realize how much more impactful some moments in this drama could be if there was just a teeny, tiny bit more emotions put into it.
Ultimately, Dae-oh is willing to give up Hollywood for Ae-jung which speaks volumes about his thoughts and feelings about her and their relationship. This project will hopefully allow them to achieve the dreams they had back in college of going to Hollywood as well as serve as the catalyst for the two to heal from their traumatic past that they haven’t quite moved on from just yet. There’s still many lingering emotions and attachments to their relationship and words unspoken that lead to misunderstandings. There’s a variety of opportunities and possibilities that are to come out out of this collaboration and it can only get better from here on out. Next up is recruiting Jin to participate in the movie so that our college trio is reunited once again. Hopefully, things won’t be as complicated and challenging.
Extra screenshots from the episode~