The Thousandth Man: Episode 3

A new episode and with it, a new man for Mi-jin. Or… is he? Memories and old loves resurface and, even if she leaves a man’s liver intact, it seems that Mi-jin still takes something with her when she goes. (But apparently that ‘something’ does not include writing instruments. Just sayin’.)

 

Episode 3

Mi-jin watches Eung-seok sleep and wipes the sweat from his brow, which spins her into another flashback: this time of a minor confrontation with Mom and Mi-mo, who’d interrupted her TLC of the sick General to determine why she wasn’t  on the liver-eating train.

Exasperated, Mi-jin had explained her reason for wanting to become human: their capacity to and their willingness to die for love. It’s at this moment that she vows to take only the livers of men who meet these criteria. Ahh, so the restriction is self-imposed, rather than an actual requirement? Interesting.

Eung-seok mopes around the restaurant, thinking of Mi-jin, but laughs off Kyung-seok’s suggestion that he’s lovesick. Even so, he perks up when she arrives to deliver him a package of green tea (because it’s good for the body). Defensively, he asks if he seems unhealthy and while she demurs, we see that her gumiho senses have confirmed that he is, indeed, not well at all.

Whilst leaving the beauty parlour, an insurance agent named Min-kyu bumps into Mi-jin and, though he seems to recognise her, the same can’t be said for her. Her appearance, her name and even her obliviousness seems to point to her being the same woman with whom Min-kyu had fallen in love (unrequited though it was) in college… the only thing that doesn’t fit, is her age.

Still thinking of his first love, he steps into Last, having previously made a reservation for his birthday dinner. He seems rather forlorn, as his wife and children live overseas; he eats with no company other than his laptop and, seeing this, Eung-seok comments that their chicken soup is so good that it’ll even alleviate his loneliness. Er, I think you’re overestimating the magical powers of chicken soup, there, hon.

At home, Mi-jin chews on her pen and tries to remember why Min-kyu looked so familiar to her. She’s unsuccessful, until Mom’s chastisement over her bad habit reminds her of a young man who’d also remarked on her pen chewing: Min-kyu. (Amusingly, when called out on it, she claims that she has to wear down her teeth, or they’d be too sharp. Ha, like a rabbit?)

Armed with this new information, she searches for his business card in her mother’s purse and dials the number…

At Last, Min-kyu’s mobile phone rings but as he’s in the bathroom at the time – and knowing that Min-kyu is waiting for a call from his wife – Eung-seok answers, and is surprised to find that not only will the person on the other end of the line not tell him her name, she also hangs up as soon as she finds out Min-kyu’s location.

Cue Mi-jin’s entrance, breathless from having run all the way over to find the boy she once knew. While Eung-seok looks on in confusion, still not sure why she’s there, Mi-jin remembers another of Min-kyu’s birthdays, one they’d spent together. That particular evening had ended with Mi-jin falling asleep on the bus ride home, and Min-kyu trying unsuccessfully to manoeuvre her head onto his shoulder. Aww, poor kid. I can’t see this crush ending well.

He’s remembering the same birthday and remarks wistfully that, back then, his Mi-jin hadn’t even known he’d liked her. Mi-jin blurts out that she had known… and hastily backtracks to say that of course a woman would know when a man liked her. How could she not? Honey, the fact that you’re looking right at Eung-seok whilst saying that, when you still haven’t twigged to his feelings for you? It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in your ability to understand a man’s heart.

Min-kyu leaves and Eung-seok, having realised that Mi-jin was the woman on the phone earlier, asks her not to go and to instead stay with him. But she can’t and, without giving Eung-seok an explanation, runs after Min-kyu. Ah, Eung-seok, my heart hurts for you; you finally put yourself out there (sort of), only to be summarily rejected.

Eung-seok bristles when Kyung-seok tries to comfort him, and assures Kyung-seok that this thing between him and Mi-jin isn’t a matter concerning love at all… before heading inside to brood on the steps and minutely dissect his conversation with Mi-jin, like a fifteen year old after his first date. Hee.

Mi-jin watches from a nearby roof as Min-kyu sits in his tiny apartment, alone and lonely, and laments over his present life, one she’d never imagined for him. She remembers his dream for the future – of having a lovely home and being surrounded by his happy family – and sighs to see him brought so low.

The following day, cornered by an insistent Mi-mo and unable to get out of her promise to go ‘somewhere’ with her little sister, she jumps at the chance of an escape: in order to correct an administrative error of Secretary Park’s, she has to deliver the proper seal for the insurance documents… to Min-kyu.

She greets him rather informally, easily slipping into her old way of addressing him, to his surprise. She apologises for her rudeness but when he sees her chewing on her pen, he’s reminded once again of his first love.

Back in college, he’d been daydreaming of Mi-jin when a friend had interrupted to tell him of a fairly persistent rumour regarding Mi-jin: that she’s a maneater (to which I say: ha, you don’t know the half of it, kiddo). Min-kyu doesn’t believe it at first, but catches sight of Mi-jin dismounting from the back of some dude’s motorbike. With his illusion of Mi-jin’s perfection and purity now broken clean in two, he ignores Mi-jin’s cheerful greetings and takes off in the opposite direction.

Mi-mo drags her sister out of the room and soon Mi-jin finds out why Mi-mo had wanted her along: pretending to be Mi-jin, she’d invited Eung-seok on a date… and needed Mi-jin to prevent Eung-seok from running away as soon as he discovered the truth. Ah, Mi-mo, you sly little fox.

Eung-seok sighs and reiterates that it isn’t that he dislikes Mi-mo, exactly, it’s just that he’s… not interested. Yeah, because you have a thing for her sister; feel free to deny it all you want, it’s not going to go away.

Sensing that Eung-seok is about to take off, Mi-mo reels him in with a tidbit: they’re close to Mi-jin’s favourite place in all the world; wouldn’t he like to go with them? Intrigued by the opportunity to find out more about his mysterious crush, Eung-seok finds he can’t refuse.

Her favourite place turns out to be the nursery (the baby-storing kind) of a nearby hospital, and Eung-seok watches, amazed, as Mi-jin cries in front of the newborns, stroking the glass and whimpering with tear-filled eyes. He assumes it’s because she’s lost a baby and attempts to console her, but then finds that’s not at all the case: she just thinks it’s unfair… that all they had to do to become human was wait nine months. Ha!

Mi-mo asks after Eung-seok’s special place… and it’s even odder than Mi-jin’s: a funeral parlour. Mi-mo is dismayed at the morbidity of it all, but Eung-seok enjoys looking at coffins (not a good sign) and Mi-jin finds it fascinating (the mourning garb in particular has her excited; she asks if Eung-seok will bring her back when there’s a sale on. LOL).

Mi-mo drags both Eung-seok and Mi-jin to a restaurant and when both refuse to drink the beers she’s ordered for them, puts on a makeshift one-woman play, pretending to be all three of them (and drinking for all three of them, too). It’s quite accurate, and her portrayal of their characters makes both Eung-seok and Mi-jin smile.

Min-kyu compares the pen he took from Mi-jin earlier to one he saved from their college years, which is, I have to say, a little creepy (not to mention unsanitary). They seem to match, and he flashes back to those not-so-halcyon days and the way he’d drowned his sorrows in bottle after bottle of soju upon discovering Mi-jin’s social life.

He’d fallen unconscious on a bus stop bench in Mi-jin’s neighbourhood and when Mi-jin comes across him, she sits with him until he regains consciousness. He barely says a word to her and, when she asks why he’s in her neck of the woods, instead of telling her he likes her, he lashes out, asking if he needs her permission to be there.

Her motorcycle-riding boyfriend comes across them and Min-kyu is further angered by this reminder of her… uh, betrayal? He tells her to get lost and she does, sparing him a backward glance which he firmly ignores. Now, I know he’s young, but his behaviour here seems pretty unfair to me, as not only are they not dating, he hasn’t so much as declared his feelings for her, so whether or not she chooses to see other men really has nothing to do with him.

Back in the present, Mi-jin sits on the bus with Eung-seok and assures him that Mi-mo can find her own way home – she proclaims that Mi-mo gets verrrry drunk all the time, so she’ll be fine. Ha, poor Mi-mo; I love how utterly oblivious Mi-jin is to the fact that she’s just insulted her sister (and that she seems totally unconcerned with Mi-mo’s safety. Such a gumiho.). She takes the opportunity to ask Eung-seok why he wanted her to stay with him instead of chasing after Min-kyu and he trips over himself to assure her that it wasn’t because he likes her, oh no, it’s just that… er, married men should be off-limits.

She tells him that Min-kyu’s an old acquaintance and Eung-seok puts two and two together… a first love, named Mi-jin… and comes up with five, as he assumes that Min-kyu is a bit of a weirdo and is confusing this current Mi-jin with his first love. Hee.

Once again, he tries to get her to stay with him instead of chasing after Min-kyu, but once again she remains blithely unaware of his intentions towards her, and steps off the bus in her old neighbourhood. She finds Min-kyu collapsed on the same bench she’d found him on twenty years earlier, and apparently having consumed the same amount of soju as he had before, too.

Drunk and in tears, he tells her he doesn’t want to lose her again. A tear trickles down her cheek at his confession and she escorts him home and lays him down on the single bed in his dinky room.

He rambles on disjointedly, telling her of his enduring love for her and, after a little prodding, he admits that he would die for her, of course he would. That’s just the thing every gumiho in search of her thousandth liver wants to hear, and Mi-jin quickly transforms.

However, as she’s about to dig in – and I do mean that literally – a framed photograph catches her eye. It’s of Min-kyu and his wife and children and she recalls the future college-aged Min-kyu had spoken of with such anticipation. Regretfully, she pulls back, whispering to him that their past was beautiful, but that the present is even better – because his family is now his most precious dream.

Eung-seok once again broods on the stairs – it’s better than a bus stop bench, I guess – and turns his phone over and over in his hands. He asks Kyung-seok for the date and Kyung-seok, annoyed, replies that he asks the same question every day. Eung-seok murmurs to himself that he’s getting worse… Uh-oh. Is that a possible brain tumour I hear knocking on my TV screen?

Speaking of illnesses, Mi-jin lies in bed, sick with an unknown ailment, and though Mom urges her to go to the hospital, Mi-jin refuses, saying that hospitals are smelly and noisy. Mom can’t disagree with that, so instead, she sends Secretary Park off to get medicine… from the vet. LOL.

Neighbour Boy (Woo-hyun from boy band Infinite) brings over biscuits for the ladies and gets one shoved into his mouth when he questions Mi-jin’s veterinary care. He tells Mi-mo she’ll regret it if she cuts his lips… because they belong to her. Ha, cute.

Mi-jin, seemingly improved, opens a box with her name on it and finds inside the chewed up pens that Min-kyu has been collecting (I guess returning them makes him seem like less of a stalker?). Sighing at another missed opportunity and the bittersweet loss of another love, she wanders into the garden and decides to throw the pen away, just as Eung-seok paces along the street outside, armed with a fruit basket and trying to decide whether or not to deliver it to the supposedly ill Mi-jin.

Naturally, the pen hits him in the back of the head and, hearing his muffled curse, Mi-jin sniffs him out. She sits in the tree bordering their property, watching his adorable pacing and holding up an excited hand every time he turns towards the house… which turns into a fist every time he then turns back. LOL. When he finally decides to just go home, she leaps from the tree and, annoyed by his indecisiveness, grabs the fallen pen and throws it at him. Hee.

Comments:

Something that I found quite interesting in this episode (I’m specifying because I hadn’t really noticed it before), is that Mi-mo doesn’t call her sister unni, but rather ‘fox’ or even ‘ya’ which, given my admittedly limited understanding of Korean culture, is something of a no-no. Perhaps it’s because Mi-jin isn’t actually older than Mi-mo (though I think a previous episode established that Mi-jin is the older sister – feel free to correct me if I’m wrong), or it could be that Mi-mo doesn’t feel the need for such human social conventions, given that Mi-jin is still a gumiho, but… it still seems a little odd to me and is something I hope the show mentions (even offhandedly) at some point.

As for the relationship between the two leads… It is. So. Freaking. Cute. I love that when it comes to men, Mi-jin has this contradictory mix of ignorance and awareness; but it’s that very contradiction that makes me wonder if her ignorance is because she’s a gumiho and really doesn’t know the human heart, or if it’s more the… wilful sort (as in: if it’s something she doesn’t want, or isn’t ready, to acknowledge, she’ll quite happily pretend to be unaware of it).

Eung-seok seems to be a similar situation – though every time he sees Mi-jin, the strength of his denial seems to weaken further. His uncertainty over what to do with his feelings for Mi-jin is both adorable and sad: adorable because he really is like a boy experiencing love for the first time; and sad, because you know that part of the reason he’s pushing her away is the inevitability of that axe hanging over his oh-so-cute head.

As to what, exactly, that axe is and how it’ll influence our would-be lovebirds… we’ll have to wait and see.

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