Side dish: It’s my parents’ anniversary, so I’m baking them a cake. Next time, I’ll probably go the more sensible route of buying them one, but in the meantime, here’s the recipe I used, for vanilla cake from Joy of Baking, with some adjustments.
Newbie contractor, Jang Geu Rae (Im Si Wan) gets ready for his work day, adjusting his tie with practiced ease. As he walks into the One International lobby, he runs into Fibre Team newbie, Han Suk Yool (Byun Yo Han), who has given himself a makeover, removing any trace of personality from both his wardrobe and himself. I never thought I’d say this, but I already miss Suk Yool’s bizarre hairdo, because sad Suk Yool is no Suk Yool at all.
Geu Rae’s voiceover indicates that it has been a while since Suk Yool went quiet and transformed himself, as a coping mechanism for his troubles at work. Geu Rae wishes he could tell Suk Yool that losing a stone doesn’t mean losing the game. Yet, he says nothing as he gets off the elevator, since they each have to deal with their hardships on their own.
At the office, Geu Rae makes notes in his calendar, writing “Yes? Yes!” on a particular day. The rest of Sales Team 3 arrives at the office, including Kim Dong Sik (Kim Dae Myung) and Mr. Chun (Park Hae Joon). Dong Sik pokes fun at him, but reminds team leader, Oh Sang Sik (Lee Sung Min) that today is the day of destiny for Geu Rae’s latest proposal. It’s not long before Geu Rae gets an email from finance, approving funds for his first project, and everyone celebrates.
Over at the Steel Team, newbie Jang Baek Ki (Kang Ha Neul) is nervously waiting for approval on his own project. His supervisor, Assistant Manager Kang (Oh Min Suk) reassures him, then asks him to get on with some other work. Baek Ki remains nervously distracted until Assistant Manager Kang is forced to remind him of the task at hand. This scene repeats itself for much of this episode.
Resource Team newbie, An Young Yi (Kang So Ra) runs into manager, Sun Ji Young (Shin Eun Jung) in the washroom. They have a pleasant conversation, but Young Yi gets a message on her phone about loan interest. Her resulting sigh causes Ji Young to invite her for a coffee. They run into Sang Sik, who still hasn’t given up on poaching Young Yi, since she doesn’t seem that tight with her team. Young Yi bluntly admits that she’s not that good with people, which makes her supervisors uncomfortable. Sang Sik points out that female workers tend to be at a disadvantage since male co-worker can make up their differences in the sauna (as we saw with Baek Ki and Assistant Manager Kang).
Young Yi gets back to the office to find the rest of her team looking down at the mouth. Her proposed business item was the most popular at headquarters, and that means trouble for the team from acting department head, Mr. Ma. Mr. Ma doesn’t disappoint, as he instructs Young Yi to kill her proposal, and hand it off to another team, so the Resource Team can proceed with a different one.
We get an explanation for his actions from Dong Sik and Mr. Chun, as they help Geu Rae put together his proposal. Mr. Ma didn’t make it through HR for a promotion. Since he spent a lot of time working with Young Yi’s Resource Team, his fortunes are tied to theirs. If they succeed or fail on the basis of a newbie’s proposal, it would look bad on him, given his track record. Mr. Chun and Dong Sik counsel Geu Rae to learn more about office politics, so he can survive.
Back at the Fibre Team, an anemic Suk Yool takes an order in Mandarin as his supervisor, Mr. Sung walks in, and immediately sends him for coffee. Before leaving, Suk Yool witnesses the team leader congratulate Mr. Sung on a successful sale. Suk Yool runs into the team leader again in the kitchen, where Suk Yool shares his reservations about the factory’s ability to produce the amount required for Mr. Sung’s sale. The team leader dismisses his concern, placing his trust in Mr. Sung.
Back at Sales Team 3, Sang Sik is called in to the sales manager’s office, who tells him that management won’t accept the proposal coming from Geu Rae, since he has less than a year on his contract. He directs him to resubmit with Mr. Chun and Dong Sik’s names on it, instead. Sang Sik argues that it’s a short-term project anyway, but the sales manager tells him not to cause trouble.
Sang Sik goes to meet with the chief of planning, who repeats that a contractor can’t be in charge of a project. An angry Sang Sik explains the situation to an outraged Dong Sik and Mr. Chun, who wonder if Sang Sik will really go through with it. Back at their desks, all three regard a blissfully ignorant Geu Rae with pity and guilt. Mr. Chun flashes back to a similar occasion in his past, where his ideas were shot down, because he wasn’t elite enough.
Young Yi, meanwhile, gets some unsolicited advice from Assistant Manager Ha (Jun Suk Ho), who tells her to let Mr. Ma have what he wants, since she can’t win against him.
Geu Rae goes to the lobby to get some documents from the director of Shinsung company, a possible partner in his project. The director is blatantly out of place and sweating profusely, but assures Geu Rae that he won’t regret choosing Shinsung.
On his way back up, Geu Rae runs into the executive director in the elevator. They have an awkward exchange, ending with the executive director inviting him to come up to play Go.
As he returns to the office, Geu Rae mentions to Sang Sik that he felt sorry for the Shinsung company director. Sang Sik scolds him for being arrogant.
While Baek Ki continues to fret, Young Yi can’t bring herself to write the email cancelling her project. She tries to get some perspective from a book (On My 29th Birthday, I Decided to Die One Year Later by Hayama Amari), but still gets nowhere.
Sang Sik goes out to eat with his former sunbae. The conversation quickly goes downhill as Sang Sik’s sunbae confesses that since leaving One International, his pizza business has failed. He’s full of regret at losing his job as a trading man, and counsels Sang Sik to do his best to stay. He ends by sneaking Sang Sik a bribe to find him a job at One International, again.
Back at the office, Geu Rae overhears the sales manager berating Dong Sik and Mr. Chun for not resubmitting the proposal without Geu Rae’s name. Geu Rae leaves before they can explain or apologize, and hides out in the stairwell. Sang Sik impatiently hunts Geu Rae down, and sends him back to work since Geu Rae remains in charge of the project.
On his way out of the office, Mr. Chun runs into the executive director, who asks how the team is doing. Over tea, Mr. Chun asks whether the executive director can help Geu Rae. Under the executive director’s blank stare, Mr. Chun apologizes immediately thereafter.
Things are no better in the Resource Team, where the team leader is berated and poked by Mr. Ma for taking too long to send the email cancelling Young Yi’s project. Afterwards, the team leader takes Young Yi up on the roof to ask her to support Mr. Ma as a favour to him, since the he has a promotion review coming up.
Young Yi and Geu Rae both end up in the roof, exchanging miserable looks, but don’t commiserate. Geu Rae echoes his earlier words that they each have to suffer hardships on their own. Finally, Young Yi ends up at Mr. Ma’s office, and agrees to cancel the project.
Back at the Fibre Team, Suk Yool is uncomfortable at being on the “office” side of the negotiation table when the factory workers show up to protest having to finish Mr. Sung’s order. Mr. Sung acts like a hardass, and the workers decide to call a strike in response. In desperation, the team leader calls on Suk Yool to sort out the situation.
Suk Yool chases the factory workers down, but they won’t listen to him, and no longer recognize him as one of their own. One of them throws Suk Yool against the wall, as Young Yi comes running in concern.
Geu Rae, meanwhile, hands off the data for his business item to Sang Sik. He falls on his sword by requesting that the person in charge of the item be switched. Visibly relieved, Sang Sik agrees.
At least someone is having a good day, as Baek Ki not only gets his business item approved, but also a compliment from Assistant Manager Kang. That evening, Baek Ki invites Geu Rae out for a drink, to give him what sounds like an oblique apology, though he doesn’t quite get the words out.
Suk Yool gets a call from the leader of the factory workers, who meets him outside of the company for a smoke. Suk Yool is in tears, as the leader asks him to understand his fear of being debilitated by faulty machines and overwork, and unable to provide for his family.
Sang Sik, for his part, goes to find his sunbae, who is drinking at a bar. Sang Sik hands him back the envelope of bribe money, and counsels him to stop drinking, since he needs to keep a clear head in his bad situation. Sang Sik gives him the card of another guy who was fired before starting up a small company. On his way home, Sang Sik calls Geu Rae, and tells him not to be drunk either. Geu Rae agrees that he needs to keep a clear head, since the game is not over.
The next morning, Suk Yool reports to his team leader that he couldn’t convince the workers to go back to work, and insists on hiring a subcontractor. When Mr. Sung protests, Suk Yool points out that he must have known in the first place that they couldn’t do it with the old machines. His team leader tells Suk Yool to go ahead, as long as he can find a subcontractor by the same day, since anything later would mean a huge loss. Suk Yool marches back to his desk, and smoothes his hair back to his old hairstyle. Woot!
Back at the Resources Team, a crisis in Mr. Ma’s project finally inspires the team leader to stand up to Mr. Ma just as Young Yi is about to be assaulted. The entire Resources Team looks on, frozen, as Mr. Ma stares them down then walks away. They all end up in the stairwell, with the team leader trembling, and Young Yi thanking him for his intervention. They have a bonding moment laughing at their impending doom.
Sang Sik meets with the sales manager, who hands him a solar panel export project, stating that if he manages to make money off this one, there will be promotions for all concerned. A grim Sang Sik correctly guesses that the project came from the executive director (who is shown reviewing Geu Rae’s file), and the episode ends.
It looks like we’ve moved forward in time to October. To show how much time has passed, we get to see Geu Rae at the beginning of the episode, tying his tie like a pro, in direct contrast to his fumbling the first time he had to get ready for work in the first episode.
Workplace dynamics was the theme of this episode, as we got a crash course on office politics and interpersonal relationships. It was interesting to see the difference between Young Yi’s team and Geu Rae’s in similar situations. Young Yi’s timid team leader bluntly asks her to drop her project as a favour, while Sang Sik spends the episode unable to drop the bomb, and forces Geu Rae to make the decision for him. Young Yi’s choice finally makes her one of the team, a more valuable outcome than the project itself. For Geu Rae, his choice to pass on his project shows us how much he’s grown; he has the confidence to make the hard decision when Sang Sik can’t.
It didn’t really come out in this recap, but one thing I enjoyed was the rapport between the Sales Team members, with Dong Sik and Geu Rae horsing around, Mr. Chun occasionally chiming in, and Sang Sik watching it all like a fond, but worried father. Losing this dynamic was more of a threat than the loss of Geu Rae’s project, as reflected in Geu Rae’s decision.
But, the story that kept me the most riveted this episode was the transformation and rebirth of Suk Yool. I’m not much of a fist pumper, but when he finally came back to himself, and smoothed his hair back to his original style, I couldn’t resist. I’ve never enjoyed a K-drama makeover less than in this episode, since it came with the loss of Suk Yool’s fantastic personality.
Anyway, I suspect this makeover is going to be short-lived, so here’s sad Suk Yool with flower boy hair: