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Sweet Stranger and Me Episode 8 RECAP

With duty and feelings growing muddled and twisted together, Na-ri has her work cut out for her, learning the answers to her questions about her past. But it’s going to be harder than it looks, as each answer only raises more questions, and relationships turn out to be even more convoluted than she thought. Luckily, Na-ri is no weak soul, and she’s going to need every bit of her strength and determination to face the storm that’s coming.

EPISODE 8 RECAP

Deok-bong drives Na-ri back to the house under protest, but she tells him not to wait for her. He says that he feels like this is his last chance, and that his feelings are real. Na-ri honestly says that she didn’t come back for the book, and Deok-bong backs off, though he asks her to talk later.

Nan-gil goes back to the house to find Nan-gil waiting for her. He finally admits that he loved her as children, and still loves her now, then kisses the daylights out of her. She kisses him back, and when he pulls back to nervously assess her reaction, Na-ri gives him an encouraging smile.

Deok-bong drives back to Seoul after all, annoyed and distracted. He nearly gets into a wreck, and pulls over to pound the steering wheel in anger.

Na-ri adorably follows Nan-gil as he cleans up, asking if that was a confession or an apology, and he just says, “Both,” hee. She reminds him of the famous line from the movie Love Story, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” and Nan-gil smiles the cutest little smile ever.

Na-ri teases that they should have a snowball fight like in the movie, and Nan-gil grins and says he’s never done anything that corny. Na-ri says there’s lots of corny things he’ll have to do with her, and he moves in to kiss her again, but they’re interrupted by Young-gyu (who’s hilariously scandalized by what he almost saw, ha).

Deok-bong stops in to see his therapist, and asks if his father is also getting counseling. He complains that Dad is a big fat liar, and all he cares about is money. He shudders that that man’s blood is running through his veins, and instructs the therapist to tell his father he said that.

The doctor asks if anything else is bothering Deok-bong, and he thinks about Na-ri telling him not to wait for her. But he just tells the doctor to do something about Deok-shim’s mood swings.

His time is up and he stands, and when the doctor mentions his father suggesting he go back to being a lawyer, he suddenly and furiously sweeps the books off a shelf. He leans close to the doctor and asks if he’s expected to clean up his family’s messes.

Nan-gil sits with Na-ri at the bus stop, and she complains that he looks like he’s regretting his confession. He says he’s just a little shocked, and she says it will feel unreal at first, but then he’ll see her stressing and getting more wrinkles, and he’ll be disappointed.

Nan-gil promises that won’t happen, but says if she regrets being with him, then it’s okay to be honest. She teases him, asking if it’s okay if she stops calling, or sees other men, and if he’ll do anything she tells him to do. Nan-gil nods yes to it all, and when he calls her childish, she’s all Welcome to your new reality, ha.

She compares their new long-distance relationship to a field, reminding him that crops grow when they hear the farmer’s footsteps. All they need to do is tend the relationship, like sending messages even when they’re busy, childish heart emoticons and all, and Nan-gil agrees.

He sees her onto the bus, then runs and jumps on to ride with her a little distance. Na-ri jokes that he’s abusing the privilege of being the restaurant owner, then says that they should just keep acting as they have been with each other. Nan-gil agrees to this too, and Na-ri says that she’ll let go of trying to discover Mom’s secret and move forward with him.

They leave on that note and Nan-gil gets off at the next stop. But as happy as they are, once Na-ri’s bus drives out of sight, the little insecurities start to set in for both of them.

Later that night Nan-gil dresses up to meet with CEO Bae, and his chefs show up to escort him. But Nan-gil changes his mind at the last minute, and instead sits on the porch swing to think. He ignores a call from Wan-shik, who’s with CEO Bae and Uncle.

CEO Bae wonders if Nan-gil is too scared to hear what he has to tell him, or if he’s just uncomfortable to see Uncle. He suddenly throws an ashtray against the wall, scaring Uncle and Wan-shik. He says that if they ever make him look stupid again, he’ll kill them. By Wan-shik’s reaction, that’s not an empty threat.

Wan-shik keeps trying to call Nan-gil, but his thoughts are full of Na-ri. He thinks about how she said he’ll have to do lots of corny things with her, and says softly to himself, “Okay, let’s do everything.”

Back at work, Na-ri runs into her sunbae, who instantly notices she looks different. Na-ri coyly deflects her curiosity, and Yeo-joo confronts her next to announce that she broke up with Dong-jin. Na-ri doesn’t really care, and says so.

Yeo-joo sneers that Na-ri looks awfully happy, thinking Na-ri plans to reconcile with Dong-jin, but Na-ri says that garbage has been trashed. Yeo-joo asks for an introduction to Nan-gil, and Na-ri tells her to find her own men, ha.

Yeo-joo can tell she hit a nerve, and she pokes at it to see Na-ri squirm. She warns Na-ri not to show her emotions to a younger man — not to call him first, and to be mean to him, so that he thinks he likes her more.

Yeo-joo’s words make Na-ri wonder if she showed interest first, then she smiles when she remembers Nan-gil’s confession. She’s distracted by a text from Dong-jin asking to see her, and Yeo-joo sees the text and leaves in a huff.

Na-ri decides to show Nan-gil her life in Seoul, taking pictures of her apartment to send. But then she wonders why he’s not sending messages like he promised, and gives him a call instead. She asks why he’s not keeping up his end of the deal, and he says he thought she wanted things between them to stay the same.

She accuses him of playing hard to get, and he starts to deny it before admitting that yeah, he does do that a lot actually. Na-ri tells him that she’s meeting with Dong-jin before he moves to Hong Kong, and she nearly says she misses him, but Yeo-joo’s advice not to show her emotions makes her stop.

She hangs up, and Nan-gil huffs and calls right back. Awww, he wants to know the Seoul Na-ri, and she asks for pictures of her lettuce in return. So they send what looks like hundreds of pictures, Na-ri of her life in Seoul (OMG, Nan-gil moons at the pictures of her airport like he moons at Na-ri herself, so cute), and Nan-gil of the lettuce’s progress.

Yeo-joo snatches Na-ri’s phone, pretending to be looking for their schedule, and instead seeing a message from Dong-jin asking her to meet at her friend Ran-sook’s cafe.

Protestors gather outside Hong Mandoo, badmouthing the restaurant’s delay of the resort development. Deok-bong watches from his car as Secretary Kwon takes pictures, and he calls his father to tell him not to incite riots.

A very changed Deok-shim, sans glasses and wearing a floral dress, applies for a job as kitchen staff at Hong Mandoo. Sous chef Young-gyu isn’t impressed, but he calls Nan-gil to interview her.

Deok-shim is alarmingly polite, but she answers all of Nan-gil’s questions to his satisfaction, though at one point she goes a little googly-eyed when he says her name. Nan-gil tells her she needs her brother’s permission, and she promises to get it if she can start training now. HA, they both just ignore poor Young-gyu, who’s dying to know who her brother is.

Na-ri meets with Dong-jin at Ran-sook’s cafe, and he mentions all the times they could have gotten married and didn’t. He points out that she was the one who declined each chance, though he does take responsibility for their breakup.

Na-ri isn’t interested in this topic, and asks what he wanted to give her. He hands over a package and says that her mother gave him this before he proposed. She opens the package as he says that he saw Mom immediately before her death.

A flashback shows us that meeting, and it’s obvious that Dong-jin and Mom had a very affectionate relationship. Mom had given him the package and told him to hang it on their wall after they married, letting slip that her “son” stole it for her.

It’s an old school drawing of Na-ri’s, with a poem she’d written, titled, “Marriage.” Dong-jin says that now he knows things are really over, and that he’s moving to Hong Kong with Yeo-joo, though he hasn’t asked her to go with him yet. Na-ri says angrily that they deserve each other.

Dong-jin stays calm, and asks if Nan-gil is still claiming the house as his. Na-ri tells him to mind his own business, but Dong-jin mentions how Nan-gil seemed strange, or possibly sick that time they met in Seoul, which reminds her of the dizzy spell she witnessed, and she grows worried.

Yeo-joo storms into the cafe, passing by another customer who seems to recognize her. His girlfriend asks if Yeo-joo still makes her boyfriend’s heart flutter, and hey, it’s the woman Yeo-joo fought with on the plane. Oh, this is gonna be good.

Dong-jin looks horrified to see Yeo-joo, but Na-ri can only think of Nan-gil, and she ignores Yeo-joo to ask how Nan-gil seemed strange. Yeo-joo reveals that she knows Dong-jin is registered with a marriage broker, but it’s news to Dong-jin.

Na-ri couldn’t possibly care less, and she yells, “How was he sick?!” The girlfriend at the next table assumes that Yeo-joo must be breaking up another couple and decides to defend Na-ri.

Dong-jin says that Nan-gil looked pale and nearly passed out, but that he didn’t go to the hospital. Na-ri jumps to her feet and says he should have told her, which is when the girlfriend comes to tell her that she’ll lose if she gets upset.

The girlfriend turns her anger on Yeo-joo, sniping at her for not learning a lesson from their fight. Na-ri ignores the commotion and tries to call Nan-gil, growing even more worried when he doesn’t answer. Ran-sook finally arrives and Na-ri grabs her car keys, desperate to see Nan-gil.

Dong-jin stops the girlfriend from slapping Yeo-joo, then runs out after Na-ri. Ran-sook follows to ask Dong-jin what he did to Na-ri this time, but he’s just as surprised by her behavior, because she’s certainly never been this upset on his behalf. They both worry because Na-ri is an inexperienced driver. Yeo-joo joins them, and Ran-sook tells Dong-jin that Na-ri hides it, but she was so stressed over their breakup that she even lost her vision.

Yeo-joo tells Dong-jin not to feel bad about Na-ri, because she’s seeing someone else now. She asks if Dong-jin was going to move away without even calling her, and he says he was going to after he settled everything. She snarls that he just wanted a chance to reconcile with Na-ri first, and she was the backup plan.

Dong-jin sighs, and says that all she had to do was be patient. But now she’s shown him her worst, before he had a chance to do anything. Yeo-joo spits back that he’s just as bad, that it took him only one day to betray nine years with Na-ri, and Dong-jin agrees that she’s also seen him at his worst.

Calmly, Dong-jin says they should separate and move on. He walks away without waiting for Yeo-joo’s answer, leaving her crying. Her day gets worse when her mother calls to tell her that her father is in the hospital again.

Na-ri makes it to the restaurant, looking exhausted from the drive. She tells Nan-gil that she came to tell him something, and when he yells at her for driving in her condition, she reminds him not to fight like they’re a couple in public.

Looking over his father’s expanded resort plans, Deok-bong wonders if he should just leave the country. He asks Secretary Kwon about Na-ri’s mom, who seemed so innocent about money, yet somehow managed to buy some very valuable land.

He tells Secretary Kwon to stop being so mysterious and tell him what she knows, and she says she’ll look into it and walks away. Poor Deok-bong, the women around him don’t respect him at all. He gets a text from Deok-shim letting him know that Na-ri is back, and that Deok-shim is working part-time at the restaurant now.

Nan-gil asks why Na-ri didn’t just call, but figures it’s just a good thing she arrived safely. She asks about his collapse in front of Dong-jin, and he says it’s an exaggeration, but Na-ri wants the truth now.

Nan-gil is touched by Na-ri’s concern, and he grabs her in a tight hug. After fortifying himself, he leads Na-ri to sit, and tells her about a baseball pitcher named Steve Blass.

One day, he couldn’t throw a ball to save his life, and since then, “Steve Blass disease” refers to a player who inexplicably loses his ability to play baseball. Nan-gil thinks he has “Go Nan-gil disease,” meaning that he isn’t sick, he just gets these strange symptoms every now and then.

He describes it as a mashup of panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety. It never happens to him here at home, only in Seoul. He tells Na-ri that he’s seen a doctor and takes medication, and asks if she rushed here because she thought he was terminally ill.

He tells Na-ri that he’ll understand if she wants out, but she takes offense at the idea that she’d run just because he’s sick. He says softly that he regretted calling her back to get her books that day, that he thinks he should have hidden his feelings from her, even though he’s been so happy. He feels tainted by his past and his emotional problems, and he’s worried she’ll find out the truth.

Na-ri agrees not to dig into his past, but Nan-gil is serious — this is her chance to get away from him. But she says it’s not so bad, because Nan-gil has a place to hide in her. She noticed that he got better before when she was beside him, and asks Nan-gil to marry her. Whoa.

Nan-gil looks stunned, and Na-ri jokes that she wishes she had a camera. She says she was just quoting a poem, and shows him the poem she wrote in fifth grade. But she thinks that he’s already seen it, because he was the one who stole it from her classroom for Mom, after Na-ri had threatened to rip it up because boys were teasing her in class.

Mom had told Nan-gil of her plan to give the poem to Na-ri’s future fiance, and Nan-gil had told Mom to take care of it until she gives it back to him. So cute, this kid.

Na-ri correctly guesses that he’s the one who stole it, and his sheepish expression says it all. She says she’s giving it back to him, which means more to him than she can even imagine.

Yeo-joo talks to the marriage broker on her way to the hospital, who tells her that Dong-jin’s mother canceled his registration. Apparently he’s already met someone and plans to take her to Hong Kong with him, and the broker congratulates Yeo-joo, which sets off her tears again.

She joins her mother by her father’s bedside, and begs her mother to stop bringing him to the emergency room when he’s not that sick. Her mother apologizes, and tells her to meet someone and leave Korea.

Nan-gil teases Na-ri that she’s fallen hard for him, stealing her friend’s car that way just to rush to his side. Na-ri proudly admits it, and Nan-gil grows flustered and stammers something about mandoo, but Na-ri wants a response to her confession.

Nan-gil yells back that fine, he’s even crazier about her, that he’s never looked at another girl his whole life. Na-ri grins, having gotten her hoped-for answer, and slings an arm around his shoulder to tell him to say things like that often. He turns his face to hers and the mood instantly turns hot, but she jumps away because apparently she’s lost her mind.

Deok-shim snarls to see Na-ri in the restaurant, and serves her water with a side of attitude. Na-ri recognizes her dress as Secretary Kwon’s (they’re all modern takes on hanbok, very distinctive), and asks if she’s working on her apology letter.

Nan-gil brings a plate of mandoo, and Na-ri asks Deok-shim if Deok-bong knows she’s working here. She suddenly remembers that Deok-bong asked to talk with her, and stands to go, but Nan-gil appears out of nowhere to sit her back down to finish her meal. Frustrated at his attention, Deok-shim downs Na-ri’s water.

Na-ri runs into Secretary Kwon later at the museum, and compliments her on her beautiful outfits. Secretary Kwon says she doesn’t wear them to look good, and Na-ri agrees there must be some reason her style has never changed.

She asks why, and Secretary Kwon asks if she’ll sell the land if she tells her. Na-ri refuses, and Secretary Kwon sneers that she’s just like her mother. She tells Na-ri to leave Nan-gil in peace, and storms off.

Na-ri asks Deok-bong what Secretary Kwon did before working here, but he doesn’t know much about her past. Na-ri tells him that she told her to sell the land, and he mutters that she sure is working hard.

He tells Na-ri that Deok-shim plans to spy on Na-ri for him. He asks Na-ri to be a double-spy, to pay attention to Deok-shim and tell him about her. He thinks that maybe something happened to her in Seoul, which is why she’s so anti-social and refuses to go back. Na-ri says that he’s a good oppa.

He gets a call and says something urgent came up, so Na-ri leaves. Deok-bong calls Deok-shim, then heads to Hong Mandoo when she doesn’t answer. She’s too busy staring at Nan-gil as he makes dough, until Na-ri texts him to go to the greenhouse with her.

Deok-bong angrily confronts Deok-shim, and says he’s taking her to Seoul right this minute. She wants to negotiate — if he lets her stay and work here, she’ll take the college entrance exam.

But Deok-bong says that their mother is in the hospital with a concussion. Deok-shim sobs loudly all the way to Seoul, worried that their mom’s concussion means she won’t recognize them. When they arrive, Yeo-joo is there in the hospital lobby, and she thinks Deok-shim looks familiar.

Na-ri is proud of how much her lettuce has grown, and says she’s jealous that they get to see Nan-gil every day. She says that the earthy scent of the greenhouse reminds her of him, as does the smell of lettuce in any restaurant and cucumber in kimbap. She admits that those scents make her want to run to him, but she holds herself back.

Nan-gil says that she’s not the only one who feels that way, and she asks if they should settle things. He braces himself, thinking she means they should break up, but she’s talking about the family register. She wants to make it so they’re not already family, so they can be together.

Nan-gil refuses, but Na-ri was expecting that. Nan-gil explains that he needs time to figure things out, and asks her, “Please wait for me.” Na-ri says she needs to head home, feelings a little hurt, and asks if he remembers how to maintain their long-distance relationship like a farmer’s footsteps.

Nan-gil dutifully recites his responsibilities — to text, send emoticons and pictures, and to call even if he’s busy. He adds that she should come whenever she misses him, and he’ll visit her when he misses her. Then Nan-gil pulls her close for some kissytime before she goes home.

They head back, hand-in-hand, but Nan-gil drops Na-ri’s hand when he sees CEO Bae’s car in front of them. He begs Na-ri to please go, and she picks up on his distress and goes on alone, but she looks back as CEO Bae approaches Nan-gil.

CEO Bae says that he can see why people are fighting over this beautiful place. He says that he’s been anxious that someone might take something of his, and what to do about his son who won’t listen. But he figures, after seeing Nan-gil with Na-ri, that it will be easy to settle things now.

Nan-gil offers to pay CEO Bae the balance of Na-ri’s father’s debt, but CEO Bae says that’s not how this works. He warns Nan-gil not to get involved, and asks if he knows what he did to Na-ri.

Nervously, Nan-gil asks what he did. CEO Bae asks if he remembers the incident at Euljiro Printer’s, when a man fell off the second floor roof and died. Nan-gil remembers very well — the man had been swinging a plank of wood at him, and had already connected at least once judging by the blood streaming down Nan-gil’s face from a head wound.

Nan-gil’s attention was diverted for a second when Wan-shik and a few other guys arrived for backup, and the man had tried to jump from the second story to escape. He’d landed badly and died, and as Nan-gil stared down at his body, he experienced his first panic episode.

CEO Bae asks if Nan-gil knows who that man was: “It was Hong Na-ri’s father. Hong Sung-gyu.” Oh, no. He tells Nan-gil that he shouldn’t be here acting as if he’s Na-ri’s father and protector, but his words sound hollow and far away.

Nan-gil looks up to see Na-ri looking back at him. He hears her voice reciting her poem: “Cotton-candy clouds, I love you. Hidden wildflowers, I love you. Sunlight reflecting off the lake, I love you. Tall trees, I love you. Will you marry me?”

COMMENTS

I’m genuinely shocked. It’s not often that a show truly surprises me, but I never expected that Nan-gil had anything to do with Na-ri’s father, much less his death. And we all can see that it’s not like Nan-gil pushed him over that ledge, and in fact he looked like he was the one who’d been injured and was trying to defuse the situation. But we also know that honorable Nan-gil isn’t going to see it that way, and that he’s already been so affected by that confrontation that it seems to be the cause of his anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. I’m guessing that that incident is what sent him to prison and caused him to decide to change his life. He’s going to blame himself entirely and isolate from Na-ri, and for once, I won’t blame him one bit for the noble non-idiocy, though I’m not looking forward to the angst this is going to cause between them. I’m counting on Na-ri’s dogged determination to ferret out the truth and refuse to give up when she wants something, and I’m positive she can make Nan-gil understand that he’s not to blame for her father’s life choices that brought him to that rooftop.

Speaking of which, I’m so glad that Nan-gil’s illness isn’t something physical! I don’t think I could take it if he were dying. Not that anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder are good things, but at least that’s something he can manage by minimizing his exposure to the city. It’s not at all surprising that he’s suffering panic attacks after the violent life he’s lived — he’s a large, strong man, and a good fighter, but he’s naturally a very gentle and empathetic person. To be forced to hurt others when his every instinct is to protect… well, I don’t blame him for being more than a bit messed up. In fact it’s nothing short of a miracle that after everything he’d been through, he’s still willing to fight for Na-ri and what belongs to her.

As much as Yeo-joo and her entitled, spoiled attitude bother me, I don’t really feel that Dong-jin was fair to her in one sense. He says he was going to ask her to come with him, but how was she to know that? If the man I was dating, that I’d just had a huge fight with, moved to another country without letting me know what was happening, I would also assume he was gone for good. So for Dong-jin to tell Yeo-joo that it’s her fault for getting upset and not giving him time wasn’t really cool — he should have at least said that he needed a little space, but he would contact her soon.

But he left Yeo-joo in limbo about their relationship, and made one last bid at his ex-fiancee, so of course she’s going to assume it’s over and get upset. I’m not excusing Yeo-joo’s behavior at all, because I do think that she created this entire situation in the first place, by dating a man who was engaged then irrationally expecting his complete fidelity and emotional loyalty. But if Dong-jin really intended to ask her to come to Hong Kong with him, then he should have at least said he’d be in touch. Na-ri is right, they deserve each other.

At first I thought others were seeing something that wasn’t there, but I’m coming around to the idea that Secretary Kwon is somehow tied up in Na-ri’s mom and Nan-gil’s past. She seems to have an irrational hate for Mom, and though she has very little to do with Nan-gil personally, she keeps telling Na-ri to leave him alone. We have little clues like how Nan-gil was abandoned without even a note and doesn’t even know his own birthday or real name, and I’m starting to wonder if Secretary Kwon is the key to those secrets. Her own past is such a mystery, and while I’m not ready to say she’s his birth mother because there’s no evidence of anything like that, I do believe she knows more than she’s letting on.

Backing up, I found it really true-to-life that once Nan-gil and Na-ri separated after their first kiss, they both felt insecure about the relationship. That’s just such a normal way to feel in a shiny new relationship, even one that doesn’t have the complications theirs has — does he regret kissing me? Is she sorry she agreed to date me? Does s/he like me as much as I like her/him? I love those little moments when you could feel them worrying about their new change in status and it was cute to see them fighting it while trying not to show it. But their ability to talk things out honestly helped them overcome that hurdle, and I just hope that Nan-gil can conquer his guilt enough to let Na-ri close, so that she can remind him that he’s not to blame for her situation.