Sweet Munchies: Episodes 11-12 Open Thread (Final)
Our chef and PD face their final challenges this week as the show comes to an end. In these final moments, the characters are asked to choose which is more important to them: their integrity or their careers.
EPISODES 11-12 Weecap
My feelings were all over this week as Episode 11 delivers what I thought were some of the lowest lows of the entire show. But then somehow Episode 12 managed to pull up before it’s too late, and glided back to the best ending I could have hoped for it.
Let’s start with the pity party that is the penultimate episode. We pick back up with Tae-wan and Jin-sung’s tense confrontation as Jin-sung finally admits that he’s not actually gay. Tae-wan diffuses the scene when the rest of the gang arrives, but I fully assumed a big blow up was inevitable.
Instead, Jin-sung visits Tae-wan at his studio later and says things like, “I did my best to find another option, but I had no choice.” What a cop out, Jin-sung. There’s also, “It won’t end with just me hurt.” Again, why is Jin-sung so focused on himself during this apology?
We then proceed to throw Jin-sung a birthday party, and Tae-wan shows up and is a perfect gentleman, and even seems to want to cheer Jin-sung up. Cheer Jin-sung up. Somehow the rest of the episode turns into a sobfest about how guilty Jin-sung feels about everything, and no time is taken for Tae-wan to get to process or work through any of this.
The problem is that this should never have been a story about Jin-sung, and the show tried to force it to be, unsuccessfully. Your main character should be the person with the most interesting opportunity for growth, and instead other characters, like Ah-jin or Tae-wan, were always more compelling candidates. That’s why all this wallowing and Jin-sung tearfully deciding to sell his restaurant really doesn’t work this late in the game.
Meanwhile, Tae-wan’s arc concludes with him finding the courage to tell his father the truth and finds peace with that. Which is fine, but man there was so much more that could have been given to Tae-wan, that he deserved. It’s all very unsatisfying.
And then… the final moments manage to turn this story around for me. Ah-jin works out the truth on her own, she confronts Jin-sung and they sort out their mixed feelings of hurt but also attraction with a second kiss, and then things get real.
Ah-jin confesses the truth to the director right away. Director Cha takes responsibility and steps down from her position in an effort to protect her staff. It’s not enough, of course, and Ah-jin loses her job. As the tension ramps up, Jin-sung finally gets courageous and tells the whole truth to the reporters eagerly awaiting a statement.
There was a realism in the first couple episodes of this show that I appreciated. The dysfunction of Ah-jin’s office felt real to me, and the way conflicts often weren’t handled also felt truthful. And so in these final moments, it feels like we get back to that. And while it’s not exactly a triumphant moment, there’s something about the quiet reality of things that really resonated with me.
PD Nam gets to keep his job even though he was the first director on the show (and wow that scene where he nearly cried because he was the innocent victim who was the only one who ever believed in the show). The smart women of the office have to take all the blame instead, and they do so with smiles on their faces the whole time.
There was never going to be a good solution to the problem at the heart of this premise, so I felt like this painful reality was the best they could really do. The lesson here, if you dig hard enough, might be that people need to be allowed to have small failures, so that they don’t end up in even bigger ones. If Ah-jin hadn’t felt so pressed to find a chef in just a day, perhaps she would never have asked for Jin-sung’s help. If there were better social safety nets for when people end up in the hospital, perhaps Jin-sung wouldn’t have been so eager to take the role in the first place.
And if Jin-sung hadn’t believed that the only way for Ah-jin to succeed and keep her job was for him to lie, they would not all be in this mess now, one that includes having misled their audience, defrauded the station, and hurt those around them. You want to root for them because they are fallible humans, but it becomes much harder when Director Cha rightfully points out how hurt their faithful viewers will be when they learn the truth, and when the higher-ups correctly name Jin-sung’s crime as fraud.
Imagine a world where Ah-jin had been given room to try and fail at her show concept honestly, a chance without the risk of losing her already tenuous employment. She might have seen this one idea not hit, but could have gone back at it with the same energy she faces every challenge. Instead she was dealt a much bigger consequence. And still, I appreciate that the show wants to show that even that can be overcome.
Time passes, and Ah-jin’s career has recovered (and actually, exploded). She still has her close friends, though her Bistro is gone, as well as the man she met there and fell in love with. But just like her second chance at a career, she and Jin-sung manage to find one another again in the spot where Bistro used to be. Having failed and survived, they have a chance to try again.
Sometimes, there is no amount of star power and good intentions that can save a bad premise. This show had that working against it from the beginning, and it never found a way to forge past those challenges. But it does manage to end where it started, with a moody atmospheric sensibility and two people trying their best to be kind to one another.
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