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What Happens to My Family Ep 20: Kang-shim & Tae-joo

This episode is cute but cringe-worthy. Tae-joo's now completely forthright with his feelings and actively sends signals to Kang-shim. While he might be quite doting and attentive, he still doesn't know how to read and understand Kang-shim's emotions. As a result, she keeps pushing him farther the more he advances. There's good progression this episode, and I'm glad the show is addressing some of the issues of their relationship before things start moving in earnest.

The Cha household is in trouble because of a surprise visit from Kang-jae's mother-in-law. Thus, Kang-shim is taking care of In-woo and actually seems apt to my surprise. I guess I always assumed she would be bad with children for some reason (blame my prejudices and kdrama tropes), but seeing her with In-woo made me picture her future kids with Tae-joo. I really jumped the gun there!

Tae-joo is in bed but jumps up and takes out Young-sul's number. She's in her room with her husband when she suddenly gets a text. Tae-joo asks if she could talk right now, and she leaves the room to make a call which peaks her husband's curiosity.

Tae-joo asks for dating advice and how exactly he's suppose to move forward with Kang-shim. Young-sul tells him all the things Kang-shim likes from morning coffee and spicy foods. He writes down all the information diligently and looks at his final list (which is all about food) and says this isn't too hard.

The next morning at work, Kang-shim greets Tae-joo by the elevators as usual, and Tae-joo greets her back a couple of octaves lower. He smiles and hands her (ppl) coffee (while making sure the logo is facing the camera) and his reaction is hilarious.

Tae-joo and Kang-shim are in a meeting, and he looks over to her with concern. He tells her to go back to the office and wait there since the meeting might take awhile. She politely declines, but he tells her that her legs will hurt if she continues standing there in such high heels. Kang-shim cringes and retreats while everyone else in the room gawks at Tae-joo. He doesn't seem to notice them because all he does is stare and smile at Kang-shim.

Tae-joo's advances continue as he enters the staff break room where Kang-shim and the usual two secretaries are. He hands over a bag of spicy rice cakes to Kang-shim so that they can all share. He doesn't forget to send her a wink and a goofy smile clearly thinking she's being successfully wooed by her favorite treats. He then pops out three movie tickets he just so happened to acquire, and tells the three secretaries to go enjoy a movie. He adds the cherry on top by telling them he also reserved a restaurant for them afterwards, and tells them to just say his name since he'll cover the bill.

The other two secretaries are thrilled and thank Tae-joo, but Kang-shim looks dejected. She paces in an empty lobby by herself clearly bothered and nervous. This is where I start to really feel bad for Kang-shim. Sure, Tae-joo might be adorably dorky and earnest in his attempts to show his feelings, but his lack of social skills and ability to pick up social cues is damning. He has no clue how much pressure he's putting on her and making things difficult for her. He's her superior, and she's his secretary. If they do decide to go out, she's putting more at stake than he is, but Tae-joo doesn't seem to think about the consequences and acts solely on his feelings.

Granted, I don't think it's bad for him to be honest with his feelings, but Kang-shim's worries are warranted. Therefore, if Tae-joo really wants to date her, then giving her confidence and assurance in his feelings will move her more than any number of coffees, spicy rice cakes, or movie tickets.

Baek comes to the company, again. Did she quit her job or something because she needs to get herself another hobby other than being a nosy and manipulative stepmom/wife. She overhears two female employees gossiping how Tae-joo is completely under Kang-shim's thumb. They basically gush over all of Tae-joo's attempt to pursue Kang-shim, i.e., getting her coffee and snacks. There's no malice in their words, but Baek doesn't seem to think the way I do.

She makes her way to Tae-joo's office and glares at Kang-shim. Kang-shim tells her Tae-joo will be done with his meeting in a bit. She asks Kang-shim if she's having Tae-joo do coffee errands for her and says she already warned her once before. Kang-shim says she understands, but before they can discuss any further, Tae-joo's meeting is over. Before Kang-shim gets the chance to tell him that Baek is here, he pages her. He asks if they could leave work together and if she could come over to his place and fix the showerhead. He also adds that he'll make pasta for dinner if that sounds good to her. Kang-shim is slack-jawed and Baek is dumbfounded.

Tae-joo comes out of his office whining about why she isn't replying, and is aghast to see Baek standing there. The two sit in his office, and Baek quickly gets him to flub about his relationship with Kang-shim. She orders him to stop now while they're just beginning before more rumors fly around. He tells her that rumors will always be bad no matter what, so he doesn't care about them. Baek snaps back that she'll just tattle to his father and remarks that a secretary is debasing. All the while, Tae-joo just sits there uncomfortably.

What?! You're going to let her say that about Kang-shim? She basically called her unworthy and below their class, and you're just going to sit there making a stink-face? Tae-joo, I understand that maybe you've matured and don't burst out in righteous fury after the whole debacle with the pervert client, and sure, she might be your stepmother... but where's my feisty Tae-joo! Don't tell me her threat to tattle made you silent! You don't even like the Chairman that much! You even said that they don't determine your life, so do something Tae-joo! Seriously, you've lost major brownie points. This better not happen next time or I'm reducing your screencaps/gifs (no matter how much it'll kill me)!

Kang-shim waits outside the door with a tray of tea having heard their entire exchange. Poor Kang-shim; Baek has absolutely no right to say those things since she's acting like a gold-digger herself! Baek doesn't seem perturbed by Kang-shim's presence and even has the galls to reaffirm that Kang-shim overheard it all and understands what she wants.

Baek goes up to the Chairman and tattles anyways, complaining about the rumors spreading. The Chairman "trusts" Kang-shim and calls everything a lie. Baek can't seem to let it go and even tells him that Tae-joo invited her over to fix the showerhead. Chairman reluctantly tells her that Kang-shim owns Tae-joo's officetel which was why she was there that first time, too.

The more and more the Chairman talks, the more I think he disapproves of Kang-shim as a daughter-in-law which is really disappointing. I wanted him to actually support their relationship and be happy if Tae-joo fell in love with the capable and wonderful Kang-shim who the Chairman knows is an admirable person. It would have been funny to see the Chairman be giddy about the rumors and then deflate to hear that they were lies. Oh well, looks like the Chairman will be another typical rich father-in-law who disapproves of his son marrying someone "lesser" than him. Obviously, I'm really looking forward to that story arc.

Kang-shim goes to Tae-joo's officetel unannounced and asks to come in.

Her presence makes him happy, and he asks if she wants anything to drink. Quick cut to the ppl water machine (again), and as Tae-joo offers her a cup of water with lemon (which reminds me of ep 14... so funny), Kang-shim hands him an envelope. She tells him it's the 200 million won he paid which she got through a loan by putting up the officetel as collateral again. While I understand her wishes to cut all outside ties to him, this seems too brash and careless.

Kang-shim admits that his goodwill confused her, but Baek's words made her realize what his goodwill isn't something she can confuse easily. She says she's thankful for his feelings, but will decline any help from now. She gives her farewell and leaves.

Outside, Tae-joo calls out to her and catches her in a wrist-grab. He's frustrated and asks if she really doesn't know or if she's just pretending to not know. She yells that it's true, she's just pretending to not know, and tells him to let go of her. He yells at her stubbornness and insists that she listen to his pleas, but Kang-shim says she won't hear it. He asks her why, and she tells him that it's for both their sake. She tells him to not ruin their work relationship because of some momentary feelings.

Her words numb him, and he lets go of her arm. Kang-shim leaves to take a taxi, but Tae-joo runs up to her again and grabs her. He tells her that he's not done talking, but she shakes him off and leaves. Unintentionally hilarious, a taxi pulls up right after, and Tae-joo chases after her. This all feels contrived to fit the writer's agenda.

Now in her neighborhood, Tae-joo keeps chasing after Kang-shim. He asks if this is about Baek. He tells her that Baek has nothing to do with his life, and he doesn't care what she says. Kang-shim barks back that she cares about it, though. Tae-joo tries to stop her again and grabs her shoulder when a fist comes flying at him out of nowhere.

He falls to the ground, and a surprised Kang-shim runs to his side. They both look up at the assailant, and Kang-shim freezes. Tae-joo's complaints and accusations drone in the background as Kang-shim blurts out, "No." Tae-joo stares at Kang-shim and then back at other party who's none other than Byun Woo-tak, the ex that broke Kang-shim's heart.

Final Comments

That final scene and all the hullabaloo to build up to it was ridiculous. They were basically doing the same thing over and over again just so the writer could introduce all parties of the love triangle with a splash. Tae-joo kept forcefully saying he still had to say something, and Kang-shim kept walking away. If Byun didn't arrive, how long were either of them even going to go? Plus, after the upteenth grab and Tae-joo's pleas to talk, everything simply felt redundant and meandering.

Despite the aggravating ending, the episode wasn't too bad for our couple. Tae-joo's whimsical attempts to woo Kang-shim were cute and in-character, but it seemed like the calm before the storm. Nonetheless, it was nice to see him in love and act like a dork.

I'm also glad that the show brought up the issue of their work relationship and power dynamic because to me, that's the biggest hurdle in their relationship more than the sudden ex-boyfriend who really doesn't have a smidgen of a chance back with Kang-shim. Her work ethic of separating love from the workplace is smart and professional. It has helped her get to her position in the company because getting involved with coworkers can make business messy.

In addition, if the relationship sours, Kang-shim would be the one to take the brunt of the breakup. Most people would gossip about her, and unfortunately, she would be scorned and ridiculed, not him. Gender bias still exists (no surprise there), and since he's also the one in a higher position, Kang-shim faces a double-whammy.

Unlike Tae-joo, she can't simply follow her heart. It's nice to know that she admits to wavering because honestly, who wouldn't after such earnest and adorable attempts including the big acts like finding the scam artist and paying the loan without grandeur, but also the small acts like getting her coffee and paying attention to her. However, I said this before and I'll say it again, Tae-joo needs to understand that society doesn't work the way he thinks it does.

He might not care about rumors because he's in a position of power, but rumors can have a career-damaging effect on her. He can't simply see their relationship through his position but has to understand it through hers. If he really wants Kang-shim as his girlfriend, then he has to realize how difficult the decision is for her in order to meet her where she is not the other way around. Tae-joo has to give her assurance that his emotions aren't momentary and that he's quite serious. She's not going to risk her career for a relationship with him when she's still unsure of his feelings and her own.

However, if Tae-joo continues being his earnest self, I have hope that he'll understand her hesitance soon and will be able to convince her that he's serious and won't let her career be jeopardized because of him. Likewise, I hope Tae-joo will be a catalyst for Kang-shim to get over her past hurt and truly appreciate herself as a woman who can be both capable at work and also be loved without expectations or calculations.