Episode 5 of Once Upon A Small Town we see that Ji-yul has overhead Sang-hyeon confessing his feelings for Ja-young. The next morning, Ja-young is lost in thought before she drops Seong-dong at school. They run into Ji-yul and he is cold and distant from her. At the animal clinic, Ji-yul notices that something was wrong with his bicycle.
At the police station, Officer Geun-mo offers to take Ja-young to Sang-hyeon’s Cafe for a drink but she states she does not want one. However, Sang-hyeon arrives with coffees for everyone himself. He and Ja-young have a chat about his abrupt confession from the night before.
Then, Sang-hyeon had asked Ja-young to keep thinking over his confession before she made a decision. Present-day Ja-young worries that her friendship with Sang-hyeon will be ruined. He tells her that the bond that they share is much deeper than being friends or lovers. Sang-hyeon promises that he wants her to be his special someone but if that does not work out, he is okay with Ja-young being just his friend.
He tells that the only way to pass the present awkward phase between them is by behaving as if there was nothing awkward in the first place. He tries to cheer her up. Ji-yul is on a call with Dr Choi who tells asks him about his time in the small town. He tries to enquire about Ja-young but Ji-yul does not elaborate and hangs up the call.
Ji-yul notices Sang-hyeon and Ja-young together and assumes they are together. He is busy with work for the rest of the day and once he is back at the hospital, Nurse Yeong-suk tells him that Ja-young borrowed some cages. Ji-yul recalls that she had mentioned rescuing Boksil and her puppies the night before.
Ji-yul asks if she was by herself and Yeong-suk states that she was. Yeong-suk also mentions that Ja-young took a look at his bicycle and she promises that if there was an issue with it, Ja-young had already taken care of it by now. Noticing that she had left her bicycle behind, he takes his truck to the forest to find her. Ji-yul tries to convince himself that he was only there to do his job and rescue animals as he finds one lost puppy. He places the young dog in an open cage.
A worried Ja-young comes rushing there and is relieved to see that Ji-yul managed to find the lost puppy. She places the other two young dogs in the cage. Ji-yul scolds her for coming to the forest by herself and notices she had injured herself. He is curt with her and Ja-young is left confused about his dismissive attitude.
Ji-yul takes the puppies to the animal hospital and runs some tests on the trio. He states he will be vaccinating them before letting Boksil’s owner take them in. Ja-young leaves with Boksil but Ji-yul offers her first aid for her wound. She is being chatty with him but Ji-yul shuts her down which upsets Ja-young. Ja-young asks him if he is upset with her over something and Ji-yul says he is not. She jokes with him and he ends up smiling before she leaves.
That night, Ja-young is lost in thought when she appears visibly confused about Sang-hyeon and Ji-yul. The next morning, Sang-hyeon is with Seon-dong who is crying incessantly. Sang-hyeon states that Seon-dong’s dog ate some chocolates and leaves the sick animal with Ji-yul as he rushes to drop Seon-dong at school. Sang-hyeon returns and is relieved to see that Ji-yul has treated the dog back to health.
The farmer and Nurse Yeong-suk chat up about Ja-young who was recently injured and Ji-yul grows inquisitive. Outside the hospital, Sang-hyeon tells Ji-yul that Ja-young tried to fix his bicycle by removing a part for her own bicycle which led her to be injured. Ji-yul is overwhelmed and Sang-hyeon states that he is counting down the days till the vet returns to Seoul so that Ja-young is never hurt again. Ji-yul is off trying to meet Ja-young who is recovering.
He lashes out at her for trying to help out the owners of the therapy centre despite being injured herself. He tells her that by helping repair his bicycle she has made him feel indebted to her. Ja-young retorts by saying that she actually lives for words of appreciation and likes being thanked as Ji-yul leaves. The vet is deep in thought at the animal hospital meanwhile, Ja-young goes back to work despite being injured.
Her superiors call her out and forcefully leave, taking her back to him. Officer Geun-mo drives Ja-young home on a rainy evening upon Officer Man-sung’s instructions. At the animal clinic, Seon-dong visits Ji-yul to check up on his pet dog. He asks Ji-yul if he is mad at Ja-young and asks him to forgive her if she made a mistake. Ji-yul tells the child that he was the one in the wrong and states it was he who needs to apologise to Ja-young.
Seon-dong calls Ja-young and hands the phone to Ji-yul asking him to apologise to her. However, Ji-yul overheard Ja-young being involved in a car crash and he is left shocked. He calls the police station and alerts Officer Man-sung. Ji-yul himself rushes to find Ja-young in his tempo and notices that the police car had slipped off the road into the rice paddies. As he tries to open the locked car door with unconscious Ja-young and Geun-mo, he recalls a past traumatic experience involving his parents.
The Episode Review
It is evident that Ji-yul has PTSD from being stuck in a car but he is a hopeless romantic after all. Despite telling everyone in town that he does not care about their problems and that he does not like nosey people, he still ran all the way to save Ja-young. I think part of himself is trying to forget his memories from his childhood which is why he does not recall Ja-young.
Ja-young and Sang-hyeon’s friendship is something that makes one crave it. They are the typical childhood friends to lovers trope and Sang-hyeon is a dearie with the way he handles the after-effects of his confession. Just like in the last episode, I hope he finds someone because it will be too sad for him to be left alone when Ja-young eventually chooses Ji-yul.