Regrets always come too late. When it comes to Ji-Pyeong, that much is especially true as episode 10 of Start-Up begins with Dal-Mi telling him to be honest and explain everything. She doesn’t want to be fooled anymore and asks exactly who wrote the letters all those years ago.
Ji-Pyeong spills the entire truth, everything including the randomness of using Do-San’s name all those years ago. He also tellingly includes how Do-San’s feelings grew over time. As he looks set to tell her how he feels, Dal-Mi turns and walks away.
Back at Sand Box, Sa-Ha and the San boys find out everything too. While the boys remain positively optimistic that everything will work out, Sa-ha is not. She’s convinced that everything will blow up in their face – which could spell the end for Samsan Tech.
Do-San catches up with Dal-Mi and can’t help but cry. He tells her he’s sorry but she pulls away, unable to deal with everything she’s known being a deception. Eventually she walks away, leaving Do-San a sobbing mess. In fact, everyone’s a mess here – including Dal-Mi who spends the night at her desk trying to work out what to do next.
Demo Day is coming up and as Dal-Mi leaves in the morning, Do-San happens to be there waiting for her too. She admits that it’s painful they have to work together and pretend everything is normal. For now, she tells him they shouldn’t be meeting outside work and walks away.
Outside Sand Box the protestors gather – led by none other than Seong-Hwan of all people. He’s rallied all the reporters there too and as he confronts In-Jae, he takes her business card and she realizes that his son is Do-San. Given Do-San doesn’t know what he’s doing, Seong-Hwan pretends to pass out so he doesn’t have to confront his son.
Do-San runs into Alex who plays the hilarious “Money” video on his phone and follows him on his segway, asking to talk. After mentioning the symbolic meaning of crows (which Alex gets wrong, it actually means bad luck), he agrees to hear the businessman out.
Alex propositions the idea of a book to write with royalties but Do-San refuses. Despite the video asking for money, that’s not what he wants. He wants a person (which is obviously Do-San) instead.
Elsewhere, Sun-Hak discusses Demo Day with her colleagues where more of the past is revealed. It turns out a CEO in the past entered and couldn’t deal with the stress, unfortunately committing suicide in the process. As fate would have it, their brother has entered Sand Box this year. Could it be the same person who wrote that they wanted revenge?
Dal-Mi returns to the office and offers to get the guys a coffee… just as Do-San arrives. Dal-Mi does her best to keep everything civil and offers to get Do-San one too. It’s obviously tensions between them all though.
While Dal-Mi does her best to keep everything together, she overhears Do-San briefing the team about the specifics of the app. Ji-Pyeong remains watching from the wings, worried about Dal-mi and deciding to meet her out at lunch to explain what happened.
He selflessly sticks up for Do-San despite not really liking him and is bold, telling her he likes her and that he has strong feelings for the girl.
Meanwhile, A-Hyun shyly asks Won-Deok to come and work part-time for her. Won-Deok decides that, because she’s her ex Mother-in-law she doesn’r want to go through with this.
Dal-Mi meanwhile is very much prepared to work through everything. After dismissing her team and telling them to go home, Ji-Pyeong shows up and asks to speak to Do-San.
Alone, he asks about the NoonGil profits and, specifically, gives him a series of probing questions designed to find any potential flaws in the business. This is the last time he’s helping though, especially after admitting everything to Dal-Mi. Eventually he sends Do-San on his way.
Do-San follows Dal-Mi all afternoon, watching from across the table as a stranger sits with Dal-Mi and asks about her worries. She believes she’s walking a tightrope and worries that she could fall at any moment. Even worse, Dal-Mi feels like a fake.
As this woman starts talking about holding a memorial service, Do-San gets involved and swings across to their table. He berates the lady and eventually takes a very-drunk Dal-Mi home. On the way, she asks him to show up like he did at the networking party and get rid of her worries.
Dropping her off at the swings (symbolic of course for how Sand Box started all those years ago), Do-San runs all the way home and gets dressed up in a suit. He scrambles back and hurries across to meet her at the park. When he gets there though, she’s gone home. He hangs his head and walks away.
With Demo Day coming up though, Do-San decides to hold onto his suit. He debates about whether to show up wearing it to try and help her out. Before that though, In-Jae reveals what his father has been up to, prompting Do-San to head out and tell his Father to keep fighting. He wants them to be father and son but not put on a pedestal anymore.
The big day arrives and the companies prepare to pitch their best in front of the whole world. After a pitch to the audience, they then have to deal with questions from the judges. Everything comes down to this – all the hard work and perseverance. It’s certainly a tense situation and something that Dal-Mi struggles with, losing confidence in her own abilities.
The next day, Dal-Mi finds out about In-Jae stealing her story to get into Sand Box and confronts her sister over it. Do-San shows up to support her, telling In-Jae to apologize.
Do-San sticks up for her and eventually breaks the news that he was originally going to wear a suit but changed his mind. He doesn’t want to deceive her anymore and goes on to lavish praise over the excellent job she’s done to make it this far.
Meanwhile, Yong-San confronts Ji-Pyeong and asks him about his brother. He claims that Ji-Pyeong killed him but he simply scoffs and brushes it aside. Yong-San is not messing around though and holds him up by the scruff of his neck.
Do-San makes his decision and confronts Alex, telling him he’ll take him up on his offer as he doesn’t want a Plan B. That Plan B of course, being taking Ji-Pyeong’s offer.
During the epilogue, we cut to Ji-Pyeong getting drunk and talking about being scared and nervous, wondering whether he should have told Dal-Mi after all. The person sitting opposite him… happens to be the memorial service lady from earlier.
The Episode Review
So Start-Up slows down slightly for this episode, letting us simmer in the melodrama and heart wrenching moments between Dal-Mi, Ji-Pyeong and Do-San. All of them have issues and it’s obvious that Dal-Mi is going to have to choose one of these two men sooner or later.
It’s fascinating to see the deep divides between Team Do-San and Team Ji-Pyeong right now. Start-Up is one of those rare dramas where really either of the two could and should end up with Dal-Mi at the end. It’s that quintessential ingredient that makes for a compelling and well written love triangle, something that – when done right – is just so satisfying to experience.
Alongside this are the scenes with Sa-Ha who, rightly or wrongly, seems to be growing some affection for Chul-San. It may just be an act of course but it’ll be interesting to see if the series pulls the trigger and shows these two getting involved in a romance.
The most important thing now though comes from the upcoming Demo Day and it’s clear that tensions are high. Yong-San being the investor out for revenge is an interesting development, one that allows his character an extra layer of depth, and it’ll be intriguing to see how the show develops that over time.
For now, this remains a background plot element to the aforementioned triangle. So far though, Start-Up has easily been one of the better Korean dramas this year and right now the ending is still not written in stone. Who will come out on top? We’ll have to wait and see!