Three Intertwined Dreams
We begin Episode 3 of Start-Up with more of Dal-Mi’s letters, as she comments on the beauty of seeing a rainbow outside. It’s a beautiful scene, one that sees the familiar hangul backdropped against a fantastical scene of a rainbow and purple-scorched sky.
This catches us up to the events last time as Do-San tries to settle into his role at the party. With In-Jae and her Mother watching, she grabs the boy and tells him to play along as if they’re fully in love.
Trying to remain cool, Dal-Mi clutches his arm and comments how her Mother has changed a lot over the years. She even introduces Do-San as her boyfriend. In-Jae immediately mentions the company proposal and Do-San is forced to think on his feet. He hands over his “retro” business card for Samsan Tech and smiles.
In-Jae immediately catches him off-guard though by asking about the funding rounds. Thankfully Ji-Pyeong shows up and manages to save them from any embarrassment. He even introduces himself to Dal-Mi and the others.
Taking Do-San aside, Ji-Pyeong updates him on exactly who In-Jae is while tellingly she looks on at the duo, clearly interested in him.
Ji-Pyeong encourages Do-San to start using big expressions and to say the lyrics to the national anthem as if they’re deep in conversation. It’s a pretty hilarious scene, especially from afar, and one that’s continued outside when Ji-Pyeong encourages Do-San to drive Dal-Mi home.
Outside, In-Jae watches enviously as her Mother hugs Dal-Mi. She tells her Mother she’s grateful for her choice (picking her Father) and promises her life will get even better now.
She admits to not being as successful as In-Jae right now but in 3 years time she will be. She wants to get up to Zuckerberg’s level but her Mother warns Dal-Mi about this extravagant line of thinking. With no plan she may “end up on her Father’s level.”
It’s a pretty horrible comment and one that eventually sees Dal-Mi walk away and given a lift home from Do-San. Only, he’s still trying to figure out how to use the car.
Ji-Pyeong hails a cab to follow as they get moving, especially upon seeing Dal-Mi crying. As they drive over a bridge, the trio all watch the gorgeous firework display. Although to be fair, Do-San should probably be watching the road rather than Dal-Mi!
Back at the Networking Party, In-Jae receives another bombshell when it turns out the party wasn’t actually for her. It was for her step-father Doo-Jung to help his secretary Sang-Soo get ahead. He’s intending to broaden his horizons. We soon find out exactly what he’s doing too, with In-Jae forced to succumb to her Father’s wishes.
Meanwhile, Ji-Pyeong finds his car abandoned and both Dal-Mi and Do-San down by the shore eating a takeout. Ji-Pyeong hides behind his car and encourages Do-San to finish the date and head home. She suspects he has a girlfriend (which obviously isn’t true) but eventually he leaves.
Only, on the way he thinks over all the memories leading up to this moment and changes his mind, asking Dal-Mi about the music box. He hands over his business card and confirms he doesn’t have a girlfriend.
Afterward, Do-San heads home with Ji-Pyeong who’s enraged by Do-San’s continuing ideas of seeing her. Only, she messages first and it causes quite a conundrum for them. As she promises to repay Do-San, he initially writes “lol” and “fried chicken” but Ji-Pyeong steers him back to a more romantic closer.
When Dal-Mi receives the reply she’s ecstatic. She even tells her Grandmother he’s an angel. Ji-Pyeong is not so sure though, especially when he sees Won-Deok afterwards. He calls Do-San a robot and admits that Dal-Mi is going to be disappointed. Won-Deok thanks him for his help in getting this set up originally and promises to tell Dal-Mi the truth soon.
Dal-Mi heads back to work and makes a bold decision over her future. She’s going to leave completely. Her boss is stunned, unable to believe Dal-Mi has done this but she walks out with her head held high.
Ji-Pyeong receives another message from Do-San needing urgent help. It turns out Dal-Mi is on her way over to his office. Despite Do-San being there with her friends cleaning up the mess, Ji-Pyeong senses everything will come unraveled and has an idea. Sighing loudly, he decides to set up their stuff inside Ji-Pyeong’s office to continue this charade.
She hands over the money tree and follows Ji-Pyeong’s gestures in thanking the girl. Dal-Mi admits that she’s there to follow in his footsteps and that she’s quit her job. She’s intending to start a company like he did, determined to use his inspiring story as a platform.
Ji-Pyeong however, can’t help but feel this situation is going from bad to worse. She’s not the only one either as In-Jae too finds herself driven out of her company.
With her step-father carting her off to the US, Doo-Jung looks set to head off… until she changes her mind and shows up at the office. She confirms she’s not going to the US and tells her step-Father she should get “that idiot” (Sang-Soo) to go instead.
In-Jae gets herself a makeover, intending to make a fresh start at Sandbox, while Dal-Mi shows up with the exact same intention.
Back at the office, Do-San and the others receive confirmation that they’ve won the competition and made it into CODA. As Do-San shows Ji-Pyeong the confirmation on his phone triumphantly, he does the heart symbol with his thumb and finger.
With our central trio of characters arriving at Sandbox, intending to try and do their best with start-up companies, the first port of call is the wish board.
It’s a simple idea and one that sees candidates filling out exactly why they want to do this. Ji-Pyeong arrives and pins one up too, before asking to become one of the teachers for this program. As the camera pans across, someone has left a note saying they want to get revenge. Is that In-Jae I wonder?
While the Samsan boys contemplate whether to work with Ji-Pyeong, Ji-Pyeong heads back to speak to Won-Deok and encourages her not to tell the truth to Dal-Mi for now.
She wonders just why he’s so interested in all this – especially after all this time – but he’s unable to admit the truth. It’s obvious that he feels protective over Dal-Mi but refuses to acknowledge his true feelings. Won-Deok calls him out for it though, asking if he really likes her. After a brief pause, he admits that he doesn’t.
During the epilogue, Do-San’s family gather together in the wake of the broadcast for CODA. There, they announce the winners which is obviously Do-San. His recorded message is eccentric – to say the least. It’s not what they agreed to and it turns out this edited video was one massive sabotage.
While Do-San hangs his head in shame, CODA are actually impressed by the sheer audacity of it, calling the video amazing.
The Episode Review
Well there’s an awful lot to unpack in this drama, which seems to be incorporating elements of Itaewon Class and Record Of Youth into this series. On the one hand, we’ve got a rags to riches story (and a riches to rags story too perhaps with In-Jae?)
We’ve also got the ensuing love triangle and deceptions intertwined together, along with the slice of life drama for our characters. So far though there’s a really harmonious balance between romance, comedy and drama that works so well to keep the tone from slipping too far into melodrama.
The result is easily one of the more promising TVN dramas to come out this year and one that looks to be ending the year on a high.