The Sand Box Competition
We begin episode 4 of Start-Up at Sand Box as our prospective candidates write down their hopes, dreams and desires for their prospective businesses. The three main candidates here though are In-Jae, Dal-Mi and Do-San who find themselves all face to face; the former pair ask Do-San to be their partner.
As we cut back in time, Dal-Mi’s idea for a big business is influenced by her Father and this brings back memories for Won-Deok. Unfortunately they’re painful ones as she’s forced to watch Dal-Mi’s heart crushed on the back of the failing start-up idea with her Father. Won-Deok clearly doesn’t want her to suffer and warns her Grand daughter that making a business is hard.
As Dal-Mi heads to the library, she meets one of the prospective candidates Sa-Ha. They both wrestle over the last book for help in joining Sand Box. That is, until Dal-Mi manages to haggle her way into 5000 won.
Dal-Mi walks away as the librarian wheels out a whole new stack of books to restock – which Dal-Mi swipes up. Only, Sa-Ha then does the exact same thing, managing to swindle them out of 10,000 won. Clever!
Upstairs, Do-San and Dal-Mi both come face to face at the library and instantly hit the deck. Both of them hide the Sand Box book from one another and outside, the cracks in Do-San’s story continue to bleed through. They both get the bus and eventually holds hands on the way home.
When Do-San heads back to Samsan, he finds the place swarming with prospective investors wanting to see how this image-learning algorithm makes money. Unfortunately without a concise and clear revenue stream, none of them are interested. However, one or two want to see the inner-workings of it.
Ji-Pyeong shows up just in time though, stopping Do-San from spilling valuable secrets about his tech. It’s pretty naïve of him too and worse – could undermine everything the guys have been working hard on. Ji-Pyeong realizes this and berates the boys afterward, telling them they need to run these sort of decisions by him in the future.
Next, Do-San mentions their upcoming birthday. Needing to learn etiquette, Ji-Pyeong realizes Do-San is hopeless and turns to the two boys for help. Chul-San narratives the boys’ romantic woes, including their hopeless attempts at romance in the past.
They’re not the only ones preparing either, Dal-Mi starts prepping her outfit and make-up for the big day. As she asks for a blanket from her grandmother, Won-Deok suspects the worst but Dal-Mi quickly dispels this myth.
The big day arrives and Do-San heads out with Dal-Mi, doing his best to try and win her over. He even has an ear-piece in so he can be in contact with Ji-Pyeong the whole time. When Do-San mentions go-stop, Do-San panics and heads to the office for guidance. Ji-Pyeong realizes exactly what this relates to though and smiles.
The group all gather together (after the mad scramble to set up the fake Samsan tech office again) and play the game. Tensions do begin to escalate though as blood type personalities are brought up.
Anyway, the date goes pretty well and Do-San drives Dal-Mi back home. Once there, he asks exactly what she finds so attractive about him. Unfortunately it’s everything he’s not – including the letters and him being her first love. He thanks her for the evening nonetheless though and prepares to leave.
When Dal-Mi heads inside, she receives a message confirming that she passed the first screening for Sand Box. Won-Deok is worried she’ll fail though and rings Ji-Pyeong to tell him. There, he agrees to look out for Dal-Mi and make sure she doesn’t fail.
Meanwhile, In-Jae’s decision to leave the company brings with it a wave of resignations from those loyal to her. They believe she has the tenacity to make a name for herself. Once she’s in Sand Box, will be able to pay them back.
Her mother is not pleased though and takes her away where the two have it out. In-Jae is not happy she’s overshadowed because of the money at the company and wants to prove herself without it.
Later that evening, she too receives a message confirming she’s got past the first screening for Sand Box. As she looks up, her Mother drops off a coffee order for the team. Although she’s still not speaking to her, it’s a kind of peace offering between them.
Meanwhile, Do-San heads back to the office and speaks to Ji-Pyeong about his career prospective moving forward. He tells Do-San he’s not a good CEO and needs to hire someone else in his stead. It’s difficult to hear for the young entrepreneur who clenches his fist around the can in his hand.
It turns out he too has passed the first screening though but the next step is a grueling hackathon. This gives prospective contestants 3 days to put together a business proposal. As he tells his family where he’s going, his Father is none too happy and berates the boy.
At Sand Box, In-Jae runs into problems when her lead developer pulls out. However, she decides to try and wing it, intending to find other developers there to fill that gap. As she heads in, along with the other candidates, she immediately notices Do-San also watching.
This Hackathon is going to be tougher than they all initially thought – with the 400 candidates reduced down to 40 in the coming days. This is also being broadcast live across Korea, which our various supporting characters happen to be watching.
In a test of quick wits and tenacity, the first test sees the candidates forced to come up with keywords relating to different words flashing up on screen. This tests how on-trend they are but Chul-San’s phone is dead and immediately puts him at a disadvantage. Ji-Pyeong, watching from afar, manages to spy Dal-Mi on the broadcast and smiles.
The round comes to an end and the ones with the most relevant keywords include Dal-Mi and In-Jae. Tellingly though, Do-San is not up on the list. The sisters both find themselves face to face up on stage and realize they need to compete against one another. In-Jae immediately points out Do-San from the audience, which rattles her.
With an hour countdown beginning, the CEOs head off to find candidates to make up their team. This inevitably sees Dal-Mi drawn across to the Samsun boys where the sisters both realize that Do-San is lying and he deceived Dal-Mi. In-Jae does nothing but stir the pot, leading to Dal-Mi reflecting on her earlier prayer.
She asked for a companion for the journey ahead – and that comes in the strange package of Do-San himself. She offers herself up as the CEO for Samsan… but In-Jae also does the same, pointing to her knowledgeable team as the defining reason.
Do-San makes his decision and decides to hire Do-San as his CEO. She graciously accepts while In-Jae is forced to look afar…could this search see her bring Sa-Ha into the fold? We’ll have to wait and see!
During the epilogue, we return to the game of go-stop with Ji-Pyeong hearing his fate being told by the AI companion. Meanwhile, the Director over at Sand Box reads a profile referring to swings and falling on sand. Only…this was Dal-Mi’s past wasn’t it?
The Episode Review
Start-Up continues to deliver excellent drama and is shaping up to be one of the more unique and intriguing Korean dramas this year. The characters are all well written and the competition at Sand Box is intriguing enough that it’s not completely black and white over who’s going to win this competition.
While it would seem obvious that Dal-Mi comes away victorious, you can’t discount In-Jae as she has a clear purpose to being there. She also seems to have won over Sun-Hak too.
Do-San’s tomfoolery and general lack of awareness to what’s going on is addressed up this episode too, which is good. I like that the writers have taken the time to actually show Do-San questioning himself and self-aware of how out of his depth he is.
Ji-Pyeong is the real hero here though. He’s determined to help Dal-Mi from afar and surely it won’t be too long before the truth about his letters come out and Dal-Mi is forced to decide between Do-San and Ji-Pyeong.
The preview for next week seems to hint that this is where the series is heading and who knows how Dal-Mi will react. The entire series has done an excellent job so far keeping that idea of following your dreams at the center of this plot.
The ending leaves the door wide open too and I can’t wait to see what direction this one goes next week.