Episode 9 of Start-Up begins with Do-San continuing to hold Dal-Mi’s scrunchie, reminiscing over the Mathematical Olympics. Specifically, he deliberates over a moment that changed his life forever. Usually he answers the equations easily but given the pressure from his family and the situation, his nerves caused his mind to go blank .
A gust of wind miraculously brought with it an answer sheet from another table – one that happened to have the correct answer to the question he was stuck on. Despite answering the other 9 questions on his own, this moment has haunted him ever since. That’s why he handed over the medal as he felt guilty and that his luck was undeserving.
15 years later, Do-San and Dal-Mi sit together in a coffee shop and after handing over the scrunchie (being sure to lie and tell her he found it in the office) he feels like the world around him is cracking and caving in just like it did back then.
Later that day, Dal-Mi responds to the reviews for NoonGil before a visitor shows looking for In-Jae. Holding a carton of eggs, Dal-Mi show’s him In-Jae’s office and he begins hitting her with them, berating In-Jae for playing a part in him losing his job. Because of her AI tech, this engineering team may be made redundant.
While he’s taken outside, in the middle of this ruckus happens to be a man named Yong-wan – a reporter.
With Demo Day coming up, Alex is excited to see what the candidates have coming up. While they talk, In-Jae is taken in to speak to Sun-Hak regarding her attack from the engineer. She’s taken aback by In-Jae’s choice of words though, namely her nonchalance toward him “causing a scene” and unwilling to look at the difference between risk and danger.
In the adjacent room, Ji-Pyeong tells Dal-Mi she needs to separate her business model from her revenue model. She’s acting like an amateur – according to Ji-Pyeong anyway – and needs to focus on her one customer. That one customer being Morning Group.
As he swings over a folder with his handwriting on, his words about advertising fall on deaf ears. Dal-Mi’s too busy thinking over what Do-San said about being a loser in the past. Ever so slightly she’s starting to piece together what the truth is.
Unfortunately, In-Jae’s boldness makes mainstream news as the Engineers go on strike. Even worse, Yang-Won being at Sand Box at the time certainly doesn’t do them any favours.
Do-San’s parents learn that Dal-Mi is the CEO of Samsan and immediately they begin questioning their son. It turns out Do-San hasn’t been honest with them and actually stole his Father’s seal to make it official. Although Yong-San and Chul-San agree to help him, it’s obvious that this is going to be a difficult thing to admit to his Father.
Do-San’ practices his apology over drinks but his real projected apology comes in the form of Dal-Mi, not his Father. Given how much he’s drunk, Do-San is a blubbering mess and eventually passes out at the table.
Unsure who else to call, the boys ring Dal-Mi who shows up and sees Do-San completely wasted. Given how drunk he is, they ask whether Dal-Mi can take him to stay at her house. Thankfully, Ji-Pyeong happens to show up at the right time and gives the boy a piggyback all the way to Dal-Mi’s house.
As he drops him off on the bed, it turns out Do-San has thrown up all over Ji-Pyeong’s back. Grim!
Just before Ji-Pyeong leaves – with a lovely pink t-shirt for his troubles – he’s invited to sit down and eat. Only, a drunk Do-San wanders out and asks why he’s there. Having sobered up enough to eat, Dal-Mi suggests he stay over for the night.
Ji-Pyeong almost chokes on his food at the sound of this and decides to stay too – ironically matching the same expression as the grumpy man on his shirt.
In the middle of the night, Do-San heads out to get a glass of water. When he does, he notices Dal-Mi sat by the computer sobbing. He looks online and finds a 5 star review from someone who thanks NoonGil for allowing their daughter to experience the beauty of the world.
It’s amazing to see what good this app is doing and the words touch Dal-Mi deeply. She writes back and promises that the post isn’t pointless and will do her best to cherish every moment too.
The next day, Do-San invites Dal-Mi out for a date. Hilariously, she invites Won-Deok out too. A jealous Ji-Pyeong is forced to watch as the trio head out to “a spot more beautiful than Santorini.” This obviously is on the back of Chul-San’s comments to Sa-Ha earlier in the episode. Do-San is also doing the best he can to make sure Won-Deok has some beautiful memories to remember before her vision goes completely.
While she’s out picking shells and finding seafood for their dinner, Won-Deok uses the NoonGil app and realizes Dal-Mi and Do-San are hugging and watching the gorgeous skyline together. As the sun starts to set, Do-San thinks over everything that’s happened so far and wonders aloud whether there could be two Do-Sans. Of course, as we know there most definitely is.
That evening, Won-Deok sleeps on the backseat of the car while Dal-Mi and Do-San stand together watching the stars.
In the morning, Do-San heads home and finds his parents berating him over giving up the CEO title. Eventually Do-San admits the truth and tells them he cheated on the test – something that’s been eating him up over all these years.
This immediately shatters the family as Seong-Hwan takes down the photos up on the wall and tries to control his anger. Geum-Jung is a little calmer but it’s obvious the family are reeling over this bombshell reveal.
Meanwhile, A-Hyun finds herself in a bind and desperate to make her own money. This ironically leads her back to Won-Deok who happens to have adverts up for a helper. As she thinks about working with her, she eventually changes her mind and walks away.
As she does, Ji-Pyeong passes her and returns the pink shirt to Won-Deok. He learns from her that Dal-Mi is suspicious of the two men in her life.
Ji-Pyeong can’t cope with the lies anymore and admits that he has feelings for Dal-Mi. Because of this, he wants to reveal everything to her and make sure there’s no more lies.
Won-Deok asks him not to interfere though, especially given how happy Dal-Mi and Do-San are, but things aren’t looking good. Ji-Pyeong eventually walks away after telling her he wishes they never met. As he steps out into the rain, she tellingly calls him “Ji-Pyeong” rather than good boy.
Eventually she heads over and hands him an umbrella, apologizing about the past.
When he leaves, Ji-Pyeong sits in his car and struggles to control his emotions. Eventually he composes himself and decides to head back and find that fateful letter she mentioned to give to Dal-Mi. He finds it too, tucked away in the birdhouse, and can’t help but read it.
That letter happens to be the one Dal-Mi wrote to him following the death of her Father. As he reads the words, the rain stops. He looks up and Dal-Mi happens to be standing right there in front of him. It turns out she accidentally took her Grandmother’s phone – that text message he sent confirming he’s heading home to find the letter actually got sent to her.
He stays silent, wondering what to do, as Do-San rings her. Dal-Mi picks up and, unblinking while looking at Ji-Pyeong, asks exactly where the spot was they wrote their letters in the past. He can’t answer, prompting her to break slightly and ask exactly why Ji-Pyeong is there and not him. She hangs up and everything starts to come unraveled.
The Episode Review
This show has me more conflicted than I’ve been over any Korean drama for a while. Such is the depth of character writing on display, it’s easy to see the point of view for all of these characters.
Given how deep the debates have been in the comments (and we’ve absolutely loved reading each and every one of your messages so thank you, please continue to do so!) this week really solidifies that this love triangle isn’t as easy as it once appeared.
Do-San is a very conflicted guy and he’s been carrying this heavy burden with him his entire life. Everyone believes Do-San is a hotshot Olympian but given he cheated on one question, he doesn’t feel deserving of this title. When the opportunity with Dal-Mi came up, he’s understandably grabbed the bull with two horns.
Then you have Ji-Pyeong. Selfish? No doubt. Self-centred? Absolutely. But he’s also some of the reason Dal-Mi managed to keep going during those tumultuous times in her past. He also happens to be her first love. That affection and connection for one another clearly transcends into the here and now, with Ji-Pyeong caught in the middle of this big mess and falling hard for Dal-Mi.
While I don’t agree with him breaking up the happy couple, Dal-Mi does deserve the truth and to make the choice herself.
And how will Dal-Mi deal with this going forward? It’s obvious that she’s caught in a difficult position and for all of Do-San’s problems, he perhaps doesn’t deserve to be unceremoniously dropped just like that. His gesture toward Won-Deok is telling enough.
So far though, Start-Up has easily been one of the best Korean dramas this year and no doubt people will be anxiously awaiting what happens next. The cinematography has been gorgeous and that slight pink lens – especially during the beach scenes and early-season cherry blossoms – is exquisite.
Still, we’ll have to wait and see what happens tomorrow as Start-Up continues to deliver excellent drama!