Start-Up – K-Drama Episode 9 Recap & Review


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!

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17 thoughts on “Start-Up – K-Drama Episode 9 Recap & Review”

  1. Hi writer
    I think you are wrong with your recap..han ji pyeong while in his car after talking to halmeoni,he decided to find the letter to give it to dosan. Not dalmi

  2. I hang my head over the unfairness of it all towards Ji Pyeong. I don’t even understand the minions acting like bodyguards blocking JP from talking to Dal Mi even if he is their mentor. So arrogant of them despite all the help JP had extended to them. And if that is not enough, he here comes the vengeful brother accusing him of murder. Maybe that isn’t enough, writer-nim? Maybe on the bext episode you will throw him the kitchen sink… or the toilet bowl to make him the loathesome character and Do San the knight in shining armor. I don’t even care if he gets the girl. I just want Ji Pyeong to feel the wsrmth of family and love from a worthy woman.

  3. I want Mr. Han and Dalmi to be together not Dosan. Ji-Pyeong in the beginning is the one who did the sacrifice and hardwork and ends up to someone’s credit. This is not good k drama at all if Dosan and Dalmi will end up with each other. Very dissapointed if that happens.

  4. I’m so happy to find a community of kdrama lovers. I am team Dal-mi, whomever she chooses I will be happy. Both men are flawed and amazing in their own unique way. I believe all the characters are learning about themselves and I guess the outcome is for their own good. But Dammit I still want Dal-mi and mr Han to end up together, but that’s not gonna happen

  5. Ji Pyeong didn’t try to break anything up, he just wanted to end the facade and decided that he was also gonna continue it for her sake so I don’t see how he is responsible for breaking them up. Yes he didn’t contact for 15 years but Dam Soon being a face for a few months isn’t worth her heart break relationship aren’t just about timing but the persons who pushes you and is willing to sacrifice everything for ur greatness and Ji Pyeong is that Dam soon needs to grow and be a man first before he can pursue love cuz him he can’t just “love” without being able to provide for the woman he loves especially with very little confidence that he has and being selfish as well cuz he just but in without thinking of the consequences this would have on Dal Mi, but alas K dramas always go male lead with female lead and hardly ever give into the second lead with female lead. So in the end Ji Pyeong will be sideline for the new guy sadly and all his efforts will be appreciated but not rewarded with the woman he loves.

  6. I agree with Miranda…but at the end of.the day..Dalmi herself will decide whom to.choose between Dosan and JPyong….but honestly, Dosan is the one!

  7. I am also really enjoying this drama. I am caught up in between the two leading men for what is the best choice for Dal-Mi and this fact tells me how good this drama really is. Usually, the end of a drama is known from much earlier than the episodes 5-6. This end will be interesting to see. I am amazed on how intelligent zeal-Mi is and I will trust her choice, instead of me being a team Han or Do-San, I am team Dal-Mi. She ponders about choices and is not impulsive( unless it is for going for that kiss, who wouldn’t seize that opportunity?). She will figure out what is the best choice for herself, even if it very difficult. Whomever ends up with get will be a better man. They both deserve her and I like both of them for their strengths and also for their weaknesses. It’s just life portrayed at its best by these characters. Great job, writers and directors!!! Amazing job, actors!!

  8. I am so rooting for Mr. Han..
    All his actions from bringing in Do-San was to continue that goody feel for Dalmi..
    He’s been protective of her from the onset and the urge to payback grandma for her presence in his life was he young and needed love.
    Do San will need to deal with his insecurities and be complete before he can really find who he is and that’s the path he’s in now.
    I’m team Jipyeong and Dalmi!!!!

  9. This is so far the most accurate Start-Up review I have read. A lot of viewers see Ji-pyeong through rose-colored glasses. They overlook the fact that he took money from Halmeoni and never once looked back to help her when he became successful. He only accidentally saw her corn dog truck and even then, refused to help Halmeoni with her request to find Do-san. He wasn’t attracted to Dal-mi and kept griping about why he’s helping all of them. He’s rude, arrogant, selfish, and condescending to everyone including Dal-mi. I can’t, for the life of me, understand why a lot of viewers don’t remember or refused to acknowledge this part of Ji-pyeong narrative. Sure, Do-san has baggage and insecurities, who doesn’t? I blame the overly ambitious parents which is very relatable and more plausible than Ji-pyeong’s backstory. How could Do-san not win anyone’s heart when all his grand gestures are all coming from his innate kindness and love for Dal-mi. We have yet to see Ji-pyeong payback to Halmeoni. Mentoring Dal-mi is a job he gets paid for so, how is that payback or even affection for Dal-mi? Ji-pyeong is selfish.

  10. Ji-Pyeong is not selfish for wanting to go after his happiness too!!! I repeat, prioritizing your own happiness is not selfish!

  11. I don’t understand what you said about “Ji-Pyeong breaking up the happy couple.” Ji-Pyeong was the Do San Dal Mi fell in love with 15 years ago. It’s only fair that she knows the truth, and Ji-Pyeong has a fair shot at love too. Present day Do San took advantage of the narrative given to him to get the girl, and I think that’s cheating Ji Pyeong out of his happy ending as well. All in all, it’s Dal Mi choice in the end.

  12. Same sentiments, I love Ji-Pyeong character. I still want him to end up with Dalmi, he is a self made man without any connections. On the other hand, here comes Dosan, he need to grow up and be less opportunistic, he is too caught up with the guilt thag he is not good enough, then prove others that you are more than just the math olympian, he needs to shine for himself not for others. I hope they make plot twist regarding this love triangle. But I doubt, Ji-Pyeong loves and respect grandma that he will give way.

  13. The 2 male characters both deserve Dalmi but unfortunately there is only one Dalmi. Fate has bought Jipyeong and Dalmi together 15 years ago but Jipyeong has never contacted her in the 15 years. Fate on the other hand brought Dosan to Dalmi. while he being a geek, totally lacking self esteem and confidence he followed his heart and grabbed the opportunity to be with the girl that he fell for at first sight. He acted fast, with conviction and gave his all. As in real life, there is no right and wrong. It’s all about fate and timing. I could meet a the same man at diff points in my life but will not end up marrying him if the timing is off. Dosan is such a make your heart ache character. Someone who you wished you could give him a pat in the back and tell him he is bigger than the moon. JP is now rich and successful, he can find himself another girl. Time heals.

  14. I have been mourning the loss of my beloved father in sept and “Start up” is the first thing that cheered me up since then. I find myself gushing over the characters, and intrigued as the plot thickens.

    I love the pace and the story right from the start.

    I m so rooting for Do-mi, and hope Dal-mi has a chance to discover how got unintentionally he was involved In the lie.

    1) He wasn’t aware his name was used in the letters.

    2) He went to help her at the networking party despite not getting anything in return.

    3) He wanted to tell her the truth many times but somehow the timing was always wrong.

    As for Ji Pyeong, honestly what he had with Dal-mi wasn’t love. It was a crush on her end based on an illusion. She and Do-san are obviously in love with each other.

    Credits to all the cast for their great portrayal of the characters too!

  15. I’ve never had second lead syndrome so bad! The fact that Ji pyeong wanted to give up his “rich” lifestyle for the one thing Dosan had literally broke my heart. This drama would be so disappointing if she doesn’t end up with Mr Han. There’s literally no spark between Dal mi and Do-san!!!!!

  16. I really don’t see Ji Pyeong as selfish and self centered writer-nim. Arrogant of course but he’s only actually repaying a debt that halmoeni called in. She the adult asked him to write the letter, she should have come clean since and she called in that debt they both knew he owed.

    I don’t understand Dosan as a character and even what is enjoying now is not through is hard work but from a lie that was kept and maintained by grandma. If he was going to tell Dalmi about grandma’s eyesight then he should have owned up that he didn’t write the letter.
    Its a pity there’s a love triangle and that SLS is being pushed.

  17. I was taken off guard when you said that Ji-Pyeong is Selfish and self-centered. I think Ji-Pyeong is the least selfish character in this series. Maybe he did these things to “repay” his fifteen year-old debt, but in the sidelines I can’t help think he truly cares for Halmeoni and Dal-Mi. Also, witnessing the last few moments wherein he gave up his own feelings/romantic motivations for Dal-Mi and chose to go all the way to the birdhouse to retrieve the letter and give it to Do-San to continue the ruse. I think he spoke impulsively at the hot dog cart because he didn’t expect, of all people, that Halmeoni/Grandma would neglect his feelings because she was one of the few people that he truly cares about.

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