This episode moved the company and succession politics to the forefront of the drama, but in a way that was intricately tied to digging into the complications in the romantic developments. Eun Seol doesn’t want to live in their complicated and foreign world of money and succession. So what does both men do? They think about what she said, take it to heart, and appear to be going to diverging paths to overcome her objections. Love it! And I also love that even the scheming, backstabbing (however little of it exists), and maneuvering is done completely transparently.
Protect the Boss is like fighting an old-fashioned war, with generals and armies, battle plans and formations. It’s all honorable. Whereas so many dramas turn to sneaky terrorist warfare to generate conflict, which almost always drive me up the wall. To be honest, once Ji Heon overcomes his mental condition and learns to be a mature professional adult, he doesn’t have any more pressing “need” for Eun Seol than Moo Won does. Which ultimately leaves the choice based on the most important issue at hand – who does Eun Seol genuinely love? I think the answer is clear, but the journey there is so satisfying to watch.
Episode 10 recap:
Eun Seol looks around for Ji Heon to berate him for skipping work to surprise her with presents. But it’s Moo Won who steps forward as the person responsible for the series of surprises. He asks Eun Seol to share her happiness with him, because he’s in need of some. Ji Heon walks into work but doesn’t see Eun Seol anywhere. He turns around to leave when the other employee arrives and drags him back into work.
Eun Seol doesn’t respond to Moo Won’s request, confessing she doesn’t want her happiness taken away. Moo Won tells her not to be stingy, he just want to share a little of it. She tells Moo Won that both he and Ji Heon keep saying and doing things that she needs to pretend not to understand. She reminds Moo Won again that she wants a gentle man.
Moo Won tells her to give him a chance, even if he loses her to that gentle man down the road. Eun Seol says no again. He asks if she can treat this as a last date. She says no, he’ll just take it back in the future that this wasn’t a final date. He asks if they can hang out as friends. She says no even to that, because he’ll later try to assert they are boyfriend and girlfriend. Finally Moo Won asks her to just consider this a charity, pity for a person who worked like a dog all week.
Eun Seol is still reluctant. So Moo Won asks if she can treat this like fulfilling a promise, since she promised she will do as he asked. Eun Seol says she needs to go to work. Plus if they hang out some more, he’ll just claim that he likes her even more. Eun Seol says he can’t be upset if she doesn’t fall for him. He agrees. They head off to the date with Moo Won confessing that he booked various restaurant for every cuisine and bought movie tickets for every movie just in case.
Eun Seol calls Ji Heon, who happily answers the phone. But his face falls when Eun Seol explains she won’t be coming. Moo Won takes the phone and says to Ji Heon that they will be by later to buy some coffee from him. The Chairman stops at the coffee shop where Ji Heon is working.
After the call Ji Heon throws off his apron to rush out of the coffee shop. The other employee stops him and says that unless someone died, there is no such emergency that he needs to leave right now. He points out other employees who have encountered even worse emergencies but stayed at work until their shift was over before leaving to deal with it. He tells Ji Heon to get back to work.
As Ji Heon walks back inside, he bumps into two customers and spills their coffee. The other employee makes Ji Heon bow in deep apology. The Chairman watches this and his heartbreaks, as he sees his Ji Heon, who has never gotten his hands dirty, crouched on the floor cleaning up the split coffee.
Moo Won takes Eun Seol to a private theater to watch a movie. During the movie, he makes a move to hold her hand, but she moves it out of the way inadvertently. As they are walking down a bike path, he pulls her into his arms out of the way of an oncoming bike. Eun Seol breaks free and tells Moo Won it’s not necessary since the bike wasn’t anywhere near her.
Eun Seol and Moo Won go bike riding and end up sitting at a park bench chatting afterwards. Eun Seol explains her childhood, moving to Seoul and wanting to make friends quickly. But everyone was busy studying, so the only friends she made were the less studious ones. Eun Seol nibbles on some snacks as Moo Won just stare at her with a besotted look on his face. Eun Seol tells him if he keeps looking, he’ll bore a hole in her face. He says his stares are not yet at that level of intensity.
Na Yoon sits in her office, eating lunch and going through paperwork. But she’s distracted and ends up calling Moo Won. She asks if he’s busy? He says he’s busy so she hangs up the phone. Next she calls Eun Seol, whose phone is on the desk, so Moo Won answers Eun Seol’s phone as well and informs Na Yoon that Eun Seol is busy, too. Na Yoon hangs up with a sad pout.
Moo Won asks Eun Seol if he’s been demoted down from the rank of a god into a mere mortal. Eun Seol laughs and says he was demoted awhile back, and gestures a girly punch (when Moo Won and Ji Heon got into a fight at the restaurant) to show that he punched like a girl so she can’t see him as a god anymore. Moo Won thinks he threw a left hook, which Eun Seol missed because he punched too fast for her to see clearly.
Eun Seol tells Moo Won that she really doesn’t like this world. As a god or a man, she doesn’t like the world that Moo Won is in. She likes being a secretary and his friend, and that is the extent of her involvement in his world. Moo Won asks if Eun Seol knows what a balance is? It’s very hard to find two things that are exact counter weights. He knows that right now, Eun Seol is leaning a certain direction. For now, he just wants to keep having a chance, and hope that she will continue to stay in their world.
Ji Heon is anxious and irritable at work, forcing the other employee to push him back to work. Customers who walk up to order coffee talk too fast and their orders are too complicated for Ji Heon to remember it all. He tells himself to think of every customer as Noh Eun Seol. He opens his eyes and suddenly every customer is Eun Seol ordering in her fast staccato delivery. But this time Ji Heon is comfortable and can write it down quickly and perfectly.
Moo Won and Eun Seol arrive at the coffee shop and Ji Heon jumps in front of them as they walk up the stairs. He pulls Eun Seol upstairs and then uses his rag to shoo Moo Won away. Na Yoon goes shopping and runs into her mom at the department store. Mother and daughter wonder why each is shopping when she’s run away from home. Na Yoon tries to act like everything is fine and walk away, but mom gestures to her guards to grab her.
Na Yoon can’t outrun her mom’s guards and is dragged back. In the car, Na Yoon tells her mom that she won’t go on anymore mat-seons or live like this. She doesn’t have any friends because her mom would criticize this one for not having enough manner, that one for wanting to rely on Na Yoon, and another for possibly being a betrayer down the line. So she ends up with only Moo Won and Ji Heon around her, with no one to rely on. Does her mom want her to live her entire life just around her mom?
Na Yoon realizes she can’t get through to her mom. When the car stops at a light, Na Yoon remembers Moo Won’s reminder that she can keep running away. She gets out of the car and tells her mom that she will quit working for the family business and earn her own living. If her mom keeps trying to control her, she’ll give an interview and out their dirty laundry.
Ji Heon is in a bad mood and keeps getting chastised by the other employee for making mistakes. Na Yoon’s mom calls Moo Won’s mom out, and confesses that she got in a fight with Na Yoon, who complained about not having any friends. Which made Na Yoon’s mom realize that her only friend was Moo Won’s mom, so she doesn’t want to ignore Moo Won’s mom’s calls anymore. She’s willing to lend her money to for the stock acquisition Moo Won’s mom is undertaking. Na Yoon’s mom tells a shocked Moo Won’s mom that TJ Group has also gotten into the stock acquisition for the same company.
The Chairman meets with the head of TJ Group to discuss collaborating once TJ Group wins the bid for that company. A waiter accidentally spills water on the Chairman. The other guy yells for the manager to come out, but the Chairman remembers when Ji Heon has to beg for forgiveness when he made a mistake, and kindly tells the waiter it’s not a big deal.
Eun Seol’s dad reads articles about the Chairman online, and is especially displeased to hear that the Chairman’s name is Bong Man. Myung Ran laughs because Eun Seol’s dad’s name coincidentally is also Bong Man. Eun Seol’s dad chides Myung Ran for staying home all day long, and she asks when he’s planning to go back to his house in the mountains. Dad confesses the house is about to be rented, but tells Myung Ran to keep it secret from Eun Seol.
Myung Ran heads out to because Na Yoon called her, asking ice-cream if she ran away from home again? Na Yoon confesses she needs a place to crash again. Myung Ran allows Na Yoon to stay, but tells her to pay rent. Na Yoon happily agrees. God, they are so cute together. Ji Heon cleans up the coffee shop after it closes. Eun Seol’s fallen asleep and he sits down to watch her sleep. She wakes up and he brings her a coffee and bread. She tells him to eat as well since he must be tired from working all day.
Ji Heon says today Eun Seol made him furious because she hung out with Moo Won. Eun Seol tells him to just get along with Moo Won. Rather than saying they both like her, it’s more like they like each other, but because they love and hate each other, they end up fighting like kids. She tells Ji Heon to get along with Moo Won and treat that as yet another assignment of him. He agrees, but asks her to give an account of what she did today in ten minues. Eun Seol tells Ji Heon she doesn’t like his world. It’s strange to her, and she doesn’t want to enter it. This goes for both Ji Heon and Moo Won. She wants to continue living in her world.
Moo Won comes home and asks if his mom is serious about buying up the stock. She says yes. Moo Won says he’ll help her, and he will work even harder from now on. Mom is curious about the sudden change? Someone told Moo Won she doesn’t like the world he lives in, so he has to change his world, and to do so he needs power.
Ji Heon walks Eun Seol home, running into Myung Ran and Na Yoon outside. Eun Seol asks if Na Yoon ran away again and Myung Ran confirms it. Ji Heon chides Na Yoon for burdening an already butt poor Eun Seol, but Na Yoon says she’ll pay rent and contribute to household expenses. Na Yoon asks Ji Heon to speak with her.
They sit down on the stairs and Na Yoon asks to talk about their breakup. They never officially broke up. Even if Ji Heon kept saying it, Na Yoon kept denying it. But now she wants to let him go officially. She knows Ji Heon is going to say that he had left her already. But to Na Yoon, letting Ji Heon go affirmatively is different than losing Ji Heon unwillingly.
Ji Heon understands what she is saying. Na Yoon apologizes again for what happened to Ji Seok. He tells her an apology is not necessary, because she’s clearly feeling guilty and bad about it. Na Yoon asks again if it’s really not possible between them. This is really the end, right? Ji Heon says yes. Na Yoon asks if he’ll have dinner with her sometimes. He says yes. Na Yoon cries as she accepts that this is the end. Ji Heon reaches out two fingers and taps Na Yoon on the shoulder to comfort her as she cries.
Eun Seol pushes her dad out to the jjimjalbang. She turns to a sobbing Na Yoon on the bed. Eun Seol leans in to hug Na Yoon, and Myung Ran joins the hug from the other side. Na Yoon pushes Eun Seol off her and then hugs Myung Ran back. The girls drink their sorrows away. Na Yoon says she’s swearing off men forever. Eun Seol thinks she should do the same as well. Na Yoon tells her not to be an idiot. She can’t let the right opportunity pass her by, which is what Na Yoon did. Eun Seol needs to grab on to what she has now, i.e. Moo Won or Ji Heon. The girls get up and start singing and dancing.
Ji Heon comes home and finds his dad sitting outside. The Chairman tells Ji Heon to sit down and brings up Secretary Noh….to which Ji Heon immediately jumps up and yells that he’s never firing Eun Seol! The Chairman tells him stop being so impatient and let him finish. Even if Ji Heon wanted to fire Eun Seol, the Chairman won’t allow it either. Ji Heon confirms his dad doesn’t want to fire Eun Seol anymore, but is curious as to why? Ji Heon thinks his dad is weird, while his dad thinks Ji Heon is weird for not allowing his dad to spend quality time with him.
The Chairman tells Ji Heon that he now approves of Eun Seol (as a future wife for Ji Heon). WAHHHH, love it! Ji Heon is stunned. The Chairman continues by saying that if Ji Heon wants to be with Eun Seol, he’s going to have to get stronger and be more powerful. In their world, people around them will always ostracize Eun Seol, so Ji Heon has to become more powerful so that he can protect himself and protect Eun Seol. Ji Heon lays in bed and thinks about Eun Seol’s world, such as the employees who work hard at the coffee shop. They earn little but work hard, and Ji Heon doesn’t think that world is all that bad.
Eun Seol sees her dad off at the bus depot. He asks what she’s going to do about the two chaebol boys. He tells her to figure out how her heart feels. Eun Seol wonders why everyone is wondering what her heart feels. Dad thinks he ought to care since she’s his daughter. It doesn’t matter what other people think, including whether he disapproves, Eun Seol needs to follow her own heart. Eun Seol says if she confirms how she feels, one person will be hurt. Dad says if she doesn’t, both guys will be hurt. If she decides then it’s only one person hurt.
The Cha family is having lunch at a restaurant at the request of Moo Won’s mom. The two parents start bickering as usual. Ji Heon zones off and Moo Won puts a pickle in Ji Heon’s rice bowl. Ji Heon picks it up and eats it unwittingly. Suddenly he howls and drinks water, yelling at Moo Won for pranking him since he doesn’t eat that vegetable. Ji Heon runs off for his part time job and Moo Won leaves to do more work as well.
After Moo Won’s mom bids farewell, Grandma tells her son to come clean. She knows he’s up to something and he better tell her now. The Chairman glosses over everything and manages to leave without telling Grandma anything. Back at the office, he runs into the traitor director in the elevator, and can’t help but shoot the man dirty looks at the back of his head.
Eun Seol arrives at the coffee shop to find Ji Heon already hard at work behind the counter. She remembers what her dad said, about following her own heart. Ji Heon sees her and immediately smiles but makes a mistake. Na Yoon walks up to meet with Eun Seol about marketing plans.
Moo Won is hard at work in his office. His secretary brings him some food and suggests he take a break. She noticed that he’s gotten more hardworking again recently. Moo Won says he still has the same goal – to become the best – but his reason for that goal has changed now. Moo Won gets a call that is a shock to him.
Moo Won’s mom and Na Yoon’s mom are having tea and going through the stock acquisition plan of PS Group – she’s still leading and TJ Group is behind her. Moo Won calls her mom to tell her that the Chairman is helping TJ Group. Moo Won goes to confront the Chairman and asks him to not interfere. The Chairman says that it was Moo Won’s mom who was sneaky behind his back first. Moo Won says his mom just wants to expand the company.
The Chairman agrees, but tells Moo Won to relinquish his shares in DN Group. That way Moo Won can completely divest from the company and start anew. Moo Won reminds his uncle that his dad was supposed to inherit succession of the DN Group. The Chairman tells Moo Won that his father got too greedy and fought with the Grandparents for sole succession of the company and was thus kicked out for being too greedy, which is how the succession landed in the Chairman’s lap.
The Chairman tried his best to take care of Moo Won’s dad, but even when he died he still resented his younger brother. Moo Won thinks it’s so easy to cast all the blame on his side of the family. The Chairman tells Moo Won not to be led by the greed of the previous generation. They can still help each other. Moo Won says he will continue to overreach until he can beat the Chairman.
Na Yoon, Eun Seol, and Ji Heon find out that the Chairman and Moo Won’s mom are openly fighting on the stock acquisition, with the Chairman backing the rival bidder to Moo Won’s mom. Moo Won is in a very bad mood and runs into the other three back in the office. Everyone can tell something is wrong. Ji Heon tells Moo Won that he will agree to lend Eun Seol to him for now.
Eun Seol asks Moo Won if he’s fine? He asks for just ten seconds of her time. She allows him to just stand there and stare at her. Oh god, poor boy, my heart hurts for him. Moo Won takes a deep breath and says he feels better now. He thanks Eun Seol and tells her not give him such a pitiful look. He wants her to continue her wavering stance between the two men.
Na Yoon walks into Ji Heon’s office talking work, but he’s clearly distracted. He asks how long she’s planning to live with Eun Seol. Na Yoon doesn’t know since her mom hasn’t taken any action, which scare her even more. She doesn’t know why Ji Heon and Moo Won keep liking the same girl. If they can like different girls, everyone can be happy, right? Eun Seol walks in and Ji Heon tries to pull her in for a hug to give him some of his energy.
She pushes him off her, but then Na Yoon pushes him back. Ji Heon is happy to end up back in Eun Seol’s arms, but Na Yoon walks over to push them apart. She walks into Moo Won’s office and returns his credit card. She asks he wants her to get some inside scoop for him? She asks if he needs her to comfort him as well? He says he’s feeling better. Na Yoon walks out and Ji Heon walks in. He tells Moo Won that they need to stop now, because the chances are they will lose everything in the end. Moo Won tells him to leave.
Ji Heon comes home and finds his dad gardening outside. He demands to know why his dad is doing this? The Chairman says he’s doing this for Ji Heon, who doesn’t want this at all and asks his dad to stop. Grandma comes running out and screams at her son. The Chairman tells his mom that Seok Hee started it by bribing one of his guys to betray him. He asks his mom to leave him be, he’s trying to find some peace.
Moo Won’s mom arrives and asks if he’s human! She thought he meant well. The Chairman says he did, but she betrayed him first. Moo Won’s mom vows to return this humiliation back to him. She throws one shoe at him before leaving. He runs to give her the shoe back since she’s limping, but she takes off her other shoe and throws it at him before leaving barefoot.
During the stock acquisition, the traitor director keeps updating Moo Won’s mom on the progress. Moo Won tells his mom to give up this time, and not to trust Na Yoon’s mom completely. They cannot afford to bid higher than the price Moo Won set. But Moo Won’s mom bids higher and wins, but confirms she needs more cash. Na Yoon’s mom agrees to lend her the money, but asks Moo Won’s mom for her shares of DN Group as collateral.
Ji Heon meets with his dad and says he wishes his dad will stop this. He thinks his dad won’t listen to him at this time so stops talking about it. His dad asks if Ji Heon really isn’t interested in succeeding the company. Ji Heon says plainly no. And he’s getting less and less interested. He notes that his dad’s expression is not one a victor would have, which clearly shows the Chairman isn’t happy about winning this way.
Ji Heon leaves and the Chairman looks a bit worse for wear. His secretary asks if the Chairman is alright? The Chairman wonders if he’s done all the right things so far. His secretary thinks if the Chairman can even ask such a question, then he needs to stop what he is doing now and reassess the situation. The Chairman wonders why his secretary can’t just butter up to him and say he did well, just as a reassurance. The secretary apologizes, but the Chairman tells him no need, what the secretary said is not incorrect. I love this boss-secretary relationship to bits as well.
Eun Seol happily watches Ji Heon competently work at the coffee shop. At closing time, they agree it’s time for him to reveal his identity and quit soon, since he’s achieved what they set out to do.
Ji Heon walks Eun Seol home, and on the staircase, he asks Eun Seol that if she doesn’t want to come into his world, can he go into her world then? Which is when Moo Won, who was been waiting for Eun Seol, steps forward and says there is no need. If Eun Seol doesn’t like their world, he’s working to change it. He will transform their world until it’s acceptable to Eun Seol.
Thoughts of Mine:
I think this drama creates so much depth in plot that while the logical resolution is really simple, getting there requires meaningful progress that all the characters are making. The ideal choice for the company succession really is Moo Won, because he’s better at it. Period. Doesn’t matter what his dad did, the son should not be bound by the sins of the father. But Moo Won’s mom is a little too bitter about what her dead husband did, and a little too forceful in pushing her Moo Won’s claim. That’s the problem.
The Chairman’s love for Ji Heon and wish for his son to succeed the company he was responsible for turning around is also understandable. But beyond Ji Heon’s ability (or inability) to run the company, learning about Ji Heon’s condition is like turning a switch in the way the Chairman views his son. He sees Ji Heon’s point of view now, understanding where the rebellion and desire to quit came from all these years. And he also sees Ji Heon’s determination since meeting Eun Seol. Wasn’t it amazing that the Chairman accepted Eun Seol after realizing how important this woman is to his son. And extolling Ji Heon to grow stronger so he could protect Eun Seol. That was such a cool dad pep talk.
I think once Ji Heon becomes Moo Won’s rival in ability to run the company, but still sincerely tells his dad that he doesn’t want it, then it brushes aside the Chairman’s final obstacle to passing the torch on the Moo Won. The Chairman loves his son and wants to hand his son a legacy that he built, so Ji Heon doesn’t have to struggle and work hard. But what if Ji Heon wants to struggle and work hard. What if Ji Heon wants to build something himself? Wouldn’t the Chairman understand that, support that, and ultimately find comfort that his son is perfectly fine and his company is in good Moo Won hands?
I don’t think the succession fighting will grow dirty and nasty, or that Moo Won or his mom will turn evil. I think more issues will get fought out and resolved in the open, until everyone reaches the peace they have been seeking. I loved how everyone confronted the Chairman for doing an underhanded gesture of supporting a rival bidder to Moo Won’s mom. And even he knows it’s not the right thing to do, and feels bad about it. These people, they are so decent and human in their foibles and mistakes.
I’m honestly not feeling all that swept up into the romance aspect of this drama, which remains very well integrated into the story so that it flows seamlessly through even the office politics scenes. I loved fully finding out Na Yoon’s issues with her mom, and watching her stand up to her mom with such honestly and pride. I’ve never hated Na Yoon’s mom, and learning that her mom also has one friend in the world which is Moo Won’s mom made me laugh at her because I feel bad for these rich ladies locked into their insular world.
No wonder Eun Seol is so precious to every single person in this drama who encounter her. She presents the real world, and reminds them all that the tightly wound world of the rich and powerful is ever so lonely and rigid, and they can try to change that. Na Yoon’s already becoming BFFs with Myung Ran, and has achieved this hilarious love-hate relationship with Eun Seol. I’m looking forward to how this drama untangles the Moo Won-Ji Heon loves the same woman retread this time around. Like Na Yoon said, wouldn’t it be easier if they loved different women, and perhaps she and Eun Seol can be there with them both.