If I didn’t love Protect the Boss so much from the very beginning, I wouldn’t be this frustrated that such an unique and refreshing drama had to get itself the dreaded extension and thereby ruin all its momentum and quirky personality. Episode 16 was just okay, mildly better than the last three episodes, but nowhere near resurrecting this drama in ways that would revive my flagging interest going into next week’s finale. But I’m resigned to that now, and just want to sit back and see how it all ends. While Ji Heon and Eun Seol pulled a Ross-and-Rachel in this episode (“We were on a break!” “No, it was a break-up!”), at least the angst was dialed down, even if the intelligence level of many of the characters were also dialed way down.
Episode 16 recap:
Ji Heon asks to stop his relationship with Eun Seol. He can’t go to her world now, and he doesn’t want her involved in his messed up world. He doesn’t know for how long, but he wants to take a break and consider what he needs to do. Eun Seol calmly says sure and turns to leave. Ji Heon is shocked and asks if that is all she has to say? She doesn’t think she has a choice, so why bother discussing it further.
They part ways, which is when we see Eun Seol start to tear up. Ji Heon gets in his car and starts to drive away, but then he stops and reverses, which is when Eun Seol also turns and runs back towards him as well. Ji Heon demands to know why she accepted his request to take a break so easily! He thought really hard before making the decision. She wonders what he wants her to do – cry and beg and grab his clothes so that he doesn’t leave her?
Ji Heon reminds her that he’s just asking to take a break. She doesn’t want to play word games with him. This is pretty much like breaking up. Even if it was her fault, he never allowed her to explain or discussed things with her. Ji Heon says he needs to handle things himself now. She understands, and is even more upset she can’t help him. She can’t promise she’ll wait for him, so if he’s decided, he should walk his own road. They part on these frustrating terms, though neither are happy about it.
Myung Ran and Na Yoon trudge back to the apartment, wondering if Eun Seol met with Ji Heon and everything has been resolved. Na Yoon tells Myung Ran not to worry, Ji Heon and Eun Seol are totally in love, everything will be fine. They are accosted by two reporters outside the apartment asking to speak with Eun Soel. They ignore the reporters and head inside.
Eun Seol is already home and she’s got residual tears in her eyes. Na Yoon and Myung Ran asks if she’s crying because of the reporters, but Eun Seol says she’s crying because of the penguin documentary she’s watching. The poor penguins struggle to stand up but constantly slip on the water and ice. Poor penguins.
Grandma has Moo Won and his mom over to talk. She threatens to hit her daughter-in-law, saying if she did wrong she ought to be punished just like Grandma punishes her own kids. Moo Won says he’s already chastised his mom. Suddenly Moo Won gets a call from Na Yoon about reporters camped outside, and also hears that Eun Seol is totally weird and crying about penguins falling down.
Moo Won sees Ji Heon come home and stops him, demanding to know what’s wrong? Ji Heon brushes past him, nods his greetings to Grandma and Moo Won’s mom, and then goes to his room. Moo Won follows, asking if he fought with Eun Seol? Ji Heon says they fought, is that what Moo Won wants to hear! Moo Won calls Ji Heon an idiot, asking if he’s doing this to protect Eun Seol? Ji Heon says it’s not so noble. Moo Won tells him to hurry up and wake up and do the right thing.
Eun Seol sits outside and drinks with her friends, finally confessing that Ji Heon asked to take a break. But she explains that she asked Ji Heon to break up in response. She understands where he’s coming from, but she’s still upset and frustrated. She laughs about being such a petty girlfriend. Eun Seol and Ji Heon sit in the dark while deep in thought.
Eun Seol packs up her desk and receives her transfer orders, headed to the countryside warehouse distribution center. She thanks her sunbae secretaries for taking care of her in the past. Secretary Kim comes running back, screaming about what’s happened and why he’s suddenly been asked to become Ji Heon’s secretary again. He refuses!
Eun Seol says her farewells to Moo Won, explaining that she’s happier this way. He doesn’t ask her about what happened between her and Ji Heon, but gets her to invite him to come visit in the future. Eun Seol goes to Ji Heon’s office and reminisces about their past interactions, starting from when she first became his secretary all the way until now.
Ji Heon arrives at work and sees Secretary Kim sitting at Eun Seol’s desk. Secretary Kim is moaning about why he’s back in this position. Ji Heon threatens to fire him, which makes him quiet down and accept his fate.
At the board meeting, the directors are uncomfortable with Ji Heon’s role at the company despite being cleared of any involvement. Grandma assigns Ji Heon to handle only the resort project during the time being while Moo Won takes over for the rest. They will wait until the final verdict is rendered on the Chairman to decide what to do going forward. Ji Heon and Moo Won start their usual good-natured bickering about Moo Won taking over for Ji Heon temporarily.
The Chairman finds out Eun Seol was sent to a distribution warehouse in the countryside and is upset that a girl is sent to do hard labor. Secretary Jang reminds him that he wants Eun Seol to quit and this is the best way. The Chairman concedes that he has to harden his heart. Moo Won’s mom comes to visit bearing flowers.
The Chairman doesn’t want to see her and tells her to leave. He knows she’s involved with what happened to him, but she says she’s got nothing to do with it. Moo Won’s mom tells him to hit her if he want to. The Chairman shoves her bouquet in her face a few times before tossing it on the ground.
Eun Seol is packing up to leave but Na Yoon wants her to stay. Na Yoon asks Myung Ran to move in with her instead of living in this tent like place. Myung Ran says Moo Won God got Na Yoon the place, she doesn’t want to be a third wheel. Na Yoon tearfully apologizes to Eun Seol for her mother’s doing which caused this all. The friends hug each other, crying and sobbing that they will miss each other so much. Eun Seol finds out Ji Heon is headed to the resort for the time being as well.
Eun Seol takes a bus to the countryside as Ji Heon is driven by Secretary Kim down to the resort. Eun Seol arrives and sees that her new work environment is really rough. Her supervisor says no one sent down here has lasted longer than a week. Eun Seol vows that she’ll last longer than a week. She starts working and gets bored just sitting at the desk. She decides to start helping with the warehouse labor, otherwise she’ll just be left sitting at the corner doing nothing. Ji Heon arrives at the resort and starts working.
Eun Seol’s dad finally sees the old newspaper article about the DN Group financial misconduct. Myung Ran sits in her room by herself eating bibimbap, wondering why her place feels so empty. Suddenly Eun Seol’s dad barges in and finds out from Myung Ran that Eun Seol got transferred. The Chairman gets a three year prison sentence, which will be delayed, plus paying a hefty fine and doing another 200 hours of community service. He wants to pay more fines and not have to do community service.
The Chairman is wheeled out of the hospital to face the media and apologize to the country. The Chairman thinks he doesn’t need to apologize to the public, he should apologize to Ji Heon and Eun Seol, the people who are affected. The Chairman announces that he will be resigning from the position of the Chairman of the DN Group. As he’s apologizing, Eun Seol’s dad suddenly arrives and calls him a shameless bastard. The Chairman gets up to argue, revealing that he’s not really incapacitated like he’s pretending to be.
Secretary Kim comes to get Ji Heon for a meeting, not using jeondaemal which annoys Ji Heon. He chides Ji Heon for scheduling so many meetings when he normally hates this. Secretary Kim heard from Myung Ran what happened between Ji Heon and Eun Seol. Ji Heon attends meeting after meeting.
Na Yoon compliments Myung Ran on being a good roommate, but not a great shopping buddy. She complains that things are not moving forward with Moo Won. Myung Ran suggest she use force but Na Yoon isn’t keen on being viewed that way. Na Yoon spies Moo Won at the department store. She asks Myung Ran to leave so that she can pretend to be shopping along while carrying many heavy bags.
She pretends to accidentally run into him at the department store. He says hello but then turns to leave. Na Yoon tries to stop him but his secretary informs her that Moo Won is working right now. Na Yoon asks when he’ll be done? Ji Heon is touring the resort and remembers back to spending the night with Eun Seol here.
Na Yoon gets Moo Won to carry her bags for her back to her new apartment. She offers Moo Won something to drink. When he sits down, she pours him some milk. Na Yoon sees Moo Won take off his jacket and thinks back to Myung Ran’s suggesting to just seduce him. She licks her lips, takes off her own jacket and walks over to him. She hands him the milk, which he takes a drink of. She then makes him get up and totally kisses his brains out. They then move the action to the bed.
Which is when Na Yon is awoken from her day dream by Moo Won, who asks if perhaps she’s imagining something weird. He tells her to stop imagining things in front of him. He leaves and Na Yoon is totally embarrassed. Moo Won walks outside and smiles, saying that was quite shocking back there.
The Chairman arrives to do his community service. Secretary Jang arrives to tell the Chairman that Grandma has decided to hand the DN Group Temporary Chairman position to Moo Won’s mom. Everyone is shocked, especially Moo Won’s mom. Grandma says she’s exhausted and doesn’t want to take on so much. The board agrees with this move.
The Chairman barges into the meeting and asks his mom how she can place Seok Hee in his position? Grandma says it’s not “his” position, plus it’s just a temporary Chairmanship. He’s upset because Seok Hee conspired against him. Grandma says she needs to let Seok Hee sit in the chair and realize how scary it can be to wield such power. That way she can let go of her anger.
The Chairman still doesn’t agree or understand what his mom is doing. Seok Hee arrives and the Chairman starts bickering with him. His heart suddenly starts hurting again. Moo Won and Ji Heon walk out, with Moo Won saying he’ll take on this challenge placed before him by Grandma. He also informs Ji Heon that he’s planning to visit Eun Seol. He can’t let the mess Ji Heon created just sit lay there.
Ji Heon sits in his office and flips open his tablet. He suddenly notices a recorded message from Eun Seol. She’s recorded a song for him to sing if ever his phobia recurs. Ji Heon happily watches the video, until his smile disappears as you can tell he misses Eun Seol terribly. He has Secretary Kim drive him to where Eun Seol works, under the pretense that he’s on a work visit.
Eun Seol moves groceries and thinks back to Ji Heon being so picky with food. She’s told someone is here to visit her. When she walks out, she sees Ji Heon, but it’s just her imagination, the person standing before her is Moo Won. They go walk on the beach. He’s happy to see her doing well. He wonders if she’s just hoping Ji Heon and the Chairman can get over their issues and come bring her back? She thinks maybe, but mostly it’s just hanging in there for now. Moo Won offers to get her transferred again.
Ji Heon pulls into the distribution warehouse and gets out. He walks around trying to avoid being seen by Eun Seol. He hears her voice and hides, peeking at her chatting with Moo Won, who tells her to forget Ji Heon and work hard. He’ll come by to pick her up soon. As Moo Won walks out, it’s clear that he spotted Ji Heon and was saying that to annoy Ji Heon.
Ji Heon follows Eun Seol as she’s loading products. She drops a heavy box of water and curses at Ji Heon in her usual way. Ji Heon walks to the parking lot to discover that Secretary Kim took off in the car, leaving Ji Heon there without even his cellphone. Ji Heon practices how to borrow someone’s cellphone and does so, calling Secretary Kim to scream at him.
Secretary Kim says he’s headed back to Seoul, he’s done his job as love’s messenger. Ji Heon asks him to turn back and at least give him his cellphone and wallet back. Secretary Kim refuses and keeps driving. He tosses the phone in the backseat and thus misses a call from Secretary Jang informing Ji Heon that his father is headed for a medical examination at the hospital.
Ji Heon finally runs into Eun Seol, but she ignores him and continues with her work. He explains that he’s here on a work visit, but due to some unpleasantness, he’s stuck without a cellphone or money. Eun Seol says it’s too bad, but she can’t help him. Ji Heon watches as Eun Seol has dinner with her coworkers, who invite him to join because he’s Eun Seol’s boyfriend. He says they are mistaken, he’s Director Cha down from the head office on a work visit.
Ji Heon follows Eun Seol home and she reluctantly allows him into her room. He asks her why she accepted such an unreasonable transfer? She reminds him that this transfer was placed by his father. Ji Heon says he’ll move her once he gets back to the office. She doesn’t care as long as it’s not being his secretary again. Ji Heon is upset because she’s out here flirting with Moo Won.
Ji Heon asked to take a break, not break up. He wanted to turn into a cool guy and be able to come take her back. She’s not interested in what he’s doing. She lays down to sleep and tells Ji Heon to do so as well. During the night, Ji Heon puts his jacket over a sleeping Eun Seol and turns around to face her, gradually moving his body closer to her. Eun Seol opens her eyes and turns back to face him. She in turn puts his jacket back over him. They lay facing each other, curled up in the fetal position like she taught him before.
It’s morning time and Eun Seol kicks Ji Heon awake, telling him that she’s going to be late for work. Eun Seol drives a truck with Ji Heon in the passenger seat, taking him back to Seoul. She pulls over to the side and tells him that he can leave now since they are back in the city. He confesses that he’s regretted asking to take a break ever since he said those words. Hasn’t she? She says it doesn’t matter anymore.
Ji Heon gets out of the car and walks away. Eun Seol mutters that it’s not possible for it not to matter. She drops her head down in frustration on the steering wheel, causing the horn to beep. When she raises her head, she sees that Ji Heon has stopped walking and turned around to stare at her with a smile.
Thoughts of Mine:
I don’t know how PTB managed to take awesomely constructed characters that I loved to pieces, and after four plus episodes of shoddy writing, actually made me not care about them anymore. I don’t have a problem with angst, I love a well-constructed problem for characters to solve, but everything about what’s happened in PTB in these last few episodes felt very superficial. It’s like it was tacked on to create more filler plot. The feeling of organic plot development that used to drive this story is gone.
Ji Heon’s emotional issues confuse me, probably because it confuses himself. What’s worse is that he doesn’t talk about it beforehand with Eun Seol. He just gives her a decision, and then appears shocked when she accepts it. What happened to talking like two adults about needing time away from each other? And Eun Seol alternatively feels responsible for what happened, yet she’s annoyed at Ji Heon and upset at the turn of events. So why can’t they sit down and hash it all out? What happened to the talking and listening that used to go on all the time in this drama?
This is the nth time a K-drama has let me down this year in the second half – the deadly combination of live filming so the script gets written on the fly for the final stretch, which can be further exacerbated by an extension. What I wouldn’t give to have a drama be filmed on a completed script. While there is nothing in this episode that annoyed me beyond the rather immature take-a-break-or-break-up attitudes of Eun Seol and Ji Heon, for the most part my heart is gone from this story now. All that is left it bidding it a fond farewell next week. It’s such a shame, really, because PtB could have been great, but now it’s simply good. And good is ever so ordinary and bland.