Episode 4 of a 16-episode drama is usually the make or break it point for me as a viewer to consider whether to continue. It’s also usually when I have developed a strong enough impression to project whether this drama triggers one of my more intense feelings of love or hate. By its very construct Flower Boy Next Door is a drama that defies an attempt to pull more out of it. Its leading lady’s reticence underscores how the story is less about what is said and more about what exists within the parameters of the narrative. A lonely girl, a gregarious boy, a secretly-crushing neighbor, they are all starting to get fleshed out to the point where I feel they can exist even when the story ends. While the drama didn’t elicit strong emotions from me right off the bat, but the end of episode 4 it has truly won my heart with how lovely it is. It’s not love at first sight, but one slowly building because I see all that is wonderful in a drama about connections between people. Such a simple thing, really, but hard to truly express and capture in narrative without coming off as artificial and cloying.
What’s so enchanting about FBND is how it doesn’t force its story on the viewers and instead cops a detached approach. Slowly we are learning more about Dok Mi, who is crustier and edgier than her withdrawn lifestyle indicated, and Enrique, who is perceptive and giving despite coming off like an overactive puppy dog. Jin Rok finally got fleshed out for me in this episode, revealing his crush on Dok Mi is pretty serious and longstanding, not to mention we’ve got a case of the hidden identity and furry bimbo Do Hwi seems to be lurking around trying to find him. Episode 4 continues the trend of very little happening in terms of action, this one revolved around Dok Mi and Enrique’s trip to say goodbye to their loves, but so much moving forward in terms of people taking emotional steps that get them out of their comfort zone. Dok Mi spends an entire day outside and with another person, and Jin Rok gets as close to admitting he has a crush on Dok Mi as we’ve ever seen.
Episode 4 recap:
Enrique deposits Dok Mi in the car and they’re off. Dok Mi thinks to herself about how this guy came barging into her closed-off world where she has lived so carefully. She says the last part out loud and Enrique hears her muttering and asks what she said. Dok Mi quickly says nothing.
The car drives off and Jin Rok finally takes action, racing after their car and screaming for them to stop. He suddenly starts coughing and doubling over as his breath catches in his throat. The car stops, but its due to Enrique braking for a kid on a bike.
Enrique puts his hand on to shield Dok Mi from hurtling forward and it looks like he’s coping a feel on her chest. He quickly pulls his hand back and both of them awkwardly act like nothing happened before the car drives off. Okay, this scene was weird since it doesn’t continue from the end of episode 3 when Dok Mi and Enrique clearly turned back in unison to look behind the car. Points off for inconsistent editing.
Dong Hoon finds his hyung huffing and puffing outside trying to catch his breath and worries that something happened with the rent and they are still getting kicked out. He comforts Jin Rok that they will be fine since their story just got picked up. Jin Rok yells out towards the long gone car that it’s not fair, he was first (i.e. he saw her first). Oh poor baby. He rails at Enrique, asking how this punk did it so easily!
Back in the apartment, Dong Hoon wants to pry into what’s gotten Jin Rok so riled up, asking if “I was first” meant he wants to assert that he came up with Zombie Soccer before Enrique? Jin Rok doesn’t want to be discussed in the same sentence as Enrique. Dong Hoon then brings up the shy girl next door (his nickname for her is utility bills) and wonders if Enrique and her are actually dating. Jin Rok tells him to shut up.
In the car, Dok Mi finally gets up her courage and tells Enrique to let her off at the side of the road, she can’t go with him. She also didn’t bring anything except for her cell phone. Enrique points out that a sick grandmother is an emergency and barrels right over her objections and keeps on driving. Poor Dok Mi is stuck with this energizer bunny and looks out the window in frustrated dejection.
Dong Hoon wonders what’s gotten into Jin Rok lately since his temper has gotten worse and he’s constantly getting annoyed with him? I’m on Jin Rok’s side – Dong Hoon is a little annoying with all his questions and random asides. He leaves the apartment when Jin Rok just glares at him.
Do Hwi and her posse are going through resident’s mail in the lobby (ugh, invasion of privacy, too?) as if she’s looking for someone in particular. Her friends are helping her to find someone named “Oh Jae Won”. She doesn’t see the name she is looking for but she does sees mail address to Go Dok Mi and confirms that she does live here.
Dong Hoon walks out the elevator and Do Hwi immediately strikes a sultry pose, much to her posses’ barely veiled disgust.
Do Hwi acts like a lady and thanks Dong Hoon for his help the other day then claims she is here to visit her friend in unit 402. She introduces herself and he does as well, then she gets him to introduce his hyung as Oh Jin Rok. Do Hwi realizes it’s not the name she was looking for. The security guard passes by all dolled up in a suit to impress his lady crush and describes himself as a butterfly in a flower garden when he sees all the pretty ladies in the foyer.
Doing a pit stop, Dok Mi tries to go through her excuses to end this trip when she sees a girl lying to a guy on the phone and then lying to the guy she is with later.
Enrique returns chattering excitedly about how good Korea is with all its culinary wonders and making this squiggly octopus motions. He tries to confess something but Dok Mi cuts him off and confesses first that she lied about her sick grandma to get out of the trip with him. Enrique confesses that he rushed out of the house so quickly when he got her text he didn’t bring anything, no phone, no money, nothing. Now they need money for gas to even return to Seoul.
Enrique goes inside the rest stop to earn money – he poses with teen girls and uses his Zombie Soccer fame to wow fans, and even cheers up a little girl. He does all this and easily earns some change to get them back. Dok Mi watches how personable Enrique is and smiles a little smile.
Suddenly a group of school girls enter the rest area and Dok Mi freezes as they stream pass her muttering about why this ahjumma just stands there blocking their way. She flashes back to high school when all the other mean girls surround Dok Mi and taunt and bully her while she just stands there, accusing her of seducing someone first. Do Hwi stands there and smirks.
Dok Mi goes out and sit on the bench in the freezing cold rather than inside where there are lots of other people. When Enrique comes out, he notices that she’s chosen solitude and suffering just to avoid the crowd. When he goes up to her and tells her to go inside and warm up and eat something first, she forcefully says that she wants to go home NOW.
Dong Hoon is eating with Watanabe and texting with Jin Rok, who is still brusque with him and lies that he doesn’t like Dong Hoon’s latest illustrations. Jin Rok is drawing the princess tower where his manhwa heroine hides away. He looks over at the letter Dok Mi wrote explaining her frugalness (he’s placed it on a display holder on his desk) and smiles that her writing resembles her personality.
Enrique and Dok Mi get back in the car and she apologizes for making him go home when he said he was hungry. He tells her to stop saying she’s sorry all the time. He makes her comfortable in her seat before driving off. She falls asleep and he thinks back to how she avoids people and is so closed off and knows something set her off back at the rest stop. He decides not to go back to Seoul and drives in a different direction.
Do Hwi continues her machinations to get close to Jin Rok, this time ringing his doorbell and claiming she pressed the wrong unit since she was looking for unit 402 (Dok Mi’s unit). Jin Rok hears that and allows her inside.
Dok Mi awakens to the sigh of the beach before her. Enrique apologizes for getting lost and says right now it’s just them and the beach.
Instead of getting upset, Dok Mi silently gets out of the car and walks towards the beach in a daze. She closes her eyes and soaks in the sights and sounds.
Enrique notices some sand toys and proceeds to build a sand castle. He constructs a towering castle and Dok Mi walks over to look at it. Enrique takes a picture of her and then backs up while telling her to pose. Dok Mi worriedly notices Enrique is getting too close to the water but before she can call out a warning, the puppy has fallen into the freezing waves.
Do Hwi sits in Jin Rok’s apartment calling Dok Mi’s cell phone but getting no answer. Jin Rok tells her to keep calling and let it ring for longer.
Dok Mi and Enrique find a nice halmoni running a shop and borrows dry clothes for him to change into. He mistakes the halmoni for haraboji until Dok Mi corrects her and Enrique adorably switches and says she’s such a pretty and kind halmoni. After he changes, Enrique hilariously models his dumpy sweatpants attire like it’s the height of fashion and elicits a smile from Dok Mi.
They sit down to eat and Enrique notices Dok Mi putting kimchee on her roasted sweet potato and he follows suit and puts kimchee on his corndog. He takes a bite and looks blissful at the taste. He grabs a makgulli and is about to pour himself a dish when Dok Mi grabs it and reminds Enrique he needs to drive later.
Enrique distracts Dok Mi and gulps down a dish before she can stop him. Dok Mi relents and lets him drink. Enrique brings up Tae Joon as not the right guy for Dok Mi to crush on – he looks perfect but has lots of flaws. She tells him not to bring it up anymore, she started the crush herself and its like a game so she never wants anyone to know about it. It’s different than Enrique’s love for Seo Young. She asks how he knew about her crush and Enrique points out that himself, Dok Mi, and Tae Joon all have someone each likes so they all resemble each other and it’s hard to hide the same look.
Jin Rok digs into how Do Hwi is friends with Dok Mi and hears that they went to school together from grade school through high school. He’s disbelieving because in the three years Dok Mi has lived here, he’s never seen anyone come by. Do Hwi claims that she lived abroad for years and lost touch and misses her old friends. She is so happy to run into Dok Mi here. She asks if Jin Rok has lived here for 3 years and he says yes. Do Hwi learns that Jin Rok draws webtoons and wonders if he doesn’t have another job, clearly trying to dig for information about him. Do Hwi wants to take him out for dinner but he declines. When she tries to leave, Jin Rok offers Do Hwi a drink and then asks her to try calling Dok Mi again.
Enrique’s wet clothes and camera are dry now so he mentions changing and heading back home. She suggests going to the beach for him to let the alcohol buzz fade. He points out that she was so eager to go home earlier. He wonders why she’s so eager to get home, isn’t it stifling to be couped up? Dok Mi says no, she doesn’t find it stifling. Her little home is very peaceful.
Dok Mi and Enrique head back out to the beach and she watches as Enrique runs around the sand castle on the beach happily. He trips adorably but gets right back up and keeps on playing. He cancels what he said earlier about a love ending means another person walking in. Everything will happen in due course. Dok Mi gets a call on her cell but ignores it. Enrique tells her to answer and answers it for her.
Dok Mi answers and Do Hwi acts all friendly and says she’s waiting for Dok Mi at her apartment building. Dok Mi claims she doesn’t live there but Do Hwi gives the right address and says she’ll keep waiting until Dok Mi comes home (per Jin Rok’s request). Dok Mi says she’s very far away and not coming home so Do Hwi shouldn’t wait. She hangs up and then tells Enrique to act like they don’t know each other when they get back to Seoul.
Do Hwi informs Jin Rok that Dok Mi isn’t coming home tonight? He worries if anything happened to her, was she in an accident, because she is not someone who would stay out all night. Do Hwi is happy that Dok Mi is staying out which causes Jin Rok to yell at her. Jin Rok pointedly asks Do Hwi to leave now since Dok Mi isn’t coming back anytime soon. Do Hwi’s pretend fainting because she’s sick gets her nowhere.
Jin Rok walks Do Hwi out and runs into Dong Hoon outside with a guy delivering a letter, leading Dong Hoon to assume Jin Rok wanted to be alone with Do Hwi so kicked him out.
After Do Hwi leaves, Dong Hoon tells the delivery guy there is no one here named “Oh Jae Won” but Jin Rok speaks up and says he is Oh Jae Won. He hands the delivery guy ID with that name and is handed the letter from the court. Do Hwi confirms from the letter delivery guy that he handed the letter to Jin Rok who showed ID proving that he is Oh Jae Won.
Dong Hoon is shocked and Jin Rok promises to explain one day but says he’s not a criminal running from the law or anything like that. He shows Dong Hoon that the letter is from the court approving him legally changing his name from Oh Jae Won to On Jin Rok. From now on, he is Oh Jin Rok.
It’s too late to drive him so the halmoni offers to let Dok Mi and Enrique spend the night. He goes to get firewood while she tells a ghost story about flickering lights that scares Dok Mi.
Jin Rok is out eating with Dong Hoon and Watanabe but his mind is on why a woman would stay out all night. He searches the internet and the consensus public opinion is always for bad reasons. Dong Hoon suggests Jin Rok start dating for real and suggests Do Hwi since she appears to like Jin Rok. When Jin Rok says she’s not his type, he offers to figure out his type.
Dok Mi and Enrique sit in front of the fire to warm themselves and he starts by asking if she’s upset he calls her ahjumma? She doesn’t even think about it so he changes topics and asks what she does for a living. She explains her proofreader editing job which makes sense to him, though he’s someone who is good a conversing but not so much at writing. She apologizes for her lie leading them here but he also told a lie so its no big deal. She asks what his lie was?
Enrique asks if she is really that afraid of people to the point that she would rather freeze out in the cold? He didn’t want to take her home because she would hide herself away again, so they didn’t get lost, he purposely took her to the beach. He suggests that she slowly get close to people and learn to overcome her fears. He announces his intention to drag her out to see the world before he heads back to Spain.
Dok Mi asks Enrique for one favor – when they get back to Seoul, can they act like they don’t know each other at all? Enrique asks how that works since they clearly know each other? Because he knows about her, that makes her uncomfortable and she doesn’t like it. Dok Mi says he shouldn’t act like he knows all about her from a few meetings. Plus they have no reason to meet in the future. This makes Enrique uncomfortable with pretending but agrees to her proposal and then walks off.
Jin Rok lists his ideal woman and it pretty much coincides with Dok Mi, especially the part about her being transparent and candid about who she is even if no one is looking. She doesn’t desire anything, she knows when to back down, and when to say sorry. Dong Hoon asks if he really likes the girl in 402 but Jin Rok doesn’t answer him but the look on his face speaks volumes.
Enrique sits in the car and flips through his camera, smiling when he sees pictures of Dok Mi. Dok Mi sits in the room and writes in her cell phone, wondering why she keeps holding on to the lies about what she wants. Suddenly the lights flicker on and off before blacks out completely. Dok Mi screams and Enrique hears her and goes rushing into the dark room.
The bump into each other in the dark and we hear fumbling. The lights come back on and Enrique is laying on top of Dok Mi. Their lips are pressed lightly together and they both open their eyes and stare in shock at each other.
Thoughts of Mine:
This episode was so much win because Tae Joon didn’t show up! Heh, just kidding. I don’t hate the dude, it’s just been so long since I’ve seen such an utterly dull character he’s becoming a recurring joke for me as a narcoleptic trigger. In all seriousness, this episode continues the sterling character and relationship development for Enrique and Dok Mi that is the central purpose of this drama. There are no stereotypical K-drama tropes to waste our time, there is just the joy of watching two people get to know each other. Dok Mi has talked more in this episode than the first three combined, and it’s all thanks to Enrique dragging her out of her insular world and into the outside one. Clearly her current personality has been shaped by what appears to be pervasive and horrific bullying when she was in high school, but she’s not someone who wants to live like a loner. She actually does want to connect, she is just too scared. When she sees Enrique so effortlessly making friends everywhere he goes, that little smile on her face just broke my heart. She needs this young man so badly in her life, and I am so pleased he has no qualms about personal boundaries and taking no for an answer and just barrels right past her defenses. I hope he does drag her all around Seoul and I hope even more that he never returns to Spain and instead stays in Korea to be with her. To are so utterly perfect together.
Jin Rok also breaks my heart because he is so utterly taken with Dok Mi. I know he’s the milk carton post-it guy (the shoes the guy wore are the same that Jin Rok is wearing in his official character description still) and I don’t think the drama is trying to keep too many secrets. It’s sad that Jin Rok is losing a chance with Dok Mi before he even took the first open step towards her, but at the same time I’m not all that sad about the missed opportunity because Dok Mi really needs a sunshiney boy like Enrique around her. I do hope Jin Rok doesn’t end up with a redeemed Do Hwi because that girl needs to get smacked around a few times for being a generally revolting person. I actually think Park Soo Jin is doing an amazing job at being a grasping dumb mean girl, with her facial expressions pretty spot on and a great effortless timing in all her personality twitches. In general the acting by the entire cast is fabulous, with Yoon Si Yoon hamming it up per his character’s personality and everyone else delivering very natural and endearing portrayals of these unique denizens of the little ramshackle apartment building and its environs. FBND has won me over completely at last and I’m giddy with glee at the potential storylines to come.