This episode taught me it’s all about the little things in life. Playing Go-Stop with your friends on your birthday— even if they’re not really your friends and it’s not supposed to be your birthday. And seeing a mother you don’t think is supportive drop off coffee while you’re working late. These small moments of togetherness and expressions of love stayed with me long after the credits rolled.
Episode 4 of Start-Up wasn’t all holding hands around the campfire though. There were doses of cold reality that resulted in valuable lessons. One of them being: not everyone ends up on the main stage of their own dreams. Some of us are better suited working behind the scenes.
The cute hand-holding on the bus.
What an adorable scene full of light and fluffy goodness! Dal-mi points out how big Do-san’s hands are in comparison to hers, and the comment triggers an epiphany of sorts in our favorite impersonator later on.
Samsan’s need for a revenue model.
Due to winning CODA, Samsan Tech gets mobbed by investors. They’re arriving at Samsan’s disheveled office in droves. But when none of them actually invest, Do-san and his friends realize a start-up requires more than just great software. They need a revenue model AKA a way to show investors how the business plans to make money.
This is something the drama is constantly showing us about Do-san, Yong-san, and Cheol-san. They’re smart, but intelligence isn’t everything. When it comes to business, you need to be able to relate to people and show them your product is necessary in their lives.
(V – Also, can I just comment that the name Samsan is très adorbs! Note – ‘Sam’ means three and ‘San’ means mountain. All three of the guys first names end in ‘San’ (Nam Do-san, Kim Young-san, Lee Cheol-san) so they named their company Samsan or ‘3 mountains’ or ‘3 San guys.’ Which is why they have 3 mountains as their symbol. Not sure if that has been mentioned in the show since I’m only starting episode 3 now! Okay, back to Adri!)
Do-san’s fake birthday party. (Yeong-sil play Make A Wish, Birthday Song by NCT U.)
I’m not going to lie. I was stressing out about what would happen during Do-san’s fake birthday party. Especially since Ji-pyeong (the real birthday boy) forgets what he told Dal-mi his birthday wish was in those letters. Part of me was kind of hoping for something cheeky like a hug or a kiss or some other form of skinship. But my heart melts when Dal-mi reveals it’s a simple game of Go-Stop with friends. It reminds me of just how lonely Ji-pyeong was as a child (and still is as an adult).
It’s easy to take spending time with friends and family for granted. That’s why the scene reminds us there are people without that luxury.
I also like how the sweet bonding moment turns into Do-san pretending he doesn’t hate when people use blood types to try and determine someone’s personality. Ah…the lengths this man is willing to go to in order to align with Dal-mi.
Do-san asks Dal-mi what she likes about him.
“You’re my first love,” she replies shyly. “Your letters comforted me for a long time.” Each reason is a stab to Do-san’s heart (and mine) because they can only be attributed to the Do-san Ji-pyeong and Dal-mi’s grandma created. The only thing Dal-mi likes about him that are actually his are his big hands.
Dal-mi, Do-san, and In-jae all pass Sandbox’s first screening.
It’s nice seeing their hard work pay off. Even In-jae’s. She annoys me, but I want to see her get back at her step-father for giving her CEO position to her unqualified step-brother.
Ji-pyeong tells Do-san he’s not cut out to be a CEO
Do-san has been staring at his hands and thinking about Dal-mi’s reasons for liking him. He wants the real him to be liked for more than his big hands, so he tells Ji-pyeong he wants to stop borrowing his fancy clothes. This leads to a brutally honest conversation where Ji-pyeong tells Do-san he’s not cut out to be CEO of his own start-up. He advises Do-san to hire someone qualified before starting Sandbox. Learning that he’d be better off working behind the scenes of his own dreams is a hard pill for Do-san to swallow.
Ouch. This scene hit me hard even though no one has said anything of the sort to me. When you’re passionate about something, it hurts hearing you’ll have a better chance succeeding if someone else takes the reins.
Things get ugly at Sandbox.
Dal-mi, Do-san, and In-jae all arrive at Sandbox separately, and things go haywire. In-jae spots Do-san (who she was led to believe already had a budding start-up) in the crowd. When she winds up on stage with her sister after they both win an activity designed to pick CEOs from the applicants, things get even messier. Dal-mi sees Do-san in the crowd and the jig is up. (At least partially.)
I know the drama implies the reason Dal-mi isn’t mad about Do-san lying to her is because she’s done the same thing to In-jae, but I’d still be a little wary if I was her. I’d be asking, “Whose office was I in then? Where’d you get that fancy car?” Even if you’ve lied to someone, it’s still human nature to question or doubt someone when they do it to you. Especially when it’s on a huge scale with props worth thousands of dollars.
Moments before Do-san gets found out, a girl named Jung Sa-ha sees Dal-mi on stage. They met in a bookstore at the beginning of the episode when they both reached for what they thought was the last book about joining Sandbox. Dal-mi ended up letting her have it for 5,000 won only for a bookstore employee to restock it seconds later! It was an interesting way to introduce a new character and makes me wonder whether Sa-ha will be friend or foe.
Do-san chooses between Dal-mi and In-jae.
Do-san doesn’t achieve CEO status during the activity and has a flashback to Ji-pyeong telling him he wouldn’t make a good one. Yong-san and Cheol-san don’t do well either, so now they have to link up with a CEO from the pool of Sandbox applicants in order to stay.
Both Dal-mi and In-jae end up making Do-san offers, so he has to choose between someone who’s never run her own business and someone who’s already been a CEO for years. With Do-san being a practical person, it would be unrealistic for him to pick Dal-mi, but the show offers up a decent reason. Do-san and his friends don’t want to work for anyone, so instead of letting In-jae hire them, they opt to hire Dal-mi.
This is clever writing. I was worried Do-san would act out of character, but he didn’t and even left the final decision up to Yong-san and Cheol-san.
The Sandbox CEO thinks In-jae was the daughter in his story.
In a post credit scene that left me reeling, Yoon Seon-hak (the creator of Sandbox) is looking over the applicants when she reads one person’s reason for joining is because their dad packed sand under a swing set so they wouldn’t hurt themselves when they fell. This is where the idea for Sandbox came from, as well as their logo! She has a flashback to Seo Chung-myung (Dal-mi and In-jae’s dad) telling her that in the elevator, but instead of Dal-mi’s name being at the top of the application, it’s In-jae’s!
What?! Did In-jae somehow steal this memory from Dal-mi or will a flashback reveal that she was actually on the swings too?
CODA comes to Korea
The final scene shows Alex Kwon (one of the CODA judges) at an airport in Korea. And I have a feeling he’s not there for vacation.
Start-Up gets better with every episode, and so much happened in the last fifteen minutes of this one, I’m curious to see how everything will play out in episode 5. I know Do-san will no longer have to pretend he’s rich, but I’m betting the lie of him writing Dal-mi the letters will persist. It’s such a shame, because since he’s been caught in one lie, it’s the perfect opportunity to fess up to any others.