Backstreet Rookie · Convenience Store Saetbyul · Recaps

Backstreet Rookie Ep 1 Recap (and what a wild beginning)

We start off with our hero CHOI DAEHYUN, merrily walking on his way with a bouquet of flower when he stars at a street sewer. His eyes grow wide in shock and he pulls off the grate immediately. Turns out there’s a cat trapped in there. He sticks himself down the grate to save the little  kitten as car honk around him and bewildered school girls look on. He’s covered in sewer filth and stinks but panics when he looks at the time and runs off, almost forgetting his bouquet.

At the same time, our heroin JUNG SAETBYUL runs past him. Their elbows slightly bump into each other and they stare at each other in slow motion, but go on their respective ways.

Turns out that our Saetbyul’s best friends, GEUMBI and EUNJO have been quasi-kidnapped by a group of bullies also known in Korean as iljin (aka not really, but forced to go with the girls). We get an epic fistfight where Saetbyul hits the life out of the other gang.

The gang leader surrenders promises that she won’t force Saetbyul to try join her gang anymore. But Saetbyul’s not done and says a real woman speaks with her fist and knocks the girl out.

Saetbyul and her friends giggle at their victory when he sees Daehyun in the window of a restaurant with the date he was running to meet JUNGEUN (cameo by JUNG EUNJI of A-Pink!) Saetbyul insists that she’s staring at the flowers but her friends notice that she’s definitely looking at the man. Saetbyul insists that she loves flowers and wants to become a florist but keeps staring at Daehyun until her friends drag her away.

Meanwhile Daehyun’s having a really bad date. Jungeun asks him why he had to do this on today of all days. Turns out he has a habit of rescuing animals and showing late to dates looking and smelling terrible. She says he’s a great guy but he’s not for her and laughs at him when he tries to insist that they’re a good match. She leaves him with one of his presents, a GIGANTIC sloth stuffie, which he miserably lugs to the closest garbage, after getting super drunk.

And whom does he run into but Saetbyul and her friends who’re trying to find menthol cigarettes to smoke (yikes, these girls are all definitely iljins). Daehyun tsks at their way of living.

The girls giggle that someone as drunk and handsome as him is probably pretty easy to control. They shove Saetbyul into him and and she begs and pleads with him to buy her and her friends cigarettes. He yells at them for looking down on him but as Saetbyul pleads and begs and calls him suuupppper handsome, he finally relents. Only as the girls open the bag, they find snacks but no cigarettes. Daehyun tells them they can smoke when they’re grown up and to make better use of their time. He’s about to leave when Saetbyul rushes up to him and PLANTS A KISS ON HIM, WHY IS THIS SO FAST. 

He stands there looking like oh my goodness i just kissed a minor, while she takes advantage of his confusion to ask for his number. Rattled, he rattles it off and she saves it, saying she’s going to call him later and he better pick up! She blows him a kiss and he’s like wtf.

3 YEARS LATER

We cut to 3 years later where Daehyun’s now known as ‘the handsome convenience store manager’ schoolgirls come up and buy a few items just so they can get pictures with Daehyun. He’s pretty savvy and tries to use the pictures as ways of promoting products in the store. His dad, CHOI YOUNGPIL, comes in looking unwell, sighing that Daehyun face at least brings some customers. He suddenly collapses though and is rushed to the hospital where it turns out he has acute gastritis brought on by stress. His dad sighs at how hard it is staying up to run a 24 hour convenience store and asks Daehyun to hire a part-timer.

Said future part-timer is walking down the street when she sees a full-on iljin brawl. She swears so loudly at them that the fighting gangs gang up on her. She knocks the crap out of them and wow the gang leaders with her super strength. The leader tosses a can of coffee at her to stain her white clothing but Saetbyul effortlessly catches it. Turns out the leader of this gang is her younger sister, JUNG EUNBYUL. Saetbyul corners her sister and literally kicks the life out of her.

Daehyun brings his dad (Yongpil) home to find his sister CHOI DAESOON, stealing food from the refrigerator. She pretends to care about her sick father but demands that he get better soon so he can make kimchi for her husband (his son-in-law). Daehyun yells at her as she steals everything bit of food in the refrigerator and leaves, and she demands that he repay the money she gave him if he wants her to stop. Yikes.

She leaves and Daehyun heads to work. We get to see a day in Daehyun’s life. He literally works 24.5 hours a day lol. He stocks the store all day, then freshens up when school’s out to look pretty for pictures with the high school girls. He then clears the shelves of expired items of which there are manyyy, and sighs at the money they’re losing. He barely gets any sleep and repeats the cycle the next day. His mother sells insurance policies and leaves him alone at the store to work so he works nonstop everyday.

He finally gives up and puts up a sign saying ‘help wanted’. And Saetbyul sees it immediately. Daehyun’s half dead when Saetbyul comes in and applies and doesn’t recognize her at first, but comments that something about her gives him the chills. He flashes back to the moment she kissed him and freaks out realizing it’s her. Saetbyul’s pretends not to recognize him, which puts him more at ease. But he refuses to hire her. She says she doesn’t mind the lack of sleep. He tries to say that she won’t be able to go home often. She says she can’t go home anyway (hmmm? why’s that?)

He tries to dissuade her from the job and when that fails, is about to say he’s not interested in hiring an iljin, when she pours him some of her herbal tea, commenting that he looks tired. Daehyun’s wary, but she drinks him to show him it’s safe. He’s hungry and desperate so he waits until she goes to the bathroom and drinks some. Finally, after 40 hours away, he falls asleep.

He wakes up surrounded by a ton of customers, who tell him he picked a great part-timer. He freaks out wondering where all the customers came from and sees Saetbyul working away merrily. Daehyun tries to lie that he has another interviewee tomorrow but Saetbyul laughs that that poor interviewee doesn’t have a chance given how good she is.

But given all the customers she’s attracted, he keeps her and introduces her to his mother who loves her immediately. Daehyun’s not impressed. Even when training her, he tries to emphasize all the things she could do wrong that would result in her being fired, and how harrrddd the job is. But Saetbyul’s game, and knows the stuff he’s trying to teach her (operating a cash register) already. He mutters that the only thing she knows about convenience stores are how to get cigarettes. Curiously, Saetbyul says she doesn’t smoke and never has. Daehyun’s like WHAT?

But Saetbyul insists she hasn’t ever touched a cigarette. Daehyun chalks it up to her being a liar and makes her memorize every product in the store. He even refuses to take down the ‘HELP WANTED’ sign. Daehyun watches Saetbyul carefully as she leaves at the end of her shift, promising to come back for the start of her next shift that night. He notices some $50 bills sticking out of her back pocket, and marvels at the fancy motorbike she has. Uh-oh. He doesn’t think anything of it, but finds something fishy about her in general.

A neighbourhood ahjusshi, KWON EUICHU, visits the store to ask Daehyun to change $50 for him. Daehyun does so without thought, when he realizes that something looks strange about the cash register. There’s a ton of money missing, all $50 bills. He remembers counting out the $50 bills himself, and wonders where they went. Then he remembers the money in Saetbyul’s pocket. He roars in fury and tries to review his CCTV but she’s blocking it really well. He tries calling her, but she doesn’t pick up. He remembers the tea she gave him and how he suspiciously fell asleep afterwards. He wails that he’s been scammed.

He searches up what he’s supposed to do now. Without that money, his family won’t be able to pay rent and could go bankrupt. He finds a video of someone in a similar position to him who yells at a part-timer ‘J’ (J being the first letter of their last name). Daehyun immediately concludes that this must be another of Saetbyul’s frauds as well (HAHAHAHHAHAHA). The video advises him to check her address to determine if it’s legit. He runs all the way to her address. Only to find himself arrested. (It’s a bad day to be Daehyun HAHAHA). Turns out a prostitution ring operates out of this apartment, and the police think that Daehyun’s a customer. Luckily, Saetbyul’s resume in his back pocket saves him. The officer sees the address provided was supposed to be Saetbyul’s.

They let him go, apologizing. Depressed, Daehyun calls his mother and hears that Saetbyul relieved her at the store and is ‘organizing the cigarettes’. He panicks and runs all the way back to the store, only to find the store locked with the cigarette counter completely emptied out. He runs home for spare keys, even making his injured dad run to meet him halfway to give him the keys. Only when he runs back, the store’s open and all the cigarettes are back??? Even the money’s back in the cash register. Daehyun smiles and pretends everything’s okay but growls inside that her plan must have been foiled because of him.

The police officer from earlier drops by and makes the mistake of saying that Daehyun told her Saetbyul stole $500. Turns out he got the apartment number wrong. It was 1006 not 1000, Saetbyul’s handwriting made it seem otherwise. Saetbyul gets upset and walks away. Daehyun tries to go after her but she tells him that his mother took the money and said she’d tell Daehyun later. She accuses him of judging her without knowing the truth and rides away on her bike.

Her sister, Eunbyul is partying away when Saetbyul confronts her.

She tells her sister to stop hanging around with iljins (more like stop being one). She says that people like them are judged easily and to stop making it easier for them to judge (AWWWW) They head home. Meanwhile, Daehyun’s waiting outside Saetbyul’s actual apartment. He rings the doorbell over and over again but no one’s home. (I wonder if this is even her real home?)

The next we know, Saetbyul’s making a deal with another employer…to sell a hangover cure.

We suddenly cut to HAN DALSHIK, who dreams of being the best webtoon writer in Korea. He’s the character with dreadlocks that’s been so controversial. He writes erotica and it’s some pretty explicit stuff. His philosophy is that the writer needs to get horny for their workout to be sexy. His manhwa’s called Hot Reggae Boy. Dear heaven. His hair has bugs swarming around it (which feels like a pretty bad depiction of dreadlocks tbh bc you don’t want around with bugs swarming around you.) Turns out he’s a friend of Daehyun. He listens to the whole Daehyun-Saetbyul fiasco and agrees that anyone would have made a mistake. He doesn’t think Saetbyul’s going to come back and says he’ll cut his hair off, if she returns. And ofc she returns.

Dalshik’s amazed at how pretty she is. And she’s weirded out by him.  Daehyun tries to make up for judging her by doing all the chores. He admits to her that he did suspect her but anyone would have in that situation, with her phone off and the address leading nowhere. They agree to put it behind them and their teasing dynamic is back.

The next day, Daehyun runs to met his girlfriend, YOO YEONJOO.

She’s too busy for a lunch date, but asks to meet him a hotel that night, saying they’re gonna get sweaty together. Daehyun’s pretty excited thinking he’s about to get laid.

He waits for Saetbyul to arrive so he can go on his date. But Saetbyul isn’t excited about him having a girlfriend. He calls her out on sounding pretty angry about it, and she sweetly says that she feel sorry for his girlfriend because he works with her everyday and will end up falling in love with her and ditching his girlfriend. Daehyun’s disturbed (as am I) and tells her to wake up already. He happily runs off to his hotel date. Only his voice over says ‘that day, I shouldn’t have told Saetbyul about Yeonjoo (uh oh, what’s she going to do).

Daehyun’s hopes quickly deflate when the ‘get sweaty dates’ turns out to be an exercise date.

Saetbyul keeps texting him throughout the date to the point that Yeonjoo wonders who he keeps talking too. Dalshik then calls Daehyun to inform him that Saetbyul’s invited her iljin friends to raid the store and party. Saetbyul giggles that she makes Daehyun do everything for her, and that they can just help themselves. Daehyun arrives and is furious, even more so when he recognizes the friends as Saetbyul’s iljin buddies. He growls that this’ll be the last time she pulls a stunt like this. Saetbyul just giggles and smiles cutely at him.

Thoughts:

I’ll be honest. I love Saetbyul but I’m also having some trouble warming up to Saetbyul. Maybe it’s because I’m 25 but she’s very very very immature for a 22 year-old. It’s hard to like a heroine who want to wreck a relationship on purpose. 

She demonstrates flashes of maturity, like when she was advising her sister to be better. But that’s still tempered by extreme immaturity. She’s hardworking and clearly talented at sales, but seems to think that raiding a store is okay. Then she gets pissed when people judge her for her behaviour. It’s not that people are being unfair per se, she definitely brings it on herself, so idk if she has any cause to be upset. 

Hopefully, she’ll grow up as this show progress because I love how feisty she is, but wish she was more mature!

Daehyun’s a hapless sweetie and I hope his relationship with Yeonjoo isn’t torn apart by Saetbyul’s machinations. It’d be much better if he ends it like a mature adult (if he falls for Saetbyul), rather than us having to justify why him cheating is okay (that’s always weird and hard to do!)

Besides that I am liking the show, and curious to see about what made Saetbyul change from a hardcore iljin to a convenience store worker, and why she can’t come home!

 

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