Following their unceremonious fall the night before – which ended with Ha-ri (Gugudan’s Kim Se-jeong) knocking Tae-moo (Ahn Hyo-seop) out cold by accident – the two meet the next day to go through their relationship contract. Angsty from dizzy spells and from losing an important deal, Tae-moo verbally strong-arms a reluctant Ha-ri into signing the contract; the lesser of two evils compared to a potential lawsuit.
- READ MORE: ‘A Business Proposal’ episodes one and two recap: of quirky blind dates and blossoming meet cutes
Ha-ri’s first assignment: committing every detail about Tae-moo to memory, which she gets down to a T, even learning that his parents passed away in an accident when he was younger. She also immerses herself in her new “Shin Geum-hui” persona, to the point of her responding when she hears the name on the drama series Be Strong, Geum-hui. Ha-ri impresses secretary Sung-hoon (Kim Min-gue) with her adept factual recall, but Tae-moo insists that rote memorisation isn’t the way to go. He even shoots down Ha-ri’s own version of their “meet cute” one rainy New York day, pointing out that he “hates rainy days”.
While being sent home in a car driven by Sung-hoon, Ha-ri dozes off and leans over to Tae-moo, who catches her drooping head in his hand. As she comes to, he pushes her head away forcefully, the impact leaving an imprint of her face on the car window. Despite the bump, a groggy Ha-ri falls back into slumber. After dropping her off, Sung-hoon comments that there is “something oddly endearing” about Ha-ri, which Tae-moo coolly brushes off. A slight smile crosses the young president’s face, however, as he glances at her face imprint on the window.
Over breakfast at Young-seo’s (Seol In-a) home, her father starts off the day by ordering her to go on a blind date. She maintains her stand on being firmly against arranged marriages, as her parents’ one ended in divorce. Following a heated war of words, Young-seo ends up leaving her family home – and returns her father’s credit card. As Dad points out, “True independence is living off the money you earn yourself.”
After a night at Ha-ri’s place, the Marine Group heiress heads to an apartment viewing, which – surprise – ends up being on the same floor as Sung-hoon’s. She secures the flat thanks to her saved paychecks, and moves in amidst a flurry of activity and noise. This makes Sung-hoon take note of the “noisy neighbour” that finally took up the empty apartment next to his.
At the office, Ha-ri is excited about recommending her crush Min-woo (Song Won-seok) for a chef collaboration project, and burns the midnight oil doing her recommendation deck. The next morning, she panics when her manager (Kim Hyun-sook) requests that she presents her proposal to none other than the president himself – Tae-moo. Despite her best objections, Ha-ri does so reluctantly, donning a pair of glasses and a mask, on the pretext of having a cold.
Bearing the good news of his selection, she excitedly heads over to Min-woo’s restaurant later that evening, and walks into him kissing his ex-girlfriend, Yoo-ra (Bae Woo-hee). Flustered, Ha-ri rushes out of the restaurant and heads to the bus stop, where she sits in a daze. When she gets up and heads toward her bus, a passer-by knocks into her hard, scattering her documents all over the ground before she accidentally tips her phone into a drain, just as Tae-moo calls. Unbeknownst to a heartbroken Ha-ri, he hears her painful sobs through the phone.
The weekend comes along, and so does Ha-ri’s meeting with Tae-moo’s grandfather a.k.a. Chairman Kang (Lee Deok-hwa). Despite an initially awkward introduction, Ha-ri manages to steer her conversation with Chairman Kang well and answers his questions smoothly. Tae-moo’s expression changes, however, once Ha-ri claims that he’d once dropped everything to see her on a rainy day. He chews her out after they leave the restaurant, curtly telling her not to add any of her “useless comments”.
After their meal, Chairman Kang invites the couple to have steamed buns for dessert – in a completely different province. It is here that Ha-ri begins to endear herself to Chairman Kang, who apologises for his earlier stiff behaviour. But when he discovers that Ha-ri has been holding on to concert tickets for that evening, the older man chides his workaholic grandson and promptly gets them sent to the venue.
Meanwhile, Young-seo enjoys her newfound freedom in her new apartment, despite draining her funds by buying an absurdly long sofa. The enjoyment is short-lived with the appearance of a pesky cockroach, prompting her to frantically run out of her apartment – and very conveniently – into the arms of a passing Sung-hoon. Young-seo enlists his help as her pest control, which he does, despite being just as creeped out. When he leaves, Young-seo extends a cordial hand to Sung-hoon, hoping to get to know him better (as neighbours, naturally), but he draws the line because of the situation she’d put Tae-moo in.
At the concert venue, Ha-ri and Tae-moo both enjoy a performance by (and a cameo from) real-life duo MeloMance. During a special segment, the vocalist reads out a message from Min-woo to Ha-ri, which said that he’d hoped his long-time friend of seven years would “attend the concert with her boyfriend”. The spotlight then falls on her and Tae-moo to rousing applause, upon seeing that she was there with a date. Ha-ri gets emotional as the vocalist sings a song that reminds her of a memory with Min-woo, and Tae-moo discreetly passes her his handkerchief.
Ha-ri and Tae-moo take a stroll in a park after the concert, and she thanks him for being there. Despite being rejected, Ha-ri tells Tae-moo that she doesn’t regret her seven-year crush, which a person like him “who doesn’t like wasting time” may not understand. To her amusement, he attempts to relate to her through his own business mind, stating that he’d “never tried to comfort someone before”. Their evening is cut short when Ha-ri gets hit in the eye by an incoming baseball while on the phone.
A food tasting session is held that day at GoFood HQ, and Ha-ri’s R&D team – together with Min-woo – offer their colleagues samples of their new dish. Tae-moo surprisingly approves, and even Ha-ri is pleased to overhear some good feedback about the dish, while hiding out in the washroom. Over at M Kitchen that evening, Min-woo is surprised to find out that Ha-ri attended the concert with a date, and not Young-seo as expected. She smiles knowingly and replies that it was “just someone [she’d] gotten to know by chance”.
Tae-moo and Sung-hoon turn up unannounced at M Kitchen shortly after, and though being caught off guard, Ha-ri manages to make a narrow escape. Min-woo tries to call Ha-ri, and a sharp-eared Tae-moo overhears his ringback tone, recalling it as the one that made “Geum-hui” emotional. He learns later that both Min-woo and Ha-ri have been friends for seven years, and thinks back to “Geum-hui” and her strikingly similar case of unrequited love.
Ha-ri and Young-seo catch up at their favourite eatery, with the heiress getting her best friend up to speed on her situation with Sung-hoon. Ha-ri shoots down Young-seo’s speculation that Tae-moo had bad-mouthed her to Sung-hoon, adding that despite his cold exterior, Tae-moo actually has a considerate side to him. The next morning, Young-seo confronts Sung-hoon for avoiding her at the lift landing, which was simply due to him holding a trash bag in hand. In spite of her best efforts to have them be on friendlier terms, Young-seo gets frustrated by Sung-hoon’s dogged loyalty to Tae-moo.
Sung-hoon heads over to Tae-moo’s home, and heads into a bedroom that was apparently once his. Chairman Kang is delighted to have both men around for once, jovially declaring that the house “finally feels like a home”. He then segues the meal-time conversation into an ultimatum of Tae-moo having to get married by year’s end; that, or him and Sung-hoon needing to return home for twice-weekly meals, which the young men push back on. Upon discovering that Tae-moo’s fake first anniversary with “Geum-hui” is soon approaching, his grandfather orders him to clear his schedule and celebrate with her. To Sung-hoon’s surprise, Tae-moo casually mentions that he’d rearrange his schedule.
Ha-ri’s R&D team heads to a Namhae village on a film shoot for the chef collaboration project. While out in a cabbage field, Ha-ri spots Chairman Kang watching them from afar, and tries to avoid getting his attention. Her resistance turns out to be futile, as she ends up having to retrieve her mobile phone from him, which she’d earlier left on a pavilion, just as Tae-moo calls. Ha-ri calls him back while hiding out in the village hall’s toilet, and they talk about their fake anniversary that weekend. Tae-moo then gingerly asks if she’d like to have dinner with him that evening, but she tells him that she’s away on a last-minute business trip.
An ordeal at the bathroom occurs when Chairman Kang comes to use it, ending in a brief tussle that causes the older man to lose his balance and fall into a tub of wet cabbages. He eventually leaves the village in his undershirt and one of the staff member’s pants, not before he stares daggers at an embarrassed Ha-ri.
Back in Seoul, Chairman Kang undergoes acupuncture for his sore back, with Tae-moo accompanying his hypochondriac grandfather. The chairman informs his grandson that Ha-ri is officially in his bad books, but glows at the mere mention of “Geum-hui”. With tonics from his grandfather in tow, Tae-moo heads over to Ha-ri’s place to see her, but she reroutes him to a nearby park, turning up in a bear hoodie and visor to conceal her face. Along with the tonics, Tae-moo passes Ha-ri some ointment for her eye, and she, in turn, passes him some fried chicken from her family’s shop.
Their anniversary date comes around, and Tae-moo brings Ha-ri to a clothes store to pick out a new outfit. Ha-ri comments that Tae-moo has probably watched too many dramas, to which he corrects her: it’s his grandfather who’s the drama fan here, not him. Among the many clothes Ha-ri tries on, it’s a modest, white button-down dress that makes her shine, and Tae-moo catches himself falling deeper for her charms. He buys Ha-ri the dress – which turns out to be specially imported, and the only one available in the whole of South Korea. She, in turn, finds it a little too small, which makes her a little uneasy.
Young-seo is busy at a commercial shoot when her cousin, director Jo Yoo-jung (Seo Hye-won) waltzes in and announces that she’d just seen Tae-moo with his girlfriend. Despite attempts to rub the fake-date situation in Young-seo’s face, Yoo-jung gets put in her place instead. Later, Young-seo heads to the gym, where she runs into Sung-hoon and a neighbour who had previously taken her mail by mistake. This friendly neighbour helps Young-seo with her workout, and even gifts her with a handcrafted lamp; on the other hand, an observation in the men’s locker room raises Sung-hoon’s suspicions of him.
Tae-moo and Ha-ri have their anniversary dinner at the restaurant chosen by Chairman Kang, which he turns out to be the owner of. As Ha-ri had secretly feared, her dress splits when she bends down to pick up her bag. Ever the gentleman, Tae-moo comes to her aid and the dinner ends on a pleasant note. As fireworks go off outside of the restaurant, Ha-ri is enthralled by the display, while Tae-moo only has eyes for her.
After dropping Ha-ri off, Tae-moo discovers her wallet in the car, and makes a U-turn to return it. He alights from the car just as Ha-ri exits the fried chicken restaurant and runs into Min-woo, who had come to visit her mother. Tae-moo overhears him calling her “Ha-ri”, and a visible chill runs through him as he opens up her wallet and discovers her true identity.
- Reel life mirroring the real in drama-within-the-drama Be Strong, Geum-hui, particularly in the meta moment of Tae-moo watching the two main characters share an accidental kiss in a fall.
- The way a freaked-out Young-seo runs out of her apartment and effortlessly jumps onto Sung-hoon – one can only imagine how many takes it took for the actors to get it right.
- Seeing a hint of Sung-hoon’s back story, and the familial ties he has with Tae-moo and Chairman Kang. It’s heartwarming to see how happy the Chairman is at having his two grandsons share a meal with him.
- How Tae-moo’s expression towards Ha-ri appears to gradually soften as the episodes progress – from a cold-steely gaze to a tender one. Though this will probably shift again in the episodes to come.
‘A Business Proposal’ airs every Monday and Tuesday on SBS at 10:00pm in South Korea, and is also available on Netflix globally