We return to My Liberation Notes with Mr. Gu (Son Seok-koo) stationed outside the local train station. At first, it seems he’s waiting there to give Mi-jeong (Kim Ji-won) a ride home, but when she arrives with her elder sister Ki-jeong (Lee El), the pair end up walking home alone as Mr. Gu shuns them.
All becomes clearer when we revisit the “Worship Me” scene in a flashback. This time, we get to see Mr. Gu’s reaction to the proposition: He rebukes Mi-jeong, asking her: “Why do you think I am alone in the countryside, and nobody knows my name? Do I seem like someone who needs something to do? I don’t want anything from anyone.” Ouch. And to add insult to injury, Mr. Gu references the type of guys Mi-jeong previously dated: “And I’m an asshole too.”
Understandably, this creates some awkwardness around the family home. Mi-jeong stays out late one night in an attempt to not see Mr. Gu, much to her co-workers’ surprise. However, on her journey home she walks past a carful of suspicious-looking guys ogling her. When it seems as though they are about to begin harassing her, the familiar jangle of Mr. Gu’s alcohol-filled bags comes jangling. He appears behind Mi-jeong just at the right time, scaring away the creepy guys.
Later, Mi-jeong gets an update on her mysterious ex-partner, Chan-hyeok, who owes her money. Except it’s not Chan-hyeok on the phone but someone else, and its them who has been paying off the debt for him. This person, who assures her he just missed that month’s payment as a one-off, threatens Mi-jeong to stop trying to contact Chan-hyeok or face never receiving a payment again.
Mi-jeong can’t catch a break, as life throws her a curveball even at work. While dealing with criticism from her boss, Mi-jeong absentmindedly mutters “crazy bastard” while reading texts about the owed money. Unfortunately, she says it a little too loudly, as her boss (and everyone else around her) looks up from their desks in horror. Her boss paces slowly towards her. “Were you… talking… to me?” He asks, indignantly. “No,” she hurries, “I was reading my…” but stops, realising that checking her phone is going to land her in just as much trouble.
While on a date with a potential suitor, Ki-jeong is quizzed about what a “pick-up girl” is – she only just learned that’s what a their mutual friend save her phone contact as – and creates an elaborate story. Being a pick-up girl, she says, means she is the type of girl to pick up her beheaded husband’s head if it were to be chopped off in the street. “I used to think it was too gruesome, but I too think I would pick it up.” she says. The horror on her date’s face tells us this is likely to be their first and last meeting.
Back home, Ki-jeong recalls the story to her siblings and Do-hwan (Han Sang-jo), her brother’s good friend. Chang-hee (Lee Min-ki) is horrified, obviously, and wastes no time in berating his sister for her strange behaviour. He reminds her she will never find a guy if she continues to scare them off in such a way. Brushing him off, Ki-jeong realises the group are out of drinks, and encourages Mi-jeong to ask Mr. Gu if he would lend them some.
Feeling an understandable awkwardness, Mi-jeong calls it a night, but Chang-hee decides to check in on Mr. Gu and see if he’d like a nightcap. At Mr Gu’s place, Chang-hee reaches for a glass in the cupboard – the same cupboard where Mi-jeong’s letter from the bank is hidden. Mr. Gu springs into action, slamming shut the kitchen cabinet door and sending Chang-hee on his way with a single look.
The next day, Ki-jeong finally grows the confidence to confront the office playboy – also her boss – who has made a pass at every woman in the office except her. Whether genuine or not, he feigns complete ignorance, saying he has never intentionally left her out and the pair go for a drink. Ki-jeong explains her mission to love “just anyone” in the coming Winter, and her employer sets her unorthodox quest straight. He tells her she isn’t looking for the right kind of people for her personality, which fills her with a new kind of determination that the right man will eventually come.
As she makes her way home on the subway, Ki-jeong happens to run into Lee Ye-rin (Jeon Soo-jin), her brother’s ex-girlfriend, who is drunkenly making her way to Dangmi in order to say her piece. It transpires that the story he had told his family was rather one-sided, and he’d been no angel himself.
Ki-jeong confronts Chang-hee on his less than perfect behaviour, which leads to a pretty severe fall-out back home, though, it seems she struck a nerve with her younger brother. He makes his way over to Mr. Gu’s outhouse to apologise for drunkenly barging in on him the previous night. “We should drink together sometime and get to know each other,” he offers. The muted Mr. Gu doesn’t have much to say to this, so Chang-hee retreats back to the house as the siblings made their way to bed.
Mi-jeong is once again hounded by the HR lady about attending a social club at work. She later finds that it’s all of the folks that have resisted joining the social clubs – divorced, single father Cho Tae-hun (Lee Ki-woo) and fellow oddball Park Sang-mi (Park Soo-young) – who have been called to see management again (all of the folks that resist joining the social clubs).
While seated in the waiting room together, they come up with the idea of starting their own social club: The Liberation Club. While they remain tight-lipped about what this club will actually involve in front of the HR supervisor, when they get together after, they discuss in more detail. “What are we actually trying to liberate ourselves from?” Sang-min asks. “Well, then let’s figure that out first,” adds Tae-hun.
The next time we see the youngest sibling, she’s sitting outside with her parents and Mr. Gu, having worked the fields on another stifling, hot weekend. When her parents move away and the awkward pair are left together, Mi-jeong pauses for a moment in thought before uttering: “Do you… want me to worship you?” This earns a glance from Mr. Gu. “It seems you’ve never felt whole too.” Mr. Gu continues to stare. “Let me know if you want me to.”
Later on at home, Mr. Gu seems to be enduring some inner turmoil whilst considering the proposition. When he bumps into Mi-jeong as she leaves for work the next day, she murmurs: “Let’s at least say hi from now on.” She has to repeat herself, but she finally earns an awkward nod from Mr. Gu, before he reminds her to run for the commuter bus. So surprised is Mi-jeong to hear Mr. Gu speak, that he has to tell her a second time to go quickly. Mi-jeong smiles all the way to work.
Mi-jeong’s colleagues find out about her and her fellow workplace loners’ society, and run to question her about what exactly it entails. Mi-jeong explains in a way that the other girls clearly cannot understand, that the club will not focus on working on something together, but on each finding their individual freedoms. “Where will you escape to?” they ask, flabbergasted. “There,” Mi-jeong says, pointing dreamily out of the office window.
We get another insight into Mr. Gu’s true self when a grumpy client of the siblings’ fathers’ business refuses to pay up. Mr. Gu gives nothing away in his expression when he hears the altercation taking place, but after dropping Mi-jeong’s father home, he suddenly drives off back towards the grumpy client. Somehow, in ways we don’t see, he manages to get the impossible man to pay up. After storming past Mi-jeong who is on her way home without the “hello” they had seemed to agree on always making, Mr. Gu hands over the reclaimed funds to her mother, and leaves without another word.
When Mi-jeong visits him that night to fulfil her daily duty of dropping off his food and picking up his used cutlery, she outright asks Mr. Gu why he’s so moody. He huffs, before muttering: “You and your father are the same, both too scared to rightfully ask for what is yours.” Mi-jeong explains that not all people can reproach situations with people they’ve known in such an extreme manner. After knocking over a soju bottle by accident, Mr. Gu apologises for being a drunkard after all, and tells Mi-jeong that she’ll never change – and neither will he.
On her journey to find “just anyone” to love, Ki-jeong again confides in her boss – seemingly finding him to be quite the makeshift therapist – telling him about how horrendously tired and fed up she feels. But her luck appears to be changing, when her boss hands her ten lottery tickets – a gesture he had made to every woman in the office but Ki-jeong thus far.
With a spring in her stip, Ki-jeong makes her way to the local plastic surgery office where she consults with a well-presented young woman about cosmetic procedures to help her look and feel rejuvenated. But when Ki-jeong reads the woman’s name badge, she realises who she is immediately: the drunken woman from the barbeque restaurant, whom she thought was the single, divorced father’s girlfriend. The woman is also an alumni of the siblings’ high school back in Sanpo, and in-fact, the divorcee’s elder sister.
After bonding over their shared connections and past, Ki-jeong heads out to drink with Tae-hun’s sister at the same barbeque restaurant they met at. Then, while Ki-jeong gets the bill, she learns that Tae-hun actually owns the restaurant and refuses to let her pay – despite the fact she insulted him the last time they met – and she, in turn, gives him some of her gifted lottery tickets as a make-up gift. Later that stormy night, while lying awake in bed, Ki-jeong dreams of Tae-hun, and whether he could be her “anyone”.
Mi-jeong sits in the family kitchen alone, letting her late-night intrusive thoughts run wild. She watches on as the thunder and lightning crash outside. Despite the weather, Mr. Gu is still keeping up with his drinking regimen from the comfort of his outdoor porch nearby. When a power line is hit by a bolt of lightning, Mi-jeong springs into action, running out of the house to drag Mr. Gu back inside to safety. It’s then that Mr. Gu witnesses (and is taken aback by) Mi-jeong’s tenacity for the first time. The next day Mi-jeong’s father checks on Mr. Gu, who has a mild foot injury thanks to the incident, but whose pride is probably hurting a little more.
Mr. Gu and Mi-jeong don’t interact again until the family are working the fields in the blistering sun. A sudden gust of wind blows Mi-jeong’s sunhat across a small reservoir bridge, and everyone looks on in frustration at how to retrieve it – but Mr. Gu says he will see to it himself. With confusion, the family watches as he walks in the opposite direction only to make a long jump that could only be performed by a trained athlete straight across the bridge to the other side, and back with the cap, stunning Mi-jeong.
- Mi-jeong’s daily commute thoughts always have us weighing the relationships we foster in our late 20s: “Repetitive relationships you jump into to find something to love about yourself, only to come out of them even more sure of how unattractive you truly are. Where should we look for the answer?” Very real.
- Mr. Gu, the taciturn male lead, finally developing a bit of sentimentality. I mean – who would long-jump over a reservoir with an open wound to the foot, just to save the hat of a girl they supposed didn’t like?
‘My Liberation Notes’ is available on Netflix