Chicago Typewriter: Episode 5
Sticks and stones may break some bones, but words can get under a bestselling author’s skin. Putting on a brave face won’t be easy when the whole world has got an eye on the latest chapter of his career, and secrets threaten to bubble up to the surface. Blind aim won’t be enough for Se-joo to keep his enemies at bay, but a steady hand can help him prevent his life from unraveling at his feet.
EPISODE 5 RECAP
As Tae-min stews over his father’s criticism, he thinks back to ten years ago, when he was caught sneaking a peek of Se-joo’s rough draft of Fate. Se-joo allowed him to continue reading while keeping a watchful eye out for any reactions.
A few minutes passed before Se-joo finally asked for his opinion. Upon hearing that Tae-min had read several pages, he let out a defeated sigh, believing the narrative was a lost cause if it didn’t capture his reader by the second page. And if Tae-min didn’t seem to like it, then there was no way Tae-min’s father, Writer Baek, would.
In the present, Se-joo burns Jin-oh’s latest pages. Tae-min fumes as he hears his parents argue downstairs in the study, where his father refuses to participate in a joint interview with Tae-min regarding the novel Fate. When Tae-min’s mother inquires why her husband is so abrasive with their son, he in turn asks her about destroying other people’s lives by working with a skeevy reporter.
But Tae-min’s mother sees nothing wrong with doing anything for the sake of their son’s future. “This world is about ability and talent!” Writer Baek barks back, adding that Tae-min would be better off quitting altogether if he needed his father’s legacy just to make a name for himself.
Returning to his room, Tae-min darkly tells Kitty Seol to go away because he can’t play with her today. Her constant whining grates at him, so he grabs her and chucks her aside. What the fuck. Not cool, bro.
Later that night, Bang-jin forbids Seol from taking any more calls since they’ve all been from angry Se-joo fans. Seol thinks her impecunious state and inability to follow through are a result of being a traitor in her past life, but Bang-jin counters that the opposite is true: The descendants of independence activists are poor today while the rich are the descendants of those who sold out their country.
She thinks Seol should quit the errand service and go back to being a vet. She’s excited to hear that Seol has already decided to work at the animal clinic on a part-time basis, and skips out to buy some beer to celebrate…
…And sees Jin-oh standing there outside. When Bang-jin asks why he’s here, he points at her, which makes her blush… only to realize that he’s pointing at the towel on her head. Lol. He explains that he was kicked out of the house, which prompts her to ask if he’s married.
He says he isn’t and asks if Seol is asleep. Bang-jin frowns at that and pouts when he asks if Seol is happy here. She heads inside to fetch Seol before Jin-oh can say otherwise.
Meanwhile, Seol hones in on the pocket watch whose second hand eventually stops ticking… and then spins backward. We blast back to the 1930s to Soo-hyun during target practice. She hits all the bottles save for the last one, so Jin-oh comes close to help her aim, advising her not to be afraid of the recoil.
At his mark, she fires. The bullet hits the target and Seol snaps back to the present. She’s told to greet her guest outside, but there’s no one there. She turns to head back inside when a melodic whistling grabs her attention. She heads around the corner, where a blast of wind knocks the hat off her head…
…And lands back in the past, where Soo-hyun picks it up. She sneaks into Carpe Diem and reports to Jin-oh, who is pleased that their mission was a success. He notices her bleeding arm, but she doesn’t let him examine it immediately because the police are still following her.
Soo-hyun runs into the hideout to switch guns and bandage her wound. The police follow behind her and draw the curtains… to the ladies dressing room where she politely asks them in Japanese to leave.
She later sings on stage while keeping a watchful eye on the police officers enjoying a drink. She sees Jin-oh talk to Hwi-young, who takes out his pocket watch… and Seol is brought back to the present by the sound of Bang-jin’s mother’s voice. Realizing that Seol is seeing glimpses into her past life again, Bang-jin’s mother finally tells Seol what she said to her when she was a little girl: that she killed someone she shouldn’t have in a past life.
Seol wonders why her mother brought her to a shaman instead of a doctor, but her mother didn’t believe that clever young Seol just had an overactive imagination. So when Seol’s mother came to her, Bang-jin’s mother assured her that Seol wasn’t a shaman.
She’s told that upon death, the soul crosses the river Lethe whose water causes forgetfulness. Usually, a person doesn’t look back unless they have any lingering regrets in that past life, and if they do, those residual memories are taken with them into the next life.
In Bang-jin’s mother’s eyes, it’s no use wondering what caused those memories to spill over—rather, Seol is better off living this life to the fullest, without any regrets. Seol muses, “Could it be lingering regret or intense devotion? Or could it be… that there were people or stories that I didn’t want to or am not supposed to forget?”
In his office, Se-joo picks up the burnt scraps of paper from the floor. One piece grabs his attention, however, and his mind fills in the fragmented sentences: “My homeland may be lost, but my words will not be taken away from me. If I cannot write, I am no different than a ghost. In a liberated Joseon, I will madly write whatever I wish.”
With that, we flash back to the past to Hwi-young and Jin-oh’s conversation during Soo-hyun’s performance. Hwi-young has a deadline to meet tonight, explaining to his friend that he’s restricted to writing third-rate novels because he’s been blacklisted as an author.
He repeats the same words Se-joo read earlier, believing that he’ll have freedom of press once Joseon is liberated. Evidently, Jin-oh is a writer himself, but his future plans slightly differ from his buddy: He plans to pursue love, namely with Soo-hyun.
Alarmed by the flashback, Se-joo drops the burnt paper. Just outside, Jin-oh prays that Se-joo will continue writing because “this novel must be completed… for me to live.”
Se-joo wakes the next morning to see his secretary cleaning up the office. He’s later told that it seems Reporter Song and Tae-min’s mother are in cahoots with each other, which he considers as unsurprising news. He decides against a lawsuit, which has his secretary wonder if it’s because it could implicate Writer Baek, his former mentor.
He dismisses her, but his secretary pipes up that Ji-seok might use Seol to pursue a lawsuit on his behalf. Speaking of whom, Ji-seok sits down with Seol in his office and advises her to do just that, assuring her that the publication company will foot the legal fees: “You saved Se-joo’s life twice now. Let’s make it three.”
Se-joo barges in just then, declaring that he won’t be suing anyone. He drags Seol out of this office and threatens Ji-seok to drop the suit or their working relationship is over.
He takes Seol to an empty conference room and instructs her to do the same. He doesn’t elaborate on why, and Seol doesn’t see why she needs to blindly follow his orders. She calls herself a victim too, telling him that she’s constantly bombarded with angry calls and that her safety is at risk too.
He cuts her off, telling her to name her price. Hearing him talk about money only irks her since she wants to help him reveal the truth. “I’m telling you I don’t need your help!” Se-joo barks back. She lectures him for being so quick to anger, but Se-joo doesn’t need a lesson in how to deal with scandals—they all subside with time.
Seol says he should try to help her understand without using absolutes then—that is, unless there is some truth in those accusations: Does he have an actual ghostwriter? Se-joo gulps while Seol argues that he should respond with bold confidence rather than silence if he truly believes the rumors are groundless.
“Why do you have to help me?!” he hollers. Seol spits out: “Because I don’t hate you enough, okay?!” Se-joo lets her do whatever she likes then, on the condition that she never come see him again because things haven’t been going his way ever since they met.
Se-joo drives back home trying to convince himself that he can set everything back to the way things were. He sits at his desk to work, determined to push past his writer’s block no matter what. Taking a deep breath, he starts typing.
He’s awoken the next morning by Ji-seok, who calls to remark that his latest submission isn’t as compelling as his previous chapters. Ji-seok figures the ghostwriter scandal has been hard on him.
Saying that he sent the wrong file, Se-joo promises to send in the correct one in two hours. He then heads back to his workspace and the burnt scrap of paper flashes in his mind. He rifles through the trash in search of that remnant, but it’s gone.
Se-joo heads back inside to find Jin-oh waiting for him. Jin-oh offers him another copy of the pages Se-joo burned… on the condition that he can stay here with Se-joo until the novel is complete. He knows that Se-joo needs this next installment—furthermore, Se-joo needs his help to finish this novel.
Se-joo angrily takes the pages from Jin-oh and reads them, then transcribes the text on his computer. He writes the email, but his finger hovers over the “send” button. He can barely choke back tears as he thinks of Seol and how she always admired his work and always rooted for him.
Ultimately, this week’s installment of Chicago Typewriter doesn’t go up. Seol gets irritated reading the countless scathing comments and leaves an encouraging comment for Se-joo online.
Seol makes sure to scope her surroundings before leaving the animal clinic keeping her face mostly covered. She sees Se-joo waiting for her outside, though… and walks away. LOL. She’s annoyed when he follows her and does an about-face to confront him about it, asking if he’ll mark this up as one of her delusions. “No, you’re right,” he says matter-of-factly. “I am following you.”
When she reminds him of how he told her not to come see him, Se-joo says that’s why he came… to see her (aw). Or rather, he came so she can see him. Oh, well. He sticks to her like glue, which prompts her to ask how he knew where to find her on her day off.
He says he has something to ask, even willing to apologize first if that’s what she wants. She isn’t surprised when he explains that he’d like to understand a woman’s psyche better, for you know, research purposes. He then tells her the premise of his “story”: A global male star finds out that he has one day to live and wants to do something for an ordinary female fan.
Seol all but rolls her eyes at the oh-so-familiar setup, asking him if Se-joo is going to die tomorrow. He tells her to answer the question, and she says she’d probably brag about getting the celebrity’s attention to her friend.
That’s how they end up at the restaurant where Bang-jin works. Bang-jin is still annoyed at her friend who “must’ve betrayed [her] country” in a past life, a statement Se-joo doesn’t agree with. If anything, he thinks Seol would’ve been an independence fighter—more specifically, a sharpshooter.
“How do you know about my past life?” Seol asks. He brushes it off, saying that he guessed based on her history. She asks if the character Ryu Soo-hyun in his novel is based on her then, and Se-joo draws the line there, telling her to eat.
Seol’s next demand is to walk down a crowded street with him to make everyone green with envy. He asks why they’re wearing masks then, and Seol reminds him that they’re both currently in hot water because of a certain someone. He stops at those words, pulls down his mask, and says: “I’m sorry. And…”
I love you? Seol thinks to herself. AHAHAHA. (Im Soo-jung’s last drama was I’m Sorry, I Love You.)
But no, Se-joo points to an arcade and drags her to the shooting game, placing the gun in her hands. He’s even picked out a stuffed animal prize and asks her to win it for him.
She picks up the gun and lines up her target, but she can’t stop shaking, so Se-joo places his hand over hers and holds her close to steady her posture. Omo. He puts a hand on her shoulder and instructs her to relax, which prompts her to remind him that she’s the pro here.
Se-joo says he knows the basics too because he’s written plenty of gangster novels, and when she moves, telling him to do it himself, he aims her at the target again.
He advises her: “Fear comes from a lack of trust in ourselves and anxiety of the unknown. If you don’t want fear or anxiety to consume you, you have no choice but to trust yourself.”
At his mark, Seol fires and hits her target with precision. Next thing we know, Se-joo carries out that huge stuffed animal and teases her that she was supposed to tell him why she gave up pistol shooting when they got to know one another.
But when she offers to become a tad closer, he rejects the offer, calling it bad timing. That makes her wonder if he’s actually dying, and he assures her that he won’t die. He does, however, turn back and call out her name, formally thanking her for everything and promising never to forget that she was his first fan.
Se-joo drives to the publishing company with Jin-oh in tow. Jin-oh has noticed that this week’s installment of Chicago Typewriter wasn’t uploaded, and when Se-joo says he’d better look for somewhere else to live, Jin-oh asks if they weren’t going to stick together until the serial novel was complete. “No,” Se-joo answers. “Because I don’t need you anymore.”
Then Se-joo opens up the doors to a room full of reporters gathered together for an urgent press conference. Jin-oh shields himself from the barrage of camera flashes as Se-joo goes up on stage, then turns to instruct him to come up here and join him. The photographers follow his line of sight.
Se-joo pulls out a seat for Jin-oh, then sits in the other seat. Ji-seok is utterly perplexed while Reporter Song looks on. Se-joo begins his statement regarding the rumors about him hiring a ghostwriter.
Over at Riccardo, Seol worries about Se-joo, completely oblivious to Dae-han presenting her with a new dish he entitled “my heart” which represents his feelings to her. He’s taken aback when she wonders aloud why Se-joo’s words were so “meaningful,” asking her if she doesn’t like the name (because the word’s literal translation is a combination of “meaning” and “heart”).
Bang-jin rushes in to inform Seol about Se-joo’s sudden press conference, and they immediately tune in. Jin-oh winces as Se-joo speaks on how much these rumors bothered him and made him question his career choices. According to him, the only thing that kept him going was the idea that he was the only one who could write his own novels.
Ji-seok braces himself for a possible trainwreck situation, and Se-joo says while previous claims to him having a ghostwriter were not true… they are true now. The reporters are abuzz at the statement, and Reporter Song raises his hand to ask where that aforementioned ghostwriter is now.
Se-joo announces that Chicago Typewriter was written by his ghostwriter and motions to the seat next to him. Everyone in the room freezes. Se-joo takes full responsibility for this situation and asks the media not to go after the woman pulled into this scandal with him.
He then says the man sitting next to him will answer any other questions, and Ji-seok squints his eyes. With that, Se-joo walks out.
After Se-joo gathers his house staff together to bid them farewell, he sits at his desk and opens his laptop… to read the media calling his press statement an elaborate performance to absolve himself of any responsibility. But what’s more startling is this: In the photos, the seat next to Se-joo’s… is empty.
The camera pans around to reveal Jin-oh standing behind him. Jin-oh flatly asks, “Are you okay? You were quite shocked, weren’t you?”
Se-joo rises to his feet and asks Jin-oh to explain the pictures and videos. Grabbing him, he shouts, “Who are you?!” Jin-oh repeats his introduction as Se-joo’s ghostwriter, which Se-joo doesn’t accept. “However…” Jin-oh divulges, “I’m really a ghost.”
Ah, so our resident ghostwriter truly is a ghost writer, after all. I wish I could say I was ecstatic to find out that we were right, but like I feared, we spent most of this episode waiting for the other narrative shoe to drop and for Se-joo to make the connection himself. I cringed watching Se-joo’s press conference knowing that no one else in that room (or the world) could see him there. Even Bang-jin, who has seen Jin-oh in person, would see an empty space beside Se-joo.
If we’re to take a step back, however, I must say I’m proud of Se-joo for keeping his own conscience accountable and ultimately passing on the opportunity to submit a work he didn’t consciously write on his own. He easily could’ve crumbled and tapped into the words spoken by his past self, but instead, he turned to his real-life cheerleader in Seol and spent time with her to show his appreciation… after acting like an ass by telling her to remain silent in the face of an unfair situation. So I like that Seol would have none of it and challenged his own sense of integrity, reminding him that he wasn’t the only victim of the rumors.
I find it amazing that even with her fear of holding a gun (because it reminds her of her past life) Seol is just as fearless as Soo-hyun was. We don’t have to be told about the similarities that our reincarnated characters share with their previous identities, although their mentions do add a nice touch. I did like how both Jin-oh and Se-joo gave her similar advice to not be afraid and trust in herself, and that encouragement helped steady her hand.
As with any drama heroine, I’m hoping that Seol will continue to play an active part in Se-joo’s life and career, since we’ve all seen many a female character be relegated to the wayside. Her character is the crux of the murder mystery in the 1930s and she’s the biggest advocate available to Se-joo, especially now that he has to deal with the aftermath of the puzzling press conference.
Which brings us back to Jin-oh, whose character we have yet to fully understand. He may be a ghost (that inhabits typewriters and dogs?), but the questions surrounding his character are still the same, including why he came to Se-joo now and why he needs this novel to be completed in order “to live.” His character is the main mystery that makes the gears turn in my head and try to put the puzzle pieces together. If we accept the possibility that Jin-oh was the evil spirit outside Bang-jin’s mother’s door, it’s possible that he had ulterior motives during the 1930s. A part of me hopes that’s just a farfetched theory because I do enjoy Jin-oh as a lovesick leader with a mischievous flair, but who is to say that can’t all be a ruse? (But I really hope you’re just a boy in love, Jin-oh.)
Seeing Tae-min’s true darker colors makes me wonder if he had something to do with the past too, though it’s quite possible that his storyline only affects the present. I legitimately gasped when he treated Kitty Seol so cruelly, and I don’t think it’s pure coincidence that the cat and Seol share the same name. There are plenty of little mysteries to uncover in Chicago Typewriter, but right now, my chief concern lies with Se-joo and his sanity. Down the rabbit hole we go…