Dae-hyun finally learns to stand up for himself and the love triangle (or square?) becomes a bit more complicated in Backstreet Rookie episode 12.
This recap of Backstreet Rookie episode 12 contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
In case you missed it, Backstreet Rookie changed tack a bit last week, and we re-join it with that shift very much in the atmosphere as Ji-wook confesses his love for Saet-byul to Dae-hyun. It’s all very tense and such, and more than a bit ridiculous, especially once Dae-hyun starts to mimic the celebrity’s powdered visage, and gets obviously jealous when his shift as a convenience store worker earns the attention of the schoolgirls that used to fawn over Dae-hyun. Once again we’re playing Dae-hyun’s mishaps and public humiliation for laughs.
At least, though, Saet-byul is there to fight his corner – not that Dae-hyun necessarily sees or appreciates this, becoming more and more annoyed at Saet-byul’s seemingly close relationship with Ji-wook, even though all she ever talks about is Dae-hyun, much to Ji-wook’s annoyance. It’s also nice to see Boon-hee and Yong-pil rally around their son, especially in light of what Yeon-joo did to all of them.
A bit of a dispute arises about tripe, of all things, and Dae-hyun gets into it with Manager Bae about promoting a local restaurant’s affordable tripe over the store’s much more expensive variant. To cut a long story short, Dae-hyun – rightly – thinks this kind of collaboration is a good thing, and Manager Bae doesn’t, which leads to cutting the cameras off and having a bit of a back-and-forth that for once Dae-hyun doesn’t just roll over and take. Neither, for that matter, does Saet-byul, although that’s to be expected. Manager Bae, embarrassed and in a bit of tizzy, runs and squeals to Yeon-joo.
Backstreet Rookie episode 12 persists in establishing Dae-hyun as a kind of beacon of altruism so that Saet-byul can become more and more impressed with him; here, it’s the way he treats a kid living below the poverty line by ensuring he doesn’t feel like a charity case. All the while, Ji-wook watches Saet-byul watching Dae-hyun.
Saet-byul also fashions herself as a kind of protector of Dae-hyun, which is obviously weird given they’re supposed to have a romantic connection not a parental bond, but whatever. When Yeon-joo turns up with a fake apology on behalf of Manager Bae, Saet-byul makes sure that Dae-hyun doesn’t just accept it, and insists that she’s going to be keeping a close eye on him to ensure that nobody else tramples all over him. After an entire season of that happening virtually constantly, this seems a very reasonable thing to me. Also reasonable: Boon-hee giving Yeon-joo what for.
Dae-hyun and Saet-byul also discuss their futures. The latter has obviously spent so long shelving her personal ambitions to look out for herself and her sister that she has almost forgotten about her own dreams; when she says she’ll aspire to be a convenience store manager, it’s Dae-hyun who reminds her that she wanted to be a florist, something that she’s charmed he remembers. But apparently after seeing Dae-hyun in action – especially in interacting with the kid earlier – her dreams have shifted somewhat to more closely mimic what he does. I’m not sure that’s necessarily the best approach, but whatever.
Things take a turn for the ridiculous when a debate springs up about who between Dae-hyun and Ji-wook should go home first – naturally, they both want to spend as much time as possible with Saet-byul, so neither wants to leave the other with her. But when they both insist on staying Saet-byul, innocent as ever, takes the opportunity for a nap.
Luckily Ji-wook isn’t a permanent employee. After his shift his responsibilities in the store end. But that doesn’t mean he’s going to be completely out of the way. He offers to accompany Saet-byul to Eun-byul’s showcase and she’s perfectly willing to go, but his manager lures him away with a gig, which is fine by Dae-hyun. She ends up going alone, showing a brief moment of pride for her little sister all dolled up, even if the performance doesn’t exactly go as planned for her. In its aftermath, Eun-byul and Saet-byul share a sweet moment as the younger sister promises the elder that she’ll give her a good life eventually. It’s nice to see her thinking of someone other than herself for a change. This, of course, is if her past doesn’t come back to bite her first.
This is to do with a scheme in which Eun-byul begs Ji-wook for money, and Ji-wook agrees to help in large part because of his promises to Saet-byul, though it largely backfires when the girls extorting Eun-byul snap a picture of the two of them together. The pictures get sent to her – some of them doctored – for blackmail purposes. Saet-byul quickly puts two and two together. The next day, Dae-hyun surprises her with a study desk so that she can begin her managerial path, though she’s obviously distracted, which leads them to hug. Kind of a big deal for these two, given how they are.
Also a big deal, at least for Yeon-joo who is forced to live with it, is the revelation of a self-sacrificial act that proved Dae-hyun’s love for her and Seung-joon’s ruthlessness and, perhaps most importantly of all, her utter blindness to these things. This leads Yeon-joo back to Dae-hyun, although admittedly framing things in terms of herself rather than him, but for once he just isn’t interested in her apologies and promises. It’s about time!
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.