A breezy opener that sets the scene for what’s to come without much fanfare.
This recap of the K-Drama Netflix series Once Upon a Small Town season 1, episode 1, contains spoilers.
Once Upon a Small Town season 1, episode 1 recap
We begin with a vet checkup on a dog named Mr. Walnut, which has Brachycephalic Syndrome. The appointment is constantly interrupted by the sounds of the doctor’s phone, but he perseveres, labelling the disruption spam as he explains the need for the snort-snouted animal to undergo a throat exam.
When Ji-yul does manage to get to his phone, he ends up rushing out of his workplace, nervously attempting to get a hold of his grandfather while driving. Then, he arrives at the elder’s house, enquiring via phone if there were any accidents reported in Huidong, clearly worried about what might have transpired. In the background, the police wait, ready to pounce on the veterinarian they believe could be robbing the house.
Unfortunately for Ji-yul, an overeager policeman unintentionally knocks him out before the situation is properly cleared up, leading to an impromptu hospital visit. When awake, the vet does get to hear the truth, though, that his elderly relative has went on a cruise, and that the ominous message of “there’s not much time left” was just a reference to his grandfather’s impending departure. Subsequently given the keys to the house, as well as the hospital (Ji-yul’s grandfather is the director), the vet is suddenly informed that he is to be left in charge of the village’s one veterinary healthcare setting while his relatives are away.
On the way back to Ji-yul’s temporary address, Ja-young’s gesture of giving the vet a lift doesn’t quite go to plan. She ends up, when distracted, stunning Sang-hyeon into falling onto a sea of mud, staining the youngster’s new shirt to the point it needs a hefty wash. Nevertheless, the trip does prove useful, as a pit stop at Mr. Cho’s address shows the need for a captured “feral” dog to be treated for the injuries it sustained.
Afterwards, Ja-young and Ji-yul bicker about the canine’s rights, with the former believing that it should be sent to a shelter once treated, while the latter disagrees based around his belief that such a thing would only lead to the animal being euthanised. Irritated, Mr. Cho soon throws his two cents into the ring too, stating that the dog will only come back if it is released, disappointed that the vet isn’t looking at his chickens per his initial request.
In time, Ji-yul expresses his desire to take the dog to the hospital temporarily, to at least check if it has a microchip. Then, he departs, warning his police acquaintance to not to go easy on Mr. Cho just because he is her neighbour.
At the veterinary setting, the canine is revealed to have avoided a fracture, yet Ji-yul swiftly shifts his focus to something else. Noticing the looks afforded to him by Ja-young, he wonders if there is something she needs to say, hearing in reply that there is, though she would rather not vocalise it.
When an issue involving a goat is brought forward, which means an increase in work for Ji-yul, he notes that it is time for him to go home. Unfortunately for the vet, he is informed that this is a hospital with its workers always on-call, so luxuries of getting off work will be scarce over the next few months. “Around here, you go wherever and whenever they call you,” his new colleague adds, somewhat shocking the man used to life in Seoul.
While attempting a shortcut on the way to where he is needed, Ji-yul asks why the police are always called for animal emergencies, and is told that this is the “quickest solution.” Reflections on these words are not afforded, however, as before long the vet suffers the same fate as Sang-hyeon, and falls into a patch of mud. As such, Ji-yul is required to work dirty when faced with the live wire injured goat.
Later on, Ji-yul finally arrives at his temporary home, even scruffier than when we lost saw him. It’s clear that it has been a difficult day at work, but the worker is further unable to unwind thanks to the unannounced visit of three middle-aged women. Huidong Women’s Association President Jang Se-ryeon is one of the guests, who gifts the veterinarian side dishes alongside a message to not confuse his Seoul life with the one he will be experiencing here.
When the Women’s Association are leaving, Se-ryeon imparts one more piece of wisdom: “If you say you don’t need something, we give it to you. If you say you do, we give you more than you need.” That’s the lay of the land, something that will need to be learnt by the fresh-faced capital city doctor.
Alone, Ji-yul gets an opportunity to read the note left by his grandfather. It turns out that the elderly man wanted to belatedly make his wife of 50 years come true by travelling the world, as a way to repay the hardships she had faced from living through her children passing away. Naturally, the young vet does seem to be understanding, proven by his late-night visit to the hospital to care for the animals being kept there.
On a walk, Ji-yul spots Ja-young swimming in the river, episode ending with a look of recognition between the two.
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