A far more detailed chapter deepens the depth of the show’s characters.
This recap of the K-Drama Netflix series Once Upon a Small Town season 1, episode 3, contains spoilers.
Once Upon a Small Town season 1, episode 3 recap
We start at the police station, where the petty thief, Gi-taek, is confronted over misdemeanours he said were committed for the purposes of having enough money to buy his girlfriend a gift. The family of the youngster insist that his friend, Ju-ho, should also be questioned, though the culprit indicates he acted alone. Then, the Women’s Association arrive, using the situation to tease that Gi-taek is a Majeong resident, which in turn kickstarts a juvenile back-and-forth touching heavily on each area’s support funds. Nevertheless, the bickering eventually stops, as everyone in the room swiftly becomes transfixed on whether or not Ji-yul will choose to press charges.
Fortunately for the looter, the veterinarian can see enough repentance to drop the matter. However, this only fuels the fire for another argument between the two village representatives, this time over topics ranging from where Ji-yul should live, to the attractiveness of the locals that he could potentially date. In time, a full blown altercation breaks out, one only stunted by a hearty scream from the Seoul-based doctor, who wishes to be kept out of “regional conflict.”
Outside, a tired Ji-yul rebukes an offer of a ride home from Ja-young. The vet is frustrated that he sees the police officer too often, going as far as to question if she has “any personal feelings” for him, so expresses his desire to head back to his temporary residence for the clean-up job alone. Naturally, Ja-young is a little upset by this, so wonders why her former “secret friend” hates the village, and the friendliness of the people within it, so much. “I never said I hated it. But come to think of it, I do,” is the blunt response, which is followed up on with a claim that Ji-yul does not have any good memories of the place, in addition to a proclamation of his belief that the locals cannot seem to understand his preference for boundaries. Subsequently, the vet is allowed to go his own way uncontested.
That night, Ja-young sits at the cafe alongside Sang-hyeon, discussing the retention of significant memories, in addition to the ability people have to recall events differently. It’s alluded to in this scene that the police officer has had to deal with some sort of hardship involving her mother, yet the conversation does end on a happier note, the two friends happily acknowledging that they share more memories with each other than anyone else, and hold onto them too.
After finishing a day which included 150 pig vaccinations, the intubation of a goat’s airway, routine visits to three barns and the tidying of a burglarised house, Ji-yul talks to his friend Yun-hyeong about the ditching of the “nosy” person in his life, hearing back that the fresh-faced doctor always makes “an enemy or two” wherever he goes. Yun-hyeong then wonders if this decision to cut off such an individual will be regretted, though is unable to get a response due to his acquaintance suddenly dozing off.
The next morning, Ji-yul awkwardly bumps into Ja-young when she is picking up Seon-dong, with the police officer quick to state she is not crossing any boundaries prior to her straightforward exit. Later on, while the vet is departing from a house call in Majeong, he overhears that the person he cut off was abandoned by her mother. Seeing the resilient, persevering Ja-young in a new light, there appears to be some regret on the face of Ji-yul, who ends up clumsily brought into the candid conversation he was a silent witness of when Gi-taek’s mother spots him. Deflated, Officer Ahn hastily leaves.
As Sang-hyeon curiously watches on, Ji-yul tries to correct his wrongs by offering Ja-young a ride to Huidong on his bike. However, it doesn’t work, with the police officer remaining adamant she will travel alone. Concurrently, caught in two minds, the peach farmer who has observed this whole ordeal opts not to intervene. As such, everyone heads back in their own differing ways.
Following on from establishing that he can borrow a truck from the village head, Ji-yul begins to ask Yeong-suk about Ja-young. Or at least he looks set to until he decides against it, focusing instead on the recovering dog that is now able to eat properly again. Content, the vet heads out to the cafe, fetching himself a drink as he observes the happy pictures of the locals, and Sang-hyeon’s light-hearted instructions for how to work the coffee machine.
At that point, Ja-young arrives, curious as to why Ji-yul is at the remote truck. Though she never hears back, as the two end up rushed into joining the mission to protect the area’s peaches from stink bugs thanks to Cha Yeon-hong. The situation does allow for the two to slowly begin to bond, however, with the pairing agreeing to keep the conversation about abandonment a secret, and the Seoul-based vet shown how to wrap the fruits by his friendly acquaintance.
When Ja-young teases Ji-yul over how she must be crossing the line, the vet admits that he reacted too emotionally, saying that he wishes for what he said to be forgotten now that he knows there is no such thing as boundaries in Huidong. It’s a subtle, unspoken apology, but nevertheless one accepted by the police officer, who assures her former “secret friend” that he can rely on her “a little” while he is staying in the area. Then when Ji-yul vocalises his curiosity over who Ja-young can lean on, the pair become somewhat flustered, as Se-ryeon watches on with a marked enthusiasm. It’s an excitement not precisely shared by Yeon-hong, who decides to tell Sang-hyeon to be careful, or risk “losing” the village favourite.
Continuing, Yeon-hong tries to further explain to Se-ryeon why Sang-hyeon is perfect for Ja-young, worried that the median age of the village would “shoot up” should the police officer move to Seoul with the vet. The head of the Women’s Association still holds out hope for the capital city worker’s chances, though, saying that he is not really a man if he doesn’t feel something when looking at Officer Ahn, and that she can change her usual stances if the right person comes along.
Later on, Ji-yul asks Sang-hyeon directly for a truck, explaining that he didn’t want to cause a misunderstanding by asking through Ja-young. In the background, Se-ryeon laughs, informing the vet that the whole village “egged on” the two kind-hearted residents for over 10 years, but that there is no hope for them romantically. “Maybe when they turn 60, they might shack up together because they’re tired of visiting each other,” she adds, content by her wit. When the young trio are then left together, Sang-hyeon takes the earlier misconception as a compliment, claiming that he and Ja-young are indeed extremely close. The police officer shrugs off the comment, though, moving quickly back to the topic of Ji-yul’s need for a truck.
With jealousy obviously a factor, Sang-hyeon sets a high price for the vehicle Ji-yul wants to purchase, only for the president of the Young Man’s Association to be pulled aside by Ja-young in a bid to have the fee slashed. Feeling awkward, the veterinarian opts to just exit the potential transaction altogether, favouring a used-car lot visit alongside the police officer instead, where the two will pretend to be a married couple in the hopes of a discount.
Naturally, this gets a reaction out of Sang-hyeon. Comedically decreasing his initial asking price to a low level, the peach farmer practically gives the truck to a content Ji-yul, putting an end to the pretend marriage charade he clearly didn’t want to happen. Nevertheless, Sang-hyeon doesn’t avoid a talk from his close friend after the vet has left, as she wishes to know whether he is worried that she will become close with the temporary Huidong resident. Then, Ja-young opens up, revealing to the peach farmer that Ji-yul is in fact her secret friend from when they were 12. Stunned, Sang-hyeon instantly asks if this is the reason memories were brought up in conversation yesterday, with the police officer explaining the full situation in response, before expressing her intention to just let the vet feel comfortable while he is in the area. With that in mind, the episode ends with all three characters doing their own reflection, seemingly ready to embrace whatever happens next.
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