Once Upon a Small Town season 1, episode 5 recap – character focused with a surprising end

September 13, 2022
Nathan Sartain 0
K-Drama, Netflix, Streaming Service, Weekly TV


A character-focused episode punctuated with a surprising end takes the plot in a new direction.

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A character-focused episode punctuated with a surprising end takes the plot in a new direction.

This recap of the Netflix K-Drama series Once Upon a Small Town season 1, episode 5 contains spoilers.

READ: the recap of the previous episode.

READ: the review of Once Upon a Small Town season 1.

For the most part, Once Upon a Small Town episode five was its pleasant self. Building the post-confession awkwardness between all three characters embroiled in the love triangle, it’s a chapter that drew out the emotions of its leads, showing how they deal with a new, adult situation. Then came a shocking ending, one bound to change dynamics further.

Once Upon a Small Town season 1, episode 5 recap

After re-watching Sang-hyeon’s confession, we cut to the next day, where Ji-yul is cleaning his bike. Elsewhere, a contemplative Ja-young is caught deep in thought by Seon-dong, before the youngster watches on as the police officer and veterinarian awkwardly say their morning hellos. Confused by the situation, Ja-young wonders what is up.

At the police station, Geun-mo is surprised by his colleague’s unusual reluctance to head to the peach farm for coffee, given her usual consumption habits. However, what was Ja-young’s planned avoidance of Sang-hyeon proves a fruitless endeavour anyway, as he soon comes through the door with a surprise delivery of drinks. Following that, the two friends sit together in silence, reflecting on the instructions given last night for the police officer to try and see Sang-hyeon in a different way.

In time, Ja-young speaks, questioning whether there’s any fear in Sang-hyeon’s mind that the two can no longer be friends because of his confession. The peach farmer bluntly replies that he is not scared, then adds a query of his own regarding how the pair’s relationship can be defined. “To me, you’re a friend, but also a woman,” he says, admitting that he would like for the police officer to be his “special someone,” but would still be close with her should such intimacy not materialise.

Acknowledging that the awkward phase between the two would only be short compared to the amount of time they’ve spent together, Sang-hyeon once more expresses his desire for Ja-young to keep thinking about his confession. Then, with the air cleared, he leaves, wanting to continue being “the usual us” with his long-time friend. Meanwhile, Ji-yul catches up with his colleague in Seoul, and some advice is given for the veterinarian to draw boundaries with Ja-young (although Yun-hyeong still misinterprets the affection as dislike).

When witnessing Ja-young act warmly towards Sang-hyeon, Ji-yul seems to get the wrong idea, so drives away deflated. Following that, we watch the vet at work, dealing with cows and calves professionally, though without much energy. Such gloom persists when Ji-yul hears about Ja-young’s visit to borrow a cage, though he does soon become curious as to whether she asked about him. So, when hearing that the police officer had fixed his grandfather’s bike, the vet heads out to meet her in the mountains to assist with the transporting of Boksil’s puppies.

Happy at the help she’s received, Ja-young is excited by her rescuing of the small dogs, only for her emotions to change to ones of confusion. After all, Ji-yul is persistently stern with the police officer, questioning why she never had someone with her, abruptly informing her not to touch her small wound, and attempting to convince her that his retrieval of a roaming puppy was simple. On the car ride back, tensions continue, with the vet mildly curt in his agreement to give the infant canines to Gang-hwa once some tests have been run.

At the hospital, an awkward air lingers, particularly when Ja-young realises that the reason Ji-yul can only give the puppies their first vaccination is because of his imminent return to Seoul. With that being said, the vet at least musters up enough courage to treat the police officer’s cut, and he hears here that his friend is not nosy by nature, but rather appears that way due to her “dedication” to work.

However, instead of just being grateful, Ji-yul makes things noticeably awkward. Cutting Ja-young off while she explains that she would have referred the vet to an optician should he not have got new contacts, he says that he is aware the police officer is trying to take care of him out of her aforementioned dedication to work. Trying to clarify that this is him expressing his gratefulness as a temporary resident, Ji-yul thanks Ja-young, but she is more concerned with wondering whether something she has done has caused the vet to get mad at her.

When trying to deny any negative feelings, Ji-yul is pressed for confirmation that everything is ok by Ja-young. Fortunately, the two end up laughing together, alleviating the tensions that previously persisted in favour of light-hearted gratitude for the wound treatment, and jokes about the vet’s bike ending up in a rice paddy last night. Back at the hospital later on, Ji-yul appears content again.

After a scene showing Ja-young cancel a phone call to Sang-hyeon, Ji-yul watching his colleague’s stream, and the peach farmer waver in his own attempts to communicate with his crush, we move forward to the next day. There, a crying Seon-dong panics over his chocolate-eating dog, Ttoli, which fortunately ends up alright after some IV fluids.

Hearing that Ja-young is undergoing some treatment at a clinic, Ji-yul seems concerned, and is soon summoned by Sang-hyeon for a word. The peach farmer explains that the police officer has had a bad fall, one that occurred due to her using a part of her bike to fix the vet’s, forgetting about it, then using the broken vehicle. “That’s how she is,” Sang-hyeon states, before detailing that he counts down the days until Ji-yul returns to Seoul so he can no longer be within the boundaries of the village Ja-young loves. The vet points out that the part the peach farmer seems to hate most is that his love interest cares for the capital city resident, yet hears back that the main point is that Ji-yul will be gone soon, so he shouldn’t give the police officer the wrong idea.

While dropping off something for Ja-young, Ji-yul expresses his concern that she is still doing some work at the clinic despite her condition. “If you’re injured, you should lie down and rest so you can heal,” he says frustratedly, claiming that it isn’t healthy for the police officer to “seek reaffirmation” of her self-worth by helping others. The vet continues to query just how much his friend needs to be thanked, annoyed that she fixed his bike without request and got hurt, which makes him feel indebted. In response, Ja-young admits that she lives for appreciation, upset by the idea that she shouldn’t be able to risk being hurt for such affection. At that point, Ji-yul just leaves, while the police officer slowly breaks down into tears.

As Ja-young is sent home from an attempt at working while injured, sleeping in the patrol car, Seon-dong concurrently expresses his happiness in seeing Ttoli recovered. The young boy isn’t quite able to take the dog home, though, in part thanks to the heavy rain outside. What he does do instead is interrogate Ji-yul about his alleged feelings of anger towards Ja-young, wanting to know if the vet can give her a break. “She’s as nice as my grandma,” Seon-dong says, understanding that the police officer always means well. Here, Ji-yul opens up, admitting that he was the one to do wrong if anything, given that he should have been thanking the person he was mad at.

The ending

Because of Seon-dong, Ji-yul gets a chance to apologise to Ja-young, who is on her way to Pyeong-sik’s place, over the phone. Yet this doesn’t quite go to plan, as before the vet can offer up any words, he hears the sound of an accident, making him rushing out in the torrential rain. Soon, he finds the patrol car off the side of the road, and the episode ends with a worried Ji-yul frantically trying to rescue the two trapped officers, while memories of his own troubles as a child in a similar situation play back in his head.

What did you think of Once Upon a Small Town season 1, episode 5? Comment below.

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