This drama is just so CUTE! And this episode really reinforced that. He Luo struggles with her studies but Zhang Yuan won’t let her give up.
The final exam results come out and He Luo is disappointed to see that she’s 20th in her class (51 overall). Her friends congratulate her, marveling at her progress, but it’s not enough for He Luo, whose goal was to be in the top 10. That night, she meets up with Zhang Yuan and borrows his MP3 player. She keeps her distance, worried that neighbors will see her with a boy and gossip. He teases her for caring so much about what others think. She says that his family must be proud of how he did on the exams, but he admits that his father is busy and doesn’t really care.
He asks if she was at home feeling sorry for herself for not getting into the top 10. She puts on an optimistic front, saying that next time she’ll get into the top 15 and then the top 10. He tells her that next time she should just get fewer problems wrong and she’ll do better — he’ll help her go over the ones she got wrong this time.
A Hua Qing alumnus comes by the school to talk about university. He Luo asks him how he did in high school and finds out that he was always in the top 3 and did every problem in every review book in order to study for the gaokao. Director Qiu comes by and compliments her on her final exam results, saying that at this rate she might be able to get into a second tier university.
We cut to an anime scene in which Kino pulls Xia Er, the heroine, along with him as they run through a forest. She trips and falls and gives up. He disappears on her and she’s left alone to face a monster. The monster speaks to her and calls her He Luo, telling her to give up. She responds that she won’t give up — she’ll show them all what she can do. Her hand claws through a mess of vines and another hand (Kino’s probably) grabs it to help pull her out. It’s all just one of He Luo’s dreams. She wakes up and sighs that even her dreams are so tragic.
The day before summer break, Cheng Jie, Chang Feng, and Tian Xin vote to go karaoke-ing together. Yun Wei opts out in order to care for her grandma and tutor her students. He Luo and Zhang Yuan also don’t vote to hang out with them. Cheng Jie and Chang Feng tease Zhang Yuan about having plans to hang out alone with He Luo. He Luo denies it while Zhang Yuan says it’s true — but their grand date plans are to go over the final exam together — they’re welcome to join. That gets them off their backs.
Zhang Yuan and He Luo go over the final exam at their usual spot, but He Luo gets frantic and stressed when she gets the same problem wrong three times in a row. She suddenly lashes out, saying that she’s too dumb to understand this problem and too dumb to get into Hua Qing. Getting into a top college is reserved for the smart students who don’t have to try hard like Zhang Yuan. She should just give up. She angrily packs up her things and leaves, while Zhang Yuan watches her, stunned.
Back at home, He Luo throws her things around the room and cries that she doesn’t want to do this anymore. Zhang Yuan texts her, asking if she’s really tried her best. He says that he’ll meet her tomorrow afternoon to go over the rest of the problems. She ignores his text.
The next day, He Luo reads manga at the manga cafe instead of meeting up with Zhang Yuan, but seems distracted and unable to concentrate. Noticing her unhappiness, the cafe owner, Brother Wang, drops by with some pistachios for her, telling her to be happy (pistachios are called kaixinguo in Chinese, which can be interpreted as “be happy” nuts). He Luo says that she’s plenty happy and fakes some smiles as she reads her manga. Brother Wang drops by later and asks if she should really be at the cafe right now — isn’t there someone waiting for her and somewhere else she should be?
Zhang Yuan is at their usual study spot, alone and waiting. Feeling guilty, He Luo goes and sees him through the window. But she can’t bring herself to go in and instead goes back home. She starts a text to Zhang Yuan, but doesn’t write anything and instead closes her phone.
A few days later, He Luo is still at home when it suddenly starts raining. This reminds her of a rain scene in the manga she had read earlier. She runs out and heads to her and Zhang Yuan’s study spot, where Zhang Yuan is waiting. She asks him why he’s still there even though she hasn’t shown up for days, and he treats it lightly, saying that she’d never forgive him if he just left her hanging without reviewing all those problems.
Zhang Yuan thinks that He Luo was avoiding him because she was jealous and angry with him, but she says that it wasn’t because of him — she just couldn’t take it anymore. She admits that she’s still intensely afraid of losing, and hearing that the alumnus who studied so hard still needed luck to into Hua Qing just made her feel worse when she could barely handle doing just a portion of that studying. More than anything, she was disappointed that even though she made so much progress to be in the top 20 of her class, all her friends and teachers still didn’t think she could make it into Hua Qing. They didn’t even talk about Hua Qing, like it was still completely out of the question for her.
Zhang Yuan takes He Luo to an arcade to distract her. It works and improves her mood. He gets her hooked on a video game, then says that for every extra problem she gets right every day that they study, he’ll give her an extra token to play video games with and teach her a new move in the video game. She accepts the deal.
On their walk home, He Luo jumps around pretending to do martial arts moves from the video game, which embarrasses Zhang Yuan. She asks him why he brought her to the arcade, and he says that just being good at video games is kind of boring — what would be more interesting is if he could turn a dummy into a video game master. She’s just a video game guinea pig to him. He Luo rolls her eyes at this but accepts it anyway.
Before they part ways, she returns his MP3 player to him. She’s recorded some English audio clips for him to practice with. She leaves, kicking around some moves as she does so, while Zhang Yuan watches her go with a smile.
Chang Feng’s birthday comes and he wants to go karaoke-ing. But he, Cheng Jie, Tian Xing, and Yun Wei are unable to find He Luo. They finally find her at her study spot, and are shocked but also impressed that she’s still studying so hard during the summer. They leave her alone with Zhang Yuan to study.
This episode is so great because of the dynamic between Zhang Yuan and He Luo. It means so much that when He Luo is ready to give up, Zhang Yuan won’t let her give up on herself. He Luo is incredibly hard on herself which I find very relatable, so it’s so great that she has her own personal cheer squad in Zhang Yuan. He isn’t overwhelmingly positive with her, which I don’t think He Luo would respond to well, but knows how to challenge her in just the right way so that she feels motivated to rise up to the challenge.
For a while, I was pretty convinced that He Luo’s manga penpal was Zhang Yuan, but now that seems less and less likely. The bit about Brother Wang knowing that He Luo had someplace to be and someplace to meet might suggest that he also knows Zhang Yuan, or he could just be incredibly intuitive. I think it’s better if He Luo’s manga penpal is some other individual, perhaps a new romantic interest, because I like the development of Zhang Yuan and He Luo’s relationship where they know each other’s identities and are able to fully know each other. It would be a little too convenient for Zhang Yuan to also be interested in manga and for them to have that other separate connection.