Chinese Dramas, Drama Recaps

Recap: Suddenly This Summer (Ep. 8)

As the school year ends, our band of friends must confront the reality of the gaokao results and the impact that it’ll have on the rest of their lives. But the summer after their final year of high school also offers a temporary shield from those realities and a time for them to acknowledge the truths of their relationships.

Recap

Zhang Yuan is surprised to find He Luo’s uncle waiting for him at the base of his apartment building. He Luo’s uncle says that he’s very close to her, moreso than her mother, and that he has a very different philosophy than her mother when it comes to Zhang Yuan. He’s done his research on Zhang Yuan and knows all about his academic history. Apparently, Zhang Yuan had been so good at math he was on track to test into Beijing for high school, but he broke a bone and discontinued participating in the Math Olympiad. He Luo’s uncle hopes that Zhang Yuan will take advantage of the opportunities he’s given. Zhang Yuan appears to be holding back his anger when he responds that He Luo’s uncle has no reason to worry — he and He Luo will go to Beijing together.

He Luo’s uncle nods and accepts his answer. He tells Zhang Yuan that he’ll wait for him in Beijing and to not let him down.

It’s the night before the gaokao and He Luo studies while her mother helps her pack for the hotel room she booked. He Luo asks her mom to pack all the study books and asks if Tian Xin and Yun Wei can also stay at the hotel with them. Her mother lectures her for still thinking about other people at a key moment like this, but agrees.

Zhang Yuan packs for the exam, but instead of doing extra studying like He Luo, he bikes across town to where He Luo lives. He throws some rocks at her windows and when that fails to get a response, he starts yelling her name. But He Luo has already left for the hotel and instead her upstairs neighbor yells at Zhang Yuan for making so much noise late at night.

Zhang Yuan is distracted on the bike ride home and doesn’t notice when a car turns right in front of him. He gets knocked to the ground, injuring his wrist, while the car just drives away, leaving him on the road. (Also can I just say that this is totally a hit-and-run and that it was totally the driver’s fault for knocking over Zhang Yuan? I know the traffic laws are different in China but still!)

It looks like all the boys are distracted tonight, because Chang Feng goes off to look for Yun Wei. She’s also at the hotel with He Luo, but it’s fortunate that Chang Feng dropped by because Yun Wei’s grandma is unconscious with a cell phone in hand, the emergency responder still on the line. Chang Feng rushes her to the hospital.

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Yun Wei takes a break while studying to call her grandmother and is surprised when Chang Feng picks up. He demands to know where she is. Upon finding out that she’s studying at the hotel with He Luo, he decides to lie and says that nothing is wrong.

The next morning, Chang Feng is late to the gaokao. The gates have already closed. The gatekeeper opens it to let him in, but he decides to skip the exam entirely, saying that he won’t be able to do well anyway.

During the gaokao, everything seems to be going smoothly for He Luo. On the other hand, Zhang Yuan’s wrist appears to bother him and he seems distracted.

After the exams are over, Yun Wei heads home to check on her grandmother, but she’s not there. She calls her grandmother’s phone and Chang Feng picks up. At first, he lies saying that her grandmother is home, but when Yun Wei says that she’s at home right now, he switches gears and says that there’s a small problem.

He Luo has a fever, probably from staying up so late and studying so hard. Her mother has to leave for a business trip and is loath to leave her alone, but He Luo tells her to go.

Meanwhile, Yun Wei cries upon finding out that her grandmother was ill and demands to know why Chang Feng didn’t tell her. Chang Feng tells her that it happened when she called the night before the gaokao. She realizes that he must have skipped the gaokao.

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Summer starts and He Luo is left alone without her mother watching over her. She’s reading manga at home when Tian Xin drops by with flowers and a message: a certain someone is waiting for her downstairs.

He Luo rushes down to find Zhang Yuan waiting on a motor scooter. Tian Xin leaves them, and they go for a joyful ride together.

The gaokao scores come out and everyone heads back to school for a day to fill out their college declaration forms. Zhang Yuan heads back to Class 2 and banters with Cheng Jie about his return, but smiles at He Luo.

He Luo asks Yun Wei where Chang Feng is. All Yun Wei does is smile awkwardly and shake her head. She asks He Luo how she did on the gaokao. He Luo just smiles shyly and says she did “okay”.

Meanwhile Zhang Yuan disappointedly calculates his own gaokao scores — 669, but lies to He Luo when she asks and says he scored a 679.

Teacher Lin enters the classroom and reminds them of how important their college decision is. It will determine the rest of their lives, but she hopes that they’ll listen to their heart and whatever their choice may be, live fulfilling lives. He Luo and Zhang Yuan smile at each other after both putting down Huaqing as their first choice, but when He Luo isn’t looking, Zhang Yuan’s face falls. He puts down Haida as his second choice.

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Outside the classroom, He Luo and Yun Wei bump into Tian Xin, who is all dressed up in a dress and makeup. They tease her but compliment her on looking so pretty. Cheng Jie shows up and compliments her as well, which makes her happy, but then adds that she looks like his mom. He clearly means it as a compliment, but she doesn’t take it as one. His friends ask him why he’s applying to an arts school when he hasn’t even taken any arts exams. He says that he just wants to go to Beijing and be with Tian Xin, regardless of whether the school will take him.

Zhang Yuan looks away at this, probably thinking of his own promises that he can’t fulfill.

He Luo asks Yun Wei what she put as her first choice. Yun Wei says Haida. He Luo seems extremely distraught by this, saying that it should at very most be her second choice. She can do way better than Haida. She grabs Yun Wei’s hand, saying that there’s still time to change it. Zhang Yuan blocks her way, saying that Yun Wei has her own reasons.

Yun Wei says that she’s thought about it already, but still feels like she should be close to home to take care of her grandmother. He Luo seems pretty upset that Yun Wei didn’t even consider her words from earlier. She wanted them to all go to Beijing together. Tian Xin, Zhang Yuan, and Cheng Jie are all going to go to Beijing — won’t Yun Wei be lonely staying behind in their hometown?

While she says this, Zhang Yuan turns away, fighting to keep his composure.

Yun Wei responds that she won’t be alone — Chang Feng will be here too. She admits that Chang Feng didn’t even take the gaokao. Everyone is shocked and He Luo demands if he’s gone crazy.

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The friends visit Yun Wei and her grandmother at their tiny apartment. Chang Feng shows up and Yun Wei’s grandma asks how he did on the gaokao and what college he plans on going to. He fibs a bit saying that he did pretty well. Yun Wei’s grandma says she’s already prayed for him and knows that he’ll get into the college of his choice. This makes Yun Wei upset and she leaves the room abruptly. Chang Feng follows.

Yun Wei sobs in the courtyard, feeling responsible for Chang Feng missing the gaokao and essentially ruining his future. Chang Feng tries to make her feel better by saying he really doesn’t have any interest in academics. They hug.

As they enter the heart of summer, the friends hang out at the pool. Tian Xin interrogates He Luo about her relationship with Zhang Yuan. He Luo refuses to acknowledge it, saying that they’re just good friends, but Tian Xin reminds her that Qing Yin is lurking around like a cheetah. If He Luo and Zhang Yuan end up not in the same place for school, Qing Yin is sure to pounce.

Meanwhile, Zhang Yuan asks Yun Wei if she regrets putting Haida as her first choice. She shakes her head, then says she’s really admired him all these years for being able to be such a good student without having to try hard at all. He belongs somewhere like Huaqing. Zhang Yuan responds with an embarrassed laugh.

Tian Xin continues harping on He Luo about Qing Yin when Qing Yin actually shows up. She has something to say to Zhang Yuan. Zhang Yuan invites He Luo to go along with them. Qing Yin doesn’t have a problem with it, saying that she’s not afraid of He Luo.

But later, during a very awkward “date” with Zhang Yuan and He Luo, Qing Yin demands to know in which ways He Luo is better than her. She claims that she cares about and likes Zhang Yuan way more than He Luo. He Luo looks down, feeling incredibly awkward, and seems to want to leave, but Zhang Yuan grabs her hand under the table.

Zhang Yuan tells Qing Yin that they were just keeping their relationship a secret and reveals that they’re holding hands. Qing Yin dares them to hug (which they do), then kiss, then marry. She leaves, then comes back, saying that if Zhang Yuan ever breaks up with He Luo, he’ll have to tell her. She’ll wait for Zhang Yuan forever. Zhang Yuan responds that she probably won’t be able to wait until the 22nd century. Qing Yin finally leaves for real.

Once she’s gone, Zhang Yuan and He Luo banter back and forth about their relationship. Zhang Yuan knows that He Luo doesn’t want to make a big deal about it, but everyone else can tell that they like each other. Besides, if they don’t make it public, then there will be plenty more girls who show up chasing after Zhang Yuan.

The two finally acknowledge their relationship and behave cutely while He Luo voices over a monologue saying that after that day, nothing was the same.

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Thoughts

This episode was simultaneously very cute but also very frustrating. Let’s go over my frustrations first:

  1. This episode just got a bit too ridiculous. What was that bizarre physical love triangle situation that Zhang Yuan subjected He Luo to? Just why? I get that it forced the two to acknowledge their relationship but it just felt so contrived and awkward and I physically cringed.
  2. He Luo’s naivete and self-righteousness when it came to her friends’ decisions about their academic paths (or lack-of). I get that part of her perspective may come from once being the worst student of her friends, so she might have this “if I can do it, you can too!” mentality, but it was almost a bit too preachy the way she was so scandalized by Yun Wei choosing to “settle” for Haida and Chang Feng deciding to skip the gaokao completely. But I guess that it’s also just a cultural difference in the way that China values academics and the U.S. is a bit more liberal with post-high school options.

But despite these frustrations, I really liked this episode overall. I liked that we got more of a focus on the two other couples in the show — Tian Xin + Cheng Jie and Yun Wei + Chang Feng. The Yun Wei and Chang Feng pairing in particular is so bittersweet because they’re both such self-sacrificing people. They seem like they’d be so good for each other, but also would continually break each other’s hearts.

The He Luo and Zhang Yuan moments are cute, and I really love their bantering chemistry, but I can’t help but feel that this episode was just trying to give us some good feels so that the inevitable heartbreak when Zhang Yuan’s truth comes out will hurt less.

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