Drama Recaps, Taiwanese Dramas

Recap: Amensalism (Ep. 2)

In this episode of Amensalism, You Kuan learns more about the consequences of the deal with the devil that he made as a young ten-year-old on the brink of death and what that means for Bi Ke Wei.

Recap

Young Cheng You Kuan stands in front of the tunnel that will allow him to cross over from life to death. He calls for his parents, then starts walking into the tunnel.

As he steps forward, red spider lilies bloom behind him. He pauses in the middle of the tunnel and looks backward to see the tunnel filled with lilies.

A voice tells him to quickly cross over. But if he wants to turn back, he can. He’ll just have to give someone else’s life in exchange for his own. A name for his life. He chooses Bi Ke Wei, his enemy and rival.

After he names her name, one of the red spider lilies fuses with his heart.

The mysterious voice tells him that from now on, her life is his life. For every day he lives, she will live one day less. For as long as he is well, she will suffer. But he will eventually have to pay a price as well.

Present

Bi Ke Wei and Cheng You Kuan both score first place in their elementary school’s math exam, meaning they will both represent their school at the IMC math competition.

You Kuan is mopping floors as part of his class’s cleaning duties when some of his classmates ask if he wants to play with Bi Ke Wei’s cell phone, which she loaned to them. He’ll let You Kuan play with the phone if You Kuan lets him copy his math homework. You Kuan refuses.

When he’s taking out the recycling later, he finds a cell phone: it’s Bi Ke Wei’s. But a teacher sees him with it and assumes he stole it, because it went missing earlier.

You Kuan is reprimanded, but he maintains his innocence because he didn’t steal the cell phone. Ke Wei says that she didn’t see You Kuan steal the phone, but that someone saw him go into her classroom earlier when no one else was around.

The rumor that You Kuan was the thief goes around school. He gets bullied by some classmates, who call him a thief and shove him into the pouring rain.

Bi Ke Wei, holding a red umbrella, offers him a hand and shelter under her umbrella. But he slaps away her hand, blaming her for getting him falsely accused as thief. He runs away into the rain.

Now, adult You Kuan asks his psychiatrist if he thinks people can change. In his memory, Bi Ke Wei was clearly the one who framed him for the theft, yet the adult Ke Wei he met seems very much unlike the child he remembers.

He turns to his doctor, who is dressed in pajamas and has fallen asleep in what looks like a very uncomfortable position on the concrete steps. He jumps awake when You Kuan lies that there are cockroaches around.

We get a brief product placement ad for BB Vitamins, and then You Kuan dismisses his doctor. But, his doctor decides to tell You Kuan his take on his story, otherwise this midnight rendezvous would all be for naught. He tells You Kuan that it sounds like he has survivor’s guilt. His nightmares symbolize his worry that he stole Ke Wei’s life in order to come back to life. The fact that he never spoke to her again after his recovery means that he probably subconsciously feared that she was dead or suffering because of him, and that can also explain the rest of his depression and anxiety symptoms.

The doctor is mostly annoyed that You Kuan called him out in the middle of the night just to chat. He tells You Kuan he should have a long talk with Bi Ke Wei just so he can put his mind at ease.

Ke Wei’s wall at home is an evidence board full of newspaper clippings, photos, and notes surrounding a car accident. At the center of it all is the question of, what does Zhang Zhi Zhong know? Ke Wei looks at a profile she has on the man and sighs. Three months ago, she went to Zhang’s workplace hoping to find him, but he wasn’t there. She left a business card with his boss and left, not realizing that the man she bumped into on her way out was Zhang himself.

Now, she stares at the board. Memories of the car accident resurface in her mind, but her thoughts are interrupted by a phone call. It’s her aunt, saying she won’t be able to go with her to see her parents tomorrow.

Ke Wei says it’s okay, then looks at her calendar, where the date November 8th is marked with a 19 circled in red.

Zhang Zhi Zhong watches Ke Wei’s apartment from a distance. He saw her face that night when she and You Kuan apprehended him, and remembered it from when she bumped into him at his workplace three months ago. He knows who she is because of the business card she left.

Ke Wei is surprised to find Li Yao Qing in her building lobby when she goes to work in the morning. He tells her that he’s there to help her, and she soon finds out why. Her manager wants to fire her. He doesn’t have a clear reason, but she knows it’s because she punched the wrong guy. She clenches her fists angrily. Yao Qing sees and places a reassuring hand over hers, then helps her negotiate a better severance package, threatening to sue for unlawful termination if her manager doesn’t agree.

The situation reminds Ke Wei of their law school days. Ke Wei had been furious when she was one of only five students who didn’t cheat on an exam and get a perfect score. She had confronted her professor about the unfairness of the situation, but had simply responded that the world is unfair. Ke Wei had been so angry she wanted to punch the professor, but Yao Qing had grabbed her wrist and held her back.

He does the same thing now and doesn’t let go of Ke Wei’s hand — more accurately, wrist — until they’re out of the building. He tells her that this is the best outcome she could have hoped for. The law firm would have fired her sooner or later thanks to Commissioner Chen’s connections, but this way at least she gets something out of it. She might think it’s unfair but–that’s the way the world is, she finishes for him.

Ke Wei leaves the office with her things and proceeds to bump into You Kuan, who was looking for her. He takes her being fired as a good thing: now she has time to talk. She has places to be, but he offers to go with her.

Turns out that place to be is the arcade, where she plays Tekken while You Kuan asks her about her past. Was she always called Bi Ke Wei? Did she go to Wen Lang Elementary? She’s surprised that he knows, but tells him that she transferred so she didn’t graduate from there. He asks if she experienced any major life changes after she transferred, and describes some of his dreams and the things he’s seen and experienced. She freezes for a moment, but ends up just giving him a weird look and shaking her head.

He looks confused and she asks him what he’s thinking about. “You,” he responds. He leans in closer, studying her. Since he met her, he’s slept without dreaming for the first time and saved someone from dying. The 36 hours he spent with her have subverted the expectations he had from the past nineteen years of his life.

She simply raises her eyebrows and keeps playing her game. He says that he’s really curious about how they’re connected and what else she can do to him. The best way to determine that would be… for her to sleep with him for a night.

She stares at him.

He tries to explain himself later, but only ends up digging himself into a deeper hole. He says that he just wants to sleep with her. Just one night. Doesn’t even have to be at night. Could be in the morning. Could be anywhere: his car, a hotel, her house, his house. Wherever and however she wants to sleep, he can accommodate her. She tries to get as far away as possible from him, but they’re in an elevator. And there’s another couple in there, who watch them awkwardly.

She tries to escape the elevator, but he grabs her arm and forces her back into a corner, saying he just wants to sleep with her for one night. Why won’t she agree?

As she stares at his face, she suddenly remembers who he is. “Were you that kid who got first in the math exam?” She asks him if the other kids ever apologized to him, and explains that it turned out the kid who borrowed her cell phone had broken it and tossed it out to avoid discovery. When he heard that You Kuan had found it, he lied to her and said that You Kuan had gone into their classroom to make her think You Kuan was the one who stole the cell phone. By the time the truth came out, You Kuan had been absent from school for several days.

This is news to You Kuan, and also successfully distracts him from the topic of sleeping together. He remembers his classmates apologizing to him and giving him snacks to make up for their misdeeds, and getting an award at school for doing well in the math competition. Ke Wei was no longer there at that point, and when he asked, they said she had transferred.

You Kuan asks Lin Chun Xiong if he really has a mental illness. Ke Wei seems fine, meaning his words really had no impact on her. Then it means his dreams might really just be a symptom of mental illness. A man in a suit walks by and thinking it’s Chun Xiong, he holds out his cup, asking for a refill. But it’s actually Li Yao Qing.

You Kuan compliments Yao Qing on his quick work to identify and take care of the board members who ordered the hit on Ming Fei, but his tone is chilly. He stands up to leave, but Yao Qing stops him with some news: the people his security team beat up are going to sue for damages. Yao Qing freely admits that he was the one who told him they could sue, and he hooked them up with some lawyer friends. They had a need and he had the means to fulfill it. “Just business,” he says with a shrug and a smirk.

You Kuan reminds Yao Qing that his team was working to protect his CEO. Yao Qing simply responds that he can probably get the legal fees comped then. He condescendingly tries to smooth You Kuan’s collar. You Kuan smacks his hand away. Yao Qing smirks and then leaves.

Chun Xiong finally returns with a snack for himself and comments on how strange it is that Li would target SG, their security company. Did You Kuan do something to him? He means it as a joke, but You Kuan is in a bad mood and snaps at him. He tells Chun Xiong to keep him updated with any news on Zhang Zhi Zhong, then leaves. Chun Xiong frets that he’s overstepped (again) and needs to start looking for a new job.

You Kuan goes into the office for a meeting, which ends up being a surprise “birthday” party for him thrown by Ming Fei and his security team. Ming Fei wants to celebrate the day of his “rebirth,” November 8, which is tomorrow. Her father, the chairman of the company, even makes a dramatic appearance with a bottle of wine as a gift.

But Ming Fei and the chairman clearly don’t have a very warm relationship. He asks her about the situation with Li Yao Qing and the members of the board: did she ask Li to step in and help? She responds that regardless of truth, whether she asked Li or whether he did it of his own volition, Li will come out looking like the benefactor and she’ll look like the bad guy. She quickly leaves, saying she wants to go back to work. You Kuan overhears the conversation with a frown, and the rest of the security team act hard to pretend like nothing was awkward about the whole situation.

Zhang Zhi Zhong tries to get onto a boat out of the country, but finds out that the smugglers want $2 million TWD. He heads to Ke Wei’s house and is in the middle of breaking into the front gate when Ke Wei’s aunt walks up behind him and asks why he’s in front of her house. He turns toward her, palming a knife.

You Kuan walks down a street and sees a faded “missing person” flyer for his father. He’s suddenly reminded of his childhood: happy memories with his father, followed by traumatizing dreams his father’s death that no one — not the police, nor his mother — believed. His mother had continued to cling to the hope that his father was just missing, not dead, even slapping him when he got older and insisted to her that his father was dead. He remembers walking down this street as a child putting up those “missing person” flyers. Chun Xiong calls him to report a Zhang sighting.

Ke Wei returns home to find her aunt putting dinner out on the table. But the sight of Zhang coming out of the hallway, cloth and cleaner in hand, makes Ke Wei drop her bag in fright. Zhang motions for her to not scream, making a threatening motion with his hand across his throat and smiling in the direction of Ke Wei’s aunt.

Ke Wei’s aunt chides Ke Wei for not giving the cleaner, Zhang, a key, saying she found him trying to get in earlier. Ke Wei tries desperately to get her aunt away while Zhang draws closer, and eventually succeeds in sending her to a back room to help with laundry.

Ke Wei scrambles for her cell phone in her bag, but Zhang snatches it away. He tells her that he wants $2 million TWD tonight, threatening her with her aunt’s safety.

You Kuan is in the neighborhood looking for Zhang when he spots Ke Wei exiting a bank, clutching a bag and looking nervous. She doesn’t notice when he calls her name and flinches when he taps her on the shoulder. She claims nothing’s wrong and responds too quickly with a “no” when he asks if she’s seen Zhang. She remembers Zhang’s threats about not telling anyone about him, and rejects You Kuan’s offer to walk her home. He watches her walk away with a frown.

Ke Wei gets a text from Zhang telling her where to meet him. You Kuan watches her leave her house from a distance and follows.

Ke Wei goes to the location that Zhang specified, an abandoned building. She smells lighter fluid and finds Zhang playing with a lighter. He tosses the lighter in a pre-prepped can full of wood that immediately lights up. She starts trying to back up but he warns her not to. She looks around and realizes she’s surrounded by accelerant

He tells her to give the money if she wants to know the answer to her question. But she holds the money over the fire, threatening to burn the money if he doesn’t tell her the answer.

He knows what she wants to ask: if he saw anything along his freight route the night of her parents’ car accident.

But instead of answering, he brandishes the fire at her and then tackles her, trying to grab the bag with the money. She clings on, but he ends up knocking her down. He pulls out a knife, about to stab her when You Kuan yells at him to stop.

Zhang immediately grabs Ke Wei and puts the knife to her throat. But You Kuan tells him that she only has half the money. The rest is in his car. Zhang falls for the ruse and tells You Kuan to handcuff himself first.

When Zhang goes to rummage around in the back of the car, You Kuan takes the opportunity to attack and try to knock him out. He stuns Zhang enough so that both he and Ke Wei can make it into the safety of the car.

But Zhang stands back up and shatters the driver’s side window, grabbing You Kuan in a chokehold. Ke Wei scrambles out and tries to pull Zhang away to buy You Kuan some time to get out of his handcuffs. She bites Zhang in the ear when all else fails. Zhang lets go of You Kuan and throws Ke Wei off. You Kuan frees himself from the handcuffs but it’s too late: Zhang grabs his knife and stabs Ke Wei.

You Kuan flies into a rage, throwing Zhang to the ground and punching him repeatedly in the head. But he soon comes to his senses and realizes he should check on Ke Wei, He lifts her up and tells her that he’ll take her to the hospital. He starts walking, carrying her, when all of a sudden his heart seizes up.

You Kuan collapses to the ground, wondering why this is happening when he never dreamed Ke Wei’s death. Why is he unable to save her? They both collapse unconscious against his car.

You Kuan dreams he is back in that tunnel with the red spider lilies. He sees his younger self calling for his parents and making that fateful choice to exchange Bi Ke Wei’s life for his own.

You Kuan and Ke Wei are rushed into the emergency room.

Lying in the emergency room with Ke Wei in the next bed over, You Kuan realizes that he wasn’t given a second chance at life. The life he got was stolen. From Ke Wei. She flatlines next to him and he wonders if now they will both die together.

When You Kuan next opens his eyes, he’s in a hospital room. Ming Fei shows up to check on him. She tells him that his condition yesterday was really bizarre. He didn’t have any internal injuries or head trauma, yet he was in a coma. They were worried he would pass at any moment, but then suddenly all his vitals returned to normal.

Ming Fei finds it odd that this happens to him on November 8th, the same day that he almost died and came back to life nineteen years ago.

You Kuan connects the dots to the car accident Ke Wei asked Zhang about. He finds her in her hospital room.

She tells him that her life didn’t change after she transferred schools; she transferred because her life changed. On the night of November 8th, she suddenly had a high fever. Her parents tried to rush her to the hospital, but along the way, they got into an accident. Both her parents died on impact and she alone survived, an orphan.

She was told that it was a single car accident, that her father had been driving too fast and lost control, yet she clearly remembers a second car at the scene. But no one believed her and there was no evidence of another car.

She thought Zhang was a witness to the accident. She’s spent all these years searching for a witness, because it’s the only thing she can do. The statute of limitations for any criminal charges related to the crash ends next year. She doesn’t want to have any regrets.

You Kuan clenches his fists and tries to hold back tears upon hearing her story. When Ke Wei’s aunt arrives, he wordlessly runs out of the room.

He runs up to the roof of the hospital, anguished. He did this to Ke Wei. He finally understands what the voice meant when it said whatever was good for him would be bad for her. Every time he gains something, she will lose something. When You Kuan successfully saved a murder victim, Ke Wei had to suffer the consequences by dying once. What right does he, the person who has caused Ke Wei so much suffering, have to live in this world?

You Kuan dramatically smashes a planter, which is CGI-ed for some reason, then bends down to grab a ceramic shard. He clenches it in his hand, painfully preparing himself for… something, then raises it and releases a yell before smashing it down on…

What it is, we’ll find out next time!

I’m sorry but I cannot take this show seriously at all so far. At best it’s entertaining to watch ironically, like The Bachelor. I just can’t deal with all these dramatic, slow motion shots coupled with intense music and colorful overlays. The whole conflict and fight scene with Zhang Zhi Zhong was an example of everything I dislike about this drama so far.

I feel bad because this show is clearly trying to present serious, life and death topics and the guilt, depression, and suicidal thoughts that You Kuan experience are no joke. But the execution is just not there. Everything feels so overdone and overdramatized that it feels like these key moments are being trivialized.

This is an idol drama and there’s almost a rom-com-esque feel to a lot of the style. And I have nothing against that if not for the fact that this show seems like it’s also trying to be serious. Tonally, that’s really hard to get right and it’s not really working right now.

Buuut perhaps these few episodes are just a lot of set up? Maybe I’ll be drawn in by the relationship and the characters?

The more entertaining parts of this show so far have definitely been the more tropey elements, such as the rivalry between Yao Qing and Ming Fei and Yao Qing and You Kuan. I find it interesting how Yao Qing can be so thoughtful and caring toward Ke Wei yet so brutal toward everyone else. I’m sure the rivalry will only ramp up more once Ke Wei and You Kuan start developing more of a relationship. That’ll be fun!

This episode gives us some more insight into the “amensalistic” relationship between You Kuan and Ke Wei. But in a traditional amensalistic relationship, one person would reap all the benefits without suffering. Here, it’s pretty clear that there isn’t really amensalism going on. You Kuan reaps the benefits, but he also feels the consequences of his choices.

I do think it’s really sad that You Kuan made his choice as a naive ten-year-old who didn’t really know any better and subjected the completely innocent Bi Ke Wei to suffering just because he was feeling childishly vindictive. Should the choices we make as children haunt us for the rest of our lives? But that also explains why he feels so torn and depressed because of this survivor’s guilt, as his psychiatrist explained.

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