Things get tense around the Li-Ling household when Chen Ting reappears with her mother and new daughter, wanting to reconnect with Ling Xiao, who still wants nothing to do with her. Her reappearance also leads Zi Qiu to do some soul-searching as he thinks about his own secret search for his mother.
Ming Yue’s mother enrolls her in extra weekend math classes and tells her to be better friends with Wang Ya Juan, the top student in the class, instead of people like Li Jian Jian. Ming Yue frowns, not happy with losing her weekends and her mother’s attempts at controlling her friendship. She perks up when her mother mentions buying her a digital camera as a present, but then frowns again when her mother adds a condition: she has to beat Wang Ya Juan on the next exam. Her mother is tired of her always being second-best.
Before dropping her off, Ming Yue’s mother asks what she wants to eat for dinner. Ming Yue claims that she’s going to go study with Ya Juan at a coffee shop after school and then eat hotpot together. Ming Yue’s mother asks if she has enough money, then gives her an extra 300 yuan (a little over $40 USD).
Ming Yue and Jian Jian cheer on Zi Qiu at his basketball game. Or more accurately, Ming Yue cheers while Jian Jian sketches and giggles to Ming Yue about how Zi Qiu’s best friend and teammate, Zhuang Bei, looks like a gorilla.
Ling Xiao is handing out graded papers when a classmate tells him that someone is looking for him. It’s his mother.
They go to a restaurant, where Chen Ting tells Ling Xiao about her new life and his new half-sister. She asks if Hai Chao is treating him well and wants to make sure that he’s spending the money that He Ping gives him on Ling Xiao. Ling Xiao is upset that his mother is trying to get involved now and implying that Hai Chao has malicious intentions. He tells her that Papa Li treats him like his own son and he treats him like his own father. When Papa Li gets old, Ling Xiao plans on taking care of him like he would his own father. He’s not sure why his mother is now pretending to care — didn’t she give him away to Jian Jian when she left?
Zi Qiu and Jian Jian watch them from outside the restaurant. Zi Qiu wonders why Ling Xiao is still in there talking to her, and tells Jian Jian to go rescue him, but Jian Jian just watches with a sad expression. No matter what she’s done in the past, Ling Xiao’s mother is still his mother. Zi Qiu thinks otherwise — she never bothered to call or show she cared before.
Jian Jian asks Zi Qiu if he ever tried looking for his own mother. Zi Qiu suddenly gets upset, accusing Jian Jian of treating him like trash (the implication being that she’s treating him like he’s not her brother.) Zi Qiu goes back to class, leaving Jian Jian to wait for Ling Xiao on her own.
Instead of heading back to campus, Zi Qiu finds an empty side street and cries while looking at compact with a photo of his mother. He remembers how she left him behind with relatives in the countryside with a promise that she would come back for him after finding a job in Shenzhen.
Chen Ting asks Ling Xiao for forgiveness. He spots Jian Jian squatting on the ground outside, looking lonesome, and makes an excuse to leave. His mother tears up and watches as he takes Jian Jian by the wrist and leaves.
Jian Jian clings to Ling Xiao’s arm, refusing to let go even when he tries to shake her off. He asks her not to let the dads know about his meeting with his mother. Some teachers spot them and they start running away.
He Ping meets up with Chen Ting at a fancy teahouse. He apologizes for being late; she jokes that an hour is nothing — she was used to waiting much longer for him when they were married. He Ping hands Chen Ting some documents to help her daughter secure a temporary place at a school in the country. He asks why they’re bringing their daughter over if it’s only for six months. Chen Ting says her husband believes that children should accommodate their parents, not the other way around.
He Ping is about to leave when Chen Ting mentions that she went to see Ling Xiao. He Ping is done faking pleasantries at that news. Chen Ting claims that she wants her daughter to get to know her older brother, and that her relatives have been telling her that she should care more about Ling Xiao. To He Ping, that’s too little too late. Did she even think about whether Ling Xiao wanted to see her? They start arguing loudly in the restaurant, He Ping reminding Chen Ting of how she traumatized Ling Xiao, and Chen Ting criticizing He Ping for not accepting responsibility for his son. He Ping finally storms out after asking Chen Ting to let go of them.
Later, Ling Xiao and Zi Qiu clean up around the noodle shop while Jian Jian is supposed to be doing homework — but instead she’s sketching Ling Xiao. Ling Xiao catches her not doing her homework and tries to make her focus. Jian Jian calls for Zi Qiu, who comes over and tells Ling Xiao to let Jian Jian finish drawing.
He Ping returns home. He looks like he wants to ask Ling Xiao about his mother, but they hold eye contact for a moment and then He Ping gives up and calls Hai Chao outside to chat instead.
Hai Chao thinks He Ping should talk to Ling Xiao about it, even if Ling Xiao looked like he didn’t want to talk about it. He Ping asks Hai Chao to try and ask about it instead — Ling Xiao always seems more forthcoming with him, anyway. Hai Chao tells He Ping to make sure to take care of things on Chen Ting’s end. He doesn’t like the thought of Chen Ting barging into Ling Xiao’s life without warning, either.
At night, Ling Xiao has a nightmare about the day his younger sister died.
The trio get caught in a downpour and take shelter in a doorway. They’re trying to figure out what to do when Jian Jian spots two classmates approaching with an umbrella. She steals the umbrella from their hands and runs off, Ling Xiao and Zi Qiu rushing to catch up and take shelter.
They rush back to the noodle shop with bright smiles that immediately fall when they see that their father has a guest: Ling Xiao’s maternal grandmother. She says that Chen Ting sent her to help cook for a few days. Jian Jian looks like she wants to say something, but Zi Qiu drags her away. Ling Xiao’s grandmother has brought his younger half-sister, Qin Mei Yang, who eagerly greets him. She’s been wanting to meet her older brother for forever and presents him with a gift.
Ling Xiao tries to walk away, but his grandmother stops him. He says that no one wants her here. His grandmother drags him outside.
While they talk, Jian Jian decides to size up the younger sister. She punches a fist toward the girl’s face — Mei Yang doesn’t even flinch. Then Jian Jian turns her hand over to reveal a piece of candy and offers it to Mei Yang, but the girl turns up her nose and walks away.
Jian Jian eats the candy herself and peers out the window at Ling Xiao and his grandmother. Ling Xiao’s grandmother lectures him, saying that there’s no one closer to him than his sister, other than his parents. Ling Xiao says he doesn’t need a sister — he already has one. Grandma Chen reminds Ling Xiao that Hai Chao is only taking care of him because his father pays him.
Ling Xiao asks his grandmother to stop bothering his father. He has no relation to her anymore. It’s not like she needs another son or son-in-law. She should just take her granddaughter and leave.
Grandma Chen starts hitting Ling Xiao for his disrespectful words. Jian Jian rushes outside to shield Ling Xiao, saying that Grandma Chen should use her words instead of hitting people. Grandma Chen is of the mindset that Ling Xiao hasn’t been hit enough and that’s why he’s bold enough to talk back. She calls him uncultured.
Angry, Grandma Chen heads out, but tells Mei Yang to stay the night. That’s news to Hai Chao — he never volunteered to take care of her.
Grandma Chen tartly tells Hai Chao that she’s not leaving Mei Yang with him. She’s leaving Mei Yang with Ling Xiao. If he doesn’t want to take her, he can leave her out on the streets.
Jian Jian and Zi Qiu bicker with Mei Yang over who is whose brother, while Ling Xiao stays silent and Hai Chao tells them to stop arguing with a child. Jian Jian retorts that she’s still a child.
He Ping finally shows up. Ling Xiao stands up to go home and do homework. He calls for Jian Jian and Zi Qiu to leave with him. Mei Yang chases after them, crying, but He Ping stops her, saying that he’ll send her home. She keeps crying, saying she wants her brother. Hai Chao decides this is none of his business and leaves He Ping alone to deal with her.
Grandma Chen and Chen Ting go shopping for groceries, where Grandma Chen is stingy with the seller at the market and then tries to brag about how rich Chen Ting’s husband is. Chen Ting seems embarrassed by her.
Chen Ting doesn’t agree with her mother’s decision to dump Mei Yang on Ling Xiao, but her mother thinks that’s the most effective way to reconnect with Ling Xiao. Chen Ting admits that she doesn’t know what to say when she sees Ling Xiao. She gets scared.
Grandma Chen is full of “I told you so’s.” She told Chen Ting she would regret leaving without a word and not talking to her child. She also never wanted Chen Ting to marry He Ping in the first place.
Chen Ting is tired of her mother always bringing up the past. She also tells her mother to stop bothering He Ping. But Grandma Chen says she does it on purpose. She knows that if she loses contact with He Ping, she’ll also lose contact with her grandson. She kept in contact so that Chen Ting would have a way to reconnect with Ling Xiao one day.
Zi Qiu is distracted while playing ball with Zhuang Bei, who gives up on playing. He asks why Zi Qiu is so bothered and distracted — it’s not like it’s his own mother who randomly showed up. Zi Qiu says he wouldn’t understand.
Zhuang Bei calls Ling Xiao heartless. He can’t deny that his mother is his mother and that Mei Yang is his sister. Zi Qiu shoves him, telling him not to talk about things he doesn’t understand. There are only five people in his family; everyone else is an outsider.
“Then why are you looking for your mom?” Zhuang Bei asks. Zi Qiu looks away, then claims that he just wants to know why she abandoned him and that he wants to get his father’s money back.
Zhuang Bei suggests that maybe Zi Qiu’s mother had a valid reason for leaving him behind, but Zi Qiu loses his temper at him. Suddenly, Zi Qiu spots a woman walking by who looks vaguely like his mother. He races to catch up to her, only to be disappointed that it’s just a stranger.
Ling Xiao and Jian Jian wait around at the bus stop for Zi Qiu to show up. He’s late, having been sidetracked running into Ming Yue and her mother, but arrives just in time to catch the bus. On the bus, they sit in a row, Jian Jian adorably falling asleep on Ling Xiao’s shoulder.
Ming Yue’s mother asks her how she knows Zi Qiu. She’s disapproving when she finds out that Zi Qiu is Jian Jian’s brother, confused about the whole family situation, and also takes it as a sign that Ming Yue is still hanging out with Jian Jian. Ming Yue tries to claim that she isn’t hanging out with Jian Jian — as class president, she just knows a bit about every student. Besides, Jian Jian’s brother Ling Xiao is the top student in his year; he’s bound to get into Peking University. Her mother seems stunned.
Hai Chao seems unhappy with Grandma Chen’s manipulation and Mei Yang’s presence, but when He Ping complains about it, Hai Chao says it’s none of his business — he’s just an outsider. He Ping says that they just have to endure it for a few more days. Hai Chao points out that as adults, they might be able to endure it, but what about the children? All three of the kids have been listless lately.
He Ping says that Ling Xiao is just too sensitive. He can’t change the facts — that he’s related to his mother and to Mei Yang. Then he asks Hai Chao if he’s cooking too many dishes. Hai Chao gets triggered, saying cooking is the only thing he can do and he just wants to feed the kids some good food to make them feel better. He Ping’s trying to control that too? He Ping tries to placate him.
Jian Jian tells Ming Yue all about how Grandma Chen has spread the gossip about Ling Xiao and Chen Ting all over the neighborhood. She’s clearly taking advantage of her old age to just do whatever she wants. Ming Yue asks if Papa Ling is any help, but Jian Jian just scoffs — he’s always the first to hide.
Ming Yue tells Jian Jian to be careful. Mei Yang is trying to steal Ling Xiao away, and TV shows are full of stories on people trying to reunite with their biological families. She shouldn’t underestimate the power of blood. Even Zi Qiu’s story is pretty common, though usually people like him wait until they’re older before going on those types of shows.
Jian Jian laughs. Her brothers aren’t like other people. They’re one family. Ming Yue says that she’s really envious of Jian Jian — she wishes she had an older brother who would take care of her and deflect her mother’s attention. They put their arms each other and Jian Jian jokingly says that she’ll never understand the pain of being an only child.
Auntie Qian and her mahjong partners gossip about Grandma Chen and Chen Ting while they play. Auntie Qian still doesn’t have a favorable opinion of Chen Ting after she abandoned her family and child, and thinks it’s laughable that Chen Ting would come and act like it never happened. But another auntie points out that Chen Ting was in a bad place back then, too. Leaving was probably good for her. If she had stayed, who knows if she would still be alive today?
Ling Xiao hears them gossiping as he walks by the noodle shop on his way home. He frowns, then keeps going.
I adore the sibling dynamic between Jian Jian, Zi Qiu, and Ling Xiao. We see it out in full force this episode, but I really loved that moment when they were all together in the noodle shop and Jian Jian called on Zi Qiu to be a shield between her and Ling Xiao.
He Ping and Hai Chao also continue to have an adorable, bickering old couple dynamic.
I feel really conflicted about Ling Xiao’s mother’s side of the family. Initially, I wanted to give Chen Ting the benefit of the doubt because I feel like she really got the short end of the stick when it came to emotional support after her daughter’s death. Like the auntie said at the end, it was probably a good thing she left. But it’s difficult not to feel really frustrated and annoyed by her and her mother’s presumptuousness when it comes to reconnecting with Ling Xiao. They have their reasons, but it doesn’t make it okay. They don’t seem to want to acknowledge his emotional trauma at all, and instead keep forcing this idea that blood is thicker than water and that it’s impossible to have family that is not blood-related.
I do think the Chen mothers’ presumptions reflect a widely-accepted cultural understanding of family — that in the end, you only have your (blood-related) family because why would someone who is not blood-related care abut you as much as someone who is? I don’t think that’s true, and this show really shows that family can be a choice and that doesn’t lessen the meaning or the power of the relationship.
It’s really interesting to me to see who Zi Qiu is now compared to who he was as a kid. He’s still a fierce defender of Jian Jian, but he also has a much shorter temper and is much more willing to get physical. That’s such a contrast from the timid kid he was when he first came to the Li household. What happened in the time between? I’m sure a good amount of his change can be attributed to the pain and trauma of having his mother disappear and leave him behind for good, but I’m also sure that we’ll see more about that soon.