Hai Chao and his kids know that they are a family, but continue to struggle with “real” relatives who treat his relationship with his non-blood-relation children as a business transaction rather than a relationship. As Ling Xiao and Zi Qiu’s blood relatives start asserting themselves more, Jian Jian also has to figure out her own feelings about people showing up and claiming her brothers as their own.
Jian Jian, Ling Xiao, and Zi Qiu hang out outside at night, eating fried duck and waiting to see shooting stars. Jian Jian falls asleep. Zi Qiu asks Ling Xiao if he asked his mom why she abandoned him. Isn’t he curious?
Ling Xiao says he’s not curious. He knows why his mother left. She wasn’t abandoning him — she was abandoning everything.
“So we’re just things now?” Zi Qiu asks. Ling Xiao says that if his mother wants him back, she’ll come get him. Zi Qiu is disgruntled that she can throw him away when she wants and take him back when she wants. Who does she think she is? “Your mother,” Ling Xiao says pointedly.
Zi Qiu asks Ling Xiao how he feels about seeing his mother again. Ling Xiao says he doesn’t feel anything; it’s all just noise to him. But knowing that she seems to be doing pretty well has lifted a great weight from his chest. He turns to Zi Qiu: is he asking because he’s trying to be ready for if his mother suddenly comes back?
Zi Qiu says that if his mother came back, the first thing he’d do is demand his father’s money back. Then he’d kick her out.
They look up at the sky and Zi Qiu excitedly points out a shooting star. He and Ling Xiao turn to Jian Jian and wake her up. Zi Qiu closes his eyes and makes a wish. Ling Xiao teases him. Jian Jian waves her arms at the star, saying hi to her mom and shouting, “I’m here!”
Mei Yang kicks and screams as Chen Ting drags her to the noodle shop. Mei Yang calls her mother a liar — her mother told her that LIng Xiao would be happy to see her, but he completely ignored her. She wants to go back to Singapore.
But Chen Ting manages to get her daughter to the noodle shop, where it thunderstorms outside while Ling Xiao and Mei Yang silently do their homework at the same table. Mei Yang doesn’t do her homework and keeps glancing at Ling Xiao. He offers to help her with her math homework, and Chen Ting smiles to see them bonding.
Ling Xiao suddenly notices a birthmark on Mei Yang’s neck and his eyes widen. His mother notices him looking and says that she was surprised, too, when she saw that the birthmark was in the same exact place.
Chen Ting says that it was thundering that day, too, when Ling Xiao yelled for help but no one heard. She frequently had nightmares involving thunder and not being able to return home, but after Mei Yang was born, they stopped. Ling Xiao tenses at the mention of his mother’s dreams, but then mutters that she’s just superstitious.
Jian Jian spies on Ling Xiao doing homework with his younger sister, taking out her anger on some poor vegetables. Zi Qiu drags her away before she can get herself into trouble.
Ming Yue finds Jian Jian sitting by the track, tying her own shoes together during gym class. She guesses that Jian Jian is brooding over Chen Ting’s appearance and points out that Jian Jian is always the one who said that having a mother is better than not having one. Jian Jian admits that it’s true in principle, but in practice… what if Zi Qiu’s mother also suddenly appears with a younger sister of his?
On the topic of Zi Qiu, Ming Yue tries to casually ask what Zi Qiu likes. His birthday is coming up soon and she wants to buy him a present. Jian Jian almost forgot it was his birthday.
Jian Jian and Ling Xiao buy Zi Qiu some headphones as a present. On their way out of the mall, Ling Xiao sees that Jian Jian seems more subdued than normal and puts his arm around her to try and cheer her up. He teases her about being jealous of Mei Yang. Jian Jian acts like she isn’t jealous, saying she still has Zi Qiu as a brother, and skips off.
Zi Qiu busies himself cooking in the kitchen on his own birthday, trying to avoid talking to his aunt, He Lan. But both Ling Xiao and Hai Chao make Zi Qiu go talk to her, since she made the trip into the city to be here for him. He brings some fruit into Jian Jian’s bedroom, where his aunt is watching Jian Jian carve some wood. She treats Jian Jian like she’s the daughter of a rich family, and is taken aback when Zi Qiu speaks to her casually.
Zi Qiu’s aunt pulls him into his bedroom and starts admonishing him for speaking to Jian Jian so casually. He can’t do that here, not when the Li family is already being so generous and paying for his education. She reminds him that he isn’t like Ling Xiao; Ling Xiao’s father is paying Papa Li, while they are not.
Hai Chao goes to Zi Qiu’s room to call him out to eat, but pauses when he overhears He Lan lecturing Zi Qiu. He frowns, then knocks.
While they eat, He Lan insists on making a toast to Hai Chao. Then she makes Zi Qiu toast him as well, hitting him on the arm when Zi Qiu downs his drink without waiting for Hai Chao to fill his own glass. She tries to make him toast He Ping as well, but He Ping insists on declining. Jian Jian jumps in to shift attention away from Zi Qiu by asking He Ping what he got Zi Qiu as a present.
He Ping got Zi Qiu a red envelope, because that’s all he knows how to give. He Lan looks uncomfortable as Zi Qiu and Jian Jian start joking around and teasing each other about the amount of money they receive from He Ping.
Hai Chao keeps drinking by himself throughout the meal and ends up getting drunk and sentimental. He clasps both Zi Qiu and Ling Xiao’s hands and asks them if they’re really his sons. He’s offended that lately, people keep telling him that he’s not their father. How is he not their father? Ling Xiao’s real grandmother hits him and yells at him. No one notices that he can’t sleep at night because his mother returned. And Zi Qiu also has it bad. Everyone feels like they can tell him what to do. His own aunt accuses him of being unfilial. How is he not filial? He’s the one staying up late at night washing everyone’s clothes.
He Lan looks away, uncomfortable, as tears slip down her face. Hai Chao says that his two sons might not be related to him by blood and might not share his family name, but they’re still his sons. He starts looking queasy. Ling Xiao and Zi Qiu rush him to the bathroom. He Ping and Jian Jian follow so that the whole family is crowded in their tiny bathroom and He Lan is left standing alone outside.
Jian Jian and Ling Xiao put Hai Chao to bed according to He Ping’s instructions. He Ping goes back to work. Once the two kids leave the room, Hai Chao opens his red-rimmed eyes and thinks back to the day he brought Zi Qiu home.
Hai Chao had gone to the countryside with Ling Xiao and Jian Jian to visit Zi Qiu at his grandmother’s place. On the way, Jian Jian had asked if they were bringing Zi Qiu back with them. Hai Chao hadn’t been planning on it, but after seeing Zi Qiu working the fields at such a young age, and after realizing that none of Zi Qiu’s blood relatives actually wanted him around, he offered to take Zi Qiu with him back to the city.
He remembers wake up in the middle of the night to find young Zi Qiu washing clothes by hand in the bathroom, and how Zi Qiu insisted on only eating vegetables until Hai Chao forcibly put meat in his bowl. He remembers aunties telling Zi Qiu to behave otherwise he would be sent away, and how much the “joke” had affected Zi Qiu. He remembers getting a letter from He Mei, via He Lan, saying that she was willing to relinquish Zi Qiu to him. She acknowledged that she could no longer be his mother, but said she would always love him and think of him from afar.
Now, Zi Qiu sends off his aunt, who apologizes for talking too much. Zi Qiu is understanding, knowing that she only means well. She has one request of him: forget his mother and stop trying to find her. Hai Chao has been so good to him; she doesn’t want Zi Qiu to make him sad.
Ming Yue shyly gives Zi Qiu a birthday present: a digital watch. She offers to put it on for him, but he politely declines, saying it would inconvenience him when playing ball.
Later, she’s at her usual after-school study session with the trio when she notices that Zi Qiu has given her watch to Ling Xiao.
Jian Jian is doing some wood-carving at home alone when someone knocks at the door: Mei Yang. She’s looking for Ling Xiao and demands that Jian Jian help her find him. Jian Jian is only convinced when Mei Yang bribes her with a hundred-yuan bill.
Jian Jian leads Mei Yang around in circles for a bit before saying that Ling Xiao should be at the grocery store. Mei Yang accuses her of purposely leading her astray. They’re heading down some stairs, still bickering, when Jian Jian abruptly turns and hops down some stairs, and Mei Yang falls.
Ling Xiao and Zi Qiu rush to meet Jian Jian at the hospital. Ling Xiao immediately checks in with the emergency room about his sister, while Zi Qiu comforts Jian Jian. Later, when Chen Ting and Hai Chao arrive, Chen Ting yells at Hai Chao and Jian Jian for letting this happen to Mei Yang. She asks Jian Jian how Mei Yang fell — Jian Jian honestly doesn’t know, but Chen Ting doesn’t believe her.
Mei Yang finally wakes up, saving Jian Jian from further interrogation by Chen Ting. Jian Jian wants to talk to Ling Xiao, but then Mei Yang starts shouting for her brother and Ling Xiao goes back into her room, telling everyone else to go home.
Chen Ting tells Ling Xiao that Mei Yang likes him so much because Chen Ting always brought him up. It probably hurts her to see Ling Xiao treat Jian Jian so well. Chen Ting asks Ling Xiao to give Mei Yang just a little bit of the kindness he shows Jian Jian.
Ling Xiao says that he won’t give to anyone else what belongs to Jian Jian. He’s not like his mother.
Zi Qiu finds Jian Jian brooding on the rooftop, waiting for Ling Xiao to come home. He tries cheering her up with a lollipop, then asks why she’s so bothered. It’s not like she pushed Mei Yang down the stairs. She did nothing wrong. He teases her, asking if she wishes she were the one who fell.
Jian Jian says she knows she did nothing wrong, but she still feels bad because Mei Yang is just a kid and she fractured her ankle. But Ling Xiao is the one who is more on Jian Jian’s mind. Every day he goes straight to the hospital after school and stays overnight there. She hasn’t seen him in so long, and she thinks that he must be unhappy, too.
Zi Qiu is basically all bravado and it’s adorable but also really sad. Last episode, I wondered what happened to him that changed him from the timid but cheerful kid from the first episode to this easy-to-anger teen. This episode makes the answer clear. Being abandoned is never a positive thing, but this episode makes it very clear that Zi Qiu wasn’t just abandoned once, he was told multiple times by multiple adults that no one wanted him, that he could easily just be sent away. And yet, even though his mother abandoned him twice, Zi Qiu still longs for her because she is his mother. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it seems like Zi Qiu puts on this brave front of not caring about his mother because he’s afraid of hurting the family who raised, and also because maybe he’s afraid to admit that he still really misses her even after she threw him away like trash (his words).
The whole sequence with Zi Qiu’s aunt, He Lan, at his birthday dinner was so uncomfortable but also nuanced. I think part of He Lan’s intense need for Zi Qiu to act grateful and subservient is related to her own shame that she and her family can’t provide more for Zi Qiu. Perhaps part of her wants to believe that there’s no way Hai Chao could really care about Zi Qiu more than Zi Qiu’s own blood family, because otherwise she and her family have no excuse for their treatment of Zi Qiu.
The star of that scene was 100% Hai Chao. I mean, he’s always the star. But it really broke my heart (in the best of ways) how deeply and truly he cares for his children. I feel like he got to the heart of who a parent should be. A parent should be the person who looks out for their kid when no one else will, who sees their children when no one else can. Hai Chao sees the beyond the bravado and the facades that Zi Qiu and Ling Xiao put on and sees their pain, something that their own parents and relatives don’t even recognize.
Ling Xiao’s family situation is also incredibly complex. This drama is clearly showing us that family doesn’t have to be blood-related and that family can be chosen. But with Ling Xiao, we also see that family can be people that you can’t deny. No matter what happened with his mother in the past, Ling Xiao can’t deny that she is his mother. And even though he just found out about his sister’s existence, he also can’t deny that she is his sister.
What Jian Jian is grappling with when it comes to Ling Xiao seems to be a subconscious fear that if Jian Jian recognizes his mother and sister, then he won’t be her brother anymore. She’ll be replaced. But it doesn’t have to be an either/or; family doesn’t mean just one thing.