If nothing else, Jian Jian and her two brothers always stick together and stand together. Ling Xiao’s mother eventually returns to Singapore, but it’s not long before more disruption enters their lives as Zi Qiu experiences his own blast from the past.
Jian Jian blames herself for causing Ling Xiao trouble. He wouldn’t have to deal with his mother and sister if not for her agreeing to Mei Yang’s demands. But Zi Qiu points out that the women in Ling Xiao’s family would find some way or other to involve themselves in his life.
He puts his arm around Jian Jian’s shoulders and reassures her that they’ll be gone soon, back to their own world, and Ling Xiao will be back. She keeps staring at the empty street below, and Zi Qiu teases her, saying she’ll turn to stone, but then Ling Xiao actually appears.
Jian Jian rushes downstairs to meet him in the courtyard and bombards him with questions and chatter about dinner, not giving him space to answer. Ling Xiao plans on showering and going to bed, but then Jian Jian gets more serious and says she didn’t think it would turn out this way. He puts his arm around her shoulders and says he’s on her side.
Zi Qiu delivers Ling Xiao breakfast in the morning at school. Ling Xiao recognizes the food from a restaurant off-campus, but Zi Qiu didn’t mind making the trek. Like their father, he believes that eating good food can improve one’s mood.
Grandma Chen can never be pleased. She criticizes Chen Ting for letting Ling Xiao spend nights at the hospital while attending class during the day — doesn’t she see how exhausted he is? Chen Ting says she has no other choice. If Mei Yang doesn’t see her brother, she cries and makes a fuss. Grandma Chen criticizes her for spoiling Mei Yang. Chen Ting points out that she was just following her advice to use Mei Yang as a way of reconnecting with Ling Xiao. Even she recognizes that there’s nothing she can do to make her mother happy.
Chen Ting is spared from further criticism when Hai Chao arrives. He can’t make Grandma Chen happy either; she critically comments, “You just got here?”
Apparently, Hai Chao has been delivering them food every day. Chen Ting tells him he doesn’t have to — they can buy their own takeout — but Grandma Chen scoffs that takeout isn’t clean.
Hai Chao says it’s no big deal and turns to leave, but Chen Ting stops him and tries to give him a large envelope of money. She thinks it’s the best way for her to show her gratitude to him for raising Ling Xiao. Hai Chao firmly rejects the money, saying he’s always considered Ling Xiao to be his own son and will raise him just as well without the money.
After he’s gone, Grandma Chen says, “I told you so,” again to Chen Ting.
A few weeks later, Jian Jian and Zi Qiu watch eagerly from the noodle shop as Ling Xiao says goodbye to his mother and sister. Mei Yang clings to him, not wanting to leave, but eventually she gets shepherded into the car and they drive off. The moment they’re gone, Jian Jian and Zi Qiu rush down the stairs to celebrate and surround Ling Xiao and their father with hugs.
And things return to normal for the siblings. They go to the mall and take photos at the photo booth together. They go shopping for groceries, where Zi Qiu and Jian Jian try to sneak snacks into their basket but Ling Xiao, ever the responsible one, sorts them out when they check-out.
Jian Jian gets bored over winter break with nothing to do. Ming Yue was supposed to hang out with them, but because she got the third top score on the final exam, her mother punished her with remedial classes.
One day, Jian Jian gets a phone call saying she won a wood carving competition. She thinks it’s a scam and curses out the caller before hanging up. When the phone rings again, Ling Xiao intervenes and picks up, then reveals that he was the one who sent in the sculpture.
The family celebrate Lunar New Year. Jian Jian makes sure that Ling Xiao and Zi Qiu both call their relatives. Zi Qiu gets a call from Ming Yue on his cell phone. Jian Jian picks it up and they chat for a bit before Ming Yue asks her to pass the phone to Zi Qiu so she can wish him a happy new year.
Jian Jian asks her dad for a cell phone — both her brothers have one. Hai Chao says no, but He Ping says he’ll buy her the newest model. Hai Chao accuses He Ping of spoiling her, but then He Ping gets called out for an emergency at work. Hai Chao gets another phone call. In the end, it’s just the three siblings, laughing together at the dinner table.
At the start of the new semester, a new student, Tang Can (He Rui Xian), is transferred into Jian Jian’s class. Jian Jian sleeps through the introduction, but the rest of the class is excited, because Tang Can is an actress and has been in popular commercials.
Tang Can is assigned to sit behind Ming Yue, and Ming Yue is put in charge of showing her around. Tang Can rushes out of class when the bell rings, dropping her transit card in the process. Ming Yue picks it up, and drags Jian Jian with her to chase down Tang Can and return the card.
They almost lose Tang Can, but then spot her in an alley. She’s changed out of her school uniform into an all-black outfit, has applied makeup, and is pretending to smoke a cigarette. They stare with wide eyes, and Tang Can notices them. They hold awkward eye contact for a long moment before Ming Yue timidly holds out the transit card, puts it on the ground, then grabs Jian Jian and runs away.
Jian Jian and Ming Yue re-enact the commercial Tang Can was in for Ling Xiao and Zi Qiu, but Zi Qiu doesn’t remember the actress from the commercial and Ling Xiao doesn’t watch TV. Ming Yue is worried that Tang Can will target her for knowing her secret, but Jian Jian reassures her that Tang Can should be the one who’s worried, because they’ve seen how fake she is.
Hai Chao brings out their noodles and Ming Yue watches with a smile as the the trio do a round-robin of topping swapping. She says that she’s always wanted a brother. Jian Jian jokes that she can pick one of hers. When Ming Yue acts shy, Jian Jian brings up that Ming Yue once mentioned that Zi Qiu looked handsome while playing basketball. Ming Yue tries to deny it, but Jian Jian is oblivious.
During gym class, Jian Jian spots Tang Can sitting with a group of girls who never participate in class. Ming Yue tries to get her to stop pointing, but Jian Jian and Tang Can have already made eye contact. Tang Can rolls her eyes, and Jian Jian gets offended, ready to start a fight. She taunts Tang Can, who frowns and glares.
Ming Yue drags Jian Jian away to go watch Zi Qiu play ball. Zi Qiu pauses his game to say hi. A man in a suit watches them.
The man waits for Zi Qiu outside the restroom, saying, “It’s me. I am your father.” Zi Qiu calls him crazy and is about to walk by, but the man stops him, asking if his mother’s name is He Mei. He introduces himself as Zhao Hua Guang.
Zi Qiu’s father calls He Mei a gold digger, saying she divorced him because he was poor. Zi Qiu doesn’t really want to hear what his father has to say and tries to leave, but his father holds him back by the shoulders. He claims he was too poor to raise Zi Qiu before, but now he has the means to give Zi Qiu a good future. He looks down on Hai Chao for being a simple noodle shop owner. He wants Zi Qiu to think bigger and come abroad with him so he can go to a brand-name university.
Zi Qiu doesn’t want any of that. He tells Zhao to leave him alone. They have nothing to do with each other.
Zi Qiu trails Ling Xiao and Jian Jian, who are trying to trip each other, on the way home. Jian Jian notices Zi Qiu lagging behind and holds out a hand to him with a bright smile, telling him to catch up. He smiles back and the three head home together.
Zi Qiu’s aunt comes into the city to buy supplies for the farm and visits the family with produce from the countryside.
At dinner, Ling Xiao’s phone rings with a call from his mother — but really it’s Mei Yang — but he rejects the call without picking up.
Later, Zi Qiu asks his aunt about his father, claiming that the school was asking about potential hereditary disease. His aunt starts talking about how poor Zhao Hua Guang’s family is. They live in a tiny village near Zi Qiu’s family that doesn’t even have a paved road. But Zhao Hua Guang became rich after marrying into a coal mining family, and now he’s been so generous with his money, having roads paved and building bridges.
Zi Qiu sleeps in Ling Xiao’s room so that his aunt can sleep in his. Jian Jian also tags along, taking the floor, because she doesn’t want to let Zi Qiu and Ling Xiao talk about her behind her back. The boys claim they have no secrets that they can hide from her, but Jian Jian points out that Zi Qiu hasn’t told them what was on his mind earlier that day.
Jian Jian can’t fall asleep. Ling Xiao tells her to count sheep, but she starts counting them out loud. Zi Qiu smiles as he tries to fall asleep, remembering how Jian Jian held out her hand to him earlier that day and refused to let him fall behind.
Ming Yue is dismayed when she tests third in the class again after the first exam. Jian Jian celebrates because she’s also third — third from last. She has always been second from last throughout school, but this time, Tang Can came in last, bumping Jian Jian up. They turn to look at Tang Can, who is crying but surrounded by admirers, and whisper about how fake she is.
Teacher Huang lectures Jian Jian for celebrating her third-to-last score, saying that it’s no different than second-to-last and that Tang Can’s score doesn’t even count because she’s new. He sends Jian Jian to wait outside in the hallway when Tang Can and her mother show up. Jian Jian eavesdrops with rolled eyes as Tang Can’s mother asks to excuse her from class for a few days to shoot a commercial, and Teacher Huang helps make excuses for her score.
After the meeting, Tang Can pouts about the commercial to her mother. She wants to be an actress, not shoot commercials! Besides, she finds it humiliating to come in last place on the exam. But her mother just repeats what Teacher Huang said, then reassures Tang Can that she’ll become a big star one day. Tang Can beams, then frowns when she asks her mother to eat sheng jian bao, but her mother tells her to eat more salad — she’s getting chubby.
Ming Yue goes shopping with her mom, who expresses her disapproval for Tang Can’s mother. She thinks that Tang Can’s mother should focus more on school instead of trying to market her daughter. She asks Ming Yue if Jian Jian’s brothers have agreed to come over for dinner, still impressed by their stellar grades.
Ming Yue gets distracted by a white hoodie on a rack. Her mother criticizes her for liking white, then criticizes her when she looks at a black version, saying she should wear more color. She picks out a pink top for Ming Yue and asks what she thinks. Ming Yue says it’s fine. Her mother criticizes her for being just like her dad, always saying everything is just fine. Ming Yue frowns.
I really enjoy slice-of-life dramas like these that take care to show us slices from everyone’s lives, even the unlikable ones. For example, the women in Ling Xiao’s family. Mei Yang is pushy, but only because her mother is. Chen Ting is pushy, but she also gets it from her own mother, whom she can never please. Still, like Jian Jian, I’m relieved that they are finally gone. For now.
Zi Qiu’s aunt made everyone uncomfortable last episode, but Hai Chao, Zi Qiu, and the rest still treat her with so much respect and warmth in this one. She only ever means well and for me, this is a good reminder that I shouldn’t be too quick to judge people, because I definitely do sometimes.
He Ping always running off to work during important moments should be a meme at this point. But it’s also so emblematic of his role as an absent father.
It’ll be interesting to see how Zi Qiu handles his biological father’s sudden appearance in his life. It seems like Zhao has good intentions, but intentions can only get you so far…