Jian Jian’s new boyfriend doesn’t seem to be the conman that Zi Qiu and Ling Xiao feared, but they still don’t like him and try to get her to break up with him. Jian Jian gets tired of Zi Qiu and Ling Xiao trying to insert themselves into her perfectly good life, and lashes out at them. Ming Yue’s mother shows up, ruffling not only her daughter’s feathers, but also her roommates’.
Zi Qiu and Ling Xiao sit themselves down next to Ran and Jian Jian. Zi Qiu gets up close and personal in Ran’s face. Ran stares back, confused. Jian Jian makes Zi Qiu switch places with her so that he gives Ran some space. Zi Qiu settles for glaring at Ran from across the table, while Ling Xiao stares at Jian Jian from across her table.
Jian Jian ignores them both while continuing to eat her noodles. When Ran gives her another confused glance, she introduces her brothers to him and him to her brothers. He gets excited when he realizes that he’s meeting her muses.
Jian Jian says that the inspiration she gets from her muses is nothing like his. Her work focuses on the “residual heat” of life, not the wild fervor of life like his work. But he says that there is no conflict in their work. He focuses on the warmth at the surface of life while she’s able to see the ashes that are left behind. He starts analyzing her work, saying that even though it’s beautiful on the surface, it always seems fragile. She responds that beauty is fragile. They continue talking abstractly about art and beauty and seeking perpetual beauty (and how that doesn’t exist) while Zi Qiu and Ling Xiao exchange confused looks.
Ling Xiao interrupts them and comments that it doesn’t seem like they’re meeting for the first time. Ran admits that he saw Jian Jian at the exhibition. Ling Xiao tries to suggest that he only asked her out because of her appearance, but Ran says there’s nothing about Jian Jian that he doesn’t like. Jian Jian agrees, and they smile and giggle at each other while Zi Qiu and Ling Xiao looks disgruntled.
Ran doesn’t stay for dinner, but the family eats together. Zi Qiu and Ling Xiao both criticize Ran, which Jian Jian doesn’t like. Zi Qiu dislikes that Ran flaked on Jian Jian last minute after seeing another woman’s butt, while Ling Xiao tells Jian Jian that Ran only likes her because of her appearance and says that he’s immature for continuing to live off his parents’ money so many years out of college.
Jian Jian puts down her chopsticks, annoyed. Everyone else looks away awkwardly. He Ping tries to get Ling Xiao to let it go, but he doesn’t. He asks if she’s planning on supporting Ran with her artist’s salary. Jian Jian tries to change the subject and tell everyone to eat, but Ling Xiao puts his phone down in front of her and tells her to break up with Ran. She asks if he’s gone crazy. He Ping tells him to speak nicely to his sister. But Ling Xiao repeats himself, telling Jian Jian to break up with Ran. Zi Qiu adds his voice to the mix, saying that he also thinks Jian Jian should break up with Ran.
Jian Jian goes back to being annoyed. Who do they think they are to control her life? Hai Chao tries to smooth things over, telling Jian Jian that her brothers are just trying to look out for her, but Jian Jian exclaims that she’s fine. She’s fine now and she was fine when they weren’t here either. Now that they’re back, it seems like they’re trying to prove their existence, but all they’re doing is disrupting her life.
Ling Xiao and Zi Qiu both look down. Zi Qiu says that he’s doing this for her, but she responds, “Thank you, but I don’t need it.” Her life is good; they should focus on living their own lives.
She tells them that she can find her own dentist and she can go out and buy desserts for herself when she wants. They don’t need to do all of this for her. They aren’t even real siblings and they don’t have any legal ties to one another; they really don’t need to treat her this way.
Hai Chao looks appalled that Jian Jian would say such a thing, but Ling Xiao guesses that she’s wanted to say these words since the day she saw them again. Jian Jian only responds that she didn’t intend to be so blunt, but they pushed her to this point.
Hai Chao tries to smooth things over, telling Ling Xiao not to take Jian Jian’s words to heart. But Ling Xiao abruptly excuses himself and leaves.
Hai Chao lectures Jian Jian for talking about real and not-real siblings. Do all those years growing up together mean nothing? Zi Qiu quietly starts eating. Jian Jian blinks away her tears and starts fiddling with her shirt.
Ling Xiao broods on the bus home, remembering the day from his childhood when his family and Jian Jian’s family officially joined as one. Jian Jian had wanted him to buy her a sweet, but he refused. She sat down on a corner and refused to leave unless he bought it for her. He was similarly stubborn and threatened to leave without her. He started walking away, but then turned back to check on her. The corner was empty. He had run around looking for her and found a couple trying to abduct her. He fought them himself and clung to Jian Jian, yelling for someone to help and refusing to let go even when the adults started hitting him, until the commotion drew onlookers who saved them.
Afterward, Hai Chao had been so grateful toward Ling Xiao and He Ping that he told Jian Jian to recognize He Ping as her godfather. He Ping accepted Jian Jian as his real daughter. Ling Xiao became her real brother, and the two families became one. She and Ling Xiao had kowtowed at each other, delighting their fathers and Auntie Qian, who acted as a witness. Auntie Qian joked that they were betrothed now.
Zi Qiu follows Jian Jian on her way home, keeping pace with her when she speeds up. She turns back to him, annoyed, and asks why he keeps following her. He responds that he wants to say sorry. He didn’t know she hated him so much.
Jian Jian says that she doesn’t hate him, but that she genuinely is doing well in life right now. It’s not like they scarred her when they left. Sure, she might have been a little angry when they didn’t come back as promised, but she also understands why. They don’t owe her anything, so they don’t need to try to make up for anything. Their actions right now make her feel burdened.
“We do owe you,” Zi Qiu says.
Jian Jian tells them that the past is the past. Do they expect her to be the girl she once was, always following them around? Even if they had stayed by her side, she’s a twenty-something now. She can’t follow her brothers around forever.
Zi Qiu doesn’t quite understand what she means. Does she not want them anymore?
“Am I not being clear enough?” Jian Jian responds.
Zi Qiu says that she can be mad at him and she can ignore him, but she can’t disown him.
“What does this have to do with me!” Jian Jian exclaims, exasperated. She tells him to go back to his own home, then turns and leaves. Zi Qiu starts chasing after her. She starts running away.
He Ping and Hai Chao pick vegetables as He Ping says that this is the first time he’s seen Jian Jian be so angry at Zi Qiu and Ling Xiao. Hai Chao says that he missed the first time she was angry: when Zi Qiu and Ling Xiao first announced they were leaving, she got so angry she ran away to her grandmother’s house and refused to answer the boys’ calls. But He Ping thinks that they reconciled after that. He blames Ling Xiao for being too brash today, but also recognizes that Ling Xiao is genuinely worried for Jian Jian.
Hai Chao sighs and says that there’s no way Jian Jian wouldn’t be annoyed with Ling Xiao. He finally came back after so many years and still tries to order her around like she’s a little kid.
He Ping asks Hai Chao what he plans on doing about it. Hai Chao says that there’s nothing to do about the kids’ argument. They’re old enough to have their own opinions and they can sort it out themselves.
But what He Ping is really asking about is what Hai Chao plans on doing about Jian Jian. This is her first boyfriend — Hai Chao isn’t going to do anything about it? Hai Chao pushes back and suggests that maybe He Ping should do something about it if he’s so concerned.
They stare at each other for a moment, then He Ping abruptly changes the subject and asks Hai Chao what he plans on doing with the beans they’re picking. Hai Chao tells him to just focus on picking his beans. He Ping obediently listens.
Ling Xiao stays up at night, reading a picture book.
Ming Yue gets woken up the next morning by the doorbell. It’s Zi Qiu, who has a bag of groceries in hand and is here to make breakfast for Jian Jian.
While he cooks, Ming Yue cautiously makes sure that he hasn’t told Ling Xiao her secret. He reassures her that he hasn’t. She smiles, glad, because she’s looking forward to being in ambiguous, not-quite-friendship but not-quite-love relationship with him. Zi Qiu is surprised that they have that kind of relationship. Ming Yue quickly tries to muffle him so that no one hears.
Tang Can catches them struggling and misinterprets it as flirtation. She teases them and says she’ll leave them to it.
When Jian Jian wakes up, she smiles to see bread on the table, then her smile drops when she sees Zi Qiu. Zi Qiu also frowns. Jian Jian quickly makes an excuse to go to the bathroom. Zi Qiu also excuses himself and leaves. He sees Jian Jian hiding by the bathroom door on his way out.
Ming Yue and Tang Can chat about Jian Jian’s brothers’ reaction to her relationship over breakfast. Tang Can thinks they were overreacting. Ming Yue thinks they were justified. They ask Jian Jian about what it’s like to turn her internet relationship into a real one. Jian Jian says they have a lot to talk about, but when Ming Yue asks if her heart beats faster when she sees him or if she was worried that her father wouldn’t like him, she doesn’t immediately have a response.
To Ming Yue, that’s proof that Jian Jian doesn’t actually like Ran. Tang Can and Ming Yue start talking about how they had long suspected Jian Jian doesn’t know the difference between friends and lovers. They think she has eyes only for her wood. They start waxing poetic about what being in love should feel like and giggle together. Jian Jian interrupts them, saying that a good relationship doesn’t need to be earth-shattering. Her parents met on a blind date and found themselves compatible. She thinks that she and Ran can work on their feelings for each other. Besides, she heard that dating can help spark inspiration, and she’s been lacking inspiration lately.
Ming Yue latches onto that last bit. So Jian Jian is dating just to find inspiration?
The doorbell rings again. Thinking that it’s Ling Xiao, Ming Yue hops up and volunteers to answer the door. But instead of Ling Xiao, she finds her mother.
Ming Yue’s mother comes bearing heavy bags of food and cleans the apartment for them. All three roommates force smiles and are on their best behavior with her around.
While cleaning Ming Yue’s room, her mother continues to criticize her. At one point, she notices that Ming Yue has pink clothes and criticizes her choice of color. When Ming Yue points out that she was the one who made her buy pink clothes in high school, she denies it. Ming Yue finally asks her mother to stop negating her. Her mother responds by saying that she’s just looking out for her and that she’s being ungrateful.
Jian Jian tries to stop Ming Yue’s mother from cleaning her studio. Ming Yue’s mother just turns to her pityingly and says that she’s never experienced a mother’s care. Since she and Ming Yue are so close, Ming Yue’s mother is willing to be her mother, too. Jian Jian forces a smile and says that it’s really not that tragic — her father has been both a mother and father to her. But Ming Yue’s mother just shakes her head sadly and says that she doesn’t even know the difference.
Next, Ming Yue’s mother tries to clean Tang Can’s room, but gives up after looking at the state of her closet and the general clutter in her room. Still, she finds time to lecture Tang Can on spending too much money on clothes and makeup. She should be focusing on her education. Tang Can responds that all her clothes are for work. Ming Yue’s mother just laughs at what Tang Can calls “work” — isn’t she just scamming people by pretending to be someone she’s not? She used to be a star when she was little — why doesn’t she go be a star now? Tang Can forces a smile and doesn’t respond.
Ming Yue walks her mother out and tries to broach the subject of moving to Beijing — her TV station is planning on stationing some reporters there. But her mother immediately says no. Beijing is too far. Ming Yue gently tries to push back, saying it’s just for two years, but her mother is adamant. By the time she comes back, she’ll be 27. How does she plan on finding a husband? When will she have kids? Ming Yue tries to say that these things can’t be forced, but her mother says that she must have a plan.
Jian Jian tells Tang Can that she’s heading out. Tang Can doesn’t respond at first, then responds quietly when Jian Jian repeats herself. Jian Jian leaves without thinking much of it, but Tang Can cries quietly in her room.
Ling Xiao fills out an employee form and lingers on the “marital status” box on the form, his mind flashing back to how Jian Jian had bluntly said that he and Zi Qiu had no legal ties to her. Xi Xi shows up and snatches the form out of his hand to take a peek. She notices that he listed another sister who also has a different surname and asks him about it, but Ling Xiao is in no mood to chat and instead takes the form back and leaves with it.
He Ping gets a surprise call from Chen Ting. They don’t chat for long before He Ping realizes that Chen Ting has no idea what Ling Xiao has been up to.
At night, he rants to Hai Chao about what happened. The gist of Chen Ting’s phone call was to ask him to tell Ling Xiao to hurry home. He Ping is annoyed that Ling Xiao hasn’t told him anything, but Hai Chao tells him not to blame Ling Xiao. They all know what Chen Ting’s temper is like.
He Ping laments that in the end it’s the child who suffers for the trouble caused by adults. Hai Chao says it’s a little too late for him to realize that now. He also tells He Ping that he needs to sit Ling Xiao down and talk about it. He Ping doesn’t know how to talk to Ling Xiao anymore, and asks Hai Chao for help, but Hai Chao says he can’t be involved in this matter.
Zi Qiu returns home to find Ling Xiao drifting off on the couch in front of the TV. He asks Ling Xiao if he talked to Jian Jian today. Ling Xiao hasn’t. Zi Qiu tells him that as brothers, they have to be more thick-skinned. After all, they’re the ones who owe her.
Ling Xiao notices that Zi Qiu is wearing his clothes and has worn his shoes. Zi Qiu tries to act like he didn’t even realize the clothes were Ling Xiao’s, then switches tactics and brings up how they shared clothes all the time when they were younger. Ling Xiao says it’s fine — the only shoes he isn’t allowed to wear are the ones Jian Jian gave him. Zi Qiu says the same.
Jian Jian returns home to find cherries on the table — courtesy of Zi Qiu — and Tang Can typing furiously at her laptop. Tang Can rants about how one of her clients not only didn’t thank her for treating her son to games and KFC, but also left her an average review, saying she disrupted his homework time. Jian Jian seems to agree with the client and points out that she hired Tang Can to attend the parent-teacher conference for her, not to take him out to play. They start arguing and Tang Can accuses Jian Jian of not having any empathy. Jian Jian responds that she’s covered six months’ rent for the apartment for all of them — how does she have no empathy?
Jian Jian storms into her room. Tang Can wonders if she’s on her period, then ignores a call from her dad.
The next morning, Jian Jian wakes up to breakfast on the table and Ming Yue telling her that Zi Qiu came at 6 AM today to make her breakfast and then slip out so that she wouldn’t have to see him. Jian Jian walks sleepily to the bathroom, groaning as Ming Yue reminds her that she needs to hurry up because she has another dentist appointment later in the morning.
At the dentist office, Jian Jian is surprised when the nurse leads her past Ling Xiao’s exam room and to a different one. Xi Xi is the dentist attending her today, and curiously asks Jian Jian several questions about Ling Xiao’s mother and sister. Jian Jian gives lukewarm responses, then manages to stop the flow of questions by telling Xi Xi that she’s in a bit of a hurry.
On her way out of the office, Jian Jian ducks to one side of the hallway when the door to Ling Xiao’s exam room opens. A nurse and patient walk out. She peeks into the open doorway and spies on Ling Xiao for a bit. He turns and they make eye contact. She smiles awkwardly and starts to acknowledge him, but then he turns away, ignoring her. She glares at him and stalks off. Once she’s gone, he turns back to glance at the empty doorway.
Ran visits Jian Jian at her studio, where one of her employees gushes over him and Du Juan remarks that he looks nothing like what she expected based on his social media. Ran is surprised that his social media gives off such a different vibe — now he understands why Jian Jian’s brothers had such an exaggerated reaction the other day. Du Juan is surprised that Jian Jian has brothers. Jian Jian hastily explains that they’re just boys she grew up with and that she was once almost kidnapped as a child so that’s why they get worried easily.
Du Juan asks whether her brothers have biological siblings. Jian Jian doesn’t like where her questions are going and quickly changes the subject, saying that she’s hungry and offering to take them all out to eat.
Jian Jian seemed to hit the nail on the head when she asked Zi Qiu if he wanted her to turn back into the little follower she once was as a little girl. Both he and Ling Xiao seem to want her to be the person she used to be, the little girl who needed them. Their memories of her seem to have been a grounding force in their own lives. Jian Jian also seemed to get it right when she told them to just live their own lives instead of trying to insert themselves into hers. It’s very clear that they are almost frozen in place — they have jobs and businesses, but emotionally seem stuck — and unable to live their lives for themselves. Jian Jian moved on, but they never did.
I feel for Jian Jian and her frustration with the way her brothers treat her. I’m biased toward Ling Xiao, as the show seems to want us to be, but the way he treats her is so infuriating. I talked a bit a few episodes back about how Zi Qiu hasn’t changed at all, but Ling Xiao hasn’t either. He still wants Jian Jian to be the little kid who adored him, but she’s not. Zi Qiu also hasn’t changed, but his way of treating Jian Jian the same is to silently look after her and do things for her, even when she doesn’t acknowledge him or appreciate it.