Ming Yue decides to stand up to her mother and manages to reconcile with Jian Jian and Ling Xiao, but she returns home to find Jian Jian and Tang Can still angry with each other. Jian Jian tries to establish some boundaries with Ling Xiao and Zi Qiu.
Ming Yue’s mother tells her she should move back home and study for the civil service exam. Ming Yue immediately says no, using Jian Jian as an excuse for why she has to stay in her apartment. Ming Yue’s mother asks if they’re still going to live together when they all get married. Ming Yue responds that they’ll figure that out when it happens. Ming Yue’s father commends her, saying it’s important for women to have sisterhood. Ming Yue’s mother slams her hand down on the table, annoyed at her husband for taking Ming Yue’s side.
Ming Yue says she’s going to go back to her apartment for the night. Her mother says that’s fine too, then pulls out a thick stack of exam prep books for her to take back with her.
At night, Ming Yue slips into her apartment, trying to be as quiet as possible. She unpacks her bag in her room, and starts flipping through the textbooks her mother gave her, then catches herself and realizes she’s let her mother order her around again. She stuffs the textbooks in a drawer and tells herself that she won’t look at them.
The next morning, Jian Jian sleepily exits her room to find Ling Xiao setting the table for breakfast. He smiles at her. She stares at him, suddenly wide awake as she remembers the kiss from last night. Then she abruptly turns and beelines for the bathroom to hide.
Ming Yue is already in the bathroom, brushing her teeth. At first, Jian Jian is happy to see her, but then she worries that Ming Yue only came back to move out. Ming Yue points out that Jian Jian was the one who wanted her to move back in. Is she ready to move back to her father’s apartment? Jian Jian pauses before nodding. Then she hesitantly asks, “Do I have to move out right now?”
Ming Yue laughs. She reminds Jian Jian that she never asked her to move back to her father’s place. Jian Jian was the only one who said anything about it. Jian Jian smiles. So does that mean Ming Yue is back for good?
Ming Yue says that she thought about it and Jian Jian is right: so what if other people don’t like her? It’s not her fault. Besides, the embarrassment she feels is nothing compared to the awkward situation Jian Jian is in. Based on her observation of Zi Qiu and Ling Xiao, it’s clear that they each have no clue about the other. Jian Jian is basically two-timing right now. Ming Yue looks forward to seeing what will happen. She puts on a teasing smile and leaves the bathroom, but the moment she closes the door behind her, her smile drops.
At breakfast, Ming Yue notices that no one seems to be saying anything. Did something happen while she was gone? Jian Jian gives her a warning look. Ling Xiao starts trying to apologize for the misunderstanding between them, but Ming Yue says he has nothing to apologize for. They don’t know each other that well, so a small misunderstanding like that is no big deal, unlike the three of them, who definitely don’t have any secrets between them.
Jian Jian glares at Ming Yue and steps on her foot. Ming Yue stares back at her and steps her other foot on Jian Jian’s. Jian Jian eventually concedes and pulls her foot away, then changes the subject to ask Zi Qiu if he’s going to see his uncle at the hospital later.
Tang Can wakes up and greets Ming Yue, but glares at Jian Jian, who glares back. They silently feud as they eat their corn cobs while everyone else looks between the two of them.
Jian Jian finds herself thinking about the kiss again as she heads out with Zi Qiu. She pauses and spins around in a circle, telling herself to forget about it. Zi Qiu watches her, bemused. Jian Jian asks him if he would ever force a kiss on her, for example, if he needed to calm her down. He looks offended that she would even ask him that and says of course not. He would just stick her head in the fridge.
She applauds his answer, saying it’s absolutely the correct one. He puts his arm around her neck and asks her about her argument with Tang Can from last night. He advises her to not fight against Tang Can — with Tang Can’s long nails, Jian Jian would definitely lose. Instead, she should combat Tang Can in sneakier ways. Is she ticklish? Jian Jian again applauds Zi Qiu for his advice.
Du Juan and Zhou Miao start promoting Jian Jian online and with traditional media in order to market their studio. But Jian Jian finds the praise exaggerated and doesn’t want to be interviewed. She’s also worried that her mentor, Professor Peng, will be upset. She pulls rank with Zhou Miao and reminds him that she’s the boss and he’s just employee. He wasn’t hired to do any business or marketing work so he should focus on what he was hired to do.
Xi Xi shows up with coffee for Ling Xiao and tries to suss out the progress of his relationship with Jian Jian. She tries to reassure him that she’s not interested in him anymore and swears not to tell anyone else, but he remains close-mouthed and leaves to get lunch.
Ling Xiao invites Ming Yue out to lunch. She feels awkward when given the responsibility of ordering, but he coaches her through it. She’s quick to criticize herself and her inability to do something as simple as order dishes at a restaurant. She gets why Ling Xiao wouldn’t like her. Ling Xiao comments that she still seems to be very critical of herself. But other than her lack of self-confidence, she’s a good person.
Ling Xiao said the same thing back in high school, when Ming Yue first started liking him. She asks him why he doesn’t like her if he thinks she’s a good person. He responds that her being a good person has nothing to do with his not liking her. She looks down and says that means she’s not good enough. He says that he wouldn’t be friends with her if she weren’t good enough.
Ling Xiao still thinks some of the fault is his. He acknowledges that he had ulterior motives for becoming friends with her and used her. When he was in college in Singapore, all of his time outside of class was spent caring for his mother and sister. Sometimes, when things got bad, his only escape was to text Ming Yue and ask how Jian Jian was doing. Ming Yue says that she didn’t mind being used — everything she did, she did willingly.
But just because Ming Yue doesn’t blame Ling Xiao doesn’t mean that he’s not at fault. He still owes her an apology, and he apologizes. She accepts it, then jokes that he should probably thank her as well.
Ling Xiao asks Ming Yue when and why she started liking him. She told him that it was after he told her she was a good person. She thought he was warm and kind to her. But Ling Xiao seems confused that she could have liked him for so long. She barely knew him; she didn’t understand him. Ming Yue claims she does understand him, but Ling Xiao points out that they always only talked about Jian Jian. She never asked him about his life and he never shared anything about it with her. How could she understand him?
Ming Yue says she knew he was having a hard time. Isn’t that enough? But shouldn’t knowing that have made her more curious about understanding more? Ling Xiao suggests that Ming Yue might not have liked him as much as she thought she did. When she found out that he liked Jian Jian, she was mostly ashamed because of the misunderstanding.
Tang Can asks Ming Yue about her conversation with Ling Xiao at home that night. She’s shocked that Ming Yue could give Ling Xiao up that easily. She liked him for nine years! Did she ever actually like him?
Ming Yue admits that she asked herself that question the whole way home. She thinks she’s figured it out: maybe she liked having a crush on him, more than she actually liked him. Having a crush is one-sided and completely within her control. She doesn’t have to make any choices. Thinking about him made her feel happy and comfortable. Tang Can doesn’t understand. How could someone like having a crush? Ming Yue says she doesn’t quite understand herself either.
Tang Can tells Ming Yue that she should date the next half-decent guy who confesses to her. Otherwise her mother is going to drag her back home and make her marry a random guy.
Tang Can sighs that both she and Ming Yue have been met with misfortune. Ming Yue is unlucky in love, and she is unlucky in her career. Jian Jian, on the other hand, has everything going well for her. Pretty soon, they’ll be no match for her anymore. Ming Yue tells her not to say that, but Jian Jian has heard everything from the doorway. All they hear is her slamming the door shut as she leaves instead of going inside.
Jian Jian goes to a nearby coffee shop where she nearly eats a whole cake by herself. Ling Xiao watches from outside with a smile, then knocks gently on the window to get her attention. She bolts upright when she sees him, then tries to hide her face when he comes in.
He sits down across from her and uses his thumb to wipe away some frosting from around her mouth. She asks how he found her, and he tells her that he planned on buying a slice of cake for her. She offers him the rest of her cake and stands up to get him a clean spoon, but he casually uses her spoon and starts eating.
“About last night…” he starts to say, but she quickly interrupts, saying that she didn’t think about it all. He smiles and nods, and she feels the need to emphasize that she really didn’t think about it.
She tells him that he can’t do that again. She points to a pimple near her mouth and blames him for it. He responds that she can’t blame him for that — it’s probably because she doesn’t exercise and has been staying up too late. But she insists on blaming him and he humors her.
Jian Jian keeps tilting her head away from Ling Xiao so she doesn’t have to look at him. But when Ling Xiao mentions that he met up with Ming Yue for lunch, she jumps to attention and asks him for details. He tells her that he cleared things up with Ming Yue. He didn’t want to ruin their relationship.
Jian Jian sighs, telling Ling Xiao that she didn’t think Tang Can would envy her after being friends for so long. She doesn’t think she’s done anything worth envying. Ling Xiao notices her picking at her hands and gently takes them in his own, then says that Tang Can was probably in a bad mood because she has other things going on.
Jian Jian extricates her hands with an awkward smile, then says that she just wants everyone to be well and for there to be world peace. Ling Xiao responds that his wishes are simpler: he just wants his family to be happy and healthy. Jian Jian asks if there’s anything else. He smiles and then says that after getting married to a certain someone, he wants to have two kids.
Jian Jian scoffs at the mention of two kids. Ling Xiao asks how many kids she wants to have. Jian Jian starts to respond, then realizes that she’s talking about having kids with Ling Xiao, and tries to smack him. He dodges away with a laugh. They banter and play fight as she tries to get him and he tries to get her back.
Jian Jian and Du Juan work together on a new sculpture for a client. Du Juan tells Jian Jian that she can do it on her own, but Jian Jian knows that it’s a rush order so it’s more efficient to work together. She asks where Zhou Miao is. Du Juan rattles off his busy schedule, but Jian Jian thinks that most of his meetings are just excuses. Du Juan asks her to be more lenient toward Zhou Miao, but Jian Jian thinks she’s been lenient enough. If not for Du Juan, she would have fired him already.
In the afternoon, Jian Jian takes an interview with a journalist at Zi Qiu’s coffee shop. Two of his employees see her and gossip about how fortunate their family is. They share concerns about the coffee shop going under and gossip about Zi Qiu’s relationship with his “sister.” But they quickly fall silent when Zi Qiu steps out from the kitchen.
The journalist talks to Jian Jian about her “Three Innocents” sculpture — the siblings in the piece seem very close. Are they still that close now? Jian Jian can only smile and laugh awkwardly.
Later, she thinks about that question as she watches Zi Qiu hold a staff meeting and reassure his employees that things are only slow because it’s the off-season. When she asks him about it, he seems unconcerned, but adds that their father introduced him to an Auntie Luo who is going to come and help him assess the business. Neither Zi Qiu nor Jian Jian have heard of an Auntie Luo.
Jian Jian tells Zi Qiu he should focus on his business instead of thinking about nonsense. Even if the money to open the shop came from Zhao Hua Guang, it would be a shame to waste it. Zi Qiu tells her not to mention Zhao Hua Guang again. She adds that Zi Qiu put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into the coffee shop. He should focus on the store and not think about women.
Zi Qiu claims he’s never thought about women. She’s not a woman — she’s just a little girl.
Jian Jian stares at him, then leans in for some serious talk. She tells Zi Qiu that she has thought about a scenario in which they get married. Zi Qiu doesn’t seem to know whether he should smile or not and laughs awkwardly, then looks hopeful.
But then Jian Jian says that it was a complete nightmare. It’s too terrifying to think about. She has ever only viewed him as a brother, the kind of relationship where they could get angry with each other and never speak for years, but still eat at the table for New Years’ and never be able to get rid of each other.
Zi Qiu protests, saying that they can do that when they’re married, too. Jian Jian tries to point out the difference: a brother and sister eat from the same pot, but a husband and wife sleep in the same bed. Zi Qiu tries to say that they slept in the same bed growing up. Jian Jian snaps that she doesn’t mean that kind of sleep. Zi Qiu looks around awkwardly, then hisses at Jian Jian that she’s just a kid — she shouldn’t be thinking about scary things like that.
“I’m 25, not 5,” Jian Jian says to Zi Qiu. She tells him that the person he wants to take care of is the 5-year-old her, the 10-year-old her, the 16-year-old her. But this 25-year-old Jian Jian can take care of not only herself, but also them.
She takes him by the hand and says that formalities don’t matter. They might not be on each other’s legal hukou, but in their hearts, there’s a hukou with their names on it. Isn’t that enough?
Zi Qiu asks what her hukou looks like in her heart. She names her father as head of the household and her mother as his wife, then lists Zi Qiu as the eldest son and herself as eldest daughter. Zi Qiu asks where Ling Xiao is. She says that Ling Xiao has his own separate, but related hukou that lists his father and himself.
Jian Jian takes his hands again and says, “Let’s always be on the same hukou.”
Tang Can tries to self-record an audition video at night, but struggles to remember her lines. She looks up to see Jian Jian and Ming Yue staring at her through her open door. Jian Jian refuses to look at her. Ming Yue acts as their liaison and says that Jian Jian brought home liangpi.
They eat in cold silence, while Ming Yue glances awkwardly between the two feuding friends. She tries to gently kick Jian Jian’s foot, but Jian Jian ignores her. Ming Yue turns to Tang Can instead, and asks why she talked about quitting acting before. Does she want to talk about it? She knows they all support her.
Tang Can ignores her. Ming Yue uses her foot to prod Jian Jian again. Jian Jian glares at her, then unenthusiastically asks Tang Can to share her thoughts.
Tang Can slams her chopsticks down, then admits that she’s been auditioning this whole time, but none of them have been successful. Ming Yue asks why she kept a secret — she and Jian Jian both support her in her acting. Tang Can knows that they support her. They’ve always supported her. Ming Yue smiles and gently pats her on the head, saying that they’ve supported her since high school.
Tang Can looks sad at the mention of high school. Ever since high school, she’s failed all of her auditions. She thinks back to that day when she arrived in the middle of class, crying.
After that day, the girls who used to be her friends started shunning her, calling her a liar, and trash talking her. Ming Yue and Jian Jian would scare them off, without actually acknowledging Tang Can.
Her mother would tell her to forget about her former friends — they were obviously just jealous of her. She mentioned that a Beijing talent management company was interested in her, but didn’t want Tang Can to sign with them. She thought management companies were a scam because they wanted such a large percentage of Tang Can’s earnings, and thought Tang Can was better off being managed by her. Tang Can protested, saying that a management company could promote her, but her mother wouldn’t listen, saying that she could do all that herself, even though it wasn’t quite the same. Then her mother would start lecturing her about why she failed, completely ignoring her tears.
One day, someone slipped some candy onto her desk while her head was down. When she looked up, no one was in sight. Later, as she was leaving school by herself, Jian Jian brushed roughly past her, then laughed at her for having no friends. Ming Yue ran up and took Tang Can’s arm, telling her to ignore Jian Jian — she was just messing around. Jian Jian pulled out some money and invited her out to hotpot. After that, the three of them became the best of friends.
Now, Tang Can says that she felt very moved by their unwavering support, but every time she failed, their unconditional support made her feel bad. The more they encouraged her, the more worthless she felt.
I’m so happy that we’re finally learning more about how Tang Can’s friendship with Ming Yue and Jian Jian started. The montage episode that glossed over the decade between high school and now created a lot more questions than it answered, and we’re finally getting to see some of the memories that fill those gaps in time.
For Jian Jian, this 25th year — or year of the quarter-life crisis, as I like to say — is a year of reckoning for all of her relationships with her friends and family. Part of it is probably because they’re not children or even teenagers anymore and they have the maturity to communicate about their problems. 25 is the age when you’re forced to recognize that you’re fully an adult. It’s terrifying because you’ve only had a few years of “real world” and working experience, so you probably don’t have your life all figured out yet, but everyone else expects that you do.
I’m glad that Jian Jian resolved things with Zi Qiu and I hope it sticks. It became pretty clear that Zi Qiu viewed marriage as a means to an end and something he felt duty-bound to do. But he didn’t really think through what it really meant to be married, other than that it would allow him to be Jian Jian’s legal family forever.
The one thing Zi Qiu has going for him is that he has way more personality than Ling Xiao, who is just serious all the time. Or at least, Steven Zhang is able to give him a lot more nuance and expressiveness than what Ling Xiao gets from Song Weilong. But ick, Zi Qiu gets a -1 for infantilizing Jian Jian. Sure, Ling Xiao sometimes teases Jian Jian and affectionately does things like pat her on the head that he would do when she was a kid, but he at least acknowledges that she’s a woman, not a girl, and has always been very aware of that fact. Zi Qiu may be older than Ling Xiao in age, but maturity-wise he’s always been the younger brother, and it’s so clear now that he still seems like the less mature one, despite also being the most worldly one (at least, in terms of physical miles traveled.)