“Patience” is the word of this episode. Jian Jian comes to the realization this episode that patience is the key to entering the adult world, and all of the kids this episode experience that for themselves.
Ming Yue and her father meet her mother for lunch and to confront her about the condo purchase. Ming Yue’s father is displeased that her mother is spending their retirement savings on a second property. Ming Yue’s mother finds nothing wrong with her decision. She thinks that women in this day and age need their own house in order to be secure. Ming Yue tries to insist that she doesn’t need her own house right now. Her mother says she’s doing this for Ming Yue’s good — she’s trying remove the biggest source of pressure in her life right now.
Ming Yue starts to say, “The biggest source of pressure in my pressure is–” but she’s unable to finish her sentence and her parents continue to talk over her. Her father insists that this is a matter he can’t be swayed on. Her mother says that she also won’t budge on the condo purchase. If he doesn’t want to buy it, then they can get a divorce.
Ming Yue tries to talk her parents down, alarmed at how the situation has escalated, but her father stands up and says that if her mother must buy the house, then they can get divorced. He leaves.
Ming Yue tells her mother that she can’t just bring up divorce so casually, but her mother scoffs. She’s spent a lifetime with her husband and knows what he’s like. If he really wants to get divorced, then she’ll go to the courthouse with him. She asks Ming Yue where her papers are, then starts scolding her again when she says that she forgot.
Tang Can eats with her parents. Her father tries to repair the relationship between mother and daughter. Tang Can puts some food in her mother’s bowl. Her mother returns the favor and manages to say some nice things to her. Tang Can’s father shares how his friend — Tang Can’s new boss — has had nothing but good things to say about her.
Tang Can’s mother still manages to say some things that sound like backhanded compliments — like how now she’ll finally be able to tell other people what Tang Can does without feeling embarrassed. But overall her tone is improved from the last few times they’ve talked. She admits that Tang Can doesn’t need to be a big star; she’s already made enough money to give her parents a good life.
A teacher Tang Can interacted with on one of her past jobs shows up and recognizes her as his student’s “mother.” Tang Can’s mother facepalms while Tang Can tries to hide her face and tell him that he’s got the wrong person. After her father chases him off, she reassures her mother that she’s closed her store. Things will be different from now on. Her mother agrees to give her a fresh start.
Du Juan and Zhou Miao bicker in the studio — he went out on a group date with some of his friends and didn’t tell her — while Jian Jian works on a sculpture, pretending she’s not paying attention. After Du Juan gets Zhou Miao to leave her alone, Jian Jian pointedly quotes a character from a game, saying, “Trash should stay in the trash can.” Both Zhou Miao and Du Juan know exactly what she’s trying to say, though she tries to play innocent.
Mei Yang drops by Zi Qiu’s coffee shop, on orders from her mother to pick up the cake he made. Zi Qiu says there’s no need for her to pick it up, but she insists. He also refuses payment, but Mei Yang claims her mother told her to pay whatever she wanted if Zi Qiu wouldn’t accept money. She slaps several hundred-yuan bills down on the register and leaves. Zi Qiu fumes.
Chen Ting insists on holding Ling Xiao’s birthday dinner at a private room at a restaurant instead, breaking the Li family’s tradition of having every birthday dinner cooked by Hai Chao. The atmosphere is decidedly awkward. Chen Ting chats blithely while everyone else looks bored and uncomfortable. Hai Chao is the only one who bothers trying to respond to her. She and He Ping trade falsely-polite barbs.
Jian Jian gets a text from Zi Qiu saying he can’t make it anymore, his excuse being that he has to work at his second job. Mei Yang already retrieved the cake that he made, and reassures Ling Xiao that she paid for it. Everyone else looks surprised and uncomfortable at the mention of money. Chen Ting freely admits that she insisted they pay for the cake, saying that running a business isn’t easy. No one looks happy with her choice.
Chen Ting asks Ling Xiao to help her up — he does so without smiling — then insists on toasting Hai Chao. She tells him that she recognizes all his hard work over the years and manages to insult He Ping at the same time. Hai Chao laughs awkwardly at the praise and says that he’s always treated Ling Xiao like a sign. Chen Ting pointedly says that he may treat Ling Xiao like a son, but Ling Xiao isn’t his real son.
Chen Ting decides to toast He Ping next in a very passive-aggressive speech where she maintains a smile and tries to be self-deprecating while pointedly tearing down He Ping at the same time. Ling Xiao looks frustrated.
Chen Ting puts her arms on Ling Xiao’s shoulders and wishes him a happy birthday, but no one, including him, looks happy.
Jian Jian runs into Mei Yang in the bathroom. Mei Yang asks if she and Ling Xiao are dating. Jian Jian responds that they are, but Mei Yang says that it doesn’t matter, because her mother doesn’t like her. She can see it. Jian Jian acts like she doesn’t care. Mei Yang says that she doesn’t like her either and doesn’t want her to be her sister-in-law. Jian Jian continues to act blithely, saying she doesn’t like Mei Yang that much either. Mei Yang glares, frustrated that she hasn’t managed to bother Jian Jian, and stomps off.
After Ling Xiao leaves with his mother and sister, He Ping starts ranting about what she said. Why is she acting like she’s Ling Xiao’s only family, and the rest of them were just raising him for her? Hai Chao sends him off to go fetch the car, wanting to give Jian Jian a ride home. After they’re alone, he asks Jian Jian about Chen Ting — didn’t she say Chen Ting was good to her before? Jian Jian corrects him — Chen Ting was very polite to her before. Hai Chao smiles a little sadly. Is politeness the same as being good? Instead of answering, Jian Jian makes an excuse to head home early and goes to flag down a cab.
Chen Ting tells Ling Xiao that his uncle will pick up her and Mei Yang the next morning to go back to their hometown for a visit. She’ll be out of his hair soon. Ling Xiao pointedly asks when they plan on going back to Singapore. He’ll book their flights for them. Chen Ting doesn’t give him an answer, instead saying that her trip home will probably be quite long this time. Ling Xiao says he’ll book their flights for the next week.
Mei Yang tries to peer at what Ling Xiao is doing on his phone, asking if he’s really in that much of a hurry to get rid of them. Ling Xiao responds that he’s texting Zi Qiu. Mei Yang pouts.
Ling Xiao says that Chen Ting shouldn’t have given Zi Qiu money. Chen Ting repeats her excuse of business being difficult and not wanting to burden others. Ling Xiao frowns and sighs.
He returns home to a dark apartment, but suddenly a flame glows as Zi Qiu lights a candle. He and Jian Jian beam at Ling Xiao, exclaiming, “Surprise!” They tell Ling Xiao to make his three wishes — Zi Qiu jokes that the first wish has to be that he’ll get rich — and sing happy birthday as they pull him over to the dining table. They manage to joke about dinner with Chen Ting and the money Mei Yang gave Zi Qiu, and for once, Ling Xiao looks genuinely happy.
Narrator Jian Jian says that she felt a moment of clarity and realized she’d entered the world of adults like her father. The key to entering that world? Patience.
Tang Can lectures Ming Yue on her relationship with her mother. She can’t keep avoiding the problems forever — she either has to surrender, or fight back. Ming Yue thinks that she has fought back by not giving her mother the hukou paper she wanted, but Tang Can says that she’s just avoiding the problem. Has she submitted her Beijing application yet? Ming Yue makes excuses for why she hasn’t yet.
But she also calls Tang Can out for always talking about opposing her parents, but in the end she’s the one who surrendered and is doing what they wanted. Tang Can corrects her: she didn’t surrender to her parents, she surrendered to her fate. And, since she surrendered, everything in her life has gone so smoothly.
They both turn to Jian Jian, concerned, because she’s hunched over on the couch and largely unresponsive. Jian Jian grumbles that Chen Ting’s food is indeed difficult to digest, and rushes to the bathroom again.
Hai Chao makes some handmade fish balls for Dong Dong and brings them over to her beauty shop. They sit for tea, He Mei sensing that there’s something Hai Chao wants to say to her, though he claims his only reason for visiting was the deliver the food. Hai Chao starts off awkwardly, saying that he hasn’t been able to eat or sleep the past couple of days because of her, then realizes how his words might sound and ends up fumbling around trying to correct himself.
He tries starting over and says that when they were young and dating, they didn’t communicate much and thus didn’t understand each other very well. All these years, he always thought she was selfish but candid, but now that he’s thought about it more, he’s realized that she’s never said a word of truth. He calls out all the contradictions in her that he can’t figure out. If she really cared about Zi Qiu, then she shouldn’t have abandoned him. But if she were actually a selfish person, she should try to get Zi Qiu back instead of pushing him away, and she wouldn’t be caring so much for Dong Dong, a stranger’s kid.
That’s why he’s here today. He wants He Mei to give him an explanation and to tell him the truth for once.
Zi Qiu visits his uncle at the hospital. His aunt lingers as she sees him off and brings up his mother. Zi Qiu tries to act casual, like the subject of his mother doesn’t trigger him, but his aunt seems upset to realize that he actually took her words to heart and “forgot” about his mother when she told him to in high school. She starts tearing up as she starts trying to explain He Mei to Zi Qiu, saying that she actually is quite pitiful. She never cried, but when He Lan went to see her in jail after she left Zi Qiu, her eyes were red and swollen. She wrote so many letters to him but was too scared to send any of them.
Zi Qiu latches onto the word “jail.” When was his mother in jail? He Lan realizes that she’s said too much and starts to leave, but Zi Qiu stops her, asking her to explain what she meant.
He Mei tells Hai Chao the truth: that she was imprisoned for four years after accidentally killing a client in Shenzhen, only a couple of months after she had moved there. The woman had been irate at one of He Mei’s coworkers after experiencing an allergic reaction. He Mei stepped in to prevent the woman from physically assailing her coworker, but accidentally pushed the woman over. The woman fell, hit her head on the concrete stairs, and died.
He Mei told He Lan, who helped her deliver a letter full of lies to Hai Chao, asking him to take Zi Qiu. Hai Chao asks why she hid the truth. She asks if he would still have taken in Zi Qiu if he knew the truth. He earnestly says yes. She smiles sadly, then says that she did it purely for Zi Qiu.
Zi Qiu has never done anything wrong. It’s not his fault that he was born without a father and that his mother was imprisoned for killing someone. It’s one thing if she has to suffer, but why should Zi Qiu have to suffer with her? It would be better for him if she cut him off completely. Then Hai Chao could raise him without guilt, and he would more easily be able to establish roots in his family. It would be better if she never existed.
Hai Chao looks devastated. So all the words that He Lan said to Zi Qiu when he was in high school — that was only because He Mei asked her to? Did she really think that it would be good for Zi Qiu to forget her and act like she never existed? He Mei cries and says that she knows it wasn’t good for him, but it was the best she could do for him. She did it so that Hai Chao could raise him with peace of mind, knowing that he wasn’t wasting his efforts raising him.
Hai Chao says that he has never raised his children for his own peace of mind. He only wants them to be happy and healthy — even his own daughter. Other people have told him how he raised Zi Qiu so well, but only he knows that there’s a piece of Zi Qiu’s heart that’s missing. He knows that no matter what he does, he can’t patch up that hole. Only He Mei can.
He Mei shakes her head, saying what’s missing is missing and can never be given back. The only thing she can do for him now is to not bother him anymore. Hai Chao also sighs and shakes his head, saying he’s finally figured out who Zi Qiu is like, always trying to do everything himself and carry all his burdens himself. Today, it’s clear to him that he never understood her.
He Mei almost looks hopeful, asking if Zi Qiu is still like her. Hai Chao tells her that if she really feels like she owes Zi Qiu, she should try to make it up to him, little by little. What she can do for him, she should.
He Mei looks at Hai Chao with a teary smile, saying he really is a good person. If Zi Qiu had gone to a different family… Hai Chao says that other families are other families, this family is his. Zi Qiu has a right to know.
He goes to pick up his phone. He Mei puts her hand out to stop him. He gently takes her hand away, but before he can call Zi Qiu, he gets a call from He Lan.
Zi Qiu walks along the waterfront and is suddenly struck by a memory of walking along the same waterfront park with his mother. He had promised her that when he grew up, he would buy her whatever she wanted. She had said that all she wanted from Zi Qiu was for him to be healthy, well-behaved, and to not become a bad person. That was enough for her.
Now, Zi Qiu cries at the memory.
This episode has to be one of my favorites of the show so far.
Every time Hai Chao expresses how deeply he feels his children’s sorrow, I cry.
That Chen Ting and He Mei — and, by extension, Ling Xiao and Zi Qiu — are foils for each other is all the more clear now. They’re two sides of the same coin. Their exact situations aren’t the same and there’s a ton of nuance that comes with their unique circumstances, but in the end it’s clear that they’re just two very different people and that makes all the difference. Chen Ting and He Mei say the same things, that they don’t want to burden their children, but the intent and heart behind their words are so different. Chen Ting seems to display the selfish characteristics that Hai Chao said He Mei should display if she were really selfish; her claims that she doesn’t want to burden Ling Xiao seem manipulative with their hypocrisy. But He Mei seems to genuinely believe in her words. She’s just misguided in knowing exactly how she is a burden to Zi Qiu.
Ling Xiao may be pretty and get the girl, but Zi Qiu has the best story by far.