Jian Jian deals with the fall-out of being falsely-accused of copying artwork. Mei Yang reveals more of the truth behind Ling Xiao’s fraught years in Singapore. Ming Yue tries to patch things up with her mother. Tang Can and Zhuang Bei provide the one bright spot this episode as he tries to push her to revive her acting aspirations.
Ling Xiao pulls Jian Jian out of his apartment and into hers, then immediately hugs her. He apologizes. She tries to tell him that it really wasn’t because of his mother, but he just says that he doesn’t like it when his mother and Jian Jian interact. If Jian Jian ever sees her, she should run as far away as possible.
Jian Jian ruefully says that Chen Ting will probably hate her even more now. She was originally hoping she could win Chen Ting over with courtesy. But Ling Xiao says that if Chen Ting wants to be treated like an elder, she must first act like one. Jian Jian pats him gently on the back, but says they can’t be like that toward her — she’s his mother, after all.
Ling Xiao’s aunt tries to comfort Chen Ting, who cries and says that she really wanted to make things up to Ling Xiao this time. She knows that she wasn’t with him when he was younger and needed her most, but that’s why she’s trying to hard now to be with him and to help him. Ling Xiao’s aunt tries to reason with Chen Ting, saying that no matter how much she dislikes Ling Xiao’s girlfriend, she can’t act like that with her. But the aunt also thinks that Chen Ting is justified in disliking Jian Jian, believing that Jian Jian had tattled on Chen Ting to Ling Xiao.
Ling Xiao’s aunt shakes her head. If Jian Jian and Ling Xiao end up married, then it really was a waste for her to raise him. (I mean… it’s not like Chen Ting did any raising, so… not a loss.)
Ming Yue goes to her mother’s workplace to talk to her. Yu Xiang doesn’t want to talk, saying that Ming Yue and her father can do what they want, but then Ming Yue yells at her retreating back, “I was wrong!” She admits that she was wrong to purposely flunk the gaokao just to spite her mother and regrets it.
Her mother finally turns back around to acknowledge her and demands to know if Ming Yue really thought she wouldn’t let her go to one of the top universities in Beijing had she scored high enough to get in. Ming Yue emphasizes how much she regrets not choosing differently. She wishes she had gone to a better school. If she could go back in time and slap herself, she would.
Ming Yue’s mother raises her own hand and says she will now — but then she slaps her own face. Ming Yue cries and hugs her mother, asking why she’s hitting herself. Yu Xiang cries, too, asking why Ming Yue and her father hate her so much. What did she do wrong? She spent most of her life living for them, how can they just say they don’t want her anymore and abandon her?
Ming Yue asks if her mother will not want her anymore if she goes to Beijing for work. Yu Xiang continues to cry, thinking that Ming Yue only wants to go to Beijing to get away from her. Ming Yue admits that she initially felt that way, but now she wants to go for herself. She wants to be a journalist. It’s her dream.
Jian Jian tells Ling Xiao how Yu Fei, the senior classmate who implied she copied him, had actually copied her idea. He had come to visit her studio when she first opened, and saw her initial sketches in her sketchbook. Jian Jian’s sculpture was based on a photo Ming Yue took of her, Ling Xiao, and Zi Qiu in high school, but Jian Jian buried her copy in a time capsule that’s now beneath a high-rise building. She asks Ling Xiao if he still has his, but he claims he doesn’t know where it is. He suggests that they can ask Zi Qiu, who tends to be pretty good at holding onto things. It’ll be good for Jian Jian to get out of the house and go outside as well.
Ling Xiao and Jian Jian arrive at Zi Qiu’s coffee shop and smile to see Mei Yang acting very professional as the cashier. Mei Yang acts like it’s not a big deal and pretends to act disgruntled when Jian Jian asks her to personally whip up some orange juice for them, but it’s clear that she’s proud of her job.
Zi Qiu tells Ling Xiao and Jian Jian that he moved out of Zhao Hua Guang’s place so suddenly that he’s not sure what happened to the things he left behind. Mei Yang overhears as she drops off the glasses of orange juice and suggests that Zi Qiu should just call and ask. They tell her to go back to work, but then she overhears Zi Qiu suggesting Ling Xiao try looking through his things again for his photo album, and turns back.
She knows exactly what happened to the photo album: Chen Ting cut it to shreds three years ago when she went crazy. It’s a good thing Mei Yang hid Ling Xiao’s official documents otherwise those would probably be in shreds, too. Mei Yang tells Ling Xiao that he should come clean with them about everything that happened instead of trying to hide it. They should be prepared for what could happen the next time Chen Ting goes crazy. Mei Yang sits down next to Zi Qiu and says that if Ling Xiao won’t tell them, then she will.
When Ling Xiao was about to graduate, their mother was healthy and mostly independent. But when Ling Xiao mentioned wanting to look for a job back in China, she started claiming that she wasn’t doing well. What if something happened to her? Or to Mei Yang? She started yelling about He Ping trying to steal Ling Xiao from her. Ling Xiao said he was just trying to discuss the matter with her, but she said there was no need for discussion. She won’t allow it. Mei Yang had also begged Ling Xiao not to leave, afraid of being left alone with Chen Ting.
One night, Chen Ting caught Ling Xiao looking at his photo album. When she asked if she could look too, he claimed he wanted to go to bed and asked her to knock next time she wanted to come in. When she left his room, he locked the door behind her.
Ling Xiao came home the next day to find that Chen Ting had thrown out the sneakers Jian Jian gave him and was in the process of cutting all of his photos to pieces. She claimed that he was going to see them soon so there was no point in keeping photos. They had probably badmouthed her behind her back for so long. Why should she keep photos of people who insult her? She started talking again about how she never wanted to be a burden — she should’ve just died alongside Mei Yang’s father. She yelled for Ling Xiao to leave.
He said he understood — he wouldn’t leave. Then he left to go look for his sneakers. Mei Yang rushed after him and told him that she had secretly grabbed the sneakers and hid them in her backpack. He stormed to the stairwell and held the door closed so he could cry, while Mei Yang frantically tried to open it and asked if he was okay.
Now, Mei Yang hides in the kitchen, where Zi Qiu finds her. She asks him if Jian Jian and Ling Xiao have left yet. Zi Qiu tells her that tone is important when showing concern for someone. She’s someone who is soft-hearted, but sharp-tongued. Mei Yang sighs that it doesn’t matter. She knows that they hate her.
Zi Qiu asks who “they” are. Jian Jian and Ling Xiao? Mei Yang thinks that Ling Xiao only stayed because she begged him to, because she was too afraid of being alone with her mother. After that, he stopped smiling and was never in a good mood. She knew how much her brother wanted to come back.
Zi Qiu sits down next to Mei Yang and says that it was reasonable for her to be afraid. After all, she’s just a kid. Mei Yang retorts that she was already 14 at that time. She frowns; she doesn’t want to be like her mother, yet how is she any different with the things she does? Zi Qiu says that the difference is that she was 14, not a 50-year-old woman. As a 14-year-old, she can be forgiven for clinging to Ling Xiao. She’s still a dependent. Besides, if she is a large part of the reason why Ling Xiao didn’t come back, then doesn’t that show he cares about her?
Mei Yang acknowledges what Zi Qiu said, but still thinks Jian Jian hates her. Her whole family probably hates her and her mother and has been badmouthing them ever since they came back. Zi Qiu stops her. Where did she hear that from? From her mother? As a 17-year-old, shouldn’t she be able to think for herself? But Mei Yang thinks it’s still true, especially after the way she treated Jian Jian when she was younger.
Zi Qiu laughs — is Mei Yang talking about how she lied and accused Jian Jian of pushing her when she fell? Is that what she’s hung up on? It happened so long ago, he’s sure Jian Jian has forgotten all about it. She’s not a child holding a grudge anymore. He guesses that the real reason Mei Yang thinks Jian Jian hates her is because she feels guilty toward Jian Jian. He suggests that Mei Yang should just apologize. Mei Yang doesn’t want to — Jian Jian will probably laugh at her — but Zi Qiu points out that even though she says she doesn’t want to be like her mother, her thought process is very much like Chen Ting’s. She’s always thinking the worst of people.
Mei Yang doesn’t respond, because she knows he’s right. Zi Qiu says he’ll give her ten more minutes to herself before she needs to get back to work. He tells her to hurry up and enter the grown-up world.
Zi Qiu unblocks Zhao Hua Guang’s number and gives him a call. The phone rings for so long, he almost hangs up, but then Zhao picks up, sounding tired. Zi Qiu is all business, asking Zhao if he still has his old things, then asking if he can take a photo of the belongings that are left. He also asks for Zhao’s account number so he can return the money. Zhao tells Zi Qiu that his grandfather has lung cancer and doesn’t have many months to live. His grandfather wants to see his grandchildren and Zhao asks if Zi Qiu can go see him. Zi Qiu doesn’t want to, but Zhao negotiates, saying that he’ll send over the pictures Zi Qiu wants if Zi Qiu visits his grandfather a few times.
Zhuang Bei waits outside Tang Can’s workplace in his car, wanting to invite her out to dinner as thanks for her help with his mother. Tang Can is ready to turn down dinner, but is won over when Zhuang Bei pulls out a pair of early viewing tickets for a play. She hops in the car and insists that she be the one to take him out to dinner, and suggests a seafood spot.
At dinner, Tang Can chatters happily about how plays are so different from movies. Zhuang Bei smiles at her enthusiasm and points out that whenever she talks about performing, there’s a light in her eyes, but whenever she talks about her museum job, she turns gloomy. He’s noticed that her family always talks about her being a celebrity, not being an actor. He has friends who act who are happy playing small roles in shows that never get really popular, but they’re still happy because they’re doing what they’re passionate about.
Tang Can says that in her mother’s mind, being a celebrity and being an actor are equivalent. But Tang Can never wanted to be an actor for the celebrity. She just loves the feeling of having the camera, light, and audience focused on her. She feels energized. Zhuang Bei suggests that maybe she should try out for plays. Tang Can is quick to reject the idea. The standard for stage actors is way higher than TV actors. There’s no way she could do it. She probably wouldn’t even make it as an extra.
Zhuang Bei thinks she has the wrong mentality, but Tang Can frowns. It took a lot of effort for her to convince herself to drop acting, and now he’s trying to push her back toward it again? Her mother would kill her if she found out.
Ran calls Jian Jian, angry on her behalf. He doesn’t know what compelled Yu Fei to do this to Jian Jian, but says that he won’t collaborate with him anymore. He also tells Jian Jian to not read the online forums but it’s too late, she already has. She gives him one word answers, but he tries to cheer her up by saying that she should focus on finding the original photo and he’ll work on digging up dirt on Yu Fei. They can come at him from both sides. It works. Jian Jian is ready to fight.
But then she gets a call from Du Juan, asking if she’s found the photo yet. Du Juan has gotten tons of texts from classmates who all seem to believe Yu Fei. Jian Jian deflates again after hanging up. Ling Xiao offers to take her out for an ice cream sundae, which coaxes a smile out of her.
After the play, Tang Can gushes about how great their seats were. They must have been expensive and she would never buy them for herself, but she could appreciate the play so much better. Zhuang Bei says that as long as she enjoyed it, then it was worth it. Tang Can asks suspiciously why he’s being so nice to her — is he hoping she’ll help him reconcile with Ming Yue? Zhuang Bei claims that he’s lost interest in Ming Yue a long time ago. Tang Can doesn’t believe him.
She talks about how liking someone based on looks is unreliable. All it takes is interacting with them once or twice to realize that there’s nothing there. Zhuang Bei teases her, asking if she’s talking about him or herself. She responds that she’s talking about the two of them. All it took was a few conversations and now she knows that she would never be able to like him again.
That’s not what Zhuang Bei wants to hear, but he acts like it doesn’t bother him. Tang Can says that he’s like a brother now.
Zhuang Bei gets a call from a director friend of his, who is watching a rehearsal nearby and wants to meet up. Tang Can tries to leave, but Zhuang Bei insists on bringing her with him. They slip into the auditorium in the middle of the rehearsal. Tang Can watches avidly while they wait for the rehearsal to end so Zhuang Bei can chat with his friend.
After the rehearsal, Zhuang Bei’s friend suggest they go to a coffee shop. Tang Can tries to leave again, but Zhuang Bei insists she stay, wanting to introduce her to his friend. She looks alarmed — is Zhuang Bei trying to set her up? He gives her an extremely confused look in response.
Zhuang Bei’s friend explains the premise of his new play to Zhuang Bei and Tang Can. The play features a love square, where each character likes someone else, but none of them get love in the end. One of the lead female actress’s broke her leg and they need to find a substitute for her. He thinks Tang Can’s look fits the role perfectly.
Zhuang Bei starts hyping up Tang Can to his friend, talking about how she’s been acting since she was little and how she’s excellent at memorizing lines. Zhuang Bei even made his friend watch some of Tang Can’s previous acting roles. Tang Can looks uncomfortable with the praise, and Zhuang Bei’s friend asks him to let the two of them talk. The director wants Tang Can to take a look at the script and come in to audition the next day.
Tang Can quickly makes several excuses, saying that she has work, that she didn’t plan on acting again, and that she’s never acted on stage. But the director waves off her excuses, asking her to consider the script and get back to him tomorrow with an answer.
After he leaves, Tang Can continues to stare at the script on the table without opening it. Zhuang Bei thinks she should take a look. He thinks that even if she won’t be in front of the camera, she needs to be under the spotlight. She asks how she’ll tell her mother. Zhuang Bei hasn’t thought about that. All he knows is that ever since she decided to stop acting, she’s been unhappy.
Tang Can smiles sheepishly. She thought she was doing a good job of pretending to be okay. Zhuang Bei tells her that everyone knew she was unhappy, but didn’t know how to help her. She smiles at him, thanking him for trying to help. He responds with a quote from Paulo Coelho: “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
Tang Can says that in her experience, it feels like the whole universe has been trying to block her. But she takes a deep breath and opens the script, and Zhuang Bei smiles.
These Tang Can and Zhuang Bei moments are so sweet! I love how Zhuang Bei becomes interested in Tang Can after he sees her candid side, instead of the person she was pretending to be. Tang Can is so charming when she relaxes and lets herself be herself.
Mei Yang and Zi Qiu had some nice moments this episode as well. I really like how they help and question each other. Mei Yang made it sound so simple: just call Zhao Hua Guang. And she was right. Her fear of becoming her mother but her perceived inability to do anything different is so relatable. But Zi Qiu is also right in pointing out that Mei Yang still was and still is a kid. She has an excuse if she’s clingy or rude or makes a selfish decision with no regards for other people’s feelings. Chen Ting doesn’t. Mei Yang has also proven that even though she can be selfish and doesn’t always say the nicest thing, she also genuinely cares about Ling Xiao.
Meanwhile, this episode created more reminders of how frustrating Chen Ting is. Her emotional manipulation! Her hypocrisy! The way she always makes everything about her and tries to get everyone to pity her! I can’t!
In the past, I’ve drawn parallels between Chen Ting and Yu Xiang, Ming Yue’s mother. They both do what they think is best under the guise of meaning well for their children. Though really, Chen Ting has only ever thought about herself, while Yu Xiang at least does care about Ming Yue even if she’s woefully misguided at times.
Yu Xiang has a somewhat redemptive moment this episode. She still doesn’t seem to understand why her husband and Ming Yue feel so oppressed, but what separates her from Chen Ting is intention. Chen Ting knows exactly what she’s doing when she manipulates her family, so it feels malicious. Yu Xiang seems genuinely oblivious to the impact she has. That doesn’t lessen the impact of what she does, but I thought it was meaningful that she couldn’t follow through and hit Ming Yue and instead hit herself. She doesn’t know where she went wrong, but it seems to really pain her that Ming Yue would think the worst of her, to the point of self-sabotage.
Why is it always the mothers who are messy and complicated and screw things up? Maybe it’s also a commentary on the absent fathers: they’re never around enough or involved enough to mess up.