Drama Recaps, Taiwanese Dramas

Recap: The Arc of Life (Ep. 8)

Everyone is finally making some sort of progress in one way or another, if not personally, at least professionally. Mei Ji and Xiao Niao get closer. Yi Nan excels in his work life and needs some help in his personal one. Xia Zhi mopes around trying to reach Long Jie, who has gone MIA much like the boyfriend who came before him, and falls back into some bad old work habits.


Recap

Mei Ji tells Xiao Niao that she believes true love is worth waiting for. She recalls how when she was younger, she led her mother and sister to where her father seemed to be having an affair with another woman in his car. Her mother was so distraught at the thought of her husband being in love with someone else that she killed herself. But Mei Ji’s father now regrets his affair. The woman he’d been seeing was only with him for his money — for her, he borrowed a ton of money, but once he lost it all, she left him. Now all he has is a pile of debt.

Mei Ji reveals that a third of her money goes toward paying for her father’s debt, a third is for her family’s living expenses, and the remaining third is saving up for a wedding and opening up her own store. She holds her beer out to Xiao Niao and urges her to drink with her — this is her last six-pack of the month and she’s being generous by sharing it with Xiao Niao. Xiao Niao obliges.

Director Ding calls out Yi Nan in front of his whole team, pretending he’s upset about something and about to chew Yi Nan out in front of everyone. Yi Nan seems to brace himself, but then Ding pats him on the back and praises him for nabbing the contract with Zi Qun Co. He leads the rest of the office in a round of cheers for Yi Nan. Yi Nan lets out a breath once Ding leaves.

Yi Nan meets up with Xiao Niao and agrees to help her look into getting a loan. Xiao Niao asks him to be honest with her about their chances. He believes that banks should give out loans in order to help hard-working people, but acknowledges that in reality, very few banks would take on a loan like theirs. He compares the lending business to dating — it can’t be forced. But he’s someone who, if he likes something or someone, will see it through to the end — until his partner gives up.

Xiao Niao smiles and says she understands. Then she pointedly asks Yi Nan if he can do the same for the things he doesn’t like that keep bothering him — can he cut them off cleanly? Yi Nan dryly responds that he’ll do his best.

Mei Ji eats snacks and watches a drama on her laptop at work. Her phone chimes and she ignores it until Xiao Niao pesters her to check her messages. Mei Ji leaps into motion when she sees that she has a message from Yi Nan, inviting her out to eat. She immediately grabs her things and heads out to a hastily-made nail salon appointment. Xiao Niao watches her go with a frown. She wants to believe that this is best for Mei Ji, but she can’t help but feel like she’s doing something wrong.

At night, Mei Ji gets dressed up and rehearses what she’ll say to Yi Nan while she waits for him to show up. She greets him eagerly when she spots him, not realizing that he’s brought company until Jenny walks up and takes his hand. Yi Nan introduces Jenny as his girlfriend, but Mei Ji isn’t quick to accept their relationship, instead pointedly mentioning how Yi Nan introduced her to his parents, and asking about Yi Ling’s business. But Jenny has more money and power than Mei Ji does and Yi Nan reveals that Jenny already helped Yi Ling set up her own brand and supply chain. Jenny says that Mei Ji could still help out with her online influence.

Yi Nan says that he and Jenny need to head to dinner. Jenny invites Mei Ji along. She declines, but isn’t above being a little bit petty. As Yi Nan and Jenny head out, Mei Ji makes sure to mention that it’s a good thing Xia Zhi rejected him, because now she’s happily dating a rich and good-looking resort CEO.

She goes back into the tea house and tries to hold it together, telling herself not to cry. She’s still awesome. He just doesn’t like her — it’s not worth crying over. It doesn’t make her any less awesome. She just needs to keep trying and one day someone will see how awesome she is and love her.

Xia Zhi leaves Long Jie another voicemail. It’s been a while since she’s heard from him and now she’s getting worried.

Xiao Niao finds herself outside her parents’ mansion, but dawdles outside, not sure if she wants to go in or not. Right as she’s about to enter, her phone rings. She picks up; it’s Mei Ji. Mei Ji tells her that she’s willing to lend her the NT$5 million that the company needs, but she expects the principal to be paid back in full within a year and the interest rate must be higher than what she’d get from a savings account. She’s determined to become the most powerful woman there ever was. Then she hangs up.

In the morning, Jenny notices Little Bird’s business pamphlet on the dining table. She flips through it and asks Yi Nan about it, knowing that Little Bird is Xia Zhi’s company. Yi Nan talks about how he likes projects like these — ones that have societal value — and wishes that his bank would take on more clients like these. He reassures her that he won’t be working with Xia Zhi at all, since his point of contact is Xiao Niao.

Jenny puts her hand on Yi Nan’s and thanks him for telling her. He puts his other hand on top of hers and smiles back. (But you can tell that it’s not super genuine because he always gets that twinkle in his eye when he smiles for real.)

Mei Ji is the first one at work in the morning, dressed in Xiao Niao’s clothes. She doesn’t have any “strong woman” clothes yet and wants to know what it feels like to wear them. She also keeps tossing random English words into her sentences and is all business, telling Xia Zhi that if she doesn’t have more than NT$1 million in her bank account, then she needs to keep working until she does. She’s determined to be stronger than “that woman.”

Xiao Niao guesses that Mei Ji’s latest transformation has something to do with Yi Nan. Does he have a girlfriend? Xia Zhi also seems curious, then smiles when she hears it’s Jenny. She remembers Jenny as Yi Nan’s ex-girlfriend — they’re back together? She seems happy for Yi Nan and amused while Mei Ji rants.

Mei Ji finishes her work and gets Xia Zhi to help her take some headshots, continuing to vent about how she needs to beat Jenny and be richer than her. Xiao Niao reassures her that she can definitely beat her.

Xiao Niao gets a voice memo from Yi Nan asking for some additional financial documents so he can help her with the loan. She gathers her things to head out, telling Xia Zhi and Mei Ji that she doesn’t want to be bothered for the next three hours, then tells them to clean up. They’re going to get a new office.

Xia Zhi finally hears from Long Jie, who texts her asking to meet up. When she sees him, she immediately starts launching into a report of the design changes she made around the resort. Long Jie looks troubled as she speaks — he doesn’t seem to be here for a design report, but struggles to interrupt her until he finally says, “Thanks.” And then, “Sorry.”

She asks why he’s saying thank you and why he’s apologizing. What she wants to know is why he asked her to give him courage and then disappeared. Why did he think he could appear and disappear on her like that? Or has she been misunderstanding their relationship this entire time?

Long Jie tells her that she hasn’t misunderstood and that’s why he’s here, because he wants to explain himself to her.

Yi Nan gets a congratulatory phone call from May on his impressive work performance over the last two months. She credits him with Ding’s recent promotion, then quietly tells him how Ding had blocked Yi Nan’s promotion at a recent board meeting. Yi Nan has to quickly hang up when Director Ding comes by.

Director Ding acts like he got his promotion thanks to his own hard work, then acts like he’s doing Yi Nan a huge favor by even bothering to consider Little Bird’s “Green Heaven” project at Lutian Resort, a project he considers charity.

But in the end, Yi Nan manages to get Little Bird the loan and shows Xiao Niao the good news when they meet up at a coffee shop. Xiao Niao is immensely grateful and tells him that he’s very considerate without burdening others, something that’s very hard to achieve. She says that if he ever gets tired of working at his bank — and isn’t too scared of interacting with Little Bird’s two other women — then there will always be a place for him at Little Bird.

Yi Nan takes that as his cue to leave. Xiao Niao offers to buy him a coffee, but he smiles and says that he’ll skip the coffee in order to save her business some money.

Little Bird moves into their new office. Xia Zhi is busy reaching out to contractors and fast-tracking work on the Lutian Resort renovation project. Xiao Niao thinks Xia Zhi is getting ahead of herself and things suddenly get tense when Xia Zhi responds defensively to Xiao Niao’s request for a progress update. Xiao Niao tries to send Mei Ji away, telling her to go look for storefronts. Mei Ji senses the tension and reminds them of the three founding principles of the Little Bird brand: be smart, be smiling, and… some third thing she can’t remember. Before she leaves, she gives Xiao Niao a silent reminder to not fight with Xia Zhi.

When Xia Zhi finally lets Xiao Niao see her development plan, which has been expedited into a tight timeline, Xiao Niao asks if it’s because the Yus are pressuring Xia Zhi to complete the project sooner. Xia Zhi won’t tell Xiao Niao what’s wrong and instead just asks her to trust her. Xiao Niao is frustrated that Xia Zhi isn’t telling her what the problem is. If their clients are being unreasonable, then they need to confront them about it. But Xia Zhi looks on the verge of tears and says it doesn’t have to do with them. She grabs her things and goes outside.

Yi Nan visits the senior home with Jenny. The residents remind him of his grandfather and he explains why the senior home means so much to him. His own grandfather was sent to live in a similar senior home when he got sick. Later, Yi Nan’s parents wanted to bring him home, but he refused, not wanting to burden his children. Now, Yi Nan is determined to give back by helping this senior home secure funding.

A soccer ball flies toward them and Yi Nan knocks it away before it can hit Jenny. Several kids rush by and their schoolteacher apologizes, but space is at a premium and that’s why she often brings the kids out to this shared green space to play. Yi Nan smiles as he watches the kids play with an elderly man in a wheelchair.

Jenny offers to connect Yi Nan with a company that recently lost a lawsuit and is looking to fund some nonprofit projects to improve their social reputation. But Yi Nan says he wants to try doing this his own way.

Mei Ji returns to the Little Bird office after dark, unable to find an adequate storefront that is within their budget. Xia Zhi keeps calling around to different contractors, trying to see if they can team up to shorten the timeline on the Lutian Resort renovations. Xiao Niao goes outside to ask Xia Zhi again for a reason why she’s trying to force this 14 month project through on a 6 month schedule. Finding contractors is hard enough, but funding will be another problem. She points out that as coworkers, they’re supposed to share the burden. Now she understands why so many people at S.U.N. had issues with Xia Zhi. She’s not communicating when she needs to.

Mei Ji is the one to try and keep the peace this time, reminding everyone yet again of the three principles Little Bird was founded on, the third of which she still can’t remember. Xiao Niao snaps at her to go do her own work. Mei Ji doesn’t seem bothered, but responds that if she keeps acting like this, they’ll turn into Angry Birds. (Okay, that got a chuckle out of me.)

Xiao Niao is still waiting for a reason from Xia Zhi. She says that it’s a basic form of respect.

But Xia Zhi doesn’t respond and then the elder Yu shows up. Xiao Niao knew that Xia Zhi wouldn’t tell her anything and couldn’t get into contact with Long Jie, so she called him.

Papa Yu has heard that Xia Zhi has been working 24/7 to try to rush the resort’s renovation project. He guesses that she’s doing it because she’s trying to help Long Jie fulfill his dream. Papa Yu tells the others what Xia Zhi already knows: Long Jie’s cancer has returned. Papa Yu realized that Long Jie’s things were missing and managed to catch him at the airport before he left to wait for death overseas. It seems like he doesn’t want to undergo treatment anymore.

Xia Zhi starts to cry and she remembers what Long Jie told her during the previous meeting. He told her that the day after he came looking for her in Taipei, he went to get a check-up and was told that his cancer had spread to his bones. He has less than a year left. He’d done a lot of mental preparation, but upon hearing the terminal diagnosis, he didn’t know how to face her. He was just glad she hadn’t fallen in love with him yet.

Xia Zhi started crying as Long Jie told her thank you and goodbye. And then he walked away. Xia Zhi tried to grab onto his shirt, but it slipped through her hands.

Papa Yu doesn’t know how much time Long Jie has left, but thinks that in these final moments of his life, he deserves to be loved and cared for. He shouldn’t be alone. Papa Yu asks Xia Zhi to go see Long Jie.

Xiao Niao tells Xia Zhi that she’ll give her some time off. In the future when she faces problems like this again, she’s not allowed to try and handle it all on her own. Both she and Long Jie seem to do that and they’re the worst, but maybe that’s why they’re together.

Xiao Niao takes Xia Zhi’s hand and pats it while Mei Ji wraps Xia Zhi with a hug.

Xia Zhi thinks about Long Jie on the ride to Fuliangtian. Papa Yu told her how Long Jie found out he had the same cancer as her mother shortly after she passed away. He broke up with his then-girlfriend and ran away overseas. Xia Zhi was able to see things from Long Jie’s perspective: he was probably afraid the people close to him would suffer, but was also afraid of losing his girlfriend’s love, so he decided to break up with her first. He probably thought it would hurt less that way. Papa Yu told her that she is the only one who can touch Long Jie’s heart. Only after meeting her has Long Jie started to care about himself a little more and think about the future instead of trying to take care of everyone else.

Xia Zhi finds Long Jie brooding by the mountain pond they went to when they first met. He tells her that she shouldn’t be here. There are a lot of things she shouldn’t be doing: expediting the renovation schedule, letting trivial matters interfere with her professional life. He asks her to leave. But Xia Zhi comes closer and repeats the words he once said to her: when you’re attracted to a person, you’ll find yourself being drawn to their side. She leans her head on him.

Long Jie tries to push her away. She doesn’t need to suffer like this. Xia Zhi grabs his arm. She’s scared, too, but she wants to suffer and face this together with him. “Can we be brave together?”

Long Jie turns toward her, frustrated and asking if she’s a fool. Last time, she picked a guy who ignored her for six years, and now she’s picking someone who’s doomed to a short life? Xia Zhi kisses him. She doesn’t care how much time is left; she just wants to be with him. She wants him to give all of his time to her. They’ll turn this place into the vision they dreamed of, because she’ll marry him. She laughs sappily. Long Jie shakes his head. This is the dumbest proposal he’s ever heard. Xia Zhi laughs and says that it wasn’t a proposal. He laughs and cries and kisses her all at once.

Yi Nan facilitates a meeting between the director of the senior home and the director of the daycare next door. He proposes a joint renovation plan that will allow the two organizations to pool funds and also in the future benefit from having the elderly and children interact regularly. Later, the senior home director asks Yi Nan if he knows any designers. She’s been struggling to find someone to work with on the renovations.

Mei Ji is straight up just browsing Tinder (or some similar dating app) with Papa Xia. (I AM DYING.) She tells Papa Xia that she’s envious of Xia Zhi, who was brave enough to chase her love to Fuliangtian despite not knowing how long she would be able to love or live with him. She reveals that Long Jie has terminal cancer, right as Qing Lang shows up.

Xia Zhi’s mother makes a big deal about Long Jie’s diagnosis and Xia Zhi’s track record with men: one disappeared, one is impotent, and now one is dying? Then she starts struggling with Papa Xia over his phone. She’s determined to call Xia Zhi (who won’t pick up her calls) and tell her to marry Long Jie. He’s rich and dying soon, which means she’ll be set for life with the resort. Papa Xia shames his ex-wife for trying to make their daughter a young widow.

They keep struggling until Papa Xia shames Qing Lang for being a bad mother. Does she really want Xia Zhi to be a widow forever? Isn’t it bad enough that she ruined her own family and someone else’s by having an affair with a married man?


Commentary

This ending has me thinking… what are the chances Qing Lang had an affair with Mei Ji’s father?

Xia Zhi is killing me! She’s lovably foolish and falls in love too easily, usually with the wrong guys. To be fair, she’d probably be much happier if she saw Yi Nan as more than a friend like… five years ago, instead of always picking these guys who end up loving her and leaving her. I actually laughed a bit when she and Long Jie were crying and he very legitimately asked what’s wrong with her and her choice of men because she first picked a guy who ditched her for six years and is next picking this guy who has six months to live. So now we get this tragic cancer storyline with Long Jie. Which we all knew was coming but I’m so sad that it’s confirmed! I’m guessing that Yi Nan and Xia Zhi are probably endgame, given how these dramas tend to go, so I guess if Long Jie has to go somehow, I’d rather he depart the relationship because of a terminal illness rather than because he’s a terrible person? (Isn’t that so wild how drama logic works…) I blame Ruby Lin. Why does she love being in/producing these dramas with these heartbreaking illness storylines?!

I fall in love easily with certain couples, and I was already liking Xia Zhi and Long Jie together, but I do wish we got to see more of it. It kind of feels like they knew each other for all of two days before they’re suddenly getting married, and that doesn’t seem like quite enough time to develop the depth of feeling that they have now. Based on what we know about Yi Nan’s career trajectory, which seems to be the only way to tell time in this show right now, it seems like it’s actually been at least two months since they’ve met, but we just haven’t seen two months’ worth of relationship progression. But I guess Xia Zhi seems like the type to fall hard and fast, from what we’ve seen…

I like how adamantly supportive Xiao Niao is and how the three women all support one another when it really matters.

I love Mei Ji. I loved the whole sequence starting with her reaction to being so cruelly rejected by Yi Nan and then trying to hold it together in the tea house. She wants to become a strong woman, but she also already is a strong woman. She has such a strong sense of self and a confidence and optimism that’s the product of hard work and a strength of will. We know she’s been through a lot of tough times and darkness and has seen so many reasons to not believe in love, but she continues to persist and believe in love and in the goodness of people and if that’s not strength, I don’t know what is.

Xiao Niao felt bad about making Yi Nan break things off with Mei Ji, but it was the right call. What I really don’t like is how Yi Nan decided to handle things. He could have just been honest with her and told her he was dating someone without embarrassing her by setting up a fake date and then showing up with his girlfriend and acting like he didn’t schedule to meet with Mei Ji. How rude! Honestly, Yi Nan continues to make me so frustrated! I appreciate his zest for societal good and his principles, but he really needs to work on himself.

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