Kisses, internal monologues, and the shenanigans of the Silent Monster team — the final episode of Introverted Boss brings back a lot of what worked while hoping that we forget about all the things that didn’t. Hwan-ki and Ro-woon discover the reality of loving someone very different from themselves, but they also learn that adapting to each other makes them stronger. Deserved or undeserved, everyone finds their happily ever after.
EPISODE 16: “It’s Okay to Be Shy”
Hwan-ki’s father proposes that they blame the cover-up of Ji-hye’s suicide on Woo-il’s overactive loyalty, and this pushes Hwan-ki over the edge. He yells at his father to stop and asks why he can’t hear any voice but his own.
The assemblyman shouts that you can’t survive in the world by being quiet. Hwan-ki agrees and says that he’s lived with shame for being the way he is, but he also wonders how his father can be so shameless. Wiping away the tears from his eyes, he walks out, leaving his father looking shaken.
Back in his office, Hwan-ki is staring out of the window when Woo-il walks in. The press is waiting for their official position, he says. Hwan-ki tells him that they should stop dissembling information and just take responsibility for what happened. He says that he’ll step down for the good of the company and hand over the reins to Woo-il.
Woo-il doesn’t think he has any right to run the company and asks why Hwan-ki would take the fall for his father. Hwan-ki smiles and hugs his friend. “I trust you,” he tells Woo-il. “You’re the only one who can save this company.” (I feel nauseous.)
Ro-woon’s dad picks up his older daughter’s heels and calls her a fool while crying over them. Meanwhile, Ro-woon sits in her room holding her necklace when her dad enters. He tells her to go, reminding her that he hid away his wife and daughter’s pictures so she could start fresh.
Ro-woon points out that even her name is inseparable from Ji-hye’s (together they form the word “wise”), which prompts her dad to tell her why he really named her Ro-woon: “So you’ll live an interesting life.” At his encouragement, Ro-woon finally starts smiling through her tears.
Hwan-ki packs up his bags and takes one last look around the Silent Monster office. Memories of the time he spent with Ro-woon and all his staff come back to him, and he leaves the penthouse with a smile. Outside, Yoo-hee, Sun-bong, Kyo-ri, and Se-jong stop him.
They ask why he has to leave, because who else will show them trust and help them grow the way he has? He looks at their teary-eyed faces and tells them that it’s the “red light,” and that they shouldn’t say another word. He begins to shake their hands, but the team converges upon him in a warm group hug.
Hwan-ki drives by the orphanage (where he’d danced as a panda once) and stops on the empty road, overcome by memories. Just then, a car rams into him from behind, making him check his rearview mirror. In it, he sees Ro-woon getting out and walking toward him.
She knocks on his window, like on the day they first met in person, while Hwan-ki sits silently behind the darkened glass. Unlike before, Hwan-ki comes out of the car instead of running away and stares at her shyly smiling face.
Ro-woon tells him that no matter how much she tries to keep a safe distance between them, she can’t seem to keep herself away from him. Hwan-ki gives in to his feelings and hugs her. They smile and kiss, their painful separation at an end.
Some time passes, and we see Hwan-ki jog down a path by himself. Ro-woon’s voice narrates that Hwan-ki had become alone once more. He stops to take a break by the sea, and Ro-woon comes up to pull his hood down again. She asks why he didn’t wake her up, and he retorts that he would if she didn’t kick him when he tried. Heh. Ro-woon says in voice over that he was alone, even when they were together.
They seem to be vacationing at a sea resort. Ro-woon comes running up the path to his room and bangs on his window, shouting that they have a big problem. He comes out, worried, and she declares that the problem is that she might die of boredom. It’s apparently been a few days, and Hwan-ki has stayed shut inside his hotel room the entire time.
Defeated in her mission to get him to go out, she spends the day eating and reading in bed. Hwan-ki walks into the bedroom and cringes to see Ro-woon lying on crumbs of chips in her outside clothes. He imagines having to sleep in that bed at night and wants to tell her to go take a shower.
But then he worries such pettiness will ruin the sweetness of their relationship. His inner monologue also points out that mentioning a shower will prompt Ro-woon to go into seduction mode, since she’d assume that he’s having dirty thoughts. (Ah, I missed these!)
He decides that the best course of action is to say nothing, and instead lure her outside and shake the blanket full of crumbs while she’s busy. Sadly, his lethargy has rubbed off on Ro-woon, and she’s unwilling to leave the bed now. He strikes upon a pack of jenga and tells her that if she plays with him, the loser will grant the winner a wish.
This gets her interested enough to move off the bed. Hwan-ki gets pretty competitive at the game, trying to startle her into making wrong moves, and finally, Ro-woon pulls out a peg that topples the structure. He gives a whoop of victory and asks for his wish: to paint her face.
He takes a picture to show her, smiling at her moan of embarrassment. He then tells her to go wash up, silently congratulating himself on landing on the perfect plan to make her take a shower. Unfortunately, Ro-woon starts liking his artwork and decides to wear it to bed that night.
By the end of the game, Hwan-ki sports a similar design on his face, but with Ro-woon asleep, he can finally take the blanket and shake the crumbs off outside. As he beats the blanket into submission — er, cleanliness — he thinks about Ro-woon’s other wish: that they sleep with their face paint on and go out as soon as they wake up the next morning.
The next day, Hwan-ki and Ro-woon venture out (thankfully after taking a shower), and Ro-woon decides to eat chips in the car. She manages to rip the packet in half, spilling the contents on the seat, then she proceeds to pick a chip up from the floor and put it in her mouth.
This is too much for Hwan-ki, who cribs to himself about Ro-woon turning their bed into a party house for ticks and mites, then for doing the same to his car. He wonders if he should tell her not to eat in the car, then feels bad because she’s so excited about their trip.
Ro-woon senses his foul mood and asks what’s bothering him. When he keeps silent, she tries to get him to eat chips. Ignoring his protests, she forces him to eat the snacks, telling him that junk food relieves stress. The crumbs on his own shirt just seem to increase his stress, until he’s forced to park the car and stomp out.
Ro-woon figures he’s finally ready to talk and follows him to the sidewalk, which looks over the sea. Hwan-ki first tells her to stop distracting him when he’s driving, since it’s dangerous even for the best of drivers. Realizing that that that felt good, he tells her to take a shower and stops eating in bed. Ro-woon gasps at the volley coming at her before asking if there’s anything more.
So, Hwan-ki tells her to stop interrupting when they’re watching TV. If she can’t pay attention, then she should stop being curious, he says. (Amen!) Ro-woon yells that there are things that she’s kept quiet about too, but then she can’t come up with anything. Hwan-ki scoffs that there’s nothing, since she always speaks before she thinks.
This gets to Ro-woon, who declares that she won’t sit in his car anymore before walking away from him. She soon slows down, hoping he’ll come after her, but she turns around to see him drive away. (Not cool, man!) But, oh, he’d just driven off to park it away from the traffic before running back to find her. Ro-woon starts crying as he nears her, until he hugs her in apology.
She tells him that she didn’t know he’d bottled up so much, since there isn’t anything about him that she doesn’t like. She worries that she’s the only one happy right now, but Hwan-ki assures her that he’s so happy that he feels guilty. He tells her that they’re different kinds of people, but they can start adjusting to each other now.
They sit on the beach, and Ro-woon remarks that this was the first time they fought on a trivial issue just like other couples do. Hwan-ki admits that while he tolerates everything in silence, the pettiness inside him stays hidden, but he claims that Ro-woon has brought out and seen all of the real him.
She rues that he still doesn’t say everything he wants to, and now he’s isolated himself from the people he cares about. Hwan-ki says that he’s with the only person he wants to be with, but Ro-woon points out that he just left that person in the middle of the road because he didn’t want to inconvenience others by parking his car in the wrong place. Heh.
They laugh, and Ro-woon says that they’re different people, so she wants the doors of communication to be wide open between them. Then she says that she’s getting him into trouble again and points down the beach. Hwan-ki turns around to see Woo-il and Yi-soo walking towards them. Ro-woon pouts that she got bored, so she invited some more people to play with. Hwan-ki smiles softly.
Commence the most awkward lunch ever as everyone silently eats around a table. Yi-soo tries to talk to Ro-woon, prompting Ro-woon to nearly choke on her food. Trying to be solicitous, Yi-soo keeps offering Ro-woon food before getting up to get more soup. As Woo-il leaves the table to go help Yi-soo, Ro-woon remarks on the similarity between Hwan-ki and his sister. She realizes that the difference is only that Yi-soo learned to change.
Later, the two women sit in a large hot bath, and Yi-soo admits that she was nervous on her way to the resort. Ro-woon says that it was hard for her too, but she asked them to come here for Hwan-ki. Yi-soo apologizes, expecting that it’s too little too late, but Ro-woon says that that’s what she’d wanted to hear for the last three years.
Yi-soo asks her to remain by Hwan-ki’s side, promising to stay away from them so Ro-woon won’t be uncomfortable. Ro-woon acknowledges that it’ll take some time for them to get close before asking Yi-soo to scrub her back, calling her “Unni.” This surprises Yi-soo, but she happily complies, and they bond over washing off Ro-woon’s dead skin. (Facepalm.)
Alone with Hwan-ki, Woo-il tells him that he and Yi-soo are starting over. Hwan-ki doesn’t seem too surprised, but he does tell him that he should be focusing more on running the company. Woo-il glibly says that since they’ve lost most of their clients, Brain has little to do these days. This gets Hwan-ki riled up, but when Woo-il asks him to come back, he falls silent. Woo-il also tells him that Assemblyman Eun has withdrawn his candidacy.
That night, Hwan-ki lies awake in bed until Ro-woon turns to him and asks if he wants to watch porn with her. She gets up and opens her laptop in bed while he feigns disinterest. Finally, when he peeks up with curiosity to see what kind of porn she watches, he’s faced with an image of himself on screen.
It’s a video titled: “Unveiling Eun Hwan-ki.” A series of pictures flashes on screen of moments captured when Hwan-ki was glowering, smiling, or generally being goofy. Then the Silent Monster team appears one by one to explain who Hwan-ki is. They say that he can be unapproachable and intimidating, but he’s also warmhearted and willing to help them out whenever they are in trouble.
After heartwarming testimonials from all four, they come on screen together and ask him to come back to the company. While Brain has become the place he wanted it to be, they still miss him. Ro-woon turns to Hwan-ki and tells him to end his boredom tonight and go back.
Then she puts away the laptop and gets a glint in her eyes. It would be too bad, she says, if he was bored on the last night here. Leaning back on the pillow, she throws out the ultimate seductive lure: “I took a shower today.” (Muahaha.)
She adds that Yi-soo scrubbed her back and it’s super soft right now. Hwan-ki grins and asks to see how soft her back is. They laugh, kiss, and snuggle close together.
Hwan-ki enters Ro-woon’s dad’s barbershop nervously, bowing formally when Dad notices him. Then he calls out to someone to come out, and Assemblyman Eun enters the room. He introduces himself gruffly to the startled barber, then tells Hwan-ki to leave. After clasping his father’s arm in a plea to behave himself, Hwan-ki leaves the shop, and the assemblyman breathes a sigh of relief.
He admits to Dad that he was embarrassed to do this in front of his son, then apologizes to him. He says that he’s ashamed of the way he’s brought up his children, but Dad assures him that he has nothing to apologize for in Hwan-ki. Some time later, Hwan-ki ducks back into the shop to see Dad giving the politician a shave.
The Silent Monster team prepares a cake and firecrackers for Hwan-ki’s return, then hides as he comes in. Hwan-ki enters with Ro-woon, who wants a kiss in return for sharing him with the world now. The team starts creeping out of their hiding place, intending to surprise their boss, but they see the busy couple and silently backtrack into the kitchen. Half-cringing, they watch from the kitchen, wondering how far they intend to go. Answer: far. (Guys! Announce yourselves at least!)
Another Christmas passes by, and Hwan-ki still needs the aid of signals to guard his personal space. As he works intently on something, Ro-woon gets up from her seat and wonders what’s on his mind. Yoo-hee tells her that he’s working on letters to clients, the press, and his staff, which he started around Christmas and will likely finish in spring.
Yoo-hee is pregnant, and Ro-woon muses that they have one new member of Silent Monster while an old one has left. Se-jong has moved on to start his career in movies, while Sun-bong has come into his own as an idea guy in their firm. As he finishes explaining a new concept to the team, Kyo-ri rues that he lands on ideas with such ease.
Sun-bong assures her that finding the job hard is part of the process of developing her intuition. Then, having impressed the ladies with his depth, Sun-bong excuses himself to go to the bathroom and hyperventilate about asking Kyo-ri to a concert.
In the meantime, Se-jong comes on TV to give an interview about his upcoming movie (titled My Shy Brother, heh) and starts talking about his crush, who inspired him to follow his dreams. As he turns to the camera to send a message to her, Ro-woon clasps her hands over her ears in mortification. Then, he says what he couldn’t in the last year: “I like you, Kyo-ri.” Ha.
As Ro-woon (again) writhes in embarrassment, Kyo-ri looks shocked (and relatively unmoved) at Se-jong’s confession. Just then, the real life Se-jong walks into the office with a bouquet in his hands. He apologizes for taking so long, but before he can hand Kyo-ri the flowers, the bouquet is plucked from his hands and thrust at Kyo-ri by Sun-bong. He declares his own crush on Kyo-ri, surprising everyone.
Then a big tussle begins between the two boys as they scramble to be the one to confess to her properly. Finally, Kyo-ri puts a stop to the fight by thanking them for liking her, but she says that she wants to focus on work right now. Yoo-hee points out that it’s the most common way of declining a proposal, and Ro-woon pipes in: “She doesn’t like either of you!”
Hwan-ki comes out of his letter-writing seclusion to welcome Se-jong and remind everyone what day it is: sports day! And Silent Monster is playing against Woo-il’s team… and losing badly. With Yoo-hee pregnant, Se-jong is the only serious player on the field.
At a crucial moment when Hwan-ki can score a goal, he starts playing the different scenarios in his head, and the scariest of them all is the one where he scores the goal and everyone looks at him. Wound up from all the analyzing, he ends up catching the ball and doing none of it. The only one to find this cute is Ro-woon, while everyone else just sighs in frustration.
After several more games — one of which includes Sun-bong and Se-jong wrestling in the dirt — prizes are given out. Woo-il predictably gets the first place prize, which he modestly accepts before offering to treat everyone for dinner. When Yi-soo hands him the gift, he kisses her on the cheek in thanks, which gets everyone chanting, “Kiss! Kiss!” So Woo-il and Yi-soo kiss, to much applause.
It’s Hwan-ki’s turn to say something to his employees. He stands before them with a box in his hands and says that he’s not very good at public speaking and has different things to say to each of them, so instead of a speech, he has cards that he wants to give them. As he calls out their names, everyone collects their own cards (while Sun-bong gives Hwan-ki a kiss in return) until the box is empty. Ro-woon realizes that she’s the only one who didn’t get anything. As she points this out, it begins to rain, and everyone runs to find shelter.
Ro-woon finds Hwan-ki taking shade behind a building and asks for her own card, assuming that he was too embarrassed to give it to her in front of others. But after searching his pockets, she’s disappointed to realize that he didn’t write one for her. She says that she’s been understanding about him spending all his time and energy on the company in the past year, but she wants to know if she’s always going to come second to his employees.
When Hwan-ki says that there was a card that he’d taken special care to write, she doesn’t believe him. She says that he doesn’t love her, since he can’t even be openly affectionate towards her in front of his employees like Woo-il and Yi-soo can. Hwan-ki says that this is the kind of person he is, and Ro-woon walks away, willing to get wet in the rain, because that’s the kind of person she is.
Ro-woon walks over to Yoo-hee and the gang, who are all standing under a canvas shelter. As they fuss over Ro-woon and wrap a towel around her, they hear music blaring across the field. Then shouts go out as everyone stares ahead at the figure dancing in the rain.
Ro-woon’s jaw drops at the sight of Hwan-ki busting out his moves in front of all Brain employees. Then he ends the routine by shouting, “I love you, Chae Ro-woon!”
Pushed out by her team, Ro-woon smiles broadly as Hwan-ki stands with his arms wide open. She runs to him, and Hwan-ki swings her in the air. He covers her face with kisses as everyone claps and smiles for them.
Then, in a quieter voice, he tells her again that he loves her and kisses her on the lips.
I held out hope that they would somehow redeem the storyline until this final week. In the last episode, I realized I was never getting the story I wanted, so I girded my loins before venturing into the finale. On the upside, it was full of all the things we loved about Introverted Boss. (Except Yeon-jung! I missed her so much here!)
On the downside, my upchuck reflex was sorely tested whenever Woo-il and Yi-soo came on screen. Their stories had been so bizarrely twisted to fit the redemption box that their presence only managed to anger and confuse me. I was uninterested in anything to do with them and only wanted the two to disappear so that Hwan-ki and Ro-woon could make me feel better with their flirting and kisses.
The show finally touched upon the differences in our central characters, and it killed me to see this interesting source of relationship-building fodder be barely used in the final episode. For a show that based its conceit on the inner world of an introvert and how an extrovert might affect it, they seemed to forget about all these differences while dealing with issues that quickly became mired in bad plotting. It was a hugely wasted opportunity.
I enjoyed the little spat between Ro-woon and Hwan-ki, but they could have gone so much deeper with these inherent differences between the two. As we saw in the last scene — contrived as it was — Ro-woon will spend her days trying to understand what Hwan-ki is really thinking, while Hwan-ki will try and solve everything through grand gestures. At some point, the grand gestures are going to stop working.
The Hwan-ki we loved was complex, repressed, brimming with ideas and enthusiasm, and generous with his time and heart. There was so much to love about the hero and so much more to understand about his life. While the schizophrenic plot robbed us of the closure we wanted, Introverted Boss did give us some amazing characters amongst the Silent Monster team, some hilarious shenanigans, and some heart-melting kisses. I’m determined to hold on to those memories fondly while scrubbing my brain clean of everything else.