Summaries (Spoilers, Obviously) and Comments
Note: I group summaries by story line, not in presentation order. If you want to know how the scenes actually played out in their official sequence, why not follow this link to the episode and watch for yourself?
Episode 23 Summary:
Phun enters the music club room where Noh has fallen asleep. He tries to wake him up by making noise without much luck. He wakes Noh up. He wants to know why Phun is there. Phun says that he has come for paperwork – excused absence sheets that the marching band needs to leave school next week. Phun says that Film sent him over to pick them up. Noh has not finished them yet and promises to bring them over to the student council room when they are finished. Phun is about to leave but Noh makes excuses for Phun to stay. When Noh asks Phun if he wants to listen to music together, Phun finally states why he is reluctant to stay. He doesn’t want to give the impression that something is going on between the two of them. Phun says that his boyfriend is ashamed to be seen with him.
Noh responds that he just isn’t used to having a boyfriend yet and is afraid that his friends will laugh at him, but denies being ashamed of Phun. Phun says that he understands what Noh is going through and would feel the same way were he to have such loud mouthed friends as Noh. Phun is also worried that he might have forced Noh into a relationship but Noh lets him know that he wants to have Phun as a boyfriend. Noh is pleased when Phun says that for now their relationship can be a secret, even though he wants to tell everyone.
Noh and Phun hold hands for a bit. Then Noh sits at the piano and plays a song that explains how he feels. The song is about how difficult it is to say “I love you” even though you are in love. Phun joins him in the song and they kiss at the piano after the song is over. Noh says that that is how he feels but admits that he isn’t willing yet to promise that he’ll feel that way forever. But for today, they should be happy to be in love. Noh promises to break up with Yuri.
Noh calls Yuri. She picks up and is happy that this is the first time he has actually called her. He asks if she is free that evening, but she needs to postpone until Saturday. Noh is worried about Yuri’s reaction and has difficulty sleeping.
On Saturday, the drama class waits for lessons to begin. Pop sits next to Pang. Shay is late and when he arrives, he sits by himself. He sends a text to Pop complaining that he is alone. The teacher introduces a new student named Nick who sits next to Shay. He asks Shay if he is the Shay of “PopShay”. Shay admits that he is and Nick notes that he knows that PopShay is no longer together.
During their class, the students act out a scene involving both love and hate between friends. Shay and Nick have trouble finishing their set and it looks like Nick is trying to kiss Shay and has trouble feeling hatred for him. While Pop and Pang perform the scene, Whanjieb looks through Pang’s phone and discovers photos of Pang and Pop on a date. While the class in on break, Munmee and Whanjieb witness Pop and Pang together in the mall shopping and notice their matching key chains. They pull Pang away from Pop and demand that she admit that she is dating Pop. She denies that she is. They demand that she throw away her keychain to prove it. Pop intervenes and tells them that Pop and Shay aren’t real and that they should be happier that their friend is together with someone who loves her rather than hoping to keep an imaginary couple together.
Also during the break, Shay sits alone taking selfies when Nick arrives with ice cream for them both. He wants to take a selfie with Shay, who obliges. Nick asks for a taste of Shay’s ice cream bar. Shay allows him. Nick purposefully takes a bite near the bottom of the bar so that the ice cream will melt on Shay’s hand. After a few minutes, Nick tries to lick the melted cream from Shay’s fingers. Shocked, Shay runs to the bathroom to wash his hands. He is reminded of a few of the stunts he pulled on Pop. He is about to text Pop (to say he is sorry?) but decides against it. When the class reconvenes, the instructor calls for the students to meditate while thinking of someone he or she loves. We cut away before we can find out whom each pupil fancies.
Because his grades are sliding, Mick’s mother hid his horn at a friend’s house. She won’t let him participate in club activities until his marks come back up. When he protests that the marching band competition is just around the corner, she responds that the club can replace him. Mick sneaks out of the house for his lesson with Ohm anyway, but he is late. James is already having a guitar lesson. Ohm is angry that Mick is late and even angrier that Mick doesn’t have his horn. He tells Mick to grow up and take responsibility. James is pleased that Ohm is angry and recommends that Ohm punish Mick by having him sit through the guitar lesson. Mick has to watch while Ohm not only appears to sit closer to James than necessary, but also James placing his hand on Ohm’s inner thigh.
When Mick returns home, his mother is waiting for him in the living room along with Mr. Arm. She has arranged for Arm to start tutoring Mick every day after school, which will prevent him from practicing. She promises to let Mick play his horn once his grades are up. The flirty Mr. Arm winks at Mick.
At the mall, Noh and Phun wait for Yuri. Noh is lost in thought and Phun lets him know that he doesn’t have to break up with her right away if he isn’t ready. Noh says he wants to stop hurting her. Phun says that he’ll be in the bookstore reading and that Noh should call him when he is ready to go home. Yuri arrives and is happy that Noh not only called her to set up a date for the first time, but also actually arrived early for a change. They go shopping together for clothes. Plaid flannel shirts from Uniqlo is surprisingly hot in Thailand at the moment. When it is time to eat, they go to a café and find Phun reading. Yuri invites Phun to join them, but he says he needs to leave. Yuri wonders if he was waiting for his new girlfriend. She is curious to find out who it is and if she is prettier than Aim. While Yuri is telling stories about her recent family trip to Japan, Noh is becoming more distant. She remarks at how well behaved he is today.
And so we must wait until episode 24 for the inevitable final “final break up” moment and Yuri’s tears. I guess I should look forward to it, but I don’t. We’ve been here before back at Hua Hin when Yuri spent most of that four-episode sequence alone or in tears over her failing relationship with Noh. I’m in agreement with the fans who never understood why we needed to repeat the break-up a second time fifteen episodes after the return from the beach. I guess the second break-up demonstrates that Noh is actually a good boy who cares for nice girls and has learned that he has to be mindful when hanging around people who he knows are in love with him.. Yuri is nice, certainly. The nicest girl at the Convent by far. But that doesn’t mean I’ll be feeling sorry for her next week. She needs to grow up and part of that process is learning that a person can’t simply make someone fall in love simply by being around. Grown-ups don’t get to pretend that they are living in stories. I’ve always thought that she was interested in Noh because she was competing for a prize, and that if he stayed with her forever she would win something, although what that “something” was remained outside her understanding. There aren’t any checklists or magic spells that guarantee that the first person one falls for will be worth hanging around for and we probably need to be clear what the competition is for. Now she knows. Better luck next time.
Yuri. Pang. Ohm. Shay. Noh. Mick. Pop. Arm. Where do I begin to dissect this episode? The writers were following through on a number of themes and ideas that have been simmering for a while. Growing up. Learning and accepting responsibility for actions. The pressures of keeping a lover a secret. or public versus private love. The difference between friendship and love. The difficulty of ending a relationship, even a bad one. Dealing with a life that isn’t developing towards a fairy-tale ending. Having a mother who is accidentally (I hope!!) pimping her child out to a pervy family friend. O.K., that last topic is specific to Mick’s storyline, but the other themes have been bouncing around several pairings for the past few episodes. Since there’s too much to write in one rambles, I’ll stick with the problem of secrecy and also write a little bit about Ohm.
Let’s start with secrecy. As I’ve written before, the structure of the Love Sick series is based around the problems that Phun and Noh face as they get together and try to stay together, amplified and demonstrated through other pairings who have to work through the same issues. The reason I can write about themes for each episode clearly (usually!) is that the pairings the writers choose to highlight each episode are the ones which share the specific crisis Phun and Noh are dealing with at the moment. The net contribution of these themes for the meaning of the series as a whole is that same-sex couples aren’t really all that different from other types of couples in the issues that they face. There isn’t “gay jealousy” that’s different from “straight jealousy” for instance.
The problem I have with “secrecy” as presented in this episode, and specifically as it pertains to the type of secrecy issues Noh and Phun are dealing with right now, is that it may actually be unique to same-sex parings in the series and doesn’t have much of an application outside of that context. Having Pang deny that she’s seeing Pop doesn’t feel equivalent to Noh hiding his relationship with Phun from his friends. I was hoping for more fun out of the PangPop couple since their situation is so topsy-turvy that I thought humor was really the only way to go with it. Pang’s public denials in this episode felt flat because for some reason, the show played the situation straight up as if it is a common issue young heterosexual couples face from their peers. There really isn’t any reason why Pang needs to deny that she’s dating Pop, except that her friends are so twisted and outside the mainstream (and dangerous). Pop’s serious speech in defense of love seems a bit out of place, considering that he’s arguing for a type of love between sexes that’s already widely accepted. Good friends like Whanjieb and Munmee are difficult to find, but the rotten girls collectively are sociopaths, and I wouldn’t be at all upset if Pang ditched them. Finding friends who’ll be happy for a girl dating a boy isn’t really that much of a challenge. Pang will recover from the stigma of having a straight boyfriend.
Noh’s friends aren’t nearly as transgressive as Pang’s, and I suppose that is part of the trepidation he feels coming clean with them. The behave like a lot of boys do everywhere. Noh knows why they would make fun of him. But if we know anything about his friends at this point, it’s that they make fun of each other all of the time, so Noh trying to avoid that seems fruitless on his part. Given that Film, Ohm, and Golf already have told him that they are fine with Phun and Noh as a couple, he should be feeling fairly safe, unlike a lot of kids in similar situations around the world. They’ll still be his friends, but will pick on him until they find someone further down the social pecking order, like Per or Ngoi, and that will be that. It’s how they operate.
In the novel, Noh looks at this pending hazing as a loss of “everything he’s worked for” and I think that’s worth dwelling on a bit as that has a lot to do with why Noh and Ohm are having a difficult time admitting what is obvious to all the other characters in the novel. When Noh brought that up in the novel, I had to laugh, because “Noh” and the concept “hard work” don’t fit very well with each other. He tends to avoid work as much as possible. In terms of lovers, he is about as passive a character as one can have as a protagonist and still maintain some shred of reader interest. He doesn’t do homework, we never really see him practicing the cello – the instrument that he’s received a scholarship to play. He is too out of shape to do one push up, let alone 100. Work doesn’t seem to interest him. So what has he been working on?
I guess you can call it “face” or “reputation,” and that is part of it. But we should also contrast the school life he’s been living with the love life he’s been building with Phun and finds so desirable to see how they are different. The love that Phun is expecting and Noh is experiencing to date is completely devotional in its structure. Phun brings gifts and for that Noh has put Phun on a pedestal in return. However, their love is also is a lot like the love between a parent and a child. When we look back at Noh’s flashback of their relationship in the previous episode, we can count the number times Noh remembers Phun stuffing food in his mouth, or wiping Noh’s mouth, like a mother would for an infant who hasn’t yet learned to take care of those things for himself. In exchange for those gifts and care, Phun desires trust and devotion and is willing to forgive his lover’s failings. It is a wonderful experience for Noh to enter that world with Phun, a little like paradise with its bounty, but it’s also not a relationship that adults are supposed to have, especially not two men who are technically equal. It’s also not a bond that is particularly earned – we are supposed to receive parental love because we are born into families. Babies do not have to work to be fed.
In contrast, the world that Noh lives in with his friends is full of robust conflicts. There are hierarchies that are earned and established through constant hazing and the passage of time. Before Noh and his friends settled into the music club, they were street fighting with the kids of other schools, often at the instigation of Golf. But his friends don’t just fight out-groups; they also joust with each other. Unlike those peaceful feedings with Phun, it really is a struggle to feed oneself within Noh’s circle because those peers are constantly trying to establish and maintain power positions by stealing food from each other. A meal with the boys is a little like I image a pack of wolf puppies would be when a rabbit is dropped between them. Music club is a little like a hazing ritual where seniors can make demands on juniors. Drinking is a competitions to see who can handle the most until someone is sick. These are games that are competitive and honorable, but games nonetheless where one constantly needs to struggle to win a position.
Ohm has taken to completely spoiling his food with hot spices so no one will take it (although he doesn’t when he eats with Mick). When Ohm steals Noh’s food earlier in the season, Noh nabs food from Ngoi, a junior. In the previous episode, Noh gains the upper hand in an argument about the relationships they have with their boyfriends when he steals Ohm’s food. Ohm’s first impulse in that situation is to forget that he’s on a date with Mick and rudely take Mick’s fish. A lot of what Noh feels that he’s earned through work, and what he’ll lose when he discloses Phun, is the right not to go through the kind of hazing that Ngoi and Mick experience and can’t do anything about. The boys aren’t going to be easy on him, especially once the boys find out that he is allowing his boyfriend to treat him like a dependent.
When Ohm is being a pest towards Mick on Mick’s really bad day in this episode, he brings up a complaint that Mick needs to grow up and be responsible. On the one hand, Mick could have just texted Ohm and told him what is going on with his mother. Ohm would probably be able to find another horn somewhere and give Mick lessons in secret. But the issue that Mick is a junior and needs to “grow up” is part of the problem for Ohm in this relationship, regardless of whether he knows the full story behind Mick’s failure to show up on time or not. Mick is too young and there isn’t anything at the moment that can change that. Ohm is only briefly able to stand outside the hierarchy and be kind to him as a lover should be. If Mick can’t “grow up” and be more of an equal in the relationship, there are a bunch of expectations put on Ohm that he is unable to fulfill because he is not mature enough to be gentle. Ohm is projecting in his anger at himself onto Mick a little in that demand that Mick will start to grow up faster on command. Ohm can’t be Phun and doesn’t know what kind of relationship can form with Mick that doesn’t involve him in the role of either constant provider or bully of weaker juniors. I think he’d rather Mick grow up – be his equal in the pecking order at school – than to have to care for someone like Phun does for Noh. Maybe he lacks the confidence in himself, but it ts much easier to pretend that one is an “older brother” or a “senior at school”- types of roles one doesn’t need to earn, but that one is born into or obtains through automatic social promotion in school – than take the risk of trying to provide for Mick and failing.
When Phun says that he knows that Noh loves him the same way he loves Noh, I think that’s true in theory. Noh would like to, but practice he can’t repay all the gifts Phun can give him, which is why he’s avoiding saying he loves Phun directly and doesn’t yet believe it can last forever. I think Mick would like Ohm to love him like Phun does Noh, but Ohm can’t practically do that either. What both Ohm and Noh desire is a more “love between equals” relationship than is developing at the moment. I think it is fine that Ohm isn’t trying to take advantage of Mick by bearing false gifts like Nick does to Shay, or taking advantage of his senior position to score an inappropriate relationship, like Arm is trying on Mick. But he still needs to adjust to the idea that sharing isn’t a weaknesses. Like Yuri, Mick can’t just hang around Ohm and expect that love is going to magically grow, but Ohm is going to have to figure out how to show kindness consistently to a junior as a way to earn Mick’s love or we’re not going to make it over the impasse that’s coming.
The Big Absent Father is absent no longer! A boring college recruiting trip goes wild! And Mick needs to decide what kind of love he’s looking for. And is love something that we earn or win? Or is it something that magically appears?