Lovestore At The Corner (巷弄裡的那家書店): Ep9 Review + Semi-Detailed Recap

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How far is the distance between reality and aspirations? In this episode, we dabble further into the lives of people in the isolated small village of Yi Lan and it turns out that the peaceful village is not without its troubles. I feel that this is the best episode of the series aside from the pilot episode, the writing for past episodes were above average but this episode made me feel that the screenwriters of this series are brilliant as they connected all the dots together by putting out the truth bare for us to see, interconnecting the new revelations with past hints.

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I feel that the screenwriters have planned this all along, purposely making Shu-Lei and Ke-Xin heavily involved with the villagers of Yi Lan and connecting them with warmth, a feeling of home and also their biggest enemy – harsh reality. Can they shorten the gap between harsh reality and overly naive ideals?

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Lee Wei also had one of his best performances in the whole series in this episode as he was forced to face his inner-demons, the family that he abandoned as Xiang Shu-Lei. He gets to personally witness the aftermath of his disappearance, how does it badly affect his parents and it’s extremely painful to watch.

*Note: I may not be able to do reviews for every individual episode as it’s time-consuming but I really want to talk about this episode first as it left a strong impression on me and I want to spurt out my thoughts before they become blurry.

I wish I can clone myself into multiple me, one is the hardworking me to study for upcoming exams, the second one is the hardworking blogger, the third one is the hardworking subber in Viki and the forth one is the hardworking gif maker in Tumblr. But sadly, I’m alone by my lazy self, fighting against time, laziness and procrastination. I’m sure many will share my sentiments, heh.

Recap of Ep9:

*Quite detailed but I skipped over some scenes/details which are less important.

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The village troublemakers who are classmates of Ah-Bi ruined the reading party and Ke-Xin tend to Mo-Cheng’s wounds that he got from the fight just now. The regular customer of the bookstore and also Ah-Bi’s English teacher in school, Chen Yu-Fan (Belle Xin) questions Ah-Bi about the bullies that came to ruin the reading party as she can see that they’re trying to find troubles with him. Ah-Bi admits that those bullies have been harassing him for quite some time but he doesn’t want to tell the teachers or his parents as he’s afraid to make them worry. Furthermore, the family of the bully leader has a powerful influence in the village and villagers are afraid of them. Ke-Xin fumes over the reality that there’s nothing can be done to deal with the bullies.

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Meanwhile, Shu-Lei’s younger brother, Xiang Shu-Hao (Wu Xiang Zhen) who is a doctor, fails to save a patient and the family of the deceased grows agitated and are furious at him as he failed to keep to his words that the patient will be healthy again. They call him a murderer and his father tries to control the situation.

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In private, his father is furious at the way he handles the patient case as giving family members guarantee and false hope will only bring troubles, especially operations on brain tumor which doesn’t have 100% success rate. The father starts comparing Shu-Hao with Shu-Lei, saying that his brother will never find excuses for his mistakes and says that if it’s Shu-Lei, the hospital should already have expanded itself by now and he criticize that Shu-Hao doesn’t know how to operate a hospital business. Shu-Hao fumes over his comparison and criticisms, angrily yells at his father that since brother is so important to him, he should find him back. He huffs off angrily.

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Ke-Xin visits the hospital to find Shu-Hao as usual to talk about his brother, however, she encounters him when he’s still fuming about the previous conflict he had with his father. He’s in a foul mood and takes it out on Ke-Xin, but soon he calm himself down and have a chat with Ke-Xin. He criticize his father for only thinking about his brother and puts down all of his hard work as if his efforts are nothing at all. He also thinks that he’s better than Shu-Lei.

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At this, Ke-Xin questions to why he thinks that he’s definitely better than Shu-Lei and says that Shu-Lei also need the love of his father and he shouldn’t only think of himself. He admits that he’s selfish but he counter-questions her to whether she never ever hurt others for her own selfish reasons. She immediately thought of Ze-Xuan as she left him alone by himself the other day to satisfy her own sudden impulse to write a postcard to Shu-Lei.

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Ke-Xin waits for Ze-Xuan for him to finish work and gives him a cup of coffee to apologize for her behaviour the other day. Ze-Xuan at first pretended to not accept her apology and walks away but soon relents to her constant pacification. He asks her to not go to Yi Lan anymore as she’s becoming strange recently but she quickly excuses herself, saying that she’s acting that way because there’s no progress in making Xiang Shu-Lei regain his memory. If Shu-Lei regains his memory, they can get the money they want and proceed on with their “Happiness Plan” (they were thinking of getting money as reward from his family by helping Shu-Lei regain his memory). He listens to her unwillingly and they walk off happily to have a meal together.

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At night, the bullies came to create trouble in the dumpling shop, run by Xiao-Ba’s grandma, Ah-Juan. Ke-Xin immediately defends her and starts to quarrel with them. The bullies slapped and pushed Ke-Xin as they find her interference annoying, they left after making a mess in the shop. Ah-Juan is worried about her getting hurt and the other villagers come to help sorting out the mess and tend to Ke-Xin’s wounded cheeks.

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Back at home, Ke-Xin writes her diary and notes the difference between aspiration and reality. She feels that everyone beside her is playing the tug-of-war between the aspirations and the reality. Her aspiration is to have a happy and peaceful village, a world without evil but however, the reality is evil powers are preventing good people from leading a peaceful life. She wonders to whether hope is a luxury in the world of reality. She thinks to herself that maybe there’s no way out for Shu-Lei in the world of reality so he ran away and became another person, Mo-Cheng and runs the bookstore to create a world of aspirations, filled with another kind of logic.

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Liang Li-Yun (Jean Lee), the publishing editor that have been searching for Ke-Jie’s manuscript asks Mo-Cheng to visit Shu-Lei as his family really wants to see him and if they go to his home, she may be able to find Ke-Jie’s manuscript. Li-Yun also says that if they find the manuscript, it will ease the longing feelings of Ke-Jie’s family so Mo-Cheng decided to lend a helping hand.

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Mo-Cheng goes back to Shu-Lei’s old home and meets Shu-Lei’s parents. The parents seem to be very affected at the sight of Mo-Cheng but he introduces himself as Yang Mo-Cheng and calls Shu-Lei’s parents, Mr. Xiang and Mrs. Xiang. The parents are taken aback by his actions, but they quickly regain their composure and Mrs. Xiang invites him and Li-Yun to go up to Shu-Lei’s room to find the manuscript.

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Inside the room, Mo-Cheng seems to be very affected at the sight of Shu-Lei’s room as everything in the room is left untouched and maintained very well. Mrs. Xiang takes out a few things from the room and questions whether Mo-Cheng remembers these things, those were his favourite things. However, he cuts in and says that if he is her son, he will be very happy to know that his mother loves him so much.

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Li-Yun found photo album containing pictures of Shu-Lei and Ke-Jie, she shows it to Mo-Cheng and Mrs. Xiang. Mrs. Xiang tears up as she flips through the album and questions Mo-Cheng to whether he really forgotten about the woman he loved the most. Finally, the sorrows eat her up and she tightly hugs Mo-Cheng, pleading him to stop claiming himself as Yang Mo-Cheng. Mo-Cheng tries to calm his shaky hands and pats on Mrs. Xiang arms to comfort her.

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Shu-Lei’s parents try to invite Mo-Cheng for dinner but he declines and politely offers to eat dinner with them another time. Mrs. Xiang cries in Mr. Xiang’s arms as she noticed that Mo-Cheng have become thinner, it hurts her so much. As Li-Yun and Mo-Cheng are heading out of the house, Mr. Xiang catches up to them and puts a box of cheese cake made by Mrs. Xiang into Mo-Cheng’s hands. Mo-Cheng politely thanks him and Mrs. Xiang. Mr.Xiang stares longingly at Mo-Cheng’s back as he sees him leaving. He tears up and says that the cheese cake used to be Shu-Lei’s favourite so he should eat more.

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Mo-Cheng arrives in a square alone; he sits down and puts down the box of cheese cake besides him. He flashed back to what happened in the past when he was Shu-Lei. It turns out that his memory is still fully intact. When he just wake up from his coma, he overhears his grandfather scolding his father for not being able to take care of Shu-Lei well enough in the hospital room. His grandfather questions whether he did it deliberately because he’s scared that Shu-Lei will replace his position in the hospital as he knows that grandfather highly regards Shu-Lei as the hospital’s successor. Having overheard this, Shu-Lei looks pained and pretend to be in a coma for a period of time. His father often comes to take care of him and even shaves his facial hair. He feels his father’s affection for him for the first time.

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The scene cuts back to the square, Mo-Cheng opens the box of cheesecake and Ke-Xin’s narration cuts in.

Is it because there’s nowhere for you to run?
So you run into a completely different world.
Just like in Haruki Murakami’s
“Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World”
so you created an ideal world filled with another kind of logic in the bookstore.

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Mo-Cheng silently eats the cheesecake, fighting back his tears as he flashes back to his mom pleads and sobs back in the house. The camera zooms out and shows Mo-Cheng sitting in the middle of the crowded square, isolated, and letting many people pass by him.

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In the “Joy of Reading” bookstore, Ke-Xin happily opens the reply letter that Mo-Cheng wrote back to her. Ah-Bi caught her in action and question her teasingly whether her boyfriend knows about these “love letters” that Mo-Cheng sent her and says that she’s cheating on her boyfriend. Ke-Xin riles up at his accusations and questions, “how is reading a letter called cheating”? Ah-Bi notes even though she’s not officially cheating yet but her heart and mind is cheating on her boyfriend already. Ke-Xin chase after him, trying to hit him and they begin on a run-and-chase game. As he heads outside, she throws a duster out of the bookstore and it almost hit Mo-Cheng whom just arrived. When asked by Mo-Cheng what does Ah-Bi means by cheating, Ke-Xin just awkwardly changes the topic and asks whether he found her sister’s manuscript.

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Li-Yun is back in the publisher office and tells her staff the bad news that she couldn’t find Ke-Jie’s manuscript. The staffs are hesitant to say something but soon they decided to talk it out as for the past 3 months, they’ve been only getting a half amount of their salary but they need to send money back home. Li-Yun assures them that she will return the salary that she owes them by the end of this month since they’ve been following her ever since the first book was published by their company.

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Back in the bookstore, Ke-Xin sighs that the search for her sister’s manuscript has been futile. As Mo-Cheng sees Ah-Bi hanging around in the bookstore, he questions him to why is he in the bookstore at this hour, shouldn’t he be in school? Ke-Xin says that he told her that it’s the school’s anniversary today so he left school earlier and came to help in the bookstore since there’s not much to do at home. However, Mo-Cheng says that he remembers that his school anniversary is 6 months later. Ke-Xin realize that Ah-Bi is lying to her and questions him to why is he lying. Ah-Bi tries to brush off the topic and says that he’s going back home.

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Mo-Cheng stops him mid-way and questions why he doesn’t want to go to school. Ah-Bi admits that it’s because the bullies are trying to find him so he doesn’t want to go to school. Mo-Cheng reprimands him for running away from reality as keep on running away is not going to solve the problems. Mo-Cheng grabs Ah-Bi, trying to send him back to the school.

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Ke-Xin stops Mo-Cheng and says that it’s normal that Ah-Bi is afraid of the bullies, why does he keep on trying to force him go back to school. She questions whether he never thought of running away from a situation in his life. Mo-Cheng cooly says no. Ke-Xin scoffs at his answer and questions him about pretending to be Yang Mo-Cheng in Yi Lan and not try to find the relationship between him and Xiang Shu-Lei. Ke-Xin says that Yang Mo-Cheng is the evidence that he, Xiang Shu-Lei is running away from everything. Mo-Cheng falls silent at this, Ke-Xin suggests for him to let Ah-Bi stay in the bookstore as it will be more dangerous for him to go back to school. Mo-Cheng questions her about what she’s treating the bookstore as. Ke-Xin replies that the bookstore is a place for anyone who loves reading book.

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Mo-Cheng agrees to let Ah-Bi stay in the bookstore with one condition, which is for him to read books. Mo-Cheng passes Ah-Bi the book, “The Catcher in the Rye” by J. D. Salinger. Ah-Bi is confused when he flips through the book as the writing is full of vulgarity but starts reading it anyway.

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Ke-Xin thanks Mo-Cheng for letting Ah-Bi stay in the bookstore and starts telling him a story about her past. During junior high school, she used to have a very good friend who is a bully in the school and everyone is afraid of the girl. Mo-Cheng asks whether she’s not afraid of her friend. Ke-Xin says no as she treats her very well so she’s not so bad. Ke-Xin asks whether he ever meet these kinds of friends when he was young. Mo-Cheng surprise Ke-Xin with his answer, saying that he’s the bully instead.

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He flashes back to the past when he was young and his father never compliments him over anything, even when he got 1st place in the class, his father still wants him to get 1st place in the whole school. His father’s high demands frustrate him as he can never satisfy his father no matter how hard he tries and his existence is always denied no matter what. He decides that he rather head the opposite direction and starts bullying his classmates in school, because he feels only then it seems that he can prove his own existence. Mo-Cheng says that these kind of people bully others because they’re lonelier than others. Ke-Xin falls silent at his story.

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Mo-Cheng teasingly questions her to why is she not reacting the usual way, asking whether this is Yang Mo-Cheng or Xiang Shu-Lei’s life story. Ke-Xin says Xiang Shu-Lei in the past is denied by his family, the current amnesiac Xiang Shu-Lei becomes Yang Mo-Cheng who forgets about her sister and not only his family can’t accept the current him, she also can’t accept the current him. She notes that it must be very lonely for him as others don’t understand him and it must feel like he’s being abandoned by this world. She apologizes to him as she never seems to try standing from his point-of-view to understand him. She also apologizes for what she said just now about that he shouldn’t hide here as Yang Mo-Cheng.

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Mo-Cheng admits that he is indeed running away from everything, implying that he is really Xiang Shu-Lei in front of Ke-Xin. This answer surprises Ke-Xin. Mo-Cheng says that during high school, he was too lonely and did not have the courage so he escaped to the circle of bad friends and violence as he thought that he could redeem himself that way. He often thinks that if he had more courage to love himself and fight against his parents during high school, things may be different now.

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Ke-Xin doesn’t know how to comfort him but she suddenly thought of a passage and starts narrating.

Then, we’ll surprisingly find that in the ocean filled with surging dark tides,
there lives a life brighter than the sun,
clearer than the snow,
braver than the wind and thunder.
Polaris is the witness,
no matter from which direction you observe,
it’ll be majestic, filled with joy and strong.
It swiftly surrounds the seagulls with flapping wings,
flying across the drifting icebergs.

– Seven Layers of Ocean

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Mo-Cheng silently stares at Ke-Xin, overlapping her with the sight of Ke-Jie as this is the exact same passage that she often reads to him when he’s feeling down. He’s very affected by this passage but the Ke-Jie in his imagination completely disappears as Ke-Xin finishes her narration and says that this passage describe his emotions. He tries to regain his composure, heads back into the bookstore and starts playing the piano, flashing back to the scenes of him and Ke-Jie.

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Li-Yun and Ke-Xin’s father are having a talk in a coffee shop. Li-Yun says that she may have to slow down the search for Ke-Jie’s manuscript for a while as her company is not making much profit so she have to solve the current problems in her company first. Ke-Xin’s father assures her that it’s fine and recommends some works of his students, suggesting that she should publish these works first at the moment to solve her problem. Li-Yun notes that Ke-Jie’s dissapearance must have been very hard for him as she saw Shu-Lei’s family earlier today, even though their son is right in front of them but he seems like a stranger.

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Ke-Xin starts having second thoughts about her aim to come to Yi Lan because at first her objective was to make Xiang Shu-Lei regain his memory but as time passes by, she feels confused to whether this is really what she wants.

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In Ah-Bi’s school, the teachers are having a meeting and Yu-Fan tries to highlight the problem of bullies in school, hoping that the school side could do something about it by giving them severe punishment. However, Ah-Bi’s homeroom teacher denies her suggestion as it will only make things worse, he suggest to just give them a warning since they’re just teenagers. Yu-Fan questions him sarcastically whether he is trying to avoid troubles so he’s letting the bullies to continue bullying the victims. The homeroom teacher riles up at her questions and reprimands her for being incompetent and inexperienced as a teacher. He publicly insults her in front of the other teachers with the other teachers not saying a word to this situation and left the room, leaving Yu-fan alone in the meeting room, feeling frustrated.

Thoughts:

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The writers brought out an interesting topic in this episode, difference between reality and aspiration, how different can they be?

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Ah-Bi hopes to improve his family’s restaurant business and lead a happy life with his family in the village but however, in reality, he’s being harassed by the bullies and his father fell ill when his family’s business is improving. Yu-Fan hopes to be a good teacher that is able to protect her students but in reality, the school side are unwilling to go through the trouble of solving bullying problem as it’s a very tacky issue and they also know that the bully leader comes from an influential family in the village.

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Li-Yun aspires to publish good books so she’s searching Ke-Jie’s manuscript which she was impressed by when she was just a lowly editor but in reality, not only her search for the manuscript is futile, her company is also facing profit and money problems. Mo-Cheng runs away from his past, hoping to start anew in Yi Lan but however in reality, he can never truly escape his past as it will keep on come catching up to him. When he’s facing his parents whom he abandoned, he can’t stay unaffected as like he hoped to.

I feel it’s parallel to the everyday life people are facing, aspirations can’t feed the hungry and there’s always a fixed distance that is very difficult to shorten between reality and aspiration. Aspirations tend to beautify the world but reality is harsh and running away is not a way to solve the problems.

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Mo-Cheng’s past come haunting him back in this episode and he finally officially admits in front of Ke-Xin and us, viewers that he’s Shu-Lei. I always had doubt about him as Yang Mo-Cheng so I’m glad that the writers dish out and reveal the truth to us at such an early stage as we can get to further look into his inner struggles. His confrontation with his parents is so heart-breaking to watch and Lee Wei’s acting when he’s eating the cheesecake is very moving and it was one of his best performances to date in the series.

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Ke-Xin showed in this episode that she’ve grown as a person, becoming a person who’s able to comfort others. It’s reversed this time round as usually it’s always Mo-Cheng who comforts and enlightens her with his words but this time, she moved him with her passage, exactly the same passage which Ke-Jie often reads to Shu-Lei in ep1. That was a memorable scene as the director overlaps Ke-Jie’s image with Ke-Xin’s image, reading the same passage together. The directing elevates the emotions at that moment.

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I’m still not buying Ke-Xin’s affection for Shu-Lei so I hope the writers will not go down this route as I will feel very, very bad for Ze-Xuan. It’s funny though, because Shu-Lei was once a cheater and now, Ke-Xin is becoming one too, if they really get together, it’s like a birds of feather flock together and I will hate this pairing for sure. Fortunately, I still feel Shu-Lei’s strong affection for Ke-Jie so it will only be a one-sided affection from Ke-Xin at the moment, and I hope it will stay this way.

My past reviews of Lovestore at the Corner: Ep1 & Ep2~8

Watch Eng Subbed on Viki | Soompi Discussion Thread for Lovestore at the corner

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carolies541

A lazy person who loves to procrastinate and burn the midnight oil to watch Asian dramas instead. She can't live without dramas, variety shows and indie music.

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