Gloomy Salad Days Episode 2

Hello all, this is Shabei, joyjee's partner in recapping Gloomy Salad Days! I look forward to journeying forth with all of you on the dark but intriguing path that this drama will take us. :)

After watching the first episode, I had some doubts as to whether or not the drama would turn out to be worth recapping. However, I'm very glad to say that after watching the second episode, it definitely is. Without further ado, the recap~

Episode 2

The second episode of Gloomy Salad Days opens with the closing scene of episode one--Huang He walks by Xiao Qing's classroom and briefly looks at her through the window, though unbeknownst to him she is gripping the pocketknife she borrowed from Ah Pang tightly in her hand. The anticipation is already building from the get-go.

Huang He enters the lab, where his teacher Jiang Ping is waiting for him. She hesitantly begins by saying that they have many memories in that lab, both painful and beautiful. (This is the first solid clue we get that the relationship between the two is not of the typical variety, and possibly has a sexual tinge.) But Huang He has little patience and tells her get to her point, and she goes on to tell him about her resignation from her job. He's happy, right?

Huang He looks a little taken aback, but covers it up, throwing out the fact that he's going to graduate in half a year anyway, and she would never see him again after that. Jiang Ping finally breaks down and cries out, "I know that, but what will I do during that half year? How can I?" He says that he knows she's sad about the death of the "little one," but that she could have kept the baby and stayed with her husband--there was no need for a divorce. And here we have a huge revelation: "I couldn't! Ever since I've been with you, I could never be with him again!" (Ahhh.)

Huang He retorts with the many reasons, which likely have run through his mind more times than he'd care to admit, why they can't be together, to which Jiang can only bow her head in acceptance of. Still, after a small but tense silence, she hands him a tiny vial half-full of white powder; she tells him she saved some of the baby's ashes in it, and that she hopes he'll keep it, since the baby was once-- "ENOUGH!" Huang He cuts her off. Holding back her tears, she leaves, murmuring goodbye.

Huang He is clearly troubled by the conversation and by the vial he's clutching tightly in his fist. We get a flashback to three months ago, just after Jiang Ping gave birth to what we can now assume is their child. He goes to visit her in the hospital, and we see him first passing by the newborn ward, where he stands gazing at one of the adorable little things. He looks deep in thought, and at the last moment changes his mind and instead leaves the flowers he brought outside of Jiang Ping's door.

Back at school, her husband is causing a racket, screaming accusations at the school principal because--get this--Jiang Ping told him that the baby is not only his, but belongs to the "most powerful person in the school." While we know Huang He is that person--being the head honcho in basically everything--no one else does. Huang He overhears all of this, lips tightening in a disturbed frown, especially when the husband threatens to do a DNA test. He is distracted and spaces out throughout his classes, though his attention sharpens when the substitute teacher announces that Jiang Ping will be returning from maternity leave.

The two later meet out on the school track to avoid others' notice and have a talk. Huang He tells her that her husband created a scene while she was gone, and asks her to do him a favor. He wants her to reconcile and start anew with her husband, to tell him that she was only lashing out as an after-effect of giving birth and that the baby was really his, not someone else's. Jiang Ping refuses to lie that the baby is her husband's when he is obviously not. Huang He asks if she wants to bring him down, to which she hurriedly denies because she'd never hurt him.

Seeing him being obstinate, she tries a different approach to get him to soften up: the baby has eyes just like him, so how can she say that the baby isn't his? She'll just take care of him herself, but Huang He says that he is afraid of just that, because what if the baby one day grows up to look just like him? Jiang Ping tells him that no matter if he has a family and his own business in the future, he won't be able to deny the connection that binds the three of them together. She walks away with a look of resignation in her eyes, leaving Huang He to stew in anger and denial. He shouts to no one while hacking into a bush with a stick that the child shouldn't exist, that he doesn't want his blood to flow in the child's veins, that it should disappear from this world! And this is where we see that Huang He discovers an unusual but all-too-familiar glowing rock.

Later on in a classroom, Huang He finds some students gossiping about the sudden death of Jiang Ping's baby and her disintegrating relationship with her husband and the constant talk of divorce. Huang He looks uneasy upon hearing the news.

End flashback. Huang He, newly incensed at this turn of events, runs to the construction site of episode one and throws the vial into the debris, shouting for Death Girl to come out. She materializes and remarks that he's in a terribly foul mood while examining the vial. Huang He demands an explanation--why does it keep back and haunting him? ("It" being the baby.) She had promised him that it would disappear! Death Girl, or Du, laughs at him. According to her, it's his own problem if he can't get over the little vial and what it represents himself. She adds that she likes rocks like him the best, the kind that can't get over things, since they make the best kind of rock to support her Naihe Bridge. She tosses the vial back to him and disappears, much to his chagrin.

Later, we see Sha Dong futilely trying to stop his sister from going to see Huang He. Xiao Qing cuts him off and tells him to mind his own business, because she sure as hell won't let him steal their mother's hard-earned money that's supposed to go towards their father's hospital bills just so he can pay back his own ridiculous debt. She stalks off by herself.

Huang He, creeper that he is, spots her approaching from the top of the building and tells his two cronies to guard the door and make sure no one else comes up besides her. She passes into the building, and it is only after they close the door behind her that the two blockheads jokingly say that they should have patted her down first. (This is me shaking my head at their stupidity.) Xiao Qing walks into the dark of the building with an apprehensive gulp and a solid grip on the knife.

Ah Pang sees Sha Dong sitting by himself, looking worried. He asks about Xiao Qing, and after some prodding, Sha Dong almost pleadingly tells him that he owed Huang He money.... But Ah Pang instantly understands and goes careening off on his bike to the rescue. He arrives at the building but sees the guards at the front door and tries to think of another way to gain entrance into the building.

Xiao Qing opens the door and walks onto the rooftop, where Huang He is waiting for her. He asks if she actually believes in supernatural power, to which she answers no. He questions this, considering that she argued so strongly for it, but she counters that it was only for a competition. If it were actually that important to him, she could easily give up the trophy. But no, Huang He doesn't care about such a small competition. He continues to stare at her with a slightly creepy smile on his face. Xiao Qing, more nervously this time, asks if it's money that he wants--she can work to pay off her brother's debt. He merely smirks and steps closer, saying that since she's smart, she should be able to figure out what he wants... is her. Xiao Qing, brave girl, stutters that she's here now, so what is he going to do?

Ah Pang goes to a different side of the building, trying doors and windows but to no avail. In a moment of clarity, he takes the rock that he's been carrying around all day, sheds his jacket, wraps the rock in his jacket and then smashes the bundle through one of the windows. The two dopes out front hear the noise, but one of them assures the other that it's just the drum part that of the music that's blasting out of their speakers. Dumb and confident. Not a good combo.

He gets to the rooftop--of an adjacent building. Damn. Soon, while frantically catching glimpses of the commotion and struggle on the other roof, he realizes that he is too late. Furious and devastated, he lashes out at the old furniture piled up on the roof before grasping the rock, which is now glowing like a fiery ember burning as hot as his rage. He throws it into the sky, cursing Huang He's name and screaming for the jerk to pay with his life. Du appears in thin air (her preferred method of transportation is poofing into existence, I'm guessing) and catches the rock, murmuring that it has such an aggressive feel. Who is calling for death? she asks.

At the school bus, Shen Qi gets another sharp pain in his head and recognizes it as a bad sign and runs off to find the source. His eyes widen as he sees Du hovering in the air at the top of one of the buildings.

Ah Pang recognizes her as the Death Spirit, and Du confirms that they met in his dream/nightmare from last night. She asks if he wants to help support her bridge, but he is only interested in making sure that Huang He dies for doing what he did to Xiao Qing. She asks if he really can't persevere in this situation, if this is really all he can take, because if he can't even handle this much, he might turn into a stone. Ah Pang says it doesn't matter--if he can help Xiao Qing get revenge, he doesn't care what he becomes. Du prods once more, warning him that if she helps him, he can only turn into a stone that supports her bridge, forever watching others pass while he himself never can. But Ah Pang already knows this, and says again that he doesn't care. Du sneers a little at this, calling him an infatuated stone, and disappears.

The next day, ambulances and stretchers scatter the area while students crowd around a taped-off section near a building. On the ground is a tape-silhouette of the body of a student who had just fallen from the roof. Gossip points to Huang He, saying that he committed suicide by falling off of the building. Shen Qi, who is among the students staring at the scene, says Huang He didn't actually fall, but was pushed... by the Death Spirit. People basically give him the WTF? face, but he continues to insist that it's true. Ah Pang, also present, is too busy staring at the outline to notice Shen Qi's comment, and then everyone is shooed away.

A classroom pan shows cards and gifts on Huang He's desk in the classroom, and we see that the Institute of Civilization is now just an empty room, confirming his death.

At the rooftop, Xiao Qing drops a rose off the side of the building, tears brimming in her eyes. Ah Pang finds her there and asks her why she mourns for Huang He. She believes that he repented very shortly before he died, but Ah Pang can't believe it:
"If he continued to live, he would keep hurting people! I was on that other roof, and I saw what he did to you, that day you borrowed my knife. I couldn't take it anymore, and I wanted to take revenge for you, so I called the Death Spirit, and that's why he fell off the roof the next day."
Xiao Qing, however, shakily denies it, whispering that it wasn't Ah Pang who had killed him.

flashback to the other day on the roof*

Huang He is looming closer to Xiao Qing: "I just want to be friends." We all know what that means in his book, and apparently so does Xiao Qing. Suddenly, she whips out her knife, sending Huang He stepping back slowly in surprise. "Don't forget how you treat your friends," she retorts. He looks at her in confusion--he bears her no ill will. He moves to take the knife from her, and their struggle begins.

Folks, this is a legitimate knife fight between a frightened girl and a dude who apparently just wants to be friends. I suck at narrating fight scenes, but basically Xiao Qing puts up a really good fight and even manages to make Huang He look nervous at some points, like when she doesn't give up and picks up the knife again after he dislodges it from her fingers. This girl's got a strong will to survive. But finally, Huang He pins her down on the ground. She obviously isn't believing the "I bear you no ill will" front (neither am I) and continues to struggle against him, but he tells her not to move; he just wants to talk. She calls him a two-faced liar. How can she believe him?

He silences her, telling her to just listen to him, and begins pouring out his soul to her.

HH: I wanted to be the best of the good students and the worst of the bad students... but I felt that I couldn't go any further. There was a void in my life. Until I saw you. I wanted things to change, to go back to simpler days.
XQ: Why would you want things to change?
HH: A premonition, perhaps. I felt like the Death Spirit has had her eyes on me for a while, now.
XQ: I thought you believed in science?
HH: [shakes head no] Are you willing to listen to me tell you a story?
Huang He recounts the story of the child, how he killed it because Du appeared and he told her to. He is visibly troubled by his actions and regrets them immensely, saying that the only possible retribution is to pay back with his own life. Xiao Qing, now completely with a change of heart, tries to lift his spirits and encourage him by saying that so long as he is willing to try, he can do it, and she believes in him.

end flashback*

Xiao Qing is still lost in reflection. All they had done was sit and talk until it was dark. She looks up at Ah Pang. So no, the one who killed him wasn't Ah Pang. He just ended his own life. Even if he needed to sacrifice it all, he was willing to clean away his sins. He had told her that he wouldn't let her wait long. And then he died the next day. Xiao Qing looks away, crying. It was
she who had killed him.

Ah Pang is back at home when Du suddenly appears. He asks her if she's going to take him away. She gives her signature smirk and says it was too bad, but Huang He made a move before him and decided to take his own life. Why? Because he couldn't persevere over the feelings of his own guilt. She asks if he wants to go now anyway, but he shakes his head no, looking at his grandmother. He says that even if in the future he does turn into a rock, he has to stay with his grandmother for a while. Du predicts that they'll live together for quite some time.

Ah Pang is shocked: so he won't be turned into a rock? She shrugs, saying that if he wants to become a rock, she's won't object, and flounces away in Death God style. Ah Pang cries in relief.

School is closed for the summer. A letter arrives for Huang He, and it is delivered to his desk, which is still covered in gifts. (So... the school doesn't clean things like that up during break?)

It's a letter from Jiang Ping, and she begins by saying that she has actually returned to her hometown with--gasp!--her living baby. She says she'll start to enjoy a happy new life. But here's the real shocker: not only did she lie about the baby's death... but the baby actually isn't his. (That, my friends, is the sound of my jaw hitting the floor. ) She just wanted to get back at him for being so cold, apparently. And while they're over, she's glad that she at least got rid of her unhappy marriage. She also hopes to see him become very successful in the future, and she will always be very proud of him. (Oh, the angst! The irony! It kills.)

Ah Pang says goodbye to Huang He and leaves the death rock on his vacant chair. (Really, kiddo? Can't you just throw it away? What if someone else gets their hands on it...?)

School is about to start again. Huang He's desk is cleaned, but the rock remains, unnoticed, until the first day of school, when the next person to occupy that seat spots the rock. She sees it glow and, curious, keeps it.

Back at her dorm, she examines the rock again. Du suddenly appears behind her and introduces herself as Du, the guardian of Naihe Bridge. The girl seems more wary than afraid. So there really
is a Death Spirit? Du smiles.
"I am only a passerby, but once you cannot pass over your obstacle (persevere through hardship), then I become the Death Spirit."
The girl concedes--she's right, there is something she can't persevere over. Du warns her to be careful, because if she turns into a rock, she can't ever turn back. The girl shows her a picture of her family, her parents. She loves them, and wants to be with them forever. She asks Du, can you help me?


I think this episode is a lot better than the first one. The second episode took all the prickly, unexplained issues of the first episode and made them understandable; all the main high school characters gained more depth, and even Death Girl's involvement in the story began taking a more three-dimensional role than just as the harbinger of death. These new developments make the story feel more alive and relatable, and thus more likable. (i.e. Huang He doesn't exactly redeem himself in this episode, but he does feel a little more human.) Though the emotions in this episode ranged from heartbroken to desperate to furious to unspeakably guilty, everything came together nicely at the end. Strangely enough, this episode saved the drama from potential dreariness and, with a skillful sympathetic touch, imbued it with an almost charming kind of hope.

The thing I like about this drama is that it actually makes you think about your actions and the effect that you and your decisions have on others. We see that because Huang He believed the child was his and that his selfish wish actually caused its death, he finally reached the point where he could only accept death for himself. If he had known that the baby wasn't actually his, or that it at least had not died, I don't think he would have felt guilty enough for all the other bad things he had done to commit suicide. This is the power of Jiang Ping's lie, the power that she had over him. I find it heartbreakingly ironic that she still wishes him success and a bright future in her letter, when it was really her deception that had a direct influence on his decision to die, even though her actions were an act of revenge against his cold treatment of her. I could go on, but the chain of blame is unending, so what's the point in actually pointing fingers at anyone? Perhaps everything would be solved more easily if everyone were just honest with each other. But of course, as human beings, the likelihood of that happening is pretty much nil.

Because this drama runs on bi-episodic arcs, I predict that most of this drama will rely on the second installment to pack the punch, like the first arc did. While this may not be an entirely bad thing, I hope the director can find a way to balance out the two so that there is more of a steady flow between paired episodes.

I have to say that while I understand that Shen Qi's role is just a cognizant bystander at this point, I want Aaron to have more screen time! Ha. Oh well. I am also anticipating more situations where Du is involved, since I'm quite fascinated with her character. I think Serena Fang has done a decent job thus far of depicting a Death Spirit (especially her seemingly nonchalant and mocking attitude), but then again, this is only the second episode. We shall see. Finally, I am eager to watch the relationship between Shen Qi and Du develop. So much to look forward to! :)

Be excited like Ah Pang!

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