Gloomy Salad Days Episode 3






All of these characters are so complicated. Wow. Y'all are in for an emotional ride. Next story arc, commence!



Character Introduction - Episode 3

Xiao Lin (Zhang Jun Ming): A girl who is neglected by her family, a girl who only wants for her deep love for her parents to be reciprocated. Her behavior, however, is just a little weird.





Nicole (Lin Chen Xi): Works as a prostitute at night in order to make enough money to escape from the hell that is her home. She's tough, independent, and hides all her wounds deep inside.





Tang Zi Qi (Kris Shen): A naive and nerdy kid who always follows the rules. Wants to help Nicole (and probably has a crush on her.) He doesn't play a huge role in this episode, but he will during Nicole's story arc, so just a little heads up.






Episode 3

A car turns into a busy street. Xiao Lin looks sullenly out the window while two adults in the front seats hold an uncomfortable silence. The woman turns to her and tells her to buy the school uniform once they get to the school, and hands her some bills. The man asks if they should deliver the flour to the shop first or drop her off at school, but it's a rhetorical question, since he makes the decision to deliver the flour first anyway, even though Xiao Lin will be late. The woman tries to make it better by saying that it shouldn't be too big of a deal to arrive late on the first day. Xiao Lin gives her a look but doesn't say a word. We can already tell that Xiao Lin has a bit of an attitude problem—she's unresponsive and withdrawn.


At the school, the two adults are in a meeting with a school official, getting ready to register Xiao Lin. A teacher comes out and greets Xiao Lin, introducing herself as Yang Qian Qian, the one who would be overseeing her throughout the year. She sees asks Xiao Lin if she decided to transfer to the school because she had moved, but the girl shakes her head, saying that her aunt told her to. The teacher is surprised to hear that the two adults are her aunt and uncle and not her parents, and wonders why her parents aren't there. Xiao Lin replies that they're sick, and gives a small smile when Teacher Yang tries to cheer her up.


However, when Teacher Yang asks her aunt and uncle how Xiao Lin's parents got sick, they give blank stares—and then the uncle yells in frustration that she's spouting nonsense again. It turns out that her parents are in the middle of divorcing, and Xiao Lin was sent away from her school because she had been caught stealing something. They push the dormitory application towards the school official again, who says that it is against school policy to allow students to live in the dorms if they live in the city, but they clarify that her parents live outside of town, and they're only letting her live with them temporarily. He stresses that she's a rather large burden on them, and we can tell that he really wants to get her off of their hands.


Outside, we get an even deeper impression of Xiao Lin's strange personality: she stands over the rail of the second floor, throwing small pebbles at people's heads as they pass. She keeps missing, but finally one of her missiles finds its target, and the student below whips around, shouting "who threw that?!" She ducks to avoid notice.


Teacher Yang heads back to the dorms with Xiao Lin, and mentions that her uncle told the truth about her history at her last school. She hastily adds that she's not judging and won't tell the other students, she just wants to know more about her student. Xiao Lin says that they were the ones who did something to her first: one day, an ex-classmate had lied to her and said that her father was waiting for her in the counseling room, but when she got there, they locked her inside. She wasn't able to return home that night, but her parents didn't notice that she was gone because they were quarreling. Her only chance was to crawl out of the room window and ride away on the bully's bike... but she ended up messing up the bike.

But Teacher Yang is still puzzled: why did she lie about her parents being sick? Xiao Lin reveals that both of her parents had been taking medication: her mother, sleeping pills, and her father, medicine for hyperthyroidism. The moment they stop taking their medicine, they begin fighting again. She shows her teacher a scar on her forehead that she got when she tried to protect her mother from an ashtray that her father threw when they were fighting. The teachers says she understands, but advises Xiao Lin to let go of the past and start anew at her new school. If anything bothers her, she mustn't do those bad things again and can just go to her teacher.


In the classroom, Xiao Lin finds her seat. A couple of the boys are excited that there are "pretty girls" in the class now and start to hit on Xiao Lin, who looks away and refuses to talk to them. They keep prodding until Nicole tells them to back off. They leave to their respective seats and the teacher enters the classroom. She asks the class to elect a Class President, and people call out Tang Zi Qi, who apparently is no stranger to the role, but he hastily suggests someone else for the position. Meanwhile, Xiao Lin plays with the rock that was on her seat (left by Ah Pang of Episode 2); the rock begins to glow and Shen Qi winces in pain. Troubled, he looks around for the source and shoots an intense glare in her general direction. Xiao Lin looks shifty as she pockets the rock.


It's move-in time, and as time goes by we can see that Xiao Lin is just really, really uncomfortable talking to strangers. (Dorm life will probably be hell for her, to be honest....) She meets her two roommates, Zhu Yi Zhu and Fang Rou Juan, both of whom seem pretty friendly. Yi Zhu's mother brings a large comforter over for her daughter, and the PD makes a pretty conscious effort to contrast the other girl's relationship with her loving parents with Xiao Lin's lonely bitterness. She looks on with sadness and envy as Yi Zhu interacts with her parents, and declines Yi Zhu's mother's offer to take them all out to dinner. She leaves for the store before they can say anything else.



She picks a few items from the store and asks the boss where she can find pillows and blankets. The woman tells her that those are things that everyone brings these days, so there aren't any in stock. If she wants to order some, they'll be available in a week. Xiao Lin, poor girl, asks how she's going to sleep until then. The owner suggests getting a sleeping bag.

She returns to an empty room, and as she puts away her things she sees from the window Yi Zhu and her parents (and presumably Rou Juan as well) going off to dinner. Now alone, Xiao Lin takes some time to rummage through the other girls' belongings—because, you know, everyone does that--and even uses a knife to slit open the down comforter that Yi Zhu's mom brought over. She's not too good at being discrete, honestly, because she doesn't retie things that she's untied, and she leaves the tiny feathers that flew out of the blanket where they fall, even though she zips back up the bag containing it. The whole process is somewhat disturbing to watch, because Xiao Lin does all of this with a completely blank face. There are no signs of malicious intent or curiosity in her expression. She's completely blank when all of this happens, even after she sneezes because of the feathers. She's almost robotic in her methods.


The next day in class, Teacher Yang asks Xiao Lin how dorm life is for her—she seems to be smiling a lot more. The latter answers with a bright smile and says that it's fine, except for her allergies. There seems to be a lot of lint in the room. (O RLY, I WONDER WHY.) The teacher says she'll have the dorm head look into it. As soon as she leaves, Xiao Lin's smile drops right off of her face, and she hold the rock again while giving it a strange look.

Back in her room, Yi Zhu is sitting with Rou Juan and another girl, admiring the new cell phone that her dad has sent her. She makes a test call to her parents (loudly), and Xiao Lin throws jealous daggers with her eyes.


Classroom again. Class President Tang Zi Qi writes an announcement on the board that student have to pay another fee, much to the chagrin of many of the students. All of them only get limited pocket money from their parents, but they wonder how Xiao Lin has so much spending money when her parents don't come bring it for her. She shows them her bank card, which they ooh and ahh over, and admiring how much freedom she has when she says she moved into the dorm so that her aunt wouldn't have to take care of her. Nicole sneers, saying that there's nothing great about that, and stalks off. The other girls instantly start gossiping about her and her crazy family life and how she's always out to get attention, but Xiao Lin remains quiet as she watches Zi Qi hastily following after Nicole.


Zi Qi opens a door, looking for Nicole, and she kicks the door shut behind him. She asks him why he's following her, and he stutters that she hasn't paid the class fees yet. Nicole is obviously not pleased and says she'll pay when she has money. Zi Qi then offers to pay for her, since, well, he might as well, right? Nicole laughs humorlessly and retorts: he might as well? Then shouldn't he also pay for her room rent, buy her a motorcycle, get a pack of cigarettes for her? But cigarettes are bad for you, he says, while she's puffing away at one. Nicole rolls her eyes and suggests that if he wants to take care of someone, he should go care for the new student, since she obviously needs someone to look after her. Clearly, Zi Qi is not the brightest of the bunch, because his response is: but she pays all the fees.... (I'm facepalming here.) "MONEY, MONEY, MONEY! All you talk about is money!" Nicole is sick of it and walks away in frustration. (I have a feeling that this is how she always walks—in anger, frustration, and/or disgust. Lol.) Zi Qi calls out that he'll pay for her, then~


Nicole finds somewhere else she can be alone, but her solitude is soon interrupted by another guy. This time it's Ah Cai, the one from Episode 1 who was also screwed over by Huang He. He just got out of probation yesterday. She's very glad to see him, but he cuts to the chase and confronts her about the rumors that she's been "making friends", a lot of them, while he was gone. She smiles and says, oh, that nerd? He's just the class president, he has nothing to do with me. Ah Cai tells her to stop joking around. How many people has she dated during this time? He's heard that she's been with the "idiot" Sha Dong (Xiao Qing's brother from Episode 2) and even the pervert Lin Dong. If she chose even those two, then what does he mean to her? Nicole is hurt and asks who told him and if he's blaming her, but that only confirms that what he said is true. Ah Cai is furious. He knows she was forced, and acknowledges that he doesn't really have any right to blame her... but it's still enough for him. He doesn't want her anymore, and walks away (JERK!), leaving her behind with the most wronged expression on her face.


Hah! Irony. Nicole (or Ni Ke, as I just now noticed) and Xiao Lin are partners in their computer class! Their assignment is to make a blog by Monday. Xiao Lin wakes up Nicole, who probably sleeps in every class because she just doesn't care, and tells her about the assignment. Nicole tells her to do it herself, since she doesn't have a computer at home, but there's one problem: Xiao Lin doesn't know how to make a blog. Nicole sighs and agrees to make the blog on Xiao Lin's notebook at her dorm on Sunday, since she doesn't have a home to go back to. Xiao Lin goes on the defensive and insists that she has a home, even though Nicole observes that she's never gone back once during the semester and no one comes to visit her. Xiao Lin says it's because her parents are sick and she doesn't like going to her aunt's house, which is in the city. Nicole is doubtful but doesn't really care, since home isn't important to her at all. She just wants Xiao Lin to pay her class fees for her if she finishes the blog, which the latter agrees to do.

Xiao Lin makes a phone call to her aunt from a phone booth, asking her for money to pay for the class funds since her dad forgot to send some over again, and also asking her to take her to go buy an electronic translator for English class, since she can't buy one on campus. Her aunt is preoccupied with a customer and is just a nice person in general, and agrees to send over the 1000NTD and pick her up on the weekend. Xiao Lin hangs up with a happy/smug look on her face.


Later at the dorms, Xiao Lin is listening to her music happily and chats with Rou Juan about her upcoming weekend of shopping with her aunt. Their pleasant conversation is interrupted by an annoyed Yi Zhu storming down the hallway, carrying her comforter. Apparently, the dorm head had done a hygiene check on their room and had told her that she needed to either remove or fix her blanket because it was causing allergic reactions in another girl. She gives an angry phone call to her dad, who hangs up because he's in a meeting, and she decides to throw the blanket away. Xiao Lin looks on in the background with shifty eyes.


While helping to clean the dorm with some fellow students, Teacher Yang comes in and asks if it's Xiao Lin's birthday today, because she has a present. Xiao Lin happily asks if it was her mom or her dad who brought it over, and opens the bag. Inside is an electronic translator, and her face instantly falls. She asks if her aunt came over, but the teacher doesn't know—the security guard had only handed her the package. Xiao Lin is disappointed that her aunt came all the way over to bring it and didn't even bother to see her. She says she doesn't even need a translator (and the unspoken reality is that she just wants some company and attention from her family), but when the teacher asks her what's wrong, she puts on her fake happy face again and thanks her for delivering it.


That weekend, Nicole is at Xiao Lin's dorm working on their blog. (I just want to take a moment to take back my words that Xiao Lin would feel uncomfortable in a dorm—she actually seems quite well adjusted and is fairly amiable to everyone, although she does have that weird tendency to do strange things when she's alone. Her attitude towards Nicole is quite friendly and also more tolerant than that of other girls at the school.) But anyway, back at the dorm. Xiao Lin gives Nicole the translator, since she doesn't need one, and even promises that she'll give the other girl everything in her dorm if her parents come to pick her up. Nicole asks why she would ever do that, and Xiao Lin replies that the dorm is not home and is just temporary, so all her things right now are temporary as well. Nicole wants nothing to do with family and changes the subject. She asks what they should talk about on their blog: suicide? Xiao Lin is a bit freaked out. Romance? Xiao Lin doesn't know anything about dating. SEX? Xiao Lin can only smile uncomfortably. She gets an idea and asks if they can put the picture in her heart locket on the blog—it's a photo of her and her parents when they went to Hokkaido last year. Nicole scoffs and says it's lame to talk about one's parents on a blog. She gives Xiao Lin a sidelong glance, then offers her advice.
Nicole: If one does not wish to be abandoned, there's only one way.
Xiao Lin: What way?
Nicole: It is to abandon them first.
Xiao Lin: What do you mean?
Nicole: If they ever let you down, then just abandon them first.
Xiao Lin wonders if she means romantic love, because she's never been in a relationship before, but to Nicole, this holds true for any kind of relationship. Xiao Lin asks if she's ever been abandoned before, and Nicole says she doesn't even care about it anymore. Why? Because the people who abandoned her just aren't worth it. 



Teachers announce that the school is going to be on break for the next week, and students are abuzz with excitement, discussing their plans with each other. Someone asks Xiao Lin what she plans on doing, and she replies that she'll let them know after she uses the bathroom. Instead, she has gone to make a phone call to her aunt and uncle. Her uncle picks up, and sadly enough doesn't even know who she is at first. She tells him that the school is going to be on break and that her father told her aunt to come pick her up. He doubts her and asks if she forgot to pay the dorm fees, but she insists that because there's construction she won't be able to stay at the dorm. He grunts a consent and says he'll pick her up the next day while he makes deliveries, all the while holding a conversation with a customer, making a transaction, and lighting a cigarette. Happily, Xiao Lin thanks him and leaves to go pack. Her roommates are glad to see that she's finally going home for once, while Xiao Lin says that being cared for by her aunt every once in a while isn't too bad. Her two roommates have extravagant plans (i.e. going to Bali, having a feast), but Xiao Lin says a meal with her family will probably suffice for her.

On the delivery route, Xiao Lin smiles and puts in her headphones, enjoying the fact that she's going to a place like home. At one of the delivery stops, the restaurant owner asks her uncle who the girl sitting in his van is. He points to his wife and says the daughter of her brother. The boss thinks it's good that she's staying with them, since they don't have kids. Xiao Lin's aunt says he complains about children all the time, but he is more irritated at the fact that the girl is always daydreaming and never helps them out when they are on their delivery runs. Her aunt acknowledges that she's a little strange. She also tells him that she should stay on the second floor of their house, and he says she can stay there if she cleans up the living space herself.


The second floor is rarely used—it's been unoccupied since her uncle's mother passed away, and it's pretty much become a storage room. She walks into the dusty room and looks around at the mess. The first thing she does is stick some racy calendar photos over the portrait of the old woman. She comes downstairs, which is her aunt and uncle's shop, and walks around a little bit. Someone's wallet falls onto the floor and she picks it up, turning it over in her hands. Her uncle spots her on the surveillance TV and startles everyone (myself included), shouting, "what are you doing?!" She says someone lost their wallet, and the woman behind her notices it's hers and thanks her for picking it up. Xiao Lin's uncle tells her to stay upstairs if she's not going to be of any help. She reluctantly returns to the second floor.


That night, Xiao Lin lies in bed and stares at the glowing rock. She confides in it regularly, it seems, and this time tells it that only the thought of death will wake her up. The room gets darker, and suddenly we hear another voice: "If you continue to not be able to persevere, beware of becoming a rock." Xiao Lin shoots up in alarm. Who is she? She is none other than Du, or the Death Girl, Keeper of Naihe Bridge. Xiao Lin is incredulous that she actually exists. Suddenly, Du pops up beside her and asks her if she wants to become a rock. She screams in fright and wakes up from her dream, breathing heavily and clutching both the rock and her locket.


 

Xiao Lin's aunt and uncle are eating dinner and watching the news, talking between themselves. Xiao Lin comes halfway down the railing, hesitating in the shadows. They're about done with their food when her aunt suddenly remembers that Xiao Lin is staying with them and that she forgot to call her down for dinner. She hurries to heat the food and tells her husband to call Xiao Lin down. The girl hurries back up the stairs and hides behind the banister and refuses to come down even when her aunt starts calling for her to come down, too. But her uncle is fed up with her "spoiled" behavior, saying he's never seen such a bad child before, and tells his wife to ignore her. Xiao Lin cries as she crouches in the dark.


Okay, so Xiao Lin also shoplifts. Lovely. She comes downstairs when her aunt and uncle are asleep, and begins taking a couple small food items. Then she approaches the cash register (me: really? REALLY? you can't resist it????) and pops it open. Of course, it makes that really loud cha-ching! noise and pens go clattering onto the floor. Her aunt starts awake, but the husband is too lazy and says that it's probably just a rat. He'll check the surveillance cameras in the morning. Xiao Lin is frozen, but since no one has come to check, she grabs a bill and shuts the register, takes a can of some drink, and runs out of the store into the night. She stops to catch her breath when she thinks she's far enough away and opens up the can and takes a swig. She coughs on it and, deciding she doesn't like it, tosses it out onto the street, just as a motorcyclist is riding by. She almost hits them but doesn't notice until they yell at her, shouting "Wanna die?!" She's startled and backs into the shadows.





Thoughts

Xiao Lin is one troubled little girl, seriously. I'd like to believe that all she needs is a really big hug and little bit of love and care from those whom she calls family, but there are also aspects of her character which I question. Maybe she does these things—the stealing, the lies—to gain others' attention, but what about when she acts out in spite? Like the time she slits her roommate's blanket. She doesn't gain anything from it except for the minor satisfaction, perhaps, of seeing Yi Zhu knocked off her rich and spoiled pedestal just a little. She's also reticent and unresponsive towards her aunt and uncle, who find it somewhat difficult to care for her since they've never had children themselves and are busy with their store. At least her aunt tries to be considerate. I'm guessing that there's something lurking in Xiao Lin's past that makes her so hungry for the love of others. Perhaps it has to do with the reason why her parents fight—will we find out in the next episode? Also, this entire time, her own parents never contacted her personally. I wonder how loving her parents must actually be if they go months without trying to talk to their own daughter.

*One slight discontinuation: in the previous episode, we see that Xiao Lin met Du for the first time (and had a conversation with her) in her own dorm, but this time it was in her sleep at her uncle's place. I suppose they'll have a lot more encounters in the next episode.

I also like how this drama ties in all the different stories into an ongoing thread. I know Nicole's story will be coming up soon, and it's interesting to see how Ah Pang's rock is transferred to Xiao Lin, who probably would have been better off without it. The shadows that enshroud all of these characters are a dark reflection of the world of teenagers these days, and while these stories are very different from what I have ever known personally, the reality and the relatability of each character's pain and experiences are all too tangible.

She was only truly happy when it came to her family.



 
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