By Bryan Tan
This recap, which contains spoilers, covers episodes 15-16 of Start-up, which is currently available on Netflix.
In this week’s finale episodes of Start-up, after successfully test driving their first self-driving car prototype, Tarzan, In Jae group CEO Won In Jae (Kang Han Na) makes an ambitious bid to win a trillion won project for Seonju, a city looking to become a smart city.
Despite the misgivings of her team and younger sister Seo Dal Mi (Bae Suzy), In Jae pushes for the team to get behind her decision. Nam Do San (Nam Joo Hyuk) considers it a possibly viable bid, but Dal Mi thinks that her sister is only making a bid because she is trying to outdo her step-father Won Doo Jung (Eom Hyo Seop) who has also made a bid through his company, Morning Group.
Secretly, Do San’s buddy Lee Chul San (Yoo Su Bin) starts dating his fellow co-worker Jung Sa Ha (Stephanie Lee), and they even get a hot and steamy kissing scene in the photocopy room! Dal Mi consults Han Ji Pyeong (Kim Sun Ho) about the bid and he rejects her proposition outright, saying that the bid is bound to fail.
The triangle between our leads is finally broken
Do San, Ji Pyeong and Dal Mi get awkwardly stuck in the Sandbox lift together, as Ji Pyeong has still unresolved feelings for Dal Mi and Do San is still unsure of whether Dal Mi still sees him as a love interest.
The two men confront each other over the Seonju bid, Do San saying that it is worth the effort to try for, even though success isn’t guaranteed and that one would need to experience failure in order to succeed. Ji Pyeong retorts that he is wasting all that effort for just one bid, and it is reckless to try for something that he doesn’t even have the faintest chance of succeeding.
Ji Pyeong thinks the venture is bound to fail, akin to setting sail without a map, something that Do San strongly disagrees with. Dal Mi also realises that Do San’s ideals are aligned with her; sailing off sometimes without a map is something she believes in, as expressed in her childhood letters to Ji Pyeong; he is no longer the person he was when writing those letters.
Dal Mi’s mother (Song Seon Mi) puts down a deposit for a commercial space for selling corn dogs without consulting anyone, frustrating Dal Mi’s granny (Kim Hae Sook). Ji Pyeong tries to trade the money plant with Do San for the childhood letters that Dal Mi wrote, and inadvertently finds himself in the company of Do San’s parents and ends up sleeping over.
Ji Pyeong finally comes to the realisation that Dal Mi only has eyes for Do San, and tells Do San that he will no longer stand in their way. Do San runs to Dal Mi and asks for her reason for liking him; she just likes him simply because he is who he is. The two lock lips for the second time in the series, displaying the same easy chemistry they’ve had throughout the entire series.
Ji Pyeong finds his calling in life
To disparage their competition and get ahead, Morning Group chairman Won Doo Jung plots with his son Won Sang Su (Moon Dong Hyeok) to smear In Jae Group’s efforts by using a reporter to reveal that In Jae had been the target of a ransomware attack, thus making it unsafe for people to trust their self-driving cars for fear of a repeated attack.
But their plan backfires, as Do San and Dal Mi already realised that it was Morning Group’s programmers, the same ones that left In Jae, who were behind the attack. This was promptly revealed and put Morning Group’s CEO Sang Su under investigation.
Ji Pyeong gets a surprise visit from granny, in spite of her ailing vision. She knows that Ji Pyeong has been hiding his feelings for Dal Mi all this while and has been suffering as a result of it. He sobs into her shoulders, a beautifully touching moment and a much needed release for the long suffering Ji Pyeong.
Ji Pyeong also finds his true calling – investing in a start-up which helps pair orphaned teens with an adult to guide them and find their feet in society. The CEO of the start-up is played by a surprising cameo by actor Yeo Jin Goo, whose mature looks and resonant voice propelled him to fame in drama Hotel Del Luna in 2019.
In Jae’s other company, Cheongmyeong group, eventually goes on to win the bid for Seonju city’s coveted self-driving car project. Ji Pyeong goes so far as to shake hands with Do San for the first time to congratulate him on the deal, setting aside all their enmity and putting their competitive rivalry to rest for good (maybe?).
It’s a delightful end to a touching series; one with much feels, and hard fought lessons in life and in love.
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