Normally, when you think about the “Happy Birthday” song, you think about celebration, happiness, (delicious) cakes, friends and family (unless you’re a hardcore pessimistic who is reminded of the inevitability of death and aging at the mention of a birthday — but then, I digress.) When Rui Shan plays the “Happy Birthday” song at this particular setting, all of its radiating joy, delight, and warmth become what’s a tedious necessity. She’s not bad (in fact, she’s supposed to be good), but her heart is not on the music.
After the performance (who invites a band of cellists all the way from TW just to play the happy birthday song?), Rui Shan approaches Ah Yue and delivers a demi-awkward semi-monologue:
Rui Shan: Ah Yue, I finally found you… (voices trails off to produce a melancholic effect, which, you’ll be getting A LOT of those from her)
Ah Yue: hmm
Rui Shan: You were working?
Ah Yue: …
Rui SHan: So you and Miss Da Hong… are colleagues?
Ah Yue: mm… I work at a advertisement firm right now..
Not too comfortable being with Rui Shan alone, Ah Yue excuses himself at the first opportunity possible and drags Xiao Lu away for shield.
Walking side by side, Xiao Lu wonders out loud why Ah Yue tries to weasel his way out of dining with Rui Shan (after all, she is not some scary-looking flesh-eating troll). To change the topic of discussion, Ah Yue asks Xiao Lu to eat with him. “Really? You want to eat together? Then let me introduce you to the best restaurant in Shanghai!” Without having a chance to respond, Ah Yue finds himself being dragged by a very enthusiastic Xiao Lu. Better this than an interrogation from a very emotionally charged Rui Shan.
Presents can blow a girl’s mind away, if done right. But sometimes, a lavish assemble of roses, balloons, and a scented card intended as a grand congratulatory gesture can turn out to be quite a sting. There is nothing worth congratulating. Rui Shan gave up her Europe tour, she lied to the fiancé who trusted her, and she was rejected by Ah Yue — though she did find him at last. To clutter her hotel room ceiling with helium-leaking, rubber-smelling pink and white balloons at this time of the day undoubtedly mocks Rui Shan of her perseverance on Ah Yue.
Ah Yue follows Xiao Lu to her house and encounters Xiao Lu’s father moping the wooden floor. The dad says, “Ah, if you’re coming over to eat, then you’re part of the family.” But “part of the family” means Ah Yue should take on the responsibility of moping the floor. After all, there is no free dinner (or lunch). While Ah Yue is out in the living room, he overhears the dad saying to Xiao Lu, “Ah Yue left his home to come to a strange city all by himself…. Even though my cooking won’t taste the same as his mother’s, the least I can do is let him know that we don’t see him as an outsider. If he wants, he can always count on us.” Although not directly spoken to, these words put a smile on Ah Yue’s face.
Ah Yue finally puts down his guard and joins the chiefs, fully allowing himself to integrate into the harmonious family spirit at hand. The effect of opening up is immediate: funky pictures are taken, meals are cooked, laughters heard, and memories shared.
The next day at work, things are completely opposite for Xiao Lu and Ah Yue. Xiao Lu’s new suggestion for an already established commercial plan on top of her boss’s direct conflict with his boss puts Xiao Lu in an awkward situation. On the other hand, Ah Yue’s relationship with his colleagues are seeing drastic improvement. The man who tried to oppress him at first is now helping Ah Yue learning Shanghainese.
Before Ah Yue gets off work, he receives a call from Rui Shan, asking to meet. He uses work as an excuse to avoid any contact, but she insists, telling him point blank that she “wants to see [him]”. (The way she says it is more along the lines of “I miss you” than an ordinary “we’re friends, let’s meet somewhere to catch up”.) Hearing the determination in Rui Shan’s voice, Ah Yue gives in.
They meet at the bar Ah Yue lives. Rui Shan mentions meeting with their mutual elementary school friend to find out about his whereabouts. Ah Yue explains that the morning after drinking with that friend, he finds himself sleeping on the street; his wallet stolen, all contact information gone. But because of that, he stumbles upon the owner of this bar. The owner, a stranger then, fought on behalf of him and took him in. The experience made Ah Yue realize the reason he left home is that he couldn’t face himself, so he ran away. As a result, he’s lost everything. (That took him two years to realize? He must be very dishonest with himself.) The topic finally falls onto relationship status. Rui Shan casually inquires about Ah Yue’s love life, using common testing tactics like, “Why didn’t you ask your girlfriend to clean your room for you?” When she finds out that Ah Yue has been single, she nudges on, surprised that two years of loneliness hasn’t pushed him to find someone for emotional support. (He’s not you, my dear.)
In exchange, Ah Yue asks about Rui Shan and Shi Chuan. Rui Shan doges the question by asking Ah Yue’s reason for thinking there is something between Shi Chuan and her. Ah Yue explains that he witnessed Shi Chuan’s confession, sounding as at ease as he can muster but in actuality, he minds (or minded), very much. Rui Shan raises her voice to clarify that she does not return Shi Chuan’s feelings (which is precisely why she is going to be engaged to him?) and the conversation ends in Rui Shan lying about having any romantic ties with Shi Chuan.
The conversation opens up many possibilities for Ah Yue. He buries himself in work to avoid over thinking and ends up staying late into the night to help Xiao Lu with her work. (More like Xiao Lu half dragged half coerced him to help her.) Feeling hungry in the silence of the night, the two sneaky employees search Da Hong’s drawers for food and find a single cup of instant noodle. They fight over it like two little kids and end up sharing the noodle. After ravenously devouring the food, Ah Yue is still hungry. But he refuses to buy food if it requires walking. Xiao Lu suggests that they ride the bike together to the nearest stir fry place.
But the thing is, Ah Yue has never ridden a bike before. Wanting to keep his face and confident that he’s a fast learner, Ah Yue decides to learn it on the spot. Balancing and maneuvering his way on the bicycle with Xiao Lu screaming in front of him, Ah Yue stops short in front of Rui Shan…
An “uh-oh” registered in Ah Yue’s mind, there’s going to be awkwardness, a lot of it.
Rui Shan’s emotional investment is more than Ah Yue can supply, which is why he repeatedly avoids her. Seeing her again after two years undoubtedly brings up old hopes and despair. However, Rui Shan’s lack of frankness at admitting the true progression of her relationship with Shi Chuan comes as no surprised. This lie is both telling of Rui Shan’s wavering attitude in love and her shaky relationship with Shi Chuan (man I feel sorry for that guy). It portrays her as a clueless little girl who has no idea what she wants. She contents herself by living under the falsehood of the fairy tale she orchestrated for herself.
What’s interesting is that while Rui Shan may not be the most honest person, she is actually true to her feelings. When Ah Yue isn’t there, she is dependent on Shi Chuan. But once Ah Yue appears, Shi Chuan becomes secondary; her extinguished fairy tale lights up again; and she feels that she is still in love with Ah Yue (when she is really in love with the idea of formulating a perfect ensemble with a genius pianist). So she goes for it against all moral obligation. That makes her irresponsible, selfish, but brave (and very wishy-washy).
Anyway, episode 9 & 10 just came out and I’m only on four… Seems like I have no choice but to skip around a little, IF I want to continue recapping this drama that is.