It’s almost the end of the year, and Netflix doesn’t seem to be done with serving Korean content just yet. The Korean entertainment industry is all in this time of the year, and we’re getting a taste of everything they have to offer! From the reality dating show Single’s Inferno to the highly anticipated Gyeongseong Creature and Death Game, the holidays seem to be covered for us, but Like Flowers in Sand may turn out to be the underdog that takes us by surprise, just like its protagonist. Like Flowers in Sand stars Jang Dong-Yoon and Lee Joo-Myoung in leading roles and follows the story of a “Ssireum” athlete (a traditional wrestling sport) who gives up after losing too many championships. When his childhood friend returns, she reignites the sporty spark in him.
What Happens In Episode 1?
Kim Baek-Du is a childhood superstar, a champion at a young age who grew up as a Ssireum athlete. He’s currently 32 years old and is rather crestfallen after all these years of losing as an adult. He’s been hustling for too long, and his passion has finally faltered. He’s a diligent man who worries for everyone in his beachside town of Gosan. While Baek-Du is working at the popular restaurant spot, a strange man pays for his meal and leaves without his change. There’s something eerie about this man, but we’ll find out more later. At night, during the class reunion, Baek-Du doesn’t talk to anyone, as they insult him for failing so often. It’s obviously a joking matter to the rest, but Baek-Du is definitely feeling some way about it. When he accidentally chugs a glass of alcohol, he ends up drunk, calling his coach and telling him that if he fails the next championship, he’ll be retiring. He wakes up with a bruise on his stomach back home but doesn’t think much of it. Of course, as it is with light drinkers, he can’t remember anything he did or said the previous night.
There’s a mysterious occurrence in Gosan when a man decides to take his life by driving his car into the town reservoir. There’s police from Seoul, which is quite surprising considering the capital city is a 4-hour drive away. A man named Cho Chil-Sung has just died, but we don’t know much more about him. As if things are falling into place for Baek-Du’s downfall, the first round of his match in the championship is with his own team’s best player. He even teaches him his best move before finding out that he’ll be competing against him. Baek-Du is taking his drunken words to the coach quite seriously. On the other hand, everyone seems to be taking it as a joke, which doesn’t quite sit well with him. On the other hand, there’s a new girl in town, and she’s shocking everyone because of her habits that make her seem like a big city girl, so it makes no sense for her to be in a place like Gosan. There’s a secret beef between the governor of the village and Baek-Du’s father, who is a famous champion of Ssireum, the pride of the town.
During the preliminary round, Baek-Du notices his coach fighting with somebody but is called for his game. His opponent wins one round; however, to everyone’s surprise, Baek-Du wins the second, showing his passion for the game. The third round is really close, yet when it’s reviewed through video, Baek-Du’s opponent is considered the winner. Baek-Du’s father and his friends believe it’s Baek-Du who should’ve won, though. When Baek-Du returns home, all sad and broken (not appearing so to anyone else, though), he notices someone new has moved into the house behind him. This house used to be where his childhood best friend, Du-Sik, lived. He gets picked up and tossed to the floor by a woman who then stands over him. He immediately calls her Du-Sik.
What Happens In Episode 2?
Du-Sik used to be the only girl in Baek-Du’s class when they were children. She was considered fearless and cruel because all the boys got beat up by her. Her father, too, was a Ssireum champion. There’s a vision that Baek-Du keeps having of young Du-Sik asking him if he’s doing okay. It’s similar to the moment when she tosses him to the floor, looking down at him at the end of episode 1 of Like Flowers in Sand. It appears as if this could be after he won a championship as a child. Maybe it put too much pressure on him as a youngling, and he grew up in fear while playing the sport. Baek-Du is convinced the new girl in town, Oh Yoo-Gyeong, is in fact his “soulmate,” Du-Sik. Everyone called the young girl ugly back in the day (mean), and now when Baek-Du asks around, nobody thinks Yoo-Gyeong and Du-Sik are the same person. In fact, everyone believes she’s a total stranger. On the other hand, Baek-Du has been calling her Du-Sik even though she tells him that she’s not Du-Sik multiple times. It’s quite torturous to watch him push her, even though she firmly denies his claims.
There’s something one of the boys wants to tell the team while they’re eating a meal, but he keeps getting interrupted by the older guys. Later, we find out that the champion from the last game, who defeated Baek-Du, has quit and moved to a different team. The coach is busy trying to bring him back; he was probably having an argument with him on the day of the game. During a gathering for all the women of the village, which happens in Baek-Du’s house, everybody grills Yoo-Gyeong for information (an overwhelming grilling, for sure). Baek-Du follows her out after dinner, making himself look like a stalker, but claims he’s escorting her. He tells her that Du-Sik was like his soulmate, and this is when she loses her temper a little bit. She tells him that Du-Sik has been waiting for him to win the championship and has been following his work all this time, proving that she’s in fact Du-Sik. Dense as a rock, Baek-Du still doesn’t get the hint that she doesn’t want to be identified as Du-Sik anymore.
It seems as if the governor wants to get rid of the town Ssireum team, but Baek-Du’s father goes to his office to convince him otherwise. It turns out that Yoo-Gyeong is actually the new manager of the Ssierum team, even though they’re quite lacking in every aspect, including a coach at the moment. The boys are unconvinced considering she’s a girl and probably never even watched a game of Ssireum before. She shows one of the guys a technical move that amateurs would never do, proving why she would be perfect as their manager. Everyone is shocked, including Baek-Du, who was there to collect his things once and for all. Another man also visits the town (it doesn’t seem like tourist season, though).
Why Is Baek-Du’s Father Upset?
Baek-Du’s father asks him to come with him to the Ssireum gym late at night, seemingly angry. He makes his son play the sport with him and defeats him multiple times until Baek-Du stops getting up. Baek-Du’s father wonders why he’s giving up so easily after working for this his entire life. It’s all that he’s ever truly cared about. Baek-Du finally admits that when he suggested he was going to quit, nobody told him not to. He is at his lowest point, but instead of encouraging him, his team makes it seem as if he’s worthless. Baek-Du’s really hurt by the outcome, so he chose to finally quit for real, even if he didn’t mean to initially. Baek-Du’s father probably understands the pressure he’s been under for this long and actually lets him be. Baek-Du lies on the sand to make himself feel better for a bit. This is when Yoo-Gyeong comes by and tells him that this is not the place to be at this time. He tells her he needs some alone time, but she doesn’t quite care, turning off the lights and returning to send him back home. At the end of the episode of Like Flowers in Sand, when Yoo-Gyeong is about to admit to Baek-Du that she’s actually Du-Sik but has her reasons for concealing the truth, they’re interrupted by the stranger who visited the village. He calls Yoo-Gyeong “honey,” making it seem like they might be married or at least engaged. This is probably why she’s hiding her identity, but the question remains: what’s made her hide her identity from her partner?