The Best of Kim’s Convenience (S3-S4)
When I began watching Kim’s Convenience in 2019, season three marked the newest one aired, and either the first or second season to rely more on original material than on Ins Choi’s play. Due to a drop in quality, I put my favorite episodes from seasons 3 and 4 in a separate article than those from seasons 1 and 2.
Elephant In the Room
Airdate: March 12, 2019 (#36)
Director: Siobhan Devine
Writer: Kurt Smeaton
After Mrs. Kim sells some of Janet’s childhood possessions, without the latter’s permission, Janet gets revenge by selling her Umma’s gold elephant statue. When Mrs. Kim finds the elephant missing, she guilt-trips Janet by exaggerating its sentimental value. Meanwhile, Jung and Shannon try to help Kimchee when his crush, Gwen the courier, makes Saturday night plans with another man.
Season three felt mostly like a blur in my memory, but this episode positively stood out for the emotional torment Mrs. Kim and Janet put each other through. They exchange lies that tread a fine line between tragic and humorous, but avoid becoming too sad when the Kims acknowledge the elephant’s tackiness. Whenever Mrs. Kim tells an unlikely sob story about the elephant, Jean Yoon impressively makes her character’s heartbreak seem believable. Later, Janet exaggerates the sacrifices she pulls to buy the elephant back; even though the audience learns the phoniness beforehand, Andrea Bang delivers the yarn with an appropriate blend of trauma and accomplishment. The B-plot feels predictable, but draws appeal from the chemistry Kimchee shares with Jung and Shannon. It also seems charmingly peculiar when Jung follows Shannon’s advice on how to impress a woman, after Kimchee points out that while Jung has no trouble finding a date, no one has tried to date him more than once yet.
My recommendation of this episode comes with reservations, since some viewers might not think Mrs. Kim seems sorry enough for her torment of Janet. When Janet scolds her Umma for selling childhood mementos, Mrs. Kim simply snarks that they didn’t make much money from the sale. Additionally, she never apologizes for lying. One of the episode’s attempts to justify her lack of remorse has her insist that she repeatedly reminded Janet to transfer her valuables from her bedroom, to her apartment. Viewers who find Janet overdramatic about losing such “valuables” as baby teeth might also not mind Mrs. Kim’s misplaced guilt. Like “Best Before”, “Elephant in the Room” ironically demonstrates how much Janet has in common with her parents, by bringing out the worst in all of them.
Airdate: January 28, 2020 (#43)
Director: Renuka Jeyapalan
Writers: Ins Choi & Kevin White
Janet makes plans to surprise her Umma on the latter’s anniversary, which the Kims don’t usually celebrate. Janet convinces Jung and their Appa to help, but the night proves less pleasant than she hoped. Meanwhile, Jung and Shannon try to keep their romance a secret from their co-workers.
My choice for a season four highlight demonstrates the chemistry between all of the main Kims. Their interactions achieve a balance between sentiment and awkwardness, anchored by Janet’s genuine desire for a peaceful family reunion. While Mr. Kim and Jung argue while waiting for Mrs. Kim, they agree to put aside their differences for at least the night. Ultimately, the Kims have a peaceful night together, even though some of the problems Janet, Jung, and their Appa experienced while planning the surprise remain unresolved. The B-plot demonstrates one of S4’s biggest strengths, the improved chemistry between Jung and Shannon. Previously, I shipped them mainly because the show told me to do it. Fortunately, watching them share a romance proved more enjoyable than watching them play will-they-or-won’t-they did.
I’ll admit that this doesn’t feel like the funniest S4 episode; I’d rather give that title to “Birds of a Feather”. However, the cringe level of this episode feels smaller than that of others, including that one. “Happy Ummaversary” provides a bearably nice capper to my look at the first four Kim’s Convenience seasons.