Once Upon a Small Town (K-drama), Season 1, Episode 5 Recap & Ending Explained: Netflix’s K-Drama has now established a love triangle. In the previous episode, we witnessed the confession of one-sided love, which made things uneasy between two best friends. It further complicates things when Ahn is clearly more attracted to the town’s young doctor. Will Han Ji-yul reciprocate his feelings to her, or would he continue to space himself away from the police officer? The latest episode of this romantic drama unravels the sentiments of the young ones, where some choose to restrict themselves, and others release their bottled-up emotions.

In this article, I discuss the recap of the fifth episode and explain its ending in detail. Spoiler alert, please read at your discretion.


Now that we fully understand who is in love with whom, episode 5 turns interesting when things get even more awkward the next day. We see Ahn lost in thoughts, wondering about last night’s dramatic confession. Ji-yul, on the other side, also seems to be uptight about the exact situation. While picking up Seon Dong, Ahn meets Ji-yul and shares an awkward glance. It seems they have many things to clear within themselves. Keeping a distance from the officer, Ji-yul leaves for the hospital.

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One of the officers at the police station finds Ahn lost in her thoughts again. He checks on her asking if she is doing alright. He suggests if she would like to accompany him to the peach farm for a cup of coffee, and finds it odd when she refuses considering she drinks almost 5 cups daily. We then see Sang Hey-on enter the station, making Ahn more nervous.

They then sit outside the police station, drinking freshly brewed coffee. Hye-on notices that Ahn is unusually quiet and distant. It seems Ahn has been replaying the previous night’s memory repeatedly. Taking us back to the flashback when Hye-on confessed, Ahn asked why is he acting so differently. Sang Hye-on shares that he has been bottling up his feelings for too long, and even though it might be too much for her to comprehend, he wants her to think about it before taking it seriously. He also adds that since they have been together since childhood, it is about time she looks at him from a different perspective. He believes it is essential to let out the feelings because it is unfair to suffer alone.

Returning to real-time, Ahn asks Hye-on if he is scared of how things have suddenly changed between them or if they can no longer be friends. He thinks carefully before answering her. Hye-on shares that nothing scares him, whether they would take their relationship forward or remain friends. Instead, he asks her what she considers their relationship to be. Seeing she has no answer to his question, Hye-on explains their relationship through his eyes. He feels even though she is her best friend, she is also a woman who would sometime act so naive and childish. Even more so, he also finds her incredibly smart and wise. And even if she decides not to go forward, she will still be his friend, neighbor, and family. He assures her that the awkward air between them will only be for a short period of time and it will be nothing compared to their togetherness. Sang Hye-on understands she will need time to decide; hence, he lets her determine their future in her own time.

On the other hand, Ji-yul’s friend in Seoul suggests he create boundaries regarding the police officer as he would have to leave the town in a few months. While explaining his feelings about the suggestion, Ji-yul notices Ahn with Sang Hye-on on the other side of the road. After returning from the barn, Han Ji-yul and assistant Lee drink coffee outside the hospital. She tells him that while he was away, Ahn had come earlier to get the dog cage for her dog.

The episode again takes us back to the night before Sang Hye-on confessed his love to Ahn. Due to the mention of the dog cage, he understood why she had taken it from the hospital. He replayed his conversation when Ahn asked him to accompany her the next day to get the puppies from the forest. However, at that time, he felt she should go with Hye-on instead.

He asks his assistant if Ahn had come alone or if Lee Sang Hye-on also accompanied her. She tells him she came alone and wanted to spend her free lunchtime going to the mountains behind the village (because of the puppies). Assistant Lee calls Ahn a problem fixer because she repaired the broken parts of his bicycle on her way out before leaving. Noticing that Ahn left her bicycle in the hospital, he worries and asks for her phone number. Soon, we see Han Ji-yul take his van and go to the forest; however, when he reaches, he finds the cage empty with one pup alone and Ahn not there.

After some time, he sees Ahn coming towards him carrying two adorable pups and the mother dog following her. While keeping the pups inside the cage, Ji-yul notices that Ahn hurt herself and taunts her about why she came here in the woods alone to save them. Seeing his concern, she tries to ease the tension by saying that since everyone was busy; she thought she could handle three little pups by herself. But she was wrong to be overconfident.

On their way back to the hospital, Ahn’s aunt Gang-hwa asks her to bring the puppies to her so they could put them up for adoption. He mentions the bicycle and asks if she walked to the forest alone. She replied that she got a lift on her way on a truck since it was faster than the bike.

At the hospital, while Ji-yul checks on the little pups to see if they are healthy, Ahn notices that he hasn’t even touched the coffee she brought for him earlier. After running some tests on the pups, Ji-yul mentions that the dogs are all healthy and he can give them their first vaccination before putting them up for adoption. She asks why only the first, but then she recalls that he will soon have to leave for Seoul, where he belongs. Since it is going to rain heavily, Ahn decides to leave. And in spite of Ji-yul wanting to offer her a lift, his apprehension and boundaries don’t allow him to.

On her way out, Ji-yul brings his medical kit to apply ointment on the scratches Ahn received while handling the pups in the forest. She notices that Ji-yul cares for her but makes small talk to avoid awkwardness. Since he is a doctor, she says caring for others is his first instinct, and old habits never die. She also shares that she is not nosy at all and he shouldn’t feel annoyed by her. She also adds that he must not consider her an attention seeker since she is a police officer and she is always everywhere because her work demands it.

High On Films in collaboration with Avanté

It seems Ahn likes to read people and wants to know what is happening in the head of the person in front. Unable to understand his thoughts, she starts making random conversation. At the same time, Ji-yul is professional and keeps his thoughts to himself. He knows his boundaries well and understands that he must not lead her in any way since he is only there for a short period of time. And even though Ahn’s cuteness and brilliance smite him, he doesn’t want to share or admit any feelings towards her.

Without letting out more than what Ahn wants to know, Ji-yul tells her that he is grateful for everything she does in the town and will stay here for a while now. She senses that he is acting differently and asks if he is mad about something with her; however, he mentions that he is not.

Back inside the hospital chamber, when assistant Lee notices Ji-yul looking at the calendar, she reminds him that time will fly fast if he keeps himself busy. While the town experience rainfall, it seems the episode indicates a sudden change of heart and spirit.

In the meantime, Ahn contemplates calling Hye-on but stops herself from reaching out. Ji-yul, on the other side, is slowly adapting to the new life here in Huidong as we see him watching his friend struggle to beat his numbers on social media and surpass his excellent work as a vet doctor in Seoul. The show also, at this point, gives a glimpse into how Sang Hye-on feels about Ahn when he sees a missed call from her.


Another day has begun in Huidong. Ji-yul finds Sang Hye-on with Seon-dong at his doorstep with a child crying about his dog who is not doing well after he ate some chocolates. Sang Hye-on tells the doctor that he will drop the child at the hospital, so he must hurry to treat his dog. In the next moment, we see the dog getting treated, and Ji-yul mentions that he must have IV fluids for a while to get better.

While assistant Lee and Sang Hyen-on talk about Ahn, Ji-yul discovers that Ahn has been getting acupuncture treatment and physical therapy at the eastern medical center. Soon Hye-on asks Ji-yul if they can have a word privately. When the two of them are outside, Hye-on mentions that he received a call from Ahn that morning. She said she had fallen hard and couldn’t take Seon-dong to school. When the little boy’s dog’s mouth was foaming and nearly dying, he panic called Ahn for help. Since the boy was crying, Ja-young ran out hurriedly and forgot that the bicycle was broken. And when Ji-yul questions about the broken bicycle, Hyeon explains that Ahn exchanged his bike with hers after she realized that his bike fell in the paddy field the other night and broke down because of it.

Sang Hye-on realizes that Ji-yul didn’t even know it and explains the kind of selfless person Ahn is in life who always prioritize others. He hates that Ji-yul is within the village’s boundaries, and Ahn loves him so much, even after knowing he will leave soon. Hye-on expresses his anger at Ji-yul because he is responsible for the pain she is going through. And he doesn’t want her to get hurt like this ever again.

Sensing that Sang Hye-on is threatening him, Ji-yul says that the thing that he hates the most is that Ahn cares about him more than Hye-on. In the meantime, Hye-on makes it clear that he doesn’t like Ji-yul’s presence in the town and wants him to leave soon. However, Sang Hye-on feels different about his thoughts. He suggests that if he has decided to go soon, then it is best not to give her any romantic idea that might make her make wrong choices in life. Her happiness is essential for him, and he wants to ensure she always remains happy.

Shortly after Hye-on leaves, Ji-yul decides to visit Ahn at the therapy center. Seeing the sharp needles pierced into her leg during the therapeutic session, he gets more concerned about her. At the same time, seeing Ji-yul there makes Ahn very happy. When she asks why he came to meet her, he hands out some wraps for her to eat, telling her that they are from Mr. Yangs.

Even though he wants to maintain his boundaries to avoid giving her any misconception, he still can’t ignore that she is not resting well, even in pain, when the doctor has asked her to stay still. Seeing her cutting the logs even in such a state, Ji-yul yells at her for not paying heed to the doctor’s advice. It seems his anger is from the realization that it is his fault she has to go through the pain, and it hurts him more that he can’t express his true feelings to her. He gets upset and continues scolding her for always prioritizing others’ happiness and whether she does this deliberately to get a thank you from people.

He confronted her about why she tried to fix his bike when he didn’t even ask her in the first place. He feels indebted for her favor as she is going through such pain because of him. After listening to what he says, Ahn realizes that he is still entitled and adamant about not giving up arrogance. She tells him there is nothing wrong with hearing, ‘Thank you, I appreciate your help.’ She lives up to listening to this every day. She adds that if people could appreciate something like that, who cares if she gets hurt a little?

High On Films in collaboration with Avanté

Later we see that even after obtaining a sick leave, Ahn goes back to the station. Her immediate boss gets paranoid and asks her to rest as the townspeople may get uneasy seeing her in this condition. She insists on doing some office work if he can’t allow her for daily patrolling in the town. However, he disagrees and instead sends her home, asking her to rest well.

In the meantime, Seon-dong hangs out with Ji-yul at the vet chamber, looking after his pet dog. While chatting with him, the kid asks if Ahn has done something wrong to him because he seems very upset with her. When Ji-yul didn’t respond to her greetings the other morning, he assumed he might be mad at her. Sometimes, little children know something is off and learn how to break the ice between two adults with their curious, innocent observations.

Seon-dong tells the doctor to give Ahn a break as she is lovely and would never complain if someone hurts her. He compares Ahn to his grandma, indicating that she is forgiving in nature, and even if she has done something to upset him, she only means well. This sweet request makes Ji-yul speechless as he realizes his mistake once again. After getting egged on by the kid to ask for forgiveness, Ji-yul calls Ahn. However, their phone call cuts short when Han Ji-yul realizes that Ahn’s patrol car skitted on the slippery road due to a scary downpour. He hurriedly rushes to check on her, and at the same time, Ahn’s boss gets a road accident call at his precinct.

Soon Ji-yul notices that Ahn’s patrol car has fallen in the deep paddy field. We see a flashback of a young Ji-yul standing beside a vehicle in a similar accident with his parents inside. Not being able to save his parents back then, he tries to break the window of the car Ahn is in with full force. Will Ji-yul be able to save Ahn from the accident? What will happen when Sang Hye-on learns that Ahn was on the call with the doctor right before the accident occurred? Will he blame Ji-yul, putting her life in danger yet again? Stay tuned to find out in the next episode.


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