This episode was both fun and all sorts of ridiculous. It was also genuinely and unintentionally funny. And ridiculous.
On the distinctive plus-side, Jae Hee and Dennis Oh both looked particularly hot, to be shamefully superficial for a moment. You’ve gotta hand it to these producers — they know their audience. On the down-side, the acting was… wow, really some awful stuff here, all across the board. At least it was funny-bad, and not just painful-bad. And have I mentioned it was ridiculous?
(Random) SONG OF THE DAY
Lyn – “Kissing U” [ zShare download ]
As much as I enjoy this silly, frothy series — and I’m actually kind of reluctant to critique it too harshly (and I mean serious critique; the mocking’s always in good-natured(ish) fun) — I must point out some serious fatal flaws.
It relies on a few common devices that we kdrama lovers have probably come to expect, or at least tolerate, in all of our series. They may be cliches, but they come with the territory, so I tend to let them slide. But Witch Amusement overuses a couple to such an egregious extent that they become glaring, obstructive crutches.
- Music cues. I do not need to tell you how much I love music, and the OST is pretty fun and listenable. I’ve gotten used to the kdrama practice of using a particular song multiple times throughout the series — I actually like it, because it allows the music to become a part of the series backdrop, like an emotional score. But you’ve got to be careful using the music as emotional manipulator — because that’s what it is, telling you how to feel and when — and Witch Amusement overdoes it. I’ve noticed for a while that one song ends just as the next begins, and it’s wall-to-wall music. Half the time it’s not even thoughtfully used, as they do in Que Sera Sera, where each song adds something to the scene.
- Drunkenness. Drunkenness is an easy device in kdramas because it allows the characters to achieve a level of honesty that they’re usually covering up when sober. But dude. How many scenes of soju-propelled truth-seeking do we need in this series? Koreans may like their likker, but Witch Amusement has relied on the drunken card way too much instead of thinking of clever ways to tell story.
- Phone calls. Again, phone calls are necessary and a pretty common aspect of any kind of modern storytelling… But have you noticed how many times the phone has been used as a plot driver? Bad, bad, bad.
EPISODE 13 SUMMARY
Yoo Hee stops Joon Ha from placing the ring on her finger, saying she’s not sure she should accept. Joon Ha tells her to accept it for now, and return it later if she changes her mind.
In another restaurant, Mu-ryong finally mans up and tells Seung Mi that he doesn’t think he can marry her. And it’s not because he’s not in the right place in his life to take care of her — he admits that’s an excuse. “Seung Mi, honestly, I really like you a lot. But I don’t know if it’s enough to marry you.” Seung Mi deliberately misses the point, telling him she didn’t know he’d felt so burdened, and they can pretend the topic of marriage never came up in the first place.
Yoo Hee goes home and looks at her pretty new diamond ring, but thinks instead of the plastic toy ring Mu-ryong gave her, which she’s kept all this while in her nightstand drawer — where, you’ll remember, she previously kept her picture of Joon Ha. She puts on the plastic ring instead and smiles, remembering Mu-ryong’s confession that he’d missed her.
I hadn’t realized Witch Amusement hadn’t given us the obligatory Han River scene until now (an example of a kdrama convention I can live with).
While Mu-ryong’s briefly away, he gets a call from Yoo Hee, which Seung Mi answers. She tells Yoo Hee firmly to stop calling Mu-ryong, adding: “We’re marrying soon. Mu-ryong feels uncomfortable too—” just as Mu-ryong arrives to snatch the phone away and ask what’s wrong with her.
Seung Mi asks if this is all because of Yoo Hee — she yells at him to say why he’s acting like this. “You’re a real jerk!” Mu-ryong agrees: “Yeah, I am. You’re right. I’m sorry.”
Soaking in the news of Mu-ryong’s supposed marriage, Yoo Hee throws off the toy ring. And Mu-ryong deletes Yoo Hee’s number from his phone. ‘Bout freaking time someone made a definitive decision, even if it’s one that isn’t likely to last long.
Mari actually speaks up for Mu-ryong, admitting to Johnny that it may have been because of her that Mu-ryong didn’t see the notice of the guest’s allergy. Johnny tells her it’s still Mu-ryong’s mistake, not hers.
Sara arrives unannounced, and the two ladies fight it out to stake their claim on Johnny. Johnny finally can’t take it anymore, and lies that he has a girlfriend. In New York. So they should stop. Heh.
Yoo Hee accepts Joon Ha’s proposal, and they hug it out in the most unromantic engagement gesture ever. Seriously, these two are like a Textbook Couple — all frilly “romantic” gestures but nary a true romantic emotion in sight. I understand Yoo Hee’s motivation, but this coupling is such a waste of space.
The couple arrives at Johnny’s restaurant for lunch, where he spies the ring on Yoo Hee’s finger. He also overhears Joon Ha on an unpleasant phone call (the guy is such a pill — they’re not even trying to make Joon Ha the least bit likable), and suspects him of being up to something shady.
Johnny’s also visited by someone from his New York restaurant named Allison, whom Mari and Sara automatically assume is his girlfriend. Johnny, however, reacts to Allison’s arrival with decided non-enthusiasm.
That reaction could be because even an inexperienced actor like Dennis knows that acting opposite a deadweight like Jennifer Bae (I believe that’s her name?) is sure to sink his own precarious skills. Oh man, is this next scene painful.
If you’re reading this, you don’t need me to translate the sequence and can probably understand for yourself just how shamefully horrid the acting in this scene is. I’ve made fun of bad acting before, but these two sink to new lows. I was actually starting to think Dennis Oh was getting better, but seeing him opposite someone even worse than him just highlights how bad both are. You’d think they’d both be fairly comfortable acting in their native English, but weirdly, they’re both affecting some strange hybrid accent. It’s like when I tutored Korean students in English, I’d find my own English becoming poorer. I don’t know whose daughter-sister-friend-relative Jennifer Bae is, but either she’s rocking some family connection or she’s holding some serious dirt over someone’s head at SBS.
Anyway. Allison is there to persuade Johnny to return to New York because he’s needed back there. End of scene. Jennifer Bae’s relevance to this series is something that could have been conveyed through one line of dialogue or a phone call. I officially resent SBS for making me sit through that scene for such a measly plot point.
But as with all things awkward and embarrassing, there is a silver lining, and that is seeing Sara and Mari go to town on Allison, assuming she’s the girlfriend. I love Sara. And you all can stop hating the actress now since she’s apparently not dating Hyun Bin anymore.
Johnny arrives at Mu-ryong’s family restaurant. The reaction to his presence is rather telling of the fascination in Korean society at large to all peoples Western and beautiful. The family fawns over Johnny, complimenting him and seeking his good graces as though he were someone much more important than he is.
Escaping from that ridiculousness, the two lovely men escape to their own romantic dinner. Er, man-date. Er, manly discussion over wine in a dimly lit setting. (I’m totally joking with the suggestion of homoeroticism, but really, these two buddies have tons more chemistry — pseudo-romantic or not — than the bland Textbook Couple, who barely seem to even like each other as people, much less enough to get married. Is Yoo Hee trying to replicate her parents’ loveless marriage?)
Adding to that ridiculousness is another scene that probably requires no translation from me — when Johnny mournfully recalls the instance where he nearly killed a patron with a dish, having neglected to remember his food allergy. Johnny was So! Traumatized! that he nearly gave up cooking. Forever! Oh, the heartbreak.
It’s ridiculous. I couldn’t stop laughing. I don’t think it’s supposed to be funny.
Johnny explains that it’s because of Yoo Hee that he started cooking again. Perhaps it’s a too-little-too-late attempt to make sense of the nonsense of earlier episodes (what some refer to as “retcon” or “retroactive continuity,” trying to fix continuity errors after they’ve happened with shoddy after-explanations), but Johnny explains that because of that, his feelings “wavered” toward Yoo Hee — implying that he confused his gratefulness for deeper feelings. Or something. I’m assuming. Honestly, it’s not easy making sense out of ridiculousness.
Johnny gives Mu-ryong another shot at the French cooking competition. He also says that he thinks Mu-ryong was right about Joon Ha — there’s something fishy about the guy. So naturally, they spy.
Clearly Mu-ryong thinks the best way to go unnoticed is to disguise himself as a gay gigolo wearing a trim women’s suit with ajumma sunglasses, traveling alongside his dorky tourist buddy in vacation-going casualwear.
They overhear the President telling Joon Ha and Yoo Hee to settle their wedding plans quickly. Yoo Hee attempts to stall, saying they haven’t even paid respects to Joon Ha’s mother yet, but Joon Ha assures her that’s not going to be a problem. They’ll meet her soon; there’s no reason to put off the marriage.
Mu-ryong and Johnny react to the news by getting drunk. Or rather, Mu-ryong gets wasted while Johnny looks at the emotional wreckage in front of him and guesses that Mu-ryong’s in love with Yoo Hee.
Yoo Hee suffers increasing stomach pains, first calling Joon Ha, then Mu-ryong, for help. Hearing how much pain she’s in, Mu-ryong miraculously recovers from his drunken fog and rushes to her side. Joon Ha returns her call, hears her in pain, and also rushes over. Mu-ryong arrives first, but runs into Joon Ha on his way in, who exhibits his characteristic care and consideration for Yoo Hee’s welfare by getting angry at Mu-ryong for his interference.
I’m pretty sure we’re meant to see the difference in the two men’s reaction, as if we didn’t already know who cares more.
Joon Ha takes her to the hospital, where her mystery ailment is not disclosed. I’m guessing it was stress over her relationship woes, because it doesn’t seem very serious.
As Yoo Hee first awakes, she imagines seeing Mu-ryong there by her side rather than Joon Ha. As if we didn’t already know whom she really loves. But I forgive them for this cliche because of how hot Jae Hee is here. (I’m sorry that the main lesson to be taken from my response to Witch Amusement is that hotness buys many favors. But come on, like that’s news. And it’s not just any hotness. It’s Jae Hee!)
On their way to formally greet Joon Ha’s mother, Yoo Hee finally speaks up and tells Joon Ha she can’t marry him. She doesn’t think it’s the right decision, and tries to return his ring. But Joon Ha tells her they’re on their way to greet the elders — they’ll deal with that later, but for the moment, they’ll proceed as planned. It’s clear appearances are more important than the truth. But we knew that.
I think Kim Jung Hoon’s a decent actor, but he’s pretty off in this scene. Or maybe this series. I don’t think he’s been given a lot to work with, to be fair, but for whatever reason, Joon Ha’s so horribly flat. It’s like they just didn’t bother with his character.
Meeting his mother, it’s interesting that she seems a nice, lovely lady. Joon Ha told Yoo Hee she doesn’t have to worry about meeting his mother; she’s from the countryside and it’s not like they’ll be seeing much of her anyway once they’re married. Then, in this scene, the mother seems meek and humble, like one who knows her place is of lower status than the others. So I think Joon Ha’s incredible hardness and ambition stems from some kind of severe inferiority complex, coming from the countryside and possibly suffering what he sees as indignities of a low social upbringing. He left the country, succeeded on his skills, and doesn’t intend to keep in touch with his roots. Meeting his mother for this brief moment does a lot to show us into Joon Ha — but it’s too bad they didn’t bother showing that to us in any compelling way.
Yoo Hee’s visited by a man claiming to be Paran’s uncle — specifically, the older brother to Paran’s father. Yoo Hee confronts her father and asks if it’s true — is Paran really not his son? Is Paran her mother’s son? She’d always thought Paran was her father’s son born of an affair, but now she’s crushed to learn it’s the reverse.
In yet another ridiculous flashback, President Ma recalls how he heard of Paran’s existence, when his ex-wife died — in a car crash, not from an illness as Yoo Hee has always believed.
President Ma orders Yoo Hee not to speak of this to anyone. Unfortunately, Paran has already overheard, and runs away from home.
Joon Ha’s visited by his bitter ex, asking if it’s true that he’s going to replace her father, and if that’s why he’s marrying a woman he doesn’t even love. Joon Ha sneers, “Love? What’s that? I don’t know what that is.” He tells her not to get too upset — it’s not revenge, he’s just returning what was given him.
Yoo Hee calls Mu-ryong for help looking for Paran, and the two scour all the places they think he could be, like the arcade and the park. Although, for people who are so alarmed at having lost a family member, they move pretty slowly. It looks more like they’re on a bad date than a search-and-rescue mission.
But all that worry is short-lived, as they find Paran in the park. Or rather, Paran literally walks right up to Yoo Hee and presents himself. Man, those two are the worst investigators ever.
Paran asks if it’s true that Yoo Hee’s not his real sister — he overheard her talking to the President. Yoo Hee tells him of course she’s his sister. She was just mistaken.
They take Paran home to Yoo Hee’s for the night, where Yoo Hee thanks Mu-ryong for his help. He congratulates her on her marriage news, and she doesn’t contradict him, thinking he’s getting married too. She congratulates him on his own marriage plans, and Mu-ryong likewise doesn’t contradict her…
…at first. But then he speaks up, and tells her: “I’m not getting married.” Seung Mi wasn’t telling the truth. As he leaves, Yoo Hee can only stare after him…