Coffee Prince is (so far) proving to be better than I expected. Episode 6 was tons of fun, and starts getting a little more emotionally meaningful, but doesn’t get bogged down with too much seriousness.
And the gender-bendy, pseudo-gay-homoerotic mindfuck really gets going!
SONG OF THE DAY
The Smiles – “Rainbow”… The Smiles is an indie-rock band that reminds me of American indie-popsters Of Montreal. They’re both a little twee, a little unabashedly precious, a little offbeat (they’ve even got a ragtime tune on their album). I think they’d make a fabulous soundtrack band, really. The only thing is, they sing mostly in English (clearly not their native language); I wish they’d sing more in Korean, actually.
(Also, I keep hearing that there’s a Coffee Prince manhwa, but I haven’t seen any indication of that. The series is based on the novel, but any comic-related images I’ve seen are based on the drama, not a manhwa. If anyone knows for sure that there’s a manhwa, please correct me!)
EPISODE 6 SUMMARY
At the art gallery opening, Eun Chan recognizes Yu Ju and runs off, trying to hide her face, afraid of being found out.
Han Sung talks to Yu Ju while Eun Chan goes to the bathroom, and when Eun Chan sees them talking, she’s bummed to realize Yu Ju is Girl B. She mutters in dismay that Girl B was supposed to be ugly.
Seeing Han Gyul unexpectedly show up (he’d said he couldn’t make it), Eun Chan tries harder to hide (look at her scurrying behind him). I like that Eun Chan still acts in the same boyish way even when she’s dressed up prettily — despite the fact that she’s completely female, she’s not comfortable with feminine frills, and that makes sense to me.
Unable to escape the notice of the others, Han Sung drags Eun Chan over for introductions (he half-jokingly refers to her affectionately as his “girlfriend” and also his “kid friend”). But Han Gyul’s fixated on Yu Ju and doesn’t notice anything. Yu Ju doesn’t get a good look at her face, and doesn’t recognize her either.
Feeling uncomfortable, Eun Chan leaves early, and Han Sung apologizes for putting her in such an awkward position. He sees that she’s upset, and says he should have made sure she didn’t bump into Han Gyul. Although she’s mostly upset at seeing him with Yu Ju, I think she’s also partly disappointed that Han Gyul didn’t notice her, because she wonders how he could work with her every day and still not recognize her.
Han Sung tries to take her home, but Eun Chan insists on going alone, trying to fake cheer. He gives her money for a taxi, but Eun Chan walks along dejectedly and takes a bus anyway. Her feet hurting from the heels, she digs out a discarded pair of slippers from the trash, and cries.
“Guy A… Girl B… There’s no room for me… not even in my dreams.”
Eun Chan crying in her fancy dress, taking off her long wig and messing up her makeup makes for a sadly grotesque sight, and I respect Yoon Eun Hye’s lack of vanity in her portrayal of Eun Chan. Most of the time, pretty actresses do their best to look gorgeous regardless of its place in the story (waking up with perfect makeup, or dressing a poor girl in the most fashionable clothes), so I always appreciate when an actor gives up his or her highly safeguarded image for the sake of the work at large. Actors have to be emotionally stripped bare to be genuine, and often their protective vanity interferes with their art. Sorry to sound all pretentious about acting as a “craft.”
Anyway, Han Gyul is suffering the same depression at seeing the happy A/B couple together, and mopes around the house. Finally, he calls Eun Chan for company (who has him entered in her phone as “์ฌ์์์ด,” or loosely, “pain in the ass”).
They eat pizza together on his porch, and he motions her over to test her coffee-smelling ability. She says if she gets it right, he has to show her the room in back that he didn’t let her see before.
Guessing correctly, Eun Chan is shown the back room, which houses Han Gyul’s collection of Legos (he used to work with them in the States). He marvels at the concept of playing with toys: “Here, I can do anything I want.” (Eun Chan retorts, “You do whatever you want outside, too.”)
They play with the Legos (in a cute moment, Han Gyul “corrects” Eun Chan for bringing a bulldozer toy into the mix, because it doesn’t fit the time period of his horse-mounted knight-era setup).
Eun Chan comments on how sad Han Gyul is for his lingering crush on Yu Ju, and after a beat, he agrees that he’s dumb for liking a girl who’s unavailable. He wants to stop now, and Eun Chan tells him he made the right decision: “Goodbye, our unrequited loves.” Han Gyul asks what she means by “our” and she answers that it’s her business.
While Eun Chan falls asleep, Han Gyul muses: “Tonight, I really hated the idea of eating dinner alone. But on a day like this, why of all people did I think of you?”
Seeing that Eun Chan has fallen asleep, Han Gyul stares down at her face… and cautiously touches his fingers to her face, lightly… And then he realizes what he’s doing with an alarmed shake of the head, and gets up immediately, prodding Eun Chan awake and telling her to go home.
After a meal at home, Yu Ju tells Han Sung she occasionally has very selfish thoughts (only occasionally?): “I think, if it were always like this, I could get married. Then I think, Ah right, this isn’t all there is to marriage. I like how things are now.”
At work, Han Gyul gets a kick out of ordering Eun Chan around, enjoying her disgruntled expressions. That causes Min Yub to step in and take over (misguided chivalry = still cute), telling her she should pass on the heavy labor to him. (Aw.)
In fact, Han Gyul can’t take his eyes off Eun Chan, and at one point appears directly behind her to help her reach something on a high shelf. He’s standing way too close for comfort, and after he leaves, Eun Chan nervously smells her hair, thinking she ought to have washed it (since he must have been close enough to smell it). Hehe.
Han Gyul’s obvious attention toward Eun Chan is noted by Mr. Hong (who smiles knowingly) and Min Yub (who looks on worriedly). For what it’s worth, Ha Rim notices too but he doesn’t get it. Mr. Hong tells Han Gyul to just admit he likes Eun Chan instead of harassing her with work, causing Han Gyul to bluster that he isn’t doing that.
Han Sung drops by to talk to Eun Chan, worried that she’s been avoiding him. She makes the excuse that she’s working earlier in the day, and is going to give up the milk delivery because it’s hard working both jobs: “I’ll miss Sseulja a lot.” Han Sung: “What about me?” She deflects, saying she can call him whenever she wants to see him.
He apologizes again for the day of the art show. With tears falling from her eyes, Eun Chan tells him: “Because you’re such a good person… because I like you… I didn’t know it myself, how much I really liked you… I went home that day and my heart ached. But I’m fine now. She’s pretty, and refined… so I’ll give up. I hope you two will be happy.” She puts on a brave smile and insists she’s okay. Han Sung looks on with a mixture of (I’m inferring) sympathy, pity, and maybe a little sorriness.
With that issue aired out, they resume their friendly relationship. At one point, Han Sung puts Yu Ju on hold when she calls because he’s on the line with Eun Chan. He takes a long enough time chatting happily with Eun Chan before getting back to Yu Ju that she seems bothered.
Meanwhile, the cafe picks up business with the assistance of Eun Sae, who’s taken phone-videos from Eun Chan’s phone and her own and uploaded an amateur commercial onto the internet. Since the video prominently features the cute Coffee Princes, advertising them more than the cafe itself, it’s not long before women come in droves to the cafe to drool over them.
[A few small plot detours: Eun Chan’s mother goes on a date with Mr. Gu the butcher, who asks her to go steady, then retracts it in embarrassment at her nonchalant reaction. Sun Ki seems to be in search of his ex-girlfriend from three years ago, from when he lived back in Japan, although at present he has no leads. Ha Rim is getting fed up living in such a pigsty with Mr. Hong. And Han Gyul’s grandmother seems to be getting more ill.]
Increasingly bothered by his distraction with Eun Chan, Han Gyul tries to ignore his interest/attraction, acting cool around her. (Which annoys Eun Chan because she takes his behavior at face value.) When he sees Yu Ju for a movie (who’s feeling a little odd about Han Sung, preferring a friend to a boyfriend), he asks if he can give her a hug, and she complies.
Although at first I was worried that his interest in her was renewed, Han Gyul is actually hugging her to confirm he’s still attracted to women, and breathes with relief: “Thanks. I won’t have to go to a mental ward after all.”
Still, during the movie (Shrek the Third), Han Gyul sees Eun Chan’s face on the screen and laughs to himself, remembering all her cute antics.
Han Sung and Eun Chan hang out at the park, playing with Terry/Sseulja. He asks about work, and she says Han Gyul is making life tough on her at the cafe. Han Sung wonders: “Does Guy K like Girl N? Why would he be harassing her?” Eun Chan: “Nope. Guy K has a pretty other girl.”
Han Sung asks what Girl N thinks of Guy K, and she answers it’s a boss-employee relationship. Smiling knowingly, Han Sung prods, “Just boss-employee?” She answers, “Yes, because Girl N has fallen in love with another handsome man.”
Going back to his place, Han Sung gives her a change of clothing and tells her to wash up (she’s sweat-soaked). So when Yu Ju shows up uninvited to bring him breakfast, she’s shocked to see Eun Chan there, and to realize her true gender.
The girls talk, and Yu Ju notes that she could’ve figured it out when Eun Chan said she liked her male teacher. Eun Chan apologizes for lying, and explains she had to because of her circumstances, and asks her to keep it a secret from Han Gyul, for now. She’ll tell him eventually. It’s wasn’t exactly her intention to come across as a boy; she just kind of looks like one. When she was a student, lots of girls would call her “oppa” as well. Eun Chan asks if she can call Yu Ju unni, and Yu Ju answers, “It sounds nicer than noona.”
After Eun Chan goes, Yu Ju teases Han Sung about liking Eun Chan. At his awkward reaction, she persists, teasing him while he tries to change the subject.
At work, Han Gyul sneaks glances at Eun Chan while piling task after task on her and enjoying her reaction (like a little boy picking on a little girl — or another little boy, I suppose — because he likes her. Or him). Eun Chan bursts out, exasperated, “Why are you acting like this to me? If you’ve got a complaint, just say so.” But in a hilarious bit, Eun Chan blows her bangs out of her eyes in frustration, but to Han Gyul, Eun Chan’s hair waves… in s l o o o o w … m o t i o n …
Unnerved, he tells her to stop that, and she does it more to annoy him. (Hysterically, both Min Yub and Ha Rim join in.)
Han Gyul drags Eun Chan aside, staring at her intensely, making Eun Chan worry that he’s discovered her secret. She tries to run away, but he holds onto her, still staring, and says, “Let’s hug once.”
Trying to explain, he stammers, “I can’t think straight because of you. Let’s just hug, once. Then I think I can figure things out.”
Startled, Eun Chan asks what’s up with him and moves away. He grabs her in a hug…
(As One’s “White Love Story”)
…and from the expression on his face, it seems things didn’t figure themselves out the way he was hoping.
At first unable to react, slowly Eun Chan hugs him back, closing her eyes… and the subtitles onscreen tell us:
“He shouldn’t have held me… Because it made me want to tell him I’m a girl…”
The song snippet in the last scene translates to:
Now I know, how you were as lost and wandering as I was
How you hurt so much, it kept you from sleep
Hold my hand, I won’t let go again
I love you, for as long as I breathe…
Additionally, I don’t think Eun Chan’s secret can stay secret for the rest of the series, with more and more people gradually finding out. Min Yub alone is careless enough to let it slip accidentally, but now with Yu Ju aware, I can’t see her NOT using this knowledge at some point. I don’t necessarily mean in a malicious way; but I don’t expect her to sit on it, especially since she knows Han Gyul so well… At least, that’s my hope, that they don’t drag out the secret through the very last.
For now, though, it’s fun — and I want to see the issue linger long enough for Han Gyul to have to deal with his preconceived notions of homosexuality in a substantive way (it’ll be a wasted opportunity if they flirt with the idea, but discard it by revealing that she’s really a girl to stay “safe”). I’m really curious to how they’ll treat Han Gyul’s growing attraction to Eun Chan. On one hand, attraction is physical — pheremones, instinct, chemistry. On the other, the mind is a powerful thing, and although he may not be able to deny his feelings, I expect him to sure as hell try. I wonder at what point he’ll have to give up resistance — Han Gyul seems pretty gay-friendly by nature. Will he be able to accept himself as gay? Or, at least, liking another man, even if he doesn’t only like men?
Geez, I’m dying of curiosity. I’ve got to get back to reading the book. Somebody make me more hours in a day.