Drama Recaps
Insoon Is Pretty: Episode 2
by | November 16, 2007 | 42 Comments

Huh. Well now, this is unexpected: I did not like Episode 2.

I’m used to finding second episodes to be a marked improvement from the first, but rarely the opposite. It’s strange for me to find an episode 1 to be good and the following markedly less so.

Episode 1 was subtly moving, understated and poignant. Insoon’s pain, shame, hope, and fear came through in all their delicate layers; I understood her predicament and was rooting for her to pull through. I find Kim Hyun Joo playing Insoon to be the best thing about this series and also the only thing I cared for in the second episode, which just seemed… plain and typical.

I was disappointed with the acting too, because it seems everyone (minus Kim Hyun Joo) is just a hair too act-y. Too conscious, obvious. You know when you’re watching something and the reactions always come just a touch too early or a touch too late, throwing everything into slight imbalance? You don’t realize what skill it takes to perfect timing until you’ve seen it badly done. And in Episode 2, it felt like everyone was just a bit off. The acting wasn’t BAD, or overtly melodramatic, but it did remind me of soap acting in its lack of subtlety.

Oh, and I don’t care for the music/score either. It makes the series seem so… ordinary.

SONG OF THE DAY

Insoon Is Pretty OST – “언제까지나” by Chae Dong Hwa (SG Wannabe). The title translates to “However long it takes” or “Until when.” [ zShare download ]

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All right, now that I’ve made the episode sound sufficiently un-entertaining…

EPISODE 2 SUMMARY

Insoon comes face to face with her famous actress mother, but can’t summon the courage to identify herself. Instead, she asks for an autograph, posing as a fan. Her mother politely asks her name, and Insoon tells her, her breath caught in her throat, waiting for her mother to recognize her name… but she doesn’t. She merely comments that Insoon must be a good singer (it’s a recurring bit that she shares a name with a famous singer — the real-life Insoon was popular in the ’80s and ’90s, although I think she’s still around, and is noted for her very strong voice as well as her half-black, half-Korean parentage).

Insoon reads what her mother wrote (“To Insoon. Live happily”) and breaks down. She then consoles herself with soju before stumbling to Teacher Seo’s house.

Insoon works up her courage and tells him she wants to make Eun Seok (his son) a good mother. She wants to do her best and be worthy of him — “I love you, Teacher.”

He displays a brief flash of surprise, but he’s stoic by nature so he doesn’t show much reaction before telling her that a person isn’t supposed to make a love confession while drunk. Insoon insists she’s not drunk, or rather that her feelings aren’t born from drunkenness. She’s in earnest. He scolds her for using him as an excuse to escape, and dismisses her by telling her to wash up and go to sleep.

 

Sang Woo, who’s been anxiously trying to call Insoon, gets a call from Lee Sun Young, Insoon’s mother. Sun Young thanks him for his kindness in interviewing her and invites him to dinner sometime. She may be thinking of setting up the handsome reporter with her daughter, if I’m reading these preliminary matchmaking signs correctly.

Feeling bad about avoiding Sang Woo’s repeated calls, Insoon goes to his workplace to talk to him. He’s thrilled and relieved to see her, and takes her out to lunch, chattering on, inviting her to a magic show the next day and mentioning her job as a teacher several times. Insoon feels too guilty to continue letting him believe her lie, so she ‘fesses up and tells him the truth: She’s not actually a teacher. That stalls the mood a bit, and Sang Woo’s enthusiasm deflates before he pretends he’s fine with it. (You get the sense that he wants to be the bigger man who doesn’t care about things like this, but he just can’t not care.)

But when Insoon asks him tentatively, “You’re disappointed in me, huh?” Sang Woo lies — No way, why would she be embarrassed about not being a teacher? He insists he’s not that small-minded (even though he is), and Insoon relaxes and thanks him, and Sang Woo feels proud of himself.

When Insoon mentions working in a bakery “there,” he picks up on it and asks where that is. Insoon hesitantly confides that when she was in high school, she accidentally killed someone, and Sang Woo chokes in surprise. Obviously flustered, Sang Woo tries to recover but it’s clear he’s uncomfortable, and Insoon thinks to herself that she spoke too soon.

She worries that he’ll think of her strangely now. Sang Woo, still trying to act the role of The Good Guy, assures her he doesn’t. He gives her a speech about how everyone makes mistakes and how she’s still his friend, no matter what. Insoon takes his words to heart, cheering up. Sang Woo, on the other hand, immediately distances himself from her.

(I like his reaction, because it’s so realistic. He wants to be a good guy, but his knee-jerk response shows he’s just a human. But because he likes to fancy himself The Hero of the story, he doesn’t admit his misgivings to himself, much less Insoon. In that way, Sang Woo’s fooling himself as much as he’s misleading her. I don’t, however, love his acting, which is too bad since I thought he was better in Episode 1. Everyone was.)

 

Insoon’s aunt calls Lee Sun Young for a talk. This is their first meeting in years (probably since Insoon was an infant); the last time they saw each other, things ended on bad terms. Insoon’s aunt says she didn’t want to say anything but felt she had to step in, seeing that Insoon has decided not to approach her mother. Sun Young, who wasn’t even aware of her daughter’s name, maintains her composure while asking how Insoon is doing, but it does provide a shock to her nerves. Insoon’s aunt answers that Insoon has had a rough life, but it’s probably best that she hear the details from Insoon herself. Sun Young gives in to her tears on her drive home.

 

Sang Woo broods, mulling over the news that Insoon killed someone, and seriously contemplates canceling their meeting/date the next day. But he keeps the date, and meets her at the magic show — where he’s surprised to see that she’s brought along Eun Seok.

Insoon watches the show with her full attention, and Sang Woo flashes back to their youth, when they’d gone to watch Jurassic Park together. (Btw, doesn’t young Insoon have an uncanny resemblance to Kim Hyun Joo?)

Still unable to shake his uneasiness, Sang Woo makes up an excuse that he’s swamped with work and won’t be able to see much of Insoon for the time being. He lies about needing to pull all-nighters every day, and suggests they get in touch after his current work situation calms down. Insoon believes him and cheerfully agrees, cautioning him to take care of himself.

Because of his compulsion to pull away, he’s also relieved when he asks Insoon about her relationship with Eun Seok, and she cautiously admits that she likes Eun Seok’s father and is hoping he’ll come around to the idea of accepting her. (His reasoning is that if Insoon’s interested in another man, Sang Woo will be off the hook.)

Still, despite being the one to withdraw, Sang Woo does feel a flash of jealousy when he drops the two of them off and sees them greeting Teacher Seo outside his home.

Teacher Seo tells Insoon that he’s talked to his school, and she can start working there again. Insoon declines the offer, though; she has no desire to put herself in that position again. Even if she were to go back, she’d be fired within three days anyway. She has pride too; she can’t take being fired again. Despite his protests, Insoon argues, getting progressively more agitated, that she’s not naive — she knows she’ll just get hurt again.

Upset, Insoon accuses him of not seeing her as a woman, and runs out of his place to head back to her friend’s apartment. But when she arrives at the door, she overhears her friend talking with her boyfriend — they both can’t wait for Insoon to move out, and grumble how Insoon doesn’t pick up on their feelings.

So, Insoon wanders the streets aimlessly……

…and ends up at the theater, where her mother is in the middle of a performance. Still reeling from the news about her daughter, Sun Young actually forgets her lines, to the surprise of her co-star and the murmuring audience.

After the show, Sun Young starts to feel unwell, looking pained and sickly. Although, the pic below makes it look like she’s just got a bad case of gas. (This is an example of what I mean by unsubtle. Remember that Friends episode where Joey gives his friends “acting advice” when pretending Rachel’s beef-jam-custard trifle is tasty by patting their stomachs and saying, “Mmm”? It’s like that.)

Sun Young makes her way to the parking garage, not noticing Insoon following behind. Insoon tells herself, “Just once more. I’ll just see her one more time before going, since I’m here anyway…”

Sun Young collapses by her car, and with nobody else around to help, Insoon rushes to her side. Sun Young won’t wake up, so Insoon carries her on her back and rushes her unconscious mother to the hospital. I know it’s an emotional beat, but she looks so funny carrying her mother, I couldn’t help but laugh. Giddyap!

The doctors assure Insoon that it’s not serious, and she sits by her mother’s side until she hears someone approaching. It’s Jung Ah, her half-sister, and Insoon quickly rushes out before she’s seen.

Sun Young wakes up and asks the doctors about the girl who brought her in, and the doctor tells her she just left. She must’ve been a devoted fan; she was so worried about her condition that the doctors assumed at first that the fan was her daughter.

Realizing who her helper was, Sun Young bolts up from her bed, rushing outside, trying to find her daughter. She sees Insoon walking away, and calls out, “Excuse me,” but gets no response. She then calls out, “Insoon!” which stops her in her tracks instantly.

Insoon thinks back to all the times in her life she’d wanted someone to call her name, in a motherly way. For instance, she could’ve used a mother’s comfort upon release from the prison where she’d been a mere number. (Sing with me now: “Two-four-six-oh-onnnnnne!”) And now, finally, her mother is actually calling her.

With tears in their eyes, the women face each other, and Sun Young whispers, “Insoon… you’re Insoon, aren’t you? It’s Mom.”

She steps forward to hug her daughter, both overwhelmed with their emotions. Sun Young: “I’m sorry. You must’ve hated me a lot, didn’t you? My baby. My poor Insoon. I’m sorry.”

Additional thoughts:

I was expecting Episode 2 to maintain the level set in Episode 1, but in my opinion, it sunk into ordinariness. Which must sound odd given the dramatic end to the episode. It’s not that anything was BADLY done, because there’s a base level of competence in all quarters (acting, directing, writing). It’s just that it wasn’t very interesting. The hour held no tension or drama for me. Normally, one bad hour after one good one isn’t enough to derail my interest in a series, but as this one comes so early, I’m not sure I’m invested enough to continue watching. I’ll probably catch another episode before deciding. Too bad, since I was all set to stick with this drama.

Anyone disagree with me? Let me know what I’m missing. (Spoiler-free, preferably!)

 
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42 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. ripgal

    Hei I’m first to respond! ^^
    I didn’t think Ep 2 was that bad. I liked it a lot more than Ep 1 in fact..didn’t think Ep 1 was THAT interesting or as poignant as you had pointed out. (maybe I’m slow in catching subtlety..hehehe..)

    I was expecting Ep 2 to drag the issue of In Soon’s mom and Sang Woo not finding out that soon..but to my surprise, it was quite fast paced. The drama kinda got thru the issues quite smoothly and I kinda liked it.. I also like how In Soon was portrayed to be a strong and vulnerable person in the drama at the same time. Strong as in how she tries to fight all the hardship of having ppl pick on her past and use it against her..and vulnerable in a sense that despite her determination, she still can’t let go of it. PLUS point was, I adored the teacher’s kid when he’s with In Soon..they looked soooooo adorable together. Was such a touching scene – when he told In Soon that she’s not a dangerous person…she’s the prettiest, kindest and most generous person on earth. Imagine how IN Soon would have felt..I’d be on cloud 9 despite all my problems and hardship…

    Yeah, it’s just me I guess.. ^_^

    • 1.1 MsB

      Its not you, I felt the same that this episode was better.

  2. Gramps

    Hmmm. I think the only thing I agree with you on is the OST. They should have diverted some of the budget they spent on big-name singers into hiring song-writers who weren’t eager to offload their sub-B-side jottings, session musicians who weren’t taking a break from muzak-making, and, above all much better arrangers: I don’t think I have ever heard a Korean CD with such a succession of unimaginative arrangements. Oh, and I agree on the great performance KJH is delivering, of course.

    Otherwise, I think they’ve got everything more or less right and are building it up nicely, including some rather interesting and potentially complex portraits of the older generation which you are rather skipping over. The first four eps are very much a sub-drama in themselves, with strong hints that there are going to be major shifts in tone and content from 5 onwards.

    Sorry to hear you’re thinking of jumping off already. This is a drama I for one am certainly going to stick with — the first one that’s had me camping on the CBs to grab each episode with an urgency and anticipation I haven’t felt since CP finished.

  3. Anonymous

    Since this is just the first two episodes maybe the story will get better later on. Like, instead of watching her depressed most of the time, she’ll come out a fighter later on. It’s usually what happens in dramas.

  4. Gramps

    #3 “Insoon will have more self-confidence like her mother”. Well, whatever may happen to Insoon’s sense of self-worth in coming episodes, I don’t see her mother as anything like self-confident. Self-assured on the surface, sure. But a strong driver of the drama in eps3 and 4 is her deep insecurity, which is actually stronger, and a lot more well-founded, than Insoon’s. As is also her guilt and self-reproach, which again has real roots deeper than anything in Insoon’s personal past. The segment bridging the cliffhanger of 3-4 is all about that: and it’s of particular dramatic importance that there’s a phone conversation there of which the audience hears only one side (though we can guess what the other party is saying) while Insoon hears only the second part, which knocks the stuffing out of her. Had she heard the first part too, she might have reacted rather differently, though she would still have been very upset.

  5. thunderbolt

    “Huh. Well now, this is unexpected: I did not like Episode 2.”

    Phew. I thought I was the only one. I liked Episode 1 a lot (heck, even starting tearing before five minutes had passed) so it was queer and unsettling that Episode 2 evoked no emotions in me. I felt oddly detached the whole time. Only the mother-daughter reunion in the closing minutes stirred me a little and I cried with relief for Insoon (and relief for myself that finally I could feel something in this episode).

    I agree with you about the overacting too. The only one whose “act-y” acting I didn’t mind was little Eun-seok and that’s because he’s so dang cute.

    I was so hopeful after Episode 1. Please let Episode 3 be way better than Episode 2.

  6. Chaboh

    Dramabeans, please carry on writing! Korean dramas do tend to go slow in the 1st few episodes – I call it warming up. I love the 2 main actors: Kim Min Joon ( since Damo) and Kim Hyun Jun (since Glass Shoes). They have 2 ability to make their characters alive, and feel for them.

    I read the spoilers in soompi for Epi 3 and 4 but am not able to watch since I’m from Malaysia.
    Keep up the good work. BTW, I never miss your blog.

  7. javabeans

    I’m glad I’m not the only one, too! But I am happy to see dissenting opinions, since I don’t want to be the Debbie Downer for the series — if you enjoy the show, that’s cool. I just couldn’t shake my feeling that whatever special thing that drew me into Episode 1 had dissipated by Episode 2. It wasn’t that I outright hated anything; like thunderbolt, I was just left feeling unmoved and detached. Hopefully it picks back up.

  8. Anonymous

    hey Gramps, I know what you mean by Insoon’s mother being “self-assured on the surface”. That is why I decided to edit my comment above because I realized that just like Insoon, the mother lacks self-confidence. But thanks for correcting me and for your great insight on the subject. This is fun=)

  9. Gramps

    #8 anonymous Thanks for mentioning your edit to your post, which of course made my comment on your (pre-edited) #3 look a little puzzling. For a moment there, I thought we had both been caught by the nastly little bug in this live editing thing which I’ve remarked on before. I started to add my #4 during your “edit time window” for no#3 — and found myself being invited by the server to edit your posting in your name instead of my own. So I backed off until your 15 mins were up. But when I saw, after submitting my #4, that your #3 had changed, I thought I must have somehow pressed delete when your posting was unexpectedly made editable in my browser. Anyway, all is clear now, except that I hope you don’t really think I was “correcting” you. Just supplementing your perceptions with mine. That’s what it’s all about.

    I resisted, in that Coffee Prince Summer when we all had such fun here, being typecast as token male comment spokesperson on this blog, and I don’t now want to typecast myself as token oldie. But I think most people have observed that KDrama is, pretty successfully, pushing beyond its earlier appeal to those who were teens at heart if not in biological age.

    More and more of the thirty-somethings in recent Kdramas have been recognisable as such by Western psychology and categories, rather than as inner adolescents who happen to have landed jobs as lawyers or advertising executives and hence are supposedly now adults. And one of the things I see being touched on, and maybe later even explored, in Insoon (the drama) is a further pushing back of the range of life-phases that are regarded as worth the attention of the writers and the audience, extending into the forty- and fifty- somethings.

    It looks to me as though this domain is going to be explored not just in subplots, across which those of more youthful years and interests can safely fast-forward, but in ways that are bound in to the drama of the foreground characters. In particular, Insoon’s Mom and Sang Woo’s parents, his Dad especially (there’s an strange moment a bit later on where Insoon is given a –pretty important — voiceover on a scene that at first sight has nothing to do with her and where she hasn’t appeared), but also his Mom, treated so badly by both her husband (for reasons that will soon start to emerge) and her allegedly grown-up son who treats their home like a hotel with substandard service, reacts to her innocently mumsy questions like a petulant fourteen-year-old and dispatches her as if she were a nosey domestic servant.

    I don’t want to get into spoiler territory (though warning: in what follows there will be some spoilers — but only concerning episodes that javabeans has already summarized, viz 1 and 2) but let me point up a few of the things that held my interest from ep 1 and into and across ep 2 with none of the bouts of indifference that javabeans and thunderbolt have reported.

    It’s becoming plain that Insoon is and always has been extremely gutsy. [Which is presumably why she had no need for a macho childhood sweetheart and could hang out with a ghastly whining wimp like the young Sang Woo instead. I suppose she liked going to the movies with him, confident that she wouldn't have to thump him for letting a hand stray her way: the poor guy needs both hands to shield his delicate eyes from the horrors of an early-model computer-generated T. Rex on the screen, while Insoon is devouring those same horrors with enthusiastic wide-open delight.] But, in some way we will eventually find out about, that gutsiness backfired, leading to her conviction and the psychological and social burdens laid on her.

    Now then: who else is gutsy? Don’t laugh: her Mother. Forget for now the posery, the snobbery, the patchy taste in interior decor (don’t you just love that 20km-screen TV on the nobbly-legged “antique” table? She for one clearly does…), the harsh control-freakish stance toward her younger daughter, and a lot more unpleasant behaviour in eps 3 and 4, with more no doubt to come. Look instead at that scene outside the hospital at the end of ep2 when, regardless of the way it must make her look, she runs out of the hospital to find and face Insoon. And then the way, straying now across the cliffhanger into the first moments of ep 3, she steadies herself and bravely grasps an enormous nettle that comes into view only moments after that.

    She has a lot on her plate already. Despite her brave front on the talk-shows, there are an awful lot of empty seats in that theater, she no longer gets fan-mobbed, and she not only quite frequently dries up on stage, but seems also to have lost the professional knack of covering up such mishaps so the audience don’t notice (and from the murmurings of onlookers, they seem to predate the disturbung news about her daughter she’s just heard) . A lot of the smugness she seems to show when giving viewers the guided tour of her home in ep 1 has to do with signalling to her ex-hubby that she’s doing very well nicely on her own thanks, but she’s trying too hard (and little does she know that whether or not ex-hubby is watching, somebody else is, on a much inferior TV set, and the consequences of attracting that hard-up viewer’s attention will change her life). She’s worried sick about Jungah, partly because she sees the effect of the divorce on her, but also because Jungah seems so resistant to the notion that to succeed nowadays even as a classical musician, a bit (or a lot) of pushing the glamour/personality angles helps, and a Mum who knows the ropes and has the contacts is a real asset.

    Maybe that doesn’t come across to people who haven’t themselves had talented teenage kids who seemed intent on chucking away their life chances (those who still have such kids on their hands are probably too frazzled to have the time or mental energy to watch KDramas anyway, and besides there’s no bandwith left on the household ISP connection for parental downloads). But it’s very much part of those older generation dynamics that are being built up in these early episodes.

    But, even sticking more with the central character, there are a few things that caught my attention and drew me in and onwards that don’t quite come out in the summaries. For example: not far into ep 2, when Insoon, wretchedly downing the soju in a tent bar, gets a call from her aunt to check up on whether she met her mother yet, she responds that she doesn’t see why she should go looking for a mother who abandoned her (her mother’s failure outside the dressing room to pick up on the “autograph hunter’s” name still clearly hurts badly, and the strung-out wordiness of the relative clause unavoidable in English — “a mother who abandoned me” — can’t capture the bitterly monolithic, almost spat-out label of “버린 엄말” in the Korean), the aunt comes straight back with something even more loadedly resistant to translation “버리긴 누가 버렸다 그래?”. “Who said anything about abandoning [you]“? The way Korean repeats components verbatim where English would substitute placeholders means that the word the aunt is challenging, “버리다” –“abandon, desert, throw away, dump”, comes up twice in that same brief sentence. But Insoon is too upset, and probably also already too drunk, to hear, let alone get the point and ask for clarification.

    This is the second hint the Aunt has dropped about Insoon’s mother being somehow forced to part with her. A pattern is being built up that suggests, to me at any rate, that Mom “abandoned” Insoon in some sense akin to the way Insoon “killed” someone, and that when the details eventually emerge, the question of responsibility (and the scope for justified self-blame) in both events will turn out to be more complex than it first seems.

    There are a lot more moments like this in ep2 that kept me eager to see where these hints are leading. Above all the suggestion that there are deep situational as well as temperamental affinities between Insoon and her mother, but of a kind that in this context are more likely to lead to hurt and conflict than easy acceptance.

  10. 10 tooizzy

    I still like this drama. :-)

  11. 11 deeta

    Well, I agree with you on several things. I find that the Insoon’s mom acting to be very ‘act-y'; and that kinda bothers me because she’s supposed to inflict huge emotion for Insoon. Unilke the mom in MISA who, IMO, totally nails it, this mom is flat, and irritating for that matter. But on the other hand, I think KMJ isn’t bad at all. Sure, he is also act-y (lol, I scrutinized his every move, to the totally unsubtle reaction of fright to his ringing phone, TWICE!!), but he conveys Sang Woo pretty nicely. From his giddy excitement over finding Insoon again, to the let down over finding out the prison story, I’d say he’s quite good in his part.

    Instead, I kinda find Insoon’s ‘mask’ of cheerfulness to be JUST a wee bit over. I thought it was KHJ, but then I realized that it was Insoon’s character.

    My theory (so far anyway) is that the series has yet to decide which tone to take, lighthearted, or angsty one. I have absolutely no problem with it trying to bridge both, but I just feel like it hasn’t come to a perfect balance, which is definitely understandable since we’re still on very early episodes.

    I’m excited over the preview, tho. Seems like something big is gonna happen.

  12. 12 Anonymous

    Gramps #9, sorry for the wording and I know that you’re not trying to correct me. You’re just sharing your opinions to me and to everyone here. I appreciate that. We all are. And I’m glad that someone like you and Javabeans took the time to read my opinions about this drama =) I think this drama will stick for a while that audience will come to love. I mean it’s KHJ. She’s a great actress and there’s more better adjectives to describe her than just great. I’ve seen her two previous dramas and I loved it. And I can’t wait to watch her other dramas. I know it’s kinda silly to compare her previous dramas to her current one but I believe in her talent. She can pull this off with a little help from her co-actors because as they say, “it takes two to tango” or in this case more. =)

  13. 13 Anonymous

    Please keep posting. KHJ is great…..I will definitely watch this drama..Thanks….

  14. 14 canyayasis

    i started using this series as “filler” for “the funky four” (evasive intelligence agency) – something to watch while waiting for new eppies of the funksters –
    i think it might have some hidden depths – so i’ll keep watching – though the biggest bug i have is with Kim Min Joon’s hair – which means (to me) that i am seeing the actor with bad hair not the character – which further means (to me) that i don’t believe him as sangwoo- that …. (dot , dot, dot…) as has been previously mentioned – i see him acting – not as sangwoo.
    (i laughed javabeans, when you commented that ep.2 was a “hair too act-y”
    and i thought – yes, she’s right, literally!!)
    and the mother – i can’t get her role as psychotic mother-in-law in Queen of the Game out of my head – which means i see the actress acting – not her character…
    but in soon – i find that she is worth the effort – and i will stick with it.
    the flashbacks of them as adolescents are fabulous – those two kids – and the teacher’s son – are worth watching – after the magic show when the teacher’s son is taking a call from his dad, and
    walks away from In soon and said “this is a conversation between men..”
    hahahaha – i fell out of my chair – too cute!

  15. 15 Anonymous

    I think this “acty” thing is a valid enough perception, but it’s leading to some short-circuited judgments. I mean, come on: lead players, PD and scriptwriter are some of the most experienced pros in the KDrama business. Do you really think they’ve suddenly lost the knack and turned “soapy”? And do you think Kim Hyun Joo could give a performance like that if she was interacting with colleagues who were working at a lower level than she is? Especially if their timing really was that bad: it would throw hers off as well.

    Coming at this from another angle: Everybody in this drama so far, with the exception of little Eun Seok (and maybe also of Insoon’s friend from inside), has something to hide (and that includes Teacher Seo, Good Guy though he doubtless is). And most of them, apart from Insoon, are really intent on hiding it. Which means they are putting on an act.

    This is especially true of Insoon’s Mom. Her career is over the hill and she knows it, the brilliant marriage to the celebrated medic she was enabled to pull off by allowing the child of her first marriage to “disappear” from her life has recently ended, after maybe 20 years, in a divorce that left her with a good financial settlement, but which has blared out to the gossip-loving world the fact that hubby left her for a much younger woman. So in front of the TV cameras, her own younger daughter, the PD she tries so transparently to butter up at the audition, Insoon’s aunt and, except for a few moments in the night outside the hospital and away from any sort of public gaze, Insoon herself, she acts like crazy. And not at all well. That is, the character of Insoon’s Mom doesn’t act well. The actress playing her acts very well indeed. To play someone who is unsuccessfully acting takes a whole lot of acting skill. Just like professional musicians have to sweat if for some reason or another they are required to play or sing out of tune.

    And Sang Woo. I fear, ladies, that you are perhaps being over-influenced by Kim Min Joon’s looks into falling over backwards to be kind about Sang Woo as a character. He was a wimp as a boy, now he’s a toad as an “adult”. No wonder his Mom wonders when he’s going to get a girlfriend. OK let’s forget for a moment the cowardly and hypocritical way he backs off when he finds out about Insoon’s record (made all the more disturbing by the way that Insoon is reassured, indeed encouraged by his oily platitudes, taking his sudden outpouring of patronising socially enlightened OK sentiments to be genuine and a proof that he’s changed since he was a boy (!!) when in fact all the things he says to “reassure” her that he’s not fazed by her past are just blather while he’s thinking how he can get away fast enough).

    Let’s forget all that and just consider the cheescake. Yes that hunk of cheesecake which triggers Insoon’s admission of her record and how she got it.

    Sang Woo, still palpably reeling from the first revelation that Insoon isn’t really a teacher, brings the cheesecake over and offers her a mouthful with his man-about-town swagger of someone who knows all the best things and places to eat in the Big City. He’s clearly expecting her to say “Wow, Sang-Woo, now you really are My Hero! Not only do you find it in that Great Heart of yours to look with fondness on a degenerate like me, but you have introduced me to the most heavenly-tasting cheesecake on the planet. How can I ever thank you enough?” Instead, Insoon being Insoon, and knowing her bakery goods, says it’s old.

    Watch his reaction, and especially the direction of his eyes, at that moment. It’s as if a guest he’d taken to a posh reception had suddenly come out with a four-letter word at the top of her voice. He ducks slightly, then darts a glance towards the serving counter from where he’s just fetched the offending item, then takes a quick sweep around the room to see if any of the other diners, including the younger colleague who so ill-advisedly has him in her sights, have overheard this massive faux pas. And does he then try a forkful himself, to see if Insoon’s right? No, of course not, he launches into a sotto voce lecture about how uniquely magnificent the cheescake is, made by a specially imported master patissier etc etc. And all the time he’s thinking “Hell, I’m out with a bumpkin who not only didn’t go to College but who doesn’t even know what good cheescake is like, I really hope no-one heard, because then I’ll never dare to show my face here again.” So it’s no surprise that the bit of extra background which she now supplies about where she got her cheescake appraisal skills has him gasping for air.

    The actor may have good looks, but the character he’s playing (superbly, in my assessment) is bad news. He isn’t the long-lost childhood sweetheart entering the downcast heroine’s life to raise her up from despondency. He’s playing that role in his own imagination, though he’s fluffed his lines on finding that maybe the raising up bit might mean him getting his lily-white little hands dirty. Again, this is well-acted acting of someone putting on an act. (I think that’s what I mean. I should have resisted hitting the pre-Sunday supper gin and tonic before finishing this. Ah well, too late now…)

    And of course, they weren’t childhood sweethearts. Look past the soft focus in the flashbacks, and look at the body language, and, above all again, the looks in the eyes of the two of them. Plainly the other kids gave little Insoon a hard time, so maybe she hung out with him mainly because he didn’t. But in her voiceover after they’ve left the eatery, she overestimates him now (that naivety of hers: she’s a better judge of cakes than people) and reflects on how he’s been transformed from the feeble boy she once knew — and, we might add, she almost completely forgot. Because on the platform, though he recognises her beyond any doubt, she can’t for a moment either recognise his face or attach a memory to his name. Even more tellingly (from the point of view of the role he’s never played in her emotional past): even though she’s been duly impressed by his business card the previous day and knows he’s a broadcast journalist, it isn’t till she recognises his junior colleague at the nearby table as someone she’s seen on TV that she suddenly thinks she’s maybe seen him there too. Not, for once, memory loss, but memory absence, thanks to the absence of anything (for her) truly memorable.

    Oh dear. I think I’m about to crash the live preview feature. You’ve all been saved from even more, not by the bell, but by a limited text buffer size.

  16. 16 Dahee Fanel

    ^Anonymous, I totally agree with your assessment of Sang Woo. To me, he has a bit of a sleazy side, and is rather cowardly. Episodes three and four also highlight the fact that he’s rather stuck-up and foolish. (Am I the only one who’s sort of half-hoping for In Soon and the teacher to get together?)

    And it doesn’t help that I think that Kim Min Joon’s acting is very awkward. He has a weird sort of rhythm in his delivery, and has this weird pattern of overacting, then underacting, and overacting again. Sorry to all the fans out there, but to me, he’s just not selling the character of Sang Woo very well at all. Thank goodness the writer and director are pitching in wherever he needs help.

    As for episode two…I rather liked it, although yes, it wasn’t as good as episode one. I think it was because it isn’t focusing purely on In Soon anymore, and is delving more into the other characters. It was really the final scene in episode two that made me cry and touched me the most, with In Soon’s reflection on wanting someone to call her name. Maybe I liked episode two merely because of that one scene…I don’t know.

    For me, it was episodes three and four that were rather more lackluster than episode two…although they do introduce some interesting developments in the older characters. Maybe episode five will get things really rolling…I guess we’ll see.

  17. 17 Marzy

    Id say ep2 wasnt as good as ep1 but its not too bad. hehehe
    Im still looking forward to this. and it does get better i feel in the next eppies.. :)
    i love the ost btw.. hehehe no matter how they used the budget more for that..
    i think they still got a good story here.. i like the non draggy way things are also. look forward to the next eps. i liked them better.

  18. 18 thunderbolt

    “Everybody in this drama so far, with the exception of little Eun Seok (and maybe also of Insoon’s friend from inside), has something to hide (and that includes Teacher Seo, Good Guy though he doubtless is). And most of them, apart from Insoon, are really intent on hiding it. Which means they are putting on an act.”

    Hey # 15 Anonymous, I really enjoyed your comments. And I agree with you that most of the characters have things they are hiding. But putting on an act is one thing; letting us feel that they are obviously acting is another thing. As a viewer, I want to feel the effect, not the device. Take for instance the scene in Sang Woo’s bedroom where he’s mulling over Insoon’s bombshell revelation. The look on his face shows a man who is perplexed. Or at least he’s supposed to look perplexed and disturbed. But I couldn’t help laughing in that scene because all I saw was a KMJ who looked awkward and uncomfortable trying to prop his head up on one hand as he lay in that position. I confess I burst out laughing several times in this episode during a Sang Woo scene, not because he did or said anything funny but because he just seemed… comical. By the way, I’m quite fond of KMJ as an actor because of Damo so I’m not picking on him the way I do with actors I’m allergic to.^^ I just know that in Episode 1 he made my eyes light up and in Episode 2 he made me laugh for all the wrong reasons.

    The acting in Episode 2 wasn’t bad but it was, like Sarah said, “just a hair too act-y.” Dahee’s description of Episodes 3 & 4 nails my overall impression of Episode 2. Lackluster is the word. But I’m still going to keep watching this because I like Insoon.

  19. 19 Gramps

    I guess I owe an apology to the “real” Anonymouses out there. #15 Anon, as any
    regular inmate who was tricked into reading that guff will surely have guessed, was
    none other than the trenchant, always concisely to the point, totally spam-free Gramps.

    Despite appearances, I wasn’t actually feigning anonymity to circumvent the defences of the sensible folk who have killfiled my contributions. It was just that my son was home, which means (a) I get to play on his super-duper corporate-issue laptop (b) he cooks the dinner while his Ma and I hit the bottle. Hence alcohol-assisted posting from a machine without the “Gramps” cookie in the jar.

    On this “actiness” matter, I have to yield to people who’ve not only watched more Kdramas than I have, but who also really know the language properly (including the non-verbal cultural languages), as I most certainly don’t, or don’t yet.

    But not without one last shift of tactics.

    I’m not the first to remark that Ibsen was a great dramatist. But his dramas are full of things that simply can’t be played “off the page” to a 21st century audience.

    SOLNESS: … Some day the younger generation will come knocking at my door.
    [There is a knock on the door. He starts] What’s that?
    DR. HERDAL: It’s someone knocking
    SOLNESS: Come in! [HILDE WANGEL comes in by the door to the hall]

    Enough to bring the house down for all the wrong reasons. But not in 1892. The reason modern audiences are liable to scoff at such “waving with a lamppost”, as Germans call it, is because Ibsen and Chekhov, and the new school of directors who developed ensemble playing, have in the meantime thoroughly schooled us in much more perceptive ways of watching drama than the average late 19th theatregoer was used to. If it looks silly to us on the page (and massively implausible if performed exactly as written) that’s because the tools that once serviceably did a valuable job got battered in the process and now strike us as hopelessly outmoded.

    What the @!*@ has this to do with Insoon? Well, I still think that the ‘actiness’ of Kim Min Joon’s performance is actually part of that performance, not a defect of it. Yes, I take thunderbolt’s point, it’s there even in his posture and expressions when he’s all by himself, but San Woo is a poser, even when no-one, camera aside, is looking. Not a hypocrite (which is why he’s potentially reformable, as may well turn out to happen later). Hypocrites are malicious and know what they’re doing. San Woo hasn’t sufficient guts to be malicious, and he deceives himself as much as he tries to deceive others. He (San Woo, not KMJ) is trying to act the part of the KDrama Hero whom Fate has just reunited with his Lost Childhood Sweetheart, only to reveal that there is Something That Will Keep Them Apart, and hence calls for much Furrowed Brow Automobile Driving, and Tormented Lying on Rumpled Beds. Oh, and like everyone in Kdrama Korea, he sleeps with the light on so we can all clearly see how much he’s suffering through the lonely nights.

    So I shift my ground to claim instead that if there is a problem with the acting and/or directing here, it’s that the ‘stageiness’ is being badly, but all the same intentionally, highlighted in the performances. I think the idea is to get the viewers to see that they are watching people (mis)cast themselves in conventional KDrama roles, which don’t actually fit their situations. Maybe that way there’s some common ground between the perceptions of those who judge it as an unfortunate defect and my view that it’s a deliberate ploy, but one which may have been overdone, and indeed has been if such experienced drama watchers react to it with unease rather than approval.

  20. 20 all4movies

    I’ve watched 2 episodes so far and find it a relief from the usual girl meets chaebol story line. Not that I’m not a fan of those but it’s refreshing to also watch a drama about ordinary people. Anyways, I’ve enjoyed watching it so far and want to see how Li Wan plays into all of this as he’s one of my favourite actors, not that the main actor is anything to sneeze at. I just saw a picture of Li Wan in this series and he seems to have lost a lot of weight. I hope he hasn’t jumped onto the anorexic bandwagon popular with young people. It would be such a shame.

  21. 21 canyayasis

    Now that i have watched all 6 episodes – I would like to retract what i said about Sangwoo – he is a reflection of his younger self – and now i understand his goofyness and awkwardness – he’s reached a prestigious position as an on air reporter which would inflate the ego of many other men – but he still begins to bungle his words and actions around INSOON – he still reflects the kid hiding behind INSOON at a scary movie – and INSOON can still push his buttons – she’s coming in to her own – and regaining her spunk – i am enjoying this series very much.

  22. 22 thunderbolt

    I’ve watched four episodes now and am officially hooked. Well, not hooked as in addicted (not yet) but I’m going to stick around and watch the whole series. The mother’s character is fascinating because she’s so complex and contradictory. Ditto for Sang Woo. I want to strangle him for being a tactless bigmouth but I know he’s well-intentioned (in his stoopid way, grrr!). He seems very shallow now but that gives his character room to grow. Insoon made me cry in Ep 4 and that’s a sure sign that something in this drama is working for me. May I add that I really like Insoon? Both the teen and adult versions.

  23. 23 Gramps

    #22 thunderbolt Hurray!!! I just knew you had too good a nose and eye for dramatic quality not to go long-term on this one eventually.

    Now… ISTR there’s that there’s someone else around here who also normally has an infallible eye for spotting good dramas and who still needs to be convinced. Can’t for the moment think who that is, but no doubt the name will come back to me eventually.

  24. 24 Lisa

    I started watching this series because of these posts. I think its a beautiful drama…just right amount of everything. I really like the lead actress, theres is something about her that makes her appealing. I also like the chemistry between her and the other male lead. I forget his name at the moment, but I didn’t really like him too much in Ireland. However, this drama makes him more appealing to watch. Thanks for the including the song!

  25. 25 sinopciones

    Kim Hyun Joo first I saw her in “to marry a millionare” and i didnt like her but i blame it on good acting of her part, she was so good that i didnt like her I thought, then i just watch “miss kim million dollar quest” that drama was painful to watch, but i stick to the very end, why I dunno… but it seems i learned my lesons am into the first part of ep 3 of “in-soon is pretty” and i quit. i had a revelation “Kim Hyun Joo” sucks at acting her character is always the same ultra poor lady who just cant make it, she relay it all in her prettiness and that constast smiling is anoying, for instance Choi Ji Woo has a class that u feel for her; Kim Hyun Joo I dont even petty her, seems like somehow she deserve all the bad, also is anoying that there’s always a man that is so in-love that is willing to overlook all of her bads, So am not watchin In-soon cuz the first ep was slow and (2 weeks later since i didnt felt the urge to keep watchin) saw the second, was compleatly down the hill, the constant outloud voice of her mind is too much; do they need to tell us what she is thinking? shouldnt action should be enough so we get it… am off this ship. I apologize to Kim Hyun Joo fans i didnt mean to bash her but that drama really got on my nerves

  26. 26 Gramps

    #25 sinopciones
    “the constant outloud voice of her mind is too much; do they need to tell us what she is thinking?”
    I think you are missing something rather important re the Insoon voiceovers, namely that they are of two kinds. Yes, there are some which are of the “comic strip thought bubble” variety, though that’s not necessarily as redundant a technique as you are assuming. But there are others that represent Insoon’s retrospective view of events from a point in the future which we’ve not yet seen her reach, sketching a bridge forward to things yet to come (Alone in Love used the same technique of two-level voiceovers, and there too some viewers didn’t get the point). They are rather akin to the occasional inclusion of tableau shots in the main body of the drama (and not just in spoilers or title sequences) which are taken from episodes which haven’t (or hadn’t at that point) yet aired and plainly imply situations and events as yet unknown to us. There were, for example, no less than two such shots among the six in the first segment of Ep 7 (accompanying Insoon’s voiced-over reflections on the omnipresence of “sarang” as a word and its contrasting scarcity in her life, reprised from the astonishing closing sequence of Ep6 where the same voiceover accompanied the scrolling messages on the Internet site).

  27. 27 hjk

    After watching the first two episodes, I definitely wouldn’t call this a “sad” drama (in the sense that many post-ers of the 1st ep labelled it) but rather, I find it very moving and simply beautiful. I admit that it’s one you have to be in the mood to watch – like when you’re in the mood for a well-written/directed, lesser-known foreign film vs. being in the mood for the latest blockbuster hit. Don’t get me wrong, I also love watching the romantic dramadies (the ones I tend to rewatch um-teen times), but it’s great to see kdramas doing something different like this and MIA.

    As for the over-acty-ness, I believe that it is the intentional portrayal of the characters and nothing lacking on the part of the actors. My only disappointment is not in Kim Min Joon the actor, but in Sang Woo’s character, since I was originally hoping to see KMJ in a strong leading role. I think KMJ is doing a fantastic job in portraying the self-inflated but weak man. I’m wondering how much his father’s character will play into the story. And although I’ve never been blown away by any of Kim Hyun Joo’s prior roles, as Insoon, I can see her inner strength hidden behind the years of resignation. Brava!

    I plan on continuing with this series, and I eagerly await future summaries as well as the episodes. I seem to get so much more out of a series when you recap, javabeans. Thanks for the wonderful discussions.

  28. 28 Gramps

    #27 hkj — and anyone else who wants to discuss this drama with like-minded enthusiasts as it unfolds — you might care to pop over to the Insoon thread on soompi, where an international Alliance of Intelligent Adults, counting many long-standing commenters on this blog among its members, has built up a High-Intensity Worthwhile Discussion Forcefield which has so far deflected most of the anticipated Inanity Missiles lauched by the dreaded massed hordes of Lee-Wan-Is-Hot teeny squealers. Of course, as all those equity fund ads are required to say in the small print, “Past performance is no guarantee of future yields”.

  29. 29 all4movies

    I have watched up to episode 9 and am eagerly waiting for ep. 10. There have been some slow moments, but I just fast forward it. Lee Wan has totally lost his cute baby face, but maybe because he’s going for the gangster look. In-soon is finally changing from her “loser” look to something more glamourous. What a difference make up and clothes can make. I would check out the comments at soompi but I haven’t take the time to figure out how to do that. I know, I’m kinda sad, but after being on a user-friendly site like dramabeans, you kind of get spoiled.

  30. 30 Anonymous

    though this episode seems badly done compared to the first, the show progresses better starting with episode three. don’t give this drama up.
    i almost gave up the drama at this episode. but i decided to continue it anyway, and you can’t BELIEVE how awesome this show is. in fact, i’m waiting right now for the 10th episode to be subbed in English. however, because some viewers upload WITHS2’s subbed version, WITHS2 decided to temporarily stop this project until the stealers stop uploading. until they stop, i’m waiting patiently.

  31. 31 Anonymous

    i’ve not watched it but with your synopsis i think ep2 fared less than the pilot one… i’ll give it still a go to try another chapter… worst am sucker for finishing what i’ve already started… probably skip some chapters but find out how it ends… anyway when its dull i can just always do fast forward…

  32. 32 Jo

    i don’t know why but when i watch episode 2 i was moved…maybe bcos her experience is close to mine and i get emotional easily..so far i have watch till episode 10 and seriously the drama have become more interesting..erm i’m so sad that you won’t be doing this sumarry anymore but javabeans are you considering the kwon sang woo drama bad love?without subtitle i will not be able to understand what going on with the drama bad love.i just wondering are you planning to watch bad love and write a summary about it?i deeply recommended this drama if you’re into a mellow korean drama..

  33. 33 EmmaC

    I just had to comment…….after watching dramas like Coffee Prince and Fantasy Couple (this one just recently), I am not very keen on Insoon. It’s really really slow, and there isn’t alot of exciting moments, nothing spectacular about the plot, and it’s not funny/cute enough either. I watched upto Episode 9 hoping for something dramatic to happen but unfortunately no. I can’t imagine what the rest of the story has in store but it doesn’t seem like it will be anything worth watching…….nothing spectacular……. Too bad……. :(

  34. 34 Gramps

    #33 EmmaC, well: from that description, I don’t know which drama you, and several other commenters in a similar vein, were watching. Maybe the one javabeans gave up on so suddenly, again after providing an account of episode 2 which I found pretty hard to match up with what I for one saw there. But there are rather a lot of us who have been eagerly watching what appears to be quite a different, and in its admittedly “unspectacular” way, rather splendid drama with the same name and on the same channel and have been utterly captivated by every aspect of it, as well as enjoying sharing and developing our views on Soompi, since we regrettably had no encouragement to do so here.

    A great pity, in my view, that this blog, which has done so much to foster the intelligent understanding of KDrama worldwide, cast what I would say is one of the finest Kdramas of the year so abruptly and inexorably to one side. Though we must still be grateful for having had our attention drawn to it in the first place.

  35. 35 EmmaC

    Gramps, obviously your taste and my taste in what we call “entertainment” differ so be it. I don’t know what you’re watching that you’re raving about but I don’t find Insoon as nearly as entertaining as you do. You don’t have to agree or disagree – its just my opinion. I think I gave the show the benefit of the doubt (9 episodes so far) and I’m just saying that I am not drawn to the storyline yet nor am I anticipating what’ll happen next, which tells me that I’m not entertained by the storyline or any of the characters. Some of you might find it “splendid” but some others like myself don’t – rather I find it somewhat boring. Maybe I have been spoiled by Coffee Prince and Fantasy Couple……… :)
    Hope all of you fans of the series enjoy the rest of it! :)

  36. 36 canyayasis

    I enjoyed INSOON more than most would believe and/or agree with.
    And the SOOMPI thread was outstanding – we watched the last SEVEN episodes through a collaborative effort of translations…. (no WITHS2 subs released)
    The small group pulled together and developed such a fun sense of comraderie.
    I for one will miss INSOON.
    We took turns watching episodes – and when one’s live stream failed-
    another person picked up –
    There were scene breakdowns – lively discussions over the wearing of sneakers as a “youth” metaphor –
    Small details were observed – we kept track of recurring musical themes – including but not limited to the use of the 1970’s Carpenter’s song CLOSE TO YOU!
    “why do birds, suddenly appear – everytime you are near –
    just like me, they want to be……close to you…”
    It was like sitting in a room with the 1st, 2nd and 2nd 2nd AD!!
    mixed in with the script supervisor – and music supervisor –
    anyway – i good time was had by all –
    and not once did a war break out over the use of the word “bastard” (check out a certain SOOMPI thread for an ongoing series!)

  37. 37 froska

    what is the name to the ending theme song to in soon is pretty someone pleas tell me

  38. 38 Anonymous82

    I guess I’m a little late watching this drama, kinda stumble upon it one day, watched the beginning of the 1st episode which seemed to drag so i stopped. somehow, i made myself go back and watch it and was amazed to find that the drama is quite interesting, so much different from the typical love dovey with an illness type of story. Anyhow, I love this song sung by Chae Dong Ha but can’t seem to find the romanization lyrics for it. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  39. 39 Anonymous

    javabeans, I can’t believe you stopped summarizing this drama just because Episode 2 wasn’t totally awesome. I’m kind of disappointed.

    This drama is seriously amazing, if you continue it. This drama is filled with such emotion that hasn’t been present is ALMOST ALL dramas. I’m not biased because I like the actors, because honestly, this is the first time I’ve ever heard of or seen them. The storyline AND their acting is just wonderful. In my opinion, everything in this drama just FLOWS.
    Please continue this drama, I beg of you.

  40. 40 javabeans

    #39, I didn’t stop watching/recapping this drama merely because Episode 2 was disappointing. Obviously my reaction to the episode factored in, but when you’re watching (and recapping!) as many dramas as I am at any given time, it’s a matter of time as well. As you may guess, drama-watching takes up a lot of time, and drama-recapping even more. It’s always a juggling act, and it doesn’t mean I think the series wasn’t good; Insoon just didn’t fulfill (for me) what I’d hoped it would in the beginning. I did try watching a few more episodes, but wasn’t convinced enough to continue given the other dramas I had/have on my plate.

  41. 41 MsB

    I thought it was a great episode. I will continue to watch!

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