The Last Scandal of My Life is SUPER FUN. It’s too bad I came upon this delightful series so late (it’s aired 14 episodes of its 16), but on the bright side, I have lots of episodes to catch up on without having to wait.
Since I haven’t caught up yet, please do me the favor and DON’T SPOIL ME! That’s all I ask.
I have my own drama biases to blame for initially passing over Last Scandal, and that’s because it seemed such a typical ajumma drama. I’m not ragging on ajummas — I know lots of them, I love them, I hope to transition into one gracefully — but the ajumma drama as a genre is not my favorite. I think the poster reminded me of standard adultery fare like My Man’s Woman.
But Last Scandal isn’t at all overwrought or melodramatic. It’s hilarious. It’s like Full House with better acting and more complex character relationships, with a liberal dash of Dal Ja’s Spring mixed in. And I’ve always liked Choi Jin Shil, although I’ve only seen her in three projects (original trendy drama Jealousy, original Cinderella drama Star in My Heart, and romantic weepie movie The Letter) — but she’s as adorable at almost-40 as she was at 20.
SONG OF THE DAY
The Last Scandal of My Life OST – “사랑이 올까요” (Will love come?) [ Download ]
The short version: HONG SUN HEE (Choi Jin Shil) is a fairly average housewife. SONG JAE BIN (Jung Joon Ho) is a movie star. They were each other’s first loves. When they reconnect, things don’t go as planned.
In more detail —
Episode 1: Sun Hee is married to a somewhat less-than-competent husband (Yoo Shik) and raising a rascally scamp of a daughter (14-year-old JIMIN), who is a constant trial of patience. Because her husband travels a lot for work, she runs her household mostly on her own with little help from her nagging mother-in-law or her husband’s snobby younger sister.
She also works as an extra in CFs and live recordings (in the ajumma role, of course). She gets along decently, even though her husband’s always out of touch, and she just started menopause even though she’s only 39.
As an extra, Sun Hee runs into Jae Bin while shooting a commercial (he’s the glamorous male lead, she’s one of a herd of ordinary middle-aged women). Unfortunately, she spies impish 14-year-old Jimin asking Jae Bin (on whom she has a serious crush) for a picture and lunges for her daughter who’s skipped school to be there. Jae Bin’s a typical pampered movie star (although he’s charming to the public) and she’s a loud ajumma, so they leave the encounter with mutual distaste.
They continue to bump into each other several times, each time less enjoyable than the last, unaware that they’re actually old acquaintances. Jae Bin notices her resemblance to his first love from high school, but this ajumma’s too much of a mess to be his beautiful Sun Hee. Jae Bin harbors old feelings for Sun Hee and imagines how she must be now (she was uncommonly pretty in high school and was briefly famous as a chocolate commercial model).
Sun Hee knows him by his real name, Dong Chul; in the intervening time, he’s risen to fame as an actor and adopted Jae Bin as his stage name. He also passes himself off for 32 rather than 39; his age and his looks are a constant source of worry (or rather, maintaining his age and looks are the worry).
He gets a hold of her phone number and address, and gets in contact for the first time in twenty years. She’s happy to hear from him, and so is he.
At the same time, Sun Hee’s life is upended when her husband Yoo Shik lands in jail for a money scam, although he was actually the victim. He begs her to find the money to settle his debt and get him out of jail, and Sun Hee desperately does her best. Her husband swears he’ll treat her extra well when this is over, although that declaration is tested when he’s visited by a wealthy benefactress, let’s call her Madam Go, who makes him something of an indecent proposal. A little older and widowed, Madam Go says she hadn’t felt like a woman in a long time; she wants to support him because he’s the type of man who can do well with the right woman guiding him along.
He’s wracked with guilt and uncertainty, but it’s only a matter of time before he accepts the offer. But Yoo Shik doesn’t tell his wife, so Sun Hee proceeds to do her damnedest to find a solution. Out of desperation, she lets her friend convince her to ask her old friend Dong Chul for the money — he’s doing well these days and she’s exhausted her options. Very reluctantly, Sun Hee decides to try, and arranges a meeting.
Jae Bin looks forward to seeing Sun Hee again and imagines she’s still beautiful and feminine. So when she shows up at his hotel suite, he takes one look at her, realizes she’s the annoying woman he’s tangled with several times already — and pretends not to know who she is. (She’s not fooled for long.)
In Episode 2, they have another hysterical run-in after Sun Hee fails in a hilarious attempt to game the health insurance system by getting surgery for incontinence. Apparently there’s a provision that allows them to cash out some of their premium (I think), so Sun Hee goes to the clinic, drinking lots of water and faking incontinence. The doctor can tell from her demeanor that she’s lying about something, and Sun Hee breaks down, apologizing that she’s in a bad situation with her husband. The doctor sympathizes with her, woman to woman, and okays the surgery.
Only, uh, Sun Hee’s so thankful and embarrassed that she assumes the doctor understood her condition was incontinence. Instead, she finds out — after the procedure — that she’s just had vaginal plastic surgery.
On her way out, she runs into Jae Bin, who’s sneaking out of his Botox procedure. Paranoid, he thinks she took a picture to blackmail him, and chases her down. But after their argument, he’s haunted by dreams that she outs his real name and age to the public, and tries to smooth things over. He “acts” so well that Sun Hee believes him when he says he was doing this all for revenge because he’d been so hurt when she stood him up twenty years ago — he even remained single all these years for this moment — but he’s fine now. He makes a pretty goodbye and leaves, feeling relief that she’d bought his story.
Only, she bought it too well. Utterly desperate, she gathers up all her nerve and makes her way to his mansion (actually his older brother’s) thinking that he’s still in love with her. Nervously, she makes her own indecent proposal — if he’ll lend her money, she’ll spend one night with him.
In Episode 3, Jae Bin recovers from his shock, then reacts with glee — because he’s gotten her statement on hidden camera. Now she can’t blackmail him, because he can blackmail her right back!
But his celebration is cut short by the arrival of his older brother and manager JANG DONG HWA (Jung Woong In), the president of a top management company. Dong Hwa’s cold and strait-laced, but sees something endearing about Sun Hee, the messy ajumma who laughs with genuine joy.
Jae Bin lies and says that Sun Hee’s the new housekeeper, but gets stuck in the lie when Dong Hwa agrees to keep her on. That day, Sun Hee gets to work cleaning up the house (looking for the video tape) despite Jae Bin’s attempts to kick her out without letting his coldhearted older brother in on the situation. She also gets along well with Dong Hwa’s 14-year-old son HOON, and she agrees to come back the next day because it pays pretty well, and she still needs to get the tape from Jae Bin. But Jae Bin wants to wash his hands of her, so he returns the tape, destroys it, and tells her not to come back. She agrees.
While taking out a bag of clothing to the trash, Sun Hee finds perfectly usable T-shirts and decides to take them home; no use letting them go to waste. At home, her daughter Jimin is ecstatic to see that they’re autographed Song Jae Bin shirts — they can make a ton of money selling them on his fan cafe! So the next morning she sneaks back to his house to root through his trash pile again — but when she’s seen by the three men of the house, she has to go along and play housekeeper for another day.
All day, she and Jae Bin are at each other’s throats. Wanting to get rid of her, he does his best to make himself such a pest that she’ll quit. She doesn’t quit, but she does find out the tape he destroyed was a decoy.
The next day, though, she’s unable to go to work for him because her husband has been released from jail but hasn’t contacted her. In truth, Mme. Go has sprung him, but he has his mother and sister lie and tell Sun Hee that they scraped the money together, and that he fled on a boat somewhere shortly afterward. He tells his mother and sister that given his situation with Mme. Go, divorce is inevitable, but it’s clear he doesn’t want Sun Hee to know the truth. He does feel shame, but that’s nothing lots of money won’t fix.
Although he’d desperately tried to kick her out, Jae Bin actually starts feeling her absence, although he’d never admit it. Conversely, one woman he does NOT want to see is famous actress LEE NA YOON (Byun Jung Soo), who arrives with pomp and flair and pisses everyone off..
Na Yoon is Dong Hwa’s ex and (most probably) Hoon’s mother, although Hoon doesn’t know anything about her. She may also have had some kind of relationship with Jae Bin, but it’s not clear what the nature of their entanglement was — all we know is that Jae Bin hates the sight of her. Whatever the reason, she blithely swoops back into their lives, to everyone’s irritation.
As for Sun Hee, she’s facing dire straits — although her husband is out of jail and she can therefore stop worrying about his debt, she’s about to be kicked out of her home. Dong Hwa offers her a solution — why doesn’t she move into their home as a live-in housekeeper?
Jae Bin is dead set against it, but he’s outnumbered in a family vote. And just as Sun Hee exults, Dong Hwa’s employees alert him to a new development: They’ve traced the source of the illegal sales of Jae Bin clothing to Jimin. Dong Hwa assumes Sun Hee had planned all along to work for them to steal things to sell online, and cancels the arrangement. But just as she’s about to be forcibly removed from the house, Jae Bin steps in.
In Episode 4, Jae Bin surprisingly intervenes and listens to Sun Hee’s side of the story — that she didn’t know it was wrong, that she merely took home clothes that he was throwing away. He explains to a mollified Dong Hwa, and Sun Hee is reinstated.
Of course, Jimin is thrilled to be moving into the home of her favorite movie-star oppa. (Jae Bin, on the other hand, finds her blatant adoration unnerving.) Hoon in turn immediately develops a crush on Jimin.
With Sun Hee’s position solidified, Jae Bin reverts to his prankish, immature behavior, teasing her with a “gift” — which turns out to be a maid’s uniform. Everyone else thinks that’s pretty assy of him, but Sun Hee bears it with good grace. It isn’t until later that Jae Bin starts to feel bad, when he asks Jimin about her father’s whereabouts and she tells him that her mother’s suffered a lot, and that he took off and disappeared.
Jae Bin’s not good at making amends, but he and Sun Hee strike a temporary truce over drinks. When they’re alone together, they speak comfortably like old friends, but in the company of others, he calls her “ajumma” and refers to her as the housekeeper. It’s an interesting (and bound-to-be-complicated) dynamic.
In a rare moment of sincerity, Jae Bin asks why Sun Hee stood him up twenty years ago, but whatever the reason, she doesn’t feel comfortable saying, and changes the subject.
He compensates for his behavior by taking her shopping — but instead of just offering to buy her clothes like a normal person, he’s hilariously roundabout. He forces her to help him pick some “gifts,” then fakes a phone call to the supposed recipient (saying, “What’s wrong with this brand? Fine, then don’t wear them!”), giving Sun Hee the clothes as though they’re secondhand gifts.
She guesses that he made it all up to buy her clothes because he felt bad, and cheerfully accepts — but he tacks on the caveat that she absolutely can’t sell them for money. His echoing refrain is becoming, “…or you’re fired!” Already it’s obvious that it’s an empty threat, but it’s cute.
Next is the hair salon — and the end result is so surprising he doesn’t even recognize her at first.
His brother has told Jae Bin to be in attendance at a VIP reception for a wine bar being opened by the widow of an old business acquaintance. Who just happens to be Mme. Go, the rich benefactress of Sun Hee’s runaway husband. Who has instated said husband as the manager of said bar.
Jae Bin intends to go alone, but gets a call from Na Yoon inviting herself as his date. To refuse Na Yoon, he says he’s already got a date — and takes Sun Hee.
At the party, Sun Hee’s uncomfortable and wants to leave, especially since Na Yoon recognizes her as the maid. Jae Bin’s attitude is unapologetic and unashamed (“So what if she is?”) although Sun Hee is out of her element. He also can’t stop looking over at her as he mingles with the other guests.
Na Yoon notices Jae Bin’s attention — feeling pricklings of jealousy — and engages Sun Hee in conversation. As they’re chatting, a clumsy server drops his tray and splatters them with the drinks. Mme. Go, hearing that Sun Hee is Jae Bin’s maid, orders Sun Hee to help clean up. She’s startled but doesn’t want to make a scene, and starts kneeling and picking up broken glasses.
…which offends and angers Jae Bin, who swoops in and demands the woman apologize to his guest. Dong Hwa dislikes scenes and takes his brother aside to tell him to send Sun Hee home — she shouldn’t have been brought here in the first place — but that just ticks Jae Bin off more. Fine, he snarls, then he’ll leave too. And he grabs Sun Hee and makes his exit.
Sun Hee protests and tries to calm him down; Jae Bin demands to know if she has such little pride that she’d let someone talk to her like that. Just because she’s a maid doesn’t mean she’s free to be bossed around here.
And just as they’re leaving, Mme. Go stops Jae Bin to apologize profusely and smooth things over. She calls over her manager — Sun Hee’s husband — and Sun Hee starts to look over curiously…
I haven’t followed Choi Jin Shil’s long career, but I love her here. Actually, all the casting is spot-on with Jung Joon Ho mixing flashes of maturity with his spoiled, immature pampered-star ways. I really enjoyed how they turned around his attitude toward Sun Hee from dislike to grudging acceptance — you can totally see him enjoying clashing with her, so he steps in and helps her because he really does want her to stay.
I love makeover moments, but I hate when they are the impetus for a relationship change, as if to say that a woman is worthy because she’s really pretty underneath the bad hair and clothes. So I’m happy that they didn’t do it here. While I think it’s pretty hard to make Choi Jin Shil look unattractive, I can understand Jae Bin’s initial reaction to seeing how she aged — it’s more to do with his (impossible, idealized) expectations than with her worth.
And despite the fact that she does get made over into a gorgeous woman, Sun Hee has never thought herself ugly or unlovable; she’s fine with the way she looks because that’s who she is, and she has other things to worry about. Many women would look back regretfully to their prettier, youthful days, but Sun Hee’s matter-of-fact — it’s not that she’s bad-looking now, it’s just that she enjoyed extraordinarily pretty looks back then, and now that time has passed. Until Jae Bin’s star makeover, that is.
Anyway, I’m totally new to this series so I’m just getting caught up in the fun of it all! But based on the first four episodes, I really wouldn’t hesitate to recommend people give it a try. Especially if you liked the fun of Full House (cute setup, but ridiculous logic in the last few episodes) or the warmth of Dal Ja’s Spring.
RELATED POSTSByun Jung-soo, Choi Jin-shil, first episodes, Jung Jun-ho, The Last Scandal of My Life