My Sweet Seoul: Episode 5
Again, I suggest you watch My Sweet Seoul for yourselves because it’s a show that’s really appreciated in the watching more than the recapping thereof. More than any (or many) other show(s) in recent memory, it’s a drama that earns its charm through its deft, subtle directing, and therefore loses something in the retelling.
SONG OF THE DAY
Yozoh (of folk-indie group Sogyumo Acacia Band) and Eric – “Nostalgia.” Unlike Sogyumo’s other music, I think this song sounds a lot like As One. [ Download ]
EPISODE 5 RECAP
Eun-soo receives an emotional jolt when she witnesses her mother at the movie theater with another man after her mother had said she was there with “Kimpo ajumma.” The suggestion that her mother is having an affair keeps her distracted throughout dinner, and although Tae-oh asks her what the matter is, she isn’t ready to confide in him and smiles it off.
On the way home, Eun-soo mentions, as though in explanation for her odd behavior, that she’d seen a friend’s mother at the movie theater with another man. Looking for moral support, Eun-soo grows angry when Tae-oh’s reaction is more amusement; he tells her that romance between older couples is a subject he finds fascinating as a movie topic. It’s too bad she didn’t mention it before, he tells her, since he would’ve liked to have seen it himself.
Eun-soo overreacts, angrily asking if everything is a movie subject to him, and stalks off, ignoring his calls that night.
Both sides of the argument make sense, I think (she feels sensitive because this is her mother, but she isn’t open with him so she can’t expect him to read her thoughts), so I’m interpreting this as just one more indicator that this coupling is not meant to last. It’s a small difference of opinion, but Eun-soo and Tae-oh continue to have minor disagreements, which points to larger issues to come. He doesn’t understand her (probably because she doesn’t express herself), and she doesn’t really try to understand him. You know who would understand, Eun-soo? The Voice, that’s who.
In any case, the tiff lingers until Eun-soo receives a card from Tae-oh inviting her to his (family’s) home. By the time their date rolls around, both of them are over their awkward spell and happy to see each other again. They do address their fight: Tae-oh tells Eun-soo how upset he’d felt after her response the other day, and she apologizes. He tells her she can tell him what it is whenever she needs to: “When you’re struggling, I feel lonely.”
Equilibrium restored, they part ways on good terms. Eun-soo’s on her way to buy a birthday present for Jane, and Tae-oh tells her he wants to attend the party and meet Jane, too. Eun-soo hesitates for a slight moment, then agrees that they can go together.
Yoo-hee’s mystery visitor (Chan-seok) drops by again, to which Yoo-hee responds in angry disbelief. Apparently they had a serious relationship, he mistreated her in some vague but purportedly awful way, and they broke up. This was seven years ago. He then married, but he tells her urgently now, “I missed you,” followed by a too-little-too-late excuse for why he’d acted so badly before. He tells her he’s divorced as though that will change matters (it doesn’t), then says that they didn’t know who they were back then. He admits that initially after he left her, he felt relieved to be alone: “But without you, I was so lonely.”
Yoo-hee’s a smart, tough woman, and hits the nail on the head with her smart, tough answer:
Yoo-hee: “Do you know what lonely is? Lonely is me not being here now. Lonely is you listening to those words alone because I’m not here to hear them. ‘I’m lonely. I’m so lonely I could die. No matter how I cry or beg, the one bastard who should hear those words isn’t here, so I have to listen to myself saying them.’ That’s lonely.”
Chan-seok asks for forgiveness; Yoo-hee spits out bitterly that she can’t forgive him because she’s already forgotten: “I’ve forgotten everything. You’re dead to me.” She leaves him there.
Yoo-hee remains in a funk over the next few days, and returns to her special tree up in the mountainside. A flashback to younger days reveals the significance of the tree, which she’d planted with Chan-seok back in happier times. Thus despite all Yoo-hee’s outward show of being strong and independent, and her angry tirade against her ex, her feelings obviously are deep-rooted (ha, pun) and have remained with her all this time.
After brooding for a few days, Yoo-hee finally gives in and calls Chan-seok.
Next up is Mom’s birthday, at which Eun-soo remains detached, feeling a mix of suspicion and disappointment about her mother’s possible affair. Thus when she walks by her mother’s phone, ringing with a new text message, she sneaks a suspicious look. It reads “happy birthday” from “Kimpo”; she wonders if “Kimpo ajumma” has been code all this time for her other man. Eun-soo calls the number, her fears confirmed when a man answers. She hangs up in a hurry, shocked.
The screen lights up halfway through the episode with the appearance of Lee Seon Kyun, and I really do mean that without any sort of fangirlish admiration. There’s something so appealing about him — both the actor and the character — and it makes My Sweet Seoul so much more entertaining to watch.
Young-soo has printed out a picture of Eun-soo from their strawberry-farm outing and looks at it with a smile, which is sweet to see and also kind of makes me feel bad for the guy since Eun-soo isn’t really pulling her weight for me, character-wise. She’s probably the least appealing character for me thus far. But more on that later.
Young-soo invites Eun-soo over to the company to taste some of the strawberry wine they’d made the other day (he drinks strawberry juice; he’s strictly non-alcoholic).
Eun-soo ignores another phone call from her mother, casting her into a downcast mood. She asks Young-soo a not-really-rhetorical question: “President, do you know how this feels? You think there’s something that would never happen to you, but one day you look and it’s already happened. It feels like the ground is shaking under you.”
Although Young-soo doesn’t know what she’s referring to, he takes her question seriously, thinks a moment, and answers, “Yes.” Eun-soo answers, a little relieved?, that she’s not the only one who’s felt that way, then. She repeats the line of poetry written in Young-soo’s book, that all living things coexist with danger. She wonders what the best course of action is — to wait? To let time pass?
Young-soo answers, “I don’t really know.” Strangely, that response makes Eun-soo smile. He suggests, with a smile, “At times like this, I think calling me ‘Young-soo’ would be better. Rather than ‘President.'” (Awww.)
It’s small, lovely scenes like this that characterize the series best, I think. The scene many not seem like much in the retelling, but there’s a really nice, comfortable rhythm to these conversations — it’s not all quippy banter or one-liners, and while it’s not exactly realism either, there’s a realistic naturalism to them.
Yoo-hee confides in Eun-soo that she got back together with Chan-seok, which prompts an instant horrified reaction from Eun-soo. Although we still don’t know the details of their relationship, we can tell from Eun-soo’s reaction that it was bad, and that Yoo-hee herself knows it seems incredibly foolish for her to take him back. But, she tells Eun-soo, “I can’t forget him.”
Eun-soo asks why such a smart woman would be so weak only where he’s concerned. Yoo-hee answers that everyone has their weak spot for one person.
Birthday party. It’s a joint celebration for both Yoo-joon and Jane, who share the same birthday. (And it’s good for once to see everyone getting along together, rather than split off into factions.)
The festive mood is killed, however, when Yoo-hee tells her friends about dating her ex again; their angry, stunned reactions further confirm that Chan-seok must’ve been a real bastard. Jane sputters in surprise, while Yoo-joon stalks off in frustration.
Eun-soo muses that although she dislikes the guy too, she’s strangely envious of Yoo-hee — for always knowing her heart, for not being cowardly. The underlying sentiment being: Unlike Eun-soo herself.
Which is true enough, because despite telling Tae-oh she would take him to meet her friends at Jane’s party, she doesn’t tell him the date until it’s over. Naturally he feels betrayed, and hurt. He accuses her of not trusting him, and says that he feels like he’s being locked away in a hidden room.
Eun-soo, as usual, is belatedly sorry (but I don’t get the sense she’d do anything differently, which is one of my issues with her selfishness). Tae-oh asks her, “Why do you love me?” Seeing her hesitation, Tae-oh leaves.
Eun-soo broods alone in her apartment when she hears a woman’s scream from nearby. Frightened, she turns on all the lights and cowers. She calls Tae-oh, who’s still angry enough to ignore the call, and leaves a scared voicemail.
A knock on the door further spooks her, until she opens it to find a concerned neighbor who also heard the scream. After confirming that Eun-soo wasn’t the screamer, the neighbor leaves her phone number, and Eun-soo breathes a sigh of relief.
Tae-oh checks his message and rushes to Eun-soo.
Although she’s calmed down by the time he arrives, she’s relieved to see him, and they both make their tearful apologies for their fight.
The next day, she comes home from work, surprised to see that Tae-oh is still there from having spent the night. He’s prepared dinner and announces: “I’m moving in!”
The last sequence with the screaming woman and Eun-soo’s panic attack didn’t really work for me, partially because the tone went all dark for a moment and also because Eun-soo seemed like a bit of a wuss. I don’t deny that there are things that can spook you, particularly when living alone, but it was one scream (who knows? Maybe her neighbor saw a spider) and she didn’t do anything proactive, like calling the police. Instead, she chose to cower in a corner and cry. But thankfully, the sequence passed soon enough.
My Sweet Seoul is a well-written, well-directed series, but one thing I keep getting hung up on is, unfortunately, Choi Kang Hee’s acting. It’s partly her character — I find Eun-soo selfish and oblivious, a pretty irritating combination — and feel sorry for both guys in her life, because it seems they both deserve better. It’s not the fact that Eun-soo is dating two guys at once that bothers me (although really, if you’re telling one of them “I love you,” it’s about time to cut the other one loose, yeah?) because it’s not like she set out to string both of them along. But Tae-oh (slightly creepy clinginess notwithstanding) has approached their relationship whole-heartedly, and if she’s not feeling the same, she owes it to him to be honest about it. Instead, I keep feeling that her “I love you”s and “You’ll meet my friend soon”s are delaying tactics, minor appeasements to keep him with her while refraining from going all-in to their relationship.
And then, the other part of the issue is Choi Kang Hee herself, whom I do like as an actress but find rather artificial here as Eun-soo. Everyone else is doing a wonderful job in their roles being natural and subtle, particularly Moon Jung Hee as Yoo-hee, but Choi Kang Hee’s performance seems so affected, unnatural. I think part of my issues with the character would be resolved if the acting were different; alas, her portrayal keeps me from enjoying this drama completely.
Still, it’s a lovely series, and I have faith it will continue to be well-executed. At this point, Moon Jung Hee and Lee Seon Kyun are enough to keep me watching.