Episode 4 is SO ADORABLE it’s silly. No, really, I think I had a grin on my face all episode.
(I just hope this drama stays funny. Four solidly amusing episodes is a good start, but until a series is halfway through, I’m wary that it’ll downturn. Actually, I’m usually nervous that a good series will sour right up until it ends.)
What I think Love & Marriage does well is in the way it unfolds its plot, how it structures jokes to pay off more than once. The plot itself isn’t groundbreaking, but the show is filled with quirky, cute little moments that build on each other and keep the momentum moving throughout.
SONG OF THE DAY
Howl – “소년, 소녀를 만나다” (Boy meets girl) [ Download ]
EPISODE 4 RECAP
After hearing about her clients canceling membership, Kang-hyun races downstairs to the office, in such a hurry that she falls down.
Hyun-soo, coming down the stairs behind her, gathers her dropped things and notices that Kang-hyun has a scrape on her chin.
To passers-by, however, his neighborly concern looks a lot more suggestive, and his jealous female co-workers assume the two have something going on. It doesn’t help that they’ve both been missing for the last hour and Kang-hyun is clutching a blanket (which she’d used on the rooftop chair, but they don’t know that).
Kyung-hwan catches a glimpse of the couple, and from his angle it looks like they’re kissing, though they’re really about a foot apart (I love silly misunderstandings like this). Kyung-hwan scowls, because people never miss things until those things are gone and dating other people.
Sung-ho is a nervous wreck — two cancellations for a small company is a big deal. Oddly, the story doesn’t add up, since the woman faked a reason for canceling. But Sung-ho isn’t in the mood to reason through this, and he tells Kang-hyun to pack her things and go.
In a daze, Kang-hyun drops by the law firm to see Hyun-soo, but he’s not in. Unaware that the lawyers are abuzz with gossip about her, speculating on their “relationship,” she asks them to drop off her bundle with Hyun-soo (“just for tonight”).
The pink bundle has everyone wondering at its contents, including Hyun-soo, who has no idea what it is. He’s pondering the strange package when Kyung-hwan comes by to drop off some documents.
Hyun-soo asks if Kyung-hwan knows what it is. He doesn’t, but his initially pleasant demeanor turns scowly upon seeing Kang-hyun’s picture peeking out.
(Hehe. Have I mentioned I love misunderstandings like this?)
Kang-hyun is consoled by her friends, who tell her this is unfair, wrong, and all those things friends tell you when you’re down. Kang-hyun decides, however, that she can’t go out like this. She must find out what happened.
To this end, she stakes out the divorcee’s address. She learns the woman is moving, then poses as a prospective buyer to get the real estate agent to show her inside. Kang-hyun doesn’t find anything incriminating, but she learns that the woman is moving in with a friend and is in a hurry to get rid of this place.
Finally, Hyun-soo’s elegant, rich, beautiful ex-wife Hwa-young makes an appearance. (I hate her already. Okay, hate is a strong word, but I regard her with distaste. Not merely because she was fictionally married to Mr. Hot Boxer Briefs, but because she seems privileged and insipid. Bleaaah.)
Back from Paris, Hwa-young visits her sick mother in the hospital, and we find out that she’s Sung-ho’s cousin (that’s how she met Hyun-soo). Sick Mom refuses to speak to her, apparently because she cannot speak due to her illness. (Or rather, she refuses to speak — she probably could if she wanted to. She’s so rich that instead of communicating through writing notes, she writes notes and has her assistant read them aloud.) Also, Mom’s a raging bitch. Hwa-young still cares for Hyun-soo, but her mother gets upset at the mention of his name.
Sung-ho takes his cousin to lunch, where Kang-hyun finds him. Determined to get to the bottom of this case as a matter of honor, Kang-hyun acknowledges that until she does, “I won’t be able to forgive myself.” Sung-ho: “I’m having a hard time forgiving you too.”
Sung-ho is called away on work emergencies, leaving the ladies together. (Neither knows about the other’s connection to Hyun-soo.) Kang-hyun tries to make cheery conversation, but Hwa-young finds it awkward to talk while eating and tells Kang-hyun that she doesn’t like to speak during meals. (Yowza. Is it mean and hatey to work in a “no wonder you’re divorced” quip?)
I’ll admit Hwa-young isn’t a horrible person; she’s just too serenely privileged for my taste. She’s a “food stylist” (whatever that means), and in spite of the initial silence, they end up bonding over a shared distaste for bad service. The meal passes pleasantly, and one detail that will surely come into play later is Kang-hyun’s admission that she’s not a divorcee.
Kyung-hwan pulls Kang-hyun aside for a talk that afternoon. He’s upset, and demands to know why she’s here and why she’s pretending to be divorced. Also, what’s she doing dating a divorced man? (Kyung-hwan: “Was our breakup that devastating to you? You’re not in your right mind.”)
Kang-hyun insinuates that he only got his job through his girlfriend’s connections and tells him, “Go ahead, mooch off women your entire life!” She calls him out for telling their classmates that she dumped him — “You had to make me into the bad one so you could date your new girlfriend, is that it?”
Kyung-hwan contradicts her, and answers (sincerely) that he’d told that white lie to preserve her pride. Also, the speed of his new relationship was just a matter of timing.
Kang-hyun’s a little mollified, but she mutters, “Coward.” He warns her that he’s not the Kyung-hwan of the past; she shouts after his departing figure, “I’m not the same Lee Kang-hyun of the past, either!”
This dramatic parting doesn’t hold for long, though. Kang-hyun drops by Hyun-soo’s office to retrieve her bundle (she’d left it there because she thought she’d return to her job soon and wanted a place to store her things).
When Kyung-hwan walks in looking for Hyun-soo, they get into another argument, during which Hyun-soo arrives. He walks in while Kang-hyun is hitting her ex over the head (Kyung-hwan slinks away in embarrassment at the interruption).
Hyun-soo advises Kang-hyun on her case, suggesting the possibility that the two clients conspired to scam her company. They could have met through the service, hit it off, then decided to get their money back while continuing to date.
Hyun-soo points out a clause in the contract that states that clients who marry or move in together after meeting through the service cannot receive refunds. Kang-hyun races off to prove her hunch.
Tracking down her erstwhile clients requires a day of waiting, pleading with security guards, and waiting some more. Things look bleak until Kang-hyun spies a school bus, and remembers the man’s son and kindergarten name. (There’s even a Taliban joke in there — his class name is “Dallaeban,” which sounds phonetically similar).
Success. She tracks the boy and the woman down to their new apartment. However, even when confronted face-to-face with her accuser, the woman refuses to admit the truth. Without proof, Kang-hyun is back to square 1.
Kang-hyun goes back to Hyun-soo to ask his advice on what to do next, but he’s busy with work. With polite detachment, he tells her, “I’m sorry, but I can’t help you further. If you keep calling and dropping by, it will be troublesome.”
Realizing she’s overstepped her bounds, Kang-hyun apologizes and gets up to go, but leaves him with one last observation: “But I really can’t figure you out. You’re so helpful, but you fall through at the pivotal last moment. It was the same last time when I made that mistake at my old job, too…” Off his confused look, she accuses him, “Fine, pretend not to understand me.”
Hyun-soo is genuinely perplexed and asks what she means, but she tells him to forget it and leaves, muttering, “Two-faced, evil lawyer…”
That doesn’t sit well with him, and once more he’s bothered by the names she calls him.
After waiting outside all evening, Kang-hyun intercepts the male half of the scamming couple on his way home. It doesn’t look like she’ll be successful getting him to admit anything when Hyun-soo appears, surprising both of them.
He takes the man aside and talks to him calmly for a few minutes, which are enough to do the trick. A few calmly stated legal threats later, Kang-hyun gets what she wants — written statements from the couple admitting the truth.
In thanks, Kang-hyun offers to treat Hyun-soo to “the most delicious food in the world,” and they wind up at a secluded ramen house a far distance from the city.
Kang-hyun eats enthusiastically, but feels bad when she notices that Hyun-soo doesn’t seem to be enjoying this as much as she is.
Her sorriness is short-lived, because Hyun-soo spies a nearby fishing lake and decides to indulge in his hobby, having a set of fishing poles in his car trunk. He teaches Kang-hyun how to fish, and after an initial catch, the two settle back for a night of waiting and chatting.
For example: Hyun-soo asks why Kang-hyun decided to be a couples manager, and Kang-hyun thinks back to her youth, answering that she’s always had an interest in matching couples up. When her father read her fairy tales, she insisted on changing the endings.
Young Kang-hyun: “Snow White should be with this hunter instead.”
Mom: “Why would the princess marry the hunter instead of the prince?”
Young Kang-hyun: “The hunter is a courageous person. The Queen told him to kill Snow White, but he didn’t. If he was caught, he would have died. Instead of taking the princess’s heart [as proof], he took a pig’s heart.”
Mom: “But, Kang-hyun, marriage should be with princes.”
Young Kang-hyun: “No! The prince just kissed her. That’s not love. The one who really loves her is the hunter.”
Kang-hyun admits that even now she dislikes all fairy-tale princes. The prince in the Little Mermaid, for instance, “couldn’t even recognize the face of the woman who saved him. Rapunzel’s prince is worse — he climbs her hair up the tower. How much would that have hurt?” And the Swan Prince had too many brothers (“Such a headache!”).
But the worst was Cinderella’s prince: “He meets her at a party and can’t recognize her. She may be wearing different clothes, but still. Is that love? Then he falls for her because the shoe fits, and marries her.”
Hyun-soo enjoys her interpretation, but has one of his own, saying fairy tales should be seen as metaphors. The shoe, for instance, could be seen as people’s standards, representing that the couple is well-matched. Kang-hyun: “So compatibility is more important than looks.”
When Hyun-soo was a kid, his take was a bit different from hers:
Young Hyun-soo: “I think Cinderella purposely left her shoe behind for the prince.”
Mom: “What do you mean?”
Young Hyun-soo: “Look, the shoe fits Cinderella’s foot perfectly… So why would it come off at the ball?”
Kang-hyun laughs at his lawyer-like kid’s mind, which saw Cinderella as a gold-digging schemer. She remarks, “The best princes were the Frog Prince and the Beast. They hid their material status, and after they earned their love, poof! Transformation.”
Interestingly, when Kang-hyun asks if Hyun-soo’s marriage was a love match or an arranged one, he answers, “An arranged marriage.” Kang-hyun: “Since you’ve experienced an arranged marriage, next time have a love marriage.”
As Kyung-hwan studies with his girlfriend, he comes to a point in his textbook where Kang-hyun has scrawled encouraging messages (it’s his final stretch of school). She’s drawn amusing pictures in flipbook style, and his smile fades a little as he comes to the “finish line” — marked “SUCCESS” — where they celebrate together.
Perhaps thinking of the same thing, Kang-hyun feels the baggage they both carry with them.
She comments, “The two of us aren’t alone right now. It feels like there are four of us here.”
On the drive home, Kang-hyun tries to stay awake for Hyun-soo’s sake, but ends up falling asleep. Hyun-soo nearly falls asleep at the wheel, so he pulls over at a rest stop and sets his cell phone alarm to go off in the morning.
A glance at Kang-hyun’s uncomfortable position prompts him to help her out of her seatbelt. This leads to some predictable — but amusing — awkwardness as Hyun-soo tries to ignore their proximity while accidentally falling on top of her. (She sleeps on. Moment wasted!)
But this is an equal-opportunity Uncomfortable Ogling drama, so Kang-hyun has a chance to return the favor in the morning when she wakes up first. She actually hears his cell phone alarm but swats it off in her grogginess, which means they wake later than planned.
She marvels at his perfect profile until he jerks awake, and sees with alarm that they’re late.
They speed back to the city, and because of their late start, both decide it’ll be best to head into the office right away. They agree they ought to be careful today (i.e., keep their distance) to avoid providing fodder for gossip.
Hyun-soo walks into the mostly empty office (it’s still early) to find his ex-wife there, worried over her mother’s ailing condition and needing his support. (The first image is her wistful flashback; the second is real.)
Back in her office, Kang-hyun looks at the strange cell phone in her purse and realizes it’s Hyun-soo’s.
She sneaks into his firm and walks backward into his office, keeping an eye out for witnesses. Therefore she doesn’t see Hyun-soo or Hwa-young as she exclaims that she had a close call and that they were almost found out. Then she turns around and realizes what she’s interrupted.
The problem with genres like romantic comedies (or comedies in general) is that you have to work with a very familiar plot (boy meets girl…) and somehow make it fresh. A large part of the time, I think this is done either poorly (or mediocre-ly), and because audiences are getting so sophisticated, it takes some cleverness to keep ’em on their toes.
I’ve noticed in these first four episodes that just when I start feeling like I know what’s going to happen, there’s a little twist that surprises me. I’ve watched so many rom-coms that I’m not often surprised, but I appreciate it when it happens.
Example: When Hyun-soo sets his phone alarm, the immediate joke is Kang-hyun shutting it off in her sleep before Hyun-soo hears it. We think the phone bit is over, but it comes back, bringing us the end scene. Kang-hyun’s visit to Hyun-soo’s office could have been transparently contrived — but when you set up a plot point and pay it off with a joke, the audience forgets about the point. Therefore you surprise them when the point resurfaces to fulfill its REAL purpose.
This is a minor point, but I appreciate little bits like this, since they show that the writer took a little more effort to plan out these encounters. If a situation can be explained without coincidence, I want it to be explained without coincidence. So yes, the story can be silly, but also smartly plotted at times.