Er, not so thrilled with Episode 4. It wasn’t a bad episode, but it wasn’t as strong as the previous episodes, in my opinion, and I think I have a pretty good idea why. More below.
SONG OF THE DAY
Horan (Clazziquai) – “Listen to My Heart” [ Download ]
EPISODE 4: “About the women I can’t understand”
This episode is all about the women in Ji-oh’s life he can’t understand, namely his mother and Joon-young.
Joon-young and Ji-oh are dating now, although they keep it quiet from their co-workers. Joon-young works out some of her issues with her drama characters with Ji-oh, discussing the romantic relationship between the two men and wondering how to express the emotions effectively.
Joon-young makes the first move in furthering the relationship when she suggests they head to her apartment, where they continue talking about the characters. An interesting point to note is that although these two are very familiar with each other, there are certain clues showing that they’re not as close as it may initially seem — when Joon-young makes a comment about her mother’s hobby, he looks at her in surprise, “Are you rich?” She answers, “My parents are, I’m not.”
Ji-oh makes the next move, asking for a toothbrush, then casually suggesting he’d like to change out of his jeans into more comfortable clothes, if she has any lying around. Joon-young rummages for clothes, while Ji-oh berates himself for acting like a player. Both know where this is heading, but they’re feeling a little awkward about it.
Then they kiss, he carries her to bed, and the camera pans away.
In the morning, Ji-oh awakens, neurotically wondering how he should act. Should he greet her smoothly? Talk about what happened directly, or gloss it over? He has a whole romantic idea of how the morning after should unfold — with a sweet moment between new lovers — but that image is dashed when Joon-young wakes him up, acting perfectly normal.
She’s laid out new underclothes for him, too, and prepared breakfast. She betrays no embarrassment or awkwardness, and treats Ji-oh just as she did before, friendly and open and unsentimental.
Ji-oh is taken aback, eyeing her warily as he tries to figure out if he’s going to say anything or just go along with it. He thinks to himself, “This isn’t right.” He’d envisioned talking about how this marks a step forward in their relationship, but he doesn’t get a chance to say it.
As Joon-young heads out to work, Ji-oh thinks to himself, “When a director feels overly proud that he understands his characters perfectly, the drama loses its way. Our lives may be like that. The moment I think I know everything about the person in front of me, something happens to hit me on the back of the head, like now.”
Joon-young stops her car as she pulls away, leaning out the window to say, “About last night…” and winks.
She seems totally cool and unaffected by their night together, but it’s all an act for her, too — when she’s alone in her car, Joon-young berates herself for overcompensating to cover her embarrassment.
Joon-young scouts a location for her drama, choosing the house Ji-oh had wanted for his own drama. Joon-young looks on with satisfaction, envisioning how she’d shoot it, but Min-hee points out that Ji-oh’s not going to like this. For a director to steal another’s location is almost like a woman stealing another’s husband. Joon-young shrugs off Min-hee’s warning, and I’m sure this will become an issue later.
Chief Kim pressures Kyu-ho to get his series on track, denying him the extra month of filming time. Kyu-ho is not intimidated, saying that he’s confident that his series will be high-quality and bring in high ratings if he gets the time, but the chief is firm, telling him to forget ratings. Just get the drama out.
However, Kyu-ho is slicker than he looks, and ballsier. He wants Ji-oh to direct his B team, and says so with such smoothness that Chief Kim wonders if this was the whole reason he’d stalled for a month — to get Ji-oh. Chief Kim isn’t willing to be manipulated by Kyu-ho, but Kyu-ho answers that if he doesn’t get Ji-oh, he’ll take his production elsewhere. From his attitude, it seems he has the upper hand, suggesting that his series probably is strong enough to do as he threatens.
Although Joon-young claimed she could put aside her personal feelings for her actors, we see that she’s not really able to. Her dislike for Young is palpable as soon as the actress steps on set, and Joon-young’s distaste translates into lackluster direction. Young suggests — in the languid, careless way that rubs Joon-young the wrong way — that Joon-young shoot with a little more feel, and even Joon-young’s DP suggests another take. But Joon-young says they have the shot, unwilling to give Young an inch.
In contrast, in the next shot, Joon-young nitpicks and insists they reshoot the scene multiple times, earning her odd looks from her staff, who all know that the scenes are fine. Young tells her, “I thought you were a pro, but you’re a child. Did you come here to work, or to fight with me?”
Joon-young answers evenly that she’s doing this for the good of the drama, but nobody is fooled; it’s obvious that Joon-young’s personal feelings are driving her behavior.
On set, Kyu-ho watches a movie and wonders, “How do I rip this off without being obvious?” A phone call sours his mood, as it’s from his younger brother, who’s being held at the police station for brawling (again). The younger brother shows the same cocky attitude as his brother, and the two don’t share a warm relationship, but Kyu-ho’s still got to go and bail his brother out.
With frustration, Kyu-ho calls an end to the filming day and orders Soo-kyung to get his car ready. However, Soo-kyung is tied up with his own issues, so Hae-jin cheerfully offers to drive the director. He turns her down flatly and tells her to spend her time learning her dialogue, prompting her to stick her tongue out at him and say, “You’re a lot worse than the rumors say.”
Meanwhile, Soo-kyung’s still facing difficulties with the drama’s eldest star, who continues giving him a hard time for not being properly respectful to her. She grabs his cell phone out of his hand, and Soo-kyung sees that the only way to appease her is to give her what she wants. He apologizes to her repeatedly, even bowing in deference, but she isn’t satisfied and tells him to drive her home.
It doesn’t seem like she’s angry with him — more that she’s having a little fun at his expense, and also very lonely. On the drive home, she tells him she’s hungry and wants to stop by somewhere to eat. Exasperated, Soo-kyung tells her he’s barely got time to sleep and needs to continue working, and pleads to be let off the hook.
Soo-kyung gripes to Hae-jin about their director’s unfeeling attitude toward the starving staff (namely Soo-kyung himself), but Hae-jin defends Kyu-ho in a half-dreamy tone. Soo-kyung asks disgustedly if she has a thing for bad boys since it’s obvious she likes Kyu-ho, and she answers, “All women like bad boys.” He tells her Kyu-ho’s a ladykiller, but she ignores him.
Now for the other woman in Ji-oh’s life that he can’t understand. Since this is the first vacation in a while, Ji-oh visits his parents, who live on a farm in the countryside. His mother is a good-natured, simple rural woman, and Ji-oh has a lot of affection for her. He takes her out and pampers her, doing his best to tamp down his temper when his difficult, complaining boor of a father picks on his mom for every little thing.
Ji-oh’s father doesn’t seem like he’s a BAD man, but he’s the kind to find fault with everything and constantly scolds Mom. Mom has gotten used to his demanding ways and has found her own way of managing him, but Ji-oh isn’t able to ignore it and finally snaps back at his father. From his father’s startled reaction — he’s rendered speechless and sputtering — we can assume that Ji-oh rarely speaks out against his father, likely because he can’t do so without his temper erupting.
As Ji-oh readies to leave, he suggests to his mother that she move up to Seoul to live with him, but she laughs in response, saying she’d much prefer living with his dad than with Ji-oh. He’s honestly bewildered at her response, because to him it seems like her life with Dad is insufferable. Ji-oh says, “I can’t understand you at all,” but she assures him that his father really is thoughtful (in his own way). And it’s true that she has a lot of affection for her husband, even as they bicker back and forth every minute of the day.
As he watches his mother happily wave him off, Ji-oh muses in wonderment, “Of anyone in the world, I can’t understand my mother at all. No, I don’t even want to understand her. All I want is for that woman to stay by my side for a long, long time.”
Soo-kyung calls Ji-oh to tell him about Kyu-ho’s intention to bring him onto his drama, and warns him not to agree to it. He complains — loudly, and extensively — about Kyu-ho’s impossible working habits and attitude, and Ji-oh assures him that he doesn’t have any intention of working on this drama.
Afterward, Ji-oh heads over to the shooting location (I’m thinking Singapore again?) where Joon-young is working, and arrives just in time to see the building tensions finally explode.
Joon-young is shooting the chase scene she’d envisioned previously, which calls for actors to run through the street, with a crew of Steadicam operators chasing behind. Dissatisfied with her takes, Joon-young calls for countless reshoots, instructing her crew with clipped orders that grate on everyone’s nerves. Her attitude is poor and she cuts off their protests with an irritated bark. Everyone grows more and more agitated with each successive take, until finally the main Steadicam operator can’t take it anymore.
He stops shooting and confronts Joon-young about her attitude, telling her that they’ve been running for an hour straight. What is her problem?
Seeing trouble brewing, Ji-oh steps in and takes aside the cameraman (whom he knows well) and drags him away to cool down at a nearby café. The man is simmering with indignation at the way Joon-young treated him, and Ji-oh tries to sympathize.
Joon-young comes by, terse and worked up, and tells him that she’s sorry — but in a tone that doesn’t sound very sorry at all. Her skewed idea of an apology is to tell the cameraman how upset he’s made her. Yes, she may not have much experience, but if he lowers the camera and refuses to work, he undermines her authority in front of the entire staff. Women directors are belittled enough without their crews mutinying.
That just gets him more angry, and he retorts that he’s a pro, too, with pride in his work. He’s gone 10 hours wearing the Steadicam before (showing her trademark lack of tact, she retorts, “Then why did you complain after just one hour?”). He tells her, “If you’d only said, ‘I’m sorry, I know it’s hard but let’s go once more,’ I would have done it. What kind of pro can’t work just because it’s hard, when his name is on the line?”
But Joon-young never showed any care to her staff or uttered one word of apology. He asks: “You think you’re the only one suffering through this, don’t you? The others, the actors, and I’m all working too.” As he continues explaining that the rest of the crew is just as hard at work as she is, Joon-young starts to register his words, and starts to look sorry for real — finally!
The instant this happens and she starts to express her (genuine) apology, he cuts her off to take responsibility for losing his temper, too. This is the lesson Joon-young seems to be constantly failing to learn, time after time — that the issue isn’t whether she’s right or wrong. The fights that occur aren’t because she’s wrong, but because her attitude shows so little care for others.
Meanwhile, Young and Ji-oh talk, having left the table to let Joon-young and the cameraman work out their issues.
Young has caught on to the vibe between the couple, and asks Ji-oh if he’s dating Joon-young. Caught off-guard, Ji-oh can only stutter a denial, but it’s pretty weak and Young knows better. She tells Ji-ho that she likes Joon-young — being enthusiastic is better than being weak — but that a relationship won’t work between them. She’s too hotheaded for him.
With the issue worked out, filming progresses, and this time, both the shooting and the atmosphere are much improved. When a shot has to be re-taken, Joon-young takes a cue from her earlier misstep, and calls down to her cameraman, “I’m sorry, but let’s try one more time.”
This time, the cameraman answers with a teasing “Okay” and smiles back at her.
Later that night, Ji-oh and Joon-young try to arrange a rendezvous, but find their plans foiled because Joon-young has been given a shared room with Min-hee.
They try to figure out a way to spend some time together without Min-hee finding out — half-seriously, Joon-young suggests, “Should I buy some sleeping pills and slip some in her water?” Ji-oh suggests getting Min-hee drunk, but Joon-young nixes that idea because Min-hee’s a strong drinker.
But they get lucky since Min-hee turns in early for the night, so Joon-young is able to slip outside to meet Ji-oh, although he has difficulty getting away and arrives about an hour late.
By this point, Joon-young is fighting sleep, but she’s determined to tell him something, and mumbles drowsily about the night they’d spent together:
“When I bought you underwear that morning… I thought you wouldn’t want to put on the same clothes after showering… I just wanted to do something to make you feel nice… it’s not like I’m experienced or anything… I was embarrassed, but didn’t want you to know…”
Ji-oh listens to her, half-confused and wondering if she’s sleep-talking. As she dozes against him, Ji-oh says with a smile, “In any case, dating isn’t bound to be easy for us.” Meanwhile, he thinks to himself:
“It’s strange. Even a few days ago, the words ‘I can’t understand you’ carried a negative meaning. But now, holding Joon-young, whom I can’t understand a bit, I find those words appealing. Because we can’t understand, we can talk more. Because we can’t understand, all our senses stand on end. Just because we understand doesn’t mean we love. We learn one by one.”
I see an alarm sign flashing in front of me, and it reads: My Sweet Seoul. In particular, Choi Kang-hee in My Sweet Seoul. I’m not worried yet, but I can’t help but think that Song Hye-gyo’s character is inching toward borderline annoying for me, and half of that is a character issue, while the other half is an acting thing.
First, the character issue: Joon-young is flawed, and that’s not the problem. I welcome flawed. Flawed is likable, it’s relatable, it’s human. Unfortunately, Joon-young is a little too bullheaded and willful for me to feel for her, as in the argument with the cameraman and Young. I’m all for strong, passionate, and hotheaded characters. However, I dislike petulance, and in a main character it’s an instant turn-off. I hope her character improves quickly, and I’m willing to stick it out — for a while.
Regarding Song Hye-gyo’s acting: She’s doing the job, but somehow she seemed very… flat in Episode 3 and 4. There’s something very cool about Ji-oh and Joon-young’s developing romance — and I don’t mean “cool” as in awesome, rather as in detached and unemotional. The relationship should be sweet and endearing, and yet it lacks a spark. Same with her portrayal in general — she goes through the motions reasonably well, but there’s no added zing. She’s the sum of her parts, but just the sum — no added alchemy or magic sumthin’-sumthin’ in the end product.
To the people who are wanting to slap me now for criticizing Song: I think I’m being very fair, and actually quite lenient about her performance. I think people tend to see things from one perspective and forget that there are others — for instance, as a Song fan, one might say, “Come on, she’s not terrible. Why are you picking on her?” Fans often look at their star’s performance in an isolated vacuum, outside of its context.
But on the flip side of that, there are others of us watching this with a holistic approach — we are looking at the drama as a whole, in the context of a well-rounded project containing many components. We’re not “picking on” one person because we don’t like her. We’re looking at how the drama holds up as a complete work, and notice flaws when they appear. And in THAT context, Song is weak.
Keep in mind that I don’t dislike Song Hye-gyo, and I’ll even defend her acting here, to a point. But this is a subtle drama with many layers, and she isn’t a very subtle or layered actress. That’s all I mean when I called out her acting.
- The World They Live In: Episode 3
- The World They Live In: Episode 2
- The World They Live In: Episode 1
- Behind the “World” scenes
- Introducing “The World They Live In”
- Interview from the drama set with Song Hye-gyo
- Setting sail from the World They Live In