A Star’s Lover: Episode 2
It’s nice to be doing recaps again. Some of you may wonder why I sometimes take on three series at a time, and at other times none. It’s not only a matter of time, but really, what interests me. And recently, there haven’t been any series that compel me enough to follow closely.
Since we’re only at Episode 2, I don’t know yet if I’ll commit to a full series-long relationship with A Star’s Lover. I’ll only say that if things remain at this level, I probably will. I’ll know better 4 to 6 episodes in.
SONG OF THE DAY
Dear Cloud – “거짓말” (Lie) [ Download ]
EPISODE 2 RECAP
Mari stirs from her nap. Chul-soo face hovers over her, but she seems to fall back asleep, so he backs away quietly. Mari calls out, thinking he’s her stylist, and says, “I think I saw his face today, that boy. I was crying, and he comforted me. Jerk.” Chul-soo watches a tear slip from Mari’s now-closed eye.
I think Mari is conflating two recurring dreams, because she starts out thinking Chul-soo is the boy from her beach dream, but then slips into a different dream with her “jerk”:
In it, Mari follows her mystery man to the rooftop of a building. His face remains unseen, and when she finally reaches him, Mari puts a tentative hand on his shoulder. He turns to her, but the sunlight blocks out all of his features…
Mari wakes up, as always, as this crucial moment.
Chul-soo returns from his morning jog to a seemingly empty house. Mari is no longer in the living room, but he hears music in the hallway.
A door is ajar, and he peers inside. Mari is doing stretching exercises at the barre (who dresses like that at home?). Chul-soo stands there, momentarily transfixed, until Mari notices him.
Chul-shoo shows his ghostwriting contract, and Mari figures out that Tae-seok had come up with the book idea, which she has no intention of authorizing. Although Chul-soo isn’t a fan of the project either, he’s come this far and rearranged his work schedule for a month. He asks her to consider the book, since he’s started work on it. At her dismissive attitude, he tells her she may not think it’s a big deal, but it is to him.
Mari wins a few points in Chul-soo’s eyes when she says having a book ghostwritten for her is a horrible fraud against her fans. Seeing that Chul-soo’s really upset about this, she offers to take a look, but her demeanor is careless and unconcerned.
Chul-soo’s feeling rather used and abused at this point, so he answers tersely, “Forget it.” Amused, Mari prods, “Have I hurt your pride?”
“I have no pride,” he retorts. “If I’d had any pride, I wouldn’t have come this far to ghostwrite in the first place.” He tells her that she need not worry, since he’ll return to Korea tomorrow. He turns to leave. Because she has to have the upper hand (and the last word), Mari tells him in a flippant tone to shut the door behind him. (He slams it.)
Mari’s sudden disappearance has her handlers worried and, in the case of Tae-seok, infuriated. He orders everyone to find her, throwing a stack of papers at the staff. A piece of fan mail catches his eye — the one containing the photo of Mari — and he notes the return address in Asuka.
Now that Mari’s management knows her location, they can jet to Japan to regain control of the situation. Only, yunno, Mari took that letter and photos with her to Japan. Remember, production team? She fell asleep holding it, and Chul-soo saw them? UBER LOGIC FAIL.
Let’s overlook that glaring mistake, though, and get on with the plot. Chul-soo’s friend Byung-joon — who’s an internet reporter — calls him excitedly to tell him the latest Mari gossip (she disappeared and is rumored to be in Japan). Mari passes by Chul-soo’s door as her name is mentioned, and leans in to listen. Chul-soo sees Mari’s shadow, and opens the door…
…and Mari falls, literally, into his arms. Flustered, she accuses him, “What are you doing?” and leaves.
On her way out to go shopping, Mari drives past Chul-soo, who’s walking down the street outside the house, on his way to meet someone. She asks if he can drive, probably expecting him to offer to take the wheel. Chul-soo doesn’t play games, though, so he gives her a straightforward answer, saying he’s never driven a fancy car like hers.
Mari drives off, but reconsiders, and comes back: “What if I drive?”
From there, it’s shopping in an upscale boutique, which closes to the public to let her browse in peace. Uncomfortable, Chul-soo hangs back while Mari tries on clothes, then steps outside to wait.
Mari finds him outside on a bench, immersed in a book. A little boy trips and almost falls, but Chul-soo catches the boy, because we need him to be even more of a hero. Mari certainly thinks so.
Also, he is reading Pride & Prejudice. Because he is literate! And sensitive! And romantic, with a keen appreciation for wit! Also, Darcy Darcy Darcy! (Sorry — all my P&P insights tend to devolve into Darcy outbursts.)
Next stop, lunch. When Mari knocks her sunglasses to the ground, she looks at Chul-soo expectantly, assuming he will pick them up. He looks at her blankly, as if to say, “What?” For a moment, it’s unclear whether he will play along with her little game, the one that results in the man always jumping to please her. She gives him a meaningful look and Chul-soo understands what’s expected of him, and picks up the glasses (although not with the gallantry she probably gets from everyone else). Mari ignores his lack of enthusiasm and completes the script, telling him, “Thank you” as though she hadn’t just indicated that he pick them up.
She finishes eating after barely touching the food, and Chul-soo suggests (a bit sarcastically?) that they order less next time, “because this will just become trash…”
She cuts in brightly, totally missing the point: “I’ll pay.” No, Mari, the environment will pay.
Mari asks whether Chul-soo will call Tae-seok to cancel the book contract, fishing to know whether he will mention her presence. He tells her essentially that her business is her business and he does not care at all what she does, which rubs her the wrong way. It’s like Mari needs everyone to like her, and Chul-soo’s indifference bothers her, so she tries to make everything about her. Mari’s like the girl who sniffs, “I don’t care what people think about me,” then asks, in secret, “What did they say about me??”
For instance, she asks whether he mentioned his ghostwriting gig to his reporter friend. Irritated, Chul-soo tells her not to worry, he won’t say a thing. Mari disagrees, saying that if they call off the contract, Chul-soo will feel free to blab about her. Therefore, she suggests that he write the book — that way he gets his money, and she can feel assured that he won’t spill about her hiring a ghostwriter.
Not bothering to hide his low opinion of her, he tells her, “Yes, I need money, which is why I came here to ghostwrite. When you said you wouldn’t agree to it, I was a bit confused, but I thought, ‘Maybe she’s a decent person after all. I thought she was an empty-headed movie actress who would hire a ghostwriter just to raise her image, but I guess she isn’t, she’s actually thoughtful. She does show courtesy to her fans.’ But you’re… Forget it.”
He stands to leave, and I almost found Mari desperate as she stops him — with a forced air of authority, in a threatening tone — that if he breaches the contract, he has to pay back triple the contract amount.
Chul-soo can’t believe her nerve. Temper rising, he stalks out of the restaurant. Surprised that he’d dare leave her behind, Mari chases him outside, shouting for him to stop. He bites back, “Why do I have to accompany you around everywhere?”
Mari loses her imperious tone and apologizes, saying she’s not good at making explanations; she only meant to ask him not to tell Tae-seok she’s here. She does make one more request of him, though — she would like his help finding a particular location.
It’s the address on the envelope containing the photographs (magically conjured from Tae-seok’s office in Korea!), which takes them to the ruins of Itabuki Palace. Chul-soo wonders why someone would put this as a return address, but Mari knows; she’d once come here to shoot pictures with her first love — the man who disappeared.
Mari makes an unexpected request of Chul-soo: to buy her vanilla ice cream. Still, he complies, and while he’s gone, Mari thinks back to the man in her past.
In her flashback, we never quite see the man’s face, but I think this is Philip Choi (this dude from Soulmate) — an interesting choice given that he’s often noted for his resemblance to Bae Yong-joon. They were young and in love, and when she asked him to get her vanilla ice cream, he told her that if he did, she’d have to marry him. She happily agreed, and waited… but he never came back.
Chul-soo comes back with a whole bag of ice creams, unsure which to select. Mari looks surprised that he returned, as though expecting him to disappear too. She doesn’t really want the ice cream, either, so he ends up eating them all.
Mari munches on some popcorn as they walk around a scenic point at the top of a hill. She’s been sneaking looks at Chul-soo all day, and starts to administer her usual pre-romance personality quiz. Chul-soo cuts her off and answers that he doesn’t like lions, monkeys, horses, OR sheep, nor does he like roses. She guesses he saw the talk show she was on, and smiles coyly as she says, “So you were interested.” She asked what he thought, and his answer wipes the smile from her face: “It was childish.” (Clearly she was fishing for a compliment.)
Chul-soo says that those kinds of tests were made up to make people feel better about their worries, “because we’re afraid of admitting we’re alone.” People only believe in fate to console themselves.
His matter-of-fact answer brings tears to Mari’s eyes. When Chul-soo sees her expression, he catches himself and raises an awkward hand to pat her in comfort. His hand slips and brings her scarf down, and without the shield to disguise her, Mari is recognized by a pack of enthusiastic schoolkids. They shout after her, raise their camera phones, and start to chase.
Thinking fast, Mari apologizes and shoves the paper popcorn bag over Chul-soo’s head, and grabs his hand as they run away.
After they lose their pursuers, Chul-soo and Mari find themselves crouched by a hedge, still holding hands. Mari leans in, as though for a kiss — Chul-soo remains still, unsure how to react — but then brushes off a petal (pollen?) from his nose. False alarm.
But then, she does lean in like she’s expecting a kiss. Chul-soo says, “I’m sorry,” breaking the momentary spell. Mari takes this as rejection, and retorts that he shouldn’t have messed with her scarf. The ride home is silent, and Mari stalks inside from the rain without a word.
Chul-soo calls after her, wondering why she’s upset. Even if they had been photographed, they’re nothing to each other. Mari answers that people make something out of nothing all the time.
He asks, “How can you even meet somebody when you live such a tiring life?” (He means that she’s “tiring” for making mountains out of every molehill.) She answers, “You’re right, that’s why they all leave.”
He tries to bow out of the conversation, but she challenges him to finish his thought. He tells her grimly, “If you live like this, nobody will stay with you. If you sincerely want to meet somebody…”
He may sense he’s pushed too far. Mari struggles with tears, but answers haughtily, “That’s okay. I don’t need sincerity. I’m an actor — I can fake all of those things. Crying, laughter, happiness, I can imitate them all.” A tear falls, but she continues, “Do you want proof?” She approaches him, and grabs him in a kiss.
She walks off with a look of triumph. Stunned, Chul-soo stares after her.
The next morning at breakfast, Mari’s back to herself. She asks him not to mention yesterday to anyone; it was merely a bad day. Chul-soo feels awkward, but admits he hadn’t behaved well either. He muddles through an explanation, saying he was taken off-guard, and it’s not how he usually behaves with a woman he’s just met.
Mari picks up on this, and asks if it was his first kiss. He grows flustered, and she teases him until he answers no.
He confirms that he’s leaving today, to which she asks flirtatiously, “About yesterday. What if I did that because I was interested in you? What would you do? Would you still leave?” Chul-soo looks up at her in total astonishment, unable to respond, saved finally by the (phone) bell. It’s Byung-joon, who has joined the reporters who’ve arrived hot on Mari’s heels for her latest scandal — pictures of her with Chul-soo (wearing the popcorn bag on his head) have surfaced online.
Tae-seok calls a press conference to address the scandal. He confronts Chul-soo with a pleasant tone, but one that bears an unfriendly undercurrent.
Tae-seok asks how the book is going. Chul-soo answers that he can’t do the book, which he’s already told Mari. He’s sorry for backing out of the contract, but Tae-seok isn’t taking no for an answer. With a steely undertone, he tells Chul-soo that he can’t back out now.
At the press conference, Mari and Tae-seok manage the reporters with an ease born of tons of experience. The reporters are easily satisfied, and although Mari hates this charade, she pulls off her role successfully, smiling and going along with the script: she is writing a book, a sort of travel diary, which was intended to be a surprise.
Byung-joon demands to know who the box-head man was, and the room follows suit, clamoring for an answer. Tae-seok answers that the man was just the research guide hired to help Mari with the book, and asks the room, “Would you like to meet him?”
Mari is surprised — and displeased — with this turn. Chul-soo, who has been listening at the door, puts on the popcorn box and walks in.
Frenzy erupts as reporters plead with him to remove his mask. Byung-joon sneaks up behind Chul-soo, ready to knock the covering aside, but Mari intercepts him.
Mari runs into Chul-soo as he’s on his way out to meet his moneylender. She’s annoyed that he played along, but is mollified at his answer that he did it because of her — it was his fault the photos were taken, so this was his way of taking responsibility. He apologizes, saying he hadn’t known that something so small could get blown up so big.
Mari offers to take him to his destination (an art university in Osaka), saying it’s repayment for dragging him around with her yesterday.
At the university, they share a little moment of regret as they say their goodbyes, because although he’s still working on the book, they’ll be seeing little of each other from now on. He extends a hand, and she shakes it.
As Mari drives off, thinking of Chul-soo, she gets so lost in her thoughts that she loses her way.
Chul-soo arrives at the dormitory in time to see Eun-young leaving, about to get in a car with a friend. Their reunion is awkward and brief as he hands her the envelope of money to repay her loan, which she accepts with tears in her eyes, as though his rejection of the money is a rejection of her. (And it is, in a way.)
Chul-soo guides her to her car, with a tone that is at first gentle, but which grows frustrated when she doesn’t move. Finally he just walks off.
Mari, who has turned around after getting lost on the road, arrives back at the campus to witness the exchange.
(There’s no real reason for this screencap of Mari’s Asuka mansion; just seems a shame to not use it.)
Mari’s attention toward Chul-soo indicates the beginning of her romantic interest in him, but I actually think it’s more indicative of her own loneliness. Notice how at first, her annoyance is greater than her interest. She doesn’t want a book written for her and dismisses Chul-soo… but she’s also curious about this new person who’s dropped on her doorstep and rather loath to relinquish the connection. She might tell herself it’s mere curiosity, but Mari — all throughout the episode — strikes me as very, very lonely.
Then she drags him along with her to go shopping, even though he’s headed somewhere. After they decide to drop the book idea, Mari suggests he continue, but rather than admit that she wants to prolong their interaction, she uses the excuse that it’s to protect her image. (If he works on the book, he’s bound to confidentiality.) She asks him to go with her to the ruins because she can’t find it on her own — but we just saw her there the day before, alone, so that’s a fake excuse. She asks him to buy her ice cream, but it’s more like a subconscious test, to see if he will abandon her like the last guy.
Then, at breakfast, she teases Chul-soo about possibly liking him to intrigue him into staying. Is this because she does like him? Perhaps. But it strikes me more that she’s afraid of being alone, so she clutches for any excuse to keep him with her. Like the next day when she offers him a ride to Osaka — as “repayment” for dragging him along. Mari always needs an excuse to explain why she’s grabbing at Chul-soo, so she can retain the perception that she’s in control. But she isn’t — Chul-soo can really leave at any time, but half the time he goes along because it’s easier than fighting, and half of the time it’s to humor her.
Mari’s abrasive on the outside, but she’s actually a pathetic kind of creature, isn’t she?
It occurs to me that Mari has built her entire adult persona around others’ expectations, others’ perceptions of her. In her childhood flashback in Episode 1, Mari’s rise to success is framed as an accidental discovery — she didn’t set out to be famous, but rather, she happened to notice how people reacted to her, and adjusted accordingly. In that way, she learned to read people and fine-tune her “performance” (her life performance as well as her acting one) to best capitalize on success. However, it’s more like she stumbled upon a magic trick by accident, but doesn’t really understand it deep down. Inside, she’s still alone, still craving love — and sure, the public’s adoration is a fine substitute, but no way is it the real thing. (I’m making a leap in thinking that this is the reason she pulls her Runaway Bride act so many times on her lovers.)
It seems that when confronted with Chul-soo, Mari tries to play her usual flirty game with him, but he’s not responsive. And so she weighs her options in her head, quickly trying to work the situation to get what she wants. Only with Chul-soo, the feminine wiles angle doesn’t work, so she has to resort to other tactics — like threatening, wheedling, taunting.
Chul-soo, meanwhile, has never bought into her fame to begin with. He understands Mari’s celebrity on an intellectual level, but really, he doesn’t believe it himself. He sees how people act around her, and knows what level of “respect” she commands, but his strong disinterest in Mari the Movie Goddess probably allows him to see her as a person.
Therefore, Mari waves her magic wand and tries to use the same tricks on Chul-soo that have worked, without fail, on everyone in her life. Only, it doesn’t work. And because she’s never really owned her mystique — just figured out how to wield it — she’s supremely confused. Why won’t her trick work on this guy? What’s his problem?