A Star’s Lover: Episode 5
Episode 5 had more of a comedic tone than the previous episodes; it lost a bit of its dreaminess. I didn’t mind it so much, although I preferred the tone established previously, and hope that this shift is a temporary thing. I don’t want the quality that drew me to A Star’s Lover to fade, because that, in my opinion, is what has set this apart.
That said, I did appreciate all the moments that made me laugh, and there were a couple.
SONG OF THE DAY
Park Sae-byul – “참 아름다워” (It’s beautiful) [ Download ]
EPISODE 5 RECAP
Mari arrives on campus and attracts an ever-growing crowd of curious student spectators. Chul-soo’s jaw drops in astonishment, and even the other professors (with whom he is exchanging greetings) gape at the star in their midst.
For a minute, the question hanging in the air is whether Mari will openly acknowledge that she knows Chul-soo. It seems like she might when she calls out to him; everyone watches in rapt silence.
But though she directs her question at Chul-soo, she treats him like a stranger, requesting his assistance in finding the art gallery. Chul-soo is compelled to play along, albeit reluctantly (he’s not upset to see her, but not excited, either). The head professor watches them walk away and notes with a smile that she picked out the smartest guy among them.
Mari’s pretty proud of herself for thinking up this clever little way to get Chul-soo alone, so he feels the need to deflate her ego a bit, telling her that the reason people are keeping a distance is not because they are shy but because they — educated, literary university students — are not interested in movie stars. Too bad he’s immediately proven wrong when Mari very-loudly-on-purpose offers to sign his book, which the bystanders take as their cue to swarm her with autograph requests. Chul-soo grimaces while Mari shoots him a triumphant look.
Chul-soo mentions that Mari should learn some of the basics about her book before she gets herself into trouble; she’s had some close calls in her television interviews. Mari perks up at this proof that Chul-soo has been watching her interviews.
Mari: “Then you must have watched every day and thought of me.”
Chul-soo: “No, I didn’t.”
Mari: “How sad. But still, in Japan we were friendly.”
Chul-soo: “How were we friendly?”
Mari: “We’re accomplices. Co-conspirators of Lovers in Asuka.”
Chul-soo asks for Mari’s real reason in coming to see him. He prepares himself a bit nervously for her answer, and she proposes, “Can you live with me for a month?”
Well, that certainly wasn’t what he was expecting, and he drags her into an empty classroom to get away from prying eyes. Mari explains that she has an upcoming appearance — not just any interview, but a literary talk show on which she will be discussing her book with well-read panelists. She needs him to explain the literary allusions peppered through the book, to coach her for the appearance next week, plus more in the coming weeks.
Chul-soo is not at all enthused with the prospect, and tells her no; she should just read the books herself. (When he suggests lots of helpful info on the internet, Mari cries out a little shrilly, “I don’t do the internet! Once I enter, I just get hurt.”) Furthermore, when he chides her for not reading, she retorts, “Do you think I haven’t read them?! You should have considered my level when writing!” (Meaning it’s not that she didn’t try; it’s that she didn’t understand anyway.) Mari calls him a coward for writing only for his own satisfaction even though it’s (technically) someone else’s book.
Chul-soo, however, would like nothing better than to distance himself from the project, and tells Mari not to come looking for him again: “Just like it’s uncomfortable for me to enter your world, it’s uncomfortable for you to enter mine.”
Tae-seok confers with Mari’s makeup/hair stylist about Mari’s change in behavior since returning from Japan. It began when Mari, feeling uneasy with the fakery, wanted to forget plans to publish. Tae-seok overrode her concerns and put the book out anyway. Now that the book has become a hit, Mari feels even more burdened with the lie.
They had hoped for modest success, using the book as a gimmick to keep Mari relevant and add to her image, but Chul-soo’s talented writing has brought the book unexpected attention. Too much success is problematic, and in that way I suppose Mari is like the Milli Vanilli of kdrama frauds.
Mari returns home to find the team there. Tensions are palpable between Mari and Tae-seok, and she ignores him as she asks Jang-soo to go out and buy the 29 books mentioned in Lovers in Asuka so she can prepare for the talk show.
Tae-seok has already culled a selection of books for her to focus on, but Mari says she’ll pick her own. Fed up with his difficult star, Tae-seok tells her to do whatever she wants; he’s stepping aside.
Her hairstylist asks where she went today, and Mari answers vaguely that she went to see “someone who’s honest with me.” When asked to explain, Mari clarifies, “Someone who doesn’t answer the way I want.” At the hairstylist’s look, Mari adds, “It’s no big deal. A friend.”
Now that Byung-joon has (finally!) put two and two together, he thinks back to all the clues linking Chul-soo to Mari: the Box Head Man’s clothing hangs in Chul-soo’s room, and the novels mentioned in Lovers in Asuka all happen to be in Chul-soo’s personal library.
Although Byung-joon is overreacting, these moments are played for comedy, and it’s amusing to see him react as though he has suffered the greatest of personal betrayals. Chul-soo returns home to a ransacked room and a devastated Byung-joon.
Byung-joon asks, choking back sobs, “Chul-soo, what would you do if someone you trusted betrayed you?” Perhaps knowing Byung-joon’s histrionic personality, Chul-soo’s curious but not terribly alarmed as Byung-joon insists, “It’s a betrayal on the scale of a best friend cheating with my girlfriend!” Chul-soo answers (hilariously, although probably not helpfully), “But hyung, you don’t have a girlfriend.”
Glancing around the room, Chul-soo sees the Box Head Man photo on the floor, and guesses what this is all about. Hiding his amusement, he coaxes Byung-joon out of his sullen fit with an offer of soju.
At a pojangmacha (streetside food tent), Byung-joon thinks he’s being slick by trying to get Chul-soo to talk about his relationship with Mari by mentioning it indirectly (“Let’s say you ghostwrote a book that became as big as Lee Mari’s, and it created a sensation”). He wonders if the author would feel upset at the success given to another name. Knowing Byung-joon is talking about him, Chul-soo answers directly: Ever since the book came out, he’s felt used and awful — yet he can’t begrudge the situation because that’s the responsibility he undertook by ghostwriting.
However, he offers a bittersweet afterthought: “If a book I ghostwrote became a success, I may have had this thought: ‘Since my book succeeded, I could have kept writing.'”
Left to fend for herself, Mari looks blankly at the stack of novels that she supposedly mentioned in “her” book. Even the titles are unfamiliar to her: The Great Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye, Pride and Prejudice, Smilla’s Sense of Snow, Wuthering Heights, Brothers Karamazov… She texts Chul-soo to ask for one book suggestion to start with. Chul-soo doesn’t respond, exasperated that she’s bugging him despite his warnings.
Mari picks Pride and Prejudice. She texts Chul-soo again, who at this news shows a hint of smile, approving her choice (as if he could disapprove, since they’re all his choices to begin with, ha). She texts again to announce that she’s now 50 pages into the novel.
Now that they’re dating again, Eun-young is received warmly by Chul-soo’s aunts, who are glad to see her back and encourage Chul-soo to be more affectionate, embarrassing the couple.
Eun-young is only back for a short visit, as she is on a school break. When she says that she has about two more months left of school, Chul-soo sounds honestly disappointed, saying, “That’s a long time.” Their date is simple and sedate as they make small talk; it’s also characterized by the bashfulness of new couples (or old couples newly reunited).
Mari does pre-show work for her upcoming appearance, starting with a shoot with a wedding dress concept. (Guests of the show typically film a documentary portion to accompany their appearance, but given Mari’s high profile, they’ve gone with a photo shoot instead.)
Afterward, she’s visited by the head of the cable company, whom she recognizes: Jung Woo-jin.
He’s surprised (and gratified) that she remembers his name, but she admits that he shares a name with someone she knows. He asks a bit meaningfully whether there’s anything else she remembers, but at her non-response, he brushes the question aside.
Outside, they wait together for her car to arrive, and he offers his jacket when he sees that Mari is shivering. Mari politely declines because she doesn’t wear other people’s clothing, to which Woo-jin mutters to himself, “Has she changed?” Overhearing, Mari asks what he means; he dismisses the topic. Still, something strikes her as odd, so she asks if he’s met her before. Woo-jin answers, “Since a long time ago… in movies.”
Surely there’s more to it than that. A flashback gives us more to the story, prompted by Woo-jin picking up a fallen ornament from the Christmas tree and remembering one like it…
As young children, they had apparently attended the same (tiny) church, some time after Mari was orphaned. Young Woo-jin had watched Mari singing in the choir, then seen afterward how she lacked Christmas presents. Woo-jin had climbed up the Christmas tree to retrieve a star and an angel to hand to the sad little girl, telling her, “My mom says all little girls are stars. They’re angels. So she said you can only give them pretty things.”
After their date, Chul-soo waits with Eun-young at the train station. She reaches for his hand, but he pulls away slightly; although he apologizes almost immediately, she’s still disappointed. Her thoughts turn to the past:
Eun-young: “At first, when I didn’t know you well, when I only read your writing, I thought you were someone who would do anything for love. That’s how your writing was.”
Chul-soo: “I dislike the idea of risking everything for love. I don’t like giving someone else pain because of my love.”
Chul-soo takes her hand and says he knows he’s lacking as a boyfriend, but promises to try so they can be like they were before. He asks, “It was hard for you in the past, wasn’t it?” Eun-young answers, “A little. But I like the person you are now. Meeting again after being apart, I think I can see who you are. You may stumble a bit but you try, and you can’t lie. When you decide something, you can be trusted to carry it out through the end.” She promises to try, too.
Chul-soo comes home to find Yuri sitting outside (she’s hiding her ailing leg from everyone again, pretending she’s fine). Yuri is glad that he’s back with Eun-young, but seeing his troubled expression, she asks what’s wrong: “Now that you’re dating Eun-young again, you should look happy.”
Chul-soo answers that he has a lot on his mind, such as finding a job, which makes Yuri feel bad: she assumes he’s doing it because of her medical bills. Chul-soo assures her that she’s not the reason — he should start thinking of marriage anyway.
Mari plods through Pride & Prejudice, yawning at the tedium of a story without big conflict or action, and texts Chul-soo again: “Do you know that Darcy is just like you?” She sends a series of text messages (suggesting they meet), all of which Chul-soo ignores. When she offers to come to him, he immediately calls to tell her not to (successfully getting him to respond; she knew he’d react to that).
Chul-soo reiterates his desire to wash his hands of the book — she should ask Tae-seok or someone else for help. Mari answers, “There’s nobody to help me,” then wonders if he’s upset because he feels ill-used at the book’s success. He retorts that he is.
Barely holding back his frustration, Chul-soo tells her to stop bothering, calling, texting, or otherwise contacting him: “I don’t want to think of you or the book again.” She texts back, “Okay. I’ll stop.”
Chul-soo meets with a senior professor, an avuncular man whom Chul-soo respects greatly. The professor offers him two lecture classes for the next semester, and also half his office space — a gesture that Chul-soo appreciates but doesn’t think he can accept, as he’s decided to quit school next term. The professor is unsurprised — he’s probably seen this many times before — and guesses that Chul-soo intends to get a full-time job.
The professor advises Chul-soo to rethink his writing aspirations: “If you want to write, you should write.”
At home, Chul-soo’s middle aunt shares a secret with the youngest aunt: their flighty sister, Chul-soo’s mother, is back in Korea, still performing in hotels as a cabaret singer. Younger Aunt doesn’t think they should tell the kids — their mother abandoned them cruelly. The Middle Aunt doesn’t like the idea either, but thinks it’s the right thing to do.
The two aunts argue back and forth when they hear a sound outside their door: Yuri stands there, tears in her eyes. She’s overheard, and asks her aunts to tell her where her mother is. She pleads, “Tell me. I don’t even know Mom’s face.”
Byung-joon tries to scheme up a way to use Chul-soo’s connection to Mari for his own (professional) benefit. He snags two free passes to a screening of Mari’s new movie and drags Chul-soo along, insisting it’ll be a nice break.
Although he’d come extremely reluctantly, Chul-soo watches the movie with interest, taking particular note of the Ferris wheel scene he’d rehearsed with Mari in Japan. When the film ends, Chul-soo rises to leave, surprised when nobody else stirs from their seats.
Thus Chul-soo reacts with alarm when an MC announces the presence of the movie’s director and star — this is a special press screening with a question session at the end. Byung-joon grabs Chul-soo, forcing him to stay, while Chul-soo tries desperately to fight his way out without attracting Mari’s notice.
Byung-joon thwarts him, eagerly shouting to get Mari’s attention (Chul-soo wildly tries to grab his friend and silence him). He vies for the first question, which instead goes to another attendee.
The question is for the director, asking whether Mari was always his first choice for the role. Mari zones out since the question isn’t for her, while the director cites his inspiration as Daisy in The Great Gatsby — then recalls that Mari mentioned Daisy in her book. This, naturally, spurs him to ask Mari for her thoughts, and everyone waits expectantly for some pearls of wisdom. Mari freezes in dread (as does Chul-soo, knowing she cannot answer).
Realizing she’s about to be exposed, with tension mounting, Chul-soo interrupts suddenly with a question. Thinking fast on his feet, Chul-soo formulates the kind of softball question meant to let her off the hook: “In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby, the woman Daisy whom Gatsby loves has things she wants but not things she loves, as we know. The main character in this movie… seems like a woman like that. Isn’t that so?”
Relieved, Mari answers, “Yes. You took the words out of my mouth. That’s what I think, too.” And then, regardless of the fact that Chul-soo just saved her ass, she asks cheekily, “But what is your question?”
Chul-soo stammers, trying to think of one: “The Gatsby who loves Daisy… is rather different from Darcy in Pride & Prejudice, isn’t he?” Everyone looks curiously at him at this tangent, but he turns the subject to something he knows Mari can answer: “So what do you think of Darcy?”
“He’s the king of self-importance,” she returns promptly. The audience cracks up, and Mari adds, “He’s fussy, particular, and cold. He doesn’t care to appear nice to others to receive love. And people who approach him get hurt. The worst part about him is, he knows he’s like that and thinks it’s okay.”
Since her answer is obviously directed at him, Chul-soo is a bit miffed; he starts to sit, but she adds, “Still, he has his cute side too.”
Afterward, Mari surprises Chul-soo by waiting for him in front of his home (missing a meeting with Tae-seok, meant to smooth things over between the two — which I’m sure will cause more friction between them).
Since Mari insists on going somewhere to talk, Chul-soo leads her to the rooftop outside his room, but won’t let her inside (he wants to keep this encounter short). He orders her to say her piece outside.
It’s cold out, but I think Mari’s exaggerating to elicit a response as she shivers dramatically, then asks for his jacket. (Note how she rejected Woo-jin’s, saying she doesn’t wear other people’s clothing.) Chul-soo hands it over — she puts it on happily — and he asks bluntly why she came.
Mari asks, “Don’t you know what I have to say?” Chul-soo returns, “Can’t you start with a thank-you for earlier?” Mari thanks him for turning the question to something she knows, and starts to ask again for coaching help.
Just at that moment, they hear someone coming up the stairs — it’s Byung-joon. Chul-soo panics and pushes Mari to hide to avoid being caught, and they huddle just inside the main gate while Byung-joon calls out for Chul-soo, banging on his door and peering around.
Mari takes one more chance to whisper insistently, “Just one month!”
It’s interesting that Eun-young’s feelings for Chul-soo appear to be strong (Chul-soo’s emotions have been more guarded), and yet they still act like a new couple. They’re not entirely comfortable in the way of longtime lovers, and there’s still a trace of formality in the way they address each other. I’m curious to see more of the backstory.
I’m sure her comment about his passionate writing is meaningful, in that it shows that Chul-soo is capable of intense, sweeping, romantic feeling — but she (nor any previous girlfriend) has not been able to evoke that kind of passion from him. I think the point is a little obvious so I won’t belabor it, but this is obviously where Mari is different. Not because she’s a star, but because she happens to provoke strong emotions in him. Of course, most of those emotions have thus far been of the negative variety (irritation, frustration, exasperation), but a volatile reaction of any sort is promising.
Now, as to Chul-soo’s reaction to Mari: Some people thought it was out of character in the last episode for Chul-soo to have feelings for Mari, then return to Eun-young. I didn’t have a problem with it, because the point was that he was conflicted, which is why he acted rashly and chased after Mari. When he had cooled down and had time to think, however, reality came back to him and he realized that a relationship with Mari was so far out of the realm of plausible (not impossible, just improbable) that he was better off not going there. Kind of like a “love the one you’re with” mentality. So he goes back to Korea and to Eun-young, and closes the book (so to speak, har har) on the brief period of turbulence in Asuka. He decides to quit writing, get a “real” job, stick with the woman who loves him, and be a good support for his family.
That’s why I think he is so averse to having any contact with Mari now — he doesn’t suddenly hate her. Rather, he’s trying his best to stay out of Mari’s orbit, but her gravitational pull is just that strong. (And persistent.) And I think the fear that had him withdrawing from her in the beginning of Episode 4 is returning — fear that he will end up too attached to her — so he is doing his damnedest to push her away.
That said, their clashes in this episode aren’t that serious — it’s really more like bickering. Maybe a tad more forceful than bickering. But it’s clear he doesn’t hate her, and I’m sure Mari knows this too, which is why she persists in trying to engage him. Also, I think he kinda even enjoys her nagging — he may be in denial about it, but I think it’s rather like how one might complain about something while secretly enjoying it, and feeling disappointed once it’s gone.