I was frustrated by Episode 12. A lot of my issues with this drama have been building gradually, so it’s not like my catalog of complaints (listed at the end) has sprung up overnight. It’s more like I’m finally tired of making excuses for the story.
On the upside, the chemistry is still good between Choi Ji-woo and Yoo Ji-tae. Cha Ye-ryun (Eun-young) is still solid as an actress even if her character is annoying. And the music is well-used, which I think I’ve noticed more in recent episodes because Boys Before Flowers, in comparison, sucks so very hard at knowing when and how to use its soundtrack.
SONG OF THE DAY
A Star’s Lover OST – “떠날까봐” by Sei [ Download ]
EPISODE 12 RECAP
Chul-soo and Mari spend the night together and awaken in a peaceful, happy mood, oblivious to the scandal that is intensifying in the outside world (Mari’s ads are taken down, her book removed from stores, and news reports focus on the growing turmoil).
Chul-soo asks Mari, “Are you okay?” Mari wonders what he means by that — is he asking if she’s happy? He says yes, so she answers, “Then, I’m okay. Are you okay?” Chul-soo: “Yeah.”
The peace is interrupted by simultaneous phone calls. Yuri calls Chul-soo to ask whether Eun-young is okay, because she isn’t answering her phone calls. Chul-soo assures his sister that he’ll try calling.
Mari answers a call from Seung-yeon and tells her that she’s with Chul-soo and no longer cares what Tae-seok thinks.
Mari worries, “I’m afraid that if your life gets harder because of me, you’ll start hating me.” He asks back, “If your life gets harder, will you hate me?” Mari says no, but wonders if they can keep seeing each other.
He tells her, “I won’t run away again. But if things get really bad, I’ll let you run away. While you can still handle it, tell me you’re okay. But if you feel you really won’t be able to endure any more, tell me you’re hurting. I’ll understand.”
But he has a condition: “Let’s not fight at all.” Mari returns, “Don’t get angry with me.” They also agree not to lie, or to leave with the excuse that it’s for the other person’s sake.
At a stockholders meeting for TS Entertainment, investors are upset that Tae-seok is standing by and letting Mari be ruined — they have a stake in the company’s success, too. Tae-seok yells that if they’re unhappy with his actions, they can sell their shares, which infuriates them further.
Ye-rin, watching her brother lose his temper, doesn’t think this is right. She thinks he should work things out with Mari for the sake of the company and their future. Tae-seok, beyond the point of compromise, rages that Mari chose this path herself; she gets what’s coming to her.
Woo-jin is informed of the stockbroker uproar, and that if the Mari scandal is not managed well, it’s likely TS Entertainment will collapse.
Mari drops Chul-soo off near his home, and although they say their goodbyes affectionately, it’s as though the moment they’re separated, reality kicks in.
Stopped at a red light, Mari turns on the television screen in her car — who DOES that? — and sees footage of Eun-young being harassed by the media. Feeling guilty, she pulls out her cell phone to call Chul-soo (because Mari hasn’t endangered her driving enough already) and asks him to check up on Eun-young.
Chul-soo finds paparazzi lurking around the halls of Eun-young’s apartment and pounds on the door. Inside, she has taken to her bed and downed sleeping pills to escape from the overwhelming media furor, so he keeps calling her name until she opens the door. Seeing the photogs spring into action, she pulls him inside quickly.
With little energy, Eun-young cries into his shoulder, asking, “Haven’t you been too cruel to me? How could you do this to me, after you said you’d protect me and make me happy?” Chul-soo can say nothing.
When Mari goes home, she’s bombarded with yet more reporters who throw out questions like “Where have you been?” and “You stole another woman’s lover. Do you have anything to say?”
Mari ignores these questions, but is caught by surprise to see another group of bystanders, holding “We love you Mari” signs — her fan club.
(I like this shot, because the beam dividing the couple provides visual subtext in a nice added layer of meaning. Reminds me of Flowers For My Life, actually.)
Eun-young blames Chul-soo for turning her into a pathetic person — everyone sees her as an abandoned, pitiful woman. It’s made worse because now it looks like Chul-soo is flaunting his love for Mari in the public eye. Everybody’s worried about her, when she’s been so careful to avoid being fussed over: “Even when I was in pain after losing you, I was afraid you’d worry, so I smiled in front of you. How could you do this to me?”
Knowing he is in the wrong, Chul-soo asks, “What do I have to do? What do you want me to do?” Eun-young asks, “What can you do for me?”
She tells him what she wants: “Until I’m better, come by once a day. When I call, come running to me. Do everything you didn’t do while dating me — repay me that, then leave.”
Er…. does this make logical sense to anybody?
Mari calls Jang-soo for help with her fan club, and he comes running with Ye-rin in tow (who may or may not be jealous of his devotion to Mari). The girls, mostly longtime administrators of the fan club, are invited inside her home, where they ask if the ghostwriting is true. Mari admits it. They’re crushed because they had been so vigorous in their defense of her, insisting it wasn’t true.
Another fan asks about the awful rumors of the romance with her ghostwriter. Mari can’t respond, but her silence is answer enough. Crying, the fan asks, does this mean they’re they nothing to her, that she could throw everything away so easily just to steal a man from his girlfriend?
(Okay, I was with the fan club till this point, but it’s really irritating that they would feel entitled to certain actions by their favorite star. It’s THEIR choice to worship a star and build fantasies around her. Mari certainly owes her fans gratitude for their support, but they are by no means entitled to dictate how she lives her personal life.)
The fan club leaves, and while Mari’s feeling the aftereffects of their visit, Ye-rin accuses Mari again of hurting everyone around her. She thinks Mari should return to the company: “I know what you’re thinking and why you’re doing this, but the consequences are too big. Are you really okay if you can’t act again?”
Jang-soo yells at Ye-rin to stop, but she barrels on: “Sure, love is great. But can you two be happy when you’ve hurt others around you like this? Can you throw away everything and live only with love?”
Mari may sense Ye-rin’s motivations, because she asks if something’s going on with Tae-seok. Ye-rin answers that the company is in danger, and Mari is the deciding factor in its survival: “I don’t care if you’re ruined, but I worry about the company and my brother.” (What a great way to persuade someone to do something for you, eh?)
And the hits keep coming from all sides: Chul-soo’s aunt doesn’t approve of his choice, but tells him it’s his choice to ruin his life. However, she does care about Yuri’s illness — and as her older brother, it’s his duty to care for her, which he can’t do without a job or a dream. She pleads for him to earn money to enable Yuri’s surgery, because that should be his priority.
Mari calls at the end of the day, and tentatively asks whether he’d met Eun-young and if she’s okay. At his monosyllabic responses, Mari says, “Your short answers scare me. Are you okay?”
He says yes, then asks her the same thing, to which she says she’s fine. After they both hang up, they say to themselves, “Liar.”
Ha-young makes his reappearance to taunt Woo-jin about Mari’s scandals. The tables have turned since the last time the cousins met; this time, Ha-young’s the one telling Woo-jin that he should give up. He’d suspected back in Japan that Chul-soo was going to be problematic, and it looks like the game’s over for Woo-jin.
Woo-jin isn’t ready to give up, however, and tells Ha-young to wait and see. Ha-young wonders why Woo-jin is so committed to winning their bet, and guesses, “Do you like Mari for real, then?”
Mari goes to Tae-seok’s office, her demeanor (at first) calm and collected as she says she’s sorry, and that she acted the only way she could: “I couldn’t continue to do what you told me anymore, that’s all. You could have just understood me.”
Still furious at her, Tae-seok says he can’t, and won’t, understand: “You were my product.” He’ll only be willing to work with her again once she’s ready to do whatever he tells her to do. Tae-seok tells her to take the contract home and think on it, and see if she can live without money.
The Idiot searches Chul-soo’s room for something, stuttering guiltily when he’s caught. Chul-soo wonders what has Byung-joon so worked up, and sees that he’s holding something in his hand, which turns out to be Chul-soo’s old report card. The Idiot reminisces on how they met back when they were kids (Byung-joon led Chul-soo into the mountains but lost his way, and Chul-soo got them back home). Now it’s time for him to pay Chul-soo back.
That sounds ominous, so Chul-soo tells him that whatever he has planned, “don’t do anything.” After leaving Chul-soo’s room, Byung-joon takes out what he’d come to steal: a photo of Chul-soo and Mari taken in Japan.
What is Byung-joon up to? Well, he’s made some kind of deal with Tae-seok to concoct an official narrative on Chul-soo and Mari’s grand love affair. Because Byung-joon is an idiot, he takes Tae-seok at his word that this will be done to keep both lovers safe. If he had half a brain, maybe he’d realize that the angry former manager who’s been dumped by his biggest star may not be in the most generous of moods.
So The Idiot writes his story, trying different angles in an effort to paint everybody in a positive light. For instance, saying that Chul-soo was forced to ghostwrite because Eun-young lent him money makes Eun-young look bad. Saying Chul-soo ran afoul of debts makes him look bad. He finally decides to go with the story that Mari read Chul-soo’s book, fell in love with the writer, and arranged the ghostwriting scenario to meet him. They fell in love instantly, “like Romeo and Juliet.” And we know how that ended so well.
Ye-rin catches part of Byung-joon’s conversation with Tae-seok and takes him out to dinner to try to wheedle info out of him. She’s nearly successful, but interrupted at a crucial moment by Jang-soo and Eun-shil.
You know, Byung-joon’s character makes me think of bad drivers: Is it worse, say, to be reckless on purpose (i.e., you see the red light but run it anyway), or to be reckless inadvertently (you run the red light because you didn’t notice)? Because Byung-joon is the latter; he doesn’t MEAN to be harmful, but with his combination of persistence, limited cognitive skills, and overeagerness to share news, he is like a perfect storm of accidental destructive power.
Eun-young is followed home by paparazzi, who stay in her hallway waiting for her to emerge from her apartment. She calls Chul-soo, and per their agreement, Chul-soo runs to her. He confronts the photographers, scaring them enough with his anger to send them (temporarily) away.
He obviously feels horrible, and Eun-young is rightly upset with him, glaring at him accusingly.
Mari text-messages him, but as he is preoccupied with this latest incident, he ignores it at first. It’s a confession of her feelings (“I like you”) and she worries when he doesn’t respond right away. Eventually he does, but it’s hardly romantic because he merely chides her, as usual, for her silly use of emoticons. But she smiles when he follows that with another text: “Me too… and I miss you.”
Mari discusses her contract with Seung-yeon, because she’s still bound to Tae-seok. Despite everything that’s happened, Mari takes a philosophical view of her mistakes, because at least the ghostwriting enabled her to met Chul-soo. Mari wonders if she’ll have to retire, which horrifies Seung-yeon — she’s definitely not talking like the usual Mari.
Seung-yeon assures Mari that there’s one person who can save her, and brings her to… Woo-jin!
Seung-yeon’s logic is that Mari isn’t strong enough to face Tae-seok alone; therefore, she needs to strengthen her position by joining forces with Woo-jin.
Woo-jin conducts their lunch meeting in a brisk, professional manner, telling her of his intention to set up his own management company. Thus the arrangement will be mutually beneficial — she gets the support of management, and he gets an important client.
Mari answers that she won’t be much of an asset to him with things as they are, and tells him honestly that although she might have seriously considered the offer under different circumstances, now she finds his help burdensome.
Woo-jin’s expression grows grim, because Mari’s tone is one of pleasant dismissal. She has affection for him as her childhood friend, but thinks perhaps she’d put too much store in that and accepted too much of his support. She offers to be friends, but he doesn’t want that, and when she gets up to leave, he grabs hold of her arm and declines the offer — he doesn’t want to be with her as a friend.
He tells her, “I won’t give up on you. There’ll come a time when you will need me.” Oh, Misguided Second Male Lead in a Kdrama — you always know how to turn a romantic sentiment into a borderline creepy one.
The next time Chul-soo drops by Eun-young’s place, he’s confronted by her angry mother. Her words are so harsh that Eun-young tries to stop her tirade, and tells Chul-soo to go.
Ushering him out the door, Eun-young tells him to leave — and not come back. She explains that her demands had been made out of anger; there’s nothing for him to take responsibility for. “If I can’t have your feelings, I don’t want anything.”
Still feeling guilty, Chul-soo tells her he’ll come back tomorrow, as promised, and continue until she’s better. In tears, Eun-young asks, “Why do you make it so I can’t even hate you?”
And then, things get even worse when Byung-joon’s article comes out. Only, the article is completely different from the non-damaging, positively spun piece he’d written. Instead, it’s an ugly, sensationalistic article that promises lots of shocking details, portraying Chul-soo as a two-timer who’d cheated on his girlfriend and deceived Mari.
Mari calls later that evening, before either of them have seen the article. She asks if he’d missed her, and reminds him that he’d never responded properly to her message yesterday — he still hasn’t said he likes her back. Chul-soo’s uncomfortable making those kinds of confessions, and especially over the phone, so he promises he’ll tell her when they’re face to face. Mari eagerly offers to come over right away so he can tell her today.
Mari pulls out of her parking garage just as Woo-jin drives in. She’s about to tell him she’s on her way out, but he assumes she’s heard the latest reports and ask in a concerned tone, “Are you okay?”
And as Chul-soo arrives at home, he finds Eun-young waiting for him, worried and teary. She asks, “Are you okay?”
I didn’t like this episode very much. It felt repetitive and obvious. I’ve pretty much committed to continuing this drama if only to finish recaps, but if I hadn’t, I would be tempted to drop the series at this point. Or at least start watching with liberal use of the fast-forward button.
(I do think it will pick up and end well; we’re just in that wretched draggy middle part. I’ve seen too many dramas to think this is unique to A Star’s Lover, but I always hope that whatever drama I’m watching will be spared the midpoint fatigue.)
I think my big complaint with this series is going to be that it’s not merely focused on romance, but that romance is all it is. There’s essentially one main storyline, and all the obstacles that get thrown in the way — ghostwriting, ex-lovers, paparazzi — are plot devices constructed to serve the romance. I think this is a trait of the writer, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. But as much as I love romance stories, I wish there were other plots in play, which are either being ignored or pushed aside in favor of the Grand Love Story. For instance, the “fame comes with a price” theme is a valid one, but so far it has only been invoked as an obstacle to the romance.
A slightly lesser complaint is more of a cultural issue, because my American-reared belief system chafes at the arguments put forth by A Star’s Lover. Like how Chul-soo and Mari somehow OWE it to other people to give up their romance to make everyone else happy. Which is ridiculous. I can understand if their relationship were actively causing catastrophic and willful pain to others, but now Mari should give up the love of her life to appease her fans’ expectations? Mari must stay with an abusive, temperamental manager to save HIS firm from ruin, even though she’s better off independent? Chul-soo’s only way of helping his sickly sister is to commit himself to a woman he doesn’t love? I mean, COME ON.
I may live in the States but I was raised with Confucian-based traditional Korean values too, and this is pushing it beyond believability, in my opinion. The thing is, all Korean dramas naturally have some cultural differences, and I’m able to overlook them because I know that life in Korea can’t be judged on standards used outside of Korea. On the other hand, I think A Star’s Lover is going completely overboard in hammering the “you have a duty to others” argument.
This line of reasoning had better die a quick death, because otherwise it just shows a lack of creativity in thinking up believable conflicts to keep the plot moving. Honestly, I’m not sure how they’re going to keep this going for eight more episodes. Banjun, please???
- A Star’s Lover: Episode 11
- A Star’s Lover: Episode 10
- A Star’s Lover: Episode 9
- A Star’s Lover: Episode 8
- A Star’s Lover: Episode 7
- A Star’s Lover: Episode 6
- A Star’s Lover: Episode 5
- A Star’s Lover: Episode 4
- A Star’s Lover: Episode 3
- A Star’s Lover: Episode 2
- A Star’s Lover: Episode 1
- From the set of A Star’s Lover
- A Star’s Lover press conference