There are some parts of Boys Before Flowers that are pretty good. And then there are parts that are really, really bad. Like, hilariously mockable, I’m-embarrassed-for-you bad..
That won’t stop me from enjoying the drama, but it does put the entertainment into a different category than what I was hoping for, which was sheer, heart-lifting, giddiness-inducing, shamelessly romantic fun and angst. Instead, I think this goes into the “check your brain at the door or you won’t be able to enjoy the ridiculosity” kind of fun.
SONG OF THE DAY
Sentimental Scenery – “Falling in Love” [ Download ]
EPISODE 3 RECAP
At Seo-hyun’s prodding, Ji-hoo asks Jan-di to dance. Jan-di gets swept up in the romanticism of the moment, dancing with her pretty-boy crush, while he’s less enthused (she’s dancing on his feet). I suppose the entire sequence is supposed to be magical and dream-like, but when everyone on the dance floor is bumbling around in a stiff, bobbing box-step, it does kind of suck the elegance out of the moment.
Not keen to watch Jan-di dancing with his best friend, Jun-pyo leaves the ballroom and ends up by the pool, where he takes out his frustration on the poolside furniture. At least they can’t fight back. His anger turns to wussy-boy fear when he sees a bug, and freaks out when it flies toward him. He makes wild swatting motions and tries to ward off the bug, jerking around in a panic.
After her dance, Jan-di sits out and watches Ji-hoo dance next with Seo-hyun. I’m guessing she is supposed to feel wistful that Ji-hoo dances so much more wonderfully with Seo-hyun, but as that’s just not true, I’m making a guess here. Not keen to watch her crush dancing around with his lady-love, Jan-di wanders outside and hears a loud splash.
The next thing we know, a student bursts into the ballroom to announce that Jun-pyo has fallen into the pool. Dude, I’m sure announcing his humiliation is ever so much more helpful than actually, yunno, helping. Yi-jung notes that Jun-pyo cannot swim, and everyone stampedes outside.
When they arrive outside, Jan-di is dripping wet, having dragged Jun-pyo out of the pool, and shouts at him worriedly to wake up. He lies there, unmoving, so she starts performing CPR, pushing down on his chest and breathing into his mouth.
Only, well, he doesn’t exactly need the CPR. Not that he’s going to tell her that, of course. Why ruin a good thing?
Jan-di sees that that his eyes have opened and stops immediately — but he grabs her shoulder, puckers up, and tries to pull her back down toward him for a kiss. It’s hilarious, because it doesn’t work, and Jan-di punches him in the face, disgusted, thinking he was faking the entire thing. (I’m not sure how much he was faking, but I’m sure the part about him not being able to swim was real. So at least she did save him on that score.)
She storms off in a huff, but Jun-pyo is still exceedingly pleased with his one stolen “kiss.”
He remains in a fabulous mood the next morning, even surprising his butler with his eagerness to get to school early. Jun-pyo mangles the “early bird” adage by saying knowingly that there’s a proverb about “the early bug gets dead first.”
He’s feeling so cheerful that when a maid spills his tea — a previously fire-able offense — he barely notices. When his butler assures him that the maid will be fired, Jun-pyo tells him magnanimously that the household is run too strictly — loosen up!
He grins and walks off, announcing, “What great weather!” just as thunder rumbles in the distance.
Because, y’see, Jun-pyo has great things planned for today! He plays more practical jokes on Jan-di, first smearing the locker room door with what appears to be Vaseline, then filling the pool with ducks. He watches her irate reaction on his lounge television, chuckling to himself all the while. Yi-jung and Woo-bin marvel that this is the hardest they’ve ever seen him work at anything.
(In his mangled reasoning, Jun-pyo feels this is his way of expressing his “gratitude.” Well, I suppose if throwing trash in the pool is his way of tormenting her, then tossing cute live animals is a step up. Never mind the fact that she can’t swim in either scenario.)
Ji-hoo has been particularly withdrawn recently, spending more time than usual away from F4. Instead, he chooses to play his violin outside in the snow. (Who doesn’t love that?)
Jan-di comes upon him as his string breaks, cutting his finger. She senses he doesn’t want her there, so she tells him she’ll just attend to his hand, then go. She takes the handkerchief that Ji-hoo had previously lent her and wraps it around his finger, then takes out an umbrella and places it over the violin to protect it from the snow.
Little does she know that they’re being watched and taped on Ginger’s phone. Although her encounter with Ji-hoo isn’t very warm or friendly — mostly prolonged silence — it looks more suggestive from a distance, and the Bimbos Three are determined to bring Jan-di down.
Jun-pyo’s great mood lasts while he basks in the pool, anticipating Jan-di’s arrival.
When he hears someone approach, he automatically assumes it’s her, and starts to chide her for her late arrival and lax training (his equivalent to a little boy pulling a girl’s hair, or perhaps calling her “Carrots”).
But instead of Jan-di, it’s the mean girls, who eagerly show Jun-pyo the video clip. As his mood darkens, they fan the flames, adding that it looked like Ji-hoo and Jan-di have been dating for a while, calling her a gold-digger.
Coldly, he tells them to shut up, then throws the phone to the ground, breaking it. He stalks out.
Jun-pyo surprises Jan-di outside, where she has returned in hopes of talking to Ji-hoo (who has already left). Pride and feelings hurt, he lashes out mockingly: “Are you disappointed I’m not who you were hoping for?”
She starts to walk away, so he grabs her arm and demands to know, “Where are you going?” She retorts, “I have nothing to say to you so I’m going home.” Well, he has something to say to her, and sneers that she was playing around with him. He was going to make allowances for her and treat her nicely, but now he feels ridiculed.
Jun-pyo grabs her tightly and tries to force a kiss on her. Alarmed, Jan-di struggles against him, shaking her head back and forth so he can’t kiss her. She yells in a panicked voice, “No! I don’t want to! No!”
That stops him, and Jun-pyo slowly lets her go. He asks her, this time without anger, “Do you hate it that much?” He walks off.
This is easily the best scene of the episode. What could have been unintentionally funny or cheesy comes off instead with a lot of tension, a lot of conflicting emotions, great chemistry, and (for once!) a nice piece of score. Now, if only the rest of the series could be like this.
As a result, the next morning, Jan-di is mortified and refuses to go to school. Her parents are ready to force her to go anyway, but are distracted by the arrival of a fancy invitation: it’s for Seo-hyun’s birthday party.
Jan-di’s parents are immediately excited at this proof of their daughter’s social success, and look into “borrowing” a formal dress for the occasion. From their dry-cleaning service. I’m sure this is completely against their own rules, but it doesn’t matter because all the dresses suck.
Plot contrivance to the rescue! A special package saves the day: a lovely formal dress sent from Seo-hyun. (I suppose they do get points for making up reasons, however obvious, for dressing up the poor girl in rich clothes, instead of just glossing over that point as is so often the case.)
Jan-di arrives alone at the party, and is soon whisked off to the F4 table by Yi-jung, who uses her as an excuse to get away from a group of women he’d promised to call but never did.
She and Jun-pyo look at each other warily, a bit uncomfortable after their last encounter but managing to resume their bickering dynamic. To Jun-pyo’s surprise, Yi-jung and Woo-bin lavish praise on Jan-di, calling her “really pretty” and “the cutest in the room” (Jun-pyo scoffs his disagreement).
Seo-hyun arrives on the arm of Ji-hoo, and a cake is brought out. Seo-hyun thanks everyone for coming, then makes a startling announcement — she’s planning on leaving for Paris, for good. She wants to succeed on her own terms, without inheriting her parents’ law firm — she has goals for bigger and brighter things.
The F4 guys suddenly realize why Ji-hoo’s been so down lately, and Jan-di’s eyes fill in tears in empathy for his pain. She watches Ji-hoo leave the party early. Seo-hyun finishes her speech, then follows him up to a hotel room.
Ji-hoo fiddles with an old toy, a puppet she’d given to him when they were kids. “That was when you stopped calling me ‘noona,'” she reminds him (which was an indication that he had started to harbor feelings for her).
Ji-hoo angrily throws the toy in the trash and says, “I feel like I’m being abandoned.” Seo-hyun tries to tell him gently, “If there’s anything here I can’t leave, it’s you.”
Ji-hoo tells her not to lie; she responds that if it was a lie, she wouldn’t have been so bothered to see him looking at somebody else: Jan-di. She admits, “When you went running to her, I found my heart falling with a thump. Isn’t that funny?”
Ji-hoo accuses her of treating him as a toy, and argues that he’d spent the past fifteen years looking only at her, “And that’s not enough? I’m a man too.” Seo-hyun hugs him, and apologizes.
As they pull apart, Ji-hoo kisses her. (And Han Chae-young again proves she can’t kiss worth a damn onscreen. Oy, this scene is painfully awkward at points. If the earlier Jun-pyo & Jan-di argument was an example of great, intense chemistry, here we have an example of… well, uncomfortable non-chemistry.)
Jan-di arrives at the doorway to see the kiss. She retreats, closing the door quietly, then starts to beat her head into the wall. Jun-pyo calls from behind her, “If you collapse here, it’ll be really embarrassing.”
Hearing the others moving inside the room, Jan-di hurries away from the door, but not quickly enough to escape being seen. She pretends she just arrived to spare everyone the embarrassment of mentioning the kiss.
Seo-hyun mentions that she and Ji-hoo are on their way out for a drive, and invites Jan-di along. Not wanting to be the third wheel, Jan-di stutters no thanks, and Jun-pyo answers smoothly, “We’re on our way somewhere too.”
Relieved to be given an exit strategy, Jan-di jumps to agree. To make the “act” more convincing, Jun-pyo puts his arm around her, which Ji-hoo notices with… interest?
When they’re out of earshot, Jun-pyo tells Jan-di that this act of kindness makes them even; he has now paid her back for saving him from the pool. Jan-di protests that they are in no way comparable acts, and concedes that this is worth perhaps 10% of a payback. Jun-pyo: “Fifty percent.” Jan-di: “Twenty-five.”
Jun-pyo takes Jan-di to a fancy bar, which is empty of patrons because he bought the place for the night. It’s a romantic gesture, but Jun-pyo tells her in his typical (unsentimental) way that she can shout or cry or do whatever she wants.
Jan-di wonders why she would do any of that, and Jun-pyo reminds her of the kiss she witnessed. Morosely, Jan-di says she is no competition against Seo-hyun: “I’m not pretty, I’m not smart, my family is poor…” “Your figure’s not that great either,” Jun-pyo adds, “and your temper’s bad too.”
She retorts, “Fine. How can such a worthless person like me be jealous of her? I don’t even have a right to feel jealous.”
Jun-pyo says matter-of-factly that she’s right about not being that special, “But you’re not worthless. You have a right.” He continues, saying that if Ji-hoo had met her before Seo-hyun, he’d have liked her. Sure, her looks and her family circumstances suck, “But you’re the first girl the Almighty Jun-pyo has acknowledged.”
A heartbeat starts pounding loudly. It’s unclear whose it is, but I think it could be either of them — or, more probably, both. Suddenly feeling overheated, Jun-pyo excuses himself to the men’s room, where he fans his face. Outside, Jan-di does the same, then reaches for a class of clear liquid and gulps it down.
By the time Jun-pyo comes back, she’s totally wasted, her head lolling around like it’s too heavy for her neck. Impatiently, he prods her: “Hey, come on, woman!”
That word (woman) gets Jan-di’s attention, and she slurs back, “Yeah, I’m a woman. Can’t a commoner be a woman too? My family, my looks, and my brain suck, I know. Even if you didn’t point it out so clearly, I already know, got it, punk?”
Now Jun-pyo’s amused. Jan-di continues rambling about her woes — her family, money. Suddenly, she jerks up and starts laughing ruefully, saying, “I’m sad today.” She pats his face (slaps it, more like) affectionately, and concedes, “All right, let’s say you’ve paid me back fifty percent.”
She continues, “Thanks, Gu Jun-pyo, for saving me today. I can’t do anything for you, but instead…”
And she learns forward… grabs him by the lapels… and smacks her lips together.
Jun-pyo waits to see what she’ll do, and she smiles at him… and vomits all over his suit.
Jan-di awakens in the morning in a strange bed in a strange room.
Upon seeing Jun-pyo sitting nearby, she immediately jumps to conclusions and demands to know why she’s here. He reminds her of the night’s events, and the details start to flash back to her. He brought her home after the bar, and called her parents to let them know. She hangs her head, embarrassed, and mumbles her thanks.
Jan-di would leave if she could, but Jun-pyo is alerted to his mother’s return home. We get the sense that this is an unusual occurrence. Today, she’s here to host a charity auction that evening. Anticipating Jun-pyo’s reaction, Mom has ordered her men to watch over him to keep him from leaving the house — which now means that Jan-di can’t leave without being seen, either.
Jun-pyo panics and immediately calls F4 for help. The friends join Jan-di and Jun-pyo to try to brainstorm a way out of this, knowing that Mom’s reaction will be fearful to behold if she were to somehow find out the truth — not only is there a strange girl with Jun-pyo, but she’s a poor, nameless, insignificant commoner to boot.
Jan-di is dressed up in one of the fancy dresses to be auctioned off that night, and the F4 friends do their best to pass her off as a new friend. Naturally she’s from a rich and prestigious family.
Mom is coolly polite, and inquires about her family background, prompting the F4 guys to jump in and fill in the details, describing Jan-di’s father as a businessman in the fashion industry. Ji-hoo puts his arm on her shoulder and says Jan-di’s like their “F4 mascot.” (Yeah, I dare anybody to use that on a parent and see how well that works. “Mascot,” indeed!)
Thankfully, the questioning is kept short. Just as Mom seems ready to sharpen her interrogation, she is called away, and tells everyone to join her downstairs for the auction.
The first item for auction is a pair of Olympic gold medalist Park Tae-hwan‘s goggles. Jan-di’s mouth drops open as the bidding climbs up from an opening bid of 500,000 won (approximately $365) and skyrockets into the millions. Jun-pyo notices her reaction as a phone bid wins the goggles for 10 million won ($7,500).
The auction continues. Jun-pyo models his suit, followed by Jan-di modeling her dress (albeit reluctantly).
Mom eyes her with suspicion and asks her secretary, Mr. Jung, if he recognizes the girl. The man does remember her as the “Wonder Woman” who was given the Shinhwa scholarship. But unlike Mom, he’s got a heart and chooses, for now, to lie and say that all he knows is that she’s supposedly a student at Shinhwa High School. She orders him to look into the girl’s background.
After the auction, Jan-di thanks Jun-pyo again, somewhat grudgingly. Jun-pyo pretends not to hear, and forces her to repeat it twice.
It’s rather cute, actually, how he calls her “Jan-di baht,” which means “grassy lawn.” He tosses her a package and says, “Don’t drink when I’m not around.” (No doubt he wants to keep her from kissing other guys under the influence.)
After he leaves, Jan-di opens the bag to find the auctioned swimming goggles in the bag.
At home, her family oohs and ahhs over the acquisition, and urges her to sell them online since they’re worth a lot. Jan-di’s unwilling to part with them, though, and fumbles around for an excuse, saying that the goggles are worth “so much more than money” and shouldn’t be sold. She also distracts her parents so she can grab back the goggles, then runs off hoarding her prize.
Alone in her room, Jan-di opens her desk drawer. As though to show us how much this means, the space formerly used to hold Ji-hoo’s handkerchief is now given to the goggles. (Oh! The! Symbolism! Let me hit you with it.)
The next day, Jan-di has a visitor: It’s Seo-hyun (wearing a fur bib), here to say her last goodbyes, since she’s leaving the next day. Stunned to hear how suddenly she’s moving away, Jan-di tries to express her thanks.
Seo-hyun tells her, “I knew from the first time I saw you that you were the girl Ji-hoo always talked about with a smile.”
Speaking of whom, Ji-hoo spots Seo-hyun’s car outside and heads toward the pool, just in time to see Jan-di fall to her knees in front of Seo-hyun.
Jan-di explains that she’d been her fan for a long time, and understands her decision. “But let me ask a favor. Please don’t leave.”
Jan-di: “I know I don’t have a right to ask such a favor of you, but if I don’t ask…”
Seo-hyun: “Is it because of Ji-hoo?”
Jan-di: “I don’t know anything about him. But I know how special you are to him. He looks so sad to me, but there are times when he smiles, warmly enough to melt the heart of anyone who sees. You’re the only one who can make him smile. If you leave like this, he may not smile again.”
Seo-hyun explains that her decision is “like buying something in a foreign country. If you don’t buy it right then, there’s no next chance. I know too well how cruel that regret can be. Ji-hoo is dear to me, and I believe I am to him. That’s why I think he wouldn’t want me to face that regret.”
Subdued, Jan-di apologizes. Seo-hyun assures her, “No, I’m glad to hear you talk like that. Thank you.” She takes out a strappy set of heels and gives them to Jan-di: “I hope these shoes will take you to good places. I have something to ask you, too. Please make Ji-hoo smile again.”
When Jan-di walks out, Ji-hoo confronts her, asking angrily, “Who do you think you are to do that? Who asked you to make that kind of favor? It’s not even a favor, it’s begging. Don’t you have any pride?”
Jan-di: “It’s not because I have no pride. It’s because you looked so pained, like you’d die of sadness.”
Ji-hoo: “What is that to you? It has nothing to do with you. Get lost.”
Like I said, some really nice moments — and then some really bad ones. It pains me to say this, but I think the weak link here is not actually the acting, but the directing. I had such great hopes because PD Jeon Ki-sang was a director I really liked after falling in love with his style in Delightful Girl Chun-hyang. I’d hoped Witch Amusement was a fluke in his resumé, but now I’m wondering if in fact Chun-hyang was the fluke, and the cheesy gimmickry of Witch Amusement is in fact his norm. Or perhaps he just had a really talented young assistant director working for him in the past, who isn’t with him now? The weird pacing of scenes, the horrible music (that grating electric guitar, for instance), the awkward framing of shots… It feels like this drama is being filmed by Garry Marshall (the later years).
On the other hand, more goodness from Lee Min-ho, and Gu Hye-sun! (Whenever she’s not being too cute.) They, more than anything else, are definitely going to carry this drama (which I suppose is the point).
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