I lied. I said (1) I wouldn’t do recaps, and (2) that I’d watch this drama as it unfolded on KBS World. Turns out I like it so much I decided not to wait for the cable airings and downloaded all the episodes instead, and watched them in one huge marathon.
This drama is so delightful. It’s seriously cute, and hilarious. This is also the first time I’m actually glad a drama has 50 episodes (I know!), so there is more to enjoy. I don’t know if I’ll feel that way after 45 episodes, but that’s how I feel after the first 14.
I’m not sure I have it in me to write about the entire series, but I’m going to give it a shot. Here goes….!
SONG OF THE DAY
Sons of Sol Pharmacy OST – “I’ll Promise” by Eru [ Download ]
THE STORY SO FAR:
As previously outlined, we have the four Song brothers to keep track of, as well as their neighbors and friends. Eldest son Jin-pung (pharmacist, shy) has recently resolved to marry without fail — he’s pushing 40 and unlucky in romance, due to his timid personality — and clashes with a new neighbor, a feisty lawyer Su-jin, who also clashes with the second brother, Dae-pung. As a womanizing rascal, Dae-pung (pediatrician, playboy) fails to see the hard-working and kind nurse Bok-shil in a romantic light, and instead dates around freely. Third son Sun-pung (reporter, nerdy) doesn’t get off to a great start with his boss’s daughter, the rising actress Eun-ji, but as they keep meeting, a potential interest is sparked. Lastly, fourth son Mi-pung (student studying for college entrance, soft-hearted) develops a strong attachment to his friend’s five-month-old baby daughter Hana.
Dae-pung (#2) takes an interest in their new neighbor Su-jin, but he ignores her obvious disinterest and tries to win her over with his boyish antics. (Dae-pung’s rascally behavior might be irritating if not for his charm, but it’s okay because the women he tries his tactics on — Su-jin, his mother — are immune.) Meanwhile, Su-jin prefers to bicker with Jin-pung (#1), who only sees her as a difficult neighbor.
Su-jin lives with her brother Bruce (which gets twisted into “Brutus” later) and his family, which consists of his wife Hye-rim and their two kids. Bruce is a big baby and kind of the Korean bastardization of the Ugly American and by far my least favorite character with his immature outbursts and random English spouting — but thankfully, he improves later. Hye-rim, meanwhile, takes medicine that she hides from her family.
Just when the vivacious actress Eun-ji starts to show an interest in bookish Sun-pung (#3), they suffer another setback (protesters take issue with Sun-pung’s news broadcast and throw eggs at him, which hit her too). When her parents both decide to skip the neighborhood meeting, Eun-ji ends up going instead (she thinks it’s silly to pay $10 as a penalty for absence). At the meeting, Sun-pung’s (adorable) father Gwang-ho takes an immediate liking to her and Su-jin, seeing the lovely ladies as prospective daughters-in-law.
Sun-pung walks Eun-ji home from the meeting, but first drops off Bok-shil — and this is when you start to see Eun-ji feeling jealous, which I love! She may say she doesn’t like Sun-pung, but she sure doesn’t like his attention focused on another woman.
While Sun-pung walks Eun-ji home, brothers 1 and 2 walk Su-jin home, and we start to see the triangle develop here, too. Only, it’s really more of a rectangle, because once they arrive at home, Su-jin’s sister-in-law comes out and the brothers realize it’s their childhood neighbor Hye-rim. Jin-pung (#1) is particularly stunned, because she was his first and unforgotten love, while Dae-pung (#2) chatters away obliviously. Su-jin clocks the connection between Jin-pung and Hye-rim, and feels the teeniest prick of jealousy. This also adds to Su-jin’s resentment toward her sister-in-law (Su-jin likes Hye-rim, but as the selfish younger sister, she tends to be hard on her brother’s wife).
Mi-pung (#4) hears that his friend Yong-chul has to go to army service and is in distress over what to do about baby Hana. Yong-chul can’t leave her with his parents (his mother works at a seedy bar and he hasn’t talked to his father in years). The only alternative is to send her to a foster home, but he fears that she’d get adopted and can’t bear to leave her behind not knowing if he’d ever get to see her again. When Mi-pung offers to take Hana, both guys know Mama Song would have a fit, but Mi-pung says with forced cheer that it’ll be fine.
Mi-pung loses nerve that night and can’t face his mother, so he takes Hana to the only place he can think of — nurse Bok-shil, who sympathetically takes Hana for the night. But when Mi-pung is late to pick her up in the morning, Bok-shil is late for work, and Dae-pung drops by to find out why. Immediately, he assumes this is Mi-pung’s kid and drags his brother home and announces it to the family. Mama Song beats Mi-pung — first for thinking he had a kid, and then (after hearing the truth) for offering to take care of her. She insists that he return the baby right away.
Mi-pung can’t bring himself to tell his friend he can’t take Hana, knowing how it’ll break both their hearts to send her off to a foster home. Mi-pung is unwilling to give up, and lies to Yong-chul that although his mother protested at first, she agreed to take Hana as a last resort. Therefore Yong-chul is able to leave for military service knowing Hana will be in good hands.
Mi-pung no longer fears being beaten by his mother — he’ll take the punishment and insist on keeping Hana. He drops by Bok-shil’s apartment on his way home, when Dae-pung drops by again and sees the baby again.
However, Dae-pung is in a sticky situation and decides to use this to his advantage, because he needs to get rid of his clingy ex-girlfriend. Dae-pung introduces Bok-shil and the baby as his wife and child, but that leads to an angry public confrontation and Bok-shil ends up feeling used.
Mama Song takes Hana to Yong-chul’s mother, despite Mi-pung’s desperate protests. She has little sympathy for the situation and intends to drop the baby off at the hostess bar — but when she sees the conditions, she can’t bear to leave the baby behind. Finally, she agrees to keep the baby until Yong-chul’s first army leave, when he can find his father and leave Hana with that family.
We find out that Hye-rim is dying from cancer, although she hides it from her family — she’s given up on treatment and just wants to live out her remaining days with her family. She only has up to a few months left. She and Jin-pung reconnect — it’s almost like they’re both locked in the past, with her thinking of her ending life and him unable to move past his loss of her.
On the other hand, Eun-ji is still not willing to admit her interest in Sun-pung, but seeks out an excuse to talk to him. Their fathers have been in a grudge match for as long as they can remember, and nobody quite knows how it started. Eun-ji instructs Sun-pung to find out why their fathers hate each other, and they compare notes on all the little squabbles they’ve had over the years, but come upon no definite answer.
Bruce (Brutus) decides he wants to befriend Jin-pung, and invites him home for a family barbecue night. (Jin-pung indulges in a fantasy where he’s the husband to Hye-rim while Brutus is the guest. Jin-pung doesn’t actually have designs on Hye-rim and respects the marriage, but can’t help pining for her.)
Brutus also gets off on the wrong foot with Grandpa Song, but once Grandpa learns that Brutus doesn’t know how to read or write Korean, he insists that he come by daily for Korean lessons. But while he looks like a big brute of a guy, he’s actually very sensitive — too sensitive and very childlike — and Hye-rim finds it difficult to discuss her possible death with him. He breaks down even at the hypothetical question that she may some day die, so she calls out Jin-pung for a drink. She tells him in a light tone that she’s dying, but because it’s such an absurd thing to say while laughing, he brushes it off uneasily as a joke.
There’s more cuteness between Sun-pung and Eun-ji when he helps her father home, who has gotten drunk alone at a pojangmacha (street stall). Eun-ji and her mother cook him some ramen as thanks before sending him home, and watch as he eats — Eun-ji with open friendliness, and her mother more critically.
After he leaves, Eun-ji’s mother expresses how appalled she was with his lack of fashion sense, personal style, slight belly, hair, everything. (They know how fond Dad is of Sun-pung and that he’s pushing Eun-ji to date him.) Eun-ji, on the other hand, says that Sun-pung can actually be cute sometimes.
Meanwhile, Bok-shil has finally had enough of Dae-pung’s misuse of her, particularly after the last incident when he paraded her as his wife in front of his angry ex. She resigns her job with Dae-pung’s clinic — he tries to refuse the resignation, but she’s firm — and stops going to the house for breakfast. The family wonders what happened, and Sun-pung takes his older brother to task for mistreating Bok-shil again. He’s quite impassioned in his defense of her (letting his crush on her show a little), pointing out how much they’ve all taken her for granted and how hurt she’s feeling.
The family realizes he’s right, and each in turn tries to persuade her not to quit. (Each family member says she’s worth more than Dae-pung and wishes they could swap them.) Jin-pung apologizes for his foolish younger brother and tells Bok-shil they’re all feeling bad for taking her for granted. Mi-pung apologizes for making her take care of the baby. And sweet Papa Song brings her the pastries she likes the best and asks her to stay. Bok-shil doesn’t want to be swayed by any of these gestures but they do touch her, although Dae-pung himself doesn’t apologize — he’d like to, but his childish pride won’t let him address the matter head-on.
Until he stumbles drunkenly into her apartment late at night, that is!
SON #1: Jin-pung, Su-jin, and Hye-rim
Actor Sohn Hyun-joo has played a gamut of characters in his career, but as was pointed out in the previous post about this drama, you wouldn’t know from his sincere portrayal of sweet Jin-pung that he’d played a bunch of no-good arrogant husbands in the past. He has these big cow eyes that fill with tears at the drop of a hat, and he brings Jin-pung’s hesitance and timidity to life. Although his shy character has been a big hindrance in his (nonexistent) love life, it suits his pure character — he hasn’t become embittered by the world, just taken a place in the quiet back corner.
I admit that the Hye-rim scenes didn’t always hold my attention, which I blame on the actress (Choi Jina); something about her just doesn’t appeal to me. This is unfortunate because that makes me check out of Jin-pung scenes, which can be some of the more emotionally touching ones. But while I don’t have a great love for her character, I do appreciate Jin-pung’s love of her, which is not dangerous or threatening to her marriage but quiet and pure. Like him.
SON #2: Dae-pung, Su-jin, and Bok-shil
Dae-pung is a hoot. Yes, he’s immature and demanding and unreasonable, but he’s also so easy to read and outrageous. As a real-life person, he would be beyond irritating, but as a drama character, I think he adds a dash of energy. Given the dynamics of the four brothers, you also need one to be the loud, boisterous guy who lets his id roam freely. Jin-pung is shy, Sun-pung is academic, and Mi-pung is effeminate; Dae-pung rounds out the brothers as the caveman.
For what it’s worth, he does seem intrigued by Su-jin (whom he feels up accidentally, to her great humiliation) in a way that sets her apart from the others. Namely, she doesn’t like him back, and she’s got a sharp tongue and doesn’t fall for his playboy tendencies. It’s too early for Su-jin to admit an interest in Jin-pung, but we can see very clearly the signs that she’s more interested in Jin-pung than Dae-pung. As I mentioned, this interest also contributes to her irritation with her sister-in-law, although she’s not about to admit that Jin-pung’s attention is one of the main reasons.
Bok-shil, in contrast, is too nice, but I really like her character. She has a soft spot for Dae-pung and puts up with a lot from him, but I appreciate that she has her limits. I’m sure we can all be certain she doesn’t actually quit, but at least she believes she will and makes the decision — she’s not being coy or trying to manipulate Dae-pung into anything. She’s fed up and wants to leave… but it’s his family that reminds her how she’s much more than just a nurse to them. Since she has no family, they’ve welcomed her and she’s losing them as much as she’d be losing a job.
Dae-pung, for what it’s worth, knows he’s screwed up, although it takes him a while to get around to admitting it. He screws up fairly regularly so at first he tries to brush this off as another usual occurrence, but this time the grievance is serious enough to require him to make more of an effort. And so he stumbles over with a cake to make amends — not nearly adequate as an apology, but a marked step up for him.
SON #3: Sun-pung and Eun-ji
MY FAVORITE COUPLE. I love Sun-pung’s earnestness and simple heart, and Eun-ji is adorable. In the first few episodes, she was borderline bratty, but now we see that she’s actually very bubbly and good-natured. She has a very loving relationship with her parents and a hilarious way of talking (super-fast) that shows that she is not a vapid actress but actually has quite a bit of common sense. She’s the kind of person who’s not book-smart but makes a lot of logical sense, which makes her a very good complement to Sun-pung’s academic mind.
The scene when Sun-pung walks Eun-ji home is one of my favorites, and also shows Eun-ji getting her first glimpse at Sun-pung’s real character. When he returns her dog to her arms, he asks, “He’s warm, isn’t he?” Eun-ji responds, “Of course, he’s furry, so he’s warm.” Sun-pung clarifies, “No, he’s living, so he’s warm. Warm things can’t help it.”
Eun-ji doesn’t quite follow, so he adds, “It means that warm things have value as things to be loved. Why? Because they’re alive.”
It’s also super-cute that they use their fathers’ long-standing feud as an excuse to talk. I have a few theories on what caused the rift (which is another of the drama’s recurring comic points) and part of that may be that they envy each others’ families. I don’t think this is the origin of their falling-out (it probably started with something really small and stupid that both men have long since forgotten), but it’s one of the issues that keeps the feud going now.
The man with the pretty daughter doesn’t have any sons, while the man with four sons has no sweet doting daughter(-in-law). I.e., Eun-ji’s father (Young-dal) has a great fondness for Sun-pung, which often irritates Sun-pung’s father (Gwang-ho). Gwang-ho, on the other hand, thinks Eun-ji is the most delightful thing ever, and takes a great liking to her, which in turn grates on Young-dal. So they envy each other while boasting of their own fortunes — and it’s only fitting that in the end, they’ll both complete each other’s families. (I assume.)
SON #4: Mi-pung and baby Hana
One thing I really appreciated is the way that Yong-chul is depicted; he really, really wants to do right by his baby, but he’s stuck with the system. How unfair is it that a father who is devoted to his baby wants to raise her and give her all his affection, but is forced away because of a legality? Here’s a father who apologizes to his baby girl for having her too young to give her the life she deserves, rather than resenting her or ditching his responsibility. Plus the young actor does a fantastic job in his short role showing the young man’s inner conflict and love for his child.
Mi-pung, being the baby of his own family, is admirable in taking over for his friend, but I think his growth will be just as important over the course of this drama. At first, he brings Hana home without knowing how to raise her or how to convince his mother to accept his decision, which is why he chickens out and heads over to Bok-shil instead. But the second time, he grits his teeth and vows that he’s not afraid of his mother’s displeasure anymore, because the child is the important thing.
Plus, she’s a really adorable baby.
Obviously Sons of Sol Pharmacy House is a family drama that will focus on family as its main theme, but what makes it doubly enjoyable is that it is as much about acquired families as it is about biological ones. In addition to characters like Hana, you also have the family making connection to guys like Brutus, who bonds with Grandpa Song. Just as Bok-shil finds it difficult to leave her job because of the Song family ties, you see the other characters gradually accepted into the fold. This is the Korean family shown in the best light — sure it’s loud, disruptive, hierarchical, and often dysfunctional, but also inclusive and welcoming.
It may be simple and unchallenging, but I really do luff this drama.