Cuuuute. This show is so sweet, but not saccharine. I find romance is best done sprinkled liberally with humor to undercut the sappiness, and so far The Sons of Sol Pharmacy achieves a good balance on that score.
For instance: In the above screencap, the boys sing to Mama Song for Mother’s Day, which brings tears to her eyes. But then they segue into a second song, where they substitute imitations of their mother in the chorus, such as her constant naggings of “Get married, you punk!” and “You rotten boys!” and “Go on, stuff your face!” Mom’s happy moment gives way to annoyance and she hits her boys in retaliation.
SONG OF THE DAY
W & Whale – “BLUE” [ Download ]
After Hye-rim gets the news that she’s dying, she has a drink with Jin-pung. Su-jin’s reaction to seeing them is a mix of suspicion (what is her sister-in-law doing out with a man?) and jealousy (why does that man have to be Jin-pung?). The next day, she takes out her irritation by speaking sharply to Hye-rim, telling her she’d better watch herself in the future — this is Korea, not the U.S., and it’s not appropriate for her to be getting drunk with single men. Furthermore, Su-jin thinks Hye-rim is being lazy by wanting to hire a housekeeper, not knowing that it’s because Hye-rim is ill.
Eun-ji is upset at a false report linking her to another actor, and drowns her ire in soju, after which point she calls Sun-pung to meet her.
Obligatory piggyback scene! Eun-ji is adorable, singing at the top of her lungs and waving her shoes around wildly as she “dances.” Sun-pung sees this as more of an annoyance than anything, saying if she’s so upset she can storm the newspaper offices. But Eun-ji is in a buoyant mood, laughing that nobody would want to marry her if she kicked up a fuss. She jokes, “Then you marry me. Want to know why? Because you’re soooooo cute!” and she pinches his cheeks.
He spies Bok-shil heading down the street toward him, and as he has a crush on Bok-shil and is currently carrying a drunken female on his back, Sun-pung dashes for cover. He’s not fast enough, however, and Bok-shil peers over at him curiously as he cowers in an alley.
And by far the adorablest connection thus far in this drama is between Dad Gwang-ho and Eun-ji. She’s on her way home when she sees Dad Song walking down the street, and remembers him from the neighborhood meeting. She liked his friendly attitude, plus he’s Sun-pung’s father, so she cheerfully offers him a ride in her van. She gives him a can of orange soda and offers a whole box to share with the family — she got them free for shooting a CF. Dad adores Eun-ji, finding her fascinating and lovely, and particularly enjoys having a special bond with the pretty actress. Thus he takes his box of sodas and hoards them in his closet, drinking them one by one and hiding them from everyone.
Grandpa continues teaching Bruce/Brutus how to write in Korean, and hits him over the head as motivation/punishment. That leads to Brutus confessing that he doesn’t like being hit, because his father used to hit his family. He used to help Su-jin escape the house in those moments, but he stayed behind because if he left, nobody would be around to help his mother. If he was hit, at least his mother wouldn’t be.
This is probably the first real human moment Brutus has — and none too soon, since he’s pretty grating until this point — but the actor does a wonderful job mixing his obvious hurt with bravado, as though trying to convince himself it doesn’t matter anymore.
Furthermore, Brutus is a nicer person than Jin-pung guesses, because the latter remembers an old album Hye-rim had once wanted. He thinks of giving it to her now, but is afraid of angering her husband. Contrary to his fear, Brutus is appreciative of the gesture and understands that Jin-pung is an old friend; he should feel free to visit Hye-rim to give her the present.
We get a deeper look into Eun-ji’s family situation — her current parents aren’t actually her biological parents, but her aunt and uncle. On the memorial day honoring her deceased parents, Eun-ji dresses in black and takes a large stuffed bear to the laundromat for a washing.
Sun-pung sees her as he walks by and notices that her behavior is different today. Normally she’s energetic and joyful, but today she’s in a subdued daze. At his curious questions, she explains that the bear saved her life, and a flashback shows that she was spared from the car accident that killed her parents by the bear’s cushioning.
Dae-pung finally gets Su-jin to agree to go on a date, but she brings along unexpected tag-alongs — her niece and nephew. He’s stuck carrying the girl, Mari, up the mountainside and tries to win over his date while the kids ruin the ambiance. Mari prefers the nice pharmacy ajusshi (as does Su-jin, although she’s not admitting it) because Jin-pung was friendly and gave her a vitamin drop. By contrast, Dae-pung isn’t as nice to her because he’s annoyed at having to compete with the kids for Su-jin’s attention.
Back at home, Jin-pung drops by to visit Hye-rim, and finds her unconscious on the ground.
Dae-pung comes home after his date and runs into Bok-shil, who guesses glumly that he was out with a woman. Dae-pung may not think he likes Bok-shil, but he sometimes feels uncomfortable with the way she looks at him without understanding why. For instance, when she looks up at him with her sad eyes, he looks confused with himself.
When talking with Sun-pung, Dae-pung admits that while he doesn’t feel romantically for her, Bok-shil’s puppy-dog eyes disconcert him. Sun-pung, on the other hand, is dealing with conflicted feelings — his recent encounters with Eun-ji are making him reconsider how he feels about Bok-shil.
For instance: Following their last encounter at the laundromat, he sees Eun-ji in a different — or at least broader — light. The next time he’s in the cafeteria at work, he finds himself looking around for her. When they exchange greetings, he’s the one extending their conversation when she’s busy and has places to go.
Later that night, they cross paths on their way home, and he offers to carry her things. Now that she’s back to her bubbly, talkative self, he asks about her rescue bear; he keeps thinking of their laundromat conversation, and wonders if something was wrong. Eun-ji launches into the backstory about the car accident, which she relates in an unsentimental, upbeat tone, but which he finds unexpectedly touching.
The arrival of a stylish, cool woman complicates matters for Eun-ji’s parents. Her name is Diana Yoon, and she’s a fairly successful fashion designer who’s been living in the States. She’s also Eun-ji’s mother, and immediately Eun-ji’s (adopted) parents are distraught at what this could mean.
It’s obvious they must have had an arrangement where Diana was said to have died so she could go off and pursue her career. Up until now, the adoptive parents have had a very open, loving, and affectionate relationship with Eun-ji and are now anguished that their happy family may be threatened.
After Hye-rim collapses and Jin-pung takes her to the hospital, he struggles with his grief upon hearing Hye-rim’s prognosis. He also tries to convince her to get more treatment, pleading with her, “What is life? It’s living no matter what. It’s living no matter what for a long time with the people you love. Without that, there’s nothing.” However, Hye-rim has already accepted the fact that she’s dying and wants to spend her remaining time out of the sickbed.
Su-jin sees him pleading with her and jumps to the conclusion that there’s something untoward going on, and treats them both suspiciously. Finally, Jin-pung tells Su-jin the truth, that Hye-rim is dying, which is a tremendous shock — and source of guilt — to Su-jin.
Bok-shil feels slighted that Dae-pung went on a date up to the mountains after he’d previously ditched their plans for a similar outing, so she asks him to make up for it by accompanying her to visit her deceased mother. The visit has Bok-shil bawling, and Dae-pung actually treats her quite nicely for a change. He wipes away her tears with his tie and cheers her up.
In thanks, Bok-shil offers a favor to pay him back for coming with her. Naturally his caring, solicitous behavior can’t last too long, and he grabs her hair, insisting she straighten it. She had gotten a perm with Dae-pung’s mother and therefore wears the style happily, kind of as a mark of bonding. But Dae-pung hates the curls and wants her to straighten it.
Upon hearing the truth of Hye-rim’s health, Su-jin feels tremendous guilt for being rude and difficult toward her sister-in-law. She shares the news with her brother, Bruce/Brutus, who does not take it well. Already sensitive and needy, this news devastates him — but it also strengthens him in a sense, because the direness of the situation forces him to man up. Su-jin tells her immature brother that it’s time to grow up now, and they have a lovely scene where he fights his tears and says that he will handle this, because he is a man with two children who loves his family.
Bruce and Su-jin aren’t very good at acting like everything is normal, and Hye-rim can tell from their extra-nice behavior that something is up. When they go out of their way to be helpful, she guesses that they found out about her cancer, and the truth comes into the open.
Eun-ji’s two mothers arrange to meet, one with interest (Diana) and the other with dread (Mom). Diana is rather callous, and laughs to see Mom suppressing her turbulent emotions. Diana isn’t a horrible person — she says it was hard on her all these years, too — but she is someone who puts her needs first.
Mom’s already pretty high-strung to begin with, but this encounter pushes her over the edge. She wants Diana to leave and make no claim to Eun-ji.
When Sun-pung returns to the office after lunch, he sees Eun-ji’s mother crying by herself on a bench, and approaches cautiously. I know this is a rather serious moment (at least for Mom), but it’s also pretty funny how the refined mother keeps up her polite platitudes even as she’s sobbing into a handkerchief.
Sun-pung doesn’t know what’s wrong, but feels uncomfortable leaving her crying alone outside, so he sits by her in awkward silence.
Not a lot of screentime is devoted to the fathers’ feud, but it’s a recurring element and a pretty funny one, at that. These two grew up together and were close friends all throughout their school days, so they know each other well enough to push each other’s buttons.
We still don’t know what the source of the antagonism is, but the petty bickering is funny, just as it is amusing to see that this unexplained rivalry extends to the wives, too. Neither wife understands why she dislikes the other, they just do. (They’re vastly different — Mama Song is a typical ajumma, while Eun-ji’s mom is elegant — but they wouldn’t dislike each other so much if not for the husbands’ rift.) Both think to themselves that they would say hello if the other woman said it first — and since both are determined to let the other one make the first move, they end up never talking. You can kind of see how this feud has lasted for years, can’t you?
Once again, the brotherly bonding is one of the most delightful elements of the show. The beginnings of the romances are cute, and the acting is funny, but it’s the family ties that make this drama stand out. At the core of the family is the mother — yes, she hits her sons all the time, but it’s almost an expression of affection at this point. Aside from the early beating where she broke down about her sons never marrying, the rest of the time she isn’t truly angry at her boys. It’s always part annoyance, part affection.
I kinda love the above image of Sun-pung breathing into Dae-pung’s face — because who among us with siblings hasn’t done that at some point? In my family, we had burps blown at each other, which were always worse in thought than in reality (except mandoo burps! ughh) — but that never stopped anyone from doing it.
Here’s an example of brotherly bonding done earnestly, between Jin-pung and Mi-pung, which is doubly nice because we don’t often see the eldest and youngest together, with their twenty-year age gap. Mi-pung is glad they didn’t let Hana go to the orphanage, saying, “To a kid, not having a mother is the saddest thing.” He was worried about causing trouble for his family, but he’s happy he did it anyway. Jin-pung smiles affectionately at his little brother and tells him he’s proud that Mi-pung did the right thing.
And then, Mi-pung (unwittingly) ruins the moment by apologizing for bring a child home before his unmarried eldest brother. Way to rub that salt in the wound!
As I mentioned in the previous post, the concept of family doesn’t stop with blood relations. For example, it’s nice to see Bok-shil getting along so well with Mama Song, particularly since the Korean mother-in-law is something of an infamous character, and unfortunately often very true-to-real-life. (As in: The Korean mother-in-law treasures her son and therefore makes her daughter-in-law’s life a living hell, exerting her authority as Head Female of the household in both assertive and a passive-aggressive ways.)
Bok-shil isn’t a real daughter-in-law yet, but that’s the role she fills, and she appreciates the family as much as they appreciate her. While she helps them by doing dishes and cooking, she gains more in becoming part of a large family. The way she preserves her unattractive perm is heartwarming, which she does because she got her hair done with Mama Song. She also proudly wears the childish hairpins given to her by Mama Song (said to be from Grandpa), even if they are silly-looking.
Last but not least, we’ve gotta mention my favorite couple!
I was thinking that part of the premise of this drama is how these four good guys (really three, since Mi-pung doesn’t count) cannot or have not married, because he somehow falls short of a dating ideal. Part of the point is that we see how good guys fall through the cracks despite some traits that might seem unappealing on the surface — Jin-pung is too timid, Sun-pung is bookish and oblivious, Dae-pung is too flighty. But I think the other point is that there’s some truth to why they haven’t gotten married yet, and this drama shows why their matches with these particular ladies are so well-suited.
For instance, Jin-pung is a good-hearted person, but obviously has a lot of trouble on the dating scene. He just doesn’t do the dating game well, and his first love is the only person whom he’s liked enough to have a strong attachment to. Su-jin pairs with him well because she sees through the exterior and gets to know him as a good person rather than judging him by the marriage checklist, just as Eun-ji is the rare woman who will engage Sun-pung’s interest and draw him out with her extroversion.