Triple: Episode 1
TRIPLE DAY IS HERE!!!
NOTE: Thursday saw the broadcast of both Episodes 1 and 2. All along I had planned on recapping both of them in one introductory post, since it would save time and probably work out well given the airing schedule… but I liked Episode 1 a lot and decided to write them up separately anyway. Episode 2 will follow soon(ish)!
SONG OF THE DAY
Eco Bridge – “사랑을 시작하다” (Love Begins) Yellow Remix version [ Download ]
(I was ridiculously excited for this drama, but I have to be honest and say that it was a mighty struggle deciding whether to start Triple first, or finish Story of a Man. I will just say that I was away on vacation for four days and the first thing I wanted to do when I got back was get back in the game with Story of a Man. And then, bam, Triple was upon us! Oh, choices, choices.)
I was afraid that after all the hype (um, which I created for myself, I know), Triple might disappoint. I don’t think it performed well in the ratings, so I’ll add the caveat that the excitement for Triple is likely to be higher with me than with the average Korean viewer. But those trends never affect my viewing preferences, so that aside, I’m relieved that the first two episodes were exactly what I was hoping for — cute, playful, with a lovely indie soundtrack and the same plain-speaking dialogue and light, deft sensibility as Coffee Prince. The story is wholly different, as are the characters, but the atmosphere of the drama is very reminiscent of Coffee Prince. To me, that’s a good thing.
So what’s the big deal anyway?
If you came late to this site, perhaps you haven’t been in on my Triple craze from the start and find the excitement perplexing. Or maybe you have been around, but you just don’t get the appeal. So here’s a rundown of why Triple is such a big deal (for me, and some others):
- PD Lee Yoon-jung. She directed and produced Coffee Prince, and whether you liked it or not, it was a humungous success only recently matched in popularity and media frenzy by Boys Before Flowers. (Only, in comparison, Coffee Prince had great acting, great directing, great music, and a lovely romantic realism. Or maybe realistic romanticism. CP slowed down toward the end but I give Lee credit for resisting mightily when the station tried to force her to extend the uber-popular series, and when she eventually gave in after refusing more than three times, it was only to one additional episode.)
- Writer Lee Jung-ah (pen name for Lee Sun-mi). She wrote the original Coffee Prince novel, then wrote the scripts to the drama series. She also wrote the novel for Capital Scandal, then wrote the scripts for its drama adaptation. And did I mention that she wrote both dramas at the same time? (For a short while the dramas overlapped and she was writing scripts for broadcasts every day from Monday through Thursday.)
- The music. Coffee Prince drew much buzz for its indie-music soundtrack, curated by songwriter and music director Tearliner and used artfully by PD Lee. Triple also features indie musicians such as Tearliner and Zitten.
- Actor Lee Jung-jae. Mostly a movie star, Lee Jung-jae didn’t have such a hot run with Air City, but he is a huge name and a charismatic presence, and it’s a welcome event to have him back on television. He starred in movies like Typhoon, Oh Brothers, Last Present, and Il Mare.
- Actor Lee Seon-kyun. If you’ve heard him speak, you get it. He also has a nicely understated, natural way of acting. He has starred in all three of PD Lee’s drama projects (which include Taereung National Village and Coffee Prince).
- Actress Lee Hana. She’s got a quirky vibe, loves music, and most recently made herself known in the revenge drama Women in the Sun.
- Actor Yoon Kye-sang. Have you seen Who Are You? ‘Nuff said.
- Newb Min Hyo-rin isn’t exactly a draw to the series, but more of a curiosity — would the singer-turned-actress be able to stay afloat amongst such a cast of experienced actors? And surprisingly — as the media and viewers are starting to also echo — she doesn’t suck. Not that I thought she’d be atrocious, because I had faith in PD Lee. (No, Lee’s not infallible, but she’s good. She also said she had such faith in Yoon Eun-hye’s commitment to Eun-chan in Coffee Prince that she would have cast her even if Yoon had been a rookie. That gave me hope that Min Hyo-rin wouldn’t totally sink.)
Characters Hwal, Haru, Su-in
Shin Hwal (Lee Jung-jae) is an ad executive (AE) and a team manager at his advertising firm. He works alongside his friends and colleagues Hae-yoon (Lee Seon-kyun) and Jang Hyun-tae (Yoon Kye-sang). Hwal generally reports to two superiors, the office director (with whom he is close) and the company director who makes the bigger decisions. He’s good at his job and enjoys a playful camaraderie with Hae-yoon and Hyun-tae, who also live in his house. However, he’s hardly ever home and chooses instead to sleep and live at the office. He has a bit of a temper when upset, as we see with his interactions with his ex-stepsister Haru. Hwal is generally a fun, cool guy, but his sometimes-reserved behavior hints at lingering emotional pain that he keeps hidden and locked inside.
Lee Haru (Min Hyo-rin, who’s actually quite cute!) is bubbly and energetic with a passion for figure skating. She used to be pretty promising, but following an accident that killed her mother and Hwal’s father (who were married at the time), she went to live with her father outside of Seoul and gave up thoughts of a serious skating career. Back when both parents were living, Haru had lived in the house Hwal currently resides in, but she never really had a relationship with him — he was always busy working and quite a bit older. She’s still in high school and teaches kids to skate at the rink with the local coach, who lives with Haru and her stern father.
We haven’t seen much of Choi Su-in (Lee Hana), but we will soon see that she is a famous former figure skater who is now coaching. She also has a history with Hwal (they are/were married), but something happened to sour the relationship. While she seems to want to make amends, he does not. It is also hinted that nobody knows of her and Hwal’s relationship (I suspect it may have been a secret, possibly whirlwindy affair).
Characters Hyun-tae, Sang-hee, Hae-yoon
Hyun-tae is the most junior of the bunch, and rather prone to making mistakes. Based on the way the guys talk together, they’re the same age (nobody calls anyone “hyung”) although they all have different job descriptions; Hyun-tae, for instance, is a copywriter. Hae-yoon is more serious about his job, while Hyun-tae’s got a goofy, energetic personality, and jokes around constantly with Sang-hee, another lower-level employee. He’s happy-go-lucky and more carefree than his two friends.
Sang-hee acts like one of the guys and shares Hyun-tae’s extroverted, lively energy. She frequently jokes around with her co-workers and always drinks too much at company dinners.
Hae-yoon is a creative director (CD) and technically more senior to Hyun-tae and even Hwal, although they all treat each other as equals. Hae-yoon takes his work seriously and is a little more of a strait-laced type, although he does know how to have fun. Just not as often as the kiddos and not during worktime. He and Hwal in particular like to prod and tease at each other (most often when the other person is working or in a serious frame of mind), and act as equals; Hwal jokes in Episode 1 that the only reason Hae-yoon is technically ahead is because he got an army exemption while his buddies served.
EPISODE 1: “Triple Axel”
Lee Haru is upbeat, has a positive energy, and loves to skate although she gave up serious skating dreams five years ago and is content to teach kids at the local rink. But her desire to skate isn’t dead, just dormant, and it takes an encounter with a group of students from Seoul (she lives outside the city) to rekindle her ambitions.
Haru’s also overweight and loves to eat, but what I really appreciated about this setup is that she is perfectly happy with herself and doesn’t suffer from body image issues. She doesn’t hate being chubby, and doesn’t fat-shame herself. (When she eventually loses weight, it seems like a part of her training goals rather than an image-based decision.)
One of the older students from Seoul used to skate with Haru, back when Haru was the better pupil. But now she doesn’t even acknowledge having known Haru and puts on airs. Her condescending behavior grates on Haru, who rashly declares that she’s just as capable of landing a triple jump, and challenges the girl to a jump-off.
However, it’s been a long time since Haru really trained, and she can’t for the life of her land a jump. Over and over she crashes to the ice, but she’s grimly determined to prove herself and keeps getting up, only to fall again. The Seoul coach is impressed with Haru’s determination (more impressed than Haru’s own coach), but the other skater finally puts an end to the lopsided rivalry by landing a triple jump on the first try.
Haru is both disappointed and impressed, and keeps at it long after the rink has cleared out — she just wants to land it once, to prove herself. When the Seoul coach comes back looking for her forgotten cell phone, Haru asks why she can’t manage the triple. In an impromptu training session, the coach works with Haru and helps her practice. And while she never manages to land that triple, Haru is ecstatic when she finally manages to complete the full rotations. The coach admires her perseverance and tells her, “If only you were younger — what a waste.” But instead of taking this in a sad way, Haru is re-energized, taking it for encouragement that she does have talent.
The problem is, in order to train properly, she needs to live and train in Seoul. And in order to do that, she needs to know somebody in the city.
Meanwhile, Hwal is given a big opportunity at work to put on a presentation to win an advertising client, and throws himself into the work. It’s a big deal that he was entrusted with this task, to the extent that his boss, the office director, feels disappointed to have been passed over by his bright, competent junior. The director and Hwal have a good, friendly relationship, so this doesn’t cause a rift, but the director definitely feels the implication of this. Therefore, he later tells Hwal that he’s entertaining a serious offer to move elsewhere and take on a promotion.
The office is one of those workplaces bustling with youthful, creative energy — it’s more normal for employees to spend the night at their desks than going home. Even so, Hwal is a bit more extreme in that he hasn’t been home in two months.
When Haru sends her ex-stepbrother a box of Valentine chocolates (as she does every year), Hyun-tae intercepts them and eats them, then wonders if he and Hae-yoon ought to send a response.
When she receives the letter, she is extremely gratified, since Hwal has never bothered to write her or keep in touch. It also triggers the mental light bulb over her head, because Hwal is the one person she knows who lives in Seoul. Idea!
She begs her father to let her relocate to Seoul, but he remains stern on the matter.
Hwal’s presentation goes extremely well (despite a minor technical hiccup at Hyun-tae’s hands), and even his co-workers are impressed. They get the account, and everyone celebrates by having a party.
There, we see some more friendly camaraderie and bickering, and what’s nice to see is the subtle differences in dynamics between the three friends. For instance, in this scene, Hyun-tae (Yoon Kye-sang) is teased for messing up the presentation and Hae-yoon (Lee Seon-kyun) scolds both of them. They ignore his nagging, so it’s like Hwal and Hyun-tae are united (jokingly) against fuddy-duddy Hae-yoon.
Other scenes show the relationships from a slightly different angle. For instance, Hae-yoon and Hyun-tae talk about Hwal in a worried way, since he never comes home and has been acting different ever since returning home from a trip. And in yet other scenes, we see Hwal and Hae-yoon linked together by their devotion to their work. They engage in some good-natured bickering about their jobs, but they both share a sense of responsibility about their careers that Hyun-tae hasn’t developed yet.
With the big presentation over, Hwal finally returns home and settles back awkwardly with a beer — as though unused to relaxing — when he sees a new email message arrive.
He reads the message, which is a simple greeting from Choi Su-in (Lee Hana). When he looks at his inbox, however, we see that he has a whole slew of emails from Su-in, bearing subject titles like “Husband, are you alive?” “I remember our first meeting in Canada,” “Tonight I ate ramen for dinner, I wonder what you ate?” “You don’t have to email me back right away, but just confirm you got this” “When things are tough, I think of the road I walked with you…”
They’re all unread emails, and he deletes them.
Meanwhile, Hae-yoon is stuck with the task of carrying a drunk Sang-hee home. This is obviously a recurring thing, because the guys bicker over who has to do this today, trying to pass it off on each other. Hae-yoon loses the round of “rock scissors paper” and is forced to take her.
He watches with some disgust as she vomits into the toilet, then reluctantly helps her up. As he does, Sang-hee looks at him in a new way, and lurches forward to kiss his nose. She giggles that she’s always wanted to do that, and does it again. He sputters in indignation at first, but that leads to a spark of attraction, and then it’s kissy-time!
In the morning, Hae-yoon fixes breakfast while Sang-hee awakens groggily, wondering what happened. Seeing Hae-yoon in her kitchen, she’s mortified at the memory and tries to skirt the issue at first… but then decides it’s best to just put this behind them.
It seems like Hae-yoon is more willing to consider this a change in their relationship status, but at Sang-hee’s suggestion, he agrees to let her act however she wants. They can forget it, fine. (When they arrive at work, the guys notice the clothes are from yesterday, and Hae-yoon mumbles and tries to change the subject. But Sang-hee whispers the truth to Hyun-tae, who blurts aloud, “You slept together?” HAHA. Hae-yoon is so embarrassed.)
Haru’s father watches her skating every morning with determination, falling repeatedly at each jump attempt, and makes the decision to let her go. He sighs to her coach that keeping her from doing what she wants will just make her sick.
So he takes it up on himself to look up Hwal on the same day that Haru decides to do the same thing. Her father meets with cool reception from Hwal, who asserts that he’s never thought of Haru as his sister and cannot help him; he will not agree to house her for even a year. He has no obligation to her and refuses. Hwal will help him look into a boardinghouse situation, but no more.
On the other hand, Haru runs into Hae-yoon when she drops by the house, and their exchange is HILARIOUS. Hae-yoon is befuddled and fascinated by this perky, oddball girl who makes herself at home and talks about growing up in this house. He pieces together the situation and calls Hwal to let him know that his stepsister wants to move in with him. When Hwal barks at him to send her home and refuse, Hae-yoon decides this is too good to pass up and tells the girl that her brother would looooove having her live with him and that he says yes.
Excited, Haru goes back home and prepares for her move, practicing in all her spare moments until she finally lands her first triple jump.
That may as well be a sign that she’s ready for her move, and she ships all her stuff to Hwal’s house. He’s upset to see all her boxes arrive in his front yard and orders them returned to sender, then receives a call from Haru announcing that she’s arrived in Seoul.
Haru has a performance at the rink to attend to first, after which she’ll make her way home. Hwal tries to tell her no, but she’s calling from the pay phone at the station and she’s out of change, so she cuts out short.
Hae-yoon and Hyun-tae decide it would be fun to catch the little sister’s ice show, and hurry out to the rink. It’s there that Hyun-tae runs into Su-in and falls for her at first sight….
Meanwhile, we can tell from Hwal’s reaction to seeing Su-in’s photo on the wall of the rink that there’s some painful history there. He has decided to come to the show and confront Haru after all, and makes his way inside just as she takes to the ice.
I’d wondered as to the pertinence of the title, and if it meant anything more than as a slight allusion to the sport. I’m glad that it does have a meaning, as it is sort of a metaphor for change, the renewal of Haru’s dreams and the start of her new life. The triple jump represents the dream she gave up, and attainment of that goal becomes synonymous with her resuming her dreams, as well as moving to Seoul, reuniting with her unwelcoming ex-stepbrother, and kicking off a whole series’ worth of events.
The acting is perfectly fine; nothing has been particularly challenging so I can’t say any more than that, but nobody’s blatantly out of place. Min Hyo-rin is a little cutesy, which I’d venture to guess will grate on certain people but endear her to others. I think it’s in Lee Da-hae territory in My Girl — she definitely overdoes the cute sometimes, but I am okay with that level of exaggeration, as it’s also part of Haru’s bubbly, youthful character. The casting is overall well-done, not that the casting was EVER a problem with this drama.
Actually, I’d say that the acting is un-“dramatic” and natural in such a way that it may not register that it’s being done well. Take Lee Jung-jae, for instance — already in Episode 1 we can see hints of his old pain poking through the surface, and while we don’t know what it is (I’m sure we can all guess), we don’t need to know the details to see how it affects Hwal. I’m interested in seeing what happened, but I’m not afraid of this being dragged into melodramatic, over-angsty territory, because that’s not how PD Lee tends to work.
Lee Seon-kyun is in a familiar role, but it’s nice to see him playing one of the guys rather than the eldest, most senior character like he did with his two most recent dramas, Coffee Prince and My Sweet Seoul. And after Yoon Kye-sang’s OCD-stricken cold businessman character in Who Are You, I LOVE seeing him playing the easy-going, happy-go-luckiest ball of energy here. Yay!
It’s the drama’s sense of playfulness that had me smiling throughout the first episode. Triple showcases PD Lee Yoon-jung’s trademark soft, detailed touches as well as her ear for music placement, and it’s very pretty to look at as well as listen to. She’s also got a talent for capturing the natural camaraderie between friends, and it’s always a delight to watch.