There’s an odd quality about Triple for me, because as I’m watching (and writing about) the episodes, I enjoy them and the way certain relationships are being expressed. However, on the whole, I feel like the drama is losing some steam, and I’m not sure why that is.
I wonder if it’s because despite the fact that we viewers SAY we want unconventional and non-cliched relationships, when we get a drama like Triple where all the relationships are a bit fuzzy and not carved out in stone from the beginning, we start complaining that the relationships aren’t defined clearly enough. For instance, although we could see from Episode 1 that Hae-yoon and Sang-hee would be an eventual pairing, the other couples were murkier. You’d think that viewers would enjoy not having all the romantic pairs predetermined for once, but I think it’s actually irritated people who want, and expect, these romances to follow familiar patterns. So much for eschewing clichéd relationships!
(Then again, that can’t be the only issue; I think there are also other problems at work, which I’ll get to in a minute.)
SONG OF THE DAY
Mongoose (몽구) – “어떡해야 내 마음을 알까” (How Can I Let You Know How I Feel?). This one’s from the Triple OST. [ Download ]
EPISODE 10: “Ina Bauer”
Haru’s voiceovers are getting a little looser in relevance, and this episode’s title — “Ina Bauer” — is invoked as Haru explains that Bauer was a beautiful skater who never quite attracted the judges’ attentions. Like a 18-year-old girl unable to register with the one she wants most to notice her.
After Haru kisses Hwal, he pushes her away, disturbed (and perhaps only partly for the appropriate reasons?). Spooked, he walks out of the room, and the drive home is tense.
Haru knows she’s made a mistake and regrets causing yet another rift just when they’d made up over the last one. She tries to talk to him, but Hwal is so angry that he pulls over suddenly, opens her door, and pushes her into the backseat.
Credit goes to Min Hyo-rin for showing just how miserable Haru feels as Hwal drives on, seething in silence. When he pulls up to the house, he orders her out and drives off immediately.
Sang-hee deliberates over Hae-yoon’s proposal, and finally takes off her ring. Hae-yoon wonders, “Can’t you just trust me and follow?” Sang-hee answers, “You know me, that marriage doesn’t suit me.”
One thing I appreciate about Triple is the way Lee Seon-kyun portrays Hae-yoon’s conflicting emotions — on the surface, he smiles and jokes, his light tone belying the seriousness of his words. You can see him trying to hold back his temper, trying not to cling or wheedle for attention (Hyun-tae could take note from him). So he smiles and keeps an upbeat tone as he tells Sang-hee, “If we don’t marry, then we’re breaking up. I can’t see you as a friend.” Even as he tells her, “Don’t laugh, I’m serious,” he sounds like he’s joking, though we know he’s not. He asks her to think it over.
Su-in walks in the hospital room as Hwal is taking in Hyun-tae’s drawing of her mother. Hwal asks, “Do you like Hyun-tae?”
Rather than answering directly, she lowers her gaze and says that he can be ridiculous, but he can also do thoughtful things. She’d been meaning to take down all his gifts, but couldn’t bring herself to because her mother looked happy. She tells Hwal, “Do I like him? No. I want to be even happier with you.”
I think Hwal believes Su-in is being genuine, so his irritation is purely with Hyun-tae, whom he runs into on his way outside. Tired of this muddled situation, Hwal asks, “What is it you want?”
Hyun-tae answers simply, “Choi Su-in” and heads inside with an armful of new gifts.
Su-in doesn’t welcome Hyun-tae and tells him firmly to leave. It looks like Hyun-tae feels the seriousness of her words, but as usual, he brushes them aside, saying he only wanted to make her and her mother laugh. He hands over his offerings, but Su-in loses her patience; she drops them on the ground and walks out.
(Are we supposed to be impressed by Hyun-tae’s boldness and honesty? Because I think I hate him. The pathetic sight of him clearing up the discarded gifts doesn’t stir sympathy; rather, it feels deserved.)
Haru slides a note under Hwal’s door, asking, “Can we talk?” She enters tentatively, and Hwal asks incredulously, “Are you crazy? How could you do that to your oppa?” She apologizes; she hadn’t intended to kiss him and doesn’t know why she did it. Hwal’s bad mood is worse than usual, as he is reacting to both Haru’s kiss and his encounter with Hyun-tae, and he’s tired of her adolescent drama.
Haru: “Then is it a joke that I’m hurting? I hurt like this because I like you — is this a joke too?”
Hwal: “How can you guys only care about your own feelings? Do you have absolutely no interest in how the other person feels?”
Haru: “Then tell me what you think of me. Was my feeling wrong? Don’t you like me back just a little?”
Hwal orders her out, and when she doesn’t move fast enough, he pushes her out.
The next day, Hwal is in a much better mood. Su-in is still in apology mode, feeling sorry for upsetting him, but Hwal isn’t concerned with that now. He suggests, “Should we live together? If you say yes, I’d like to.”
Her surprise and the significance of Hwal’s gesture bring her to tears, and Su-in agrees happily.
Of course, this is bad news to both Haru and Hyun-tae, who take Hwal’s announcement with dismay. When he tells of his plans to get back together with Su-in and move into her house, Hyun-tae blurts, “Don’t go.” Hwal reasons with him: “Jang Hyun-tae, we’re married. We fought for a moment, made up and decided to get back together.”
Poong-ho catches up to Haru later that morning, having planned a cute little gesture to get her attention. He’s tied milk and a loaf of bread to a tree branch, and plucks both out as though they’d been growing there, presenting it to Haru as breakfast.
In his usual happy way, he says, “I know you’ve got lots of oppas at home, but I’m your favorite, right?” This morning, though, his words bring her to tears. She says, “Don’t use the word oppa.”
Seeing her reaction, Poong-ho curbs his enthusiasm and comforts her, telling her to let all her emotions out. After handing her the food, he moves aside to give her room to cry alone.
Su-in’s mother is relieved to hear that the marriage is back on track, so when Hyun-tae calls, she advises her daughter to cut him off cleanly and send him away. She also reminds Su-in to register their marriage legally, since she and Hwal were married in Canada (they’d intended to register in Korea as soon as they came back, but their rift prevented that).
Hyun-tae meets Su-in in the parking lot, his face miserable. Worse yet, he can see that Su-in is happy; he admits that if she’d looked the least bit sad, he wanted to kidnap her. However, “Since you look happy, I don’t have anything to say.”
Su-in thanks Hyun-tae for treating her mother kindly and looking after them, which Hyun-tae recognizes as a farewell speech. He tries one last time to ask her not to get back together with Hwal, but she tells him gently, “Later, a day will come when we’ll see each other comfortably. Please take care in getting over your feelings.”
To help deal with the heartbreak, Hyun-tae leaves for a solo trip that evening. Hwal calls him out for being immature, while Hyun-tae asks, “Are you confident you can live with her happily?” That is really not Hyun-tae’s place to ask, and even Hae-yoon is disgusted with it. Hwal asks, annoyed, “Is that a question you can ask me?”
Hyun-tae agrees: “You’re right.” He heads off on his bike.
The Bond Factory guys are having no luck wooing the K Oil president, and now the guys are almost ready to give up. Hwal decides he’ll give it one last try and asks the Bok Man president for advice. What does the oil man like? What are his habits? The Bok Man president recalls that the oil president is a morning person, being a firm believer in the adage “The early bird gets the worm.”
Working off that tip, Hwal prepares one last mock ad, which he presents early in the morning, and this time the president is amused and a little impressed. He seeks out the Bok Man president at lunchtime to ask, “So are those guys decent?” Mr. Bok Man leans in conspiratorially: “Hey, do you think it’s easy making a commercial on that scale with a model like me? I’m telling you, those guys have something.”
At the skating rink, Poong-ho greets Haru with more gifts of bread and milk. He fidgets a little as he tells her, “Actually, these are bribes… wanna go out with me on the weekend? I mean, all my friends were going to go out, but suddenly they’re all bringing girlfriends.” (Haru turns him down, so he pleads. Cute.)
With Hyun-tae gone and Hwal now living with Su-in, Haru and Hae-yoon feel a bit down; the house suddenly feels a lot emptier than usual.
Hae-yoon confides that he was rejected by Sang-hee, so Haru makes him consolation pancakes. He asks how she’s holding up, and she admits, “Actually, I feel like I’d die.” She’s bummed that Hwal moved out so coldly and decisively and asks, “Are all men like that?”
Hae-yoon replies, “Women are worse. Look at Kang Sang-hee.”
Despite his hurry to move in with Su-in, Hwal’s first night is lonely. He lies in bed alone, restless and bored, imagining Haru bursting in energetically to give him something to eat.
So when Haru calls to check in, he’s secretly glad despite his usual gruff way of speaking: “It’s nice here without anyone to annoy me.” She confesses, “It feels weird without you in the room next to mine. Like my room isn’t mine.” Their conversation takes on a teasing note as Hwal says it’s nice to be away from her snoring. Haru retorts that his snores are worse, plus he grinds his teeth. Hwal wonders, “Why do you say, “Fighting!’ in your sleep?”
Without much more to say, they hang up, both feeling a little dissatisfied. So after a moment, Hwal calls back — but without a good excuse, all he says is that she’d better not mess with his room. They hang up again, but this time Haru is happy, because at least he called back.
The next morning, he’s glad to see her as he arrives for work. Yet the prospect of having dinner as a family with both Haru and Su-in makes him uncomfortable, so when Su-in mentions it to Hwal, he hedges, making up the excuse that he’s got to work late.
That evening, Haru and Su-in have dinner together sans Hwal. Su-in offers to drive Haru home just as he arrives, and at that convenient timing, she asks Hwal to drop Haru off.
Hwal had been stalling to avoid Haru, so he’s dismayed but complies. On the drive home, he cautions, “We’re like newlyweds now, so don’t interfere too much.”
That upsets her, and she insists that he pull over, then gets out and starts walking away. Hwal catches up to her, grasping her arm to bring her back to the car. She whirls to face him and says, “Do you know why I’m an interference to you? It’s because you’re married to her, but you like me more!”
Hwal answers that she’s severely mistaken (although I think he’s unnerved that she’s on to something), and Haru asks herself, “Am I really just mistaken? I wish it were true.”
Haru falls to the ground and cries. Hwal pulls her up, then takes her for an ice cream break outside a convenience store. Calm now, Haru admits that she’s immature for being so demanding: “I know that, but my heart forgets my thoughts.”
After the interlude, both are feeling much better as they resume the drive home. When they arrive at the house, Haru doesn’t want to get out of the car and asks him to stay for a while. She wants to hold his hand, and even when he says no, she puts her hand on top of his anyway.
After a prolonged moment, he snatches it back. Again, Haru’s desire for closeness has pushed things too far, and their tentative truce is broken. Again Haru looks miserable for acting on her feelings impulsively.
The next time Hae-yoon sees Sang-hee, it’s to hear her final decision. Sang-hee asks, “If I don’t marry you, will we not be friends anymore? And you won’t come by here either?”
Hae-yoon says yes. Sang-hee tells him, “I feel strange. Should we not have started dating, and just stayed friends?”
Hae-yoon takes a moment to absorb her words and their implied meaning. Understanding that she’s going to reject his proposal, he says, “Hey Kang Sang-hee, my friend of seventeen years.” A long pause as he searches for words, and then gets up: “Have a nice life.”
Su-in shows Hwal their marriage registration form, which only needs Hwal’s signature and seal. He agrees to take care of it, but Su-in sees the form later, still unsigned, and brings up the topic at breakfast. She doesn’t pressure him, but obviously is disappointed at his hesitation.
Hwal asks, “Am I giving you a hard time?” Su-in tries to look at things positively, but wonders, “We’re together, but why does it feel like you’re far away?”
Poong-ho had told Haru to set aside time on the weekend for him, which she had assumed would mean he would be dragging her on a group date with his friends. Therefore, she’s a little surprised when he accompanies her to her hospital therapy session (and I’m sure the parallel to Hwal’s visit in the previous episode is intentional).
Still, Poong-ho always has something up his sleeve, and today he’s enlisted his friends to surprise Haru with a rehearsed presentation. For instance, one presents her with a lollipop, and another a bottle of vitamins bearing Haru’s picture as he announces, “You’re like vitamin’s to Poong-ho’s life.” It’s cheesy but cute.
Last but not least, Poong-ho fastens a bracelet around her wrist. Haru starts to speak up, but he tells her, “I know. Today I’m just telling you how I feel, and I’ll be satisfied with that. So all you have to do is not say anything and accept.”
She’s quiet all throughout their walk home. When he comments on it, Haru tells him, “I have no right to accept this. Give it to someone you really like.”
She starts to take off the bracelet, so he stops her: “That’s why you can keep it. Haru, this is just a substitute for me, a protection bracelet to guard you. Later if you come to like me, then it’ll be the bracelet that says you’re mine, but for now it’s just a bracelet to keep watch over you.”
He gives her a hug and tells her good night, and kisses her on the forehead.
Hwal sees this from inside the house, and his reaction is….?
Well, on the inside he’s not exactly thrilled. On the outside, however, he teases her a little harshly, as though overcompensating by trying to make a joke of it.
Hwal: “You said you were only going to train, but you’re keeping busy dating around. You said you weren’t joking about liking me, but I guess you’re busy liking this guy, that guy. Starting tomorrow, you’ll probably cry and kick up a fuss about liking him.”
I’m pretty sure that by now, Hwal recognizes the source of his frustrations (whereas before he was stuck in denial). On his drive home, he asks himself, “What am I doing?” And when he does arrive at the house (Su-in’s, that is), he pauses at the threshold.
Haru’s voiceover: “They say that 18 years old is young for love. What does that mean? Does it mean we don’t know which person to love, how to express it, or how deeply to fall? If that’s the case, at what age can we start loving?”
Instead of heading inside his new home, Hwal comes back to the old one. He pauses at Haru’s door, looking down as she sleeps, tamping down frustration.
Haru’s voiceover: “Eighteen and thirty-four. What goes on between these two numbers?”
Hwal pats Haru on the forehead, waking her up. While she looks up at him in surprise, he asks her, almost angrily, “What are you?” Then, he rises and leaves.
Once again, I find myself hating Hyun-tae’s behavior toward Su-in, even as instances of similar behavior in other characters don’t make me want to stab anyone in aggravation. For instance, take Poong-ho’s interactions with Haru, and even Hwal (and the Bond Factory) as they pursue the K Oil president with similar zeal. I’m sorry, Yoon Kye-sang, I still love you but if your Hyun-tae character walked offscreen and never returned, I would not complain. Compare how Hyun-tae pushes himself on Su-in to how Poong-ho backs off when he sees Haru crying; he doesn’t know why she’s crying, but he also doesn’t force himself to “fix” everything for her. But Hyun-tae’s need to control his courtship of Su-in is vastly inconsiderate, as Hwal points out.
I can cut Hyun-tae a little slack for feeling bummed that the girl he liked turned out to be unavailable, but now his actions are just nonsensical. How dare he challenge Hwal for Su-in, and ask whether Hwal can make her happy, as though he had a claim on her? I think the reason he is so problematic is because I feel a disconnect between what his character is supposed to be and how his character actually IS. I wonder if Yoon Kye-sang is even on the same wavelength with his character, and found myself thinking (sorry to say) that he might be phoning in this drama performance, because it just makes no sense.
In contrast, Hwal is not a very verbal character (and his actions aren’t necessarily expressive), but we completely get a sense for his character’s feelings (or at least I do). I can tell that Lee Jung-jae understands Hwal, that he’s connecting with his portrayal. Hyun-tae seems… oddly blank. What a disappointment.
After Haru holds Hwal’s hand, both characters react to the touch, which shows us that Hwal is definitely not as impervious to Haru’s feelings as he pretends, or wishes he was. But I also liked that Haru touches her forehead after Poong-ho kisses her, perhaps demonstrating the beginning of some conflict with her feelings.
I don’t think it’s a neat case of symbolism, saying that her affections are going to cleanly shift direction from Hwal to Poong-ho, but rather just another way of demonstrating the jumbled-up emotions inside her inexperienced, 18-year-old heart. Haru really does seem confused and filled with adolescent turmoil, which is a nice touch because I find it much more interesting when emotions are mixed and in conflict, rather than decided entirely from the get-go (e.g., Hyun-tae).