My Fair Lady: Episode 1
I’ve talked about this drama a lot recently, but on a personal level I’ve been trying to keep expectations down, since the dramas I’ve most anticipated in recent months have generally fallen short of those hopes (Boys Before Flowers, Triple). And as I watched the first episode, I thought my fears were well-founded, because it was… well… underwhelming. Kind of awkward and over-the-top. I was starting to feel disappointed, until the last 10 minutes kicked in — and then I felt that familiar feeling of excitement brought on by looking forward to a drama. Yay!
This may be Yoon Eun-hye‘s long-awaited comeback drama, but I have the feeling that Yoon Sang-hyun may just steal the show, just like he ran off with Queen of Housewives. He’s by far the best thing in Episode 1…
SONG OF THE DAY
Mighty Mouth – “희망사항” (Wishful thinking) featuring teen singer I.U. [ Download ]
Yoon Eun-hye is Kang Hae-na (also spelled Hye-na, but this drama uses Hae-na), the snobby 24-year-old heir to the Kang San Group empire, a huge corporation run by her grandfather. She’s good at riding horses, shooting guns, adorning magazine covers, and firing employees for the smallest of offenses. She’s famous for being famous and spoiled like whoa, with a horrible personality.
In fact, the only person she treats with any respect is her grandfather, Chairman Kang, although that doesn’t prevent her from embarrassing him when he sets her up on a blind date with the son of another rich conglomerate. (She tells the family that she’s lived with various men and has a secret child; when her date takes that as indication that she’s promiscuous and hits on her, she slams him into the ground.)
These are Hae-na’s only relatives apart from her grandfather. The daughter is Su-ah, Hae-na’s (second?) cousin — their grandfathers are brothers. Su-ah and her mother are petty and vain, though in a silly, dim sort of way. The entire family is opportunistic, because they are next in line to inherit after Hae-na, and resent her because they feel she doesn’t deserve her good luck. They’re ready at any moment to sneak in and take advantage. Not that they’d hurt Hae-na, but they’d rejoice to find her disinherited.
On the other hand, Su-ah’s brother Su-min, played by Wang Seok-hyun, differs from his greedy family because he’s often wiser than they are. He speaks like a little adult and points out things they’ve overlooked.
Seo Dong-chan (Yoon Sang-hyun) is a charming, mostly good-hearted guy with a hot temper and glib tongue who often gets himself into trouble with the former and out of it with the latter. He’s trying to be good, but trouble just seems to find him. He’s also in debt and struggles to pay off his lenders, but it’s difficult since honest work just doesn’t pay that much.
Dong-chan lives with his longtime family friend, Yeo Eui-joo (Moon Chae-won), and her mother, who was friends with his now-deceased mother. Eui-joo’s goal is to become a shoe designer and it seems she’s probably in love with Dong-chan, but she knows better than to tell him how she feels, because that would probably compromise their close friendship.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
This is Hae-na’s “castle,” the huge mansion run by a staff of good-looking maids and menservants. Hae-na has a strict list of things she cannot abide, and the first mistake (like accidentally pulling a stray hair when fastening a hairpin) can get a person immediately fired.
Take, for instance, Hae-na’s new personal attendant/secretary (Song Joong-ki!). Hae-na has no consideration for a new employee’s learning curve, and when he asks her to repeat something, she fires him.
That means the household must secure yet another personal attendant; Hae-na has already gone through sixteen and it’s getting increasingly difficult to find someone who might stick.
We are introduced to Dong-chan as he delivers a compelling speech to a roomful of rapt listeners… in church. He expounds on the value of having faith and hope in Jesus Christ, earning an enthusiastic response. Everyone loves it, particularly the ajummas. And would could blame him? He’s adorable.
But as soon as he exits the church, he sighs that he sure is doing all sorts of weird things these days. Just as he’s cornered by a trio of debt collectors. He’s already paid off the principal, but now they’re here for additional interest.
Dong-chan runs, but has the bad luck to find himself cornered in an alleyway. We start to get a sense for just how smooth he can be when he so desires, because he thinks fast and spouts off a bunch of legal babble about the illegality of charging exorbitant interest rates and the punishment these guys could face. I’m not sure where he came by that legal knowledge but it sounds convincing, and the (none-too-bright) thugs pause in concern. Too bad they don’t fall for it, and he’s still on the hook for 50 million won, or approximately $40,000 USD.
But he’s not really the irresponsible wastrel that he seems at first glance, because the debt is for good reason. When his mother fell ill, he took out loans to pay her hospital bills (of course he did; this is a kdrama after all), and even went as far as to work at a host bar to pay off the debt.
But Eui-joo was dead-set against him selling himself for money (it isn’t prostitution, but it’s definitely looked down upon), and made him promise never to go back. Eui-joo is also the reason he was at the church to make his public affirmation of faith; it’s her way of trying to keep him from going back to work as a host/escort.
Dong-chan and Eui-joo both routinely help out at the florist shop run by Eui-joo’s mother. Today, Dong-chan is out on a delivery run when his truck is cut off by a reckless driver in a sports car: Hae-na.
Furious at the careless driving, Dong-chan glares at the sports car, which is stopped at the light. He marches up to the window and starts to deliver a diatribe, but Hae-na has no patience for him and hands over a bill. Dong-chan is insulted that she would pay him off — he demands an apology and continues to rail against her. Tired of him, Hae-na shoves a handful of bills out the window and drives on.
Well, such incredibly rude behavior is not to be borne. Hot-headed Dong-chan’s temper flares even more, and he storms over to his car and peels out, chasing Hae-na. Goaded, Hae-na pours on the speed and outstrips his truck, so he takes a shortcut through an alley, and blocks the road.
This forces Hae-na to stop in the middle of the road, but she can’t believe the nerve of this guy and glares, her temper rising. Her anger overrides her common sense (I assume she has some), and she revs the engine. And shoots toward him, slamming headlong into his truck.
This lands them both at the police station. She’s not too worried, and sits in boredom as her representative tries to negotiate a deal. Dong-chan is offended at the idea of being bought, until the man names the figure: 30 million won. When Dong-chan doesn’t respond (he’s too shocked), the man ups the amount to 50 million.
That’s the amount of his debt, so he seriously thinks this over, and perhaps he would even have taken the offer, but Hae-na comes up and sneers that he’s just trying to hold out for more money. If that’s his intent, she won’t bother negotiating: deal is canceled. They’ll handle this through official channels. Offended by her remarks (although I think she’s probably a little right), Dong-chan shouts back that they’ll do this through the law, then.
This time, the law sides with Dong-chan. Hae-na is convicted on multiple charges of reckless driving, threat of violence, and property damage. Her punishment is a fine (which is no big deal) and 150 hours of community service (which is a HUGE deal). Hae-na is assigned to work at a child-care center, doing all sorts of menial tasks like cleaning the chicken coop.
Dong-chan may have gotten the upper hand in the car incident, but he still has no luck trying to find money. He goes to his old boss at the high-end host bar asking for a loan, but is turned down. His boss tries to convince him to work for him again — he was their best — but Dong-chan remembers his promise and declines.
Thus he’s stuck working for small wages doing odd jobs like driving cars (for intoxicated drivers) and dispersing flyers. Eui-joo worries for him, but he keeps his tone optimistic and says he’ll figure it out.
On the other hand, Hae-na is NOT handling the situation well. She’s still infuriated at being subject to lowly community service, and it rubs her already raw nerves when her cousin Su-ah mocks her for it. She can’t abide being laughed at by Su-ah’s friends and her own, so she tells her assistants to find the guy who’s responsible (Dong-chan). She wants to crush him, starting with literally smashing his house into the ground.
When she hears that Dong-chan is currently at his driving job, she gets an idea.
Dong-chan doesn’t immediately recognize Hae-na when she shows up as his client, but she jogs his memory while he drives her car. With a taunting smile, she tells him she’s going to get him back, and proceeds to muss her hair, slip off one shoe, and smear her lipstick on his mouth.
He reacts in alarm, and Hae-na starts to scream for help, crying out that she’s being kidnapped. The car is pulled over by police and Dong-chan is arrested. Hae-na plays the part of the victim, and nobody heeds his protestations of innocence.
Even Eui-joo and her mother think that he is guilty at first. To be fair, it doesn’t sound that convincing when he insists this was all an evil scheme cooked up by the horrible Hae-na to get revenge.
Thankfully for him, Hae-na’s grandfather hears about this incident, and orders the charges dropped. Dong-chan is let go.
That’s good news, but in the morning, Eui-joo’s mother bursts in with horrible news: Their home has just been bought and their new landlord has ordered that they vacate by tomorrow. This is impossible! Dong-chan asks who the new landlord is, and the name Kang San Group rings a bell.
Fuming, Dong-chan beelines for Hae-na’s estate, where he is blocked by three of Hae-na’s devoted attendants. (The guy in the middle is the most senior, and has his eye on the vacant position as Hae-na’s personal secretary, thinking he’s a shoo-in for the promotion.)
Of course, they’re not going to let him in, and it’s three against one. Dong-chan pulls a few quick maneuvers, uses one of them as a human shield, and races inside. The guys chase, but soon lose him.
Seeing Chairman Kang doing some recreational gardening, Dong-chan assumes the old man is a worker on the premises and asks where to find Hae-na. He’s itching for a confrontation and doesn’t bother to hide his disdain for her, griping at her lack of decency for buying his home merely to tear it down. Is money everything? If Hae-na were his sister, he’d tie her up until he could teach her some manners. Ha, and it would only take a month! Well, no, Hae-na’s particularly horrible, so two months.
He asks grandpa not to let the three attendants know where he is, but grandpa cheerfully waves them over. It’s only when they bow before him that he realizes that he’s been talking to Hae-na’s grandfather, who orders the men to grab Dong-chan and bring him in for a chat.
Hae-na’s series of public disturbances (first the car accident, then the faked kidnapping) makes a splash in the news, and as punishment, Chairman Kang grounds her: she is not to leave the premises. Her grandfather asks if her bad behavior is in response to That Thing — the pink elephant in the room involving her first love when she was 18. She pretends it’s no big deal, but it’s clear that it’s had a huge impact on her. She also wonders why he’s so interested in her life now, and a conflicted look crosses his face. (I call fatal illness!)
She doesn’t take his grounding seriously, though, and blithely plans a week-long trip to New York. Her grandfather’s assistant gently reminds her that she’s not to leave the house, but she ignores him and heads to the airport…
…where Dong-chan approaches, wearing a determined expression on his face. To her shock, he grabs her in a tight embrace, acting the part of a spurned lover. OMG, it is hilarious. She struggles, but he presses her face against his chest to muffle her protests, and spouts all sorts of clichéd romantic lines, like, “I was completely wrong. I can’t let you go like this!” and “Let’s start over!”
He picks her up over his shoulder and waves at the amused crowd, assuring her, “She’s my girl!” He takes her outside and deposits her in the backseat of his car after tying her hands behind her back.
After the initial shock, Hae-na tells him confidently that her grandfather will report her disappearance and send people to find her. He is so screwed. It’s only a matter of time.
Dong-chan is unruffled, even when they are joined on the road by a squad of police cars blaring their sirens. But instead of pulling them over, the cars rush on by, headed elsewhere.
Hae-na starts to feel genuinely afraid. Does he want money? She has a lot of money. If he names his price, her grandfather will pay. Dong-chan doesn’t respond, so she thinks he’s not interested in money, which is an even scarier thought. Is he going to kill her, then? Fine, but please don’t dump her in water — she’s scared of water. And tell her grandfather she loves him…
We find that the police have arrived at their destination, which is Eui-joo’s house. She and her mother have done their best to fight off the incoming construction workers, determined to keep their house from demolition.
However, when the police arrive, they discover that these construction workers were sent to fix up the house! (Grandpa must have had something to do with it.) Eui-joo is embarrassed to face the police, but her mom’s excited at all the great improvements they are getting.
Finally, Dong-chan pulls over the car and tells Hae-na to get out. They’re here.
She cautiously gets out of the car, her fear turning into confusion as she recognizes their surroundings. Furthermore, her grandfather doesn’t look at all worried about her. Chairman Kang smiles that he didn’t know Dong-chan would use such extreme measures. But the methods weren’t the issue, what’s important is that Hae-na is here, as promised.
Hae-na can’t believe this — they know each other? They were working together?
Grandpa Kang reminds Hae-na, “Now do you see what happens when you defy my order not to leave the house?” And Dong-chan introduces himself — as her new personal attendant.
Already Yoon Eun-hye has attracted some criticism for her acting in this drama, which people have described as awkward, forced, and a step backward from her Coffee Prince role two years ago. I have to say — they’re not wrong. She was not good in this episode, and I think that’s being fair. Some people might say she was downright bad.
The problem is that she doesn’t do cold and haughty very well — I think she’s great being heartwarming and bubbly, but being snooty and insulting is a different skill. It’s a little cringeworthy at first, because she delivers her lines like someone merely pretending to act, rather than actually being that character. I know it’s only the first episode, but still, she could have been much better. Hae-na isn’t really convincing — it’s like a watered-down version of Anna (Han Ye-seul) in Fantasy Couple. In contrast, Han Ye-seul was outrageous and funny from the start, and also pretty convincing as a horribly insulting rich bitch.
The upside is, I don’t think Yoon Eun-hye will have to be stuck with the cold bitch portrayal for long. She was at her best in the last ten minutes — the entire drama perked up at the airport scene — when Hae-na fights with Dong-chan and then displays some vulnerability, when she comes to the verge of tears in the car. The good thing about her relationship with Dong-chan is that he brings out her emotional side, whether it’s anger, fear, etc. So I’m fully confident that her character will only improve from here on.
As I mentioned, Yoon Sang-hyun may just run away with this drama (we’ll have to wait to see about Jung Il-woo, who was absent today, boo!). Aside from being such a great lovable scamp, Yoon is capable of a wide range of emotions, and he has this ability to find these flashes of depth or sincerity in the fleetingest of moments. Plus, he has a natural comic ability, which certainly doesn’t hurt.
I already like this pairing, and although this is a familiar opposites-attract setup, I’m always up for seeing it done well. Yoon and Yoon have great chemistry, which will make their version of Taming of the Shrew entertaining to watch. It’s a good thing I find Yoon Sang-hyun so damn appealing, because I sorta hate Taming of the Shrew (and more-than-sorta-hate the Petruchio character), but if Dong-chan handles her with the right touch, it could be a lot of fun.
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