Oh, Go Soo, I have missed you. If his acting here is any indication, his dark role in the recent film Into the White Night has got to be killer. Can’t wait to see it.
Now that we’re past the initial glow and into the meat of the story, I see that Will It Snow For Christmas isn’t a perfect drama. It’s not necessarily brilliant (which I wasn’t expecting and don’t hold against it) — but it does have the ability to hit all the right emotional notes. Also, despite being billed as a melodrama, there are some nice light beats in there. It’s not all Sturm und Drang — I wouldn’t be able to take it if it were all tragedy, all the time. I’m sure there will be plenty of time for the angst and drama as we continue, but right now I’m very pleased with the balance it has struck.
SONG OF THE DAY
Clazziquai – “Rapunzel” [ Download ]
EPISODE 3 RECAP
As this episode begins, there’s a mild Rashomon-like overlap with the end of the previous episode, when we saw things from Kang-jin’s perspective. Now we backtrack and see things from Ji-wan’s point of view until we catch up to the present day.
We know that Ji-wan had run away from home; now we see what happened as she takes a bus out of town with nothing more than a bag and Kang-jin’s father’s pendant.
As a first-year high school student, she’s around 15 or 16 years old and arrives in the big city of Seoul with nowhere to go. She sits in a park at night, and imagines a conversation with her brother. Ji-yong talks to her in his usual good-natured, kind way, but a grieving Ji-wan is angry at him for leaving her, and doesn’t respond in kind.
Ji-yong asks her to take over their father’s Oriental medicine practice; they’d always said that he would go to medical school and she would go to Oriental medicine school, so they could set up a practice and help the needy together.
Ji-wan cuts him off, saying flatly that she doesn’t remember. She reminds him of all the disparaging things her mother has said about her, and says defiantly that she’ll live up to her mother’s words and be an embarrassment, then! Anyway, he broke the promise first by dying.
He says that since he couldn’t keep the promise, he’s asking for her to. Ji-wan claps her hands over her hears and screams, “You keep the promise! Come back to life and keep your promise!”
Fast-foward to her first meeting with Park Tae-joon, her future fiance. To be accurate, it’s not their very first encounter; he regularly comes to the cafe past closing time and asks for a drink. This is the first time they actually converse, however.
At first, they sit separately — he drinks alone and she fights to stay awake to do her homework. He seems amused by her, particularly since she’s as scatterbrained as ever and can barely focus on the conversation because she’s so sleepy.
Tae-joon asks what she knows about him — she’s probably heard a lot of gossip from his employees, who frequent the cafe. Ji-wan knows he’s dating the daughter of the company president; the father is dead-set against him and threatens to separate him. It’s hard on him, which is why he comes here late at night for drinks. She advises him to stand up to the president and break up with Woo-jung, because surely he deserves better than that! She even offers to set him up with her boss’s daughter, who’s a great catch.
He isn’t interested in her boss’s daughter, but what about her? If he broke things off with his girlfriend, would she take him? Ji-wan is tired and assumes that he’s joking (or drunk), so she doesn’t answer seriously, but he asks whether she’s ever seen him as a man. Did she never consider that he had a reason for always coming late and asking for liquor?
Tae-joon points out a mistake on the cafe menu board, and teasingly corrects her spelling. This makes her think back to high school when Kang-jin had corrected her spelling, and for a second she imagines Kang-jin’s face in place of Tae-joon’s.
She snaps out of the hallucination, but this gives us a hint into her reasons for falling for Tae-joon. I’m not saying that she was replacing Kang-jin or that her feelings for Tae-joon are false. It’s just telling that Tae-joon made her recall her old feelings, and possibly tapped into those dormant affections.
The night before her engagement ceremony, Ji-wan takes out her family photo, feeling both thankful and sorry to her parents. The reason she hasn’t contacted them over all these years is because she doesn’t feel she can face them yet. They don’t know it, but she’s still burdened with guilt for causing her brother’s death.
In the morning, Kang-jin heads out of his apartment and overhears Tae-joon, who has received an alarming call from Woo-jung. Tae-joon is so frantic at the news that when they cross paths in the parking lot, he asks Kang-jin to borrow his car. (He doesn’t have time to search for his, which may be on a different floor.)
When the engagement party is called off, Ji-wan remains behind after the guests clear out. The caterer wonders what to do with all the leftover food, since it would be a waste to throw away. Ji-wan forces a smile and says she’ll eat it. She was starving anyway.
Once the staff clears out and she’s left alone, however, she lets her disappointment show as she crossly eats off the multiple plates of food. To her surprise, a guest sits down across from her and joins her in eating, speaking to her more familiarly than is appropriate.
It’s Kang-jin, and he casually helps himself to the food while introducing himself. He’s Tae-joon’s co-worker from Bumseo Group, and lives in the same apartment building. He’s the leader of design and planning — oh, and his name is Cha Kang-jin.
At that, Ji-wan starts. Cha Kang-jin? She doesn’t comment on it, and neither does he, although he watches her reaction closely.
Afterward, he hears her vomiting in the bathroom and steps in to offer help. She has ostensibly overeaten, but this is really a result of shock after hearing his name.
Watching intently, Kang-jin tests her hesitantly, “Do you… know me?”
Ji-wan answers with a curt “No” and leaves quickly, but her flustered reaction more or less confirms that she’s not being honest. He doesn’t really believe her answer, but he doesn’t press the point.
Tae-joon’s urgent reason for missing his engagement party turns out to be because Woo-jung had slit her wrists. Lying in the hospital, she asks if he went through with the engagement ceremony, and when he says no, she sighs in relief. This was perhaps more of a tactic to win him back than to commit suicide, and she seems almost happy.
Woo-jung asks for a kiss — Snow White awoke from the poison-induced sleep when her prince kissed her. He hesitates so she pouts and says, “I’ll just stay asleep then.” But her provocation works, because Tae-joon swoops in suddenly and kisses her.
Ji-wan is surprised to walk out of the party location to find that Kang-jin is waiting for her, ready to offer her a ride. She declines, saying that Tae-joon will pick her up. It’s likely that Kang-jin knows she’s lying, but he lets her have her way and drives away without another word.
Soon afterward, it starts to rain. Kang-jin drives on, but after brief hesitation, he turns the car around and heads back.
Sure enough, Ji-wan is trudging along in the rain. However, he doesn’t get out to offer her a ride. He stays in the car while she walks along slowly, as though unable to turn away but also unable to be too forward with her. So he just watches.
Turns out that Kang-jin’s co-worker had faked illness to get out of going to the party — he works with Woo-jung and had guessed this would happen. Kang-jin is dismayed to hear that Tae-joon ditched the event to go to Woo-jung; the co-worker speculates that Tae-joon used his engagement with Ji-wan as a ploy to get his ex back. It must have worked.
Hearing that Ji-wan works at the cafe, Kang-jin heads over but finds it closed. Inside, Ji-wan sits alone and calls Tae-joon multiple times, but he doesn’t pick up the phone. She leaves messages berating him for his behavior, for humiliating her, for insisting on the ceremony when she didn’t even want one. But we see that the phone she holds to her ear is off — she can’t actually bring herself to say these things.
She pleads, “I met someone, and it was really difficult. Tae-joon-sshi, please come. Please.”
At the moment, Tae-joon is with Woo-jung at the beach, and Woo-jung tosses his phone into the water, happy just to be together. Now that they’re back together, she wants to move in together; she had already prepared a home with the necessary accoutrements before he broke up with her. She figures her father has to accept him if they tell him after the fact.
From the beach, Tae-joon calls Kang-jin for a favor. He missed a meeting with some Chinese developers for a project, and asks Kang-jin to take care of it so they don’t lose the project.
And so, Kang-jin has to step into an unfamiliar situation and find the businessmen on the train before they depart. They’re disgruntled at his sudden appearance, since they’ve never met him before, so he does his best to explain himself. It is awkward. Making things worse, he has accidentally left his sketchbook behind, so he grabs a napkin and starts drawing.
Kang-jin gets a distraught call from his younger brother Bu-san, and heads over to meet him. Bu-san is feeling rejected because today is his father’s birthday and he’d come out to Seoul to meet him, but he couldn’t summon the nerve to actually approach. Instead, he lurked for a while before leaving, so now he offers his homemade cake to his brother instead. He wonders, “If I was cool and great like you, would Father have accepted me?”
(Interesting: the brothers have different fathers. If it was mentioned before, I must have missed it. I feel so old-fashioned for assuming they had the same father!) Bu-san tells Kang-jin that since he’s so successful now, he should be able to seek out his father with dignity, but Kang-jin doesn’t seem interested. Instead, he dips a finger into the cream and tastes it.
Bu-san asks why Kang-jin doesn’t look for his father, then asks who he is.
The direct cut to Ji-wan’s parents is to make us think that his unknown father is Han Jun-su, which has elicited some fan concerns of whether Ji-wan and Kang-jin are actually half-siblings — it wouldn’t be a quintessential Korean melodrama without this sibling complication, would it? (It’s because the drama hints at the sibling possibility so early on that I feel confident that this will actually NOT be the case.)
The Hans drive down the street, only to be forced to a stop — someone is lying down in the middle of the street. It’s Madam Cha (first name Chun-hee), who is kicking up a fuss to keep her assistant from leaving her for a competitor. The assistant’s new boss is a surly thug who doesn’t appreciate being inconvenienced, and he grabs Chun-hee roughly. She dares him to hit her, so he does. She takes the hits, and taunts him to keep going — so he does, getting up to kick her in the stomach.
All the while, the Hans watch in embarrassment. Jun-su is conflicted because he doesn’t like to see Chun-hee getting hurt, but his wife urges him to drive away. Finally, he does.
This scene renews his wife’s desire to move away, but he refuses. Her insecurity shows with her accusation that it’s because of Chun-hee, but he answers that it’s because of Ji-wan. They have to wait until she returns home. Mom has never had a soft spot for her daughter — she always preferred her son — and scoffs, “What does it matter if we wait for a stupid girl like her or not?” She calls Ji-wan selfish for leaving the week after Ji-yong died with only a letter to say that she was heading to Seoul.
Jun-su is more sympathetic — Ji-wan must have been going through a hard time. Isn’t she worried about her daughter? Isn’t she curious about her welfare? Mama Han: “Not one bit.”
After walking home in the pouring rain, Ji-wan has come down with a fever, but she tries to fight through it and go to class as usual. She’s studying Oriental medicine — despite her earlier refusal — and based on the teacher’s comments, it’s clear that she has messed up often and done poorly in the past. However, he surprisingly holds her up as a good example, because in spite of her many detractors, she works hard and has never given up.
Just as she’s being applauded, she falls to the floor. The teacher thinks she’s faking illness to avoid answering a question, and rather than insist she’s sick, Ji-wan goes along with the joke.
Late at night, Kang-jin talks with his mother — it seems to be a regular ritual for them to call each other at night, and for him to sing her lullabies over the phone. Tonight, however, he’s feeling tired and not quite up to it.
Chun-hee pleads for him to sing — she has had a hard day and is feeling hurt over the incident in the street; she had seen Jun-su drive away without helping, even though she knows he still cares for her.
It’s the famous old pop song “홍도야 울지 마라” (Hongdo, don’t cry). [ Download ]
Amidst a flower wind of buying and selling love
You try to protect the pure light on your own
Hongdo, don’t cry, you have your oppa
Keep to the path of a wife
Did you see the moon shrouded in clouds?
The world is a cloud, and Hongdo’s the moonlight
For my love, who has faith in the heavens
the wind blows aside the clouds
(According to one explanation of the song, Hongdo is a woman who “buys and sells love” — she has sacrificed herself to provide for her family, and laments her poor life. Her brother returns having achieved success and tells her to stop crying now; she can take her life back, marry and be a wife. This is rather touching, since Kang-jin is essentially telling his mother that he’ll provide for her now, that she can seek her own happiness.)
Late at night, Kang-jin stops by Ji-wan’s cafe, but it’s empty. When he arrives home, she’s waiting in front of Tae-joon’s apartment door. He’s bothered to see her huddled and half-asleep, but walks on to his place. She doesn’t see him and promises herself, “Just one hour. I’ll just wait one hour.”
So Kang-jin watches television, reads a little, and winds down his evening. Finally, he readies for bed, pausing a little at the thought of Ji-wan, who is still waiting outside. Kang-jin checks the hallway and sees Ji-wan still there, but again he walks away. He returns to his apartment and tries to forget her. But he can’t, and gives in: he gathers Ji-wan into his arms and takes her back to his room.
Seeing that she’s sick and feverish, Kang-jin tends to Ji-wan throughout the night.
Just after he takes Ji-wan away, Tae-joon finally comes home from his lover’s vacation with Woo-jung. At least he has the decency to look conflicted as he lies awake in bed.
In the morning, Ji-wan wakes up confused at the strange surroundings. Coming out to the main room, she asks why she’s here. Kang-jin says with his unflappable calm, “We must have a deep connection.”
Before he has a chance to expound on that cryptic comment, someone rings his bell. It’s Tae-joon, here to return his car keys. Ji-wan is struck speechless, looking on in wide-eyed shock as Tae-joon asks why she’s here. Kang-jin answers that he couldn’t ignore her sleeping in front of Tae-joon’s door all night, especially when she was sick.
To the discomfort of both Tae-joon and Ji-wan, Kang-jin reaches to touch her forehead in a familiar gesture. Pronouncing her still feverish, he suggests taking her to the hospital. Seeing Tae-joon’s hesitation, Kang-jin asks (with a subtly condemning undertone), “Oh, are you too busy?”
One striking aspect of adult Kang-jin is his attitude toward his family. Surprisingly, his attitude toward his mother and brother is affectionate and accepting; it’s clear he loves them. Not that he didn’t love them before, but he has decided for whatever reason to stop chasing an idealized concept of his father and has embraced the family he does have. I wonder if Kang-jin’s relationship with his mother is a direct result of a conscious decision to let go of his phantom father.
The song he sings is a beautiful testament to this, and not just because Go Soo sings with a gentle voice that’s full of emotion. At first, I hadn’t thought the song was a particularly meaningful choice, but now it seems like a fairly pointed message to his mother. It’s an unexpected love song, and it’s lovely. Furthermore, I appreciate that he has his family portrait on his desk, because what was an ironic joke of a gesture in his childhood (it was Chun-hee’s forced attempt to capture them as a “happy” family) is now something real.
I had been apprehensive about the adult characters losing the appeal that the teenagers had established, and I did feel that Episode 3 lost some of the magic of the first two episodes. However, I liked that some traits still shine through, such as Kang-jin’s personality when he walks away from Ji-wan, twice — first in the rain, and then in the hallway. This echoes the teenage Kang-jin, who tried to walk away when Ji-wan got hit by the tearoom boss. Ultimately he couldn’t ignore it and turned back to help.
I love that this is a facet of his character that has been established in the past. I’ll overlook little plot wrinkles in a drama, IF the characters remain true to themselves, but never the other way around. This drama has rock-solid characters so far.
It’s not an easy decision for him to interfere in adult Ji-wan’s life, either, particularly when it’s clear that she either (1) isn’t the Ji-wan he thinks she is, or (2) doesn’t want to be the Ji-wan he thinks she is. At first he tests her out, and despite her denial, he’s pretty sure it’s her. Then he learns that she’s being played by her fiance and feels sorry for her, but he’s not in a place to do anything about it. At this point, even if it is her, he senses that she doesn’t feel the same way about him — either she’s forgotten about him, or doesn’t want to recognize him. So he walks away — then comes back. Then walks away — and finally returns again.
As for Ji-wan, there’s a nice moment early on when she pleads for Tae-joon to come back. She’s talking to herself, and it’s really more of a plea with herself. I’m sure she loves her fiance, but being reminded of Kang-jin has stirred up some tumultuous memories, and that scares her because her feelings for him are still there. Her first instinct is to run away — heck, she’s still in the process of running away — so she would rather Tae-joon come back and resume their picture as a happy couple, rather than have to face the fact that she may still love Kang-jin.