Another cute episode. Nothing earth-shattering here, but Episode 2 continues the light, breezy tone of the premiere and brings in more of the supporting cast. I continue to love Gong Hyo-jin, who is so good at showing a mix of insecurity and strength, as well as Lee Seon-kyun, who must be enjoying the heck out of playing such a meanie for once.
SONG OF THE DAY
Urban Zakapa – “커피를 마시고” (Drinking Coffee) [ Download ]
EPISODE 2 RECAP
Soon after Hyun-wook makes his startling suggestion (“Let’s date”), the crosswalk light turns red, and they now stand amidst traffic. They ignore the cars, which drive around them, as they have their conversation.
She wonders if he’s asking her out because he’s sorry he fired her, to which he answers, “I’m not sorry at all.” In an “it’s nothing personal” tone of voice, Hyun-wook explains, “There are no women in my kitchen. You can’t work in my kitchen.”
The light turns green again, signaling that it’s time for Yoo-kyung to make her decision — which side of the street? Hyun-wook takes her arm to lead her his way. She casts his arm off.
Message is clear, and Hyun-wook tells her to do as she likes — he won’t bother with women who dislike him. He stalks off without looking back.
The three fired women (Hee-joo, Chan-hee, Mi-hee) drink that night, and are curious over Hyun-wook’s no-women-in-the-kitchen rule. Yoo-kyung doesn’t explain about his offer to date, and they’re left to wonder at his aversion for women. They lament their lost jobs, saying that Yoo-kyung is the worst off of all of them — since she got fired on her first day cooking, she doesn’t have any experience and would have to start over in a new kitchen at the bottom.
The women don’t understand Hyun-wook’s mentality, but we get a glimpse of it through Se-young’s eyes. She thinks back to an earlier time when she had worked in the kitchen, and been involved with Hyun-wook. The grim expression on her face indicates that their relationship did not end well, and that she still feels the sting. We can guess from Hyun-wook’s attitude that he also harbors bad memories.
The women stagger off drunkenly afterward, heading back to their apartment. Yoo-kyung feels the worst, and fights the urge to gag. As they pass, another passerby takes notice of them — Kim San, the La Sfera enthusiast.
He follows Yoo-kyung when she rushes off to retch, offering a helping hand as he pounds on her back. He guesses from her behavior that she has been fired, which is something she refuses to admit. Since he’s someone who talks to her more familiarly than she would like, she bickers with him for a few moments, calling him unemployed, which is a misconception he lets her believe. (He heads up to his own spacious apartment, as he also lives here.)
In the morning, Hyun-wook arrives at work in a great mood, removing the women’s names from their work lockers with gusto. To his surprise, he opens his own locker to find someone slumped inside, asleep and smelling of liquor. Yoo-kyung.
She wakes up as he looks over at her in both puzzlement and amusement. She comments, “You’re out early.” He returns, “Aren’t you earlier?”
Yoo-kyung corrects him: “I’m not early, I just didn’t go home. If I went home, I wouldn’t have the courage to come back.” (I think a very large part of this drama’s fun is in its banter and dialogue, such as when she answers his question of why she’s in his locker with a muttered, “It’s the biggest and it’s nice and warm… the complete opposite of you.”)
She surprises him by announcing stubbornly, “I’m not going to quit, I’m going to keep working here.” It would be foolish for her to just accept this after she’s worked for three years to finally get a chance to cook. Yoo-kyung delivers her decision in a voice that starts out firm, then grows uncertain and trails off at the end.
When she suffers a leg cramp, he automatically reaches over and massages her leg while looking at her incredulously. She says, a little pathetically, “I want to make pasta.”
At the morning staff meeting, Hyun-wook doesn’t acknowledge her, but at least he doesn’t kick her out, either. He goes over the lunch menu with the cooks and voices a complaint with the special. The salad is a diet item, but the pasta is a cream sauce spaghetti with bacon and egg. This makes no sense, so he’s changing it to a shrimp dish instead.
However, the No. 2 cook, Seok-ho, balks — this is hardly the time to change the menu. He is overrruled.
As they prep for lunch service, the remaining cooks anticipate the disaster to come — Hyun-wook’s created an impossible situation for himself with the menu switch. They’re not outright revolting, but they’re definitely not working with pride.
As predicted, lunchtime proves to be a crunch — a lot of dissatisfied diners complain of the long waits. Inside the kitchen, Hyun-wook is his usual loud, dissatisfied, shouty self, adding to the tension.
Oddly enough, Hyun-wook does something unexpected: He strides out to the dining hall where a table of three young men sit. He asks if they would be willing to take a raincheck on the meal, and they follow him to the kitchen.
Turns out that this is a trio of cooks that Hyun-wook had worked with previously, and he had called them in to replace the fired women. For ease of describing, I’ll refer to them as the website does: this is Team Italy, while the remaining cooks are Team Korea.
Hyun-wook puts them to work, reassigning their stations. He takes Yoo-kyung (whom he insults by calling a goldfish with a two-second memory) off the line. She protests but Hyun-wook kicks her out and, adding insult to injury, promotes the lowly new guy to her assistant position.
After the restaurant closes that night, Team Italy (plus New Guy, aka Eun-soo) go out for drinks, and they ask if Hyun-wook is still acting like this because of “that woman.” They argue for him to change his mind — there are many women who are good cooks who stick with their job these days.
In a different restaurant, Team Korea is having a less convivial night. Bitterly, they complain about the new chef, saying, “If our frying pans get stolen away, we have nothing.” Seok-ho in particular sits in angry silence.
Back at the restaurant, Yoo-kyung feels hungry as she closes up and whips up some pasta for herself. As she eats, she says that hers is pretty good — good enough to serve to diners. Hyun-wook never even tasted her food, so how would he know?
The next morning, Yoo-kyung is back in line, but today Hyun-wook is in no mood to humor her. She even offers to take back her former assistant position, which he ignores while assigning everyone else to their roles for the day.
The Team Italy guys are affable enough and try to greet their new co-workers, but Team Korea isn’t having it. Insulted, they ignore the gesture coldly. Meanwhile, Seok-ho scolds Yoo-kyung for actually offering to demote herself — doesn’t she have pride? If he told her to die, would she die? If something is stolen away from you, the right thing to do is protest. She should just go home.
San comes to the restaurant while it’s not yet open, and wheedles for Yoo-kyung to make an exception and make him lunch. Also, he’d like to request a delivery to his office. She turns him down since their restaurant is neither open nor one that makes deliveries, but after a moment, she reconsiders.
A waiter tries to talk her out of it — does she know how much trouble she could get into? What does she think she’s doing? She’s not even allowed to be cooking, much less breaking the rules like this. Yoo-kyung answers matter-of-factly that their job is to make the customer happy, and doesn’t that include bending a little for special requests? On top of that, she just wants to cook, and when else will she get the chance?
Not surprisingly, Hyun-wook stops her — not one single dish is allowed to leave his kitchen without his approval. Yoo-kyung answers that this isn’t really HIS kitchen, nor is it hers — it’s for the patrons. Therefore, if the patrons want something, they should be accommodating.
Taking a jab at her background (he saw a card advertising her father’s Chinese restaurant), he jeers, “Is this some third-rate jjamppong restaurant?” But Yoo-kyung isn’t insulted by that, merely finding his logic flawed — what does catering to a customer’s wishes have to do with being third-rate? She’ll handle this order so he doesn’t have to worry. He retorts, “What if you embarrass yourself?” She shoots back, “Then you do it.”
He has to laugh at her spunky answer, but his face grows serious a moment later. He proposes a solution: they’ll both make pasta. Yoo-kyung adds that if the customer likes her dish, he should make her a pasta assistant again. Hyun-wook replies that if he loses, he’ll leave her kitchen.
The other cooks gather round curiously and watch them cook, wondering if this is fair. Team Italy answers that this is just Hyun-wook giving her a last chance, since she’d be fired anyway.
As they set to work, Yoo-kyung periodically watches how Hyun-wook does things, and follows his lead. When it’s time for delivery, she uses a Chinese delivery box (from her father’s place), while he prepares a fancy platter. Together, they head over to San’s nearby office building, and he issues a warning:
Hyun-wook: “You said last time was a mistake. This time it’s based on skill. If your skill isn’t sufficient, a cook must give up. If you lose, you’re fired. The moment you walk in, you’re fired.”
In the office, San watches in pleased surprise as both cooks unload their dishes and set it before him. Hyun-wook’s dish is ready to serve, but Yoo-kyung takes out hers in separate dishes and mixes the pasta right before serving.
Of course, an unexpected wrench is thrown into the proceedings with the arrival of a fourth person, who had made plans to join San for lunch. It’s Se-young, and the moment she steps inside, she and Hyun-wook recognize each other. Instantly, his mood grows blacker, although the other two don’t notice the weird energy in the air.
After gathering her composure, Se-young comments on the two dishes. Hyun-wook chose linguine because he was compensating for the delivery — this pasta would stick less and lose less oil. On the other hand, Yoo-kyung’s choice of spaghetti hasn’t suffered too much because she tossed it on the spot, so it’s like eating it at the restaurant.
Asked for their honest evaluation, both pick the linguine. Se-young says as she looks at Hyun-wook, with some meaning, “I want to eat this one again.”
San asks if he can speak frankly, then goes on about how inferior the spaghetti dish is, not knowing anything about the cooks’ challenge. Yoo-kyung accepts this with dismay, while Hyun-wook excuses himself curtly.
Feeling dejected at her loss, Yoo-kyung also turns to go, then turns back and asks if she can try it too. She tastes her own dish first, then tries Hyun-wook’s. As she eats, it’s clear from her stricken face that she recognizes the disparity.
Racing outside, Yoo-kyung catches up to Hyun-wook at the elevators, where he tells her grimly, “It’s over. You’re fired.” She starts to speak, but he cuts her off. Seeing that Se-young and San have followed them out to the hallway, he directs his glare at Se-young — he’s angrier at her than he is at Yoo-kyung — as he shouts, “In my KITCHEN! There are no women.”
When the elevator doors open, Hyun-wook steps in. Left behind, Yoo-kyung sinks to the floor in defeat.
This looks like it’ll be a drama where the secondary leads and pairings aren’t terribly compelling. I like Honey Lee and I like Alex, and although this is not an acting debut for either one, they’re doing pretty well for relative newbies. They have screen presence and are handling dialogue fairly naturally. But their characters (what little we know of them) and their screen chemistry doesn’t really speak to me, either when they’re together or when they’re with the other two.
But I’m not SO disappointed, because Lee Seon-kyun and Gong Hyo-jin continue to have wonderful, natural rapport and are so good together that it’s okay that their secondary complications aren’t as believable. Of course, I prefer dramas were every single component is strong and believable — for instance, I not only like the characters but the reasons supporting all the various pairings in Will It Snow For Christmas — but I’m probably willing to let this one go because it’s already proven to be a happy surprise. I wasn’t expecting that much of Pasta, and I think I’m okay with the great main couple.
I mean, cute, right? I continue to be drawn in to how Hyun-wook can so clearly separate the personal from the work-related. Granted, it’s easier for him since he’s the one in charge. Still, he can banter lightly with Yoo-kyung even while she’s still smarting from his cold dismissal, which is an amusing quirk to his prickly character.
Hold that thought while I introduce another point; I’ll be back in a second.
I also love scenes when people eat with angst. I know, that’s an awfully specific sort of scene to be drawn to, but there are several that stick in my mind where a main character cries while eating, and it always gets to me. Yoo-kyung does it twice here — she isn’t actually crying in this pictured scene, but she does have tears in her eyes in the ending scene, when she tastes Hyun-wook’s pasta and realizes that yes, his is better. (Also, I’m very relieved that she lost. We know she’s not a genius and it would be a little too ridiculous for her to have beaten Hyun-wook on her first try.) Two other instances in other dramas are Yoo Seung-ho in this week’s episode of God of Study (which totally brought me to tears), and Jung Yumi in Que Sera Sera.
Speaking of which, there’s an indefinable quality about Pasta that reminds me of Que Sera Sera, and I had this thought several times although I couldn’t pinpoint the source. In tone and subject matter, this is much more along the lines of Sam-soon and/or Coffee Prince, and it’s nowhere near as hard or intense as Que Sera Sera. But Gong Hyo-jin’s Yoo-kyung has shades of Jung Yumi’s Eun-soo (although she’s less of an oddball), from the way she can seem insecure and gamine-like at times while also asserting an unexpected stubborn streak at others. It’s that willfulness that catches Hyun-wook off-guard, much in the way that Eric was thrown off-kilter by Jung Yumi’s unexpected actions and reactions. He, like Hyun-wook, was confident and arrogant and thought he had his ladies well under control, but found himself the one in a constant state of surprise.
(Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the dramas will be similar, and it’ll take a LOT for Pasta to bring itself to Que Sera Sera‘s level of awesome, but it just struck me as peculiar.)