Okay, I’ll give you this, Kim Hyun-joong. You are improved. I’m still not entirely sure that the entire range of human emotions is something you feel, but I can see that of what you’re feeling, you are showing. Jung So-min, on the other hand, is pretty much born to do this role. There’ve been a lot of comparisons to Yoon Eun-hye, because of her looks and the Goong similarities, but I think she’s got a different range than Yoon. Yoon is more understated as an actor—naturalistic, because she’s got more charisma than downright acting ability per se. She’s magnetic because she’s her, not X character.
Jung gets a little hammy, for sure, but she’s more in the acting her socks off camp, and because I’ve seen her in Bad Guy, I know that she’s capable of subtlety. She’s delightfully expressive, and totally readable, making her character endearing, even if her bumbling antics are a little staid. I think she’s got quite a career ahead of her, especially if she carries this drama on her shoulders the way she’s doing now.
EPISODE 2 RECAP
Ha-ni reels from the shock of seeing Seung-jo, of all people, standing in front of her. He cocks his head sideways, taunting her like the bully that he is. Heh, well I suppose if you’re going to be mean, I’d rather you own up to it rather than be oblivious to the fact that you’re making her squirm. I have to say, I sort of like him mean, because it’s definitely a step up from bland.
He offers to help carry her bags, but then glibly reminds her that she swore up and down never to receive any of his help. All she can do is shake her head at him, and then privately freak out over this unfortunate series of events.
The family sits down for introductions, and the dads confirm that they were as close as two boys could be. Their friendship is adorable. Mom asks Ha-ni if Seung-jo is disliked at school, supposing that people don’t like his prickly personality and the way he looks down on others. She can’t disagree, so she smiles awkwardly. Seung-jo’s little brother turns out to be a Mini-Me version of him. Great. Just what the world needs. He refuses to greet Ha-ni because she “looks dumb.”
Mom takes Ha-ni upstairs to her new room, which she has redecorated expressly for her. Ha-ni can’t believe such a pretty room is all for her, and Mom squeals in excitement over having a daughter in the house to buy pretty things for, and hang out with. Aw, they’re so cute. At least she’s got one ally in the family.
Seung-jo gripes at her for causing him inconvenience—now that she has this room, the two brothers have to share a room. He tells her to stop bugging him at school, and she declares that she wouldn’t want people to know that they’re living together anyway. He corrects her that they’re not living together; she’s living off his family.
That sends her into a fantasy tirade Matrix-style, where she accosts him with two pink pillows, dressed in black patent leather from head to toe. She pillow-attacks him till he bleeds and cowers in fear, all the while taking out her aggression on the pillows in her room, shouting, “Well I hate smart guys like you!” At that moment, Seung-jo steps out of the bathroom and into her doorway, sending her to the floor in mortification.
In the bathroom, Ha-ni sits down the toilet and giggles to herself that it’s warm, and that they’re in a toilet-sharing relationship now. She can’t actually manage to do her business for fear of noise, and when she catches herself cooing over their matching toothbrushes, she tries to talk some sense into herself, that he doesn’t like her and she shouldn’t bother him.
The next morning she can’t believe she’s having breakfast with Seung-jo, as he continues to look at her with disdain. He does seem fixated on her though, despite his cries for her to leave him alone. He may look down on her, but he’s definitely feeling her presence keenly.
He abruptly gets up to go to school early, making Ha-ni chase after him, since she doesn’t know the way to school from his house. She catches up to him, crashing into his back when he stops.
He looks at her like she’s a fly, announcing that they can walk to school together just this once, and tells her not to start any rumors at school. On second thought, to pretend she doesn’t even know him. He makes her walk a few paces behind him too.
Ha-ni sneers at him from behind, swears welling up, as she calls him a jerk under her breath. Finally! Hello, backbone! Nice to see you! She says bitterly that she can’t believe she liked this guy for three years, feeling regret over all the tears she wasted on him. There you go. Good girl.
Seung-jo comes to a full stop on the way to school, insisting that she walk ahead of him, since her legs are short and she can’t keep up. She hmphs at the insult and walks on ahead, and Seung-jo takes note of a trenchcoat pervert hiding in the bushes. Random. I’m sure you’ll make an appearance later.
At school, Ha-ni frets over the midterm test that she has to ace, and decides that she’ll make the class proud and conquer it. Duckie arrives with his lackeys in tow, and asks where Ha-ni’s temporary house is. She hems and haws, and he declares they’ll go together after school, since he needs to know where “his girl” lives. Cute. Why don’t you just date this guy? He’s adorable!
Ha-ni stays behind at school, studying till late, which is unusual for her, or anyone in Class 7. She peeks into Seung-jo’s special study hall, reserved for the top fifty students, and witnesses the special treatment that they get, like A/C and their own computers. She looks at the placement chart, sighing that she’s got quite the distance to travel, from last to first.
Duckie, who’s been waiting all this time for her to finish studying, prepares to escort her to her new house. So Ha-ni, rather than making up a plausible excuse or just saying no, ditches him on the subway to keep him from finding out where she’s staying. Tsk, tsk. Poor Duckie.
She then takes a taxi all the way BACK to school, thinking that Seung-jo is still there, waiting to walk back home with her. Seriously? You’ve known this guy way longer than me, and I can tell you there’s not a chance in hell he’s waiting there for you.
And yup, Seung-jo is sitting peacefully at home, until Mom asks why he came alone, when Ha-ni is unfamiliar with these streets and there are crazy people about. Seung-jo remembers the trenchcoat pervert, and starts to get a little worried as he sits outside. Exclaiming how annoyed he is, he heads out. Aw, Softie so soon?
Sure enough, Ha-ni encounters the trenchcoat man on her way home. He’s quite the bumbling flasher, and resorts to begging her to look, just once. Erm, gross, dude. Who’s going to say yes to that? She loses her shoe in an attempt to get around him, so he picks up the shoe and takes off running.
She gives chase, wanting her precious gift from Seung-jo’s mom back, so finally they strike a deal—he’ll promise to give the shoe back if she promises to look, just once. And then, stupid girl that she is, agrees to it!
She asks for a moment to prepare, and Trenchcoat starts to unbutton his jacket…
…and just as opens up his coat to flash her, Seung-jo appears behind her, putting his hand over her eyes. He turns her around to face him. She’s stunned when she realizes what’s happening, as her heart starts to race.
Seung-jo gives chase and Trenchcoat instantly lands on his knees, begging not to be reported since he’s new at this and has a family. He swears never to do it again. Seung-jo gets Ha-ni’s shoe back, and lets the man go.
He returns her shoe like a proper prince, and Ha-ni asks if he came out to look for her, because he was worried. He claims it was to go to the convenience store. Ha-ni: “But the timing was so perfect.” Seung-jo: “That’s just my bad luck.” She smiles, and scurries behind him all the way home.
Ha-ni stays up late in an attempt to study, but can’t get past the first pages of any of her books. Mom comes in with a late night snack, wanting to bond with her, so they look at baby pictures of her, and then Seung-jo. The best part? They cast a little girl to play the part of Little Seung-jo! Pwahahaha. Brilliant meta.
Mom confesses to wanting a little girl so badly that she raised him like a girl when he was little, but then eventually had to fess up when they were found out at a community swimming pool. Seung-jo was apparently scarred from that as a child. Um….yeah, I should say so, Lady! She thinks that maybe this has something to do with why he’s so cold now. She adds that he thinks all these pictures were burned, but she’s still got the negatives, so she holds onto them. Ha-ni smiles deviously to herself.
The next day at school she can’t stop laughing over last night’s discovery. Just then, Seung-jo appears in the doorway of her classroom, motioning for her to come out. With everyone looking on, he tells her to come outside with her gym clothes. She doesn’t know what’s up, but she complies, and realizes when she takes them out of her bag that their clothes have been switched. Cute. Love setups like this.
With the entire class watching them from the window, they go outside and exchange gym clothes. Ha-ni takes this opportunity to go in for the kill. Ha-ni: “Why didn’t you just wear them? You should be used to girls’ clothes by now.” And with that, she takes out the picture of him as a little girl.
All of a sudden his calm exterior disappears, as he frantically chases her up and down and around a tree, desperate to get that picture out of her hands. Aw, I love it. Kids actually playing like kids! He finally pins her against the tree, at which Mean Girl and Duckie both freak out from their window. After much chasing and hullabaloo, Ha-ni finally tells him he can have the picture back, but at a price.
She asks him to tutor her for the upcoming exam. He reminds her that it’s in a week’s time, and he’s not a god. Pfftt. Is it bad if I like it when you’re a pompous ass? He adds that he’d be a fool to help her, since he’ll lose the bet, and then have to piggyback her too. So she wants his help, and then a piggyback ride? She takes the piggyback off the table, saying that if he agrees to help her, the bet is off. She adds that she’s resolved her feelings for him, and has no desire whatsoever to be piggybacked by him.
“Oh, really?” he challenges her, leaning in close, within kissing distance…
Everyone at the window gasps…
…and then we cut away. Wha?? Why are we cutting away? Listen, in my old-school vocabulary, cutting away in that moment means And Then They Kissed, which is totally not what you are intending to say, Show. And since they didn’t kiss, I want to see her reaction, and his taunting her. Why with the cutting away?
Regardless, I do like that Seung-jo isn’t totally oblivious to Ha-ni, and that he pretty much sees right through her. His manipulative side is actually quite catty, since he’s taunting her on purpose, knowing how she feels about him.
At home, Seung-jo and Ha-ni begin their study sessions. The parents are shocked and pleased, and Little Brother Eun-jo is angry that Ha-ni is monopolizing his brother. It goes about as well as can be expected, with Seung-jo babbling on and on about log x and binary code, and Ha-ni making moon eyes at him.
At one point he snarks that it’s amazing how much she doesn’t know, and Ha-ni counters with, “Do you know everything? Do you know who these people are?” She holds up a picture of Super Junior, rattling off their names one by one. She adds that it’s simply that their interests vary; that’s all.
She plasters post-its all over the house and loses sleep, earning dark circles and the worry of her friends, but at a certain point, when Eun-jo comes in and yells at her for stealing his brother’s attention, she doesn’t even hear him because she’s so focused. Seung-jo looks over at her, impressed that she’s finally learned to concentrate. He cracks a smile.
He falls asleep while waiting for her to finish her practice test, and she thanks him sweetly for helping her, if only because he can’t hear her. Mom comes by later with snacks, and walks in to find them both asleep at the desk together. She squeals from the cuteness, whispering, “Daebak!” while running to get her camera. Haha. I love her.
When they get to school on test day, Seung-jo throws her a nonchalant, “Do well,” as he walks into class, startling Ha-ni but making her smile. She takes the test and when the results go up, she goes straight to look at Seung-jo’s score, relieved that he still scored perfectly, despite losing sleep that week to help her.
Seung-jo, on the other hand, goes right up to check on Ha-ni’s scores first. Oh, you two. He walks away, and Ha-ni catches up to him, telling him that he did a good job. He congratulates her too, which is when she runs over to see that she did actually make it—50th place, earning her a spot in the special study hall.
She runs over to him, so happy and grateful, that when he sticks out his hand, she mistakes it for a handshake. She shakes his hand up and down, thanking him profusely. He pulls away asking what she’s doing, and tells her he’s waiting for her to hand it over…the picture. He snatches it out of her hand and warns her not to tell anyone and walks away.
Too happy to have her mood killed, she shouts at him, “Thank you!” He smiles, with his back turned away from her.
But just before he can get away, Ha-ni’s teacher calls him out for the bet—the one to piggyback Ha-ni if she scored in the top fifty. Ha-ni tries to explain that the bet was called off, but the teacher goes on and on about how proud she is, and how he can’t go back on his word. He tries to ignore her, but then she starts chanting, “Piggy-Back! Piggy-Back!” and all the students join in. Hahaha. This is ridiculous. But hey, if we get a piggyback ride out of it, I suppose Teacher will be everyone’s hero.
Seung-jo looks back at Ha-ni incredulously, as she tries to indicate that this isn’t her idea…
Will he? Won’t he?
What’s a girl gotta do for a piggyback ride?
Episode 2 was a marked improvement from Episode 1, which really should have been condensed into a twenty-minute intro rather than a series premiere. Ha-ni and Seung-jo are far more interesting with each other, and the hate dynamic is fully in play, making every forced situation with them delightfully awkward in that teenage love/hate way.
I think they have good chemistry, which is surprising, really, since I thought it would be extremely one-sided as far as acting goes. But I actually think that they work well together and that there’s plenty of potential for a cute love story here.
Plot-wise, there’s very little going on in terms of big story moments, which is fine, but makes this feel much more like a daily family drama. It’s actually lacking the sort of narrative urgency of other trendy dramas, which have to go the course of a relationship while getting through all the major story arcs in fewer episodes. Like javabeans noted, this one lacks the high-concept elements that made longer-running series Return of Iljimae or Goong work with more languid pacing.
I don’t mind the mundane stories and the smallness of just following two characters in their day-to-day, but there does seem to be something lacking in terms of story space. It’s possible that it’s humor. While I find everyone adorable and sweet and very pretty, I don’t laugh out loud while watching this. Don’t get me wrong—I don’t think this drama is trying to make me laugh out loud. I just sort of wish it were.
As for the couple who hates each other, forced to live together, and piling misunderstanding on top of misunderstanding? I love that stuff, and get such pleasure out of watching them squirm. Here’s hoping the situations get even zanier, and the actors tap into that energy.
A flawed beginning for sure, but I already like the Duckie / Ha-ni / Seung-jo triangle, and I trust the director, so I’m optimistic that we’re going somewhere…worth going.
- Playful Kiss: Episode 1
- Playful Kiss ratings round two: 3.7%
- Playful Kiss makes a dismal premiere (ouch!)
- Extended 15 min trailer for Playful Kiss
- New teaser for Playful Kiss