SBS has had a number of dramas with truly beautiful cinematography in the past year — Bad Guy, Dr. Champ, Will It Snow For Christmas, Jejoongwon — and now we can add Secret Garden to that list. I’m really enjoying this drama based on story and acting alone — and Hyun Bin and Ha Ji-won’s awesome chemistry — but the beauty of the visuals just makes it that much more enjoyable to watch.
SONG OF THE DAY
Kim Bum-soo – “나타나” (You appear) from the Secret Garden OST [ Download ]
EPISODE 3 RECAP
At the department store shoot, Joo-won calmly sets the director down and proclaims himself Ra-im’s fan, shocking everyone in the vicinity. It’s tantamount to a frank declaration of interest, and who doesn’t love juicy behind-the-scenes drama?
Joo-won treats the entire crew to lunch at the store’s restaurant, while Ra-im sits in stunned silence, not quite sure what to think of all this. Joo-won “borrows” her for a private lunch for two, eliciting a chorus of knowing oohs from the crew (and a jealous snipe by Chae-rin at his taste in shabby looking women, which gets back the retort from a stuntman that she’s the shabby one of the two — yay for crew solidarity!).
Joo-won has set aside another lavish spread, explaining that he’d asked her friend (the hilarious Ah-young) what she liked, only to be told that with Ra-im, quantity is more important than quality. (Ha! You can tell that from her reaction that Ra-im’s a bit embarrassed but can’t refute it.)
He pulls out her chair for her, but Ra-im instinctively grabs for the chair distrustfully. She sorta covers up the slip by acting like she doesn’t like the chivalrous gesture, but he guesses she’s never had anyone pull out a chair for her before.
Joo-won supposes that the truth of his status makes things look different now — he looks more handsome, more important. (Even in this situation, he has to defend the indefensible, saying, “You’re thinking, Ah, so that tracksuit really was expensive. I feel sorry now.” Him and his tracksuit fixation. Funny given his decidedly unathletic bent — but perhaps there’s some overcompensation mixed in?)
Ra-im nods, surprising him with her ready agreement — since he said she’s pretty when she’s angry, she’s determined to stop getting angry. Telling him not to come by the action school anymore, she gets up and leaves.
She arrives at the restaurant only to find it now empty, and reaches for a leftover bowl of rice. Joo-won, having followed her down, angrily takes it away from her. He doesn’t understand her response, but she replies that she’s not comfortable with the lavishness of his gesture. To make her rejection clear, Ra-im slaps down four bills onto the table (40,000 won, or just under $40). It’s payment for this meal and her hospital bill, so they can put a neat end to their association.
Ra-im walks away, prompting Joo-won to burst out that all he wanted was for her to stop saying “I’m sorry” in her damned meek way — she’d spent all morning doing that thankless stunt and responding to harsh words with “I’m sorry.”
Ra-im counters that she could say that all day long — that’s how she makes her living. But thanks to him, now people will start gossiping that she’s got friends in high places, meaning she’ll have to say those words a helluva lot more in the future. “Do you think all the world is a fairy tale? Do you think all the dining tables in the world are set with flowers, candles, and wine?” She warns him to stay away from her.
As predicted, as soon as she gets back to the set, a buddy compliments her connections and the great lunch. Even the director kisses up to her, excusing her from work and ordering Chae-rin to do her own stunt.
Jong-soo isn’t particularly pleased to hear about the day’s events — particularly the part where Joo-won took such an active interest in Ra-im — and goes rock climbing to relieve his frustrations, which is really just a flimsy excuse to get Philip Lee sweaty. I’m hardly complaining…but you couldn’t make him a swimmer? I’m just sayin’.
Oska gets an upset call from his manager about a situation at the LOEL department store — a poster advertises a campaign promising a prize trip with Oska. He hadn’t even heard about this, but it’s clear where the guilt lies, and he storms over to the fancy house of glass to confront Joo-won about it.
Unruffled, Joo-won tells his cousin to relax, because he’ll wind up doing the promotion in the end anyway. Oska huffs and puffs in protest, and he tells his team to move his music video shoot (so as to conflict with the promotion).
Oska doesn’t seem to be a bad-tempered diva sort, but his capricious nature makes him a demanding client to manage. Today he decides, based on an exaggerated article in the news, that he would like to take on the position of cultivating new talent. (Or rather, he’d like the glory of being addressed by a hot new singer as his manager-boss.) (No doubt the writer is slipping in some subtle commentary on the state of celebs today, yeah?) He wants his manager to find the kid he saw singing in the club. Project!
It’s Joo-won’s turn to barge in on his cousin that night, and for two guys who have such distaste for each other, they sure do enjoy dropping in all the time, don’t they? (I almost made another bromance joke here, only I realized that they’re first cousins. And that may be flirting with too many taboos, even for a kdrama.)
I love the nonchalant way Joo-woo interrupts Oska’s date and asks plainly if Oska has ever dated a woman who lives in a hut out of National Geographic, doesn’t have a strong educational background, and is occasionally violent. Joo-won is like a curious little boy, asking, “Have you ever been hit by her… but liked it? You know, you think you can withstand being hit some more, and even slightly look forward to it?”
Pffft! No surprise that Oska assumes he’s talking about kinky bed-play. Joo-won is left with no answers to his confused questions, and broods.
Jong-soo pays a visit to Joo-won’s office to respond to Joo-won’s film-shoot gesture, and opens with the backhanded comment, “You look much better in a suit than that tracksuit.” To which Joo-won returns, “Which isn’t to say that I don’t look good in the tracksuit.” (Oh, kiddo. Let. It. Go.)
Jong-soo takes issue to Joo-won buying everyone lunch and warns him not to mess with Ra-im, because she’s well on her way to success and is talented at her job. Joo-woon is fine agreeing, but adds that he wants to help her — so Jong-soo’d better not mess with him, either. All right, boys, put ’em away.
Seul arrives at Oska’s place but only finds his manager there, who is NOT pleased to see her, knowing of the unhappy ex-couple’s pained past. He rejects her proposal to be their MV director (saying they’ve gotten someone else), and tells her not to come by anymore.
Seul calls in a favor to a friend to find out which director is attached the MV, then brightens when Joo-won drives in. She tries to suggest that they go on a date, but her hint goes flatly ignored. Joo-won excuses himself, heading inside with his perturbed thoughts, particularly aggravated by the sight of Ra-im’s 40,000 won. Finally he calls his doctor to ask for the receipt to Ra-im’s hospital bill.
Ra-im trudges to the bus stop, where she’s greeted by a large poster of Jeon Do-yeon in a cosmetics ad. Thinking of Joo-won’s comment that she’s like Jeon Do-yeon to him, she can’t help but be flattered at the comparison, and tries to pose girlishly in imitation of the poster.
She feels silly, however, and bows meekly to the poster and apologizes — as though she believes she doesn’t have it in her to be pretty, although she’d like to be.
Joo-won shows up at the action school — wearing yet another piece of sartorial art in a sequined leopard-print tracksuit. He announces that he’s not here to see Ra-im, but merely to collect what is owed him. Reciting the adage that rich people are the stingiest, he presents her with her hospital bill for 45,000 won. Therefore she still owes him 5,000 won.
She’s only too happy to pay him off quickly and get rid of him for good, but she only has 3,000 won in her wallet and offers to pay the rest later. Naturally he can’t let her off so easily and pokes at her a bit more, till she storms off in a huff.
Joo-won can’t resist taking the opportunity to peek in Ra-im’s locker, taking a photo of her photos, which is adorable of him. Even more adorable is his jealousy at seeing the photo of Oska that she’s pinned up — with her face pasted onto the girl posing with Oska. Incensed, Joo-won crumples it up.
And then, a small insight into her character: Amidst all her work supplies (bandages, running shoes, boxing gloves), he spies Ra-im’s small stash of cosmetics — red nail polish, face cream, blush. Interesting.
Ra-im directs the stunt team in exercises, but Joo-won purposely refuses the help of another stuntman just so he can complain to Ra-im about needing a foot-holder. Irritated, she grabs his legs to shut him up, and he proceeds with some hilariously wimpy neck-raises.
She tells him to do it properly, so he warns that she’ll regret making the request. He demonstrates what he means by doing a proper sit-up, which brings them face-to-face in alarming proximity. Ra-im finds their closeness uncomfortable and drops her eyes self-consciously, while Joo-won enjoys looking straight at her every time he completes one. Who knew sit-ups could be so sexy? Rawr.
He teases her by commenting on her prettiness, and she kicks him in retaliation and storms out. Warning him that she’s pretty pissed off, she asks if he likes her — is that why he keeps showing up?
Notice that he doesn’t directly answer the question, although his reply sounds like a flat denial; he says that it makes no sense for him to like her, that he’d be crazy to, that he has tons of ladies lined up dying to marry him. She, on the other hand, has none of those traits to recommend her.
She asks why he keeps following her, to which he replies, “Ask yourself that,” as though that’s a perfectly reasonable answer.
He says, “What can I do when I keep thinking of you? Even when I’m not around you, it still feels like you’re around. What am I supposed to do?” He starts to recite his insane “Kim-su-han-mu-the-turtle-and-the-crane” speech — how crazy must he be to be spouting that nonsense every night?
He wonders, “What have you done to me? Why me?” After all, all she does is hang up on him, get angry at him when he buys her food, and hit him. “You’re so strange that I’m puzzled and amazed.”
Well, it’s not the most romantic confession, but it is flattering in its own eccentric way, especially when he adds, “So right now, I’m crazy.” But he tells her not to worry — he won’t come round anymore.
Oska rehearses with his backup dancers, and I find it hilarious that they’ve made him into this idol-oppa, when (let’s be honest here) he’s a little old for that. I was picturing him as a Bae Yong-joon type or, to be closer to the Hallyu-singer-in-Japan mold, a Ryu Shi-won or Park Yong-ha (RIP).
His manager has tracked down the club singer kid, named Tae-sun, but getting him onboard Oska’s scheme is proving difficult. First off, Tae-sun doesn’t even know who Oska is, nor does he care about celebrities.
Oska finds the prospect of being unrecognized a personal affront and, calling the kid, tries to prove his identity by singing one of his pop hits. Tae-sun doesn’t care and says — in quite rude language, at that — “If you want to meet me, send me your music.” While we don’t know anything about the guy yet, he is currently selling his keyboard and has decided to quit songwriting.
Ah-young goes out on a blind date, only to find that she’s been set up with someone she knows, per his request: It’s Secretary Kim, one of Joo-won’s staffers. Hilariously, the guy has modeled his behavior after Joo-won’s, thinking it’s a way to impress Ah-young, and snaps his fingers to get the waiter’s attention. He also uses a few of Joo-won’s trademark questions, designed to intimidate: “Is that truly your best? Are you absolutely certain?”
The thing is, while that obnoxious behavior is tolerated when Joo-won does it because of his position, on anyone else it’s just plain obnoxious, and Ah-young is not impressed. When Secretary Kim starts to say something about “For five years…” she thinks he’s been stalking her for that long and leaves the restaurant straightaway.
However, as soon as she steps outside, she’s greeted with guys holding sparklers and cheering, celebrating her five years of employment. Oops.
Now Secretary Kim greets her with a sweet smile, congratulating her on her five years, and Ah-young reconsiders.
Meanwhile, at home, Ra-im keeps checking her phone — true to his word, Joo-won stops texting her, and she seems disappointed. So when she gets a call from him, her attitude is different as she heads to meet him at a swanky live music club — she’s not hostile or antagonistic, for once.
Notably, she’s wearing a neckerchief, which is cute because Ah-young had been wearing one for her date. Ra-im had found it odd, but Ah-young had replied that guys like when you hide a bit of skin. But Joo-won wonders if she’s hurt herself or something, so she pulls it off self-consciously.
Ra-im offers to buy him a beer, her tone hesitantly friendly as she concedes that she’s sorry for a few things. However, the sight of her well-worn bag — which has been mended with safety pins — makes him suddenly angry.
He says in his terse voice, “For the first time in my life, I think I’ve met a woman I can’t deal with.” He’s never been curious about the cost of a woman’s bag before, or about whether she couldn’t afford one. He asks in a hard tone, could it really be that he had been excited all day about his 2,000 won excuse, all for a woman who can’t even afford her own bag?
What a way to put it — as though she’s not worth his admiration if she’s poor. We can cut him some slack because we understand that he’s confused about his own feelings, but I don’t blame Ra-im for wanting to blacken a few body parts because he makes it sound as though he resents having spent the headspace over her.
All her good humor now gone and thoroughly insulted, Ra-im slaps the money on the table and leaves. Way to blow it, buster — just when she was starting to unwind toward you.
Ra-im walks out of the club just as Oska arrives, all worked up over the punk of a musician who won’t deign to acknowledge his celebrity. He’s pleased to see her and stops her to chat, just as Joo-won also leaves. Oska grabs her bag to keep her from leaving, and the broken strap snaps — which only further angers Joo-won. Oska doesn’t have the same reaction and even compliments her for her resourcefulness, but her nerves are already rubbed raw and looks at Joo-won uneasily.
Joo-won leaves without a word.
After hearing that the musician Tae-sun has left the club, Oska walks with Ra-im and urges her to cheer up. He wonders what her relationship to Joo-won is, and she answers vaguely that it’s the kind of relationship where they’re able to see through to each other’s inner feelings over one bag.
Oska guesses that she must have a really good bit of dirt on Joo-won — some weakness that puts him at a disadvantage. That must be why he’s going around talking about her all the time, which is a declaration that surprises her. He… talks about her?
They’re joined by Joo-won’s sister Hee-won, who spots them as they walk by and teasingly warns Ra-im that Oska’s a playboy.
Oska’s smile fades to hear Hee-won say that Joo-won went on a blind date with Seul, though the rumor is that she dumped him instead of the other way around. (That was Joo-won’s suggestion to allow Seul to save face.)
This launches Oska in to a broody flashback that shows a bit of their prior troubles, although I’m guessing the full story has a lot more angst to it:
It was years ago — he was still a star then, and still an incorrigible flirt. He’d insisted to Seul that he was at the recording studio, but she wasn’t buying it, and accused him of being with another woman. (The name is “Chun Ji-ae” — a cheeky nod to Queen of Housewives, where his not-quite-romance with Kim Nam-joo’s character was the drama’s runaway hit plotline.) And thus began the trouble.
Both cousins are therefore in dour moods that night, and walk along outside the house drinking beer. Separately, and then together.
Both want to talk first, and insist on asking their questions before listening to the other’s, which ironically just extends the non-answer process for both:
Joo-won: “Did Gil Ra-im get home okay?”
Oska: “I heard you went on a seon (date).”
Joo-won: “I go on them all the time. Did you send her alone, or take her home?”
Oska: “How was your date this time?”
Joo-won: “Did she say anything about me?”
Oska: “Hee-won says she dumped you. Is that true?”
Joo-won: “Anything at all, even a little?”
Oska: “Were you really dumped?”
Joo-won: “Was she still carrying that miserable bag? A plastic bag would be better.”
Sigh. Boys! These guys could do well to talk a lot less, and listen a lot more.
Oska points out that Joo-won’s hardly going to marry a stuntwoman, so he ought to just enjoy himself without all this complicated question-asking.
Joo-won, unsurprisingly, can’t get Ra-im out of his mind and sinks into a pensive sulk. He puts away the book he was trying to read, and when the camera pans over the books shelved on that case, the titles form a poetic sort of statement:
A sunny day meaning nothing
Someone is walking into my heart
I looked forward to chance
My melancholy, precious woman
You flew here by mistake
Ra-im receives a phone call informing her that she won some giveaway at the LOEL department store. Her first thought is that Ah-young had something to do with it, since that’s her workplace, but her friend points out that it’s a lot more likely that Mr. President was involved. You’d think that the idea would anger her, but her opinion is slowly starting to change, and she asks Ah-young if she can borrow her purse tomorrow.
All the while, Joo-won sits just outside her National Geographic apartment in his car, as though he might be expecting her call. Tired of waiting, he gets out and heads to the door where he raises his hand to knock (wrapping his oh-so-fastidious hand into a handkerchief first, so as not to dirty it).
But then he pauses, and sighs. He decides against it.
The next day, he’s walking through the department store with his secretary when something — or rather, someone — catches his eye.
It’s Ra-im, sporting her borrowed bag, here to claim her winnings.
Both stop in their tracks and stare at each other — she a bit shocked and uncertain, he still frustrated.
Considering how the body-switching premise was one of the big promotional points of this drama, I would have expected them to spring it on us a lot quicker — if not in the first episode, then surely the second. Goodness knows that an American TV show would have pushed hard to get it into the first ten minutes, so convinced are U.S. television producers that the audience must be hook, line, and sinkered as soon as possible that pilots these days are given no room to breathe or grow into their stories.
So it’s with pleasant surprise that I watch the story unfold here, even though we have not so much as a hint as to how the switch happens, nor is there a fantasy element preparing the stage for such an event. (Maybe it’ll have to do with the photo of her father that changes his facial expression in response to Joo-won?) But I’m not complaining, and am enjoying the drama so much that I don’t really care when the switch happens. In fact, I like that we’re spending so much time on these characters pre-switch so that when we eventually get there, things will have stakes and real emotional consequences.
For instance, I love that Joo-won wants to help Ra-im, but is just incredibly ill-equipped to do so. He understands that he’s attracted to her but isn’t willing to admit his attraction in a normal sense — he has to grasp at straws for reasons to validate his feelings, and in the absence of that validation, he sticks to firm denial that he could even harbor feelings for her. And while he knows the concrete ways he wants to help her — like give her a decent bag and fix up her shabby apartment — he doesn’t know how to accomplish that, as she’s still this huge mystery to him. He’s so like an innocent child in that respect, and when he speaks of Ra-im, it’s like she is a different species.
And that makes the body-switching that much more fun to look forward to. Once he’s in her place, he’ll finally be able to understand what makes her tick, from all her defense mechanisms to her secret fears. And — to have our cake and eat it too — I suspect it’ll give him the chance to address all those little things that annoy him, such as, say, her shapeless wardrobe and rundown apartment.
Also: This drama is such eye-candy to watch, purely for the visual palette alone.
- Secret Garden: Episode 2
- Secret Garden: Episode 1
- Song Yoon-ah plays her fashionable self in Secret Garden cameo
- Hyun Bin’s on top for Secret Garden
- Secret Garden sold abroad before premiere
- A deluge of new stills from Secret Garden