Oh, so cute. WAAAAY better than I was fearing, and Kim Tae-hee is seriously adorable. So if you don’t mind, I’d just like to take a moment to address Madam Girlfriday:
MUAHAHA! I WIN! Neener neener, in your face!
Okay, I’d better stop now, just in case things take a turn for the worse later and I’m forced to eat my words. Because even worse than having that rubbed in my face later on is deserving it.
SONG OF THE DAY
Acoustic Collabo – “My One and Only Love” [ Download ]
EPISODE 1 RECAP
We open on LEE SEOL (Kim Tae-hee) walking through palace grounds, dressed in full princess regalia. She is attended by a retinue of court ladies, and heads toward a courtyard that is decorated in finery; traditional dancers and musicians sit poised, ready to begin their performance.
As Seol makes her way across the pavilion and seats herself, a man in a suit (Song Seung-heon, playing PARK HAE-YOUNG), reports into his earpiece, “The princess has arrived,” signaling the beginning of the show.
Drummers drum, dancers dance, and Seol watches smilingly… and then lets out a big yawn. We’re meant to think this is a subtle Roman Holiday moment that will soon pass, but no, she follows that with a neck stretch, kicks up her feet, and taps them like a child on the ground. She even stands up and massages her tired back — and it’s then that we see that she’s not, in fact, presiding over the fancy court event.
Instead, she’s sitting alone at the front of the palace grounds, dressed as a princess for tourist photos, a la Goofy at Disneyland. The real princess is inside, a Westerner who watches the events that have been prepared for her visit.
As soon as her shift winds down, Seol bounds off to change, just as the diplomat comes up to the photographer with a request: Princess Stella wants a commemorative photo with the Korean “princess.”
Since Seol has left, Hae-young hurries to look for her and barges into the women’s changing room, thereby fulfilling more than one viewer’s fantasies, I’m sure. The ladies squeal and throw clothes at him, but he ignores them and locates Seol, dragging her out.
He asks her to remain for the photo session, but she flatly declines, as she’s got another part-time job lined up. Until he offers her a hefty 100,000 won ($90 USD) for an hour’s work.
Suddenly all smiles, Seol accepts. While she poses with the princess, Hae-young hears of the latest brouhaha in the Blue House, as the president has issued a conference regarding the restoration of the monarchy, which will be put to a vote. Not surprisingly, he faces strong opposition from other politicians, who vow to do everything to counter the president’s move.
As the event winds down, Seol tracks Hae-young down to ask for her pay, growing affronted when he tells her he doesn’t have the cash on him — all he has is a note for 1 million won, not the 100,000 he promised. She tries to protest, but he’s called away and hurriedly gives her his business card, asking her to text him her bank account info so he can transfer the funds.
Hae-young has been called by his grandfather, the elderly chairman to Daehan Group, who is making yet another visit to a particular gravesite. Hae-young has dutifully accompanied his grandfather here over the years, but he’s growing impatient with the pointless exercise, not understanding the old man’s dedication. Frustrated with his grandfather’s constant answer that things will become clear in time, he retorts that he won’t ask anymore.
Taking a few moments alone at the gravesite, Chairman Park addresses the deceased: “Your Highness, we have waited a very long time. Now all of the preparations are complete.”
Seol bikes to school and slips into the department office where she works, knowing that she’s late again. She tries to smooth over the ruffled feathers of her supervisor, who’s used to this and calls Seol on her “princess” behavior, wryly referring to her as “Your Highness.”
The three women — the third being Seol’s friend and classmate — all snap to attention when NAM JUNG-WOO (Ryu Soo-young) enters, as he is clearly a favorite professor, as well as being witty, smart, and handsome to boot.
How convenient that the topic upon which Jung-woo lectures today happens to be Korea’s monarchy and the conditions of its possible restoration — such as a hidden child, for instance. Seol drools over the hot prof and tells her friend that she’ll seal the deal when she goes to Egypt — the art professors will surely head to the pyramids, where a few nights in close quarters will be on her side.
She daydreams about this fateful meeting, and I love that in her fantasy she’s dressed up like a frivolous city girl as she wheels her luggage through the pyramids, ready to surprise her lover, Mr. Hot Prof. Alas, her own dream fails her, and Dream Jung-woo shuts her in the mummy cask, leaving Seol to cry out after him, “Professor!”
Which is, of course, when she wakes up and realizes she’s just shouted in the middle of lecture. Embarrassed, she mumbles her apology — she was thinking of something else. He teases, “You were thinking about something else, and I was involved? Wow.”
As students file out of the classroom, Seol notices the slide onscreen, the hanja characters catching her attention. She’d missed the explanation in her dozing, so her friend fills her in: It’s from a letter written by the Emperor Sunjong (the last Joseon emperor). The original artifact is lost and only photos remain, but this was the first discovery indicating the existence of Lee Young, Sunjong’s lost child (who, we will later discover, is Seol’s ancestor).
There’s something familiar about those letters… but Seol’s attention is immediately distracted when her friend tells her to give up on her crush; Hot Prof Jung-woo has a girlfriend. She’s reputed to be beautiful and rich, and a director of an art museum.
Seol accompanies her friend to her job at a department store, which is just another excuse for her to lovingly take photos of a coveted piece of luggage — the perfect bag to take with her to Egypt. She’s had her eye on one in particular, and has almost scraped together enough to buy it. But the saleslady tells her that there’s only one bag left, and the model has been discontinued. Seol frets — and after she spent the past two years saving! (That comment earns her a polite-but-incredulous, “It took you two years to save 300,000 won?” ($280) Lol.)
On her way out, Seol is attracted by the shiny baubles in the jewelry display, and oohs over the pretty pieces of jewelry. A customer buys the ring she’s looking at, and Seol recognizes him as the guy from before. The guy who owes her money.
He again offers to transfer the money into her account, but she’d rather be paid now. Rather than allowing herself to be dismissed, Seol follows Hae-young into a crowded elevator, though she doesn’t press her point or say anything.
Instead, they stand side by side and play a round of I’m-not-looking-at-you-I-swear-well-maybe-just-a-peek-oops!-nope-not-looking! It’s pretty adorable.
Following him into the parking garage, she remains a few steps behind until he finally faces her. He smirks to himself, half-exasperated, half-puffed up with self-satisfaction, thinking, “She’s totally fallen for me.” Pride — it comes before something, they say. What was that again?
Seol loses her nerve and turns away, and he stops her from leaving, which I find hilarious — she can’t just go without professing her crush on him! Nope, he’s gotta hear it, vain pretty man that he is, lol. He prompts her to just out with it already.
To his utter bewilderment, it’s not an advance or a confession she makes, but a request for his receipt, since he hadn’t cared to receive one in the first place. Purchases of over 300,000 won will earn a special gift.
The conversation is interrupted by a call from OH YOON-JU (Park Ye-jin), who’s friendly enough with Hae-young to call him oppa and talk flirtatiously. Her big exhibit opens tomorrow, to which Hae-young promises to come. She adds that she’s currently cleaning her employees’ desks as a thank-you gesture for all their hard work, and declines his offer to help with that. (She’s totally lying, as she’s actually picking out wine in a fancy restaurant, but hey, it makes her sound good.)
Hae-young offers Seol a part-time job cleaning some desks, offering that receipt and 30,000 won. Seol ain’t no fool, and she immediately sizes up the situation: He’s harboring a one-sided crush for that woman. Brightly, she tells him to wait a minute, promising to turn that unrequited love into a spouse.
Running off, she comes back with rubber work gloves — for him. After all, she can tell he’s rich, and figures the woman is too. Would she really be impressed that he hired someone to do the cleaning? No, people are moved when you give them something they never thought you would.
Wishing him luck, she takes the receipt and bounces off gaily.
Hae-young gets a text from Yoon-ju asking if he’s on his way over bearing gloves, intending to do the cleaning himself. Just in case, she’s leaving work early, to prevent him from all that work. And Hae-young has to smile in wonderment — so Seol WAS right.
Yoon-ju has dinner with Jung-woo, who has recalled that today is the ten-year anniversary of their first meeting. It’s clear that he has feelings for her — they were each other’s first loves — but they’re not in a dating relationship, not exactly. It seems complicated.
For instance, when she gives him a preview to her new exhibit regarding the old monarchy, he envelops her in a warm hug, and she stiffens. He understands that she’s not reciprocating, but that’s not the intent of his hug, and he keeps his arms around her.
He’s proud of her efforts, and tomorrow will be a big day, with the president slated for a visit. He assures her that tomorrow, her talent and effort will be proven to the world.
Seol makes her way home, where, to her surprise, her passcode is rejected. Her (adopted) sister — both girls were adopted from the same orphanage — LEE DAN, answers the door in a surly mood, and flatly turns Seol away for the night, saying that she wants to spend some time alone.
Without anywhere else to turn, Seol sneaks into school to crash at the office — only she runs into Jung-woo on her way in. He’s quick to size up the situation but doesn’t comment on it, and they share some cup ramyun as they chat.
Seol casually asks about his supposed girlfriend, wondering if she’s as pretty as rumored, her heart sinking when he confirms it. She makes up an excuse to stay behind when he heads home, so she can settle on the couch for the night.
But first, she takes the opportunity to look around Jung-woo’s office, noting the book he is currently reading — it’s the one he wrote, which deals with the last Crown Prince. Curiously, she notices that a co-author is listed, someone named Yoon-ju.
Immediately, she heads online to find out more about the woman, and realizes that this is the museum director, hence also his girlfriend (and, in her mind, her rival). Her hunch is confirmed when she sees that his computer wallpaper is a photo of Yoon-ju.
The next question she asks the internet: “How do I get rid of my man’s woman?” Haha.
Having identified her competition, Seol heads to the Museum of Haeyoung tomorrow for Yoon-ju’s exhibit opening, where she catches a glimpse of Hae-young in the crowd. Whirling around, she ducks to keep out of sight and hurries along, accidently stumbling right into Yoon-ju’s mini-photo shoot with a photographer.
Too bad Hae-young has already spotted her, and comes up right behind to ask if she followed him here (O, vanity). Seol denies it, having been surprised to see him in the first place, and again ducks for cover when Yoon-ju looks in her direction.
Noting his curiosity over her reaction, Seol refers to the offender and sniffs that Yoon-ju’s not so impressive, really. She must be dating someone in the Daehan Group family to have advanced this far in her career at such a young age.
So naturally Seol is startled when Yoon-ju heads straight for them and greets Hae-young warmly. She tries to sneak away, but Hae-young grabs her back and doesn’t let her off the hook, introducing her to Yoon-ju as someone “with a lot of interest in you.”
After Yoon-ju is called away, Hae-yoon assures Seol that her assumptions are off-base, and identifies Yoon-ju as the recipient of the ring. He calls her the woman who’s going to marry into Daehan Group, effectively putting an end to her protests and declaring his intentions. Or rather, he would be declaring his intentions if Seol had picked up on the fact that we already know — that he’s the Daehan Group heir.
But no matter, because Seol’s just thrilled that this means Jung-woo is free for her. In a chipper mood, she asks how it went last night with the rubber gloves, and gives him more advice about how to win her over, saying jealousy is the next tool. The sign of success? When Yoon-ju betrays her suspicions by looking over at his lady companion and asking, “Who is she?”
As if on cue, Yoon-ju approaches with a big smile but asks hesitantly, “Who… is she?” Hae-young is surprised (and gratified that this means she IS jealous), so Seol ups the ante by cozying up to him and introducing himself as “oppa’s girlfriend,” using a false name for good measure.
This isn’t exactly Hae-young’s style to lie, but Seol has so far been right on all counts, so when Yoon-ju asks if it’s true, he stutters, “U-uh… uh? Must be true.”
Throughout the subsequent coffee break, Hae-young surrenders the lead to Seol, though not wholly eagerly. Mostly he focuses on his coffee while Seol gushes that oppa is soooo attentive, and calls her his little Thumbelina who he’d like to carry around everywhere. And that Hae-young told Seol that there’s a lot of talk about Yoon-ju looking like a fox and having a complicated love life (HA, she had to get her dig in)… but that in reality she’s quite sweet.
Yoon-ju picks up on an oddity in Seol’s endless litany praising Hae-young — about him making his own fortune in the world — and Hae-young covers for that by telling her that he hasn’t told her the truth of his background yet.
The coffee date seems to get under Yoon-ju’s skin a teeny bit, but not to the level that Seol intended, so she figures they’ll have to call out the heavy guns.
Seol spots Jung-woo in the crowd, and rather than have to explain why she’s here at his girlfriend’s exhibit, she ducks away and pulls Hae-young with her. She relocates them to the second floor, where they watch the opening officially get under way.
As Yoon-ju addresses the crowd, she unveils her pièce de résistance — the thing she’d vaguely alluded to with Jung-woo as her “secret” — which is Emperor Sunjong’s lost letter.
This is the artifact that Jung-woo had been studying, and given that he had written an entire book with Yoon-ju about the topic, it’s a pretty sneaky thing she has accomplished, keeping him out of the loop, basking in the glory of her solo discovery. I’m sure you could argue that what she did wasn’t exactly unethical, but to a good friend and colleague, it sure smacks of betrayal. Jung-woo realizes this and stalks out, fuming.
Watching from above, Seol is once again transfixed by the hanja letters on the letter — she recognizes them from tapestry hangings at home.
She prods Hae-young into buying her dinner (in exchange for her girlfriend-wooing advice), and her enthusiastic exclamations have him bowing his head apologetically for the disturbance. He’s going about his courtship all wrong, she decrees, especially as he bought the ring to propose with. No, no, no — he can’t propose until she’s absolutely dying to be proposed to!
It’s cute how he doesn’t know how to handle her — she both amuses and embarrasses him — while Seol is blithely unconcerned and continues dispensing her advice.
She orders Hae-young not to buy Yoon-ju anything further, even on her birthday; he is to call her instead, and give her the gift a week later saying, “I didn’t want my gift mixing with the others.” Swoon practically guaranteed.
Seol gets a call from Mom, who’s off to Mt. Jiri for the weekend to pray that sister Dan passes her upcoming exam. Seol balks at the request to feed the dogs at Mom’s rural bed-and-breakfast, but then she realizes that an empty house is just another opportunity for her to make some extra cash. HOW exactly she intends this we don’t know, but Seol’s flights of fancy are hardly rooted in realistic expectations, and she just sees this as a quick way to rustle up plane fare for her trip to Egypt.
Hae-young doesn’t approve — he’s showing himself to be a rather strait-laced, conservative type, isn’t it? — and even threatens to call her mother to warn her what her daughter’s been up to.
He’s called away with an emergency, and hurries to his grandfather’s bedside. The chairman has had a heart episode, triggered by overexcitement wrought by good news. Hae-young tries to speak to Grandpa, but the only words that the old man ekes out are “Lee…Seol…”
A conversation with the secretary clarifies that Lee Seol is a girl to whom Grandpa owes a debt. Hae-young’s frustration bubbles over yet again, because the grandfather he knows would never be indebted to anyone, or feel sorry about it. With one exception, that is: the man whose grave he periodically visits.
Hae-young guesses that this Seol character has something to do with the dead man, and while the secretary concedes that he’s right, it’s not his place to tell him the full story. That, he’ll have to get from his grandfather. But first, Hae-young must go and bring the girl here.
We know (from promos and basic drama premise info) what their relationship is, but Hae-young does not, and his cynical thoughts have taken him in the other direction. He asks one last question: Is this Seol person his grandfather’s (secret) child? Or his father’s?
Yoon-ju arrives to catch the end of this conversation, and we realize that she is the secretary’s daughter. She considers herself part of the family and wheedles her father for the story, but he won’t divulge information that is not her concern.
That night, as Hae-young looks at a photo of his father with tears in his eyes, we are given a few pieces of information: That his father is dead, that he has lingering father/grandfather issues, and that he seems like a lonely person.
In the morning, Hae-young arrives at Seol’s doorstep, though it’s her sister Dan who answers. He hasn’t been able to get a hold of her via phone, so he leaves his card and asks for Dan to let him know when she’s back.
Dan eyes him with interest, and offers the information of Seol’s current whereabouts, adding, “If I tell you now, can I still call you later?” He’s taken aback at the advance, which is hilarious. Oh, Hae-young and your awkwardness around forthright ladies. Bless his heart.
He drives down to the out-of-the-way bed-and-breakfast, where he sees a woman feeding the dogs in the yard. It takes a few moments for him to recognize her, but when he does, he’s utterly stunned.
She still hasn’t noticed him, and he pulls out his phone to call her number. She answers readily with her name, confirming that she is Seol, and that seems to make him even angrier, for whatever reason, and he hangs up.
Seol rings him back, and when he answers, she finally looks up and spots him across the yard. Not registering his grim face, she breaks out into a wide grin and greets him warmly, only to have him accuse her of lying.
Unruffled, she explains that she’d used a false name with Yoon-ju because jealous women often look up the offending party online; she was just protecting herself. However, Hae-young charges her with knowing who he was from the beginning, and asks accusingly if she’d approached him intentionally.
I suspect that the strength of his reaction points to some past incidents with this exact scenario, because he’s awfully sensitive — but that’s probably something learned over the course of one’s life when one is one of the richest heirs in the nation.
Seol just laughs it off, as she has no idea what he’s talking about, or even who he really is. He heads for the house, announcing that he’ll stay the night. That reminds Seol that she’s about to make some money, so she throws open her arms and welcomes him to her abode.
Cute, cute, cute. Kim Tae-hee is utterly winning, and I smile whenever she bounces around with her effervescent, good-natured cheer. This brand of overacting works in the rom-com genre, whereas the subtler acting required by her more serious drama and movie roles has often betrayed her weaknesses. It’s too bad she hasn’t been doing more dramas like this all this time, although I respect that she has tried very hard to stretch her acting abilities.
Same with Song Seung-heon — while I can’t call him good, he’s totally par for the course as far as rom-com leads goes, and I’m enjoying the little bits of humor he brings to the character. For instance, the way he reacts with confusion, amusement, and exasperation whenever Seol the Bubbly Whirlwind whooshes by him in a maelstrom of energy and emotion. I like that he’s not cold-hearted, and he’s not the snooty type, because I’m Darcy’d out. (Seriously, I love Pride and Prejudice and have read it dozens of times — but really, not everything has to be about it.)
It’s a little ridiculous to think of Song Seung-heon being stuck in an unrequited love, and that may have been even harder for me to believe than this whole monarchy-restoration business, but I’m trying to believe it. And while I’m not that enamored of the whole chaebol rich-boy thing (yawn), as long as the chemistry continues to spark and the laughs roll on, I’m happy. Their rapport isn’t the rawr-sizzling-sexual-tension kind of, say, Secret Garden, but it’s very cute to see them reacting to each other.
I did wonder how the restoration of the monarchy would come about, because it seems too complex an issue to introduce and establish in an episode or two, so it makes sense that they established that this has been an ongoing thing. And that people have known for ages that the lost Lee Young prince existed — it’s just not till now that they have been able to locate his descendants. This is reinforced by the fact that she was adopted, making it that much harder to track her down.
So far, a solid ride, and one I’m excited to continue.