My Princess puts a smile on my face. This drama is a ball of fluffy cute humor, buoyed by an often hilarious rapport between Kim Tae-hee and Song Seung-heon. It’s in the bickering vein, but not characterized by constant fighting or shrillness, which is often a danger in bickering romances. Sometimes the mood is friendly, sometimes sweet, and sometimes irritated, and I like that we’re always traveling between those, lest we linger too long in one mode.

With this episode, My Princess beat Sign — after trailing it by a mere 0.1% last Thursday — and scored a 20.0% rating (versus Sign’s 16.2%). Things are looking promising.

SONG OF THE DAY

My Princess OST – “Falling” [ Download ]

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EPISODE 3 RECAP

Hae-young tries to think up an excuse for the presence of a woman’s boots at the door while Yoon-ju looks at him skeptically, immediately sizing up the situation. Then Seol dashes out from the guest room to hurry to the bathroom in time. The look of chagrin on his face is priceless.

Moments later, Seol pops out of the bathroom, relieved and relaxed — until she sees the other two still standing there at the doorway. Hae-young tries to ask Yoon-ju not to misunderstand, but she takes the cool approach and just says she didn’t know he had this “side” to him, and calls him cute. For… hiding a girl while she came over? I don’t follow her logic.

In any case, after she leaves, Seol says cheerfully that Yoon-ju’s reaction sure was cool. And so she was, until she leaves — once outside, Yoon-ju looks much more bothered than she lets on.

She heads straight for the arms of Jung-woo, because this drama really wants us to hate her. She rebuffs the guy’s affection and backstabs him professionally, then seeks consolation in his arms? Urrrghhh. Sadly (imo), Jung-woo’s too much of a nice guy and holds her comfortingly.

In the morning, she gets some startling news and hurries to tell Hae-young to stop his grandfather from making a mistake. Chairman Park is, at the moment, holding a press conference throwing his full support behind the restoration of the monarchy. In fact, he’s chosen a truly shocking (but likely effective) way to gain support for the move — the day that the vote goes through for the restoration, he will donate his entire wealth to society. I guess that oughtta shut up naysayers who wouldn’t want to pay extra taxes to keep Seol in her princess finery.

Hae-young tries to get in contact with Seol, finally locating her at the school cafeteria. Before they can leave, a crowd of reporters appears and fires a barrage of questions their way.

Their attention is directed at Hae-young (asking for comment about his grandfather’s announcement), but he covers Seol’s face with his jacket to shield her identity from the horde. She’s confused, but he warns her that if they’re photographed together right now, things’ll get complicated.

Hae-young leads her out, and then they run in earnest from the rabid mob, while curious bystanders include Seol’s friend Sun-ah and Jung-woo. Hae-young manages to shove her into his car before being accosted and smilingly tries to fob off the reporters with jokes and smooth words. He almost succeeds in making his getaway, except for the untimely appearance of a smug, confident reporter who asks directly if the woman is a princess, and that increases the furor.

To put a swift end to speculation, Hae-young declares that she’s his girlfriend. Describing her as a sweet, ordinary student, he asks for them to back off, since they’re freaking her out.

With that, he drives to his hotel and hurries Seol inside — or at least tries to. She resists, saying that as a “business competitor,” she’ll be barred from entry — equating her teeny home operation to this luxury hotel, ha! I love her.

Now safe on home turf, the staff keeps the wall of reporters out of the building. Hae-young ushers her to his suite, which she initially balks at, eyeing him with suspicion. She whacks him in the face out of reflex, then apologizes for acting before thinking. Hilariously, he flinches automatically when she raises her fist, then realizes she was joking and tries to cover up his flinch. It’s adorable.

Hae-young explains that having his photos snapped and his private life exposed can be horrible, which he knows from personal experience. When she asks about his family, he admits Dad has been out of the picture for 20 years. Not dead, as I’d presumed, just gone.

That comment strikes a chord with Seol, who knows how it feels to be fatherless. Seeing her reaction, he offers up a “funny” tidbit, but it’s more sardonic than amusing — that as an 11-year-old boy, he was only one death away from being the head of Daehan Group. As a result, he’s been hounded by reporters since a young age, as well as potential kidnappers and ill-intentioned opportunists. But after enduring all that in the name of being the heir, now that his grandfather says he won’t leave him a dime, isn’t it understandable that it would make him angry?

Seol pats him on the head sympathetically, since to her 11-year-old self, Mom giving her sister an extra bit of sausage would have counted as a grave injustice. Her chipper attitude wrings a smile out of him.

They turn their attention to the TV, where the newest report is all about Hae-young’s girlfriend. Making the report is that smug Reporter Yoo; Hae-young’s statement at the school has now been twisted as Seol is called his fiancee.

Seol presses Hae-young to remove all their photos and videos from the internet — surely Grandpa has enough clout for that? — and even agrees to claim the role of princess if he does. But surely he won’t want her to do that and usurp his inheritance. In any case, she doesn’t believe she’s a princess, because “My father… is going to come back soon.” Aw, sad.

Chairman Park understands that Hae-young did this to protect the princess, but he’s upset that the move may undermine his own objectives.

Yoon-ju politely tries to suggest that Grandpa was hasty in making his announcement about his exercise in noblesse oblige, but he says he’s relieved that his old dream is finally realized. They’ve found the princess and the stage is set.

When she’s alone with her father, Yoon-ju vents her hurt and displeasure about this whole princess business. All her life she has lived suppressing resentment of her father’s dedication to the chairman, who always came first. She put up with it, thinking her day would come when it would all be worth it, but that hasn’t happened.

Dad considers her an important person in swaying Hae-young to the chairman’s side, but she declares that she cannot live like her father. She then turns to Reporter Yoo for reasons unknown, but knowing that the reporter is a sleazeball, this just solidifies her status as the Bitch of the drama. You know, in case you weren’t sure.

Yoon-ju then heads to Hae-young’s suite, and once again awkward timing intervenes as Seol emerges from the bedroom.

At first Yoon-ju is upset with Hae-young, believing the obvious. She still thinks Seol’s name is Eun-byul (from that encounter at the museum) and points out that although she and Hae-young haven’t exactly had a passionate relationship, it’s understood (by themselves and their families) that she and Hae-young would marry.

So to get everything into the open, Hae-young makes the official introductions, defining the relationships clearly to both parties. Yoon-ju is the woman he will marry, and Seol is the princess his grandfather has located. Immediately Yoon-ju’s disgruntlement fades, and she joins in with Hae-young’s offer to help.

Seol continues to deny being the princess, and Hae-young interprets that this means she’s holding out for more from him. In exchange for agreeing to go abroad, what will she ask of him? He anticipates that this matter will take three years to settle in its entirety, and offers to send her anywhere she wants, and to take care of her family in the meantime. Yes, hide the problem, Hae-young, and it’ll just go away! Like herpes.

I’m not sure if she’s merely stunned or if she’s perhaps a bit insulted by his high-handedness, but Seol accepts his offer with a challenging tone — she’ll go away if he gives her all his wealth. He warns her not to joke or piss him off, because he can be quite unpleasant when angered.

He has been instructed to bring Seol somewhere, but she is in no mood to oblige him — not until he says he’ll take her to meet her father.

He takes her in a helicopter to avoid running into the press, and as Seol looks at her fancy ride, she recalls a memory of another day when she’d seen a similar helicopter in the sky. She’d been a young girl, who’d accompanied her father to his construction job. The memory of her doting father has her in tears, though she smiles them away.

Oh, this isn’t going to end happily for her, is it? The look on Hae-young’s face is a dead giveaway; he observes Seol’s nervous anticipation with a regretful expression.

Upon their arrival, they join the chairman and Secretary Oh. But her face takes on a confused expression when she’s led to a gravesite — and the chairman addresses the deceased as “Your Highness.”

As though anticipating her pain, Hae-young looks away when Seol looks at him, trying to absorb what this all means. In denial, she bursts out, “I told you my father wasn’t dead! Where is he?”

Hae-young advises her to hear the truth, which he has been waiting so long to hear, but she doesn’t want to know any more, thinking that the truth means her father abandoned her.

Chairman Park explains that he was responsible for her father’s death, and relates the story.

It turns out that Seol’s father had known of his highborn origins, but he’d voluntarily left that identity behind, and was surprised to be tracked down. He’d told him that the “bad fate” between the chairman and his own grandfather (the last emperor) was all in the past, and that he wanted to leave it buried.

The chairman hadn’t been willing to do that, so Dad had slipped away in the night with Seol. The chairman had followed with his men, so Dad had hidden Seol in a side street, promising to come back right away, and turned back to deal with his pursuers. But in the process, he’d been hit by a car — the one carrying the chairman, who’d been speeding off to find him. Oh, this is so sad, and made even more so by the music.

After hearing the story, Seol kneels by the grave dully, sapped of her energy. She turns to go, and the chairman urges her to give her formal bow to her father. He adds that she doesn’t have to forgive him, and with a hard look his way, Seol agrees that she probably won’t — she won’t ever do anything to make him happy. Even if that includes bowing at her father’s grave.

Hae-young finds her sitting at the bus depot, where she bitterly vows to do things expressly to antagonize his family in the future. He calmly reasons that that’s only going to hurt her, and that her father would be saddened by it.

He offers her the one way to get her revenge upon his grandfather: Destroy the monarchy. But she knows that he’s not saying that to help her — he’s saying it out of his own wish to protect his inheritance. He calls it a win-win for both of them, and so she agrees to go along with his plan, on a condition. She wants a photo of her father, which he retrieves from Secretary Oh.

At school, news of Seol’s chaebol fiancΓ© has spread, and her two officemates are eager to hear the details, particularly since she’s taking a leave from school.

Yoon-ju meets with her to give her study abroad documents, and now that she’s been assured that she hasn’t been replaced in Hae-young’s affections, she takes on that friendly-but-ever–so-smug attitude, telling Seol that she need not pester herself with meeting Hae-young again. She’ll handle all the arrangements, and besides, she and Hae-young are practically married anyway.

Seol pointedly says that Yoon-ju sure has a lot of men she’s practically marrying, since everyone knows she’s also in that kind of relationship with Jung-woo. Yoon-ju waves it off, saying that she tends to attract these kinds of rumors (since she’s, like, sooooo popular). But when Seol replies that it’s a good thing Hae-young didn’t believe that rumor, Yoon-ju looks a little worried. Serves ya right.

Seol is lost in thought as Jung-woo walks by, though her face lights up when he calls her. She assures him that all the stuff about her marrying the diplomat are untrue, adding that there’s someone else she likes, which he immediately understands to mean himself.

He says that she must really be a princess, to which she answers, “How did you know?” She realizes she’s slipped when he admits he was just fishing around, and she asks him to keep it a secret.

He gives her a ride home, just as Hae-young pulls up behind them. Immediately the dick-off resumes, and I love that even though nobody’s pretending to be anybody’s lover this time, the guys still macho it up with each other. Old habits die hard. An example: Hae-young asks pointedly why a professor is taking a female student home in broad daylight, to which Jung-woo responds that he must only give women rides in the dead of night.

Hae-young retorts, “And what do you know about me?” Jung-woo replies that it’s public knowledge that he, the famous chaebol heir, is in an uproar about the potential loss of his inheritance, and adds that he and Seol aren’t even really engaged. Plus, she likes somebody else, a pointed reference to himself.

Hae-young shoots a disgruntled look Seol’s way before catching sight of a reporter down the street, talking to her sister Dan. Hae-young quickly pulls her toward his car, and she urges Jung-woo to hurry away as well.

Oblivious to them, the reporter asks Dan for information about the engagement, to which Dan says that she’s not Seol’s family. Ouch. Why so bitchy, favored daughter?

Arriving at her mother’s house, Seol looks around and confirms that no shifty types are around. Hae-young takes this opportunity to warn Seol against the dangers of riding in the cars of men like her professor, not that he cares, of course, or is jealous or anything. (I love how transparent Hae-young is.)

To which Mom pops up to say that the same goes for him. She’s intensely curious about this strange man with her daughter, and Seol asks if Mom has seen the news lately. Hilariously, Hae-young puffs up a bit, expecting some fawning coming his way. But Mom reminds her that she always shuts off the TV after her daily drama, and he deflates in disappointment. HAHA. Inadvertent ego setdown.

Seol tries to lie about not knowing Hae-young, but Mom isn’t having it and guesses they’ve just been on a date. Hae-young trades exasperated looks with Seol as Mom continues her interrogation.

Mom gets half the truth and fills in the rest with her own imagination, assuming that Hae-young had fallen for Seol after staying as a guest at this house.

He tries to answer her questions honestly (but vaguely), but Mom jumps to all the wrong conclusions, saying a few things that make Seol grimace (like how he must have a hard time working for Daehan, which he defends by saying the company isn’t that bad).

Mom also asks intrusive questions about his family, financial status, and assets in that way that Korean moms do — thinking she’s being all smooth and subtle while her kid cringes in shame. Yeah, subtle like a bulldozer.

She shoves the two kiddos into Seol’s room to relax until dinner, where Hae-young immediately locates her photo album. Seol tries to wrest it from his grasp, thinking he’s going to mock her, and ends up landing on top of him — just as Mom comes back in.

All flustered, the kids jump up and try to look calm while hilariously failing, and Seol covers up her embarrassment by yelling at both of them.

But it turns out he took her album to add a snapshot to it — the sole existing photograph of her father. Now that he’s fulfilled Seol’s condition for agreeing to his plan, she asks when she ought to plan on leaving the country. He answers that sooner is better.

In the ensuing days, Seol prepares for her departure, though she doesn’t tell anybody of her plans. It’s easier to leave first without all the questioning, so she packs and writes her mother a farewell letter, explaining that she’s heading to Egypt for a three-year trip, financially enabled by a lottery win.

On departure day, Hae-young finds her waiting for her flight, writing a list of things to buy her mother and sister. He offers to take care of the list for her then walks her toward her boarding gate.

She’s still a little uncertain about this trip, but Hae-young gives her the nod to encourage her onward, and she presents her boarding ticket.

Yet to their surprise, upon checking her passport, the gate agent asks her to step aside, as she has been barred from leaving the country.

 
COMMENTS

So very cute. The charm of this show is really in the interactions between Seol and Hae-young, not necessarily the plot or even the romance angle. I can definitely see how the attraction is building and will flare up at a later date, but for now I like that they’re buddies and co-conspirators — comfortable enough to bicker and speak their mind, but still with enough of a distance that they’re making new discoveries about each other. Like bonding over their longing for their absentee fathers.

I don’t even really care that the whole monarchy business is a total macguffin, and frankly I have no need to see the politicians yammering out their differences over it. I mean, it’s such an obvious contrivance that you either accept it or you don’t, and in that case I’m gonna just suspend my disbelief anyway.

I have no interest in Yoon-ju’s character (heh, could you tell?), because in addition to not caring much about Park Ye-jin’s portrayal either way, she’s just a boring (but necessary character). But I’m consoled by the knowledge that at least the love triangle with Jung-woo ought to be good, because I just love these two boys when they’re trying to get the better of each other. Sometimes I don’t even think it has anything to do with Seol (cue the fanfic?) but that these two men just rub each other the wrong way (snerk) and bring out that antagonism within each other. I could be very, very happy watching how this threeway conflict shapes up.

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