The lulz, they keep coming. Between My Princess and Dream High, my weeks are looking bright and fluffy. The two dramas appeal to me in very different ways, but both also make me laugh out loud and aww for the characters, and that’s enough to make me happy.
SONG OF THE DAY
Ibadi – “산책” (Stroll) [ Download ]
EPISODE 5 RECAP
Seol is taken to her new home, a modern palace that Chairman Park had secretly built just for her. It’s beautiful in a grand, stately way that befits a modern princess, and a butterfly even lands softly on her shoulder like she’s Cinderella, I kid you not. They take it as a good omen.
The chairman tells her to stay here for now, and in a week, they’ll hold a press conference to reveal her official entry into the palace.
Seol clarifies that she’s still confused about this whole princess thing; she only came because she couldn’t abide her father being subject to unjust accusations, and he’s the only person she knows who can fix that.
Now that the news is out, Mom has been brought to see her and Seol rushes to hug her. Unsure how to act to her newly royal daughter, Mom nervously calls her “Highness” and stammers at first, until she she gets the chairman’s permission to hug her back and treat Seol as normal.
The chairman explains the details to Mom, who brags about always knowing that Seol was quite unique as a child. She exaggerates just a wee bit with the praise of her scholastic prowess, which might be annoying if Mom weren’t sincere. We know it’s not how she actually thought of Seol, but her memory seems pretty malleable, and Seol takes just after her, happy to soak in the praise as though it were always true.
Seol requests a trip back home to collect her things, to which Grandpa asks if she’s sure she’ll be able to come back. The only person with the power to block attacks against her father is herself, as the princess — a reminder of a solid reason for her to return to the palace.
When Hae-young shows up to work at the foreign ministry, he finds he has been issued a warning for violating rules, and reassigned to standby duty. On top of that, the media is clamoring for a piece of him, having gobbled up the story of the chaebol in love with the princess, as the shifty reporter reminds him.
Yoon-ju drops by to inform Dan that in the wake of this news, bodyguards have been assigned to assure her safety. Never one to accept something gracefully, Dan retorts that if they’re not going to be assigned to her indefinitely, she’d rather not have them, because it’s an insulting feeling to have someone give you something, then take it back later.
But Yoon-ju’s not offended and just smiles, giving Dan her card. I wonder if she sees a bit of herself in Dan; I suppose we’ll have to anticipate a team-up with these two manipulators. Wonder Bitch Powers, Activate!
In her room, Dan takes out an embroidered pouch and gives it a meaningful look. The scheming begins…
The chairman offers Yoon-ju any gift of her choosing in thanks for all her help, which he’ll buy before handing over his assets to the monarchy. He’d thought of giving her the museum, but she says that’s not necessary. Instead, she asks to be put in charge of the Royal Foundation, saying that she’ll run it per the chairman’s wishes, which will in turn prevent Hae-young from interfering with the princess.
The chairman likes this idea and thanks her for the offer, but her father looks alarmed and asks her in private why she’d make the request. He wants her to rescind it, but she won’t.
Seol’s palace attendants introduce themselves and show her to her lavish quarters. (The term for their position is sanggung, which translates to court lady.)
Seol’s a pretty girl who likes pretty things, and looks in awe at the mini-department store installed in her room. Picking out one party dress, she tries it on and adds a pair of sparkly heels. They trip her up (literally), and she sighs, “They don’t fit.” Symbolism!
Yoon-ju has recommended Jung-woo to be a director in the royal foundation, and it’s like she has no understanding of her actions hurting people, because he’s hardly in the mood to accept a position working with her and tells her he’s doing fine for himself.
Unfazed, she urges him to consider the position seriously.
Grandpa begins the process of turning over his assets, beginning with Hae-young, and sends a team of men to claim all the stuff in his apartment. Hae-young argues that he bought all the stuff inside the apartment, but apparently stuff tied to his credit is also up for grabs. The men go around sticking red claim stickers on all of his belongings — down to his coffee mug and shoes — which begs the question, Wouldn’t it be easier just to tag the stuff they WON’T be taking?
The lead agent doesn’t like this any better than Hae-young does, and asks plaintively, “Are you not going to leave? Will I have to use force?” Heh. Ah, I do enjoy this rags-to-riches, riches-to-rags juxtaposition of Hae-young and Seol’s circumstances, especially since he was rather smug about being so filthy rich.
So Hae-young leaves with one suitcase, annoyed but not TOO upset because he has plenty of other places he can crash. Or so he thinks, until Yoon-ju gives him a list of all the assets to be reclaimed — all his secondary apartments, vacation homes, and the like. Including the resort he was given as a birthday present when he turned eight.
Hae-young heads to his department store to buy some essentials, and during his perusal of a pair of tighty-whities (I would’ve pegged him for a boxers man, myself), he spots Seol’s entourage rounding the corner.
She’s on a shopping spree for gifts for Mom and Ungrateful Sis, and Hae-young’s not about to admit to his embarrassing new homeless state, so he ducks behind a mannequin.
It’s too late, though, and Seol has seen him, and now it’s worse because it’s clear he’s trying to hide. He plays it off, not noticing that his hand has landed on a questionable area of the lingerie mannequin… or that he’s still holding up a pair of underwear to his crotchal region. Oh lord, this is so funny. Can we rob Song Seung-heon of his dignity in every episode? Pretty please?
Amused, Seol tells him he and the mannequin “look good together,” which is doubly hilarious given Song Seung-heon’s own reputation for characteristics associated with the like. Ha.
She gets the last word and heads out, leaving Hae-young to face more humiliation when he finds that all his cards have been deactivated. No underwear for you!
Grumbling, Hae-young takes off after Seol and forces his way into her elevator. It’s almost like he’s intending to ask her for some help, but the air in the elevator is awkward and the two of them engage in another round of looksie.
But she doesn’t engage him in conversation and he doesn’t have an opening, so when she sails out ahead of him, he’s left behind frustrated.
He gets called in to meet with the president (of the country), and asks why he approves this monarchy restoration. Even if the people like the idea, Hae-young can’t wrap his head around such an immature young girl like Seol being turned into a princess, and calls his grandfather irresponsible for initiating this whole mess. He adds that for all the interest in the restoration, it’ll undoubtedly prove difficult to manage.
Surprisingly, the president agrees with him — but he can’t cancel the vote. He asks for Hae-young’s opinion on how to handle it.
The president takes a meeting with the assemblyman who leads the opposition of the restoration, which they use as a PR opportunity as they both donate blood.
Once the photo ops are done, the president levels with the assemblyman about the princess, and chides him for creating that scandal about her father. He warns him to stop messing with the princess, as the people will have the last word in the restoration matter.
Hearing the welcome news of a guest at the palace, Seol tears out of her room to greet Jung-woo, though she pauses for a moment to primp. She’s so touched when he says he missed her that she has to stop him momentarily to soak it in, saying she can’t quite handle it.
Jung-woo advises her that her whole life is about to become full of things she can’t handle, so she’d best come to him to vent rather than shouting into the bamboo forest, “The King has donkey ears!” (That comes from a Korean folktale; a man was entrusted with a secret, which grew more and more burdensome until he couldn’t take it and had to shout it out to the forest.)
Reluctantly, she takes a call from Hae-young and tries to cut it short by saying vague but discouraging things like, “We shouldn’t do this anymore” and “I told myself I’d forget you.” Lol at her dramatics, which make the others assume that she’s speaking to a spurned ex-lover.
She doesn’t want to let him know where she is, so Hae-young warns that he’ll “cause an accident” if she doesn’t, and that makes her blurt, “What more accidents are there left to cause?” This one raises Jung-woo’s eyebrows, since “causing an accident” is also a euphemism for getting knocked up. Hae-young answers that there are a lot of possibilities to choose from, like marriage.
Seol gasps, “Marriage?!” and hangs up. Freaking out, she excuses herself to call him back in privacy, and he threatens that he’s about to hold a press conference announcing their marriage plans. He tells her that the bigger the scandals grow, the more helpful they are to him.
This is a blatant lie — he’s at a convenience store — but she buys it and panics. Frantically, Seol grabs Jung-woo — to the bamboo forest!
That’s just a euphemism for spilling the secret, and once they’re in private she tells Jung-woo of Hae-young’s threat, and begs for his help.
They’ll have to go find Hae-young to intercede, so they sneak their way out of the palace, managing to make it to the car unseen. At the last moment, the new royal kitchen boy Gun spies the princess ducking into Jung-woo’s car, where Jung-woo furtively wraps Seol’s head to hide her face. Not too bright but full of heart, Gun reads a lot more into the scene and jumps to conclusions — is the princess being kidnapped?
He goes tearing after them on his scooter and pulls up alongside them, honking to get their attention. Gun yells for his noona to get out of the car — like I said, not the brightest bulb. (I suppose the moving bike will just break her fall?)
Seol and Jung-woo wave him aside, but in their distraction they don’t see that they’re heading straight into a construction zone until it’s too late. To the hospital!
Seol moans and groans excessively and insists on being checked in despite the doctor’s confirmation that there’s nothing wrong with her. Granted, she has a reason — it brings Hae-young running immediately, which means he’s most certainly NOT giving a press conference.
Oh man, I just love when these two men are in the same scene together, because it means hilarity is just around the corner. My reaction is practically Pavlovian; Hae-young and Jung-woo face off, and I get all excited. Wait, not in that way. (At least, not only.)
Naturally the men eye each other in their macho-posturing way. Noting that the accident occurred in Jung-woo’s car, Hae-young gives her the ol’ I-told-you-so lecture about not taking rides from Jung-woo, and grabs her arm intending to check her out, since he knows she’s putting on an act. That earns him a glare from both Seol and Jung-woo as she cries out in pain and clutches her shoulder.
Hae-young hadn’t realized she was really hurt, and Jung-woo leans down to speak soothingly to Seol (no doubt going a little overboard to rub it in Hae-young’s face).
The two men head to reception to deal with paperwork, but as Hae-young tries to sign the forms, his pen won’t work. Jung-woo whips his out (LOL) and takes over, prompting Hae-young to retaliate by swiping the pen from him: “I’ll do it, since she got into an accident on the way to meet ME.”
Jung-woo grabs the pen back, Hae-young does as well, and this goes on a while. OH YOU TWO.
Jung-woo challenges Hae-young’s authority in matters pertaining to Seol, since he’s got no claim to sign for her. Hae-young replies that he does as a fiancé.
He drops the act briefly to level with Jung-woo, saying that he has a “knot to tie” with Seol today, but if Jung-woo steps aside, he’ll be able to end “this damned fiancé act” today. Taking the pen, Hae-young signs the form.
In the room, Seol (and her perfectly normal shoulder) asks Gun for a favor, replete with puppy-dog eyes and a “Do it for noona” plea. Innocent little Gun is no match for a pro like her, and he caves. Like he ever had a shot.
The “favor” entails helping Seol cover up her hospital stay by taking her place at the palace. Yep, you read that right. I know you’re an idol boy, but you’re not that pretty, LOL. He huddles nervously in bed while her lady in waiting chatters on about how handsome her professor is, clutching the bedcovers like they’re a lifeline (to his dignity).
At the hospital, Hae-young keeps watch at Seol’s bedside that night; she has insisted on staying overnight, no doubt trying to keep tabs on Hae-young. He looks at her worriedly when she starts to mumble in her sleep, her face crinkling in pain, and he makes out her tearful words, “Dad…”
He looks at her in sympathy… until she then adds, “I’m hungry.” HA.
When she wakes, she resumes the patient-in-pain act, wincing about her hurt shoulder and making it a point to ask him to help her drink, since she can’t move her hand. He guesses that she’s faking since she seems so chipper, and she replies that he can believe as he likes.
He accompanies her to the restroom, and on their way back, they see that a mother with a crying child is being turned away at the front desk due to a lack of space. The mother is frantic, so Seol offers her bed to the girl, assuring them that she’s fine to check out.
But she wasn’t entirely faking, because she has a dizzy spell outside, and falls to the ground. Hae-young wants to go back inside, but Seol mumbles that there are no beds available and won’t let him check her back in.
With nowhere else to go, a worried Hae-young drives her to his apartment, where he tends to her fever through the night. He wraps her in a robe and tucks her into bed, and in the process he spots the bruises that have shown up belatedly.
Realizing she wasn’t faking her injuries after all, he feels a bit guilty for doubting her and spends the next hours at her bedside, finally sighing in relief when the fever breaks.
In the morning, Seol awakens, and finds Hae-young cooking up some porridge in the kitchen. She eats slowly while awkwardly propping up her sore arm. Hae-young takes the spoon from her and holds it up to feed her, overriding her protests.
It’s only now that she realizes she’s in a bathrobe, so before she can freak out about him taking liberties, he assures her that he didn’t see anything. (And can’t resist the muttered dig, “There’s nothing to see anyway.”)
All this kindness is making her uneasy, and Seol suspects that all his excessive attentiveness means he wants something from her. She’s not wrong, so he starts by asking her to believe him. Warily, she asks, “Believe in what?”
He replies, “My apology. You don’t have to accept it, but I hope you can believe it.” He says he shouldn’t have let her father be slurred like that, which he means as a reference to his part in the bad press, though she remains unaware of those specifics.
Not for long, though: While changing her clothing, Seol spots the stack of newspapers in the bedroom, all with front-page stories about the possibility of restoring the monarchy.
She flips through the papers and finds an envelope at the bottom of the stack, which contains documents about her father, Lee Han. Included are transcripts of news reports about her father and his supposed criminality (burglary, con artistry). She recognizes some of the details from the report at the restaurant where she had lost her temper with the other patrons, and as she reads through, Seol starts to register more familiar words… because the words she is reading match the words that are coming from the television outside.
Shocked, she starts putting the pieces together and understands what Hae-young meant by his apology. Angrily, she confronts him with the documents, demanding to know what’s going on.
Knowing the jig is up, Hae-young sighs and asks if she thinks he’s behind the news reports about her father. He doesn’t deny her accusation that he has the most to gain from it, and takes it a step further by telling her frankly that he’s got lots more where that came from. Hae-young lays out his threat, that she can’t ever be a princess as long as he continues, and therefore she should give it up.
Seol wonders if everything was a lie to make her give up being a princess. That’s a pretty loaded question, and he takes a moment to sigh and think it over before telling her to listen up:
Hae-young: “When you were hurt, my concern was real, and my apology regarding your father was, too. But even more than all that, what I’m most sincere about is wanting you to give up being a princess. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
Turning without a word, Seol stalks out of the apartment. Hae-young chases her out, but just then, his grandfather arrives, having heard that Seol spent the night here. He tells Seol that the president awaits a meeting with her, and with one last glare at Hae-young, she gets into the car.
She takes her meeting with the president, in which he advises her that attention will increase in the coming days and that the support of the people brings with it responsibility on her part.
Afterwards, Chairman Park tells her that it’s time for her to decide where to head next. She makes her decision, and arrives at the palace. She walks through the halls in a silent, dark mood, and goes to bed in heavy spirits.
When she looks up, though, she sees Hae-young sitting at her side, smiling down gently on her. He reaches down to brush her hair and check her forehead for fever. With that, she falls asleep.
I’m inclined to believe that not only is this Seol’s imagination, she’s fully aware that she’s conjured him up out of thin air. (For one, he’s wearing the clothing he’d worn while tending her fever, and for another, her next reaction supports it.)
In the morning, Seol awakens from sleep to see Hae-young waiting at the foot of her bed. She dismisses him, as though assuming he’s yet another fantasy conjured by her mind, and doesn’t react. Until he opens his mouth and introduces himself, sending her jerking upright in shock.
Aw, Seol’s fantasized Hae-young is sweet, and theirs is a conflict that I can really buy for a couple. They both like each other, have great rapport together, and care for each other on a personal level. But he’s a chaebol and she’s a princess, and both of those are about as symbolic a presence as exists in this day and age, even more so than celebrities and other public figures. They’re bound to this status by their birth, not by choice, so the conflict becomes something deep-rooted and difficult to untangle. Plus, both stand in each other’s paths — he has to destroy her birthright to protect his, while if she accepts her position, she’s literally stealing from him.
There have been so many k-dramas where the big bad separating the couple is a mere “My mama doesn’t like you” or “You’re poor” or whatnot, and while those are very real conflicts and effective on some level, I can’t help but feel that they wear pretty thin pretty quickly. I like my romantic angst to have some meat, and this one’s got some.
While the most immediate reference/allusion wrought by this drama has been Roman Holiday, I actually think that Anastasia is a much more apt parallel (I highly recommend the Ingrid Bergman movie, although I find the true story plenty fascinating on its own). Both are about reluctant princesses, but the setups are different; Audrey Hepburn’s character has always been a princess and longs to be out of her gilded cage. In the case of Anastasia, you have the lost princess reappearing out of the dark and claiming her position, being accepted into the fold, and falling in love with someone she cannot be with as the princess. So her dilemma becomes a matter of choosing between her duty — one thrust upon her late in adulthood, not one she has grown into — and her heart, with a healthy dose of confusion about her responsibilities to the royalty mixed therewith.