Dear Reaper Boy: TAKE ME WITH YOU. Promise me when it’s my time to go, you’ll still be wearing Jung Il-woo? Rawr.
I’m really digging the premise and the setup of this story. The execution leaves a little to be desired as of yet, but there’s a lot of potential to for it to grow into its clothes. This is one of those cases where the acting is trailing behind the writing, but hell if I’d PAY most dramas to be this way rather than the other. Basically, if you write good characters and a compelling premise, it’s easy to look past the acting flaws into what the characters are meant to be. (See: Crack High.) The tone and the story are lovely, and overall it promises to be a nice balance of dark humor and life-affirming drama.
EPISODE 2 RECAP
Ji-hyun wakes up in Yi-kyung’s body (and thank GOD for that), and cries in shock and glee at having corporeal form again. Not that this is the body she’d have chosen for herself. She takes a good look at Yi-kyung’s bruised face, torn clothes, and unwashed hair, and wonders if she’s a gangster. Heh.
She goes to the world’s dirtiest bathroom to wash up (with nary a bottle of shampoo or conditioner in sight, to her utter horror) and wanders outside. She whines that she has to wander the streets looking like a hobo.
Reaper Boy suddenly appears behind her, but once she gets over the initial scare, she greets him cheerily with, “Hey it’s you! Scheduler!” I think he’s more taken aback by her, truth be told, because he’s used to being scary, but she’s not at all frightened of him. I think I’m gonna like this Soul-Reaper relationship.
She eagerly tells him that she’s Shin Ji-hyun, which flares his quick temper. He reminds her that he told her the Three Rules just last night, and she’s already breaking one of them. She catches herself right away, and promises not to break them, sheswears.
In flashback, we find out the rules (and YAY for a drama that’s clear about the rules): (1) She cannot, under any circumstances, tell anyone that she is Shin Ji-hyun. Consequence: express trip on the Elevator of Doom.
(2) She can only use Yi-kyung’s body when she’s asleep. That’d be from 10 in the morning till midnight, since Yi-kyung works the graveyard shift. Reaper Boy: “You have a double-digit IQ, don’t you? I said, you have to return to Yi-kyung’s house by midnight every night, and not a minute later.” Consequence: for every minute that she’s late, that’s one day out of 49 that gets shaved off. Mwah, I love how snippy he is.
(3) She’s to earn any money she needs herself. Nice. This is one of my favorite themes from shows like Dead Like Me, where the afterlife is just as full of responsibility and money troubles as regular life. Plus, Ji-hyun’s got a perfect princess complex that’s going to make this fun. He reminds her that she’s not to harm Yi-kyung in any way while she’s borrowing her body. Check.
Ji-hyun promises to follow the rules, and adds that she’s got that three genuine tears thing in the bag. She’s thought about it, and there’s going to be at least five or six people who really love her, so…is there some sort of incentive plan whereby extra tears equals extra years on her life? Hahaha. Reaper Boy scoffs at the gall of one delusional princess.
He hands her a cell phone, with a scary voice counting down her remaining time. It also has a panic button (in the shape of a skull, natch) to call him, only in absolute emergencies. Heh, that button is going to be SO abused. And…can I get one of those?
He also gives her a loan to get her started: 49 dollars, of course, (or 49,000 won to be exact) which she has to pay back later. He gets on his motorcycle to ride off in style, and she asks why he rides a bike if he can teleport. Good question. He tells her that it’s one of the ways he enjoys his reaper life. Is getting a perm one of those things too?
She tries to hitch a ride, but with a happy sneer, he reminds her that a reaper does not get involved in human affairs. I’m thinking that’s going to change for you, and that you’re going to hate it…which means I’m going to LOVE IT.
Ji-hyun decides to take a taxi to the hospital (way to blow your money, princess), and watches from outside her room as Min-ho and her parents sit by her bedside. She flashes back to when they re-met, by coincidence again a week after the mountain incident.
She apologizes for putting him through all this, and then remembers her tear necklace. She looks back at him, and he’s upset, but not crying. She assumes that he’s cried so much overnight, that there must not be any tears left.
She spends more money buying shampoo and lip gloss, which is just going to piss off Reaper Boy to no end. Although I’m thinking he probably spends a good deal of money on beauty products himself, judging by the looks of him.
She then heads over to the girls’ apartment, where In-jung is too upset to get out of bed, and Seo-woo is trying to talk some optimism into her. Ji-hyun listens at the door but can’t hear anything, and wonders if maybe they’re with Kang. (And by the by, how much do I love that name, Han Kang, which = Han River?)
Kang is alone, brooding with a trinket in his clenched fist. He thinks back to their high school days when they first met, as a city boy who gets transplanted and bullied, and the local girl who rules the town because of her daddy. She cluelessly “saves” him from a fight, leading to adorable exasperation.
Back in the present, Kang’s broody times leads to a bout of headdesking, so he decides to go to work. I can’t tell if this place he owns is a café or an Italian restaurant, but basically, they make pasta and serve wine, so I’ll go with Italian joint. And what’s a ‘genius’ architect doing as a restaurateur anyway? Whatever, Drama.
Ji-hyun arrives looking for her friends, and smiles when she sees Kang, but remembers that she’s not…herself. She realizes how hungry she is, and orders her favorite dish, scarfing it down like a pro. But when she goes to pay, she comes up short. Well, that didn’t take you long.
The waitress shames her, and Ji-hyun insists that she didn’t realize she’d spent all her money, and that she was just so hungry. Kang sees all this and tells them to just send her on her way.
Outside, she says to herself that she’ll be sure to repay Kang for the gesture once she’s back to life, and sits down at the bus stop…only she just now remembers that she’s completely broke. Slow on the uptake, this one.
She scans the jobs section in the paper, realizing that there’s nothing she’s qualified to do, and ends up right back in front of Kang to ask for a job. He dismisses her since he’s not hiring, and well, she hasn’t exactly left a great first impression. But she begs for just a temporary position for 48 days…no, just a week, even.
He looks at her, bruised face and dirty clothes, and notices her nervous tick which instantly reminds him of Ji-hyun. It tugs at his conscience, so he hands her two large bills, saying that it’s instead of the job.
She looks up at him angrily, banmal flaring up as she tells him that her daddy told her never to accept handouts. She stomps away, offended and hurt.
But Kang sends a waiter to chase after her (too prideful to chase after her himself, of course) to give her a chance. He offers her a job from 11am to midnight, at 4000 won an hour. Okay, that’s like slave labor. She jumps for joy and thanks him, and then sheepishly has to ask to borrow bus fare.
She trudges home, wondering why she’s so tired. Probably because you’re using a body that’s supposed to be sleeping right now. At home, she wonders where she’ll hide the shampoo, and then discovers the boxes full of pretty things, from Yi-kyung’s life pre-accident.
Her eyes brighten at the sight of non-hobo belongings, and she stashes her goods in there. It’s early yet (before she turns into a pumpkin) but she decides to lie down, and the second she goes to sleep, Ji-hyun’s soul pops right out of Yi-kyung’s body.
Once she’s out of her host body, she’s surprised to find that she’s not tired at all anymore. Side effect of death? She tries to get out, but finds her incorporeal self quite useless at opening doors.
So what does she do? She uses her panic button of course. I mean, it was YOUR mistake in giving her that thing, you do realize, right? Reaper Boy is busy getting his rock on at a club (So. Cute.) when his phone goes off. Apparently a reaper’s cell phone vibrates at a frequency reserved for torture devices, because it physically pains him until he answers it. So, mystical leash he can’t ignore? Even better.
He appears, wondering what the emergency is, to which she cheerily asks, “Can you open the door?” His face just says it all:
Hahaha. I think I will never grow tired of exasperated reaper face. He asks, voice dripping with sarcasm, that she couldn’t possibly have called him here for something so ridiculous as opening a door, could she?
Methinks she’s quite used to being considered stupid, so she just explains that it’s an emergency to her, since she can’t open it. And why not, she wonders, since ghosts and such can move through spaces, or so she thought.
He explains, as if to a five-year old, that she isn’t quite dead, really, so that’d be why she can’t pass through things. She remembers at the hospital, that Min-ho passed right through her. He tells her that it’s because to those people, she’s considered dead. Interesting. Difference of perception? That means the rules are bendy, yeah?
Yi-kyung stirs, and Ji-hyun asks him to take her out of there, since she doesn’t really want to spend time with someone who’s still a stranger to her. He reminds her that Schedulers don’t get involved in people’s lives, and that as a 49er, it’s her job to adjust to life with her host. And then poof, he’s gone.
Ji-hyun crouches in the corner and watches as Yi-kyung goes through her depressing routine of instant noodles before heading out to work. They stand at the bus stop across the street from each other, in a nice contemplative moment that mirrors their loneliness.
Ji-hyun goes to the hospital where Min-ho continues to watch over her comatose body. He asks aloud what he should do, and she asks him just to cry, and not hold it back.
Meanwhile, Yi-kyung’s mystery secret admirer comes to the store to buy a pack of his usual cigarettes, and he takes the opportunity to ask if she’s feeling okay. He tells her to go see a doctor if she’s feeling dizzy or anything. She realizes that he must be the guy who saved her that day, and just blankly asks him how much the hospital bill was.
He wonders that she doesn’t recognize him, since he comes in there every day and buys the same thing, every day. But that would require her to be awake and take notice of the world around her, which she clearly hasn’t done in years. She insists on paying him back and asks that he not interfere anymore. She hands him some money and he agrees to come back with the hospital bill next time.
The next day, Ji-hyun wakes up in Yi-kyung’s body, and washes up to her heart’s content. She even happily discovers a blowdryer and pretty clothes in the boxes, and shows up for work looking like a new person. (Kang’s restaurant is named Heaven, which I’m choosing to read as cheeky and therefore funny, because the earnest version is too cheesy.)
They’re surprised to see her cleaned up, but even more surprised to find that she is the world’s worst waitress. Kang just watches her, mouth agape and eyes wide.
Back at the hospital, Mom has a nervous breakdown, and Dad yells at Min-ho to go home and wash up, while he takes the next watch. In-jung and Seo-woo come over to take care of Mom, and In-jung wanders into Ji-hyun’s room, crying when she sees their old pictures and her wedding dress. Too bad it’s not in Ji-hyun’s presence, because I’m dying to know what color her tears are.
Ji-hyun starts nodding off at work, until Min-ho arrives, asking for a drink. She perks up instantly, being overly attentive to him, which Kang picks up on right away. Heh, I know it’s a sad situation, but it’s still kind of amusing at the same time, since Kang is in that hyper-aware-and-competitive mode with Min-ho, which he’s been repressing for some time now.
She’s also clearly overstepping bounds, but can’t help herself because it’s Min-ho. Kang sends her home, but she ends up waiting outside for a full hour, until Min-ho gets carried out of the restaurant and put into a car.
She rushes over to help Kang carry him, and the look on his face is like, what the hell, lady? He tells her that it’s his friend’s fiancé, and is about two words from firing her, when she realizes how late it is and rushes off in the middle of his sentence. Heh.
Min-ho goes home and angsts, and I’m getting the vibe that there’s more to his grief than grief. I could be reading into it, but he seems to be feeling guilty, which means there’s a good chance that whatever straying he’s about to do is…already done?
Meanwhile Kang shows up at the hospital, and mumbles insults at her for just lying there when she used to strongarm the whole town. See, THIS is real grief, the grief that I’m used to, where people yell and then cry and then laugh and then yell again. He leaves her a single pink rose in a vase, and walks out.
Ji-hyun arrives, with little notice of Kang, and cries when she sees her dad sleeping by her bedside. She sits next to him, trying to offer words of comfort as she puts her hand on his, across the great divide.
The next day at Heaven, Ji-hyun spills water on a customer, and Kang steps in to clean it up, and drags her away. He shows her basic things like water-pouring and setting a table, which she marvels that he’s awfully good at.
…Only SHE’s supposed to be good at them too, since Yi-kyung’s resume clearly states that she worked at the Seoul Hotel, which should technically make her better than all of them. Whoops.
She stammers that she got into an accident and suffers from amnesia, of the task-oriented kind, where you forget how to do certain things. He doesn’t believe a word she’s saying, but she insists he can look it up on the internet, adding quietly that it happens a lot in dramas. Heh.
He thinks she’s got pants on fire, so he tells her to go get proof of her employment history from the hotel…in an hour. She rushes off, after collecting yesterday’s wages for cab fare, and asks HR for the document. One of the girls there recognizes Yi-kyung, but Ji-hyun just rushes out of there, unable to acknowledge any connection.
She watches the servers at the café downstairs, and wonders what happened to Yi-kyung if she used to work in such a nice hotel. She turns to go, when she sees Min-ho walk by toward the elevator.
She just smiles and follows him, but doesn’t catch the elevator in time. She watches it go up and wonders what he’s doing here, as the elevator goes past the restaurant floor. She doesn’t really think much of it, until she turns and sees In-jung standing next to her.
I KNEW IT. Gah, they’ve been cheating on her for god knows how long.
She’s startled, and then notes warily that Min-ho has gotten off the elevator on the 18th floor…where there are nothing but rooms. She follows In-jung into the elevator, and pushes the button for 20 and waits…In-jung pushes 18.
Scared but unable to tear herself away, she follows In-jung and watches from across the corridor, as In-jung rings the doorbell…
…and Min-ho comes out to pull her inside.
Aaaack! We know what’s coming the whole time, but that moment is done so well. The shock puts Ji-hyun into a tailspin, as she stumbles down the hall toward the room. She looks at the door, and then all of a sudden it triggers her memory.
The day of the accident, when she had run out of the dress shop wearing the bridesmaid’s dress to show In-jung, she had already discovered the two of them, across the intersection in Min-ho’s car. He was tenderly kissing her hand, not knowing that Ji-hyun was seeing the whole thing.
And THAT’s the reason why she got into the accident that day, because she was frazzled and trying to gather her thoughts, when that bike wiped out in front of her.
Back in the present, it all comes flooding back to her, and she falls to the ground.
Damn, that’s cold. It was niggling at me, that Min-ho was so strangely steadfast and yet not at all like a normal grieving boyfriend, who would be yelling at her comatose body for taking that street that day, or whatever. Now it makes sense that he’s been standing vigil out of guilt, because he’s a lying dirtbag.
It’s probably made worse if he had intended to break things off with In-jung before the wedding, because well, timing be damned, he would’ve been scott-free if not for this turn of events. Now he’s ironically tied to Ji-hyun by way of guilt and duty in a way that he wouldn’t have been, if she were alive. Karma’s a bitch, yo.
I’m a huge fan of this type of narrative, especially when it feels assured, and I can trust that the puzzle pieces will be beautifully, thematically mirrored. And like javabeans mentioned, because it deals with themes so universal, it doesn’t even matter to me that they’re simplistic. I can’t wait to see how these two women’s lives become further entwined, and how they bring each other back from the brink of death and heartbreak.
I’m in the mood for something contemplative and stirring, and I think this is just the ticket. ‘sides, who could get enough of that face?