Such cuteness, and acted so well. Often romantic comedies are held together by charm, but not necessarily acting ability — it’s the situations and the chemistry of the leads that work so we let the acting slide. But then you get a light, funny rom-com acted by good actors (see also: Last Scandal of My Life), and that gives it an extra oomph in the strike-you-in-the-heart moments. Good stuff.
SONG OF THE DAY
CN Blue – “Love Girl” [ Download ]
EPISODE 3 RECAP
Jin would love to turn away from Ae-jung in her moment of misery, but as he does, her cell phone rings, setting his heartbeat racing. Such a cute tie-in to link his heart to her KBSN song. Make no mistake, I’m pretty sure I’m going to get sick of it by Episode 10 (and with the Hong sisters writing this, no doubt they’re going to run the heartbeat metaphor into the ground — heart? beat? LOVE? get it??), but for now, it’s sweet.
I love how utterly gobsmacked he looks at his reaction to her. Brother-manager Ae-hwan comes shouting her name, and Ae-jung can’t bear for him to see her in this state with palm mark on her face and nose bleeding, so she hurries to Jin and asks him for a ride. She jumps in his car and ducks to avoid being seen, and calls her brother to say that she ran into someone who offered to buy her dinner.
In the car, she makes small talk to avoid the awkward silence. Jin thrusts a water bottle at her reddened face — better to address the elephant in the
room car than pretend it’s not there. But when he sees her rubbing the part of the label with his face on it, he gruffly orders her to turn it around since it looks weird, keh.
Pil-joo meets with his sunbae to decline the spot in Couple Making 3, citing prior plans. The sunbae PD presses him to reconsider, pointing out all the great date prospects they’ve lined up (including Park Shi-yeon, who’s got a cameo), and flips quickly past Ae-jung. Her profile briefly piques Pil-joo’s interest, but he sticks with his decision.
Upon leaving, he entirely ignores Se-ri, who was expecting some kind of star treatment and follows him out. She’s offended when he only now realizes she’s Se-ri, which is such a perfect way to take down the vain star a peg or ten. He promises to be more careful in the future — that if he sees a beautiful woman around, it may end up being her, so he’ll take care.
The thing is, he isn’t using this as a line — it’s just his dorky, earnest way — and Se-ri’s peevishness dissipates. After he leaves, Se-ri tells the writer that they must get Pil-joo on the show: “People call me beautiful every day, but just now I felt a flutter. That man will be the perfect man to make our viewers’ hearts flutter, too.”
Ae-jung asks Jin to drop her off so she can take a taxi, but it turns out that both stars are without cash, since they’re constantly reliant on their managers. So Ae-jung can’t get her taxi, and Jin is all out of gas, and they’re stuck till his manager can find them.
While they’re waiting, Jin suggests that Ae-jung leave, but he can’t withstand the sad puppy-dog look she sends his way, and gives in. She pops out to use the restroom, and sees that the handprint on her face is worse than feared. She asks an ajumma to borrow her makeup, and the woman gapes, immediately jumping to the wrong conclusion: “Why are you getting knocked around? Dump him!”
On her way back to the car, Ae-jung finds herself the object of the ajummas’ curiosity, all of them assuming she’s a battered woman. So when Jin moves to visit the bathroom, she shoves him down out of sight, saying that they think he’s the guy who beat her.
Ae-hwan wonders if Ae-jung’s lunch date is with Jin, but Jenny dismisses it, saying that everyone has their own level, and those two are too mismatched. Ae-hwan would like to believe optimistically that being linked together might raise Ae-jung’s status to Jin’s, but Jenny tells him that it’s more likely that the guy on top gets knocked down to the lower level.
Cutely, Ae-hwan coaches his son to address her as “Mom Jenny” rather than “Aunt Jenny” in hopes that she’ll eventually become his mother. Jenny reminds him of the whole “level” issue.
When manager Jae-seok arrives, Ae-jung’s sleeping in the car. For the briefest moment, even he wonders if Jin hit her, and even after getting back a denial, he asks why Jin didn’t find out who did it to her. Jin grumps back, “If I ask, I have to listen. If I listen, I get involved. And then that’ll link us together!”
Jin gives Ae-jung money for a cab, which she promises to pay back. He snaps at her not to call, then checks her phone just in case. Not finding his name, he demands to know what nickname she input, ignoring her protest to do it herself, and finds what he’s looking for: Instead of Dokko Jin, she’s written Ddong-ko Jin, which makes me bust a gut laughing. Not only is it punny (hee), it’s the kind of thing a grade-schooler would call someone, as ddong-ko literally means butthole. And on yet another level, it’s the perfect thing to call him, because he’s so immature and also an asshole. HAHAHAHA.
I love that she giggles — no profuse apologies here — and says she can do what she wants with her phone. Annoyed, Jin hits delete and sends her off. But when he’s back in his car, he tells Jae-seok not to drive off just yet, and watches Ae-jung waiting curbside, feeling unfamiliar pangs of humanlike emotion as she self-consciously touches her face. He starts to open his door, but just then a taxi pulls up and she gets in.
She keeps up her lie at home, not wanting to worry her brother, but confides about the slap with Jenny, who worries over the condition of her skin, with Ae-jung’s upcoming poster shoot and all.
Jenny takes Ae-jung with her to a fancy acupuncture clinic — which is where Pil-joo is introduced to his mother’s posh ajumma friends. Jenny oohs over the dreamy hospital director, whose mother brags that he’s about to go on a television program called Couple Making. That gets their attention, but they didn’t get a good look at him, so they decide to try to steal a glimpse of the fellow contestant another way.
His mother hears from an employee that Pil-joo turned down the broadcast opportunity, so she entreats him with one final deal: If he does the show, she’ll back off completely and let him handle his career however he likes.
Ae-jung gets herself signed up for a treatment with Pil-joo and finds him good-looking… until she realizes where she recognizes him from and freaks out in mortification. She hides her face when he comes to treat her, but he recognizes her name on the patient form, and that further embarrasses her. She hurriedly rushes out of the room, grabbing Jenny, and makes a break for it, just as Pil-joo rushes out calling her name.
The ladies fret, figuring that if Pil-joo goes on the show, Ae-jung will be cut in the first episode. They’re assuming that he’ll harbor a grudge like a normal person would after being doused with water, and have no idea that his interest is actually piqued. (Ooh, twisted. What do you suppose that says about Pil-joo, hmm?)
Jin perks up as Jae-seok talks with the agency president about Ae-jung getting slapped by her former manager Jang. He tries to appear nonchalant but his ears twitch tellingly as President Moon muses that the two will be bumping into each other quite often since Harumi, one of Manager Jang’s current idols, is also on Couple Making.
Jin casually rolls his chair closer just as Jae-seok explains that they’re whispering because Jin supposedly hates hearing about Ae-jung. Ha. Foiled by his own self.
Ae-jung decides to smooth things over with Pil-joo before the broadcast, and comes to see him again. She’s embarrassed at her behavior, though his teasing is completely light-hearted, and apologizes for mistaking him for a lowlife at the bar. He says that because she never returned, he wondered if she continued to think him a bad person, and is relieved that their misunderstanding has been cleared up.
He tells her that his appearance in the show isn’t a done deal, and that relieves her so considerably that she can’t hide her glee. He’s a little surprised at her level of happiness as she warns him that life would be easier if he didn’t do the show, and advises him to think very carefully on it.
Jin tries on clothes with a designer, who has agreed to also style Ae-jung since she’s affiliated with his agency now. But as he’s on his way out, he hears that Harumi is here to pick out clothing — and she beelines for the dress set aside for Ae-jung. Manager Jang overrides the designer’s protest, saying that Ae-jung has so little status that she has no right to be upset at being bumped for a bigger star.
I love that Jin steps in and turns the situation around on them by claiming the dress — no explanation, just using his star power to pull rank over Harumi. She pouts but picks another dress — which he also takes. And a third dress as well. And so on and so on.
I love that Jin doesn’t explain himself, even though I think most people’s initial desire would be for the assholes in the scenario to know immediately why they’re being treated this way. But it heightens the anticipation for when they DO find out, preferably in a highly public setting when Ae-jung arrives all dolled up. Plus, their bewilderment is amusing to behold.
Jin gives him a hint by telling Manager Jang, “Your red face reminds me of a face that’s been slapped. But yesterday I saw such a pained face that I’m not too interested in yours.” He throws Jang’s own words back at him, saying that even if he takes all these clothes, Manager Jang has no right to be upset, given their difference in status.
That leaves Jin sitting on his couch, surrounded by women’s designer clothing, wondering why he brought them all home. Clinging to pity as his reasoning, he calls Ae-jung to come pick up the clothes. But he’d just ordered her to not talk to him anymore, so she ignores the call — and he grumbles, “You won’t answer? Gu Ae-jung, you’re going to regret obeying me so well!” HA. I love Jin and his nonsensical reasoning. (Drive slowly, carefully, and fast!)
Ae-jung is called in for a meeting with producers, who regretfully tell her that she won’t be able to go on the show anymore. With Pil-joo out, they’ve had to go to a backup, and that guy refuses to participate with any women who’ve been embroiled in scandals. Because no names are named, Ae-jung jumps to the conclusion that Pil-joo must have spoken against her.
She stews for a moment, muttering to herself, “Jerk.” Hilariously, the apologetic PD thinks she meant him, and acknowledges, “I was a bit of a jerk, I’m sorry.” Hee! But just then, he gets a call and steps outside to take it — and it’s Pil-joo, agreeing to do it after all. He looks at a photo of Ae-jung and figures, “It might be fun.”
So Ae-jung is back in, to everyone’s relief.
Jin won’t accept being ignored, and heads over to (Jenny’s?) restaurant to find Ae-jung, where he’s greeted by nephew Hyung-kyu, who identifies Jin as his aunt’s friend. Jin gruffly rebuffs his friendly comments, but is gratified when Hyung-kyu peers at him saying, “It’s amazing.” Naturally assuming the boy is starstuck, this provides an ego-boost — until the boy clarifies, “How come your mustache is in the shape of a so?”
PFFFFFFFT. I just about choke on my spit laughing — it’s a comment made of Cha Seung-won in the past, that his facial hair forms the character for 소 (so), which also happens to mean cow. HAHAHA.
Jin laughs it off…until he glimpses himself in the reflection and sees it. LOL.
What’s even more hilarious is how, when Ae-jung finds him, he self-consciously covers his chin while asking why she’s ignoring his calls. He guesses she re-entered his number into her phone, and she protests that she had to program it to remind herself not to answer it. Keh.
Hyung-kyu pops up to comment on the state of Jin’s facial hair, so Jin hurriedly hushes him and says it’s a secret. Ae-jung recalls the box of tonic she’s holding and offers it to him in thanks for the taxi money he’d told her not to repay. She doesn’t want to drink it herself, thinking of the jerky doctor who gave it to her.
Ae-hwan and Ae-jung drop by Jin’s home to pick up papers from President Moon, and see the pile of women’s clothes lying around. Ae-jung supposes there was a woman here, and Jin quickly denies that, saying they’re his clothes. They smirk and nod, “Ah, I didn’t know you had that kind of taste.”
He barks that they’re his but that doesn’t mean he wears them, and they both smile and nod again, while imagining Jin sitting around wearing women’s clothing and makeup, giving himself pedicures. HAHA. Defensively, he insists that his own clothing — which today is unfortunately gender-ambivalent — isn’t women’s apparel, but rather the height of fashion. Snicker.
While Jin goes off to find the documents, Ae-hwan can’t resist fiddling with the expensive games, and gets his head stuck in a helmet. Knowing Jin would throw a hissy-fit, Ae-jung races up to stall while her brother breaks free of his confines, grabbing at anything she can to prolong their conversation. Like asking where he got his mattress and bouncing on it. Ha, you might want to be careful with the signals you’re sending…
Jin is just confused, though, and she grabs for distraction #2 — a football helmet, which she asks to borrow for the show’s first taping. She says she’s supposed to do a sexy dance and thinks it would be much funnier to do it with the helmet on, to which he asks if she really wants do behave like that on TV. She may have started the conversation to stall, but she’s completely frank as she replies, “That’s how I’ll get edited in.” As in, nobody would care about her if she wasn’t funny or mockable. She says without rancor, “If only just a minute more, I have to be seen onscreen to make my living. I’ve risked my life on this show. I can do anything.”
Her words get to him, but he tells her with mild sarcasm to try sticking it out when she’s being trampled by hoobaes and old colleagues. She thanks him for his support sweetly.
Ae-jung arrives at the designer’s studio to pick up the dress they’re offering her, and is shocked when the designer tells her that the entire rack is hers. Jin explains it by saying that (supposed) girlfriend Se-ri wears another house’s clothes, so he’s handing them off to Ae-jung, since they’re with the same agency and all.
Ae-jung tries on a dress and is so happy that she has her own “I Feel Pretty” moment, singsonging her old hit while going through old dance moves. Jin overhears and is immediately captivated by the familiar song, his heart starting to pound, strangely moved. (Gah, he plays this moment so well — with the perfect mix of confusion, hurt, and anger at himself for not understanding.)
He can’t stand it anymore and bursts forward to stop her, but his wrist monitor goes off, signaling his rising heartbeat. He asks, “What is this song? Who are you?!” He touches hand to heart and asks confusedly why this is happening.
Time for medical tests, which turn up nothing. He tells the doctor that his heart rate increase is linked to a strange song, and that it was accompanied by pain on one occasion, thinking of the parking lot slap he witnessed. (I love that he assumes the pain is medical, rather than suspecting a pang of sympathy.)
The doctor assures him that he’s fine, saying, “Isn’t that a simple symptom experienced by everyone?” — hinting he’s just feeling normal romantic pangs. Glad to see someone earned his medical degree.
President Moon presents a stack of scripts for Jin to read, which contain “everything but those melodramas you hate so much.” Jin wonders — purely because it might be helpful to his acting, of course — whether the stuff in those movies, like thumping hearts (which he calls “cheesy,” “childish,” and “exaggerated”) happens in real life. He asks, “When your heart races when you see someone smiling or crying, does that mean you like them?” What, Jin, are you a robot? I know you think you’re above all other people, but not because you weren’t, yunno, one of them.
He’s greatly relieved when she says that it can happen because you find someone funny, or pitiful. That he can handle. But she adds that there are cases when your heart races only when you like a person. For instance, if it races when that you see that person with another member of the opposite sex, you’re definitely smitten.
Jin laughs it off, saying he’s fine then. Suuure.
Couple Making holds its press conference, where Se-ri and Ae-jung receive a fair share of the attention. They deflect the questions well, saying that meeting again after all those years feels just as comfortable as when they broke up ten years ago. Well, that’s not a lie….
Asked if they’d consider reuniting, Ae-jung jokes that they could rename themselves Kukbo Jamae (national treasure sisters) instead of Kukbo Sonyeo (national treasure girls), earning a laugh from the crowd. It’s another bit of meta, not just because Jin had called them Kukbo Jamae erroneously in Episode 1, but because the word jamae is basically what the Hong sisters are called — I’d venture to guess that the term Hong Jamae (Hong sisters) is better known than their individual names. Plus, it’s a way of jokingly advancing their age from young girls to older women.
Se-ri grouses with the PDs at being linked with Ae-jung, feeling it an insult since she’s so much higher now on the fame ladder. The writer reminds her that she’d wanted to include Ae-jung for publicity reasons, so Se-ri agrees to put up with it through the first taping — she’s sure Ae-jung will be cut right away.
The PD wonders if it’s strictly necessary to cut Ae-jung at all, saying that she’s built up a variety persona as the unlikable one. If she survives the first cut, she could be in it for the long haul. The writer reads Se-ri’s displeasure and nervously suggests that it could add tension to the first elimination, and Se-ri likes that idea — as well as jazzing up the third season with a twist.
Jin sees the promo materials for the show, and laughingly ranks the five ladies, picking Ae-jung as Number 1 — for worst looking. He likes to mock her himself, but it’s a different story when Jae-seok says she’s Number 1 online as well, in the poll for who will have the best first impression and who’ll get booted first. Jin smiles to hear that she’s first, until he finds out it’s for being booted.
He leans forward, trying to look uninterested when Jae-seok whips out his tablet to cast his own vote. Jae-seok wonders aloud who he’ll vote for, supposing he’ll vote for Ae-jung. Or will it be Harumi? Jin’s expression undergoes an exercise of facial gymnastics until Jae-seok casts a positive vote for the pretty young Harumi. Jin grimaces and orders Jae-seok to change all the highlighting in his scripts from yellow to blue. HAHA.
Ae-jung takes a positive attitude toward her first taping, saying that even if she’s eliminated on the first day in the “first impressions cut,” at least she’ll get to be on the program for 20 or 30 minutes. Except…not if Se-ri has her way, insisting that it’ll add to the suspense if the first cut is in the first five minutes. The producers feel sorry for Ae-jung, knowing she’s the most likely to get the boot.
Ae-jung is thrilled that she finally gets to use the company’s best van for her first taping…until Jin steps in and forbids it, saying it’s his car. The president has granted its use to Ae-jung, but Jin pulls rank and orders the van reserved for his exclusive use first thing in the morning — so he can drive once around the city. Heh.
Well, he gets his deserts when he’s woken unceremoniously by a loud honking, and finds Ae-jung in the van. She jabs a rolled-up poster out the window like he’d done with her, mocks him, and drives off. Serves him right.
Ae-jung arrives in high spirits, only to be knocked down immediately by Manager Jang, who says snidely that she’s sure in a good mood despite the script. She’s hurt, but she takes a positive attitude, even though everyone assumes that she’ll get cut first. Ae-jung says firmly that she’ll last long enough to show her personal talent and do her sexy dance.
Jin hears from Jae-seok that Ae-jung’s likely to get tossed immediately, and he calls her to say, “Gu Ae-jung, don’t do that and just leave. I’ll get you CFs, movies, whatever, so tell them you can’t do it and come back.” Awwwwwwww. That’s so sweet!
He barks that she shouldn’t proceed when humiliation is imminent, and asks if she can’t see that. She answers that she does, but that she can handle it. She hangs up, so Jin turns his attention to preventing her demise the only other way — by meeting the bachelor to get him to agree not to cut Ae-jung.
Before being introduced on the show, Pil-joo is given instructions to cut the first woman based on his gut first impression, and that everyone’s a pro so that no feelings will be hurt.
Jin arrives at the station as the taping begins, just as the mystery man is unveiled. Ae-jung’s face falls to recognize Pil-joo (still thinking he’s the one who hates her), and Pil-joo is given three seconds to form a first impression, after which he is instructed to hand out four roses. The one without a rose goes home.
The first three ladies get one rose each, leaving only Ae-jung with Park Shi-yeon (playing an actress named Kim Hee-jin, not that that’s significant — what’s significant is that Park Shi-yeon has been pointed out as the prettiest, and is most expected to stay). Ae-jung keeps her eyes averted while Hee-jin looks expectant.
So it’s to everyone’s shock that Pil-joo holds his rose out to Ae-jung. There’s an audible gasp from the audience.
And that’s when Jin’s heart starts acting up again.
Yay, feelings already! One of my favorite things about Hong sisters dramas is that they get to the realization of attraction relatively quickly — no dilly-dallying for ten episodes while they skirt the topic again and again. No, they cut to the chase, then have fun mucking things up from there.
I love this setup of the hero intending to save the day, only to be pre-empted by some other force, or one step too late. It’s a scenario the writers have employed several times before, but it gets me every time, because there’s something universal in that, isn’t there? We want to do the right thing, but we might not get that chance and lose the moment. And then we’re too proud or afraid of rejection to admit what we were ready to do, and our impulse to self-preserve overrides the one to disclose. It’s human nature; the Hong sisters just know how to distill those basic elements and turn them into hilarious bits of comedy.
Granted, they aren’t perfect, and they still have a tendency to overdumbify their characters. Like Mi-nam’s naivete bordering on clinically stupid, or Gu Mi-ho’s innocence veering into infantile. Here we have a 30-something grown adult not recognizing the signs of attraction — pfffffffffffffft. Yeah, whatever, rolls eyes. They’re doing something different with Jin in that he’s not just cold and aloof; he also seems to be borderline robotic, so maybe that’s his thing. I’m still enjoying the heck out of this drama and absurdity is fine; it’s just something extra that I suspend disbelief about.
Like I mentioned up top, these actors can sell the whole gamut of emotions. There are some ridiculous aspects of the characters (mostly on Jin’s side), but the leads both have that ability to ground their emotions in something real, and that makes the characters really work. Gong Hyo-jin can be playing an utterly slapstick moment — like her bar misunderstanding with Pil-joo — but the earnestness of her tears comes through even though we’re laughing. Cha Seung-won also has that ability, such as when he sees Ae-jung dancing in her dress and feels pained. Such great moments from both actors.