Best Love just gets better and better. It really stepped it up this week — last week I was chuckling and enjoying the wacky, and this week I am INVESTED, yo. Like, hardcore. These characters are just so well acted — not, perhaps, as well-written (they’re familiar types), but the performances really elevate them. Plus, the writing on all other fronts continues to be sharp, witty, and clever.
SONG OF THE DAY
Taru – “Better Together” [ Download ]
EPISODE 6 RECAP
Jin follows Ae-jung out of the cinema, spotting her outside. After momentarily stopping, conscious of drawing attention to himself, he chases her down. Using the words she’d used (how she’s afraid she would ask him to catch her), he says, “I’ve caught you — now what are you going to do? Will you let yourself be caught, or will you run away?” He warns her that because he’ll feel ashamed, he won’t try this again.
She panics at the thought of being seen, and tells him to let go. Instead, Jin grabs her closer, hiding her face by holding it to his chest. Yeah, that’s much less conspicuous. He tells her to follow quietly: “You’ve been caught.”
Se-ri finds Jin’s abandoned snacks, which is proof that Jin was at the VIP theater with someone. She demands information from Jae-seok, who nervously keeps his mouth shut while she wails at the prospect of the other woman being more famous than her. Oh, princess.
Pil-joo and the producers try to make sense of the pieces, guessing that all the breakup rumors were true, and the couple was just covering it up. Yet this scenario means that if news of Jin’s new girlfriend breaks before the breakup is made official, the new woman will automatically be tarred with the “cheater” label, however unfair and inaccurate it may be. That doesn’t sit well with Pil-joo, who knows (or at least guesses) the truth.
Jin has taken Ae-jung to a wine bar and assures her that nobody will recognize her here. He can’t resist a dig, saying that things might be different if she were Shin Mina or Han Ye-seul — two previous Hong sisters leads, heh.
Ae-jung asks if it was SO difficult for him to handle liking her, and he replies, “I’ve never liked anybody other than myself. That it would have to be you was shameful.” She says pointedly, “That must’ve been painful, to have felt such shame and then been rejected.”
He says he expected her to accept eagerly, which would’ve enabled him to put the kibosh on this. The metaphor he uses is “biting” — as in, he thought she’d consider this a stroke of unexpected fortune (analogy = find a piece of rice cake) and take a bite immediately. That “bite” would’ve woken him up in pain, and that would’ve been the end of that.
As usual, he doesn’t realize how insulting he’s been until he sees Ae-jung’s expression, and his backpedaling is too little, too late. She retorts that this makes her his first love — and that she’ll guarantee that his first love will forever be one-sided! Hmph!
With that, she storms out, and he chases her to take his words back. He admits that the situation called for him to take her out to buy a designer gown and dress her lavishly before bringing her to a place like this, which is a step he’d skipped. “Let’s do that and come back here.” Sure, that might work…if life had an undo button. (Don’t I wish!)
She offers to enact the original scenario he’d wanted — to accept his overture, jolt him awake, and poof! Problem solved.
He goads her to do it, then. She replies, “Dokko Jin, you sure look easy. Wanna sleep with me?”
What? I repeat, WHAT?!
He’s stunned speechless, and she checks, “That woke you up, right? I’ll be off now.” But…what if he said yes? WHAT IF HE SAID YES?!
Jin does a post-mortem of the date that night, groaning that he was cool when he “caught” her — “But I shouldn’t have gone to the wine bar.” HAHA. I love that he sits at home and dissects the anatomy of his dates, like a normal person with normal self-confidence worries.
He notes that he underestimated her as being too easy, and suddenly things have turned difficult.
The contestants of Couple Making meet with the producers to discuss upcoming outdoor dates — a picnic, hike, cruise, dinner — which will be assigned to them without advance notice.
Se-ri says that the women haven’t established clear personas yet, particularly Ae-jung. She suggests a pushy type of character for entertainment value, which Ae-jung accepts without offense. She offers to gamely give it a try, which surprises Se-ri since she meant it as a dig.
Ae-hwan suggests that Ae-jung angle for the hiking date, so she can ask Pil-joo to teach her how to ride a bike. Discovering a helium tank amid the props, they test it out and laugh over their squeaky voices. Pil-joo finds Ae-jung while she’s still under the influence, and she apologizes for her quick exit at the theater, then laughs at the dissonance of the serious topic and her voice.
Pil-joo joins in on the fun, and the contrast of his appearance and his high voice cracks her up. Just as she worries about side effects of the helium, he says more seriously (with Mickey Mouse voice), “I was very worried.” They have a slightly skewed conversation where she assumes he’s talking about the helium:
Ae-jung: “Right? If you have too much, you might get a headache.”
Pil-joo: “Yes. I worried that you’d be very hurt. I hope you won’t be. If something happens to hurt you, come to me. I’ll treat you.”
Ae-jung: “Yes. You seem like a really great doctor.”
Se-ri and the writer spy their friendliness, and the latter speculates that Ae-jung probably won’t get cut next, either.
Meanwhile, President Moon is still curious about Jin’s secret date, as Jae-seok has reported that he didn’t see her. Jae-seok tests the waters, asking what would happen if Jin dated a D-lister, and she replies that she’d have to send him to work overseas and stamp out the other party. She’d do it without his knowledge, since that’s her job as manager: “I can’t let him be ruined because of a loser celebrity.”
President Moon tries to pry details out of Jin, but he ain’t budging. She tells him she’s sending flowers and a cake to Se-ri’s shoot in his name, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of them going public with their so-called romance.
Jin perks up at mention of Couple Making and decides he’ll go in person, muttering about not being rejected (by Ae-jung).
At the shoot, Ae-jung is the big winner in the chicken battle — keeping your balance on one foot while holding the other — and the co-host comments that her energy recalls her KBSN days. Ae-jung corrects them — that back then, Se-ri was their chicken-battle winner. After one variety show appearance, they’d even shot a chicken CF because of it.
Aha, this is Ae-jung’s revenge! She knows Se-ri would like to keep that CF buried, but the show isn’t passing up its chance to dig up an old clip. Put on the spot, Se-ri laughs uncomfortably and grudgingly accepts when the co-host goads her into a chicken battle with Ae-jung. She throws in added incentive, though: If she loses, Ae-jung gets two dates. If she wins, Se-ri will go on Ae-jung’s date instead.
Way to make this interesting! Both ladies smile for the cameras, while thinking to themselves that they MUST WIN. Se-ri thinks bitterly that in the old days, “I was the chicken leg — yet I couldn’t grab the chicken leg!”
What does that mean? Clip time!
Flashback to the KBSN chicken CF, featuring a jingle that replaces the words to their hit song “Thumping Heartbeat” with chicken-related lyrics:
My heart forever thumps for Geudae Chicken
My heart is full with the love of chicken, that rich taste
With both arms outstretched,
I hold out this delicious chicken to you
I’ll deliver the best chicken
But during the shoot, the director had irritably told Se-ri to give up her drumstick (reserved only for Ae-jung!), and given her a wing instead. Already the group’s least popular member, Se-ri had felt the burn of resentment that apparently still stings today.
Gah, I love that there’s so much angst ABOUT CHICKEN.
Ae-jung wins, knocking Se-ri to the ground. Jin, watching from the sidelines, applauds enthusiastically and Pil-joo congratulates her.
When Pil-joo refers to the upcoming date, Ae-jung warns him that her TV personality is pushy, so she hopes he won’t be put off by it on the date. I love that Pil-joo is starting to develop his own catchphrase (“I’m a TV personality now too!”), which he uses frequently as an excuse to encourage Ae-jung.
Pil-joo makes a comment that Ae-jung wants to write down for future use, and she borrows his pen to do it, which is the scene that Jin watches crankily. He notes how chummy they are and sidles up to her after Pil-joo leaves.
Jin congratulates her for her “chicken act,” but she takes his awkward wording as mocking. He tries to compliment her persona, but that comes off sounding like he’s insulting her (“Good job with that pushy act! It’ll be a hit!”). Aw, did nobody ever teach you how to talk to women, ever? Or just communicate like a normal human? It’s like he’s a robot armed with an extra ego chip and Google Translate for a language center.
Frustrated, he stops trying to be flattering and says, “I’m trying to impress you, so I’m doing this difficult thing and trying to praise and encourage you! I wasn’t insulting you or sneering at you!”
Mollified, Ae-jung says it doesn’t come out as praise, since he’s got a ddong-ko (butthole) for a mouth. HAHAHA. And then she actually extends the metaphor: “But try to hold it in, just a little. With your real butthole, you hold it in until you can go to the bathroom, and then you open up. So when you open your mouth, ask yourself if it’s okay to open it, assess the situation, and then open it.” Oh. My. God. Dying laughing.
She assures him she’ll work hard on the show, and make sure she ends up a couple with Pil-joo. Jin: “You’ll become a what with who?” She points out that the program he just encouraged her about is a couple-making show; she thinks her odds are good, since Pil-joo seems to like her.
He asks to see the pen, knowing it’s Pil-joo’s valued possession, and figures that if she lost it, she’ll be sure to lose Pil-joo’s favor. She agrees, not anticipating that Jin will immediately bury it in a huge pit of plastic balls. He orders, “Tell him you lost it, so he’ll get mad at you. You have to like me. So quit this show right away.” Thus spake the Dokkobot.
Ae-jung dives for the pen, but it’s a hopeless, infuriating task.
Upon seeing Jin arrive bearing flowers and cake, the producers jump on this chance to save their shoot, as Se-ri’s sunk into a bad mood and won’t emerge from her room. Pressured into it, Jin agrees to whip up a special event, smiling for the benefit of his audience but grimacing inwardly. Hey, nobody told you to be a slave to public opinion! I love that that’s his kryptonite.
Ae-jung finally gives up diving for the pen, her temper roiling. Out for Jin’s blood, she hunts him down, finding him in the dressing room where he’s prepared a romantic spread for Se-ri.
Assuming this is more childishness in wooing her, Ae-jung rails against him for his behavior. His eyes widen and he tries to warn her away, because contrary to appearances, this isn’t a private room. He tries to politely suggest they talk this out elsewhere, but she yells, “Shut your butthole!” (Meaning, of course, mouth. HAHAHAHA.)
She demands he return the pen he lost and tells him plainly that she doesn’t need his praise or encouragement: “And stop hanging around me — I will never, EVER like you!”
Which is when the lights flick on, Se-ri asks what’s going on, and the hidden staff emerges.
Jin tries to salvage the situation, saying that she must harbor antipathy toward him after their encounter (the car accident) resulted in hate being spewed her way: “Even though I apologized with praise and encouragement, are you really unable to accept it? But the FANS [pronounced pan, in place of pen, hee] you’ve lost because of me, you’ll have to recover through FAN meetings or FAN signings.”
That turns her into the bad guy, and the staff assumes she’s still being unreasonable.
This story hits the news in the form of a not-very-blind item: Ms. C interrupted Top Star Mr. A preparing an event for Ms. B, raging in front of shocked staffers. Oh yeah, and B and C were in the same girl group together.
Ae-jung mopes a bit at home, and apologizes to Pil-joo for losing his pen, promising to return it when the ball pit is emptied. Pil-joo offers to search for it together, and assures her that it’ll all work out. Seeing her anxiousness to recover it, Pil-joo decides that she’ll be overcome with guilt if she never finds it.
Jin knows Ae-jung is mightily peeved at him for his stunt, and has no luck calling her. So he meets with Se-ri to tell her he wants to put an end to their fake relationship soon, since it’s complicating things. Se-ri points out that Ae-jung’s the only one who was affected, and marvels at her chronic bad timing. The day of their infamous fight in KBSN happened to be the one day that reporters had been around.
Jin asks what she did to provoke Ae-jung, not believing for a second that she was innocent. Se-ri admits to playing a little joke out of pique, then guesses that Jin must hate Ae-jung too. What did he do to her?
Jin groans, “Thinking that I did the same thing you did makes me feel shameful.” Ha! Se-ri gives him the simple solution of just avoiding Ae-jung — that’s what she did, for ten years after their fight. Jin: “Ten years — that’s too long.”
Not willing to wait years to be forgiven, Jin gains entree to the prop room and mobilizes a crew to search for the pen. He’s successful, but let’s not count out our resourceful second lead: Pil-joo takes a different approach, and buys a replacement. (Ah! If only…this isn’t exactly what happened in Chun-hyang…)
Ae-jung’s father drops by Pil-joo’s clinic to ask the good doctor for a pick-me-up for his depressed daughter. Pil-joo’s mother, thinking he’s Se-ri’s father, greets him enthusiastically and treats him to a box of herbal medicine, saying that he gets a free sample because he’s Se-ri’s father. Dad’s about to correct the misconception — except for the thousand-dollar box he’s about to get for free. Thinking better of it (or maybe I should say worse), thanks her on Se-ri’s behalf.
Jin pulls up to Hyung-kyu’s school to instruct him to get his aunt to answer his calls — and if she doesn’t, to answer the phone and transfer it to her. Jin’s ready to return the pen to melt her anger, though he worries, “But I really don’t want her to get friendly with that doctor…”
Jin overhears Hyung-kyu’s friends accusing him of lying about knowing Dokko Jin, so he gets out and confirms the claim. Next, he takes Hyung-kyu home so the boy can call Ae-jung to pick him up. Feeling generous, Jin tells him he’ll give him 100 autographs and encourages him to tell everyone that they’re chummy. He notices the microphone Hyung-kyu’s wearing, a toy lie detector, and they test it out together.
When Ae-jung arrives to pick up her nephew, she glares at Jin and accuses him of taking him home just because she’s been ignoring his calls. He lies, saying the boy followed him so he was forced to take him in: “Do you think I waited in front of your nephew’s school and told him to call you just to bring you here?” Well, put that way, it does sound crazy…
He reminds her how she vowed she’d never like him, and says he won’t grab onto her anymore. He guesses, “You’re disappointed, aren’t you?” She denies it, so he holds up the Pororo lie detector and tells her to prove it.
Ae-jung says she wasn’t disappointed, but the mike turns red and Jin exults, “See, it’s a lie!” Ae-jung shoves it away, and it knocks into his eye. Jin: “I’ve been hit by Pororo’s head.” Ae-jung: “It’s better than saying you were hit by Gu Ae-jung. At least Pororo’s a top star.” Aw, that’s sad.
Ae-jung worries that she’s done him injury, and leans in close to take a look at his eye, which sets his heartbeat racing again. She becomes aware of the charged air as he stares intently at her, and he draws her closer, telling her to be the lie detector this time: “I find you difficult. You’re not the least easy, you’re really difficult.” Jin can be so sweet when he’s not trying so damn hard, and just being honest, even if he’s still a got a touch of the Google Translate about him.
Jin makes a deal with her — if he finds the doctor’s pen, will she rescind her comment about never liking him? She concedes, “If you find it, I’ll forgive you.” Jin: “Only forgive? Well, you don’t like being seen as easy, so it might feel shameful to cancel those words too easily. I’ll have to make it so you can cancel them without being embarrassed.”
Jin has one request for her while he’s away in Japan for the next few days: to feed his fish. He uses the alarm code as his excuse, since he doesn’t want to give it out and she already knows it. She’s uncomfortable with the idea (“Why should I pop in and out of your world?”), so he tells her, “Run the lie detector in your heart. Then, you’ll enter my world.”
At home, Ae-jung gives Pororo a try: “I won’t ever like Dokko Jin.” Alas, Pororo chides her not to lie.
Jin puts the pen into an empty cylinder, then fills that with fish food, figuring that she’ll find it soon enough. At the same time, Pil-joo wonders how he can give Ae-jung the replacement pen convincingly to ease her conscience.
Se-ri decides to upload a sel-ca photo online, prepping with eye drops to strike a sad pose. Since Jin wants to release breakup news soon, she’ll set the stage now and garner sympathy after the news breaks.
Ae-jung overhears this conversation, and it prompts her to feed Jin’s fish after all, despite initially not intending to. She tells them that she came because she feels guilty about being the cause of Jin losing his 1 billion won CF contract.
Ae-hwan works on getting the Couple Making producers to feature Ae-jung’s future music video, dropping hints that she may attract a co-star of Dokko Jin’s level. Ae-jung’s former manager overhears and takes this to President Moon, advising her to be wary of working with Ae-jung. President Moon is aware of her scandals, but Manager Jang refers to the real reason KBSN broke up, hinting at Ae-jung’s culpability.
President Moon asks Se-ri about the breakup, her interest piqued to hear that Jin asked the same thing. Mention of their impending “breakup” takes her by surprise, particularly because Jin made the decision after the scandal broke about the A/B/C ruckus.
Putting the pieces together, President Moon first laughs at the ridiculousness of Jin crushing on Ae-jung, but then considers the possibility…
The next day, Ae-jung decides to top off the food container after feeding the fish, keeping the pen buried. Haha — Jin’s plan backfires! That means that when Jin gets home eagerly anticipating the results, he sees the fish food still stocked — did she not come by after all? “And you’ve all been starving?”
This gives Pil-joo the opportunity to get the upper hand (however unwittingly), because he sends his replacement pen to Ae-jung, addressed from the MBS studio, making it look like it was found in the prop room. He feigns relief when she returns it, and promises to treat her to a nice dinner in exchange.
Jin drives to Ae-jung’s house that night to deliver the pen, and Ae-hwan takes the opportunity to pester him about Ae-jung’s upcoming music video, hoping to get Jin’s cooperation (no luck on that).
Jin hears that Ae-jung is at Jenny’s cafe down the street to meet the doctor, and heads off in a dark mood. Outside the cafe, he parks and calls Ae-jung while watching her through the window. She picks up the call cheerily, thinking he’s still in Japan, and answers his questions honestly — she’s waiting to meet Pil-joo in thanks for recovering the pen.
However, that doesn’t sound like truth to Jin, who says extra-meaningfully that she’s sure concerned about impressing the doctor. He tells her darkly to “keep it up” and hangs up.
Convinced she can’t have the pen since HE has it, he growls, “To look good for that man, she lies?”
Ae-hwan calls Ae-jung to let her know Jin’s on his way to see her, and prods her to bring up the music video with him. She shoots down that idea and looks around for Jin, then smiles at the thought that he got huffy after hearing she was meeting Pil-joo. She calls Pil-joo to request a raincheck, promising to pay next time, which he accepts graciously despite being obviously disappointed.
Ae-jung heads off to find Jin, in good spirits and ready to forgive him now that the pen is found. Walking through the neighborhood, she pauses at a vegetable stand — potatoes! She thinks, “Should I feed the fish, and also feed their owner?”
Jin mopes in front of his aquarium, noting that the difficult Ae-jung found it easy enough to lie to the doctor. So when Ae-hwan calls one more time about that damned music video, he’s even more irritated.
Thus when Ae-jung enters happily, expecting some kind of happy reception, he treats her coldly, thinking she’s here to ask him to do her music video. She says no, and with a bashful smile adds, “I came to forgive you and cancel those words.” Awwww! She’s taking her first step toward him! Only she’s about to get it cruelly rebuffed! Eek, I can’t watch! *watches through fingers*
When she mentions finding the pen, Jin tells her harshly to stop the lies and cut to her request. Registering his scorn, she asks uneasily what’s the matter. Jin: “Shall I say this simply? Gu Ae-jung, I’ll help you put out your album and shoot your music video. So sleep here tonight.”
OH. NO. How terrible. My heart just dropped, just as Ae-jung’s surely has. He tells her that she’s become easy in his eyes, “So let’s end this here, easily and quickly!”
Tears filling her eyes, she decides, “I made a mistake in coming.” She reaches for her plastic bag, and out tumbles a pile of potatoes. At least the sight of them seems to bring Jin back to his senses.
Pil-joo has gone to Jenny’s cafe anyway and eaten alone, and on his way out, he sees Ae-jung sitting on the front stoop, crying alone. Embarrassed, she asks him to pretend he didn’t see her, but this time he won’t let her slip away and holds her back, asking what’s wrong.
Flustered and hurting, Ae-jung starts to cry-babble about being in pain, but that none of his suggested methods are working. He’s always known how to treat hiccups and frustration, so what does he advise for situations like this?
Pil-joo thinks for moment, then steps forward and comforts her with a gentle hug.
Jin appears around the corner to see Ae-jung sobbing on Pil-joo’s shoulder, no longer angry, still holding his potato. Stricken at that sight, he claps a hand over his eyes and tells himself, “Don’t watch. You’re Dokko Jin.”
He drops the hand, then slaps himself to face the other direction, repeating, “Don’t watch.”
One thing that this drama is doing well is building its angsty moments of conflict with sufficient setup, but without projecting the outcome miles in advance. It’s a skill to lay the groundwork well so that when a moment surprises you, it surprises you with how well it makes sense of the pieces, not because it’s something that dropped out of nowhere. The Hong sisters have always had a knack for that but I think they’re getting even better.
One of the ways they do that is with their constant wordplay, which works not only on a punny/jokey level, but also in laying plot elements subtly. (I know! I used the word subtle in conjunction with the Hongs!) For example, there’s the whole easy/difficult metaphor, which Jin initially means as “She’s easy/hard to figure out” and which Ae-jung uses to mean “Do I look like a pushover to you?” But it also comes to encompass the sexual concept of being an easy conquest, and that’s why it works when he propositions her out of hurt. I gasped in surprise because I was NOT expecting him to say that — I thought he’d lash out, predictably — but it totally makes sense since it was cleverly built up from Ae-jung’s outrageous proposal in the earlier scene.
Then there’s the way the potato has evolved out of a seeming throwaway bit. That refers to the guy in the story who torments the chicken, and then Jin buys one (potato, that is, not chicken) that goes abandoned at the theater, and then Ae-jung buys them as a peace offering which go rejected.
Note: Thanks to a comment in the last recap alerting me that Camellia is a Korean novel published in 1936. Nutshell version: The girl is rich, the boy is poor. She gives him a boiled potato, he rejects it. Hurt, she harasses his chicken. He harasses hers back and accidentally kills it. (FYI: There’s also a Camellia trilogy (2005) that deals with gay love themes, and a more recent anthology (2010) about three different love stories.)
I love that a potato has evolved thusly into being an expression of affection — one that’s staunchly unsentimental, unlike a piece of jewelry, and the very nature of it being a potato keeps it inherently funny — and that it works on more than one level of meaning. Things like that make the moments richer, which is great.
Granted, sometimes a joke is just a joke, and not everything has to have grand meaning. But when they extend even the silliest bit and draw it into the story in an unexpected way, it gives the moment depth that it didn’t have initially. Like ddong-ko developing from a throwaway insult to a pun to an extended metaphor about Jin’s potty mouth. How frickin’ great is that?