Romance Town: Episode 1
Hallo everyone! I have joined the brigade of “All Dramas – No Sleep” – at least, until 49 Days ends. It was hard to get excited about this drama, what with Cha Seung Won being funny on one end, and Yoon Eun Hye back where she belongs in romantic comedy. But I guess all I needed was a bit of Jung Gyu Woon to get me back on track.
SONG OF THE DAY
“Oppa” by Wax [download]
It’s the summer of 1988, and a young Noh Soon Geum (later played by Sung Yuri) is watching the Olympics with her mother and grandmother. The Korean team wins the gold medal in ping pong, and it gives the grandmother hope that perhaps Soon Geum can be a national athlete too. (Like it’s so easy.)
Soon Geum is the third generation to a female household of maids, and it’s a point of contention between mother and grandmother. Both are bitter about their occupations and only want Soon Geum to work hard, go to college, and marry rich. However, Soon Geum is kind of oblivious to all this, as if she’s heard it all before and really doesn’t care. She just mindlessly scratches her neck… until she notices that smoke is coming out from their window.
As her family freaks out, Soon Geum calmly walks out on her own. She knew it wasn’t a fire; she just wanted to alert them about the strangeness of the smoke. Outside, there’s a pickup truck with a smoke machine in the back. She decides to chase after it, thinking that if she does, her body wouldn’t itch anymore, and that she won’t grow up to be a maid.
Skip to 2003, and Soon Geum is now a high school student. (Fair warning: in one episode, we get plenty of time jumps.) She’s a smart ass student who is no stranger to getting yelled at by her teacher every so often for her wisecracks.
No worries though – at night, she parties it up at a club with her best friend Yoon Shi Ah. At that same club is Kang Gun Woo (Jung Gyu Woon) – terribly chubby with nerdy glasses and crazy curly hair – and his buddy Kim Young Hee (Kim Min Joon) – who looks more like the “rich boy” with his good looks and sparkly jacket. He plays wing man to Gun Woo, trying to snag some girls to dance with them. Suffice to say – the “hot girls” leave after Gun Woo shows off his “moves.”
I gotta say though – Jung Gyu Woon can really shake his booty in a fat suit…
Soon Geum and Shi Ah collect money from the club owner – they’re pretty much there to dance and entertain some of the guys – and then leave, using studying as an excuse to bounce early. Shi Ah would rather stay a little longer though for the boys, but Soon Geum knows that all those boys just want a one-night stand, which will just lead to more trouble.
Soon Geum leaves for her second part-time job as a waitress in a restaurant. As she cleans up the tables, she spies a few leftover pieces of meat and stuffs them in her mouth, taking a sip of soju while she’s at it. A few tables behind her, Gun Woo is helping himself to a few servings of barbecue.
It’s at that moment she races back to the club to find Shi Ah making out with Young Hee in a private room. She barges in and dumps a bucket of ice over the two of them, berating her friend for being in a room with alcohol and a man. Suddenly the club owner rushes in, surprised that they’re still around, and quickly rushes them to leave out the back.
Too late, the police arrive doing their rounds of inspections.
They are all brought to the station, and Young Hee adamantly denies knowing that they were underage. Gun Woo arrives to bail out his buddy, while Soon Geum sullenly lies that she has no mother.
But you know how mothers just have impeccable timing? Soon Geum’s mother arrives just in time and starts yelling, “You don’t have a mother?!” She grabs a mop from another officer and starts chasing her daughter around the station, ready to beat her. She goes after Young Hee and Gun Woo – which one of them dragged Soon Geum to the club? At the sight of the stick, Gun Woo falls weak at his knees, completely freaked, which honestly befuddles the mother for a moment. I mean, he is twice her size…
Soon Geum’s mother hands her bank book to the teacher and asks that he help Soon Geum into college. The teacher sheepishly says that no student from this school has ever gone to college though. When they get home, Soon Geum’s mother yells at her – why can’t she study hard? Why won’t she just go to college? Soon Geum fires back: college is worthless. She just wants to work. Or, she’ll just get married to a rich boy. She can get married right now if she has to. But Mother thinks that all those boys are worthless – they all will just end up being like her dad.
Soon Geum has had enough – all she hears is her mother saying that she has to work so hard as a maid just to send her daughter to college. She’s tired of hearing her mother sound like a martyr and screams at her. Mother slaps her square across the cheek.
That evening, Soon Geum is still smarting from the slap while her mother is outside on the porch, drinking in the rain. Her mother quietly says that Soon Geum’s father had told her she smelled like a refrigerator. It was a moment where she was stripped of her identity as a lady, and that resonates with Soon Geum. When they both fall asleep that night, Soon Geum wraps her arm and leg around her mother’s body. It’s also when her father takes their money and makes a run for it, leaving only a note: “Honey, I’m sorry. I love you, Geum-ah.”
Now we’re in 2008. Soon Geum is standing outside of a bar with a baby wrapped around her back in a blanket. She’s a single mother?!
A taxi drives Kang Tae Won (Lee Jae Yong) and his new wife Seo Yoon Joo (Yang Jung Ah) to a rich fancy neighborhood. As they drive by the other houses, they see the other maids of other houses, including Jung Da Kyum (Min Hyo Rin) washing a car and Oh Hyun Joo (Park Ji Young) mowing the lawn. Yoon Joo is one spoiled woman, as she doesn’t mind calling them “maids” rather than “housekeepers” since it’s fewer syllables to say. The maids pause in their work to take in the new girl in town, who even has a huge diamond as a toe ring.
In another taxi, an old grandmother comes out with a baby boy on her back. She takes her time in getting out, annoying the two rich ladies in the car behind her. The grandmother belatedly realizes that she’s left something behind in the taxi and tries to call after it, but to no avail. She raises a ruckus though, and the two rich ladies are so annoyed that they honk at her.
Surprised, she drops her bag and falls backwards onto the baby. Good thing the rich ladies are human enough to get out of the car and make sure she’s alright. The other maids come rushing to her aid as well, trying to figure out what was so important that was left behind in the taxi.
Grandmother: “I had the father’s name written down.” Oof – important information indeed.
She was sent by the mother to deliver the baby here, but while she has the right address, she forgot the name of the father! It becomes an awkward guessing game as she tries to remember the last name… was it Jang? or Kang? or Hwang? Da Kyum asks if it was a Kim – just to see if she can eliminate her master from the list of candidates.
They come to another solution – present the baby to all the men in the neighborhood. A father is sure to recognize his son, no?
Hehe – it becomes an awesome line-up of veteran actors checking to see if the baby is theirs: Hwang Yong (Jo Sung Ha), Jang Chi Gook (Lee Jung Gil with an awesomely bad mustache), Tae Won, and also Young Hee. The grandmother thinks it’s Young Hee’s, because he’s the youngest. Tae Won breaks up the group by inviting everyone else to come by their home sometime. The two rich ladies turn out to be Chi Gook’s wife Kim Soon Ok and mistress Oh Boon Ja. (Cohabitation?!) They are suspicious it’s Chi Gook’s kid (no kidding), while Da Kyum warns Young Hee not to drink so much lest he has an “accident” during one of his blackouts. She openly admits she gets worried about him, since they are “living together.”
Suddenly, grandma remembers the name! The child’s name is Kang San – meaning, it’s Kang Tae Won’s son. Young Hee immediately jumps in – the baby looks an awful lot like when Gun Woo was a baby!
Tae Won is having difficulty getting in contact with his son. He yells for his housekeeper, Yoo Choon Jak (Ban Hyo Jung), looking every inch like Mrs. Doubtfire. Choon Jak knows Gun Woo the best – better than Tae Won – and since Kang San is definitely not Tae Won’s son (or so he says), Choon Jak will certainly know what Gun Woo has been up to.
Meanwhile, Gun Woo is passed out in a karaoke room, having drunk only half a glass of whiskey, while his friends are partying it up. Soon Geum has also decided to enter that same karaoke bar with the baby. It’s Shi Ah’s, who’s shocked to see Soon Geum bring her daughter to a “place like this.” Soon Geum shames Shi Ah for not raising her daughter properly.
As they fight, they don’t realize that Gun Woo is in their room. He wakes up, and notices the crying baby. He tries playing peek-a-boo to make her calm down, but Soon Geum smacks his face and pushes him back down on the seats. She’s all, “Who the hell is this guy getting up all over me with ‘Peek-a-boo’?!”
Soon Geum tells Shi Ah that baby Ji Min finally said “Mommy,” and that’s enough to get Shi Ah to reclaim her role as a mother, and remind Ji Min that Soon Geum is an “Auntie,” not a “Mommy.”
Unfortunately, just as Soon Geum is ready to leave, she realizes that Gun Woo is sleeping on Ji Min’s blanket. She tries to pull it out under his weight but to no avail. Instead, she falls on top of him, and it’s in this compromising position that a waiter enters demanding that Gun Woo pay the bill.
Soon Geum denies knowing Gun Woo, who’s hugging onto the blanket, half-drunk, and without a wallet. A couple of men start searching Soon Geum for cash. They find an envelope, full of her rent, and they take it from her as payment. If she doesn’t know the guy, then she can get the money back from him later.
Back at home, Choon Jak is ready to assume responsibility for the child. Tae Won is frustrated and wants Gun Woo found immediately, and Choon Jak invites the grandmother inside. Yoon Joo refuses to let the grandmother in, trying to assert her position as mistress of the household. Choon Jak: “Since when? and until when? He’s had numerous wives, but only one maid.”
Gun Woo stumbles out of the club half asleep, and Soon Geum chases after him – to a parking lot, where he takes off his shoes, places the blanket under his head, and falls asleep in an empty lot. HAHA! Even Soon Geum has to note that he took off his shoes neatly for a half-drunk.
She tries to slap him awake, using his own hand, but he accidentally slaps her instead. That’s enough to wake him up, and he starts pleading “I’m sorry!” She hands him the bill instead, and he invites her into his car, where he searches for extra cash. He’s found himself in this situation before, so he usually has backup money. He moans about wanting coffee – if he had a little bit of money for coffee, he could sober up, drive her home, and then pay her back there. Soon Geum gets right up in his face, and Gun Woo’s eyes widen. Yeah – I don’t think he’s had many girls get that close to him before.
Soon Geum wants to smell his breath, but Gun Woo holds it in until she backs off. She orders him to drive, but Gun Woo knows he’ll get caught. He gets caught on half a bottle of beer. He compromises – at least let him have a snack! He grabs two bags of chips: “Do you want the sweet one? Or sweeter?” No response. “How about salty?”
Soon Geum grabs the sweeter one, just to get him to stop. She struggles with opening her bag, so Gun Woo takes it, points at the tiny arrow, and expertly tears off a corner. Yeah – he’s totally done it before. Soon Geum eats one piece at a time; Gun Woo grabs it by the handful. You see why they’re the size they are, right?
He then gives her a tip about eating chips: “You have to eat it this way so it’s tastier.”
Soon Geum is disgusted, but he doesn’t stop bugging her until she does it as well.
What a cute couple the two of them make.
They start driving, and Gun Woo feels worse about losing the picture with him and his grandmother (he means Choon Jak). It was hard for him to get a photo with her. Soon Geum doesn’t mind her dingy wallet was taken from her too – it just made her feel worse that she barely any money in it to begin with. She suddenly asks him to stop at a cafe.
Soon Geum hands Gun Woo a cup of coffee. The restaurant she worked for always sent her on coffee errands, and so she was able to collect enough stamps to get a free one. She wonders aloud why he’s in a car full of snacks rather than girls, and he says defensively that she’s a girl. Soon Geum refutes the point – she’s not a girl, just someone in debt.
Gun Woo suddenly asks her if he should go to New York. He doesn’t want to go – now that he’s kind of made a friend in her. He never really wanted to go to begin with though… Soon Geum asks him – does he like her? Gun Woo can’t answer – it’s so cute he’s so shy!
That’s when Soon Geum gets a call from Shi Ah about her father being at their house. She has to go, so she gives Gun Woo her number and tells him to please call her. She trusts him to – even though they don’t know each other’s names. Poor Gun Woo though – when he gets up, the chair is stuck around his butt. It would have been funny – if Jung Gyu Woon had not played the scene so poignantly.
Turns out, Soon Geum’s father had gambled away all of their house deposit. She calls him up and begs him to stop hurting her this way. She says Mother will return from the grave – and that’s the first we hear of her mother actually passing away. But her father heartlessly hangs up, knowing that despite having caused trouble for his daughter, she’ll find a way to survive anyways. Soon Geum arrives home, upset and embarrassed to face her friend (since the house deposit was Shi Ah’s money). Shi Ah comforts her – at least Soon Geum’s father comes back looking for her. There are people in far worse situations than the Soon Geum.
It’s the middle of the night and Da Kyum is fixing up a midnight snack. Young Hee comes looking for a bottle opener, and even though she tells him it’s right in front of him, he refuses to “see” it. Da Kyum has to come over and pick it out for him. When he grabs it from her hand, his arm brushes her chest, and they freeze in the moment – he completely aware of what he’s done, and she refusing to move away until he moves his arm first.
She is called away to her room, and there she brings in the food for the other maids in the area – Hyun Joo, Soo Jung, and Zar Lin (Hwang Yong’s maid). They’re all playing Go Stop while Zar Lin announces they’ve won the lottery! They matched six numbers, and the ladies freak out. Da Kyum grabs the slip to check – and reveals they haven’t won – they didn’t win all six numbers in one row. They all beat Zar Lin for giving them such high hopes.
Gun Woo finally arrives home. His father is outside, waiting for him. He begs his son to let him enjoy his post-wedded bliss, and that it’ll all be OK since Gun Woo is leaving for New York tomorrow. Choon Jak, the grandmother, and Yoon Joo come out, and they show the baby to Gun Woo. In just a matter of looks and sighs, Gun Woo knows he has to take the fall of being the baby daddy.
The next day, Young Hee assaults Gun Woo – who the hell would have thought Gun Woo would be a father?! But Young Hee is smart – he knows the kid resembles Tae Won more, and wonders if Gun Woo was just forced to take the fall. Gun Woo pays more attention to the number Soon Geum left for him on a napkin, and so Young Hee takes the non-answer to mean a “yes.”
Meanwhile, Yoon Joo is fretting. Who will take care of the baby if Gun Woo leaves, and is she already a (God forbid) grandmother!? Tae Won tells her not to worry about it – they can hire someone else to take care of “Gun Woo’s mistake.” Yoon Joo goes to Gun Woo’s room, and notices the baby blanket and number on the napkin. Hmm…
Choon Jak takes Gun Woo to the airport to see him off, and Yoon Joo is highly annoyed that the maid gets to do anything she wants. Meanwhile, Soon Geum is nervously waiting for Gun Woo’s call. She needs his money to pay her rent. Suddenly, the phone rings.
Yoon Joo called Soon Geum over thinking that she’s the baby mama. She waits for Soon Geum outside the house, carrying the baby in such an insecure way that I seriously feel like she’s going to drop the baby. Thankfully, Soon Geum arrives in time to take the baby away from her, and soothes him. Kang San stops crying, and all the maids notice Soon Geum’s calming presence. Yoon Joo is impressed; if Soon Geum is not the mother, she will offer double the amount Soon Geum wants as long as she becomes a maid in the household and takes care in raising the baby.
We’re now in 2011. Kang San is a cute, perky three-year old who runs to Soon Geum’s room in his pajamas. He pinches her cheek, trying to wake her up.
Soon Geum is dreaming of her father. He’s telling her to come home with him instead of working as a maid. He asks her to just follow for ten minutes, and drives the pickup truck with the smoke machine. Soon Geum finds herself chasing after the smoke like in her youth. Then, the smoke turns into money, and she cheerfully runs after him, watching money floating from the heavens.
That’s when Yoon Joo yells, “The rice is burning!” Woops.
Later that day, she stops by a quick mart to drop off all her change – winnings from playing go-stop. She uses it to buy a game ticket from the guy behind the counter, Choi Gun. When she steps outside, standing next to GUN-WOO-LOOKING-MIGHTY-FINE-WHILE-SIPPING-A-SODA, she decides to take another chance. She purchases another ticket – this time with her cash. This second ticket is solely for her, and the first ticket is the one she’ll share with the other maids.
Outside, Gun Woo muses that the neighborhood hasn’t changed very much from three years ago.
JUNG GYU WOON I LOVE YOU!!!
He’s really the motivating factor in why I decided to recap this drama (and also because I asked javabeans and girlfriday and they kindly let me do so). This drama is so unexpected. I honestly did not think I would like it, but since I have been recapping (read: rewatching) Sign, I kept thinking I should give Jung Gyu Woon a chance. And by extension, I would be giving the entire cast a chance. I’m glad I did though, because this drama is so interesting. It’s similar to Pasta where not much seems to happen, and yet a lot is happening. The beginning was quite enjoyable because Gun Woo keeps popping up in Soon Geum’s vicinity, and you just keep wondering when they are going to formally meet each other. Even when they finally do talk, they still don’t know each other’s names. It’s so nice to see that this is a couple who have been around each other for years and don’t even realize it – one of those happy coincidences.
I have to say, Min Hyo Rin and Kim Min Joon’s storyline is strong. For a first episode to have that much tension between the two of them? I am really rooting for this couple-dom.
This is my first Sung Yuri drama, and I like her – so far. Mind you, I’m watching her without the bias of her previous dramas. Her scene with her mother was well played in that I could feel her hatred and frustration for her mother, as well as her mother’s frustration at not being able to raise a smarter daughter. I have hopes for her chemistry with Jung Gyu Woon, although at this point, I think Jung could force chemistry with anyone. Kim So Yeon was not that comfortable with him in Dr. Champ but he sold the relationship to me. Him and Uhm Ji Won was cuter.
I’m fastening my seat belt – I think it’s gonna be a bumpy ride…
- Ratings report: 49 Days, Best Love, Romance Town
- Romance Town releases cute stills
- Romance Town unveils its posters
- Jung Kyeo-woon gets fat (suited), Romance Town teaser
- Why do so many dramas change their titles?
- Romance Town’s Sung Yuri goes back to high school
- Sung Yuri transforms into a maid for Romance Town
- Maids changes its name to…