It’s over! Did Best Love topple my long-standing No. 1 from the top of my personal Hong Sisters favorites list? Maybe not, but it did give the list a pretty decent shakeup.
As a straight-up episode, this one was admittedly light on drama — but as an epilogue, it’s one of the better ones I’ve seen in a while. (Coffee Prince will forever be a big ol’ letdown, falling flat in its final hour thanks to that unnecessary extension, while Boys Before Flowers also ranks high for awkward fast-forward jumps.) And it’s definitely one of the better Hong sisters epilogues, given that they usually make the couple angst through the end, giving them about ten minutes of happy at the end. I’ll take an hour of hugs, kisses, and declarations of love over that any day.
SONG OF THE DAY
4men – “수수께끼” (Riddle) [ Download ]
FINAL EPISODE RECAP
Jin makes his public declaration that he and Ae-jung are in love, to the shock of everybody, including Ae-jung’s own crew. The restaurant ajumma asks if it’s true, and what makes this moment, as girlfriday pointed out yesterday, is her reaction: Ae-jung tears up and answers proudly, “Yes. That man is my boyfriend.”
Even Jenny has to concede that this was a pretty cool move on Jin’s part, and Pil-joo gives a sad sort of half-smile. Agh, my heart, it twists for you.
President Moon, on the other hand, is less pleased, although I do love the professionalism with which she tackles the new problem: She just sighs that they’ll have to leap right into the fray again. And when her phone lights up with a call from the media, she assumes PR mode and answers brightly that it’s true, that the two are happily dating.
Asked (on television) why he likes Ae-jung, Jin answers that she’s beautiful: “I fell in love like I was caught up in hypnosis, and as though I was broken, I couldn’t control it.” That causes Ae-jung’s smile to fade a bit, until he adds, “Enough to feel that even if this were my last moment, I’d be happy — she’s the best. Gu Ae-jung is Dokko Jin’s best love. Gu Ae-jung, I love you.”
Jin waits outside her house that night, wearing his silly red bow. When Ae-jung comes home, he makes his “Dokko is Ae-jung’s present!” speech without the ridiculous aegyo voice he’d been practicing with (to my great relief, since this is a serious moment), and says that because of her, he’s had to beg again.
He declares, “Take responsibility!” and points a finger at her, with his flower ring stuck on the end. He says, “This is the future I can give you. Accept it.”
Ae-jung holds out her finger, and he slides the ring on. He warns her not to run away again, and she replies, “Run away? Don’t even dream about it. I’ll never let you go.”
They review the slew of news articles that announce their relationship, and she’s a little miffed at the strong language (“shocked,” “flabbergasted”) used to describe the public’s response. On the other hand, Jin says that if the response were any milder, HIS pride would be hurt. Haha.
He shuts the computer before she can read the comments, though, which run the gamut from disbelief to “Oppa, come back!” and “I’m gonna kill Gu Ae-jung!” and “Dokko Jin has gone totally crazy.”
He assures her that he has well-wishing fans too, and uploads a photo of them online to await their response. Which results in even more demands for Ae-jung to get lost, statements of disappointment in Jin, and references of her as a gumiho who seduced him.
I love that Ae-jung bears the criticism with a sigh, while Jin…is not so graciously accepting. He vows to sue every one of them, and pleads with her to write comments defending him. HAHA. When you’ve been coddled your entire career, I guess it’s hard to get used to curses overnight.
President Moon says that as a woman, she found his broadcast appearance pretty cool — but as his manager, he’s in for rough times. His current situation is “the worst,” with most of his projects disappearing into the ether. Jin isn’t particularly worried about the loss of CFs, because his next movie should attract a new wave of them — but is shocked to hear that all his movie offers are gone as well.
Ae-jung shows her ring to her family, telling them that she’s truly happy, which prompts Ding-Dong into a Jin imitation as he mimes a peekaboo gesture and declares, “Happiness!”
Se-ri reports news of the couple’s engagement to Pil-joo, and tells him cheerily that she’ll see him soon in China, since she’s shooting a movie there. Pil-joo goes from annoyed at her gnat-like buzzing presence in his life to satisfaction as he tells her that he’s going to a place that requires a two-day train ride from Beijing (where she’ll be): “China is a very large country.”
At least Ae-jung’s career is doing fine, although the reason given for her program’s doubled ratings is attributed to people watching it to curse her. Still, she enjoys the work, and has earned the nickname of “Mat Jang Geum,” where the “mat” means “taste” (the original “dae” meant “great”).
Jin is pleased to hear it and asks for her autograph, then produces a document for her to sign — a marriage registration form, already filled out by him. Aw, that’s cute. (It also recalls the Jae-seok/Jenny origin story, when he was the fan who’d sent her a marriage registration form asking for her autograph. So immature and adorable. No wonder those two boys get along so well.)
The marriage news takes the nation by storm (again), and President Moon asks Jin the reason for his constant flurry of revelations. He answers that this way, “all the arrows will be directed at me.” Altogether now: Awwww.
But again, the idea is easier stomached in theory than actuality, and Jin’s jealousy spikes to hear that his Cannes movie will now go to that actor Kim Joon-sung. (Hee! It’s Kim Nam-gil, in a shout-out to Episode 1 when Jin turned down Queen Seon-deok, which in this alternate Best Love universe was a dismal failure of a drama and dragged down Kim Joon-sung with it.)
In fact, now it’s Joon-sung’s face decorating the Vitamin Water bottles, not his.
Jenny gripes with Jae-seok about all the negative internet responses, which includes speculation of a Jin video floating out in the interwebs. Jae-seok confirms that there does exist a video starring Jin, but tells Jenny it’s not what she’s thinking — as in, it’s nothing dirty. Alas.
This goes overheard by the worst possible person, however: Manager Jang, who’s here at the broadcast station for some more schmoozing with producers, who figures this oughtta be interesting. Aie, it’s too late in the series for a new conflict, right?
The newlyweds head out for their first public date at the movies, where they’re surrounded by curious fans. They try to continue with their date normally, although they do make it a point to hold each other to demonstrate that they are, indeed, quite happily married.
Ae-jung picks out a movie based on the dog on the poster, saying she likes movies featuring dogs, which is HILARIOUS because (1) it’s Phungsan Dog, starring Perfect Doctor Man Yoon Kye-sang, (2) it’s not a fluffy dog movie, but a dark thriller about a badass silent smuggler, and (3) Jin doesn’t correct her, just saying that since the lead doesn’t speak throughout the movie, it’s almost the same as a dog hero. LOL.
It’s sort of adorable how much Jin enjoys holding Ae-jung close in public, even though his mood sours when a few peevish girls scorn him loudly. Ae-jung calms him down by singing her song to him, practically despoiling his ear in the process, and he joins in on the lyrics as she essentially describes their courtship (“From the beginning we weren’t right for each other…” Full lyrics here).
In response to the malicious gossip about the supposed Dokko Jin video (which hints at homemade porn), Jae-seok asks President Moon for the video Jin recorded prior to his surgery — the one that he’d made in case he died.
Jae-seok thinks it’ll be a satisfying surprise to get people all hot ‘n bothered about an ero video, “only to find Pororo” instead. (Meaning, of course, something innocent and uneventful, not Pororo literally. Although that’d be pretty hilarious, too.)
Jenny uneasily informs Ae-jung of the top 3 speculations regarding the video’s contents: (1) She’s cosplaying as Sailor Moon in the bedroom, (2) They’re into bondage play, or (3) Wait, this is the most absurd! But no, Ae-jung doesn’t want to hear it. But what about us that DO?
Jenny says something that is sadly true: “They must want to see you completely ruined in order to feel good.”
At home, Ae-jung finds Jin in a sullen mood — he shuts off the TV the moment she walks in, saying “Something came on that I don’t want to see” — and she figures he heard that Kim Joon-sung is up for a Best Actor prize at an upcoming film award ceremony. (In actuality, he’s watching Pil-joo on Couple Making — heh.)
At first she thinks of leaving him alone to sulk, but tells herself that this time she’ll cling (the opposite of her usual M.O.), and grabs him in a hug: “Recharge!”
Jin admits that the thing he’s annoyed about isn’t the award, but that MBS, those bastards, seem to be playing Couple Making nonstop these days. Damn them, capitalizing on the publicity and showing that Anybody Doctor onscreen all the time! I love that that bothers him more than getting upstaged for a Best Actor award.
Jin also reveals the signed hat he’d won from the show, back when he’d voted for her in that online poll. Now that the mood has lifted, he asks her, promising generously not to get mad, “You didn’t really have feelings for that Anybody Oriental Doctor, did you?”
She muses, “Hm, maybe a liiiittle…?” and he clenches his teeth, trying to force a happy expression. Alternately scowling and smiling like his facial muscles are at war with themselves, he grits out, “A little WHAT?!” and “I’m not upset!”
Ae-jung is on the road, heading to an assignment with her crew, when a car cuts hers off and causes a truck to swerve. That sends her own van swerving off the road, and Jin gets the alarming call and races to the hospital.
She’s fine, just laid up in bed with an injured arm, but he’s so overwhelmed with relief he grabs her in a hug and thanks her for surviving. He says he thought his heart was going to burst and she takes a listen, worried that it’s thumping too fast, and advises him to try some of his mind control powers.
Jenny grimaces at the continuous stream of hateful comments online, even in the wake of Ae-jung’s accident. Jin takes a look, his face hardening to read things like “Why didn’t she die?,” “This is Dokko Jin’s chance to come back solo,” “Don’t you think Dokko Jin’s regretting it and hoping she’ll die?” “Maybe this is the curse of Dokko Jin’s fans, kekeke.”
This is the straw that breaks the camel’s back, and Jin declares that he’ll sue — public furor be damned — which has the effect of bringing in schoolgirls to the police station for questioning. And salarymen. And ajummas. Totally normal people, subdued at being caught, not the hateful, militant types of anti-fans that they’d anticipated.
President Moon tells Jin that the offenders want to meet him in person to apologize, and now that the gossipmongers have faces and personalities, Jin is more confused than anything: “Why did they do it?” President Moon utters another sad truth: “They said they just tossed it out without really thinking about it. They’re sorry.”
Ae-jung tells him to drop the lawsuit, but he’s determined to see it through, deciding he’ll trade his image as the Good Dokko Jin for one as the Righteous Dokko Jin.
Then, more scandal breaks — this time the video, which has leaked online. Assuming it’s something salacious, the whole country gathers round computer and smartphone screens everywhere, eager for a looksee at the famous star brought even lower.
Instead, they get:
Jin: “If this video is circulating, it will mean that my heart surgery has failed, and I’m no longer of this world. The many of you who have loved me, I wish to entrust to you the person I love. You could say that I am the well-made Dokko Jin who was loved by many. The woman I love has been misunderstood by many of you and disliked, but if you get to know her, you’d know she’s a truly good woman — Gu Ae-jung. Because she is the recipient of so much scorn and misunderstanding, I am leaving this proof behind. That Dokko Jin truly loved Gu Ae-jung — please ensure that such a thing isn’t scorned, or misunderstood. I ask this of you.”
Jin finds Ae-jung as she’s watching the video all chocked up with emotion, and says he’d left it behind “just in case.” She cry-teases that he confessed his love for her in life and in death, and he smiles with his trademark quip, “Consider it your honor.”
The video is so popular it gets over a hundred million hits, which makes President Moon smile in satisfaction. I love how Jae-seok gives her the side-eye, wondering how such a video happened to be leaked, smelling something fishy.
She just tells him, “Watch and learn, Kim Jae-seok,” calling herself the “best image-maker” in the biz. That she is.
The KBSN girls gather as Ae-jung’s bridesmaids, tacky matching pink dresses and all (Se-ri’s words), and note that this is the first time since their breakup that they’ve been linked together in good news. Mina’s flown back from the States to be here, and Se-ri puts up the front of being a grudging participant, although it’s obvious she’s happy to be in the fold.
For instance, Jenny suggests regular reunions, which Se-ri balks at given her superior top-star status…but then Jenny admits she’s a tiny bit proud of Se-ri for rising to such heights, and Se-ri replies that she’ll consider the reunions, as long as they recognize that she was the core of the group. Mina brings out a box of their favorite old snacks, the clover-shaped bread that they share to ensure good luck.
Ae-jung runs into Pil-joo on the street, and their conversation about her formerly twisted ankle stands in for the bigger meta conversation about the state of her heart. Pil-joo: “I’m glad that you aren’t in pain anymore.” Ae-jung: “I don’t hurt now.” Pil-joo: “It’s a relief that the last time seeing Nina is when she’s smiling.”
He tells her he’s leaving to go study soon, not as an excuse or to run away, but because he wants to. He has one last thing to request of her, though, and he asks her to feel his pulse: “Now I’ve gotten over my feelings.” He thanks her, saying that he’ll remember the feeling of traveling to a strange land, and that every once in a while he might feel a bit of pain, but that it’ll fade in time. Ae-jung thanks him for caring for her.
Now, time for the wedding. The ceremony itself is closed to the public, but that doesn’t stop the reporters from milling around outside, and they’re the top news item of the day. Perhaps month. Probably not year. (Hey, this is showbiz. Memories be short.)
For some pre-ceremony well-wishing, Jin shows Ae-jung the video sent in by their fans worldwide congratulating the both of them on their marriage. No longer the disliked Gu Ae-jung of yore, she’s managed to turn her image around (finally!) and is enjoying some favorable responses for once in a long, long time.
Some unspecified time later, both their careers are on the rebound, with Jin back in top-shelf CF land. He turns down an invitation from his sexy co-star to go to a fancy dinner together, opting instead to head home for “a really important event,” which takes him to the grocery store first — to buy diapers! Eeee!
Moreover, it’s Jin who stays home with the baby while Ae-jung heads out for a shoot. Gotta love it.
Jae-seok receives a promotion, which causes Jenny to fawn over him while Ae-hwan scoffs that he’s way above his level already. The two boys start arguing over their professional statuses — who’s better, and whatnot — which makes Jenny intercede to urge them to act “like usual.” By which she means: Fight over me instead!
The boys tell her to stay out of it, too caught up in their rivalry to heed her, and she pouts. It strikes me that this is the best retaliation for her — nothing so serious as an actual smackdown, but a much-deserved taking down of a peg or two, since she’s been so puffed up in pride over their adulation.
Yet another of Pil-joo’s ajumma clients tries to set him up with her daughter, so he plucks a resumé from his desk and hands it to her. The flipside is empty, to be filled out with the daughter’s information, and within a week of receipt, Pil-joo’s mother will return the call. Apparently he’s been bombarded with so many requests that he’s streamlined the process, HAHAHAHA. I love that the Perfect Doctor is modest…to an extent. He’s not dumb — he knows he’s a catch.
Se-ri continues along in her top-star career, still pining over Pil-joo and trying to make headway with him. For instance, she knows he’s headed hiking and plans a trip accordingly, timing it to match his ascent — only he’s wise to her ways.
Disappointed, she asks, “Then did you see me standing there watching you and choose this other path on purpose to avoid me?”
Pil-joo holds out a hand and offers, “This path is steep and rough so it won’t be easy to climb. Do you want to try it anyway?”
It’s only the teeniest of openings, but she’ll take it, and she accompanies him to the summit. I don’t see romantic interest on his part, but I don’t mind seeing Pil-joo softening a bit toward Se-ri, since she’s shown herself to be petty and bratty, but ultimately not evil. (Though he’s still way too good for her.)
All in all, life is pretty happy at the Dokko household, even if Ding-Dong is less than impressed with the baby’s level of intelligence.
Ae-jung points out that the latest gossip has them in a three-month separation, so Jin decides that the best way to counter those rumors is to go out on a picnic in front of lots of witnesses. Ae-jung disagrees, though, calling that line of action a little weak: “These days, celebrities with lots of children are treated with affection.”
Jin: “Ding-dong! Gu Ae-jung, then let’s get into image control mode immediately!”
Rawr! Ae-jung: “I’ll have to recharge your batteries to full.” Double rawr.
Best Love isn’t perhaps my absolute favorite Hong sisters drama, but I do think it’s the best-written. I don’t know that any of their future shows will be able to topple Delightful Girl Chun-hyang as my sentimental favorite, but I’d have to put Best Love as No. 2 for its crackling dialogue, incredibly fast-flying puns and metaphors and cultural references, its wonderful lead actors, its adorable Mr. Second Lead, and the tons of humor crammed into each episode from top to bottom.
(For the curious, I’d rank the rest of their dramas, from No. 3 to 7, in the following order: My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho, My Girl, You’re Beautiful, Hong Gil Dong, and Fantasy Couple.)
I’ve read that the Hong sisters shy away from cheesily romantic dialogue (what they call dalk-sal-ment for its tendency to give you goosebumps for its corniness), which is why they pile on the metaphors. It allows you to get out the sentiment at the core, while masking it in wordplay. It’s kind of boring for a character to say plainly, “I like you. Let’s date.” But when a hero jumps through verbal hoops to talk about blooming potatoes and scattering flowers and a literally broken heart, and the miffed heroine retorts by telling him to shut his butthole of a mouth? It’s clever, funny, AND effective.
Sometimes I’ll watch a mediocre rom-com (and I’ve seen a lot of those), and the on-the-nose fighting and the even on-the-nosier love declarations can make me cringe. So I delight in the sense of whimsy and pure fun that the Hong sisters’ writing brings to the table. They’ve always been good at that, but they completely upped their game with this drama and took their delightful wit to new heights.
Best Love is not without its flaws, and I’m certainly aware of some loose ends that remained untied. For instance, Mina’s secret, which I thought would play a bigger role than merely bringing Se-ri back around to Ae-jung’s side. I’ll be the first to say that the Pil-joo character actually isn’t that strong — on paper, at least. Honestly, you can’t credit the writers too much with making him such an adorable, endearing character because frankly, he’s written just like every other Hong sisters second lead: Overly kind, understanding, and left nursing a wounded heart. Like You’re Beautiful’s Jung Yong-hwa, or My Girl’s Lee Jun-ki.
This character owes a huge debt to Yoon Kye-sang, because played by a different actor, I think Pil-joo was very much in danger of falling flat. Like how I felt no sympathy for the Gumiho Hunter, and cried no tears over Shin-woo hyung. Perhaps if you didn’t feel the Yoon Kye-sang pull (who ARE you, and are you alive?), you may have felt little for Pil-joo; for me, I was completely drawn to him and wanted him to get the girl, except for the moments when I wanted her for Jin instead. Not gonna lie, sometimes those moments overlapped and I was left nursing a wonderfully tortured dilemma.
Speaking of Pil-joo, I like that the drama didn’t conclusively pair him up with Se-ri. As far as second leads go, I found her benign since she never posed a danger to our main couple, but after some of her petty pranks in the middle, I found my desire to see her happily paired off drastically diminished. So while Pil-joo looks at her as an exasperating, possibly slightly cute pest, I don’t see interest there on his end — but there’s enough of an open ending that fans of the pairing can hope.
I also appreciate how they made President Moon into the source of conflict, because her actions make sense to me in that she sincerely believes she’s doing what’s best for both her clients. As a level-headed businesswoman, she’s making her judgments without emotion, as she should. It’s a step up from the irrational mother/grandfather/ex-girlfriend opposition, for sure, whose interference often flouted reason.
But all this would be moot if it weren’t for Cha Seung-won playing his role with complete gusto (even if he went so far in the beginning to seem mildly deranged), and Gong Hyo-jin bringing her trademark natural charm to hers. They gave life, sparks, and zazz to these crazy lovebirds — and that, coupled with the zany, meta-filled plot, makes this a keeper rom-com for me.
This is perhaps the best straight-up rom-com I’ve seen in a long while. Though it certainly doesn’t knock My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho off its pedestal as my favorite Hong Sisters drama (I consider them to be very different beasts altogether anyway), it is by far one of the most satisfying zippy comedies I’ve seen in many a drama-watching moon. It’s a testament to their writing skills that the Hong Sisters can evolve and up the ante on their own repertoire.
I’m a firm believer that genre work is actually extremely tricky — though you always have a stable of tropes, clichés and devices, writing within the expected structure while keeping things fresh is extremely difficult. It’s why time and again so many rom-coms fall totally flat, even though they appear to have the EXACT same ingredients. Tough hero? Check. Plucky heroine? Check. Doofy second lead? Check.
But it’s not an Easy Bake Drama Oven. You can’t just toss in the stuff and hope it comes out Dramacakes. And a show like this, solid through and through and laugh-out-loud funny while being poignant, heart-tugging, and just plain sweet, is why we watch and always search for that next great rom-com.
I agree that a large part of this drama’s success is the main cast stocked with experienced actors. You can’t beat a cast like this, with such a wide range of dramas, films, and genres under their belts. They made everything just that extra amount of funny / heartbreaking / lovable, to draw us into every moment, and made even the silliest of potato-love confessions the best a girl could want.
The show does have plenty of flaws, namely the way that many a plot thread that was once gripping got dropped like a hot potato. And I still find some of the Hong Sisters dramas’ tonal shifts hard to swallow (the romantic-to-funny undercutting is pitch-perfect, while the funny-to-suddenly-melo sometimes leaves skid marks on my screen). But the strengths outweigh the flaws, bar none.
The thing that deserves the most praise is really the fantastic meta setup — not just the one-off jokes and puns, but the entire world of the drama. The way this world was drawn, with one foot in reality and one foot in the fictional celebrityverse, came to mirror the fandom and the real entertainment world and the making of the drama itself. It was all done with a wink and a nod, but with an often incisive view of the showbiz machine, which gave the show a unique, of-the-minute feel, like it captured the feeling of the dramaland that we know and participate in. It’s the strongest combination of the Hong Sisters’ strengths — they turned their flair for meta into the world of the drama itself, which is why it’s their most clever, sharpest drama to date.
- Best Love: Episode 15
- Best Love: Episode 14
- Best Love: Episode 13
- Best Love: Episode 12
- Best Love: Episode 11
- Best Love: Episode 10
- Best Love: Episode 9
- Best Love: Episode 8
- Best Love: Episode 7
- Cha Seung-won: I am Dokko Jin
- Best Love: Episode 6
- Best Love: Episode 5
- Best Love: Episode 4
- Best Love: Episode 3
- Best Love: Episode 2
- Best Love: Episode 1