This drama is such a feast for the eyes and years, I think I’d watch it even if the story were boring — not that that’s an issue, since I’m also finding the plot light and refreshing. This is the type of drama that could be ruined with bungled direction and editing, because it’s almost like the setting and ambiance are characters themselves; atmosphere is a key component in making it work. And thankfully, it works — it’s a breath of fresh air.


Thornapple – “이유” (Reason) [ Download ]

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Yeon-jae quite literally falls into Ji-wook’s arms when the yacht’s engine roars to life. It’s not until they’re out in open water that she realizes he’s mistaken her for the travel agent, which she didn’t pick up on because he’s been calling her by their shared name, Ms. Lee.

She starts to explain the mix-up…but there he is, standing so handsomely nearby, and she with the perfect excuse to prolong their interaction. So she holds her tongue and whispers a quick apology to the other Ms. Lee, but justifying that the name applies to her, too.

Yeon-jae enjoys the view and the ride, but Ji-wook says he’s had enough; he’s here to scope out potential travel related events, and doesn’t care to mix business with pleasure. He doesn’t see the point in getting twenty more minutes of sea and wind, because to him those aren’t things to be enjoyed. Oh, what a sad little rich boy you are. Yeon-jae’s the one who says that being on a yacht is rare experience, so they should use it.

He leaves her to enjoy it alone and heads below, where he takes a call from his father and assures him sarcastically that he’s hard at work, not fooling around: “If you find it so hard to trust me, then come here yourself.”

Once they dock, he fields a call from the travel agency, who’s gotten the call from Ms. Lee saying she couldn’t find Ji-wook. He assures them that he has met her, continuing the misunderstanding, and asks Yeon-jae what’s the next order of business.

Back in Seoul, the doctors working under Chae Eun-seok huddle around a blog cartoon which depicts an assy doctor and speculate that it’s just like their Dr. Chae, aka King of Bastards. Proving the comparison correct, Eun-seok goes on his rounds to his various cancer patients, treating them with cold disinterest as he delivers bad news in perhaps the worst display of bedside manner since Dr. House. But at least House is witty and sardonic; Eun-seok is utterly devoid of any expression, like his patients are just numbers and charts to him. Or, in one instance, hopeless cases taking up needed hospital beds.

Looks like Yeon-jae was right on the money when she said she pitied any of his patients for the amount of care (read: none) he shows them. I suspect Eun-seok actually cares about this negative image — there’s a flicker of vulnerability when he catches people talking about him — but he lacks the social skills or humility to correct it.

Yeon-jae takes Ji-wook to a folk dance performance, and again Ji-wook takes one look and deems it sufficient; he’s ready to go. When she walks around the marketplace, he scoffs that she’s wasting time, since he’s here to work. Yeon-jae counters that he’s in the business of promoting travel, and that experiencing firsthand the things he recommends is kind of a gimme.

The ditched Ms. Lee calls her travel agency again to complain, so the agent calls Ji-wook back to get a status update. Before he has a chance to find out he’s with the wrong person, he’s targeted by a pickpocket, who grabs his wallet and runs.

Ji-wook’s not hugely concerned, saying that it only contains cash and cards, while Yeon-jae’s like, Duh! And that’s not important? She goes running after the thief, and Ji-wook joins her in taking up the chase.

At one point the pickpocket heads toward Yeon-jae, so she thinks fast and throws her shoe at him. Unfortunately, he veers out of the way and it gets Ji-wook in the face instead.

Thankfully for them, the thief is stopped by a Japanese local, a silent man who knocks down the gangster punk after confirming that the thief is Tokyo yakuza. The man tosses the wallet to Ji-wook and goes off without a word.

Ji-wook’s tired and a little cranky so he’s ready to call it a day, but Yeon-jae persuades him to do one more activity, and they head off to eat a particular Okinawan specialty. She entertains him with lame Japanese-Korean language puns, which he hardly finds funny, but the mood finally starts to lift when he laughs over her sauce-stained mouth, and she retorts that he’s in the same state.

After lunch, Yeon-jae leads him to the beach, and he has to smile at her enthusiasm as she frolics on the sand — he may not feel the same exuberance over the little joys in life, but he’s starting to appreciate her joie de vivre.

As they return to the hotel, Ji-wook asks if she’s staying here because of him. He means it in a “Hope you weren’t too inconvenienced by this job” way, but Yeon-jae thinks he’s realized who she really is, and starts to explain that she didn’t even know he was going to be here.

When he asks if she’s lived in Okinawa long, she decides it’s time to fess up and starts to explain, “I might not be the Ms. Lee you think I am.”

Before she has a chance to explain, the very put-out, very indignant other Ms. Lee makes her appearance and accuses Ji-wook of giving her the runaround all day. Now realizing the mix-up, Ji-wook asks why Yeon-jae spent the day with him, then, and she muddles through an explanation of not having the chance. Plus, she was glad to see him. (She uses the word that implies they’re already acquainted, although it’s a subtle enough implication that he doesn’t realize they’ve met before — sorta — at the company. That’s a revelation I’m looking forward to seeing, though it’ll have to wait for another day.)

Ji-wook calmly tells Ms. Lee that he’ll see her tomorrow for the guided tour, then heads to his suite. He’s cool-headed enough to think back to the meeting on the dock and realize that it wasn’t Yeon-jae’s fault he’d assumed she was the travel guide.

Back in Seoul, Sae-kyung meets with her brother, who’s heard the story of her ex-boyfriend-slash-extortionist. Having him remind her of that folly picks at her wounds, and she deletes all the photos of her happier times with the boyfriend, then contemplates the theater tickets Ji-wook had given her. Perhaps it’s time to move on and look forward?

That evening, Yeon-jae calls her mother to check in, only to have Mom immediately snap at her. She’s in the middle of a emergency with a malfunctioning toilet and complains about her daughter flitting off on vacation, then hangs up in a snit. Yeon-jae sighs, “What did I expect from Mom?”

She wanders outside listlessly, and sees a couple walking through a wedding rehearsal. Watching wistfully as they exchange rings, she notices someone else looking in on the happy pair — the man who rescued Ji-wook’s wallet. She thanks him warmly for his help and asks if he knows the couple, but he just moves on in his silent, unresponsive way.

Yeon-jae continues her aimless stroll of the grounds, in the midst of wishing for stars to fall when she runs into Ji-wook. She apologizes for ruining his plans today, but he says it’s not a big deal — he doubts he would’ve seen anything more interesting with a different guide.

His calm reaction to her lie may seem like an act of kindness, but for the overall tone of ennui that ruins that thought. Rather, it’s like he couldn’t be bothered to care one way or the other, and he says that as a tourist, “It’s all the same.”

Politely, Yeon-jae tells him that she knows this is overstepping her bounds, but advises him to go sightseeing tomorrow with a different attitude. His indifference won’t do him any good in planning travels for others, not when he won’t bother to feel, taste, or experience anything firsthand. She urges him to enjoy himself, in the name of making a better travel product: “The travel plans you create on this trip could be the very first trip of somebody’s life…or the last one they have before they die.”

She leaves him thinking that over, and in the morning, Ji-wook meets Ms. Lee for their day of beach tours, having prepared a swimsuit per her recommendation. He points out that her heavily made-up face isn’t exactly snorkel-ready, and she says that she won’t be participating, since she hates tanning. A stark contrast to somebody else’s advice about the value of personal experience.

Just then, he sees Yeon-jae walk by and makes a last-minute adjustment to his plans. He heads outside just as Yeon-jae is getting into a taxi, and joins her inside. She gapes in surprise, but he smiles, “I think I’d have more fun with the fake Ms. Lee than the real one.”

That takes them snorkeling, and then to a bluff to admire the view. At Yeon-jae’s enthusiastic response to the sights, Ji-wook notes that she must enjoy life, since everything’s new and amazing to her.

She agrees readily, “Yes! Life really is fun.” She tells him she never dreamed a day like this could happen, which prompts his question of what today is like.

Yeon-jae: “A kind of day where I can forget everything about who I am, and what’s happening.”

Eun-seok’s supervisor advises him persuade Yeon-jae to participate in the trial of a new drug. Thus pressured, Eun-seok starts to call, but chickens out and instead asks a nurse to make the call. He gets a reprieve, though, because the calls go unanswered.

Eun-seok steps in to handle an argument that’s growing heated, and addresses the frantic husband of a cancer patient. His wife’s prescriptions have been cut off, to which Eun-seok tells him coldly that they weren’t forgotten, but discontinued. The drugs haven’t been working, and she’s going to die in days anyway so there’s no use for them.

The husband pleads anyway, if just to appease his wife’s worries, because she’s convinced she’ll die right away without them. Eun-seok replies that she’ll die with them, too. Damn. That’s cold. He softens that a little by adding that it’s the guardian’s role to help the dying patient prepare herself for her passing, but really, this is not his finest moment. Especially when the wife appears behind them, having heard the exchange. She falls in shock. There’s a flicker of apology on Eun-seok’s face, but he says nothing and leaves.

Next, Yeon-jae takes Ji-wook to see a chapel wedding, one of Okinawa’s top attractions. The bride and groom are the couple from the night before, and Yeon-jae sees that silent man outside again, although today he watches with a tearful smile.

After the ceremony, Ji-wook notices the approach of a group of gangsters, led by the pickpocket from the other day. Making a guess as to their business here, Yeon-jae tears off to warn the wallet-rescuer — Murakawa — of the danger. But they’re too late, and the gangsters confront Murakawa and threaten to turn the wedding into a funeral.

Murakawa and Yeon-jae both decide that running away is their best option, even though Ji-wook blankly wonders why. But the other two run anyway, and he follows them, all the while asking, “Why are we running? We’ve done nothing wrong!” My advice: Run now, questions later.

Murakawa jumps into a boat and urges the other two to hurry inside. One gangster jumps onboard with them, but Ji-wook pulls an impressive parry-punch combo and sends him into the water, and they pull away from the dock with just seconds to spare.

Some time later, they dock and make their way through a wooded area, following Murakawa. Ji-wook grumbles that he ought to have followed the other Ms. Lee after all, but he’s not above feeling smug when Yeon-jae compliments him on his awesome punch. Heh.

The trio arrives at a secluded house in a rural area, which turns out to be Murakawa’s hometown. The older man who greets them is a father figure to him and welcomes them in. It’s been 25 years since Murakawa has been home, having had to flee after an accident killed somebody. It hadn’t been his fault, but the yakuza guy had vowed to kill him, so he’d gone to Tokyo, leaving behind a woman named Erika. Yeon-jae guesses that the bride at the chapel was his daughter.

At the hospital, the cancer patient whose meds were discontinued dies of a completely unrelated condition, but the timing makes this coincidence look suspicious. Eun-seok’s superior doctor knows that this could turn into a big problem for the hospital even though he acknowledges that medically, there was no connection to the two events.

However, the distraught husband naturally assumes that one caused the other, and is bound to cause a stink. Furthermore, the supervisor has heard of Eun-seok’s encounter with the husband and warns him that he’s got an attitude problem in dealing with patients.

Eun-seok finds the husband crying in the hallway, who accuses him of killing his wife and lunges for him. Eun-seok shoves him off, and the husband falls to the ground, crying that his wife had had such a strong will to live, but after hearing Eun-seok’s declaration, she’d lost hope and immediately worsened.

Eun-seok fires back — showing some emotion for once — “Does wanting to live make everyone live? Is a strong will the only thing keeping people alive? If that’s true, then there’d be no patients here! Stop clinging to useless thoughts.”

He turns to go, and finds the hallway lined with silent patients and doctors, all staring at him. He feels their condemning eyes on him as he uneasily walks by, more shaken than he’d like to let on.

To their discomfort, Yeon-jae and Ji-wook find themselves sharing one room, with the bedding set out as though for a married couple. The mood is awkward until she laughs it off, likening their situation to a hackneyed plot of one of those ’70s movies where a couple finds themselves stranded after missing the last boat and having to share a room.

She shares the story of how her father had done a similar thing on purpose when he was dating her mother, and that night marked their first kiss. And probably more, since they’ve hinted that she was conceived during that trip. (The mood is light until she says that last tidbit, and Ji-wook excuses himself to get some air. Ha.)

They settle down for the night, and after a while of lying there awake, Yeon-jae turns to look at a sleeping Ji-wook. He turns toward her in sleep, and hesitantly, she turns to face him too, looking intently at his face. Thus she’s caught staring at him when he opens his eyes, which makes her freeze, then turn away cringing.

They take a walk in the early morning, and Ji-wook shares the story of how for a brief time in his childhood, he’d lived in the countryside and walked on a path like this to school every day. He’d reveled in the trip to school, which was rife with interesting things. Aw, it’s sad to think of when he lost that interest in life, and how it came about. And meaningful that he’d share it with her, since she’s one who understands how it feels.

Arriving at a secluded beach as the sun is rising, Yeon-jae marvels in awe — it’s the scene from her dream: “I came on this trip to find this place.”

He watches in amusement as she splashes in the water like a kid, and she asks if he’s ever studied abroad (yes), and if he has an English name (yes). It’s Willy, which gets her excited — perchance short for William?

But no, to her disappointment, it’s not short for anything. Sadly, there’s no real-life stand-in for her dream volleyball-turned-hunk, and she sighs, “That’s too bad.” Ha. I love his puzzled look, because what can he have to say to that?

As they look out at the sea, Yeon-jae tells him she’d traveled frequently in her childhood, because her father enjoyed it. There was nothing better than watching her father fish from a distance, while she napped with Mom’s arm for a pillow.

Ji-wook tells her to bring her parents next time, since they can come using the Line Tours package he’ll put together. She says ruefully that she won’t be able to bring Dad, because he’s passed away, but suggests he bring his parents as the very first guests on his travel package.

Using her words, he says that he won’t be able to bring Mom, because she’s passed away. A moment of mutual understanding flickers between them.

A sudden shower sends them under a tree for shelter, but he suggests they just run through it. Aw, and then he offers her a corny pun-joke of his own, which is an appropriate sort of olive branch given how he’d been so surly when she’d shared her puns earlier. He takes her hand, and they run through the rain like children.

In Seoul, Sae-kyung meets with Ji-wook’s father, Chairman Kang, and both agree not to kick up a fuss over the Wilson issue. Instead, they’ll both turn their attention to the finalization of the MOU between their companies.

She’s surprised to hear of Ji-wook’s trip to Japan, so when she hears that her meeting today has been postponed till next week, Sae-kyung makes the last-minute decision to hop on a plane to Okinawa.

Ji-wook and Yeon-jae come across a beer-drinking contest just as the MC is asking for participants. It’s Ji-wook who raises their hands, ignoring Yeon-jae’s protests, reminding her that she was the one who said he ought to experience things firsthand. Touché, my friend.

Ji-wook, the wuss, can only take a few gulps at a time before gasping for breath, but Yeon-jae’s got a good lead. Ji-wook ditches his beer to take up the role of cheerleader (hee), jumping and exulting when she wins.

The prize is a necklace, which she fumbles with in her tipsy state, and he takes over. There’s a moment of awareness between them as they find their faces inches apart, and she leans in just the teeniest bit…and hiccup-burps. They pull apart, and he forces a burp of his own to ease her embarrassment, which gets them both laughing.

They make it back to the hotel in light spirits, talking about dinner plans. Sae-kyung, waiting in the lobby, looks up at their arrival, her expression darkening as she takes in their camaraderie.

Ji-wook teases Yeon-jae by pretending he’s just spotted their yakuza pursuers, and points off in the distance….

…right at Sae-kyung. Eep.

Sae-kyung approaches wearing a fierce glower, directed particularly at Yeon-jae. She demands, “What are you two doing? Who do you think you are?”


Plot-wise, I don’t think there was much in this episode that was surprising, exciting, or even that eventful. But thanks to the gorgeous locale and the breezy directorial touch, I found it thoroughly enjoyable to watch. This is a drama that lets you breathe, and I like that. It doesn’t hurt that the main couple is showing some adorable chemistry; I like that there’s no huge angst between them, as we see in so many rom-coms where the opposites-attract setup often has them bickering at every turn and denying their attraction.

With Scent of a Woman, I suppose the cancer provides enough angst that we don’t need to pour it into the romantic interactions as well, which is just ducky in my book. I like seeing these two adults go from mild indifference to interest to attraction, without a whole lot of fanfare. I find the Ji-wook character plenty fascinating because of his detachment to life, and find his interest in Yeon-jae entirely believable — she’s not his usual type, but given that he doesn’t really show much interest in women anyway, that’s a good thing.

We’re clearly setting this pair up for an opposing-themes dynamic, where she’s dying and wants to live, while he’s already living a deadened (emotional) existence and learns how to live through her. It’s not as pat as I-feel-only-pain-and-you-don’t-feel-any-pain or I-gave-you-my-eyes-so-you-could-see, but there’s enough of a contrast between their situations to let the themes play out over the course of the drama.


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