This drama isn’t high-concept, but I find the conflict and the characters engaging and funny and cute. It’s nice to watch a rom-com that feels like a classic screwball comedy, where a mismatched couple simply takes the long way ’round because they’re so riddled with flaws. (There’s actually an entire sub-genre of screwball films that take up the theme of remarriage, like His Girl Friday, that I love.) It’s also perfectly cast, which means that even though the conflicts are at times very simplistic, the actors, even down to the supporting cast, make each moment come to life.
EPISODE 2 RECAP
Hyung-woo asks suspiciously why Eun-jae never registered their marriage… was it perhaps on purpose? Guilt-ridden, Eun-jae avoids eye contact and hedges. He presses the question, and she finally ekes out, “I forgot.”
Pfft. You forgot? Haha. I’m totally on hubby’s side with this one. Who forgets to register their marriage? She gets defensive and says that it’s a totally reasonable mistake, and then turns it around on him – doesn’t he remember that day?
Hyung-woo thinks back and remembers that they had filled out the paperwork with their assistants/paralegals as witnesses, and then per her suggestion, they played rock-paper-scissors to see who would have to take it in to file. She lost, so he handed it over with glee.
Only just after, she had a client walk in… so she declared she was too busy and tried to hand it off to Hyung-woo anyway. He had said, “Rules are rules,” and tasked her with it, fair and square.
Problem is, Eun-jae remembers it differently – that after he said rules are rules, she put on her best pout and put the paperwork in Hyung-woo’s hands. He scoffs that there was no such exchange and he never took the papers.
It turns into an all-out challenge to see who remembers it correctly, and they add a bet on top of it all, because apparently gambling with your marital status isn’t enough for these two. He goes big and bets a million won, and she asks if he’s even got that kind of money. Touché. They settle on 100,000 won.
They go downstairs and grill their assistants like witnesses on the stand, treating each other like opposing counsel. Why are they still so cute even when they’re being so stubborn and argumentative?
Finally the ajusshi assistant KANG WOO-SHIK (who cracks me up) takes Eun-jae’s side and says he remembers it her way. Outside, he admits to just saying whatever got them out of the room faster. Ha.
Eun-jae triumphantly sticks her hand out for her winnings, but Hyung-woo declares this case far from over. He cites witness tampering, since she brought Woo-shik from her old firm – loyalty could totally mess with his reliability as an impartial witness.
He claims that one thorough search of her office will surely back him up. I tend to agree here, just based on what we’ve seen of her organization skills. They split up to search each others’ offices.
I love their fundamentally different approaches to everything: Eun-jae rifles through Hyung-woo’s immaculate, color-coded office in her haphazard and random way, while Hyung-woo just stands in the middle of Eun-jae’s crazy tornado-blown office and thinks, without moving a muscle.
Light bulb. With a satisfied grin, he motions for Eun-jae to join him in her office. He tells her to take out a specific book – the one he remembers her reading on the day in question.
She doesn’t see why that has anything to do with anything, but he flips through it right in front of her face… and there’s their marriage registration, wedged in between the pages. I think my favorite part is just how well he knows her, to have figured this out without looking.
Her face instantly changes from sneering to horror to sweet-talk mode as she realizes her mistake. Hahaha. I really do love Choi Ji-woo as this kind of character, so much closer to her real personality – slightly ditzy, but totally working the full extent of her female charm. It’s adorable.
Hands on his chest, she coos that legalities aren’t important, pissssh, since it doesn’t negate their married life together. He smiles, agreeing… and then follows it up with her oft-used line, “Is that what you thought I’d say? That might’ve worked when we were dating!”
He uses every chance he gets to gloat in his victory, making sure to stick Woo-shik with a fine for perjury. Heh. He asks if anyone’s ever seen such an event – a couple registering for their marriage on their first anniversary.
She snatches it out of his hand and grumbles that she’ll go do it, since she lost the bet. Uh, didn’t you guys make that mistake once already?
Sure enough, as soon as she gets in the car, her mother-in-law calls and she gets sidetracked. She rushes over to the house and Mother looks her up and down disapprovingly for coming over empty-handed.
Mother hires Eun-jae to deal with a new building she’s bought, in case she has trouble with any of the existing tenants. It turns out Eun-jae’s estranged mom is one of them, though she has yet to find this out.
Mother drags her along to the spa as an anniversary present, to be followed by dinner. I love how realistic this mother/daughter-in-law relationship is, because she gets railroaded by Mother, and yet has the tenacity to stick up for herself.
She calls Hyung-woo in a panic, but he gruffly tells her he’s busy. She asks if he’s mad at her because he thinks she didn’t file their papers on purpose, and he cuts her off brusquely. Ouch.
It turns out he has a good reason though, because he’s dealing with one of her clients who’s currently stirring up a shitstorm about how she was negligible in his divorce case and let his wife run off with their company.
Hyung-woo defends her soundly, and when the guy gets up and demands that Eun-jae be brought here, Hyung-woo yells, “Who’s wife’s name are you yelling? I don’t even say that name, it’s so precious!” Aw. Okay, when you’re yelling to defend her honor, it’s adorable.
Hyung-woo takes Woo-shik along with him to work on Grandpa Potato’s case, and while waiting to question a surgeon, he gets a text from a friend (this one named Soju, heh), that his plans are on for eight o’clock that night.
Eun-jae meanwhile tries her best to tune out Mother’s incessant nagging and condescension, going on about why she’s yet to meet her mother, how her face is all haggard, and how other people play golf with their in-laws, le sigh.
Well at least you’re getting a massage while she piles on the stress, so it’s like a zero sum game. She lands the final blow in the locker room: “When are you going to have children?”
Eun-jae starts to hear her voice as if breathing hellfire, and then suddenly Mother’s horns creep out, and her black wings open up behind her. HA. She spits out all the insults she can think of, and they pile up at Eun-jae’s feet – her age, her looks, her workaholic behavior, her useless height. I think hellbeast might be the nice interpretation.
Hyung-woo waits for the surgeon who treated Grandma Potato after her accident, and asks him to help him with a statement that clarifies Grandma’s condition in terms that lay people can understand.
The doctor seems uninterested, until Hyung-woo illustrates his point by shoving confusing legal jargon at him, and asking how he’d feel if his fate depended on words he didn’t understand. He asks him to help the old man, and the doctor agrees. Aw, you just can’t help but love the earnest idealistic Hyung-woo.
He comes home to find that his friend Soju has turned his apartment into a pink explosion of cheesetastic romance that makes him gag. Eun-jae comes home and pretty much has the same reaction that he does, but then of course he gets defensive – even though he finds it equally cheesy, now she’s stomping all over his romantic gesture.
She scowls, mood still sour from her latest encounter with his mother, and wonders how much he spent on all this, snapping that she’d rather have the money. They’re so busy arguing that they don’t even realize that the heart-shaped row of candles goes down like dominoes, and sets their living room on fire.
They freak out and do all the wrong things, making the fire spread and even stopping to argue as the fire rages on, until Hyung-woo finally finds the fire extinguisher and manages to put it out.
They sit in the trauma’s aftermath, faces covered in soot and pink balloons still taunting them with their I love you’s. They go right back to the blame game of course, and this time Eun-jae storms out first, to go sleep in a fancy hotel.
Hyung-woo walks out after her but just ends up roaming the apartment complex instead, and finds himself surrounded by other husbands, doing exactly the same thing. One ajusshi (must not be one of the nights he’s moonlighting as Ramses) sighs that he’s here because of a stray toenail clipping, and asks why Hyung-woo is here.
“Today was my wedding anniversary.” The ajusshi shudders in fear, “That’s a scary one. It’s the second scariest, after Wife’s Birthday.” Hyung-woo sighs that her birthday’s next month. The ajusshi just sighs that he wishes he could give words of comfort. Heh.
Hyung-woo heads to his office, and finds Eun-jae asleep on a cot, with empty beer cans littering the floor. He smiles and sweeps the hair out of her face tenderly, and gets another drunken sleep-slap for his trouble, though she’s really asleep this time.
He covers her with a blanket and then sleeps in a chair in his office. Aw. Morning comes with some embarrassing encounters with their staff, and Eun-jae finally hears about Hyung-woo defending her honor yesterday.
She saunters into his office feeling a teensy bit contrite, and offers up that she toooootally could’ve defended herself, yunno. He asks if that’s a thank you, which she refuses to admit.
He asks if she registered their marriage, and she realizes that she forgot. Again. She lies that she took care of it. He laughs to himself, “Of course you did. If you forgot again, you wouldn’t be a person. You’d be a bird.”
They’re interrupted by a ruckus outside, as their friends Go Ki and Young-joo storm in, wife demanding a divorce and husband trying to pacify her. She declares that Eun-jae promised to represent her in the divorce, earning her shocked faces from both husbands.
They try to calm the warring couple down, and Hyung-woo explains that Eun-jae would never represent their friends in a divorce, all the while shooting her a nasty look. Young-joo tells them that it’s been a year since Ki-chan quit his job to take the civil service exam, with zero results.
She adds that while she’s the sole breadwinner, he’s been squirreling away money in secret, because he just sent 10 million won to his parents. Her issue isn’t so much that he helped his parents, but that he never consulted her, and kept the money a secret.
He blurts out in his defense that he’s not keeping secrets – Hyung-woo loaned him that money. Ruh. Roh.
All of sudden, the tide turns, and now it’s Hyung-woo and Eun-jae who are having the fight. It gets so bad that Young-joo and Ki-chan forget their argument and rabbit away before things blow up.
They move the fight to the roof as they always do, and Eun-jae wonders how he can put so many other people before his own wife. She asks if he even has her number saved as one of his top ten.
He proudly takes out his phone to show her that she’s number one, but forgets that he saved her as “Pretty Cow.” (Cow doesn’t have the same size connotation in Korean that it does in English.) She scowls that he saved her as “cow” because she says the same thing over and over (a la “Moo, moo, moo”), and he quickly reminds her that he called her a pretty cow.
Eun-jae defends a client in court in a case concerning division of assets between a married couple that didn’t file their registration, and it finally reminds her to register her own marriage.
Hyung-woo calls her over to Young-joo’s restaurant, where he’s sitting with Ki-chan along with their staff. Woo-shik is in the middle of complaining that his workload is getting too big, and Hyung-woo declares the perfect solution: they’ll hire Ki-chan, who graduated from law school, to help ease the load.
Eun-jae realizes that she just walked into a trap. Everyone looks to her as Hyung-woo says that she has to give her approval first, and there’s just no way on earth she could say no and not look like the devil.
Gah, that really would be infuriating, because Eun-jae constantly has to be the bad guy, while Hyung-woo comes up smelling like roses every time. She gives in because she has to, and Young-joo clasps her hand in gratitude.
Once they’re alone, she blows up at him for forcing her hand when they’re barely scraping by as it is. He’s basically brought in another mouth to feed while doing nothing to increase revenue, and he apologizes, knowing it’s true. She declares them not on speaking terms and drives away.
He talks into his voice recorder diary, noting that it’s the first time Eun-jae has ever cut the lines of communication, and admits that he was in the wrong. “I’m sincerely sorry. But she doesn’t see my sincerity.”
He’s interrupted by a call that he doesn’t answer. All we see is a shadowy outline of the woman who made the call. Uh-oh. First Love alert.
Eun-jae comes home to their massacred apartment, enraged by the reminders of romance, feeling like the rose petals are taunting her in her misery.
Hyung-woo comes home knowing he’s in the doghouse, and goes about gingerly trying to clean up the remnants of their anniversary disaster while she sits and grumbles, sticking to the silent treatment. Aw, it’s so cute how he tiptoes around her gathering balloons, trying not to set her off again.
He sets the balloons free, and then attempts to engage her in some mundane conversation, asking what the score of the game is. She talks at the tv, complaining that her mood is in the crapper, but they’re playing baseball, as if it’s a personal affront to her. HA.
Hyung-woo ends up sleeping on the burnt couch and wakes up to a new sight – Eun-jae cooking breakfast. Though her cooking consists of buying an array of vegetables and then frying an egg, he tells her that it’s beautiful to see her trying.
She huffs away into the bedroom to get dressed, and then complains that she has nothing to wear, wondering why she lives like this when other women’s husbands shower them with designer things.
Meanwhile the battle between mothers-in-law begins, as Eun-jae’s mom finds out that her store has a new landlord, who’s in the process of kicking everyone out to put franchise restaurants in their places.
She finds that the evil rich lady from the other day is the one who bought the building, and they go at it again, both declaring that they’ll fight each other with the law. “My son’s a lawyer!” “My daughter is a lawyer!” Yes, yes they certainly are.
Hyung-woo formally introduces Ki-chan at the office, and Eun-jae glares silently. Go Ki can feel the tension, wondering if the couple fought because of him, but Hyung-woo makes excuses that they’re just keeping up formalities at work.
They go to a small seaside town to track down another witness testimony for the Grandpa Potato case, and he texts Eun-jae that he won’t be coming back up that night.
She’s drinking at her usual bar, giving the hot bartender backstory on her husband, who she says takes after his father. He apparently joined a big law firm at his mother’s insistence, but promptly quit when he couldn’t sell his soul, thus straining the mother-son relationship.
Hot bartender does give her good advice, which is a relief. I was concerned he was gonna go gunning straight for her, (I’m sure he will at some point, but I don’t want him to actively try and break them up). He does that perfect thing she’s always complaining that the other people in her life don’t give her – tempered advice while taking her side, in just the right way. It’s that thing that Woo-shik keeps failing at every day, in being unable to read her mood and offer the right reaction when she’s complaining about hubby.
He reminds her that she believed in Hyung-woo once, and advises her to confront him and speak her mind, and have an open dialogue with him.
So when Hyung-woo gets back, she tells him to book a trip to Japan for the weekend, so that they can go back to the site of their honeymoon and literally retrace their steps to figure out where it all went wrong. She figures he at least can’t run away from her if they’re in Japan.
He swoons thinking of their honeymoon, and in his excitement, he mistakenly texts the trip details to Mom instead of Wife. Oops.
Meanwhile Eun-jae’s mom panics over her impending legal battle and finds herself on the front steps outside her daughter’s office. She can’t manage to go in though, and turns back around. But Hyung-woo catches her on her way in and advises her to go inside.
She smiles at his kind demeanor and says that Eun-jae married well, surprising him. He asks if he knows Eun-jae, and she says, “I’m your mother-in-law.”
He advises her on the eviction (I love that they’re each advising the other’s mom in this without knowing), and asks what happened to make her relationship so strained with Eun-jae.
Mom says that Eun-jae has a right to it, and there are some wounds that hurt so much you can’t talk about them. He agrees, clearly talking about something more personal from his own past. Curioser and curioser.
Things are still strained between the couple, but the tension eases as they agree to go to Japan to hammer out their issues and for once have a complete conversation. They head to the airport in good spirits, but then Mother’s voice calls out their names…
She runs up excitedly, all ready for their trip, and Hyung-woo realizes his big mistake. Mom deflates instantly, realizing that it was too good to be true, and Eun-jae tries to appease her.
At the same time, Eun-jae’s mother calls Hyung-woo to ask for legal advice. She asks him to come by right now when she’s got all the shopkeepers gathered, and he can’t figure out how to say no. Oh no. Just say no!
He tells Eun-jae and his mother to go ahead without him, and that he’ll get on a plane tonight after he takes care of some work. Eun-jae asks what it is but he can’t tell her (her mom asked him to keep it a secret from her), and rushes off.
She fumes, shouting out after him, “If you go, I’m not going to live with you!”
He waves behind him as he runs off, ignoring her.
I wonder what the tipping point will be, to make them seriously consider divorce. They have to split up rather soon, if the point is for them to work their way back to each other after spending time apart. I wonder if Hyung-woo’s first love will be a catalyst for the split rather than just an opportunist. (The bartender I foresee being the latter, once they’re separated, though he might help fuel the misunderstandings.)
The thing I like is that in each moment, I feel for a different character. Sometimes I side with Eun-jae and sometimes with Hyung-woo, because neither is completely right or wrong, and they both make their share of mistakes. The setup in their fundamental differences is great because it’s laid into everything, from where they come from to how they take their tea.
Everything, down to which baseball team they like, is in opposition. It’s taking the opposites attract motif and testing it in practical terms, past the rose-colored lovey-dovey stage. And as Hyung-woo pointed out, marriage has a way of turning things you used to find charming into big gaping flaws.
There are crucial character details, like Hyung-woo coming from a wealthy household. It explains why he feels no pressure whatsoever to scrape together a living, and why he can be so cavalier about giving away his time for free. He just hasn’t quite put it together that his mother providing for him is not the same as his wife providing for him, because he’s the idealistic and impractical type. It’s infuriating, but also really sweet and heroic too.
I like that this kind of setup is sort of like two traditional rom-coms in one. They already went through the meet-cute and bickering romance, only they went too quickly and skipped to the end, without going through the proper steps. So they have to go back to square one to get it right. Perhaps with enough distance from the yelling and the housefires, they’ll find their way back, and actually get to know each other in the process.
- Can’t Lose: Episode 1
- Stills from soon-to-premiere Can’t Lose
- Can’t Lose’s comic promo posters
- Choi Ji-woo and Yoon Sang-hyun as Can’t Lose’s warring couple
- Stills from MBC’s divorce romance Can’t Lose
- Can’t Lose holds first script reading
- Yoon Sang-hyun as Choi Ji-woo’s leading man
- Choi Ji-woo back in dramaland as a lawyer