Twice a week dramas, like the Wednesday-Thursday night My Name is Kim Sam Soon, tend to work in mini-arcs; the general rule of thumb is that “Wednesday” episode brings a short story arc to bear, and the “Thursday” drama is the second-half conclusion. And script writers try to cram Thursday episodes with enough memorable moments and cliff-hanger endings to keep people stressing out until it is Wednesday night again. This being the first week of the series, however, the MNIKSS script writers have had to work even harder, trying to create a mini-arc within the introduction of the characters and main story line. From technical standpoint, few dramas have done “Episode 2” as well as MNIKSS.
SONG OF THE DAY
Park Il – “Bye Bye Bye” [ Download ]
Episode 2 Recap – “Shall we try dating?”
Last episode, Sam Soon found her new job as Bon Appetit’s pâtissier and new life among her co-workers as Kim Hee Jin. Sort of like going from high school to college, Sam Soon gets to start over and create a whole new persona for herself with none of the bad memories associated with her Sam Soon name.
It’s Sam Soon’s first day at Bon Appetit, and Baker’s Assistant Lee In Hye is giving Sam Soon a tour of the restaurant and the people. In Hye is from Yeo-soo, which is about as deep south as you can get in Korea and hence her cute southern dialect. They pass by Chef Lee and Manager Oh, and In Hye gives tidbits about each. Chef Lee is also a talented French-trained chef and Manager Oh seems to have some sort of personal history with Jin Heon. Chef Lee oversees all of the food preparation and Manager Oh oversees everything else.
And finally, there’s the self-proclaimed captain of the wait staff, Jang Captain, aka Jang Captain Unni, aka Jang Young Ja. Jang Captain doesn’t like her name much either but In Hye doesn’t know why, much to the chagrin of the older Sam Soon. (The infamous Jang Young Ja was Korea’s version of Bernie Madoff, back in the early 1980’s. Her scheme boiled down to promising desperate corporations a line of credit (which she didn’t have) and then taking the resulting corporate bonds and selling them, pocketing the cash. And like the Madoff ponzi scheme of today, the sheer size of the fraud was unprecedented).
Jang Captain is at the head of the pecking order for the single young women in Bon Appetit, due to her age and her rank as wait-staff captain. That is, of course, until Sam Soon appears on the scene. When In Hye reveals that Jang Captain has the hot and heavies for President Jin Heon, Sam Soon is incredulous. THAT puffy wind-bag of arrogance? In Hye defends Jin Heon, mayhaps too quickly and Sam Soon wonders if In Hye likes him too. In Hye huffs away, saying that it isn’t just her, but all of the Bon Appetit women are in love with him.
Sam Soon wonders what kind of restaurant she has gotten herself into. Is this Jin Heon’s restaurant or his fanclub? Hehe!
Still, let me get in line to defend Jin Heon.
1. He’s good looking, dresses well.
2. He’s taller than most other Koreans at 6 feet.
3. He’s passionate, intelligent and well-spoken.
4. He’s a likely poly-glot.
5. He’s loves his mom (though he’s got his own unique way of showing it).
6. He’s good at sports.
7. Sometimes he gets this cute puppy dog kind of sad looking face when he starts reminiscing about the past…
Hehe, why am I repeating what In Hye is saying?
Ahem! Back to the story.
Sam Soon begins her first day and apparently she has to create a very special dark chocolate mousse cake (Marquis au Chocolate) for a customer who wants to surprise his wife with a diamond ring. Sam Soon drops the ring into an 6 inch tower chocolate mousse cake, and the cake is soon being eaten by the woman.
Luckily, the woman finds the ring on one of her very first bites and is overjoyed at her husband’s thoughtfulness. I say luckily because had the ring been at the bottom of the cake, the husband would have had to force his wife to eat maybe 3,000 of calories worth of sugar, saturated fat and cholesterol by herself in order to find the ring.
Sam Soon watches wistfully until In Hye reveals that that husband had brought his girlfriend into the same restaurant the previous week.
This sets off Sam Soon and a horrified In Hye, and then Jang Captain, tries to restrain Sam Soon from giving a piece of her mind to another cheating husband. Ah, but to no avail, as Sam Soon gives both a history lesson on the origins of the Marquis au Chocolate and a not-so-subtle hint to stop freaking cheating on his wife.
Jin Heon drags Sam Soon off before she can completely spill the beans. Jin Heon is not impressed by Sam Soon’s principles however, and replies that the people that he detests the most are those who let their personal agendas overtake their duties. “Personal agendas”?? Is Jin Heon implying that he remembers Sam Soon from the Christmas Eve Night of a Thousand Horrors? Sam Soon can’t confirm what Jin Heon knows without giving it away. She gives in.
At the end of the day, there must be silliness. Koreans love getting together and forcing newbies to do silly things because silliness is a (1) great ice breaker, (2) momentary class and gender equalizer, and (3) it’s a fun way to express one’s individuality and unique qualities.
Korea is and has been a fairly homogenous place. This isn’t to lend credence to the phrase “All Asians look alike,” but on the other hand, it is true that certain things that make people different tend to be prized. These gatherings tend to create events for silliness, and enthusiastic participation is expected – because, how else are people able to be seen as special?
And so Sam Soon is called on to showcase who she is and she dreams of herself as a ravishing beauty, basically grinding on Jin Heon, to his amazement. (Methinks, to show him that she’s not the same hysterical woman from Christmas Eve).
But alas, dreams don’t always turn into reality and Sam Soon’s dance is, well, not good. Thankfully, Jin Heon ends the evening, before Sam Soon does anything else.
Back to the heretofore unidentified women who were on the airplane together. The window-seat woman has gotten on a bus from the airport, being seen off by the aisle-seat woman. The window-seat woman looks at her cell phone, and we see a picture of Jin Heon and her together! She asks outloud, you’re still not mad at me, are you? Mad about what?
At this stage of Sam Soon’s life, she’s got two focal points: career and marriage. Having secured her job, now all she needs is a hubby. Sam Soon lives at home with her mom, and they are chatting about her upcoming blind date. Sam Soon’s mom, wonderfully played by k-drama mom extraordinaire, Kim Ja Ok, cautions Sam Soon about not screwing it up. Sam Soon confirms with her mom that the blind date thinks her name is Kim Hee Jin, and not Kim Sam Soon, which should help matters.
(It is fascinating to the see the similarities and differences between how Jin Heon and his mom interact, and how Sam Soon and her mom interact. Both moms lost their husbands early, and so the relationship between mother and child is that much more focused.)
Sam Soon heads to her blind date (though it’s not really blind since they each got pictures of each other before hand). Sam Soon is excited / impressed by the picture (Honestly, do blind dates really look that good? The guy in the picture looks like an actor that you would find in a k-drama romantic comedy. My immediate question would be, why is he single???), but she still wishes that the meeting would have been at a different hotel, and not this particular hotel.
Still, Sam Soon’s blind date shows up and he’s a looker for sure. Maybe he’s a few years older than his picture, but who’s counting. He’s definitely cute. With good manners. Who apparently rescued a cute puppy on the way over to the hotel. Or maybe it was a cat from a tree. Sam Soon, mesmerized by the Good Looking Blind Date Guy, would swallow anything her date says at this point.
As Fate would have it, and it must be fate, either that or really cruel script writers, Jin Heon is just a few tables down, also on a blind date. Jin Heon is in rare jack-ass form, giving back-handed compliments thinly-wrapped in insults to his date. That plastic surgeon of yours did a fine job on your… just nose and chin, is it (pfft)? Good thing you have tiny boobs, cuz I like that in women.
Tired of the chit-chat, Jin Heon excuses himself and espies Sam Soon on what has to be a blind date. Jin Heon pauses just long enough to get enough of the conversation to confirm his suspicion. And then he chuckles to himself, “Going on a blind date in the same hotel that she got brutally dumped in… that’s SO like the Sam Soon I know.”
Jin Heon gets this Binnie mischievous smirk on his face, and decides to punk Sam Soon. In front of the Good Looking Blind Date Guy, Jin Heon calls her “Sam Soon” and begs her not to dump him. This causes a scene as a horrified and embarrassed Sam Soon tries to shake off a clingy Jin Heon while still trying to be the demure Hee Jin.
But then Jin Heon’s real date shows up too with laser beams shooting out of her eyes. The date slaps Jin Heon. While Jin Heon’s plan to kill his date with one prank on Sam Soon has worked, he has really hurt that woman’s feelings.
Make that two women’s feelings. When Good Looking Blind Date Guy excuses himself and leaves, Sam Soon is devastated. Sam Soon also slaps Jin Heon hard, and then kicks him. Jin Heon falls to ground and looks up at a crying Sam Soon, who calls him a heartless bastard who has no idea what he has done. She tells him to prepare her severance and leaves. What a horrible place this hotel has been for Sam Soon, who may have just seen her last chance at love disappear because of Jin Heon’s prank.
Jin Heon chases after Sam Soon (but not his real date!). Sam Soon ignores him. With Nina Simone’s “He’s Too Good To Me” playing softly in the background, Jin Heon follows apace 15 feet behind Sam Soon as she walks around Seoul. This is a Korean thing, probably something Jin Heon learned from his mother at an early age. Basically, you shut your mouth and you follow your mom around until she forgives you. Is he doing this because he needs a pastry chef? Or maybe he’s truly sorry?
What I love about this scene is that the person that Nina Simone is crooning about is the perfect man who got away. Which would be the perfect man for Sam Soon? Is he the man who excused himself from the table or the man who is standing too close now?
Jin Heon offers a 10% raise and permanent employee status to win her back, but fails. Sam Soon just wants to get married and Jin Heon ruined it for her. Jin Heon though, asks an interesting question. “Why do you have to get married?” Sam Soon replies, “It is scary to cross an ocean by yourself, and two people can row much faster than a single person can row.”
A little oddly, Sam Soon spends the rest of the day doing random things like going to a video game parlor and doing karaoke at a noh-reh-bang – things that might be more fun if done with a partner rather than solo. All the while, Jin Heon stays within a few feet of her.
Maybe Sam Soon spends the day like this because she doesn’t want to go home and face her mom. Because then Sam Soon would have to spend the rest of the night answering questions. Or maybe more likely, Sam Soon is dragging out her day, forcing Jin Heon to follow, so that Jin Heon suffers at least some physical punishment for deep-sixing her blind date. By giving Jin Heon this punishment, and by Jin Heon accepting the punishment, I guess Sam Soon isn’t quitting Bon Appetit after all.
In any case, with Jin Heon still following her, Sam Soon wins a giant stuffed animal pig from the video game parlor and then goes out drinking at an outdoor bar. (I love outdoor bar scenes! Yay!) Towards the end of the night, Jin Heon offers to make things right by finding the perfect man for Sam Soon. What kind of man does she like?
Sam Soon starts general (a stable guy who brings home the bacon), but with prodding, narrows it down to… a good kisser. Sam Soon shyly laughs into her stuffed animal pig, but she goes on to explain what she really wants:
Sam Soon: Someone I can bring to my parents and my sisters, and proudly say, “This is my man.”
Sam Soon: Someone that would bring me to his parents and to his friends and say, proudly, “This is my woman.” That’s the kind of person I want.
Jin Heon nods but gives a snarky reply – easy! Sam Soon retorts that he has no idea how difficult a task that is. Remembering back to Min Woo, Sam Soon sadly notes how she was kept hidden from a previous boyfriend’s parents and friends. Jin Heon blurts out that her previous boyfriend’s face had “player” written all over it…. Ooopsie.
Sam Soon immediately realizes that Jin Heon does remember – and Sam Soon has just been a source of amusement for him. That realization ends the evening. Sam Soon realizes she needs more cash to pay, given that she’s eaten udon noodles, kimbap roll, an omelet, fried chicken legs, eel banchan, pork rib and FIVE bottles of soju. Damn.
Sam Soon goes to get money but given the amount of soju ingested, she tosses her cookies before passing out in the ATM lobby. Jin Heon ends up having to mop up the mess and then piggyback a hostile and smelly Sam Soon home.
Sam Soon awakes in the morning, finding herself half-naked in a strange bed, with only her stuffed pig (which she named Samsooki!) keeping her company. Sam Soon is horrified by her compromising circumstances, but soon finds that she may have done worse (much much worse) to Jin Heon. She threw up on Jin Heon then peed on him? Jin Heon called it chemical warfare but there’s no way she did that… right?
Before she can properly defend herself, however, this particular morning has brought Jin Heon’s mom, Chairwoman Na, and her assistant (Assistant Yoon), to visit. Jin Heon’s mom immediately starts beating on Jin Heon for nuclear bombing another blind date, but soon finds a half-naked Sam Soon bearing witness. HOW DARE YOU SCREW UP ANOTHER BLIND DATE HOLYMOTHEROFGODWHYISTHEREANAKEDWOMANSTARINGATME!
Since this kind of beating is properly done only in private, Jin Heon’s mom drags Jin Heon to the bathroom to finish the beating. Sam Soon is next to be grilled, and Jin Heon’s mom is surprised to find that this half-naked woman is the same one who was the cause of Jin Heon’s blind date blow-up. THIS is Sam Soon?
Sam Soon’s dry-cleaned clothes arrive and Sam Soon goes to the bathroom to change. Jin Heon’s mom is not happy with her son but she pulls out a surprising card – she orders Jin Heon to bring Sam Soon to be properly introduced over dinner in a week’s time. Jin Heon is quietly stunned, and amused, as a another fun plan develops into his head.
Jin Heon’s mom leaves and Jin Heon and Sam Soon head to a breakfast diner before going heading to work. Sam Soon digs into her bowl of hae-jang gook (oxtail soup – excellent for hangovers), made extra spicy and filled with rice, while Jin Heon looks on, aghast at her appetite after a night of binge drinking.
Still, Jin Heon takes a deep breath and then pulls the trigger and asks,
Jin Heon: Kim Hee Jin, shall we… try dating?
What a fun and endearing episode!
I think what makes this drama so special is how the details of the characters drive the stories that are developed over the course of the drama. Jin Heon detests going on blind dates for a reason, and he acts like a jerk in those blind dates for a reason. Jin Heon’s development, his maturity and growth, is one story to follow. Another story line is Sam Soon, who apparently is both quite wise and quite foolish at the same time. Foolish in that she lets down her guard for love, and wise in that she still keeps trying. And Sam Soon’s search for the proper balance between wisdom and foolishness is the heart of MNIKSS.
And here, after this first Wednesday-Thursday doublet, we have the semblance of our first major story-arc. Jin Heon, who has apparently eschewed women for years for some yet-to-be-revealed reason, has suddenly found himself a way out of the serial torture of continuous blind-dates that his mother has set him up upon. The question is, what could possibly make Sam Soon agree to such a proposal?