Yesssssssss! Flower Boy Ramyun Shop is better than I was hoping. Admittedly my hopes were tempered — I expected it to be cute and frothy, but was expecting it to be purely frivolous, very little substance, like a puff of cotton candy. But to the contrary, there’s some meat to the story — not a ton, but more than the promos let on.
In fact, the promos left out quite a lot about the premise that could have been teased better. Perhaps they were expecting that they didn’t need to tell us much story to get us to tune in, and hey, you can’t argue with that point. I’m just relieved and thrilled that there’s a story, and an interesting set-up, and characters with potential dimension.
SONG OF THE DAY
Milk Tea – “Ramyun King.” How is this not the drama’s official song? Seriously, it’s perfect. [ Download ]
EPISODE 1: “For Whom The Bell Tolls”
Mood music, a pretty, pretty young man bathed in a backlit glow, a woman sipping from a steaming cup of coffee. Are we in a CF? Tell me what to buy, and I’ll buy it.
And then the sharply dressed airline passenger — CHA CHI-SOO (Jung Il-woo) — literally sparkles. Oh no, is he a vampire? Did I get the date wrong and somehow start watching Vampire Idol instead?
But no, he just turns to the woman looking at him admiringly from her nearby seat and says with a smile, “Good morning.” They converse over their breakfast, speaking in English about living in Manhattan, where he’s lived for the past three years — or rather, she chatters while he listens politely, until she wonders whether he’s having trouble understanding her English.
Chi-soo flashes his megawatt smile and says in Korean, “How pretty. Your lips,” flattering her into speechlessness. Oh, you shameless flirt, you.
Outside the airport, Chi-soo breathes in the fresh air and preens when women ogle his hotness, then spots a more problematic sight: Three black-suited men, beelining for him. They’re dressed sharply and wear earpieces like bodyguards, and Chi-soo’s reaction tells us this is a Very Bad Thing.
Then he spots a Very Good Thing: Flirty lady from the airplane is just getting to her car, so he smoothly takes the passenger seat and tells her, “Let me off…at your house.” HA! And also: Are we in Biscuit Teacher Star Candy now? Oh well, nobody ever said this drama was going to be original.
At Airport Flirt’s place, he gets up to leave after a short nap, surprising her. She asks, “Are you really just going to sleep and split?” in the tone of, What about MY fun? He feigns innocence like he doesn’t get what she’s alluding to, and then says in mock-horror, “You can’t do that with me! You’ll get in trouble.” With a wink, he goes. Aggggh, you cheeky adorable bastard.
Chi-soo rounds up the boys, and what we have is this drama’s version of F4, except they’re not all super-rich; rather, we’ve got a sampling of all the pretty-boy heroes of recent dramas: the Kangnam prepster, the Hongdae musician, the street-smart biker. They freely flirt with strangers, pouring on the charm that just manages to evade smarm by virtue of their confidence.
Chi-soo’s big problem for now is finding a place to crash where he won’t be immediately tracked down by Rich Daddy Dearest. They suggest he hit up their other friend WOO HYUN-WOO, who’s been out of touch lately.
Meanwhile, we meet YANG EUN-BI, a 25-year-old studying for the civil service exam (gosi). She sports that disheveled, wild-eyed look favored by so many gosi students, her whole life consumed with the need to pass the exam. To get a look into her future, she visits a fortuneteller (cameo by Kim Hye-soo, heh!), who warns her that she has to keep her temper in check if she wants to pass.
Madame Fortune reels Eun-bi in with one last tarot card reading: the card for Fate. It depicts lovers kissing with bells over their heads; the saying goes that when she meets her soulmate, she’ll hear bells.
Eun-bi protests that she’s got a boyfriend, thankyouverymuch!, but Madame shrewdly guesses that he’s off in the army, that he’s been out of touch for a long while now. Eun-bi huffs that he’s being released soon and storms off. Madame notes, “I said you’d fail if you lost your temper…”
Chi-soo heads to find Hyun-woo in his new neighborhood — which is gosi student central, according to Eun-bi — and runs into his bodyguards again. They bow respectfully, then advance like Terminators, and Chi-soo takes off running.
A messy race through the streets takes him inside a building, where he barrels into the ladies’ restroom — just as Eun-bi is heading out.
Chi-soo hurriedly pushes her back into the stall, then asks her to be quiet for just a moment. Eun-bi mistakes him for a pervert and starts to scream at him for his depravity, ignoring his panicked “Shhh!” motions. Finally, with no other way to shut her up, he grabs her and leans in close.
Suddenly aware of his proximity, Eun-bi’s struck speechless. As he pushes closer, she closes her eyes and literally hears bells (from the hallway, ha).
But Chi-soo doesn’t kiss her after all — he’s just whispering into her ear his trademark line, “How pretty.” Eun-bi actually puckers up, but he pokes the dot on her cheek: “The dot is pretty.”
Then he straightens and heads out, leaving her slack-jawed and stuttering. He shrugs carelessly: “Oh, I must’ve come into the wrong bathroom. Oops.”
Eun-bi tries to work up some indignation, but Chi-soo says with more feigned innocence, “But why did you close your eyes?” Wink.
Eun-bi talks it over with her roommate, who scoffs at the possibility of the tarot reader being right. The friend calls it a lame theory and guesses that Eun-bi had a run-in with a pervert in the bathroom — turns out there’s a long-time creepo dropping in on the ladies from time to time. She urges Eun-bi to study instead of listening to quack fortunetellers.
The 411 on Eun-bi’s friend: She’s KANG DONG-JOO, 24, a high school English teacher. Respected and steadily employed, she has a ridiculously high success rate on the dating scene, the type of woman with men falling at her feet to date her. Eun-bi thinks despairingly, “I’m crazy envious!”
In the Cha family mansion, President Cha receives the report that his men weren’t able to catch Chi-soo. Distractedly (he’s sitting in a jacuzzi, drinking wine and watching the nature channel on TV — as we do), he tells his man to make sure to catch him without hurting him.
Outside the academy, students puzzle over the strange sight just outside the door: Chi-soo crouches by the entrance, covered in newspaper, trying to keep out of sight. Finally he spots a familiar face and brightens — it’s his best buddy Hyun-woo.
They catch up, and the news isn’t all happy on Hyun-woo’s end, although he talks about his life without any self-pity. In the time that Chi-soo’s been away, he’s been working lots of part-time jobs, like the one at this academy, since his dad’s in debt. It sounds like a failed business venture, and with debt collectors nipping at his heels, Dad took off and has been out of touch for a year.
Chi-soo hadn’t realized it was so bad, and he offers to pay that loan so Hyun-woo can have his family back together. But the sum is too huge to take the offer seriously: 300 million won, just shy of $270K.
Chi-soo looks perturbed as his friend sighs that he recently gave up looking for Dad, and that the more tired he gets, the more his worry turns to hate. Chi-soo repeats, “I’ll give it to you. 300 million. So don’t hate your father. If you hate him too, who will he be able to live with?” Aw, the playboy flirt machine just may have some daddy issues of his own.
In the morning, Eun-bi flips out to realize that the ramyun she ate last night has bloated her face. Not now, not today! Dong-joo guesses the reason: Today must be the day that “he” gets out of the army. She calls the dreaded boyfriend a bad guy and a jerk, clearly disapproving of Eun-bi’s relationship. Eun-bi sort of cringes, but pulls rank to get Dong-joo to shut up.
Eun-bi dresses in Dong-joo’s clothes to meet him at the station — the very same clothes she’d mocked as being frilly and useless — only to find out that he’s already home. Big reunion dashed.
She trudges home depressedly, saddened at the idea that her days of youthful romance might be over. Even so, she tells herself that she still believes in her “bubbling heart.” It’s bubbling over with emotion in this case, although the word she uses could also refer to simmering ramyun in another case.
She thinks back to their first kiss, under the streetlights, only to have that other face intrude on her fantasy. That weird perverted bathroom guy. What’s he doing in her daydream?
In the morning, Chi-soo arrives at the office of Cha Sung — his family’s corporation — and is taken to his father. The father who immediately tells his secretary to drag Chi-soo away, put him on a plane, lock him up in a dormitory, and make sure he doesn’t get out.
Chi-soo says he’s not a child anymore and that he can live his own life. President Cha begs to differ, reminding him that he was the one who sent him to the U.S. because Chi-soo didn’t want to go to the army, and when Chi-soo said he wanted to be a musician, Dad even gave him a band. HA.
Chi-soo can’t deny it (he winces, in fact) but he declares that this is how he wants to live his life. I love that Dad sneaks a look over at his secretary, as though asking for permission on how to respond, and the secretary shakes his head no. So Dad declares that Chi-soo has to take care of his own messes from now on. Back to the U.S. he goes!
Alarmed, Chi-soo grabs Dad in a backhug and wails pathetically, “I can’t go back there, Dad! Do you even know how scary it is there? It’s hard enough to order a hamburger in English, but they want me to write in English! And read it! And study it!!” Hahaha, he’s actually an English-challenged wimp? I’m dying here.
Dad’s all, Duh, what did you expect? Chi-soo actually admits that he thought he’d go to America, and then just magically be fluent. HAHA. (“That’s how it is in the dramas!”) I love how spoiled and silly he is.
President Cha isn’t giving in, so Chi-soo tries a desperate tactic: Fake ill. And Dad, soft-hearted as he is, totally gives in. Fine, Chi-soo can stay…but he has to go to school, and study, and take tests. You’d think that’d be a gimme, but clearly our spoiled prince hasn’t exactly taken his education seriously.
Aw, I admit that after watching drama after drama populated by Bad Daddy after Bad Daddy, I am thrilled to find one who’s a doting pushover.
Now Chi-soo turns his attention to locating a girl, SO-YI, who’s at a school festival. Eun-bi’s here as well, having planned to meet her no-show of a boyfriend, and leaves a message on his cell while wondering where he went.
Eun-bi bumps into So-yi accidentally and apologizes for knocking her down, but So-yi is so excessively apologetic for not avoiding her properly that Eun-bi ends up looking like the bad guy. Hm, so So-yi is sweet and pretty and polite? Aw man, how are we going to hate her as romantic rival?
Eun-bi sits down for a snack, only to see Chi-soo arriving at an adjacent table. Sure, he might be a bathroom pervert, but he’s also the guy who complimented the mole on her face, so she waits for him to notice her, tapping right at that mole to emphasize it. He doesn’t recognize her at all, though (to her indignation), so she engages him in conversation to jog that memory.
Assuming he’s studying for the civil service exam like her, she asks about his exam prep. He nods that he does have a test to take, actually, although we can guess it’s NOT the same exam she’s thinking of.
She talks superstitiously about avoiding the test next year (the zodiac sign is unlucky for her, born in the rabbit year), and asks what sign he is. He’s a rooster, and that confuses her — with a zodiac cycle of 12, that means he’s either six years younger than her, or six years older. She’s stunned: “You’re incredibly baby-faced.” Assuming, of course, that he’s 31. HAHAHA.
And then, Eun-bi spots her so-called boyfriend at the festival after all — with another girl. He meekly confirms the truth, that he was dating this girl for a while, even back when he was with Eun-bi.
She’s about to walk away coolly, telling him to have a nice life, until the girl makes a barbed comment about how she expected Eun-bi to cause a scene. So back she turns, to point out that the girl actually knows her, that they went to school together, that she should be addressing her as a sunbae instead of pretending to be a stranger.
Picking up the water balloon, she demonstrates how to throw it properly — right into the girl’s face. (Who wails, “My nose! It hasn’t even been set for that long!” Keke.) Watching in the crowd, Chi-soo laughs, impressed.
Her cheating ex confronts her, saying this is why he hates her — all she does is make him feel pressured, with her steadfast clinginess. How could she spend all that time waiting for him while he was in the army? Pfft, talk about cheater’s logic — it’s your fault for treating a relationship with respect!
Eun-bi spots Chi-soo heading to his car, and tosses out that her ex has the wrong idea — she’s actually got a new boyfriend. She gets into Chi-soo’s car and requests that he drive away without asking questions.
Only, now it’s the other girl’s turn to get ragey, and she starts pelting Chi-soo’s car with water balloons. They peel out while avoiding water bombs.
Some time later, Chi-soo turns to Eun-bi to ask for some sort of explanation, and she bursts out that she knows it was wrong, okay? (Chi-soo: “Are you…getting an angry-like emotion with me?”) Chi-soo scoffs at her naive overreaction to getting dumped, and she retorts that yes, she may be old-fashioned — she stupidly waited for her first love, she’s stubborn about passing the civil service exam, and she uses a cell phone that’s been discontinued.
“But…there are things that should be protected in this world. Someone I know told me that no matter how tough things get, you still sit down to eat. That even though we trade in our cell phones, we don’t trade in our loves. No matter how dispassionate the world becomes, love shouldn’t get that way. That love happens here.” [touches her heart]
Chi-soo belatedly realizes she’s crying, then gets out the car to address this problem. She says she doesn’t need a tissue, but that’s not what he’s offering: “Get out. Do you know what I hate most in this world? Things splattering on my clothes. And crying women.” And she’s done both today.
He drives off, leaving her stranded. Well, what can you expect when he took you to the River of All Woe?
Eun-bi goes home berating herself for being foolish, then glares when roommate Dong-joo strings along a couple of guys on the phone in her little-girl pouty voice. She’s upset with herself for being naive enough to have harbored romantic fantasies, and throws out all traces of the ex.
The next morning, Eun-bi heads out for her student teaching session with some words of advice from her roommate. If she passes the teaching trial and the civil service exam, her whole life will open up before her. Eun-bi asks how it is Dong-joo attracts so many guys, and Dong-joo says she’s got her head on all wrong about this. It’s not some big romantic mojo, but merely a matter of dating whoever meets your basic criteria, asking if they wanna date in a casual way.
Eun-bi’s sort of amazed at her coolness, but totally unsuited to it herself. She attempts to affect a cool demeanor herself and scopes out the crowd at a cafe, scoring them out of 100 points. Her gaze lands on three friends — Chi-soo’s buddies — who send her their trademark playboy winks and get her all flustered.
She happens to run into Chi-soo on her way to work, and they share an awkward greeting after yesterday’s encounter. She starts to apologize, but he tells her he’d rather not dwell on the past, and she surreptitiously gives him the up-and-down and deems him an 88. Then he says he’s on his way to Cha Sung — a corporate employee, dressed in suit and tie? Her score ticks up to 93. Hee.
She assumes he’s studying for the civil service exam while employed full-time at a huge conglomerate. He answers, “Well, I’ve got to keep going if I want gas money.” He means it literally, while she takes that metaphorically. Ha. She’s excited to discover he’s a “financially stable thirtysomething,” and upgrades him to a 96.
She asks if he’s been to the army already, and he replies that he doesn’t have to, since he’s “Made in USA.” A perfect 100! Determined to keep this one, she launches into charm mode and thanks him for his help yesterday in re-examining her life, and calls him “oppa.”
He finally realizes the source of her confusion and starts to set her straight, just as a kid on a scooter zooms by, knocking Eun-bi over, and into his arms as he reflexively grabs her. And…the school bell rings in the background.
He asks if she’s okay, and she sighs, caught up in the romantic moment, “No, I’m not okay.” Recalling Dong-joo’s advice to just toss out the suggestion casually, Eun-bi asks, “Do you want to date me, Oppa?” He’s startled, and she adds, “Or not, whatever.”
Just then, someone shouts out Chi-soo’s name, and there stand four boys, dressed in school uniforms, waving him on. So Chi-soo tells her with a smile, “I like the Oppa part, but not so much the dating.”
Now he puts on his jacket, revealing that he’s not wearing a business suit — it’s a high school uniform.
He sends her off with another blasted wink and a self-satisfied smirk. Eun-bi realizes, “It wasn’t Cha Sung Corporation…but Cha Sung High School?”
This drama certainly didn’t capitalize on its plot much when promoting the show, which I wish it had done, because I think there are interesting dynamics play and they’re certainly worth mentioning. On the other hand, I think their marketing attack has its own logic, so who knows, maybe it did its job.
As a result, I’m pleasantly surprised to find that there’s an actual drama up in this drama, because frankly, the cute but totally uninformative teasers gave us very little idea of the story. True, it borrows from other dramas out there — Biscuit Teacher Star Candy is one, with almost the exact same opening sequence, and naturally Coffee Prince is the other obvious connection. (Hm. Is the Gong Yoo motif intended, or purely coincidental?)
What we have isn’t just a regular noona-dongsaeng romance, or a play on the teacher-student fantasy (which Jung Il-woo also flirted with in Unstoppable High Kick, although there it wasn’t a romance that would be realized), or a rich-hero-meets-poor-heroine. It’s also working with the concept of the modern trend of “cool dating” (Koreans use “cool,” Americans use “casual”) versus the idea of romanticized love, or Romance, capital-R, which most of the characters in this drama pooh-pooh as antiquated and quaint. Dong-joo calls Eun-bi’s thinking “so old,” while Chi-soo tells her she’s living in the “88 era,” which is a metaphor meaning that you’re out of fashion. (In the Korean calendar, year 4288 = 1955 AD. Another interpretation cites 88 Olympics. Yet another interpretation refers to 1964. Basically, you’re old-school.)
Plus, Lee Chung-ah is so good that she gives those moments some emotional grounding. She’s a great counter to Jung Il-woo’s boyish playfulness — although he shows flashes of seriousness in little moments too. I hope we get to see more of that, because although this is billed as a straight-up rom-com with a light comic tone, he’s just fabulous at intensity and gravitas, as we saw in Return of Iljimae.
So you’ve got the immature playboy who thinks he’s all grown up but quakes in his boots to order a meal in English (ha!), while Eun-bi’s stubbornly clinging to her ideals of “pure romance,” the stuff little-girl fantasies are made of. She flirts with the idea of trying the cool lifestyle herself, but despite her grubby tracksuits and unfeminine displays of strength, she still dreams of romance the old-fashioned way.
But is she gonna get it with her not-even-legal hotshot high school student? Ha, maybe she’ll start a new trend.
- Flower Boy Ramyun Shop’s press conference
- Flower Boy Ramyun Shop posters
- Flower Boy Ramyun Shop releases teasers
- Jung Il-woo on the set of Flower Boy Ramyun Shop
- Lee Chung-ah at Flower Boy Ramyun Shop’s teaser shoot
- Oh! Boy audition reality show premieres today
- Flower Boy Ramyun Shop begins filming
- Jung Il-woo with his new puppy for Ceci
- The ladies of Flower Boy Ramyun Shop
- Lee Ki-woo joins Flower Boy Ramyun Shop
- Jung Il-woo’s new drama Flower Boy Ramyun Shop