Another week of High Kick 3, which is going strong. With the basic relationships now firmly established, we start to branch off a bit with side characters and relationships, rounding out this world of Ahns, Yoons, and neighbors.
And while you have to give the writing and producing the credit for a lot of the show’s breezy charm, I think the show’s big talent is really in casting. Even when dealing with rookies who have barely any credits on their filmographies (like Kim Ji-won, Lee Jong-seok, or Baek Jin-hee), they pick actors bursting with potential. And one thing that this show does that isn’t always true of sitcoms is that the actors don’t phone in their performances because it’s “just a sitcom.” Sometimes you can see in the acting that they’re aware they’re on a soundstage, that they’re reciting lines. Here, you have (most of the) actors putting themselves whole-heartedly in to their characters’ situations; Park Ha-sun is particularly good at this, and one of my favorites thus far.
(Note: Another pre-emption this week means four episodes again, rather than five.)
SONG OF THE DAY
Kim Bo-kyung – “보고 싶어” (I Miss You) [ Download ]
EPISODE 14 WEECAP
Chez Ahn/Yoon, Nae-sang and Kye-sang get in an argument over money. Or rather, Kye-sang politely but firmly declines to shell out cash for a frivolous purchase, and Nae-sang huffily retorts that he won’t accept any more of Kye-sang’s money. Hmph!
The problem? Uh, the Ahns don’t have a breadwinner other than Kye-sang, and they’ve got some bills to pay, like tuition for the kids. Wife Yoo-sun intends to ask Kye-sang for the cash, but Nae-sang puts his foot down: He’ll handle it. That gives him two days to rustle up 900,000 won (about $800).
Jin-hee’s cranky PD boss asks his writing team for ideas on their sitcom, and she hesitantly proposes one: What if the show ends with the girl saying, “I wish time would stop like this,” and a car crash? HA — her idea is the much-maligned ending to High Kick 2, and the PD crushes the suggestion as absurd: “What kind of sitcom ends with the lead characters dying?!” Good question, Mr. PD, but mocking your choice retroactively doesn’t actually mitigate the fact that you put out that ending, does it?
The drug-dealing gangsters looking for Jin-hee harass her old gosiwon-mate Young-wook for information. He plays ignorant, then drops by the house to warn her, and is smitten at the sight of Ha-sun. They decide that Jin-hee should pretend to be foreign if she ever runs into them. Hee, I guess the “No speak English” tactic works whatever language you’re working with. She takes to ducking around her neighborhood, and Kye-sang helpfully joins in her faux-Chinese babble to get her past the gangsters.
Sporting a black eye, Young-wook lies about standing up to the gangsters to impress a sympathetic Ha-sun, who decides that he can stay for a few days because it’s too dangerous to leave the house. Jin-hee’s likewise terrified to leave the house and asks for one day off, only to get fired on the spot.
So later when she hears Young-wook on the phone, bragging about faking the gangster stuff to get close to Ha-sun…well, she loses it. He confesses that he may have “embellished” in front of Ha-sun, and Jin-hee unleashes her outrage on him.
Nae-sang spends all day calling friends about a loan, with no luck. Finally he decides to swallow his pride and ask Kye-sang, imagining ways to do it successfully. One fantasy involves engaging Kye-sang in a tickle-fight (wait, are we in MY fantasy now?), but Nae-sang misses his window and remains penniless.
After imagining robbing a convenience store (and getting arrested — ha, even his fantasies are grim), Nae-sang prepares his last-ditch effort, polishing Kye-sang’s shoes at dawn. The theory goes: Kye-sang would see Nae-sang’s humble position, offer money, and spare Nae-sang’s pride in having to, you know, actually ask. Too bad he’s misjudged the situation: Kye-sang is already out on a morning call, and Yoo-sun goes ahead and asks her brother for the money, figuring that her husband couldn’t.
A few days later, Jin-hee catches the finale of the program she was working for, which has used her supposedly horrible idea after all. “That’s my idea! And he said it was ridiculous for a sitcom!!”
EPISODE 15 WEECAP
This episode takes a different format, going for a thematic cohesiveness (somewhat at the expense of individual plotlines that are a bit more scattered than normal). What we get is lots of plots showcasing all of the main cast, which eventually come together in the end under Lee Juck’s narrated theme: How is culture transmitted? His answer: Via roads, or to be more specific, an underground tunnel connecting two households.
Kye-sang treats Jin-hee’s injury for the last time, and takes a photo with her to commemorate the event and post to his popular blog. When it posts, she gets upset that her face came out huge while his came out tiny, and according to the prevailing standard of beauty in Korea these days, the smaller the face, the more attractive it is. She calls him “kae-manners” (dog manners) and Ha-sun jokes that with his name, he’s “Kye-manners.”
Jong-seok tries to skip out of school, but vigilant uncle Ji-seok catches him and drags him back by the ear. Ji-won smirks “I told you so” since he’d ignored her warning, and then again when Jong-seok is announced as being the bottom of his class, while Ji-won’s in the top.
Ji-won apologizes for laughing at his low rank, not realizing he’s actually sensitive about it; he acts tough, but he’s actually mortified. Jong-seok is scolded further by his parents, which scrapes at his pride some more — the reason he was so attached to sports was because he knew he couldn’t get by on his grades alone — and he broods all day. Watching a movie gives him the idea to run away on motorcycle, and he knows just where to get a bike…
Ha-sun watches baseball with Ji-seok, while Yoo-sun admires her pretty eye makeup. Ha-sun invites her over for makeup tips, and when Yoo-sun admires her pillowcase, Ha-sun offers to send the shopkeepers her way.
Jin-hee runs into Kye-sang and ends up telling him it was bad manners of him to purposely pull his face back to make hers look huge. He’s genuinely sorry, having thought it was polite to let her take up more screenspace. He offers another photo to rectify the matter, this time making himself look huge.
Jong-seok asks Ji-won to borrow her scooter, and she gives him driving pointers. He doesn’t tell her he intends to take her scooter for good, and sneaks into her house later that night to grab the keys. Only, he sees that Ji-won’s crying to herself next to a birthday cake with the word DAD on it, and against his will he finds himself feeling sympathetic. They’re both guarded as they witness each other in a weak moment, and finally he offers a compromise: He’s going to steal her bike and run away, but how about she go with him?
They drive for a while and end up at the beach, not speaking or even sitting with each other, although they end up eventually coming back home. It was more of a symbolic running away, not a real one. (Poor Seung-yoon gets ditched, though, and waits outside all night for Jong-seok to pick him up.)
Nae-sang, meanwhile, gets easily annoyed with Julien and his catchphrase, “Wow, that’s fantastic!” But despite it all, he starts using the phrase himself, while Julien starts to adopt Nae-sang-isms of his own. To cap off the whole theme of cultural exchange, in the morning Ha-sun brings over the pillow traders — who, dressed in their own garb, look like they’re bringing over the Gift of the Magi — and the two households mingle.
To cap things off, Ji-won drives up to Jong-seok on their way to school, and offers him a lift to avoid being late. He declines gruffly like always, but today makes one concession: He asks her to take his backpack for him, then takes off running.
EPISODE 16 WEECAP
When Nae-sang bugs his wife about dinner, Yoo-sun snaps back that they’re so strapped for cash that she can barely stand to look at her brothers out of embarrassment. Not only are they all out of money for household expenses, Kye-sang is going to have to tap into his emergency fund to cover things.
That brings reality crashing down on Nae-sang, who sinks deeper into his seat when Kye-sang cheerfully gives his sister spending money. So when he gets a call that his bankrupted company’s equipment has been auctioned off and will be taken from their warehouse, he jumps to drastic measures: He’ll have to steal from himself to rustle up money for his family.
Ji-seok gives Soo-jung and Jong-seok gift certificates to buy books and supplies, and Soo-jung wheedles an extra one by acting cute, which Jong-seok considers a cheap tactic. Then when he tries to use the attic room for himself, Soo-jung throws a tantrum, screaming and kicking and biting, so Mom urges him to let it go and let Soo-jung have her way.
Jong-seok fumes at his bratty little sister’s manipulation, but Seung-yoon tells him he’s outmatched: Soo-jung is an attention-getter who can pour on the charm in an instant. Jong-seok, not so much.
So when they learn that uncle Ji-seok has ordered a new laptop, Jong-seok vows to claim the old one, no matter what his sister tries. Too bad for him, Soo-jung has the same thought and practices her aegyo tactics, waiting for her moment.
Nae-sang plans his warehouse raid with a trusty business associate, casing the joint and going all Prison Break with his strategizing. The guilt of his future crime weighs on him and he imagines his wife divorcing him and his kids being shamed, but a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do (I guess). He heads out, hugging his family in one last dramatic display of affection, which they find creepy.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending how you look at it), his criminal turn is short-lived, since one look at the security guards sends him running back home.
Jong-seok makes his case for the old laptop, but Ji-seok is indifferent and tells him to let his sister have it, since Jong-seok can share the new one with him. But Big Bro is indignant at always having to be the one to give in, and he clenches his fists thinking of Soo-jung winning again.
Desperate times call for desperate measures…so he swallows his pride (and his distaste), and brings out the aegyo.
Ji-seok is so shocked at this unseen (and perhaps never-to-be-seen-again) side of Jong-seok that he okays the laptop, but Soo-jung captures his embarrassing moment on camera and posts it online, which everyone and their mother watches (including his own mother), and mocks him for.
EPISODE 17 WEECAP
On their morning walk to school, Ha-sun and Ji-seok hear a dog whining from a neighbor’s yard, and she can’t shake her pity. Thinking it’s hungry, she buys dog food and returns to feed it — which, unfortunately, gets her hand bitten.
Dejected from job-hunting, Jin-hee washes down her disappointment with a lunchtime beer. Nae-sang drops by and clocks her mood. Joining her for a few beers, they bond as she unloads her troubles and he offers words of wisdom. Referring to his recent bankruptcy, he admits that initially he’d wanted to die, but thanks to a book he read, now he’s more willing to approach life with a glass-half-full attitude.
Ji-seok takes Ha-sun to be treated by his brother, and Kye-sang cheerily tends to her dog bite with a wide smile even as he discusses the potentially macabre effects of contracting rabies. Ha-sun is horrified, not sure if the dog matched the description of a rabid one (“Was it drooling normally, or excessively? I don’t know!“), and is a bit miffed at Kye-sang’s smiley face. He replies in his usual way — that smiling’s better than crying.
That’s no consolation to hypochondriacal Ha-sun, who’s increasingly worried that she might die of rabies. The dog’s owner fuels that worry, saying that the dog’s was acting funny before it ran away, and that it was a stray so he doesn’t know if it had its shots. Ha-sun heads online to WebMD herself into a frenzy, now convinced she’s doomed, and drowns her sorrows in soju that evening.
Ji-seok finds her drunk and scribbling into a notebook — a sort of pre-bucket list, if you will, listing all the things she hasn’t done yet: Have a hot romance, travel alone, live in New York, and date date date!!! He jokes that she’s like the heroine in a melodrama, but Ha-sun finds it insulting that the illness that might kill her has to be something so unglamorous: “Rabies?! What the hell!”
Julien invites the Ahns and Yoons over for a barbecue dinner, and a game is proposed, with Kye-sang offering a gift certificate as a prize. With money on the line, the game attracts four of the youngun’s — Jin-hee, Jong-seok, Seung-yoon, Julien — which Jin-hee wins. She’s stunned at Kye-sang’s generous prize, worth $100.
Well, that gets Nae-sang to lightly joke that he should give it a crack, but the prize brings out his inner bad sportsman and he ends up targeting the wrist he knows is injured, knocking Jin-hee over hard — all while his earlier words of wisdom play ironically in voice-over. Heh. Everyone tells him it’s not sporting of him to claim the prize, but what’s a little thing like pride against money?
So the next time he takes Jin-hee aside and offers her some more sage advice, she scoffs to herself, “Whatever, worry about yourself instead of me.”
Ha-sun wakes up with a hangover and assumes it’s the rabies doing her in, and doesn’t relax until the results finally come in from the doctor: She’s clean. And is it wrong that the lesson I’m taking from this episode is “Don’t be helpful or you might die”?
One thing I like about this High Kick is the decision to focus it around two households, whereas previously it was more of one extended family and their friends/associates/love interests. And even the family at the center is really two (Ahns and Yoons), and this gives us quite a lot of potential different pairings and dynamics. I don’t even mean that in a romantic sense; for instance, Nae-sang is the patriarch/husband, but we also see some unexpected dynamics popping up with him and ex-BFF Julien, as well as Jin-hee. Thanks to the diversity of characters, each cast member gets to play multiple roles. We’re already a month in and I feel like we’ve barely scraped the surface of possibilities, and that keeps me intrigued.
I’ll revise my earlier statement now, though, about liking every single character, because Soo-jung is starting to wear on my patience. It’s not a huge problem for me — everyone else is so winning, and sympathetic even if they have annoying moments (like Nae-sang) — but she’s coming off like a huge brat, and the series would be best giving her a vulnerability sooner than later.
Characters who come on way too strong and show no weakness tend not to win a lot of sympathy, I find, because they don’t need it. Soo-jung is popular, confident, and headstrong — if she never feels conflicted about anything, then she’s just a two-dimensional cardboard cutout and I don’t care to know her.
On the upside, her snottiness has the side effect of increasing sympathy for Jong-seok, so all’s not a loss. His appeal is partially written into his character and partially due to the actor’s ability to show strength and weakness at the same time. He’s reminding me a lot of Jung Il-woo in the first series (and Yoon Shi-yoon in the second), with his misunderstood-rebel side; they also both have a desire to be accepted for who they are, which wars with their thick protective shells of defensiveness.
I love that Jong-seok has someone who might be able to understand him as an unexpected ally with Ji-won (whereas Min-jung didn’t fully see Jung Il-woo for who he was). And even though it’s a super-common setup, I enjoy that they’ve got a love(?) triangle setup with Kye-sang, though it’s unlikely to be the conventional type of triangle that you see in more romantic dramas.
High Kick seems to like this nephew-uncle rivalry, which was in both previous series, but the actors in this round have enough chemistry that you’re drawn into their dynamics, rather than thinking they’re merely slotted into an expected scenario. And this time, the age/social appropriateness skews in favor of the young rebel, not the uncle, so there may be happiness in Jong-seok’s future after all.
- High Kick 3: Episodes 10-13
- High Kick 3: Episodes 5-9
- High Kick 3: Episodes 1-4
- High Kick 3′s family tree, relationship chart, and lovelines
- Official posters for High Kick: Counterattack of the Short Legs
- Promo photos and poster shoots for High Kick 3
- First look at upcoming sitcom High Kick 3
- High Kick 3 cast revealed