We’re just two Bachelors into the Six Pack, which is slow for my liking, but on the upside I just adore what we’ve seen of them so far. Mostly Tae-yang, who brightens up the screen with his presence, his warm spirit, his good humor… and okay, the sheepish half-nakedness surely doesn’t hurt.
Frankly, the proportion of actual bachelors and vegetables to Crazy Mom and her snooty chaebol world is still woefully small. The former is winning and feel-good; the latter, trite and, for lack of a better term, feel-bad. Let’s get on with the show, drama gods! We’ve all seen Baker King, haven’t we? Or at least a good 40% of the viewing public has. It’s time to move past those shenanigans and get to the heart of this story. By which I mean: the bachelors.
SONG OF THE DAY
Sweet Sorrow – “나랑 같이 해줄래” (Will You Join Me) [ Download ]
EPISODE 3 RECAP
Tae-yang arrives at the marketplace, pausing outside but not seeing Jin-shim/Ga-on standing just a short distance away. In his bike basket is the old lunch bag made for him by teenage Jin-shim, and he imagines that her younger version appears now to wish him luck, holding out the bag to him. Then she’s gone and he bikes past the gates, passing by Adult Ga-on, neither noticing the other.
Ga-on and Tae-yang are both here on their first day of work, and there’s a certain parallel vibe to the way the day unfolds for them. Both are the odd ducks out amongst a warehouse of grumpy ajusshis, and both hang in there with fortitude.
Ga-on, for instance, presents herself to her new colleagues, reporting for duty as a market auction announcer. It’s a tough job with high turnover that has never been performed by a woman, so the other guys give her a hard time, expecting she won’t last a day. Chauvinism is rampant, as well as impatience for the clumsy newbie. The men are quick to tell her to go home and get an easier job with her college degree. Ga-on sticks in there anyway, determined to learn the job.
Meanwhile, Tae-yang heads to the office to greet his new boss, bursting with puppy-dog eagerness. That lasts for all of about five minutes, because it’s hard work hauling around boxes of vegetables, breathing in the dust clouds. Pretty soon he’s panting, and staggering, and fading. All that exertion finally causes him to pass out on a mountain of onions.
Ga-on takes the bus home, replaying her supervisor’s words about how she’s so low on the totem pole that she doesn’t even get to be called by name — she’s just the underling, the bottom rung. She shrugs it off, figuring she’ll just be the best underling ever.
An eager Dad (aka Chairman Mok In-bum) adorably waits for her at the bus stop. She’s asleep and misses her stop, so In-bum leaves his fancy car on the street to join her inside. He beams at Ga-on with a mixture of pride and worry — she works hard, but it’s also difficult watching her struggling in arduous jobs.
She assures him that she’s preparing for the future, so this is her way of studying the world and the workforce. In-bum gets more serious as he warns her of trouble ahead: Mom found out about her market job. And we know enough about Mom Kang-sun with the Crazy Eyes to know she will not be pleased.
True to form, Kang-sun rips into Ga-on at home, going on and on about how she’s making a fool of herself and the family by taking on work that’s so far beneath her family’s station. She rants that this makes people gossip about Mom’s lowly origins tainting her daughter — inferiority complex alert! — while Dad tries to calm her down, and Ga-on sits silently. It’s like Thousand Day Promise, the humorless version. Man, how I wish Kang-sun were played by Lee Mi-sook, to add a dash of dark humor to her classism.
Kang-sun takes Ga-on aside for a mother-daughter chat, ready to heap more guilt and irrational logic on her head, saying that all she wants is for Ga-on to live in a manner that befits her daughter. Ga-on says that’s why she’s doing this — to gain the experience so she can be the best person for the job when she does join Dad’s company. To which Mom asks, “Do you think you have the skill for that?” Now that’s what we call maternal support.
Kang-sun points out that the only reason Dad indulges Ga-on’s whims is because he thinks she’s his flesh and blood, and therefore inherited his business skills. Ga-on’s best bet, Kang-sun says, is to find a successful man from a good background. She concedes that Ga-on’s smart and may be able to succeed her way, but it’s not worth the risk of her failing.
Ga-on counters that she’s not doing this to keep her lofty social status, but as a way of spending her life repaying Dad “for the sin that we’ve committed against him.”
Kang-sun warns her not to use that word “sin” again — clearly they’ve had this conversation many times before — and adds that she trusts that Ga-on won’t do anything to make dear Daddy sad. Mom heads off, and Ga-on disappears behind… a secret bookcase? That’s random.
Tae-yang awakens in the employee room, having been put there after his fainting spell. Thus he slinks away while the other men collect their pay, feeling embarrassed for causing trouble. He doesn’t feel right being paid for doing so little, but his boss puts the envelope in his hand anyway.
The next day he readies for work again, his back covered in medicinal patches. Little sis Tae-in urges him to quit doing hard labor — because he’s ruining her chances of marrying a chaebol, whose mother will invariably do a background check on her and object when she discovers that Tae-in’s brother works in a lowly market. Ha!
Tae-yang retorts that it’s more likely that the mom would pay him off to send her abroad. I adore this relationship. They are ridiculously cute together, she as the sly foxchild and he as the exasperated brother-father figure who spouts Grandma’s wise old sayings and tries to keep her in line. She knows she’s got him wrapped around her little finger, though, and so does he.
Tae-yang shows up at the marketplace again, greeting a room full of indifferent ajusshis and bowing low to his boss. He admits it was backbreaking work, but he felt he should come back and do the job properly, especially after the boss paid him.
He gets a punch to the face, though, and his boss tells him he should have felt ashamed to get paid for doing nothing. So get lost.
That harsh dismissal gets Tae-yang’s temper up, though, and he bursts back into the employees’ room to insist on another chance. Grandma used to say that there was a job for everybody if they knew where to look, and he promises to do whatever they ask of him. Anything?, they confirm. Uh-oh. That twinkle in their eye does not bode well.
Well, he promised. That earns him a ride on the cargo cart, wearing nothing but his boxers and a sign while the marketgoers ogle. The sign on his back reads “I’m the hole” — as in, the black hole of uselessness. His chuckling boss drives around the warehouse, gathers a crowd of grabby ajummas, and stops the vehicle to give everyone a good long look.
The ladies cackle and encourage Tae-yang to put on a li’l show for them, joining him in an impromptu ’90s dance party. Ga-on walks into the area and spots Tae-yang, rattled with maidenly embarrassment, and they lock eyes for a brief moment. She hurries away, and he belatedly remembers his half-nekkid state and shouts in mortification.
The stunt wins back the other workers’ good humor, but he still has to win a bet before he’ll be allowed back to work. Enter a truckload of radishes, which he’ll have to unload, competing against another guy from a different market. If he loses the race, he not only loses the job but humiliates his entire team.
Ga-on has also been given a lowly job: washing her sunbae’s car. And motorcycle. And the auctioneer’s stand. They nitpick her work until they find something to complain about and order her to keep cleaning until everything is pristine.
She overhears some ajusshis hurrying off to witness a challenge taking place between two underlings and heads to the neighboring warehouse, where a cheering crowd has gathered. There she spies the cute half-naked boy from earlier, facing off with his mean-looking rival in front of two mountains of radishes and a collection of empty carts. First one to fill his carts wins.
The race starts, and from the very start the Other Guy is much faster, tossing bunches of radishes into the carts without a care. Meanwhile, Tae-yang works gingerly, placing his bunches into the containers in orderly rows.
He easily loses and both competitors collapse, exhausted. But when Ga-on approaches curiously, Tae-yang pulls her close (rawr) and gasps one last instruction: roll the carts. She repeats his words and his boss complies, demonstrating that when the carts are moved, his competitor’s drops radishes to the ground with every step. His own remain safe.
His boss tells him that today’s bet was for speed — this doesn’t change the outcome. Tae-yang acknowledges that he lost, fair and square, but points out that his boss would’ve done the same as he’d done. The reason he wants to work with this team “is because no matter how pressed for time we are, we don’t treat the product of other people’s blood and sweat without respect.” Smart boy. That’s not only true, but a convincing way to flatter your superiors and prove your point. Two birds, shot down with one well-packed radish.
The Boss is moved despite himself, and gruffly just tells him to clean up. Tae-yang takes this as acceptance, and a few of his hyungnims give him a cheerful A-OK sign, sending him whooping in excitement. He belatedly sees Ga-on standing by and immediately gets awkward, which is adorable, and he entreats, “You can’t think of me as a weirdo.” They giggle bashfully, until they’re called away by their respective superiors.
Tae-yang heads out at the end of the day and sees Ga-on taking a break from cleaning the auctioneer’s computer keyboard, since she’s not allowed to go home till everything’s spic and span. She’s laid her head down for a brief nap, and Tae-yang leaves one of his radishes on the stand for her. His note explains that he hopes it brings her luck too, and that eating it will give her energy. When she wakes up, she finds it and smiles, taking a big bite.
Now for that guy with the precious sports car, Lee Seul-woo. He’s called “little boss” (indicating that there’s a “big boss,” probably his father) and talks to his car like it’s a person. He eats lunch at Seul-woo Hotel and works out at Seul-woo Sports Center. Yeah, he’s a little bit rich.
He goes suit shopping with Mom and Jung Dan-bi (Park Su-jin), in preparation for a fancy launching party they’re all attending. Dan-bi calls his mother “Aunt,” but in this case it’s a sign of closeness rather than kinship; the relationship chart puts Dan-bi and Seul-woo as an ex-couple and current friends.
The launching show is for a designer line, and its uber-rich guest list includes Kang-sun. She warns her secretary of today’s importance: Since Mok Young Group is one of the backers of the line, there will be eyes eager for it to fail and see her humiliated. Does this woman know how to make everything about her or what?
Tae-in is one of the wait staff at the event, and she perks up to see Seul-woo arriving with his mother and Dan-bi. Young…handsome…rich… She cheers to herself upon confirming his seat at the VIP table. One chaebol-marrying fantasy, reporting for duty.
On the other side of the socialite coin, however, we see that Seul-woo’s party isn’t quite so well-received by the bluebloods. Two ladies find their places at their table, but sniff at Mom’s enthusiastic greeting and immediately get up. Seul-woo knows why: They must be afraid that association with them will cause their own social stock to tumble. The reason? Their money’s too new. Nouveau riche, how gauche. Oh, first world problems.
Mom puts on a brave face and laughs it off, but the rejection still hurts. Seul-woo’s expression at the whole affair is disdainful, but under the table he takes Mom’s hand and squeezes it in consolation. Aw. Sweet boy.
The snooty ladies cackle to themselves about that classless woman throwing around her money… just as Kang-sun overhears, unseen. Ha, I sort of love that their barbed words are just as appropriate for her, and she stews silently. They may not have meant Kang-sun this time, but clearly this opinion extends to her as well.
Ga-on arrives at the venue carrying her fancy clothes, still dressed in her work clothes. She remembers Mom’s accusation that her “eccentricisms” cause Mom to be ridiculed, and therefore slips in through a back entrance before she’s spotted.
One trip to the bathroom later, she’s transformed into chaebol princess, and hides her work clothing in a small cubby for emergency fire hoses. The door won’t close, so Ga-on borrows Tae-yang’s “aja aja!” shout of encouragement to shove it shut, then hurries to join her mother.
Seul-woo notices Ga-on in the lobby, and recalls her from the other day, when she told off the spiteful parking attendant. Now he realizes she was being literal when she referred to herself as the chaebol’s daughter, and watches her go with interest.
Kang-sun waits for her daughter while running the socialite ajumma’s sneering words through her head, about how you can take the bumpkin out of the country, but not the country out of the bumpkin. Ga-on finds her mother fighting tears, and Mom sits her down to tell her that she’s the only person in the world who’ll ever get to see Kang-sun’s tears. Uh, thank you? I feel so special now?
Kang-sun says that others say she “fixed her destiny” by marrying up, but that they know that’s not true — that nothing’s fixed for good. She likens her life to a boat with a hole in the bottom, which is always in danger of sinking if she doesn’t fight like crazy to empty the water that fills it. The vessel may be more expensive these days but it’s no safer, and now there are lots of people rocking the boat, wanting to see her drown. Guilty as charged. What? She’s unhinged.
Now Mom takes back her earlier opposition and tells Ga-on to continue working at that marketplace if she wants. If Ga-on claims her place at Mok Young Group and ascends to the very top, Mom won’t interfere in her life: “But there’s something you can’t ever forget: That the only one who can pull this sinking boat I’m in to shore — is you.” Oy, Crazy Mom with the Crazy Expectations.
Kang-sun calls Ga-on her last hope (her “rope” of safety) — and therefore Ga-on needs to toughen up. Do whatever she has to do to rise to the top, where nobody can mess with them: “Do it for Mom, okay?” Thoroughly guilt-tripped, Ga-on nods.
Seul-woo’s party all but gets kicked out of the launching show — they’re told to change seats in a hall that’s booked solid. Mom tries to act like it doesn’t matter, but Seul-woo seethes. So it’s particularly offensive when Kang-sun comes face to face with Seul-woo’s mother but pointedly ignores her bow of greeting, stalking off like they’re invisible.
Ga-on bows to them politely, only to be told by Mom’s secretary that these people are the reason for Mom’s mood. Those words prick Seul-woo’s temper, and he shouts after Kang-sun: “Ajumma!”
Facing Kang-sun with steely calm, he chides her on her manners, telling her she ought to greet his mother properly. Kang-sun pulls the “Do you know who I am?” card, and he says of course — he’s seen her in the magazines, although really, those photos were deceiving, since they made her look appealing and bright.
Ga-on tries to step in and get him to move aside so they can all go their own ways, but Seul-woo isn’t budging until Kang-sun greets his mother properly.
Kang-sun slaps Seul-woo for his insolence, throwing insults at his mother about being uncultured, money-grubbing, rude, bourgeois.
Seul-woo fumes, but gets control of his temper and smiles back, saying he’d had the exact same thought — regarding her. After all, he’d witnessed daughter dearest in a cruel scene in a parking garace, cutting a woman to shreds quite effectively, despite the woman begging on her knees for mercy. The incident had him wondering what kind of mother had raised such a cold, callous daughter. Now it all falls into place.
He uses Kang-sun’s own words, “Is this why they say you can size up a parent by looking at the child? I quite pity your daughter, for growing up under such a frightful, brutal mother.”
Ga-on steps forward to demand he apologize. He retorts that the apology should be from her side. Ga-on: “What I know is that my mother is much more adult than you, and that you have no right to hurt her. So apologize!”
I was eagerly anticipating this episode, now that we’re into the adult years and get to see just how the premise will unfold with Tae-yang’s eventual vegetable store. Both Episodes 1 and 2 showed promise but also heavily featured a storyline I have grown extremely tired of, aka the switched-children, prince-and-pauper, scheming-social-climber contrivances.
Aside from being overdone to the point of absurdity, those elements feel unnecessary in this story where the other half is the infinitely more appealing one. The veggie mogul success storyline is what makes this drama Not-Baker King, and it’s got plenty of heartwarming, engaging threads running through, most of them dealing with Tae-yang’s family. Furthermore, the makjang steals the limelight away from Tae-yang, and who among us does not love him? This isn’t the Chaebol Swap Drama, it’s Bachelor’s Vegetable Store. Where be the bachelor’s veggies? And I mean that in the literal sense as well as any and all dirty senses that can be extracted therefrom.
The emphasis on Ga-on/Kang-sun held me back last week, but I figured that once the identity switch was in place, we could get to the good stuff. Now that I’ve seen Episode 3, however, I fear that every episode is going to have this mix, with half of it being charming and the other half dragging with crazy characters I want off my screen as soon as possible. Mostly that’s Kang-sun, but since her reach extends to Ga-on and now our Bachelor No. 2’s family as well, I foresee lots of frustrating makjang madness in our future.
Granted, Mom’s not a wholly incomprehensible character, even though her rationale comes off frighteningly unhinged. I appreciate that she’s practically crippled by her inferiority complex, and there’s a lovely irony to the way she thought she could let In-bum be her Prince Charming, and place her on a throne to live in luxury. Smooth sailing, right?
The back end of that deal is that now she’s paranoid that everyone thinks she’s a lowly bumpkin, which is much more revealing about how she sees herself than anything else. It’s self-hate, directed outward. She’s a fraud, and she’s turned her daughter into a fraud, and now her greatest fear is that people will discover that fraud. She’s exchanged a dinky little leaking boat for the Titanic, but we all know what happened to that.
Thus she may be interesting from an analytical standpoint, but within the context of this drama she’s just a big ol’ timesuck. I want Tae-yang, dammit! He’s adorable as a character, and Ji Chang-wook is adorable playing him, and he has an adorable relationship with his sassy sister. He’s admirable and appealing as hell, and even though we have yet to meet the other bachelors, because Tae-yang is such a great character I have lots of faith that they’ll be winning, too.
So why, drama, do you insist on spending more time on the hateful crazy lady than your golden goose, the ace in your pocket, your diamond in the rough?
I also find Seul-woo nicely layered with possibility — the fact that he’s rich but not an ass about it, and cares for momma, make him likable. Plus I’m amused that they actually bother to distinguish the “old money” from the new — particularly since Korea doesn’t even have “old money” (of the generations-old sort found more commonly in the West), unless you’re counting in single years rather than centuries. I’m intrigued as to how he ends up befriending Tae-yang and working at the start-up vegetable store, and can’t wait for some great bromance to spring up.
Therefore: I’ll definitely keep watching the show for Tae-yang and Tae-in (and Ga-on when she’s with Tae-yang, although not so much when she’s with Mom), plus I’m still waiting to see our other cast members make their appearances.
On the other hand, we’re pretty sure further recaps are out of the picture at this point. If Bachelor’s Vegetable Store were airing in a slow season, I’d be more willing to stick with recaps. But January’s such a clusterfuck of exciting new offerings that even if half of them suck, we’ll still have our hands full. (Some upcoming titles: The Moon That Embraces the Sun, Wild Romance, History of the Salaryman, Dream High 2, Flower Boy Band, and Operation Proposal in February.)
With those shows on the horizon and Veggie Store being a mixed bag, I just can’t see committing to 24 episodes of this show and pre-emptively negating the possibility of covering a more interesting prospect. If the show continues to be charming, we may consider dropping back in to weigh in on the developments, but that’s probably the most we can do.