Color of Woman: Episodes 1-2
The cable deluge is upon us! I’m glad to report that some of the brand-new selections look quite promising, as is the case with the adorable Color of Woman, which turns out to be a lot more feel-good than the descriptions made it seem. It’s a lot warmer and friendlier than “two careerwomen in a fierce rivalry,” because as it turns out, those rivals are also friends with a quirky relationship and enjoyable chemistry.
In fact, what this drama has going for it is fantastic chemistry all around — each main cast member has great rapport, and a different dynamic, with the other three.
SONG OF THE DAY
Have a Tea – “너 없는 하루” (A day without you) [ Download ]
BYUN SORA (Yoon So-yi) is not your typical bookish wallflower — you know, shy and retiring. She’s assertive and frank, in a no-nonsense way that suits her life in academia, analyzing all problems with a logical, scientific approach. She’s not haughty about her intellect, but her matter-of-fact approach can ruffle feathers. Like when she tells a higher-ranking colleague that her idea is better, without sugarcoating the message or feeling her way around the office politics.
Sora has always been first in her class, has her doctorate, and is on her way to becoming a university professor. Except that when she uncovers that a senior professor has been engaging in misconduct and reports it, the university decides it would rather let her go.
Refreshingly, Sora’s not supposed to be ugly (or “drama-ugly”), which is a nice change since it’s always unintentionally funny when a drama slaps glasses and ill-fitting clothing on a model-striking actress and expects us to buy that she’s unattractive. But Sora’s unkempt appearance does tie into her character, because she doesn’t believe in painting on a mask of cosmetics and hiding your true nature under a glittery facade. “You’re thinking I’m harsh,” she narrates, “but I’m just confident. Or at least I was…until that happened.”
The “that” to which she refers is revealed to us piecemeal, and it’s not some huge traumatic shock but the lingering sting from a relationship gone sour. She doesn’t understand what happened, but tries not to dwell on it.
But it rears its ugly head one day when she comes home early and finds her boyfriend making out with another woman, and the bastard tells her that it’s because “I don’t want to sleep with you.” She’d probably be able to shake it off more easily if only it didn’t recall a similar scenario from her past — the dreaded “that” — when a guy ditched her with those same words, shaking her confidence in herself as a woman just as it had been budding. Worse still is that the other woman turns out to be her roommate.
That would be WANG JIN-JU (Lee Soo-kyung), who is Sora’s polar opposite. Sora was at the head of their class in high school, Jin-ju was at the foot. She’s flighty and superficial, and calls herself a model rather than the more accurate term, unemployed. She’s mostly concerned with finding a hot catch of a man to marry, certain this is possible because of her looks and her feminine wiles.
To be fair, Jin-ju’s not overstating her appeal; it’s true that she has men falling at her feet, and she knows just how to work a situation to her favor. She practically radiates light, and even Sora has to admit Jin-ju has a magnetic charm. It’s interesting that she’s not a bitch or an evil schemer, since most characters of this type are pretty hard to swallow, but Jin-ju has this irrepressible cuteness that mitigates her ego. It seems like she and Sora have reconnected fairly recently, which explains why they’re not super-friendly despite going way back.
It does take an episode or perhaps the full two for her to grow on you, but I think Lee Soo-kyung manages this character beautifully. At first they seem like they’re poised to become frenemies, but you begin to see flashes of actual friendship develop, which makes this an interesting pair.
Next is Sora’s longtime friend KANG CHAN-JIN (Shim Ji-ho), who is adorable. They’ve been friends for a decade, went to the same university, and these days Chan-jin regularly drops by Sora’s house for dinner. He’s a brand manager at cosmetics company L’aura, and when Sora loses her teaching job she decides to interview for his company, since she has helped him prepare marketing materials in the past and knows the firm well. She joins the marketing team.
When Chan-jin and Jin-ju meet, she eyes him with interest, sizing up his looks and specs as a potential match. He’s happy to flirt right back, and they establish a light, joking relationship, both poking fun at the uptight Sora.
Chan-jin exudes an easy charm that works well with Sora’s stiffness, and he knows her well enough to take her grumpies in stride. It’s enough to want to root for him to take that friendship to the next level, if not for…
…YOON JUN-SU (Jae Hee!!). He’s the newly arrived director of headquarters at L’aura, and the instant he and Sora clap eyes on each other, it’s incredulity and chagrin for both. Jun-su’s a sunbae to both Sora and Chan-jin from their university days, and whenever they run into each other, inevitably they end up sniping at each other.
Granted, the animosity is more on her end than his, but they’re equal sparring partners, and their fast-flying retorts are wittily written and fun to watch. It’s amusing that they both find each other exasperating, but don’t see what Chan-jin and Jin-ju readily do: That they’re totally alike. Jun-su also tackles problems with an intellectual, facts-based approach and veers on uptight.
Jun-su has taken this position because his father, the company head, has fallen ill, but you get the sense he’d rather be off pursuing his own scientific interests. He has a friendly relationship with Chan-jin, and when the latter mentions Sora’s flaws, there’s an interesting flicker of interest in Jun-su’s expression that belies some other feelings underneath his cool, witty exterior.
Through a misunderstanding, Jin-ju is introduced to the L’aura offices and takes the opportunity to interview for a secretary opening. She scores the job. Sora is not thrilled but sighs and takes this in stride, even though she’s immediately hit up for Jin-ju’s number when it becomes known they’re roommies.
Thus begins the setup of both women starting at the same company, both determined to stick it out here and become successful. One of the drama’s more interesting points is the curious friendship between the two ladies, because I was all ready for them to go at each other with bitterness or at least prideful rivalry. And yes, Sora does kick Jin-ju out of her house after the boyfriend-cheating incident, giving her a week to get the hell out of Dodge, as she deserves. But Jin-ju is bubbly and warm — self-absorbed but not malicious — and manages to worm herself back into Sora’s (reluctant) graces. She even helps Sora get revenge on her two-timing ex and cheers her on. Jin-ju is definitely frustrating at times, especially in the first episode, but ultimately I find her winning.
You can practically see the dollar signs flashing in Jin-ju’s eyes when she meets Jun-su, immediately smelling money and prestige. She eyes him with even more interest than Chan-jin, and starts to work her mojo. A drink-off between the ladies demonstrates the differences in their dating approaches:
Feigning drunkenness, Jin-ju gracefully maneuvers herself into a piggyback ride by Jun-su, while Sora…tries the same and flattens Chan-jin into an inelegant heap. Ha.
So that’s the setup. It’s fairly straightforward stuff, so what makes this drama work is partly its breezy tone, and partly its characters. The atmosphere hits a nice balance between cutely funny and introspective, with voiceovers by the two ladies providing additional commentary. It’s not heavy, life-and-death narration like the kind we get in Thousand Day Promise, but in-the-moment thoughts that undercut a moment with humor.
For instance, as Sora recalls that painful encounter with the (first) guy who didn’t want to sleep with her, she regards the lace underwear she’d bought when she thought they would get intimate, thinking, “First love is like white lace panties. From the moment you tear open the package, it can’t ever be as white as it first was. It can’t turn back. It leaves only regret.” Her voice goes from wistful to grim, making it extra funny.
In bits and pieces, it comes out that Sora and Jun-su have history, hinging upon something that went awry that they’ve been dancing around ever since. Jun-su confronts Sora wanting to talk about “it” and clear the air, once and for all, but she balks. She declares that she’s totally over it, but she’s overcompensating and he knows it.
Still, she refuses to discuss it — it’s pride, but also something more, as though talking about it would make it hurt all over again, and she doesn’t want to allow that weakness. So she says she doesn’t want to know whatever that “misunderstanding” was, and they keep up the bickering.
In flashbacks, we see how their relationship had started back in college. In typical Jun-su fashion, he’d started by listing all her flaws and pointing out how she’s not his type, and wrapping up by saying, “But seeing that I like you anyway must mean I really like you.”
They’d had a cute, normal budding courtship that culminated in a run through the rain that led them to a hotel room to dry off. He’d sat there nervously, while Sora had worked up the nerve to kiss his cheek. She’d gone to shower, anticipating that they’d sleep together, only to find that he’d left. She’d looked out the window to see him running away, stopping only to call back, “I don’t want to sleep with you.”
Additional flashbacks show us the scene from his point of view, which is mostly the same except that we see how jittery and nervous he’d been. Clearly there’s an explanation for his behavior, but he doesn’t override her protests to tell her, so for now it’s a mystery to us.
That means that when they continue to bump into each other, they’re working this vibe that’s a mix of sexual tension and antagonism. He likes to push her buttons, maybe to wear her down or maybe because it’s just fun to get a reaction out of her. She’s the type to react immediately and candidly, so the gratification is pretty instant.
It gives us an added little moment of satisfaction when Jun-su bypasses Jin-ju for Sora instead, and to Jin-ju, this makes absolutely no sense. It’s not ego this time, but genuine bewilderment: How could he see us both, and pick her? Does not compute in her brain. It sounds obnoxious, but Lee Soo-kyung plays it befuddled and cute so I laugh instead.
Since Jin-ju’s so sharp when it comes to reading men, she’s the first to catch on to that vibe between the two exes, and she wonders to Chan-jin, who was completely oblivious, of course. If they dated, wouldn’t he have known? But the idea is planted in his head so he asks Jun-su if it’s true, floored when he hears that they did date, for a time. They didn’t tell people, and then it was over.
What makes this dynamic extra fun is that Chan-jin is such a close friend to Sora that they’re free and easy with each other. Chan-jin is free to tease her, get in her face, put his arm around her — and seeing that dynamic makes Jun-su the teensiest bit jealous. It’s not full-fledged yet, but I’m sure we’re getting there, and when we do I’ll be clapping my hands in glee.
But wait, it gets better! Jun-su has some intuition of his own, and he asks Chan-jin whether there’s something between the two of them, as well. He can sense a vibe, and it’s not coming from Sora. So…is Chan-jin harboring secret feelings for his friend? All this while? And covering it up by acting the cheeky playboy? Agggggh I love that.
(It’s particularly satisfying because in the beginning, we’re set up to think that this pairing never happened because Chan-jin wasn’t attracted to Sora, and when she asks him to describe her “as a woman,” he deflects the question. When in fact, it was the reverse.)
So: Sora and Jun-su are exes and have unresolved sexual tension. Sora and Chan-jin are comfy old friends, except one of them perhaps wants to be more and the other is oblivious. The boys are on friendly terms, and both of them are sharp enough to figure out that the other boy has an interest in Sora.
Then there’s Jin-ju, who’s eying both men looking like the cat that got the cream. All the while, the two ladies are working on their own brand of friendship, at first bonding against their (or Sora’s) better judgment, and then because they genuinely like each other. And it’s not all about Jin-ju freeloading and wearing Sora down; there are reciprocal gestures on Jin-ju’s part. Like her giving Sora a makeover and a nudge into claiming petty vengeance on her ex, or ordering Sora to spend one entire night relaxing with some pampering.
With both women at the same company, we get a chance to see both of them working their way up in completely different jobs, and with vastly different operating styles. They’re both strong-headed women, but I suspect both will find that their worldview needs some tweaking. Sora’s so intelligent that it can be intimidating, but on the other hand, she’s so blunt that she may struggle to advance, because she’s unable to use flattery to curry favor.
On the other hand, even though Jin-ju couldn’t do Sora’s marketing and research job, she’s got charm out the wazoo, and she’s not entirely wrong about appearances being important. Through an unfortunate series of events, Sora gets stuck with the misconception that she’s dirty and smelly, and although you can blame Jin-ju for some of that (she hogged the bathroom so Sora couldn’t shower), there’s truth to her comment that “If you paid more attention to your appearance, this wouldn’t have happened.” If she looked put-together on a daily basis, people wouldn’t assume the worst of her on her one bad day.
Sora believes looks are irrelevant, but that can never be entirely true, can it? Inasmuch as Jin-ju’s extreme materialism is misguided, so is Sora’s stance in the opposing extreme.
I wasn’t sure what to think of the actress replacement, because while I like both Eugene and Yoon So-yi, they aren’t exactly two actresses that you’d consider for the same role. Having seen the show now, I’m really liking Yoon So-yi in the role, enough to think that it’s perhaps even better off this way, character-wise.
Both are gorgeous women so it’s a stretch for either one to play a disheveled bookworm, but Yoon So-yi’s got such a firm grasp on who Sora is as a person that her representation seems very credible to me. I find it believable that Sora is the way she is, that she disregards her appearance, but isn’t so judgy about it that she won’t put on some makeup and heels herself. It’s just not her usual self.
This may be a superficial point, but I think it also really works that both Yoon and Lee Soo-kyung are tall, statuesque actresses. They’re being presented as diametric opposites — or maybe two sides of a coin? That would be better — and from a purely visual standpoint, it works better when one side isn’t towering over the other, much more petite side.
There are a number of other story threads at play, like the office politics and the quirky characters who work there — the always-hysterical Ahn Sun-young (Dream High) and Sung Dong-il (Can’t Lose, Chuno) are among the staff — but I’ll let you watch those for yourself. There’s a pretty great book-to-face bit that’s a laugh-out-loud moment.
And because it must be said: YAY JAE HEE! I’ve been dying to see him (1) back onscreen again after 3+ years, and (2) in something that makes use of his talent, so I’m really looking forward to this role for him. Already there’s buzz about him and his appealing character, which bodes well for him and for the show. He’s always had sharp comic timing and I love him being quick and banter-y, and as always, I am a fan of anything that makes use of his arsenal of facial expressions:
Basic info: Color of Woman airs on Mondays and Tuesdays on Channel A.
Directing is Kim Soo-young, who was a co-director with main PD Hwang In-roi on both Return of Iljimae and Goong S.
Writing is a team of four (yay, teams!): Lee Shi-hyun (While You Were Sleeping), Choi Yeon-ji (Nice Man), Jeon Yong-sung, and Park Hyun-jin (Romantic Movement, Lovers of Six Years).
I likely won’t be able to write recaps for every episode, but I did want to weigh in with my first impressions, and I’ll definitely be watching more. Ah, if only there weren’t so many dramas on the schedule…which is probably a good problem to have, ultimately.