Rooftop Prince: Episode 3
So cute. I’m surprised at how much humor you can tease out of the fish-out-of-water premise. On one hand, there are endless modernities to comment on, but on the other, you might think the jokes would start to wear thin. But they continue to be surprisingly funny — and some of them will have you clutching your aching sides and snorting foodstuffs where they don’t belong. Even though I’m fully aware that this show could at any point head down a bad path of craziness (the unfunny kind) and tiresome inheritance fights, for now I’m rolling with the humor and loving it all.
Ratings are creeping up for Rooftop; The King 2 Hearts remains in first place but dropped a few points. Today’s episodes brought Prince an 11.2% against King’s 14.5%. Equator Man recorded an 8.1%. I think all three shows are solid, so it’s actually too bad they’ve got to go up against each other, but that’s the name of the game.
SONG OF THE DAY
Rooftop Prince OST – “한참 지나서” (After a long while) [ Download ]
EPISODE 3 RECAP
Granny excitedly announces that Tae-yong has returned from the thought-to-be-dead, to his cousin Tae-mu’s shock. You know, since he killed him and all.
Naturally, Prince Yi Gak has no idea who these people are and removes Granny’s arm from his, telling her she’s mistaken. She insists it’s him, that he must know his grandmother.
Yi Gak gets affronted at her insistence and declares he’s never seen her before. She beats his chest, telling him to snap to his senses, and in shock he shoves her away. Tae-mu steps in and grabs his shirt, demanding to know who the hell he is.
Outside, the stepsisters run into each other and Se-na tries to send Park-ha away — she can’t have Tae-mu seeing her again. The prince’s roar cuts into the air, and his attentive vassals alert to the rally cry. They dash inside the house calling, “Prince!” just as Tae-mu is about to shove Yi Gak into the wall. Yong-sool (Blue Man) grabs the attacker and slams him into a glass hutch, sending Grandma into a swoon.
The boys escort Princey away, and Park-ha gapes in shock at the mess. Tae-mu waves her away wearily, not getting a good look at her.
As they drive away, Park-ha rips into Yi Gak for fighting on the job, reminding him that she’d warned him to stop using those (antiquated) words like “Villain!” and “Scoundrel!” — ’cause people tend to get angry when you call them that.
I love that the three boys in the back of the truck (Green, Yellow, Blue — can I just call them the Aqua Men?) press their faces to the glass, sympathetically watching their leader get reamed by the tiny lady.
Yi Gak blusters that she’s being too shouty, but she slams the brakes at a red light and turns on him fiercely, making him shrink back nervously. She warns him not to go around using banmal with everyone and calling them names. OR ELSE.
He looks like a little boy getting scolded by his kindergarten teacher, so it’s extra hilarious that he tries to recover his dignity by pointing at the green light (distraction!) and ordering her to drive.
Grandma laments the fight, saying that clearly something has happened to Tae-yong and that they should’ve talked to him calmly. Oh, haha, this is great. The situation isn’t funny, but I enjoy the subversion on the typical amnesia theme — she may think he’s got it, but nope, he’s just your average time-warping royal.
Tae-mu argues that this isn’t Tae-yong, which he certainly hopes is true, but Grandma is convinced she’s right, arguing that he managed to find his way home. That’s a good point, and she orders Tae-mu to bring him back. Then she changes her mind, telling him no, she’ll have her secretary Se-na do it instead.
Tae-mu leaves in confused frustration, while Grandma CEO instructs Se-na to bring back that mover.
Park-ha digs through the neighborhood clothing donation bin for new (old) clothing for the Aqua Men (and Red), saying that their coordinating looks are drawing strange glances. Yi Gak looks put out when Yong-sool accepts the shirt she gives him, and puffs up when Man-bo declines, preferring their tracksuits. (Aw, does Princey like their matching outfits?)
Some flattery soon gets Man-bo to cave, and Chi-san is downright eager to change — Park-ha has to stop him before he strips right there, in the street. His taste is questionable, though, since he beelines for yellow sequins, HA. (Man-bo: “But is it not too sparkly?” Chi-san: “Is there anything wrong with sparkly?” Wise words.)
Or maybe Yi Gak is just put out to be thoroughly ignored while Park-ha attends to the Aqua Men, because when she finally turns to him, he’s ready to graciously deign to be given new clothes. But Park-ha changes her mind — nevermind, one of them can keep his tracksuit because they won’t be matching anymore. Haha. I just love how she knows just how to poke that hole in his ego balloon, refusing to treat him like he’s special.
The Aqua Men head off, happy with their selections, while Red remains standing by the recycling bin like a proud, disappointed puppy. He even makes a furtive grab for a black blazer, then reluctantly leaves it behind to join his group, forcing the “I don’t care, really I don’t” attitude back in place.
Next, the shoe bin. Again Yi Gak pretends he’s not interested while casting a side-eye at the selections. Park-ha finds Yong-sool a pair of shoes, and then Chi-san comes running down the street with a discovery: boots fit for a king. Haha, they’re just a pair of black boots, but they’re similar to the kind he’d wear back in his day, so the boys applaud the find.
Tae-mu mulls over his encounters with Park-ha, and asks his subordinate to track her down, based on what he knows of her grocery delivery service. It’s a personal matter of some sensitivity, so the man promises secrecy.
Park-ha takes her troop to a building, instructing them to change in the bathroom. (Should I be worried that she didn’t specify which bathroom? Cackles in anticipation.)
As they walk by, an elevator arrives and the doors open, which sends Yong-sool jumping back warily. I love how their personalities are showing, because it’s the scholarly Man-bo who remains unruffled, and reminds his brawny friend that they learned about the automatic lifting machine yesterday.
Chi-san peers inside at the empty, four-walled chamber and suggests, “I think we can change our clothes in here.” HAHAHA. Oh, this is even better than bathroom shenanigans.
And so, this is the scene that awaits the third-floor aerobics class:
Omfg. Wiping away literal tears.
I love that the ladies squeal and angle closer for a better look, while it’s the men who are traumatized. They scramble for their clothing, before the doors open again. But not fast enough. Two floors up, a gaggle of schoolgirls is treated to a similar scene.
The girls declare, “Daebak!” and whip out their camera phones. They pelt the men with snack foods and yell “Pervert!”
Park-ha grows concerned and heads inside to find her lost flock, asking the security guard, “Have you seen four strange men?” The guard points at his security camera, trained on the elevator.
So when the doors open, she stands there glaring, arms crossed. Adorably, they look relieved — they really are like ducklings imprinting on a mother figure — although Yi Gak’s relief comes out in the form of a shout, accompanied by his monster head-tilt of haughtiness, “WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG?!”
As they drive by Changdeokgung Palace again, Yi Gak insists she stop. She’s got way more important things to do than knocking down the doors of a closed palace, so she continues on to the next job, where Yi Gak again stands uselessly, refusing to work. She dangles the carrot: If he works, she’ll take him to the palace.
Magic words. He vows to work his hardest, joining his men in the cleaning of a storefront (hers, readying for opening). Hilariously, the boys grab the supplies out of reach, trying to prevent him, like it’s an affront to decency for the prince to do manual labor. They try to wrench the mop out of his hands and promise to work extra-hard.
Tae-mu tracks down Park-ha to the shop and watches from a distance as the boys clean. Yi Gak is working so diligently that he cuts his finger on a metal rack, which sends the others into a tizzy at the sight of blood. Man-bo tells him to lift his hand high into the air, so he anxiously shoots it up as far as he can.
Park-ha laughs and heads to the pharmacy, and upon recognizing Tae-mu standing there, she apologizes for earlier. They sit down for a cup of coffee as she offers to compensate him for damages, but he tells her that’s unnecessary. He asks about the red-suited mover, and she tells him that he’s one of her workers, and assures Tae-mu that he’s never been to his house before.
Tae-mu requests that if she gets a call asking for Red Suit, she should answer that she doesn’t know where he is. Ah, so he’s working against his girlfriend, is he? Se-na’s operating on Grandma’s orders so it looks like he’ll have to keep one step ahead of her.
He’s pretty smart about it, actually, telling Park-ha that the damages will be quite expensive, so if she says she doesn’t know where Red Suit is, he can take care of the costs for her. Then he gives her some expensive gift certificates from his company, calling it promotional freebies.
Se-na arrives in the neighborhood looking for Park-ha, having been directed here by Mom. She passes right by Yi Gak — still dutifully holding his finger in the air — but since he’s no longer in his tracksuit, she walks right past him. Finding Park-ha, she asks for Red’s contact information. Park-ha replies that she doesn’t know his name or whereabouts, since she was just using him as a day worker.
Then Park-ha fixes up the cut with a Band-Aid, and he winces in pain like a big baby. Ya big wuss.
Se-na and Tae-mu go out to dinner, where she asks if the guy really looked like his long-lost cousin. Tae-mu glosses it over, insinuating that Grandma’s been seeing Tae-yong doubles recently.
This couple reminds me of the backstabbing duo in 49 Days, but I like that there’s a key difference: It seems Tae-mu’s the earnest one in love, and he proposes a vacation to England soon. You know, to meet her mother, the professor at a British university. Se-na has clearly been lying about her origins (hence her nervousness about Park-ha’s existence), and she deflects, saying they can meet her when she comes to Korea.
At home, Park-ha instructs her ducklings in hangul. (I’d assumed they’d already known it since the alphabet was invented before their time warp, but it’s true that hangul wasn’t universally adopted right away. The literati in particular would have stuck with hanja, as well as the educated elite.)
The next day, Park-ha takes Yi Gak to the palace, as promised. It’s crowded with tourists, but for him the place has much deeper meaning. The visitors melt away as he stares at the pond where he lost his princess, simultaneously envisioning memories of himself walking happily along the bridge, and her corpse floating in the water.
Park-ha finds him crying by the water, though she tactfully ignores his tears and offers him coffee. He takes a sip and shudders at the bitterness.
She receives a call that has her heading for the next train out of the station, dragging Yi Gak along with her. Literally. She has to pull him onto the strange metal marvel, and as they ride, she drills him in modern speak. She asks why he was crying earlier, and he coughs in embarrassment, saying the coffee made him cry. She points out that he was crying before that, and he turns to her with panic — she can’t tell his men! They can’t know he was seen crying!
What makes me love Park-ha is in her reaction: She sizes up his desperation, and uses it as a threat to force him into using that pesky polite speech he can’t be bothered with. I like the way her mind works. It’s not devious, it’s resourceful! So Yi Gak dutifully complies, ordering from the food cart girl with Park-ha’s intonation, in sing-songy falsetto. Pffffft.
They arrive at their destination to meet Park-ha’s contact. Turns out she’s got a deal with a farm for strawberries to sell in her store. Unfortunately she didn’t get the memo that in order to get the low price she’ll have to do the picking, which requires extra hands. At least she has one extra set with her — they’re reluctant hands, but she threatens to kick the prince out of her home if he doesn’t help.
He refuses to work anyway, leaving Park-ha to pick alone, grumbling about how she’s going to evict him. He wanders the town instead, stopping to read a sign written in hanja which falls and breaks on the ground. Residents glare accusingly, and he defends himself in that newfangled modernspeak, which is hilarious because he’s saying modern words (“It wasn’t me, I swear!”) but still in his lofty sageuk intonation.
The next thing we know, Yi Gak sits with calligraphy brush and ink. Initially the miffed citizens look annoyed, but as he starts writing, they’re awed at the beauty of his script, which was lauded even in his day. He hasn’t just replaced the sign, he’s created a work of art.
Yi Gak comes back to the farm happily sucking on a popsicle, and even has one for Park-ha. He looks so pleased with himself, but she’s peeved and knocks it away, accusing him of mooching off of her hard work. When they get back, he’s kicked out.
Suddenly a crowd of townfolk arrives, ready to repay their artist by doing some picking, led by the farm manager. Park-ha’s stunned, while Yi Gak looks self-satisfied to have pulled his weight after all. And then he picks up the second popsicle and eats that, too.
The extra labor means they finish ahead of schedule, so they go to an amusement park while awaiting their train. Yi Gak is amazed at cotton candy; I love that the prince has a sweet tooth.
Park-ha decides she wants to play for a stuffed animal (a radish, to hang at the store), and gets to work. (Princey starts eating her cotton candy, too. Cute.) She fails, so he asks to try and they both get absurdly invested in the game, until finally he wins.
Yi Gak loves rubbing it in, over and over, how much help he was today and how she’d still be toiling away at the strawberry patch without him. Park-ha’s annoyed at his nagging, until she gets a gleam in her eye. Uh-oh.
She asks if he wants something sweet, and naturally he answers yes. She points toward a stand, telling him that you aren’t supposed to eat the skin, but the stuff inside is amazingly sweet. And then she buys him a balloon. HAHAHAHA.
I’m expecting her to pop it for him, but instead she goes the helium route and tells him to open wide. He sucks in the air, and then says in his Mickey Mouse voice, “It’s not sweet at all!” And really, it’s so much less dignified to scream threats sounding like a chipmunk; it’s all he can do to fume impotently.
Park-ha asks her neighbors, Becky and Lady Mimi, to feed the Aqua boys dinner, so the girls present them with burgers and fries. Park-ha calls to check in, and they hand off the phone to the boys… who see the prince peering back curiously at them and scramble to kneel in their chairs.
On the train ride back to Seoul, Park-ha nods off on Yi Gak’s shoulder, and he shoves her head away with distaste using a finger. That attracts disapproving looks from other passengers, and it makes him self-conscious. So when she nods off again, he forces himself to endure.
With the gift certificate, Park-ha brings her stepmother to the department store for a shopping day. They both have sticker shock at the high prices, but she presents her certificates and tells Mom to buy whatever she wants.
Tae-mu and Se-na are also on the same floor, being given a sales report, and he’s first to recognize Park-ha. Se-na freezes — she can’t get caught in her lie — and darts off to drag Mom away before anybody notices. Se-na takes her to her birthday lunch, where Park-ha catches up to them.
Park-ha assists Mom to the restroom, and while they’re away Se-na spots a letter sticking out of Park-ha’s bag. Whatever it is, it spooks her and she beelines out of the restaurant with an excuse.
Mom uses the moment to bring up Red Tracksuit. She says that the issue isn’t about damages, but that the company CEO is harassing Se-na to locate him. So can’t Park-ha help just this once?
So it is that Grandma and Tae-mu simultaneously get the news: Red Tracksuit has been located, and is being sent to the CEO’s office. This sends Tae-mu racing to intercept him, and he finds Se-na awaiting Red’s arrival in the lobby. He offers to take over the duty, sending her to check on the fashion show preparations.
Park-ha and Yi Gak arrive at the office building, and she directs him to head inside for his meeting with the CEO. Tae-mu finds him quickly and tries to take him outside, but before he can Great Aunt arrives, and gasps at the striking resemblance. She ushers Yi Gak along upstairs, thwarting Tae-mu’s plans.
The family marvels at the doppelganger, and to inject some humor into the serious moment, a secretary offers to bring in coffee, to which Yi Gak blurts, “I won’t drink coffee! I won’t. Give me something sweet.”
When asked about himself, he gives his name and says he’s looking for the princess, which elicits laughs. He confirms that he doesn’t know Grandma. Uncle asks what he was doing two years ago, so he starts to answer with the truth, until he remembers Park-ha’s warning not to mention his Joseon life to people (bribing him with omurice, HA).
So he says stiffly, “How can I know what happened two years ago? I don’t remember.”
Grandma sighs in disappointment, while Yi Gak sucks down his yogurt in wonder. It’s clear that Uncle thinks he’s some sort of simpleton, and Tae-mu smirks — no threat here — but Grandma breaks down into tears. Taking his hand, she tells him that it doesn’t matter who he is, “But can’t you be my grandson Tae-yong?”
It’s sad, but also a little crazy — to ask a stranger to pretend to be your grandson knowing he’s not the same guy. The others tell her to let go now.
Tae-mu leads Yi Gak out, feeling smug now that his fears have been proven unfounded. He offers taxi fare as a courtesy, which Yi Gak declines, holding up his ten-pack of yogurt, saying this’ll do. LOL. I want to see the look on his face when he discovers dentistry.
On his way out, Yi Gak catches a glimpse of the fashion show under way in the lobby, and his jaw literally drops. Bikinis, everywhere!
And then, a more shocking sight: Se-na, by the stage, directing the show. Pushing forward without regard for the show, he staggers onto the runway screaming, “Princess!” He shoves people aside, beelining for Se-na and grabbing her to him.
She, on the other hand, has no idea who he is or what he’s doing. Shocked, she shoves him away, slapping him across the cheek.
He pleads with her to look at him, like he can’t quite believe she doesn’t recognize him. Security guards drag him away in a mirror of the scene when he discovered the princess’s death, when he was dragged from the pond screaming for her.
I’m pleasantly surprised with how many culture-clash jokes the drama is churning out that make me crack up; the key is in finding situations that are universal to modern life, but not so obvious that we expect them before they happen. The jokes aren’t necessarily super-witty or sharp, but with just the right timing, they startle laughs out of me. In fact, some of the jokes are pretty simple, whether they’re sight gags or reaction shots of puzzlement. The moment with the cell phone had me half-expecting that the boys would try to “break” their prince out of his tiny prison, Zoolander style.
What really sells the moment, though, is in the foursome’s reactions, and their adherence to the reality of their characters. The boys don’t find their situations funny, and the funny is more dependent on understanding the whole of the joke, and not trying to always be the one making it. Sometimes you don’t get the punchline, but you do your part by playing the moment straight. It cracks me up.
The company storyline is still the drama’s dull patch for me, and I find myself not caring whenever any of those characters take over. I like Lee Tae-sung and think he’s doing a pretty good job — I feel like he’s a conflicted character, though not conflicted enough to redeem his actions or bring him over to the good side. But he seems a better villain than Bae Soo-bin’s character in 49 Days, who’s the guy I keep thinking of when watching the Tae-mu and Se-na scenes. Their whole dynamic is reminscent of that drama, though I find my sympathies reversed; here, the sister figure is one-dimensionally malicious and the villain seems more interesting. (In that drama, I liked the friendship-conflict of the girls, while the villain was amusingly over-the-top.)
In any case, I hope that the drama continues to downplay those scenes; if we must have them, let us have very little of them. Just enough to get the plot where it needs to go.
Given the hilarity of the episode, I was surprised that it managed the turn to more serious threads when we revisited the dead-princess mystery. It’s a tricky thing to manage — to make a joke about coffee or yogurt and then bring us to an emotional beat. I still don’t really know what to make of Yi Gak’s grief for his princess, because I do feel for his loss… even though I really don’t care that Hwa-yong died, she of the devious eyes and small heart. I do want to know more about the masked Bu-yong, and am anticipating seeing where she fits into this whole story.