A nice first episode out of the gate for the new weekend drama A Gentleman’s Dignity, from the writer-director pair behind Secret Garden, City Hall, On Air, and the Lovers series. Though the romance setup is your standard fare, it plays out cutely, and the bromance is the thing that really shines. I’m not in love with the characters yet, but I did have a good time and get in some good laughs, so I’m hopeful that it’ll keep delivering.
SONG OF THE DAY
A Gentleman’s Dignity OST – Kim Tae-woo – “High High” [ Download ]
EPISODE 1 RECAP
We open on four pairs of freshly shined black shoes… pan up to four tailored black suits… and land on our gentleman foursome (which we’ll call F44, since they’re flower, but no longer boys). They’ve arrived at a funeral.
Our hero KIM DO-JIN (Jang Dong-gun) says that theirs is an age when you might go at any second. He says, “The only reason we’ve come is…”
Next to him is CHOI YOON (Kim Min-jong), who continues the voiceover: “…A rich agency executive…”
“…’s model wife…” says IM TAE-SAN (Kim Suro), the next guy over. And LEE JUNG-ROK (Lee Jong-hyuk) completes the thought at the end of the line, “…’s friends are all models too.”
HAHAHA. And then they leer, in unison, at all the pretty grieving women. Jung-rok hurriedly removes his wedding ring. They get ready to make their grand entrance, but suddenly a woman and a little boy run in past them.
Oh noes. It’s the dead guy’s other family. Sure enough, the two widows get into a brawl right there, and everyone at the funeral gets involved. It’s a madhouse. The guys look at each other, and then split up to take care of business. Jung-rok gives their bereavement envelopes and signs their names in the guestbook. Yoon pays his respects. Tae-san tries to break up the tussle (to no avail).
And Do-jin stands apart from the crowd, just watching. He finally offers his handkerchief to someone. A woman reaches out, thinking it’s for her, but no, it’s for the little boy. Aw. Probably a moment just to tell us that cold exterior guy does have a heart in there somewhere.
Then they walk down the street, strutting their stuff. Do-jin says that theirs is also an age where a man can always keep his dignity. It segues into the opening credits. So much eye candy!
Do-jin arrives at work to his bustling architecture firm. Things we learn: he looks good in a trenchcoat. Mmmmm. Wait… what was I saying? Oh right. Things we learn: His assistant comes running up to his car upon arrival, coffee in hand.
He’s a rapid walk-and-talker (of course, since this is a Kim Eun-sook drama). Everyone greets him. Everyone has questions for him. And this place has more employees than a frickin’ sweatshop. What on earth?
Another assistant comes running up to swap coffee for phone, as Tae-san has been calling all morning. Do-jin reluctantly answers, and we see that in the workplace, the two friends can often be at war: Tae-san runs the construction company that Do-jin contracts to build his buildings.
Tae-san is the type to shout furiously (over expectations versus cost of materials) while Do-jin just hangs up in the middle of conversations when he wants to. Dude. I hate hanger-uppers.
And then we meet our heroine, SEO YI-SOO (Kim Haneul), shopping for a batting glove that’ll make the recipient want to hug and kiss her. She walks down the street happily with gift in hand, when it starts to rain.
She ducks under a café umbrella to wait it out. Do-jin is sitting inside that café, and he looks out to see that it’s raining. That’s when he notices Yi-soo, and she turns. Their eyes meet for a long moment.
But then the moment is annoyingly interrupted when his date arrives and literally blocks his view, placing her hands over his eyes to play a round of guess who. When he pulls them away, Yi-soo is gone.
He hilariously tells the woman that their date was for 3 o’clock, and even though she’s early, he tells her that they can start speaking at 3 exactly. Pffft. Who would date this guy?
It turns out that Yi-soo has come inside the coffee shop, which is run by Jung-rok. What is this, six degrees?
She sits down and answers a call excitedly. It must be baseball guy. It is… but it’s also Tae-san. WUT? This really IS six degrees. So she had met Tae-san with a friend at a baseball field, and clearly she’s interested in him, but he’s calling to ask for her friend’s phone number. Aw, poor girl. She says she’ll text it to him and hangs up quickly.
Do-jin sees her again on his way out. Meanwhile Jung-rok conducts an interview for a new part-timer, and when he sees that it’s a pretty young girl, he quickly pops his wedding band off. Clearly going to be his trademark move.
Yi-soo meets her friend HONG SAE-RA (Yoon Sae-ah), the golfer that Tae-san is interested in. Sae-ra only wants to know if Tae-san is wealthy, but Yi-soo tells her that he’s a good person. She doesn’t give away her crush, but she clearly had one.
She looks out at the rain and muses that she’d really like for something to happen suddenly in her life… like love.
Sometime later she walks down a lane of cherry blossom trees on her way to a friend’s shop opening, and stops to take in the air, smiling as the flowers breeze past her.
Do-jin has a meeting with a client, and then as he packs up his drawings, he notices a sketch he did of that woman he saw outside the café. He smiles at it. What he doesn’t notice is that Yi-soo walks past him yet again.
She stops at a street vendor and he passes behind her, but just as he’s about to pass by, she drops something and stoops to pick it up. Haha, are you literally meeting him butt-first?
He knocks into her but keeps going. What neither of them realize is that a thread from her sweater dress has gotten caught on his bag, and it starts to rapidly unravel, butt-first, as he walks away. At least she’s got a slip on.
It takes a while before he sees the thread, and he peers curiously at it. And then he pulls on it some more and finally starts to walk back as he gathers it up into a ball. He ends up at Yi-soo, and gets in a good look before getting her attention.
She has no idea what’s going on and just stares, until he turns her attention to her backside. She screams in horror and backs up into a glass window of a coffee shop, and he’s like, I can’t see but they can?
He tucks the ball of yarn in her pocket and asks if she lives near here or has her car. Both no. So he decides there’s no other way around it, and pulls her toward him, basically using himself as a backside shield. Rawr.
She’s still totally confused and panicked, but he just tells her to march forward. They just walk down the street like that, in a moving back-hug of sorts, and she blames him for his yarn-snagging bag while he blames her, asking how he’s supposed to dodge an oncoming rear end (calling it an attack butt), noting that she’s doing it again now. Hey, you’re the one who wanted to make a sandwich.
He stops them at an accessories vendor and asks how much. The shopkeeper assumes he means one of the items, but no, he’s asking about her tablecloth. Ha. He then proceeds to wrap the tablecloth around Yi-soo’s waist, and then style it, like he’s actually trying to design something even in this situation.
He even adds a flower pin for good measure, and then stands back, impressed with his work. He pays for the materials and then walks away pleased, feeling like she ought to be grateful that he saved the day. She stands there flabbergasted in his wake.
It turns out that Sae-ra is her roommate, and she relays her mortifying story as Sae-ra primps for a date. The doorbell rings and Yi-soo runs to answer the door mid-lotioning her face and her hair wrapped in a towel, and gasps to see Tae-san standing in her doorway.
She lights up to see him, but then her heart sinks when he tells her that he’s here to pick up Sae-ra for their first date, thanks to Yi-soo. (He also mentions knowing how to get there because he’s dropped Yi-soo off a few times, so clearly they were close enough that he considers Yi-soo a friend while she wanted more.)
She stammers that she didn’t know they were talking, and then after they run off, she stands alone in the doorway for a long while. She takes out the batting gloves she had personalized with his number, and then puts them away with a long sigh.
About half a year passes and it’s Christmas time. Yi-soo tells her class of high school boys that studying during their break won’t make them any smarter (Ha) and suggests they think long and hard about how they want to spend (or waste) their youth.
One student in particular, KIM DONG-HYUP (Kim Woo-bin), swoons at her from the back of the class (which tells us he’s a troublemaker and likely the class’ jjang). She warns the boys to be good and he whispers that she’s crazy pretty even when she scowls.
Yi-soo heads out and buys a Christmas cake, and gets a text from someone named Mae-ah-ri, who calls her Teach and asks her to tell Yoon oppa that she’s gotten really pretty. It’s unclear what that relationship is.
Yi-soo then goes to see Yoon, (so she already knows two out of our four guys even before having met Do-jin) and laughs to see him wearing a santa hat, which he insists was company policy.
She gives him the cake which she says is from Mae-ah-ri, and a drink from herself. He thanks her for always doing this, and she says she can’t turn down a request from Mae-ah-ri.
She notices a wedding(?) ring on his finger and says that Mae-ah-ri told her he hasn’t been answering her calls or emails. Hm.
Suddenly a woman bursts into the room and asks for a divorce. Er? Yoon tells her it’s Christmas Eve, and she says yeah, she’s got plans on Christmas day. Ha.
At the same time, Do-jin and Tae-san are at a Christmas party. Sae-ra is flirting it up with a group of guys, and Tae-san swoops in to try and cover her up with his jacket, which she pointedly rejects over and over.
Do-jin gets hit on and rejects the woman flatly, leaving the party early. Tae-san and Sae-ra step out to hash things out. He argues that those men were doing nothing but staring at her chest. She’s like, Duh, that’s why I wore this dress, to show the world how awesome I look.
She asks why on earth he can’t just be cool about it, but he asks if watching his girlfriend fluttering with guys surrounding her is her idea of cool and hip. He tells her that she doesn’t even treat him as well as the clothes she’s wearing, and calls it quits.
He calls Jung-rok as he storms out of the party, asking where he is. Jung-rok: “I don’t know… if this is heaven or hell.” Cut to his wife, PARK MIN-SOOK (Kim Jung-nan), dressed like a stripper version of santa’s little helper. (She’s the woman who stormed into Yoon’s office asking for a divorce, so at least that clears that up.)
He doesn’t really know how to react, and she tells him that he likes this kind of outfit—or so his internet history says. HA. She says santa has a present for him and hands him a box. He opens it to find… his wedding ring. Oops.
She says she found it in his apron. He quickly comes up with an excuse but she adds that the new hire is very pretty. She went ahead and fired her. He squirms. She locks herself in the bedroom, leaving him to plead (and strip, heh) outside the door. So clearly he married this woman for her money and she’s the boss.
Yi-soo spends Christmas Eve alone and cleaning. She catches a view of her rear end in the mirror and notes that it is kind of an attack butt. She decides to play around with makeup, and tries her hand at glamming herself up. It ends disastrously, somewhere between crazy eyes and leather-fetish hooker.
Do-jin tellingly spends Christmas Eve working, though it’s with a glass of wine. He gets hungry so he stuffs a bill in his pocket and heads out, remembering to take his pen with him for some reason.
But he gets stopped on the street by two thugs—one of them our high school troublemaker Dong-hyup. They ask the ajusshi for a cigarette and when he turns them down, they block his path.
Yi-soo gets a phone call, and she answers with a cringe, “How are you, Officer Kim?”
Cut to a bruised Do-jin, sitting in the police station, Lawyer Yoon by his side, ALSO bruised. Haha. Dong-hyup and three of his buddies are also cut up, and they insist the ajusshis attacked first. Yoon hangs his head, mortified. This is hilarious.
So we see in flashback that Do-jin had yelled at the minors that smoking is terrible for you. He was busy lecturing them when Yoon walked up.
The students scoff that that’s not what happened, and Do-jin takes out his pen, which happens to be a recorder. He shoves it into the officer’s laptop and makes him listen, which verifies his version of the story.
He says he records everything in his life. Um… self-important much? Do you kiss yourself in the mirror too? He tells them that he’ll see them in court—no settling, no way. Yoon evil-eyes him, Really? Really? But he doesn’t budge.
They walk out of the police station and Yoon tells him to reconsider—they’re just boys. But Do-jin argues that seventeen isn’t a child. Just then, Yi-soo comes running into the station, and Yoon ducks into a hallway to hide.
She and Do-jin bump into each other again, but don’t stop to look. Yoon comes out and says that he doesn’t want anyone who knows him to see him like this, and then wonders if she’s the boys’ teacher.
At that, Do-jin whirls around to go give said teacher a piece of his mind, but Yoon holds him back, reminding him that they may not have been in the wrong, but it’s not exactly something to boast about. “We’re forty.” HA. That’s enough to make Do-jin turn around.
Meanwhile Yi-soo pleads with the detective to give her the plaintiff’s phone number, and they all gape at her crazy raccoon eyes. I love that she sweet-talks the officer and turns around and barks at the boys. Clearly already a routine for all involved.
Dong-hyup breezes that he already stole a glance at the card and memorized Do-jin’s phone number. She snaps sarcastically that he should be proud of himself.
They get released into her custody and she takes them out to a baseball field, wielding a bat. They whimper, “Are you going to hit us?” She tells them to call the police if they think it’s unfair. Ha. So as Teach, she’s pretty badass.
She tells them that there are a thousand baseballs in the carts they wheeled out, and so if they throw and hit a thousand balls, their arms will at least be incapacitated from swinging punches for two weeks. This keeps her from having to hit them (though she’d like to), and keeps them out of trouble.
The minions make jokes, but Dong-hyup keeps them in line. He’s the only who feels genuinely contrite, though this is obviously his crush talking, not his moral compass. He tries to apologize, but she tells him to save it, since she doesn’t believe him anymore.
The other boys shout in horror at the baseball headed straight for Teach, but she shocks them all when she catches it barehanded like it’s nothing. They hurry to fulfill their punishment as ordered.
Jung-rok sighs over his luck at a bar, wait, does he own this place too? Good grief. Yoon and Do-jin walk in and he laughs, asking what happened to their faces. Yoon counters that he’s the one who’s in trouble—his wife stormed into his office demanding a divorce.
But he doesn’t even flinch, “Yeah she wanted a divorce on our anniversary too.” He asks for their story, and then we cut to his reaction, “You expect me to believe that you two fought seventeen guys and won?” Ha, that’s close to the truth.
Do-jin’s like fine, don’t believe us! Yoon: “What, do you think we got beaten up by high-schoolers or something?” Pffft. Tae-san joins them, asking Jung-rok what’s with their faces. “They got beaten up by high-schoolers.”
In unison, they whine, “WE DID NOT!” Tae-san continues to ignore them, saying to Jung-rok, “That must be quite embarrassing.” I officially love anytime the four of them are gathered.
While Do-jin goes to the bathroom, Tae-san spots his recorder pen, and the three guys swoop in to hear what really happened.
Flashback to the events, this time the true version—the boys ask for money then, if he doesn’t have any cigarettes, and instead of that bold lecture from before, it turns out he just lies that he doesn’t have any money, scared and meek like a kitten.
He totally chokes in front of the teenage thugs, and when Dong-hyup tells him to stop speaking in banmal, he actually switches to jondae. Omg. I’m so embarrassed for you. They order him to take his hands out of his pocket are two seconds away from robbing him when Yoon appears.
Do-jin: “Yoon! LAWYER Yoon!” Hahaha. Yoon turns out to be braver, talking down to the high school kids. But just as he tells them to c’mere, their friends show up behind them. Gulp.
Back to the boys listening to all this unfold. They bust a gut. Do-jin comes back to find them laughing over the pen, which leads to a game of keep-away in the middle of the bar. Cute.
He narrates, “We met when we were eighteen, and have been friends for twenty-two years. Though we might look forty, whenever we’re together, we always revert to eighteen. Another new year came and we turned forty. But when we were with each other, we always remained boys.”
We watch them spend New Year’s Day together, eating on the street and playing a giant set of yoot. They end up splayed out on Do-jin’s couch, and he asks why Jung-rok insisted on showering when he doesn’t even have underwear to change into.
Jung-rok: “I did.” Do-jin: “Whose?” Jung-rok: “Yours.” Hee. And then Tae-san appears wearing a pair of Do-jin’s sweats, which are waaay too tight for him. He whines that he’s stretching them out, but Tae-san is more curious about something else he found, and presents the group with a pair of women’s stockings, ripped to shreds.
They’re like, ooooooh and Do-jin tells them to get their minds out of the gutter. Yoon narrates that they may be boys when they’re together, but apart, they’re very adult.
It looks like Tae-san and Do-jin are actually partners in the same company, just running two separate divisions, because when a client comes to discuss plans for her new hotel, Do-jin tells Tae-san that they have to score this deal (which hinges on Tae-san bearing his biceps for the lady who has a massive crush on him, ha).
The next day Do-jin tells Yoon about it while visiting their baseball game. Ah, so THIS is how Yi-soo knows both Tae-san and Yoon—it’s like a community intramural baseball league.
She texts Do-jin asking to meet him (to settle the boys’ case) but he ignores the call. Yoon asks who’s calling, and he just breezes that it’s a woman dying to see him. Yoon: “Can’t you just be faithful to one woman?” Do-jin: “I’m equally faithful to no women.” Dude, so not the same thing.
Tae-san runs up to say they’re short a player, so he’s gonna have to fill in for them. They get him suited up.
Yoon is the pitcher, Tae-san the catcher, and Yi-soo the umpire. Do-jin is useless, letting balls fly past him in the outfield and striking out over and over. He takes particular offense to Yi-soo’s enthusiastic, “Steeeeeee-rike!” and nearly starts a fight with her.
After the game is when he finally asks Tae-san about the umpire, and then sees her take off her giant cage helmet. She does this shampoo commercial hair flip and Do-jin swoons.
Tae-san asks what he thinks of her, and Do-jin says he doesn’t really know since he’s only gotten a good look at her backside. Ha. We know he’s referencing the other incident, but Tae-san chides him for spending the game with his eye on the umpire’s butt rather than the ball.
He turns to Tae-san: “Thirty seconds. Thirty seconds till she’s offering me her phone number. Watch.” Tae-san pleads with him not to—this is a woman he has to see for a long time (connection to Sae-ra, not just baseball), and besides, he wants Yoon to date her. Oh interesting. I do too!
She runs up, and Do-jin nudges Tae-san to introduce him, which he does. But she doesn’t even look up at him, and runs off. Tae-san: “Do you need thirty more seconds?” He dies laughing.
Do-jin runs up to ask if she doesn’t remember him, and once he gets her attention, recognition flickers across her face, but she pretends not to remember who he is. She runs off, and he calls out that he met her butt last spring.
She runs away, mortified, with her hands over her rear, cursing the coincidence. But the place she runs off to is his apartment, since she’s trying to track down the guy suing Dong-hyup and the boys.
Do-jin and Yoon head home and Do-jin muses that there were two women whose numbers he really wanted last spring. Flashback to that first rainy day, when after leaving the café, Do-jin had ditched his date to come back and get Yi-soo’s number.
But when he came back, she was already gone. Then the skirt day, when he had the same feeling, and turned back to get her number… only she had jumped into a taxi before he could reach her.
He tells Yoon that today he met one of those women, and then realized that they weren’t two women after all—but one woman, two times.
And then, Yi-soo calls and he answers this time. He tries to cut her off but she pleads with him to forgive the boys—they’re young and they have their whole lives ahead of them. He counters that he does too, insisting that he’s still at a flowering age, which makes Yoon scoff.
Yoon realizes belatedly that this is about the high school boys, and pulls the car over with a lurch. He yells at Do-jin for not letting them settle, and tells him that the teacher is someone they’re all connected to—Tae-san’s girlfriend’s roommate, the umpire from earlier.
Do-jin’s jaw drops. “That woman is THIS woman?” Yoon urges him to hurry up and settle, and yells at him to get out. He does, and then stoops down to yell at Yoon for not telling him this earlier. “At least before I said flower! You had many chances!” Hahaha.
He walks up to his door and then stops in his tracks. Yi-soo is standing right in his path, walking towards him.
At the same time, Yoon calls her to tell her that Do-jin is the guy she’s trying to contact, and she asks if he’s the other guy who got into the tussle with Dong-hyup. Yoon quickly denies it, saying he just heard about it from Tae-san. Heh.
She squeals in frustration at her horrible luck, and Do-jin smoothes his hair in anticipation…
And she walks right past him. I love how many times she’s deflated this player’s ego without even knowing it. He gapes to be passed by and ignored by her, yet again.
He ends up following her, and she’s so wrapped up in her frustration that she doesn’t even notice him. She picks up her phone to call, and he excitedly readies his phone. But then she puts it away, and he sighs.
He follows her all the way to a convenience store, and just as he’s about to open his mouth, she laughs out loud to herself at Do-jin calling himself a flower, wondering if he’s really a whack job.
I love that he can hear all of her commentary about what a weirdo she thinks he is. She texts him asking to meet and he gets his petty revenge by telling her to show up at his office with a flower between her teeth.
She shows up to his office the next day and he puts up a gruff front, indicating that she didn’t follow his instructions so she can come back tomorrow. She says she brought a flower in case he wasn’t kidding, and then hesitates, “Can’t I tuck it in my ear?”
He grins and tells her to wait, flower-in-ear. She sits down and he steals little glances at her, totally giddy and trying to hide it. From his point of view, they get transported to a grassy field, and spring is in the air.
She sits for a while, and then notices Tae-san’s desk behind her. She sighs at the picture of him with Sae-ra and then smiles at the pair of gloves. She takes one in her hand, mimicking a hand-hold, and smiles lovingly.
Do-jin sees her, and gets the meaning of the look and gesture right away. That brings him back down to earth, as the field fades from the background. Aw.
He storms out with no intention of settling or letting the boys off the hook, and Yi-soo chases him down. He finally turns around to ask her one thing: “You like Tae-san, don’t you?”
She gapes at her secret laid bare, horrified.
The entire first episode was essentially an extended meet-cute, and I enjoyed the multi-threaded way they finally met. It’s basically like laying out one loose thread, and another, and another, until you just cinch them all and they converge. It’s fun this way, since one coincidence is just a coincidence, but then multiplying it so many times turns it into something funny. It’s not until the third time they meet that Do-jin even realizes that Woman #1 and Woman #2 were even the same, and then it doesn’t play out in the traditional way, since they end up having friends in common. Both more interesting, and more complicated.
I love that he falls for her first. Or three times. Or five? I dunno. Anyway, it’s adorable, since it’s not some kind of grand love, since he’s the kind of guy who asks for a number and thinks he can get it in thirty seconds, and yet, the guy who could have any girl is drawn to her multiple times over, and somehow fails at every turn.
For a Kim Eun-sook hero, Do-jin seems slightly less assy than his predecessors, which is a huge relief, since her heroes tend to stretch the definition of ass into new stratospheres. Do-jin is certainly a jerk when he wants to be, but is also very easily cut down to size by his buddies, a pair of high school thugs (so funny), and even Yi-soo though she doesn’t really know it yet. I like that right away he’s not some perfect guy, and even his friends cringe at him freely. For the most part, Yoon and Tae-san seem like good guys (they’re urging Do-jin to stop being such a player), while Do-jin and Jung-rok seem like they hold up the caddish end.
The tone is nice and upbeat, and the writer’s trademark rapid-fire dialogue is a highlight, as well as great cast chemistry all the way around. The couple has sparks, and more importantly, the bromance does too—the four-way friendship is pretty much why I tuned in, and why I’ll keep watching. Always a sucker for good bromance.
There are certainly things that worry me—will Do-jin get in touch with his assier self, as he did by the end of the episode? Will the plot veer into something intensely dire and melodramatic in the final act? Will I be burned for falling for the cute early on? I suppose only time will tell. No commitments yet on recaps, till we watch some more premieres.
- Cast photos for A Gentleman’s Dignity
- The gentlemen strut their stuff
- Gentleman’s F44 and meet-cute
- Kim Haneul starts filming Gentleman’s Dignity
- Lee Jong-hyuk rounds out the Gentleman quartet
- Vampidol Kim Woo-bin joins Gentleman’s Dignity
- Jang Dong-gun and Kim Haneul confirm A Gentleman’s Dignity
- Kim Haneul considers A Gentleman’s Dignity
- Jang Dong-gun returns to television