Now that we’re almost 30 episodes into the show, I think Standby has established its tone and approach, which is to say: silly, fluffy, and simple. There isn’t a lot of complexity here and I think the conflicts are pretty basic, and the show tends to draw its characters in broad strokes rather than working with a lot of dimension. So, it’s definitely no High Kick, which packed a lot of heart into its stories.
Still, it’s a very easy, mindless watch—and I’m basically skimming for my favorite characters anyway. I’m always on the lookout for more Ki-woo and So-min, although this batch also did surprise me a little by developing a few of the characters I didn’t think I’d care about.
Standby isn’t doing great in the ratings—it’s about half High Kick 3′s numbers (4%-5%), which were modest to begin with. It’s not any worse than the other daily sitcom, however, I Need A Fairy.
SONG OF THE DAY
Every Single Day – “부럽지 않아” (I’m Not Envious) [ Download ]
Highlight #1: So-min to Shi-wan’s rescue
Episode 15. Daddy Ryu is still being a dick to Shi-wan (which annoys me so damn much, though it’s played for comedy) and when their apartment elevator stops, he resorts to pissing in the elevator car, then blaming it on Shi-wan. Shi-wan becomes the butt of everyone’s jokes, till So-min finds out and gets outraged on his behalf. But Daddy Ryu is her boss and Shi-wan’s living in his house, so she can’t confront him directly. Instead, she fakes theft (of everyone’s milk deliveries) and directs everyone to watch the CCTV cameras, leading them right to the incriminating incident, clearing Shi-wan’s name.
Thus far there hasn’t been much in the way of a romantic development between them, but I really enjoy the rapport they share. Shi-wan is gradually opening himself up but it’s a slow process, and So-min is probably the person he most trusts. She’s protective of him as a noona, and that allows for a level of closeness that neither of them share with others.
Highlight #2: Suk-jin’s backstory
Episode 15. Unexpectedly, Suk-jin is turning out to be one of my favorite characters, and it starts with his backstory. We’ve seen him harboring a grudge against Ki-woo, who has no idea why Suk-jin treats him with extra coldness. All he knows is that Suk-jin sure reminds him of his dorky high school classmate Su-do—a past life Suk-jin would dearly love to put behind him, if only Ki-woo didn’t keep bringing it up.
It turns out Ki-woo once played a prank on Su-do by eating his lunch and filling in the rest with bits of his (less tasty) lunch. Ki-woo didn’t know that Su-do had a raw garlic allergy, leading him to crap his pants in class after tripping over Ki-woo. Aw. It’s actually kind of sad, in that clearly Ki-woo has shaped Suk-jin’s character so strongly and he doesn’t even know. Plus, Ki-woo’s one of those annoyingly successful and charming guys who always happens to get the lucky side of everything.
So when Ki-woo makes a mistake and misses a big interview, he’s transferred to a different show, essentially demoted. And Suk-jin is so thrilled he can barely contain himself. He dances. He sings. He giggles to himself in glee.
And then he comes crashing back down to earth when Ki-woo has a stroke of good luck, nabs a special moment for broadcast, and is un-fired. D’oh!
Highlight #3: First kisses
Episode 16. Shi-wan overhears Idiots #1 and #2 (Kyung-pyo and Sam-di) talking about first kisses. Namely, Sam-di advises Kyung-pyo on what to do when he gets the chance to have his.
Shi-wan gets worried that Kyung-pyo will take Sam-di’s advice to heart and try for his first kiss with So-min, since she’s a convenient choice as the noona who lives in the same home. And as we’ve established, Shi-wan and So-min have a protective bond with each other, so Shi-wan leaps to intercept Kyung-pyo at every opportunity, inventing excuses to keep him away from So-min.
Kyung-pyo, being an idiot, reads the situation differently and assumes Shi-wan’s going to beat him up, and tries to run away. Giving us a very special first kiss:
Highlight #4: Suk-jin’s missed love connection
Episode 19. All right, this is the episode that solidified my love for Suk-jin, and also the first time my heart twinged a little in response to a Standby storyline. It’s one of the few rare moments when the show made me feel something, a sense of pathos, and probably one big reason why I’ll keep watching, in hopes that it can do it again.
A cameo by Lee Chae-young sparks another trip down memory lane for Suk-jin, who had a crush on her in high school. Seeing her arriving at the broadcast station to see Ki-woo is bittersweet, because he can’t greet her without revealing his identity, and plus, well, there’s that whole Ki-woo envy issue from high school.
Then named Su-do, he was the shy, awkward nerd who dropped his bicycle when he saw her looking his way, then stuttered nervously when she approached him to chat, asking if bike-riding is fun and if he could give her a ride. Blankly, he’d pointed out that his bike could only fit one person, and she’d said, “Ah, I see,” and walked away before he could think of something cooler to say.
So Su-do went home, jerry-rigged a backseat to his bike, then practiced how he would offer her a ride. Only to arrive at school the next day to see Ki-woo already teaching her, having beaten him to the punch. How could he compete with that?
Now Suk-jin finds himself staring at Chae-young, who notices his resemblance to Su-do, which he immediately denies. Sadly, he doesn’t know that Chae-young is trying to get in contact with Su-do after all these years, and that’s why she’s come to see Ki-woo.
Then we revisit the flashback from her point of view this time, and see that Chae-young had been sketching Su-do when he’d dropped his bike that first day. She’d been bummed when he told her he couldn’t take her on his bike, so she had asked Ki-woo to teach her how to ride—if she can’t ride on the same bike as Su-do, she wanted to ride alongside him.
Ki-woo has looked everywhere for Su-do, but since Su-do very much doesn’t want to be found, and doesn’t know about Chae-young returning his affections, this remains a missed connection. Ow, my heart. It pangs.
Highlight #5: So-min and Ki-woo. Yay!
Episode 20. This is a fun one for Ki-woo/So-min lovers. This is a couple that needs a nickname, isn’t it? I vote for Treehuggers, snerk.
Ki-woo’s friend sees So-min at Daddy Ryu’s pasta restaurant and finds her cute, and asks Ki-woo to set them up on a date. So-min isn’t interested, but once Ki-woo starts in on his whole “Is it because you’re so in love with me?” routine, she gets annoyed and agrees to the date, if only to shut him up. She makes it a point to dress up extra nice to prove how very much she’s looking forward to the date (she’s totally not looking forward to the date), and tells Ki-woo repeatedly that she doesn’t care about him at all. He, naturally, just teases her more.
Unfortunately, his friend is a flake and his mother sets him up on a marriage-minded blind date with an accomplished woman, and he decides he can’t spend time with a cute but barely employed woman when he’s got such a catch waiting for him. He couldn’t get a hold of So-min but he texted her to cancel, and figures he’s good. (Yeah, ass.)
Ki-woo feels terrible and worries all day about So-min, remembering how she dressed up so nicely, trying to convince himself she’ll be fine. In the end he ends up leaving work to So-min’s rendezvous point, and finds her huddling in the cold, under a cardboard box. Ha.
Ki-woo insists she put on his jacket and takes her to dinner, offering to buy her something tasty. She chooses a pasta restaurant, which he thinks is funny given that she works at one. But she confides that her dream is to be a pasta chef, which is why she came to Seoul. But she’s never had a chance to learn properly, being so busy scraping together a living, and she has no confidence to ask Daddy Ryu for a chance to cook.
Ki-woo encourages her by saying that he has a good feeling about her prospects… then teases her about how she’s trying to get him drunk on wine to have her way with him. HA. I wish.
Highlight #6: Parents’ day bonding
Episode 21. It’s not much of a highlight, but I must be a sucker for surrogate-parent bonding storylines. Kyung-pyo, for instance, gives Soo-hyun a present in lieu of their parents (who live in Hawaii), since noona clothes and feeds and raises him like a parent. She’s moved at the gesture… which is literally an empty gesture because there’s nothing in the box. (He couldn’t afford anything more than pretty wrapping. So like him, yet also sweet.)
It also marks a moment of connection between Shi-wan and Jin-haeng, over the loss of Shi-wan’s mother. Their relationship is still a bit distant, but it’s much better than it was now that Shi-wan is no longer flatly rejecting all of Jin-haeng’s offers of help. Shi-wan gets sick on parents’ day, enough that he can’t make the walk to school, but he drags himself out of bed to pay his respects to his mother. Jin-haeng hears this belatedly and dashes to find Shi-wan… forgetting his own father in the process. Given that Dad’s still a dick (seriously? What’s his deal?), I’m not too torn up about this.
Highlight #7: Joon-geum gets a clue
Episode 22. This is another unexpected surprise, in that Park Joon-geum is one of those caricatures played mostly for jokes. She’s got a predictable personality and a series of catchphrases, landing her squarely into comic relief territory. So it took me off-guard to actually feel something for her, especially when it’s an issue the show has poked fun at before—Joon-geum’s vanity and self-consciousness about her age.
She’s unmarried and childless, and has always projected the fierce careerwoman vibe. When there are rumors at the station that their show may be canceled, she (and everyone else) assumes it’s because of Jin-haeng, who spends a few days miserably trying to deal with the guilt. She in particular gives him a hard time—but then she overhears other employees saying that it was because of her that the show almost got pulled. It’s only because the ratings are decent and there’s no replacement show ready that the station decided to leave things be for the moment.
That news delivers a blow, and a long-overdue reality check, bringing her back down to earth in a quiet moment of vulnerability.
Highlight #8: Is this the beginning of Ki-woo’s attraction?
Episode 22. As I suspected (and hoped), I think Ki-woo’s going to fall first, and I LOVE IT. So-min is still vastly annoyed at his constant pestering, mostly about how she’s soooo in love with him. He doesn’t mean anything by it, but just does it because it’s so much fun to get a rise out of her. By which I mean, he doesn’t tease because he likes her—at least, not yet—but because he likes teasing.
They run into each other at the signup booth of a cooking workshop featuring a world-famous pasta chef, So-min to be a participant and Ki-woo as the producer sent to cover it. So-min’s so excited that she takes the day off work so she can make it, since this is for her big dream.
However, she sees Daddy Ryu giving Shi-wan a typically hard time about earning his keep by working at the restaurant, which means he lacks enough time to study for a big test. So-min offers to cover a shift so he can study, and he’s grateful.
Alas, he falls asleep at his desk and is late relieving her of her shift, and by that time the workshop is already under way. So-min’s terribly bummed, but she also doesn’t want Shi-want to feel bad so she lies that she didn’t miss anything important—just errands and stuff.
Shi-wan discovers later from Ki-woo that So-min had been looking forward to the workshop for ages, and feels so terrible that he wants to make it up to her. Thanks to Ki-woo’s contacts, they’re able to make a last-ditch request to the chef, who agrees to come in for their special request. Ki-woo makes Shi-wan agree not to mention his name, however, knowing that So-min will automatically have a negative reaction to his involvement.
Shi-wan therefore brings So-min in for the special workshop one-on-one session with the chef. She has a fabulous time and comes out of it floating on air, feeling one step closer to her dream, and she sings the chef’s praises to Shi-wan. And when Ki-woo comes by, she harrumphs pointedly, pulling Shi-wan away and saying that there’s nobody in the world as helpful as him. Shi-wan feels bad for keeping her in the dark about Ki-woo’s help and tries to speak up for him, but she blithely dismisses the praise as nonsense.
Highlight #9: Suk-jin’s sad best friend
Episode 23. Omg, Suk-jin. I think I love you, and pity you. I can’t decide which is the dominant feeling, but in any case I’m left with an overwhelming urge to hug you.
A bunny is brought in for a broadcast segment, and afterward Ki-woo comments on how the bunny reminds him of Su-do, with his big buck teeth. And look, the rabbit sure pooped a lot—a word that immediately puts Suk-jin on edge, especially in close reference to Su-do.
Inwardly he fumes at Ki-woo’s rudeness, projecting his own insecurities onto the rabbit; he tells the rabbit not to let Ki-woo get him down or call him names, when in fact he’s a very good rabbit, perfectly capable of reinventing himself as a cool, handsome rabbit. Such a winner needs an impressive name, so he dubs him Alexandrio Cabernet Bourbon the Third. Omg. So cute, and also sad.
Then, in Episode 27, Suk-jin is interviewed by a reporter who praises him for being so good at everything, and she asks if all his friends are as cool as he is. Suk-jin answers that his best friend is: Alexandrio Cabernet Bourbon the Third. Ooof. That actually kind of hurts, that his best friend is a bunny. Which he met four episodes ago.
The thing about Suk-jin that really works for me as a character is that he’s got more depth than most of the others. He’s plagued with insecurities, so you see his vulnerabilities in action; his stiff, almost-rude mannerisms make a lot of sense in light of his layered backstory, in the way that Joon-geum instantly became more relatable the moment she let her guard down and realized that she was the weak link, not the others. It’s a depth that not a lot of the other characters have, which is why Suk-jin is fast becoming the guy whose stories get the most reaction out of me.
I still love Ki-woo and So-min, but that’s because they have a cute rapport together; individually, they’re a lot less interesting. Plus, you can see why Ki-woo would be such a thorn in Suk-jin’s side, because he’s got no faults, no weaknesses. He’d be fantastic fun in real life, but it’s hard to feel for a guy who doesn’t need your empathy, because everything always works out for Ki-woo. Suk-jin, on the other hand, has to work his tail off and fight tooth and nail to stay in the game. He projects an aura of perfection, but it’s the most labored perfection you ever did see.
ANYWAY. Back to the story. After the segment is over, the rabbit needs a new home and Suk-jin is tempted to take in his friend, but Ki-woo starts looking elsewhere for adoptive families. Sam-di asks for the rabbit, which momentarily makes Suk-jin nervous—is Sam-di good enough for his best friend Alexandrio?—but he deems him a decent enough guy. Even if he offends Suk-jin’s sensibilities by naming the rabbit Rabbit. O, the indignity.
Except, then he overhears Sam-di on the phone, talking about killing “it” (a chicken) and cooking it up. Suk-jin freaks out and when he goes to liberate his friend, he finds a pot bubbling with soup and the rabbit cage empty (Sam-di had already sent Rabbit to Mom out in the country). Horrified and reeling, Suk-jin apologizes for not being able to protect his friend, and adds Sam-di to his ever-growing shit list.
Highlight #10: Suk-jin and a new love interest?
Episode 29. Another Suk-jin highlight! It was a good week for him–in the sense that we got to see a lot of him, I mean; it’s been rough on him as a character, what with losing his best friend and dealing with this episode’s new complication.
Suk-jin has recently moved, and his teammates–Soo-hyun, Ki-woo, and writer Kim Yeon-woo (yep, the singer)–ask about a housewarming party, wanting to see the snazzy bachelor pad he inevitably lives in. But Suk-jin is even brusquer than usual blowing them off; he offers to buy dinner out instead, but it’s obvious that he doesn’t want them seeing where he lives. Which, naturally, makes them even more curious to see it.
Then Soo-hyun spots Suk-jin in a few curious encounters at work, and gets curious about the man in a black suit and the well-dressed woman, both of whom Suk-jin sent away in irritation. She puzzles out possible explanations with Ki-woo and Yeon-woo, tossing out a number of scenarios, their imaginations running wild. Is Suk-jin a secret chaebol who refuses to come home to run Dad’s company, and the woman his posh older sister begging him to reconcile an old grudge? Or is he hiding a secret woman at home, keeping her tucked away because it’s an improper relationship? Maybe an affair with a married woman that he’s trying to end?
Or, you know, he could be a robot. Heh.
Unable to tamp down their curiosity, the trio decides to scope out the address for themselves. Soo-hyun takes the lead and tracks down the address, heading up toward… a rooftop? But why would sophisticated Suk-jin live in a dinky, cheap rooftop room?
She ducks around the corner when Suk-jin appears with the same posh woman, who turns out to be his lawyer. And now we learn that Suk-jin’s father fell into debt and was hounded by debt collectors, who came to the station to harass Suk-jin as well. Now Suk-jin has moved (ostensibly giving up a nice place to use the deposit money for Dad), and the only place he can now afford is a rooftop. But like he’s going to confide in his co-workers, or let Ki-woo see any hint of weakness. Hence his tight-lipped replies.
Suk-jin spots Soo-hyun around the corner, though, so she fakes drunkenness to explain her presence, saying she wandered unknowingly. She feels a burst of sympathy and wants to preserve his pride, so when she rejoins the others downstairs, she ushers them away and says they had the wrong address.
The next day at work, Ki-woo tells Suk-jin they went searching for his new apartment yesterday, but got the wrong address, tipping Suk-jin off to the truth. Soo-hyun sticks to her drunk line, though, and asks him if she did anything strange yesterday, ’cause she can’t remember a thing.
Suk-jin doesn’t seem convinced in Soo-hyun’s story, but he’s touched at her cover-up, especially since it would have been so easy for her to tell Ki-woo the truth. And… thus begins a different kind of relationship?
(It’s a story turn I didn’t expect, but which I like to see because I want for Suk-jin to find a nice girl and be happy. So much! But I’m a little bummed that it’s Soo-hyun, because she’s so obviously set up to pair with Jin-haeng, even though he remains oblivious to her interest. The reason I haven’t talked about Soo-hyun much despite her having a lot of screentime is because I don’t really feel a connection to her story with Jin-haeng; they have a very platonic vibe that doesn’t get me clamoring for more. But with Suk-jin… it makes me hope for one of those reversals where the show goes with chemistry over outlined plan. Hey, it could happen. It should happen.)