EPISODE 398. Broadcast on August 5, 2012.
girlfriday: We open on Seung-woo… wait, he’s not sitting on a toilet is he? No, just a weird angle.
javabeans: I was worried for a second there.
girlfriday: He gets a file at home, and he starts to whine that there’s homework now. He reads through the personal introduction and makes a face when he gets to the English. I think he’s going to be making that face a lot this weekend. Today’s special is called “We Are Korean,” and it looks like each member will be paired with someone of Korean heritage but living in another country.
javabeans: Cool, so like fans of 1N2D, but gyopos. I know they’ll probably all speak Korean to some degree, but I sort of want the episode where they make the cast talk to them in their broken English. Because that would be fun.
girlfriday: They did a special once with people from other countries who emigrated to Korea, and that was a lot of fun mixing of languages and broken Korean and a whole lot of funny hand gestures. It ended up being one of the most heart-tugging specials ever. Hopefully this one can do the same. Tae-hyun gets his file, and looks it over with baby daughter in lap. He looks like… such a normal dad.
javabeans: It’s so weird to see Tae-hyun in dad mode, beacuse to me he seems like an overgrown boy himself. Tae-woong looks over his dossier, and his guy Marco has listed the cast members he’d like to be teamed with… and he’s not mentioned, haha.
girlfriday: He reads through phrases, including “I am hungry” and “I am full,” and he shakes his head: “I don’t think we’ll need that one…”
javabeans: That seems to be a recurring sentiment; Tae-hyun says the same thing.
girlfriday: HAHA. Why is Jong-min playing the saxophone? That’s so obviously staged. Oh! What are YOU doing here?
javabeans: Joo-won reads over his file, with a whole About Me essay from his American exchange dude Richard. He squints and tries to read it, then listens to a recorded message: “The only thing I understood was ‘I love Korea.’”
girlfriday: Joo-won’s partner is a 93-er, and he’s like, “Oh then he’s six years younger than me.” I’m still stuck on how anyone can be younger than him.
javabeans: Su-geun cracks me up. He’s at the airport, practicing his casual greetings. “Hak-soon-ah! No, that was strange. How about [slightly different intonation] Hak-soon-ah? That’s weird too.”
girlfriday: Shi-kyung meanwhile watches his intro in stunned silence. All he can do is laugh, “I… didn’t understand any of that.”
javabeans: He’s impressed with the guy’s achievements, as a dance student in Kazakhstan who has set up his own dance studio with friends, and says, “He’s better than me. When I was 21… I was taking my exam for the third time.” Haha.
girlfriday: Hilariously, they’ve given Shi-kyung and Jong-min the same language (Russian) to learn, and it sounds totally different. Is it safe to assume Shi-kyung is Jong-min’s safety net here?
javabeans: Omg, that’s the funniest jump cut ever. Shi-kyung sounds like he’s learning Russian. Jong-min sounds like… he’s sneezing? Then we skip forward to the day of the trip, and the boys do the opening at the KBS studio. They’re told that they were paired based on some kind of commonality, and Shi-kyung wonders if his is dancing.
girlfriday: Uh… I don’t think it’s dancing. Just puttin’ that out there.
javabeans: Right? We’ve seen Shi-kyung dancing. It wasn’t dancing. Bird PD adds, “That friend speaks Korean least fluently, so Sung Shi-kyung can counsel [lawyer] him when he’s feeling wronged.” Um, that doesn’t sound good for the boys. Shi-kyung sputters, “But I’d have to know what makes him feel wronged!”
girlfriday: Seung-woo introduces his friend first, Daniel/Ji-hoon from Brazil. Dude, his Korean is good.
javabeans: He seems pretty familiar with Korean customs/culture despite not having been to Korea before, so he should have no trouble. Well, aside from the usual things like starving. Bird PD: “Your concept is father and son.” HAHA. How cute, Seung-woo prepared couple hats for them.
girlfriday: He says he learned Korean at home with his parents, but Tae-hyun says his language skills are more like had-a-Korean-girlfriend level. Ha.
javabeans: Haha, is that because you learn way better for your honey than for your parents? Aw, Seung-woo asks what Ji-hoon likes about him, and Ji-hoon answers using the word hyung, and Seung-woo is SO HAPPY.
girlfriday: It’s So. Cute. Then Tae-woong introduces his friend, Marco from Bolivia. In the group interview, Marco says he’s happy to be paired with Tae-woong, because he liked him in the drama Pasta. HA. I wonder how many people in the world think Lee Seon-kyun and Uhm Tae-woong are the same person.
javabeans: Psssssh, that cracks me up. They don’t even look alike! But they must have similar… auras? See, I should be able to understand this because I’m pretty sure I thought that at one point, but one Best Friend special later all I can see is bumbling boy and awesomely cool hyung. So not similar, except maybe one wants to be the other. Now I want to see Joo-won and Seon-kyun together, just to see what happens.
girlfriday: Oh no! That might upset the balance of the universe!
javabeans: Which would be FUNNY.
girlfriday: If Joo-won idolizes Tae-woong, who idolizes Seon-kyun, it can only mean bad things for Tae-woong.
javabeans: Is it like seeing your dad being berated by his boss or something? Suddenly he’s no longer the top dog in the universe? Illusions are shattered and hearts are broken? Like I said, FUNNY.
girlfriday: Or, they just do what puppies do and fall in line. New alpha, same cuddling.
javabeans: But that’s so weird because Tae-woong’s older than Seon-kyun.
girlfriday: I’m pretty sure Seon-kyun’s still the boss though.
javabeans: Omo, when Tae-woong asks Marco/Shi-woo how he felt when he heard the pairing, he admits he confused him with Seon-kyun. Awkward!
girlfriday: Weren’t they the ones who said in the Bestie Special that they met because they kept auditioning for the same roles? There must be something about them.
javabeans: When they hear that there’s no word for hyung in Brazil, Su-geun asks Shi-woo what he’d call him because the culture gap might play a role. Shi-woo says, “But we’re all Korean!” and Daniel/Ji-hoon nods. To segue for a moment, this brings up an interesting aspect of Korean culture which I’m not sure gets outwardly expressed, but which is SO a thing: If you have Korean blood, no matter your nationality (or language, or interest in “the mother land”), you are claimed as Korean.
girlfriday: Yes. We claim all!
javabeans: But it’s trickier than the simple claiming, because there’s also the arm’s-length UN-claiming too. It’s this weird dichotomy. You are Korean whether or not you want to be — even if, say, you are American (or Canadian, or French, etc) and feel no affinity for Korea. Korea doesn’t see it the same way. It’s the long arm of the motherland. Yet if you go to Korea, you might also feel marked as an other. Korea likes to have its cake and eat it too — we want you now (say, when you win a gold medal), but not then (say, you commit a crime). It’s an aspect of the culture I definitely had to get used to, because I went through my phase too, where I wanted to be ME and nobody else and an external force that had no bearing on my day-to-day life shouldn’t dictate what was expected of me.
girlfriday: I’m not sure that Korea is that different, since I only know from my own experience.
javabeans: I’m pretty sure it’s something that happens in other countries, but I don’t think it’s universal at all. Americans, for instance, have a similar thing but it’s a matter of nationality, not ethnicity. With Korea it’s the opposite.
girlfriday: Yes, in that sense I do feel like Korea emphasizes ethnicity over nationality. I distinctly remember being told that no matter where I lived I would always be Korean. I sort of thought my parents were militant about that, but it turns out to be a common thing.
javabeans: I remember having arguments with the parents about, “You’re Korean!” “No, I’m American. I live in America and I speak English and I learned American history. Korea’s laws and social customs don’t affect me.” As it turns out, though, fighting it is a losing battle. Just embrace it I guess? So the lesson of the day is…
girlfriday: Your parents are always right?
javabeans: Shhh. Just don’t tell them that. They can be right, but they can’t have that satisfaction of me admitting it.
girlfriday: God no. So Su-geun introduces his friend, David/Hak-soon, and right away we see their similarity is humor. Hak-soon is from France, and is it just me or does he seem REALLY Koreanized, way more than the others?
javabeans: Totally. I was just gonna say. His language skills are great, but aside from the grammar/vocab, it’s also the way he speaks which is very… Korean. Ha. That’s not a helpful description.
girlfriday: It’s like… yeah it’s impossible to describe. He just speaks Korean like a native language. Turns out he was a translator when Music Bank went to Paris, so clearly, he’s fluent.
javabeans: He and Su-geun both have that goofball energy, and already you can tell that if you just let them go, they’d go on and on and on cracking each other up. I love how much Tae-hyun just laughs and laughs at them. Speaking of whom, Tae-hyun’s friend Jong-myung/John is next, from Austria. Okay, his Korean is excellent too. Clearly they got like translator-level gyopos up in this hizzy. I’m picturing all of my 2nd-gen friends in this scenario, and it would be WAY worse. Although funnier.
girlfriday: Yeah I don’t know many 20-year old gyopos with this level of Korean anywhere.
javabeans: I’m like, did you actually get people whose Korean is better than their other language? Because that’s cheating!
girlfriday: I don’t think so, but they got guys who can carry conversations and some who can actually translate simultaneously, so I guess there’s going to be less charades than we thought.
javabeans: Jong-min enthusiastically introduces his Russian friend Golovanov Kirill, and gets totally tripped up over his name. Way to give him the hardest name, when Jong-min gets tripped up easily enough in Korean.
girlfriday: Wouldn’t it be hilarious if Kirill spoke better Korean than Jong-min?
javabeans: Kirill gets a somewhat lengthy intro and professes himself to be a Shi-kyung fan. Aw. They essentially command him to sing, and he bursts right into song.
girlfriday: That’s adorable. Shi-kyung is so happy.
javabeans: Shi-kyung introduces his adorable baby-faced dancer friend Alexandr (or Sasha), and seeing as how he speaks in English, I’m guessing he might need some translator help. Gee, I wonder where we’ll find one of those?
girlfriday: At least they thought ahead to pair them with the two friends. Kirill can translate for Sasha and Shi-kyung can translate for Jong-min-speak.
javabeans: He’s so cute! “My English is bad. My Korean is very bad.” Kirill translates for him, and we find out that Sasha’s a professional dancer. Jong-min understands those words (English) and is all, “I’m one too!” Dance battle time!
girlfriday: He is pint-sized and adorable.
javabeans: Joo-won introduces American friend Richard/Seung-pyung, who also isn’t fluent in speaking Korean but can understand (I presume most of it).
girlfriday: Isn’t it weird how Korean-Americans are recognizable?
javabeans: Totally. He’s, like, just a regular dude.
girlfriday: Like every guy I went to school with.
javabeans: He totally does the Konglish thing. Ha. The language of my youth.
girlfriday: Yeah. He speaks exactly the way most of my cousins do. It’s like In: Korean, Out: English.
javabeans: I love that this gives the boys reason to prod Joo-won to speak his very, very limited English. I’m sure they’d be fine speaking like most parent-child pairings — one side speaks all in Korean, the other responds in Konglish — but why miss an opportunity to embarrass the maknae? I’m so secondhand-embarrassed right now, but I don’t know who it’s for.
girlfriday: Kinda both, because it’s clear they can understand each other perfectly fine, but neither can communicate what he wants to say. I just want to feed them words. It’s probably also a skewed perception that each of them, being young educated guys, should know both languages.
javabeans: Isn’t it weird? I feel like everyone’s so impressed by the gyopos from other countries being able to speak Korean, but the American dude should just know it.
girlfriday: I always found that to be the case–that if you’re a Korean-American who goes to Korea, they wonder why you can’t speak more fluently. Because you grew up near a Koreatown and had access to the local video store. You should be better. It’s just a cultural expectation that’s based in nothing really concrete.
javabeans: I wonder if it’s because Koreans grow up learning English, and vastly overestimate their own ability to speak it, and then vastly underestimate the Korean-American’s ability to speak (or understand) Korean. Whereas, if you’re spouting off in Russian, there’s no superiority-inferiority flux there.
girlfriday: Yeah it’s definitely a familiarity thing. (Though I’ve heard actually that Russian and Korean are very similar structurally and therefore easier to cross-learn.) But as we all know, learning a language in books doesn’t mean you can speak what you want in the moment. At least Richard can do the Korean-American thing of answering everything Su-geun says in Korean with a polite “Yes,” which gets you pretty far when you’re the youngun’.
javabeans: Bird PD kicks off the proceedings with the first bokbulbok, which determines mode of transportation. Top pick is the “limousine bus,” with its nice seats and spacious interior. Second choice is a van that seats nine. But… there are fourteen! Is this bad math or are they that mean?
girlfriday: Oh they’re using both cars, so that means they split up, and one team gets luxury (and more importantly A/C), while the other cooks in the moving oven.
javabeans: The game is couple jump-rope. Some couples are already nicely in sync (Seung-woo, Su-geun), and others struggle (Dog Feet). So, business as usual.
girlfriday: Aw, did they pair Tae-woong with someone else who has dog feet too? I… guess that’s a similarity, but it seems mean.
javabeans: Don’t you love how all the cast members suddenly turn into nagging moms? The guest-friends just nod politely but you know they’re thinking, “Dude, I’ve got it. The concept is clear.” But the cast members are pantomiming and wildly explaining, “Like this! You jump like this! Jump! Up!”
girlfriday: It’s not until Su-geun’s team makes a big fuss and then gets a measly three jumps that everyone starts cheering and laughing. Now we’re in bokbulbok mode.
javabeans: It’s better than Dog Feet, who trip on TWO.
girlfriday: Best to get used to the shame early on. I love how Marco buries his head into Tae-woong’s chest. Is it just Tae-woong? Does he elicit this puppy behavior from everyone?
javabeans: Aw, they’re cute together. Seung-woo’s last, and if he beats 10 that pushes Shi-kyung into the bad bus. Seung-woo does so well he just tosses away the rope when they get enough jumps. Wait, are you separating the Russians? That’ll be rough.
girlfriday: Oof, I feel bad for the hot box van. And they have more members too, even though the giant limo bus is half-empty.
javabeans: All that cool, air-conditioned space, mocking them. Su-geun: “Please explain that not all Korean cars are like this! We have good cars too.”
girlfriday: Pffffft. Jong-min points out the KBS building to Kirill and asks if he knows what it stands for, and after explaining that it’s an acronym for English, says it’s stands for Korean Bang-song-Sa, which just…. makes me want to cry and laugh at the same time.
javabeans: Oh, Jong-min. Don’t you want to take Kirill aside and tell him not to let Jong-min teach him anything about language?
girlfriday: I feel like that should be Seung-woo’s job. Like “Psst, don’t listen to anything he says.”
javabeans: But Seung-woo’s busy showing off photos of his wife to Ji-hoon. I love Ji-hoon’s reaction, which is this huge look of incredulity, like, “Are you just showing me a pretty actress’s photo and totally pulling my leg?”
girlfriday: Haha. That’s the best ego boost ever. He’s like, “Really! MY wife!”
javabeans: Omg. Sasha’s asking Shi-kyung stuff like, “Do you know Big Bang? Do you know Rain?” And Shi-kyung’s like, “Yes, we do.” Sasha: “Friends?” Shi-kyung: “Yup.” It’s a little bit of “Oh you’re from New York do you know my friend?” and a little bit of “Ooooh, you really do know famous people!”
girlfriday: And also a bit of “Uh… I’m famous too…”
javabeans: Kirill is getting so much airtime. I’m wondering why. He seems like a nice guy with an interesting story, but his airtime is disproportionate to all the others.
girlfriday: I think it’s because he’s talking the most, about his past and about his interest in Korea. I think the other guys are either complaining of heat or doing other things.
javabeans: I don’t know, I feel like everyone else is talking too, doing their get-to-know-you stories. Maybe it’s because Kirill is the only half-Korean; his father’s Russian.
girlfriday: That’s likely. Though in the other car, everyone just seems to be going a little nuts.
javabeans: It’s the heat! Lordy. Plus they have the talky personalities, with Tae-hyun and Su-geun. The bus seems uncomfortably quiet at times.
girlfriday: I do think that Jong-min (also Seung-woo, naturally) does have a good way about MC-ing questions. He shouldn’t teach any English, but he’s very good at asking interesting questions.
javabeans: The rickety van team pulls over at a rest stop for a break, and ask for a game opportunity. Say, a chance to swap seats in the other bus. Bird PD points out that the other car has no reason to agree to put their cushy seats on the line. Seung-woo: “They want US to leave? Psh.” The Bad Bus Bears climb inside the cool car to try to persuade them. Seung-woo’s SO not having it: “That’s what’s wrong with youngsters these days. They just complain about their circumstances. We earned these seats!”
girlfriday: Hee. He’s getting better at this show. You know if it were him on the bad bus, he’d be like, “We treat elders so badly! We need to promote equality!”
javabeans: Su-geun argues that this isn’t a race so it shouldn’t matter who gets to be in which car. So Bird PD relents — he’ll let ONE pair transfer to the bus. Commence speed-popsicle-eating! Aw, way to make a treat into a punishment. Sasha whistles first, so they win a comfy trip. I feel like Shi-kyung is still half-annoyed at how NICE the bus is, because it just highlights the difference.
girlfriday: Yeah he says it like, I can’t believe I feel so happy about how nice this feels, it’s practically inhumane.
javabeans: Ha, and then the elders make the guest-friends sing for them. Sasha’s all, “Wut? Now?” Rite of passage, little man. Sing!
girlfriday: You are Korean! Sing for your elders! Lol, Seung-woo is such a dad. He then leads them in a round of Arirang.
javabeans: What makes the moment is how he’s the one who enjoys it the most.
girlfriday: Right? Daaaaad, do we hafta?
javabeans: They ask Kirill what song he wants to hear, and he says IU. Shi-kyung: “If it’s IU, I can call her right now.” Everyone’s all, WUT? Shi-kyung totally won a truckload of cool points with this one move. She picks up, too, and he tells her how she’s got fans on this trip. Then there’s a round of, “Joo-won’s here, do you like Gaksital? Jong-min’s here, do you like him?”
girlfriday: Ha, she gives the obligatory, “Yeah…..I dooooo” and Jong-min shouts, “Don’t LIE!” Hee.
javabeans: Kirill gets his moment to tell IU he’s a fan, and then Jong-min butts in like he’s also a fan, hahaha.
girlfriday: Omg, Tae-woong’s doing the same thing in the other car! Is it call your pretty actress/singer friend time?
javabeans: We’ve established in a previous episode that calling a famous lady is the fastest way to prove your coolness, right? I still remember the last time when they all whipped out their smartphones like dueling pistols at noon.
girlfriday: Clearly, the first thing they do anywhere is collect actress digits to be used on 1N2D.
javabeans: I’m loving how Marco is dying as Tae-woong oh-so-casually calls Han Ga-in — he’s basically squealing in glee into his hands. Marco even calls her noona. And tells her he loves her.
girlfriday: Way to make a 20-second phone call worth it.
javabeans: Su-geun’s all, “He’s twenty times better looking than Tae-woong… and a little less good-looking than your husband.” Nice diplomatic answer there. Also, husband can kick your ass.
girlfriday: And drink your blood.
javabeans: Whereas, Tae-woong can kick nothing.
girlfriday: But he can give a menacing glare like nobody’s business.
javabeans: The teams finally arrive and reunite. Tae-woong immediately slings an arm around Sasha. Yup, it’s him. He’s just a big cuddle bunny. Urg, so you’re going to make them all do a race now, in this heat?
girlfriday: It’s a team race but done in pairs, to get to basecamp. But Shi-kyung guesses where their final destination is right away, throwing Bird PD for a loop. He just denies it with an awkward laugh, like Ha, ha… no! That’s not it! Please do the game… They all pile into one car to start. Wait, they had a 14-person van? Then what was that hell van for?
javabeans: Two teams pile into a bus — Shi-kyung and Sasha, Jong-min and Kirill. Problem is, the bus won’t leave for another 20 minutes, and it takes 40 minutes to get to their destination. They pass the time chatting, and Shi-kyung teaches Sasha some slang phrases. Like daebak, which is innocently motivated, and the equivalent of “Durrr” to be used with Bird PD later, which is less so. Haha.
girlfriday: Those are pretty much the two words kids his age use most anyway — hull, daebak. He could answer everything with that and fit in just fine.
javabeans: Joo-won and Richard arrive at their destination for a quiz to earn allowance money. It’s pictionary with Joo-won drawing. Uh, you’re gonna explain Seoul with a map of Korea to the non-Korean citizen? But Richard gets it, so they’re off to a good start.
girlfriday: I was wondering if they’d have communication issues, but Joo-won is drawing, Richard is answering in English, and Joo-won understands that as the answer, so there’s no gap really. It’s just when they have to speak to each other that it’s a problem. Seung-woo and Ji-hoon get dropped off for a game and Ji-hoon figures it’s just three tasks, but Seung-woo warns that this crew is hardcore.
javabeans: Uh-oh, it’s another trio of physical games. You have to keep a top spinning for a minute, kick a jaegi 30 times, and fly a kite for a minute. If you fail once, you have to start all over. Yeeesh. Seung-woo: “That’s not kite-flying, that’s a marathon!” He lets Ji-hoon do that one. Aw, I like them together. Seung-woo’s a great hyung-father figure.
girlfriday: He really is. He’s very encouraging and supportive, like a coach.
javabeans: Ji-hoon seems quiet but he responds well to Seung-woo’s encouragement. Meanwhile Tae-woong and Marco have a drinking game. Sadly, it’s not the fun kind of drinking game.
girlfriday: Sadness. Oh no, it’s a bokbulbok pick-the-drinkable-liquid game. Eep!
javabeans: I love how they’re both all, “That’s so easy! It’s this one!” (they’re looking for the easily drinkable tea) and then they start second-guessing. “Wait! Is it this one?” Marco drinks his bowl easily, and then Tae-woong… recoils. They lose. Their punishment is to read a whole book of a fairy tale. Marco is a pretty good reader, but it’s Tae-woong’s reaction that kills me because he’s listening and reacting to the story: “Man, that’s too bad.” Oh no, his terrible pun humor is back!
girlfriday: Dude, all those other games are nothing compared to this one. Tae-hyun and Jong-myung arrive at their destination, and they have to do an entire comical reinactment of Heung-boo and Nol-boo.
javabeans: Ha, it’s so silly. They have stage directions written in, like words you have to write with your butt, or actions you have to do to accompany the dialogue.
girlfriday: That’s a lot of dialogue to memorize, not to mention every silly bit they have to do in between.
javabeans: The second drink choice is americanos versus eel sauce. Tae-woong has to explain what that is, and he’s just like, “There’s this fish… you squeeze… we really have to choose well this time.” Thankfully they pick americanos, then Tae-woong urges Marco to have a taste of the vile stuff, which is predictably vile.
girlfriday: Su-geun and Hak-soon finally drop everyone else off and get to their destination, where they take a nice walk across the river and climb steps to the top of a hill. Their game is telepathy, and if they don’t win on the first round they have to go back down the hill and wait 20 minutes before trying again. Sheesh.
javabeans: The two bus-riding teams finally arrive for their own challenges. But as they pause to buy snacks, Shi-kyung gets a call from Su-geun, who’s chuckling his head off and saying, “It’s all over.” In a good way or bad? He says that Bird PD is kneeling before him to beg something of him, and then the camera pans over to show us Bird PD literally on his knees. WHAT IS THIS?
girlfriday: Haha. I hope he’s really begging. Flashback shows us that the question was “1N2D” and they had to write down the first five things they could think of. They matched answer for answer.
javabeans: Good thing for this team, Su-geun had predicted this question and gone over it in the car beforehand.
girlfriday: Must be that Bird PD was just sitting that way, and Su-geun made good use of the joke.
javabeans: Aw, that’s no fun.
girlfriday: Oh but things are about to get interesting for Shi-kyung, who gets to his river bank and calls for the boat he’s supposed to take… and it’s stopped running. Oh crap.
javabeans: There are two hours left and five more hints to collect. Are they all sleeping outdoors tonight?
girlfriday: It wouldn’t be an authentic experience without some group suffering. Where there’s pain, there’s bonding?