What a delectable opening act for a summer romantic-comedy about a pair of longtime lovers whose love fizzles out and settle to be next-door neighbors. Yet the writers give us hints that perhaps they care far more than they’re letting on. Will they be able to convey their true feelings or will a mystery man sweep her off her feet? I’ve definitely learned one thing: I Need Romance in 2012.
Note: This one-time recap is just the start of the romance.
SONG OF THE DAY
leeSA – ” 혹시라도 들릴까봐 (Have You Heard) “ [ Download ]
EPISODE 1 RECAP
We open in a romantic, trendy jazz club as our couple only have eyes for each other. The woman recounts to her date about her unusual pet rabbit she had as a child. Rabbits are supposed to be hoppingly fast but this one was oddly slow.
Using her fingers to illustrate, she slowly inches her hand forward and oh-so-slightly brushes her fingers against his before retreating. Their eyes fixed on each other, his hand edges towards hers in return.
His fingers climb upward as the beat picks up… then the song abruptly ends and she pulls her hand away. Not wanting to part so soon, the man suggests they grab a cup of coffee to sober up and she responds, “I’m not really that drunk…”
Commence kiss fest as clothes come flying off in the hotel room. They make it to the bed and she starts to undo his belt (rawr), “I like doing this part myself. It gives me a sense of excitement…”
…and it’s just a script? Darn.
Our heroine JOO YEOL-MAE (Jung Yumi) barks that the scenario is eerily similar to their own relationship. This is the same cafe they used to go to and well, the same drunken deeds. How could he expose her sexual preferences to the world?
The writer, YOON SUK-HYUN (Lee Jin-wook), shrugs that it’s only a script and matter-of-factly states that she’s not the only woman in the world who enjoys undoing a man’s pants. He gets to the point – is it good?
Yeol-mae can’t help but acknowledge that it’s not half bad but gripes that the music choice is all wrong. Before she can complain any further, her phone starts ringing and Yeol-mae rushes inside to get ready.
Turns out Grandma’s calling to remind her about a seon (a blind date with a consideration of marriage) and Suk-hyun sweetly helps her carry her things into her car. Yeol-mae tells him to put in a good word to be hired as the musical director for his script and then speeds off.
Now we’re given the rundown on their longtime relationship. Their childhood friendship naturally evolved into love in their teenage years. After dating for 12 years with some bumps in the road, they officially called it quits 3 years ago. Now they’re just next-door neighbors again.
Suk-hyun’s left to do the cleaning (and washes her underthings by hand) and Yeol-mae rushes to change in the car. As they both gripe about the other, we’re shown a flashback to explain why they never walked down the aisle.
Yeol-mae wanted to get married but Suk-hyun was perfectly happy with the way things were. Upset with his blasé attitude, she even offered to do better in an effort to coax him.
In the present, both of them resolutely remind themselves that NOT marrying each other was a good decision and continue to make more snide comments about the other. Suk-hyun: “That dirty and fickle bitch!” Yeol-mae: “That selfish and cranky jerk!”
Changed and freshened up, Yeol-mae stares into her car mirror with determination: “Age, 33. I have to time to date a man who just passes by. There are still a lot of men left in the world and I still have enough charm.” Though it does tug at her a wee bit that she entered the dating pool again in a matchmaking company.
Yeol-mae darts inside the building to an elevator full of men which is great… it’s just that her blazer is caught in the door. The men quietly snigger in response.
Then we’re introduced to Yeol-mae’s friends who are already taken: SUN JAE-KYUNG (Kim Ji-woo) who met her husband the first time she stepped into a library. This is all in thanks to their other friend, WOO JI-HEE (Kang Ye-sol) who in turn is dating a doctor.
With their own lovey-dovey relationships, Yeol-mae seeks her own fairytale romance as she steps into the room… and reels from the gruff men who sniff their pits and check for dandruff in public. Ew.
Thankfully her blind date seems to possess none of these qualities. Meet KIM HAN-SEOP (cameo by Jung Kyeo-woon) who listens with a smile as Yeol-mae excitedly shares about her career as a music director.
But as she goes on and on, that smile turns into a sarcastic smirk until he finally yells, “Hey, Joo Yeol-mae!” Oh no. You broke his heart, didn’t you?
Yep. She looks at him with confusion as Han-seop asks repeatedly if she doesn’t remember him from college. He calls her out on her nicety act and that he nearly fell for it. Oof, this is awkward.
Yeol-mae relays this story to her girlfriends who are just as confused as to why she can’t recall a man she’s kissed. Plus, the only significant name they’ve heard in Yeol-mae’s life is Suk-hyun.
Rattling off about how he knows the places she used to frequent and how cranky and harsh she could be (are you sure he’s not a stalker?). How is she supposed to remember a guy she dated for a month and kissed three times?
And at the very moment, she remembers. It was rough and clumsy and her bottom lip was swollen afterwards. Uh honey, if you’re gonna complain, I’m sure there is a line out the door for that man. Case in point: kaedejun.
She can’t recall the others which spooks her. She then wonders how many other kisses with other men that slipped from her memory and turns the question on them. What’s average for a 33 year-old single woman?
Jae-kyung replies that a woman’s past is kept tightly shut but Ji-hee answers readily, “7?” Then she lists them off by name, including her current boyfriend. The ladies remember more of them and they laugh over some past nicknames.
Like the good friends they are, they stop at a reasonable point before making digging each other’s graves any deeper.
Jae-kyung wonders what the big deal is anyway. Does kissing more than 10 men at their age make them corrupt and innocent if it’s less than that? Tossing out a box of condoms (Ji-hee flips out), Jae-kyung defends that in an era where people are freely giving these away in the street, they should do whatever (or is it whomever) pleases them.
The box lands in Yeol-mae’s lap who coolly accepts them.
The ladies’ chatter is interrupted by Suk-hyun’s entrance and as he pours himself some coffee, Yeol-mae sticks the condoms in the fridge.
The friends start to tease about Yeol-mae’s seon and she quickly shushes them. She takes a moment to look at Suk-hyun and realizes the reason behind why she’s still single. Yeol-mae: “It’s because I loved this man the most.”
Flashback to their second year of high school on White Day. Teenage Suk-hyun suggests they try it – isn’t she curious about what it would be like? His desire to satiate his curiosity isn’t a good enough reason for Yeol-mae and she storms off.
He quickly apologizes and she hints that he’s supposed to tell her that he likes her first. Suk-hyun points to the candy as a sign that he likes her, but she wants to hear him say it.
He spits it out and when she replies that it wasn’t enough, he says, “I love you.” And then the next moment, he’s like, “Can I kiss you now?” Pfft, boys.
Yeol-mae pushes him away and he adorably chases after her in the streets. They stop at an ivy covered wall, out of breath. Before Yeol-mae can explain that she just wanted to slip away from prying eyes, Suk-hyun whips around to kiss her.
Their lips part and he explains, “That was a peck.” And then he kisses her again. We hear Yeol-mae say, “That kiss was so intense that I must have forgotten all about my kisses with other men.”
Suk-hyun breaks her out of that daze by repeating his question – is she going to see that man again? Yeol-mae accuses him of eavesdropping but he heard their entire conversation because they were so loud.
It’s telling that he doesn’t look at her as they talk about Han-seop. He finds it hard to believe that Yeol-mae can’t remember who she kissed and Jae-kyung turns it back to him – does he? Touché.
Yeol-mae explains that the kissing incident happened when she and Suk-hyun broke up the first time. Suk-hyun clarifies that it was the first time she dumped HIM. Did they break up because she liked that other guy?
The argument builds momentum as they bicker over whether she was two-timing him (she admits she did but it’s likely because of the heat of the moment) and how she always threatened they should break up whenever they fought.
Then Yeol-mae hits a nerve with her question – why did they break up 3 years ago then? Shouldn’t he have felt responsible towards the woman he shared 50,000 kisses with?
The friends interject before they rip each other’s heads off with their words just as Jae-kyung’s husband calls. Yeol-mae glares at Suk-hyun saying with her eyes, See? They’re a happily married couple and they haven’t fought for three years!
It’s no surprise that things aren’t quite peachy in Jae-kyung’s marriage. Stowing away wedding photos and separating their bed is a nightly routine for them and Jae-woo, her husband, dismisses the idea that they use separate room since that would only arouse more suspicion.
Though their relationship isn’t as lovey-dovey as we initially saw them in their opening scene, they don’t necessarily despise each other either. Like how Jae-kyung lied that they sleep separately so Jae-woo can sleep and how they’ll be playing corporate golf the next day.
Aww, Suk-hyun is sweet enough to happily replace a lightbulb in Yeol-mae’s place. He asks her to keep him still (she grabs his legs, heh) and he tells her, “Not me. The chair.” That’s when she notices his rainbow-striped socks which triggers another set of memories.
1000 days after their first kiss, Yeol-mae comes bouncing in bearing those very socks. Suk-hyun had just reached a point where his creative juices are churning which forces her to wait.
She does but several hours and thick magazines later, Yeol-mae finally gets up and storms out. She notices that Suk-hyun doesn’t even blink an eye away from his laptop. So how does she get his attention? Easy – by kicking over his precious scooter.
Her temper flares that his stories aren’t that interesting anyway and she bursts, “Let’s break up!” Suk-hyun gives her a few chances to take back her words but she remains resolute though in voiceover she tells us that she immediately regretted those words.
What she really wanted to hear from him was, “I’m sorry. Don’t be like this and calm down.” But Suk-hyun simply complied without putting up a fight.
Solemnly walking the scooter back, she thought about how it didn’t annoy her that he made her wait or that it was a special day for them. She only needed to hear that he wanted her presence to be acknowledged and appreciated.
For the following three months, Suk-hyun didn’t so much as send her a glance her way and ignored her texts. Then on a rainy afternoon, Yeol-mae found herself without an umbrella and he chivalrously gave up his, leaving him to walk in the rain.
She followed him, holding the umbrella over his head to keep him dry. Turning around, he asked if ending things came so easily to her. Yeol-mae apologized and they let bygones be bygones and made up.
Back in the present, Yeol-mae points out that Suk-hyun didn’t even admit he was sorry or that he missed her, much to her annoyance.
The lightbulb now fixed, Suk-hyun steps down, placing his hand on Yeol-mae’s head to steady himself. That’s when he notices her socks and smiles.
He gets up and drawing close to her, he compliments her that the socks were a great purchase because they last for so long. With a little laugh, he taps his finger on her tip of her nose playfully and we hear a momentary moan.
Yeol-mae reaches for her nose after he leaves and thinks, “This is going to make things difficult.”
Back with her friends Yeol-mae exclaims if they’ve ever heard of the tip of the nose referred to as an erogenous zone. They haven’t and they tease her as she asks her friends to touch her nose as a test.
Unsurprisingly, it does nothing and Yeol-mae pouts. How could the slightest touch trigger her whole body to react? Her friends encourage her to start things up with Suk-hyun again since it’s clear that he’s the trigger.
Yeol-mae contests that her arousal is her own to control but Jae-kyung argues that the man has the control to elicit that reaction. Then she teasingly rubs a shoe against her nose to demonstrate.
Meanwhile, Suk-hyun thinks back to that moment as well and breaks into a small smile.
Yeol-mae gets pulled out of the recording studio for yet another seon. In her car, she sighs deeply contemplating on the lesson she learned from dating Suk-hyun: No matter how much you try, what’s not meant to be won’t ever come true and no matter how hard you try to run away, you’ll meet the fate you were supposed to meet.
With a brave face, Yeol-mae forgoes changing her clothes and chooses to tempt fate, appearing just as she is. She runs into the matchmaker who leaves her to find “the man by the window” herself.
There are two men by the window when she gets there, and Yeol-mae sweats since she didn’t check her date’s profile earlier. The more attractive one gives a little nod and she breathes a sigh of relief.
She apologizes for being late citing that there was a traffic jam but he’s just come from the same direction and replies that the roads were fine. He looks at her with a mix of shock and confusion and she states in annoyance that even if she was late and he wasn’t interested in her, the least he could do is have some basic manners in this type of setting.
He asks inquisitively what that setting is and laughs when he hears that Yeol-mae is under the impression that they’re on a seon, “Do I look like someone who would go on a seon?”
That answer irks her and she states that she’s not happy to be here either. There’s a line of men out the door waiting to ask her out. How dare he treat a woman this way. Shovel. Meet Grave.
But Mystery Man tells her that she’s got the wrong man. He gives another little nod and she whips her head around to meet the gaze of her actual blind date who returned from the bathroom. Whoops.
They exchange awkward goodbyes as Mystery Man breaks into a smile. Yeol-mae interrupts her date for a moment, and as she looks at him, wonders, “How does he know my name?”
It continues to bother her and she gets up, leaving her date high and dry to confront him, asking for his name.
He’s SHIN JI-HOON (Kim Ji-suk) and Yeol-mae draws a blank at the name. She presses for more information and steam practically comes out of her ears when Ji-hoon lets out a hearty laugh.
Ji-hoon replies, “It makes me really sad that you don’t remember me.” She goes out on a limb, asking if they used to date. Ji-hoon: “Now you remember?”
That makes her nervous and she cautiously asks, “Did we… kiss?”
Ji-hoon contemplates that for an excruciating few seconds and then answers, “We might have.”
Oh really, Ji-hoon? You tease.
I found this episode to be extremely enjoyable with likable characters and an introduction that starts after the happily-ever-after phase. The fact that we start years after the breakup and that they’re still next-door neighbors is an interesting premise. They’ve gotten so used to each other’s company and know every little thing about them that whether linked romantically or not, their relationship hasn’t changed a bit.
Yet the show is dangling that carrot in front of our eyes with the one question: What was the trigger for their breakup? Could it have been Suk-hyun’s disinterest in marriage or Yeol-mae’s constant threats to break up that led to the split? Both parties at this point are responsible for the demise of their romantic relationship. The break up hits a nerve for both of them but since we have fiercely stubborn characters, they’re waiting for the other to give in before they admit that they’re at fault.
The scene in the rain where they were both standing in the rain was particularly fantastic. Despite that there was an umbrella that could keep them dry, they stood apart from each other, trying to keep the other person dry. And as a result, they both ended up wet. That wordless gesture just about kills me and by the end of their conversation, they’re standing side-by-side under the umbrella and Suk-hyun pulls her in tight.
Having never seen the original I Need Romance, I can’t attest to the show’s similarities and differences to its prior season. But where it’s at right now, I appreciate that it approaches the age-appropriate topics with a matter-of-fact manner. Issues of sex isn’t something that they don’t skirt around and you have refreshing characters like Jae-kyung who don’t see a string of past kissing partners as much of an issue. This show might have more freedom to address it in a more straightforward because it’s on cable but it’s nice to see a perspective that questions what we see in other dramas where “Omo! Oppa just hugged her.” is considered second base.
Now that Ji-hoon is in the picture, it begs the question: what will dating look like for a woman who has only known to deeply love one person for nearly half her lifetime? Will she be hung up on the kiss that she can’t forget when she was a teen or be introduced to a new kind of whirlwind adventure?