Have you ever experienced the excruciating pain to stay away from a 9 minute preview? And how satisfying it is to see the premiere in its entirety? We were promised lots of pretty and heartwarming moments, and we got those. But we also got some disjointed and jarring ones as well. I’d attribute this to two distinctive styles that haven’t fully meshed together yet but I’m holding out that they find a nice middle ground.
And this song rocks my socks off. It’s right up my alley.
SONG OF THE DAY
J-Min – “일어나 (Stand Up)” [ Download ]
EPISODE 1 RECAP
At the 2010 Youth Olympics high jump finals, competitor and our hero, KANG TAE-JOON (Min-ho) takes a deep breath before his third and final jump attempt. Should he succeed, he’ll set a world record and clinch the gold.
He sets off with a look of stern determination as he approaches the bar. He jumps, soars into the sky, and clears it with ease. Tae-joon punches into the air in victory with a huge smile on his face.
Our heroine, GU JAE-HEE (Sulli) watches the screen with a focused but solemn face. At Tae-joon’s victory, a single tear falls from her eyes.
Some time later, we catch up with Jae-hee, a pair of scissors dangerously close to her precious locks. At her friend’s insistence that she doesn’t have to go this far, Jae-hee firmly responds, “I gotta do this.”
Jae-hee arrives at Incheon Airport sporting her shorter ‘do and stops to smile at a poster of Tae-joon. Decked out in glorious angelic wings, he’s pretty much god (or maybe idol) status in the athletic world.
We meet CHA EUN-GYUL (Lee Hyun-woo) via an awesome butterfly kick that secures the winning goal for his team. He passes by all of his teammates (and his coach) for a hug to document his victory for his fans with a selca. HA.
The fangirls eat it up as they await their oppas at the gate of the all-boys high school, Genie High.
Tae-joon’s manager tells him about an upcoming CF where they’ll need a shot of him jumping and he quickly nips that in the bud. She doesn’t understand his reluctance since he’s out of rehab now and Tae-joon puts on his headphones to block her out.
Those headphones aren’t going to be useful against the horde of sasaeng fans who surround Oppa’s van (Sasaeng is derived from the word “sasaenghwal” (사생활) which means “private life.” So fans who love a celebrity so much, they’re willing to invade Oppa’s privacy.).
Pressed to the window is Jae-hee, having been caught in the mob. Tae-joon shuts down his shade.
The track coach, BAEK KWANG-MIN (Kang Kyung-joon), quickly regains control of the situation and stops Jae-hee in her tracks, “Who are you to just walk inside?”
So Jae-hee turns on her most convincing guy mannerisms and is all, I’m a guy Teach! He whacks her head in response: I know you’re a guy! Hahaha.
She introduces herself as the transfer student but Coach Baek has heard that excuse before and is amused that she’s even prepared documentation. Problem is, it’s all in English and to save face, he lets her through.
I have to ask: How do you get a few Cs and STILL end up with a 4.03? Do I need to transfer schools? We get a slo-mo shot of Tae-joon’s van (with a few sasaeng stragglers) pass by Jae-hee.
Jae-hee struggles with her heavy suitcase up the steps. Unbeknownst to her, the constant banging cause the locks to pop open leaving a trail of clothes behind her.
She hurries to retrieve them once she realizes when she’s suddenly blinded by another student’s presence. She blurts: “Kang Tae-joon.”
Tae-joon holds out a Winnie the Pooh underwear, “You’ve got… unique taste.” HAHA.
Jae-hee falls into her suitcase in her attempt to grab it and she starts to skid before Tae-joon stops her with his foot on the handle. But then that breaks too and he watches in shock as she zooms down the steps, screaming for dear life.
She comes to an abrupt stop at a tree and then waves that she’s totally fine, underwear still in hand. Well, that’s not embarrassing or anything.
But nothing can break the excited smile on her face for finally meeting the legendary Kang Tae-joon in person. That is, nothing short of sliding down the hill again.
Jae-hee is warmly welcomed by the Korean language teacher, LEE SO-YOUNG ( Lee Young-eun). She’s impressed by Jae-hee’s track record and Jae-hee thinks in her head all of those athletic achievements are according to women’s standards.
Donned in her new school uniform, Jae-hee walks into a rowdy classroom where everyone is busy doing their own thing. They barely blink an eye as Jae-hee attempts to introduce herself to her new classmates.
Suddenly, a student hurls a banana peel that hits her square in the face and she stands there while the other students ridicule her. Eun-gyul points her to an empty seat next to his and they exchange a small smile as she sits down.
One student, SONG JONG-MIN (Kwang-hee), shuffles up to the new kid and says that surely she’s aware of the Genie High initiation right? She doesn’t but she’s eager to be accepted and agrees.
That brings her to a doghouse surrounded by warning signs. Jae-hee approaches with caution and stops, hopeful at half of a broken sign, “Doesn’t bite.” But the other half reads, “If you don’t come near…” Well, that won’t work.
The dog growls and Jae-hee warily steps towards the doghouse. Then the dog jumps out of its house and Jae-hee falls back in terror. Back in the classroom, Jong-min laughs that the dog has probably half-eaten the new kid by now.
But little does he know that Jae-hee is currently drowning in doggie kisses. Cute. She crawls inside to grab the ball she’s been tasked to retrieve when she suddenly hears Tae-joon’s voice.
He bends down to greet the dog, Sangchu, with a smile. He confides with it about the upcoming CF- should he drop that and throw in the towel for high jumping too? Jae-hee shouts, “You can’t do that!”
She asks why he won’t jump and instantly reaches for his ankle – does it still hurt him? He doesn’t really mean what he said about not jumping again right? He recognizes her as from the Pooh underwear and tells her it’s none of her business whether he’ll continue the sport or not.
Jong-min and his crew stare in shock that Jae-hee was not only able to fulfill the task but to come back in one piece.
She casually tosses the ball in her hand before slamming in on his desk and blows the hair away from her eyes. Eun-gyul looks on, impressed. Jong-min fumes and scowls at his buddy’s remark about how pretty the new kid is.
She perks up at Tae-joon’s entrance and as luck would have it, he sits down behind her. She turns back and stares leisurely, her mouth agape until he signals for her to look forward.
Jae-hee marvels at the ins and out of the school. Her most obvious issue comes to the forefront when she’s got to pee and she cringes before stepping inside the boy’s bathroom, heading straight for the stalls.
She trips over Jong-min’s foot on her way out and grabs ahold of something to break her fall and… looks up at another student (cameo by rapper Sangchu) whose pants are now at his ankles.
No Pants shoves Jae-hee to the wall by the collar and by now, the other students including Eun-gyul have gathered in the bathroom. She evades his oncoming punches and tries to escape but to no avail.
She gives No Pants a final warning to stop or else she’ll have to defend herself. Her weapon of choice? A plunger.
She puts up a decent fight against No Pants, attacking with her plunger. But he’s physically bigger and stronger than she is and overtakes her with a kick to the gut.
He cheers in victory but Jae-hee’s got one more surprise for him and sticks the plunger in his face, leaving a red ring around his mouth. That gets him even more enraged and nearly gives her a taste of his right hook before he’s physically pushed off of her.
The mysterious savior calms down the hotheaded No Pants and then pulls Jae-hee close, whispering that she should be more careful from now on.
He sends off the other students with a smile. The one who frets the most is Jong-min.
Eun-gyul hangs back to check if Jae-hee’s all right and he informs her that that was their dorm leader and captain of the fencing team, senior HA SEUNG-RI (Seo Joon-young).
He asks about her fencing skills and she brushes it off, saying she picked up a thing or two from her older brother.
As they walk to the dormitories, Eun-gyul admits that he thinks she’s all right after that fight against No Pants and going through with the initiation. He wonders how she managed get past Sangchu since the dog normally hates guys. Jae-hee gulps.
He tilts his head with a curious look – she looks pretty doughy for a guy. And he confirms by placing his hand on her chest. Already at second base? But aren’t you a soccer sensation?
She freaks out and he laughs, thinking she must be doing chest exercises to keep it so stiff.
Jae-hee changes the subject, happy to hear that Tae-joon’s in the same dorm as Dorm 2.
We’re given a breakdown of the three dorms in Genie High: Dorm 1 students rely on their strength and power and their leader, JO YOUNG-MAN (Yoo Min-kyu), specializes in taekwondo, Seung-ri is the Dorm 2 leader and is the most normal of the bunch, and the Dorm 3 leader, NA CHUL-SOO (Kim Ian) is a figure skating major.
The dorms have a strong rivalry with each other and are equally competitive. Tension runs particularly high with an upcoming athletic competition. Jae-hee prods if Tae-joon will be jumping in the meet, and Eun-gyul answers that Tae-joon hasn’t exercised since his injury.
He notes that Jae-hee’s talking an awful lot about Tae-joon and she breezes that it’s just because they’re classmates. Eun-gyul lets the matter drop, teasing her by calling her “dough boy.”
Meanwhile, Jong-min looks on with a permanent scowl.
We meet Miss Princess aka SEOL HANNA (Kim Ji-won) who coyly apologizes for being late to her photo shoot on account of her beauty sleep. She pours on the aegyo which does the trick to soften the photographer’s heart.
It’s no surprise that she’s not Little Miss Perfect Princess once she hears that Tae-joon has pulled out of shoot last-minute. She fumes, citing that she even came early today. According to whom, love?
She refuses to continue and storms off.
Eun-gyul drops Jae-hee off in her new dorm room, telling her she’ll be using the loft. Jae-hee wonders about her roommate, noting the landscape photos in the room and he tells her that she’s better off not knowing. The door tells us who her new roomie is: Kang Tae-joon.
Meanwhile, Director Jang meets with one of their endorsements who are unsure about their contract with Tae-joon after his injury. She assures them they have nothing to worry about since Tae-joon is fully recovered and the investor agrees to reconsider it IF he high jumps in his next CF.
She leaves him with a final word: “YOU didn’t choose Tae-joon. Tae-joon chose YOU.”
Back at school, the boys file out and Jae-hee flusters when the next period is swim class. In the locker room, Eun-gyul asks if she isn’t going to change and she lies that she forgot her swimsuit. Jong-min offers a spare (it has a hole) and leaves in a pissy mood when she declines.
Then Eun-gyul pulls at his gym locker to find a sasang trio spill out to take pictures of nekkid Oppa.
He finds Jae-hee sitting fully-clothed and finds her chlorine allergy strange. Once again, points out how she’s always looking for Tae-joon and asks, “You’re totally a Tae-joon -ppa(stan)!”
Thank God someone finally admitted it.
We’re given a short but hilarious introduction to the school doc, JANG MIN-WOO (Ki Tae-young) who abruptly clicks away to an X-ray when Tae-joon arrives. Don’t think I didn’t see you stare intently at those Bae Yong-joon pics, Mr. Eugene.
He observes, “The more I look at you, the prettier you get. Not you. Your Achilles’ heel.” HA. Tae-joon appears to be fully healed to the Doc but they still need clearance from a larger hospital.
Tae-joon gets a call from Director Jang as he waits in the hospital. She tells him that the high jumping segment is back on, adding that Tae-joon will want to do it because a famous coach will be there to see him jump.
He can consider this as a new start and from here on out, it’s on Tae-joon’s shoulders.
Later that evening, he holds a silver necklace wondering what he should do. He gets a call from Dad who is displeased to hear that Tae-joon isn’t considering jumping for the CF.
He reminds his son that those kiddie records are pointless after his injury. Thanks for the pep talk, Dad.
To top it off, he returns to his dorm room to find someone already settled in. He scoffs at the photo of himself taped to the wall, rips it off, and notices the broken suitcase in the loft. Then he hears the water running in the bathroom…
Jae-hee spots movement from the crack of the bathroom door and grabs a towel to cover herself just before he walks in. They’re both legitimately surprised to see the other and Tae-joon demands to know what’s she’s doing. Jae-hee: “Shower.”
Once she’s dressed, she catches the tail end of his phone conversation and asks if Tae-joon is planning to jump after all. All he wants is for her to get out of his room because he doesn’t share. Jae-hee stands her ground that she won’t move an inch and then we see her getting tossed out of the room anyway.
We spend a few moments to focus on another student , MIN HYUN-JAE (Kang Ha-neul), glistened in sweat, practicing the high jump. He fails to clear the first two tries and succeeds on his third try.
Interestingly enough, an article on Tae-joon hangs inside his gym locker and he gives it a little tap before closing the door.
Jae-hee laments to Sangchu about her predicament but pretty soon she’s found by none other than Seung-ri who brings her back to the room and scolds Tae-joon for kicking the new kid out.
In any case, Jae-hee happily jumps into her bed and thinks to herself, “Even until yesterday, there was an ocean between us. But I can’t believe that we’re within touching distance now. Now that I think about it, I might be able to see you jump tomorrow.”
She dreams of Tae-joon’s legendary high jump, flying over the bar with angelic wings into a bed of flower petals.
Tae-joon wakes up the next morning to find little notes posted throughout their room (Oh heyyy there Vitamin Water). He rips off each one, annoyed.
Where’s Jae-hee you ask? Sleeping in the doghouse with Sangchu.
Doc reports that the test results are out and he dramatically sets himself up to reveal… that he’s fully recovered. Tell us something we don’t know, Doc. It’s telling that Tae-joon isn’t in the least excited to hear the news.
He turns to leave but the Doc stop him. He’s heard that Tae-joon is on friendly terms with Hanna. “By chance… is there a way I can get her autograph?” Pffft, such an ajusshi fan you are.
It’s Soccer Day in gym class and Hyun-jae pointedly aims his tackle for Tae-joon’s ankle, barely missing it. Hyun-jae feigns an apology and helps him up.
They face off and Tae-joon tells him it’s a waste of his time to worry about the other team. Hyun-jae tells him that the money must be good and then Tae-joon digs, “Do you know why you could never beat me?”
Hyun-jae’s face stiffens. Tae-joon: “You worry too much about useless crap.”
Jae-hee remains firm on being roomies and asks for a chance: what does she need to do to stay? Tae-joon suggests a proposition – if Jae-hee can put in one goal, he’ll reconsider. She agrees and tells him to keep his word.
He tenses, “I don’t back down on things. Especially promises.”
Eun-gyul is stuck as the goalkeeper and asks Coach Baek to let him play. He gets, “Nope, you’re the soccer star.” Your way of keeping a level playing ground, eh?
But Eun-gyul doesn’t listen and calls for a change. Jae-hee’s first attempt at goal hits the goalpost. He tells her, “It doesn’t matter if we win or lose, but after seeing you run, I didn’t want to lose anymore.”
He kicks the ball to Jae-hee and she runs down the field to receive it. To us, she’s running in slow motion but Eun-gyul and Coach’s jaws drop as she zooms past the other boys.
Enter music cue as Jong-min catches up to her and rams into her forcibly knocking her out. Okay PD-nim, she fell. We don’t need the toontastic *wonk wonk* to figure that out.
Tae-joon carries her into Doc’s office but splits when he gets a text from Director Jang about the CF to come to the gym. His audience includes staff, reporters, Hanna, Hyun-jae and even his father.
Director Jang checks in with him and he gives a nod that he’s ready to jump.
He breathes in and then takes off running… but the bar clatters to the pad. He sits in light of his failed first attempt and the cameras shutters continue to click as his audience looks on with shock.
Jae-hee rouses awake with a splitting headache and Doc tells her that she fainted from the field. He walks towards her, “But it’s strange…” and leans in to look at her square in the eye.
“Tell me.” Doc asks, “What is a girl doing in an all boys’ school?” Busted.
Man is this drama PRETTY – the colors are saturated, bright, and vivid, and that HD camera is niiice. You can see some similarities from Boys Over Flowers with showing off the gorgeous sets and grabbing different angle shots of our characters. On the other hand, however, I do scratch my head at some of the other elements. A scene by itself is cute but then the parts don’t quite make a whole. Instead of some continuity, it feels like we jump from scene to scene with no explanation of how we got there.
Additionally, it’s as if the PD-nim is hitting my head over some minor plot points that I already got from the get go. Yes Jong-min doesn’t like Jae-hee but you don’t have to remind me every moment that he doesn’t. Yes, this CF is important and determines Tae-joon’s public image. Yes, he’s fully recovered. We geddit.
His musical choice is nowhere near as blaring as Boys Over Flowers (the phrase “Almost Paradise” is forever ruined), and this could be me nitpicking but what was up with the wonk wonk when Jae-hee was knocked out? Should I brace myself for possibly more inappropriate musical choices that will pull me out of the scene? But you have such an awesome theme song (the one posted above)! *fingers crossed*
Could there be any more characters to name? If you lost count, I don’t blame you. And it feels like we still have more characters to meet. For now, I’m doing okay with the volume of names but the character introduction throws me off. If you belatedly tell me who that person is and what kind of person they are, how can I keep track whether this person is important or not? Because right now everyone seems important! *tugs at hair*
Oh SM, you love to find reasons to use your fancy shmancy 360 degree camera don’t you? Don’t think I didn’t catch you using it for that flying banana peel. If you can’t find a way to incorporate it into your music videos, there it is in your drama!
In terms of acting, I thought Sulli was spot-on as Gu Jae-hee or if we’re referring to the source material, Ashiya Mizuki. I was skeptical with the headlines prior to the premiere but boy did that effort show. I was even surprised that there were instances where I thought, “Wait…you’re a teenage girl not a teenage boy!” You can see how much of herself she’s pouring in and the earnest quality in Jae-hee matches Sulli’s earnestness for this character.
On the other hand, there’s not too much to work with Tae-joon’s character because all we know is that Tae-joon doesn’t want to high jump anymore post-injury and he’s a cold nut to crack. That said, it’s too early to speak more on Min-ho besides that he’s delivering the character that’s written for him.
This premiere came in dead last at 7.3% in ratings but like J-Min tells us, it’s only the beginning.
- Scenes from campus rom-com To the Beautiful You
- Sulli and Min-ho’s couple shoot for Vogue Girl
- To the Beautiful You has its poster shoot
- Cast list for heroine-in-drag rom-com To the Beautiful You
- News bites: June 13, 2012