Drama Recaps
Alice in Cheongdam-dong: Episode 15
by | January 28, 2013 | 86 Comments

This was a very Seung-jo-centric episode. Seung-jo’s been used by three women for monetary purposes, so it’s high time he try to sort out his issues rather than run away from them. But it doesn’t stop him from being maddeningly self-centered about his situation, as if he’s the only one whose feelings matter. He does raise this one important question: What’s so great about Cheongdam-dong that everyone wants to enter it?

EPISODE 15 RECAP

Seung-jo thinks he’s seen Se-kyung’s entire true self already, so there’s nothing more she needs to show. She is both a “Candy” girl and the girl who used him. He finds that his nightmare never ends – all these manipulative women must really exist if they keep appearing around him. But Se-kyung points out one important fact – she is not Yoon-joo. She won’t run away, so he shouldn’t run away either.

Se-kyung drags Seung-jo away from the gate, afraid that he might go and kill himself too. The suggestion sets him off; who said he’d die?! He’s surprised when she says Dong-wook and Il-nam were worried about him, but is still angry that people think he’s so fragile. She mollifies him first by agreeing with him, but then points out that he wanted everyone to get sick with worry because he wanted the attention, right?

Wrong – or so he claims. He didn’t fake anything and wasn’t running away. He just wanted to be out of the country where she lives in and never see her again. *Snort.* Well if that’s the case, Se-kyung forces him to keep his promise of never dying until she leaves first.

Dong-wook and Secretary Moon catch up to them, and their concerned faces rile Seung-jo even more. Did they really think something would happen to him? If he is so insistent that nothing will happen to him, Se-kyung tells him not to run away. She seems to confront him about his weaknesses as a way to make him want to spite her and not do what he was about to do.

Seung-jo finally leaves with Dong-wook, Secretary Moon, and Chauffeur Kim. He realizes that Dong-wook and Secretary Moon must have been aware of Se-kyung’s betrayal to be so concerned over him (even though they only found out that day). Seung-jo doubly blames Dong-wook for saying such things like he’s “mentally in danger” to Se-kyung. He doesn’t want his friend to meet Se-kyung on his behalf, or to even talk about him behind his back.

Meanwhile, Tommy drives Se-kyung home. She plans to meet him every day whether or not he has anything to ask her. Tommy wishes she’d just stop right here, as he once had a girlfriend whom he liked a lot, but broke up with her because there were too many difficulties. Even though Se-kyung broke up with her first boyfriend over similar issues too, she can’t give up on Seung-jo now.

Seung-jo arrives at home to find Il-nam waiting. He feels that Il-nam just wanted to laugh at him and say “I told you so!” so he wants them all to leave. Il-nam quietly says that in a few years, none of this will really matter. Seung-jo doesn’t want to hear it, and he kicks them all out while insisting that he’s fine. Il-nam is surprised to hear that Seung-jo willingly came home with Dong-wook after fighting with Se-kyung.

At the Han household, Se-kyung’s parents somehow learn of her deception towards Seung-jo. Her mother goes in a frenzy, aghast that her daughter would do something so low. Deuk-gi blames himself for not having been able to better provide for Se-kyung. If he had, perhaps she wouldn’t stoop so low in playing with people’s hearts. Se-kyung wants him to stop blaming himself, but he doesn’t know anyone else to blame. :(

Seung-jo can’t sleep, unable to differentiate when she was using him and when she was sincere. He calls up Secretary Moon to find out what date he had met with Ah-jung to find out that Se-kyung liked Secretary Kim. Secretary Moon hesitantly tells him that while drinking, he told Ah-jung that Secretary Kim and Seung-jo were one and the same. That’s all Seung-jo needs to know. That was the day before the Artemis Christmas party, and that’s proof enough that Se-kyung knew the truth long before he told her himself.

Ah-jung thinks that Se-kyung is crazy for wanting to see Seung-jo every single day, considering he must hate her so much. But that’s all Se-kyung knows how to do, to stick by the man even if he tries to send her away. She intends to start tomorrow, but there’s angry pounding on the door. Seung-jo beat her to it.

Seung-jo confronts her about the timeline of events. She knew about his identity since December 24. On Christmas day, she wrote him a letter saying that she liked Secretary Kim, knowing full well that Secretary Kim didn’t exist, then disappeared because she was “sick.” She knew he would chase after her, then went on to reject him because they were in different social classes.

Se-kyung says he got one thing wrong: before December 24th, he became her White Rabbit. Not understanding her reference, Se-kyung explains that she needed to use somebody to enter Cheongdam-dong, and she chose Seung-jo. She admits that she needed to use him, and that’s why she wanted to meet Jean Thierry Cha. She only planned to use Secretary Kim, and purposely cut him out because he was too poor for her. But then, was liking him – or saying that she liked him – part of the plan too?

Se-kyung admits she honestly did like Secretary Kim, but decided to play him when she found out the truth. She told herself that it would be okay to manipulate him since she already liked him as Secretary Kim. What she can no longer differentiate is whether she’s just playing him or really liking him. That frustrates Seung-jo the most, since he thinks she should be able to understand her own feelings.

But Se-kyung turns it around on him – can’t he trust his own feelings? She still cared for him, whether she was Candy or not. Seung-jo: “No, I don’t know my own feelings. And I don’t know Han Se-kyung.”

After he’s gone, Ah-jung wonders aloud if it’s a good sign that he sought Se-kyung out first. It’s possible that he unconsciously doesn’t want Se-kyung to disappear.

The following morning, Se-kyung intends to see Seung-jo before heading to work, but once again, Seung-jo is pounding at their door with the bunnies all packed up in a box, wanting to know when he became her “White Rabbit.” She explains that it was from the moment he told her he was presenting her an opportunity to work as a stylist, and now he understands why she gave him the dolls and the questions. (I have to give props to Se-kyung for being so honest, as she’s giving all the answers unabashedly.)

Well, if he insists on knowing… She takes the box of rabbits down to the recycling bin and starts tossing them away. If it no longer means anything to Seung-jo, then it’ll mean nothing to her. He freaks out – the day she gave it to him was the day she first asked for his name, and when she first said “Thank you.” Clearly that day means a lot to him, and he desperately wants to know if she was sincere.

Se-kyung: “Seung-jo, that’s your problem. You hear what you want to hear and see what you want to see. You don’t see the full person properly, so how can you love that person? I saw you for who you were, so look at me now. Not the Han Se-kyung in your fantasy, but the one in reality.”

She walks off, and Seung-jo keeps the bunnies. If he’s been fantasizing everything, what do her letters mean? (The ones that, in essence, perpetuated a fantasy of her.) Wanting the answer, he goes after her. In reply, Se-kyung gets into his car.

They head to the playground where she broke up with In-chan. That letter she had sent was essentially a fantasy, because even though it was meant to save In-chan from being prosecuted, it was her way to break up with him. He would be better off without her, a person that even GN Fashion didn’t see as a designer. For the years that she struggled, she had been regarded as a useless person. Unable to get a head start on her own career, she wanted someone else to save her. That’s why she entered Cheongdam-dong, because it was an easy way out of her hard life.

Seung-jo just happened to be her ticket. She thought he could really help her, so yes – she unashamedly ditched the poorer guys and chased after him. But as she soon found out, everyone around him told her to save him instead. She had to protect Seung-jo, and to that effect, she became someone useful. And, he valued her.

That’s all she can say in her defense, and she leaves him to brood. She receives a call from Il-nam, who wants her to leave Seung-jo now. Il-nam still regards his son as a weak person, even though when Seung-jo found out the truth, he didn’t fall apart as predicted. Se-kyung points out that Seung-jo is trying to make his father proud and prove he can be a successor to Royal Group in his own way. He entered Artemis because it allowed him to be in business management in a creative field that tapped into his skills as an artist. If Il-nam could just acknowledge his son’s talents, perhaps Seung-jo wouldn’t be so “weak.”

As for the breaking up, Se-kyung asks that he allow her and Seung-jo to resolve it. They need to settle their issues before they can decide whether she will leave him or not.

Se-kyung heads in to work and finds a cardboard box waiting on her desk. The manager informs her that she’s been let go, per In-hwa’s orders. That’s to be expected.

She bumps into In-hwa as she leaves, and In-hwa finds that due justice has been meted out. While GN Fashion may have lost a huge financial deal, Se-kyung messed up her own plans to enter Cheongdam-dong. But Se-kyung notes that while In-hwa seems to have given up on the deal, she hasn’t given up on Seung-jo yet, and they’re working out their issues. That annoys In-hwa more – she can’t seem to win!

Min-hyuk calls his wife to his office, who’s already packed up her entire walk-in closet in three small suitcases, ready to leave. He presents Yoon-joo one last chance: Since he cannot give up on the Roman outlet deal, he wants Yoon-joo to use her connection to Seung-jo to help save GN Fashion. The results will determine whether she can sleep in the Shin house, or be kicked out. He points out that since she’s been treating him as a business transaction, it’s about time he benefits from it.

Yoon-joo rightfully is hurt, and finds it a punishment. Min-hyuk merely calls it a good business deal, since he doesn’t think she’s actually worth the hundreds of billions of won. Ouch. (I’m hoping she turns down the deal.)

In the elevator, Se-kyung joins Yoon-joo, carrying her belongings. Though Yoon-joo just got a get-out-of-jail-free card and Se-kyung successfully stopped Seung-jo from running away again, neither is in a good position just yet.

Se-kyung receives a call from Tommy, who’s heard of her termination. He had to go and close a few of his stores due to GN Fashion’s influence. The only good thing is that no one seeks him out as a matchmaker anymore so he can stop being a pimp, so to speak. He offers to pick her up as well. Unfortunately, Seung-jo arrives in front of GN Fashion building in time to see Tommy usher Se-kyung into his car. Suspicious of their relationship, he follows as they head to Tommy’s studio.

Over tea, Se-kyung wonders if Tommy regrets ever joining her side, and he does, even though his face doesn’t really show it. He accepted her “cool” proposition, despite seeing right through it because he and Yoon-joo are jaded “Cheongdam-dong-ers.”

As soon as Se-kyung leaves, Seung-jo barges in wanting to know why Tommy and Se-kyung, who are naturally enemies, would be so friendly. Thankfully, Tommy doesn’t skirt around the truth, and reveals that he is helping her enter Cheongdam-dong. Seung-jo: “What is Cheongdam-dong to you guys?” Before Tommy can explain, Seung-jo asks if Tommy is the “Clock Rabbit.” Tommy: “You mean… a White Rabbit?” Haha! My only chance to laugh out loud this entire episode, even though it was a silly joke…

Tommy admits to not having been on Se-kyung’s side from the start since he was supposed to match up Seung-jo and In-hwa. He even made that damning video of Se-kyung and Yoon-joo. However, he realized it didn’t work with Se-kyung’s persistent nature. He may not know Se-kyung well, but he does know that she is sincere at heart.

Seung-jo still cannot understand her actions; to him, that means that she was in the wrong. As soon as Seung-jo leaves, Tommy calls Se-kyung to warn her. She thanks him for being truthful, because that means Seung-jo will go find her. Sure enough, the same pounding sounds on her door.

Seung-jo wants to know when she found out that Yoon-joo was his ex. She realized it when he sent her the USB with his confession of his past. And even though Tommy had threatened her with the video, she accepted his proposal because she didn’t want to lose to him. She would go to any lengths to be able to live while loving someone.

While Seung-jo finds loving the hardest thing to do, Se-kyung finds living the hardest. Seung-jo doesn’t think her poverty gives her an excuse to use someone’s love; he lived in poverty and painted feverishly until finally someone saw his worth. But Se-kyung thinks he was just lucky, because no one in her world has ever been able to become rich and happy solely from hard work. That frustrates Seung-jo more, because she’s talking like a loser rather than a winner.

Se-kyung: “Then do you think it’s my fault I’m poor? That because I’m still poor no matter how hard I work, I must be dumb?” Seung-jo heartbreakingly tells her that it must be.

Ho-min finds his sister drinking at a fancy lounge alone, and joins her. She reminisces on the time when their father lost his entire business during the IMF crisis in the ’90s. The family had to live in a basement, and despite their poverty their mother allowed Yoon-joo to wear expensive clothing – her beauty would be her fortune.

The burden of saving her family has rested on her shoulders from a young age, so her husband’s choice is certainly weighing heavily on her mind. If she does as he asks, at least Ho-min can continue managing his store.

Dong-wook visits Seung-jo and is surprised to learn that his friend was grateful that Se-kyung came to the airport. It made him want to rely on her. However, he doesn’t think their relationship will work out. They both have different values regarding hard work, and it makes Seung-jo curious about his painting’s anonymous buyer. Seung-jo has his suspicions…

We see the painting on private display, visited by Il-nam. A flashback reveals that he did buy it through an agent. But instead of keeping it, he had it donated.

Seung-jo can’t blame Se-kyung for the way she thought, because she was right in some aspects. However, he doesn’t know whether his grief over losing love from a lack of sincerity is worse than her throwing away love because of a lack of money. He ends up going on Walk of Broodiness, and heads over to her place. Similarly, Se-kyung keeps thinking that he’s outside her home when he’s not, and ends up heading over to his place as well. Neither can knock on each other’s door.

He sleeps in the car outside her apartment all night, and the following morning he follows as she tries to interview at several jobs.

Then he follows as she struggles to get on to a train, then applies to be a saleslady in a boutique. The sight of a rich customer picking out her bags from a line of salesladies makes Seung-jo wonder bitterly what’s so great about entering Cheongdam-dong. For him, it’s just where he lives.

Dong-wook fills Secretary Moon in on recent developments, finding himself disappointed with Se-kyung as the young lovers quarrel over a painting. At the same time, Seung-jo returns home to find Yoon-joo waiting for him. And finally, Se-kyung meets with Tommy as well.

Seung-jo apologizes to Yoon-joo; if he had never sought her out or dated Se-kyung, she wouldn’t be in such a delicate situation with her in-laws. He offers his help in anything, but she can’t take it. He does have one question: Did she purchase his painting in Paris? After all, his father gave her 30,000 Euros, and the painting was bought for exactly that much. Turns out, she is the only person he ever suspected of having purchased it.

Yoon-joo laughs – does he really think that? She’s not the type to spend her entire fortune on a painting. Even though she doesn’t know the true identity of the purchaser, it’s quite obvious to her who it probably is.

Meanwhile, Se-kyung tells Tommy that Seung-jo never suspected the identity of his painting’s buyer, when it should be the first person he should think of. Secretary Moon doesn’t know the identity either, but he’s 99% sure it’s one guy.

Conclusion: Cha Il-nam.

When Seung-jo hears it from Yoon-joo, his eyes widen and his jaw drops.

As for Se-kyung, she remembers the ending to Alice in Wonderland – in the end, it was all a dream, and Alice woke up.

Comments:

To start off with, I think this was an ambitious episode as it tried to tie up all the loose ends by giving us the answers in the most expositional way possible. If anyone was confused over Se-kyung’s motives, or the timeline of her motives, well, this episode cleared it all up. It also helped serve the storyline for this episode because we followed Seung-jo’s thought process as he tried to understand the thinking behind a gold digger. He never tried to understand a gold digger’s mentality before, but Se-kyung’s mindset may prove to be the key to understanding Yoon-joo and his mother, and lead to true forgiveness. It seems to be working on his relationship with Yoon-joo, as shown by the end of the episode.

Seung-jo was quite unfair towards Se-kyung initially, especially since everything had to revolve around him. Se-kyung had to understand her own feelings, but he didn’t have to? And who said everyone had to fit the character and role he had in mind for them? I found him unbearable to deal with when he was having all these doubts and expectations flying around. But I could also see his neuroses, and how, after Yoon-joo dumped him, it must have manifested into something even worse because he didn’t have understanding friends to help him deal. He is someone who can’t understand other people’s motives because he lives the dream they envy. Even though he thinks he’s had hardship, Se-kyung points out that his hardship is not like her hardship. He has connections and strong backers that give him a leg-up. She has no one to give her career a jump start.

In a way, this episode was a chance to develop more sympathy for Se-kyung, while making Seung-jo see that people don’t live romanticized lives that revolve around love. He has yet to learn that loving someone means accepting the entire package. On the other hand, this episode also showed the bad side of Cheongdam-dong – the side that Seung-jo sees but no one else seems to. He can see the artifice in Cheongdam-dong that others seem to want to be a part of, and wishes they wouldn’t. His question really pokes at the purpose of this drama – why do these people want to be part of Cheongdam-dong? Honestly, I never thought of it that way before, because I kind of dreamed of a life of riches and extravagance; why can’t I wish for my drama heroines to succeed too? If they became rich and successful on their own merit, then that’s even better!

But it seems like this drama is telling me to wake up – Cheongdam-dong as we want it to be is just a dream. It doesn’t exist. As much as Se-kyung claims to see a certain reality of the world, it’s probably time she wake up from her own fantasy.
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86 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. snow_white

    thanks…..

  2. maakopla

    Honestly, since the episode 8 or so this drama has been nothing but a downhill for me. After ep. 13 it got better again but never to that awesome level on which it begun. No matter how good this episode was I can’t but feel disappointed.

    • 2.1 grace

      wow.. you took the right word out of my mouth…
      thats what has been on my mind.. i quit it on ep 8 and i started it again on ep 13…as you said..its one of the dramas that failed to keep up the momentum

    • 2.2 lilin

      except OST?the OST was sooooo gooodddd,for me

    • 2.3 Dominique

      At least, you continued to watch episodes 9 and on. I didn’t – I dropped this one during episode 8.

      However, having watched the final episode (episode 16) and kept up with the plot developments subsequent to episode 8, I must say this, without giving away how the drama ends. The drama stayed on one core message, and you will find out what that message is in the finale. At the same time, the conclusion of the drama is way too technical & analytical, almost as if the drama is solving a mathematical puzzle. So I give it an A for trying.

      In comparison, imagine the opposite regarding how Sirius ends.

  3. dian

    thank you for recaping… maybe it’s not such a great drama. But I enjoy it. especially the main lead is park si hoo and the main story have a good plot. thanks again for your recaps. Waiting the last episode…..

  4. Ruth

    I feel guilty being the first to post since I didn’t watch this (and won’t). Thanks for the recap. I’m glad that Se Kyung is going with the overt honesty. It seems fairly obvious that, had she done this to begin with, a lot of drama could have been avoided. But then…..this is a drama.

    I’m also glad that Seung Jo is being called to the carpet a little more. His expectation that everyone should have black and white motives is…well…crazy. Nobody, including himself, is like that.

    It’s interesting that he’d ask “why someone would want to enter Cheongdam-dong.” It’s always the ones that have something that question why it’s such a big deal. Try living without – try hitting your head against the ceiling – try working yourself to death for nothing but hopefully a meal and a roof. Even when he was without – there was still dad back in Korea. Yeah – he might have gotten to the point of starving, but he would have only died if he chose to…not because he didn’t have any other choice. The “haves” are very quick to blame the “have-nots” for their poverty.

    And this is a major reason that I couldn’t watch this show. I end up standing on a soapbox.

    • 4.1 Ruth

      oh good…someone else posted first. good.

    • 4.2 befuddled

      His time in hardship was relatively short compared to those who are born in poverty and no matter how much they work, they die in poverty. It’s just not comparable, though I can see why the character *thought* it was. Many of his peers, of course, would never even have lived a day in poverty.

      • 4.2.1 Ruth

        Exactly. You said what I wanted to say better and shorter. TY

        • 4.2.1.1 TS

          Agreed.

    • 4.3 Betsy Hp

      It’s a soapbox the show wants you to stand on, I think. And I can totally understand not wanting to get up there (I don’t always want social points in my dramas, either), but in this case, for me, I really, really appreciated the drama extending the invitation. (I think because it’s affected other dramas, but it’s not been overtly talked about, so it’s been a quiet bug for a little while now.)

      So I adored the conversation about the painting and how obvious it was to those who struggled and struggled and struggled for any kind of leg up (and generally didn’t find it). And how mystifying it was to those who were so used to getting legs up, they didn’t recognize it when it happened. (Seung-jo, but also his fellow wealthy friend, Dong-wook.)

      • 4.3.1 Windsun33

        K-dramas are loaded with “social points”, but not all are good. Some of them, like nobody ever forgetting to use a seat belt, or never DUI (there always seems to be a designated driver or cab).

        Others seem to reinforce what someone considers an “ideal’ society – such as the constant harping on using honorifics, and noone ever disrespects an elder, no matter how screwed up that elder may be.

        And at the bottom, I would place the idea that whenever someone has an issue, they drink themselves into oblvion, to the point of passing out and puking all over the place. (BTW, Korea finally admitted officially that the country has “a drinking problem” not long ago).

        • 4.3.1.1 Betsy Hp

          Oh, yes I see what you’re talking about. I consider that kind of thing the “remember your mom is watching this!” side of dramas. Like everyone diligently using hands-free methods to talk on their cell-phones. (On the good side at least.)

          But I meant more social commentary (I should have used that word to begin with — didn’t think of it yesterday) where the production actively tackles a social issue or problem and builds their story around it. Either hoping to drive up viewer outrage (this needs fixing!) or at least make them think about it (perhaps the status quo needs a re-do?).

          In this case I think AiCDd is doing the latter. I think they want their viewers to question the economic disparity in S.Korea and the difficulty of raising in status no matter how diligently one works. And to question the myth that those at the top have just worked harder and more diligently than anyone else (the “level playing field” myth).

      • 4.3.2 befuddled

        You are right about the painting- back when he was relaying the story in the first place, I knew that someone he knew was deliberately helping him, and anonymously because they didn’t want him to know who it was.

  5. ailee

    hey just wanna say thanks for keeping up with recaps as i know how frustrating it must be to see all the drama cliches going down halfway through the whole show. just like other dramas, i wish the production had stuck with the awesomeness at the first few episodes but hey it’s now k-drama if the story isn’t dragged out after the halfway mark. just solely here for the sake of it. still thanks for your commitment :D

    • 5.1 Windsun33

      That seems to happen with nearly every K-drama, and to some extent C-dramas also. J-dramas seem to pretty much avoid this, but they are often hard to find for streaming on such as NetFlix, Drama Fever etc.etc.etc.

  6. befuddled

    I really liked this episode more than several of the recent ones; Seung-jo’s struggle to understand Se-kyung’s POV was very interesting to me. I’ve heard other people before spouting the idea that all one has to do is work hard and the world will indeed reward them… and it’s usually people who are well off and/or who believe their value to be higher than others. Every time I hear such sentiments, my mind can call up many instances and people for which hard work didn’t lead to a life of substantial income. Yes, there are some stories of people who worked hard, and things worked out for them at some point… but I know a lot of people whom life has not rewarded in such a manner.

  7. maxzzr

    Thanks

  8. Ivy

    Interesting show – makes my head twirl with thoughts… so, the american dream huh? Is it the real deal? I’ve grown up believing or wishing to believe that hard work leads to prosperity… So sad that it seems not to be the case..

    • 8.1 befuddled

      Yeah, I had thought that too. I came from a middle class family and thought that if I worked hard at school, went to college and worked hard, I would get a nice job with a reasonable income, and there would follow the rest of life.

      Now a few years out of college… my experiences and my friend’s experiences seem to indicate that hard work and intelligence do not in face lead to success in all cases. I’m really wishing I hadn’t spent my youth in college right now. I didn’t party, I studied… and my degree hasn’t been useful to me as of yet. I think about that while I’m paying off student loans on my meager income. On the other hand, at least I can afford rent and internet. There are people who can’t.

      • 8.1.1 ffiza

        Well, hello there. It seems our life share a similar story. I have to agree with you, even in college, I was surrounded by the ideas that the degree can get you anywhere. How naive.

        I have to admit that I used to look down and annoyed at poor people that has to beg for money (These people come to our place every few weeks, expecting to be given money). Maybe I should start seeing from their point of view, what use is pride if they can’t afford food? And maybe they did work hard, things don’t just work out for them.

    • 8.2 Elizabeth

      I love that they are dealing with this idea that hard work = reward. Anyone who has taken a beginning sociology class would know that those who go from rags to riches are the exception to the rule. It isn’t because they are special or somehow have worked harder than others, its because they have somehow been in the right place at the right time with the right idea AND worked hard.

      What Seung-Jo doesn’t understand is the place of privilege he comes from, so with her teaching him, she is also teaching a wider audience who watch the drama.

      I think here in the US, and perhaps in Korea too, our idea of the “American Dream” or the “work hard, get rich” has been sorely challenged in this recession. It is awesome that the writers of this drama are addressing that.

    • 8.3 Windsun33

      I suggest that working smarter, not harder is the key. Hammering on rocks 16 hours a day might be “hard”, but not too smart.

      Most people are afraid to get out of their comfort zone

      • 8.3.1 Geeme Koon

        stop taking sociology classes and try an economics course…

        Working Hard (for someone else) ultimately rewards businesspeople. The system of control tells people to work hard for certain audiences of society. The hierarchy of rich folks have always funded the big projects, laws, wars that make the most economic sense for them. Think about it, you pay taxes upfront on your paycheck. Rich people usually pay their taxes at the very last moment, and generally have higher exemptions and tax breaks. They rig the rules and dictate who is rich and who is not.

        The white rabbit, mentor, big brother, rich husband.. whatever you call it… is the vehicle to get you and teaches you how to get into the secret world meant for the rich (usually exploiting the working class).

        This the reality of our world. This type of series dramatizes it … but essentially its that way.

  9. JoAnne

    I guess I’m pretty much alone with thinking that the overall score for this series is pretty high. I could quibble with a few things here and there but the story, the characterizations, the trajectory of growth or change or lack thereof – this show has given us more to think about than we usually get from television and I have loved the whole so much that I could overlook the tiny faults here and there. It wasn’t easy to process, and it wasn’t always easy to follow people’s thinking, and it certainly shifted from humor to seriousness – but one thing it just plain isn’t is a failure, or a disappointment, unless you were looking for a rom-com. That, it ain’t.

    • 9.1 Betsy Hp

      I’ll join you in that high scoring! (So, a table for two, then? ;)) I adored the whole painting conversation and how it encapsulated the different life experiences (and therefore different life expectations) between the haves and have nots.

      And I really, really, really adored that Seung-jo kept picking away at the issue. He can tell there’s a translation issue (or he at least hopes there’s a translation issue), so he keeps coming up with questions. Just as Se-kyung predicted. That he’s actively seeking the answers actually makes me proud of him. Rather than running away (his first instinct — though interesting that Se-kyung accuses him of doing so because he knows people will chase after him) he’s facing the problem. Which he didn’t do with Yoon-soo.

      I agree that it’s not a rom-com though. It kind of explodes a lot of the rom-com cliches and I myself have enjoyed the deconstruction.

    • 9.2 Saturtledaisy

      I agree~ I think the main disappointment for some people might be because it seems to have switched genres. It’s not just light fluff anymore, though it was supposed to be.

      I kindof still miss the cute, too.

      • 9.2.1 roobi

        i think the writers made us dream too. that this is a cute rom com ,then we wake up and see a serious socialistic drama :P

    • 9.3 Windsun33

      You are not alone. I still consider it one of the top 10 of the past 3 years or so, despite it’s flaws and somewhat failed episodes 11 and 12.

      • 9.3.1 befuddled

        I will definitely remember this one not just for the awesomely funny bits, but also for the way it was ended so well, with Seung Jo being upset but also asking questions and trying to understand, rather than just raging about and then randomly forgiving her (which probably would have been the ‘happy ending’ in many another drama).

    • 9.4 Nana

      I feel the same. Yes, the show has some weaknesses but I’m so happy that it raises so many interesting points that are rarely discussed in dramas, and they don’t sugarcoat reality. I’ve really enjoyed that approach.

    • 9.5 Annie

      No, I’m with you. I’ve loved almost all of the episodes and thought the last two were especially great.

    • 9.6 JoAnne

      ahhh, my people! I thought you had to be out there, but friend after friend has had a middle-to-low rating for this and I just sit here with my mouth hanging open going ‘HOW? How do you not see this as the thing of beauty that it is?’

      • 9.6.1 Jackie

        I’m with ya as well, sister! This show has been the best that I have seen in quite awhile. It was different in many aspects, the chemistry between the two was palpable and the music was amazing. Not to mention funny at times.

      • 9.6.2 YY

        I LOVED this show….have actually finished watching the entire show hence the past tense….definitely up there among my personal kor favourites. I love the lines, the characters, the acting, the ost. It made me THINK, and this is something I have never experienced with any show. A rich, multi-layered show, that is, in Jo Anne’s words a “thing of beauty”. A masterpiece, in fact.

    • 9.7 ilovekimchi

      Count me in. I’ve watched dramas in the long time. But this one just spoke to me. I liked this episode a lot. I liked that our characters talk and make us ponder. The writers had set out with such lofty goals — and in my opinion, succeeded. THanks for the recaps.

      • 9.7.1 ilovekimchi

        Sorry for typos. . .

      • 9.7.2 tc

        Count me in too. I enjoyed most of the episodes save for ep 11 whereby In Hwa dominated the screen time. I really like this episode as it showed both leads’ perseverance to resolve issues between them with honesty.

        Sad that some viewers gave up the drama after ep 8 as they did not like the change in genre from comedy to serious. I must be one of the few that actually prefer the serious CSJ than his comedic character in earlier episodes although he did made me laugh with his antics.

    • 9.8 patsy

      I agree that I loved the series overall. Towards the end when SJ and SK’s story arc stalled I enjoyed watching Tommy & Yoon-joo evolve.

      • 9.8.1 Annie

        Yes. The worst character of the show was In Hwa. But her dad yelled at her for her actions. And you see that in he end she’s a product of her upbringing. She just didn’t get it like SJ didn’t get it. Her “justice” talk with SK gave us great insights into her character.

        Enough about her, YJ and Tommy were foe turned to friends the right way. Really loved them at the end.

    • 9.9 shelhass

      See, you’re not alone.

      We all agree the series is really good – not well done, but almost.
      Tha problem IS the rom-com label and that terrible terrible promo stuff.

    • 9.10 Curioser And Curiosor

      Hey JoAnne, I, like so many others at your table think this drama was rather a gem for soooo many reasons, not least of which is that it consistently challenged a lot of neat assumptions about how heroines and heroes should be and I found (and still find) it to have layer upon layer of rich yet remarkably subtle meta-narrative.

      In that sense the drama was in many ways like Se Kyung: she gives an amazingly eloquent and cool-headed voice to nearly all the issues the drama raised about such ambiguous dichotomies (with each term in both the material and metaphysical sense) as aspiration and love vs ambition and need, (i.e. the allure of the former pair and the repugnance of the latter) and of corse fortune/wealth and all that implies…

      I have a powerful suspicion that this drama wan not really that concerned with entertaining but rather with getting people to take a hard look at their unquestioned, received wisdom about what they should value. I think that, just as Se Kyung urges Seung Jo to consider, it may be alright to forego what you want (neat Cinderella/Candy drama), however precious it seems, and instead be open to what you need, even if it is homely and unflinchingly candid…

      Yeah, I suspect that plot is less significant in this drama than each individual’s motivations fro doing whatever they do…

      Bon appetit, all!

    • 9.11 maeye86

      gaaahh!!! i’m joining the table too! i love this drama at first for its rom-com but when it twisted the genre i gave me quite sometime to understand it.

      but now i seriously value this drama. it deals with the reality from the very beginning (remember se kyung’s family problem, debt, se kyung’s struggle in getting new job et al) so i gotta say, it is actually consistent but toward d half part. some ppl says it went down the hill but i beg to differ, the drama is trying to look at this problem since the beginning but clouded by seung jo’s personality.

      now when i think about it, i really reallly really love this drama!

      (this is the first time i comment on this drama thread. huhu)

    • 9.12 Betsy Hp

      Oh my gosh, I adore this whole thread! Forget the table, we’ll need to rent a whole room! :D

    • 9.13 delicatecloud

      @JoAnne – I am jumping on the bandwagon (or sitting at a very very long table by now)! I really really like this drama and agreed with all the comments on the very interesting thoughts that the drama has served us at the dining table. Questions of i) is love the be all and end all? ii) can we live by bread or love alone? iii) is there 100% pure love? iv) is success measured by the amount in our bank account(s)? – if so what is the yardstick for determing whether we have arrived or not? – as SJ said why someone wants to enter CDD? v) does hardwork not be the basis or even the steps to success? vi) what is the “american dream” (insert any country here)? is it achievable by all?

      The drama should not have been categorized as a rom-com; however, i find that rom-com as a category is used loosely to encompass all genres of comedic dramas and film.

  10. 10 jomo

    Thanks for the recap!
    This brings up some good questions:
    …”why do these people want to be part of Cheongdam-dong? Honestly, I never thought of it that way before, because I kind of dreamed of a life of riches and extravagance; why can’t I wish for my drama heroines to succeed too?”

    Specifically, is there no happy medium between poverty + despair and riches + extravagance?

    Do they HAVE to be all designer clothes and bags? Who is telling everyone that lots of money = happiness? Cause we all know that is false.

    • 10.1 Windsun33

      You echo some of my own feelings about K-dramas. Everything seems to be a case of going through garbage cans for food, or buying $20,000 designer bags – with no inbetween. The only third choice is historical dramas, which ALWAYS revolve around palace intrigue, with endlsess episodes of the same thing repeating with different conspirators each week.

      The writers seem to be stuck in a rut. The themes in Japanese and to some extent in Taiwan dramas seem more varied. J-dramas seems to have marketing and distribution issues as they are not nearly as widely available as Korean dramas (it took me quite a while for example to find the English subbed “One Litre of Tears”, one of the best J-dramas ever. Yet I can find all kinds of trash 1-star rated “Bimbo Samurai Striptease” type junk.

  11. 11 momoi

    This is like the only drama I’ve seen that revolves so much around money and I love it. Se Kyung makes a good point in that Seung Jo has an advantage over her, not just his own hard work. She worked hard and in the end, was left by her boyfriend of 6 years, had her money taken from her, and has not been able to move up in the world after trying so hard.

    What I love about the show is how no one is purely good or bad.

    Also, i feel like they could have made a short story or series just on Yoon Jo’s life and journey.

    • 11.1 opheliadrowning

      Yoon Jo became so much more interesting to me, and I actually wondered why this drama didn’t revolve more around a character like her. It almost seems like she went through more of a change/journey than Se Kyung did.

      • 11.1.1 Abi

        I feel like Se Kyung was the catalyst for the changes we saw in her though… Mostly because SK was kinda straight forward about the way she did things, she thought differently from the rest of them and this make Yoon Joo think as well and see a different point of view. Hence helping her evolve… So in a way Se Kyung was necessary for her changes… other wise who would have shown her other ways to think? Tommy Hong…?

      • 11.1.2 siak

        i like it as the writer just wanted to focus the main couple, the rest like Yoon-ju and even Tommy Hong are supporting roles. Typical korean drama like to drag by showing unnecessary scenes of the supporting characters. Though I admit I also have a lot of questions on Tommy and perhaps add some juicy story between Tommy and Se Kyung (like he falls in love with her), but the writer did not elaborate more from there.

        • 11.1.2.1 maeye86

          yup, had the same comparison in my head. if u’ve watched the finale, it was revealed that ah jung n secretary moon are in a relationship n ah jung told se kyung that she didn’t told se kyung due to her situation. if u think bout it, it’s the writer that told us, ‘meh, just focus on the main character. this drama isn’t a typical kdrama’ :P

  12. 12 Betsy Hp

    Thanks for the recap, kaedejun! :)

    I was actually really pleased they focused in on Seung-jo. It’s his breakdown (and potential breakdown) that caused so much of the issues (he can’t handle the truth!), so I was really pleased the drama actually had him wrestling with the truth everyone was so positive he wouldn’t be able to handle. (And I adore that it’s Se-kyung who pushes him to do it.)

    • 12.1 tc

      Me too. It also showed that he was not so weak as we initially fear and was willing to discover the truth in order to understand HSK better. Really like HSK’s honesty and the way she handled him.

  13. 13 schwimmen

    I think, in the end, they got the novel basis for the drama wrong. It’s not Alice in Wonderland. It’s the Great Gatsby.

    • 13.1 Mystisith

      Exactly.

    • 13.2 opheliadrowning

      Ah! You are right! It is more Gatsby than Alice. Or rather, it’s a mix of the two, but unfortunately, without the execution of others. But it makes sense to me now why the subject was so ambitious and interesting, despite itself.

    • 13.3 Lilly

      BINGO!

      The Gilded Age, the global wealth gap before the Great Depresson, it is all there.

      This is when film becomes art, when it paints a portrait of a period of time or event and makes us think about it.

      I think they have all done great work with this, dealing with a tough issue in a light and loving manner that. like sitting down with a friend to have coffee in order to explain to them a bad situation.

      • 13.3.1 maeye86

        i need a like button here!!

        • 13.3.1.1 oddy_blues

          I also need a like button

  14. 14 Saturtledaisy

    I actually like how they’re wrapping things up – by having everyone be honest for a change. (Instead of the usual messy endings where they somehow just decide to forget about all the misunderstandings without clearing things up properly and have a random but unsatisfactory happy ending.)

    I especially like how Seung-jo is trying to seek out all the answers himself. It’s time he grew up and lived in the real world, I suppose, and I think he finally sees that now.

    As for Yoon-joo, my goodness her husband is a jerk. I wonder how he ever had the guts to marry her instead of some wealthy rich girl. It doesn’t look like he really loves her. I just don’t get it.

    • 14.1 shelhass

      That’s a very good question.

      I thought he really liked her and already knew all the stuff about Seung-joo but decided to keep it to himself. But he’s a total douche.

      If I were Yoon-joo, I would turn down the deal AND give him the middle finger.

  15. 15 opheliadrowning

    I really enjoyed this show up until episode 8, and then it began to sort of go downhill and I wasn’t sure what it wanted to do or be. But I kept watching, mostly because this was a really ambitious show, and I was really interested in the themes it was tackling. In the end, I don’t think it quite accomplished it–maybe it was that the lie that everyone is so screechy about could have been avoided or cleared up right away–but they at least are trying to explain it. I think if they had had more time to really work on the story and develop it, it would have been a really smart show. I guess it was interesting enough to me at least, to keep me watching all the way through the end, long after it had lost the glow of what had made it so delightful to begin with.

  16. 16 kumi

    Or why sae sweet a flower as love
    Depend on Fortune’s shining?

  17. 17 doctordrama

    What I love most about this drama is that it makes you so self-reflexive and actually think about your own belief system, which is not something you expect when you want a light and fluffy rom com. Why is it so hard to love a character such as Se-Kyung who is a gold digger? Why is it that we would only want Candy characters? Why is it so hard to digest and watch that love also pertains to money, need, and using?

    I think part of the “downhill” for other people is that the show lost the cute along the way but I think that’s the fantasy the show wants to deconstruct about our romantic ideals/fantasies. It was so easy to love Seung Jo’s character in the first episodes despite his neurosis because he played into our romantic fantasies. In the beginning of the episodes, I even thought of how Park Si Hoo’s acting and his character was totally overshadowing Moon Geun Young’s Se Kyung that it made it even harder to like her character. I enjoyed how the show slowly unraveled all the characters and how complex they are and not so black and white. Even our romantic hero’s romantic idealism becomes questioned and gets tied to questions of class—that Seung Jo becomes able to live in his romantic idealism because he has money. He didn’t have to suffer to the extent Se Kyung and In Chan had to go through. I don’t think this drama is perfect but it really deserves more credit than the comments I’ve been seeing. This drama has a lot of depth though it might not have been perfectly executed. There are several points in the drama that could have been dealt with a more straightforward manner than in a round about way such as exposing the lie.

    Most of all, I really appreciated and enjoyed how in this episode and the last one, it was Se-Kyung, the female lead who was wrist grabbing and dragging the male lead at the airport. Now, I don’t think I’ve seen that in a drama yet.

    • 17.1 Curioser And Curiosor

      Hear! hear!

    • 17.2 ilovekimchi

      Well said. :)

    • 17.3 JoAnne

      YES

    • 17.4 Nana

      I completely agree.

    • 17.5 shelhass

      “This drama has a lot of depth though it might not have been perfectly executed”.

      Exactly. I came to Alice’s world ’cause I was really sick of melodrama (NG and IMY) thinking it was just a light rom-com. So I was quite taken aback from all the depth it has showing us.

      This episode was a great exposé of the writer(s) opinion about Cheongdam-dong through everybody’s eyes. I like the idea of “the grass is aways greener on the other side”. While Seung-joo could barely contain his pride for having been poor, Se-kyung found herself ashamed of the poor, but hardworking life she had to live and both of them romanticised “the other side”.

      The interesting part is that both of them were wrong and right at the same time – both seeking imposssible fantasies. Seung-joo is facing the harsh reality he avoided all those years and Se-kyung is still learning that the hardest part of Cheongdam-dong is not entering, is staying. Hence Yoon-jo and Tommy arcs.

      But – and that’s a big one – it could do so much better with all those reflections.

    • 17.6 Jackie

      Yes I concur!

    • 17.7 Bengbeng

      Yeah, love entails a lot of things that you both need to go through. and come to think of it, money’s involvement will always be there =)

      • 17.7.1 Bengbeng

        i forgot to mention that i didn’t get married coz i cant find someone who can provide for me. Hahaha, i’m so materialistic. But now that i’m earning enough to have a family, i would like a guy that can take care of me literally, i’ll provide the money, hahahah

    • 17.8 maeye86

      again, i need a like button here!

    • 17.9 oddy_blues

      Well said, very well said. Thank you for putting things up. I can hardly find better words…

  18. 18 ilovekimchi

    I really loved this episode for some reasons already pointed out above, but for one other thing: I loved the way Sekyung dealt with Seungjo, not letting him escape and allowing him to ask those big questions himself. It was deliberate and shows how much she understands him. He may not have liked her answers, but they were given so, with the hope that as he learns of the truth little by little, and him putting the pieces together — will lead to some insight and his own understanding of who SeKyung is. Not the idealized version who restored his faith in love, but the one who is standing before him who can make him believe that loving someone means accepting the other person — the good with the bad.

    • 18.1 Annie

      It was also lovely to see why Se Kyung loves Seung Jo. The money’s nice and he’s cute, but she likes the fact that he is always half dreaming. She wants him to half wake up and understand the real world, but in a world that is filled with harsh reality, it’s always nice to have some fantasy to escape to. The ideas in this drama were great.

    • 18.2 doctordrama

      I totally agree, I love what you just pointed out too, I really like how they worked out the issues in this episode. I really like how they complement each other. I just have to share my favorite lines in this episode that tells so much:

      “I thought that you would really save my life. But they told me to save you. They told me to protect you. I was home to you. I was everything to you. You said that without me, you were nothing. Before that my existence was nothing to the world I had given up on myself, and you helped me find myself again. You’re that person to me.”

  19. 19 SparrowBell

    I didn’t follow the shows initially till somewhere in the middle. It was funny enough to keep me watching but the premises just don’t work with me.

    The whole idea about going to Cheongdong-dam, is a bit beyond me? Do we here want to marry into a family live at 5th ave at NYC….. There are lives in between. And, why would that be such a big deal about hoping your boyfriend to be successful?! In US, upper middle classes marry each other probably bcos they have something more in common, not so much to grow the pots of money. Lastly, the guy is too much of a high maintenance for his age.

    Funny that TV was playing Family guy played by Nicholas Cage about wanting simpler family life than Wall Street luxury.

    • 19.1 Shikurai17

      This drama isn’t completely just about aiming to marry into a rich family and live on 5th Ave. It’s about people always aiming for better. Why else would people go through school and work hard to get promotions? People want to improve or maintain their quality of life.

      Why doesn’t the middle class aim for marrying into a rich family and living on 5th Ave? Cheondam-dong Alice already pointed this out. Most people don’t know any of the wealthy. It’s not that Americans don’t aim for higher and only want to stay in the middle class. It’s because we’re practical and know it’s impossible to aim so high. We just try to go as high as we can realistically. If the opportunity came, we’ll take it. I don’t know a single person who if won the jackpot on the lottery and would just throw the ticket away.

  20. 20 Bengbeng

    my dream is for Tommy Hong and Yoon-joo to end up working together. Designing their own line of clothes and create their own name in Cheongdam-dong. Royal Group and Artemis to collaborate and merge, and just let GN group go down the drain =).

  21. 21 altair

    The only word for this drama: trainwreck. I had to watch it for Park Shi Hoo (The princess’ man!!!!), but the lead actress (Moon Geun Young – I initially refused to memorize her name, but I had to, so I can avoid any future dramas with her) ruined it for me.

  22. 22 Cupcake

    I don’t care if the guy had money or not as long as he is Park Shi Hoo I am all in. Park Shi Hoooooooooooooooooo!

  23. 23 rahimah

    Wow..what an awesome drama..
    It really shows the reality.
    Although some people do not understand but in reality this is true.
    People want to become rich and famous and come up in a high position.
    This is the challenge in our world.
    We have to fight in order to live and stand still until the end.
    It all lead to fate.
    What will happen is just happens.
    Hope people would appreciate what this drama are trying to say.
    Oh well, this is just a drama.
    But all I can say is, reality is really a reality.
    We should accept it no matter what and live on.
    Thanks for the recaps!

  24. 24 skelly

    I’m really of two minds about this show. On one hand, I really like the theme, I like the issues it raises about class and money and values. I like seeing people make believable mistakes and do their best to rectify them.

    But on the other hand, I think the show was really uneven in terms of tone and acting. The show did not seem to know exactly how to mesh the Alice in Wonderland theme with a story with serious message. It was manic, and then it was makjang. It had a hero being borderline psycho and then trying to generate a believable romantic pairing. It tried to match drama characters to Alice in Wonderland characters, which really didn’t work on so many levels. The character that most frustrated me was the character that I was at first most excited about – SK. People rave about the acting abilities of MGY and I am really just not feeling it. I thought her self-flagellation over her “crimes” was annoying and over-the-top, while her scenes with SJ – once she knew he was not Mr. Kim – lacked any spark of passion whatsoever. I grew tired of her tears and tired of that look of mild surprise that she wears most of the time. And her eyes are enormously distracting to me; all of the push/pull of the theme, all of the lessons she is learning and trying to impart to others, and I just keep seeing her blank cross-eyed stare, especially in the PSH scenes. Really, they should have used the white bunnies as emotion stand-ins. I don’t think I can watch her in anything again.

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