Adorable. The next installment of tvN’s Oh Boy series is here with Flower Boy Next Door, and I’m happy to report it’s as zippy and fun as advertised. It’s closest to Flower Boy Ramyun Shop in tone—a wacky comedy with heightened situations and quirky characters.
But more importantly, our Miss Lonelyhearts at the center of it all has depth and heart, and I can’t wait to find out how all these guys will start to disrupt her little bubble, and shake her out of her comfort zone.
SONG OF THE DAY
“외톨이야 (I’m a Loner)” – CN Blue [ Download ]
EPISODE 1: “I Steal Peeks at Him Every Day”
We open on details inside our heroine’s apartment. She raises plants. She’s a copywriter. She keeps stacks of takeout coffee cups and rows and rows of water bottles. And her alarm rings in the morning with the message: “His wake-up time.”
She pops up, not in bed, but in the middle of her living room floor, snuggled in a sleeping bag, with warm bottles of water used for heat to keep her expenses down. This is our heroine, GO DOK-MI (Park Shin-hye).
After she gets up, she carefully sticks her hand outside her front door—just a hand—to reach for her carton of milk. It comes with a post-it attached: “A lovely day!” with a drawing of a boy and girl. She adds it to a stack.
She opens up her curtains, which gives her a clear view straight across the alley and into her neighbor’s apartment in a building that’s taller and fancier than hers. She follows along with everything he does, from morning exercise to breakfast to laundry, as if they’re doing them together.
She waves goodbye as he leaves for work, and she puts down her binoculars with a wistful sigh.
Elsewhere, someone has a very different morning, making a giant mess that spills over into the seat next to his on a plane. A flight attendant scowls at the mess… until ENRIQUE GEUM (Yoon Shi-yoon) looks up at her and smiles. She’s a goner.
He gets up and makes his way to the back of the plane, slaying more women with his smile, until he reaches a little boy who’s been crying and screaming. He sticks a moving-through-space screensaver up with his tablet, and presents a paper robot. That’s what you were doing? So. Cute.
I love the running bit with him—he’s so handsome he literally puts smiles on people’s faces everywhere he goes. It’s hilarious.
The man at customs isn’t so easily impressed, assuming he doesn’t understand Korean because of his foreign passport. But Enrique busts out his perfect Korean, blathering on about how his father never let him speak Spanish at home, and how he was once tested as a genius at the age of nine.
And then he takes a look at his assistant’s nametag (it says gyo-yook-saeng = trainee) and calls out cheerily, “Bye Yook-saeng noona!” LOL. So, not so much a genius.
He gets a celebrity’s welcome out of the gate, with reporters scrambling to ask him if he’s been scouted to work elsewhere and if he plans to leave Sola Studio. He doesn’t say.
His attention shifts at the arrival of YOON SEO-YOUNG (Kim Yoon-hye). They smile at each other. Ah, this must be what he meant when he told the customs officer his reason for coming here was cupid’s arrow.
We shift to another introduction—two well-dressed guys turn heads as they music-video-strut their way down the street. This is OH JIN-RAK (Kim Ji-hoon) and YOO DONG-HOON (Go Kyung-pyo), and they enjoy the attention.
Turns out they got all dressed up to hear the verdict on their latest webtoon, Zombie Soccer. The editor tells them it wasn’t picked up, because it plagiarized a video game.
The boys argue that a game and a webtoon are totally different things, and besides, how would they get permission from some Spanish game developer? She points out that said game-maker—Enrique Geum, naturally—just landed in Seoul minutes ago.
They get the brush-off from the editor, and Dong-hoon whines that they can’t throw away all their work like this. Shouldn’t they show her the latest drawings? He flips through Jin-rak’s sketches, and stops at one that doesn’t belong in the zombie soccer lot—a girl.
That sparks an idea, and Jin-rak shows the editor. The story he pitches: a girl, trapped in her apartment and the guys who surround her. The editor deadpans, “And she’s a zombie and he’s a vampire? So overdone.” Ha.
He quickly says this story will be nothing like that. It’ll be a realistic melo, all about the everyday life of this one girl, and all her neighbors… and it’ll be called “Flower Boy Next Door.” Ah, I see, it’ll be a webtoon-within-a-drama. She lights up.
Back to Enrique, who asks if Seo-young really feels nothing even though they haven’t seen each other in a year. She steals his lollipop and says he hasn’t changed one bit—he’s still the cocky and self-absorbed guy from before. She doesn’t say it meanly, but like an old friend.
He does notice that she’s freezing and zips her up in one of his jackets, and then pauses when he’s within kissing distance. He starts to lean in…
…and chomps down on the lollipop in her hand. You big tease.
Dok-mi gets a call from one of her freelance copy-editing jobs, and insists that the drop-off be at the post office rather than her home, and can’t bring herself to ask for payment, even though it’s backed up, and she clearly needs the money.
The neighbors from her building are being organized downstairs in a small protest to get some payment out of the new officetel that was built so tall it ruined their view, and the security guard calls out Dok-mi as “Apartment 402″ over the PA system to say that she’ll start being fined if she doesn’t attend the building meetings.
It’s news to Dong-hoon that a young lady lives next door, since he’s been crashing at Jin-rak’s place for a while and he’s never seen her. He takes one look at the apartment fees and complains that she gets charged less for heating and such, because she lives alone.
While that’s going on down in the street, Dok-mi checks on her neighbor across the way, or his dog, really. She’s surprised to see that he stopped by home in the middle of the day. She watches through her binoculars as he answers a hurried phone call and leaves a boiling kettle teetering on the edge of his dining table… right over his sleeping dog. Eeep.
Dok-mi watches in a fright as the kettle teeters and falls, and she lets out a yelp. In a panic, she runs downstairs. She almost catches up to him as he pulls out of the driveway, but Dong-hoon stops her to introduce himself and ask about her heating bill.
Jin-rak notes her presence with curiosity, and the security guard thinks she’s finally heeding his warning to join in the building’s meetings.
But Dok-mi is only focused on the dog, and so she grabs a taxi to follow her mystery man. She sticks her head out the window to get his attention, and finally catches up to him on foot…
But once she’s actually within touching distance, she can’t bring herself to tap him on the shoulder.
She stops there in the street, unable to make contact. She finally screws up her nerve to shout, “Your dog is hurt!” but suddenly another man steps right in her path, startling her. Lee Jong-hyuk? What are you doing here?
Elsewhere, Enrique asks Seo-young if she didn’t miss him, and says, “I missed you. Every single day.” She slaps him upside the head and says she missed him too, but they obviously mean it in two very different ways.
He says he’s planning to play cupid, but has to be careful because cupid’s arrow has a way of making things complicated. “So I’m going to ask. Your love… is it Han Tae-joon?”
And back in the street, a group of guys picks up Dok-mi’s mystery man, calling him Tae-joon. Aha.
Dok-mi is frozen in place, and it turns out Lee Jong-hyuk is a random fortuneteller type, trying to fish for customers in the street. But the funnier thing is that she’s crazier than he is, and starts to unload her problems.
She says it was autumn the last time she was out in the world. She looks up at the sun, which takes her to a flashback, to the moment she first saw Tae-joon in a park on a fall day. She followed him and watched as he picked up a puppy in a box and took him home.
She says in voiceover that she found out what love at first sight meant, and felt as though she had loved a short while and parted with him. She wanted everything to remind her of that fall day, and we watch as she comes home with those yellow binoculars on a whim.
She plays around with them in her apartment, and lands on the window across the way, and in walks Tae-joon with his new puppy. Her jaw drops. She says she thought of it as fate.
Of course it’s only after telling the whole story that it dawns on her she forgot about the dog, and she runs off.
Back to Enrique, who asks it again: “Your love… is Han Tae-joon, right?” Seo-young doesn’t answer, but it’s written all over her face. He laughs it off and says the seriousness doesn’t suit her.
She says she’s sorry, but he doesn’t blame her in the least, and offers to make her his special spaghetti, at Tae-joon’s place. Oh, is he your bestie too? That’s not awkward.
Dok-mi makes her way back, and Jin-rak is surprised to see her run into the building across the way. And he and Dong-hoon are even more shocked when Enrique Geum gets out of a taxi and heads into the same building.
Dok-mi sits at Tae-joon’s door, calling out to the dog and sick with worry. She baby-talks and asks if he’s very hurt, and of course it’s the exact moment that Enrique shows up behind her, “Ajumma, what’re you doing?”
Shocked, she crawls away on her hands and knees in horror.
Jin-rak stalls the elevator, and Dok-mi comes up but stops short when she sees other people inside. Dong-hoon invites her to get in, but she won’t. The doors close and Jin-rak says she can’t anyway—”it’s not in her personality.”
Dong-hoon tries to figure out which apartment Enrique moved into, and Jin-rak pulls him away from the window before he gets himself arrested for peeping.
Enrique settles into Tae-joon’s apartment and peers out at Dok-mi’s building, gaping at how old it is, and that he could probably shout across the way and be heard.
Dok-mi is shocked to see a stranger standing in Tae-joon’s apartment, “Who are you?”
Enrique can sense someone looking at him, and peers back at Dok-mi’s window. She hides, and then peers back, and they go back and forth, trying to see the other person.
Enrique finally turns away… and then whips around to try and catch her, so she ducks down like a crazy person.
Later, she goes down to throw out the trash, and stops to organize the recyclables properly. Jin-rak watches, keeping his distance.
She starts to narrate about unrequited love, as we see her type away at her desk. Aw, is she a writer?
Dok-mi: How timid and frail is unrequited love? A place you entered of your own accord, but you’re trapped inside, unable to find an exit. He doesn’t know a thing, and could one day leave my line of sight, and the love ends passively. A love that does not bloom flowers, and thus cannot dream of bearing fruit. A love like a seed that is forgotten. That is unrequited love.
Tae-joon comes home at the crack of dawn, and smiles to see Enrique passed out on his couch. He goes to tuck him in, when Enrique shouts at him and jumps up with a hug, “Hyuuuuuuung!” Wait, what?
Oh my god, are they brothers? Dude. Tae-joon calls him by his nickname, Kkae-geum, and Enrique starts immediately whining for hyung to buy a bigger tv.
Okay, they can’t be brother-brothers, because they have different last names, but they’re not friends (whereas Jin-rak and Dong-hoon’s hyung-dongsaeng relationship is clearly of the friend variety). Maybe they’re cousins?
Enrique adorably aegyos him into all sorts of changes, but Tae-joon holds his ground and says no. Immediate pouting. Yeah they’re family for sure, right?
Dok-mi wakes up in the morning and goes to the window while brushing her teeth… and is greeted by a strange sight. A guy gets craned up to her window holding a box, and he smiles brightly at the sight of her, freaking her out.
It’s her new neighbor, who’s moving in down the hall.
At the same time, Dong-hoon sees a note wedged into Jin-rak’s door, and it’s from “Apartment 402.”
Dok-mi peers over at Tae-joon with her binoculars and smiles in relief to see that his dog is perfectly fine. When he goes into the bedroom she scans her way back to the living room… where Enrique is glaring Right. At. Her.
What… are you wearing? That’s beside the point though, as he looks her straight in the binoculars, and motions with his fingers, I’m watching you. Hee. Also, oh crap.
She freaks out and closes the blinds in terror. Enrique won’t leave it at that, and runs out in nothing but shorts and a trench coat (Who looks crazy now?) muttering the whole way over that he knew he felt someone watching him last night.
At the same time, the new neighbor starts packing a basket of pastries and practicing his greeting to introduce himself. He heads out…
Jin-rak reads the note and opens his door…
And Enrique storms out of the elevator, counting the doors, until he lands on 402…
He rings the doorbell, and Dok-mi peeks out the peephole and freezes.
Oh dear, so much confrontation for the girl who can’t handle confrontation. The first episode was a lot of introductions, but I think it did a good job of throwing us into a world that feels lived in. We don’t dwell on things and not everything comes with a glaring neon sign, which is nice. But there are key context clues about what kind of person Dok-mi is (a stickler for the rules, a penny-pincher by necessity, a dreamer, a writer, and someone who’s terrified of making a connection), the ways Enrique’s relationships have shifted while he was away, and how Jin-rak might have been watching Dok-mi from afar for a very long time.
I like that Go Dok-mi (whose name means literally “lonely beauty”) actually does feel her loneliness and dream of a love that doesn’t leave her feeling so empty or trapped inside herself. Even if her habits are strange, she’s immediately relatable because she seems self-aware, and she struggles against her nature to assert herself to her boss or take a step outside her apartment.
Enrique is her total opposite, of course, and seems highly sensitive to what other people are about, even though he couches everything in jokes or cute antics. Already he’s a riot, and I’m really glad to have a hero who isn’t some dark broody cloud, because we have enough of those in dramaland. It’s nice to have a bright bubbly hero for once. And how great is it that she’s built her entire safety net around being invisible, and he insists on seeing her?
All in all a great first outing—the characters pop, the humor is there, and the conflicts have lots of potential. It feels zippy because we move in and out of characters’ lives without lots and lots of forced exposition, and we’re left to puzzle things together like how Tae-joon fits into everyone’s lives, or how much Jin-rak knows about Dok-mi. I’m laughing out loud and wanting more, which makes me a happy camper.
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