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You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episode 5

One of the benefits of watching a longer show live, such as a weekend family series, is that the time commitment feels quite a bit more manageable than if you were coming into it after it had already wrapped and had a fifty-hour chunk of stuff to get through. You get to know the characters gradually, and their transformations can be pretty satisfying over a six-month period. It allows for slow growth in a low-key and realistic way, which is nice.

One of the downsides, however, is that you don’t have the option of fast-forwarding to the good stuff. When you’re watching a big show for a few awesome storylines, having fifty episodes on hand allows you to devote all your attention to the characters you care about and forget about the filler material. It often makes it lighter, breezier, and easier to get through.

So this episode of You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin has a few cute moments, but mostly I consider it one of our necessary evil episodes — the kind required to get our plot to a certain place, that you can see coming from all angles, but that you just have to get through anyway. It doesn’t lessen my enjoyment of the show, but it does make me eager to move on to the next episode so the story can get back to the cuteness.

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J.ae – “둘이서” (Two of us) [ Download ]

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EPISODE 5 RECAP

In the street, Soon-shin’s father sees Mi-ryung about to be hit by an oncoming car and pushes her out of harm’s way, taking the hit himself. Mi-ryung shakes to see him lying in a pool of blood, just as ex-manager Hwang comes upon the scene. For all his underhandedness, I do think the manager thinks of Mi-ryung’s welfare first, and thus he hurriedly pulls her out the vicinity while the car screeches away. Ah, so it’s a hit and run to boot.

Thankfully the next driver who comes along is a much more decent human being and calls the ambulance. The manager-star duo leaves the scene just as the medics arrive.

Now it’s time for the bad news to circulate to the family, and Mom gets the call first and rushes to the hospital with her eldest daughter Hye-shin. Yoo-shin and Soon-shin also hurry to see dad, and everyone is a nervous wreck as they await news. They wonder what Dad was doing out in that neighborhood, and Soon-shin offers up that he was going to meet her. Oh honey, don’t you dare feel bad about your daddy-daughter date!

But it’s bad news, and the doctors aren’t able to save him. Sigh. I knew this was coming (Dad’s death was written into the show blurb), but it’s still a bummer when your most decent character has to bite it, especially while saving a character that you’re not quite sure deserved his sacrifice.

Speaking of whom, Mi-ryung quakes in her designer heels at home — for what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure she did love Dad and she’s a mess about the accident. It’s Manager Hwang who informs her of the death, and tells her firmly that he’ll take care of everything, saying that on the upside now there’s nobody left who knows of her secret. That is one tarnished silver lining, buddy.

Soon-shin puts in a call to work to say that she’ll be out for a few days due to a family situation, but doesn’t elaborate on the details, leaving the guys in the dark. Snippety “Don’t fall for me” waiter Jae-bum would dearly love for this to be a reason to fire her, but restaurant owner Young-hoon is a nice guy and mostly wonders if she’s doing okay.

Jun-ho drops by looking for Soon-shin and asks for her number. He’s looking pretty proud of himself for deciding to take on such a hopeless case, like he wants to pat himself on the back.

Grandma collapses at the hospital when she confirms that her son has died, and now the family finds itself sitting at her bedside with the funeral hall empty. Soon-shin offers to watch over grandma so the others can get back to the receiving line. Snappish middle sister Yoo-shin never could pass up a chance to snipe at Soon-shin, and she stomps up to accuse, “He died because of you.”

Lordy. I really do expect a turnaround for Yoo-shin at some point, but let’s say for now I haven’t changed my mind about wanting to slap her every time she’s onscreen. Then when Chan-woo steps up to take care of a matter with the funeral director, she turns on him next, which is like kicking an adoring puppy. It’s almost hard to watch, honestly.

Chan-woo tells her to go inside and rest while he takes care of the paperwork, thinking only to alleviate some stress. Granted, he’s not a husband or a son so it’s not strictly his place, but given that his family is best friends with her family, I think he’s fine. Only Yoo-shin accuses him of overstepping his bounds and insulting her family for not having any sons, and I want to slap her again.

I can see that her reaction stems partially from self-directed anger, because she starts to cry to recall that the last words she exchanged with Dad were argumentative ones. Gee, and you’d think that could’ve been a teachable moment.

At the Shin mansion, we get a new character introduction in the form of errant little sister SHIN YI-JUNG (Bae Geu-rin). She has quit school in New York and hopped on a plane for home, having had an epiphany: She wants To Act. And who better to go to than big bro, the CEO of a talent agency?

Knowing her parents would flip their lids, Yi-jung beelines for oppa’s office and pouts for him to hook her up in the industry. She’s a frivolous spoiled princess who has evidently always gotten her way, and isn’t fazed when oppa Jun-ho tells her no.

She wheedles Mom into letting her stay, since thankfully Dad just left on a business trip. Mom doesn’t love the idea, but her indulgent nature means she warms to the idea and puts in a call to her bestie Mi-ryung.

Mi-ryung battles nightmares of the car accident, and when Mama Shin calls asking her to take a lunch with her daughter, she loses her temper and bites her head off. It’s all, Do you think it’s easy being an actress? and Do you know how much misery I had to overcome to get here? and Don’t you dare look down on me! Okay, somebody’s feeling a little sensitive.

Meanwhile, her protegé Yeon-ah is shooting some drama scene when she hears that Mi-ryung isn’t feeling well. I can’t tell if her interest in Mi-ryung is genuine or driven purely by mercenary interests (as in, wanting to be her manager), but in any case that sends Yeon-ah into action to bring her food. She picks up an order at The Only Restaurant That Matters In This Drama (the one housed in the agency’s building), where Young-hoon wonders what she’s up to.

As a longtime buddy to our hero, Young-hoon has seen Yeon-ah put Jun-ho through the wringer and now advises her to lay off, whatever she’s doing. Yeon-ah simply says that Jun-ho is supposedly over her, so her presence shouldn’t be a problem, which suggests that she’s either blind or totally wily. I’m going with not blind.

Yeon-ah mentions the Pygmalion wager she made with Jun-ho, saying simply that she wants “proof” of his abilities as a star-maker. Otherwise she has no need to sign with him.

She takes her food to Mi-ryung, who appreciates the concern and dismisses her ailment as overwork.

Manager Hwang loiters around the Lee house that night, looking for some clues in the aftermath of Daddy Lee’s death. At the same time, Jun-ho drives up intending to catch Soon-shin at home, and wonders why Manager Hwang is here. They dismiss each other without too much suspicion, and Jun-ho has to turn away since nobody’s home.

He goes to the restaurant next, where Young-hoon pulls him aside to ask what he’s cooking up. Given that friendly, warm, and reasonable men are easy to like, I have to say I really like Young-hoon, aka Voice of Reason. Perhaps he’d be too perfect to be hero material himself (because quirky, flawed heroes are fun), but as a sidekick I’m a fan.

Especially when he levels with Jun-ho so plainly, calling him dumb for being hung up on Yeon-ah after everything. He knows that’s the reason for his interest in Soon-shin, and that Jun-ho’s plan to Eliza Doolittle her into stardom is just a way of proving himself to Yeon-ah. Warning him that Soon-shin is his employee, he tells Jun-ho not to use her.

Poor unni Hye-shin, whose ex-husband refuses to lend her any time or sympathy in the midst of her family crisis. I feel bad for her daughter Woo-joo, who perks up every time Dad is mentioned and seems to like Dad better than Mom; she hasn’t quite put together that her father is an ass.

As the eldest, Hye-shin handles matters with the police in the hit-and-run case. Unfortunately the CCTV was broken so there’s no video footage of the driver, but they’ll put out a call for witnesses to come forward.

Hye-shin retrieves her father’s belongings, which includes a phone that has now missed several messages from one angry bakery owner, who thinks his cake order is being ignored. The owner gets Hye-shin on the line and barks at her to pick up the cake asap.

Hye-shin dismisses him quickly, which gets him even angrier, thinking that her rude family is disrespecting him. Heh. I do think they’ll make a cute couple eventually — you know, after all the fighting and yelling gets sorted out.

Mom’s best friend (Chan-woo’s mother) commiserates with her and sighs that Dad must have gotten hit by that car because he was so distraught over Soon-shin’s scam job. Eeeek, and of course that’s just what Yoo-shin overhears, and that sends her flying at little sis to rage some more.

Yoo-shin screams that Dad really did die because of Soon-shin, which is doubly terrible because the first time she said it, I could write it off as shooting off her mouth in the heat of the moment. The second time she says it, though, just makes her hateful.

Worse yet, Grandma reacts with equal violence. Aw, poor girl — it’s sad because you know it’s the bloodline talking here with Grandma never warming to Soon-shin in the first place, and now hearing that she was (supposedly) the reason her own son died sends her over the edge.

Grandma shoves Soon-shin out of her room and yells at her to get out. Whether she means Get out of my room or Get out of this family isn’t clear, but I think there’s ample support for both readings.

After Soon-shin leaves, Grandma starts railing at Mom, “Why’d you bring that thing into our house?” She sobs that she’d been against Mom raising that girl, but Mom just had to insist. All the while Mom begs her to be quiet, lest Soon-shin find out The Big Birth Secret. Oh, I think we’ve got a good thirty episodes or so left, don’t you?

A short while later, it’s time to get back to life and work, and Soon-shin shows up to the restaurant again. Her huffy waiter co-worker slits his eyes in annoyance — really, I just want him to fall in love with her just for the lulz that’d bring — but Young-hoon’s a big teddy bear and doesn’t ask too many questions.

Soon-shin sees the Wanted poster she’d drawn of her con man, still posted outside, and rips it down. Jun-ho comes trotting up and sees her at work, and while he can tell himself he’s just glad to finally get a hold of his new client, I think it’s adorable how much he lights up to see her.

Of course, she wants nothing to do with him, which just makes it better. He insists that she sit down with him and hear out his speech, and she very reluctantly gives him her barest attention.

He hands over his card (which, of course, she’s seen before) and introduces himself as the bigtime CEO that he is, promising grandly, “Do you want to act? I’ll make you into a star.” He waits expectantly for her adulation, practically oozing with self-congratulatory Aren’t you honored by my interest?

He doesn’t realize that all his lines were carefully stolen by the con man, though, and Soon-shin has heard the speech before verbatim. This is too much, and she starts to cry — which, of course, he interprets as tears of gratitude. But she just breaks down into big, gusty sobs of grief.

 
COMMENTS

Family and weekend dramas have a different pacing to them, so if this is your first one it may take a few episodes to get used to the storytelling rhythm. (Of course, if you’ve seen one or two or a dozen, you’ll feel right at home here.) They take a little longer to unpack their premises, which is why it took till week 3 for Dad to die, and why we’re getting lots of hints about Mi-ryung’s secret love child even though that probably isn’t going to get revealed for a good while yet.

It also accounts for a slower character progression, which (when executed well) can be really very gratifying. Miniseries are my favorite format because you generally get a tighter conflict and arc and less plodding plotting (hur), but sometimes characters’ trajectories can feel rather simple. I appreciate that in these longer shows, you get more sense of flawed but rounded-out characters since you get to see them in various lights. That’s why I’m still hanging on to patience regarding Yoo-shin, because she’ll have time to mellow out and turn around. Right now she’s incredibly abrasive and I mostly want doting Chan-woo to suddenly realize he’s in love with the sweet little sister instead so they can run off and be boring and cute together in an offscreen story without any drama. As though they’re real people you like and wish well.

Given that a lot of this drama’s plot points seem written on the wall, I am not watching in anticipation of subverted expectations. With a story like this that carries so many familiar beats — ugly duckling, birth secret, Pygmalion, Cinderella, and so on — it’s to the show’s credit that I care about what happens to Soon-shin, and how she finds her legs and sense of self. For the most part the show unfolds with a light, cute touch, and despite the tears and mourning of this episode, I fully expect the heaviness to lift very soon. Now that the requisite stage has been set, it’s time to really get to the point. Let’s hope the show carries that off satisfactorily.


(Ha. Smug hero is smug.)

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