A zippy and fun opening for Dating Agency Cyrano, the fourth show in the Flower Boy series on cable network tvN. With likable characters and a story that’s easy to follow, one can easily forget how quickly forty-five minutes can pass in the blink of an eye. Oh, and there’s plenty of eye candy. As if I needed to remind you.
They say that good things come in fours and Cyrano is no exception. With four experts of love running this ship and a coolheaded captain at the helm, we’re on course for what might be a delectable series ahead.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
In a dimly lit restaurant, a man breaks into a nervous smile in front of the woman sitting across from him, who smiles bashfully in return. The wine, the flowers, the mood – everything is perfect.
At a nearby table, GONG MIN-YOUNG (Sooyoung) looks on encouragingly. We hear her narrate: “There are so many things in this world where the time and place are crucial. But what could compare to this moment — the moment you confess your feelings?”
She tells us there is a principle that one mustn’t forget: True love can only be achieved through sincerity. Then she gives her client (Ji Jin-hee) his cue.
He launches into his confession, nervously stuttering his words of admiration towards his date. It doesn’t matter if things don’t work out later on down the road; he believes that there’s merit in a confession of love. With one last burst of courage, he asks her for a chance to prove himself.
The camera briefly cuts to a mysterious man sitting at a different table before the woman (Lee Chung-ah) gives her answer. She thanks him for his bold confession, which now gives her the courage to face her own cowardice.
Then she downs the rest of her glass, rises from her seat, and confesses her own feelings to the sommelier. HA.
We pause to learn more about Min-young, a bright-eyed young woman who works at a bustling matchmaking company. Her dream is to help those find their love match before they’re left forever alone. There’s a streak of idealism in her that I like, and she tells us with a smile: “That is what I wanted to do.”
Her clientele is a different story, however, as they name qualifications like a good family background or a successful career. She strains to keep a smile on her face until another voice cuts in, asking if there is such a thing as sincere feelings.
That voice belongs to the man we saw earlier, who asks for a chance to confess his feelings to a fellow client whom he believes to be his perfect match. He recognizes that she’s out of his league but he’ll regret it if he lets her slip away.
Min-young contemplates his words against her boss’s strict reminder to stick to the methodical system of relying on statistical data and analysis for creating matches. She makes a decision and grabs the necessary file before heading out.
The sight of the woman in question leaves Min-young to wonder whether she’s doing the right thing or not. Just then, a man bumps into her, causing her to drop her things, and she sneers at him when he leaves without a word.
She isn’t surprised to find that the lady isn’t keen on participating in yet another blind date, especially after a string of unsuccessful matches. But Min-young insists that this is a perfect match, adding that it could be destiny.
They’re interrupted by the crashing sound of a dropped wine bottle. Interestingly, the woman changes her tune and agrees to the date, to Min-young’s delight.
Min-young gives her client some last-minute words of encouragement before sending him out to the battlefield. Now we replay the opening scene in a different light, and SEO BYUNG-HOON (Lee Jong-hyuk) smirks at Min-young’s wide-eyed wonder from a nearby table.
He keeps a watchful eye out with the help of a camera and listens in on their conversation, thanks to the microphone hidden in the flowers. On cue, Byung-hoon sends in the sommelier to congratulate the potentially happy couple, and at the woman’s words of gratitude, he says aloud: “There’s no need to thank me.”
Byung-hoon keeps a tight rein on the entire operation, feeding the appropriate lines to seal the deal. Then he orders his team members to pack it up, and leaves an utterly shocked Min-young in his wake.
Min-young and her client sit on the steps, completely baffled by the situation. She pulls her hair out trying to figure out exactly what went wrong – everything was perfect, wasn’t it?
Her client tells her not to beat herself too much about it, and places the blame on himself for going after a Grade A woman when he himself is a Grade F man. He does, however, thank Min-young for giving him the courage to own up to his feelings and helping him find closure.
He sweetly adds that he admires the fervent passion she has in her line of work, and hopes that it will find a home.
Min-young gets an earful from her team leader about the unapproved pairing over the phone. She slumps against the back of the van. When she rests her head against the window in defeat, the back door unexpectedly opens.
Her mouth falls open at the sight of the van’s interior, lined with hi-tech equipment, including audio equipment and computers. Then her eyes grow wide when she sees an image of the woman her client was trying to woo that evening on a monitor.
Min-young backs away, but she jumps when she finds herself face to face with the van’s owner. He furrows his eyebrows as she tries to explain herself. He tells her, “Stop…”
…which is when she accidentally slips and knocks herself unconscious.
The night’s events flash before Min-young’s eyes and she wakes her with a start. Ominous music plays as she surveys her unknown surroundings. She jumps when a machine suddenly comes to life, its gears whirring. Then a friendly voice asks brightly: “Noona, are you okay?”
Let’s introduce the Cyrano crew members: ARANG (Jo Yoon-woo) ignores Min-young’s subsequent questions about where she is, and the reappearance of MOO-JIN (Hong Jong-hyun) spooks her. Frightened, she backs away just as Moo-jin tries to warn her: “Stop…”
But it’s too late, and Min-young falls backwards. The fake wall comes down (Moo-jin continues: “…it’s gonna fall.” Heh), and we get a glory shot of Byung-hoon, donned in his trademark black trenchcoat. He deadpans: “A loud entrance, as expected.” HA.
Her fall jogs her memory and she finally recognizes their faces. After a quick scan of the whiteboard which outlines the details to the entire operation, she asks if they’re conmen, scamming others for a living.
Byung-hoon answers: “Con artists? I’d like to call ourselves an agency.” Their job is to merely open doors for their clients who are in love.
Min-young is appalled to find a picture of herself on the board, and Byung-hoon asks her how it feels to act of her own accord, outside of company protocol. She points out that their interference ruined everything, and turns the question on him: How does it feel to stomp all over someone’s sincere feelings?
“And what about our client’s?” Byung-hoon counters. He argues that love isn’t always about sincerity and there are times when people don’t know how to express their feelings. That’s where he comes in.
She argues that his tactics are impolite, to which he tells her that those so-called romantic overtures are the ones that are impolite. In other words: “If you want to achieve sincerity, you have to understand that person.”
Reading his client’s file like a textbook in her presence won’t get you very far, Byung-hoon explains. We see that he intentionally broke the wine bottle so that the smell would trigger her memory about their previous awkward encounter. Then it was his agency who fed him the lines of his confession of love.
He summarizes that this is what it means to fully understand someone: If sincerity is to be valued, then one must be thorough.
When Min-young scoffs, asking where he gets these ideas, he taps his temple as if to say, From this think bank. Hahaha.
He tells her that her words of encouragement will eventually hurt her client in the long run. Feeding him false hope is like poison in the world of dating.
Min-young admits that her intentions were good, but what is it to anyone now? Then Byung-hoon flashes a business card – how about a job then? She scoffs at the offer – she would never subject herself to such grunt work.
In response, Byung-hoon reminds her of her dream: “Didn’t you want to help people fall in love without relying on the specs written on their resumes?”
He then explains that he was merely trying to help someone else in need. And a moment later, she receives a text indicating that she’s fired.
Byung-hoon says that her name suits her, and he draws close to ask about her surname: “Does it stand for ‘empty’ Gong?” Haha.
Thankfully, Min-young’s boss looks favorably upon her and instructs her to stick to protocol next time. But that triggers her client’s words of admiration about building destined relationships and her original dream. She quits on the spot.
We’re introduced to another character – chef CHA SEUNG-PYO (Lee Chun-hee) – whose restaurant sits across from the Cyrano dating agency. He breaks into a small smile when he sees Min-young loiter outside the agency entrance.
However there’s none of that warm demeanor when he finds her using her restaurant as a temporary place of refuge. He mistakes her as another potential customer and tells her to take the last courageous step towards Cyrano.
Min-young gives herself a pep talk, and turns around when an actual potential client shows up to ask “if this is the secret place where they make people fall in love.”
Min-young ushers the client inside to Cyrano Agency with great enthusiasm. It’s adorable how Arang lights up to see her, and Byung-hoon tells her she’s right on time.
A few telling clues on the man’s clothes and hands is enough for Byung-hoon to deduce that their potential client is a veterinarian. He’s sharply observant, that’s for sure.
The team listens as their interviewee, Joon-hyuk, recounts about how he fell in love with a local librarian the day he found her feeding a stray cat in the rain. Min-young loses herself in her empathy with her descriptions about all of the overwhelming feelings that come with falling head over heels in love.
It’s Byung-hoon who puts them back on track, and he commends Joon-hyuk for retracting his casual invitation to dinner. He remains resolutely professional and declines any further information – they’ll do the research on the target from here on out.
Then he tosses the car keys to Min-young and asks if she can drive.
So it’s on the job training at the library where Min-young insists that she hasn’t fully committed to working at the agency yet, though her actions have clearly said otherwise.
They keep an eye on their target (Lee Yoon-ji), and avoid her gaze when she gets up and furiously marches through the aisles. Turns out she’s looking for the culprit who’s been ripping pages out books, calling it an “act of terror.”
That gives Byung-hoon an idea, and promptly tears out a page before handing the book back to Min-young. Off she goes, then. Ha, I love her shocked Who, me? expression.
The situation goes as well as you might expect and the librarian is startled at the damning evidence before her. As Min-young insists upon her innocence, Byung-hoon lurks behind their target, gathering clues in the brief moment of distraction.
Min-young pelts Byung-hoon with questions once they’re out of the library, her voice filled with annoyance. Instead, he counters that he noticed Min-young jot notes on their subject, and asks her to brief him on her observations.
She happily reports that librarian Jae-in is an quick and efficient worker who loves her job. Her face falls when Byung-hoon tells her that her report falls far below his expectations.
She asks him to enlighten her then, and Byung-hoon amuses her. In truth, Jae-in finds her job boring and could care less about the library patrons, let alone her admirer. Thus, in a desire to break free of the monotonous routine, she enjoys crime-mystery novels and is highly skeptical.
Min-young excitedly asks if Byung-hoon has a strategy in mind, and he gives a knowing smile.
So she’s thunderstruck and confused when Byung-hoon declares that they’ll reject the case. The boys aren’t surprised in the least, and Arang quips, “It’s a money issue, isn’t it?” Heh, I love that they can see right through him.
Byung-hoon sends him a look and avoids giving a direct answer, spouting roundabout excuses instead. It’s an effort to keep what’s left of his pride, he firmly insists, NOT a money issue.
Cut to: Byung-hoon hanging off of a rooftop ledge, held by a rope as a couple of gangsters who threaten him to pay up. Hahaha. Byung-hoon vows up and down that he’ll repay his debt.
It seems that this is a common occurrence, though it’s highly amusing to see the suave, collected team leader left to the mercy of a pair of thugs.
Down below, Min-young wonders if Byunghoon will be all right, and Seung-pyo assures her that with though the men might threaten him, they won’t kill him. She’s surprised to hear that Byung-hoon is a former genius theater director.
Seung-pyo is far more pleasant this time around, and he’s impressed to hear that the newbie has already been out in the field. He figures that Byung-hoon must find her competent then, and introduces himself as “Master.”
It’s worth noting that Moo-jin casts a dark expression in Master’s direction, though we don’t know why just yet.
And up above, his life hanging on a literal thread, Byung-hoon hollers: “Guys, prepare the case!”
Inside, the Cyrano team members brief Byung-hoon on Jae-in, a librarian who knows hapkido and enjoys reading crime novels in her spare time. She often gets in trouble for her strong sense of law-keeping within the library, hasn’t been in a relationship for some time, and shuts down her suitors.
Byung-hoon takes all of this information and deduces that Jae-in will be drawn to the characters in her favorite detective novels. Thus, their client must also have an air of mystery about them.
Their tactic? “Hard-boiled Dr. J” – a hard-boiled-type character much like the fictional private detective Sam Spade, from the novel The Maltese Falcon.
Team Cyrano implements the first step of their plan to stall Jae-in at the train station, like how Arang deliberately runs into her to slip Joon-hyuk’s library card in her purse.
She naturally misses the train, which is when Joon-hyuk steps out to the platform, looking like a character who just stepped out of a 1930′s crime novel. She barely has time to gaze longingly before a crowd gathers, and the same thugs menacingly walk past her.
Her suspicion radar pings, and Jae-in takes the bait. They run into a small wrinkle, however, when she initially searches for the police officers, and Min-young runs ahead to create a distraction.
Jae-in roams the platform until her eyes fall upon Joon-hyuk sitting mysteriously on a bench. Byung-hoon instructs his client to lift his head and wait ten seconds…
Like clockwork, Jae-in rushes forward to lead Joon-hyuk away. Without a word, he gently pushes her into the train just before the door closes.
Caught up in her own whirlwind, she finally discovers the hidden name card. And on the sidelines, Min-young casts Byung-hoon an impressed look.
Byung-hoon commends his team on a job well-done, and he assures Joon-hyuk that he’s made a lasting first impression. Which is why they’re all surprised to see Jae-in get off on another platform, having doubled back to find her mystery man.
They disperse and Min-young teases about how Byung-hoon didn’t expect this outcome, to which he defends himself, saying that he can’t control for all the variables since Jae-in’s behavior is atypical for a civil servant.
He spots Jae-in approaching, and swiftly pulls Min-young close to him, telling her that their target will readily recognize her. Now it’s his turn to tease her, asking if the close proximity makes her nervous.
Min-young denies it, and pushes him away from her. But she starts to lose her balance, and Byung-hoon grabs her just in time, pulling her in closer.
What an adorable show. The show’s setup and characters may be new to some or familiar to those who have seen the 2010 movie Cyrano Agency. You can place me in the latter camp, although I purposefully kept myself in the dark in order to watch this show somewhat blind. So I was pleased to find that this show satisfies my recent craving for a breezy romantic comedy with quippy dialogue and an idealistic heroine who wants to see her clients find happiness in love.
I like that her dream is a simple one, almost naive and purely optimistic in nature. What’s more is that we’re introduced to Min-young when that her dream has suffered under realism, which has taken over her day-to-day lifestyle. Then it takes a realist for her to challenge her to do what she originally set out to do. Furthermore, I like that we don’t get the classic side characters attached to our heroine. There’s no mother to nag her about her career or a best friend who yaps on about the mundane everyday bits of dramaland.
It’s this sense of independence around Min-young that I love, where her decisions are her own and doesn’t have to answer to anyone. In that same vein, I’m surprised that Sooyoung folds in nicely with the rest of the cast, given that I haven’t seen any of her previous projects.
What I love is that each character seems like an integral cog to the narrative, including the clients the dating agency serves. It’s no easy feat, considering how little we actually know about these characters. Take for instance, the Cyrano boys, who barely got a few lines in the episode and were never actually addressed by name. However, the brief glimpses that we got dropped enough clues to inform us that they understand Byung-hoon better than anyone else, and even then, he’s still a mystery.
There’s still so much to know about Min-young and the rest of our characters, and yet it already feels like we’ve gotten to know them on a first-name basis. If anything, the character descriptions hint that there is always more than what meets the eye.
Lee Jong-hyuk may not be the typical flower boy you may have imagined in your head, but boy does this man ooze charisma. A character like Byung-hoon with a distant and calculating personality may sound very dramaland hero cookie-cutteresque, but Lee Jong-hyuk adds some much needed depth to the character. Not only is Byung-hoon super observant and practical, he gets people and knows what makes them tick. Which explains why the role calls for an older actor to play a character who understands people based upon years of various experiences.
I love that we’ve already zoned in on the dating agency setup. This is really where the meat and potatoes are at, and I can only begin to imagine the hijinks that will emerge from these four. Not only that, this allows for encapsulated mini-arcs of story as the Cyrano team tackles a new client who has a unique story to tell. What they’ll make of the story below, only time will tell.
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