More new dramas! Master’s Sun is the new SBS show about a ghost-seeing heroine and the asshole who might just be her key to not seeing them anymore, and had a fun, well-crafted premiere into the world and its characters.
I think we were all approaching this project with a certain amount of hesitation, mostly because the Hong sisters writing team stumbled rather spectacularly on their last outing, some drama that made no sense that I refuse to remember. And while I would note that Master’s Sun is less zany and outright funny than their previous rom-coms, which thus makes it tonally more like That Drama Which Shall Not Be Named, I did find it heartwarming and appealing in a way that That Drama wasn’t. I suspect Gong Hyo-jin’s personal warmth and earnestness have a lot to do with that.
SONG OF THE DAY
Andrew Choi – “Love Was Enough” [ Download ]
EPISODE 1 RECAP
A dark and stormy night. As a tired-looking woman plods over to sort garbage, the landlady finds her and calls out, “Tae yang! Ms. Tae!” thus establishing half of our primary drama pun early. (Taeyang = sun, Tae yang = Ms. Tae.)
This is TAE GONG-SHIL (Gong Hyo-jin) and she does janitorial work in this building. She’s told to clean out Apartment 404, which has been vacated yet again, curiously unable to retain a tenant for long.
Gong-shil isn’t thrilled about this assignment (and in fact looks on the verge of tears) but makes the trip up to Room 404, opening the door timidly. A flash of lightning illuminates a figure in white, but when Gong-shil flips on the lights, there’s nobody there.
She starts cleaning, but the lights spark into darkness and the door slams shut. She screams, and out of nothingness a a white ghoulish face materializes to stare creepily. ACK.
Gong-shil darts for the door and the ghost flies after her. One by one the lights in the hallway short out, and the darkness follows her as Gong-shil keeps running, up the stairs and into her tiny rooftop apartment. Garlic and a cross decorate her front door. Gong-shil grabs her rattling doorknob shut while shouting at The Thing to leave her alone.
The doorknob stops rattling, but the ghost appears right next to her. Only this time, the decayed face transforms into a sad elderly woman. Beseeching?
So it is that Gong-shil finds herself braving the rain to arrive at a household where a funeral wake is being held. She hands over an envelope to the ghost’s son, and it contains a bankbook and seal—Grandma has left her children over 10 million won (about $10,000), to use on the funeral and debt repayment.
Gong-shil has an additional message for the son and grabs him by the lapels: “You rotten scoundrel, if you so much as gamble one more time, I’ll come back and cut off your hand, you bastard! No gambling!”
Message delivered, Gong-shil leaves the siblings to fight over the money. Grandma Ghost gives Gong-shil a nod of thanks and disappears into the air.
On to the other half of our drama pun with JOO JOONG-WON (So Ji-sub) (Joogun = master, Joo gun = Mr. Joo), who sits with a man who explains that the ghost of his dead wife opposes his decision to sell this house.
This is a problem for Joong-won, president of Kingdom Group, because he’s planning to build a golf course here. He makes a (patronizing) attempt to negotiate with the “wife” (as manifested in a flower, the husband explains), and takes clippers in hand to give her an ultimatum: If wife-flower opposes the sale of the house, nod. If not, he’ll cut her down.
The flower makes no move. Snip!
Joong-won points out that it’s the husband who’s crazy for reneging on a deal because of a ghost. He instructs the outraged husband to sign the contract.
As he leaves, the husband accuses Joong-won of sneering at people for believing in things that can’t be seen. Joong-won replies that he will continue to ignore the unseeable, being the smart and successful man that he is. Also assy. You forgot assy.
If he’s wrong, he challenges the skies to strike him with lightning and holds his arms out into the rain. Nothing happens, so Joong-won leaves and the husband vows, “If ghosts exist, they’ll get you for sure.”
In the car, Joong-won reads over the contract, but the words start to dance on the page before his eyes. Dyslexic?
Secretary Kim spots Gong-shil standing by the side of the road, trying to hitch a ride. Joong-won tells him to ignore her, but when Secretary Kim screeches to a halt, Gong-shil assumes they’re giving her a ride and climbs right in. Ha.
Gong-shil explains to Secretary Kim that a woman told her she’d find a ride if she waited there, and that her lift “might be able to avoid a lighting bolt but wouldn’t be able to avoid me.”
Joong-won is determined to get rid of Gong-shil as soon as possible and orders Secretary Kim to drop her off at the first opportunity.
Just then, Gong-shil spots another ghost standing in the middle of the road and screams. Secretary Kim screeches to a stop, and the car goes right through the ghost, bringing her just inches from its face. Eeek. Gong-shil instinctively grabs Joong-won for cover, and he shoves her away in distaste.
The ghost poofs away, but reappears when they stop at a rest area. She resigns herself to the task, knowing she’ll have to do what it wants.
So when Joong-won finds her, she’s pouring a cup of soju to the nothing sitting next to her, having a one-sided conversation with the air. Joong-won shakes his head at the crazy woman laughing to herself and heads off.
Gong-shil spots him leaving and follows him, and in her preoccupation with the ghost following her, she runs into Joong-won’s back. I love just how discomfited he looks every time she touches him, and he barks that he hates two things: people who touch his money, and people who touch his body.
Gong-shil apologizes, saying she was just scared of the ajusshi, who curiously disappeared the moment she touched Joong-won. Ahhhh. This is a great premise. She’s giddy at the discovery, and can’t help feeling up Joong-won’s arm while marveling at the connection: Touch grumpy hot man, ghost go poof.
Joong-won offers a tip for getting rid of unwanted hangers-on, and she looks on expectantly while he instructs her to wait right here. And then gets in his car and drives off. Ha.
Joong-won sees Gong-shil’s rain slicker in the car, underneath which he finds the clipped flower bud. Hm. He briefly considers the strange coincidence, but shoves it aside.
Elsewhere in the storm, a man (Jin Yi-han) digs furiously at the base of a tree. “Where IS it?!” he shouts. Above him, a ghost stares down from between tree branches.
…and Gong-shil wakes up. She huddles with her teddy bear in bed, willing the sun to come up.
The next day, Joong-won is displeased at the announcement of a celebrity wedding, because Kingdom is the sponsor and its branding barely got any airtime. Ha. The bride and groom are TAE YI-RYUNG (Kim Yuri), one of Kingdom’s brand models, and soccer star YOO HYE-SUNG (Jin Yi-han).
If we couldn’t tell from the nighttime digging session, groom boy Hye-sung has a secret that threatens his career. Both he and Joong-won have received threatening photos in the mail, picturing Hye-sung with another bride whose face has been scratched out.
Bride Yi-ryung goes through her high school yearbook to pick classmates to invite to her wedding. Despite describing Gong-shil “not a friend,” she invites her anyway.
Gong-shil trudges home, where she finds two neighbor kids waiting for her and invites them to eat with her, since their mom is always away working. The boys tell her that the ajumma downstairs says noona is weird, and Gong-shil explains that she’s not crazy—she just got into a big accident and changed a little. She tried to live normally anyway, but… well, that didn’t work so well.
In a flashback, we see her being dogged by ghosts at her office job… and on dates… and in the street. Thus she became scared all the time, frightened that people might turn out to be ghosts.
The little boy tells her to date—that’s what his mom does, to keep from feeling lonely. Gong-shil thinks about it, recalling Joong-won (and how he made her ghost disappear) and wonders, “Would he meet me?”
Joong-won meets with bridegroom-to-be Hye-sung, who explains that the woman in the wedding photo is the ex-girlfriend who left him back before he was famous. He still wears a bracelet as a memento of that relationship—his hate for the woman who abandoned him propelled him to work harder and succeed.
Gong-shil hovers outside the Kingdom office looking for her man, where she’s confronted with a new ghost—a young woman in bridal dress. After the initial terror, she confirms that all she has to do is tell the soccer player about the thing buried under the tree, and angles to join him in the elevator. But at the last minute, Joong-won yanks her back and orders her escorted out.
Gong-shil eagerly reminds them that they’ve met before, and her words sound hilariously risqué out of context (particularly to unknowing bystanders): “We met the night it rained! You said all that stuff because I touched you, don’t you remember? We had that electric [shock] moment in the car? I even left my clothes with you!”
He gives her the choice of being taken away in a police car or an ambulance. She says glumly that she’s been in both, and understands how much he hates being followed by people who won’t leave you alone, since it happens to her all the time. With that, she leaves.
Joong-won’s aunt idly wonders whether Joong-won lack of romantic success is because he’s dogged by ghosts and requires exorcism. His uncle (and also Kingdom vice president) says she’ll have a tough time setting him up—rumors abound that Kingdom’s president is cursed by his first love. Nobody will want to marry him after all past contenders have been met with family and financial ruin.
Auntie Joo balks at talk of a curse, so Uncle VP laughs that it’s not the curse, but because Joong-won’s a jerk. Ha. I don’t think he’s wrong.
Time to meet KANG WOO (Seo In-gook), just hired as Kingdom’s head of security and newest tenant of Room 404 in Gong-shil’s building. He finds her napping on the roof, and helpfully moves a sheet on the clothesline to shield her from the sun. That wakes her up, but she panics to see a shadowy figure in white and knocks him down.
I enjoy Gong-shil’s open admiration of our leading men (a heroine who feels attraction right away? Finally), and she clumsily flirts with Kang Woo. He calls her a cat and she meows, which is both cute and secondhand-embarrassing.
But the ghosts are never far away, and before long the bride is back. Meet him for me, she requests.
Soccer man Hye-sung and bride Yi-ryung take their wedding photos, then argue over his desire to keep playing soccer and her desire for him to stay in Korea as her celebrity husband. He argues that he’s an athlete first and wants to sign a new contract despite his age and injuries, and Yi-ryung sniffs that nobody will take him. They’re Korea’s Posh and Becks, and she doesn’t him ruining that image by returning to the field and sucking. Gah, and you want to marry her why?
Throughout the argument, bride-ghost appears in the mirror to look on sadly, though neither of them sees her.
Hye-sung gets another threatening photo with the message “I know everything about you” written on the back. He thinks back to the box his girlfriend buried under the tree, which she had joked was blackmail material against him. She’d given him the key to the lock, which he wears on his wrist.
Thus Hye-sung assumes she’s blackmailing him with his past, as she’d known him in his darkest and hardest times.
Gong-shil hides by Joong-won’s car to intercept Secretary Kim, asking him to pass along a message to the soccer player, as she’s sure he’ll meet her if he reads it.
Then she waits by the tree, only it’s Joong-won who finds her there, having intercepted the note. Seeing the sketch of the ex-girlfriend’s face, Joong-won assumes she’s the blackmailer. Gong-shil informs him that the woman is dead, and that she’s just here to convey a message: that the ex wanted to watch over him always. And as Hye-sung drinks at a bar, his girlfriend-ghost hovers nearby, sad as ever.
Joong-won rips up the drawing and says that death means the end: “Don’t torture the living.” He stalks off.
On her way home, Gong-shil comes across the grandma ghost’s profligate son, who has wasted no time cashing out the bank account to resume gambling. She pleads with him to recall his mother’s wishes, but he snaps at her to mind her own business.
So she trudges on, telling herself that everything she does is futile: “What’s the point in doing what the dead want? Nobody listens.”
When the bride ghost reappears in front of her, Gong-shil has just had it. She yells at her to leave her alone: “It’s because of you that people treat me like a crazy person!”
Joong-won confirms whether Hye-sung is sure of the blackmailer’s identity. His manager insists it’s the girlfriend, but Hye-sung doesn’t understand her motivation—they’d been so in love. Joong-won doesn’t share that the woman is dead, and merely assures Hye-sung that he’ll take care of it.
Newly hired Kang Woo reports to someone over the phone that he’s joined Joong-won’s security team, and that he’ll report again shortly. Hm, shifty. Do I have to be suspicious of you before I even get to like you?
Gong-shil receives the wedding invitation in the mail, which gives her another chance to meet Hye-sung. She drops by the bride’s memorial vault first, and retrieves that locked box.
Joong-won anticipates the wedding for another reason: It’s a massive advertising opportunity. He’s had Kingdom logos placed strategically so that every shot features the name somewhere, and orders his team to maximize its visibility. Heh. He’s so mercenary I have to laugh.
Joong-won spots Gong-shil arriving on the premises and orders his security team to make sure to intercept her. So Kang Woo orders her placed under surveillance, and then recognizes her: “Cat?”
In the bridal waiting room, Yi-ryung preens in front of her high school classmates and asks where Gong-shil is. Apparently Gong-shil was the more popular one back then (“the big sun”) while she was “little sun”—which explains that chip she’s got on her shoulder now. And also why she seems satisfied to hear that Gong-shil “went weird.”
With her invitation in hand, Gong-shil is admitted to the wedding without fuss and finds the groom. Recognizing the box, he jumps to the conclusion that she’s the blackmailer out for money, but more than anything he’s desperate to know where his ex is.
The box contains an old pair of soccer cleats, and the sight freezes him. Gong-shil informs him that the girlfriend died, having known she was sick when she left him: “But because you have misunderstood her so frighteningly, I came to tell you her real feelings.”
The next thing we know, both bride Yi-ryung and prez Joong-won get word that the groom has disappeared. He’s out taking a walk by The Tree, while Gong-shil sits with the ghost. In flashback, we see how the girlfriend had ended things with Hye-sung—coldly, out of the blue, at the altar.
In an older memory, we see Hye-sung being let out of the police station after a fight, telling her to leave because his life was over. She had slung brand-new soccer shoes around his neck and told him to keep playing.
Those shoes were the first thing the girlfriend had done for him, and he wears them now as he approaches the tree. When he holds out a hand, the bride-ghost reaches up to take it.
Their hands don’t touch and Hye-sung walks through her, not seeing her standing there, and reaches toward the tree. He chokes out, “I miss you.” Then the ghost touches his arm, and amazingly he seems to feel it. And when he turns around, he sees her.
Gong-shil is moved to tears herself, but when she turns around she sees Joong-won standing there, glaring daggers at her.
Hye-sung returns to the wedding hall—still wearing his soccer shoes—and decks his blackmailing manager in the face, having figured it out. Then he meets with Yi-ryung to tell her that he wants to keep playing, and that “the woman in my heart will continue cheering me on.” Since that’s not her, Yi-ryung slaps him across the face.
Hye-sung informs Joong-won that he’ll pay all damages. Joong-won snaps that dragging a dead person into the matter ruined things for the living, but Hye-sung says that his wedding was saved. Holding out the old photo of him and his ex, he says, “This was my real wedding.”
Joong-won sneers that Hye-sung is too old and injured to resume his career, and that he’ll regret this decision: The romance lent by the dead might give him courage, “but it won’t give you skill.” Furthermore, he’ll enjoy watching Hye-sung lose game after game.
It’s satisfying to watch Joong-won’s smirk waver a bit, though, when Hye-sung informs him that he has a message from Gong-shil. It causes Joong-won to beeline for Gong-shil’s rooftop apartment, where she wearily begs the powers that be not to send her anyone tonight, because she’s in dire need of sleep.
Joong-won finds her dozing off next to laundry, batting at soap bubbles like they’re pesky ghosts. Now we hear the message she left for him: “The dead have no power, but their hearts remain. There’s one such heart next to you.”
And now we get his flashback, as his younger self (played by L) screams next to a car wreck on fire, trying to get to the girl inside. Then the car explodes.
So now Joong-won grabs her by the shoulders and demands to know what’s hanging around next to him. Exhausted Gong-shil just whines that she’s tiiiiiired, then lurches into his arms as she says, “I wanna sleep next to you.” And like that, she falls asleep.
A pretty strong opener, buoyed by a winning and relatable heroine, a smirky bastard of a hero, and a really great baseline premise: She wants to be near him to get rid of ghosts. Helloooooo, skinship!
And also, he might be haunted by a ghost, whether physical or emotional. It’s for this reason that I feel assured heading into this drama, because there’s strong tension inherent in the premise but it’s not one that makes me worry that it’s irreconcilable. (Big had me wondering how on earth it would resolve, and then never did. Thankfully that’s not a problem I see here.)
On paper, these are character types we’ve seen again and again, and how many times must we suffer through another cocky smart chaebol ass hero paired with an ordinary working-class everywoman heroine? So it’s to the actors’ credits that they do more with these characters than is merely on the page, because I’m liking them right off the bat and eager to see how they build on the chemistry they’ve got from Day 1. They are adorable and gorgeous and have wonderful rapport already, so I look forward to the banter and bickering in their future.
Second leads are more of a question mark, with Kang Woo having the greater potential to be a likable character than Ms. Little Sun with the inferiority complex a mile wide. Bleh. I don’t care if she got jilted at the altar, after the snideness we’ve seen from her already, I don’t feel an ounce of sympathy. She is, more than anything, a stock Hong sisters character. Whatever. At least she’s just a second lead.
Already I like the handling of the ghost stories in the show, especially when compared with the other ghost drama on these days, Who Are You. The two shows are pretty different tonally, but on the ghost-case front I much prefer the heart-stirring and emotion-filled Master’s Sun to the procedural crime stuff of Who Are You. Not to put that drama down; it’s a matter of taste.
Admittedly I’d be a lot more excited about this drama if Big weren’t fresh in my memory, but I’m going into this with fresh hopes and expectations. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the quirky-spooky rom-com vibe of this one keeps going strong.
- Seo In-gook and Gong Hyo-jin’s rooftop laundry date for Master’s Sun
- Posters, new teaser and stills for Master’s Sun
- More stills and character posters for Master’s Sun
- Upcoming drama previews: Master, Doctor, Who Are You, Her Legend
- Gong Hyo-jin’s ghostly date for Master’s Sun
- First script read for Hong sisters’ horror rom-com Master’s Sun
- Seo In-gook joins Hong sisters’ horror rom-com drama
- Hong Sisters’ new rom-com-horror drama confirms leads
- So Ji-sub and Gong Hyo-jin courted for new Hong Sisters drama