Ooh, finally a show that gets me excited. I have been waiting for you aaaaages! (Okay, months. But sometimes that can feel like forever.)
Aside from having stars I like and a quirky premise, I love that already I love the characters and feel their dilemmas. (Jeon Ji-hyun is great! A happy surprise, as I have always kinda liked her but never been moved by her.) Plus, while the unaging-alien-falls-for-actress setup was funny, I wasn’t sure where the story could go from there—but the show sets up the rules right away and gives us high stakes and a ticking clock, and that means I am invested. All the way. Bring it on.
Ratings were strong out of the gate, with You From Another Star drawing in a solid 15.6% rating, while Miss Korea drew a 7.0% for its premiere and Pretty Man settled back down at 3.5%. The game has just begun so it’s early days yet, but it’s a good sign for the show.
SONG OF THE DAY
Cranfield – “Sand Castle” [ Download ]
RECAP: FIRST RECORD
We begin in 1609, the first year of Gwanghae’s reign during the Joseon era. It’s on August 25 that a mysterious “round, shining flying object” was sighted and logged in the official records; it zoomed overhead with “a thunderous noise” before disappearing into sparks, leaving the skies clear and cloudless.
(This is a real part of historical record, and served as the basis for tvN’s sci-fi-mystery drama Joseon X-Files, which I recommend by the way.)
A procession makes its way along a mountain road, carrying a young girl who was widowed just as soon as she was married. Suddenly, the UFO appears directly above them, kicking up such a fierce wind that the travelers go flying.
The young widow is buffeted about in her sedan chair, which eventually gets caught up in the tornado and skids along the ground, teetering at the edge of a cliff. Time slows down to a crawl as the sedan chair flies over the edge and the widow braces for death…
With the world suspended nearly at a standstill, along comes a figure in all black, walking without difficulty through the maelstrom.
The man comes to the sedan chair and pulls it back from the precipice, setting it safely down on the ground. As time resumes, the wind dies down to a slow breeze and our hero offers a hand to the widow.
We cut to the hero in modern times, sitting down to an interview with an unseen audience. He informs us of his origins with that UFO, which carried him from a planet extremely similar to Earth, which he identifies as KMT184.05.
We see different versions of our alien hero, named DO MIN-JOON (Kim Soo-hyun), as he lives through the 400 years since his landing, from the hanboks to the groovy seventies fashions to the sleek bachelor of today.
Min-joon explains having acclimated perfectly to Earth living (throwaway mention of water yields obligatory shower scene!), although his senses are seven times keener than humans: “Thanks to that, I do see things I don’t want to see, and hear things I don’t want to hear.”
Perhaps telekinesis is one of those perks, as a water glass goes sliding into his hand of its own accord. Min-joon sits down to a solo feast, saying that he can’t mix saliva or blood with humans: “That’s why I always eat alone.”
He bicycles his way to work, and witnesses a handbag theft on the street. He doesn’t step in, saying, “It’s meaningless to intervene in their lives.” He didn’t want to come to Earth, but he believes that what will happen will happen, regardless of whether you want it to: “Earthlings call this Fate.”
A news report catches Min-joon’s eye, and he stops in the road to watch news of a comet heading toward Earth. Back at his interview, he sets an hourglass to restart its countdown and says, “A new Fate is beginning. A comet I’ve waited 400 years for is approaching Earth. In three months, I will be able to return to my planet.”
On to our heroine, top actress CHUN SONG-YI (Jeon Ji-hyun), who takes a coffee break while filming a drama. She only wants the mocha for sel-ca purposes, posting a tweet with a cutesy photo and a quip thanking a famous historical figure for smuggling in those mocha seeds centuries ago.
Too bad Song-yi’s attempt at wit only exposes her ignorance; the guy smuggled in cotton seeds (mok-hwa), not mochas.
Her poor manager and her agency CEO are used to cleaning up after Song-yi’s mistakes, but it’s still a hassle to deal with. Even as CEO Ahn bemoans Song-yi’s stupidity, to her face he’s all obsequious pandering, suggesting that she quit tweeting because she’s too good for those nitpicky netizens. She doesn’t want to: “Then who would I talk to?” Oh, that’s sad.
Song-yi gets her CEO to back off with the vague threat of jumping ship to his rival’s agency. So she’s book-stupid, but rather street-smart.
In a university department office, Min-joon’s professor colleagues invite him to a departmental dinner, which he’s always declined. They joke that he doesn’t even know his colleagues’ names, and rather than answer, he excuses himself. Ha.
Song-yi’s manager tries in vain to get her to quit social media, reminding her of the “garlic pizza incident” (when she didn’t know that the word garlic was the food garlic) and begs her to consider the mysterious goddess approach to fame. She says she doesn’t care about internet hate comments and refuses her manager’s escort up to her new apartment. He’s nervous of her riding in elevators with strangers, given that run-in with a pervert that had him actually pitying the pervert.
It’s at the elevator that Song-yi is joined by Min-joon, and gives him an interested look up and down. When he doesn’t push a floor button, she assumes he’s a stalker and gets in his face, offering a photo in exchange for him getting lost. She follows him out shouting, only to realize he’s her neighbor.
Song-yi tries to smooth things over and asks if he knows who she is. Blank-faced, Min-joon wonders, “Do I have to know that?” Then he enters his apartment and leaves Song-yi confused, asking herself, “How can he not know who I am? Is he from North Korea? Or an alien?”
At a fancy restaurant, four stage moms dine together while the two leaders snipe at each other passive-aggressively. Their kids all started out acting together, but now only two are still in showbiz: Song-yi and the less-famous Se-mi. Song-yi’s mother is the tacky ajumma who puts on airs, while Se-mi’s mother is the quietly elegant one who nevertheless seethes because her daughter is always the sidekick and second lead.
Song-yi’s mom loves bragging about her, but has to cover up her embarrassment at not even knowing that Song-yi moved. So she calls her afterward to complain at her daughter’s lack of contact, interrupting Song-yi in an internet-reading session. (Song-yi scoffs that the netizens are immature brats to insult her, but can’t hide the tears in her eyes.)
There’s an interesting history here, because it’s Mom who previously declared their relationship over and now she’s pestering Song-yi for news and—more to the point—money. Song-yi has put up mountains of cash for her mother to run a restaurant into the ground, and an import business, and a diet company…
Song-yi listens blank-faced as Mom snaps that she owes her for giving her that face and body, especially since she’s a crappy actress. On the verge of tears, Song-yi retorts that she resembles Dad, not Mom—the man Mom ditched the moment he lost his money.
Mom tells Song-yi to call her Yoon-jae, her kid brother, who hasn’t come home in two days. Song-yi sighs that he’s run away again, and dutifully calls.
High schooler Yoon-jae is currently playing games at the PC room, pointedly ignoring noona’s phone calls. Looks like we’re dealing with the silent rebel type here, all quiet angst and glowering. When Yoon-jae’s buddies photoshop a bikini shot of Song-yi and cackle about doing it with nudes, he erupts at them and warns them to delete it. They don’t know he’s the big star’s brother so the outburst has them confused, but aw.
That night, Min-joon struggles to fall asleep, thanks to his superhuman hearing powers that pick up dripping faucets and loud neighbors. Next door, Song-yi’s dealing with her hurt feelings by scream-singing into her hair dryer, and Min-joon finally can’t take it anymore and heads to her door to complain. Tellingly, she looks more miserable than giddy when she stops singing.
Song-yi apologizes for the loud singing, but Min-joon is too annoyed to let it go easily and adds that she’s disturbing the peace, which is a reportable crime. That raises her hackles, and she takes out her hurt from the netizens onto him, saying that she’s been bashed all day long. She’s just taking out her frustrations, but he’s telling her she can’t even do that?
She starts to break down, but stops and excuses herself. She cries in her bed, wondering what she did to merit such hate. Next door, Min-joon hears her sobs in loud detail, compounding his guilt.
Unable to sleep, Min-joon heads down to his enormous study, crammed full of books from as far back as Joseon. He takes out a journal and starts writing: “A record of my last three months on Earth.”
On the drama set, perpetual sidekick YOO SE-MI’s (Yoo Inna) indignant manager protests to the director for the lack of scheduling consideration. Se-mi has been on standby since early dawn and then made to wait needlessly, to which the director snaps that Se-mi should be a star if it bothers her so much. She jumps in to soothe tempers, apologizing for her manager.
There’s another scandal on the horizon for Song-yi, who is technically a university student but hasn’t been to campus in ages, leading to a report on celebrity favoritism. The report is scathing, particularly since she was free enough to go tweeting about her daily activities.
CEO Ahn jumps into damage control mode, telling Song-yi she’ll be shooting her scenes secretly at night, and urges her to go to school today. Sure, she’ll get scorned for the timing, but it’s better than not going at all, he argues.
On to our last main character, LEE HWI-KYUNG (Park Hae-jin), the playboy son of a chaebol. He arrives at the airport and sees the Song-yi tweet, and is thus waiting to say hello with open arms. Those arms get readily rebuffed, but he cheerily offers to drive her to school.
Hwi-kyung is good-natured and frivolous, pestering Song-yi to marry him this year. She treats him just like a friend, though, saying that she’s not interested in marrying soon. Besides, she won’t get any good roles (surely a meta statement, given Jeon’s relatively new married status), scoffing that she ain’t doing rom-coms in particular. Heh.
She pushes his buttons on purpose by saying she’s gonna do a hot melo, all full of kissing and bed scenes, and Hwi-kyung sweats while insisting he’s totally cool with that.
Her arrival at school causes a huge commotion, and she walks in like the movie star she is, all slo-mo struts and glamorous backlighting. The male students drool in awe and the female students snipe that she’s all plastic surgery.
The professor arrives, and Song-yi sits up in surprise: It’s Min-joon. Her manager says it’s good that she already knows him, since he’s known for being a stickler and she already got one F, lol. Song-yi cringes to recall all the ways she probably offended her prof.
Of course, she doesn’t help things by yawning through his lecture (on fly mating rituals, and how each side one-ups each other in a cycle of trickery) and violently nodding off.
Still, she hangs back after class to smooth over the matter some more, trying some flattery and empty words at first, which don’t interest him. So she drops the act and levels with him: She has to come to school due to the press, but she doesn’t want to hand in the report. She pleads with him to cut her a little slack, since trading favors is how people live.
That gets Min-joon’s attention, and he says no, that’s not how people live: He looms over her and backs her against a table as he says that people take advantage of you once you’ve helped them, asking for more and more help. And then they never repay you as they promised.
With that, he leaves. She’s a little flustered by all the in-your-face closeness (rawr), and a little offended at that young prof talking down to her.
That evening, Min-joon plays chess with a much older lawyer friend at an old-fashioned cafe, and the two trade fond memories about how the dramas and singers and movie stars of yore were way better than all the youngsters of today. Ha, I’m gonna die laughing if this old man was once Min-joon’s (physical) age.
Song-yi has dinner with Hwi-kyung and Se-mi, all of whom have known each other for years. Hwi-kyung takes out a ring and calls Se-mi’s name… and asks her to be witness to his proposal. Aw, man. Poor Se-mi, who has to sit by and watch Song-yi get the guy and the ring.
Ah, Lawyer Jang knows about his background, because Min-joon tells him he’ll need another falsified death record in three months. Min-joon does this once a decade, but he’s only been Min-joon for two years, which makes Lawyer Jang curious. “I think this will be my last,” Min-joon explains. He thanks Lawyer Jang (“my only friend”) and tells him he’ll be heading back home.
For old time’s sake, Lawyer Jang pulls out an old photo of them, when he was thirty years younger and Min-joon looked exactly the same. Min-joon says, “This is why I was afraid to make friends. People age quickly, and die quickly. I’m the only one left behind, just the same.”
Lawyer Jang asks why Min-joon couldn’t go home when he first landed here. Min-joon says there was an accident that prevented his return, and caused the death of a child: “The first child to give me a gift.”
In a flashback, we see that young widow offering Min-joon a drawing—a landscape, with a UFO in the sky. She says, “It was in the sky the day you came riding in it, like a moon.” She asks if he’s the grim reaper, and he smiles.
Present-day Min-joon recalls another strange event, from twelve years ago on Christmas Eve. He was a doctor then, and a strange feeling had washed over him. He’d had an image flash in his mind, of a girl about to be hit by a truck—and it was the girl with the same face as the girl from 1609.
Song-yi looks at the diamond ring dispassionately and reminds Hwi-kyung of the ring he’d given her on Christmas Eve, when they were in middle school. She hadn’t accepted it then, and she isn’t going to accept it now. She apologizes and returns the box, while Hwi-kyung tells himself he’s been rejected so much it doesn’t even hurt anymore. But he does want to know why she doesn’t want him.
Song-yi replies, “His face—do you remember it?”
So now we see a flashback from her perspective, of young Song-yi (looking just like that widowed Joseon girl) crying as she runs off, rejecting Hwi-kyung’s gift in the process. He chases after her, too far behind to do anything as she steps into the path of a truck.
Everything comes screeching to a halt. And there Song-yi is, cradled in the arms of Min-joon, safely out of harm’s way.
Se-mi calls that man Song-yi’s first love, which is an idea Hwi-kyung finds ridiculous. Song-yi corrects her, saying that he wasn’t quite first love material but had always remained in her mind. She can’t quite remember his face, but she’d always wanted to talk to him.
Back to Min-joon’s side of the flashback. He sees Song-yi running into the path of the truck and reacts with his superhuman reflexes, saving her just as he had saved her doppelganger 400 years ago. Young Song-yi asks if he’s a ghost or a grim reaper.
Min-joon asks his lawyer friend whether that night was a dream, and whether it’s possible for two people to have the same face. “If it wasn’t a dream, I’d like to meet her again before I leave,” he says. “But I suppose that’s impossible.”
As he comes home that night, he comes face to face with Song-yi again. Destiny?
Aw, I love this setup. I was a little worried (okay, outright dubious) about the setup just because I wasn’t sure where the conflict lay, but now that it’s right there front and center, I’m so hooked into the dilemma that I’m in, all the way. The alien has waited 400 years for his chance to return home, and finally gets his window… only to fall in love? I’d say life-or-death stakes are as high as you can get, but this takes that to more of an extreme in turning that upside-down—the fate worse than death is a lifetime of blank eternity, living alone and friendless, away form home, unconnected and uncaring. It’s not unlike Gumiho daddy’s dilemma in Gu Family Book, except hopefully less tragic. Or, you know, not tragic at all.
I love the way Kim Soo-hyun plays this character, who is completely accustomed to human ways except for perhaps the most important one: feeling. Caring. It’s not that he’s incapable of love, but he hasn’t allowed himself to because a lifetime of love is a lifetime of pain, and so he waits for his comet while living as an observer in his own life. It’s just so sad.
The role reminds me of everything I loved about him in Covertly, Grandly, which I know got some mixed reviews but which I loved pretty hard, flaws and all. In both he played an outsider learning to care, only in You From Another Star we get the double-whammy of pairing him with a co-star with whom he has sizzling chemistry. (Honestly, I’m half-convinced that this drama came about because a bunch of people saw The Thieves, said Man those two really need a romance together in a drama, and then said If they won’t make it then IIIIIII will!)
I’ll say this: I have liked Jeon Ji-hyun in the past, and even thought her a decent actress a cut above the “only an actress because she’s pretty” group of starlets in showbiz. On the other hand, I haven’t really connected with her characters before, so it’s a huge relief to be so drawn to her here. The writing helps, of course, because while we’ve seen very little of Song-yi’s backstory, there are enough hints built in to make me curious to know how she got to be the way she is—wanting connection despite her complete disconnection with the world, her outward blasé attitude warring with her desire to be liked by people, even the ones who mock her.
It’s that loneliness that makes these two characters such a great match, Fate tie-ins be damned (which, shrug, are the part I care least about at this point). They’re both completely isolated in different ways, afraid of making a connection and also of never making a connection. I enjoy the bratty top-star character just in general because it’s basically the opposite of what Korean stars are allowed to reveal in real life, but I found myself caring a lot more about Song-yi than I thought I would. She’s not egotistic just because egotism is funny (and it is—see Dokko Jin and Joo Joong-won); she’s so starved for affection that she’d rather have hate mail than no mail, even when that hate mail rubs her heart raw and makes her cry at night.
So you have two lonely hearts with a prior connection and a ticking clock that threatens to cut short their time together (all good stuff), mixed in with a healthy dose of first loves and Fate and maybe reincarnated souls (which basically sounds like a recipe for a hot mess). Yet You From Another Star pulls my heart-strings in all the right ways, and is beautifully shot and lovely to look at on top of that. I’m in the mix for a heart-warming romantic comedy, and now I’ve got all excited about this one. Please, please, continue to be good. It’s my Christmas wish!
- Superpower meets superstar in You From Another Star
- Sparks, showers, and near-kisses in You From Another Star
- Jeon Ji-hyun as Hallyu goddess in You From Another Star
- Kim Soo-hyun suits up to play alien professor man
- Man From Another Star changes title (again), begins script rehearsals
- Park Hae-jin joins Man From Another Star
- Man From Another Star: So Yi-hyun out, Yoo Inna in
- Kim Soo-hyun and Jeon Ji-hyun reunite in rom-com
- Man From Another Star courts Jeon Ji-hyun
- Kim Soo-hyun eyes alien fusion sageuk drama