Warm and Cozy: Episode 1
Just as the title says, Warm and Cozy turns out to be a warm and cozy show, in a nicely comfortable way. It’s not the most exciting first hour of a show ever, and perhaps it could have been bolstered by a heavier dose of plot, but this is a drama I’m watching for mood and feeling, and the show gives me a pleasant and happy feeling, both at the cuteness in front of me and the promise of a sweet romance down the line.
I’m willing to trust the Hong sisters writing team on the character chemistry and development front, and in fact, some of their less successful moments (in my view) have been when they’ve overloaded on plot details at the expense of character. So I welcome this drama’s approach—breezy and light and a touch sentimental.
SONG OF THE DAY
No Reply – “Natural” [ Download ]
FIRST EPISODE RECAP
2005. Jeju Island.
A game of polo is underway at a posh resort, which is how we meet BAEK GUN-WOO (Yoo Yeon-seok). His older sister and mother cheer him on, both dressed to the nines like something out of My Fair Lady; everything about his circle screams money, money, money.
After the game, everyone moves poolside, where an extravagant party has been laid out to celebrate Gun-woo’s birthday. A nervous high schooler makes her way in and finds the elegant woman whose photograph she’s holding. The girl is LEE JUNG-JOO (Kang So-ra), and she braces herself before approaching, murmuring to herself, “Mom?”
But she’s yanked away—Gun-woo pulls her aside and asks why she wants his mother, assuming she’s here to talk about something else. Jung-joo gets distracted noting physical similarities between them, exclaiming at his hair and hands and height. Ha, she’s thinking of him as brother, but he’s just confused.
Gun-woo demands an explanation, and she finally spits it out: She’s his twin. Born on the same day, to the same mother.
Jung-joo presents him with background information she’s compiled to back up her claim; she’s been looking into this for a while and set their birthday as D-Day. She saw on his mini-homepage that he was having his birthday party here, and booked a flight.
Gun-woo supposes that it’s possible he has another sibling—he, his hyung, and his noona all have different fathers. Still, a twin seems too unlikely, nor does he see any resemblance. Which is when they both register that they’re biting their nails, holding their arms in identical ways. They decide to settle the matter with good-old-fashioned DNA testing, and he leads her up to his mother’s hotel suite, where he takes strands of hair from Mom’s brush.
Jung-joo marvels at the luxurious space while Gun-woo explains their filthy lucre: Mom spends her Jeju time in this resort owned by her first husband, takes off for winters in Hawaii on her second husband’s coffee plantation, and lives the remainder on her inherited estate in Seoul. That’s where Gun-woo lives.
Gun-woo takes the barest glance at the birthday gift prepared for him, dismissing the luxury watch for its color. Jung-joo is both amazed and affronted at how spoiled he is, calling him a pain in the ass (literally, it means “you’re full of bad luck” but in this context, she means he’s an annoying pain in the ass).
By contrast, Jung-joo is forced to wear tons of pink, which she hates but can’t avoid because her clothing is all hand-me-downs. The only new thing she can buy herself is underwear, and she can’t imagine rejecting a gift because she didn’t like the color.
Gun-woo is chastened when she puts it like that, but just then his mother and sister enter the suite. Jung-joo panics and insists they hide, so they crowd into the bathroom—accidentally leaving behind her snapshot of Gun-woo’s mother, posing with a man who must be Jung-joo’s father.
Noona notices the photo and recognizes Mom, wondering who the man is. The kids freeze in dismay, but Mom doesn’t even look and airily says that she doesn’t know, tossing it into the trash.
The women leave the suite, and Jung-joo falls to the floor, crushed. Gun-woo isn’t quite sure what to do, caught between wanting to leave and feeling like he ought to comfort her. She assures him that she’s not crying, apologizes for barging in on his birthday, and promises to disappear from his life.
Jung-joo holds it together until he leaves, and then dissolves into tears, feeling mortified and devastated.
As she leaves the resort grounds, however, Gun-woo finds her and offers a box—it’s a slice of his birthday cake, and today’s also her birthday. He adds that he peeked at her school records (part of her background research) and saw that she’s often late to school, and hands her the watch whose color he didn’t like. She balks, but he points out that with this watch, she can attend a semester of school rather than be forced to work as her guardian wants.
Jung-joo retorts that she’s not the type to reject the gift, and she won’t promise to repay him, and she’ll say thank you with words but will secretly think he’s just a pain in the ass.
He just puts the gift into her hand, agreeing: “Don’t reject it, and don’t come looking for me to repay it, and don’t say with words that I’m a pain in the ass while falling for me.”
“Pain in the ass,” she gripes, saying that she doesn’t think much of guys who go around helping girls wastefully.
“I’m sad,” Gun-woo replies glibly. “I was all ready to totally fall for you. Well, we can’t be twins, and you don’t want to be anything more, so this is where we end. See ya.” With a friendly smile, he heads off.
Stammering, Jung-joo calls him back, trying to sound haughty but only sounding nervous: “W-would you really fall?”
He says he doesn’t have time to fall for her, since he’s about to study abroad. But if she comes looking for him later, he’ll give her a shot: “Grow up into a cool person who’d make me fall head over heels instantly.”
She blurts that he should grow up into a total profligate, the kind nobody wants. She says sarcastically, “That way, I’ll have a chance when it’s my turn.” He agrees to live recklessly for her benefit, and adds that she should live diligently for his. It’s a curious exchange, a little confusing and a little cute, and Jung-joo’s reaction is just as conflicted. She says unconvincingly to herself that she finds him unappealing. Yep. Sure.
So Jung-joo takes the solo flight back home, choking down both the birthday cake and her hurt feelings. Meanwhile, Gun-woo receives shocking news from his mother, who tells him (but not us) about “the truth of your father.” Gun-woo is left speechless and hurt, and we see his mother later wistfully looking at the photo she’d tossed away earlier. So… are they twins after all? (They’re totally not twins! But is the drama going to go there with the hints?)
Voicing over their respective heartbreaks is a narration from promotional copy that invites visitors to Jeju Island whenever you want to hide from the world, or when you’re struck with longing.
Ten years later.
Gun-woo skillfully works a kitchen, looking relaxed and confident, while that narration invites visitors to Warm and Cozy, his restaurant here on Jeju.
Meanwhile, back in Seoul, Jung-joo makes the busy morning commute to work, where she gets scolded for making a mistake at the apparel company she works for. Her colleague worries that her team is in danger of being dissolved, but Jung-joo grumbles that she’s sticking around no matter what.
Jung-joo’s been saving up for an apartment, and sends her cousin Jung-min (guest appearance by Go Kyung-pyo) to check one out for her. It becomes apparent that the clean, tidy apartment she’s talking about is not the crumbling house he’s visiting, but Jung-min assures her that everything is great. When she gives him the okay to proceed with the contract, he tells the owner he’ll take it—it’ll make a great cafe. Oh no, is the little punk going to rip off his noona? Bad punk!
He’s on Jeju Island, and a crowd of ajummas notice the newcomer. Jeju dialect is notoriously difficult to decipher even for Koreans, and the Korean subtitles for their dialogue are a tongue-in-cheek nod to that fact.
With an apartment (supposedly) secured, Jung-joo plans to save up for a wedding next. Her boyfriend has been in Japan for training, and she sends him a care package while wondering if he’s so busy that he can’t even call. Red flag, red flag!
Over on Jeju Island, Gun-woo lazes away in a hammock and waves cheerily at the ajumma divers who walk by. He’s oblivious to their disapproving looks, wondering why they’re so unexpressive, having expected that they’d love him. His employee, POONG-SAN (Jinyoung), counters that they’re being really obvious that they dislike him greatly. Ha. They even refuse to sell their seafood to his restaurant.
Gun-woo pouts that he’s been trying to win them over, but flashbacks show us his unsuccessful attempts to ply them with empty flattery. They just see him as a rude Seoul boy and disdain his lack of manners.
Warm and Cozy doesn’t seem all that interested in maintaining a clientele (must be nice to be so rich), and the customers are given one choice of menu: the Warm Course for lunch (or the Cozy Course for dinner), which is always changing, based on what the chef decides. Ha, I should have figured Gun-woo only cooks what he feels like cooking, and has somehow made a business model of it. It’s a good thing he’s pretty, since his customers mostly come to fawn over his looks.
Gun-woo gets a call that there’s a gathering of his old equestrian team in Seoul, and declines the invitation. But once he hears that “someone” is coming, he’s ready to beeline for the airport. It’s a girl, right?
Over drinks, his buddies laughingly rib him for turning into a bumpkin, when he used to be so sharp and urbane. Gun-woo counters that they’re being cruel to their souls be being locked to Seoul, unable to leave the city.
Then a woman shows up, and Gun-woo tenses up. She’s MOK JI-WON (Seo Yi-an), recently arrived from New York, and he plays it cool while all the guys fawn over her.
Jung-joo arrives at the same fancy restaurant with her friend, and idly notices names on the Reserved list. Among them is a certain equestrian team gathering, which makes her think of Gun-woo, casting furtive looks around the restaurant.
Her friend guesses she’s looking for her “Jeju Island Prince,” musing that Jung-joo must enjoy her fantasy of her prince riding up on a horse and calling her name, after all these years. That’s when Jung-joo spies Gun-woo at his table at the far side of the room, and her heart starts to pound (punctuated by the heart-pounding theme song from Best Love, because an OST cameo is par for the course, yes?).
Jung-joo’s friend carefully broaches the idea of opening up a cafe in Jeju with Jung-min—ah, she’s in on the scheme. Jung-joo shuts her down immediately, calling it out of the question.
It seems that old crush Ji-won is aware of Gun-woo’s longtime feelings for her, based on the way she talks of him following her to Jeju (separately, but totally because of her). But they’re talking around the topic, so either they’ve never spoken honestly or they’re pretending it never happened. When she promises to visit his restaurant sometime, Gun-woo points out that she’s always making vague promises and tries to pin her down for specifics, which she deflects. Apparently she always strung multiple guys along until she got engaged, but that relationship broke up and now she’s back. And you like her why?
Jung-joo is at the front desk settling the bill when Gun-woo’s party heads out, and rather than looking excited to see him, she hides her face to remain unnoticed. He passes her by.
Gun-woo catches up to Ji-won in the parking lot to tell her that he made a restaurant just like she’d always wanted—one that goes at a snail’s pace, which makes food just for you. He invites her to drop by anytime, and the mood warms up… until her boyfriend arrives. Ji-won introduces Gun-woo as “an old friend,” which stings.
Out on the street, Jung-joo envisions her fantasy coming to life, with Gun-woo riding up to her on his horse and says the words she’d dreamed of him saying. But she tells Fantasy Gun-woo that he didn’t remember her, and watches him dissipate in front of her. She says to herself, “The fantasy has shattered.”
Apparently Gun-woo’s restaurant was a rash move on his part (thanks to that girl), and he had to go behind his responsible brother’s back to get the loan for it. Gun-woo wants to close up shop asap and return to Seoul, but he borrowed funds without his brother knowing, so it’s up to him to find a way out. So when Poong-san informs him of potential buyers wanting to look at the restaurant, he readies to fly back immediately.
Equally (or more) in a rush to get to Jeju is Jung-joo, who begs for a ticket on the sold-out flight, because she has to track down a con artist. Ah, thank goodness she caught on to her dear cousin’s scheme, though I’m betting it’s too late to stop him. Though not too late to crush him?
Jung-joo has to settle for waiting standby, and takes one more look at the video Jung-min sent, informing her of his grand plans and asking her not to be too angry. Yeah, not bloody likely. Jung-joo’s eyes bug out wildly and she mutters, “I. Will. Kill you.”
She hears a passenger arguing with her husband and refusing to go to Jeju—this is her chance. She puts her name down to claim the ticket if it becomes available… just as Gun-woo sidles up and asks for the next one. As he fills out the form, he notices Jung-joo’s name and recognition pings.
Jung-joo’s too absorbed in the couple’s fight to notice Gun-woo staring at her, and she roots for the couple to break up (and cancel the Jeju honeymoon), cheering quietly when the wife throws her ring and the husband stalks off. Then the wife starts bawling, and the husband rushes to comfort her, apologizing profusely, and Jung-joo sighs.
But the couple tries to hunt down the ring that got tossed, and Jung-joo spies it first and quietly covers it, hoping that they’ll cancel their flight to look for it. Then she looks up and Gun-woo smirks at her, having seen the whole thing.
She doesn’t recognize him because of his sunglasses, and stammers a defense. He just peers at her and calls her twin, confirming that it’s really her. Unfortunately (for Jung-joo), the couple finds the ring, but fortunately, the wife goes into labor and Jung-joo gets onto the plane after all.
Gun-woo ends up next to her, and while he’s happy to see her, she keeps a cool distance. For instance, she pretends she didn’t recognize or remember him, which makes him sad because he recognized her instantly.
“I thought of you from time to time,” he says. “Really. We even made a promise.” He means the one where she would grow into an awesome woman who’d make him fall for her, and he would grow into a wastrel with a wasted life.
He says in his glibly charming way that he tried to live recklessly but couldn’t keep his promise (’cause he turned out awesome anyway). She lies that she doesn’t remember the promise, making him wonder, “You don’t? But you kept your promise.” And who could blame her heart for pounding at that? She gets fidgety and nervous, and escapes to the restroom upon landing to calm her nerves.
Jung-joo reaches for mints to calm her down, but the flimsy box sends them spilling everywhere. Spotting the empty pill bottle left by another passenger, she uses it to hold her mints, which has got to backfire spectacularly, right?
Gun-woo’s prospective buyers decline to purchase, but his conversation with Jung-joo gives him new idea. Thinking to get her cafe-buying friend to take his restaurant, he offers Jung-joo a lift and a homemade dinner, talking her up.
Just then, he gets a call from the ajusshi he borrowed money from (a secretary who used to work for his mother), who’s on his way to meet his brother. Gun-woo can’t have hyung knowing about his secret funding, so he takes a detour to ward off the threat and manages to intercept Secretary Gong before he meets his brother. But the man needs his money right away for his son’s wedding and isn’t moved by Gun-woo’s promises.
Waiting nearby, Jung-joo calls out that she has to get going, and on a mad impulse Gun-woo blurts that she’s his fiancée. He couldn’t possibly disappoint his brother when he’s got such good news, and the man is begrudgingly persuaded to keep quiet. Gun-woo slings an arm around a confused Jung-joo, posing for the secretary’s benefit.
She wonders at his money concerns, and Gun-woo tells her about selling his restaurant, asking if her cousin would be interested. Realizing this was the reason for his friendliness, Jung-joo deflates a little, and informs him that she’s here to prevent the purchase.
Gun-woo says says she ought to let her cousin do as he wants, and remarks that she’s no different from the obstinate, combative teenager she was ten years ago. She says he’s right and excuses herself, declining dinner and telling him not to pretend to be friendly anymore, since she can’t buy his place anyway. She leaves with the admonition to live straight from now on.
Gun-woo drives off feeling lousy, then notices that she left behind her mints—though to him, they look like prescription painkillers. Hm.
Jung-joo tracks down an acquaintance who owns a restaurant here (cameo by So Ji-sub, which is random but welcome) to get Jung-min’s whereabouts. She blames him for being the one to fill Jung-min’s head with ideas of quitting office work so he could laze about here. She says that corporate drudgery doesn’t suit anyone, and that they’d all prefer to loll around on an island. Running away to escape your life is something a loser does, she says.
So Ji-sub agrees, but says (using his Master’s Sun catchphrase) that even confronting things and “getting lost” willingly takes courage.
Jung-joo heads over to find Jung-min, and notices the horse rides being given nearby… and the one rider who looks an awful lot like that boyfriend who’s supposed to be in Japan. He’s with a woman, and the second he sees her his face takes on an “Oh shit” look and he tries to hurry away before Jung-joo can make it past the gate.
She’s reduced to taking the ride after him, which makes for a comical sight gag since these rides are guided, and they can only flee/chase at a super-slow pace while maintaining a strictly prescribed distance between them.
Jung-joo manages to catch up to ask for an explanation, and the weaselly two-timer apologizes, finally admitting that he got married, and is on his honeymoon. You spineless coward.
He begs her to keep this quiet for his bride’s sake, and it fills her with such rage she imagines grabbing a spear and charging after him like a fierce warrior (appropriately, to the tune of Queen Seon-deok). She throws…
The spear lands in the ground and Jung-joo watches him ride off, thinking, “I always feel anger, but have no power to get even. And the anger that gets stuck in the wrong place is irrelevant and pitiable.”
That’s when she’s shaken awake, in reality having fallen from her horse and landing right in horse dung. She’s forced to rinse off in a puddle, holding back sniffles and assuring herself she’s fine. But then she answers a call from her boss, who informs her that she’s fired. Stunned, she drops her shoe in the stream, to float away unnoticed.
Downstream, Gun-woo fishes it out, ready to return it.
It was a looser first episode than I’m used to from the Hong sisters, but I find that in no way a detractor since they can be a little frenetic. Don’t get me wrong, I love their jam-packed joke-laden zaniness, but sometimes I want to stop and smell the roses a little, and Warm and Cozy allows the room for that. There’s space to breathe and enjoy the moments between the characters, and since these are winsome characters, I’m happy to drink in the mood and the sunny Jeju ambiance.
More than anything, I’m a fan of the two main characters, and the actors in those roles. I was fully expecting a haughty or bratty leading man, so it’s a happy surprise to find Gun-woo to be a nice guy. A total manchild, maybe, but not a jerk, not a cold or stunted robot, not a prickly perfectionist. He’s charming and amiable, but in no way boring. Of course, he had to be filthy rich and privileged, but I suppose I can’t have everything! Maybe the next drama, we can have a nice guy for a hero who’s also in an average-median tax bracket?
I’m also super happy to have Yoo Yeon-seok playing this character, both for the way he adds to what’s on the page and because he’s played such a string of assholes. (Chilbongie was the exception, but he really made a career out of playing mean bastards for a while there.)
But even more than him, I’m really thrilled to have Kang So-ra in this role, because she really makes it work. She makes Jung-joo feel realized and human, with complex and conflicted emotions that play as natural. I was surprised when she recognized Gun-woo right away and then hid from him, because I would have thought she’d be happy to reconnect, but the way she played the aftermath of the restaurant encounter felt so realistic to me. He’s been an untouchable fantasy for the past ten years, one that brings her both pleasure and pain, and I can understand how she’s afraid of letting herself like him, because she’d fall too hard. And since she’s an eminently practical person, she can see that ending a zillion bad ways, and would rather protect herself preemptively.
It makes sense given her disappointment in not finding her mother, of how she’s close up to prevent more of that hurt. She’s a diligent, sensible person, and there’s no room for fantasy in her life. So rather than pursue it, seeing him again actually has the effect of shattering the fantasy. It was bittersweet and poignant, and I believed it because she played it so honestly. I like the hints of sentimentality that we’re seeing, and without a crazy murder or revenge plot to take up screentime, I look forward to exploring the relationships with (maybe? hopefully?) a little more time and depth.
But we’re only getting started, and I also want to see plenty of the trademark Hong sisters comedy, with their love of wordplay (the examples in this episode totally made my day). The actors have great rapport and we’re perfectly set up for plenty of comic hijinks with our lazy hero and our diligent heroine, and I’m crossing my fingers for a good run. *cross cross cross* *cross like the wind*
- Breezy island romance in Warm and Cozy’s posters
- Warm and Cozy’s lazy grasshopper and angry ant meet-cute
- Warm and Cozy on the beaches of Jeju Island
- Warm and Cozy’s chef jockey restaurateur
- Oh Snap! Cozy Producer, Hidden Ex-Girlfriend
- First script read for Hong sisters drama Warm and Cozy
- B1A4’s Jinyoung a possible addition to Warm and Cozy
- Yoo Yeon-seok for leading man in Hong sisters’ Warm and Cozy
- Rain up to romance Ha Ji-won, or maybe Kang So-ra
- Eom Ki-joon up for new Hong sisters drama Warm and Cozy
- Kim Woo-bin and Kang So-ra offered leads in Hong sisters rom-com