Fight My Way: Episode 1
Don’t you just love it when a new drama gets you excited about its potential, then proceeds to live up to it beautifully? KBS’s coming-of-age-for-the-second-time romcom, Fight My Way, starts out bright and funny, with quirky characters that I already adore. But it’s not all sweetness and light… there’s an undercurrent of loneliness and discontent that offsets the comedy nicely, promising thoughtful and heartfelt moments to come.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
It’s 2006, and two high school boys have smuggled a contraband portable TV into class to watch a Muay Thai fight. They get caught cheering, and one of the pair, GO DONG-MAN (Park Seo-joon) politely asks that they be excused this once.
The teacher offers to let them off the hook if they can answer a question correctly, and the second boy, KIM JOO-MAN (Ahn Jae-hong) asks the teacher not to make deals with students. When Dong-man agrees, the teacher is happy to move straight to the whipping. Well, that backfired.
Dong-man valiantly takes on the challenge, but he gets the math question wrong (“You have a twenty percent chance of getting the answer right, and a forty percent chance of getting it wrong… what are the chances your butts will be safe?” LOL). They head up front for their beatings, one for every percent chance they thought they had (fifty, ouch).
The teacher asks if anyone else can answer the question, and the class suck-up, PARK MOO-BIN (cameo by Choi Woo-shik) stands to give the correct percentage. The “Man Brothers,” as they’re called, barely have time to snarl at the little creep before the beatings begin.
At a girls’ high school in Seosan, several hours south of Seoul, a pair of girlfriends are having a similarly bad day. Their teacher confiscates a toy microphone from CHOI AE-RA (Kim Ji-won) and a headband from BAEK SEOL-HEE (Song Ha-yoon), unswayed by Ae-ra’s promises to get her on TV once she becomes a famous anchor. The friends aren’t too upset, at least until they learn that they have to stay after school as punishment.
Back at the Man Brothers’ school, the school’s female jjang, BO-RAM, is unimpressed with kiss-up Moo-bin’s offering of the last carton of her favorite coffee milk. Bo-ram simpers when she spots the handsome Dong-man, her newest crush.
As the two toughest students in the school, Joo-man thinks it’s a no-brainer for Dong-man to date Bo-ram. Dong-man never thought about it, but he decides it’s not a terrible idea and makes plans to confess to her at his taekwondo match after school.
His embarrassing t-shirt has him asking Moo-bin to lend him his nice designer shirt. Moo-bin is suspicious, so Dong-man offers him a coffee milk to butter him up. But when Moo-bin sees “From Bo-ram” written on it, he figures out what must be going on.
Ae-ra and Seol-hee are also planning to go to the match, but it’s a long train ride to Seoul, so they put on pale makeup and fake illness to escape their after-school punishment. The plan fails, as do several more attempts to skip out early. Eventually the teacher responds to her car alarm going off, and they just grab their confiscated things from her desk and make a run for it.
They head to Dong-man’s match in the city, where they’re surprised to see a veritable parade of girls chanting Dong-man’s name. It seems strange to them, as they’ve known Dong-man since they were six years old, and to them he’s just an old friend.
They cheer for Dong-man enthusiastically, though he seems a bit dismayed to find them here. The girls are right behind Bo-ram, who’s annoyed to see a couple of strange girls cheering for “her” man. Moo-bin is there too, intent on asking Bo-ram why she gave the coffee milk he got for her to Dong-man, and whether she likes him.
Dong-man is a pretty talented fighter, and he neatly wins his round with a fancy jump-kick. He pulls off his uniform top and hurls it into the audience, where it sails over Bo-ram’s head and into Ae-ra’s hands. He loudly yells, “From now on, say you have a boyfriend!” Ae-ra gets excited, until Dong-man points at Bo-ram and shouts her name. Yikes.
Ae-ra grumbles that Dong-man came to Seoul to train, but he’s getting up to all sorts of shenanigans. Moo-bin threatens to tell Bo-ram’s mother that she’s dating a thug who can’t even count, then he runs off crying. Irritated, Ae-ra makes a point to whack Bo-ram in the head as she and Seol-hee get up to leave. She tosses off a sarcastic sorry-not-sorry and sails away, head held high.
Eleven years later, Ae-ra still carries herself like a queen as she enters an exclusive department store before it opens, making the crowd of shoppers wonder if she’s a VIP. Dong-man’s voice narrates that the girl who wanted to be a famous news anchor now mans an information desk, and we see Ae-ra in a uniform, vapidly greeting customers. Ouch.
Dong-man also struts into a fancy building wearing a white doctor’s coat as he heads straight for the penthouse. Ae-ra’s voice tells us that the taekwondo prodigy is now a pest exterminator. HA.
Former housewife-hopeful Seol-hee looks pretty and confident as she heads to work, but she’s only a customer service agent for a home shopping channel. And Joo-man, who initially seems to be the leader of some sort of gang, turns out to be a buyer for the same home shopping channel.
Furtively texting her boyfriend between customers, Ae-ra grows irritated when he doesn’t respond. She’s alarmed when an old classmate, CHAN-SOOK (cameo by Hwang Bo-ra), recognizes her and stops to talk, then drags her to the store’s members-only cafe, which Chan-sook gains entry into on account of her rich fiancé.
Chan-sook is utterly self-absorbed, taking selfies and acting magnanimous while getting in digs at Ae-ra’s mediocre life. She invites Ae-ra to her wedding, making a point to mention their elite new home and how many karats are in her ring.
Meanwhile, Dong-man is on a blind coffee date, where his loud, boisterous personality seems to unnerve the lady. He brags a lot about his past, but when she asks him to talk about his life now, she’s turned off by his humble career and lifestyle. She does make an effort and asks about his past sports career, but he goes strangely quiet and lies that he’s never been involved in sports.
Chan-sook gets all condescending when Ae-ra says that she has a boyfriend who’s studying to be a prosecutor. Tired of being looked down on by this superficial woman, Ae-ra asks the age of her fiancé, correctly guessing that he’s much older by Chan-sook’s sudden silence.
Rallying, Chan-sook snipes that Ae-ra would find someone suitable too, if she lowered her standards to her own level. Ae-ra counters with the mention of a guy that once came between them — she strikes the killing blow by saying that she cares about looks, but that guy was on Chan-sook’s level in that department. Daaamn.
Over at the home shopping channel, Seol-hee’s supervisor listens in on a call with a disgruntled customer, taking over when Seol-hee tanks it before pulling Seol-hee into a conference room to rip her a new one. Joo-man notices, and he grabs some handouts as an excuse to enter the same conference room.
Seol-hee’s supervisor leaves, and Joo-man gives Seol-hee a cute little hip-bump as he passes her. She throws herself into his arms as thanks for rescuing her, and she asks if they should just get married, giving him the big sad puppy eyes. When he hesitates to answer, Seol-hee whines that they’ve been dating for six years.
On a break, Ae-ra calls her boyfriend KIM MOO-KI (cameo by Kwak Dong-yeon), who tells her that he’s failed the bar exam yet again. He says he’s thinking of biking across the country to clear his mind, but Ae-ra snaps that he doesn’t need to clear a mind that he never uses, ha.
Across town, Dong-man is all ready to extend the coffee date to lunch, but his date jumps into a taxi to make her escape. She refuses to give him her number, and when he asks that she repay him for the coffee by buying drinks this weekend, she slaps some cash in his hand and drives off.
When Ae-ra calls to invite Dong-man to lunch, he crankily refuses until she says she’ll treat him to rib-eye steak. He goes to her department store but can’t find her, then he gets stuck in the revolving door with Chan-sook (who’s on the phone trying to talk her fiancé into hair transplants, hee).
Dong-man reaches around Chan-sook to try to unstick the door, and when she turns to see his doctor’s coat and handsome, backlit face (not to mention his thick hair), she literally swoons. Ae-ra arrives just as they’re being freed from the door and notices Chan-sook’s blush.
Asking for a formal introduction, Chan-sook holds out her hand to Dong-man as if she expects him to kiss her ring. He doesn’t have a clue what to do with it, so he just shakes her fingertips, ha. Chan-sook asks if they’re just friends, and Dong-man confirms it, though Ae-ra gives a vague answer as if there’s more between them.
As they walk to the restaurant, Chan-sook asks exactly what Ae-ra and Dong-man are to each other while Dong-man lags behind. Ae-ra claims loftily that Dong-man is totally into her but that he’s not good-looking enough for her tastes (lies!), and that her boyfriend is much better-looking anyway.
Dong-man and Ae-ra sit to eat while Chan-sook lurks around outside, watching them. Ae-ra orders Dong-man to pat her on the head, conspicuously batting her eyelashes and simpering at him for Chan-sook’s benefit.
Dong-man is horrified at the idea of touching her, but he does when Ae-ra threatens to let him go hungry. He complies, looking like it physically hurts to touch Ae-ra’s hair, especially when he realizes she hasn’t washed it lately. But the act is minimally convincing enough to get rid of Chan-sook.
When Ae-ra reveals that Moo-ki failed his exam again, Dong-man grumbles about his not paying Ae-ra back all of the money she’s loaned him. He says that a good man would get a job so that his girlfriend doesn’t have to support him, but Ae-ra jumps to Moo-ki’s defense.
She buys Moo-ki a new bicycle after work, attempting to be supportive of his choice to bike across the country. She hauls the bike onto the bus and across town to Moo-ki’s gosiwon, where another male student sees her and oddly goes running inside to alert all the guys on Moo-ki’s floor.
Pandemonium ensues as they all run in different directions. Everything appears calm again when Ae-ra arrives upstairs, and Moo-ki meets her in the hallway. She gives him the bike, which he wheels towards his room veeery slooowly, looking veeery guilty.
Ae-ra suddenly notices that Moo-ki’s sweatpants are on inside-out, and he shakes and sweats until she provides an excuse herself, assuming that he’s a mess because he failed the bar exam again. He leads her to the kitchen where an ajumma (cameo by Jung Soo-young) is serving food to the other boys, and Ae-ra recognizes her as the owner of a nearby restaurant.
Everyone seems nervous and jittery as Ae-ra makes small talk with the ajumma. Ae-ra looks closer and sees that the ajumma has a Minnie Mouse hair tie in her hair that looks very familiar, mainly because it belongs to Ae-ra.
Ajumma freezes, and Ae-ra slowly looks over at Moo-ki and sees something suspicious — that Ajumma is wearing the sweatshirt that goes with Moo-ki’s inside-out sweatpants. The truth slams home that Moo-ki and Ajumma are having an affair, and Ae-ra goes after Moo-ki, whacking at him with her purse.
Later, the three sit in the destroyed gosiwon kitchen, Ae-ra at the table and Moo-ki on the floor at her feet, sobbing and chastened. Ae-ra reminds him that he gave her this designer bag and promised to marry her once he passes the bar. She says that she was touched to know that he’d saved up his money to buy her the bag.
Moo-ki can only mutter a pitiful apology, and Ae-ra admits that she knew he wasn’t smart enough to pass, and that she was going to tell him to quit and let her take care of him. Ajumma tells Moo-ki to get on his knees, which he does while Ae-ra does her best to ignore the woman.
Crying now, Ae-ra reminds Moo-ki of all the money she’s spent on him even with her low-paying job, saying that she has dreams, too. She says that she could understand if he was cheating with a younger, prettier woman, but she can’t accept an older woman who’s just a small business owner.
Ajumma interjects that actually, it’s not a small business, and they all go out so that Ae-ra can gape at the line out the door of the apparently famous restaurant. Ae-ra has to admit that Moo-ki has hitched himself to a pretty lucrative star. He arrives all kitted out with brand-new biking gear and on a fancy new bike, and he even has a new car courtesy of his rich girlfriend and is ready to go on his cross-country trip.
As if this isn’t all horrible enough, Ajumma also pays back every penny that Moo-ki owes to Ae-ra, plus interest. They offer Ae-ra and her bike a ride home, but she just rolls her eyes then snatches her Minnie Mouse hair band out of Ajumma’s hair, snarling defiantly, “This is mine!”
Dong-man visits a food cart, manned by none other than his old taekwondo coach, HWANG JANG-HO (Kim Sung-oh), though he complains when Coach Hwang serves him something he didn’t order. Coach Hwang says that he needs to eat correctly for an athlete, even when Dong-man reminds him that he’s no longer in sports. He says that once a coach, always a coach, and once a marital artist, always a martial artist.
He’s bound and determined to convince Dong-man to make a comeback, though Dong-man makes it clear that he has no such ideas, especially at his age. Coach Hwang calls it a waste of talent, but Dong-man grows emotional and insists that ever since November 3, 2007, he’ll never participate in any sport ever again.
Coach Hwang gently advises Dong-man to forget the past and move on. Dong-man says that sports never made him happy, calling it intense and humiliating, and he refuses to ever go back. Coach Hwang asks if he’s doing anything intense now, and if he’s happy.
Ae-ra tries to make a dramatic exit, only to be thwarted when her bike doesn’t fit in the taxi’s trunk, forcing her to accept Moo-ki and Ajumma’s offer of a ride after all. Heartsick and humiliated, she pretends to fall asleep in the car.
Ae-ra snaps awake when she overhears a news blurb from Ajumma’s phone that someone named Park Hye-ran has announced her upcoming divorce. She snatches at Ajumma’s phone, causing Moo-ki to nearly hit Dong-man as he steps, preoccupied from his argument with Coach Hwang, into the street.
Thank goodness, they miss him by inches. But Ae-ra’s night gets exponentially worse when Moo-ki turns to Ajumma, reaching towards her belly and asking frantically if she’s okay. Oh nooo.
Ajumma gets out to find Dong-man screaming as he sits in the street, then he sees Moo-ki and screams at him in the same tone, “Are you here to see Ae-ra?!” LOL. He gets up, gasping that he wasn’t actually hit.
He’s startled to see Ae-ra with them, who tells him sternly to sit back down and call his insurance company. Dong-man gives Moo-ki a look, inquiring in a stage whisper if they had a fight, then he notices Ajumma and asks if she’s Moo-ki’s aunt.
In an emotionless voice, Ae-ra interrupts: “She’s the mother of that bastard’s baby.” Thinking he misheard, Dong-man assumes she meant that this is Moo-ki’s mother, so Ae-ra repeats herself, pointing at the two offenders accusingly.
Dong-man’s face is priceless as he watches Ae-ra dissolve into whooping sobs while she tries to explain the situation. Finally, he bellows at her to speak clearly, so she gathers just enough control to wail, “They have a baby together!” Dong-man turns his fury on Moo-ki and grabs him by the collar to throttle him, then Ajumma grabs Dong-man, and they stand in the street yelling while Ae-ra watches incredulously.
Later, Dong-man escorts Ae-ra and her bike home, checking his face and teeth for permanent injury. Ae-ra says that the official story is that she dumped Moo-ki, then she tells Dong-man about Park Hye-ran’s divorce.
The information seems to land hard, though Dong-man doesn’t let himself react (I wonder, is she an ex of his?). As they walk down some stairs, Ae-ra breaks a heel and sits down hard. Dong-man shouts at her for buying knockoffs, then he yells at her again when she starts crying in earnest.
A short scene informs us that Ae-ra’s so-called designer purse from Moo-ki is actually a fake, but she doesn’t know that and gets upset when Dong-man drops it. He fusses at her for treasuring anything given to her by that rat bastard, but Ae-ra plans to fix it and sell it.
Simultaneously annoyed and wanting to help, Dong-man leads Ae-ra to a little street store and magnanimously offers to buy her a new, serviceable bag. He chooses the plain white canvas bag, insisting that it’s perfect for beating errant boyfriends, which makes Ae-ra laugh.
She tells Dong-man that she’ll carry the bag until the day she dies, which puffs him up and embarrasses him all at the same time. He generously tells her to pick out a comfy pair of shoes as well.
We get a quick glimpse of the mysterious PARK HYE-RAN (Lee Elijah), perfecting her lipstick as she waits in her car near Dong-man and Ae-ra’s homes. They walk past without noticing her, Ae-ra praising Dong-man on his eye for good, sturdy bags and shoes.
Pleased by her reaction, he pats her on the head affectionately. She whines that this is what she wanted him to do earlier, because this is what makes her heart flutter. Amused, Dong-man grins and does it again, asking in a slightly husky voice if her heart is fluttering now.
Looking pretty darn fluttery, Ae-ra asks why it should. Dong-man leans close, putting a hand on her face and noting that she’s turning red. He holds her chin as he leans a tiny bit closer to stare into Ae-ra’s eyes as he says, “You… need to quit drinking.” Haha, you big tease.
A little breathless, Ae-ra agrees. She wonders if her racing heart is because of the alcohol as she follows Dong-man up to their building.
After Dong-man’s taekwondo match back in 2006, a vicious fight had broken out between Bo-ram and Ae-ra. Dong-man had pried them apart, then when he’d spotted a scratch on Ae-ra’s face, he’d yelled at Bo-ram for fighting dirty. He’d hustled Ae-ra off to the doctor (hee, love Ae-ra’s sassy hair-flip at Bo-ram), leaving his brand-new girlfriend gaping in shock at being left behind.
What a cute start! I love the light, comfortable feel of the show so far, and the darker moments hinting at drama down the road make me very curious to see where the show takes us. In spite of the copious promos, the actual content of the drama has been left pretty wide-open, with them only telling us that it’s about twenty-somethings who lost out on their dreams and live third-rate lives. I sort of like not knowing what to expect going in, and this premiere episode leaves me with a positive feeling that what’s in store will be sweet, funny, and full of heart. I also think that the pairing of Park Seo-joon and Kim Ji-won (finally in her first leading role, it’s way past time!), is pretty inspired, and honestly the two of them are the majority of the reason I’m excited about this show. That final scene promised some pretty intense chemistry between them, and I can’t wait to see a lot more of them together.
I like that we start out with these characters all having known each other for years — it gives the feeling that their backstories aren’t just isolated incidents we get to see for the sake of the story. When the characters have known each other since they were six years old, there’s no pretending to be someone they aren’t, since they already know everything there is to know about each other. They can’t hide the negative parts of their personalities like you do when meeting someone new, because they already know each other as well as they know themselves. I think this is one reason I enjoy friends-to-lovers stories so much, because the falling in love isn’t about finding someone new and exciting, but realizing that the perfect person is already right there, and has been all along.
There’s something so fun about watching that dynamic play out, and I anticipate that Dong-man’s journey will be particularly entertaining. He’s already halfway there — it’s obvious that his quick reactions to anger are because he feels powerless whenever Ae-ra is hurt or upset. He doesn’t know how to comfort her, so he just blows up, sometimes even directly at her when there’s no handy target. His instincts are good once he calms down though, as proven when he bought Ae-ra that bag and shoes (who knew that getting a girl a cheap, plain canvas bag could be so swoony?). It’s only a short step from there to understanding that he gets angry because he loves her.
I find myself particularly loving and identifying with Ae-ra, who has an almost superhuman ability to maintain her dignity even under the most terrible of situations. She’s in the throes of the worst day of her life, in which she finds out her boyfriend has an older, rich, pregnant girlfriend. Yet Ae-ra still has enough pride to get back her silly broken hair band because dammit, it belongs to her. She’s spunky and smart, and you can see that her dream of being a news anchor hasn’t died. I hope more than anything that she gets her dream in the end.
Dong-man’s lost hopes of being an elite athlete are also sad, and I’m very curious to know what happened to him in November of 2007 to make him give up his dreams so vehemently that he denies they ever even existed. He obviously loved taekwondo very much and was incredibly good at it. I hope that Coach Hwang (and can I just say how excited I was to see Kim Sung-oh here, I love him!) can get through to Dong-man that it’s not too late to repair the damage to his broken spirit and get back into sports.
We’re so used to seeing the two extremes of society in dramas, either the crushingly poor or the insanely rich, so it’s fun to find a show that focuses on those forgotten in the middle. Like so many of us, these four friends are plodding along as best they can, working respectable jobs but having fallen far short of their childhood dreams. It can be a depressing place, knowing that you wanted so much for yourself and that you didn’t even get close. I think it will be interesting watching them find other things to live for, namely love and friendship, and learn to move past their dissatisfaction in their careers to realize that life is about more than what you do to earn money.
I wasn’t expecting this drama to address the reclamation of youthful hopes and dreams, and I would have been happy if it were just about people in their mid-twenties learning to make the most of what they have. But on the other hand, it’s not like their dreams are unattainable — they’ve just gotten sidetracked along the way. It would be great to see these four friends support each other as they go after their once-lost ambitions, whether they be big ones like becoming a famous news anchor, or small ones like being the very best housewife you can be. No dream is worthless if it’s a person’s true desire, and it’s never, ever too late.
- Premiere Watch: Circle, Fight My Way, Lookout
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- Oh Snap! A friend to lean on when things go sideways
- Suffocating best friends in Fight My Way’s new teaser
- The cute and the petty in Fight My Way’s second teaser
- KBS schedules drama shorts, delays Fight My Way’s premiere
- Finger hearts in new stills for Fight My Way
- Bickering besties Park Seo-joon and Kim Ji-won for Fight My Way
- Kimbap and charged looks on the set of Third-Rate My Way
- Ex-boyfriend cameo and first script read for KBS’s Third-Rate My Way
- Choi Woo-shik drops by for cameo on Third-Rate My Way