Thirty But Seventeen: Episodes 1-2
Thirty But Seventeen pairs a modern-day Sleeping Beauty with a not-so-handsome prince — in fact he’s downright scary, for now. A series of misunderstandings, both past and present, are at the heart of the story, underpinning how easily life can take a detour. Filled with unique and eccentric characters, Thirty But Seventeen follows the recently awakened heroine as she navigates a whole new world.
EPISODE 1: “La campanella, the little bell.”
A teenager begins a sketch and explains to his young nephew that the subject is a girl who’s piqued his curiosity. A montage of scenes reveals that the boy, GONG WOO-JIN (Yoon Chan-young), perks up whenever this girl crosses his path, and he adds that he plans to use the painting to ask her to be friends.
The girl in the sketch is a talented violinist and an audition reveals that her name is WOO SEO-RI (Park Si-eun). Woo-jin later sees the name tag on her gym clothes, unaware that they actually belong to her friend, and thinks that Seo-ri’s name is NO SOO-MI. As he completes his painting of Seo-ri, Woo-jin narrates that this small mistake deeply affected both of their lives.
Years later, Woo-jin (Yang Se-jong) has grown into a man and sits on a beach where he stares at his painting. He looks at the moon through his fingers, just as Seo-ri used to do, and when a bell rings, he turns around with a smile.
Young Seo-ri skips up some sidewalk steps, a moon-shaped charm with a bell swinging from her backpack. She happily studies her music along the way and just misses running into a barricade, saved at the last minute by her friend, Soo-mi.
She scolds Seo-ri that she went home in Soo-mi’s gym clothes again. Seo-ri opens her bag to return the clothes but all she finds is a cute little dog. Soo-mi affectionately warns her friend that the music college in Germany will cancel her acceptance if they ever realize how spacey she is.
A boy appears in front of them with a bouquet of flowers and proposes marriage to Seo-ri. HYUNG-TAE promises to master German in the two months before Seo-ri’s departure so that she won’t be alone in Germany. A teacher grabs Hyung-tae and reminds him of his poor test scores as he pulls him away from the girls.
Woo-jin greets his nephew at a bus stop with a noisy kiss on his cheek. When an elderly woman rushes for the bus, Woo-jin delays the driver to give her time to catch up.
As the bus drives away, his nephew points out an an ad for a painter but when Woo-jin looks across the street, he sees that Seo-ri is about to get hit by some dishwater. He yells out, “No Soo-mi,” and Seo-ri stops and turns just in time to miss the water, but she doesn’t see Woo-jin who’s hidden behind a wall.
Woo-jin boards his bus and as it pulls away, he notices a banner announcing a redevelopment meeting in his neighborhood. He’s interrupted with a question about the correct stop for the art hall and looks up into Seo-ri’s face.
Woo-jin jumps to his feet and manages to stammer out the directions. After Seo-ri sits down, he realizes that it’s the perfect opportunity to give her the painting but he can’t seem to muster the courage. Woo-jin suddenly realizes that Seo-ri will probably get off at the next stop and rushes over to advise her to remain on the bus until the second stop.
Seo-ri is surprised when Woo-jin blurts out that he knows her. He opens the container with the painting of Seo-ri while he explains that he’s not a weirdo. He’s interrupted by Soo-mi, who just boarded the bus and asks Seo-ri if they know each other. Flustered, Woo-jin manages to jump off of the bus at the last minute.
Woo-jin watches the bus pull away in disappointment just as big raindrops start to fall and a bell rings. Seo-ri’s backpack charm got caught on the painting’s container when he jumped off of the bus so Woo-jin runs after it just as a huge storm moves in.
A truck with a load of tires cuts in front of the bus as the same time that the tarp holding them down comes loose. Tires bounce off of the truck and trigger a multi-vehicle accident and Woo-jin watches in horror as the bus weaves wildly, soaring into the air when it collides with a car. Seo-ri and Soo-mi are thrown apart before the bus lands on its side and skids to a stop in front of Woo-jin. Seo-ri’s bell rings when Woo-jin clutches it tightly in shock.
At the hospital, Seo-ri’s aunt cries on the phone to her husband and wonders why he’s not there. Hyung-tae runs in the rain and when he collides with a woman and falls, he leaves a tennis shoe behind.
Seo-ri’s condition looks grim as the doctors shock her heart. A dazed Woo-jin walks slowly in the rain while news of the accident is broadcast on a jumbotron and names No Soo-ri as one of the deceased victims.
He thinks back to his suggestion that Seo-ri stay on the bus for an extra stop and believes that he’s responsible for her death. Her backpack charm slips from his hand as Seo-ri flatlines in the hospital.
Thirteen years later, a camper in the Alps runs into a very hairy, scary-looking Woo-jin in a large fur coat, with a familiar little dog. Back in his camper, Woo-jin offers the dog, DEOK-GU, some dinner and in the background rests the tube that holds his painting of Seo-ri.
At Hope Rehabilitation Center, a young nurse gasps when she learns that the now-grown Seo-ri (Shin Hye-sun) has been in a coma for thirteen years. She imagines that her family must be exhausted but the senior nurse explains that they never visit, a common situation in a long-term facility.
The senior nurse confides that an anonymous benefactor sends money to the hospital to pay for Seo-ri’s care. There’s also a man who visits from time to time but he’s not the one who sends the money. As the young nurse wonders about the identity of Seo-ri’s visitor, a doctor calls out to DR. KIM HYUNG-TAE in another hospital’s neurosurgery department.
The doctor asks Hyun-tae to take over his volunteer assignment overseas so that he can stay with his pregnant wife. When Hyung-tae ignores him and walks away, the doctor yells out, “Did you take the exam four times to become a doctor that’s so selfish?”
Hyung-tae agrees to take the assignment if the doctor will once again approach the chief with his request. The doctor explains that a university hospital won’t accept long-term patients unless they have important connections and wonders who Hyung-tae wants transferred to the hospital.
At the rehabilitation center, the young nurse calls out to a man as he peeks into Seo-ri’s room. He runs off and she wonders if he’s her mysterious visitor.
A concert is held for the residents of the center and music drifts into Seo-ri’s room after a cleaning woman opens the window. As the woman mops, the sun bounces off her watch and onto Seo-ri’s eyes.
When the cleaning woman takes a break, familiar violin music drifts into the room and Seo-ri slowly opens her eyes. Seo-ri realizes that she’s in a hospital and remembers her accident, but thinks that it happened the day before.
In her seventeen-year-old voice, Seo-ri wonders about her aunt and uncle and Soo-mi. Her worries are replaced with fear when she realizes that she can’t move a muscle or make a sound.
The cleaning woman returns and shuts the window, shocked when she sees that Seo-ri’s eyes are open. She runs from the room screaming, “She’s awake! She’s awake!”
The nurses stand by as a doctor examines Seo-ri, who manages to utter her name. Seo-ri’s eyes are drawn to a mirror and she asks about the lady that’s staring at her.
When Seo-ri is alone with the nurses she tells them that she was in an accident the day before, but the senior nurse gently explains that she has been in a coma for thirteen years. The nurse emphasizes that it’s a miracle that Seo-ri woke up and encourages her to focus on rehabilitation.
Seo-ri can’t accept that she’s thirty years old and asks the nurses to prove it to her, so they hold a mirror in front of her face. The face that stares back confuses Seo-ri, who insists that she’s only seventeen as tears fall from her eyes.
The nurses update the doctor, who explains that Seo-ri is in shock. He asks if they managed to contact her visitor but the senior nurse admits that there was no answer at his number and adds that he hasn’t visited in a while.
The younger nurse informs the doctor that Seo-ri asked about a friend who was in the bus accident with her. Everyone is shaken when the nurse confides that the friend died in the accident.
Seo-ri lies in her bed and remembers the day she and Soo-mi heard that their homeroom teacher was getting married. She recalls how excited they were that their teacher finally managed to get married at the age of thirty. Seo-ri also remembers that Soo-mi was worried that her friend would become an accomplished violinist while she would end up a middle-aged woman with kids.
Seo-ri looks at her reflection in the hospital window and grieves for her lost youth, unable to hold back her sobs as she struggles with the reality that she’s now thirty years old.
EPISODE 2: “Where are my uncle and aunt?”
A Skype call wakes up Woo-jin in his camper and when he looks at his laptop, his boss, HEE-SOO, jumps in fright and announces that he looks like Bigfoot. She scolds him for his long break from work and warns him to return to his job by July and hangs up.
Woo-jin’s computer alerts him to another call and he assumes that it’s Hee-soo but it’s actually his sister, HYUN-JUNG, who also calls him Bigfoot. She’s a doctor and informs her brother that she and her husband have been assigned to Africa for the next year and a half.
Woo-jin is nonplussed until he remembers something and asks, “What about Chan?” That’s the reason for Hyun-jung’s call: Chan needs to stay with Woo-jin and she orders him to return home right away.
When Hyun-jung explains that she hired someone to take care of the two of them, Woo-jin protests but she cautions, “Then you wake up Chan and send him to school every day. Feed him nutritionally balanced meals. Hand-wash his uniforms and gym clothes. You can look after a high school senior.”
Hyun-jung reminds her brother that he lives in their parents’ house so Woo-jin agrees to live with his nephew and before he can say anything about the maid, Hyun-jung hangs up. Woo-jin’s gaze falls on the cute stickers on his painting’s container and he smiles and admits, “I do miss you though, Chan.”
YOO CHAN (Ahn Hyo-seop) is captain of his rowing team and after practice, the coach reminds him that they’re expected to win the upcoming nationals. After everyone walks away, Chan grabs the right side of his chest and declares that his heart burns with motivation upon hearing the coach’s words. His teammate, DEOK-SOO, reminds him that the heart is on the left side, which is news to Chan.
Chan is on his way to eat with his friends when his mother calls with the news that he’s to stay with Woo-jin. After he hangs up, Chan smiles and mutters, “Mr. Gong is coming, eh? I miss him very much.”
Seo-ri’s physical therapy begins and she works hard to make progress. Now able to speak normally, Seo-ri asks the young nurse about Soo-mi only to be told that there was no information about her online, so the accident must not have been significant. Seo-ri is overcome with relief as the nurse looks away in guilt.
Seo-ri’s therapy has progressed enough for her to relearn how to walk. Back in her room, she asks the young nurse about her aunt and uncle and is told that they’ll visit soon and that they want her to work hard at her rehabilitation. Seo-ri asks to call her uncle so that he can bring her violin and the nurse claps in relief when a therapist interrupts them. As she bolts from the room, the nurse frets that it’s time to tell Seo-ri the truth.
In the therapy room, Seo-ri smiles over her progress until she sees herself in the mirrors. No matter where she goes in the hopital, Seo-ri sees her reflection and struggles not only with her new face, but with her new voice.
On the flight back to Korea, Woo-jin reassures Deok-gu that they’re almost home. When another passenger asks how old his dog is, Woo-jin answers that he doesn’t know and pulls on a head pillow to cover his face.
Inside the airport terminal, Woo-jin wears earbuds so that no one will talk to him, even though they’re not connected to anything. He suddenly whips out a tape measure to get the dimensions of the trash containers and people look at him like he’s a weirdo.
Seo-ri wakes from a nap and finds an older woman next to her bed, giggling that she’s pretty. Seo-ri sits up with her hair in lopsided pigtails and cat whiskers drawn on her face. An attendant finds the woman and sends her out before she tells Seo-ri that elderly patients are often forgotten.
Seo-ri thinks back to her parents’ funeral, when her uncle promised to take care of her and her aunt gifted her with Deok-gu. Seo-ri then recalls a violin performance where her aunt and uncle cheered from the audience, but the young nurse’s vague answers worry Seo-ri.
A smartly dressed woman (Yeh Ji-won) carries a bag of large green onions as she walks along a street and soon Woo-jin shows up a few paces behind her. When she stops, he stops and when she resumes walking, he does as well. The woman turns and throws her sunglasses at Woo-jin and then hits him across the face repeatedly with the onions.
A traditional troupe of dancers performs for Seo-ri’s hospital and when she waves to the young nurse, she walks off with a random patient. Seo-ri suspects that she’s hiding something but is distracted by the old woman from earlier. Later, when Seo-ri wanders into the lobby, she overhears some performers mention that their next stop is in her neighborhood and gets an idea.
At home, Woo-jin holds an ice pack to his face while his assailant recites, “Apology is a lovely perfume. It can transform awkward moments into elegant gifts.” The woman mechanically explains that it’s her way of apologizing for her mistake.
The woman is the maid that Hyun-jung hired, and she offers to prepare a meal or bring some juice. Woo-jin insists that her only concern will be his nephew, once he arrives. Woo-jin prepares to go out and when the maid asks about Deok-gu, he promises to take care of his dog.
The dancing troupe’s truck arrives at the hospital in Seo-ri’s neighborhood, with Seo-ri hidden behind a large mask. She gets away and tries to find her way home, but nothing looks familiar because of the neighborhood’s redevelopment. Seo-ri walks around in confusion as people pass by, distracted by their phones.
Woo-jin starts to take measurements of a bench that’s occupied by a teenage girl. She thinks that he’s a pervert and smacks him with her backpack just as Seo-ri happens upon the scene. Hee-soo shows up on her scooter and rescues Woo-jin, who wanders off and leaves his boss to deal with the angry teen.
At her office, Hee-soo recites what Woo-jin should have said to the girl, “I’m a stage designer. I make miniature models, so measuring is a habit of mine. I’m sorry if you misunderstood.” She’s frustrated with him and when he asks why she wanted to see him, Hee-soo orders him to return to work the next day, clean shaven.
On his walk home, Woo-jin stops in front of a poster of a lost dog that looks just like Deok-gu. Nearby, Seo-ri looks exhausted as she walks through her old neighborhood in search of her house.
Seo-ri finally finds her house and when she rings the bell, she’s surprised by the maid’s voice. Seo-ri explains that she’s part of the family that lives there and the gate clicks open.
Thinking that Seo-ri is her charge, the maid walks out to greet her and voices her hope that they will get along. The maid explains that her uncle is out but was expecting her and Seo-ri is relieved at the thought that he never abandoned her. The maid mentions that she expected someone younger so Seo-ri explains the she was only seventeen until she suddenly aged.
The maid worries that Seo-ri is confused due to the hot weather and invites her inside. Everything in the house is completely different, except for Deok-gu, who flies out of his dog house excitedly. He and Seo-ri have a heartwarming reunion as she gushes, “Paeng! You’re still alive, Paeng! I missed you so much.”
The maid notices that Seo-ri looks pale and offers to prepare some juice to restore her energy. By the time the maid returns, Seo-ri is sound asleep on the floor, hugging Deok-gu. The maid kneels down, takes a deep breath and lifts Seo-ri to carry her upstairs.
Chan eats with his friends and explains that he’s doing a favor for the uncle that he used to live with in Germany. Because they ordered so much food, the restaurant’s owner offers Deok-soo a complimentary beer and praises his handsome sons. The table is suddenly quiet until Deok-soo shouts that he’s only nineteen.
On the way home, the third friend hands Deok-soo a bundle of face masks to help him look as young as possible. Deok-soo blames his looks on a family trait; his father gets offered bus seats even though he’s only in his forties. When Deok-soo worries that the masks are expensive, the friend confesses that his family is rich.
Deok-soo is touched by the generosity and Chan pulls his friends into a hug as they walk by a rack of bicycles. A man takes out one of the bikes and causes all of them to fall over, one by one. Chan dives to the ground, and when the last bike falls on him, his friends wonder what he’s doing just as he shows them the tiny chick that he rescued.
When the boys decide that the chick must have been abandoned, Chan vows to raise it. In spite of his friends’ warnings, Chan is determined to go with his feelings and Deok-soo has a sudden pain in his neck when Chan spells out the word feel, “F-I-L.”
Woo-jin gets home and the maid explains that his relative arrived and fell asleep, so she moved them upstairs. Woo-jin imagines that they must have been heavy but the maid tells him, “They were really light.” The maid clarifies that their age difference is eleven years, not one, before Woo-jin goes upstairs to his nephew’s room.
Chan arrives at his grandparents’ house and rings the bell but the blender prevents the maid from hearing it, so he uses the passcode. She goes into the bathroom just when Chan walks in looking for Woo-jin. His uncle is upstairs in Chan’s room where he announces that he will wake his nephew like old times.
Woo-jin climbs onto the bed and plants a noisy kiss on Seo-ri’s cheek just as Chan walks in and turns on the light. Seo-ri recognizes Woo-jin as the pervert from earlier and he’s attacked by the second teenager (sort of) of the day.
Chan runs to his uncle’s side and asks, “Mr. Gong! Who’s that lady?” while a terrified Seo-ri threatens to call the police on the strange men in her house. Woo-jin and Chan explain that the house is theirs just as the maid brings in some juice. Chan wants to know who she is as the maid asks him, “Then who are you?”
When Chan explains that he’s the family’s nephew, Seo-ri counters that she’s the niece, which the maid confirms. It’s complete confusion as Woo-jin narrates, “At times, small and trivial things have a strong influence over our lives.”
Deok-soo and Dong-soo pop in to ask about all of the people, shocked when they get a look at Woo-jin. The chick chirps and Deok-gu whines as Woo-jin’s voice continues, “Just like how a short and coincidental meeting at thirty years old changed my life and hers.”
Can it be? Is it possible that after what I have found to be a string of disappointing romantic dramas, there is one that will finally go the distance? I’m crossing my fingers because this first hour of Thirty But Seventeen gives me hope. Writer Jo Sung-hee is responsible for one of my all-time favorite dramas, King of High School, and PD Jo Soo-won produced another favorite, Pinocchio. I recognized elements from both dramas in this first episode of Thirty But Seventeen and I can’t wait to see how this drama will be different.
Just like Pinocchio, Thirty But Seventeen took us from the carefree youth of the main characters to unspeakable tragedy in a matter of seconds. But like King of High School, we have a collection of eccentric characters who promise the craziest of encounters. I expect lots of laughs, as well as tears, as Seo-ri and Woo-jin, who were both frozen by what happened when they were seventeen, find the strength to leave their pasts behind to make the most of their lives. They both have much to overcome, but they also have in each other someone who can understand their unique predicament. Along the way we’ll find out more about Seo-ri’s MIA aunt and uncle and the redevelopment that was just in talking stages at the time of the accident. Could the two situations be connected? I think they are.
Interestingly, Woo-jin became the one thing that terrified him as a teenager, a bona fide weirdo. Anyone who is consistently labeled as Bigfoot is well entrenched in weirdo territory and it’s going to take more than a haircut and a shave to escape. I wonder if there’s going to be a romantic triangle to deal with here. Seo-ri and Woo-jin are the same age chronologically, but mentally, she’s closer in age to his nephew, Chan, portrayed to perfection by Ahn Hyo-seop. What a lovable doofus.
What I especially liked about these episodes was how well the serious elements were balanced by the hilarity. That was an incredibly choreographed accident that caused two promising lives to be derailed for the next thirteen years. What’s going to happen once Seo-ri learns not only that her best friend died that day, but that her musical aspirations ended before they could begin? She was completely immersed in her music and now? Her college acceptance and all those years to study and perform are gone. She’ll have to figure out what to do now that she’s grown up.
In one of the funniest first meet-ups I’ve ever seen, “Who are you?” was the question on virtually everyone’s lips, including the chick and the little dog, Deok-gu. Ha! It’s going to take quite a bit of work to untangle everyone to get things straight, and I know that there’s bound to be angst along the way, but Thirty But Seventeen looks as if it’s going to be memorable for all of the right reasons.