Fox Bride Star: Episodes 1-2
SBS’s new drama, Fox Bride Star (alternatively titled Where Stars Land), is a beautiful surprise with its stunning cinematography, thoughtful and emotional musical score, and a story more surprising and mystical than anything I expected. An ordinary girl and an extraordinary man share an encounter that will change both their lives, though whether it’s for the better remains to be seen.
EPISODE 1: “The influence of westerlies”
A young woman’s voice informs us that her father told her that there’s no such thing as coincidence as everything happens for a reason. The young woman, HAN YEO-REUM (Chae Soo-bin) is woken by a call from her friend, warning her that she has five minutes if she wants to be on time to her new job.
That’s just the start of Yeo-reum’s unlucky day… she gets caught in a rain shower on her way to work, and when she ducks under an awning for shelter, she accidentally splashes a few drops of rain onto a man’s sleeve. He gives her an annoyed glare, but he doesn’t respond to her apology, so she turns away awkwardly.
And then something truly strange happens — the compass Yeo-reum wears around her neck suddenly swings around all by itself and sticks to the man’s arm. It won’t come off when she pulls on it, so the man calmly reaches over to remove the compass and hands it back to her. His taxi arrives and he leaves, and Yeo-reum thinks that he looks familiar.
Yeo-reum has worked at Incheon International Airport for the past year, and in flashback we see that she showed up late to her job interview, bleeding from a head wound she’d sustained in a car accident on her way in. She’d insisted on being interviewed before getting medical attention, but she’d passed out before she could even finish telling the interviewers that it was her dream to work there.
She’d gotten the job because they were impressed with her passion, but the reality is not so impressive — she’s being transferred to a new department. She’s late on her first day at her new position, and she slinks in to hear MANAGER GONG grumbling to his boss that Yeo-reum’s work history of the past year is full of complaints about her temper.
Yeo-reum finally gets a chance to announce herself and the fact that she’s transferring from Transportation Services to Passenger Services. Her boss’s boss, YANG SEO-KOON (Kim Ji-soo) mentions her “diverse talents” of kicking and grabbing people, swearing, and lateness. Yeo-reum promises to do better, and Seo-koon accepts her promise as a done deal.
Yeo-reum’s friend EUN-SEOB also works at the airport, and he informs his manager that due to strong westerly winds, a plane arrived over an hour ahead of time. It’s a problem because there are no gates available to let the passengers disembark.
Passenger Services gets a complaint about a fight breaking out between airline staff and passengers, so Seo-koon sends Yeo-reum to handle it. Yeo-reum can’t find her desk to put down her stuff, then almost goes out the wrong door, and she cringes as she finally leaves.
Across the room, the man Yeo-reum met on her way to work overhears the conversation. His name is LEE SOO-YEON (Lee Je-hoon), and he’s sent to help Yeo-reum. He irritates Manager Gong with his lack of verbal response, but he doesn’t seem concerned.
He finds Yeo-reum banging her head on the wall, ordering herself not to make another mistake. She steels herself and jogs out into the bustling terminal, and another flashback shows that her father (cameo by Choi Won-young) gave her the compass she wears because she often gets lost.
He’d told her that with the compass, it wouldn’t matter if she got lost, but she thinks, “No Dad, it does matter. The moment you get lost in the world, you fall behind. That’s why I’m desperately running today, so that I won’t get lost. No… it’s so that no one will find out that I’m lost.”
Yeo-reum finally finds the source of the problem — a passenger is beating a ticket kiosk with his suitcase, furious that an employee told him using the machine would be faster, interpreting it as her blowing him off. The guy isn’t interested in talking to Yeo-reum, and he demands to see the CEO as he kicks over the kiosks one at a time.
Soo-yeon just watches as Yeo-reum loses her temper and calls the passenger crazy. But she reins in her temper, remembering the first time she got in trouble for insulting a passenger, and tries to smile. That just makes the passenger angrier, so he grabs her by the shirtfront, yelling that she should be treating him like a king.
Instead of snapping that he should behave like a king if he wants to be treated like one, Yeo-reum asks him to let her go. The passenger doesn’t, so she slaps away his hand, and he raises a hand to strike her. But his arm is stopped in midair by Soo-yeon, who squeezes the man’s wrist and tells him that violence and vandalism are illegal.
He informs the passenger that he’ll have to pay for those broken kiosks, and that he’ll probably face criminal charges. Yeo-reum practically giggles at the look on the passenger’s face. After the passenger is taken away by security, Yeo-reum approaches Soo-yeon to remind him that they’ve met and to thank him for his help, assuming he’s another passenger. With a heavy sigh, Soo-yeon shows her his employee badge.
Yeo-reum gets yelled at by Manager Gong for “letting” the passenger destroy three ticket kiosks. He orders her to write up a thorough report by the end of the day, interpreting her explanations as talking back, then he huffs off. Yeo-reum offers to go clean up the mess, but Seo-koon asks how, when she doesn’t know where storage is. Yeo-reum apologizes, and Seo-koon says that reflexive apologies don’t solve anything.
She appoints Soo-yeon to be Yeo-reum’s mentor, and he asks, “Do I have to?” LOL. After the managers leave, Yeo-reum tells Soo-yeon not to worry about her and goes to move the safety barriers herself. She snaps her finger with one, and when Soo-yeon arrives and starts loading the barriers onto a dolly, she insists that he let her handle it.
But she nearly tips over when she picks up one barrier pole, and Soo-yeon easily catches her one-handed. He offers to call for help, but instead, Yeo-reum asks for information on how to get Manager Gong to be friendlier.
Soo-yeon rolls his eyes, then says he’ll tell her where to store the barriers. He suggests she write it down, but she snaps that she has a good memory, then goes cross-eyed at his complicated directions. Too proud to admit that she’s thoroughly lost, Yeo-reum wanders around the airport back hallways for so long that Manager Gong accuses her of slacking off when she finally returns.
On a break, she complains to Eun-seob that Soo-yeon probably got her lost on purpose, giving her friend the stink-eye when he laughs, “But you’re always lost!” Listing Soo-yeon’s education and qualifications, Eun-seob says that it’s unlikely Soo-yeon is threatened by Yeo-reum or is trying to put her in her place.
She takes offense to that too, so Eun-seob tells her that Soo-yeon is stuck up, always eating alone and never attending staff parties. There was a rumor he’s autistic, but it was proven wrong when he saved a little boy from being run over by a speeding luggage cart.
Soo-yeon had grabbed the cart with one hand, somehow lifting it clear over his head before slamming it back down. When he’d let go, the thick metal bars were bent right where his hand had been.
Yeo-reum thinks that Eun-seob is embellishing the story, but he says that’s why it’s a rumor. He tells her to be nice to Soo-yeon, since she’s actually Soo-yeon’s sunbae — he’s only worked at Incheon for a few months.
Soo-yeon runs across another disturbance in the terminal – this time it’s an elderly lady trying to get through without a ticket, crying piteously that she needs to find her son.
EPISODE 2 RECAP
Full of righteous indignation, Yeo-reum confronts Seo-koon about appointing Soo-yeon as her mentor, when technically she’s the sunbae. Seo-koon points out that Soo-yeon is Yeo-reum’s sunbae in the Passenger Services department, but Yeo-reum just accuses her of looking down on her because her previous team had her transferred.
Seo-koon keeps her cool, and tells Yeo-reum that if she wants to talk about pride, then she should do her work correctly, be on time, and stop making excuses. Ouch. She says that she doesn’t care about Yeo-reum’s past, she cares about competence, and orders her to stop talking about seniority.
Yeo-reum scurries away as fast as possible, back to where Eun-seob is waiting to gloat that he told her not to confront Seo-koon. He agrees with Yeo-reum that she’s lost Seo-koon’s favor, ha.
She gets a call from Soo-yeon on her walkie-talkie to come to the third floor, where a child was reported missing. She hesitates before answering, then decides that finding the child is the perfect way to end her disastrous day on a high note.
She locates Soo-yeon where he’s taking notes on the ajumma’s missing son. She’s frustrated when she finds out the “child” is in his thirties, but Soo-yeon says that the man forgot his schizophrenia medicaton. He tells Yeo-reum to wait with the ajumma while he talks to the security team, but Yeo-reum wants to go with him.
They bicker over who has seniority, the one who’s worked there longer or the one who’s the mentor. Yeo-reum accuses Soo-yeon of giving her all the unseen jobs and taking the shiny jobs for himself, and he actually smiles when she says they should work together and storms off with her heels clicking in indignation.
Down in Security, the guard’s wand goes off when he scans Soo-yeon’s right arm, and Yeo-reum notices that Soo-yeon shows the guard something in his wallet. He tells her to stay close for her own safety, and when she asks sarcastically if he’s worried about her, he says he’s just being a mentor. He adds that he doesn’t want to be in the spotlight because of her, and that he prefers to get by without being noticed.
Something prompts Yeo-reum to ask if they’ve met before their encounter this morning. Soo-yeon says he doesn’t remember and asks if she’s hitting on him, making her scoff and walk away, but the way he watches her go seems to suggest that he does know something.
When the airport employees learn that the missing “child” is a schizophrenic adult off his medication, they organize a serious effort to locate him. They have difficulty as his mother said he’s wearing a yellow shirt, but he has on a dark jacket over it, so security doesn’t notice him even when they’re looking right at him.
Meanwhile, Eun-seob referees a face-off between two airlines, the one whose plane landed early and one whose gate they want to borrow to allow the early passengers to disembark. Eun-seob calls Manager Park and puts him on speakerphone, but everything he suggests offends one side or the other, so he finally tells them to come to an agreement or he’ll make their disagreement public.
Soo-yeon and Yeo-reum carefully search the terminal for the missing man, but it’s not until Soo-yeon is checking the restrooms that Yeo-reum sees a man in a yellow shirt. She disobeys his order not to split up and chases the man, unaware that she’s following the wrong passenger.
The missing passenger is actually very near Eun-seob and his conflict, growing anxious and paranoid without his medication. Finally the airline with the gate relents, allowing the frustrated passengers to use their gate. The missing passenger notices that the plane at the gate isn’t his flight, so he asks someone why the planes changed.
The airport employee calmly explains that it’s just temporary, but the passenger’s paranoia takes over and he screams that they can’t do that. Yeo-reum’s pursuit of the wrong person has brought her near enough that she witnesses the altercation, and Seo-koon sees her, and the swiftly deteriorating passenger, on the security cameras.
Seo-koon notices that the passenger is wearing a yellow shirt under his jacket and calls everyone to the area. She sends Soo-yeon to find Yeo-reum when they realize she turned off her walkie-talkie, so he tries calling her on her cell, and she answers without speaking so that he can hear the passenger beating the airline employee with his bag.
Soo-yeon breaks into a run, as Yeo-reum confronts the dangerous passenger and tells him his mother is waiting for him. He accuses her of being a police officer here to arrest him and lock him up again, and he picks up a barrier pole and brandishes it at her. Despite her pleas to calm down, he screams and swings the pole…
Inches before it lands, Soo-yeon swoops out of nowhere, swings Yeo-reum out of the way, and holds up his arm to take the blow. It should break his arm, but instead the pole bends on impact. Looking up at him, Yeo-reum remembers why he looks familiar — on the day of her job interview a year ago, a car had flipped and hurtled through the air towards her, but Soo-yeon had pulled her to safety just like this.
Moving slowly, Soo-yeon lets go of Yeo-reum and holds out a bottle of medication to the passenger, saying softly that his mother is waiting for him. The passenger drops the warped pole and Soo-yeon kicks it out of sight as Seo-koon runs up, but Yeo-reum already got a good look at it.
She sits at an airport cafe, thinking about the strange things she’s seen Soo-yeon do, like pull her out of harm’s way much too fast, stop a weapon with his bare arm, and attract her compass like a magnet. She thinks about how her father said there’s no such thing as coincidence, and that everything happens for a reason.
As Soo-yeon takes the passenger back to his grateful mother, a man disembarks from the early plane. Although Soo-yeon seems stunned by the sight of him, he walks right past Soo-yeon without even looking at him. At the same time, security shows Seo-koon the video of Soo-yeon saving Yeo-reum, and how he stopped the metal pole with his arm.
Yeo-reum goes looking for the bent pole, but maintenance has already taken it to the trash. She runs into Soo-yeon and calls out to him when he tries to ignore her, saying again, “We’ve met before, haven’t we?” He just says accusingly that he told her not to go off alone and cause trouble, because he wants to live a quiet life.
He says he doesn’t remember her because they’ve never met, but something about his statement rings untrue. He walks away, and Yeo-reum thinks that they did meet that day, when he’d saved her from being crushed by the car flying towards her. He’d pulled her out of the way, but the car had nearly fallen on them both. Just like today, he’d put up one arm and held the car off them, as if it weighed no more than a feather.
Back at his desk, Soo-yeon notices blood on his cuff. He reaches for a tissue and a paper clip on his desk jumps up, sticking to his arm. Luckily, nobody notices, and he quickly removes it and goes back to work.
Watching the rain, Yeo-reum thinks, “It was you. I’m sure it was you.”
I hadn’t heard much about Fox Bride Star before say, a week ago, so I purposely didn’t watch any trailers or read any information about the show, because sometimes it’s fun to go into a drama with a completely clean slate and no expectations or preconceived ideas. What I was expecting was a well-made drama about people working in the airport industry, and in many ways that’s exactly what the show seems to be. What I was not expecting was the mystical twist of a man who seems to have some pretty incredible secrets. By the time the premiere episode was only half over, I’d gone from being mildly curious about the show to wildly eager to see more, which is about the best you can ask from a new drama.
I love the concept of Yeo-reum and Soo-yeon both being lost in their lives and trying to hide that fact from those around them. Yeo-reum handles it by trying too hard and getting herself in trouble, and Soo-yeon handles it by not trying hard enough. I actually like Yeo-reum a lot already even though she’s a hot mess, because at least she knows it and doesn’t want to be that way, she just doesn’t know how to rein in her temper and to get her act together. I can relate to that personally from certain times in my life, and I know it’s possible to change, but it takes a lot of personal reflection and honest self-evaluation. Yeo-reum is in for a tough road, but she’s got the strength of personality to survive and thrive, and it’s going to be lots of fun to watch.
Whatever is going on with Soo-yeon is fascinating, because he doesn’t just seem reluctant to let anyone know he’s more than normal — he seems traumatized by something. He can’t help but rescue a damsel in distress, but on the whole he’s hiding himself and his abilities, if that’s what they are. In one episode we’ve seen him attract metal as if he’s magnetic, display superhuman strength, sustain injuries that should cripple him but barely even bother him, and move faster than any man should be capable of. He’s not indestructible — he did bleed after saving Yeo-reum this last time — but he’s certainly not normal. I actually wonder if what makes him unique is focused on his right arm, since everything he’s done, he’s done with that arm, and it even set off the security scanner. Whatever is going on, I can’t wait to see more.
I already love Seo-koon as a manager for Yeo-reum, because on the one hand, she’s giving Yeo-reum a chance to prove herself, but on the other hand, she doesn’t let Yeo-reum get away with any of her usual shenanigans. When Yeo-reum offers to do a job, Seo-koon makes her think about how she’ll accomplish it. When Yeo-reum apologizes, Seo-koon makes her think about why. And when Yeo-reum complains about something inconsequential like seniority, Seo-koon makes it clear that seniority means nothing if you’re not a competent employee. Bosses like that can be frustrating because they hold employees accountable for every choice and action, but Yeo-reum will actually learn a lot from her. And I already really like how Kim Ji-soo is tackling the character — I last saw her in Hwarang, and I felt that she was never entirely comfortable as the evil queen mother. But here she seems nicely settled into the character of Seo-koon, and I get the sense that she’s a deep pool with a lot going on under the surface. She’s another character I’m anticipating seeing more of.
I have to confess that I pretty much love everything Lee Je-hoon and Chae Soo-bin do, but never in a million years would I have paired them together in a drama. They’re both very good actors, but they just have such different energies. I see Lee Je-hoon as an actor with a lot of gravitas and subtle skill, while Chae Soo-bin (who I’ve adored since I first saw her in Sassy Go Go) is bright and breezy and generally plays characters who are very emotionally open. I like them both very much, but I wasn’t sure I’d like them together, so I’m very pleased to see how well this pairing actually works. Their characterizations play to their strengths and allow them to shine in what they do best, and you can tell that their chemistry will be off the charts once Soo-yeon and Yeo-reum stop fighting and start working together. I can’t wait to get there, but in the meantime, I plan to just sit back and enjoy the early sparks.