My Strange Hero: Episodes 1-2
This… is not what I expected. The latest rom-com to hit the streets was My Strange Hero, also known as Bok-soo is Back and Revenge Returns. All titles refer to its punnily-named hero Kang Bok-soo (literally translated as “strong revenge”), the popular kid in school who grew up to seek, you guessed it, revenge. What that revenge is for, I don’t know just yet. What I do know is that this strange hero and his equally strange love interest make quite the hilarious duo.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
A scooter races down a neighborhood, the rider sporting a snazzy suit and a helmet covering his face. He makes his way through the city, looking like a man on a mission as “Beat It” epically plays in the background.
Our mystery man arrives at an upscale hotel, removing his helmet and revealing himself to be protagonist KANG BOK-SOO (Yoo Seung-ho). He smirks before heading inside the building. Well, damn, one minute in and I’m already sold.
We cut to a pre-wedding ceremony, where we’re introduced to SOHN SOO-JUNG (Jo Boa). She contemplates how much money to leave the couple, eventually deciding to keep half for herself.
She skips over to father of the bride, who also happens to be her boss at the high school she temps for. PRINCIPAL KIM (Eom Hyo-seop) doesn’t look as delighted to see her. He reveals that the school is considering a different teacher for the full-time position, killing her good mood.
Back at the hotel, Bok-soo quotes Tolstoy in saying that the unknowable future makes life wonderful. He then waltzes into the ballroom, where a (separate) wedding is taking place. When the officiant asks the groom if he takes the bride, both the groom and Bok-soo exclaim, “I do!”
Everyone turns to Bok-soo in surprise, though the bride (cameo by Lee Chae-young) beams in relief. Bok-soo approaches the bride and holds out his hand, apologizing for being late. She takes his hand, and the two make their way down the aisle, to the groom’s utter confusion.
However, a man blocks their way, to which Bok-soo narrates, “That gramps Tolstoy was wrong. Since you don’t know what to do for the future, life is shit.” And just like that, he’s in a headlock and struggling to get free.
Bok-soo’s friend LEE GYUNG-HYUN (Kim Dong-young) is there too, disguised as a server. He reports to their other friend YANG MIN-JI (Park Ah-in) via wire that Plan A has failed, so he must initiate Plan B. Which is…
…Confronting the groom with a declaration of love and kissing him right on the mouth. Oh. My. God. What is happening?
Plan B works like a charm and gives Bok-soo and the bride their chance to escape. They run out as Soo-jung (who’s fuming about her lost teaching position) heads toward the hotel.
They pass right by each other, and Bok-soo gets the slightest glance of her before screeching to a halt. He turns back to get a better look but only sees the back of her head as she hurries inside.
Bok-soo continues to stare, overwhelmed with a flurry of flashbacks: a hand grasping someone’s tie, Bok-soo running across a school roof, and Soo-jung’s shocked face. The bride then breaks his train of thought and tells him to hurry.
The two are picked up by Min-ji in a van labelled “Your Favors.” Ahhh, so they bailed the bride out as a part of their favor service. After the bride pays them, they drop her off and return for Gyung-hyun.
Gyung-hyun shows off the bruise the groom gave him, distracting Bok-soo and nearly making him hit a group of high schoolers. As the kids run off, he notices that their uniforms are from Seolsong High–his old school.
Bok-soo’s eyes fill with tears, the memories coming at him all at once until they settle into October of 2009, when he was still attending Seolsong.
Young Bok-soo walks to school with a carefree smile on his face, soon joined by a young Gyung-hyun. The two rascals decide to jump the wall and skip class, but they barely make it five feet when they’re caught by TEACHER PARK (Chun Ho-jin).
After squatting laps around the field as punishment, the boys limp to class. They greet Mi-jin, who seems to have an unabashed crush on Bok-soo. She’s not the only one with a crush; Gyung-hyun sighs as their pretty class president Soo-jung arrives.
Bok-soo scoffs and says, “Pretty, my foot. If I had long hair, I’d be way prettier.” Mi-jin nods at that, heh. The three quiet down, however, when Teacher Park comes in to announce the class rankings.
Soo-jung was ranked first as expected, while Bok-soo was ranked last as expected. Bok-soo takes it like a champ, though, even giving his class a bow. Teacher Park then explains his idea of pairing good students with bad students to raise their grades. He offers the pair with the most improvement a 100 on the next exam, and Soo-jung’s eyes widen.
Naturally, Soo-jung is paired with Bok-soo. She approaches him after class, ready to exchange schedules, but Bok-soo stops her right there; he’s not interested.
Soo-jung wants that 100, though, and she’s going to get it. So she follows him everywhere he goes, calling his name. When this game of cat-and-mouse starts to drive her crazy, she goes for a different tactic.
She orders him to come outside, and he nervously follows her to the roof. Once they’re alone, she grabs him and flings him against the gate like they’re in some romantic movie.
Cue record scratch. Soo-jung starts cussing up a storm and threatens the worst if he doesn’t study with her. She shoves a workbook at him and gives him a nice pat on the head for good measure, making him flinch. Content, Soo-jung walks away, leaving Bok-soo in a dazed state.
At home, while sitting in front of his workbook, Bok-soo replays the confrontation in his head. His heart beats uncontrollably at the thought of Soo-jung’s cursing (pffffft, oh honey), but he shrugs it off. His mom (Kim Mi-kyung) then barges in, worried, having heard from his nephew that he was acting out of character and doing homework.
The next day, Bok-soo returns the completed workbook to Soo-jung. He tries to remain calm, but one look at her and his heart goes crazy. He makes a quick escape, while she heads up to the roof to check his work.
As she marks every question wrong, she mutters that God was kind to Bok-soo for at least giving him good looks. She then hears a commotion and looks down to see three bullies harassing a student in the alley.
When the student demands that they stop, they knock him to the ground and start kicking him. Thankfully, Bok-soo is walking by to take out the trash and sees all of this. He throws the trash their way, releasing a cloud of confetti.
Bok-soo comes flying through like the Karate Kid and delivers three swift roundhouse kicks. But with that last kick, Bok-soo lands on his foot wrong and winces. He keeps his cool as the bullies kneel before him in fear.
He quotes “that Indian guy Lincoln” (*stifles laughter*) and says that he’ll forgive them this once. The bullies flee, allowing Bok-soo to freely hop around in pain.
Teacher Park comes out of nowhere and starts scolding him for fighting, making Bok-soo exclaim, “You always show up when the fight’s over! Be a bit quicker!” From the roof, an amused Soo-jung watches them.
Later, for gym, the class has to participate in a three-legged race. Soo-jung partners up with Bok-soo, and she’s in her own little world of fierce determination while he stares at her like she’s nuts.
The race commences and they push forward, but Bok-soo’s hurt ankle slows them down and causes them to tumble over. Knowing Bok-soo can’t continue, Soo-jung grabs him and piggybacks him all the way to the finish line.
Bok-soo is too disoriented to register what’s happening, as are the other students, who just stand there and watch.
At the finish line, Soo-jung drops him like a hot potato and gasps for air, asking the coach, “We’re first, right?”
Next thing we know, Bok-soo and Soo-jung are in the nurse’s office. He’s freaking out because she made him look stupid, and she throws back that he is stupid.
She starts to walk away but turns back to say that “that Indian guy” is Gandhi and not Lincoln. Before he can stutter an excuse, she softens and admits that he looked pretty cool when he defended that student.
At that, Bok-soo’s heart goes crazy again, and he gets this faraway look in his eyes. He’s still like this long after she’s left, concerning his friends when they stop by. Mi-jin wonders if he hurt his head too, which is when Bok-soo finally speaks up: “My heart ruptured.”
He waits up for Soo-jung after class and gets straight to the point by asking her out. She doesn’t like dating stupid boys, but she’s intrigued by his determination. She says that she’ll consider him if he raises his grade. Bok-soo smiles and jumps into a hilarious studying montage.
EPISODE 2 RECAP
After a long night of studying, Bok-soo takes Soo-jung to his family restaurant. His mom, sister and nephew all watch from the kitchen as the couple smile through their dinner.
The big exam arrives and Bok-soo eagerly gets to work. Later, when he gets his answer sheet back, he heads up to the roof looking excited, only to find Soo-jung fast asleep.
The sun seems to be bothering her, so he happily holds up a hand to block out the light. However, this actually makes her stir awake. She looks up at him, startled, when he reaches out and caresses her cheek. Kyaaaa.
Suddenly shy, Bok-soo pats her hair down and looks away. He smiles awkwardly, making her smile too.
That night, he gives her a ride on his scooter, and they enjoy the closeness. They stop to enjoy the city view, where she then demands to see his answer sheet.
Assuming the worst, she starts to say that it’s fine since he tried his best. Bok-soo interrupts by presenting his exam, a 65 on top. “I went up 50 points!” he says proudly. HA.
After learning that Soo-jung got a 100, Bok-soo wonders what her dream is to be studying so hard. She admits that she doesn’t have one, so he suggests she be a teacher; she managed to help him, after all. She likes the sound of that.
He has a new dream too–he wants to be her boyfriend. He calls her “Teacher Sohn Soo-jung” and grins. She’s smiling too, until she realizes that she’s not hearing Bok-soo’s voice anymore.
“Teacher Sohn Soo-jung.” Soo-jung’s eyes pop open, and we see that we’re back in present day, in her office at Seolsong. The voice that woke her belongs to student OH YOUNG-MIN (Yeon Joon-seok).
Soo-jung asks Young-min what’s going on, and he expresses his fear of being kicked out of the honors class. However, Soo-jung is too lost in her own problems to give any concrete advice.
On her way out, Soo-jung bumps into a colleague named Kim Myung-ho. He takes her aside and tells her that there’s a way to go full-time; all she has to do is pay $50,000, much like other teachers have done.
He says that he can trust her since he’s the younger brother of the cousin of the Board Chairman’s cousin. Soo-jung curses, saying that his word doesn’t mean anything. He tells her to keep living her lousy life as a contract teacher then.
Feeling defeated, Soo-jung stops by a nursing home to visit her grandmother. She reveals to her sleeping grandma that she nearly got conned. Still, she thinks back to that conversation with Bok-soo when he’d called her a teacher. “Grandma,” she says. “Go easy on me this time.”
The next day, Soo-jung retrieves her bank book and decides to accept Kim Myung-ho’s deal after all. (Ack! No!) She heads into work and greets the teachers, and she can’t help but wonder if everyone around her paid money in order to get their positions. She also notices one teacher chiding Young-min for lowering the class average. She tries to talk to Young-min, but he leaves in a hurry.
ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL SONG (Kim Kyang-kyu) comes running in with terrible news: Kim Myung-ho bolted with all of the students’ meal plan money. The teachers erupt with horror and speculation, but it all fades away for Soo-jung. She falls to her seat, tears filling her eyes.
For the next few days, she goes crazy trying and failing to contact Kim Myung-ho. She starts to lose hope, roaming the halls like a zombie, and fails to see that Young-min is in bad shape too. He watches her leave, quietly saying, “Teacher… I really want to die.”
We later see Young-min write an online post about his honors class and how the pressure is truly killing him. He signs off threatening to report the school for its unfair system. With that post, he disappears and makes breaking news. After searching all over for Young-min, Soo-jung finally gets a text from him and asks where he is.
She finds him on a bridge and coolly says that they might as well die now. She starts describing the painful process of drowning, totally freaking him out. And though she’s saying all of this in a funny manner, she’s still making me nervous.
She climbs on top of the railing, scaring Young-min even more. He falls to the ground and cries, “I was wrong! I won’t die! I don’t want to die!”
With that, she takes a seat and advises that he study abroad. She’s sure that there’s something out there worth more than studying, and it’s his job to find it. Satisfied, she starts to come down, when her phone rings. Thinking it’s Kim Myung-ho, she lunges for the phone and loses her balance.
Young-min grabs her arm just in time, but she’s too heavy to pull up. She looks down at the water and screams at him to not let go.
Beyond the bridge, by the river, Bok-soo is working another favor by breaking up with someone’s girlfriend. The woman is so angry that she dramatically lifts a hand to smack him. And at the same time, Soo-jung’s weight pulls both her and Young-min over the bridge and into the river.
Everyone crowds around the river bank, and the woman Bok-soo “broke up with” cries out. She tells Bok-soo to help, but he won’t do anything for free. So she agrees to pay whatever he wants. “My dry cleaning and $500!” Bok-soo says before sprinting for the water. LOL.
Underwater, Soo-jung and Young-min drift farther apart. Soo-jung starts to lose consciousness when she sees someone swimming towards her. “Of all people,” she thinks, “why am I seeing Kang Bok-soo in this moment?” Her eyes close just as Bok-soo grabs hold of her.
Like I said, this was not what I was expecting. The premise sounded fun and silly, but the promos looked dramatic and serious, naturally giving me mixed signals. I remember getting those same mixed signals before Angry Mom aired, a 2015 drama that had a very similar plot. And even though Angry Mom was a much darker show, I’m still seeing a lot of similarities in My Strange Hero (which is such a fitting title, by the way). It is so openly ridiculous, letting these quirky characters be quirky characters and the crazy situations be crazy situations.
It didn’t take long for me to be on board because the show opened with a burst of confidence that I hadn’t seen in dramaland for a while. Yoo Seung-ho has proven to me with dramas like Imaginary Cat and I’m Not a Robot that he is more than willing to go anywhere as an actor. If he has to go to a 10 for his dramatic roles, he’ll also go to a 10 for his comedic roles. The intensity he carries can be a bit much sometimes, but he seems mighty comfortable here.
The same goes for Jo Boa. She was so expressive and hilarious in Surplus Princess, and it’s great to see that side of her again here. Soo-jung is the type of character that ain’t here to play, and that instantly makes me like her. I can definitely see why Bok-soo likes (or liked) her. After meeting all these wonderful characters, I’m excited to meet Kwak Dong-yeon’s character. I know that this is supposed to be his first major villain role, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be funny too, right? I don’t expect him to be on the same level of outrageous as everyone else, but it’d be fun to see him experiment with this role.
Seriously, though–the humor in this episode took me by such surprise that I was constantly hitting pause to walk away and laugh my head off. And it’s a shame that I can’t fully convey that humor through my recaps. It’s not even that the drama is wacky; it just feels effortlessly funny. The bit that really got me was the couple’s confrontation on the roof. I couldn’t get over the fact that Soo-jung’s swearing had Bok-soo swooning. I wasn’t sure what to think when the drama was hyped as an “awkward but warm” romance, but I totally get it now. The overall vibe of the show is hard to explain, but when you watch it, it just makes sense. High school is a weird time, especially when you’re these characters.
So, yes, I was more than pleased with this premiere, despite the more nitpicky issues I had. Those issues mainly have to do with editing, which was a bit choppy at times. (i.e. When student Young-min posted his confession, things were happening way too fast, making it hard to follow.) While I want more than anything for the show to keep its tone, I’m sure that once we get into Bok-soo’s expulsion and his eventual desire for revenge, things are going to get dark. I’m going to stay optimistic, though, because the handful of serious moments in this first episode actually worked pretty well. They flowed into the narrative without being too jarring. If the show keeps that up, then I could fall for this story as quickly as Bok-soo fell for Soo-jung.
- Premiere Watch: My Strange Hero
- My Strange Hero releases posters and new teaser
- New character stills for My Strange Hero
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- My Strange Hero releases new poetic teaser
- First script read for rom-com drama My Strange Hero
- Kwak Dong-yeon joins Yoo Seung-ho and Jo Boa in My Strange Hero
- Jo Boa becomes Yoo Seung-ho’s first love in SBS rom-com