Extraordinary You: Episodes 3-4
Now that our plucky heroine (even if she’s not a heroine for anyone else) is fully aware of her situation, she’s fighting mad. She’s unhappy to know that she’s only an extra, and she’s not about to let herself be jerked around for the sake of someone else’s story. She begins to suspect that there may be someone at school who can help her change her fate, but finding them won’t be as easy as she thinks.
To her shock, Dan-oh realizes that she’s not the leading lady of the manhwa world she lives in. She runs to the school kitchen and snatches the manhwa, “Secret,” out from under Mi-chae, nicknamed “Dried Squid Fairy” and the only other person who seems aware of their true situation.
She looks up the character list, and sure enough, Nam-ju, Joo-da, and Do-hwa make up the main trio of leading characters. BK and Sae-mi are just behind them in importance, followed by the three male and three female bullies. Dan-oh finds herself all the way at the bottom, and her character description simply says, “Kyung’s fiancee, has a heart condition.” Well, that stings.
Nam-ju has staked his claim on Joo-da as his errand girl, and she notices the piggy keychain which looks just like the one she lost. Nam-ju admits that it’s hers, then he notes that they’re standing right where she ruined his uniform and his face. Joo-da apologizes, and Nam-ju offers to take responsibility, but Joo-da stammers that it’s not necessary.
Nam-ju hands Joo-da more supplies to carry and tells her to pay for his cleaning bill. He says that if she keeps being his lackey, he’ll forgive her and return her keychain. LOL, so many tropes, I don’t even know where to start.
In the kitchen, Dan-oh reads the “childish” scene as it plays out. She tells Mi-chae that she did notice her classmates’ names are weird, like how the three girl bullies’ names all end in “-jin,” and how Nam-ju and Joo-da’s names are so on-the-nose (meaning “leading man” and “heroine”). Mi-chae says that romance manhwa are supposed to be childish and simple, pointing out that even his own name, Jin Mi-chae, literally translates to “dried squid.”
Dan-oh refuses to accept the situation, and Mi-chae is amused that she’s more upset that she’s an extra than she was to learn she lives in a manhwa. Dan-oh whines that everything she does is meant to help Nam-ju and Joo-da, but Mi-chae says that she has her own role to play, which the Writer will decide.
That just sets off Dan-oh again, and she rants that the Writer has no right to dictate her life. Mi-chae calmly asks her to have some dignity, so Dan-oh lets loose a string of profanities aimed at this mysterious Writer who thinks they can tell her what to do. Mi-chae snaps his fingers, and Dan-oh finds herself in art class.
Joo-da stops at Nam-ju’s easel to hand him a pencil, and a sunbeam shines down on her. Only Dan-oh seems to notice, and she curls her lip at the obvious signs that this whole world exists just for those two. The sunlight shines on Joo-da again when she sits next to Dan-oh’s easel, making Dan-oh sneer sarcastically. She scoots closer to Joo-da but the sunbeam (and cartoon sparkles, hee) actively avoid her, so she pushes Joo-da off the bench and steals her sunbeam.
The sunbeam shuts off like someone flipped a switch, centering again on Joo-da in her new seat. A breeze blows in from the window, and Nam-ju stares as Joo-da ties her hair back. Dan-oh grumbles that Joo-da has it all, then ~BLIP~ class has started and Dan-oh is being called up front to be today’s model.
On her way to the front of the class, Dan-oh bumps into Nam-ju’s easel and knocks his pencil to the floor. But again, the moment is all for Nam-ju and Joo-da’s benefit, as they both reach for the pencil at the same time and share a Big Romantic Moment when their fingers touch.
As the teacher (who’s “drawn” to look like Frida Kahlo, ha) instructs the class on how to draw Dan-oh, Nam-ju stares at Joo-da, Kyung stares at his phone, and Mystery Boy, whose face we still can’t see, stares at Dan-oh. The teacher praises Nam-ju’s drawing, which looks much more like Joo-da than Dan-oh, but Nam-ju snaps at his classmates for noticing.
Even on a dais at the front of the class, Dan-oh can’t get anyone’s attention, since they’re all focused on Nam-ju and Joo-da. She strikes sexy poses trying to get absolutely anyone to look at her, ha. She eventually stands, knocking over a bust and smashing it. That finally gets their attention, so Dan-oh smashes another one on purpose in a fit of pique. But ~BLIP~ Dan-oh sits in a chair while the class draws her, as if her temper tantrum never happened.
After school, Dan-oh stalks the empty halls, and she’s startled to see chairs and books floating in midair. She finds Mi-chae in the kitchen reading “Secret” and chuckling over her sunbeam antics, ignoring another floating chair.
Dan-oh demands a full explanation, so Mi-chae says that in a manhwa, anything can happen. Dan-oh opens the book to the moment where she smashed the bust, but it’s not in the story. To make things clearer, Mi-chae brings out a box that opens up into a diorama of Seuli High School.
He explains that this world is in a manhwa, and the school is the “Stage,” where nothing happens that isn’t intended by the Writer. Dan-oh understands that this is why she sometimes does the opposite of that she wants to do — she’s on the Stage, and the Writer is in control.
Mi-chae continues that scenes that the Writer hasn’t drawn also exist, and those scenes are where strange things like floating chairs happen. He says this is called the “Shadow,” and that in the Shadow, characters are free to act on their own. Only self-aware characters can remember what happens in the Shadow, but being self-aware doesn’t mean they’re free all the time.
He says that no matter what a character does, things will still happen exactly how the Writer wants them on the Stage, so even if she smashes a bust, things will quickly be restored to the way the Writer wants them, like Fate. Dan-oh understands his explanation, but she vows, “I will never behave the way the Writer wants. We’ll see in whose hands my Fate lies.”
We see Mystery Boy in the library gain, then it’s time for music class. While the other students sing along to a boring hymn, Dan-oh rocks out to kpop on her headphones. But soon, ~BLIP~ and she’s sitting quietly, singing the hymn with everyone else. This clues her in that she’s currently on the Stage.
In literature class, Dan-oh ignores the lesson in favor of a huge stack of manhwas, even yelling up to the Writer that they should be reading these manhwas for reference, hee. But again, ~BLIP~ and she’s obediently reading aloud from the class material, on the Stage again.
Later, she finds a strawberry milk in her hand, but she can’t get the straw to go into the bottle, and she whines that she’s on the Stage again. Joo-da runs over to say hi and her stomach growls, so Dan-oh reluctantly gives her the strawberry milk, knowing that’s the only reason she had it in the first place. Joo-da drinks it and thanks her, and happy flowers appear all around her head, ha.
Joo-da goes on her way and a trio of motorcycles follows her, kicking dust into Dan-oh’s face. It’s A3, and Nam-ju tosses his backpack to Joo-da. She hands him some money to clean his school uniform, which seems to make Nam-ju feel bad, though he quirks a tiny smile when she’s not looking. Do-hwa also looks impressed by Joo-da’s boldness, interesting.
At lunchtime, Dan-oh is determined to get some strawberry milk for herself. There’s a crowd around the drink case, and suddenly, A3 shows up and all the girls clamor in their direction. Dan-oh is pushed backwards by the stampede, and she trips and falls into the fountain.
Nam-ju ignores all the girls offering him their drinks, and instead buys the entire case of strawberry milk. Dan-oh ends up soaked and still deprived of her favorite drink, awww.
In their lair, Do-hwa and Kyung ask Nam-ju why he’s acting so strange lately, making Joo-da carry his stuff and buying more strawberry milk than they can drink. Nam-ju says vaguely, “I’m just curious,” and when Do-hwa drinks one of the strawberry milks, Nam-ju grabs it.
He chugs the milk, forgetting that he doesn’t like sweet things, though he claims he never said that. Meanwhile, Kyung gets a text from his father, blaming him for losing his dad an investment deal because he’s been neglecting Dan-oh.
In the library, Dan-oh balls up the manhwa page she tore out of the book and throws it on the floor in frustration. Mi-chae picks it up, and pretends to be scared when Dan-oh growls that she’s going to destroy the Writer.
She points out more floating chairs and intends to show Mi-chae the black hole on the bookshelf, but it’s not there. At first Mi-chae seems surprised that she saw a black hole there, but then he grins and makes Dan-oh promise not to mess with something that dangerous again.
Dan-oh ~BLIP~s and she’s in math class, with Joo-da at the blackboard. She asks the teacher a question, and while the teacher talks to Dan-oh, Nam-ju goes to the board and helps Joo-da with a question she was stuck on. Dan-oh grumbles that she was used to distract the teacher so they could flirt.
Nam-ju drops a workbook on her desk and orders her to give it to Joo-da. She fights it, but she’s compelled to obey, which just worsens her mood.
Later, Kyung says they need to talk, and Dan-oh is compelled to follow him. Kyung accuses her of convincing her father to reduce his investment in Kyung’s father’s company, assuming it’s retaliation because he doesn’t like her. Dan-oh finds herself tearfully promising to talk to her dad, when she really wants to yell at him.
Her wrist alarm goes off, indicating that her heart is beating too fast, and Kyung rolls his eyes. He tells her to go to the hospital alone because he’s sick of being her caregiver, and Dan-oh rails internally that she’s forced to like him even when he treats her this way.
Out loud, she begs Kyung to stop hurting her like this, but he just walks away. She vows, “Writer, I’ll take it back from you. My life belongs to me.”
Back in the classroom, Dan-oh watches her classmates and notes wistfully that they look happy. “If I wasn’t aware of myself, would it hurt less when Kyung turns me down? Would I have been happy every day of my life?” But she decides that she likes who she is now, because she can change whatever is hurting her.
She shocks Sae-mi and Soo-cheol by cleaning her locker, since she’s known to thrive in chaos. But ~BLIP~ her locker becomes a disaster again, and she starts to yell at the Writer to leave her alone. Halfway through her rant, Dan-oh hears a sharp noise and experiences another vision…
This time she sees herself and Sae-mi on the main stairwell, watching as Nam-ju wrist-grabs Joo-da. Joo-da breaks free, and when she passes Sae-mi, Sae-mi jealously pushes her. Dan-oh blocks Joo-da’s fall, but she falls instead, landing unconscious at the bottom of the stairs. Kyung picks her up and rushes her to the nurse’s office, where she’s treated for a broken leg.
When Dan-oh comes back to the present, Mi-chae tells her that she’s seeing the storyboard, a rough sketch of future events created by the Writer. Dan-oh says that if it’s just a rough draft then she can change it, but Mi-chae says seriously, “No. Nothing changes in this world. Ever.”
Dan-oh heads to the library and sighs when she sees Joo-da scanning the shelves. Do-hwa stands in the next aisle, and he and Joo-da’s gazes meet over the books. Uh-oh, Do-hwa looks pretty smitten as he wonders to himself if Joo-da has always been that pretty. Dan-oh just sneers that the predictable second lead crush just kicked in.
As she’s carrying her tall stack of books, Dan-oh drops a few. Someone picks them up and places them back on her stack, but Dan-oh can’t see his face over the books — all she sees is the scar in the palm of his left hand.
Chairman Baek and Kyung have dinner at Dan-oh’s home with her and her father. The dads discuss work while Kyung seethes. Chairman Baek mentions that he’s thinking of going into business with Nam-ju’s father as well, and the dads marvel at how grown-up their kids are getting to be.
Chairman Baek invites the Euns to his house for dinner next time, and Dan-oh is excited to have the pasta that Kyung’s mother makes. Kyung growls, “Mother, my foot,” under his breath, but they all glare at him, so he tells Dan-oh to come over anytime.
Later he storms into Dan-oh’s room in a bad mood. He picks up a framed photo of the two of them as kids and asks why she has it, but Dan-oh says she doesn’t know, either, since he was always so rude to her. Kyung finds the little puppet Dan-oh took from Mi-chae’s diorama, but she snatches it back and says it’s her destiny.
Remembering her vision of the storyboard, Dan-oh warns Kyung never to carry her in his arms. But then she figures that he won’t remember this conversation later, since they’re currently in the Shadow.
At school the next day, Joo-da does a little booty dance while cleaning the classroom. Dan-oh stops to stare, and Do-hwa comes up behind her and murmurs that Joo-da is really cute. Dan-oh accuses him of falling for Joo-da, and she feels sorry for him as the second lead, always just a bit too late. She reassures Do-hwa that some readers will like him best, anyway.
Later Dan-oh asks Sae-mi if it hurts to break a leg. Sae-mi says it hurts a lot, so when the scene where Dan-oh breaks her leg draws near, she suits up in protective gear. Things look a little different than what she saw — students are cleaning the staircase instead of just hanging out — but Dan-oh is ready to face the moment.
She bellows that she’s going to clean the lobby herself, but there’s a ~BLIP~ and she’s standing on the stairs, without her gear, exactly as she saw on the storyboard. Sae-mi is complaining that she liked Nam-ju before Joo-da, and between making involuntary “supportive friend” noises, Dan-oh tries to leave, but her feet are glued in place.
Nam-ju shows up right on cue, with Kyung not far behind him. Joo-da walks past Nam-ju and gets wrist-grabbed, and Dan-oh braces herself. Oddly, though everyone is watching the drama between Nam-ju and Joo-da, Kyung is frowning down at Dan-oh.
Something happens that Dan-oh didn’t see in her vision — a male student passes her on the stairs, and her heart monitor goes nuts as her heart pounds. Her feet are suddenly free and she moves down a few steps, trying to see the boy’s face, but his back is turned.
Behind her, Joo-da pulls free of Nam-ju, Sae-mi gives her a shove, and she careens into Dan-oh. Dan-oh falls backwards onto Mystery Boy, and she thinks, “Dried Squid was right. I can’t change anything after all.”
But when Mystery Boy feels her hit his back, he quickly twists in midair and they fall with Dan-oh’s head cushioned by his arm. Dan-oh slowly turns to look at her savior, but she passes out before she sees his face.
She wakes in the nurse’s office, and instead of a cast, there’s just a bandage on her knee. Dan-oh thinks about the boy who seemed capable of changing the scene, but Sae-mi says that Kyung carried her to the nurse’s office, and she doesn’t remember Dan-oh falling on anyone. Weird…
Nam-ju bursts in, furious at Sae-mi for pushing Joo-da. From the next bed, Joo-da tells Nam-ju to stay out of this, but he’s distraught that she got hurt. Dan-oh scoffs at Joo-da’s itty-bitty boo-boo versus her own large scrape, but Nam-ju and Joo-da are too immersed in their romantic scene to notice her.
She leaves and catches Do-hwa lurking in the hallway. It occurs to her that maybe it was Do-hwa she fell on, so she makes him crouch so she can lean on him, but she knows immediately that he’s not the one. Still, she’s hopeful that if she can find the Mystery Boy, the story might change and she can control her own fate.
Dan-oh tells Mi-chae her theory about finding the Mystery Boy and changing the story. He tells her she’s wrong, but she insists that what she saw wasn’t part of the plot. Flipping through the “Secret” manhwa, she notices that there are a lot of blank pages, and Mi-chae says that the pages are filled after the Stage happens. Since she can’t read ahead to learn who Mystery Boy is, Dan-oh chirps that she still has her heart monitor, her heartbeats, and her back to help her find him.
She returns to class as the boys are changing into their gym clothes, offering her a glorious view of some pretty impressive backs. Dan-oh enjoys the show until Kyung blocks the window, assuming she was spying on him specifically, but she just keeps peering around him at the other guys. He asks if her leg is okay, and Dan-oh sasses him for acting like he cares.
He walks off, but she chases him down to lean on his back (lol, he’s so huge and she’s so tiny), and she’s relieved to realize that he’s not the right guy. She pats his shoulder and says she’ll be busy from now on, but he swats her hand away and leaves with Ae-il, his pretty admirer (though I notice he keeps turning back to watch Dan-oh).
She makes a plan to check the back of every guy in the school until she finds her Mystery Guy. The most efficient way is to pirouette down the hallway, bouncing off of guys, none of whom set off her heart monitor. HA, at one point she accidentally bonks into Soo-cheol and runs off.
Watching from a distance, Mi-chae chuckles that he told her nothing will change: “I get it. It’s not something she can just ignore. At first, everyone has expectations.” Hmmm, interesting.
Dan-oh continues attacking boys with her back until she runs into Do-hwa, who claims nervously that he’s looking for Nam-ju. Dan-oh tells him to cut to the chase and ask her where Joo-da is because she’s busy, so he does, dimpling at her adorably (seriously, those dimples are killing me).
He finds Joo-da in the courtyard and says he was worried she’d gotten hurt. Joo-da says that Do-hwa is always nice to her, like a guardian angel, and you can practically watch him fall in love as they’re showered with flower petals (Dan-oh: “It’s summer, where did the cherry blossoms come from?!”)
Dan-oh goes back to her quest, but she takes a break when she can’t outrun the entire track team. She thinks about the nice toned backs she glimpsed before Kyung ruined it, then tells herself to stop thinking like a perv. Suddenly she realizes that she can make Mystery Guy come to her, and joins the game of dodgeball already in progress.
Catching sight of Nam-ju oh-so-casually sitting next to Joo-da, Dan-oh prays that she gets hit by the ball before the Stage ends. While Nam-ju and Joo-da have a cute flirty conversation about strawberry milk (poor Nam-ju almost explodes when Joo-da wipes milk from his lip), Dan-oh does her best to make herself a target.
She eventually catches the ball, and hurls it as hard as she can at Kyung, only for him to side-step it. Ae-il catches it instead, and Dan-oh braces herself… and a boy whirls in front of her, takes the hit, and pulls them both to the ground. They land in the exact same position as they did when they fell from the stairs, and Dan-oh’s heart starts to pound.
She grins, thinking, “I found you!” But when she faces him, the sun is behind him and she still can’t see his face. ~BLIP~ Dan-oh whines internally that she was taken from her own big moment just to tell Sae-mi that Joo-da is entering the classroom, hee.
Sae-mi tells Joo-da that Nam-ju is looking for her, and she takes the strawberry milk that Joo-da obviously got from Nam-ju. Dan-oh jumps up, deciding she hasn’t got time for this, but ~BLIP~ and she’s in the nurse’s office again, unable to get out of bed. Joo-da enters, looking for Nam-ju, and the door is blocked by Sae-mi and the Jin bullies.
They taunt Joo-da to know her place and stay away from Nam-ju. Once they leave, Dan-oh can finally move, and she easily opens the door. She realizes that Nam-ju is supposed to rescue Joo-da, so she locks her back in, LOL.
Sure enough, Nam-ju walks by, and Dan-oh mutters that these kinds of coincidences happen all the time in romance stories. Nam-ju opens the door to the nurse’s office and sees Joo-da crying, and he’s completely disarmed. Minutes later, Sae-mi and the Jin bullies spot Nam-ju and Joo-da walking hand-in-hand, and Sae-mi declares war.
Dan-oh is suddenly standing outside holding seed packets, and she figures out what she’s supposed to do when she sees Joo-da watering the flowerbeds nearby. She delivers the seeds, then suddenly she feels the compulsion leave. She starts to flounce away, but she sees Sae-mi and the Jin bullies on a balcony above Joo-da’s head preparing to pour dirty mop water on her.
She doesn’t want to get involved, but she decides that she can’t just let an injustice happen. She grabs a conveniently located umbrella and runs to Joo-da, snapping it open just as the bullies throw the water. Unfortunately, there’s a huge hole in the umbrella, and Joo-da is drenched anyway.
Dan-oh throws the umbrella and yells that nothing goes her way. But she gives Joo-da her cardigan, grumbling that the leading man or the second lead should be here instead of leaving her to flirt with the heroine, hee.
Dan-oh finally makes it back to the field, but of course the Mystery Boy isn’t there anymore. She’s wondering why there’s a character who seems to exist only to save her when she’s just an extra, when Kyung comes over and asks why she’s been acting strange lately. She steals his basketball and tosses it away in a fit of pique, which sparks a memory — she saw the scar on the Mystery Boy’s hand.
She realizes he’s the same boy who picked up her books in the library, but when she gets there, all she finds is a book sitting on a table in front of an open window. Looking out the window, Dan-oh sees a boy in the garden, so she hurries outside, but it’s empty.
The umbrella she thew is stuck in a trellis, so Dan-oh reaches for it, but it’s just a bit too high. An arm reaches past Dan-oh’s head for the umbrella, and her heart goes crazy. She breathes, “Finally, I found him.”
Mystery Boy is walking away when Dan-oh turns to face him, but she vows that she won’t let him go this time. She runs closer and points her umbrella at him, which opens up and obscures his face again. Dan-oh lifts the umbrella, and she finally sees her Mystery Boy.
Yay, we finally got to see his face! More importantly, Dan-oh got to see his face, and what a beautiful face it is, too. The problem is, Dan-oh is looking for an ally who can help her change the fact that everything int heir lives is subject to the Writer’s whims, and Mystery Boy is even more of a minor character than she is. Still, I think she’s onto something, because every time they cross paths, the story changes. Something about Mystery Boy allows him to alter the story, and for some reason he’s done it for Dan-oh twice now.
Dan-oh may just be my new all-time favorite kdrama character. She finds out that she’s just a background character in someone else’s life — and not even a real life, but a made-up one in a manhwa — but instead of feeling sorry for herself, she immediately starts fighting back. She’s not going to let herself be ignored, and if the writer doesn’t want to give her an important role, well then, she’ll just make one for herself. Dan-oh is strong, spirited, sassy, and unpredictable, and I have a feeling that the mysterious Writer is soon going to regret creating her at all. But I also felt bad for Dan-oh when she wondered if it might have been better if she’d never become self-aware. I think it’s a natural thing for her to think about, since being aware is causing her so much frustration and pain, something she didn’t feel when she was simply a construct.
I loved the explanation of the manhwa world, which is another example of the excellent world-building in Extraordinary You. Mi-chae’s description of how it all works made total sense: there’s the Stage, where the Writer has complete control, and the Shadow, where characters can act as they please when they aren’t needed to advance the main story. It explains why sometimes Dan-oh is compelled to act in ways she doesn’t want, yet sometimes she has complete control over her actions. Certain places like the school kitchen, the library, and Dan-oh’s home seem to exist mostly in the Shadow, while the classrooms and school grounds are primarily Stage areas.
I’m sure there’s a lot more to it that Mi-chae isn’t revealing yet, because things still happen that make no sense. For example, how can Mi-chae send Dan-oh back to the Stage just with a snap? I’m also very curious how and why Dan-oh suddenly became self-aware. Nothing happened that caused her to wake up, at least nothing I could tell, she was simply bopping along in the story and started experiencing blips. Surely Mi-chae knows that as well, and I’m surprised that Dan-oh hasn’t asked about it (I know it would be about the third thing I asked him). He also made that comment that seemed to allude that others have become self-aware in the past, which makes me wonder just how long he’s been stuck in the manhwa world and how many other characters have become self-aware. In fact, if Mi-chae has been there long, he must have been in other worlds, too, since manhwas have a definite beginning and end. So many questions!
Mi-chae and Dan-oh appear to be the only two self-aware characters in their story at this point, but I have a strong feeling that Mystery Boy knows the truth, and probably has for a long time. He spends a lot of time in the library, which seems to be a Shadow area, since that’s where Dan-oh went to do research on her memory losses (and libraries are places of knowledge and learning, which feels symbolic). I also feel like Kyung might be in the process of waking up, because his actions at times seem to indicate that he knows more than he’s letting on, or at least that he’s noticing things nobody else is noticing. And Kyung’s repeated insistence that he doesn’t like Dan-oh feels more and more like something he’s being compelled to say, while his actions at times indicate that he cares about her. Argh, I can’t wait until next week to get the answers to some of my questions!
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- Character stills from A Day Found by Chance
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- Lee Tae-ri, Kim Ji-in head to high school with Kim Hye-yoon for new MBC drama