Cinderella and the Four Knights: Episode 1
Cinderella and the Four Knights, tvN’s pre-produced modern spin on the classic fairytale, faced some production complications and network uncertainty early on, but premiered without a hitch. There’s no bibbidi-bobbidi-boo in this, but that’s quite alright because this contemporary Cinderella doesn’t need magic or a fairy godmother to save herself. In fact, she may end up doing most of the saving for the unlikeliest of people.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
Over a brightly animated storybook sequence, a cheerful female voice narrates a familiar tale: “Once upon a time, there was a kind, beautiful girl named Cinderella. She was always tormented by her stepmother and stepsisters. But one fateful day, she met a wonderful prince and lived happily—”
The animation shatters. “…ever after. Bullshit!”
We’re back to reality as EUN HA-WON (Park So-dam) works an espresso machine. “Cinderella’s nowadays don’t have time to meet princes because of their damned part-time jobs!” she narrates. It’s part-time jobs galore for Ha-won, who works as a waitress, cashier, dog-walker, etc.
The narration continues, “Moreover, ‘princes’ nowadays are just huge douchebags!” Enter a douchebag flanked by two women, who kicks a fork away just as Ha-won’s about to pick it up. “They’ve got a Casanova complex and are so damn haughty. I wish someone would tell them to drop their high and mighty act!”
The Cinderella book gets tossed aside, and we see Ha-won at another job, babysitting. She ends the story with a lesson: “And that’s why you mustn’t wait around for some stupid prince, but rely on yourself to survive instead. Got that?” The children concur, and Ha-won flings a rolled-up diaper which lands on the book, heh. Poo-poo to fairytales!
Ha-won is all smiles riding on her moped. She admires the view of college boys playing basketball on the courts before she delivers their pizza to them. Next month, she’ll be in college too, and she can’t wait.
Ha-won witnesses a man in front of her dismount his motorcycle and beat four guys to a pulp before reclaiming a purse. His face obscured by his helmet, Ha-won immediately suspects he’s a delinquent, and follows him for several miles.
Just when she thinks she’s lost him, she spots him returning the purse to a grateful woman. She offers to repay him, but he zooms off on his motorcycle. The woman’s left swooning and expresses to Ha-won that she may have found her Prince Charming thanks to her glass slipper, aka her purse. Ha-won scoffs at the metaphor, but is glad to know that decent guys still exist.
PARK HYE-JI (Sohn Na-eun) waits for someone in a hotel lobby. KANG HYUN-MIN (Ahn Jae-hyun) appears with arm candy, and Hye-ji calls him out for dating her friend. He’s not ashamed, however, and responds with this: “To me, there are only two kinds of women in this world. One, girls whom I’ve already dated. And two, girls I’ll date later.” Alrighty then!
KANG JI-WOON (Jung Il-woo), the “Prince Charming” from earlier arrives, and Hyun-min decides to push his buttons. Hyun-min wonders why Ji-woon is hanging around this hotel when he’s not interested in the Haneul Group family business.
Unfazed, Ji-woon retorts that he may become the company heir, which causes Hyun-min to scoff. Hyun-min warns him to know his place and calls him trash, provoking Ji-woon to grab him by the collar and threaten him, even though he’s the older hyung. Hyun-min marvels at his audacity.
Ji-woon denies his relation to someone like Hyun-min, and Hyun-min finally leaves. Hye-ji advises Ji-woon to avoid his cousin, and he suggests she follow her own advice, since she has such terrible taste in men.
After ending her shift at the convenience store, Ha-won gladly collects all the food that expired today, much to her boss’s disgust. She comes home to a stepmother and stepsister noshing on fried chicken. They barely acknowledge her, but they do remember to reprimand her.
Ha-won apologizes, and stepsister CHOI YOO-NA chirps that Ha-won’s uselessness originated from her dead mother. Ha-won hears all this, but puts on a smile before entering her cramped sunroom/bedroom.
Her desk is covered with job listings from newspapers and ads. In between bites of just-expired hot dog, she makes plans to nab another part-time job to meet her financial goal of four million won (roughly $4,000), which will cover her college tuition. She’s very close, and she squeals in excitement.
The next day, we see Ji-woon, Hyun-min, and KANG SEO-WOO (Lee Jung-shin) driving their respective sports cars. The cousins receive a text from their grandpa’s bodyguard LEE YOON-SUNG (Choi Min), ordering all three of them to arrive home at 6 p.m. sharp for news regarding their grandpa, the CEO of Haneul Group. In order to get the sparring cousins to comply, Bodyguard Lee threatens to never reveal Ji-woon’s birth story or freeze Hyun-min’s credit card.
The threats work, and all three cousins pull into their luxurious residence promptly. They enter together, their long strides slowed down for full flower boy effect.
Bodyguard Lee awaits, and they inquire about Grandpa. Turns out Grandpa’s getting married! This is rather anticlimactic news since this isn’t Grandpa’s first (or second, or third) marriage. None of them want to attend, but Bodyguard Lee asserts that all three “brothers” must be there, prompting Ji-woon and Hyun-min to snap in unison, “Who are you calling brothers?!”
As if having a random cousin wasn’t enough, Hyun-min jokes that he’ll now have a new grandma the same age as his mother. Ji-woon exits, and Bodyguard Lee calls after him, using his full name, “Kang Ji-woon,” causing Ji-woon to turn back and clarify that he’s Han Ji-woon. Seo-woo exits next since he’s got a packed schedule. Bodyguard Lee urges Hyun-min to attend, and he says he will; it’s Grandpa’s fifth wedding after all.
Bodyguard Lee is reminded of the day Ji-woon first stepped foot here. That day, Ji-woon was a bit thrown by his new “home,” and Hyun-min mistook him for the new cleaning guy. When Hyun-min was informed that Ji-woon was his cousin, he pointedly wondered how great and precious Ji-woon was to have been kept hidden all this time.
Ji-woon answers that he lived in an orphanage after his mother passed away ten years ago, and adds that he’s a high school dropout. This answer pleases Hyun-min; he comments that Grandpa is an interesting geezer who must have a hobby of discovering new grandsons. After all, not too long ago, he plucked a busker off the streets and into their home. Bodyguard Lee had futilely reassured Ji-woon that he’d get used to things around here.
At Haneul HQ, a long line of board members wait their turn to speak to Grandpa Kang. One employee comments on the release of scandalous articles about Haneul Group, Grandpa Kang’s upcoming marriage, and his grandsons, which have begun to tarnish the company’s image. Grandpa Kang replies that his worries are unnecessary, because he took over that publication yesterday.
Later that day, Bodyguard Lee informs Grandpa Kang that his grandsons probably won’t attend his wedding. Grandpa Kang laments that none of them understand how he feels; he can’t maintain the company on his own for much longer and needs to find a successor soon.
Grandpa Kang states that by watching them live together and duke it out among themselves, the most qualified will inevitably stand above the rest. He emphasizes to Bodyguard Lee that all three of them must show their faces at his wedding since all eyes will be on them that day. Moreover, letting them off the hook so easily will only ruin their personalities.
Ji-woon is working at an auto body shop when he overhears a fussy customer bullying his coworker. Turns out the customer is some blogger threatening to post scathing reviews online. Ji-woon hops into a car and rams right into the customer’s vehicle. He declares that he’ll pay for the repairs of both cars in exchange for an apology and the promise that the customer will never return.
Meanwhile, at a broadcasting station, people are frantic because they’re unable to locate Seo-woo, who’s nonchalantly strumming his guitar on the staircase and ignoring all incoming phone calls, even ones from his manager.
Hyun-min’s at a cafe when another one of his girlfriends arrives and yells at him for dumping her via text. Unperturbed, he finds nothing wrong with it, since he included emojis. She exclaims that she was “his woman,” to which Hyun-min answers, “Because all the women in this world are my women.” Pshh.
She furiously grabs a glass, and Hyun-min flinches momentarily before relaxing when she ends up just drinking from it. She asks him whether it’s true that he grants ex-girlfriends one wish after dumping them. He grins and affirms its verity. Cut to the girl driving off in Hyun-min’s sports car.
Grandpa walks through the doors of his home with his arm around his young fiancée, JI HWA-JA. He playfully teases her and loves her naiveté. But in another room, Hwa-ja deviously utters through the phone that she’s got a plan up her sleeve, and she’s not at all concerned about the grandsons.
Hyun-min’s at the club with his two buddies, complaining about his grandpa’s wedding tomorrow. He brilliantly decides to crash the wedding and bring the first girl that walks through the club’s doors as his date — the crazier the girl, the better.
Hyun-min focuses on the doors, and a small figure in a wet poncho enters, clutching a bag of pizza boxes. It’s none other than Ha-won, who came to deliver pizza. Hyun-min’s friends snicker from a distance, but Hyun-min watches her, intrigued.
Two jerks taunt her because their “special request” for the “prettiest delivery girl” was not fulfilled. Ha-won calmly explains the actual purpose of special requests, but the guys don’t listen and continue to call her “ugly.” Ha-won ignores them and asks how they’ll be paying, but one jerk throws the pizza boxes to the ground and food spills out. He sneers that he’s lost his appetite because he’s so livid about his incorrect order.
Ha-won advises them to pay up while she still considers them customers, but they refuse to take the “damn delivery vermin” seriously. Hyun-min prepares to intervene with his wallet.
Suddenly, a jerk soars through the air after receiving a flying punch from Ha-won. You go, girl! Jerk #2 hurries to Ha-won and offers his credit card, practically begging her to take it, heh. Ha-won demands an apology, and she gets it immediately from the jerk still reeling from her stunt.
Ha-won: “There are so many delivery people in this country on motorbikes at this hour of the night for the sake of customers! And yet, you dare call us ‘delivery vermin?’ How dare you compare us to insects!”
Preach, woman! And with that, Ha-won leaves after apologizing for the commotion. Hyun-min is smitten, and he snaps photos of her license plate to seek her out.
Back at home, Stepmother finds out that Yoo-na received yet another college rejection from her last possible school. Stepmother’s beside herself since she spent a fortune on Yoo-na’s test prep in order for her to bump into Hyun-min, which never happened. College was the other alternative, and now there are none.
Ha-won arrives, and Stepmother chides her for still wearing her high school uniform when she’s nearing graduation. Ha-won asks if she can briefly use the laptop. Yoo-na and Stepmother are incredulous to hear that Ha-won applied for college. Ha-won wants to fulfill her mother’s wish and become a teacher. Stepmother and stepsister doubt her abilities, but are stunned to see that Ha-won was accepted.
They try to devalue her accomplishment by reminding her that she’ll need money to attend, and Ha-won answers that she’s got enough saved up to afford the initial deposit; she’ll pay off the rest while working part-time in between classes.
Ha-won unleashes her elation out of their earshot and smooches her locket, proudly announcing to her mom that she’s going to be a college student.
Grandpa Kang and Bodyguard Lee walk through a sprawling mansion and call for Butler Kim repeatedly. The house is a mess, and it seems no one’s home until a piece of duct tape falls from above; they look up and see powerless Butler Kim duct taped to the ceiling.
They rescue Butler Kim, who resigns immediately and calls his grandsons devils. Grandpa can’t believe that even after a year of living together, his grandsons still wreak havoc. A new butler will need to be hired, but Grandpa wonders if there’s anyone out there that could beat some sense into his errant grandchildren.
Ha-won sits behind the counter at the convenience store and squeals; she’s finally reached her goal of four million won. A customer approaches to buy an ice cream cone, and it’s Hyun-min. She tells him that he gets an extra cone for free, but since he just wants one, he gives it to Ha-won and strikes up a conversation.
She devours it quickly, and Hyun-min asks her for a favor — to give him three hours of her time from 9 p.m. to midnight tonight. Ha-won dismisses him, so he says he’ll pay for her time. He offers her one million won (roughly $1000).
He brags that he has lots of money, and Ha-won replies that people who say that are the least trustworthy. But he has no qualms about buying people with money, so Ha-won asks him to prove he has the means to buy her time.
Cut to the convenience store wiped clean, all shelves empty. What! Did he just buy everything in the entire store? Ha-won’s at a loss for words as Hyun-min places two fat stacks of cash on the counter. He jots down his number on her arm and instructs her to call him.
Hye-ji scours the textile market until she finds the perfect fabric, striking a deal with a shopkeeper to rearrange his fabric display in exchange for his allowing her to buy his fabric.
That evening, Ji-woon revisits the auto shop and greets his coworker who hasn’t had dinner yet. He decides to go buy some meals at the convenience store and asks Ha-won to heat up all of them. But when he realized he’s missing his wallet, he goes back to the shop to get it.
Back at the auto shop, one of the workers gossips about how poorly Ji-woon treats them, always opting for fast food and not sharing his newfound fortune with any of them. The older mechanic scolds him for wanting to use Ji-woon’s money to settle his own financial problems and reminds him that Ji-woon wants to be treated just as he was before he came into wealth.
Ji-woon quietly walks away after overhearing their entire conversation. He’s so distracted that he walks right past the convenience store just as Ha-won’s heating up his meals. She runs out to remind him that he still needs to pay. Ji-woon wasn’t able to retrieve his wallet so he offers to pay her tomorrow; he solemnly assures her that since he’s so wealthy, scamming her wouldn’t be necessary. He offers his watch as collateral, but she merely leaves with a harrumph and orders him to pay up tomorrow.
Hye-ji receives a call from Ji-woon while she’s working on her bespoke dress; he happens to be right outside her studio. Ji-woon tells her that Hyun-min might be bringing a girl to Grandpa’s wedding, but she doesn’t seem too concerned since he’s quite the Casanova. She accidentally pricks herself, and Ji-woon rushes to her aid.
In her cramped room, Ha-won texts her father whom she hasn’t seen in six months. She asks him when he’ll be coming home; tomorrow’s the anniversary of her mother’s death.
The next day, Ha-won clutches a bundle of white roses on the bus ride to the columbarium. Outside her window, Ji-woon rides his motorcycle, en route to somewhere.
When Ha-won arrives at the columbarium, she’s shocked to find her mother’s urn missing and the slot completely empty. A worker there explains that payments on that slot are five years overdue and that he couldn’t get in touch with the guardian either. As a result, her mother’s urn is now in storage.
Ha-won is visibly upset and is alarmed to learn that five million won is owed in overdue fees. Just then, Ji-woon arrives to pay his respects to his deceased mother. Ha-won glances at Ji-woon, but it’s unclear whether she recognizes him or not.
Ji-woon walks out and observes Ha-won get on her knees and tearfully beg the employee to move her mother’s urn out of storage. He remembers her as the convenience store clerk from the day before, and notices the white rose bouquet that she was unable to leave for her mother. He appears to feel for her, but leaves without a word.
A flashback reveals a young Ha-won telling her mother that white roses are supposed to be given to people you respect. Her mother envelops her in a hug and wishes for Ha-won to become a well-respected teacher.
While waiting at a bus stop, Ha-won addresses her mother aloud, desperately trying to rationalize her choosing college over paying for her mother’s space at the columbarium: “I’m your daughter who you’re proud of, so I can go to college, right?” She immediately regrets saying that and cries, missing her mom.
Back at her little workspace, Hye-ji proudly holds up her finished dress and shows it to Ji-woon. She’ll be wearing it to Grandpa’s wedding, which Ji-woon has no intention of attending. He asks if it bothers her that Hyun-min’s bringing a date, but she deflects and asks if he’d go with her. Ji-woon doesn’t budge, and lightly admonishes her for bringing up a favor she knew he couldn’t do for her and for making him feel guilty.
At the Han River, Ha-won looks at her bouquet and convinces herself that she just needs ten thousand won. A white limo pulls up in front of her, and Hyun-min emerges with a smirk. She asks if his offer’s still valid, and he confirms that it is. Ha-won requests that he pay her in cash, and he agrees to do so, but only if he gets a little something in return.
Hyun-min wants her to act as his fiancée for three hours, much to her confusion. She asks him why, and he answers that his grandpa is ill and desperately wants to see him tied down before he dies. He fakes getting choked up and remarks that one of his relatives is getting married tonight, and it’s also Grandpa’s only day out of the hospital.
The sob story works on Ha-won, although she still feels iffy about participating in his lie. She warns that if he tries to pull any fast ones on her, she won’t stand for it, as indicated by her raised fist. The two reveal their names, shake on it, and hop into the limo. Hyun-min tries to get cozy with Ha-won, but he doesn’t get very far. She sits away from him and whips out her fist again, warning him that it’s all over once the clock strikes midnight.
Screaming girls and swarms of reporters have gathered at the wedding venue, itching to see who arrives. According to the media, the biggest question of the night is whether or not all three Kang cousins, who’ve hitherto never been seen together in one place, will show up tonight. And after tonight there will only be two kinds of people — those who were invited to the wedding and those who weren’t.
“Lady Killer” Hyun-min’s the first to arrive and the school girls go wild, but are puzzled by the random girl he’s got his arm around. Seo-woo, mega star and youngest of the cousins pulls up next, and he good-naturedly waves to the crowds. Ji-woon’s the only one missing, but we see that he’s riding his motorcycle. To the wedding, perhaps?
Hyun-min and Ha-won enter the building, and a dazzling array of designer shoes, accessories, and a lacy white dress are all laid out for her. Hye-ji pays a visit, curious about his date, but he firmly tells her to mind her own business and stop obsessing over him.
While holding the lacy dress in front of the mirror after placing her phone down on the bed, Ha-won considers quitting momentarily, but then thinks of Hyun-min’s poor grandpa. She’s unaware that Seo-woo’s in the room, sitting against the bed.
Seo-woo hears her chattering and is amused by her presence; he’s careful to grab his phone and conceal himself when she changes into her dress. Ha-won steps out in her white gown, and Hyun-min helps her into a pair of coral heels to complete the look. After hair and makeup, she’s looking positively elegant.
Hwa-ja, the bride, takes a hold of the bouquet and reminds herself that she’s already halfway there with this wedding; everything’s going as planned.
The spotlight’s on Grandpa Kang and Hwa-ja as they emerge at the top of the staircase to begin the wedding ceremony. Meanwhile, Hyun-min and Ha-won prepare to make their surprise appearance. Speaking of surprise appearances, Ji-woon arrives outside the wedding hall, looking rather conflicted about showing up.
As Grandpa and Hwa-ja make their way down to the stage, Hyun-min and Ha-won do the same on the opposite end of the staircase, mirroring each other. The attendees murmur upon seeing two parallel couples on either side of the hall.
Ha-won immediately senses that something’s awry, and calls Hyun-min crazy when he informs her that they’re doing a wedding march; this is not what she signed up for. Hyun-min reassures her that it’s only a slight variation from the original plan, but when she doesn’t stop fretting, he swoops her up and carries her down to the stage.
The two couples face each other; Grandpa and Hwa-ja are none too pleased. Hyun-min announces to Grandpa that he brought his fiancée as his wedding present. Hwa-ja’s unimpressed by Ha-won when she turns out to be a mere high school senior, but Hyun-min returns the focus to the main couple by calling Hwa-ja “Grandpa’s fifth wife.”
Ha-won sincerely apologizes for ruining Grandpa’s special day, much to Hyun-min’s ire. She urges him to apologize, but he refuses to do so, leaving her no choice but to twist his arm and force him on his knees. She pushes his head down, and whips out her fist again to make him comply. Ji-woon watches from afar.
Ha-won tries to leave the venue, but Hyun-min notes that her time isn’t up yet. He introduces her to Seo-woo as his real fiancée. Hye-ji’s friend stands up and yells at Hyun-min for being so cruel to Hye-ji, but Hyun-min replies that he never had any sort of relationship with Hye-ji.
Hye-ji walks over to Ha-won and introduces herself as Hyun-min’s childhood friend and extends her hand, but Ji-woon steps in and furiously grabs it. He questions whether or not she has any pride behaving like this.
Ji-woon turns to Ha-won and demands to know whether she came all this way just for money. She doesn’t answer, and Ji-woon takes out a wad of fifty thousand won bills from his wallet and thrusts it in front of her face before letting the bills flutter to the ground.
There may be four handsome “knights” in this house, but so far, I find myself drawn to Cinderella, aka Ha-won the most. Sure, she’s playing the quintessential Candy heroine, but I love her intelligence, indomitable spirit, and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon martial arts prowess. Ha-won may get downtrodden, but not for very long. This girl can fight, and she fights back. She’s a feisty Cinderella who’s aware of her self-worth, and I love it!
Oftentimes, dramas tend to hit the Candy heroine with a boatload of misfortune and suffering right off the bat in order for us to pity her and give the male lead the opportunity to swoop in and save her valiantly with his wealth and pretty face. But this time around, such was not the case, which I really appreciated. There were more instances of Ha-won defending herself, calling the shots, and kicking some serious derrieres than there were of Ha-won woe-is-me-ing, which made her failed visit to see her mother all the more poignant; her tearful reaction felt natural and completely warranted.
I love that she spoke up in the middle of the wedding and forced Hyun-min onto his knees. Other Candy’s would’ve protested but ultimately not have taken any action, but I’m glad she defied Hyun-min in front of everyone and walked out. Frustrating Candy’s are the worst, but Ha-won is not like that, and I hope her spunk never gets extinguished. As we all know, Cinderella was able to live happily ever after thanks to Prince Charming, but I like how this is reversed here. Thanks to our Ha-won, it seems the Kang cousins will have a happy ending of their own in which they’ll learn to appreciate one another and live in harmony rather than excess. That’s my prediction thus far. I’m sure she’ll fall in love with one of them, but that’ll be much later down the line.
In terms of acting, none of the four knights’ characterizations were anything new or unseen, but I wasn’t exactly disappointed or bothered by their standard portrayals. No one stood out as particularly amazing or terrible in his role, and it seemed like Jung Il-woo, Ahn Jae-hyun, Lee Jung-shin, and Choi Min were all performing on the same wavelength. I have no problem with this since there’s nothing worse than inconsistent performances mixed with stellar ones, resulting in a mediocre show overall. And consider me a Park So-dam fan! I love the crystal clarity of her voice, and I find her to be incredibly endearing and brimming with charm. She emotes well, and her depiction of Ha-won feels assured and natural.
The stepmother and stepsister weren’t over-the-top evil (yet), and I actually really liked that. They just came across as lazy individuals who aren’t the brightest bulbs in the chandelier and have zero regard for Ha-won. They take her for granted, neglect to provide her with anything, and hardly see her as a family member since Yoo-na bristles at being referred to as “Unni.” The real evil seems to lie with Hwa-ja, so perhaps the villain will be an evil, young grandmother. I’m guessing she’s after the Haneul Group fortune, and I’m curious to see how she’ll manipulate her new family to get what she wants.
If there’s one character I don’t quite care for, it’s Hye-ji. She clearly has a thing for Hyun-min, even though the feelings aren’t mutual. I wonder if there was a particular event that ruined their childhood friendship since Hyun-min dislikes her immensely, but I guess if a woman continues to pine for you despite numerous and unmistakeable rejections, Hyun-min’s aversion makes sense. So far, Hye-ji hasn’t done anything wrong, but I just don’t buy her innocent, nice-girl demeanor since she represses her feelings of anger and suspicion. Ji-woon seems the most comfortable around her which is troubling; I’m sure Hye-ji realizes this and will use him to snag Hyun-min. Ji-woon does not need more heartache!
This first episode was definitely an easy watch. There were no lulls, and the pace was moderate throughout. The setup was well executed albeit conventional, but all in all it was a breezy, fun, and safe first episode. At times, I found the use of slo-mo to be a bit excessive and misplaced. I understand the effect when the cousins emerge from their flashy cars and enter the house together, looking all stoic and sleek. But using that same effect on Hye-ji when she’s just looking for fabric? Unnecessary and distracting. One other minor thing that bothered me was Ha-won’s flashback when she handed her mother an empty bouquet while informing her that white roses should be given to people she respects. I didn’t see any white roses. Did you? Were they imaginary white roses?
Flower mystery aside, I’m all for a strong heroine who will try and whip grown men into chivalrous knights. Or at the very least, mature, well-meaning gentlemen.
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