The Liar and His Lover: Episode 1
I asked for cute and fresh, and cute and fresh I surely got. tvN’s new musical rom-com The Liar and His Lover (literal title: She Loves Lies Too Much) premiered this week, and though the setup may come across as a bit juvenile, this lying music composer and his loving singer already have me hooked. We’ve got charming characters, catchy music, and above all, a fascinating undertone that promises something much deeper than your average high school crush — all good signs.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
A young man dressed in all black strides through the crowded streets. Time slows as he silently takes in the various sounds and voices around him. He stops when he hears a child crying out, the sound striking a chord within him.
Next, we’re introduced to a young girl cheerily making vegetable deliveries around the neighborhood. This is our female lead, YOON SO-RIM (Red Velvet’s Joy), and she seems to be a total bundle of sunshine, smiling widely as she rides around on her bike. She stops by her home, the vegetable shop her grandmother runs, and quickly greets Grandma before grabbing her guitar and heading out again. She barely makes it to her bus, on her way to meet her friends/bandmates for an audition.
Meanwhile, the man in black walks into a huge stadium, where three members of popular idol group Crude Play ambush him. One snatches his cap, revealing him to be our male lead, KANG HAN-GYUL (Lee Hyun-woo). Around these parts, he’s mostly known for his secret identity: producer and musical genius “K.” And while they all seem like good buddies, Han-gyul means serious business as he tells the band to quit goofing off and just sing the songs properly. The bassist and fourth band member, SEO CHAN-YOUNG (Lee Seo-won), smirks to himself with disdain.
Unfortunately, Han-gyul has to miss the concert to attend a recording session. As he exits the venue, his gaze gravitates toward the screen displayed outside as a video of the band plays. He watches himself (as the masked K) walk alongside the group, and then the image changes into a memory of him walking with them back when they were high school students – though, notably, Chan-young wasn’t there. A sudden downpour brings him out of his thoughts, and he makes a run for the bus.
Han-gyul moves his way through the jam-packed bus when one of his ear buds pops out, and he hears So-rim’s warm voice as she escorts an elderly woman to a seat. Before he can actually see her face, someone shoves him forward. He cranes his neck to find her again, but she’s out of view now.
His phone rings, and he immediately answers, chiding the Crude Play boys for calling when they should be getting on stage. Lead singer YOO SHI-HYUN (Sung Joo), guitarist LEE YOON (Shin Je-min), and drummer JI IN-HO (Jang Ki-yong) chide him right back for having no soul. Han-gyul smiles and tells them to knock it off, but the boys won’t go until Han-gyul does their group cheer. “I’m on a bus,” he says, glancing around. “I can’t!”
But Shi-hyun is already counting down, so Han-gyul momentarily panics and then shouts at the top of his lungs, “Let’s love! Let’s kill! Let’s die! Let’s go!” earning stares from every passenger on the bus. So-rim giggles and notes that she’s never seen a male fan before. LOL. (*replays*)
The Crude Play boys laugh and repeat the cheer, then head out on stage. Han-gyul watches the show on his phone, while So-rim – a Crude Play fan herself – listens to the very song they’re performing.
Han-gyul and So-rim get off at the same location and are both confined to the bus stop as it continues to pour. So-rim tries to make a run for it but prances back to where it’s dry, worried her guitar will get soaked.
Han-gyul eyes So-rim and her guitar case as she dejectedly looks at the sky. He smiles faintly and moves past her, swiftly dropping his own umbrella into her hand. He tosses his hood over his head and heads out in the rain without a word. So-rim looks up at the umbrella in surprise and then at Han-gyul’s blurring figure as he runs farther away. She smiles at the kind gesture and calls out, “Thank you!” over and over.
So-rim bursts into the audition room where her friends, guitarist BAEK JIN-WOO (Song Kang) and drummer LEE GYU-SUN (Park Jong-hyuk) are anxiously waiting. The judges are already impatient and order them to hurry it up. So So-rim takes the little stuffed bird (cutely named Jeje) that’s hanging from her guitar case and kisses it for good luck.
The three ready their instruments, but as So-rim plays the first chord, a string on her guitar snaps. She immediately freezes, her face going from shock to fear as she looks out at the judges.
At the recording session, Han-gyul supervises as a hyung of his plays the guitar. When Han-gyul instructs his hyung to play simply rather than fancily, Hyung snaps that he may not be a Crude Play member to the public, but he is a member in the recording studio, considering that he provides all the music. Han-gyul’s eyes flick up at that, emoting an alarming coldness and intensity.
“Okay,” Han-gyul says, putting on a smile. “Then, just make sure you do a good job.” Hyung agrees to do just that, but mere seconds after he starts strumming his guitar, Han-gyul interrupts him and tells him to start over. This happens again and again and again until Hyung gets angry and asks what he’s doing wrong. Han-gyul flatly states that he told Hyung to do a good job. “If you can’t do that, then get out,” he says in banmal.
The next thing we know, Crude Play’s manager, CHOI JIN-HYUK (Lee Jung-jin), waltzes into the studio to find Hyung cursing Han-gyul for not directing him properly. Han-gyul walks past everyone, muttering to Jin-hyuk that he wants a different guitarist. Hyung calls Han-gyul and the rest of Crude Play trash for making other people play for them. Oh snap.
Han-gyul stops in his tracks and turns back to face Hyung. “Trash?” he repeats. “You’re the one who’s trash. Because you’re not needed.” Hyung asks if his father taught him to treat his sunbaes this way, and Han-gyul scoffs, saying it was the bastards who ripped off his father who taught him. Han-gyul insists that he’s the only one who can protect his music before stalking off.
Jin-hyuk goes after Han-gyul and asks why he can’t just compromise and get along with the people he works with. Han-gyul retorts that he’s not here to do that – he’s here to perfectly recreate the sounds in his head. He requests for more time until Crude Play’s release since he’ll be recording without a guitar now. Jin-hyuk begins to argue, but Han-gyul shuts him up by stating that Crude Play deserves at least that much.
The Crude Play boys jump into an interview after a photoshoot, and Shi-hyun gets hit with a question about the inspiration for their songs. The boys joke around that the mysterious K has had a colorful love life and has been dumped numerous times. The interviewer brings up the fact that Chan-young replaced K as an official member of the band last-minute and asks for the reason behind it. “We simply found what we’re all good at,” Chan-young answers. He continues that their songs are successful because K is only focusing on the songwriting.
Later, Jin-hyuk accompanies CHAE YOO-NA (Hong Seo-young), a female idol who is also under his management, to a dinner with the entertainment company’s CEO. CEO YOO HYUN-JUNG (Park Ji-young) notices that Yoo-na isn’t eating and reprimands Jin-hyuk for not taking care of his idols. She reminds them that Yoo-na’s last album was a huge failure and that her fall from stardom is inevitable. Still, she encourages Yoo-na to keep trying to grow, and to start by eating so she can maintain her curvy image. Yoo-na swallows and quietly complies.
When So-rim returns home, Grandma asks how the audition went. So-rim just smiles and lies that she messed up by mixing up audition times. Grandma simply nods and reassures her that it’ll all work out – after all, So-rim’s mother always said she was meant to be a singer.
In her room, So-rim remembers her mom comforting her when she was a little girl. Little So-rim had been scared to perform in a recital all by herself, but Mom had reassured her that she wasn’t alone and that Mom, Dad, and Grandma would all be sitting up front. Mom also reminded her that she had Jeje, the bird Mom had made and filled with love, so she didn’t have to be afraid.
Keeping that in mind now, So-rim hits the record button on her phone and starts singing one of her songs. She dances around the room with the umbrella Han-gyul gave her, thinking back to the moment she saw him running in the rain.
After discovering that Yoo-na’s concert was cancelled after she froze up on stage, Han-gyul takes a cab to her house. While sitting in the cab, he sees Jin-hyuk dropping Yoo-na off and then driving away. Han-gyul watches him leave with a confused expression.
Inside, Yoo-na is worn out after dinner and pulls off her wig, staring at her own reflection for a few long seconds. After fully shedding off her idol image and getting into more comfortable clothes, she answers the door to let Han-gyul in. Once the two are on the couch together, they get all smiley and cuddly, as if wanting to shed off their stressful days as well.
Han-gyul mentions the cancelled concert, making Yoo-na’s face fall. She says it was probably for the best anyway, since people don’t care for her songs – they only care about her body. Han-gyul tells her not to say things like that, but Yoo-na has another thought: “Should I retire?” Han-gyul turns to look at her, and there’s desperation in his voice as he says that it’d be a waste to give up with the voice she has.
Angry tears prick at the corners of Yoo-na’s eyes. “Even at a time like this, you only see me as the singer Chae Yoo-na? I’m your girlfriend. I don’t know about anyone else, but shouldn’t you see my pain and struggles first?”
“I can’t do that,” Han-gyul tries to reason with her. He says that he loves when he sees her sing and he doesn’t want to lose that. She stares at him hard, assuming that he means that if she stops singing, he won’t love her anymore — that he’s only interested in what songs she sings, not in what words hurt her. And since she can’t take that about him anymore, she tells Han-gyul to leave.
He starts to protest, but Yoo-na raises her voice and tells him that she doesn’t want to see him right now. Han-gyul’s eyes are filled with hurt, but Yoo-na isn’t looking at him anymore. So he gets up and walks out, leaving her alone to cry.
The following day, So-rim and her friends meet up with a classmate outside their homeroom. Their classmate is holding a bouquet of roses intended for a confession of love, but he’s starting to have second thoughts on the plan So-rim cooked up. So-rim asks him if he’s ever seen a drama kiss scene without any music. When he replies in the negative, she smiles and says, “Music is what makes the special moments even more special.”
With that said, Gyu-sun literally shoves the guy into the classroom, sending him crashing to the floor, ha. So-rim enters through the other door with Jin-woo, commencing their plan by singing a sweet love song (GFriend’s “Me Gustas Tu”).
The camera then whirls around to show their classmate back on his feet and singing along. And as the entire class realizes what’s going on, they all break out into an entire dance routine, as if it’s a completely normal thing for them. As the song comes to a close, the lover boy kneels before a girl sitting by the window and—…
“Are you in your right mind?” the girl answers. *record scratch*
The rejection seems to break the class out of their sudden musical number, and they all disperse at the sight of TEACHER BONG. Everyone manages to escape, save for So-rim and her friends.
Teacher Bong sends the three of them to the teacher’s office, and though he thinks what they did was silly, he seems like a pretty easygoing teacher. However, another teacher overhears what happened and scoffs that they’re about as worthless as their grades, even making a cruel remark that it’s expected of So-rim, since she was raised by her grandmother. So-rim boldly tells this teacher that Grandma has nothing to do with this. And when the teacher presses that So-rim still isn’t good at anything, she states that there is something: “I can sing.”
The teacher turns to Teacher Bong since he’s in charge of the school’s music program, and Teacher Bong does vouch that So-rim is a talented singer. But the mean teacher just laughs and says that if she were any good, she would’ve been scouted by now. He tells her to give up on the idea and focus on her studies instead. His words hit So-rim hard, and she thinks back to her failed audition, as well as to the recital she participated in when she was younger. She’d gotten up on stage and sang her little heart out, but she’d stopped at the sight of Grandma screaming in agony after receiving a call.
Jin-woo and Gyu-sun find So-rim outside and present her with snacks and some words of encouragement. Teacher Bong jumps in with a surprise of his own: a brochure for a band festival, held by none other than Sole Music, the entertainment company where both Crude Play and Yoo-na reside.
Teacher Bong tells them to go for it, adding that he’ll even write them a recommendation letter. However, he says, if they’re unsuccessful this time too, he wants them to throw in the towel and focus on their senior year. It’s a risky promise, but it does get So-rim’s hopes right back up. Soon she’s even back to singing and dancing with her friends and neighbors as she helps with Grandma’s shop.
Meanwhile, Han-gyul is out sulking by the Han River when he sees his friends’ photoshoot interview. He sighs as he listens to Yoon comment that anyone likes a guy who writes music, but no one likes a guy who only writes music.
Just then, Shi-hyun calls to see if Han-gyul has seen the video. Han-gyul solemnly looks out at the river as he asks, “Do you guys really see me that way too?” Shi-hyun is stunned into silence before saying he and the boys were just kidding around. He starts to ask if he had a fight with Yoo-na when Han-gyul’s phone dies and abruptly ends the call.
Han-gyul’s thoughts wander back to Yoo-na, during a time when they’d discussed his good ear for sound. As the two share a kiss in his memory, Han-gyul’s eyes close as he gets lost in the feeling and begins to hum a new melody.
And at that very moment, So-rim appears on her bike, en route to another delivery. Her eyes land on Han-gyul’s face and stay there as she zips past him, until she finds herself coming to an abrupt halt.
Han-gyul slowly opens his eyes, hardly even noticing So-rim staring at him. He instinctively reaches for his phone, and remembering it’s dead, quickly approaches So-rim and asks for hers. Before she has a chance to reply, he takes it out of her hands, hits the record button, and to So-rim’s surprise, begins to sing.
He sings the entire song that came to his head, and So-rim is too lost in wonder to do anything, even as he ends the recording and sends it to himself. Before she knows it, he’s thanking her and handing her phone back. By the time she fully snaps out of it, Han-gyul takes off running. Panicking, she goes after him on her bike, only to run into some kids and fall to the ground. Her heart sinks as she watches him disappear.
Once at home, Han-gyul wastes no time in creating a demo of his new song.
Grandma fixes up So-rim’s scraped knee and, per her request, sings her a song while rocking them back and forth. The feeling triggers memories of So-rim’s mom performing the same gesture. Before the memory overwhelms her, she thinks again of Han-gyul singing by the river.
The next day at school, So-rim messes with her phone, which shattered when she fell, worried she might’ve lost the files inside. Jin-woo reassures her that the files are safe and proves it by removing her SD card and putting it in his own phone. As soon as she confirms Han-gyul’s file truly is there, So-rim snatches the phone from him and puts her earphones in for a listen.
Sure enough, Han-gyul’s voice reaches her ears and instantly makes her whole face light up. As she lets the song play out, her surroundings morph into a romantic glow, with the spotlight on a uniform-clad Han-gyul smiling right at her. Oh boy, she’s got it bad.
Jin-woo and Gyu-sun yank the earphones out of her ears, wondering what’s got her so starry-eyed. Still grinning like a fool, So-rim says, “What do I do? I think I’ve come to like someone.” And then she pushes Gyu-sun aside to get a better look at imaginary Han-gyul. Yup, girl’s got it bad.
She goes straight to that spot by the Han River after school – Jin-woo and Gyu-sun close behind – but there’s no sign of Han-gyul. She does this every day for a week, her ears perking up to any boy that remotely resembles him, only to droop when she realizes it’s not him.
After a while, Jin-woo gets tired of watching So-rim’s desperate search and tells her to stop being so delusional and dramatic, calling her so-called love at first sight absurd. So-rim: “Hey, Baek Jin-woo. You’ve never liked anyone, have you?” Um, by the look on his face, I’m kinda thinking that he has. Nevertheless, So-rim claims that this guy is all she can think about, day in and day out, so what further proof could she need?
Han-gyul sends his finished demo to Jin-hyuk and the boys, all of whom take an instant liking to the song. But when Han-gyul comes in to the studio with a request to make this the new title track, Jin-hyuk isn’t so sure they can pull it off. Han-gyul is positive Crude Play can do it, so Jin-hyuk gives him the okay.
Just downstairs, the lobby is filled with people waiting to audition for the music festival, So-rim and friends included.
Han-gyul meets with the boys next, and they’re not exactly thrilled with the idea of learning an entire new song with their busy schedule. Han-gyul insists they don’t have to learn when they could just play to the pre-recording. His voice is almost desperate as he tells them he can’t just let this song go. But Yoon fumes at the demands Han-gyul is asking of them and storms out, followed by Shi-hyun and In-ho.
Silent Chan-young finally speaks up and asks Han-gyul if pursuing his music would still make him happy even if his friends ended up hating him. He continues that he’s allowed to say these things since he didn’t form the band with Han-gyul and the others. “I was a session musician and then I joined Crude Play. Replacing you,” Chan-young laughs dryly and walks out.
Now alone in the studio, Han-gyul remembers the first time he and his three friends were brought here, back when they were excited to hear their music as an actual recording. And when Han-gyul had noticed the recording wasn’t really them playing, he’d confronted Jin-hyuk about this, angry that Jin-hyuk wanted them to act as puppets while the session musicians did all the playing. Jin-hyuk had offered for Han-gyul to put his ear to good use and debut as a solo composer, taking him aback.
His gaze then turned sad as he watched his friends behind the other side of the glass, and he asked who the bassist in the recording was. He met with an eager Chan-young, who was willing to do whatever Han-gyul asked. “Play bass for Crude Play instead of me,” Han-gyul said.
Back in the lobby, So-rim panics as she realizes Jeje is missing from her guitar case. But there’s no time to look for it – it’s her band’s turn to audition. They’re rushed to the stage and her friends jump right into their song, but So-rim can’t bring herself to sing.
She looks out into the crowd, the blaring lights skewing her vision and forcing her to see that memory of her recital. Someone had yelled about a huge subway fire, causing chaos throughout the audience. But all little So-rim could see was her sobbing grandmother walking toward her.
As So-rim stands frozen on stage now, she hears her mom’s voice reassure her that she won’t be alone.
“Liar,” she says, her voice trembling as she searches the room. “I’m all alone now.” She lets her tears fall as the judges urge her off the stage. She’s just about to, when suddenly, her eyes widen as she finally catches sight of a familiar face in the audience: Han-gyul.
She helplessly watches him weave through the crowd and head for the exit. With no way to reach him, So-rim faces the mic again.
Han-gyul moves through the revolving door, noticing a stuffed bird on the ground. He picks it up, not thinking much of it, when he hears… his song? He whirls around in shock until his eyes land on So-rim on stage, smiling brightly at him through her tears.
Is it too soon to say I love this? Because I love this. It might be because this is an adaptation of a shojo manga, but I love the very familiar and classic rom-com vibes it’s giving off. That feeling gives me hope that this drama will hit all the romantic sweet spots we’ve come to know and love.
I’ve always been a fan of male leads falling for the girl first (especially when they’re big dorks about it), but it’s nice to switch it up sometimes and get a character like So-rim – a young, innocent soul who jumps into love without warning. Though I think her friends are right to question her instalove, I also find it very endearing. As an actress, Joy is glaringly green, but because of her bubbly personality and her background in the music industry, I think she falls into her character almost seamlessly. She’s showing great potential, particularly in the chemistry department with Lee Hyun-woo, and I’m delightfully surprised, considering this is her first drama.
Then there’s Lee Hyun-woo as the tortured music composer Han-gyul. Admittedly, Lee Hyun-woo is an actor I’d watch anything for, specifically because he never fails to leave behind a memorable performance. And so far, I do like what he’s doing in The Liar and His Lover. His portrayal of Han-gyul isn’t as dark and moody as I’d initially expected, and I think it actually works. I like that we see moments where Han-gyul is smiling with his friends or giving a complete stranger an umbrella (a simple scene that automatically triggered my swooning reflex). Those moments make everything else hit that much harder, so when he does have the heavier scenes, I legitimately feel bad for him.
His flashbacks to before Crude Play’s debut revealed that at one point in time, he really was just a kid who wanted to pursue music with his friends. And that moment right before their debut, when Han-gyul made the life-altering choice to have Chan-young replace him, revealed that something broke him. After that, all he had left was the drive to create music, even if it was only behind the scenes. His passion for the subject manifested into something so strong that even to this day, he has no idea how to handle it or how to explain it to the people he loves. His friends may understand him to a certain point, and it’s great that they still consider him as a band member, but I think they’re oblivious to the fact that the way he carries himself may be some sort of defense mechanism.
That said, I both love and hate the stark contrast between Han-gyul and So-rim. We have the innocent girl fall for the typical bad boy – a trope I love when used to have the girl gradually warm the boy’s heart with her own. And it’s a trope I also hate, since I know that the boy’s bound to hurt the girl somewhere along the way. If the drama plays its cards right, it’ll concentrate more on the former rather than the latter. After all, I won’t lie and say that girlfriend Yoo-na’s words didn’t scare me. If Han-gyul can only see the singer in Yoo-na, does that mean he’ll only see the singer in So-rim? Surely So-rim’s bright and sunny personality can change that in Han-gyul and fix what was broken years ago. And at the same time, Han-gyul could fix what was broken with So-rim. I never thought that would be a part of the story, but that immediate relief she felt when she saw him in the crowd spoke volumes.
Perhaps it’s hard to believe that what So-rim feels for Han-gyul right now is love, but I don’t doubt that she feels some sort of pull towards him. I practically saw her heart stop when she first saw him at the Han River – when she first heard him humming. Their mutual love for music is so palpable that when the two are together, I do feel what seems like the beginning of a lovely connection. Which is why I’m really digging how the drama is handling the musical aspect. On So-rim’s side, the music is fun and warm and heartfelt (think High School Musical), while on Han-gyul’s side, the music is strictly professional. It’s cold, it’s calculated, it’s real life. It’ll be interesting to see these two sides collide, so bring on the conflict! Bring on the lies! I’m ready for the long haul.
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