Greasy Melo: Episodes 35-38 (Final)
It’s time to say goodbye to the beloved characters of Greasy Melo as they figure out what their lives are like now that Giant Hotel is no longer their enemy, but their new home. At least, it’s a new home for some of them, since Sae-woo’s parents will need extra special persuasion to let their daughter (and the rest of their staff) join Poong in the kitchen.
EPISODES 34-38 WEECAP
Poong tucks the exhausted Sae-woo into bed and starts to unbutton her chef’s coat. Sae-woo sleepily asks if it’s a dream, but Poong reassures her it’s definitely real, then says, “Sleep with me.” She seems to nod assent, but as he leans in for a kiss, he discovers that she was just nodding off to sleep.
He lets her sleep, but has to go to the kitchen do gulp down a glass of ice water. Might be better to just pour that over your head, buddy.
Poong steps outside for some fresh air and sees Sae-woo’s father arrive at the hotel. He introduces himself, and Dad asks where Sae-woo is. Poong awkwardly explains she’s in the “night duty” room and Dad insists on seeing his daughter.
Poong takes him upstairs, but in the time that Poong left the room, Sae-woo sleepily undressed herself. Poong hurries to cover her up, but Dad’s suspicious that there was some hanky-panky despite Poong insistance that nothing happened,
Not the best first impression, but Poong takes Dad to the hotel kitchen and explains that it’s a difficult environment for a woman and he originally didn’t want her to work there, either. But Sae-woo shows great potential and determination as a chef. She enjoys working with the wok, so it would be a shame for people to miss out on the love and care she puts into her food.
As Dad imagines Sae-woo working, he explains that the only reason Sae-woo joined the kitchen staff was because he went to jail, so he feels protective of his daughter. He’s also concerned that both Sae-woo and Poong are recently divorced yet pursuing a relationship together. Poong says that it’s hard work, but it’s something Sae-woo really wants to do, and asks Dad to let her stay a little longer. He’s not just talking about the kitchen, is he?
Chil-sung goes to the hospital to visit Gum Granny. She tells him to leave, but he stubbornly sticks around, making himself comfortable in the spare bed next to her. Gum Granny explains that she couldn’t tell him about the cancer because it would make her feel guilty, having abandoned him as a child only to have him realize she’ll be dying soon. She hid it so that she could still enjoy being around him as Gum Granny and not his sick mother.
She admits that discovering he became a gangster broke her heart and wonders if he can find a way to stop being a loan shark. Gum Granny promises that in her next life, she’ll do nothing except look after him, and he can be the one who leaves her at a Chinese restaurant. She won’t blame him for his heartlessness. Chil-sung turns away so she can’t see the tears in his eyes as she says that she doesn’t deserve Chil-sung’s forgiveness.
In the morning, Jung-hye wonders why Sae-woo isn’t at the breakfast table, and Dad awkwardly says that Sae-woo had to leave early — covering up the fact that Sae-woo slept over at the hotel last night. Seol-ja serves breakfast and launches into an enthusiastic explanation of how she and Geok-jung can make sure they can do their household work while also working at the hotel, but Jung-hye refuses to listen.
Poong wanders the empty, small Hungry Wok kitchen as Sae-woo arrives at the hotel kitchen early to practice for the new day. Sam-sun also arrives early and immediately starts ordering her around, but he gives her tasks that are difficult for even more experienced chefs.
Poong puts up signs telling everyone that Hungry Wok is closed, much to the disappointment of a boy and his father who came there specifically because they heard it had the best jajangmyun. Poong decides to open up the kitchen once more just for them and prepares their meal. He tells them that they can head to the hotel next time since he plans to serve the same food there, but the father is worried about the cost since fancy hotels are notorious for being expensive.
Chil-sung stops by a convenience store — at the same time Ms. Veterinarian is there. Her credit card isn’t working, and Chil-sung offers to pay for her items. He reveals that he actually remembers her this time. Ms. Veterinarian points out that they keep running into each other — if it happens again, she’ll think it’s fate.
Poong calls Sae-woo over to Hungry Wok so he could make her breakfast without the hotel staff finding out about their relationship, but he wonders if there’s a way to keep Hungry Wok open.
He also tells her that he met her father last night, who, despite being nicer than her mother, was more intimidating. Sae-woo insists that if her family really knew Poong, they wouldn’t be so against him.
Poong takes his precious ladle and wok and realizes that he originally had left Giant Hotel to seek his revenge and destroy it, but now he’s returning with the hopes of having more people enjoy his food. His mission is to make it accessible so that anyone — regardless of their status or wealth — will be able to eat there.
He informs his staff that starting tomorrow, they’ll be serving any dish that the customers want, such as jajangmyun — and they’ll sell it for the same price as the local restaurants.
There’s some pushback since this means they’ll only be making a fraction of money they used to charge the VIP clients, plus the other chefs want to make more gourmet dishes than mere comfort food.
Sam-sun is especially adamant that they’ll lose their reputation and VIP clients, and refuses to do it. Poong retorts that it doesn’t matter if you’re a chef in a fancy hotel or a cook at a cheap restaurant, what matters is serving food that people want to eat. Poong explains that they’ll make up the price difference in volume since more people will want to eat there.
Seung-ryong is a broken, drunken mess after losing everything, and I couldn’t be happier as he falls into a table after attempting to punch Chil-sung. He accuses Chil-sung of being a mere loan shark and gangster, but Chil-sung says that he’s giving all that up for his mother. Aw.
Poong and Sae-woo have a cute conversation where they’re on the phone with each other, but standing at opposite ends of the kitchen. Sae-woo says she wishes she knew how to change her family’s perception of him, and Poong confesses that it hurts him whenever Sam-sun scolds her while she’s working.
Sae-woo’s parents have gotten into Poong’s head, though, and he’s worried that he’ll never be good enough for her. Sae-woo retorts that her parents are worried because she’s not good enough and they want someone to cover up her faults. She reassures Poong that she won’t let her family separate them.
Chil-sung catches Maeng-dal trying to peel off the money that’s papered on Hungry Wok’s walls. Maeng-dal says they’re short on money to purchase Giant Hotel in the public auction, so they could use the million won that’s just being used as decoration. But Chil-sung tells him to leave it — this money has another purpose.
People have noticed the sign Poong put up, directing people to the hotel if they want their usual Hungry Wok jajangmyun and other food. However, most of the original hotel kitchen staff haven’t shown up to work due to their refusal to make Poong’s simple dishes.
The orders start rolling in at an overwhelming rate — and most people are ordering jajangmyun! Poong’s crew may be small, but they’re willing to work hard, and Poong barks out orders as he grabs a wok and starts cooking. Sae-woo is proving extra useful as she anticipates Poong’s needs.
They’re deep into the lunch rush when Jung-hye arrives and asks to speak to the chef. Poong is like, “Now? Really?” and then you can practically see his heart leap into his throat when he realizes who it is.
Jung-hye is determined to take Sae-woo home, and she’ll use force if she has to. She says that Poong must not really love Sae-woo if he so willingly lets Sae-woo perform difficult kitchen work. Whatever, Mom.
But she manages to persuade Poong, who orders Sae-woo to leave. Sae-woo doesn’t understand why he’d want her to go home in the middle of lunch rush when she’s the only one besides him at the wok station. Poong insists that he doesn’t need her and that she should go home with her mother.
Later, Maeng-dal tells Seol-ja and Geok-jung that Poong and the rest of the remaining kitchen staff only made it through the day by the skin of their teeth. With so many staff gone, they were barely able to get orders out, and some tables weren’t able to keep waiting for their meals. Maeng-dal worries that they’ll lose their loyal customers if things keep going like this, and begs Seol-ja and Geok-jung to come back to work.
Instead of going home with her mother, Sae-woo finally visits Buster! Yay! She takes the bus back into town and calls Poong, telling him to meet her at the bus stop. She demands to know if Poong is going to break up with her because her mother told him to.
Sae-woo wonders what will happen when she goes back to the kitchen tomorrow or the day after or the day after that. Realizing that Poong would try to make her go home again, she decides to break up with him. She doesn’t want to date someone who would rather try to please her mother than stay with her.
But when she gets home, Sae-woo finally loses her cool and yells at her mom to stop interfering with her life. Even if Sae-woo breaks up with Poong, she’s not going to stop working in the kitchen.
Sam-sun returns to the kitchen to clean out his locker and Poong has to break up a fight between him and Dong-shik, who found out that Sam-sun was having an affair with the gangster’s wife. Poong invites Sam-sun to have a drink with him, and as the two men get increasingly drunk, Poong reveals that he wants Sam-sun to stay because Poong doesn’t plan on being at the hotel forever.
After five years, Poong plans to open up a small restaurant where he can personalize dishes for all the guests and be able to see them enjoy it. He wants Sam-sun to stay as his right-hand person until Poong leaves, at which time Poong will give the hotel restaurant to him.
Poong is staggeringly drunk as he makes his way to Sae-woo’s house at midnight. They’re shocked to see him there that late, and he drunkenly tells Jung-hye that Sae-woo broke up with him, then turns the tables by adorably telling Jung-hye that it’s her fault he fell in love with Sae-woo because she gave birth to pretty daughter.
He collapses in his drunken state, so they carry him off to Geok-jung’s room to sleep it off. Sae-woo sneaks down to dress the split lip he accidentally got when breaking up Sam-sum and Dong-shik’s fight. Then she cheekily tells Geok-jung that if he’s not going to close his eyes, he can just watch her brazenly kiss the sleeping Poong. Which she does.
Poong eventually wakes up from his drunken slumber and staggers out into the kitchen for some water, then realizes in a panic that this is not his home. He cringes when he remembers everything he said earlier, and quietly makes a run for it. Ha!
Chil-sung and his boys attend the auction of Giant Hotel, but there are also a lot of other people interested in the buying the hotel. Chil-sung decides to put his building up for sale so they can get the cash to try and outbid anyone else. They’re worried that they won’t be able to outbid the rival gangsters who just want to see Chil-sung fail, but then Sae-woo’s father arrives to pay back her loan.
It’s wayyyyyy more than the actual amount Sae-woo borrowed, but Dad says he wants to invest in Chil-sung. It’s just the money they need to make sure they’re the highest bidder of the hotel.
The rest of the hotel kitchen staff have returned, but Poong notes Sae-woo is missing. He tries to hide his disappointment as he reads off the lunch orders. Except she’s not! Sae-woo was only in the back, getting ingredients. Yay!
Sam-sun continues to berate her for all her mistakes, and Poong once again steps in to show her how to do it correctly, reminding Sam-sun that they were once clueless lowly assistants themselves. Sam-sun eventually looks impressed that she’s a quick learner.
Chil-sung and his boys celebrate their win by eating at the hotel to have an expensive treat — but they all end up ordering jajangmyun and sweet-and-sour pork. Pffft. But it’s actually pretty sentimental, since those were the dishes he was eating when Gum Granny abandoned him as a kid and started him down the path of becoming a gangster loan shark, and now he’s starting a new life as a legit businessman and hotel owner.
Poong stubbornly insists on joining Sae-woo as she heads home for the evening. They have a huge fight about Poong ordering her to go home yesterday and then her subsequently telling him that they should break up. Poong reveals his insecurities, especially that he never went to college and his only skill is cooking, and Sae-woo reminds him he seemed pretty confident last when he drunkenly confronted her mother.
In the end, they drive separately to Sae-woo’s house, where Poong says that he’ll start working in Jung-hye’s kitchen in the mornings. That way she can scold him the way he used to scold her. Just like the four of them became part of his Hungry Wok family, he now wants to become a part of their family. Oh, and he’ll continue to sleep in Geok-jung’s room.
Mom is not thrilled Poong and Sae-woo will be in such close approximation and makes Seol-ja keep an eye on Sae-woo, especially since Sae-woo sneaks downstairs to be with Poong.
Seol-ja lieterally puts herself in between Poong and Sae-woo, but it’s not enough to keep them from ridiculously flirting with each other all night.
Even though Chil-sung will be moving over to the hotel, his building won’t remain empty, as he gifts it to Maeng-dal. That includes the rooms that are papered with money, which Chil-sung had intended to make sure would go to Maeng-dal since the first day they put the money on the walls. Aw.
Chil-sung visits his mother in the hospital, who seems to be responding to the treatment. She wonders if he’ll ever get married, since she assumes a woman would be scared off by all the knife-wound scars on his stomach. But Chil-sung’s more focused on the fact that Gum Granny will live a little longer.
Poong stays true to his promise and allows himself to be bossed around by Seol-ja, who’s the master of Jung-hye’s kitchen. Jung-hye is astonished that he’s still there, and despite him coming back day after day, she refuses to accept him (or his food). But eventually she breaks, although she stubbornly says that Poong can stay and clean the dishes like she used to at his restaurant. Pffft.
Maeng-dal proudly shows off to Seok-ja that he’s now the owner of the money rooms. She’s got dollar bills in her eyes as she realizes that this could buy a house for them, but Maeng-dal sweetly already has plans to use that money to pay off his debt and give to other friends who need it.
Seung-ryeon’s officially arrested for his role in the illegal loan, and Chil-sung makes his home at the hotel as the new boss. Everyone’s happy to have them as their new boss.
Sae-woo works late in the kitchen after all the other staff have left. She practices making sweet-and-sour pork and Poong catches her in the act. They get cozy as he helps her, which involves lots of yummy kisses. He pleads with her to stop working and have fun with him. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, if you know what I mean.
Some time later, the hotel restaurant is bustling and even has a line out the door. Everyone enjoys the simple-yet-tasty Chinese dishes. Poong watches in satisfaction as his kitchen runs like a well-oiled machine — and yay! Geok-jung and Seol-ja are there, too!
Chil-sung and Gum Granny get their portrait taken together. Aw, he poses like his father did.
Poong gives Sae-woo a fortune cookie, which reads: “The one before you now is your true love.” It’s a recreation of the fortune he threw away, the one from that night on the bridge and that she kept asking him about. Then he asks if they should get married. Sae-woo muses over getting married again, and then agrees in chef-speak: “Service!”
Aw, how sweet. But, uh… that’s… that’s it? That’s the ending? I don’t always need every storyline to be neatly wrapped up, and I didn’t expect everything would get a perfectly explained happy ending just based on the multitude of storylines that have mysteriously dropped off throughout this drama. But… that’s it? Augh. I’m even annoyed that we have no idea if Ms. Veterinarian ever had her fifth fateful encounter with Chil-sung.
I’ve been trying to keep hope alive, believing that everything would somehow come together and make sense in the final hour. Instead, I’m reminded that this show is held together based on the chemistry of the main characters (and the artful, loving shots of delicious food that I want to reach through my screen and eat. When is that technology gonna happen, ’cause I definitely need it, like, yesterday). I didn’t hate the show — it’s genuinely given me a lot of joy the past couple of months. I’ve been happily sucked into the yummy world of Greasy Melo, caring about most of the characters (and all of the animals). Chil-sung especially will forever hold a special place in my heart.
But… sigh… it could have been so much more. I was utterly delighted by the quirky, off-beat, magical realism of the first few episodes. How many dramas are narrated by a talking horse?!?! But those slightly surreal, fairy-tale elements vanished as quickly as Dal-hee did (remember her? The impetuous for Poong’s revenge plot in the first place? Who was planning to open up her private practice in Chil-sung’s building and presumably would have provided some emotional conflict that was actually understandable?). I was so caught up in the charisma of the main trio and their adorable friendship that the weak script was just a minor blip in my enjoyment. This is the kind of drama that’s really saved by the strength of the cast, and I honestly don’t know if I would have loved Greasy Melo as much if it weren’t for the dazzling chemistry between Jang Hyuk, Lee Jun-ho, and Jung Ryeo-won.
Even with all its logical and structural faults, this show was a lot of fun to watch. The bromance was heartwarming, and I relished that we had two male leads who were both interested in the same woman, but who also deeply respected each other’s friendship. I loved the gangsters and their loyalty to each other. There were so many small moments of camaraderie between characters that felt lived-in and believable. I especially enjoyed the chemistry between Poong and Sae-woo, and all those moments of intimacy as they cooked and ate together. I think I even enjoyed those moments more than their kisses (which were exquisitely passionate, don’t get me wrong!) but watching them work side-by-side in the kitchen and simply appreciate each other’s presence helped to make their relationship much more palatable “they like each other because the script says so” kind of rom-com.
All in all, I’m fond of my Hungry Wok family, but I’ll forever wish the show had stuck to its quirky guns and given us something a little more spectacular than a by-the-book rom-som with annoyingly needless conflict that often didn’t even make any sense. It’s like the drama set out to be one of Poong’s creative foodie inventions, but panicked and stuck to the tried-and-true — in the end it delivered something that was comforting and tasty, but lacked that extra bit of seasoning to elevate it to a truly unforgettable feast.