Devilish Joy: Episode 1
This first episode recap is a little late, but this show is really charming, so we figured we’d do a little weigh-in! Devilish Joy is a surprisingly endearing, heartwarming show about a man with an unusual memory problem and the woman he falls for, but forgets every night when he goes to sleep. The characters are lovable, and although the plot sounds a little familiar, the execution is so good that I still can’t wait to see how these two figure out a way to love each other despite their unique challenges.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
While driving along the coast of Hainan in China, world-famous neurosurgeon GONG MA-SUNG (Choi Jin-hyuk) listens to a radio DJ discussing his recent designation as one of the top ten most influential people in the world. He gets a call from a colleague at a hospital (owned by his family’s company) and confirms that he’ll be back in Seoul tomorrow.
After hanging up, the colleague testily tells the hospital receptionist to change the channel away from a news story about Ma-sung. Instead, it lands on a broadcast about top star singer JOO KI-PEUM (Song Ha-yoon), who just announced an upcoming Asian tour.
Ki-peum is currently filming a diet drink commercial on the beach in Hainan, and the director is annoyed that she refuses to get in the water. Her stylist reveals that she almost drowned as child, but when the director insists, Ki-peum politely but firmly threatens not to renew her contract if they make her dip so much as a toe in the ocean.
Her stylist reports that she absolutely refuses to go in the water, and that she’s also not feeling well. The director threatens to sue Ki-peum for compensation, so Ki-peum’s boss, CEO KIM BUM-SOO (Jung Soo-kyo), yells for her stylist to bring her back to the set immediately.
At a different shoot that afternoon, Ki-peum complains about someone named HYUNG-JOON, who’s the son of the advertising agency’s owner’s friend (yeah, I’m confused too). Hyung-joon is an actor with a crush on Ki-peum, and has enough pull to keep getting her CF contracts with him. She hates him because he curses a lot and constantly paws at her, and she vows that this is the absolute last time she’s doing a shoot with him.
Ki-peum fidgets in her dress, which is uncomfortable since her stylist had to alter it on teh fly with huge clips because of her recent weight loss. Hee, the sound effects every time Ki-peum checks her bra inserts are hilarious. She complains of stomach pain, but nobody pays much attention.
Ki-peum’s manager leaves to get CEO Kim, and her stylist skips off for a makeup kit she forgot, leaving Ki-peum alone. She hears the sound of church bells and follows them to a the pretty courtyard, where Ma-sung is waiting for the investor he’s in town to meet. For an instant their eyes meet, but they don’t take much notice of each other.
When her stomach pains intensify, Ki-peum tries to find a restroom, so she’s gone when her stylist and manager return with CEO Kim and Hyung-joon. Hyung-joon (who seems like a spoiled brat) pitches a hissy fit, but CEO Kim cancels the shoot and tells everyone to search quietly for Ki-peum.
She’s still looking for a restroom, with no luck. She even tries the “Don’t you know who I am” routine on a restaurant maitre’d, and she loudly yells her English name, Joy, which gets Ma-sung’s attention. Ki-peum is thrilled to find someone who recognizes her — except that he thinks she’s his investor, whose name is also Joy.
She asks Ma-sung to buy something from the restaurant so she can use their “customers only” restroom, and he agrees, looking amused. Ki-peum carefully tippy-toes back to the maitre’d and says that she and Ma-sung are friends, but Ma-sung says that he needs her signature first.
LOL, Ki-peum thinks he’s asking for an autograph, but he wants her to sign his investment contract. She scrawls her name across the entire contract and tries to run for the restroom, but he grabs her arm and tells her that she just ruined some important paperwork.
He belatedly realizes that she’s not his investor as Ki-peum squeaks out her real name, her stomach situation becoming critical, then runs inside. Ma-sung is forced to have the investor sign the autographed contract when she finally arrives, but she takes the blame for being so late and isn’t upset.
Ki-peum finally emerges and collapses at a table, and Ma-sung shoots her some serious stink-eye. She’s afraid he’ll post something unflattering about her online, so she quickly heads back towards her shooting location. She’s cornered by a gang of men who start catcalling her, but luckily her frightened shrieks are heard by Ma-sung.
Ha, he’s about a foot taller than any of the men, and he pushes through them to Ki-peum’s side. He whispers for her to run, then grabs her hand and takes off like a shot. As soon as they find a safe spot, Ma-sung gives Ki-peum his bag and starts taking the gang on one at a time, easily overpowering them.
They break free again and duck into an alley, where Ki-peum hides in Ma-sung’s jacket while he keeps his face and hands up, trying to be a gentleman. She finally figures out that Ma-sung is enjoying her baby kangaroo impression and she jumps back, and he notices that she’s lost a shoe.
He leads her to his car to lend her a pair of his sneakers. Ki-peum thanks Ma-sung for all his help today, and he teases her to repay him tenfold if they ever run into each other again. He’s reluctant to leave her with no way to reach her crew, since they turn their phones off during shoots, and she’s equally reluctant to go. They ask in unison, “Do you want me to help you?”
She’s not sure which hotel she’s staying in, so they visit multiple hotels asking if there are any reservations under her name (Ki-peum keeps kicking his huge sneakers off her feet and tripping over them, it’s adorable). At one hotel she falls asleep on a bench in the lobby, and Ma-sung crouches to look closely at her.
He notices a scrape on her knee from falling out of his shoes, so when he wakes her a bit later, she finds a gorgeous pair of red heels instead of the sneakers. She thanks Ma-sung for the gift, adding that as long as he’s paying, she wants ice cream.
As she eats, Ma-sung makes a call to cancel his flight, and he tells Ki-peum honestly that he canceled it because he can’t leave her alone. She says it’s not like they’re dating, telling him it’s fine if he leaves, so he calls er bluff. He doesn’t get two steps before Ki-peum calls him back, reminding him that she needs his number so she can repay him (his smug grin is killing me).
Some kids run by and bump into Ki-peum, and Ma-sung grabs for her as she topples over, so they both end up in the pool. Ki-peum sinks like a stone and Ma-sung pulls her to the surface. She wakes up in his arms by the poolside and starts to cry that she’s scared of the water, and Ma-sung finds her face buried in his chest for the second time that day.
He promises not to leave her and gives her his jacket, amused by how it swallows her tiny form. He backhugs her and she freezes, but he says he’s just reaching to fold up the sleeves, and what was she thinking? Ki-peum thanks him yet again for saving her, and he jokes that he only did it because she’s famous.
He warns her that he’s going to ask for a lot as repayment. Ki-peum says that she’ll give him whatever he wants, so Ma-sung thinks for a second, then asks, “Can you give me your heart?” So swoony, so soon! Ki-peum is flustered, but she says that’s not too much to ask, which flusters Ma-sung a little in turn.
He points out a serratula flower by the path, a decorative thistle, and Ki-peum crouches down for a closer look. She asks what it means in flower language, and when Ma-sung says they mean “memories,” she says that perfectly describes her day. Ma-sung corrects her: “Our day… “
While her back is turned, he sketches a little serratula on his business card. She takes off his jacket, revealing that her white dress has gone completely see-through after getting wet. Ma-sung gets the giggles at the sight of her push-up inserts, which have fallen out of her bra and are now somewhere near her waist, hee.
He tells Ki-peum that she should probably put the jacket back on, then busts out laughing when she sees what’s going on in her dress, asking, “Did I just get butterflies in my stomach over a camel?” He finally leads her back to look for her staff, who are back at the meeting location. But instead of going to them, Ki-peum leads Ma-sung away, while someone whose face we don’t see makes a call to report that he found their target.
Ki-peum leads Ma-sung to a crowd enjoying some street performers, and she tells him to act natural. He asks what’s going on, and she admits she’s not ready to part from him just yet. Ma-sung is struck dumb, but he laughs at her when she says she doesn’t have his contact information, reminding her that she called her phone with his earlier.
She asks what kind of music he likes, announcing confidently that he’ll be a fan of hers as soon as he hears her songs. To prove it, she borrows the busker’s guitar and sings some of her songs, and as Ma-sung watches her perform, he looks more than half in love with her already.
It’s growing dark when they finally head back to Ki-peum’s group, and she asks what Ma-sung thought of her music. He thinks, then asks if he has to be her fan, making her droop cutely. But what he says next floors her: “Can I be your boyfriend instead? That’s what I want to be.” He leans down and gives her a test kiss, and when she doesn’t object, he goes back in for a longer one.
They’re still kissing when one of her staff calls out Ki-peum’s name. Ma-sung asks her to call him when she gets back to Korea, but when she suggests they meet up in about an hour, he crinkles at her and agrees. He watches her go, looking well aware that he’s a goner, and he even takes a picture of the place where they shared their first kiss.
Ki-peum’s stylist, NAN-JOO, tries to stop her from going back out since she was missing most of the day. She even manages to resist Ki-peum’s best sad-puppy eyes, telling Ki-peum that CEO Kim ordered her to stay put tonight.
While he waits for her, Ma-sung impulsively visits a tattoo parlor and gets some new art on the back of his hand — a re-creation of the serratula flower he drew on this business card. As he’s relaxing afterward, he overhears a conversation between two men across the room. One of them is CEO Kim, and he says that he’s got Ki-peum confined to her hotel room, so “everything is set.”
He instructs the other man to just put her to sleep before he does whatever he’s going to do, and tells him to have fun with her. They mention renewing a contract, then stand to go, and Ma-sung gets a brief glimpse of the other man’s face as they’re leaving… it’s Hyung-joon, the grabby-hands actor. Did Ki-peum’s agent just sell her to him?? Gross.
Ma-sung follows them, but the men quickly sense that they have a tail. They split up, CEO Kim looking back as Ma-sung zeroes in on Hyung-joon. He’s so focused that he never sees the truck that hits him. He lies in the street in a pool of his own blood, and falls unconscious.
Ki-peum gets free, but she’s just a minute too late and misses Ma-sung. On her way back to her hotel room, Ki-peum runs into Hyung-joon in the lobby and for some reason, agrees to meet with him. He laces her drink with something before she arrives, and he asks her to date him. She turns him down flat, then downs her drink in one go. Oh nooo…
Hyung-joon smirks as the drug takes affect almost immediately. Ki-peum passes out on the bar, and Hyung-joon shoots a triumphant look at CEO Kim, who’s nearby.
When Ki-peum wakes later, she’s lying on a bed in a hotel room with people all around. Someone snaps photos as someone else makes a call to report a drunk woman and a dead man in the room. She sees the dead man’s face for a second before he’s covered with a sheet… Hyung-joon.
Three years later.
Ma-sung meets with his doctor, who reports that despite their treatments, his damaged temporal lobe (which is responsible for long-term memory retention) isn’t responding, and is even (slowly) shrinking in size. He asks how Ma-sung is feeling, and Ma-sung says that ever since his accident three years ago, he’s been exactly the same.
He says in voice-over that he suffers from a rare condition called “Cinderella amnesia,” which prevents him from remembering what happened the previous day. Every night he writes notes to himself on his chest, to see in the mirror as soon as he wakes up, and he records every day in a diary, which he reads as soon as he wakes up the following morning.
He has his entire life organized to the smallest detail, leaving nothing to chance, and follows a very strict schedule. But he still manages to forget things, which some people exploit, like his driver borrowing money in the hopes Ma-sung will forget to ask for repayment. Ma-sung seems to know he’s being taken advantage of, but he doesn’t do anything about it.
Ma-sung still works for his family’s hospital, but he doesn’t see patients anymore, for obvious reasons. And after three years, he’s finally getting his project, “Healing Village” (the one he met the investor in China about), off the ground.
He shows up for an informal meeting with his aunts, the eldest of whom is the chairman of Sunwoo Group, his family’s company. His three younger aunts want to set him up with a girl, but Chairwoman Gong tells them loftily that he’s the heir to the company, not a shoe to be matched.
She mentions how Ma-sung’s mother died in an accident caused by his father’s reckless driving, which happened when Ma-sung was only 8. His younger aunts blame Chairwoman Gong for Ma-sung’s single status, since she sent him abroad to study soon after the accident. She just tells Ma-sung that with love comes responsibility, and he nods obediently.
When he goes home that night, his porch light comes on and shines in his eyes, triggering a flashback to the accident that killed his mother. He remembers his younger self lying on the road, bleeding and soaking wet in the pouring rain. Ma-sung says in voice-over that he’s alone and pathetic, and that to him, love is tragedy.
Still talking to his doctor, Ma-sung says that he doesn’t remember anything about the accident that caused his Cinderella amnesia. He frowns at the tattoo of the serratula flower on his hand, a mystery he can’t explain, as he expresses his wish to remember what happened on that day.
At the airport, a young man with purple hair rides his suitcase out of the terminal, making a spectacle of himself. He’s met by a man he calls CEO Jang, and when he asks where his fan club is, CEO Jang quips, “You’d think you’re actually a celebrity.” LOL, burn.
He’s SUNG KI-JOON (Hoya), Ma-sung’s cousin, and he calls Ma-sung to say he’s back in Korea. Ma-sung snaps that he’s not interested in being his guardian and to call him back after he’s contacted his parents.
Ki-joon is told that he can’t get a walk-in appointment at a swanky salon, but when he drops the name “Sunwoo Group,” he’s immediately treated like a VIP. He nods off while getting his hair done, and nearby, Chairman Gong gets into an argument with a star actress who’s throwing a tantrum for being she’s denied an appointment. She calls her son… and Ki-joon’s phone rings. He hides when he realizes he’s in the same salon as his mother.
Ki-peum’s career has taken a nosedive since her incident — she’s filming an internet show on a fishing boat, and she’s told to kiss the fish after they’re caught. She tries her hardest to be interesting, but the director isn’t satisfied, so Ki-peum offers to filet and eat the fish raw. The director tells her to just eat it whole… and she does. Hurk.
The boat owner pays Ki-peum in fresh fish, which she accepts with her usual sunny disposition. The director makes her carry all of his equipment, which looks like it weighs more than she does, but she does it without complaint.
In a meeting about a children’s hospital owned by Sunwoo Group, Ma-sung learns that the hospital is costing more money than it makes, so the board wants to sell it and invest the money. He suggests to Chairwoman Gong that it would be better to raise the salaries of the doctors at the children’s hospital, which would raise the quality of medical care offered. The chairwoman agrees with him, shocking the other board members.
Ki-peum throws up the (formerly) live fish she ate by the side of the road. The director tosses her some bread to dislodge the bone stuck in her throat, then shows her a talisman that’s supposed to break three-year bad luck cycles.
He tells her to burn it, put the ashes in water, and drink them, and her luck will change, from the stuck fish bone to her destroyed career. She thinks he’s punking her, but he swears the talisman works, and shows her how to shake her head and jump in circles to “shake off the bad luck.”
He wanders off, then hides behind a bush to film the hilarity as Ki-peum burns the talisman and drinks the ashes. She jumps around, shaking her hands and head, and the director tells his audience that she’s losing her grip on her sanity. Ki-peum catches him filming and freaks out.
She ends up at the hospital, where ex-rays show she does have a fish bone suck in her throat. It’s removed, but she’s still coughing as they leave, Ki-peum still lugging all of the equipment and her fish. The director goes to the restroom, and Ki-peum sits down to rest. She decides to check his camera and sees that he didn’t erase the footage of her dancing around by the road like he promised.
Meanwhile, Ma-sung refuses to do a photo shoot, saying that to him, having his photo taken is terrifying. He leaves to personally tell the camera crew that he won’t be letting them take his picture.
As she tries to figure out how to delete the video, she accidentally starts recording. Ma-sung sees her with the camera and assumes she’s part of the crew there to photograph him, and he bellows, “What are you doing?!” Startled, Ki-peum looks up, and she recognizes the man she hasn’t seen in three long years.
Awww, so cute! This romance is already firmly in the “cute as a basket of puppies and kittens” category for me, which is good, because due to Ma-sung’s amnesia, I think we’re going to be watching Ma-sung and Ki-peum falling in love quite often — every day, in fact. The store grabbed my attention right away with Ma-sung and Ki-peum’s unique meet-cute… nothing like being able to tell your grandkids “I met your mom while she was doing the Potty Dance in a foreign country, then I literally forgot her for three years.” Amnesia isn’t my favorite kdrama trope, but I don’t think I’ll mind it here, where it will give us a chance to watch two people find love anew every single day.
I really wasn’t planning on watching Devilish Joy, but after recapping this episode, I think I have to! I doubt it will do any reinventing of the wheel, but although it relies heavily on some very familiar themes, it more than makes up for with its endearing characters and unique presentation. It’s extremely interesting on a visual level — the cinematography stands out as particularly lovely, switching between bright scenes saturated with color, to dreamy, softly-lit moments, guiding the mood in a really gorgeous way. The show even uses the physicality of the actors to enhance certain moments, such as the way it utilized the extreme height difference between Ma-sung and Ki-peum several times to emphasize how protective Ma-sung felt towards the doll-sized actress, or to make a funny scene even funnier, such as when Ki-peum was loaded up with equipment roughly twice her body mass. But I can’t lie, half of the reason I plan to stick around is because of Choi Jin-hyuk’s Daddy Gumiho smile, which he flashed around generously during the first half of the episode, and which, as far as I’m concerned, should be declared a national treasure.
I also love that Ma-sung and Ki-peum fell for each other the very day they met, so once they re-establish their connection, I’m looking forward to less of a “will they or won’t they” scenario, and more of a “how can they overcome this problem together” situation. And while I like the push-pull that comes with opposites-attract set-ups, I feel that there aren’t enough stories in dramaland where the main couple is already in love, and get to fight as a team to stay together. I want to watch Ma-sung and Ki-peum reconnect, and see how she gets him to fall in love with her every day, over and over again. It definitely borrows heavily from the 1994 movie 50 First Dates in concept (if you haven’t seen it, you really should!), but I find the execution here to be unique enough that I won’t be comparing the stories much, if at all.
In addition, it was a pleasant surprise to realize that I find the secondary characters to be as interesting as the leads… especially Ma-sung’s aunt, Chairwoman Gong. She’s severe-looking and no-nonsense, and her son avoids her like the plague, so I was expecting her to be a battle-ax who would butt heads with Ma-sung. But even with his memory condition, Chairwoman Gong seems to respect and value Ma-sung’s opinion and input, and even defended his right to choose his own wife. I also have a good feeling about Jung Soo-kyo as CEO Kim, who apparently tried to sell the virtue of a top star under his care and got a man killed (possibly even on purpose? That whole situation is so mysterious!). I’ve only seen him in roles as quirky, harmless side characters, but he can really turn up the sinister if he wants (here and in another drama he’s filming simultaneously). I don’t think we’ve seen the last of CEO Kim by a long shot.
This is only a first episode recap, but as I wrap this up, I’m already emotionally invested in Ma-sung and Ki-peum’s charming romance, and Ma-sung’s intriguing condition that seems to have stolen his smile and made him turn cold and harsh as he does his best to just survive. It can’t be easy to wake up every day and read about a life he’s living but doesn’t remember, watching time pass for everyone in the world but himself. To Ma-sung, every day is the day after his accident until he reads his journal and gets to process all over again that he’s stuck in a nightmarish time loop with no end in sight (and I’m worried about that “shrinking brain” issue his doctor mentioned). But even with all that, my overall impression of Devilish Joy is one of bright humor sweetened with sugary cotton-candy new love, and I can’t wait to dive in and keep watching!