Clean With Passion for Now: Episode 1
How many sinks in a single room is too many sinks? It seems that we may approach the limit in Clean with Passion for Now, as its germaphobe protagonist attempts to navigate a world teeming with bacteria and the people carrying it, on their bodies and in their souls. And too many sinks is only the beginning of the zaniness that this show is embracing from the start, though I’m glad to report that the goofy is grounded in the big emotions of its characters.
EPISODE 1: “His and Her Stories”
A well-dressed young boy stalks up to a little girl on a playground and asks to play with her. But when she turns around, the boy discovers her dirt-covered finger jammed far up her nose. He opens his mouth wide to scream in horror, and that’s when she flicks the booger in his direction, a perfect arc heading right for his mouth…
Just in time, that young boy, now grown man JANG SEON-GYEOL (Yoon Kyung-sang), wakes up from the nightmare, the noise of his dutiful robot vacuum roaring through his room. He greets the vacuum, named Geum-ja, and begins his morning ritual.
He washes his hands at the sink, throws his towel into the laundry basket and then… moves on to the next sink, right next to the first, to begin his ritual again. He does this a third time at a third sink before he finally gets into the shower.
At breakfast, he notes a small smudge on his butter knife, and there’s a spot on the mirror in his closet as well as he gets dressed. Before he leaves, he makes a note of all of the less-than-pristine things he noticed and leaves it on the mirror for the housekeeper.
While Seon-gyeol makes his way to his appointment in his pristine car, our rumpled heroine, GIL OH-SOL (Kim Yoo-jung) slouches at the bus stop. She just barely crams herself in to the crowded bus and stands among the other passengers, all while Seon-gyeol narrates his concerns with the world.
“This huge world we’re living in is full of many different kinds of people… as well as bacteria and viruses that cause diseases.”
In his car, Seon-gyeol nods along with all the signs on the street warning about pollution and spreading diseases, and he clucks his tongue at all the people walking around not wearing face masks. He stops at a light, and his eyes trail over to the bus stopped next to him. He spots Oh-sol pressed against the window, her hair a mess and her mouth open in a giant yawn. He grimaces and drives away as soon as the light changes.
His narration continues on, and it turns out his words are part of a Ted Talk-style presentation that Seon-gyeol is giving to an audience. Meanwhile, sloppy Oh-sol splits her time between studying and doing the bare minimum at her job at a study room for students and recent graduates.
On her lunch break, Oh-sol finds it hard to concentrate on her studies while others in the study room dining room cuddle and coo over one another. Another pair of girls watch a live broadcast of Seon-gyeol’s talk. Oh-sol can’t help but look down at her own study guide as Seon-gyeol encourages listeners to abandon studying for civil servant exams and job search self-help books, since he declares that it won’t make them truly happy. He refers to his own success as an example—he’s a young CEO of a cleaning company.
And that cleaning company? It’s made up of nothing but beautiful boys. The enchanting cleaning fairies stride down a neighborhood street, vacuum slung over one guy’s shoulders. The entire street is captivated by them, including Oh-sol’s best friend, MIN JOO-YEON (Min Do-hee).
Oh-sol spots her friend lingering outside and interrupts the drooling to say hi. While Joo-yeon gazes at the retreating cleaning fairies, Oh-sol has her sights on someone else—sunbae Do-jin. Joo-yeon would prefer if Oh-sol changed into some clean clothes rather than continuing her long-held secret crush, while Oh-sol sighs that she’ll confess her feelings as soon as she’s found a job. Speaking of jobs, Joo-yeon shares that she heard that Do-jin accepted a job with the home shopping network.
Seon-gyeol finishes his talk and his assistant Secretary Kwon briefs him as he leaves. She asks how the new housekeeper is (Seon-gyeol says he only had to leave one post-it, so not so bad), and then she tells him she hopes his lunch date goes well later.
At said lunch date, Seon-gyeol busies himself by thoroughly wiping down the cafe table, chairs, and himself, all while the cafe workers watch in growing amazement. His date arrives, a popular news anchor who helped him prepare for his talk. He can’t help but note how well groomed she looks. But then, she brushes her hair back from her ear to reveal… a big hunk of earwax.
Seon-gyeol spits out his coffee and then makes a hasty exit with barely an excuse to his date. But it isn’t long before his mother hears about his sudden exit, who barges into his apartment later, accompanied by her assistant Secretary Kim, to interrogate him.
Secretary Kim is almost on his side when he hears about the earwax, while Seon-gyeol’s mother insists that there are all sorts of studies that show that it’s better to not remove earwax. All the while, Secretary Kim has been nudging the intrepid vacuum Geum-ja out of the way, and eventually, it trails out the door that Seon-gyeol’s mother left open.
Not too far away, Oh-sol walks home and tries to compose a text to her sunbae, and she spots Seon-gyeol’s wayward vacuum lodged against a trash can. She’s not about to waste the opportunity, and puts the abandoned vacuum in her backpack.
Seon-gyeol is already outside looking for Geum-ja though, and he calls out to Oh-sol when he spots her in the alley. But then he gets a whiff of her in her several days old clothes, and he retreats just as quickly without hearing her response.
On her way home, Oh-sol spots her little brother, GIL OH-DOL, leaning in close to a girl. Oh-sol butts in between them, telling her brother he’s trying too hard, ha.
Inside, Oh-sol turns to greet her father, and is surprised instead by a half-naked stranger (Song Jae-rim), who emerges from her bathroom. She chases the man out of the house, until they run into Oh-sol’s father, GIL GONG-TAE. As he tries to fend off his daughter, Oh-sol’s dad pulls something in his back and requires help getting back inside.
While they apply pain patches to her father’s back, Dad explains that the man in the towel is the new occupant of their rooftop apartment, MR. CHOI. Both men note the vacuum that Oh-sol pulls out of her bag, and they’re quick to plug it in and see if it works. Oh-sol hopes they can sell it for a few extra dollars.
Meanwhile, Seon-gyeol checks with building security to retrieve CCTV footage from the alley where Geum-ja escaped. When he sees a figure pick up his vacuum, he’s hoping for some zooming or enhancing of the image, but all the guard can offer is a fuzzy black and white image.
Even so, Seon-gyeol is determined to find Geum-ja, and he sends some of his two of his cleaning fairy crew, Lee Dong-hyun and Hwang Jae-min, out to post missing vacuum flyers. Dong-hyun, the clear favorite cleaning fairy, is disinterested in the attention he gets from passersby. Only moments after the flyer is hung, Oh-dol spots it and recognizes his sister’s new acquisition.
Oh-sol checks in on her latest job application at a cafe (one of her part-time jobs) with Joo-yeon, but it’s another rejection. Joo-yeon gives her friend some tough love and tells Oh-sol that she’s too boring and she needs to be sexy to impress potential employers. Oh-sol pivots by trying to convince her friend to buy the robot vacuum she now has, and they agree on $90. Their conversation is interrupted by a call from Oh-sol’s dad, who is in the hospital.
Oh-sol heads to the hospital, and Dad asks her to cover his job while he’s in the hospital for his injured back. He says it’s her fault, after all, since her overreaction to their new resident caused his injury. Oh-sol counters that it was the pervy guy’s fault for being creepy.
When she returns home, Oh-sol spots a woman leaving Mr. Choi’s apartment. Oh-sol quips that there’s a reason that Mr. Choi is unemployed, and he responds simply that he’s not unemployed, and then asks how her dad is doing. She continues that he can date all that he wants as long as he doesn’t cause any problems, and Mr. Choi just gives her a confused look.
Oh-sol takes on her dad’s job and hops on a garbage truck, the wind blowing in her hair. Meanwhile, Oh-dol and his friends call Seon-gyeol and ask him to meet them at a nearby karaoke room with the reward money.
While Oh-sol is picking up garbage in an alley off a busy street, a couple of drunks accidentally knock her in the head with an empty can. When no proper apology comes, Oh-sol whirls on them in anger.
But just then, her sunbae Do-jin shows up and tries to apologize on behalf of his friends. Oh-sol doesn’t want him to recognize her, so she reaches into the trash and dons an abandoned horse mask. Disguised the best she can, Oh-sol runs with her garbage cart, the horse head still on.
Do-jin is persistent, so he and his friends give chase. The crowd can’t resist a running horse, and soon there’s a whole crowd running after Oh-sol, even her little brother and his friends. There’s even a band there, the members also all wearing horse masks, and Oh-sol circles the stage until she manages to duck away. She’s still wearing the mask when a group of mothers and their children spot her, and they all wave at the horse, ha.
Not able to see in the mask very well, Oh-sol barely takes two steps out of the alley before she smashes right into Seon-gyeol’s car, he’s in the area searching for the karaoke place. Garbage coats the car’s windshield, and Oh-sol is knocked to the ground.
To his credit, Seon-gyeol checks to make sure the fallen horse is okay before he even takes note of the garbage strewn across his car. Oh-sol tosses as many bags as she can back into her cart and tries to flee without a word, but Seon-gyeol stops her.
She doesn’t want to speak, as the crowd, Do-jin included, is still gathered, so she desperately writes out her phone number for him. But he wants a real apology, and eventually just puts on a latex glove and yanks the mask off.
Oh-sol stands mortified in front of the crowd and Do-jin. She finally gives Seon-gyeol the apology he expected and asks him to call her to make arrangements. As she trudges off with her cart, the band sings a song for her retreat, their own horse masks removed, while Oh-dol snaps at everyone in the crowd to delete their photos and videos. Oh-sol climbs directly into bed when she gets home. Oh-dol isn’t far behind, concern in his eyes, but he doesn’t approach her.
Secretary Kwon is quick to make arrangements to clean Seon-gyeol’s car, but he asks her to just buy a whole new one. She asks if he’d also like her to look for a new housekeeper, and he says that he’ll stick with the current one for now. Secretary Kwon asks him why he doesn’t just buy a new vacuum instead of this search, and Seon-gyeol says that his vacuum was custom built.
Once Seon-gyeol is alone on the couch with a beer, he recalls the real Geum-ja, who seems to be his former housekeeper. She’s the one who gave him the vacuum once she fell ill and could no longer clean for him. In his memory, Seon-gyeol recalls visiting her at the hospital. He tells human Geum-ja that his house just doesn’t feel clean without her, and she reaches out to touch his hand gently.
As Seon-gyeol sits with his beer, he pulls out the fuzzy security camera image, and now he recognizes Oh-sol.
The next day at the study room, even Joo-yeon makes fun of Oh-sol for the video of her horse and cart race through the street. Oh-sol is mostly hung up on the fact that Do-jin witnessed it. When Joo-yeon asks why she likes such an average guy, Oh-sol explains that that is exactly what she likes about him.
Oh-sol flashes back to her freshman orientation party where she first met Do-jin. Not yet so sloppy, Oh-sol gets a head ruffle from Do-jin as they drink, and later gets a teasing note and coffee from him when he catches her watching him in class instead of paying attention to the lecture.
Joo-yeon is not impressed with the story, and warns her friend that she’s probably just one of many women Do-jin is leading on. Joo-yeon changes the subject then and moves on to ask about the man from the garbage cart accident.
Segue to Oh-sol’s meeting with Seon-gyeol to apologize. Seon-gyeol can’t help but take stock of all the ways she is likely covered in germs and spritzes the both of them down with his santizer. After Oh-sol apologizes, Seon-gyeol slides over a bill for the damages that comes to a total of $3,500. Oh-sol throws on a sweet smile and asks about a discount, stating that she’s just a student. But then she contradicts herself by saying that she’s searching for a job, and Seon-gyeol starts to doubt her.
He also suggests that Oh-sol sent someone to claim the reward money for his vacuum, and shows her the reward flyer as well as a text from Oh-sol’s brother regarding the vacuum. Oh-sol tries to explain that it’s just a misunderstanding and that she’ll return it right away, but then asks if she can get a discount equal to the amount of the reward.
Once she returns home, Oh-sol tackles her brother as punishment for not telling her about the reward money. As she grapples with him, she gets a call from Joo-yeon. There’s a party for Do-jin to congratulate him on the new job, and she wants Oh-sol to accompany her.
Even though she refuses at first, Oh-sol eventually cleans herself up and joins Joon-yeon at the party, and even claims a seat next to Do-jin. When the horse head video comes up in conversation, Joo-yeon is quick to quiet everyone, and Oh-sol gets a hair ruffle from Do-jin.
Later, Do-jin finds Oh-sol sitting alone outside the restaurant. Do-jin says that Joo-yeon told him Oh-sol was filling in for her dad the day before, and Do-jin says that most girls wouldn’t do something so nice. He asks her to come back in with him, and tells her that he’s been waiting for her. Do-jin heads in first, giving Oh-sol time to roll around in her feelings of glee. When Joo-yeon finds her like this, she offers to call an ambulance, ha.
After the party, Oh-sol composes a text to Do-jin and finally sends this one. She receives a response right away, and Do-jin offers to buy her lunch if she drops by his new job. She notes the quote in his messenger app profile, which are lyrics from the song that played during her walk of horse mask shame.
The next day, Joo-yeon takes Oh-sol out to pick up a present for Do-jin. And the obvious choice for just starting to date? Underwear, of course (seriously, this can’t end well…). Oh-sol is surprised at how costly a single pair of underwear is, and she can’t help but imagine Seon-gyeol’s face everywhere in the store, demanding his $3,500. Even so, she goes ahead with the purchase.
Do-jin’s late for their lunch date, and he’s frazzled when he finally turns up. He’s having a hard day at work, since the models for the show he’s working on have canceled. Oh-sol offers to come by later, but instead Do-jin asks if she can do him a favor.
At the Clean With Passion offices, Seon-gyeol’s frustration with Oh-sol is further fueled when he spots her on an episode of the home shopping channel, eating food really intensely, and definitely not at school being a student. The cleaning fairies hanging out in the office marvel at the way she digs in to the food. Ah, so this must be the favor Do-jin asked of her.
Back at home, Oh-sol ignores the barrage of messages and missed calls from Seon-gyeol. But when Do-jin sends a late night text goodnight, she responds immediately, and is rewarded with a warm “you’re the only one I can count on” response from sunbae. This guy is totally going to be bad news, right?
The next morning, Oh-sol agrees to meet Seon-gyeol in the afternoon to return the vacuum. She places Geum-ja in a bag, and then answers a call from Do-jin. Do-jin asks to meet Oh-sol again, right now. It’s last minute, but Oh-sol isn’t willing to give up a chance at a second date and rushes off to get ready.
But when she arrives at the station, it’s another employee, not Do-jin, who greets her. The woman insists that Oh-sol follow her and get changed, and won’t listen to her protests that she’s there to meet Do-jin for a date. The woman thrusts a bag into Oh-sol’s arms and tells her to go get changed. Do-jin arrives at last, but when Oh-sol asks him to explain that there’s been a mix up, instead he just tells Oh-sol to hurry up and get changed.
It seems that Oh-sol is being roped into another ad, and this time it’s not food they’re selling, but waist cinchers. It’s at that moment that Seon-gyeol passes through the TV station with Secretary Kwon, and he stops as he spots the confused look on Oh-sol’s face.
When Do-jin returns, his coworker complains about her non-compliant model, whom she hoped to use for her Youtube stardom to drive sales. Do-jin intimately sidles up to his coworker and calls her honey, promising to take care of everything before they go on air.
Oh-sol understands now that she’s been used this whole time, and she lets Do-jin know she sees that he’s been using her crush against her. She whirls to escape the confrontation, only to find herself face to face with Seon-gyeol. She darts out of his path to the dressing room and leaves him stammering. Once alone in the dressing room, Oh-sol finally lets the tears fall.
A few moments later, Oh-sol composes herself and finds Seon-gyeol still lingering in the hallway. She hands over the bag with the vacuum in it, her eyes on the ground, and promises to be in contact once she’s saved up the money that she owes him.
After filming the segment for Seon-gyeol’s cleaning company, he and Secretary Kwon find themselves in the elevator with Do-jin. Do-jin’s on the phone, cooing to a woman on the phone. Then he calls a different woman, and gives her the same lines. Seon-gyeol feels the creep of “bacteria,” and starts to hose down the entire elevator with his sanitizer. One bottle isn’t enough, and he asks Secretary Kwon for his backup can while Do-jin hacks and coughs in the corner.
Once outside the elevator, Secretary Kwon can’t help but point out that Seon-gyeol is usually cautious about showing his issues with other people around. Seon-gyeol says that he doesn’t recall any other humans in the elevator, and Secretary Kwon smiles knowingly.
While Seon-gyeol sanitizes his frustrations, Oh-sol goes the more traditional route and soaks her sorrows in soju with Joo-yeon at her side. Oh-sol compares her crush to a horse race, where she had her blinders on and charged forward just because of a feeling, without an actual goal.
When she returns home, Seon-gyeol finds her father asleep on the couch. As she pulls the covers up around him, she notes that his boxers have a tear along the seam, and this drives home the wasted money on those new underwear for Do-jin. Speaking of the underwear, Oh-sol gasps as she realizes that she left the gift box in the bag that she handed over to Seon-gyeol. Bwahaha.
On his couch, Seon-gyeol lifts Geum-ja out of the bag, safe at last. And then he finds the gift box, and winces at the over-the-top sweetness of the note attached. And then he lifts the box lid… and finds a pair of pink briefs, complete with googly eyes, literally staring back at him. He yelps and tosses the box away, unable to unsee it.
Best accidental gift ever! But what happened to the classy Calvin Kleins we saw Oh-sol pick up? Have those been lost somewhere else even more unfortunate? And where did these elephant undies come from? There’s no way Oh-sol changed her mind and went with these as a gift, right?
The shape of this episode is interesting (though perhaps 15 minutes too long, if I’m honest). I definitely get the web comic vibes and structure, especially at the end of the episode as each of our leads dealt with the consequences and annoyances of a long series of days. There are so many pops of color throughout, and it gives the show an energy that I’d love to see it maintain.
I’m totally on board for this trend in dramas of supposedly cold, closed-off men who are anything but that. The moment I knew our lead was a picky CEO, I automatically assumed that Seon-gyeol would be a cold case who required warming, but he’s nowhere near there, and instead is a super big softie from the start.
From Seon-gyeol’s touching moment with his former housekeeper to his concern for poor horsey Oh-sol instead of his garbage-drenched car, Seon-gyeol prioritizes humans, even as he struggles with what appears to be a case of OCD that controls a significant part of his life. It’s also interesting that his presentation at the beginning of the episode was about encouraging others to follow their dreams, however unconventional they may be. I think it’s a fun way to introduce this side of his character, as well as hint at his own unconventional path to success. Yoon Kyun-sang is off to a good start, doing a good job of balancing the wacky with Seon-gyeol’s nurturing side. Seon-gyeol trying to disinfect skeezy Do-jin was amazing.
Alas though, Yoon Kyun-sang is going to have to work hard to keep up with Kim Yoo-jung, because she is, unsurprisingly, already killing it. Oh-sol is a difficult character composed of many contradictions, so I can see how it might be a struggle to settle into the character. But Kim Yoo-jung makes everything look easy; her face emotes so much in each scene that I think she could stay silent and still carry each scene that she’s in. No one has ever looked that beautiful riding on the back of a garbage truck.
I’d planned to tackle the romance and that elephant in the room, the significant age gap between our two leads, but I don’t think we’ve had enough screen time with the two of them together to get a feel for whether or not they’re going to pull this off or completely gross me out. From a character perspective, I’d like to examine the chemistry before officially passing judgment, as well as see how the potential unequal power dynamics of him being her boss play out.
While we’re not too far into the romance yet, I do like the other relationships with side characters that the show is establishing the foundations for, like Seon-gyeol and his faithful Secretary Kwon, or Oh-sol’s sympathetic little brother Oh-dol. There are a few characters though that I’m not too sure how they fit in. I sure hope they know what they’re doing with Song Jae-rim, because I have no idea so far. Is he a love interest? Unlikely source of wisdom? Designated half-naked distraction?
Scenes have this heightened sense of reality, and I really enjoy how it feels like it’s the emotions of the two main characters who punch it up to the zany extremes. Oh-sol’s embarrassment leads her to an epic horse and cart chase, while Seon-gyeol’s sense of loss for his former housekeeper sends him into a frantic search for his vacuum. I like that if things are going to get goofy, the goof seems to be grounded in something very real to the characters. It feels like their worst thoughts have a little surreal playground in reality.
Overall, I think the show is still trying to settle into the balance it wants to strike between that surrealism and the heart that drives it. A few scenes felt stretched a little too thinly, like they went on just a beat too long to stay funny. I’m not sure there was really a reason to take this episode to 75 minutes, and I’m hoping that the future episodes pull back.