Her Private Life: Episode 1
Is there anything more loving, or more deadly, than a true fangirl? tvN’s new drama, Her Private Life, gives us a glimpse into the world of a devoted fan and the double life she leads to conceal her idol passion. It’s chaos, it’s loyalty, it’s giggles and tears, but most of all, it’s love.
(Please note this is just a first episode recap.)
EPISODE 01 RECAP
We open with a flashback of a little girl – presumably our heroine – covering an entire backstreet with some impressive chalk drawings. Jumping forward, the grownup and sophisticated SUNG DEOK-MI (Park Min-young) works as the curator for Chaeom Museum…and is currently cleaning a sculpture after a child spilled food on it. She narrates, “Every child is an artist. However, if you grow up just doing that, the question is can you remain an artist?”
Deok-mi barely finishes when her subordinate, YOO KYUNG-AH (Seo Ye-hwa) runs in yelling that the art for the exhibition opening tomorrow has been held up at customs for several hours. Deok-mi refuses to accept a delay in the opening date, so she, Kyung-ah, and their third galley worker, KIM YOO-SUB (Jung Won-chang), show some serious dedication and spend the entire night getting everything set up.
The next day, Deok-mi is the picture of professionalism during the opening, even when the artist gives the credit for all of Deok-mi’s hard work to the museum director, DIRECTOR EOM (Kim Sun-young). She continues to anxiously check her watch throughout, however, and the exhibition is barely closed before she’s sprinting out the door, leaving the other staff to wonder what such a hardworking curator does with her personal life.
Deok-mi pays a delivery guy double to deliver her to a locker downtown, where she grabs a giant case and smoothly changes from her fancy pantsuit into full black paparazzi regalia, complete with a facemask.
Pulling a step ladder and giant camera out of the case, Deok-mi joins a crowd of fans as they wait for the arrival of their idol group, White Ocean. She proceeds to take several shots of the groups entrance, focusing on one member in particular: CHA SHI-AHN (Jung Jae-Won, a.k.a. 1Punch’s ONE).
Afterwards, Deok-mi watching the show, cheering along with the rest. That is, until Shi-ahn decides to throw his water bottle into the crowd.
In an epic slow-mo, all the fans make a bid for the bottle like a mass of bridesmaids vying for the bouquet. Not to be outdone, Deok-mi makes a giant leap above the rest and emerges victorious, the non-biodegradable treasure clasped in her hand.
Deok-mi returns home that night and reverently places the bottle in a glass cabinet where it sits with its own placard next to a plethora of other Shi-ahn themed souvenirs. Zooming out, we see that her entire apartment is plastered with Shi-ahn merchandise and artwork.
Deok-mi collapses on the couch to cuddle with a pillow (that has Shi-ahn’s face on it, of course) while cooing over the pictures she took of Shi-ahn, alternating between giggling at his cuteness, and worrying about what she should get him for his upcoming birthday.
Watching a video of Shi-ahn describing his extensive art collection – he’s an avid collector – Deok-mi decides that she’ll find him another painting by his favorite painter, an elusive artist known only by their name: Lee Sol.
Changing gears, we bounce over to an urban gallery in Manhattan where everyone is waiting on the arrival of RYAN GOLD (Kim Jae-wook). Ryan finally turns up and nonchalantly refuses to greet the owner, demanding to see the paintings first. Let’s call him a brusque individual (it’s nicer than asshole).
He then does a tour of the entire gallery while we learn about his impeccable taste and unique scoring system: a 1 second glance is bad, 2 seconds is ok, 3 is good, then a smile means that the artist has no talent and no future. Unfortunately, Ryan finds a painting to smile at.
After crushing an artist’s hopes and dreams, Ryan goes to see his psychiatrist and friend. They’re adorably bromantic as Doc tries to diagnose him but ends up throwing a hissy fit when Ryan bounces a tennis ball too close to his shiny new painting. Pfft.
Turns out our Ryan has been unable to paint for the last three years, ever since he saw a painting by Lee Sol. Ryan reveals that was finally able to track down the painting, and it’s owned by none other than K-pop idol, Cha Shi-ahn. Doc thinks this is great and tells Ryan he can just ask to see the painting, practically begging his friend to go find either the singer or the painter, and “stop bothering me.”
Doek-Mi is back at work and explains away her quick absence from the exhibition as having to look after a kid that she regularly supports, hiding the truth of her fangirling. She tries to get Director Eom to consider showing new artists, but she’s completely shut down by Eom who only wants to go after the big names that bring in big money.
Deok-mi visits home to let her folks know she’ll be traveling abroad for an auction, then gets an ear-full from her mom (Kim Mi-kyung) that she better not be running off after another idol. Turns out Mom has been against her daughter’s fangirling her whole life.
Laughing at the irony, Deok-mi argues that she was born a fangirl and comes by the obsession naturally, pointing out Mom’s devotion to knitting and Dad’s love of rock-polishing. Heh, Mom gets miffed at the comparison and Dad silently hides behind a curtain, annoying her further at how he’s practically become a human rock.
Mom has an armful of side dishes she wants to bring back to her daughter’s apartment, but Deok-mi quickly calls over her brother, NAM EUN-GI (Ahn Bo-hyun) and bribes him to take the dishes to her place instead, keeping her Shi-ahn décor safe from her mother for a while longer.
Unfortunately, this backfires when Eun-gi, a judo athlete, enters the apartment and freaks out at the shadow of a life-size Shi-ahn cutout. He instinctively punches it, knocking the head clean off and making Deok-mi shriek at the murder of her baby.
While Deok-mi provides emergency medical care to her fallen idol (i.e. duct tapes his head back on), Eun-gi heads out. Interestingly, he notes her lack of footwear and leaves his own shoes for her, opting to walk home in house slippers.
Deok-mi flies to the auction in Shanghai where she ends up sitting right next to Ryan Gold, who has come after seeing that another Lee Sol painting is being auctioned there. Noting that he looks a bit like Shi-ahn, she not-so-subtly shoots glances at him, marveling at the Pretty.
Ryan breaks the staring by introducing himself as a painting that was released in 1987, with delicate lines and harmonious features, titled Ryan Gold. Wow, that’s incredibly clever and confusingly narcissistic. Based on her staring, he casually asks, “Do you want me?” Sputtering, Deok-mi turns away, deciding that he’s a psycho.
Next up on the auction block is the Lee Sol painting, and Deok-mi is amazed to see the painting she wanted to give to Shi-ahn for his birthday. Doing a quick calculation of her bank account, she eagerly makes a bid. Problem is, the Ryan Gold painting next to her is bidding as well.
Soon they’re in a bidding war and rapidly passing Deok-mi’s bank balance. She pushes on, imagining a tiny Shi-ahn in the painting showing hearts and holding a “Noona take me home” sign. Alas, she can’t keep up and loses to Ryan at 30 grand, making the tiny Shi-ahn pout.
Desperate, Deok-mi dashes out after Ryan. She quickly switches into professional mode and tries to get Ryan to sell her the painting, noting that it’s not actually worth that much since the artist isn’t well known and she just needs it for a private collector.
Ever the brusque fella, Ryan puts her in her place by saying that art is not about the name, but the feeling and history behind it. He points out that she didn’t know anything about the artist of the painting she bought before (for the gallery) besides the name, so clearly, she can’t distinguish true art. Damn.
Flying back and regretting not bidding higher than the 30 grand, Deok-mi returns to the gallery in time to see Director Eom being escorted out by the police. Deok-mi is also grabbed and taken is for a long night of questioning regarding her boss’s husband’s apparent embezzlements from the gallery and slush fund. Ruh-roh.
Deok-mi eventually gets back home to find her friend and fellow Shi-ahn fangirl, LEE SUN-JOO (Park Jin-ju), waiting for her. Sun-joo consoles her friend over Soju, while Deok-mi tearily laments that the gallery she put her time and love into was nothing more than a front for her boss to steal.
Crying, Deok-mi admits she’s not sure that even if she had known about what her boss was doing, would she have had the integrity to stop, or did the paycheck matter more to her than the art. Ooof.
The next morning, Deok-min gets a call for an interview and lands a job as the head of another gallery’s marketing department. Over the moon, she can’t wait to quit her job and start the new one that comes with more free time to devote to supporting her Shi-ahn.
Deok-mi heads right over to Director Eom to quit, but she can’t finish the sentence since Eom keeps interrupting to explain that she’s now stepping down in light of her husband’s legal trouble and the gallery will need a new director. Eom makes heavy hints that Deok-mi will be chosen and she immediately switches gears.
Later, after she’s changed into her alter ego fangirl clothes, Deok-mi admits to Sun-joo that she’s going to stay at Chaeom; wanting to make something of the place she devoted 5 years of her life to, so it isn’t remembered as the slush fund gallery.
Ever the true friend, Sun-joo points out that the important thing is Shi-ahn’s flight arrival tonight. She tries to get Deok-mi to take off the facemask before leaving so her idol can recognize her face, but Deok-mi flat out refuses. “I’m not going to be remembered as just a fan. Some day we will meet as two professionals and have our fates entangled.”
At the airport, a flock of Shi-ahn fans have gathered to greet their bias when he arrives. A couple of them note that a fan named CINDY (Kim Bora)has already posted departure pictures of Shi-ahn from the U.S. Apparently Cindy is a well-known fan and the other girls grumble that following him all the way to America and back is sasaeng territory (stalker rather than fangirl).
Said Cindy is in fact on the same plane as Shi-ahn, and we see that Ryan Gold is there as well, rolling his eyes at her antics to take secret shots of the K-pop star.
Back in the airport, the other fans point out that Shi Na Gil (Deok-mi’s secret fangirl name) is a far better fan and Shi-ahn probably likes her better since the viral videos she posted with multilingual subtitles at the beginning of his career helped launch his stardom. They agree that if Shi-ahn ever wanted a private fan meeting with Shi Na Gil, they wouldn’t mind.
Deok-mi makes her way to the airport and stakes out a spot on the second level with a perfect shot of Shi-ahn’s supposed route through arrivals. However, she soon spots two undercover bodyguards at a different entrance away from the fan gathering and quickly repositions on floor level by the side door, guessing that he’ll exit that way.
Standing with her trusty step ladder, Deok-Mi is the only one to see Shi-ahn enter through the alternate exit and starts snapping her exclusive photos. Problem is, Ryan Gold has also exited that way and walks right in front of her shot.
Deok-mi jumps up on her ladder for a better angle, right as the rest of the fans spot their idol and start running towards him.
Caught in the middle of this, is the unsuspecting Ryan who looks up to see a sea of fans running right at him. It’s like Simba vs. the wildebeests as Ryan is battered back and forth by the swarm of estrogen-fueled fan craze.
Unable to stay upright, Ryan falls back and knocks Deok-mi off her ladder, taking her down with him. Luckily, she manages to save her giant camera, but it takes her a moment to realize her soft landing is due to the Ryan-shaped crash pad below her.
Leaping off the flattened Ryan, the two immediately start bickering, her accusing him of risking the camera, and Ryan blaming her for smooshing him. It’s the final straw when he insults her precious Shi-ahn, saying “that guy” is not worth all this fuss (it sounds worse in Korean, promise).
Deok-mi demands an apology on behalf of her idol, and Ryan wants to see the face of the person who is so rude. He reaches to pull off her facemask, but that sends Deok-mi into panic mode and she sprints away to protect her identity, leaving Ryan swearing in English.
But as he collects his battered luggage, Ryan picks up Deok-mi’s journal which fell out of her bag when she crash-landed.
Returning to the café Sun-joo owns and runs, the two friends giggle over the pictures of Shi-ahn, though Deok-mi gripes that Ryan blocked some of her shots. She suddenly realizes that he is the same psycho from the auction and can’t believe her bad luck to run into him again.
Sun-joo worries that Cindy’s pictures are getting more popularity, but Deok-mi assures her that no one can photoshop like her and gets to work editing the photos so Ryan is blurred out and we see Shi-ahn peeking cutely from behind him. Ok, I admit it, that smile is worth a second look.
Deok-mi posts the pictures and we get a whimsical fantasy reel where she hosts a virtual art exhibition of the images, describing Shi-ahn’s features like the curator she is while the fans lose their minds at the great shots.
At work the next morning, Deok-mi is in a chipper mood when she confirms to Kyung-ah that Director Eom has resigned. She starts to say that she’ll be the new director, when Kyung-ah cuts in to reassure her that she can help Deok-mi with communicating in English since the new director is a foreigner. Uh, wut?
Stunned, Deok-mi sees that Director Eom is all over the news after checking herself in to a hospital, faking illness to avoid the legal problems.
Enraged, Deok-mi bursts into the perfectly health Director Eom’s hospital room, demanding to know why Eom betrayed her after 5 years of hard work. The dramatic lighting and melodramatic music play a perfect background as Eom reveals that she knew Deok-mi had taken another job and couldn’t let “the dog that I raised” be stolen from her.
Deok-mi whips out a gun, City Hunter style, and tries to fire, except this is all happening in her head, of course, and she is in fact wielding a get-well fruit basket, not a glock. Eom simpers that she picked the perfect new director to handle media coverage in light of the scandal, and chirps at Deok-mi to keep working hard, just as she has for the last 5 years.
Oooh, lemme slap her. Just once. With my fist.
To make matters worse, the previous job offer of the marketing position has already been filled. With no other option, Deok-mi sits dejectedly in Sun-joo’s café, taking stock and deciding that she has been royally screwed over.
But if there is one thing that can cheer up a diehard fangirl, it’s her idol, so Sun-joo suggests they go on a pilgrimage (a term used to describe fans traveling to where the stars have been/stayed to look for traces of their idol).
Across town, Ryan is being broody in a hotel room when he’s called down to the lobby to pick up an employment contract left by his secretary. (One guess where he’s going to be working.) Ryan also gets a room upgrade and switches over to a suite.
As Ryan walks away, our crusading girls run up to the desk in search of the Holy Land. Alas, the suite that Shi-ahn stayed in, is the very same one that was just given away to Ryan. Not to be beaten, Sun-joo chased after Ryan as he walks away (Deok-mi doesn’t see him) and tries to persuade him to let her have the suite.
It goes about as well as Deok-mi’s attempts to get him to sell her the Lee Sol painting: Lots of blank stares followed by a lesson in manners. Sun-joo tries to explain around the truth by saying that “There’s a person she loves, but we have a relationship where we can’t meet that easily.” Pfft. That’s one way to describe being a fan.
Unsurprisingly Ryan walks away with an eye roll, and Sun-joo and Deok-mi retreat to the hotel bar, defeated. To cheer up, they watch a live performance of Shi-ahn on Deok-mi’s phone, both sharing one set of head phones.
As luck would have it, Ryan heads down to the bar as well and sees the pair as they lean in close together, smiling and clutching each other in fan adoration. Except from Ryan’s angle where he can’t see the phone, it totally looks like a romantic date. HAH!
Ryan remembers Sun-joo’s explanation about loving someone that she can’t really meet with and immediately takes it to mean that she was trying to spend a secret night with her lady lover. Now seeing Sun-joo’s “confession” as being brave in an LGBT-intolerant society, Ryan starts regretting his brush off earlier, even telling his own reflection that he’s disappointed in him.
Soon after, Sun-joo heads to the restroom where she’s stopped by Ryan. Next thing we know, the girls are happily squealing in their giant suite, running around and taking pictures of themselves in the places where Shi-ahn sat.
The following day, Deok-mi is all business as she heads in to work, resigned to her fate. She opens up the galley and notices one of the lights is flickering. Taking out a ladder to fix it herself, a man enters in behind her.
Deok-mi turns on the ladder to greet the newcomer, squinting after staring into the now bright light. As the figure slowly comes into focus, her face falls to recognize the infamous Ryan Gold staring at her.
Recognizing her as well, Ryan snarks, “Do you want me?” Deok-mi flashes back to when he first said that to her in the auction and gasps, falling backwards in surprise. She lands flat on the floor at Ryan’s feet and the two stare at one another, neither quite believing their strange fate.
Wow. That was a lot of plot. Hold on while I get my bearings.
OK, first off, I am not a fangirl. Sure, I listened to a lot of ‘Nsync growing up, and yes, I get hella excited whenever BTS drops a new album (it came out Friday!). But there’s always a line, and I’ve stayed firmly on the once I start thinking about their life more than my life, it’s time to take a step back side. I’m not saying the other side is wrong (you do you, boo), it’s just not for me. Because of this, I had some trepidation about starting a show that centers on a grown woman with idol paraphernalia plastered to every surface of her apartment. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to relate enough to enjoy it.
Admittedly there were still some things that were hard for me to go with ($30,000 for a birthday present!?!) but I can honestly say that I really had fun watching this and I’m looking forward to the next episode. For me, it was all the little things, like Deok-mi and Sun-joo’s girl-power friendship. Or the family dynamics between mutually fanatic relatives – albeit with different subjects of obsession. Side Note: I’m very curious about Eun-gi leaving his shoes in Deok-mi’s apartment. It could be just a brother looking out for his sister, but there was an almost romantic feel to it. Also, his last name is different, so now I’m wondering if he’s adopted and we’re going THAT route for a second lead.
Strangely enough, the plot arch that I’m most looking forward to is the misunderstanding of Ryan believing that Deok-mi is gay. Because you know that eventually he’s going to find out that Deok-mi was the other woman in the bar, so what kind of hijinks will ensue when he inevitably starts falling for her? These days we are seeing that trope more and more, but it’s always the girl thinking the guy is gay. I have yet to see it the other way around and I’m psyched that it looks like they may head in that direction. (Give a little love for the girl love out there, K-dramas!)
As for our other main lead, I’m withholding judgement for now since we haven’t really learned much about him though he’s playing the cold unfeeling jerk card a little hard. To be frank, his constant aloofness was getting a bit much, so I took some satisfaction from watching him get literally squashed during the airport fangirl stampede. That being said, I’m enjoying the bickering between our main leads and look forward to it turning into something more. Ryan will have to up his game though. As every high school boy will tell you, competing with an idol for the heart of a fangirl requires nothing less than a miracle. Good luck, buddy.
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