Flower Crew: Joseon Marriage Agency: Episode 1
Who’s ready for the next Joseon F4? I know I am! Flower Crew: Joseon Marriage Agency starts off bright and engaging, with endearing characters and the cute premise of a matchmaking agency unexpectedly run by men. I was quickly drawn in by the quirky, yet somehow comfortably familiar, ambiance of the show, so that even when we were fed our requisite dose of dark political maneuvering, I didn’t even mind. From its fun premiere, I think we’re in for a show that can go the distance when it comes to both silly entertainment and engaging romance.
NOTE: This is just a first-episode recap.
EPISODE 1: “A divine match”
On a rainy night, the king of Joseon (cameo by Jo Sung-ha) lies dying. He calls weakly for the crown prince, who has been held hostage by the Qing dynasty for the past ten years. MINISTER MA (Park Ho-san) tells the king that the crown prince has just arrived at the dock, begging him to hang on just a while longer.
The crown prince (cameo by Go Soo) barely steps off his boat before archers spring up from the water and attempt to assassinate him, missing by mere inches. His guards surround him but are taken out by an assassin, so the prince picks up a sword to defend himself.
He fights his way free and escapes into the woods. The archers pursue them, picking off the guards one by one until only the crown prince is left. An assassin swings at him, but he slams the assassin to the ground and snaps his neck.
A few more guards catch up and they follow the crown prince to a clearing, where a horse waits to carry him to the capital. But more arrows dispatch the last of the guards, and the prince looks up to see the assassin taking aim at him. The assassin’s arrow finds its mark, and the crown prince falls dead.
In the palace, the dying king croaks, “Crown prince… no…” as he dies. His queen wails her grief, but there’s a glint of triumph in Minister Ma’s eyes.
A short time later, a young nobleman named In-sung hunts in the forest — the chyrons tell us that he’s nineteen, and that he believes in Fate and is against matchmaking. In-sung is watched from a distance by a mysterious young man, and elsewhere, several young ladies play together, observed by a different man. He’s particularly interested in Eun-young, who also prefers fate to matchmakers.
The two mystery men continue to follow their targets until they wander near each other in the marketplace. The first man addresses the camera and says in a silky voice: “One can only catch a star when one has a moment to look up at the sky.” He pulls out two flags and strikes a semaphore-like pose, which is the signal for his partner to act.
The partner asks Eun-young’s friends for assistance, charming them with his beauty and leaving Eun-young alone. The first man signals a third conspirator to release several barrels from their cart and send them, well, barreling straight towards Eun-young.
Just in the nick of time, a hand pulls Eun-young out of a flying barrel’s path. She spins around and lands in In-sung’s arms, and when their eyes meet, it’s all over. Mission accomplished.
The three mystery men even attend the happy couple’s wedding. They indulge in a celebratory chant: “Lady Luck is on our side, so everything is rosy, and we’re the best matchmakers! We’re the best!”
The three matchmakers are pretty famous in the city. Their reputations and good looks cause a stir wherever they go, and a young peasant asks a peddler what all the commotion is about. The peddler says that they’re the Flower Crew, and that they’re “practically deities of marriage.”
He describes the three male matchmakers: There’s YOUNG-SOO (Park Ji-hoon), the “cute one” (cue trademark wink) whose every clothing choice sparks a new trend. Next is DO-JOON (Byun Woo-seok), a devastatingly handsome minstrel and incorrigible flirt who never goes anywhere without a female entourage.
Then there’s the leader, MA-HOON (Kim Min-jae), who “can see through anyone.” He’s quiet but very smart, and the peddler warns the peasant never to mess with him. The young peasant is suitably impressed, though he finds the idea of male matchmakers unusual, but the peddler assures him that marriages arranged by the Flower Crew never break up.
The peasant, whose name is KIM SOO (Seo Ji-hoon), polishes his blacksmithing tools under the window of a school for noblemen’s young sons, listening to the lessons and repeating them to himself. His father drags him away by the ear, admonishing him for always sneaking off to listen to lessons when he should be working.
Changing the subject, Soo asks his father for permission to marry his sweetheart. He says he’s even found the perfect matchmaker, but he admits that he hasn’t actually asked her yet.
A doctor teaches several students how to treat a migraine with acupuncture, but his subject demands more money when he says the patient could die. He pays up, grumbling that she must be saving up to get married, but she says she’s too busy for such things.
She’s GAE-DDONG (Gong Seung-yeon), Soo’s beloved, though she’d probably be surprised to hear it. The doctor offers her more money to drink a new drug concocted from dried boiled flies and centipede poison, and Gae-ddong negotiates a higher compensation rate before gulping down the entire bowl (~hurk~).
As she’s leaving — after being used as a pincushion — a friend says she has a lead on another well-paying job. Gae-ddong says she’ll do any job so long as she’s paid upfront, and her friend says all she has to do is sit still for two hours.
Hoon and Young-soo peek over a wall, having been summoned to meet a nobleman’s daughter. Young-soo is concerned, since the daughter is notoriously unattractive, but Hoon sternly recites Flower Crew’s number one rule: “Seeing is believing. Before discussing a marriage, the matchmaker must meet the couple involved in the said marriage.”
Whining that they need to hire a female matchmaker, Young-soo mutters that Lady Oh isn’t even Master Lee’s type (the prospective husband). Hoon asks how he knows without meeting her, and Do-joon pops out of nowhere to say that Master Lee’s type is a pretty, kind, and innocent girl, in that order.
Hoon and Young-soo are greeted in the empty courtyard by a woman wearing a mask. She apologizes and says she has a cold, and Hoon finds it strange that Lord Oh left after summoning them. They’re taken to meet Lady Oh, and when her face is revealed… it’s Gae-ddong. HAHA.
Hoon insists on getting a closer look, having noticed that the “lady” keeps glancing at the masked servant as if checking with her about something. Gae-ddong invites him to look as close as he wants, so Hoon leans very, very close to inspect her. He correctly guesses that she’s recently drunk an herbal concoction, then says that he doesn’t recommend this marriage, and it’s the servant who pipes up, “No!”
She covers by saying that Lady Oh just likes Master Lee so much, and Gae-ddong asks for an explanation. Hoon says that the medicine she took is for treatment of a heart condition, and if she’s that sick she’s in no position to get married. He asks how long she intends to try and fool him, then looks the “servant” right in the eye.
As he guessed, she’s the real Lady Oh, and her mask falls away to reveal her plain features. Gae-ddong tries to convince them that she’s really Lady Oh, but Hoon points out that liars talk too much like she’s doing now, plus she’s sitting like she’s prepared to jump up and run in case she’s caught.
His intelligence offended, Hoon stands to leave, telling Lady Oh that he’s calling off the marriage match. Gae-ddong follows him out, dressed in her own simple clothing again. She calls Hoon a condescending so-and-so, looking ready to rip into him like a tiny tornado, so Young-soo beats a hasty retreat and leaves Hoon to face Gae-ddong alone.
She orders him to apologize to Lady Oh, but he defends that he’s the one who was scammed. Gae-ddong says Lady Oh is just desperate because she loves Master Lee, but Hoon scoffs to call her behavior love. He recites Flower Crew’s second rule: “When matching a couple for marriage, only believe that the eye can see.”
He says that since love can’t be seen, it can’t be trusted. Gae-ddong yells that all he cares about is looks, and that as a matchmaker whose business is love, he should be ashamed. Hoon steps closer to loom over Gae-ddong as he growls that he’s no ordinary matchmaker, and that he looks for people, not love.
He says that she’s incapable of understanding because she doesn’t see what’s in front of her and believes in things she can’t see. Gae-ddong responds with an eloquent head-butt, knocking Hoon right on his pretentious ass. She tells him that was for Lady Oh then sails off, leaving Hoon writhing in the dirt. Good girl!
The royal court is in an uproar with both the king and his heir dead. They argue over what to do first until Minister Ma silences them. MINISTER KANG (Jung Jae-sung) entreats the bereaved queen to announce the death of the crown prince so his killers can be brought to justice. Minister Ma vehemently disagrees, arguing that the people should be allowed to grieve the king before learning that his heir was assassinated.
He proposes a compromise of letting it be known that the crown prince is dead, but postponing the details until the people are emotionally recovered. The queen approves this plan, but in private, she frets that Minister Kang will use this extra time to summon Prince Yeonwoo from Qing.
Minister Ma says they just need to “finish things” before that happens, reassuring the queen (his niece) that he has a plan. He says they just need to find the commander of the Royal Guard who disappeared twenty years ago, because there’s something he needs from him.
The people are devastated when the notices go up that not only has the king died, but the crown prince as well, on the very same day. Soo’s father looks particularly disturbed, for some reason. Nearby, Gae-ddong gives most of her hard-earned money to a man who promises to find the brother she lost touch with years ago (though he looks awfully shady to me).
Hoon is still muttering to himself about “Stone Head” when Soo finds him. He tells Soo that no matter how often he comes to be set up with Gae-ddong, he’s booked for the next year. He rings for his next client, who turns out to be Soo, and the next, which is again Soo (the third client in line is, in a shocking plot twist, also Soo, hee).
Finally, Hoon tells Soo to just ask Gae-ddong himself. He even offers to help Soo if he’ll agree to marry absolutely anyone else besides Gae-ddong, but Soo is insistent. He finally leaves with a cheerful, “I’ll come back tomorrow!” LOL, poor Hoon.
That evening, Soo’s dad tells him that the whole village knows that the matchmaker turned him down again. Soo just says a real man doesn’t give up easily, and when his dad asks why he insists on using a matchmaker, Soo says it’s because of his mother.
He confesses that he overheard everything his dad said to his mother on her deathbed about the man she missed all her life. He asks Dad why he didn’t resent his mother for loving another man, but Dad just says it’s all in the past. Soo says that his mother’s last words to him were to treat the woman he loves with all the respect she deserves. That’s why he’s hiring a matchmaker, because he wants to marry Gae-ddong exactly the way the nobles do it. Okay, awwww.
A thunderstorm blows in, and Soo’s first thought is for Gae-ddong. She’s huddled in the middle of the road, hands clapped tight over her ears, trying and failing to stave off a traumatic memory of hiding under a rock outcropping as a child, while men search above her.
A slave hunter grabs Gae-ddong, but Soo shows up in time to wrench the man’s hand away and gently help her to her feet. He sounds very authoritative as he tells the slave hunter that Gae-ddong is his wife and not to dare treat her like a slave. Soo leads Gae-ddong away, and when the rain stops, he notices that she’s injured and insists on piggybacking her.
He explains that the slave hunters are looking for a runaway, but he says that Gae-ddong is much prettier than her. Gae-ddong snuggles into his neck and says that only her family cares for her. Soo pouts that they’re not family, then shyly adds that they will be soon.
Soo continues, “Gae-ddong-ah, I don’t care if you’re a beggar or a slave. I’ll be happy as long as you’re with me. So why don’t we stop being like family, and become a real family?” She doesn’t respond because she’s fallen asleep, and Soo sighs that it’s hard to hear her answer.
He takes her home (she lives with him and his father) and tucks her into bed, then goes to his own room and unwraps a bundle containing a hairpin made of gold and jade. It triggers his memory of his mother’s deathbed, when she’d given Soo the hairpin and asked him to use it to win the heart of the woman he loves.
Minister Ma secretly meets with the assassin who killed the crown prince, who reports that he’s found “him” (the missing commander?) in a village outside the capital. When Minister Ma tells the queen, she wants “him” brought to the palace immediately, but Minister Ma says that Minister Kang’s people may attack. She’s scared that Prince Yeonwoo will get to the palace first, but Minister Ma warns her against acting too rashly.
She asks if it’s true that Hoon has become a “lowly matchmaker” after what happened to his older brother. She tells Minister Ma to manage his family better, but he asks her coldly if she attained her position on her own. He tells her that there are many women who could replace her, and to sit still if she wants to help him.
Later, Hoon stumbles drunkenly into Minister Ma’s home and demands to see his father. Minister Ma greets his wayward son with a scroll upside the head and scoffs that he expected better of Hoon than to drink on the anniversary of his hyung’s death. He tells Hoon to move back home, and Hoon asks, “If I do, will you kill me like you killed Hyung?”
Minister Ma slaps Hoon and snaps that he’s the family’s only remaining son, and the only person who will have Joseon under his control. He bellows furiously for Hoon to give up matchmaking and move home, but Hoon says that he’s still more worried about the family name even after his son died. He snarls, “Consider your second son dead as well,” and he leaves, ignoring the tears welling in Minister Ma’s eyes.
On his way out, Hoon stops to remember his older brother, Joon, who taught him how to tie a special knot that symbolizes two hearts becoming like one. Hoon still carries that knot, but now he mutters bitterly that you can’t tie up a person’s heart, because hearts are cunning.
Hoon is startled to find Soo waiting for him in the Flower Crew doorway, clutching his precious bundle. Still mostly drunk, Hoon asks Soo, “Why me? I told you no several times, but why does it have to be me?” Soo says that he heard Hoon’s matches never break, making Hoon scoff that Soo only came to him because he’s scared his love won’t last.
Hoon says that if Soo’s heart is so weak that he believes a rumor, then his love won’t last even if he helps him. He sneers that love changes when it’s cornered, but Soo fires back, “Once cornered, love also becomes strong.” Hoon almost looks like he might change his mind, but then he hiccups loudly and tells Soo to stop coming here. Soo declares that he’ll never change his mind, but Hoon just slams the doors in his face.
The next day, Gae-ddong is in the forest collecting discarded hunting arrows to sell. She notices that one arrow has a black tip, but it doesn’t seem significant to her. She hears through gossip that Master Lee hired a matchmaker to find him a different match, and she demands to know where he lives.
Back in the village, she gives taffy to the village children in exchange for their help spreading a rumor. Soon the whole town is calling the Flower Crew lying swindlers, HAHA. A frantic Young-soo shrieks to hungover Hoon and Do-joon that there’s a rumor that Lady Oh failed to get married because they let it be known that Lady Oh is ugly to deliberately ruin the marriage. LOL, I officially love Gae-ddong.
Spotting Gae-ddong looking very pleased with herself, Hoon guesses who started the rumor, and she doesn’t bother to deny it when he confronts her. He snaps that someone’s life may have changed because of her thoughtless words, and we flash back to his private conversation with Lady Oh.
He’d asked Lady Oh why she had Gae-ddong pose as herself, assuming that she has something precious to hide, and even guessing what it is — Lady Oh is pregnant. She’d told Hoon that she was promised to marry a man who didn’t survive the war, and that her family will kill her baby if they learn of its existence.
Something had shimmered in Hoon’s eyes as he’d said it’s no sin to conceive a child with someone you love. But he’d warned Lady Oh to make a wise choice, because her future depends on what she does next.
Now Hoon tells Gae-ddong that when she wants to help someone, she should make sure she knows enough about the situation to do so. He storms off, and it’s Young-soo who informs Gae-ddong that Lady Oh was desperate to get married because she’s pregnant with another man’s child.
Young-soo runs into Soo on his way back to the agency. Soo says that he’s not supposed to talk to Hoon, but he asks Young-soo to give Hoon his bundle and a note. Young-soo gasps when he sees the gold hairpin, and he personally vows to make sure Soo marries his lady, no matter what.
Hoon finds the gold and jade hairpin later, which he recognizes as something only queens are allowed to own. Soo’s note says, “This is the most valuable thing I own. Will it not be enough?”
Hoon is still against taking Soo’s case, but Young-soo whines that they need the money now that their clients have all canceled. Do-joon proposes a vote and Hoon is outnumbered, so he reluctantly agrees. He meets with Soo and tells him that Flower Crew’s third rule is that their fees are paid after the wedding, returning Soo’s gold hairpin.
Next Hoon heads out to meet with Gae-ddong, who Soo tells him works for a fish vendor on the first day of the month. Soo describes Gae-ddong as delicate, sweet, and ladylike — as we see her viciously chopping a fish into chunks with an expression reminiscent of a warrior taking down his enemies.
Gae-ddong and Hoon spot each other at the same time, and Hoon snorts that this is supposed to be “the most beautiful face in Joseon.” Gae-ddong tosses fish and salt at Hoon to distract him, then makes a run for it. Hoon manages to keep up, and he stops to marvel at her when she tries to scale a wall.
Growing worried that she’ll fall, Hoon offers to help her down, saying that he didn’t go to the marketplace to catch her. Gae-ddong doesn’t trust him, so he tells her, “I’m here with a marriage proposal.” The way he phrases it sounds like he’s the one asking, and Gae-ddong is so startled that she slips and falls.
Hoon catches Gae-ddong in his arms, and they collapse to the ground, nose-to-nose.
Count me in! I thoroughly enjoyed this first episode of Flower Crew: Joseon Marriage Agency, which mostly presents itself as a light, airy sort of show, but with dark currents churning underneath that hint at angst to come. Having just finished watching Rookie Historian Gu Hye-ryung, this show looks like it could provide the same type of “feel” — fun, sweet, even a little bit silly, but also grounded when it needs to be. I love the bright colors and lighthearted humor, and I’ll never be mad at a story with a group of good-looking men at its center (and let’s face it, I’ve used this excuse to power though worse ~side-eyes Hwarang~).
I like the plot of Flower Crew so far, which feels a bit like The Crowned Clown and 100 Days My Prince had a love child, with a twist. It will probably play out in Episode 2, but we know from the promos that Soo will end up on the throne — likely through his mother, who appeared to be royal based on her hairpin — and that he will hire Hoon and the Flower Agency to mold the rough-edged Gae-ddong into an acceptable queen. But Soo doesn’t seem to be the only one with a secret past… Gae-ddong hallucinated of being chased as a child, which makes me wonder where she came from and how she ended up living with Soo and his father. And Hoon definitely has a painful and mysterious history, between his brother’s suspicious death and his father’s possible status as a prince-killer.
I can already tell that I’m going to get a bad case of Second Lead Syndrome watching this drama. Right now it appears that Hoon and Gae-ddong are being set up as the endgame, but I’m not looking forward to seeing sweet innocent Soo get his heart broken. Not to mention the fact that something about Seo Ji-hoon just triggers every maternal “hurt my baby and I’ll destroy you and everything you love” instinct I have. But I think that Kim Min-jae and Gong Seung-yeon are showing some decent – if not sizzling – chemistry so far, and I do love a good enemies-to-lovers tale, so it should be fun to watch them argue their way to an epic romance.
The show looks like it has some pretty intense drama to deliver as well, and against my own expectations, I’m pretty interested. Normally I don’t care for too much business or politics in my dramas, but I was hooked when I learned that Hoon is Minister Ma’s estranged son, that there was an older son who died, and that Hoon blames his father. As an added bonus, I appreciate that Hoon’s disillusionment with love doesn’t involve the trope of a past where he was betrayed by a girl he loved, but because of his tragically broken family. My interest was cinched when Hoon left Minister Ma in tears — politics isn’t my thing, but complex villains most definitely are. If a show can make me feel sympathy for the man who (presumably, based on his contact with the assassin) arranged for the crown prince’s assassination in the very first episode, then Show, kudos to you and I hope you continue to deliver. I’m sorry I won’t be there to recap it, but I’ll definitely be watching.