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Sweet Munchies: Episodes 3-4 Open Thread

Our PD has a hit! But our not-actually-gay chef was really hoping to make his television debut a one-time occurrence, so we are at an impasse for the foreseeable future. And if having a reluctant star wasn’t difficult enough, every single coworker at the station throws every hurdle they can find in the road to make our rookie PD’s job that much more difficult.

 
EPISODES 3-4 WEECAP

We start week two with the momentum of a successful pilot episode. Jin-sung’s first guest is comforted by his words on love, the crew is relieved, and we get to tag along with Ah-jin as she spends a solid week dedicated to editing her first episode. She goes for raw and mostly unedited, and even though some think too many bloopers were left in, the audience response is clear: she’s got a winner.

I appreciate that the appeal seems to be Jin-sung’s touching words, and not his supposed sexual identity. Even hard-edged Director Cha seems moved by his thoughts and discusses them with cheery PD LEE SANG-YOUNG (Kim Seung-soo). It’s exactly the kind of reaction that you’d want from your audience, and I really loved that moment when Ah-jin got to bask in the good feels and positive online reviews (while she can, because we know that’s not gonna last).

Jin-sung’s own viewing of the show is much more mixed and subdued, hiding up on the roof to watch on his phone. But ultimately he’s satisfied with his experience once the payment drops into his bank account. He takes back his beautiful restaurant and picks his dad up from the hospital without the spectre of medical bills hanging over any of their heads.

And then… the show is greenlighted, Director Cha forces Ah-jin to co-direct with PD Nam, and the show grinds down to a snail’s pace as the ill-conceived team try unsuccessfully to convince Jin-sung to return for more episodes.

On the one hand, I really appreciated the slow down as Ah-jin worked on editing the episode. It gave that moment to let us appreciate that things aren’t done once the director has cast the talent and they’ve yelled cut on filming. It’s also a nice mirror to Jin-sung’s own approach to cooking. When Dad comes home from the hospital and wants to eat at Jin-sung’s restaurant, Dad asks coyly if cooking is fun for his son. Jin-sung’s response? “It’s work…” The smile he delivers after that confirms that even though it’s hard, he likes it for that very reason.

And when he asks Ah-jin why she doesn’t quit CK when she turns up at Bistro frustrated with her job yet again, her response is that she likes her work. They ultimately agree so much on what it means to work hard and to struggle for something that you’re proud of.

I think we’re supposed to suspect from these moments that Ah-jin is already breaking through Jin-sung’s aloofness, but Jung Il-woo may be playing this a little too stoic if they want me to buy that. Jin-sung seems like he cares very deeply about two things: his restaurant and his family. I could see him being satisfied with that for the rest of his life, and it’s hard to see what it is that’s missing from his life that could be filled by Ah-jin.

It doesn’t help that it feels like Jin-sung is doing a lot of the heavy lifting in the relationship department. He feeds Ah-jin when she’s angry, hugs her when she’s in tears, and folds her laundry when he’s desperate to create a distraction when she almost tells little bro Jin-woo what’s going on (and Ah-jin eagerly retrieves more laundry for him! Ha!). Ah-jin is a hard worker, but otherwise she seems to only take care of herself.

As our two leads spend their time in limbo land arguing over whether Jin-sung will appear in any future episodes, these two episodes instead become PD Nam’s audition for the role of Asshole Prime. And he nails it. From microaggressions to blatant prejudice, PD Nam is completely vile. I growled when he told Ah-jin to calm down in that meeting with Director Cha when he was effectively stealing her show (a show that he did his best to disparage just days prior). And the after-filming dinner with the crew was a total disaster once PD Nam decided to encroach on their celebration. He does his very slimy best to belittle Ah-jin and completely disrespect Jin-sung, and what’s worse is that only Jin-sung and Tae-wan seem to even notice.

Honestly, I was glad to see the responsibility to lure Jin-sung back to the show fall into his lap. His show, his responsibility — and I kind of wanted Jin-sung to refuse just so PD Nam could take the blame. Jin-sung’s punishment of extra-extra-extra spicy noodles for PD Nam and his underling No Jae-soo was beautiful. Yessss, make them cry.

But PD Nam, while the most blatant offender, is not the only bad actor at CK. At worst, many of the other characters are aiding and abetting PD Nam’s bad behavior. You might be thinking of his lacky Jae-soo, but PD Lee is also an enabler here. His cheery approach to everything is especially insidious to me, because he glosses over clear bullying and abuse with his optimism. PD Nam ultimately pushes him too far and he stands up for Ah-jin, but that should have happened a lot sooner.

The other problem is, unfortunately, the way Ah-jin is portrayed as a victim here. The show wants to present Ah-jin as a well-intentioned ally, but it’s hard to feel like that’s totally realized. In some ways, she did a good job once production started. She stepped back and let Jin-sung make the show what he wanted, rather than forcing him to stick to the script. She’s inadvertently hired a gay fashion designer as well, but the show wants to insist that her intentions are perfectly pure, when I can’t see that as true. Jin-sung seems receptive to Ah-jin’s confession in the bar that she wanted to create this show to give the underrepresented a voice, but that’s out of balance with her clear ambition that’s mixed in as well.

And that’s why the ending of Episode 4 is not great. Jin-sung isn’t gay, but the optics here are that a gay man has to jump in front of a woman to protect her from insults that protestors are slinging about him, not her. He has to protect her feelings about their hateful words. It shouldn’t be up to him to do that.

I just worry that there’s no way out of this mess that isn’t painful, and instead of a pleasant story we might wallow in excruciating misery right up until the end. We’ll see if next week can turn things around.

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I'm already crying for Tae-wan. It seems being gay is not an easy thing for him for some reasons we don't know yet (other than he lives in Korea). And now he's falling for a straight guy.

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I really hope the guy wouldn't be all that straight. The female lead is cute but I am definitely on Tae-Wan's ship.

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I don't think it will happn. The poster with the ML and FL staring at each other is pretty clear about the relationship ...

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You're correct- I don't think this ship will sail judging by the poster. The actor portraying Tae- Wan is killing it with all of his glances & expressions!!
I am not feeling the FL, so I will probably tune in each week to see how the writer fleshes out Tae-Won's character.

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Yeah, no, the ship is sinking. Still, I was hoping it provide something at least somewhat two sided

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I am hoping that they patch up the sinking ship and do something other than the norm. It could be grand for Korea since this is Pride Month.... pay attention writers!!!!! It is not enough just to have gay character even though that is good but it is time for more, much more.

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I like the three leads, so really want to like this, although the premise sounds a bit like what people were doing in my region back in the 90's and 00's...
Still haven't watched ep 4, but in ep 3 I liked:
*Ahjin working hard in the editing room, so funny! I totally identified with that struggle (in my case from writing essays and projects, but yes);
*PD Nam being a passive-agressive piece of garbage at the restaurant and Jinsung and Taewan elegantly putting him in his place;
*This is from the previous episode, but that audition scene caught my eye: 3 women deciding stuff; it's nice to see that, usually kdrama work settings are peopled by only guys and a token female, so there's that!
*Ahjin standing up for herself, even if it's in tears. No shame in feeling stuff, just stand your ground!
*Ahjin's work colleagues watching the show and acknowledging her, even if it is a bit cynical after treating her like a second-rate worker because of her contract situation (yup, I felt that one deeply)
*All the food scenes, JIW cooking looks so cool!

Besides that, hummm... I don't know if I'll stick around until the end. For the moment I'm interested in Taewan, and I really want Ahjin to have a honest talk with his brother and dad

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Correction: what I mean is that work setting are not only peopled by men in kdrama, but decision makers are usually men

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This show has its moments. Tae-wan running after Jin-sung while tidying himself is so cute... the editing... the spicy noodles... Jae-soo shouting wildly that the edited copy is gone (something I was totally expecting as an act of sabotage)...
However, I can't get past this resting mourning expression on Jung Il-Woo's face that spoils the mood in all his scenes. I also barely tolerate the air of affected silliness Ah-jin employs as her main armor against all obstacles in her life.

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Yes, Jung Il Woo's troubled facial expression is off-putting. I wish he would lighten it up a bit and give us something in between. Luckily though, he has a killer smile and I never cease to smile back when I see it. :-)

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I'm afraid that this tearful expression is Jung Il-woo's regular thing in dramas, because he seems less mournful in his more spontaneous appearances. I've noticed it first in "The Moon that Embraces the Sun".

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This week was better then the first. There are some nice moments but there are still a lot of silly situations. Why would the chef not tell his family about the show? The brother would easily find it, so all the jokes about that were ridiculous. His face would be all over the net and any gay friend of the brother would have sent him the picture. The chief editor must know how to handle complaints like those protesters, security or someone lower than a director would talk to them, if anyone even bothered doing anything. They wouldn't have done a show with gay on the title and not expect any protest. If she does talk about the show though, she had to be ready to defend it and it's main character, she can't use the fact that he's gay making some crazy assumption that is the reason he is a good counselor, and later say she isn't trying to support gay people, but instead of discussing any of that, show uses this for chef to play the hero.

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You are absolutely right, the macro-setting in this drama isn't realistic at all. I am trying to ignore all these improbabilities (as one often needs to do in kdramas), but it's hard. I hope that next week episodes will bring more authenticity and logic.

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I have to say that ep 4 just left me a bit disappointed. As you point out, there is a lot of silly in this: Jinsung lying to his brother when it's inevitable that he'd get caught as soon as the pilot was aired, Ahjin going outside alone to face the protesters and getting "damselled-in-distress", and how many times has Jinsung touched her face by now? And we're still on ep 4 😂
At least the preview kept me interested, with all the team going somewhere overnight and ensuing triangle shenanigans... I'd just wish that they made Jinsung and Taewan the OTP, they have great chemistry and at least we'd get out of predictable rom-com territory. I'm also expecting to see the loan shark again, I hope things get complicated for real reasons instead of the typical web of lies and misunderstandings between the leads.
Oh! And I'm loving to hate PD Nam and his sidekick. They're so terrible that they become entertaining 🤣

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Yes, I wish they were the otp as well. It would make up for the silly situations if at least the real couple were the two guys. I think kdramas are still far from that but at least recently, there are a few gay characters here and there being more than stereotypes. Love with flaws had them and this show is doing a good job with Taewan and the brother.

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Shout-out to Kim Soojin as no-nonsense Sunbae Cha! Hope we get to see a lot from her

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I don't get how is it that the pilot episode aired, apparently got great ratings, and nobody around Jin-sung knew about his alleged coming out.

And Ah-jin isn't endearing herself to me, being all selfish and insensitive towards Jin-sung in most of their interactions - she's always just thinking about herself and saying whatever she wants to say without listening to him.

And everything else about Ah-jin's work environment and the handling of the gay themes just reeks of... the writer not really knowing how to explore it or deal with the subject matter, and is instead just going for classic boy-girl romcom shenanigans. Sigh I may be dropping this at this rate.

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I just watched the first three episodes so far but it seems to me that our chef could possibly go in either direction for romance, or I am hoping so for so many reasons. It really would be important if he at least grapples with the idea of the possibility for the advancement of gay people in Korea. I do not dislike our girl lead but I guess I am tired of the same old, same old. I hope the writers don't become shy with the subject matter and try and push the boundaries in K-drama land. As I see it now, our chef could be a later bloomer as he has had much in his life to concentrate on and being in a relationship was not one of them. Just because someone is gay does not mean they do not love the opposite gender or not have a very close friendship with them, almost like a couple, so I am not convinced as of yet, that he has to go down the traditional route. In many families, believe it or not more than one child is gay and sometimes the person does not realize their sexuality until much later in life. The first two episodes our chef was devoid of any inclination in any direction, as far as I am concerned. let's see... hmmm...

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