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.
- Premiere Watch: Will You Have Dinner With Me, Sweet Munchies
- Jung Il-woo and Kang Ji-young experience career-threatening crisis in Midnight Snack Couple teaser
- Dance party at Jung Il-woo’s restaurant in new teaser for Midnight Snack Couple
- Character stills for JTBC’s Midnight Snack Couple with Jung Il-woo, Kang Ji-young, and Lee Hak-joo
- Jung Il-woo to play chef in SBS rom-com Midnight Snack Couple