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Sweet Munchies: Episodes 5-6 Open Thread

I’m not honestly sure how or why, but our reluctant chef eventually decides that proceeding with the show is worth the risks. That means that he gets to spend more time with his upstairs neighbor and the broody clothing designer that form the points of a brewing love triangle.

 
EPISODES 5-6 WEECAP

Last week ended on a tense moment as Jin-sung jumped in front of Ah-jin to protect her from a paint balloon lobbed by protestors. It’s a heavy moment, and so Ah-jin and her team decide to deal with it by… having a last-minute overnight camping excursion at the beach.

This excursion makes absolutely zero sense from a character perspective. I might buy the part where Ah-jin’s best coworker friend Sung-eun drags Ah-jin out of town, and even Jae-soo tagging along as a spy, but I cannot fathom what motivated Jin-sung or Tae-wan to climb in after them.

This is not a close-knit group of friends. That any of them agreed to get into the car was pretty unbelievable, but that they then readily agreed to frolic in the water together once they arrived was just absurd. And yet, both Jin-sung and Tae-wan seem to immediately loosen up just in time to throw Jae-soo into the waves.

That said, man I love it when Tae-wan smiles. And he smiles a lot during this entire overnight stay, clearly so happy to spend time with Jin-sung. The show makes an effort to give equal screen time to the developing feelings between Jin-sung and Ah-jin and yet… I don’t buy it. Give them all the romantic sunrises you want, but they really seem just like close siblings at best. Tae-wan is clearly the winner in the chemistry competition.

When viewed as a series of unrelated scenes, some things that happened this week were really cute and enjoyable. Ah-jin, Tae-wan, and Jin-sung buy matching sweats at the seaside market and stalk the stalls as the cutest trio. Each pairing gets to trek out for a date as the show grows the developing love triangle situation, and both Jin-sung and Tae-wan’s early morning market date and Jin-sung and Ah-jin’s post-dinner walk were adorable.

It’s just that none of it makes sense as part of a larger story. Everything feels more like nicely shot commercials for some unknown product than a cohesive plot and emotional arcs. Somewhere along the way they forgot to convince me that any of these people are friends.

I was happy that Ah-jin took a moment to think about the protestors and how that might relate to Jin-sung’s reluctance to take part in her show. It’s not his actual reasons, but they are reasons that she should have considered from the show’s conception. And Ah-jin is a strong person who sticks by her convictions once made. She doesn’t let the others force her to bother Jin-sung any further once she decides to respect his decision to not take part.

So of course, Jin-sung somehow decides that he should do the show for Ah-jin. Besides the fact that his interest in her feels really forced for the sake of the story, I still can’t imagine how Jin-sung thinks that his romantic feelings are worth continuing on with this lie. If by some miracle his little brother managed to miss the pilot episode, there is absolutely no way that this will stay a secret for long now. They’re shooting the episodes at his restaurant! But it’s decided, and they all head in to attend their 2pm meeting (still in their sweats) and agree to keep filming. Now, it’s time to dive directly into that love triangle.

This show would be so much better if Jin-sung was actually gay. Then he’d have a good friend in Ah-jin and the best love interest in Tae-wan. Tae-wan was never interested in food before, but he’s immediately on board to get up early and shop with Jin-sung. And I loved Tae-wan’s subtle brag when he tells Ah-jin things he knows about Jin-sung that she doesn’t. Jin-sung, he’s cutely calling you Hyung and eating hot noodles with you while he wears a tailored suit to the market. He’s giving it his all.

But I suspect that Jin-sung will continue to be really dense about Tae-wan’s obvious feelings for him for a while. Jin-sung’s misplaced jealousy when Tae-wan spends time with Ah-jin is cute, and Tae-wan is the best at pouting. It’s really the most effective dynamic the show has currently. But ultimately it’s all just a little cruel, knowing that the best on-screen couple isn’t going to work out.

While the main romances are at least enjoyable (if nonsensical), efforts to build out stories for the side characters really fell flat for me. The biggest problem this show has is that none of these characters warrant a redemption arc. Who on earth wants a romance between Sung-eun and Jae-soo? They’re going to have better luck with their attempts to show a soft side to Director Cha than they will convince me that this clueless, sexist dude is worth redeeming. It’s nice to see that he’s seen through PD Nam’s behavior at least, but he’s only abandoned the guy because he’s not effective, not because he disapproves of his actions all that much.

It also feels incredibly unfair to laugh off PD Nam’s bad behavior as just, “that’s family.” Why go through all the trouble of making him so absolutely repugnant if the plan was just to tolerate it? PD Lee just shares his food as PD Nam continues to shout offensive things and grind his female colleagues into the dirt.

It hurts a little that PD Nam is actually spot on when he suggests that Jin-sung is pretending to be gay for money. It’s not about that anymore (it’s much more convoluted and weird and really not going to work out for him), but it’s why he showed up in the first place. So now we’ve introduced an obvious conflict, that there are people that know Jin-sung in real life and will question the validity of the show. And then, we’ve also included a break-in at Ah-jin’s apartment and a missing laptop (best moment of the episode for me: Jin-sung asking how Ah-jin knows the place was broken into when it’s always this messy. Truth). I’m really not sure where we’re headed next, but I hope it’s not anywhere where PD Nam gets to walk around feeling like the morally superior person.

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Love Tae-wan, he's the most interesting character here for me, and that's about it. The concept has a lot of potential, but, how do I say it... it wasn't done right...? Is it the flow of the story script? The characters of the story? Maybe it's a number of things compounded together, I can't really say, I am not a learned critic haha, but this show could have been a lot more... Maybe it would get better in the coming episodes? But right now, I'm just interested in Tae-wan and his interactions with other characters in the story that I'm confessing ahead that I'll be skipping scenes until the episodes make more sense to me.

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I agree. Right now it is painful to watch Tae-wan become attracted to Jin-Sung and being led on. This is a very sensitive subject and I hope it is dealt with in a kind and sensitive way and right now I am not seeing that at all. I don't think the subject matter should be handled in a casual way. I will continue to watch in the hope that it ends well for everyone.

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Tae-wan is killing it in this yellow tracksuit and sunglasses! I didn't know this actor but he's very charismatic. I like how he's very observant. He has a funny side when he's sulking.

Jin-sung is not really well written. The reason that made him lie was weak and now he doesn't need anymore money? The fact he accepts to lie like that just because he has feelings for Ah Jin is weird. Doesn't he realize it will be worse for her if people learn the truth about him? And he seems to forget that he must act as a gay when he's people of the show. He looked surprised when she asked him questions about it.

I was happy Ah Jin finally understood the risk for the chief to participate in her show. For her appartment, mine is like hers so it was really funny to watch :D

The writer and the PD assistant are cute together.

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I agreeeeee. I've been looking for shows that the actor playing Tae-wan have been in, there's only one that popped up, I haven't got the time to look in to it but I will hehe

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He was in the World of the Married.

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The drama feels unnatural to me. Jin Sung seems to "flirt" with Tae Wan like crazy. I know what the drama is trying to do, but it doesn't feel natural for anyone to stand that near while talking to each other, the way Jin Sung lean against the kitchen top and talk to Tae Wan in such close proximity, or the way he leans so near to ask Tae Wan "doesn't he know what he likes?". With the way he behaves, I don't blame Tae Wan for thinking that Jin Sung is also attracted to him. I understand where this drama is taking us, but the whole thing seems forced and unnatural. In fact, Jin Sung is seemed way more interested in Tae Wan than Ah Jin. And if I were Tae Wan, I would punch Jin Sung in the face for leading me on. It is also weird that Ah Jin develops feeling for Jin Sung after she finds out he's gay. In my opinion, the drama is not well written.

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Definitely not well written... That's why I feel sad for Tae-wan's character. I mean if his heart is going to get broken later anyway, it would have been justified had the story (journey) been amazing...

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I can see Jin Sung and Ah Jin being good friends/neighbours/ work colleagues but certainly not a romantic couple. Tae Wan is a great character that deserves much more than where many of us are believing this is headed. Jin Sung is digging quite a ditch for himself and it may not be so easy to get out of it.

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im not watching this but if only I had a gang... we could have those tracksuits... who else is thinking this

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>Why go through all the trouble of making him so absolutely repugnant if the plan was just to tolerate it?

Maybe because that's the message so many kdramas insist on sending. It's ok to bully those of lower rank, especially if they are women. Bullying can go from simply making them work overtime or do chores that are not their job all the way to forced drinking, yelling offenses and throwing paper and coffee on them. Recent examples include Oh My Baby, Kkondae Intern and indie favorite Misaeng.

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In Misaeng's defence, it was supposed to be a realistic portrayal of the highly patriarchal office culture in South Korea. And the drama never played off the bullying as not being a serious matter so I can understand why those scenes were included.

But yeah the other shows have no such excuse since they have totally different themes and unfortunately I can only imagine these scenes exacerbating systemic issues in real life.

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It was a realistic portrayal for most of the drama and this was indeed a nice reason to have 3 bosses bully their new employees but when the last eps offered a resolution the message was that the rookies were supposed to conform, accept the system and earn the trust of their rude bosses by accepting their attitude and never challenging them. Misaeng was a false modern story that used the realistic setting and great technical quality to sell problematic ideas that are part of their culture.

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Realistic and idealistic are two very different things. Sure, dramas are not supposed to perpetuate cultural deficiencies and probably are supposed to be more didactic but ultimately it would have gone against what the drama intended. And I think a story where the rookies get validated at the end would become what is the 'happy ending' for that type of drama and it would get mocked for going against what it had branded itself for the majority of its run.

But I do agree with you that probably we should leave all that real-life stuff in documentaries and have that 'happy ending' in dramas and movies, because media can be quite powerful in this own right. Yet at the same time, if we just show all the good stuff in media, that can become problematic in its own right. Unfortunately, it's very difficult to find a compromise.

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What did that drama intended to say? To tell us that for those 3 the best choice was to accept they were wrong? The most twisted message Misaeng sent wasn't that they eventually got valued by their rude bosses instead of finding better jobs, was that at least 2 of the rookies themselves changed their minds about the bullying which could only lead to them perpetuating this system. Later they would use the same ways to "teach" their new workers. Like I said to @Kurama below, I think there are some subjects that dramas have a moral obligation to be sensitive as to what kind of message is being sent to audience.

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@lixie If dramas had moral obligation, there'll be a lot of things that shouldn't happen. It's not just the obvious things, for instance, drinking excessively is a scene we see in many dramas. Is it realistic? Well South Korea has a known alcoholic problem. But then if you want to cut drinking scenes, a lot of dramas would be on the chopping block.

If Misaeng was to portray a scenario where the bosses got fired for treating the rookies so terribly or that the rookies managed to overthrow the system, it would just be shelving away the problem since it doesn't happen in real life (mostly). The perpetuation of problematic culture is realistic in itself: we can also see it in cases where horrible upbringing (to draw a parallel) results in the children growing up to be just like the parent.

What I think would have been great in hindsight would have been for the drama to air an epilogue disclaiming against the behaviour demonstrated by the bosses in Misaeng, to maintain both realism and moral obligation. This would be similar to how Tom and Jerry comics were aired originally with the additional message that it was representative of the racism that existed in the US in the past that shouldn't be condoned. Why didn't Misaeng do that is probably something you and I can agree on.

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I do think they have a moral obligation to not encourage problems in their society. For instance I don't agree with scenes where characters are forced to drink by their superiors without any criticism from anyone in the drama. They do have a big alcoholism problem and can't simply pretend it doesn't exist. Again, I'm not against realism, it's about not encouraging the problematic behavior already in their culture. Why do you think the characters can't be shown smoking? Does it mean they don't smoke in reality?

Misaeng had a million ways to get to a realistic resolution that didn't involve the main characters being converted to the bully's kind of thinking. Any of them could have gone to another company, or simply stayed there but still kept their original ideas about the bosses.

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Superiors forcing juniors to drink is a subset of the hazing culture, but more specifically to South Korea, the seniority culture. Are they really going to pretend for the sake of moral obligation that such culture doesn't exist? Sure, normalisation of problematic culture is not good but sweeping it under the rug is also one form of insidious propaganda. As I mentioned above, it's possible to have both at the same time in disclaimers but media in general across the world is still behind on that.

Characters do smoke: Hospital Playlist had a scene with one of the male leads doing just that (he did drop the habit supposedly but it was because of a romance development, but I digress). The reason it's not shown in dramas is legal, not moral. I don't follow Korean movies but I'm sure it's portrayed there where the laws are not that strict.

Anyway, I think this conversation has veered way off topic into a discussion on what extent should media and society influence and shape each other. The right answer is that there is no right answer in my opinion and I don't think we'll ever be able to reconcile our opinions so I'll agree to disagree and leave it at that.

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I don't think they "selled" it. They just portrayed it. Dramas are not there to always give moral lessons. The viewer can do his own opinion without having the drama telling him what is good or not. As viewer we like the good one win and the villain lost. But in the real life, it's different and I like that some dramas tell this kind of story too.

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I thought they were just portraying it for most of the episodes, that's how I justified the bullying, it wants to be realistic. When the last episodes showed the bosses finally accepting the new workers only after they had given up any kind of rebellion or criticism against the system I could no longer excuse the message being sent as an attempt at realism. This is selling. Having 3 likable characters go through many hardships on their new job and have all of them arrive at the same solution? It doesn't get more sellable than that.

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@Kurama
I agree about dramas not having to give moral lessons but I think there are some issues they do have moral obligation to not "advertise" bad behavior. Mostly those that are still considered controversial. If we get a husband being violent towards his wife I think for the most part korean society is already capable of understanding he is wrong even if he is never punished in the story. However with issues like bullying in workplace or even school, misogynistic behavior and gay rights issues they still have a lot to learn so it's not a good idea to have dramas encouraging prejudices and violence.

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One instance had the crazy boss throw hot coffee at the chest of his female worker and the whole situation was only used so that her coworker could throw himself in front and play hero. Nobody discussed how absurd was his behaviour, that's prime example of how Misaeng only pretended to criticize bullying when it was actually normalizing it.

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THANK YOU! I'm appalled by the casual acceptance to workplace bullying as part of the culture. You can successfully show it to make things realistic without encouraging people to calmly accept it and "endure" because well, that's how things are! So get those slaps in silence and go to your cubicle. It's rare to find people who see and acknowledge how vicious and twisted Misaeng was about it, it's one of the most conservative and poisonous dramas when it comes to showing the Korean workplace. I even have some ss saved to always remember how terrible the "message" was, it always preached about enduring abuse and taking the system as a king we can't talk back to. The realistic aspect was just a weapon they used to tell people "it is what it is, not only you can't escape but you shouldn't even TRY". Awl was one of the few shows I remember that tried acknowledging how dangerous the system is, and gave hope of change to workers through organization.

K-drama fans are very good at spotting bad relationship practices in K-drama and unbalanced love stories, but are terrible at calling out all the (often physical!) abuse in the workplace that is sold as comedic and normal. At this point, since the bar is so low when it comes to workplace practices, I'd rather see clownish abuse like they have in non-workplace focused comedies (just one scene with over the top screaming or sending interns to buy coffee) than the insidious shows like Misaeng that hide conservative propaganda behind good cinematography and seemingly relatable voiceovers.

We see the workers going back home at crazy hours, defeated, drunk, their mental health deteriorating at a rapid pace... and we should (?) accept it as something cultural, so since it's cultural it shouldn't be called out. It is, and we should.

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Thank YOU! @samara I don't remember anyone ever agreeing with these kind of comments I make about this subject, instead Misaeng became this fine example of workplace drama. Like you I don't deny it has great technical qualities but I don't get why people didn't understand the conservative message behind it. I also liked Awl which was the possibly a perfect example of drama being realistic but also idealistic and conscious of it's social role.

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This drama is essentially a cooking show with a bit of gay-bait. It did have enough lucidity not to put "Gay chef" into the title, that's why it has been approved by jTBC. I feel that "the show within the show" will not have such (dubious) luck.
Pretending to be gay for profit is a serious fraud. It's not even as uncommon as you think. In Personal Taste, the ML was kind of pushed into it and, frankly, hasn't been punished enough for accepting the pretense. What the punishment will be for Jin-Sung?
Besides, everyone's gaydar is so off in this show! I mean, Ah-Jin did create her gay-themed show thinking about Jin-Sung, didn't she?

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I just find all (yes, all) the love-line developments super abrupt, without any plausible developmental build-up...

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I actually like the probability of a romance between the writer and assistant director.

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