To Jenny: Episode 1
This 2018 drama special’s got all my favorite things in it – young love, music, and a main couple so cute, you just want to squish ’em. Watching this shy, awkward guy try his best to woo the girl he’s loved for years just warms my soul, and the songs have already gotten permanently stuck in my head.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
The show starts off with a montage of buskers, playing their music on the streets to crowds of varying sizes and enthusiasm. While at his convenience store job, a young man plays the same song as the buskers, his audience one unimpressed little girl.
And even younger boy comes in, wanting to pay for his candy with a single coin. He pouts that his mom said it was enough money, and the girl tells him to knock off the innocent act, but the cashier gives the kid the candy anyway.
Haha, the next thing he knows, the little girl is using the same tactic to try and get free snacks. She pouts that her mom said it was enough money and moms don’t lie, and the young man looks at her blandly and says, “Ours does.” PFFT.
This is our leading man, PARK JUNG-MIN (Kim Sung-chul) and his little sister, OK-HEE (Choi Yoo-ri). At home later, Jung-min calls Ok-hee into his room to hear a song he wrote, and when she tells him that he needs to play his songs on the streets in front of real people, he complains that he can’t sing in public.
Ok-hee suggests that Jung-min post himself singing on social media, but he has no idea how any of it works. She gets out her phone to film him and he launches into his song, which has a lovely melody but is, unfortunately, about eating samgyeopsal with friends last night and how jealous he was of the couples around them, hee.
When he goes into the bridge and starts oinking, Ok-hee puts down the phone in frustration. His uncle comes in and yells at him for not giving up music because of his crippling stage fright, but his mom chases Uncle out and tells Jung-min to do whatever he wants. To make Jung-min feel better, Ok-hee posts his video online.
She tells him to write a self-introduction, then sneers when he writes “To my fans.” HA, he only has six followers, and four of them are Ok-hee’s friends. The other two are his friends, though he sighs that they’re more like enemies. As if to prove his point, when he gets to work the next day, his friends have put up a huge banner congratulating him on his ten thousandth day of being single.
They linger while he works and tease him about the song he posted. DAE-SUNG (Lee Sang-yi) crows that he has more followers than Jung-min, but MIN-BONG (Nam Tae-boo) actually does know a little about the subject, since he has a relatively successful mukbang channel (his gimmick is eating gross food combinations — ramyun and chocolate, anyone?). None of them know much about dating, though.
Jung-min is struck silent when a girl comes into the store for a hangover tonic, and he recognizes her as an old classmate, KWON NARA (Jung Chae-yeon). She doesn’t seem to recognize him, though. He knows a lot about her – she debuted in an idol group called Cocoa under the stage name Jenny, though the group was unsuccessful and disbanded.
Jung-min remembers Nara so well because she’s his first love, whose good looks and outgoing personality made her extremely popular back in school. He’d decided to confess by singing a song for her at the school talent show, and at first everything was fine. Then his voice had cracked badly on a high note, and Jung-min had seen Nara laughing. To this day, he can’t sing in front of an audience.
LOL, he does play a little dramatic background music for Ok-hee as she confesses to a boy in her class. She doesn’t take no for an answer and the boy runs off, relieved — ha, she’s a little player!
Later Jung-min tells Ok-hee about seeing his first love at work, and she’s disappointed that he didn’t get her number. She takes his phone to look Nara up online, follows her Instagram account for him, then looks at her pictures and laments that Jung-min hasn’t got a chance. Why do I feel like Ok-hee was an elderly granny with a salty vocabulary in her past life?
She helps him out by finding a photo of Nara’s favorite cake, tiramisu, and advising him to give Nara a piece of tiramisu the next time she’s in the store. He says it’s a buy-one-get-one promo, and heh, Nara is all, “With these tights?” Jung-min somehow manages to call her by name, and when he reminds her they went to school together, she doesn’t remember him until he reveals his embarrassing nickname, “Off-key Park.”
Lucky for Jung-min, once she places him, Nara lights up and seems genuinely happy to see him again. After she leaves, Jung-min nearly passes out, awww. A regular customer, JUNG-CHI (came by Jo Jung-chi), notes that Nara is pretty and when Jung-min says he loves Jung-chi’s new album, he mopes that it’s not on the charts. Double awww.
Jung-min goes home and works on a new song about tiramisu cake, and Ok-hee runs in to show him that Nara posted a picture of the free cake he gave her. He sings his song for her, and dang, it’s pretty good! Ok-hee posts this one on Instagram too, and Jung-min writes under it: “to.Jenny.”
Nara is practicing at her company building when the newest up-and-coming girl group nudges her from the practice room. She wishes them good luck on their debut, but she watches jealously as they rehearse.
She’s called into the CEO’s office, where she’s informed that after seven years with the company, she’s too old to join another idol group. If she wants her contract renewed when it expires in a few months, she needs a new concept, like becoming a singer-songwriter.
Nara is preoccupied all through her shift at a coffee shop, and it doesn’t help when her boyfriend texts that he needs to postpone their date. She heads home, stopping to buy a guitar, then spends the evening watching guitar lesson videos (Jung-chi’s, ha) online.
The next day, Jung-min sees a post of Nara’s on Instagram with her guitar, pouting cutely that she wishes she could play, and he gets an idea. He takes his own guitar to his store and pretends to be a customer (him standing there with his guitar over his shoulder and holding a basket with a hopeful look on his face is killing me!), hoping to see her, but she never comes in.
At home, Ok-hee helps Jung-min do some role play, pretending to be Nara coming into the store. The plan is for Jung-min to casually maneuver Nara into mentioning that she’s trying to learn to play guitar, then he can offer to teach her. But when she does come into the store, she doesn’t follow the script he practices, so he panics and just starts playing, loudly.
Lucky for Jung-min, he’s good — really good. Nara turns back and asks if he can teach, and Jung-min practically screams in her face that he’ll teach her. Nara hands him her phone so he can put in his number, and when she leaves, Dae-sung and Min-bong practically tackle him with excitement (yelling “Pick me! Pick me!” LOL).
At Nara’s place, Jung-min notices a photo of her with Cocoa, her group. She starts to tell him about them, and she’s surprised that he already knows. But Ok-hee had warned him not to be too interested, so he says he saw them on TV, and Nara mutters that they were only on one cooking show, lol.
They sit down for Nara’s lesson, and when Jung-min asks what level she’s at, she strums one chord, hee. She cutely asks him to speak banmal with her and pouts at him, utterly charming him into giving her what she wants.
It’s painfully adorable when Jung-min needs to correct Nara’s fingering, but he’s too scared to actually touch her hands. He accidentally makes contact and yelps, scaring them both and giving himself the hiccups.
Nara gives him some water then grabs his knees to scare him, and he spits an entire mouthful of water in her face, lol. The weird moment breaks the ice, so the lesson goes much easier from that point.
As she walks Jung-min out later, Nara asks when he started learning to play guitar. He says that his dad was in a band, and taught him a bit before he died in an accident. Because his father was unsuccessful, his grandmother was opposed to Jung-min playing music, so she forbid him from it. But then he met Dae-sung in third grade, and Dae-sung is a pretty good guitar player, so Jung-min started playing with him.
Jung-min shyly tells Nara that she doesn’t need to walk him, but she informs him that she’s on her way to her part-time job (whomp, whomp). She quips that she has to work to pay him for the lessons, and when Jung-min says she doesn’t need to, she threatens to quit if he doesn’t let her pay him somehow.
That night, Jung-min has Ok-hee make a list of her favorite snacks from the convenience store. He texts the list to Nara with a note for her to buy one thing each day as “payment” — that’s brilliant, this way he gets to see her every day!
One night, Jung-min lures Dae-sung to his place with fried chicken to ask him for a favor… he’s written another song titled Grab Me, and he needs help with the melody. They work on the song and play it together, and this one is even better than the tiramisu song (Jung-min even raps!).
At her company, Nara impresses her music teacher with her newfound guitar skills. One of the company’s soloists, AILEEN (NC.A), is scheduled to use the music room after her. Aileen is very polite to Nara’s face, but after Nara leaves, she asks how long until her contract ends and grumbles that Nara is annoying. Uh-oh.
Nara asks Jung-min to meet her outside today for his “payment,” and she says she wants to take him somewhere. She leads him to their old high school and aegyos him into singing the song that he never finished at the talent show.
As he sings, he imagines himself back in the auditorium, with Nara the only person in the audience (damn, his voice is like an angel’s). Back in reality, Nara is incredibly impressed that Jung-min wrote such a beautiful song, and she asks teasingly who he wrote it for.
He admits that he wrote it for a crush, but when Nara asks who the girl was, he deflects and asks if she had any crushes in school. She says breezily that she had tons of boys around her then, and to Jung-min’s disappointment, she says that she has a boyfriend now, too.
Speak of the devil, the boyfriend calls Nara just then. He tells her that he has something to say, so Nara drops everything to run and see him, leaving Jung-min wondering how everything just flipped on him so badly. He wanders home and flops into bed, dejected and trying not to cry, while Nara is dropped off at home and glares angrily at the car as it drives away.
Ok-hee comes to check on Jung-min, and he surprises her with a big needy hug. He tells Ok-hee that Nara is apparently dating famous idol Shin Ji-ho (he saw his photo pop up on her phone when he called), but she thinks that if he’s patient, Nara’s boyfriend will end up making her lonely and Jung-min’s time will come.
Nara doesn’t come into the convenience store the next day, but Jung-min’s friends stick around to hang out with him. While playing on his phone, Min-bong finds a scandal article and shows it to Jung-min. Oh noooo, Shin Ji-ho and Nara’s more successful labelmate, Aileen, have officially announced that they’re dating.
So much cute, I don’t know if I can take it! I’ve had people telling me to watch to.Jenny for quite some time, and now I see why, and it’s mostly due to Kim Sung-chul. The only thing I’ve seen him in is Arthdal Chronicles as Ipsaeng (I know, I know… I have plans to watch Do You Like Brahms? soon, I promise!) and even in such a huge, talented cast, I found him quirky and endearing. He’s no less quirky and endearing as the hapless Jung-min, yet in a completely different way, which just speaks to his acting range. Not to mention, his singing voice is fantastic — I understand he debuted in a musical — so this role is just perfect for him.
I often find Jung Chae-yeon to be stiff in her roles, as if she’s not exactly comfortable acting, but here she seems very relaxed. In her scenes with Kim Sung-chul, she even seems to be having quite a lot of fun, which really makes her sparkle. I feel like he’s one of those actors who brings out the best in his costars, and it’s certainly showing that here, with their obvious comfort with each other and precious back-and-forth banter.
As for the special itself, what a sweet, heartwarming little drama this is! I love everything about it — the characters, the music, and especially the simple yet layered storytelling. I relate to Jung-min so much, as he keeps reminding me of my own youth, so very many eons ago, when the regard of the person I liked meant more than just about anything in the world. I think we can all relate to that aching angst when you think your crush doesn’t know who you are, the elation when you get their attention, then the crushing disappointment when you find out they already have a significant other. Most of us have been there, and at the time it seems like nothing will ever feel important again, yet it all seems so innocent in the rearview mirror. Watching these two navigate all that among the heartache of trying to break into a business that chews most hopefuls up and spits them out just makes me care about them even more.