Lovestruck in the City: Episode 1
Lovestruck in the City is here, as Kakao’s latest experiment into K-dramas. We have a different show length, airing time, and (surprise!) format than what we’re used to. Though it’s a major adjustment, Lovestruck came in feeling new and fresh but still comfortably familiar. It might just be the perfect breezy watch I’ve been looking for.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
A narrator tells us, “One day, we wanted to know how men and women in the city date. To satisfy our curiosity, we decided to follow several men and women in the city.” This narrator is actually a director, and he introduces us to the people he’s documenting:
We have architect PARK JAE-WON (Ji Chang-wook), marketer LEE EUN-OH (Kim Ji-won), another architect CHOI KYUNG-JOON (Kim Min-seok), part-timer/possibly unemployed SUH RIN-YI (So Joo-yeon), high school gym teacher OH SUN-YOUNG (Han Ji-eun), and novelist KANG GEON (Ryu Kyung-soo).
What do they have in common? They reside in the city, they’re in their late twenties to early thirties, and they’re all super awkward in front of the camera.
The director narrates that he won’t be interfering with these people’s lives, but he may share their interviews or edit them to make things fun. All righty… as long as you don’t go The Bachelor on us.
Director-nim encourages his subjects to treat the camera like a friend and to always tell the truth. But in some cases, he wonders if they’re lying, like when Jae-won claims that he’s not at all a clingy lover. So, Director-nim concludes, “We’ll let you be the judge.”
As we see the subjects in their daily lives, a few connections are made. It seems like Kyung-joon and Rin-yi are dating, while Eun-oh and Geon are friendly. Individually, they’re asked about the kind of people they’re compatible with. Eun-oh comments, “There’s someone I cannot forget,” and Jae-won says, “I have one, too.”
We get a glimpse to one year ago, when Eun-oh and Jae-won were together and very much in love. Jae-won doesn’t understand why they broke up when they loved each other, and he and Eun-oh comment back and forth about whose fault it was, as if they’re arguing in real time.
Eun-oh explains that Jae-won came into her life when she most needed him, that he was a gift. Jae-won, on the other hand, feels bitter and wishes he’d never met her.
September 2019, Jeju Island. Eun-oh was working part-time at a surf and ramyeon shop, and her boss asked to pick up a friend at the airport. Naturally, her only info was that the guy was tall and handsome. She saw Mr. Tall and Handsome (AKA, Jae-won) by the curb and nearly drooled. Yeah, I’d probably react the same way.
“You asked me what kind of women I’m compatible with,” present-day Jae-won says. “I’m attracted to strange women. And I’m compatible with such women.”
As the couple drove into Jeju, Eun-oh bopping along to the rock station, Jae-won watched her with curiosity. Eun-oh then got excited about a love ballad and rolled down her jeep’s windows, encouraging Jae-won to sing along with her. “That’s how I fell in love,” Jae-won says.
The couple discussed the camper Jae-won rented, and Jae-won revealed that he had two wishes since he was twenty: One was to live in a camper for a month, and the second was to do nothing but surf for a month.
Still, Eun-oh thought that if Jae-won had a camper, he might as well drive it. Maybe even drive it to the beach to watch the rain and drink coffee. Without asking him, she made a sudden U-turn and took him to the DMV to get a camper license.
As Jae-won continues telling this story, he walks into work with his co-worker (ah, and cousin) Kyung-joon. Jae-won seems pretty strict when it comes to their business, driving his cuz crazy.
After Jae-won was quite literally pushed into getting his camper license, he got his camper settled on the beach. The couple’s mutual friend tried to explain how to care for it, but Jae-won was too busy smiling at Eun-oh as she ran around with a dog. The friend Bin (cameo by Lee Sang-woo) asked Jae-won if he wanted to take “her” back to Seoul with him, and Jae-won was still smiling as he said yes.
Then Bin said, “Get her neutered first,” and Jae-won looked at him with confusion. Ha, he was referring to the puppers. Wait, Bin said, so Jae-won was talking about Yoon Sun-ah? Jae-won smiled as his gaze returned to Eun-oh, or at least, who he then came to know as the vivacious Sun-ah.
Later that night, everyone gathered at the surf and ramyeon shop owned by Bin and his partner Lala (cameo by Park Jin-ju).
The restaurant was in full swing, with Jae-won playing jenga and Eun-oh and her friend Gyung-goo (yet another cameo by Lee Sang-yoon!) playing beer pong. Even when the couple were across the room, they couldn’t keep their eyes off each other.
Lala initiated a game where she called out a type of group, like “three men and four women” or “four men,” and they had to huddle together. (Being an introvert, I want to cringe.) By the end of the game, Lala announced “One man and one woman” and…
Heol. Jae-won took Eun-oh’s hand and led her to the floor. (Still cringing, but also kind of swooning.) Jae-won narrates, “When I look at a girl’s eyes, I can tell if she’s compatible with me or not. I can sort of see her facial expressions in her eyes. I just felt it at that moment.”
Lala declared the couple as the winners, and like clockwork, fireworks exploded in the night sky. Jae-won continues, “I liked everything about her. Her breathing sound and her smell up close. Her weird hairstyle and clothes she threw together without much effort. Everything about her seemed perfect.”
The other docu subjects comment on Jae-won’s love story, Eun-oh herself saying this woman must’ve been really special. Jae-won and Eun-oh both say that if they were to re-live that moment, they’d fall in love all over again.
I don’t know what I expected from Lovestruck, but it certainly wasn’t this. I seriously question why they didn’t push the mockumentary style in promos, when it makes the concept sound ten times more interesting. But I guess I can take it as a pleasant surprise. The “docu” acting and setup comes across as suuuper cheesy sometimes, but for the most part, it’s actually quite refreshing. Right off the bat, I love that Director-nim’s subjects have started forming a comfortable relationship with the camera. It’s almost like they’re confiding in us, making it feel that much more personal. I even love the 30-minute format, making it short and sweet and leaving me wanting more. I’m already eager for our main couple’s reunion, as well as the other couples’ lovelines.
And I’ll just say it: I’m very much into reality TV. Like, to a concerning degree. I know that reality TV stars can lie and that editors can manipulate footage, but there’s something about it that draws me in. I think Lovestruck has that something. The director (the real-life director) seems to be having a lot of fun with this, as he seems to with all of his projects. I see the same touch of whimsy that was in It’s Okay to Not Be Okay, especially with the transitions and graphics. Though I don’t understand the flashbacks (Are they supposed to be re-enactments? A totally separate thing from the “docu”?), they also have a slight magical vibe to them. I wonder how much we’re going to see of Jeju; I wouldn’t mind spending a little more time there.
Jeju Island must’ve felt like some kind of sanctuary to our couple, seeing as how they left their professional selves in the city. It sounds like Eun-oh, in particular, was struggling in life, and she needed to be someone else. And she just happened to fall in love while she was Sun-ah and not Eun-oh. I thought it was so cute when she first met Jae-won and sweetly smiled to herself before switching to her other persona. To her, it was a romance that ended with Sun-ah in Jeju, but to Jae-won, it was a romance that ended inexplicably. I can’t help but wonder if Director-nim recruited these two knowingly. He’s not revealing names or any actual footage to the others, as far as I can tell, but he’s definitely going to stir things up. I don’t know how things are going to play out, just that we’re in for an interesting ride.
Note: Because of the drama’s length and schedule, I’ll be doing weecaps from now on. So see y’all next week!