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Nevertheless: Episode 1 (Review)

JTBC’s latest webtoon adaptation Nevertheless is off to quite the start. It doesn’t feel much like your typical K-drama at all. Silly hijinks and grumpy heroes are replaced with a story that’s already knee-deep in a lot of mature topics, and is pretty frank about the sexual attraction between our leads.

Note: Coverage will continue with weecaps.

 
EPISODES 1 REVIEW

Our drama opens with YOO NA-BI (Han So-hee), our rather innocent-hearted heroine, narrating about the joys of being in love only to be utterly humiliated by her artist boyfriend moments later. An intimate moment between the two has become the subject of his latest sculpture, and is in the middle of his exhibit for everyone to stare at.

We don’t have to know anything about Na-bi at this point — we feel for her automatically, and our reaction is as visceral as hers. I was curious about the sort of drama Nevertheless would be, and particularly what Han So-hee’s performance would be like. She does not disappoint. This opening scene is really well-done, and we see Na-bi go from eager art student in love, to a young woman who’s been stripped naked (literally and figuratively) for the whole world to see.

It’s a strong way to start a drama because it’s so off-putting, and so quickly puts us in Na-bi’s camp. But even beyond the story, it’s the way the story is told that makes it so effective, and that’s mostly to do with the filmmaking.

As Na-bi sees the sculpture, talks to her boyfriend, and later breaks up with him, we never get a full shot of his face. Instead we see fragments of his facial expressions, and hers, in such a way that the exchanges feel incredibly intimate — but also so up-close that they overwhelm. We can’t get perspective on the scene because of the lack of wide shots, and likewise, Na-bi can’t get proper perspective either, locked in this moment of horror.

After this galling moment, we back up a bit and get a better sense of our heroine. She’s a student at an art school, and her work seems to be mostly in clay sculpting. The backdrop of the art school is a lot of fun, edgy of course, and full of characters that we’ll get to know more of later. For now, the main sense is that Na-bi is well-liked, but seems to be struggling a bit with her classes. She dreams of studying in Paris, but she doesn’t measure up just yet. Her break-up, understandably, has flattened her spirits, but she doesn’t have much time to mope.

As fate would have it, she’s sitting alone at a bar when a guy walks in, and touches her shoulder in greeting. It’s PARK JAE-UN (Song Kang), but she doesn’t know his name yet, or anything about him really. There’s an immediate attraction in the air, despite the initial misunderstanding, and over the course of the night they talk, drink, flirt, throw darts, and the like. And no matter what is happening, Jae-un is at swoon level 10.

Here the drama again uses its earlier tactic of really close-up and detail-oriented shots as we watch the two interact at the bar that night. Jae-un’s hand on Na-bi’s shoulder. His finger gently tapping her temple. His mouth blowing on her arm as he draws a tattoo on her. The corner of his smile. The butterfly tattoo on the back of his neck. That glance he gives her when he turns up his gaze at her. It’s a bit exhausting to take in all these moments with such intense proximity, but it’s also really effective because it puts us right inside that moment with Na-bi, and it turns up the heat.

But who is this Park Jae-un anyway, and why is he hitting on her so hard? He seems utterly taken with her, and charmed by her innocence, but can we trust this guy? He seems to either know he’s swoony as hell and no one can deny him, or he’s genuinely tractor-beamed to Na-bi. Not sure which yet, or maybe it’s both.

The two part before things can escalate (and after many near-kisses), because Na-bi hears him on the phone, ostensibly with another woman. She tries to forget him, but over the next few days she keeps “seeing” him on campus – they clearly had a high voltage connection that’s hard to forget.

Then things get interesting. One of Na-bi’s friends convinces her to join them for drinks instead of pull her all-nighter in the studio, and who is there but Jae-un? As it turns out, he’s also a student at their school — and one that’s been asking around about her. Na-bi is halfway between swooning and ready to hide in her shell, but boy, Jae-un is a pro.

Even at a crowded table with a bunch of loud, drunk college students, he manages to cultivate this sense of intimacy with her, whether it’s through meaningful glances, whispered side conversations, or wordlessly passing her the snack he saw she wanted. One can’t help but liken them to a gazelle and a cheetah, already engaged in this complicated dance. That dance continues through the rest of the episode, and most likely through the rest of the drama.

Na-bi is already in over her head — that’s easy to see. She is completely overpowered by Jae-un (not that I can blame her), and as she tries to piece together who he is, each detail she discovers only pulls her in closer.

For instance, the metal sculpture that captivated her so utterly was actually his work. Also, there’s the detail that he’s fixated with butterflies. This works two-fold (or maybe even three-fold) in the story. It gives Jae-un a reason to use some flirty wordplay (Na-bi’s name literally means “butterfly”), it gives them both a symbol that connects them — and it also works on a metaphorical level too. Na-bi is surely the same delicate creature as the real butterflies he keeps at his apartment — one is left to wonder if he appreciates the fragility of these creatures and wants to protect them, or if he just likes knowing that he can tease them and then tear them apart. (Can you tell I don’t trust him at all?)

I might be wary of Jae-un at this point, and squarely on Na-bi’s side, but that’s not to say the attraction and flirtation isn’t mutual and reciprocated — it surely is. And while it’s sexy and exciting, there’s also this sense of danger to it, and unwritten questions about what will happen between them as this story plays out.

All in all it was a bold first episode that did what it intended — whether it’s one’s cup of tea is another question. I’m invested enough to see how this plays out, I just have to remind myself that the drama is being quite clear: it’s not going to be our typical drama, whether that’s in content, tone, mood, or any of it. If I don’t expect from it what I usually expect from my dramas, I think I can enjoy Nevertheless for what it is. But when it’s over, you’ll still find me sneaking back to the more sweet, innocent, and heart-filled dramas that brought me to dramaland in the first place.

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It's the kind of story that works thanks to the chemistry and acting of the actors, yet in this case I didn't specially like them. Song Kang didn't give me bad boy vibes but more a puppy trying to bark. It won't be a nice love story and I'm good with this, it can be interesting. The FL is pretty fragile after her last relationship and the fact she fell for the ML after one minute she said she won't ever, was not a good idea :P

I really liked the college life and the workshops of the students.

I have totally forgot that N.Flying's leader, Lee Seung-Hyub, was in this drama! At least, I have a good reason to watch it :P

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I don't think Jae-eun is supposed to be a visibly "bad boy" though!

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Yes, and I would even think that he is not a bad person at all. There is genuine kindness, but also no interest in a deep, close relationship with happily ever after.
I wonder whether this is the theme of the show. They are all still students with an uncertain future, some hoping to go abroad. He might not want to hurt her feelings, but at the same time not see it as his responsibility, if she is looking for a steady boyfriend.

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I was thinking "bad boy" more like as a ladykiller than a member of gang.

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Well he's "killing" her alright 🤷‍♀️ and some more..

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I usually go for crime, heartwarming or slice of life kind of drama, while also enjoy a fun and good romcom from time to time.
But the older I get, a seasoned kdrama watcher with 12++ yrs of experience, I'm getting tired when the leads become too innocent when it comes to intimacy. I can barely forgive hiccups before kisses, and worse, a fish kiss anymore. Worst, fish kiss between two experienced adults.
So that's why I kinda appreciate the bravery of the two leads portraying the characters in the cruel universe of dramaland.
The chemistry is good, the attraction feels real and I'm tuning in for more stories to reveal and emotions to explore.

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@nanaama I agree with you about the way that intimacy is portrayed between leads (in some dramas). I believe that the leads are doing a good job of portraying the underlying attraction that they both feel for one another.

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I can count of the fingers of one hand the number of K-dramas that have gone full-on 'adult sensibilities'. And all of them but one have starred Kim Hee-ae. It seems pretty easy for a drama to lose its 15 certificate.

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I absolutely adore Kim Hee-ae

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This right here!! For certain cases, for younger kids, its fine. But if we're talking about grown ups, or 30 yrs olds. I much rather have them admit they've physical attraction to one another, instead of shying around it.

I'm the same boat too! Altho b/c of the 2007 Law for Korean TV Committee, which enacted any words/phrases about love/etc have to be kept to a minimum. Hopefully streaming can change that going forward, and give us something meaty to chew on when it comes to displaying that palpable tension/emotions.

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I do in some way see your point. But as a person myself in my 30 being inexperience in romance, I know I would not know how to handle intimacy... To me that is one of the things I actually like about romance in kdrama, that even at 30 those things can be a first and it take time getting comfortable with the other person as you figuring them out. Even as an adult you have your comfort zone at what you feel ready to do. Kdrama made me more comfortable with myself that I have yet to experience love at 30 and that it is ok to take you time with the intimacy.
saying this we all have difference experience.

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I have to commend Song Kang in this role (Han So-hee goes without saying). I’ve heard good things, but the only drama I’ve seen him in myself is Love Alarm, a drama I deftly dropped partially due to my disdain for his character. And I don’t really like his character here either, but here I totally understand why Nabi is so caught up in him. He’s so charming that I have to keep reminding myself that he is shady as hell.

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I want to shake her and yell at her to run away fast from this guy. But of course she won’t listen…

It’s okay. I’ll watch and judge…

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She's relishing it. She's no innocent, she sees him for what he is, and she'll make him pay for playing her. He'll never see it coming, and his last words before that pair of scissors comes slicing through the air is, "Oh, crap."

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🤣🤣🤣

Poor ML! Maybe I should shake him and ask him to run 😂

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He can't run, Ren. He's got to pay. *sharpens blades*

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Lol

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The drama definitely caught my attention. The atmosphere feels so real, and Han Sohee is really good. The way she uses her voice in some scenes. She is broken, she is shy but also incredibly charmed. And I am too charmed with Song Kang. He is not gonna win a daesang for this but I wouldn't call his performance bad. I've only had a brief encounter with him in another drama so I am not that familiar with his acting. We'll see in the upcoming episodes. Ahh too bad we only get 1 episode per week.

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Ive seen many people disliking this drama. And a bunch of negative reviews about it. Then I watched it myself. It is not bad. It is not for everybody. The topic is not an easy one, and every time a drama about this topic comes out I think a lot of people take it personally instead of dealing with their traumas and problems.

I am gonna keep watching it. The first 3 minutes is something so visually interesting that in my next art class, I will do an essay about it. The white statue and she is the only one wearing white, it was so... wow and then you see the position... wow...

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@avazilla That scene was difficult to watch because I felt mortified for Na-bi. Her boyfriend captured an intimate moment between them and didn't even ask for her consent to display the statue.

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And even had the audacity to get mad at her for not appreciating his artwork blah blah blah. I really wanted to just go into my screen and smack the hell out of him.

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@esther95 He was so self-centered. Honestly, I cannot understand why she dated him.

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On Jeju Island there's a popular 'erotic theme park' named Loveland filled with statues just like that. It was designed to attract newlywed couple of arranged marriage to 'get them in the mood'. You gasp at the things a supposedly conservative country can come up with sometimes.

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the direction, angle and framing of the camera made a number of viewers cringe in the first few minutes, and WOW! that's getting your objective across. The director got us all hooked watching those mouths/lips blabber stuff making us feel like we are the FL lead being reprimanded or smooth talked by a very controlling boyfie.

A few people might indefinitely put on hold watching the series because of the effect by those few minutes; but not watching it and judging the drama without knowing the reason or objective behind will be futile. I know some are quite sensitive on such topic and i respect that; but not giving the drama enough airtime and brand it as BLAH is too bias kind of judgement.

The first episode is actually making me think a lot. The FL lead gives an aura of being smitten but to scarred to trust a new guy to fall in love again. The ML may give the confident stance but makes me wonder if he is actually just putting a show — a sensitive person who is not ready to give himself in a relationship [am sure a number may call such person selfish for being too 'careful'].

Can't wait for the next episode to see how the main characters will progress. Just need to wait and appreciate the blooming of the butterflies…

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I liked it. The first episode is dark. Also Ja Eun is 100% bad news. He pursues her, I counted 4x he tried to kiss her. He gets what he wants and to hell with the consequences, plus his love of butterflies. GIRL, RUNNNNN!! Obviously that is not going to happen and we are about to see an example of what never to do in a relationship or situationship as it were in this case.

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It will be like watching the TOD reaching his target in slow motion.

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Why do I think Jaeun is not there on the bar by accident or by some sort of mistake. He IS purposedly arrive there to go after Nabi.
I can't shake the feelings that the butterfly tattoo on the back of his neck means something important in the whole story and probably painted there by Jaeun as a sign or some sort. Whatever that means. I won't mind if the drama goes a bit dark, though, not just 2 people flirting and having a casual relationship.

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"Obsession" is a right word to describe his relationship to those insects.

His tattoo? A butterfly. His profile pic? A butterfly. All his work dedicated to? butterflies. The thing he draws on a girl on first date? A butterfly. His future girlfriend's name? You guessed it. A butterfly.

I feel like the writers overdid it a bit for one episode.

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Watching the episode I felt as if I am falling in a dark hole. At no point I could feel myself rooting for these two and yet wanted to see how things will play out. It all felt empty and meaningless despite being so electrically charged. There is more to be revealed still but the episode did enough to capture me.
Given this is going to be only 10 episodes my hope of a happy ending is less.

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Good start and certainly different from other coming of age dramas. Song Kang performance just hits all the right notes. Irresistibly nice and gentle, balm for the soul of the girl who has been treated so abominably by the boy before. She just pushes aside all warning signs and thoughts that he might be bad news, wants to believe that he is the right one. Oh dear. Let's see how it will continue!

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It was an amazing introduction. Very arty with mystery , suspense :)Kudos to director . Other then story , Story telling was interesting. I liked it but unfortunately it is a real life like story and I can guess what's coming! That makes is a horror story :) I just didn't get Na-bi. She is a smart city girl .She is not naïve or innocent, already came out a trouble relation. She does have an experience . How come she can not see all signs ! I am planning to read your recaps instead of watching it :) I don't think I am ready to follow another toxic love story ! We already see them in real life :)

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@mina00: I agree with your take on Na-bi. From what I understood, she supposedly met Jae-un the same evening she broke up with her boyfriend, and is not the least bit wary of Jae-un (or other guys for that matter), but seemed to have fallen hard for him that first evening.

It may be interesting how this drama unfolds. Jae-un is a black box for now. We know very little about him, but he knows how to turn on the charm. Na-bi seems to be in over her head, but desperate for Jae-un's attention... and affection...

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I haven’t watched the show, but reading your comment, I suddenly think of the book I’m reading now. It’s about relationships between a codependents and narcissists. It might fit well with their ‘love.’

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In early 20s even though the bullshit detector is already developed, getting your heart in sync with it is still difficult.

Na Bi seems to understand that the guy is a bad news, however, she still wants to spend time with him.

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Or she just has a terrible taste in men. I mean, she broke up with her pretentious, emotionally abusive, inconsiderate, controlling, narcissistic ex because of cheating. Her track record so far doesn't look very promising.

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I did a friend got trough that kind of guy in early thirties and she end up quiet emotionally drained. The day we met him we told her run away .He was an open book. I don't even blame him! but she pretend everything was ok and follow her heart. That's why 'Nevertheless ' seems a kind of Psychological Thriller for me :)

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Jae-un is getting a bum rap in these comments. He's not a predator, he's merely a butterfly who flits from flower to flower. Why is he drawn to Na-bi? Have you seen Na-bi? Why is Na-bi drawn to him? Have you seen Jae-un? A college fling with a charming though disinterested piece of eye candy sounds like a nice antidote to the torrid affair you just had with a professor.

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His obsession with butterflies is creeping me out so much. Actually everything about him creeps me out. He's like a walking, breathing red flag.

On an other note, Song Kang seems to attract butterflies too. Navillera and now this hahaha

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I'm watching this drama as a challenge to see if I end up swooning for Jae Eun or recognize him for the red flag he is.
So far I acted just like Na Bi, only concerned when he was very handsy with her and everyone. But boy is such a charmer. He knows all the tricks to charm a woman. No doubt some women fall for f-boys easily.
The cinematography plays such a big part in enhancing all the emotions especially the tension.
While Jae Eun doesn't really look safe, Na Bi also seems to be coming from a place where she desires attention and care. The slight indication towards her relationship with her mom and her choice for men hints at some unresolved conflict that she tries to escape or finds an answer from the men she dates.

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Here is my theory.

He is obsessed with her. He has been stalking her and watching her. He tattooed the butterfly on the back of his neck for her. @leetennant understands stalking and the significance of a tattoo on a man's back and --- hey, wait a minute, why am I talking about LT?

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If that was the case I doubt he would have dated the other girls as well.

24 hours is just too little to dedicatedly stalk more than one girl.

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You love to live dangerously @yyishere. 😆

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I think your theory sticks. Netflix even says she thinks it’s fate, but it’s not. Hence the name, Nevertheless. And LT should get royalties. It’s her story. Unfortunately, the FL isn’t as Indifferent as LT!

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I loved the cinematography and how atmospheric it was. It fits the show so well.

Han So-hee is so good. I can totally buy her as a person who’s burnt out by relationships - but clearly desires love and affection. As for Song Kang, I’m kind of surprised I found him believable in this role. I was skeptical before this episode whether he could pull off this sort of character and I think he did - at least in this episode. I totally get why Na-bi is drawn him since he’s so obviously handsome and charm, even though to a viewer like me, he screams bad news. The attraction between them seemed mutual and palpable, but who knows what’s going on in Jae-un’s head??

Definitely watching the rest to see what happens. That 19+ rating may or may not be making me curious as well 👀…

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I get the impression this is going to be an excellent drama, one of the best of the year, quality-wise. Unless they mess it up. One of the benefits of adapting a webtoon is they've got a full story instead of making it up on the fly, like some dramas we can think of. Halfway through watching the episode I thought 'This series is Do You Like Brahms for extroverts'

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Episode 1 was just introductions. We don't know the source of drama conflict yet for the coming episodes. I admit I'd be content with watching two pretty people flirting for the next 9 episodes. The only bad thing about the recently finished 'Mad for Each Other' was the villain storyline. I'd be happy if there were no villains.

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Jae eun scares me more than Nabi's ex. Nabi's ex, by how he's portrayed here, is just all-out bad. We see him from Nabi's perspective at the end of the relationship. Nabi is no longer pulled by attraction or blinded by rose-colored glasses.

On the other hand, we see Jae eun from Nabi's perspective at the start of the relationship. Jae eun is sublime. You know you need to run, but you are instinctively and physically drawn to him. If I was Nabi, I would have fallen for Jae eun's tricks too despite knowing that he is shady as hell.

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I am intrigued by this drama.

I find Jae un creepy and disturbing. I don't like him. I don't trust him. I wish he would stop encroaching into her space. Stop touching her. Stop trying to kiss her.

The smoking is an invitation to danger, I am guessing. To walk on the wild side. And she loves it, dicing with danger. Han So hee is terrific. She's innocent and alluring, shy and calculative, hard and soft, all at once. I find her fascinating. She dominates every scene she is in.

He thinks he can manipulate her and that she is a delicate butterfly.

I am betting that in the end she will turn the tables on him. She will morph into a vampire bat, bite him, and he will be the one who ends up bleeding, while she flies to Paris.

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A short story I read a long time ago was about the idea that humans were not the top predators, that vampires preyed on humans, something else preyed on vampires, etc. A unique way to take this story would be to have our heroine walk the hierarchy of prey-predator relationships and end up as the apex predator. Of course, that would not be this drama. Or a kdrama. Wonder who could make such a thing?

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Gail Carriger's steampunk vampires that have an interesting hierarchical system based on that of a beehive might come close...

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A very interesting premise indeed that I’m sold by the first episode. It’s very different from the usual cutesy campus drama and portrays a more adulty version of a college show which I totally dig. I already feel bad for Nabi because she’s just going from one toxic relationship to another but I love her chemistry with Song Kang

Han so hee is great in this. I’ve only ever seen her play cold characters but she totally embodies Nabi, and that scene on the staircase of her sobbing already got me feeling bad for her.

I saw that Song Kang got a lot of flack from k-nets for his acting but I thought he was just fine. He definitely gives me huge red flags and his gaze and smiles give me bad feelings so I think he is doing a good job. Only complaint is that it’s once a week and I’m just itching to watch the next episode.

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The most challenging aspect in this drama is the sexual attraction of the leads which I thought was well executed. Would a woman fresh out of being two timed knowingly offer herself to be preyed upon by someone with all the signs of a player? It was interesting to watch how the actress struggled with every little signs of charm oozing out of her sexual counterpart. Is he for real or was she being played?She walked out on a deceptive relationship without hesitation but entered a raw sexual energy too strong to resist, she may choose to be preyed upon instead.

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Welcome to the world of college age hormones. I almost had forgotten that, several lifetimes ago, I had also attended art school at that age.

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confront his players ways, na-bi :0 don't like himmmm! call him out on his phone call! "who you calling?" and also "why are you so touchy-touchy with girls, you flirt?"

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Ooooooh... It took awhile to realize an alternate interpretation of that sculpture name 'Nabi'. Oh my, that is soooooooo vulgar.

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I'm not mad at this, because it hits too close to home. I may or may not have picked up a serious smoking problem because of this one smoker guy I wished to spend time with on rooftops. First year of Uni. Bad choices. He may or may not have used the SAME trick to get added to my snapchat, the way Jae-Won got Na-Bi's name at the bar. Oh gosh. xD
It's easy to 'tsk' at the decisions Na-Bi usually makes, but so difficult to resist the temptation when you're in her shoes. I have been there, so have 90% other women. Girls who don't crash and burn after an encounter like this, usually have the sensibilities to walk away at the right time, or are fortunate to have fate never cross their ways again.

I think Na-Bi's problem here is that she thinks she can fix Jae-Won's ways, be different than the other girls.... which is why she gives in, and not because she *only* wants to sleep with him.
The best way to save your head and heart in such situations is to give in JUST once, get it out of your system and then say goodbye. Do not turn back. Think of it as a great fling and move on. Sadly, characters like Na-Bi can't just dip their toes and leave. :(

Moving on, SK needs to improve on his lover-boy act. He's not very convincing, his flirty smiles register as creepy and fake to me, even though I recognize him as extremely hot. His playboy-touches are all over the place: sometimes brotherly and sometimes flirty, but very conscious/ intentional nonetheless. It needs to be more nonchalant and accidental to be flirty, and not creepy.

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I agree that Na-bi needs to run away when the time is right. The first 10 mins of Jae-eon's screentime screams trouble.

The drama is great at using falling cherry blossoms and romantic music to portray the swoons that Na-bi feels. That's the thing with players, the first rush is breathtaking and thrilling, but then it's crash and burn if you harbour any intentions of anything more serious. I'd hate to see Na-bi get hurt again. I think the only drama ending I could accept would be for Na-bi to enjoy the romance/fling, learn a lesson about setting and realising boundaries, and move on. If the drama ends with Na-bi reforming the player to settle down would just leave a bad taste in my mouth.

It just doesn;t happen in real life and would reinforce stereotypes of people "changing" for love.

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Wow, great set up and great writing, @missvictrix! I saw this right away—couldn’t wait to actually, and you know from the first full scene that it is very adult, mature. I hope it stays that way. Song Kang is a definitely compelling “swoon level 10” indeed! They have electric chemistry and I am looking forward to seeing more!

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Like so many have said, I believe Na Bi's ex is absolute scum. His use of her nakedness and that intimate moment, WITHOUT her knowledge or consent floured me. As did him making the argument against contraception use when he ultimately cheated! Make it make sense. He's awful and conceited and not worth the time.

Jae Eun is cute, but a flagrant playboy with a butterfly obsession. I think someone saying the word alone gets him euphoric, I'm interested in seeing where his love of butterflies came from. Also, he looks homeless? Or maybe like a squatter? I'm not sure, but he's definitely not what he presents himself as.

Mostly, I like that they're open about their attraction and feel grown up. It's refreshing and I look forward to future episodes. Thanks for the recap!

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I stumbled upon this drama by chance. I was hoping for a light romantic drama, but boy, I was in for a treat. I really believe so.

All kind of sparks were flying during Na-bi and Jae-un first meet. I was definitely smiling ear to ear, feeling all the butterflies that Na-bi would have felt, because, oh wait, that's exactly how my toxic and unhealthy relationship with my guy friend started, a swoony first meet.

Let's see how this one progress, must be hell of a bumpy ride.

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