Dal-li and Gamjatang: Episodes 1-2 Open Thread
The world of high art and pig farming collide in KBS’s new rom-com Dal-li and Gamjatang. To call it an opposites-attract romance is almost an understatement. Our hero and heroine are worlds apart in every sense, and that clash means instantaneous chaos — and chemistry.
EPISODES 1-2 WEECAP
For anyone who’s going to dive into this drama, beware — the first half hour or so makes you want to give up. Between the dull exposition and the overwhelming presence of English-speaking characters (whose acting skill you may infer here), I wanted to pass on the drama entirely. But then our leads meet, the fun goes through the roof, and it becomes so zany and enjoyable that I didn’t want it to end.
Before we get to the fun, though, we have to meet our characters, and first up is KIM DAL-LI (Park Kyu-young). She’s living in the Netherlands, away from the chaebol father she loves, working and studying at a prestigious museum. When we first meet Dal-li, she’s getting scolded by her boss. She’s been sprawled out on the floor for days, deep in her work, and living off of lollipops. Dal-li is nerdy and cute, but also has an elegance about her. Her short hair and graceful mannerisms remind me of Audrey Hepburn (no small compliment), and Dal-li is likable right off the bat.
Next we meet our hero, JIN MOO-HAK (Kim Min-jae), who’s doing a food tasting event that’s replete with cameos. Everyone seems to like the ultra-expensive and elite food that’s being served, but Moo-hak practically flips tables. He firmly believes that his beloved gamjatang should be a cheap and filling meal that everyone can afford.
We learn about Moo-hak’s story a bit more — his father is the owner of a gamjatang restaurant that’s taken off and skyrocketed the restaurant to an international franchise, and the Jin family into wealth and prestige. We can tell that Moo-hak didn’t grow up with money; he dresses in exuberant outfits that reek of wealth, but lack taste. They’re loud and they grab attention, much like Moo-hak himself — a bit crass, pompous, and yet a delightful character.
The character of Moo-hak is such a fun change for Kim Min-jae after winning over our hearts as the kind introverted pianist in Do You Like Brahms. Here, he’s loud and colorful, and Kim Min-jae plays the role just as obvious and obtuse as it requires. The story makes it clear that Moo-hak is a bit dense, and driven by money (he measures every expense by how many bowls of gamjatang it’s worth), but at the same time, he’s got enough flaws to make him lovable.
Interestingly, with Park Kyu-young, this is the quietest role I’ve seen her in, but I quite like her performance so far. She carries herself with a grace and gentleness that we don’t often see in dreamland — in fact, it was a fun inversion for the loud and colorful character to be the hero, and the dignified wiser character the heroine.
Our main characters cross paths quite soon, and the mayhem begins. Dal-li is sent to the airport to chaperone a famous Japanese art collector known as Mr. Jin. Simultaneously, Moo-hak is arriving in the Netherlands (against his father’s wishes) to go to an event at a pig farm. He sees Dal-li’s sign for “Mr. Jin,” and without too much fuss, the two think they’ve met the right person, and are off to the party.
Cue the mayhem! Moo-hak arrives at a private gallery event, lauded by the attendees as a famous art critic. He fakes his way through the event, and Dal-li runs cover for him, graciously translating his sub-par comments into something much more sublime. Moo-hak, however, passes over all the great works of art in the gallery and focuses in on the painting of a pig pen. He analyzes the painting in great (grotesque, pig-centric) detail, and the crowd is left flummoxed.
Beyond the silliness of this event and the mistaken identity, there’s an undercurrent of attraction between Dal-li and Moo-hak that’s been sparked ever since they locked eyes at the airport. So, despite the wild scene that Moo-hak creates (choking on an olive pit, requiring Dal-li to do the Heimlich, which damages the Modigliani piece, eventually revealing it was a forgery), the two can’t seem to stay at odds for long.
They bicker over the disaster at the gallery, the threat of a lawsuit, the mistaken identity that they’ve just figured out, and the fact that they’re been kicked out on the street – but they also don’t stay angry fore more than five minutes.
They head to the airport together to look for the real Mr. Jin, and then, when Moo-hak realizes his father has frozen his credit cards and he has nowhere to stay, Dal-li lets him crash at her amazing home.
Moo-hak thinks she’s just staying with a wealthy friend and doesn’t know she’s a loaded chaebol at this point. He cooks dinner for her while she works, and the two have a sweet evening together that seems to suggest that there was some fate behind their meeting.
We even get hijinks! Moo-hak is in the shower while Dal-li is in her bedroom struggling to take off her dress. Just then, there’s a sudden brownout, during which a wet, naked, and towel-covered Moo-hak runs out in the pitch dark to make sure Dal-li is okay — only to fall flat on top of her as the lights come back on. It’s been done a hundred times, but somehow it’s still hilarious, and the humor these two actors inject into the scene make it a lot of fun.
The next day they’re a bit sorry to part, and Moo-hak has an impetuous moment and takes off his ultra expensive gold watch and gives it to Dal-li, basically as insurance that they’ll meet again. But they don’t. He neglects to get her info, and runs after her taxi to no avail. And just as he’s forced to return to Seoul and his angry father, Dal-li is also returning to Seoul, but for sadder reasons: her father has just died.
Moo-hak tries to locate Dal-li in a fun Cinderella-type way, but he’s soon convinced by the people around him that she actually played him, and ran off with his watch. So now he’s basically angry with her and pining for her at the same time.
However, there’s a bunch of politics going on in both families that actually wind up linking Dal-li and Moo-hak again. We’ll explore this in more detail as we get into the drama’s second week, but to start, Moo-hak and his stepbrother have lent money to the art museum that Dal-li’s family owns and runs. However, with Dal-li’s father’s death comes debt, debt, and more debt.
Moo-hak comes to collect, and he storms into the art museum with a crowd of thugs. They all start taking off their clothes (showing tons of ink) and lay on the gallery floor in protest, Moo-hak included. Imagine his horror when the museum owner walks delicately over to him, and he recognizes… Dal-li. It’s hard to imagine a more zany and fun ending to this drama’s first week — the ridiculous is only matched by the genuine cuteness of Dal-li and Moo-hak together.
There are also a lot of fun side characters that we’ll get to next week (including Hwang Hee, whom we last saw just a few days ago as an NIS agent in The Veil) — but all in all, even for its roughish start, Dal-li and Gamjatang is a lot of fun. It hit my funny bone, and it promises to keep hitting it, so I’ll definitely be back next week for the madness. And in the meantime, I’m just going to giggle over the unlikely thought of Kim Min-jae inked from head to toe.
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