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Thirty-Nine: Episodes 1-2 Open Thread

In JTBC’s latest drama Thirty-Nine, we get trendy gal pals on the cusp of 40 living in the city whilst dealing with life’s curveballs. It’s somehow both more lighthearted and more tragic than I anticipated. I enjoyed it, although I’m not fully sure what to make of it yet. But I’m intrigued and already invested in our characters, so I think it just might win me all the way over.

 
EPISODES 1-2 WEECAP

This is a drama that really relies on its cast both for the chemistry among our central trio of besties, and for emotional grounding. Thankfully, we’ve got a solid group of actresses to bring life to the characters who are the heart of this drama.

We’re introduced in voiceover to our trio who’ve been friends since they were 18 and do most everything together, including getting medical checkups. After some brief glimpses of our main characters’ lives, a bomb drops in the first five minutes: one of our trio of best friends is going to die. Well, that’s one way to get our attention. We jump back to before the tragedy and get a proper introduction to our leading ladies.

CHA MI-JO (Son Ye-jin) is the director of a swanky dermatology clinic and works alongside her sister CHA MI-HYUN (Kang Mal-geum). JUNG CHAN-YOUNG (Jeon Mi-do) works in the entertainment industry – it’s not totally clear what her job is, but I’m leaning towards a talent manager. Then there’s JANG JOO-HEE (Kim Ji-hyun), the manager of a department store cosmetics counter.

Despite opening on a funeral, the drama is surprisingly upbeat. It’s got that slick, trendy vibe rather than the slice-of-life style you often get with this type of story. There are mishaps, petulant drunken confessions, and lady brawls that end with everyone at the police station. The juxtaposition is strange and made me feel apprehensive since I was constantly waiting for the tragedy to hit. Not that I necessarily disliked the tone choice – I just found it odd.

Back to our leads, all three women are different in personality and demeanor with Chan-young as the bold and impulsive one, Joo-hee as the mild-mannered yet playful one, and Mi-jo as the straightforward and opinionated one. Our trio are the kind of friends who don’t hold back, offering up hard truths and not missing an opportunity to poke fun at each other. They can mercilessly tease each other one minute and hold each other and cry the next.

We spend the most time getting to know Mi-jo and Chan-young in these first episodes. They often butt heads but make up quickly and are the first to comfort each other. One of the primary conflicts of the first two episodes surrounds Chan-young’s relationship with the married KIM JIN-SEOK (Lee Moo-saeng). They were together back in college, but then he went abroad, they broke up, and he ended up marrying someone else.

Mi-jo is not shy about calling out their affair to both of their faces, angering Chan-young. But she doesn’t stay angry for long since she knows Mi-jo is concerned on her behalf because she’s definitely getting the raw end of the deal. Jin-seok dictates when and how they see each other, selfishly wanting Chan-young in his life while also not wanting to divorce his wife. He’s that kind of infuriating man who’s not willing to sacrifice anything and tries to smooth things over with nice gestures.

Chan-young tries to justify their relationship by drawing the line and refusing to sleep with him. She tells herself that means it’s not an affair, but it’s obvious she doesn’t fully buy that line. When she finally musters up the courage to break up with him, Jin-seok actually tries to change her mind by offering to send her abroad to art school like she wanted. (Maybe he could try respecting her rather than trying to buy her…)

While that ill-fated relationship is ending (hopefully), Joo-hee and Mi-jo get potential new suitors in their lives. Joo-hee’s is more tentative, but the drama hints that she’ll be paired with the young new restaurant owner PARK HYUN-JOON (Lee Tae-hwan) who takes over her favorite neighborhood restaurant spot.

In these episodes, though, the focus is on Mi-jo’s new suitor. KIM SUN-WOO (Yeon Woo-jin) appears in Mi-jo’s life through a series of coincidences in true drama fashion. There’s some instant attraction, but it goes deeper than that.

They first meet at the orphanage Mi-jo grew up at and still volunteers at regularly. She was adopted as a young child, and I have to say, it’s refreshing to see a positive, undramatic portrayal of adoption. Her adopted family is extremely loving and close, and Mi-jo even hilariously uses her adoption to win arguments with her sister (“I’m going to tell Dad you were about to hit your adoptive little sister!”).

As drama fate would have it, Sun-woo’s little sister was adopted from that same orphanage, and that serves to quickly bond him and Mi-jo. After more chance encounters, Mi-jo and Sun-woo end up sleeping together. Then, they find out that they’ll be working together.

Mi-jo is going on a year-long sabbatical to the States, and Sun-woo is the doctor who’s been hired to fill in for her. She tries to brush their encounter off, but Sun-woo firmly yet respectfully lets her know it was no accident for him. I really like them as a couple so far. They’re compatible, comfortable opening up to each other, and communicate maturely.

And it’s clear Sun-woo is falling hard for her. After mere days, he ends up giving a hilarious drunken confession that’s more whiny than romantic. Despite the embarrassment, he makes sure Mi-jo knows the next day that he meant it. Of course, there’s the little problem of her leaving the country soon.

But that may just get put on hold. You know that medical checkup I mentioned early on? Yeah, we all know medical checkups in dramaland don’t usually end well. I thought they’d drag out the mystery of who is going to die, but we learn the answer at the end of episode two: Chan-young has stage four cancer.

Mi-jo finds out first since the doctor who did their checkups is a friend of hers, and she completely loses it. She needs someone to blame and puts it on Jin-seok, screaming and crying that it’s his fault. Sun-woo witnesses her breakdown too (he’s also coincidentally friends with Jin-seok) and holds her hand while she wails, collapsed on the floor — and with that we end our episode.

I have no idea what the tone is going to be for the rest of the drama, but I’m curious to see if it will stay light given the tragic turn. I hope the drama goes the route of celebrating life and the time our friends have left together because I came hoping for friend hijinks, bonding, and poignancy – I’m not sure I’m ready for a depressing cancer story.

 
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Chan-young, cancer. So the spoilers in what we're watching is true. I've only seen the first episode. Anyone can have cancer but not Jeon Mi-do's character. This is heartbreak loading.

The dynamics of thirty nine is great, and as rightly said, I've not seen adoption handled so nicely with a good depth of sincerity of heart in a long long while. My one cross now is Sun-woo having too many connections to Mi-jo. It's too convineint.

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When you are sold on a light, silly and deep friendship story, then get hit with bitter taste of a shopping cart filled with old tropes, no wonder the audience is confused about the direction of the show. The three leads have good chemistry. It seems the side stories about the male leads is forced and disrupts what we want to see: the three friends hanging out together.

As I stated elsewhere, when the writer starts the show at the End, back tracking stories can get messy. If the show is just hoping on the actors’ good performances are enough to overcome the early inherent problems then we are in for a bumpy ride.

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Mi-Jo : I like her, she's pretty straightforward and says what she thinks. She's not shy with Chan-Young and her relationship. I didn't understand her will to get a sabbatic year. She didn't look overworked, she could see her friends pretty often, play golf, listen a concert... I liked how the adoption was handled for her, less for Sun-Woo's sister...

Sun-Woo : how he could be everywhere like that? I can handle some big coincidences, it's KDrama world after all, but in this case the writer went too far. I wasn't fond of their first night together, I didn't feel the sparks between them. I think their discussion about his sister was the point I could feel something between them.

Chan-Young : her story raises so many questions about what is good or bad. Jeon Mi-do and Lee Moo-saeng had a great chemistry and it's hard to not root for them.

Joo-Hee : I'm not fond of Kim Ji-hyun in this role. Her character looked like a supporting role and I have difficulties to imagine a love story with Lee Tae-Hwan.

Now, we got the illness and death, I'm curious about the new ton of the drama we will get.

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Regarding the sabbatical year, Mi-jo's sister mentioned panic attacks. They should have shown Mi-jo having one to drive home there was more to the sabbatical than Mi-jo wanting to play golf. I hope they don't tie the panic attacks and insomnia to Mi-jo being adopted because I liked how the adoption was handled for her too.

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But they don't really show it. Her friends didn't seem to be aware. Chan-Young was surprised for the sleeping pills.

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I totally agree, I hope they will keep the light tone and celebrate life and friendship.

To be honest, as Son YeJin's character is the narrator, I thought she was to one who was going to die.

Generally, I like it but I'm not able to feel the chemistry between Son YeJin and her male counterpart (I know, after Hyun Bin in Crash landing on you no one can be on the same level XD) but I really feel it in the trio, they make me jealous of their friendship!

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I have mixed feelings about this drama. I like the three women and their friendship. Their scenes together were definitely the highlights. I was less enamored with the romances and the terminal illness plot.

Mi-jo and Sun-woo were so awkward together. That couldn’t have been good sex. IMO the actors don’t have much chemistry, which makes me less forgiving of the kdrama coincidences. I usually don’t mind Yeon Woo-jin, but he’s not working for me here. I can’t even tune out the dialogue and enjoy looking at him because I hate his hair.

I do like Mi-jo’s family (Her sister is awesome) and the adoption angle. I’m more invested in Sun-woo and his sister than Sun-woo and Mi-jo.

Chan-young is the most interesting character to me so of course they gave her the terminal illness plot. Sigh. Jeon Mi-do and Lee Moo-saeng do have chemistry, so of course he has to be married. I’m not opposed to an infidelity plot as long as they don’t glorify the cheaters, but it’s too much here with the terminal illness.

Joo-hee got short changed. Hopefully, she’ll get more screentime and development moving forward.

Son Ye-jin was good at the end of Episode 2 but the doctor telling Mi-jo first and then it turning into a moment with her love interest … I didn’t like that. I wish the start of Chan-young’s storyline had included Chan-young.

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Omg i hate his hairstyle too, so much so that i kept getting distracted by it! I think the best scene for him was the drunk confession, the rest of it felt pretty bland.

The other couple had a pretty good chemistry but there’s that pesky problem of one being a cheating husband and the other keep making the wrong choices and getting short-changed. Come on girl, you can do better than stick around for man like that!

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I know, I know, they are 39...but many Kdrama fans left American tv because of instantaneous sex scenes with someone they barely know. Netflix pretty much makes it a required scene. Seriously, to go to a guy's place for sex, when you hardly know him, is risky behavior...at the least, emotionally; at worst, physically.

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Glad to know i wasn’t the only one bothered by his hair.

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I liked the 3 women together and I liked Yeon Woo-jin. I did NOT like the two involved in the (emotional 🙄) affair. Especially Jin-seok seemed like the worst kind of manipulator.

Most relatable part of the episode was Joo-hee cooing over Im Si-wan in Run On 😂.

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@miso - Yep! Coincidentally, I have been watching Run On and have been liking it more and more each ep so I got that!😂

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Yes on that Run On scene, i felt like that could’ve been me! 😁

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I felt Joo Hee was rather bland till we saw her watching Run On, calling ISW hot and thinking a guy taking his recommendation had interest in him. That's when I realized, Oh I'm Joo Hee 😂 I'm defo interested in her story now.

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In that moment, I think we were all Joo-hee 😉

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I'm wondering if the terminal illness is a red herring and will turn out to be a misdiagnosis by the end so all 3 friends live happily ever after.

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Maybe the funeral scene will be shown to be imaginary? I will be mad - and no one wants that 😂 - if they kill off any of them!

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Was it strange that all the male leads came to the funeral alone?

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@welh - I thought so too! It was very odd!

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I liked it. I don't really know where this is going, but I liked two first episodes. I like the fact that three women can handle their lives the way they want (it doesn't mean they are fully happy, just that they do what they want) and I also wished romance was not the focus, but this is dramaland, and what is a 39 woman doing on her own?

Anyway, I liked the drunk confession and I buy the attraction between MiJo and SeonWoon. Two total strangers that have sex after a couple of meetings, they feel the attraction but don't know anything about the other. I love the way this is being portrayed in dramaland where sex only happens if love. And here we have two adult people handling sex and an affair in an adult way for a change.

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The main issue I have with the show is finding the romances either lacking or repulsive. In the case of Mijo and SeonWoo, no I am not opposed to the idea of a one night stand but this just flat out didn't work for me. One night stands work when its the result of drinking or sexual tension/attraction (usually a bit of both). I got zilch for either, didn't feel chemistry up to the sleeping together, their conversations largely leaned more awkward than anything and I got the impression that they were both shy/timid around each other. None of this added up to a one night stand for me especially with Mijo just straight up stating his intention when it was pretty evident to both parties what he was suggesting. So yea none of that worked for me. The other romance that was given screentime is the emotional affair which really makes me wince. I do think the writing here was solid and managed to make me sympthasize with Chanyoung at least....but I loathe Jinseok. Especially in episode 2 where he kept forcing his way into her life after she clearly wanted to break things off (yikes at his line about her being emotional). The sad thing is I enjoy the girls together but it clearly seems that romance will be a significant part of the plot so these issues really bother me. Especially since the way the show is set up with 3 friends who are girls and 3 friends who are guys all falling for each other seemingly, this means that Jin Seok and Chan Young might end up together which I genuinely hate the idea of. Even more so with the terminal illness plot now, does that make him ditch his wife and end up with her? if so yikes.

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The one night stand really did not work for me either. Drunken one stands work, but not this one. Sitting across from each other, and coming to an agreement to have a ons was just weird. So I just can't root for them.

I don't think Jin Seok will end up with Chan Young. I think he will just regret how he sidelined her all these years. Or I hope so, at least. I really don't want them together.

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His problem (Jin-seok) lies in his indecisiveness (for more than 10 years!, Dude!). Either he divorces his wife or stays clear of Chan Young. I'm okay with either because it meants one less people get hurt. Forget the women how about his kid? Will he okay with what his father does? Some marriage just doesn't work. Eh.
Mijo & Sunwoo talk over wine on ep 2, is the most awkward thing I see from OTP in drama. Even his body gesture, the way his sit, his position are just wrong. This two just had one night stand? 😒
And Mijo runs and cries over to Jinseok after hearing the diagnosis that scene just feels force. More over the voice over how warm his hand is. (Huh?). I dont know tells other people diagnosis without permission and gloss is off like it is nothing. Somebody is going to die is big thing yo.
The problems with this drama is not the actors it is the director, and the writing isnt stellar either.
I like things like Work Later Drink Now , way better, more relatable, more fun.

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It seems the writer took the robotic one nighter from NWABU and decided "I can do it better." But then threw in a bunch of forced coincidences. For an apparently successful, independent, rebellious woman, Mijo seems lost and confused by his attention.

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I really didn't like this. Everything felt really stereotyped to me. The three women, their friendship. They are loud, often drunk, embarassing in public. They seem very close then in truth they know very little about the others. I feel like I have seen this kind of characters many times already.
Nothing surprised me in a good way. The three of them are all wonderful actresses but I didn't feel anything for the characters.

And I don't really feel like going through all the cancer melodrama. I was hoping for a slice of life drama with good female characters and lovely friendship. This is a no for me unfortunately.

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I had the same reaction to the 3 women and their friendship. We have seen all this before and I don't find anything unique enough to make them interesting together here.

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"JUNG CHAN-YOUNG (Jeon Mi-do) works in the entertainment industry – it’s not totally clear what her job is, but I’m leaning towards a talent manager." I read somewhere she is an acting coach

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Yes, she is an acting coach for Jin-Seok's artists. Apparently, her own acting career was derailed by his actions and he must be giving her business out of pity or shame.

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I haven't watched a live show in ages but this was the one I decided to tune into because I've become a huge Jeon Mido fan and wanted to see what kind of role she would choose next. I'm not surprised she's nailing her role as Chan Young. I'm surprised that we already know by episode 2 who dies (wondering if this is infact true and not some dream sequence). It'll be interesting how the story picks up because as of now, nothing besides the terminal illness is really interesting....

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For me, so far I don’t feel much chemistry, whether betw the 3 actresses (it’s just not quite convincing, esp compared to other shows with way stronger womance, eg Work Later Drink Now), or the love interest pairings - maybe only SYJ and YWJ have a bit more spark but I’m not sold yet; and I’m really puzzled abt JMD and LMS, I don’t see why she wld be so enamoured with his character at all…?! (I was worried for JMD that she picked this as her follow up after the runaway success of HP, and so far my fears are definitely still there :( I do like LMS as an actor, but nope don’t see what’s swoonsome abt his character here so far)

That said, it feels like it’s gonna be a melomance that isn’t too hard to watch, n probably/hopefully no big baddies (besides LMS’s onscreen wife but it wld be totally justified) or closet secrets. SYJ definitely shines the most - but which is also part of the problem, maybe? She shines TOO much, and casts a shadow on the rest, haha! Let’s see where this one goes…

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I totally agree with you.
So far, the 3 friends aren't that fun, the 3rd friend seems to be 3rd wheeling the friendship - if this makes sense....
SYJ love line is pretty boring and I can't understand nor feel it. If they wanted them to date within two episodes why wouldn't the show starts with them being together for a few months and explain that they are still getting to know each other and figuring their relationship as SYJ needs to take a break from her daily life bc of her panic attacks.
They are grown-up not adolescent!
For JMD and LMS, what to say.. I can understand her - but I can't understand him. I'm happy she is deciding to choose herself . However, it seems the show won't let her move on ... If LMS loves her I'm pretty sure, we are going to see him a loooot more in the next weeks. Tbh, I don't understand his wife too. I would have divorced him. Is money worth more than your happiness and self-worth? What are you teaching your kid abt love, life, self-worth, family?

I don't think SYJ shines, she only had more screentime, more backstory, more current story ...
I don't understand the way she acts her role. She is 39, adopted, loved, has a great friendship, runs her clinics, still super shy with a guy who seems to be even more shy than her. -- I'm not sure any of them is supposed to be shy, I think he is supposed to be the quiet, but very strong willed and opinionated character type. She is supposed to be a bit louder// talkative//bossy (we saw her with her friends) character who has a hard time divulging her feelings.
That's not what I saw. I almost dropped it after episode one. Thankfully, episode 2 was better.

I hope to see more abt the 3rd friend since I have no clue who she is so far. She is 39, living with her mom, never had any skinship, yet she has a very ajumma and immature vibe to her. But nothing rings close to "cute".
I don't see any cohesion to her character so far.

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I liked the three women and their friendship. I didn't like the affair, and I don't like Jin seek for what he is doing to Chan young and his wife. Neither deserves his gross treatment and it also isn't good for his son. As for Mi Jo and Sun Woo, they are fine. They don't have a great deal if chemistry, but they are fine, nothing really to write home about.

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The one night stand kind of worked for me, contrary to some views. I like that they were upfront about it. Girl asks the boy if that is his intention and boy doesn't deny it and they do it. Two consenting adults. No going around the bushes. They feel the attraction and they both have had not anyone in bed for probably a long time.

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Yeon Woo-Jin’s hair, that is just — seriously, how?? Whyyyy???

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It was driving me crazy, not in a good way.

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Saammeeee! I’ve never been this bothered by hair styling

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The true tragedy of Thirty-Nine.

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Why do they do this to him? T_T

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maybe that's why I really dislike him --- so far

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It’s playing a big part

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I feel so scammed by the trailers! But now that we have a faint idea of what’s happening i’d like to see where it’s going. Sure it’s a trope fest but the order is kinda mixed up so there’s still hope in my opinion. Trope-fest have never bothered me (not that much) anyway

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It was alright, I guess. Not a runaway success, but definitely not awful either. I’d say I have an equal number of likes and dislikes so far. Hopefully, things improve in the upcoming episodes.

I liked how adoption was handled here. This might not age well, but at least for now, I really appreciate how Mi-jo being adopted is not dramatic some hush-hush secret. She has a healthy, loving relationship with her parents and sister, and I hope the writer sticks with that. I really hope they don’t tie in her insomnia and panic attacks to her adoption. That would be such a step-back.

As for Sun-woo and Mi-jo, they’re okay. I don’t think the chemistry is jumping out of the screen or anything, but it’s not bad. The coincidences were a bit too much for me though. Couldn’t they have met and established a connection more organically? I don’t necessarily mind the one-night stand either. Things can sometimes be awkward afterwards and that’s fine to show. Now, my real problem is Yeon Woo-jin’s hair. That hairstylist should be fired.

Jin-seok needs to stay the hell away from Chan-young. Poor woman can’t catch a break. Her dream career didn’t work out, the love of her life married another woman and keeps her on a side as a mistress, and now she has cancer. As much as I dislike the terminal illness angle, I hope we get to see her be happy before her death. Preferably away from Jin-seok, which juts me to say because unlike Yeon Woo-jin and Son Ye-jin, I felt like Jeon Mi-do and Lee Mu-saeng did have the kind of chemistry that instantly jumped out from the screen. Ugh why did he have to be married and a complete ass? I can’t win.

We didn’t get to see enough of Joo-hee for me to make a solid assessment of her as a character yet, but she’s alright so far. I hope she gets more screentime soon.

So, uhh, love the main trio and their friendships. Most of the other elements need a bit more work.

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*which JUST HURTS me to say…

Moments like these I wish comments had an edit option. It’s so embarrassing to see such obvious mistakes right after you hit post.

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I agree with most of your comments. I really wanted to love this and had high hopes, but it's just meh so far. I do like Mi-do's character, but I don't understand Ye-jin's yet ( she is kinda bland) and I dislike the 3rd one that keeps getting dog ass drunk at the neighborhood restaurant. Why is she like that? Does she have a drinking problem? Is she unhappy? I thought she was so worried about her mom and her health? Doesn't make sense but tries to be a "meet cute" with the new restaurant owner that is just gross.
I do think the chemistry with Mi-do & the married guy is much hotter and believable that with YeJin and the bad hair colleague (although I think most fans are just thinking how they wish Hyun Bin would show up and set things right).

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Also wanted to add that I love the adopted older sister at the clinic....would like more of her and what she's all about...she's way more interesting that that 3rd add on friend

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I will have to tread lightly with this show. I wanted light and fluffy this go around, but I understand that life isn't like that.

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The tone of this show is throwing me off but I’m already falling for Yeon Woo-jin’s character so I’m ready to keep watching. In the scenes without the lead couple, so far, there isn’t enough to glue me. The trio of female friends feels particularly scripted and unrealistic to me (like a parody of how female friends in their 30s should behave). It gives me a weird Sex and the City vibe that makes it feel outdated.

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Well put! Totally agree!

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