Tell Me That You Love Me: Episode 2
Even better than Episode 1, the tender pain of this drama has me in a chokehold. It’s going to drag on, and drag me right along with it, and that’s what I’m banking on. With its background of rain and symphony sounds, I’m settling in for a hurts-so-good love story that’s looking to heal its characters (and us, if we go for the ride).
Editor’s note: Weekly drama coverage will continue.
We start with turbulence. Mo-eun was once a flight attendant and she tells us that she got used to it when flying, but when it comes to life, turbulence is tough to overcome. She’s 33 now and her career change to pursue acting is a recent endeavor. She’s anxious and faltering and wishes there was a manual for life like there is on planes.
This is the mood for the episode as our characters try to connect and falter, anxious about themselves and their pasts. The drama’s strength so far is its ability to go from somber to smiling in a heartbeat and to make us feel the story more than tell it to us. When the leads are in their own spaces, there’s a sadness about them. But the second they see each other, their faces light up — and so does mine.
We pick up where we left off with Mo-eun and Jin-woo meeting on a Seoul street corner. Mo-eun has clearly been studying sign language because she already knows enough to get her point across and to understand at least part of his response. What they’re saying isn’t as important as the fact that they’re trying to communicate.
We then learn more backstory about each lead. Mo-eun has been lying to her parents about why she quit her job (they think she’s studying for the civil service exam, not studying to be an actress). And Jin-woo tells his oldest friend that he feels most comfortable being alone (with only the slightest hint that someone he cared about may have died in that traumatic fire). But as the episode progresses, it becomes more and more clear why Jin-woo might feel comfortable alone. He faces daily prejudices for being deaf and has to give more than he gets when he interacts with others.
In a crazy K-drama coincidence, the museum where Jin-woo teaches is across the street from the café where Mo-eun works (and, wouldn’t you know, Mo-eun’s bestie, Ji-yoo, also works at the same museum). The plot moves forward when Jin-woo receives two concert tickets for a singer that happens to be Mo-eun’s favorite.
In a precious scene where our leads cross paths at the museum, Jin-woo offers Mo-eun the tickets. She invites him to come with her but at first he declines. He tells her he can enjoy music — through vibration, sheet music, and his memories of sound — but she wouldn’t have fun if she’s with him, so she should go with someone else.
What works really well here is that he’s super curious about her, asking questions, and she’s repeating all his signs/questions back to him, in order to learn more sign language. I mentioned last episode that I liked not having voiceover, but it’s even clearer here how much it adds to the feeling of the story. Whenever they’re together, it’s fun and sweet, but never syrupy, and that added dose of realism hits home.
Finally, Jin-woo agrees to meet Mo-eun at the concert, and so, their first date is set. But things go awry when a young boy who lives nearby goes into Jin-woo’s house to play with his newly adopted cat and Jin-woo has no idea the boy is there. The boy falls asleep while Jin-woo is working and hours pass. In the meanwhile, his hysterical halmeoni has called the police, who knock on Jin-woo’s door out of suspicion (and this halmeoni already has it out for Jin-woo because she’s a bigot).
They arrest Jin-woo for kidnapping and we see from his perspective how confusing and frustrating the whole thing is. He can only understand what’s happening from reading people’s faces. “I try to listen to what they say without looking away. Because only then will they try to listen to what I say.”
Unfortunately, even though he’s trying to understand them, the police do not try to understand him. Rather than communicating through writing, they force him to sit around the police station for who knows how long waiting for an interpreter. The drama does a good job infuriating me right along with him, and the scene works because there’s no makjang tone to this event (escaping the problems of the fire scene from last episode).
All of this happens right at the moment that Jin-woo is supposed to be meeting Mo-eun at the concert. She’s got some frustrations of her own when he doesn’t appear and ignores all of her texts. Finally, she leaves.
When Jin-woo is released, he runs to the meeting spot, but Mo-eun is gone. He sits, head in his hands — and then we see Mo-eun behind him, coming back to look for him one last time. She approaches, with her shoes entering his view, and the way this moment is captured as he slowly looks up from her feet to her face is wow.
She wants to know why he’s so late. But he knows anything he says will sound ridiculous. So, he apologizes for not keeping his promise. Then he says that he never should have made the promise because even if they went in together, he wouldn’t have been able to feel what she feels. (Oof. Let that sink in for a second.)
In response (and not fully grasping what he’s just tried to convey), Mo-eun asks if he wants to hear her sing, since they missed the concert. She puts his hand to her throat and sings, so he can feel the vibration. It’s very intimate and it’s made even more powerful because the sound cuts out, so we no longer hear her singing. We’re just watching, like Jin-woo is.
“I read sound with my eyes. Every time I blink I’m disconnected,” Jin-woo narrates. But there’s no break in his feeling. With his hand on her, it’s like she’s telling him it’s okay to close his eyes. We see in this end scene the same thing we saw in the last one — that Jin-woo is an overthinker, afraid to trust, but hopeful underneath his guardedness. The episode ends when Mo-eun suggests there are lots of things they can do together.
Well, now I’m just in love with this drama. It’s all about the moments. Little, tiny, feeling-filled moments that creep in and surprise me until my chest is in a clamp. Jung Woo-sung is very charming. And all the emotion and warmth is coming from facial expressions. The actors are miserable in one moment and alive in the next and the contrast is enough to knock me off kilter and send in the swoons. I’ll be paying excited attention to see if the drama can keep this up.
- Premiere Watch: Tell Me That You Love Me
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- Jung Woo-sung is a silent artist in Tell Me You Love Me
- News bites: October 17, 2023
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- Reborn Rich: Episodes 1-3
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