THE SHORT VERDICT:
A family drama that is equal parts comic, sweet, heartwarming and romantic.
Yes, that’s right. Romantic.
Ojakgyo Brothers is kind of like an omnibus. It feels like multiple short romance dramas packed into a large, generous, value-for-money family package.
For the 58 hours you spend on this drama, you get a whole lot of entertainment value. This drama had me in stitches and in tears, as I laughed, cried and melted into a puddle of goo by turn.
With a little something for everyone, it’s a lovely drama to unwind to at the end of a long day.
THE LONG VERDICT:
As a sprawling family drama, Ojakgyo Brothers doesn’t re-invent the wheel all that much. The large cast of characters set in a multi-generational family is a given in any family drama. But it’s in how well the show navigates this premise that causes it to shine.
It’s clear that the writers not only took pains to flesh out each character, but that they also put a lot of thought into giving dimension to the relationships between the characters. Every person felt imperfect and quite real, and their relationships, while traversing a lot of ground, never went too far from an everyday, mundane sort of context.
I liked that a lot, actually. It made the moments between characters feel very real, relatable, and accessible.
During their low times, it made me feel able to empathize with each character’s pain and frustration. And during their sweet moments, it made me feel hopeful for similar sweetness in my own life, even as I smiled with them.
I didn’t like the characters equally when I first met them, but by the end of the show, I was genuinely fond of them all. That takes some doing, and Ojakgyo Brothers managed it quite beautifully.
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album in case you’d like to listen to it while you read the review.
Kim Ja Ok as Park Bok Ja
As the mother of the boys, Park Bok Ja is the engine behind the entire family. She cooks, she cleans, she farms, and she simultaneously makes things happen and keeps things together in her cheerful, noisy, bustling household.
She loves her farm as if it is a fifth child, and tends to it with a mother’s love. Every duck has a name, and she calls them her children – which I find kind of sweet, until she starts cooking them.. But then again, I’ve never farmed, so I’m unfamiliar with that ability to simultaneously love an animal and groom it for food >.< I’m just gonna go with it being sweet that she has names for all the ducks, rather than disturbing.
I liked how the show treated her character, in that she also experiences a measure of growth in the course of the drama. I feel like parental figures in kdramas can be easily ignored when it comes to character development, with most of the focus on the younger characters.
Here, though, Bok Ja gets her own growth arc and even grapples with the meaning (or lack thereof) in her life.
Kim Ja Ok made Bok Ja endearing even though her character made infuriating decisions at times.
The fact that Bok Ja loved the farm like her own offspring made it easier to comprehend her decision to protect it by stealing the contract from Ja Eun and kicking her off the premises.
I thought that was a pretty clever stroke of writing, because without that context, Bok Ja’s actions would have been completely reprehensible.
With that context, however, we are able to sympathize with her even if we don’t condone her actions. While we know that she’s doing something morally wrong, we can understand the kind of maternal instinct that causes her to do whatever it takes not to be separated from her offspring.
One of the things I really enjoyed about the show was Bok Ja’s relationship arc with Ja Eun, which we’ll talk about later in this review.
Baek Il Sub as Hwang Chang Sik
Hwang Chang Sik is the hapless father of the large household. Having been a failure in many other areas of his life, he desperately wants to give his family some measure of assurance and security and thus allows them to believe that the farm is theirs, rather than on loan for a 10-year period.
Generally benevolent and kind, Chang Sik doesn’t figure too largely into the story, but fulfills his fatherly quotient on the sidelines. There were some small beats where he got to demonstrate fatherly affection, but overall, I consider him a fairly small screen presence in the midst of the ensemble cast.
Chang Sik was the unfortunate plot device that was used to tear apart our lead couple in the final stretches of the show, and when that happened, it did erode, for a while, whatever affection I had mustered for him. Thankfully, that was only temporary and by the end of the show, he was back to being the benevolent and kind fatherly presence that we’d come to know.
Kim Yong Rim as Gran
The grand dame of the household, Gran is the one who holds the power in the family.
No one eats until Gran gives the word, and if Gran’s in a foul mood, the entire household walks on eggshells.
But Gran has a huge soft spot for Tae Hee, whom she calls her child, and she doesn’t hesitate to show him favor over everyone else in the family.
Over the course of the show, I became used to Gran’s prickly manner, and came to appreciate the grand dame’s oftentimes gruff ways of demonstrating her affection.
The four brothers are written as completely different characters, which is great. Not only do they provide a great deal of texture and variance just by being so fundamentally different from one another, they also spark off one another in meaningful ways.
I love how the show depicts their brotherhood. I love that they fight and argue, cry and commiserate and drum sense into one another as the need arises. Sometimes that drumming takes the form of a brotherly pep talk, and sometimes that drumming becomes literal, with flying fists and bleeding lips. But no matter how aggrieved and frustrated they get with one another, it never overrides their brotherly bonds, and I find that deep-seated connection very real and very sweet.
I love, too, that we get to see the brothers interact with one another in mixed pairs and trios, and as a complete foursome. It adds so much dimension to the relationships between the brothers, that we get to see all manner of permutations in the make-up of their interactions. Every brother shares scenes with each of his brothers, and I really like that. This brotherhood feels whole.
Certainly I have my favorites (I am a biased fangirl, after all), so I’ll warn you upfront that I will spend more time talking about some brothers than others (Joo Won!! ♥ *cough*)
I plan to generally save my favorites for last in this review, so if you’re impatient to read about your favorite Ojakgyo brother, feel free to skip ahead 😉
Jung Woong In as Hwang Tae Sik
Tae Sik is the eldest of the four brothers, and not only is he not much of a success career-wise, he’s also infuriatingly self-centered, self-absorbed and cowardly.
I liked him the least out of the four brothers, and often wanted to throttle him because of his defiant, selfish words and actions.
Jung Woong In capably makes Tae Sik the brother that you most want to smack. And I mean that literally. There were times that I really, really wanted to smack him.
But he does grow up in the course of the show, and that growth arc is satisfying to watch.
I honestly didn’t see the hidden-son card coming, where Tae Sik was concerned. I suppose, seeing how self-centered and cowardly Tae Sik the character was, I hadn’t imagined that anyone would have found him attractive enough to have had a son with him.
But it turned out to be a great arc for Tae Sik, to grow into the brave and loving father that his son deserved, and I found genuine satisfaction in seeing his relationship with his son evolve.
Yeon Woo Jin as Hwang Tae Pil
The maknae of the brothers, Tae Pil dreams of making it big but wants to do it the short, easy way, by using his looks to charm successful older women.
Tae Pil is practically a full-time Casanova, with a long list of tricks up his sleeve, all honed with frequent and extended practice. Otherwise unemployed, Tae Pil spends his time scoping out potential targets based on the pedigree of their clothing and style choices.
While this did not endear him to me, I grew fond of his character too. Not least because he gets a good growth arc and is forced to take a good, hard look at the way he lives his life.
His hair also got better and better as the show progressed, which helped.
Honestly, his hair seemed to be a character indicator all drama long, to show us Tae Pil’s state of maturity. At the beginning of the show, when he’s at his most indifferent and insouciant, it’s a crazy, frizzy, all-over-the-place sort of do. Then as he matures and settles into a more responsible frame of mind, his hair settles too. It’s the darndest thing. If only we could read people as easily in Real Life, eh? 😉
Ryu Soo Young as Hwang Tae Beom
Tae Beom is a successful hot-shot reporter who plays quick and dirty to get his big stories, and basks in his success with self-indulgent roguish charm.
He’s the only one of the four brothers who lives on his own, in an office-tel and he’s quite fiercely independent, though not independent enough to abstain from sneaking around his detective brother’s office to repeatedly steal information for his stories. Even after he’s promised not to.
His poor brother Tae Hee gets into serious trouble for the information leaks, yet Tae Beom is blithely unrepentant.
That’s the kind of rogue we’re talking about.
In the hands of any other actor, Tae Beom could have easily come across as completely distasteful because of his inconsiderate behavior. But Ryu Soo Young is fantastic as Tae Beom, making him way too charming for us to stay peeved at him for long.
Tae Beom’s growth arc was one of my favorites in the show. To see him finally man up and learn how to be considerate and selfless was particularly satisfying.
Joo Won as Hwang Tae Hee
And then we have Tae Hee. Aw, Tae Hee.
Tae Hee was my favorite of the four brothers for most of the show, though there were (later) stretches where it was a close fight between him and Tae Beom.
Among the four brothers, Tae Hee has the most complex characterization, offering Joo Won a wide scope to play with and demonstrate his acting chops.
Without being too spoilery, let’s just say that it is Tae Hee’s specific context that allows for a relatively more complex characterization, and Joo Won rises to the occasion very nicely.
From the get-go, Tae Hee is painted in heroic colors for us. He’s the badass cop who determinedly and doggedly pursues justice, and doesn’t flinch at (literally!) leaping between tall buildings in order to nail the suspect.
Yet right away, we see how much his family means to him too.
[MINOR SPOILER ALERT]
Early in episode 1, we see Tae Hee in badass cop mode during a stakeout. He refuses his partner’s offer of a change of socks, glowering at the thought of nabbing the suspect they’re tailing.
But that all changes once Gran phones and insists on a video-call to see for herself that her favorite grandchild has washed his face and changed his socks.
Instantly, Tae Hee swipes a wet wipe across his face and smiles sweetly for the camera. Why the sudden turnaround? Coz if Gran is happy, it means that she’ll go easy on Mum, and it’s most important that Mum’s happy. Aw.
[END MINOR SPOILER]
Partly because he’s a cop, partly because of his specific circumstances, and partly because he just seems like that kind of person, Tae Hee is the mature one among the brothers. Even his father turns to him as confidante and advisor, and Tae Hee is unfailingly steady and calm as he evenly offers words of advice. He speaks up for what’s right, not what’s popular, and is the family’s voice of reason.
As the show progresses, we find that Tae Hee is an introvert despite his badass detective hero antics, and Joo Won treads that duality very well.
I love the understated way that Joo Won communicates Tae Hee’s introverted awkwardness. His nervous shifty eyes, his very moderated voice – sometimes he drops his voice such that he half-whispers, half-mumbles his words – and his stiff, slightly gawky way of loping around say so much about the reserved person underneath the kickass, sometimes-aggressive cop persona.
And his expressive bedroom eyes had me mesmerized. Like, the whole time. ~melt~
On a side note, I realize on reflection, that Tae Hee’s character shares some similarities with Lee Kang To, the character he plays in Gaksital, in that both are heroic but lonely characters. Yet, even though I watched both shows simultaneously, I found very little similarity between the two characters. I like that Joo Won approached each character very differently, making each one unique despite the similarities on paper.
One of the most heartbreaking things I found about Tae Hee’s character is how hard he tries to pretend to be ok.
In the scene above, he spies his father and brothers having laughs and drinks at a pojangmacha, and he smiles in recognition. He starts to turn his steering wheel, as if to move to join them, then stops himself, his smile fading to a pensive expression. He looks down and drives away. *tear*
He’s so grateful to his uncle and aunt for taking him in after being abandoned by his own mother, that he continually shuts down his own feelings so as to give them peace of mind. He pretends not to feel lonely or left out, and does his best to be the model son.
It is only in episode 28 that Tae Hee, after promising to never appear in front of Ja Eun again, is edgy enough to divulge how he really feels, in protest of Tae Sik wanting to marry Ye Jin (Yoon Joo Hee) and leave Guk Su (Park Hee Gon) to be brought up by their mother.
In what is possibly the most heartbreaking outburst in the entire series, Tae Hee blurts out, with tears in his eyes, “Hyung, do you know how painful it is to be abandoned by parents? How lonely it is? Did you know that? Always carrying those memories, always being a loner.. do you know how it feels? When I was young, do you know how much I envied you hyungs and Tae Pil? Especially how much love mom gave to maknae. Do you know how jealous I was? Because of fate the life of a loner is written all over my body. The love that you hyungs and Tae Pil got from our parents, for me it is a grateful debt that I would pay.. Everyday I was pretending that nothing was wrong. Pretending to be cool. Pretending not to be lonely. Someday, after living in pretense, I forgot who I really am. I became lacking in feelings towards others. When someone I liked appeared, I didn’t even know it. Hyung, you raise Guk Su. As if being abandoned by his mother is not good enough; the scar, that his father abandoned him, will be remembered. I don’t want him to carry those feelings like me forever. Because in my childhood, I was not all right after all.”
I’m not much of a crier when I watch my dramas, but this scene totally made me cry. *sob*
It’s true that in some ways Tae Hee’s been unable to grow up, even though paradoxically, he was also forced to be more mature than his age.
When he finds out about his mother’s death, his childhood comes rushing back to him. He wanders the streets and ends up sitting on the steps of Ja Eun’s hostel. Sitting with him is a memory of himself as a child, sitting alone in the exact same stiff-faced way, trying to hold it all in, after being abandoned by his mother.
So sad, and so beautifully expressed, I thought.
In his tough, silent way, Tae Hee tries to deal with his grief, and in that grief, there is sometimes a glimpse of the boy within.
In episode 31, when he lashes out at Ja Eun at the shooting range, even in his ragey outburst, there’s a sense of little-boy-lost about his face.
So nuanced, Joo Won. And so heartbreaking.
I love Tae Hee’s arc in the show. He learns to come to terms with his hidden demons, and learns to give and receive love, not only in a romantic way, but also with his family. It is a journey not only of growth, but healing as well, and it is as heart-warming as it is heart-breaking.
UEE as Baek Ja Eun
Ja Eun is the pampered rich girl who appears to have everything, only to have that everything fall apart one day, leaving her homeless and alone. She finds her way to the Ojakgyo Farm to claim what’s hers, only to eventually find what she’d always wanted the most: a real family.
Ja Eun’s character has one of the biggest growth arcs in the show, going from bratty and spoiled at the beginning, to considerate and sweet by the end. So convincing is the transformation, in fact, that by the later episodes, it’s actually easy to forget that Ja Eun ever used to be bratty.
Credit goes to UEE for a very credible, engaging delivery. Sure, there were some things that rang a touch false, such as how her bright persona sometimes seemed a tad too bright, but I grew to really enjoy her character, and soon, UEE became Ja Eun for me.
Another reason that I found Ja Eun’s transformation convincing is the fact that she’s never portrayed as truly nasty. Even in her bratty days, she is sweet and loving to her father, and that shows us that she does have it in her to be loving and considerate. It’s only when her material trappings are stripped away and she finds out how to discern what’s truly important in life, that her innate sweet nature comes to the fore.
One of the things I really enjoyed about Ja Eun’s character is how unconsciously forthright she is. She is candid and speaks her mind, even in the face of an imposing, disapproving Gran, and she just has a knack for worming her way into everyone’s hearts.
Gotta love a such a gutsy girl.
Each of the four brothers gets his own love line, and each love line is a distinct type, making each different from the others.
While Tae Hee fulfills the show’s quotient for the “main” romance, with Tae Sik, we get the Second Chance Romance, with Tae Beom, we get the Workplace Romance, and with Tae Pil, we get the Noona Romance.
A little bit of everything for everyone.
One of the things that the show does really well, is how it balances out the four romances. At any one point in time, at least one of the romances is doing well so that there’s always something cute, sweet &/or squee-worthy to keep us going.
Watching Ojakgyo Brothers felt like watching four short romance dramas, but better.
See, if you’re watching four short romance dramas at the same time, it’s likely that all four dramas would hit the classic rom-com milestones at about the same time: the meet-cute, the early excitement, the road block(s), the angst and then the resolution.
With one set of writers managing the four romances, however, it’s a lot more concise and efficient. We don’t need other fillers because the romances themselves act as fillers one for another. When one romance hits a lull, another one comes to the fore with something sweet or spicy, and we always get our romance quotient met. Cool, right? I thought that was pretty neat.
Next, I’m going to spend some time exploring the highlights of each romance. I consider these introductions only mildly spoilery, since you can pretty much spot the pairings from a mile away. Bigger spoilers will get their own spoiler warnings.
The Second Chance Romance
Of the four romances, the Second Chance romance between Tae Sik and Mi Suk (Jun Mi Sun) is the most muted, though it is no less moving than the others.
When we start the drama, Tae Sik is continually going on blind dates, looking for The One, and is exceedingly picky despite his own less-than-glorious position. He’s smitten when he meets Ye Jin, who’s young, sweet and pretty, and completely ignores the less glamorous but perfect-for-him Mi Suk who’s right under his nose.
I love that Tae Sik has to learn to look beyond appearances to find the one who is truly good for him and who truly loves him.
More than that, I love that for Tae Sik, this relationship is not just about finding The One, but is also about growing up and about finding and forming a new family.
When Tae Sik’s son suddenly appears and his world comes crashing down on him, I love that it is Mi Suk who helps Tae Sik deal with his sudden fatherhood.
It is Mi Suk who continually talks sense into Tae Sik where Guk Su is concerned, and she plays a large role in influencing Tae Sik’s relationship with Guk Su to go from this:
Aw. What a truly massive turnaround for Tae Sik. From being devastated that he has a son, he comes to be a father who is proud of his son and makes sacrifices to provide for him.
As for Guk Su, I honestly loved his arc, going from a boy who’s unwanted by his father, to a boy who gains love and appreciation from an entire family.
It is heartwarming to watch Mi Suk mother Guk Su despite them being completely unrelated, just like she does here, cooking him foods that she’s looked up and researched as being familiar to him in the Philippines.
Beyond the children and the growing up that Tae Sik has to do, there are some sweet moments that Tae Sik and Mi Suk share as well.
One such moment is the scene where Tae Sik finally feels ready to propose to Mi Suk, after getting his career back on track. He serenades her on the guitar, then approaches her hesitantly.
Screwing up his courage, Tae Sik says gently, “I didn’t buy a ring, and I don’t have flowers either. Although I don’t have anything to show right now, but today, I was hired by a hospital. I will start my life over again.. If you’re by my side, I think I can do well. Mi Suk.. Will you.. marry me? Stay with this immature Hwang Tae Sik.”
With a sob, Mi Suk embraces him, “Yes, ok, I will do that. I will stay by your side.”
The Noona Romance
Tae Pil the Casanova actually has a good amount of business smarts, and lands a job at Yeo Eul’s (Song Sun Mi) flailing sports-goods store as the store manager. As Tae Pil and Yeo Eul fight together to save the business, lots of opportunities for encounters of the up-close-and-personal kind present themselves.
The complication? Yeo Eul is not only a fair bit older than Tae Pil, she is also technically his aunt, related by marriage.
I enjoyed watching the budding attraction between Tae Pil and Yeo Eul blossom against all odds and against their better judgment, and I found some of their scenes very squee-worthy as well.
I have a soft spot for a good Noona Romance, and the one that Ojakgyo Brothers serves up is tantalizing enough to be exciting, yet earnest enough to be sweet.
While there are quite a few moments that I enjoyed between Tae Pil and Yeo Eul, I’m just going to highlight my top two.
While their non-relationship is in the throes of mutual I-like-you-but-I’m-going-to-pretend-that-it’s-nothing, Tae Pil and Yeo Eul happen on a couples’ competition in a store. They volunteer to participate, and Yeo Eul is required to guess the right answers to Tae Pil’s descriptions.
As the clock ticks to its final seconds, Tae Pil looks at Yeo Eul with this emotion-charged face and says, “What I want to say to you right now.”
Stunned, Yeo Eul lets out the answer almost involuntarily, “I love you.”
Eeee! I thought the moment was so sweet and completely squee-worthy.
Another of my favorite moments between Tae Pil and Yeo Eul is when Tae Pil interrupts Yeo Eul’s blind date.
Leaning on the table, a tense and determined Tae Pil says, “Nam Yeo Eul sshi, I like you, so I want to take you out of here right now. If you don’t want me to, tell me now. Can’t I?”
Yeo Eul looks up at him demurely and says, “No, you can.” He grabs her hand and they leave.
As they crouch behind a luggage trolley to hide from the multiple people searching for them, Tae Pil tells her, “Don’t meet other men. I don’t like it.” Yeo Eul smiles shyly. “Don’t meet with other women too.”
Tae Pil pauses as he leans in to kiss her, but stops short.
He waits till Yeo Eul opens her eyes, then looking right into her eyes, he says solemnly, “I love you.” And then he kisses her.
Squee!! How utterly romantic! ♥
I loved the earnestness that the writers built into the romance between Tae Pil and Yeo Eul. While there was certainly attraction to begin with, by the time they actually begin their relationship, we’re left without any doubt that these two are sincere about their feelings for each other.
The note on which this relationship was resolved was bittersweet.
Tae Pil comes to realize that he’s not ready for marriage, having achieved nothing much at all in life. Because he doesn’t have a respectable career, he realizes that there will always be doubt cast on his sincerity towards Yeo Eul, who happens to be wealthy. He decides to go away and work hard at building a career for himself, so that he can one day stand proud before Yeo Eul. He asks Yeo Eul to wait for him, and it is Yeo Eul who says that they shouldn’t make any promises to each other, and they tearfully part ways.
Even though they officially break up, as they each nurse their broken hearts, they individually express their determination not to let this be the end.
I thought this was a good place for the show to leave the relationship.
It doesn’t ignore the real obstacles that this couple faces. More than establishing a career, Tae Pil has a great deal of growing up and maturing to do. I appreciate that the show chooses not to overlook these issues, and resolves the relationship in a way that deals with that gap and yet acknowledges their hopes to reconcile in the future.
Realistic, yet hopeful. I couldn’t ask for more.
The romance between Tae Beom and Soo Young (Choi Jung Yoon) is one my favorites on the show.
Tae Beom has a contentious relationship with his team leader Soo Young, not realizing that she nurses a crush on him. The two spark off each other like flint and steel, and one of their arguments even escalates into an actual fight.
The chemistry that these two share is clear as day, with them matching each other jibe for jibe and wit for wit.
Watching them bicker their way to romance was lots of fun, with a good amount of jealousy, comedy and hijinks built into the sweet.
I was highly amused when the Workplace Romance evolved into the Contract Marriage Romance upon their drunken one night encounter.
As Tae Beom and Soo Young navigate these unexpected new waters, their bickering tension comes to the fore, and I was particularly tickled by this conversation as they work out the conditions of their contract marriage.
Curious, Tae Beom enquires, “You really can’t cook?” Soo Young pouts, “I can make ramyun. I know how to do that much.”
Tae Beom then asks, “So what benefit do I get, from being married?” Soo Young snaps back, “Are you getting married just to get food? I’m not going to be your mother, I’m going to be your wife.”
Ha! These two, they crack me up.
Amid the bickering, though, there were quite a few sweet moments that these two shared. I’m going to highlight a couple of my favorites.
In episode 25, for the first time, Tae Beom hints that he may actually like Soo Young.
He invites her to a buffet lunch to apologize for having been uncommunicative due to family problems. He tells her that he hasn’t told anyone about it, so it’s not just her. She asks hesitantly, “I’m not your family yet?”
Tae Beom says gently, “Of course. To me, you are a woman. (Eeee!) For a lifetime, while we live together (Eeee!), I wish you could be a woman to me.” He smiles a shy, caddish smile.
He then brings her a ton of food and the table is busting with dishes. He says, “From watching you eat all those times, I brought everything you liked.” (Aw. He’s been paying attention!)
Soo Young says in amazement, “How can I eat all of this? Am I a pig?”
And then she finishes everything. Heh.
In episode 27, when Soo Young loses a work challenge to Tae Beom, she is overcome with disappointment and cries, squatting next to the car to hide her tears.
After gulping down her tears, she gets up to haltingly congratulate Tae Beom.
Tae Beom walks up close to her, takes her head gently in his hand and wipes her tears away for her.
The way he looks at her, with his eyes full of amused affection is completely squee-worthy. Eeee!!
They share A Moment, before Soo Yeong awkwardly breaks it up. So cute.
One of my favorite moments with this couple is in episode 32 when Soo Young awkwardly rewards Tae Beom with a kiss for heroically saving a kid from being stuck in an elevator.
Soo Young plants a quick peck on him and starts to hurry away in embarrassment, but Tae Beom stops her, saying that if she wants to reward him, she should do it properly. He takes her hands in his, and with that same amused affectionate look in his eyes, leans in for a proper kiss. SQUEE!!
Afterwards, they are like shy, playful kids in the elevator, which is just the Cutest. Thing. Ever.
Sure, there is an extended angsty stretch for this relationship when Tae Beom’s ex-girlfriend shows up, but I enjoyed watching Tae Beom and Soo Young come to truly love each other and make their marriage a real one.
In the process, our rogue reporter grows up to become the dependable, loving father and husband that his family deserves, and it is so satisfying and moving to watch.
The Main Romance
From the moment in episode 1 that Tae Hee mistakenly arrests Ja Eun, we know that these two are Meant To Be.
Their chemistry from the get-go is unmistakable, and the show makes the most of it, serving up crackling, chemistry-laden moments by the spadefuls.
This couple was a delight to watch, from the early unconscious attraction days, to their courtship, to the establishment of their relationship.
Besides the very squee-worthy moments, I really liked how Ja Eun is written to fill the gaps in Tae Hee’s heart.
Because we have more time with this couple than, say, in a standard 16 episode rom-com, we actually get many opportunities to listen in on their everyday conversations. I enjoyed watching how Tae Hee and Ja Eun got to know each other through thoughtful, bare-your-soul conversations, taking time to understand each other in a movingly deep manner.
The tension-laden moments as Ja Eun and Tae Hee discover their attraction to each other are some of the most squee-worthy in the entire show. More squee-worthy than some regular-length rom-coms, in my opinion.
Their responses to each other are so nicely nuanced, that as they react to each other, the nuances add so much to the electric air between them.
Here are some of my favorite Squee Moments with this couple. Though I must say, it was hard to narrow it down, even to these.
One of my favorite scenes is when Tae Hee comes home drunk and crawls into Ja Eun’s tent and gets right up close into her face. Just when we (and probably Ja Eun too) think that a kiss might be imminent, he passes out, his face on hers. Eeee! Skinship!
Completely startled, Ja Eun wriggles free and fans herself outside the tent.
Uh-huh. If Joo Won had just looked at me with those bedroomy eyes and fallen on top of me, I’d be fanning myself too. *cough*
Ja Eun creeps back into the tent and thoughtfully considers unconscious Tae Hee. She tellingly reaches out, as if to touch his brow, but stops herself.
A new idea strikes, and Ja Eun cheerily takes out her phone to snap a couple of incriminating photos of the drunk Tae Hee. She puts her face up to his to take a shot with him, but suddenly realizes how close they are in proximity, and she stops.
She covers Tae Hee with her own blanket and settles down to just watch him as he sleeps.
The next morning, Tae Hee is startled to find himself sleeping in Ja Eun’s tent. Worse, she’s fast asleep right next to him. Omo!
He covers her with the blanket as stealthily as he can (wearing the guiltiest look ever) before quickly making his escape from the tent.
OMG. The Cute. So much of it. And you can just feel the electricity in the air. So many feels, so many tingles. ♥
Next it’s Tae Hee’s turn to feel Ja Eun’s electric closeness, when she offers to tie his necktie for him before they leave for Tae Beom and Soo Young’s wedding.
Their nervous, averted gazes say everything about how much they’re feeling each other’s closeness.
I held my breath along with them, the sense of awareness was so thick. *fans self*
Another note-worthy electric moment happens when Ja Eun is in Tae Hee’s car.
Thinking of Gran & Bok Ja’s earlier conversation about how Tae Hee’s never had a girlfriend, Ja Eun broaches the subject, “Ahjusshi. I like men. Don’t tell me you like men too?”
Tae Hee, taken by surprise, asks, “What?”
Ja Eun continues, “I mean, just in case. I have a very open mind. I will surely help to keep your secret, so you don’t need to worry.” She prattles on about how Gran and Mum are very worried about him because he’s never brought a girl home.
Wordlessly, Tae Hee leans across the car, right into her face.
Long heart-thumping pause later, he deadpans, “Stop joking around.” Ja Eun ekes out, “Ok.”
Squee! I mean, seriously. Tae Hee’s so cool like this!
In episode 22, Ja Eun gets Tae Hee to buy her instant ramyun at a convenience store, with a side of kimbap to share. As they wait for their ramyun to cook, Ja Eun notices that there is an odd number of kimbap, and asks Tae Hee to play rock-paper-scissors for the odd piece.
Tae Hee can’t be bothered and asks her to just eat the extra one. But Ja Eun insists, saying she doesn’t like charity, and they play.
Tae Hee keeps winning, and Ja Eun keeps getting flicked in the forehead as a result. When she finally wins a round, she makes the most of the moment.
She gets up close to Tae Hee, sweeps his hair away from his forehead and leaning close, exhales on it.
OMG. Crackling. Sexual. Tension. Completely off the charts.
No wonder Tae Hee bolts in his seat like he’s just been shocked by an electric probe.
Ja Eun is all focused business, though, and tells him to sit still. She flicks him a good one, and it smarts so much that he insists they continue playing. The ramyun and kimbap are forgotten as the two of them embark on round after round, each getting flicked in turn.
Until they leave the convenience store, both grumpily rubbing their smarting foreheads.
Seriously. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better mesh of lava-hot sexy and pinch-your-cheeks cute in a single scene. Ever.
There are so many sweet, completely awww-inspiring moments that these two share, that it’s impossible to include them all in this review.
So here’s the next best thing: a photo spasm.
One More Thing
Amid the cuteness of this couple, there are various low-key moments where Tae Hee and Ja Eun share their thoughts, and the entire thing is just very low-key yet very sweet.
One of my favorite moments like these, is when Ja Eun tells Tae Hee how she’d always wanted to marry early and make a family quick coz she grew up with just her dad. His understated proposal, that they get married before the end of the following year, is met with her equally understated response: Ok.
All over a bowl of simple sweet bean soup.
I found this such a small yet sweetly romantic beat.
It makes me feel like these two are going to find romance in the everyday things, long after the wedding is over.
And that’s just the sweetest thing one could hope for, really. ❤️
Bok Ja & Ja Eun
Aside from all the romance, the relationship that I found most endearing was the one between Bok Ja and Ja Eun.
From being antagonistic enemies on opposite sides of the fence, these two come to appreciate, care for and love each other in the most endearing way.
Bok Ja becomes to Ja Eun the mother that Ja Eun never had. And Ja Eun becomes to Bok Ja the daughter that Bok Ja never had.
Getting to watch their relationship develop over the course of the show is truly one of the highlights that Ojakgyo Brothers has to offer.
I loved watching these 2, and their scenes made me smile and cry.
One of my favorite scenes between Bok Ja and Ja Eun is in episode 16, when Bok Ja rubs Ja Eun’s tummy coz she’s got period cramps.
As Bok Ja rubs her tummy, Ja Eun whispers weakly, “Ahjumma, your hand is so warm. [she tears up] Just like a mother’s hand.”
Bok Ja grumps that she’s not Ja Eun’s mother and that she must be delirious from a fever, but she’s touched. Ja Eun continues, “It’s not like that.. You didn’t cast a magic spell, did you? Suddenly my stomach doesn’t hurt anymore. This must be why they say mothers’ hands are medicinal hands.”
Bok Ja grumbles some more that Ja Eun is talking nonsense again and refuses to rub her stomach anymore. Ja Eun replies, “I won’t say it again. It’s just because this is the first time someone rubbed my stomach during my periods. Every time, it hurt like this, but no one listened to me. Father’s a man.”
Bok Ja gives Ja Eun a long look, then silently starts to rub Ja Eun’s stomach again.
Aw. The stirrings of a mother’s heart, so sweet to behold.
When the dreaded separation stretch occurs, Bok Ja’s tears for Ja Eun are genuine and touching.
Bok Ja even puts her marriage on the line to threaten her husband into keeping mum about Ja Eun’s dad likely being the hit-and-run culprit. She tells him plainly that she is not speaking as his wife, nor as Tae Hee’s mother; that she is only Ja Eun’s mother. Aw. Her love for Ja Eun clearly runs deep.
Over the course of the drama, it is so moving to see the two women find in each other, the fulfillment of hopes that had felt only empty before.
So sweet, and so very lovely.
Certainly, Ojakgyo Brothers isn’t a perfect drama, and there are, on occasion, plot points that are equal parts eye-rolling and frustrating.
[MINOR SPOILER] One of my peeves was how long the ex-girlfriend plot device was dragged out for Tae Beom’s relationship. [END MINOR SPOILER]
All in all, though, there’s so much heart – and squee! Let’s not forget squee! – packed into this show that I’m more than willing to forgive the fairly minor missteps that it does take.
I found that as I spent time with the characters that people this world, I grew fond of each one as I watched them journey through life. While I watched each one learn, love and grow, I too, got to ponder on life, love, and relationships.
And that was very satisfying indeed.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Sweet, with just enough spicy. Comfort food at its best.
FINAL GRADE: A+
Here’s a fun trailer with English subs that captures the cheerful, & sometimes comedic tone of the drama:
And here’s a Tae Hee and Ja Eun cut, with lots of lovely couple moments:
A bonus! A deleted Tae Hee-Jae Eun scene, originally meant for E57. With subs! Enjoy the cute: