The Fangirl Verdict

Completely biased reviews and fangirling

Review: Cunning Single Lady [Sly and Single Again]

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THE SHORT VERDICT:

A divorced-to-reunited rom-com that has flaws aplenty but manages to get the most important thing right: its heart.

If you wanted to count ’em, you’d easily find a whole bunch of flaws and imperfections in Cunning Single Lady. But if you’re willing to look past all of that, you’ll find a good dose of cute, an endearing spot of sweet, and a heartfelt rekindling of a sincere love that never did go away.

Lee Min Jung and Joo Sang Wook turn in quality performances as our lead couple, and are the key reasons to tune in to this unassuming little show that turned out to be quite a bit more heartwarming than I expected.

Cunning Single Lady OST – For The First Time

THE LONG VERDICT:

To be perfectly honest, I usually steer way clear of shows about divorced couples getting back together.

The smattering of shows that I’ve seen from this category typically spend a whole lot of time portraying the ex-couple at each others’ throats, usually both figuratively and literally. The writers take the term “bickering romance” and amp it up to levels of serious animosity, so much so that I am left completely unconvinced of why I should root for the ex-couple to get back together again. I mean, if they can’t stand each other this much, maybe it’s better to let it alone? For their sakes and ours?

The writers of these types of shows often seem to think that extended stretches of hostility between the ex-couple is funny stuff, and as a result, we spend so many episodes watching the ex-couple scheming against each other that the eventual reconciliation feels hollow and unauthentic.

Which is a large part of the reason why I almost gave Cunning Single Lady a miss.

The other reason I wasn’t too keen on checking it out is the awful and terribly misleading title(s). That, and the completely inaccurate synopsis of the show that’s floating around the web.

On DramaWiki, the synopsis reads:

“A romantic comedy about Na Ae Ra who dreams of meeting a white knight after getting divorced from Cha Jung Woo when his business failed, but as soon as he becomes a successful venture businessman, she tries to seduce him back while the ex-husband Cha Jung Woo tries to date her again to get revenge.”

Which is so off the mark that it’s not even funny. Based on that description alone, I lost any remnants of interest I might have had in the show, coz it made the female lead character sound like such a materialistic, conniving person. And the premise sounded ripe for loads of the kind of scheming hostility that I just talked about.

Thankfully, the blogosphere helped me to realize that this show was worthy of a look. As the show progressed and as I heard more positive things about it than I expected, I decided to give it a whirl – and came away pleasantly surprised.

Let me set the record straight. The only real conniving we get in the show comes from secondary characters. Importantly, Na Ae Ra (Lee Min Jung) doesn’t set out to seduce her ex-husband Jung Woo (Joo Sang Wook) in order to get him back, and he doesn’t try to date her again to get revenge either.

Thank you, writer-nim, for not making it that kind of show.

THE LENS

Those of you who’ve been following my reviews might’ve noticed that in recent reviews I’ve been mentioning, with increasing regularity, the lens through which to view each drama. It’s something that I find helps to maximize my enjoyment of dramas in general.

Basically, not every drama needs to be dissected and taken apart. Some dramas benefit from the process of careful dissection, while other dramas fall apart. As a drama crumbles under our analytical lens, so does our enjoyment of it. And where’s the fun in that, right?

In my experience, selecting the right lens through which to view a drama can make or break your experience of it.

Granted, there are some dramas that are just plain bad no matter what lens you might choose (Dream High 2, I’m looking at you). But with many of dramaland’s recent offerings, the right lens can make the world of difference.

In the case of Cunning Single Lady, I recommend a soft-focus lens with some rosy filters.

Every time you encounter a lapse in logic, close one eye. Or both eyes. And every time a character (usually secondary, thankfully) starts to behave in aggravating ways, let it all bounce off you like water off a duck’s back. And when our lead characters get to display moments of sincere vulnerability, zoom in and savor the moment.

Coz when you do that, this is not a bad watch at all.

THE GOOD STUFF

You know that Pareto Principle which talks about identifying and focusing on the 20% of items that will give you 80% of the results? Well, if this show only gets 20% of its stuff right (and that may not be such a stretch of a statement, really), it really picks the right 20% to get right.

These few pieces that were on the mark were so well conceived and executed that they basically carried the rest of the show.

The Set-Up and Eventual OTP Arc

The thing that impressed me the most – and which I think was absolutely critical in making the rest of the story plausible and even believable – was the set-up.

[MINOR SPOILERS]

In episode 1, it only takes the show 15 short minutes to show us the major milestones in Ae Ra’s and Jung Woo’s relationship. From their initial courtship, to their early days of marriage, to the eventual breakdown of the marriage. Impressively, we understand very quickly that these two really did love each other, and that they tried hard for each other, and that sadly, it still wasn’t enough. The pain and hurt is clearly communicated to us as viewers, and I’m impressed.

How the show does it is through smart choices in terms of key scenes to show us, combined with excellent music choices to bring out the mood of each stage of their relationship.

In terms of pacing, it feels a touch too fast, almost, but it’s very effective and efficient, and just 15 minutes in, I could already feel that this is a couple that didn’t really want to break up, and that should get back together if possible.

That’s impressive.

The added-on animosity that they feel towards each other in subsequent scenes is done less elegantly, I have to say. The flashbacks from their individual points of view and the accompanying disdain for the other person feels rather two-dimensional, especially when contrasted to the earnest and heartfelt portrayal of their early relationship.

However, with the foundation in place, of a sincere-feeling love relationship that caved under believable factors, stresses and circumstances, it’s quite easy to overlook the more campy characterizations of the resentful stage of their relationship arc where the bickering and one-upmanship goes in petty circles. Because we know that beneath the petty antics, there is a lot more heart than meets the eye.

This foundation stone ultimately helps to make our OTP’s eventual reconciliation feel believable and even appealing, because this was always set up as a relationship that was worth saving.

And any show that manages to make a believable transition from this:

to this:

is doing some key things very right.

[END MINOR SPOILERS]

Cunning Single Lady OST – Beautiful Girl

Lee Min Jung as Na Ae Ra

I can be a little fickle as a viewer, and even though I enjoyed Lee Min Jung’s spunky, bubbly characters in Boys Over Flowers and Smile, You, I was extremely underwhelmed by her outing in Big. I was therefore cautiously skeptical about having her on my screen again, and as a “cunning single lady” in a rom-com, no less.

I’m happy to report that Lee Min Jung feels likable and fresh as Na Ae Ra, despite the stretch of the show that has her scheming to get into Jung Woo’s company.

For all the show’s comic and slightly campy bent, which is admittedly rather heavy-handed in the earlier episodes of the show post-setup, Ae Ra feels quite real. Even when Ae Ra’s making decisions which are questionable, she remains an interesting character. She’s hurt and angry and prideful, and that gives her dimension, which I dig.

It’s during Ae Ra’s moments of sadness &/or vulnerability that Lee Min Jung shines the most. Ae Ra’s brasher, fearless outer shell then gives way to reveal a woman who is more soft-hearted, more pensive and more wounded than most people know her to be. Ae Ra’s tears feel real and her hurts, raw, and I found myself growing to like her and root for her in increasing measure.

[SPOILERS]

There are quite a few things that I like about Ae Ra. Here’re just a couple of ’em.

She’s principled and gutsy

In episode 2, Jung Woo asks Ae Ra to come see him at the office, and when she arrives, he smugly gives her an envelope of money as alimony. He also asks her to sign a contract stating that she won’t contact him again for the purpose of asking for alimony.

Ae Ra is livid at the insinuation that she’s after his money. Her eyes brimming with tears, she begins in a quivering voice, “Cha Jung Woo. You’ve really grown up. A contract?” Ae Ra laughs bitterly. She continues, her voice rising, “Why? You might as well have asked me to write an apology letter. Am I some kind of snake, that I’d sign this contact and take your money? I don’t know how much money you put in this envelope but no matter how much you put in, it’s not enough.”

Ae Ra stands to her feet, practically shouting now, “When I think about how you ruined my life, it’s more than this money. Do you know that?” She starts shredding the contract with her hands and sobs, “So don’t belittle me with this money” and she throws the shredded bits of contract at Jung Woo in a flourish before stalking out of his office.

Considering the strained financial situation that Ae Ra and her friend Min Young (Hwang Bo Ra) are in, I think it’s principled and gutsy of her to reject the offer without hesitation, and without looking at the amount of money involved.

I also appreciate how real she feels, not just in the moment, but also in a subsequent scene where she admits to Min Young that she has a little bit of regret because the money could’ve come in very useful for them in their situation.

She’s no pushover

I love that Ae Ra’s not a pushover and is perfectly capable of defending herself.

Yes, there are a number of occasions in the show where I wish Ae Ra would’ve stood up for herself and didn’t. When she does stand up for herself, though, she’s awesome.

Like in the scene above in episode 13, where Ae Ra is looked down upon by fellow interviewees vying for the same job at Shilla Hotel. When a particularly obnoxious fellow interviewee sneers at her in the ladies’ that someone with Ae Ra’s qualifications must have some kind of sponsor to even be invited to the interview, Ae Ra wastes no time soundly putting her in her place.

Pushing the bully up against the wall, Ae Ra bites out evenly, “Like I always say, even insults have their limits. I’m super sensitive in mind and spirit today. So don’t provoke me. Got it?” Ae Ra waves her fist at the woman, “Or I might make you regret it.”

The tables effectively turned, the woman scurries away in horror.

Gooo~, Ae Ra!

She takes responsibility for her decisions

One of my favorite things about Ae Ra, is how she takes responsibility for her decisions, in particular, her decision to marry Jung Woo.

Given all that transpired between them and all that she went through, it would be easy for her to throw the blame in Jung Woo’s direction and play the victim, but she doesn’t.

Yes, there is a stretch early in the show where she’s ranty and ravey about how ungrateful Jung Woo is after all that she’s done for him, but she never actually blames fate or whatever, for having married him.

And in episode 11, she takes responsibility for that decision with quiet grace, not once but twice.

The first instance is when Ae Ra goes home to spend the night with her mother (Kwon Ki Sun). As mother and daughter talk in bed, Mom tearfully expresses regret at having pushed Ae Ra to marry Jung Woo, thinking him a smart civil worker.

Holding tightly onto Mom, Ae Ra responds, “Marriage isn’t something that one can be pushed into doing. Marrying him and divorcing him were both my own decisions. I’ll take responsibility for it all, so don’t be upset about it anymore.”

Aw. I do think it’s sweet of Ae Ra to reassure Mom that way. And I also love how squarely she takes hold of the responsibility for her marriage and divorce.

Later in the episode, when Jung Woo and Ae Ra share a quiet moment on the roof, Jung Woo asks Ae Ra if she resents him.

With a small shake of the head, Ae Ra replies, “No. I made the decision to marry you. So I think that I must’ve figured that whatever the result was my responsibility too.” She gives Jung Woo a small smile.

I just really respect that in her, that ability not to blame anyone, and that she makes no excuses in the process of taking responsibility for her decisions.

She’s not just all about romance

Another one of my favorite things about Ae Ra is that she finds meaning in life, and doesn’t just place all her hope on romance like so many other heroines in dramaland.

At the beginning of episode 13, right after Jung Woo blurts out his love confession to her and sweeps her into a kiss, Ae Ra reminds him, “Don’t you remember what I told you? I told you that I liked me for who I am right now. That I feel like I’m finally living. The President of Shilla Hotel said he recognized my talent with my buffet deal.” Ae Ra pauses.

“I finally realize how fulfilling it is to do and accomplish something on my own. To stay up and work through the night to create something of my own.. I finally realize how happy that can make me. I was so excited that I couldn’t even fall asleep.”

She finishes by telling Jung Woo that she wants to take the Shilla Hotel interview.

I really like that Ae Ra’s new appreciation for working on something and being able to say it’s her achievement feels real and authentic. And good for her, that her appreciation for that runs deep enough to outweigh any and all romantic factors, despite the kind of scorn she has received from being a single, divorced woman.

A weaker person might be tempted to take whatever romantic opportunities that came her way just to mitigate the stigma of being alone. But not Ae Ra, and that’s part of what makes her awesome.

[END SPOILERS]

Cunning Single Lady OST – 모르겠죠

Joo Sang Wook as Cha Jung Woo

After 7 years of serious drama consumption, it baffles me somewhat that I’ve managed to avoid encountering Joo Sang Wook on my screen, practically all this time. This, despite his very long filmography too.

Well ok. I did see him in That Fool / The Accidental Couple (2009) where he played second lead, but does it really count if I don’t actually remember him or the show much?

Which means that going into this show, my impression of Joo Sang Wook was pretty much what little I’d seen of him in stills and photoshoots.

I’m not even sure what it is – is it his immaculate Ken-Doll-like bone structure? – but Joo Sang Wook is one of those actors that had always felt cold and inaccessible to me. That is, until this show.

I didn’t like Cold Jung Woo very much at all, who felt distant and icy whenever he made an appearance (in Joo Sang Wook’s defense, that coldness fit Jung Woo’s defensive state of mind). On the other hand, Joo Sang Wook is very warm and likable while playing Past Jung Woo, who’s goofy and a little square. And as our story progresses, we get to know Dorky Jung Woo too, who just might be my favorite version of Jung Woo of them all.

When I started the show, I also wondered to myself if it was possible for Jung Woo to be dashing and warm, instead of one or the other. Eventually, I got my answer. And happily, it’s a resounding yes.

[SPOILERS]

Jung Woo’s not a perfect character by any means, and yes, I did question some of his methods of wooing back his ex-wife. But there are a couple of distinct versions of him that pleased me quite well. Here’s them:

Past Jung Woo

Past Jung Woo tickled me no end with his goofy ways, square personality and his bowl hair cut that made him look like an overgrown little boy.

Here’re a couple of shots of Past Jung Woo, who managed to make me smile just by showing up on my screen.

Dorky Jung Woo

Dorky Jung Woo is hands-down my favorite kind of Jung Woo. After the initial veneer of Cold & Cool Jung Woo starts to wear away, we start to get glimpses of the dork that is still very much alive underneath. Every time he peeked out, I liked him a little more.

When Jung Woo’s a funny dork, he’s hilarious.

Like this time, in episode 12 when he’s jealously imagining the potential skinship that might occur between Ae Ra and Seung Hyun (Seo Kang Joon) and contorts his face with worry and horror as he speaks aloud to the scene in his imagination.

When he imagines Ae Ra asking Seung Hyun for a towel, Jung Woo practically wails, “Don’t give it to her, don’t give it to her!” And when he imagines Seung Hyun then leaning in to kiss Ae Ra, Jung Woo yells in a panic, “Noooo!!”

Tee hee. I love watching jealous dorky Jung Woo.

And how about Jung Woo’s attempt in the same episode to ask Ae Ra to meet him that evening, only to be thwarted by locked glass doors and a reluctant Ae Ra who tells him she won’t be coming before walking away.

A desperate Jung Woo ends up pressing himself up against the glass, trying to yell while his breath fogs up around him, “I’m still going to wait until you come!”

Giggle. So undignified and so cute.

Ok, so not everything is cute in how Jung Woo starts to find his way back to Ae Ra. I didn’t dig his “torturing” in episode 10 where he insisted that Ae Ra stay back to submit work, knowing full well that it was her birthday. I actually thought that was mean, not sweet.

What I did like, though, was how Jung Woo’s gaze softens noticeably when looking at Ae Ra.

Like here in episode 8:

Proof that Joo Sang Wook CAN look dashing and warm (& melty) at the same time.

So refreshing and sweet to witness.

I love the moment in episode 12 too, when Jung Woo looks super proud of Ae Ra as she fields objections from the executives at the proposal presentation for Shilla Hotel.

There’s a tenderness, pleasure and wonder in his gaze which is just really nice to see.

And at the end of the episode, Jung Woo’s clumsy love confession is made all the sweeter coz of the dorky nerdy expression on his face when he blurts out to Ae Ra, “I like you.”

I love that he looks like a confused, lost, dorky little boy, even as he musters up the words to let Ae Ra know that he likes her and doesn’t want her to leave.

I do like him best when he’s being dorky.

Steadfast Jung Woo

A pretty strong contender against Dorky Jung Woo, though, is Steadfast Jung Woo.

Once Jung Woo’s regained his heart-footing, he doesn’t waver in the least, which in itself is pretty darn swoony.

I love the little beat in episode 14 when Jung Woo finds Ae Ra on the roof with Yeo Jin (Kim Kyu Ri). He sees them tussle for a bit and then watches as Yeo Jin collapses to the ground.

Jung Woo rushes forward to pick Yeo Jin up, but instead of jumping to conclusions and assuming Ae Ra’s to blame (like many other male leads in dramaland might’ve done), I love that he asks the neutral question instead, “Ae Ra, what happened?”

I love even more, that even when he gets no answers, Jung Woo never once appears to doubt Ae Ra after the incident.

We see Jung Woo’s steadfast side again at the end of the episode when Yeo Jin’s father (Lee Jung Gil) threatens that he will withdraw his (hefty) investment in Jung Woo’s company unless Jung Woo agrees to marry Yeo Jin.

I love that Jung Woo doesn’t once lose his cool, but steadfastly and without hesitation declines. And he does it respectfully too.

I love that even when the stakes appear to be really high and so much seems to be on the line, that Jung Woo remains unwaveringly clear on his choice. That’s a man of character, right there.

Another way that Steadfast Jung Woo shows himself is in how he won’t be deterred by Ae Ra’s efforts at noble idiocy in episode 15.

I just love that he won’t have any of it. No matter what Ae Ra says to cut things off between them, Jung Woo cheerily revels in the knowledge that Ae Ra loves him, which is just so darn sweet.

Steadfast Jung Woo rawks.

Favorite OTP Moments

There’re a good number of OTP moments that I really like, and this is just a quick spotlight on some of them.

Like all the times Past Jung Woo and Past Ae Ra showed up in happier times.

They are just so cute together.

Or the times when Jung Woo’s bumbling through working out his feelings for Ae Ra and makes awkward advances.

Like this time when he’s got ice cream on his lip and leans in, expecting Ae Ra to wipe it off romantically for him, but gets a rough wipe-down from a reluctant Ae Ra instead.

And how about that time when Jung Woo goes to see Ae Ra and sneaks up on her to give her a backhug, only to get his foot stomped on and his side swiftly elbowed by a startled and very self-sufficient Ae Ra.

Hahaha!

I loved all the times Jung Woo gazed lovingly at Ae Ra. Like here, when he goes to the warehouse where Ae Ra is working, just so that he can grin goofily while watching her work.

So cute, and so sweet.

One of my favorite moments is this little beat in episode 14, where Ae Ra meets Jung Woo in the elevator while carrying two big cardboard boxes.

They ignore each other awkwardly for a while, and Jung Woo looks down despondently, until Ae Ra wordlessly thrusts the boxes at him.

Slightly startled, Jung Woo takes them from her. And as the implication starts to sink in, that she’s acknowledging him and allowing him nearer, Jung Woo breaks into a big goofy grin as he takes a ridiculously great amount of joy in the fact that he’s being allowed to carry these boxes, while Ae Ra smiles a little smile next to him.

It’s a quick little beat and nothing is even said at all, but it’s just so cute, and displays so much of Jung Woo’s characteristic dorkiness, that I can’t help but love this little scene.

Cuteness!

[END SPOILERS]

Cunning Single Lady OST – 어떡하나요

OTHER BRIGHT(ish) SPARKS

I’ve hinted at the fact that aside from the OTP individually and together, there isn’t quite a whole lot that I love-love in this show. While that’s true, there are a couple of things that I found rather enjoyable.

L as Secretary Gil

I think I enjoyed L as Secretary Gil more in concept than in execution.

On the upside, L is a total cutie and Secretary Gil is written as a bit of a smartypants with a nice number of knowing, clever lines. Downside? L is cute but his acting leans towards the flat, wooden end of the scale.

Which means that there were moments when I found him adorable, and others when I cringed through his delivery.

Overall, though, I still found Secretary Gil a fairly bright spark in the show. And have I mentioned that L is a cutie?

Hwang Bo Ra as Min Young

Although a fairly minor secondary character without a whole lot of screen-time, I did enjoy having Hwang Bo Ra as Min Young. Hwang Bo Ra has a very pleasant, earthy warmth to her that I really like.

I love that Min Young is Ae Ra’s bestie and stands by Ae Ra through all her tough times.

[MINOR SPOILER]

I particularly liked the little beat in episode 2 when Ae Ra admits to Min Young that she’d turned down the alimony that Jung Woo had offered. Given their tight financial situation, Min Young’s understandably disappointed at the lost funds. But Min Young’s regret lasts only a moment, on principle, for her friend’s pride; and coz Ae Ra’s already regretting it, Min Young shoves aside her own disappointment and cheers Ae Ra on instead.

Aw. She’s a loyal bestie, isn’t she?

[END MINOR SPOILER]

I didn’t enjoy Min Young’s arc with Ae Ra’s brother Soo Chul (Kim Yong Hee) so much, but at least it was somewhat amusing.

The Bromance Between Jung Woo & Secretary Gil

I love a good bromance, as many of you know. I mean, Kim Woo Bin and Lee Jong Suk had me flailing – flailing, I say! – with their potent brand of bromance in School 2013.

The thing is, the bromance that this show tries to serve up between Jung Woo and Secretary Gil is cute, but lacks emotional depth. The lack of emotional resonance and potency in the bromance made it feel a little (ok, sometimes a lot) two-dimensional, unfortunately.

On the upside (see? I’m all about looking for the upside!), there are a nice number of cute moments between them. And I do enjoy the fact that Secretary Gil can see right through our hot-shot CEO and has no qualms about calling him out on stuff.

STUFF TO OVERLOOK

Since I mentioned the Pareto Principle earlier, I thought it’d be apt to keep in step with it.

Since it was a very specific 20% of the show that I really enjoyed, I’m going to make sure that a good 80% of this review is focused on that 20%. Which means that this section will be a quick one. Coz, no point harping on the negatives and the Could’ve-Beens, right?

Just remember, all this bad stuff is stuff that can and should be overlooked while watching this show.

[SPOILERS THROUGH THE END OF THE REVIEW]

Plot Holes & Logic Lapses 

1. So honestly, this show isn’t so great at connecting the dots sometimes, in terms of character motivation. Here’s a quick spotlight on a few of those instances.

  • Why Ae Ra decides to join Jung Woo’s company in the first place. The reason presented to us never did make sense or ring true.
  • Seung Hyun’s interest and affection for Ae Ra felt particularly hollow. Why he has any interest in her is not clear to us. He just does.
  • Team Leader Wang (Im Ji Eun) vacillates between being nice and mean to Ae Ra, and I don’t know if I just missed the memo, but I often wasn’t even sure why she was being mean or nice.

2. Some things just plain don’t make sense, and the biggest, most glaring one is Yeo Jin’s lost leg.

When it’s revealed in episode 6, it’s positioned as a plot twist, but seriously. This was the Most. Unbelievable. Angle. they could’ve chosen, in the history of unbelievable angles.

Not only was it unbelievable, there were serious continuity problems related to it since Yeo Jin can be spotted wearing clear hosiery in the episodes prior. Also, I don’t care what kind of special hi-tech prosthetic leg you’ve got, there’s just no way Yeo Jin can be walking so normally. Which means the leg (its presence AND its supposed absence) became quite a distraction.

3. That strange tangent on Secretary Gil and his break-up in episode 10 is decidedly weird.

Not only does it feel out of character for Secretary Gil to behave in that manner, this entire arc feels completely unrelated to the rest of the story. The only connection I can make is that this is so Song Hee (Yoo Young) can gain the upper hand over Secretary Gil and eventually blackmail him for the confirmation that Ae Ra is indeed Jung Woo’s ex-wife.

If that’s the reason that it was written that way though, then it was poorly set up and the connection is half-hearted at best, coz there wasn’t a whole lot of follow-through on this arc.

Annoying Second Leads

Both of our second leads start out acceptably likable (sorry, I never did fall under Seo Kang Joon’s spell, for the record), but become increasingly manipulative and annoying as the show goes on.

The bigger culprit in this case, is Yeo Jin, since Seung Hyun spends more time being harmless (read: not manipulative).

Here’s a quick list of the moments that Yeo Jin got on my nerves and quickly lost any and all brownie points from being elegant and gracious in the earlier episodes:

  • E8. Yeo Jin getting Ae Ra to choose the tie that she’s going to give Jung Woo.. that’s just mean. She could’ve picked out the tie herself and told Ae Ra the significance. But she’s using Ae Ra’s taste and knowledge of what would suit a man like Jung Woo to her advantage, while claiming credit.
  • E12. Yeo Jin telling Ae Ra to basically stay away from Jung Woo, and planting doubt that what Jung Woo feels for her is guilt. Plus, she uses her disability as a sympathy card. Coz who would fight with a disabled person, right? Not cool. I lost whatever respect I had for her as a character, right there. Yeo Jin is being just like her father, manipulating Ae Ra and clinging onto Jung Woo.
  • E13. Yeo Jin being willing to cover up the tampering = being willing to let Ae Ra take the blame. Not cool.
  • E15. Yeo Jin totally pretended to be reasonable just to get Jung Woo into the meeting room, where she then coldly threw him under the bus. Cold, calculated and manipulative. Also not cool.

Over the course of the show, Yeo Jin just kept getting worse and worse. And she also developed a tendency to scream and lose herself in hysterics on an alarmingly regular basis.

And as we get into the later episodes, Seung Hyun sheds his nice-boy shell and shows his manipulative colors too.

Sigh. Not fun. At all.

Annoying Family Members

There are a lot of aggravating characters in this show, seriously.

Ae Ra’s family is aggravating, every single last member of ’em. From vain layabout Dad, to nagging (sometimes) hysterical Mom, to Poisonous – seriously. POISONOUS – Brother.

Jung Woo’s family isn’t quite as present, but when they make an appearance, they are a bitter, caustic lot (with the exception of Dead Dad, who seemed nice).

To top it all off, there’s Yeo Jin’s and Seung Hyun’s father, who is just awful. He’s an awful husband, an awful father, an awful employer, and an awful investor. Have I mentioned that he’s awful?

Geez. With family like this, who needs enemies, right?

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING

The number of things that don’t make sense stack up pretty high as we get to the end of the show (Chairman Gook getting sick – wherever did that come from?), but the upside is that the show retains the most important thing: its heart.

Loose ends are quickly tied up; Yeo Jin’s and Seung Hyun’s mother comes back, Chairman Gook has a moment of clarity and sincerely thanks Director Oh (Lee Byung Joon), Jung Woo’s new venture goes into partnership with D&T and both companies are saved.

Most importantly, we get a cheesy, sweet ending for our OTP, with Jung Woo and Ae Ra back together again, and even contentedly suggesting baby names for their lil bun in the oven. Jung Woo first suggests the name Min Jung (hur), saying that he has a feeling she’ll be really pretty, and then if it’s a boy, Sang Wook. “Doesn’t the name sound really handsome, cool and intelligent?” (hur hur)

In the end, despite all its shortcomings, there’s one thing that the show does well, and that is to make the case that Jung Woo and Ae Ra belong together. By the time I say good-bye to these characters, I still believe that Jung Woo and Ae Ra should get back together, and that they will be successful at this second chance at love.

The thing that the show does right is setting it up so that it’s clear that Jung Woo and Ae Ra had something sincere to begin with, and showing us the things that believably eroded their marriage to the point of divorce. And then, the show dealt with each of the items at various points in the drama, until the issues are all out in the open and our leads are realistically in a place where they truly want to reconcile and start over.

That’s one of the big things that second-chance romance dramas need to get right, and from the handful of the ones that I’ve seen, it doesn’t happen as much as it should.

Big points to this show for getting that one thing right. For that, I can overlook allll the other things that didn’t get done so right.

THE FINAL VERDICT:

Imperfect but sweet, with a big heart. Like the clumsy little kid brother who tramples all over your plants while picking you a rose for your birthday and melts your heart despite his trail of destruction.

FINAL GRADE: B+

VISUAL TREATS:

Here’s a trailer for the show that gives a quick flavor for the show as well as a decent idea of the show’s set-up:

For those who’ve seen the show, here’s a sweet little collection of OTP moments:

Author: kfangurl

Proud to be a k-fangirl since 2007. Main diet of kdramas with movies and kpop on the side.

47 thoughts on “Review: Cunning Single Lady [Sly and Single Again]

  1. So cool I was just looking up Jo Sang Wook in my aimless K-drama searches today and I thought, why not give this one a chance? And then see this review in my inbox. At the time it aired I did not have the proper ‘lens’ for a drama like this. I’m wary of the divorced-get-back-together dramas myself. So I totally agreed with this statement.

    “The writers take the term “bickering romance” and amp it up to levels of serious animosity, so much so that I am left completely unconvinced of why I should root for the ex-couple to get back together again. I mean, if they can’t stand each other this much, maybe it’s better to let it alone? For their sakes and ours?”

    And RL was a pain that reflected some similar stuff. For that reason, I avoided this and eventually dropped Emergency couple, I didn’t feel the love at all, it started horribly with them killing each other and every episode was just more and more meanness. I saw little chemistry and then realized, eh, I’m not a big fan of Song-Ji Hyo anyway. (Which reminds me, I love Choi Jin Hyuk, so I must at least watch Grandpas over Flowers. Not ready for Fated to love you yet! lol)

    I don’t mind reading the spoilers in this, it’s a given where this drama will go, and I tend to like Lee Min Jung dramas. She’s on my favorite actress list. Joo Sang Wook really grew on me. He comes off as a cold Ken doll actor. I saw That Fool, I liked it, but his character was a conniving, boring jerk, so I can see why he wasn’t memorable. He was so good as the cold doctor with a heart in ‘Good Doctor’ last year. That was my first time seeing him and I thought, wow, who is this guy? There’s a drama called Feast of the Gods I was just looking up today that I might watch too.

    It’s possible he did a lot of epic long daily dramas so that’s why I haven’t seen him in other things. What really stands out to me is his eyes. The shape, the way the light hits them, the way they crinkle when he smiles. You hit it on the head when you said –

    “There’s a tenderness, pleasure and wonder in his gaze which is just really nice to see.”

    How true. But not just for the character. It’s like, he may come off as impossibly handsome and aloof/cold, but his eyes give him away and you can see a genuine warmth behind them. I like that. It helps that he’s so funny too. Something you wouldn’t expect just by looking at him.

    Well, I’ll put this on the drama list soon. I’m sucked into ‘Incarnation of Money’ right now and trying to keep up with Trot Lovers and a J-drama. I really need to start Fated to Love You, shame on me since it’s Jang Hyuk. I just wasn’t taken with the whole synopsis. Never saw the T-drama either. But I will go for it. I’m sure it will be hilarious and sweet.

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    • Wow, seems like the timing of this post is quite perfect! For you and for Evez too – she mentioned on FB that she’s just about to finish the show herself, and will then be able to finally read a review! ^^

      I feel you in not generally being a fan of divorced-get-back-together type shows.. Cunning Single Lady manages to frame it right, and it makes the world of difference. I checked out the first 2 eps of Emergency Couple just to get a feel of it and to see how it compares to Cunning Single Lady, and the difference is like night and day! There is no context setting whatsoever in Emergency Couple and all I get is that they are very different, and he’s quite the selfish ass, and they can’t stand each other. We never get a sense that they belong together or were ever happy together. And Song Ji Hyo’s character doesn’t even look very happy in the scene where they got married. The levels of animosity are also much higher in Emergency Couple. I had to employ my FF button quite early on, and I don’t even usually use it much at all. I just can’t bring myself to explore any further than the first 2 eps. I’m dropping it like a hot potato, even though I know people who actually like the show. 😛

      I plan to check out Flower Grandpa Investigative Unit coz it sounds like a fun premise. If I’m not mistaken, Choi Jin Hyuk doesn’t appear all that much, since it’s his older self that does all the investigation. I think he might be doing just an extended cameo. As for Song Ji Hyo, I think she might be better at more serious fare. She felt rather off and weird in what I saw of her in Emergency Couple, but I saw her in Frozen Flower where she acted as a tragic sageuk queen and I was actually pretty impressed with her there. Love her most in Running Man, though, she’s awesome in that.

      Tee hee that you also see the cold Ken doll quality in Joo Sang Wook! 😀 I thought I might be the only one! But yes, when he does warm, his eyes really do the best job, being all melty and warm and toasty. I’m so glad he did this drama, coz now I’ve also discovered how endearing he is when he’s playing dorky 🙂

      I plan to check out Trot Lovers and FTLY too! I’ve seen snippets of the T-version and am hearing good things about the K-version so I remain hopeful. Even though I’m not too taken with the premise myself, and don’t generally like OTT campy dramas. Fingers crossed that I’ll like it as much as everyone else seems to be! ^^

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      • aww fiddlesticks! Only an extended cameo in Grandpas…boo! lol You may be right about Song Hyo Jin, I saw her in the drama Crime Story with Song Il Guk and I liked her much better. In ways she provided the comic relief too, cuz it was a hard action melo. Trot lovers treads camp and cliches abound, but it’s fun. If anything, watch for the beautiful Trot music and singing, and I am in love Shin Sung Rok as the 2nd lead Music co. president. (Yes, the evil psycho in My love from another star!) He’s just utterly charming and quirky in this. I looked him up and it appears he prefers theater over Television. But it shows in his craft when he does act in dramas.

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        • Well, I haven’t seen the show so I can’t vouch for it, but the main character is played by Lee Soon Jae & Choi Jin Hyuk is listed as Lee Soon Jae’s younger self. Depending on how much time Lee Soon Jae’s younger self features in the story, Choi Jin Hyuk might have a little more screentime than a cameo. But considering how the whole show’s premise is of these young guys in their old bodies going about solving crime, I’ve a feeling we won’t be seeing a whole lot of Choi Jin Hyuk in this.

          Also, even though my main reason for wanting to watch Trot Lovers is for Ji Hyun Woo and Jung Eun Ji, the promise of washing away the thought of Creepy Brother every time I look at Shin Sung Rok’s face is intriguing 😉 Coz since YFAS, every time I see a pic of him, I think “Creepy Brother” LOL! XD Considering how indelible Creepy Brother’s image seems to be thus far, I’m curious to see how this new role manages to wash it all away! And yes, I would believe that he prefers theater over TV, since that’s where he started out.

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  2. Oh and forgot Seo Kang Joon was in this. He had a bit part as a street bully in Good Doctor and Joo Sang Wook kicked his assets. He was really good in Suspicious Housekeeper. I can see him and those alluring tiger eyes going places. But still got a laugh that you didn’t fall under the spell.

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    • Ah, I haven’t seen Good Doctor or Suspicious Housekeeper. How is Good Doctor, actually? I checked out the first few minutes but it didn’t feel like it was taking on any level and I switched to something else.

      I was a little underwhelmed by Seo Kang Joon’s delivery in Cunning Single Lady, actually. Somehow his performance didn’t pop for me; it felt a little flat. And that was a downer. It’s partly to do with the writing too, I think, coz his character’s crush on Ae Ra felt sudden and quite random. Which totally didn’t help with the believability factor, and he needed all the help he could get.

      I won’t say never, though, coz I once felt indifferent towards Woobie – and THEN look what happened! XD

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      • True about Woobie! LOL. Seo Kang Joon is still a young’un I might add. I think he’s only 19/20, so lets give him time. 😉 Medical dramas may not be your thing, and if you aren’t a fan of Joo Won then you probably don’t want to spend 20 hours of your life watching him play a genius autistic doctor. But I really felt he did a tremendous job and was adorable. I hit the FF button on the boring doctor meeting parts, but it’s okay. Like Emergency Couple, I suggest giving it a 2-3 episode try out.

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        • I actually do enjoy Joo Won on my screen.. I loved him in Gaksital and Ojakgyo Brothers, and I respect his dedication as an actor. You’re right that I’m not much into medical dramas. Also, I guess the shallow part of my fangirl heart just prefers to see him be dashing &/or badass, and a timid autistic doctor with childlike tendencies is a challenging role & everything, but it’s less than a featherweight on the swoony-ness scale. 😛 I’m gonna have to give it another chance sometime. I’ve heard some good things about it; that it’s a heartwarming watch despite the completely unbelievable medical stuff.

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  3. You know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Joo Sang Wook in anything that isn’t serious and angsty, ha. He is hilarious (and cute^^) in variety though, so it doesn’t surprise me that he can also do comedy.

    If you ever manage to give Giant a whirl, he is pretty good in that one. TEN is still his best work, imho. He does a ‘tortured soul’ oh SO well. XD

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    • Thanks for the JSW Drama recommendations! I never heard of Ten but it looks like it could be good. Hopefully not too violent/gory since it’s one of those OCN dramas. I’ll add it to the list.

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      • Weeell… TEN is quite violent in places so if that’s not your cup of tea, it may not be what you are looking for. It also has a psychological undercurrent that will, most likely, mess with your head, ha.

        Although it’s mostly one ‘case’ per episode, TEN also has a story arch, of which I’m not going to say anything more as that would be a biggish spoiler. 🙂

        The Team is great though and I especially love gumpypants Do Shik (Kim Sang Ho – always great).

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        • Thanks for letting me know. I will at least check out the first episode, they often set the tone of the entire series, the psychological stuff I don’t mind. (Unless it’s some sick stuff!) lol

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          • The first epi is a two hour long special and it’s one of the best introductions to a procedural I’ve seen. It does grab you, almost against your will. That’s what I think anyways. 🙂 None of the other episodes reach quite that level. The whole drama is a bit uneaven but I’d say it’s probably the best OCN crime show in overall quality…. so far, S3 is yet to materialize.

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            • Thanks Timescout! Ten is definitely going on my K-dar now since I dropped that candy corn Trot Lovers for now. Lots to love about that drama, but overall it’s infuriating somehow!

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              • I’m quite interested in your take on TEN, even if it’s just what you though of ep 1. 🙂 For all I know, you may hate with the force of thousand suns. XD

                I find lot of kdramas overall infuriating but then, I’m awfully picky, ha. I knew from the outset that Trot Lovers wouldn’t be up my alley, so I let it well alone.

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                • I’ll definitely get back to you on it. Just finished ‘Incarnation of Money’ last night and Hotel King tonight. It’s late, don’t think I can handle something like ‘Ten’ right now before bed! I will at least catch the 1st ep. of Ten of the Weekend. I’ve become picky with my K-drama too these days. There’s just not enough time to waste on bad K-drama. I’ll tune back into Trot lovers when it’s over. I want to see how it ends anyway since i invested 10 hours of my life in it so far. And probably skip around the remaining episodes to see Shin Sung Rok scenes because he’s really the best thing about the drama. Dare I say, swoony? Unique looking (not Idol faced) and acts with such calm ease. Ji Hyun Woo the lead is a good actor, but I don’t find him particularly attractive. He still has a particular charm about him and easy breezy acting style that I like. But in this drama it’s like he tries to hard, his character is whiny, jerky, childish, and has to overact to compensate for the female lead’s block of wood performance. At first I tried to deny it, but she’s not so good. She’s still very young, here I am pegging her to be around 26 or 27 and she’s only about 20! Her singing is amazing though. I enjoy all the music most. I think with proper acting training, she will improve. Do idols even get that proper training? They are so busy with everything, it’s like they get flung a script and jump right in, good or bad and bank on their celebrity to win over fans. Shin Sung Rok is a true actor, his theatrical training shows in his roles.

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                  • I didn’t mean for you to jump right in with TEN, take your time. ^^

                    Ji Hyun Woo used to be quite good in romcoms, I’ve really liked him in many of those. I don’t know what happened to him while he was away, serving his country. Maybe this just wasn’t a right role for him, so much depends on how the character is written and who’s directing.

                    I think Eun Ji is quite natural as an actor but she is still young and unexperienced. I doubt idols have much time for proper acting classes, the grueling schedules they have. Some idols seem to fare better than others, I guess it does mainly depend on natural talent and a right role. Take Seo In Guk for instance, he is simply wonderful in Savvy. With time and more acting gigs he may well end up being as good an actor as he is a singer.

                    I haven’t watched any of Shin Sung Rok’s dramas so I don’t have an opinion on his talents. 🙂

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                • This is a verrrrrrrry late reply because I looked back on comments and realized I never did. I’m sorry! 😢

                  I saw Ten and Ten 2 and it’s an amazing drama series!! Joo Sang Wook just killed it in the lead role. And I loved Jo Ann as the female of the team. She’s an adorable actress, it’s a shame she’s not in more. The whole cast was excellent. Ten 1 was better than 2, something was off in 2. The music for one thing. It’s been 2 years, so hard for me to explain now, but Ten 2 felt like a deflated version of 1. The edge was gone. But it still managed to thrill me with a lot. I’d hoped for a series 3, I didn’t want it to end that way. 😞

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    • Heh. That’s probably why I managed to go so long before encountering Joo Sang Wook on my screen! XD Coz I rarely am in the mood for serious and angsty.

      Giant’s not currently on my list, but TEN is! And if that’s his best work, well, I’m all set! It’s just that my mood is just not right for crime procedurals right now, so I’m saving it for later ^^

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      • True. Actually right now my mind lens is on those revenge melos. Halfway through Incarnation of money (It’s amazing how it balances super hilarious comedy and melodrama. Leading me to believe that Kang Ji Hwan is a genius actor.) and a lightbulb went off.

        I want Gong Yoo to play a steely famous Prosecutor. (But he does have a heart for justice.) He is desperately trying to capture a sneaky, evil chaebol and his equally evil dad in anything shady, but they always allude him. Until he finds the gateway. Rich chaebol has a secret girlfriend even though he’s being set up with some other rich snobby girl in a marriage of business and family relations. This girlfriend is somewhat poor, not a good family, but she’s beautiful, kind, and intelligent, she just never got her chances in life. (She had a goal, not sure what, maybe nurse? But can’t afford the schooling.) She has to take care of her sick mother so she does some side ‘hostess’ work and knows a ton about the secret and dirty dealings with this rich guy, but he doesn’t know she knows. She keeps quiet because she discovers something like a big murder cover-up and she’s afraid to reveal it. Gong Yoo Prosecutor realizes she knows a lot and dons a disguise as a handsome, poor schlub who continues to follow her and show up in front of her.

        Kinda like the happy go-lucky poor guy who bounces around the girl trying to make her feel good and wears her down. Because she’s at her lowest, her conscience killing her about keeping the secret and she admits that she even thought of ending her life. He pities her, shows care and understanding and reasons with her, all the while getting her to open up about this BF. Gradually she falls for him and he truly falls for her. He eventually gets enough info, and then suddenly disappears from her life because he has some serious prosecuting to do with this bad guy. One day she’s passing the big courthouses and she sees him standing, laughing with his lawyer pals, and he looks all decked out in a suit and nothing like the sweet schlub she’s in love with…She’s naturally shocked and hurt. Realizing she was used. He’s sorry and then realizes he put her in jeopardy. From there the take-down of the rich guys has just begun and the dung hits the fan in many ways.

        And that’s where I stopped thinking and re-focused on my work. LOL.

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        • My lead actress of choice for this dream-drama would be Park Si-yeon. I really like her. She has this beautiful good girl gone bad pitiful presence that she brings to many of her roles. (Though in an interview she said she wished she was cast in more comedy like Coffee House.) She has new drama coming soon. I hope it’s good.

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          • Tee hee. I love how your mind works when it gets into fantasy drama gear! That story sounds like it’d make a good drama! Love that it also gives GY the scope to play sharp prosecutor, poor schlub, AND romantic leading man in one. I’d watch that drama! 😀 I’m currently watching Haeundae Lovers and I’d like to see Kim Kang Woo in that evil chaebol role – he’s a handsome guy with an interesting sort of face that can go evil quite nicely I think!

            I can see why Park Si Yeon would be a good fit for the female lead role.. somehow I don’t enjoy her as much as many others seem to though. Oh – I just had an idea: mightn’t Yoon Eun Hye be an interesting choice too? She played high-fashion-designer-with-a-tragic-past rather well in I Miss You, even though the show itself was a mess. And she does have a very earthy, approachable charm to her with I dig a lot. She was wonderful with GY in CP too, so I’d love to see a reunion. ^^

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            • lol. Thanks, my mind tends to go off the rails many times a day. Sometimes I have too much quiet time to think.

              Kim Kang Woo, nice choice for evil chaebol! I’m not a big fan of Yoon Eun Hye, but I wouldn’t discount her playing a role like that either. However my vision is to have this girl at the top of her game, very glamorous, seductive for her ‘job’, she fronts very well. but inside she’s an innocent, scared, vulnerable. To me that’s Park Si Yeon. I can see YEH playing it differently, like distraught, vulnerable, washed up from the outside-hates her life, her job, miserable, depressed and forced to do it. but loveable and charming when allowed to shine. That earthy charm and prettiness you mentioned.

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              • Gosh, your description of the role sounds just like what Park Si Yeon played in Nice Guy – might that character have inspired you in any way? If memory serves, Nice Guy’s a pretty special gateway drama for you, isn’t it? 😉

                I’m not pushing YEH or anything (after all, it’s not like we’re actually gonna get to cast any of these people, sadly!), and I can totally see how she might play it the distraught, vulnerable way you described. At the same time, I can also picture her playing it glamorous & seductive, fronting very well. Kinda like this:

                And since I’m doing pictures, and coz I can, here’s our evil chaebol Kim Kang Woo ^^

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                • Actually, yes, Nice Guy was my first K-drama ever. I am probably imagining Park Si Yeon in that capacity, only not sneaky and vindictive. lol. That’s a very pretty photo of Yoon Eun Hye, I have yet to see a drama that allows her to show off that truly glamorous side. Unless you count Take care of the Young lady. But even then she was still natural glam. I think that look suits her best. But for this drama, I can definitely see her in a get up like that. Ahh, evil chaebol looks great!! LOL

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                  • Oh, I’d love to see Yoon Eun Hye in a good drama for once. She’s had a spate of pretty dismal dramas. I’d like to see a drama tap into this side of her that we’re seeing in the pic.

                    And yes, doesn’t Kim Kang Woo look great as an evil chaebol?? XD He’s got such a versatile, interesting face! I’d love to see him on our screens more. So far, most of his projects have been in genres that I don’t love. Golden Cross is a melo, and I do melo very, very sparingly. Seeing him in a flat-out comedy like Haeundae Lovers is proving to be very refreshing so far! ^^

                    PS: I recently downloaded Flower Grandpa Investigation Team, and while testing some of the files, I did see Choi Jin Hyuk in an episode that wasn’t episode 1. I think he will appear via regular flashbacks, plus the story seems to be about the young-men-in-old-guy-bodies trying to get back their youthful appearance, so I’m thinking that Choi Jin Hyuk will get to appear at the end too. I don’t think it’s so much a cameo as an actual supporting role. Sorry for the misinformation before!

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      • Oh, I think one should definitely be in the right mood for TEN and as I said to Lady G. – it is quite violent in places. The first two episodes (a 2-parter) of TEN, S1 are like a two hour long stylish film, albeit a pretty ‘dark’ one. Great introduction to the characters though.

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        • Gah, I think the current heatwave has turned my brain into mush. I clearly ment ‘the two hour long first epi of S1’, doh!. XD

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          • Tee hee. No worries, Timescout, I knew what you meant! 😀 TEN is still on my list. My mum watched it and liked it. She even expressed interest in watching the 2nd season, so I’m definitely planning to watch it sometime. When I’m in the mood for dark, slick and different ^^

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  4. When this drama ended I asked ” All this for that ?????” I meant, if only they talked to each other instead of keeping the drama and resentment for themselves, we could have spent those 16 hours watching another drama, a good one this time. And Korean families are portrayed horribly. And women in early relationship too : what about using condoms with guys you hardly know, girls ? (yes, Fated To Love You’s snail, I’m speaking to you too !)
    BUT I am also grateful to this show because I got to know… Joo Sang Wook ! Hello, Beautiful, where were you ? Man, you just have to look at his face to understand what “perfect features” encompass. And Seo Kang Joon ! What a PYT, he totally got me with his dreamy eyes. The way Seung Hyun was looking at Ae Ra sometimes… I wish someone would look at me exactly like that (even if it means for the control freak that I am to become totally helpless)… So I was wondering… Pure Pretty…maybe… don’t want to be pushy… but for at least one of them…or both… one day…maybe…please ? 🙂

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    • Lol. Yes, there are a lot of flaws in Cunning Single Lady, aren’t there? Which is why I say that it’s better to just shrug those off and just focus on the good stuff. I liked that the OTP felt sincere at the bottom of it all, despite everything. And in spite of its flaws, I found this show rather endearing, so I gave it a pass for all of the times that it didn’t make the most sense XD

      And yes, Joo Sang Wook was a discovery for me too! I’d always thought of him as the cold Ken-doll-like actor, but he’s so endearing when he’s being a dork! I liked him quite a lot in this show, so I wouldn’t mind putting him on the Pure Pretty list 😉 Seo Kang Joon didn’t manage to charm me in this show, so we’ll have to see if he does better the next time he graces my screen.

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  5. Finished it! loved the review as always! I have to admit that I had rosy lenses on so I was able to enjoy it a bit more than you 😉 Seo Kang Joon has interesting eyes, but his look is a bit similar to Kim Jae Won that you don’t like so I had a feeling you wouldn’t swoon there, hehehe… I didn’t swoon either but the piano and artistic output was swoony. I saw a clip of his and EXO’s Chanyeol’s brief piano performances on Roommate, very nice! I did pick up on Seung Hyun’s admiration of Ae Ra early on, so I wasn’t surprised by it, and although he was flat, I let it slide because he’s a newbie. I liked Seung Hyun’s honesty. He faced up to his feelings very well, which gave him a maturity emotionally – the flower-boy-man-child thing that I dig.

    I really enjoyed Min Jung in this, I agree after Big I sort of avoided her LOL! But given the go-ahead from you I’m glad I took the plunge. While some of the writing was a bit messed up, the emotional performance was nice. And for me, I really understood her campy family and appreciated their warmth a lot. (I know, my tolerance for campy is much higher than yours) Ae Ra’s parents (and their whole family) put up with each other – the dad is a romantic (and spender) and the mom a cranky hard worker, but they do love each other and stay together and both have the best intentions for their children at heart, even if they have differing opinions they don’t push too far. It’s everyday heartwarming for me.

    Joo Sang Wook was funny. This is the first I’ve seen of him. He always gave away that he was only pretending to be cool, the fake laugh was ridiculous. I liked when he was being warm and cute but didn’t like his wimpy and stubborn methods. After Jung Woo realized his feelings it was way better. The dorkiness took away from the manliness though… it was hard to find the balance, so I guess I had a hard time swooning here. I wanted to smack him for being whipped and not taking action. But finally some planning (haha went slightly wrong at the end) and the serious expressions when he was programming or working saved it 🙂 Ae Ra is more independent than he is. He’s sort of clingy. The thing with the house being built, I don’t buy it. It’s that thing where inside you just want her back but you pretend you’re taking revenge. And it’s too convenient that the house is already done. LOL.

    I really didn’t like Yeo Jin’s character. I’m not familiar with the actress and saw maybe ONE facial expression that I was OK with on her and I can’t remember when it was. Maybe when she saw that Jung Woo came to see her. The rest I tried dutifully to ignore because she was scary and interfering. Yuk. The Guk Chairman, mostly Yuk until the couple of decent warm moments at the end. Why on earth are some people so slow to GROW UP? 🙂

    Ok won’t say any more for now 🙂 Taking a quick break and moving to the next one. (not sure what yet.)

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    • Lol. I am so impressed at how well you know my taste now, lyricalpeach!! XD Not only have you got a feel for the kind of music and dramas that I gravitate towards, now you seem to have decoded my taste for men too!! LOVE IT! Yes, Seo Kang Joon didn’t float my boat in this drama, but I’ve learned to never say never. I used to feel indifferent to Woob, after all. And NOW look at me, flailing at him all over the place! XD

      Ah, glad we both gave Lee Min Jung another chance with this drama! After Big, I really did have my doubts, but she managed to imbue Ae Ra with an emotional sincerity that rang true for me, and that changed everything. She felt real and sincere, and I found myself liking her more and more as the show progressed. So pleased that’s she’s crossed back over to my good books now! ^^

      I kinda get what you mean about the dorkiness taking away the swoon factor. That’s actually how I feel about my male leads too. It’s also why I am studiously refusing to watch Joo Won in 1N2D, coz his aegyo-tastic reputation in there is so strong that I worry I may not be able to see him as intense and swoony thereafter..! XD You’re also absolutely right that it was Joo Sang Wook’s intent looks that saved him from teetering over that dorky edge. I still managed to find him quite appealing. I think the key here, though, is that I wanted him for Ae Ra, not for myself. That’s a dead giveaway. Coz if I find a male lead truly flat-out swoony, I always, always want him for myself instead. HAHA! XD So I think this means that Joo Sang Wook wasn’t all that swoony in this, thanks to the dorkiness. But the dorkiness was so amusing and cute, that I don’t mind 😉

      Ugh. I hated Yeo Jin as a character. At first, she seemed elegant and gracious, but she just grew worse and worse as we got deeper into our show. And the hysterical screaming. That really grated on me, seriously. I endured her scenes more than anything, just to get to the happy ending that I knew was on its way. 😉

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  6. well, it was a fun watch for me. Jung Woo reminded me of a quote from “100 Girls”: “There’s a certain way a man stares at a woman he loves. The man looks like a boy on his birthday. And he treats the woman as if she were a gift that he’s waited so long to open and now he can’t wait to see what the treasure is inside. ” and it was fun watching this again and again trough the whole series. i also liked the fact that he remained the same dork/geek till the end … which made his character feel much more real. though i really disliked him quitting his job without consulting Ae Ra, i managed to (at least halfway) understand him after i saw him reading that letter from his father. i have to say that this is one of the few dramas i in which liked the male character more than the female. even though i liked Lee Min Jung’s acting, Ae Ra wasn’t that likeable for me (apart of some moment also mentioned by you where she shined). but i guess that’s because even with rosy lenses there were simply too many inconsistencies regarding her character. anyway, i expected a light & funny romcom and i’m glad that’s what i got. 🙂

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    • Aw~ I LOVE that quote, INTJ!! 😀 And yes, that’s what we got from Jung Woo quite a lot, once his feelings for Ae Ra began to stir to the surface again. I think that’s possibly my favorite thing about his character, and my favorite thing about Joo Sang Wook’s performance. I loved that he had such warmth in his eyes, when he wasn’t wearing his cold veneer. And I loved the dorkiness too! I thought that made his character adorable. Him quitting his job without consulting his wife was not cool, but I suppose without it, we mightn’t have much of a story, so I let that slide.

      I think I liked Lee Min Jung in this more than you did.. And I think it’s possibly partly contextual. I was so underwhelmed by her outing in Big that this was just a huge step up. With such low and cautious expectations, I suppose I was easier to please? 😉

      All in all, I was really surprised by how enjoyable this show turned out to be. Flaws aside, I actually felt nicely engaged with the main characters and found it easy to root for them. I’m glad I checked this one out, and that you did too! 🙂

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  7. Pingback: Year In Review: 2014 | The Fangirl Verdict

  8. I totally agree with your reasons for usually avoiding shows about divorced couples getting back together, kfangurl. I recently stopped watching Can’t Lose during episode 3 because the bickering and hate was off the charts! I gave it a chance because I love Choi Ji Woo, and also because Dramabeans called it a funny and heartwarming drama. Judging from the first three episodes I can’t imagine it ever becoming funny or heartwarming!

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    • Ah! I watched Can’t Lose and never quite got into it too! I watched it coz of the positive reviews, but in the end, I came away rather underwhelmed. Cunning Single Lady is perhaps the only divorced-to-reunited drama that I actually found enjoyable in any way. Which is why I give it such a big pass for all the ways that it didn’t do so well. Coz the leads are so heartwarming together. 🙂

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  9. Pingback: Are kdramas getting worse / “dumbed down”? | The Fangirl Verdict

  10. I have a few favorite dramas , but I don’t know why , this one i would say is my most favorite , i guess , it’s mainstay in my tablets and iphone , before retiring for the night watching my current drama , i have to watch this this drama ( bits and pieces ) before going to sleep , it’s been months since i finished this one and till last night i’m still doing the last watch before my zzzzz,

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    • Aww.. How cute, that this is your comfort food drama, Nancy! 😀 I think we all have a comfort food drama or two, that never fails to bring on the happy feels 🙂 For me, I do like to reach for Goong, or Coffee Prince, when I need a bit of warm fuzzy ❤

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      • I used to like the actress from Coffee Prince , but she turned me off after I watched Lie To Me , i took a strong dislike towards her , i also can’t understand myself lol , i now refuse to watch anything with her in any drama , funny me 😆😆😆

        Liked by 1 person

        • Lol. Well, to be fair, she hasn’t managed to pick any good drama roles for a while. I loved her in Goong, and in Coffee Prince. But I didn’t like any of her subsequent shows. I’m just waiting for her to pick a good drama role again, and blow me away all over again. 🙂

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  11. I should say that this is a really good review. It does tell lots of informations, but with only just a little spoiler and makes me want to continue watching the drama.

    it delivered very well. probably the best kind of review i’ve ever seen 🙂

    you make the drama even worth to watch.

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    • Aw, thanks D! What a lovely, lovely compliment!! 😀 So glad you liked this review! This drama is far from perfect, but there WERE some things about it that I liked a lot. Those made it worth the watch, for me 🙂 I hope you enjoy your watch too!

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  12. Love your review! Gonna read it full soon! ^^/

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