THE SHORT VERDICT:
A romance that manages to feel real and raw, yet sweet and aspirational, at the same time.
Even though our characters are flawed and sometimes even a little unlikable, Show manages to also make them brave enough, and sweet enough, and considerate enough, that our lead couple feels thoroughly worth rooting for, both separately and together. While our story doesn’t ever achieve cracky levels of engagement, Show more than makes up for this, with its deft exploration of characters and relationships, while putting some very healthy relationship dynamics on display.
Despite feeling a touch slow in terms of its plot development, Show manages to feel thoughtfully satisfying all the way to the end.
THE LONG VERDICT:
Sometimes morbid curiosity pays off?
As many of you would likely know, I was ultimately disappointed with last year’s Pretty Noona Who Buys Me Food (aka Something in the Rain), which was by the same writer-PD duo behind One Spring Night.
By the end of Pretty Noona, I was disenchanted enough, that I felt almost 100% certain that I wouldn’t be happy with another story by this writer-PD team, especially if they were going to create a world similar to the one in Pretty Noona. And here One Spring Night was even going to feature the same male lead as Pretty Noona, too. Before I even set eyes on any moment of screen time of this show, I was So Sure that this all would not go down well, for me.
Being the curious cat that I am, though, when friends started saying on my Twitter feed that this show did, in fact, feel a fair bit like Pretty Noona, I couldn’t help checking out this show, at least for a little bit. My intention, really, was to watch maybe just a few minutes, and then run screaming for the hills (yes, I was that aggrieved by Pretty Noona, heh). So imagine my annoyance, that not only did I end up watching the entire first hour, but actually came away liking it.
I wasn’t expecting that, to be sure.
Afterwards, I carried on my watch of this show with a mix of cautious enjoyment and nervous trepidation. Even though I liked Show a great deal, I couldn’t quite leave behind the underlying anxiety, that Show might ultimately disappoint me the way Pretty Noona had disappointed me.
Now that I’ve emerged safely on the other side, though, I am happy to report that Show remained solid all the way through to the end. In fact, as self-indulgent as this might sound, it kinda felt like writer-nim had maybe read all my grumblings about Pretty Noona, and then set out to write me something to make it all up to me. To which I say, thank you, writer-nim. This was quite a pleasure to watch indeed.
On a tangent, I’ve found, anecdotally, that folks who disliked Pretty Noona seem to tend to like One Spring Night, and those who loved Pretty Noona seem to find One Spring Night pretty meh. I’m not exactly sure of how accurate this theory is, but I’ve come across enough viewer comments to land on this possible pattern.
Given how this show checked all of the boxes for me that Pretty Noona didn’t, I’d say that theory might well be true. Coz if this show lacks all of the things that made Pretty Noona work (or not work) for you, then it possibly stands to reason that One Spring Night is likely to fall on the opposite end of the spectrum, for you.
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.
IN A NUTSHELL: WHY ONE SPRING NIGHT WORKED FOR ME WHILE SOMETHING IN THE RAIN DIDN’T
Even though Pretty Noona started well for me, I was very frustrated by the lead characters themselves by the time I got to the end of the show. I no longer found either of them likable, nor did I actually feel like I could root for either of them. I also felt like neither of them charted much in the way of meaningful character growth, especially in the area of how they each approached their relationship. By the end of the finale, I still found the OTP relationship as unhealthy as before, and I didn’t enjoy that.
Of course, not everyone felt this way about Pretty Noona. Fans of Pretty Noona would likely disagree with me, and that’s ok. This is just how I received the show, personally.
And personally, I felt like all of these things were well handled in One Spring Night. Yes, our characters are flawed in this story too. But, I liked both lead characters, and found myself easily rooting for them. I liked the healthy amount of self-examination and introspection, coupled with a good amount of honest and candid conversation. When the storm of judgment eventually confronted our OTP, this OTP did not cower nor collapse; each of them chose to stand strong in the face of criticism and opposition; both of them, for the most part, consistently choosing grace over petulance; courage over cowardice.
Overall, One Spring Night doesn’t reach the same pinnacles of giddy romance that Pretty Noona managed in its early episodes. But I gotta tell ya, Show’s demonstration of what healthy relationship dynamics can look like in the face of the storm, makes up for it all, in my books.
STUFF I LIKED
Han Ji Min as Jung In
I’ve developed quite an affection for Han Ji Min of late, having very much enjoyed her in Familiar Wife and The Light In Your Eyes (Dazzling) – both excellent shows that I recommend, if you haven’t seen ’em. Overall, I do think that Han Ji Min’s personal charm did add to Jung In as a character, for me.
What I mean is, Jung In isn’t actually always likable; she’s written as flawed, and to be honest, I didn’t actually like her behavior, the first time we are introduced to her in episode 1. And sometimes, she says things which make me wonder if she’s got a droll sense of humor, is simply uncomfortably straightforward, or is just plain inconsiderate. During these times, my personal affection for Han Ji Min did come in handy to bolster my patience with Jung In.
Having said that, I do think that Jung In is, objectively speaking (ie, without the need for pre-existing personal affection), a female lead who is worth rooting for.
Jung In has a steely core, and she isn’t afraid to face difficult situations or stand up for herself or stand up for someone else, if she perceives that it is the right thing to do. When she decides that she wants to be with Ji Ho (Jung Hae In), she proceeds to fight for what she wants, even though she knows that the journey will be difficult and painful. Additionally, I love that in that process, she is determined to protect Ji Ho from being hurt.
On top of it all, Jung In continues to nurture all her other roles, as daughter, sister and friend, even when she is head over heels for her new love.
I didn’t think Jung In was perfect, and Show doesn’t ever try to airbrush her flaws, but I did feel perfectly on Jung In’s side, and I wanted to root for her, all the way through.
To be honest, I found it hard to sift through all of my thoughts on this show and its characters and relationships, because everything is so intertwined, and also, in so many shades of gray. In the following Spoiler section, is a meandering collection of my thoughts surrounding Jung In. I will be handling most of the other Spoiler sections similarly, for the same hard-to-separate-and-sift-through reasons.
E1. I don’t immediately like Han Ji Min’s character, not least because she tried to blame Ji Ho for opening the drink for her, when she’d been the one to ask for the drink and then not have her wallet on her. Being more apologetic would’ve seemed more appropriate to me, rather than trying to shift the blame.
E3-4. Jung In’s proposal to Ji Ho to be friends, and trying to keep things “technically ok” feels true to life. There is something that niggles her conscience that she’s somehow crossing a line by being intrigued by Ji Ho, but she works to satisfy her conscience by allowing herself a little closer to Ji Ho – as long as she can explain it as them just being friends. I don’t think she’s trying to justify it to Gi Seok (Kim Joon Han) first and foremost; I think that she’s trying to justify it to her conscience.
She wants more from a romantic relationship than what she currently has with Gi Seok, but finds it hard to articulate to Gi Seok. More than that, it does seem that she doesn’t seem to want more from him per se, even though she broaches topics like wanting them to respect each other more. It feels like she doesn’t actually think it’s possible to shift her relationship with Gi Seok to something that would feel as satisfying to her, as her current new and compelling interest in Ji Ho.
E6. Personally, I think that Jung In has the right to some time to figure things out, in terms of how she feels about Gi Seok, and how she feels about Ji Ho. At the very least, she needs to figure out whether she wants to continue her relationship with Gi Seok, or if this is the kind of relationship she can see herself living with, long-term. At this point, her heart being swayed by Ji Ho, is, I think, a good clue that she isn’t happy in her relationship with Gi Seok.
She needs to figure out whether that’s something she can see them working on and through together, and then if not, she should break up with Gi Seok, regardless of whether there is any future for her and Ji Ho. That, to me, would be the better thing to do. That said, she really should talk it out with Gi Seok instead of just letting things carry on as they are.
E7-8. At this point, I don’t dislike Jung In. I think it’s partly because I’ve grown fond of Han Ji Min, but I also think it’s partly because Show does a good job of showing Jung In’s conflict. We do see her try to be loyal to Gi Seok. She even suggests that they get married. This is not something that she would say, if her foot really were already half out the door. At this point, she still isn’t sure, and so, it’s too soon for her heart, to cut Gi Seok off, and it’s also hard for her to figure things out properly, with her heart wobbling for Ji Ho, while her mind is probably also warring with the societal expectations that she knows are hanging over her head.
E9-10. Jung In’s outburst in the car, “What about me? Why are you only thinking about yourself? Is your satisfaction all the matters? Were you always this selfish?” has got to be one of the most backhanded confessions ever. I think Ji Ho was operating under the assumption that she didn’t want to see him, that she didn’t quite feel the same way about him that he does about her.
Even though the way Jung In talks to Gi Seok about his parents’ disapproval of her and her perception of his attitude takes the form of a lashing out, I do feel that her accusations come from a place of real pain. She has felt those feelings, and felt that disapproval, and perceived that neglect. She isn’t making up stuff to throw in Gi Seok’s face because she wants out of the relationship. At this point, she hasn’t actually talked with Gi Seok about breaking up, which leads me to think that she’s still considering how to proceed at this point, that she doesn’t know yet whether she actually wants to end this relationship.
On the other hand, her lashing out at Ji Ho felt somewhat different; that actually felt like a lashing out borne of her being pushed into a corner, and grabbing for something – anything – to throw back at her perceived aggressor.
I fully endorse and respect Jung In’s decision to break up with Gi Seok, and her decision that regardless of that, she will not date Ji Ho. That’s an honorable decision that will enable her to be true to herself, and also, protect both Ji Ho and her from the backlash of them getting together in the wake of a break up with Gi Seok. It’s her way of not walking the road of betrayal, and some might call it foolish, but I respect her for even trying to choose that path, because it’s a path that involves denying her own feelings, on a principle.
Jung In broaching the subject of a break-up on the phone with Gi Seok, while looking right at Ji Ho; talk about biting the bullet. But I appreciate that she backs away from Ji Ho, when, in alarm, he tries to reach towards her while she’s on the phone. One, it shows that she wants no interference from anyone, even him, because this is her decision to make. Two, she’s also saying that this isn’t actually about him.
E11-12. Although I wish Jung In’s attempt to break up with Gi Seok would’ve stuck, so that they wouldn’t be in a limbo of trying to make things work, I can understand how she’d end up in this situation. She and Gi Seok have a long history together, and without a strong reason to break up with him, it does seem unreasonable if she won’t at least agree to work on improving their relationship.
E13-14. Gotta give props to Jung In for how she carries herself in making the appointment with Gi Seok’s father (Kim Chang Wan) and how she showed up during the meeting. She’s courageous to speak her mind, and remains respectful while doing so. She sounds reasonable and it’s clear that she’s spent a lot of time thinking things through before articulating her conclusions. It’s no wonder Gi Seok’s dad is impressed.
E15-16. It was thoughtless of Jung In to ask Ji Ho to take Eun Woo (Ha Yi An) and leave via the side exit because Gi Seok was about to arrive at the library. It’s unfair because Ji Ho genuinely wasn’t there to see her, and he shouldn’t be asked to use the side exit in deference to someone else. It’s a public library that everyone has the right to visit. I think Jung In should have deferred to him to make that choice. If he’d felt uncomfortable coming face to face with Gi Seok given the emotional side of things, that he could have chosen to take the side exit.
But, that’s easy for me to say as a neutral bystander. Jung In is in that situation, and the impending collision of her two worlds – a collision which she was not prepared for – was about to happen right in front of her. Her instinct was to avoid impact at all costs, and she believed that Ji Ho would cooperate with her without questions.
E17-18. I appreciate that Jung In thinks long and hard about what she really wants for herself; about whether she can make things work with Gi Seok like so many people want her to do; whether she can live with herself for the choice that she makes; whether she can protect Ji Ho from the consequential judgment and comments, if she goes to him. At one point, she was prepared to break up with Gi Seok while not starting a relationship with Ji Ho; that’s how much she was ready to protect him; by not being with him, ever.
E27-28. I think what makes Jung In sympathetic is that she doesn’t try to make excuses. She admits to Gi Seok that it’s her fault, that she betrayed him (though she’s really being quite generous here), and she doesn’t ask for forgiveness, and is prepared to pay the price for her actions.
In this sense, far from looking at her and wanting to point a finger at her for betraying her boyfriend for at least the act of acting on her attraction to another man, even if she was already trying to break up with him, I’m encouraged to acknowledge her humanness; her fallibility as a mere person, and admire her honesty and willingness to own it all.
And over and above all of that, I admire her for remaining calm, respectful and courteous with Gi Seok, even when he is unreasonably yelling at her and insisting that she come back to him. The composure she manages in the face of all his baiting is really something, and she even manages to sound sincere, while she’s at it. How is she so strong, while retaining her soft emotional core, at the same time?
E27-28. Jung In telling Ji Ho, at the crosswalk, “Don’t cross; I’ll come to you.” Such a reflection of how she doesn’t want him to come into her world and be punished by the judgment and standards that exist in it; she’d rather go into his world, and meet him there.
Jung Hae In as Ji Ho
If you’ve been around the blog for a bit, you might know that if a show manages to actually drain me of fangirl loyalty, that can be a hard thing to recover from, for me. Case in point: Uncontrollably Fond, which drained me of so much Woob loyalty that I may not have fully recovered from it, even today.
Since I wasn’t actually a Jung Hae In fangirl to begin with, and since Pretty Noona had effectively and quite recently (just last year!) drained me of most of the affection I’d ever grown for Jung Hae In from his other roles, making me feel decidedly ambivalent towards him, I wasn’t very optimistic that I would end up enjoying him much in this role.
Well, color me pleasantly surprised and suitably impressed; I actually really enjoyed Jung Hae In in this. This show is like the surprise gift that doesn’t stop giving, heh.
Ji Ho certainly isn’t a perfect character. In fact, he even displays flashes of impetuous, rebellious behavior that I found similar to the troubling behavior I observed in Joon Hee, his character in Pretty Noona. What’s different here, is that Ji Ho is shown to be much more introspective, patient and mature, as a result of his difficult experiences as a single father. The flashes of recklessness remain just that – flashes; they don’t become mainstays of his character. Also unlike Joon Hee, Ji Ho is more likely to think before he acts, and he also is willing to be patient and courageous in the face of disapproval.
On top of Ji Ho’s patience and consideration as one half of the OTP, I also liked watching his interactions with his son Eun Woo, which I found very precious indeed. Another thing that was precious – any and every time Ji Ho leaked a stifled smile. Oh my. They got me every time. <3
Overall, I found Ji Ho to be a very appealing character, and I could understand why Jung In would want to risk everything, just to be with him.
E1. Ji Ho does seem like a kind person, offering to lend money to the woman who tried to blame him for the cost of her transaction.
E9-10. Ji Ho can’t help the wonder and thrill at being in Jung In’s apartment, and the half smiles are leaking out despite his efforts to swallow them. It’s glorious to see.
E11-12. But.. I’m also concerned, because Ji Ho is starting to act more recklessly with each passing minute. From speaking up to ask Gi Seok not to go to his girlfriend, to insisting that Jung In stay on the phone with him while he’s riding in Gi Seok’s car, this just all doesn’t seem to be moving in a very wise direction.
E15-16. I do like that Ji Ho made it clear that he wouldn’t make Eun Woo feel small by making him use the side exit, and that that hit Jung In in the gut. If she is at all serious about exploring a relationship with Ji Ho, she needs to understand how important Eun Woo is to him. I thought her gesture, of putting Eun Woo’s dinosaur sticker on her phone, was very significant. It says everything: I accept Eun Woo; I like Eun Woo; I’d be proud to be associated with Eun Woo. It’s no wonder Ji Ho was rendered speechless; it’s always been his fear that the woman he liked wouldn’t be able to accept Eun Woo, and that’s why he never dated.
E15-16. In terms of Ji Ho’s increasing boldness around Gi Seok, I think it has to do with being tired of hiding. He’s hidden for a long time, because of Eun Woo, and the remarks from people around him, like his parents, that he doesn’t deserve to be with someone who hasn’t been married before, are probably starting to rankle at him. He’s probably come to the point where he’s tired of hiding and is ready to just let everything out and face the consequences. He is getting to the point where he wants to assert that he has the same right to stand under the sun, as everyone else. I think.
E17-18. Ji Ho thinks long and hard about whether he can give Jung In up; about how his son will be affected; about how Jung In will be affected. And even when he’s sure of his feelings, he doesn’t rush to act on them. Just recently, he tells Jung In that he will wait until she’s ready to come to him, and that she can take as long as she needs. And this isn’t something that he’s pushing on her; she wants to come to him. He’s just giving her the freedom to take as much time as she needs, before she does that. And this hour, he tells her again, that he’s not going anywhere, and she can take all the time she needs. That’s so.. respectful and space-giving.
E17-18. Ji Ho telling Gi Seok that the main reason he got caught was because he resented Gi Seok for looking down on him, is so honest, and so self-aware. I like that. I like that he doesn’t lump everything on his feelings for Jung In, which would be too easy to do, given that it’s the big elephant in the room. Instead, he admits that it’s also about him. I like that he won’t let people look down on him, and that he will stand up for his rights, like he did with Eun Woo in the library. He won’t let his son – and therefore by association himself – be treated like second-class citizens. His retaliating actions may not always be the most appropriate ones, like how he was acting out telling Gi Seok not to go to his girlfriend, so I don’t condone those, but I do like the sense of self-worth that he strives to own.
E27-28. I like that Ji Ho is concerned that he will be the cause of an irreparable rift between Jung In and her parents. That’s considerate, and I like that he thinks about things like that for her, even though she’s willing to risk it all, for him.
E27-28. Aw. That tearful face, and the touch of a quiver in Ji Ho’s voice, as he looks at Jung In and asks, “Will you leave me and Eun Woo too?” Oh man. He’s been hurt so much by Eun Woo’s mom, and deep down, he’s afraid that somehow, he and Eun Woo will end up getting hurt and abandoned again. Oof.
E27-28. Ji Ho’s breakdown at the realization that Eun Woo’s bio mom is now married with another child, is heartbreaking. He must be processing this fact, wondering why, if she’d not been ready to be a wife and mother back when she upped and left, she’d not come back to him and Eun Woo, when she’d felt ready.
It’s impossible not to wonder if she simply didn’t want him and Eun Woo, rather than that she didn’t want to be a wife and mother. In reality, it’s possible that she’d run away because she hadn’t felt ready, and then later in life, had felt that it was simply easier to start over, than try to treat old wounds and deal with old scars. Also, I do think that for Ji Ho, this is more about Eun Woo than it is about himself. Plus, given that Ji Ho’s suffered greatly from being abandoned in the past, it’s only human that he would have hangups and fears specifically related to abandonment.
The OTP relationship
Just like the way Show serves up its lead characters as flawed but worth rooting for, the OTP relationship is similarly presented.
I didn’t like every single thing about this OTP relationship – I had to really rationalize their bond, given their random-feeling meet-cute, and I often didn’t get this couple’s brand of banter, which often came across as a little brusque and a lot obtuse, to my ears – I certainly found a lot to root for, in the way their relationship blossomed.
Like I mentioned earlier in this review, one of the things that I like about this show, which Pretty Noona didn’t give me, is a pair of leads that act like responsible adults, even amid the heart-fluttering new feelings.
I liked that both Ji Ho and Jung In didn’t lose themselves in their brand new shiny feelings for each other. Ji Ho is still careful to consider his son and his parents; Jung In is still careful to consider her parents and she also stops to really think about what she wants. And when Ji Ho and Jung In decide they want to be together, I love the maturity, patience and courage with which they choose to approach the uphill journey of fulfilling their desire to be together.
I found the chemistry between Jung Hae In and Han Ji Min very believable and sparky, and I felt that they made the interactions between Ji Ho and Jung In feel very organic and lived-in.
Even though we begin our story where a relationship between these two characters would be problematic – she’s in a long-term relationship; he’s her boyfriend’s hoobae – Show does a very good job of convincing me that these two belong together, and I spent the bulk of my watch with bated breath, hoping for the best outcome for these lovebirds.
E1. While a part of my brain struggles to reconcile Ji Ho’s strong feelings for Jung In so quickly after they met at the pharmacy, a part of me is willing to acknowledge that emotions don’t have to come from a place of logic, that fundamentally, emotions and logic come from very different places.
I can acknowledge that people can and do fall in love very quickly, and can feel a strong connection with a stranger that they’ve just met. And I know for a fact that people can also feel extremely distant from the ones that they are supposed to be close to. In that sense, I am able to accept Jung In and Ji Ho feeling a strong attraction to each other, that doesn’t seem to be rooted in an organically grown relationship over a long period of time.
E2. I do like the fact that Jung In tells Ji Ho that she’s got a boyfriend that she plans to marry. I also appreciate that Ji Ho is upfront with her about his son, and about the fact that he doesn’t have the confidence to be comfortable being friends with her.
E5. I can see why Ji Ho and Jung In agreed to be friends. It’s not out of actually wanting to be friends. It’s exactly as Jung In’s friend Young Joo (Lee Sang Hee) put it: that it’s more because friends is all that they can be. They are drawn to each other, and they want to have a way to be closer to each other, even if it’s under the guise of being friends.
Jung In is more in denial than Ji Ho, I think. Ji Ho seems cognizant that he still likes her, even though he’d said that he’d dealt with his feelings. Or, he thought that he’d dealt with his feelings, only to have the feelings come rushing back, once he allowed himself closer to her. After all, it hadn’t been that long since he’d expressed interest in her, that he’d claimed to have dealt with his feelings. When Gi Seok comes to see him at the pharmacy, Ji Ho’s expression changes completely, and his discomfort and discomposure around the idea that Gi Seok is there to buy supplements for Jung In is very clear. The mention of marriage discussions also throws Ji Ho for a loop and he’s visibly not himself.
Jung In, on the other hand, is sliding down a slippery slope of developing feelings for Ji Ho, while trying to explain everything away to herself. She’s rationalizing everything so that she can satisfy any guilt that her conscience brings to her attention, and when Young Joo confronts her, she rationalizes it too, saying that there’s nothing wrong with being friends.
And yes, friends can text each other, and visit each other, and have coffee together, but – not when they have feelings for each other and one of them is practically engaged to be married to someone else. The friendship is but a bandaid excuse to let Jung In keep on living life as she knows it, while allowing her to take little bites of forbidden fruit which she can rationalize as harmless because each bite is technically allowable. But Jung In’s involuntary smiles when it comes to Ji Ho says it all; her heart is leaning towards him, and farther and farther away from Gi Seok.
E7-8. At the end of this episode, we finally get some articulation and acknowledgment of feelings and attraction between Jung In and Ji Ho. Both admit that they’ve been cowardly, and I would agree with both assertions.
I do think that in this situation, there is more burden on Jung In to decide what she wants. I personally think Ji Ho is doing the right thing by not putting much pressure on Jung In, because she’s the one who practically has a fiance, while he’s single and available. It would feel like a dirty move for him to try and woo her away from her boyfriend, if she hasn’t indicated that she would like to be wooed.
Additionally, I really think they should put a pause on their interactions while she figures out what she wants. If she wants to be with Ji Ho, she should break up with Gi Seok first, then try to figure things out with Ji Ho. Don’t start entertaining and pursuing feelings on the side, with Ji Ho, while Gi Seok is still your boyfriend.
E9-10. Sometimes Jung In says outrageous things, and I don’t know whether to take her seriously. Is this supposed to be darkly funny, or provocative? She comes across as really bossy, telling Ji Ho to pay for dinner, and telling him what to order, so that she can have some too. Ji Ho reciprocates by telling her she’s terrible, but.. they just keep carrying on. I guess this is going to be their brand of ribbing?
I do appreciate that they are quite brutally honest when they do get to talking seriously. “I’m the loser, and you’re the idiot.” “You’re so cold.” “Can’t you tell how this is torture for me?”
E11-12. I do like that we get honest conversations between Jung In and Ji Ho. I appreciate that Jung In tells Ji Ho that her breaking up with Gi Seok has nothing to do with him, and that he also shares how he feels, that even though the woman he likes is breaking up with her boyfriend, he can’t be happy about it. This brand of honesty, where both parties share the process of their thoughts and feelings even when they don’t have the answers, appeals to me. It feels so open and uncalculated.
E11-12. Every time Jung In has an interaction with Eun Woo, I feel like she’s trying on motherhood – or rather, stepmotherhood – for size. It’s like she’s testing the waters, almost, just in case she and Ji Ho really do get together and she really does end up as a mother figure to Eun Woo. But, I do kind of wish she wouldn’t. Eun Woo is getting attached to her, and at this point, there’s no guarantee that she can continue to stay in Ji Ho’s orbit. In that sense, I feel like she’s being rather reckless and irresponsible, because she doesn’t take Eun Woo’s feelings into account. What about his heartbreak, if she had to cut off contact all of a sudden?
Having said that, I have to admit that the look on Ji Ho’s face, as he watches Jung In on the phone with Eun Woo, is one that communicates so clearly, that in this moment, his heart is full, so full that he’s moved to tears. I do like that.
E13-14. I do struggle with Jung In’s words from time to time. She admits to being mean and selfish, and I guess that rubs me the wrong way. I mean, I do want her to put herself first, but I also want her to articulate care for others. If she likes Ji Ho, she should care about how he feels, but she explicitly states that she doesn’t have the bandwidth to care about the state of his heart.
In this way, Jung In really is a bundle of contradictions. Because on the one hand she says completely unreasonable and mean things like that, but on the other hand, she promises to protect Ji Ho and make sure that he won’t be judged for their relationship in the future.
I guess actions speak louder than words, so perhaps Jung In’s unpleasant words are just the way that she and Ji Ho “banter”? Like, she says those things, and he retorts, but they both know that she doesn’t mean it?
E13-14. While there is a sector of viewers who view Jung In’s connection with Ji Ho as cheating, I think some acknowledgment should be given for the way they’re trying to keep things as honorable as possible. As in, the feelings have grown, and they’ve been reckless in some ways to entertain those feelings, and that’s not ideal, but at least now Jung In is working to close things off with Gi Seok before starting on a proper relationship with Ji Ho, and Ji Ho is backing off and giving her the space to do that. There’s some value in that, I feel.
E17-18. Once these two have decided that they want to work towards being together, they do every responsible thing they can, before actually starting a relationship.
Ji Ho tells his parents that he’s serious about Jung In; Jung In breaks up with Gi Seok as effectively as she can, given his delusional non-acceptance; Jung In informs her parents that she’s asked to break up with Gi Seok, and that there’s someone that she likes. They do every possible thing, to make the transition as transparent and as responsible as possible, and this consideration and sense of responsibility; of giving people in their lives the respect that they’re due, without compromising on their own convictions and desires, makes me really root for this couple.
E17-18. I really like that even though the initial connection between Ji Ho and Jung In could be said to be some kind of attraction at first glance, that they’ve really spent time having honest conversations and getting to understand each other, in the time since. And I really like that as they’ve done that, the feelings they have for each other have only grown stronger.
To that end, I can believe that the initial attraction was a hunch; a gut feeling that this person could be special; and everything else afterwards has been a journey of exploring that hunch and actually falling for each other. I do appreciate that their confessions of love have been made before an actual hand-hold. It makes their connection feel more clearly like it’s something bigger than just physical chemistry.
E17-18. The scene where Ji Ho exited the cafe because he couldn’t help the tears springing to his eyes at Jung In’s sudden love confession, is really sweet. I love how overwhelmed and childlike he is, in that moment. She touched his heart of hearts; the loneliest part of his soul that wondered if he would ever be loved again. I love that she went after him, and held his face, and laughed with him, even as he tried to deny his tears. That shot of levity was quite needed, I think.
The look on Ji Ho’s face, as he holds Jung In’s hand and he talks about how he could’ve put off holding her hand for so long, is so precious. He looks like he’s on the verge of tears, and he also looks like he’s half wondering if this is all real, even as he continues to banter gently with Jung In.
E19-20. I do appreciate the honest and transparent conversations that Jung In and Ji Ho have this hour. Even with Gi Seok’s displeasure and potential interference hanging over them, they tell each other things that they feel are important.
Ji Ho tells Jung In about Eun Woo’s mother and what happened back when Eun Woo was born, and how he’d felt at the time; Jung In tells Ji Ho that she will be honest and quick to tell him if she’s not happy with him for something, and she spells out what she’d like from him in return, which is excellent ground-laying for a healthy relationship; Ji Ho shows Jung In his childhood by bringing her to the laundromat; Jung In tells Ji Ho that she would be disappointed if he were to be intimidated by Gi Seok.
All of this feels so honest and healthy, and the fact that these two continue to operate in this healthy space despite the external pressures that are starting to bear down on them, is something that I really like.
E23-24. What sets this show apart from Pretty Noona, is that this couple talks honestly with each other. Despite the opposition and the obstacles they’re facing, they come together and they talk honestly and they apologize and it just all feels so healthy and willingly transparent. With their many honest conversations as context, where they’ve shared their deepest thoughts and fears, it feels organic and natural when they decide to consummate their relationship.
E25-26. Ji Ho’s expression, as he asks tentatively if Jung In really is coming to them, is so precious. It’s so full of hesitant wonder, and he’s barely keeping the tears from falling from his eyes, and then, when Jung In tells him yes, the tearful gratitude and joy that mixes with the wonder, is just beautiful and poignant to behold. I can feel through my screen, just how grateful and joyful Ji Ho is, and I just wish him all the happy things in the world.
E25-26. So far, I’m still enjoying this very well, even though there are disapproving parents actively getting involved. And the key here, is how Jung In and Ji Ho respond under that pressure. So far, I really like that they’re not swayed, but continue to behave in a manner that is respectful and mature, for the most part. And they continue to keep their communication with each other honest and transparent, taking steps to take their relationship in the direction they desire, without being pouty or tantrumy about it.
E25-26. Gi Seok tailing Jung In is stalkery, but I do love how Jung In stalks right up to him and tells him that she will not allow him to bother Ji Ho. It touches me, that through all of this, she is determined to protect Ji Ho as much as possible, even if it means that she will suffer for it.
E25-26. Jung In’s way of proposing to Ji Ho is so quintessentially Jung In. Instead of waiting for Ji Ho to propose, she likely makes the first move because she realizes that Ji Ho may not want to burden her with a proposal. And instead of making it elegant or romantic, she goes for tangential and obtuse, so that he doesn’t even know what to say to her first attempt. But she homes in for the win, by asking Eun Woo if he’d like her to be his mom. Jung In sure knows the way to Ji Ho’s heart.
E27-28. I like what Jung In says to Ji Ho, about why she’s glad that she’s met him. It’s not about him so much, as the effect that he has on her, that being with him makes her selfless and brave. I do love that.
The relationship between the sisters
Although we don’t get a whole lot of screen time with all 3 sisters together, I really grew to love and appreciate the deep bond between these siblings.
Despite not spending as much time together as they’d probably like, it’s clear to see that the sisters care deeply for one another. I consistently noticed each of them putting her sisters’ needs above her own, and I loved the solidarity that they shared. They were always willing to stand by one another, in the face of parental disapproval, or an abusive husband, or a clingy ex-boyfriend.
I was so glad that these girls had one another and that despite their differing life stations, they continued to support one another, being an oasis in the desert for one another. <3
E15-16. I’m glad that the 3 sisters are talking and sharing more, and that they are so firmly there for one another. It says so much, that Seo In (Im Sung Uhn) would tell Jae In (Joo Min Kyung) to take care of Jung In first, even though she herself could really use Jae In’s presence in her apartment, to be her protection against Si Hoon (Lee Moo Saeng).
E17-18. I’m glad to see that the sisters are supporting one another, banding together against the wrath of their father. The hug that Seo In gives Jung In, while encouraging her to follow her heart, is so poignant.
E19-20. I like how Seo In truly cares about Jung In and completely acts in her interest. When Gi Seok tries to get her to intervene in his relationship with Jung In, she declines. And when Gi Seok brings out his trump card in Ji Ho having a son, Seo In calls Jung In over, and they talk.
I like that even though Seo In is concerned, she listens, and is so empathetic and compassionate and appreciative, even, of Jung In. Her admission that she’s pregnant and had thought of the child as punishment, so contrite in the light of Jung In’s admission of affection for Eun Woo, is so poignant. And the embrace that the sisters share afterwards, is so bittersweet and heartfelt.
E25-26. When Jae In walks in on Si Hoon raising his hand, about to hit Seo In, the way she reacts is so deeply emotional that it brings tears to my eyes. The way she throws herself at Si Hoon, railing on him, daring him to hit her too, is so fiercely protective of her sister. And then the way she just falls to the ground, sobbing like a child and wailing at her sister, is so deeply empathetic.
She feels everything so acutely. And then later that night, she goes to Jung In and cuddles close, and tells her to live happily with the ones she loves, for a long time. I mean. How wonderfully empathetic is she? I love her. <3
Young Jae and Jae In
By the end of my watch, I’d developed a soft spot for both Jae In and Young Jae (Lee Chang Hoon) individually, so it’s safe to say that I found the two of them very cute together as well.
I liked how Jae In’s instant bond with Young Jae, and her quick decision to be friends with him worked as a reflection for Jung In, even as she considered her attraction to Ji Ho, and her decision to be friends with him.
I loved the fierce and unwavering loyalty that both of these characters displayed throughout our story, and even though Show doesn’t focus on their relationship much, I rather liked the idea that even though both Jae In and Young Jae are financially unstable and don’t have clear career paths, their relationship isn’t actually one of the sources of their concerns. They’re just steady like that, and I like that.
Here’s a quick spotlight each, on Jae In and Young Jae.
E11-12. I like Jae In. She’s so fiercely carefree, and she’s also loyal. I love that this episode, when she sees that Jung In is suffering, she tells Jung In that she will respect whatever decision she makes, and just gives her sister a hug. Aw.
E27-28. Young Jae is such a dependable guy. He follows Jae In to the family home, because she’s rushing there to intervene, and then he just stands around and waits for her to come out. When Ji Ho and Jung In embrace, he turns away and averts his eyes. And when Ji Ho is drunk this episode, he comes running and takes Ji Ho home. What a good and loyal person he is.
Some of the parents
In a drama world where parental disapproval is one of the main narrative arcs, it’s a pleasant surprise to find that there are actually a greater number of understanding and empathetic parents than disapproving ones.
I like that in this show, both Ji Ho and Jung In have one least one supportive parent each. Overall, I feel like we see just as much in the way of supportive, positive parent behavior as negative, and that really helps to bring a sense of balance into our narrative.
Here’s a quickish spotlight on the supportive parents in our story.
E13-14. I really like how Mom (Gil Hae Yun) is showing up strong these days as a protector of her daughters; a force to be reckoned with. The way she literally shoves Si Hoon out of the apartment, then hisses a dressing-down at him for his mannerless behavior, before promising that she will ensure the divorce goes through, is just fantastic.
I love that she’s immediately on Seo In’s side, and doesn’t even question it, when Seo In admits that she and Si Hoon are moving towards divorce. I wanted Seo In to admit to Mom that Si Hoon had been beating her up, but I’m also happy to know that Mom doesn’t even need to hear that, to be fiercely on Seo In’s side.
E13-14. I also like seeing how Mom is concerned for Jung In. The look on Mom’s face, when Jae In confesses that Jung In looks sad, tells me that Mom sincerely wants Jung In to be happy, and that she won’t push Jung In to marry Gi Seok, if she knows that Jung In won’t be happy.
E17-18. I especially appreciate Ji Ho’s dad’s (Oh Man Seok) reaction, when Ji Ho expresses that Jung In is the first person who sees him as just himself. “Thank you.” How beautiful is that? Dad is grateful that Ji Ho has such a person, who sees him for himself.
E17-18. I also appreciate that Jung In’s mom has expresses that she just wants her daughters not to give up on their happiness.
E21-22. I’m so relieved that Seo In’s finally told Mom that Si Hoon’s been beating her. Finally there’s someone who knows the full picture, and Mom will stop persuading Seo In to give him a chance for the sake of the baby. Mom wanting to confront him right away gives me feels.. She absolutely won’t stand for it, and I’m comforted.
E21-22. Watching Mom railing on Si Hoon is vicariously cathartic and touching at the same time. He deserves to be hit so much more, but I feel a measure of release for Mom, for beating him up at least a little bit. But, the gall of Si Hoon to smile to himself afterwards. Ugh.
E23-24. The scene where Mom confronts Dad (Song Seung Hwan), sobbing at how much he’s disappointed her, is so powerful and raw. I totally believe how much it took for Mom to hold back while Dad was saying all those selfish things, and I totally believe that she’s completely and utterly ready to give up on him. When Mom tells Jae In that she’s going to divorce Dad, I sincerely felt a measure of happiness and relief for her. And I’m glad she’s moving in with Seo In.
E25-26. I really appreciate how Mom refrains from judgment, after Jung In tells her about Eun Woo. She doesn’t give her approval, but she doesn’t get angry either. Mainly, she’s worried about Jung In. Which is why, when Dad finds out about Ji Ho and Eun Woo, Mom calls Jung In and tells her to run away. I love how protective she is.
E25-26. Ji Ho’s parents are so caring and patient. Even though they’d love nothing better than to find out more about Jung In, they encourage each other to be patient. The way they are so happy to see Ji Ho happy, makes me happy.
E27-28. Wow, I feel like there’s so much unsaid that transpires, in the scene with both moms. The awkward embarrassment; the worry, of being judged and of their child being judged, which gives way to acknowledgment – that I see you; I feel your heartbeat for your child; that you’re not alone – which gives way to solidarity. This was a meeting where words wouldn’t have done justice to what needed to be communicated; instead, their hearts did the talking, and it was beautiful to behold.
Of course, part of Jung In’s mom’s ability to feel compassion for Ji Ho’s mom is exactly what Jae In pointed out, that Seo In will soon be a single mother, whose child will have one parent instead of two. That definitely helps puts things into perspective, along with hearing the other mom’s fears and worries, articulated from a mother’s heart.
Ha Yi An as Eun Woo
Ha Yi An is one adorable munchkin, and I loved him as Eun Woo. Tiny and cute and always a little halting in the way he speaks, Eun Woo managed to consistently bring a smile to my face just by showing up on my screen. <3
Beyond his cuteness, though, Eun Woo really is a great kid, and I sincerely loved some of his scenes. Possibly my favorite Eun Woo scene is this one from episode 5.
[SPOILER] I do find Ji Ho’s relationship with Eun Woo endearing. It’s kinda sad that Eun Woo doesn’t get to live with his dad and see him everyday, but Eun Woo still is so loving and loyal to Ji Ho, it just gets me in the heart. Eun Woo’s joy at seeing his dad, is one thing. But when Ji Ho apologizes to Eun Woo and asks if Eun Woo forgives him, Eun Woo’s replies are just the sweetest thing: “Of course.” “Why of course?” “Coz you’re my dad.” Melt. Such a sweet kid. [END SPOILER]
Friends around Ji Ho and Jung In
Shout-out to Young Joo and Sunbae Hye Jung (Seo Jung Yeon), I felt that they were the best friends that Jung In and Ji Ho could ask for. They were both always there to lend a listening ear without disapproval or judgment, and both of them were always willing to offer advice and support, and to speak truthfully, even if their words would be hard to hear. It’s really sweet, and I loved them both.
The people and situations feel true-to-life
Recently, my sister, who’s pretty new to kdramas, remarked to me that while she loved the high production values and the lovely story of Romance is a Bonus Book, she also felt a little thrown by how it all didn’t quite look or feel like real life. And I hafta agree – there’s a certain fairytale polish that most of the k-romcoms have.
This drama is not one of those.
This one feels much closer to real life. The people and situations all feel true-to-life, and sometimes, certain plot points hit close to old nerves, because I’d been through something similar. But, that’s precisely one of the things that I really liked about this show. It felt relatable yet fascinating, to consider how all of our characters fit into the larger framework of society and the expectations that come with it.
Here’s a somewhat meandering look at the things that struck me, during my watch.
PS: At the time of this writing, my sister has started on this drama, and so far, she’s loving it.
E5. It’s interesting. I see other people actually defending Jung In, saying that the relationship with Gi Seok is doomed anyway, and she’s not doing anything wrong, she’s just uncertain and scared. Oh, and that there’s nothing wrong with breaking up with Gi Seok and dating Ji Ho. I guess personal context counts for a lot? I can see a lot of awkwardness in Jung In breaking up with Gi Seok and then dating Ji Ho. It’s not legally wrong, but it’s socially frowned upon, I think. Like he’s snatching his sunbae’s girl, and she’s going for his friend.
Also.. I guess the heart of the issue for a viewer is, whether they think emotional cheating is a thing. Are you still being faithful to your boyfriend if you’re entertaining feelings for someone else, and it’s not even just a crush but an actual connection where the attraction is mutual?
Wherever you lean in terms of who’s right and who’s wrong, this show does seem adept at provoking thought, and that’s definitely no small deal.
E7-8. There are a lot of societal expectations at play in this show. It’s the Big Force against which Seo In is trying to free herself, and which Jung In is contemplating so hard about.
Because of societal expectations, Mom & Dad put pressure on Seo In to marry Si Hoon, and because she did, she’s now stuck because on the one hand, she wants to divorce him and it looks like he’s been abusive. But on the other hand, her image is important to her career, and she values her career. How will she choose?
Because of societal expectations, Dad is putting pressure on Jung In to marry Gi Seok, but because of the same expectations, Gi Seok’s dad is putting pressure on him to break things off with Jung In.
At this moment, it feels like Jung In is wrestling with herself – perhaps not even fully consciously, since she’s in some denial about the extent of her feelings for Ji Ho – in terms of whether to “do the right thing” which would translate into being loyal to Gi Seok and marrying him and having the “perfect life” that everyone expects them to have, or, choosing to break free from that and choose the path less approved. Seo In wants her to choose happiness, but it looks like Jung In isn’t actually sure what would bring her happiness. Because if she were to choose Ji Ho, that decision would come with a lot of disapproval and societal pressure.
E9-10. People over-extend themselves so much, all for the sake of keeping up appearances. Si Hoon is lying through his teeth, acting like he can totally afford to pay for his clinic extension in cash, when he’s in desperate need of money to stay afloat. He’s even inviting Gi Seok to come over to the house when he’s been kicked out and isn’t even living there anymore and his estranged wife is surely not going to keep up the charade for his sake. Gi Seok is pretending everything is ok with Jung In, when they are barely speaking to each other. So here are these two men talking about dinner plans with their significant others as if everything’s ok, when everything is not ok at all.
STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
Kim Joon Han as Gi Seok
I’ll be honest; I didn’t start out disliking Gi Seok. In fact, I spent much of Show’s earlier episodes trying to empathize with him and trying to rationalize his behavior. I didn’t think he was a bad person; I just felt like he was caught in a situation where he got too comfortable in his relationship, and then was able to give too little, too late, to redeem the relationship.
However, writer-nim and Gi Seok proved me so wrong.
By Show’s later stretch, I’d lost so much respect for Gi Seok as a character, that I literally couldn’t care less what happened to him. Yes, that’s quite a turnaround, and here’s the overview of that journey.
E2. It’s not that Gi Seok is a bad person; he’s reasonably decent, all in all. When his dad tries to pressure him into breaking up with Jung In and going on a blind date with someone else, he resists Dad’s efforts, even though it means earning Dad’s disapproval. He defends Jung In and is loyal to her in the face of the pressure exerted by his dad, in refusing to go on a blind date with someone else while still dating her. He agrees to think about things carefully, but that does seem more to appease his dad than like an indication that he’s seriously considering whether to break up with Jung In. It’s just that he doesn’t seem very interested nor present in the relationship, like it’s something that’s not actually important to him. And that’s something that would frustrate almost any woman, I think.
E3-4. In essence, I feel that both Jung In and Gi Seok are in denial about the true state of their relationship. She denies that there’s anything more than just bristling at being forced towards marriage; he tries to ignore the mounting distance between them. Their relationship is almost as good as dead. But, they are technically still a couple.
E6. Gi Seok is trying to reach out to Jung In, but apparently, he doesn’t seem to know what she really looks for in a relationship. Yes, he looks thoughtful now, buying her supplements and taking her out to dinner, but when we first meet this couple, he’s the one who consistently refers to convenience when it comes to marriage, and he didn’t even want to eat with Jung In, saying that if her friend was available, he’d just drop Jung In off.
These are the things that tell her that she’s not a priority for him, nor is he really interested in spending time with her. His suggestion of marriage was more for convenience than out of a desire to deepen their relationship. So if this is what he’s been like for a long time, from her point of view, I can see why his more thoughtful actions now probably feel like too little, too late.
E11-12. I do kind of feel sorry for Gi Seok because now he does seem to be trying. But is it too little, too late? I want to know how he really feels towards Jung In. Does he want to marry her because it’s the logical thing to do, because he wants to prove to his father that he’s capable of making his own decisions and choices, or because he actually wants to spend his life with Jung In?
E13-14. I think Gi Seok is in denial about the impending end of his relationship. He hears the words that Jung In is saying, but he continually refuses to accept them and keeps saying he’ll do better. However, old habits die hard. He said so recently that he would do better and love her more, and this hour, he’s canceling on her as he always has, and saying things like, “I’ll come over later, happy now?” The way he tacks on “will that do?” or “happy now?” says a lot about his perception of the things he does for Jung In. It’s not out of wanting to make her happy; it’s out of wanting her to stop being upset and keep calm and keep to the status quo.
Gi Seok isn’t a bad guy, but he’s also not a guy who’s actually that interested in having a relationship with his potential life partner.
E13-14. Gi Seok wanting to keep the relationship going is, I think, partly him fighting for the status quo, and partly him fighting to win, because he now has a deep suspicion that Ji Ho might be trying to steal Jung In from him.
E15-16. Gi Seok refusing to break up with Jung In: I think that he keeps insisting on working things out partly out of habit, partly because he wants the status quo and doesn’t want to disrupt the life that he’s been laying out, and partly because he wants to prove a point. His father has always been against the relationship; Jung In wants out. I think his competitive nature makes him immediately bristle at the thought of giving in; of failing.
E19-20. Gi Seok keeps saying stuff like, “It’s not about saving my relationship with Jung In. I just can’t let her make a mistake.” Seems that he knows that no one would actually find his relationship with Jung In worth saving, or that no one would want to get involved between him and Jung In. So he’s throwing Ji Ho under the bus and using the fact that Ji Ho has a son, to get people to act on his side.
That is underhanded as far as I’m concerned, because I don’t believe that Gi Seok is truly concerned that Jung In is making a mistake with Ji Ho. It’s more like he wants her back at all costs, even if it makes them both miserable.
E19-20. The way Gi Seok snaps at Hyun Soo (Lim Hyun Soo) is so not cool. It’s obvious that he’s doing it because he’s frustrated with the way things are with Ji Ho and Jung In, and it’s absolutely not Hyun Soo’s fault, but he just takes it out on Hyun Soo because he’s an easy target. That’s so cowardly and despicable.
E19-20. Gi Seok’s rant about how he’s been perfect to Jung In during their relationship is so laughable. He’s been to room salons? That’s where men sleep with hostesses, dude. And he says, who hasn’t done that? I know that this is a norm to many Koreans, but as a woman, that’s just not ok. Even his musician friend was so put off by Gi Seok’s boasting and ranting that he showed his displeasure.
E23-24. Pfft. What kind of proposal includes the words, “It doesn’t matter what you think. I’m choosing this for your sake.” HUGE. HONKING. RED. FLAG. RUNNN, JUNG IN.
E25-26. Gi Seok sending the photos to Jung In’s dad in an anonymous envelope is just low and cowardly. Jung In’s told him to talk to anyone he pleases, but he’s not even doing that. He’s copping out with an anonymously sent bunch of pictures, so that he’s basically lighting the fuse while hiding in the shadows so that he’s not there to be hit by the fallout. How dishonorable of him.
E27-28. To Gi Seok, this is all about face. He doesn’t want to be seen losing to Ji Ho, so he’d rather have an empty shell of a marriage with Jung In, than be seen as the lesser man. What a coward.
Lee Moo Saeng as Si Hoon
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Si Hoon was the character that I disliked the most, in this entire drama world.
Pretentious and glib in public, while violent, abusive and self-righteous in private, he was the character that I loved to hate. I hated that he seemed to really think that he could get away with it all, and I hated whenever he was successful in terrorizing his estranged wife.
Suffice to say that I would have happily watched him get burned by the fire of a thousand suns on my screen.
Here are just a few of my thoughts around Si Hoon, during my watch.
E9-10. Wow. Seo In has to ensure that someone else will come back to the clinic because she anticipates that Si Hoon is going to be violent with her. This is just awful.
E11-12. I hate that Si Hoon is violent with Seo In. And I hate his smug, complacent attitude about it. What? “I’ll be back later, so get yourself together”?! I want her to take up martial arts and break his arm – and a good number of other bones in his body – the next time he tries to be violent with her.
E23-24. Although I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, there is nothing in Si Hoon’s manner that tells me he’s sincere about apologizing to Seo In and starting over.
E25-26. Not gonna lie; it was very satisfying to see Si Hoon squirm in his seat, when his lawyer friend basically tells him that he has no case, and that he isn’t a good person. At the same time, this also brings home the fact that you really never know what’s happening with people. His friend thought this case was about Si Hoon’s friend of a friend, and even tells him not to get close to the guy coz he doesn’t sound like a good person – all this, while asking Si Hoon to play another round with him. The irony. Also, kudos to Show for pointing out that this was a case of marital rape.
A comparison: Gi Seok and Si Hoon [VAGUE SPOILERS]
As it turns out, Gi Seok and Si Hoon have something in common. They both refuse to accept that the women in their lives want to break up with them. Although Si Hoon is much more sinister, with the physical violence and abuse, at the heart of it, their motivations aren’t that dissimilar.
They both want to maintain the status quo, and a large part of it has to do with protecting their personal reputations. It would be embarrassing for both of them to admit that they’ve broken up with their wife / girlfriend, and to maintain their own comfort, they choose to ignore the very strong communication that the women in their lives have put forth. Seo In is flat-out trying to bribe Si Hoon to sign the divorce papers, and Jung In is being as clear as she possibly can, refusing to meet Gi Seok any further. And yet, these two men remain adamant that nothing will change.
The level of delusion is quite incredible.
Gi Seok and Si Hoon talking over food and drink in episodes 27-28, basically dancing around the negotiation of bartering Jung In’s future for Si Hoon’s monetary gain, is really quick sickening. Neither of them is listening to the women in their lives, who both want out, unequivocally. Instead, they’re sitting around, smiling, in veiled negotiations. Ugh.
I’m glad that Show essentially drops them both at the end, though I do think both these men, and especially Si Hoon, got off easy.
STUFF THAT WORKED OUT TO OK
If I compare the OST and its handling to that in Show’s elder sibling Pretty Noona, then I would say this OST is a resounding success. I mean, I didn’t feel like muting any and all music in this show throughout my watch, and I’m even listening to one of the OST tracks as I type this (I’m currently listening to We Could Still Be Happy, which I’ve embedded at the end of the review, if you’re interested).
On top of that, I found that I didn’t find any instance of the OST application objectionable, ie, I didn’t ever find the song choice jarring, even if occasionally the song choice didn’t seem the most apt.
Did I also think that the OST could have benefited from a few more tracks? Absolutely. I did feel that the handful of songs on the OST were rather over-exposed by the time we reached the end of the show.
Altogether, I found the music fairly pleasant and relevant as a general rule, and since I didn’t quite feel bashed in the head with the songs by the time the final credits rolled, I’d say it was not bad, overall.
The two dads
Even though Jung In’s dad was a main source of parental disapproval, and Gi Seok’s dad as well, to some extent, by Show’s end, I felt like both these dads had moved into the neutral zone, for me.
Although I’d guess that many international viewers would find both dads’ behavior too controlling and interfering, I don’t find their behavior too out of the ordinary in a traditionally patriarchal society like Korea. I didn’t like their behavior, in meddling with their children’s lives, but I found them understandable.
[VAGUE SPOILERS] Additionally, by Show’s end, both dads had come to terms with their earlier disapproval. Gi Seok’s dad comes to see what a disappointment his son is, and what a good daughter-in-law Jung In would have made, while Jung In’s dad decides to stop pressuring Jung In to marry for the sake of his post-retirement job. [END VAGUE SPOILERS]
Added up, those things eventually put both dads in this neutral zone for me, in the end.
Below are just a few additional thoughts and observations that I had, during my watch.
E21-22. The fact that Jung In’s dad can boldfacedly tell her that the reason he wants her to continue to nurture a relationship that she doesn’t want anymore, is because of his desire to work after retirement, is hugely selfish. But it’s also a reflection of patriarchal society’s norms. In this world, Jung In’s wants for her own life are not as important as what she is perceived to owe everyone else: the comfort of continuing with the status quo.
E21-22. Watching Jung In’s dad and Gi Seok together is basically watching two cowards play a game of dare. Dad wants Gi Seok to set the date so that he can blame it on Gi Seok, while Gi Seok dodges, deferring to Dad so that he can say it was Dad who set the date and not him. How stupid.
As insane as Dad’s thinking might look to many, I am not that surprised. Selfish, self-centered grumpy old men who are completely unable to empathize with others are not that uncommon in traditional Asian society.
A SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]
It’s par for the course that Show presents a penultimate episode shake-up, but I do find this particular shake-up believable and organic to our story. It’s true that Jung In’s never had to face the reality of Ji Ho’s scars from the past and how it affects him, and her too, in the present. It’s true – and she admits – that she just assumed it would all work out, based on the strength of their feelings for each other. This jolt of reality is shaking her up, and it’s the right thing to do, to choose to reflect on what it all means.
I’m actually glad that she’s not just looking at the surface of things, and moving on on the strength of the sincerity of Ji Ho’s apology. It’s true that she’s hurt and annoyed by what Ji Ho said, but I’m glad that she also realizes that this is not just about him; that it’s about her, too. That she needs to have a depth of resolve and preparation, in order to walk this road that is ahead of her. I did think that she jumped into the idea of being Eun Woo’s stepmother a little too early and a little too eagerly; it’s good that she really reflect on her own heart and figure herself out.
It’s also true that Ji Ho hasn’t been able to lay his heart bare to Jung In, even though they’ve had many honest conversations. This is a dark and shameful corner of his heart that he’s kept shrouded in the shadows, not allowing it the light of day, whether to family, friends, colleagues, or even Jung In. He barely even realizes that it exists; he’s pushed it so far back into his subconsciousness. That’s why he is so surprised at what his drunk self said to Jung In. And now that it’s been brought back to his awareness, it’s only right that he take time too, to reflect on this and come to terms with this part of himself, at the very least.
I can only hope that Eun Woo won’t be hurt in the process, because he’s already bonded so deeply with Jung In.
Gi Seok, on the hand, is showing himself to be the opposite of the better man. To think that he’s actually cognizant of his intentions – of simply wanting to be victorious over Ji Ho, to get Jung In back and prove a point, and then move on from her – AND he intends to see it through? That’s so distasteful and so.. vengeful. He doesn’t want Ji Ho to have Jung In in his life, and he seems to want to cast Jung In aside when he’s succeeded in breaking them apart. What a prick.
I’m not quite sure what to make of the reunion scene at the end of the episode. What has Jung In concluded after her soul-searching? All we see is that she goes to the pharmacy to look for Ji Ho, and then when he shows up, she asks for medicine to cure her of the urge to smack someone, and to cure her worried and upset heart, and Ji Ho moves in to kiss her. That’s fine and good, but I hope we see the backstory to this, so that it doesn’t appear like either of them is sweeping things under the carpet.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
I’m not much of a drinker (my body doesn’t deal with alcohol well), but this entire episode makes me think of what it must feel like, to leisurely sip a mellow glass of bubbly in thoughtful companionship with someone you love; both of you quietly content as you enjoy the sight of the beautiful sunset before you.
This wasn’t an exciting finale by far; instead everything feels so unassumingly organic and natural, as things, events and people flow into place.
Si Hoon finally signs the divorce papers, and when Jung In finds out that Seo In had suffered abuse at the hands of her soon-to-be ex-husband, the shared pain is so real and raw that she needs to cry, just as Jae In had needed to cry, when she’d found out. The sisters share a lovely three-way hug, and I feel comforted that even though the road before Seo In is far from easy, she will always have the support of her sisters – and her mom – to see her through it all.
One of my favorite moments this finale, is when Ji Ho takes Eun Woo to meet Jung In’s mom and sisters. Eun Woo is the endearing delight that he always is, and most of all, I appreciate the graciousness and honesty that reverberates through this meeting.
Seo In asks Ji Ho for advice as a single parent, and Ji Ho’s earnest answer, that he couldn’t crumble because Eun Woo was putting his whole trust in him, and that the same goes for Jung In; that he would protect her no matter what, since she’s putting her faith in him. I love that Jung In’s mom tears at this; it’s clear that in more ways than one, Ji Ho is touching her heart as a parent. His desire to protect Jung In; his lack of embarrassment or shame around his own child; his sincere appreciation for her kind reception towards him and Eun Woo. Tears and sniffles all around – my tears and sniffles included.
On the other end of the scale, I’m most glad that both Gi Seok and Si Hoon are effectively cut off from Jung In’s and Seo In’s lives. I found it ruefully amusing when the two idiots sat around drinking, while trying their best to blame each other for how their lives turned out. Ha. And, tsk. I wonder if these two will ever truly learn. We see Gi Seok attend a blind date, and immediately slip into his convenient lying ways, pretending not to remember when his last relationship was. Eye-roll.
We also see Ji Ho and Jung In basically take turns writing pledges to each other; Ji Ho promising not to drink – and then getting caught out, and then Jung In, getting caught out, and then being cornered into also writing a pledge to Ji Ho, too. It’s all mild and quite harmless, with neither party actually meaning to break off the engagement, and it’s actually rather nice, to see them work at ironing out the little kinks that they encounter in their relationship. It’s also heartwarming to see each of them pin the other’s pledge on their apartment refrigerators, as a daily reminder to themselves.
As the finale draws to a close, I feel like we’re witnessing many moments of what we call in Chinese 小幸福, literally, small happiness. There are no fireworks or pyrotechnics in this last hour – or even in this whole drama, really – and yet, it feels like we’ve come on a long and meaningful journey with our characters, nonetheless. Ji Ho and Jung In are both flawed individuals, and this makes them feel all the more real. And I hope that the happiness they find with each other, together with Eun Woo, will be all the more real, as well.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Earthy, understated and sweetly poignant.
FINAL GRADE: B++