THE SHORT VERDICT:
The story feels kinda meandering, and Show’s tone vibes Scripted Hollywood Rom-com rather than earthy slice-of-life drama, which is a decidedly rather odd combination. Overall, everything in this show comes together in a way that feels a touch uneven, but if you love Park Bo Gum, Show is a solid way to get a nice dose of Bogummy, because this is basically all a showcase for him and him alone. Everything and everyone else just happens to be there as varying levels of set dressing.
With the right lens, Show is a pleasant enough watch, even though it never grabs me in the way that I want it to.
THE LONG VERDICT:
Imagine you’re a girl who spots a really cute guy (or a guy who spots a really cute girl, whichever way works). You want to meet him, and anticipate that somehow things will spark between you, because you inexplicably hope, in true kdrama fashion, that he’ll be the love of your life. When you do meet said cute guy, he turns out to be a nice person, but also, he’s really rather bland. You don’t turn out to have much in common, and end up being somewhat fleeting acquaintances. It wasn’t bad meeting him; it just wasn’t at all what you hoped it’d be.
That, in a nutshell, is my emotional journey with this show. 😜
Over time, I did find a viewing lens that helped me maximize my enjoyment of this show (more on that in a bit), but I’m admittedly rather underwhelmed with this one. Thankfully, I do have a gigantic soft spot for Bogummy, so that saw me through any and all rough patches I might’ve had, during my watch. Basically, the more Park Bo Gum’s character Hye Joon gained traction in his acting dreams, the more I enjoyed this show. I couldn’t help it. 😍
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.
Generally speaking, I found the OST pleasant and inoffensive, but it honestly didn’t stick with me. If I had to pick a favorite, it’d be Track 4, Shine On You. I like the laidback groove combined with the slightly ethereal vocals.
MANAGING THE VIEWING LENS
It was only at the episode 13 mark of my watch, that my thoughts on this show’s vibe, and the most useful lens for this show, actually crystalized in my head. I mean, I did have some useful inklings before that too (otherwise, I might not have lasted until episode 13), but the episode 13 mark is where it all came together.
Basically the rhythm and pacing of the story leans heavily slice-of-life, like we’re flies on these characters’ walls. There’s a fair bit of meandering between major plot events, and even when major plot events happen, they somehow don’t feel as large.
The weird thing, though, is, the world that we flies on the walls are privy to, doesn’t actually feel like the real world. Instead, it feels like a stylized old-school Hollywood sort of world, where everything is just a little too scripted, and actors mostly deliver their lines in a manner that leans affectatious and posed. Therefore, I, as a fly, feel like I’ve landed in a weird stylized reality, kinda like in 1998 movie Pleasantville, where our protagonists find themselves sucked into a 1950’s TV show, and everyone around them behaves like a stylized TV character instead of regular person.
While adopting this very specific lens, I find this show harmless and moderately enjoyable, with lots of incandescent Park Bo Gum to make up for Show’s shortcomings.
One more thing to take note of, is that this story is centered around Park Bo Gum’s character Hye Joon. As a main supporting thread, Show also seems to position itself as a humanistic look at life in the spotlight. Everything else is secondary, including the main romance. Keeping that in mind – and not expecting Show to deliver more than that – really helps.
STUFF I LIKED
Park Bo Gum as Hye Joon
I have a big ol’ soft spot for Park Bo Gum, and the knowledge that he’s up and gone to serve his military service, did add a layer of poignance to my watch. Overall, I think he’s perfectly solid as Hye Joon (as I expect him to be, because I think he’s a very skilled and talented actor), with some standout scenes as a bonus.
I do feel sorry for Hye Joon when we meet him, because it feels like he’s having not just a long, bad day, but he’s actually having a long, hard couple of years. [MINOR FOUNDATIONAL SPOILERS] Not getting paid for modeling work, not seeming to make headway in pursuing his acting dreams, having to do several part-time jobs to make ends meet, feeling like his best friend is leaving him behind because he’s so much more successful, and to top it all off, feeling looked down on and unwelcome by members of his own family. [END SPOILER]
It’s a lot, and it’s little wonder that Hye Joon’s sweet disposition is laced with cynicism and frustration. I guess I’m not used to seeing Bogummy play a mix of sweet and cynical, but, I do find it realistic that all of this would wear down even the sweetest tenderheart. And, Park Bo Gum injects Hye Joon with his characteristic layers of soulful emotion, which I count as one of Show’s pluses.
I’ve seen some comments that Hye Joon’s characterization is a bit uneven, but I prefer to think of it as being closer to real life. In dramas, we often think of characters as a certain type; for example, my first drama instinct is to place Hye Joon as a sweet puppy type, who would therefore not talk back to his father nor be curt with his ex-manager. But, it’s truer to life that Hye Joon has these uglier layers under the sweet persona that he shows the world. I’ve known actual people like that, who appear to be the sweetest of the sweet on the surface, and only the people closest to them get to glimpse their uglier feelings or facets – if at all. When I think of it that way, Hye Joon’s characterization doesn’t feel weird to me at all.
A major bonus for me, in this show, is getting to see snippets of Hye Joon’s dramas, as he makes progress in his acting dreams. All these dramas within the drama gives us a chance to see Park Bo Gum in all his glory, in varying settings. [MINOR SPOILERS] First, the badass gangster chaebol, then the sweet, swoony resident crushing on his sunbae, and then, the passionate and righteous king who has a heart for his people – along with some nifty fight skills. [END SPOILER] It’s almost like watching several Park Bo Gum dramas at once. And what more could a Park Bo Gum fan ask for, from his last drama before MS, right?
E2. I appreciate how principled Hye Joon is, even in pursuing his dreams. Even though designer Charlie Jung (Lee Seung Joon) shows him a lot of favor and offers to be his sponsor, to ensure his career success, and offers that to him more than once, Hye Joon consistently declines without hesitation.
This, even though the second offer comes long enough after the first, for Hye Joon to have seen and experienced the hardship of not having a sponsor. And yet, when Charlie Jung makes the offer the second time, and insists that Hye Joon take some time to think about it, Hye Joon turns him down; once, immediately after the second offer is made, and the second, final, time, after taking some time to think about it, as requested. Hye Joon is so clear, that he would rather give up his dreams, if he can’t achieve them without sponsorship, and I’m impressed.
Also, let me just say that I really appreciate the way Hye Joon responds to Charlie Jung’s offer. In declining, he continues to be respectful, and says the most caring thing I could think of, in this situation: “I don’t want to hurt you, sir.” Wow. So perfect.
E2. Hye Joon’s deep hurt at his father’s and brother’s words is so palpable; Park Bo Gum is so, so good at portraying nuanced emotional pain. I can feel the many layers of emotional wounds that lie underneath his pained gaze and the quiver in his voice. He’s unleashing in the moment, but there’s so much baggage there, that even this unleashing can’t fully express how rejected and spurned he feels, with his own family. There is a great deal of pent-up heartache here, and the way Park Bo Gum delivers it, gives me a sense that Hye Joon’s wounds that lie beneath the surface, are deep, open and throbbing. Oof.
E3. Hye Joon was such a sensible and considerate boy, even at 16. Even though it was clear that it made him uncomfortable that his mom (Ha Hee Ra) was working for Hae Hyo’s mom (Byeon Woo Seok and Shin Ae Ra), he thinks about it, and decides that it’s his mom’s life and therefore not his decision to make. Such a sweetheart.
E4. I really like the scene where Hye Joon gives Mom a grateful hug, for speaking up for him earlier. I feel like there’s so much expressed in his single utterance, “엄마” (Eomma; Mom). I feel like I hear a gentle familiarity, wrapped in gratitude, and laced with a plaintiveness that’s born of the emotional hurt that he’s been harboring. It feels like in this moment, he’s grateful not just for her action of speaking up for him; he’s grateful for her understanding, her empathy, and her love. Aw. (Also, I find it somewhat startling, from time to time, to hear Park Bo Gum’s voice reach the lower registers. It’s so manly, while still retaining the general boyish timber of his voice. I like.)
E4. I appreciate that despite Min Jae’s (Shin Dong Mi) desire to treat him as a top star, Hye Joon firmly puts his foot down, because he wants to stay true to his core values, and be a humble and down-to-earth actor. I love how grounded he is, and how he refuses to let praise and star treatment cloud his focus. I love how fair he is, too. Even though Min Jae wants to give him a contract that’s heavily in his favor, he declines, and negotiates for terms that are fairer to Min Jae: a 50-50 split, and a term of just one year, in case things don’t work out, so that he doesn’t become a burden to her. Aw. How could anyone not love him?
E4. I love that Hye Joon is so grounded. In his voiceover at the end of the episode, I love that he rejects the popular theory of the gold spoon vs. the dirt spoon. I love that he’s able to articulate the intangible things that he values and holds dear: “The emotional stability I inherited from my parents. Honesty and sincerity.” … “as well as my motivation for success, which I cultivated while watching my parents struggle.”
E4. Oh my goodness. It gives me SUCH a thrill to see Hye Joon nailing his scene in the movie, and receiving praise from the PD. YASSS. I mean, I’m not surprised that Park Bo Gum nails it, coz – duh – he’s such a good actor. But it’s still a complete rush to see Hye Joon excel, and ooze confidence and badassery, while he’s at it. Eee! 🤩
E5. The way Hye Joon is so blunt and bold (and kinda reckless), in drawing the line between himself and his ex-manager Lee Tae Soo (Lee Chang Hoon), thrills me, and makes me nervous, all at the same time. I find it thrilling that he’s speaking so honestly – and cuttingly – because it shows that he doesn’t harbor any fear of his ex-manager. But it makes me nervous because I feel like this could well come back to bite him, and I really don’t want that.
I’m also quite startled that he’s got some fight moves in him, since he takes ex-manager’s hand from condescendingly patting his chest and twists it, thus overpowering ex-manager. This feels rather too badass for the sweet Hye Joon that I’ve come to know. I guess he’s fiercer than I realize?
E5. Hye Joon is very sharp in analyzing a situation. The way he cuts through Gyeong Joon’s (Lee Jae Won) argument about how he needs to move out so that Hye Joon can have his own room, leaves Gyeong Joon no room to twist the truth. Every time Gyeong Joon says something, Hye Joon is quick to divide the truth from the twisted embellishments. I like that. Hye Joon’s got a great amount of perceptiveness.
E6. It’s heartbreaking to see Hye Joon cry alone in the van afterwards; there’s so much hurt emanating from him, as the tears keep coming. Poor baby. I really want to reach into my screen and give him a hug and tell him that it’s going to be ok. Park Bo Gum basically has a way of ripping my heart into shreds when he cries, and this time is no different. Sniffle.
E7. I love that Hye Joon gets his acting break with the hospital drama, and basically ends up shining onscreen. I mean, that little snippet of his character confessing to his sunbae and then leaving with a cheeky jaunt in his step, is enough to make me want to tune in to that drama.
E8. I really like how level-headed Hye Joon is, about choosing his next drama. He’s going with what feels interesting and challenging, rather than what’s popular and trendy, and that makes me feel like he’s going to go far, as an actor. It’s also gratifying to see his popularity grow, with fans asking for autographs, and CFs coming his way.
E9. Hye Joon is a warm and lovely guy, but there are times when he’s naive, or presumptuous, or complacent. For the record, I instinctively flinched each time he shows any flaws, because in my imagination, Hye Joon is practically perfect. But it actually makes sense that he’s not actually perfect, and that he has blind spots. And it makes sense that these would get in the way of his personal relationships, especially when he’s in the thick of the hectic road to success.
When he asks Jung Ha if she’s available to do his makeup and she says she has an appointment with the MCN manager and would have to reschedule it, I balked when Hye Joon apologizes instead of prioritizing the plans that she already has in place. This might be a small, almost throwaway plot point, but it seems to me that Show is already making a statement about the way things stand between Hye Joon and Jung Ha. His plans are more important than hers, thereby implying that he is more important than she is. I can see this becoming a problem.
E9. With the way Show was setting up Hye Joon’s MC gig as a consolation for not being the winner of the Best Actor award, I’d half expected Park Do Ha (Kim Gun Woo) to win. But, Hye Joon emerges with a surprise win – YESSS!! – and delivers a heartfelt thank you speech, where he thanks Grandpa (Han Jin Hee) and Mom, and his fanclub members, for their love and support. It’s all very sweet, but I do think Dad (Park Soo Young) is hurt that Hye Joon doesn’t mention him, despite his very vocal disapproval all this time. Hye Joon can be honest to a fault, sometimes.
E11. Hye Joon’s insistence on being allowed to pay his respects to Charlie Jung, instead of simply carrying on with his schedule, is the kind of humanity that I’ve come to associate with him, and I like that his success hasn’t affected his ability to stand by his values.
E14. The way Hye Joon gives in to his tears when he’s alone in his room, makes my heart hurt. He’s been putting up a strong front for so long, that I almost believed that he was able to take it all in his stride. But when the tears well up in his eyes and he expresses in voiceover that he’s happy because he can cry all he wants to without fear of someone walking in, my heart squeezes in sympathy. Poor baby. He’s been under so much pressure, and facing all kinds of threats and obstacles, and been the recipient of so much love and so much hate, that it must be emotionally exhausting.
E14. I do appreciate how principled Hye Joon is. He refuses to see Lee Tae Soo even though Lee Tae Soo claims to be able to help him to fend off the media storm, because he knows Lee Tae Soo can’t be trusted, and he also refuses to publish the text messages from Charlie Jung, because he wants to respect Charlie Jung’s privacy. These are not easy choices, even though he states his decisions quickly and firmly. These come at a personal cost to him, and he doesn’t hesitate to bear those costs, because that’s how firmly he stands by his beliefs. I admire him for that.
Park So Dam as Jung Ha
For the record, I like Park So Dam as Jung Ha. I just.. feel like I never got to know Jung Ha very well, despite learning things about her, over the course of our story. I think it’s because of the way Jung Ha is written, as a character. She doesn’t really let anyone in, even though she’s firmly pleasant as a general rule. And I think as a side effect, I felt like she didn’t let me in, either.
Like I mentioned earlier in this review, this is Hye Joon’s story, so even though Jung Ha is our female lead, there is a lot less emphasis on her and her arc. Still, I liked her in principle, and pretty much right away, too.
[EARLY FOUNDATIONAL SPOILERS] I mean, Jung Ha does get bullied at work, but I like that she’s good at what she does, grateful for opportunities given to her, and sensible and focused. She’s got her own apartment, knows her priorities, and doesn’t crumple because of the bullying, and chooses to pep talk herself instead. [END SPOILER] She might have some Candy traits on paper, but she doesn’t strike me as a Candy. She’s just too sensible for that.
Even though I feel that we didn’t get enough insight into Jung Ha’s feelings overall, I did like how consistent and grounded Jung Ha is, as a character.
E1. I like that Jung Ha’s got her head on straight when it comes to fangirling. She gets respite from fangirling Hye Joon, but her fangirl crush on him doesn’t bleed into her real life goals. She is firm about not wanting to get married, and states that even Hye Joon won’t be able to change her mind on that. Ok, I mean, she has every right to change her mind later, but I just like the idea that she’s such a down-to-earth fangirl. Such a different species of fangirl than those who dream of marrying Oppa.
E4. I like Jung Ha. She’s hardworking and polite, but doesn’t hesitate to speak frankly and honestly, if she feels the need to address a situation. She’s an interesting mix of idealistic and realistic. She gave up her office job in order to pursue her makeup dreams and therefore appears to be an idealist, but in the way that she says that nasty people always win, and in the way she’s so practical with her money, she seems quite the realist. Such an interesting combination.
E4. Even when she’s tipsy, Jung Ha’s cognizant of the fact that stars and their fans shouldn’t be involved in personal relationships – a very grounded stance which I support, actually. I love that she decides to solve it by simply not fangirling him anymore. She’s such a pragmatic problem-solver. And I love that her solution preserves the personal relationship between her and Hye Joon, even though Hye Joon is disappointed at losing a fan, heh.
E4. Jung Ha is very perceptive. Even when she’s tipsy, her observations about Hye Joon’s dad and how he feels about being not as good-looking as the rest of his family, feel spot-on.
E4. I feel bad for Jung Ha because her sunbae Jin Joo (Jo Ji Seung) always seems so jealous of her and keeps being mean to her, but I appreciate that she tells Hye Joon not to get involved, that this is her battle to fight. She’s got a strong independent streak, and I like that. I also like how she refuses to be bullied into changing her plans, in order to attend a last-minute training on her day off. That feels pretty bold, especially given the strong culture of obeying your seniors, in Korean work ethics.
E5. I like how Jung Ha shuts down Jin Joo right away, when Jin Joo tries to bait her by remarking how happy Jung Ha must be, to be visiting the movie set. Jung Ha looks her right in the eye, and simply replies in a neutral, official tone, “I’m going there to work,” and that basically neutralizes Jin Joo’s attack in its tracks. Nicely done.
E7. I like how emotionally strong Jung Ha is. I mean, apparently all the beauty shop staff are gossiping about her and have labeled her the client thief, which is no fault of hers because said clients requested for her, and she’d done nothing to encourage it, and even though it does sting, she doesn’t allow herself to wallow in it. She basically shakes it off as an act of the will, and chooses to accept that nobody gets a smooth road to success. It’s not that she doesn’t feel lousy about being maligned; she just chooses not to give in to the negative feelings. And I really like that. She’s so grounded and mature.
E7. It’s sad that Jung Ha was basically hurt by her parents’ divorce as a kid, which had forced her to grow up too fast, and made her embrace the need to be independent. Much as I appreciate Jung Ha’s maturity and level-headedness, that’s no way for anyone to actually reach that maturity of thought.
E8. Jung Ha’s mom getting so upset at her quitting her job, and not stopping properly to ask Jung Ha why, or listen to her reasons, is a bummer. Mom only talking about her own hardship, is not cool at all. Mom’s disapproval clearly hits Jung Ha where it hurts, and that lack of understanding and support just drives Jung Ha further into her belief that it’s necessary for her to be independent, all on her own. Jung Ha’s tears feel like they’ve been pent up for such a long time, and it’s so sad to me, that she’s not telling Hye Joon any of this.
E9. We explore Jung Ha’s hangups about relationships and love, and how her childhood experiences basically have turned her into a person who is afraid to depend on someone else, in case that person ends up leaving her. It’s why she insists on not receiving help when Hye Joon offers it, and also when her father offers it, and it’s also why, I think, she purposely doesn’t tell Hye Joon about her struggles.
She tells Su Bin (Park Se Hyun) that not making your significant other share your burdens is the secret to a happy relationship, but that’s dysfunctional, and I can see this coming between her and Hye Joon. And, I’m rather disappointed that Hye Joon is naive enough to believe that if there’s something he should know about, Jung Ha will tell him about it without him having to ask.
E11. Jung Ha making a choice not to rely so much on Hae Hyo and Hye Joon when it comes to business for her salon. That’s independence and determination, despite financial pressure, and I admire her for it.
E13. As I’d expected, Jung Ah is firmly platonic with Hae Hyo, even though she invites him into her apartment. Yay for groundedness and consistency. I’m a little surprised that Jung Ah had been the one to call Hae Hyo for a ride in the rain, but I appreciate that she is honest and forthright in explaining that she’d had a tough day, and had regretted calling him in a moment of weakness. I also appreciate that even in telling Hae Hyo that she’d called him in a moment of weakness, she is clear in keeping things between them firmly platonic.
Hye Joon’s relationship with Grandpa
I really liked Hye Joon’s relationship with Grandpa; they are clearly so fond of each other. They understand each other so well, and support each other so unconditionally, and are so open affectionate with each other, that they strike me more as friends, than as grandfather and grandson.
In a story world where both of them had so much stacked against them, I was really glad that they had each other.
E2. That scene after the confrontation, where Grandpa and Hye Joon both cry, and hug, while they both try not to cry, brings tears to my eyes. This is not a scene of cathartic tears; this is a scene where the pain is so great that the tears are leaking out, but even that leakage isn’t enough to provide relief for the building pressure caused by the growing wounds.
E4. Hye Joon knows Grandpa so well; when Grandpa demurs and tries to decline the gift of modeling lessons, saying that Hye Joon shouldn’t waste money like that, Hye Joon immediately knows that Grandpa’s more afraid of failing. I love that Hye Joon’s gentle but firm with Grandpa, telling him that he can do it, and that now he can’t go around saying that he would’ve succeeded if he’d been Hye Joon’s age. In this moment, they don’t feel like grandfather and grandson; they feel more like friends who are at similar stages in life. I find that very endearing.
E5. I love how easily Hye Joon and Grandpa show love and affection for each other. When Grandpa tells Hye Joon that he’s decided to become a model, Hye Joon’s quick to hug Grandpa, and even hikes up one leg to wrap around Grandpa’s leg, and they’re so cute, just rocking away on the spot, when the rest of the family walks in on them. Hee.
E8. It’s so sweet and cute that Grandpa cries tears of wonder, as he watches Hye Joon’s drama debut. Aw.
Shin Dong Mi as Min Jae
I liked Min Jae a lot for how sincerely passionate she is about wanting to help Hye Joon, despite never having wanted to be a celebrity manager. She’s literally like the older sister that Hye Joon never had. It’s true that her lack of experience works against her, but she’s all heart, and that’s why I like her so much.
Here are just 2 of my favorite Min Jae moments.
E2. I really like Min Jae, as a character. Not only has she consistently stood up to Hye Joon’s shady ex-boss in his defense, she literally sets up an entertainment company on the spur of the moment, so that Hye Joon can walk the runway in Milan. And then, she gets all giddy at the entire process, and how it feels to help someone. Aw, cute. I love that she gets thrilled by helping others.
E4. I love Min Jae and the way she gets so sincerely excited about Hye Joon’s future, and how she keeps giving him the best star treatment that she can afford. The actual trimmings may not be that luxurious, but it’s the heart that counts. In her heart, she treats him like a prince, and I think it’s the cutest thing. And since Hye Joon’s been regularly looked upon as some kind of second class citizen for supposedly leeching off Hae Hyo, I love that he’s getting the chance to bask in some top class lovin’ from his noona manager.
STUFF THAT WAS OK
Hye Joon’s relationship with Jung Ha
The treatment of the OTP relationship ended up being a mixed bag for me, which is why I’ve put it in this section.
The OTP trajectory kinda-sorta reminds me of Temperature Of Love, which writer-nim also wrote, in that the OTP gets together really fast compared to the average kdrama. That in itself hints that there’ll be lots of other obstacles for the OTP to deal with, aside from the typical foibles of acting on their feelings for each other. In principle, I’m not opposed to this approach, but I do feel like the way this OTP is written isn’t very satisfying, overall.
Certainly, the OTP treatment is affected by writer-nim’s choice to make this a story of Hye Joon’s personal journey, which means that by the middle to late stretch of our show, the OTP relationship effectively gets relegated to the sidelines, in favor of Hye Joon’s career trajectory. Bearing this in mind helps, but doesn’t quite make the OTP arc more satisfying to watch, in my opinion.
On the upside – for me anyway – when the OTP was cute, I enjoyed them a lot.
The early giddy stretch
E1. After all of his discouragement, I like the idea that Hye Joon would be encouraged to know that he has a fan in Jung Ha.
E2. I love how approachable and down-to-earth Hye Joon is, when he talks with Jung Ha, even though they’ve just met. I can feel her fangirl lenses adjusting, as she sees for herself, what he’s like in person, and I can feel her appreciation for him growing, as she sees how empathetic and compassionate – and uncompetitive, in his approval of her claim to be Hae Hyo’s fan – he is. I can practically feel the hearts in her eyes growing larger, heh. Well, and the hearts in my eyes too, because Park Bo Gum is very handsome in a suit, and so down-to-earth yet swoony, in this scene.
E2. I like the banter between Hye Joon and Jung Ha. Somehow, between these two, the slightly over-scripted style of the dialogue works, for me. I like how the banter is centered around their personalities, like how they feel about being unfairly treated, and whether they always win; it feels like even in these quick exchanges, they’re getting to know each other in important, fundamental ways. And there’s how Jung Ha instinctively reacts so strongly against Hye Joon’s remark that he’s a nobody. There’s a sense of support and solidarity there that appeals to me.
E3. I like that Hye Joon and Jung Ha are both straightforward. This means that when they empathize with each other, they’re able to communicate it easily, and that leads to quite a bit of fast bonding, which I dig. I like that this instant connection doesn’t feel conveniently conjured up; instead, it feels like a believable meeting of kindred spirits.
E3. The way they start texting and hanging out and chatting, feels natural as well. And the way they each quickly admit to being in a sad mood that day, feels refreshingly frank and healthy.
E3. The little instances of hyper-proximity, followed by alternating hyperawareness, is pretty thrilling stuff, and I kinda love how matter-of-fact Hye Joon is, each time Jung Ha demurs from being too close to him. “So what if people see?” “So what?” I love it. And I’m swooning fangirl swoons on Jung Ha’s behalf.
E3. I do have to hand it to Jung Ha. For someone who’s basically living every fangirl’s dream of hanging out with her bias, she’s wonderfully steady and down-to-earth and in full control of her senses.
Well, except for when he asks her whether she’s dated before, while they’re huddled together in the rain, sharing the umbrella. She kind of loses her cool then, to his amusement, heh. It’s cute that she runs off to the bus-stop in embarrassment, and it’s sweet that he gives her the small scarf off his own neck, and tells her to leave before he gets on the bus, so that he can see her go. It all smells like a date, and I’m quite thrilled.
Also, how significant, that when Hye Joon hears that Jung Ha dislikes the rain because it reminds her that she’s all alone, he immediately offers himself to plug that gap, saying that he’ll call her when it rains. Aw! That’s sweet. This feels empathetic, on a visceral level. This gesture isn’t about romance; it’s about making her life better in a fundamental way, and it emanates so much humanity. I love it.
E3. I freaking love the moment when Hye Joon asks Jung Ha pointblank if she’s his fan instead of Hae Hyo’s, telling her that he hates it when people lie. His pleased expression, as she blurts out that she is his fan, is so wonderful to see, and I squee, even as he jauntily leaves her to cringe in embarrassment. I love that she’s no longer lying to him, and I love that this clearly made his day. And, even though she’s embarrassed about it now, I’m sure she’s going to feel much better about it soon. It’s just not healthy to have a lie between them, especially since the rest of their interactions are so healthy and honest. It makes me feel better, that it’s out in the open, and I’m sure it’ll make them feel better too.
E4. I really enjoy the fact that Hye Joon and Jung Ha fall right back into their conversational rhythm without missing much of a beat at all, even though she’s just recently blurted out that she is, in fact, his fan. I love when Hye Joon gets a little playful and teases Jung Ha; he gets a bit of a naughty gleam in his eye that I find quite thrilling. And he does have wear a slight naughty gleam as he pointedly says over the phone, “We still have something that we need to sort out.” Cheeky fella. Squee!
E4. I already enjoyed the easy banter between Hye Joon and Jung Ha before, but now that Jung Ha feels relieved that Hye Joon knows that she likes him (as his fan), she seems to speak even more easily and freely, and the ease of the banter feels amplified. It’s nice, that this ease is brought about by honesty. Jung Ha just keeps rattling off how she honestly feels, and Hye Joon just keeps looking at her with amused affection. I love it.
Also, these two seem to be alike in some key ways. When Jung Ha remarks that sometimes people act more cheerful when they’re sad, so that other people won’t know how they feel, Hye Joon not only understands immediately what she’s talking about, he can recognize that that’s exactly what she’s doing, in the moment. My gut tells me that part of the reason he can recognize it so well, is because he does this exact same thing too.
E4. Gosh, I melt at Hye Joon’s soft gaze. When he thanks Jung Ha because he’s happy to know that he was able to help someone, his gaze is so gentle it feels like liquid gold. I drown. And I do love that Hye Joon’s the kind of guy who feels encouraged that he can help others. And I also love that he knows that looks aren’t everything, and that fan loyalty doesn’t just boil down to looks alone. He’s so down-to-earth. 😍
When Jung Ha tipsy laugh-cries that she must have done something wrong to cause Jin Joo to bully her, it makes me feel that Jung Ha is a very objective and fair person. She does chafe at Jin Joo’s bullying, but there’s a part of her that wonders if she herself has done anything to trigger Jin Joo’s behavior. And the way Hye Joon looks at Jung Ha in this moment, makes me think that 1, he identifies with her, because he knows what it’s like to be treated unfairly, and 2, his heart goes out to her.
I also like this idea that Hye Joon already understands Jung Ha well, even though they’ve only known each other for a short while. There are several times when she says something, and he calls her out on it, because he knows that what she’s said about herself, isn’t accurate. Like this episode, when Jung Ha says that she’s very picky about men. He calls her out on it, saying that her most attractive quality is how she admits it when she’s wrong, and she immediately corrects herself, saying that she’s not picky, she’s just difficult. It makes me feel like they just get each other, in a very fundamental way.
Ooh. Hye Joon telling Jung Ha not to drink with other people from now on, because she’s too cute, is significant. He’s feeling jealous already? Eee!
E5. I like the ease with which Hye Joon and Jung Ha relate with each other. The chemistry of their banter, and the almost-squabbles, combined with the understanding and protectiveness that they show each other, create the dating couple vibe that causes Min Jae to ask if they’re actually seeing each other. I really like this vibe because it gives us the thrill of Hye Joon’s boyfriend instinct, without the boyfriend label, and somehow, without that label in place, all of his boyfriendy actions feel extra exciting. Like the way he insists on walking Jung Ha home, and the way he gets defensive of Jung Ha, when Hae Hyo grabs her by the arm, and then there’s how his arm instinctively shoots up to block her from falling forward in the car, when he has to slam on the brakes. Plus, the bright smiles that they wear around each other, just makes me smile too. They look so happy. Aw.
E5. Guh. The way Hye Joon’s looking at Jung Ha lately, I feel like I could drown in that deep, soft gaze. I love that moment when he realizes that he thinks he likes her. The way he looks at her as she runs off in the rain, is thoughtful and wistful, and I love how he’s so boldly honest, as he tells her that there’s something that he wants to say, but isn’t sure if he should say it. I actually agree with Jung Ha, that if you’re not sure whether to say something, it’s often wiser not to say anything. But in this moment, I love how Hye Joon chooses to follow his heart, because he feels like he’s about to explode. “I think I like you.” The way he says it is strong and steady, and yet, there’s a touch of wobble in there, which makes me feel his vulnerability. But he doesn’t give in to the wobble; instead, he keeps his gaze steady on her, as his lips form a slight smile, and I flail.
The middle stretch: a mixed bag
E6. Hye Joon’s voiceovers start referring to the relationship with Jung Ha in the past tense. That alone gives me a small sense of dread in the pit of my stomach; I feel like I’m bracing for bad things to happen. I also assume that we’re going to get a time skip after a break-up, which technically doesn’t turn out to be wrong.. I just didn’t expect that late placement of the time skip, and the open-ended place where we leave the relationship – but I’ll talk more about that in the section on the finale.
E6. The kiss that Hye Joon and Jung Ha share at the end of the episode feels quite awkward and stilted. I didn’t like this kiss very much at all.
E6. I’m quite amused at the fact that Jung Ha psyches herself to turn down Hye Joon, but can’t help but give in to her heart and date him anyway. I can’t say I blame her. When it comes to love, it’s supremely hard to think or act logically. The feelings of attraction are too heady and they smother you such that you can barely hear your brain’s feeble attempts to tell you to stop. Plus, how does one say no, when you’ve got Park Bo Gum being manly-swoony and looking at you with his melo eyes?
E6. That little detail, of their hands lingering while they say goodbye, amid the happy smiles and the slight awkwardness at their new dating status, is very sweet and true to life. I like it.
E6. I’m glad that Hye Joon takes Jung Ha’s call and I’m glad that she picks up right away that there’s something stuffed up about his voice. But, I’m rather bummed that he doesn’t actually tell her why he’s feeling down, when they meet up.
E7. For a relationship that I’ve described as refreshingly honest, I find myself having to rationalize why Jung Ha pretended not to notice that Hye Joon was crying, when she called him on the phone. My instinctive expectation, really, was for Jung Ha to ask him why he was crying, but instead, she pretends not to know. Notably, Hye Joon doesn’t fib that he’s not crying; Jung Ha’s the one who asks if he’s caught a cold, and he honestly says no. I feel like if she’d asked if he was crying, or if something was wrong, he probably would’ve been honest about it.
I rationalize that Jung Ha probably wanted to protect his pride, so that he wouldn’t have to admit that he was crying, but I honestly don’t even think that’s such a healthy relationship dynamic. Will this become a bigger issue in their relationship, going forward, I wonder?
E7. I legit cringed at the musical game of staircase piano that Hye Joon and Jung Ha end their date playing, it’s so awkward, eep. 😝
But, the kisses in the van are delivered with a lot more feels, and I approve. Admittedly, I find it kind of odd, the way Hye Joon says that he needs Jung Ha’s permission to “do something,” and then doesn’t state what that something is, before Jung Ha gives said permission. But I rationalize that this is designed to show us Jung Ha’s trust in Hye Joon? That he wouldn’t do anything weird or bad?
I do enjoy how the rest of the scene unfolds, I think a lot of it has to do with the nuances in Park Bo Gum’s delivery. The way Hye Joon leans in to kiss Jung Ha is slow and deliberate; the kisses are gentle and exploratory; there’s more boldness in his kiss now than at the piano; and when he starts to draw away, he pauses just as his lips leave hers, and just seems to savor the moment a little extra, before he pulls away for real. Gulp. That’s pretty, uh, delicious.
And then, as Jung Ha tells him that he always has permission, and asks if she can have the same permission too, the way Hye Joon swallows a bit and locks gazes with her, as he tells her that she has permission for anything that she’d like to do, is very sexy. Umph. And then the way she gently pulls him towards her, by the collar of his hoodie, and the way he leans in, with intent and smolder, to kiss her again, is very swoony. The kisses now, are dialed up a notch more, and the way their hands caress each other’s faces, makes it all feel very intimate and precious. Especially the bit where her fingers happen to be rubbing against his ear. I felt that. And then there’s how he bites his lower lip, just a touch, as he’s pulling away from her and just looking at her, before going in for another kiss. Flail. Puddle.
Signs of trouble: Lack of time, lack of balance & lack of communication
E8. As Hye Joon’s career gains traction, what concerns me is that Jung Ha’s career is actually experiencing roadblocks and setbacks, and we don’t see her sharing these with Hye Joon. In fact, when Hye Joon witnesses the meltdown by the fake customer set up by Jin Joo, and moves to comfort her, he’s stopped by Su Bin, who says that it would only make Jung Ha feel worse that her boyfriend saw her get humiliated. I can’t say I understand this logic, since if I were in Jung Ha’s shoes, I’d rather be comforted by my boyfriend than not.
This sets the scene where Jung Ha’s struggles with work and her mom get swept under the carpet or hidden away, while the couple only focuses on Hye Joon’s forward career strides, and I feel like this could be the thing that breaks them apart, eventually. It’s not balanced and it’s also unhealthy for Jung Ha to be keeping all her frustrations and struggles to herself.
When it comes down to it, I do think that this has a lot to do with Jung Ha’s compartmentalization of her dating life. She wants her dating life to be childish and unrealistic, and Hye Joon obliges with the cheesy teasing lines and happy dates, but her desire to keep things unrealistic means that her real life never gets an airing, with Hye Joon.
E8. Not gonna lie; I found that final stretch where we see Hye Joon and Jung Ha go on a car date to pray, and then end up playing together in the rain, quite staged. Even though there’s always been this slight rehearsed sort of quality to their interactions, this particular series of interactions doesn’t land, for me.
However, I do like Hye Joon’s closing voiceover, “Grown-ups have to go outside even in the rain. When I’m with you though, even the rain is enjoyable,” but it concerns me that this sentiment, of finding enjoyment in the rain (ie, bad times?) together, isn’t so fully shared by Jung Ha, despite her playing in the literal rain with him.
E10. Jung Ha makes some important decisions this episode, with her departure from the salon, her acceptance of help from her dad, and her new venture starting her own salon. What strikes me about all this, is how she doesn’t seem to let Hye Joon in during the process of everything. Sure, there are times that she calls or texts him, and he’s not able to respond, but I get the feeling that she’s keeping him at a distance on purpose. She does eventually tell him about it, but the telling of it feels strangely summarized, like it’s not necessary for Hye Joon to be too acquainted with the details, as long as he knows the outcome and approves of it. This is not what I picture a healthy relationship to be like. Instead, this feels like you’d report your progress to your boss who gives you a lot of autonomy and who only cares about your outcomes.
That’s not to say their date time together isn’t cute. It is, and Hye Joon making the effort to cook dinner so that Jung Ha can come home to a hot meal, is really sweet. And I find it very relatable that she’d get all excited and squee “Oppaa~!” while watching Hye Joon onscreen.
That scene, though, of Hye Joon walking Jung Ha home, and telling her that he feels anxious because he’s afraid that things will go south at any time, makes me feel a mix of things. On the one hand, it’s quite poignant that even when Hye Joon is effectively on top of the world, and lauded by everyone as a rising star, the anxiety never leaves. There’s a transience to popularity and stardom that permeates this story world. Even top star Park Do Ha is struggling because his popularity is waning.
On the other hand, even though Jung Ha expresses that she likes that Hye Joon understands what she’s said, and promises to look on the bright side of things, it niggles at me that Jung Ha says Hye Joon’s anxiety is different from her own. He’s anxious that his success won’t last, while she’s anxious because she might never see success. It bothers me that, 1, they seem to be on very different paths, and 2, Hye Joon doesn’t stop to talk about her anxieties, and only promises to work on his own. That seems insensitive and dismissive, even if it’s unintentional.
While it’s not that Hye Joon doesn’t care about Jung Ha – he does ask Min Jae where Jung Ha is, after the awards ceremony – it does seem that his hectic lifestyle doesn’t afford him a lot of wiggle room to look out for Jung Ha and seek her out, and ask after her. And I feel that with things going like this, inadvertently, Jung Ha will start to feel neglected.
E10. The way Jung Ha avoids Hye Joon and his family after the awards show feels unhelpful, but I am thinking that this was probably because, 1, it’s a public location and Hye Joon needs to avoid dating rumors, and 2, she seems to want to compartmentalize their relationship as something that is cute and happy, but which doesn’t cause their real lives to intersect too much. This likely stems, at least in part, from her previously expressed uncertainty over this relationship.
E11. The relationship Hye Joon and Jung Ha have established feels quite odd, in that they barely see each other, and both of them barely seem to feel anything about that. It’s suggested to us that Jung Ha has felt upset about things, but she doesn’t tell Hye Joon about what upsets her, allegedly because when she sees him, she’s so happy that she doesn’t think of the upsetting things. I just find the dynamic of this relationship rather peculiar, because they mostly only tell each other the good things (like Hye Joon’s text about how his family meeting went, which gave a spin that only focused on the positive outcome), while barely seeing each other, and dating in secret to boot. Is this even possible, especially between two young people (compared to a couple that’s older and wiser and who have heavily tempered expectations of a relationship)?
Ultimately, I feel like Hye Joon and Jung Ha aren’t really getting to know each other, even though they are in a relationship.
E11. Hye Joon and Jung Ha having some time together, at her apartment, was nice to see, despite the oddities that I think of as being unhelpful to their relationship. They do look happy to be spending time with each other.
E11. Jung Ha being ready to go public with their relationship if it will help Hye Joon, and Hye Joon fiercely putting his foot down, because he wants to protect Jung Ha. Even though I think these two have communication issues to sort out in their relationship, this self-sacrificing care for each other is sweet.
Too little, too late
E12. I’m glad that Hye Joon goes to see Jung Ha, and I’m glad that she brings up the things that she’s not happy with; the way he doesn’t talk to her about things, and the way he tries to shield her from unpleasant things as if she’s his child. This is a much healthier conversation than the bantering that this couple seems to have been subsisting on.
I mean, I get it, the banter is their signature, and it shows that they get each other. But when the hard stuff needs to be talked about, it’s time to put the banter away and get serious. I appreciate that Hye Joon tells Jung Ah that he loves her more than she knows; this is important reassurance that I feel is beneficial to the relationship, especially since Hye Joon is so busy and isn’t able to spend much time with Jung Ah. But, I also have a niggling feeling that this smidge of healthy conversation is too little, too late, given the tidal wave of complications that is facing our couple right now.
It’s hard enough for Jung Ah to swallow the fact that it’s Ji Ah (Sul In Ah) who steps in to speak up for Hye Joon, with the identity as his ex-girlfriend, no less. It’s harder that she’s slowly being cut out of Hye Joon’s professional life, in order to keep their relationship under wraps. She sees so little of him as it is, so it just alienates her even more, to find out that she’s being replaced as Hye Joon’s makeup artist.
E13. The snowballing frustrations and struggles in their relationship finally come to a head, and Hye Joon and Jung Ha have what I think is a long-overdue important conversation this episode. I appreciate that Hye Joon’s prepared to date Jung Ha publicly, because it means that he’s not ashamed of her, and he doesn’t put his career over their relationship.
But Jung Ha also makes a good point, that they are both trying their best. He gives her every spare moment that he has, and even then, it’s not much – but it’s all he’s got. And because their time together is so precious, Jung Ha ends up not telling or showing him when she’s not happy about something, whether it’s to do with him, or something else. She just feels pressured to be happy and make their time together worthwhile, because there’s so little of it. And while that’s understandable, and in some way, admirable, it only erodes their relationship and drives them further apart. Jung Ha’s matter-of-fact statement that they might break up in the future is not so farfetched or unreasonable, once she lays it all out.
It’s quite sad, really, that even though they have so much faith in each other, and try so hard to be understanding of each other, that they’re drifting apart in spite of their efforts.
E14. The way that Jung Ha broaches the breakup is really sad because it’s clear that these two aren’t breaking up because they don’t get along. It’s just gotten to the point where it’s no longer feasible to continue a relationship; it’s gotten to the point where the more considerate, loving thing really might be letting the other person go. And that’s sad.
The family relationships
Hye Joon’s family dynamics worked out to be a bit of a mixed bag, for me.
A lot of that overscripted quality that I mentioned earlier shows up in the family dynamics, and unlike the OTP where it somehow worked for me, this.. didn’t quite. That was definitely a biggish contributing factor in terms of why the family dynamics didn’t grab me by the heart like I’m sure they were supposed to.
In the end, the family members and the various relationships did manage to grow on me in a mildly pleasant fashion.
The thing with Dad
Dad was a bit of a hard sell for me, because, even though I could understand that he’s suffered a lot in life, in working to provide for his family, and he’s seen first hand, the disappointment of failed actor dreams, in his own father, and he’s unwilling that his son would go through the same thing, it still stung, when he said such harsh words to Hye Joon, and even hit him, like in episode 6. I couldn’t blame Hye Joon for resenting his father, honestly.
I do appreciate that Dad eventually comes around, and slowly but surely shows interest and wonder at Hye Joon’s success. I found it quite funny, when Dad and Gyeong Joon look at Hye Joon in awe in episode 9, when he comes home all spiffed up from a shoot. “It’s like he’s a celebrity..” to which Mom retorts, “He is a celebrity.” Heh.
I love Mom for standing up for Hye Joon’s right to pursue his dreams, even though she admits later, that she’s still worried about him, like in episode 4. She doesn’t fight for his acting dreams because she’s sure that he’ll achieve them; she fights for his acting dreams because she doesn’t want her son to live in regret. And that’s so very empathetic of her, really.
Mom often feels guilty for not being able to do more to support and help Hye Joon in his career, but her moral support and unconditional love for her son, is arguably more precious than the kind of support that money can buy.
The thing with Dad & Grandpa
I found Grandpa’s desire to work, so that he can give his son some money to help with things like medical bills, so poignant. They may argue a lot, and there’s clearly a lot of emotional baggage between them, but it genuinely worries Grandpa to see Dad suffer and fret, and that’s heart-tugging stuff.
Grandpa’s effort to make Dad his agent in episode 13 is very caring and sweet, really. I like how he coaxes Dad for rides to his gigs, without telling him why, and then eventually gives him all the money he’s earned. I mean, this arc is quite light and bickery – until Dad tries to return the money, and Grandpa tells him that the whole reason he wants to make money now, is so that he can finally make up for being a bad father in the past. It’s such a heartfelt and vulnerable and honest moment; I’m not surprised it made Dad cry. Tear.
The thing with Gyeong Joon
Considering what a grumpy bear Gyeong Joon is when we first meet him, I’m quite pleasantly surprised at the moderate degree of affection I have for him, by the time we end our story.
After Hye Joon shows patience and kindness to Gyeong Joon after Gyeong Joon gets scammed of his rent money, it isn’t long before Gyeong Joon starts showing interest and support for Hye Joon’s career, in his own way.
I found it hilarious that Gyeong Joon would get so invested in the online comments made against Hye Joon, and go all keyboard warrior on them, in defense of his little brother. Aw.
Byeon Woo Seok as Hae Hyo
I have to admit that I didn’t care too much for Hae Hyo as a character, in the beginning of our story. So color me surprised, that by the end of our story, I found him to be a lot more sympathetic than I’d first imagined. And, at times, his arc even landed with an emotional resonance that I didn’t quite associate with this stylized drama world. In the end, it all balanced out to pretty ok, for me, which is why I have Hae Hyo in this section.
I think Byeon Woo Seok does a nice job of the role, and I particularly liked his delivery of Hae Hyo’s pathos.
E2. Hae Hyo seems to be living in a bubble of his own. He doesn’t seem to realize that his mom is involved in any way, in fast-tracking his career and success; he seems to just like to bask in the belief that he’s accomplished everything on his own merit. The clues are there, but he seems completely oblivious, so far.
So far, I feel ambivalent towards him. On the one hand, I don’t like how oblivious he is, to the unfairness that he’s benefiting from. It almost seems like a willful ignorance, sometimes. On the other hand, he does seem to genuinely care about Hye Joon, on some level. He’s troubled and worried when he learns that he got the movie role, and Hye Joon didn’t, because he knows that Hye Joon would be disappointed and hurt. And, he does try to get Hye Joon in on a gig that he’s doing, so that they can work together.
E8. I like that Hae Hyo reiterates to his mom that he’d like to take care of things himself, even though she’s still insistent on helping him with his career. I mean, at least he expresses a desire to achieve his success on his own merit.
E10. Hae Hyo’s struggle to hold back tears in the washroom feels very poignant to me. In this moment, I no longer see him as the pampered rich boy who gets help from Mommy Dearest and therefore is an unfair advantage in his career. In this moment, his sadness and internal struggle feel real, and I kinda feel sorry for him.
E11. I feel sorry for Hae Hyo, that his mom is basically rubbing it in his face, that all that he’s ever achieved, was not due to his own efforts, but because of her intervention. The exasperated way she communicates that is not helpful at all, and I can imagine that that would’ve hurt Hae Hyo’s pride a lot.
E13. Hae Hyo’s sense of humiliation and betrayal, when he realizes that Mom has been buying him followers on Instagram, is really raw and palpable. Byeon Woo Seok does a really nice job of this emerging aspect of Hae Hyo’s character. There’s a growing sense of shame and simmering anger about him, mixed with a lot of hurt, and I completely believe that he’s genuinely devastated that the one thing in his career that he’d thought was due to his own effort, is really nothing at all.
Hae Hyo’s feelings for Jung Ha
I just wanted to say for the record, that I believe that Hae Hyo would’ve never paid much attention to Jung Ha in the first place, if he didn’t know that Jung Ha was Hye Joon’s fan instead of his. I feel like all the time and effort he puts into pursuing her, really stems from wanting to prove that he’s better than Hye Joon – by winning her over.
Granted, over time, Hae Hyo’s interest in Jung Ha does seem to become more genuine, but it gets to the point where he seems almost obsessed with her. This made me wonder if he has real feelings for her, or if his obsession is just progressively amplified because of just how unattainable Jung Ha is, to him.
It doesn’t help that his mom keeps bearing down him in terms of his career, and essentially dismantling any self-respect that he has. It’s no wonder that Hae Hyo feels lonely and in need of company, support and solidarity – which he seeks with Jung Ha. Not cool, since he is essentially hoping to win her heart, while she’s dating his best friend.
In the end, even though it’s something actually initiated by Jung Ha, I do appreciate how Hae Hyo eventually plants himself firmly in the friend zone in episode 13, saying that he’s only being nice to her because she’s Hye Joon’s girlfriend. It’s clear that his feelings haven’t been resolved, but it’s a good step in the right direction, I think.
Hye Joon’s friendship with Hae Hyo
I have to admit that in the beginning of my watch, I didn’t have strong feelings about Hye Joon’s friendship with Hae Hyo. I just felt like the friendship seemed better in concept than in execution, ie, it’s nice that they have a longstanding friendship, and have promised to do everything together, including going to the military – but their banter and interactions just weren’t landing with much oomph for me.
However, over time, I did find their friendship much more interesting, because of the shifting dynamics brought about by Hye Joon’s success. This made their friendship much more interesting to my eyes. In addition, I also feel like this relationship functions as a good platform for Hae Hyo’s character growth.
E2. Despite Hae Hyo’s indications of care for Hye Joon, I can’t shake the feeling that he’s only good for that, while he has the upper hand. Somehow, I feel like he wouldn’t take it so well, if the roles were reversed, and Hye Joon was the one doing better than he.
E3. Hye Joon is starting to distance himself from Hae Hyo’s efforts to include him at outings and work assignments, and I really appreciate the self-awareness and honesty that Hye Joon shows, in telling Hae Hyo that he’s just not feeling up to it, even though he knows that Hae Hyo means well. He doesn’t make up an excuse, even though most people would’ve, in his place. Instead, he chooses to be honest, even though it makes things rather awkward between him and Hae Hyo.
E3. I believe Hae Hyo sees himself as the alpha in their friendship, where Hye Joon’s his less successful, less popular wingman, there just to make him look and feel good. He probably fancies himself as Batman while Hye Joon’s his Robin. And Hye Joon is finally becoming cognizant that he and Hae Hyo are different and shine in different ways, and he should stop comparing himself to Hae Hyo.
E4. I actually like that Hye Joon’s maintaining his friendship with Hae Hyo, but drawing some boundaries, while he does that. Like when Hae Hyo offers to ask his agent if they’ll manage Hye Joon, Hye Joon doesn’t hesitate for even a second; he immediately turns down Hae Hyo’s offer, in a manner that I find matter-of-fact and straightforward, without being offensive. Nicely done.
E7. I feel like the small cracks that we’ve seen in Hae Hyo and Hye Joon’s friendship are becoming more pronounced. Not only is Hae Hyo jealous of the fact that Jung Ha is dating Hye Joon, now Hye Joon’s landed the part in Gateway, which Hae Hyo had admitted would be a dream to get. I appreciate that Hye Joon doesn’t hold back the information when he gets the confirmation text from Min Jae, and I also appreciate that Hae Hyo congratulates Hye Joon with a smile. But the way that Hae Hyo looks at Hye Joon’s retreating back, is with more than a touch of envy. Will their friendship survive them competing in the same arena?
E8. Hae Hyo is a better friend than I’d pegged him for. Instead of feeling jealous of Hye Joon’s drama debut, Hae Hyo calls him and sincerely congratulates him. And, Hae Hyo takes the trouble to try to keep Ji Ah away from the group get-together. Granted, this is done for Jung Ha’s sake rather than Hye Joon’s, but it still counts as a positive effort, even though Ji Ah insists on going anyway.
E9. Hae Hyo continues to be a good friend to Hye Joon, and I think, without his mother’s interference, he would be just fine walking his own path while Hye Joon walks his. I like that he defends Hye Joon to Park Do Ha, and to his mom, and claps enthusiastically when Hye Joon wins his award. I thought the role reversal, of Hae Hyo now sincerely cheering for Hye Joon, after Hye Joon’s always sincerely cheered for Hae Hyo, quite nice.
E10. Hae Hyo is a lot more interesting this episode. With mounting pressure from his parents, and casual and not-so-casual snubs in his work context, he’s a lot more sensitive to being compared to Hye Joon than before. Jin Woo’s matter-of-fact explanation is spot-on: Hae Hyo hadn’t minded being compared to Hye Joon before, because he’d been ahead of Hye Joon then; it lands differently now that Hye Joon’s ahead.
I’m glad that Hae Hyo realizes it, finally, because Hye Joon put up with a whole lot and swallowed his discomfort a whole lot, for the sake of their friendship. And I appreciate that Hae Hyo’s immediate response, is to ask if Hye Joon had minded it too. And this is where Jin Woo gets it wrong, saying that Hye Joon hadn’t minded because he’d been too busy making a living. That’s not true. You’re never too busy to mind; you just are a lot more practical about what to do with those feelings.
E14. Hae Hyo feels inferior to Hye Joon, now that Hye Joon’s successful and capable. I appreciate that Hye Joon reaches out to Hae Hyo when he notices that Hae Hyo is out of sorts. Not only does he look for ways to help Hae Hyo feel at ease while they’re at work, he seeks Hae Hyo out in private, so that he can tell Hae Hyo that there’s really nothing to it. It’s cold comfort to Hae Hyo to hear Hye Joon’s sharing, but at least it provides food for thought. And I do think that this meeting affirms their friendship, that had suffered from neglect and private rivalry.
I do think this is a hard lesson for Hae Hyo to learn, but a necessary one. All his past feelings of superiority had little to do with his own efforts, and a lot to do with his mother’s intervention, and that’s hard for him to swallow. But I do think that facing it is the first step towards him establishing a path for himself.
The thing with Charlie Jung [SPOILERS]
I just wanted to state for the record that I did not find the portrayal of Charlie Jung’s affection for Hye Joon offensive, even though it’s true that k-ent could afford to balance out gay representation in general. In fact, I thought it was handled reasonably sensitively, for a delicate topic like sponsorship. Unlike other dramas that have shown gay characters being attracted to our male leads, where most of it is played for comedy, this is not played for comedy.
In fact, Charlie Jung’s feelings for Hye Joon seem to be deep and enduring, although it isn’t clear what drew Charlie Jung to Hye Joon or how they’d become close in the beginning. Even though Hye Joon declines the offer of sponsorship the first time it’s given, Charlie Jung isn’t shown to react in a petty or vengeful way. He just keeps yearning from afar, and looking at Hye Joon with wistful gazes, which imply that despite the questionable nature of the sponsorship relationship he’s offering, his feelings for Hye Joon are, to him at least, real and true. And when Hye Joon turns him down with finality, after the second offer, there is no dramatic screaming (which we’ve seen in other dramas); their goodbye is tense, but tamped down and controlled. That’s not bad, I think?
I did wish that Charlie Jung didn’t have to die, but I’m glad that Show didn’t make his death a result of his failed loved for Hye Joon.
STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
Show’s excessive flash forward-rewind
Many kdramas do this thing where they flash forward at the end of an episode, in order to give us an exciting cliffhanger, and then backtrack in the next episode, to fill in the details on what led to that cliffhanger. Since so many shows do it, I can’t complain too much that this show does it.
However, it literally takes more about three-quarters of episode 10 to get us to where we left off in episode 9. That’s pushing it, I’d say. More importantly, Show isn’t clear at the top of the episode that we’re backtracking, and so, it only became clear to me that we were in backtrack mode, when Hye Joon gets a call from Min Jae at the 45-minute mark, [SPOILER] and learns that he’s been slated to host the OVN awards show. [END SPOILER] Dang. That’s a long time to spend not having a clear idea of where we were, in Show’s timeline.
I wish Show would give us some kind of indication, so that we can at least mentally place ourselves and not feel lost. I also wish Show didn’t make a habit of this, but it did.
I generally don’t jive with the Intended Funny &/or the Intended Cute
I’m pretty sure that Show thinks it’s cuter and funnier than I do. I found myself feeling more bemused than amused at the various efforts Show makes at being lighthearted, unfortunately. Here are just two examples of Show’s Intended Cute and Intended Funny not working for me.
E7. I don’t get why we needed a scene of Min Jae madly trying to undo Hye Joon’s shirt button so that he’d appear sexy during the interview for the role. I think it’s meant to be funny, but it just came off as awkward and weird, to me.
E11. There are things that I think are supposed to be amusing this episode, which didn’t land for me. For example, Jin Woo’s mom and her enthusiasm for Hye Joon’s mom to live it up now that Hye Joon’s a big star, came across as overly bright to me. And Hae Hyo’s mom and her usual bemusement over Hae Hyo’s career is not amusing either, even though Show’s made it a bit of a Thing, where she’s supposed to be this flighty socialite mom who vibes just a bit ditzy. Her horror at finding out that Hae Na’s dating Jin Woo, combined with her faux-peaceful determination not to hit her children, was not entertaining either, though I think Show meant it to be.
Shin Ae Ra as Hae Hyo’s mom
I tried to see the cute, amusing and funny that Show intended in the character of Hae Hyo’s mom, but I have to admit that after many tries, this is a character that I just failed to enjoy.
Show tries to make her entitled and snobbish, but at the same time, ditzy and earnest, so that she comes across as quite harmless. Her love-hate relationship with Hye Joon’s mom is supposed to be cute (it sorta reminds me of the relationship between Kim Tan’s mom and Eun Sang’s mom in Heirs), but the overly scripted nature of the banter just didn’t land for me.
Show consistently has Hae Hyo’s mom spouting snappy lines and acting cute, but I found it all very hollow and staged, and I didn’t enjoy having her on my screen. I found her pretty self-righteous and nitpicky a lot of the time; an obviously unhappy woman who finds her comfort in exerting her superiority over others. Not fun.
Lee Chang Hoon as Lee Tae Soo
Ugh. Lee Tae Soo is the kind of character you just love to hate.
He is basically the source of a lot of problems for our key characters, Hye Joon and Min Jae in particular, and I found him very unsavory and manipulative. Basically, Lee Tae Soo is a Sly Snake who should be kept in his own glass box, separate from humankind, at all times. Blech.
The loveline between Jin Woo and Hae Na
To be brutally honest, I mostly didn’t care for Jin Woo’s loveline with Hae Na (Jo Yoo Jung). I found Jo Yoo Jung’s delivery stiff, and their couple chemistry, lacking.
I cringed at scenes where they explored any kind of couple intimacy, and I didn’t care when they were split up. I still don’t really get the point of this loveline, in our story. 😝[SPOILER] I mean, in episode 12, Jin Woo tells Hae Na that he only wants to date, but doesn’t want to marry, because that means taking responsibility. And he says this, while telling Hae Na with a straight face, that he loves her. [END SPOILER] How pointlessly bizarre.
Seol In Ah as Ji Ah
To be fair to Ji Ah, she does become a more likable character by Show’s end. However, I spent most of my watch not liking her much at all, so I decided to park her in this section, especially since her eventual turnaround didn’t feel all that organic to me.
For the record, here are the questionable things she did, in our story.
1. She broke up with Hye Joon in a heartless manner, twice.
2. She invites herself to a gathering where she isn’t wanted, because she knows Hye Joon will be there with his now-girlfriend, Jung Ha. It seems like she’s doing this specifically to rile up Hye Joon and Jung Ha. That’s so not cool.
3. She forcibly pushes herself into Hye Joon’s orbit, and pretends that everything’s ok between them, even. Clearly, she doesn’t care about his reputation, since she shows up at his filming site and makes her presence known to everyone.
4. She goes so far as to tell Hae Hyo that they both want Hye Joon and Jung Ah to break up (not in those words precisely but I paraphrase).
..And then she suddenly comes to terms with things and gets over Hye Joon..? It just doesn’t land believably, for me.
THEMES / IDEAS [SPOILERS]
E1. I do find it thought-provoking and sobering to be reminded that the beautiful people on social media might be struggling, as we see from Hye Joon’s situation. He has some success as a model, and a following on social media, and yet, behind the pretty pictures, there’s so much frustration and uncertainty.
E2. I like the idea that Show toys with this episode, that we tend to be drawn to people who are similar to ourselves. It explains why Jung Ha is Hye Joon’s fan and not Hae Hyo’s, and it also explains why Hye Joon and Jung Ha get along so well. They seem to click at a pretty visceral level, from their shared wounds of being treated unfairly. Somehow, that kinship is quickly apparent, and I like that it’s something so fundamentally human that draws them together.
E14. This episode, there’s the idea that being rich isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, and being poor doesn’t mean that you need to feel inferior. Hye Joon’s mom expresses it well; she’d envied the rich, only until she’d started working in a rich household. Once she got to see that there wasn’t all that much to envy anyway, and that her favorite place to be was still, after all, with her family, it gave her the confidence not to feel inferior for being poor.
E14. Show strikes me as being a humanistic look at what life is like in the limelight.
We all know that actors have explained that their relationships didn’t work out because they drifted apart due to their busy schedules, but this hits home in a different way, when I see how hard Hye Joon and Jung Ha work to nurture their relationship with the little time that they have – and yet, find themselves in a place where they barely have time to speak, even though Hye Joon’s sleeping so little and giving all his free time to Jung Ha. It makes me think of the many actors out there, who must’ve suffered similarly, only to call it quits when they found themselves with nothing left to give – and then what we see in the news articles are the manicured statements about busy schedules. I find this really poignant, honestly.
The way the reporters try to create a scandal specifically around Hye Joon, because he’s so famous that anything about him will sell, also lands differently when I wonder how many real celebrities have suffered a similar fate. Even though many of the scandals that make it to the headlines are real, it makes me wonder how many aren’t real, and yet, have caused harm to someone’s career, and hurt to their relationships. Again, I find this poignant to think about.
SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]
Show does it again, with the episode taking three-whole-quarters of its screen time to bring us to the scene where the previous episode ended. This is the second time Show has done this, and oddly, I don’t feel very strongly about it this time around. Could it be because I’ve adjusted my lens with this show, and therefore my expectations have changed, and that’s why I’m less easily disappointed? I expect Show to be little more than Hye Joon’s diary now, and I suppose he can indulge in long flashbacks in his “journal entries” if he wants to?
I have to admit, I found Jung Ha’s steadiness during her meeting with Reporter Kim, a little hard to believe at first. She’s being cornered, and Reporter Kim is purposefully provoking her, in her efforts to get a scoop, and yet, Jung Ha remains unmoved, and she doesn’t seem to even bat an eyelash. However, she does concede that Reporter Kim is good at interviewing, and admits that Reporter Kim has made her want to say bad things about Hye Joon, so that’s something. I also rationalize that in dating Hye Joon and observing the consistent outbreaks of scandals around him, Jung Ha must have prepared herself for such a time as this. She might have even rehearsed on her own, what she might say, and how she might react, in a situation like this. With that in mind, I find it a lot easier to buy Jung Ha’s calm, unshakable stance.
As for Hye Joon, my heart goes out to him, it really does. In the scene where he cries in the car – a poignant throwback to when he’d cried in his dad’s van, many moons ago – his anguish feels long pent-up, and it seems like it’s finally pouring out now, in a shuddering, uncontrollable wave. Kudos to Park Bo Gum; he really is able to wring my heart in a deep way, with his tears and the emotion that the tears express.
At the same time, it seems to me that Hye Joon still has a lot of maturing to do. His statement to Jung Ha, that we see this episode, about not wanting to say “sorry” to the person he loves; he just plans to do better, smells strongly of naiveté. That’s just not how love works. There are often times when you want to do better for the one you love, but just don’t have the ability or means to give any more, or do any better. That’s when sorry is all you can say. The fact that Hye Joon hasn’t learned this, shows me that he still has a ways to go, when it comes to being able to love in a mature manner.
On a similar note, while it does make for a good rom-com type of scene for Hye Joon to approach Jung Ha so purposefully at the end of the episode, and declare that he can’t break up with her, it does somewhat hint at a lack of understanding around relationships and how they work, too. If Jung Ha doesn’t want to continue the relationship, whether or not Hye Joon feels able to break up with her is irrelevant. It takes two, after all. But, I rationalize that he’s entitled to try for a reconciliation, and it’s not impossible that Jung Ha might change her mind.
Also. Reporter Kim finally realizes that Lee Tae Soo’s lied to her all this time, and confronts him. The sight of her railing at him was admittedly somewhat satisfying to watch. Lastly, I think I rather like Ji Ah now. It seems that she’s sorted out her feelings for Hye Joon (mostly off-screen?) and really does just care for him as a friend. The fact that she’s the one who set Reporter Kim straight also earns her brownie points in my books.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
There are two questions that I tend to ask myself when I get to the end of a show. 1, Do I feel fond of these characters? And 2, Am I sorry to say goodbye to these characters?
In the case of Record Of Youth, I realize that, 1, I do have a moderate amount of fondness for most of our characters, but, 2, I’m not actually sorry to say goodbye. I guess that sums up how I feel about this show and its ending?
First, let’s cover the main things that happen in this finale.
Hye Joon and Jung Ha go through an amicable break-up, and Hye Joon decides that he’d like to get his military service done. Hae Hyo comes to a similar conclusion, and in a convenient moment of clarity, manages to convince his mom that she’s done a good job raising him because he’s a decent person. Both Jin Woo’s mom and Hye Joon’s mom quit working for Hae Hyo’s mom at the request of their respective sons, and Hae Na and Jin Woo break up too.
Reporter Kim switches her attention to digging up dirt on Do Ha, which annoys and aggravates Lee Tae Soo, and well, that’s quite satisfying to witness, even though it doesn’t seem like it really does either of them any real harm.
Two-year time-skip later, Hye Joon comes back from military service, with Min Jae still as his manager, and his career still waiting for him. Grandpa wins an Achievement Award for his work as a senior model, and Grandpa tells Dad, in an emotional acceptance speech, dedicates his award to Dad. Aw. That’s sweet. Meanwhile, Jung Ha’s become a successful boss of her own company, and even has employees now. They cross paths at an on-site location where both their projects happen to be shooting, and they are clearly pleasantly surprised to see each other. We don’t know whether they will date again, but their friendly in-sync banter is out in full force, and it’s nice enough to know that they’ve reconnected, and are both content.
All in all, Show stays true to its character, in that it doesn’t serve up anything particularly exciting in its final episode, and continues to take us on a slice-of-life style tour to get a glimpse of our various characters and where they’re at in life.
At the end of the day, this was always designed to be a loving showcase for Park Bo Gum’s incandescence, while taking a side stab at being a mockumentary of sorts, and I think Show did a reasonably decent job on both counts.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Low-key and meandering; reasonably pleasant but nothing to really shout about. Good for a dose of Park Bo Gum.
FINAL GRADE: B
The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of Record Of Youth, is The Uncanny Counter. I’ve taken an initial peek, and I’m kind of giddy at how much I like it, right away!
If you’d like to join me on the journey, you can find my Patreon page here. You can also read more about all the whats, whys, and hows of helping this blog here. Thanks for all of your support, it really means a lot to me. ❤️