THE SHORT VERDICT:
A restrained, loving study of music, characters, and their relationships, Do You Like Brahms? boasts characters that are carefully and tenderly drawn, relationships that feel patiently and organically grown, and a narrative filled with music-related touches that demonstrate an understanding of and empathy for musicians.
Our cast is very solid all-around, with each actor bringing their character to life in a way that feels real and believable. I loved extra, our sweet, bashful, very well-matched OTP, played by Kim Min Jae and Park Eun Bin. Not only is their romance handled thoughtfully, their individual journeys as musicians and as people, are teased out carefully too.
A very enjoyable ride, particularly if you identify as an introvert &/or a musician.
THE LONG VERDICT:
Generally speaking, the consensus on Twitter – that I can see anyway – seems to be that this show was really really good, until the Cute went away, and Angst set in. That was when many of my Twitter pals seemed to become disenchanted with this show, and quite a number opted not to finish this one, I think.
I honestly like this one, though. A lot.
Remember when Chadwick Boseman was cast as the first black superhero, Black Panther? To the average movie-goer, he might have been just one of many superheroes, but to the black community in particular, he was extra special. He made them feel represented and seen.
Kinda the same thing for me, with Brahms. As an introvert, the fact that both our male lead and female lead are introverts, and celebrated as such, makes me feel represented and seen, too. I love that.
Yes, there is angst in Show’s later stretch, but I consider that par for the course in any drama. Importantly, I felt that the angst is organic to our characters, and consistent with our characters’ established personalities. I even like Show’s chosen ending, not only for our OTP, but for our supporting characters too.
All very good things, yes?
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.
My favorite track from the OST album is Track 1, Close To Me, which I feel speaks to the desire of our leads, to connect with each other, despite their reservations. I find the song plaintive, hopeful and heartfelt; I like it a lot.
If you prefer, here’s Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto #2 in C Minor, Op. 18, which is one of the classical pieces featured in the drama.
I feel there are a few things that would be helpful to keep in mind, while watching this one.
1. The love triangles
We get not just one, but two love triangles in our story. That does feel like a lot, but take heart, because – in my opinion anyway – the two love triangles don’t overshadow our main characters’ development, but instead, contribute to it. Yes, there’s angst that comes with these love triangles, but they are but a means to an end, so hang in there.
2. The subtext
There is a lot of subtext in this drama that tells us more about what our characters are feeling, beyond the dialogue in a scene. The awkward shifting of a gaze; a nervous pause; a twitch or fidget; the self-conscious meeting of eyes; these all serve as signposts that tell us more about what’s really going on with our characters beyond the surface, and it all feels detailed and true to life. I really like it, but this can make the watch feel a little less accessible to the casual viewer.
You do need to pay a bit more attention with this show.
3. The cute comes with angst
When our OTP is cute together, they are very cute. Joon Young and Song Ah (Kim Min Jae and Park Eun Bin) together feel like the coming together of two pure, bashful souls, and it’s heartwarming and lovely, and gives me the warm fuzzies.
Eventually, when angst comes into the picture, the angst feels organic, warranted, and even healthy, sometimes. Don’t be put off or intimidated by the angst. Instead, pay attention to the subtext; the angst means different things for each of our characters. And in the end, the payoff makes the angst feel worthwhile.
STUFF I LIKED
The music-related touches
From what I can tell, Show seems to be very in tune with the struggle of the average musician. We get little music-related touches throughout the show, which I personally found thoughtful and very welcome.
The calluses from long hours of practice; the question of whether they’ll be able to make a career out of music; the doubts from family; it all feels true to life. [MINOR SPOILER] Song Ah being casually (though likely unintentionally) marginalized, because she’s older than her course mates, also feels true to life. [END SPOILER]
Additionally, it’s been years since I’ve read any music scores, but it did give me a bit of a thrill, to see each episode being named after musical terms. It’s a smallish thing, but it does add to the whole musical vibe of the show. I really enjoyed that attention to detail.
Kim Min Jae as Joon Young
I really enjoyed Kim Min Jae in his outing as Joon Young. I feel like he’s perfectly cut out for the role.
I totally get why everyone says Kim Min Jae is appealing in this show. This is admittedly the most attractive I’ve seen him. He kinda reminds me of Yoo Seung Ho, in that they’re both not the towering sort of male leads that Dramaland tends to favor. He possesses a clean-cut charm about him, and I do enjoy his low voice very well. Ahem.
I’m also impressed that Kim Min Jae plays the piano himself, for the role. Those aren’t easy piano pieces by any stretch of the imagination, so it couldn’t have been easy for him, even though he’s learned piano before, in middle school. And yet, he does really nicely, I thought.
Even though there are likely viewers who found Joon Young a bit frustrating, especially in the later episodes, I found him very sympathetic, and I felt that writer-nim did an excellent job painting him in a consistent light, while edging him towards personal growth.
E2. Joon Young’s clearly uncomfortable about the fact that Jung Kyung (Park Ji Hyun) is back in Korea with Hyun Ho (Kim Sung Cheol), but he doesn’t say anything about it. His silent stretches and his slight hesitations, when answering questions, say so much, though, about how difficult this is, for him.
E2. I must agree with other viewers that Show does a very nice job setting up Joon Young to be a sensitive soul. His sensitivity to caffeine; the way he has difficulty eating before and after a performance; that quick shot of the sleeping aids that he keeps in his hotel room; these all add up quickly to show us the kind of sensitive soul that he is.
E2. The more I learn about his superstar life, the more I feel sorry for Joon Young. He’s really been working himself like a machine, taking part in competitions and performing, focusing only on winning prize money to support his family, and living up to the expectations placed on him, for winning the scholarship that was awarded in memory of Jung Kyung’s mother. I find it so sad, really, that he’s traveled so much that he doesn’t really have a place to call home.
E2. The fact that he’s never learned to enjoy his own music, and judges whether a performance is good based on other people’s reactions to it, says a lot about how he’s operated all this time. His own pleasure and enjoyment has never crossed his mind; it’s only mattered to him that other people approved of his music. I find that a very lonely and sad existence, and I like that Song Ah (Park Eun Bin) solidifies what the female maestro had told Joon Young, that he should learn to play in a way that satisfies his heart.
E3. When Joon Young talks about why he likes visiting the palace grounds – because everything else has changed, but the palace remains the same – I feel my heart pinch for him again. He’s on the move so much that nothing is a constant in his life, to the extent that he doesn’t have anywhere that he can truly call home. The fact that the palace grounds – which mostly functions as a tourist attraction – is a place that gives him comfort for its constancy, is so poignant to me. Now I just want Joon Young to find a way to sink roots, on his terms, and feel like he has somewhere to belong.
The other thing that Joon Young talks about, the silence that accompanies victory, reinforces the idea that it’s lonely at the top. There’s a lot of pathos in the idea that when he’s reached the goal of winning a competition, which is something that all the competitors dream of, what’s waiting for him at the finish line, is a deafening silence. It just makes my heart go out to him even more. Now that I already know that he’s a sensitive soul, I can only imagine how deeply this silence and loneliness has affected him, all this time.
E4. What a stark difference between the more politically correct, polished answers that Joon Young gives during on stage during the interview, compared to the things that he candidly tells Song Ah in private. On the one hand, it’s kind of sad that he has to package everything so much that the interview answers end up being white lies, but on the other hand, it does give me a thrill that he feels able to open up to Song Ah in such a raw and unadulterated way.
E6. Director Na’s (Ye Soo Jung) words to Joon Young are very harsh, and indicate that she’s long been disappointed in him. From what she says, I infer that she’s disappointed that he’s not ambitious enough, nor strong enough in character, to be what she wants him to be. But if being strong enough and ambitious enough translates into being anything like her, then I can see that Joon Young’s not cut out for that. Joon Young may have become jaded from being trotted around like a commodity, but there’s still a purity of heart that’s in there, that is core to who he is.
E9. I appreciate Manager Cha’s (Seo Jung Yeon) advice to Joon Young, to not keep his struggles to himself, and share them with Song Ah. As sweet as Joon Young is, his desire for the people he cares about, to just think that he’s doing well, is well-meaning but only serves to alienate him from others.
E10. I actually thought Joon Young should’ve walked away, after spotting Professor Yoo (Joo Suk Tae) drinking by himself at the pochangmacha, since Joon Young himself is a trigger for Professor Yoo. Plus, Professor Yoo has been rather nasty to Joon Young as well. But, Joon Young’s compassion wins out, and he sits with Professor Yoo and acknowledges Professor Yoo, and I just think that’s very kind of him.
E10. When I see, through Song Ah’s eyes, how bare Joon Young’s apartment is, it occurs to me that he really is a nomad. He’s not stayed in one place long enough to actually acquire stuff that would make an apartment a home. It’s such a contrast to what we’ve seen of Song Ah’s bedroom, which is full of personal belongings and memorabilia. I want Joon Young to have a place to truly call home.
E11. Joon Young’s feeling extremely stuck, because he can’t seem to connect emotionally with his music, and that’s holding him back in terms of his preparation for the Tchaikovsky Competition. Professor Yoo is right; if Joon Young enters and does worse than someone else who proclaims that Joon Young is her inspiration, it would be very embarrassing indeed.
Yet, Joon Young feels he has no choice but to enter the competition, because he needs to refresh his audience appeal, because his family needs the money. Ugh. The pressure. It’s hard to relax into your music when you’re under so much pressure, for sure. I feel sorry for Joon Young.
E12. Just when Joon Young’s starting to be a little happy, Mom (Kim Jung Young) calls with the news that Dad (whom we’ve not seen so far, and whom I would really like to see, so that I know at whom I should direct my intense desire to throw something) has once again pushed their family further into debt. This, when Joon Young’s recently borrowed 20 million won for his mother’s brain surgery, too. Now, his family needs another 30 million won, or his mom loses the diner, which is her livelihood. AND, the private concert which he’d accepted – which would’ve given him exactly the amount that he’d needed – falls through because his popularity is waning and there are rumors of him having a girlfriend. UGH. No wonder Joon Young feels so stressed and withdraws into himself even more.
Park Eun Bin as Song Ah
For the record, I really enjoyed Park Eun Bin in her role as Song Ah. After seeing Park Eun Bin take on bubbly, outspoken characters – like in Age Of Youth, Age Of Youth 2 and Stove League – it was pretty startling to me, to see her play such a reserved, introverted character. And Park Eun Bin nails it, from the slight vocal tremors to the minor body language cues. Watching her, I could believe that she just is that kind of introverted person. Really good.
I’m also very impressed that Park Eun Bin played the violin for real, for this show. She basically re-learned the instrument in just 3 months, for her role as Song Ah. That’s so impressive, seriously.
Similar to Joon Young, I feel like there would be a section of viewers who’d find Song Ah frustrating to watch, as a character, because she’s so reserved and accommodating to others, even when the requests made of her are unreasonable. However, as with Joon Young, I thought writer-nim did a very nice job of teasing out Song Ah’s growth journey while staying true to her character. I admired Song Ah for following her heart, even when it required large amounts of courage to do so, and I rooted for her, from beginning to end.
E1. Song Ah is a latecomer to violin compared to her schoolmates, and that already puts the odds against her, before we even get to family pressure for her to do something successful with her life already. The way people view Song Ah seems to be a mix of curiosity and pity, because she’s older than the rest of her course mates and last in class, to boot.
I can see why there’s a contrast between her joyful smile at being accepted as a freshman, and her more muted and reserved vibe in her senior year. It feels like all that hopeful joy has been worn down over the years, by all the judgment by other people, intentional or not. I don’t know if it’s realistic to root for Song Ah to achieve her violin dreams, but I do want her to find her mojo and stop feeling like she doesn’t have the right to be where she is.
E6. I really like how Song Ah handles the situation where the upset mother demands an explanation for why her daughter Ji Won didn’t pass the audition. Song Ah’s answer is so empathetic, while affirming her daughter’s talent, AND bringing out the importance of protecting her daughter’s passion for the violin. That was so impactful and profound. I feel like no one could have said it better.
E8. I appreciate the mutual respect that Song Ah and Jung Kyung seem to feel for each other, after the master class. Both women state separately that they learned a lot during the master class. Song Ah may have learned a lot about violin technique from Jung Kyung, but it seems that Jung Kyung’s learned something else from Song Ah, that might have to do with heart and passion. I like that idea, that Song Ah has something to teach others, just by being herself.
E10. Just like how Joon Young had helped Song Ah conquer handkerchief ground by having her handkerchief replace the one that Jung Kyung had given him, Song Ah takes a similar approach with the memory of Jung Kyung leaving Joon Young’s apartment building. Instead of asking him about it, she asks to visit his apartment just once. In this way, I feel like she’s silently staking her claim and refusing the demon of memory and conjecture to have its day. That’s a form of emotional strength, and I like that.
E11. I feel for Song Ah, in terms of her struggle to be a better violinist. The odds are already stacked against her, as Manager Park (Choi Dae Hoon) quite bluntly points out, and she’s not getting much help, either.
Professor Lee (Baek Ji Won) gives her no help at all in improving her technique and performance, and only uses her for her own errands and selfish purposes, and the pianist who’s playing accompaniment for Song Ah is brusque and impatient, and doesn’t say anything helpful either. It’s ironic that the only person that we’ve seen so far, who’s given Song Ah any useful input regarding technique, is Jung Kyung.
E12. Everyone around Song Ah is gossiping that Joon Young’s too good for her, and that she must’ve set her sights on him. That, AND having to put up with Professor Lee pushing her around, and then finding out that she’s not even on the list of musicians for the chamber orchestra that she’s been working so hard to organize, on top of her course load? I feel awful for her.
E13. This episode, I’m glad that Song Ah eventually stands firm and quits being Professor Lee’s assistant. That’s not a position that she ever signed up for, and she only really helped Professor Lee because Professor Lee presumptuously assigned her tasks to do, during her violin sessions. It’s been a long time coming, with Professor Lee’s awful behavior, and it comes at a cost to Song Ah, since this most likely means that Professor Lee will make sure she doesn’t make it into grad school, but I’m proud of her for making a stand.
Joon Young and Song Ah together
These two sweet, adorable, bashful lovebirds were consistently adept at plastering a goofy grin on my face. I luff them so much. ❤️
I enjoy the fact that both of our leads are shy awkward types, even though they are on very different places on the musician spectrum, with him being a superstar pianist, and her being a struggling rookie musician who gets dismissed from the room because she’s last in class. I really enjoyed watching these two characters connect, and witnessing how they help each other, across that huge divide.
The journey to OTP togetherness is a long one, but as with the character development in this show, I found it organically teased out, and I felt that the challenges and obstacles were reasonable, within our story context.
Kim Min Jae and Park Eun Bin are fabulous together, as our pair of bashful lovebirds, and their shy happy smiles as they spent time together, were the absolute highlights of my watch. 😍
Friendship, born of kinship
E2. I enjoy the connection that’s starting to take shape, between Joon Young and Song Ah. For a start, he seems very considerate of her, which I find very sweet. It’s in the small things, like the way he accepts the coffee from her even though he doesn’t really drink coffee because it makes his heart race, and then, the way he notices that her coffee is kind of bashed up and partially spilled, and quickly switches coffees with her, taking a sip out of it so that she doesn’t have a chance to switch it back. It feels very gentlemanly of him.
E2. I like how Song Ah gets what he means, when he tells her that it helps the page turner to watch the pianist’s breath. It sounds very obtuse, but Song Ah grasps it and does a good job turning the pages for him during his performance. I just like the idea that they connect in a way that not everyone can.
E2. The way the two of them wait for each other’s taxis, even though neither of them is actually waiting for a taxi, is cute. They are both such polite, considerate people.
E2. I really like the fact that Song Ah chooses to turn back at the train station, and go back to the restaurant, so that she can sit and talk with Joon Young. She’s such a shy and reserved person, that this feels like a big thing for her. I could be wrong, but I feel like this is driven more by compassion for him, from what she can see of his struggles, than an actual liking for him. And I like that idea, that these two people will connect as friends first, before any romance enters the picture.
E3. Aw. That’s so sweet of Song Ah, to have purchased an additional CD, so that she could ask Joon Young for his autograph. Given that this was done in the wake of Joon Young overhearing some very unflattering and disheartening things said about him by Hae Na (Lee Ji Won) at the store, this feels like an encouraging antidote, meant to lift him up where he’d been trodden upon. Quite lovely.
E3. Even though it’s ultimately not what Song Ah wants, I appreciate Joon Young’s instinct to protect her. When he sees that Dong Yoon’s (Lee Yoo Jin) conversation with Min Seong (Bae Da Bin) would be devastating to Song Ah, and when he sees that if he doesn’t do anything, Song Ah would hear it all, he reflexively shields her from it. There’s something very warm about that protector’s instinct which I appreciate.
E3. I know Song Ah’s hurting from the realization that the guy she likes is a jerk, but where the episode closes, has me melting into a puddle. I love that Joon Young chooses to comfort her with music, because he doesn’t have the words, and when the music is played and Song Ah looks like she’s about to cry, he asks if she’d like to be friends – and then corrects himself that they have to be friends – and then proceeds to hug her and pat her back, as a friend. Oh my gah. That is just the sweetest, most tender, compassionate thing, and I am in a flailing puddle. 😭❤️He understands Song Ah’s pain and rejection at a visceral level, and comforts her at a visceral level, where words cannot reach, and I just love that he’s able to give her comfort in a moment where she feels so alone.
YES PLEASE. Please be friends. Be the kind of friends who spill your hearts to each other and get each other, and support each other, even when no one else understands.
E4. I really enjoy the growing bond between Joon Young and Song Ah. It feels like something rooted in a deep sense of mutual compassion. Even though they are in very different positions in their musical careers, they see the awkwardness and discomfort and uncertainty in each other, and recognize it, because they’ve felt it – and still feel it – themselves. The understanding and kindness they show each other makes my heart feel all warm and toasty. It’s no wonder that Joon Young catches on so soon, that seeing Song Ah makes him happy.
I also like that this sense of solidarity is helping them be so open with each other. Given their reserved personalities, it’s actually highly unusual for them to be speaking so openly with each other. I think it’s because they each recognize a similar “type” in the other, like, “ah, this person is just like me.” I think that’s why they speak so honestly with each other.
Song Ah telling Joon Young that she doesn’t think she can go to her birthday party; Joon Young telling her about why he spends time at the palace grounds, and why he associates silence with competitions; Song Ah telling Joon Young about how Dong Yoon had supported her decision to major in music and had taught her how to play the violin; Song Ah admitting that she knew her feelings would come to an end; Joon Young telling her to love moderately; these all feel like very personal things that you wouldn’t tell a new acquaintance. And yet, they share these things with each other, and those sharings are received with openness and without judgment, and they quickly fall into a pattern of helping each other. I like it a lot.
E4. I love how Joon Young readily agrees to go to Song Ah’s birthday celebration, because he knows that she feels awkward around Dong Yoon. Somehow he knows that his presence will help her feel better. It gives me the warm fuzzies, to see Song Ah mouth “Thank you” across the table to Joon Young, and then see Joon Young smile slightly in return at first, before his smile grows wider, like he’s really happy to be there, helping her – which he then tries to hide by taking a sip of his beer. Cute! 😍
E4. I love that Joon Young’s conversations with Song Ah lead him to think about his happiness. I really like how she tells him that the Director of the Foundation had probably hoped that the scholarship would allow him to live happily while playing the piano. That’s so true. And instead of focusing on being happy while playing the piano, Joon Young’s been focused on living up to the expectations that people have placed on him as a recipient of the scholarship. This is a pivotal difference in terms of how he approaches his life, and I am glad that Song Ah sows this seed, for him.
How nice, that Joon Young starts to apply it pretty much immediately, when he reflects on his actions and realizes that he’d gone to the school because he’d wanted to meet Song Ah, because he knew that meeting her would make him happy. Aw. That’s so sweet and heartwarming. And then he says, “I guess it was because I missed you.” Eee! I know he means it in a relatively platonic way, but still. The shy smiles that they both smile at this, as their eyes meet for a short second, before they both shyly look down, are just too cute. Squee!
E5. Joon Young faces an uncomfortable truth spoken by Song Ah, that his statement that talent can be overcome by hard work, and that it’s actually better not to have talent, is a privileged and insensitive one. It’s the first time Joon Young and Song Ah have disagreed on something important, and I’m glad that Song Ah chooses to speak up about it.
E5. I freaking love that Joon Young understands Song Ah’s need to be seen and acknowledged, without her having to say anything about it. He can see it, from observing her reaction to things, that she dearly wants to be acknowledged as a violinist, and I love that he does that for her, in how he addresses the autograph that she’d asked of him. “To violinist Chae Song Ah.” It’s simple, beautiful and impactful, and it hits her right in the feels, and I love him for hitting her right in the feels with that. The tears in her eyes tell me that she feels validated and affirmed, and I love that he knows that, without her having to tell him either. ❤️
E5. It’s so cute that when Joon Young calls Song Ah, she’s able to guess where he is, without him having to tell her. It really feels like these two understand each other so well, even though they’ve only gotten to know each other recently.
E5. The way their faces light up with bright smiles when they see other, gives me the warm fuzzies. And the way they awkwardly do a pinky promise, complete with goofy grins, when Joon Young asks Song Ah to keep her promise to call him on a good day, is adorable. They are such a pair of shy dorks. I love it.
E6. I feel like I can understand why Joon Young gravitates towards Song Ah, but doesn’t tell her any of the details of what’s bothering him, when he sees her. He’s such a reserved person, and also, a sensitive soul, to boot, and everything is just bearing down on him on all sides at the same time, that he must feel overwhelmed. I think that many introverts tend to withdraw into themselves when they are overwhelmed, so I am not surprised that Joon Young does that too. However, he’s identified that being with Song Ah makes him happy, and so, I can see why he would still want to see her, even if he doesn’t feel able to talk about the things that are bothering him.
Unfortunately, Song Ah sees that lack of sharing as Joon Young drawing lines between them and holding her at a distance. She feels like he can’t trust her and can’t open up to her. And her way of trying to galvanize him into telling her something, doesn’t land the way she wants it to, and I understand that as well.
She doesn’t feel like she’s close enough to him to demand that he tell her things, and so, the only thing within her control is whether or not she’s willing to be the friend that he wants her to be. By leveraging on that, she hopes that he will open up so that they can continue to be friends, but he just isn’t ready to talk about any of it, and so respects her decision that she doesn’t want to be that kind of friend to him.
It’s all very respectful of boundaries, but regrettable, in terms of result.
And it doesn’t help matters, that when Song Ah texts Joon Young to tell him her good news, that he’s so caught up with things to do with his mom, Director Na and Jung Kyung, to respond. Plus, to make matters worse, in typical kdrama fashion, everything aligns just so, such that Song Ah misunderstands that Joon Young had been with Jung Kyung, when she’d tried to reach him. I can see why shy and reserved Song Ah would feel that the right thing to do, would be to withdraw from Joon Young too.
A love confession
E6. I really like how the confession scene is played. Song Ah is so stricken by her feelings for Joon Young, and quite possibly, the idea that he would likely still have feelings for Jung Kyung, that she looks like she’s about to cry. I can appreciate her desire to run away from him, and when he runs after her, I can understand her instinct to turn away so that he can’t see her face.
But, I’m so proud of her for turning around and facing him anyway, and telling him that she likes him anyway, even though she doesn’t know how he would react, or if it really means anything to him. That’s so courageous of her. I want to reach into my screen and give her a hug and congratulate her for being brave and speaking her heart.
E7. I’m glad that Joon Young opens up and shares what’s on his mind, after Song Ah’s confession that she likes him. It would be nice if he wasn’t struggling with baggage that needs sorting out, but since he does have baggage to sort out, being honest about it with Song Ah is the best outcome I could have asked for.
Also, it’s nice that Joon Young’s making an effort to seek Song Ah out at school, moving to sit with her and her friends at the cafeteria. It’s such a sweet and innocent thing to do. The way Joon Young and Song Ah joke with each other after the other girls have gone to class, is, again, very dorky, shy and sweet. These two’s bashful smiles just make my day. And I love that they make an ice cream date for the following day, so that they can hang out together some more.
I feel like as long as Hyun Ho and Jung Kyung stay out of Joon Young’s line of sight – or in this case, out of earshot – Joon Young tends to make nice strides forward with Song Ah. I like how he offers to tie her shoelace which has come undone, and I like even more, how Song Ah declines because she says she doesn’t want to fall for him. His amused grin in response is very cute, and I find Song Ah’s honesty very refreshing and winsome as well. The way they are so ok with their feelings being out in the open between them, is nice.
The other little boyfriend-type behaviors are very cute too, like the way he offers to hold onto her violin, while she washes her hands. It’s such a gentlemanly, date-like thing to do. It’s too bad that it all ends abruptly with a confrontation between Joon Young, Jung Kyung and Hyun Ho.
I appreciate that Joon Young goes after Song Ah and stops her from leaving, and I also appreciate that he tells her that what Jung Kyung said about them sleeping together isn’t true, and I appreciate that Song Ah believes him. It’s such a sad moment, though, that when she asks if there is any room for her, between him and Jung Kyung, given their many years of history together, Joon Young is literally unable to reply. He looks lost and quite dumbfounded, and I think that his hesitance might have more to do with Jung Kyung’s unpredictability than doubt in his own feelings. I feel bad for Song Ah, though, that his silence basically amplifies her fears, that his emotional entanglement with Jung Kyung is too great for him to overcome.
E7. I’m curious to know who started the rumor about Song Ah going out of her way to snag Joon Young’s attention, but I’m glad that Song Ah is honest and tells Joon Young that it upset her to hear him deny their dating rumor so strongly. And when he asks why she’d subject herself to the discomfort of taking a special class from none other than Jung Kyung, I love that Song Ah puts things into perspective so well, that although her feelings for him are important, there are other things that are important to her too.
I really hope things start looking up for our bashful lovebirds, now that Joon Young’s made his stand clear to Jung Kyung. I also really want Song Ah’s heart to stop getting trampled on, especially after she’s been so brave to confess her feelings.
E8. I like that Joon Young waits for Song Ah outside the auditorium, and I’m glad he tells her that he’d waited for her; that he echoes what she’d said to him earlier, back to her; that every little thing that she says and does, matters to him too. Aw. That’s the kind of reciprocity and affirmation that Song Ah needs, and I’m glad that Joon Young wastes no time in giving it to her.
E8. Even though Professor Yoo isn’t my favorite character, he does have a point when he says that people will speak poorly of Song Ah, if Joon Young plays accompaniment for her. It’s true that people tend to gossip, and given Song Ah’s poor ranking in class and Joon Young’s reputation as a superstar, I do think that Professor Yoo is right in saying the people would assume that any success Song Ah achieves, is because of Joon Young rather than her own efforts.
So, even though I can see why Song Ah is upset that Joon Young isn’t offering to play accompaniment for her, I can see the wisdom of not doing so. Also, while it might help to clear up any misunderstanding if Joon Young communicated all this to her, I can also understand why he would refrain from it. The would-be rumor stems from the fact that people think poorly of Song Ah’s abilities, and I can see why Joon Young wouldn’t want her to be exposed to that.
E8. Even though there are still some misunderstandings between Joon Young and Song Ah, I do take comfort in the fact that they manage to avoid some of them. When Song Ah sees Joon Young take down the orchestra seating information, her assumption is that he’s ashamed of her placing, when actually, he doesn’t want her to be affected by things like placing, which he thinks isn’t important.
Although I’m not sure that their conversation actually solves anything in a real way (more on that next), I am relieved that at least their different takes on the matter are out in the open. That’s better than Song Ah angsting over the idea of Joon Young being ashamed of her.
I’m actually quite disappointed that Joon Young tells Song Ah that he can’t be with her, if she’s so concerned with things like levels, and then walks off from their conversation. I understand that he’s frustrated because everyone around him keeps talking about levels, but his reaction ultimately comes across as being dismissive of Song Ah’s struggles. It’s easy for him to not care about levels, when he’s the one with the superstar reputation who has entire orchestras accompanying him. It’s harder for Song Ah, who’s struggled for 4 years, and is still struggling, to be upgraded from that last place in the orchestra seating.
A bashful couple is born
E8. Joon Young rushing to see Song Ah, to tell her that he thinks he has to play accompaniment for Jung Kyung, is a classic misunderstanding. Because Song Ah is the girl that he likes, he wants to make sure that she doesn’t misunderstand why he’s playing for Jung Kyung. But, because he asks her to wait, Song Ah is hoping for something that’s about them, not about Jung Kyung. And the fact that he’s telling her he’s playing for Jung Kyung, when he’d refrained from offering to play for her, must sting. It’s not surprising to me, that Song Ah feels hurt and blindsided.
But. In the face of Song Ah’s tearful dismay, Joon Young is finally galvanized into telling her how he feels. “I like you.” And I have to admit, I kinda love that once he gets it out of his mouth once, he can’t seem to stop saying it; it’s as if he likes the sound of it on his own lips, that he likes her. And when he leans in to kiss her, his hands looking strong and firm as he grasps her shoulders, his kisses are gentle but intent; tender, yet just a little hesitant. It’s perfect. Melt. ❤️
E9. I love that initial melty smooches aside, Song Ah tells Joon Young why she’d gotten upset before, and then goes on to request that going forward, he tell her the most important thing first. That’s so healthy. I love that Joon Young picks up fast. Immediately, he offers to play accompaniment for her, rephrasing his offer as a request, for her to allow him to play for her. Awww. I find that very sweet. And I love that after giving it a moment’s thought, Song Ah declines, because she realizes that her entrance exam is important enough to her, that she wants to feel like she’s doing it on her own merit. Again, so healthy. I really like this.
E9. I really love the shy, amused smiles that Joon Young can’t help but break into, when talking with Song Ah. The way he half turns away from her when he smiles in amusement, is really cute, like he just can’t contain himself.
E9. Joon Young finally picks up on why Song Ah avoided using his handkerchief the other day, and decides to put it away. This is considerate and sensitive of him. I love even more, that he then asks Song Ah for the handkerchief that she uses to prop her chin on the violin, and promises to get her a new one in return, so that they can exchange them as gifts. Eee! That is sweet, and I love that this not only serves as a couple item between them, but also is his way of showing Song Ah that she’s taken over that “territory” in his life, in a manner of speaking. It’s perfect.
E9. Joon Young stating so matter-of-factly to Song Ah’s classmates, that the rumor about them dating isn’t a false rumor, is so coolly squee-worthy. I love so much, that he really doesn’t care about the gossip, and just wants to be upfront about his relationship with Song Ah. ❤️
E9. Tee hee. The ice cream kiss is cute. Joon Young’s sheepish confession that he’d previously asked Song Ah out for ice cream purely as an excuse to spend time with her, is exactly the kind of thing I’d expect a shy guy like him to do, and the way he assures her that he does like ice cream a lot, seems laden with meaning, since he omits the object and simply says, “I like [object], a lot.” The way he looks at her as he says that, screams love confession to me. Melt.
Song Ah offering to eat his ice cream is totally in character for her too, since she never likes to feel like she’s imposed on someone. To have that result in dropped ice cream and hyper-proximity leading to kisses, is just the kind of cute romance I want for these two. Song Ah leaning in and kissing Joon Young is quite unexpected, and Joon Young’s surprised-stunned-I-need-to-kiss-you-back look on his face is so perfectly squee-worthy, before he leans in, cradles her face with his hand, and kisses her back, with feeling. Flail. Puddle.
E10. In the midst of the fallout with Min Seong, it gives me a satisfying sense of comfort, that Song Ah doesn’t have to contend with any upset feelings from Joon Young. In fact, there’s such a grounded, steady quality to how he waits for Min Seong to leave, and then walks over to Song Ah, kneels down with her, and rubs her back to comfort her. I feel like the sight of this must have killed any residual hope that Dong Yoon might have had, because it shows such a rock-solid picture of togetherness.
I am a fan of healthy conversations in dramas, and I’m glad to see Song Ah share her thoughts and feelings about the whole situation, with Joon Young. It feels super refreshing that they’re able to talk about this, and he’s able to encourage her, without even feeling slighted that she’d like another guy. What I mean is, sometimes people are fine with something that you’ve done or felt, when they’re not romantically involved with you, but once you’re in a relationship with them, the jealousies can suddenly appear where before there were none. I’m grateful that this isn’t the case with Joon Young. Even though he and Song Ah are dating now, he doesn’t suddenly grow jealous of the fact that she used to have a crush on Dong Yoon, and I find that very healthy.
E10. What unfortunate timing, for Song Ah, having just finished a difficult session with her frustrated accompanist, to then see Jung Kyung and Joon Young playing together, while other students ooh and ahh at their prowess. I can imagine how this must make her feel alienated and very lousy, like she doesn’t belong with Joon Young, because she’s just not at his level, and also, like there’s such a strong history and chemistry between Joon Young and Jung Kyung, that there’s no room for her in that picture.
I really feel for Song Ah. It’s not like she can try any harder to be an accomplished violinist. And it’s not like she isn’t understanding of Joon Young’s connection with Jung Kyung. It just feels like she’s getting squeezed out of the picture, when she’s barely arrived in the picture, and I want to protect her from all of it.
E11. I am so happy that Joon Young ditches practice with Jung Kyung, to go to Daejeon with Song Ah. That’s a pretty spontaneous thing for Joon Young to do, and I count that as being pretty huge for him. He’s choosing his heart over his sense of duty and responsibility, quite possibly for the first time, and I think that’s so important. And, I can practically reach out and touch the moral boost this gives Song Ah, it’s that palpable. She knows that he chose her over Jung Kyung, and that’s so important.
I agree with Song Ah. I’d been upset too, when Professor Lee had asked her to go to Daejeon, but seeing as how that becomes a meaningful day out with Joon Young, where he gets to show her places that were important to him growing up, and they get to eat together at his family’s restaurant, and then they get to have tea together, where they tell each other honestly the things that are on their minds, that makes me happy and puts a smile on my face. Their regular shy smiles are just icing on the cake.
I think it’s so important that Joon Young tells Song Ah a little more about his family and how it’s affected him, as he’s played piano with the sole view of clearing their debt. And I think it’s important too, that Song Ah is honest with Joon Young about why she’s even in Daejeon, and that she’s happy that he came to Daejeon with her.
The way Joon Young contemplates the sight of Song Ah sleeping with her head on his shoulder during the bus ride back to Seoul, and then leans his own head on hers, gives me the feels. He looks like he’s so content, just inhaling her presence. Ahhh. I’m very pleased that our bashful lovebirds had this day of quality time together.
E12. I like that Joon Young is happy to play for Song Ah, and keeps asking when they can practice, because that shows he’s interested and proactive about it. On the other hand, he seems clueless about why Song Ah might have a raw nerve around him playing the same piece of music with Jung Kyung. The fact that he’s playing the same music isn’t his fault, of course, because in both cases he didn’t choose the music. But it strikes me as a little odd that he doesn’t clue in to the fact that Song Ah feels so much less accomplished than Jung Kyung. Certainly, it doesn’t help that Song Ah struggles to articulate it as well.
And to top it all off, we get the beginnings of an OTP misunderstanding, since we end the episode with Song Ah catching sight of Joon Young in a cab with Jung Kyung, after he’d told her that he couldn’t meet up with her because his mom had come to Seoul unannounced. Aish. Please have a healthy conversation soon and sort this out, you two.. You can do eet!
E13. After the spurt of honesty during their trip to Daejeon last episode, I’m rather bummed that there’s so much that is not communicated between Joon Young and Song Ah this episode. In particular, Joon Young hasn’t told Song Ah about his money problems, nor about his performance struggles, which are the two biggest things bugging him right now. And there’s also the thing with Professor Yoo, who’s constantly criticizing the way Joon Young plays, passing off Joon Young’s playing as his own. That’s a lot.
I get the feeling that Joon Young would tell Song Ah about everything, but just doesn’t feel ready to talk about it right now. The timing is bad, however, and this lack of communication is going to cost them, it looks like. Song Ah tries to reach out to Joon Young to tell him about her struggles, but it feels like every time she tries to reach out and talk to him, she somehow gets derailed. Sigh. Will our bashful lovebirds ever catch a break?
This all makes me think of The Tale of the Cheerful Dog, in It’s Okay To Not Be Okay.. I feel like both Joon Young and Song Ah have leashes that are binding them and holding them back, that are causing them grief, that they need to cut, in order to be free. Cut those leashes and be free, bashful lovebirds!
E14. This is the usual point in a kdrama where angst rears its head in a big way, so I’m not at all surprised that this is where our bashful couple spends this episode. While I’m a little bummed that everyone’s basically quite sad and mournful, I’m mollified by a few things.
Firstly, there isn’t any noble idiocy driving the breakup between Joon Young and Song Ah. The only shadow of noble idiocy is in how Joon Young keeps the plagiarism issue from Song Ah because it has to do with Träumerei, and he doesn’t want her to get the wrong idea. Admittedly, I find this rather shortsighted on Joon Young’s part, because it’s just so much worse for Song Ah to hear a twisted version of events from someone else, which she does. But, this is in line with Joon Young’s behavior all this time, and because he’s acting in a way that is so true to his character, I’m willing to accept this as part of his character, rather than as a form of noble idiocy.
Joon Young is so private and struggles with so many internal demons to do with self-worth, that he’s consistently put off telling Song Ah things through their entire relationship. It just seems the kind of thing he would do, to try to solve things on his own without telling her.
Second, I find it perfectly poignant that Song Ah, in stepping away from the relationship, is actually taking Joon Young’s earlier advice, to only think about herself, to heart. Even though this relationship is precious to her, and even though she likes Joon Young a great deal, she’s recognizing how much this is hurting her, and she’s making a conscious decision to put herself first. That’s a huge step for Song Ah, and I can’t help feeling like this is a healthy thing for her, even though this entails heartbreak for both her and Joon Young.
That final scene, where Joon Young gives Song Ah the umbrella that she’d given him, is so sad and poignant. Even though he really doesn’t want to break up with her, he’s respecting her wishes, while still demonstrating care for her. That’s touching, really, and it’s clear that in spite of his hangups, he really loves Song Ah in his own way.
Seo Jung Yeon as Manager Cha
I just wanted to say that I really, really liked Manager Cha. She just seems like a great older sister to have.
She consistently comes across as sharp and insightful, but at the same time, also wise and restrained. She often provides a listening ear to Joon Young and Song Ah, and she always comes across as so down-to-earth, understanding and kind. Such an assuring presence, for quite a few of our characters. Love her.
STUFF THAT WAS OK
What I’ve got in this section, is basically the two love triangles, so if you’re leery of spoilers, feel free to skip this entire section.
The thing with Joon Young, Jung Kyung and Hyun Ho [SPOILERS]
Joon Young basically loved Jung Kyung for years, but never became properly cognizant of it, until it was too late because she was dating Hyun Ho. I can see how that might happen. The problem is, Jung Kyung now seems to like Joon Young too, and essentially acts out, a lot, because of it.
I feel most sorry for Hyun Ho, who becomes increasingly uneasy about the state of his relationship with Jung Kyung, with all the weirdness between her and Joon Young. He desperately tries to do everything he can, to solidify their relationship, but all his efforts fall flat. It’s hard to watch, and it makes me dislike Jung Kyung, because of how poorly she treats him.
In episode 4, I feel really bad for both Hyun Ho and Joon Young, in the scene where Hyun Ho drunkenly asks Joon Young to leave. These two are friends, and this thing with Jung Kyung is putting a strain on their friendship. How awful, that Joon Young would be asked by his best friend to leave, because said best friend feels insecure about his relationship with his girlfriend. And, because Joon Young does harbor feelings for Jung Kyung (or maybe did? Since Jung Kyung is being awful and he does tell her that he doesn’t like her lately?), there’s likely some guilt there, that is adding pressure to the mix.
I appreciate that Joon Young finally concedes to Jung Kyung, in episode 5, that she’d been important to him for a long time, so that elephant in the room is finally acknowledged. I like that he’s honest about it, yet also firm about why there needs to be no special meaning between them. I’m not surprised that Jung Kyung says she’ll leave Hyun Ho for his sake, though I still find it callous of her, and I’m glad that Joon Young shuts it down immediately.
Although I don’t wish heartbreak on Hyun Ho, and I do find the way that Jung Kyung breaks up with him cold and callous, I do think that he’s better off without this toxic and dysfunctional relationship.
I feel sad, though, that the longstanding friendship between Joon Young and Hyun Ho becomes a casualty of this love triangle. I felt really bad for Joon Young in episode 10, when Hyun Ho tells him that Joon Young’s already lost him, and he’s not coming back. Oof. What a way to lose your best friend, after struggling for years to keep your feelings for the girl that you like tamped down, for the sake of your friendship.
It’s an awful situation all-around, and it’s truly unfortunate that Joon Young only realized that he liked Jung Kyung at about the time she started dating Hyun Ho, but I can understand Joon Young’s choice. He couldn’t choose not to like Jung Kyung, so he chose not to say anything about it because he knew that if he did, he’d end up losing Hyun Ho. He chose to swallow his feelings as best as he could, so that he could keep being friends with Hyun Ho and Jung Kyung.
It’s too bad that the friendships between these three suffer because of complicated unrequited feelings, but I do like how Show reconciles them at the end of our story, so all’s well that ends well.
The thing with Song Ah, Dong Yoon and Min Seong [SPOILERS]
Song Ah definitely has feelings for Dong Yoon, as we become increasingly sure of, and the clincher is the way she responds in episode 2, when he tells her to say “I love you” three times to her violin. She complies, but her shy shifting gaze, which flicks in his direction every so often, tells us that she’s really saying it to him.
And, it seems that Dong Yoon might have feelings for her too, since she’s the one that he calls, and the one that he asks, to meet him at the airport upon his return. And, the fact that they feel the need to keep their private meeting as secret from everyone else, tells me that they do place special meaning on their interactions. Why else pretend that Song Ah is late to the dinner gathering, when she’d actually already been with Dong Yoon at his workshop, when Min Seong called?
I can see, though, that neither of them would act on these feelings, out of consideration to Min Seong, whom Dong Yoon used to date. Plus, there’s the thing where Min Seong has said that she still harbors feelings for him. All the more that Song Ah wouldn’t allow herself to act on her feelings for Dong Yoon.
It all gets complicated and messed up, when Min Seong can’t get over her feelings for Dong Yoon, and then overhears Song Ah admitting that she’d liked Dong Yoon a lot, for a long time.
I’d known in my gut that Min Seong would end up overhearing something about the feelings between Dong Yoon and Song Ah, whether it was about his feelings for Song Ah, or the feelings that Song Ah had had for him, but it was still hard to see Min Seong’s hurt expression and Song Ah’s shocked and tearful horror.
I can imagine how awful Min Seong feels. Not only does she feel humiliated in front of Dong Yoon the guy that she likes and who’s dumped her twice, and Joon Young the superstar to whom she’d just bragged about her lack of secrets with Song Ah, she’s also hurt that her best friend kept this big secret from her. To this end, I can sympathize with Min Seong, and I can understand that she doesn’t feel like she can face Song Ah for the time being.
On the other hand, her statement that Song Ah shouldn’t have liked Dong Yoon, is unreasonable. If Min Seong herself can’t control her heart and can’t help liking Dong Yoon, how does she expect someone else to control her heart? But I rationalize that Min Seong is hurt and therefore unable to think straight or sympathize with Song Ah’s position.
This friendship suffers too, and for quite a while, because of all the complicated unrequited feelings, but I’m glad for the reconciliation that we get in episode 14. Dong Yoon basically smooths over any residual annoyance that I might’ve felt towards him, by going straight out to get Min Seong, when he realizes that Song Ah really needs someone to comfort her, and cry with her. He’s not a bad egg after all.
STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
Park Ji Hyun as Jung Kyung
Imma be honest; I did not like Jung Kyung. I found her endlessly prickly and entitled, and I often wondered what Joon Young and Hyun Ho saw in her, to like her as much as they did. 😜
However, I do think Park Ji Hyun does an excellent job of portraying Jung Kyung as the damaged, complicated person that she is. She’s consistently unapologetic for who she is, and even though I have a visceral dislike for her cold persona, I kind of admire her for owning who she is, so unabashedly.
Show does make Jung Kyung a little more sympathetic by the time we end our story, and that did help me feel more kindly towards Jung Kyung.
E4. There’s something quite cold about Jung Kyung that I find her unapproachable and hard to understand. She never seems to show any hint of feeling sorry towards another person. When her grandmother asks her to work at the Foundation she turns Gran down without a trace of remorse, and even speaks quite bluntly to her, which I found rather rude.
And then there’s how she treats Hyun Ho, who’s supposed to be her boyfriend. She’s indifferent and unenthusiastic when he presents her with couple rings, and then proceeds to not wear the ring, even though he makes a big deal out of putting the ring on her finger. And what about common courtesy? When she leaves the ring in the washroom (by mistake, I hope?) and Song Ah returns it to her, she doesn’t even say thank you. I found that quite rude too.
Also, what a low blow, for her to attack Joon Young in the middle of acting out during practice, to say that he has no opinion of his own. I know it’s not about the practice or the music, and she’s referring to deeper issues, but this obtuse lashing out isn’t helpful or healthy, and I can’t say she’s had the best way of handling things either. If her idea of pushing back in a situation where Joon Young doesn’t commit to an opinion, in this case, his feelings for her, then her dating another guy in retaliation is no better and she shouldn’t feel like she has the right to judge.
E6. I am struggling to understand Jung Kyung. She seems completely ruthless and heartless when she breaks up with Hyun Ho. She doesn’t soften towards him even once, even though he tries to talk to her about it. And yet, in the privacy of her room, she looks at their old photos and cries. Why..? If she really does care about him, she’s done a pretty poor job of showing it, all the time that we’ve known her. She’s always seemed low-key annoyed at the fact that they were dating, and treated him accordingly. So I’m quite surprised by her tears.
E7. I really struggle to understand Jung Kyung. Since she’d cried after her apology conversation with Hyun Ho, I’d expected some change in her behavior, in the way of being nicer and more understanding, at least to Hyun Ho and Joon Young. But we see almost right away, that she practically demands Joon Young to play accompaniment for her, for her recital. There’s no acknowledgment of their recent falling out; instead, she approaches him in her typical cool, detached way as if nothing’s happened, and tells him to play for her. I can’t help but think she behaves in a very entitled way, sometimes. Plus, she’s consistently dismissive of Song Ah, like she’s a lesser being who doesn’t deserve basic courtesies.
I am so glad that Joon Young turns her down flatly and emphatically, telling her that he doesn’t want to.
E8. Color me surprised; for all of her general bad behavior and attitude issues, Jung Kyung is a good teacher. That master class is impressive. She looks like she knows what’s she’s doing, and her direction to students feels sound. Plus, she doesn’t allow personal feelings to get in the way, and even praises Song Ah for things that she does well, and she seems to genuinely want to help Song Ah improve. I think teaching might be Jung Kyung’s gift.
Also, compared to the other professors that we’ve seen, like Professor Lee and Professor Yoo, Jung Kyung comes out looking like a star. She’s not interested in the media play of it, unlike Professor Yoo, who seems too concerned with it, and she actually teaches, unlike Professor Lee.
E8. The way Jung Kyung positions it, it’s Hyun Ho’s fault for not holding onto her when she’d asked him to. I don’t understand that. I thought he’d reacted quite well, when she told him that she was wavering. He’d comforted her, and encouraged her, and held her. What else had she expected of him? If it’s your heart that’s wavering, then it’s your job to deal with your heart, not someone else’s.
E11. We learn more about Jung Kyung this hour, and I have to admit that I now see her in a slightly more sympathetic light. Finally, we get some insight into why her career as a genius violinist got truncated. She’d loved the violin, but experienced stage fright because she’d been afraid of her mother, who’d had extremely high expectations of her. That’s kind of sad, I must say. Especially since Jung Kyung seems to genuinely love the violin.
E11. I rather like the side arc of her helping Ji Won, the young violinist who’s basically feeling the same things that Jung Kyung used to feel. I hope that this arc will bring about some kind of resolution for Jung Kyung too.
E12. Jung Kyung actually does a really good job of working with Ji Won, and she even reminds the girl to let her mother know that they’re working together.
E12. We finally get some insight into why Jung Kyung is so against the idea of working at the Foundation, and now that she’s articulated it, it makes a lot of sense.
She sees Director Na and her dad obsessing over her mother’s memory through the Foundation, and basically using the Foundation as her mother’s replacement, and she sees how unhealthy that is, and doesn’t want to perpetuate it, and neither does she want to do the same thing herself. That seems pretty reasonable to me.
E14. Jung Kyung is, once again, that bemusing mix of being very concerned for Joon Young, while being completely insensitive, at the same time. From the way she is so blithely unconcerned for Hyun Ho’s feelings when she asks to see him, to how she ignores Joon Young’s request to let him deal with the issue on his own, she seems only convinced of the veracity her own judgment.
The worst thing she does, though, is lash out at Song Ah in exactly the spots where it hurts most, in exactly the way that Joon Young doesn’t want her to hurt. Ugh. That was mean and spiteful, and it’s obvious that in this case, Jung Kyung was acting to achieve maximum damage. That’s just so wrong. I wanted to throttle her for her terrible behavior. Even if she dislikes Song Ah, she should respect Joon Young’s wishes, especially since she claims to care about him so much.
Choi Dae Hoon as Manager Park
I started my watch feeling quite neutral towards Manager Park even though he often sounded like a heartless jerk while stating facts about public sentiment and rising or waning popularity. But, by the halfway point of our story, I’d decided that I really didn’t like Manager Park.
[SPOILER] He put pressure on Joon Young to agree to the talk concert, then complained about the talk concert to Joon Young’s overarching management, so that Kyunghoo Foundation would be dropped as Joon Young’s agency in Korea, SO THAT he could himself run a local agency to manage Joon Young?!? That’s so ridiculous I can’t even. *sputter* What a ridiculously blatant betrayal. 🤯😡
And then, when he becomes Joon Young’s manager, he keeps putting pressure on Joon Young to do things that Joon Young isn’t willing to do. Did not like. [END SPOILER]
We do see Manager Park dealing with some regrets in Show’s late stretch, but I honestly think Show went pretty easy on him.
All the professors
All the professors we see in Seoryeong University are either awful and manipulative, grossly unhelpful, or both. Ugh. 🙄
I disliked Professor Lee the most, for the manipulative, condescending manner in which she treated Song Ah. Vapid parasite.
I disliked Professor Yoo the least, because there were at least hints of him wanting to be a good teacher, in the past. Also, he did come across as rather downtrodden and pathetic, with his own album being so widely panned.
I have to admit I’d thought the worst of Professor Yoo when we learned in episode 13, that Joon Young’s rendition of Träumerei had been uploaded with credit to Professor Yoo as the pianist. On further thought, though, I feel like I can understand Professor Yoo. He’d inadvertently recorded Joon Young’s rendition of Träumerei, and, with that in hand, I believe he’d decided to test the waters a little bit, just to see what kind of reaction he’d get from his producer.
We know that he’s been troubled by the underwhelming reception to his album, and this, to him, would have been a perfect way to test the producer, to see if there was any prejudice in play, or if he really was as subpar of a pianist as the negative feedback implied. It’s clear that Professor Yoo had never intended to actually steal Joon Young’s work and claim it as his own.
As for why Professor Yoo pretended not to know what Joon Young was talking about when Joon Young confronted him, I guess it was just too embarrassing a thing to admit. Professor Yoo probably decided to bite the bullet and go with the misunderstanding, so that he wouldn’t have to feel humiliated by the admission of doing something like that. I don’t think that’s good or right, certainly, but I can understand why Professor Yoo would make this choice, given the circumstances.
THEMES / IDEAS [SPOILERS]
E3. I like the idea that music can comfort people in ways that words can’t.
E5. This episode, there’s the idea of loving something vs. having the ability to do something well. Song Ah has a true and enduring love for the violin, even though she doesn’t play it well, while Dong Yoon is skilled a playing it, but doesn’t love it, no matter how hard he tries. It’s something that rings true, and it makes one wonder which is more important.
E5. Also, there’s the idea that if you really love something, then it doesn’t require a lot of courage to pursue it, because you are simply following your heart.
E7. There’s this idea of hurting people on purpose, this episode. Director Na says that she hurts people to help them see past their preoccupation with love, and while I don’t understand that sentiment (coz surely there are better ways of helping people than hurting them?), it does seem that she is sincere about it, and she even looks a little sad that she might not be remembered as a good person.
On the other hand, Jung Kyung hurts Hyun Ho on purpose, and then feels guilty for it, when her father advises her that it’s how we hurt others that tends to linger with us, over time. That’s when she apologizes to Hyun Ho, and that’s also when I decide that she can’t have been hurting him for his own good, then.
E10. There’s an idea of habits this episode, and the question of whether it’s worth trying to correct those habits, in case correcting them does more harm than good.
I think that Joon Young is a habit to Jung Kyung, as much as Jung Kyung’s been a habit to him. The way Jung Kyung tells Song Ah that she plans to wait for Joon Young, just like how he’d waited for her all these years, also sounds like a habit to me.
SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]
It occurs to me that there’s a section of viewers who would find this last angsty stretch particularly frustrating to watch. I think it’s quite understandable for viewers to be in this section, especially if they’re not introverts themselves, or don’t get introverts in general.
For me as an introvert, though, I get this episode. I really do. The quiet angst this episode all feels warranted and organic, to my eyes. I feel seen, as an introvert. This is how my people deal. And I like that our characters are being consistent; their behavior feels well-aligned to their personalities, and this just all felt like part of a necessary journey. In a drama landscape where dramas often throw in some manufactured angst in the last stretch in order to keep the OTP apart for a while, this feels like a Solid Win, on Show’s part.
It makes sense to me that both Song Ah and Joon Young withdraw into themselves, after their break-up. And, it feels poetic as well, that they aren’t just grappling with their break-up with each other. They’re also grappling with their individual break-ups with their instruments, because there is also real love and real consequences inherent there.
They both separately conclude that they will quit their instruments, and it strikes me how different their reasons are. Joon Young chooses to quit because he wants to be happy, and he feels that playing the piano doesn’t make him happy, whereas Song Ah chooses to quit because she realizes that as much as she loves the violin, it doesn’t love her back; she isn’t cut of the brilliant performing cloth that is necessary in order to make it as a professional violinist. She chooses to quit because she can’t see anymore road ahead of her with her violin, despite her deep and profound love for it.
I am glad, though, that Song Ah decides to go through with the graduate school entrance exam recital, despite her decision to quit. I like that sense of purpose and responsibility about her, and if this really is the end of her performance career, I feel that the recital will give her a sense of closure as well.
I’ve always liked Manager Cha, and this episode, she really comes through, in her grounded, understated way. I like how she gives Joon Young the opportunity to talk when they meet for dinner. The way Joon Young talks about how he’s hurt Song Ah, this feels like a cathartic and needful chance for him to crystalize and verbalize what he’s been feeling, and Manager Cha feels like the perfect non-judgmental yet caring listening ear that he needs.
I feel like it’s partly because he starts opening up to Manager Cha, that he’s able to tell his mom that he’s having a hard time. My gut says that if he hadn’t released his emotional valve a little beforehand, that he probably would’ve felt unable to cry with Mom. And our boy really did need to cry with Mom.
I honestly didn’t see Director Na’s death coming, but to Show’s credit, we’d seen several hints of her shaky health prior to this, so it’s not exactly out of the blue. I just.. didn’t expect her to die so suddenly. But her death proves to be a needed catalyst in some ways. It brings Hyun Ho back to Korea and we have some conciliatory moments between him and Jung Kyung, as well as him and Joon Young. Jung Kyung really is devastated by the loss of her grandmother, and she looks worn, wan and vulnerable at the wake; this is arguably the most sympathetic I’ve felt towards Jung Kyung, so far.
Importantly, the wake also gives Joon Young a much-needed opportunity to talk with Song Ah, when they cross paths there. I think that without an event like this that basically demands their respectful presence, they might’ve gone a lot longer without talking.
I’m really glad that Joon Young runs after Song Ah to ask to play for her recital that day, and I’m glad that Song Ah agrees. Without much – if any – chance for rehearsal beforehand, Joon Young and Song Ah give a flawless performance that is absorbing, stirring, and completely in-sync. I feel like this is a statement in itself, in terms of how perfectly matched Song Ah and Joon Young are. Also, look at that glorious flourish of a finish. 🤩 I feel so proud of Song Ah, in this moment.
What I love even more, is the conversation that they have, after the performance.
I love that Song Ah shares her thoughts about why Professor Yoo had singled out Träumerei, among the many other pieces of music that Joon Young must have played that day that he’d used Professor Yoo’s office; that it must have been because Joon Young’s rendition of Träumerei had touched Professor Yoo’s heart the most. She then encourages him to keep following his heart. Augh. This is perfect, because she’s speaking to the exact need that Joon Young has; this is his existential struggle as a musician.
And then, I freaking love that Joon Young takes that advice and applies it immediately, by following his heart to tell Song Ah, “I love you.” Ahhh! YES. FINALLY.
I’m so glad that Joon Young goes on to articulate that he’s having a hard time, and he’s telling her he loves her, for his own sake. It’s oddly moving to me, that expressing his love for her, is his way of being selfish.
We end the episode seeing Song Ah leave the building on her own – so they haven’t reconciled – but I feel it’s so important that she knows that he loves her, and we got that this episode. I am happy about that.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
Show serves up a finale that stays true to its thoughtful vibe, and also stays true to our characters, which are both very important things in my books, and I feel solidly satisfied with this ending.
Song Ah’s response to Joon Young’s love declaration, is that she needs some time. She explains with tears in her eyes, that more than the wounds she received from him in their relationship, she’s wounded herself even more, and asks if he’d be willing to wait for her. This is so perfect, I feel.
This is such a healthy, honest response (and you guys know I dig healthy relationship dynamics), and on top of that, it’s a perfect callback to when she’d first told him that she’d like him. He’d asked her then, for time as well. I deeply appreciate the fact that this show acknowledges that there is a healthy third possible response to “I love you.” Besides, “I love you too, let’s date” and “I don’t love you, I’m sorry,” there’s also, “I love you too, but I need some time.” Ahhh. I’m not sure why, exactly, but this gives me a great deal of satisfaction.
We also get what feels like a healthy reconciliation between Joon Young and Hyun Ho, with Hyun Ho showing up at Joon Young’s apartment with the same spicy packaged tteokbokki that Joon Young used to bring him. Aw.
These two have been estranged over Jung Kyung for far too long, and I’m glad that Hyun Ho feels healed up enough, to finally reach out, because I’m sure that Joon Young would have given Hyun Ho as much time and space as he needed and therefore would’ve probably not reached out first. I love that no words need to be exchanged; Hyun Ho simply puts down the tteokbokki, and gives Joon Young a hug. Aw. That’s nice.
The piano trio which had previously been canceled, now finally goes ahead, for Director Na’s memorial concert, and Song Ah even surprises Joon Young by showing up as his page turner. I rather like this extra touch, because not only does it show her becoming more ready to be involved in a non-performer capacity, it’s also a nice callback to the first time she’d been asked to be Joon Young’s page turner, and he’d told her that it helps to flow with the pianist’s breath. I just enjoy that hint and reminder, that Song Ah’s still very much in tune with Joon Young, even though they’ve technically broken up.
I think it’s fitting that Hyun Ho and Jung Kyung part ways; this makes more sense to me than them reconciling, at least at this point in their stories. Jung Kyung’s only just beginning to show some awareness of how happy she’d been with Hyun Ho, and also, she’s deep in grieving for her recently departed grandmother. It would be too soon for her to date Hyun Ho again.
As for Hyun Ho, he’s only just started his job in the US, and after all this time of having his life revolve around Jung Kyung, I think it’s a good thing for him to have the time and space to live his life and find his own place in the world, for himself. If these two do reconcile in the future, I think the time spent apart would have done them good, and would give them a healthier foundation on which to build a new relationship.
Jung Kyung takes Song Ah’s reminder to heart, to take control of her own music, and withdraws her application for professorship at the university. Instead, she pursues teaching at a music academy, and gets to teach Ji Won, the young violinist who’d taken lessons from her before, again, because Ji Won’s mom finally realizes how important it is for Ji Won to enjoy playing the violin. I think this is a great choice for Jung Kyung, because she really is an excellent teacher, and she also seems to genuinely enjoy helping students.
Manager Cha offers Song Ah the chance to work at Kyunghoo Foundation, and in response to Song Ah’s hesitation about her suitability, Manager Cha reminds her that she is very suitable for the job, because she knows how to put the performer first, like how she’d taken off her own shoes previously, to lend them to Jo Soo An.
I love Manager Cha’s use of the music term “crescendo” – which looks like an extended version of “<” – to illustrate that when you’re at the smallest moment in your life, that’s when your crescendo begins. GOSH I LOVE THAT. 🤩 That’s so meaningful and uplifting, and is just what Song Ah – and anyone else who feels like they’re in a slump – needs to hear.
At Joon Young’s graduation recital, he’s disappointed at not seeing Song Ah in the audience, but plays from his heart, just like Song Ah had advised him to, and the result is gorgeous, swirling, deeply moving music. Joon Young receives multiple standing ovations, and I’m very proud of him. I’m also really glad for him, that his mom comes to see him, and tells him that his performance made her cry. It’s just the kind of thing that Joon Young needs to hear, as a musician. Song Ah catches the last part of his performance, and viscerally feels everything that he’s expressing to her, in his music. It moves her to tears, and when she goes to see him in his waiting room afterwards, she tells him that she loves him, and our bashful lovebirds are finally reunited, with tender emotional kisses. 😍 Huzzah!
Everything eases into a new normal, as Joon Young and Song Ah graduate, and Song Ah starts work at the Foundation. Song Ah eventually becomes ready to part with her violin, and at Dong Yoon’s workshop, when given a moment alone, she says a sincere, tearful goodbye to the instrument that she’s loved for so long. It’s an emotional and sad moment, but seeing her walking happily with Joon Young soon after, I’m convinced that Song Ah is making the right decision for herself.
Joon Young starts traveling and performing again, while Song Ah gets even more settled into her job at the Foundation, and on one of his trips back to Seoul, Joon Young proposes (I think?) with couple rings, and the couple puts the rings on for each other, with bashful smiles and kisses. Aw. Notably, Joon Young puts the ring on Song Ah’s right hand, in a silent acknowledgement that in his eyes, she’s still a violinist. That is very sweet. 🥰
In her closing voiceover, Song Ah says lovingly, that because of Joon Young, she will go on loving, and go on dreaming, with all her heart.
I really like where we leave our bashful couple, because they’ve both made such meaningful strides in their personal journeys. Joon Young’s found his groove with his talent, which had seemed so elusive before, and Song Ah’s found a career where her love for music and her talent for organization collide. It’s great that Joon Young and Song Ah are supporting each other so wholeheartedly, even when they aren’t walking similar paths. I believe that it’s this mutual trust and respect that they’ve built, that will enable them to keep walking together for a long time, as our favorite pair of bashful lovebirds. ❤️
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Understated, thoughtful and heartfelt. Particularly relatable if you’re an introvert &/or a musician.
FINAL GRADE: B++
The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of Do You Like Brahms?, is Lie After Lie. I’ve taken an initial peek, and I’m immediately intrigued and engaged. I’m feeling good about this one!
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. ❤️