THE SHORT VERDICT:
Widely loved and well-regarded, Show boasts a cast of quirky characters, who learn from one another, how to grow as individuals and how to better live life, in the course of their relationships with one another.
To be brutally honest, despite my best efforts, Show’s brand of quirk never did sit easily with me, and I also never felt like I was naturally able to “get” these characters fully. However, on the upside, the pockets of healthy relationship dynamics, and the regular nuggets of wholesome wisdom that are sprinkled through our story, definitely sweeten the watch experience. On top of that, Show does offer some solid food for thought as well.
Not my personal favorite, but it could well be yours. Definitely a case of your mileage may vary.
THE LONG VERDICT:
I do think that I’m an outlier, when it comes to this show. Everywhere I looked, while Show was airing, I saw a lot of love and affection for it and its characters. I mean, that’s the whole reason I checked it out in the first place; I didn’t want to miss out on a great show, after all.
Sadly, my experience with this show was like going on a blind date, and then really really trying to make it work, because everyone else kept gushing about what a great guy my date was – only to realize, after much time and effort, that we could only really be friends, at best. 😅
To be clear, I didn’t hate this show. In fact, there were times when I even had hope, that I might’ve finally seen the light, and figured out how to jive with Show on its wavelength.
However, the sad truth is, Show and I are just naturally on different wavelengths. We might occasionally cross paths and actually find something to agree on and enjoy together, but I’ll never truly flow naturally with Show’s rhythm, and we’ll never be soulmates, heh.
Still, I have lots of thoughts from my watch (naturally, ha), and wanna share all of that with you guys. 😉
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
As a general rule, I found the OST pleasant, pretty and breezy, though the only track that really stood out to me is Track 1, Run To You, which I found uplifting and stirring, when applied in the right setting.
Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it as you read the review. And, if you’d prefer to simply listen to Run To You on loop, here it is as well. Just right click on the vid and select Loop. 😉
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS: A QUICK-ISH MACRO OVERVIEW
Since I wasn’t as successful as I would have liked to be, in enjoying this show, I feel like my advice on how to manage expectations might be.. incomplete. However, I feel like giving you guys a macro overview of the things that worked and didn’t work for me, would give you some ideas of how to manage your lens during your watch.
I will talk about individual characters and relationships later on in this review.
STUFF I LIKED
Show’s aesthetic and vibe
I sincerely feel that Show’s very pretty to look at, and this was a very pleasant plus point for me, during my watch. In fact, within Show’s first few seconds, I was struck by how beautiful this show looks, with its bold, fabulously happy Spring palette that pops with a breezy, sunny sort of life.
Healthy nuggets of wisdom &/or wholesomeness
This was one of the things that I’d heard echoed over and over again, about this show, and I join the chorus of voices, in appreciating the healthy nuggets of wisdom &/or wholesomeness that Show sprinkles into its conversations.
While the conversations between our OTP is where a lot of these lovely nuggets happen, we also do see this between other characters. [MINOR SPOILER] For example, in episode 4, brother and sister pair Seon Gyeom and Eun Bi (Im Si Wan and Ryu Abel) tell each other that they’ve turned out well. [END SPOILER]
These pockets of wholesomeness did a lot, to keep me going, when I found myself bemused by Show’s other aspects.
STUFF THAT WAS OK
I often found our characters at least somewhat bemusing
Characters – and conversations between characters – are all designed to be quirky and off-kilter. I have to admit that I struggled to find the right lens through which to best understand them.
This experience reminded me of just how important it is to me, that I feel I can understand the characters in my dramas. One of the reasons I am enjoying She Would Never Know so much (review coming soon!), is because I feel I can understand the characters, and why they make the choices they do. And the reason I continuously struggled to get into this drama properly, I think, is because I often felt like these characters come from a different planet than I do. Sometimes I felt like I didn’t understand what they were saying; sometimes I felt like I didn’t understand why they were doing the things they that they did.
Overall, I’m guessing that thinking of them as being from some kind of parallel universe might help me roll with these characters, since, in my head, people just don’t behave or talk the way our characters do. But.. that wouldn’t actually help me understand these characters any better either. 🤷🏻♀️
The movie references
There are a large number of movie references in this drama. Sometimes they quote lines from movies; sometimes they spoof scenes from movies. I think if you’re a movie buff, you’d get a kick out of this.
With my drama-heavy diet, I can’t say that I’m all that knowledgeable about movies, and so a lot of these references flew over my head, unfortunately. 😛 And, if you’re like me and don’t think you’ll get many of the movie references, this can make certain scenes feel decidedly, inexplicably weird.
[MINOR SPOILER] For example, in episode 3, the moment when May (Lee Bong Ryun) throws the bone into the rubbish bin is treated with slo-mo drama. I didn’t get that, and found it a very strange direction of the scene. It was only afterwards, that, thanks to Martina, who helpfully clued me in over on my Patreon page, I finally understood that this was a nod to Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.” [END SPOILER]
STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
I often couldn’t jive with Show’s idea of quirky
I had a couple of moments where I thought I might finally be getting the hang of Show’s brand of quirk, but those all turned out to be false alarms, heh. Ultimately, I realize that I just don’t get Show’s brand of quirk at all, after all, and unfortunately, it’s true that this proved to be a damper on my watch experience.
If you’re able to roll more easily with Show’s idea of quirky, you’re much more likely to enjoy this show.
The dialogue tends to lean unnatural
The dialogue in this drama world tends to lean rather unnatural, in that our characters often don’t talk the way I imagine regular people would talk. Sometimes, this peculiarity in how the conversations are written, leans rather bizarre to my eyes.
[SPOILER] For example, in episode 3, the way Mi Joo (Shin Se Kyung) suddenly starts caressing Seon Gyeom’s (Im Si Wan) car and going on about wanting to buy a car, in response to his effort of saying goodbye, is really weird. I found it a very, very strange way of asking for a ride, and I thought it quite bizarre that she actually starts to blame him for not picking up on her hint. [END SPOILER]
It was suggested to me that these weird types of conversations are the result of two socially awkward people trying to talk and ending up with very crossed wires, but I have to admit that even with that lens on, this all felt weird and try-hard to my eyes.
The Intended Funny often didn’t work for me
I have to confess that there were quite a few occasions when Show’s Intended Funny didn’t actually feel funny to me.
For example, in episode 5, I think I’m supposed to find it cute and amusing that Mi Joo would be adamant about not going to the lunch at the hotel where Seon Gyeom is staying, while blithely dolling herself up for it, even as she talks. Unfortunately, this landed kinda flat for me, somehow.
Another example is in episode 13, where I found the whole debacle at the cafe, around Dan Ah’s (Sooyoung) would-be birthday party, very bizarre and surreal. It’s not that I haven’t loved similar scenes in other dramas before.. It’s that I don’t think this show is weird or quirky enough to support this kind of scene, to be honest. 😅
KEY CHARACTERS & RELATIONSHIPS
I spent a fair amount of time and effort trying to understand our characters, with varying levels of success. Here are all my thoughts around that – the good, the bad and the ugly – as I stumbled my way towards knowing these characters better.
Im Si Wan as Seon Gyeom
To be honest, when it was first announced that Im Si Wan had been cast as a runner in this show, I’d found it a bit of a disconnect in my head.
I’d seen Im Si Wan in shows like Misaeng and The King Loves, and he doesn’t come across as athletic in either. So, I was slightly startled to realize – right away in episode 1 – that the athletic actually becomes him very nicely. I shouldn’t be surprised, though, since, 1, he’s an idol and idols are famously always in sculpted shape, and 2, he’s completed his military service, where he did well enough to be appointed an instructor. Randomly, I’m most impressed by his core strength, which we see in that shot of him doing that rotating hanging leg raise in episode 1. That takes A LOT of control, and he makes it look so easy. Wow. 🤩
More shallow observations (and I promise I’ll stop soon): 1, his shoulders are much broader than I expected, because he always looks like he’s built on the slight side, and 2, his face is definitely leaner and more chiseled, and he looks very handsome in a suit, heh. 😅
I find that this athleticism, overlaid with Seon Gyeom’s distinctive brand of unwavering straight-talking innocence, a rather dissonant and interesting combination. It kinda-sorta feels like Misaeng’s Jang Geu Rae’s become all athletic and much more confident about speaking his mind, while retaining his purity and innocence.
It did take me a while to get a better sense of Seon Gyeom as a character, but credit to Show and to Im Si Wan’s delivery, I found myself growing to empathize quite a bit with Seon Gyeom as a character, over the course of my watch. The arc around Seon Gyeom finding a new dream and a new purpose – a goal that was truly his own – was one of my favorite things in this show.
E2. I admit I kinda love how studiously clueless Seon Gyeom is. The fact that he has no clue who the superstar is, who’s embroiled in a dating scandal with him, is ridiculous and quite hilarious. I also find it endearing, that he’s never seen the ad campaigns which have his face splashed all over them. In a world where just about everyone’s continuously plugged in to the news and social media, and where most people are looking for a way to stand out, I find this quality about him very refreshing. He’s like some kind of alien-caveman, the way he seems so purposefully ignorant of all these things.
Of course, it can be argued that he can afford to be this oblivious about everything, and not care about what people say or think, because he comes from a well-off, well-known family – and his detractors already make that statement several times, just 2 episodes in. I’m curious if Show will remove him from the context of his family, to demonstrate that even without the moneyed context, he remains as pure, steadfast and unwavering.
E2. I’m curious about Seon Gyeom’s apparent lack of strong emotion. Even when he moves to take revenge on the bullies, there’s no sign of rage in his eyes. He’s very focused and determined, yes, but aside from that intense focus, there is no strong visible emotion like outrage, fury or anguish.
I find this all very intriguing, not least because I don’t know anyone who’s remotely like this in real life. Could someone like Seon Gyeom exist? I’m not sure. I have known a couple of people who seem to have their emotional chip missing, and for the most part, they don’t display the empathy that we see in Seon Gyeom. How does he have an emotional setting that’s switched on enough to feel for a bullied fellow athlete, that he’d take revenge for him, but that’s switched off enough, that he’d do that with a relative lack of emotional display? So interesting.
At the same time, perhaps the emotion is there, but very much tamped down. Either way, I’m curious to know more.
E3. This episode, we see more of what goes on in Seon Gyeom’s world, and it’s no fun at all, being him. His family is distant and feels staged, and his father (Park Young Gyu) is particularly demanding and brusque, and outright compares him to his more successful golf pro sister (Ryu Abel). It’s a wonder that Seon Gyeom isn’t more damaged. I suppose it’s a good thing that words seem to bounce off him without actually making contact, as a general rule.
E3. The other big arc around Seon Gyeom, is his effort to get punished for assaulting his juniors – which comes to naught, because his father basically bribes everyone involved. Most people find Seon Gyeom’s “untouchable” quality annoying, and his matter-of-fact acknowledgment of that, just as annoying, but I can see why Seon Gyeom himself finds it frustrating and suffocating.
However, I get the point, that Seon Gyeom is so frustrated at making no headway in his effort to get justice for Woo Sik (Lee Jeong Ha), that he’s putting his entire career on the line, so that everyone won’t be able to look away now. I do hope that he’ll be able to get justice for Woo Sik, but I’m admittedly a little bummed that he will likely lose his career because of it – and yes, that’s partly because I do think that Im Si Wan looks amazing in that running tank that he’s wearing in this scene. The broad shoulders are very lovely indeed. Spazz. 🤩
E4. As I observe Seon Gyeom through the various events of this episode, what strikes me is how prepared he is, to face the consequences of his actions. When Mi Joo attempts to lay out the various repercussions that are likely to occur because of his decision to tell the reporters that he’d assaulted his juniors, including the permanent derailing of his running career and a smite on his personal reputation that he may never be rid of, Seon Gyeom tells her, in the most composed manner, that he was prepared for all of that, and he wouldn’t have even started, if he hadn’t been.
That boggles my mind, honestly, because most people would get themselves into a situation like this due to their emotions overwhelming them in the heat of the moment, and then they live to regret the moment, when they realize the magnitude of the consequences they have to face. And yet, with Seon Gyeom, it’s the exact opposite. He’s weighed all of the consequences, and is fully aware of the personal price that he would likely have to pay, and yet, he still went ahead. This means that his desire to get justice for Woo Sik, is great enough, that he’d willingly pay the price with his own career and reputation. Woah. That’s a deep sense of empathy and justice indeed. Seon Gyeom really isn’t like most people.
E4. It seems to me, that Seon Gyeom is a person for whom things are clearly black or white; good or bad. I feel that it’s unlikely that Seon Gyeom would have the tolerance for anything gray or murky.
E5. This episode, I feel most befuddled about Seon Gyeom’s reaction to Mi Joo’s admission that she’d taken money from his father. Maybe I should take Dan Ah’s assertion, that Seon Gyeom hates that kind of thing, with a pinch of salt? Because the way he reacted was strangely nonchalant, all, “So now you know what it feels like.” I get that Seon Gyeom’s been presented to us as a character who doesn’t show a lot of feeling, and is generally calm to the point of appearing indifferent. It’s just.. I guess I was expecting some kind of negative reaction at least, even if it was stated in his trademark deadpan manner. But there was none, and that threw me. I guess I’m not as used to Seon Gyeom’s unwavering sense of calm detachment as I thought I was.
But perhaps it’s that calm detachment that allows him to see things clearly, because he doesn’t have strong emotion clouding his thought processes. Like the way he declines to think badly of everything Mi Joo’s done, just because she’d accepted money from his father. In his mind, he’s very clear that even if her intentions had been muddied, her actions had been helpful and meaningful to him when he’d received them. That’s a very impartial way of looking at it, I have to admit.
E5. Seon Gyeom’s shock at reading the article and realizing that Woo Sik plans to quit running, is quite poignant. As Mi Joo says, the whole reason Seon Gyeom had put himself on the line, was to pave the way for Woo Sik to be able to keep running, without having to contend with the bullying. What a blow it must be, to realize that his efforts have instead inadvertently accelerated Woo Sik’s departure from competitive running. Oof. That’s harsh.
E6. I suddenly feel like I understand Seon Gyeom a little more. I think Show does let us in on what’s going on in Seon Gyeom’s mind this episode, and that does help me to feel more connected to him. Given how principled he’s been, in terms of seeking fair punishment for himself, and by extension, justice for Woo Sik, I can understand why he’d choose to retire instead of accepting the lighter punishment that’s offered to him.
At the same time, I feel like I can understand how he’s floundering, now that he’s unemployed and no longer always training. Given that he’s lived as an athlete for years, and therefore been living a very regimented life as a result, the sudden removal of that structure and driving discipline, must be very disorientating to him.
Even though he can totally afford to relax without needing to worry about money, it’s clear that he’s feeling lost and not having a good time. Nothing seems to feel right; he runs as usual, and it doesn’t feel right; he doesn’t run and lounges in bed all day, and it doesn’t feel right either. That must be so uncomfortable. On top of that, the sense of isolation seems to be setting in, as well. Before, he’d always be surrounded by people because he’d train with coaches and other athletes, and so even though he was a loner who didn’t really have many friends, he wasn’t actually alone. Now, though, he’s on his own and all alone; the solitary-ness of it all must be getting to him.
..Which, I think, is why he seeks out Mi Joo. She’s the closest thing he has to a friend right now, and she’d even offered to let him stay with her and May for a while. I can see why Seon Gyeom would think of taking her up on her offer. I think he’d try anything right now, to get out of the weird funk that he’s found himself in.
E6. I feel like I can also understand why Seon Gyeom turns down the teacher’s request to coach the kids at that school. He states that he doesn’t think the school board would consider him qualified, and I tend to think that he probably also doesn’t think of himself as qualified – especially now that he’s retired and unemployed and floundering.
E7. Seon Gyeom’s been so isolated for so long, that it doesn’t occur to him that he can seek a connection even when it’s not presented and offered to him. When Mi Joo tells him that he can stay at the house while she and May go off on their work trip, it doesn’t occur to him that he can ask to go with them, or ask to come back when they return. He just takes it as a sign that it’s time for him to move on.
That says a lot about how he’s used to taking up very little space in other people’s worlds. He’s grown up being told what to do and where to be, and he’s never been given the chance to actually ask for what he wants. In fact, any time that he’s asked for something that he wants, he’s been told to know his place and be grateful for what he has. We see it all again this episode, when he runs into his father at home while picking up more clothes. Dad is all self-righteous and holier-than-thou, insisting brusquely that it’s Seon Gyeom’s filial duty to exist in exactly the way Dad tells him to, down to getting married to Dan Ah. It’s quite awful, really.
Given this background, it’s little wonder that Seon Gyeom is so used to arranging himself such that he takes up as little space as possible in other people’s worlds, and doesn’t think to impose on others. The idea that others might actually want him to impose on their worlds is probably beyond his comprehension. What he says to Yeong Hwa about being at Mi Joo and May’s house, is so poignant: “It smelled like home, and I could hear them in the house. I really liked that.” Oof. To think that he’s never had that, all his life.
E9. I like the way Seon Gyeom calls Woo Sik back and apologizes that Woo Sik had to gather the courage to reach out. It feels like he’s processing the things that Mi Joo has said, and is taking it all to heart. This feels like progress, even though it’s a baby step.
E10. I’m glad that Seon Gyeom has decided to help Woo Sik by representing him. If there’s anyone in this drama world who lacks representation and assistance, it’s Woo Sik. I hated it when the coach told Woo Sik that he should have just endured the bullying, and I’m glad that Woo Sik points out that if he had just endured the bullying, he might not even be here today.
It also feels like high time Seon Gyeom becomes cognizant of the talent that Manager Dong Kyung (Seo Eun Kyung) keeps saying that he has, and start taking hold of it, to carve a career that will make him happy and fulfilled. And I do think that representing others, and being the voice and support that they need, is just the kind of thing to make Seon Gyeom blossom.
E11. I really enjoy watching Seon Gyeom applying himself to helping Woo Sik with his rehabilitation. It’s not just that he knows what is needed, because he’s been an athlete himself; it’s his intent dedication, as he puts thought into every little detail, and the way it fills his mind such that he spends every spare moment contemplating what Woo Sik needs, what he’s capable of, and what would be helpful to him.
There’s something so wonderfully nurturing about that, and it lands extra poignant to my eyes, because Seon Gyeom’s a product of a very dysfunctional childhood. These nurturing ways aren’t things that he’s actually experienced and therefore learned by being on the receiving end. He’s learned to be nurturing only now, in his adulthood, and he’s applying that right away, to help someone else. That’s very touching.
E12. The more I see Seon Gyeom working with Woo Sik, the more thrilled I am, that he’s chosen this path for himself. He’s fantastic at what he does, and I’m extra impressed that he’s found a way for Woo Sik to keep up with workouts, by working some of the functional movements into Woo Sik’s cleaning job. Not only does this prevent Woo Sik from aggravating any of his existing injuries, it also ensures proper posture and positive strength building, as Woo Sik does his cleaning work. That’s so great. I love it. 🤩
The dedication of time and effort that this requires from Seon Gyeom is no small deal, and yet, he pours himself into it, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. I love that Seon Gyeom doesn’t even calculate how much time this is taking from him. In fact, he doesn’t even calculate what this makes him, to Woo Sik, as we see from his response to Young Il’s (Park Sung Joon) question about whether he is Woo Sik’s agent. Labels don’t matter to Seon Gyeom; he’s only interested in helping Woo Sik get better, and get back on track, and be on track to surpass himself. I kinda love that.
E13. I do still enjoy watching Seon Gyeom work with Woo Sik, because I think he’s great at it, but it is also sad to see that Seon Gyeom has a lot of prejudice to work through, not only towards Woo Sik for being a whistleblower, but towards himself as well, for the assault case. He looks so worn down and discouraged, after facing so much rejection. Poor baby. He looks so drawn and sad, even as he hides near the house, to catch a glimpse of Mi Joo. I also find it so poignant to watch him self-soothe by doing things that remind him of Mi Joo, like going to the movies and watching the credits to the very end. He looks so isolated and lonely. 💔
E14. I do still enjoy watching Seon Gyeom doing his agent thing; he does seem to have the heart and the passion for it. I like the scene where he points out to the lady representative of the team that he’s pitching to, that the general public doesn’t remember him for assault, and neither will they remember Woo Sik for his role as a whistleblower. It feels like a small but important breakthrough, and I’m hoping that he will be able to accomplish his goal of helping Woo Sik get his career back.
Shin Se Kyung as Mi Joo
This is completely subjective, of course, but I have to admit that Mi Joo as a character doesn’t come together as a whole so well for me, as compared to Seon Gyeom.
For the record, I do think Shin Se Kyung does well in bubbly, outspoken roles, and I like her reasonably well as Mi Joo, in the sense that I like her energy in general. The thing is, I find that the quirky doesn’t land as well with me as Seon Gyeom’s brand of quirky, in that it feels quite.. curated, to my eyes. I feel like I can see writer-nim deciding that this combination of qualities would make Mi Joo quirky and interesting.
As with most female leads, I do not enjoy the quirks that writer-nim has built into Mi Joo’s character, like [MINOR SPOILER] the way she uses her corndog as a pretend mic to interview the photo of Seon Gyeom in episode 3. [END SPOILER] Sigh. It’s a rare actress who can pull off this kind of forced quirk (Suzy’s been a victim of this in several shows, where I couldn’t buy the forced quirk written for her character either – like the way her character had a tendency to try to drown herself in a plate of water, in Uncontrollably Fond), and the forced quirks don’t do Shin Se Kyung any favors, in my personal opinion.
I tried my best to enjoy and understand Mi Joo as a character, but I have to admit that I had limited success on both fronts. However, I did like some of the qualities that she embodies, and I also appreciated that she’s often the source of healthy wisdom in our drama world.
E1. I don’t understand why Mi Joo picks up the water and douses herself with it, after her ex-professor throws soju at her, and then tells him to apologize. What is that supposed to even mean..? What purpose did the additional water serve?
I’ve been advised that it’s possible Mi Joo poured that water over herself, in an attempt to hold her tongue in check – which ultimately fails. That’s not a bad interpretation, though I will also say that this isn’t an interpretation that came organically to me. 😅
E3. I appreciate Mi Joo’s straightforward streak. While most other female leads would’ve probably agonized over why the male lead kissed them the night before, Mi Joo comes straight out and asks Seon Gyeom for the reason, and rather casually too. I actually rather like that. And, it matches Seon Gyeom’s honest streak too.
E3. Another thing I like about Mi Joo is that she’s serious about her work and does a good job of it, going above and beyond her duties if she sees the need to.
For example, I really like that she doesn’t only focus on translating the questions for the interview, but looks at whether the interview is fair and balanced, and speaks up to ask for that imbalance to be corrected, both before and during the interview. That’s functioning more like a manager than a translator, and while some might argue that that’s overstepping her duties, I do like that she keeps a macro view of the whole thing.
E4. Mi Joo definitely isn’t as clear-cut as Seon Gyeom is, in the way that she divides things. After all, when Assemblyman Ki offers her the money packet, she does accept (albeit with some initial protests), even though his multiple excuses are clearly but a veil for a bribe. This means that she took the money, while understanding that the money was for her to watch over Seon Gyeom with Assemblyman Ki’s interests in mind.
That said, Mi Joo does eventually return the money and step up to do what she feels is right. What’s interesting to me is that instead of blindly acceding to Seon Gyeom’s requests as his translator, she chooses to follow her conscience instead. She helps Seon Gyeom translate what he wants translated to the reporters, but refuses Seon Gyeom’s request to alter Woo Sik’s words so that Woo Sik won’t get into trouble. When Mi Joo’s made her decision to refuse Assemblyman Ki’s bribe, it wasn’t a matter of aligning herself with either father or son; she chose to follow her own conscience. And to her, protecting Seon Gyeom was most important.
E4. I do give credit to Mi Joo, for owning up so unequivocally to Seon Gyeom that she’d accepted the bribe; she doesn’t even try to defend herself by saying that she returned the money. The fact that she had accepted it at first, is enough for her to own the fault fully. She’s got a stronger sense of conscience and a clearer sense of black and white, than I’d first given her credit for.
E5. As they say, actions speak louder than words. Mi Joo’s been waiting for the articles from Woo Sik’s interview to be published, and the moment one of them is, she jumps on it and stays up all night translating it into Korean and uploading it onto all the various portals available. She really does want to help clear Seon Gyeom’s name, and this is such a practical way of helping him.
E8. I like the way Mi Joo responds to the irate PD who lashes out at her for mistranslating his instructions. She doesn’t push blame and apologizes, but she also is bold to ask for adjustments on his part that will make it easier for her to do an accurate and effective job. I like that. She’s polite and respectful, and she asserts her needs while keeping the focus on a better outcome for everyone. There’s no blame-shifting or pity party whatsoever, even though the PD was completely inconsiderate to begin with. It feels like a very mature response, and I like that a lot.
E9. Mi Joo might be a diplomatic professional a lot of the time, but she doesn’t take it lying down, even for a second, when the PD starts saying derogatory things about the staff and about Korea in general. I kinda love that she starts swearing right back at him. I mean, I’m sure there are more civilized ways of resolving things, but in this moment, with the PD being as belligerent as he is, I’m recklessly pleased that Mi Joo doesn’t take it lying down. I’d have hated it, if she’d been meek and apologized, despite what basically amounts to verbal abuse.
E11. Mi Joo’s advice to Yeong Hwa (Kang Tae Oh), that it’s better to step up and acknowledge what he did wrong, and the remark that Dan Ah must have really liked the painting that he’d done, seems to give him good food for thought. I find it interesting that the eccentric and quirky Mi Joo is able to give sound advice about relating with others. Perhaps this is also evidence that she’s learning the lessons well too, in regard to relating with others.
Seon Gyeom and Mi Joo together
I’d come across so much fan love for this couple that I was eager to enjoy them and feel the love too. While I didn’t fail at this completely, I will say that I did struggle to understand the conversations between our OTP, particularly in the early stages of our story.
Their crossed-wired, 4D type of conversations are supposed to bring out their differences, I believe, however I did feel like the interactions between Seon Gyeom and Mi Joo, particularly the earlier ones, lean manufactured in their vibe, like everything’s purposely scripted to emphasize how different they are.
As Seon Gyeom and Mi Joo grow closer, and particularly once their relationship is established and starts to take off, I found that I enjoyed their conversations a lot more.
At about the halfway point of my watch, it occurred to me that this story is about Seon Gyeom and Mi Joo learning the basics of being human. Both of them have missed out on learning many things because of their circumstances growing up, and it’s only now, that they are starting to learn what these not-so-helpful behaviors are, and learning to replace them with better ones.
I really like the idea, that even though they are both handicapped, they are helping each other to learn these life lessons. The idea of a wounded healer is like drama kryptonite to me, and watching Seon Gyeom and Mi Joo help each other to heal and to learn, even as they each healed and learned, was something that I really enjoyed.
E2. I can understand Mi Joo feeling quite mesmerized by the sight of Seon Gyeom sprinting towards her. There’s always something very appealing about seeing a man do something that he excels in, and Seon Gyeom clearly excels at running. I can buy that in this moment, Mi Joo starts to see Seon Gyeom is a more charming light, thus sparking an attraction.
E2. I still don’t have strong feelings about Mi Joo, but I do like that Mi Joo and Seon Gyeom end up having some nice conversation over supper, like how she became inspired to become a translator. Also, Seon Gyeom shares that he doesn’t often feel angry, but when he does, he can’t control it. These feel like pretty meaningful nuggets of information to share, particularly between people who’ve just met, and I rather like this, because the sharing feels deeper than one might expect.
E2. I’m quite surprised by Mi Joo getting up close and personal with Seon Gyeom, but not all that much, because Show’s done a pretty good job of demonstrating that Mi Joo tends to speak her mind, sometimes without weighing the consequences.
It feels like a forthright moment, the way she tells him that the way he’s flirting with her and smiling at her is making her heart wobble, and that if he keeps it up, she might make a mistake – cue Mi Joo stepping right up into Seon Gyeom’s face within kissing distance. It’s a pretty bold move, but I find it reasonably organic because, 1, they’re both varying levels of tipsy, 2, Show’s done a reasonable job of proving that Mi Joo is the outspoken kinda gal, and 3, the honest tone of their conversation seems like a good springboard for this.
I like that tipsy Seon Gyeom has the interest to ask Mi Joo what the line of movie dialogue had been, that had inspired her to become a translator, and it seems like meaningful foreshadowing, that her answer is, “Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” It sounds like our main characters are going to be doing their fair share of falling and picking themselves up. For now, though, I like that this line is so inspiring to Mi Joo, that she basically uses it as a motto.
E2. The fake relationship kiss at the end of the episode feels rather tropey, but what sells it, for me, is the gleefully pleased look in Seon Gyeom’s eyes, as he tells Mi Joo that he means it. It’s so perfectly sincere, while still completely tipsy. It’s perfect, and makes me want to see more of this side of Seon Gyeom.
E3. While I don’t much enjoy (yet?) the more 4D crossed-wires sort of conversations that we get between Seon Gyeom and Mi Joo, I do like the more thoughtful interactions that they have. Because they are both more honest and straightforward than average, these conversations feel refreshing in their lack of guile. I liked that conversation that they have, where Seon Gyeom talks about not having an answer to why he runs. It gives us a glimpse into his thoughts, which I like.
E5. It seems that Seon Gyeom’s sense of calm detachment, and his ability to not hold the bribe against Mi Joo, is too much of a shining example for her conscience. Despite her experience accepting money from people, Seon Gyeom’s ease at overlooking the transgression ironically makes her feel worse.
This took me a while to process, but on further thought, it does make sense, because often, when people do something bad, they feel better at the thought that they’ll just pay for it when the time comes. The thought that they’re not getting away with it for free, but will pay for it by facing the consequences, helps to ease their conscience. And so, with Seon Gyeom being generous to brush off Mi Joo’s wrongdoing, it ironically makes her feel even worse about herself. And it also invites an unwanted comparison in her head, between herself and Seon Gyeom, I think, where she inevitably ends up looking really bad in her own estimation, next to Seon Gyeom’s offhanded grace and generosity.
In an interesting extension of this metaphor, where things that are so out of reach for Mi Joo, come so easily to Seon Gyeom, we see Mi Joo looking for alcohol in her refrigerator at home and coming up empty (and therefore turning to sleeping pills), and then we see Seon Gyeom open the mini bar fridge in his hotel room, where there’s a range of alcohol for him to choose from. But just because it’s easily available to him, doesn’t mean that he can lean into it the way Mi Joo would have. He drinks it, but is unable to sleep in, and gets up early to go for a run anyway. I think Show might be trying to say something here, about what we have access to, versus what we are comfortable with. Maybe?
And while Mi Joo feels uncomfortable at how rich and privileged Seon Gyeom is, ultimately, he has no one to really talk to about his evening with alcohol, while she’s able to have a heart to heart talk with May about what she’s feeling. Perhaps Mi Joo is richer than she thinks she is.
E5. I do like the conversation that Seon Gyeom and Mi Joo end up having, outside the hotel, when she’s trying to find a lighter for the cigarette she found in her bag. I like the candid honesty, where they both admit that they’ve said things in order to keep the other person from leaving. It’s these kinds of frank conversations that I enjoy, between these two.
E5. The dinner conversation that they have, thanks to Woo Sik’s coy planning, is also of the frank, rather stream-of-consciousness variety. I can’t say I truly enjoyed all of the conversation, but I do appreciate Mi Joo’s point about failure being part of the journey to success. That is definitely something that needs to be acknowledged more, and it does seem like something Seon Gyeom needs to hear.
For all of Mi Joo’s quirks – a good number of which I still grapple with – she does have some great thoughts around life and how to live it.
“You’re considerate to everyone around you. Did you not think that kind boy would feel the same way? No one is born being able to endure pain from the start. So… don’t try to seem okay if that’s what you’re doing.”
I like that in a world where Seon Gyeom feels like he doesn’t have a friend in the world, Mi Joo is there, able to understand how he feels, ready to dispense advice on how to take care of himself, and ready to comfort him with a hug. For someone who feels very much alone, this is likely worth so much. Like I said, Mi Joo is arguably richer than she thinks she is.
E6. I like how Mi Joo is essentially gentle and welcoming towards Seon Gyeom when he shows up in her neighborhood, even though she does tease him and ask what his excuse is, for why he’s there.
I appreciate that Seon Gyeom coming to stay at Mi Joo’s home isn’t a magic cure-all. Their sleep cycles are complete opposites, and so are their lifestyles. He’s an early riser who still keeps his running habit and who cooks his own meals, while she stays up all night to work, sleeps all day, and barely eats. And yet, even though they barely interact for the first couple of days that he’s there, it seems to give him comfort just to hear the clacking of Mi Joo’s keyboard as he lays down to sleep on the couch; just to know that behind that door, there was someone else. That’s quite heartwarming, actually.
E6. I like the fact that Seon Gyeom actually approaches Mi Joo to ask when she’ll hang out with him like she’d promised, and I also like that Mi Joo then actually makes time, even though ordinarily she’d be getting ready for bed. I rather like the running lesson that Seon Gyeom gives Mi Joo; it feels like there are deeper life lessons embedded within the running ones.
“Why is your grip so strong? You’ll get tired quickly.”
“You can slow down if you’re struggling. Just don’t give up.”
“What if I lose sight of you?”…”Then I’ll wait until you come around.”
E6. It’s nice that Seon Gyeom invites Mi Joo to go with him, when he makes the trip to seek out Coach Bang. I like that he admits so readily that he doesn’t feel confident going alone, because there are many things that he doesn’t know.
A love confession
E6. It was very pleasant to follow Seon Gyeom and Mi Joo on that very picturesque drive, and I also rather liked the tipsy confessions we get from Mi Joo, by the end of the night.
“I wanted to see more of you. If I get drunk and go to bed early, then I’d wake up early as well. By doing that, I’d get to see you more.”
But then, there’s also the indirect confessions by both of them, of burgeoning feelings.
“Is there anything you need? I’ll do everything I can.”
“You’re so hardworking. In that case… can you… like me?”
“I already do.”
Ooh. I kinda didn’t see that coming, because of how little time these two have managed to spend together lately, but at the same time, given their honest personalities, it doesn’t actually surprise me that much. Either way, squee~?
E7. I appreciate that the relationship between Seon Gyeom and Mi Joo is so undefined right now, that it gives rise to hyper-awareness, hyper-sensitivity and associated jealousies, all without an appropriate outlet to talk things through, because of said undefined state of their relationship. I can very much identify with and appreciate these nuances. How can you express any kind of jealousy, or expect any kind of accountability, when you’re officially nothing more than friends, right? Oh, the angst! Oh, the relatability! 😆
I actually didn’t pick up on it so much at the end of the previous episode, but the tone with which Seon Gyeom tells drunken Mi Joo that he already likes her, is so restrained and gentle, with lashings of tenderness. Ooh. I likey. And, this episode, when he assumes that Mi Joo doesn’t remember her drunken confession – and rightly assumes that she doesn’t remember his reply – Seon Gyeom does sound genuinely disappointed. It’s like he’d kinda hoped for things to have arrived at a new point for them, in the morning, but they haven’t. It does make me wonder why he doesn’t actually pursue the matter, since he now knows how Mi Joo feels, and he does actually like her and desire a connection with her, but I rationalize that that’s just how used to be being closed off and isolated he is.
E7. As everyone has before me, I do find that I’m enjoying the heart-to-heart conversations between Seon Gyeom and Mi Joo. This episode, I like what Mi Joo says to Seon Gyeom about taking the negative stuff in his past and turning that around into something better for the future. “I may not know much because I was never able to use regret to motivate myself. But I think you’d be able to do that. The stuff you regret about your past. Turn that into something better.” That feels wise and apt.
E7. It’s too bad that they run into Seon Gyeom parents, and it’s awful how condescending and dismissive Assemblyman Ki is to Mi Joo, essentially telling her to know her place and get out of the way, so that his plans can proceed as intended. Ugh. What an entitled snob. Blech.
I’m glad that Mi Joo doesn’t take it lying down, because it sure looks like Seon Gyeom’s all ready to snap back into his submissive dutiful son ways, in response to his father’s intimidation. Right after telling Assemblyman Ki that she’ll be on her way and is really good at finding her place, she basically wrist-grabs Seon Gyeom, says, “Aren’t you coming? You came to watch a movie with me, didn’t you?,” and then walks off with him in tow. I do like this casual badassery.
I very much like Mi Joo’s nonchalant air as she walks off with Seon Gyeom in tow, and I like even more, Seon Gyeom’s look of delight and satisfaction in his eyes, as he follows her lead. Ahh! Show serving up a classic drama trope with a gender role-reversal twist, complete with the delight and appreciation of the male lead as he’s being wrist-grabbed and rescued by his female lead? Why, don’t mind if I do, Show. Don’t mind if I do. 😆
E8. I like that before Mi Joo tells Seon Gyeom the all-important truth that he needs to care for himself before caring for others, that she prefaces it with an acknowledgment of boundaries: “He’s your father, and it’s regarding your family, so I don’t want to say anything unnecessary. But why do I always have to see you like this? I don’t really know the right way to pity someone. But you should care for yourself before you care for others.”
The words come out in a rush with the hurried, snappy way that Mi Joo says them, but it doesn’t seem like she’s annoyed; perhaps perplexed is what Show is going for. I’m not entirely sure.
It’s ironic, though, that with Mi Joo’s clarity on how Seon Gyeom should first care for himself before he can care for others, we see that she basically doesn’t tend to take care of herself in the most basic of ways. She doesn’t sleep well, and she barely eats, preferring convenience to nutrition. I guess it’s easier to see things clearly when you’re not the subject of discussion?
And then there’s how Mi Joo talks about learning to ask for her mother when she was sick, not because she had a mother that she knew to ask for, but because she saw other kids doing it, and did it too, to fit in. I like how Seon Gyeom teaches her to look for him instead in her feverish state, because he can respond and be there for her, rather than her mother who isn’t around anymore. After that, there’s how Mi Joo has to teach Seon Gyeom that he needs to hold her hand, now that she’s called his name.
They are both more incomplete than average, in their knowledge of how to live life and take care of themselves and others, and yet they don’t hold back from sharing what they know, and helping each other to let go of unhealthy habits and learn new ones, or just simply learn basic things that they just never knew to do, because no one had taught them before. I really like this dynamic.
E9. It’s interesting (and also a touch frustrating) that as similar as Seon Gyeom and Mi Joo are, and as healthy as their conversations can veer, their miscommunication game is really strong. And persistent.
It’s like they exist on the same grid, but haven’t become acquainted with how the grid works, and therefore keep going off in different directions, when anyone who’s familiar with how the grid works, would’ve known instinctively the direction to take. Right now, I’m thinking that that grid represents interpersonal relationships. Both Seon Gyeom and Mi Joo have grown up so handicapped in the area of relating with others, in particular people who should be close to them, like family, that they have not honed their instincts on how to be close to others. And that’s getting in their way, as they attempt to get close to each other.
I did enjoy this episode, though, because we get multiple snippets of Mi Joo and Seon Gyeom getting along while they work together on the film set. The moments are usually quite fleeting, like how Mi Joo checks in on Seon Gyeom during her break, and signs into a movie app on his phone so that he can watch movies while waiting, but they show us that these two think of each other and care about each other. It’s also nice to see them co-existing in the same place, and being happy to be together.
There are actually a couple of times that Seon Gyeom hints that he’s sweet on Mi Joo, like the way he tells her that she was pretty even without makeup on, and the way he says that he’d come to the film set because she was there. Plus, there’s the way that he tells her that he’s been doing what she’d asked (ie, liking her).
All of these point towards the fact that he likes her, but, 1, they are admittedly on the muted side, and 2, Mi Joo’s not confident enough in herself to receive them the way they are meant. She mostly brushes these off, or, at the last one, gets all up in a twist, focusing on the fact that he’d liked her as a response to her request, which she finds embarrassing, and that he’s moved his stuff out of the house, instead of on the fact that he’s basically told her that he likes her.
I can understand her mortification, though; she wants him to like her because he likes her, and not because she asked him to like her. Also, actions do speak louder than words, so it’s understandable that she sees him moving out as a sign of him withdrawing himself from her. Sigh. Crossed wires. They can hurt so much, sometimes.
As a silver lining, sometimes, it feels like these two are teaching each other the things that they know about life, even though they themselves are not fully equipped with that knowledge. It’s like an extension of wounded healers healing others; in this case, they are like student-teachers, teaching. Mi Joo’s lesson about how to write a diary is so quick and simple, but it seems to be so freeing for Seon Gyeom, to realize that he can write whatever he wants in that diary, because it’s not for anyone else’s eyes; only his own. This feels like a big step for him, because, as we’ve learned, he’s just not used to the idea of doing things for himself; he’s been trained since young, to exist for others. That’s really quite poignant, when I think about it.
Also, there’s the moment when Seon Gyeom teaches Mi Joo, using words that she’s said to him before, “Don’t do anything you don’t want to do.” Aw. That’s somehow quite heartwarming, that he’s taken her words to heart, and is now using them to teach her too. Plus, he leaks that slight bashfully pleased look as he says it, like he’s proud of the fact that he’s learned the lesson well. Cute.
A couple is born, finally
E10. If Mi Joo is right about the misunderstandings between her and Seon Gyeom not being problems at all if they were dating, this might just be the breakthrough that I need, with this show, heh.
It’s nice to see that Mi Joo and Seon Gyeom finally start dating this episode, because I am so ready for them to move beyond the cycle of frustrating crossed signals and misplaced expectations.
The lead-up leans a little too quirky for my taste, with Mi Joo getting all up in a twist, and calling Seon Gyeom to rattle off that she needs to return the jar of honey to him, without actually telling him the time or place to meet. However, I do think that Seon Gyeom’s confession is sweet.
“The male lead [in Jerry Maguire] couldn’t seem to stand his failures in life. He even ended up hurting the only person who stayed by his side. And he realized that person’s value once it was too late. But it kind of reminded me of myself. I was scared that things might end between us the closer we got. Your affection for me gives me meaning and value. But I wasn’t sure if you had feelings for me the same way I do about you. I wonder if you also want to hold my hand, hug me and kiss me. I wasn’t quite sure of that. Because I do. Please don’t hate me.”
Aw. That is so earnest and honest and sweet. Seon Gyeom can be such a sweetheart, when he finds a way to express himself.
When Mi Joo kisses him and tells him that is her answer, I feel like a rock’s rolled off this show’s metaphorical shoulders, like these two will be able to communicate much more freely and enjoyably now. And I do love that sparkle in Seon Gyeom’s eyes, as he processes that Mi Joo likes him back.
E10. While it is a little odd how Mi Joo feels compelled to take the lead in this relationship, on further thought, it actually makes sense, because Seon Gyeom is so handicapped when it comes to relationships in general. It makes sense that he’d need someone else to take the lead, and literally tell him what boyfriends do.
Seon Gyeom deciding to move in with Yeong Hwa for the month, so that he and Mi Joo can walk each other home more easily, is just the sort of thing Seon Gyeom would do, ha.
E10. That little almost throwaway scene, where Mi Joo puts her fake gun away, musing that she’s now found the real deal, gave me pause for thought. For a while, I wondered what she meant, and now, I think that what she means, is that while the fake gun had used to give her a false sense of security, now she has Seon Gyeom, who gives her a real sense of security. At least, that’s what I’m able to gather from it.
E11. I find that I do really enjoy the OTP conversations that I’d heard so much about. I think that Seon Gyeom and Mi Joo make an endearing couple, and I find the this initial awkwardness, of Mi Joo finding an excuse to be around Seon Gyeom’s (well, Yeong Hwa’s) place believable. And, I appreciate that she apologizes for being gruff, even though the moment has technically passed:
“I’m sorry about before. I told you not to flatter yourself. Rather than being straightforward with you, I keep on taking the sarcastic approach. It’s something I do that I’m not proud of. I’m sorry. This is why I don’t keep a journal.”
That’s so introspective, self-aware and sincere. I like it. And I also like Seon Gyeom’s simple response, “Do you want to hold hands?” He doesn’t address the apology directly, but his simple gesture says everything about him accepting the apology, and not holding it against her. It’s sweet.
E11. I also like the gift that Mi Joo gives Seon Gyeom, a book titled “Practice Loving Myself.” It’s just the thing that Seon Gyeom needs, and it seems meaningful to me, that Mi Joo says she’s read the book herself too. Both of them need to learn these lessons in their adulthood, because they didn’t have the chance to learn them while growing up, and it feels like a fitting thing, that they’re supporting each other on this journey.
I liked the movie date too, mostly because of the philosophical bent of their conversation afterwards, which then turns into a mutual promise to be together forever, which then gives way to a nice spot of mutual affirmation, as Mi Joo tells Seon Gyeom that he’s a nice boy, and he calls her kind for always seeing him as nice and beautiful.
And then, just as I think that Seon Gyeom’s going to kiss her, he gazes intently into her eyes, and asks her if she’ll do the translation. There’s something so swoony about that, that even in this moment, when he could’ve easily gotten distracted by the feels of the moment and kissed her, it was more important to him, to ask her how she felt about doing the translation, which is the very reason they’d watched the movie to begin with. That focus on her, where her concerns and thoughts take precedence, is very lovely.
Trouble in paradise
E12. The bigger arc for our OTP this episode, is the reveal that Assemblyman Ki has been keeping tabs on Seon Gyeom’s life by having him tailed. Which wouldn’t be as terrible, I suppose, if he didn’t have actual ill intent of how he planned to use that information. But he totally does have ill intent, and he whips it out right away, when Seon Gyeom embarrasses him by dragging his sister off the golf course where she’s entertaining his friends and business associates (which I find aggravating in itself, for the record).
While I appreciate that Mi Joo doesn’t cower in front of Assemblyman Ki, I also find it quite unhelpful that she then defaults to avoiding Seon Gyeom and lurking around Yeong Hwa’s apartment while furtively trying to find out if anyone’s tailing Seon Gyeom. This doesn’t strike me as very productive, and given this OTP’s generally healthy interactions, I’d expected her to talk to Seon Gyeom about this. Instead, she arrives at a conclusion all on her own, without actually discussing it with him. I thought this was somewhat unfair to Seon Gyeom, although I do appreciate that Mi Joo needs to think of herself too.
That said, I do generally like the tone of their interaction, when Mi Joo finally comes outside to see Seon Gyeom. I like that Seon Gyeom attempts to apologize for what his father did, and I like even more, that Mi Joo recognizes that this isn’t Seon Gyeom’s fault. And while I’m with Seon Gyeom in urging Mi Joo to call him first, when she’s having a hard time, I do find it refreshing that Mi Joo is so clear that her feelings are hers to own, and that no one else can change her feelings except for her. She doesn’t expect Seon Gyeom to help her feel better, in the least. That’s refreshingly independent and self-aware.
I also appreciate that Mi Joo had felt the need for some self-reflection, where she asks herself what she really wants, and whether she’s willing to put herself through so much in order to date Seon Gyeom. And I also respect her conclusion, that there’s nothing wrong with her, and nothing that she lacks, that she should need to put up with being trampled on the way Seon Gyeom’s father is intent on trampling on her. Her reason for giving up on the relationship is hard to argue with: “I value myself more than anyone else.”
She’s not breaking up with Seon Gyeom because she doesn’t love him, nor is she breaking up with him because she’s intimidated by his father. She’s breaking up with him because she values herself too much to allow herself to be bullied. What a surprising, refreshing, empowering attitude to have; I can’t help but support the idea of this break-up, honestly. And this, too, is surprising because I’ve rarely supported the idea of an OTP breaking up.
E13. Honestly, I’m quite taken aback by the turn the breakup scene takes. Where we’d left off last episode, I’d really liked Mi Joo’s stance on self-love; she said that valued herself more than anyone, and therefore chose what was best for herself. I was so on board with that, and this episode, Show takes what had felt refreshing and empowering, and turns it into something cowardly. I.. struggle with that.
Intention counts for a lot in my books, so if Mi Joo really is choosing to be a coward, and simply dressing it up to give it a self-love spin, then that’s not cool. However, if Mi Joo has it in her head that choosing herself automatically equates to cowardice, I do have a problem with that. That’s not true and that’s not fair. Just because she chooses to prioritize her own well-being doesn’t make her a coward, and I hope that Show isn’t trying to say that.
Sigh. I really wish that Show had refrained from this statement of cowardice from Mi Joo, because it really does take away from the message of self-love, and from the beginning, Mi Joo’s been this story’s proponent of loving oneself, so it’s not like her choosing to love herself is out of character. I hope that Show takes the time to sort this out at some point, because I think it’s a potentially confusing and unhelpful message to put out there, that loving oneself automatically makes one a coward, when it comes to relationships.
Along similar lines, I am also rather bemused at Seon Gyeom’s angry response, where he asks her how she could have made him be the first to mention a break-up. This bemuses me, because in a situation where Mi Joo’s been threatened by his father, and has cried many tears because of it, and therefore asks to break up with him (though not in those exact words), I’d have expected Seon Gyeom to be more sympathetic. Which is why his vexed response throws me. To be fair to Seon Gyeom, the tears in his eyes do tell me that he’s hurt, so it’s possible that his anger is an expression of that hurt.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m failing at understanding these characters, even though I’d thought I’d started to finally “get” them, in recent episodes. I suppose all I can hope for, is for Show to wrap up this angsty stretch in a manner that makes sense, so that I can go back to rooting for this relationship, because it’s true that Seon Gyeom and Mi Joo are cute together.
E13. I do appreciate Mi Joo’s run in with Soo Bin, because not only does it put her in a position to protect and help Soo Bin, it also gives her some insight into what Seon Gyeom’s been up against, all this time that they’ve been apart.
E13. To be frank, I’m not quite sure how to feel about our closing scene this episode, because I’m still questioning what Show is saying, in having Seon Gyeom not want to break up with Mi Joo. I understand that he doesn’t want to lose her, but is this a case of her having to choose romantic love over self-love? If she agrees not to break up with Seon Gyeom, does that mean that by extension, she agrees to bear with his father’s intimidation?
I’m willing to withhold judgment until we see how Show deals with this conundrum, but in the meantime, I do feel for Seon Gyeom, as he asks Mi Joo so plaintively, not to teach him how to break up. My head’s still holding back because of what I’ve just talked about, but I have to admit that Seon Gyeom’s tearful angst in this moment absolutely does have me by the heart.
E14. I can buy the idea that Mi Joo wasn’t intending to run away from Seon Gyeom, but was trying to go back to get Soo Bin. (Ok, I mean, it is a little weird to react the way she did, but Mi Joo’s been established as a quirky character, so even though I don’t think most people would react the way she did, I can buy the idea that she would react the way she did.) I can also buy that because Seon Gyeom misunderstood Mi Joo’s act of running away from him, that triggered a flood of tearful honesty.
I guess I feel like the break-up scene, after landing with such refreshing and poignant self-love (to my eyes, at least), hasn’t been properly addressed. Essentially, Mi Joo had asked to break up with Seon Gyeom, and Seon Gyeom had gotten upset and protested that she should take some time to sleep on it, to which Mi Joo agrees. And that’s where we spent episode 13, with Seon Gyeom and Mi Joo in this weird space where they aren’t quite together and neither are they quite broken up, and they are just awkwardly avoiding each other. And then, this episode, it feels like they more or less leapfrog over actually talking about the thing that had triggered Mi Joo to ask for a break-up, and go back to being together. This feels kind of incomplete to me, honestly.
I concede that Seon Gyeom does promise, this episode, to remove all the obstacles between them, so that any issues that they might have, would be things that are purely between the two of them, but again, this kind of feels like we skipped over some important conversation, to get to this point. I do think that this is one of the main reasons that I have a niggling sense of dissatisfaction with this episode. One minute, Mi Joo’s talking about whether she’s allowed a sip of alcohol while on her meds, and the next, she’s telling Seon Gyeom that they’ve made up now. And then the next thing we know, Mi Joo’s inviting Seon Gyeom over to have ramyeon – and we do see that she meant it as code for him to sleep over, uh, in the sexy sense of the word.
While all this is going on, my brain struggled to keep up with how the dots in the conversation are connected; like, how did we go from this to this, and then from this to that..? I would fail so badly at having a conversation with either of these two people, ha.
That said, I do appreciate the talk that Seon Gyeom and Mi Joo have about self-love, while they’re lounging in bed together, pre-sexytimes. I like that Mi Joo explains the importance of caring for oneself, and working hard at keeping a good balance between being tough on oneself, and being indulgent on oneself, and asks Seon Gyeom to love himself more, so that they can have a long and healthy relationship. That’s some good and important wisdom there, which I do resonate with, and which I’d like more of. Honestly, it’s moments like these that keep me hoping that I will learn how to love this show more completely, because these moments of wisdom are so important for people to hear.
E14. I have to admit, I don’t immediately “get” the symbolism of our last scene, where Mi Joo struggles but manages to finish her race, and Seon Gyeom meets her at the finish line, and then we see them as their past selves. Clearly, this scene is presented as something that has symbolic significance, since it leans a little abstract. After further thought, I feel like Show might be saying that some races are easier for some people than others, but as long as you keep going at your own pace and don’t give up, you will finish your race. And that’s how you will eventually face and conquer your own demons and bad memories. Even if no one else waits for you, as long as the one who matters to you, meets you at your finish line, that’s the most important.
I’m not sure I understand the intent of having Seon Gyeom and Mi Joo appear as their past selves in that final shot (like, is it supposed to mean that because Mi Joo ran the race with all she had, Seon Gyeom is able to see her in her vulnerabilities? I don’t know; I can’t really think of a deeper meaning that actually makes sense right now), but I appreciate the idea of Seom Gyeom and Mi Joo meeting each other as they are, scars, baggage and all, and feeling able to stand tall before each other, without flinching.
Sooyoung as Dan Ah
This is a very subjective and visceral thing, but I found that I did not take to Dan Ah quickly or easily, as a character. I know that there are viewers who liked her immediately, but I just wasn’t one of them. 🤷🏻♀️ However, I’m happy to say that Dan Ah grew on me more than I thought she would, so I count that a win overall.
I feel like Dan Ah is supposed to be “chic” in that Korean way which means cool to the extent of being rather cold, and I think one of the big reasons I found Dan Ah a bit of a hard sell as a character, is because the main emotion that I noticed in her, especially in Show’s earlier episodes, is an impatience and annoyance, which she doesn’t hold in check, not because she can’t, but because it seems like she can’t be bothered. The way she looks upon other people is also without empathy; there’s only a curiosity there, like people are pets that she occasionally has interest in. I didn’t feel very drawn to that.
Show keeps Dan Ah relatively opaque through most of our story, so I was slow to warm to her, but we do eventually get to see more of Dan Ah’s struggles and fears beneath the nonchalant facade she wears, and I’m pleased to say that by the time I finished my watch, I liked her a lot better than at first.
E4. Even though I’ve found Dan Ah a bit of a hard-sell because of her general prickliness and tendency to say things that are borderline rude, I find myself warming to her because of the way she applies those qualities towards Assemblyman Ki. I found it quite satisfying to watch the moment when she cuts him off as he’s stating pompously that he has presidential hopes, with a parting shot to just watch his approval ratings and stay out of her way. This leaves him very disgruntled, and that pleases me, ha.
Also, I’m intrigued by this new nugget of information that we get, that Dan Ah is suffering from an illness? What might that be, I wonder? It does make her prickly vibe and her all-around impatience with life more understandable. Most sick people aren’t in great moods, as a general rule.
E5. We’re learning more about Dan Ah this episode, which I think is a good thing. The more I know about her, the faster I’ll take to her, I think? For example, I find it interesting that she’d lied about being a lesbian, just to avoid getting married, and now her father and half-brother are so intent on marrying her off that she gets quarterly lists of potential marriage prospects, but apparently those marriage prospects are always on the “damaged” side of things. How odd, considering that Dan Ah isn’t “damaged” in similar ways. It does feel like her family is trying to get rid of her by shoving her into a box that’s convenient and useful to them, and that’s never a nice feeling. I can empathize a bit more, on why she seems irritable quite a bit of the time.
E6. For the record, I am conflicted about the way Dan Ah attacks Myeong Min (Lee Shin Ki) with a flying kick in the lobby. That seems rather too violent, I think. On the plus side, though, it is a positive thing that she’s so bold and unafraid. Plus, she’s getting back at Myeong Min for kicking Secretary Jeong (Yeon Je Wook) in the shin, and shouting at him, so.. it’s not so terrible? Like I said, I’m conflicted.
E7. That little snippet where we learn why Dan Ah always wears sports shoes – so that she’ll always be ready when Life presents her an opportunity to kick a ball – is really quite poignant. It’s the sorriest I’ve felt for Dan Ah so far, to be honest. The matter-of-fact way she talks about giving up her soccer dreams feels quite sad, because, from the radiance in her face when she kicks that ball, she really does love it.
E8. How intriguing that we learn that Dan Ah suffers from anxiety, and reads a self-help book on it, that she keeps at her regular bar. I mean, she just doesn’t come across as the anxious type, with her general nonchalant air. I guess this drives home the point that you really never know what other people are struggling with.
E13. Although it’s in line with Dan Ah’s personality to bluntly ask Ye Jun (Kim Dong Young) whether he likes Yeong Hwa, I did find that rude and insensitive. How entitled and clueless do you have to be, to not realize that poking someone where it hurts, when you don’t even know them, is an overstepping of boundaries? I barely know Ye Jun as a character, and I feel like I want to protect him from the likes of Dan Ah; he’s confused and pained enough as it is, he doesn’t need someone like Dan Ah to poke at his wounds for funsies.
E14. I’m a little shocked that Dan Ah collapses during the marathon; I’ve been really curious to know what sickness she’s suffering from. This episode, Dan Ah mentions tachycardia (a heart rate of over 100 beats per minute); however, we aren’t told what specific heart disorder is causing her tachycardia, and Show never does provide an answer to this, after dangling it over us as a mystery all series long. Huh.
Kang Tae Oh as Yeong Hwa
I think Yeong Hwa as a character enjoys more love than I’m able to give him, and I’m fully aware that I’m likely the odd duck in the corner, but the truth is, I failed quite miserably at my efforts to understand and like Yeong Hwa as our second male lead. 😬
Partway through my watch, I realized that Yeong Hwa is set up to be some kind of foil to Seon Gyeom, and on paper it sounds great, but I have to confess that in execution, I find Yeong Hwa’s character quite.. strange. Like, I don’t find him all that believable or all that appealing.
A lot about Yeong Hwa strikes me as unnatural, and I can’t help wondering whether the writing’s generally at fault, and all the other actors are just better able to lift the writing to another level, while Kang Tae Oh isn’t.. or if his character is just more weirdly written.
In the end, I conclude that it’s both. I didn’t find Yeong Hwa likable or believable, and in particular, I didn’t find the brightness of his personality plausible. It feels like an act, is what I’m trying to say, and I do think that has to do with Kang Tae Oh’s delivery.
Overall, there were just too many times when Yeong Hwa just didn’t feel real to me, unfortunately.
E5. I think I’m supposed to find Yeong Hwa cute and endearing, but it’s not quite working for me just yet. I find the cat meows really quite try-hard, and his self-professed infatuation with Dan Ah, too sudden.
E7. I realize that Yeong Hwa is the exact opposite of Seon Gyeom. Seon Gyeom comes from a rich and influential family while Yeong Hwa has no family. Seon Gyeom doesn’t ever think of asking for what he wants because he doesn’t know how to impose on other people, while Yeong Hwa seems to have no problems both welcoming others into his world, and asking for what he wants, like how he makes friends so quickly with Seon Gyeom and even invites him home for beer, and how he invites himself along, when he realizes that Seon Gyeom is going to Dan Ah’s office.
Also, there’s the way he keeps texting Dan Ah through Secretary Jeong. It’s all quite inappropriate and offbeat, and most people wouldn’t do that, for fear of being a nuisance. And to my eyes, he really is a bit of a nuisance. 😝 But Yeong Hwa does it anyway, and on purpose, because he wants to get Dan Ah’s personal attention. That’s pretty ballsy, I’ll concede.
E8. Yeong Hwa crying after the movie was supposed to be amusing, I think. I didn’t find it amusing, unfortunately. 😬
Dan Ah and Yeong Hwa
With my struggle to warm to Yeong Hwa as a character, it’s perhaps a given that I would likewise struggle to feel engaged with his loveline.
I was not quite sold on the meet-cute between Dan Ah and Yeong Hwa; it all felt rather predictable and contrived to my eyes. And even though Show tries to spice up this burgeoning connection with Dan Ah’s quirky unpredictability, it weirdly didn’t work for me, because I knew that she’s supposed to be unpredictable and self-focused, and that ironically managed to make things rather predictable, if that makes sense. 😅
I did give my best effort to get into this loveline, however, and there were some moments where I actually liked the connection between Dan Ah and Yeong Hwa, but by and large, I have to say that this loveline landed weirdly, for me.
As a silver lining, I think Show handled the conclusion of this loveline quite well, which I’ll talk more about in the sections spotlighting our penultimate and final episodes.
E5. So far, I don’t really feel much of a connection between Dan Ah and Yeong Hwa, but there’s something about the way she admires his paintings, and the way she inspires him to draw, that seems quite pregnant with promise. I’m curious to see how that unfolds.
E6. I’m conflicted about Dan Ah’s (probably intended to be) cute interactions with Yeong Hwa. To be honest, I’m not feeling the banter between them yet; it feels rather manufactured, at the moment. But, I’m curious to see how this connection between them develops. I might find them cute yet? Also, it’s quite nice that when Dan Ah finds the jar of honey in the bag that Yeong Hwa leaves for her, the first thing she does is ask Secretary Jeong to check the origin of the ingredients listed, since she needs to be careful with what she eats. Aw. This means that she does intend to eat it, if she can. That’s.. unexpectedly quite nice.
E9. The whole arc between Dan Ah and Yeong Hwa is still leaning bemusing to me, but I get the idea that now that he’s stressed out and exhausted, he’s not as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed around her as before, and his somewhat brusque answers are piquing her curiosity.
I also appreciate the idea that Yeong Hwa, pushed to his limit, teaches Dan Ah a thing or two about respect. “I’m the painter.” … “It’s mine. Until the moment I hand it over to you, it’s mine.”
I’m curious to see how this goes down with Dan Ah, since she’s been mostly flippant about almost everything. Will this actually get to her?
E10. In terms of the exchange between Dan Ah and Yeong Hwa, last episode, Yeong Hwa might have impressed on her the idea of respect and ownership, but we see this episode, that Dan Ah also gives Yeong Hwa food for thought, with her statement that without someone like her to appreciate his painting, Yeong Hwa would be too broke even to buy supplies to paint with. That, together with her reminder that he shouldn’t have expected more from a business relationship, feels like a wake-up call for Yeong Hwa. They both make sense, in this case, and what they need to figure out, is how to meet in the middle.
The subsequent angsting from both Dan An and Yeong Hwa is supposed to be amusing, I think. But since this loveline isn’t really clicking for me, I found myself less than entertained by this.
E11. I still don’t “get” Yeong Hwa as a character, in that I find his natural self too cutesy for my taste (I suspect I just don’t like that aegyo on Kang Tae Oh). But, now that Yeong Hwa’s making a conscious effort to dial it all back, so that he can be completely businesslike with Dan Ah, I’m finding him a lot more palatable, ha. I guess I just don’t like Yeong Hwa’s natural self, then. 😝
I do like the glimpses of Dan Ah’s inner layers, as a direct response to Yeong Hwa’s change of attitude and behavior. I like this more distinct insight into Dan Ah’s vulnerability and her feelings around that, and I think Soo Young does a lovely job of showing us those layers, without losing Dan Ah’s main aloof and slightly annoyed flavors. For example, we manage to see that Dan Ah’s tamping down her delight at seeing Yeong Hwa in her office, even though, on the surface, she barely breaks her usual businesslike, slightly flippant air.
Honestly, the entire lead-up to the kiss at the end of the episode feels awkwardly scripted on paper to my eyes, but Soo Young’s delivery of Dan Ah’s micro-expressions really makes it work. I feel like I can see her thoughts and emotions whirling from moment to moment, such that by the time she reaches out to kiss Yeong Hwa, it feels like a natural extension of her figuring out her feelings, rather than an end-goal that writer-nim wanted to achieve.
The plaintiveness in Dan Ah’s eyes, as she looks at Yeong Hwa and asks if his feelings for her are really over, is quite affecting. Plus, we’ve already seen that Dan Ah can be pretty impetuous, so it doesn’t even surprise me that much, that she walks over to Yeong Hwa, grabs him by the collar, and kisses him.
What I really like, though, is the thoughtful way this kiss is treated. The way Dan Ah blinks slowly, and mutters that she must have grown fond of him; that he was behind the painting after all, is heartfelt and contemplative, and that makes the kiss feel like a meaningful moment of discovery, rather than a flippant rash act. I like it.
I’m curious to see how things will develop between Dan Ah and Yeong Hwa going forward. Will Yeong Hwa now become more of his aegyo-tastic self? Coz that might not work so well for me, but I can’t see how else he will carry himself with Dan Ah, if he’s going to be genuine. Hrmm.
E12. The first thing that took me by surprise, is Yeong Hwa’s reaction to the kiss initiated by Dan Ah. In most other kdramas, I would wager that Yeong Hwa would have reciprocated that kiss, because, as we already know, he does like Dan Ah a great deal. Instead, he reacts like he’s aggrieved and offended, even, that she would expect him to change directions with regard to his feelings for her.
I actually found this quite refreshing – that is, until I realized later in the episode, that he appears to be mostly pranking her. I was a lot less sympathetic then. But first, let me back up.
Even though I find the tears a little excessive, I appreciate Yeong Hwa’s point, that Dan Ah had specifically told him to not have any feelings for nor any personal expectations of her, and had even gone so far as to instruct Secretary Jeong to ensure that Yeong Hwa deleted her phone number, so it’s not only whiplashy for him to have her do a 180 on him now, it’s also presumptuous and insensitive, if she expects him to simply reciprocate her feelings, now that she realizes she has them.
In this sense, I actually like that Yeong Hwa makes a stand, and it’s a stand that gives him the right to a choice. He’s not an object that Dan Ah can like or dislike, or embrace or discard at will. He does deserve to hear an explanation from Dan Ah, and he also deserves the time and space to make up his mind about how he’d like to respond to her now-official advance. Also, I’ll concede that we’ve already seen Yeong Hwa cry quite easily in earlier scenes, so it’s actually in line with his characterization, that he cries during this scene. I just would’ve personally preferred it if he’d held back from actually crying.
That said, like I mentioned in an earlier episode, I don’t care for the aegyo on Yeong Hwa. Maybe some viewers like it on him, but for me, personally, it doesn’t work. It doesn’t endear him to me, and I find it.. well, rather cringey, if I’m being brutally honest. So, when Yeong Hwa lets loose on the aegyo after his phone call with Dan Ah, indicating that he’s actually still very much smitten with her, I didn’t like that so much. I’m sure this was meant to be cute &/or funny, but it wasn’t much of either, for me. I’m still curious to see how the connection between Yeong Hwa and Dan Ah will pan out, though.
Right now, it feels like Yeong Hwa’s regressed to acting like a kid, like when he basically pouts his way through eating chicken drumsticks, and this kind of inadvertently forces Dan Ah into the position of acting like the adult. I’m not sure if this is being played for funnies, but it puzzles and bemuses me, actually, because this adult-child dynamic takes away from the potential appeal of seeing this pair as a romantic coupling. However, perhaps this is all part of Yeong Hwa testing &/or pranking Dan Ah, so I’m willing to withhold judgment for now, and see where this goes.
E13. I’d said that I was curious to see how the relationship between Dan Ah and Yeong Hwa shapes up, and given what Show’s given us so far, I’m gonna hafta say that I’m not loving it.
Yeong Hwa continues to be aegyo-tastic, oversensitive, pouty and childlike, and it completely befuddles me that Dan Ah continues to find him attractive. It could be just me, though. I just don’t like the aegyo on Yeong Hwa.
E14. Dan Ah stating that she’d like Yeong Hwa to stay with her in her room overnight feels rather sudden, but Dan Ah being the unconventional rogue that she is, I can buy that. The fact that Yeong Hwa has to call his mother and beg her to allow him to stay out overnight, though, makes the whole thing feel weird to me, unfortunately. Plus, Yeong Hwa consistently leaning into wide-eyed aegyo doesn’t help matters. This all just reinforces all those adult-with-child vibes that I got from this pairing in earlier episodes. And that, like I said before, just doesn’t make me say, “Hey, these two should totally date!” 😐
That said, I did appreciate the moment of seriousness between Yeong Hwa and Dan Ah at the beach, when he tells her that his dream is to never break up with her. The scene in the hotel room, where Yeong Hwa pulls Dan Ah to himself and pats her to sleep, is also quite nice. These types of moments feel like a refreshing respite from the more affected scenes between this (sort of?) couple, and I’d actually like more of this.
QUICKISH SPOTSLIGHTS ON SECONDARY CHARACTERS & RELATIONSHIPS
Yeon Je Wook as Secretary Jeong
I really enjoyed Yeon Je Wook as Secretary Jeong.
Secretary Jeong starts our story coming across as completely straitlaced and serious, but as we progress through our story, he shows more sass and more personality than I’d expected, even while maintaining a deadpan expression, and became one of the supporting characters that I looked forward to seeing the most.
Lee Bong Ryun as May
Professional yet easygoing, and always a little sardonic to boot, I thought May was a great presence to have onscreen.
She also turns out to be a great friend and as excellent wingwoman to Mi Joo, and I found their longstanding familial connection a nice source of warmth and positivity.
Park Young Gyu as Assemblyman Ki
I guess you could say that Assemblyman Ki is the type of character that I love to hate, because I disliked him, and with a passion.
At points, I half wondered if Show would try to redeem him as a character, but, he remains an awful two-dimensional villain, pretty much to the very end.
Just for the record, here are a handful of times when I found him particularly distasteful.
E12. I hate that Assemblyman Ki goes right to Mi Joo to threaten her, when Seon Gyeom makes him unhappy. That’s such cowardly behavior, to prey on the weak, and to target what he perceives to be Seon Gyeom’s weakness. I do like that Seon Gyeom corrects his father, in saying that Mi Joo isn’t his weakness, but his strength, but I do worry about his direct challenge to his father, to do whatever he wants, because that could end up hurting Mi Joo in a big way.
E14. Ugh. I find myself disliking Assemblyman Ki even more this episode, and I.. didn’t realize that that was possible. I hate the way he talks to his wife (Cha Hwa Yeon), and even after she’s talked at length about how she is the protagonist in her own life, and has worked hard to maintain her career, which is important to her, he insists derisively that she’s wrong about being the protagonist of her own life. What? How presumptuous and entitled, that he’d just assume that his wife’s duty is to live for him. UGH. I want Mom to divorce him, just so that we can see the look of dismay on his face, since he taunts her for even thinking about it this episode, claiming that it’s more difficult to get a divorce than she thinks.
E14. I hate that Assemblyman Ki basically tricks Seon Gyeom into apologizing to Dan Ah’s dad (Lee Hwang Eui), and then essentially tells Seon Gyeom that he will have to choose between his relationship with Mi Joo, and his career. That sucks. I hate that Dad assumes that Seon Gyeom’s marriage is meant to further his own political career, like Seon Gyeom’s life belongs to him just because he’s Seon Gyeom’s father. It’s utterly aggravating, and I’m concerned for Seon Gyeom, because this is a terrible choice to be faced with.
Cha Hwa Yeon as Yook Ji Woo / Seon Gyeom’s mom
Even though Seon Gyeom’s Mom isn’t a great parent either, I found that I liked her a lot more than Assemblyman Ki. I do think that this is because of her self-awareness. She knows that she hasn’t been a great mom, and she feels sorry to her children for it. That counts for a lot, in my books. Plus, she doesn’t try to manipulate her children for her own gain, which also counts for a lot, in my books.
Tae Woong’s relationship with Dan Ah
I found Tae Woong’s (Choi Jae Hyun) obsession with Dan Ah really strange, honestly. I mean, Show does attempt to inject some logic into this obsession, but I think it only really makes sense in theory, and not in practice.
They say that indifference is worse than hate, and Show takes this idea and applies it literally, with Tae Woong. I don’t know how believable it is, that Tae Woong clings to Dan Ah so much because she hates him, while the rest of the family is indifferent to him. That still seems like a stretch, to be honest. I mean, what normal human being would return affection and clinginess for hate? And in Tae Woong’s case, he seems to crave Dan Ah’s presence, attention and approval so much, that it’s almost like he goes crazy trying to get her to look in his direction.
I do find it rather poignant that Dan Ah eventually softens towards him, but overall, it’s still very weird.
Dan Ah’s friendship with Mi Joo
I liked the idea of a friendship between Mi Joo and Dan Ah, but I do think that the execution leaned stilted and odd.
Most of the time, I found their conversations full of non sequiturs, which overall made little sense, which I think were meant to be quirky and funny, but which landed as neither, for me. Dan Ah being so intent on forming a connection with Mi Joo also leaned weird to my eyes. I know that in theory, Dan Ah is lonely, but the way that she starts seeking out Mi Joo at her home feels quite forced, I feel.
Overall, I found this friendship too manufactured.
Yeong Hwa’s friendship with Seon Gyeom
Likewise, I also found Seon Gyeom’s sudden friendship with Yeong Hwa too manufactured as well. Plus, everything about their meet-cute felt a little too contrived and quirky for my taste.
Ye Jun’s arc
I was rather surprised when Show shifts Ye Jun into focus from about the episode 12 mark, because prior to this, he was just a secondary character; a friend to Yeong Hwa, there to complete his world, and little else.
It’s an unusual narrative decision, to be sure, but I’m pretty pleased that Ye Jun is given some time in the spotlight. I found myself quite effortlessly engaged in his story, and invested in his happiness as well. Credit to Kim Dong Young, who makes full use of the limited screen and story time that Ye Jun is given.
[SPOILER] In episode 12, that wistful look that Ye Jun gives Yeong Hwa’s retreating back says so much in so little time, that I felt instantly invested. Just from that single wistful gaze alone, I could tell that Ye Jun’s been nursing feelings for Yeong Hwa for a long time, but he’s also cognizant of the futility of his feelings, because he’s very aware that Yeong Hwa’s straight. That sense of helplessness (at his own feelings for Yeong Hwa) and hopelessness (of anything ever coming of those feelings) is so poignant and palpable. Really well done. [END SPOILER]
THEMES / IDEAS [SPOILERS]
Here are few additional themes and ideas, on top of the ones I’ve already talked about in this review:
E4. There’s this idea here, articulated by Seon Gyeom in response to his father, that unwanted love is the same as violence. I feel like this could possibly be a larger idea in the general context of our story. Dad is shown repeatedly claiming to love Seon Gyeom, but his actions say otherwise, with his regular bouts of violence or threatened violence, his condescending, patronizing remarks, and his expectation that Seon Gyeom will help his political career by living his life according to Dad’s wishes. If this is love, what is hate..?
E9. On a side note, this show takes a surprisingly nonchalant, incidental sort of approach to the topic of homosexuality. Not only is the lead actor in the indie film gay – and that’s why he wants a driver who doesn’t speak English, so that he can talk freely with his boyfriend – Ye Chan (Kim Si Eun) also casually lets slip that she’d always thought that Yeong Hwa and her brother were dating. That’s interesting, considering how this has traditionally been a delicate topic in kdramas. I rather like the way Show seems to think about it though. Because it treats it as no big deal, it’s quietly giving audiences the same message; that it’s no big deal.
E9. I realize that there’s this idea that you really never know what people are struggling with. We have Seon Gyeom, who looks like he’s got a great life, with famous, well-to-do parents and a reasonably successful sports career, and yet, there’s a lot of rejection and dysfunction that’s been drilled into his psyche from a young age. And then there’s Woo Sik, who’s always cheerful and smiling, to the extent that even the athletes closest to him had no idea that he was being beaten up and bullied on a regular basis.
E9. There’s also this idea that people are often all too quick to judge, personified in the brassy PD (Kim Jae Hwa) who keeps misunderstanding what’s really going on, based on her broken understanding of English, and then keeps interfering and messing things up for everyone else. I mean, I find her insufferable and always want her off my screen as quickly as possible, but it’s true that very often, there are people who make snap judgments based on incomplete information.
SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]
Given how I’ve found some of Show’s episodes quite perplexing, I’m somewhat pleasantly surprised that I didn’t feel as perplexed with this penultimate episode as I’d feared. To be clear, I didn’t exactly love this penultimate episode either, but in a situation where I’ve struggled more than I’d like to admit, to get into this show, I’d count this a small win.
Even though Show isn’t any clearer on the symbolic significance of the ending of the previous episode, I like the idea that while Mi Joo’s typically been the one to wait for Seon Gyeom, this time, he’s the one waiting for her. And, I like that Seon Gyeom’s cognizant of this; it’s nice, that they are both glad for the mutual waiting that they’ve done.
And, Show earns some extra brownie points, because Mi Joo reminds Seon Gyeom that in making his decision on whether to become an agent at Dan Ah’s company, he shouldn’t only consider what’s good for Woo Sik; he needs to think about what’s good for himself as well. These healthy spots of advice and nuggets of wisdom are one of the things that I really do like about Show.
I appreciate that Seon Gyeom doesn’t waste too much time, in telling Mi Joo what his father’s stance is, regarding his marriage; that he can date anyone, as long as he marries Dan Ah. And I do approve of the idea that Seon Gyeom and Mi Joo go straight to Dan Ah, so that the three of them can talk about it together. That.. could be the healthiest approach to a forced marriage situation that I’ve seen in a kdrama to date. More brownie points for Show.
I also rather like the idea that Mi Joo takes the opportunity to hash things out with Dan Ah, about why Dan Ah had said before, that Seon Gyeom had liked her, and about Mi Joo’s discomfort at Dan Ah calling Seon Gyeom late at night. This bit is treated almost like a throwaway sort of epilogue to the scene, and it’s played quirky and almost comedic, to be in line with Mi Joo’s characterization, but I do like that we see Mi Joo claiming space for herself to talk about things that are important to her, even when they aren’t important to anyone else.
My heart goes out to Ye Jun, whose coming out to his mother ends up as something that he blurts out in the streets, rather than something considered and proper, like he’d envisioned. I feel sorry for him that his mother reacts with instinctive denial, but it is comforting that Ye Chan seeks him out and consoles him, in her nonchalant way. There’s something weirdly comforting in her nonchalance, I think.. Like, even as she acknowledges his pain, she treats it like it’s not such a huge deal, and therefore, by extension, hopefully Ye Jun will be able to see it in a similar fashion.
As for Yeong Hwa’s loveline with Dan Ah, I have to say that I find Yeong Hwa annoyingly petulant and immature, particularly when he’s in the car with Dan Ah and Secretary Jeong. I mean, Dan Ah’s literally still recovering from her earlier collapse, and now she’s saying that she has a headache and wants him to stay quiet.
Instead of doing everything for Dan Ah’s comfort, however, Yeong Hwa continues to act petulant, and refuses to stop talking, and then later even bangs on the window that’s next to Dan Ah’s ear, after he gets out of the car. This, when she’s already said that she needs him to be quiet because her head hurts. I mean. I would be SO annoyed with him, in Dan Ah’s place. This is not being loving or considerate. This is being shortsighted and selfish. Not attractive in the least, in my opinion. 🙄
I also found Yeong Hwa very clueless, around the whole barbecue thing. Not only does he not have a single thing prepared before inviting people over, he doesn’t have the sense to make Dan Ah feel at home when she does sit down at the table, even though he’s the one who’s been dying to see her. 🤦🏻♀️
However, as before, I like Yeong Hwa a lot better, when he’s being serious. And that scene, where he muses at Dan Ah’s beauty under the street lamp, as a sight that he could never have imagined, is admittedly sweet and sincere.
I also like his new goal, to maintain enough of a distance from Dan Ah, so that he’d be able to see her, without her blocking his vision. That demonstrates a measure of understanding, where he’s trying to balance Dan Ah’s need for space with his own need to see her, and I actually like this a lot.
I am suitably tickled at the unexpected pairing of Secretary Jeong and May. I did not see that coming at all, and the flashback to how the confetti flying around her had looked so dreamy to Secretary Jeong, made me giggle out loud.
Tee hee. Secretary Jeong can be so unexpectedly soft and starry-eyed; SUCH a contrast with his businesslike self. I also find it extra endearing, that Secretary Jeong is the one following May around, like a little puppy. 🐶😆
Y’know, I honestly find it hard to buy the idea that underneath his slimey manipulative surface, Assemblyman Ki is someone who takes things so much to heart that he can’t eat or sleep, and even throws up due to the stress of it all.
Uh. Is this Show’s way of redeeming him at the last minute? Coz this doesn’t feel at all organic. Surely Show could have given us some hints – some glimmers of his true feelings, at least – over the course of our story? Instead, all we’ve seen of Assemblyman Ki is him being conniving, manipulative, and completely selfish, like a two-dimensional villain. I.. don’t know if I can accept that he’s actually a sympathetic character after all, if that’s where Show’s going. 🧐
We round off the episode with Dan Ah effectively breaking things off with Yeong Hwa, and to be honest, I actually feel that this is the best way forward, for both of them.
From everything that we’ve seen so far, Yeong Hwa is very immature, and not exactly what I’d consider ready to be in a committed relationship. And as much as he is sincerely infatuated with Dan Ah, I can’t see him fitting into her life and her world, even though I can imagine how she could take time out to hang out with him in his world. If Yeong Hwa were more mature and grounded, I could maybe imagine him learning to accompany Dan Ah in her world, for example, to official functions in her capacity as a business owner and a member of the board of her family’s company. But as things are right now, with Yeong Hwa as he is right now, I can’t actually see a future for these two people, on a more long term basis.
Personally, I would be happy if Show left things as they are, for this loveline, but I suspect that writer-nim has other ideas, and I’m reminding myself to keep an open mind to see what they are.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
Y’know, I’ve wondered how I’d feel, when I finally got to the end of this show, which has bemused and perplexed me more than I’d like to admit. I was a little afraid that I’d finish this one feeling bemused and perplexed all over again. So I’m happy to report that that’s not the primary feeling I’m left with, now that I’ve finished my watch.
Instead, I feel an odd sense of contentment. Even as Show went about tying up loose ends and drawing various arcs to a close, the vibe that I got was a rather scattered, everyday sort of vibe, rather than a systematic focus on getting closure. The interesting effect that this had, for me, is a sense that these characters are continuing to live their lives, and I mostly just happen to be present, to witness the closure that Show is serving up. This is.. quite pleasant, actually.
I feel like the relationship between Seon Gyeom and Mi Joo is given the most understated, everyday sort of treatment, but I think that this may perhaps be the whole point, since they’d had opposite schedules and bio-rhythms to begin with. Now, they in sync enough in their schedules, that Seon Gyeom’s able to cook dinner for them. I kinda like this idea that the endgame is a small, everyday type of happiness, and doesn’t have to be something epic and world-tilting.
And when Seon Gyeom finds out that Dad’s the one who engineered Eun Bi’s scandal for his own political gain (UGH. THE NERVE. 🤯), Mi Joo cooks for him, and comforts him – which in turn teaches him how to comfort his sister. That’s pretty sweet.
The more dramatic developments are reserved for other characters, like the way Seon Gyeom tattles to Mom about the awful thing that Dad’s done, which then causes Mom to promptly cancel her work trip to the US and divorce Dad, after giving him a big slap on the face (which I found very vicariously gratifying to watch, to be honest! 😅).
Not gonna lie; I took quite a bit of satisfaction from the fact that Dad’s big political plan fails, and he’s left with nothing much at all, after retiring from politics and losing his family. Honestly, though, after all the bad things that he’s done, I’d say that he gets off relatively easy. 😏
Dan Ah’s dad’s death seems to cast a sobering shadow over Dan Ah, as she grieves privately, even as she continues to miss Yeong Hwa. I found Dan Ah’s overall arc this hour more quietly momentous than that of either Seon Gyeom or Mi Joo, which I thought an interesting choice on Show’s part, since Seon Gyeom and Mi Joo are our primary characters. It’s almost like Show’s pretty much done with the most important bits of their journey, and therefore has the time and space to focus on Dan Ah.
I appreciate that she apologizes to Ye Jun, and admits that what she’d done previously, was rude. And it’s cool of Ye Jun not to hold it against her, and instead focus on the reaction that he’d wanted to give, but hadn’t been able to. Also, I think that the way Dan Ah tells Ye Jun about her fake coming out, which she’d done in order to avoid getting married, is like an apology of sorts; she looks genuinely sorry for having used someone else’s lifetime of worry as her excuse, and in this moment, I feel like she’s grown more empathetic towards others.
I love that Ye Jun decides to come out to Yeong Hwa, and I’m glad that Yeong Hwa’s first instinct, after his initial confusion, is to cry, and to hug him. I love that Ye Jun’s able to tell Yeong Hwa so matter-of-factly, that Yeong Hwa’s his weakness. There’s so much honest emotion in this scene, that it makes me feel generous; Yeong Hwa gets a whole chunk of brownie points, for being a good friend who loves Ye Jun as much as he can, even if he can’t reciprocate Ye Jun’s romantic feelings.
I also love the little scene of Ye Jun talking with his mom by the campfire, where she admits that she’d felt guilty towards him for not being a good enough mom, and he’s the one who tells her that everyone’s different, and that it’s ok to be different. Aw. It might feel a little odd that Show’s suddenly giving so much screen time to these supporting characters during our finale, but this is all so meaningful that I don’t even care.
As for the way Show wraps up the loveline between Dan Ah and Yeong Hwa, I am pleasantly surprised, honestly. I’d half (well, mostly actually) suspected that Show would somehow turn things around and give them a happy ending together, but that’s not where Show goes at all. Instead, we see Dan Ah and Yeong Hwa connect, as they happen to meet at the place where Yeong Hwa’s painting is displayed at the Art Museum.
They share a quiet, heartfelt conversation, and it’s so clear that they both miss each other, yet at the same time, recognize that their time together is a precious thing that must stay in the past. The way Dan Ah tells Yeong Hwa that she’ll pick that day as her real birthday, says so much about how much this meeting, and this painting – where he’s lovingly painted her wearing the sneakers that he’d given her – mean to her.
I hafta say, I really love where Show chooses to leave this loveline; it doesn’t force a happy ending where it doesn’t feel organic, and neither does it diminish the importance and preciousness of the relationship, while it lasted. I do believe that both Dan Ah and Yeong Hwa will continue to hold their shared memories close to their hearts, even as they continue to walk out the lessons that they’ve each learned, from being together. That’s pretty poignant and wonderful, to my eyes.
As we gear up to close out our story, our OTP takes a run together, and during a break at the park, Seon Gyeom tells Mi Joo that he loves her, which is a big step for our naturally awkward boy. He doesn’t even need prompting, which is pretty significant for him, I think. And I do really like how he and Mi Joo talk about probably never being able to fully understand each other, because they are different, and therefore agree to not be upset even when they can’t understand each other. That’s so mature and wise. I also really like that idea of them aligning their worlds next to each other, so that even though they are ultimately different, they can still be as close as possible. That’s sweet. 🥰
For its final curtain call, Show serves up a highlight reel of happy endings to round out everything, and we see Seon Gyeom, Mi Joo, Yeong Hwa and Dan Ah hanging out and having beer at Yeong Hwa’s apartment, Seon Gyeom and Mi Joo working together while playing footsie under the table, Ye Jun happily introducing his boyfriend to Yeong Hwa at the coffee shop, Ye Chan giving Mom boxing lessons, Secretary Jeong and May making out in the theater, Seon Gyeom sitting with Dad while Dad fishes, Dan Ah hanging out at Mi Joo’s place with chicken and beer, Seon Gyeom representing Young Il as his agent, Tae Woong doing well as an idol, and even Assemblyman Ki giving Mom a small peace offering of flowers at her movie’s premiere.
It’s quite a lot, and some of it feels overly neat, but it’s feel-good and with Show’s stirring title track scoring it all, I can’t say I’m mad about any of it at all.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
A bit too quirky to feel organic for my taste, but the regular nuggets of healthy wisdom make it a lot better.
FINAL GRADE: B
The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of Run On, is Navillera. I’ve taken an initial peek, and I really like it a lot right away! I have a really good feeling 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. ❤️