THE SHORT VERDICT:
You might need a tiny bit of patience with this one in its early episodes, but Show turns into such a thoughtful, sweet, sensitive love story, that it’s completely worth it. Our story leans restrained and slice-of-life in execution, so some viewers might find it too small of a story, but I love it.
Our central love story is teased out with a detailed, sensitive and tender touch, and the resulting feels are organically swoony and so satisfying. Our leads are great together, and Ro Woon is especially wholesome and endearing as a young man smitten with his sunbae. As a bonus, our supporting characters and their relationships also get a similarly thoughtful treatment, making for a very enjoyable watch overall.
Show remains consistent all the way through, and even manages an ending that feels earned and satisfying. Highly recommend. ❤️
THE LONG VERDICT:
Sometimes it really pays off, to not pay attention to popular opinion, you guys.
When this show first started airing, I’d heard quite a few rumbles of displeasure on my Twitter feed, mostly around how our male lead Hyun Seung (Ro Woon) oversteps boundaries, and comes across as something of a toxic hopeless romantic type. I feel like quite a few of my Twitter pals dropped the show early (at about the episode 2 mark, I believe) because of this reason.
I was curious to see what the fuss was about, and so checked out this show for myself, and whaddya know – I love it, y’all. Like, sincerely, unreservedly, hearts-in-eyes Loves It. 😍
And I hope as I tell you guys all about it, that you might possibly love it too. ❤️
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
I found the OST very atmospheric and enjoyable, as a general rule. I can’t think of a single track that I dislike. I have a bit of a soft spot for Track 5 “I Live In Your Eyes” for its laidback acoustic sound, and its gently pulsing groovable rhythm. If I had to pick a favorite, though, it’d have to be Track 6 “Daydream,” for how ethereal it sounds, while serving up that immersive, I-wanna-sway-with-you 6/8 rhythm that I seem to gravitate towards. ❤️
Here’s the OST album in case you’d like to listen to it as you read the review. If you’d prefer to just listen to “Daydream” on repeat, here it is too. Just right-click on the video and select “Loop.”
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS
I thought the best way to talk about this, would be to address the two main beefs that I’ve seen floating around, in relation to this show.
1. Is our male lead a toxic hopeless romantic?
Without being too spoilery (I’ll talk more about this in more detail, in the spoiler section of the OTP section later in this review), I’ll say that Hyun Seung (Ro Woon) does display some problematic behavior in our first two episodes. Importantly, by episode 3, Song Ah (Won Jin Ah) makes it clear to him that his behavior is not okay, and he then learns from his mistakes.
This means that the behaviors that viewers found offensive and unacceptable actually stop quite early in our story. In fact, I personally feel that Hyun Seung becomes a very thoughtful, swoony male lead, even.
2. Is this a flimsy “nothing” sort of romance?
If you’re looking for big plot developments, then this story might feel like much ado about nothing, to you.
However, if you adjust your expectations to expect a slice-of-life treatment to this romance, and turn your attention to how characters’ thoughts and emotions are teased out, and how they get from point A to point B when they’re processing their feelings, or trying to arrive at a decision, you might find a lot more to enjoy in this show. I personally find Show to be exceptional at treating our characters and their journeys with a sensitive, tender touch.
STUFF I LIKED
I thought I’d give you guys a quick macro overview of the things I liked and didn’t like so much, before delving into characters and their relationships later in this review. One reason I’m choosing to do that, is because in the end, Show does such a good job of fleshing out our characters, that I realize I don’t actively dislike anyone in our drama world. That’s really well done.
Our characters feel like real people
It’s true that I’ve grown to like a range of genres when it comes to dramas, but this – this kind of digging into a relationship (or a quasi-almost-non-relationship, as it were) and the people involved, and unraveling and examining what makes it all tick – this is my jam. I loves it, and Show gives me ample fodder to chew on, and I am such a happy camper, every time I watch an episode of this.
One of the things I really like about this show, is how our characters behave like regular people that I feel I can understand. Even though this is adapted from a webtoon, I like how this world feels normal and accessible, and I like that I feel I can understand these characters’ thought processes, feelings and decisions.
Alongside this, I also love that our characters are given time to arrive at their conclusions, and we are given the chance to follow them on that journey, as they figure things out. And then, by the time they actually take their next big step, I feel like I’m there with them, fully understanding why they might do what they’re doing.
[SPOILER] For example, in episode 3, even though we ended our previous episode with Hyun Seung’s suggestion and offer to Song Ah to date him, to get back at BM Lee (Lee Hyun Wook), instead of jumping into a contract relationship, Song Ah takes a whole episode to wrestle with the idea, before we end this episode on a maybe start of a contract relationship. [END SPOILER]
I actually like this a lot. It shows that our characters aren’t rushing into things, and are taking the time to really try to figure things out.
One of the big reasons this all works so well, is because writer-nim not only appears to be personally acquainted with the feelings that one feels when involved in a one-sided crush, both as a crusher and a crushee, but is also keenly observant of all the stages, layers and facets of those feelings, as they come. Because of this, even though this story and our characters are wrapped in rom-com colors, it all somehow manages to feel relatable and real. That’s pretty darn impressive in my books.
The resulting feels feel earned and true
I’ll talk more about this in the spoiler sections where I’ll delve into actual plot points, but I just wanted to highlight that because of the patient, tender treatment of our characters’ thoughts and feelings, and their emotional trajectories, any and all feels that we get end up getting, feel like earned, organic developments. I liked that a lot.
Our drama world feels real
Even though this drama world is wrapped in rom-com colors, there are a couple of things that help this drama world to feel real. I liked this, because the fact that our characters exist in a recognizably real world, makes the romantic fantasy all the more believable.
Consequences feel real
Sometimes our characters throw caution to the wind, which does admittedly give us some of the swoonier moments in our story. Importantly, though, these more reckless actions are shown to have consequences in the world that they live in, and that keeps this world grounded, to my eyes.
[SPOILER] For example, in episode 4, I’m actually glad that Show allows Hyun Seung to face consequences for his actions in episode 3. Song Ah says that BM Lee isn’t that kind of person and she doesn’t expect anything to be different at work, but BM Lee picking on Hyun Seung seems like a very believable thing, to my eyes. [END SPOILER]
Developments feel organic
More often than not, the developments in our narrative – even the ones from which angst arise – feel organic and not something that’s introduced just for the sake of shaking up our story.
[SPOILER] For example, in episode 13, Song Ah receiving the offer to join the Europe project’s task force forms the main conflict of this part of our story, and feels very plausibly like an organic development. We’ve already seen how passionate and dedicated Song Ah is to her work, so it makes sense that she would be offered an opportunity to grow, and it also makes sense that she would be drawn to that opportunity.
The fact that she hesitates at all, has to do with Hyun Seung, I believe. I feel like if Hyun Seung weren’t in her life as such a sweet and loving boyfriend, Song Ah would probably say yes to this offer, without needing to think about it much at all. This all makes for a conflict that feels warranted and believable. [END SPOILER]
Conflicts feel organic
I like that the things that present themselves as conflict between our characters feel organic and believable.
[SPOILER] For example, in episode 13, I understand why Hyun Seung would feel upset, at the fact that Song Ah didn’t tell him about the offer to join the Europe task force. After all, she’d talked to him about the other job opportunity that she’d received, and Hyun Seung’s right in pointing out that this Europe offer has a much bigger potential impact on their relationship, and therefore, it’s all the more important that Song Ah discusses it with him.
On the other hand, I can understand Song Ah’s hesitation in bringing it up with Hyun Seung. She knows that the issue is likely to cause Hyun Seung a good amount of anxiety and discomfort, and she doesn’t want to put that on Hyun Seung, unless there’s a reasonable chance that she might want to pursue the offer.
In this case, I think they both have valid points, to the extent that I can’t say that I think either one of them is more in the right than the other. However, I’m glad that they get over this initial bump in their relationship reasonably quickly, with them both apologizing for where they’d each gone wrong. I like that one of the first things Hyun Seung chooses to say, is that they won’t break up, even if Song Ah chooses to go to Europe. [END SPOILER]
The Funny mostly works for me, when it appears
Show doesn’t go heavy on the Funny, but when it does serve up Intended Funny, I’m happy to say that it often worked for me. I like that most of the time, the Funny is mined from situations that feel organically embedded in our drama world.
Here are just 2 examples of when I felt Show tickle my funny bone.
E4. I am nicely entertained by the fact that Manager Yoo (Yang Jo Ah) is on to the fact that something’s up between Hyun Seung and Song Ah, and tries to defend Hyun Seung from efforts to set him up on a blind date, only to have Hyun Seung fake-confess that the person he has a crush on is Manager Yoo herself. Ha. Too funny!
E8. I’m amused that Hyun Seung’s now walking on eggshells around Manager Ahn (Kim Han Na), and doing all sorts of thing to win her favor. Not only does this fan the rumor mill around the nature of Hyun Seung’s relationship with Song Ah, it, importantly, gives Song Ah a reason to feel at least a little jealous, since Hyun Seung seems to be paying so much attention to Manager Ahn. I’m really quite amused by this, because this feels organic to the story, while being entertaining, AND while being an important catalyst for Song Ah to realize her feelings for Hyun Seung.
Show doesn’t ever get too angsty
I am so impressed that Show doesn’t ever get too angsty. What I mean is, while most dramas start serving up angst with a heavy hand from as early as episode 12, Show doesn’t start serving up angst until quite late in our story, and even when it does, Show approaches it with a reasonably gentle hand, and doesn’t lay it on too thick.
What this means is that no episode ever felt hard to get through, for me, because any and all angst is handled with a sensitive touch, and doesn’t actually diminish my enjoyment of my watch. That’s some serious skillz. 🤩
STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
Some stuff is cringey in execution
Certainly, Show isn’t perfect, and there were a couple of occasions when I felt that stuff leaned rather cringey in execution.
E5. I only really liked the nightclub scene for Hyun Seung’s gaze at Song Ah it the moment that their eyes meet. Other than that, I found the scene a bit.. orchestrated? Also, it’s low-key creepy, the way Hyun Seung just stands there behind her while she dances, wearing a slight, cryptic smile. ALSO, I have to admit that in this scene, I felt Ro Woon’s acting limitations, because I wanted him to come across as devoted and smitten, not low-key creepy. 😬
E11. I know this was meant for funny, but I felt quite a bit of secondhand embarrassment while watching our OTP try too hard to keep their relationship a secret at work, and end up coming across weirdly stilted and awkward. 😜
Some stuff is really tropey
Sometimes, Show does reach for tropey plot points in the telling of its story. On the upside, Show doesn’t do it often, and when it does use a trope, I end up feeling sold on the feels anyway, thanks to the delivery of our actors.
[SPOILER] For example, in episode 5, I had every expectation that Show would find a way to bring Hyun Seung and Song Ah into the same frame to end off our episode, and that’s exactly what we got.
Was it tropey and convenient that Song Ah would come upon Hyun Seung and his group of tipsy colleagues, even though she had no idea where they’d gone in the first place? Yes. Was Ro Woon’s tipsy acting kinda awkward to watch? YES. And did it seem uncomfortable and unnatural for a person of his height to bend down and put his head on her shoulder? Also yes. But was that very last murmured line, “I miss you,” still affectingly melty? Absolutely. 😍 [END SPOILER]
..And this is why I can’t be mad at Show, even though it sometimes shows me its flaws. When it wants to bring the feels, it brings ’em well.
Very occasionally, some details feel oversimplified
This is a very small thing, but I did notice that some details feel oversimplified.
[MINOR SPOILER] For example, in episode 6, the sticker solution to the printing error on the lipstick cases seems too commonplace for that scene, where our KLAR team members look stumped, to be at all plausible. I know Show wants Hyun Seung to look good, but seriously, if none of the other team members were able to think of correction stickers as a solution, they really need to rethink how qualified they are for the job, ha. 😆 [END SPOILER]
KEY CHARACTERS AND RELATIONSHIPS
Shout-out to Asperugo, who pointed out to me over on my Patreon page, that our drama world is written to be quite female-centric, in that our female characters tend to be more fleshed out than our male characters.
I’d been so busy enjoying all our character relationships, that I hadn’t even noticed it until she’d mentioned it. And now that she’s mentioned it, I realize that it’s so true. In picking characters to talk about, I realize that some of our supporting male characters are playing such secondary roles, that I don’t have much to say about them except in relation to their female counterparts. I just thought that was very interesting, and wanted to mention it!
Ro Woon as Hyun Seung
It’s such an irony to me, that I’d originally counted Ro Woon’s presence in this show as a downside, when I’d first considered watching this show. The reason for this is that I’d found him quite uninteresting and underwhelming in Extraordinary You, where he’d been required to do little more than stand around and look handsome.
I’m so happy to have my expectations overturned; Ro Woon’s outing as Hyun Seung is literally one of my favorite things about this show.
I have to admit that a big part of the reason I enjoyed this show as much as I did, is because of how well Ro Woon translates into an earnest smitten puppy, heh. Well, Show has other positives too, of course, but when we’re talking about a visceral, feel-it-in-my-bones sort of crack factor, that is everything to do with the appeal of the smitten puppy. 😍🤩
It’s testament to writer-nim’s gentle, skillful touch, that Hyun Seung’s growth over the course of our story is so gradual that I almost didn’t notice it. It’s only upon revisiting Show’s early episodes in order to write this review, that I realized with a start, that Hyun Seung does grow and mature a lot as a character. I grew to love him so much, that I forgot I ever felt uncomfortable with some of his earlier, less mature behavior, heh.
I will talk a lot more about Hyun Seung in the spoiler section on our OTP, but for a start, here are a handful of thoughts I had around Hyun Seung as a character.
E4. I thought the scene with the toner getting in Hyun Seung’s eyes was a bit cringey in execution, but in principle, I like the idea of the growing hyper-awareness on Song Ah’s part. Hyun Seung – or rather, Ro Woon – has a rather understated but distinct sensuous, sultry appeal about him that is working for me very nicely, and I am eager for Song Ah to be at least a little bit discombobulated by it all. On that note, I’d also just like to say that Ro Woon definitely has more appeal to me as an adult character than a teenaged one (like in Extraordinary You).
E5. I do give Hyun Seung credit for watching Song Ah’s reactions closely and knowing when to stop pushing it, while hanging out with her and Ga Young (Kang Hye Jin). That feels like growth of some sort, like he’s learned to balance the teasing with actually respecting Song Ah’s boundaries.
E13. It’s pretty refreshing to see Hyun Seung be on the receiving end of a junior’s admiration and respect, and I am pretty proud of Hyun Seung, for how far he’s come since he joined KLAR. Myung Jin’s (Choi Woo Sung) dramatic change of heart, from wanting nothing much to do with KLAR and a fully formed plan to join another company, to wanting to stay on at KLAR and learn from Hyun Seung, is nothing short of dramatic. That’s the kind of personal impact that only the very special have, and it does make my heart swell, that Hyun Seung’s achieved that, without even actually intending to.
E13. Hyun Seung’s dinner date with Song Ah’s mom (Lee Ji Hyun) is sweet. I love that he’s so kind and gentle with her. I know that he’s dating Song Ah and therefore has a vested interest when it comes to leaving a good impression on her mother, but still, his patience with her is truly something else, and I love how he makes it all about her agreeing to have dinner with him, when actually, he’s the one working to make sure that she’s comfortable and not alone. Sweetness. 🥰
Won Jin Ah as Song Ah
To my eyes, Song Ah is a very well-drawn, nicely faceted character. She’s a serious, passionate professional who loves her job and takes pride in doing it well; she’s a good colleague and friend; she’s also a daughter, conflicted about her mom’s behavior. And last but absolutely not least, she’s the serious, cautious, reasoned sunbae on the receiving end of Hyun Seung’s wide-eyed affection.
To writer-nim’s credit, I feel that Song Ah’s well-developed in each of her facets, so much so that even when her temper wears thin as she grapples with her personal family-related frustrations, she still feels like the same person who’s the consummate professional at work.
Even though Song Ah’s restrained manner caused me to warm up to her a little slowly, I find that I actually really like her as a character, and I think Won Jin Ah does a very solid job of bringing Song Ah to life in all of her multifaceted glory.
I have (quite a lot) more to say about Song Ah in the OTP spoiler section, but here are some of my non-OTP related observations and thoughts.
E2. I find it very believable, the way Song Ah withdraws into herself, upon learning the truth. I can absolutely believe that after Hyun Seung prevents her from confronting BM Lee on the spot, Song Ah would need time to process everything, and think about what to do.
I also find her next steps believable; the way she tests BM Lee, by requesting that they start dating openly instead of in secret, feels like her way of giving him a chance to choose her. Something along the lines of: if you would choose me now, I will forgive your actions and pretend that I didn’t know you were engaged to someone else. It’s reasonably non-confrontational, and yet still gives BM Lee the chance to do the right thing. This course of action feels quite well-considered and wise, for someone who dearly wants to save her relationship.
Of course, BM Lee doesn’t actually give Song Ah the answer that she wants, although he says that he will think about it, but I think that this does give Song Ah a sense of foreboding, which is why she goes to confront Hyun Seung about what his suggestion is, for her next steps.
E3. The makjang-esque scenarios that we get treated to, thanks to Song Ah’s imagination as she tries them on for size, are quite amusing, mostly because I feel like I’m suddenly watching a completely different show, where tossing water at people’s faces, wide-eyed shouting and full-on scuffling is done in the office, heh.
I do like how this gives us a look at Song Ah’s thoughts around this whole issue; she wants to confront BM Lee, and she wants to get him in trouble with Director Lee, but the logical part of her mind clearly won’t let her. Getting a glimpse of this internal conflict does help set the stage for her to eventually changing her mind about Hyun Seung’s suggestion.
Also, it occurs to me that this is us getting to see the kind of person Song Ah sometimes wishes she could be, despite the more serious face she shows the world.
E4. While a part of me wants Song Ah to call BM Lee out on his secret engagement, I can also understand why she might choose to break things off with him without mentioning it. By claiming that it was her heart that had changed, Song Ah hopes to retain her dignity. She’d rather be seen as the heartless woman whose feelings changed, rather than the pitiful woman who got cheated on by her boyfriend. She wants to break up with BM Lee, and not the other way around. I get that.
E4. I appreciate that Song Ah apologizes to Hyun Seung for rejecting him, and then reaching for him when she’d turned him down. I like that level of self-awareness and empathy. I’m pleased too, that Hyun Seung doesn’t allow her to continue to feel bad about it, and tells her that he’s glad about it actually, that he didn’t leave her alone in that moment.
E4. I’d come across some viewer dissatisfaction with Song Ah’s words to Hyun Seung, expressing that if not for him, she would have probably ended up continuing to date BM Lee in secret, agreeing to be his hidden woman. I get what these viewers are saying; that Song Ah has every right to break up with BM Lee on her own, and doesn’t need Hyun Seung to be able to do that. And while that sounds completely valid and logical, I feel that I can also understand where Song Ah is coming from.
When you’re a woman in love with a man that you have a deeply ingrained respect for, as Song Ah has with BM Lee, it’s not such a stretch that you’d be persuaded by the story that this man might spin, to explain why you need to be a hidden woman, especially if he appeals to your loyalty, empathy and emotions.
It’s easy to be weak in the face of love, and it’s easy to judge when you’re not the one caught up in confusing emotions. I feel that what Song Ah means, is that she would have been weak in the face of love too, and needed someone on her side to nudge her in the direction of having more self-love and self-respect, so that she could be stronger and more determined, even in the face of love.
I appreciate that Song Ah’s able to articulate this, and even cry in front of Hyun Seung. I like the fact that she’s not embarrassed in front of him anymore. This means that she’s letting her guard down, and feeling more comfortable about being herself in front of him, and that always bodes well for a meaningful connection.
Hyun Seung and Song Ah together
This pairing between Won Jin Ah and Ro Woon is something that I’d thought quite unexpected and even a little perplexing on paper, especially since I’d only ever seen Ro Woon in Extraordinary You, playing a high school student.
However, I am so happy to say that any reservations I’d had about this pairing, were completely unfounded. I thought they worked really well together as our OTP, and I enjoyed their warm, easy, crackly chemistry very much.
I think Show does a really nice job of taking a pairing with an inherent power imbalance – that of a young junior and his sunbae – and slowly evening out the power dynamic, such that by the time our OTP is established, they interact more as equals, despite the different job titles.
I loved the treatment of this loveline, and it’s no exaggeration to say that this pair of lovebirds had me swooning all over the floor, with their thoughtful, appreciative, sincere love for each other. ❤️
Somewhat rocky beginnings
E1. I like the idea of starting our story in a place where our male lead is already secretly smitten with our female lead. There’s a lot less emphasis on a random meet-cute, even though we do get a flashback of how they met. I like that right away, we get to see Hyun Seung and Song Ah interacting. And right away, I feel like Show’s giving us a solid sense of the kind of relationship they have.
They seem friendly, and there are hints of familiarity between them, but there’s also a distinct sense of hierarchy between them, because she’s his sunbae at work. He’s clearly chafing at the way she seems to see him like a little kid, almost, and the simmering desire for her to see him as something more, is rather alluring.
Because of Hyun Seung’s feelings for Song Ah, the lines between personal and professional are getting blurred, and this is where his behavior starts to rub viewers the wrong way – especially towards the end of the episode.
To Hyun Seung’s credit, though, he conducts himself reasonably well, when he realizes that Song Ah is dating BM Lee, and is therefore not single and available for him to court. He even tells his sister Ji Seung (Wang Bit Na) that Song Ah had looked very happy with BM Lee, and sadly prepares to process all his feelings and wrap up his crush, once and for all. That is, until he spots BM Lee with his fiancé at his sister’s bridal shop.
It’s after this point that Hyun Seung’s behavior comes into question. I agree that in our final scene, there’s a lot that Hyun Seung says and does that’s out of line. It’s not appropriate for him to have followed Song Ah to the storage corner where she’d met BM Lee, nor was it appropriate for him to eavesdrop on their conversation, and then call Song Ah out for being free that evening, because BM Lee had canceled plans with her. And most of all, it’s not appropriate for him to rub the lipstick off her lip, while asking her not to put on that lipstick anymore.
I rationalize, though, that even though Hyun Seung’s behaved this way, Show hasn’t actually demonstrated that it approves or endorses this behavior as good or correct. Song Ah hasn’t had a chance to react, certainly. And, in Hyun Seung’s defense, he’s not thinking straight at all by this point, having endured one whole month of going crazy knowing that BM Lee’s stringing Song Ah along, while engaged to someone else. Given Hyun Seung’s feelings for Song Ah, this one month of coping with the knowledge of this terrible secret, has got to have worn him down greatly, and therefore, I can understand that he’d say and do things that are reckless and poorly considered.
E2. As I’d hoped, Song Ah lets Hyun Seung know – in no uncertain terms – that she finds his behavior unacceptable. This is important, because if she had, hypothetically speaking, not done so, then it would have implied that Show is saying that this overstepping of boundaries is not only ok, but ideal, romantically speaking. Happily, this is not the case, and Hyun Seung is made very much aware of how much displeasure Song Ah feels towards him, for his actions.
I completely agree that the way Hyun Seung reveals the truth to Song Ah, is high-handed and inappropriate. He basically drags her to an unknown location without giving her any idea what to expect, and then allows her to be thrust into the biggest shock of her life. She never saw it coming, and therefore didn’t have any way to brace herself for it. It’s quite literally the worst say Hyun Seung could have thought of, to break the news to her.
A better way to go about it, would have been to tell her the truth first, and then offer to take her to the bridal shop, to witness the truth for herself. At least that way, she’d have had time to process it, and steel herself, in case Hyun Seung was telling the truth.
However, Ro Woon’s doing a good job of making Hyun Seung feel young and inexperienced, while being driven by a lot of feelings that have been snowballing, the longer he’s been trying to hold it all in, and so I can believe that he’d so something like this, in an effort to prove, without room for doubt, that BM Lee really is engaged to someone else, while dating Song Ah.
Importantly, Hyun Seung does appear genuinely regretful, when he’s faced with not only Song Ah’s fury and cold-shoulder treatment, but also, her held-in distress. I think that beyond the fact that she’s upset with him and doesn’t want anything to do with him, Hyun Seung is torn up at the thought that she’s hurting.
Interestingly, I find that when Song Ah thinks back on the things that Hyun Seung had said to her, there are actually nuggets of caution and wisdom in there, even though the way he’d broken the truth to her, was the worst possible course of action. “You need a chance to stand up for yourself;” “Look after yourself first;” “Think it through before you do anything;” on hindsight, this actually all sounds like good advice. Perhaps Hyun Seung isn’t as immature and rash as his actions make him appear.
Also, I hadn’t known ahead of time, that Hyun Seung would suggest that Song Ah date him, to get back at BM Lee. Ahh! I do have a weakness for contract relationship setups, and I do find the idea of their revenge-dating, and growing real feelings, while making BM Lee jealous, quite delicious.
E3. I find it completely believable that Song Ah would immediately dismiss Hyun Seung’s suggestion that they date as a way to get back at BM Lee, because not only is it quite extreme, it’s likely to complicate matters, because Hyun Seung is Song Ah’s trainee at work. This is somewhat akin to a teacher dating their student, and in principle, sounds all kinds of wrong. I think it actually makes more sense for Song Ah to reject it outright, but then have the idea continue to niggle at her, as she tries to deal with things in her own way.
E3. I have to admit I was a little bemused at Hyun Seung’s sudden cold-shoulder treatment of Song Ah, but I realize that that was most likely because of my drama eyes having been taught to expect a certain long-suffering perfection from nice male leads.
On further thought, I feel that Hyun Seung was deliberately overcompensating, in the way he was acquiescing to Song Ah’s request to just mind his own business. Plus, he does offer to help her with her bags, which she pointedly ignores, so he’s also responding to her in kind. I do think there’s a bit of petty spitefulness in there, especially at the part where he pointedly asks Song Ah whether she’s still going on her anniversary trip, which I put down to Hyun Seung’s relative immaturity and his highly invested emotional state.
Importantly, I don’t think Show is endorsing his behavior as good or right; it just is what it is. Song Ah’s being cold and aloof, and Hyun Seung’s acting out in his own way, while following the letter but not the spirit of Song Ah’s demand that he leave her alone.
As a result, Song Ah gets a taste of what it means when people say “be careful what you wish for,” because she’s so thrown by Hyun Seung’s sudden detachment. It makes sense to me that eventually this all boils over, and results in a penetratingly honest, emotional conversation while they’re at the beach in Samcheok.
It doesn’t give us any conclusions, but we do learn that Hyun Seung’s been in Song Ah’s position before, and had his heart broken, and this new piece of information seems to give Song Ah additional pause for thought. I like the way we’re seeing Song Ah’s thought process build and evolve. By the time she eventually changes her mind, I feel like I saw the stepping stones that helped get her there.
Also, despite the aloof tussling on the surface, it soon becomes clear to Song Ah that Hyun Seung is still very much on her side. I thought the way he looked out for her and made sure that the request for the freebie lotion didn’t fall through the cracks, says a lot about where his heart truly lies. I’m glad that Song Ah uses that opportunity to smooth things over with Hyun Seung, and I’m also pleased that they take the chance to apologize to each other for their behavior.
This feels healthy and positive, and I like the casual, candid tone of their conversations thereafter. Song Ah’s no longer on the defensive with Hyun Seung, and is refreshingly honest in sharing what she feels, and Hyun Seung’s no longer on the offensive with Song Ah, and is clearly giving her the space to make her own decisions instead of trying to sway her to his way of thinking. All very good things. I like this.
And, gosh, I have to say, I do get quite a thrill from our closing scene, where BM Lee confronts Song Ah after receiving her call where she says that she wants to break up with him because he’s trash. Of course Hyun Seung shows up again, after having left after walking Song Ah home, and of course he moves to grab BM Lee’s arm, to stop BM Lee from dragging Song Ah by the wrist. That’s all par for the course, in kdrama. What thrills me is how Hyun Seung’s taken Song Ah’s request for respect so much to heart, that he intentionally stops to ask for her decision: “You want me to get out of the way? ..Sunbae?”
Swoon. I love it. I love that in the heat of the moment, Hyun Seung’s still so cognizant and respectful of the fact that Song Ah has requested that he stay out of her business, and let her decide what to do next on her own. In this moment, where it would be far too easy for him to lean in to the heightened emotions and BM Lee’s accusations and taunting, he stands his ground, not to retaliate, but to find out what Song Ah wants. I love it.
And I love that the moment Song Ah makes her decision known, by reaching for Hyun Seung’s hand, Hyun Seung wastes no time shifting into gear, and telling BM Lee to get lost, and stay away from his woman. Ooh. Gauntlet, thrown.
The fake relationship is born
E4. In that three-way confrontation between BM Lee, Song Ah and Hyun Seung, I can understand why Song Ah might decide that accepting Hyun Seung’s help might not be such a bad idea. BM Lee is so insistent and almost belligerent, that in Song Ah’s shoes, I’d think that having Hyun Seung as additional ammunition would be helpful too.
In this moment, I am guessing that Hyun Seung is aware of the risk that he’s taking by being rude to BM Lee, who is his department manager, but I’m guessing that he chooses to take the risk anyway, because that’s how badly he wants to protect Song Ah. He will do and say whatever it takes, in order to get BM Lee out of Song Ah’s face, even if he has to pay a high price later. I’d like to think that Hyun Seung isn’t acting on impulse in this scene, but with determination, and a full understanding of the consequences he might face.
E4. Of course it’s complete drama coincidence that Hyun Seung sees Song Ah enter the nightclub, and thanks to Hyun Seung having been so sweet and loyal these past couple of episodes, I don’t actually find it stalkery of him to enter the nightclub too. Rather than stalking Song Ah, it strikes me that he’s just curious to know more about her, particularly since she doesn’t appear to be the partying kind.
And, although I do think he’s overdoing the protective bit a little, the way he basically shoos that guy away from dancing close to Song Ah, I do dig that moment at the end, when their eyes meet. Hyun Seung’s gaze is gentle and rather melty, and I can’t help but spazz, just a little bit.
E5. The way Hyun Seung is able to joke around with Song Ah and make her laugh, in spite of herself, makes me smile. He clearly has a knack for brightening up her day, and these casual, easy, sunny moments are ones that I really enjoy.
E5. It’s poignant to see Song Ah’s knee-jerk reactions that have to do with Hyun Seung, now that he’s no longer her trainee. Like the way she responds to a question because it’s asked in his voice, only to belatedly realize that he’s not asking her the question, but Manager Kang.
E6. Importantly, Tipsy Hyun Seung doesn’t make me cringe this episode, heh. I actually find his drunk behavior low-key endearing, with his earnest inebriated efforts to serve Song Ah juice and feed her yogurt. Also, his mortified horror the next morning, as the events of the night before come back to him, does convince me that he would very much like to become one with the wall, and not have to face Song Ah over this, ever.
E6. I also like Hyun Seung’s reason for allowing himself to drink so much at the sales gathering; that he’d wanted to do well, so that he wouldn’t make Song Ah worry. That’s sincere and endearing, and a little sheepish, all at the same time. I rather like it.
E6. I really enjoy the open, friendly vibe between Hyun Seung and Song Ah right now. It’s friendly, relaxed and a little personal, so there’s room for them to joke around and talk a bit about personal stuff – like whether she’s ok, having to work with BM Lee – but at the same time, there’s a respectful line that is given due consideration, where neither of them pries too much. It feels quite perfect, actually.
The way Hyun Seung tells Song Ah that no matter what choice she makes regarding the Europe job posting, that he’ll support her. That strikes me as being so.. genuine and sincere. He is completely infatuated with her, and even though he really wants her to stay, he doesn’t try to offer his opinion, much less impose it on her.
That’s a key difference between Hyun Seung and BM Lee. BM Lee doesn’t say anything to indicate that he respects Song Ah’s choice. Instead, he decides that the Europe posting is good for her, and since it’s something that she must’ve once said she wanted, he keeps trying to make her go. He never stops to consider that she might want something different now.
I’m glad that Song Ah goes to look for Hyun Seung at the factory, and I’m also glad that she comes to a decision about Europe, and tells him about it.
Ro Woon must really be growing on me; I didn’t find his private celebration whoops at the news of her staying very cringey at all – though that bit of him dancing with the mop did feel quite secondhand embarrassing to watch, heh. On a more serious note, I do sincerely appreciate Ro Woon’s delivery of Hyun Seung’s minor facial reactions to the news. The halting hesitation in his voice, and the swallowed smile that comes unbidden to his lips, all feel very organic and real. Very nicely played.
Also, I do like the way Hyun Seung literally catches Song Ah’s nodding sleeping head with his shoulder. After that he looks kinda frozen to the spot, probably due in equal part to him not wanting to disturb her and therefore being afraid to move, and also, just him being in discombobulated shock at the hyper-proximity. Cute!
The establishment of emotional distance
E7. This episode, I feel bad for Hyun Seung, as we see his romantically driven actions declined, even though Song Ah does so with gentleness and grace.
It all feels very organic and warranted; he’s stepping into boyfriend-like territory, with the way he runs to the car in the rain, to get blankets for Song Ah, so that she can nap comfortably at the factory, while he works. I can completely understand why Song Ah feels this is the right time to let Hyun Seung down gently; she just doesn’t feel right leading him on. I appreciate that upright streak in her; she could have easily just let Hyun Seung continue to be sweet on her, but she chooses not to, because it wouldn’t be fair to him.
I really appreciate how Song Ah goes about this conversation too; she’s open and frank about her own shortcomings, and she’s also appreciative of his goodness and big heart, even as she essentially tells him that she can’t accept his feelings. That’s really the most gracious way she could have let him down, and I kinda love her for that.
Afterwards, it’s also completely understandable that Hyun Seung respects her decision by drawing a much more formal line between them. After all, if he being too casual and cozy with her had been inappropriate, then surely the opposite of that, is what Song Ah wants, right?
It’s painfully awkward to watch them be formal and distant with each other this episode, but it feels so necessary. For one thing, it’s in line with what Song Ah’s indicated regarding Hyun Seung’s feelings for her. And for another, I feel it’s pretty important that Song Ah gets to experience what she’s actually asking for.
Now that Hyun Seung’s keeping a formal, proper distance from her, Song Ah seems to feel the absence of his happy familiarity – and I’m a little sorry to say this – I do think she needs to know what it’s like to miss him. He’s been awesome (although yes, he’s overstepped some boundaries), and I think her appreciation of him is now amplified by his relative absence.
Even though I found the whole thing of Song Ah and Hyun Seung running away from Manager Kang rather contrived – they didn’t have to run as far as they did, for one – I appreciate the significance of this plot point, because it gives both Song Ah and Hyun Seung some respite from their self-imposed distance, and gives them a chance to taste all over again, what it’s like when things are casual and friendly between them.
The momentary closing of emotional distance
E7. I also like that little tidbit when Hyun Seung’s walking Song Ah home, when he demonstrates that he knows her taste in clothes very well, by guessing right away that the item Ga Young bought her is either a skirt or a dress. He really is very observant of her, and I like that this realization gives Song Ah pause for thought.
I really appreciate the fact that Song Ah checks in on Hyun Seung, saying that she hopes that he’s not too hurt by the words she’s said, or the fact that she’s been pushing him away. I love that she lays things out clearly, telling him that it’s because she doesn’t want to be swayed by the hurts that she’s received, and just can’t help it right now.
I feel it’s so important that she does this, because if not, it’s possible that Hyun Seung would take it personally and blame himself. I’m also so glad that Hyun Seung takes this chance to also explain that he’d been greedy, and that he’s sorry that he put her in a difficult position and made her say difficult words. I really do love how healthy this conversation is, and how they agree to keep things the way they are, with Hyun Seung maintaining this type of not-so-distant distance. I like it.
And I also like how we see Song Ah taking to heart what Hyun Seung said about her lack of exercise, by going running the next morning. This feels almost like a throwaway sort of plot point, but I do think it’s meaningful in the sense that we see that what Hyun Seung says does matter to Song Ah.
E7. Augh. That last scene, where Hyo Joo is growing incensed at the sight of BM Lee and Song Ah together at the elevator, and Hyun Seung leans in to take Song Ah’s hand, just really gets me in the heart. The way he looks at her, as he says, “Let’s go, Sunbae,” feels like he’s telling her, “Use me again; lean on me again; I’ll protect you.. again.” AUGH. The feelsss.
E8. I enjoyed watching Hyun Seung and Song Ah spend time together. The recruitment exercise at his alma mater feels like a good callback to when they’d first met, and the gathering with his juniors at the bar-restaurant is a great chance for them to be together in a fun, cozy, casual setting vs. the work setting that they’ve been in, all this time. It was really nice to see them both smiling and laughing and having a good time, surrounded by friendly faces. Song Ah looks like she’s having the most fun I’ve ever seen her have, and looking at her, I feel like I can understand why Hyun Seung likes her as much as he does.
The appearance of Hyun Seung’s ex-girlfriend is an important catalyst as well, not just for Song Ah to feel jealous that someone else might be interested in Hyun Seung’s attentions, but also, for Hyun Seung to reconsider what his crush might mean, in the grand scheme of things.
I really appreciate that Song Ah instinctively remembers what Hyun Seung had shared with her before, and realizes that this is the girl who had broken Hyun Seung’s heart, without needing to be told. I love the empathy she has for him, and the gentle way she reaches out to him, both over text and in person.
I also really like how gentle, open and honest Hyun Seung is, as he thoughtfully admits to Song Ah that he still likes her a lot, and doesn’t actually want to maintain the distance between them like he’d promised.
There’s so much self-control and maturity involved in his decision to now become distant from Song Ah and actually clean up his feelings for her, because he’s still feeling those feelings. And yet, he realizes that if he just keeps going like this, it will eventually become a burden to Song Ah, and he doesn’t want that. I mean, wow. That’s a huge assertion of his mind over his heart, and given how strong his feelings are for Song Ah, I can only imagine how difficult this decision must be for him. And yet, he makes it, for her sake. And he even warns her that he won’t be the same as before, and tells her not be hurt because of it. Augh. That’s so caring. Daze.
The subsequent distance and awkwardness between them feels so palpable, especially with Song Ah being so hyperaware of Hyun Seung’s every move to keep his distance from her. I feel a bit bad for feeling this way, but I’m actually glad that Song Ah misses Hyun Seung’s closeness so acutely. Truly, you sometimes never know how much you treasure something (or someone), until you lose it.
E8. It makes complete sense to me that in this phase, where Hyun Seung’s trying so carefully to put some distance between them, that there are some slip-ups, like his reflex to shield her from road splash by pulling her to himself, and it makes sense to me that Song Ah would reel from these incidental close encounters, both from the contrast between having him near and not having him near, as well as from the acute sense of missing him.
I appreciate that as hard as this must be for Hyun Seung, he studiously sticks to his decision, and maintains a distance from Song Ah, out of respect for her decision. And I love that Song Ah’s learned enough about Hyun Seung, to understand that when he says that he will respect her decision, there’s no turning back – unless she turns things around herself.
..Which is where the episode leaves us.
“If I don’t like that I can’t ask you if you need any help, or that we can’t laugh together anymore, or that I can’t even look at you in the eyes.. If I don’t like all this, that means I’m the bad person, right? Even so, I’ll just be the bad person. So don’t give up. Don’t become distant from me.”
Eee!! I mean, it’s not exactly the same as a love confession, sure, but it’s a huge step for Song Ah. She’s telling him that she doesn’t like being apart from him, and is essentially inviting him to come near again. She’s not exactly saying that she likes him back, just yet, but in her words, there is an unspoken indication that she values his presence and his nearness, and that his ambition of being her boyfriend is not something so impossible anymore, and I am very much here for it.
E9. There’s something about being honest about your feelings, without actually coming to a conclusion about the relationship, and yet, with both parties still relating to each other in an open way, while being cognizant of said feelings, that really gets to me. The honesty and vulnerability is quite thrilling to me. Like, there’s no need to hide; this is how I feel about you, and I want you to know that, and I’ll still look you in the eye, after I tell you that.
That’s how Song Ah approaches Hyun Seung, and I love that little detail, that his breath literally catches in his throat, when he tries to respond to the staffer who interrupts them. That’s such a great little indication, of how discombobulated he is on the inside, in the face of Song Ah’s semi-confession. Cute!
Working out how to not be distant
I find it very natural, that things would lean a bit weird and uncomfortable between Hyun Seung and Song Ah at first, after this conversation. I also think it’s very earnest of Hyun Seung, to give Song Ah the benefit of the doubt, that she didn’t mean her words in “that” way. He doesn’t want to misunderstand her and put her in an uncomfortable position like before, so he’s erring on the side of caution, even though Song Ah’s basically spelled out how she feels. I find that very sweet.
I appreciate that Song Ah doesn’t shy away from owning what she’s said and what she means by what she’s said, even though it’s admittedly a little embarrassing to be talking about it, and she could have easily taken the opportunity to brush it all off as a misunderstanding, like Hyun Seung is offering.
Instead, she tells him that she can’t bear him being distant from her, and asks him to stay where he is – if it isn’t too late. I like that she acknowledges the possibility that Hyun Seung might have moved on from his feelings for her. That feels respectful, like she recognizes that his feelings are precious and that she can’t expect him to adore her forever, given the way she’s rejected him so unequivocally in the past.
E9. I like the way Song Ah and Hyun Seung ease their way back into being comfortable around each other. It’s clearly weird for them both at first, but I can see them each leaning in and not flinching in the face of the initial awkwardness, like the way Song Ah doesn’t retreat from Hyun Seung in the pantry, but offers him the freshly made cup of coffee she’s holding instead, and the way Hyun Seung doesn’t run away or decline, but accepts the coffee, and sips on it, while she makes another cup.
These are the small decisions that they make consistently, that rewards them with a renewal of the casually warm and cozy vibe between them, by the time we reach the end of the episode. I just love that idea, that these small, conscious decisions are important and significant. I also love the idea that they are so conscious of it, and so intentional about it, because the end goal, of being comfortable around each other again, is so important to them both.
And while I can’t understand Mom too well, I can imagine too well, how worn out this must make Song Ah. It’s not surprising to me that Song Ah would feel so frustrated and helpless, that she’d seek out Hyun Seung on the pretext of wanting ice cream.
I love that Hyun Seung notices right away that something’s wrong, and instead of playing along with Song Ah’s ice cream pretext, immediately gathers her into his arms and makes space for her to cry. Aw. That is exactly what Song Ah needs, and Hyun Seung is so wonderfully gentle and tender in this moment, that I’m melting all over the floor with hearts in my eyes. 😍
I can absolutely understand why Song Ah would tell him, in that moment, that she likes him too. I love how quietly and honestly she states it, and I do feel like Hyun Seung’s reaction is quite perfect. He tries to suppress a smile, but ultimately fails, and his smile triggers her to smile – and through it all, I’m so gratified to see that Hyun Seung’s priority, in this happy moment which he’s been waiting for, for so long, is to continue to comfort Song Ah. Ahhhh. I love it. So much.
An OTP is born
E10. Guh. I just love how the early relationship between Hyun Seung and Song Ah is developing. I love that Hyun Seung is warm, gentle and comforting, while managing to slip in some gentle teasing in his words, which makes Song Ah laugh. He’s so patient, too, which I love.
For example, I love that he asks whether they are dating now, just to confirm that he’s not making any wrong assumptions. And, I love that he makes a gentle joke out of it, saying he’d call all the emergency numbers and complain to everyone, if Song Ah had said no. That’s pretty cute. And then he follows that with a gentle, fingers interlaced hand hold, thanking her for coming to him. Aw. And that prompts her to thank him too, for waiting for her. It’s all so sweet and appreciative, in all its tentative glory, and I love it.
I really like how both Hyun Seung and Song Ah are open and honest about their uncertainty in this early phase of their relationship as well. I much prefer this, than them not saying anything, and then nurturing doubts about themselves and each other, afterwards. When Hyun Seung is surprised that Song Ah doesn’t appear to be reluctant to say goodbye, even though this is their first day together as a couple, he asks about it, and she answers honestly that she’s not used to this and still thinks of them as being trainer and trainee.
At the same time, I also really appreciate that Hyun Seung makes it a point to also be candid about their skinship levels. Altogether, it feels like they are consistently laying things out in the open and addressing them honestly, and this feels really healthy to me. Even better, is the fact that they are able to chuckle about things together, even as they figure it all out. I know that this is low-tension, but you know what, I LOVE IT.
And how lovely, that Hyun Seung is respectful and tells Song Ah that even though they might be close, that there are things that he recognizes she may not want to talk about, and he’s ok with that. He simply states that he hopes she won’t be too upset by whatever it was that had upset her earlier. Aw. He manages to show care and express concern, without overstepping her boundaries. That’s so melty, honestly.
I like that Song Ah doesn’t try to hide her issues with her mother from Hyun Seung. Instead, she gives him a vague, general overview, which then enables him to offer her support, even without knowing the details. I like that.
E10. The OTP camping trip is pretty cute, but what I like more, is how Song Ah finally opens up to Hyun Seung about her issues with her mom, and shares why she is unwilling to risk everything for love. Hyun Seung is so sweet, to respond that he’ll be the one to risk everything for love, then.
I also really like Hyun Seung’s approach to their first kiss. He approaches Song Ah slowly, so that she has the time to indicate any discomfort or refuse the kiss, and the first time his lips touch hers, it’s just as tentative – again, so that she has time to indicate if she doesn’t want him to continue, or if she feels uncomfortable – and it’s only after that, after he pulls away and searches her face, and finds no trace of her wanting him to stop, that he leans in and kisses her with more depth and abandon. Melt. Puddle. Daze. So lovely. 😍
E11. I really like how their camping trip is managed, in that there’s a nice balance between healthy conversation, cozy snuggles, and the idea of taking things slow – while allowing glimmers of desire to peek through the surface. This feels refreshingly honest and healthy to me, perhaps because of how Ro Woon plays Hyun Seung’s approach to Song Ah in the tent.
It’s not reflected in the dialogue, but just the way he looks at her is quite pregnant with sensuality, even while the dialogue leans tentative in a just-getting-to-know-you-properly sort of way. I think this is pitch perfect for a newly minted couple that’s serious about getting to know each other better, where they’re taking things slow (read: not jumping to make out with each other), but where the attraction and desire is still very real, though subtly portrayed.
I also love the small glimpse that we get into how things have been developing between them, up to this point, and I personally squeed at how Hyun Seung got overwhelmed with silent squee himself, on hearing Song Ah’s sleepy voice for the first time. So cute!! And, so real, honestly. That’s the kind of thing that makes perfect sense to me; he never thought he’d have access to this very personal side of Song Ah, and now that it’s happening, it’s completely surreal to him.
I’m glad that Song Ah is so cognizant and appreciative of what she has, in Hyun Seung: someone who not only knows and understands what she’s been through, but who’s been so patient in loving her and waiting for her, that when she found herself ready to love him back, he was still there, loving her and waiting for her. That honestly is so romantic, to me. ❤️
E11. The hug and kiss in the park is one of the swooniest moments in this episode, I feel. Not only does Show casually highlight the crazy height difference between our leads by having Song Ah climb on an actual bench in order to give Hyun Seung a comforting hug, we also get treated to melty smooches where, seated on the top of a stone pillar where Hyun Seung’s let her down on, Song Ah is the one who holds Hyun Seung’s face and leans in for more kisses, after laughingly telling him to stop. The slight but distinct shift in tone, from playful to sensuous, is quite heady, and I swoon.
E11. I also enjoy the fact that Song Ah and Hyun Seung can talk about and help each other with work, even while they’re dating. I like how Song Ah’s suggestion to Hyun Seung, about launching the Renew Stick as a promotional gift item instead of an actual new product, helps Hyun Seung to neatly and officially get back at BM Seo for his underhanded tactics, while using the exact same logic that BM Seo had used in the first place. Very nice.
E12. Even though I wasn’t too hot on the rogue influencer arc this episode, I appreciate that the tension writer-nim chooses for our narrative at this point, doesn’t come from having Song Ah separate from Hyun Seung, but comes from a plot point that involves them working even closer together. In principle, I really like that. As a bonus, this arc showcases Song Ah’s love for KLAR as a brand, and makes a convincing case that she’s sincerely keen to stay on at her job, despite the complications from the rumors.
Also as expected, Hyun Seung shows himself to be a sweet and supportive boyfriend, not only standing up for Song Ah when he hears some random guys from the office gossiping about her at the coffeeshop, but also, telling Song Ah that he doesn’t mind her being open about their relationship at work, if it will make life easier for her. Aw.
E12. I like the fact that Song Ah discusses the possibility of her taking on a new job with Hyun Seung. That shows that she respects his opinion as her boyfriend, and I like that she says that this decision affects him too. And how nice, to see Hyun Seung admit that he’d like her to be in the same office for selfish reasons, but would support a change of job, if it’s something that would make her feel happy and fulfilled in her career. Ahhh. This kind of healthy couple conversation just has a way of making me happy.
E12. How telling, of Hyun Seung’s standing in Song Ah’s heart, that she’d go directly to his apartment to see him, and tell him what BM Lee had wanted to see her about, right after having that conversation with BM Lee.
In the past, it had felt like Hyun Seung was the one who liked her more, which was true, given where this loveline started. But now, with this, it feels like things have balanced out; Song Ah is just as eager to see Hyun Seung and spend time with him, as he is, with her, and therefore, it seems fitting, that this is the point at which Hyun Seung appears to make his move to, uh.. take their relationship to the next level. His bedroomy gaze, as he leans in to kiss her, is quite swoony, truly. Flail.
The beginnings of trouble in paradise
E13. Even though I was not surprised that Song Ah would come to the conclusion that she wants to pursue the Europe opportunity, I have to admit that I was a little surprised at first, by Hyun Seung’s request, asking Song Ah not to go. I guess I’d expected him to say instead, that he would support her decision, regardless of what it was. However, on further thought, I realize that Hyun Seung is just being very honest, in this scene.
In all the time that Hyun Seung has known Song Ah, he’s always been the one who’s liked her more, it would seem, and this is amplified by the fact that she’d been slow to warm to his affection; for a long time, he was the one who’d liked her. I can understand that upon searching his soul, Hyun Seung might come to realize that he doesn’t feel all that confident of being apart from Song Ah for 5 years. And, I need to appreciate the fact that Hyun Seung is able to be honest with Song Ah about how he feels, even though it isn’t the kind of thing that his perfect boyfriend persona might say.
E14. The aftermath of Song Ah deciding to take up the opportunity to work in Europe, and the lead-up to her departure is handled with Show’s signature gentle and graceful touch. Hyun Seung’s literally a model boyfriend as Song Ah makes her decision and busies herself preparing to leave. He’s understanding of her work demands, and sweetly waits for her while she works, until she has time to spend with him. It’s really lovely, actually.
At the same time, we do see hints of Hyun Seung’s uncertainty, like in that scene early in the episode, where he’s alone at home, and pep talks himself a little bit, telling himself that he’ll be able to do it. Despite his hopeful words, there is nervousness and doubt in his eyes.
The truth is, though, it’s easy to see why their relationship might have broken down over the three years that we skip over. Since we’ve seen that that’s how Song Ah’s new job rolls, it’s not hard to imagine that Hyun Seung would have inevitably been sidelined in favor of pressing job demands. Relationships take work, and long distances ones even more so, and if Song Ah is so busy with work that she isn’t able to make time for their relationship, I can’t say I’m all that surprised that this is where we end the episode.
I mean, I was totally rooting for them to make it, of course. They’ve been such a lovely couple in all the time that we’ve seen them as a couple, that I couldn’t help hoping that they’d beat the odds. However, at the same time, when their eyes meet at that crosswalk, and Hyun Seung turns and walks away, I could already imagine everything that might have gone down in the three years in between.
Lee Hyun Wook as BM Lee
BM Lee was a character that was one of the hardest sells for me, because when we start our story, he’s the scumbag who’s two-timing Song Ah (not a spoiler, since it’s part of our story’s premise). It’s credit to writer-nim’s painstaking efforts, that I eventually felt more sympathetic towards BM Lee as a character.
Over the course of our story, we do get more of BM Lee’s backstory, and bit by bit, it becomes easier to understand why he might have made the choices that he did. It doesn’t exonerate him, certainly, but I appreciate that Show makes him a three-dimensional character with his own pain and struggles, rather than a Terrible Two-Timing Boyfriend that we all love to hate.
By the end of our story, I found myself wishing him well, which is a far cry from the beginning of our show, when I just wanted someone to hit him, ha. Well played, writer-nim. Well played.
E3. BM Lee is clearly not in a happy place, with Chairman Lee (Jeon Kuk Hwan) looking down on his family background, and his own inability to be ruthless. I don’t foresee a happy marriage, given these beginnings. Still, I do think he’s making some very bad decisions, and the way he’s keeping his engagement a secret from Song Ah, is just not ok. For this reason, it actually pleases me that his efforts to reach Song Ah get him nowhere, as she pointedly ignores all his efforts to reach out to her.
E4. Even though Show has painted BM Lee to be a very stoic, almost expressionless character so far, this is his pride that we’re talking about. Song Ah and Hyun Seung have together bruised his ego greatly, and he’s definitely angry about it. He wouldn’t take it out on Song Ah because he’s hoping to reconcile with her, but Hyun Seung is an easy and available target that’s well within BM Lee’s power to take advantage of. I can absolutely believe that BM Lee would say things to make Hyun Seung look small and bad in front of everyone, and I can also believe that he would use his power to send Hyun Seung off to the warehouse, so that Song Ah would be alone at the event hall.
E4. We get some backstory on BM Lee and why he’s so loyal to Director Lee (Lee Gyu Han), and it boggles my mind slightly, that even in high school, BM Lee had had the jaded presence of mind to sell himself to Director Lee, if Director Lee would use his family’s money and influence to bail him out of his situation and send him away to school.
E4. I finally get what I want, when Song Ah blurts out under pressure from BM Lee, the real reason for her wanting to break up with him. I’m rather shocked, actually, by his lack of remorse. His reaction is more or less an underwhelmed, “Oh, THAT’S what you were upset about?” sort of thing. Ugh. I can’t believe it. If he’s as serious about Song Ah as he claims to be, surely he’d feel more shame at having his secret engagement found out? Surely he’d feel more sorry? But he doesn’t seem to feel either.
I’m also bemused at his offer to marry Song Ah. Does he think that he lives in a country where he’s allowed more than one wife? Because he’s certainly not making any moves – or any promises, even – to call off his secret engagement.
Because of BM Lee’s very underwhelming response to Song Ah’s assertion, and also because of the way he shoves Hyun Seung first, I’m actually quite gratified, in the moment, when Hyun Seung hits him. I know there are likely more consequences in store for Hyun Seung, because of this fight, but I rationalize that BM Lee’s the first one to actually get rough with Hyun Seung, so he should shoulder half the blame, at least. Also, it’s just quite satisfying to me, that BM Lee sees that even if he’s not willing to show strong emotion for Song Ah, there’s someone else who will.
E5. I’m not at all surprised that BM Lee doesn’t enjoy seeing Song Ah and Hyun Seung together, though, and I’m not surprised that he would use his authority to forcefully separate them. Given that Song Ah’s protest sounds perfectly reasonable, the fact that BM Lee refuses to entertain her objection, shows how petty he really is.
I’m quite taken aback by this reveal about the Europe posting. So.. if I understand this right, BM Lee’s big plan was to get married without telling Song Ah, and then go to Europe with her for 3 years, all while being secretly married to someone else? Like, seriously?? 🤯 How could he possibly think this is a good idea? And, how could he possibly think this is in any way fair to Song Ah? I’m shocked that he doesn’t even seem sorry, when Song Ah calls him out on the callousness and cruelty of his plan. How can he claim to love her?? UGH. I just.. can’t, with this guy. 😡
Also, it’s very uncool of BM Lee to try to use Hyun Seung to get Song Ah to agree to the Europe job posting. Dude. You were absolutely planning to trick her into going to Europe as your mistress. For 3 years. I can never forgive you for that. 😤
E6. I do feel a little bad for BM Lee, because it’s obvious that his father (Lee Yoon Gun) is just leeching off him, while being a regular embarrassment and nuisance, with his visits to the police station and his requests for money. I can understand BM Lee wanting to escape from that. Going to Europe would put some distance between him and his father, and also, his association with Director Lee’s family would ensure that he has the resources to deal with the regular requests for money. At the same time, though, it really does feel like he’s sold his soul for something that’s not even that attractive?
E6. I appreciate that BM Lee tells Song Ah to seriously consider the Europe job posting, instead of automatically turning it down because of him. That does seem to show that his concern for her career is sincere.
I don’t care for the way he seems to think that his only choice is to marry Hyo Joo, though. He makes it sound like there is literally no other choice in the world, and I’m glad that Song Ah doesn’t seem to agree.
E7. I hafta say, my feelings for BM Lee have been on a bit of a rollercoaster. On the one hand, I’ve been slowly feeling a little sorry for him, for how Life’s handed him a bunch of lemons, in the form of his family situation, and in particular, in his leech of a father. But, just as I’m starting to feel a bit sympathetic towards him, he seems to defy that sympathy by doing things that push him more into jerk territory. I mean, yes, his background still leans sad and tragic to be sure, but the choices that he’s making don’t exactly make me more sympathetic towards him.
The thing that really felt uncomfortable to me, is the way he goes to see his father and asks his father to name a price for severing ties with him. When Dad says 300,000won, he transfers the money without hesitation, and then gets up to leave, while informing Dad that they are henceforth strangers. Woah.
I mean, I know that Dad has been a source of difficulty and humiliation for BM Lee, but it feels quite heartless to me, to disown your father so unequivocally and without hesitation, particularly in an Asian context. Granted, we don’t know yet if BM Lee will regret this decision, but right now, he’s coming across to me as pretty cold.
At this moment, I’m gladder than ever, that Song Ah decided to break up with BM Lee, because I’d hate for her to be caught up in this web of dysfunction.
E8. In the opening scene where BM Lee tells Song Ah that he’ll continue to manage KLAR and that her name isn’t on the Europe project list, their awkward discomfort around each other is clear to see, even though the cues are subtle: the aversion of a gaze; the slightly nervous darting eyes; the carefully formal tones; all of these small things point towards the fractured state of their connection. The thing that really catches my notice extra, in this scene, is how, when Song Ah tells BM Lee not to worry, because them not having any more personal conversations is exactly what she wants, BM Lee’s gaze seems to flick with some wistfulness and regret.
Based on this, I’m sure that BM Lee doesn’t actually want to let Song Ah go, but has chosen to apply himself full-on to the path that he’s chosen – and that involves cutting off his connection with Song Ah.
This is why he cuts off his connection with his father as well. At the same time, it seems that he’s not entirely comfortable with the new direction his life is taking, along with all the new trappings it comes with, like the new clothes and the new circle of friends which Director Lee introduces him to. I’m curious to see how BM Lee takes to his new world, and whether he will actually grow comfortable in it, or whether he will come to regret his decision.
E9. BM Lee seems to be really going all in, in terms of embracing the path that he’s chosen for himself. Not only is he taking steps to assert himself in front of the Chairman, he also appears to be more affectionate towards Hyo Joo. I wonder if he’s really put his residual feelings for Song Ah to rest. I mean, it does all seem quite sudden, in that not too long ago, he was still trying to patch things up with Song Ah?
E10. I do feel rather sorry for BM Lee because his father’s death is so sudden and tragic, and the last thing that he’d said to his father was to stay out of his life. That’s a guilt that’s going to stay with him for a long time, I think. Even though he maintains a stoic facade for the most part, it’s clear that this is eating into him and I feel like it’s going to bring him to some kind of breaking point, perhaps.
On the other hand, BM Lee is clearly cracking, after the shock of his father’s sudden death. I’m pretty sure that if Dad hadn’t died, BM Lee would have had the fortitude to keep soldiering on his chosen path towards ambition and success, at least for a chunk of time. But with his father’s death causing him to regret his earlier behavior and question his decisions, I’m not surprised that BM Lee is having second thoughts about what he truly wants in life.
BM Lee’s meeting with his long lost mother also seems to stir up a wave of unfamiliar and unwanted feelings from him, judging from the way he ups and leaves the restaurant without waiting to say goodbye. Shout-out to Kim Mi Kyung, who is always wonderful, and who manages to give Mom an entire history of hardship written on her features, even though we only hear the bare details of what she’s gone through in the years since she’d last seen her son.
E11. BM Lee has mostly struck me as unhappy, beneath his stoic surface, like he’s resigned to his lot in life and doesn’t believe that he’s entitled to happiness, and is just trying to be practical about the best path to get him to where he wants to be. It’s not clear what he’s going to choose now, and what he thinks will make him happy, but it’s clear that he’s gotten to a point where he no longer can see himself chained to a business arrangement sort of marriage with Hyo Joo.
E12. Y’know, ever since BM Lee had waited for Song Ah outside her apartment in our earlier episodes, I’ve been anticipating his reappearance, every time we see Hyun Seung walk Song Ah home. And this episode, he really does appear. I’m gratified that he doesn’t attempt to rekindle things with Song Ah, and instead simply wants to tell her that he had been sincere during their relationship, and that he’s sorry for everything. That feels like important closure, and I do give BM Lee some credit for being proactive about creating that closure, even though it comes a little late.
E13. I give BM Lee some credit for meeting Director Lee, and being honest about his thoughts, feelings and intentions through the entire debacle of an engagement with Hyo Joo. Even though Director Lee invites BM Lee to gives him an excuse, I appreciate that BM Lee doesn’t try to spin things so that he comes out looking better; he admits that he was stupid, and that all he’d cared about was what he’d gain from marrying Hyo Joo. That’s progress.
Lee Joo Bin as Hyo Joo
Similar to how I felt about BM Lee, Hyo Joo was a hard sell to me as well. From the time we first meet her, it isn’t long before she comes across with a strong sense of entitlement and the princess attitude to match.
However, again, thanks to writer-nim’s caring touch, I found myself growing to understand her. And, I also appreciated her growth journey, so much so that I even rather liked her somewhat, by our finale. Now that’s something I definitely didn’t foresee, ha.
Credit to Lee Joo Bin for a solidly layered performance, that sometimes communicated more layers than was indicated in the dialogue written for her. I thought she did a very good job of the role.
E2. Hyo Joo’s statement about how it doesn’t matter how she gets what she wants, as long as she gets it in the end, is quite chilling, when you realize that she’d applied that principle to her engagement to BM Lee, and had pretend-attempted suicide to guilt BM Lee into agreeing to marry her. Yikes.
E11. Hyo Joo getting more and more desperate to have BM Lee’s attention properly is not great, but it’s something that I understand.
She had manipulated him into agreeing to marry her, and at that point, she’d thought that just having him as her husband was enough for her, even though she clearly didn’t have his heart. But, human beings tend to be forgetful and greedy, and I’m sure that as time went on, she became greedy to have more of his heart, which is why everything that he’s saying and doing that indicates otherwise, is grating on her.
E12. I do have some sympathy for Hyo Joo, mostly because of Lee Joo Bin’s delivery of the scene. It’s true that Hyo Joo is acting all crazy and entitled, but Lee Joo Bin gives Hyo Joo’s crazy eyes a dimension of plaintiveness and desperation, that makes me feel that Hyo Joo sincerely believes that she cannot live without BM Lee, even though, objectively speaking, that’s certainly not true. But that’s what she believes, and the combined weight of her exploding emotions and her whirling thoughts is crushing her to the extent that she doesn’t know what to do with herself anymore. Her emotions are eating her up, and they are controlling her and not the other way around, and she feels helpless to do anything to take control.
E14. I’m glad that Hyo Joo finally decides to move on, even though it’s not an easy decision or a smooth journey for her. I do like her thought, though, that as she pours all the love on herself, that she’d once poured on BM Lee, she’ll eventually get better and be ok. Director Lee is also being a sweet brother, which is nice.
Lee Gyu Han as Director Lee
I found Director Lee quite fascinating as a character, actually.
Mainly, he strikes me as a bundle of contradictions. On the one hand, he’s a caring brother to Hyo Joo, and a sweet and dorky love interest to Ji Seung. On the other hand, he comes across as being fully capable of swimming with the sharks, when he’s under pressure from his grandfather.
Because of this, sometimes, I couldn’t quite figure out whether to trust him, as I was watching him on my screen. I guess you could say that he kept me on my toes? 😆
I did grow quite fond of him by the end of our story, which is in large part due to his loveline with Ji Seung, which I’ll talk about shortly.
E12. I appreciate how reasonable Director Lee is, in managing this situation between Song Ah, Hyo Joo and BM Lee. In many other dramas, the chaebol prince might exert his power in order to further his little sister’s demands, but instead, Director Lee is calm and sensible about it, and only asks for Song Ah’s input in a quiet and steady manner, seeking only to find out the truth behind the matter at hand.
He doesn’t assume Song Ah’s fault at any point, and believes her when she tells him the truth. And, he doesn’t lose his cool, even when he realizes, from Song Ah’s words, that BM Lee had been two-timing his sister, at one point. Plus, the way he asks Song Ah to let him know if BM Lee gets in touch with her, is respectful as well. I gotta say, Director Lee is really growing on me.
E14. BM Lee is following up on his threat to thwart BM Lee’s ventures, though I can’t exactly fault him for it; it’s almost like some kind of agreement between him and BM Lee. I’m glad that BM Lee isn’t too daunted by it, and keeps working on selling his business idea, in spite of the obstacles.
Wang Bit Na as Ji Seung
I really enjoyed Ji Seung for being the steady, sweet, caring, dependable, wise older sister to Hyun Seung and Yeon Seung. On top of all that, I love that she’s a successful business owner, who doesn’t feel that she should settle on a husband just because of her age.
So much awesome, packaged in such a gentle spirit. I found her very special, and I couldn’t fault Director Lee for his excellent eye; he knows a special lady when he sees one. 😉
Director Lee and Ji Seung
I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed the budding connection between Director Lee and Ji Seung.
It’s played for funnies most of the time, but there is a certain dorky charm about how Director Lee is so smitten with Ji Seung that he’ll do anything just to catch a moment with her. I rather like the fact that Ji Seung’s able to find the charm in his silliness, instead of dismissing him right away as a potential romantic partner.
This unlikely loveline landed a lot sweeter than I’d expected it to, and turned into quite an unexpected highlight of my watch.
E5. I am starting to become quite amused by Director Lee’s obsession with Ji Seung. The way he is so theatrical with her, while trying to act suave and mysterious, is completely ridiculous, but quite amusing. And, it seems that Ji Seung might not be totally uninterested, so I’m curious to see where this goes.
E9. Even though Director Lee mostly comes across as a bit of a joke when it comes to his family and his work, with Ji Seung, he really does seem quite charming. I like how he doesn’t push her, and gives her time and space to decide how she feels about him.
I thought the way he showed up with dinner and flowers at her office, ready to excuse himself and give her space to eat and work, very thoughtful. It’s Ji Seung who doesn’t want him to leave, and invites him inside. And when the opportunity presents itself to kiss her, he does give her the chance to decline. That’s way more than I’d originally expected of him, honestly.
Ha Yoon Kyung as Yeon Seung
At first glance, Yeon Seung comes across as an almost throwaway supporting character; she’s our male lead’s second sister, who’s happily settled in life, with a husband and daughter, and her main mission in life seems to be making sure that her siblings also find significant others to settle down with.
So color me surprised, when Yeon Seung’s personal journey actually turns into a solid arc within our drama world. And color me even more surprised, that I found Yeon Seung’s journey poignant and even sincerely moving, by the time we reach our final stretch.
E5. My drama instincts are telling me that Yeon Seung’s husband (Lee Dong Ha) is probably gay and having an affair with the chef that she’s trying to set Ji Seung up with. This episode, with Hyun Seung pretending to be maybe-gay in order to tease Yeon Seung for her prying questions about his dating life, feels like a precursor to an actual reveal.
E12. We do finally get a tidbit of information about what had happened between Chef Ryu (Choi Jung Won) and Woo Hyun back in college. It seems like the two of them had engaged in intimacy of some sort (we’re not told whether they simply made out, or if they’d actually slept together), which is the big secret that Woo Hyun’s so intent on keeping.
From the way Show’s been presenting Woo Hyun as always being awkwardly reserved around Yeon Seung, it does seem that Woo Hyun is likely gay, but in denial about it. Sigh. That sucks for Yeon Seung, who’s been consistently sunny and cheerful in her wifely role, even though she’s shown that she would have liked more enthusiasm and engagement from her husband.
I feel sorry for Yeon Seung, and hope that in our remaining episodes, Show will find a way for her to resolve this difficult and delicate situation, to arrive at a place where she can truly be happy.
E13. Yeon Seung’s having a tough time dealing with the implications of her recent discovery about Woo Hyun. I can understand why she would feel distant from Woo Hyun; he’s been keeping this side of himself from her for the whole time that she’s known him, which includes years of marriage. Additionally, Woo Hyun’s insistence that he’s not like Chef Ryu – ie, he’s not gay like Chef Ryu – comes across as vehement denial, rather than genuine conviction. Yet, Yeon Seung’s entire life as she knows it hangs in the balance.
If she acknowledges that her marriage is likely a sham, especially since Woo Hyun’s statement that he does love her sounds so feeble, then she would very likely have to overhaul her entire life. And, at this point, her entire life revolves around her family. What does she have, when this is taken away from the equation?
At the same time, I can understand why Yeon Seung feels unable to talk to anyone about her dilemma, not even her siblings, who seem to be the closest people to her in the world. Saying it out loud is a step deeper into confronting the problem, and that’s too scary a prospect for Yeon Seung right now.
E14. I feel sad for Yeon Seung, because she really does love her husband, and yet, she’s caught in a situation where the only thing she can do for him, is agree to divorce him. How awful. And yet, through it all, I am moved that even though this clearly pains her more than she can articulate, she is motivated by love, in the end.
That conversation that she has with him when she gives him the divorce papers, where she makes her last request to him, that he open his heart to himself, to see what – or who – is there, is so moving. Actions do speak louder than words. Yeon Seung could have made that last request be about herself, or their daughter, but instead, she chooses to focus on him, even though he’s desperate to divorce her. That is so loving, that it kind of blows my mind. This is selfless love. I hope that Woo Hyun realizes that.
Lee Ji Hyun as Song Ah’s mom
Fairly early into our story, Song Ah’s mom is introduced to us as an unhealthy presence in Song Ah’s life. Not only is she extremely clingy, she doesn’t like the idea of Song Ah dating, to the extent that she won’t allow it.
I found Mom’s behavior extremely puzzling, and it was only at the episode 10 mark, that I felt like I finally understood why she was behaving that way.
E9. I rationalize that Mom’s clinging to Song Ah because Song Ah is all she has left, but it strikes me quite selfish, for her to tell Song Ah that she must not date or marry. I rationalize that this is possibly because she’d been herself betrayed by her cheating husband, but it still feels quite extreme. I do think, though, that Show is doing a good job of presenting Mom as a needy, immature, naive sort of personality.
E10. With this episode’s longer look into their family life before Song Ah’s father died, I feel like I understand Mom now. For the record, I don’t condone her behavior, nor do I think it’s healthy. It’s just that I finally think I understand her character.
I think that Mom’s a very insecure, needy person who feels validated by others. Her sense of self-worth isn’t determined by her own happiness, but by the people around her who love her and need her. While Dad was alive, he was that source of validation and security for her, which, I think, explains why Mom was so adamant about not acknowledging Dad’s affair.
She needed him in order to feel loved, accepted and whole. And when Dad passed away, Mom put that burden on Song Ah, to be her source of validation and security. Mom wants Song Ah to be that lifeline for her, and that’s why she doesn’t want Song Ah to date or get married; she wants Song Ah to be there for her instead of someone else.
It sounds incredibly selfish, particularly for a mother to do this to her child, and I completely agree with that assessment. For Song Ah’s mother, though, this is the only way she’s learned to live. Of course, I do think that Mom can wean herself off her bad habits of excessive self-focus, destructive thought patterns, and over-reliance on the validation of others.
However, I acknowledge that for Mom, this is a very difficult thing that she cannot fathom doing, at this point, because it goes against the instincts that she’s cultivated all her life.
E13. It’s nice to see Song Ah and Mom not fighting anymore. Mom looks so happy to be able to stay with Song Ah for a few days. Aw.
E14. I was pleasantly surprised to see Song Ah’s mom make so much progress in terms of calibrating her behavior towards her daughter. Instead of being clingy and refusing to let Song Ah go to Europe, she chooses to congratulate Song Ah and give her blessings.
I appreciate that Show doesn’t make this a convenient growth spurt, but instead, gives Mom the space to admit that she’s sorry and she’s making an effort while reflecting on her past mistakes. This knowledge, that Mom’s words are a result of her making a conscious choice even though that choice may not come naturally to her, makes the whole scene even more touching.
Mom is a lot cuter now that she’s happier as well. I like how she correctly guesses – happily – that Song Ah is dating Hyun Seung, and even compliments Song Ah for having good taste. Aw. I feel like there’s a lot of room for Mom and Song Ah to be friends and enjoy gal-pal sorts of things together. I hope that they’ll get to do that eventually, even though they don’t have time to explore that now.
Park So Yi as Ha Eun
I just wanted to give a quick shout-out to Park So Yi, who is wonderfully precocious as Yeon Seung and Woo Hyun’s daughter. I was quite amused by her cheeky sass, but it was in Ha Eun’s more difficult emotional scenes, where I was truly impressed.
Hyun Seung and his sisters
I really enjoyed the relationship between Hyun Seung and his sisters. They remain close even in adulthood, and make time to eat together, at least once in a while. That’s so.. cozy. 🥰
[MINOR SPOILER] And, I love that when Ji Seung admits quietly, in episode 11, that she’s dating someone, both Hyun Seung and Yeon Seung are so happy for her. Their gentle teasing and happy smiles are so warm and sweet. I love it. [END SPOILER]
The KLAR team
A quick shout-out to the entire KLAR team, who made such great supporting characters. I liked all the team members, but found Manager Kwon (Ahn Se Ha) particularly amusing. I also loved how warm and supportive the team was, as a general rule.
[SPOILER] For example, in episode 12, when Song Ah becomes the subject of gossip at the office, after the scene that Hyo Joo makes in the lobby, it’s refreshing to see how Hyun Seung and the rest of the team rally around her to protect her. [END SPOILER]
SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]
It definitely says a lot about how much this show is working for me, that I would be glued to my screen, way past my bedtime, for a penultimate episode that is meant to be Show’s angsty stretch.
Some important information that we’re told right away: 1, that Song Ah is back for good; she’d asked for a transfer before the 5 years was up, and 2, she was the one who had broken things off with Hyun Seung, and that had happened 2 years into her Europe posting.
The way things went down, feels in complete keeping with our leads’ characterizations, and I like that a lot. I love this show’s consistency, in that way.
We see that Song Ah’s job had been as demanding as we’d glimpsed, before she’d left, and it had prevented her from visiting Hyun Seung, and from spending time with Hyun Seung, when he’d visited her. Through it all, Hyun Seung remains steadfast, patient and understanding, but there is so much guilt eating away at Song Ah for how he’s being sidelined, that she breaks it off, in order to set him free. It’s a sad turn of events, but I can believe that Song Ah would feel bad enough to do something like that, even though Hyun Seung is being the perfect, supportive boyfriend, who’s willing to wait in the wings for as long as it takes, while her career takes precedence.
Given what we know about how deeply Hyun Seung loves Song Ah, I can imagine how badly he would have taken the break-up. We don’t get to see him dealing with the break-up, but we do hear from Se Rim, the girl who’s crushed on him all this time, that he’d taken it really badly – worse than Song Ah could imagine. With that in mind, I can understand why Hyun Seung would be avoiding Song Ah so studiously, now that she’s back.
We also hear from Song Ah herself, that she’s not at all over Hyun Seung – that, he is, in fact, the reason she’d requested for a transfer back to Korea – but she feels badly enough for hurting him, that she doesn’t intend to pursue a reconciliation. All she wants is to be able to see him, if only from afar.
Augh. The heartache is deep, but there’s a kind of sweetness lacing it, because I already know that these two people still love each other; that they’d never stopped loving each other, even though they’d agreed to stop seeing each other.
The fact that Song Ah only lets slip her true feelings while she’s drunk makes sense, and it even makes sense why she’d get drunk in the first place, because it’s been a while since she’s seen her colleagues from Sales, and the folks from Sales have already been established as a group that especially loves their alcohol. I love that even this detail makes organic sense. The fact that Hyun Seung goes back to the office after saying goodbye to Song Ah also makes sense, since he’s avoiding personal contact with her and thus wouldn’t care to reveal more of his plans than absolutely necessary.
And so it is, that it feels perfectly organic, when Hyun Seung spies a drunk Song Ah nodding off alone at the bus stop. And it feels completely believable that he wouldn’t be able to just leave her there, since, deep down, he still cares about her.
I do love that when Song Ah drunkenly blurts out her feelings, it’s positioned as an apology, “I’m sorry I still have feelings for you,” rather than simply the fact that she still likes him. There is so much contained in that single sentence; her regret at breaking up with him; her remorse for hurting him; her inability to get over him. And, because she’s so drunk, this all feels uncalculated and honest, which, I think, is why it hits Hyun Seung the way it does.
And still, because I understand how hurt Hyun Seung has been from the break-up, I can understand why Hyun Seung would hesitate so much, in terms of whether to consider reconciling with Song Ah. This feels understandable and reasonable, and I don’t fault Hyun Seung for feeling uncertain at all.
In other news, I am glad to see that Hyo Joo is doing much better, and is coming across as a much cooler, independent woman than she’d been, when she’d been trying to cling onto BM Lee. I love that BM Lee gets to see that with his own eyes too, this episode, that Hyo Joo is much more than the clingy fiancée he’d remembered. I love how generous and casual Hyo Joo comes across, particularly when it turns out that BM Lee’s company needs to use her studio because of an emergency. Instead of holding a grudge, she wishes them well without irony or malice, and simply leaves, like she’s got things to do and places to be. And then when she doesn’t think her assistant does a good enough job of the photos for his company, she takes them again herself, and the photos turn out amazing. I kinda love it.
I’m glad that she and BM Lee have that lunch together, and I’m happy to see that Hyo Joo’s able to talk comfortably with him in such a natural, matter-of-fact manner. That’s the best proof that she’s really gotten over him and is in a much better place now, and I’m happy for her. I also feel that seeing her healthy like this, would give BM Lee a measure of relief as well, since she’d been in such a bad state when he’d broken things off with her.
As for Yeon Seung, while it’s actually really nice to see her doing so well in her new business of arranging cooking classes, and it’s lovely to see her and Woo Hyun getting along so well – literally, we haven’t seen them so happy together, ever – there’s definitely an unspoken pathos that runs undercurrent. We see that they are still married, but the divorce papers that were first brought up 3 years ago, are still there, in their envelope.
And now that Woo Hyun’s suggesting that the two of them go on a trip together, without Ha Eun, Yeon Seung seems almost afraid; like there’s something he’ll say on that trip, that will put an end to the happy bubble that they’ve been living in for the last 3 years.
I’m not sure what to expect for this couple, to be honest. I wonder what Woo Hyun’s discovered about himself, in the time that Yeon Seung’s given him to do his soul-searching. Would he have discovered that he’s gay after all, or might he have realized that he does love Yeon Seung after all? Right now, it feels like it could go either way. The only thing I ask of Show, is that Woo Hyun’s growth journey feels authentic.
If there’s one thing that I found cheesy and unnatural this episode, it would be the whole lead-up to the fire drill. The moment the team starts talking about the incident where the girlfriend had fled thinking there was a fire, I kind of knew in my gut that we’d get something similar between Hyun Seung and Song Ah, that would prove that she sincerely cares about him.
True enough, they get caught in a fire drill together – except she doesn’t know it’s a fire drill, and grabs his hand to flee, thinking that there’s a real fire. Not gonna lie; I found that quite cringey. Eep. 😝
However, the awkward-cute way in which Song Ah carries herself is quite pitch perfect, and I can see why that would bring an involuntary little smile to Hyun Seung’s face.
All the subsequent moments of hyperawareness feels like an organic development, with Song Ah’s care and concern for Hyun Seung shining through, despite her promise to keep things professional.
By the time we reach our closing scene, I can see why Hyun Seung would feel open enough, to challenge her to win him over, even as he calls her out, in the same breath, for being selfish in allowing her feelings to show.
In this moment, I believe his hurt feelings as much as I believe his involuntary positive reactions to her concern. It’s quite a perfect turning of the tables, and I can’t wait to see how Song Ah wins him over, the way he’d once won her over.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
Just from the fact that I dragged my feet a little in watching this finale, purely because I just didn’t want my time with this show to end, you can tell that this show really stole my heart in a real way. I luff this show so much, you guys. ❤️
I was a little afraid that the secondhand embarrassment would be too strong for me, with the new dynamic of Song Ah working to win Hyun Seung over, but Show proves yet again, that it knows exactly what I want, and isn’t about to hold back on giving it to me. I love that the way Song Ah wins Hyun Seung back, isn’t with cheesy tricks or fancy events, but through her heartfelt sincerity. That strikes me as exactly the way past Hyun Seung’s fears, and the way Show has Ji Seung voice those fears so gently yet concisely for Song Ah, is pitch perfect.
I can completely believe that Ji Seung’s words would cause Song Ah to see things from Hyun Seung’s perspective in a whole new way, and thus approach him with fresh contrition and a raw desire to make things up to him.
Also, for the record, I do think it’s a very accurate description of Hyun Seung, after what we’ve seen him go through. When he’d been courting Song Ah the first time, he’d been full of confidence because he didn’t yet know the pain and helplessness of losing her. After loving her so deeply and giving of his heart so fully, only to have his heart broken so badly, I can completely understand his fear of giving his heart to her again, lest the same thing happen again. I thought Show did a really nice job of helping us to understand Hyun Seung and where he was coming from.
I can completely believe that once Hyun Seung is moved by Song Ah’s sincerity, that they would waste no time in drowning in each other’s arms. Their kisses are so tender and so hungry, and there is such a distinct sense of wonder and gratitude, as they lean into each other, that I can’t help but bask in the glow with them.
And how sweet, that the moment Hyun Seung opens his eyes the next morning, he tells Song Ah something that he’d been wanting to say to her ever since she’d returned to Korea, that she’d become more beautiful. Aw. That is so moving to me, that even while he’d been hurting and studiously avoiding her, he’d thought that she’d become more beautiful. 😭❤️
I love that the two of them fall right back into the easy, synergistic, comfortable rhythm that they’d had before, and start to enjoy little things together, like holding hands in the car, and sneaking knowing gazes across the tops of their computers. Our lovebirds are so cute when they’re together, and it just puts a big goofy grin on my face. 🥰
It’s a fun touch, that Song Ah’s mom has such a soft spot for Hyun Seung, and that even though she thinks Hyun Seung and Song Ah are still broken up, she still regards him so fondly. I giggled a little when Mom’s disapproval of them getting back together is framed as something to protect Hyun Seung, because there are so many other better women out there. Ha. It isn’t long before Song Ah and Hyun Seung are giggling together at how they can’t live without each other and Mom’s smirking ruefully to herself, so all’s well that ends well. I’m glad that this potential roadblock, which Show had hinted at in this episode’s preview, turns out to be a false alarm
While we’re on the topic of Mom, I also wanted to say that I’m happy to see that not only is her relationship with Song Ah in a much better place, Mom’s also leading a much healthier, happy life, as she busies herself with fun activities and lots of friends. That’s nice to see. Mom’s definitely come a long way, and knowing that it wasn’t at all easy for her, makes me kinda proud of Mom, to see her living well like this.
Woo Hyun and Yeon Seung go on that trip that he’d suggested, and he thanks Yeon Seung for accepting him unconditionally, saying that it’s meant a lot to him in the last 3 years. He says that he’s finally ready to try to accept himself while on his own, and the pair agree to go through with the divorce, which has been pending all this time.
Sigh. I feel sad for Yeon Seung, because this is clearly something that she doesn’t want, but I do think that this is the healthiest way forward for both of them. In the last 3 years, even though Woo Hyun has looked happier, and he and Yeon Seung have gotten along so well, they were always in a state of limbo, so to speak. And, it must have been hard on Yeon Seung, just living from day to day, while waiting for the other shoe to drop.
As tough as it is on Yeon Seung and Ha Eun (such a great performance by Park So Yi; Ha Eun’s pain felt so understated and real), it’s the beginning of a more honest and therefore freeing life for their whole family.
I’m also glad to see Hyo Joo and BM Lee talk things out. Even though their meeting and conversation is relatively brief, it feels freeing. I’m happy to hear Hyo Joo state so confidently and without malice, that she really is okay now, and I’m pleasantly surprised that she even thanks BM Lee for breaking things off with her, because she’s able to live her own life now, and tells him to be free, and to stop feeling sorry.
I know that both Hyo Joo and BM Lee could have carried on living well even without having this conversation, but this closure that they achieve, makes things even better, I feel. Now, they are both set free from any lingering guilt or regrets, and this feels healthy and wholesome.
I like that Hyo Joo is the one who nudges BM Lee to reach out to Director Lee, and I’m glad to see the two men make up gruffly over drinks at the bar.
As it turns out, Director Lee does have a grudging respect for BM Lee, and tells him so. I feel like that respect is probably something that BM Lee’s craved – possibly even subconsciously – all this time. With this acknowledgment, it feels like the two men are finally standing on equal ground with each other, and I like the hints that Show gives, that their friendship will continue, from this point forward.
I’m also happy for Ji Seung and Director Lee, on the occasion of their wedding. How sweet of Ji Seung, to think of proposing to him, to make him feel better about all the times that she’d been too busy to prepare for their wedding. These two are a cute pair of dorks when they are together.
It makes organic sense to me, that as Song Ah thanks Ji Seung for her wise words that had enabled her to reconcile with Hyun Seung, she’d begin think back upon her relationship with Hyun Seung, and how far they’ve come.
The highlight reel of flashbacks is also a really nice reminder for us as viewers, of how far Hyun Seung and Song Ah have come, from the time he’d first met her in college during that recruitment drive, to when he’d first blurted out his feelings for her, to when he’d offered to protect her from a clingy BM Lee, to when he’d held her and just given her space to cry, to their first kiss next to the campfire. It’s lovely, and as Song Ah muses in voiceover at how thankful she feels, it’s clear to see from the tears in her eyes, that she’s very moved.
Therefore, it doesn’t surprise me that when she next sees Hyun Seung, which happens to be at the crosswalk where they’d agreed to meet, she’d move so purposefully to propose to him. “Should we go see cherry blossoms in the spring?” … “Let’s see the ocean in summer. The fall leaves in autumn. And the snow in winter.” … “Every year.”
The pun here, for anyone who’s wondering, is that “every year” is “매년” (maenyeon), while “next year” is “내년” (naenyeon), which is how Hyun Seung teases Song Ah, by pretending to mishear what she says. Cheeky fella. 😏
How absolutely fitting, though, that Hyun Seung turns and opens his arms to embrace her, as they’re walking across the crosswalk, and we get that perfect callback to Show’s poster, to end our story, as he tells her, “Okay. Let’s do every year. Every year, together.”
Melt. My heart soars along with our breezy music, as we close out our story, with a glimpse of our lead couple at a fitting for their wedding, presided of course, by sweet Ji Seung.
Thank you, Hyun Seung and Song Ah. It’s been real. And just so you know, given a chance, I would happily be a fly on your walls again, to watch you both walk through love and life together. Annyeong~ ❤️
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Might start out as a bit of a slow burn, but works out to be swoony and absorbing, while managing to be sensitive and tender. Altogether lovely.
FINAL GRADE: A
The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of She Would Never Know, is Beyond Evil. I know. Such a change of pace, eh? I just couldn’t ignore all the positive comments, that’s why. I’ve taken an initial look, and so far, I like it more than I thought I would! 😄
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. ❤️