THE SHORT VERDICT:
A breezy, laidback sort of show, Hometown Cha Cha Cha is kinda like a seaside vacation in drama form.
It’s meandering and sometimes it feels like not a lot happens in our drama world, but the charm of the small town of Gongjin, along with its equally charming residents, is such that it eventually gets under your skin, and then it doesn’t let go.
Show’s Main Event is the double-dimpled duo of Shin Min Ah and Kim Sun Ho, and their combined cuteness is arguably Show’s most lethal weapon. Show isn’t perfect, but the OTP Cute is so strong, that it got me to forgive Show for most of its missteps.
Perfect for when you’re looking for something light, sweet and feel-good.
THE LONG VERDICT:
Sometimes, I find that I have to work to like a show. Like, put in the effort to see what’s good about it, so that I can find a way to enjoy it, even though I may not have instinctively taken to it like others might have.
I’m so pleased to say that that is not the case with this show. I know I mentioned this in my E1 notes, but I had honestly worried that I wouldn’t love this one, even though so many other people seem to love it.
I feel like of late, there’ve been a number of times when I’ve had trouble taking to popular rom-coms.
For example, I didn’t take to You Are My Spring and didn’t watch past E1, and I didn’t truly love Run On, nor Start-Up, even though I finished them both. I gave Run On and Start Up the best reviews I could, but I didn’t glom onto them like so many other drama fans seemed to.
Which is why I am so thrilled that I found it naturally easy to enjoy this show.
Basically, this show is just perfect to unwind to on the weekend. I feel like, knowingly or unknowingly, Show snagged a perfect time slot for itself, and I’m sure that lots of Show’s fans looked forward to unwinding to new episodes of this breezy little happy pill, each weekend. 🥰
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it while you read the review.
Overall, I thought the OST was very enjoyable, and very suitable for Show’s breezy seaside vibe. I think the track that sticks in my head the most, is Track 1, Romantic Sunday.
There’s just something very earwormy about it’s “La la la la.. Romantic Sunday” refrain, and it really does give me beachside holiday vibes. 🏖
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS
Here are a few things to keep in mind, that I think would help you to maximize your enjoyment of your watch:
1. It can feel like not a lot happens in our drama world,
..and yet, there’s just this breezy, warm, Spring-like feel to it that just brightens up my day. Also, even though sometimes not a lot happens in a single episode, Show does work to consistently build on our understanding of our characters.
2. Some characters take a while to grow on you.
However, Show does a pretty good job of endearing even the most unlikable character to the audience, such that you are highly unlikely to still outright dislike anyone, by the time you finish your watch.
3. Show can feel rather meandering,
..and there are times when Show feels indulgent of itself. Hang in there, because even though Show sometimes can feel a little scattered, it does have a narrative throughline in mind.
4. Sometimes, suspension of disbelief is required,
..and sometimes, in large-ish amounts. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen too often.
5. Show leans hard into the childhood connection trope.
On the upside, this is mostly via the epilogues, and therefore doesn’t make its presence felt too strongly.
SPOTLIGHT ON CHARACTERS AND RELATIONSHIPS
Shin Min Ah as Hye Jin
I really enjoyed Shin Min Ah as Hye Jin.
I’d come across comments from some viewers, that they didn’t find Hye Jin very likable, and I just wanted to offer some perspective, in the Spoiler section below.
Overall, I found Hye Jin reasonably well fleshed-out as a character, and I enjoyed Shin Min Ah’s interpretation of the role. In Shin Min Ah’s hands, I found Hye Jin to be goodhearted and forthright in the most charming way.
While she does start our story on the pricklier side of things, Show manages to demonstrate to us, in a consistent manner, that Hye Jin isn’t mean-spirited, and is, at heart, a very decent person.
Is Hye Jin not nice?
I personally didn’t find a lot to dislike about Hye Jin, and in fact, found her behavior pretty understandable, given her personal context. Here’s my attempt to explain Hye Jin’s reactions, from episodes 1 and 2.
E1. I’d heard that our female lead Hye Jin isn’t very nice. I.. don’t see that at all, actually. In fact, I think that she’s solidly nice.
Perhaps the negative impression comes from the way she doesn’t seem to comfortably engage in conversation with strangers, like in the elevator with the lady who turned out to be the mother of her neighbor, or in the restaurant, when the restaurant owner sits down with her and makes conversation while she eats.
The way I see it, she’s just an introvert. As a fellow introvert, I can attest to the fact that an introvert typically doesn’t feel all that comfortable having personal conversations with people they’ve just met.
The lady in the elevator, while well-meaning, asks her all kinds of personal questions, like where she works, and comments on her eating habits, when she sees signs of regular food delivery outside Hye Jin’s apartment.
From the gregarious older lady’s point of view, she’s just being friendly and making conversation, but from our introverted female lead’s standpoint, this is all rather invasive and uncomfortable. I feel like some people, in Hye Jin’s shoes, might be more clear about drawing the line, and might even tell the lady to mind her own business.
However, Hye Jin doesn’t do that. She tries to deflect the older lady’s interest, without being too obvious about it, and she continues to smile pleasantly, even though she’s not exactly thrilled with the conversation.
I actually found that pretty decent of her.
The fact that Hye Jin quits her job on a principle, that she refuses to over-treat her patients for profit, makes me admire her as well. It’s not easy to stand up for your values, especially when your values clash so fundamentally with the values of the person who pays your salary, but she does it anyway.
This also tells me that Hye Jin can be a bit of the spontaneous, impulsive type, who acts first, then angsts over the consequences later, when she realizes the actual extent of the consequences.
Because Hye Jin’s in a bit of a Poignant Mood since it’s her mother’s birthday, and because she’s now suddenly unemployed and struggling to find work, I can understand why she’d make that very impractical choice, to wear those expensive glitzy heels to the beach.
She just wants to sit and soak in her thoughts and feelings for a while, and those heels represent her being true to herself.
Understanding Hye Jin’s context, it’s easy to see how she’d feel lost and nonplussed when thrust into a situation where she’s basically homeless and practically without resources, while in Gongjin. She’d thought she was going there for a quick day trip to commemorate her late mother’s birthday, so I can understand how bewildered Hye Jin feels.
She’s a city girl through and through, and has no experience of country life; of course she’d be overwhelmed.
E2. I really do think that the main source of conflict here, is that we have two very different worlds clashing.
As a city girl through and through, Hye Jin’s not at all used to the way things are done in Gongjin. After living in the city all her life, she’s gotten used to certain hygiene standards, as well as a certain amount of personal space and privacy.
She literally had no idea about the small town way of life, when she signed up (quite impetuously) to move to Gongjin, and she’d (erroneously) believed that life would continue to be as transactional in the small town, as it had been, in the big city.
Her different expectations, combined with her introverted self feeling extremely uncomfortable with having to participate in community activities, and being overwhelmed by a large group of very chatty, overly interested people on a regular basis, are, I think, what makes her settling in process so rough.
Ah, another thing that I’d like to mention, is how low on social energy Hye Jin must be, after being exposed incessantly to all the townsfolk, their friendly curiosity and the community activities.
Introverts need more social energy to deal with these things (while extroverts actually gain energy from interacting with other people), and introverts need to time recharge, while away from those energy-draining people and events.
It’s nothing personal against the people themselves; introverts just cannot recharge their social energy when in the company of others; that’s just not how we’re wired.
Unfortunately for Hye Jin, all of this comes together to make her look like a snooty, I’m-better-than-you city girl, to the Gongjin folks. In fact, if you come from a small town yourself, you might be in the camp that dislikes Hye Jin.
As a city girl myself (Singapore has no countryside to speak of), I can empathize with Hye Jin. I know that I’d struggle to find my bearings too, if I were suddenly uprooted from the city, and thrust into the thick of small town or countryside living.
It takes a certain type of city girl to be able to quickly embrace the more rustic charms of small town or country living, and Hye Jin just isn’t it. I do think that given time (key word being time), Hye Jin will adjust and come to understand and embrace the charms of countryside living.
In the meantime, we do see signs that she’s willing to do so – when prodded in the right direction.
I can see how, to Du Sik and the other Gongjin folks, Hye Jin might appear fussy, exhausting and altogether snobbish and insufferable.
For example, from everyone else’s perspective, it seems nitpicky for Hye Jin to expect more from the house that she’s rented from Hwa Jeong (of Hwa Jeong Raw Fish Restaurant), but from a city person’s point of view, this is a transaction between landlord and tenant, and if stuff isn’t up to expectation, it feels completely reasonable, from Hye Jin’s point of view, to ask for things to be changed.
Given Hye Jin’s context as a city person, I think she even deserves a bit of acknowledgment, for not bringing up the things that bother her, until Hwa Jeong actually asks.
From a small town perspective, it’s perfectly normal for everyone to do business with everyone, but from a city person’s perspective, it’s really kind of weird, that everyone’s doing business with everyone.
That’s where my entertainment comes from, really. I can see why Hye Jin’s suspicious of Du Sik and Hwa Jeong maybe being out to scam her, but I can also see why Du Sik and Hwa Jeong might roll their eyes at Hye Jin for being overly suspicious.
From a small town perspective, it’s perfectly natural for everyone to gather around and get involved and gawk a little, and get to know the new person who’s moving in.
From a city person’s perspective, particularly from an introvert’s perspective, this is all very invasive and weird. I see that as why Hye Jin excuses herself rather quickly, when everyone crowds around her as she moves into her new place.
The thing about Hye Jin is, she does try, when prodded, but her lack of appreciation for just how important community and relationships are in small town living, and her intrinsic introversion, work against her.
When Hwa Jeong invites her to the party for old folks, she doesn’t actually want to go (because, introverts do not think of mixing with large crowds of strangers as a fun time), but she pushes herself to go because Hwa Jeong points out that it’d be a good chance to promote her dental clinic.
Yet, it’s still really hard for Hye Jin to get used to things like a stranger handling food with her bare hands and wanting to put that food in her mouth for her, to feed her.
This is the kind of thing that grandmothers would do for their own grandchildren, so it’s a huge deal that Granny Gam Ri would do that for Hye Jin.
It’s a gesture of welcome and acceptance, and yet, for Hye Jin, this is highly uncomfortable. Not only does she not know Granny Gam Ri, the only other time she’s seen Granny Gam Ri, is when Granny Gam Ri was handling raw seafood innards.
The hygienist in Hye Jin, combined with the introvert in Hye Jin, must be so very uncomfortable.
It occurs to me that if Hye Jin’s gut is not used to the less strict hygiene standards of the food preparation at the party, it’s also quite possible she could have gotten sick from eating the food. It’s like how the locals might have no problems eating the food from a street food vendor, but visitors from other countries might get sick.
So, I can’t blame Hye Jin for being careful, either.
Given how overwhelming and uncomfortable everything is for Hye Jin, it’s not really a surprise that she would vent a little to her friend, over the phone, in a place where she thinks is completely private. Who would’ve known, that her side of the conversation would be broadcast to the whole party?
Ack. This is an introvert’s ultimate nightmare, honestly.
Other thoughts and observations
E1. Because we’ve already seen how Hye Jin can be impetuous when making important decisions, and because we’ve seen her have some actual pleasant interactions with the people in Gongjin, I can easily believe that, when faced with the option of her ex-boss’s snide offer to give her her job back, if she’d kneel and beg for it, or a potential career dead-end in Seoul, Hye Jin would choose to sidestep the whole thing, by deciding to open her own dental clinic in Gongjin.
After all, she’s already found out the rent is within her financial means, and there is a demand for a dental clinic.
E3. A major arc this episode, has to do with Granny Gam Ri and her need for dental implants.
At first glance, it does feel like Hye Jin’s kind of harsh and unpleasant towards Granny Gam Ri, and I put it down to 2 things. The first is, she’s used to a very transactional kind of life, back in Seoul, where everything’s mostly just business.
Add on the fact that the environment that her ex-schoolmates provide, where Hye Jin’s always in defense mode, and I find it more understandable why she doesn’t mince her words, when talking with Granny Gam Ri about the dental implants.
The second thing, which becomes clearer towards the end of the episode, is Hye Jin’s context of having lost her mom to illness, when she’d been very young. While she’s learned to cope, and has grown up to be a successful dentist, there’s a part of her that is acutely wistful at all the mother-daughter moments she’s missed out on, in her life.
And, Granny Gam Ri’s refusal to take care of her own health just happens to hit a very sore nerve, for Hye Jin. From Hye Jin’s point of view, Granny Gam Ri’s behavior, while appearing selfless, is actually irresponsible to her kids, in a larger manner of speaking.
I do give credit to Hye Jin, for taking the time to reconsider her stance, after her conversation with Du Sik. Even though she doesn’t like what he has to say, she does chew on it afterwards, and that enables her to put herself in Granny Gam Ri’s shoes, and feel empathy for her.
The way Hye Jin visits Granny Gam Ri, and then offers to do the dental implants for her at a discounted rate, tells me that beneath the prickly surface, Hye Jin’s really quite tenderhearted and kind. She doesn’t have anything to gain by this; she just wants Granny Gam Ri to be able to enjoy her favorite food again.
This makes me feel that if Hye Jin had been brought up in a different environment, where she didn’t have to be in such a competitive, transactional space, she wouldn’t be so prickly to begin with, and what we’d see of her, right away, is the sweet soul that she is, on the inside.
E4. I liked seeing Hye Jin and Ju Ri (Kim Min Seo) get on like a house on fire, talking about Ju Ri’s idol bias JUNE. In that moment, Hye Jin feels like a young girl, with all the pressures and concerns of adulting momentarily forgotten.
E4. I love that the moment Hye Jin becomes aware of the fishy patient making advances towards Mi Seon (Gong Min Jung), she doesn’t waste any time in literally throwing that guy off Mi Seon.
In this moment, I totally believe that she’d put her entire clinic on the line, if necessary, in order to defend Mi Seon and bring the guy to justice. And, that high kick to his face – followed by that resounding slap! – was quite glorious to behold, if only because the guy had been such an awful jerk and therefore totally deserved it.
While Hye Jin may not have many friends at all, it’s clear that when she treats someone as her friend, her loyalty is strong and deep. Her tears and anguish at the thought that Mi Seon had suffered the groping in silence, afraid to tell her about it, are a little dramatic, but I don’t doubt their sincerity.
E6. I did like the unexpected bonding moments between Hye Jin and Ju Ri as a result of Hye Jin’s sudden decision to let Ju Ri sleep over at her house.
In this moment, when they talk about losing their mothers and growing up with just their fathers, it doesn’t feel like a scene with an adult talking to a child; it feels like a moment of solidarity between two people whose lives have been affected by the absence of their mothers.
I like that Hye Jin and Ju Ri can understand each other so well, on this point. It feels needful, not only for Ju Ri, but for Hye Jin as well.
Kim Sun Ho as Du Sik
I have to confess that this is the first role of Kim Sun Ho’s, where I’ve really taken to his character. Even though everyone had seemed to love his character in Start-Up, I’d found myself feeling pretty indifferent towards him, and I’d wondered if I’d ever manage to enjoy him the way other fans do.
Happily, with this role, I didn’t find that I had any problems appreciating Du Sik as a character. I did hear some rumblings, that some viewers found Du Sik a bit of a jerk, but I didn’t feel the same way, and will attempt to offer some perspective, in the Spoiler section below.
Kim Sun Ho’s scandal and its subsequent blow-over did cast a bit of a momentary shadow on my watch experience, but thankfully, that was short-lived. I managed to fully enjoy Du Sik as a character, in the end, and I have to say, I ended up liking Du Sik very nicely indeed.
Is Du Sik a jerk?
Here’s my attempt to explain Du Sik’s reactions, from episodes 1.
E1. I don’t think Du Sik’s a jerk at all. What I do think is at work, is a bit of prejudice towards city folk. From what I’ve seen in other dramas, like Racket Boys, it’s not uncommon for country folk to dislike city folk.
I think it’s partly because city folk not only tend to be pretty helpless when in the country and faced with countryside things, and they also tend to have a lack of appreciation for the country life, with some of them even looking down on the country life as being backward.
Taking that existing common preconception of city folk, and layering on the impracticality of Hye Jin going to the beach in high heels that look completely out of place, I can understand why Du Sik might view Hye Jin with some disdain.
Plus, I imagine that there might also be some frustration around the way her shoe ended up in the sea. If he’s a true-bred country boy, which he is, it’s easy to imagine that he’d feel upset at more trash getting stuck in the ocean, because of the careless actions of a city girl.
And so, the way Du Sik treats Hye Jin, being a little hard on her, almost feels like a form of hazing, if that makes sense. It’s like, he’ll help her, but she’s got to earn it, and if she’s just going to look at him pleadingly with her doe eyes and hope that that will be enough, it just annoys him.
Other thoughts and observations
E2. I actually really like how Du Sik steps in to basically fix things, from the various angles that they need fixing. I’ve heard some dislike for Du Sik’s character, and again, I don’t actually find anything to dislike about him. He might be a little gruff, but he’s essentially kind and helpful.
I like how he talks with failed singer Chun Jae (Jo Han Chul) first, to assure him that he’s not a failure, and offer to have a drink with him, to help him feel better. And I like how he later helps Hye Jin get over the fallout of her mistake as well.
There’s definitely something deeper about Du Sik that we don’t know yet. The way he tells Hye Jin that not life’s not fair to everyone, there’s a reined in sort of fire in his eyes that makes me think that this bit of wisdom might stem from something more personal.
Admittedly, there’s something a touch paternalistic about the way Du Sik steps in to tell people things and fix things for people, like the way he advises Ju Ri to be kinder to her father, or the way he advises Hye Jin to change her workout wardrobe, or the way he picks up Chun Jae’s demo from the trash and digitalizes it.
However, it’s clear to me that he’s benign and means only good things, so I don’t actually find it offensive.
E3. I do love the fact that Du Sik doesn’t appear to hold a grudge against Hye Jin. Even before Hye Jin visits Granny Gam Ri (Kim Young Ok) and changes her mind about dental implants, he’s able to quote Hye Jin’s words to Gran (anonymously, of course), telling her that someone told him that the best thing a parent can do for their child is to stay healthy.
And he says that with such a guileless sort of warmth, that if I didn’t know better, I would’ve never guessed that he’d heard that in a terse conversation with someone.
E6. That moment when Du Sik sheds a tear while looking at a picture of himself as a baby, being held by his smiling mother, really hit me in the heart. For all that Du Sik’s managed to accomplish in his life, with everyone saying that he’s just the best, there’s a part of him that feels empty and lonely. 💔
E9. I’d been wondering about that boat and why it’s on the top of the hill, so I’m glad that Hye Jin asks the question, and we find out that the boat used to be Du Sik’s grandfather’s.
It feels like a really poignant thing, that Du Sik wants to position the boat – probably a representation of Grandpa, to his mind – in a high place, so that it can see the world like it never could, while it was still being employed on the water.
It feels like a deeply symbolic thing for Du Sik, that he wants Grandpa to see the world in a way that he couldn’t, while he was alive.
E14. We finally get some insight into the circumstances that had caused Du Sik to come back to Gongjin in defeat, and while it’s not a fully fleshed-out story just yet, it’s enough to give us a flavor for what’s been tormenting Du Sik, all these years.
I imagine that it’s hard to enough to process that you’ve been the cause of a loved one’s death, but with Jeong Woo’s wife Seon Ah (Oh Eui Sik and Kim Ji Hyun) blaming Du Sik in the height of her grief, and saying that Du Sik should have been the one who’d died, that just makes it worse.
Layer on the fact that Du Sik already feels that he’d indirectly caused his grandfather’s (Lee Ho Jae) death, and I can buy the idea that all this has added up to a lot of personal trauma for Du Sik, where he’s become afraid of getting too close to others, for fear of history repeating itself yet again.
I feel like some people might consider Du Sik’s phobia illogical, but at the same time, I’d argue that most phobias are illogical anyway.
Plus, there’s the thing where we each respond differently to the same events, because we are all unique. Some people would be more affected in Du Sik’s shoes, while others might be more able to move past it.
Therefore, I feel that we shouldn’t judge Du Sik for still being tormented by this, even years after the fact. After all, it’s not like he wants to hold onto that trauma. It’s more like he can’t shake it, even though he tries.
Hye Jin and Du Sik together
For the record, I really liked Shin Min Ah and Kim Sun Ho as our OTP. I thought they both brought a warmth and a down-to-earth quality to their characters as well as their characters’ connection. I do think that’s pitch perfect for what Show wanted to do, with our main loveline.
Given that our initial OTP connection is of the bickery, slightly antagonistic persuasion, I’m reasonably pleased with the way Show teases out and develops this connection, into something more warm, open and accepting.
I personally found a great deal of enjoyment from the various OTP moments that Show served up, with certain moments making me legit flail all over the floor. Since I consider this double-dimpled romance Show’s intended Main Event, I’d say that all works out very well.
E1. I’m actually pretty happy with what we get, in terms of the OTP set-up. There’s enough mutual appreciation at the end of the episode, for me to want to see these two actually become close, and at the same time, there are enough walls between them, that would make that journey actually feel interesting and worthwhile.
E2. The thing is, I think Du Sik gets it. He’s seen enough of Hye Jin from her initial day out in Gongjin, to know that she’s better than she appears, but he’s also seen enough to know that she’s going to need some time to get used to things in Gongjin, and he knows too, that it’s not going to be easy or smooth-sailing.
From what I can tell, he’s kind of watching over her, almost like a coach, but not a very protective one. It feels like he’s allowing her to figure things out for herself (since she’s got an independent streak and believes she will be able to handle most things on her own), but he’ll step in to help her in the right direction, if he sees that she’s really getting out of her depth.
From the way he defends her, even mildly, to the group of halmonis, and how they gawk at him for doing so, it’s clear that he has some interest in Hye Jin, at least.
The halmonis would know Du Sik well enough, to know if his defense of someone means anything, and I’m putting my trust in the halmonis – and in the epilogue from last episode – to conclude that Du Sik does have at least a mild interest in Hye Jin.
I honestly think that without Du Sik’s help, Hye Jin might have never gotten through that mistake on her own. She might have ended up leaving Gongjin in defeat, because the townsfolk are all so upset with her. But with Du Sik’s help, it all lands differently.
You could say that he’s basically lending her the goodwill that he gets from everyone. Because he’s the one who brings in the snacks, and because he’s the one who tells everyone that Hye Jin bought them because she’d felt so bad, it all lands better with everyone. If Hye Jin had actually brought those snacks herself, and said something herself, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have gone as smoothly.
While the townsfolk might find Hye Jin lazy or standoffish for not joining in the weekly cleaning, I can understand Hye Jin’s exhaustion. Like I said earlier, she’s probably feeling drained from all the unfamiliarity and all the interactions she’s had to have with unfamiliar people. I can understand her desire to just sleep for a week, to recharge herself.
That said, I’m glad that Du Sik gets her out of bed after all, because it is admittedly important for Hye Jin to create a positive impression on the people who will now be her community AND her customer base.
I also think it’s kind of Du Sik to basically send patients to Hye Jin’s dental clinic, even though he’s never actually tested her skills for himself. Again, he’s lending her the goodwill that he has with everyone, isn’t he?
Without his recommendation, people would certainly be less willing to give the new dental clinic a try, especially with Hye Jin’s snafu.
At the same time, I’m glad to see that once Hye Jin has a chance to prove herself as a dentist, she does really well, with patients coming away with positive things to say, not only about her skills, but also about her reasonable pricing.
I’m glad that Hye Jin is now tuned in enough to realize that this has something to do with Du Sik, and I like that she doesn’t wait around for an opportunity to talk to him, but proactively seeks him out.
(I’m also glad that she finds the chance to mend bridges with Chun Jae, by showing him that she’s listened to his CD, and telling him about the song that she likes, and why. It’s so cute to see how that makes Chun Jae’s day. Aw.)
I typically don’t like the childhood connection trope, but the way Show sells this one, between Hye Jin and Du Sik, is pretty darn cute.
It feels meaningful, that he’d made the random little girl smile for her family photo – and that family photo had turned out to be one of the last (if not the last) family photo she’d ever take.
It makes me glad for Hye Jin, that she has a photo of herself smiling with her mom, and I’m also coming to understand, more than ever, that Du Sik’s a helpful guy by nature. No one had asked him to make the little girl smile. He’d just done it, so that she would. I love that.
E3. This episode, I felt quite perplexed by how Du Sik just shows up at Hye Jin’s door, the very morning that she’s heading to Seoul, and basically leaves her no choice but to drive him and the 3 grannies into Seoul.
I know he doesn’t mean any harm, but this is supremely invasive, from Hye Jin’s point of view. Personally, as an introvert, I actually find it quite necessary to prepare myself mentally, if I’m going to be spending time with people I don’t know very well.
So a spontaneous thing like, “Hey! Drive me and these 3 grannies whom you barely know, all the way to Seoul,” is a highly uncomfortable thing.
Add on the fact that Hye Jin’s actually pretty stressed about the wedding itself, which she terms a battlefield, and the sudden imposition, paired with the grannies’ need to stop for bathroom breaks much more often than the average passenger, making Hye Jin late for the wedding, really feels like a rude overstepping of boundaries.
As for the thing about being uptight about playing music in the car, I can testify that all my life, my mom found it hard to drive with noise in the car, whether that was chatter, or loud music. It messed with her ability to focus, and therefore, I completely understand Hye Jin’s need to stop the music party in her car.
To some people, Hye Jin’s actions might feel like a real downer, like she’s raining on everyone’s parade, but in Hye Jin’s defense, this is her car, and she never invited anyone to join her in it. Therefore, if anyone’s going to invite themselves along, the least they could do, is respect Hye Jin’s need for quiet, as she drives.
That said, I honestly don’t think Du Sik means any real harm. I do think that he’s partly amused by Hye Jin, and partly still kind of in that hazing sort of stage with her, and I think that’s why he chooses to drop this invasive bomb on her. It’s to help out the grannies, and also, it’s to haze Hye Jin a bit, to show her a bit of the community spirit, of the place that Hye Jin now calls home.
Du Sik’s masking his amusement and interest in Hye Jin, by being a little contrary and rough with her. And, with Du Sik almost making it his mission to annoy Hye Jin and get under her skin, at least a little bit, I find it quite understandable, that they fall into a bickery sort of dynamic with each other.
To my eyes, it is (or will become) the kind of thing where, if one party doesn’t rise to the other’s bait, the other person would likely become concerned that something’s wrong.
I do think that Hye Jin is overreacting in how she wants to keep Du Sik out of sight, when he approaches her outside the hotel, but I put that down to how incredibly gossipy her ex-schoolmates are.
She probably is hypersensitive to what her ex-schoolmates might say, if they were to spot her with Du Sik.
Sure, they might say positive things (which is what they ended up saying in the group chat, about him being cute), but with this group, I’d say it could go either way. And given how snarky and judgey they are during the reception, I can understand Hye Jin’s desire to just avoid the whole thing, if possible.
I do enjoy the little glimpses that we get, that show us that Du Sik is more amused than anything, when it comes to Hye Jin, and therefore doesn’t really mean the things he says to be truly annoying.
Like how he smiles when thinking back on the way she reclined his car seat, so that he’d be able to sleep more comfortably. Or when he leaks a smile when walking away from her.
I like that despite the squabbly vibe between Du Sik and Hye Jin, the sense of ease between them is growing, slowly but surely. When Hye Jin’s nervous about staying home alone while waiting for the power to come back on, and Du Sik offers to stay with her, she’s not too proud to accept – even though she does so indirectly, by offering him ice cream.
I think it’s pretty cute, that they are growing more comfortable with each other, underneath all the bandying of words.
Once I suspend disbelief about this, I do like the idea of the whole thing, that Du Sik would go to all this trouble, to restore Hye Jin’s shoe, and then surprise her with it. And, I admittedly can’t resist the smiles that he leaks, as he walks away, because he’s that happy, to see her that happy. His little smile is so infectious; it makes me smile.
And that’s just the kind of warm, tingly feels that I’d like more of. 🥰
E4. I am amused and quite delighted that Hye Jin and Du Sik are getting into a familiar sort of rhythm with each other, and that Hye Jin’s growing more hyperaware of Du Sik, even if she doesn’t want to admit it to herself.
I love the little detail, that Hye Jin doesn’t feel her day is complete, if she doesn’t see Du Sik at least once.
Well, Show (and Hye Jin) don’t put it across in so many words, but we can see this in the way she navigates her day, and I am suitably amused at how it’s become a visceral need to her, so much so that she’ll even agree to attend a shop owners’ meeting that she would much rather not attend, because she hasn’t seen Du Sik all day, and she hears that Du Sik’s the treasurer of said meeting.
I think this is what you call an.. addiction..? 😉
I cringed in secondhand embarrassment, at Hye Jin’s fake-sleeping act, which I’m so sure Du Sik can see so clearly, from his position onstage.
I mean, I get that she just really wants to tune out everything, because she hadn’t wanted to attend in the first place, and the whole meeting turned out to just be a gossip and food session anyway, plus as an introvert this would have feel more draining to her than the average person, but the longer that fake sleeping went on, the more secondhand embarrassment I felt. 😅
And it all peaked at the point where Du Sik tells Hye Jin, while carrying her on his back, that he knows she’s not asleep. Ackkk. How mortifying! 🙈
The silver lining, of course, is the way Du Sik’s leaking these small gentle smiles, through all of it. That tells me that he’s on to Hye Jin, but rather than be annoyed by her, he’s amused by her. Which is sweet.
I also like that even though they are still technically bickery with each other, the tone of their bickering is now quite gentle and honest.
When Du Sik asks her why she’d pretended to be asleep, Hye Jin tells him the truth, that she just wanted to hurry home. Because of this growing candidness between them, along with the tamping down of the sharp edges to their bickering, I feel like they’re growing closer to each other.
And then there’s how they spar, almost idly, when Hye Jin pops into the coffeeshop the next morning. It’s becoming almost affectionate, the way they provoke each other, and I think it’s cute.
To be fair, Du Sik’s leaked smiles contribute a lot to that overall sense of charm, as does his good-natured delivery of the coffee to Hye Jin’s office, without slapping on the delivery charge, after she cancels her order in a small huff.
How great, that when Du Sik hears that there’s trouble at Hye Jin’s clinic, he comes charging into the clinic, and delivers a high kick to the guy’s face! Ahaha! How is it that both Du Sik’s and Hye Jin’s lethal move of choice, is a high kick to the face?!? I love it. 😂
More than that, I love the moment right after, when, panting from the effort of running over, Du Sik asks Hye Jin if she’s ok, and touches the back of her head, almost in reflex, while asking the question. Ahhh. Are his boyfriend instincts coming out already??
I mean, I’m not protesting or anything; it just feels a little early. But I will happily lap up any indication that he care about her, so much more than he lets on – and he’s already letting on a fair bit, from the leaked smiles that we’re getting.
I love the tipsy drinking scene that we get this episode, between Du Sik and Hye Jin.
For a start, it’s just like Hye Jin to hem and haw about whether to give Du Sik such a precious bottle of wine, only to find herself in an embarrassing situation because of it. 😅
However, if this embarrassing situation is the thing that gives us the tipsy drinking scene, I’m here for it, because I do love the tone of honesty, and the spots of vulnerability that we get here.
It occurs to me that only insecure people try hard to put up a fancy front, and that lens, makes Hye Jin’s effort to appear suuper knowledgable about wine, when she really isn’t, land quite differently. I think without this lens, it’d be easy to read Hye Jin’s actions as snooty.
But with this lens on, it makes Hye Jin appear more vulnerable, like she’s really not as confident as she might seem.
It’s ironic, that in telling Du Sik that she doesn’t like to be vulnerable, Hye Jin, is, in fact, being vulnerable. She’s telling him something quite personal about herself.
And, ahhh, the way he looks at her, as she tells him these things, is so.. gentle and almost.. tender. This softness about his gaze, as he learns more about her, is really appealing to me. It’s very melty. 🥰
And OMGG, on a second viewing of this scene, I realize that when Hye Jin mutters that her face feels hot, Du Sik puts his hands on the ice bucket right away. He cools his hands so that he can use his hands to cool down her face. Ahhhh! All these bits of coziness feel so delicious to me.
What a beautifully vulnerable moment, as Hye Jin haltingly tells Du Sik about her mom. This feels especially personal to Hye Jin, so the fact that she’s opening up to Du Sik feels like a very big deal. And the way Du Sik’s eyes sheen subtly with tears, as he listens, and looks upon her, feels so personal too.
It feels like whatever she’s sharing, he’s felt before too, and he feels for her, that she’s felt this way.
Ahh, what a Moment this feels like, as we end the episode, with Du Sik’s hands on Hye Jin’s face, and him looking right at her, as he tells her that it’s hot. The context indicates that he’s talking about her face, but, without the Subject specified, that could be.. open to interpretation..? 😁
E5. I actually really like how casual and nonchalant Du Sik is, in his interactions with Hye Jin the next morning, even though he clearly remembers everything that had happened the night before. I feel like this is his way of being nice, ie, he’s pretending that nothing happened, so that she won’t be embarrassed. That’s quite considerate, I feel like.
This episode, when Hye Jin articulates how much better of a catch she is compared to Du Sik, in terms of social position, it’s the first time I actually cringed at anything she’s said or done, in our story.
That’s really quite tactless, I have to say. The only silver lining to this, is that the way she says it, is more like she thoughtlessly blurts it out, rather than stating her case in a calculating manner.
I rationalize that this is a perspective that she’s learned, from being around her toxic friends and schoolmates.
That flashback that we get this episode, where she’d been criticized behind her back, by her ex-boyfriend and his friends, for having no fashion sense and for therefore being embarrassing, definitely paints in some important context for us.
With this context, it’s not difficult to imagine that Hye Jin had reinvented herself, almost as a defense mechanism, so that she would no longer be judged for not being good enough. And I suppose that thinking just took root and became her default way of processing relationships.
Not that that’s right, of course, and I’m with Du Sik on how it’s pathetic and exhausting that she lives and thinks this way.
I like that despite this, the vibe of the interactions between Du Sik and Hye Jin leans harmless and friendly, like they’ve gotten used to each other, and will continue to have dealings with each other, in spite of the town gossip.
I mean, Hye Jin cringes and tries to stop the rumors in their tracks, but her efforts don’t feel that forceful to my eyes, in that, she’s not actually trying suuuper hard, even though she’s embarrassed and mortified.
I love that Mi Seon gets Du Sik to be Hye Jin’s dental assistant at her talk to the kids, and it’s very amusing to me, that he’s so good at it. Truly, is there anything that Chief Hong can’t do? 😁
I really like that Du Sik acts gruff with Hye Jin, but doesn’t really hold her words about their differing social positions against her. Like, when she says she can’t pay him in cash but will wire the payment to him later, he changes tack and tells her to buy him food instead.
He could’ve just agreed to the wire transfer, but instead, creates an opportunity for them to eat together. Du Sik really does have a fondness for Hye Jin, despite her sharp edges and other flaws.
I’m glad that Hye Jin apologizes for what she’d said, and is specific about what she’s apologizing for, without making excuses for herself. I find that endearing about her.
Yes, she was rude and wrong and thoughtless, but she’s spent time reflecting on it, and doesn’t attempt to sweep it under the carpet by pretending it had never happened. She comes straight out and apologizes for it, and I do like that a lot.
While it sounds rude on paper for Hye Jin to ask Du Sik to prove his academic prowess to her by solving engineering math problems right there in the restaurant, the way she does it, is childlike enough, to make it appear quite artless and innocent.
Plus, her awe at his problem-solving abilities is rather unguarded and childlike, which I find more amusing than offensive. Plus, there’s a rather pleased twinkle in Du Sik’s eye, even as he keeps handing her the right answer, like he’s reveling a little bit, in her wide-eyed awe. It’s cute.
And, it’s also cute how they both can’t keep from smiling, from what feels like sheepishness and amusement, as restaurant Boss Lady serves their food and nags at them for doodling all over the table. I like this visual, of them smiling together. Also, what a convention of dimples it is, ha!
Through all of their interactions, I feel like Du Sik’s got Hye Jin pegged, more than he lets on. Perhaps it’s because he’s good at reading people; perhaps it’s partly to do with the fact that he’d lived in a similar fashion for 5 years after graduation; it just feels like he understands how she thinks and why she thinks that way.
And I think that that’s where his decision to pull her into the rain with him, comes from. He knows that she’s living with a much more uptight and calculated way of looking at the world, and I feel like he wants to show her that it doesn’t have to be that way.
I feel like this romp in the rain is to show Hye Jin the truth of the phrase, “What’s the worst that could happen?,” and learn to not only roll with it in a more relaxed fashion, but to enjoy the rain itself, while she’s in it.
I do love that after some initial protests, Hye Jin does get into the groove of it, and starts to play, just like Du Sik invites her to. It’s really nice, seeing her be so carefree, even if it’s only for a moment.
Also, ooohh, that it’s during this romp in the rain, where Du Sik touches Hye Jin’s forehead, that she remembers that tipsy-drunk moment, when Du Sik had held her hot face in his cooled hands – and she’d leaned in to kiss him. And we see from the flashback, that he’d given it a moment, and then given in to that kiss. Eee!
Well that sure puts a different spin on a lot of things, doesn’t it? It’s ironic that Hye Jin asks Du Sik earlier in this episode, whether he likes her, when she’s the one who had kissed him, the night before. It’s all a little discombobulating, but in the most delicious way.
I maintain that the reason Du Sik tells Hye Jin that nothing happened, is because he wants to spare her the embarrassment. Also, I feel like it’s partly because he understands the way she thinks, and therefore realizes that this is not a relationship that she would want to pursue, even if she does have feelings for him, and so it makes sense to him, to just not mention it.
I also really like the note on which we end the episode. The way Du Sik looks at Hye Jin beside him, when he wakes up from that nightmare, is with gentle relief, like he’s thankful that he’s not alone, in that moment.
And then there’s the way he puts his own pillow under her head, and then smiles, while still looking at her. It’s sweet and.. tender. And I love the idea that because she’s there, he’s able to fall back to sleep, this time, with a peaceful calm on his face. It’s quite lovely.
E6. This episode, it’s true that Hye Jin does come across as rather prickly, but because I can see where a lot of it is coming from, I find it all quite understandable. Mostly, she has a lot of feelings about the drunken kiss.
On the one hand, she’s mortified by it, and wishes that it had never happened, or at least, that nobody would remember it. She’s mortified by the knowledge that Du Sik remembers it. But it also hurts her pride, that he’s treating it as if it’s nothing.
Of course, Du Sik is trying to lead by example, and show Hye Jin that it doesn’t have to be something; that they can still be comfortable around each other, even with this drunken mistake between them.
But because Hye Jin actually is rather keenly aware of Du Sik, and is drawn to him despite her protests to the contrary (Mi Seon’s knowing gaze is so perfect, truly), it hurts her pride to think that she has no effect on Du Sik whatsoever – which is why she acts all prickly towards him.
Better to withdraw with a vengeance and be the cold and distant one, than to be the one whose feelings are – gasp! – hurt, by the fact that Du Sik isn’t affected by a kiss from her, y’know.
In the meantime, the more Du Sik tries to act like nothing happened and everything’s fine, the more it rubs Hye Jin the wrong way, because to her eyes, this is just more evidence that she means nothing to him. Yes, it’s complicated, alright. 😅
Even as I sympathize with Hye Jin’s predicament and embarrassment, my heart actually goes out to Du Sik, because he really does appear to feel hurt, when Hye Jin turns prickly towards him. I do think that he’s very understanding about it, for the most part.
I thought it was nice of him to seek her out at her clinic, with getting a dental checkup as an excuse, just so that she’d have no choice but to hear him out, all so that he can tell her that they don’t have to make the drunken kiss a big deal.
Of course, this just mortifies Hye Jin further, because she’s so embarrassed by the fact that it happened at all, oops. No wonder she exits the room as quickly as she can – but this also means that Du Sik feels like he’s hit a wall, with Hye Jin.
It certainly doesn’t help that this is all happening in Gongjin where everyone knows everyone, and everyone isn’t afraid to show it.
I feel like every time Du Sik demonstrates that there’s nothing between him and Hye Jin, Hye Jin acts out, because she feels offended by it.
Like when Ju Ri pushes Hye Jin, and Hye Jin falls into Du Sik’s arms. In many a romcom, this would be a scene that’s ripe for a Moment Of Mutual Hyperawareness, but in this case, Du Sik really does react as if it’s nothing at all, which, of course, hits Hye Jin where it hurts, which is why she suddenly becomes determined to show Du Sik out of her house.
Ahhh. Attraction can be such a complicated thing. 😅
I love the idea that Hye Jin and Du Sik won’t let Ju Ri’s chance at winning go to waste when she sprains her ankle, and so both jump in to dance for her. It’s awkward and hilarious, and matched with Ju Ri’s somewhat flat singing, looks like some kind of (poor) experimental attempt at dance impressionism. Ahaha.
I do love that Hye Jin offers to do Ju Ri’s braces with the prize money as a deposit, with the rest of the payment to be made after she’s grown up.
Aw. That’s sweet. I love even more, that look in Du Sik’s eyes, as he watches her say this. We only see it for a fleeting moment, but it’s surprised, and moved, and kind of entranced, like she’s stolen his heart, right then and there. I love it.
I really like the reluctantly reconciliatory tone between Du Sik and Hye Jin, even as they walk together for a bit, at the night market. I’m glad that Du Sik tells her that he’d come close to hating her again, but had felt proud of her for doing such a cool thing that day. Aw.
Plus, Du Sik really does look quite entranced by Hye Jin, as she watches the fireworks with a smile. Double aw. Du SIk’s definitely toast, isn’t he?
I feel like Show’s coming on pretty strong with the childhood connection thing between Du Sik and Hye Jin. I mean, not only did we get that beach photo thing, now we also have this high school moment, when Du Sik had given her the money she’d needed for her milk, at the store.
However, I do get where Show is coming from. I feel like Show’s trying to demonstrate to us that Du Sik and Hye Jin have more in common than it appears on the surface, and this flashback, where we see them both angsting quietly at the beach by themselves, feels like a mirrored moment of melancholy.
E7. Through most of this episode, I found myself very content, just to see the little signs that Hye Jin and Du Sik are on familiar terms with each other. This episode, I really feel the friendly ease coming through the teasing and bickering between Du Sik and Hye Jin, and I like that a lot.
It feels like they are familiar and comfortable with each other, without formality or pretense, and that makes me happy.
I thought Du Sik, Hye Jin and Seong Hyeon (Lee Sang Yi) hanging out at Du Sik’s house for snacks and drinks was a little odd, but quite fun, and I like that Hye Jin’s quick to answer Seong Hyeon’s questions without even really thinking about it, like where the bathroom is, as if she’s reeally familiar with Du Sik’s home.
Plus, later in the episode, the way Hye Jin gives Seong Hyeon such a comprehensive breakdown of Du Sik’s terms when it comes to work, also demonstrates just how familiar she has become, with things that have to do with Du Sik. 😉
And then there’s the little beat, where they squabble over whether or not Hye Jin is delusional and overly self-conscious, and whether Du Sik should say anything about their shared biological crisis to Seong Hyeon (ha).
All that grabby-ness and squabbling looks totally cozy to my eyes – which is exactly what Seong Hyeon walks back in on, after his visit to the bathroom, and for some reason, this pleases me, as if there’s a big neon sign in the room saying, “See? These two are adorable together. You may back off now.” 😆
I love the blanket washing scene that we get, with Du Sik and Hye Jin helping Granny Gam Ri, because they get so playful with each other, while they’re at it. The bickering is good-natured, the teasing is gentle, and the leaked smiles and giggles are real. I love it.
I also love the fact that when Hye Jin gets that memory flash, when her forehead hits Du Sik’s shoulder, she’s comfortable with him, to just go back in again, to see if she can recreate the memory, even though it’s an admittedly rather intimate position to be in, with Du Sik.
More than this, I love that when Du Sik asks her about it, she can tell him so frankly, what she’s doing. I LOVE these little indications of ease; she feels free to speak her mind with Du Sik, and I dig it. 🥰
And then, when Seong Hyeon shows up with JUNE (Seong Tae) at the house, the way Hye Jin keeps touching Du Sik to express her awe, is adorable, and again, so familiar.
In particular, I love how she pats Du Sik’s thigh while staring at JUNE with her mouth ajar, and Du Sik swats her hand away. Eee! The cozy familiarity, where this is her reflex, when faced with a celebrity whom she admires.
To top it all off, we get that epilogue, where we see that Hye Jin had found Du Sik nodding off in the yard. I like that Hye Jin’s able to recognize that Du Sik’s about to cry, even when she’s tipsy. And I love that Hye Jin’s extra warm and friendly with Du Sik, when she’s not hampered by her sobriety.
I’m glad that even in this drunken moment, Du Sik has Hye Jin’s assurance that she won’t go anywhere, so he doesn’t have to worry. I love that Hye Jin actually follows through with this, even in her tipsy state – which is how she ends up sleeping over at Du Sik’s house a second time. Aw. That’s sweet, isn’t it?
E8. I felt an appropriate touch of amusement, at the scene where Du Sik’s mesmerized by the sight of Hye Jin with her hair down, at the minimart, after she’s taken off her neck brace. I just like the idea that Du Sik’s smitten, even though he doesn’t want to admit it.
And, it’s really sweet of him to prepare those herbs for her, for her herniated neck, and then try to brush it off as extra stuff that he was going to throw away anyway. Plus, the fact that he’d go out of his way to deliver it to her house, too, so that she’ll get to use it as soon as possible, is thoughtful and sweet.
Yay that Hye Jin is concerned enough, to actually pay Du Sik a visit, so that he won’t be alone when he’s sick. That’s very empathetic; it really does suck to be all alone when you’re sick. There’s no one to help you with food or medicine, and it’s very isolating. I love that Hye Jin’s cognizant of that, and specifically wants to make sure that Du Sik doesn’t feel isolated while he’s unwell.
Even though the porridge that Hye Jin makes for Du Sik turns out to be terrible tasting, and even though she leaves the kitchen in a mess, it really is comforting to Du Sik, I think, to have someone there, while he’s ill.
How nice of Hye Jin, to actually buy Du Sik a bag of tangerines, because he’d mentioned that he was craving some.
Although it does feel like Show introduced the crime element to our story specifically so that Hye Jin would feel relieved to see Du Sik in a moment of danger, I appreciate that Show introduces this element of danger right at the beginning of the episode, so that it doesn’t feel like it comes out of nowhere, at the end of the episode, when Hye Jin runs into Du Sik’s arms.
Plus, I’m gratified enough, by the sight of Hye Jin clinging to Du Sik in relief, and Du Sik wrapping his arms around her, to give Show a bit of a pass, on the obvious introduction of the catalyst to this embrace.
Last but not least, it does give me a bit of squee, to see that Du Sik had been fully awake and aware, in the moment when Hye Jin had leaned in on him in that almost kiss.
His tamped-down breathless discombobulation is pretty great, and makes me imagine just how much self-control he might have had to exercise, if Hye Jin really had leaned in for a kiss. I feel like that would’ve made him implode from the effort, heh.
E9. I felt suitably gratified to see that when the random ahjusshi (who turns out to be completely harmless) calls out to them, Du Sik’s first instinct, is to hold Hye Jin to himself even tighter. Swoon. It’s his protective instincts at work, and it definitely is quite thrilling to think that he wants to protect Hye Jin.
How sweet, that even as they awkwardly say goodbye while pretending that they didn’t just totally have a Moment, Du Sik thinks to shine his torch at Hye Jin’s feet, so that she’d be able to see where she’s going. Aw. That’s sweet.
And how cute, that afterwards, they are both hot, bothered and rather discombobulated by their brief but adrenaline-pumping encounter. Tee hee. I love the idea that they have such a big effect on each other.
I thought the fake relationship was rather fun, while it lasted, because it gives Du Sik and Hye Jin the space to interact with each other on close terms. Their bickering feels gentle and natural, and not at all like it’s put on for show, just because they’re play-acting the part of a dating couple for the day.
In particular, I liked the beat where Dad (Seo Sang Won) expresses disapproval of Du Sik, and Hye Jin immediately comes to Du Sik’s defense, as if he’s her real boyfriend.
The fact that Hye Jin’s defense comes to her lips so naturally, goes to show that Hye Jin really has put thought into this; she’s spent time rationalizing to herself, why Du Sik isn’t such a bad catch after all, heh.
The thing is, I can see that Hye Jin’s enjoying this role-play more than she’d like to admit. It’s clear from her expression, that it warms her heart to see Du Sik get along so well with Dad.
On the other hand, I can see that Du Sik’s kind of holding himself quite firmly in the role-playing space. What I mean is, it seems to me that he draws the lines quite clearly, between Real and Role-play.
And then there’s how Du Sik comes clean to Dad, and tells Dad that he does like Hye Jin, but only as a friend. The way he does this, make me feel that Du Sik’s made a decision to put aside any feelings he might have for Hye Jin, almost like he’s punishing himself.
That last shot that we get, of Hye Jin looking on contentedly at the now-fixed street lamps, tells me that she instinctively knows that this was Du Sik’s doing, and that he’d done that for her, because she’d had a fright while walking home in the dark. That glow about her, as she thinks about this, says it all.
E10. It’s undeniably thrilling to see Du Sik come in there and bash that intruder’s head to the wall, then rush to check on Hye Jin, like she’s the most important thing in the world.
AND, when the intruder rushes at Hye Jin with a knife, it feels momentous and important that as Du Sik reflexively shields her with his own body, he calls out her name, “Hye Jin-ah!,” instead of his usual, “Dentist.” Ahhhh. He cares, he really does. 🥲
I really like how this obvious level of care for the other person, holds up even at the hospital.
The way Du Sik gently teases Hye Jin (with that warm little smile!), remarking that he’s glad that she’s not in shock; the way he is so concerned that she’s gotten a big bruise on her arm; the way Hye Jin starts crying because she’d been so scared that he’d ignore his own safety and throw himself in the path of a knife; the way he’s sobered and concerned by her tears; augh, it’s all good stuff.
I love that they are so concerned for each other.
I have to love how convenient it is, that because Hye Jin’s home is now a crime scene, she has no choice but to crash at Du Sik’s house for the night. Ahaha. I can see why writer-nim had decided that the attack should happen at Hye Jin’s home, instead of outside it. I’m absolutely not complaining, though, because I do love how this gives Du Sik and Hye Jin more alone time together.
All the little moments of familiarity and closeness are like catnip to me; Du Sik offering Hye Jin camomile tea; Du Sik massaging her foot because of a cramp; Hye Jin obediently meowing when Du Sik suggests she do that while he gets the cramp out of her foot (because “cramp” and “mouse” are both 쥐 in Korean).
I lap it all up eagerly, because these are all little signposts that indicate how comfortable they are now, with each other.
Plus, there’s the way Du Sik actually tells Hye Jin about his grandfather, and how he basically feels that Grandpa had died because of him. That’s huge, because, as Du Sik says himself, he’s only ever told one other person about this before. Clearly, he trusts Hye Jin a lot, and feels comfortable and close enough with her, to reveal this part of himself to her.
I’m so glad that Hye Jin immediately tells him that he shouldn’t blame himself for Grandpa’s death; that there are so many variables in the world, he couldn’t possibly know for a fact that if he’d been at home, Grandpa would have lived. Those are words of liberty, and I’m glad that Du Sik hears them from Hye Jin.
Also, there’s a soft sense of clarity in Du Sik’s gaze now, when he talks with Hye Jin, even when he’s teasing her about never allowing her in his kitchen again, which I really dig. It makes me feel that he’s opening himself up to her, even if he’s ribbing her on the surface, and I really like that.
Then, there’s how Du Sik reads Hye Jin to sleep, and then when she sleep-mumbles, asking about the person whom he’d told about his grandfather, and then sleep-curses, when he says that it had been someone warmhearted, Du Sik basically has to physically stop himself from imploding from the cute. Ahaha. I love that he’s so delighted by her.
It’s really sweet and thoughtful of Hye Jin to think of buying jeon for Du Sik’s grandfather’s memorial service, and I’m glad that Du Sik makes sure to honor that, even though everyone else arrives to add everything that Du Sik might need, for a well-laden memorial table.
Even more than that, I love that Du Sik tells Hye Jin that she can stay for the memorial service if wants – and she does. I love that she doesn’t do the polite thing and just leave; she takes his offer as real and valid, and stays, just like he’s invited her to. Somehow, this thrills me quite a bit, that she takes his words seriously, and doesn’t assume anything he says to be lip service.
And of course, there’s that crab meat moment, where Hye Jin’s in the midst of peeling crab legs for Du Sik, and lets slip that it takes a lot of love to want to peel crab legs for someone else. Eep. I can see why she’d feel mortified about this. 😅
But how significant, that she remembers him saying that he didn’t want snow crab when they’d gone to lunch, and how significant too, that Du Sik looks suitably stunned, like Cupid’s just shot a bit fat arrow into his heart, hee.
Of course it’s serendipitous that Grandma Gam Ri sits Du Sik down and tells him, penetratingly, that he absolutely does have feelings for Hye Jin, and he should throw away any unnecessary thoughts, and just be honest with himself.
They say that love has a lot to do with timing, and yes, it’s a little magical, that both Du Sik and Hye Jin come to terms with their feelings for each other at around the same time, but isn’t that the miracle of love to begin with?
That there’s someone else who feels the same way about you, at the same time that you feel that way about them? I’m just happy to be able to witness that miracle moment between Du Sik and Hye Jin.
I love how Hye Jin rushes back from Seoul and goes straight to Du Sik, so that she can tell him how she feels about him. And, I like that she doesn’t expect him to give her an answer; that she just needs to tell him how she feels, because her feelings for him keep inflating in her heart, so much that it feels like it could burst at any second.
Ahhh. I love how charmingly honest Hye Jin is, in this moment. I like how helpless Hye Jin looks, as she tells him that she can’t help it anymore.
And, I love how Du Sik looks right at her, like he’s in a trance, then wordlessly reaches out to kiss her.
The kiss feels gentle and heartfelt, and I love how he then pulls back, looks her in the eye, and then tells her, “I can’t deny it anymore either,” before he leans in to kiss her again. Eeeee!!! Ahhhhh!!! Flail. I love it, you guys. LOVES. IT. 😍😍😍
It’s the sweetest, most heartfelt, honest moment, and I’m flailing all over the floor.
What makes this moment even more meaningful, is that flashback that we get in the epilogue, where Grandpa had wished on Du Sik’s birthday candles, that when Du Sik ended up alone, he’d be sent a good person who would make sure that he wouldn’t be lonely.
Aw, Grandpa. That’s such a sweet, selfless wish, and it looks like it’s finally being answered now.
And, yes, it’s a stretch that Du Sik would even remember the little girl whom he’d made smile, for her family photo, but at this point, I’m too blissed out by our OTP finally embracing their love for each other, to nitpick about that. 🥰
E11. One thing that I did want to mention about our OTP, aside from the fact that I find them ridiculously cute together, is that I love how they more or less continue to rib each other in a manner that isn’t all that different from what they’d had going on before all the feelings and kisses came out.
I like that a lot. It just feels so real and down-to-earth, that their fundamental vibe remains unchanged, and is now just decorated with extra heart-eyes and smitten smiles. 🥰
E12. It’s thoughtful of Du Sik to create that little nook where they can sit by the beach and enjoy the sea breeze, while being kept toasty by a bonfire. And it’s great that they can talk about the necklace thing in a manner that feels earnest and honest.
Also, how sweet, that Du Sik gives Hye Jin a jewelry box that he made himself, and tells her that he’d wanted to buy the necklace for her, but couldn’t because it had been too expensive, so he’d made a box for it instead. We even get sincere love confessions and heartfelt kisses; it’s all very wholesome and sweet,
I also love the epilogue detail, that Du Sik’s making his own bucket list of things that he’d like to do with Hye Jin too. It’s a perfectly sweet way to bookend the episode.
E14. The whole thing of Du Sik not feeling able to open up to Hye Jin works out both better and worse than I’d expected, this episode.
Relationships are complex things because it is necessary to take into account the feelings and personal contexts of both people, who are in the relationship, and those feelings and personal contexts can be at very different places, at the same time.
It’s a delicate task, to honor both people’s needs and wants, at the same time.
In this case, Hye Jin wants to get closer to Du Sik, and understand him better. She wants them to share their past, as well as their thoughts and feelings, without reservation.
And Du Sik just isn’t in the right space, personally, to do that, even though he fully understands what Hye Jin wants, and even though he does sincerely like her a lot.
I feel that Hye Jin’s request, that they spend some time apart, so that they can both figure things out a little more, is a good one, because a little time and space can be really helpful in the process of gaining perspective.
I appreciate that even though Hye Jin is emotional when she makes the request, she does follow it up with some important clarification, the next time they speak.
I like that she tells Du Sik upfront, that she doesn’t actually want to break up with him; she just thinks he needs some time to feel ready to open up to her, and she wants him to take that time.
I’m glad that Hye Jin goes over to see Du Sik, and tells him that she’s done thinking, and updates him on her thoughts. This feels healthy in and of itself, that she wants to let him know what she’s thinking, even though he might still be thinking about stuff, on his side of things. And I have to say, I sincerely love Hye Jin’s little spiel to Du Sik:
“I’m done thinking about us. Chief Hong, you know patience isn’t my strong suit.” … “I moved to Gongjin only after thinking about it for a day.. I hate it when things are vague. Things that are ambiguous don’t sit well with me.
So what I want to say is… Despite our current situation, if you can promise that you’ll someday open up to me, I could wait. I’m not asking you to open up to me right now. All I want is for you to acknowledge the possibility. Am I a part of the future you paint? And do you think that you could see a future with me? That’s all I wanted to know.”
“Nothing else matters if that’s what you ultimately want as well. Then we’re good. I’m willing to wait.. I’ve made up my mind, but I’ll give you some extra time to think. But let’s end the break. You can think while we date. Take your time while we’re together. But don’t make me wait too long.”
Ahhh. So honest, hopeful and tenderhearted, all at the same time. I love it. I do think that it’s Hye Jin’s open-hearted yet understanding approach, that eventually draws Du Sik to want to open up to her, and tell her everything – a huge step for him.
Lee Sang Yi as Seong Hyeon
I have some fondness for Lee Sang Yi, and was quite happy to see him on the cast list. He tends to have a pretty likable vibe about him, and I thought he’d make a good second male lead who’s there to shake things up between our OTP.
All in all, I think Show does a good job of making Seong Hyeon likable enough to warrant some attention from Hye Jin as the object of his affections, and from us as an audience, yet flawed enough, so that it’s easy to see why he’s destined not to win Hye Jin’s heart.
Overall, I thought Show handled this with a nice amount of grace. Show might have set Seong Hyeon up to be flawed and lacking in courage, but Show never made him pathetic, and I found myself leaving my watch, with a nice amount of affection for Seong Hyeon as a character.
E7. In general, I find Seong Hyeon pleasant, although he has a few low-key annoying quirks, like his tactlessness when it comes to food. His tendency to be ridiculously obstinate when it comes to food opinions, down to whether ramyun should be served with egg, is only amusing for a very short while.
In other words, this got old for me pretty fast. Aside from this, though, there’s nothing that I find terribly objectionable about him.
The one thing that gives me pause, is the way Seong Hyeon goes about getting Granny Gam Ri to agree to let him film at her house.
I mean, to be fair, he demonstrates that he understands how things work in Gongjin, and works on building his relationship with her, rather than reason endlessly with her, and in the end, it’s Gran herself that decides, unasked, that she’ll let him film his program at her house.
However, it niggles at me, that Seong Hyeon assures Granny Gam Ri that he has absolutely no ulterior motives for visiting her and bringing her gifts, when in actual fact, he totally does.
The fact that he’d told the crew that he wouldn’t film anywhere else, no matter what, gives me this awkward, uncomfortable sort of feeling, that he’s manipulating Gran’s feelings for his own gain.
Like I said, though, this isn’t wrong per se, since relationships is where it’s at, when doing anything in Gongjin. It just doesn’t strike me as completely right, either. 😅
E10. Poor Seong Hyeon. He’s all fired up, wanting to confess his feelings for Hye Jin, and now, he’s faced with a situation where Du Sik’s the one who came to Hye Jin’s rescue, and he also just happens to see Du Sik’s hand holding onto Hye Jin’s forearm.
Importantly, there’s also the way he hurriedly backs off while making up an excuse for why he’s back in Gongjin. Even from this early point in the episode, it doesn’t look good for Seong Hyeon. Which is why it’s understandable that Seong Hyeon finds himself in a distracted daze for a good 24 hours after.
I’m glad for him that he does get to confess his feelings to Hye Jin after all, because that’s something that he hadn’t done 14 years ago, back when they’d been at university. At least now he can say that he didn’t back away from it this time.
However, I’d say that even though it’s clear that he digs deep for the courage to tell Hye Jin how he feels, there’s something about the way he does it, that feels like he’s not being brave enough.
I don’t know if it’s just me; the way he frames his confession as a standalone thing (where he even needs Hye Jin to cue him in, as if he’s an actor and she’s the PD) makes it feel rather staged. And weirdly enough, it also makes the aftermath, where he tries to revert to his usual jovial manner, feel staged as well.
I know Seong Hyeon gave what he felt was his all, but in a romcom drama world, it’s clear why he’s second lead and not first.
E11. Shout-out to Hye Jin for turning down Seong Hyeon in the kindest, most loving manner I could have hoped for, and to Seong Hyeon, for being as gracious about it, both to Hye Jin and to Du Sik, as I could have possibly asked for. It all feels quite lovely and mature, really.
I do feel bad for Seong Hyeon, that he has to nurse a broken heart afterwards, but ah well, this is how the chips fall, unfortunately, and I do believe he’ll heal up well, and become stronger for it. At least he has the comfort of knowing that he handled the situation with class and grace?
The thing with Du Sik and Seong Hyeon
Even though I don’t have a problem with love triangles in general, I do find that I don’t enjoy seeing the love rivals pit themselves against each other in petty and over-competitive ways.
Therefore, I was very pleasantly surprised, by how the dynamic between Du Sik and Seong Hyeon shapes up. So many romcoms tend to have these petty rivalry things between their male leads, almost as a reflex, that I find it very refreshing, to see Du Sik and Seong Hyeon actually get along quite nicely.
I’m honestly really pleased that I hardly had any occasion to wince through our two male leads trying to one-up each other, to get Hye Jin’s attentions. I count this as one of Show’s best decisions, heh.
E7. Even though Du Sik senses that Seong Hyeon has more than a passing interest in Hye Jin, and even though Seong Hyeon can see that Du Sik and Hye Jin are on friendly terms, this doesn’t stop them from being friendly with each other.
It sounds pretty simple and straightforward on paper, but why does this feel like such a creative spin on the love triangle trope? I guess that just goes to show just how heavy Dramaland tends to lean into the petty rivalry thing.
In fact, the only time they engage in silly games, is because Seong Hyeon really wants Du Sik to be the guide for his team, and Du Sik isn’t keen on the idea. See, now that’s a round of nonsensical competition that I can get behind, heh.
E8. I like the fact that the unspoken rivalry between Du Sik and Seong Hyeon doesn’t prevent them from actually working together.
In this sense, I find the rivalry pretty low-key and harmless, because by and large, Du Sik and Seong Hyeon do manage to get along. And when Seong Hyeon realizes that Du Sik isn’t well, his urging of Du Sik to go home and rest, comes across as sincere. I do like that.
E12. Show managed to surprise me a bit, with the jealousy arc.
I’d sighed and internally rolled my eyes when Du Sik started to get jealous of Seong Hyeon, because Hye Jin had shown concern for Seong Hyeon’s wellbeing, and I’d rolled my eyes even harder, when Du Sik snatched those chicken drumsticks from right under Seong Hyeon’s nose, all because Hye Jin had encouraged him to offer Seong Hyeon chicken drumsticks. And then, I braced myself for more petty jealousy hijinks.
The thing is, Show didn’t give me more petty jealousy hijinks, and instead, we get Du Sik chagrined at his own jealousy and irrational behavior, in hindsight, and apologizing to Hye Jin for it. That was refreshing, I have to admit.
I felt much more forgiving of Show, right there, because it’s true that sometimes people do irrational things, especially when they’re overcome by certain emotions, like jealousy. And they should especially be forgiven, if they’re as self-aware and contrite as Du Sik is, this episode.
E13. It’s rather nice to see Du Sik be nice to Seong Hyeon, and make him samgyetang, as an apology for stealing those drumsticks before. It’s nice to see that they are still on such good terms, despite the fact that they were recent love rivals.
I’m glad that Du Sik nudges Seong Hyeon in the specific direction of recognizing that Writer Wang (Park Ye Young) might admire him in more than a purely professional way. With how slow-witted Seong Hyeon is in matters of the heart, this is probably the kick in the pants that he needs, to wake up and realize that he has a lovely woman who likes him, right in front of him.
Du Sik and Grandma Gam Ri
I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the familial bond between Grandma Gam Ri and Du Sik, even though they aren’t actually blood related.
The way he takes care of her and looks out for her, and the way she cares for him, and worries for him and just generally loves on him, is exactly the way I’d expect a grandmother to dote on her own grandson.
I love the concept of found family, and these two definitely fit the bill. ❤️
Hye Jin and Mi Seon
Even though it doesn’t get a lot of time in the spotlight, I actually really enjoyed Hye Jin’s friendship with Mi Seon.
I love the idea that Mi Seon is enough of a bestie, to uproot herself from Seoul, to come live and work with Hye Jin, and it’s lovely to think that these two women don’t ever get sick of each other, in spite of their different personalities, even though they literally see each other close to 24 hours a day.
E10. This episode, I do love how we get a bit of the spotlight on Hye Jin’s friendship with Mi Seon. The way they’re each more concerned for the other, is really sweet, even though they are a touch dramatic about it, crying in each other’s arms and all. Heh. It’s cute, though.
I love how they can tell each other everything.
Mi Seon’s upfront with Hye Jin about things with Officer Choi, and when Mi Seon guesses that Hye Jin’s reluctant about Seong Hyeon’s confession because of Du Sik, Hye Jin doesn’t attempt to deny it either. They really trust each other and know each other so well.
And when Hye Jin suddenly has that moment of reckoning in the rain and heads back to Gongjin to see Du Sik, Mi Seon knows what’s up, without Hye Jin even having to tell her. I love that. ❤️
Lee Bong Ryun as Hwa Jeong
The deeper I got into my watch, the more I realized that Lee Bong Ryun is simply outstanding as Hwa Jeong. She infuses Hwa Jeong with this very matter-of-fact gruffness, and yet, during Hwa Jeong’s more difficult, emotional scenes, Lee Bong Ryun’s nuanced, faceted delivery is so good, and makes these moments so profound.
The more I see of Hwa Jeong, the more I like her, honestly.
E14. That scene where Hwa Jeong comes upon an emotional Hye Jin, and offers her comfort, a warm meal and a listening ear, without exerting pressure on her, and without judgment, is just perfect.
To my eyes, Hwa Jeong achieves what feels like the perfect balance between nurturing love and tough love. She’s assuring without being coddling, plus, she listens without judgment, and manages to still offer perspective, without sounding like she’s discounting Hye Jin’s thoughts or feelings. I love her.
I do think that it’s Hwa Jeong’s calm, sensical words, that gives Hye Jin the groundedness to tell Du Sik in such a calm and matter-of-fact manner, that she doesn’t actually want to break up with him, and just feels that they both need some time to figure things out.
In Gyo Jin as Yeong Guk
To be honest, I didn’t care much for Yeong Guk as a character, for most of my watch. He just always seemed so clueless and self-centered.
[SPOILER] Plus, there’s the secondhand embarrassment of how he tries to court Cho Hui, when she clearly doesn’t have any romantic interest in him.
I mean, how obtuse does he have to be, to tell Hwa Jeong that he wants to court Cho Hui, and that he’d like it if she gave them complimentary soju when they go to her restaurant on a date.
UGHH. I wanted to clunk him on the head for saying that, and I have to admit that because of this, I took a fair bit of satisfaction in the fact that he sprained his back while preparing for what he’d thought was a date with Cho Hui. [END SPOILER]
That said, I did warm to Yeong Guk somewhat, in Show’s later stretch, so I didn’t dislike him completely. 😅
Hong Ji Hee as Cho Hui [SPOILERS]
E14. What an interesting bit of insight that Show gives us, on Cho Hui, this episode.
As it turns out, Cho Hui likes women, not men, and that bit of information causes so many little things to click into place, for me.
For one thing, it’s now easy to understand why Cho Hui has never gotten married in all the years since she’d left Gongjin, even though she’s an attractive woman with what is considered a pretty ideal job.
Also, it changes how the entire situation with Hwa Jeong and Yeong Guk lands. Context really is everything, like I can never seem to stop saying.
Instead of Cho Hui being the third party to come between Hwa Jeong and Yeong Guk, Cho Hui is now the forlorn third party with a futile crush, not on Yeong Guk, but on Hwa Jeong. Aw. I feel bad for all that Cho Hui’s gone through.
Her own mother couldn’t accept her as she is, and on top of that, she’s been misunderstood by Hwa Jeong as a third party between her and Yeong Guk. It must be tough being in Cho Hui’s shoes.
I do appreciate Show for treating Cho Hui’s same-sex attraction with an overall sympathetic, matter-of-fact touch.
The thing with Hwa Jeong and Yeong Guk
By the episode 4 mark, it becomes clear that although Hwa Jeong and Yeong Guk are divorced, there are a lot of ties, emotional baggage and lingering expectations between them – mostly on Hwa Jeong’s side of things.
I have to admit to not being overly invested in this arc in the beginning of my watch, but when Show reveals the whole backstory and deals with the fallout, I was completely riveted.
This arc carried a lot more emotional heft than I’d originally imagined, and I thought this was all very well done. Special shout-out to Lee Bong Ryun, for delivering Hwa Jeong’s reactions through this arc with such raw, palpable emotion.
E12. I’d known that there was Something about the circumstances under which Hwa Jeong had divorced Yeong Guk, and I’d had it in my head, that he’d been some kind of idiot, that had triggered Hwa Jeong’s divorce request, and yet, the actual flashback still had my heart breaking for Hwa Jeong.
How awful it must have been for her, to have come to the cafe with an umbrella for her husband, thinking that it was going to rain, only to overhear him blithely telling his friend that he doesn’t care much about his marriage, and had only married Hwa Jeong because it was about time for him to get married, and his first love had moved away, and Hwa Jeong had been pitiful because her mother had passed away.
He’d married her out of convenience and pity? Ack. That’s awful even for me to hear, let alone Hwa Jeong, who appears to have genuine affection for him, all these years.
I completely understand why Hwa Jeong blows up at him the next morning, using the socks as an excuse. She’s so humiliated, that she doesn’t want to let on that she’d heard what he’d said. She’d rather pretend that she’d never heard it, and use something – anything – else, as her cover instead.
However, the bleeding, screaming wounds pouring out pain, is so clear to see, in Hwa Jeong’s face. The tears that come unbidden to her eyes; the strain in her face, from trying not to show the truth of why she’s so upset; the shrillness in her voice, that she can’t control.
It all communicates Hwa Jeong’s distress and grief and mortification, in such raw, eloquent detail. Augh. My heart broke for her, so much. 💔 Such a brilliant delivery by Lee Bong Ryun, truly.
While I have to confess that I don’t like Yeong Guk much at all, I do appreciate that when he realizes the truth, he doesn’t try to blame anyone else; he’s quick to blame himself, and say that it’s all his fault.
That’s the first time that I’ve felt a glimmer of approval for Yeong Guk, to be honest. I don’t much care if he and Hwa Jeong reconcile, but it looks like Hwa Jeong still nurses feelings for him, so for Hwa Jeong’s sake, I hope that he does right by her, and at least apologizes.
E13. This episode, it’s nice to see Yeong Guk showing more appreciation for Hwa Jeong, as he realizes more and more, how she continues to care for him, despite all that’s happened between them.
In particular, I liked the beat where he sneaks into the restaurant and does the dishes for her while she’s nodding off in the customer seating area, so that she won’t have to do them herself later.
I mean, he doesn’t do a great job of wiping down the sink and hanging out the dish towels, but I really feel like the gesture is a sweet one. Plus, he doesn’t even try to take credit for doing the dishes; he just wants to make her life a little easier.
That’s so thoughtful, really. And coming from Yeong Guk, who’s usually such a self-centered, shortsighted sort of guy, this feels especially thoughtful.
It’s too bad that Yeong Guk doesn’t seem to understand that what Hwa Jeong wants, isn’t his encouragement or blessings to go on a blind date with a promising prospective husband.
From what I can tell, Hwa Jeong is happy to have some pleasant times with Yeong Guk himself, even though they are divorced. But from Yeong Guk’s point of view, he’s done so wrong by her, that he doesn’t deserve her being nice to him, and ought to meet someone better.
Oh, the tragedy of mismatched perspectives.
E14. This episode’s MVP goes to Nam Suk (Cha Chung Hwa), for pranking Yeong Guk with the white lie that Hwa Jeong’s getting drunk in her restaurant with that blind date that she was supposed to have met, because that’s the catalyst that gets Hwa Jeong and Yeong Guk back together again, this episode.
We finally get some open, raw honesty between them, and I’m glad that Yeong Guk apologizes to Hwa Jeong, for not having treated her right, all these years.
It’s sad that Hwa Jeong’s believed, all this time, that Yeong Guk hadn’t loved her even though he’d married her, and I’m glad that, galvanized by the white lie Nam Suk tells, Yeong Guk comes out and tells Hwa Jeong just how important she is, to him, and how sorry and ashamed he feels.
I’m glad that even though Hwa Jeong tearfully pushes at Yeong Guk, and tells him to leave, for taking 15 whole years to realize his feelings, Yeong Guk has the good sense to hold onto her, because it’s true that she doesn’t actually want him to leave.
While I haven’t been very fond of Yeong Guk all this time, I must say that the context that Hwa Jeong provides, in her conversation with Nam Suk, where she describes how sweet he’d been to her ailing mother, does help me see Yeong Guk in a more positive light.
Plus, there’s how Hwa Jeong herself can’t stop caring about him, even after everything that’s happened. And so, with this earnest, sincere apology and his plea for them to start over, I’m pretty happy to see them finally reunite.
Mi Seon’s loveline with Officer Choi
I ended up thoroughly loving this little romance between Mi Seon and Officer Choi (Kang Hyoung Suk). They are the dorkiest pair of lovebirds, and I found them extremely cute and amusing, through my watch of this show.
I would have preferred if Show hadn’t made Officer Choi so dim, because a police officer kinda needs to be at least reasonably quick on the uptake, but he’s so endearing in his dimness, and it serves the romance so solidly, that I find that I can’t nitpick too much.
Every single time these two popped up on my screen, I perked up with anticipation. 🤩
E9. Aw, poor Mi Seon. She looks so carefree and happy, as she asks Officer Choi out, and is so mortified when he turns her down, saying that he isn’t the sort who’s able to date casually.
However, I do think that Mi Seon’s heartbreak is premature, in that, I do think that given some time, Officer Choi does look like he’d be open to the idea of dating Mi Seon – and perhaps in a more serious manner than she might expect.
After all, he rushes to her rescue, when he learns that she’s hurrying back to Seoul because her mom needs surgery. I’m pretty sure that their connection is about to grow deeper, with this unexpected road trip to Seoul.
E11. I’m glad for Mi Seon (and also, rather amused) that Officer Choi’s made his garbled confession. I find it so silly, that Officer Choi can’t bring himself to say it without garbling his words while in the dentist’s chair. Pfft.
Still, yay that Mi Seon now knows that he does like her, and just wants to get to know her slowly, is all. Aw.
E12. I enjoyed the confirmation of Mi Seon’s relationship with Officer Choi. Officer Choi is cutely, frustratingly dense, and it’s good for him, that Mi Seon thinks he’s so cute, because he would have lost his chance with her (or anyone else, really), with his exaggeratedly obtuse ways.
Rotisserie Chicken Guy as matchmaker? Ha. That was an amusing touch.
E13. Mi Seon’s date with Officer Choi is cute and awkward, and I like that she tells him that there’s no manual that he has to follow, when it comes to dating. While it’s sweet that Officer Choi puts in so much effort to look up the best places to take Mi Seon, I love that Mi Seon sees that it’s more important for him to feel free and at ease, to follow his heart.
The fact that his heart tells him to skip over holding Mi Seon’s hand, and go straight to hugging her, is just a cute bonus. 🤩
E14. It’s cute that Officer Choi wants to give Mi Seon all the best things he can, because he just likes her that much, and it’s funny that Mi Seon misunderstands that he’s taking bribes and doing illegal things, in order to get the money to buy those gifts.
I groaned at the scene where she quite literally jumps out of the bushes, to put a stop to his illegal transaction – which turns out to be a perfectly harmless sale of secondhand military toy collectibles. Ahaha. I can totally see Officer Choi being a military junkie; it suits him perfectly. 😂
How sweet, that this whole thing gets Mi Seon and Officer Choi talking, and when she tells him that they ought to date seriously with a view to marriage, Officer Choi blinks bemusedly, and then tells Mi Seon that that’s always been his intention. Aw, he’s so cute, seriously.
I find it so amusing too, that when Mi Seon starts talking about how they should have just 2 kids and raise them well, the thought that Mi Seon wants to have his kids, causes him to blank out – but for the thought that he wants to skip a few bases, and just kiss her. Guh. Cute, cute, cute. 🤩
I just wanted to say that I thought the granny trio was great together. I love the idea that they are besties who hang out together and even have sleepovers at one another’s houses.
Also, what a very different role for Shin Shin Ae (center), who plays a rather frowny sort of character in Lost (aka Human Disqualification).
My jaw literally dropped, when I finally managed to place her – after making it almost to the end of this show. Ha. 🤦🏻♀️
Cha Chung Hwa as Nam Suk
Cha Chung Hwa is such a hoot as a town gossip. The delight that she gets from reporting everything that she sees, hears or knows, is really quite hilarious.
The fact that Nam Suk’s so incredibly loud and nosy, and yet, quite impossible to hate, has, I think, everything to do with Cha Chung Hwa’s blithe delivery of her.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Gongjin wouldn’t be the same without her.
E8. Without context, Nam Suk is the most annoying gossip in all of Gongjin. But in context, it’s so poignant to realize that everyone accepts Nam Suk and tolerates her annoying ways, because they’d rather see her embrace life this way, than be the walking dead that she’d used to be, after her daughter had died.
On that note, I just wanted to say that Cha Chung Hwa does a great job of delivering the varying facets of Nam Suk’s life experience.
From the overly bright gossip with compartmentalized pain, to the mom freshly grieving the loss of her daughter, she delivers it all in such a believable manner. I literally could believe that Nam Suk’s a real person.
Jo Han Chul as Chun Jae / Oh Yoon
I have to confess that I’d found Chun Jae a little annoying and pathetic at the start of our story.
However, Show does a great job peeling back the layers, to reveal more of the earnest heart beneath the self-promoting bravado, and I really came to appreciate Chun Jae as a character, by the time I reached Show’s later episodes.
E6. This episode, my heart goes out to Chun Jae. Ju Ri really is his whole world, come to think of it. It must have been really hard for him to raise her on his own, plus, it’s sad to hear that his relationship with his own mother has become strained because Gran blames Ju Ri for ruining his life.
When he cries on his own, over the fact that Ju Ri’s run away, it hits me just how much he feels like a failure, in this moment. Poor guy. He’s given it his all, and cared for Ju Ri to the point that she feels smothered, and yet, he feels like a failure.
I can’t help but want him to find some happiness for himself that doesn’t have anything to do with Ju Ri. He needs to feel like himself again; not just Ju Ri’s father.
I love how much Chun Jae loves Ju Ri. Even though he’s peeved at her for being so obsessed with DOS, I love that when Ju Ri can’t catch up to her oppas, he carries her on his back and runs like his life depends on it, just so that Ju Ri doesn’t miss the chance to say hello to her favorite idols.
That’s such a sweet fatherly thing to do, honestly. Love that.
The folks of Bora Supermarket [SPOILERS]
To be honest, I don’t have a lot to say about Yun Gyeong and Geom Cheol (Kim Ju Yeon and Yoon Seok Hyun), except for the whole typhoon arc in episode 13, which forces Yun Gyeong to deliver her baby at Hye Jin’s house, instead of at the hospital.
I do feel bad for Yun Gyeong, because for a while now, Show’s been hinting at the fact that Geom Cheol just doesn’t understand her or show her enough care. It’s so clear that Yun Gyeong’s overextending herself to do her best for her family, and it’s annoying to realize that Geom Cheol is taking her for granted.
I was totally on Yun Gyeong’s side, when she got upset with Geom Cheol and started yelling at him. How could he not realize that she can’t tie her own shoelaces because she’s heavily pregnant?? And this isn’t even their first child?? Ugh.
However, I do appreciate that he tries to do something nice for Yun Gyeong, by remembering that she’d wanted durian before, and goes out to get some for her.
Also, it’s nice to see that he tears up at the birth of their baby, and not only apologizes to Yun Gyeong for all that she’s been through, but thanks her as well. It’s good to see appreciation given where it’s due.
The Gongjin community as a whole
I really enjoyed the small town feel of Gongjin, and how Show paints a picture for us, of how life is like, in Gongjin.
There just something about how all these people make up a community where people genuinely care about one another, and where people are just regularly all up in one another’s business, that makes for warm and cozy TV.
Here are two highlights, where I particularly appreciated the Gongjin community.
E5. I find it hilarious (and suitably secondhand embarrassing) that everyone and their mothers know that Hye Jin’s slept over at Du Sik’s house, even before she’s arrived back at her own home.
The fact that Mi Seon greets her by asking her if it’s true is so ruefully funny to me. I guess this really is what it’s like, to live in a small town, where everybody knows everybody. 😅
E6. I had a pretty enjoyable time watching the singing contest. It was rather nice to see Chun Jae have a moment in the spotlight again, doing what he loves. Geum Cheol’s hip-gyrating performance had me cringe-crying with laughter; it just feels so wrong, that everyone watching him, knows him as the father of a young child, with another baby on the way.
Nam Suk’s off-key performance is enthusiastic but objectively terrible, and even the grannies get into the act.
It’s pretty great, that everyone feels so at ease to let loose, in such a take-me-as-I-am way, in front of everyone else.
STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
When Show leans too indulgent
Show goes through a phase, over episodes 11 and 12, where everything basically feels like one very extended sort of gag.
In episode 11, it’s Hye Jin injuring Du Sik every time they get too close to each other, and in episode 12, it’s all about Hye Jin’s bucket list of things that she’d like to do with Du Sik.
I was pretty alright with episode 11, even though I did raise my eyebrows a little, at just how long Show wanted to play this game. But when episode 12 came around, and Show was still serving up indulgent, fluffy OTP scenes that felt like they didn’t do anything much for the overall narrative, I did feel rather peeved.
Of course, the fact that all this works even to the limited extent that it does, is because the cuteness of Hye Jin and Du Sik being all smitten with each other is the stuff of rainbows, puppies, cotton candy and unicorns, and the combined cute of our dimpled duo is not to be sniffed at.
When Show leans into filler
Because I’m not done grumbling about Show’s narrative decisions, I also wanted to say that Show leans into more filler than usual, in episodes 12 and 13, and I did not appreciate that.
The arc where everyone wants to be on Seong Hyeon’s program; Du Sik’s birthday party; the random appearance of Hye Jin’s classmates from university; Du Sik and Hye Jin playing golf with said random university classmates; these all fall into that Fairly Insignificant Filler category for me.
It’s not terrible, I suppose, but juxtaposed against the lack of meaningful movement on the OTP front, in the same stretch, I don’t count this as one of Show’s better decisions.
Logic stretches [SPOILERS]
There are a number of things that I noticed during my watch, that fall into this category. Here are just a couple of the bigger ones.
E3. Suspension of disbelief is required in spades, for the way Du Sik finds Hye Jin’s missing shoe, and then restores it. I mean, never mind about the chances of that shoe just showing up like that, while Du Sik’s fishing; the thing that I find most unbelievable, is the way that shoe looks perfect, despite having been soaked in salty seawater for what must be weeks by now.
Please enlighten me if I’m wrong; I’m under the impression that soaking your shoe in saltwater is a surefire way to ruin them.
E13. The whole thing about Hye Jin delivering the baby feels a little forced, to my eyes. I feel like suspension of disbelief is required on so many fronts.
For one thing, I find it hard to believe that in a place like Gongjin, which is such a rural small town, there isn’t any midwife they can call on, in the absence of an actual hospital.
I also find it a stretch, that Hye Jin would be able to do such a smooth job of it, after a single phone call with Granny Gam Ri. I also find it hard to believe that in such a situation, Du Sik wouldn’t go out and get the grannies, to assist in delivering the baby.
THEMES / IDEAS
Here are just a few themes that come to mind, when I think about this show.
1. It’s never too late to start over.
2. Family doesn’t have to be blood family.
3. Be grateful for what you have, instead of being regretful of the past.
4. You can live well, even when you’re 80.
5. Forgiving yourself, and loving yourself, are the first steps towards happiness.
SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]
Well. For a penultimate episode that had felt completely set up to soak in the angst, I feel like this episode works out to be pretty gentle, all in all.
We finally get the full story of what had happened to Du Sik, to cause him to forsake his career and entire life in Seoul, to come back to Gongjin, and it’s every bit as traumatic as Du Sik’s reactions have hinted at.
I don’t know; I’d had the impression that some viewers had been underwhelmed by the reveal, as if Du Sik’s past should have been more traumatic, to warrant the sort of complete withdrawal that Du Sik made. I.. am not in that camp.
Now that I’ve seen for myself what Du Sik’s been through, and taking into account the sort of warmhearted, caring person that Du Sik has always been, it makes sense to me, that the idea that people have died because of him, would be terribly hard to bear.
I can imagine that that’s something that he wouldn’t be able to “get over,” just because people think he should. I can believe that something like this would haunt him deeply, and cause him to rethink how he wants to live his life.
And I can also believe that even though 5 years have passed since it had first happened, the guilt is still as strong as ever – if not stronger.
I’m glad that Du Sik finally finds his courage to tell Hye Jin the whole story, and I’m so glad that Hye Jin’s instinct, is to hold him, and tell him that it’s ok to cry.
That is so loving and accepting; I feel that that’s exactly what Du Sik needs, in the moment. That, the very instant he finds the courage to talk to someone about the bare truth of what he’s gone through and how he feels, he’s immediately loved and accepted, and empathized with, and encouraged to cry. I love that, so much.
Another arc that had my attention this episode, is Yi Joon’s reaction when his parents tell him that they’re getting back together. His initial nonchalant reaction is so noncommittal, that it hit me like a ton of bricks, to realize that he’d left the house so that he could cry out of his parents’ sight.
It’s so very poignant to realize that Yi Joon’s essentially forced himself to be mature beyond his years, all this time, in order to set his parents’ hearts at ease. It literally hurts my heart to think that he’s been swallowing his desires and his tears, all this time, only to have the dam break, once his deepest wish is suddenly granted.
It’s such a painful, poignant moment, when he admits that he’s always wanted to live with both his parents, and eat with them all the time. Ack. How sad is that, for a little boy, to live like this? 😭
I’m so glad that he won’t have to live like that anymore, and will henceforth get to enjoy the family life that he’s always dreamed of, but felt too afraid to ask for.
I also liked that little beat, where Cho Hui goes to see Hwa Jeong, and opens up about how she’d used to have a crush on Hwa Jeong. It feels like such a liberating sort of moment for Cho Hui, and I love that Hwa Jeong’s so cool about it, while also being so warm and accepting of it.
There’s simply no sense of judgment from Hwa Jeong, and I’m so glad that this friendship comes out even stronger, after this.
Seong Hyeon really turns out to be a bit of an MVP this episode, with the way he talks to Do Ha and gives him a sense of perspective about the whole thing with Du Sik. It’s true that it was just a very unfortunate set of circumstances that no one wanted. And I’m glad that Do Ha seeks out Du Sik, and has that conversation with him.
I feel that it’s important that Do Ha is able to admit – to himself and to Du Sik – that he knew it wasn’t Du Sik’s fault, and was just looking for someone to blame.
The other thing that I appreciate Seong Hyeon doing, is alerting his cousin Seon Ah, who’s Jeong Woo’s widow, on where to find Du Sik.
While I also think it’s important that Du Sik and Seon Ah have their conversation, I don’t appreciate Seon Ah telling Du Sik that she won’t apologize for what she’d said to him back then. I mean, hello? You literally told Du Sik that he should have died instead.
I tend to think that warrants an apology, especially since Jeong Woo had died in an accident that wasn’t Du Sik’s doing. This detail didn’t sit well with me.
We do get that quasi-supernatural scene of Du Sik having a conversation with Jeong Woo, and while I find the treatment slightly odd (like, are we supposed to take this literally, that Jeong Woo appears to Du Sik, on that beach?), I appreciate the sense of closure and liberation that this gives Du Sik. That’s something that Du Sik’s needed very much, so I’m willing to just sort of shrug off the odd kinda-sorta supernatural angle that Show leans into.
(This does seem to be A Thing with kdramas in general, so I’m not exactly faulting Show for this. I just.. find it odd.)
I do love the bit of the story where Du Sik talks about how Grandma Gam Ri had saved him, by texting him right as he was about to jump off the bridge into the Han River. The way he describes how the Gongjin folks loved him and cared for him in such a matter-of-fact manner, sounds pitch perfect for what we’ve come to know of Gongjin.
I love the detail, that they just started asking him for help, to engage him in life, and that’s how he became Chief Hong. It’s fantastic, and reminds me of how the Gongjin folks saved Nam Suk too, by meeting her where she was, and not demanding more than she could give.
I am sad that we lose Grandma Gam Ri this episode, but I do appreciate that Show makes it clear to us that Grandma Gam Ri leaves while surrounded by her best friends, and with contentment in her heart and on her lips.
Also, I do like this episode’s epilogue, where we see that back when Du Sik had been crouched on that bridge, in tears after reading the text from Grandma Gam Ri, it had been Hye Jin who had stopped to call for help, and who had waited until help arrived, so that she could make sure that the man on the bridge would be safe.
Aw. I know it’s cheesy, but I like the idea that Du Sik and Hye Jin have basically been saving each other, in turn, from the time that they were kids.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
True to expectation, Show ends on a sunny, lighthearted note, in keeping with its overall vibe.
It’s true that Show leans indulgent in this last hour, but it’s not much more indulgent that its usual, and I feel a little sorry to say goodbye to our Gongjin residents, so I’m not even fussed about the admittedly long episode length.
Technically, this finale doesn’t need to be 1 hour and 25 minutes, but in effect, it just feels like I gained a few bonus minutes with friends whose company I enjoy, so I can’t complain about that, exactly.
Even though it’s sad to bid Grandma Gam Ri goodbye, it’s heartwarming to see how everyone who’s gathered, is there to celebrate her life, and are doing so with smiles, jeon and makgeolli, just like she’d wanted.
I’m also glad that Du Sik’s there to comfort Grandma Gam Ri’s son, who’s now feeling the guilt of not having spent enough time with her, and not making her a bigger priority in his life.
I think in effect, Show is reminding us to treasure our loved ones while we can, but doing so in a manner that is kind, understanding and accepting, rather than in a judgey, harsh sort of way.
It’s true that Grandma Gam Ri’s son could have spent more time with her, and made her more of a priority, but it’s also true that even though he’d failed to do so, he’d still been the apple of her eye, and her pride and joy. I like that.
I’m also glad to see that, helped by Hye Jin’s gentle encouragement, and nudged by Grandma Gam Ri’s loving letter, Du Sik finally cries properly, and lets out all the grief that he’s been keeping bottled up, all these years. This feels like an important, freeing step for Du Sik, and I’m glad that we get to bear witness to this, which feels like his first true healing breakthrough.
How fun, that the secret lottery winner of Gongjin, turns out to be Officer Choi, heh. And how perfect, that the first person he tells, is Mi Seon, because she’d talked about wanting to buy a house, if she’d won.
It’s so dorky and perfect, that he’d want to tell Mi Seon, so that they can use whatever’s left of his winnings, to make her dream come true. Aw. It’s really sweet, and I feel inordinately happy for how this little loveline’s turned out. I love the idea that they plan to get married very soon!
Even though it’s more implied than explicit, I like that Yeong Guk seems to want to make his reunion with Hwa Jeong official. As a matter of interest, he uses a pun, in referring to the Administration and Welfare Center as the AW Center for short.
Basically, by taking a syllable from each of the words, he creates a homonym which sounds like Happiness Center, so when he tells Hwa Jeong that he’d like to be her personal AW Center, it sounds like he wants to be her personal Happiness Center. It’s cheesy, but it’s pitch perfect for these two, and it makes Hwa Jeong happy, which makes me happy, so it’s all good.
I even enjoy the idea of Du Sik and Seong Hyeon being friends enough, to look past that very obvious Domino’s PPL. I mean, it’s so out of character for Du Sik to even consider ordering a pizza, and yet, we see the two of them blissing out on their pizza slices, like they’re in a legit CF. HA. 😆
Still, I like the idea that Seong Hyeon would come all the way to Gongjin, because he needs some perspective and advice from Du Sik, about his feelings for Writer Wang. It’s nice.
I’m glad that we get to see Seong Hyeon making some important progress, in terms of acknowledging Writer Wang’s feelings for him, and his fondness for and attachment to her.
We don’t see them start a relationship per se, but it’s a step in the right direction, that they’re being open about where they each are, in relation to the other person.
Also, it feels like a positive trajectory, with Seong Hyeon wanting to make a dating show next, where people who’ve been in the friend zone for a long time, explore whether they can have a romantic future together.
I think this amount of development between Seong Hyeon and Writer Wang is just right, since Seong Hyeon’s kind of just coming off being rejected by Hye Jin. It would feel like a rebound, if he were to suddenly start professing his feelings for Writer Wang.
This tentative-but-positive step towards a possible future together, feels like a suitable compromise.
Also, how nice, that Show even remembers to give Chun Jae another bit of time in the spotlight, with him being invited to be a guest on the show Sugar People, as Oh Yoon.
Aw. I can’t help feeling happy for him, y’know? He’s nursed his music dreams in his heart for so many years, and has been largely ignored, all this time. This is his time to shine, and I’m all for it!
I also like the fact that Hye Jin is shown choosing to stay in Gongjin, not because of any pressure from Du Sik, but because she’s grown to like the place and its people, and even feels a sense of duty and calling, since she’s the only dentist in Gongjin.
Of course, the fact that Du Sik’s there in Gongjin is a very big plus.
It’s a little cheesy in spots, but I really enjoyed the way Hye Jin and Du Sik both arrive at the same conclusion, that they’d like to spend the rest of their lives with the other person.
Hye Jin’s proposal by the beach, with the shoes, is perfect, and Du Sik’s proposal, with the very same necklace that she’d once bought for herself, but which she’d sold, thinking that he’d found it burdensome, is perfect too, in its own way.
It feels deliberate and very fitting, that, unlike where they’d each been at the beginning of our story, their proposals reflect how they’ve each grown, to meet each other halfway.
Hye Jin’s proposal is more down-to-earth now, whereas Du Sik’s proposal acknowledges the pretty things that Hye Jin had used to prioritize a lot more. I like that detail a lot.
And, how perfectly noisy and loving is the entire Gongjin community, when Du Sik and Hye Jin casually announce their engagement, during the regular Saturday cleaning?
Ha. I have to admit that I found it all quite endearing, that everyone literally drops what they’re doing, to crowd around, with hugs, cheers and hearty congratulations.
I thought everyone tagging along for their wedding photoshoot was pushing it a little, but in the end, this really is the heart of how our Gongjin folks love their own, and as low-key aggravating as it is, that they don’t know to give Du Sik and Hye Jin some privacy to take their wedding photos, it’s also heartwarming, that they are so quick to drop everything, to commemorate this important occasion with the happy couple.
Although I would rather Du Sik and Hye Jin not need to literally run away from the crowd, to take their photos, I do like where they choose to take their snaps; right in front of Grandpa’s boat, which is emblazoned with Grandma’s name.
Aw. It feels perfect, honestly. And as Du Sik and Hye Jin run into their future together, holding hands and smiling into each other’s eyes, I can’t help feeling like that future is going to be a good and happy one.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Rather indulgent in spots, but so easy-breezy and feel-good, that it ultimately doesn’t matter.
FINAL GRADE: B++
The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of Hometown Cha Cha Cha, is Melancholia. I’ve taken an initial peek at the show, and I feel cautiously optimistic about this one, so far. Plus, it’s Lee Do Hyun, being fantastic right off the bat. 🤩
Here’s an overview of what I’m covering on Patreon right now (Tier benefits are cumulative)!
Early Access (US$5): Yumi’s Cells
Early Access Plus (US$10): +Lost (Human Disqualification)
VIP (US$15): +The Bond [China]
VVIP (US$20): +Melancholia
Ultimate (US$25): +The King’s Affection
Ultimate (US$25): +My Name (bonus show!)
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. ❤️