Review: My Liberation Notes

THE SHORT VERDICT:

This show really isn’t for everyone, I think.

It’s slow, meandering, slice of life, and our characters take time to become more understandable and endearing, all of which are things which I think can work against this show.

However, at the same time, Show is thoughtful, thought-provoking and quite meaty, if you are so inclined to engage.

It’s not quite an escape from real life, like many of us tend to look for in our dramas, but instead, it’s a pretty great gateway through which to reflect on life.

Different, and worthwhile.

THE LONG VERDICT:

The thing with Show and I, is that ours is not a love match. Meaning, I didn’t fall for Show completely naturally, like some of my fellow drama fans.

Instead, this felt more like a successful matchmaking? Meaning, I went into this in good faith that it would be worthwhile, because it comes from Park Hae Young writer-nim, who gave us the amazing My Mister (review is here, and Open Threads are listed here).

I didn’t fall in love right away, but with some effort and some perseverance, I did end up liking and appreciating this show a great deal.

That said, I can see why this show isn’t for everyone.

I hope that this review will help you figure out if this one’s for you. And, if you’ve already seen the show, I hope you’ll enjoy reliving this show and its characters with me. ❤️

OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE

Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it while reading the review.

As a general rule, I enjoyed the eclectic music in this show and the way it was applied.

The track that sticks with me the most, is Track 8, My Liberation Notes. It’s got such a distinctive, surreal sort of sound, and it feels like the perfect foil for our drama world, which often leans dusty and gritty.

Whenever it came on, I felt like it was working to lift the mundane of the everyday, to reach something a little more ethereal and magical.

Here’s Track 8, My Liberation Notes, in case you’d prefer to listen to it on repeat. Just right-click on the video and select “Loop.”

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS

Here are a few things that I think would be helpful to keep in mind, to maximize your enjoyment of your watch:

1. This one’s very slice-of-life.

Sometimes, it feels like not a lot is happening in our drama world. Keeping in mind that actual plot developments aren’t Show’s primary focus, but character development for each of our characters is, helps.

2. This is not a conventional drama world.

Therefore, most of our typical drama expectations don’t apply, with this show. On the upside, this can feel quite fresh, especially if you’ve been around Dramaland for a while.

Most of the time, I wasn’t sure what to think, each time I finished an episode. But, I was curious to know what else Show had to say, and that kept me going.

3. This one’s not meant to be rustic or charming in the traditional sense.

I’d kind of expected the countryside life to be rustic, but charming, in the vein of Racket Boys and Hometown Cha Cha Cha, but that’s not how it’s portrayed at all.

Instead, there’s a lot less shine shown to us, about the country life. What we see is dirt and hard work under the hot sun, with our family of characters harvesting leeks together on the weekend.

I think it’s helpful to expect this, going in.

4. It might be a slow burn

Some folks take to this show right away, but I’m not one of those folks.

Rather, I found each episode solid and interesting, and felt cautiously intrigued to keep going. I only really felt more effortlessly engaged with Show, about 6 episodes in.

I think that’s helpful to know too.

5. Our characters become more endearing, given time

Many of our characters aren’t super likable when we first meet them.

It takes a while, but Show does make them more endearing and likable over time. And because Show makes this an organic-feeling process, this evolution does take place quite slowly, over the course of our story, rather than in the space of a short few episodes.

I think knowing this in advance is helpful as well.

STUFF I LIKED

Show is thoughtful and thought-provoking

This is one of my favorite things about this show.

There are so many thought-provoking ideas and lines in this, and it’s clear that writer-nim’s spent a lot of time chewing and ruminating on these things, in order to crystalize them into solid thoughts, for our story.

Many of our characters are the purveyors of those thoughtful gems, and altogether, this makes the watch experience almost feel like walking through a field of thought landmines. You just never know when the next gem born of deep thought, is going to explode in your face.

Which I mean in the best way, of course. 😁

I will mention the various nuggets of thoughtful wisdom later in this review, in the character sections, as well as the section on themes and ideas.

Show’s treatment of grief

[MAJOR SPOILER, SKIP THIS SECTION IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THE SHOW]

In Show’s late episodes, Mom (Lee Kyung Sung) dies suddenly, and Show handles the grief in the family, following her death, really well.

It feels like such a keen depiction of grief, for each individual.

Each family member is so different in personality and temperament, and I feel like Show nails what each of them would do, in such a situation.

It feels so on-point, that Gi Jeong (Lee El) would be the one who can’t keep her emotions to herself, and leaks tears every day, because of how strong and close to the surface her emotions are.

And it makes sense that Dad (Cheon Ho Jin) continues to be stoic, even though he’s lost and heartbroken on the inside.

I would believe that Mi Jeong (Kim Ji Won) would weep, like once, in the beginning, and then keep her feelings to herself, thereafter.

As for Chang Hee (Lee Min Ki), it’s so him, to try his best to do the necessary, while breaking into tears now and again.

The sight of all of them naturally pitching in to do all the chores that Mom had used to do, really drives home just how much Mom had been the anchor of the household.

She’d kept things going, and had done all the cooking and laundry, all by herself. And now, four people are pitching in to get only a portion of what she’d used to get done. It’s no wonder Gi Jeong remarks that Mom had died of overwork.

Poor Mom. I do think that she’d worked way harder than is reasonable for most people, and it’s sad that she’s gone so suddenly, and so young, too.

The little beats, of the family doing the chores that Mom had used to do, some more slowly than others, and thinking of her, and shedding tears, is so poignant.

This feels true to life; life has to go on, but the pain lingers. 💔

There are slightly surreal beats to this too, like how Chang Hee, Du Hwan (Han Sang Jo) and Jung Hoon (Jo Min Kook) sit together and joke together over beer, about finally seeing the people whom they’ve only heard about, from one another.

It’s weird to laugh and be lighthearted in the wake of Mom’s death, but it’s also exactly how people cope. And finding a bit of mirth in something like this, makes a lot of sense to me.

And then there’s Dad’s realization, which, to me, is quite possibly the most heartbreaking one, this entire episode.

That moment when he tells Mr. Gu (Son Seok Koo) that all these years, he’d thought that he’d been taking care of the family, only to realize, upon his wife’s death, that it had been the family who’d been taking care of him, is so full of pathos.

It’s a good realization to have, sure, but it feels like there were so many wasted years, when Dad had had the misguided notion that everything he’d been doing, had been for the family, when in reality, the family members were often tiptoeing around him, and overextending themselves, to make sure that they didn’t upset him.

That scene where Gi Jeong questions Mi Jeong about her loan, which she’s taken out as settlement money after that fight with Su Jin, and Chang Hee blurts out that if it had been him, he wouldn’t have said anything about it to the family either, is such a heartbreaking wake-up call for Dad.

It’s literally the first time Dad realizes that the strict manner which he’d kept with his children, had, in effect, caused them to turn away from him, such that they wouldn’t tell him even if they were in trouble.

That must be so heartbreaking, for any parent.

I’m sure it makes Dad question everything he’s ever done, and every parenting decision he’s ever made, because the way the kids put it, they’d rather starve than admit to the family that they had money problems.

I’m also sure that this is the thing that causes Dad to soften up and become more agreeable to suggestions afterwards, like when Chang Hee talks about getting a car for the sake of improving the family’s happiness.

It sounds a little out there, but when we see them actually go to the beach together, and spend some quality time together, Chang Hee’s suggestion suddenly makes a lot of sense.

And, shout-out to Elaine, who pointed out to me over on Patreon, that sometimes, one of the ways a family copes with a sudden death, is to become more affectionate towards one another.

I do think that we see that at work with the Yeom family, first with how they go to the beach together, and how Chang Hee articulates his love for his father, and then also, in how the siblings ends up living together in a manner that’s much more cordial than before.

Additionally, the siblings’ relationship with Dad also grows more cordial and amiable as well, generally speaking.

That’s all a result of them having grieved together as well.

It’s all very understated, but so well done.

STUFF THAT WAS OK

This isn’t a conventional drama world

Like I mentioned earlier in this review, this show isn’t for everyone, and one of the reasons for that, is, not everyone would enjoy this drama world.

Unlike most drama worlds, this one isn’t shiny or happy, nor is it populated by cheerful, happy people. Also, the usual narrative beats that we’re so used to, are absent here.

Instead, Show moves on the slow side of things; our characters are mostly shouty and prickly; it shines the spotlight, perhaps a little too painfully, on the struggles that many people have, with self-worth.

Through my entire watch, this show fascinated me, in that I couldn’t ever seem to get a good grip on it so that I could define it. I just couldn’t quite figure out what Show wanted to be, really.

And that feeling of not knowing what it really wanted to be, made me feel rather disconnected from Show, as a result.

Yet, as Show continued to do its slightly slippery chameleon thing on my screen, I found myself becoming more and more invested and immersed in these characters’ journeys.

It was a rather strange, slightly unsettling experience, but it all worked out pretty well, in the end.

It can be quite the slow burn

Like I mentioned earlier as well, many of our characters don’t start out as likable nor accessible. In fact, I found more than a few of them quite unlikable, right off the bat.

That made the watch experience feel effortful, from the get-go.

However, given time, Show does peel back the layers of our characters, bit by bit, and that does make everyone and everything feel more accessible, relatively speaking.

For the record, it was only at about the episode 6 mark, that I began to feel more naturally interested in our characters, and the watch experience started to feel a little more effortless.

In fact, most of these characters eventually grew on me in rather unexpected ways, which I’ll talk more about later.

STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH

Show’s treatment of its time skip

[SPOILERS: SKIP THIS SECTION IF YOU HAVEN’T YET WATCHED THE SHOW]

So, episode 13 was a weird episode, for me.

Everything feels a little off-kilter to my eyes, and it almost feels like this is a different show altogether, this episode.

For a start, I actually watched the beginning of the episode, believing it to be a flashback, because Mr. Gu looks exactly the same as he’d looked, in previous flashbacks that we’ve seen.

I’d assumed that Show was just giving us more insight into what his life had been like, before he’d ended up in Sanpo.

But no, after about 15 minutes of thinking that I was watching Mr. Gu in the past, it finally dawned on me, that this is Mr. Gu in the present, because of the way he thinks back on the sweet potato stems he’d eaten in Sanpo, when they’re served to at the bar.

How disorientating.

With Park Hae Young writer-nim at the reins, though, I tend to think that this sense of disorientation is done on purpose, rather than by accident.

Very likely, writer-nim wants us to feel disoriented, and very likely, it’s because our characters also feel disorented, this episode.

That said, I’m still not really sure what writer-nim is gunning for, in terms of overall narrative purpose. Because, at the end of the episode, I find it all even more disorienting and confusing. 😅

I suppose part of the point here, is that Mr. Gu’s life in Seoul is pretty much the same as what it’ had used to be, before he’d gone to Sanpo. Everything’s as exhausting and draining as it had always been, and that’s what he’s gone back to.

His life might appear glamorous to some, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty, his life is no fun at all. That’s probably why he appears to be trying to drink himself into oblivion, even as he does the things that he’s supposed to do, to keep the business going.

And how telling, that Mr. Gu actually takes the train towards Sanpo, as a means of escape.

It looks like he does this from time to time, just to see the signage on the building, that Mi Jeong had pointed out to him before, “Something good will happen to you today.”

I’m guessing that this is his way of getting a bit of relief, from his Seoul life.

I have to confess that when I got to the end of the episode, and realized that we’d been watching Mr. Gu and Mi Jeong and her family in two different timelines this episode, I was completely thrown.

Revisiting the episode to write these notes, I have to concede that Show does hint at it; I was just too obtuse to understand what Show was trying to say, at the 20-minute mark, when the autumn leaves fall upwards for a bit, before falling downwards again.

I think that was the point where Show was saying, hey, we’re going back in time for a bit, and I wasn’t sharp enough to actually understand the message. Oops.

Honestly, I found it completely disorienting, when Mr. Gu actually goes to their Sanpo house, and finds that Dad has remarried, now that Mom’s gone, and Chang Hee, Gi Jeong and Mi Jeong have all gone to live in Seoul.

In a single episode, it feels like everything in our drama world has gone awry, and our characters are now all adrift, without the family home to anchor them.

On hindsight, I do think that, quite possibly, writer-nim handled the time skip this way, because she mainly wanted the poetry of those scenes of Mr. Gu and Mi Jeong, sitting in the same place, thinking about each other, but at different points in time.

It’s a nice idea, but I honestly don’t know if it was worth having an entire “throw your audience off” episode of hidden interspliced timelines, in order to make that happen.

It’s still not one of my favorite things that Show’s done.

SPOTLIGHT ON CHARACTERS AND RELATIONSHIPS

Lee Min Ki as Chang Hee

Remember how I said that some of our characters grew on me in unexpected ways?

Well, I’m gonna hafta say that Chang Hee proved to be the biggest surprise, for me.

When we first meet him, Chang Hee is angry bluster almost all the time, and he’s prickly and shouty and just not very pleasant to watch.

I was convinced that I wouldn’t end up liking him very much, since he was just so irate and grumbly so much of the time.

But wouldn’t you know it, I feel like by time I finished my watch of this show, Chang Hee had become my favorite character in this drama world. Woah.

I totally hadn’t seen that coming! That’s skillz, both by writer-nim, and by Lee Min Ki, who makes Chang Hee as endearing in Show’s later stretch, as he is perplexing and crabby, in Show’s early stretch.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. Chang Hee is such a bundle of chaotic, perplexed energy.

He’s so full of consternation at the state of his life, and he’s convinced that it’s because he lives in the countryside, that his relationship is on the rocks, and he likely won’t be able to get married.

I mean, he’s not completely wrong; his bluster about not having a car in which to kiss a girl, does have a ring of awkward truth about it. And, I’d imagine that if he’s always busy commuting to and from the city, that he wouldn’t have as much time to spend with his girlfriend.

At the heart of it, though, I think, is his blustery, angry personality. That’s not very attractive at all, and I personally think that this is the bigger issue, when it comes to his marriage prospects.

Although, he’s not wrong too, in thinking that his chances of dating and marrying a Seoul girl are limited, because of the fact that he lives in the “egg white” (such a fun analogy, I thought!).

E3. The thing that hit me hardest about his arc, this episode, is when Chang Hee says – well, angrily sputters – that he can break up over anything, as long as it’s not that his girlfriend has realized how pathetic he is.

Gosh, that felt like such a raw, no-holds-barred, honest moment.

In all of his anger and bluster, I’m actually rather impressed that Chang Hee has enough self-awareness to realize that the reasons he’s used for break-ups in the past, have all been excuses, crafted to veil the truth that he’s afraid will be exposed: that he’s pathetic.

That also feels really sad, because this tells me how he sees himself. This isn’t about how his girlfriend sees him; this comes down to how he sees himself.

It’s his deep dissatisfaction with who he is, as a person, that drives his behavior.

We don’t actually know, really, if his girlfriend sees the same thing at all.

She could have a completely different opinion of him, and it wouldn’t matter, because this is how Chang Hee sees himself, and it’s crippling him.

This episode, the dynamic of his previous relationship becomes a little clearer, as we find out that he’d been the one to break off the relationship, and his ex-girlfriend is still thinking about him.

The facts that she, 1, takes the trouble to tell him that the guy he saw her with was just a friend, and 2, takes the trouble to take the train to his part of town, just to see what he was talking about, tells me that she still cares about him, and probably doesn’t actually want to break up with him.

I do appreciate that when Chang Hee blurts out his thing about being pathetic, he quickly puts two and two together, and realizes that he’d made Mr. Gu out to be pathetic too, when he’d visited him the previous night.

And, I really like that Chang Hee wastes no time in marching over there, to offer not only his sincere apologies, but his friendship too.

That’s really decent of him, and I appreciate that.

E4. What strikes me most about Chang Hee, this episode, is that plot point, where he rails on and on, about his female colleague A Reum (Choi Bo Young) whom he can’t stand, for her thoughtless – and endless – remarks.

He states that if he were a yangban (traditional term for the nobles in society) type person, then he’d get to work with yangban types too.

And after concluding that this is just his level, and that he needs to improve himself, if he wants to be surrounded by yangban types, he suddenly has this thought, that he might suffer from the exact same fault as the female colleague whom he hates.

Just as I’m thinking, “BINGO, DUDE. YOU DO ABSOLUTELY TALK TOO MUCH,” Chang Hee’s colleague Min Gyu (Yang Joon Myung) skirts the question that Chang Hee poses him, and simply tells Chang Hee to eat his food.

I feel like this little moment says so much.

For one thing, it shows Chang Hee’s level of self-awareness. He’s self-aware enough to know that he’s at A Reum’s level, and self-aware enough to hit on the idea that he just might talk too much, but not self-aware enough to actually be convinced of that fact.

Min Gyu doesn’t feel comfortable giving him that honest feedback, which means that even though he manages to avoid an uncomfortable conversation with Chang Hee and his probable upset reaction, it means that Chang Hee’s left in the same position as he started; often complaining about others, while disliking his own life and his own self, but with no concrete way to better himself or his situation.

It makes me wonder what might have happened, if Min Gyu had been honest with Chang Hee, and told him that he could definitely afford to tone it down.

Would Chang Hee have embraced that feedback and worked to complain less, or would he have denied it all?

Or, would he have then doubled down on the angry bluster, at the realization of his own shortcomings?

E5. I have to say, I completely understand Chang Hee’s curiosity and wonder around Mr. Gu’s flying leap, because that is no ordinary feat. To my untrained eyes, it really does look like Mr. Gu could have been a national athlete.

It’s quite amusing, the way Chang Hee is so stunned by it, and won’t shut up about it, all day long.

I am also rather tickled by the way Chang Hee even gets to the edge of making his own attempt at the jump – before stopping in his tracks, because the jump is too far for him to make.

Also, it’s quite telling, how bored and jaded Chang Hee is, with his life, judging by the way he can’t stop telling everyone around him about just how amazing Mr. Gu’s jump is, all day long.

What I find interesting about that, is how Chang Hee is actually very much cognizant of that. And yet, how his cognizance of that, doesn’t actually dull his desire to talk about Mr. Gu’s feat.

On that note, I also wanted to say that Chang Hee, for all his garrulous bluster, does seem to have some interesting insights.

Like how he talks about how it’s better to look like you’re nothing special, and then have people discover you little strengths along the way, rather than actually look like you’re special, but turn out to be nothing much at all.

I can’t say he’s wrong about that, honestly.

And, I also think he’s got a point about how someone who’s able to hide how cool he is, is a genuinely cool guy. I can’t disagree with that either.

As much as I think that Chang Hee tends to talk too much, and not have enough of a filter, sometimes, I have to concede that he has these really great observations and nuggets of wisdom, that I can’t help but agree with.

Dude is wiser than his angry bluster might indicate, is what I’m trying to say.

E5. It impresses me that Chang Hee is so keenly aware of his attraction to his female colleague Da Yeon (Jung Hye Ji) – who actually likes to listen to him talk! How rare and precious! – as well as of the limitations of any relationship that he might end up having with her.

I’m actually really impressed by Chang Hee’s ability to make a rational decision around this, because, honestly, when feelings are involved – and it’s clear that Chang Hee does feel something in response – it’s hard to not be carried away by the thrill of the moment.

E6. I actually really like that Chang Hee’s being friendly to Mr. Gu now.

Sure, it’s likely powered by how awed Chang Hee still is, by Mr. Gu’s long jump feat, but it’s just really nice to see Chang Hee go up to Mr. Gu all friendly and casual, and tell him about his company giving away free glasses with each soju purchase.

Not only that, Chang Hee isn’t even fazed by the fact that Mr. Gu doesn’t answer, and just offers to get him a set, because the glasses are pretty.

I find that so genial of him, honestly, and I do think that it’s not easy to be genial to someone who studiously avoids talking to you.

The fact that Chang Hee can and does do that, endears him to me.

Later, I do think that Chang Hee oversteps his boundaries in attempting to help get rid of that roomful of empty soju bottles, but I do see that his intentions are harmless.

I think it’s that small town mentality at work, where people don’t think anything of getting involved in other folks’ business, particularly if it’s to help someone else. And Chang Hee is just trying to help, and even gets Du Hwan involved, to get the job done.

I actually find the innocent, “we really just want to help” attitudes of the two of them quite endearing, from a bystander’s point of view. They don’t mind that Mr. Gu doesn’t talk to them; they see a way to help, and just want to help.

I also appreciate that the way Chang Hee approaches his dad about the store that’s become available for rental, is much less angry and blustery, and noticeably more restrained and respectful, than what we’d seen in our early episodes.

I can understand that Chang Hee’s just bursting to take advantage of the opportunity before him, and I can understand his frustration at the fact that his father doesn’t seem at all interested in said opportunity.

What I really like about this, though, is how Chang Hee is able to articulate to Min Gyu, that it’s his father’s right, and he needs to respect that.

Plus, the way he tells Min Gyu, in all sincerity, that Min Gyu should take over the shop, if he can, also endears him to me.

I really like that Chang Hee isn’t obsessed with the idea that he should take over the shop himself; he’s perfectly happy if his friend gets the opportunity.

As for Chang Hee’s story about the man at the ATM, which he tells Hyeon A, I wasn’t sure where he was going with it at first.

But in the end, I found him to be quite endearing too, for the way he’d felt relieved that he’d been nice to the ahjusshi, because he’d realized later, that the ahjusshi mustn’t be in a great position, if he can’t even have 50,000 won in his bank account.

I think his analogy of being like a drizzle, that soaks people without them realizing, is about small blessings, like him being the channel through which that ahjusshi had caught his bus – a small blessing that makes the ahjusshi’s life a little better, even though he still doesn’t have 50,000 won in the bank.

That’s quite a romantic sentiment, actually, and I find it endearing that Chang Hee actually takes joy from the thought.

Aw. He’s a good egg, isn’t he?

E7. It feels like every episode, we get some rambling insight from Chang Hee, and this episode, it’s how he riffs off Mi Jeong’s observation, that her heart has never raced because she liked someone.

I’m intrigued by his argument, that the reason your heart might race when you like someone, is because you know that this person isn’t really yours, but you hope anyway.

“When you’re happy, you just are. But your heart pounds when you think you have a chance at something. Like some kind of expectation. When something’s yours, you just know.

Does your heart pound when you get paid? No, because it’s yours. But when it’s not yours and you know it’s not, but you think you might get it if things work out. That’s when your heart starts pounding.”

That’s.. interesting, to me.

I’ve never thought about it that way, and as kinda out there that it seems, on first hearing, it does kinda-maybe have some sort of sense to it. Perhaps our hearts really do only race because of fear. Hrmm. 🤔

And then, Chang Hee’s horrified realization, that this must be why he doesn’t own a car, made me laugh out loud.

HAHA. Chang Hee’s such a riot, without actually meaning to be one. 😂

E8. I feel bad for Chang Hee, who’s being badgered to within an inch of his life, by A Reum. Gosh, she really can’t seem to leave him alone, can she?

I do think that Chang Hee’s shown a good amount of patience with her, and even though it’s unprofessional of him to show his aggravation at her, I find myself on his side, on this one.

I’m bummed for him that he doesn’t succeed in his application for a transfer to the product development team, and I hope that things somehow improve for him on the work front.

It’s actually quite endearing that despite all this going on with him personally, Chang Hee still allows himself to be persuaded to be there for Gi Jeong, when she confesses her feelings to Tae Hun (Lee Ki Woo).

Sure, that doesn’t go well, and he and Du Hwan do make a long trip to Seoul for what feels like nothing, but somehow, that beat, where they come back to Sanpo and just collapse on that wooden bench, laughing like goons, makes it all seem better.

Like they’ve managed to derive some silly joy from this weird thing called life, and that’s a plus.

E9. I feel like Chang Hee’s big “Aha!” moment this episode, is when his friend points out that the real reason Chang Hee dislikes A Reum so much, is because she’s well-to-do, and he’s not.

That’s a very penetrating observation, actually. He’s basically jealous of her, deep down, and that’s why her behavior rubs him the wrong way, to the extent that it does.

He’s self-aware enough to admit that if he were rich, he’d dislike her too, but less so. And, he’s self-aware enough to realize that he feels ashamed. Aw.

This one’s a confronting realization to have, altogether.

E9. I’m rather disappointed on Chang Hee’s behalf, that he doesn’t get the promotion, but it’s heartening to see that he’s focusing his attention on small daily victories, instead of beating himself up over not being promoted.

“I felt like I was stuck somewhere, but after giving it my all, I feel much better. Though I failed to get promoted, I survived another day without soiling my underwear.”

Heh. I can’t help  but smirk a little, because that is such a Chang Hee thing to say. 😜

E10. This episode, I’d been so taken at first, by Chang Hee’s pleasant disposition, even around A Reum, that I was ready to praise him without reservation.

Like, how grounded he must be, to be able to respond pleasantly, when A Reum’s being so grumpy and snooty about everything, including how Chang Hee eats his raw tuna?

But then.. we realize that it’s all because Chang Hee had found that Rolls-Royce car key in Mr. Gu’s medicine cabinet, and is over the moon about how Mr. Gu will be the key to him experiencing a taste of the good life that he’s always dreamed of. Pfft.

Well, ok, this does affirm the perspective that Chang Hee and his friends had been talking about previously, that if he were in a better position, he wouldn’t hate A Reum so much.

This.. has proved to be true, this episode.

Because Chang Hee’s all fueled up on the positive hope of tasting the good life through Mr. Gu, he’s got lots of graciousness to spare, even when A Reum’s being snarky.

I was so prepared that Chang Hee’s hopes would be dashed somehow, when he finally brings up the matter to Mr. Gu, but no, Mr. Gu actually comes through, and I am so blown away by his matter-of-fact generosity, to drive back into Seoul, right away, just to grant Chang Hee’s wish.

Mr. Gu really must be as fond of Chang Hee as Chang Hee thinks, heh.

Chang Hee’s dorky joy at seeing the car, is so innocent and childlike, that I can’t help but grin at his happiness.

I have no idea where he’s going to take that Rolls-Royce, but I’m glad that he’s happy. 😁

E11. It’s interesting to me, that Chang Hee’s experience of having access to a fancy car, works out the way it does.

What I mean is, I’d kind of expected Chang Hee to kind of go nuts, a little bit, in showing off the fancy car, and the thing is, Chang Hee himself had kind of expected that too, but that’s not how it turns out, at all.

Instead, he actually seems to become gentler and more down-to-earth, now that he doesn’t spend his time obsessing over how to get himself a car, or how to get ahead in life.

It’s like the availability of the car has removed these immediate goals from his line of sight, and now, he can focus on things that actually matter to him.

Like going to visit his grandma’s grave, or going to the reservoir, or going to Yeongjongdo, because the East Sea is too far away.

And, he also becomes more generous, humble and gracious in spirit, it seems.

I’m surprised that he consistently and readily admits that the car isn’t his, and he’s just driving a Hyung’s car.

And I’m most surprised that this generosity in spirit doesn’t only show up with his colleagues, with whom he spends the most time, but also, with ex-girlfriend Ye Rin (Jeon Soo Jin), towards whom he’d had so much animosity and anger.

In fact, when he runs into Ye Rin, I’d half expected him to offer her a ride, more as a taunt for having looked down on him in the past (or so he’d perceived).

Instead, he sincerely offers to take her home, because he’d never had a chance to do that, while they’d dated. That’s actually really quite sweet and sentimental of Chang Hee, and I hadn’t been expecting that.

This whole thing makes me think about how people’s personalities might come across very differently, if their immediate goals / dreams / obsessions were actually not in the way.

Because, with Chang Hee’s heretofore immediate obsession about getting ahead in life, currently not in the way, that blustering anger and discontent is gone, and in their place, is such a calm sense of zen.

I find it quite remarkable and thought-provoking.

E12. Last episode, Chang Hee had been in such a lovely state of zen, because of his joy at being given permission to drive that Rolls Royce.

And yet, this episode, his grumbly ways are creeping back, as he’s started to take the car for granted.

Plus, when Chang Hee seems ready to take the next step with Da Yeon into something more overtly romantic, the car represents both opportunity and obstacle, which I find interesting. It’s like a double-edged sword, in that sense.

It’s because he has use of the car, that Chang Hee can even offer Da Yeon a ride home, but, because the car is blocked by someone else’s car, that all comes to naught, in the end.

And, along with that, comes the dent in the car’s bumper.

The car’s been a great opportunity for Chang Hee to explore a new way of looking at the world, but along with it, comes a chunk of responsibility that it looks like he wasn’t ready for.

He definitely doesn’t have the money to replace that bumper, and that ends up causing him a great deal of antsiness and anxiety.

I feel like there’s a lesson in here, about being careful for what you wish for.

E13. This episode, I was rather taken with the way Chang Hee takes care of Hyeon A’s ex Hyeok Su, who’s in the hospital with cancer.

At first glance, it feels like they’re friends, with Chang Hee even addressing him as “Hyung,” but then, it isn’t long before Chang Hee clarifies, while they’re chatting, that they aren’t even really friends.

I’m intrigued that Chang Hee would show so much kindness to a quasi-stranger, even going so far as to dry his hair for him, just because Hyeon A’s mentioned him in conversation.

E14. I’m quite fascinated by Chang Hee’s telling of his story, that he must have known that it was time to quit, so that he’d be there to look after Dad, after Mom passed.

The parallel to that story from his schooldays, when he’d had a gut desire to go home early even though it meant skipping extra lessons in school, which had allowed him to be with his grandmother when she’d passed, is quite surreal too.

I’ve never really thought about it, but Chang Hee’s a lot more instinctive than he first appears.

It is true, that if not for him, Dad would be all alone during the day now, with no one to look out for him.

The fact that Chang Hee takes a measure of satisfaction from this, makes me think that Chang Hee’s love language might be acts of service.

It gives him satisfaction to think that by following his gut instinct, he’d been of service to his grandmother at the moment of her death, and is now of service to Dad, after Mom’s death.

Hmm. Perhaps that’s also why Chang Hee was so beloved by the various shop owners whom he’d served, in his job?

[END SPOILER]

Lee El as Gi Jeong

Gi Jeong’s quite the bundle of contradictions, and she often feels a complex mishmash of emotions in a single moment.

I’m really impressed that Lee El manages to deliver all of those nuances in a manner that feels organic and believable.

Gi Jeong’s another surprise character for me, in that I’d started the show finding her quite unlikable and abrasive, but by the time I got to Show’s middle episodes, I found myself liking Gi Jeong very well.

Not only did I feel sincerely invested in her growth journey, I also felt proud of her, for the progress that she makes, in her personal journey.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. Gi Jeong is pretty much just as angry and perplexed and grumbly as Chang Hee, at the state of her life.

From what I can tell, she also thinks that living in the countryside has ruined her marriage prospects.

When we meet her now, she thinks of herself as over the hill, and now regrets ever having been picky about men.

E2. I do detect notes of plaintiveness in Gi Jeong, even in the midst of her rants, and I feel bad for her, when Hyeon A is so brutally honest with her, telling her that she should take a good hard look at herself, before setting such high dating standards.

E3. I’m rather struck by the fact that Gi Jeong’s honesty about who she is, actually gets in her way of pursuing romantic happiness.

I personally find her honesty quite refreshing, and I thought she was quite charming, during her blind date. Also, I thought her explanation about her nickname was very interesting, and demonstrated her loyal streak.

However, as Chang Hee emphasizes later, no one wants to entertain the macabre thought of their own beheading, unfortunately, which dashes Gi Jeong’s chances with this particular blind date.

I really like the fact that Gi Jeong overcomes her reservations to approach Serial Dater (Kim Woo Hyung), to ask him why he’s never given her lottery tickets, even though he gives them out to everyone.

Although he doesn’t quite provide a straight answer to this question, I like the tone of their resulting conversation.

I like that Gi Jeong sincerely invites honest feedback from him, so that she can learn what it is about her, that causes others to pass her by.

This feels both vulnerable and strong at the same time, which I personally think is a very special combination of things.

And, for the record, I do kind of like the main idea that Serial Dater offers Gi Jeong, that she shouldn’t just randomly decide to love anyone, but that when she meets the right person, she should be brave and proactive in making it happen.

E4. I’m somewhat taken aback by how Gi Jeong tells Serial Dater that she’d like to shave all her hair off, because she hates it.

I have to say, I’m beginning to find Gi Jeong’s honesty pretty refreshing. She really doesn’t hold back, when it comes to expressing herself, even when it’s uncomfortable or unflattering.

Like how she tells Serial Dater that her hair doesn’t make her look any better, but she’s holding onto it as if it’s a symbol of her femininity, and washes and dries it every morning until her arms ache, and finishes by saying that she feels she’s been struggling over something meaningless her whole life.

That.. takes a lot of things. It takes a good amount of introspection, to even see the problem.

And it takes some ruthless self analysis, to come to the conclusion. And then it takes a good amount of boldness, to say it out loud, particularly to someone whom she’s not technically all that close to.

Or.. perhaps she now considers Serial Dater a bit of a confidante, since she’d asked him so plainly, for feedback, the other night.

And then there’s how she says that she wishes she could take apart her body, to clean and oil everything, before putting it all back together again.

Gi Jeong expresses this as tiredness, but to my ears, it really does sound like she’s uncomfortable in her own skin; like she’d like to not be herself, if that were possible.

E4. I’m actually rather amused that Gi Jeong finds herself falling for Tae Hun, this episode.

Although she’s had that unfortunate run-in with him from before, and now, she’s even found out that he’s her old schoolmate Gyeong Seon’s (Jung Soo Young) little brother, she just can’t help herself and her thoughts, and I did find this quite cute.

The heart wants what it wants, and I’m curious to see how Gi Jeong’s affection for Tae Hun will affect her story – and his.

E5. I find myself becoming unexpectedly invested in this odd-couple friendship that Gi Jeong’s got going, with Serial Dater, who’s technically her boss.

I love how honest their conversations vibe, like there’s basically nothing that Gi Jeong won’t tell him now, and he doesn’t look uncomfortable with this level of engagement, either.

In fact, he even shares readily about his own reasons for always being in love – because he doesn’t get tired, that way.

This makes me wonder if Serial Dater and Gi Jeong might be more suited to each other, than they realize.

It occurs to me that Gi Jeong and Chang Hee are quite alike, in the sense that they both tend to be garrulous types who talk too much, or reveal too much when they’re not actively holding themselves back – and they both actually have a tendency for sharp insights about themselves, or about things in general.

For example, it kind of impresses me, actually, that Gi Jeong’s able to realize and articulate so well, how she’s responded, both physically and emotionally, to the news that there were no winning tickets among the ones she’d passed to Tae Hun.

E6. I realize that Gi Jeong’s unfiltered thoughts dance the fine line between charming and cringey, for me.

Sometimes, I find her honesty refreshing and charming, and sometimes, I feel secondhand embarrassed for her, because I feel like she’s talking too much. 😅

For example, when she has that conversation with Tae Hun about apologies, while holding those bottles of beer, it starts out feeling fresh and charming.

But, because she doesn’t know to quit while she’s ahead, it gets to the point where I feel like the conversation gets kinda awkward. Or.. maybe that’s just me.

In any case, I appreciate her honesty and her desire to apologize properly to Tae Hun, although at this point, I can’t be sure of whether she’s just using that as an excuse to talk to him, because she’s attracted to him.

I also like her growing friendship with Serial Dater, where she feels free to tell him how she feels, and how she’d been tempted to wink at Tae Hun, in the moment.

At the same time, while I’m glad for her, I also wish she had a little more awareness of how her growing friendship with Serial Dater is making the other women in her department uncomfortable.

I just don’t want Gi Jeong to end up being punished socially, for having a friendship with Serial Dater, y’know?

E7. Gi Jeong’s moment of reckoning, this episode, is when she overhears Chang Hee talking about how she wouldn’t be able to ask anyone out, because of the karmic implications arising from how she’s been mean and angry to anyone below her standards, who’s ever confessed their feelings to her.

That.. makes sense too, actually.

Even if it’s not karma, I’m sure that Gi Jeong’s aware that Tae Hun could date someone much younger, prettier, and nicer than her. So, in her head, she’s already “below his standards” according to her own definition.

And, given how she’s treated anyone whom she’d deemed below her standards in the past, it makes sense that she would be fearful of confessing her feelings to Tae Hun, because of the kind of reaction that she thinks she deserves.

Ahhh. Chang Hee, he’s such a fountain of unexpected wisdom, sometimes.

E8. The person I feel most sorry for, this hour, is Gi Jeong.

Her strong desire to connect with Tae Hun drives everything in a somewhat positive direction – and her giddy joy is so relatable too – until she actually does tell him that she likes him and would like to date him. Which is when it all seems to come crashing down.

That staged fall, which ends up actually cracking her bone, is just the most mortifying thing, especially since Tae Hun gets clued in quite quickly, to the fact that the people who’d run her down, are people whom she knows. Ack.

So much secondhand embarrassment. 🙈 It’s no wonder Gi Jeong cries so hard, and for so long.

In the end, though, I’m glad that Gi Jeong finds a sense of release and liberty, from facing her fears, and living to tell the tale. The fact that she says she should have done this sooner, does lend a layer of maturity and wisdom to the whole thing.

Instead of this being a pathetic moment in Gi Jeong’s life, where she’d felt humiliated when she’d confessed her feelings for someone, this is now being framed as a growth moment, and that’s pretty great.

E10. I love how it’s becoming clear that Gi Jeong’s making progress on her quest to overcome her hang-ups and grow as a person.

It’s in the small things.

Like, when her colleagues say sarcastic things about her being old-fashioned for referring to the subway as the train, she’s so matter-of-fact, that it’s appropriate to call it a train, because there’s no underground section in Gyeonggi.

And then when Snarky Colleague (Son Se Yoon) says that she shouldn’t make it so obvious that she lives in Gyeonggi, Gi Jeong remains matter-of-fact, as she states that she does live in Gyeonggi.

This unabashed embracing of who she is, is very appealing to me, and I love that this is what Gi Jeongo has gained, in wrestling with herself, and putting herself out there.

The thing that gets me about Gi Jeong’s nervousness about meeting Tae Hun, is that it’s no longer about her liking him, and hoping that he’ll like her back.

Now, it’s about her overcoming her mental mountains and conquering her fears. And meeting for the first time, the guy who’s just rejected her, is that thing that she needs to conquer.

It’s all about her personal growth at this point, and I love that.

You can see that Gi Jeong’s really nervous and jittery about it, but she chooses to be brave, and goes to “battle” with an openness and vulnerability that I find very appealing.

I think that’s why Serial Dater is so interested and invested in Gi Jeong’s journey.

I mean, to be fair, he’s the one who follows Gi Jeong outside, when she makes to leave for Tae Hun’s family’s restaurant, to give her a few last words of encouragement.

And that look on his face, as he watches her go, is contented and appreciative, like he’s really happy with how she’s doing.

I can see why his girlfriend (Lee Soo Bin) would be uncomfortable about his close relationship with Gi Jeong. In fact, I’d kind of forgotten that he even had a girlfriend, even though his whole thing, is to always be in love, duh. 😅

E10. It’s too bad that Gyeong Seon hears about Gi Jeong’s unfortunate first encounter with Tae Hun from Yu Rim (Kang Joo Ha), and confronts Gi Jeong in such an unpleasant manner.

But I’m grateful that Tae Hun speaks up to defend her, because it’s true that he and Yu Rim had simply overheard her talking with her friends. She’d meant no ill towards him and Yu Rim.

What I’m more blown away by, is how Gi Jeong just owns her actions, the way she does.

She not only apologizes to Gyeong Seon and Hui Seon for the incident, which isn’t even really her fault, but when Gyeon Seon starts talking about Tae Hun having a woman that he likes, and things get awkward, Gi Jeong even puts herself out there to save Tae Hun, by admitting that she’d confessed her feelings for Tae Hun, and gotten rejected.

Wow. That’s being so open, and honest and vulnerable, which is so hard to do on its own, and even harder to do, in the face of such anger and bitterness.

Our Gi Jeong is past the stage of being afraid to get hurt.

I mean, she does hurt, so it’s not like she’s immune to it. But she’s no longer afraid of it, and I feel so proud of her for this, honestly.

It’s such bad timing for Gi Jeong, though, that Serial Dater’s girlfriend would approach her the very next day, to reproach her for being too close to her boyfriend.

Aw. Gi Jeong’s tears, as she apologizes and promises to make adjustments, really make my heart go out to her.

It just feels like in this moment, Gi Jeong’s losing her last bastion of positivity and support, and after the humiliation of the previous night, I can understand that it must feel very overwhelming to also have to lose the only same-wavelength friend to whom she feels she can turn to for advice and support.

So I’m just really happy for Gi Jeong, when she gets that text from Tae Hun, apologizing, and asking that she let him buy her two meals, to make it up to her.

Aw. Gi Jeong’s not feeling so alone after all, and for that, I’m glad.

It’s hard to say where this may or may not go, with Tae Hun, but if they can even become genuine friends out of this, I’d call that worthwhile.

[END SPOILER]

Kim Ji Won as Mi Jeong

Mi Jeong was a significant surprise of a character for me, as well.

When I started my watch, I’d felt most drawn to Mi Jeong, among the three siblings. I felt like she would be the easiest to understand, of the three.

So color me surprised to find that the more Show peels back Mi Jeong’s layers, the more different she appeared from my first impression of her, and the harder I found it, to feel a sense of connection with her. 😅

Not that Show doesn’t do a good job of fleshing out Mi Jeong as a character. She’s just.. much different than I’d expected, is all.

One of the things that I really appreciate about Mi Jeong as a character, is how she spends a lot of time reflecting and thinking.

Because of that, many of Show’s provocative nuggets of wisdom, come through her.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. I must confess I’m most drawn to Mi Jeong, this first hour.

Mi Jeong’s quiet, docile and cooperative, and there’s nothing to dislike about her, really.

She’s a hardworking colleague, and a daughter who works on the farm without complaint. And, she does tend to fade into the background, like one of her male colleague pertinently observes, when he thinks she’s not there to hear him.

I’m most drawn to the fact that Mi Jeong’s created an imaginary connection in her head, with her soulmate – whom she hasn’t even met yet – so as to cope with the mundane, exhausting and pedestrian nature of her life.

Isn’t that so.. whimsical?

I like that glimpse that we get, of the dreamer within, underneath the unremarkable surface that Mi Jeong shows the world.

E2. Among the 3 siblings, Mi Jeong is the only one who maintains the same quiet persona, both at work and at home.

She doesn’t complain, she does what’s expected of her, and she has a studied, quiet air about her, regardless of who she’s with.

Perhaps that’s the reason why she finally cracks, at the end of the episode. If she’s never had a regular outlet for her feelings, unlike her siblings, it makes sense that she would crack at some point, especially given the stress that she’s under, regarding that loan.

This episode, we get a little more information about the loan, and from what Show is telling us, it appears that Mi Jeong had taken out that loan, in order to help out a particular sunbae (Kang Jung Woo).

Circumstantially, it’s reasonably safe to assume that she’d liked this sunbae, and that was why she’d gone so far as to take out a loan, in order to lend him the money, when that’s one of the most risky financial decisions you could make.

I don’t think Mi Jeong’s so foolish as to not know that; I’m guessing that she likes this sunbae enough, that she hadn’t wanted to turn him down, when he’d come to her asking for help.

And now that she’s heard that he’s actually been borrowing money, not just from her, but from everyone (ie, she’s not special to him after all), he’s even gone back to his ex-girlfriend, AND he appears to have fled the country, thus saddling her with the loan.

It’s a lot to take in, and given that Mi Jeong’s already got all these daily stresses bottled up on the inside (like the company’s incessant pressure on her to join a club, or be an outcast), I can imagine that this would drive her to a bursting point.

E3. I do feel that bit by bit, we’re getting to know Mi Jeong better.

More and more, she strikes me as the kind of person who’s completely different than the silent, reserved, stoic, amiable facade that she presents to the world.

We’re only starting to get glimpses of what really goes on, underneath the surface, but I’m starting to get the sense that she’s more rebellious, opinionated, angry and reckless than most people think.

Otherwise, I find it hard to believe that she’d come up with such a request of Mr. Gu, even if she had been under a great deal of stress, due to the loan issue.

The other thing that I found surprising about Mi Jeong, this episode, is her statement that she wants to stop learning things, because she always gets left behind.

With the amiable, pleasant persona that we’ve seen from Mi Jeong, I hadn’t pegged her to be the rebellious, giving up sort, but that’s essentially the vibe I’m getting from her, with this reveal.

What I mean is, sure, as a kid, I can understand her blaming the teacher and the system, for the fact that she got left behind, even though she hadn’t learned the knowledge or skills being taught.

However, as an adult, she should be wiser and have more ownership over her own learning. Meaning, if she joined a club and tried to learn something, and got “left behind,” as she predicts, there are ways she can get around that.

She’s old enough to know better, is what I’m trying to say.

The fact that she doesn’t seem to know better, tells me that she’s still very immature in her thinking, at least in some ways. And also, that she has a tendency to shift blame to other people, and the world at large, for things not going smoothly in her own life.

However, I do like the fact that Mi Jeong’s the reflective sort.

It takes her a few days, but it really isn’t long, before she turns her thoughts to Mr. Gu, and his words about whether or not she’s ever made anyone whole.

The fact that she then approaches him, at the next opportunity, to tell him that he can ask her to worship him instead, if he’d like, adjusts my understanding of her, all over again.

I still think it’s a wild and wacky idea, but the fact that she thinks of it as a very reversible street, ie, it could be about her worshipping him, instead of him worshipping her, does make her seem less self-focused, and more sympathetic towards others.

E4. My instinct around Mi Jeong, is that she puts on this very amiable persona all the time, but underneath it all, she’s a lot more rebellious, opinionated, angry and reckless than most people would imagine.

She’s like a dormant volcano, if you will.

It’s all fine and good – until there’s an eruption, in which case you should definitely run for your life. 😅

What I find poignant about Mi Jeong’s voiceover about why she’s not afraid of thunder and lightning, is less about her being indifferent to the idea of the world coming to an end, and more about the fact that she does actually want to be happy.

Even though part of her seems to low-key despise people who are excited about life, assuming them to be less honest than those who are damaged, she admits that she does want to be able to be happy, and love life.

E5. I like the idea of Mi Jeong being in tune enough with her emotions, to realize that she feels a certain way – like sad, or annoyed – before she actually figures out the reasons for feeling that way.

As she ponders over why she feels sad, I actually like that she is so intentional about her self-talk, when Hyeon A’s words come to her mind, about not asking for love.

It might seem a bit flaky, but I do believe that the way you talk to yourself matters, and makes a difference.

Sure, it might not appear to make a huge difference for Mi Jeong right now, most likely because she’s just starting to try it, but I just like the idea that she’s being intentional about saying more affirming things to herself.

E5. Come to think of it, I’ll count Mi Jeong in with her siblings, with the sharp insights.

Like when Gi Jeong mentions that she’s hungry but there’s nothing she wants to eat, Mi Jeong’s answer, that she mustn’t be hungry for food, in that case, sounds so throwaway, but is, in actual fact, such a nugget of wisdom.

E6. I hadn’t quite expected it, but I really enjoyed Mi Jeong’s honest sharing, during that get-together with Gi Jeong and Hyeon A.

Her observation, that she’d wanted a boyfriend who was more successful than her, but that she’d felt uncomfortable, when he became too successful, is so honest and so spot-on.

I do think that many people would feel similarly, but just aren’t sharp &/or honest enough to articulate it.

Her decision, to not be calculative like that anymore, and to just accept Mr. Gu for who and what he is, feels refreshing, and I have to admit that I’m intrigued by it.

It really makes me want to see just where this decision will take her, y’know?

E7. It’s unusual of Mi Jeong to volunteer information without being asked. From what we’ve seen of her from the beginning, she’s always been reserved, and doesn’t usually speak unless spoken to.

Yet, here we are, with Mi Jeong interjecting into Chang Hee’s conversation with Du Hwan, by offering a pretty personal sharing of her inner goings-on. That’s pretty huge, for Mi Jeong.

And, I’d wager that that has something to do with her experiment with Mr. Gu too. This is bringing about changes in her too, and that’s really interesting to witness.

I feel sorry for Mi Jeong having to deal with the loan issue, and it sucks that Sunbae isn’t paying her back, but to be brutally honest, Mi Jeong needs to shoulder the blame too, for doing something as foolish as lending someone money that she doesn’t actually have.

She must have really wanted to look good to Sunbae, to have done something as reckless as that.

And, while it’s true that Sunbae sucks for running off without paying her back, it’s also true that he doesn’t have any money to pay her, and it’s also true that it’s her own fault for trusting that Sunbae would pay her.

It’s also sucks that Mi Jeong spends her own money to pay off that loan, even taking out deposits just before they mature, in order to do so, but I’m glad she does it.

Maybe I sound harsh in saying this, but somehow, to my eyes, it looks like she’s taking responsibility for her poor decision, by paying this price, in order to make the problem go away.

E8. I feel vindicated for Mi Jeong, that her first drafts have been selected as the final production choice, by someone who’s in a better decision-making position than Manager Choi, who’s been insufferable and condescending towards Mi Jeong and her work.

E9. I do really like how Mi Jeong articulates that she now feels much freer to express herself.

What it comes down to, I feel, is that Mi Jeong’s sense of self-worth has been improving.

Before, she’d felt that nobody would be interested in hearing her thoughts, but because she’s been practicing with Mr. Gu, where he just listens without judgment, she’s now gotten more used to the idea that her thoughts are worth listening to.

In a sense, love is the solution to Mi Jeong’s problem of feeling trapped, but it’s not romantic love from someone else; I feel that at the root of it, is self love.

I actually like the detail, that HR Exec (Lee Ji Hye) now looks at Mi Jeong with a sense of wonder, and envy, almost, where before, she’d only looked upon Mi Jeong as a frustrating, uncooperative staff member.

E11. Mi Jeong’s always had these strong opinions, and this burning anger on the inside, so I’d expect that her liberation would at least involve becoming more proactive about speaking her mind, instead of bottling up her thoughts.

And, she certainly has a lot of thoughts about her supervisor (Lee Ho Young), who picks on her incessantly.

Ugh. He really is the worst, honestly. When he feels unable to pick on her for her work, he picks on her for her choice in clothing. That’s so inappropriate and annoying, that I want Mi Jeong to say something to him, to shut him up.

BUT. The fact is, this is the office, and she can’t expect to give her supervisor any kind of tongue lashing and expect to keep her job, so there’s that.

At the same time, though, it does feel like she’s stuck.

She has talent, but no one except her powerless colleagues appreciate it. And with the job market in Korea being famously tough, it’s not like she can throw in her resignation and walk out, because she’s annoyed with her supervisor.

I’m slightly mollified, this episode, when Mi Jeong manages to get in a innocent-on-the-outside-snide-on-the-inside remark, in response to his baiting question, about what she needs to get liberation from, in her liberation club.

“From tedious people.”

That says so much, to everyone who’s listening. I just wonder whether Annoying Supervisor even gets the message, that he’s one of those tedious people.

I’m actually quite impressed with Mi Jeong’s level of self-awareness, when she tells Mr. Gu that she’s never felt better after getting angry, and that ironically, she feels worse for longer, when she gets angry, versus when she doesn’t.

That puts a new spin on Mi Jeong’s docile facade, doesn’t it? Because now, her decision to not speak up for herself becomes an act of self-care, rather than an act of fear, as most people would assume.

E13. I’m glad that Mi Jeong wins that design competition despite Annoying Supervisor’s snide attempts to derail her, but.. this actually all feels rather inconsequential, when we’re given a glimpse into Mi Jeong’s inner thoughts.

The way she walks up the dark mountain on her own, not caring whether she’ll get hurt or die, and the way she faces off with that wild dog (wolf?), thinking to herself that she’d like to bleed like a fountain, is way darker and more disturbing than I think is healthy.

So far, I’ve been getting the vibe that Show is presenting Mi Jeong as some sort of inner goth, where she’s weirdly matter-of-fact about very dark and disturbing things and thoughts, but even with that context, I found it unsettling to hear Mi Jeong’s inner thoughts, this episode, about dying and bleeding.

E14. I hate how Mi Jeong ended up being let go from her job, when she’d been the victim of the whole situation.

Annoying Supervisor had tormented her on a daily basis, which had been horrible enough.

But then the situation of his affair with her colleague – one of the so-called friends from the group, even! – is so much worse. It’s horrible that the daily torment was part of the whole charade, to hide his affair. UGH.

The cover-up they orchestrate afterwards, is the lowest of the low.

I can’t believe how two-faced her so-called friend (Kong Ye Ji) is, even going so far as to ask Mi Jeong who Annoying Supervisor is having an affair with, and then getting all offended when Mi Jeong just looks at her, thus indicating that she totally knows.

I hate that in the end, Mi Jeong loses her job because of this, because this totally isn’t her fault, and yet, she ends up being the one to bear the consequences of the fall-out.

Double UGH.

I do think that that workplace is a toxic environment, however, so it’s probably a good thing that Mi Jeong leaves the place.

It’s just that I would have wanted it to have been her choice to leave, rather than this unfair circumstance that forces her to leave.

But, y’know, sometimes the lemons you encounter in life can be blessings in disguise, so I’m categorizing this horrible experience that Mi Jeong goes through, as a blessing in disguise, because by the time we see her again, time skip later, she looks much happier.

[END SPOILER]

Son Seok Koo as Mr. Gu

Mr. Gu is definitely not your typical romantic leading man, but there’s just something about him, and the way Son Seok Koo plays him, that makes me want to root for him, even though the progress that we see in his journey, can be painfully slow.

Or maybe there’s just something about the way Son Seok Koo plays Mr. Gu, always so nonchalant and quite sweaty, that makes him feel so sexy, in a.. primal sort of way, that it overrides my brain’s protests that he’s likely too dangerous to be good for anyone.

The more we see of Mr. Gu, the more it becomes clear that he’s pretty messed up, but weirdly – mostly likely because of the Son Seok Koo effect – I liked him anyway. 😅

And, I loved the tiny hints that we get from time to time, indicating that he might just be opening up, just by a crack, to the people around him.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. I’m suitably intrigued by Son Seok Koo’s character, listed as Mr. Gu.

From Show’s synopsis, I knew, coming into this watch, that he’d have an air of mystery about him. However, I wasn’t prepared for the fact that he really barely speaks, at all, if he can help it.

That just makes me all the more curious to know more about him. Where’s he from? What’s his story? Why doesn’t he talk much? Why does he drink so much?

E2. Even though Mr. Gu doesn’t say a whole lot, the fact that he does go out of his way to meet the postman, to get Mi Jeong’s letter like she’d requested, is something.

With how studiously silent he’s been, I would have found it completely in character, if he’d chosen to ignore Mi Jeong’s request.

This gives me the impression that he’s more compassionate and more interested in the world around him, than he’s let on.

But also, even though he’s shown glimmers of interest in Mi Jeong’s affairs, he’s still studiously silent, and seems to want to remain isolated. I am admittedly curious to know his story.

E4. I’m intrigued by the way Mr. Gu starts to get more involved with the family’s matters, this episode.

Like the way he turns around and goes right back to the difficult customer, and gets him to pay up, when Mi Jeong’s dad had failed to reason with him.

Previously, I’m pretty sure Mr. Gu would’ve just let things be, since he’s so determined to simply exist there, without getting involved with anyone.

But the fact that he goes there on Dad’s behalf, to get the money owed for work done, definitely feels like a measure of getting involved.

Mr. Gu’s observation to Mi Jeong is so spot-on, when he says that both she and Dad tend to be apologetic, when they are asking for something that’s due to them. That’s so accurate.

Mi Jeong has been very apologetic too, when texting Sunbae about the loan, which he should be repaying, instead of leaving her in the lurch like that.

I think that’s great food for thought, and I’m beginning to think that Mr. Gu’s got a lot of depth and substance to him, which we just haven’t learned about yet.

Last but not least, we get such an interesting (long-awaited!) glimpse into Mr. Gu’s backstory.

From the time he first mutters to Chang Hee, that he’d ended up living here, because he’d gotten off at the wrong stop, to that snippet of a flashback, where we see him all dashing in smart office clothes, getting off the train because he’d heard a woman’s voice saying “Get off!,” to that incredible long jump flying leap that he makes, to get Mi Jeong’s cap for her, it’s all very, very intriguing.

Certainly, this doesn’t tell us anything conclusive about Mr. Gu, but the snippets are so fascinating.

Whatever it is, I’m intrigued by where we leave Mr. Gu this episode, thinking back to his conversation with Mi Jeong, when she’d asked him to worship her.

How interesting, that Mi Jeong’s idea of worship, is to cheer the other person on. That’s.. not the definition that came to my mind, that’s for sure. 😅

And the thing, where he asks Mi Jeong if she’s sure that after this experiment, they’ll both be different people in the spring. Again, there’s that idea, of wanting to be someone – something – other than yourself, or at least, who you currently are.

Even our reclusive Mr. Gu wants to break out of his own skin.

When he takes that last flying leap at the end of the episode, I feel – or rather, I hope! – that that  symbolizes that our characters are all about to take that leap forward, towards liberation.

E5. We still have no idea why Mr. Gu is this good at the long jump, but it really does say something, I think, that he would choose to reveal this nugget of information about himself, because he wants to help Mi Jeong get her hat back.

That said, he really could’ve just gotten it back the normal way, if he’d really been adamant about keeping his secrets to himself, so.. perhaps this is an indication that he’s loosening up a bit, about not telling anyone anything about himself?

E6. Mr Gu had appeared angry with Chang Hee and Du Hwan, for trying to clear the bottles away for him, but, as we hear him talk about it with Mi Jeong later, it becomes clearer, that he’s more frustrated at himself and the state of his life, than anything.

It’s true that he finds people exhausting, but I perceive that at the heart of it, he’s really feeling stuck in his own skin, and in his own life, and that’s why it’s so exhausting for him to be around people, and it’s why he comes across as so aloof and standoffish.

I really like that beat, where he buys drinks from the convenience store, and hands Du Hwan a can for himself, and one for Chang Hee, and even tells Du Hwan that he’s cleared out the soju bottles.

He’s coming out of his shell, not only with Mi Jeong, but with Chang Hee and Du Hwan too, and I really don’t want him to leave now, and put this all to an end. 😭

From the way Mr. Gu’s got his eyes trained on Mi Jeong at the end of the episode, as she calls out to Chang Hee that he shouldn’t have attempted the jump (poor Chang Hee, splattered and splayed on the ground like that 😅), I’m guessing that Mi Jeong is a key factor in his mind, as he considers whether it’s time to leave.

E7. It gives me a thrill, this episode, to see Mr. Gu softening to the people around him, slowly but surely.

For example, the way he refuses to accept payment for the work that he does on the farm. In explaining to Dad that he just likes doing it, there’s a touch of softness to his tone, which is different from the gruff monosyllabic manner in which he used to talk.

This might feel like a small thing, but in this drama world, where small things are not so small after all, this feels quite significant.

After all, Mr. Gu hadn’t used to even respond, most of the time, when people talked to him.

The fact that he’s replying in more syllables than before, and with a touch of warmth in his voice, makes me feel like this experiment with Mi Jeong really is having an effect on him – and we’re only at the tail end of summer. Lots of room to grow here, heh. 😁

E8. I also like the general signs that Mr. Gu’s softening up in general.

Like the way he’s buying sausages for the pack of stray dogs near the house, and the way he’s just talking more, and being more genial, to Mi Jeong’s family.

It makes me feel like he’s relaxing into his environment, and I really like that, especially after we’ve seen how he’d been so tense and closed off before.

[END SPOILER]

Mi Jeong and Mr. Gu

This could literally be one of the most unconventional lovelines I’ve come across in Dramaland, thus far.

On paper, Mr. Gu is a terrible catch. He’s a total alcoholic and Mi Jeong doesn’t even know his name, let alone his backstory.

Yet, I found myself pushing aside any and all alarm bells, to root for these two people to grow closer.

The premise, that these two weirdos just really get each other like no one else, really works, and I found myself perking up at any and every little hint, that they were opening up to each other.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. I’d been looking forward to the connection sparking between Mr. Gu and Mi Jeong, because that’s in Show’s synopsis, but had wondered how that was going to happen, with the way they’ve been studiously avoiding speaking to each other, this episode.

So, it seems like a great catalyst, that Mi Jeong’s worried enough about that letter in the mail regarding her loan, that she’d approach Mr. Gu, and ask him to retrieve that letter for her while she’s at work, so that her parents won’t see it.

Ooh. Approaching the mysterious stranger, with your biggest secret, that you don’t even want your family to know about?

Well, yes, that’s surely going to galvanize some kind of connection between you, whether you like it or not, to which I say, yes please, bring it on!

E2. Honestly, I felt quite taken aback by the way Mi Jeong confronts Mr. Gu at the end of the episode, and basically tells him to worship her, and make her feel whole.

I mean, this feels completely at odds with the Mi Jeong whom we’ve been getting to know, in these initial episodes.

At the same time, I rationalize that Mi Jeong hasn’t actually shown us much of her true self, it at all, because she is so consistent and studied in her efforts to maintain the quiet, cordial persona, at all times.

Maybe this is a glimpse at the real Mi Jeong, whom none of us have met yet.

It does feel rather misguided to me, that Mi Jeong thinks that receiving love from someone else would make her feel whole, but I’m curious to see how Mr. Gu responds, and where Show goes with this.

E3. Although Mi Jeong doesn’t phrase it that way specifically, the way she says that she’s never felt whole, does take us back to the idea of her self-worth, because, when you think about it, it means that she’s never felt like she’s enough, that she’d feel content in her own skin.

I’m actually quite happy with the fact that it turns out that Mr. Gu had turned down Mi Jeong’s request – suggestion? demand? – to worship her, to make her feel whole.

In fact, Mr. Gu tells Mi Jeong that, sorry, he’s an a$$hole too, just like all the other guys she’d dated.

Sure, Mi Jeong might be disappointed and embarrassed by his answer, and that’s also probably driving her feelings of awkwardness around Mr. Gu, this episode, but I would much rather he turn her down, given that she really doesn’t know anything about him, and also, it’s a pretty crazy request to begin with.

Plus, there’s the way Mi Jeong tells Mr. Gu that with winter coming and work drying up, he’ll have to do something.

I actually rather like his sardonic response, “Do you think I want to do anything?”

Indeed, it was very presumptuous of Mi Jeong to assume that Mr. Gu would actually want to do something, instead of nothing, during the cold of winter, when his summer routines would be interrupted.

I do think that part of Mi Jeong is angry with Mr. Gu, for turning her down – even though hers was an unreasonable request to begin with.

That beat, where she finds herself indebted to him, because his presence ensures her safety from those suspicious guys with the car, as she walks home late at night, tells us as much, I feel.

The way she throws that rock to the ground, vibes peevish to my eyes.

I feel like she’s peeved because she’s now indebted to the person whom she’s upset with.

Meaning, she realizes that she should stop being upset with him, because he’s saved her, but it annoys her, because she wants to keep being upset with him, if that makes sense.

E5. This episode, Mi Jeong finally get a firm answer from Mr. Gu.

It’s too early to squee, but it does give me a bit of a thrill, that when he talks to Mi Jeong about it, to clarify that she really does believe that this arrangement will make them different people in the spring, he states so matter-of-factly that he’s already started – in the afternoon, in reference to the leap to rescue her hat.

There’s something rather exciting about the idea, that he decided to do it – and then just starts, on his own terms, to worship her, without actually telling her first, that he’s agreeing to the arrangement.

Mr. Gu intrigues me more and more.

Even though, on paper, it’s rather dicey for Mi Jeong to get involved with a man she barely knows anything about, who is likely on the run from the law, I can’t help but root for their connection to deepen.

Is that.. messed up of me? 😅

E5. I have to confess, I was really quite thrilled to see Mr. Gu asking Dad for Mi Jeong’s number.

Ahh! Isn’t he being really upfront, then, about his connection with Mi Jeong? He’s not bothering to try to hide it, and is just being out and matter-of-fact about it, which I somehow find very appealing.

I mean, yes, he’s still really gruff about it, when he texts Mi Jeong, to ask her what she’d like to eat, coz he’s got some money. And, he doesn’t say much when they do sit down to eat together.

But the important thing is, they are taking some steps forward with this experiment, and Mr. Gu, is, in his own way, making quite the effort, to demonstrate care and consideration towards Mi Jeong.

I love the idea of him opening up, bit by bit, so I’m definitely curious to see more of this.

I’m also hoping that Mi Jeong works her Liberation Notes hypothesis some more, about why she feels alone, coz while I think she might be on to something, in her realization that she doesn’t truly like anyone around her, I do think that there’s more to not feeling alone, than liking the people around you.

I think the key here, is for Mi Jeong to actually like herself, first and foremost, so that she never feels lonely in her own company. But.. that’s just my thought, and I could be wrong about where Show plans to go with this hypothesis.

For now, I’m just pleased to see Mi Jeong and Mr. Gu actually talk about her feelings about her family, and that Mr. Gu asks what she thinks about lies, and if they work. It feels like a step forward, for both of them.

And, it seems that Mi Jeong’s statement, that all lies become truth, once you speak them, have given Mr. Gu food for thought, since he backs out of actually giving it a try, like she says.

E6. The biggest highlight this hour, for me, is the burgeoning connection between Mi Jeong and Mr. Gu.

Things between them are so tamped down and subtle, that even the tiniest gesture takes on distinct significance, and I find myself grinning silly grins, over every small indication that they’re growing closer.

Like the way Mr. Gu wordlessly stops the truck, so that he and Dad can give Mi Jeong a ride to the train station.

I really like how Mi Jeong just decides that she’s not going to be calculative in her interactions with Mr. Gu, and just.. goes ahead to send him little tokens of care and thought, via text message, on a regular basis.

It’s very charming, because she’s so honest and unfiltered, and yet, in that unfilteredness, there’s no judgment or expectation that comes through, of Mr. Gu’s lack of response.

Like the way she shares that photo of the building billboard that she sees on her commute, because it makes her feel better – and therefore she hopes that it’ll make him feel better too.

In particular, I really like how honest and vulnerable she is, in the texts that she sends him, while having drinks with Gi Jeong and Hyeon A.

“I’ll be home late tonight. I’m having a drink with my sister.”

“I can’t help but wait for you to text me back. But I won’t let get to me and do the same to get even with you. I’ve always tried to silently get even with my ex-boyfriends. I’m done with it. I love that I don’t have to measure your affection. All I need to do is worship you. I love it.”

That is just so open-hearted and pure, that I feel like I can totally understand why Mr. Gu starts opening up to Mi Jeong, slowly but surely.

In fact, I’m quite startled by how much Mr. Gu talks, when he sits with Mi Jeong, the next evening, in his living room. I feel like I’ve never heard him talk so much, in one go.

And the thing is, Mi Jeong listens to it all, and then shares her own experience with other people, which is close to what he’s just described. It feels like there is no other way forward, but for solidarity to grow, between these two.

The other text message that I find really disarming, is the one where Mi Jeong texts Mr. Gu and says, “I’m as happy as when I get my paycheck whenever you message me.”

Aw. How could Mr. Gu’s heart not waver in response to this? It’s so sweet, and indicates that he has such a big, positive effect on her mood, just by texting her in his brief, dry manner.

How interesting, that the thing Mi Jeong mentions, about being driven like cattle, is the thing that galvanizes Mr. Gu into action the next day, to not only clean his house, but also, get rid of the soju bottles – and then text Mi Jeong to tell her about it.

And then there’s how he goes to the train station to meet Mi Jeong, without even telling her about it in advance.

It’s just so matter-of-fact, like he should be there.

They don’t even seem to talk much, as they make their way home together, but that’s still enough to give me a case of the goofy grins.

Ahhh. This growing connection just gives me the thrills. How does Show make such small, mundane things land as thrilling? It’s quite remarkable.

I do find it interesting, that because Mi Jeong has a happy distraction in Mr. Gu, she is quick to forgive being snubbed by her colleagues, who’d planned that vacation to Guam without her.

That makes a lot of sense; we do tend to be more forgiving when we’re happier, and Mi Jeong is definitely happier, now that she’s got this connection going, with Mr. Gu.

And, I also really liked Mi Jeong’s conversation with Mr. Gu at the tail end of the episode, where she tells him that she won’t ask him about anything, nor will she cling onto him, and he responds reflexively that she’s cool – before adding that that was him, worshipping her, heh.

The leaked smile that he smiles, just gives me the squees, and that gentle banter, where Mi Jeong tells him that that little bit of worship isn’t quite enough, makes me feel like the vibe between them is getting more relaxed and cozy, which is a development that I really like.

I do still have reservations that Mi Jeong is making this connection with Mr. Gu her source of joy, because what happens, if/when that source of joy lets her down, or is taken away?

E7. One of the things that really strikes me about Mr. Gu, this episode, is how he’s getting more personally invested and involved in Mi Jeong’s affairs, than Mi Jeong is, in his.

This totally feels like he’s opening up more than Mi Jeong, in a manner of speaking, and it honestly feels like quite a quantum leap forward, for him.

I mean, he’s asking Mi Jeong for Sunbae’s name and number, so that he can solve the loan issue for her, and he’s also explaining to Mi Jeong that Sunbae knows she’s scared of people finding out, and that’s why he’s doing this to her.

This is huge, coming from Mr. Gu, who had been keeping studiously to himself, and barely saying a few words, if he talked at all, not that long ago.

Now, he’s making ramyun for Mi Jeong, and offering to help her get Sunbae sorted out, if that’s what she wants.

I feel my heart start to wobble a bit, and then Mr. Gu goes one further, as he tells Mi Jeong that he’s a scary person, who won’t even blink if he’s stabbed in the gut, and yet, he’s scared of her. Which annoys him, but yet, he waits for her.

I’m wondering where he’s going with this, until he says, “You should know, Yeom Mi Jeong. You should know who you are.”

GUH. He’s telling her that she has more personal power than she knows; that even a scary person like him, would feel nervous and scared in front of her. He’s encouraging her to be strong in her own strength, and I flail.

How is this so swoony??? ❤️🫠

And then, look at their matching goofy smiles, as he takes her for a drive in the truck, at night, just for fun.

Ahh. I find it inexplicable gratifying, to see them together and enjoying a moment of happiness, like this.

E8. I am very much enjoying how Mi Jeong’s romance with Mr. Gu is progressing, despite alarm bells attempting to go off in my head (I’m muffling them), about how we don’t really know anything about him, and there are clues that he’s mixed up with gangsters and other dangerous people who could literally kill you.

Yet, despite that, it feels like his times with Mi Jeong are real and unvarnished, so I understand Mi Jeong’s statement to her colleagues that he doesn’t have a shell, and her statement to him, later in the episode, that he’s transparent.

Also, I love that beat, where Mr. Gu goes to the coffeeshop, to sit and have a drink, across the room from Mi Jeong, just to keep her company, and walk her home.

It’s so silent and gruff and sweet, all at the same time.

Plus, I just love the sense that they’re growing closer, as they continue to talk about whatever comes to mind.

Mr. Gu’s openness, in telling Mi Jeong that he basically curses in his head, almost all the time, except for when he’s drinking, or sleeping, or talking with her like this, is, again, another indication that he’s growing more comfortable, and for that reason, I love it.

Also, I love Mr. Gu’s little gestures of affection, like going to the minimart to buy drinks for him and Mi Jeong to share, because he has a little extra time before she arrives at the train station.

And, how cute is it, that Mi Jeong can tell him, just like that, that she’s so happy to see him that she could almost hug him.

Eee! I very much approve hugs, in this case, for the record. 😁

Mr. Gu’s tiny smile in response, which is so fleeting that you’d miss it if you blinked, is just the cutest thing. It’s such a small thing, but this legit makes me want to squee, no lie. 😍

I do really like Mi Jeong’s summary of Mr. Gu and Hyeon A, that they’re both tough, wild and transparent. This feels so on-point and pitch-perfect, honestly.

Even though Mr. Gu sniggers in response, likely because there are so many things that Mi Jeong doesn’t know about him, I do think that Mi Jeong’s more on track than Mr. Gu would like to believe.

Beyond the details, which it’s true Mi Jeong is not yet apprised of, she does have a good view of the kind of person Mr. Gu is, at his core.

It’s similar to the piece of wisdom that Hyeon A drops so casually, during her visit to Sanpo; that all men are essentially alike.

“Sense of inferiority and superiority, self-love, and self-hatred. You all have these things, it’s just the percentage that differs.”

That’s.. pretty insightful, honestly. I’ve never thought about it like that, but when Hyeon A puts it that way, it’s hard to argue with her, isn’t it?

At the end of the episode, I really like that scene where Mr. Gu and Mi Jeong sit on the steps of the temple together, and watch the rainbow.

I love it when they have these random-sounding, but soul-baring sorts of conversations.

And somehow, Mr. Gu’s response – to Mi Jeong’s remark that she wishes she’d been able to sit with his younger self – that she already has, because when he’s 90, this would be his younger self, feels very precious and personal, like he’s letting her in, in a special way.

E9. I’m still very much invested in Mr. Gu’s growing connection with Mi Jeong. It feels like they’re getting to know each other better, which is nice, and also, sometimes amusing.

That beat, where Mr. Gu gets grossed out by the matter-of-fact way Mi Jeong talks about animals dying – and in particular, frogs bursting as they get run over – is really quite funny.

Clearly, Mr. Gu’s more of a city guy, while Mi Jeong’s a country gal. 😁

I am fairly certain that the reason Mr. Gu tells Mi Jeong about his past, is because he’s starting to think that it’s not safe for Mi Jeong to be in his orbit.

That beat, where he makes to grab that pair of scissors in self-defense, when the lights go out in his house, and Chang Hee busts in to use his bathroom, tells us a lot about where his mind is at, right now.

I don’t think that Mr. Gu actually wants to push Mi Jeong away, and I feel like I can see glints of wistfulness in his gaze, as he tells her that she can take back the worshipping, if she wants.

It’s interesting that it’s only after Chang Hee’s statement, that “like attracts like,” that we see via flashback, that it had been Mi Jeong, that had inadvertently drawn Mr. Gu to Sanpo.

It had been her voice that he’d reacted to, subconsciously, to get off the train, and it looks like it had been her presence, that had drawn him to stay in Sanpo, afterwards.

So.. Mr. Gu had been quietly intrigued by Mi Jeong all along, long before she’d approached him about the letter, or about the worshipping thing?

Ooh. How very intriguing and mindbendy! 🤩

E10. I appreciate that Mi Jeong continues to look out for Mr. Gu, even when she’s uncertain of what to do about their in-limbo relationship.

And that anger that comes through, even as she considers the information that Mr. Gu’s given her, is very much in line with the Mi Jeong whom we’ve come to know; that underneath her docile, cooperative facade, she’s a lot more rebellious and angry than she lets on.

Therefore, it makes sense that Mi Jeong’s reaction to Mr. Gu’s reveal about his dead ex-girlfriend, would primarily be anger, although, I have to admit that at this point, I do feel a bit protective of Mr. Gu as he thinks about his life, so I’d personally prefer her to be less angry. 😅

But wow, the way Mi Jeong charges at those wild dogs who look like they’re on the verge of attacking Mr. Gu, is so guttural and.. kind of wild, too.

This made me think that Mi Jeong’s absolutely a dependable person to have on your side.

I do think that Hyeon A hits the nail on the head, that the reason Mr. Gu says that he finds Mi Jeong scary, is because she sees right through him.

The other piece of wisdom Hyeon A drops, this episode, that there is no real reason to love or hate someone; you just do, and then you make up the reasons as you go.

That.. makes so much sense, really.

And Mi Jeong takes that wisdom and runs with it, and basically goes straight to Mr. Gu to confront him with his own contradictory actions.

“You were ready to let a dog bite off your arm. And yet, you find it hard to hold a woman? You think it’s cool to endure pain with clenched teeth, and it’s dull to have a cute, happy life with a woman? Which is harder?

Getting your arm bitten off by a dog and getting your nose broken, or being nice to the woman you like? Which do you think is harder?

You treated me like a fool who couldn’t even get her money back. You’re no better.”

Ooh. Mi Jeong is so unflinching, that I can see why Mr. Gu would say she’s scary.

But then, after she leaves, his smile is so full of rueful delight, that I’m coming around to the idea that he actually likes Scary Mi Jeong. 😁

But Mi Jeong’s not only scary, though; she’s also gently persistent and quite tender, like in the text messages that she then sends Mr. Gu, the following day.

“I told you, I don’t care if you’re a notorious criminal or even an alien. So what’s the big deal? I still think you’re okay. So let’s carry on. Let’s keep going.”

She’s saying that she likes him unconditionally, and that’s pretty heart-wobbly stuff, any which way you slice it. I can see why Mr. Gu would take that to heart and respond to it.

It’s such a change in perspective, this episode, when we see Mr. Gu march into the club, and come face to face with Baek (Choi Min Chul), and tell him to back off, if he doesn’t want Mr. Gu to make an immediate comeback.

Woah. That’s the complete opposite of being in hiding, isn’t it? Especially if he can threaten someone with his presence?

I find it such an interesting perspective, that Mr. Gu’s actually spending his time trying to figure out what he wants from his life, going forward.

It’s kind of mind-boggling, actually, to realize that he’s literally thinking about whether to continue to make sinks, or to go back to his high-rolling lifestyle.

And yet, those are literally the choices that are available to him.

It sounds like he could go back to being powerful and well-heeled, any time he wants to. That’s so badass, when I think about it.

And it’s really quite heart-wobbly stuff, to realize that a big reason that Mr. Gu’s even gone in there to make his stance known, is because he wants to take Mi Jeong up on her proposition to keep on going, because she still thinks he’s ok. Aw. 🥹

It’s just really low-key and nice, to see Mr. Gu then go to meet Mi Jeong, and take her out for dumplings.

Somehow, there’s something rather melty about the matter-of-fact way he does things for her, like he’s always done this, and will do this.

And, it’s just really nice to see that smile play about his lips again. Mr. Gu’s satisfied with the decision that he’s made for now, and that makes me happy.

E11. I find it quite interesting, that Mi Jeong doesn’t appear to have any sort of strong reaction, to the realization that Mr. Gu must have had significant amounts of power and influence in the past, to have a Rolls Royce.

I feel like most people would have some kind of reaction this sort of reveal, but with Mi Jeong, it feels like she meant it 100%, when she’d told Mr. Gu that she didn’t care what kind of past he has.

And that cuts both ways, doesn’t it? If she doesn’t care if he might have been a murderer, she doesn’t care either, that he might have been someone with power, money and influence.

I find that quite remarkable, that Mi Jeong is so consistent in living up to her words.

In fact, the way Mi Jeong declines to ride in the car, when Gi Jeong talks about Chang Hee giving them a ride to work, makes me think if Mi Jeong finds the car reveal more inconvenient than anything.

And then, the way Mi Jeong tells Gi Jeong to shut up, and looks uncomfortable when Gi Jeong talks about Mi Jeong giving her money in the future, makes me think that perhaps the idea of money is burdensome, to Mi Jeong.

One of the things that I’ve come to enjoy, is the thoughtful nuggets of wisdom that tend to pop up, during Mr. Gu’s and Mi Jeong’s conversations.

Like when Mi Jeong talks about why Annoying Supervisor is still in the company, because he has nowhere else to go, and Mr. Gu says in response, “The weaker you are, the more evil you get. That’s why evil people have a pitiful side to them.”

That’s really pretty insightful, I feel, and adds a new layer of meaning to everything.

Plus, the fact is, you can only have this perspective of evil people, when you are in a more gracious frame of mind.

Which means that in offering Mi Jeong this perspective, Mr. Gu is also, at the same time, drawing her from her anger, towards a more gracious perspective – while seeming all slightly distant and amused about it.

Plus, he makes her relax a little, with his tongue-in-cheek remark, that she should invite Annoying Supervisor over, and teach him a lesson in the field, coz she’d totally win.

It’s all quite masterful and effortless, from where I’m sitting.

I find it very interesting, when Mr. Gu talks about never having lived in a house where the wind direction changes and the moon is visible at night, and how he’d thought that such houses only existed in fairy tales.

That is so fascinating to me, that Mr. Gu thinks of this experience, of living in this house, as the fairytale, when others would think of his old life as the fairytale.

AND, he makes to further the fairytale, by knocking out that streetlight that’s messing with his view of the moon. This seems to be an indication that he’d like to continue the fairytale.

..Does that also mean that he doesn’t care to return to his old life, like he’s invited to do, this episode? I do wonder.

This episode, we see the beginnings of skinship between Mr. Gu and Mi Jeong, which is quite thrilling, and which indicates that their relationship is becoming deeper, in a manner of speaking.

The way Mr. Gu moves to put his arm around Mi Jeong, when she feels cold from the night breeze, is something new.

To my eyes, it marks a milestone between them, like this somehow makes their relationship more real, and less contractual.

The kiss feels the same, like it’s a moment when things between them become more serious, and more real.

And then there’s that love confession at the end of the episode, where Mr. Gu sits with Mi Jeong by the water, and then after a few false starts, tells her, “I worship you.”

It’s all so low-key, but – AHHHHH!!! – this is their equivalent of “I love you,” isn’t it?!???

DUDE. HE LOVES HERRR!! Eeee!!! 😍😍😍

E12. This episode, Mr. Gu comes to the conclusion that it’s time for him to return to Seoul.

Based on what he says about Sanpo being one world, and his old life in Seoul being another, it leads me to conclude that he’s looked upon his time in Sanpo as a form of escape.

It kind of feels like he’s been in the thick of an experiment, to see if he could feasibly make Sanpo his real world, or if Sanpo would have to stay in his realm of fantasy.

I think that’s why he’s been saying to Baek, and Chairman Shin (Park Hyuk), and anyone else who’s asked him to return to Seoul, that he’s busy and needs more time.

The thing is, as more and more of his Seoul life leaks into his Sanpo life, it’s probably felt like reality was bearing down on his fantasy, and threatening to destroy it.

This feels particularly true, when Hyeon (Lee Sin Seong) determines that he has a girl in Sanpo. It almost feels like Mi Jeong might be in danger, if they were desperate enough to get Mr. Gu back in Seoul.

I think that the way the chips fell, it just felt more and more like Mr. Gu couldn’t avoid going back to Seoul, especially since Hyeon interprets Chairman Shin’s invitation to essentially be a threat; ie, if Mr. Gu doesn’t comply, it would be Chairman Shin who’s out for his life, next.

Mi Jeong concludes that Mr. Gu just isn’t ready to be happy, but to my eyes, it does look rather more complicated than that.

In fact, I’d argue that part of the reason Mr. Gu decides to remove himself from Sanpo, is to keep the Sanpo folks safe from the likes of Chairman Shin.

In fact, I feel that without the context of Chairman Shin putting pressure on Mr. Gu to leave Sanpo, he’d stay in Sanpo indefinitely.

Why else would he tell Mi Jeong to give him a name, so that she wouldn’t eat him, right? (That was really cute, though, I have to say. 🤩)

I also think that that little beat, of Mr. Gu putting up the umbrella as a shelter for the stray dogs, is a metaphor for his relationship with all the Sanpo folks.

That umbrella was the best that he could do, for the dogs, and in the end, it got knocked over, and the dogs got captured and taken in, despite his best effort.

I feel like that’s a mirror for how he feels about the Sanpo folks. He could do his best for them, but it wouldn’t be enough to protect them, in the end.

And that’s why I think he ends up leaving, for Seoul.

I also think that’s why he tells Mi Jeong that the worlds of Sanpo and Seoul are separate, and shouldn’t be mixed.

I’m guessing that that’s not only to keep her safe, but also, to keep her from seeing his reality, so that her memories of him, would be from the “fantasy” instead.

E12. As Mi Jeong tells Mr. Gu about how, when she sees something or someone cute, her instinct is to catch it and eat it (or them), and Mr. Gu muses that she really just tells him everything now, it makes me think about Mi Jeong’s liberation journey.

Thus far, Mi Jeong’s liberation journey has largely centered around her connection with Mr. Gu.

Over time, she’s become more and more comfortable in articulating her thoughts, and I do think that articulating her thoughts honestly, is part of her liberation goals.

However, what happens, when Mr. Gu is removed from the picture? When there’s no Mr. Gu there, for Mi Jeong to pour out her thoughts to, does that put her back at square one, in terms of her liberation journey?

I’m actually half surprised, that Mi Jeong doesn’t get angry at the news, when Mr. Gu breaks it to her, that he’s going to leave for Seoul.

After all, I’ve always had the impression that Mi Jeong typically has a lot of anger simmering on the inside.

So, it’s quite surprising to me, that Mi Jeong’s primary response, to the news, is to feel sad.

I do appreciate it, though. And it’s in line with Mi Jeong’s and Mr. Gu’s original agreement, that this relationship thing, would be a temporary arrangement.

Which means that at some level, I guess Mi Jeong had been prepared for the possibility, that Mr. Gu might end up leaving.

I’m slightly surprised by Mi Jeong’s statement, that she will still call Mr. Gu once in a while, because I’d imagined Mi Jeong to be a lot more cut and dry about things.

However, I’m reaching for the thought, that she’d started this worship agreement with Mr. Gu, not only for her own liberty, but for his, too.

So perhaps her decision to continue to stay in touch with him, is for both of their sakes, in the hope that they wouldn’t end up losing everything that they’ve achieved together.

It’s sad, though, when Mi Jeong does try to call Mr. Gu after he leaves, only to find that the number is no longer in service.

Gosh, this is the first time I’ve seen Mi Jeong express so much sadness so overtly, in all the time that we’ve known her.

This moment feels raw and honest, and if Mi Jeong can stay the course to remain honest, even in the face of losing her connection with Mr. Gu, perhaps that’s how she will end up retaining the essence of what she’s achieved in her liberation journey, by connecting with him.

Conversely, at Baek’s funeral, when Mr. Gu laughs, saying that he’s the kind of person who feels relieved when someone dies, his eyes look sad.

In fact, he looks like he’s maybe lost his soul, even, as he sits there.

I’m especially intrigued to see what happens with Mi Jeong and Mr. Gu, as they split ways like this. Have they really come out different people, as Mi Jeong had once predicted?

E14. Time-skip later to the present, it’s good to see Mr. Gu call Mi Jeong, finally.

(On a tangent, shout-out to Elaine, for pointing out that the calendar where Dad had marked this schedule, had been from 2019, which means that the bulk of our story had taken place in 2019.

Which means that the scene of Mr. Gu ringing in 2022, had been a glimpse of the present.

Ergo, the time skip had been 2.5 years.

Thanks Elaine, I would’ve never picked up on that, I don’t think! 😘)

In particular, I was very amused by how he responds, when Mi Jeong hedges that she can’t come out now, because she’s gained weight and needs to lose it first.

“Lose some weight in an hour and meet me.”

Tee hee. Somehow, I am very tickled by this. 😁

It’s good to see Mi Jeong looking brighter and happier now, even though I can’t tell for sure if her happiness is actually just from Mr. Gu’s call alone.

I sure hope that she’s happier with her job and her life than she’d been, when she’d left her old job.

I love how the two of them are like shy teenagers, when they meet again, and I love that Mr. Gu tells her that he’d missed her, and adds, “I wanted to squeeze you and swallow you down in one mouthful.”

Gurgle. That’s so perfect.

It’s exactly what Mi Jeong had said before, about when she’d see something or someone cute. I love that he remembers.

And now, when Mi Jeong asks his name, and Gu readily gives it, it feels like this maybe-couple might possibly be on the cusp of a new beginning.

[END SPOILER]

Gi Jeong and Tae Hun

In one of the few things that adhere to drama convention, Gi Jeong does eventually have a loveline with Tae Hun, with whom she has that meet-awkward, in episode 1.

However, that’s where the alignment with drama convention pretty much stops, because the way this loveline develops, is not much like what you’d be used to seeing in a typical rom-com or melo.

In fact, one of the things that I enjoy the most about this loveline, is how it’s treated as part of Gi Jeong’s personal growth journey, rather than as an end unto itself.

That made everything more meaningful to my eyes, to be honest.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E7. I feel embarrassed for Gi Jeong, that Tae Hun, whom she likes, actually finds her ranting wildly at Mi Jeong over the phone, for attending the very club meeting that he’s there for.

I know Gi Jeong’s just being herself, but I have to admit that it’s not a good look on her, from where I’m sitting.

While she’s much nicer to Tae Hun when she’s talking to him, it must be quite jarring, for him to hear her being so demanding and brusque, with her sister.

Which, not gonna lie, I think actually diminishes Gi Jeong’s chances with Tae Hun. 😅

This episode, it does actually feel like Tae Hun might be growing comfortable – and even a little happy – in Gi Jeong’s company, but the moment he catches himself articulating (over text) the fact that Gi Jeong is his noona’s friend, he backs away from that connection really quickly.

That’s perfectly understandable, to be honest. As a fact on its own, it’d be awkward for him to have a Thing, with his noona’s friend.

And that’s before adding on Gi Jeong’s personality, which looks to be a handful too.

So despite him starting leak smiles while texting Gi Jeong, I can understand why Tae Hun might back away from Gi Jeong, before they grow any closer.

E9. I have to say, I am coming to really enjoy the honest and open tone of Gi Jeong’s conversations with Serial Dater.

When she’s unguarded and thoughtful, I find her very charming. She comes across as open-hearted and vulnerable, yet strong and grateful, at the same time. Plus, she’s quite funny too.

Like when she talks about how she’d turned off her phone, for fear that Tae Hun wouldn’t contact her, only to realize with a start, in the middle of the night, that it would be weird if he didn’t contact her, given that she’d hurt herself.

I know Gi Jeong doesn’t mean for this to be funny, but it is quite amusing, the way she describes the whole thing.

ALSO. I’m actually pretty glad that Gi Jeong kinda accidentally tricks herself into backing off from Tae Hun, because I’ve been feeling that her main weakness, is that she doesn’t know when to stop.

Related to that, is not knowing how to give the other person some space.

Tae Hun’s exactly the sort of person who actually needs that space, in order to realize that she brings him joy.

With Gi Jeong’s proactive and impatient nature, it makes total sense that Tae Hun would only realize now, when she’s avoiding him, that he rather misses her company.

And, I do love that Gi Jeong gratefully treats all of this as a learning journey.

I find it interesting that after a while, Gi Jeong actually starts feeling bad for Tae Hun, as if she’s abandoning him, even though he’s the one who’d rejected her. That’s very interesting.

I tend to think that this could reflect one of two things (or perhaps both?).

1, that Gi Jeong really does like Tae Hun, and cares for his wellbeing more than she cares for her own, &/or 2, that Gi Jeong is finally in a space where she’s feeling secure enough in her self-worth, to look beyond herself, and care for someone else.

E10. I’m glad that Gi Jeong and Tae Hun get some time to talk alone, without his sisters around.

And when Gi Jeong does her heart-on-her-sleeve thing and starts talking about facing her mountains and coming there because she wanted to overcome her embarrassment, it’s really nice of Tae Hun to emphasize that she has nothing to be embarrassed about, and that he’s treating her, to thank her for the favor that she did him.

Plus, while Gi Jeong’s laying it all out like that, I feel like Tae Hun finds her attitude quite affecting.

I feel like he’s perhaps more drawn to her than he’d originally thought, and somehow, that gives me a vicarious sense of satisfaction, for Gi Jeong.

E11. I feel like Gi Jeong’s being so brave and so vulnerable, at the same time, and I love that that leap of faith, to just be herself, for better or for worse, is bringing about positive change in her life.

Not only is she slowly but surely becoming more comfortable in her own skin, that’s also slowly but surely causing her to appear more attractive to Tae Hun as well.

And somehow, it feels significant, that it’s only when she’s stopped obsessing over how to get Tae Hun’s attention, and is focusing on herself and her personal growth, and is essentially giving herself permission to just be herself around him, with no agenda, that he starts to show distinct signs of interest in her.

I find Gi Jeong’s uncalculated approach refreshing and different.

Like when Serial Dater tries to tell her that she should play hard to get with Tae Hun, and not agree to meet him immediately, in order to keep him anxious.

Gi Jeong’s spiel in response, is so epic, I feel.

“But is it a good thing to make him anxious? Why is it a good thing? He’s anxious. You get anxious, and it drives you crazy. Isn’t that a bad thing? It’s uncomfortable, isn’t it?

When a man and a woman like each other, shouldn’t you give each other the fullest? Why would you string it out in small portions?

What is that? You’ll be murdered if you feed someone like that.

So why do I have to give out my affection like that? What’s good about not getting enough? Shouldn’t you give as much as you can?”

It goes against everything that Serial Dater teaches her about men and relationships, and yet, this episode, we see Serial Dater breaking up with his girlfriend, while Gi Jeong has Tae Hun looking at her in wonder, and asking her not to shave off her hair, and offering to be the “anyone” whom she’d love.

I love the idea that Gi Jeong’s able to have Tae Hun hanging onto her every word, and running around in a sweat, not by playing games, but just by being her generous, uncalculating self.

Backing up a bit, I do hate that Gyeong Seon barges in on their date and tries to glare down Gi Jeong for daring to be Tae Hun’s dinner date, but I’m glad that Tae Hun makes a stand and gets Gyeong Seon to leave, and then goes right back to asking Gi Jeong not to shave off her hair.

I mean, it’s going to be tough for them to date, with Gyeong Seon being so antagonistic, but at least Tae Hun’s making his feelings and preferences known, and is drawing boundaries with his sister, so that’s a pretty good start.

Gi Jeong’s silent reaction to Tae Hun’s offer to be her “anyone” is such a great mix of shock, wonder and joy, and Tae Hun’s shy smile in response is just perfect.

Her squeaked-out, “Yes!” is quite funny, and so her, as well. 😁

E12. I’m mostly just happy to see Gi Jeong happy, finally, even though there’s a part of my brain that questions what would happen to Gi Jeong’s mood, if this season of dating Tae Hun were to come to an end.

For now, she’s so happy, that, in her words, she feels like she could fly, and all the heavy weight that she’d been dragging around – which she realizes is hatred – is now all gone.

On the one hand, it’s really nice to see her be happy, and it occurs to me, that she doesn’t even ask for a lot.

Even though Tae Hun can’t meet her, she feels grateful that she has him to text, on a Sunday morning.

And when Tae Hun tells her that he’ll be unable to meet her on holidays and other special occasions, there is a flash of disappointment in her face, but she’s also quick to conclude that she doesn’t actually place a lot of importance on these special occasions.

Plus, it does appear quite shrewd of her, to state upfront that she’d prefer that Tae Hun just not send her home to Sanpo, because he’ll grow tired of it, and she’ll be hurt if he starts, and then stops.

Altogether, it feels like a rather grounded, practical approach to their blossoming relationship.

And, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud (in part, in secondhand embarrassment), when Gi Jeong, after concluding that she’d just missed an opportunity for Tae Hun to kiss her, blurts out to Tae Hun, that they should sleep together next time.

Eep. He looks flustered and smiles it off, but I still find it extremely secondhand embarrassing to watch. 🙈

On a tangent, I’m glad that despite Gyeong Seon’s displeasure at the idea of Tae Hun dating Gi Jeong, Tae Hun does have the support of both Hui Seon and Yu Rim.

I’d honestly been expecting Yu Rim to object, especially since she’d been the one to tell Gyeong Seon about their run-in with Gi Jeong at the BBQ restaurant. So, kudos to her, for seeing that her dad really does like Gi Jeong, and for the right reasons.

All that said, and taking into account what happens with our other arcs this episode, I can’t help wondering how long Gi Jeong’s lightness will last, since it appears to rest wholly on the fact that she’s dating Tae Hun now.

What happens when the relationship feels less fresh and giddy? Would heaviness seep into Gi Jeong again?

And, what happens if the relationship eventually ends? Would that bring Gi Jeong right back to square one, where she feels so heavy that she can’t find the energy to drag herself around?

E14. I appreciate that Tae Hun’s very concerned for Gi Jeong, and continues to stand by her and show care for her, in the wake of her mother’s death.

I liked the part where Gi Jeong sits in the restaurant and talks to Yu Rim, just rambling on about how she’s going through a hard time.

I’d thought that the fact that Yu Rim would squeak out the question, through tears, about whether adults hurt too, when they lose their mothers, was a great opportunity for Gi Jeong to bond with her, and share some solidarity in maternal loss.

So it was quite a record-scratching moment for me, when Gi Jeong blurts out that she’d like to be Yu Rim’s mother. Gosh. I honestly can’t think of a worse thing for Gi Jeong to have said, in that moment.

I mean, Yu Rim’s shedding tears about having lost her mom. The last Yu Rim would want to hear, is that Gi Jeong would like to replace her mom, in any way. This felt like a total misjudgment, to me.

It’s no wonder Yu Rim retreats so hastily, to get away from Gi Jeong and her continued ardent declarations that she’d like to be Yu Rim’s mother.

And then, when Tae Hun walks in the door, and Gi Jeong looks at him with those desperate eyes, and tells him, “Let’s get married,” that feels off to me as well.

I know that Tae Hun and Gi Jeong have something pretty special, and that Tae Hun likely said yes because he’d been entertaining thoughts of marrying her anyway, but the way this scene shakes out, it feels like Gi Jeong wants to get married out of desperation to escape her sadness, and that’s just not right. 😬

[END SPOILER]

The three siblings

Although the relationship among our three siblings doesn’t take centerstage, I did like coming to understand their sibling dynamic better, over the course of our story.

Plus, I found it heartening to see them become closer and more cordial with one another, by the time we reached Show’s late stretch.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E4. I’m not completely thrown by the reveal that Mi Jeong’s got a temper that, when triggered, is quite something to behold.

But, I am rather surprised that both Chang Hee and Gi Jeong appear to be intimidated by the idea of an angry Mi Jeong.

The way the two loud blustery bickering siblings freeze in their tracks, when they realize that the slipper that Gi Jeong’s flung in Chang Hee’s direction, has hit Mi Jeong in the head, and the way they basically don’t move a muscle, as Mi Jeong picks it up and, after a long pause, throws it out the front door, tells me that they are indeed very intimidated by Angry Mi Jeong, and would prefer not to cross paths with Angry Mi Jeong, if at all possible.

And then there’s how Chang Hee describes Angry Mi Jeong to Mr. Gu later, where he says that he and Gi Jeong may fight all the time, but they know when to stop, whereas Mi Jeong doesn’t, and would just kick you right off a cliff, if she got angry.

Mi Jeong might be the quiet maknae, but she’s the dormant volcano wildcard, among the three of them.

E6. The sibling connection is starting to come through a bit, this episode, with the way Gi Jeong instinctively knows there’s something going on between Mi Jeong and Mr. Gu, without Mi Jeong having to say anything.

The way I see it, Gi Jeong’s invitation to Mi Jeong, to go out for drinks, is to do the big sister thing, and make sure that Mi Jeong’s not doing something silly that she’ll regret.

That’s pretty heartwarming, honestly.

[END SPOILER]

The liberation club

I couldn’t not give a shout-out to the liberation club, since this entire show is kinda named after its purpose. 😁

It’s such a quirky, unconventional club on paper, so I was pleasantly surprised to watch this club come together and do its own thing, and actually become something meaningful and helpful to its members.

I also love the idea that this club didn’t need to be anything like all the other ones, and yet, it probably was deeper and more consequential, than all of the other clubs put together. ⭐️

[SPOILER ALERT]

E3. This episode, with Mi Jeong’s suggestion to her other two club-averse co-workers, that they form their own club, and focus on their liberation, I feel like it’s finally clicking into place in my head, what this show’s title is referring to.

I’m guessing that as this new club focuses on their individual liberation journeys, Mi Jeong’s going to take notes to share – which is how we arrive at this show’s title.

Additionally, this episode, it’s become clearer to me, that the liberation that our characters seek, isn’t actually about wanting to escape the countryside life, after all.

It’s really about them being liberated from their own negative mindsets and their own perceived lack of self-worth. And that, I must say, sounds like a worthwhile journey.

E4. So far, I like the Liberation Club. They are quiet and quirky, and I do kinda love their decision, to have their meeting without facing one another, because it’s more comfortable that way.

E7. I’m really liking the vibe of the Liberation Club, now that we’ve sat in one of their more established meetings (versus their first meeting, when they were still figuring things out).

I love how they each share in such honest, open and vulnerable ways, and the others just listen, without trying to judge, solve or encourage.

That is a pretty freeing environment, in and of itself, and I’d say that that’s pretty conducive for a liberation club.

For some reason, I feel very gratified, that the HR lady actually likes the liberation club, when she sits in on that meeting. It had felt like she was going to sit in, to find fault with it, because it sounds like such a bizarre club on paper.

The fact that she likes it, and even looks like she’d like to come back, if she could, makes me feel vindicated on behalf of the group members.

[END SPOILER]

Special shout-outs:

Jeon Hye Jin as Hyeon A

I wanted to give Hyeon A a shout-out, because she really grew on me, as a character.

She’s confident in her own opinions, all heart and loyal to a fault, and bold to do things that others might balk at.

Her casual nuggets of wisdom were great, and really helped some of our other characters gain perspective. The thing that really stays with me, though, is her loyalty to those whom she holds dear.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E5. Shout-out to Hyeon A for staging that whole charade, just to get Byeon Sang Mi (Oh Min Ae) to stop calling Chang Hee so much.

That whole thing is just to bold and bizarre, at the same time. Hyeon A’s pretty great, I’m beginning to see. 😁

E11. I find Show’s dip into Hyeon A’s arc quite interesting.

At first, the way she lives it up at the club with Chang Hee, splashing out on an expensive table and expensive alcohol, makes it look like she’s really stolen that Ahjumma’s money or something.

It’s only later that we realize that the money is something she’s holding onto, for Ahjumma’s dying son, whom Hyeon A had once dated.

Two things come to mind here.

The first is, how context, again, is always everything. Without it, Hyeon A had looked like a con-woman of sorts. But with it, Hyeon A comes out looking like the righteous heroine, while Ahjumma’s the heartless mother who cares more about the money, than her son’s life.

The second is, how a sense of perspective can change everything.

With Chang Hee, the availability of the car changed his attitude towards people. With Hyeon A, the impending death of her ex-boyfriend gives her a new perspective towards money and how she wants to spend it.

It makes her think about how she wants to enjoy life in the here and now, while life is still here to be lived.

[END SPOILER]

Han Sang Jo as Du Hwan

I just wanted to give Du Hwan a shout-out because I find him so endearing, as a character.

He’s sweet, loyal and so good-natured and helpful that you couldn’t hate him if you tried. I’d even go so far as to say that Sanpo would’ve been a different place without him. ❤️

THEMES / IDEAS [SPOILERS]

Your true self vs. your social self

E2. The ideas that Show is serving up are still percolating in my head as I type this, but for now, it feels like there are at least 2 big ideas that Show is touching on.

The first is, the difference between the inner self, and the self that one shows the world, and the second is, the fundamental need that we have, to feel like we matter to someone.

One of the things that strikes me this episode, is just how different Chang Hee is at work, versus at home.

In our introduction to Chang Hee, it’s hard to miss his angry bluster, because it’s so in-yo-face and loud, so I’d missed the fact that he’s actually really patient and kind and nice to others, while at work.

This episode, we see it a little more, and I have to confess to feeling quite startled, at the difference when comparing his work persona, to the self that he lets out, at home, when he’s among family and friends.

This leads me to the idea that we are often nicer to the people who matter less to us, in life, in the overall scheme of things.

That idea that it’s our nearest and dearest, who tend to see us at our worst, rings so true, and is something we see showing up a lot, in these initial episodes.

We see this in Chang Hee and his shouty ways, where even his mother shuts the door on his rants, for how loud and noisy he is.

And we see this too, in Gi Jeong, who keeps it together at work, but complains openly among friends and family, about her exhaustion due to her long commute, and also, about the fact that the serial dater at work is nice to everyone but her.

There is a lot of loneliness coming through, in both Chang Hee’s and Gi Jeong’s arcs, I find.

That conversation where Gi Jeong tells her friend that what she really wants, is to be able to have relaxing conversation with a man, illustrates that very well, I think.

The idea of self-worth and being comfortable in your own skin

E3. This episode, it’s becoming clearer to me than ever, that our key characters are all struggling with the idea of self-worth.

What determines it; how to gain it; how to protect it; it feels like these questions are etched so deeply in their minds, that it dictates their lives, whether they realize it or not.

E4. Between Chang Hee and Gi Jeong, I am picking up this idea that seems to be common between their arcs, and that is that neither of them is comfortable in their own skin.

How people try to fill the gaps they feel in their lives, with love

E4. Serial Dater’s statement – that that’s why he’s always in love, because when you’re in love, you don’t get tired – echoes a similar sentiment.

I mean, if you were happy in your own skin, you wouldn’t need to “top up” your life with the boost that comes from being in love, just so that you don’t feel tired, right?

And then there’s Hyeon A, who tells Mi Jeong not to ask for love, like she has.

To me, that’s just another side of the same coin. Hyeon A’s tried to fill up her life with love – much like Serial Dater – but now she’s left wanting and dissatisfied.

Which is why she tells Mi Jeong not to do the same thing.

I feel like this is the kind of mindset and beliefs that Mi Jeong needs to be liberated from.

Sometimes you’re angry because you’re jealous

E9. This idea of feeling anger that’s rooted in jealousy, is echoed in the conversation that Gi Jeong has with her friend, about going to the department store, and feeling angry at other women who are in a group, or who have a husband and kids.

Again, doesn’t this go back to self-worth?

They feel angry because these other women, who appear to have happier lives, make them feel small. That’s why Gi Jeong’s friend remarks that she’d like to buy something too expensive for them; she wants to make them feel small in return.

If seeing these women living their lives didn’t make Gi Jeong and her friend feel small, they wouldn’t feel angry in response.

People may not even be as happy and as carefree as they appear.

E9. Like Hyeon A, for example. She’s always appeared happy and carefree, and it’s only this episode, when Mi Jeong goes to her apartment to look for her, that we realize that she’s been dealing with a violent and abusive boyfriend.

Which means that we might be getting angry and jealous of other people – over nothing, really.

It’s an interesting thing to chew on, I have to admit.

Is your happiness dependant on other people and other things?

E12. What happens, when the thing that brings the lightness and brightness to your life, loses its shine, or changes altogether? Does that cancel out all the progress you’ve made, on the liberation front?

The idea of pretending, and how everyone does it.

E12. I like the idea that the HR lady, who’d previously badgered Mi Jeong to join a club, is now so drawn to the idea of the liberation club, that she actually decides to join, for real.

Her first admission, that she wants to be liberated from her automatic smile, is rather full of pathos; she looks so miserable, even as she talks about how she can’t help but put on that smile, when she’s around other people.

It’s an interesting question that Mi Jeong later muses over, that most people pretend, on a regular basis, and that pretense is what helps to make the world go round.

SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]

Sometimes, the more I watch this show, the less I feel I understand it – and that’s how I feel at points, watching this episode.

Maybe Show’s trying to make a statement that way? Like, this is life; the more you live it, sometimes, the less you seem to understand it?

There’s something that feels off-kilter and surreal about some of the beats, this episode.

It makes me feel like perhaps what our characters are after – liberation – isn’t in the form that they’d thought they’d wanted. Perhaps liberation and peace eventually takes the shape of a different thing than you’d thought.

For a start, I have to admit that it does give me a bit of a fangirl thrill, to watch Mr. Gu and Mi Jeong enjoy each other’s company so much.

The way they go to the market and buy things like shoes, socks and gloves, to make themselves more comfortable, feels carefree and down-to-earth, at the same time.

And the way they sit down together and eat food and talk and smile, feels like such an accessible everyday type of happiness.

And yet, this everyday type of happiness feels so fleeting. When Mr. Gu gets called away because it’s Saturday and therefore time to deal with the club’s accounts, he comes back a different person, as Mi Jeong puts it.

I can see what she means by that. He’s no longer got any sense of ease about him like he’d had, when they’d been on their little date. Instead, he’s wearing the jadedness and weariness that his job world leaves on him.

This must be why Mr. Gu had insisted on cutting things off with Mi Jeong so completely, when he’d gone back to Seoul.

The world that she represents, and the world in which he works, are two different worlds, and he doesn’t see how he can exist in both, at the same time.

When I see how messed up Mr. Gu’s life is, and how he’s so dependent on the alcohol that he’s chugging it every two seconds while he’s working, I can’t help but think that he’s not someone who would be good for Mi Jeong.

And yet, the way Mi Jeong tells it, his call had prevented her from sinking to the lowest low, because she’d been on the brink of making a scene and demanding her money back from the wedding gift box, of the guy who’d borrowed money from her.

This makes me wonder if there really is some kind of symbiotic, mutually beneficial relationship to be had, between Mr. Gu and Mi Jeong.

Of course, my fangirl heart isn’t actually thinking along those lines; my fangirl heart just says that they’re cute together, and they get each other, as weird as they are, and she gets him out of the toxic world where he lives, to a place where he seems able to breathe, at least for a while.

This episode, it feels like some kind of catch up session, where we learn how things have been going for our various characters. And, I do like that, because I’ve come to care about these characters, and want to know how they’re doing.

That said, it doesn’t seem like a happy epilogue where everyone’s doing well. In fact, it just seems that everyone’s just in a different sort of limbo.

Earlier in our story, Gi Jeong’s biggest goal had been to love someone, and that goal had quickly turned into wanting to be in a relationship with Tae Hun.

But, as we see this episode, that hasn’t worked out very well.

Tae Hun is still kind, sweet and patient, but things with Yu Rim and Gyeong Seon are even more strained than ever.

Also, Gi Jeong is clearly not happy with the agreement that she has with Tae Hun, which is that they’ll get married when Yu Rim turns 20 – which is when Gi Jeong would be 50.

That’s not great, that Gi Jeong’s plodding along and feeling unhappy, but trying to be happy and look happy, in the meantime.

Plus, that whole pregnancy misunderstanding does seem to drive something home for Gi Jeong, that Tae Hun is actually relieved that he doesn’t have to deal with the possibility of her being pregnant.

I think all that, plus the musings of her widowed friend who’s finding new joy in the single life, drive Gi Jeong to cut off her hair the way she does, towards the end of this episode.

This had been the thing she’d said she’d do, if she couldn’t find someone to love, all those months ago.

I feel that this means that she’s realizing that her goal, which had been to date Tae Hun, isn’t giving her the happiness that she thought it would, and she’s now finally ready to embrace the alternative which she’d set for herself, which is to be single.

At this point, I have no idea how Tae Hun will react to this, but I realize that the more important thing, is that Gi Jeong is happy with her decision.

It’s fine if she continues to date Tae Hun, if she wants, and it’s fine if she chooses to break up with him and be single. The question is, whether she’s truly happy and at peace with her decision.

As for Chang Hee, it seems fitting, that he’s become the boss of a convenience store, since he’s done so much work with convenience stores that he already knows the ins and outs of the business.

I find it intriguing, that he spends all this time studying the history of Seoul, because, as he says, he’s a Seoul man now.

The way I see it – and this is reinforced by what his employee says about how your family needs to have lived in Seoul for 3 generations before you qualify to call yourself a Seoul person – Chang Hee doesn’t actually feel like he qualifies to be a Seoul person, and that’s why he’s trying so hard.

As his employee says, most Seoul people don’t know any of the stuff that Chang Hee’s studying.

When you’re sure of your identity, you just are who are you are. You don’t need to study to feel like you qualify.

That makes me rather sad, for Chang Hee.

The other thing that makes me sad for Chang Hee, is the way he breaks down and cries, while thinking back on how he and Hyeon A broke up.

Clearly, even though everything he’d said to Hyeon A had been kind, compassionate and sincere, he either still has regrets, &/or he still misses Hyeon A, despite her toxic need to feel needed.

And so, even though Chang Hee’s doing well on the surface, and has paid off his debt, and has arrived at a more cordial relationship with his father, there’s clearly still sad, heartbreaking bits in his life.

Which is what makes me wonder about what Show is saying about life in general. That perhaps happiness is not what we expect it to be? And life isn’t what we imagine it to be either?

That echoes the words of the lady at the next table from Gi Jeong (cameo by Jung Young Joo), that at every age, you think you’re going to be a certain way, but you still feel the same, like you were a 13-year-old who took a nap and just woke up.

As we close out the episode, I find myself having mixed feelings about Mr. Gu’s proposed arrangement with Mi Jeong, that she essentially become his therapist.

On the one hand, I feel like regular sessions talking with Mi Jeong and unpacking how he feels and thinks about things, would be good for him.

On the other hand, the fact that he tells Mi Jeong that the moment he runs out of things to say, they’ll end things cleanly between them, gives me pause.

I mean, it sounds so transactional and temporary. That doesn’t sound like a personal relationship; it sounds more like a contract – which is where they’d originally started.

The fact that Mi Jeong seems to agree amiably to this, also gives me pause.

It makes me feel like these two don’t really have a future together, as a pair, because of the transactional manner of this set-up.

And yet, perhaps this is just me imposing my preconceived notions of what would make Mi Jeong happy, over this situation.

Maybe what Mi Jeong wants, and what I think Mi Jeong needs, are completely different things.

Or perhaps Mr. Gu will never run out of things to say to Mi Jeong, and they’ll find long-term happiness together that way?

I have no idea, really.

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]

I’m not sure what I expected from this show’s finale, really, since my sense of understanding this show and what it wants to be, has fluctuated a fair bit over the course of my watch.

In the end, I do think that Show delivered a finale that’s in line with its nature.

In the end, Show really is a peek into just part of the journey, of these characters. The message that I get from this finale, is that the journey is on-going, and that our character are far from done, with their liberation journey.

But also, that they’ve made noticeable progress, over the 16 episodes that we’ve spent with them, and that that in itself, makes the journey worthwhile, for them, and for us as well.

I think that the spotlight on the liberation club, near the beginning of the episode, highlights that idea quite nicely.

None of the club members feels like they’ve truly been liberated, but each of them does feel like they’ve made progress, and they do appear much more content and happy now, compared to when they’d first formed the club.

As Mi Jeong puts it, this really is about figuring out what your issue is, and understanding yourself a little better.

I feel like when I compare each of our characters now, to when we first met them in episode 1, each of them has come to understand themselves and their hangups better, and each of them is in a better place now, compared to before.

Gi Jeong and Tae Hun don’t manage to get married before the ending credits roll, but they do manage to have a good, honest conversation about their relationship and where they are, and that feels good and healthy.

I’d half thought that they’d end up breaking up, but thanks to Gi Jeong’s reflection on the multiple angles of the situation, she’s super clear on the facts that she loves Tae Hun, and wants to keep on walking this journey with him.

Dad’s come to a place where he can tell his children that it’s ok if they want to be alone, and that feels like progress too, because this feels like a much more flexible way of defining happiness and wellbeing.

Also, the fact that he can even initiate a conversation about such a topic, when he’d been mostly either silent or irate in the past, indicates growth too.

I have to admit that my personal favorite arc, this episode, is Chang Hee’s. To my eyes, he’s the one who makes the most progress, in terms of figuring himself out.

Chang Hee’s talked about being there for people at the point of death several times now, but the flashback, when we see that he’d literally made the choice to go into debt over those sweet potato ovens, in order to be by Hyeok Su’s side when he passes, really drives it home for me.

That’s such a selfless thing to do, for someone to whom he’s not even close.

The movie that Chang Hee describes, prior to us seeing this flashback, where he describes the man who had chosen to go to jail, so that he could be there for his friend at the friend’s execution, is such a great analogy.

That’s exactly what Chang Hee did, because as a result of him missing that oven inspection, he got into debt for several years – which must have felt like a prison sentence.

And yet, Chang Hee doesn’t talk about this incident with anyone, even though his default way of dealing with things, had always been to talk about stuff, incessantly, until he felt better.

This time, he’s content to hold it in, and he even likes himself better, for it.

The fact that Chang Hee grows to like himself more, right at about the time that he finds his actual calling as a funeral director, feels perfectly perfect, honestly.

Chang Hee’s always been so instinctive about his various point-of-death encounters, and this time, his feet lead him to that funeral director class, just as they’d led him to Hyeok Su’s side, just before Hyeok Su passed away.

Like Chang Hee’s said before, it’s like his body knows exactly what he’s meant to do. And as he sits in that class, and his mind catches up to the idea that funeral directing might just be his calling in life, it feels pretty much like a moment of self-actualization.

I love it.

As for Mi Jeong, she’s still as internally goth as ever, but this episode, she’s settled and grounded enough, to show compassion for Chan Hyeok, the sunbae who’d borrowed money from her, and speak up for him, when she sees him in an awkward position at the ATM.

She’d said that she was afraid that Chan Hyeok would actually pay her back, because that would mean that she’d have no one left to be the default recipient of her curses.

Yet, when Chan Hyeok tells her that he’s going to deposit a million won the next day, and that he will pay her the rest, given some time, she walks away with a small smile on her face.

This tells me that she’s pretty glad after all, to have Chan Hyeok repay the money – even if it means that she now has no one to curse.

And perhaps that’s the thing; perhaps she’s perfectly content with the idea of not cursing anyone. That’s a pretty big deal for someone whose thoughts have run as dark as Mi Jeong’s has, and I’m glad to see it.

As for Mr. Gu, when things go awry and Hyeon ends up running off with that bag of money, that voice message that he leaves for Hyeon, is rather startling.

He’s doing exactly what Mi Jeong had suggested, and that is to welcome the people who come to his mind when he’s sober, with a smile.

While Show isn’t specific about what Mr. Gu’s going to do with that bag of money that he gathers out of his wardrobe drawers, my personal take is that he’s taking that money, to make a fresh start.

And I love the fact that he gathers enough happiness from that 500 won coin landing so perfectly balanced on the grill sewer cover, to actually leave that bottle of alcohol behind instead of drinking it.

This gives me hope that he’s decided that it’s finally time to quit drinking and embrace life more, instead of waiting for his body to break down from all the drinking.

As he walks towards Mi Jeong, thinking the words that she’d once said to him, about trudging on, step by step, he smiles, which makes me think that he’s actually happy, to be trudging on, step by step, the way Mi Jeong had told him about.

And as Mi Jeong smiles at him walking towards her, she thinks happily, that she feels lovable, and she can’t feel anything but love.

Of course Mr. Gu would head towards Mi Jeong, even as he walks towards a new phase in his life.

We don’t know what that phase will look like – and perhaps neither does he, and neither does Mi Jeong – but we know that they’re in a better place now, than when we’d first met them, and they’re looking forward to better days in the future too.

All of our characters are in better places than when we’d first met them, which means that these are success stores right there, even though liberation isn’t yet complete.

And that’s the message that I’m taking away from Show too.

That each of our liberation journeys may be long and incomplete, but if we’re in a better place now than we were a couple of years ago, then we deserve to celebrate that, even as we continue on our liberation journeys, step by step.

THE FINAL VERDICT:

Thoughtful and thought-provoking piece of slice-of-life.

FINAL GRADE: B++

TEASER:

MV:

PATREON UPDATE!

The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of My Liberation Notes, is A Dream Of Splendor [China]. I’ve taken an initial look, and I’m happy to say that I feel it’s off to a solid start. My E1-2 notes on A Dream Of Splendor [China] can be found here.

Here’s an overview of what I’m covering on Patreon right now (Tier benefits are cumulative)!

Foundation Tier (US$1): Yumi’s Cells 2 + k-ent tidbits + E1 notes of all shows covered on Patreon

Early Access (US$5): +Our Blues

Early Access Plus (US$10): +Why Her?

VIP (US$15): +Bloody Heart

VVIP (US$20): +A Dream Of Splendor [China]

Ultimate (US$25): +Alchemy Of Souls

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. ❤️

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KS
KS
1 month ago

Dear Fangirl,
Thank you for the much awaited wonderful review of My Liberation Notes. The drama is already one of my favorites of the year. It took me almost 2/3 days to finish this write up (although I was a little busy, but actually I wanted to savour it bit by bit)😀
Some of the drama lovers felt that it was too slow, but for me if the story, characters have enough potential to suck me in their world then I really don’t mind the pace. There are so many ideas/thoughts that you gain from this show. One needs to liberate from one’s fear, guilt, self-douting. As it is a reflection of life, we experience the repetitiveness of a lot of scenes. You rightly pointed out that we come across “a field of thought landmines “. And just like Gloglo, My Liberation Notes is a solid A for me as well.

Ps – I had a rerun of The First Half of My Life recently. And as with the Liberation Notes , this drama is also thought provoking and has some powerful and uplifting ideas.
So here comes my question to you…Can you suggest some dramas that are thought provoking as in you get life nuggest from them, dramas that are not easy to watch but are interspersed with thoughtful life lessons?

Happy writing and spreading joy to all the drama fans out there.
Thank you!!!

manukajoe
manukajoe
1 month ago
Reply to  KS

Hi KS great to reads your thoughts! Maybe I should persist with 我的前半生, I was finding it a bit close to the bone. You seem to love it. Shows I would suggest in response to your request are Misaeng (also seems to serve up these nuggets), and I liked 暗恋:橘生淮南 which had a similar thoughtful quality for me. Have you seen 想见你 from Taiwan, that’s one we watched last year and is deeper than it first appears. I also liked Hot Stove League, another one that keeps you guessing and has extra layers.

KS
KS
1 month ago
Reply to  manukajoe

Hello ,
Thank you for suggesting these excellent shows, I have already heard so many good things about Misaeng and Someday or One Day. They are on my immediate watch list. As for Unrequited Love and Hot Stove League, I am definitely going to look for them.
I am relatively new to these parts of the world(means Asian dramas)compared to you veterans, so I really appreciate your help.
Thank you 😀🙏

Elaine
Elaine
1 month ago
Reply to  KS

This show was a definite A for me! So glad to find someone else who likes this show as much as I do! Definitely related to that feeling of being stuck, not liking yourself yet not being able to make progress.

Like Manukajoe I would recommend Misaeng. I would also add My Mister and Navillera. Both feature older protagonists who are feeling stuck and then they meet a young adult who somehow catalyses change in their lives in very surprising ways. Both shows did not feel slow to me, a lot of things happen in the plot but there is always a sense of reflection on life’s meaning, and relationships.

I found Hospital Playlist 1 quite touching too. Season 2 was good but more draggy and indulgent.

Someday or One Day! At times Mi Jeong in this show reminded me of Chen Yunru, one of the protagonists in Someday or One Day. Quiet but depressed and stuck on the inside.

KS
KS
1 month ago
Reply to  Elaine

Hi Elaine,
Started watching Misaeng ! Yeah…
Thank for all the other recommendations. Will surely check them one by one.

manukajoe
manukajoe
1 month ago
Reply to  Elaine

I should check out Navillera

David
David
1 month ago

This is a mixed bag for me. There were several things to like and just as many things that were mundane. This caught my eye because Kim Ji-won was cast in this. She is a fierce actress that doesn’t hold back – at least in some of her other kdramas. I certainly applaud the actors who took on this challenge. I mean the first several episodes must have read: Action, walk slowly down the road, don’t talk, cut; Action: walk slowly to the bus in the morning, look disinterested; cut; dinner table, Action: don’t talk at the dinner table, moms says a few things, cut. Without the country background, this would have been a boring first 5-6 episodes. Then Gu just slowly walk back and forth to the store to gest drunk everynight. And turns out he’s a gansta. I mean it seemed that way from the start – or a killer, wasn’t quite sure. Yes, there were small stories in between, but not enough to care the show. Lee El (noona) was the highlight in acting for me – captured the screen for me in almost all of her screen time. I kept watching to see what/how Kim Ji-won would do. The voice overs seemed to be the highlight for her. There didn’t really seem to be much on the Libration Club – yes, it was contrived in the beginning but seemed the 3/4 individuals progressed in purpose of the club. I would have liked to seen more about this. Was there liberation of the 3 kids – maybe yes / maybe no? guess that was the point. I would have like to learn more about the parents. Small town, they would have been born a couple of years after the end of the Korean war, likely some hardship that impacted the roles as they appear today. Nada. I guess the 3 kids story line was it.

SeanK made some points in his comments. Some of the arcs in the story and taken from a lens of America culture, some of the stories seem mundane – challenge the status quo, your family background, say to success in a job, isn’t important. These are very big taboos in Korean culture and really big big deals. The older generations and those with the power won’t necessarily like this. The younger generation would likely yawn at this.

Anyway, this kdrama is certainly different and has its fans – no problem if people did like it. The last 4 episodes – it felt like a slow death. Was it worth the 20+ hours of my time? No.

Gloglo
Gloglo
1 month ago

This show offered me a dose of mindfulness, depth and surrealism I didn’t think I needed… It took me completely by surprise and sucked me in straight away. I’m not a person who needs narrative cohesiveness if the characters and the world of a drama captivates me, and that was the case here… This drama kept me guessing, but in a good way. All the tropes were used so creatively and so unpredictability. How refreshing.

Rebellion is, in any shape or form, one of my favourite topics in stories, so I found every character’s liberation journey intoxicating. It takes dedication and strength for most of us to get rid of the shackles that society, our background and our temperament impose on us, so I loved how this show linked all these very diverse character journeys with the idea of liberation and, at the same time, illustrated how everyone’s journey is completely different, and how those individual differences are liberating in themselves, because you don’t have to compare yourself to anyone… you don’t need to either understand or even support the journey of anyone: you simply need to give space to those close to you, respect them and accept their decisions and their steps of the journey with an open mind and without judgement. This is why MJ was exactly what Mr Gu needed: she was there cheering him on (even though sometimes she did it so emphatically and with anger) but she never put him under pressure. And this is exactly what “worshiping” is, right? It is keeping a necessary distance… It’s a love that is unconditional and does not obstruct. I found it interesting how this contemplative element in “worshiping” is so crucial to one’s liberation journey: the mere action of being clear minded, understanding and poised in the face of disaster and injustice is subversive in itself, as it liberates you from small minded grudges and an embittered existence. The stoicism of it all blew my mind… All 3 siblings experience a liberation of that sort. How beautiful was that!

I can see the connection between this show and My Mister. In both shows love has a healing quality. My Liberation Notes is a little bit less accessible, but it has a very uplifting message at its core, if you put the effort on piecing out together the hints given by the characters and the amazing dialogue. 

This show is definitely an A for me.

manukajoe
manukajoe
1 month ago
Reply to  Gloglo

I love your take on it. Very nice!

jaco_4950
jaco_4950
1 month ago

I feel the same as what Trent wrote. Our Blues and this at the same time, ultimately this was a lot more satisfying. I think the last couple of stories in Our Blues were a bit disappointing. This however just got better, and I really didn’t want it to end. I want to know what happens next to these people.

Elaine
Elaine
1 month ago
Reply to  jaco_4950

Hooray, another person who loved it! I heart this drama so much that once I finished it I immediately started again from the beginning. I found everything so real and relatable in a way I couldn’t all the way with My Mister. Dong Hoon is just too heroic for me to aspire to make the choices he did! But the MLN characters were very human and fallible. Its subtle but they each did change for the better by the end.

Trent
1 month ago

It’s interesting; I started this show and Our Blues at basically the same time, and for the first block of episodes, say 6-8 episodes or so, I felt this was fine–if somewhat opaque and hard to figure out–and looked forward to Our Blues more every week. And then at some point…that calculation flipped, and I found myself more drawn to this show, still enjoying Our Blues, but not as much.

Anyway. There’s a lot to praise in this show; the main crew of actors all really did a great job of inhabiting their quirky, oftentimes hard to understand characters. I didn’t love either the time skip or how it was handled, but I more or less adjusted to it.

I think my biggest complaint would be that I just prefer a little less ambiguity in my endings. I mean, life is a journey and we don’t just arrive in a safe harbor at the end of our sixteen episode series, I get it, but… I dunno. I just like a little more closure on my character arcs.

But definitely a good, watchable show for…the type of people that like this sort of thing? Wow, there’s a near-tautology. Sorry.

Pixaiated
Pixaiated
1 month ago

My initial feelings on this one just after watching the finale were quite mixed. On one hand, I really loved each episode and moment that the show brought us. I loved the characters, the issues explored, and the themes it touched on. I loved the show’s ability to be introspective and thoughtful at times, and surprisingly hilarious at others. I loved the slow growth as our characters worked towards their liberation.

On the other hand, something about the show feels off. It feels as if the individual parts don’t really come together to form a cohesive whole. It’s most definitely not the tightly-written narrative that My Mister was, that’s for sure. There’s also plot points which I think we could have done without – the ‘forced’ separation and the time skip being the major ones. Some areas also felt as if there was insufficient build-up and came a little out of nowhere (this mainly relates to Chang-Hee’s arc in the last couple of episodes, which I still loved despite this). The show most definitely felt quite a bit weaker after the time skip.

Despite that, as a whole, I still definitely love this one. It was just such a comforting watch for most of its run, and it feels like there’s nothing quite like it. I’ll definitely want to re-watch this one sometime down the line.

manukajoe
manukajoe
1 month ago

Nice write up!
I was hooked on this drama too, I guess I just like slice of life, and the older and early-mid-life-crises-y protagonists appealed to me too, as an older guy. It was definitely Gi Jeong and Chang Hee who stole the show for me. I found it harder to get interested in the OTP and frankly lost interest in them and sometimes wanted to fast-forward them. Especially the nightclub stuff I just didn’t care about.
I agree with what you said about it feeling meandering and directionless, but I didn’t really mind that, as it gave the reality time to breath. I did think it all fell apart after the time skip, and it felt rushed and thrown together and a bit clumsy at the end, almost as it they ran out of time and had to cram together a resolution. Both Gi Jeong’s and Chang Hee’s resolutions were a little too tidy.
I like this more than My Mister (I didn’t like the manipulation/spying and the loan shark abuse in that one) but not as much as Misaeng. Although the idea of a rewatch seems a little unappealing. Although I did like all those gold nuggets.

CarpControl
CarpControl
1 month ago

As someone who consumes a lot of japanese slice-of-life, I was perplexed that this story went… nowhere? Even after the very un-even & contrived time-skip.

I saw reflections of myself in all of the three Main Characters, as I darkly chuckled along to some of their very disturbing and sometimes pathetic thoughts. It wasn’t from a place of discomfort though, and I rather enjoyed the camaraderie I felt with the sibling trio, as the story went on.
Even to this day, I debate what was the purpose of Mr. Gu as a character? A small part of me whispers, it was to bring in the necessary sexy, heh!

Spoilers
To see Ki-Jeong in that masochistic relationship, broke my heart for her. She had the grandest dreams, in terms of the amount of ‘work‘ needed to achieve them. Sad, she didn’t realize she made a better match with her Boss, when the entire world thinks exactly that. She had the least character-growth of the three, as the stagnation (evident from her trash-talking the older women in the finale) is a direct call-back to ep 1. I enjoy the thought of Mi-jeong as a future Mafia Boss-wife. And Chang-Hee, who did become my absolute, utter favorite with his self-observant, hyper-aware rants… made me a little frustrated with how he eventually chose funeral-direction over palliative-care as his true calling.

Would I have liked a more definite, standard narrative closure for our characters? Yeah, but I find the finale charming & quirky in equal proportions, just like how the entirety of the remaining 15 episodes were! 🙂

Last edited 1 month ago by kfangurl
manukajoe
manukajoe
1 month ago
Reply to  CarpControl

Which Japanese SIL dramas would you recommend? Some JDramas I have enjoyed include: The Many Faces of Ito, Tokyo Girl, Midnight Diner, Samurai Gourmet, Kantaro Sweet Toothed Salaryman, Stay Tuned, My Husband Won’t Fit. Would be keen to find some more 🙂

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
1 month ago

My Liberation Notes – meandering, philosophical, metaphorical, elliptical, sometimes oblique and too obtuse, painfully slice-of-life yet at times makes the jump to cartoonish/outlandish/reaching for magical realism – was what just happened real, a vision of the future or a dream? Indeed a YMMV that won’t be for everyone (I’ve seen many mixed reviews). But I loved it tremendously and identified very much with the three siblings in different ways for how they felt so stuck between societal and family expectations, vs their true selves which were so buried they couldn’t even articulate for themselves what they really wanted. Stumble along they did, I did feel they grew in different ways, but Show makes it clear that learning and growing is not a one-shot, but an awkward, humbling and stumbling process. Very real and heartfelt, the characters felt like they were articulating things we have all thought and felt at times, and I love the gentle hopefulness of the Show. It was a comforting balm that I could watch for 20 minutes or so each evening after work without getting into an obsessive binge state and sacrificing sleep. Yet provided meat and thoughtfulness for me to chew over. And a swoony romance that I did not expect!

A couple of thoughts for now:

Spoiler for episode 14
I think a major reason for Mi Jeong being let go from Joy Card was because she made the first move to hit her cheating colleague with a bag. Which the petty colleague sued her for and she had to pay damages, so unfortunately the company couldn’t retain MJ. Bugger! The affair fallout on its own without an assault could probably have been smoothed over. But it did seem they at least did not fire MJ or give her a bad recommendation, given that she managed to find a good follow-up job that suits her better, yay!

Spoiler for ending minutes
The first time I watched it I was rather distressed whether Gu was joining Mi Jeong or making a run for it. It seemed rather hopeless how he might get away from his job and Chairman Shin with his life intact. But the second time I rewatched, I felt the angles of the shots did indicate he was walking towards Mi Jeong and she was looking at him walking towards her and smiling. So I will take it as a hopeful ending! Hope they don’t have to be on the run for the rest of their lives, hope he can make good with Chairman Shin the money that Hyeon Su stole, the absolute ungrateful mongrel!

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
1 month ago

A challenging discourse answered by you, kfangurl – as only you can write. My thoughts throughout my watch kept me occupied.

My Liberation Notes pitches the discourse experienced through three micro generations and the shift that society is beginning to experience in SK. 

One question that is asked is what is youth? The answer: it depends on what part of SK you live in. 

Another question is whether it is okay to break the mould at work. The conclusion: yes it is. 

Thirdly: Is a person’s background or status important, including their age, job, qualifications? Show answers: no it’s not. 

So, what is it that will liberate people from the hold that society has on them? The answer: self actualisation. The challenge is understanding how to self actualise, because every person is different.

And, what is the role of Mr Gu, anyway? Not as pitched by the makers of the drama. Sure, he has an impact on the family and the siblings, but somehow this got lost when Gu’s background was explored. 

Gi Jeong was my favourite character. I was saddened by what happened to the mum. I liked the ending: as Steve Miller did sing – “go on and take the money and run.” 

Not a patch on My Mister, but a thought provoking and engaging watch, all the same.

Yeona
Yeona
1 month ago

hey, last time love all play was the drama that was on your ultimate level over at Patreon. Have you dropped that drama and replaced it with Alchemy of Souls?

Sara
1 month ago

I really loved the first few episodes of this drama, then it went downhill for me. It felt meandering and like the plot was being made up as it went along. The character arcs weren’t satisfying. Mi-jeong didn’t really change much, and neither did Gu. Chang-hee found his calling, but that seemed tacked on and not something that was planned from the beginning (the death references only started in the last few episodes). Gi-jeong got a guy, but he doesn’t stand up for her, doesn’t involve her with his daughter, and his reaction when he found out she wasn’t pregnant was “WHEW!”. She is hardly better off than when she was single TBH.

The scenario of Gi-jeong wanting to get hit and lose her memory was cartoonish and out of place in a realistic slice of life.

“Worship me” was so powerful and emotional the first time Mi-jeong said it, but it became overused and almost like a running joke “Oh! Did you just worship me?”. It made me cringe.

I thought Son Seok-koo was really sexy though. ☺️

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
1 month ago

Ah, Chang Hee, that philosopher-poet of the mundane… He ended up becoming my favorite character too.

I found this drama rather unfocused (compared to My Mister), but still a compelling watch. I wish the story had more episodes after the time jump. I agree with you that the drama shows just a part of our characters’ journeys. An open ending on a hopeful note was very fitting.