Review: Love In Contract

THE SHORT VERDICT:

Love In Contract boasts some pretty great key ingredients for a shiny rom-com in the tradition of Hallyu: a good-looking OTP that shares decent chemistry, a tropey-but-potentially-cute premise, an easy-breezy soundtrack to make everything pop.

Unfortunately, I do think that Show is stronger in its first half than in its second, which is where I feel it gets rather lost in the melodramatic backstory that it builds for itself.

However, Show is not without its bright spots, the biggest of which, I feel, is Go Kyung Pyo as our stoic, socially awkward, dorky and endearing male lead.

Nothing to write home about, in the end, unfortunately, but serviceable, for when you want a rom-com, and aren’t opposed to using the FF button for stuff that doesn’t interest you.

THE LONG VERDICT:

If I had to summarize my experience with this show in a single analogy, it would be that watching this show reminded me somewhat, of my experience watching 2016’s Lucky Romance (review here).

Lucky Romance showed sparks of promise despite a beginning that didn’t immediately grab me, and I ended up watching the whole thing, not because the rest of the show actually shaped up to be more than its beginning had promised, but because I found male lead Ryu Joon Yeol adorkable as our male lead.

Uh. Pretty much the same story, in terms of my experience with this one.

I hadn’t found the beginning episodes to be that amazing, but felt that they showed enough promise, to keep going.

And in the end, while I didn’t find this sho was underwhelming as I’d found Lucky Romance, it really wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be, and yes, my biggest bright spot in this whole thing, is Go Kyung Pyo’s adorkable turn as our male lead Ji Ho.

However, just like I’d found it kinda-sorta worth sitting through Lucky Romance, if only to see the fantastic dorkiness of Ryu Joon Yeol, I also would have hated to have missed Go Kyung Pyo’s wonderfully dorky turn as Ji Ho, in this one.

Make of that what you will, my friends. Make of that what you will. 😉😅

OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE

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

Generally, I found the OST pleasant and breezy, and I did feel like Track 1, Real Love had a nice, earwormy sort of effect.

Here it is as well, in case you’d prefer to just listen to that on repeat. Just right-click on the video and select “Loop.”

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS

Here are a few things to keep in mind, that I feel will help you maximize your enjoyment of your watch:

1. Show takes a while to settle

In all of Show’s promo material, our story’s been described as Sang Eun being a contract wife to Ji Ho on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and then to Hae Jin, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

Because we already know that this is the entire basis of the story, we’re just waiting for that set-up to be complete, so that we can see where this set-up takes us.

And, it can therefore feel relatively boring to us as viewers, when we know where our official starting point is, and Show takes 4 whole episodes to get us to what is our starting point, in our heads.

We basically feel like we’re waiting and waiting for that other shoe to drop, so that things can click into place, and so that we can get going in earnest, with our story.

Keeping in mind that Show is simply taking a little longer with its set-up helps.

2. Logic is not Show’s strength

There will be times when you might scratch your head at Show’s explanations of things – or lack of explanation of things.

It’s probably best to just accept that logic isn’t one of Show’s strengths, and just adjust your expectations accordingly.

3. A webtoon lens is good to keep handy

When stuff in this drama world doesn’t make a whole lot of sense (see point 2), a webtoon lens is pretty useful, because it helps everything land a little smoother.

STUFF I LIKED

I’m doing a quickish macro overview of the stuff I liked and didn’t like so much about this show, before I selectively dive into characters and relationships.

You’ll notice that there isn’t a whole lot in this section, but that’s not because Show is that terrible. It’s just that for the most part, Show worked out to be a mixed bag, for me, which means that overall, things shook out into an “overall alright” sort of space.

Show makes some smart narrative choices

Overall, the writing in this show isn’t my favorite thing (more on that later), but I do think that Show makes some smart narrative choices, from time to time, and I want to give credit where it’s due.

Here’s the quick spotlight on one such choice, which I thought served the overall story well.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E7. Thinking about it, I do think this is a smart choice on Show’s part, to make Ji Ho’s (Go Kyung Pyo) backstory the way it is. There are definite benefits to this.

1, It makes me root for Ji Ho all the more, and feel even more invested in his happiness, and

2, It makes it easier to believe, when Ji Ho’s behavior inches towards normalcy.

It would be harder to believe that he’s making big strides forward socially, if this really is against his true nature. But, because this isn’t his true nature, then it’s more about reconnecting Ji Ho to who he really is.

That makes his relatively fast progress, under Sang Eun’s (Park Min Young) tutelage, more believable.

And, at the same time, it makes his hesitation feel even more organic, because, as we see, ideas like, “nobody really cares about you unless you’re their family,” have been drilled into him, for years.

So of course, it would give him pause, when he considers Sang Eun’s care towards him. She’s not family, she’s his contract wife; it’s easy to rationalize that she doesn’t truly care for him.

Nicely played, Show. 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

[END SPOILER]

STUFF THAT WAS OK

Show’s efforts at Funny

Overall, Show’s efforts at Funny was a mixed bag, for me.

Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, and sometimes, it kinda fell into that in-between space where I was mildly amused, in spite of myself.

Here are some examples for all three, just for the record.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Funny that didn’t work for me

E4. I’m starting to conclude that Show isn’t super confident on the humor front. So far, quite a few of the intended-to-be-funny moments just aren’t landing for me, and feel rather try-hard.

For example, the way Sang Eun blusters after Ji Ho, after coolly saying goodbye, to ask him why he’d given her the concert tickets, is clearly meant to be funny, but.. it just didn’t tickle my funny bone.

Instead, it felt quite sudden and out of place, and it makes me feel like Show’s struggling a bit, to bring across the funny that it has in mind.

I feel like if Show had a lighter vibe in general, like A Business Proposal (review here), for example, then these moments might actually land better.

Ultimately, though, Ji Ho’s befuddled and bemused expressions save it for me, because, 1, he’s got a great reaction face, and 2, this tells me that he’s more confused than actually hurt, by Sang Eun’s outbursts.

E9. I can see why there would be tension on Sang Eun’s part, when she sees Ji Eun again, but I honestly didn’t care for that weird combative beat where they’re both attending the same aerial yoga class, and Sang Eun makes it a point to show off how advanced she is.

Funny that was just ok

E6. The three-way conversation in the stairwell, between Sang Eun, Ji Ho and Hae Jin, where they have to take turns waving their arms around to keep the lights on, is kind of silly, but quite entertaining, nevertheless.

Funny that worked for me

E4. Ok, although I’ve mentioned that Show doesn’t have a sense of humor that I feel I can jive with, I did genuinely enjoy that moment when Ji Ho’s waving his arms around like they’re octopus tentacles, under Sang Eun’s coaching, and then Sang Eun falls on top of him for a moment of hyper-proximity.

It’s stupid-ridiculous, but it works. That turned from silly-comic to breath-in-throat crackly really quickly, and I liked that a lot. 😁

Sang Eun brushing it off with some lame explanation was just ok for me, but Ji Ho’s startled, bemused expression, which he tries to wipe off his face with his hands, is so great. I luff him. 🤩

[END SPOILER]

STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH

Show’s feints towards darkness

For reasons that escape me, Show has a habit of feinting towards darkness, every once in a while.

I’m guessing that Show’s just trying to play with us, and have some fun, but.. I don’t think it worked very well. In fact, I thought the inclusion of the fake-dark moments made the watch experience somewhat whiplashy.

My strategy was to just bear with it, while trying my best to pretend that it’s not there. 😅

Here’s the fake-dark, for the record.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. Show keeps “hinting” that Ji Ho might be some kind of stalker or serial killer, when he’s absolutely neither of those things.

E3. I found it quite pointless for Show to have Hae Jin’s mother (Yang Jeong A) rummaging in his apartment in the dark like some kind of thief in the night. If Show meant it for Funny, it didn’t work – at least for me. 😅

And there’s the way Sang Eun’s attacked by Helmet Dude as well; it feels kind of out of place in this rom-com drama world.

[END SPOILER]

The overall writing of our story

Overall, I’d say that the writing was a mixed bag for me as well.

The reason the writing is in this section, is because, even though there were some bright spots, I felt that I didn’t like quite a few of Show’s writing decisions, particularly in Show’s second half, which seriously hampered my ability to enjoy my watch.

Yes, that means that I feel like the writing’s largely to blame, for Show slumping in its second half, after a moderately promising first half.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Generally speaking, I’m not hot on how Show heads straight to Complication City – on an express train – as soon as our OTP is minted, at the end of episode 9.

This did not make for a fun watch, especially in a show where the OTP loveline is advertised as the Main Attraction. 😅

Aside from this, there are two specific things that I’d like to talk about, where I found the writing to be less than satisfying.

The first thing

I was not pleased at all, with the way Show handles the thing where Sang Eun’s face gets splashed all over the media, thanks to paparazzi capturing that shot of her on Hae Jin’s shoulder.

In the moment, in episode 10, which is where it happens, I was horrified, because this promised to open an entire can of worms – and then some! – and I was deeply curious to know how Show intended to clean up this mess.

In my mind, it was horrifying for Sang Eun, who never wanted to get involved in Hae Jin’s life to begin with, and arguably potentially even more horrifying for Ji Ho, whose colleagues are now seeing his wife in the media, as someone else’s supposed fiancée.

HOWEVER. Show basically brushes off this edge-of-your-seat cliffhanger, as if it’s just a small speck of dust, and that did NOT work well for me.

I found episode 11 somewhat underwhelming as a whole, and I’m pretty sure that almost the entire reason, is because I’d expected THINGS to happen, after episode 10’s cliffhanger.

I mean, after splashing Sang Eun’s face all over the media, I figured that surely – SURELY! – there would be consequences, and I was very curious to see how Show planned to deal with it all, because it seemed like there would be many consequences, on multiple fronts, that would need to be dealt with.

The biggest one that I was interested in (quite naturally, given my fondness for Ji Ho), was how in the world was Show going to make it ok, that his wife’s face was all over the media, as someone else’s fiancée??

With all that in mind, I was waiting for – and focused on! – the moment that Stuff would hit the fan, to see how Show would manage it all.

..And it never materialized. 😒

Essentially, Show gets over the whole thing by making it such that the pictures are blurry enough, that people can’t be sure of Sang Eun’s identity, and so, only Investigator Kim (Park Kyung Hye), at Ji Ho’s office, makes the connection – but nobody believes her.

And because Sang Eun’s pictures are blurry, there’s no real impact on her contract engagement with Hae Jin because of this incident, in the sense that Sang Eun’s identity isn’t outed to the public – at least, not by these paparazzi photos.

It doesn’t help that Show backs up the timeline, to show us the various encounters and conversations that Ji Ho and Sang Eun have, leading up to the paparazzi photos, because that basically had me watching with bated breath, essentially for an explosion that never came.

Somewhere around the halfway mark of this episode, I concluded with finality, that Show had tossed a red herring at us, and the whole paparazzi thing was basically a Non Event.

I was rather peeved about this, because I felt like I’d been played, but also, I was distracted as well, because I was waiting for something that didn’t quite come, and so I had to work extra hard, to get myself to focus on what was happening on my screen, rather than puzzle over what wasn’t happening on my screen.

Can you see why I felt disgruntled about the whole thing??

The second thing

Well, I guess you could call this 2.5 things, because it’s not just a single thing. 😅

First, there’s how Show introduces a Truck of Doom at the end of episode 12, when Ji Ho makes his way to meet Madam Yoo (Jin Kyung).

I facepalmed at the tropeyness of it all, that a Truck of Doom would have to be deployed at all.

The second thing I rolled my eyes at, is how the accident creates a narrative detour, so that we get almost a full episode of regular OTP stuff, before we get the reveal, for why Ji Ho had asked to see Madam Yoo in the first place.

That detour felt wayyy too long, and made me feel impatient with whatever was on my screen, unfortunately.

And thennn. There’s the reveal itself, that Madam Yoo is Sang Eun’s mother, which I have many disgruntled thoughts about, which I will discuss later in this review, when I talk about Madam Yoo as a character.

[END SPOILER]

Logic stretches and lapses

Like I mentioned earlier in this review, logic isn’t Show’s strong suit, and it’s best to be prepared for logic stretches and lapses.

Here are a few things that didn’t make sense to me, just for the record.

[SPOILER ALERT]

1. Sang Eun agreeing to contract marry Ji Ho in the first place, without even knowing his job.

Thanks to my friend Paroma for pointing this inconsistency out; after she talked about it, I couldn’t unsee it. 😅

I know it’s to create the initial gag mystery, but it really doesn’t line up with Sang Eun’s supposed strict vetting policy, when agreeing to take on contract husbands.

2. Sang Eun managing to go 13 whole years before her contract marriages explode in her face.

E11. Given how the internet works, it’s also not terribly surprising that the whole thing blows up, with more and more people who had met Sang Eun in her previous contract marriages, coming forward to add their two cents to the picture, on how they’d known her, and whom she’d been married to.

While this is quite horrifying to see unfold, I also couldn’t help thinking that, in this internet age, it’s a legit miracle, really, that Sang Eun’s managed to be in so many contract marriages, and made so many social appearances as someone’s wife, and not have everything collide and implode, much sooner.

I mean, it’s only taken, what, 13 years, for her contract marriage career to explode in her face? That’s some amazing lasting power, if you think about it? 😅

3. Sang Eun blowing her own cover story, right after creating it.

E12. I do rather like Show’s chosen way of handling the scandal; to run with the truth and build a concept around the truth, rather than try to deny everything. That’s more upfront and candid than I’d expected, so I’m pretty impressed.

Also, I’m quite pleased that Ji Eun’s plan of emphasizing the passionate love between Hae Jin and Sang Eun doesn’t stop Sang Eun from initiating the break-up stage. This is much earlier than I’d expected, and I suspect that this is also much earlier than Ji Eun had expected too.

I rather like Sang Eun’s cover story for this; that while Hae Jin is sincere in his love towards her, she’s overwhelmed by the scrutiny, and thus initiated the breakup. Nicely played, Sang Eun.

What I don’t quite get, though, is the way Sang Eun shows up to Ji Ho’s office gathering, which is Investigator Kim’s birthday celebration, and then proceeds to tell them the truth about her work as a contract wife.

Uhm.. Doesn’t this truth interfere with the version of the truth that’s been released to the media..? I’d have thought that the real truth would have to be protected, so that it doesn’t leak out, even accidentally?

But no, Show seems to want to give this a convenient resolution, and the office folks aren’t even that shocked or surprised, at Sang Eun’s explanation, which I found.. rather odd.

Fine, whatever. I suppose I can close my eyes to this strange webtoon-esque treatment of this aspect of the story, if it serves our OTP relationship, which it does. 😅

[END SPOILER]

SPOTLIGHT ON CHARACTERS / RELATIONSHIPS

Go Kyung Pyo as Ji Ho

Y’know, there was a time, earlier in my drama journey, when I would’ve probably found a male lead like Ji Ho rather underwhelming.

I tended to like my male leads more fierce, badass and smoldery, and Ji Ho is the opposite of that.

But, something’s happened to me in the last several years, and I don’t know what it is, but I now have this huge soft spot for the shy, dorky type of male lead, and that is exactly what Ji Ho is.

From early on in my watch, I found myself gravitating towards Ji Ho as a character; there’s an earnest quality about his quiet reticence, and I just.. like him.

And, Go Kyung Pyo brings out all these quiet, earnest, awkward, dorky layers SO well, in all his little ticks and quirks.

I ended up loving Ji Ho, so dang much, because of how Go Kyung Pyo plays him.

Whenever Show was disappointing or perplexing me on other fronts, most of the time, I could count on Ji Ho to be the bright spot that made me feel like this show was worth watching, in spite of its flaws.

Also, to Show’s credit, the more I learned about Ji Ho and what made him tick, the more I found my heart going out to him.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E3. Ji Ho’s struck me as someone who’s socially awkward, but who is trying to get out of his comfort zone and trying to improve his social skills, even though it makes him extremely uncomfortable, and that already endears him to me.

This episode, we learn that he’s been either married, or in a serious relationship before, and that she’d left, because she’d felt that everything was his fault. And, he’d agreed with her, looking really sad.

Ack. That really made my heart go out to him, because in almost all cases, a relationship breaks down because of both parties, and isn’t the fault of just one person.

E3. I love that dorky physical comedy, when he’s got his arm around Sang Eun, and twists his body in that ridiculous angle, to try to get his house slippers on without letting go of her.

Hahahaha! I love it. Go Kyung Pyo does have a knack for physical comedy, I do think. 😁

E3. Ji Ho is already my favorite character in this drama world.

Despite Sang Eun hitting him where it hurts, Ji Ho goes to great lengths to investigate Helmet Dude, in order to keep her safe.

Guh. This makes me love him more.

E5. The more I learn about Ji Ho, the more my heart goes out to him; I just can’t help it.

This episode, we learn that his ex-wife (Lee Joo Bin) had given him alimony, so that she could go through the divorce without fault, and he’d decided to use that alimony to engage Sang Eun’s services; to spend the money on someone who’s completely different from his ex-wife.

And, even though Ji Ho doesn’t articulate any personal desire or need in this arrangement, other than the fact that he wants to get rid of the money, and thinks that this is a meaningful way to spend it, I do think that the business arrangement element provides Ji Ho with a sense of safety.

I think it’s something that would appeal extra to someone like him, who’s not naturally good with people, and who’s been hurt before.

I also appreciate the detail, that Ji Ho hadn’t proactively looked into Sang Eun’s background, and instead had found out about her business in a purely serendipitous manner.

That actually feels more in line with his personality, come to think of it.

At the time, he just didn’t have a strong enough interest in Sang Eun, to go out of his way to look into her background.

But I would believe that he would be intrigued enough to pick up her name card, after overhearing her conversation with Gwang Nam.

E6. Aw. Poor Ji Ho, following Sang Eun up into the mountains in his dress shoes and office wear, and then hurting his ankle, and even falling down on another hiker. 😅

What a rough time he has, just to get Sang Eun to agree to drop by his apartment, to give him advice on what to do about the housewarming party that he finds himself having to throw.

On that note, I just wanted to say that Go Kyung Pyo really is doing very well with the various spots of physical comedy that he’s being given, in Ji Ho’s character.

Those moments of Funny are tied to Ji Ho being awkward in his own skin, and Go Kyung Pyo manages to bring out that awkwardness, in all of his various movements – like how Ji Ho falls down on the slope, while hiking after Sang Eun.

He makes it look like a natural extension of Ji Ho’s awkward personality, and I feel like that’s pretty hard to do. Nicely done, I say. 🤩

E7. Y’know, the more I learn about Ji Ho, the more my heart goes out to him. He’s a precious cinnamon roll who should be protected at all costs – is how I feel about him right now.

Honestly, I’d been ready to just accept that Ji Ho’s reserved nature and his social awkwardness were just naturally a part of him; I didn’t need Show to provide any kind of explanation for it.

But, Show does provide an explanation, this episode, and I feel more sympathetic towards him than ever.

What a horribly painful backstory, that he’d lost his father at a young age, and then had to adapt to being an unwanted fourth child in his aunt’s family, where he was taught to be quiet and just accept the way things and people were, if he didn’t want to be hated.

Gurgle. I can just feel his spirit being crushed, in those few scenes that we get, in that flashback. 😭

I can see how that translated into his present persona, where he mostly keeps quiet and doesn’t speak unless absolutely necessary.

That’s not his natural state at all; it’s learned behavior that he’s practiced for years, while growing up as the unwanted outsider in his aunt’s family. 💔

E9. I do appreciate the flashback that we get, to how Ji Ho had gotten to know Ji Eun, and how they’d become close, despite Ji Ho’s acquired tendency for extreme reticence.

And it makes a lot of sense, that it would be a perceived threat to Ji Eun, that would get Ji Ho to even get involved in her life. It makes sense, too, that Ji Eun’s own isolation and need for an ally, caused her to reach out to Ji Ho, to establish a connection.

It’s actually quite sad, to see that even then, Ji Eun’s different way of looking at things, and her casual honesty about her thoughts – that you can only love if you’ve been loved before – had hurt Ji Ho in such a deep way.

It makes me sad to think that Ji Ho had likely held on to this relationship out of loyalty, for a long time, even though he hadn’t exactly been happy in it.

I’m just glad that Ji Ho doesn’t allow her to take control of the situation, like she makes to, though.

The way he ignores her so plainly, while speaking only to Sang Eun, and then taking Sang Eun’s hand, to leave with Sang Eun, is quite gratifying to watch, I have to admit.

I know, I know; it’s actually rather rude of Ji Ho, but given how Ji Eun’s hurt him, I can’t help wanting her to ignore her as pointedly as possible. 😅

[END SPOILER]

Park Min Young as Sang Eun

I have to be honest; I can’t say Sang Eun is a favorite character, even though she is our female lead.

There’s just something about the way she’s written, that doesn’t pop as true or organic.

What I mean is, writer-nim has clearly made Sang Eun as perfect as possible on the surface, and then added in a few key flaws, so that Sang Eun isn’t actually perfect, but it just doesn’t mesh in a way that feels believable, to me.

As a result, Sang Eun feels like an uneven patchwork of a character to me, which is, well, not great.

While I do think that Park Min Young’s been typecast of late, in this type of overly polished, perfect-looking woman sort of role, I do think that it makes story sense for Sang Eun to be polished and perfect-looking, and so, I think the casting is on-point, in that sense.

And even though there were times where I struggled to like Sang Eun’s behavior as a character, I will concede that Show does a decent job of softening those edges, so that by the end, she’s more likable than not.

Also, to address the elephant in the room, yes, I do think that Park Min Young’s lost too much weight in this role, but:

1, she’s been looking more filled out and healthier in recent released photos, so phew, and

2, I’ve also become quite skinny recently, without actually trying to lose weight, so I feel like I shouldn’t criticize her too much for it either, if I can’t keep the weight on myself. 🙈😅

Here’s a selective deep dive, that I hope will shed more light on why I feel the way I do, about Sang Eun as a character.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. It’s clear that Sang Eun’s hiding some pretty far-reaching emotional wounds, as she lives her polished role-playing life.

Sometimes, she does come across as a bit detached, probably because of that.

At the same time, we also see that she’s got heart, and will extend herself to help someone else, out of sympathy – like how she’d married (and divorced) Gwang Nam (Kang Hyoung Suk), and then became his legit friend and roommate, long after the contract was over.

And so, she’s not just about business.

Which also appears to be the case with Ji Ho, her very long-time, very reticent client.

E2. It does make me feel rather sorry for Sang Eun, that she’s lived with so much resentment towards Madam Yoo all these years, even though it looks like Madam Yoo cares for her much more than she thinks.

On that note, it does feel like there’s a distinct note of loneliness coming through, with Sang Eun.

Even though she’s not technically alone, because she lives with Gwang Nam, she still has that aura of isolation about her, I feel like.

Maybe that’s why she’s so reluctant to let go of her contract with Ji Ho?

And, I do think that Gwang Nam hits a raw nerve with her, when he surmises that she’s upset, not because she’s embarrassed about being dumped, but because she’s sad about being abandoned.

It sure feels like Sang Eun has abandonment issues, that we don’t fully understand yet.

E2. I feel like the more we see of Sang Eun, the more we see how she loses her cool, when her emotions are involved.

I mean, just look at the way she insists on completing the contract with Ji Ho, and insists on doing all the cooking, when there’s really no reason that she do either of those things.

Plus, Sang Eun’s even dreaming about Ji Ho, this episode, with Dream Ji Ho coming to her rescue at a nightclub, with fancy fight moves, and a casual use of the term 여보 (yeobo) to address her, while saying that he’s hungry and they should go get something to eat.

This basically signals hidden feelings for Ji Ho, doesn’t it, even if those feelings are hidden from Sang Eun herself? 😁

E3. While I do feel sympathetic towards Sang Eun, I admit that I actually have moments when I find her annoying &/or unreasonable.

Like the way she leaves a mess when she cooks at Ji Ho’s house. I get that the mess is supposed to be a sign that she’s been brought up as a chaebol princess and isn’t used to picking up after herself, but it seems highly unprofessional of her to leave a mess?

And also, there’s the way she leaves a mess in Hae Jin’s apartment, after asking him for an oversized shirt to change into.

She barely knows him, and leaves his bathroom a wreck, with her clothes strewn on the floor, when he’s the one who’d helped her avoid getting hurt by Helmet Dude?

Well, that just seems rude, to me. And honestly, I would expect that someone like Sang Eun would have the sense to know when to let her untidy instincts loose, and when to overrule them, and force some neatness to the surface, in the name of manners, if nothing else.

I don’t know if Show was gunning for Funny with this, but it kinda rubbed me the wrong way, and makes me recoil somewhat, from liking Sang Eun more naturally. 😅

Plus, when Hae Jin calls to ask for his shirt back, she acts like he’s overstepping his boundaries and being petty, which makes me roll my eyes, because that’s so messed up, to me.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I also found that when Sang Eun asks Ji Ho for legal advice on Helmet Dude, the way she gets offended at his matter-of-fact answer didn’t sit right with me.

I mean, it’s true that someone more socially aware might have taken more care with his phrasing, but she’s asking him a question in his professional capacity, and he’s providing that answer, in a matter-of-fact, logical sort of way.

The way she gets visibly hurt and offended by his words feels a bit of an overreaction, to me. I mean, she should know by now, that Ji Ho’s not the best with social interactions, right, after having been fake-married to him for the last 5 years?

The fact that she tells him that she realizes that she prefers when he didn’t speak as much, makes me feel extra protective of Ji Ho, because that’s hitting him where it really hurts. 💔

E3. That said, there are things about Sang Eun that I like, like the way she seems to have a genuine respect and affection for her past clients.

The way she puts away the rings, while thinking of each of her clients, tells me that she does care about them as people, and that’s nice.

E4. It says a lot, that Sang Eun would essentially liquidate everything she has, in order to bail out Madam Yoo, with whom she’s said that she would like nothing to do with. Sang Eun’s definitely got more emotional ties to Madam Yoo than she would like to admit.

And also, Sang Eun’s kinder and more compassionate than she would like to admit, as well.

That lines up with the way she takes on that last minute job with her ex-client (Ko Gun Han), even though she’s officially not taking any more clients, because she understands the delicacy of his situation, and how his family had believed that he had been married to her for real.

Not only that, there is compassion in her eyes, as she gives him that letter that Mom had written to her, and there’s also the way she accepts his payment for her time, then quietly drops the envelope into the donation box, when no one is looking.

This definitely helps to endear Sang Eun to me, despite the other things that I’ve mentioned that bug me.

Overall, I’d say that I’m generally convinced of the idea that Sang Eun is a flawed heroine, even though I find it hard to buy the logic of at least some of her flaws (like the rude messiness thing).

THAT SAID. I have to admit that I didn’t like Sang Eun very much, with the way she responds to both Ji Ho and Hae Jin, when they determine together, that Helmet Dude is stalking Hae Jin,  and has misunderstood his relationship with Sang Eun, rather than targeting Sang Eun for herself.

The way she makes her conclusions to Ji Ho and Hae Jin – that 1, she didn’t get attacked because she deserved it (her words, not Ji Ho’s, might I add), and 2, Hae Jin doesn’t have to feel bad about not giving his shirt to someone who got attacked because of him.

Gah. I find the whole way she says this, to be so smoothly self-righteous, that I want to reconsider my affection for her all over again.

See, these are the types of moments when I find myself pricking with dislike for Sang Eun, and have to actively remind myself that she’s got her positive traits too, and is just flawed, flawed, flawed. 😅

I’m also hoping that Show does the thing, where, as we get to know her better, we’ll get to understand and like Sang Eun better too.

E5. I’m mollified that Sang Eun gets all mad at Hae Jin for thrusting her into the limelight as his supposed fiancée without discussing it with her.

That was my exact problem with how he’d dragged her into his situation, and I was also very peeved with how he tells her that he’d like to sign a contract with her, as if she would definitely agree, just because he makes the demand (and yes, it lands as a demand to me, not a request).

I was very pleased that Sang Eun tells him off and makes to leave, never mind what kind of mess he’s gotten himself into, because it’s true that he should be ready to face the consequences of his actions.

At the same time, I appreciate that it’s Sang Eun’s compassion that leads her to eventually agree to sign a contract with him; not because he demands it, but because there’s something about his eventual plea, that he really needs her, that resonates with her.

E7. We do get some backstory as to why Madam Yoo had appeared to pick Sang Eun out at an orphanage – it is exactly as Show had indicated; that’s exactly what Madam Yoo had done, so that the Chairman of Ina Group could adopt her and groom her as marriage leverage.

Woahhh. So Sang Eun had literally been picked out to be groomed as the perfect chaebol bride?

It’s little wonder that that had messed her up, because she literally only had value as far as her suitability as a chaebol bridge went.

I can understand why Sang Eun ended up choosing to be a contract wife, in order to pay back her debt to Madam Yoo.

It’s absolutely a form of rebellion, as well as a way for her to gain her independence, isn’t it?

[END SPOILER]

Ji Ho and Sang Eun

Even though the writing around the OTP was somewhat affected by the general uneven writing that afflicted this whole show, I still count this OTP as one of the highlights of my watch.

A big part of it was dorky Ji Ho coming to realize, and grapple with, his growing feelings for Sang Eun.

That, combined with my goodwill for the endearing dork that is Ji Ho, made this watch feel quite worthwhile, even though there was a good amount of stuff in this drama that weren’t my favorite.

Here’s an overview of the various highlights to do with the growth and development of this OTP loveline.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. As a professional, there’s nothing stopping Sang Eun from just coming out and telling Ji Ho that she’s retiring, and therefore needs to end their contract.

But, she keeps putting it off and coming up with excuses which lean pretty lame (because he made salmon steak, which is her favorite, for example), so that she can delay the inevitable, just a little longer.

Even if Sang Eun doesn’t admit it – and perhaps she’s not even cognizant of it – I’d say that there’s something that makes her reluctant to say goodbye to Ji Ho.

E2. Ji Ho certainly looks hyper-aware of Sang Eun, in the flashbacks that we see from his perspective, which I do like the idea of, very much. 🤩

I’d buy that, and I’d also buy that because Ji Ho is so stoic all the time, Sang Eun hasn’t picked up on his affection for her, all this time, either.

But now, Ji Ho’s actually stepping out of his comfort zone, and calling Sang Eun 여보 (yeobo) in front of Hae Jin, and saying that he’s hungry – oooh.

Could we then say that Sang Eun’s dream is coming true, literally? 😁

E3. It makes so much sense that as a judge in the family court, Ji Ho would oversee many divorce cases, where both parties often blame each other for the breakdown of the marriage.

It’s no wonder he’d taken notice of Sang Eun, and become intrigued by her, after seeing her appear in court for several divorces, and taking the full blame each time.

On that note, I just wanted to say that I would believe that Sang Eun would have no impression of him, even though he’d presided over several of her divorces.

Most people don’t tend to specifically notice or remember people whom they come across in the “service provider” space, and although I understand a judge is not exactly a service provider, he kinda-sorta is, to her, at least?

She’s there to get the divorce settled, and this isn’t even an actual emotional event for her; it’s just a job that she needs to do. And we also see that she doesn’t even look in the direction of the judge, during each hearing.

And it’s not like Ji Ho’s got a name that’s particularly out of the ordinary either.

All that to say, yes, I’d believe Sang Eun wouldn’t remember Ji Ho, and I’d believe that Ji Ho would become intrigued and curious enough about Sang Eun, to find out more about her – and thereafter engage her services as a contract wife.

E3. It feels sweetly sacrificial, that Ji Ho thinks to initiate the divorce with Sang Eun, so that she would not be the party at fault, for at least one of her divorces.

Guh. I think I love Ji Ho already. He might be socially awkward in quite an extreme way, but that sweet thoughtfulness that’s on the inside is coming through, and I am melting. 🫠

Plus, there’s his instinct to speak up for and protect Sang Eun as his wife, even though they are literally on their last day as a contract couple.

I find it very notable that Sang Eun looks quite shyly delighted when (a) she hears that Ji Ho’s a judge, and (b) he puts his arm around her.

I totally see the hearts in her eyes already, which means that these two are mutually crushing on each other, aren’t they?

Aw. I’m now officially rooting for this OTP, because they are so cute in their mutual crushes. 😁

I do love how they are starting to talk more over dinner, and I like how they’re both reluctant for their final dinner to end. Clearly, they’d both like to continue to have a reason to spend time in each other’s company, and that’s sweet.

E4. I feel strangely comforted by the fact that Ji Ho has Sang Eun on his side, to back up his story, and work hand in hand with him, even if it’s to create a fake marriage front to pacify his boss.

The whole side story of Sang Eun’s pregnancy feels rather randomly out there for no good reason, but Ji Ho’s eyes about to pop out of his head with shock and discombobulation, is so great, that I’m willing to roll with it.

Also, even though Ji Ho does start the ruse without Sang Eun’s explicit permission, he is speaking the truth, when he introduces Sang Eun as his wife. At this point, they aren’t divorced, and they are legally married, literally.

Plus, Sang Eun actually expresses that she’s glad that she gets to play her role properly for once, so that definitely takes off any edge that might have come from Ji Ho not discussing this with Sang Eun prior.

I do like seeing Sang Eun and Ji Ho talk more easily now, compared to before, and even though it’s baby steps, I like the idea that Ji Ho’s becoming more comfortable with opening up to Sang Eun now.

Also, yay that they’re officially going to finish the contract now, instead of cutting it short. Anything for these two to have an official reason to spend time together, y’know? 😁

I also like the idea of Sang Eun helping Ji Ho overcome his social awkwardness, because this gives them something to work on together, and I just like the idea of them getting closer, as they do that. 🥰

E5. I am quite taken by the sight of Ji Ho grappling with the idea that he might have special feelings for Sang Eun.

There’s the way he can’t stop thinking about her and why she hasn’t texted him back, and how he can’t help but be affected by any news of Hae Jin, because Hae Jin’s fake-dating Sang Eun.

It’s sad-cute that he has so little self-awareness that he can’t even pick up on these clues, and needs to see his counselor (Bae Hae Sun), for her to point these out to him.

Aw, baby. You’re in such need of help, seriously. 😅

And, there’s also how he’s so determined to find Helmet Dude, that he mistakes Sang Eun for Helmet Dude when she’s dressed in that delivery outfit that Hae Jin lends her.

I had to giggle at how Ji Ho goes out of his way to trap and overcome “Helmet Dude,” only for Sang Eun to successfully land on her feet, when he tries to flip her.

Tee hee. It’s so ridiculous that he would mistake her for Helmet Dude, because she’s so much smaller than Helmet Dude, but I suppose that’s how concerned he is, that she’d been attacked.

And, Ji Ho’s conversation skills are awkward enough on a regular day when he’s not feeling stressed, but with his anxiety around Sang Eun, and his potential feelings for her, it’s not surprising that he would end up upsetting her with his choice of words.

Again, I do think that Sang Eun should know by now, that Ji Ho’s just not very good with his words, but this episode, it’s becoming clearer to me, that her choice of job, and her perception of the kind of work that she does, is a bit of a raw nerve for her.

She needs to believe that she’s doing something meaningful, rather than selling herself out for money, and so, when Ji Ho talks to her about their arrangement in money terms, it hits her exactly where it hurts, which is why she gets so upset with him.

And, I do think it hurts all the more, because, as much as she’s in denial, Sang Eun has feelings for Ji Ho, and has been entertaining the idea that he might have feelings for her as well.

E5. I’m very taken by the fact that Ji Ho seeks out Sang Eun at her apartment, after waiting in vain for her to show up for her supposed last day of work.

It’s times like this, when Ji Ho lets his feelings come through, with that smoldery intensity that he can’t help, that he becomes extra swoony.

“Why didn’t you come to work on Friday? Ms. Choi Sang Eun. You’re don’t work like this. I have been waiting.”

Eee! It’s no wonder Sang Eun looks rather discombobulated. And, it’s just icing on the cake, that in the background, we can see Gwang Nam swooning openly, at broody-intense Ji Ho.

That’s Gwang Nam being all of us, heh. I love it. 😁

E6. Even though Sang Eun is still a bit peeved with Ji Ho, I appreciate that they have that conversation in his apartment, where he manages to pick up on her peevishness, and admits that there’s a problem with the way he speaks.

That’s so helpful, just to get it out into the open between them, that I feel a stab of relief, that at least it’s a mutually acknowledged thing now, and that hopefully, this means that Sang Eun will grant him a bit more grace in this area, going forward.

Plus, I do think it helps that Ji Ho presents the situation as him really needing her help – that fits in nicely with Sang Eun’s preference, to think of her work as providing a meaningful service for those who need it.

E6. I really liked the scenes around Sang Eun and Ji Ho shopping together, and getting ready for the housewarming party for his colleagues.

It’s such a cute little highlight reel, it looks like they’re on a real date, with the way they’re picking out things for the house.

And that little photoshoot segment is so great, because I love seeing together in the same frame, and I really like how the photos bring out Ji Ho’s dorkiness, while balancing that out with Sang Eun’s confidence in front of the camera.

She really does balance him out very well, and I like that it shows, even in photographs.

Of course, along the way, it’s nice to see them getting closer too.

On that note, trust Show to throw in a moment of hyper-proximity and hyper-awareness, with Ji Ho trying to smack a mosquito in the car, of all things.

It’s kinda random, but I’m getting the idea that Show plans to be rather random with these hyper-proximity moments, at least for now, and I shouldn’t fight it. 😁

More than that, I like how they’re opening up to each other, bit by bit.

The part where they learn that they’re both orphans, feels kind of significant, like they’re identifying with each other in a stronger manner, because of it.

And, it feels like a big step, too, for Ji Ho to tell Sang Eun about his past love and his marriage, although he doesn’t provide details. For someone as private as Ji Ho, this feels like a huge step.

How significant, that just hearing this little tidbit about Ji Ho and his first love, has Sang Eun out of sorts, until the next day.

I thought the whole housewarming thing was low-key entertaining, mainly because it was just nice to see Sang Eun and Ji Ho in a couple’s space, while with other people.

Sang Eun having so many hidden talents is in line with her character, though it did feel a bit like overkill, past a certain point. 😅

And then, Ji Ho spoiling the mood by insisting that Sang Eun was more deserving of the win than Investigator Kim, is totally in line with his awkward character too, oops. 😅

E7. A large part of my enjoyment of the show right now, is watching Ji Ho come out of his shell, as he grapples with his growing feelings for Sang Eun.

Along with that, there’s his growing jealousy as well, over Sang Eun spending time with Hae Jin, on other days of the week.

The other half of this equation, is, of course, Sang Eun also grappling with her feelings for Ji Ho.

Clearly, she likes him, but it’s complicated by the fact that he’s her client. She needs to remain professional, even as she processes the fact that she likes him, and that’s tricky, as we see.

For example, even though I’m sure both she and Ji Ho rather like the look of the newlywed home that Sang Eun had created for the housewarming, it’s only professional, that she remove everything and put everything back in its place, and it’s only professional, that Ji Ho let her do so.

I feel for Ji Ho; he’s clearly grappling with real feelings for Sang Eun, and every time she mentions anything professional – read: her doing stuff for other guys – he gets so jealous and uncomfortable.

I thought it was a pretty organic touch, that Ji Ho cut short the whole removal process, because he’s unable to keep his cool thinking about Sang Eun doing all this for other men – which then gives us that entire dressing room thing, where Sang Eun’s bought a whole new wardrobe for him, and he actually starts to explore wearing the clothes.

Very nicely done, I thought.

And it really is such a natural thing, too, that a wife picks out clothes for her husband that he might not ordinarily wear. That definitely makes his newlywed story that much more believable – not just to others, but to himself as well.

I can tell that Ji Ho’s really starting to sink into and revel in the illusion that he and Sang Eun really are a newlywed couple, and I feel like I’m on that rollercoaster with him

Whenever he sinks into that illusion and looks content and happy about it, I’m happy for him too; and then whenever he gets rudely woken up from his reverie, I feel it too. 😅

E7. I feel bad for Ji Ho about the whole tie thing, because Sang Eun had clearly bought that tie, intending to give it to him, and had only changed her mind because he’d gone and bought the exact same tie for himself – in the spirit of being more adventurous, under her tutelage.

How very unfortunate, really, because he’d bought that tie with HER in mind too, ironically.

And this ultimately comes around to smack him in the face, because Sang Eun ends up giving it to Hae Jin as an afterthought, because she doesn’t want to give Ji Ho something that he already has.

AND THEN. Hae Jin has to make it public, that his fiancée had given him that tie, which hits Ji Ho where it really, really hurts. Aw. Poor Ji Ho. 😅

I do like that Ji Ho’s working to become more open with Sang Eun, like the way he tries to tell her that he’s a normal guy who feels the things that other guys do.

The fact that Sang Eun asks if he’d like to talk more about it, at his place, feels like a very personal – read: not work-related – invitation.

Things take an unexpected turn when Ji Ho downs that whiskey that Sang Eun pours him, but wow, does that gives us an unexpected moment of honesty!

First, we have Sang Eun leaning over him, as if she’s about to kiss him, and touching his eyebrow and remarking that he’s got such pretty eyebrows.

AND THEN. We have the barely-conscious wrist grab, where Ji Ho makes to stop Sang Eun from leaving.

“Sang Eun-sshi. It’s because I felt uncomfortable. I was worried you wouldn’t come to my place because you feel uncomfortable. So I pretended to not care. I… I was afraid that you might grow to hate me.”

Eee! This is an almost-confession, isn’t it??

And, beyond the words themselves, I have to admit that I’m quite taken by the gravelly, slightly cracky, nature of Ji Ho’s voice, as he says all this to Sang Eun.

That just makes Ji Ho’s words land as extra raw, honest and vulnerable, and I love that.

Sang Eun’s not the only one who can’t help but smile in the face of this. I’m smiling too. 🥰

E8. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel the kind of secondhand embarrassment that I usually do, when Sang Eun fishes for confirmation that Ji Ho doesn’t remember his tipsy wrist-grab and semi-confession – only for Ji Ho to deadpan that he remembers all of it.

I think it’s probably because I’m so taken with Ji Ho’s unabashed confirmation that he does remember, that any and all potential secondhand embarrassment just doesn’t register on the brain anymore? 😅

Plus, there’s also the thing Ji Ho’s matter-of-fact and sweet, as he says that he’d said something that he hadn’t planned to say.

Also, the way he deadpans that he smiles often, is cute, and while I can’t tell if he does that on purpose, to put Sang Eun at ease, I just like how it lands. It really does make Sang Eun smile and relax, and so, that feels like a win for Ji Ho, whether it’s on purpose or not.

Ha, but then again, there’s also how Ji Ho points out that he also remembers her saying that his eyebrows are pretty, and that she must be crazy – which makes me think that his earlier spot of sweetness, has been completely accidental. 😅

And, how hilarious, really, that we see that Ji Ho had actually practiced what to say to Sang Eun, and in the courtroom, no less.

Honestly, I’d thought that that was some kind of fantasy sequence, the way Ji Ho’s talking to an empty, semi-darkened courtroom – which just makes it all the funnier, to realize that this actually happened. Pwahaha! 🤣

The whole thing of Sang Eun and Ji Ho dancing between the lines of personal and professional really is tricky.

I mean, I can see why Sang Eun would be matter-of-fact about her feelings, and tell Ji Ho that she plans to just leave them be, and that he shouldn’t be burdened, and that they should spend their remaining time well.

That’s to remain professional.

BUT, that just puts the brakes on anything developing on the personal front, doesn’t it? At least officially?

It’s awkward and delicate, and I can just feel this being an undercurrent to the rest of their interactions, this episode.

I really enjoyed their golf date with the other couples from work, because somehow this added context makes their relationship feel that much more real?

Also, it’s just really nice to see Ji Ho being a sweet husband to Sang Eun.

Some of this stuff really does seem to come naturally to him, with the way he looks out for her to make sure that she won’t fall forward in the golf buggy, and that she’s got a blanket to cover her bare legs.

Then there’s also the way he heroically drinks that awful cup of sikhye for her, which he really didn’t have to do.

The thing that takes the cake, however, is how he notices that Sang Eun’s suffering from some back aches, and then, pieces together that she’s on her period, when she mentions that she needs to head back to the clubhouse for something – and then gives her what she needs, as well as a heat pack, in case she’s suffering from cramps.

My goodness, that’s such a thoughtful, sweet husbandly thing to do, honestly. 🫠 Who woulda thought that Ji Ho had it in him?? I mean, he’s doing all that, without needing to be told or taught anything. I’m very impressed.

It’s no wonder Sang Eun later remarks in the car – with a huge smile on her face – that she thinks Ji Ho’s born with it. 😁

E8. I do hate that those people from Ina Group ask to see Sang Eun, only to tell her that the Chairman (Ahn Suk Hwan) would prefer for her to leave the country, and that if she doesn’t, she’ll find it hard to find work in Korea. UGH.

The nerve of it all! I can see why Sang Eun gets all upset over it.

And, it’s telling, that the person she calls, isn’t anyone else, but Ji Ho. That shows that Ji Ho’s really top of mind, for her, and the person with whom she’d like to share her burdens with – even if it’s on the pretext of just hanging out over comics and tteokbokki.

E8. I’m glad that Sang Eun still does manage to hang out with Ji Ho as planned, despite that interruption by Hae Jin’s mother, and it’s cute that when he shows up for their date in a shirt and tie, she basically forces him to change into something more lounge-worthy.

In particular, I like that when Ji Ho asks Sang Eun whether she’s going overseas as planned, Sang Eun actually tells him that if he asks her not to go, she won’t – and he takes her up on that, by doing just that.

Ahhh! I like how seriously he takes her, and how he doesn’t allow the chance to ask her to stay, to slip away from him, when it presents itself. A decisive male lead is very welcome in my books, always. 😁

It’s just too bad that that whole thing happens, where Sang Eun gets roped into helping Hae Jin, and ends up being photographed entering the hotel with him, while wearing the exact same clothes that she’d left Ji Ho’s apartment in. Oops.

It’s no wonder Ji Ho’s mind gets all up in a twist, when he sees those paparazzi reports in the news.

It’s quite endearing, really, how he gets so sensitive about everything, because he’s so preoccupied with the reports on Sang Eun and Hae Jin.

Beyond how he cutely answers that the food doesn’t taste famous, I like how he takes the advice embedded in all the indirect ribbing to heart, and acts to check in with Sang Eun, on the thing that he doesn’t understand.

There’s something quite swoony about how Ji Ho comes across, in that phone call.

He’s polite, but intent. He’s direct and unabashed, but still measured and logical. I dunno; it comes together in quite a melty way for me, especially, when he listens to Sang Eun’s explanation, accepts it, and then asks to meet her right away, because he just really wants to see her.

Swooonn. 🫠🫠🫠

E9. I’m very much on board with our final beat for the episode, where Sang Eun and Ji Ho finally come face to face and start bickering right away, because all of their jealousies and upset feelings just come spilling out – which is how Ji Ho blurts out that he was going to confess.

Ahahaha. I can buy this idea, that it’s only because Ji Ho’s so upset, that his true feelings come spilling out like this. Without this catalyst, he’d have likely held it all in for a lot longer, I think.

AND, I’m very pleased that this entire wave of honest emotions also drives Ji Ho to grab Sang Eun for a kiss.

Eeee! That was great.

It feels like sweet relief, that all of those pent-up upset emotions, have given way, and resolved themselves in this mutual confirmation of feelings.

And I do love that when Ji Ho pulls back to ask Sang Eun if this answers her question, the next thing Ji Ho does, is go right back in, for more kisses.

I must say, for someone as socially awkward as Ji Ho, guy sure knows how to kiss a girl. 😁

Rawr. 🔥😍❤️

E10. We get a replay of last episode’s sealed-with-a-kiss, and I do love how the after-moment is so full of shy tenderness on both sides. Melt.

I absolutely can believe that in the wake of this, both Sang Eun and Ji Ho wouldn’t be able to wipe the happy smiles from their faces. Honestly, who would, right? Melt. 🫠

The cute-awkward bits are believable yet amusing, with how Sang Eun looks for an excuse to call Ji Ho – “I just wanted to check if you reached home safely” – but she really just wants to talk with him, and Ji Ho takes her completely at face value, and informs her that he’s home safe and therefore she can hang up and go to sleep. HA.

I’m just relieved that Ji Ho’s got enough sense about him, to clarify that he’s just worried because she’d looked tired, and then, adds on via text, that he would like to meet her after work the next day, because Wednesday’s too far away.

Attaboy, Ji Ho!! You managed to be sweet by being your honest straightforward self, you adorkable doofus. 😁

It’s really cute to see Ji Ho basically walking on sunshine, as he goes in to work the next day. His pleasant manner and smiles, although such simple things, are throwing people off in a big way, and that’s quite amusing to me.

He’s basically acting completely different from his usual self, and it gives me the warm fuzzies to think that Sang Eun’s making such a huge difference to Ji Ho’s life, from in the inside out.

E10. It’s also nice to see Ji Ho and Sang Eun spending time together, outside of their usual Monday-Wednesday-Friday arrangement. Or at least, they try to, even though they get interrupted?

It’s a bummer that their golf session-cum-dinner date gets scuttled when they run into Ji Ho’s colleagues, and they end up having to have dinner and drinks with them.

On the upside, we do get a bit of handholding between our newly minted OTP, when Ji Ho reaches for Sang Eun’s hand under the table.

Ahhh. Ji Ho’s surprisingly good with his romantic moves. Is this just him being straightforward, again? 😁

ALSO, the way he calls Sang Eun afterwards, and says that they should make their Wednesday appointment a real date, is quite sweet and romantic too.

The way Sang Eun squees silently (and kinda goofily) to herself, not just over the intended date, but at the sound of his voice, which she now finds even nicer on the ears than ever, is very cute too.

I mean, it just gives me the fuzzies to see them happy, y’know? 🥰

E10. I’m a little bummed that there’s a misunderstanding between Sang Eun and Ji Ho so early in their relationship, thanks to Ji Ho hearing about Ina Group from Ji Eun, and Sang Eun seeing Ji Eun’s stray lipstick at Ji Ho’s apartment.

Ugh. I really wish Ji Ho wouldn’t lie to Sang Eun, and say that no one had been to his apartment, because that’s not helpful at all.

But, I am relieved that they manage to get over this hump, with a promise to each other, to accept each other just as they are.

Aw. I do like that. And it’s an important piece of the foundation of their relationship, so I’m glad that they make this promise to each other early, even though they don’t get around to clearing up the various doubts that they each have, at the moment.

I also like that Sang Eun decides to take Gwang Nam’s advice, and moves to conclude her contract with Hae Jin, as an act of assurance towards Ji Ho.

E11. The thing that I like the most, this episode, is how steady and solid our OTP relationship remains, even when Stuff looks like it’s about to hit the fan.

Even when Ji Ho thinks that Sang Eun’s face is all over the media – and therefore understands that his marriage might come under unwelcome scrutiny – he only cares that Sang Eun is ok, and tells Sang Eun that he trusts her, and will wait for her until things get sorted out.

Seriously, that steadfast trust is incredibly melty, and I love that Ji Ho gives it so naturally and unreservedly, to Sang Eun.

Given how much Ji Ho had been hurt by Ji Eun, while essentially also waiting for her and trusting her to get things sorted, I’m even more touched, that he’s able to remain so tenderhearted, with Sang Eun.

Most people would think twice about trusting others, after having been betrayed, but Ji Ho still chooses to trust Sang Eun, after having been hurt by Ji Eun, and I honestly love that about him.

E11. What I really appreciate in Ji Ho’s reaction to Hae Jin’s words (and this is really one of my personal highlights, this episode), is that instead of acting out with some kind of petty argument with Hae Jin, Ji Ho does some reflection instead, and realizes that he wants to know a lot more about Sang Eun than he currently knows.

The intense, ardent way he lists those almost 500 questions, and then calls Sang Eun to ask to see her, because he’d like to ask her those questions and learn more about her right away, is all kinds of dorky-endearing.

It’s so clear that Ji Ho sincerely, 100% doesn’t care about Hae Jin seeing himself as a romantic rival, or butting his head in to say things that aren’t his business.

All Ji Ho cares about, is Sang Eun, and when he lands on the thought that he really, really wants to know more about her, that’s the thing that he pursues, right away, and with such focused intensity as well. Gosh, I love him.

I’m not surprised that Sang Eun would drop everything to see Ji Ho. I mean, with that kind of unguarded, honest intensity, trained on the fact that he really wants to get to know her better, it’s hard to resist, especially if you’re in Sang Eun’s shoes, yes?

And how sweet, too, that when Sang Eun tells Ji Ho that she’d like to know more about him too, but wants to take it slow, because she hopes that that’s how much time they have together, that Ji Ho immediately decides that he’s going to do that too, and should discard all his questions. Adorable.

The hyper-proximity turning into a proper kissy-touchy make-out session is very naturally played, and I love the idea that Sang Eun and Ji Ho are this comfortable with each other.

And, like I’ve said before, for a guy who’s so socially awkward, Ji Ho’s got some surprisingly sexy moves, when it comes to the romance department. The way he pulls Sang Eun’s leg over his hip, so that she’s basically on top of him, is hawt, y’all. 🔥🫠

Honestly, it looks like things could have easily and naturally escalated to the next level, if Sang Eun hadn’t been interrupted by that call.

But also, trust Show to undercut the sexy with the dorky – and have Ji Ho fall right asleep, while waiting for Sang Eun to come back from her phone call. Ha, talk about going from 100 to 0, energy-wise, in the blink of an eye! 😁

E12. Hands-down, my favorite thing about this episode is very similar to my favorite thing last episode: our OTP demonstrates steadfastness and trust towards each other, even when things look bad and both their reputations could go down the drain.

It still amazes me, as I type this now, that even though Ji Ho’s own career progression and reputation is affected by this entire debacle, he honestly doesn’t seem to care.

All he cares about is whether Sang Eun is alright, whether they, as a couple, are alright, and whether he, as Sang Eun’s significant other, can help her in any way.

My gosh, I love Ji Ho, so much. 😍

Of course, Sang Eun’s very thoughtful and considerate too, and I want to acknowledge that.

When Ji Ho asks her if she’s ok, she replies that she’s not, but the reason that she gives, for not being ok, is all about Hae Jin and Ji Ho, and how she doesn’t want them to suffer any negative consequences from being associated with her.

That’s very selfless, I feel, particularly since it’s Sang Eun’s face that’s all over the media, and her reputation and character that’s being dragged through the mud, especially by anonymous keyboard warriors who think that she’s the worst person to ever walk the earth.

That must be hard to take, and yet, through it all, Sang Eun keeps her primary focus on Ji Ho and Hae Jin, and prioritizes protecting them. My respect for her definitely went up, because of this.

E12. Another favorite OTP moment of mine, this episode, is when Ji Ho calls Sang Eun, while she’s at the cafe.

The fact that he even knows where she’s likely to be, makes me reach for the thought that he knows her better than he had given himself credit for.

And what I love the most, is that when Sang Eun starts to tell him that he should stay away from her, for his own sake, he doesn’t just take it at face value.

He can read the tears in her voice and her face, and he responds to that instead, by walking up to her in the cafe, and asking her if he should stay away from her, or give her a hug.

Awww. How could anyone tell him to stay away, when he puts it that way, right??

I’m so glad that Sang Eun allows herself to lean into his embrace, even though it’s the opposite of what she’d tried to tell him to do.

Gosh, I just love – LOVE! – how intently steadfast Ji Ho is, in his love for Sang Eun. 🥰

How is this dork so sweet and so lovely and so melty-swoony, all at the same time? 😍

E13. On a tangent, it’s giving me pause, that Ji Ho has this information about Madam Yoo, and is taking it to Madam Yoo instead of Sang Eun.

I’m.. not sure how I feel about that, to be honest.

I kind of get that he wants to give Madam Yoo a chance to handle this, in a way that will not hurt Sang Eun, or would at least hurt Sang Eun the least.

At the same time, I kind of also feel that his loyalty is to Sang Eun, and therefore, he should respect her right to know. Basically, since he’s found out this secret, Sang Eun has dibs on it, rather than Madam Yoo, because of her relationship with him, if that makes sense?

Sure, it would turn Sang Eun’s world upside down, and she would be very upset, but.. I feel like if Sang Eun knew that he knew this, she would want him to tell her.

And, I also feel like Ji Ho should trust Sang Eun’s ability to handle this information, and come through strong, in the end.

I feel like that would be a better indication of a strong OTP relationship, y’know?

E13. One of my key highlights is Ji Ho’s dorky awkwardness, even as Sang Eun delights in fussing over him while in overdrive, in Best Girlfriend Mode.

His reaction faces, little stutters, shifty gaze, slow blinks and general discombobulation, in one uneasy, bashful package, is so great; I never got tired of it. 🤩

And while the way it’s played is a little exaggerated, I did enjoy seeing Sang Eun bask with so much joy, in being Ji Ho’s girlfriend. It’s sweet, really, that it makes her so happy, to be with Ji Ho.

It’s also really nice to see the both of them be on the receiving end of so much warmth, from Ji Ho’s colleagues.

I got a real flash of vicarious gratification, to hear Ji Ho’s boss refer to him as his kid. Aw. That is so sweet, honestly.

Also, although the lead-up to it is kinda comic, I actually really liked seeing Sang Eun be so happy, to have Ji Ho stay in her apartment for a while. The easy laughter and general happy aura is pretty great to see.

The snuggles that our OTP share, when Sang Eun sneaks into Ji Ho’s room, are also warm and sweet. Aw. ❤️

[END SPOILER]

Kim Jae Young as Hae Jin

I realize that there are two distinct camps when it comes to Hae Jin as a character.

Some folks like him right away, and find him more interesting than Ji Ho, even, despite the fact that Ji Ho’s our male lead, while others dislike him, and find him annoying.

I have to confess that despite my best intentions, I lean more towards the second camp.

By the end of the Show, I’d developed a softer spot for Hae Jin, and come to feel more sympathetic towards him, but I will also admit that there were times when this felt like such a hard sell, that I wasn’t sure I would ever get to the point of actually liking him. 😅

Here’s a quick overview of the various thoughts I had around Hae Jin as a character, at the various stages of our story.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E3. I don’t dislike Hae Jin, necessarily, because he’s pretty harmless as characters go.

But I do find him more nosy and meddling than I would like.

I get that in his dim little mind, he’s worried that Sang Eun’s married to some kind of psychopath killer, but the way he interrogates Ji Ho AND Sang Eun, strikes me as rude.

However, I am trying to take into consideration that he’s more sensitive about stalkers and things, because, as we learn this episode, a stalker once broke into his apartment while he’d been sleeping, and he’s had trouble sleeping since.

That said, I don’t particularly appreciate him getting someone to investigate Sang Eun’s background for him. That feels like quite an invasion of privacy, which I don’t appreciate.

I’m telling myself that this is part of the rom-com set-up, to enable him to learn about Sang Eun’s contract wife business, but still, it’s not my favorite thing that he’s done.

E4. I have to say, I don’t like how Hae Jin basically forces his situation on Sang Eun, by making her his fake girlfriend, without her consent.

I mean, I get that this is for rom-com entertainment purposes, but it really does niggle at me that he doesn’t talk it over with Sang Eun first, and just assumes that she’ll go along with his ruse, just because she fake-wives for a living.

It makes me want to shake him and remind him that people who do things for a living, can decline business as well. Sang Eun had every right to decline his business, but the way he goes about it, doesn’t demonstrate any understanding or respect from him, on that point.

I don’t like that.

E7. I find myself vacillating between annoyance and sympathy, when it comes to Hae Jin.

There are times when I find him really quite irritating, honestly, like the way he wanders around Ji Ho’s apartment, touching stuff and leaving crumbs everywhere, coz he’s eating chips as he goes around touching everything.

I’m not as reserved Ji Ho, even, and I would hate someone coming into my home and acting like that, so I can only imagine how uncomfortable this must make Ji Ho.

I just don’t understand why Hae Jin acts in such a familiar manner with Ji Ho. I mean, I would understand it more if he and Ji Ho were good friends, and this is just his way of being affectionately annoying – but that’s absolutely not the case.

So I can only conclude that he’s being annoying on purpose?

But then there are other times when I do feel more sympathetic towards him, like when his mother harasses him and he gets all stressed out.

It’s just that right now, I find him annoying more often than I find him sympathetic.

E8. This episode, I do find that I’m feeling more positive feelings towards Hae Jin, which is a relief. I mean, even though he’s destined not to get the girl, I would at least like to like him, as a person.

And, the way he offers Gwang Nam a job, and doesn’t even act like it’s a big deal, when Gwang Nam states for the record that he’s gay, is pretty excellent stuff.

I love that this gives Gwang Nam a stable, well-paying job where he feels safe to be himself, because his biggest secret is already out there – at least to his employer.

Also, I do feel rather sorry for him, when his mother and brother barge into his apartment, and get all meddly about his life, talking about marriage and whatnot.

I feel like the reason Hae Jin suddenly withdraws from Sang Eun and even falls sick with a fever, is because he’s suddenly fearful for her safety, from his hyung in particular.

Even though Hyung is all smiles and pleasant words with Hae Jin, it does feel like Hae Jin’s rather afraid of Hyung’s dark side, from the vibes I’m picking up.

And, probably because he’s afraid that Hyung would hurt Sang Eun in order to support his ambition, Hae Jin’s deciding to withdraw from Sang Eun, and that hurts him on such a deep level, that it makes him physically sick?

At least, that’s the extent of sense-making I’m managing, around this arc.

E13. This episode, I like that Hae Jin’s contrite about how he’d been the one to force Sang Eun out of retirement (yes, thank you for acknowledging that, Show!), and is now doing everything in his power, to make things right.

From making the formal announcement that he and Sang Eun have broken up (and doing it very well, might I add, coming across so restrained, subdued and measured), to eventually coming clean about his identity and retiring from his career as an actor, he does it all in an effort to protect Sang Eun, and essentially, make things right.

I do feel sorry for him, in the sense that he looks genuinely sad about extracting himself from Sang Eun’s life, and he also looks sincerely torn up, that Sang Eun’s suffered because of him.

And, I’m glad that Sang Eun is kind and understanding towards him, and appreciative of his efforts.

I just wanted to say that I don’t see Hae Jin as a victim, even though he ends up giving up his acting career.

This is the choice that he’s made, and I’d like to think that he is clear on what he’s doing, and why. And, if he’s willing to retire, because he feels that it’s a price worth paying, then I should respect him, instead of feel pity for him, yes?

As for the why, it does look like Hae Jin’s getting ready to face his hyung, head-on.

Because, as it turns out, Hyung’s not planning on leaving Sang Eun alone, and I’m pretty sure that’s why Hae Jin feels that he needs to get on Hyung’s playing field, to stop him in his tracks.

I’m just glad for Hae Jin, that at least Jamie, his cat, is finally paying him attention now (awww), because dude really needs a ray of sunshine in his life right now.

[END SPOILER]

Sang Eun and Hae Jin

I suppose it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, when I say that I found the writing around the connection between Hae Jin and Sang Eun on the uneven side of things.

I guess that kinda-sorta applies to more things in this show than not, unfortunately.

Sometimes, I liked the connection between Sang Eun and Hae Jin, because it feels like there are glimmers of real understanding and friendship between them.

At other times, I felt really aggravated by Hae Jin’s behavior towards Sang Eun, which I’ll elaborate on shortly.

In the end, though, Show manages to pull it together such that we end on a more positive note, which is the best outcome I could have asked for, I suppose, given the circumstances. 😅

[SPOILER ALERT]

E6. I have to give credit where it’s due, Sang Eun really does a professional job of researching where she ought to be seen with Hae Jin, to maximize the paparazzi exposure – which speaks to one of the big benefits that he’s gaining from their contract.

I’m also pleasantly surprised that Sang Eun is open enough to tell Hae Jin that she’d thought that Ji Ho had real feelings for her.

And, although he ribs her about it, Hae Jin does tell Sang Eun that it sounds like Ji Ho’s interested in her, from a man’s point-of-view.

This conversation feels like that between friends; unguarded and uncalculated, and it makes me think that perhaps Sang Eun and Hae Jin could actually become friends, through this contract marriage.

E10. I feel a bit sorry for Hae Jin, as he mopes over his broken heart, but it was always gonna happen, right?

And, I do appreciate that when his uncle talks about Ina Group reaching out to Kangjin Group over his engagement with Sang Eun, he shows that he understands Sang Eun enough, to realize that this wasn’t her doing.

The way he calls his mother and agrees to go on that blind date with the daughter of the Sunghan Group that she’s been after him about for so long.

Aw. Hae Jin’s really going out of his way to protect Sang Eun, and that’s pretty good of him, I have to say.

Of course, if he’d never dragged Sang Eun into his life the way he had, in the first place, then this all wouldn’t be necessary, right?

And things really are getting out of hand, thanks to Hae Jin dragging Sang Eun into his life in the first place, so.. I have to confess that I do have some annoyance directed at him, mixed in with the appreciation of his good intentions, in wanting to protect Sang Eun.

I think my feelings for Hae Jin are a little complicated, right now. 😅

Like, I get that he wants to protect Sang Eun from the sight of Ji Ho and Ji Eun together, but the way he goes about it is really dumb, y’know?

And, I really don’t like the way he picks her up and hauls her over his shoulder.

It’s an invasion of her personal space, and it makes me even more uncomfortable, to think that Sang Eun’s wearing a particularly skin-baring sort of top, while he invades that personal space and picks her up like that. 😣

Plus, he’s the reason Sang Eun’s prawns fall to the ground like that, which increases my resentment towards Hae Jin all the more, unfortunately. 😪

E11. I suppose he means well, but Hae Jin’s really not one of my favorite characters right now.

For example, I didn’t like how he felt it was his duty to tell Ji Ho to let Sang Eun go, because Sang Eun deserves to meet someone better.

Like, what in the actual heck? Where does Hae Jin get off saying something like that, when all he has is a fragment of information, which is Ji Eun’s speculation, more than anything, that Ji Ho’s seeing Sang Eun in order to get revenge on Ji Eun.

That’s so far from the truth, really, even though it is true that Ji Ho is using his alimony to pay for his contracted time with Sang Eun.

The truth is, Ji Ho cares so little about Ji Eun, that he would be perfectly happy to never see her again, or speak to her again.

And then there’s the thing where Hae Jin even asks Sang Eun if she can’t see anyone else besides Ji Ho.

Again, that’s overstepping his boundaries, and I have to admit, Hae Jin does this kind of thing quite often, and it annoys me every time he does it.

I keep telling myself that he means well, and just wants the best for Sang Eun, but I also can’t switch off the part of my brain that protests, “But that’s none of his business!” 😅

E12. When Ji Eun suggests that they go with the cover story, that Sang Eun had used Hae Jin without his knowledge, Hae Jin flat-out refuses, and says that he would rather retire, than do that to her.

Given that his acting career is something that he’s worked so hard for, and that no celebrity would ever want to end their career over a scandal, this statement from Hae Jin should be taken as a weighty one, because it is.

He would rather let his career go down in flames instead of use Sang Eun as a shield, and that’s solidly admirable. That selfless, noble intention does earn him a brownie point in my books.

[END SPOILER]

The love triangle

The existence of this love triangle is pretty much baked into Show’s premise, and while I didn’t love everything about this love triangle (there were times when I felt quite aggravated by Hae Jin, not gonna lie), I do appreciate that Show does wrap up this love triangle decently well.

Here are just some of my thoughts around the various love triangle highlights.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E6. I am admittedly annoyed at Hae Jin acting like he’s the veteran in the situation, because he’s the one with an ongoing contract with Sang Eun, when Ji Ho’s been a longterm client of hers for the past 5 years.

It’s things like this that make me think of Hae Jin as a rather irritating presence in our story world. 😅

I do love the fact that Ji Ho’s decision to agree to Hae Jin’s cat-sitting request, has everything to do with him being concerned for her, rather than his actually being intimidated by the way the negotiation isn’t going his way.

Aw. He doesn’t like cats, but he doesn’t want Sang Eun to risk being scratched by Jamie, and he’s sensitive to the fact that she’s allergic to cats as well. That’s thoughtful and sweet.

Plus, I can’t help but notice that when Hae Jin tries to get a dig in at Ji Ho after Ji Ho leaves to return to his apartment, Sang Eun actually speaks up on Ji Ho’s behalf. This makes me feel that she IS partial to Ji Ho, even though she says she isn’t. 😅

E6. I did really like where we close the episode, because there’s so much irony at play in the scene.

We have Ji Ho misunderstanding and getting jealous, that Sang Eun’s being all touchy-feely with Hae Jin, when she’s really fallen asleep on Hae Jin’s shoulder by accident.

And then, Hae Jin’s feeling all triumphant about this, when really, Sang Eun’s only just now realizing, via her semi-conscious dreams, that she’d kissed Ji Ho during one of the spin-the-bottle games during the party, at everyone’s urging.

Ooooh. Is it too soon to squee? Because, we’ve got a legit (admittedly tipsy) kiss between our OTP, just 6 episodes into our story?

More importantly, I’m soo curious to see how Ji Ho’s going to react to this, because while Sang Eun had momentarily forgotten about the kiss, he couldn’t have, since he’d been sober.

What do you do, when your contract wife whom you think you might have feelings for, kiss you – but also snuggles up with her other contract husband..? 🤪

E9. The thing where Ji Ho stumbles on helmeted Hae Jin with Sang Eun, and attacks him, thinking that he’s Helmet Dude, is becoming something of a running gag, which is silly-funny, as much as it is endearing.

I just like the idea that Ji Ho’s so intent on protecting Sang Eun, even when he’s completely drunk. Aw.

I am also bummed that the tipsy moment between Ji Ho and Sang Eun gets literally hijacked by Hae Jin moving in to kiss Sang Eun, argh.

It also makes me feel quite annoyed, to see Hae Jin getting all happy and smug, about him and Sang Eun having “mutually confirmed” their feelings, and lording it over Ji Ho, when it was nothing like that.

Dude literally hijacked the moment from Ji Ho, and then acts like he’s the king of the world? Grrr.

I mean, I don’t hate Hae Jin or anything. In fact, I think that he and Sang Eun do share some nice friendship moments, and that they could actually be a pretty good pair of friends.

BUT. When Hae Jin’s cluelessness hurts our cinnamon roll of a Ji Ho, that’s when I start to feel upset and protective. 😅

E10. I’m glad that Sang Eun clarifies things with Hae Jin, the first chance she gets, and makes sure that he’s clear that the kiss had been a mistake.

AND, I’m extra glad that she makes it a point to tell Hae Jin that she plans to date Ji Ho, even though she’s not obligated to tell him that.

It just makes me feel assured, on Ji Ho’s behalf.

[END SPOILER]

Kang Hyoung Suk as Gwang Nam

Aside from Ji Ho, I also really loved Gwang Nam, as a character.

He’s just such a good-natured, pure-hearted person; I couldn’t help but grow fond of him, as I saw more of him on my screen.

I really appreciate that even though he’s a secondary character, Show does take some time to give us a better sense of who he is, and what he’s about.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E4. This episode, I do appreciate that we get a bit of time with Gwang Nam, where we get to see what he’s dealing with, back home with his family.

I like that this thing, where his family is pressuring him to get married, isn’t just a convenient once-off event, just to explain how he’d gotten to know Sang Eun.

No, it actually makes sense that after his divorce, his family would be eager for him to marry again, because he’s the only son, and therefore the responsibility is on him, not only to carry on the family memorial services, but also, to carry on the family name.

The way Show plays it, I can feel Gwang Nam’s frustration, as he tries to strike a balance between being a good son, and being true to himself.

That definitely helps him to pop for me, as a character, and I’m now beginning to hope for a time for him, when he can feel free to be himself with his family, where they can love and accept him, just the way he is.

E6. This episode, I find myself feeling rather protective of Gwang Nam, as we get to know more about him, and what he struggles with.

The moment that hit me the hardest, is how his ex-boss reacts, when Gwang Nam comes out to him, and tells him that he likes men, but won’t allow it to affect his work.

The awkwardness is so thick in the room that you could cut it with a knife, and it feels so poignant, to see Gwang Nam step away from the job offer that his ex-boss had just made, to say that it’d be better if he just left.

That’s so sad, really, because not only is he being discriminated against at work, he’s also being rejected by friends and colleagues who’d had nothing but good things to say about him, in the past.

Just because he’s gay, doesn’t make him a different person, and my heart really went out to Gwang Nam, here.

I’ve gotten to the point where I’m actively rooting for Gwang Nam to be happy and accepted, in himself, and by the people around him, so that he never again has to pretend to be someone whom he’s not.

In this context, it does feel extra poignant, that Gwang Nam has to suddenly act as Sang Eun’s husband in front of Madam Yoo. That feels like an extra burden that Gwang Nam could have done without, especially given the nature of his struggles.

E10. I am low-key tickled by the way Jung Hwan (Kim Hyun Mok) gets all jealous of Gwang Nam, and gets all huffy around him, even as Gwang Nam is indulgently patient and amused.

I need these two to become best bros, and soon, please. 😁

E13. I am so glad that Gwang Nam goes back to Madam Yoo and talks to her about her demand that he move out and cut ties with Sang Eun.

It’s so great, the way he calmly, and without malice, tells Madam Yoo that he’s not going to move out until he feels that Sang Eun would be ok without him.

He’s the sweetest, and I feel like I grow more and more fond of him, with each episode.

[END SPOILER]

Sang Eun and Gwang Nam

I just had to give a shout-out to the friendship between Sang Eun and Gwang Nam, because it really is one of my favorite relationships, in this drama world.

I love how pure and uncalculated things are, between them, and how they literally do treat each other like actual family.

Most of all, I love how well they understand each other, and make it a point to always be there for each other. ❤️

[SPOILER ALERT]

E5. I find that I’m enjoying Sang Eun’s friendship with Gwang Nam quite nicely.

I like that they really are comfortable with each other, and I like that they can tell each other things quite candidly and openly.

The way Gwang Nam’s able to read Sang Eun like an open book has been a bit of a running gag, but I find that it’s really growing on me.

I like the idea that Sang Eun has someone in her life who is able to tell how she’s feeling and what’s she’s thinking, without her having to say anything. If she’s in a funk or feeling low or just feeling out of it, Gwang Nam’s always able to tell, instantly.

I love that about him.

[END SPOILER]

Jin Kyung as Madam Yoo

I think it’s safe to say that I found Madam Yoo to be the most perplexing character in our drama world.

In fact, the more Show told me about her, the less I felt able to understand her. Funny how that works, eh?

I don’t think the writing’s that great in this show, and I think that that shows extra, when it comes to the characterization of Madam Yoo.

Here’s a look at my evolving thoughts around Madam Yoo, over the course of my watch.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E2. We still don’t know if she’s terminally ill, but it sure looks like it could be a possibility, judging from the way we see Madam Yoo organize her affairs this episode, and then almost hang herself – with a short note to Mr. Choi (Kim Dong Hyun), to ask him to give the bankbook to Sang Eun.

It sure looks like it could be a terminal illness that’s driving her actions, but.. it might also just be that Madam Yoo is tired of living and just wants to end it all?

It’s hard to say, at this point, but it does add a layer of poignance to our story, to know that she doesn’t think she will live for long, and that even though she’d acted distant from Sang Eun and pretended to have used the money for herself, she’d saved the money that Sang Eun had given her – with the apparent sole purpose of giving it all back to her, someday.

Edited to add: Weirdly, Show never comes back to the why of Madam Yoo’s suicidal thoughts, and just.. conveniently forgets that it ever happened. I thought that was weird.

E6. I’m actually not super pleased that Sang Eun brings Madam Yoo home to stay with her and Gwang Nam, because Madam Yoo is so judgey, distant and weird about everything.

Like, where does she get off telling Sang Eun, who’s just taken her in, that she should get ready to go for some marriage meetings? My gosh, it feels like nothing’s changed for her, in the many years since Sang Eun cut ties with her.

E8. First of all, though, I have to say that I still don’t care for Madam Yoo much, if at all.

I’m just glad that Sang Eun voices her bemusement – like, what’s her deal? Why does she act so entitled and so aloof? – because that makes me feel like I’m not crazy; that Show acknowledges that Madam Yoo’s being very strange.

Also, I find Trent’s explanation of her behavior – that she’s just reaching for what she knows – to be a helpful lens through which to process her actions. Thanks, Trent!

E9. I hate that Madam Yoo’s snooping around Sang Eun’s things, and coming to her own conclusions, and making her own decisions on what to do with Sang Eun’s life. Ugh.

I can believe that Madam Yoo genuinely thinks that she’s doing something positive for Sang Eun, in that she believes that Sang Eun’s best life would be realized, if she were to marry into the Kangjin Group.

But it’s extremely annoying to see her take things into her own hands, and decide things without even talking to Sang Eun about it. There’s just this very aloof “I know best” vibe about Madam Yoo that really rubs me the wrong way.

E10. Grargh. It’s even more annoying to see Madam Yoo go about her meddling business, talking about Sang Eun getting married to Hae Jin, at this point in our story, when Sang Eun’s just started dating Ji Ho.

I’m starting to get the sense that part of Madam Yoo’s smugness, comes from the fact that she thinks she’s being brilliant, by solving the problems of both Kangjin Group and Ina Group, in one stroke.

Maybe there’s a bit of a god complex going on there?

E11. Over on Madam Yoo’s side of things, I just can’t get over how smug and entitled she is, while meddling in Sang Eun’s affairs.

I just can’t find a way to understand that, really.

Perhaps she thinks of herself as Sang Eun’s mother, and therefore, she has the right to meddle? But she’s also actively negotiating with Sang Eun’s adoptive parents, to take her back, so.. that doesn’t quite work?

Which leaves me with the idea that Madam Yoo thinks of Sang Eun as pure product; something that she can leverage for advantage.

But then again.. Madam Yoo has shown glimmers of actual concern for Sang Eun, like when she’d wanted to return the bankbook to Sang Eun, when she’d been planning to commit suicide.

I honestly have not much else, other than the god complex which I mentioned, last set of episodes. Maybe that’s it?

Maybe that’s why Madam Yoo thinks it’s fine to tell Hae Jin that he should just not get in the way, and she’ll make it possible for him to marry Sang Eun?

And maybe that’s why Madam Yoo thinks it’s her right to tell Gwang Nam to get out of Sang Eun’s life, even as a friend?

E13. So. Show reveals that Madam Yoo is actually Sang Eun’s bio mom, and I just feel like this connection feels forced.

I just can’t wrap my brain around a mother who would put up a show of picking a kid out of an orphanage – when that kid is her own daughter?

And, I also can’t wrap my brain around how a mother could keep up this charade for so many years, while grooming her daughter to be a.. product, really.

It looks like Show isn’t joking about Madam Yoo being Sang Eun’s bio mom, so I guess Madam Yoo’s just a terrible mother..?

I mean, I have come across stories of very poor families, who give their daughters as servants to rich families, in exchange for a few dollars, and I get that.

I get that in those cases, they aren’t selling their daughters, as much as they are doing whatever they can, to secure food and shelter for their daughters, who would otherwise have to go without, because the family is so painfully poor.

This.. isn’t that, though.

I don’t care if Madam Yoo was in dire financial straits.

I mean, maybe she was, and maybe that’s why she’d sent Sang Eun to the orphanage in the first place.

BUT. The thing that Madam Yoo does, on getting Sang Eun out of the orphanage, is groom her, in order to trade her for political and financial gain.

That goes way beyond ensuring that Sang Eun receives food and shelter.

And it’s made all the more terrible, because we see that Sang Eun’s adoptive parents are horrible and have never given Sang Eun any kind of parental affection or attention.

To deprive your daughter of parental affection – from others AND yourself – so that she can be groomed to be a political bride, is just really, really sick, and I cannot understand how a mother could do that to her daughter.

All that to say, sure, fine, Show. If you want to make Madam Yoo Sang Eun’s bio mom, you go do that. But I think it’s a terrible idea, and it makes me think worse of Madam Yoo than I have ever thought, up to this point, and that is saying Quite A Lot. *grumble*

[END SPOILER]

Special shout-out:

Ji Ho and Jamie the cat

I am actually extremely tickled by Ji Ho’s bond with Hae Jin’s cat, which is why I just had to give their little relationship a shout-out.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E6. Given that the cat’s been named after Jamie, and this episode, Hae Jin even remarks that Sang Eun and Jamie have similar personalities, it tickles me greatly, that Ji Ho’s got all of Jamie’s affection, just like he’s got Sang Eun’s affection – it’s just that neither he nor Sang Eun is aware of it yet. 😁

Also, I just love that little scene, where Ji Ho calls for the cat (not even by name, at this point, just “Cat”), and she comes running and looks at him enquiringly (see above). SHO CUTE. 😍

[END SPOILER]

SPOTLIGHT ON EPISODE 14 [SPOILERS]

To be honest, this episode was just ok, for me.

Show’s falling into the low-key pleasant and inoffensive category for me; I don’t hate it and I’m agreeable to watching the last two episodes in order to see what happens, but I’m not exactly super engaged, either.

This wasn’t where I’d hoped to end up with this show, but I suppose it could be worse?

I think one of the key – and also rather frivolous – things that’s contributing to how I feel about Show at the moment, is the way Ji Ho is evolving, and how Go Kyung Pyo’s delivering Ji Ho 2.0.

Previously, Ji Ho’s dorky yet very expressive awkward reaction faces, and his discombobulation, at how to manage his burgeoning feelings for Sang Eun, were consistent highlights of my watch.

Even when Show might not have been suuper interesting on other fronts, this was enough to keep me tickled and satisfied, and looking forward to more.

However, this episode (and probably to some extent, last episode as well), Ji Ho’s relaxing into his new state of being, and it’s resulted in a rather.. sleepy rendition of Ji Ho, which I’m not as taken by, unfortunately.

I know, I know, it’s important that Ji Ho grow and progress, and it’s important that when we end our story, he’s no longer the jumpy version of himself because he’s so ill at ease. But.. did Ji Ho 2.0 have to be a slow-moving, slow-talking sleepy sort?

I have to confess, this version of Ji Ho is just a lot less entertaining, to me, and because Ji Ho had accounted for quite a big chunk of my enjoyment of earlier episodes, this is inadvertently creating a damper on my watch experience.

Generally speaking, I’m still low-key interested in Ji Ho and his explorations of how to be a good boyfriend to Sang Eun.

That said, I am not sure how I feel about Show’s treatment of Madam Yoo being Sang Eun’s bio mom.

It feels like Show is trying to let her off easy, for grooming her daughter for years, to be political ammunition.

The way Ji Ho broaches the topic with his colleagues, and the way the various colleagues weigh in with different perspectives, is something I find rather perplexing.

In particular, I’m thinking of the way Sang Goo muses that it’s up to the victim to decide whether it was abuse or love, because perhaps the victim enjoyed the process.

Is it just me, or is there something that feels very wrong about that statement? I mean, it’s almost like saying that a person might be excused for physically abusing their child, if the child happened to enjoy being hit. That’s.. weird? And also, wrong?

Altogether, it seems like Show is leaning towards an outcome where Madam Yoo doesn’t need to reveal that she’s Sang Eun’s bio mom, and Sang Eun doesn’t need to find out about it, judging from the developments this hour.

First, Sang Eun answers Ji Ho’s question about Madam Yoo, but saying that she hates Madam Yoo, but wouldn’t want to see her punished, because she’s the person who’d raised her.

And then, we have Madam Yoo telling Ji Ho that she will consider it her punishment, to never be acknowledged as Sang Eun’s mother.

And finally, we have that dinner date between them, that Ji Ho arranges on the sly, where they blow out a candle on a cake, and have a photo taken together.

That.. kinda feels like Show putting the lid on this storyline?

I could be wrong, of course. Prove me wrong, Show!

On another note, I find it kind of bittersweet, to see Hae Jin doing well at the corporate stuff, now that he’s retired from showbiz.

Apparently, Hae Jin’s got more talent for business than he’d let on, because he asks for a senior position in order to prove himself – and then actually appears to do pretty well in it.

It’s kind of cool, especially since Hyung seems frustrated by Hae Jin’s presence in the company, but it is also still poignant, because we know that despite this being Hae Jin’s choice, this also isn’t what he truly desires in life.

Oh well, perhaps he can make a comeback in his acting career, perhaps a few years down the line, after making sure that things are ok on the family front?

I will say, though, that I like Hae Jin more now, than in the beginning of our story. He just seems to have become more mature and grounded, and also, a little wiser.

I’m actually really quite bummed to hear Gwang Nam say that he’s planning to leave for Canada.

I was actually hoping that he’d take up the offer to pursue a singing career, since he seems to have the talent for it.

Also, I just like having Gwang Nam around; he’s a good egg, and everyone likes him and enjoys his company. It feels like a pity to have him leave our story world.

But, I rationalize that going to a new place and starting a new life, is the dream that Gwang Nam’s stated right from the beginning of our story, so it’s only fair that he gets to at least try that dream and taste it for himself, to see if that’s what he really wants in life.

I’m kind of surprised that the favor that Ji Eun asks of Ji Ho, is that he have dinner with her, and I’m even more surprised, actually, to find that he hadn’t been using his alimony to pay for Sang Eun’s services after all, since he returns the money to Ji Eun, completely intact.

Sang Eun getting jealous at the idea of Ji Ho spending time with Ji Eun is only to be expected, and I liked how Gwang Nam coaches her through it, explaining how to communicate her feelings to Ji Ho in a way that would be helpful to Ji Ho – because men are more clueless than she thinks, according to Gwang Nam. 😁

It’s also helpful how Mrs. Boss explains to Ji Ho how he needs to express his true feelings to Sang Eun.

Altogether, that culminates in our closing scene, where Ji Ho finally tells Sang Eun (and us!) about how he’d been leaning towards canceling the contract, but had enjoyed her company so much, that he’d fight himself for just one more session – and then just one more, for 5 whole years.

Aw. That’s a long time to be having that conversation with yourself, Ji Ho. 😅

Also, he’s so earnest as he shares this, that it lands as sweet and melty, and then he finishes off with that tentative, heartfelt almost-whisper, “Don’t go. I don’t want to stay apart from you. Could you… stay with me tonight?”

Ji Ho’s laying his heart before Sang Eun in this moment, and I gotta say, his hesitant, halting honesty is somehow very persuasive.

I really do think that Sang Eun would say yes, if she follows her heart. And if she does say yes, then what a key milestone, for our OTP.

I just hope that even if Sang Eun says yes, that Show will manage to rustle up some meaningful narrative tension, to take us to the finish line. Fingers crossed, you guys. 🤞🏻😅

SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]

Not gonna lie; I did not enjoy this penultimate episode much.

To put it bluntly, this entire hour felt like Noble Idiocy Central, where just about everyone takes turns to try on noble idiocy for themselves, as if just to see how it feels like.

Maybe they had fun, but I didn’t. 😅

I’d had a feeling that Show would lean into the melodramatic shenanigans in order to amp up the drama before the finale, and I was right.

This episode is a whole lot about Jamie project, Ina Group and Kangjin Group, in varying intensities and combinations, and.. it’s about as interesting as you would expect.

Like, if you were really into this part of our story world from early on, then you would be eating this up with a spoon.

But, if you were never really into this part of our story world (like me), then you.. wouldn’t be eating this up with a spoon. Personally, I was just trying to get through all of it without actually falling asleep (I admit I did doze off a little bit here and there, whoops 😅).

First, we have Madam Yoo trying to take the fall for everything, in order to take down Kangjin Group, so that Seon Jin won’t be able to hurt Sang Eun.

And then, we have Ji Ho determined to protect Madam Yoo, because she’s Sang Eun’s mother, and he wants to prevent her from being taken away from Sang Eun, so much so that he would go so far as to fabricate evidence if necessary – and he’s fine with it if it costs him his job.

Thank goodness for Ji Eun, who has the sense to tell Sang Eun about it, because Ji Ho certainly wasn’t going to.

And thank goodness Sang Eun talks Ji Ho out of it, because it really was a foolhardy, reckless, stupid plan, to begin with.

Oh, and just in case we were thirsty for more melodrama, Show reveals that Sang Eun’s known for years, that Madam Yoo is her mother.

(Although, that flashback does imply that the Chairman of Ina Group really is Sang Eun’s father, since Madam Yoo had been involved with him, before giving birth to Sang Eun?)

We get this really emotional scene between Sang Eun and Madam Yoo, where Sang Eun reveals that she’s known for a long time, and asks Madam Yoo not to go anywhere, and Madam Yoo breaks down, sobbing guttural tears.

Maybe if I was more into this entire backstory, I would be more affected by this, but, like I’ve said before, I just don’t really feel like this bio mom thing rings very true or feels very organic, story-wise. 🤷🏻‍♀️

ANYWAY. It then becomes Sang Eun’s turn to play the noble idiocy card, and you can just feel it coming, from the way she prepares to say goodbye to Ji Ho.

From the way she takes off the little notes that she’d pasted on the shirt sleeves in his wardrobe, to the way she tells him, with lashings of wistfulness, how he gets more handsome, the more she sees him, it all screams impending disappearance to me, and I just.. sigh, don’t really feel it.

I mean, if she loves Ji Ho that much, how could she do this to him, with no warning whatsoever?

Shouldn’t she at least leave him some kind of goodbye note, to explain what she’s doing, and why?

How could she just cut off communication, right after confronting the Kangjin Group, and then calling Ji Ho to tell him she misses him, and to not wait for her for dinner, if she’s late.

And then she frikkin’ disappears, and never shows up to dinner??

Like I just said – but I’ll say it again, for good measure – how could she bear to do this to Ji Ho, if she really loved him??

Gah. You guys can’t see me, but I’m side-eyeing Show so hard, right now. 😒

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]

To be brutally honest, I found this finale just ok, at best. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that much of this ending was on the underwhelming side of things, for me.

See, despite how Show attempts to convince me otherwise,  I just don’t find Sang Eun’s ghosting of Ji Ho organic in any way.

So many characters speak up for her, this episode, pretty much giving explanations for why she might be withdrawing from Ji Ho in this manner, but it honestly just rings hollow to me.

The way I see it, Show didn’t have any other source of dramatic tension to draw on, that they could actually resolve within a single finale episode, and so, they had Sang Eun ghost Ji Ho, for as long as needed (approximately 50% of our finale screen time), before having her come around and reunite with Ji Ho, just in time for our happy ending.

I mean, sure, Show does try to make it such that there appears to be some kind of reason for Sang Eun to change her mind, but because her decision to ghost Ji Ho doesn’t make sense to me in the first place, the reversal of it also doesn’t land with much narrative integrity to me.

Certainly, there are some lashings of bright spots in all of this, though I will confess that these didn’t grab me in the feels, the way I think Show had hoped they would grab me.

Mainly, I think it’s sweet that Ji Ho does everything he can, to prepare for Sang Eun’s eventual return, even though he has no guarantee that it will happen, other than the various gut feels of the folks that he’s talked to.

He’s impossibly calm, measured and even-tempered when she does show up at his apartment one day, with dinner prepared, and while I’m sure this is meant to showcase how patient and lovely Ji Ho is, this just doesn’t strike me as a believable human response.

He’s been missing her so much, and had been so devastated when she’d ghosted him, and I’m supposed to believe that he just.. smiles and acts like nothing’s happened, when she finally shows up, months later, waiting for him with dinner?

That’s a tough sell, even for someone as stoic as Ji Ho.

And then, the rest of the finale is split between filling up the happy ending blanks for Ji Ho and Sang Eun, and wrapping up loose ends for our other characters.

Some beats aren’t terribly believable, but Show is intent on putting neat bows on as many things and on as many people as possible, so the best thing to do, is just roll with it.

For example, I don’t find it very believable at all, that a single conversation with Sang Eun, would cause Hae Jin’s mom to have such a turnaround, that she would literally push him back into showbiz because that’s where his heart is – and then turn into his biggest fan, to boot.

And also, I don’t find it believable at all, that Gwang Nam’s family would have such a sudden turnaround either, just because Jung Hwan shows up at their family dinner, and introduces himself as Gwang Nam’s manager.

But, such are the waters that we’re treading in, these last minutes in our story, and it feels futile to grumble too much. 😅

For the record, I do like that Gwang Nam decides to at least give a singing career a shot, because he really is talented, and I would hate for his fears to have held him back from even trying.

And, I do like that Hae Jin is pursuing his true passion – but is being more focused on his growth and specific interests now, instead of just his popularity.

Last but not least, the whole thing about Ji Ho and Sang Eun preparing for a wedding that neither of them really wanted, was, clearly, just filler for the second half of the finale.

But, I did like that they ended up deciding on something that works for them both, in the end, and then take turns proposing, in their own ways.

Sang Eun’s fancy proposal is just like her, full of frills, props, and flair, while Ji Ho’s proposal is just like him, quiet, understated and sweet.

Also, I do like the thought that they are intentionally filling their lives with just the people who mean the most to them, no more and no less.

Finally, it’s a nice touch, that we get to see them at home together, eating breakfast in a leisurely manner – because that’s how Sundays should be.

The ride to get to this point definitely had its bumps, but I am glad that these two get their happy ending together, after all.

THE FINAL VERDICT:

An uneven, mixed bag overall, though Show isn’t without its bright spots.

FINAL GRADE: B

TRAILER:

MV:

PATREON UPDATE!

The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of Love In Contract, is Reborn Rich. I’ve taken an initial look, and I’m happy to say that I like it a lot, and right away! 🤩 My E1-3 notes on Reborn Rich 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): Entertainment tidbits + the first set of notes of all shows covered on Patreon (2 eps for kdramas, 4 eps for cdramas)

Early Access (US$5): Under The Queen’s Umbrella

Early Access Plus (US$10): +Love Is For Suckers

VIP (US$15): +Reborn Rich

VVIP (US$20): +New Life Begins [China]

Ultimate (US$25): +Mr. Bad [China]

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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Kay
Kay
1 month ago

I too thought this was a pretty good watch. The first half was definitely better, but I still enjoyed the second half. The show was a bit uneven, but an entertaining enough watch for the most part 🙂

Geo
Geo
1 month ago

A B- for me and that’s a stretch. Like most, I enjoyed the first half or so of the show but had to force myself to finish it. Guess that’s why it’s still in the “B” range. One of the ways I judge shows is by how quickly I finish it. The first half, I was so interested in the next episode and the next while I had to literally drag myself to watch the episodes in the second half, one episode a night, it actually helped doing other things while “watching” the show.

Your review is dead on from my perspective, I really disliked the melodrama in the 2nd half. It seems to me the writers were creating situations and characters (Madame Yoo) to pique the viewer’s interest and then left them hanging with unrealistic and forced resolutions.

I think I finished this show only for Park Min-Young and I’m glad to hear she’s “healthier” looking these days.

snow
2 months ago

I dropped this one after 2-3 episodes. It looked all over the place to me and the only thing I was enjoying was GJP and his character. Then other dramas piqued my interest and I never came back to it.

kate
kate
2 months ago

ugh I just spent 15 min writing my take on it and it disappeared. Now I‘m too lazy to rewrite it. I should know better by now to not try and use the website on my phone 😅 

In short, while I also like the fun and breezy first few episodes, I found ML‘s and main couple‘s development uneven and unconvincing, liked 2ML more than everyone else it seems and found his backstory far more intriguing.
All in all show was very meh for me and I ended up dropping it at around 2/3 mark because I just didn’t care anymore 🙈

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
2 months ago

Fangurl – I think this is an accurate wrap up of this drama. I did enjoy the first half a lot. It got wonky at the end but I went on the ride but I have to admit – I may only remember parts of the first half.

Leslie
Leslie
2 months ago

Your assessment of Show is pretty much in synch with mine. My own notes said “definitely finishable, with some sweet moments, but overall kind of bland.” Not a resounding endorsement, for sure, but I did want to finish it… and like you, mostly so that I could see lovely Ji Ho/Go Kyoung Po be happy, finally. 😍

Like many, I found Kang Hae Jin an insufferable character, at first, but I was impressed with how Show made me really like and feel compassion for him, in the last sweep of episodes. I credit both writing and Kim Jae Young – well done! It felt like a natural, yet significant, development of a character.

B feels like the perfect grade for this drama!

Last edited 2 months ago by Leslie
Trent
2 months ago

Well put, and I pretty much agree with your take on the show. I think my engagement and interest started to wane at around the halfway to two-thirds point, and then kind of fell off a cliff for the last 2-3 episodes. (The final episode in particular really felt like a “wind up any and all loose threads” montage, we’ve got to fill out the broadcast time…even more than usual).

Somewhat atypically for me, I actually join you in liking the ML most of all the characters (I’m usually more focused on the FL). But I just identified with Go Kyung-pyo’s Ji-ho here, and I felt like he did a really nice job filling out the character.

Park Min-young…I mean, I’m a fan, but not her best role? And let’s just say I am glad to hear that she has been looking more filled-out and healthy recently? I am reticent to dive into commenting on anyone’s appearance, particularly weight-focused appearance, but…I have to say I did sometimes find her appearance distracting in this. If everything is normal and healthy, as I hope is the case, that’s great.

I am definitely Team 2ML is Super-annoying, so even though they kinda sorta managed to humanize him a bit…I still never found myself more than kind of reluctantly tolerating him. Oh well.