Review: Love Is For Suckers

THE SHORT VERDICT:

Show manages a reasonably strong start, in the way it sets the scene for a fun friends-to-lovers story, with a show-within-the-show to spice things up.

Once Show got into its groove, for a good stretch, I was lapping this one up with relish, and was convinced that Show would stay solid until the very end.

Unfortunately, Show seems to get kind of lost, by the middle stretch, and spends its screen time in bemusing places, instead of dealing more meaningfully, with our central characters and relationships (more on that in a bit).

However, Show manages to find a heartfelt note on which to end its story, and while it’s very different from the note on which it begins, this does help, because you come away with a bit of a sweet aftertaste.

A good chunk of wasted potential, but it’s not terrible?

THE LONG VERDICT:

Show started out solidly strong for me, in that, even though there were things that didn’t appeal to me in episode 1 (see my episode 1 notes here), before I was even done watching it, I felt the hook bite, and then, I went on to slurp up the following episodes like they were candy.

That’s quite an accomplishment, since it’s no easy task, for a drama to grab its audience so soon into the game.

And I think, that’s a key reason why I was slow to realize that Show wasn’t able to stay as strong, from about its middle stretch onwards.

I kept waiting for the initial slurpy quality to make a comeback, and y’know what, it never did. 😅

That said, despite that, and despite not loving some of Show’s decisions (more on that later), I ended up enjoying this one reasonably well.

That’s.. not bad, overall?

OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE

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

Generally speaking, I found the OST pleasant and breezy, though not particularly memorable. I thought the music did a decent job of scoring our story, but I can’t say that any single track actually lingered with me beyond the time I spent with Show on my screen.

It’s still an agreeable listen, though, so please enjoy. ❤️

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS

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

1. This drama is slice-of-life, at its heart

Even though Show does have a slurpy sort of flavor in its earlier stretch, it ultimately settles into a slice-of-life sort of rhythm, especially towards the end.

This means that sometimes, you might feel like our story is moving very slowly. Adjusting your lens around that, helps.

2. Our characters can take a bit of time to settle

This does apply generally to most characters, but I found this particularly true of Jae Hoon (Siwon), whose characterization I found rather perplexing for a good chunk of our first episode.

He does settle eventually, but I have to admit that I was not feeling too kindly towards him for a while there, and considered tapping out of this show early.

Knowing this in advance is probably helpful, which is why I’m telling you now.

3. This is a slow burn romance

Some folks just don’t like slow burn romances, and, despite what Show serves up in its early episodes, don’t be fooled.

This one is definitely a slow burn romance, and it’s just helpful to know that upfront.

STUFF I LIKED

I’ll be doing a quickish macro overview of the stuff I liked and didn’t like so much in this show, before doing a selective dive into characters and relationships.

When Show’s got all its ducks in a row

Show’s actually got a great combination of things going for it, and when it manages to keep everything balanced, it’s like drama catnip, to me.

Mainly, I’m thinking about how Show’s got the guilty pleasure, slurpable sort of quality, thanks to the Kingdom of Love show within our show, which, by all accounts, is the kind of trashy reality TV that audiences just can’t help lapping up, in spite of their better judgment.

BUT, at the same time, Show’s also got a good chunk of heartfelt sincerity going for it, thanks to the relationships between our characters.

The friendship between Yeo Reum and Jae Hoon (Lee Da Hee and Siwon); the friendship of Dae Sik and Hye Jin (Min Jin Woong and Noh Susanna) towards both our leads; the warmth and love of Yeo Reum’s parents (Yang Hee Kyeong and Lim Ha Ryong) for their daughter.

All of this feel-good sincerity is like chicken soup for the soul, sometimes, and that is honestly Show’s main draw, for me.

But, I have to admit, the combination of this sincerity and warmth, with the salacious, juicy packaging of the Kingdom of Love stuff, makes for a pretty great mash-up. It feels like Show is hitting not just my heart, but also, the corner of my brain that is weak in the face of juicy TV. 😁

It’s honestly a very clever combination, that I hadn’t expected would work so well, and that I didn’t know I needed.

Show manages to keep its ducks in a row for a nice stretch in its early episodes, and I loved it.

Some thoughtful directing touches

This isn’t something that I found to be consistent over the course of our drama, but there are times when Show gives us some thoughtful directing touches, and I really liked those.

[MINOR SPOILERS]

For example, I loved the opening sequence in episode 3, where we get Yeo Reum’s morning and Jae Hoon’s morning spliced together.

I love how this doesn’t just give us a glimpse at how they are, individually, the morning after the Moment of Hyper-proximity, it also shows us – quite cleverly, I might add – how their lives are so meshed and interconnected.

From the way they own the same bedroom slippers, to how their toothbrushes are part of a 1+1 set, to how they’re eating the bananas that Yeo Reum had bought for them to share, everything comes together to paint a picture of very interconnected lives, and I like that a lot.

[END MINOR SPOILERS]

Some interesting narrative turns

Again, this isn’t something that’s consistent all the way through, but there were times when Show went in directions that I hadn’t been expecting.

I liked that a lot, because then I couldn’t quite guess where Show was going to go next. This lent a fresh feel to the watch experience, which I very much enjoyed.

This also helped to make the episodes zip by quite quickly, which I is always a good sign.

Here’s an example, from episode 4.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E4. I’m actually not super surprised that Yeo Reum decides to accept In Woo’s proposal.

Everything in her life seems to point to the idea that she should marry him. She’s not getting any younger; she doesn’t have a lot of romantic options in her life; he’s being proactively sweet and romantic, in expressing his desire to marry her.

With the clock ticking on her like that, I’m not surprised that Yeo Reum would decide that she needs to take this chance, to live the life that she’d missed out on, when she and In Woo had broken up, three years ago.

And, given the circumstances, it’s understandable that the wedding preparation goes the express route, with the wedding suddenly due to happen in just a month’s time.

It is surprising, in the sense that this is a rom-com, and our female lead is literally getting ready to marry someone other than our male lead, but I guess that’s part of what makes this story feel rather different and therefore refreshing?

In a regular rom-com, I’d guess that the female lead wouldn’t actually accept the proposal, but here, Yeo Reum even gets ready for the wedding, and we get all the way up to the wedding day, even.

For a hot second, I thought that Yeo Reum might end up marrying In Woo, even, the way Show was going about things.

That definitely felt quite fresh and different, in the rom-com scheme of things.

[END SPOILER]

Getting to see the inner workings of a reality show

As a general rule, I did find it pretty interesting, to see how the crew was working to make Kingdom Of Love 2, our show-within-a-show, work.

The behind-the-scenes stuff is very interesting to me, like how the PD manages the shots while “live” in the moment, how they massage the situation, to try to create a storyline that would work for the direction that they’d like to take, and how they are working so hard around the clock that they barely have time to eat.

It’s gives me a fresh sense of appreciation for how difficult it must be, to create a variety / reality show that is entertaining, and ratings-worthy, on a consistent basis.

In that sense, I found this exposure rather enlightening and educational.

STUFF THAT WAS OK

The show-within-a-show

I’ve got the show-within-a-show, Kingdom of Love 2, in this section, because I found it all very fresh and fun at first – and then grew tired of it, long before Show was done with it. 😅

Here’s a quick look at how I felt, at both ends of this spectrum. 😅

[SPOILER ALERT]

When I found it fun and slurpy

E5. With the trashy-slurpy quality of Kingdom of Love, with both Yeo Reum and Jae Hoon there, and I have to confess, I am lapping this up with relish. It’s just so easy to inhale this kind of thing, somehow. 😅

As for the potential hijinks, there are actually more than I’d expected.

It had actually slipped my mind that John Jang (Park Yeon Woo) would be part of the show as well, so that rivalry between him and Jae Hoon is definitely going to come into play.

And then, even though this kind of coincidence is totally a rom-com trope, it hadn’t actually occurred to me that Ji Yeon (Lee Ju Yeon) would be a participant in the show as well.

I guess she just hadn’t struck me as the sort of person who would sign up to join a dating show like this?

Still, I do think that her presence gives us more room for juicy hijinks, even as the happenings on the set help to drive our main narrative forward.

E6. This episode, the whole Kingdom of Love production is front-and-center a lot of the time, and I can’t deny that I’m entertained by the goings-on, even when it’s to do with contestants that I don’t have an active interest in.

It’s that guilty pleasure vibe kicking in, and I really don’t mind, possibly because it’s been a long time since I’ve watched any kind of reality TV. 😁

When I didn’t find it so fun and slurpy

E7. Show does feel a little less fresh now, compared to when I was first introduced to the set of Kingdom Of Love 2, but that’s probably only because the concept is now less novel in my mind?

Show’s still making it work, and I’m still having a good-ish time.

E8. Perhaps there’s a reason I don’t tend to watch reality TV.. I find that the novelty of the Kingdom Of Love show-within-a-show, which I’d found so slurpy when it’d been first introduced, is wearing off faster than I’d expected it to.

I’m still engaged with what happens to our key characters, certainly, but I find that when the focus goes to the various participants of the dating show, I’m generally less interested than before.

Like, I don’t really care about whether John Jang manages to get Tae Mi’s (Kim Ji Su) attention, and I didn’t care one way or the other, about him being roped in to be her fill-in Instagram Boyfriend.

That kind of stuff mostly lands as filler to my eyes, at the moment, which means that I tend to feel impatient for stuff in our main story to get the spotlight, so that we can see where it’s going.

E12. Y’know what, I’m glad that King of Love 2’s getting cut short; we could use the extra screen time for our main plot, seriously. 😅

Wait.. is that why Show pulled out the slasher dude in the first place, because it needed a reason to cancel the show-within-a-show? 🤔

[END SPOILER]

STUFF I LIKED LESS

How Show chooses to spend its screen time

By about the episode 10 mark, I found myself feeling really quite bemused and perplexed at where Show was choosing to spend its screen time.

For a drama that’s marketed as a friends-to-lovers rom-com, Show sure spends a lot of time on things that don’t exactly help to move the main loveline forward in meaningful ways.

In fact, the main loveline is slow to move, in any way, and that was perplexing for me, as a viewer.

My antsiness at wanting more quality and quantity in terms of other our OTP development, also resulted in my feeling more impatience and frustration at Show’s other arcs, as a side effect.

Like, what are you doing on my screen? You’re not what I wanted? 😅

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of my thoughts around this.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E10. Honestly, Show is taking longer than average, to pave the way for our OTP to be together, or at least admit their feelings for each other, so that they know they have mutual interest in each other, and that is starting to make me feel kinda antsy.

I guess that’s the downside of not following the general rhythm that so many other 16-episode rom-coms tend to follow; as a viewer, I’ve come to expect that by the halfway mark – which would be episode 8 – we would see some meaningful forward movement for the main loveline.

We’re just not getting that at all, and right now, we’re already now 10 episodes in. That’s why I’m feeling antsy.

While I like the little beats where we get meaningful moments between other characters – like Yeo Reum speaking up for, and encouraging Sang Woo, Dae Sik talking with Hye Jin about relying on others instead of crying alone, and Yeo Reum trying to be a good friend, by being there for Hye Jin, instead of always talking about her own problems – I still feel the lack of movement on the OTP front, quite acutely.

In that sense, it feels like something’s missing from this drama world right now, and that is a bummer.

E11. I have to confess that after this episode, I’m feeling rather bemused at where Show is choosing to spend its screen time, given where we are in terms of Show’s run.

I mean, most 16-episode k-romcoms would’ve had a mutual confirmation of feelings by now.

In fact, in most shows, that would have happened by the episode 8 mark, so that we’d have another 8 more episodes to explore the challenges of the OTP relationship.

And yet, here we are, already 11 episodes in, and Yeo Reum is still fighting her feelings for Jae Hoon, while Show’s teasing a potential relationship between him and Ji Yeon.

Plus, since we know that there is very, very, VERY little likelihood of anything actually developing between Jae Hoon and Ji Yeon, this teasing feels particularly cruel to Ji Yeon.

Like, if you’re going to break her heart, Show, do it early, instead of giving her false hope, y’know? Getting Jae Hoon to be nice to her, like we see happen this episode, is just going to make her more miserable the long-run.

Put together, these things make the watch experience rather uncomfortable for me.

For one thing, I keep feeling really bad for Ji Yeon and her inevitable heartbreak. 😭

And for another, I also feel like Show is kind of spinning its wheels by inserting all kinds of other drama in the available screen time, instead of working more meaningfully, on the situation between Jae Hoon and Yeo Reum.

Altogether not very helpful. 😅

[END SPOILER]

When Show makes odd decisions

This section is somewhat similar to the previous one, in that, there are overlaps between the two, but this one is focused specifically on the times when I thought Show made rather odd narrative decisions.

Here’s the quickish spotlight on some of the times when I felt perplexed at Show’s story decisions.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E10. The rain rescue

Show fixes this in episode 11, but when the rain rescue happens at the end of episode 10, it had felt weird and whiplashy, because without context, it had just seemed like Jae Hoon was breaking too suddenly, from his studied avoidance of Yeo Reum.

E11. Jae Hoon telling Ji Yeon, on camera, that from this point forward, he’ll like her more.

ARGH. I mean, this would land completely differently if Ji Yeon were our female lead, and Jae Hoon actually meant what he said. Then that would be quite swoony.

But, we know that he can’t mean it that much, if his feelings for Yeo Reum are still intact, which they totally need to be, for this show to actually function as advertised, and that’s why it lands as perplexing to me.

Stop hurting Ji Yeon, Show!

E11. Introduction of the slasher dude

..who makes his way to the filming site, and is intent on killing Joon Ho (Seo Joon), whom he thinks of as the conman who’d ruined his family and his life.

I dunno; this feels like one random antagonistic dude too many, in a 16-episode show?

We’ve already had that keyboard warrior who’d accused Jae Hoon of medical malpractice; why did we need an actual slasher guy coming on the scene to threaten everyone?

This just doesn’t feel wise or efficient, or even that relevant, y’know? 😩

E12. Yeo Reum and Jae Hoon suddenly sleeping together

We do get glimpses of heartfelt connection between Jae Hoon and Yeo Reum before we get to the big moment at the end of the episode, and that’s something I count as a plus.

I like how Jae Hoon sincerely asks Yeo Reum if this is the work that she’d wanted to do, and then points out that this doesn’t seem like the kind of show she’d wanted to do, when she’d made producing and directing her dream.

I also like how he offers Yeo Reum a listening ear, if she needs one, without judgment. That’s kind, and something that I think Yeo Reum really needs.

And then later, I really do appreciate how he tells Yeo Reum that the apartment where she’d used to live, is still available, because he’d gotten the lease for it, thinking that she might come back.

That is very thoughtful of him, and it’s really nice of him to extend all this to Yeo Reum, especially given how she’s been pushing him away, for some time now.

I appreciate that Yeo Reum goes back to her old apartment, and it makes sense to me, that being there brings back a lot of memories, which gets her all emotional and teary.

I can believe that with all that’s been happening, and all the stress that she’s been under, and with all these memories being triggered on top of that, she would finally break down and tell Jae Hoon how she feels, finally.

Jae Hoon looks appropriately perplexed as he listens to her, and then asks her why she’s telling him this, and why now?

(YES, why have we been waffling about for so darn long, is what I want to know as well! 😅)

But clearly, Jae Hoon’s feelings for Yeo Reum are stronger than his bemusement, because before we know it, he’s holding her, then kissing her, and then.. starting to undress her..??

Look, that went from zero to a hundred like, really fast?? 😳

I understand in my head, that these two people have known each other for years, and therefore, technically, they don’t need to spend more time getting to know each other, before taking the relationship to the next level.

BUT STILL. This feels really sudden, and while I do feel that our OTP sells the emotion of the moment (the kisses are swoony and full of feeling, not gonna lie), I can’t help but reel from the sudden acceleration of it all.

..Is this Show’s way of making up for the 4 episodes that we lost while circling in angst – by leapfrogging over smaller relationship milestones, to go for the gold (so to speak) right away..? 😅

Altogether, a rather surprising move by Show, as far as I’m concerned, and I’m curious to see if this move will really help pull this narrative back into a more immersive, compelling space?

PS: I weigh in a little more, on the topic of Yeo Reum sleeping with Jae Hoon, in just a little bit. Hang tight!

E13. The choppy final stretch

The last few minutes of the episode feel particularly choppy and jerky, in that there appears to be zero context for that scene, where Chae Ri marches up to an as-yet-unrevealed participant’s room, to ask the occupant to sleep with her.

That feels completely random, and I don’t appreciate how Show shoves that in there, without at least showing us what might have led up to Chae Ri’s sudden action.

As we end off the episode, Yeo Reum falls over the balcony – onto some mattresses, thank goodness – while trying to coax So Yeon away from the edge, and.. I just don’t know how that would happen, realistically speaking. 😅

As in, So Yeon’s the one who doesn’t have any grounding, in that she doesn’t have her feet on the floor, while Yeo Reum’s the one who’s standing with her feet on the floor, and with the balcony going up to her waist.

My physics isn’t great, but it seems to me that the idea of Yeo Reum falling over the edge of the balcony, while pulling So Yeon to safety, is just not very believable?

Show is certainly trying to amp up the drama here, with Jae Hoon looking thoroughly panicked as he fusses over a passed out Yeo Reum, but I call false alarm.

A TANGENT: Weighing in on Jae Hoon and Yeo Reum sleeping together

My friend LT wrote a blog post (here) about how frustrated she felt about this show, and in her post, one of the things she talks about, is how Yeo Reum is forced to sleep with Jae Hoon, at the end of episode 12, in order to secure his presence in her life.

I just wanted to weigh in on this, a little bit.

The first thing I want to say, is that it doesn’t seem to me that Yeo Reum is reluctant to sleep with Jae Hoon.

In fact, I’m quite convinced that in her emotionally stirred up state, that she might believably want to sleep with him.

Also, while there is perhaps a hint of uncertainty about Yeo Reum in the scene, I see it more as a manifestation of her feeling overwhelmed by her emotions, rather than as a sign that she does not want to sleep with Jae Hoon.

Plus, this episode, in the morning-after scenes, I don’t detect signs of regret about her; only the expected awkwardness that comes from suddenly taking their relationship from platonic to romantic.

That said, I do wish that Show had chosen a storyline that would have allowed Yeo Reum more than a few weeks after calling off her wedding, to come to terms with her feelings for Jae Hoon.

I feel like this is the key thing that makes this story uncomfortable, for me.

Because, when you think about it, it’s really only been a few weeks since she’d been planning to spend her life with In Woo.

I do get that the wedding itself had been a rushed thing, where Yeo Reum’s deciding to give the previously missed boat a chance, now that it’s come around to dock again, against all expectations.

But, it was still a big thing that she’d called it off, and the humiliation from that was big and real, and therefore, I feel like it would have been helpful, if Show had chosen a storyline that would have allowed Yeo Reum more time to heal properly from that.

Instead, she’s thrust right into the thick of work, and doesn’t have time to take care of herself, let alone heal from her wounds, and as our episodes tick by, we as an audience start to feel antsy that the OTP relationship looks stalled.

It’s just.. not very helpful, all around.

All that to say, I don’t think Yeo Reum felt forced into sleeping with Jae Hoon, but I do wish that Show had chosen a different story, or treated the timeline differently, so that by the time she does sleep with Jae Hoon, it’s been more than just a few short weeks since the failed wedding.

Again, this ties back to how Show chooses to spend its screen time.

[END SPOILER]

SPOTLIGHT ON CHARACTERS & RELATIONSHIPS

Here, I’m giving the selective spotlight to some of our more key characters and relationships, so there will be some characters I don’t mention at all.

For the record, though, I do think that Joon Ho (Seo Joon) is pretty scummy. Did not like. 😒

A word on characterization in general

ALSO. Quite importantly, I wanted to mention that overall, I found the writing around our characters well-intentioned but rather patchy.

What I mean is, it feels like writer-nim had ideas about what defined each of our characters, but didn’t manage to blend it all into something that felt organic and cohesive.

As a result, when I look back on the various actions of our characters, starting from the beginning of our story, those pieces are a clunky fit at best, with the other pieces that Show serves up, in its later stretch.

Lee Da Hee as Yeo Reum

Lee Da Hee is one of the key reasons I was interested in checking out this show, because I loved her a great deal in Search: WWW (review here!), where she was as fabulous as she was relatable.

Unfortunately, the writing in this show doesn’t allow Lee Da Hee to shine in the same way, but there were some bright spots which I appreciated, and I did like Yeo Reum, as a character.

And, for the record, when I’d half considered tapping out early, while watching episode 1, it was because I identified with Yeo Reum, that I decided to stay (more on that in just a bit).

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. There’s this scene somewhere at about the three-quarter point of the episode, where Yeo Reum finally breaks down and admits that it’s exhausting to be a single older woman, who’s hoping to find true love, because guys have stopped showing interest in her, past a certain age.

That resonated with me, because it’s true that men generally stop looking at women past a certain age, as potential partners.

And, what she says, that Jae Hoon wouldn’t understand, is true as well.

As a man – and a rather clueless one at that, which I’ll talk about shortly – he isn’t subject to the same “expiration date,” and therefore he really wouldn’t know what it’s like to be in Yeo Reum’s shoes.

Even though he’s the same age as Yeo Reum, and even though he puts in a lot less effort into his grooming and appearance than Yeo Reum, he’s still considered decent marriage material.

It’s unfair, but it’s also how the world works, unfortunately.

E2. I typically don’t like it so much, when dramas bring the exes back into the picture, because most of the time, it’s just to create angst for our blossoming OTP, but I find that this time – so far anyway – I actually find it a reasonably valuable thing.

For one thing, I like knowing that Yeo Reum has had a serious relationship, and isn’t just someone who’s been single and yearning for a boyfriend, all her adult life.

The fact that she’s had a happy relationship, where she and In Woo had been giddy in love, and had been talking about marriage, lands well, for me, somehow.

And, I also rather like the idea of In Woo reappearing in Yeo Reum’s life, and admitting that he’s not over her.

Mainly, I just like the idea of Yeo Reum having choices. I know she’s going to fall for Jae Hoon at some point, but I like the idea of her falling for him without having regrets about her past.

Yeo Reum talks about it a bit, this episode, about how she occasionally thinks about In Woo, and wonders how her life would have turned out if she’d married him; if she’d made a different choice.

And, looking back now, it does seem like they broke up over something that wasn’t that insurmountable.

Sure, at the time, it had seemed like a huge deal, that she would either have to give up her job, or break up with him.

But now, in the present, with more perspective and wisdom about her, she realizes that there was a third choice; she could have married him, and then just had a long-distance thing for the first few years of their marriage.

Put that way, it really does seem like they might have broken up over nothing.

However, as Jae Hoon points out at the end of the episode, it’s not quite nothing, because In Woo had applied for that overseas posting without first discussing it with Yeo Reum.

On hindsight, sure, it’s something that they could have overcome, but if that’s the way In Woo was planning to do things as a general rule, that that’s not healthy, and would have become a problem, even if they’d overcome the initial problem, of his New York job posting.

Still, I like that Yeo Reum is literally being given a second chance to reconsider how she feels about In Woo.

This is her chance to get back the life that she’d thought she’d lost; a life with In Woo, which, in her mind, would have been a happy one.

On another note, Show’s giving us all these moments which show us just what a hardworking PD and all-around decent person Yeo Reum is, and I really like that.

It’s making me warm to Yeo Reum in quite a significant way, and I’m already rooting for good things to happen to her.

Because, I mean, just how many bad things can happen to her, right, with her program getting canceled on her birthday?

E3. Based on Show’s premise, it’s not a surprise that Yeo Reum gets assigned to Kingdom of Love, after her show gets canceled, but it’s still very endearing to see that she negotiates that she gets to bring her entire team with her – so that no one needs to lose their job, as a result of their ramen show getting canceled.

Aw. Yeo Reum’s so sweet, decent and loyal. I like her extra already.

E3. For now, I’m still reflexively rooting for Yeo Reum to be happy, even if that happiness is with In Woo.

I mean, that beat where she talks with Hye Jin about her run-in with In Woo, and says that it’s been so long since someone’s looked at her with that kind of melo intent, kinda resonates with me.

It’s true that this kind of thing becomes quite rare, when you’re a single female above a certain age, and so, the fact that Yeo Reum’s on the receiving end of that kind of romantically exciting gaze, is quite thrilling to see, actually.

E5. I have to say that I really admire Yeo Reum for calling off the wedding, even though it must have been hard to do.

I mean, there’s so much pressure to carry on with the wedding, isn’t there? All the guests are already there; her parents would be so disappointed; she would be giving up what she’d thought was her chance at married bliss.

But, she’s so clear on what she needs in a relationship, and what she shouldn’t settle for, and then, after crying for a bit, she goes out there and makes that life-changing announcement to everyone, that she’s calling off the wedding.

You can see that it’s tearing her up on the inside, but even so, she doesn’t waver in her decisions, and she does what she needs to do. I have mad respect for Yeo Reum, because of this.

It doesn’t look like such a huge deal onscreen, because it’s part of a surreality, but when you come face to face with it in real life, it’s a whole different ballgame.

I know I couldn’t bear the thought of calling off my own wedding, with 3 months to go.

And yet, here she is, calling it off, on the day of, and refusing to regret it, even though there’s a lot of humiliation to get through, in the here and now.

I can say with absolutely conviction, that Yeo Reum’s absolutely doing the right thing, and I admire her so, so much, for having the clarity and courage, to put herself first.

E5. I do feel bad for Yeo Reum, that she has to dive right into the shoot for Kingdom of Love, the day right after she calls off the wedding. That’s not ideal by any means.

But, Yeo Reum takes it like the champ that she is, and I do admire how she digs her heels in, and puts her bravest face forward, even though, as we see, there are times when the tears come through.

Guh. My heart goes out to Yeo Reum so much, at this time in her life.

E6. Like I’d expected, the sight of Jae Hoon being someone else’s knight in shining armor, does give Yeo Reum pause, which I’m absolutely here for, of course.

On that note, I just want to give Lee Da Hee props for how she delivers those moments, when Yeo Reum reacts to seeing Jae Hoon getting close to Ji Yeon.

The way Yeo Reum smiles slightly, indicates that the PD part of her brain is supportive of this development, because it’ll be good for the show, and the way her smile fades quite quickly, indicates that she’s not truly happy about it, when it comes down to it. Nicely played, I thought.

E6. The scene that made my heart go out to Yeo Reum, in relation to the fallout, is when her parents come to see her, to give her the bag of congratulatory money, which she needs to return to her colleagues.

The way Yeo Reum’s cheerful smile gives way to shakiness in her voice, and tears in her eyes, when Mom and Dad fuss over her with their big ol’ hearts on full display, reminds me all over again, just how much pain Yeo Reum is tamping down, in order to function.

With that as context, it’s not hard to understand why Yeo Reum would want one less thing to deal with, in her life, and why she might find comfort in the idea that her friendship with Jae Hoon is the same as ever; unchanging, solid and dependable.

E8. I do like how we see, pretty consistently, that Yeo Reum’s a good boss and sunbae.

When Sang Woo ‘fesses up to deleting the footage of Ji Wan’s very personal confession, Yeo Reum’s instinct is always to protect him.

Not only does she tell him to keep it quiet and let her tell Chae Ri, she also offers herself as a shield for Sang Woo, by telling Chae Ri and their boss, that it’s her fault, because she had influenced Sang Woo’s thinking, and therefore it’s almost the same as her telling him to delete the footage.

And then afterwards, when the worst is over, the way she talks to Sang Woo is so great.

I love how gentle yet firm she is, as she talks to him, and how she prioritizes affirming his courage and passion, while advising him on how to better approach things strategically, going forward.

Most importantly, through that whole conversation, it’s clear to see that Yeo Reum genuinely cares about Sang Woo, and wants the best for him.

It’s no wonder Sang Woo is such a devoted puppy to Yeo Reum; I would be too, in his shoes, honestly.

E9. I do sympathize with Yeo Reum, who is also going through a lot.

Even though our story doesn’t dwell on it, it’s still true that Yeo Reum’s recently called off her wedding, and is now still dealing with the emotional and social fallout, which is no small deal on its own.

Plus, her job is stressful enough, on a regular day.

And then, to have Jae Hoon turn cold towards her, and misunderstand her intentions, must be the last thing that she needs or wants, really.

That scene by the river, where Yeo Reum sits alone, and basically imagines Jae Hoon coming back to talk with her (when he’s really on his way back to the filming site with Ji Yeon), really brings across the idea that Yeo Reum’s feeling very lonely, at this time.

The fact that she has no one to turn to, right now, makes my heart go out to her too.

ALSO. This definitely shows that Yeo Reum’s wistful for the closeness that she’s always shared with Jae Hoon. With him being distant and cold now, she’s feeling the sting, and that’s gotta suck.

[END SPOILER]

Siwon as Jae Hoon

Fact: This is not my favorite drama outing of Siwon’s (Pure Pretty post here!). I think that would have to be his role in She Was Pretty (review here!) where I legit had Second Lead Syndrome, and had it bad, because of his character.

Also Fact: I actually didn’t like Jae Hoon very much, for a while, in the beginning stages of our story. Sometimes, I legit wanted to clunk him on the head. 😅

ALSO Fact: I did like him pretty well, by the end.

Honestly, I put that down to the uneven writing around characters, which I mentioned earlier. Because of that, Jae Hoon in episode 1 didn’t register as the same person as Jae Hoon in episode 16.

Here’s a look at my more detailed thoughts around Jae Hoon as a character, with more thoughts that I will share in the OTP section.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. For a good stretch of this episode, I wasn’t at all impressed with Jae Hoon.

Sure, he’s somewhat helpful as a friend, in that he does help Yeo Reum buy chicken feet like she asks him to (after some haggling, but fine, he does buy it), and he does actually go to her filming site to pick her up, like she’d asked.

BUT. There’s something very clueless about him, that is rubbing me the wrong way, at least so far.

It boggles me mind, actually, that he couldn’t figure out that the reason Yeo Reum had asked him to go to her filming site to pick her up, while dressed in his best clothes and carrying a bouquet of flowers – right after she’s been dumped by John Jang.

The fact that he thought it would be funny to prank her, by showing up in sloppy clothes and flip-flops, while holding a bunch of weeds instead of flowers, is quite horrifying to me.

This shows me that he really doesn’t understand Yeo Reum the way he thinks he does.

Instead of helping her, his prank only served to humiliate her further, and I can’t help but shake my head at the fact that he doesn’t seem to be able to piece together why Yeo Reum’s upset.

This does not endear him to me as our male lead.

THAT SAID. Jae Hoon does redeem himself fairly well, this episode, with the way he cleans himself up and puts on a suit, and shows up at Yeo Reum’s filming site, with a huge bouquet of flowers.

He’s viscerally upset at all the various things that John Jang does, that disrespect Yeo Reum, and that does earn him brownie points in my book.

He might be clueless in some important ways, but at least he’s demonstrating that he sincerely cares about her, and doesn’t want people to bully or disrespect her.

And, from the way he explains himself to John Jang, that he’s just some dude who’s trying to look good to Yeo Reum, because she’s a woman whom he’s curious about, I can tell that he was listening, when Yeo Reum talked tearfully about how hard it is to be in her position.

Of course, it’s probably too soon for me to breathe a sigh of relief, because I’m pretty sure that Jae Hoon and his clueless flippant ways are going to still get to me, going forward, but hey, at least we have some progress?

E2. We’re learning more about Jae Hoon this episode, which I appreciate.

We don’t get the full story of what happened with his job, that’s caused him to leave neurosurgery and become a locum doctor at a plastic surgery clinic, but there’s implied angst there, which I somehow appreciate in principle.

Even without knowing what that hidden angst is, I feel like that angst is adding some weight to Jae Hoon as a character, just by existing, and I appreciate that, because otherwise Jae Hoon mostly comes across as a flippant bum. 😅

E3. Jae Hoon’s noisy antics, designed to interrupt whatever conversation or cozy times that Yeo Reum might be having with In Woo in her home, feels so rude.

Not that his actions aren’t rude on a regular day. It just feels extra rude, because he’s doing it on purpose, to ruin her date – if it is, indeed, a date.

Gotta say, Jae Hoon acting petty and childish like this isn’t my favorite look on him, and I have to remind myself that he’s meant to be romantic endgame, and that Show will likely make him do more appealing things, going forward. 😅

To Jae Hoon’s credit, he drops the annoying clueless act the moment he hears from Yeo Reum that her dad’s been hospitalized, AND he looks contrite, and apologizes, for missing Yeo Reum’s call to him earlier, when she’d first heard the news from Mom.

And, he does take steps to make up for it too, like the way he calls Mom the next day, and talks to the doctor as well. Plus, he even puts aside money, to help with the hospital bill.

Aw. He’s almost like a son to Yeo Reum’s parents, isn’t he?

E4. Show gives us a glimpse of Jae Hoon while he’d been a neurosurgeon, and even though Show isn’t explicit about it, I’m guessing that that incident, where he’d made the call to operate on one patient over the other, likely had something to do with why he ended up stepping back from neurosurgery, and becoming an aimless locum doctor.

My melodramatic instincts are reaching for the possibility that Jae Hoon had chosen to operate on the younger patient, and that the older patient, whose face had been rendered unrecognizable by burns, had been his father.

That would explain why it tore Jae Hoon up so badly, and also, why the family had kept Dad’s death so quiet, such that Ji Yeon’s surprised to hear about it, this episode.

We’ll have to see if my theory is correct, but for now, that’s what it is.

E4. One of the decent things that Jae Hoon does this episode, is tell Ji Yeon that they should end this ambiguous connection that they’ve got.

Even though he could have just allowed it to go on indefinitely – since Ji Yeon definitely seems willing – it’s the decent thing to do, to cut Ji Yeon off, since he doesn’t have an intention of allowing it to get serious in any way.

E6. I appreciate that Jae Hoon’s honest with Ji Yeon, when she goes to see him at the clinic.

I like how matter-of-fact he is, in telling Ji Yeon that he’s on the show for Yeo Reum’s sake, and that Yeo Reum is the woman for whom he’d like to confirm his feelings.

This quality of Jae Hoon’s, where he makes sure not to lead someone else on, is something that I really like about him.

E6. As we close out the episode, Jae Hoon finally takes up Ji Yeon on her offer, that he use her, for the show.

I do appreciate that Jae Hoon checks with Ji Yeon one last time, before acting on it, because that gives Ji Yeon the space to change her mind, and that’s very considerate of him.

E9. I WAS RIGHT. The patient who’d died because Jae Hoon had chosen to operate on the younger patient, had indeed been his father.

Oof. How horribly tragic is that, seriously?

It’s no wonder Jae Hoon became so depressed and guilt-ridden, that he had to step away from neurosurgery.

I can only imagine how traumatizing it must have been for him, to realize that he had been involved in his father’s death, however indirectly.

And it must have tortured him for a long time – perhaps it still tortures him now – to wonder if Dad might have had a chance, if he’d received surgery.

Given how this must have destroyed Jae Hoon, I can understand better, why he’s particularly sensitive when this topic comes up.

Although I’d winced at the way Jae Hoon had reacted to Yeo Reum when she’d tried to talk with him about the rumors, this episode, with this context revealed, I can understand why Jae Hoon would be particularly sensitive about this.

It’s not just a raw nerve; it’s a raw wound that he’s covered and pretended was healed, but that has never actually healed, in the days and years since the incident happened.

This definitely gives me a new perspective of Jae Hoon, in the sense that I now see him as a wounded soldier, pretty much, trying to navigate his way through the world, without letting on that he’s actually wounded.

And even though many of us are wounded soldiers, in a manner of speaking, I do see Jae Hoon’s wound as being more severe than most.

Therefore, thinking back now to all the times that he’s been kind to Yeo Reum, and wrestled with his feelings for her, makes me see it all with an additional layer of poignance.

It’s hard to give, when you yourself are wounded, and he’s been doing his best to give, to Yeo Reum, in the last little while, in particular. Thinking of it that way really makes my heart go out to him, honestly.

It’s also kind of giving me a whole new perspective of Jae Hoon as a character, in that I now find myself feeling more protective of him, where before, I’d just been curious and somewhat quizzical, about his mysterious past.

And in the context of what we’ve seen him go through for this Kingdom of Love show-within-a-show, I’m starting to see how much it must have messed him up, to come on this show for Yeo Reum, only to be pushed away, and – from his perspective – used, over and over again.

I’d instinctively flinched when he’d said those sharp things to Yeo Reum (which aren’t true, for the record), but now, with this context, I have to confess that I do feel much more sympathetic towards Jae Hoon than I’d first imagined I’d be.

And, it must be hard for him, to try to be sincere towards Ji Yeon now as well, after all that’s happened.

Given that we’ve seen that his instinct in a crisis, is to hide and be alone for as long as possible, and given that he isn’t actually feeling great lately, it must be quite an effort for him to extend his sincerity to Ji Yeon, AND have it all recorded for the public to see.

E10. The glimpse of the nightmares that Jae Hoon’s been having, really color in for me, just how much mental and emotional anguish he’s been suffering, since his father died.

I can imagine how debilitating that would be, if he’s reliving that moment over and over again in his dreams, in every iteration possible. That kind of thing adds up, y’know? And then it starts to crush you.

That makes my heart go out to Jae Hoon more than ever, and I find it really sad that he’s all alone, while dealing with these nightmares.

There’s no one with him, and there’s no one whom he talks to, about these nightmares. That’s no way to live, seriously. 😭

[END SPOILER]

Jae Hoon & Yeo Reum

To be brutally honest, this OTP worked out to be a mixed bag, for me.

They were good together when they were allowed to be, but.. for a good chunk of the time, they weren’t allowed to be, thanks to the writing, and that was a downer.

It’s not just that Show takes the VERY slow burn approach to this loveline; it’s also that, in the beginning, the writing around their bickering dynamic just didn’t work very well.

In episode 1, the tension between Yeo Reum and Jae Hoon, meant to be funny, I’m sure, just wasn’t popping, for me.

I didn’t feel the spark in their interactions, I didn’t find it amusing that they were always disagreeing with each other, and I didn’t know why I ought to care.

That eases up and gets better with a bit of time, and Show does give us some meaningful moments in this OTP relationship, which I enjoyed, but I do feel like this OTP could have been so much better written.

Here’s a look at my various thoughts around this OTP, over the course of my watch.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E2. This episode, I’m growing to appreciate the friendship between Yeo Reum and Jae Hoon more.

I realize that I think their living arrangement is cool, where they share a house, but have their own private spaces in which to do their own thing.

And yet, when they want to hang out, they can do that in the yard, or in each other’s homes.

They have independence, but at the same time, they have someone whom they can fall back on, who’s almost like family – and someone with whom they can share groceries.

I rather like the idea, come to think of it. It’s kinda nice and cute.

Of course, things are going to change if Yeo Reum and Jae Hoon are going to become a couple, but for now, I like the cozy-yet-independent vibe of this arrangement.

E2. I do find myself perking up with attention, each time we see an indication that Yeo Reum is important to Jae Hoon, or vice versa.

For example, I liked hearing about how Jae Hoon had been there for Yeo Reum, when she’d been brokenhearted and constantly drunk, after breaking up with In Woo.

Nothing says love and acceptance, like catching someone’s vomit with your bare hands, eh? 😝😅

I also like the fact that Yeo Reum feels able to be so honest with Jae Hoon, in sharing her thoughts and feelings, even when it’s a topic that’s as delicate as In Woo.

There’s also how Jae Hoon basically drops everything to run to Yeo Reum, when he sees that news snippet and worries that she’s the woman in the report, who’s been reported as dead.

Of course, there are also little moments like how Jae Hoon gives Yeo Reum his jacket because he can see that she’s feeling cold.

And then there are those few extra glances he throws in Yeo Reum’s direction, most likely to make sure that she’s ok, before he settles down to sleep in the car.

Plus, there’s the way Jae Hoon buys Yeo Reum a cake, and celebrates her birthday with her, even though she’d given him the impression that she had plans.

These two have a pretty good thing going, as it is, and of course, that also creates the element of risk, of potentially losing the friendship, if they take things romantic, and it doesn’t work out.

E2. At the end of the episode, we have that moment of hyper-proximity and hyper-awareness between Yeo Reum and Jae Hoon, as they fall into each other’s personal space, in an effort kill that mosquito.

I’m preeeetty sure they won’t go through with the kiss, but even now, with how they’re within kissing distance of each other, and literally sharing the air that they’re breathing, I can already feel a distinct crackle. 🔥

This is good. I’m enjoying this, and am very much looking forward to see how these two besties navigate these very new, very unfamiliar hyper-awareness waters, going forward, in our next episodes. 😁

E3. I’m tickled at the play on perspectives we get, when Show gives us the two different flashbacks, to how the almost-kiss had panned out.

From Yeo Reum’s point of view, she’s mortified that she’d closed her eyes and prepped for a kiss, when Jae Hoon had already gotten off the bed and readied to leave.

But then, we see that from Jae Hoon’s point of view, how he’d made to leave, with some consternation and struggle, complete with muttered prayer – because he’d definitely felt something, in the moment, heh.

I’m slightly disappointed that Yeo Reum and Jae Hoon don’t lean into the hyper-awareness more, this episode, but I guess it is quite realistic that they tamp it down and just carry on with life, in an effort to avoid awkwardness.

E4. I do appreciate that even when he’d been swamped and exhausted at the hospital, Jae Hoon’s instinct had been to give up his off day to run to Yeo Reum in her moment of need, when she’d called him crying, after In Woo had driven off and left her at that rest stop.

In that sense, we can tell that even then, Yeo Reum had been very important to Jae Hoon.

And, this episode, it’s clear that Jae Hoon IS very bothered by the fact that In Woo’s shown up in Yeo Reum’s life, and has proposed to her.

This doesn’t only threaten to upset the status quo (which Jae Hoon’s very comfortable and happy with), it kind of forces Jae Hoon into a position where he needs to decide what he should do (or not do).

And, the way he explains it to Hye Jin, it actually makes sense; that he’s not in a position in his life to seriously pursue marriage, because of his job situation; that his feelings towards Yeo Reum are not that sure and strong, so approaching her like this wouldn’t be fair to her.

When he puts it that way, Jae Hoon even sounds like he’s being considerate, the way he’s holding off telling Yeo Reum how he feels about her.

E4. I do love that moment, when Jae Hoon sees the pictures of Yeo Reum in her wedding dress, and he goes running off to see her, to tell her how he really feels about her.

Augh. That could have been epic, especially judging from the flashbacks that we get, of the various things that Jae Hoon had really wished had happened with Yeo Reum.

The way he wishes he’d told her that he’d missed her; the way he wishes he’d kissed her, that night; the way he wishes he’d told her not to marry In Woo, because he likes her and wants to date her.

AUGH. I desperately wanted Jae Hoon to really come out and tell Yeo Reum all these things, but.. he doesn’t, the moment he sees Yeo Reum with In Woo.

And, y’know, I respect that.

It’s honestly super tricky that Yeo Reum’s engaged to be married, and he’s thinking of telling her that he likes her. Him taking a step back, in consideration of her circumstances, is actually quite the gentlemanly thing to do.

E5. With Yeo Reum calling off the wedding, I’m so, SO glad that Jae Hoon’s there for her, in much the same way she had been there for him, when his life had fallen apart.

I love that we get that flashback to how Yeo Reum had been so matter-of-fact and persistent in wriggling her way into Jae Hoon’s life, when he’d needed her the most. The way she’d gone about it, had been so perfect.

She’d been so casual and everyday about it, but the way she’d made sure that her presence was felt in Jae Hoon’s life, had been so important.

When everything in his life had felt dead, she’d been his source of light and life, and she’d sprinkled that light and life into him, in small, bite-sized pieces, so that he couldn’t help but come back to life, slowly but surely.

I sincerely, truly love it, so much.

And this piece of context makes me see Jae Hoon’s concern for Yeo Reum in a whole new light.

He’s had his world crash down on him, and he knows what it’s like, to be in that position, and he also knows what’s needed, when you’re in that position, and he’s able to be that rock for Yeo Reum, now that the roles are reversed.

I love how Jae Hoon is comfortable just being silent around Yeo Reum, like he knows that he doesn’t need to talk. Yet, at the same time, he’s 100% ready to yield to what she’d like to do, in the moment.

When she says that she just wants to disappear, he doesn’t say a word. He just drives off to that remote seaside lodge, which belongs to his ex-patient, because he knows that that’s a safe place where she can disappear to, for a while.

Then, he listens, while Yeo Reum talks, and he insists on feeding her, the way she’d once insisted on feeding him. It’s just altogether so comforting and assuring. I love it a lot.

And the next morning, he gives Yeo Reum a piece of wisdom, as someone who’s run away before, that she needs to go back to reality, before she loses her way.

It’s the perfect balance of tender comfort, matched with gentle yet firm nudges in the right direction. Sooo helpful, I feel.

E5. While I hate that Chae Ri makes it such that Yeo Reum has no choice but to ask Jae Hoon to become a participant in the show, I love how unhesitating Jae Hoon is, in agreeing to Yeo Reum’s request.

It honestly makes me swoon a bit, the way he’s willing to do anything that she asks, because he knows that she needs his help right now.

Clearly, he doesn’t want to be on the show, since we’ve already seen him decline Chae Ri’s invitation once. And yet, he doesn’t show a lick of hesitation, when Yeo Reum asks him for the favor.

He’s 100% doing this for her, to help her as much as he can, and I melt. 🫠

E6. I am actually really pleased that Jae Hoon makes it point to indicate to Yeo Reum that he’d like to explore being more than just friends, with her.

I really like the matter-of-fact way he goes about expressing himself on this front, to her, by telling her that he’s there because of her; that he regrets not holding her back from wanting to marry In Woo; that he doesn’t intend to approach her right away, because she’ll need some time.

The way he delivers it is pretty low-key and laidback, and I think it’s quite perfect, for right now.

Ordinarily, I do like a more intense sort of love confession, but in this situation where Yeo Reum’s brokenhearted from the almost-wedding with In Woo, and still has to keep it together for work, it makes sense to me, that Jae Hoon keep his confession low-key.

The more casual tone of it all reduces the burden on Yeo Reum, I feel like, while giving her information that’s really important, given that Jae Hoon’s taking part in a dating show.

I’m honestly quite relieved, that he’s telling Yeo Reum that he’s just going with the flow, and that his heart is for her, and not whomever he ends up playing opposite, on the show.

This will go so far, honestly, in terms of steadying Yeo Reum’s heart, as she watches him do the hot bachelor thing, for the screen.

AND YET. In the end, Yeo Reum tells Jae Hoon, later in the episode, that she’d like him to be a friend to her, because she’s in need of a friend, not a man.

I know, I know. It’s true that this is what she needs right now, and it’s true that Jae Hoon had told her that he’d be to her, whatever she needs him to be, but my fangirl heart is still bummed about this.

I do understand, however, that Yeo Reum just doesn’t need more complications in her life right now, what with juggling the demands of the show, and dealing with the fallout from canceling her wedding.

One less thing to complicate her life, means that her life will be that much easier to deal with. And so I get her decision, to tell Jae Hoon to just be a friend to her.

It makes it that much more clean-cut for her, as she watches him do his hot bachelor thing, because technically, her heart is not allowed to twist in response.

E7. This episode, we open with that flashback to when Jae Hoon and Yeo Reum had been twenty, and fine, the visual isn’t quite there, because our leads are clearly not twenty anymore, but it was nice to get some insight into their relationship then.

Clearly, they’d had feelings for each other then, because why else would Jae Hoon tell Yeo Reum to call him anytime, and that he wouldn’t go for blind dates anymore, and why else would Yeo Reum kiss him, while drunk, right?

Ahhh. These two. They could’ve gotten together back then, if they’d found a way to work through Yeo Reum’s embarrassment, at having kissed Jae Hoon.

I mean, it’s clear to see that Jae Hoon was all ready to commit, not only from the things he’d said in the lead-up to the kiss, but also, in the way he really wanted to see Yeo Reum, after the kiss.

It’s just too bad that Yeo Reum backed away so fast and so completely, out of mortification.

But, I suppose if they’d worked through that then, then this would’ve been a very different show – or maybe we wouldn’t have a show at all. 😁

E7. I was mildly amused by Jae Hoon getting all suspicious and jealous of Sang Woo being around Yeo Reum, and always showing up at the right time, with the right support.

I can see why Jae Hoon, who’s got all his feelings for Yeo Reum stirred up, might feel suspicious and even threatened by Sang Woo’s presence, as unlikely as it is, that Yeo Reum would fall for Sang Woo. 😁

Still, I appreciate that this makes Jae Hoon feel uneasy and antsy, which I’m sure contributes to where we end the episode.

I can see why Yeo Reum would reach for the kiss scene, as a way to protect Ji Wan.

We’ve seen how Season 1 participants’ lives have been ruined, or at least severely impacted, by having their private moments broadcast on public TV, because they couldn’t stop it.

With Ji Wan being a participant that Yeo Reum had personally angled for, to be on the show, I can see why Yeo Reum would want to be extra protective of her.

Plus, Yeo Reum’s not the kind of PD who ruins people’s lives for breakfast; she’s way too decent for that.

That said, I get Chae Ri’s point, that these are adults who have full awareness that their words and actions are being capture on camera, and that is implied consent to be filmed and to have their words and actions broadcast.

All that to say, I understand the conundrum, and I can see why Yeo Reum would ask the favor of Jae Hoon, out of desperation.

Certainly, it’s the last thing Jae Hoon wants to hear, since he has feelings for Yeo Reum, and appears to be quite serious about said feelings.

And, I can see why, in the face of Jae Hoon’s resistance, she would reach for the words that Chae Ri had used earlier, to describe how even one night stands are  basically commonplace and therefore nothing at all, let alone a kiss.

Which, of course, makes Jae Hoon even more upset and perplexed, which is why he ends up grabbing Yeo Reum for that kiss – since it’s all so commonplace and easy.

I’m.. not exactly sure how to feel about the kiss, because it’s not a kiss that Yeo Reum’s consented to.

But, with the context that Yeo Reum’s kissed him before, and also without consent, it kind of helps to even things out?

And, in a narrative sense, if I lean backwards and squint sideways, it’s almost like Jae Hoon reclaiming the kiss that got swept under the carpet, all those years ago?

I’m actually really curious to see how Yeo Reum will react this time, now that she’s fully sober during the kiss, and can’t deny that it ever happened, like she had, back then.

E8. I’m not at all surprised that Yeo Reum tries to deflect anything and everything to do with the kiss.

But, it is still a bummer to see, all the more because it’s clear to me as a viewer, that there are real feelings on both sides; it’s just that Yeo Reum’s in denial, while Jae Hoon’s leaning into his feelings for her.

Show makes that clear from the opening flashbacks and voiceovers, where both Jae Hoon and Yeo Reum talk about how kissing had somehow become such a casual, easy, almost meaningless thing to them both, over the years of dating other people – but that THIS kiss, that they are sharing now, is neither casual nor meaningless.

Ooh. That’s perhaps the most thrilling part of the entire episode, OTP-wise, because that’s the only time we have Yeo Reum acknowledging that she does have feelings for Jae Hoon.

Other than this little crumb, Yeo Reum spends the rest of the episode pushing Jae Hoon away, and that’s a bummer, whichever way I slice it.

Poor Jae Hoon looks so crestfallen, when Yeo Reum tells him that they’ll talk about it later, and then flees the scene, right after the kiss.

Aw. 🥺 That’s totally NOT how you hope things will go, after you kiss the girl you like, eh?

At the same time, I can appreciate the pressure that Yeo Reum must feel.

Not only is she trying to keep it together after having just called off her wedding, and still working through the fallout, she’s trying to fulfill her duty as a PD, to the best of her ability.

Combining the facts that, 1, she’s already told Jae Hoon that she would like him to be a friend to her, and not a man, and 2, it’s her duty as a PD of the show, to keep things running as smoothly as possible, I can see why Yeo Reum would make the choices that she does.

She has no right to call dibs on Jae Hoon, since she’s turned him down, and as a PD, she can’t afford to lose a cast member because of her actions.

That’s why she accedes to Ji Yeon’s request, that she draw a clear line with Jae Hoon, because that is Ji Yeon’s condition, to continue with the show.

I don’t think it’s not because she doesn’t actually have feelings for him.

I think it’s that, in this moment, this is the only thing she feels she can do, to keep things moving in they way that they need to move.

That’s why she says such a cruel thing to Jae Hoon, that she didn’t feel anything, when he kissed her; that that’s how she knows that he isn’t the one.

That said, ACK, I felt crushed on Jae Hoon’s behalf, because how couldn’t he not feel devastated, to have Yeo Reum turn him down so definitively, and, it would appear, permanently? 💔

He’s been saying that he’s willing to wait – until she’s ready, and until the show wraps – but the way Yeo Reum’s putting it to him, she’s basically saying that no amount of waiting that he could do, would change anything for her. That’s gotta hurt.

E10. It’s a pretty meaningful mirroring moment, when Jae Hoon, sitting on the beach, imagines Yeo Reum coming to him, and speaking to his heart, just like Yeo Reum, in her moment of lowness, had imagined Jae Hoon coming to sit and talk with her.

Clearly, these two are wistful for each other’s closeness, and y’know what, SO AM I. I am getting so antsy, with them being distant from each other like this. *grumbles*

E13. I actually like the general treatment of the morning-after, this episode.

It makes sense to me that Yeo Reum feels rather self-conscious and awkward for a bit, around Jae Hoon, since they went from friends to lovers very suddenly.

At the same time, I can believe that Jae Hoon would be much more comfortable with it, since he’s been cognizant of his feelings for Yeo Reum for some time now, and has likely thought about them in this romantic space, more than a little bit.

I rather like the dynamic, that Jae Hoon behaves much as usual, being all casual and laidback, which I think is his way of helping Yeo Reum feel at ease.

And yet, he gets up early to cook her breakfast, spreads jam on her toast for her, and then, kisses her and tells her that he loves her.

I don’t know that there’s anything more I could ask of Jae Hoon, in this situation, honestly.

He’s down-to-earth, yet tender and expressive, AND, he puts thought into how to conduct himself in a way that would serve Yeo Reum’s work on Kingdom of Love 2, while respecting their new relationship.

That’s covering pretty much all the bases, yes?

And, it seems like Yeo Reum thinks so too, because it’s after he’s said his piece, that she visibly relaxes and smiles a tentative, happy smile.

Not that I think Yeo Reum’s tentative because she’s feeling uncomfortable, or that she doesn’t believe him.

The sense I get, is that Yeo Reum isn’t sure that she deserves to have this happiness, and that’s where her tentativeness comes from.

Plus, there’s the thing where she’d agreed to draw a line and make things clear with Jae Hoon, in exchange for Ji Yeon continuing with the show. I’m sure that’s weighing on her conscience to some extent as well, even as she follows her heart, to acknowledge her feelings for Jae Hoon.

I’m glad that Jae Hoon comes out and talks about how he’d like to proceed with handling his role in Kingdom, because I feel that’s the healthier way to go, given that he can’t exactly drop out of the show.

E14. I do love how Jae Hoon thinks to prepare Yeo Reum’s apartment for her return, by filling it with furniture and other things that he thinks she would like.

That’s very sweet and thoughtful of him. ❤️

And, I’m also glad that we get that conversation between Jae Hoon and Yeo Reum, where she tells him that when she’d had that near-death experience, her biggest regret was that she hadn’t told him that she loves him too.

Aw. I’m glad that she tells him now, and it’s sweet that he earnestly tells her that he will love her even more.

[END SPOILER]

Lee Ju Yeon as Ji Yeon

I realize that Ji Yeon’s a pretty polarizing character, in that some people like her a lot, while others find her manipulative and annoying.

I find myself in the camp that likes her, and I’d like to attempt to explain why.

Here’s a look at my thoughts around Ji Yeon, during my watch, followed by a small dive into why I don’t see her as a manipulative character.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E2. I must say, Jae Hoon’s blind date Ji Yeon is turning out to be a gracious, patient and rather persistent person.

I like her, in spite of myself.

Ordinarily, I don’t typically take to competition when it comes to the central loveline, and so, since Ji Yeon is clearly making an effort to get to know Jae Hoon in a romantic space, I shouldn’t like her – but I do.

I like how she’s honest and frank, without appearing desperate. I like how she’s gentle yet stands her ground and doesn’t give up easily, just because Jae Hoon behaves badly on their blind date.

She manages to be dignified and sweet, even as she pursues Jae Hoon, and that is really admirable and endearing.

I already feel bad for her, because Jae Hoon’s destined to fall for Yeo Reum and not her, right? 🙊

E6. I have to say, I’m really quite surprised that Ji Yeon had fallen into the pool on purpose, because Chae Rin had nudged her with a couple of hints, that she’d like to make Ji Yeon the female lead of her narrative.

I guess I’d pegged Ji Yeon for being such an upfront person when it comes to her feelings for Jae Hoon, that it surprises me that she would stoop to a trick like this, to get his attention.

That said, I appreciate that Show gives us some insight into her thought process around this, specifically when she talks to fellow contestant Ji Wan about how Jae Hoon has that kind of effect on her, where she finds herself acting out of character, because she wants him to like her.

That’s a pretty relatable sort of sentiment, and I’m sure most of us would be able to identify with that kind of feeling, at least at some point in our lives.

And so, because Show takes care to explain Ji Yeon’s inner workings to us, at least around this, it makes me feel more sympathetic towards her, even though I don’t like the idea of her falling on purpose, in an effort to angle for Jae Hoon’s attention and sympathy.

Plus, I do think it helps to mitigate it all, that Ji Yeon hadn’t actually intended to go out there in her slip; it had been Chae Ri’s words that had prodded her to make a different decision.

E6. Ji Yeon’s offer, that Jae Hoon use her, is very helpful to him, technically speaking.

If he takes her up on her offer, which she positions as something that would protect her reputation as well, it would make things a lot simpler for Jae Hoon, since the person he chooses to date on the show, would then already have her expectations calibrated.

E6. I’m honestly quite taken aback by the way Ji Yeon outs her connection with Jae Hoon, during the self-introduction segment.

I mean, the honesty is aligned with her personality, true, but the fact that she comes out and tells everyone about it – which kind of puts Jae Hoon on the spot – feels kind of manipulative, to me?

I’d somehow pegged Ji Yeon as a more considerate person than that, and again, I just have to put it down to her acting out of character, because that’s how much she wants to capture Jae Hoon’s attention.

Question: Is Ji Yeon emotionally manipulative?

I wanted to talk about, just for a bit, is the mixed reactions I see towards Ji Yeon.

In LT‘s post (again, here), she talks about how Ji Yeon is emotionally manipulative, in terms of her behavior towards Jae Hoon.

I find that very interesting, because I honestly don’t feel that way about Ji Yeon. Funny how different people can see the same thing, and come away with vastly different reactions, isn’t it?

Personally, I feel like I can understand Ji Yeon’s behavior, if not in the minute details like choosing to fall into the pool, then in broad strokes.

I get that she understands that Jae Hoon’s heart is leaning towards Yeo Reum, and I also believe her, when she says that in spite of that, she can’t control her heart, and wants to do whatever she can, to win Jae Hoon’s heart.

I don’t see that as being emotionally manipulative, I actually see Ji Yeon as emotionally honest.

She knows that she’s taking a big risk here, but she likes Jae Hoon enough to want to take that risk.

At the same time, she’s only human, and so, when she observes Jae Hoon only having eyes for Yeo Reum, or she is on the receiving end of words that she would prefer not to hear from Jae Hoon, she cannot help but feel sad, in response.

Putting that all together, I feel like I can understand Ji Yeon, and I just wanted to state for the record, that I don’t find her emotionally manipulative.

[END SPOILER]

Song Jong Ho as In Woo

Unlike my feelings for Ji Yeon, where I felt sympathetic towards her, and found her an understandable and even likable character, I did not feel the same way about In Woo.

In fact, the more I saw of In Woo, the more problematic I found his character, and the more I wanted him to exit our story, and quickly. 😅

It didn’t help that, coincidentally, I was seeing Song Jong Ho in a not that dissimilar sort of space, in The Princess’s Man, which I was covering for our Group Watch, at the same time that I was watching this show.

I did find it a little unusual that Show made In Woo’s exit from our story so permanent, partway through our story, but y’know, since that’s what I actually wanted, I’ll say that that’s one of  the times when Show’s non-normative narrative decisions worked for me. 😁

Here’s a look at my various thoughts on In Woo.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E3. Because I want good things for Yeo Reum, it doesn’t seem like such a bad thing, really, when In Woo shows back up again, wanting to be part of her life.

Right now, at least, he appears to be sincere, caring and helpful, with the way he doesn’t hesitate to drive Yeo Reum to Chuncheon, because her father’s been suddenly hospitalized.

In a situation like that, when Yeo Reum can’t reach Jae Hoon, it actually feels like a relief, that In Woo’s there for her, and helps her in both a practical and emotional way.

And of course, there’s something about hearing from In Woo, how he’d gone back to look for her, the day they’d broken up. That feels like an unexpected bit of closure for Yeo Reum, who must have been so upset that he’d left like that, that day.

THAT SAID. My brain can’t help but protest, a little bit, that if In Woo had been so reluctant to part ways with Yeo Reum, that he could’ve done more to look for her after that day, and even in the time that he’d been in New York.

If he’d missed her so much, and thought of her as the love of his life – the one who got away, so to speak – then why hadn’t he reached out to her, in the past few years since they broke up?

I rationalize that it’s possible that he felt that Yeo Reum was done with him, and that there was no point in continuing to harass her, if he wasn’t going to stay in Korea.

Whatever it is, it is admittedly rather melty to have In Woo reappear in Yeo Reum’s life, and say that he’s still in love with her, and the he’d never gotten over her.

Given that Yeo Reum’s been having trouble finding someone decent to date, who’s sincerely interested in a future with her, this feels like a breath of fresh air, with a touch of fairytale to it, doesn’t it?

E3. By the end of the episode, In Woo’s whipping out a ring, and asking Yeo Reum to marry him, which, woah.

It’s not that I didn’t think he would propose, but it does seem really fast, given how they’ve only just reconnected, and spent a tiny bit of time together in the same space.

Even though they’d dated for a long time before they broke up, I do think that In Woo is overlooking the possibility that he and Yeo Reum aren’t quite the same people they were, back when they’d been engaged.

Surely a little more time getting re-acquainted wouldn’t hurt?

But Yeo Reum’s thinking about it, and I can understand why, too.

It’s not like she’s getting any younger, and it’s not like there are lots of romantic prospects around her, at this point in her life. And it’s true that she had loved In Woo a lot, back in the day.

I can see why she’d be tempted to accept his proposal, and even mention it to Jae Hoon. That makes it feel all the more real, doesn’t it, now that it’s not just a thought in her head?

E5. I think it says a lot about In Woo, that there’s a woman in this picture, who’s pregnant with his baby, and who’s still in the early stages of her pregnancy, even.

This means that he’d slept with this lady, when he hadn’t even been in a real relationship with her, and this had occurred not very long before he’d proposed to Yeo Reum, if you do the math.

That definitely muddies up the perfect picture that In Woo’s been presenting, as the first love who’s still pining for Yeo Reum. I mean, for someone who’d supposedly been pining for Yeo Reum, he was certainly keeping.. busy? 😏

Putting that aside, I’m completely with Yeo Reum, on the fact that he should have told her, immediately after finding out himself, instead of hiding it from her, and then hoping that it would all sort itself out somehow, after the wedding.

I do think that the woman he’d gotten pregnant, did the right thing, in letting Yeo Reum know before the wedding.

I mean, it’s only right that Yeo Reum have the chance to decide whether she’s ready to commit to someone who’s going to have a child outside their marriage, and it looks like baby momma knew that In Woo was withholding the information from Yeo Reum, which is why she ends up being the one to tell Yeo Reum.

E6. I have to admit that my opinion of In Woo keeps dropping, with each appearance that he makes on my screen.

I feel like it’s so inconsiderate of him, to seek out Yeo Reum at the filming location, because she’s not answering his calls.

Like, dude, she’s working, and she’s got enough on her mind, without you coming on the scene to stir things up for her and make things even harder for her.

And, when she comes out to meet him, he doesn’t show any consideration for her, either.

All he’s concerned about, is that she give him another chance, which just annoys the heck outta me, honestly.

That whole “Poor me, look at how much I’m suffering” vibe that he gives off, is exactly the kind of thing that Yeo Reum doesn’t need, and that’s all he’s giving her right now. Ugh.

I’m glad that Yeo Reum stays firm on her decision, and walks away from him.

[END SPOILER]

Jo Soo Hyang as Chae Ri

I do think that Chae Ri is another rather polarizing character.

I’ve seen people on my Twitter feed remark how much they love her, and I’ve also seen people tap out of this show, because they found Chae Ri too much to take (hi, phl1rxd!).

Personally, I didn’t take to Chae Ri right away, which means I’m closer to the camp that found her hard to take.

However, I also feel that Show does a decent job of humanizing her, such that by the time I got to the end of our story, I found her more understandable, as a character.

That’s not bad.

Also, I thought that Jo Soo Hyang did a very nice job of inhabiting the character, such that I believed Chae Ri’s prickly moments, as much as I believed her more vulnerable ones.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E8. I think that Show’s doing a pretty nice job humanizing Chae Ri, given where we’d started.

She’s starting to show glimpses of understanding and even concern, where Yeo Reum is concerned.

Like, she knows instinctively that, despite what Yeo Reum says, Yeo Reum did not tell Sang Woo to delete the footage.

And, as we’ve seen, she is fully aware that Yeo Reum’s going through a lot, and is kinda-sorta looking out for her, without really letting on that she’s looking out for her.

Plus, we see this episode, that Chae Ri had noticed very quickly, that the person kissing Jae Hoon, had been Yeo Reum, and not Ji Yeon, and yet, she hadn’t said anything to Yeo Reum right away.

Not only that, even after the spiced-up premiere episode airs, Chae Ri declines to tell the writer who Jae Hoon had kissed, even though you could say the writer is an insider.

In fact, I feel like she would have ready to let it go, if the premiere episode of the show would have been up to her level of spicy.

That said, it is admittedly a low blow for her to doctor the episode, to show that it hadn’t been Ji Yeon whom Jae Hoon had kissed, and raise the question of who, then, had been the recipient of Jae Hoon’s kiss.

I feel sorry for Ji Yeon, because her private moments, of leaving the filming site in tears, and of confessing her feelings for Jae Hoon, are now being broadcast for the world to see.

And, unlike Ji Wan’s case, where Ji Wan had known that her words were being recorded, both of these instances, were times when Ji Yeon had not been aware that she was being recorded. That feels particularly underhanded and sneaky, on Chae Ri’s part.

However, given the nature of her job, and how Chae Ri’s fiercely intent on proving her mastery and superiority in the field, I can see why Chae Ri would jump on the clues to something juicy, when they’d presented themselves.

E10. When the cameras do capture that emotional moment between Jae Hoon and his patient, whom he’d saved, I started to understand what Chae Ri meant, when she’d said that regular people can’t tell what is helpful.

While the presence of the cameras does land as invasive, it’s also true that the footage captured is raw and real, and effectively shows the truth of the situation, thus clearing Jae Hoon’s mangled image with the public.

It feels like Chae Ri should get some credit, for making that call, and insisting on the cameras, because the outcome was helpful, even if the method had landed as invasive. Does that make sense? 😅

As much as Chae Ri can be brusque, ambitious and impatient, I have to say that Show’s doing a nice job of humanizing her, at least to my eyes.

For some reason, I feel like she’s more reasonable and smart about her work, than she’d first appeared.

Like Yeo Reum admits this episode, Chae Ri is good at what she does, and there are definitely things that Yeo Reum can afford to learn from her, as a PD.

On a related tangent, I do feel like the more I see of Chae Ri, the more I don’t dislike her.

As in, I don’t like her per se just yet, but we are shown enough glimmers of her humanity, that I don’t find her presence objectionable, in my drama world.

I actually find her growing interest in Jae Hoon a little amusing, more because she’s so frank about it, to Yeo Reum, about how she’d like to sleep with Jae Hoon, just once, and also, how she doesn’t actually want to be attracted to anyone, because it’s annoying, heh.

E11. Of course, Chae Rin has to go ahead and use the footage of Ji Wan talking about her past trauma, because she’s looking for ways to spice up her show, and she’s not encumbered by a whole lot of sympathy, like Yeo Reum is.

On that note, I do understand that Chae Rin is acting within her rights as the PD in charge, so it’s not like she’s doing anything wrong, technically speaking.

But, it does land as very heartless, and while I don’t dislike Chae Ri for being so blunt and unabashed about her ambition, I do think that perhaps she might have a missing emotional chip?

As in, I don’t detect actual malice about her, but at the same time, she really doesn’t seem to see the problem with using people’s wounds as fodder for ratings.

E14. This episode, Show does give us the context for why Chae Rin goes looking for someone to sleep with, and.. I kind of get it, actually.

We aren’t told the specific details around it, but this episode, we do learn that Chae Rin’s bio mom had died and left her behind, and as a result, she’s been scorned and treated like an outsider in the family.

That sucks, and it also sucks, that her stepmother blames Chae Rin for her daughter calling off her wedding. Again, no details, but it doesn’t seem to matter.

What does matter, is that Chae Rin feels horrible as a result, and why wouldn’t she, if she has any feelings, right?

Because Chae Rin’s been so rejected all her life, and has forced herself into a cold, isolated sort of existence, I can understand why, in this moment, after being rejected yet again, and made to feel bad for even existing, she might go looking specifically to sleep with someone.

She wants to feel wanted, in the wake of all that rejection, and I believe that’s why she feels that sleeping with someone would assuage her wounds, at least for a while.

And, she looks so lost and vulnerable, even as she tells Jang Goon that she’ll leave if he doesn’t want to, that I can believe that a single guy with fairly free notions about relationships and sex, might agree to sleep with her, perhaps partly out of sympathy, or at least, because he doesn’t want to turn her away, because she looks that lost and fragile.

[END SPOILER]

Lee Dae Hwi as Sang Woo

Although Sang Woo’s a pretty minor supporting character, I found myself growing very fond of him, over the course of our story.

He’s just got this very pure air about him, and I love how loyal he is, to Yeo Reum. ❤️

[SPOILER ALERT]

E3. I find Yeo Reum’s assistant, Sang Woo, very endearing, this episode.

The way he jumps in with his umbrella (and with flourish!) to save her from getting spattered by that stink bomb aimed at Chae Ri, is both heroic and adorable, and I immediately now want to fold him up and put him in my pocket.

He’s so cute, the way he talks about the importance of listening to your mom (coz she’ll tell you when you should take an umbrella out with you), and the way he cleaves to Yeo Reum like a self-proclaimed chick glomming into the first person he sees. 🐥 Cute!

It’s really heartwarming, actually, the way he decides to join Kingdom of Love, for the pure fact that Yeo Reum’s going to be joining the program.

E6. I am growing so very fond of Sang Woo.

The way he insists on helping Yeo Reum to return the congratulatory money, to protect her dignity, even though it’s not part of his job, is the sweetest, most thoughtful, endearing thing.

It’s no wonder Yeo Reum can’t help but tear in response.

And then, when Chae Ri asks him pointblank, if he’d do the same for her, I love how innocently honest he is, in telling Chae Ri that he doesn’t think they’re quite close enough, for him to do that for her.

What way to make Chae Ri burnnn, while setting the record straight, while being as innocent as a baby angel.

Tee hee hee. Gosh, I luff him.

E12. As we end the episode, slasher dude’s managed to hurt Sang Woo (poor sweet loyal puppy, who worked so hard to protect Chae Ri, even though she’s been mean to him!), which sucks. 😩

E14. I love that little moment between Yeo Reum and Sang Woo, when she returns to the office.

The way they fuss over each other, worried that the other person isn’t fully recovered, is very sweet.

This sunbae-hoobae pair is just so precious. 🤩

[END SPOILER]

Dae Sik and Hye Jin

Although they aren’t very major characters in the grand scheme of things, I found myself feeling very fond of Dae Sik and Hye Jin.

Not only are they fantastic, super loyal friends to both Jae Hoon and Yeo Reum, they are also very down-to-earth and likable, on their own.

And so, I was really glad that Show thought to give them a bit of a story arc of their own, even though Show could have just as easily made them the conveniently two-dimensional friend type of characters.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E9. I actually really appreciate that little spotlight that we get, on Dae Sik and Hye Jin, this episode.

First of all, I do love that flashback, where we see that Jae Hoon calls Dae Sik, and in the end, it’s Dae Sik and Hye Jin who drop everything, to go pick up Yeo Reum at the rest stop, after she’s broken up with In Woo.

They really are the best friends ever, and I am growing a huge soft spot for them.

Which is why, I appreciate that Show takes the time to give their story a little more dimension and depth, this episode, with the reveal that they’ve been going for IVF treatments, and that Hye Jin’s cried a lot over this.

Because they’re such good friends to Jae Hoon and Yeo Reum, and because they’re characteristically cheerful and upbeat, it would have been too easy for Show to just make them token characters with no other goal in life than to be sources of support for our OTP.

Although it’s a relatively quick beat, I like that we now know that they’re trying to have a baby, and that it hasn’t been easy, and they’ve been doing their best to be strong and positive about it.

That already makes me feel like I know them quite a bit better, and I really like that. I also hope that they get pregnant soon, coz I think they’d make awesome parents. 🤩

[END SPOILER]

Ji Wan and John Jang [SPOILERS]

At around Show’s two-third mark, it starts to tease a surprise potential loveline between John Jang and Ji Wan, and this was possibly my favorite surprise in our entire story.

I mean, I started the show finding John a rather unlikable character, so Show softening him up and making him more likable, was already a win, for me.

But on top of that, Show goes and teases a connection between John and Ji Wan that not only comes as a big surprise, it even manages to land as believable and organic.

Loved that, and I have to confess that my interest in the outcome of this potential loveline, was one of the things that kept my interest, all the way to Show’s end.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E12. Unexpectedly, my favorite parts of this episode, are the scenes between John Jang and Ji Wan.

These two just manage to reach a frequency where they can be honest and kind with each other, and I honestly really like it.

First of all, there’s that quick beat, when Joon Ho pushes Ji Wan towards slasher dude in an attempt to save himself, and John is the one who checks on Ji Wan, to make sure she’s ok.

And then, when he finds her cleaning the dining room by herself in the aftermath, he moves to help her, and then, when he realizes that she’s crying, he looks genuinely concerned, as he asks if she’s ok.

Although the trip out to John’s hometown was kinda out of nowhere, I didn’t find it too difficult to rationalize that it’s possible that things could have happened that way, where Ji Wan’s feeling so stuck, that she would ask to follow John to wherever he was going, just to get a breath of fresh air.

More than that, the trip itself proves to be such a freeing time for John and Ji Wan, that I don’t even really care how they ended up going to his hometown together.

I just really like the honest, easy tone of their conversation, and it’s quite significant, really, that he would even tell her his real name, and explain so honestly, why he’d chosen the name John for himself.

Plus, even though it’s nice that he tells her that she’s pretty, despite how she may think otherwise, the real highlight of their conversation, to me, is when he tells her that all the trauma that she’d experienced in her past, is not her fault, and has never been her fault.

Ahhh. I never liked John Jang more than in this moment, honestly.

He looks truly relaxed and at ease with Ji Wan, and his smiles look so genuine, that I’m officially backing this ship, wholeheartedly, and with immediate effect.

That said, it is true that this moment between them doesn’t feel specifically romantic. Rather, it feels like a pure moment of two souls meeting and connecting, and I like it so much more, for that reason.

E13. Over on the Kingdom side of things, I really only care about the potential loveline between John Jang and Ji Wan, and so, I definitely sat up with interest, when Ji Wan tears up that date coupon in half, and asks John to have a 30-minute date with her.

The way John actually looks happy about it, and agrees readily to the date, also gives me a bit of a thrill.

I do hate that Joon Ho goes and lashes out at Ji Wan for agreeing to go on a date with him, then asking John to go on a date as well, because Ji Wan is a precious pure soul and I want her to have nothing to do with the likes of Joon Ho, who is turning out to be as shady and manipulative as they come.

As for the date itself, I was glad to hear John get a little upset, and tell Ji Wan that she could have asked for a one-hour date, because then he would have been able to treat her to a whole meal instead of just dessert.

I don’t know if John is even aware of how much he wants to spend time with Ji Wan.

Which is the problem, because he’s basically torn between the picture perfect loveline he’s supposed to have with Tae Mi, and the natural connection he feels with Ji Wan.

I’m bummed that Ji Wan sees Tae Mi trying to kiss John, and I’m also bummed that when John goes after her, he doesn’t manage to say anything to make her feel better.

E14. I’m admittedly rather disappointed that John chooses Tae Mi in the end, and studiously avoids eye contact with Ji Wan in the meantime.

Darn. I was actually hoping that he would make his final selection be Ji Wan – and that that would end up being the big twist in the whole Kingdom show.

But.. perhaps there’s still time for that ship to recover and still set sail, in our last two episodes? 🥺

[END SPOILER]

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]

I’d originally planned to talk about the penultimate episode separately from the finale, but now that I’ve gotten to the end of the show, I realize that I’m more interested in talking about the ending as a whole, so I’m smushing it all together here.

At the end of episode 14, I’d wondered who was taking pictures of Yeo Reum and Char Ri, and.. Show only provides half an answer, now that I think about it.

We know that Joon Ho had been the one to take the pictures of Chae Ri entering Jang Goon’s room on the Kingdom set, but now that Show’s over, I realize that we never do find out who took the photo of Yeo Reum and Jae Hoon, outside their shared house.

I’m rather disappointed by this, but I’m willing to just chalk it up to a random nosy member of the public.

In our penultimate episode, I rather like that we get a bit of time exploring the relationship between Chae Ri and Yeo Reum.

It’s not one of the major relationships in our drama world, but it does still add a little something to my understanding of Chae Ri, to realize that the reason she’s been so standoffish towards Yeo Reum all this time, is because she’s always been jealous of the picture-perfect family life that Yeo Reum enjoys.

And, even though Yeo Reum and Chae Ri don’t actually become friends, I appreciate the beat where Yeo Reum stands up to defend Chae Ri against those snide women at the pojangmacha.

Chae Ri doesn’t say it in so many words, but you can see that she’s quite touched to have someone have her back like this, after having spent most of her life fighting alone on the frontlines of her life.

One of my personal highlights in the finale stretch, is seeing Sang Woo come into his own.

In the penultimate episode, we see him go on a successful date with someone he’s been chatting with online, and then in the finale, we see him taking care of a junior, in the role of sunbae, which is something that Yeo Reum had been doing for him.

Sang Woo’s not a major character in our drama world, but I’m fond of him, and so this was very nice to see.

Of course, I was also really happy to see Dae Sik and Hye Jin finally get their miracle baby.

They’ve been such a warm, down-to-earth source of support to both Yeo Reum and Jae Hoon, that I’m really pleased that Show decided to give them a baby bonus.

While a part of me still thinks that Ji Yeon got the short end of the stick in terms of how Show treated her, I’m glad that she finds acceptance and peace, in processing her crush on Jae Hoon.

And, it’s a nice touch, that she meets someone who really appreciates her for the awesome person that she is (cameo by Kwon Yool).

Honestly, though, my favorite bit in this finale set of episodes, is everything to do with Ji Wan.

First, there’s how she basically blackmails Joon Ho into giving up the photos of Chae Ri, and then gives them to Yeo Reum, so that Yeo Reum can decide how she’d like to deal with the situation.

That’s pretty badass of Ji Wan, and the gratitude driving her actions, just makes me like her even more.

And then, of course, there’s her loveline with John Jang, which had me feeling all the warm, spazzy feels, this finale.

I literally felt more excited about Ji Wan and John Jang getting together and having a happy ending, than about our OTP getting their happy ending. 😅

I’m.. not sure, really, if that was writer-nim’s intention, but I’m just glad that this couple’s grabbing my heart, this finale stretch.

John Jang stepping out on a limb, and nervously telling Ji Wan that he likes her, and would like to date her, and Ji Wan tearing up with surprise, joy and wonder, is arguably my favorite scene in this entire finale section. 😁

And so, I was very pleased, when John announced their decision to get married, this finale.

YESS. I’m so happy that this ship sailed, truly. 🥰

As for our OTP, I honestly think it’s a low blow of Show, to try and pull off a breakup fakeout, as the cliffhanger for episode 15, but honestly, there isn’t a lot of drama between our OTP, in this last bit of story, so maybe that’s why Show tried to spice things up a bit?

I mean, for a good half of our finale episode, Jae Hoon and Yeo Reum are apart, with Jae Hoon getting back into the swing of things at the hospital, while Yeo Reum takes a break from work, and spends her time resting in Paris.

And, through all of that, their relationship remains stable and steady, instead of going through any dramatic ups and downs.

Maybe it’s not very gripping TV, but it’s honestly the kind of unshakable relationship that we should all be so blessed to have in our own lives, where happiness and contentment is found in the everyday, little things, and the mundane has a beauty of its own.

THE FINAL VERDICT:

An uneven ride, but ultimately rather sweet and heartfelt at its core.

FINAL GRADE: B

TRAILER:

MV:

PATREON UPDATE!

The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of Love Is For Suckers, is First Love: Hatsukoi [Japan]. I’ve taken an initial look, and I’m happy to say that I’m already very much invested, right away. My E1 & 2 notes on First Love: Hatsukoi [Japan] 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 notes of all shows covered on Patreon (that’s 2 episodes for kdramas and 4 episodes for cdramas)

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

Early Access Plus (US$10): +First Love: Hatsukoi [Japan]

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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SiwonDahee
29 days ago

No matter what anyone says , for me love is for suckers is one of the best Kdrama of 2022. Stress free ,just pure romance plus the chemistry of Choi Si-won and Lee Da hee is good. I only watch Romcom Kdrama and I can say that this is one of the best.

sambosox
sambosox
1 month ago

Review is spot on. Halfway through the show the OTP gets dropped in favor of arbitrary reality show nonsense. Had hoped for more because of the leads, and did like Jiwan and John Jang the same as everyone else, but nothing was ever developed. Imagine how good this could have been if the Chae Ri story and Jiwan’s romance had been incorporated into the plot from the beginning. Sadly, no such luck.

Kay
Kay
1 month ago

Thanks for this review. I’ll probably give this one a try eventually as it does look fun and like a good outing for Choi Siwon 🙂

Gloglo
Gloglo
1 month ago

I’m with you and everyone here: I stayed for the story of John Jang and Ji Wan. In fact, for me it was the best thing about this show. I’m not surprised most of us agree on that though… Love that feels “impossible yet inevitable” is the reason why we love Asian drama. It’s a tropey Cinderella story, Cinderella in this case meaning a woman who is not slim and “dares to eat” in spite of it,  a pariah in the body obsessed world we live in… The inevitability of these two characters falling for each other over their love of food was teased beautifully. It was a storyline brilliantly written and well paced.  Totally perfect. Bravo!

The rest of the drama was completely forgetful though. The story with the main leads had very little to say and the conflict introduced felt forced. I loved the FL though, and Chae Ri too. Two amazing female characters totally wasted, what a shame.

Reem
Reem
1 month ago

The way so many people ended up more invested in John and Ji Wan than the actual leads makes me wonder if someone’s compiled all their scenes and ONLY their scenes somewhere on the web 😂

Your thoughts echoed a lot of mine for sure.

Lee Tennant
Lee Tennant
1 month ago

Oh this show was so frustrating!
It had the bones of a good drama and then it went in a completely different direction. I admit I dropped it – right after my frustrated blog post.

I’m sure I’ve shipped two people less but few relationships come to mind. I still don’t believe she loved him or wanted to be in relationship with him.

John Jang’s/Jiwan’s plotline, however, was almost worth watching for. Except of course it had so little screentime overall and I found it wasn’t enough to keep me watching.

CP
CP
1 month ago

I live-watched this show and much like you & seemingly most of the audience (if the Reddit thread for this show is any indication), it started out so well, then went steeply and quickly downhill.

I’m tickled that you mentioned the how the physics would not work for YR to fall over the balcony while saving the other girl – I remember making a very similar comment on Reddit right after that episode because it was just so ridiculous.

I am personally with the camp that found Ji-yeon annoying, although I didn’t think she was emotionally manipulative – mainly I just found her to be such a sad sack. She seemed to cry in basically every scene and in response to any situation: happy, sad, Jae-hoon being nice to her, Jae-hoon telling her he didn’t like her, Jae-hoon telling her he would try to like her, etc. By the end I was just confused as to why she hadn’t yet left the show to do something that made her somewhat happy, because clearly whatever she was doing throughout this show ain’t it.

Haha you are with the majority with the John Jang & Jiwan love – I think every single comment or review I’ve read about this show has mentioned that this unexpected couple became the sole reason for them to complete the show. Pretty impressive for 2 side characters who probably don’t even get 30 min of screentime combined! But they are truly so lovely and sweet, and I would gladly watch an entire drama where they are the main leads. In contrast… I think this may be the first time I have watched an asian drama where I was so indifferent to the OTP. I enjoyed both of them in the earlier episodes, but I became unimpressed by YR around the time where she revealed his secret hiding spot to the cameras. Then the uneven pacing on the OTP loveline (like I get slow burn, but there is a difference between gradual buildup vs. no movement / going from 0 to 100) and lacklustre writing basically destroyed any remaining goodwill I felt toward either character or the OTP itself, and I even FF’d through most of their couple scenes in the end. I would give this show a B-, but generally would not recommend anyone to watch it except maybe for a John Jang & Jiwan cut haha .

Last edited 1 month ago by CP
Su San
Su San
1 month ago

I was surprised that you didn’t drop this show. I read the review as possible motivation to resume where I left off in episode 2, but it seems there are lots reasons to spend my time on someone else.

JJ
JJ
1 month ago

@KFG – I really wanted to see this show because I loved Lee Da Hee character in SearchWWW – SCARLETT!!!! But I kept not pushing play and then, well, watching what those who were watching had to say on the Deep Dive, I kept not pushing play.

And NOW with the comments and your review, I still dont know what to do 😂

anonymous
anonymous
1 month ago
Reply to  JJ

If you liked her as scarlett then this drama is not for you

JJ
JJ
1 month ago
Reply to  anonymous

@anonymous – Well, I want to see what else Lee Da Hee can do 🙂

anonymous
anonymous
1 month ago

Loved the show. OTP was the best in while. Every character was entertaining in a different way. Yes also in an evil way.
Jiwan and John Jang were so sweet.
Second female lead was obsessive and a bit psychotic. Just because she pretends to be nice doesn’t mean she can do whatever she wants. ML rejected her twice. But apparently no means no only counts when a woman says it. Also completely guilt tripping our good hearted ML into “liking her more” is just urgh.

Also just a little opinion about the “sleeping together scene”. I have no clue what you are talking about.
And overall ML is rude? 2FL is nice? Did you drink a funny punch before writing this?

JJ
JJ
1 month ago
Reply to  anonymous

@anonymous – Reaper is that you? Why are you posting now as anonymous? If its not, you, ops!

Regardless of who it is posting can we try to be a little nicer and more respectful of how we talk to one another please?

Thank you.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  JJ

Thank you Jennifer! 😘😘😘😘

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
1 month ago

Eps 1 and 2: 🤗 Eps 4 and 5: 🤩 Ep 6: 🤣 Eps 7 and 8: 💥🤯💥 then dropped…

Last edited 1 month ago by seankfletcher
phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  seankfletcher

Sean – my thought exactly.

Trent
1 month ago

Yeah, my interest in this show definitely followed kind of a downward slope from the midpoint or so. It didn’t help that I was really largely pretty indifferent to the OTP. I just didn’t care about them much (I am with you that the Ji-wan/John Jang news was the best successful pairing there at the end).

I was also pretty much a victim of Second Lead Syndrome here, which doesn’t usually happen to me. I want to see Ji-yeon in a show that’s worthy of her! (and would hope that Lee Ju-yeon maybe gets a step into a decent role or two after this, although I won’t hold my breath, alas, since it’s not like this show came out of left field to take the world by storm, a la Extra Atty Woo. But maybe….). Oh, and I definitely don’t find her character emotionally manipulative. She played the hand she was dealt, and did it fairly and above-board. What’s manipulative about that?

Anyway, a show that had some flashes of potential and interesting bits, mostly frontloaded in the first half. I’d probably give it a B- overall.