Review: Crash Course In Romance

THE SHORT VERDICT:

When Show is at its best, it’s warm, funny and cozy-slurpy in the best way. Mature leads with fantastic acting chops and great chemistry? A shiny-pretty rom-com world? Easy-breezy music to score it all? Check, check and check.

On the downside, Show attempts to fit in a side of murder, AND a keen spotlight on the potential hazards of a highly competitive academic system, and after a while, Show’s focus gets muddied with these extras.

The downsides aren’t enough to be a deal-breaker for me personally, but I do think that your mileage may vary.

Overall, I found this warm, fuzzy and worthwhile, despite Show’s narrative detours into less warm, less fuzzy things.

THE LONG VERDICT:

When Show was first announced, it had sounded too good to be true.

A rom-com featuring Jeon Do Yeon opposite Jung Kyung Ho? I loved the idea right away, because I know them both to be excellent actors who are able to breathe life into whatever kind of character is thrust at them – and I trusted that they would be able to create sparks together as needed, for this OTP.

Well. As it turns out, it really was too good to be true, in the sense that, while I did get a wonderful serving of Jeon Do Yeon and Jung Kyung Ho making magic together onscreen, Show really wasn’t the perfectly wonderful magic creature that I’d wanted it to be.

What could have been a super fun, wonderfully amazing ride, was, in my experience, taken down several important notches, by Show’s interest in murder and academia.

Like seriously, who made up this Dramaland rule that almost all writers seem to live by, these days, that a rom-com MUST come with a side of murder? Coz whoever made up that rule deserves a kimchi slap with the biggest, baddest head of kimchi cabbage that I can lift. ๐Ÿ˜…

Thanks to Show meandering into murder mysteries and academic agitation, what could’ve been an A+ sparkling rom-com, got downgraded to an above-average pretty good rom-com, with a requisite side of murder.

And honestly, is that not a mortifying waste? ๐Ÿ˜ญ

There’s still a good chunk of stuff to love, though, so I’m not hating on Show. I’m just.. wistfully mourning the could’ve beens, is all. ๐Ÿ˜…

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 very enjoyable and well applied. And in particular, I found myself liking the breezier tracks a lot; they just manage to bring on the feels, for me, just by existing. ๐Ÿฅฐ

If I had to pick a favorite, it would have to be Track 1, Gypsophila, followed not too far behind, by Track 2, Itโ€™s Sunny Today. They’re both so boppy and breezy, which is exactly the sort of vibe that I liked best, from Show.

Here’s Gypsophila on its own, in case you’d prefer to just listen to that on repeat. Just right-click on the video and select “Loop.”

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS

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

1. Show doesn’t attempt to re-invent anything

E1. Ahahaha. I liked this, and very well, too. Right away, I’m gonna say, I have a good feeling about this one. ๐Ÿ˜

For the record, I don’t feel (yet?) like Show is exactly new or inventive, but so far, I’m enjoying what it’s serving up, and that’s the more important thing.

And while it’s not surprising that this episode’s happenings basically are catalysts to throw our leads in each other’s paths, I find myself nicely entertained, through it all.

2. Show takes a few episodes to complete set-up

With many kdramas nowadays working harder to get set-up done and dusted as fast as possible, Show’s more traditional rhythm, of taking about 3-4 episodes to get things in place to pave the way for our story to take off, can feel a little slow.

Keeping in mind that this is just Show taking a more classic approach to set-up, definitely helps.

3. The bickery OTP thing can feel a bit try-hard, especially during set-up

In principle, I don’t mind the bickery vibe between our OTP – when it feels organic to the story and characters.

Sometimes, though, in Show’s early episodes, I have to say that it doesn’t actually feel that organic to the story and characters, to my eyes at least.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Like when Haeng Seon (Jeon Do Yeon) starts telling the police officer at the station in episode 3, that Chi Yeol’s (Jung Kyung Ho) not just a customer at her shop; he’d also stolen her brother’s mobile phone, and she’s a victim.

That whole thing felt a bit bizarre and forced, to my eyes, because it doesn’t really feel natural to Haeng Seon’s character, at least, from where I’m sitting.

[END SPOILER]

But, with a particular bickery rom-com lens on, it’s.. alright. As in, with this lens, I feel like I can at least understand the scene’s existence. ๐Ÿ˜… Like, Ah, it’s because of the drama world that we’re in, that’s why things are happening this way. ๐Ÿ˜…

So yes, keeping that bickery rom-com lens handy in our early episodes is helpful. Knowing that the try-hard bickery does fade away, is also helpful.

4. Show can lean into the silly sometimes

..And I found that it helps everything go down better, when I categorize it all in my head as ridiculous rom-com hijinks.

5. The concept of a star math tutor might be hard to understand

..but I find that thinking about it as Show taking inspiration from (and maybe even making a statement about) kpop idols and their fans, helps.

STUFF I LIKED

Show features romantic leads in their forties

This really is one of my favorite things about this show’s set-up; our leads are in their forties, and that’s just not typical, in a k-romcom.

Most of the time, k-romcoms tend to focus on younger characters, ranging from teenagers to twentysomethings, most times, with some dramas dipping into the thirtysomething set.

And yet, here is a drama that puts a pair of fortysomethings front-and-center in a romantic setting, and I find that so refreshing.

I love that Show is saying that people in their forties, who are more often than not relegated to supporting character status in a k-romcom, deserve to be the leads in their own love story. I dig that. ๐Ÿ˜

Show is very enjoyable, when it’s in its breezy stride

I’ll give more details later, but I just wanted to put this out there, up front, that when Show is good, it’s very, very enjoyable.

I loved slurping up Show’s breezier episodes; they gave me feel-good, shiny, cozy, everything-is-right-in-the-world vibes, that reminded me of what I’d felt, when I’d first fallen for k-romcoms, back in the day.

Like I said earlier in this review, Show isn’t especially inventive, in that it’s not trying to re-invent the rom-com wheel (and it’s sure not perfect, which I’ll talk about shortly); it just takes existing rom-com conventions and works them really well, so that the feels are happy, giddy things that make me want the next episode, and soon. ๐Ÿ˜

STUFF THAT WAS OK

Show sometimes taking odd narrative steps, in service of an end goal

Show’s not the only drama guilty of this; in fact, I do think that this is quite common, when it comes to k-romcoms. I just.. wish that Show could have found a more elegant way of working these plot points, in order to get to where it wanted to be.

Instead, there are times when Show takes odd narrative side-steps that don’t feel natural or organic, in order to get us to where Show wants to be.

The only reason this is in the “ok” section instead of the “stuff I didn’t like so much” section, is because more often than not, the destination that Show has in mind, is funny enough, or gives me enough feels, that I feel like it’s worth it, to close both eyes to Show’s weird way of getting us there.

Here are a couple of examples, for the record.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E5. Show is really playing up the “clueless ahjumma” angle, with Haeng Seon being all heart, and not catching on to the fact that Chi Yeol really needs this arrangement between them to be as private and as businesslike as possible.

I actually think that Haeng Seon’s more than capable of understanding this concept, but I get that Show wants to lean into the comedy of her wanting to be generous with Chi Yeol as a demonstration of her gratitude, while Chi Yeol’s desperately trying to back away from it.

And, because I do find the resulting hijinks quite amusing for their own sake, I’m more willing to look past the way Show makes Haeng Seon more clueless than I think she actually is.

Well, that, and there’s also the thing where, if Haeng Seon is the busybody caring sort, her more forthcoming ways could be one way to deepen the connection between her and Chi Yeol, given Chi Yeol’s strict protocol of not getting involved with students and their parents.

E7. I find it quite ridiculous, honestly, that the party all take small bites of their food, and then suddenly, they’re all competitive, and on the field, and the food’s all forgotten.

Listen. I would never forget about a feast laid out in front of me and go play ball instead, especially a feast including jokbal, ok?

BUT. I can see why writer-nim chose this otherwise slightly perplexing direction.

It’s because, 1, Jung Kyung Ho gets to showcase his adorably on-point comedic chops, with the way Chi Yeol’s missing the ball and falling all askew on the ground, and 2, Chi Yeol gets to see Haeng Seon in her happiest habitat, playing sports, with all of her worries forgotten, and that’s an important step, to him falling for her. ๐Ÿ˜

[END SPOILER]

Show having a side of murder

I don’t typically like any sort of darkness in my rom-coms, particularly if that darkness has to do with murder, but it’s become a common enough thing for dramas to serve up murder as a side-plot, that I don’t even blink at it, anymore.

Like, I don’t love it, but fine, it’s there.

And, Show does a decent job of making it feel like a plausible part of our drama world. Like, Chi Yeol is a celebrity of sorts, after all, and so I’d believe that there might be someone stalking him and the people around him.

It’s just when Show leans too hard into the murder stuff, that I find myself feeling disgruntled – which I’ll talk about later.

Show’s focus on the academic competition

I’ve seen some remarks by viewers, that they felt like they were suddenly watching SKY Castle (review here!), all of a sudden, because of our side narrative that focuses on the competitive moms and their sometimes equally competitive offspring, who vie to beat everyone and come out tops.

I can see where the commenters are coming from, because it’s true that SKY Castle featured similarly competitive parents and offspring, but I’m ok with it in principle, because it feels pretty organic to our drama world.

Chi Yeol is a star tutor, after all, and everyone’s competing to get into his classes and his good graces.

Importantly, this academic competition is mostly positioned as a sub-plot, rather than our Main Event, and that definitely helps.

Show’s sense of humor

I will say that Show’s sense of humor worked for me more often than it didn’t work for me, so that’s an over all win.

But, as I’ve mentioned earlier in this review, there are times that it just didn’t land for me as Show had likely intended.

Here’s a sampling, just for the record.

[SPOILER ALERT]

When it worked for me

E3. I did cringe-chuckle at Chi Yeol’s inflated sense of fame, and the way he embarrasses himself in front of that police officer, who has no idea who he is. Plus, Jung Kyung Ho makes it funnier than it probably is, with his delivery.

I did feel slightly amused at how Manager Ji’s (Shin Jae Ha) kinda like Chi Yeol’s mother, with the way he arrives at the police station, walking right into a hug with Chi Yeol, and patting his back to comfort him that it’s all going to be ok.

And then there’s the way Chi Yeol asks Manager Ji, on their way home, if they can’t get one of those calming drinks, from the convenience store.

This all gives me vibes that are very similar to a little boy asking his mom for ice cream, after scraping his knee at the playground, y’know? ๐Ÿ˜ And somehow, this idea of Chi Yeol being a baby duckling clinging onto his Mama Duck, ie, Manager Ji, tickles me a fair bit.

E5. I did feel quite amused, when we see that Chi Yeol hadn’t thought through the details very much, when he’d agreed to tutor Hae Yi (Roh Yoon Seo).

The way he sends Hyo Won off to get coffee and a croissant (which he specifies she should eat there ๐Ÿ˜‚), so that he can print the materials for Hae Yi, is quite amusing.

And then, when Hyo Won is accused of leaking the materials because the printer indicates that a set of materials had been printed from her computer, the way Chi Yeol makes a big show of NOT suspecting her, because she’s FAMILY, is so secondhand embarrassing, but also, funny.

When it didn’t work for me

In our early episodes, especially, Show serves up A LOT of bickering between Chi Yeol and Haeng Seon.

I’m pretty sure all the early OTP bickery stuff is meant for funny, but I didn’t find it funny, nor did I find it organic. I did shrug it off as part of Show’s set-up stage, and the bickery funny eventually faded away, so there’s that.

[END SPOILER]

STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH

When Show leans too hard into its side of murder

For most of Show’s run, the side of murder doesn’t feel like too big of a presence in our story world.

Which means that for much of Show’s run, we mostly get bickery rom-com vibes, and then the occasional splashes of murdery stuff, because writer-nim remembered that that’s become some sort of requirement, for all rom-coms to be served with a side of murder. ๐Ÿ˜†

BUT THEN. Show leans hard into its side of murder, in later episodes (starting at around the episode 13 mark), and I didn’t like that so much.

For me, that was whenย the darkness became too big of a presence, in our drama world. It felt like we started off in Romcom Land, but somewhere along the way, we wandered off into Murder Terrain after taking a wrong turn, and then, we couldn’t find our way back. ๐Ÿ˜…

Because I like our drama world to be shiny and breezy as much as possible, thank you, and this just was so far from shiny and breezy, that I almost forgot what Show was originally like, before murder came to the forefront and hogged the spotlight.

I’m thankful that Show doesn’t stay in this darker space until the very end, and does make a return to happier and breezier tones, but, yeah, I could have done with more breezy and more happy in our later stretch, thank you.

SPOTLIGHT ON CHARACTERS & RELATIONSHIPS

Here’s where I do a selective deep dive into characters and relationships, with some characters and relationships getting more of the spotlight than others.

If you’d like to read my blow-by-blow reactions at every episode, you might be interested in checking out my episode notes on Patreon, which you can find here.

Jeon Do Yeon as Haeng Seon

Before I talk about anything else, I wanted to talk a little bit about some reactions that I’ve seen online, where some viewers expressed that they think Jeon Do Yeon looks too old to be paired with Jung Kyung Ho.

I.. honestly hadn’t felt that at all, and hadn’t thought about it at all, until I saw these comments.

I mean, yes, it’s true that Jeon Do Yeon – and Haeng Seon’s character – is older than both Jung Kyung Ho and Chi Yeol respectively, but I never saw them as being that markedly different in terms of age, frankly.

In fact, while watching the show, I’d been thinking of them as being in the region of the same age bracket, and that means that I think they are characters who would be able to relate to and empathize with each other, as they get to know each other.

Sure, Haeng Seon’s styling may be on the ahjumma side of things, but that’s completely in line with her character.

She’s a busy single mom who’s running a business while doing her best to take care of her brother and daughter, and it stands to reason that she’d likely have neglected herself somewhat, in the area of prettying herself up.

That makes story sense to me.

And, I personally think that Jeon Do Yeon does a great job of delivering the role, and while watching, I didn’t find myself wondering whether the drama would be any better off with a different actress cast in the role.

ALL THAT TO SAY, I’m happy with our female lead, just the way she is, even if not everyone feels the same way.

As for Jeon Do Yeon’s character, Nam Haeng Seon, I really like her too.

She’s warm, kind, caring and loves in the most sacrificial way, and I couldn’t help but root for her to have all the good things in life.

[SPOILER ALERT]

I mean, she is a little bit like a Classic Candy, in that she doesn’t have an easy life and stretched on money, and is working really hard to support a daughter who’s really her niece, and an intellectually challenged younger brother.

And yet, she keeps a stiff upper lip and a cheerful mindset on, and keeps on keeping on, for the sake of those she loves.

These are classic Candy traits, when they’re laid out like that, but in Jeon Do Yeon’s hands, I don’t see Haeng Seon as a Candy.

[END SPOILER]

Lee Yeon as teenaged Haeng Seon

I love Haeng Seon as a whole character, but I couldn’t help but want to give a special shout-out to Lee Yeon, who plays teenaged Haeng Seon.

We get a flashback in episode 2, that fills us in on Haeng Seon’s backstory, and I found Lee Yeon’s performance viscerally moving, even though, all things considered, she enjoys a pretty brief amount of screen time.

I didn’t recognize Lee Yeon right away, but was stunned, upon looking her up, to find that she was in Juvenile Justice (review here!) – the juvenile offender in episodes 1 & 2, and 10; the one with the tattoos. If ya know, ya know, and your mind might be blown, just like mine. ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜…

I am growing more and more impressed with Lee Yeon, each time I see her, and I’m definitely looking forward to having her on my screen more often.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E2.ย Haeng Seon’s entire life basically changes in a split second, and her entire world is turned upside down.

It’s surreal to think that she went home to eat her mother’s (Kim Mi Kyung) food, and within minutes, found that her niece had been abandoned – and then Mom dies in an accident, while running out to try to look for Unnie. Ack.

What I find particularly affecting, is the matter-of-fact way Haeng Seon throws herself into taking care of Hae Yi and Jae Woo, and putting them first in her life, like it’s the most natural thing in the world.

The way she chooses to quit handball, even though she’s the star player on the national team, because Hae Yi needs her, is all the more moving to me, because there isn’t a trace of bitterness about her, as she chooses to walk away from her sports career.

The scene that gets me in the heart most of all, though, is the one where little Hae Yi plaintively asks if she can’t address Haeng Seon as “Mom” instead of “Auntie,” and Haeng Seon just processes that request for a few seconds, before giving her answer in such an offhanded yet resolute manner, “Sure.”

Augh. I love her for that.

In that one moment, she realized that she would, from that point forward, be tagged as a single mom, which carries a lot of stigma, in Korea. And yet, she decides that it’s more important that Hae Yi feel like she has a mom.

MY GOSH I LOVE HER. ๐Ÿ˜

And, I have so much respect for her, for having the fortitude to take on the caregiving for her younger brother AND her niece, at such a young age.

This entire flashback was really powerful, I thought. Way to get me to have a huge lump in my throat, in just 10 minutes, Show. ๐Ÿฅฒ

[END SPOILER]

Jung Kyung Ho as Chi Yeol

I’ve noticed that my taste in male leads has been evolving.

I do think that, in my early drama days, I might not have found Chi Yeol so immediately cute and endearing.

I think I used to have a strong preference for strong, silent, broody types (see the silent, broody Crown Prince Shin in my gateway drama Goong, for reference ๐Ÿ˜…).

But now, I also find myself also growing very quickly affectionate of Chi Yeol in all his neurotic, insecure glory, even though he’s not a lot like the strong, silent, broody types I used to gravitate to.

And of course, in Jung Kyung Ho’s hands, it’s just all kinds of entertaining and lovable, and I found myself very much enjoying Chi Yeol, even from episode 1.

I really like how Show peels back Chi Yeol’s layers, to reveal the tenderheart that he is, underneath, and I’ll talk more about that, in this next spoiler section.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. First of all, I love that Jung Kyung Ho’s character, Chi Yeol, is so insecure and neurotic, underneath his shiny reputation as a successful top tutor.

We see the juxtaposition between those two sides of him, again and again, this episode, and y’know, that insecure side of him, that’s too nervous and neurotic to rest on his laurels, even though he is widely acknowledged to be at the top of his game, endears him to me.

I’m sure that there’s hidden angst in there that’s going to make me feel sorry for him, and I’m pretty sure it’s got something to do with that student that he still dreams of, from time to time.

And yes, already, I do start to feel my heart go out to him, when I see that he’s so messed up that he can’t eat or sleep, and that it’s making him sick.

At the same time, I can’t help but find the fact that he’s insecure, despite his success, very cute.

It’s like, he knows that he’s successful, but he can’t accept that he’s successful?

Like with the livestream thing, for instance.

Since he’s the star tutor whom everyone waits for, I’m sure that it would’ve been fine for him to have gone live as scheduled. But no, the moment he sees that someone else has started livestreaming a tutorial for those exam questions, he just has to start his livestream earlier.

It’s like he’d have no peace otherwise.

And the way he needs Manager Ji to affirm and reaffirm him (“say that three times!” ๐Ÿ˜) is so endearing as well.

He knows that he’s neurotic, and he knows he’s just asking for a repetition of words which might not even have true conviction in them, but they soothe him somehow, and so he keeps asking for it.

It’s somehow quite endearing to me, that he’s this easily soothed as well.

E2.ย Ok, so it’s a bit (ok a lot) tropey that Haeng Seon and Chi Yeol have some kind of connection from when they were younger, but in this case, it does make narrative sense, in terms of why he’s so drawn to her food.

Because her mother’s food had meant so much to him during those hard years, because of the motherly touch and the kindness that came with it, I can believe that he would be instinctively drawn to Haeng Seon’s food, which carries on Mom’s tradition.

It’s also pretty poignant to hear that Chi Yeol’s entire reason for working so hard to become a teacher, was because he’d wanted to fulfill his father’s dream.

And how awful, that he’d lost his father, because of Dad’s desire to save money on medical bills. ๐Ÿ˜ญ

E2. This episode, it looks like Chi Yeol’s also been traumatized by the death of a student, and that he’s been wrongfully accused of being responsible for her death.

Given what a sensitive soul Chi Yeol’s shaping up to be, I’m not actually that surprised that with all this AND his neurotic tendencies, he’s under so much stress that he’s messing up his health, and under doctor’s orders to eat and sleep like a normal person.

The fact that his health is in shambles, and he’s feeling so anxious so much of the time, and he still puts so much effort into putting on a good and useful show for his students, is pretty darn admirable, in the sense of his spirit of excellence and professionalism.

Of course, it’s not great for his health, but hey, this episode he’s making efforts to go to Haeng Seon’s shop to get food to eat, so that’s a step in the right direction. ๐Ÿ˜

E3. I do feel sorry for Chi Yeol, when he realizes that despite his star status, nobody really wants to hang out with him.

His ex-classmates are so cutting; saying all those mean things about him behind his back, then having the audacity to say out loud, that they wish he’d just pay the bill and leave. Ugh.

And then to add insult to injury, poor Chi Yeol actually heads back to the office, only to overhear all his staff talking about how liberating it is, to be able to eat the food without Chi Yeol present.

Aw. Poor lonesome Chi Yeol.

E4. I was actually hoping that we’d get to see Haeng Seon and Chi Yeol getting along better, this episode, but with Su Ah’s mother Soo Hee (Kim Sun Young) angling to get Hae Yi out of the All Care Program, I found myself – again – dealing with that low-level stress of knowing that bad things were going to happen to our characters, and having to watch it unfold like a train-wreck in slow motion. ๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ™ˆ

I mean, Chi Yeol was looking forward to it too; see how happy he is that he skips his usual coffee before class, because he’s perked up enough to go without the caffeine boost!

And see how happily he prepares his empty stomach, so that he can eat the special food that Haeng Seon’s prepared in celebration of Hae Yi’s acceptance into All Care.

So it’s SUCH a bummer, when Hae Yi gets booted out because of Snooty Boy, who really couldn’t care less about whether he’s in the All Care Program. Ugh.

I’m glad that Chi Yeol puts his foot down in protest, not for any other reason, than that he sees that Hae Yi’s a good student who loves to learn, and who has lots of potential, and doesn’t want corruption to win the day.

Although this decision doesn’t actually stick in the end, I still appreciate that Chi Yeol did make this stand, and I also appreciate that the reason he agrees to teach the All Care Program, is not because of pressure from the Director, but because he realizes that the other students are counting on him.

Chi Yeol really is a good teacher who cares about his students, and I like that we see that so clearly.

E5. What strikes me most, in the midst of the whole murder case, is how much heart Chi Yeol demonstrates, in response.

I mean, from the way Chi Yeol himself is so affected by the death of the student, and reflects on the interactions that he’d had with the student in the last class that the student had attended, it gives me the impression that Chi Yeol reflects on all this from a very personal angle.

It’s personal enough, that Chi Yeol looks like he would genuinely prefer not to continue with classes for the time being, not only out of respect for the deceased, but also, because he looks personally affected by the news.

In fact, as we see during this episode, Chi Yeol does sink into a bit of a funk, because of this incident, and I can’t help feeling sorry for him, because he’s clearly taking this quite hard.

He literally looks like the ghost of the past have come back to haunt him, with this incident, and I just want to reach into my screen and give him a hug and tell him it’s going to be ok.

In fact, the more I see Chi Yeol in action with his students, the more I’m convinced that he’s not just doing a job; he genuinely cares about them, and wants the best for them.

The way he comforts them from time to time, like the way he does this episode, tells me that.

E6. This episode, when the scandal that Teacher Jin (Ji Il Joo) creates comes to Chi Yeol’s attention, the thing that strikes me – similar to our previous episode – is just how personally Chi Yeol takes it.

I don’t mean that in a bad way, ie, it’s not the kind of thing where someone takes something personally, and lashes back out at the attacker.

What I mean is, the details that are brought to light in the accusing post, clearly hit Chi Yeol in a very personal way.

It’s not entirely surprising, considering how we’ve seen that Chi Yeol’s a sensitive soul who still dreams about Su Hyeon (Lee Do Hye), his student who’d committed suicide.

And so, when more details about Su Hyeon’s family are mentioned in the post, Chi Yeol zooms in on that information, and almost seems to ignore the fact that someone’s trying to destroy his career, by saying that he’s cursed.

Again, this tells me just how personal these relationships are, to Chi Yeol, and how, to him, this isn’t just a job.

It must be such a shock to Chi Yeol, to realize that Su Hyeon’s family had fallen apart after her death, and his departure from Seoul.

We get the backstory this episode, and the situation is honestly not Chi Yeol’s fault at all. If anything, Chi Yeol had tried to make things right, but had been powerless to make any real difference, and had lost his job in the process.

And yet, despite this not being Chi Yeol’s fault, he still has dreams of Su Hyeon, to this day. I think that says a lot about Chi Yeol, doesn’t it?

It’s no wonder he’s having trouble sleeping all over again, poor guy.

E7. Chi Yeol not being used to all these new feelings that he’s feeling for Haeng Seon, is silly and hilarious.

I love how he’s eager to explain it all away as just his autonomic nervous system getting all out of control because he hasn’t exercised like that in a while, heh.

It’s silly and entertaining, how he gets all worked up while explaining all this to his therapist, and diagnosing himself, in the process.

“Have I been too lonely? Have I been too goal-oriented? Am I starved for affection?” To which his doctor’s response is basically, yes. ๐Ÿ˜‚

I suppose Chi Yeol’s desperation to shake off these weird feelings is why he’s willing to try just about anything his therapist suggests, even if it’s things that he generally never does, like making conversation with colleagues, or going on blind dates.

I found it painfully secondhand embarrassing to watch him fail so hard at making conversation with his colleagues, like asking about her honeymoon, when she’d already gotten divorced, eep.

I literally had to pause the episode at this point, coz it was just too vicariously mortifying to watch. ๐Ÿ˜…

But, the blind date actually works out better than I’d expected, with his blind date (Bae Yoon Kyung) turning out to be a very nice young lady with all the right specs, who seems to still like him, even though he’s not very much at all like how he appears in his online lessons.

It’s so funny-weird though, isn’t it, that a math tutor is superstar enough to have a die-hard fan in a professional pianist? I mean, how does that work? Does she just like watching math tutorials in her spare time, to unwind, or something? ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜…

E11.ย I love, love, LOVE the way Jung Kyung Ho plays this moment, when Chi Yeol learns that Haeng Seon is actually Hae Yi’s aunt.

Chi Yeol’s stunned surprise, which slowly takes on shades of realization, is so great. The way I feel like I can see the gears turning in his head, as he processes what this means; the tears burgeoning in his eyes.

The way he’s all slightly dazed, yet at the same time, full of purpose, in now going to seek out Haeng Seon, is just pitch perfect. ๐Ÿคฉโค๏ธ

[END SPOILER]

Chi Yeol & Haeng Seon

Like I mentioned earlier in this review, I really liked the pairing of Jung Kyung Ho and Jeong Do Yeon.

I know not everyone felt this way, but to my eyes, they matched each other well, in terms of screen presence, character energy, and chemistry.

Granted, I didn’t love the earlier bickery parts so much, but as Haeng Seon and Chi Yeol get to know each other better, and come to trust and like each other more, I found their interactions refreshing and enjoyable.

I could’ve watched these two just hang out and be cute together, for many more episodes than what we got, and been a happy camper. ๐Ÿฅฐ

Here’s a sprawling overview of my thoughts on this OTP, over the course of my watch. I hope you guys enjoy revisiting the feels with me. โค๏ธ

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. I thought the chase scene between Haeng Seon and Chi Yeol was all kinds of ridiculous, but importantly, it made sense within our story, and I think that’s what makes it hilarious, to me.

Also, while it’s utterly predictable that Chi Yeol finds himself only able to eat food from Haeng Seon’s shop, I do enjoy the idea, that she holds the key to him finding healing for himself, physically, emotionally and mentally.

If Show stays true to kdrama tradition, then I fully expect that after a few false starts (because Chi Yeol is now terrified of Haeng Seon, who wants to kill him, for the whole debacle of snatching Jae Woo’s (Oh Eui Shik) phone and causing to crack), they’ll come to a mutually beneficial agreement.

She’ll provide food that heals him, while he provides tutoring for Hae Yi, so that she doesn’t have to pay for extra classes. Win-win? ๐Ÿ˜

E3. I have to confess that while watching Haeng Seon be nice to Chi Yeol, and giving him food, etc, and him sending gifts back to her as well, I couldn’t help bracing for the possibility that their relationship would be deemed inappropriate, because Hae Yi is attending Chi Yeol’s class.

I mean, there’s a definitely conflict of interest there, isn’t it? It’s just that they don’t see it, because they met each other outside of that context, and aren’t even used to the context, right now.

This definitely gave me a base level of stress, while watching this episode. ๐Ÿ˜…

We see Chi Yeol finally put his foot down, and draw some boundaries, when Haeng Seon attempts to deliver food to his office while they’re working on the level tests.

It’s the right thing to do, certainly, but Haeng Seon doesn’t quite see things from the same perspective, and just gets all sorts of hurt and offended, because Chi Yeol is so curt, in turning her away.

Dang. That’s not great.

But then, Chi Yeol’s kind of forced to accept Haeng Seon’s kindness, when he’s running late for the talk that he’s giving, and she offers him a ride on her scooter.

I found this quite amusing, even though my low-level stress about them being photographed, and that becoming a Big Issue, wouldn’t go away. ๐Ÿ˜…

E3. As we close out the episode, we’ve got Very Tipsy Haeng Seon body tackling Chi Yeol and falling into a flailing heap on the ground, and, well, context tells us that she might have very possibly kissed Chi Yeol, since she gets Very Kissy when she’s drunk.

Again, this is rather predictable, but I am entertained by the idea, nonetheless.

I’m actually looking forward to the mortification and related hijinks. ๐Ÿ˜

E4. Ahahaha. From Chi Yeol’s bemused-but-quite-delighted reaction back at his own apartment, I’m gonna say that it’s basically a confirmation that Haeng Seon did kiss him, after that drunken tackle.

I find it so endearing, really, that Chi Yeol seems so bashfully delighted about this, because this is the most skinship that he’s experienced in a long time. Aw.

And, instead of dreading the awkwardness of facing Haeng Seon the next day, he actually seems very amused at how mortified she would be, if she remembered their encounter at all.

Somehow, I find it quite lovable, that Chi Yeol would look forward with such anticipation and amusement, to seeing Haeng Seon react to the memory.

Plus, when he does see her and Haeng Seon pretends not to remember anything, Chi Yeol’s gentlemanly enough to play along, saying that it’s fine if she doesn’t remember. I mean, he does tease her a little bit too, but not too much. ๐Ÿ˜

He’s a pretty good egg, isn’t he? ๐Ÿฅฐ

E4. As we close out the episode, Chi Yeol – good man! – seeks out Haeng Seon and offers her a deal: that he teach Hae Yi privately (and of course, she’ll feed him).

AHA! I’D CALLED IT!!! This is very close to the scenario that I’d predicted at the end of episode 1, MUAHAHA! ๐Ÿ˜ Can you tell that I’m chuffed with my drama senses? ๐Ÿ˜‚

I am very much looking forward to the bonding that is bound to occur between Chi Yeol and Haeng Seon, now that he’ll be teaching Hae Yi privately. ๐Ÿ˜

E5. I’m actually really pleased that Chi Yeol has to come clean, that he’s doing all this because of Haeng Seon’s food. ๐Ÿ˜

I don’t know what it is; maybe it’s because Chi Yeol’s always trying to keep a cool and detached sort of demeanor, that it pleases me greatly, that he has to come out and admit that the thing that he wants in exchange for tutoring Hae Yi, is Haeng Seon’s food – and twice a day, everyday, at that. ๐Ÿ˜

I also get a lot of satisfaction from watching Chi Yeol stuff his face with the delicious food that Haeng Seon serves him.

And, I get just as much satisfaction from watching Chi Yeol fall into bed in a food coma, even if it’s just for a while.

I mean, the poor guy’s been unable to eat or sleep properly, chronically, and Haeng Seon’s food has this magical ability to solve both his problems in one fell swoop?

She’s not just a treasure; she’s literally a lifeline, to him, isn’t she?? Because, if you think about it, if you can’t eat or sleep, eventually, you literally die. ๐Ÿ˜…

E5. I have to admit that Chi Yeol’s rather prickly towards Haeng Seon, but I also have to concede that Haeng Seon doesn’t do a very good job of respecting his personal space and privacy.

Her overly familiar manner, which, I suppose, is second nature to her, is the thing that galvanizes Chi Yeol into drawing some firm lines with her.

“Just because I formed a strategic partnership with you doesn’t mean we’re best friends. I find it detestable when people cross my boundaries.”

Ouch. He’s not wrong, but the way he put that across, is also not nice. ๐Ÿ˜…

But y’know, I can’t stay mad at Chi Yeol for very long, because the next thing I know, he’s on my screen, huddled in his car, eating Haeng Seon’s food with pleasure and gusto, and pronouncing that this is skills exchange at its best.

And this also tells me that he’s mostly putting up a defensive front with Haeng Seon, rather than genuinely feeling that irritated with her. Or at least, that’s what I’d like to think. ๐Ÿ˜…

I just like seeing Chi Yeol eat well, can you tell? ๐Ÿ˜‚

E5. I felt really bad for Haeng Seon, for having to apologize to that couple like that, when it was a pure misunderstanding, and Jae Woo absolutely had not stalked that woman, nor tried to provoke her in any way.

Which actually makes it quite perfect, that Chi Yeol witnesses it too, and feels sorry for Haeng Seon.

I find it very easy to understand how he feels sorry for Haeng Seon, because I feel sorry for her too.

With this incident as a context, I can understand why Chi Yeol would feel concerned enough for Haeng Seon’s safety and wellbeing, when he sees her drinking alone outside the convenience store, to get out of his car and sit with her to make sure that she’s ok.

And of course, that’s how we end up having Chi Yeol even more drunk than Haeng Seon, and all passed out on the sidewalk, meaning that Haeng Seon has no choice but to drag him back to her home, for the night.

It’s pretty much the perfect rom-com storm, with Chi Yeol all flustered in the morning, and in a hurry to get out of Haeng Seon’s house as fast as possible – thus leading him to leave his belt behind, which is how Manager Ji and Yeong Ju (Lee Bong Ryun) end up witnessing the very compromising sort of scene, where Haeng Seon’s handing a very disheveled Chi Yeol his belt. HA.

I love it.

I love how perfectly askew Chi Yeol’s hair is, and I love his discombobulated, stunned expression as he literally sinks to the ground in shock.

It’s a great cliffhanger, and honestly, I can’t wait to see how this scene gets resolved. ๐Ÿ˜

E6. Ha. The episode, we see that The Big Secret is slowly leaking, in spite of Chi Yeol’s and Haeng Seon’s best efforts, and I am suitably amused. ๐Ÿ˜

Immediately, there’s the shocked discombobulation of Manager Ji, along with the surprise and glee that we see coming from Yeong Ju, when we revisit the closing scene from last episode, from their points of view.

Chi Yeol’s disheveled look is just adorably delightful, and only Jung Kyung Ho can make that shocked and messy look, so endearing. ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜

The thing is, Manager Ji’s got a point; this could all go very wrong, very fast. But the problem is, Chi Yeol’s the boss in this equation, and has no obligation to listen to Manager Ji’s protests or advice.

And our Chi Yeol’s so determined to eat Haeng Seon’s food (heh) – and also, help an unfairly treated Hae Yi – that he’s not at all inclined to back off from this arrangement.

E6. Once again, we have Haeng Seon’s well-meaning nosiness coming into play, to nudge her closer to Chi Yeol, with the way she decides that she should ring the bell so that the sikhye she’s made for him doesn’t spoil from not being in the fridge.

Which, of course, is how we end up with that scene of Chi Yeol falling asleep right on her shoulder, because he’d taken 2 sleeping pills instead of 1.

Pfft. It’s somehow landing as Classic Chi Yeol to me, even though this is legit the first time I’ve ever seen him do this. ๐Ÿ˜

I personally think that Haeng Seon’s a little too nosy for comfort, with the way she scopes out Chi Yeol’s apartment, and even helps him pour expired milk down the sink.

Like, I get that she means well and just wants to help, but the introvert in me protests that this really is an invasion of privacy. ๐Ÿ˜…

But fine. This is to promote her understanding of Chi Yeol, who is otherwise fiercely private, so I guess I can close one eye and just roll with it (while telling my inner introvert to keep quiet and just let it slide, this once ๐Ÿ˜…).

E6. This episode, rom-com coincidence dictates that Chi Yeol and Haeng Seon end up in the same camping spot, and therefore spend time together, but I don’t mind, really, because it’s reasonably organic to our story, that they would both head out into the country for a bit.

For one thing, Chi Yeol’s getting really stressed by the revelation, that so much had gone down with Su Hyeon’s family after her death, as well as by Teacher Jin’s obvious efforts to tear him down. I can see why he’d want to get away from it all, for a bit.

And for another, Show’s already brought up earlier, that Haeng Seon takes her family camping every once in a while, because it’s one of Jae Woo’s favorite things to do.

And of course, after the bickering and prickly conversations have subsided a bit, Haeng Seon and Chi Yeol do share a spot of meaningful conversation, and I do love that.

I like that Chi Yeol’s comfortable enough to say that every time he makes a mistake, he becomes dispirited, because there are no set set formulas or rules in life.

And I like that Haeng Seon’s able to share, matter-of-factly, that with each attempt at an answer, he’s getting closer to success; that everyone’s fumbling for answers.

I feel like that’s a nice shot of solidarity, without things getting too personal. Quite perfect, for where their relationship is, at the moment, I thought.

I also like how thoughtful Chi Yeol looks in the moment, like Haeng Seon’s really given him something valuable to think about.

Of course, Show turns the moment on its head soon enough, with Chi Yeol recoiling from Haeng Seon when she tries to teach him that relaxation exercise, and inadvertently pushing her into that puddle of water. Oops. ๐Ÿ˜…

But, he is thoughtful enough to put the navigation to silent mode, when he sees Haeng Seon dozing off in the car, on the way home, and that’s something?

PLUS, with Chi Yeol’s still humming the song that Haeng Seon had been playing, AND with Chi Yeol starting to leak a few tamped-down smiles at the thought of Haeng Seon (SO ADORABLE ๐Ÿ˜), I’m starting to grin some goofy grins at the idea that Chi Yeol’s more drawn to Haeng Seon than he thinks. ๐Ÿ˜

E7.ย Feelings creeping up on our leads is always fun, particularly when it involves a neurotic Chi Yeol who doesn’t quite know what to do with these strange feelings that his heart is suddenly afflicting him with. ๐Ÿ˜

I am quite amused at the idea that between Chi Yeol and Haeng Seon, Haeng Seon’s better at rolling with the punches and managing the situation.

I mean, she manages to call Chi Yeol and warn him that he’s being watched, AND tell him what to do, as an alternative (pretend that he’s just discovered her store’s closed, and walk away).

But Chi Yeol, geeeenius that he is, just can’t handle the matter in any way that could pass for natural, and does the whole TALKING VERY LOUDLY into the phone thing, to inform his spies that he’s talking to Manager Ji, and OH DEAR, THE STORE IS CLOSED, I GUESS I HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO EAT SOMETHING ELSE THEN. OK BYE!

Ahaha. Chi Yeol is SO BAD at this, and it’s delightful. ๐Ÿ˜‚

E7. I’m so happy that our characters are so happy, about Hae Yi’s achievement.

The way Haeng Seon beams and clucks about it like a proud mother hen, is very heartwarming.

Even better, though, is how, when she calls Chi Yeol to tell him the good news and thank him, he acts all cool, like, Of COURSE she’d do well, look at who’s tutoring her after all – but then is all exhilarated fist pump levels of happy, once he’s off the phone.

Hee. I love that Chi Yeol’s basically on cloud nine, that Hae Yi’s topped her class, with his help. ๐Ÿ˜ There’s something so innocent and pure about that, yes?

Also, even though Chi Yeol’s always trying to keep his distance from people, he really is quite helpless in the face of the warmth coming from everyone in Haeng Seon’s household.

I mean, not only does he allow himself to get talked into joining their celebratory party, he even allows himself to get roped into competitive ball games? Pfft.

Haeng Seon does literally glow, on the field, and I can see why Chi Yeol would suddenly find himself quite smitten. ๐Ÿ˜

And then, of course, that would cause him to be distracted, which is how he hurts his wrist, which is how we have Haeng Seon fussing over him and icing his wrist, which brings on a whole new slew of feels, hee.

That look of utter shock on Chi Yeol’s face is really quite priceless; it’s hilarious because of his reaction face, but it’s also poignant, because he looks like he’s on the verge of shocked tears, just from having someone show care and concern for him.

Aw. Our poor baby’s not used to receiving care and love, is he?

The best part of this, of course, is how, after some therapy, Chi Yeol thinks that he’s proven that he’s completely healthy and normal, and his weird feelings had just been a reaction triggered by his autonomic nervous system – but then his feelings get triggered all over again, by the sight of glowy Haeng Seon, fresh out of the shower.

The shocked way he literally RUNNNSSS outta there is just ridiculous and hilarious, hahahaha. ๐Ÿ˜‚ It’s more surprising, really, that Haeng Seon isn’t more shocked at Chi Yeol’s bizarre behavior. ๐Ÿ˜

I would believe, though, that Haeng Seon would offer to take Chi Yeol to see a doctor, since he’d hurt his wrist while on her watch, and it’s cute that Chi Yeol has to talk himself into believing that saying yes is the right thing to do.

“It’s not a date or anything. And my wrist does hurt. Teachers need to take good care of their wrists.”

..And then he goes and fusses endlessly over what he’s wearing to this not-a-date, going so far as to rush home to change after his lessons at The Pride, coz he realizes belatedly that his casual outfit looks weird.

Whether he admits it or not, our Chi Yeol is very hyperaware of Haeng Seon indeed. ๐Ÿ˜

Haeng Seon does seem rather hyperaware of Chi Yeol, too, though not in exactly the same way.

She’s perfectly functional in front of him, thank goodness, but like Yeong Ju points out, Haeng Seon’s mentioning Chi Yeol a whole lot lately, and she’s clearly affectionately amused by him.

Also, Chi Yeol finally learns that Haeng Seon’s mom had been the kind ahjumma who’d fed him and showered him with gruff love, all that time that he’d been in Noryangjin.

Well that’s certainly going to put a whole new perspective on Chi Yeol’s already positive feelings towards Haeng Seon.

E8. I don’t know why Chi Yeol doesn’t come out and admit that he has fond memories of Haeng Seon’s mom and feels indebted to Mom for all the kindness that she’d shown him, but in exchange, we get Chi Yeol bending over backwards to be ridiculously, stealthily nice to Haeng Seon, and I’m down for that too. ๐Ÿ˜

First, he’s already quite smitten with her, even though he doesn’t want to admit it. ๐Ÿ˜

Second, he learns that Haeng Seon is Kind Ahjumma’s daughter, to whom he feels indebted.

And now, I’m sure he can’t help feeling an extra layer of sorry for her, when he hears about how she’d lost Mom at a young age, and then regularly cried in front of Mom’s memorial tablet for several years, because life had just been that hard. Aw.

I like how we’re starting to see Chi Yeol and Haeng Seon sharing more conversations now compared to before.

I mean, given where we’d started with these two, the fact that they’re sitting down to dinner at her mother’s old restaurant, and he’s listening intently while she talks about how she’d dealt with her mother’s death, is huge progress.

I feel like most of the walls have finally come down, with Chi Yeol, except for the fact that he’s not letting on that he’d been acquainted with Haeng Seon’s mom.

It’s also a step in the right direction, that Chi Yeol’s admitting to himself that he’s been drawn to Haeng Seon.

I mean, he does seem to need to coat it with the idea that he’s been drawn to her because of her mom, which I don’t love so much, because I want him to be drawn to her for her own sake, y’know?

But, baby steps. At least he’s now admitting to himself (and to Manager Ji!) that he’s been drawn to Haeng Seon, and that’s better than being in denial, yes?

I do appreciate that Chi Yeol feels so indebted to Haeng Seon’s mom, but his antics in trying to repay Mom’s kindness to Haeng Seon, are really rather out there.

From buying the building that her shop and her home are in, to slashing her rental by 50%, to installing air-conditioning in every room, and then even saying that they should have a party, and then buying them that very fancy and expensive meal, it is entertaining, but it’s also very much out of character.

It’s little wonder that our girl Haeng Seon feels weirded out by all this, and just uncomfortable in general.

That said, it’s still really nice to see Chi Yeol hanging out with Haeng Seon and her family, with everyone looking so content and happy. ๐Ÿฅฐ

I also like how all this seems to put Chi Yeol in a really good mood, such that he’d order dosirak from Haeng Seon the very next day, for his staff, and then boast to them that her food’s so amazing that he loves it, even though 3-Michelin star restaurants fail to satisfy him.

I mean, that’s so very cheerful and forthcoming of Chi Yeol, yes?

I can’t blame Yeong Ju for concluding that Chi Yeol’s romantically interested in Haeng Seon, because, well, WE know it’s true, and there’s all this circumstantial evidence to support that idea, too.

It’s too bad that Chi Yeol’s pianist blind date shows up at the office because he hasn’t been responding to her texts, and thus makes Haeng Seon feel awkward, because now it looks like Haeng Seon’s misunderstood Chi Yeol’s intentions (he’s going out on dates with other women, even!) – when she’s actually not misunderstanding his feelings at all.

Oh what a tangled web we weave, as they say. ๐Ÿ˜

It’s no wonder there are distinct notes of bitterness in Haeng Seon’s voice, when she later tells Chi Yeol to enjoy his piano recital, and not worry about Hae Yi’s lesson. Aw.

E8. I was actually rather bummed to see Chi Yeol show up to the recital, even though it’s more out of obligation than anything else.

BUT! The moment Chi Yeol hears Haeng Seon yelp in pain in the background, while he’s on the phone with Hae Yi during intermission, he’s OUTTA there, and racing over to check whether Haeng Seon’s alright.

YESSS. ๐Ÿคฉ๐Ÿ˜

I mean, I feel a little sorry for pianist blind date, but y’know, it’s better that she find out earlier than later, that Chi Yeol’s really not that into her. ๐Ÿ˜…

Chi Yeol’s explanation to Haeng Seon, that he’s there to see Hae Yi, is paper-thin, and I don’t think Haeng Seon buys it completely, but it’s all good, coz he’s there now, with her, and helping her lock up, and telling her he’s relieved that she didn’t get badly hurt.

All good things, yes? ๐Ÿ˜

E8. I like that both Chi Yeol and Haeng Seon are so keenly desperate to protect each other, when things go awry.

I mean, yes, it’s a bummer that the All Care moms descend on them like that, and get all judgey where it really isn’t any of their business, but, unfortunately, that’s how things tend to roll in these drama worlds.

And, I’m more than happy with the silver lining that we get, where we see Chi Yeol taking charge of the situation, and getting the All Care moms away from Haeng Seon as quickly as possible.

It’s clear that that’s his first main objective, so that Haeng Seon can be kept out of harm’s way, and I can’t help but melt a little, at his first instinct.

And then, it’s also sweet that Haeng Seon’s first instinct is to protect him as well, although her action of barging into his office, where he’s gathered the All Care moms, and announcing that she’d been the one to beg him to tutor Hae Yi, isn’t very helpful at all.

But it’s the thought that counts more, isn’t it, and this idea that they’re both instinctively trying to protect each other, is landing sweet, to me. ๐Ÿฅฐ

The other thing that’s working as a silver lining for me, is Chi Yeol’s fantastic reaction faces. The way his expression contorts into multiple iterations of disbelief, as he tries to reason with Haeng Seon in the stairwell, amuses me quite a bit. ๐Ÿ˜

Ahh. Jung Kyung Ho’s elastic reaction faces are so great. ๐Ÿคฉ

E9. With the meddling of the All Care moms, I do feel bad for Haeng Seon, because hers is a small business that can’t afford to suffer too much, and it must be discouraging to cook all this food and then have to throw it out because no one’s buying.

And, it also sucks that her reputation gets dragged, because she is nothing like what the rumors accuse her of being.

But again – I do love the detail that Chi Yeol’s first instinct is to tell her to stay off social media, so that she’d be as sheltered from the rumors as possible.

E9. Thankfully, Jae Woo’s ok after his anxiety attack, and also, this does give us an opportunity to see Chi Yeol and Haeng Seon in the same place, when Chi Yeol goes to visit Jae Woo at the hospital.

Yes, as you can see, I’m all about the silver linings, this episode. ๐Ÿ˜…

It’s really nice to see them in the same frame again, finally, and it’s also comforting to hear that Chi Yeol had been worried about Jae Woo.

I mean, for someone who’d used to have a feud of sorts with Jae Woo, and who’d felt uncomfortable with Jae Woo, Chi Yeol’s sure come a long way. ๐Ÿฅฐ

And, it’s so sweet, really, that Chi Yeol’s also worried about Haeng Seon, and makes sure that she eats something – and as comfortably as possible, too.

It’s a smallish gesture, but the fact that Chi Yeol buys a whole bunch of stuff for Haeng Seon from the convenience store, because he’s not sure what she likes, and just wants to make sure that there’s something that she’d like in that bag, is dorky-sweet. ๐Ÿ˜

There’s a low-key level of hyperawareness between Chi Yeol and Haeng Seon in the car, as she eats carefully, while he drives, that lands as sweet and kinda shy, to my eyes.

I find it so endearing, really, that these two adults, who have so many life experiences between them, are both so sweet and innocent, when it comes to romance.

At the same time, yes, this is not without angst, because, just as Chi Yeol comes to the realization that he definitely has feelings for Haeng Seon, he also realizes that the “right” thing to do, would be to back away as completely as possible, because he believes that she’s married.

I feel like I can almost taste the wistfulness in the air, as Chi Yeol tells Haeng Seon that he’ll stop tutoring Hae Yi, and that she can stop making dosiraks for him, and as Haeng Seon thanks him for giving Hae Yi a chance, and being patient with Jae Woo, and for making sure that she ate, that day.

Augh. It feels like there’s so much that they want to say to each other, but cannot, in this moment. The bittersweet angst is almost tangible; it feels so strong.

I feel pretty wistful myself, as we see time pass, and Chi Yeol and Haeng Seon get on with life in the meantime, BUT, we get a serendipitous moment at the close of the episode, which, while not pleasant to start with, has SUCH a silver lining, that I’m practically cackling with glee.

Because, of COURSE the talk that Haeng Seon decides to go for is by Chi Yeol, and of COURSE members of the audience try to ask him about the scandal, and start talking trash about Haeng Seon.

I love – freaking LOVE – that the moment Chi Yeol sees Haeng Seon, and realizes that she’s heard everything and is trying to sneak out unseen, he speaks directly into the mic,

“It’s not like that. I offered to tutor the student. And I’m the one who had feelings. Not her. She only treated me as a teacher, so I’m the one at fault. I never deserved her. She is extremely kind-hearted and shines so brightly. I had a crush on her. So please mind your words.”

And then he looks right at her, gentle gaze unwavering, as if to say, “I said what I said, and I’m not going to back down from it.”

Ahhhh!!! YESSS. SQUEEE~! ๐Ÿคฉ๐Ÿคฉ๐Ÿคฉ

E10. Well. Chi Yeol’s very public confession does have its repercussions, but I’m just so pleased that he’s come out and expressed how he feels about Haeng Seon in such an unequivocal manner, that I’m still happy that he did it, consequences and all.

But first, before talking about the consequences, I’m much more interested in what happens between Chi Yeol and Haeng Seon directly after his public confession.

I think it’s great that instead of gnawing at her nails on her own, Haeng Seon asks to see Chi Yeol immediately. Heh, our girl Haeng Seon sure isn’t one to be shy and evasive, eh? ๐Ÿ˜

Of course, there’s the thing where she doesn’t actually believe his confession is true; she thinks that he’s just saying all this to protect her, and take the fall by himself, and that’s why she’s asking to see him, so that she can confront him about it.

But I still like that she’s in favor of hashing it out, rather than stewing in her own emotions by herself.

AND, more importantly, I’m glad that Chi Yeol doesn’t back down from admitting his feelings for her, even though she starts from a place not believing him. He could’ve made up some excuse, but instead – and I love him for this – he doesn’t shy away from it, and admits his feelings for her, all over again.

“I tried denying it, and I tried to rationalize it. But nothing worked. It’s true. I like you.

Maybe it’s just my brain malfunctioning due to being overworked. Or is it my heart?

Anyway. Don’t worry. I know I shouldn’t have feelings for you. I’ll end it. I’m the one who found the wrong answer again.”

Ahhh!! I love that he’s telling her again, that he likes her, but, Oh nooo.. he’s telling her that he’s going to tidy up his feelings and put them away, because he knows he shouldn’t like her, and, poor Haeng Seon, what can she say in response to this, right?

What a dilemma.

E10. I had my suspicions when Chi Yeol has that drunken dream of kissing Haeng Seon, because I could believe that Jae Woo would call his noona, if he didn’t know what to do with Chi Yeol, and I would believe that Haeng Seon would go check on Chi Yeol, because she cares about him.

But of course, Chi Yeol believes it to be a dream, the following morning, and falls into a funk over how it’s much harder to get over Haeng Seon than he’d imagined, what with him having kissy dreams of her and all. ๐Ÿ˜

I’d believe that Chi Yeol would fall off the grid, to give himself some time and space to figure things out – and I’d believe that Haeng Seon would be able to figure out just where he’d gone, since she’d been there with him, not too long ago.

Augh. The sweet tension and angst in the air, as Haeng Seon confronts Chi Yeol at the fishing spot, and blurts out that he’d confused her, and that she’d been crazy worried about him.

Aw. That in itself is like some kind of half confession already, isn’t it?

It looks like Chi Yeol’s decided to play it cool and casual though, with the way he tells Haeng Seon that he’s hungry, and wants her to treat him to a meal.

I’m glad that he takes the opportunity to tell her about his connection with Mom, because that’s something that I’ve been wanting him to tell her for a long time.

It’s such a meaningful connection, and I’m glad that Haeng Seon gets to know that her mom had had such a big part in supporting Chi Yeol, to enable him to become the star tutor that he is today.

The tears in both Chi Yeol’s and Haeng Seon’s eyes, as he tells her about Mom’s presence in his life, and as she processes it all, is so very poignant and heartwarming, at the same time. It feels like a very precious moment indeed.

How bittersweet, though, that Chi Yeol ends his sharing with the conclusion that he must have mistaken his gratitude towards Mom, as feelings for Haeng Seon.

Ouch. That must be such a rollercoaster for Haeng Seon, to find out this amazing thing one moment, and then be told that Chi Yeol must have been mistaken about his feelings for her, the next.

Their goodbye is gentle, and feels final, and it’s just really sad, all around.

It’s no wonder Haeng Seon ends up crying to Yeong Ju, because, what else can she do, right?

She can’t tell Chi Yeol that she likes him too, becauseย her motherly instinct is to protect Hae Yi, and that means not exposing Hae Yi to gossip and discrimination. Of course that would be her choice.

And she also can’t tell Chi Yeol that his conclusion is false, because that’s for Chi Yeol to say, not her.

The way Haeng Seon turns to Yeong Ju with the tears flowing down her face, it feels so childlike, in its raw innocence. Ack. I’m so glad Haeng Seon’s got Yeong Ju to give her a hug, because I want to reach into my screen and give her a hug too.

I’m glad though, that in the days that follow, even as Chi Yeol and Haeng Seon do their best to carry on with normal life, Chi Yeol can’t help but stop his car near Haeng Seon’s shop, just so that he can catch a glimpse of her from afar.

Augh. The fact that he misses her, and wants to see her, even if it’s from afar like this, is just the kind of romantic angst that makes my heart wobble, a little bit.

And YAY for our girl Hae Yi, who finally musters up the courage to state for the record – on Mr. Popular’s livestream, no less – that Haeng Seon’s her aunt, not her mom, and therefore the entire scandal isn’t a scandal, but a romance.

YESSS. You go, girl!!! I love that she’s choosing to be brave, and I love even more, that her courage is powered, not by anything else, but by love. ๐Ÿฅฐ

AND THEN, as icing on the cake, Show reveals, in the epilogue, that the drunk kiss hadn’t been a fever dream.

DOUBLE YESSSS.

Haeng Seon had gone over there, to check on Chi Yeol, and he had reached for her hand, and kissed her.

Ooh, and the kissessss… So gentle and tender, and threaded through with so much wistful longing, like they’re both savoring it as much as humanly possible, so that this moment will last them for a lifetime.

Flail. Puddle. Swoon. ๐Ÿซ ๐Ÿซ ๐Ÿซ 

E11. I love – really love! – that when Chi Yeol finally comes face to face with Haeng Seon, the first thing he does, is walk right up to her, and enfold her in his arms, in one fluid motion.

It makes me feel like he’s been waiting to do this all day, and it also feels like this action – of taking Haeng Seon into his arms – is just that much a part of him. ๐Ÿฅฐ

Also, I do love the gentle exasperation in his tone, as he says his first words to her, “Why didn’t you tell me sooner? Why did you have to punish me like this? I had no idea and suffered so much trying to get over you. I really wish you’d told me.”

Guh. I love how honest he is, in telling her that he’d suffered greatly, trying to get over her, and I love that even as he expresses this, there is such gentle affection in his voice. My heart; it’s wobbling coz it’s weak in the knees. ๐Ÿฅฐ๐Ÿซ 

I honestly really like the vibe that we get, between Chi Yeol and Haeng Seon.

There’s gentle affection, and there’s some awkward shyness, but there’s also an honest sort of spontaneity that comes from them acknowledging their feelings for each other, and being willing to act on those feelings.

Like, when Haeng Seon breaks up the hug coz the helmet she’s holding is digging into her, she doesn’t shy away from then moving the helmet, and going up to Chi Yeol, to initiate another hug.

That’s so great. I love this honest display of affection, particularly at this point where they’re both feeling uncertain and vulnerable. It feels extra precious, because they haven’t quite confirmed their relationship, but are both putting themselves out there anyway. ๐Ÿฅฐ

And I do love that as they then confirm their feelings for each other with that conversation in the car, while parked by the Han River, it’s all gentle teasing met with gentle awkwardness, mixed with gentle honesty.

And I love that as we hear their answers, we get to revisit the highlights of their connection, up to this point, and marvel at how far they’ve come, and how much they’ve softened towards each other, from the time they’d first set eyes on each other, with the whole Tiger Misunderstanding. ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿฅฐ

ALSO. It’s so cute how red Jung Kyung Ho’s ears are, in this scene. ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜ It makes me feel like he’s genuinely feeling shy in this scene, and it’s all kinds of adorable, I feel. ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜

From the way he looks at her and tells her how he feels, to the way she blushes and remarks how he’s learned to talk sweetly, to how he reaches to hold her hand, as he tells her that she’s his savior, as much her mother had been his savior,ย it’s ALL so gently adorable and endearing.

I love it. ๐Ÿฅฐ๐Ÿฅฐ

The way he insists on driving behind her as she makes her way home on her scooter, and the way they then bashfully text each other, with smiles tugging at their lips, is so cute and pure; they’re like teenagers in love for the first time, and it’s adorable.

And then, the next time he’s there to tutor Hae Yi, I love how he basically invites himself to stay and eat his dosirak, instead of taking it home – and then even not-so-jokingly ribs Haeng Seon that she could feed him, if she’d like. Heh.

I like that he’s allowing their routine to evolve, along with their relationship. There’s something appealing about that, like he doesn’t try to hide that he has feelings for her, or that they’re in a relationship, even though everyone else in Haeng Seon’s house is watching. ๐Ÿฅฐ

E12. Our lovebirds are starting to experience a few bumps in the road in their relationship, and it’s a little early in the game for that, in the sense that I’d thought that things would be all sweet and rose-colored for longer, before our OTP had their first disagreement.

But maybe this is how mature couples roll?

And also, maybe it’s because we only have 4 episodes left, and Show needs to hurry things along?

(I’m really kinda stunned, that we are already heading into the final stretch of our show; it honestly feels like I started watching this one not too long ago!)

I can see how this disagreement would come about, though, between Chi Yeol and Haeng Seon.

Haeng Seon’s just following her instincts and being honest with Chi Yeol about the weird vibe she’s been getting from Manager Ji.

But, I can believe that Manager Ji’s been so good at showing Chi Yeol only his best side, and that it’s been relatively easy for Manager Ji to only show that good side, with Chi Yeol suffering from nightmares, and being unable to eat, and depending on him so much.

Adding on the fact that things have always revolved Chi Yeol, in all this time that he’s worked with Manager Ji, I find it plausible, that Chi Yeol’s not noticed anything amiss with Manager Ji’s behavior, all this time.

And, because Chi Yeol feels that he knows Manager Ji so well, and because Manager Ji really is his righthand man, I can see why he would want to speak up for Manager Ji, when Haeng Seon indicates that she’s been getting weird vibes from Manager Ji.

Essentially, Chi Yeol’s stuck between them, kinda-sorta like how many men are stuck between their wives and their mothers, eh? Ha. ๐Ÿ˜

The way Chi Yeol and Haeng Seon try to get on with their normal lives, all while angsting over whether to text the other person first, and what to say, and if it’s even ok to apologize over text, is quite relatable.

And it’s just like Haeng Seon and her impatient nature, to text Chi Yeol first – too bad Manager Ji intercepts it and deletes it – much like the disapproving mother-in-law I mentioned. ๐Ÿ˜…

Or, like the spurned love interest of the male lead, who’s out to make sure that the male lead’s actual love interest gets derailed. Because if I can’t have him, nobody can! ๐Ÿ˜‚

Ok, the scene’s not actually funny, but it’s just kind of amusing to me, when I think about it, on hindsight.

I’m just glad that Chi Yeol manages to sidestep Manager Ji’s efforts to drive a wedge between him and Haeng Seon, by waiting for her to wake up, and then going with her to the market.

Aw. That is sweet.

I really liked watching them go from stall to stall together, with Chi Yeol pulling Haeng Seon’s marketing trolley, while the stallholders ooh and ahh over how handsome and tall he is, hee. ๐Ÿ˜

I’m also glad that they make up over a cup of coffee, and I like that Haeng Seon makes sure to mention that she had texted him – at least this way, they’re not operating on different assumptions, which they would have, if she’d believed that he’d ignored her text on purpose.

This is definitely one of the times when Haeng Seon’s straightforward nature comes in useful. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I like that Chi Yeol’s being all sweet and romantic, and therefore decides to take Haeng Seon with him to Incheon, so that he can take her to see the sea, like she’d wanted.

E12. This episode, Chi Yeol and Haeng Seon, er, take their relationship to the next level.

Again, it does feel pretty fast, considering they’ve only just starting dating – and this is a kdrama, not of the Netflix persuasion – but I rationalize that perhaps this is how more mature romances roll; ie, our leads aren’t spring chickens anymore, and probably don’t want to waste any more time, now that they’re sure about each other.

I was admittedly surprised by the speediness of this, but again, perhaps this is also partly the effect of Show entering its final stretch – so again, no time to waste. ๐Ÿ˜…

I do like the execution of it, though, with Chi Yeol not wanting to part ways with Haeng Seon, and asking her, so gently and openly, if she couldn’t stay the night with him.

I like that he’s asking her, and actually giving her a choice about it, ie, I’m sure that if Haeng Seon had decided against it, he wouldn’t have pushed her to stay.

But, Haeng Seon does decide to stay, and the way they come together is gentle and loving; full of quivering tension, yet also a bit awkward and clumsy.

It’s pitch perfect for this couple that’s so full of mature feelings for each other, but don’t have much experience in the romance department, if any.

There’s a distinct note of sweetness and joy, as they choose to take this step together, and I couldn’t help but smile, honestly, that sweetness was spilling out of my screen and that joy was pretty infectious. ๐Ÿฅฐ

Augh. It all feels so real, raw and organic to this couple. It’s so, SO well done, honestly. โค๏ธ

E13. I like that Chi Yeol delivers his love to Haeng Seon in the form of fresh donuts, and gosh, that’s actually pretty cool, that his thinking of Haeng Seon while going past the donut shop, literally saves her life.

And, we do get some sweet moments between Chi Yeol and Haeng Seon this episode, like when he dorkily goes over to her house the moment he realizes he has an excuse in his broken heater – and then sneaks into her room for 5 minutes of cuddles, which turns into overnight snuggles.

Even though we don’t get a lot of lovey-dovey OTP couple time this episode, the very natural way the morning-after scene is played, with both of them looking endearingly disheveled, is nice and cozy. ๐Ÿฅฐ

[END SPOILER]

Roh Yoon Seo as Hae Yi

I really enjoyed Roh Yoon Seo in Our Blues (review here!), and I’m really pleased to see her here, as yet another relatable, sympathetic character.

I loved how grounded and mature Hae Yi is, and how that maturity becomes her, and seems such a natural part of her, like it’s just part of who she is, rather than something that she’s forced herself to embrace, in order to pull her weight better, at home.

I also give a lot of credit to Roh Yoon Seo, whom I feel delivered Hae Yi with restraint and nuance, which just added to Hae Yi’s air of maturity, over and above the dialogue written for her.

Hae Yi’s such a good kid; totally one of my favorite characters in this drama world. ๐Ÿฅฐ

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. Hae Yi immediately strikes me as a considerate, conscientious girl, with the way she works hard at her studies, and doesn’t depend on extra classes, to score top marks at school.

Not only that, she helps out at Haeng Seon’s store after school, when her classmates are all getting extra lessons at the top hagwons.

Hae Yi feeling the pressure, when she’s unable to keep up the top scores that she’s been getting, already lent her a layer of poignance, because of the way she struggles with whether or not to ask Haeng Seon for extra classes, knowing that Haeng Seon’s tight on money.

But then, when Show reveals that Hae Yi had actually been abandoned by her bio mom, at an age where she still remembers it now, really adds a layer of pathos that I hadn’t expected.

There’s likely a lot of emotional baggage there, that Hae Yi is hiding.

Just off the top of my head, I imagine she has abandonment issues, and acceptance issues, and security issues.

And I also imagine the reason she works so hard, is in order to feel like she’s earning her acceptance, with Haeng Seon, who’s clearly given up a lot in order to bring her up.

E9. I do feel for Hae Yi, because as easy as it might look to us, that she solve everything by revealing that Haeng Seon’s actually her aunt and not her mom, that flashback really helps me to understand why it’s so hard for her.

The fact that she’d once open up about it to her closest friend, only to have that “friend” promptly abandon her, while making sure that everyone in school knew her secret and disdained her for it, is just awful.

I can see why Hae Yi would have been traumatized from that experience, and probably swear to never reveal the truth again, if only to protect herself.

And so, with that context, I can appreciate why Hae Yi’s struggling as much as she is, even though she has the power to resolve this situation for Haeng Seon and Chi Yeol.

I appreciate that Hae Yi’s heart is in the right place, though. She hates that she doesn’t have the courage to do this, and wishes that she could be stronger and braver. I’m glad she’s, 1, cognizant of it, and 2, is able to share these thoughts with Yeong Ju, and receive some comfort.

E11. I love how strong Hae Yi’s choosing to be, for the sake of Haeng Seon’s happiness, and I love how Haeng Seon asks her if she’ll be alright.

In this moment, it almost feels like Hae Yi’s being the adult in the relationship, even if it’s just for a while, and I love that she’s doing this, in spite of her fears.

AND, I’m so, SO glad that Hae Yi’s rewarded for her courage, with her friends in school hailing her as a cool heroine, instead of treating her like an outcast.

I liked that a lot. Nam Star indeed! ๐Ÿคฉ

On that note, I like how Hae Yi deals with the way Geon Hu (asks her, in front of the whole class, to promise to date him if he gets into college.

She doesn’t act all shy nor does she get really angry; she’s mainly just exasperated with him, and is straightforward with him, when she tells him to shut up. In that sense, I feel like she’s still showing that she accepts him as a friend, and isn’t pushing him away or avoiding him. I like that.

[END SPOILER]

Haeng Seon & Hae Yi

Aside from our central OTP relationship, the other relationship that really crept its way into my heart, is the mother-daughter bond between Haeng Seon and Hae Yi.

The more I learned about this mother-daughter pair, the more I loved them, and any time I saw a demonstration of love between these two, it gave me all of the feels, seriously. ๐Ÿฅฐ๐Ÿฅฐ

And, I do love that even as so many people were quick to judge Haeng Seon’s potential relationship with Chi Yeol, Hae Yi was one of the first to ship them together. I mean, how cute is that, seriously? ๐Ÿ˜

[SPOILER ALERT]

E2. I loved seeing Hae Yi look so happy and content, with all the effort that Haeng Seon put in, to get her into Chi Yeol’s class.

The little treat that Hae Yi thinks to bring Haeng Seon, is a small thing, but it’s so full of sweetness and heart. I can see why Haeng Seon eats it with such relish. ๐Ÿฅฐ

It feels like a mother-daughter breakthrough of sorts, and I’m so here for it, especially now that I know how much Haeng Seon has given up, to become Hae Yi’s mom.

E5. It really warmed my heart so, when Hae Yi asks to sleep with Haeng Seon, because she wants to make sure that Haeng Seon hasn’t gone into debt or something, in order to get her those special classes with Chi Yeol.

Aw, our Hae Yi is a thoughtful, sweet and sensible girl, isn’t she? ๐Ÿ˜

No wonder Haeng Seon’s such a proud Mama Bear.

I do love the detail, that Haeng Seon falls asleep so naturally, while patting Hae Yi to sleep. That’s such a motherly thing to do, and all of these indications that Haeng Seon genuinely treats Hae Yi as her own, warm my heart extra.

E11. Haeng Seon’s focus, after Hae Yi’s Big Reveal, is on running to Hae Yi, to see if she’s ok, and also, to express her consternation that Hae Yi’s gone and done such a thing, when Haeng Seon feels that she should be the one to protect Hae Yi.

I love Hae Yi so much, in this moment.

The way she calmly refuses to just focus on her studies and let Haeng Seon take care of everything; the way she tells Haeng Seon to be happy now, and focus on her own life, and tell the man she likes, that she likes him; it’s all so mature and loving.

Hae Yi’s being so brave in this decision, because, as we know, she IS afraid of what her classmates might say, and how people at school might treat her, after this reveal.

BUT, more importantly, her love for Haeng Seon is greater than her fear, and that’s why she chooses to reveal the secret to the world at large, and it’s just such heartwarming, inspiring stuff, really. ๐Ÿคฉ

[END SPOILER]

Lee Chae Min as Sun Jae

I have to confess that I didn’t find Sun Jae all that gripping as a character, but I appreciated him for what he represented.

On the school front, I could appreciate the pressure that he’s under, from his ambitious mom Seo Jin, and on the personal front, I could also appreciate the feelings for Hae Yi, that he’s been keeping to himself.

I thought Lee Chae Min did a decent job of the role, on both counts.

Lee Min Jae as Geon Hu

This was my introduction to Lee Min Jae, and I hafta say, he surprised me by really growing on me as Geon Hu, whom I’d initially pegged as a side character who would be more of a catalyst for Sun Jae to do something about his feelings for Hae Yi, than anything else.

I was wrong, heh.

I ended up growing quite fond of Geon Hu; he’s a good egg with a good heart, who genuinely cares about the people around him, even if he can come off as a jokester at first.

I’m glad that Show took the time to let us get to know Geon Hu better.

The little love triangle

I could spot this love triangle from a mile away, the moment Show introduced us to Geon Hu.

What I didn’t anticipate, however, is how wholesome this love triangle turns out to be. I found that really nice and refreshing, honestly. โค๏ธ

[SPOILER ALERT]

E5. With Hae Yi being quite a lovely person, I’m not surprised that she’s got not one, but two guys crushing on her, in school.

I’m not sure where this love triangle is going to go, but I find myself actually reasonably entertained by this young love triangle, and curious to see where it might lead.

I think there’s a certain bad boy, novel appeal to Geon Hu, because that newness, and that bad boy sort of vibe, combines to make him quite intriguing, even if he can be a bit annoyingly in-yo-face, when trying to get Hae Yi’s attention.

At the same time, I find myself hoping that Geon Hu will just end up being a catalyst, that helps Hae Yi realize that Sun Jae likes her, and that perhaps she might like him too?

Or, y’know, don’t choose either boy, actually, if that’s what feels right to Hae Yi. Because – dang right – it’s true that you can be happy without a boy in your life. ๐Ÿ˜

E9. It sucks that those boys make fun of Haeng Seon in front of Hae Yi, and imply that she’s like her mom, but it’s a pretty good silver lining, I felt, that both Sun Jae and Geon Hu stand up for her – and then end up bonding somewhat reluctantly, while writing their reflection papers. ๐Ÿ˜

E12. With so much going on at home, it’s no wonder Sun Jae ends up breaking down in tears on Hae Yi’s shoulder, this episode. Poor guy’s dealing with a lot.

But the silver lining, is that this does provoke more overt closeness between him and Hae Yi, because if not for this incident, Hae Yi wouldn’t be so worried that she’d be going to Sun Jae’s home to look for him, and Sun Jae wouldn’t be allowing Hae Yi to see him sobbing like a baby like this either.

Note that this is really just a silver lining thing; to be clear, it still sucks that Sun Jae’s got this kind of messed up home life. But, I am always on the look out for silver linings, and this is that, for the situation at hand.

The little love triangle is progressing in a way that I find sweet and wholesome.

Geon Hu’s honest about his feelings for Hae Yi, and she’s honest in how she doesn’t respond to his feelings, but still considers him a friend.

And, friendship rules in this little corner of our drama world, it looks like, because even though Sun Jae is technically Geon Hu’s love rival, Geon Hu does tell Hae Yi about how Sun Jae’s likely just in a place right now where he’s too upset to talk to anyone.

I thought that was really upstanding and wholesome. ๐Ÿฅฐ

E14. I do still like the growing friendship and somewhat reluctant brotherhood between Sun Jae and Geon Hu.

The way Geon Hu throws himself, full-on, into stopping Sun Jae from climbing that railing, screams desperate care to me, which in turns spells brotherhood to me, and I do appreciate that.

I like this thing, where Geon Hu and Sun Jae are becoming friends, even though they know that they are both vying for Hae Yi’s affections.

And, in the end, it’s Geon Hu’s advice, to just face things head-on, that gives Sun Jae the conviction that he needs, in order to tell Teacher Jeon the truth about the midterm paper. I thought that was very cool.

[END SPOILER]

Kang Na Eon as Su Ah

Originally, I’d thought that Su Ah might turn out to be a pretty major, interesting character, given all that she’s going through, in trying to get ahead in her studies.

The pressure that she’s under literally affects everything in Su Ah’s life, from her relationships, to her physical health. And, at points, it starts to look pretty serious and messed up.

Unfortunately, Show just kind of waves a magic wand or something, towards the end, because it feels like we never do go anywhere truly meaningful, with Su Ah and her issues.

Ryu Da In as Dan Ji

I wanted to give Dan Ji a shout-out because she’s the least complicated among our young friend group. She’s just down-to-earth, cheerful and loyal, and I found her really likable, because of this.

In a drama world where almost all the kids are fighting through complications in their lives, Dan Ji felt like a breath of fresh air, to me. ๐Ÿฅฐ

Lee Bong Ryun as Yeong Ju

I was really happy to see Lee Bong Ryun as Haeng Seon’s bestie, because I’ve had a huge soft spot for her, since her role in Sweet Home, and also, in Hometown Cha Cha Cha (reviews here and here!).

The main I wanted to talk about, though, in this section, is the loveline that Show gives Yeong Ju, at about the three-quarter mark.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Essentially, at the episode 12 mark,ย Show does a weird thing, of hinting at a potential loveline between Yeong Ju and Jae Woo, and this is something that I never managed to come around to being on board with.

I mean, I get that Yeong Ju’s been on the “hunt” for a man in her life all drama long, with all the various clubs and activities she participates in, and has been coming up empty.

And, I get that she might start looking around her, to see if there’s someone she might be overlooking, in her pursuit of romance.

But honestly, to have her notice Jae Woo one minute, and the next, ask him to go out with her, is really weird.

It’s even weirder, because Jae Woo’s autism means that he’s not quite functioning at a maturity that matches his actual age. This gives me cradle-snatchy vibes, in the sense that I still get the vibe that Jae Woo’s very childlike and not quite grown up.

I’d had hopes that Show was using this as some kind of diversion, before introducing us to Yeong Ju’s actual love interest, but no, Jae Woo is endgame for Yeong Ju, and this continued to weird me out to the end, because Jae Woo is consistently shown to be quite childlike, despite little glimmers of independence.

I just don’t think Show did a good enough job of demonstrating that Jae Woo’s maturity is at a level where he’s ready for a romantic relationship.

Even after finishing the show, I am still convincedย that Show ought to have left this potential loveline in the dust, in a dark corner, where we could hopefully forget it ever tried to exist. ๐Ÿ˜…

[END SPOILER]

Haeng Seon & Yeong Ju

This friendship doesn’t get a lot of dedicated screen time, but I just wanted to give it a shout-out, because I appreciate the fact that Yeong Ju and Haeng Seon have each other, and have been friends since their handball days.

That’s a long time to be friends, and I love this idea, that they’re doing life together in such a daily, practical way.

And I love that they can turn to each other in times of emotional vulnerability, and feel safe with each other. โค๏ธ

Oh Eui Shik as Jae Woo

I have to admit that at first, I rather liked how Oh Eui Shik plays Jae Woo, which I felt he was handling with a measure of tamped down restraint.

However, I have to confess that as we got to our later episodes, where Jae Woo is expected to show more complicated emotions, that’s when I started to feel like Oh Eui Shik’s delivery of Jae Woo was showing its rough edges.

With Jae Woo feeling bigger and more difficult emotions, I feel like there’s something missing, a bit, in Oh Eui Shik’s delivery.

Which is unfortunate, because those scenes just didn’t pop as intended for me.

I still like the idea of Show introducing a character on the autism spectrum and allowing him to exist in a matter-of-fact sort of space; I just don’t think it was so great, in the execution.

Shin Jae Ha as Manager Ji [SPOILERS]

In the beginning of our story, Manager Ji is introduced as Chi Yeol’s sweet, steadfast righthand man, and I would have been happy to have left him in that space.

However, by episode 10, Show starts teasing that Manager Ji just might be the murderer in our drama world.

My first reaction was pretty much, “WHAT?!?”

But on further thought,ย I guess I can buy the idea that Manager Ji’s obsessed with Chi Yeol and would do anything to protect Chi Yeol – even offing the people whom he finds threatening or even just inconvenient to Chi Yeol.

Overall, I ended up finding Manager Ji’s story plausible, even down to the fact that Chi Yeol had never clued in to there being anything strange or off about Manager Ji.

In my mind, if all their conversations had always been all about Chi Yeol, and if Chi Yeol had been consistently in that space where Manager Ji wanted him – suffering mentally, emotionally and physically – then Manager Ji wouldn’t have had any reason to act out, as it were.

In episode 14,ย we finally get the backstory of Manager Ji, and learn that he’s basically mentally ill, mostly likely from the trauma that he’d experienced around his sister’s death, as well as the torture that his mother then put him through, afterwards.

That’s enough to mess up just about anyone, isn’t it?

My problem is (which I talk more about later as well), is that Show doesn’t give Manager Ji the help that he needs, nor give him a chance to pay for his crimes.

Overall, I feel that Show’s both rather harsh and casual, in how it wraps up Manager Ji’s story, and that didn’t sit very well, with me.

Kim Sun Young as Soo Hee

I wanted to give Kim Sun Young a shout-out, coz I really like her as an actress, and thought she did a great job, as the ambitious, gossipy, manipulative Soo Hee.

Somehow, in Kim Sun Young’s hands, I didn’t hate Soo Hee, even though there were many things that Soo Hee did, which I found hateful.

Again, I don’t think that Show did a good job wrapping up her arc, but that seems to be a bit of a trend within our story world, eh?

Jang Young Nam as Seo Jin

As with Kim Sun Young, I also felt that Jang Young Nam gave us a very solid performance as the ambitious-to-a-fault Seo Jin.

I actually found her quite fascinating, especially with her inability to stop hurting her family for her ambition, despite being cognizant of it.

I know Seo Jin wants the best for her kids, but her ambition and her hyper-focus to the exclusion of human empathy, is really messing up both of her sons and her marriage, sadly.

Unfortunately – again – I don’t think that Show’s resolution of her arc rings very true, but like I said, this was probably because Show was running out of screen time, and just needed to focus on our central relationships, while glossing over everything and everyone else. Oh well.

Kim Tae Jung as Hee Jae

Last but not least, I also wanted to give Hee Jae a shout-out, because there’s this one scene that sticks in my mind, when it comes to Hee Jae.

[SPOILER ALERT]

In episode 11, it really hits home for Hee Jae, that hisย own mother thinks the worst of him, and believes him to be a murderer.

That scene of the usually quiet and sullen Hee Jae, sobbing into his pillow, after Mom reveals that she’s been tracking him and thinks he’s guilty of murder, really shows how hurt he is, by this.

[END SPOILER]

For a reticent character with so little screen time, I’m really quite impressed that Kim Tae Jung managed to leave such a lasting impression on me, with this scene.

SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]

So my main expectation coming into this penultimate episode, was that Show would (hopefully!) wrap up the murder side plot, so that we would be able to move back into happier, breezier things.

And Show does wrap it up, but.. I have to admit that I’m not super satisfied with how the whole thing is handled and wrapped up.

Thinking about it, I feel that the thing that bothers me the most, where this arc is concerned, is that Manager Ji is, after all, a victim of his circumstances.

I see him as someone who became mentally ill, after being traumatized by his sister’s death, and then by the way his mother had tortured him, afterwards.

And so, even though I feel that Manager Ji is aware of his wrongdoing and therefore should pay the price for the murders he’s committed, I don’t actually feel that he deserves to die.

Neither do I feel that his death should be glossed over and forgotten so quickly, by the people around him.

To be fair to Show, I can see how someone in Manager Ji’s position might feel that there’s nothing more for him in life, and therefore choose to end it all, on his own terms.

At the same time, because I see Manager Ji as a victim too, I feel bad that Show moves past his death so quickly and easily.

I mean, yes, Chi Yeol blames himself and grieves by shutting himself in at home for a time, but it makes me sad that someone could have suffered so much and become so messed up, and not gain a second chance in life, even in this shiny-breezy drama world.

Like, if someone like Manager Ji doesn’t get a second chance in life in this feel-good world, then there really isn’t any hope for someone like him, is there? ๐Ÿ˜ญ

When I cut to the heart of it, this is why Show’s chosen resolution of this arc doesn’t quite land so well, for me.

The other big event, this episode, is Hae Yi waking up from her coma (yay!!) and Hae Yi’s bio mom making a big nuisance of herself (boo).

The thing that gets my goat the most, is the way bio mom asserts herself as Hae Yi’s mom without so much as an acknowledgment that she’s been absent for almost all of Hae Yi’s growing up years, and that Haeng Seon’s the one who’s been taking care of Hae Yi, all these years.

It feels like she’s just come back to reclaim her place as Hae Yi’s mother, whether everyone likes it or not, and that is just absurd and really, really sucky.

I feel so bad for Haeng Seon, because this just makes her feel so excluded, as if she has no right to be there, even though she’s been Hae Yi’s mother for most of Hae Yi’s life.

That just sucks, and I have a very, very poor opinion of bio mom for treating Haeng Seon this way, when she should be grateful that Haeng Seon’s taken care of Hae Yi, all these years.

Every time bio mom does her thing on my screen, I feel my brows come down, and my hackles go up. ๐Ÿ˜…

A reasonably big plot point, this episode, is Sun Jae choosing to drop out of school, in response to the pressure that the All Care moms, led by Soo Hee, exert on the school to expel him, for being an accomplice in the cheating scandal that his mom’s embroiled in.

And, while I’m with Haeng Seon on this, that Sun Jae should be given another chance, I also do think that Sun Jae might actually find it refreshing, to be removed from the system that he’d found so suffocating, all this time.

Maybe it really is the wiser choice for him, to study on his own, and carve his own path, rather than continue to be part of the pressure cooker that is the school system.

I’m glad to see Sun Jae actually tell Hae Yi how he really feels about her, because it’s about time he stop dancing around this.

And, while Hae Yi doesn’t give him an answer, and Sun Jae gets teased mercilessly by Geon Hu (which I found rather endearing, actually, because, hey, they’re friends now, which is nice), I just like the idea that Sun Jae’s owning his feelings now, instead of hiding them.

It was really good to see Sun Jae finally visit Hae Yi at the hospital, though I found it strange that his absolutely wrong assumption, that she’d attempted suicide because of the cheating scandal, is never addressed. That’s.. kinda weird, isn’t it?

I did get a small stab of satisfaction, to see Soo Hee bump into her cheating husband at the restaurant, mostly because of the unpleasant and unkind things she’s done to characters that I like.

That said, I actually appreciate the fact that Soo Hee jumps to blame her husband, instead of the woman that he’s with.

I mean, in so many dramas, the wives who catch their husbands cheating take it out on the third party, when really, it’s the husbands who need to be taken to task for cheating in the first place.

And so, Soo Hee actually wins a point in my book, for being so clear on this.

I really, really wish Show didn’t lean into the loveline between Yeong Ju and Jae Woo, because, like I’ve said before, Show’s made Jae Woo so childlike in his characterization, that I find it hard to believe that he’s emotionally mature enough to be in a relationship with someone.

And, the way he’s been treated as an almost-child by Haeng Seon and Yeong Ju, all this time, just doesn’t help.

Last but not least, I’m bummed by Hae Yi’s announcement, at the end of the episode, that she plans to leave for Japan with bio mom.

I mean, I get that she’s trying to protect Haeng Seon, but this isn’t the way to do it, honestly. It’s just going to break Haeng Seon’s heart, I just know it. ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ’”

I don’t expect Show to go through with this, though, so let’s see how Show wraps this up, in our finale.

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]

All’s well that ends well, in our drama world, and uh, your mileage may vary, depending on how important logic and cohesiveness are to you, in your narratives, characters and relationships. ๐Ÿ˜…

What I mean is, Show’s clearly gunning for a happy-shiny feel-good sort of ending, and bends its characters to conveniently serve that happy ending, wherever some character massaging is needed.

It all feels very convenient, and if you’ve been waiting to see how Show actually redeems certain characters, or resolves certain issues and conflicts, then you are quite likely to be disappointed.

However, if you’re not too fussed about this, and just want to soak in the warm cozy vibes of a happy ending for all the characters that you care about, then you might find this finale quite enjoyable.

Personally, I found myself falling into the latter camp, more or less, and I think it has to do with my having missed Show’s signature warmth, for all the time that Show chose to lean into its darker corners.

And so, I was so pleased to have the warm feels back again, that I was willing to just roll with the convenient wrap-up, never mind if it didn’t actually make a whole lot of sense, sometimes. ๐Ÿ˜…

For starters, Hae Yi’s bio mom catches a conscience after a while, and in a way that I find utterly unbelievable, given what we’ve been shown of her personality so far.

BUT, I’m more than happy to roll with it, because one of my big wants this episode, is the resolution of this arc, with Hae Yi staying in Korea with Haeng Seon.

I appreciate that Show doesn’t cut off bio mom completely, since we see her texting Hae Yi after returning to Japan, so Hae Yi does get a chance to develop a relationship with her.

The thing is, though, Hae Yi may not be a child of Haeng Seon’s loins, but she is absolutely a child of Haeng Seon’s heart, and that is something that Show acknowledges and celebrates this episode, and I do love that.

My favorite moment, around that, is when Hae Yi comes running out of the school, after her CSAT, and Show juxtaposes that with a flashback to tiny Hae Yi, joyfully running out of preschool, right into teenaged Haeng Seon’s arms, shouting, “Omma!!” the exact same way.

I love that parallel, so much, and part of the reason, I realize, is because I am utterly taken and moved by the idea (and the sight) of teenaged Haeng Seon leaning so blithely into the Mom space, even though this is not her child.

I love her so much, for her heart, and for her choice that she makes without regrets, and every time Show brings that to the surface, my tears threaten to surface too. ๐Ÿฅฒโค๏ธ

Elsewhere, I find it reasonably believable that Seo Jin’s brush with the law becomes the wake-up call that she needs, in order to go about her life and her relationship with her family, differently.

Is her complete transformation too complete to be true? Yes, for sure. And, is her sudden healed relationship with Hee Jae also kind of too perfect to be true? Yes, that too.

But, I find the catalyst a reasonable and believable one, and so this lands on the slightly more organic side of things for me, as far as story and character developments go, this episode.

Soo Hee becoming a consultant at The Pride, and Su Ah becoming so grounded and balanced, on the other hand, lands as pretty unrealistic to my eyes, especially when Su Ah had actually been suffering from hallucinations.

I don’t buy that Su Ah overhearing her parents fighting about getting (or not getting) a divorce, could actually be the thing to trigger her change in outlook, and Show doesn’t give us any other indication for how this change occurred.

It’s just.. in service of the neat happy ending, and we’re not required to think about how we got here – what I think Show is thinking, about this.

That said, I do like Su Ah a lot better now, and I’m also happy to see that she’s genuinely friendly to Hae Yi now.

I’m happy to see Hae Yi finally give Sun Jae her (positive!) answer, and Show even hints at a loveline between Geon Hu and Su Ah, which I’m pretty down for, now that Su Ah’s shown herself to be a more grounded, likable person.

As I said before, I’m not actually really into the loveline between Yeong Ju and Jae Woo, so it weirded me out somewhat, to see Mi Ok kinda-sorta tease Jae Woo about his prowess in the bedroom, when Yeong Ju’s pregnant with their baby.

Because I still feel like Show’s characterization of Jae Woo leans heavily into the childlike space, this lands weird for me; it’s like teasing a child about how good he is at sexytimes, which just.. does not compute. ๐Ÿ˜ถ

On the other hand, I’m very much on board with how Haeng Seon and Chi Yeol end up proposing to each other.

Aw. Yes, please. This is the kind of stuff I signed up for. ๐Ÿ˜

And, I do like that this engagement is more about them making a public statement, than about actually rushing a marriage.

I actually really like that this couple makes it a priority, that Haeng Seon gets to realize her personal dream, of studying to become a sports instructor, before they get married.

Also, I really like the casual, cozy, familiar, ultra comfortable vibe between Chi Yeol and Haeng Seon, as he picks her up from the study lounge, and asks her how she’s feeling about her upcoming exams.

This is the happiest and most at ease we’ve seen Haeng Seon, while dating Chi Yeol, I think, and I love it. ๐Ÿฅฐ

And of course Haeng Seon passes her exam as we end our finale, because we need to be on track for our happy ending, and I’m not mad about that, at all.

I really, really like this closing scene, of Chi Yeol and Haeng Seon, walking together in the crowd, and being lovey-dovey.

First of all, it gives me Goong vibes (if ya know, ya know ๐Ÿ˜), and secondly, I just love this idea that they’re happy and secure in each other, and that they kiss and hold hands, like nobody’s looking. ๐Ÿฅฐ

Also, I do love that final shot, of them holding up their clasped hands like that, vibes like a victory pose to me, even though it’s actually not a victory pose, because I just like this idea of Chi Yeol and Haeng Seon, winning in life, together, and not caring one whit, about who’s looking. ๐Ÿฅฐ

THE FINAL VERDICT:

Ultimately warm and feel-good, despite Show’s sometime-fixation with its side of murder.

FINAL GRADE: B+

TRAILER:

MV:

PATREON UPDATE!

The next drama Iโ€™ll be covering onย Patreon, in place of Crash Course in Romance, is Oasis Call It Love.

I’ve checked out the first 2 episodes of Call It Love, and like it very well, right away! You can check out my notes on episodes 1 & 2 on Patreon here.

Hereโ€™s an overview of what Iโ€™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 Accessย (US$5): The Glory Part 2 [Korea]

Early Access Plusย (US$10): +The Heavenly Idol [Korea]

VIPย (US$15): +Meet Yourself [China]

VVIPย (US$20): +Our Blooming Youth [Korea]

Ultimateย (US$25): +Oasis [Korea]

If youโ€™d like to join me on the journey, you can find my Patreon pageย here. You can also read more about all the whats, whys, and hows of helping this blogย here. Thanks for all of your support, it really means a lot to me. โค๏ธ

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phl1rxd
phl1rxd
17 days ago

Fangurl – I loved the OTP. I loved the quirky physical comedy but most of all I loved Haeng Seon and the way she just picked up broken pieces of her life and the lives of those she loved for and carried them in her pocket so they would always be safe and warm. I

MC
MC
18 days ago

Oh this show! Being the (self declared) President of the Jung Kyung Ho fan club I had to watch this. Plus Jeon Do Yeon the queen? I would watch them read from a telephone book. So I was soooo excited for this one.

Sadly – I think this show suffered from a lot of misunderstanding. We all thought it was a rom com but the actual Korean title of One Shot Scandal probably had a better nuancing of what it would actually cover. I can now understand the relevance of all the plot lines on the competitive academic world but honestly I just wanted the happy couple and Haeyi Jae Woo Yeong Ju and the kids in school and I did NOT want a murder plot and horrible moms! So while ep 16 was way too convenient for some character arcs, I enjoyed going back to the sparky lovely characters I enjoyed so much at the start.

Mr Ji
I was ok with his suicide. Ultimately he was not a cartoon baddie but he was a tragic figure. I didnโ€™t think that he would have any reason to live after being discovered and denounced by Chiyeol so suicide made sense. It was sad but the ending where his last memory was of his sister and him, was poignant
. Many of the plot lines were conveniently discarded towards the end / people magically changed/ no exploration of the fallout of certain issues – but I just liked the happy ending, canโ€™t lie.

Ultimately like you I had wished for either a full out rom com with unicorns puppies and all the good stuff OR a hard hitting expose rather than a mishmash of both. Still I got to see JKH and JDY creating magic together and grew to love the kids and the actors playing them. And โ€œAlrightโ€ is on constant replay. So Iโ€™m glad I still watched this nonetheless!

Alaskan
Alaskan
18 days ago

My biggest problem with the drama was the way it handled Jae Woo. I did not like the way that Haeng Seon treated her brother. I thought that her treatment of him sometimes bordered on mild bullying. The relationship between Mi Ok and Jae Woo also made me very very uncomfortable. It might have worked for me had Mi Ok been equally childlike. But they were so far apart in terms of worldliness, experience, and cynicism that the romance seemed almost predatory to me.

Eric Lancaster
Eric Lancaster
19 days ago

Loved your review and you nailed everything good and bad about the show. A couple thoughts:

  1. Jeon Do Yeon really leaned into the role, being willing to glam-down herself from how she can look to look like a woman who runs and side-dish store. Brave of both her and the director in some ways to do that.
  2. They should have cut the entire murder plot. Unnecessary. Useless. Breaks the mood and tone of the show. Yuck.
  3. Instead they should have done a bit more to convince us that the lead actually were attracted to each other – where is the chemistry here? Little drips and snaps of it, but often they just seemed like buddies. Give us a little more to show some actual attraction? Or perhaps more of them negotiating some actual tricky aspects of their relationship like the wealth gap and how they want to deal with that?
  4. I didn’t believe mom’s sudden development of a conscience (at age 50?) either. This always sits wrong with me in asian dramas, when a birth parent can be so terrible for decades and then suddenly say “sorry” and all is well. But I love that Hae-e knew who here REAL mom was, so the show deserves a big plus for that.
  5. Weren’t all the young actors great? So talented and watching then go back and forth was always fun. I also would vote for more of this instead of the murder plot. But – we’re supposed to believe that Hae-e left him hanging for 2 YEARS before answering his confession? Even for a time skip in a fantasy rom-com, I just can’t.
Natalia
Natalia
19 days ago

HI there,
I have not read past the introductory part because I am half way through still, thanks to Netflix airing 2 episodes per week in my part of the world. However I just wanted to mention that although the “rom com with leads in their forties” part also lured me in, as one advances in the show it becomes evident that this is just an impression based on the real age of the leads; however, it is later mentioned that Grandma died 12 yeas ago, which means that the FL, who was then a young star player in the national handball team, cannot be over 35-37 when we get to meet her. Same with the ML. So no, the taboo of 40+ romance has not be broken!
(Now I am out of here, to avoid seeing anything I must not).

Alexandra
Alexandra
19 days ago

Excellent review and it captured my exact feelings. I really liked Mr. Ji the first 10 episodes and I think the show did a poor job in making him look suspicious (of being a serial killer!). It’s totally unrealistic that a psycho would be a professional, charming, caring, hard-working man for six years without giving clues about his real persona. That is drama fantasy for us… And then the ML finds out and he’s shocked, but gets over it so fast… I mean his one true friend and confidant for years turns out to have killed on his behalf? Isn’t this a life changing experience? He at least should have reflected about himself a great deal. I would have expected the ML to become a little more humble after this experience, but it turns out he’s just as proud of himself as always, even boistering again about being a star teacher to the bones to his new found friend, the school math teacher. I like my romances to keep between some, even though loose, realistic boundaries. And I like my leads to not be so full of themselves even though they are otherwise charming.

Trent
19 days ago

As always, pretty much hit the nail on the head, I think.

I could have really done without the murdery subplot, and I wasn’t overly thrilled with the SKY Castle-lite elements either.

BUT! The core OTP is really cute (who says Jeon Do-yeon is too old-looking for Jung Kyung-ho? I want to fight them ๐Ÿ˜ค. She looks fabulous). And the Haeng-seon/Hae-yi mother-daughter relationship was all kinds of sweet and wholesome. Wish they would have given us more of both of those.

Ah well, still an overall worthwhile watch, even if not quite a world-beater.