THE SHORT VERDICT:
A gentle slice-of-life story, with an earthy-yet-squeeworthy OTP at the center, and beautiful yet rustic views of gorgeous Yunnan? So much Yes, for me, personally. 🥰
Watching this show is like going on a long vacation with these characters, where we get to be a silent member of the community, sitting in on their conversations, while lounging on their couches, like we’re part of this found family.
Sure, there are bound to be arcs that you like less (I personally wasn’t that interested in Mr. Ma’s arc), but there’s almost definitely something for everyone, among Show’s various arcs.
Plus, Show’s overall vibe is so warm and cozy, that it feels relatively easy to roll over any bumps in the watch experience.
As a bonus, Show shines a pretty educational spotlight on the topic of rural displacement, while putting faces to the phenomenon, and telling that story with heart. I liked that.
You do need to be in the right mood for this, so yes, you may not want to watch this right now. But when you do find yourself in that right mood, this is quite blissful indeed. 🥰
THE LONG VERDICT:
If I had to summarize this show in a single sentence, it’d be something like, “Show is kinda-sorta like Hometown Cha Cha Cha meets Reply 1988 meets The Bond meets.. Eat Pray Love – the Chinese, community edition. 😅
We’ve got the healing experience for a female protagonist in a rural small town vibe, the community vibe, and the search for personal meaning, all smushed into one, with a virtual long-stay vacation in gorgeous Yunnan, to top it all off.
An idyllic onscreen vacation with gorgeous scenery, and a bit of self-discovery, romance and education thrown in, with very lovely music to score it all?
If you find yourself in the mood for any (or all) of these things, this show could be a great pick, for your next drama thing. 🥰😁
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it, while reading the review.
Generally speaking, I liked the OST, with a few exceptions.
And, because of Show’s relatively small number of OST tracks, and its tendency to therefore use these tracks over and over again, I grew to like more, the tracks I already liked, and – you guessed it – dislike more, the tracks that didn’t appeal to me. 😅
I personally didn’t care for tracks 7 & 8, Saddle of My Heart, and Validate, and found them distracting because they were often used to score OTP scenes.
However, I really liked everything else, especially Track 1, Go Somewhere Windy, which is so lovely and lilting that I felt like it alone could transport me to beautiful Yunnan, which is where our story is set. 🥰
Here’s Go Somewhere Windy on its own, as well, in case you’d prefer to listen to that on repeat. Just right-click on the video and select “Loop.”
Here are a couple of things that I think would be helpful to keep in mind, to maximize your enjoyment of your watch:
1. Show is slice-of-life
We do have a big set-up episode in episode 1, and it’s true that generally speaking, Hongdou’s (Liu Yifei) personal journey is a central arc, but overall, Show tends towards a slice-of-life, slow hum of multiple mini arcs.
I do think that it’s very important to adjust your lens upfront to expect that, because otherwise, you’re likely to be disappointed.
2. Think community, over OTP
There’s a central loveline, which is actually really nicely handled, but if you were to make that your main focus, you might get frustrated, because the community relationships, is where it’s really at, with this show.
I think adjusting your expectations around how much actual focus and screen time the OTP loveline will get, will help greatly.
3. We’ve got quite a sprawling cast
There are quite a few characters in our drama world, and it can get confusing, especially at first, when you really have very little grasp of who’s who.
Just roll with it, is my advice; given a bit of time, it all gets clearer. And even if you only realize who some characters are, very belatedly, it really doesn’t matter that much, in this leisurely slice-of-life drama world.
4. There are lashings of nationalism in this
..which might feel a bit alien to international audiences, but which is par for the course, for many modern c-dramas.
I will say, though, that this is Show’s (and China’s) prerogative, and also, that it’s really quite mild here, versus some other c-dramas.
Just roll with it, is my advice.
MY APPROACH FOR THIS REVIEW
In a slice-of-life show like this, it’s just not practical for me to attempt to talk about everything in this drama; it’s just too much.
So I’ll be doing a macro look at the things I liked and didn’t like so much, before doing selective highlights for some characters and relationships.
If you’d like to read about my more detailed reactions over the course of my watch, you can check out my episode notes on this show on Patreon here.
STUFF I LIKED
Show’s efficient and effective set-up
I have to say, Show does a very efficient yet effective job of setting up our premise, and making it pop enough, so that I understand and care enough, and so that it properly colors in the context that forms the foundation of Hongdou’s journey to Yunnan.
Even though we only spend a single 40-minute episode on the context of her decision to quit her job at the hotel, I found it all very well-managed and teased out.
The closeness between Hongdou and her best friend Nanxing, with whom she’s been friends with practically her entire life; the busy, intrusive nature of her work; the long hours that she keeps.
The fact that she and Nanxing only see each other twice a year for their medical checkups, even though they live in the same city; the fact that Nanxing’s been asking her to go to Yunnan with her, for several years now, and Hongdou’s put it off, each time.
Despite us having just met Nanxing, when she finds out that she is terminally ill, and despite the fact that we don’t actually spend a lot of time with her, while she is ill, I still felt the loss for Hongdou, when she did pass.
I could feel how sudden and world-tilting this whole thing is, for Hongdou, even though Nanxing hasn’t really been a big part of her daily life, for some time.
I could also very easily imagine the regrets that Hongdou would feel, in losing Nanxing.
The missed opportunities of meeting more often, since they both lived in the same city; the missed opportunities of taking that holiday to Yunnan, when it had been an option.
I’m sure that Hongdou also feels a measure of guilt, that it was because of her, that Nanxing never did make it to Yunnan, to have that holiday, and experience new sights, sounds and food.
On top of that, I can see how Nanxing’s passing would give Hongdou a new perspective on life; that it’s more precious and more fleeting than she had first imagined, and that she should do something differently, while she can.
I can also understand the sentiment, of going to Yunnan for the both of them, and eating delicious foods and seeing beautiful sights, for the both of them.
And, from another angle, there’s that thing as well, where Hongdou finally sees with clarity, that she is but a cog in a machine, and that when she’s worn out and less useful, she’d be easily replaced with a new cog; someone with more energy, value and life to offer.
Putting that all together, I felt like I could fully understand, by the end of episode 1, why Hongdou would quit her job at the hotel, and head to Yunnan.
We get to see beautiful Yunnan
I’ve not been to Yunnan myself, but I must say that Yunnan is indeed beautiful, from what Show shows us.
From the gorgeous bodies of water, to the scenic skyline, to the quirky quaintness of the small town that Hongdou visits, it’s all very, very pretty.
My eyes felt like they’re being treated to a feast, no lie.
This virtual vacation to Yunnan was definitely one of my personal highlights, during my watch. 🤩
The various insights into Chinese culture
I do like the fact that we get a bit of cultural exposure from time to time, like when Hongdou and Damai go to Aunt Baoping’s (Liu Jia), to make flower cakes and milk fans.
I feel like scenes like this, are doing for Chinese culture, what shows like Jewel in the Palace did for Korean culture; making the cuisine beautiful and accessible to viewers, and thus increasing our appreciation for the culture.
I mean, how cool is that, that the flower cakes are literal flower cakes? I haven’t had a flower cake before, and I’d imagined that they were called flower cakes because they were shaped like flowers, but no, the cakes contain literal flowers. I thought that was very special.
Our story world feels at one with nature
One thing that strikes me about this show, is how organic our story world feels.
What I’m referring to, is how the animals are allowed to just be, and they’re allowed in the frame, just doing their own thing, because they are legitimately a part of this world.
The cats walk or lie around, or groom themselves, as a natural, matter-of-fact presence on our screens, and at one point, we even have a snail getting waylaid by his own confusion around Damai’s (Ma Meng Wei) computer cables.
These little details are consistently allowed on our screens, and it makes me feel like our drama world is breathing, and turning on its own axis, without too much interference from Show’s makers. I like that.
And of course, there’s the thing in episodes 11-12, where the production actually manages to fit in the actual birthing of a foal, into our story.
It must have been some serendipity, for them to have access to a pregnant mare who was about to deliver her foal.
I’m slightly mind-blown by this, purely because of how raw and real this makes our story world feel.
The way Show allows us to get to know our characters
Like I mentioned earlier in this review, there are quite a few characters making up the community in the village, and at first, it’s all a little confusing, because there are just so many new faces, all at once.
However, Show does take pains to allow us to get to know the various characters that make up this little neighborhood, so that we understand their backstories, and gain empathy and affection for them, in the process.
The more Show unveiled these characters to me, the more I felt like these people were my neighbors, whom I was getting to know better.
Show’s spotlight on rural displacement
From pretty early on, it becomes clear that Show is interested in showing us the struggles of craftsmen in rural areas, competing to stay relevant in a landscape where automation is becoming more popular, as well as the struggles of families that have to split up, because of dwindling work prospects, in the rural areas.
Although this is likely one of Show’s main agendas, Show manages to make its focus on rural displacement human and empathetic, instead of preachy and instructional, and I think that makes all the difference, for me.
I found it pretty enlightening and interesting, to see Zhiyao (Li Xian) and his team working to help these traditional masters gain visibility and therefore increased support, in the form of more apprentices and more business.
I’ve bought things online, from small farms (dried persimmons for my mom) and crafts shops (hand carved wooden spoons for our kitchen) in China, but until this show, I hadn’t had any insight or understanding as to how they’d gotten online, and how they’re managing their business.
I feel like I’m getting to see the workings of all that, through this show. What an unexpected bonus!
It’s a dilemma that I’ve heard talked about many times before; young people can’t help but look for better job opportunities in the big cities, because of the lack of opportunities in their hometowns, leaving only the very young and old, back at home.
It feels like a natural and unfortunate evolution of things, in a way, but with the efforts by Zhiyao and his team, it’s also becoming clear that things don’t have to be this way; that there can be a new and different way of doing things, so that these traditional crafts and skills don’t have to die.
Your mileage may vary, of course, but instead of finding it an intrusive presence in our story world, I actually found it an organic, foundational part of our story world, and I found it illuminating and educational, at the same time.
The small town vibes
It’s that thing, where everyone knows everyone’s business, and isn’t afraid to show it, and get involved, partly because they are nosy, and can’t help themselves, but also, largely because they genuinely care.
Yes, sometimes it can feel like it’s too much when characters overstep their boundaries (especially hard for an introvert like me), but overall, the warm small town feels were absolutely a highlight of my watch. 🥰
Show’s thoughtful nuggets
I really like how Show is makes room for some thoughtful nuggets, in the midst of the slice-of-life hum of the story.
That beat in episodes 5-6, where Nana and Hongdou sit down with a cool drink, and they talk about people racing against time, is a great example.
I love that thoughtful vibe, and Hongdou’s musing, that in a race against time, people will always be the losers, is really good food for thought. I like that.
Show’s wholesome vibe
Specifically, I’m thinking not only of the warm, welcoming vibe of the people in this drama world, I’m also thinking of how understanding and forgiving they are, of the foibles of one of their own.
In episodes 9-10, one of the things that really appeals to me, is how both Xiaxia and Zhiyuan (Mark Ma) are received so warmly by their families when they return, even though they are both prodigal sons, of sorts.
Even though Gran had been on the offensive when she’d gone to look for Zhiyuan at the hotpot restaurant, and had been quick to give Zhiyuan a good wallop in order to beat some sense into him, there is no trace of that, when she welcomes him home.
In fact, she’s all warm smiles and tender hugs, all excited to see her grandson again, and I just love this complete “let bygones be bygones” sort of attitude, because it liberates Zhiyuan to embrace his present and his future, without being dragged down by his past.
In a similar but less dramatic fashion, I also enjoy the way Xiaxia’s welcomed home by his family.
Only Xiaochun (Dong Qing) knows his embarrassing secret, and the thing I love about the way Xiaochun welcomes him, is that she is quietly kind and welcoming, and not at all judgmental about him having gotten scammed in the big city.
It’s like the whole thing is over, so it’s not necessary to dwell on it, except to gently nudge him forward, so that he looks ahead to the future.
It’s all very accepting and forgiving and understanding, and I like this a lot. It’s inspiring and aspirational; like, we should all be as understanding and forgiving to the people in our lives, because that will help them the most.
As it is, it’s so heartening to see that Zhiyuan’s chosen to use his hard-earned money to buy gifts for Gran and Zhiyao.
I’d say that the whole experience has helped him to grow up a good chunk, and I do believe that part of the reason the lesson has been so effective, is because he’s able to come home to understanding and warm, non-judgmental arms. 🥰
Of course, the fact that everyone spontaneously start telling their stories of embarrassment at the barbecue, and all laugh about it, is assuring to Zhiyuan too.
At least this way, he learns that an embarrassing moment doesn’t define your life, and it’s possible to survive, and even laugh about it, on hindsight.
And while Master Xie (Fu Jia) is gruff, I’m glad that Xiaxia understands him well enough to know that Master Xie does want him back as his student.
It’s actually really nice, to see Xiaxia be so proactive and affectionate towards Master Xie; it unveils the master-student affection that’s been hidden for way too long. 🥰
STUFF THAT WAS OK
Certain narrative arcs [MINOR BROAD SPOILERS]
Much as I enjoy so much of what Show serves up, I have to admit that there are some narrative arcs I’m less interested in.
For example, I’m not super keen on Master Ma’s (Tu Song Yan) business venture, and I’m not truly that interested in the promotional video that they’re making for the village, both of which enjoy a fair amount of screen time, this set of episodes.
However, for the record, when I say that I’m not that interested in these arcs, it doesn’t mean that I hate them. I just enjoy them in a more low-key sort of way – until the arcs that I have more interest in, show up on my screen.
In principle, I appreciate that Master Ma’s arc offers a bit of insight into the struggles and risks involved in entrepreneurship.
And, on a more interpersonal level, I like the idea that Master Ma would consult Aunt Gui (Yang Kun) about his concerns for his parents, and how they would feel, about his desire to start a new business.
In a similar vein, I’m not suuuper interested in Mr. Hu’s (Niu Jun Feng) arc as a frustrated musician, but I can sympathize with his struggle, because it’s such a relatable thing, to have dreams, but not the kind of skills and talent with which to pursue those dreams in a meaningful way.
Show’s sense of humor – sometimes
I guess I just don’t naturally take to the shades of campy that Show serves up, often with Master Ma’s arc.
For example, the ironic musical cues, and Master Ma being played with some degree of exaggerated flourish, and his quirks around meditation and all that, are a bit of a hurdle for me, as a viewer.
But, even though I don’t take to this arc naturally, I can still see the value that Show builds into it, and I appreciate it from that angle.
E19-20. I honestly was a little underwhelmed that Zhiyao basically tricked everyone into doing plum harvesting work, by telling them that they were going on a day trip to pick and eat fruit at an orchard, and that he’d cover lunch.
I think Show meant it for funny?
However, that felt like a bit of a cheap narrative shot, if I’m being honest, because I’m very sure that if Zhiyao had been upfront, and told everyone that Aunt Feng (Ai Li Ya) was in a tight spot because there’s no one to harvest the plums, with Uncle Chang in hospital, of course they would’ve helped out, right?
But fine, I take the point that Show’s trying to make, which is how hard it is, for rural folk to do farm work, with so few resources, and only the older folk left behind in the countryside, while the younger ones go to the cities to find work.
And, I also appreciate that at least a few of them – Hongdou, Damai and Mr. Hu – choose to do it all over again, the following day, knowing full well what they were in for.
SPOTLIGHT ON CHARACTERS & RELATIONSHIPS
Like I mentioned earlier in this review, I’ll only be touching on a handful of characters and relationships in a pretty selective manner. There are just too many of them, to include in a single review.
Because of Show’s slice-of-life approach, where we learn about everyone in sometimes tiny degrees, even the characters and relationships that I do touch on, will be given the selective spotlight, meaning, I won’t cover every single thing about them.
If you’d like to read about my more detailed reactions to the show, including characters and relationships, you can check out my episode notes on this show on Patreon here.
Crystal Liu / Liu Yifei as Hongdou
I really, really enjoyed Liu Yifei as our protagonist Hongdou.
I haven’t seen Liu Yifei in many things, but I did really like her in A Dream Of Splendor, and I’m getting the idea that she’s just letting her natural grace come through, in these roles.
I grew to really like how gentle, open, helpful, wise and generally caring Hongdou is, as a person, and I was very quickly invested in her journey to fulfill her promise to her best friend, while also finding herself, in our little village in Yunnan.
Of course, I was very invested in Hongdou’s potential loveline with Zhiyao, but I’ll talk about that a little later. 😉
E1-2. I’m pretty happy that we’re getting a better sense of Hongdou as a character, as we go.
I find it really very poignant, that she would bring a bulletin board with her on her trip, and then decorate it with the heading “Our promise,” and the sub-categories, “Delicious stuff,” “Fun stuff,” and “Pretty stuff.”
These are exactly the things that Nanxing (Janice Wu) had wanted to do, and see and experience, on their holiday to Yunnan, and it feels so poignant, that Hongdou would now make it her mission to fulfill all of it, in Nanxing’s honor.
E3-4. I really liked watching Hongdou make friends with the various people around her.
She has a natural grace about her that translates into pitch-perfect conversation, where she’s polite enough, but also, warm and approachable enough, that people tend to feel comfortable with her.
It’s probably something that she’s honed while in the hospitality industry, but it definitely feels natural, coming from her, and I find myself warming to her very well.
I love that even the quirky meditation dude, Mr. Ma, is waking up during the day and offering her tea and conversation, when others have told Hongdou that he’s basically deaf and mute during the day.
And, I also love that Hongdou seems to be making a pretty easy connection with Damai, whom the other tenants have more or less labeled as being not very social, because she doesn’t join them for supper and drinks, when invited.
E5-6. I really like the way Hongdou’s getting involved in her new surroundings, even though she’s technically a visitor, and not an actual member of the community.
She’s so kind and considerate, in the way she helps out at the cafe, because she notices that Nana’s having a hard time managing on her own.
The way she just falls naturally into the rhythm of the cafe, and makes suggestions without coming across as pushy or nosy, is really cool.
Watching her like this, I can’t help but like her more – and I am guessing that Zhiyao feels the same, when he sees her helping out at the cafe. Also, the twinkle in his eyes say a lot. 😁
E11-12. I really like that Hongdou’s relationships with Zhiyao and Gran (Estelle Wu) seem to be growing in a very organic sort of manner.
Like the way she sits and talks with Gran, and listens to Gran’s stories, which then help her to understand Gran better.
It’s sweet and cute, how, when Hongdou hears that Gran’s had a hard life and therefore never played, she goes and brings an actual toy to the table, so that she and Gran – and later Zhiyao too – can play some games together.
I could watch this go on all day, and not feel tired of it, heh.
Li Xian as Zhiyao
I have a soft spot for Li Xian, so him being our male lead in this show, was definitely a personal draw. 😁
I really enjoyed Zhiyao as a character, because, much like Hongdou, he’s a really good, decent, hardworking, caring person in his own right.
A lot of his appeal comes through in smaller moments when he’s shown helping other characters, so here’s a quick spotlight on a particular point in the story which I feel distills his appeal very well.
And then I’ll talk more about his appeal in the OTP equation, after this. 😁
E7-8. I have to say, the more I learn about Zhiyao, the more I have a sense of respect and admiration for the work that he’s chosen to dedicate himself to.
He could have had a more high-flying sort of career in the big city, but he’s chosen to come back to be with Gran, and to help his fellow villagers.
It’s poignant that his own experience has inspired to help them find a sustainable way to live in the country, so that families wouldn’t need to be split up, while the young and able-bodied go to the cities to work, while leaving behind their very young and their very old.
And, the way he extends himself in order to do this, is very touching as well.
I mean, he doesn’t need to go as far as he does, to help Master Xie (Fu Jia) get that contract with the hotel, but he does, and he does it with a quiet sense of purpose, like it’s his business, and not something that needs to be bragged about.
Plus, how sweet is he, that even when he’s tipsy from having to drink with the potential client, he remembers to buy Gran her favorite cured ribs.
He’s a total sweetheart. 😍
Hongdou and Zhiyao together
I just wanted to say upfront, that I really, really enjoy this OTP, even though this show is not structured as a rom-com, and therefore, this loveline doesn’t enjoy as much story time in relation to all our other arcs, as a loveline in a traditional rom-com would.
In fact, for much of the show, this loveline is treated mostly like a secondary plotline, when you consider the amount of screen time dedicated to it, each episode.
And yet, I enjoyed it so very much. 🥰
Overall, I find the treatment of this OTP relationship very interesting, in the sense that it’s squee-worthy, yet markedly down-to-earth.
You know how, in some rom-coms, you can’t really understand what each party sees in the other, or why these two people belong together?
You get none of that here, because Show does such a detailed, excellent job of teasing out the connection between Zhiyao and Hongdou, over the course of its story.
Over multiple small interactions, we get to see how well these two people get along, and how well they complement each other, and how well they would fit together, as a couple.
Yes, in our later episodes, we do get an extended spotlight on Zhiyao and Hongdou minting their relationship, but afterwards, it’s almost like their relationship becomes part of the background again, as Show continues its slice-of-life hum, and turns its attention to other characters and other things.
But again, that’s part of the beauty of this show, and this loveline.
This is a great demonstration that romance doesn’t have to be roses and fireworks; it can be down-to-earth and practical, and yet, there is swoon to be had, in the small, daily things.
I love that. ❤️
E1-2. We’re seeing some early sparks of connection between Hongdou and Zhiyao, which I’m digging quite well.
It’s not the kind of sparks you’d expect in a rom-com; it’s more tamped down and earthy, but I do feel like there’s definitely a measure of interest and attraction on Zhiyao’s part, at least, and who can blame him, right?
It’s Liu Yifei, gracefully and casually appearing in his world and making it that much more interesting, just by being in it. 😁
I actually really enjoy this easy, down-to-earth connection that’s forming, like in the way they are able to chat quite easily, while Zhiyao brings her back to town on his horse Lil Cute, after she’s accidentally buried her shoe in horse dung.
It doesn’t feel like either of them are trying too hard to make a connection, but it’s also clear that Zhiyao’s being extra nice to Hongdou, and that just adds up to a warm, cozy sort of vibe that I find that I rather like.
I am definitely up for more of this connection, please and thank you. 🥰
E3-4. I know it’s still early days, but I can’t help but squee a little, that Zhiyao’s obviously feeling hyper-aware of Hongdou, while Xiaochun’s (Dong Qing) trying to set him up with that blind date. 😁
His sheepish expression, while trying to be polite, while also trying to observe what Hongdou’s reaction is, to his blind date, is very cute.
E5-6. While there isn’t romance blooming just yet, between Hongdou and Zhiyao, there are signs of interest on both sides, even at this early stage of our story, and I like that very well.
I can see that they’re intrigued by each other, and have a soft spot of sorts, for each other, even though it’s not necessarily in a romantic sort of space yet.
Also, I like the various conversations that they have with each other, because it shows that they get along quite easily, and have a degree of ease in each other’s company.
And how convenient, really, that they live close enough to each other, that she can see into his yard from her bedroom window.
That scene of him helping Gran wash her hair is really sweet and precious, and extra special, for being so candid and natural, that it’s just something that Hongdou can witness, from her bedroom window, on a random evening.
In her shoes, I would be melting at Zhiyao’s sweetness towards Gran a lot faster, just sayin’. 😁
E5-6. I’m rather tickled that Zhiyao and Hongdou are so much in sync, so naturally.
Without even needing to discuss it, they fall into step with each other, in dealing with Zhiyuan’s (Mark Ma) mortified tantrum, by acting like it’s nothing, and concentrating on dinner. 😁
Basically, I find that I am perking up at any indication that Hongdou and Zhiyao are made for each other, heh.
But also, I appreciate that Hongdou shares her empathetic perspective with Zhiyao, about how, at his age, Zhiyuan’s pride is at its peak, and the humiliation that he feels, is very real and very amplified.
I think that Hongdou has a valid point, and it’s probably a very good thing, that she reminds Zhiyao about this, so that he can have a better understanding of Zhiyuan, even as he deals with Zhiyuan’s tantrums.
At the same time, I have to admit, I just like the idea that Zhiyao and Hongdou are talking together about important and personal things like this, in low, just-between-us sort of tones, because it gives me couple vibes. 😁
E7-8. I do love that scene where Hongdou records that video in the car, and Zhiyao playfully talks himself up, as he introduces himself.
How cute, that he immediately backpedals and asks for a do-over, once he realizes that Hongdou plans to send the video to her family chat group.
Hee. That would be extra mortifying, especially if Zhiyao’s at all cognizant of his attraction to Hongdou. 😁
It’s so cute that Hongdou’s parents are so thrilled and amused by the video, and it’s nice that even Hongmi (Gong Bei Bi) can’t help but smile a little, in response.
E13-14. One key thing that captures my attention and imagination, this set of episodes, is the growing bond between Zhiyao and Hongdou.
Finally, in the course of their many conversations, Zhiyao lets slip that he thinks that Hongdou’s here in the village, because she’s been cast aside by a boyfriend and can’t get over him, heh.
I mean, it’s not completely untrue, in the sense that Hongdou has lost the love of her life, and can’t get over it; it’s just that that love had been her best friend, and not her boyfriend.
I find it interesting to see that even though Hongdou has become much closer to her friends in the village, she doesn’t tell anyone about the real reason that she’s there; to fulfill her promise to her best friend Nanxing.
I think it’s because it’s just that painful for Hongdou; that it’s a wound that she finds hard to touch.
Of course, there’s also the possibility that she wants to keep this just between her and Nanxing, so that it’s their little secret.
I can understand why she might want to do that too; it makes it feel like she’s got a little special something with Nanxing, that only the two of them know about, and that helps her feel like Nanxing’s still there with her, perhaps.
I think what Hongdou says in response to Zhiyao, is quite illuminating, that, she’d wanted to let “it” go in the past, but is now looking to get used to the weight of “it” in her life, because she’d like to live with the weight of the things that she cherishes.
Essentially, I believe she’s saying that she’s learning to live with the loss of Nanxing, without letting her go, and that’s an idea I can get behind.
Why should she forget about Nanxing and let her go, after all, right?
I also find it interesting that even when Zhiyao misunderstands Hongdou’s reasons for coming to the village, she is happy to let it slide, and continue to be misunderstood.
This is exactly her reaction too, when it comes to the rumors that are flying around the village, about her and Zhiyao being romantically involved.
I found it very amusing to see how the rumors have taken on a life of their own, and become such detailed accounts that actually make some sort of sense. 😁
It’s hilarious to me, that even when Zhiyao personally refutes the rumors, people don’t believe him, even though he’s a protagonist in said rumors. 😁
I love that Hongdou’s so laidback and chill about the whole thing. Instead of trying to refute the rumors, she finds amusement in them, and just carries on with her life. I love that about her.
That said, perhaps both Zhiyao and Hongdou take a bit of vicarious delight in the rumors, because it’s a sort of alternative reality for them?
As in, it’s not real life, but it’s a version of what their reality could be, and the rumors are a fun way to see how that alternative reality develops, without actually having to live it?
Also, on a tangent, I have to admit that I got a bit of a thrill, to see that Zhiyao and Hongdou are on casual texting terms, where they text conversationally, and tease each other while they’re at it.
It feels so cozy and close, y’know?
I find it really sweet, that Zhiyao makes it a point to go pick up the ladies after their day out, because he knows that they’ll be drinking. That feels like a very boyfriend type of thing to do, actually.
And, I have to admit, my heart leaped a bit, when Zhiyao notices that Hongdou is crying in her tipsy state; the kind of tears that seem to come from a deep and secret sort of place.
I wanted him to maybe ask about those tears, later, but he doesn’t.
However, I do appreciate that when Hongdou clings to his arm while she cries, he’s understanding of her need to hug someone or something, and hands her that rabbit plushie.
I know that the topic of Nanxing will come up between them, at some point, and I actually hope that it will be sooner than later, because I think that it would foster a deeper understanding between them.
E15-16. Tee hee. We get even more rumors about Zhiyao and Hongdou, this set of episodes, and for some reason, I am very amused and taken with the whole thing.
Maybe this is my brain trying to make up for the fact that we haven’t actually had any forward movement in our OTP loveline? Like, let’s take what we can get, even if it’s only in the form of rumors..? 😅
Even Zhiyao’s father (Jiao Gang), who’s back from Kunming for the annual tomb-sweeping of the family graves, seems to lose no time in catching up to the rumors.
Those are some powerful rumors, I’ll say that. It’s amazing to me, that the rumors hold so much weight, that Gran is receiving congratulatory messages, and Hongdou even receives as wedding present from Xiaxia! 😁
At least with Dad, Zhiyao’s quick to refute the rumors, but Dad’s got the sense to perk up meaningfully, when he sees Zhiyao sharing a personal, heartfelt conversation with Hongdou, as he dethorns that flowers that Dad’s brought home.
I mean, Zhiyao’s opening up about the loss of his grandfather, as well as his feelings as a kid, when his parents had left the village in order to create better opportunities for him.
That’s not something we’ve seen Zhiyao talk with other people about, so there’s definitely something special, about the bond that he has with Hongdou.
It’s really great that even in this precious, raw and personal memory, Hongdou’s able to just listen, and empathize, as she offers solidarity, because she understands the feeling, from having lost her own grandmother.
And I’m so glad that when Zhiyao’s father seeks out Hongdou, in hopes that she’d persuade Zhiyao to go back to Beijing, she’s able to help him see all this, while still talking to him so nicely.
That’s a huge accomplishment, given that we see how stubborn and belligerent Dad can be, with the other people in the village.
The way Hongdou navigates the entire conversation is masterful, and my favorite part, is when she gently points out that Zhiyao’s reason for coming back, is the same reason that Dad and Mom had left, all those years ago; to provide a better future.
Where Dad and Mom had left, to provide a better future for Zhiyao, Zhiyao’s come back, so that he can provide a better future for many others.
It’s beautiful, poetic and profound. And I’m so glad that Dad takes it to heart.
He doesn’t say much, but his simple parting shot to Zhiyao, “Do a good job,” says everything, doesn’t it? 🥰
I’m so glad, really, that Zhiyao had overheard Hongdou’s conversation with his father, because I want Zhiyao to be more cognizant than ever, about why Hongdou’s an amazing woman, and why he can’t help but smile when she’s in his line of vision. 😁
E17-18. Zhiyao’s starting to leak more and more affectionate gazes and smiles in Hongdou’s direction now, and even though he hasn’t said anything, I’m almost 100% sure that he’s cognizant now, that he does like her.
It’s just that he’s also cognizant of the fact that she’s there as a short-term resident, and therefore is going to leave, sooner rather than later.
And so, as you probably know by now, my interest perks up most, when Show turns its focus to Zhiyao and Hongdou spending time together.
It had felt a little random, that the pony was suddenly declared missing, but it’s something that could happen, sure, and I can see how Hongdou would insist on helping Zhiyao search for it, since she’d witnessed its birth and therefore has a soft spot for it.
Narratively speaking, it’s just an excuse for Zhiyao and Hongdou to have some alone time, with a good chunk of that alone time being in front of a warm, cozy fire, sharing sweet potatoes and conversation, and hey, that’s so toasty that I don’t even care that Show created an excuse for this to happen. 🥰
It’s the perfect kind of setting for conversation to turn to more personal things, and it’s cute how we find out that Zhiyao had invited a girl home for dinner while in middle school, and it’s even cuter, that he immediately jumps at the opportunity to turn the question on Hongdou, because he’d like to know whether she’d invited a boy home for dinner too. 😁
Also, we’re not quite at the point where Hongdou’s ready to tell Zhiyao about Nanxing, but she’s definitely inching closer to it.
It’s amusing that Zhiyao still thinks that they’re talking about Hongdou’s ex-boyfriend (because the words for “he” (他) and “she” (她) in Mandarin are homonyms and both sound like “tā”), but it’s pretty great, that Hongdou’s opening up a bit, and telling him about Nanxing, and how Nanxing had been there for her, as early as in their college days.
And, even though they don’t go into specifics, I like how they’re able to share deep thoughts about pain and living with pain, with the analogy of the cactus thorn in one’s flesh.
Hongdou: “It’s like a cactus thorn in your flesh. It doesn’t affect you to do anything, but it has such a strong presence that it’ll remind you that it’s right there whatever you do. Do you know what it feels like?”
Zhiyao: “I guess I can get you after you made this analogy. On one occasion I went to pick cactus fruit, a thorn stuck in my palm. Whenever I touch it, it hurt. Although it hurt, I couldn’t take it out no matter how hard I tried.
But in the end the wound would recover certainly, or it would fester and become inflamed, or it would suddenly disappear before you realized it.”
Hongdou: “Sometimes I think it’s good to just leave it there.”
I love this little bit of conversation, because they’re delving into deeper things like emotional pain, and are able to share their perspectives without needing to go into the details. I thought that was pretty neat.
It’s true that Zhiyao doesn’t yet understand why Hongdou would want to leave the pain there, but we know the reason; she wants to keep the memory of Nanxing alive in her life, even if it causes her pain to do so.
And, I do think that once Hongdou’s ready to talk about Nanxing’s death with Zhiyao, that he would understand too, why Hongdou’s holding on so hard, to Nanxing’s memory.
The next morning, it feels like quite the intimate sort of moment, when they stand together, watching the sunrise.
There’s such a thoughtful vibe of savoring the moment in the now, and it feels special, that they’re experiencing that moment together.
Also, in that moment when Hongdou records Zhiyao and remarks that she’s there to help him get married, I wonder if Show’s being cheekily ironic, because, she might just marry him, later in our story? 😁
E19-20. I couldn’t help perking up a bit, when Hongdou starts to show glimmers of liking, for Zhiyao.
Like the way her expression softens as she thinks about him, and how she looks meaningfully at the section on her photo board, where it says, “The person I like: let nature take its course.”
And, I do find the conversation that Zhiyao and Hongdou share at the plum orchard, pretty thought-provoking, when they talk about hardship, and how it’s a relative thing.
It’s an interesting idea, that everyone’s starting point is different, and so, luxury to one person, might be hardship to another.
And, with great hardship as context, an improved situation – which would still be seen as hardship by others – can be experiences as “really not that bad.”
Food for thought, certainly.
And, I do love that our OTP can have such deep conversations, off the cuff. I’m definitely looking forward to more such insightful, thoughtful conversations between them, as they continue to grow closer. 🥰
E21-22. We’re getting scenes with both sides of our OTP pretty much (separately) acknowledging their feelings for each other, which is a big yes from me.
Sure, we’re not yet at a point where they’re talking to each other about it, but the couple instinct is becoming quite distinct in their interactions, and that does give me some good amount of squee already. 😁
One of the things that I keep noticing lately, is that Zhiyao’s face unabashedly lights up whenever Hongdou’s name is mentioned now.
As in, he doesn’t even attempt to swallow the bright smile that involuntarily appears on his face at the sound of her name, and I find that equal parts dorky and endearing.
I mean, look at the way he gets all delighted and nosy, when Guanjun gets an order from Hongdou for takeout. It’s like he can’t help himself, the way he starts telling Guanjun which foods Hongdou is particularly fond of. 😁
And, with Zhiyao uncharacteristically troubled and therefore tipsy from trying to drink his troubles away, it creates an opening for a corner of conversation that he and Hongdou haven’t quite explored yet: the topic of cancer and death – which is just one step away from the topic of Nanxing.
I find it very significant, that when Zhiyao talks about his feelings about it, which have been triggered by how the homestead owner’s wife has been diagnosed with cancer, Hongdou tells him that she understands, without any hesitation at all.
In fact, she’s so emphatic in wanting him to know that she really does understand how he feels, that she invites him to her room, so that she can show him the picture board that she’s been working on for Nanxing, and she even tells him about Nanxing, properly, finally.
This feels like a huge step for Hongdou, because, as we know, she’s been keeping Nanxing a closely guarded secret, mostly because it’s something that she finds too painful to talk about.
And now, she’s telling Zhiyao about Nanxing. That’s pretty big, yes?
Significantly, she tells him that she’d actually held back from telling him about Nanxing, because she wasn’t sure that he would understand the emotions that she felt, in relation to losing Nanxing.
And yet, here he is, bringing up those same emotions first, because he’s feeling them in relation to the homestead owner’s wife, as well as himself, in the hypothetical future.
This feels like a very significant step to me, because with Hongdou sharing her secret with Zhiyao like this, it immediately feels like they’re even closer than before.
With this conversation, they’ve taken turns to cry in front of each other, which is them being vulnerable with each other.
Sure, Zhiyao feels dumb on hindsight, because he didn’t know what to say, to comfort her, but I do think that just him being able to understand her feelings, and her, his, is where it’s at.
This is the thing that brings them together, more so than what they say or don’t say to each other.
Ok, yes, the camping trip does land as slightly random, but it does make some kind of story sense, since they’re inspired to go camping, from seeing the beautiful scenery in the promotional video (which honestly turns out to be pretty awesome).
And of course, the camping trip affords more opportunities for Zhiyao and Hongdou to spend time together, from picking firewood together, to staying up to stargaze together.
The thing that strikes me through it all, is how comfortable they are, with each other. It honestly feels like they’d be able to tell each other anything – except for how they feel about each other (but I’m sure that will change at some point).
The moment that I find most significant, is when Hongdou talks about Nanxing, and tells Zhiyao that he would have liked Nanxing, because she really just was such a good person; when the tears fall, I love how Zhiyao reaches over and dabs them away with his hands, like it’s the most natural thing in the world.
This is arguably the most couple-like moment we’ve witnessed between them thus far, and I love it.
I do love that instead of trying to get Hongdou to talk about (and therefore think about) something else, Zhiyao instead encourages her to tell him about Nanxing.
I really feel like this is him truly understanding her deepest need; to keep Nanxing alive and close to her heart.
The tearful joy on Hongdou’s part, and the affable ready listening ear on Zhiyao’s part, really make this a very precious moment, I feel.
And what about that magical moment, when Zhiyao says to her, “When you look at me, when you talk of me, or think about me again and again, I am right beside you.”
I know that in that moment, he’s talking about her keeping Nanxing’s memory alive, but at the same time, I can’t help but feel like he’s also talking about himself, in relation to Hongdou.
The shared blanket moment is pretty darn great too. I mean, Zhiyao’s shy, tamped-down discombobulation is fantastic to behold. 😁
It feels perfectly perfect, that Hongdou and Zhiyao would eventually fall asleep together under that shared blanket, while looking at the stars.
But, it seems like all this closeness is making Hongdou feel rather awkward, given the way she pointedly avoids riding in Zhiyao’s car on the way back to the village.
Aw. Poor Zhiyao; he really looks like he’s been suckerpunched in the face.
But, I can understand why Hongdou would do that.
Like their friends remark earlier in this set of episodes, both Zhiyao and Hongdou aren’t the kind of people to rush into a relationship, if they feel that they can’t be responsible for that relationship.
That’s why Hongdou’s studiously avoiding Zhiyao, and that’s why Zhiyao’s not doing anything about it; neither of them can see how this would go anywhere, given their circumstances.
And so, they feel that it’s the more responsible thing to do, to just not allow the feelings between them to develop further.
I do appreciate, though, that when Nana probes a little bit over supper, Hongdou’s willing to talk about it, and acknowledge that while she does have feelings for Zhiyao, she’s ultimately just a tourist there.
It does look like Nana gives Hongdou food for thought, in telling her to allow herself to be happy in the moment. “Friends will leave anyway. Make every day happy. Don’t make it hard and listen to yourself. Your holiday is still on.”
On Zhiyao’s side of things, I’m actually glad that he does have someone to talk to, in Guanjun (Li Wei Long).
I have to say, I’m pretty floored by Zhiyao’s perspective, that because he isn’t in a position to consider leaving Yunnan to go to Beijing with Hongdou, it wouldn’t be fair to expect her to stay in Yunnan, for him.
Oh wow. Zhiyao really isn’t just paying lip service to the idea of equality. He really likes Hongdou and wants to be with her, but he refuses to impose on her, if he’s not prepared to meet her halfway.
That’s really admirable, isn’t it?
But, I do like where we end this conversation, which is Guanjun telling Zhiyao that regardless of everything, he should just be good to Hongdou, so that she will always have good memories of him.
That seems to do the trick, because as we close off the episode, our OTP isn’t avoiding each other anymore.
They’re back to texting each other, in that casual, cozy, smile-inducing way that I love.
Here’s hoping that these two will find a way to love each other soon enough, because I am thoroughly convinced that they are perfect together. 🥰
E23-24. One of the things about Hongmi’s visit, is that we get to contrast Present Hongdou with Past Hongdou, because, in the time that she’s spent at the village, she’s really become very well-versed in local knowledge.
She’s able to tell crops apart, and is able to tell Hongmi about the local specialties and what makes them special.
She really sounds like someone from the village, with the way she’s talking about things, and I can’t help but notice the little smile tugging at Zhiyao’s lips, every time Hongdou does that. 🥰
And, it wouldn’t be a Zhiyao-Hongdou sort of moment, if he didn’t help her see Hongmi’s actions in a different light; they do have a tendency to do this for each other, don’t they?
I like that Zhiyao’s able to give Hongdou a new perspective and understanding of Hongmi’s actions, to see that Hongmi cares more than she lets on.
And, I like that Zhiyao points out that Hongdou’s guilty of the same thing; of hiding her care, behind biting words.
I love the idea, that even though Hongmi doesn’t stay for more than a few days, thanks to Zhiyao’s observations, and the fact that Hongdou’s open to listening to his input, we see an improvement in the way the two sisters interact.
Again, this proves to me that Zhiyao is someone that Hongdou should absolutely keep in her life – but our girl Hongdou hasn’t yet arrived at that conclusion, I think, so this will have to wait.
And, in the midst of it all, we have the closest thing we’ve had, to a mutual admission of feelings, when Hongdou talks about herself in a self-deprecating manner, and Zhiyao tells her, “In my eyes, you are the good-looking and excellent one with good character.”
And Hongdou just looks at him and says, “You too.”
Zhiyao laughs it off by telling her not to offer him this kind of consolation prize, but Hongdou does clarify that she’s just telling it as she sees it, and, well, it is a little something, yes?
E23-24. I just relish all the little indications that Zhiyao and Hongdou are relating more like a couple than like friends.
Like the way he is quick to catch her, when she misses her footing and almost falls; like the way he gets her to try the rose wine, and she offers him a sip from the same cup; like the way he asks her to check if there’s something on the back of his neck, while they’re preparing dinner together, and she blows on his neck, to try to get the bee off of it.
So coupley, yes? 🥰🥰
And there’s how Zhiyao’s got that big photo of Hongdou as his desktop wallpaper on his computer, and how they text each other at night, even though they’ve just seen each other.
Ahh. It just makes me happy to catch glimpses of them in couple mode like this. 😍
I definitely giggled out loud though, when Show gives us that shower scene of Zhiyao getting all fresh and spiffed up for his breakfast date with Hongdou.
The camera work is matter-of-fact rather than indulgent, but it still reminds me of the kind of shower scenes that we got a lot of in kdramas for a while, when it was de rigueur for just about every male lead to serve up a gratuitous shower scene. 😁😁
Also – I can’t help but note that Li Xian’s looking, er, strong and healthy, in this shower scene. 😁😅
BUT ALSO. Isn’t it cute that Zhiyao’s getting all spiffed up and wearing a new shirt (that he forgot to cut the tag off of, heh) because he’s excited to meet Hongdou for breakfast?? And it’s not even a fancy breakfast; it’s breakfast noodles at the village market.
It’s so adorable. 😍
E25-26. As Hongdou’s time in the village starts to run out, I feel like Zhiyao’s feelings for her are a little more obvious to observe, compared to before.
Like the way he gets all exasperated with her, for not telling him that she wasn’t well, because he would have gone with her to the hospital, if he’d known.
That definitely sounds like the complaint of an exasperated boyfriend, and their conversation, where Hongdou gently protests that he’d been mad at her, and he protests that even so, he wouldn’t have left her alone, totally vibes like the conversation between a couple that’s recently had a tiff and haven’t made up yet.
And the couple vibe between them is strong, as they make up, and Zhiyao cooks her noodles for supper, and she insists that he help her eat some, coz he’s cooked too much.
Even though I’m bummed at the idea of Hongdou leaving, my heart still can’t help but get a thrill from all these couple-like interactions that we’re seeing with them.
Maybe it’s the idea of their impending separation; I feel like Zhiyao and Hongdou actually lean harder into this couple vibe, as the time ticks nearer for Hongdou to leave.
Like the way Hongdou notices the scratches on Zhiyao’s neck, and invites him up to her room, so that she can put iodine on it for him – and then blows on the scratches to soothe them, which in turn gets Zhiyao all discombobulated, because, HELLO, she just blew on his neck. 😁
For the record, I do think that Hongdou’s being truthful, in saying that she did it instinctively and without thinking; I don’t think she’s specifically out to tease or seduce Zhiyao, is what I mean.
But perhaps subconsciously, the wistfulness that she’s leaving, plus her own feelings for Zhiyao, may have led her to lean into that couple space, without realizing it?
The way Zhiyao does his best to hold it all in, before having a private moment of discombobulation, once he’s out of sight of her room, is pretty cute. 😁
I love-love-LOVE when Zhiyao formally confesses his feelings for Hongdou, at that scenic spot by the water, as he walks her home.
First of all, I do love that Hongdou tells him that he’s already given her many gifts; Sunrise. Sunset. Starry sky. Wind. Courage. Hope.
Gosh, that’s sweet and beautiful, at the same time.
Second of all, I love that he made her a gift, and that the gift is of two rings, intertwined. He doesn’t say so, but I take it to mean that the rings represent him and Hongdou, and how their lives are intertwined.
And finally, I love what he says to her, it’s so heartfelt and poetic. I’ve tweaked the translation in spots, to reflect the actual dialogue more accurately.
“Xu Hongdou. When I first met you, I thought you were upright and plain. Later, I thought you were unlucky but interesting.
Every time I asked you for help, you were seemingly unwilling, but would always agree. In a word, I think you are… I think you are… Just right.”
“Just the type I like. I feel happy every day when I am with you. I’m happy whatever I’m doing, and I’m happy whatever I’m not doing. So happy that I’m a bit sad. Because the time and place where I’ve met you are not so good.
I even regret it sometimes. Because when I was in Beijing, I often passed by the hotel where you worked, but I never walked in. If I’d gone in, I could have known you earlier. Maybe there would have been another possibility between us.
I’d intended to let these words sink in my heart. But I thought for a long time, and finally, I felt that I wanted to give you another memory.
At the seaside, at a place where the wind blows, under the witness of the afterglow and the sunset, there was someone who sincerely liked you.”
AUGH. Faint. Swoon. ❤️
I legit teared up at this, and I love that Hongdou tears at this too, and thanks him, telling him that she really likes this gift.
And then, when Zhiyao finishes off by telling her to go live the life that she wants, and that he wishes her happiness, I’m just beside myself with the feels, because – AUGH – is that not the most selfless, loving thing, evar?
I’m glad that Hongdou acknowledges his heart, with a heartfelt hug.
There’s just something very swoony to me, about two people acknowledging their feelings for each other, and yet not allowing that to make their interactions awkward, even though they don’t embark on a relationship as a result of their feelings.
It feels so.. matter-of-fact, yet sacrificial and loving, at the same time. Like, I love you, but I don’t have to have you. Go and live the life that you desire; I’ll love you anyway.
Just, wow, y’know?
That goodbye, where Hongdou asks for a hug, and Zhiyao declines – then quickly changes his mind, is pitch perfect, for how confusing this moment must be for them, as they’re saying goodbye, so soon after formally acknowledging that there’s a special something between them.
And it’s so very poignant, to see they both thereafter instinctively want to contact the other person, but hold themselves back, on second thought, most likely because they don’t want to lead the other person on, or hold the other person back.
Sniffle. I’m bummed that they’re apart now, but I’m holding out hope, that somehow, things will turn back around, for this perfect-for-each-other OTP.
And for now, I’m taking comfort in the idea that even though they are apart, they still love each other – just quietly, from a distance.
E27-28. The main point of this set of episodes is the re-establishing of the interaction “terms” between Zhiyao and Hongdou.
It makes sense, though.
I mean, now that Hongdou’s left the village, and they haven’t actually made any promises to each other in terms of a relationship, it’s pretty awkward finding a new normal, especially since Zhiyao’s confessed his feelings, but Hongdou hasn’t actually confessed hers, per se, nor indicated what level of contact she’d be comfortable with.
I can understand why Zhiyao feels that he should give her the space to set the tone and pace of their interactions, and therefore doesn’t initiate contact.
On the other hand, I can understand why Hongdou would hesitate to make contact, because, honestly, she’s not super sure herself, in terms of what she’s willing to commit to, right?
And so, this social media dance between them, where they almost like or comment on each other’s posts, but then change their minds at the last second, is a very relatable modern day stage in the dating / romance scene, I think.
I feel like many of us have done this – or at least something similar, yes? 😁
I’m glad that Zhiyao actually talks with Gran about it. And I have to say, I LOVE the way Gran’s eyes light up – after she’s recovered from spitting out her mouthful of porridge, heh.
I do love how Gran gives Zhiyao a sense of perspective.
It’s so accurate that she points out that he’s feeling shy and awkward after revealing his feelings for Hongdou, and then encourages him to go to Beijing to look for Hongdou – and then whips out a bankbook of savings that she’s scrimped together for him, by telling his dad that she was suffering from aches and pains, and asking him for money.
Ha. Gran is such an adorable little scammer. 😂
But it’s so cool, honestly, that it’s Gran who’s got the broader perspective and the ability to see possibilities, when she’s part of the older generation who’s more used to a non-tech world.
And here Gran is, encouraging Zhiyao to have an online relationship with Hongdou, and take flights to see her in Beijing. Gosh, I love her. 🤩
Also, maybe having to defend Zhiyao against her parents’ speculations about why he isn’t married, was just the thing to get her to finally make the first move, because it’s after this, that she sends those peaches to Zhiyao – which starts a natural cycle of them sending things to each other, whether it’s in the mail, or virtually.
And then, finally, they have a phone call, and sheepishly talk about why they hadn’t liked or commented on each other’s posts, and it’s so great and down-to-earth, the way they agree to keep in regular contact, going forward.
I don’t see this as them actually embarking on a relationship, it feels to me like a connection where they are definitely close, and more than “just friends,” but they aren’t officially in a relationship.
But, it is a start, and a step in the right direction, and I do love that Zhiyao’s so happy that he literally starts dancing around in his room, right after he gets off the phone with Hongdou.
Aw. The Village Hunk is happy again. 😁
And then, in episode 28, we start to see hints that Hongdou’s really thinking seriously about her friend’s suggestion, that she take over that homestead in the village, and work for herself, rather than work for others.
Wow. I do love that idea, because, as Mom correctly observes, Hongdou may have left Yunnan, but her heart is clearly still there.
And, if she does take over the homestead, that would provide a way for her to satisfy two big things that her heart leans towards: her career and her passion for the hospitality industry, and her heart for the village and its people – and there’s Zhiyao too, of course. 😁
Even though I don’t think Hongdou would move back to Yunnan just for Zhiyao – and I agree she should move for other reasons too, and not just one reason – she clearly misses him.
The most telling moment, for me, is when she buys the same shower foam that Zhiyao uses, and then sniffs herself, in order to replicate the feeling of breathing in his scent. Aw. Our girl misses Zhiyao, that’s for sure.
And, thanks to Show wanting to make sure that we didn’t miss the significance of this detail, we get treated to YET ANOTHER shower scene, of Zhiyao, Village Hunk, freshening up with that honey shower foam, after a long day. 😁 I’m rather amused by this, yes.
I am so looking forward to Hongdou making the decision to take over the homestead, and Zhiyao actually learning this piece of news, because if he already was dancing around the room at being able to stay in touch regularly with Hongdou, just imagine how beside himself he’d be, to realize that she’s coming backkk??? 🤩🤩
E29-30. I do believe that it was a necessary step, for Hongdou to leave the village for a while, and figure out what she really wants in life, before returning to the village with renewed purpose.
If she hadn’t left, and had chosen to just stay on there, perhaps she never would have been super sure, that it hadn’t been an emotional decision, fueled by her attachment to the place and the people.
I think it says a lot, that even after she’s left the village, her mind and her heart are still there, months later.
We’re not told how long Hongdou is away from the village, but it definitely feels like a good several months.
I also do appreciate that we get to observe Hongdou’s decision-making process, and the various conversations that spark her thoughts around this.
Like the drawing that she’d scrawled on the balcony wall when she’d been a kid, where she’d already expressed wanting to be her own boss, and also, the discussion that she has with her dad, on the challenges of running one’s own business, versus working for someone else.
I know that the purpose of that conversation was to talk through why Dad shouldn’t open his own grocery store in Shandong, but it definitely touches on a lot of the same factors that Hongdou would need to take into account, in taking over the homestead.
And then, there’s the fall that Kexin has, which makes Hongdou feel that she shouldn’t spend too much time hesitating, because life is short and unpredictable.
Even though this incident feels rather unrelated, it does make Hongdou re-evaluate her priorities even further, and have a greater sense of wanting to seize the day.
And of course, how could I forget to mention, how it’s things like this, that draw out the couple instinct, in Hongdou’s interactions with Zhiyao.
The way he can tell from her voice, that something’s wrong; the way he offers to fly up to Beijing to see her; the way this gives Hongdou pause.
I love the little moments like these, that tell me that Zhiyao and Hongdou are still very much connected, even though they are living in different provinces and have been apart for some time.
Of course, there’s also the thing, where they’re still dancing around defining their relationship, and that’s why Zhiyao has the tendency to back away from leaning too hard into his boyfriend instinct, by saying, “Naw, I was just kidding,” every time his words give Hongdou pause.
Importantly, though, it feels like Hongdou doesn’t want him to be kidding about things like flying up to Beijing to see her, and that’s the kind of thing that tickles my heart. 😅
(In Chinese, there’s a phrase, 心痒痒 (xīn yǎngyang) which means to tickle one’s heart. It’s got shades of “scratching an itch in my heart, that makes me yearn for something” which I don’t think “tickles my heart” actually expresses, which is why I thought I’d include this paragraph, to try to explain what I mean. 😅)
Zhiyao’s changing facial expressions, as he tries out the boyfriend instinct, then has instant regrets when Hongdou pauses, then has reverse instant regrets, when Hongdou seems to want him to not be kidding, is just GOLD; I love them so much. 🤩
One of the things that I find really touching, is how Zhiyao’s got some a long-term view of their relationship.
He has no idea that Hongdou’s planning to take over the homestead, and so, here he is, asking her, if she’d consider coming back to the village in a few years, when prospects are better.
This means that he’s willing to do this long-distance thing with her, for a few more years, while their relationship isn’t even defined yet. Isn’t that super touching?? I mean, couples break up faster than that, long distance. His sincerity and earnestness really gets me in the knees, y’all.
And, I appreciate that Hongdou’s decision isn’t just about Zhiyao; I love that she’s determined to have the best of both worlds, instead of having to choose between love and her career.
It’s great that Hongdou decides to surprise Zhiyao, by just showing up in the village like that; Zhiyao’s look of wonder and disbelief – and tearful joy – is so great, honestly. 🤩🤩
I LOVE that he basically is so overcome that he can’t wipe the smile off his face; it’s such a great look that I totally understand Hongdou wanting to capture his reaction on camera, for posterity, even though part of me wishes that she’d put away the camera and just be in the moment, with him.
But, I have to concede that this is pitch perfect for where their relationship is, in this moment. They aren’t a couple just yet, and this sort of teasing feels quite appropriate, to take away any awkwardness in the moment.
It’s.. kinda like that terrible Validation song that Show plays over the scene, when Hongdou stops with the teasing, and the conversation turns a touch more serious, with Zhiyao asking if she’s sure about this, while also being quick to say that he does welcome her.
It’s a lovely few moments, that Show almost completely ruins, with that awful song. 😭 Ok, maybe the song itself isn’t awful per se, but the feel of the song, just takes away from the feels of the moment, and I’m mad about it.
I’m just glad that Zhiyao turns around on his way out, and walks straight into a hug, with Hongdou.
YESS. I feel like there’s a lot of sweet relief there, not only on the part of Zhiyao and Hongdou, but for me as a viewer as well, coz I’ve been waitinggg, for these two to be reunited. 😁
I love this moment so much, that I’m almost – almost!! – able to tune out the Validation song, which is still going, as they hug. (Grargh. Seriously. Why, Show?!?? 😭)
E29-30. Isn’t it sweet of Zhiyao, though, to make sure that Hongdou is fully aware of the potential difficulties and downsides, to taking over the guesthouse?
I mean, he totally wants her there (such an understatement, right?), but he won’t push her into blindly choosing to be there. He wants to make sure that she’s fully aware of the choice that she’s making, and the way he respects her rights like this, is so touching to me.
E31-32. With this set of episodes, our OTP is finally officially minted, huzzah!! I’ve only been waiting for this, for like, 30 episodes. 😅
First, I’m anxious to talk about Zhiyao finally biting the bullet and making his move, to talk to Hongdou, and take things official, between them.
I find it quite cute, how he just can’t hold it in, and looks for a way to tell her everything that’s on his mind about them, even if he has to crane his neck and tell her from the street, so that she can hear it from her window. 😁
And then there’s how he literally climbs up to her window to get a kiss, when she refuses to open the door for him, and tells him to wait until the next day, so that she’ll be all pretty for the moment.
Tee hee. I do like how focused Zhiyao is about this now, after hemming and hawing about it for the longest time. 😁 It makes me feel like he’s held it in for so long, that he’s now officially ready to burst, and there’s no holding him back now.
And then, when Hongdou runs to open the door for him, thinking that he’s fallen from the roof and hurt himself, there’s that intensity about Zhiyao, as he leans in to kiss Hongdou properly. 🔥
I have to confess to being distracted AGAIN, by Show’s song choices, coz we get treated to not just the Saddle song but the Validation song as well, in these few scenes, and ARRRGH, it really ruins so much of the experience, for me. 😭😭
I’m like willfully blocking it out, as much as I can, while watching these scenes, and I just.. SIGH. WHY, SHOW?? WHYYY??? 😭😭😭
As a silver lining (or a peace offering, perhaps), Show treats us to lots of sweetness and cuteness, when Zhiyao and Hongdou have breakfast noodles together.
For one thing, both the Saddle and Validation songs are nowhere to be heard (THANK GOODNESS), and for another, I love the casual skinship that we’re getting, with most of it initiated by Hongdou.
In fact, I kinda love how handsy she is with Zhiyao. Like when he bashfully chuckles at her putting her hands around his waist so easily, she doesn’t get embarrassed. In fact, she leans into it, and touches him even more. Isn’t that so cute? 😍
I’m ridiculously pleased at how naturally these two fall into a relationship for real, though I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, since they’ve been rehearsing for so long? 😁
Besides the gently playful scenes of them having breakfast noodles together, I love the scene afterwards, of them sitting by the fields, and just talking openly, about everything, from Hongdou’s decision to relocate, to how they’d each felt, after she’d left the village.
The most memorable part of the conversation, for me, is when Hongdou tells Zhiyao that he’s one of the reasons she’s come back, but he’s not the only reason – so he doesn’t need to take responsibility for her decision.
I mean. That sounds like it flies in the face of romance, since our more traditional view of romance is dropping everything for the other person, and having no regrets about it.
But this thing that Hongdou does, which is to own her own decision, and release Zhiyao from having to bear the burden of her happiness, is so much more loving, in my opinion, even though it doesn’t have the in-the-moment intensity and flutters of dropping everything for the other person.
This is so much more mature, thoughtful and considerate, and I love it.
E33-34. I’m glad that we get little couple moments with Zhiyao and Hongdou.
Any little indication that they’re still very much in love with each other, gets a nod of approval from me. 😁
Like that moment when Hongdou’s tired, so Zhiyao moves to massage her shoulders for her, even as they talk about the rush of visitors that they’ve just dealt with. It’s sweet, that after a while, Hongdou moves to massage Zhiyao’s shoulders instead.
Aw. Look at these two, taking care of each other like that. 🥰
I also love that moment when Hongdou remarks that she’s tired, and Zhiyao moves to hug her and hold her, right there and then.
It feels like he’s meeting her where she is, and truly understands how she feels, in that moment. ❤️
And, even though Hongdou doesn’t respond very positively when Zhiyao makes his suggestion at the end of episode 34, that Nana get up where she’d fallen down, ie, fix her problem by going back to livestreaming again, I do actually see the value of Zhiyao’s suggestion, and wouldn’t be surprised if that really is how Nana eventually resolves this issue.
E35-36. I thought it was cute that Hongdou finally gets to meet Zhiyao’s family, formally – but she only agrees to it, after having a video conference with Mom and Hongmi.
Of course, it goes swimmingly well, coz Hongdou’s just so good with people. Ahh.. it’s just nice to see Zhiyao being so happy, and Hongdou being welcomed so warmly by his family.
Estelle Wu as Gran
Gran is simply one of my favorite characters in this drama world.
She’s so small, unassuming and sweet. And I love that she’s so spry and bright-eyed, even though she’s in her 80s.
Beyond that, she shows so much personality, from cheeky side-eyes, to fierce badassery, to unadulterated squee.
I love her. 😍😍😍
E5-6. I do feel like at this point in our story, Zhiyao has more interest in Hongdou, than she does in him. There’s just a little spark I notice, in his gaze, whenever he happens to see her.
Gran is perking up at the sight of this, as am I. 😁
I love that she ships them as much as I do. 🤩
E17-18. I love the recurring mini arc, of Gran, Zhiyao and Hongdou playing games together. I think it’s adorable that Gran gets so excited when she wins, and then pouts and sulks when she doesn’t win. 😁
They really do look like a little family like this, and it’s just the most heartwarming thing, really, to see them hang out like this, on the regular. 🥰
Of course, part of the reason I love that Zhiyao gets to spend time with Hongdou, and I love Gran’s general aura of adorableness. 😍
E31-32. I love when Gran realizes that Zhiyao and Hongdou are officially an item.
Her glee is so cute and infectious, and I just love the way she jumps a few times in the yard, as she squees to herself, before running into the house to prepare dinner for Hongdou. 😁
Gran’s just adorable. 😍
Ma Meng Wei as Damai
Although I’d gotten the sense that Damai was reserved and buried in her work, it’s only in episodes 11-12, when she talks about it with Master Ma, that we learn that she’s struggling with so many aspects of her chosen career.
Her family isn’t supportive and her dad outright says that it’s a disgrace, and on top of that, she struggles with dwindling readership and the low comments and income.
As a fellow content creator, Damai’s struggle resonates with me, so I feel extra, for her struggle.
You really can’t control the thing about low comments and income, because sometimes the way things shake out, doesn’t actually make sense.
People sometimes don’t engage with the content you think they will, and you just never know, what will land well with people, and what won’t.
I became pretty invested in Damai’s arc, in that I really hoped that she would find her way as a writer, because that’s where her passion lies.
Hu Bing Qing as Nana
For much of our story, Show teases that Nana’s got a past that she’s trying to hide from, and it’s only in episodes 33-34, that it all finally comes to light
We learn that Nana had been a livestreamer before, and she’d been accused of donation fraud.
The way Show fleshes out her story, really brings out how merciless and unreasonably the court of public opinion can be – and often is.
It’s mindboggling, really, that even though Nana was able to prove the actual amount that was donated, and therefore, that there had been no fraud committed on her part, netizens still found a way to bash her, and accuse her of doing a cheap publicity stunt.
The fact that Nana’s personal life was affected so such a great extent, that she’d found it necessary to run away to as remote of a place as possible, to find some peace and quiet, really makes my heart go out to her.
I mean, it’s a totally different story, when you choose to start over in a new place, because you’d like to expand your horizons and try something new.
But, it’s a massively different thing, to feel like you’re being chased out of your own home, and forced to hide in a place where you hope no one recognizes you.
Clearly, Nana still has a lot of trauma in her that she hasn’t healed from yet, and I’m just glad that she has Hongdou and Damai looking out for her – and everyone else in the village as well.
Hongdou, Nana and Damai
The friendship between Hongdou, Nana and Damai proved to be one of my favorite relationships in this show. 🥰
I find it quite touching, really, that in this rural little village, three separate souls from three different places, with three different personalities, would become some good friends, and become such pillars of support for one another.
I love that in living together, and looking out for one another, Nana, Damai and Hongdou become close, and forge a sisterhood that endures.
I find it very heartwarming to see them taking care of one another on a day-to-day basis, from cooking for one another, to helping one another with laundry, to providing solidarity and a listening ear when needed.
E13-14. I really liked the scene where Damai shares her frustrations about her writing career, and talks about maybe becoming a teacher.
The responses from Nana and Hongdou are both heartfelt and kind, and in particular, I love Hongdou’s insight, that if Damai just had the inspiration for a great story, she’d want to write it, even if it didn’t earn her any money.
That definitely puts things in much-needed perspective for Damai, and I love it, that she gets it from being willing to open her heart to these found sisters whom she’s met in the village.
It honestly feels like these three have become found sisters, and I like that idea a lot, especially with the knowledge that the three of them have left a lot behind, to be here.
Damai is here to find solace and inspiration, away from the disapproval of her family, while Nana is here to live the life that she wants, rather than the life that her parents want, and Hongdou’s left her glitzy job in the big city, to fulfill a promise, as well as to re-evaluate her life.
Although their various reasons differ in the little details, in large strokes, I feel like these three can understand one another, because they are all going against the grain, to make choices that feel true to their hearts.
It really gives me warm, cozy feels, to see the closeness grow, among these three ladies.
When we’d first met her, Damai had been largely kept to herself, while not saying much, and this set of episodes, she’s comfortable enough to ask Hongdou and Nana to go out with her for the day, when her birthday comes around.
It’s true that she doesn’t tell them that it’s her birthday, but I do think it says a lot, that on her birthday, which is her special day, she desires to spend it with Nana and Hongdou.
And how cool, that Nana and Hongdou throw her a surprise party, because they’d figured out that it was her birthday.
Aw. That’s really the kind of things that good friends do for one another. 🥰
E21-22. I really do dig the friendship that’s grown between Damai, Hongdou and Nana.
I think it’s pretty endearing that Hongdou and Nana have created “fake” accounts and have been commenting on Damai’s work, to encourage her, and also, to defend her against haters.
I think it’s just as endearing, that Damai’s able to tell, pretty much right away, that this is them, and that this is their way of protecting her and loving her.
It’s really very sweet and endearing, especially when I take into account that these ladies are 3 wandering souls from different places, who’ve just happened to meet at Youfeng Yard.
It’s a bummer that Damai leaves to return home, this set of episodes, but it’s quite comforting to see that she still keeps in close touch with Hongdou and Nana, via their chat group and video calls.
E33-34. It says a lot about their friendship, that Damai would pack her things and fly to Yunnan right away, to be with Nana in her time of crisis.
This depth of loyalty and friendship, grown between random people who just happened to stay in the same guesthouse at the same time, moves me a great deal. It’s so special, that the friendship endures, even after circumstances change. 🥰
And, it’s clear to see that Nana is greatly calmed and comforted, to have both Hongdou and Damai by her side, such that she now feels able to stay on in the village a little longer, rather than run away immediately, which had been her original plan.
I mean, Nana still has nightmares, which sucks, but it’s comforting that when she wakes up, Damai – and her big floofy dog – are right there for her.
E35-36. I’m glad to see Hongdou finally tell Nana and Damai about Nanxing.
This is something that I’ve been waiting for, for quite a while now, because in my head, her willingness to share Nanxing, is a good indicator of how much Hongdou values a relationship.
When she’d told Zhiyao about Hongdou, I felt that that had deepened their connection significantly, and now that she shares Nanxing with Nana and Damai, I also feel that that deepens their friendship as well.
Shi Peng Yuan as Xiaxia
While I did appreciate the professional dilemma part of Xiaxia’s journey, I have to admit that the reason I would like to talk about him, is more because of his very sweet crush on Nana.
I mean, it’s clear that Xiaxia likes Nana; we see how he responds to her, through most of our early episodes. It’s Nana who’s keeping things strictly platonic.
E31-32. By this point in our story, the way Xiaxia looks at Nana is laced with more than a little smolder, which I can’t help but notice.
Xiaxia’s got some of the strong, silent appeal going on, and then there’s the way he steps in to help her clean that flooded bathroom – and then offers her his slippers while her shoes dry.
I couldn’t help but feel for Xiaxia, when he asks Nana, so hopefully this set of episodes, if she’ll stay in the village, now that she’s going into business with Hongdou, and Nana immediately says not necessarily – leading his face to fall with disappointment.
Aw. Even though Xiaxia’s being introduced to other girls by the folks in the village, it’s clear that he actually really likes Nana, and hopes that she’ll like him back.
E33-34. I really like how Xiaxia goes to look for Nana, to talk to her about things.
Like I’ve said before, it’s clear that Xiaxia’s got a huge crush on Nana, and wants her to stay. But, the way he talks to her, is all about her, and what’s good for her; there’s no hint of selfish intent in there.
I like how earnestly he listens to her, and how he is so serious, when he expresses empathy for what she’s gone through.
I also like how he doesn’t tell her what to do, but leaves her with that bit of wisdom:
“My mom said that one should never leave with hunger, should never leave with a grievance, and should never leave with tears. People who leave like this always suffer, so do those who fail to make them stay. If you want to leave, you can wait until you are happy.”
Augh. Such a heartfelt, pure piece of advice. I really like it.
And, I’m glad that it strikes a chord with Nana, who finally looks like she’s ready to leave on her own terms, and not because she feels the need to run away.
Each of the village aunties has her own story, and I’m glad that Show takes pains to unveil these stories to us, so that we get to understand them all a little better.
I liked their generally caring, motherly presence, in our story.
I also thought the group of little kidlets were pretty cute.
While it did take me a good long while to actually remember each of them and tell them apart, again, I appreciate that Show does give each kid some time in the spotlight, and I also appreciate that their stories are heartfelt and relatable.
Hao Ping and Cui Yi as Hongdou’s parents
Last but certainly not least, I wanted to give Hongdou’s parents a shout-out, because, even though they are secondary characters in our story, I found them to be very warm, good-humored and supportive.
I especially love they laugh easily – especially Mom; I find that very cozy and endearing.
And, the moment that warmed my heart extra, is when Hongdou, realizing that Mom knows that she’d quit her job at the hotel, asks Mom about it, and Mom’s all laidback and easygoing about it.
That’s SO unlike most drama moms that I’ve seen, that this really stands out to me.
How amazing is Mom, to trust Hongdou and not pursue the matter, even though quitting her job and then going off to Yunan for an extended vacation, is a pretty big deal. Lover her. 🥰
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
All’s well that ends well, in this drama world, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
We get many happy bows all around, but not everything’s perfect, and not everyone’s paired up, and that actually helps to ground this happy ending, a little bit, I feel, because in real life, that’s how it is too.
But, the emphasis is definitely on the happy ending, and Show continues to serve up the warm, cozy feels that I’ve come to expect and enjoy, from it.
As for the imperfectly perfect happy endings, I like that Xiao Chun doesn’t get back together with her ex-husband, but comes to a new understanding with him, where they are now better able to communicate with each other, and work together cordially, for a better future for Xiao Hulu.
I also like that Mr. Hu goes to Beijing to be with Manjun, because he realizes that he loves her – but we don’t get a clean-cut happy ending for them in the end.
Instead of wedding bells, we hear Mr. Hu mention that they’re dating, and that’s nice, in an open-ended sort of way.
And, even though I’ve long had a soft spot for Xiaxia’s adorably bashful crush on Nana, and had wishes for this ship to sail, I appreciate the ending that Show gives us instead, that Nana’s clear with Xiaxia that she only sees him as a friend, and Xiaxia’s content to keep liking Nana on his own, and is happy to support her, as a friend.
As for Hongdou and Zhiyao, I’m pleased that her guesthouse gets off to such a promising start (although, wasn’t that moment when Gran came to her rescue when those men were threatening her, just glorious? Badass Gran is the cutest, most awesome thing! 🤩), and that their relationship stays strong through the ups and downs that come their way.
It feels really nice, to see everyone come together again, time skip later, and get along so well, like no one had ever left.
That enduring quality of the relationships fostered here in the village, is something that I find very touching.
Even though Mr. Ma, Mr. Hu and Damai no longer live in the village, the friendships that they share with everyone here in the village, remain strong and full of warmth and feeling. I love that.
And, I also love that as we prepare to leave this drama world, we get to see Zhiyao and Hongdou share a poignant moment together under the stars.
Their relationship is lovely because it has space for whimsy (like wondering on who the stars represent), while remaining strongly practical (like how their schedules intersect) – and I feel like that, in a nutshell, in the appeal of this show too.
It’s down-to-earth, but also lyrical in its sensibility, and I do enjoy that a lot.
And, I love the lyricism of the Show’s parting shot – via words of wisdom on our screens, as we see Zhiyao and Hongdou looking up at the stars together:
“Time will go on ceaselessly. Happiness will never end. Dark clouds are temporary, since there will always be wind.”
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Low-key, easy and comforting. Excellent drama nightcap material.
FINAL GRADE: B++
The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of Meet Yourself is Nothing But You [China]. I’ve taken an initial look at Nothing But You and I’m happy to say that Show’s growing on me quite nicely.
You can check out my E1-4 notes on Nothing But You on Patreon here.
Here’s an overview of what I’m covering on Patreon right now (Tier benefits are cumulative)!
Foundation Tier (US$1): Entertainment tidbits + the first set notes of all shows covered on Patreon (that’s 2 episodes for kdramas and 4 episodes for cdramas)
Early Access (US$5): The Glory Part 2 [Korea]
Early Access Plus (US$10): +The Heavenly Idol [Korea]
VIP (US$15): +Nothing But You [China]
VVIP (US$20): +Our Blooming Youth [Korea]
Ultimate (US$25): +Call It Love [Korea]