Today, I thought I’d share my episode 1-2 & 3-4 notes on Nothing But You, which I’m enjoying a lot, but which I did need a little bit of lens adjustments, before I could love it properly.
I hope these initial episode notes help. 🤗
These are my episode 1-2 & 3-4 notes, exactly as they appear on Patreon, ie, without screenshots (I’m saving those for the actual review).
I hope you all enjoy, and I hope you’ll consider joining us over on Patreon, for the rest of the discussions! ❤️
E1-2. Ok, so full disclosure, this wasn’t love at first sight, for me and Show.
I’m guessing that it probably had something to do with my high levels of anticipation around this show (which likely translated into unreasonably high expectations), and also, something to do with my preconceived ideas of what I wanted this show to be.
I didn’t take to the first two episodes as much as I’d hoped to, but now, 4 episodes later, I feel like I’m properly acclimated, and now, I feel like I’m starting to actively enjoy this, which is a nice turnaround, I do think.
So what hadn’t I liked so much, in the first two episodes?
Well, I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but I did feel a little bored by Show’s rather heavy-handed demonstration of You’an being a capable professional.
I mean, I do think she’s efficient and effective at her work, but I also felt like I didn’t necessarily have to follow her about her work day. Like, was it really necessary for me to see her solve problem after problem, while completely unflustered?
I don’t know; maybe it was really necessary.
But I was bored by it, partly also because it inadvertently gave me flashes of The Rational Life, which I’d found to be a little boring too. 😅
I was antsy for the OTP of our story to cross paths, and it had felt a little slow in the coming, from my (admittedly impatient) point of view.
I think I was just going off of the trailers that the production’s released, where we get to see lots of OTP cute, featuring an eager, earnest, enthusiastic Wu Lei in puppy mode.
..And instead, what we get is an angry, angsty Wu Lei instead, which.. just wasn’t what I was expecting – and what I wasn’t quite prepared for, I guess.
If this were a kdrama, set-up would be relatively fast, and we would be in the thick of Show’s necessary set-up, by the end of the first 4 episodes, typically speaking.
But, I realized, while watching episodes 3 & 4, that this isn’t going to be the case here.
With 38 episodes of story to fill, it looks like Show’s going to take its time setting things up, and even though we already know from the synopsis, that Sanchuan is going to end up dropping badminton, and You’an’s going to end up quitting her job, from the looks of it, Show’s not going to truncate its story, just because we know that those 2 things are going to happen.
Instead, it looks like Show’s going to have us walk with our characters through the journey of actually arriving at those 2 respective decisions, and I only realized that I needed to calibrate my expectations around that, while watching episodes 3 & 4.
This mental adjustment has proven to be quite key in helping me get situated with this show, because now, I feel less impatient about wanting Show to hurry up and get to the point where I’d thought our story would start.
No, our story doesn’t start where Sanchuan quits badminton and You’an quits her job, even though these events are stated in Show’s synopsis.
Our story starts when they’re both struggling and miserable, in their respective positions, and it’s Show’s expectation of us as an audience, that we walk through this season with them too.
With all that in mind, one of the things that I’m coming around to, as well, is that Show is probably a little more slice-of-life, and a little less plot-driven, than I’d first imagined.
What I mean is, of course Show does have a plot; it’s just that it’s a little more laidback than I’d imagined it would be, in terms of driving its story forward, and coming around to that, is also pretty important.
All that to say, I’ve been a little slower to embrace Show than the average viewer, I’m guessing, but I’m pretty securely on board now, I do think.
These first 2 episodes, we spend a lot more time from You’an’s perspective, and I do feel bad for her, because she so clearly wants to move on from her job, but her boss isn’t being cooperative or supportive.
He’s being quite a jerk, in being evasive, when he’d originally promised to help her transfer to a more business-focused role, and my first thought to her, is, just quit, you don’t want to keep doing this job anyway!
But then, when she explains it to bestie Luo Nian, I can see why she’d feel stuck. If she leaves without her boss’s endorsement and recommendation, based on the executive assistant work that she’s done, she wouldn’t be able to move into the kind of business role that she desires.
At most, she’d be able to get another executive assistant job, and that’s clearly not what she wants.
That’s why she feels like she has to compromise with her (jerk-) boss, and work with him while looking for a way to get him to agree to her transfer.
That’s no fun, and I certainly don’t envy her. Her job is demanding, and she’s at the constant beck-and-call of her (jerk-) boss, who seems to only be paying lip service, in his appreciation of her work.
After 4.5 years of this, no wonder she’s feeling exhausted and drained.
I did think that Show’s effort towards Cute, in having You’an yearn for a dog, was a little try-hard, especially with the opening interview in episode 1, where it seems like You’an’s interviewing for some kind of blind date.
But, I do like the idea that You’an’s a kindhearted person who loves animals, and finds them to be a source of joy in her life.
That kindheartedness extends to how she’s so very much there for Luo Nian, to help pick up Luo Nian’s daughter from school, even when she’s dealing with such a hectic schedule of her own.
On an irreverent tangent, because I’ve seen Jiang Pei Yao, who plays Luo Nian, in You Are My Hero, where she had a loveline with a square dork of a SWAT instructor, I can’t help but automatically see this as the aftermath of that loveline, where she’s divorced the square dork, and is now a single mom, living with her daughter. 😝😅
This is absolutely not true, of course, but my imagination just wants to entertain itself, it seems. 😅🙈
As for Sanchuan, I guess I’d been anticipating the cheery version of him that I’d seen in the trailers, that I was rather thrown, to be introduced to an angry, angsty, rather reserved version of him that we see, this set of episodes.
That dissonance between expectation and reality was a little jarring, I do think, and I’m pretty sure that contributed to my slower warming to this show.
Also, I did cringe at how the female runners were coming on to Sanchuan so aggressively; I don’t know if Show had meant it to be funny in any way, but that felt very uncomfortable to watch, for me.
I mean, he’s literally being harassed on the job, isn’t he? That’s not cool, and I’m rather disappointed that the female runners who harass him, get away with it.
Plus, I suppose it’s par for the course that Sanchuan’s got some hidden trauma in his life, but I admit that I kind of balked slightly, when we see the first hints of that trauma, when he’s on the court.
I was like, “What, really? Was this 100% necessary? 😭” – mostly because I feel like I’ve been exposed to this sort of character setup a fair bit now, and I was just looking forward to someone being, well, unbroken, for once. 😅
But ok, fair, if other drama characters get to have traumatic backstories, I suppose Sanchuan’s entitled to one, if our writers deem it necessary. 😅
Another thing that I wasn’t prepared for, is the way Sanchuan is pretty businesslike and gruff with You’an a lot of the time.
Again, based on the trailers (which, at this point, I was kind of regretting watching, since they apparently tripped me a fair bit, in my introduction to Show), I’d been expecting Sanchuan to be all soft and friendly with You’an from the get-go, but that’s not the case at all.
Instead, he’s a little brusque, even, BUT, on second viewing, I do realize that there’s a softness in his gaze as he contemplates You’an’s retreating back, after she hands him the money for the race, despite him not keeping to the agreed finishing time.
And I have to admit, she really comes across as a breath of fresh air – kind, understanding and empathetic – on what must have been a very frustrating day for Sanchuan.
I can understand him feeling some feels, in response.
I just.. didn’t quite understand why he continues to be on the cold and brusque side to her, when they meet again, thereafter – until I realized later on, that it’s not actually personal; Sanchuan’s just typically on the more sullen side, at this point in his life.
But, I also realize, that if I look carefully, I can see the glimmers of him softening towards You’an, like when he (a little hedgingly) tells her that he’ll take her to the wig shop himself, instead of just sending her the address.
And of course, as You’an gets roped into the Underdog project by her (jerk-) boss (like, how “generous” he is, to tell her that once she completes the Underdog project, he’ll support her transfer, conveniently not mentioning that the Underdog project will likely take years to complete, hmph!), it’s Sanchuan’s badminton club that she gets connected to.
This is the point where I’d expected Sanchuan to blow You’an away with his performance on the court, and become the underdog potential star that gets signed to her company, but, like I mentioned earlier, unfortunately, Sanchuan’s got some unspoken trauma that’s messing with him, and holding him back.
E3-4. This set of episodes, we spend more time getting to know our key characters, and this is the set of episodes where I find myself getting more comfortably settled into my watch.
For example, while I had struggled with the way Sanchuan’s rather brusque with You’an when they meet, this set of episodes, I’m more careful to look out for the little hints that he’s actually softening towards her, even if he’s still maintaining his prickly outer shell.
Like the way he gets all on edge with her, when she remarks that he’s a little old in the game of badminton, but then later, when he drinks that bottle of sparkling water that she leaves him – with the parting shot that the drink will help to clear the anger in his chest – he can’t help but leak a bit of a smile.
On that note, there’s a bit of a pun in here, which would help to explain his smile, a little bit.
When she tells him to drink it all in one go, to clear the anger in his chest, the words for anger and air are homonyms, and even use the same character, 气 (qì).
And so, it’s actually punny, that You’an tells Sanchuan that the drink will help clear the 气 in his chest – because that burp sure does clear out his chest. 😁
At the same time, I do think that You’an’s ability to not lose her cool, and even make a friendly joke, in the face of his irritation, is probably making a positive impression on him. I know it’s making a positive impression on me, for sure.
As for why Sanchuan’s always so angsty and sullen, we get some insight, this episode.
From the looks of it, his mother, who’d looked to be a badminton coach, had been dissatisfied with his performance despite his best efforts, and she’d upped and basically abandoned him, at the 18-point mark during his match.
That’s left him with An Cong, who turns out to be his stepfather.
Oohh. So all this time that Sanchuan’s been grumping about An Cong still waiting for “that woman” to come back, he’s been talking about his own mother?
Also, how awkward, that An Cong’s been referring to Sanchuan as his son so often, when this is something that’s clearly uncomfortable for Sanchuan.
Suddenly, Sanchuan’s generally angsty, angry air becomes easier to understand.
I’d be mad too, if my mom suddenly left me like that, in the care of my stepdad, and without a word of warning or goodbye. And I’d likely be messed up too, because of how she’d chosen to leave in a moment when I’d been striving to gain her approval.
I can imagine that her abandonment of Sanchuan, in a moment when he’d been working so hard to gain her approval, has created deep-set rejection issues within him, that have been eating away at him, in all the time since.
It’s little wonder that he can’t overcome that 18-point barrier; that’s the point at which he’d been sharply, irrevocably rejected by his own mother, who had been the one person in the world from whom he wanted acceptance and approval. Poor Sanchuan. 😭
As for An Cong, it’s rather trippy for me to see Tu Song Yan here as An Cong, so soon after seeing him as Mr. Ma in Meet Yourself. I’m not complaining; I actually prefer him as An Cong to Mr. Ma, whom I’d found to be a little too eccentric for my liking.
An Cong seems like a really good-hearted dude, in so many ways.
From the way he’s been faithfully waiting for Sanchuan’s mom to come back, to the way he’s been caring for Sanchuan like his own son, to the way he wants to make his wig business all about giving cancer patients a new lease of life, it all points to him being a person with a really big heart.
At this moment, I couldn’t care less if Mom never came back – but I do like the idea of Sanchuan and An Cong becoming found family to each other.
As for badminton, I can actually understand Sanchuan’s decision to quit, by the end of this set of episodes.
I mean, 21 consecutive losses in the last 2 years is a long stretch indeed, and it’s not that he hasn’t tried to overcome his mental and emotional block.
On top of that, there’s pressure from within the team to do better, or be let go.
Even without taking into the account the way Jin Yi’s being all kinds of overbearing, it’s a heavy burden to bear, and I can imagine that from Sanchuan’s point of view, there’s just no other way to overcome his trauma – and so, the next logical thing to do, is retreat from it.
I appreciate that You’an, being the sharply observant person that she is, has already pegged Sanchuan as the true underdog who’s worthy of the contract, rather than Jin Yi, whose character issues are showing up more and more.
Unfortunately, (jerk-) boss is only paying lip service when he says that he trusts You’an’s judgment. When her judgment doesn’t align with his, he’s quick to dismiss her opinion, and enforce his own. Hmph.
Kudos to You’an for continuing to conduct herself in an impeccably professional manner, even when the work itself turns out to be offensive – like when Jin Yi makes a show of trying to look down her shirt, while she helps him with the test readings.
I’m glad that Sanchuan comes to You’an’s rescue, with that sharp shuttlecock to Jin Yi’s head, ha.
Like Jin Yi asserts later, the fact that Sanchuan’s getting involved with things to do with You’an, when he usually keeps to himself and minds his own business, does say something.
Plus, when Jin Yi makes that threat masquerading as a sarcastic remark, about being sure to treat You’an “well,” in the future, that gets Sanchuan extremely riled up, to the point of almost violence.
Again, that says something too.
In fact, it gets to the point where Sanchuan actually modifies his behavior, in order to minimize the chances of Jin Yi making trouble for You’an, even if it means swallowing his pride, and acting cold towards You’an.
I’m intrigued by the way Show introduces Nate as a potential partner for You’an.
I mean, it’s almost par for the course (that I’ve seen, anyway) in a 姐弟恋 (jiědì liàn; the Chinese equivalent of a noona romance), that the older woman in the equation, is presented with a viable potential partner who is considered ideal on paper.
Similar age, good career, nice personality; these are the things that make Nate a desirable potential partner.
And yet, the way he broaches the subject is almost.. businesslike? It’s an interesting mix of casual affection and businesslike intent, and it’s basically the opposite of romantic.
That said, I could see a practical-minded woman who sees Nate’s appeal actually find this an attractive proposition, and seriously consider accepting it.
The question here, I suppose, is whether You’an is that practical-minded sort of woman, and whether she would choose a partnership arrangement with someone like Nate, or hold out for a love relationship with a more organic starting point.
I think part of the question, is also whether You’an would actually consider trading in her career for marriage, since that is the essence of Nate’s proposition; since you’re at a stalemate at work, and since we like each other well enough, why not consider giving up your work to marry me?
Right now, I’m thinking that You’an isn’t ready to give up her career for marriage, whether that marriage is a practical, business-based one, or one that’s fueled by the heady feels of love and romance.
As we end off episode 4, Sanchuan’s ready to call it quits on badminton, whereas You’an is still hanging in there, dealing with a jerk-boss (no more parentheses, HA) doesn’t value her opinion.
We’re still not quite at the so-called official starting point of their story, but I’m feeling nicely invested now, versus feeling oddly alienated after the first 2 episodes, so I’d call that a win.
I’m actually looking forward to coming back to this show, to see what happens next, and how Sanchuan’s and You’an’s paths continue to cross – as I’m sure they will.
*This show is being covered on the VIP Early Access (US$15) Tier on Patreon*
To view episode 1-2 & 3-4 notes in Patreon, along with everyone’s comments, you can go here!
Episodes 17-18 & 19-20 notes will be out on Thursday, 11 May 2023!
I hope you’ll consider joining us!
It’ll be a way to have fun, and support me at the same time? ❤️
PS: For more information on what the Patreon experience is like, you might like to check out my Patreon update post for May, which you can find here!