THE SHORT VERDICT:
I feel like the most effective, succinct way to describe this show, is a sentiment that I saw floating around the interwebs; that this show is very much My Mister – but with romance.
That’s high praise, because most drama fans agree that My Mister is a masterpiece of a drama – and I do think that this show deserves that praise.
To my eyes, this is as thoughtful and as carefully conceived, and as nuanced and faceted, and as illuminating, organic and visceral, in the watch experience, as My Mister.
Our entire cast is excellent, but Kim Young Kwang and Lee Sung Kyung truly stand out, as our leads.
As a bonus, the music is lilting and lovely, in a manner that amplifies Show’s sweet melancholy.
THE LONG VERDICT:
Every once in a while, Dramaland gifts us with a drama that’s feels meaty, thoughtful and extra special, so much so that I find myself to dragging my feet when approaching the next episode, not because the show’s not good, but purely because I don’t want my experience with the show to end.
I’ve felt that way with My Mister (review here, and Open Threads listed here), and I’ve felt that way with Lost (review here), and I felt this way too, with this show.
If you’ve been around the blog for a bit, you’d likely already know that I really loved both My Mister and Lost, so the fact that I feel that this show kinda moves in a similar orbit and is of a similar caliber, is high praise indeed. 🤩
Basically, I do think that if you loved My Mister &/or Lost, then you’re very likely to enjoy this one too.
And vice versa, actually; if you loved this show, and haven’t seen My Mister &/or Lost, then please do check those out as well. 😉
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it while reading the review.
As a general rule, I found the music in this very enjoyable. The tracks all somehow have a light touch to them, which lent a gentleness to Show’s vibe, even during our more melancholic stretches.
My favorite song is Track 3, Flower. It’s so delicately melancholic and beautiful. ❤️
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS
Here are some things that I think would be helpful to keep in mind, to maximize your enjoyment of your watch:
1. Show has a very measured pace
Which means that you need to be alert (ie, not sleepy) and in the mood for something a little slower. If you’re in the mood for high drama or a fluffy rom-com, then maybe this one’s not for you right now.
2. It can take a while to get situated
Because Show takes a while to establish who’s who in our drama world and how they’re related to one another, everything can feel a little scattered, at first.
It all does come together soon enough, so hang in there; it’ll all make sense soon.
3. Our central romance is quite understated
Don’t let the smoldery gaze in the drama poster fool you; the romance in this is treated with a lot of restraint.
I think it’s quite wonderful, the way Show handles it, but I also think it’s helpful to adjust your viewing lens, so that you’re not expecting very overtly romancey things.
STUFF I LIKED
In this section, I’ll be talking about what I liked and liked less, in a pretty macro sort of fashion, before doing a selective deep dive into characters and relationships.
If you’re interested in my blow-by-blow reactions while watching this show, you might like to check out my episode notes on Patreon here.
Show’s general tone and vibe
Quite a lot of the time, there is a sense of melancholic ache that pervades this drama, and that comes through most strongly, through our main characters Dong Jin and Woo Joo (Kim Young Kwang and Lee Sung Kyung).
Typically, that melancholic ache feels poignant, but at the same time, there are somehow whiffs of a promise of potential beauty and hope.
For example, in the earlier episodes, that potential beauty came from the hope that the time would come when Dong Jin and Woo Joo find each other as kindred spirits, in spite of the circumstances that keep them apart.
Although this is a different show and premise, that melancholic ache, in its essence, reminds me of Lost (Human Disqualification), which I very much enjoyed.
The remarkable thing about this show, to me, is that even though, technically speaking, it’s really slow, and it feels like our OTP is inching towards each other at an almost glacial pace, I am completely hooked, and glued to my screen.
I realize that a slow development, made up of fragments of goodness, is all part of the journey, with this show.
Instead of following the typical rhythm of a typical kdrama, Show does a slow, careful and unhurried dance around Dong Jin’s and Woo Joo’s feelings for each other, and I find myself quite mesmerized.
Instead, everything unfolds according to its own rhythm, and the slow development, made up of fragments of goodness, is all part of the journey.
Watching this one, I had no idea what is coming next, or when, and I love that.
Despite how this show would qualify as makjang on paper, with its revenge theme and the messy overlapping relationships, in execution, this doesn’t land as makjang at all.
Rather, it feels more like a real and poignant exploration of what bad circumstances can do to regular people – and how, hopefully, there might still be solidarity and happiness to be found, in spite of it all.
I love that, and I also love the emotional honesty, in this drama.
Show’s thoughtful handling
One of the things that jumps out at me, while watching this show, is how thoughtfully it’s conceived and executed.
At pretty much every turn, there was evidence of the thought that went into making this show.
Here’s a sampling of a handful of moments when this thoughtfulness stood out to me extra.
E1. For me, the opening voiceover, which turns out to be a radio DJ’s preamble to introducing a song on the air, really set the tone for me.
“There was a poet, who once said the following. That if you wanna understand, if you wanna forgive, and if you wanna love someone… you should observe how they look from the back for a long while.
That if you do just that, you don’t have to unnecessarily try to understand, forgive, or love them because their lonely shadow will have made you cry without you even knowing. It’s true. To understand someone’s loneliness… Well, for me, I think that’s the beginning of love.”
In a nutshell, Show serves up the entire premise of Woo Joo seeking out Dong Jin – and unexpectedly coming to understand and empathize with him, when she sees his loneliness.
That’s very helpful (and grabby!) framing for me, and I felt drawn in to this story, from that voiceover – which is to say, pretty much immediately.
E5. I like the way Show starts the episode by revisiting where we’d left off last episode, but from Woo Joo’s point of view, this time.
I much prefer this over how some dramas just re-show you the last scene at the beginning of the episode. That reminds us of what had happened last time, yes, but it doesn’t add anything new to the equation.
By approaching the same scene from Woo Joo’s point of view, we get more context for the whole thing, and by the time get to the point where the episode had last ended, we’ve gained more knowledge of what had happened, and more to work with, as we continue to piece together what our characters might be thinking and feeling, along this journey.
E14. One of the things that really strikes me, this set of episodes, is how all the various soundbites come together in such a thematically cohesive manner, via Dong Jin’s flashbacks.
Everything that Woo Joo’s said to him, since the beginning, fits together to form such a vivid, poignant picture, and I can’t help thinking that:
1, Dong Jin’s really taken everything that Woo Joo’s ever said to him, very much to heart, to be able to remember it all in such a detailed manner, and
2, writer-nim had everything mapped out so well, and had planted each soundbite so precisely, so that it would all come together so perfectly, like this.
I’m very impressed on both counts.
Show’s wry way of toying with our perspectives – sometimes
Show doesn’t do this a whole lot, but sometimes, it has a way of teasing us sometimes, by playing with our perspective.
I thought this was interesting, and also, it sometimes worked out to be thought-provoking as well.
Here are a couple of examples.
E1. I like the matter-of-fact, “surprise!” way Show introduces the fact that Woo Joo’s now working at Dong Jin’s company, at the end of the episode.
Ha. I was just as surprised as CEO Choi, to hear that she was a member of the staff, since Show doesn’t give us any insight just yet, of how she managed to join his company.
In fact, it feels like quite the twist, to have Dong Jin confront Woo Joo about stalking him, when we’ve only just found out that she’s working at his company.
E2. I feel bad for Woo Joo when she gets accused of being a spy, and of sending that email from Manager Kang’s account, because, honestly, up until Show reveals that she hadn’t done it, I’d thought that she was guilty too.
I blame Show for messing with my perspective, by giving us that scene of Woo Joo logging in to Manager Kang’s account, after hours.
But it also makes me consider my internal biases, in terms of how I perceive people.
Some interesting directorial choices
There were a couple of instances when I felt that PD-nim made some particularly interesting directorial choices, and I felt that these definitely added some dimension and interest to my watch experience.
Here’s them, for the record.
E5. I found myself feeling quite impressed with the way Show uses that shadow animation, to illustrate Dong Jin’s dreams to us.
How poignant, really, that in his dreams, Dong Jin’s a little boy leading a happy, normal life – until the chair literally breaks from under him, and throws him back into reality.
That feels like a pretty great summation of what his life must have been like; he must have had a pretty good childhood, until it all fell apart, all of a sudden.
E9. I find the directing choices, when CEO Shin goes to face off with Min Young, and Woo Joo steps in, and ends up getting hurt, very interesting.
With that slo-mo intersplicing of scenes, meshed with blacked out screens between them, it really gives me the feeling that I’m seeing everything through Woo Joo’s eyes, as she slowly blinks, as she fades between consciousness and unconsciousness.
Really interesting, and really well done, I thought.
E10. As much as I appreciated the more abstract interpretation of the scenes at the close of episode 9, I do also like the fact that Show now allows us to watch the unfolding of the scenes in a more conventional manner, this episode, so that we know how Dong Jin finds out that Woo Joo’s in the hospital, and what happens when he gets there.
STUFF THAT WAS OK
The way Show reinforces our understanding of a character – sometimes
Show tends to reinforce our understanding of a character, by having other characters say, and perhaps repeat, certain things about said character.
The reason this is in this section, is because I didn’t find it all that elegant, but I did find it effective.
E3. I know it feels rather heavy-handed, because in just 3 episodes, Show’s reminded us multiple times, via comments from other characters, that Woo Joo’s got a tendency for crazy when she’s truly upset.
But, I think it’s effective, because the more I hear it, the more it becomes part of my contextual understanding of Woo Joo.
And that’s important, because sometimes shows mention a character’s tendency for crazy in a very throwaway fashion, and then, when the character actually does do something that qualifies as crazy, it just doesn’t feel natural or organic to my eyes (see Because This is my First Life).
So I much prefer this approach, where Show reminds us, again and again, that Woo Joo’s unpredictable, daring and quite crazy, when she feels provoked enough.
And so, when we see her acting crazy, even in these first few episodes, I feel like Show’s established that this is just part of who is she is; it’s not something that Show’s introducing just for the sake of extra drama.
E5. I also think it’s pretty clever of Show, to juxtapose Woo Joo’s changes in behavior, with Hye Seong’s (Kim Ye Won) pronouncement to Yoon Joon, that Woo Joo is more likely to find romance, than he thinks.
Since Hye Seong’s known Woo Joo all her life, that lends credibility to the idea, and so, when the scene cuts away to Woo Joo cooking and packing hangover soup for Dong Jin, it feels like we’re seeing the beginnings of Hye Seong’s prediction, come to life, in a way.
SPOTLIGHT ON CHARACTERS & RELATIONSHIPS
Kim Young Kwang as Dong Jin
I have to say that I’m very impressed with Kim Young Kwang’s delivery of Dong Jin. From the bigger moments, to the small, everyday ticks, to even his posture, I feel like he completely inhabits Dong Jin as a character.
Right from the moment I first meet him, I feel like I can see Dong Jin’s wretchedness and loneliness, as he trudges about his day.
Props to Kim Young Kwang, because I feel like I can sense Dong Jin’s emotional exhaustion, which has meshed with his physical exhaustion, on sight.
There’s just something about the way he carries Dong Jin as a character, that just screams wretched and unhappy, even though Dong Jin is a CEO with a supposedly comfortable life.
With Dong Jin, that sense of pure and utter isolation and exhaustion comes through, as though it’s seeping through every pore of his being; just his onscreen presence is enough to remind me of just how wretched he feels on the inside – like he’s being crushed under the weight of the world.
Really, really well done, I thought.
My heart went out to Dong Jin in a big way, and it’s thanks to the writing of his character, as well as Kim Young Kwang’s wonderful delivery.
E3. With that conversation between Dong Jin and Sun Woo (Jun Suk Ho), where Sun Woo shudders that he can’t trust anyone again, with the way Manager Cha’s (Seo Dong Won) betrayed them, and Dong Jin responds with that anecdote of why he hates japchae, I feel like Dong Jin’s been having his trust betrayed again and again, from a young age.
He’s basically lived most of his life bracing for the next betrayal. Ouch. 💔
How badly he must want to avoid further betrayal, if he let his girlfriend cheat on him for a whole year, right?
E3. I do like how Dong Jin appears to be naturally empathetic, like with the way he thinks to wait for Woo Joo, because he can foresee that the rest of the colleagues will give her a hard time about coming back to work.
That said, while I do get what Dong Jin is saying to Woo Joo, that he doesn’t plan to confront Manager Cha, because he knows that if it’s not Manager Cha, it would just be someone else, I think it’s pretty unfair for him to expect Woo Joo to return to work, while everyone’s still under the impression that she’s guilty of being a corporate spy and betraying their company.
So, while I do think that it’s good that he personally speaks up for Woo Joo, to tell everyone that he’s the one who’d asked her to come back to work, I also think that he’s falling short, in this area.
E4. I can’t help feeling sorry for Dong Jin, because I can just imagine how uncomfortable it must be for him, getting dragged into the bar by Hye Seong (Kim Ye Won), especially given all that he’s already dealing with, at work.
The way he gives in to Hye Seong’s invitation, is with what I feel is an air of defeat – and that just makes me feel quite protective of Dong Jin.
I can also see how horrifying this is for Woo Joo, because she’s literally just sold him out to Manager Cha – and here he is, in the flesh, with Hye Seong? I’d be flabbergasted and uncomfortable too, in her place.
But the culmination of the scene, with Woo Joo dragging Dong Jin aside, and basically interrogating him, is basically Dong Jin’s hurt and disappointment, because of Woo Joo’s unfiltered words.
“By the way, does it feel good to just say whatever is on your mind? To you, it may seem like people hold themselves back because they’re dumb. But if you say everything that’s on your mind, you have to watch others get hurt by what you say.
Some people find it harder than holding back, so they try hard not to say anything.”
And that, I think, sums up Dong Jin’s feelings in the moment, as well as his general approach to life.
He is hurt by Woo Joo’s unfiltered words, which essentially reject him for (to him anyway) no apparent reason, and honestly, rejection is the thing that Dong Jin doesn’t need more of, in his life.
And, his words also explain why he holds so much in; it’s not because he doesn’t feel or think anything – it’s because he doesn’t want to hurt people by saying what he thinks and feels out loud.
E6. When CEO Shin (Shin Moon Sung) shows up at the office to confront Dong Jin, I’m glad that Dong Jin is clear on, 1, why CEO Shin’s out to get him (because he feels it’s Dong Jin’s fault that his wife died), and 2, the fact that it’s not his fault, that CEO Shin’s wife died.
I do feel that Dong Jin’s leaned over backwards too far, for too long, in allowing CEO Shin to take it out on him a few times, but, I’m just relieved that Dong Jin isn’t allowing anyone – not CEO Shin, and not himself – to wrongly assign that blame to him.
Things aren’t going well, regardless, and while it’s a bummer to see people leaving the company in droves, pretty much, I’m glad to see that Dong Jin actually takes himself out to dinner at the place where he and Woo Joo had eaten together, instead of having another instant meal at the office.
That’s at least a little bit of self-care?
E6. I’m glad to see that besides Woo Joo, Dong Jin’s got other people who believe in him too.
It feels gratifying to see his ex-employee (the one who now runs a car repair business) offer to send him money, the moment Dong Jin calls him on the phone.
As much as Dong Jin’s niceness can feel naive in a dog-eat-dog business world, it’s moments like this, where Dong Jin’s kindness reaps real dividends rooted in true gratitude and loyalty, that I feel like perhaps Dong Jin’s got it right, after all.
E14. It’s just like Dong Jin to make it a point to let Hee Ja (Nam Ki Ae) know that he’s got the will, and that he plans to hand it over to Woo Joo’s family, instead of going straight to Woo Joo.
The way Dong Jin tells Hee Ja about how unhappy he’d felt, growing up as her son, is so full of pathos; it really feels like he’s stored up years of misery, and is only now finally giving it expression – but is only allowing maybe 10% of his feelings to leak out.
At least, that’s how I feel, looking at Dong Jin, as he utters his words, his voice wavering sometimes.
The shaky breaths that he takes, makes me feel that he’s exercising a great deal of restraint – and this is only the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to the wretchedness that he’s lived with, for so long.
I silently cheered for Dong Jin, when he says his piece, and then refuses to let Hee Ja’s whining and tears deter him in the least.
And yet, it’s so like Dong Jin, to have enough compassion in his heart, that when Hee Ja tells him that without that house, she’d die, to tell her, “Even so, live.”
Lee Sung Kyung as Woo Joo
One of the key things that I like about Woo Joo, as a character, is that she doesn’t fit into the usual mold of a kdrama heroine, but at the same time, she feels so relatable, once Show allows us to glimpse beyond her tough outer shell.
Lee Sung Kyung does a fantastic job of allowing Woo Joo’s inner vulnerabilities to peek through, even while Woo Joo’s putting a strong front to the world at large.
I also love, that as a result, we get to know Woo Joo in a manner that feels rich and deep; beyond what we typically get with a regular kdrama heroine.
It sounds contradictory, doesn’t it, that our heroine is reserved, and often keeps her thoughts and feelings to herself, and yet, we seem to get to know her more deeply than characters who are forthcoming?
And yet, that’s how my experience of Woo Joo works out.
I may not have agreed with all of Woo Joo’s actions, but yet, at the same time, I always felt like I was on her side.
E1. It strikes me that Woo Joo is a very intuitive person.
Her sense of foreboding while playing games and drinking with Yoon Joon (Sung Joon), where she predicts that something bad is going to happen, actually comes true, when her father dies soon afterwards (bad thing #1), and his wife then sells the house which he’d bequeathed to her – thus making Woo Joo and her siblings suddenly homeless.
Was it necessary to make Woo Joo “predict” that something bad was going to happen? No, our story would’ve worked just fine without that beat. But the inclusion of that beat does help to frame Woo Joo as a sensitive, intuitive person, who’s more attuned to, well, the universe, than the average person.
I find it interesting that Show makes it a point to let us see that Woo Joo makes a bet with herself – and the universe – before she shows up at her father’s funeral, to make a scene.
It’s almost like she’s asking the universe for permission, isn’t it? Like, if it rains – even though there’s only a 10% chance of rain – then it’s a sign that she ought to cause some trouble for real.
This gives me the impression that she isn’t as tough as she sometimes makes herself out to be.
A more aggressive person wouldn’t care if there was sign or not; they’d just haul themselves over to the funeral parlor and cause a scene anyway.
The fact that Woo Joo doesn’t default to that, and effectively debates with herself (and the universe) before doing it, tells me that this isn’t who she really is, at the heart of it.
And then there’s the way she speaks up for Dong Jin at the restaurant, when the shopkeeper misunderstands that he’d ordered soju, when he hadn’t. This, when she has no idea who he is.
The fact that Woo Joo would speak up for a stranger, and then tell the shopkeeper that the shopkeeper should apologize to Dong Jin, and not to her and Yoon Joon, also makes me think that she’s a kind person with a sense of righteousness.
I felt really bad for Woo Joo, when we see the flashback of what had happened with her father (Ahn Nae Sang), with him abandoning the family, for Dong Jin’s mother.
It’s a pretty record-scratching moment, in the sense that in the flashback before that, he’d seemed like a perfectly loving father. And yet, in that moment when he leaves with Dong Jin’s mother, there seems to be no apparent wistfulness for the kids that he’s leaving behind.
Then again, it’s also true that love/lust can make you act, think and feel in crazy ways, so I suppose it’s not that hard to believe that someone would forsake his kids without blinking an eye, because he’s crazy about someone new in his life.
I really feel for Woo Joo, when she sits on those steps, after being knocked over by that random passerby, and starts to cry.
“I tried so hard to hold myself together so my dad wouldn’t see these tears. And now if they see me here… they’ll think I’m broken ’cause of his death and that’s not why.”
Aw. Poor Woo Joo. There’s so much complicated emotion in that statement, I feel like.
Even though she doesn’t admit to it, some of those tears are because of her father, I believe; not because he’s dead, but because he’d abandoned her and the rest of the family, without looking back.
And then, on top of that, there must be feelings of anger and betrayal at her father, for bequeathing the house to the woman he’d forsaken them for, even though he must have known that they were still living in the house.
And of course, on top of that, there’s fury at Dong Jin’s mother, for being so heartless, in selling the house and kicking them out, when they have no money to get a new place.
The injustice and humiliation of it all, to be thrown out of the family home, by the very woman who had stolen their father from them.
Of course Woo Joo’s got tears to shed – angry, betrayed, sad tears – in the face of all of this.
E2. I do like the idea that while Woo Joo’s got a crazy, “psychotic” streak to her, which Show helpfully informs us of, by having Yoon Joon and her siblings remember specific incidents as examples, this episode, it’s clear that Woo Joo’s not as great of a stalker as she’d like to be, and she’s also a more soft-hearted, empathetic person than she’d like to let on.
I also like that when Dong Jin asks her why she’s following him and trying to go through his mail, she doesn’t lie outright; instead, she tells him something that’s technically true – that she has a lot of interest in him.
And I also like that it’s really not very long, before Woo Joo apologizes, saying that when she panics, she tends to get aggressive, and that she’d been out of line. This sounds honest to me too; I do believe her when she says that she tends to get aggressive when she’s panicked.
E3. Woo Joo’s better at hiding her pain, wounds and scars than Dong Jin, but that same sense of isolation and sadness is visible in her gaze, whenever she gets hurt again.
Along with that pain and isolation, though, is a sense of fury, that threatens to spill over into something crazy – and Show keeps reminding us, that Woo Joo’s done some crazy stuff before, in the past, when she’d been hurt.
On that note, I like how Woo Joo is consistently unafraid to speak her mind.
I admire her for not being intimidated by power or rank, whether it’s at the funeral parlor, or at Dong Jin’s company, or, as we see at the top of this episode, with a stranger who looks drunk, angry and violent.
She just doesn’t seem to have the instinct to cower, and while people might find it rude or unhelpful, I can’t help but admire her, for having such a strong sense of self.
Thinking about it, most people cower in front of power or money or rank or some kind of influence, because they perceive that they have something to lose.
Does Woo Joo perceive that she has nothing more to lose in life, and that’s why the way she approaches the world, is essentially, I have no more $@!*# to give?
Either way, this thing about her fascinates me – and I’m thinking it likely fascinates Dong Jin too, particularly since he’d benefited from her action of pushing that ahjusshi so that he wouldn’t be able to beat up Dong Jin.
E3. It’s too bad that Dong Jin’s mom enters the picture at the end of the episode, and treats Woo Joo so disdainfully.
I feel like if Mom hadn’t done that, Woo Joo wouldn’t have tipped off Manager Cha at the end of the episode either.
But, seeing Mom be her awful self, brings back some particularly painful memories for Woo Joo – and watching that flashback, I’m stunned that Woo Joo had thrown herself into the path of her father’s car, in response to seeing Dad have an affair with another woman.
I speechless, honestly, because who does that? And yet, that’s who Woo Joo is; she would hurt herself, in order to make a point – and perhaps, in order to hurt someone else too.
I’m glad that in the present, Woo Joo doesn’t throw herself in the path of Dong Jin’s mom’s car, but I’m guessing that her act, of tipping off Manager Cha, might be meant to be akin to that?
Meaning, perhaps tipping off Manager Cha, so that he’ll work harder to bankrupt Dong Jin’s company, is something that actually hurts her too.
That’s definitely a thought that intrigues me, because I’m pretty sure that in doing this, Dong Jin isn’t the one whom Woo Joo’s trying to hurt, but because he will be hurt anyway – that’s what hurts her too, in the end?
E4. As I’d guessed, it definitely looks like Woo Joo comes to regret her decision to tip off Manager Cha, this episode.
I mean, Dong Jin looks like he’s so worn out and wounded, wouldn’t tipping off someone against him be akin to kicking a wounded puppy?
I feel like I can see the regret in her eyes right away, as we open this episode, with that shot of Woo Joo standing there, waiting for her pizza delivery.
But of course, it’s more than just regret in her eyes; she’s also reeling from everything that’s happened during the day, starting from seeing Dong Jin’s mom at the office.
E7. I have to say, I felt quite a thrill in that moment, when Woo Joo tells Min Young (Ahn Hee Yeon) that she’d used to be a competitive archer, and is using her non-dominant left hand, to throw that dart – and then effortlessly lands a sharp bullseye.
YESS. That is so badass and impressive! 🤩
E9. I think Ji Gu (Jang Sung Bum) hits the nail on the head, when he says to Woo Joo, at the beginning of the episode, that she tries to shoulder everything.
She does; she tries to take care of everyone in her family like it’s her responsibility alone, and she tries to take care of Dong Jin like it’s her responsibility as well.
And the thing that gets me, is that through all of this, as she tries so hard to be tough, her fragility actually shines through, so clearly.
This contradiction about her, where she tries to be so strong, while failing to conceal just how vulnerable and fragile she is, on the inside, draws me to her.
It makes me admire her for trying so hard to be strong, and it also makes me feel protective of her, because I don’t want her to get hurt anymore.
E12. It feels so universally true and relatable, when Woo Joo calls Hye Seong, at the top of the episode, and tells her that she knows that she’s definitely going to regret this, and yet, in this moment, she just really wants to be with Dong Jin.
That’s self-awareness and emotional honesty in one, and I really appreciate how Woo Joo is able to tap into that, and articulate it, even.
And I have to say, that sensation of knowing that you’ll regret something, but being unable to turn away from it, and doing it anyway, is so relatable. I’m sure many of us would have felt this way at least once in our lives.
Dong Jin and Woo Joo
There’s something about the idea of two broken, wounded people finding comfort and solidarity in each other, that really appeals to me.
That’s exactly what Show serves up; the slow, meandering, sometimes painful, often poignant journey of Dong Jin and Woo Joo coming to realize that they are kindred spirits, and I loved every bit of it.
Throughout my watch, I was so keen for Dong Jin and Woo Joo to find solidarity and solace in each other, that lapped up each and every tiny indication, that they might be drawing closer to each other.
The coming together of these two characters is nothing like what we’ve come to expect from romantic stories in Dramaland, and that’s exactly what makes it feel so organic and believable, despite a premise that could pass for makjang, on paper.
I found the entire journey very thought-provoking and worthwhile, and here are my sprawling thoughts on all of it, from beginning to end.
E2. I like how Woo Joo speaks up for herself, when Dong Jin finally confronts her about her being the spy, and I do think that her insight is spot-on and sharp, when she remarks that Dong Jin wants it to be her, because if he’s betrayed by someone he barely knows, it’ll hurt less.
Bingo. And, ouch. Because that’s exactly what’s going on with Dong Jin. I believe that that’s the thing that drives him to fire Woo Joo – the fear of being betrayed by someone he trusts – rather than a true belief that she was guilty.
I do think that Dong Jin deserves some credit for calling Woo Joo out to apologize to her and offer her the job back, when he manages to determine that it had been Manager Cha, who had sent that email.
I feel like someone lesser, would’ve just swept the incident under the carpet – after all, what’s the wrongful dismissal of a temp staff, to a CEO, right? – but Dong Jin doesn’t.
We see that even though he says that he has no interest in other people’s personal affairs, he’d been listening to everything that Woo Joo had said about her situation.
The way he looks Woo Joo in the eye and tells her that he needs her at the office, is honest and vulnerable, and really quite appealing. There are no airs here – not that Dong Jin ever had any before, to be clear – just matter-of-fact honesty and humility.
Perhaps that’s why Woo Joo finds herself instinctively pushing aside that dude who comes at Dong Jin, making to hit him.
To my eyes, it looks like a reflexive action that Woo Joo hadn’t thought through; she just instinctively wants to protect Dong Jin, in this moment – and I find that very interesting indeed.
I definitely want to see more of how this connection develops, between Dong Jin and Woo Joo. It’s all so complicated, but they are clearly kindred spirits, in how wounded they each are. I’m already rooting for them to realize that they have solidarity in each other.
E3. I don’t think that Woo Joo saves Dong Jin because she likes him or anything, but I do think that she sees his wretchedness, and instinctively wants to prevent him from becoming more wretched, by falling victim to this drunk and potentially violent man who’s charging at him.
E3. I can see that Woo Joo’s prioritizing her revenge, in the way that she’s now making it a point to put emotional distance between herself and Dong Jin.
Like, when he moves to thank her for saving him with Drunk Ahjusshi, she tells him not to thank her, because it hadn’t meant anything; that she hadn’t meant to help him, that it had just been instinct.
I do think that her reason for framing it this way, is so that she can clearly keep herself away from being on Dong Jin’s side – since she still sees Dong Jin as part of the enemy camp, at this point.
At the same time, it’s also becoming clear that Woo Joo’s finding it harder than she’d expected, to keep Dong Jin in that enemy camp space.
Like when he asks her to keep an eye on Manager Cha; her eyes, as she asks him why he would trust her, since he’s only known her for 3 weeks, are like liquid pools of.. softness, almost; like she can’t help but think on his behalf, in this moment.
And then, when Dong Jin states that he has no choice but to ask and beg, the entire scene lands to me like Dong Jin’s laying there with his most vulnerable side exposed, and telling Woo Joo – who’s decided that she should hurt him – that he trusts her not to stab him.
In this moment, when Woo Joo tells him not to act pitiful, I feel like she’s brushing off his vulnerability in the moment, but it’s not so easily brushed off, as she’d prefer.
And then later, there’s how Dong Jin sits at the next table from Woo Joo at the gukbap restaurant, and then, when Woo Joo talks about how she finds Dong Jin strange for putting up with Manager Cha’s betrayal, Dong Jin reveals a personal secret; that he’d let his girlfriend cheat on him for a year.
Again, I get that feeling of Dong Jin being a trusting puppy, revealing his vulnerable underbelly to Woo Joo, and believing that she won’t hurt him.
I do find this instinct of Dong Jin’s, to trust Woo Joo, endearing.
E4. I do love Hye Seong description of Dong Jin as an alley cat, all isolated and defensive, who warms up at the mention of Woo Joo’s name.
And, the way a small smile plays at Dong Jin’s lips, when Hye Seong and Ji Gu pronounce that Dong Jin’s passed the test, because his taste in food is the same as Woo Joo’s, is very endearing.
Although, with my thought that Dong Jin’s been so rejected all his life that it’s wounded him a great deal, I’m also inclined to think that this is his instinctive positive reaction to a sign of being accepted by other people.
..Which is why it feels like such a sad slap in the face, when, the next day, Dong Jin overhears Woo Joo telling Hye Seong the reason she doesn’t like him.
“The way he looks so lonely and bored from behind. That back is the worst part about him. So what if he’s handsome? He’s carrying his grim feelings on his back. I hate that it looks dumb.”
The thing is, I think that part of the reason this stings so much, for Dong Jin, is because Woo Joo’s so spot-on, in seeing his loneliness and his heavy feelings, even though he keeps it to himself and never talks about it.
I’m sure that’s part of the sting; not just the embarrassment of hearing Woo Joo talk about it to Hye Seong.
I’m sure part of the sting is how plainly she sees his pain, even though he tries to hide it from the world.
E4. I’m glad that when Dong Jin finally comes face to face with Min Young this episode, he makes it clear that he doesn’t wish to see her, or talk to her. This is the first time I’ve seen Dong Jin actively making a stand for his own dignity, and I’m all for it.
But then, afterwards, as Dong Jin drowns his sorrow in drink, I feel so bad for him, because it’s clear that seeing Min Young has dredged up all of his pain, all over again.
The way Dong Jin falls and cuts his hands on the glass shards of the shattered soju bottles, is really the last thing he needs, in this moment. It really feels like someone’s kicked a wounded puppy while it was trying to lick its wounds, doesn’t it? 😭
I can see why Dong Jin might have a moment of uncertainty, at the crosswalk, where he sees that vehicle coming towards him: should I just end it all, here and now?
After all, we’ve seen that he’s entertained thoughts of death before, when he’d been at his lowest low.
I’m glad and relieved, though, that Woo Joo’s there to pull him out of harm’s way, because sometimes, when you’re not in a state to protect your own safety, you really need someone else to do it for you.
And that’s what Woo Joo’s doing for Dong Jin right now.
In that closing shot, as Woo Joo and Dong Jin come face to face, where Dong Jin’s just been leaking broken tears after his phone call with Sun Woo, I can’t help but think that this is Woo Joo coming face to face with Dong Jin’s unvarnished pain.
And, if she can already see his pain when it’s hidden, through the hunch in his shoulders, how much more would she be able to see it, when it’s written all over his face like this?
E5. Although we don’t get any helpful voiceovers from Woo Joo to inform us of how she feels towards Dong Jin, the way Show gives us glimpses at her expression, as she processes certain moments, and the way Lee Sung Kyung plays those moments, tell us so much, I feel like.
For example, when we see Woo Joo register the scene of Dong Jin and Min Young in the lobby, and realize what must be going on, her expression strikes me as being filled with rather complicated emotions.
I feel like there’s a plaintiveness to her gaze, along with shades of realization as well as wistfulness, and it makes me feel like her heart’s going out to Dong Jin, in more ways than one.
That plaintive, wistful sort of quality makes me feel like, on top of feeling sorry for him, for what he’s been through (and going through) with Min Young, there’s also a part of her that wants to be part of his world, the way Min Young had been a part of his world.
And, although she doesn’t say anything, and just goes back to the office, the way she looks in response, when she overhears Sun Woo saying that Dong Jin’s got nowhere else to go, while looking for him, and the way she’s quietly dragging her feet as she walks, tell me that she’s still thinking about Dong Jin, even though it’s been a while since she saw him in the lobby.
When someone lingers on your mind like that, it likely means something, doesn’t it? And my thought is, that Woo Joo’s likely gravitating towards Dong Jin, out of a combination of curiosity, as well as a mix of yearning and solidarity.
What I mean is, I feel like she can sense that there’s a probable kindred spirit there (hence the solidarity), but she’s not actually close to him, and isn’t (technically) allowing herself to draw close to him, hence the sense of yearning.
At the same time, Kim Young Kwang’s doing such a great job infusing Dong Jin with that sense of dogged exhaustion and hangdog dejection, like the weight of the world is weighing him down, that I find my heart going out to him very naturally – and so I find it easy to believe that Woo Joo’s heart would go out to him too, in spite of herself.
I tend to think that the reason Woo Joo follows Dong Jin like that, is because she’s concerned about him.
Clearly, he’s not quite himself, with the way he’s looking even more miserable than usual, and drowning himself in soju.
We’ve already seen that Woo Joo’s got a better heart than she’d like to admit, so I do believe that, while part of the reason she follows him might be curiosity and wistfulness, it’s largely driven by an instinct to just, well, watch over him and make sure he’s ok.
And, even though Dong Jin says that he wasn’t trying to kill himself, I’m not sure whether to believe him, with the way he was walking directly into the path of that potential Vehicle of Doom.
If he wasn’t trying to kill himself in that moment, then how would he explain his decision to keep walking into the path of that oncoming vehicle?
I tend to think that he was toying with the idea of dying right then and there, since he was so miserable.
More importantly, look at how emotionally involved Woo Joo is, as she rants at Dong Jin, that if Min Young had cheated on him, he should’ve dumped her right away, and taken revenge, instead of ruining himself.
That part at the end, where there’s almost a tearful quality to her voice, as she says that he shouldn’t be ruining himself, smacks – so loudly – of someone who cares, and wants the best for him.
So how ironic, really, that the whole reason Woo Joo’s approached him in the first place, is because she wanted to take revenge on him.
Or, perhaps it’s something like a sense of wanting fair play? Like, I’m lashing out at you, because I want revenge, so don’t just sit there, lash out at someone else, because you deserve to take revenge too.
Either way, she’s not just looking at him as a faceless nobody; she’s registering him as a person, and I do think that’s important.
I also like that way Show’s set it up, that even though Dong Jin and Woo Joo have both been wronged by other people, they have different ways of looking at things, and approaching the matter.
They’re both on pretty extreme ends of the continuum right now, with Woo Joo being all revenge-minded, and Dong Jin being all “turn the other cheek,” but I can totally see how this would give us room for them to affect each other, and perhaps meet somewhere in the middle.
Like, when Dong Jin talks about revenge as being akin to digging your own grave, because you’ll have to live with the horrible feeling for the rest of your life, the look on Woo Joo’s face, along with that flashback to how miserable she’d been at her father’s funeral, suggests that Dong Jin’s words have struck a chord with her.
At the same time, when Woo Joo tells Dong Jin that Manager Cha’s actively stealing the company’s clients, it’s a wake-up call to Dong Jin, that his approach, of just letting Manager Cha be a spy, isn’t going to work out.
And so, even in this moment, they are already starting to influence each other, and I do like the idea of that.
I like that the process is a slow one, with us seeing both Dong Jin and Woo Joo individually sinking into the words that they’ve heard from the other person, and pondering over it all.
That makes any shift in perspective feel more organic, because they’ve had time to chew on a different point of view, and wrestle with their own thoughts.
E5. I’m pretty stoked to see that Woo Joo and Dong Jin are now on texting terms, and clearly, Woo Joo’s keen to see Dong Jin, and that’s why she makes that excuse to stay at the office, while Sun Woo and Manager Baek leave.
It’s just too bad that Min Young feels like she can just walk into the office after hours like that, in search of Dong Jin.
And, my goodness, that initial cheeriness from Dong Jin, as he walks into the office and greets Woo Joo, is wonderful.
..Until – *record scratch* – he realizes that Min Young’s there, waiting for him too. Oops.
Personally, I found it really awkward and uncomfortable, for Min Young and Dong Jin to have the conversation, with Woo Joo standing right there, and hearing every word that they exchange.
I know that Show’s just gunning for the closing scene, where Woo Joo takes Dong Jin’s hand and walks outta there, but.. that conversation between Dong Jin and Min Young should have been conducted in a more private manner.
It feels out of character, for Dong Jin, to have said all that, in front of someone else.
..Unless the whole point that Show’s making, is that, to him, Woo Joo is close enough, to not count as an outsider anymore? I could persuade myself to get on board with that idea..?
As much as I find the concept of the scene rather awkward, I do like the visual impact of the scene, where we see the two windows, such that it looks like Dong Jin’s walking out of one frame, away from Min Young, towards Woo Joo, in another frame.
It has this effect – to my eyes, anyway – of Dong Jin leaving the world where Min Young is, and entering the world where Woo Joo is, and I really like the idea of that.
And perhaps Dong Jin’s feeling closer to Woo Joo than he realizes, with the way he reaches for her wrist like that, as he makes to leave.
As for Woo Joo turning it around and choosing to reach for his hand instead, I’m thinking that it’s likely a mix of things.
Like, yes, she does want to show Min Young something, and help Dong Jin take revenge, at least in a small way.
At the same time, though, I have the feeling that Woo Joo’s action is also rooted in a measure of sincere emotion; she reaches for Dong Jin’s hand, because she wants to.
E6. If this were a rom-com, the handhold on which we’d ended the previous episode, might have just been the spark to get things going in earnest, between our OTP, I’m thinking.
But since this isn’t a rom-com, we have Dong Jin breaking off the handhold, the moment he’s sure that Min Young’s out of sight.
And, Show gives us a glimpse of Woo Joo’s face, and I feel like besides awkwardness, there are also glimmers of.. disappointment? Like part of her wants to indulge in this fantasy, even though, last episode, we do see her telling herself to just snap out of it already.
I do think it’s part of Woo Joo’s personality, that in a difficult situation, she tends to be more “fight” than “flight,” and I think that’s what’s going on, with the way she blurts out at Dong Jin, and asks if he wants her to go back up to tell Min Young that there’s nothing between them, and it was just her acting up.
I am glad, though, that Dong Jin eventually clarifies what he’d meant about not liking to be misunderstood, or to misunderstand.
It’s not so much about Min Young misunderstanding the situation between him and Woo Joo; it’s about him, misunderstanding the situation between him and Woo Joo.
Ooh. Well, that definitely lands differently, doesn’t it?
It looks like the reason Dong Jin doesn’t want to misunderstand, is because he actually rather likes the idea of there being something between him and Woo Joo.
And, as he stands there and looks at Woo Joo, and his words hang in the air, you can see that he’s definitely affected by her. Augh. That look on his face; that touch of plaintiveness in his eyes.
I have to admit, this was a bit of a spazz moment for me, because Dong Jin looks so unsettled by Woo Joo, and Woo Joo looks like she’s suddenly acquired a lot of things to process, thanks to Dong Jin’s admission.
I’m glad that they don’t just end the interaction awkwardly here; instead, Woo Joo changes the subject, and tells him that they should go eat.
I like that. I like that they aren’t going off on their own, to mope over what any of this might mean; they’re sitting together and getting dinner, and making conversation, and learning about each other.
And, that conversation even includes how Woo Joo herself had coped, when things had been hard; reading other people’s stories, which were often much worse than hers, made her feel less alone.
It feels significant that Woo Joo’s volunteering this information; she wants to help Dong Jin feel better, and this is the way that she knows, and because she cares about him, she’s sharing that information, in hopes that it will help him too.
And, even though Dong Jin doesn’t answer, when Woo Joo asks why he’s not going home, I like that he does thank her, because he really hadn’t wanted to eat alone, that day.
This, when he’d actually tried to leave Woo Joo without having dinner with her, and she’d been the one to (nonchalantly) direct him to eat with her?
Aw. I like this idea, that Woo Joo is better tuned in to Dong Jin’s needs, than he might even realize.
I’m kinda bummed that the quiet evening that Dong Jin and Woo Joo are spending together gets abruptly curtailed thanks to Woo Joo spotting Ji Gu working in a cafe, when she’d believed him to be studying.
BUT, we do get that unexpected moment of skinship, when Ji Gu pushes Dong Jin at Woo Joo, and Woo Joo ends up being cradled in Dong Jin’s arms. Ooh.
It feels.. kinda significant, that the two of them stay in that position for what feels like a moment suspended in time. Like they’re trying on the feel of it, for size, almost?
The awkwardness, tinged with so much hyperawareness, as they break out of that almost hug and try to act normal, is really rather delicious, I feel. 🥰
E6. Yay that Woo Joo runs into Dong Jin while he’s having dinner by himself at the restaurant, and they get to spend another evening in quiet conversation.
I like that their conversation had stretches into deeper, more personal things, like Dong Jin’s story about the 3 seconds, to explain why he’s weak-willed; that’s extremely personal, I feel, and I’m glad he feels comfortable enough to tell Woo Joo about it.
And I’m glad that Woo Joo responds that, even so, he won’t go down; she doesn’t have an explanation for it, just a gut feeling. Even then, we see Dong Jin tearing up in response, and I feel in my gut, that this assertion from Woo Joo, has meant a lot to him.
E7. This episode, we get to see both Dong Jin and Woo Joo (separately) start to grapple for their growing feelings for each other, and it feels like a breakthrough in itself, that they are both becoming, to some degree at least, cognizant of how they each feel about the other person.
And, part of that process, is their feelings becoming more apparent to those who are watching, whether that’s other characters in-story, or us as viewers. I realize I really like it, when their feelings inch forward and become more observable in their behavior.
I feel like I’m perking up &/or internally squeeing a bit, every time we catch an acknowledgement of Growing Feelings, like in a lingering gaze, or a tick (or several!) of hyperawareness.
I also really appreciate that as Woo Joo falls for Dong Jin and vice versa, we get to see what makes each of them so appealing.
For example, even though Woo Joo doesn’t get to see Dong Jin confronting his mother about the house and asking her about what happened to the family who had been living there, we see it, and that adds context to what we know Woo Joo knows about him.
And as I grow to like and appreciate Dong Jin more, the more easily I understand why Woo Joo would fall for him, in spite of herself, because I’m falling for him too, in spite of myself.
Dong Jin’s such a quiet, reserved sort of person, that it would be easy to believe that he would keep to his own world and stay in his own lane.
And yet, instead of just minding his own business and not getting involved with the matter of the house, when his mom insists that it’s all above-board, Dong Jin persists in getting involved, because his heart goes out to the family who’d been evicted from their home, and his conscience dictates that he should do what he can, to make it right – even though it wasn’t his fault.
The silent, dogged, earnest desire in him, to do the right thing, makes him very appealing, to my eyes. It’s so clear to see, that his heart is in the right place, and it’s big and generous – and that that generosity isn’t confined to what he can afford to give.
It feels very pure, to me, and I do think that that pureness of heart is one of the key things that has eroded Woo Joo’s defenses, such that she can’t help but care about Dong Jin, despite herself.
I mean, she doesn’t see what we see, like the scene of Dong Jin going to see his mother, but she does hear about what he’s done, in terms of making efforts to seek her and her siblings out, because of the house.
And of course, that would add to the appreciation for him that she already has, from interacting with him herself.
The moment Woo Joo hears that Dong Jin’s even trying to persuade his mother to give the house back, I’m sure what we see, in terms of the shocked tears in her eyes, is regret, for the times that she’d tried to sabotage him, in order to take revenge on his mother.
Now, more than ever, Woo Joo’s seeing with a new clarity, just how much she’s misjudged Dong Jin, in the past.
Even though Woo Joo’s decision to seek Min Young out, is, at first glance, quite random, and a true overstepping of boundaries, when she explains it, I can see where she’s coming from.
Dong Jin, in making that promise to try to talk his mom around, about the house, is showing empathy towards her, and her desire not to lose her home.
And Woo Joo, in trying to get Min Young to move away from Dong Jin, is showing a similar empathy towards Dong Jin; she doesn’t want him to lose his home either, just because someone unwelcome, is selfish enough to impose on his personal space, the way Min Young is doing.
She’s trying to protect his right to live comfortably in his home, the same way he’s trying to protect her right, to do the same.
I do love how, when everything is distilled like this, their very different-looking actions actually look so reciprocal, and on the same plane.
E7. Woo Joo’s presence in his world is getting to Dong Jin, in spite of himself.
Like the way he can’t help but be antsy and ask about her, when she doesn’t show up to work, even though, as a CEO, he really shouldn’t be bothered about things like whether the office temp worker has called in – or at least, not to the extent that he is.
A big part of Woo Joo’s appeal, I think, is that she’s much more caring that you might expect.
And again, aside from what Dong Jin can see, we also see that at play, during times that Dong Jin isn’t privy to, like when Woo Joo takes a drunk Min Young home, and then can’t bring herself to just leave Min Young in a heap by her door, because it’s cold.
Instead, Woo Joo sits with her, and then eventually brings her into the apartment, presumably, once she’s able to rouse Min Young enough to tell her the passcode, and then, later, she even cleans up Min Young’s apartment, when she sees the mess.
It’s not like she really cares about Min Young or even likes her, really; it’s just who she is.
And, as we see how kind Woo Joo is, we can’t help but like her – which is similar to how Dong Jin can’t help but like her as well, I feel.
E7. Things between Dong Jin and Woo Joo are awkward, this episode, for sure, especially when they come face to face outside his apartment building, and Woo Joo confesses that she’d slept at Min Young’s apartment.
But, I did very much enjoy watching them have breakfast and coffee together.
One of the things that I really like, is seeing Dong Jin and Woo Joo eat together, because that’s what family does; that’s what couples do.
And here, where it likely often feels like they’re so isolated – Dong Jin in particular – in these moments, they have each other, and it feels like, at least for a moment, they are family, to each other. 🥰
On top of that, there’s a really nice layer of hyperawareness between them, that I’m really digging.
It’s mostly in the little flicks of body language, that tell us how aware they are, of each other, like how Woo Joo reacts, when Dong Jin smiles in amusement, when she blanks out and can’t remember the camping “whatever.”
And there’s also how Dong Jin reacts, when he sees Woo Joo drag Yoon Joon out of sight, to talk to him, when she sees him waiting for her outside the office building.
Clearly, Dong Jin’s very curious to know what kind of relationship Woo Joo has with Yoon Joon.
And then, there’s that moment, when Woo Joo makes to leave the office, and from inside the meeting room, Dong Jin literally can’t take his eyes off her.
What really gets me, in that moment, is the silent wistfulness in his gaze, and the disappointment in his face, as he watches her leave.
It just hits me as being extra poignant, because Dong Jin’s always looked so alone; and in this moment, it looks like he’s feeling abandoned, all over again.
As we close out the episode, we have Dong Jin and Woo Joo both coming face to face with their feelings, in a manner of speaking.
First, there’s how Dong Jin answers Min Young in the elevator, when she tells him that she’s going to move away, “If it’s because of me, you can stay. It’s your house. I’m saying… I finally don’t care what you do.”
The fact that his context for saying this, is the memory of Woo Joo telling him that she’d like him to be able to live comfortably in his own home, is very telling.
..As is the way Woo Joo blurts out to Yoon Joon, that she simply worries a little more about Dong Jin – than everyone else in her life, including her sick mom.
That’s very telling too.
E8. When Ji Gu calls to let Dong Jin know that Woo Joo’s drunk in the playground, the way Dong Jin runs out of his apartment, like he’s on the most important mission ever – and doesn’t even stop to change into proper shoes – says so much, about how important Woo Joo is, in his heart.
Also, the fact that when he comes face to face with a tipsy Woo Joo, one of his first remarks, is that she should’ve called him, since she’d come.
There’s an assumption of relationship and connection in that statement, that really appeals to me, even though Dong Jin himself looks a little awkward to have let the words come out of his mouth.
As they sit outside the convenience store, as Woo Joo sobers up a little, I’m quite taken with how open she is, in telling him about her past as an athlete, and how she’d ended up having to give up archery, because she’d thrown herself in front of her dad’s car, in her effort to fix the situation, of him having an affair.
That’s so much personal information, shared so freely and openly.
My heart perked up at this – only to pinch and deflate, as Woo Joo tells Dong Jin that he can’t like her; that all he has to do, is not like her, and everything would be fine.
Aw. He looks pinched and deflated to hear her say this.
What he doesn’t know, is that the reason she says this, is because she likes him. But to her mind, as long as he doesn’t like her back, they’re all good, because things won’t get complicated, right?
Unfortunately, Dong Jin doesn’t understand that this is why Woo Joo says what she does, and he ends up thinking a completely different thought, when he asks Kang Goon what those words might mean, and Kang Goon interprets it as a rejection, ouch.
I tend to think that Dong Jin’s more open to this train of thought, rather than the possibility that Woo Joo likes him, is because he’s been living with rejection for so long, that it’s become the more natural conclusion for him to reach for.
That’s a sad thought, isn’t it? 😭
I shouldn’t be surprised, but I’m still a little deflated, that Woo Joo’s way of dealing with her growing feelings for Dong Jin, is to squash them, and wrap things up, so that she can cleanly and easily walk out of his life, when the time comes.
That said, the decision that she makes, to give up on the house, is clearly on Dong Jin’s account, and that’s Huge, because that house has always meant so much to her.
And yet, because she wants to give Dong Jin as much peace as she can, she’s opting to give up on her right to the house.
Woo Joo may not allow herself to love Dong Jin in many ways, but in the ways that she does allow herself to, we can see that that love is selfless and sacrificial, which, honestly, is exactly what Dong Jin needs.
And, in the thing about the button, to my eyes, Woo Joo’s basically allowing herself this one tiny way of showing care for Dong Jin, and she’s refusing to give it up easily, judging from how she responds when Dong Jin tells her not to do that anymore.
“Can’t you just think I did it because I could and just take it? You don’t have to be sorry or grateful for every little thing. I want to do it. And I’ll do it again if I want to, so lock the door if you don’t want it.”
She tells Dong Jin not to assign meaning to it, and then basically refuses to accept his refusal; I feel like this is her laying claim on the one thing that she’s allowing herself to do for him, and I do find this pretty affecting.
It’s no wonder Dong Jin wavers, as he tells Sun Woo later.
It’s just that after being hurt so badly, he’s promised himself to not get hurt or abandoned again – which is clearly the thing that’s holding him back from actually actively pursuing Woo Joo.
The tears in his eyes make me sad, because it’s so clear to see, that he doesn’t want to bury these feelings that he’s having; he doesn’t want to bury the possibility of having Woo Joo in his life.
E8. What a contrast to Min Young, when we see Woo Joo standing guard and fending off CEO Shin, who’s about to rush the scene and interrupt Dong Jin and Min Young.
My goodness; I feel really affected by Woo Joo, because she’s protecting Dong Jin’s privacy, even though she likes him, and protecting this moment could potentially lead to him being reunited with Min Young.
E9. Woo Joo does do and say things that are overtly supportive of Dong Jin, and I can see why that would cause him to be drawn to her, but that distinct layer of fragility in her, makes me feel that his being drawn to her, isn’t all about what she does for him; it’s also about him wanting to protect her.
Although Show is more subtle with this second layer than with the first, I feel it, and that’s largely to do with my personal response to Woo Joo; if I want to protect her, I find it easy to understand that Dong Jin would feel the same way too.
I definitely feel for Woo Joo, because, even though it’s becoming clear that she’s fairly cognizant of her feelings for Dong Jin, there’s that whole thing where his mom’s played a key role in ruining her family, and also, that thing where his mom’s kicked them out of their family home – and is now living in it.
That’s A LOT, and I can completely understand why Woo Joo would feel that it’s a barrier that she simply cannot cross.
In fact, I’m so convinced of the barriers themselves, that as a viewer, I can’t imagine what a happy ending would look like, for Dong Jin and Woo Joo’s relationship, and that’s also part of the reason I find myself so engrossed.
I want them to find happiness in each other, but with all the complicated family stuff, I just don’t see how they would be able to do that, while still existing in their current contexts.
And, I don’t see either of them being ready to cut ties with their families, in order to be together, so where does that leave them? I feel so very invested in the answer to this question, and I really, really hope that Show’s got a good answer prepared.
As for Dong Jin, he’s not aware of all the family complications, but I can also understand why he’s holding back.
He’s been deeply hurt, and has vowed to never allow himself to be hurt the same way again; that means not getting involved with anyone, because things are always peachy in the beginning anyway.
Plus, I’m also guessing that there’s a part of him that sees his mom as a deterrent, in more ways than one. Not only would she be a difficult mother-in-law, I’m also guessing that he’s disillusioned by her multiple relationships, none of which have ended well.
Granted, this is altogether less of a barrier than the full backstory that Woo Joo’s grappling with, and so it makes complete sense to me, that between them, it’s Dong Jin who wavers more distinctly, in terms of allowing himself to open his heart to Woo Joo.
Going back to where we left off last episode, I realize, that another part of the reason I find myself moved by Woo Joo’s care for Dong Jin, is because of how selfless that care is.
Like when she blocks CEO Shin’s path, when he looks like he’s going to approach Dong Jin and Min Young, while Min Young’s grabbing Dong Jin in the backhug.
She stands to gain nothing, by getting involved, and yet, she puts herself on the line, to protect Dong Jin, like the way she does at the top of the episode, and then, even more, in the way she blocks CEO Shin again, at the end of the episode.
No matter how I think about it, the only thing I can think of, that Woo Joo could possibly stand to gain from putting herself on the line like this, is a possible soothing of her conscience, for the way she’d tried to hurt Dong Jin, in the past.
If there’s anything self-centered in her actions to protect Dong Jin, this is likely it.
And even then, I still see this as being more selfless than self-centered; in the end, all she wants is for Dong Jin to be able to live happily and peacefully, and she’s willing to get hurt for it.
I’m definitely getting ahead of myself here, so let me back up, again.
Going back to Dong Jin, I really believe him when he says that he’s finally over Min Young.
The way he reacts to her now, is more indifferent than anything. He’s not actively avoiding her anymore, and is willing to express care and concern for her – but just the kind of care and concern that he’d be willing to offer anyone else.
He doesn’t give her medicine for her fever because she’s anything special to him, one way or another; like he says, he’d do that for anyone, and that convinces me that he’s really completely over Min Young.
It’s like nothing she says can really affect his life anymore, and this somehow gives me a sense of security, on Woo Joo’s behalf. Is that weird? 😅
I feel bad for Dong Jin, that as he finds the courage to reach out to connect more with Woo Joo – like the way he texts her to ask her about her coming over to collect Ji Gu’s things – Woo Joo’s at a place in her life, where she’s trying to distance herself from him, because she’s reminded of just how impossible it is, between them.
If I imagine myself in Dong Jin’s shoes – finally trying to connect with someone after hiding in my shell for the last 3 years, and getting avoidance in response – I would likely feel the rejection amplified many times, and retreat even harder, into my shell.
Dong Jin does retreat, but not nearly as hard as I would, in his shoes, so in that sense, I feel like he’s still allowing a flicker of hope to remain, in his heart, even though Woo Joo’s pushing him away.
Through all of this, I feel like I can see, through the small awkward, nervous ticks in Dong Jin’s face, just how much effort it’s taking for him, to put himself out there like this, with Woo Joo, especially when she starts lashing out at him, in an effort to put distance between them.
And even then, Dong Jin reaches for empathy and understanding first, in the way he says, “It’s a sickness, right? That you can’t stop speaking once you explode.” And at the same time, in the tears glistening in his eyes, I can see how much he’s hurt by this. Oof.
At the same time, I can see how much it’s hurting Woo Joo too; it looks like this is hurting her at least as much as it’s hurting Dong Jin, and it’s just all around heart-pinching stuff.
E9. I do love that moment that we close on, with Dong Jin holding his hand against Woo Joo’s cheek as she starts to come to, and Woo Joo reaching her hand to his – and Dong Jin rubbing his thumb against her hand, as they eyes lock.
Ahhhh. This feels So Significant! 🤩🤩
E10. Even though Woo Joo’s been pushing Dong Jin away, and even though Dong Jin’s demonstrated that he’s received the message loud and clear, my heart can’t help but wobble at how it all goes out the window, the moment Dong Jin hears that Woo Joo’s hurt.
The way he rushes out of the office and heads straight for the hospital is one thing. But the way he loses his cool and makes to attack CEO Shin, is on a whole other level.
For this to come from Dong Jin, who’s always been the epitome of restraint, is HUGE.
And the fact that he’s reacting this way, on Woo Joo’s account, is huge, too. My heart; it wobbles.
Add on the fact that Woo Joo doesn’t want to press charges against CEO Shin; that, in by Sun Woo’s account, it’s enough for her to know that he’s not bold enough to seek revenge (against Dong Jin), and I’m just flailing all over the place, here.
She doesn’t care about her own wellbeing and the fact that she got injured; all she cares about, is that Dong Jin will be safe.
Augh. I mean, I don’t want Woo Joo to be hurt, of course, but I am so getting feels from all this.
And then, we finally get to the scene where we ended, last episode, and I am melting into a puddle at how Dong Jin keeps on rubbing his thumb over Woo Joo’s fingers, as he holds her hand, his eyes locked on hers.
It’s like he’s telling her, again and again, through each rub of his thumb, that he’s not holding her hand by accident; that he is there for her; that she can believe that he wants to hold onto her. Flail.
It’s Woo Joo, coming to herself, who breaks the moment by pulling his hand away from her cheek, and starts talking about how she’d used to be an athlete, and so a little injury like this is nothing.
While part of me wishes she wouldn’t, the rest of me remembers why Woo Joo is trying to distance herself from Dong Jin, and understands.
Despite this, I feel like, this episode, we see Woo Joo allowing herself to get just a little closer to Dong Jin – and then just a little closer.
It’s like she’s bargaining with herself – or with Fate, as it were – to give her just a little bit more time with Dong Jin, and then, just a little more.
And, as she allows some of those strict boundaries to soften, I can see the hope, comfort and joy this gives Dong Jin, and it’s so lovely, really – except for the part of me that’s bracing for the time when Woo Joo withdraws herself all over again.
I love the way Dong Jin’s gaze softens, as he tells Woo Joo that she doesn’t have to feel people out anymore, and that she can come get Ji Gu’s things anytime, because he’ll be waiting for her.
Ahhh. There’s something so satisfying about seeing Dong Jin rise to the occasion, and be the stronger, more open person in the equation.
He’s been withdrawn and wounded for so long, that it feels like a breakthrough all on its own, that he can position himself to be the more open person, in this situation. 🥰
I got a legit thrill, to realize that he texts Woo Joo as he’s leaving the office, to tell her that he’ll be out for work stuff, but inviting her to have lunch with him afterwards.
Ahhh. Isn’t there a couple vibe about this, the way he even tells Woo Joo that he’ll be out of the office, even though he doesn’t technically owe her an explanation? I love it. 🥰
Beyond from the very endearing hyper-awareness that we see burgeoning between them, as they eat together, I love even more, the deep and honest conversations that are starting to become a hallmark of their interactions.
The fact that they can be so honest with each other, in such a deeply personal manner, just gets me in the knees, y’all.
I love that Dong Jin can admit to Woo Joo that he left that former client hanging because he was feeling petty, and I love that Woo Joo can reframe it in a way that helps Dong Jin; that it’s only when this client has experienced what Dong Jin had experienced, in waiting for him for 5 hours, will he be truly able to understand Dong Jin’s position.
In all of this, I love how Woo Joo’s advice to Dong Jin, is to help him overcome whatever false duties he’s given himself, to be kind and nice, and just be true to himself. She doesn’t care what it is that Dong Jin wants; she just wants him to be able to act in a way that’s true to himself.
She wants him to learn to embrace himself, and blossom and be confident in how he feels and what he wants, and I find that very touching.
..Which is how Dong Jin ends up rejecting that business opportunity, not because it wouldn’t be good for the business, because that’s what he wants to do. It feels like Dong Jin’s truly liberated, for the first time, and I like that a lot.
E10. It feels like a very significant step, that Dong Jin asks Woo Joo to go camping with him, and it also feels very significant, that she agrees to go.
It literally feels like Dong Jin’s reclaiming what was lost because of Min Young, and he’s choosing to reclaim it, with Woo Joo by his side. ❤️
This episode, I am reveling in all the little steps that these two people are taking, to become closer, if only by a little bit, and if only for a little while, in all of their introverted, awkward glory.
I loved Do You Like Brahms (review is here!) for showcasing what it’s like for introverts to meet and fall in love, and now, I’m loving this show for doing the same – this time, in a less shiny context, with a little more poignance and angst.
All the shifty-shy gazes, the halting sentences, the fidgety hands; it’s all gloriously embedded into the interactions that we see between Dong Jin and Woo Joo this episode, and I love it. 😍
And through it all, that candid honesty keeps shining through, like this is the only way they know how to be, around each other.
Like the way Dong Jin tells Woo Joo that he hadn’t wanted to go camping for the past 3 years, because he felt that he’d have to face his worst self, if he went, and the way he answers, when Woo Joo asks why he wants to go now; that it’s because he’d wanted to go with her.
Augh. The candid sweetness.
And then there’s also the way Dong Jin explains why he likes camping; that it allows him to take his mind off things, and rest both his mind and body.
It all feels like such deeply personal talk; I love it.
With Woo Joo’s mom coming back into the picture, though, this episode, all the pain of their family losing their home to Dong Jin’s mom comes rushing back, fresh and sharp, to the surface, and I can’t help but brace for what Woo Joo will do next, in response.
Because, even as Dong Jin starts to heal properly, such that he’d even take down the tent in his home, which he’s been using as a safe island of sorts, Woo Joo can’t help but be confronted with the impossibility of a future for the two of them, given their tangled family history.
Poor Woo Joo. Just like Ji Gu says, she’s trying to shoulder this all her own, too.
I honestly don’t know if there is a future to be had, for Dong Jin and Woo Joo, but I do think that her next step, should be telling Dong Jin the truth, so that he can bear it together with her, instead of her trying to bear it all on her own.
E11. In this drama world, I’m most interested in the OTP relationship, and right now, the thing that I find most interesting about the OTP relationship, is how so much is left unsaid between them, when it comes to the state of their relationship.
What I mean is, things between Dong Jin and Woo Joo shift in such slow, fluid degrees, that, off the top of my head, I can’t even pinpoint when their connection went from platonic to romantic.
They just.. seem to understand, now, that they aren’t just colleagues or friends to each other; they’re more than that, and they are both ok with that, to varying degrees.
Like I mentioned last episode, Dong Jin’s much more comfortable about acting on his feelings compared to Woo Joo, because he’s not wrestling with the knowledge of their families’ tangled history the way Woo Joo is.
One thing that catches my attention, this episode, is how Dong Jin already knows that it’s Woo Joo’s birthday, without needing anyone to tell him, because he’d seen it on her resume.
I’m pretty surprised by the matter-of-fact way Show drops this little nugget of information, because this little nugget does change my understanding of the context of the OTP relationship in quite a key way.
Like, wait, Dong Jin had liked Woo Jin from much earlier on? Whennnn? I want to know, as much as Sun Woo wants to know, and I’m rather disappointed (though not at all surprised) that Dong Jin doesn’t answer Sun Woo’s question.
E11. I also love that this milestone with Mom, seems to be giving Dong Jin the courage to be more open than before, in sharing his thoughts and feelings with Woo Joo, like how he liked that she approached him without a smile, and told him, with a straight face, to not be scared.
That feels so raw and honest and real, for Dong Jin.
It feels like the more Dong Jin opens up his heart to Woo Joo, the more she can’t help but want to open up her heart to him too.
And then we have an official hand-hold! It’s a little awkward and shy, but it’s also gentle and firm, like Dong Jin’s silently saying that he’s not about to let go of Woo Joo, and I love it. 😍
It’s a bummer (but not unexpected, I suppose), that a spanner shows up, in the form of Manager Cha inadvertently revealing to Sun Woo, that Woo Joo had actually helped him sabotage the company, and threatens to derail everything.
Yikes. With Sun Woo being so protective of Dong Jin, I can understand him wanting to get to the truth of the matter – and keep Dong Jin from getting too close to Woo Joo, if possible, in the meantime.
With that hanging over us, narratively, there’s definitely an added layer of tension in the air, even as Woo Joo goes over to Dong Jin’s apartment, to get Di Gu’s things.
I just want to block it out, because, as we close out the episode, we have such meaningful developments between Dong Jin and Woo Joo.
Them sharing a meal; them sharing more honest conversation that’s filled with personal details not easily shared with others; Dong Jin telling Woo Joo that he’s laying it all out in the open, because he really wants to make it work with her.
And then, Dong Jin looking right at her, and asking, “Do you want to sleep over tonight?”
His eyes are glinting with tears as much as her eyes are burgeoning with tears too, and it feels like such a raw, vulnerable moment. It feels like their eyes are saying so much to each other – he laying it all out, and she, drinking it all in – as she silently nods.
Augh. There’s a thickness of emotion in the air between them, which – to my eyes – also feels light in some way, like they’ve liberated themselves by being honest with each other.
I’m completely mesmerized.
E12. When Dong Jing tells her that he’d always thought of running away, Woo Joo immediately knows that he’d never be able to do it, because he’s too responsible and cares too much, to even switch off his phone for a while.
I love this idea, that even though Woo Joo hasn’t known Dong Jin for that long, she knows him that well. ❤️
And how significant, that while Dong Jin’s been more of the one opening up to Woo Joo, it’s gotten to the point where Woo Joo’s opening up to Dong Jin too. I like this reciprocity. 🥰
Also, how honest is she, to tell him that she’d thought of running home, when he’d gone out to buy the beer – but she won’t, because she likes being with him too much.
Guh. With these two, it feels like honesty is precious and somehow sexy, at the same time?
“I… really like you a lot, Han Dong Jin-sshi. To the point where I wish everyone else in the world would just disappear and only the two of us would be left.”
These words hit me extra, because it really brings out just how much Woo Joo wishes she could separate her relationship with Dong Jin, with everything else in her life. If only they couldn’t exist outside of their context, they would be blissfully happy together.
That’s.. so poignant, isn’t it? 🥺
And then we have kisses, and it’s all so tender and tentative, so breathless and ardent, so gentle and hungry, that I feel like I’m a voyeur peeping at real-life lovers; it feels that raw.
I’m glad (and honestly quite relieved) that the consummation of the OTP relationship is treated with restraint and modesty, because with dramas streaming exclusively on international platforms, I feel like you never know?
With this OTP in particular, with both of them being such reserved people, it also feels narratively sound, to give them that privacy, I feel like.
And, it’s so like them, that things would largely continue to be low-key and matter-of-fact between them – just now with an added touch of tamped down sweetness.
Like how Woo Joo gets up and leaves early – but not without first cooking breakfast for Dong Jin, and leaving him a quick note, to tell him to eat well.
Dong Jin’s reaction is, again, in that low-key, tamped down sort of space, but it’s easy to see that he’s really pleased about waking up to this.
I love that little detail, that he would take a photo of his breakfast, before eating it, which is something I’m sure he wouldn’t ordinarily do.
E12. This episode, that tension that comes from Sun Woo pressing Woo Joo for the truth, comes back to the fore, and my heart sinks at the thought of this precious freshly minted OTP, which vibes to me like some rare and fragile exotic egg, might get broken. 🙈
I’m with Woo Joo in asking Sun Woo for more time.
It’s 100% true that it’s better for him to hear the truth from her rather than from someone else, and it’s also true that it would be better if he could hear that truth, well, not right now. 😬
The thing is, as Woo Joo’s wrestling with how and when to tell Dong Jin, he’s amping up the boyfriend behavior, like walking to her desk and telling her that he’s going out for a meeting and won’t be coming back to the office, in front of everyone else, and I can just see the conflict in Woo Joo’s eyes.
Guh. I feel for her; she must feel like she has to stab Dong Jin with a knife, almost, and that must be killing her.
E13. I really appreciate Dong Jin’s trust in Woo Joo’s character, even as Sun Woo tells him what he knows; that Woo Joo had helped Manager Cha to sabotage the company, at one point.
And, even before he talks with Woo Joo about it, he’s already processed it in a way that he can accept; that this was before they’d started seeing each other, and it wasn’t something major that she’d lied about, and he’s ok with it.
Dong Jin’s heart to love and forgive, when it comes to Woo Joo, is just so great.
I already found this touching, at this point, which is before Woo Joo tells him the whole truth. But then when he hears the truth from Woo Joo, I’m blown away all over again, by his capacity to love, accept and forgive.
As Woo Joo tells him the truth, standing outside the house that her family had used to live in, and all the various things she’d said start coming together in Dong Jin’s mind, and it all starts to piece together for him, the look of sadness that starts creeping into his expression, is so poignant.
And, even as Woo Joo blurts out all the way he should be angry at her, all he says, is, “But in the end, you couldn’t take your revenge on me. I wasn’t ruined. Right now I’m just… I’m sad.”
That hug that he enfolds her in, is so beautiful and bittersweet at the same time. There’s sadness, worry and wistfulness, but there’s also love and acceptance, and in this moment, it’s so clear, that the love and acceptance that Dong Jin feels, trumps everything.
The tears that he sheds, and the quiver in his lips as he holds Woo Joo; the tears that Woo Joo cries, as she clings onto Dong Jin; you can just feel that these two know, in their hearts, that this might be the last time they’ll be able to hold each other like this.
It’s heartbreaking, but at the same time, I can’t help but also marvel at how much beauty there is, in their broken embrace. 🥲💔
E14. I really wish that Dong Jin and Woo Joo could just be suspended in time, in that embrace, so that they’d be able to be together like that forever, and escape the harshness of their reality, but – sob – that’s not to be, and it really hits me in the heart, when they break apart, and Dong Jin walks away from Woo Joo. Wahhh. 😩
E14. Poor Dong Jin. The way he sits in the car and cries, as he thinks about Woo Joo’s words to him, that they really can’t see each other anymore now, is so quietly guttural. I feel like this realization is really breaking him. 😭
For the first time since we’ve met him, Dong Jin’s distancing himself from work, like in the way he goes to the house to look for Hee Ja, when he’s actually needed at the office, the way he’s so subdued and almost distant, even when he’s physically present during meetings, and also, the way he takes that week off from work.
As we hear one of the staff remark, this is the first time he’s taken any time off from work, since she’d joined the company.
..Which really makes the point, that Woo Joo’s affecting him in a very big way.
As Min Young observes, even though Woo Joo’s hurt him and betrayed him in some ways, Dong Jin is very clear on the fact that Woo Joo loves him and wants the best for him. That definitely counts for something.
E14. I’m with Dong Jin, in wanting him to pass that will to Woo Joo and her family right away, and start making things right, but – and I’m sure Dong Jin doesn’t count on this either – Woo Joo’s dead set on protecting Dong Jin, even if it means letting Hee Ja off for the fraud that she committed, in claiming the house was hers.
This is clearly Woo Joo’s way of continuing to love Dong Jin, even now after they’ve broken up; she doesn’t want him to have to deal with any more nonsense with Hee Ja on top of what he’s already dealing with. And if that means that they forgo their claim on the house, so be it.
Wow. That’s a huge ask on her part, of her family, and I’m curious to know just what Mom’s thinking, on the other end of the line, as she hears all this from Woo Joo.
I have a feeling that Mom’s got more compassion for Dong Jin than Woo Joo believes, so I’m hoping that Mom will be our MVP in the coming episodes, in helping Dong Jin and Woo Joo gain a reunion and a happy ending. Fingers crossed.
Right now, I’m just kind of relieved that Dong Jin finds Woo Joo there, on the hill, and has most likely heard everything that Woo Joo’s said to Mom, about giving up on the house, because she wants to protect Dong Jin.
For one thing, him hearing everything means that Woo Joo’s attempt to forego the house will be nipped in the bud, yes?
And for another, I find it comforting, that Dong Jin gets some reassurance of Woo Joo’s love for him, even if it’s like this.
Plus, now, he gets to assure her right back – which I’m hoping we’ll get to see, next episode, along with other happy ending things, pretty please.
Kim Ye Won as Hye Seong
I do think that Hye Seong is a character the divides viewers. I think some folks find her frustrating and perhaps even a little annoying, while others like her and find her endearing.
Personally, I found myself liking Hye Seong quite well, though there were times when I did find her a little frustrating. So I sometimes found her.. endearingly frustrating? 😁
Overall, though, I liked her for her good-heartedness towards others, and her perceptiveness and insightfulness, in reading people.
Here are a handful of Hye Seong highlights, during my watch.
E3. Even though the people around Hye Seong think lightly of her, for getting into relationships and having her heart broken again and again, there’s something quite endearing about how she’s willing to trust others, even after having been betrayed so many times.
Like, she’s clearly been hurt in love multiple times, and yet, when Park Su Ho (Seo Yi Seo) the security guard gives her that drink with that note, she’s so unguarded, like she’s willing to be vulnerable with her heart all over again, if this is what she thinks it is.
Some might call it foolish, but at the same time, there’s also something very courageous about it, isn’t there?
At the same time, Hye Seong does appear to be quite perceptive, with her remark that truly lonely people are the ones who can’t even say that they’re lonely.
E10. In an indirect echo of the dynamic in our OTP relationship, we see Hye Seong struggling with how to be true to herself, in her relationship with Su Ho.
Although her situation isn’t the same as Dong Jin’s, it’s similar in the sense that she’s also spent a lot of time suppressing what she truly wants.
It’s great that she finds such liberation in following Yoon Joon’s advice to just be true to herself and not always try to behave in a way that pleases others, and then it sucks that her happiness turns out to be short-lived, because Su Ho is a lousy boyfriend who doesn’t actually empathize with her and is just going through the motions.
I’m sorry that Hye Seong’s felt this slap in the face like this, but I can’t help thinking that it’s better for her to break things off with Su Ho early, rather than let it drag on for a long time.
Either way, I’m convinced that she’s better off without him.
This episode, it seems that perhaps she might be happier with Yoon Joon, since she finds solace in Yoon Joon’s sympathetic arms, but y’know, at this point, I actually think that maybe the better thing for Hye Seong, would be to learn to be happy all on her own first, before even considering whether to make her life better, with a boyfriend.
E11. And then there’s also the thing where, during their formal break-up conversation, Su Ho alleges that Hye Seong’s so conflict averse that she’s probably never argued with any of her boyfriends – and he turns out to be right.
Well, that definitely puts things in a new light for me.
I mean, so far, I’d just had the impression that Hye Seong had a habit of picking lousy boyfriends who treated her poorly and broke her heart.
And, even though Hye Seong’s personality that we’ve seen so far, matches with this new piece of information, I hadn’t actually thought that this was a Thing, with Hye Seong.
Right now, my main wish for Hye Seong, is for her to become happy and content in her own skin, rather than for her to actually find a better boyfriend.
E12. This episode, I’m actually glad to see Hye Seong eating on her own, even though that’s the thing that she hates the most.
I feel like this is such a clear indication of Hye Seong’s insecurities; she isn’t confident enough in herself, or like herself enough, to be ok eating on her own.
I’d really like her to overcome this, because when she’s able to enjoy her own company, I’ll know that she’s ready to actually meet her Mr. Right, finally.
E13. I have to say I’d been expecting Hye Seong to sound a lot more accusing of Woo Joo, in telling Mom and Ji Gu the truth. But instead, she distinctly sounds like she pities Woo Joo, as she asks, with tears in her eyes, what they’ll do with Woo Joo.
I do really appreciate her empathy, that Woo Joo, who’s always been so painfully alone, has finally found someone that she really likes – but that someone has turned out to be someone that they just can’t approve, no matter what.
Sung Joon as Yoon Joon [BROAD SPOILERS]
Yoon Joon’s a pretty secondary sort of character, in that his main role is mainly to be there for Woo Joo and her family, and also, function as a potential alternative love interest for Hye Seong.
Show does give us glimpses behind his nonchalant, stoic sort of persona, though, and I did find it quite poignant, that he’s so isolated from his own parents, and that Woo Joo’s family is the closest thing he’s got, to a family.
For this reason, I did find myself wanting good things for Yoon Joon.
Yoon Joon and Hye Seong [BROAD SPOILERS]
From pretty early on in our story, I felt like I could see a potential loveline between Yoon Joon and Hye Seong, and so I wasn’t opposed to the idea of Show pushing it.
However, I did have mixed feelings about Hye Seong telling Yoon Joon that her heart is fluttering because of him, in episode 11.
I mean, on the plus side, she’s being true to her heart and herself, and she isn’t ashamed of how she feels.
On the other hand, the way she just tells Yoon Joon how she feels, comes across as something that she says without first considering how this might make him feel.
It’s not clear whether she even thought about how her confession might make Yoon Joon feel, and that feels a little.. less than considerate, to me, if that makes sense?
I mean, romantic feelings between long-time friends is a rather delicate sort of thing, because it might potentially make the friendship weird, going forward, and it might make the other person feel uncomfortable &/or awkward.
But it doesn’t seem like Hye Seong’s even thought of these things, and that’s why I found myself eventually feeling rather ambivalent about whether this loveline ever went anywhere.
For the record, I’m glad that Show takes its time to bring this loveline to fruition, because this gives Hye Seong the time that she needs, to grow and heal as a person first, before finding happiness with someone else.
Woo Joo and Yoon Joon
I just wanted to say that I really like the friendship between Woo Joo and Yoon Joon.
He’s always there for her when she needs him, like when that customer tries to hit on Yoon Joon, and Woo Joo arrives, and falls into step with him without missing a beat, in pretending to be his girlfriend.
Here are just a couple of instances where I found myself reflecting on the depth of their friendship.
E3. I find that in that the scene, where Woo Joo threatens to never see Yoon Joon again if he calls her mom, and he agrees, and impresses on her how weighty of a threat this is, because he really does want to live with her and her siblings – and then how she then sighs and agrees that, fine, they shouldn’t see each other anymore then, really brings out both of their bottom lines.
To Yoon Joon, his bottom line is that Woo Joo doesn’t get hurt anymore, and that’s why he’s putting their friendship on the line like this – for her sake.
And to Woo Joo, her bottom line is that she needs to do something to take revenge on the woman who destroyed her family, and then threw her and her siblings out of the family home, and that’s why she’s willing to take that hard line and never see Yoon Joon again, if that’s what it takes.
I feel like this scene tells us a lot about both Yoon Joon and Woo Joo, and also, about their relationship; they are close enough, that they’re able to lay out their deepest cards like this, bare and unembellished – and expect the other person to understand.
E4. Yoon Joon’s turning out to be a pretty supportive listener, even though he’s been against Woo Joo’s revenge to begin with.
I mean, just the way he drops everything that he’s doing, and sits down to listen to her, with that look of concern on his face, says a lot to me.
In this moment, after listening to Woo Joo, Yoon Joon actually concedes that Woo Joo deserves to take revenge, because everything she’s suffered has just been so, so much to take, and so very unfair.
But I’m also glad that Yoon Joon asks her to stop here, and I can tell that he says this, for her own sake.
Ahn Hee Yeon as Min Young [BROAD SPOILERS]
Generally speaking, I didn’t like Min Young very much, on the principle that she’d hurt Dong Jin so much, and is, in the present, still more preoccupied with her own desires, than in Dong Jin’s wellbeing.
Despite all the things not to like about Min Young, however, I don’t think that Min Young is malicious.
I don’t think she’s out to hurt Dong Jin or anything; she’s just too blinded by her own feelings and thoughts, that she doesn’t appear to be able to act beyond her own interests.
And, as frustrating as Min Young can be, I appreciate that she is depicted as someone with basic decency.
I do like that Show gives an opportunity for Min Young and Dong Jin to gain closure to their relationship.
E13. I’m glad that Dong Jin and Min Young have that talk, where he apologizes to her for ignoring and pretending not know how hard it had been for her, with his mom.
Min Young expressing that she feels so much better after hearing his words, reinforces the idea that the truth will indeed set you free (while also being an interesting juxtaposition with how that other big truth is coming down on Woo Joo and Dong Jin, and changing their relationship, this episode).
E14. One thing that Min Young says feels surprisingly insightful, to me, and that is, when she tells Sun Woo that she believes Dong Jin will be ok, because ultimately, he knows that Woo Joo loves him.
I just.. never expected that nugget of insight to come from Min Young. 😅
It definitely feels like that apology from Dong Jin’s set her free, and she’s now liberated to be the grounded, wiser version of herself that’s eluded her, all this time.
Dong Jin and Ji Gu
I just wanted to say that I actually really liked the friendship that grows between Dong Jin and Ji Gu.
They are such an unlikely pair, and yet, it feels like Ji Gu’s cheerfulness is just the thing that Dong Jin needs in his life.
Dong Jin and Uncle Dae Hong [SPOILERS]
I really appreciate the mutual care and concern between Dong Jin and Uncle Dae Hong, and even more so, after we learn that Uncle Dae Hong had been his stepfather at one point, because he’d been married to Hee Ja.
Technically speaking, there’s nothing to bind Uncle Dae Hong to Dong Jin any more, after divorcing Hee Ja, and yet, his affection and care for Dong Jin endures, over time and distance.
It’s very touching, to me, and I loved that little detail at the end of the show, where we see that Dong Jin’s got Uncle Dae Hong now saved as “Dad” on his phone. 🥰
Dong Jin and Sun Woo
I’d originally found Sun Woo kind of annoying, especially since he appeared to be quite irresponsible at work, but eventually, I came to realize that his affection for Dong Jin is very real.
E9. This episode, I find myself chuckling at Sun Woo’s antics, in encouraging a possible relationship between Dong Jin and Woo Joo.
He’s so smitten with the idea, he’s like a kid who just got told that he’s being taken out of school to go to Disneyland – for a week. 😁
Which definitely endears Sun Woo to me more than before, because it really is quite sweet how much personal joy he takes in the idea of Dong Jin’s happiness.
And I do think that Sun Woo’s encouragement and enthusiasm contributes to Dong Jin rethinking the whole thing with Woo Joo, and maybe seeing possibilities with Woo Joo, where before, he’d only seen a dead end.
E11. I am still rather tickled by how much delight Sun Woo is getting from the idea that Dong Jin likes someone. I’m glad for Dong Jin, that he has someone in his life who is so invested in his personal happiness.
And, when Sun Woo admits that he’d always felt sorry towards Dong Jin, for dragging him into starting this business with him, his enthusiasm and delight does take on a poignancy that I hadn’t been expecting.
That definitely adds a bit of emotional heft in an unexpected corner of our narrative. Very nice.
Woo Joo and Mom [SPOILERS]
E11. This episode, I find myself drawn to the mother-daughter relationship between Mom and Woo Joo.
Given what we see this episode, my gut tells me that Woo Joo’s most like Mom, among the siblings.
The way Mom shows up and cooks Woo Joo a birthday meal without first telling anyone that she was coming, and then without actually telling anyone that it’s a birthday meal for Woo Joo, feels like something that Woo Joo herself would do, I feel like.
And then there’s the way Woo Joo comes back to the house instead of going to work, so that she can be with Mom, and comfort her, in her own way – which is to silently do the dishes, while Mom rests.
The way they sit and eat silently feels like such a natural extension of both their personalities; it almost feels like this is the just the way they bond, and they’re perfectly fine with that.
And then, there’s the way Mom just sits and listens, while Woo Joo tells her about how she’d gone to Dad’s funeral in that gaudy outfit, in a bid for revenge – and then simply asks Woo Joo if she did get a funny story out of it like she’d thought she would.
I don’t know how to explain it, exactly, it feels like these two are mirror images of each other, to my eyes. Even the way they tend to look at people, like they’re about to stare a hole into someone, feels uncannily similar.
It feels.. quite special.
Kim Hee Jung as Mom
Even though Mom doesn’t enjoy a great deal of screen time, I found myself liking her a lot.
My favorite Mom-related highlight, is from episode 11.
E11. I’m actually really glad that Mom gets to meet Dong Jin, this episode, for a few reasons.
1, I’m glad that she gets to see for herself, the kind of nice, decent person that he is, with her own eyes, and I’m glad that she gets to make this assessment, before actually finding out who he is.
This way, she wouldn’t hopefully be less upset when she inevitably finds out who Dong Jin’s mother is, I hope.
2, I’m glad that Mom shows Dong Jin how much she likes him, because I think that’s really important for Dong Jin, particularly given his circumstances where he’s been rejected and abandoned so much, and doesn’t really have much in terms of a motherly presence in his life.
3, This feels like a potential catalyst to our story, because now that Mom’s met Dong Jin, it feels like Show won’t wait too much longer, to reveal the truth. And that truth needs to come out, if we’re to have any kind of resolution.
4, Now that she’s seen for herself what a down-to-earth, decent man Woo Joo is seeing, I feel like Mom’s heart will be more at ease, when it comes to Woo Joo.
5, It also feels like this milestone, of Dong Jin meeting Mom, serves as a solidifying force in his relationship with Woo Joo.
I was just talking about how their relationship has been fluidly evolving, but without much overt definition. Well, this milestone definitely feels like it’s pushing their relationship into a more defined space, and I like that.
I really like that conversation in the restaurant where Dong Jin tells Woo Joo about his conversation with Mom.
I LOVE that Mom didn’t ask him anything about his work, education or family, like most parents would; she only asks him about the really important stuff, like why he likes Woo Joo.
And, she only tells him the really important stuff, too, like how Woo Joo is really warm-hearted, once you get to know her.
That’s so awesome of Mom, truly. ❤️
I just wanted to give the relationship among our siblings a shout-out, because it feels relatable.
Like, they may not be close on a regular basis, but they know one another really well, and they do care about one another.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
Show is as resolutely measured and thoughtful as it’s always been, as it gears up for its finale, and I really do like that – and yet, at the same time, I can’t help but wish that Show would be a tiny bit more generous, with its happy ending for our OTP.
Does that make me weird? 😅
Let’s back up a bit, so that I can talk a bit about episode 15, before I talk about the finale.
There are couple of things that I really like about our penultimate episode.
The first one, is that Dong Jin hands the will over to Woo Joo, in such a gentle, caring and resolute manner.
It’s not an easy thing for him to do, because this will definitely result in a difficult (possibly prison-related) time for his mother, which will definitely have an impact on his own life as well, but he does it, because he loves Woo Joo and wants to do right by her.
And I love that, even as he prepares to do so, he gets the assurance that she loves him, and cares about his happiness, when he overhears her conversation with her mom/
The vibe between Dong Jin and Woo Joo feels so pure and wistful, and just a little bit awkward, as they talk with each other, each wanting the best for the other person, while fully cognizant of the fact that they will be breaking up, as an unavoidable consequence of all this.
Augh. It’s heart-pinching, moving stuff, and I feel completely mesmerized here.
Like, I know that they are going through a difficult time, and are about to separated, but I can’t help but be moved by how much they love each other, and how pure their feelings and intentions are, towards each other. 🥲
And, even without any prior discussion, they both separately come to the exact same conclusion, in terms of the best approach to take, in dealing with Hee Ja; that he should try to persuade her to cooperate, and failing that, they should take the matter to court.
It just goes to show just how much Dong Jin and Woo Joo are on the same page, doesn’t it?
It feels right to me, that Dong Jin quits the company.
It’s true that he needs the money from his severance package to pay back the money that his mom cheated from the potential buyers of the house, but beyond that, I do think that it’s a good move for Dong Jin.
He’s been working so hard at the company for so long, and it’s always been for the sake of other people; for the staff, and for Sun Woo.
It’s time that he get some rest, and so something for himself.
As for Hye Seong and Yoon Joon, it makes sense to me that Yoon Joon would experience a bit of a wake-up call, when he hears Hye Seong sobbing so hard, at the point when Woo Joo hands her their father’s will.
I can buy that it’s then that he finally realizes just how important Hye Seong is to him – and that’s what nudges him to want to be with Hye Seong for real.
I also like the idea that Hee Ja’s redemption has so much to do with Dong Jin.
Yes, it seems to start with Woo Joo’s mom going to see her, and telling her that she’s holding herself back on Dong Jin’s account, but the main catalyst, I think, is when Hee Ja realizes that Dong Jin’s lost the only woman who’d brought him happiness, because of her.
That really seems to be the breaking point, for Hee Ja, and I like that she at least tries to start being a mother to him now, even though she’s failed so badly at it, all his life. Her life’s not over, so it’s not too late to at least show that she’s sorry, right?
It’s such a sad, wistful sort of thing, to witness the goodbye meal that Dong Jin is invited to, by Woo Joo’s mom.
As a bystander, I just want these people (Woo Joo’s family included) to be happy together with Dong Jin, because they all clearly like and respect one another – and yet, this family context is causing them to put a stop to all the positive steps that they’ve taken, in their relationships.
I feel so bad for Dong Jin and Woo Joo. 💔
I’m glad that they take that trip out to the forest trail, since that’s a place that Dong Jin had really wanted to visit with Woo Joo, but it’s so very, very poignant and wistful, because this is obviously a farewell trip. 😭
I do appreciate how wonderfully understated, tender and affirming their interactions are, though, as they walk the trail together and spend some final moments in each other’s company.
I typically don’t prefer my drama finales to have time skips in them, but in this case, I can understand why it’s necessary.
In a situation like this, it’s time that heals all wounds, and without putting in the time, the wounds just cannot heal, and so, I appreciate why Show felt that this was necessary and fitting, for the ending of our story.
I have to admit, though, that as Show takes us through the various happy – or at least happier – endings of our various characters, with Yoon Joon asking Hye Seong to marry him, and Min Young and Sun Woo having a somewhat special connection, I became quickly antsy to get a happy ending for Dong Jin and Woo Joo.
And here’s where I feel just a teensy bit underwhelmed by what Show serves up.
I don’t know what I’d been expecting, but it did feel a touch underwhelming, that we don’t get a proper reunion scene, between Dong Jin and Woo Joo.
We know that in the year that’s passed, neither of them has stopped thinking about the other, and in my head, that’s probably snowballed into a lot of yearning on both sides.
I was hoping for a conversation, and an embrace, and all we get, is a scene of them looking at each other, at Ji Gu’s first busking performance.
I do like the idea that Show executes, which is that in this moment, the whole world fades away and all they – and we – see, is each other.
I just.. wish that Show could have given us a little more.
All in all though, I felt that our story ends in a way that’s very much in line with its personality, while still offering up a happy ending for Dong Jin and Woo Joo, so I can’t complain too much.
And I am so very sure, that Dong Jin and Woo Joo will share many conversations and embraces, long after the cameras stop rolling, and that is a sweet consolation indeed. ❤️
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Melancholically beautiful; thoughtful, measured and hopeful.
FINAL GRADE: A-
The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of Call It Love, is Dr. Cha. I’ve taken an initial look at Dr. Cha and I’m happy to say that it’s grabbing me very nicely, so far.
You can check out my E1-2 notes on Dr. Cha 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): +True To Love (Bo Ra! Deborah) [Korea]
Early Access Plus (US$10): +Silent [Japan]
VIP (US$15): +Nothing But You [China]
VVIP (US$20): +Oh No! Here Comes Trouble [Taiwan]
Ultimate (US$25): +Dr. Cha [Korea]
Oooh, that’ some high praise for this drama! I’m so glad that you enjoyed it so much. Thanks for such a well thought out review 🙂
I really liked this one. i specially love the song the brother sang on Ep 7, I can’t find the title anywhere 🙁
So glad you liked this one too. Tho this is a rare case I’d rate a show higher than you did. A solid A in my book. I may be an even bigger fan of romantic melos than you so it might be my genre bias. I also didn’t mind the ending as much. That final scene was such a masterclass in visual storytelling, so rich in subtext, that I didn’t mind losing some moments of OTP HEA that would have also been nice.
I’m really liking Dr Cha as well. So far it’s been consistently good fun and heartwarming. A hard combo to pull off. Keeping fingers crossed for the home stretch.
Yes, that final scene was classic. My wife and I also gave this one a solid A on our “already watched” list.
“My Mister, but with romance” captures the vibe perfectly!
After Call It Love, we watched Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo, starring the same FL, Lee Sung-kyung. Wow, it’s hard to believe this is the same actress. Truly opposite presentations of demeanor. And such a heart-warming feel-good show (even though the “humorous” sound effects common to some K-drama are not our cup of tea).
As for the ending of Call It Love, @JJ had forewarned me that the OTP didn’t get as much airtime (once things worked) out as she had hoped, so that didn’t bother us as much.
But what about the wonderful final ten seconds of the show? Haha, when two people are as emotionally restrained as those two, just seeing them openly smile at each other felt like the radiant sun coming out after weeks of overcast sky. A lovely way to end the show.
This show reminds me of the novel Crime and Punishment. In each case the protagonist thinks he is ruthless and able to achieve certain objectives by overcoming moral rules imposed from society. But finds their inner moral order not so easily set aside. Obviously the outcome was more positive here. It’s the ultimate anti-revenge drama. Also the opposite of The Glory, or Vincenzo (which were good shows) with a more realistic vision of what would happen if someone with a conscience set out for revenge in this way.
I like that this show was so patient in how things unfolded – never rushing or going (I think I’m remembering this right) for a cheap cliff hanger. And each shot was so carefully constructed, like an art house film. My personal rating was A.
I was on the fence about watching this one but when someone described it as loners finding their people I just had to check it out. I loved it. This is the first drama for both screenwriters and I’m looking forward to following their careers. Gorgeous cinematography, especially the use of shadows and overhead shots. The framing of the shots is exquisite. One of the few dramas where I’ve really noticed the cinematography. Beautiful evocative music. Love that this is not a cutesy rom-com. Our OTP said as much by the way they looked at each other as by what they said. Their longing for each other was palatable. In the end it’s about forgiveness. I too get frustrated by finale time skips, but this time skip was needed to give each of our OTP time to really heal themselves and find their place in the world. When they finally found each other again, it warmed my heart to see them finally give each other HUGE smiles! This one reminded me so much of My Liberation Notes. I really like these quiet, understated dramas!
Thank you for your review and thoughts. I felt all the scenes again so much. I loved how you pointed out the reciprocity which I hadn’t noticed and all those little moments of connection.
Yes I most certainly do call it love! Not just the romantic kind, but agape love as well since so much self-sacrifice (reasonably made and not foolishly made) has been offered by both parties. I poignantly sweet gem of a Show.
Thank you for the comprehensive review!
I like this show quite a lot; it’s not quite on My Mister level for me, but MM is after all an all-timer in my book, and I do see the similarities. Some fine performances and fine writing throughout made this a slow but satisfying journey.
A beautiful, beautiful show. Fabulous acting all round and from our leads in particular. This year has already firmed up as one that will be difficult to choose which show has the best OTP and so on.
They say when you are both on the extreme (opposite) edges of the universe, you are, in fact the same. It doesn’t matter how you got there. That’s what I really liked about this show, and then, how they moved into the middle and became the centre of that universe.
In amongst the muted weaving that show brought, I am going to say a special shout out to both mums who gave very fine performances. Both mums were, like their children, total opposites. One was, a mum that was fully relatable. The other, was so despicable, that even the white truck of doom wouldn’t have helped😉
My final thought is this. The fact that both our leads new, and actually had experience with, not judging a book by its cover – was so, so, so refreshing. I couldn’t help but have my fingers crossed the whole time when watching both leads in action. The writers didn’t let me down. However, I do agree, with a few more seconds at the very end, we may have all been that teeny weeny bit happier with the outcome.