THE SHORT VERDICT:
On the upside, Show is very pretty to look at, has a great-looking OTP that shares excellent chemistry, and it isn’t shy about serving up lots of OTP squee moments.
On top of that, Show’s got a very enjoyable OST scoring it all, so that it all feels like a worry-free, very pretty escape from Real Life.
On the downside, Show is so low-angst that the narrative tension it serves up is very low-stakes and therefore not very gripping. While this is in keeping with Show wanting to be a happy place, unfortunately, this also means that for some viewers, this could become pretty boring, pretty fast. 😅
Ultimately, your mileage will vary, depending on just how much of an appetite you have, for light, cotton-candy, pretty fluff.
THE LONG VERDICT:
Let me start this review by stating for the record that I really, really wanted to love this one.
Not only was I so ready for a rom-com in the vein of Classic Hallyu that didn’t have a side of murder, this stars Junho – and if you’ve been around the blog for a while, you probably know how I feel about Junho. 😍
And you know what, I did really enjoy this one a lot, until about the episode 10 mark or so.
It was after this point, that my need for some meaningful narrative tension kicked in, and because Show was lacking in this area (more on that later), I found myself starting to lose interest, in spite of my best intentions and my best efforts.
Because of this, you might find that some of my remarks seem like they’re from wildly different ends of the spectrum, as you read this review.
And that’s just coz sometimes, this show had me flailing on the floor – and then sometimes, this show had me zoning out, because I felt kind of distracted and underwhelmed. 😅
On balance, I don’t regret watching it, though, so there’s that?
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it while you read the review.
Overall, I’d say that the music in this show is very pleasant, and I do think that the music contributed a fair bit, to the feels that Show served up.
Out of the various tracks, if I had to pick a favorite, it’d be Track 6, You Are My. I just like the song’s groove (I think I have a thing for 6/8 tempos), and I do really like the vocals on this as well.
Here it is as well, in case you’d like to listen to it on repeat instead. Just right-click on the video and select “Loop.”
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS
Here are a few things that I think would be helpful to keep in mind, to maximize your enjoyment of your watch:
1. This is a low-angst, tropey rom-com in the vein of Classic Hallyu
I’ve heard some people say that King The Land is old-fashioned – but that’s the thing. For many viewers, that’s why this drama feels so effortlessly appealing.
I get that this show might not appeal to everyone. For example, if you’re looking for something with a fresh new twist, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for realism, this also isn’t it.
But if you cut your teeth on the classic k-romcom; if you’re sick and tired of romcoms that always seem to come with a side of murder &/or a serial killer; if you’re tired of dark, gritty shows, or heavy melodrama, then this show might just be the comfort watch that you want / need.
2. Show’s stakes aren’t very high at all
Like I mentioned earlier, this could get old pretty fast.
Even though many of us say that we could just watch 16 hours of Cute on our screens, most of us actually do desire some kind of meaningful stakes in our stories.
This show errs on the super safe side with this, and so, there aren’t really any very meaningful stakes, after all.
Adjusting your expectations helps, and watching this with a conscious decision to switch off the analytical side of your brain also helps.
3. A manhwa lens helps
Sometimes things get rather illogical &/or OTT in the name of nudging our OTP connection forward. At those times, I find that a manhwa lens helps everything to land better.
HOW I’LL BE APPROACHING THIS REVIEW
First I talk 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.
STUFF I LIKED
Everything’s very pretty
This really is one of Show’s selling points.
Everything in this show, from the people, to the wardrobe, to the settings, to the production polish, is very, very easy on the eyes.
If you like Pretty on your screen, then Show is very unlikely to disappoint you, at least on this front.
Here are just a couple of examples, when I sat up and noticed extra, the amount of Pretty on my screen.
E3. I have to admit that I very much enjoyed rewatching Gu Won’s cool entrance; the way he’s all sharply suited up, and the way he strides in there with such no-nonsense confidence, is pretty darn charismatic.
Also, I do dig the way his hair is styled away from his forehead – very sharp; very handsome. 🤩
Also, that entire scene is so beautiful. The smooth-as-glass water surrounding them; the background of the sun setting over the beautiful landscape; it all feels rather unreal, it’s so pretty.
It does feel like a dream-like moment, as their eyes meet.
E3. The bicycle scene is so classic kdrama, that I couldn’t help but grin a little bit, comparing it to the similar scene in Winter Sonata, which we watched fairly recently.
Such pretty scenery, so prettily filmed, and with such pretty leads, yes? 🤩
E10. There’s a lot of Pretty to be had, with our characters having a fun time in Thailand, eating lots of good food, and splashing about in the pool.
Pretty people eating pretty food, looking at pretty things, all very prettily filmed – it sometimes looked just like an extended CF for the Thai Tourism Board, to my eyes. 😅
At first, I didn’t pay extra attention to Junho’s delivery (I think I was mostly distracted by the Junho Handsome 😅), but at around the episode 3 mark, I started to appreciate the various scenes more, because I started picking up on the little details in Junho’s delivery.
I may be a biased fangirl, but I do think it’s not a stretch to say that Junho’s delivery really does elevate the watch experience.
Many scenes which could have passed muster without this extra layer, felt deepened and more meaningful, because of the way Junho interprets the moments, adding extra facets of emotions into his delivery.
Looking for how Junho worked to elevate each scene he was in, legitimately became a highlight of my watch.
I will share more examples later, in other sections, but for now, here’s one example where I noticed Junho’s interpretation lending some emotional heft to a scene that would have been quite different without it.
E3. Junho really is putting his heart into this, and so, when Gu Won first looks around him and gets spooked, I realize on second viewing, that the way Junho delivers it, there’s real fear in Gu Won’s eyes – which makes me feel rather sorry for him, actually.
On that note, I’m also beginning to see the appeal of this role (or so I think), from Junho’s perspective.
I’m sure he’d wanted to do something very different from The Red Sleeve (review here), not only to avoid getting typecast, but also, to challenge himself in a different way.
I’ve heard (and I do think it’s true) that comedy is very hard to do right; I can see him thinking that this would be a great way to stretch himself in a different direction.
Like, I still don’t particularly care for the physical comedy bits, but I can appreciate that there’s more effort that went into this, than everyone just sailing through their paces, because this is a light, classic romcom.
Some meta bits
Show does sprinkle several meta references into its story, and for the seasoned viewer, this works as little Easter eggs that add a bit of extra fun, to the watch experience.
Here are just some of the meta references that I got a kick out of.
E2. I feel like Show’s giving us Junho fans a cheeky nod, with the way we’ve got Gu Won saying Junho’s signature line, “Go home,” and more than once too.
(For those who aren’t in the know, this is something that Junho says very often to the staff, during his vlogs. It’s become a signature soundbite of his, by this point, coz he’s always telling the staff to knock off and go home.
And so I couldn’t help but grin, at the inclusion of his signature soundbite. 😁)
E7. Even though I’m not familiar with Yoona’s work as an idol (remember, I’ve been a kpop noob for all the years that I’ve been watching dramas, and have only just recently acquainted myself with 2PM’s work, thanks to my Junho-loving fangirl heart), but I still get a kick whenever Show allows her to showcase some of her idol moves.
We saw some of that in Show’s early episodes when we had those scenes of the girls going dancing at the club, and now, we get a taste of Yoona’s rapping skills too, with Sa Rang rapping her heart out – about fried chicken, hee.
E8. We get a quick glimpse into how Gu Won had convinced Samir to get out of the groom’s clothes – and we even get a quick meta nod at Anupam Tripathi’s role in Squid Game, with that quick inclusion of the trademark Squid Game green tracksuit, along with Anupam Tripathi’s player number, 199.
Heh. You can tell that Show likes its meta references, eh? 😁
STUFF THAT WAS OK
The writing is kinda paint by numbers, a good chunk of the time
Sometimes it’s more obvious than at other times, but generally speaking, the writing in Show is on the paint-by-numbers, connect-the-dots side of things.
I would have loved if Show had been better and more thoughtfully written, but overall, I wasn’t terribly bothered by it, because the writing, while sometimes ungainly, did nudge our OTP development along at a nice pace.
I also reasoned that Show isn’t pretending to be what it’s not, and we know, and Show knows, that this is allll about the OTP and their interactions and chemistry.
I have other thoughts about Show’s efforts to introduce narrative tension, which I’ll talk about later.
Show’s use of tropes
Since Show’s pretty much a tribute to the Classic Hallyu Rom-com, I’m not at all surprised that Show employs many tropes, in telling its story.
I liked the use of some tropes more than others, and overall, that evens it all out, so that I feel pretty neutral about Show’s use of tropes – which is why this is in this section.
Here are a few examples of Show’s use of tropes, for the record.
E2. Of course, Sa Rang and Gu Won have to brood side by side, while completely missing each other – because this is a classic trope that every romance drama can’t be without. 😆
It’s very prettily filmed though, and I’m not actually complaining; I’m just amused, is all.
E3. The whole thing of them having to detour to that island and stay there overnight is really random, but I fully accept that this is just part of Show’s DNA. It’s what classic romcoms tend to do, so of course Show should get to do it too, yes?
I’m actually surprised that I’m taking to the island hijinks more on my revisit, than on my first watch.
It’s partly that same dynamic, where the gag feels funnier the longer it’s dragged out, and for me, that had to drag into a second viewing.
E5. And then there’s the thing where seniors seem to almost always bully their juniors – which is how Sa Rang ends up having to make all those courtesy calls, even though it’s not her job. Very tropey indeed.
E8. By this point, Snooty Sunbae (Gong Ye Ji) is becoming a bit of a running gag, with how she always gets foiled in her attempts to do just about anything, whether it’s sucking up to the higher-ups, or making things difficult for Sa Rang – and y’know what, I find myself somehow feeling a little fond of Snooty Sunbae.
She’s basically a narrative catalyst on legs, and I mean, she’s working so hard, y’know? And gets schooled so regularly – like how Gu Won brushes her off and closes the door on her before she has a chance to answer.
It’s good that she finds him hot, though (I get what you mean, girl.. I get what you mean. ), and so, she doesn’t even seem to feel offended, that he closed the door on her. 😁
E8. I have to confess that I giggled out loud, when Gu Won has that dream of Samir (Anupam Tripathi) stealing Sa Rang, and wakes up in the sauna, wearing just a bathrobe, with his chest exposed.
Gotta give Show credit for finding a creative way to include a touch of shirtlessness for our male lead, yes? After all, this was de rigueur for all romcom male leads, back in the day.
I couldn’t help but giggle at how Gu Won’s public rest area of a chest was put on display like that. 😁
The way Show tempers some of the more problematic tropey bits
Because Show is such a tribute to the Classic k-romcom, it needs to figure out what to do with one of the things that is such a hallmark of many k-romcoms of the past: the jerk-like things that the male lead tends to say and do, which establishes him as the prickly cold sort.
In the past, we all just mostly shrugged and carried on swooning, but that was then, and this is now, and our brains and hearts have evolved and are now wired differently.
Which means that it’s a tricky sort of thing, for Show to include any of these more toxic behaviors in its male lead, because what would have flown in the past, just will not fly now.
Overall, I think that Show did reasonably ok, in that when it allowed some of this negative behavior to come through, it also made efforts to temper it, such that it wouldn’t land as being as toxic as it might have, in the past.
Here are some examples, along with my processing of them, to illustrate what I mean.
E5. It’s odd, but I find that even though there are things that Gu Won says, that my brain registers as something that I should probably take issue with, like the way he tells Sa Rang that that’s his spot, in a public park, it’s not actually upsetting me. 😅
I think it’s possibly because, by now, I’ve registered that Gu Won’s more harmless dork around Sa Rang than dominating jerk, and that tempers just about everything he does when he’s with her now.
Additionally, I’m beginning to see Gu Won kinda as a little boy who never grew up; that because of the childhood pain that he’s gone through, is quite possibly stunted on the inside, at least in part.
And so, when he comes out like that, after struggling with his smile demons, I feel like he’s more like a grumpy, hurt kid who’s acting out, and I don’t actually hold it against him, for telling Sa Rang that that’s his spot – if that makes sense.
As for Sa Rang, I actually find it refreshing to see her raw emotions, without any effort to cover it up with a smile, and in this moment, her tears feel needful and warranted.
I feel like she cooperates with Gu Won to get out of his way, not because she thinks he’s right, but because she’s just too exhausted to argue with anyone – and it’s also because she’s so exhausted, and not because she’s inherently clumsy, that she trips over her own feet and falls into his arms.
And yes, it is arrogant and self-important of him to say stuff like, “I’ll allow it,” but I know that he’s likely just using that to cover up his awkwardness around Sa Rang, plus, when she doesn’t respond the way he expects, he throws that umbrella aside and runs towards her in the rain, so I don’t even have much time to wrestle with myself in terms of whether I should hold it against him. 😁
E8. One of the things that I find myself questioning now, versus when I first started watching k-romcoms, is the way the male lead tends to manhandle the female lead, to varying degrees and with varying frequency.
I will say that Gu Won’s been reasonably good about not manhandling Sa Rang, but it did give me a bit of pause, when he picked her up in that princess-carry, to put her to bed – because he’d forgotten that she’s not the type to listen.
In principle, I would say that this is not cool, because he should let Sa Rang decide for herself, what she would like to do.
BUT, because he does it with that air of gentleness, and because Sa Rang doesn’t seem to actually mind, and more swept away by the gesture than anything else, it all lands much better in execution, than in concept, I feel.
I do think that this is one way Show has tweaked lightly, the traditional k-romcom trope, and made it better.
You have to suspend disbelief, sometimes
I would say that this isn’t unusual for a k-romcom, whether of the Classic Hallyu persuasion or not, but I still thought I’d mention it.
Sometimes, as an audience, we are required to suspend disbelief, because things don’t actually make logical sense. We just buy it anyway, because it’s all in service of nudging along the OTP connection.
Some stretches of logic were more pronounced than others, so here’s a sampling, to illustrate what I mean.
E1. Of course our OTP-to-be has to have a first meeting where they start off on the wrong foot, and that whole thing, where Sa Rang mistakes Gu Won for the sleazy guest who’d made a pass at her, is such a trope that I’m willing to just roll with it.
Of course it doesn’t make sense that Sa Rang would make that big of a mistake if she’s got such a customer-attuned mind, but this is a romcom and she needs to cross paths with her One True Love, so fine. 😉
E2. Since Show establishes that Sa Rang doesn’t actually remember Gu Won from their first encounter at the gym, I’m actually a little puzzled that she asks him to just leave after ToiletGate, and that she’ll bring his phone to him later.
With Sa Rang being such a consummate professional as part of the concierge team, I feel that she would have bitten the bullet, and face the guest head-on with profuse apologies, and a quick return of the phone that she was sent to fetch in the first place.
But.. I get that Show was gunning for a way to make the Falling Embrace happen, and this was the way writer-nim landed on.
(Maybe writer-nim’s playing a game, where they’re tasked to insert a particular pattern of tropes into each episode, and the challenge is to find a way to do it, while keeping the story flow as natural as possible? 😁)
E2. I don’t think it’s really that logical that Sa Rang makes that exclamation during the toast to Gu Won, because, hey, she’s been a hotel concierge for 7 years by this point, but I figure Show just needed a way to put Sa Rang in the spotlight for a bit, so that she’d have occasion to get up close with Gu Won – and also, have a chance to impress Chairman Dad, so that he’d give her that tuna head.
E10. One of the things I found myself having to suspend disbelief over, this episode, is just how hard Sang Sik (Ahn Se Ha) leans into being a controlling manager, in this whole role-swap thing that he and Gu Won have going on.
I mean, I know that Sang Sik’s been working for Gu Won for a long time, and he’s pretty silly and clueless when it comes to observing boundaries with Gu Won, but still. The way he leans so hard into being Controlling Manager Yoo, putting Gu Won on the spot and all, is a little bit of a stretch, I thought.
At the same time, I guess you could also look at it as Sang Sik having that much confidence in Gu Won, that Gu Won really wouldn’t do anything that terrible to him, in retaliation – which is a pretty nice way of looking at it.
I have to admit, though, that I did grow quite tired of this gag going on for the entire episode. 😅
E10. I thought the final scene of the episode, where they get all dressed up in formalwear, to take in the night scenery of the city skyline, quite, uh, extra, to be honest. Because, they don’t seem to get all dressed up for any other reason than to take in the scenery, which is odd enough, but also, did they go shopping for the clothes just for this?
I know, I know. Thinking about this is futile. Logistical details like this are probably not supposed to make any sense.
E11. I do have to rationalize somewhat, to work around the fact that Gu Won’s suddenly such a forthcoming, good manager displaying many excellent leadership traits, like communication, and valuing staff, and listening to feedback.
Do I like that he displays such traits? Absolutely.
Do I find it rather unrealistic that Gu Won’s gone from clueless almost zero to such a leadership hero, in just the space of 11 episodes? Also yes.
But, I’m rationalizing that he’s been spending a lot of time hanging out with Sa Rang and her friends, and that has helped him to see things from a new perspective.
Additionally, I rationalize that he does have it in him, because, as Hwa Ran (Kim Sun Young) has said, he takes after his mother.
So maybe Chairman Dad (Son Byung Ho) isn’t great at these things, but perhaps Gu Won has a natural affinity to it that he got from Mom, and now, with the right exposure and experiences, it’s all coming together quite nicely?
That’s what I’m telling myself, anyway.
E14. We get the dose of noble idiocy that’s so common in classic k-romcoms, with Sa Rang not mentioning anything to Won, in the lead-up to her transfer.
Of course, we also get a “goodbye date” of sorts, which is a trope unto itself, with them having a fun time at the amusement park.
(On a tangent, I have to say, Junho looks like he’s legitimately having fun on those rides, and not actually acting much at all. 😁)
With the way they’ve been communicating well, even through the more difficult times, it strikes me as rather odd, that she wouldn’t say anything to Won, nor appear to be in contact with him at all, despite them being so in love, and technology being at both of their fingertips.
It basically feels like Show took a really old trope out to use, but didn’t know what to do with it to update it, in the context of technology making it so easy for people to keep in touch, across continents and timelines.
Show’s use of narrative shorthand, sometimes
I mostly don’t care for the use of narrative shorthand, too much, but the way Show does this in episode 1, with the highlight reel to get us through the time skip, I had no issues with.
I mean, we get to see Junho being all handsome in a variety of sharp suits, in a variety of settings, and altogether, it feels even more like a music video sort of thing, and I couldn’t really complain, heh. 🤩
Also, yes, Show is just speeding through set-up, using a bunch of narrative shorthand to get us there, but as long as I know that Show’s doing this in the interest of getting us to the meat of the story – where our OTP finally share the same orbit – I’m actually ok with it.
Show’s sense of humor
As most of you know by now, I tend not to jive so well, with the humor that kdramas serve up.
Show’s sense of funny was a mixed bag, for me.
Sometimes, I found it quite amusing, sometimes it worked out to ok, and then sometimes, it just really didn’t work for me, like, at all. 😅
In these next few sections, I’ve broken it all down: the good, the ok, and the downright not ok – at least, from my point of view.
When it worked for me
E4. Gu Won’s run-in with that policeman (cameo by Jin Seon Kyu) is so random, hahaha.
I find it nicely entertaining, that by the time they say goodbye, Gu Won’s addressing him as “Hyung,” and “Hyung” is sharing his personal experience of not having gone after the girl he’d loved, and how he’d lived to regret it.
Aw. This instant bonding is so cute. 😁
When it worked out to ok
E3. The whole photoshoot thing, where Gu Won refuses to smile, isn’t as funny to me as I think Show intends it to be, but ok, it’s all meant as a spot of silly fun, so I’m just rolling with it.
I will say, though, that revisiting the episode for these notes, I find myself actually low-key chuckling a little bit, at the part where Gu Won’s being encouraged to act like that fish in his hands is soooo big and heavy.
Pfft. Maybe it’s the kind of gag that just gets funnier the longer it gets dragged out, and for me, that meant a second viewing? 😅
E7. A big arc, this episode, is the visit by the Arab prince Samir, and I have to say, I found this extra amusing, once I realized that the prince is played by none other than Anupam Tripathi, who was Player 199 in Squid Game (review here). 😁
For a while there, I was a tiny bit concerned that Samir’s characterization might be taken as offensive, since Show is making our Arab prince out to be petty and unreasonable.
But, the more I watched Anupam Tripathi’s delivery, the more I realized that he was having a whale of a time hamming it up for the camera, and somehow, any initial concerns I’d had about insensitive portrayals just.. melted away.
Anupam Tripathi makes Samir more and more endearing and cute, over the course of this arc, and I found myself feeling quite fond of him, when he leaves – kinda like how he seems to now feel quite fond of Gu Won too. 😁
E7. Gu Won getting all annoyed and bothered by Samir’s blithe flirtations with Sa Rang is a running gag that worked really well for me, and I found myself regularly giggling at Gu Won’s frustrated bluster. 😁
PS: For the record, I do agree with many other viewers, that Show could have avoided all the controversy, if they’d just not made Samir a prince.
When it didn’t work for me
E1. When we get to the end of the episode, our OTP finally meet again, but.. it’s under very mortifying circumstances, where Gu Won comes upon the sight of Sa Rang sitting on the toilet, in his suite. Eep. 🙈
The only silver lining to this scene, really, is that the bottom section of the glass remains frosted and therefore opaque, regardless of setting. 😅
By the time I watched this scene, I’d already heard the rumbles about toilet humor, so I was bracing myself for the worst – and that’s how I got through this one, relatively unscathed.
Sometimes it helps to be a little late to the party, it looks like. 😅
E6. I did not appreciate the toilet-related humor, and it was completely unnecessary to make it such that Sang Sik was stuck in the toilet without any toilet paper, BUT, it doesn’t last too long, thankfully, and it does give our OTP some alone time together, so it all works out.
E12. I get that everyone’s shocked at seeing Gu Won and Sa Rang in a kissing situation, but I did think that the screams and fainting were a bit too OTT. 😅
Also, while I’ve been waiting for Pyung Hwa and Da Eul to realize Gu Won’s real identity, I have to admit that I found the reveal rather underwhelming.
In my head, I’d imagined that maybe they would find out about it in the course of some work thing, since Gu Won’s the Chairman’s son and everything.
I get the idea that Gu Won ‘fessing up, is more respectful of them, than letting them find out by, I dunno, seeing his face splashed all over some Group Newsletter or something.
It’s just.. the execution of it just fell kind of flat, for me.
I think I wanted more head implosion type stuff, rather than the sudden awkward almost-groveling that Pyung Hwa and Da Eul reflexively reach for, when they realize that Gu Won is serious about being the Chairman’s son.
I know that Show meant it for funnies, but.. I didn’t find it very funny, unfortunately. I just felt awkward every time Da Eul or Pyung Hwa tried to be overly polite and hospitable towards Gu Won. 😅
E13. The whole thing where Won tries to visit Sa Rang but gets picked up by the police for being a potential stalker, is a pretty silly callback to our earlier scene, where Won got dating advice from that random officer.
This time, it’s the pair of officers (Lee Chang Hoon and Ha Jae Sook) who need to have a talk among themselves, with Won backing away the first chance he gets, and I have to admit, I’m a lot less amused this time.
Hrm. Maybe the point was that Won doesn’t need the kind of dating advice he’d once needed? That he’s grown and is perfectly capable of being a good boyfriend all by himself?
Maybe they should’ve brought back the first cop, for a reunion and update chat with Won? I think I might’ve found that more enjoyable to watch. 😅
STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
Show leaning into the bickery stage of our OTP connection
This is completely subjective, of course, because we all have different ideas of what makes for an optimal amount of bickering between a would-be OTP.
I realize that I like any bickering between a potential OTP, to be on the more restrained, tamped-down side of things, and there was a period, in episode 3, where I have to admit that the intensity of the bickering was a little too much for me.
It felt like Show was having out OTP bicker just for bickering’s sake – or, as is probably the case, to show us some OTP sparks.
I get that; I think I just prefer the OTP sparks to not come from bickering.
Like I said, this is likely a pretty personal thing; I might just have a strong preference to not have an overly bickery OTP. Some people might actually love this – I’m just not one of them.
The whole time, I was waiting for Show to get past the bickering stage and settle down into something more calm and amiable. 😅
Show going skit-like, sometimes
Again, this is very subjective, because this could possibly work perfectly well for you, but I didn’t like it so much, when Show went skit-like, at times.
E9-10. I have to admit, this set of episodes was pretty uneven for me.
To be clear, I’m still enjoying the show, but it definitely feels like Show was kinda coasting a fair bit there, for this set of episodes.
In summary, I feel that the general big downside for me, for this pair of episodes, is how almost everything feels very.. choreographed and skit-like?
I don’t hate it, in the sense that I did come into this show with the understanding that everything would pretty much be set dressing for the OTP to meet and fall in love; that’s what classic k-romcoms do, right?
But, I will say that I liked it better when Show at least pretended to take its own world seriously, rather than with what comes across as a skit-like mentality, this pair of episodes.
Junho and Yoona are doing a great job playing a couple in love, and that is the main highlight of this set of episodes. But, it would’ve been nice if it all didn’t feel so choreographed and skit-like, if you know what I mean. 😅
The biggest offender in this area, this episode, is the whole sequence at Gran’s house, where Gu Won’s and Sa Rang engage in an extended bit of shadow miming, in response to the lights going out.
I am taking this to be a directorial choice, because you just don’t produce this types of things by accident, and I might be in the minority, but I felt this was an oddly out of place directing decision.
It took me out of the moment and reminded me that Junho and Yoona are just play-acting for the cameras, and this interaction isn’t actually real.
Now, if the moment had been played more restrained and less OTT, and come across more naturally, then that wouldn’t have taken me out of the moment, I think, and I’m pretty sure I would’ve liked that a lot better.
Basically, I know that we’re in a romcom fantasy, and that this isn’t real, but there’s a fine line between presenting that romcom fantasy as something accessible enough to possibly be real, at least in our imaginations, and hamming it up so that the audience is reminded that this isn’t real – does that make sense? 😅
Overall, I felt that these two episodes dipped into that skit-like quality a fair bit, so I’m mentally deducting points for this pair of episodes, even though I’m still enjoying Show, broadly speaking.
Uneven character development, sometimes [MINOR SPOILERS]
I’m specifically thinking about Gu Won’s character development in relation to how he interacts with Sang Sik.
In the beginning of the drama, we regularly see him throw Sang Sik out of his room, and then in episode 12, we see him giving Sang Sik a hug and telling him that it’s ok to cry.
This did make me feel like Gu Won’s made some unrealistic leaps forward in his character development, such that putting Present Gu Won side by side with Past Gu Won, from just a handful of episodes ago, they wouldn’t actually feel like the same person.
I was willing to roll with this leap forward in Gu Won’s character, but somewhere in our late stretch, Gu Won suddenly regresses to throwing Sang Sik out of his office again.
I thought this was pretty uneven characterization, and it didn’t feel well thought-out.
OTT nasty, unreasonable characters
Show seems to have A Thing about giving us a whole host of unsavory characters who make life difficult for our main characters.
The thing is, the unpleasant characters are all painted in extremely broad strokes, with extreme tendencies, such that they all land as caricatures, rather than as potentially real people.
The Nation’s Mom was one, and then there’s Da Eul’s and Pyung Hwa’s unreasonable supervisors and colleagues, as well as the ridiculous customers they encounter.
I find this kind of.. lazy? Like, it feels kind of lazy to just create these large-than-life terrible people that our characters have to deal with, coz there’s no nuance there, and no need to empathize with the terrible characters at all.
But.. in a drama world where just about everything revolves around allowing our OTP to grow feelings for each other, maybe it doesn’t matter?
I mean, that’s what I tried to tell myself, but to be brutally honest, I didn’t like the way these unpleasant characters were so caricature-y, and that’s why they’re in this section.
Show slumps, in its late stretch
So here’s the thing. I feel like Show could have literally ended at the end of episode 10, and it would’ve felt like a dreamy happy-ever-after, and it would’ve been perfectly fine.
The problem is, that there are 6 more episodes of story to fill, after episode 10, and writer-nim doesn’t seem to really know what to do with those 6 episodes.
The narrative tension that we’d had, from the will-they-or-won’t-they of the OTP getting together is gone, and so, writer-nim reaches for other things to fill the space, like the Won’s mom, and the fight for the hotel, between Hwa Ran and Won.
But, because Show wants to treat all of this with a light hand, in order to keep itself fluffy, all of it feels pretty underwhelming and boring, to be brutally honest.
What I mean is, Show seems to have decided, from the get-go, that it’s going to be a light, feel-good, fluffy rom-com, and nothing’s going to get in its way – not even the dreaded penultimate stretch, where tropes like noble idiocy and forced separation tend to be employed, in the interest of upping the stakes, for our OTP.
And so, even though we do have some feints towards trouble in paradise, our OTP is so sure of their feelings for each other, that the obstacles eventually look more like smallish blips, rather than actually insurmountable difficulties.
On the one hand, it’s kind of nice, to have an OTP not be so easily derailed, but on the other hand, it also makes for narrative tension that feels more pretend, than anything else? 😅
I stayed for the Junho Handsome, but there was honestly nothing very compelling about Show’s last stretch of episodes.
SPOTLIGHT ON CHARACTERS / RELATIONSHIPS
Junho as Gu Won
Well, of course it was a pleasure to have Junho on my screen, and in a romantic leading man sort of role, no less.
While I did have issues with the writing, I was very happy with Junho’s nuanced, faceted, very intentional delivery of Gu Won.
All the nuance and genuine emotion invested in delivering Gu Won, is absolutely lovely to witness, and every time I notice a new detail in his delivery of a moment, I feel like I’ve stumbled on a bonus piece of treasure. 🤩
Yes, I’m a biased fangirl 😍, but really, I think that objectively speaking, Junho really is injecting Gu Won with lots of layers and nuances that might not have been there, in the hands of a different actor.
And, just to be clear, I’m talking about the more serious scenes, as well as the lighter, more comedic scenes.
I realize that there are always layers; I just need to be observant to pick up the shifts in microexpression, the various aspects of body language, and the quick flicks of his gaze.
All of this definitely added a distinct layer of enjoyment to my watch.
Here are some Gu Won-specific highlights, from my watch.
E1. I’m just SO here for Junho playing a sharp-suited chaebol on my screen, y’all. 😍😍😍
The minute he showed up on my screen, all decked out in that designer suit, striding across that helipad, I had a goofy dazed fangirl grin on my face. 😁😅
Also, I had to giggle, coz when he adjusts his shirt cuffs and tosses the harness on the ground, it felt JUST like Junho was in a music video, and this was part of his dance routine. 😆
Clearly, I’m mainly here for Junho, and Show does not disappoint.
Already, Show is bombarding us with the Junho Handsome, so that his scenes consistently look like a mashup between a designer fashion show, a photo shoot, and a music video.
And y’know what, I’m not complaining one bit. I’m just happily lapping up allll of the Junho Handsome. 😁
I’m biased, but I don’t know that I’ve seen another male lead wear a suit quite like Junho does. 🤩 The lines are so clean and sharp on him, that they look surreal; like, can this actually be real life..? 😅
I have to admit that it took me a little while to get used to the fact that I’m watching Gu Won the character on my screen, and not Junho the celebrity, because we do see a lot of Junho suited up like this, for awards shows and such.
It was a little bit disorientating, to see Gu Won be aloof, broody and scowly, because that’s not the flavor of Junho that I’ve gotten used to, watching all his vlogs. 😅
But, I’m acclimated now, and y’know, despite Gu Won’s flaws, I find that I like him, and not just because he’s ridiculously, distractingly handsome.
He’s clearly quite kind, underneath his prickly demeanor, like the way he offers Sang Sik a job, when Sang Sik is in danger of being fired for making that mess with the printer toner at the office.
E1. It might be childish of me, but I have to admit that I felt a thrill at the scene where Intern Gu Won reveals his identity, and everyone collectively loses their minds in response. 😁
I think Teenaged Me would’ve loved being able to pull off something like that, and discombobulate all the people who’d been looking down so condescendingly at me. Muahaha.
Plus, I do like how matter-of-factly Gu Won details why Sang Sik’s not at fault for the toner mess. This streak of his, where he tends to speak up in the name of justice, is pretty appealing.
E1. I started to feel sorry for Gu Won, the minute I realized that his sister Hwa Ran is only pretending to be nice to him, in front of their father.
In private, I’m kinda shocked (but also, not shocked?) that she tells him so baldly, to leave and not bother coming back.
I’m glad that despite his cooperation with Hwa Ran, Gu Won doesn’t appear to actually be intimidated by her.
It kinda feels like he’s cooperating with her, only because he actually would prefer to stay out of the family business himself as well.
That makes me feel better, but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s an air of.. (what I think is) loneliness, about Gu Won.
That makes me root for him, to find a happier self – most likely through his upcoming interactions with Sa Rang.
E2. I couldn’t help but feel a good stab of satisfaction, at the way Gu Won flatly refuses to entertain the request of Nation’s Mom.
I’m quite thrilled at his refusal to play the courtesy game, especially when it’s to do with unreasonable people like this.
I also like the way Gu Won expects that Sa Rang gets to see the list of questions that she’s to ask him, ahead of time, even though everyone else thinks that it’s not necessary, because as an employee, it’s Sa Rang’s job to just do as she’s told.
The fact that he insists that Sang Sik give Sa Rang the list of questions, and right away, is quite swoony to me. He respects her right to know, as the other participant in this interview, and I really like that.
E5. I must say, I thought it was right of Gu Won to refuse to allow his King The Land staff to participate in Super Farmer Week, because it’s not their job.
His instincts as a boss aren’t necessarily bad; he’s just too easily swayed by the petty jealousy he tends to feel when it comes to Sa Rang.
If only he hadn’t jumped to the conclusion that Sa Rang was sucking up to customers because she was greedy for the monetary incentive, he wouldn’t have made that rash decision to allow the King The Land crew to participate in Super Farmer Week, and then Sa Rang wouldn’t be in danger, by the time we close the episode.
Gu Won’s proving to be impetuous, that way. 😅
But it’s probably that very same brand of impetuousness, that’s got him bringing in the helicopter, and leaping down that cliff towards Sa Rang, all dramatically backlit, in our closing moments.
At least he’s ready to fix the mess that he created?
E6. It’s such a pleasure watching Junho act, honestly. 🤩
Yes, no doubt he is very handsome and looks amazing in those sharp suits, but I’m not even talking about that.
I’m talking about his interpretation of every moment that Gu Won goes through, and I am in awe of how he’s injecting layers of faceted emotion into every moment.
For example, this episode, Gu Won is rather petulant, a lot of the time, like when Sa Rang gets all absorbed into talking with Sang Sik, and thanks Sang Sik.
When Gu Won protests that he’s the one who’d saved her, besides the main layer of petulance, there is a distinct note of childlike hurt in his eyes, and that just takes the experience of watching Gu Won to *chef’s kiss* level.
I’m biased, I know, but I honestly can’t remember another fluffy rom-com where I got to watch such a nuanced delivery, by a male lead.
I feel like in most people’s minds, romcoms are fun, fluffy things that are easy-breezy, not only to watch, but also, to deliver, especially when compared to more serious fare.
As in, you don’t even need to be super good, really, if you’re able to bring the smolder, and look good while doing it. 😅
But Junho’s applying all of his Baeksang-grade acting mastery and artistry here, in this fluffy rom-com, and that’s just lifting my watch experience to a whole new level. 🤩🤩
And so now, I find myself paying keen attention to Gu Won’s every shift in facial expression, and I find that I’m regularly rewarded, because there are always extra layers of emotion at play.
Like when Gu Won has that conversation with Chairman Dad at the end of the episode, there’s such a delicious mix of emotions playing about his features: reproachfulness, wistfulness, sadness, disappointment, uncertainty, and all of it is delivered with a childlike quality, so that you feel that it’s his inner child that’s hurting.
SO. Good. Y’all. 🤩🤩 Flail.
E6. Gu Won getting roped in to peel onions at Gran’s (Kim Young Ok) gukbap shop is silly and funny, and it’s quite hilarious how he looks like he’s never encountered an onion before.
I do like that he’s game enough to work his way through that entire tub of onions though, and even looks like he’s proud of his accomplishment – until Gran comes around and sighs that he’s messed up all the onions, which is when he deflates.
Hahaha. Poor misguided earnest baby. 😁
E6. Isn’t it cute how Gu Won takes to Gran’s gukbap so well, even though he’d been weirded out that it’s cooked with the head meat of the cow?
Aw. Our Gu Won’s a simple boy at heart, isn’t he? 😁
E11. I like that Gu Won arranges for everyone to fly in Business Class on the return flight to Seoul, because that’s honestly such a treat for them, especially Pyung Hwa, whose only experience of Business Class is serving passengers in said cabin.
I like how Gu Won prioritizes the wellbeing and happiness of this employees, and really goes out of his way to make these star employees feel appreciated.
It’s stuff that like, that demonstrates Management’s sincerity towards employees, and I like the idea that that sincerity comes so naturally, to Gu Won.
Of course, one could argue that he’s motivated by the fact that Sa Rang’s one of these star employees, and that could very well be true.
At the same time, I’d like to think that the sincerity is real, and that now that he’s learned what it’s like for the staff through the eyes of Sa Rang and her friends, that he would be as considerate of all employees, going forward.
And we do see that at play, in the way Gu Won goes about handling the 100th Anniversary event.
I like how he thinks of getting gifts for the employees, and not just the VIPs, and I like how he gets that survey done to find out what the employees want, and gives it to them, rather than choose the easy and convenient gift of hotel vouchers.
E11. Even though it’s on the unrealistic side of things, I still find it gratifying to see Gu Won blossoming into a naturally understanding and empathetic leader, and be praised and well-received by the staff.
Plus, not only is he considerate of the staff, he’s also considerate of the guests, like how he thanks and praises the culinary team for the preparation they’ve put into the menu, and then requests that they consider putting together a Korean menu as well, for guests who might prefer that.
I’m glad that the 100th Anniversary event goes smoothly, and that Gu Won’s idea of a celebration that includes and acknowledges those who’ve contributed to the hotel’s history, both past and present, is so well-received.
E13. I also like how upfront Won is with Chairman Dad, in stating plainly that there’s someone whom he loves, and that’s why he won’t be marrying Yu Ri.
It’s noteworthy, I think, that Won uses the word “love” instead of the more common “like,” which is considered to be a Very Big Deal, in Korea; this makes him come across as that much more unabashed about his relationship with Sa Rang, and it is pretty appealing, I have to say.
E14. I think it’s interesting to note that even though Hwa Ran’s been pretty antagonistic towards Won, he doesn’t jump to the conclusion that she’s behind the article, when Sang Sik suggests it to him.
That’s pretty objective and generous of Won, I’d say, since Hwa Ran’s been nothing but unpleasant and hostile towards him.
It’s only when Sang Sik tells him about how Hwa Ran had tried to buy him over to her side, that Won begins to entertain the possibility that Hwa Ran had been behind the pictures and the article.
Yoona as Sa Rang
I have to confess that when I’d first heard the casting for this show, I’d been doubtful about Yoona as our female lead, because I’d been that underwhelmed by her outing in The K2.
I think I’m scarred by the memory of that infamous ramyun dancing scene. 😅
However, after I eventually calmed down, I remembered that I do enjoy Yoona when she’s allowed to play off her natural charm, and that I’d enjoyed her nicely, in The King Loves (review here).
And I’m happy to report that I really enjoyed Yoona as Sa Rang as well.
The more we see of Sa Rang, and therefore, the more range of emotion she experiences, the more I became impressed with Yoona.
She really has grown as an actress since her role in The K2, I think, and I am very happy about this, indeed. 🤩
It doesn’t hurt that Sa Rang’s a likable character, and this allows Yoona to play off her natural charm as well.
Here are some Sa Rang-specific highlights from my watch.
PS: It just occurred to me, that Sa Rang’s name, besides meaning “love,” also sounds like “with an angel,” when taken in full: “Cheon Sa Rang.” That is very likely intentional, I think?
E1. I like that Sa Rang’s a cheerful person, who has a dream, and works hard to realize that dream.
I like that she’s competent at work, and easily performs beyond the expectations others have of her, and thus quickly gets promoted to the concierge, an important customer-facing position, in the lobby.
I also like the lashings of scrappy-ness that we see in her, that make her flexible and adaptable in unexpected situations, like when Hwa Ran asks her to demonstrate her piano-playing skills during the interview, and Sa Rang gamely plays air-piano, since there’s no actual piano in the room.
E3. Although I was a little horrified that Gu Won just upped and left like that, in response to the questions, I’m pretty impressed that Sa Rang manages to come up with something to smooth it over in a way that sounds believable.
I mean, she even manages to make it look like Gu Won hadn’t been rude on purpose, but had walked off to attend to something urgent, not realizing that the interview was live.
That’s honestly the best story that she could possibly have come up with, I think, so I’m glad that she gets so much positive response from everyone, and is praised by the Chairman for it, later on.
E3. When the innkeeper lady tries to overcharge them for the night, I thought it was pretty great how Sa Rang steps in and, on principle, talks down the price to something more acceptable, even though Gu Won’s ready to pay her the higher price to get them outta there.
Sa Rang really is pretty darn fast on her feet – and with her mental math too!
E7. I’ve heard people say that Yoona’s great a comedy, and I’m going to have to agree with that sentiment.
Sa Rang’s bewildered reaction isn’t OTT, but it’s definitely on the slightly more physical side of things, with Sa Rang’s facial expressions conveying her stunned shock, and I think Yoona pulls it off in a way that feels believable yet fun, at the same time.
Similarly, Sa Rang’s reaction when Pyung Hwa and Da Eul talk about Gu Won being a stuck-up jerk, without realizing that Gu Won’s right there, is pretty amusing, with her eyes as big as saucers, while she tries to backpedal with a smile.
E7. I appreciate that Sa Rang tries to protest when she sees the script where she’s supposed to say that Hwa Ran was the one who had saved her, but the way Hwa Ran spins it, and wields her gaslighting ways, it’s easy for any employee to feel like they have no other option but to cooperate.
I love how Sa Rang handles it, during the press conference.
I know it’s a decision that she makes in the moment, because she sees Gu Won there, looking right at her, but I can’t help but applaud the way she manages to acknowledge him, while still sticking to the script, like Hwa Ran had insisted.
She’s basically saying that Hwa Ran had saved her (which is rubbish, of course), but it was Gu Won who had personally flown in that helicopter to get her, and that she wants to sincerely thank him for that.
Aw. That is very, very smart, and it’s all the more impressive because she figures out this response on the fly, while all the cameras are on her, and I’m even more impressed because despite all the confusion and stress, her sincerity comes through, so well.
I love it even more, because her words cause Gu Won to leak a few smiles, while he walks away from the press conference. I love leaked smiles, and it makes me happy that Gu Won can’t help but smile, in response to Sa Rang’s expression of gratitude, even though Hwa Ran does succeed in stealing a good chunk of the credit, with her lies.
E8. I love the way Sa Rang handles the proposal by Samir. The way she turns Samir down is with such an obvious note of gratitude, that I can’t see anyone getting upset, in Samir’s shoes.
She manages to make you feel grateful, for the way she’s being so grateful for your kind thoughts towards her – that’s pretty special, I feel, and I can see why she’s been picked as Best Talent, consistently.
Gu Won and Sa Rang
The OTP loveline is THE reason for this show’s existence, and is the focus of our story, from start to finish, with few detours in-between.
Which is why it makes me happy to day that the chemistry between Junho and Yoona is pretty excellent.
There’s an ease between them onscreen, that comes from them having worked together on so many occasions, over so many years, and that is definitely a good thing, in my books.
There’d been some concern, that the chemistry between them would be too friend-like, since they’ve been friends for so long, but there was no need to worry.
When they were called on to bring on the romantic sparks, they brought it so well, that sometimes it felt like the air between them was quite molten. 🔥
I do think that Show could have done a better, more thorough job exploring the challenges of them being in a relationship, rather than relying on external forces for narrative tension, but overall, I have to concede that these two made a very cute couple.
Here’s a collection of Won and Sa Rang highlights, from my watch.
E3. The tense confrontation between Gu Won and Sa Rang after the live interview makes a lot of sense, because of course he would be upset – and so would she.
This argument makes sense, so I’m not begrudging the presence of this verbal clash.
Plus, the tension between them translates into a really nice, taut sort of electric vibe, as he steps in closer, and bites out that line, about whether she has any idea of the kind of stone she’d thrown at him.
Ooh, crackle. 🔥
E3. I did find the drunken scene on the OTT side of things, but I get that Show wanted our OTP tipsy, so that they would be able to interact more freely with each other – and also, so that Gu Won would be able to be mesmerized by how Sa Rang is a charming drunk.
I am rather amused that Gu Won, after a long beat of staring at the sight of Sa Rang tipsy-smiling, literally slaps himself, in an attempt to snap out of it, ha.
Good on Sa Rang for turning him down flat, when he tells her not to smile in front of him, even when they’re not at work, even though she’s so drunk. Girl knows her rights, even when she’s completely sloshed, heh.
And of course we had to have a falling scene, where Sa Rang lands squarely in Gu Won’s arms, so I’m not surprised that we get that.
I was rather tickled at how it came about, though, with the two rooms actually being only separated by a flimsy blanket hanging from eaves.
Also, I’m most surprised by how Gu Won doesn’t seem to have much of a reaction, to Sa Rang landing right in his arms, first thing in the morning.
This, from the guy who couldn’t take his eyes off Sa Rang the night before? That doesn’t seem right? I’d have expected a bigger reaction – especially after his theatrics when he’d felt scared the night before.
E3. I do like the conversation that Gu Won and Sa Rang have, on the boat afterwards.
I like that he learns a little bit about her principles, about money having to be earned honestly, to sit well with her.
I also like that Sa Rang apologizes for the other day, even though she has no idea what he meant about her throwing a stone at him. That’s really decent and kind of her, I feel.
E3. After the whole island adventure, it’s pretty cute (and telling) how Gu Won can’t stop looking at Sa Rang’s pictures. Plus, he’s starting to leak smiles, while looking at her pictures. That’s huge, for Gu Won, and we know it.
I’m actually rather surprised that Gu Won would take the results of a random online quiz so seriously, and go right out to do something about his newly discovered feelings for Sa Rang, but I suppose he could be that focused and impatient about things? And, this also does keep Show skipping along?
The first time I watched the scene where Gu Won loiters awkwardly in the lobby, waiting for a chance to see Sa Rang, I’d felt awkward on his behalf, but on second viewing, I find myself finding the cute, in his awkward loitering.
Also, there’s a wistfulness that flashes in his gaze, that I’d missed the first time, that I find endearing.
It’s really thoughtful of Gu Won to want to get Sa Rang macarons because he remembers her having on, just before the interview that they’d done together. How observant of him!
Our newly smitten puppy doesn’t actually get to gift those macarons though, because of course Annoying Ex (Ahn Woo Yeon) comes to look for Sa Rang and takes her in a hug, before she can say anything.
Poor foiled smitten puppy, heh.
E4. Gu Won’s tamped down discombobulation when Sa Rang enters his office in her new uniform, is pretty cute.
Unfortunately, our Gu Won has no idea how to behave around a girl he likes, it seems, and he’s generally varying shades of awkward and mean, starting with how he implies that she’s not sophisticated enough to work at King The Land.
Oh dear. And he just keeps sticking his foot in his mouth, for the rest of the episode. 😅
E4. As for Gu Won and his efforts to be nice to Sa Rang, man, that Japanese dinner turns out to be awkward, with him giving her all that attention in front of her King The Land colleagues, and then ordering her that steak from a whole different restaurant.
With how things are with her colleagues, I can see why Sa Rang’s so stressed out.
And, the stress only seems to increase, when Annoying Ex shows up, yet again, to be his annoying self. Pfft. I have no idea what goes through this guy’s head. 👀
Honestly, our closing scene, when Sa Rang broods in the rain, back at that hill, and Gu Won shows up with an umbrella, is all kinds of tropey, but it’s atmospheric and even a little bit electric, with him catching her in a dip while the music plays, and I’m buying it.
E5. I enjoy the fact that Gu Won is giving in to his feelings more, around Sa Rang, even though he’s still half in denial about his feelings.
But, he’s acting on them more now, and that gives us a good amount of OTP interaction, where he’s super hyper-aware of Sa Rang, and is trying his best to be cool, while still getting to spend time with her.
The other thing that makes this work for me, is the fact that Sa Rang is getting the idea of how to manage Gu Won.
She’s more or less got his number, is what I’m trying to say, and so, she’s no longer very fazed by his odd behavior, and is better equipped to speak his language, in order to get him to cooperate with her. 😁
Putting those things together, I found myself grinning a good amount of the time, while watching this episode, and I’m basically eager for more, as I type this. 😁
E5. I honestly think that the meeting in the park is a key moment in Gu Won and Sa Rang becoming closer, because when you’ve seen each other at emotional lows, you almost can’t help but relate in a more personal way, yes?
At least, that’s how I feel, watching their conversation in the car, after this scene.
There’s no longer all that bickery stuff on the surface; it all feels stripped away, and what we’re seeing is each of them, in their respective despondent states, with no efforts towards airbrushing or pretense.
I do like that in this space, Sa Rang alludes to how she should have let things go a lot earlier, and I also like that Gu Won is able to pick up on the fact that she’s talking about something more personal than her umbrella.
I like these glimmers of deeper connection.
And of course, we have Gu Won showing his nicer, thoughtful side, when Sa Rang’s fast asleep, with him putting on the seat warmer, and putting a blanket over her, so that she won’t catch cold.
Not only that, we see later, that he even takes an air finger measure of her shoes, so that he can go buy her a whole new dry outfit to wear to dinner, so that she won’t catch cold.
Aw. That is very cute. I was especially surprised by how he managed to get her right shoe size; the way he recreated the measurement in-store is just super endearing, because isn’t he acting like a dork and not caring about what the sales assistants think? 😍
And of course he’d buy them matching outfits, so that they’d look like a couple out on a date – but be too awkward and proud to admit it, and dismiss everything as stuff that he randomly bought. Pfft.
With my fluffy rom-com lens on, I find it hilarious that he’s all (and I paraphrase), “Of course everything was random; how could I possibly care about someone like you,” but then switches modes on a dime, to pose for that couple photo, the instant it’s offered.
Hahaha. He’s such a goof, honestly. 😁
For all his mixed signals, which I take in good humor, because this is a fluffy romcom after all, I do like when Gu Won turns serious.
Like, when he asks Sa Rang to tell him everything that he likes, so that he can focus on them; he’s dead serious about it, and looks her right in the eye, as he says this – and I can’t help but melt a little, at the fact that he’s serious about wanting to learn more about her.
Also, for how clueless Gu Won sometimes is, he seems to be right on the money, judging from Sa Rang’s somber expression when he calls her out as being fake about not having expectations around her birthday; that she’s just giving herself false comfort.
I do enjoy this idea that these two have hit on some points of key understanding, of each other, despite claiming to not be close.
I thought it was sweet of Gu Won to have prepared a cake for Sa Rang, so that she could end her birthday on a sweet note, and I also like the fact that she can tell him that this was probably extra stress and work for the chef – and he acknowledges that he hadn’t thought of it that way.
This feels like a nice step in the right direction for him, particularly since he’s mostly been too proud to admit anything like that.
When Annoying Ex steps out of the shadows, to be (So! Very!) Annoying with a capital A, I’m glad that Sa Rang tells him bluntly that she did well to break up with him.
And yes, in rom-com tradition, Gu Won has to step in too, but I’m glad that he lets Sa Rang say her piece first, and only steps in when Annoying Ex drags him into it, and even then, he takes Sa Rang’s cue, and mostly only reiterates what she says.
It’s only after Sa Rang goes into her home, that Gu Won even lays a finger on Annoying Ex, and even then, it’s in a wrist-grab (tee hee!).
Basically, Gu Won only uses force on Annoying Ex, when Annoying Ex refuses to listen to reason. Even then, I do like that Gu Won tells Annoying Ex to leave as Sa Rang has instructed, and to only see her again after asking her politely in advance.
I am nicely tickled by the instruction to ask Sa Rang permission to meet her, politely, and in advance. 😁
Overall, though, it still feels like Sa Rang’s training a small child the manners that he hasn’t learned, like how she has to keep telling him that the reason she hasn’t replied to his texts, is because he didn’t give her a chance to.
And yet, I find Gu Won’s impatience to hear from Sa Rang more endearing than anything; he reminds me of my pup Cookie, who’s regularly so impatient to get her treat from me, that she can’t help pawing me on the leg, even though she knows that the treat is coming her way. 😁
Importantly, I like that Sa Rang’s starting to leak smiles too, when she thinks about Gu Won.
Like when she blows out the candles on that cake, and also, later, when she thinks about the shoes and the outfit that he got her, so that she’d have dry clothes and shoes to wear.
Our girl is definitely softening towards our guy, and I like it. 🥰
It’s why she asks to see him after work, so that she can show him some appreciation for everything he did for her on her birthday, but, our obtuse boy promptly puts his foot in his mouth, by replying to her text that of course he’s busy.
Ahahaha. I thought he’d have figured out how to do better, by now, but apparently not.
The way he basically ends up going to see her face to face at King The Land, and practically bulldozing his way to actually meeting her after work, is funny to me, because he could have avoided ALL of this trouble and stress, if he’d just been honest and said yes when she’d asked him in the first place. Silly doofus. 😏
I do think that you need to be able to roll with this cycle with Gu Won, where he starts out on a pompous sort of note, that has to furiously backpedal, in order to undo whatever he’s done, so that he can keep talking to Sa Rang. 😁
I’m amused at how Gu Won doesn’t seem to care if the other staff see him talking with Sa Rang.
I mean, on the one hand, it’s kind of swoony that he doesn’t care, but on the other hand, it’s true that he seems completely clueless to the fact that being seen with him could make things complicated for Sa Rang.
I honestly do think that it’s more of a little boy brand of cluelessness, rather than an outright decision to ignore any implications that his actions might have, on Sa Rang.
I mean, when I see that little boy expression on his face when he says that he’s hungry, I can’t see it any other way. 😁
And I do love how much wonder he gets, from that teppanyaki dinner that Sa Rang takes him to; it’s very endearing.
I like that, even though he starts out acting kinda snooty, when he finds the food tasty, he is honest about it, and doesn’t try to act like he doesn’t like it. I really like that.
Plus, he looks so happy afterwards, while they’re walking, when he talks to Sa Rang about where to go next time. His refusal to take no for an answer, again feels like a little boy thing to me, rather than an actual effort to force her to do something she doesn’t want to do.
E6. I’m really glad we get the context for how Gu Won ends up arriving at Mt. Jiri via helicopter.
It means so much more, when we see that he had such a hard time trying to get approval through official channels, that he would even bow before Hwa Ran, and ask for her help.
That’s huge, given the kind of terse relationship that they have. He’s willing to put his pride aside, for Sa Rang’s safety, and that’s very touching. 🥲
And then, when Hwa Ran won’t budge (ugh! She’s so condescending, heartless and horrible), he stalks off and takes the helicopter anyway, never mind the consequences.
His wholehearted laser focus on getting to Sa Rang is really swoony, and I’m a wobbling blob of jello.
And then when he does that dramatic leap down to the ledge where Sa Rang is, and holds her, and tells her that it’s ok, because he’s there now, it’s all very swoony as well.
..But of course, Show being the jokester that it sometimes is, it’s got to undercut all of that, with how Gu Won’s a nervous scaredy cat who can only call for help, and can’t actually help Sa Rang get up to safety, pfft.
That said, I still do think it’s sweet of him to throw himself down there, without thought to anything else, but being with Sa Rang.
I also like how Gu Won readily admits that he didn’t have time to think of a plan of how to get her out of there; that by the time he came to his senses, he was already in the helicopter – by himself. 😁
Aw. That’s more honesty than I’m used to from him, since he’s so often trying to cover up his inadequacies with some kind of excuse. This is progress, in that sense, yes? 😉
I was fully expecting them to have to stay on that ledge all night, and probably have to huddle together to stay warm, as has happened in so many other classic romcoms before this, but I’m perfectly happy too, with how they get saved by the ginseng master, and end up spending the night at his house.
And, it does feel like a significant moment, when Sa Rang tells Gu Won that mere employees like her can’t just decline work that’s assigned, even when the work is unreasonable or dangerous, and Gu Won solemnly promises that this kind of thing will never happen again.
That seriousness of his, as he makes that promise, feels meaningful too, and I also feel like I’m detecting some hyper-awareness on Sa Rang’s side as well, as she considers his words. Very nice.
The scene in the yard the next morning is played light and cute, and what I like about it is, it’s clear to see that Sa Rang’s comfortable enough to rib and tease Gu Won now, like the way she pretends that her leg hurts, so that he’ll sweep the yard on her behalf.
I like this idea that she’s comfortable enough with him now, to feel playful – and actually act on it. 😁
I thought the whole thing where Sang Sik arrives to pick them up, and then proceeds to monopolize all of Sa Rang’s time and conversation, was rather overdone, but I have to say, petulant Gu Won is very cute.
And, with that childlike hurt in his eyes, he makes me feel a mixed kind of way – like, I feel amused that he’s so silly-petulant, but I also find my heart going out to him, because that hurt in his eyes has such a childlike flavor to it.
E6. I did very much watching Sa Rang take Gu Won to the market, and feed him delicious food. It’s so great that he loves the food so much, and is completely unabashed about enjoying it. 🤩
I mean, he doesn’t even try to pretend to be snooty about it; he’s just full-on enjoying the food, and expressing how great it is, and asking for more. It’s adorable. 😍
Add on the way he gets so obsessed with that market game, and doesn’t it feel like he’s indulging his inner child for possibly the first time in his life? It really feels like he’s never had a similar experience before, and this is all new and shiny and utterly enthralling, to him. 🥲
And then, when the rice puff machine makes that loud noise, it’s dorky, yet completely swoony, how Gu Won drops his beloved prize golden fish, to reach for Sa Rang – because he’d promised that he would protect her.
ALSO. Perhaps Gu Won’s learning to lean into the opportunities before him, instead of putting his foot in his mouth, since he’s quick to ask Sa Rang to buy him food if she’s grateful to him – and then promptly frames it as a date. 😁
Plus, how about that smile, as he looks right at her?? So gentle and open. 🤩
Eee! In response, Sa Rang can’t help but smile, and I can’t help but smile too. 🥰
E6. Sa Rang’s getting all hot and bothered, because she can’t help feeling jealous, when she sees that chaebol princess act all touchy-friendly with Gu Won, and even talk about their future marriage, which their fathers have apparently agreed on.
It doesn’t look like it’s a serious thing, though, judging from Gu Won’s response, where he tells her to marry someone who likes her.
Also, I can’t help but notice that Gu Won’s gaze keeps homing in on Sa Rang, even though Birthday Girl keeps trying to get his attention.
So, even though Sa Rang’s all in a huff thinking that Gu Won’s just randomly saying flirty things to her about going on a date when he already has a girlfriend, we see that Gu Won’s absolutely not thinking of anyone else but her.
..Which is why I’m pretty darn stoked, to see Gu Won show up at Sa Rang’s door, right when she’s in the middle of that food and dance party with her girlfriends.
I’m thinking that the misunderstanding’s going to get cleared up pretty fast – and then perhaps we’ll have some official OTP progress? Since Sa Rang’s inadvertently leaking the fact that she does, in fact, like Gu Won? 😁
E7. I am very much enjoying how unabashed and matter-of-fact Gu Won, in showing that he likes Sa Rang – even though he does seem a little less consistent, when it comes to actually saying the words out loud. 😁
Like, at the top of the episode, we see him volunteering the information to Birthday Girl, saying that he’s already met someone whom he likes.
But later, in episode 8, he hedges quite a bit, when Pyung Hwa and Da Eul urge him to confess his feelings to Sa Rang, before she gets taken away by someone else.
We’ll get to that later, but for now, I just like the idea of him being so certain that he likes Sa Rang, and no hesitating at all, in making it clear to Birthday Girl, that he does, in fact, like someone.
I also like that he doesn’t waste any time in going to visit Sa Rang at her home, because he’d picked up on how she’d looked out of sorts, when she’d left King The Land.
Good man. I like how he pays attention and is observant of Sa Rang, and I like that he doesn’t just assume that everything’s ok; I just really like the idea that he was worried about her and wanted to make sure she was ok, and that’s why he went over there, unannounced and uninvited.
Remember how I mentioned that I’m paying a lot more attention now, to how Junho plays Gu Won?
I’m still very much enjoying picking up on the nuances, and in this scene, when Gu Won comes upon Sa Rang basically in a squat after her rap finale, I really like the detail, that he kneels down, so that he’s at the same eye level as she, when he asks if they can talk for a bit.
It’s little details like these, that indicate to me that Gu Won’s become a lot more thoughtful and considerate of Sa Rang, compared to at first, and I like that a lot.
E7. Isn’t it an indication of growth, though, that Gu Won doesn’t just get mad right there and then, when he hears Pyung Hwa and Da Eul name and shame him for being a colossal jerk?
I mean, he could’ve put it all to a stop, if he’d just come clean with his identity, but he doesn’t, and I feel that the reason he doesn’t do that, is so that Pyung Hwa, Da Eul, and most importantly, Sa Rang, wouldn’t feel awkward.
I’m just shaking my head over here with some amusement, though, with the way he tells them that he’s Manager No (as in, Sang Sik), because that’s surely a lie that’s going to be pretty short-lived, yes?
It’s just like teasing besties to rib Sa Rang and “Manager No,” complete with knowing glances, and what I like best about this little beat, is how Gu Won smiles a small smile to himself, in response.
Aww. He likes being teased about being there to see Sa Rang, because he likes the idea of people seeing them as a potential unit, I think?
Also, isn’t it so thoughtful of Gu Won to bring a bag of many types of medicine with him, because he’d noticed that Sa Rang hadn’t looked well, but wasn’t sure what she might need.
Guh. I like thoughtful Gu Won very much, I hafta say. 😍
I mean, he doesn’t even get a little upset, when he gets to talk to Sa Rang alone. Like, he doesn’t confront her about having dissed him in front of her friends, but instead, refers to it as a good opportunity for him to understand what she’d thought of him.
I mean, yes, it’s a cliché that Gu Won seems to have been changed by love, but at the same time.. isn’t it sweet? 😍
I like that Sa Rang’s quick to mention Gu Won’s alleged girlfriend, so that Gu Won can quickly and matter-of-factly state that Birthday Girl isn’t his girlfriend.
I’m quite amused at how Sa Rang still manages to lash out in jealousy, asking if Gu Won’s chest is a public rest area that’s open to just anyone, hahaha.
And how great is it, that Gu Won’s reaction is one of gentle amusement, because he’s quick to clue in on the fact that, despite her protests, Sa Rang is indeed, jealous. 😁
Listen, it might be a small thing to some, but I love Gu Won’s gentle looks with a passion, so the fact that we get this gentle, amused, slightly indulgent sort of gaze from him, after Sa Rang gesticulates wildly about his chest being a public rest area, is such a lovely surprise. 🥰
And, isn’t it rather gallant-indulgent of him, to promise to never let anyone into his arms again, even though Sa Rang’s insistent over her claim, that she’s absolutely not jealous, not in the least? 😁
Also, isn’t it so tender, the way he touches her chin, brushes that wisp of hair away from her face, and then tells her that, ok, he’ll take it that it’s as she says (that she’s not jealous).
I really kinda dig this quasi-couple vibe that they’ve got going on, where they’re not officially together, but he gets all concerned and shows up at her house, and she gets all jealous about him hugging another woman.
And now, we have them holding hands, even, after Gu Won saves her from oncoming traffic.
Yes, it’s in the name of safety, but I’m sure that Gu Won knows, and Sa Rang knows (and we know!) that this is all just an excuse for them to hold hands, yes?
And, he’s even asking her when would be good for them to go on a date, so they are both totally acknowledging that there’s something there, between them, and that’s giving me mini feels. 🥰
E7. I do like that scene where Gu Won shows up at King The Land while Sa Rang’s turning over the table settings by herself, and he offers to help.
He’s slowly showing more seriousness in listening to what Sa Rang has to say, and I like that besides gazing at her with that dreamy look in his eyes, he’s paying attention to the things that she says, about work, and what it means to her.
ALSO. How about that bit of flirting, where Gu Won asks, quite seriously, why Sa Rang never thinks of him, and Sa Rang smiles that she only said that she hadn’t made any assumption about why he’d come to King The Land, but hadn’t said anything about not thinking about him, like, at all. 😁
I really like how they’re not denying the feelings that are growing between them, even though they haven’t actually formally talked about these feelings just yet.
E7. It is quite a sweet little moment, though, when Sa Rang talks with Gu Won about having sincerity in one’s heart, in order to offer truly welcoming smiles to guests.
I feel like Gu Won really takes her point about sincerity to heart, and honestly, the way he then smiles at her, with gentle sincerity, is heartmeltingly sweet and warm. 🥰
E8. It’s rather cute that once they’re changed back into their regular clothes, this time it’s Gu Won who’s protesting that he absolutely wasn’t being jealous, and now it’s Sa Rang’s turn to say, sure, let’s just say it wasn’t jealousy, then. 😁
On its own, it’s not that amusing, but when it’s contrasted with last episode’s conversation, it’s kind of cute that their roles are flipped this time, and they’re basically taking turns to deny that they feel jealous, no, not even a little bit! 😁
And, just in case this helps anyone, I just wanted to mention that when Sa Rang asks Gu Won, “Why are you looking at me like that?” and the subs say, “Because I love it,” it’s much more vague in Korean, because there is no object in the sentence.
He basically says, “Because I like” – which could mean, “Because I like it,” “Because I feel like it,” or “Because I like you,” which is why Sa Rang does a double take, before Gu Won clarifies (or rather, backpedals) that it’s because the weather is so nice.
Yes, these two are definitely flirting around their feelings for each other, and it’s all such a tease. 😁
I love all the thoughtful things that Gu Won now does for Sa Rang, and I must say, the thing that captured my attention most, even more than the booking of the suite for her to sleep in for the night, was the fact that he understands that her feet must hurt after wearing heels for the whole day.
The fact that he gets her those bedroom slippers to wear, so that she can walk comfortably, makes my heart melt – most likely because my feet have suffered their fair share of discomfort from wearing high heels, so I viscerally feel the thoughtfulness of Gu Won’s gesture.
Of course, the suite is no small deal either, and it is admittedly very thoughtful of Gu Won to think of giving Sa Rang a night of luxurious rest, after a hard day entertaining Samir.
We’re really seeing some changes in Gu Won now, like how it doesn’t even seem all that weird, to see him making that cup of coffee for Sa Rang, whereas at the beginning of our story, we would’ve never dreamed of him doing such a thing, let alone so matter-of-factly too.
Our Gu Won’s grown, for sure, and I’m glad about that, even if that growth seems to be powered mostly by love. 😉
It’s totally a cliché, that Gu Won would be so enthralled with the ramyun and other convenience store snacks that he eats with Sa Rang by the river, but Gu Won really is very cute, though, with his unrestrained wonder when trying new things.
Plus, I’m sure Sa Rang’s company just makes everything taste 100x better, yes? 😉
It’s so tropey when Snooty Sunbae’s arrival causes Sa Rang to pull Gu Won into the suite with her, to hide, but I’m so into the forced proximity thing, that I don’t even care that this is tropey. 😁
The way Gu Won hurriedly takes off his jacket and undoes his tie, so that he looks like he was just lounging around in the suite, is inexplicably sexy, and I.. rawr. 🔥
E8. That date where he takes on the role of server and chef, while treating Sa Rang as a precious guest, is a very nice concept, especially since Sa Rang spends all her time at work catering to guests.
I don’t know how believable it is, that Gu Won’s so good at cooking, when, as Sa Rang rightly points out, he couldn’t peel onions to save his life, when Gran asked him to, but, well, I think this is where we are expected to suspend disbelief, in service of furthering the OTP connection.
..and boy, does the OTP connection get furthered. 🔥
I appreciate that Gu Won’s intention was always to have a good conversation with Sa Rang, to discuss their relationship, rather than just going in for the kiss.
That intention indicates a level of respect for Sa Rang, and I like that.
But of course, when we have that Moment in the dark, with the sprinklers going, and Sa Rang’s in such close proximity, after he’s grabbed her and sat her on the counter, to prevent her from stepping on any broken glass, the crackling tension between them is just too great to ignore.
The way he looks at her, is so full of gentle, tender smolder, and the way he leans into her space, is so tentative and unhurried; it’s schmexy, is what it is. 🔥
And then I love – LOVE – the way Gu Won whispers, “May I have permission..?”
It’s a direct flip of how we’ve seen him say, “I’ll allow it,” in the past, and that feels important and significant.
Even though Sa Rang doesn’t overtly articulate her permission, she does show him that she is open to his kiss, with the way she closes her eyes and tilts her face towards him.
And, importantly, Gu Won’s moving in such a tentative, gentled, measures manner, that Sa Rang could have stopped him easily, if she’d felt uncomfortable.
And then we have kisses and more kisses, and all of it is gentle, unhurried, hungry and tender in all the right ways, and I feel like I’m imploding from all the hot on my screen. 🔥🔥🔥
Glug. I’m a dazed, helpless puddle on the floor over here, you guys. Send help.
E9. Backing up to the top of the episode, we do get a replay of The Kiss, and I’m absolutely content to watch it a second time (well, more like a fifth time, since I did replay it a couple of times, when I first watched it at the end of episode 8 😁) – and yes, I did still hold my breath and kinda melt all over the floor again.
If there hadn’t already been dating rumors floating around, those rumors would’ve definitely started with this scene, because our leads kiss like they mean it, and it’s all pretty darn intoxicating. Flail.
I do also like the fact that we end the scene with Gu Won and Sa Rang sharing a hot pot of stew, and chuckling together; this makes me feel like they’re happy and comfortable with each other, beyond lighting up each other’s insides (and our insides too! 😁) on fire, with smoking hot kisses. 🔥
And then, of course, they have to navigate being around each other at work, which is a totally new thing for them, and of course, Gu Won’s quite terrible about being subtle about it, pfft.
The secret handhold in the elevator was cute, and also, quite thrilling, because in an office romance that you want to keep secret, these are the moments that really add excitement to your day, yes?
Honestly, though, I was surprised that Sa Rang’s co-workers at King The Land didn’t clue in on the fact that Gu Won’s there just to gaze at Sa Rang, coz he’s being pretty darn blatant about it.
But, Show has them assuming that Gu Won’s there to check on them instead, which is fine, I guess, since Show doesn’t want to blow the lid off this romance just yet. 😉
(So right now, it’s really more about what Show wants for our OTP, rather than what’s believable, on our screens. Since Show doesn’t want to reveal the OTP romance just yet, to Sa Rang’s colleagues, they are therefore blind to the obvious fact that Gu Won’s there training dreamy eyes in Sa Rang’s direction.)
In principle, I think it makes sense that Gu Won and Sa Rang go through an adjustment period, since they haven’t actually talked about how they’re going to navigate their new couplehood while at work.
The way it’s played for comedy is a little OTT for my taste, from the way Sa Rang overreacts at King The Land and even raises her voice at Gu Won, in her desperation to get him to just leave already and stop making everyone uncomfortable, to the way Gu Won and Sa Rang take turns getting huffy with each other, from feeling rejected.
But, Gu Won feeling lost about how to get back in Sa Rang’s good books does bring him to visit Gran, which I thought was a pretty nice arc (aside from the shadow miming thing).
Gu Won puts the lesson from Gran to good use almost right away, with the way he admits to Sa Rang, that he doesn’t want to go back to Seoul, because he wants to be with her. And, when he presses Sa Rang about whether he’s the only one who feels that way, Sa Rang admits that she feels the same way too.
And then, we have a great little conversation, where they both apologize for the way they’d each acted, and Gu Won asks Sa Rang to always be honest with her feelings, and be true to herself, in front of him.
Ahhh. They’re being more upfront in their communication now, and it looks like it’s all thanks to Gran’s forthright lesson. 😁
ANDDD. Gu Won finally makes his love confession properly. Awww.
“I really, really like you a lot. Would you accept my heart?”
To which Sa Rang answers with a kiss and a nod.. and then we have official OTP kisses, all tender, unhurried and content, and it’s just quite lovely. 🥰
..But Show, in its cheeky fashion, turns it around soon enough, with Gu Won grumping about being too far away from Sa Rang, that he can barely hear her, because their sleeping mats are on opposite ends of the room.
I do like the fact that Sa Rang is still very deft at managing him, even though she’s now officially in love with him.
The way she flatly offers that he can leave instead, or choose to sleep outside, is pretty great, coz it gets Gu Won to quieten down, before they arrive at a compromise, with Gu Won pulling her mat closer to his, so that he can look at her as he falls asleep.
I do love that Gu Won’s in a confessing type of mood, now that he’s decided that communicating is important.
I like how he just decides to tell Sa Rang about how he’d felt about her, back when they’d first met, and how he must’ve liked her from the start.
And he finishes by promising to always be within her line of sight, and within reach. Awww. That’s schweet. 🥰
E10. It feels like this entire Thailand trip is there, just so that we can have that scene of them taking a moonlight dip in the pool, being all lovey-dovey and kissy-touchy. 🥰
What I do appreciate about this pool scene, though, is the way the skinship is portrayed; it feels so real and believable, how they talk to each other, between kisses like that. ❤️
*peck* “I missed you.”
“We were together all day long, though.” *return peck*
“Not the back of your head” *peck* “Your face.”
*peck* *chuckles* “I missed this lovely face so much.” *smiles* *smooches*
And then they proceed to drown in each other’s kisses. Gurgle.
I don’t recall that I’ve seen any other OTP in Dramaland talking through kisses like this, and it feels so real that I feel like I’m a voyeur peeping at real-life lovers. 😅
E10. Gu Won and Sa Rang running away to have their own day of freedom is mostly just an opportunity to show us other facets of Thailand, but I do appreciate that after the fancy dinner, Gu Won actually tells Sa Rang about his mom, and how she’d suddenly left, and why he’d felt so tormented, by everyone’s smiles afterwards.
I love that Gu Won’s sharing this so openly with Sa Rang; it’s important communication, and Gran would be proud, I think.
E10. We have a loving OTP moment up on that roof, where Gu Won thanks Sa Rang for coming into his life, and says that he needs nothing more in life now.
And then we have mutual “I love you’s” and more OTP kisses; still gentle, but with more intensity than before, and it’s all very dreamy and romantic. 🥰
And now, with the OTP relationship properly minted, and the love properly confessed and sealed, it feels like we’re now going to have our OTP work together, to tackle things like the systemic problems within King Group, and the mystery of Gu Won’s mom.
E11. We get a good amount of couple time, with Gu Won and Sa Rang squeezing in time for couple things, like snuggling at the bus-stop, and then freaking out when Sa Rang spots colleagues across the road – only to then board the company shuttle bus and meeting a whole bunch of other colleagues on the bus, ha.
It’s all silly and in good fun, though my fangirl heart and my brain are entertaining opposing thoughts on Gu Won being unabashed about wanting to be around Sa Rang.
My fangirl heart is amused at how straightforward he is, about wanting to be around her, and how he doesn’t seem to care if anyone sees them. There’s something rather thrilling about how unabashed he is, about his feelings for her.
My brain, though, is somewhat perplexed that he doesn’t seem to understand why Sa Rang might be uncomfortable about being seen with him, and the possible implications this might have for Sa Rang, if she becomes the object of gossip and snide remarks.
But, I get that Show is all about good intentions and good humor, so I’m trying to get my brain to keep quiet about this one, and let my fangirl heart win on this one. 😁
E11. As we close out this episode, Sa Rang’s got Gu Won over at her house for a home-cooked dinner, “because Pyung Hwa’s away on a flight,” and it’s all cozy-flirty wholesomeness, with them teasing each other with the affectionate term 자기야 (“jagiya”), which basically translates as “honey.”
I almost feel like I’m watching newlyweds settling into married life, especially with how post-dinner beers turns into a princess-carry complete with smooches. 💋
E12. Gu Won gallantly shows up to fetch Sa Rang with an umbrella, when she gets caught in the rain after attending a gathering with her King The Land colleagues – and then gets soaked by the splash from a passing vehicle going through a puddle.
..Which is how we have Gu Won flashing his abs at us, complete with damp shirt and wet hair. 🤭
I kinda love Sa Rang’s flustered reaction, because while she acts all awkward and tries to avert her eyes, you can just see the twinkle in her eye as she turns away from him, as if she’s thinking, “Woahhh. You mean all of that choco-abness is.. mine..??” 😁
Tee hee hee.
I totally understand the thought, though. I would be thinking the same, if I were in her shoes. 🤭
And then how about that cheeky glint in Gu Won’s eyes, as he sidles up to her, still baring those abs, and teases her about acting shy, when she’s seen everything? Naughty.
And then, how about the way he says in that low voice, that if she’s this endearing, he can’t possibly leave her alone – and then whispers that she take responsibility (which my subs translate as “your fault” which is kinda similar but also kinda different).
And then we have kisses; gentle, hungry, tender kisses, and I feel, all over again, that I’m very possibly a voyeur peeping at real-life lovers.
E13. I appreciate that Won is showing himself to be a good boyfriend who is quick to show concern, when his girlfriend’s suddenly standing in a sea of porcelain shards – never mind if it looks inappropriate to the other people at the table, and never mind anyone knows or doesn’t know that he and Sa Rang are dating.
And I have to confess, the way he looks right at Sa Rang, when she tries to brush off his concern, and repeats that he’s asking whether she’s alright, or hurt anywhere, is very intent and smoldery. Spazz.
It literally feels like Sa Rang is the only person Won sees, and that is a very heart-wobbly sort of thing.
And I also like that the first chance he gets, Won looks Sa Rang in the eye and assures her that it’s nothing like that; that something like him getting married to Yu Ri, is never going to happen.
Sigh. So assuring, and with just the right amount of earnestness too. I like.
E13. I thought it was a little lame of Show to pretend like Sa Rang was upset about the Yu Ri incident and thinking of breaking up with Won, and then pull a reveal, that she’s really upset about how the Dream Team is treated.
I do appreciate that the way Junho plays the scene, when Won breathes a sigh of relief that Sa Rang is smiling again, really works to elevate the scene.
It could’ve been pretty light and throwaway, considering that Show’s teasing us about Sa Rang being upset with her relationship with Won, but instead, Junho plays it such that Won has tears sheening in his eyes, as he breathes that sigh of relief and says that he’d missed her smile, and that just adds a nice layer of emotional potency to the moment that I’m not sure was in the script.
And then later, when Chairman Dad requests Sa Rang to take care of Ji Hu for a while at the house, we have that scene where Won pulls Sa Rang into his room, and while goofing around, we get the classic trope where our OTP falls together, such that they find themselves within kissing distance, on the bed, and listen, it’s tropey, whatever; I am flailing all over the floor, purely by the power of Junho’s bedroomy gaze.
Of course they get interrupted by Ji Hu, but that’s fine. I’m not sure I could have survived if that bedroomy gaze had had room to get hotter and more intense, honestly. 🔥😅
E14. When the articles about Won’s love affair gets splashed everywhere, it’s again rather nice to see how steady our OTP relationship remains, with Sa Rang rushing to Won’s office, not to panic about the situation, but to tell him that she’s ok, so he doesn’t have to worry.
It’s sweet, and it’s a rather nice thought that our OTP is steady and not easily fazed by challenging situations, and is quick to reach for each other, when there’s upheaval around them.
On hindsight, I realize that this is the point when Won tells Sa Rang that if she can’t come to him or call him, he will go to her – wherever that may be.
And we do see that come into play, a little later in our story.
That scene in the elevator, where Won speaks up and corrects Snarky Sunbae, that it was he who had pursued Sa Rang and not the other way around, is pretty tropey, but I still got a stab of satisfaction from it.
It’s just kinda thrilling how Won is so unabashed about his relationship with Sa Rang. He doesn’t seem to care what this does to his reputation, and there’s something pretty cool about that. 🤩
And how earnest is he, when he tells Sa Rang to henceforth correct anyone who thinks otherwise; that he was the one who had liked her first.
And then how tender is he, when Sa Rang responds that people won’t believe her, thinking her a nobody, and he tells her that he doesn’t deserve someone like her. Melt.
Sa Rang and her gal pals
Show treats it with a light touch, but I do like that Sa Rang’s got a group of friends that she’s close to.
Not only do they provide one another other with moral support and perspective, there’s also a great deal of solidarity as well, since they are all working the hospitality industry, and can empathize with one another.
I also appreciate that we get to have little secondary arcs for Pyung Hwa and Da Eul (Go Won Hee and Kim Ga Eun), which I’ll talk about shortly.
Ahn Se Ha as Sang Sik
Overall, I have to say that I thought Sang Sik worked better in concept than in execution, as a character.
What I mean is, I like that Sang Sik’s got a good heart, and is in full support of Gu Won, as his right hand man.
E1. Even when he and Gu Won are new colleagues in that internship, he offers Gu Won all kinds of help and advice, to help Gu Won fit in better, and hopefully not get fired.
He could’ve just minded his own business, but he made it his business to help Gu Won settle in, complete with fashion advice, and I find that endearing.
[END MINOR SPOILER]
It’s just that, in execution, Show keeps wanting to make Sang Sik the funny guy, &/or the butt of jokes, and mostly, I just didn’t find it very funny, unfortunately.
Credit to Ahn Se Ha, though, for approaching the role in such a gung-ho manner, and not having any vanity about it.
Gu Won and Sang Sik
My feelings towards this relationship are similar to my feelings towards Sang Sik as a character; better in concept than in execution.
The bromance between a chaebol prince and his male secretary has become quite ubiquitous in Dramaland, and I was expecting to find this relationship endearing.
Maybe it’s because of how Show kept trying to make Sang Sik the butt of jokes; I just didn’t feel this connection between Gu Won and Sang Sik, very much. It just didn’t grab me, unfortunately.
In principle, though, I liked that they were helpful and loyal to each other, in their own ways.
Go Won Hee as Pyung Hwa [SPOILERS]
At the episode 12 mark, we finally learn the details of Pyung Hwa’s supposed “ugly” past, and I sympathize with her, so hard.
I mean, what the heck, she was fake-married against her will because her ex-boyfriend filed the marriage registration in a fit of pique, and then she had to get divorced, and that’s the thing that she’s been trying to hide, all this time?
Surely she could have had it annulled?
I don’t understand Korean law, of course, but that lady at the counter telling Pyung Hwa that it would be impossible to get it annulled doesn’t make sense to me.
But, assuming that that’s true, I can imagine how the stigma of being a divorcee might be considered a black mark, given the image of the glamorous single flight attendant that Pyung Hwa is expected to uphold. Or something like that.
I just feel bad for Pyung Hwa, that in this world, she’s being punished on such a long-term basis, all because her ex-boyfriend acted out after their break-up.
And then I was so mad, when we find out that that ex-boyfriend is actually that obnoxious captain that keeps making sleazy snide remarks at her. That somehow made it a hundred times worse.
I’m glad though, that Pyung Hwa has her friends to back her up, and a little loveline as well, which I’ll talk about next.
Pyung Hwa and Ro Woon
I have to admit that I had a good amount of interest in the potential loveline between Pyung Hwa and her hoobae Ro Woon.
Even before he says anything specific about liking her, it’s clear that he’s always looking out for her.
All drama long, I perked up at any indication that he liked her, and was on her side.
Admittedly, I found the minting of their relationship rather more understated than I’d had in my head, but I’m glad that these two do get their happy ending, in the end.
E3. I got a big stab of satisfaction, when Ro Woon innocently asks the snooty team leader whether she’ll be stepping on the scale too.
And how sweet of him, to later tell Pyung Hwa not to think of going on a diet, because she’s already plenty beautiful.
Aww. He’s such a sweet puppy! I want her to decide to keep him, and soon. 😁
E4. I hate that Pyung Hwa’s got that sleazy colleague coming on to her, but – Eee! – she’s got an earnest puppy in Ro Woon, who’s quick to have her back, always, and he’s totally into her, because look at the way he asks to have dinner with her, and then insists that he doesn’t care about getting promoted, as long as he can work with her.
And then, when Pyung Hwa tries to deflect the conversation by saying that some other girl is very curious about him, he turns it back on Pyung Hwa, and says that he’s very curious about her. Eee!
This bold puppy is quite disarming, I must say. 😁
E8. I feel bad for Pyung Hwa that she sprains her back falling like that, but again, I’m glad that Ro Woon’s there to help her.
And the way he conducts himself around Sa Rang definitely smacks of someone hoping to potentially be introduced as Pyung Hwa’s boyfriend.
That’s sweet and cute, and y’know, I hope that Ro Woon gets his wish. 😁
E10. I am digging Ro Woon’s singleminded devotion to Pyung Hwa, not gonna lie.
And I love that he flatly turned down the dinner invitation from the girl who got promoted over Pyung Hwa, saying that he had plans, even though Pyung Hwa had had no idea that he would be coming.
The way he sits down next to Pyung Hwa so pointedly, is like telling everyone that he’s definitely there to see Pyung Hwa, never mind what he just said about just passing by the area. 😁
Plus, the way he practically jumps at the chance to spend the night at the villa, instead of going back to the crew hotel, is so hearts-in-eyes puppy-like.
I’m so pleased that Pyung Hwa doesn’t pretend too hard, that she doesn’t notice, and actually gets up to make him breakfast, so that he sees it and is able to eat it, before leaving in the morning.
Aw. Are we getting some inching forward on this loveline? I sure hope so, coz Puppy is endearingly smitten, and Pyung Hwa looks like she’s not immune to his smitten gaze either. 😉
E11. I like the idea of Ro Woon being so smitten with Pyung Hwa, in such an unabashed and undeterred sort of fashion.
This episode, I loved how he basically got Pyung Hwa out of having to have drinks with that obnoxious captain and those obnoxious colleagues, by stating that he had plans and would it be ok for him to go ahead – and then take Pyung Hwa with him, because his plans had been with her.
Perhaps it’s partly naiveté on his part, but it’s still gratifying to basically hear him say that he doesn’t really care what happens tomorrow, that he just wants to be with Pyung Hwa today.
Aw. It’s so thrillingly reckless, isn’t it?
And then, how forthright and unflustered is he, when Pyung Hwa asks if he likes her, and he tells her without hesitation, in that gentle, measured manner, that he does like her.
And then when Pyung Hwa starts to say that she can’t accept his feelings, I have to love how he goes on to say, in that simple, assuring way, that she can do what she wants with her heart, and he’ll figure out what to do with his.
I kinda love how he’s loving with abandon; like it won’t matter if he gets hurt, because he’s too happy being with her now.
I imagine that it’s hard not to waver, in the face of such simple, wholehearted earnestness. 🥰
Kim Ga Eun as Da Eul
I really, really like Da Eul as a character.
She’s a great colleague, a wise boss, a caring friend, as well as a conscientious mother, wife and daughter-in-law.
Which is why it chafed at me so much, that she had so much crap to deal with, in her life.
I hate that her in-laws take advantage of her; I hate that her husband is slippery eel who keeps pushing away responsibility, and who keeps lying to her; I hate that she’s got a parasite for a boss who keeps trying to take advantage of her. SO MUCH UGH.
I’m kind of bummed that the punishment for Da Eul’s husband is so light, because it feels like his transgressions are much more serious than the punishment he receives. But, I get that Show wants to take a light touch with things, and probably doesn’t want to actually have a divorce on its hands.
But, I do appreciate that Da Eul eventually deals with said toxic boss, so that’s my silver lining.
Kim Young Ok as Gran
Kim Young Ok is always great to have on my screen, and it was really nice to see her be Sa Rang’s grandmother, who’s all gruff on the surface, but full of tenderness and love, on the inside. 🥰
It’s cute how she takes to Won, but refuses to admit it, for a while.
I did love that bit in episode 9, when she takes Won to the market show him off to everyone, while making a big show of insisting that he’s just one candidate of many, for Sa Rang’s hand. 😁
And how sweet and heartwarming it is, that Gran takes Gu Won to the bank to open a housing account, because he says that he doesn’t yet have a house.
And then she feeds him all that food and lights up so much, when he tells her that her food is delicious, and eats it enthusiastically.
Gran and Gu Won are such a great pair; she’s the grandmother he never had, while he’s the grandson she never had, and I am very much enjoying all the time that they do get to spend together. 🥰
Kim Sun Young as Hwa Ran
To be honest, I didn’t like Hwa Ran very much, because Show made her so two-dimensionally unlikable.
I mean, I get that she’s worked for years in King Group, and is now feeling cheesed off that Chairman Dad is now suddenly saying that Gu Won is a contender for Chairmanship, alongside her, even though Gu Won’s not worked half as long as she has, in King Group.
The thing is, though, Show just makes Hwa Ran a pretty awful, cold person, from her youth. Even when she’d been a young girl, she was mean and cold to Won. That doesn’t endear her to me.
And on the point of management, she shows herself to be a terrible leader, so if I were Chairman Dad, I wouldn’t want her managing my businesses either, y’know?
I also felt that her eventual turnaround was sudden and far from believable.
Overall, I felt that Hwa Ran was more of a plot device, rather than anything like an actual person, unfortunately.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
Overall, I’d say that Show served up an ending that felt very much in character.
Show’s been low-angst and feel-good for basically the entirety of its run, that I didn’t expect any major upsets in the finale stretch, and Show basically lived up to those expectations.
Sure, there were times when Show feinted a little towards trouble in paradise, but – as I was fully expecting – all the indications that there might be Big Problems, were just fake-outs, in the end.
Honestly, even though I did hanker for Show to be meatier and more gripping at points during my watch, I can’t say that I would have therefore wanted any major upsets in the the finale stretch.
That would have felt rather like too little, too late, in my opinion, so Show actually did the better thing, by sticking to its guns, and giving us an angst-lite happy ending, coz we all knew that that’s what we were going to get, ultimately – amiright? 😁
It’s a little convenient that Won’s mom shows up and basically threatens Chairman Dad into letting Won live the life he wants, but I will buy it, in that, I can believe that Mom’s been keeping tabs on Won through her friend who still works in the hotel, and I can also believe that Chairman Dad feels guilty enough about abandoning Mom, and also, protective enough of his reputation, that he would want to cooperate with Mom, when she makes her demand.
That effectively paves the way for Won to bring Sa Rang back, and continue to date her, and eventually marry her, which, I suppose, is a good thing to get out of the way early, so that any delay in the marriage is due to personal reasons stemming from our OTP, rather than reasons related to external forces exerting pressure on them.
I’m also glad that Won and Mom have a proper reunion, after having been apart for so many years.
And, I’m glad that Won, after being all detached and formal (though polite and accepting), actually is overcome with emotion, and goes back in there, and has the real reunion that we all know he needs and wants, complete with tears and hugs.
Of course, it’s not long after this, that Won goes to seek out Sa Rang at King Tourist Hotel, and yes, it’s still weird coz the way Show plays it, it’s as if they haven’t been in contact since he went on his overseas trip, and that’s just really hard to believe, given how technology keeps us so connected these days.
Again, this does feel like Show doesn’t quite know what to do with some of the classic rom-com conventions, in updating itself to be more modern, while keeping to many of the classic rom-com conventions that shaped k-romcoms to begin with.
But whatever, I’ll roll with it, because it is admittedly nice to see Won and Sa Rang back together again, and it is a nice throwback, seeing Won help Sa Rang with the table settings now, just like she’d taught him, all those moons ago. 🥲
As a side note – man, does Junho look cool, whisking those table cloths around with such flourish. 🤩
I’m also glad that, as a natural extension of Sa Rang showing Won around the area, and him learning about all the good things about the hotel’s location, he ends up taking over the hotel, from the current president, who’s such a layabout, and who’s trying so hard to sell the hotel anyway.
I do find it a bit of a stretch that Won’s suddenly so strategic and detailed in his vision for King Tourist Hotel, but y’know, this is a fairytale anyway, so I’m telling myself that he was always a natural – he just needed to find his passion, is all. 😅
Also, it’s just really nice to see him be so focused and charismatic, while still being as dashing and handsome as ever (says my inner Junho fangirl, heh). 🤩
Of course, Pyung Hwa and Ro Woon end up dating, and I WAS RIGHT, Annoying Sleazy Captain really IS her ex. Ugh.
I’m glad she tells him what’s what, while literally kicking him where it hurts most, before stalking off.
And, I’m glad that Ro Woon goes after her, and tells her what I’ve been expecting him to tell her, for the longest time; that he doesn’t care about her past, because he likes her now.
Admittedly, I’d been expecting more swoon from this moment than Show actually delivers, but maybe that’s coz Show was reserving all the swoon for our OTP?
I’m not hot on the idea that Da Eul’s still with her no-good husband, but I did get a great deal of satisfaction from seeing Da Eul tell her terrible manager that she would be reporting her for misappropriation of company funds – and Won showing up to back her up, when Terrible Manager starts protesting and throwing her so-called connections around.
Hwa Ran’s turnaround does feel rather flimsy, in the sense that she’s responded with ice-cold hard stares, to exactly the things that she faces, in this finale stretch, and Ji Hu’s being earnest and loving as before as well, so it’s not like a great deal changes.
But, she suddenly changes her mind about sending Ji Hu back to America, and suddenly wants to become a more loving mom.
It’s a good outcome, yes. I just don’t know how believable it really is, but.. filing this away as simply being part of the whole fairytale kinda works. 😅
Even though Show tries to pull a bluff, with Sa Rang telling Won that she’s had enough and wants to leave, I never for a single second believed that she was talking about her relationship with Won.
I suppose Show needed to manufacture some kind of cliffhanger wow, and this was what they could come up with?
It makes complete sense, though, that Sa Rang would choose to leave King Hotel, because not only is she not living the kind of dream that she’d dreamed, it’s also true that working at King Hotel and dating Won at the same time, totally complicates matters.
On this point, I do think that Won made a very considerate choice, in choosing not to propose, once Sa Rang shared that she wanted to leave.
I think he understood that in leaving King Hotel, Sa Rang would be making a big change in her life, and that change deserved her full focus and attention, which is why he opted to postpone his proposal to a later time, when Sa Rang would feel ready to give their wedding and marriage, her full focus and attention.
Also, given that the place that Sa Rang chooses for her new small hotel venture is outside of Seoul, I actually find Won very understanding, because this means that they’re doing a bit of a long-distance deal, aren’t they, with her being out in the country, while he’s in the city.
It’s kinda cute and sweet that Won keeps showing up at the hotel, to help her out just when she needs it, and we even have OTP sexytimes in the mix, and then, we finally get the proposal that Won’s been waiting for, and it’s all very sweet and tender, with Won telling Sa Rang, that he wants to spend the rest of his life with her.
Aw. Of course she says yes, and then they have a gorgeous wedding, and of course, they live happily ever after, as they always do, in fairytale tradition. ❤️
THE FINAL VERDICT:
A pleasant, albeit unremarkable story, with lots and lots of Pretty.
FINAL GRADE: B
The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of King The Land, is Moving [Korea]. I’ve taken an initial look at Moving and I’m happy to say that I like it a lot, so far.
You can check out my episode 1 and 2 notes on Moving 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): +Heartbeat [Korea]
Early Access Plus (US$10): +When I Fly Towards You [China]
VIP (US$15): +My Lovely Liar [Korea]