This show started off really strong. What the blurbs don’t tell you is this is actually a murder mystery. The very first scene shows a woman being murdered. Everything else spins out from there. It was a little surprising how dark it was at the beginning considering the fact I had sat down expecting to see a romantic comedy. I liked how the mystery was set up. Every episode revealed a little bit more. It was with this show where I first started to enjoy my Kdramas with a bit more meat on them.
I really enjoyed the heroine Jung Yoon Hee. She was fun and spunky. I loved her tell it like it is ways and her unapologetic view of herself. The actress was great—and so pretty! The evolving relationship between her and Baek Soo Chan was a lot of fun. At first she is suspicious of him, as he is a player who her sister is smitten with. Then as a challenge he turns on the charm and sneaks under her radar and plays her too. Sounds jerky, but she gets hers and he hits rock bottom pretty quickly. Then they grow into close friends and confidants.
And here’s where it gets interesting.
Originally the show was plotted so that Jung Yoon Hee and Baek Soo Chan ended up together. Which is why this relationship is so well written. They start out as adversaries and while helping each other overcome obstacles in their lives, become closer and closer. This is also why all the promotional materials show them all snuggly together, surrounded by the rest of the cast. However, part way through the show it was decided, partly due to fan reaction, that she should not end up with Soo Chan but with her boss, Yoo Joon Suk.
When I first watched this, I agreed whole heartedly. I’d like to say because of the storyline or because of the character, but in reality, it was because Park Shi Hoo was so cute. However, during the show and especially now looking back on it, I really feel like this was the wrong choice for the characters. I wonder how far the writers got before making the decision. As the show goes on Soo Chan and Yoon Hee have a great story arc. They are clearly set up to be the leads. Not to mention the fact Joon Suk treats Yoon Hee like crap.
Yes, I understand he is in a terrible situation. Being pressured/blackmailed by everyone around you to marry isn’t easy–but his solution most of the time is to cry about it. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when a hero cries–especially for the heroine. But it seemed like this guy was gut-wrenching sobbing all the time.
Other ways he treats her like crap? Well, it’s the little things. Like the time he decides to make Yoon Hee’s fantasy about going to the opera, ala the scene in Pretty Woman, come true. Seems nice, right? He takes her out, purchases her a dress, lets her get all dressed up purdy, takes her to the opera, meets his ex-girlfriend, then proceeds to spend the rest of the night being embarrassed by Yoon Hee and her exuberance. Later when she falls right in front of his ex-girlfriend (actually in front of everyone) he is so embarrassed he leaves her there. It’s only then the looks of disgust he’s been giving her most of the evening register. The actress played this so well.
To top off the destruction of Yoon Hee’s dream, in the car, Joon Suk decides he’s done. He needs to get away and leaves her on the side of the road to find her own way home. Man, nothing says romance like being dumped out like trash. I can totally understand what she sees in him.
Then it gets even better. He’s decided to move past his embarrassment over her lower class ways, buck what society thinks, and declare his love and devotion to Yoon Hee. Thinking this reminds you of Mr. Darcy? Don’t get excited just yet. What about his fiancé, you ask? Good question. Well, he’s going to keep her too.
His solution to the situation of being pressured into marrying one girl while in love with someone else? Ask Yoon Hee to be his concubine (mistress). Yep, that’s our hero.
I feel like I’m being mean and taking things out of context. With all his tears and actions, you do know he loves Yoon Hee–but is that enough? And can you really love someone and ask them to live that sort of lifestyle? She would be compactly ostracized. No woman would want to be her friend. People would look down on her. She would bring great shame to her family. Any children they had would be illegitimate, which in the US no longer carries the stigma it used to, it still does in Korea. The fiancé and the fiancé’s family treat her terribly and she just has to take it as they are in the right.
Yoon Hee loves Joon Suk enough to do it. Her character really takes a hit as the show goes on. Would the spunky, klutzy, outspoken character at the beginning, have let herself go through what she does? I don’t know.
Once Joon Suk gets his way and Yoon Hee agrees to become his concubine, he still acts in some of the same crappy ways. He informs her she will need to wear what he wants her to wear, she will need to be smarter, learn several languages, and even have charm and etiquette classes.
I love you, now change.
During this time, Yoon Hee has one friend–and this is before what the couple plans to do gets out–Soo Chan. He is her confidante and her loyal friend. He is her defender and sounding board. While he doesn’t like the decision she has made, he still plans to support her. Why do I bring this up? Joon Suk gets jealous and demands Yoon Hee break off her friendship with Soo Chan–especially when things come out about Soo Chan’s past at the office and he is blacklisted. But this is the one thing she can’t do, the one thing she actually fights him on. She does this because everything Soo Chan is for Yoon Hee, she is for him.
I do love the part where Soo Chan hits Joon Suk for what he is trying to do with Yoon Hee. Git ’em!
For those of you worried we’re rooting for a girl who will actually become a concubine–never fear. After her family finds out, as Yoon Hee’s sister sits in jail as a result of defending her sister to the fiancé’s mother, Yoon Hee finally musters up the courage and realizes even though she loves Joon Suk, she just can’t become his concubine and breaks up with him. GO GIRL!
There is a lot of stuff that goes down in this drama and I’m barely touching on any of it. I don’t even think I can go into everything, as so much happened during these 20 episodes. There were a lot of characters to keep track of and the writers were pretty skillful in giving everyone proper motivation. There are no cardboard characters here.
Not only is there a lot of charaters to keep track of, there is a lot of plot. Part of the show is a mystery. Who killed the lady at the beginning? (Finding out exactly what her name is would require me to watch this again, and I just couldn’t do it, sorry.) Why was she killed? How is she related to all these characters? (And it ends up, she’s Kevin Baconed with everyone) Who is Yang Go Ni’s father? What is the chairman blackmailing Joon Suk’s mother with? Then there is the romance between Yoon Hee and Joon Suk (hrumph). This also takes place in the fishbowl of a residential culls-de-sac (thanks Gilmore Girls for educating me on how to spell this). I mention the neighborhood as it’s very Desperate Housewives. Everyone is connected to everyone else and stories and conflicts rise from there. This is escalated when you find out that this is all housing for people who work for the construction company owned and run by Joon Suk.
The one downside to having all these storylines, is I felt that too much relied on coincidence. At the beginning, everyone just happens to be vacationing together? At least Yoon Hee and her sister were actually there because her sister was stalking Soo Chan–they had a reason to be there at the same time. Yang Duk Gil flies to Thailand to meet a potential bride, is on the same flight with Soo Chan who owes him money? Duk Gil is raising Yang Go Ni as his son but believes him to be Soo Chan’s biological son? Yoon Hee sees a woman viciously breaking up with her boyfriend, the woman later becomes Yoon Hee’s neighbor and the woman Joon Suk gets engaged to? Soo Chan also has an encounter with this woman on his vacation. He fishes her out of the water after her boyfriend tries to kill both of them when she breaks up with him. (She has to break up with him so she can get engaged to Joon Suk) She frees herself and when Soo Chan rescues her, she tells him she was the only person in the car, effectively killing the boyfriend. That’s an awful lot of coincedence.
And this is just the first episode and a half–I’m telling you this thing moves fast.
It only grows once they all get back to Korea. Coincidence upon coincidence mounts until it seems like every person and plotline are all tangled within a single web. Interesting yes. Once again, I have to give props to the writers for keeping everything clear and understandable. However, once you realize a bunch of episodes in that Yang Go Ni is the murdered woman’s son and not Soo Chan’s son, but Joon Suk’s illegitimate brother, it gets a bit much. Yes, there is cause and effect, you can see how things progress, how everyone is connected to this one murdered woman, but I’m pretty sure a LOT of people live in Seoul. This story makes it seem like only this small neighborhood exists. In this world it totally makes sense that Yoon Hee sees a crucial piece of evidence against a woman who ends up being her neighbor, who ends up engaged to the new boss/ boyfriend, whose father arranges the death of the murder victim, the murder victim who was the first love of Soo Chan, and the mistress of Joon Suk’s father.
You know what? After all this? I hope people do see this. I don’t think I can watch this again but I don’t regret doing so. It’s interesting to see all the lines and plots connecting every character. When you’re being introduced to everyone, it’s like–another new character? But everyone has their purpose, be it to move the plot forward, or to provide motivation and understanding into some pretty awful situations and characters. In a writing class I took once we had an assignment, write a short story making an unsympathetic character sympathetic. This show is filled with these sort of characters. You don’t want to root for any of the bad characters, but you understand their reasons or motivations for doing what they did.
Yes, even Joon Suk.
It wraps up nicely–in the evil mother’s case who CAN rival JiHoo’s mother–a little too nicely.Everyone who should be happy is happy and even the wrong-doers are both punished and regretful.
I still say though, it’s lucky Park Shi Hoo is so cute. I really would have had to have disliked this show otherwise. Writers, please take note! Fans do not always know what’s best for the show. Do what is right and makes sense for the characters. If it’s told well, we will follow! (Or at least eventually come to terms.)