Son of a Sea Monkey, this one hurts to have to do again. As I posted on Saturday, do to some errant computer freezing and someone who doesn’t back up a document until it’s done, I lost all the work I’d already done for this review. Which, I’m sure, was absolutely brilliant. However, I have a container of ice tea next to me, Pandora is set to Elvis Perkins, a post-it note reminding me to save as I go along attached to my screen, and a determination to finish this bad-boy.
So here we go. Assorted Gems. This was a show I hadn’t meant to watch. During my digging through DramaFever’s shows it would pop up and I’d be interested in it, but could never remember why I didn’t want to watch it. I’d read the specs and remember. Oh yeah, it’s 50 freaking episodes long. That’s why. What finally got me to watch it was the release of the Viki app for my crappy phone. Excited to try something, I decided to just watch one episode of Assorted Gems. I didn’t really want to see it so it wouldn’t cut into the other show I was watching. 2 episodes later, I’d traded the phone for the Roku box and was officially hooked.
This isn’t a perfect show. And not just because it’s soooo long. Does it need to be so long? No. Really does any show need to be that long? Probably not. (Are you listening to me, Smile Dong Hae?) Although looking at it, while I had issues with the last batch of episodes, I liked the scope of the show. It meandered, it poked, it told a story about three generations of this family, while giving us insight to more of the culture. During this span of time we had people falling in love, heartbreak, marriages, births, and death. That’s a pretty big scale.
I’m going to get this out of the way right now, or its going to be sitting on me for the remainder of this review. I have a great big issue with the ending. And looking at the reviews on DramaFever, I am not the only one. This show meandered and poked around until like the last 15 minutes of the show. Then BAM! It’s as if they got word they were being canceled and were like “Crap, what are we going to do?” (And this show was not canceled, as a weekend show, it was really popular.) Rather than just letting it end, the writers crammed as much stuff into the last 15 minutes as possible. They tried to do too much with too little time. I’m not kidding. (And if you haven’t already watched Assorted Gems, I know I put spoilers at the top, but this is pretty huge, so last chance for SPOILERS.) Okay, so Amber and GoodSoon are getting married. They’ve plotted and schemed until they finally got their way and are allowed to marry. On the way to the wedding Tae-Ri dies. Okay, that is very sad. Everyone’s crying, sad, sad, sad, then flash forward a few years and you see a heavily pregnant GoodSoon standing in front of her mother’s grave with her husband. A husband who is NOT Amber.
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t like GoodSoon. I hated the whole plot point where the father wasn’t going to let Jade and Yeong-guk (our main couple) get married because GoodSoon and Amber wanted to get married. Seriously? Are you freaking kidding me? Okay, I understand there is some sort of cultural thing about not wanting family members to marry the same family, no, not incest, like sisters of one family marrying brothers of another family. I’m also dealing with this on Smile Dong Hae where the main couple want to marry but so do the hero’s mother and the heroines Uncle. Here in the US it would be cute. In Korea, it seems to be frowned upon.
What I do not understand is Yeong-guk’s father allowing the spoiled-brat daughter who’s like, 18, get in the way of a mature, logical couple who are of marriageable age. Not to mention the fact that Yeong-guk’s mother Tae-Ri, who was very sick with Alzheimer’s, has an incredible attachment to Jade. Um… when your wife is desperately ill and the only person who can get through to her is a potential daughter-in-law, you don’t ask the son to give her up. Good job Yeong-guk for sticking to your guns.
Was that just a tangent? I think it was. Anyway, back to the ending. We never find out what happened to Amber, why their marriage didn’t happen. We never find out who the random guy she married is. Uncool.
Not only that, even without the no answers, the show spends too much of those last 15 minutes on her. We only get brief glimpses into the rest of the characters, you know, the whole Goong family who the show has revolved around. Our main couple who, for the last 4ish episodes, had been pushed aside anyway (grrr…) got I don’t know, a minute of screen time? We see one grandmother get married, which is super cute, but what happened to the other one?
Then there’s Ruby. Ruby, Ruby, Ruby. While you were my least favorite Goong kid (mess with my main couple and I’m going to hate you. It’s the rule, I didn’t make it, it’s just how it is.) You end up married to Doctor Mama’s Boy? Seriously? Come on, he’s allowed his mother to get between you 2 times already! First time, it was decided Ruby wasn’t good enough, so she arranges for him to marry someone else, the wedding gets ruined and they crawl back to Ruby. Ruby finally forgives him and they get engaged again. Then AGAIN, the mother, once they have Ruby back, decides she’s not good enough, the couple breaks up and waddya know? The second wedding Mrs. Doctor Mama’s Boy arranges goes down in flames. Where do you think they go to next? Well, right back to Ruby of course.
Ruby is not written as a door-mat. I don’t know why she goes back to him time and again. Throughout the show, we see that while, yes, he has more money than the Goong family, it’s not like he’s a chaebol. I’d put him in the upper-middle class. I know Ruby is pretty mercenary, but didn’t she, by the end of her story arc, learn the error of her ways? Throughout the show we don’t see that she particularly loves him. She likes him well enough but at the beginning its his position that attracts her. For her to just marry him in the end was kind of like the writers just spitting on us.
Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but you get my point.
If she really wanted to marry for money, her sister was married to a chaebol. A real life, dirty rich guy. You can’t tell me that if she wanted to marry for money, her sister wouldn’t have had her husband talk to a friend or two. You also can’t tell me that Doctor Mama’s Boy was the only doctor in that hospital. What, he was the ONLY doctor she, as a nurse, could lure in? Umm– she’s a pretty, pretty lady who liked short skirts–something tells me there would have been someone else in line.
Of course maybe she was a victim of the abbreviated ending. In that 15 minutes they just didn’t have the space to have her find someone else. The writers could only come up with one mystery husband (you know because two would have just been unbelievable) and gave him to GoodSun. Maybe the writers thought we would be satisfied seeing the Mrs. Doctor Mama’s Boy being sugary sweet to Ruby. Which, while nice, rang false. And with a show which celebrated the day to day life, it just didn’t fit.
Not that I wanted her to be with Kyle either. Kyle irritated me too. I didn’t totally hate him, he had his good moments, but overall I just didn’t like him. Yes, it was nice that an American character was actually American with an American accent, but it was the character itself I didn’t care for. He was meddling and overly emotional. Not only did he try to get in the way of the main couple (and we all know how I feel about that) his insistence that kicking out the parents was the wrong thing to do just irked me. If you don’t know what’s going on, don’t stick your nose into others business.
Of course, sticking your nose in others business is kind of the rule of Kdrama.
Although, I do have to say his interactions with Doctor Mama’s Boy are pretty funny. When Kyle says to him in English, “Why don’t you go breast feed some more?” well, I nearly died. Of course, fat lot of good it did since she married him anyway.
(Loved the dream sequence of duals between these two guys)
I liked the friendship between Kyle and Ruby once they got settled. I knew that they were never going to be together as a couple. Not because of their personalities as, in that aspect, they were a much better match than Ruby and Doctor Mama’s Boy. I just had a feeling that a Korean TV show would not have a main character marry a foreigner. Am I wrong on this? I could be, but that’s just the feeling I get.
Okay, well then. I just realized I ranted for two pages on 15 minutes of a 50 hour Kdrama. I knew when I started this review I was going to have to generalize or I would never get through it, you know, considering the whole 50 hours thing. Plus, with 2 pages of rants I’m afraid you’ll think I don’t like this show, and that’s wrong. I really do. How can you not like a show who does a whole Crouching Tiger Hidden Grandma scene? Or even grandmas who danced along to Girls Generation?
At the heart of the show is the Goong family, but for me really, the heart of Assorted Gems is in the relationship between the main couple, Jade and Yeong-guk. I love their romance. While this show really doesn’t have a driving plot, it primarily bumps along to their relationship timeline. Why do I like this couple, these two people so much? I think it’s their normality. I can relate to them. Yes, it ends up that he is a chaebol, but I’m more referring to his personality.
Although, side note? Why does he have to be a chaebol? Why couldn’t he just be a normal, everyday guy? What is Kdramas fascination with the chaebol set? Is it the Cinderella thing? However, for most of this relationship he’s living under the identity of Regular Joe. Regular Joe doesn’t have wealthy parents, Regular Joe is just happy working hard, providing the best life he can for himself and eventually Jade.
From the time that he’s living in the house, before he’s called home due to his mothers illness, we are able to completely forget where he comes from. We watch these two very prudent, honorable, regular people slowly become first friends and then fall in love during the first part of the show. He is so incredibly sweet to her even when she’s being a jerk to him having misunderstood his intentions at the beginning. Throughout the show he takes more care of her than anyone in her entire family does. He protects her, he gives her the opportunity to write, and he’s her unfailing cheerleader.
To the rest of her family, I’m not going to say they don’t care for her, but I don’t think they really see her, not as her own person. Within the family she is the responsible level headed one. It is she, not her parents, who is the head of the household, she holds everyone and everything together. She’s not a weak character though, I don’t want to make her out like a door-mat. She stands up for herself and for what is right.
Its Yeong-guk, an outsider, who sees her for who she is and what she wants and is prepared to put her needs in front of his own. Rawrr. Seriously. Where I can get myself a Yeong-guk? If I had to chose a Kdrama hero I’d want in real life? Yeong-guk ranks super high on the list. He doesn’t have a lot of baggage, he is super cute, and he loves whole-heartedly.
While I dislike his decision at the turning point to leave the house and disappear out of her life after he finds out about his mothers illness, I understand. This is just him doing what he’s always done–protecting Jade. In this case, he’s protecting her from what he expects to be a lifetime of sadness and hard times. And it allows for the big reveal of Jade finding out he’s not Regular Joe but instead Chaebol Joseph.
I don’t know why I love that scene so much. That scene and the few right after it until they decide to get back together. Jude realizes how wealthy he is and decides he left because he wasn’t serious about her, that he thought she would only be after him for his money. And reacts accordingly. I love seeing how much they feel for each other but fight it, Yeong-guk to protect Jade and Jade protecting herself and her pride.
The show does it a bit of an off patch once they settle down into marriage. You’re going to have to bear with me on this as I try to explain what I’m thinking. Up until that point, the warmth of that relationship, the relationships between all the characters suck us into this world, we are inside it, we care about the characters and are invested in what happens. Once the main couple settles in, it’s like the writers pull back and we’re somehow disconnected to the story. We don’t get the feeling behind these characters.
I know I’m explaining it badly. Let’s just say, this is how I knew I was not going to make it as a good fiction writer. I can tell the tale, I can plot like mad, however, everything I write is just surface, I just can’t seem to do that magic where you live among the characters. That’s where the heart of the story is, that’s how you get your readers (or viewers) to laugh, cry, and sigh like lovestruck teenagers. The writers of Assorted Gems had this, I felt involved with these characters, this main couple, but once they got married, the writers just lost it. I’m not saying I didn’t cry when Tae-Ri died, I’m not a monster (queue BigBang) but the heart of the story was gone. Perhaps that was a signal that the show should have ended about 7 episodes sooner.
I hope that makes even the slightest sense.
One thing I do wish for is that there had been more scenes with the Goong siblings working together as a team. The Goong siblings against the world, even if that world is their parents. How awesome were they when they went to the shaman to get the mothers deposit back?
Unfortunately, once the story went along, everyone seemed to go off in their own direction. I guess that’s what happens in real life, however it give me a pouty face. Especially Coral. Once he gets married it’s almost as if he’s written off the show. He and his wife pop in from time to time, but it’s only hinted at what’s going on in their life. Unfortunately, I found them and their situation much more interesting than the bigger storyline we had of Amber and GoodSoon.
One of my favorite scenes of the show (and I’m leaving out the main couples romance here) is the scene in which the Goong siblings band together to kick their Grossly Irresponsible parents out of the house. How Grossly Irresponsible are they? Well they made my Top 5 list here. Now with Kdrama parents you get a lot of these and usually we just want the kids to stand up for themselves, however, it’s just not done. They may yell and cry, but in the end they are going to clean up whatever messes their parents make. The Goong siblings don’t do that. They, as the responsible ones, decide it’s them or the parents and once they’re pushed too far, make the very hard decision to ask their parents to leave the house.
This was a really interesting choice for Kdrama. This forces the parents to live with their own respective mothers, having to deal with the mothers and their foibles, slowly forces them to look at their own actions, and to make their own changes, growing into responsible adults. By the mid-point of the show, you may not like what the mother does (objecting to the marriage) but you know now it’s coming from a place of caring for her daughter rather than of selfishness. She doesn’t care how wealthy Yeong-guk is, she believes in her heart that Jade will live an unhappy life having to take care of a person with Alzheimer’s.
Did I cover everything? I think I covered everything. I still have this sneaky-suspision that this sounds like a negative review. However, I really recommend this show. I just love the heart of this show. I love the (or most) of the Goong Family. The feuding grandmothers are a hoot. The main couple is super cute. While Assorted Gems is not in my top 5, or even possibly my top 10, but it is a solidly enjoyable show. I’d even watch it again.
You know. With liberal use of my FF button.