Episode 1: Beyond Imagination
Cha Young Jin and Yoo Gwang Pil are the top two recruits at the presidential bodyguard training academy–and cutthroat rivals. He holds horrible ideas about women and their abilities, which infuriates her. Their team leader forces them to work together so that they each can learn something from the other. Meanwhile Young Jin deals with her disappointing family and the President’s son is a rebellious troublemaker.
Hmm…I like the family dynamics. They promise to give us a show that is more than bickering eventual lovers with some procedural action on the side. I don’t find either of the male leads attractive–one is an adult who throws teenage-worthy tantrums (and we are shown him listening to Linkin Park and Bon Jovi as if they’re the likes of RATM or Refused, which is unintentionally hilarious) and the other is sexist and skirts along the line of being a misogynist. Having re-watched Dal Ja’s Spring it’s really interesting to see Chae Rim here. She’s totally different–not at all compliant and trying to please everyone, not second guessing herself or being the optimistic one who puts up with others bullying her. She’s loud and in your face and angry and damaged, and it’s awesome.
Episode 2: Hot vs Cold
Young Jin and Gwang Pil are assigned to protect the President’s son; Young Jin returns home after training; we learn a little about Gawng Pil’s past.
I’m really uncomfortable with how Gwang Pil uses his height and weight against Young Jin, even when they aren’t officially fighting. It’s just…creepy. The thing about the bickering-your-way-into-love trope is that it involves sharp barbs and wit: it’s a creative and intellectual competition, not a physical one. (And even then, antagonism does not equal attraction. With the best bickering couples, the competition between them, the challenge, is something they enjoy. And their relationship doesn’t stay there, it changes: you can see them change, watch them move from antagonism to something else. Antagonism in and of itself is not enough, and certainly not romantic.) Once it becomes physical it becomes actual violence, and that’s not attractive or fun to watch. In fact, this show’s title reminds me of Wild Romance, a show I wanted so much to be better than it was. It did do something right, though, which is that when it showed Yoo Eun Jae and Park Mu Yeol fighting (episode 4), it was a real fight, and there was real danger involved. It wasn’t some metaphor for unresolved sexual tension, nor was it used for comedy. We are shown that Eun Jae and Mu Yeol could have really hurt each other, and that Mu Yeol was actually trying to hurt her while she was defending herself, and we’re scared for them both. Here, though, the fighting is supposed to tell us that these two actually really like each other, *wink wink*, which is what the characters in the show who surround them believe. It’s ridiculous. Add to that the fact that Gwang Pil is belittling and dismissive and constantly publicly embarrasses Young Jin and I’m finding it hard to believe he isn’t the villain in this story. Intercutting his aggressive (threatening) behavior with random acts that are supposed to be chivalrous (like letting her win the top place in class) doesn’t make him a secretly good person, it just makes him more of a douche. In fact, those acts aren’t even truly kind; they show us just how sexist he is. Letting Young Pil win is a concession to her inferiority: it ends up being something he gave to her rather than something she earned for herself. It robs her of her ownership. It’s not an act of generosity but one that undercuts her. Not to mention it goes against his whole persona of treating everyone, “even women,” equally. If he really wanted to show her kindness he should do so when she gives him an opportunity. For example, when Young Jin thanks him, he could just say “You’re welcome,” instead of whatever dismissive remark he’s got in his back pocket. So Gwang Pil is creepy, sexist, and a hypocrite. Ew.
But on a lighter note, Young Jin’s younger brother reminds me of Kang Tae Bong! Hahaha, it because of the hair! Also, how awesome is it that Young Jin is always late, just as Dal Ja was? This show is also written by the same person who wrote Dal Ja’s Spring, so maybe it’s a shout out to that character! And she meets Soo Ho while he’s wearing a school uniform. The noona romance lover in me approves. :D
Episode 3: Running Ones, Flying Ones
Soo Ho does his best to make work impossible for Young Jin and Gwang Pil; Young Jin’s family want her to pay off their debt; friction continues between Soo Ho and his father. Soo Ho and Gwang Pil have a heartfelt conversation while Young Jin handles the thugs who her father owes money to.
Young Jin’s family is abusive. It’s not physical, but it’s still overt: they use her and have no regard for her wants or needs. They just take, take, take, emotionally and financially, and they’re shameless about it. They’re selfish and any guilt they may feel for how they treat her is ultimately shallow and flies the coop the second they want something else from her. Usually drama heroines with disappointing fathers (Mary Stayed Out All Night, My Girl) only have to cope with one debt-laden fool, but here Young Jin has three, and the worst part is that she has to watch as her younger brother becomes just like her father and grandfather. Watching them bully her into giving them her money after she’s already had to cope with so much from them is infuriating. It makes me wonder how they treated her mother when she was alive. And I’m sorry, but, “It’s not like we’re asking you to become a prostitute to pay off your fathers debt”? Ugh. (Side note: Soo Ho has her phone number when Gwang Pil doesn’t.)
Episode 4: Trouble Maker
Soo Ho has to do community service; Soo Ho confides in Young Jin about his problems with his father while she considers paying off her family’s debt.
Episode 5: Business is Business, Personal is Personal
The personal and professional get entangled when Gwang Pil helps Young Jin and her family get rid of the loan sharks; Soo Ho deduces that Gwang Pil has romantic feelings for Young Jin; someone from Gwang Pil’s family comes for a visit, further entangling the personal and professional; soo Ho declares that he will “take Young Jin away from” Gwang Pil.
“That’s right. This is me. I’m this lowly of a girl. My family and I this is all that we are. My lowly grandpa, my lowly dancer father, and my lowly, unemployed brother. I didn’t want anyone to find out just how lowly my life was. And I lied, too. I didn’t want to loose face in front of the rest of you. That’s why I intentionally made up stories. Are you satisfied? …Since your discovering my life is naturally lowly, my pride is easily hurt by small matters and my dissatisfaction with myself makes me lose my temper easily. But what is there to do? You’re so great, so just bear with it. Aren’t you supposed to be the king of greatness? …Who asked you to get involved in other peoples’ business? You should have just pretended not to know! …Making me look so ridiculous in front of others, was that fun? Was it fun to watch?” Cha Young Jin
Episode 6: To Trust or Not
Tensions rise between Gwang Pil and Young Jin because he thinks she leaked the secret about his daughter; meanwhile Soo Ho starts flirting with Young Jin as a way to lash out at Gwang Pil, but Young Jin kicks his ass; there is an official inquiry into Gwang Pil’s lie about his daughter.
Episode 7: The Meaning of 1 Meter
Soo Ho gets Young Jin in trouble and Yoo Min notices his interest in her; Go Min has to stay home alone on children’s day, but gets in trouble when she goes out alone–Young Jin has to go help her; Young Jin gives Gwang Pil advice about being a single parent; Gwang Pil warns Young Jin from getting too close to Soo Ho.
Episode 8: Dad, As Well Dad
Young Jin stops being Soo Ho’s bodyguard when he decides to study dance with her father; Young Jin tells her father he embarrasses her; Gwang Pil comforts a distressed Young Jin; Young Jin tells Soo Ho that if he wants to continue learning from her father he should apply himself in life; the bodyguards have to protect Soo Ho during a party.
With two male leads who have such a messy, both of whom have romantic feelings for our heroine, hurtful past it would have been easy for this drama to be about their problems and how this one woman in their life potentially changes them for the better, and then the past issues they had/have are re-played in this new relationship with her–and there is quite a bit of that here. (Not to mention all the intrigue in this show is predicated on the death of a woman who has no characteristic other than that she was loved by both men. Oh, and she played the violin.) But Young Jin also has her own problems, separate from either of the male leads or any possible romance with either of them, and I appreciate that. I like that pride and shame and ambition are all aspects of her character that were introduced since the first episode and are continued sources of story that color her interactions with other characters.
Episode 9: Memory of Vocalise, No. 14
Soo Ho kisses Young Jin, lets her know he’s romantically interested in her, and starts to “live his life righteously”; we learn more about Gwang Pil and Soo Ho’s past history; Gwang Pil is cold to Young Jin because of the kiss (and his own unexamined feelings towards her).
I hate forced kisses. Grrrrrr.
Episode 10: Sorrowful Fate
The reporter calls Gwang Pil in for questioning while So Ho’s sister does the same with Young Jin; Soo Ho has another episode; Soo Ho starts to get his memory back and confronts Gwang Pil; Soo Ho finds out about Gwang Pil’s daughter.
“I have been tortured by migraines for the past 8 years. Once they happen I have high fevers and can’t get out of bed for a few days. I can’t be pleased by anything. Whatever I look at I get bothered by it. I have a whole bout of anger in me. So after a tantrum follows an even greater anger that presses down on me like a mountain. I survived for 8 years like that. The medication I had to take is more than the rice I consumed. It made me drowsy and then fear and despair would come and I’d think about dying. I’ve lived like that for 8 years. But not long ago, it started to stop. I don’t have the migraines any more. No more fevers. Just a few days ago I stopped all the medication. But nothing happened to me.” Kang Soo Ho
This is, of course, a romanticized (and sometimes ridiculous) depiction of mental illness, and so far it’s been used more as a plot device than as an integrated part of Soo Ho’s character. I especially felt uncomfortable with the way his migraines just “disappeared” and he went off his medication just because he started to feel better, but I think if I look a little closer at it it can tell me about Soo Ho. The quote above means that in the first few episodes Soo Ho was on medication. It means that he had to go to a doctor to get the medication. It also means that he was visibly disabled. I didn’t recognize that at first, and I don’t think most characters in the drama do, but his mother might, and his sister definitely does. It changes his character for me because I no longer see him as someone who is simply acting out in the extreme because he’s a tortured soul. We always get characters that explain their past trauma, but I think this is the first time we get a character who explains how he manifests the effects of that trauma, who shows us that he knows and understands that he has that anger, that he’s been working through that anger. He identifies himself as a survivor. I mean, he clearly identifies his thoughts of suicide and depression. It’s not something I expected with this drama, which hasn’t really been delivering.
And what of the pressure it puts on Young Jin, to is the one who “cured him”? He says “I stopped having nightmares when I started to think of you,” placing his courtship of her within the bounds of his recovery–please accept him because she literally makes him better. Or, alternately, please don’t reject him because if she does, he’ll get sick again. It’s not the same problem with the whole forced kissing, which removes her agency and screams rape culture, but another one: it adds qualifications to their romance, much like when he started pursuing her just to get back at Gwang Pil. I want so much to like these two together (I mean, look at Lee Jin Wook; he’s so. cute.) but Soo Ho is just messing it up everywhere.
Episode 11: Sc…ar
Why, hello there, makjan! After meeting Go Nim, Soo Ho starts to get even more of his memory back leading him to confront his sister; after another threatening letter is sent Gwang Pil offers up his resignation; Soo Ri (Soo Ho’s sister) tries to bribe Gwang Pil into leaving; Kim Byung Wook (the nosy/friendly bodyguard) is hurt while chasing the reporter.
Episode 12: The Two Sides of the Truth
Gwang Pil fights to keep his relationship with Go Nim; Young jin confronts the reporter; Soo Ho’s mother visits Gwang Pil and starts to avoid Soo Ri, who feels no remorse for keeping secrets and lying; Soo Ho connects with Go Nim; Young Jin’s father finds a new dance partner.
Episode 13: People, People In Their Insides
After her sunbae lies about who leaked the story, Young Jin is forced to resign, despite Gwang Pil and Soo Ho’s best efforts; the bodyguards all have a party for Young Jin (so cute); Soo Ho and Gwang Pil work to get Young Jin her job back; reporter Go Ki Cha has one last conversation with Young Jin. (I wish I knew how to photoshop so I could gif the moments between Soo Ho and Go Nim in this episode!)
I’m kind of having problems with how Young Jin’s sunbae, Do Woo, has turned into the “evil guy” here. He’s always been a jerk, but there are sympathetic strokes in his character that I’m disappointed aren’t being explored. He’s overly exacting and lords around his power, yes. But it’s so obvious that he’s self conscious and afraid that he’s lacking. He’s also very aware of social hierarchy and how some people get advantages that others don’t and how it has nothing to do with merit. His superior should know these things about him by now, should know how to handle him. He should know about his feelings of inferiority and isolation, should recognize how being left out of things threatens him and makes him feel slighted–and it is a slight, because his juniors are being given orders that he isn’t privy to and orders that his superior doesn’t even take the time to tell him he isn’t privy to. That’s just not how an organization should work. For all his compassion and understanding for Young Jin and Gwang Pil, their superior has a surprising lack of consideration when it comes to Do Woo. I mean, it just makes him look like he’s bad at his job. It’s actually pretty ironic, because what Do Woo was afraid of, others being treated better than him because they’re liked better, is exactly what happened.
Episode 14: One Difference of Heart
Romantic tensions rise when Young Jin, Soo Ho, Gwang Pil, and Go Nim take a beach vacation together; Nam Do Woo, Young Jin’s liar sunbae, falls into disrepute after getting fired; Gwang Pil tells Go Nim about her parentage; Soo Ho is a creeper.
“If you don’t wish to send Go Nim away, then don’t. To Go Nim you are her dad. You have every right to make that decision.” Cha Young Jin
I really wanted to like Soo Ho’s sister, to understand her situation and the decisions she felt she had to make–it must not have been easy growing up trying to be the perfect daughter, and then becoming the perfect wife and mother. She must have had a terrible time knowing that her younger brother had a child at such a young age, knowing the kind of scandal it could cause, how it would taint the family’s image and name, how it could destroy what she’s worked hard to maintain. And the pressure to keep all her lies under wraps must have been enormous. But I can’t like her, and I cannot understand her. Not after she was so vindictive as to be willing to hurt a child, her niece, no less. She’s selfish and controlling, a liar and a coward. She’s domineering and desperate, and she becomes petty when she doesn’t get her way. She’s condescending, thinking she knows best and being dismissive of other’s decisions. When she walks into Gwang Pil’s apartment she’s just so…offensive. It’s someone else’s personal space and she just goes in uninvited, superior and sneering, cutting him down in front of his daughter, and acting as if she’s the victim. Disgusting. She thinks she has the right to make decisions for other people, and when she makes those decisions she doesn’t make them with those people in mind, but with herself in mind, with how she may be affected. She didn’t keep Go Nim from Soo Ho because she thought it would be too traumatic for him, she did so to protect the family’s image. And what I hate the most is that she continues to act this way, even after the people she’s tried to control have slipped from her grasp. And she’s never apologized. (And that scene between Gwang Pil and Go Nim just broke my heart. Gwang Pil, everyone knows about the past now, so you don’t have to send her away! Even if something should happen to you, she’ll still have people to care for her!)
Episode 15: Outbreak of a Crisis
Go Nim spends her first weekend with Soo Ho and his family; Gwang Pil reveals his romantic feelings for Young Jin; Soo Ho cares for Gwang Pil when he falls sick; Soo Ho joins the dance competition and moves in with Gwang Pil (Why can’t these four just get together an make a family together?).
Episode 16: The Rules of the Little Happy Things in Life
Soo Ho goes to the dance competition while Gwang Pil and Young Jin work to protect him from Do Woo.