Sixth Charm of a Mature Woman: “The thing that makes you shine is not a diamond ring, but your eyes after you’ve cried.” Our heroine says this to herself as she sits next to Da Ren, the two reunited after a fight. In this statement she rejects materialism for emotional experience; doesn’t focus on the crying or what makes a person cry, but on the fact that that person survives the tears and what brought them on; and she continues to reaffirm that turning 30 is a good thing. What I find interesting, however, is that in this episode we see both leads gloomy and dejected when they are not speaking and bright and smiling when they reconcile. What makes these two shine is them being together.
I feel that this episode was not as strong as the first five, that it was more of a transitional episode in which You Qing’s and Da Ren’s relationship is once again strained and they stop speaking to and seeing each other, and then are reunited at the end, their friendship stronger and both more aware of their feelings, like in episode 4. While in that episode the main themes involved Da Ren being an awesome best friend and You Qing beginning to confront her romantic feelings towards him, in this episode, the main themes are our two leads’ dissatisfaction with the other’s performance in the friendship and You Qing finally confronting just how much of a jerk Li Wei really was to her when they were dating, and her worth as a single woman. The reason I feel that this is more of a intermediate episode is because the metaphor that usually ties an episode arch together is not as strong here as it usually is. This series overall has this wonderful ability to set up individual scenes and they normally weave together seamlessly to form one strong narrative; I feel that this week we get some wonderful individual scenes that stand out on their own more than the entire episode does as a cohesive whole. Therefore I’m going to arrange my reflection in a kind of “Anatomy of a Scene” format; it’ll highlight what I thought were the most engrossing parts of the show. We get some pretty major developments in this episode, though, in terms of (self) revelations and character growth, which were delightful to anticipate, what with the way the writer and director laid them out, and captivating to watch unfold on my screen. You know, I’m always going on about how much I love the writing for this series, but the acting is awesome, too. The break up scene between Bolin Chen and Chen Kuang Yi (Maggie) is amazing. This show is just so satisfying. It’s like the exact opposite of the (very enjoyable) cotton candy fluff that was Playful Kiss: one is like a great dinner that gets you through a project till the wee hours of the morning and the other disappears on your tongue.
I: Lee Da Ren Breaks Up With Maggie
What a wonderful scene. Our hero finally steps up and does something. Lee Da Ren is a rather passive hero who doesn’t pursue the person he’s actually in love with. Notice that it’s Maggie who woos him, Maggie asks him out, Maggie who initiates all the hugs and kisses. But here it is Da Ren who’s initiating something. It comes after he initiated something else: that hug that he gave You Qing. This scene elevates the relationship between these two from an annoying hindrance to the real story, to an actual organic part of the story because Da Ren has to face the consequences of his actions (hurting Maggie) and Maggie has to face the consequences of pursuing a love interest based on a (rather arbitrary) list of requirements she’s made.
Ii: Maggie’s Character Development
Maggie loses her baby voice after Da Ren starts telling her how in lurve he is with You Qing. She isn’t trying to please him anymore and now she wants some real answers from him. His hesitance in their relationship is finally getting to her, andinstead of assuring him that everything is fine and that she’ll just try harder she demands to know why he’s telling her his feelings for another woman. I’m so glad Maggie gets her chance to shine here, that the writer(s) is allowing her to be morethan a tool in the narrative of You Qing and Da Ren’s relationship, that she is allowed to have some depth and show us the pain that Da Ren has caused her. She calls out Da Ren for dating her even while knowing that he was in love with someone else, for being a coward, and she asks that one heartbreaking question that always gets me, “Why don’t you love me?” (Oh no, now I’m remembering Jeremy from You’re Beautiful asking that question.) What’s best is that she goes all meta and calls out the narrative trope of the “antagonist girlfriend” itself, saying how she was being exploited for Da Ren’s and You Qing’s love. She also brings up the very real question of whether love is all it’s cracked up to be, when it can end so abruptly and cruelly. Just look at what happened to You Qing after Li Wei left her. And then Maggie breaks my heart again when after Da Ren leaves she tells her empty apartment that all she wanted was an ordinary happiness, not this sincere love that Da Ren insists on (which just shows why they could never be together), suddenly making her list for getting married seem much more sympathetic.
II: You Qing & Lee Da Ren Have A Fight
In episode 4 our leads were separated because of the awkwardness that ensued after You Qing woke up in the same bed with Da Ren, her head on his shoulder and his face a little too close for platonic comfort. In this episode they spend time apart because of a fight. You Qing runs into Li Wei when she’s in her typical “I’m at home and I want to be comfortable” garb: baggy grey skirt over baggy grey sweatpants, baggy shirt, hair up in a messy bun, large glasses on, and cranky as hell because her mother ordered her to sweep the front of the house. So what does she do when Li Wei shows up, all spiffy looking and smiling? She runs away screaming, naturally. Notice she has no problem looking that way in front of Da Ren, even while he’s in a suit. But what starts out comedically ends up dramatically, with our leads seriously questioning their friendship.
YQ: “I’m really disappointed in you. Whenever I have a problem, the first person I think of is you. You didn’t even comfort me. You mocked me, despised me, misunderstood me. May I know the significance of this kind of friendship? I think we should carefully think about it.”
DR: “I’m also very disappointed in you. I thought that after 5 years Chen You Qing had finally grown up and would finally not live for someone else. At the very least, I should have some merits. I never thought it would end up being a wasted effort.”
Ouch. They just can’t see eye to eye here: what she sees as a shot at her pride and dignity, he sees as evidence that she wants to get back together with Li Wei. I understand Da Ren’s logic, that if she’s really over him then she wouldn’t care about looking “bright” in front of him, but I sympathize with You Qing—she wants to show the man who left her that she’s doing fabulous without him.
III: You Qing & Da Ren’s Friendship
One quibble: I love Da Ren, and I’m very glad that he finally broke up with Maggie in this episode; it was a very unselfish thing, and he managed to do it while still being kind. He offered her an explanation, and he offered her some good advice, the latter of which is actually infuriating, considering he just dumped her, but kind all the same. What I did not appreciate, however, was how he stood up to You Qing’s blind date… for her. That man insulted You Qing: he objectified her, he ridiculed her, he belittled her; it was You Qing’s right to tell him off. I can understand how Da Ren’s telling him off instead can be seen as romantic, but frankly, our heroine has a voice, which is what I love about her, and she can stand up for herself. I wanted her to get the satisfaction of returning her blind date’s favor. It’s this paternalistic side to Da Ren that I’m uncomfortable with.
On a brighter note, once again these two choose each other, with Da Ren finally breaking up with Maggie and rebuffing her attempts to get back together, and You Qing choosing to meet up with Da Ren instead of going to see Li Wei. Also notice that Da Ren shows up after You Qing has given up on the fantasy of the ring, the ridiculously expensive ring that neither she nor her probable future partner can afford, the ring that is supposed to represent her value as a single woman, but ironically is this bittersweet symbol for the dissolution of her boss’s marriage. When she rejects her fantasy she gets the reality of Da Ren. She also rejects the fantasy she’s been building up in her mind for 5 years of making Li Wei eat his words and chooses the reality of wearing sweats at home. And at the beginning of the episode Da Ren waves Maggie away in his concern for You Qing and then pulls her into a hug (that leaves her flustered; we can add that onto the list of skinship moments that awaken You Qing’s romantic feelings toward her best friend, along with waking up in the same bed with him) that she doesn’t reciprocate; at the end of the episode we get the the completion of that hug, with You Qing opening her arms wide and Da Ren leaning into her offer.
You know, I’ve realized something about these two: they are both rather reserved. Da Ren is very cautious with the people around him. He’s never overly joyed or overly upset. Even when he comes home depressed that he’s had a fight with You Qing, he expresses his unhappiness in pretty tempered terms to his mother. This is something that comes out in his romantic relationship to Maggie, with his ability to remain pleasant and accommodating at all times, which is why Maggie was able to stay with him for so long, despite the fact that his feelings for her were clearly not as strong as hers were (or seemed to be) for him. And You Qing is very reserved, although less so than Lee Da Ren because while she’s pretty animated with her mom and dad, he isn’t with his mom. Let’s look at the way she dealt wit Nick: she didn’t blow up at him, didn’t expose him for the liar that he was. She just told him that he didn’t have to manipulate people’s emotions in order to succeed. She even got him a promotion! These two are the most liberal with their emotions when they are together: they get mad at each other, yell at each other, smile the widest in each other’s company, cry in front of each other.