Now we’ve crested the midpoint of the show, we launch right into a whole different game of… “celebrity is as celebrity does”? Hye-joon’s star is rising, and with great fame comes great envy all around, and more complicated feelings from the people closest to him who love him most. My feeling is that we’ll soon learn just how fickle a friend fame can be, and I only hope that it doesn’t hurt too much. But the momentum is gathering as we take a running leap into 2020, and the Angst Train is due on Platform 11 3/4 right on time, so if you’re still here—hold on to your hats and hearts.
Saya: Uhhhh Hae-hyo just became a Real Boy?
Paroma: He did! With grown up complexity of emotions and motive and everything! THIS is the Won Hae-hyo I was waiting to find out more about. Thank you, Writer-nim!
Saya: And I’m really interested in his relationship with his dad—who also suddenly became a real character, instead of a grumpy sideline presence. And unlike Hye-joon’s dad, he’s actually kind of invested in Hae-hyo’s success, and asking him things like, “Do you want to be a star or do you want to be an actor?” Very Important Question.
Paroma: He seems to have the right thinking process, but the worst approach to being a supportive parent.
Saya: You can’t argue with data though! 😂 He has pie charts! He has stats! He has a projected 5-year plan! 😂😂
Paroma: Heh. I actually enjoyed that. He clearly pays way more attention to his children than his wife wants. Since she thinks it’s her sole domain.
Saya: Yeah: “I’m interested in your life, because it’s connected to mine.” 😂
Paroma: But Saya! You know what I liked the most?! That Yi-young almost told Hae-hyo that he owes his every success to her. And Hae-hyo couldn’t refute it. So, clearly, the boy knew! (Just as I thought! Ha.)
Saya: And he’s on the cusp of finding out his million followers are fake! But the sympathy I feel for him is pretty minimal. He should have worked harder if he really wanted it, the way Hye-joon did, but he coasted instead, and that was his choice. He’s not a victim of anything he’s except his own attitude and middling work ethic. Poor little rich boy and all. 🙄
Paroma: Oh I’ll enjoy it when he finds out. As Do-ha rightly said, “What have you ever done to get that many followers?” (I love that brat!)
Saya: Yesss man all these salty characters are adding so much flavour—Do-ha is hilariously blunt and petty, and hides nothing. So entertaining!
Paroma: One of the most genuinely heartbreaking scenes from this week was when Evil Ex-Manager told Do-ha point blank that his popularity was plummeting. What a painful revelation by the same person who’d been keeping his ego inflated all this time.
Saya: I thought that was an incisive comment on the short shelf-life of Top Stardom, which is also why Hae-hyo’s dad’s question lands kind of hard. Hye-joon always had his eye on being an actor rather than a star. Though he definitely is enjoying that stardom, lols. But the thing got alarmingly real with his confession that he was searching himself a million times a day (okay not a million, but close)…stardom isn’t easy to handle humbly, even for the humble. Or non-obsessive-compulsively.
Paroma: And I liked how Hye-joon’s cautious handling of his current popularity makes sense given his experience with the industry and a previous taste of rising and falling. It would have taught him to prize every moment of success.
Saya: But then he went and won Best Actor! 😱
Paroma: That… was inevitable since he’s the hero of the show. It’s not enough for him to do really well and rise slowly and steadily in the industry. He has to outperform veteran actors in his very first main lead role.
Saya: That’s the part I find most improbable—no matter how great you are in a role, if you’re a rookie, can you really win out over established actors in your first outing? Then again, they did also tell us that awards came tied with ratings, so perhaps you are right about its inevitability. BUT on the other hand, if Hye-joon’s trajectory is to bear any resemblance to Park Bo-gum IRL—and there’s no reason why it should, I’m just making a comparison for illustration purposes, and he is actually a perfect example—in 2016, he basically won EVERYTHING, but that was the year after his breakout performances and following awards (Best Supporting Actor for I Remember You/Hello Monster, the popularity award in the KBS Drama Awards, AND Best Newcomer Award in the KBS Entertainment Awards for his stint as Music Bank co-host). So I stand by its improbability, but also happily agree that that’s the point of the drama!
Wait, I lied—I have one moment of real sympathy for Hae-hyo: when he tells Jung-ha about how he really wanted to win Rookie of the Year, and what his mom said. Those tears were hard. I don’t begrudge him cashing in his favour with Jung-ha, but I also felt like Jung-ha took a slightly weird turn at the end there.
The Episode 12 Crisis is due to hit next week, and I’m afraid the show is trying to create some kind of artificial conflict to split the main couple up. The way they missed each other’s calls, and couldn’t she have just sent a message? She’s always so straightforward. But does she feel weird about Hye-joon’s win, or like an outsider when he’s with his family, or what? Why did she just quietly leave?
Paroma: I feel like the conflict may be natural—and self-inflicted—but the time jumps and frenetic pace of events made it feel like she’s making too much of too little.
Saya: You mean Jung-ha living in her own head too much, or something else? Also, she doesn’t live excessively in her own head, so…I’m not sure where they’re trying to go with this.
Paroma: Well, one way of looking at it is that Jung-ha’s view of a “good relationship” is terribly flawed, and her execution of that vision is causing her pain. What I mean by that is that she likes to keep some distance between herself and Hye-joon and not be a burden—but that also means that she’s not allowing herself the right to ask for space in his life and big moments, and waiting for him to notice and make that space every time is slowly driving a wedge between them. Or something like that. 😆
Another way to look at it is that the show needs to give Hae-hyo some alone time with Jung-ha to drive the inevitable second-lead plot forward.
Saya: Well maybe it isn’t going in the direction it’s pointing, because those previews have been super misleading.
Paroma: Man, that ending though! How did this show go from slice-of-life to murder mystery?!! And this is NOT how I wanted Charlie Jung to appear in the show again. Did the one openly gay man really have to die for plot reasons? Seriously?
Saya: I did roll my eyes massively at that. This show was never plot-heavy, but I feel like what little direction it had has skewed to a really weird place and I don’t know if I can handle it…
Paroma: I think our graphs just inverted, Saya. You went from positive to negative, and I’m just starting to get happy with this story. XD
I like that Hye-joon’s brother has shades now, that his father is feeling the consequences of never having supported his younger son, that Hae-hyo has a character now (with an arc and actual moral ambiguity), and Evil Ex-Manager is regretting letting Hae-joon go.
Saya: Ohh yes I’m a firm Kyung-joon fan right now. He is SO GREAT. He gave me all the laughs this week, with a generous side of dude, I kind of get you.
Paroma: I get him too! I’m so glad they are showing so much of his life outside the house! His dynamic with his boss just keeps getting better. And how wonderful was it when he jumped to Hye-joon’s defence when his colleague showed him that comment?!
Saya: He’s also still himself, which somehow makes him a million times better. He did not transform and become a good big bro. You have to remember that these boys grew up together, and I think the show has done a great job of making us see that and think of it.
Paroma: His line about it being the “end of an era” when Dad turned on him for scolding Hae-joon was hilarious but also…sad? Because of how self-aware he is.
Saya: Yeah! I actually froze for a moment when it happened, and then he said it. Kyung-joon is the voice of the audience. He makes these wry observations on himself that elevates his tropey moment into killer comedy, meta-commentary—like remember last week when he emerged from the toilets and was like, “hey I wonder why people always badmouth people in the bathrooms,” and then deadpans, “and why the person they are talking about always overhears it.” Hahahaha.
Paroma: That’s true! Hyung is excellent at truth bombs. (That go mostly unheard.)
Saya: And him staying up all night writing slick burns against Hye-joon’s antis! Also I legit replayed the scene of Hye-joon yelling, “When did I have the time to go clubbing” a good, um, twelve times at least. Probably more. Gravelly Park Bo-gum is Best Park Bo-gum. 🙄
P.S. I want everyone to note that I’ve done my level best to saturate this review TO THE HILT (pun fully intended) with Sa(geuk) Hye-joon. You are welcome.
Saya: Don’t laugh!! Do you know how much I want to watch his show? I HAVE MISSED SAGEUK PARK BO-GUM. He was BORN to play kings.
Paroma: Ahhhh, I was really happy to see him wearing hanbok again! And trying to look less royal on the streets with the plebs—but failing, ‘cause he’s too regal. XD
Saya: And wielding swords! And that voice!
Saya: I was nevertheless a bit shocked that he left Dad out of his speech. Though then I wasn’t, because…Dad.
Paroma: Me too! I thought he’d politely keep him in the speech, cause he’s always so good natured. I just think his hurt is just that deep where Dad is concerned.
Saya: Yeah. You know what I semi-wonder sometimes? You know how Bo-gum struggled in his early career with financial difficulties and family stuff with his own dad? Of course he is a professional, but I do wonder how much of himself he has to tap for this character, whose rising-star arc is not entirely removed from his own.
Paroma: Wow, I didn’t know that at all. Yeah, that definitely makes you wonder. And it must be painful to play a character with a similar arc.
Saya: For a while, he kept playing characters who’d lost their mothers. (He also lost his mother young.)
Paroma: Ayeeesh. Though that’s probably not something he could help. Those types of characters tend to have tragic parent stories a lot.
Saya: But to a happier thing: I AM SURE YOU SQUEEEED FOR PARK SEO-JOON. I replayed their little joke scene about 32 times.
Paroma: I did! And I died laughing at Min-jae noona’s fangirling over him. I don’t think my behaviour would have been much better. I love that she’s so in love with her job and so un-cynical about the industry right now. I feel like it can’t last but I love that it’s true for her at this moment. And that she can help Hye-joon because of that unfettered optimism and starry-eyed earnestness.
But… remember how I told you last week that I was wary of his stratospheric rise? The higher you go, the further you fall and all that. I’m worried that the next week or two will largely be about overcoming sabotage attempts by Evil Ex-Manager and Randomly Evil Reporter.
Saya: I both love and fear how put out Ex-manager is right now, because a) he deserves it, and b) he has way too much power—and the will—to do Hye-joon harm. I’m getting to the point where I’m too scared to see what happens next, because it’s basically going to be pain for the next 5.5 episodes. And it’s like the forces of evil are gathering, with Ex-manager (whose name is Lee Tae-soo), Evil Reporter, AND Malicious and Opportunistic Ex Jia. (Though thank GOD for a lead who shuts his ex down and straight up tells her, “I can’t be friends with you.”)
Paroma: I do love a male lead who gives the second female lead no space to cause misunderstandings. (See: Hwang Tae-Kyung.)
But what I don’t understand is why Unnecessarily Hostile Reporter is being so unnecessarily hostile towards a new actor on the rise. That feels like a plot hole. Why would a reporter antagonise a popular actor who could potentially give her many future interviews?
Saya: Right? And why would she blindly believe Lee Tae-soo? I mean, if someone tells you, a journalist, something, isn’t it literally your job to investigate its veracity? So far, EVERYONE has told her the opposite of what Lee did, but nope, she’s still on that train. Ugh.
What really got me this week is how Episode 10 made it feel like Episode 9 didn’t happen. And correct me if I misread this, but didn’t Hye-joon and Jung-ha spend the night together?
Paroma: I think the show wants to pretend this is a super non-physical love. But I also don’t think it was text-plicit like it was with Hae-na and Jin-woo.
Saya: If you say so! 😆
By the way, can you believe: I almost started liking Jin-joo! She’s like…she needed her meanness to be brought to heel, and now that part has been tamed, she’s beginning to show some really fun stripes. She reminds me a little of Jo Boa’s character in Temperature of Love—slightly whiny, oddly likeable, but with a capacity for malice she has let get the better of her.
Paroma: I thought so too! Ha. She’s adorable in her embarrassment.
Saya: Okay, before we run away: highlight reel for some of this week’s best moments! Go!
Paroma: Let’s see. There was that one splendid instance where Dad saw Hye-joon on his way in after shooting a commercial and stunned at his own son’s perfection! And then Hyung added an encore to the jaw-drop. (I definitely rewatched that scene too many times!)
Saya: Worst moments: Dad making Grandpa cry. Followed by best: Grandpa and Hye-joon holding hands like little kids as they retreat together to their room.
Paroma: I especially liked that Hye-joon grabbed the Cola on their way back into their room. 😂
Saya: Hehehehe. Angry moment: Jung-ha’s dad trying to force forgiveness from his daughter?
Paroma: You felt that too?! Thank you! It was awful watching that.
Saya: Oh yes. It’s classic emotional manipulation. Okay, great, you’re sorry, but also…you can’t force forgiveness? I mean, hurt is a thing spooled tight in your heart. It takes time to loosen and unwind. Although I still don’t really understand their deal. Is Jung-ha, in fact, a talkative cipher?
Paroma: Yes, most likely. She’s frustratingly opaque. But oh well, at least Jung-ha doesn’t have to sell her home.
Saya: Also she comforts her dad like she’s the parent, and that’s…a dynamic.
Wait, the reel isn’t meant to be deep! Back to business: Lee Tae-soo saying to himself that yeah, eye for talent, but damn, not enough patience.
Paroma: Hahaha. That’s cosmic justice for you.
Saya: Jin-woo’s mom dishing back to Yi-young the way Yi-young does to Ae-sook SO SATISFYING HAHA. And Yi-young so wrongfooted SERVES YOU RIGHT. Jin-woo’s mom’s beaming is so pure!
Paroma: Jin-woo’s mom is definitely worth her weight in gold. And how perfect that while Yi-young’s relationship with Ae-sook is so heavily suffused by their mutual awareness of their class differences, Jin-woo’s mom just refuses to play that game. I want a sense of dignity and self-worth that strong, please.
Saya: You and me, both!