Friday, February 28, 2014
I actually got this joke!
The teary part, and the really teary part
The bromance that never dies
The big, Hollywood ending
In many ways, this drama reminds me of one of my all-time favorites, Queen In-hyun’s Man. The Joseon/Modern juxtaposition. The insurmountable barrier of Time. And even the way they interspersed the heavy moments with bits of humor. But there’s one thing QIM got right, and YFAS didn’t. Song-yi brought the issue up herself. There was nothing she could do for him. Do Min-joon shoulders the burden of returning or staying lost forever. All Song-yi can do is wait. In QIM, the way the hero is able to return to his love is when she defies the fate-induced amnesia, remembers him, and makes a call that connects over centuries. (I wonder who her service provider was?) It took both of them to make their reunion possible. I know some people see this ending as a bit too convenient, but you can’t get more convenient than finding a magic wormhole. At least the cell phone macguffin was hinted at throughout QIM’s story. The wormhole was never even alluded to until the very end. Tah-dah! And I could have used a few more answers to the important questions. Is Do Min-joon still going to look the same when Song-yi is eighty? Will he spend centuries alone after she dies? Was she supposed to be the reincarnation of the original, Joseon widow? Did poor, sweet Hwi-kyung ever get a girl of his own? And, most importantly, was that pesky saliva problem ever solved?!!!!!! (For that last one, they could have showed it so simply by having a baby monitor sitting on the nightstand in that last scene. Just a little present for the eagle-eyed.)
I don’t want to sound ungrateful. You From Another Star provided me with so many moments of laughter and squees, and I thank it for those whole-heartedly. The end may not have been everything I wanted, but the journey sure was fun.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Friday, February 21, 2014
Cain and Abel Korean Style
He’s been alluded to throughout the show. But they finally introduced Hwi-kyung’s older brother in flashback, and he’s just as sweet and supportive as Jae-kyung is sinister and psycho. As so many suspected, the original heir to S & C group fell prey to his middle brother’s homicidal tendencies. Does Nail Ring Guy practice these little speeches he gives to his victims? I imagine him laying awake nights thinking, “What is the most hateful way I can gloat over their paralyzed bodies as they take their last, dying breath?” It looks like the oldest and youngest brothers got all the kindness genes in the family. They must take after their mother, because it sure ain’t Papa-kyung that passed on any good traits.
Welcome to the family
Yoon-jae continues to play the man in the family as he gives Do Min-joon his blessing to marry Song-yi. Then he takes him to meet his absentee Dad and gives his best imitation of a turtle as he huddles inside his jacket collar, trying to pretend he isn’t there, all the while soaking in everything his father says about taking care of your loved ones. Did anyone else get the impression that the Dad didn’t even realize this was his son? The fact that he never once looked at him during dinner made me think this. He hasn’t seen Yoon-jae since he was a tiny boy, so he might have thought he was just a friend of Min-joon’s. But later when Song-yi went missing, the Dad sat with Yoon-jae and Mom like it was no big deal. I’d like to see an actual reconciliation scene between father and son. Is that asking too much?
If Baby Brother is Rhett Butler, does that make Min-joon Scarlett O’Hara?
Did anyone else notice the way Yoon-jae pulled Min-joon’s collar tight to protect him from the cold on their walk home? I just love this relationship. Drunk Do Min-joon is too cute. But what can beat the sight of our 400-year-old alien cramming his baby brother-in-law in a phone booth and teleporting home? How about said baby princess-carrying his hyung off to bed? I bet Kim Soo-hyun never thought he’d be on the receiving end of one of those swept-off-your-feet moments.
E.T., phone home
You may not believe this, but I have never seen E.T. How did I make it through the 80s without that pleasure, you ask? It just worked out that way. But even I can recognize an extraterrestrial parody when it’s coming. When Yoon-jae held out his finger with that pleading expression. Oh my word! And then they HAD to go and play the E.T. theme music to back it all up. Just priceless. I really love how Min-joon humors his baby brother-in-law. And I don’t think it’s just to earn points with Song-yi, either. The Cheon siblings just have a way of melting a crochety, old alien’s heart.
So much for blood being thicker
Hwi-kyung stepped up to the plate in a major way these last few episodes. At the beginning, he was a sweet, but empty-headed rich boy who spent what little brain power he had on ways to win over his beloved’s heart. But now you get the feeling romance is waaaaay down the list of his priorities as he orchestrates a plan to catch his scheming brother in the act. I don’t see a way that Nail Ring can get out of this one, with the pen recording of him murdering his older brother, the CCTV footage of him threatening his younger brother, and even his infuriatingly supportive father finally accepting what a monster his son is. I thought it was a plot hole that he would prepare the wine poison for Song-yi in advance. How would he know Min-joon would be there? Then I realized he probably did it as leverage with Hwi-kyung. He knew there was some sort of recording and probably thought he could trade Song-yi’s life for the pen. I guess he didn’t count on a teleporting alien being there to save her.
Only two episodes left and I still heart this show. So. Much. The Romance! The Bromance! One-upping the villain. Then two-upping him. Adding an insurmountable disintegrating alien storyline and leading our couple to a metaphorical cliff of sacrifice. Is the writer capable of building a plausible bridge to the other side where our happy ending awaits? If the first 19 episodes are any indication, we’ve got nothing to worry about.
Thursday, February 13, 2014
How does this show mix so much light and dark into one hour without setting off the eye-roll alarms? It should seem manic the way it swings from pain to punchline and back again. But I'm buying every minute. And wishing I could get my hands on the recipe, 'cause this angsty, alien fruitcake is too good to only enjoy once.
The thing I love about this show
No matter how hopeless the future looks, the script never forgets to mix in a heaping spoonful of humor. After a heartbreaking scene where Song-yi abandons Min-joon in the woods because she can't handle the one month expiration date on their relationship, we're treated to a sobfest sing-a-long in Se-mi's van. I credit the writer for inserting such a scene at the right moment to relieve the tension. And I double credit Jeon Ji-hyun for her ability to sell any situation and make it seem sincere, no matter how farcical the premise.
Keeping the in-laws happy
I dub this scene “Do Min-joon babysits Song-yi’s brother”. The way he humored an irate Yoon-jae like he was entertaining a five-year-old, and then bribed him with an offer of chocolate milk delighted me to no end. And the fact that this milk came in a juice box with a straw just added to my glee. All it took was one selfie with his fancy, high-powered telescope to turn “Stay away from my sister!” into “Hyung, she doesn’t deserve you”. I hope this isn’t the last we see of this duo because I can imagine all sorts of brother-sister squabbles as they fight over who gets to play with Do Min-joon today.
Petty superpowers for the win
I’ve already devoted an entire post to how awesome the superhero vibe of this show is. But how much fun was it to see Min-joon use his abilities to be the best Alien Boyfriend ever? Someone needed to teach that spiteful director a lesson as he made a woman WHO JUST GOT OUT OF THE HOSPITAL BECAUSE OF AN ACCIDENT ON HIS OWN FILM SET dive down a hill for take after take. I wish that mound our hero mind-pushed him off of had been a little taller, but at least his sadistic sidekick went tumbling down with him. And then the hilarious scene with Song-yi taking everyone to the cleaners in Go-Stop. Talk about a sore-winner. I wonder if she knew her superpowered boyfriend was stacking the deck? But the best part may have been the adoring smile on his face as he watched her enjoy her lucky streak. I’d trade in the flying, teleporting, time stopping extras any day, for a guy who would look at me like that, even when I'm being ridiculous.
The Sides are stepping up
I understand the necessity of giving extra screen time to the side characters as the story nears the finish. The stars must be exhausted from their copious scenes, and need someone else to share the burden. In so many other dramas, it feels shoehorned in, like a sudden romance for a co-worker that we don't even remember the name of. But I'm really enjoying the deeper storylines for Star's side characters. The little brother hijinks are totally floating my boat. And I am loving the new and improved Hwi-kyung. I'd actually be satisfied to watch him take down his brother, instead of our alien hero. I don't know why they refuse to flesh out Se-mi's character more. After Queen In-hyun's Man, we know Yoo In-na is totally capable of winning us over. I'd like redemption and a happy pairing for her and her longtime crush.
The most revealing epilogue, yet
So now we know that Song-yi makes it out of this show alive. I had my suspicions that we might be headed for some sort of double-death Romeo and Juliet climax mixed with a reincarnation They-Can-Be-Together-In-The-Next-Life cop out. But this epilogue showed us a hale and hearty Song-yi 100 days later. So that’s a little over two months after Min-joon’s scheduled departure. And she’s sitting in Namsan Tower waiting for someone. The obvious question is “Who?” I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a fake-out with her comic-book store friend arriving to keep her company as she sits there remembering her lost love from the stars. I really have no idea where this show is heading. Well, I have lots of ideas, but which one do I really want? If Min-joon misses the spaceship for the second time and chooses to remain on earth, he will still look like a baby-faced twenty-something when his significant other is a tottering senior citizen (a fact that was hilariously realized this week by a panicking Song-yi as she tried to slow down the aging process with face masks and hula hoops). As our age-obsessed actress so aptly put it, “That’s not a happy ending!” What if Song-yi decides to return to his planet with him? That somehow seems unlikely. Or our alien explorer could leave for home, find a magic pill that turns him human, catch the next new and improved comet back, and come walking into that restaurant as easy as pie. Yeah, that’s a total cop-out. I must have my happy ending! I just don’t know what it is.
Two weeks and still plenty of story left. But even if there wasn't, I imagine Jeon Ji-hyun could make a phone book sound brilliant, so I'm looking forward to our remaining time together. But when all is said and done, will I be able to let go?
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Who else gets weird looks from the cashier because of the stacks of ramen in your cart? Just me? Drama characters make this snack staple look like noodle heaven. But Let's Eat takes Korean food porn to a whole new embarrassing level as the actors oooooh and aaaaaahhh while the steam rises from their dishes. It's indecent. Not to mention delicious. I want to eat with these people. I don't normally do full recaps, but this show is K-drama comfort food that should be shared. Episode 10 had no less than four seductive scenes for foodies. Warning: This show may cause weight gain due to uncontrollable food cravings.
In case you missed episodes 1-9, here's a quick rundown of our four leads:
Lee Soo-kyung (Lee Soo-kyung) Our emotionally closed-off, divorcee heroine who just wants a decent table for one without all the weird looks.
Goo Dae-young (Yoon Doo-joon) Hot, overly helpful insurance salesman neighbor who gets mistaken for an opportunistic player because of his well-meaning meddling and ever-ready sales pitch.
Yoon Jin-yi (Yoon So-hee) Sweet, airheaded rich girl struggling to make it in her tiny, new apartment when daddy loses all his money and goes to jail.
Kim Hak-moon (Shim Hyung-tak) Soo-kyung's overbearing, lawyer boss who has been secretly pining for his oblivious secretary since college when she was the campus queen and he was a bespectacled nerd in a tracksuit. He works his romantic frustration out by making her do infuriating, petty tasks at the office.
The helpful "Previously On" box reminds us that Soo-kyung quit her job in a blaze of glory, much to the chagrin of her love-addled boss, and she now "belongs" to her neighbor Dae-young, thanks to her Mom putting her up as collateral in a game of Go-Stop. So, you know, just an ordinary week.
Jin-yi tries to make a go of her new business venture making designer pet wear, and it seems to be going well. Young women exclaim over a fancy new outfit while their pampered pooches swarm around them in what looks like a restaurant. I'm sorry. Is that dog wearing rouge?
Elsewhere, Soo-kyung tries to find a kennel for her own dog, Barrassi, but is shocked at the prices. She figures 3 months wages is too much to pay when she is currently unemployed and she decides not to go home for Lunar New Year.
Dae-young prepares for the holidays by readying gifts with handwritten notes for his clients. He can't even get through one card, before whining and holding his wrist. Ah, the tragic lot of an insurance agent.
Dae-young hears Soo-kyung at the counter ordering pigs feet to go, and calls her over to join him. She refuses at first but is reeled in by the argument that the cold, outside air will hurt the food's taste. He asks if she's following him. She threatens him with a beatdown and he replies that he was just happy to see her. She assumes he must be eating with coworkers and is shocked to learn he is eating alone. Isn't he embarrassed?
Dae-young gets his lecture face on as he ticks off the reasons that eating alone is best. You don't have to compromise on what to order, wait for people to stop talking so you can start, fight over the best pieces of meat, etc. He finishes his spiel to discover that Soo-kyung is too absorbed by the plate in front of her to pay any attention to him. Considering how much he loves food, it's a wonder he doesn't fall for her right then and there as she piles her bites high, with the singular focus of a condemned prisoner eating her last meal. She smiles and mumbles to herself, holding her nose from the spiciness.
Speaking of the attorney's office, things are a mess at Soo-kyung's former job. Her co-worker grumbles as he's stuck mopping the floor, but he stops to answer the phone. It's Dae-young calling to see if Attorney Oh is in. He immediately walks in the door when he learns that the amorous, overly touchy client is absent. Dae-young comes bearing gifts and asks if they've replaced Noona, yet. Coworker Guy complains that the boss, Attorney Kim, won't accept any of the good candidates, and Dae-young drops a hint that Soo-kyung is getting scads of job offers, she's so in demand. Awwwwww.
Back at the office, the homely, female partner of the firm, Attorney Oh, is excited to find the present that Dae-young left for her. She opens the gold envelope to reveal a gift certificate for an overnight stay at a resort. She thinks it's a personal invitation from the handsome insurance agent and gasps, though not in disgust. This is hilarious and a little sad, because girls really do overreact and overanalyze what guys say and do like that.
The flustered man pulls off his mask (Hey, look. It's FeelDog from the K-pop group BigStar) and announces he's the deliveryman she was expecting, and he has a cold. He apologizes profusely and shows her the company vest underneath his coat. It's his first time and he's not sure how to do things. Jin-yi is completely at ease now, inviting him in right away, which proves how naive she is. He, on the other hand, seems uncomfortable being alone with her in the apartment and his Busan accent comes out. He places his gloves on the table to check the packages she's sending out, but hears a loudspeaker announcement that he's illegally parked. He yells an apology as if the guard can really hear him from the inside, grabs the boxes and runs off.
Attorney Oh stares at her gift certificate and says it's much too soon for Dae-young to be thinking of gifts like this. Then immediately wonders when he wants to leave. Haha. She giggles to herself and decides to call him. He is with another client where we see he's given the exact same gift certificate to all his VIP customers. He emphatically presses the reject button over and over when he sees who is calling. Attorney Oh decides he must be playing hard to get.
Soo-kyung later runs into Coworker Guy with his wife at the market where their children give her full New Year's bows and hold out their hands for the expected money. I guess kids are the same in any language. As predicted, the wife is already complaining about her mother-in-law.
Soo-kyung spots another restaurant on her way home (How is this girl not 300 pounds already?) and texts her two neighbors to join her. Jin-yi shows up alone because Dae-young had to meet another client, and for the first time Soo-kyung looks disappointed not to see him. Hmmmmm. It took ten episodes, but we finally have progress. More food porn ensues as they sit at one of those sushi conveyor belt counters with the tiny, gourmet plates. Why do they eat even the tail of the shrimp? Eeek!
With this information out in the open, Attorney Kim has no idea that his imaginary ship of love has sprung a giant leak as he sits at home looking up movies to invite Soo-kyung to see. His nephew wanders in and he slams the laptop lid down like he was caught looking at something naughty. The kid complains that the family keeps pestering him to grow taller. He pulls out his phone and asks the Korean version of Siri how he can make this happen. His technology illiterate uncle gets excited and has his nephew show him how to work the app. After he bribes the kid to go away, he asks the all-knowing phone for ways to get close with the woman he likes. The obvious, but not untrue answer the app gives is to do the the things that she likes? First, he thinks of her puppy but immediately gets scared. Then it hits him. Food!
Soo-kyung is at home also looking at her phone, totally starstruck that her annoying neighbor is actually her favorite blogger. She squeals with excitement and hugs Barrassi to her. Then she presses her ear against the wall she shares with Dae-young, ear stalking.
Jin-yi spends a lonely holiday at home, assuring her out-of-the-country Mom on the phone that she's just fine on her own, and making lots of money with her new business. Her sad expression when she hangs up shows that this isn't exactly true. Time for Cutie Delivery Guy to come to the rescue. He shows up at the door looking for the gloves he left last time. She offers him tea from the same mug she was drinking out of. He tries to wave her off, but she presses it on him. Cutie reluctantly gulps it down quickly, scalds his throat, and runs away as fast as he can, almost taking the cup with him.
Soo-kyung drinks by her solitary self at a coffee shop, remarking on the number of people spending New Year's alone. She sees Dae-young's car go by and her eyes light up like a saesang fan at a Super Junior concert. She bolts out of the restaurant yelling, "Mr. Foodie!"
As they leave, Attorney Kim rides the elevator up to Soo-kyung's apartment, trying to find the smoothest way to say he just happened to be in the neighborhood with a bag full of gourmet food. The elevator doors open before he's ready, and he backs up against the wall. He encourages himself with a Fighting fist, and heads for her apartment. His heart pounds loudly, but all his preparation is for naught, since she's out with Mr. Foodie. He rings the bell and jumps at Barrassi's barking. A confused Attorney Kim stumbles away awkwardly as he calls her number to find out where she is.
Soo-kyung ignores his call like she always does, and peppers Dae-young with questions as they arrive at a little hole-in-the-wall place run by a grandmother he knows. "How did he start the blog? What made him take pictures of empty plates? What's the best place he's ever eaten?" He ignores her questions and introduces the grandmother, remarking how beautiful the old woman looks. Soo-kyung silently swoons at how well he treats the elder, until he accurately guesses how cool he must look to her. She gets annoyed and asks him if he has to act like Goo Dae-young tonight. Can't he just be Mr. Foodie? He says it's embarrassing. The noodles arrive and he passes out the chopsticks and starts to mix the food. She wants the normal commentary he always gives with a meal, the kind she ignored in the past, and he gets his lecture face on, only to choke under the pressure. He wants her to act like she normally would. Just eat. What follows is a full two minutes of them slurping, sighing, and sharing a soup bowl, like it's a culinary love scene.
Attorney Kim still waits in his car for Soo-kyung to return. He smoothes his sideburns in the rearview mirror and gives himself a confident thumbs up. A woman walks by but it's not her and he sinks back in disappointment as his stomach growls. He looks longingly at the bag of food for Soo-kyung, but tries to resist. The hungry man wets his lips, and gulps before pulling out a plastic container. He hold a juicy piece of meat up to his mouth, but stops himself, saying he should wait and eat with her. It must be love.
Soo-kyung gives the last piece of savory meat to Dae-young and tells him to eat it before she changes her mind. He chopsticks the beef and feeds her instead, saying he should make sure what belongs to him is happy. Instead of flying off the handle, like last time, she seems moved at the statement. He remains oblivious as he takes a pic of the empty bowls for his blog, saying "1,2,3" as if the dishes are going to pose for him. Dae-young looks up at Soo-kyung with a big grin and she instinctively hiccups at the sight.
I'm glad we saw hints of Soo-kyung softening toward Dae-young before she found out about the blog. Her romantic caution is understandable since she's already been through the trauma of divorce. But after this episode, we can see that Soo-kyung is well on her way to falling for him. But what about his feelings? He's a guy that girls naturally fall for. He's handsome, considerate, and thoughtful, in a way that's easy to misunderstand. Never underestimate the allure of good manners. I like Attorney Kim's over-the-top crush for the comedic fodder, but he's had nine years to make his move. Time for somebody else to step up to bat. Dae-young makes more sense as a life partner for the food-obsessed Soo-kyung. No matter how wrinkled and flabby they get, they can always renew their relationship over a steaming bowl of soondae.
Romance has never been the central theme of this show, anyway. It's more like the garnish on a bigger dish of funny interactions, and slice-of-life sweetness. There's no birth secrets or evil second leads that cause conflict between the main couple. Everyone is equally likeable and equally ridiculous in their own way. That sounds like almost everyone I've ever met. Now if I could only figure out how to eat as much as these characters, and not gain any weight. That's my idea of a happy ending!