Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Nuanced Acting of Yoo Ah In

I wrote this for a Soompi thread because we are rewatching and taking another look at Secret Love Affair. I don't usually put thread posts here, but since it took a while to write, I wanted it here so I could find it again.

The scene in the garage at the end of episode 3 was very powerful for me and stuck with me as a high point. It's one of the few scenes I can tell you off the top of my head which episode it is from, in fact. As I rewatch it, I think a lot of the reason is the body language and complex facial expressions of Yoo Ah In. No wooden faces for him. He stands in the entrance to the garage, but he's not just standing there. He's off balance, ready to move, full of potential energy. He looks dangerous to me, like a commando all psyched up ready to blow up a bridge. But when he walks up to Hye-won he becomes a little diffident, looks down, and opens and shuts his mouth without being able to say anything.

She asks him if he grew, and his expression lightens, he looks uncertain, and he says, “I do think I changed a bit,” with raised eyebrows and half a smile. When she asks if he read the book he raises his head higher and looks more assertive but withdrawn and a little hurt. This expression is hard to read but it is key because it shows the change in him. He's been through a lot and has been in hiding, but now he's screwed up his courage and decided to go fight for a life with her. But the expression is fleeting because he knows he has to be careful or she'll blow him off, so he's holding back. She tries to put him in his place, like he's a child - a student of hers - and questions him, and he goes back to diffidence. But when she asks, “how was it?” and makes him think, his mind goes to a painful spot. He goes through several expressions here; he purses his lips, then wrinkles his chin and moves his jaw sideways and his voice breaks. He is honest and admits he had given up but he was swayed. And using only his eyes he gives her the look of a dead man, because he knows he wants her but can't have her.

She says she can tell he's struggling and he gives an obvious lie that he's incredibly fine, grimacing to keep from breaking down. Then tipping his head up to look down his nose at her, he grasps at his pride to tell her not to send him anything again. Now he finds his feet. When she tells him not to lie to his teacher she can't disconcert him any more. With confidence he answers, “Yes it's a lie, but it doesn't matter.” His head is still tipped up and he cracks his jaw; only his eyes show he's keeping his distance but miserable. She puts her hand on his face for comfort and he is overcome and lets her at first, but then the corner of his mouth twitches, and pained, he says, “don't,” because it's a mixed signal. If she thinks she can pretend there's no attraction by treating him as a child she shouldn't have touched him, because it calls forth a response and he decides to cut the pretense and grabs her in a hug.

His forehead furrows and his eyebrows angle up as he squeezes her and then lets go and looks at her searchingly for a moment. This is a really memorable moment, and an important moment where he, full of kinetic energy, tips over the edge and gives the rest of the drama its velocity. Right here he gives her a chance to object if she wants to, but she evidently gives him an “I want you too” kind of look and he holds her by the neck and kisses her hard, even when she pushes back a minute later. IMO she got more than she bargained for and was surprised by the intensity. She didn't understand what she was stirring up. She gasps once and I don't know how she could with his full lips pressing so hard, but I bet she got a wet face because when they break apart, both gasping for breath, his lips are shiny. And he has a kind of “what was that?” expression.

The whole scene took only about three minutes and he went through 17 different identifiable expressions that I catalogued above; but I watched the whole thing in one go trying to count all the times he changed expression, and it was at least 25. If he doesn't get all the acting awards there are this year, it will be a gross miscarriage of justice. He carries you through so many nuances of meaning, and it all goes by so fast you can miss it if you are not paying attention. I can't imagine doing it on cue, several times, over and over for the camera. With a lot of actors you would be lucky to get one expression a minute and you would have gotten 1) Oh, hi. 2) Yes, it's a lie. 3) Don't touch my face because now I want to kiss you. This drama finished its run in the middle of May and now it's the middle of September, so that's four months. Most dramas I watch, I enjoy while I am watching them but the impression fades away before too long. This is one of the few that has stayed with me. And a big reason is Yoo Ah In's acting.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

High School King of Savvy: What Were They Thinking? Episode 17

 Episode 17:

High Points: Min-suk tells Soo-young that he might go to Germany and she blurts out that they should just get married. She changes her mind, but he thinks about it and proposes. Ok, I never like the getting down on the knees thing. Soo-young's mother comes to school and sees Min-suk in his uniform, which mirrors when Soo-young found out the same way. There is a scene at college where Min-suk's friends don't understand his PPT.  They think it is phys ed but it is really a presentation. That mirrors the time at the start of the show where Min-suk didn't understand a presentation either. The scene where the office workers find out is funny, as is the one where Yoo-ah talks their mother into agreeing. The couple come late to their own wedding, skim through the ceremony, and leave in a rush, which was actually very rude to the guests. After the wedding Jun-woo meets a woman who gets him to impersonate someone on her phone to get her out of a bind. Then she gets in his car for a lift to the subway and leaves her phone. All these things mirror his experience with Soo-young at the start of the show. Then we get a three-year time-skip with a peek at Min-suk and Soo-young as a married couple. The show ends with them walking on the stairs in the dark and standing under a street light while she gets after him and then he kisses her. Deja vu for the first time they kissed.

What were they thinking? Soo-young is giving Min-suk an out when she offers to break up, because she knows he is young and might want something different before too long. He decides he really wants her, and they show us it works out in the postlude after the time skip. The wedding, however, points up their immaturity. It was very rude of them to be late and make people wait, and then leave in a hurry. It was disrespectful of all the work of the people who set things up at the park, practiced the song, and took time from their busy lives to come show them support.

In general I felt that the last two episodes fell a little flat. It might be partly due to the one-episode extension. It might be due to the fact that I wanted more out of the show. In particular, I wanted more of hyung's story. I didn't want him to be a plot device like the twin brother in You're Beautiful, who was just an excuse for the silly plot set-up and made only a token appearance at the end of the show. Most of the show was really good, however. I laughed a lot, felt pulled into the story, and cared about the characters. The mirroring at the end was a great touch. It takes us back through the story and gives us better closure.

The thing that bothered me was that he was still a minor when they married. People have complained about the age gap all along, and I was one of those who said to chill. The actor in real life is  older, and I thought there would be a time skip before the wedding. At least let them both be legal adults first. In the end, it is just too squicky that he is only 17 in US age and the whole things kind of washed out on me. I would still recommend this for someone to watch. Other than that caveat about the end, it's a really fun show.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

King of High School: What Were They Thinking? Episode 15 - 16

 Episode 15:

High Points: Hyung has come back to Korea and sees his family briefly. He promises to take Grandpa to the aquarium and doesn't show, but Gramps is happy to have Soo-young take him. Hyung comes to work impersonating Min-suk impersonating Hyung-suk. No, he doesn't really try to impersonate anyone. He just acts distant. When he tells CEO Yoo that he has tricked him and now owns the company, CEO collapses and spends the rest of the episode in the hospital. Grandpa disappears. The rest of them go looking for him, but he has passed away.

What were they thinking? Hyung has been away from his family so long he is cold and embittered. He only sees them once. Min-suk has been living with a very caring dad and is a much warmer and happy person. Jin-woo has come to appreciate Min-suk and appeals to him for help but he's already talked to hyung and failed. Probably the only thing that could make a difference is the passing of the grandfather.

Episode 16:

High Points: We start with the memorial for Grandpa, and there is a heart-rending montage of scenes remembering him. Hyung changes his mind, returns the money, and heads back to Germany. Min-suk plays hockey again before he is completely healed, and gets permanently injured this time. Why on earth did his coach let him play? He and Soo-young meet her friend and go out to dinner, and she has to pay for him. She goes to take care of her mom and misses Dad's birthday and won't explain, so they get into an argument and he stalks off.

What were they thinking? Min-suk is feeling the impact of the age gap. He's only a kid and can't keep up with the adults. He feels bad that he doesn't have a job and money, and is hurt that Soo-young won't confide in him, but he couldn't help her anyway. He has a nice bonding scene with Jun-woo, but he still acts like a dongsaeng and pesters him for the last piece of fried chicken.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

King of High School: What Were They Thinking? Ep. 13 - 14

 Episode 13:

High Points: President Yoo goes to visit Dad at the dry cleaners and Dad throws him out. Team Leader Kim and Manager Han find out that Soo-young knows the secret, and they make cute plans and a team cheer. Soo-young makes up with her sister, who admits Min-suk never liked her and next announces that she will date his tall friend. He looks stunned but he has seemed to like her before. Soo-young finds Min-suk's photo album and fights him over a naked baby picture, resulting in overbalancing and landing on top of him. Oops! Elf-boy (his name is Jin-woo) sees Dad and finds out that Hung-suk is Lee Jung-soo's son and may be dangerous. He meets Min-suk at the elevator in his high school uniform and calls him by his real name.

What were they thinking? Dad and Grandpa are clearly still mad at President Yoo for whatever happened ten years ago when Mr. Lee drove into the lake. (It looks like he accidently caused Mr. Lee's business to fail.) Pres. Yoo looks like he might want to make amends. He seemed to be looking fondly at Min-suk during their dinner, so why is he so mean to his own son? Soo-young seems to be trying to solve the age problem by having boundaries and waiting. Min-suk, obviously too lively and impatient for that, is pushing her pretty hard.

Episode 14:

High Points: We get flashbacks showing Jin-woo following Min-suk around and discovering his secret life. When he meets Min-suk at the elevator he threatens him but says he won't tell yet. President Yoo yells at Jin-woo for being cautious in business deals. He wants to try to have branches all over Asia. Soo-young takes Jin-woo to the hospital when he faints from swallowing pills with alcohol. Min-suk comes to watch over him. (We were trolled by a bed scene in the previews, but it turns out that it was the two guys in the bed, lol.) He answers the phone and finds out that the president is Jin-woo's father. Their dirty secrets cancel out. President Yoo sells a lot of his stock and signs the business deal about the time Jin-woo is finding out that the other company lied to them. Min-suk is called to meet the head of the other company and finds out it is his hyung.

What were they thinking? The managers who know the secret are going a little crazy, Jin-woo is getting suspicious, and his father is greedy and rash in business deals - which is maybe what he did wrong ten years ago. Hyung-suk (Min-suk's older brother) has probably been planning revenge all this time and set up President Yoo to go bankrupt.

Monday, July 28, 2014

King of High School: What Were They Thinking? Ep 11 - 12

 Episode 11:

High Points: Popcorn (ok, her name is Soo-young) leaves without a word and Min-suk follows, eventually getting her to stop and talk. She uses banmal and asks if he is really 18. Then she walks off in a daze and into the street, where Elf-boy grabs her out of the path of an oncoming car. She has a great pillow-fight with her sister and escapes to her hometown to mope. Min-suk is pretty much numb inside and not much good at school or work. Elf-boy's mother attempts suicide and he visits her at the hospital. He is learning to stand up to his father and threatens to reveal their relationship. Stalker (Yoo-ah) befriends Elf-boy and gets him to go to the hometown, where Min-suk walks in on him hugging Soo-young.

What were they thinking? When Soo-young asks Min-suk if he is 18, he says yes, which means he is really 17 because of the Korean custom of counting babies one year old when they are born. Kdramas are fond of noona romances, perhaps because they turn the hierarchical social system on its head. The squicky part is that he is still a minor. He sincerely loves her, though, and she fell in love with him not knowing he was young enough to be off limits. It is proper for her to avoid him and to break up because of the age thing, and also because her sister likes the same guy.

Episode 12:

High Points: Soo-young tells the guys not to make a scene because this is a small town and if she is in a scandal she won't be able to get married. Haha! Min-suk entreats her not to quit her job and she makes a big point of getting him to call her “noona.” Elfie tells his dad that his mom is in the hospital and takes Soo-young to visit her. Min-suk is badly injured in a hockey game and told he can't play sports anymore. He reacts by pushing himself to exhaustion and crying in the rain, watched over by his two friends and Yoo-ah. Only then does she tell her sister about the accident. Soo-young meets Min-suk as he is leaving school to go to work. He can hardly believe she is there, as he walks slowly closer and she throws her arms around him.

What were they thinking? Soo-young wants Min-suk to call her noona because it creates distance and makes her an authority figure over him as a younger person. He resists because he wants her to see him as a man on the same level as she is. Everyone is maturing. Elfie is dealing better with his dad, telling him about the hospital but not begging for a visit. Yoo-ah realizes that it doesn't help to push herself on a boy who doesn't care about her and that the only way she can help him is to let him have the person he really wants. It's interesting that she doesn't argue with unni about moving. It's the hierarchy thing again, with unni having the right to make decisions. Soo-young is dithery when not sure of herself but firm when she is. She is kind to Elfie but takes no guff, runs the household but does everything she can to keep her mom and sister happy, and endures heartbreak in setting Min-suk free until she finds out that he really needs her. When she hugs him he puts his arms around her hesitantly, not sure what she intends. Then she lets go and explains and it is so fulfilling the way he hugs her again so tightly as though he will never let her go.

Friday, July 18, 2014

King of High School: What Were They Thinking? Ep 9 - 10

 King of High School: What were they thinking?

Episode 9:

High Points: Back at hockey camp, Min-suk has to do a million squats and then collapses on the ground giggling. CEO Dad asks Director Nam about Lee Jung-soo's chauffeur; he's seen someone like him lately. Elf-boy discusses investigating Min-suk with Director Nam and then gets Team Leader drunk and pumps him for information with no luck. Min-suk and Popcorn spend Saturday sightseeing on an island having a great time. When they get back she asks if he really likes her. He flips his arms open and she jumps in like she was pulled by elastics. Elf-boy breaks into Min-suk's office to look at his computer and finds an email from Hyung.

What were they thinking? Popcorn heard that boyfriends on trips finagle an overnight stay. She worries that Min-suk doesn't like her since he isn't like that. He convinces her he is crazy about her, which he is. He'll do anything to see her, even if his coach punishes him. Lee Jung-soo seems to be Min-suk's real father, who is dead. The chauffeur is Min-suk's adopted dad, who CEO saw on a bike. What does CEO Dad know about them?

Episode 10:

High Points: Before Elf-boy can read the email, Min-suk reads it and deletes it. Then Popcorn walks in on Elf-boy right when he is on his knees begging his dad to visit his mom. When she leaves work she sees him have an accident, and since he is obviously shakened by it, she drives him home. But when she hands the key back he grabs her and kisses her. Meanwhile, Stalker gives Min-suk an expensive pair of skates, hardly registering it when he tells her he likes another girl. Guitar-guy tries to keep the assistant manager from going out with Tall Girl, until she gets annoyed and complains at him. Then he kisses her, and we have a new romantic couple. An argument between Min-suk and Elf-boy erupts into a business reception and they fight it out and knock down tables. Popcorn takes Min-suk out and patches up his face. The next day there are parent-teacher meetings at school. Popcorn goes to see Stalker's teachers and walks spang into Min-suk in his student uniform.

What were they thinking? The ending to episode 10 is tense. It is the focal point of all the previous episodes. Everyone who has thought about how unstable the relationship is, or how the hyung can do this, or how Min-suk can keep up the charade, or how the sisters will feel, has been thinking about this point: when everyone starts to find out. Because we all knew they would; it was inevitable. We've been holding our breaths waiting to see what will happen, and now we will get to see. The rest of the show will be the fallout of this moment.

It's not funny to see a man impersonate a businessman. But a high school kid? It's the juxtaposition. We all know how calm and sedate a businessman should be, and when he starts to ignore protocol, and run, and ride freight carts into a presentation, it's weird. We know Min-suk is acting like that because he's a kid, but the people at work don't know it. The secretary falls in love with her boss, and she is expecting him to be finished with his education, have a job, and be ready to settle down and raise a family. The 18-year-old isn't prepared for any of it. That is what the contradiction and the tension has been about, the fun and the anxiety. Now we are going to see how it resolves.

The story has been excellent so far, and we are counting on the writer to have thought everything through and have something awesome in store for us. How people handle the shock, and what kind of excuse the hyung has for doing this, is going to make or kill the show. The prelude at the start of Episode 1 gave a glimpse of the secretary helping the kid manage his two lives. It will be fun to watch them doing more of that. What's going to happen? None of us have any idea. That's why this show is so good. It isn't predictable. So we are waiting for Monday. KOHS FIGHTING!!

King of High School: What Were They Thinking? Ep 5 - 8

 Episode 5:

High Points: Grandpa gets lost and Popcorn is helping him look for his house when Dad comes and finds them. Min-suk discovers that Elf-boy is behind Popcorn getting fired and confronts him belligerently every chance he gets, including getting into a fight at a company picnic. After having been very demanding for attention, Stalker-girl finds out Popcorn, her unni, got fired and touchingly cleans the apartment and does all the laundry. An employee makes Elf-boy cringe when he sticks a pen in his face to sign a paper.

What were they thinking? We find out that Popcorn had a warning dream just before her father died, so it's a talent. She also thinks she remembers Min-suk's dad. What connection can they have? Min-suk is increasingly upset over the way she is treated, finding an outlet in physical exertion. She is annoying to a lot of viewers because she is gauche and slumps and wears frumpy clothes. But being scatterbrained and less experienced than most women is why he likes her. They are pretty much at the same social level, and can connect; if she weren't like this, we would have no story.

Episode 6:

High Points: Min-suk hires Popcorn as his secretary and she does well, even chasing after him on a scooter to catch him for a meeting. Team Leader gets after Min-suk in the bathroom, who says he can't be caught and threatens to quit. Elf-boy overhears them and later meets CEO Dad in the elevator and tells him about his mother's bad health. Min-suk warns Popcorn about Elf-boy, but the elf is being nice to her. He finally meets up with her in the neighborhood and pulls her into a hug. “Give me ten seconds,” he says.

What were they thinking? Elf-boy becomes suspicious and investigates Hyung, finding out he was in Germany two weeks ago, after he started work in Korea. Dad is getting suspicious too, because he sent Hyung a package which was returned. Min-suk is becoming more irritable, but he doesn't know why until he figures out maybe he likes the girl and hugs her to find out.

Episode 7:

High Points: Elf-boy visits his mom in rehab and we get a flashback of his dad throwing things and knocking her down. No wonder she's alcoholic. Going on a weekend retreat, Popcorn gets left at a rest stop. Min-suk and Elf-boy drive back to get her and fight over whether she sits in the front, so she decides to drive and let them fight it out in the back. So. Funny. One of the men plays guitar, but no one pays any attention except a tall girl who takes him aside to listen. When they get back, CEO gives Min-suk a ride and admits his wife and two kids are busy and don't care if he is a workaholic. They see Min-suk's dad go by on a bike and CEO thinks he is familiar. Elf-boy asks Popcorn to spy on Min-suk and she says no. He has a broody shower scene. Min-suk finds her crying and takes her face in his hands and kisses her.

What were they thinking? Elf-boy's informant says that Hyung is an aloof perfectionist, nothing like Min-suk. He is definitely suspicious but his attempt to use Popcorn as an informant fails. Min-suk doesn't see him as a threat yet except over the girl. How does CEO Dad know Min-suk's dad?

Episode 8:

High Points: Min-suk tries to talk to Popcorn but she runs away from him and avoids him at the office. He promises to leave her alone and tries to cope by running, over-eating, and careening down the hill in a shopping cart. She doesn't recognize him at all and calls him a hooligan! She dreams of him bungee-jumping and sure enough the next day he hurts his arm at training camp. Elf-boy's mom comes to visit his dad at work, they fight, and Dad has her thrown out. Popcorn and Min-suk look for each other and he comes up behind her in a back-hug. Then he lifts his sling over her head and does a thorough job of kissing her.

What were they thinking? Popcorn is uncomfortable about going from one man to another so quickly, but decides she likes Min-suk. He throws himself with a huge amount of energy into everything he does, including falling in love. Elf-boy is furious because he is illegitimate and his father wants the connection kept secret. It's hard to know whether he is starting to like Popcorn or only wants to use her.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

King of High School: What Were They Thinking? Episodes 1-4

King of High School: What Were They Thinking?

Episode 1:

High Points: We see Min-suk in the preview playing Businessman and then taking off for school. He's a hockey ace who fights with the opposing team (his friends, Merry and Pippin, have to haul him away), is absently benign to the stalker girl with a crush on him, and tender with his senile grandpa who steals chocolate. He meets a drunk girl eating popcorn who borrows his phone.

What were they thinking? What episode was that preview from? It can't be literal because he couldn't really change clothes in the revolving door a la Superman. Is it just an impression, and not a peek at the future, like the similar scene at the beginning of Queen Inhyun's Man? And what about Hyung? He calls his dad to say he's coming that day, after having been gone eight years, and then suddenly changes his mind. His luggage was on the plane, but he doesn't come. What did he find out?

Episode 2:

High Points: Torn between hockey and subbing for Hyung, Min-suk ditches the bus and jumps the gate. When he calls his friends later, Pippin thinks fast and calls him “Mom” to fool the team captain. He meets the elf-prince director and has to fake knowing about the company, and comes across Popcorn-girl and has her fetch food just to see if she remembers him. (no) Stalker-girl follows him to work and chases him up the stair where he holds Popcorn's mouth shut with one hand while keeping Stalker out the door with the other.

What were they thinking? Elf-prince seems a little jumpy. He's probably been beat up. He flinches when CEO Dad waves his glasses too close. CEO Dad seems harsh anyway. It's interesting that Min-suk trusts Hyung and is following orders and keeping things secret from Dad, even though Dad seems perfectly trustworthy.

Episode 3:

High Points: Min-suk's routine of showing up at school, jumping out the window after roll, and going to meetings and inspections at work takes its toll and he collapses at home. Stalker-girl threatens Pippin and Merry to find out where he goes. He gets sympathy only from Grandpa, who cutely plays cat's cradle with him. He discovers that Popcorn has a crush on Elf-boy and makes them both annoyed by throwing them together, not knowing she was already rejected. He gets stuck with doing a presentation and only arrives in time from his hockey game by riding a freight cart up to the stage and making a dynamic entrance.

What were they thinking? Hyung sent in money for hockey, so he's still alive. We get a flashback to the first time Popcorn-girl saw Elf-boy. It was at a movie theater, and he was crying. She thought it was the movie, but it was likely his private life getting to him.

Episode 4:

High Points: Merry and Pippin follow Min-suk to work. Elf-boy sees them so Min-suk claims they are selling something and throws them out. That evening he tells them the truth, and they go on a high-spirited shopping spree with his company credit card. A rival company's boss takes them drinking and Min-suk's dad gets to feed them hangover soup the next morning and hit them upside the head. Elf-boy accuses assistant manager Sam Gamgee of selling out to the rival, but Min-suk defends him until it is proved that the problem was hackers. Stalker gets appendicitis.

What were they thinking? Popcorn-girl dreams of bungee-jumping and the rope coming loose, and the next day she is fired. Is there an element of paranormal to this drama? How big a part will it play?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Three Days: Yelling at the Screen

Having  been busy watching something else, we didn't watch Three Days when it aired. It did, however, feature one of our favorite actors, Yoochun. So when I read a review that the show was good except for a draggy part in the middle but had a good ending, we decided to watch it. Let me just say that we found ourselves yelling at the screen just about every episode.

Episode 1: Someone is threatening to assassinate the president. We knew that was the plot. However. Something that gripes us in any show is when a character Goes Off Alone into a dangerous situation. Come on. In real life you would get backup first. So easy to be deep-sixed when you are alone. DON'T GO! But yes, Yoochun goes alone at night into a house following a lead, and the Lady Cop goes traipsing around alone at night in the forest. Climbing that power pole. AHH!

Episode 2: The president goes to a country villa, and an EMP bomb goes off, which ruins all electronics within range. A lot of confusion and shooting. Yoochun get framed for shooting the president, which puts our perfectionist security guy at odds with the law. The security Team Leader is a traitor. We get the old Pause and Stare for the Camera bit. Why do Yoochun and Lady Cop stand out in the road staring at a truck careening towards them? MOVE! He did it in Rooftop Prince as well.

Episode 3: Yoochun runs around the villa, a police station, a train station, and a train,  just ahead of the guys who are trying to catch him. He figures out that the president fooled everyone and snuck out on his own. We get Cop Lady Going Off Alone to a deserted house in the woods and Security Lady Going Off Alone to search the bad team leader's office. NO NO! By and large though, this is the good part of the drama, reminding us forcibly of a Jason Bourne movie.

Episode 4:  We are saved from the Go Off Alone problem by the Don't Shoot the Leads rule. The Security Lady doesn't get shot; she is tied up and left to escape, a la Man From Uncle. Yoochun fights quite a lot of guys at once (HURRY - WATCH OUT - ohh) and is saved by the Magical Placement trick: he gets arrested, but out of all the cop cars available, he is put into the one driven by our friendly Lady Cop. She sneaks him the key to the handcuffs and he gets loose.

Episode 5: The Team Leader is trying to kill the president because he set up a mini-invasion by the North Koreans. The Prez is on a bus that overturns and he lands in the hospital. We get to YELL at the screen as Yoochun is chased through the corridors with a gurney, only to find that -WHEW- he was a decoy. Lady Cop had the president. This is one of the times we thought Show was dumb but turned out to be smart after all. We also get to YELL at the president when he insists on getting out of the ambulance to confront a shooter.

Episode 6: Another shooter tries to kill the president in an elevator. He is arrested and taken by one (1.0) agent outside, through a mob, to a car. WAIT! DON'T GO OUT THERE! It doesn't do any good to yell. The shooter is predictably killed. Is this called Gross Stupidity or Lax Security? The worst instance of Going Off Alone in the whole drama is committed by Cop Lady when she goes into a deserted mall to meet a "witness." Yeah. I thought so, too.

Episode 7: We find out how big a conspiracy this is when security cameras get wiped, and Cop Lady gets her report challenged and is suspended. Jason Bour- uh I mean Yoochun has an intense fight in the elevator and another in the hall, only to catch Chairman Bad Dude burning a secret document. He runs at him with a gun shouting, "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." The Don't Shoot the Leads rule is invoked again, and they let him go.

Episode 8: Lady Cop Goes Off Alone again and is caught by a North Korean Major who knew about the submarine plot. Yoochun rescues her and the N.K. Major decides to help the president. Yoochun takes him through a car chase and into a hotel for a press conference. We YELL again at Lax Security. It looks like they will be caught - there's no good reason for the baddies to talk instead of shooting. But Show surprises us again with the Decoy Trick and the prosecutor as a witness. Only - why didn't they record this and arrest Chairman Bad right there? Show now gets repetitive.

Episode 9: The N.K. Major starts to speak at the press conference and pauses. NO NO! SPIT IT OUT! Sure enough, the power goes out and he is kidnapped and killed. Ah! You can always tell. Why don't they just say it quick before anyone can do anything to them? They should have arrested Chairman Bad here too. But no. There are more episodes. Jason Bourne and Girl Friday break into Chairman's office to get at his computer. BTW we have now exceeded the three days.

Episode 10: Cop Lady has trouble downloading files. GET OUT! GET OUT! Yoochun lets himself get caught to give her more time. He sees Security Lady with Chairman Bad, they have a little talk and then Chairman totally lets him go again. Yeah. So likely. Cop Lady escapes by hiding in an air duct. Real handy, these big air ducts in movies. Next, Security Lady steals some papers and reads them while paying no attention to her surroundings. WATCH OUT FOR THAT CAR! Ahh... she gets hit and they steal the papers.

 Episode 11: The president goes to see Chairman Bad twice - TWICE. They trick him, but they don't arrest him. Why didn't you record the conversation? AHHH, I can't even. Keeps making same stupid mistake. A mole in the prosecutor's office sends fake cops to "guard" Secret Service Lady in the hospital. They try to kidnap her but Cop Lady steals their gun and fights them. You Go Girl! When Security Lady wakes up she tells them that the papers were a report of stolen dynamite.

Episode 12: The president restricts foreign investors so they can't profit from a run on the banks. Chairman Bad goes crazy and wants revenge if he can't have money. They stop the dynamite plot, but the last bomb knocks down both Yoochun and Cop Lady. They must teach yelling in first aid training in Korea, because that's what they do in dramas: 1-check the pulse, 2-shake the patient, 3-yell. The President goes to see Chairman Crazy in an empty stadium. HEY! How secure is that!?!

Episode 13: Not very. They foil a sniper. Yoochun gets a buddy to guard Cop Lady. She goes to the hospital to visit Security Lady and lets him leave. NO NO! ARGH! More fake cops (they never learn) kidnap the ladies. The president wants to go talk to Chairman Crazy AGAIN. What? Yoochun says he'll go. WHY, PEOPLE? They rescue the women, but Prez calls Crazy and arranges to get shot. He's been depressed, wanted to resign, now it's a death wish. Some president.

Episode 14: AH! We thought Show was majorly stupid, but it was being smart! A SWAT team takes out the sniper and arrests Chairman Crazy! FINALLY! The Prez makes a trip of condolence to the town where the N.K. sub was. Meanwhile, the prosecutor interrogates Crazy. Wait a minute. Don't they always have two-way mirrors so other people can witness the interviews? AHHH! The policeman in the room is one of Crazy's goons and stabs the prosecutor. At the same time another EMP bomb goes off and the president's group is attacked.

Episode 15: The president's security people try to get him out of the area, make a stand in a couple of different places, and go down one by one. Cop Lady catches the prosecutor's office mole in Seoul. Yoochun comes late and meets an agent he knows and we are all: CAREFUL! DON'T TRUST HIM! Because he is the blue house mole.  Crazy is in town with bombs and one of them goes off. It's majorly annoying to have him so single-minded when even his boss told him to quit and wait.

Chapter 16: The president gets a ride from a kind ahjumma. They find a bomb and he looks at it while Crazy thumbs his detonator. RUN! Lucky it was a different bomb -whew. Chairman Crazy calls the Prez to meet him on a bridge. What, are you crazy? I mean the Prez. Yah, he is too. DON'T DO IT! The townspeople are being evacuated in trucks and the ajhumma sees one of the bombs on the truck with her. Why doesn't she recognize it? TOSS IT! Yoochun says there are four bombs, but two blew up, the Prez has one, the ahjumma has one, and there is another one on an oil pipeline. Want to know the ending? -SPOILER COMING- Crazy blows himself up. Good. Go watch the real Jason Bourne.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Secret Love Affair - Finale - Ep 16

It's been a week since this episode aired, and it's taken me this long to be able to sit down and write about it. On first viewing, as the traumatic events unfolded and piled up, the disagreement, the prosecutor, the trial, the prison, I felt pretty sick inside. But as I rewatch today, I can see that it fits and that it's a good ending.

The drama is book-ended by mahjong. The group from episode one plays together again and Dean Min says, "Oh the luck isn't with me tonight." The Chairman replies," Where is luck, you just read the opponents wrong." Which is about as good a summary of the dean as you could want. Hye-won wins the game again saying, "I'd hate to die a dog's death," meaning a meaningless death. CEO Daughter says they thought Hye-won was a dog but she's a tiger.

Hye-won waits for Seon-jae outside his apartment. When he comes he is curt and tries again to get her to give up her schemes. She says she can win and he says she can't. Seon-jae texts Tone-deaf hyung to invite him to a quintet recital. Hye-won tells him to bring his goddess, but he says he doesn't want to talk about it. She looks disturbed. He didn't invite her.

20:22 - Dvorak's Piano Quintet No 2 in A Major. The quintet play their good-bye performance. They are all quitting school, including Seon-jae. Students crowd in to listen and are backed-up out into the hall.

Even though we don't see hands on the piano, his movements and expressions fit so well and are so good. After SLA ended I watched one and about a third episodes of Beethoven Virus just because it is about music, and couldn't stand it. Of course we know most shows have bad fake musicians and the reason we are watching this one is because of the piano playing in the preview, but SLA has really spoiled us and set the bar high.

Hye-won sits mulling things over at her desk, gets up and goes out. She barely opens Mme Han's office door, slides in, runs her hand over the big desk chair, then calls Mme Han to tell her the chairwoman's chair doesn't suit her very well. She goes home and wanders around alone, seeing Seon-jae everywhere: at the door when he first came to audition, at the piano, at the dining table. She knows Seon-jae is letting go and makes a decision.

She heads for the prosecutor's office, stopping off first at Seon-jae's to explain. She asks for tea and he has a new kind someone gave him. She explains what she's up to and comments she'll remember this moment with the tea. He tells her to remember it with her body and they kiss. The next thing you see is them sleeping, wrapped together with their heads and arms sticking out over the quilt. 

At the prosecutor's office she hands over the red thumb drive, explaining that it contains Mme Han's files, those for the Chairman's money-laundering company, and the record of his payoffs to SIL Lawyer. She is giving the prosecutors enough evidence to put them in jail. Mme Han turns herself in because she doesn't like to get picked up by the cops. Ha. That means she has been picked up before.

45:18 - Chopin's Nocturne No. 1 Op. 62.
Prof. Jo plays this for Seon-jae, telling him to learn it and play it in competition. There is a small competition he can practice on before he goes to the big one in Italy. It will keep him busy and he can earn prize money.

In court Hye-won testifies that she did illegal things for money and prestige, but one day someone showing devotion to her by doing such a simple thing as wiping the floor for her to sit on made her realize what she had given up to get the things she had gained. This statement is kind of a surprise, because that scene was commented on a lot at the time. He was shown from behind. Everyone noticed his butt, and thought that's what she was thinking about. So humm. It didn't come across. 

47:56 - Mozart's Rondo in A Minor - Seon-jae plays for Da-mi and Jang-ho, who were at court with him.

Interior of the cell block. Five women are sleeping on the floor of a cell. Hye-won is snoring so they hold her down and cut her hair as an initiation of sorts. She is taken aback but doesn't fight it. Her hair, which was once kept so smooth and under control, is now not only down but cut ragged. She has let go of her need to control and connive and is now taking life as it comes.

Seon-jae comes to visit. He is startled by her hair, but at her calm acceptance he puts on a good face and is cheerful for her. He has passed the Busoni finals, so it's been a little time. She says she is thankful to him for helping her to change her life, but he doesn't have to wait for her; he can forget her. He replies that after all they have been through, they should at least try to be together, whether it turns out to be one year or ten. Otherwise it would be a waste. And, he adds, she is a little pretty too. 

1:05:54 - Mozart's Rondo in A Minor. Seon-jae starts every day playing this, with the handkerchief Hye-won gave him sitting on the piano.

The prison yard. She is sitting in the sunshine, by the chain-link fence. So different from all the dark and the shadows and the little bits of light peeking in through the blinds.Those perforated partitions we've been peering at her through all this time were a kind of jail bars, although she didn't realize it.

Seon-jae's apartment. Carrying a big backpack and pulling a small suitcase, he puts on his shoes by the door and says, "I'm going and I'll be back." He's on his way to the competition.

Hye-won sits by the fence again, enjoying the sun, looking out on the countryside, the distant mountains, and even the weeds. We remember Seon-jae saying he was like a weed and didn't need anything fancy. In a way, seeing out into the real world, she is free already.

This was a good show. It's so layered and rich and has so much going on. It fooled us in that instead of being a slightly racy story of a love affair with a little classical piano for bait, it turned out to be a story of redemption. A sophisticated woman mired in a dark world of graft becomes aware of what she has done to herself and turns towards the ray of light that is Seon-jae and his beautiful music. It would have been nice to see their reunion, but we know it is coming.

Thank you to the hard-working subbers at Viki, the people at Koala's Playground and others who did recaps, the SLA Jukebox people on Sikseekland, and the fans at Soompi who did analysis galore that enhanced so much the enjoyment of this drama.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Secret Love Affair - Along the Way - Ep 15

Seon-jae and Hye-won walk the downtown streets hand in hand. Seon-jae says it is something he has been wanting to do. "Aren't you scared?" she asks. "Of what?" he returns, because you can't arrest anyone for that. Someone commented on a blog that they looked out their apartment window and saw this scene being filmed, Seon-jae and Hye-won kissing on the sidewalk in front of passers-by. Korea getting a little dose of PDA.  It's very sweet.
11:30 - Mozart Rondo in A Minor, K. 511
Seon-jae practices at home, a melancholy piece that Mozart wrote when one of his friends died.

Hye-won sets out a laptop and tablet in her study for the prosecutors to find, and dressed in black, sneaks ala Jason Bourne out to the Han River to furtively slide two more into the water. The next morning as she and Hubs are eating breakfast, the prosecutors arrive and go over the house looking for evidence. Hubs goes to Dean Min for advice and is told that you have to sue for divorce before you can charge your spouse with adultery. Really, he didn't know that already? Everybody on all the blogs did.

22:00 and again at 25:36 and 27:38 - Dvorak Quintet

The quintet are practicing when Mean Cello Teacher comes and asks Seon-jae why he is playing with these trash, and if he has heard yet. He asks the other students, "That's your dean? Youch," He goes out to call Hye-won and find out what he should have heard, but she comes on her own and wants to hear the practice.

Seon-jae goes with Hye-won down to the parking garage and gives her his house key. He hollers out at any watchers around, and you can actually see the shadows of the watchers against the far wall haha.  She goes to his apartment, gets her phone out of a drawer, eats, falls asleep on his bed, and wakes up to find him watching her. Eep! Shades of Edward in Twilight. Creepy.

The Hubs with policemen come to cart them off to the police station. Hye-won calls SIL lawyer. CEO Daughter gets a call and heads off to see the show. Hye-won and SIL talk in the hall. She says she'll give him Mme Han's and Chairman's files if he helps her. He says if Mme Han is on the list of people to investigate, sure. He gets the case closed. The whole thing was probably planned by Hye-won in order to get the divorce. I'll bet she's not counting on SIL as an ally either.

59:50 -  the Dvorak quintet
1:03:46- we go out listening to the quintet.

Next comes the finale. I had an idea that Hye-won would do something clever so she could run the school in a way to benefit the students. Having seen episode 16 now, I see it didn't turn out that way. There is a different kind of ending. It doesn't answer all our questions and it's not all sweetness and light, but Hye-won does what she needs to do.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Secret Love Affair - Along the Way - Episode 14

We start with Seon-jae hiding out in the piano room from the going-away party for Prof. Jo's student, Min-woo, and asking the TA to get his own clothes for him.  He's so nervous he can hardly talk. The Hubs acting all possessive and putting his arm around Hye-won is more than he can take.

3:40 - Min-woo improvises a jazz version of Swan Lake.

14:19 - Min Woo plays the Twinkle Variations by Mozart that Seon-jae played in Episode 1.  He soups it up and makes it fancier. The Hubs gets drunk and tells Seon-jae to play.

17:00 - Seon-jae plays Twinkle. He improvises too, going from sad minor to loud crashing dissonant versions. We've seen before that he communicates better with music than talk. He's gotten Hye-won to stick around when she was leaving, and he's quieted the complaints of Da-mi and Jang-ho. Now he gets through to Hye-won how bad all this is. These variations were composed by the man who plays Prof. Jo, who is a famous pianist. Wearing a toupee.

I don't generally like drunk scenes, of which there are too many in Korean dramas. But this one is really good. Hubs does an unnerving and convincing job. 

Yoo Ah-in does a great crying scene outside on the sidewalk, but IMO Kim Soo-hyun still holds the honors from You From the Star. (I told you we were connoisseurs.)

Hubs invites Hye-won out to dinner to talk her into going to jail. My biggest question was why do they take so long showing the opening of the wine bottle? Trust a friend from Soompi to suggest that since this scene is intercut with the quintet practicing and eating, it points up the fake, pretentious life they are leading.

This time the quintet is working on the sad second movement, which is a kind of folksong called a  dumka. Dvorak used folk songs that lamented the unfairness of the aristocracy as a rebellion and a cry for liberty. It fits the situation of the students pretty well.

Dvorak's Piano quintet No. 2 in A Major

Hubs talks about Brahms falling in love with Schumann's wife, Clara. It parallels their situation.

Half the fun of watching a drama as it airs is hearing all the theories of where it's going. Some think Hye-won will turn state's evidence and accuse the people who are after her. Some think she has already talked to the police. Someone thinks that she is in cahoots with the chairman to  pin everything on Mme Han and the SIL in order to get CEO Daughter out of trouble. Someone thinks she'll go to jail and Seon-jae will go to Germany. Someone thinks the Hubs will OD on all his pills. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Secret Love Affair - Along the Way - Ep. 13

Just a little background info: Korean law says that adultery is a criminal offense and only a spouse can bring charges. They have to have proof, and they have to have started divorce proceedings. The penalty is up to two years in jail, which is usually suspended.

Hye-won meets Seon-jae at a friend's pottery studio. She plans to pretend to get along well with Hubs and wants Seon-jae to go along. He's distressed and tearfully asks her why she just can't leave the whole mess. She asks if he would still like her if she were a nobody and didn't have money to spend to look beautiful. He claims he wouldn't care about that because he is a weed.

She goes home and copies files from a black USB drive to a red one. They are the financial data of the arts center, the Chairman's company, and Mme Han. Thanks to someone on Soompi who read that for us. She saves the red one in her hidden safe. We've seen it before but couldn't tell what she was putting in it.

Here's our comic relief for the episode: Seon-jae and the TA are walking across campus when NRG comes along and asks him, "How would you like to go out with me?" He just tells her, "How would  you like to get lost?" Haha.

The TA says cello girl is having it rough in school ever since she filed a complaint about her faulty instrument, and is thinking about dropping out. Seon-jae decides to help her by playing a duet with her, but while he is running through the music she texts some other friends to come. The Saint-Saens sonata is very difficult and Rachmaninoff said it was the best cello piece ever written. The fact that she can play it means that she is a good cellist.

43:28 - Saint-Saens Cello Sonata No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 32

They are in the same boat as she is, dropped by advisers and not allowed to be in performance class, but still required to play the music or flunk out. He practices their piece with them, which is a Dvork quintet. They are shown playing the first and third movements, which are rather cheerful. The people in the quintet are actual music students and are doing their own playing.

46:02 - Dvorak's Piano Quintet No. 2 in A Major, Op. 81

The dean arranges a publicity interview. Hubs makes Seon-jae change clothes because his own aren't classy enough. They sit together for pictures with Hye-won and Seon-jae looking awkward and Hubs happy as a clam. It looks like a college kid with his parents. I haven't been too bothered by the age difference, but this picture creeped me out. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Secret Love Affair - Along the Way - Ep 12

The Husband tells Hye-won to stop seeing Seon-jae and he'll forgive her, but he won't agree to a divorce. She tells him to look at the news. He gets out his phone, and sees an article that the Chairman was arrested 41 days ago. (This is according to a post on Soompi, but you can see the number 41 by his thumb when he looks at his phone.) Last episode Hye-won decided to lay low for awhile, so it's been that long since the lovers have seen each other.

At school, Cello girl asks Seon-jae to do a duet sometime and he says uh, sure. Then Nasty Rich Girl comes along and tries to talk to him and he leaves hurriedly in an allergic fit.  Her skirt is w-a-y too short and she has to cover up the gap with her purse when she sits lol. Seon-jae goes home to practice.

20:25 - Brahms Six Pieces for Piano Op. 118 No. 2, Intermezzo in A Major

When he goes downstairs to the cafe under his house, it is dark. He is surprised to find Hye-won there eating.  The next we see, they are on a bus out of town, winding up at a native-style inn. He asks if she's hungry. She answers, "Yes, there must be a hungry ghost inside me." Someone on Soompi said that is a common Korean expression for explaining unusual appetite. They talk about a music app he just put on their phones and listen to an old favorite of hers:

35:55 - Billy Joel's Piano Man

The lyrics are about people who have dreams that will never come true and HW really identifies with that and rocks out.

Morning view of the ryokan, surrounded by trees. Later they fix lunch in the ryokan group kitchen, which has a big window with a view of the trees. That's probably the first window with a view in this whole show. He tells her that he has sent his concert DVDs to a bunch of places and applied for school. Good job. He's proactive. They sit on the porch in the sunshine, he outside, she inside, and hold hands while they look at the trees and make plans. People have remarked that this represents he's in the light and she's in the dark, but open to a change.

When she gets home, hubs says they need to talk -- instead of asking where she was or about the affair, he asks her if she is joining with Prof Jo to send Seon-jae abroad. Oh man. That's what he cares about.

Well well well. Things are getting tight for our lovers. They ought to fess up and get married. In this show, there is only one marriage that is not dysfunctional, and that is Prof. and Mrs. Jo's. Is it just plain luck to have a good marriage? Who's responsible if it is not? How do the reasons for getting married in the first place factor in? Why did Hye-won and the Hubs get married anyway? They don't seem fond of each other at all.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Secret Love Affair - Along the Way - Ep 11

-OR- Not-So-Secret Love Affair.

Really, that's what it should be called. Who doesn't know by now?

The episode starts with Seon-jae looking through the little window above his computer desk, thinking he never realized before how small it is. And by extension, how little he knows. Hye-won's house and office have windows but no view; they are all blocked by blinds and curtains. There are no vistas and no perspective.

Seon-jae goes to see Prof. Jo to ask about Hye-won. Jo gives him a concert program with a picture of her at 20 and says it is the real her. What she is now is a variation, and he tries to be understanding.

That program revealed that 20-year-old Hye-won had played a very difficult piece by Schumann. He is supposed to have injured his hands by over-practicing that piece trying to learn it. A repetitive-motion injury like tennis elbow. We have been told that Hye-won had wanted to be a concert pianist but injured her hands and had to stop playing. Perhaps she got a similar injury to Schumann. She can only practice with Seon-jae every-other day, and has him practice with a recording the other days. Maybe one thing that makes her care about him is that he has a chance to live the dream she had to give up.

Hye-won skips out of the Chairman's house to go meet Seon-jae at a nearby construction site. He is angry at the graft she is involved in and can't just watch her and try to understand, the way Prof. Jo does. He can succeed as a pianist and wants her to go away with him. She says not yet, that they shouldn't see each other for a while and gives him her secret phone. She gets a threatening text and leaves but he takes her hand to go down the stairs because they are dangerous. Ah. More dangerous stairs.

Back at the house, Bad StepMom and Daughter try to take a high tone with Hye-won but she shuts them up quick by reading the text, saying it was one of them, and that they just lost half her loyalty. She has told Seon-jae that she is clever and can control things, but usually is subservient. This is our first look at her being controlling.

Da-mi and Jang-ho come to try to talk Seon-jae into giving up on the rich pickers who just toy with people's lives. In response he plays the piano for them. It's his go-to method of convincing people. They are touched and give up on him and leave.

43:15 - The Rachmaninoff with flashbacks of practicing and playing in concert.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tragic Ferry Disaster

No one who pays attention to the news, or is interested in Korea, can be unaware of the tragic disaster recently of the ferry sinking. The fact that so many of those who lost their lives were children makes it much worse. It is appalling that the captain and crew of a ship wouldn't be trained in safety procedures and what to do in an emergency. They should know how hard it is to evacuate a sinking ship, and get people out as fast as possible. Now we hear that there were a lot of irregularities and illegalities that contributed to the accident. It's disheartening to hear of such rampant graft, but I guess it is in every country.

Our hearts go out to those who were on the ferry and their families. People are the most important thing there is, as is brought home to us in every disaster. The hope is that this shock will cause everyone to cooperate with reform, and that nothing like it will ever happen again. Rules are there for a reason. When they are not followed, accidents can happen.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Secret Love Affair - Along the Way - Ep 9 - 10

Episode 9

Madame Han - Big Fox- suggests that Sun-jae get double-eyelid surgery and Hye-won objects a little too strongly, saying his eyes are cute. Big Fox calls Dean Min to suggest Hye-won have the full tutoring of Sun-jae. She calls him Sweetie. Later, when Sun-jae objects to being on-camera while practicing, she approves turning the camera off. She has something up her sleeve, giving them more chance to be together. Considering there are no friends at the foundation, it's not just to be nice. She wants something to hold over Hye-won or she just wants to do anything to keep the prodigy happy.

Little Fox has two phones. Good idea, but she needs them password locked and to keep better track of them. The husband reads her texts when she leaves her phone around. She throws glances at her secretary while she plugs in the extra to recharge, to see if she notices. She doesn't trust anyone.  Hye-won eats out with Mme Han's secretary and Prof. Jo's wife, but tellingly, doesn't share confidences when the secretary is there. She's the one who made the recording of the husband and CEO Daughter bad-mouthing Hye-won.

The Dean gives the hubs the bad news, passing it off as his own opinion. He brings up the idea of George Sand and Chopin. Not a very secret affair? Da-mi already overheard people at the salon   talking about Sun-jae and his teacher. And she heard Madame Han talking to the dean, too.

Hye-won and Sun-jae meet at the practice room and she gives him a recording of herself playing the concerto accompaniment for him to practice with. He gets a kick out of that.

40:10 - practicing concerto - at home with the recording and earphones. It's important to see that he practices and has to work to do well.

Seon-jae picks up Hye-won for a spin on the scooter, and they end up at his house. She walks in untying her scarf and when she turns around to face him, he swoops in, takes her face in his hands, and  kisses her. Then taking her hand, he leads her into the alcove under the stairs where his mother slept. Very smooth.

They are sitting on the roof when Da-mi and Jang-ho come over. She hides and he lets them in.  Sun-jae tells Da-mi he doesn't care for her. She says fine, but he'd better not have another girl. We find out she had been second in command in a gang in high school and he had influenced her to get out. This may be a parallel construction of Hye-won being second at the arts foundation and Seon-jae getting her to leave and escape all the graft there. We can only hope. She asks him to call a cab with her phone. He looks in her purse and is stunned to find the two identical phones. The next day at school she needs her phone and has to get it from him. Her secretary thinks she is acting weird.

57:56 - Brahms Intermezzo - practicing at school

Hye-won goes to the salon to talk to CEO Daughter about money. Da-mi sees her and thanks her for watching out for her boy friend. Oh don't worry, she will.

Episode 10

Preparations are being made for Sun-jae's concert.

6:57 - practicing the concerto
Seon-jae plays his solo with Hye-won doing the orchestral part on the piano. We get to hear quite a bit and even with the Hubs standing behind them tapping his hand to the beat, it is just as intense for them as before. Hye-won is short of breath by the end. She gives Seon-jae a new handkerchief to wipe his sweaty hands during the concert.

Mme Han refuses to attend the concert, saying Dean Min isn't going either and the press won't be there. Isn't it wonderful that the people in charge of the arts school aren't even interested enough in music to go listen?

21:00 - the concerto. Rachmaninioff Rhapsody On A Theme By Paganini.
Sun-jae nods to the conductor he is ready, looking confidant, but when he comes to a break in his part he scans the audience looking for Hye-won. Your heart fails, thinking he'll get lost, but he comes in on time. I read that this orchestra is  the Incheon City Philharmonic, and that the piano coach says that Yoo Ah-in really is a piano genius because he gives him something to learn and he has it memorized by the next day. We get the ending again, with the glissando.

26:10 - the encore. Brahms Six Pieces for Piano, Op 118 Intermezzo No. 2
He told her he would play this as a love letter if he was asked for an encore. Brahms was in love with Clara Schumann, wife of Robert Schumann, and dedicated this music to her. Kind of parallel situations.

30:52 - Sun-jae and Hye-won sit in her office watching the playback of the concert on her laptop, totally not going to the party in his honor. Nice way to keep the affair a secret, guys. By the time Hubs goes looking for her, they are backstage, with Sun-jae showing her where he first saw her back in episode 1.

CEO Daughter gets a text that the prosecutors are at her dad's house arresting him. She tries to get Hye-won, can't, and sends Hubs after her. He checks the security cameras and tries the stage. They are on the floor behind the curtains, acting like two teenagers in the back of a Chevy. We had no idea our Geol-oh had such bad self-control. Hubs yells out the message and leaves.

There is a line of black cars in front of the Chairman's house. His son-in-law is there to go down to the police station with him. He's talking about what to wear to get sympathy. Reminds me of the dad in Protect the Boss. CEO Daughter is crying, she's the only one who really cares about him. Big Fox is crying crocodile tears into a handkerchief. As soon as the audience is gone she throws it down. Interesting there are two handkerchiefs in this episode, pointing up the difference in the relationships of the  two couples.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Secret Love Affair - Along the Way - Ep 5-8

Episode 5

The Husband is pleased with having brought the prodigy home and eventually goes to bed drunk. Seon-jae wants to talk to Hye-won about why she is ignoring him after they kissed. She grabs his face and kisses him again, claiming it is punishment, and he should stop messing with her. (How's that again?) He grabs her in a back-hug as she starts to leave and tempts her with more piano playing. They end up doing duets again. I like the part where he plays a run right over the top of her hands, laughing.

22:55  - Solo arrangement of Schubert's Fantasia in F Minor D 940
23:50 - Chopin's Etude Op. 10, No. 1 in C Major
24:25 - 12 Variations on "Ah vous darai- je Maman" for piano in C Major, K 265, by Mozart 
      (a melody used in several children's songs, including Twinkle Twinkle Little Star) 
24:50 - Mozart's Sonata for Piano Four Hands in C Major, KV 521 Allegro
28:20  - Tchaikovsky's The Seasons, Op 37 "The Snowdrop"

In the morning Little Fox must be happy because she is wearing bright colors for the first time. After she leaves for work, Da-mi shows up. She has been proclaiming herself Seon-jae's girlfriend, and does support him a lot, but he doesn't really seem to care about her. She does Hye-won's hair and is the one who told her about Seon-jae being in jail. She's a pretty tough girl, and beats up on Seon-jae in what I hope is  not The Korean Way. Later at the salon, a nasty rich girl sticks gum on her. She takes it for the moment. Notice that those of lower status have to lower their eyes.

The professor tries to dress Seon-jae up in nice clothes but he bails and decides to move back into his old apartment.

  Episode 6 

When Soen-jae gets home, Hye-won is waiting. She goes to see him because she likes him, but she doesn't want to admit it. He is excited she came and keeps her waiting while he cleans the floor to make a fit place for her to sit. She tells him it's not good for him to be seeing a 20-year older woman, and he tells her she doesn't have to try to impress him, she just needs to love him. When she changes the topic he tries music again, a recording of himself playing Liszt. She is touched and impulsively offers to hug him. He says seriously, "I'll hug you." Very emotional hug.

At 20:17 is Liszt's Rhapsodie Espagnole
At 39:38 is Variations flashback

The husband had just arrived outside the door in time to hear this. He turns around and leaves. When Hye-won gets home he asks her if Seon-jae should play the Liszt in competition.  This should be a hint that he heard it being played, but she doesn't get it.

The next time Nasty Rich Girl comes to the salon, Da-mi trips her, takes her into the toilet, and roughs her up a little. Hye-won sees it and is a shocked by the violence. She is also a little shocked by the Chairman getting her to set him up with a waitress, and telling her he's changing her job to helping CEO Daughter with a start-up. Stressed-out and needing some peace and quiet, she goes to Seon-jae and asks him to drive her around for a couple of hours.

Episode 7

He drives and she falls asleep. When he stops she wakes up and says home is like work; she can't relax anywhere. He goes off to get her a room to relax in and she takes it as Getting A Room and freaks out. She totally drives home and leaves him there to fend for himself. When he gets back he calls to say his jacket is still in her car and his house key is in the pocket. She goes through his pockets to see if it's really there, and opens the door just enough to drop the jacket out on the porch.

He plays his scholarship audition and it is anticlimactic. Small audience; no one makes a big fuss.
29:20 - audition - Liszt Spanish Rhapsody S.254, T. 90

Da-mi comes by and he tells her that she and their friend Jang-ho ground him and should still visit, but to call before they come. She doesn't realize she has just been friend-zoned.

Hye-won has a few more strained conversations with the Chairman's family and does some more dirty work for them. Now it looks like she's the one who might have a nervous breakdown. Seon-jae sees when they award him the scholarship that she is put upon and used, and he feels awful that he can't really help her.

Episode 8

The husband is listening at Seon-jae's door. Just as he leaves Da-mi shows up w/o calling and Seon-jae hurries off with her because he has just texted Hye-won to come. She sees them from inside her car. No one ever sees anyone watching from a car in a kdrama. Seon-jae starts to tell Da-mi to break up, but can't bring himself to do it.

The next morning he goes to see Hye-won.  She yells at him about his other girlfriend, hitting him and pushing him. He sits her down on the sofa to talk, saying he's glad she came to his house and that she's jealous. He acts more mature than she does, seeing past her behavior to her motivations, and being quite gentle. She is pretty much falling apart. I have noticed her in earlier episodes tucking her hair tightly into a bun and repeatedly making sure it is smoothly in place. I figured there was a reason for that, and we'd see some developments later. Now we see she has her hair in a loose puff, and it comes down from being jostled. Yes, she's coming apart.

He asks her about CEO Daughter and she tells him it's the class system, with her in the middle serving the rich above her, with greed at the top.  By now we have found out that she was a friend of CEO Daughter since middle school days, and the family sent them abroad to college together. She has been serving them ever since. He's been honest with her, now she's being honest with him.

They meet to practice the concerto at the school, and she's still yelling at him. It's her last resistance before giving in to her feelings for him.
34:10 - Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto #2 in C, Rhapsody On a Theme By Paganini
Secret love affair?  Secret means kept separate or hidden. All through this show we have been taking peeks at the characters from behind partitions and furniture. We saw only the backs of heads during the first kiss. Now we see Hye-wan in her office getting her coat, and hidden behind a pillar as she finds Seon-jae's jacket.

We see him arriving in front of his house and realizing he hasn't got his key again. He calls her and is surprised to be told she is already in his apartment. His face is suffused with happiness as he goes in and sees her.

And then it's hidden again. We see the electric meters in the hall, the dishes by the sink and the pans on the stove. And we hear them talking, tenderly and intimately. Whatever it means to the outside world, they are together for the first time. And then we see them sitting on the floor drinking beer and talking, completely at ease with each other. It's all so beautifully and tastefully done, although it seems rather sudden until you consider there has been a build-up going on.

The husband had gone to a fortune teller and was told that his wife was too responsible and would never leave him and have an affair. Well, he knows that's wrong. She didn't come home all night. He should get his money back.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Secret Love Affair - Thoughts Along The Way - Ep 1-4

It can be hard to choose something new to watch, because you are committing to so many hours. I have mostly spent the last year watching well-known dramas that were recommended by other people, but lately I have watched a few new ones that were airing. I was interested in My Love From Another Star right away because of the alien, and the very first episode hooked me. Nampyeon and I enjoyed talking about it as we waited for new episodes, and there is a kind of on-line liveliness with new shows. I haven't been part of that since the Harry Potter books were coming out, and it was fun.

Ever since Alien Show finished, I have been looking for another new one to be part of. Nothing really sucked me in. Until now. That's Robin Hood from Sungkyunkwan Scandal, I said. But meh on the having an affair part, I said. Then came the 21-minute preview. That's REAL PIANO PLAYING, I said.

21- minute preview

Peering longingly at a concert grand from behind a curtain. View of head when sitting at the piano. View from the back. View of hands. Head again. Body swaying and arms moving artistically. View of Yoo Ah-in actually playing. Face and arms and hands in the same frame! Hold it! Nampyeon and I both play the piano, and we are pretty disdainful of most musicians in tv and movies. The actors are so obviously faking it, with views of moody swaying from behind the piano, where you can't see their hands. Short views of fingers on violin strings or bowing a cello. Someone else doing the playing for them. So tacky. By the time the duet came along, I was sold. I only had to say "piano" to Nampyeon and he was sold. We're watching this show.

Googling around for information, I found that a professional pianist recorded the music for the sound track. Yoo Ah-in and Kim Hee-ae really play the piano, and were given special lessons on the pieces used in the drama. So the visuals are them, and the sound is someone else. That's good enough. If the rest of the show has such care taken with it, this should be a really good one. The duet was very moving and emotional, and both they and the audience were drained at the end of it.

Episode 1

This show is more film noir than anything else. It is a sepia-toned world of jaded, questionably-moral people wandering around in dimly lit, claustrophobic  spaces. It's moody and oppressive when it's not being hostile. It's very well shot, from peeking at our leading lady, Hye-won, from behind a lattice at the beauty salon, to watching her feet descend the stairs - remarkably dangerous-looking stairs, I might add. The sound is low-key and mostly apropos to the action. Walking into the music building, you hear little snatches of people tuning up and playing. It's classic and calm.

We are treated to the foreshadowing of fate when our leading man, Seon-jae, crosses a  bridge on his motorcycle with a girlfriend who asks him to stop because, "if you kiss on a bridge, love is supposed to last long."  He doesn't and she objects, "if you don't, someone else will appear." Well, we knew that already.

Sitting at her mirror at the end of the day, Hye-won sums up what we know so far: she is fake, her husband is useless, nothing really belongs to her, she wants her boss' position.

We see Seon-jae moving in the open white outdoor world at the clinic and before the facade of the music hall. When he enters he is swallowed by the rabbit-warren of stairs and progressively darker halls leading to the black curtain he stealthily pulls aside to get a glimpse of the grand piano and watch it being played. He sees her critiquing a student. He is caught.

The piano duet at 43:30 is Schubert Fantasie in F Minor for 4 hands D. 940
It is played by piano professor Jo In-seo and his top student, Min-woo. Prof. Jo is maybe the only honest person at the college, and Hye-won's husband is jealous of Jo having such a talented student. For the glory of having a student like that, not because he is a good teacher himself.

I love that there are a few humorous moments in this all too serious drama. The incident with the phone in the men's room. Fishing it back from under the door haha! Hye-won agreeing to audition Seon-jae and taking a bite of the apple.

They bring him in for his audition. He's a big awkward kid in his jeans and puffy coat, looking a little taken aback at the opulence. Here she comes stalking down her dangerous stairs. She looks straight at him and he looks away.

Episode 2

When she invites him into her lair and asks him to play, he is nervous and sits silently at the piano for a minute. He's trying to remember what he had played the day before, because he had done it out of his head. He plays, then explains how he condensed two parts into one. They spend the day together cocooned inside her piano room. He plays for her - beautiful piano music - that's what we're here for - she requests more. And then they play together, moving together, quiet together, intense together. They are both affected, and are exhausted by the end.

At 3:25    Sun Jae plays the Schubert condensed into 2 hands.
     6:33    is the Bach Prelude and Fugue No. 1 from Well-tempered Clavichord
     7:48    the Paganini Etude No. 4 Arpeggio
     8:07    Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 8 in A Minor, K. 310
     16:54  Tchaikowsky's The Seasons: April "Snow Drop"
At 28:34 they play the Schubert duet together. The dumb thing about it is that they make a video recording, but don't show the hands. All they get to watch later is the head. :-P

Back at the college, CEO Daughter is acting up, behaving worse than in Episode 1 if that is possible. Someone should drop her off the end of a pier. If this were real film noir, somebody would.

We cut back and forth between the college crowd playing politics, to the audition, to looking back on the audition. Seon-jae is ecstatic, running to release pent-up energy, on a bridge reliving the moments, playing the railing like a keyboard, grinning like an idiot to himself.

35:35  Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 23 in F Minor Appassionata         

The tense mood is emphasized by low light coming from lamps and candles and through blinds or grilles highlighting faces against a dark background. We see that the house has a sliding bookcase with a secret safe behind it. nice.

It transpires that Hye-won is called the Little Fox and the Chairwoman is the Big Fox. They record CEO Daughter's (the Chairwoman's step-daughter) conversations and dump a college admissions scandal in her lap right in front of Chairman Dad. Good job.

The Little Fox and her husband go to see Seon-jae at his house and hear him play his own piano. It's another multi-level complicated space with tiny, steep concrete stairs. Looks like a fire trap. Strewn with laundry and piles of junk. Sliding door grille, looks like a jail. And then we end on a high note, with her stepping on a mouse trap and him picking her up and carrying her out. Whee!

Episode 3

Plot twist. Third episode and we have a major plot twist already. Here we have been expecting a clean little campus affair between two piano players, one with a dimwitted whiner husband. It's all gone sideways. The tone of this show is pretty dark. Someone posted that they worried whether to watch a show about an affair, but decided murders are bad too, and we all watch murder mysteries. It all depends on how it is handled. This show has uprooted us and we are waiting to see where we get planted next.

Of piano playing we get one new short lesson at 31:08 and a flashback at 12:10. Kind of a weird lesson. Who treats their students that way, putting a stick down their clothes? Looks pretty provocative to me. Then the twist happens and somebody goes into the army. Little Fox catches CEO Daughter drunk and reads her a lecture on morals and deportment. This can serve as a touchstone later, when she starts misbehaving herself.

Then she sticks her nose back into Seon-jae's business and now he can't leave her alone. Looks like he's going AWOL. Meets up with her in her garage. He's not a bashful kid anymore, and we're not waiting for the series to be half over for the first kiss, either. He grabs her and gives her a long enough anguished look that she could turn him down if she wanted, and kisses her, hard. We don't see their faces, but she pushes at him a little bit, just to show he's using muscle. And then she invites him in.

Episode 4

Hye-won pulls the come here- get away- come here- get away bit on Seon-jae, who loses it and is arrested for attacking a bad piano player. He looks like he is going a bit crazy in jail. Little Fox arranges for her husband to hear of it and he brings Seon-jae home and gets him out of army duty.

We get a look at the graft at the music school and in the Chairman's family. None of these people are likeable. Netizens complain about the shiny make-up on everyone, but I think it is appropriate. They are fake plastic people, not real at all. Either that or the shininess is so the people stand out against the dark background.

The only music is a cello student's lesson with a really bad/corrupt teacher at 35:50 and a flashback of the audition at 42:00. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

My Love From Another Star As Science Fiction

As a long-time science fiction lover, I happily anticipated watching a drama with an alien in it. I really enjoyed the show, it's one of my favorites; but all the way through I was looking for information about his people, his planet, or his method of travel. There wasn't much, and what there was didn't make sense. It leaves us with a blank slate for a main character, which is kind of weird. Perhaps the writer never really thought about those things, but they seem pretty basic to a science fiction show.

Having grown up reading Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein and watching shows like Star Trek and Apollo 13, I expect certain things from science fiction. I expect the author to have put some thought into designing a world. I expect things that happen in the story to make internal sense. I expect answers to questions brought up in the plot.

MLFAS falls short in all of these areas. Not much is said about the alien society and why they behave the way they do. Why did they abandon Min-joon in the first place? They didn't even look for him. They can all teleport, but they didn't bother. We see them wandering through the forest collecting specimens, so they must have some kind of interest or curiosity about our world. It's pretty far to come. Min-joon is the only one who was interested in Earth people and explored the town. That shows he is different from all the others. None of them were interested in people. Maybe people are not important, even one of their own who strays and gets lost.

Min-joon tells us at one point that on his world they don't have families or friends. Is that why they left him? Do they not have emotional connections or concern for each other? If they don't have warm relationships, they probably don't have emotions. That makes sense because in the beginning he was very closed-in and emotionless, rather like Spock. Maybe his people are like Vulcans, but even Vulcans look out for one another. He kept pretty much to himself for 400 years because that is just what his people do? What kind of society would have resulted from that? You'd think they would have been too isolated to have developed a lasting civilization or technology. Knowing these things would have given depth to our alien's character.

One big plot point is that blood and saliva make Min-joon sick. It becomes an interesting problem when he tries to kiss his girlfriend. If this is true though, how come he can eat meat? We know he can eat chicken. I don't remember what else they show him eating. It's lucky for our side that his body chemistry isn't so different that he can't absorb nutrients from plants. He mentions several times that his body has changed to acclimate to Earth. Maybe it changed enough to allow him to eat but not kiss. It's noticeable that it takes a shorter and shorter time for him to recover from a kiss, and maybe he gets used to it. That would be like taking allergy shots. But it would have been nice to have an official note on that.

A big obstacle in the story is the fact that Min-joon has to wait 400 years for a comet to return. What's the logic in that? He says they terraformed the comet so the natives wouldn't notice them. To begin with, that's a crock because people see the flying saucers all over the place. They aren't hiding. What would be the purpose in terraforming the comet anyway? Do they fly their spaceships to our solar system and use the comet as a base camp for little expeditions to Earth? Isn't it kind of silly to have to wait to rescue their crewman until their hideout orbits close enough? You'd think they could sneak around better than that.

Do they dock their spaceships to the comet and use it as a mother ship? Comets don't make interstellar journeys. They belong to our solar system, swinging out to the farthest reaches, and then back in towards the sun. Or did the aliens install engines so they can fly it home? If so, then it hasn't got a 400-year orbit any more. It could be that the comet is a mother ship, and it just takes 400 years for it to get from Vulcan (or wherever) to Earth because they don't have light-speed. Suppose Min-joon's group had to leave and couldn't return. A rescue party has to be sent out from their home planet. If they are extremely long-lived and don't age, they may just put up with the long flight.

 Min-joon says he is waiting for the comet, not that he's waiting for a rescue party. If they aren't concerned with each other to the extent that they don't look for him when he goes missing, why would they send a rescue party later? If they were going to rescue him, they should have done it before they left and not strand him for so long. One explanation would be that they are doing a long-term scientific study of Earth and come back every 400 years to gather information. In that event, Min-joon isn't waiting for a rescue party, he's just waiting for the next regularly scheduled expedition. But that isn't said. At any rate, the comet thing doesn't make sense and ought to be explained.

And what about the flying saucers that were spotted zipping around before the comet got back? Did they get to Earth without needing the comet? Why didn't Min-joon get a ride on one of those? When the comet finally got here, a flying saucer appeared above a forest, some ways from Min-Joon's home. They evidently teleported Min-joon from his balcony to the ground under the saucer, and then turned him into sparkles to beam onto the ship.  Why the sparkles? Min-Joon never shows sparkles when he teleports. Why didn't the aliens just teleport him straight onto the ship without the middle step?

And finally, what's with the wormhole? Did the alien ship get sucked into it by accident, or did they purposely use it to speed up their trip? Is Min-joon using it to teleport from his home planet to Earth, without needing a space ship? If the aliens could do that, they could have rescued him sooner. If they fell into the wormhole accidentally they may be still figuring out how to use it.

Raising questions that never get answered leaves me unsatisfied. It's annoying that they pulled a wormhole out of a hat with no foreshadowing, and called it good. I am however glad that the main couple gets to be together. And that the kid brother got some E.T. time with the alien. That was probably my favorite scene of the show.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Year of Kdrama

We watched our first kdrama on March 15 last year, so that means that today is the big anniversary! We are one year out on kdramas! It has been an adventure. The first few we saw were recommended by our DIL and then we googled favorite kdrama lists and looked at places like DramaBeans. Most of these dramas have been widely recommended.

Here they are in the order that I watched them, rated with five stars possible:

1. Secret Garden - A wealthy man suddenly becomes infatuated with a movie stunt-woman who doesn't like him. Then their souls switch bodies, and the two actors get to pretend to be the opposite sex. The last time I saw this done as well was when Captain Kirk's body was inhabited by the soul of a crazy woman. Haha. There is some mystery about the man's traumatic past and memory loss. Cousin Oska grows from being an annoyance to being a best pal. The drama takes a while to get going and then it is really interesting. ****

2. Heartstrings - The story of two college music students; a girl who plays traditional Korean musical instruments to please her grandfather, and  a boy who studies western music and plays in a rock band.  They were both in You're Beautiful and didn't end up together, so I guess this was a second chance. It was pretty bland, though. The character I remember the most fondly was the sweet, quirky, messy-haired drummer. The two boys are in a band called CNBLUE in real life, so that would be why they are believable as musicians. ***

3. My Princess - An elderly head of a big business conglomerate decides to restart the Korean monarchy. He locates the heir of the last king, a college girl who has a hard time learning to be a princess, and installs her in a palace. There is a slightly lame love story and a slightly lame conflict with a sister. The guy is called Hand Towel by the DramaBeans people because when you say that in Korean it sounds like the actor's name, and his acting is about as limp. To be fair, they said he did better in this comedy than he had done in melodramas before. But it's a slightly lame show. ***

4. My Girlfriend is a Gumiho - an irresponsible college student releases a mystical nine-tailed fox from imprisonment in a painting. The fox becomes a girl who wants to be human, and keeps the man on his toes by wanting to eat meat all the time. He is afraid of her at first, afraid she'll eat his liver (which is what gumihos do) but then he falls in love with her. Another magical character shows up to try to put the gumiho back in the painting. Luminous, enchanting gumiho girl, captivating story.****

 5. Rooftop Prince - The wife of a Joseon crown prince is found drowned in a pond. He collects three assistants to help him solve who did it, and as they are chased on horseback, they jump a ravine and land (sans horses) on a rooftop of an apartment building in modern Seoul. The funniest part of the drama is the next few episodes, as the prince and his cohorts acclimate to the modern world. He finds  women who looks just like his princess and her sister, and gets involved in a corporate power struggle with people who think he looks like their company heir. Hot shot start and draggy in the middle.****

6. Faith - A queen from ancient Korea is wounded by assassins, and a warrior is sent through a time portal to find a doctor to cure her. There are some problems with this drama; over-the-top X-men type villains, and a rather repetitive plot (two poisonings), but the love stories are extremely good. The closed-in, humorless warrior gradually warms up to the lively but initially shrill and materialistic lady doctor, as she comes to appreciate his honesty and reliability.  Meanwhile, the young king and queen learn to love and support each other. *****

7. City Hunter - We actually watched the first episode a while back, but there was too much killing and we dropped it. Having seen Lee Min-ho in Faith however, we were willing to try another drama of his and came back to it. Fortunately, the rest of the show is different. The hero was kidnapped as a baby and raised for the express purpose of hunting down the corrupt government figures who ordered the deaths of a some South Korean soldiers who had been sent into the North on a covert mission.
Part of the conflict comes when he starts capturing the criminals and dropping them off at the police station, when his father wants them all killed. Fast-paced and intense. *****

8. Sungkyunkwan Scandal - In Joseon times, a girl dresses up as her brother in order to support her family as a scribe. She gets pressured into going to college, which is for men only, knowing she would get executed if found out. She becomes part of an inseparable foursome: a scholar who she falls in love with, a pretty boy who lords it over all the other students by pure force of charm, and a scruffy guy who is secretly a freedom fighter. This drama starts out with a punch but slows down in the latter part and has an unconvincing end, but it is mostly very good. ****

9. Arang and the Magistrate - Having enjoyed the gumiho girl so much, we found another drama with Shin Min-a. She is a ghost with no memory of her life or how she died, so she avoids the Reapers as she tries to find out. She appears to the town magistrate to ask for help, but he dies of the shock. So does the next magistrate. Enter a nobleman who is searching for his missing mother. It turns out he can see ghosts, and she convinces him to help her. Arang is spunky and fun at the start of the drama, but loses steam as the main story starts to peter out. The most interesting part is the mythology - the Reapers and the two gods who play a game of Go while playing with the lives of humans. There is a lot of spookiness, and this would be a good drama to watch for Halloween. ****

10. Prosecutor Princess - To tell you the truth, we watched this show because it appears in a list of Best Kdrama Kisses I found at KdramaFighting. Having been annoyed by wooden open-eyed kisses, I decided to watch all the shows on the list. Here, a lady prosecutor comes to work in the latest fluffy fashions, which scandalizes everyone else in the office, who all wear back suits. She fails at her job at first, until a friendly lawyer starts giving her advice. As she becomes better at working her cases, she finds that the lawyer has ulterior motives which have to do with the unjust imprisonment of his father. Love clashes with duty as this drama gets more tense and involving as it goes on. Oh, and the kissing was good. ****

11.  Boys Over Flowers - Ah Boys Over Flowers. My my my. This is the one I talked about in previous posts, having watched the first couple of episodes and then stopped because of the terrible bullying and lack of responsible adults. Went back to watch it because it is so famous, and slogged our way through it. I heard the female lead was the most well known of all the actors to start with, but was soon eclipsed by the guys. She was annoying. I also heard that Lee Min-ho started getting reams of offers to do commercials a couple of days after the first episode aired. His character was mostly a jerk, while his three friends were sympathetic. To people who enjoyed the show, watching cute boys must have outweighed the spotty and illogical plot. But it's true that you can understand half of the kdrama jokes on the internet if you've seen this show. ***

12. Lie To Me - This is another one from the best kiss list. In order to look important, a girl brags that she has a rich boyfriend. She goes to extreme lengths to "prove" this to her friends, and even ropes in the man in question to go along with her. I don't know why he did; she was embarrassing. In a strange plot twist, after she has chased the man for most of the show she suddenly changes her mind, driving the audience nuts. However, there were a couple of very famous kisses.***

13. Personal Taste - Having liked Faith and not liked BOF, I wanted to see something else Lee Min-ho was in. Plus it's on the KdramaFighting list. An architect pretends to be gay in order to rent a room from a single girl who has a famous Japanese-style house. The secondary characters are actually more fun than the main ones. The girl has a married girlfriend who has some pretty funny scenes with the architect's employee. The architect does a makeover on the girl and they fall in love, but I was insulted that after spending a long time making a point of being chaste, the girl caves at the end. That's not a spoiler, is it? It's a rom-com. You know they're going to get together. ***

14. City Hall - A conniving  politician moves to a small town to gain points with his superiors. He meets a city hall secretary, fires her up about injustices in government, helps her campaign for mayor, and uses her as a steppingstone for his own career. Her kindness and idealism start to rub off on him and make him rethink his own life and goals, as they start to fall for each other. Has a silly start and then becomes engrossing. *****

15. Coffee Prince - This is on the kiss list and also a lot of favorite's lists, but although it's a quite good show, it's not mine. Possibly because I don't like people living a lie. It's a story of a girl who pretends to be a guy so she can work at a coffee shop with a staff of all men. The boss falls in love with her even though he thinks she is a boy and tortures himself wondering if he is gay. And then she decides she wants to go away to school. What? Does that sound like true love? Kind of like Lie To Me. Same actress too, come to think of it. Similarly famous kisses. ****

16. Greatest Love - We decided to watch this because of Cha Seung-won, who was so good in City Hall, and Yoo In-na, who was in Secret Garden. (She overacted in SG, but the director must have told her to do that, and I liked her anyway.) GL is cute but not as good as CH. A famous actor thinks he is in love with a has-been singer because his heart beats faster when he hears her music. The real reason is because her music was playing when he was having heart surgery. He is arrogant and has a particularly aggravating laugh; she is milquetoast. Yoo In-na is an adversarial member of the heroine's old singing group. The cutest person in this drama is the heroine's little nephew, who has a charming relationship with the actor. ****

17. 49 Days - A perky young woman who gets injured and falls into a coma is given a second chance at life by a Reaper. He lets her inhabit the body of a depressed girl who really doesn't want to live, and gives her 49 days to collect genuine tears from three people who loved her. She learns about and combats a conspiracy against herself and her father, and the depressed girl learns to overcome her old grief and become more alive. Suspenseful mystery punctuated by fun and quirky Reaper played by Jung Il-woo. This is the first melodrama we watched, and we really got engrossed in it. *****

18. Playful Kiss - We watched this because so many people recommended it, and it stars the blonde kid from Boys Over Flowers. I believe I mentioned before that you have to be 13 to enjoy it. Stupid high school girl stalks smart boy with absolutely no shame. He doesn't seem to like her, and moreover he can't act. Painful to watch. *

19. The Woman Who Still Wants to Marry - Another one I watched because of a BOF actor. Kim Boem plays a 24-year old student who falls in love with a 34-year old reporter. (Think Lois Lane from 1978.) His 44-year old mother falls very neatly for the reporter's ex-fiance. The center of the show is the friendship between the reporter and her two best friends. One desperately wants to marry, the other is tired of men and is everyone's go-to person for advice. The sweetest romance is the one between the mother and the ex-fiance.****

20. Flower Boy Ramyun Shop - We watched this both because of Jung Il-woo and because it's on the best kisses list. He is a rich kid who falls for a student teacher. She tries to be proper, but when that little temper of hers rears it head, watch out! That's what he likes about her, actually. Her fire. The second lead comes to take over the titular ramyun shop, and ends up taking in several lonely souls as well.  He likes the girl but he is way too pushy, calling her "wifey" and acting like he owns everyone. I liked the little epilogues, especially the ones where they teach you how to make ramyun.****

21. You're Beautiful - This show is on a lot of people's favorites lists. I thought that rather than being cute, the characters were merely aggravating. I didn't really like the show until about 2/3 of the way through, when it suddenly struck me that Jang Geun-suk is a really good actor. Then I liked the rest. The story is about a girl who impersonates her brother and takes his place in a rock band. The fun, I guess, is watching people find out she's a girl. ***

22. I Miss You - We really liked this drama, although I look at other blogs and see that most people didn't. They may not have gotten past the first six or so episodes, which are pretty violent and awful. We had liked Park Yoo-chun in Rooftop Prince and Sungkyunkwan Scandal, and were up for another dose. The story starts with teenage sweethearts being kidnapped and the boy being rescued by his father. The girl was raped and then found by a woman who disappears with her as well as with an injured younger boy who had also been kidnapped. The rescued boy grows up to become a detective, still trying to find the girl, when he runs across some wealthy people who have recently come from France. He suspects them of being the missing kids, which they deny. The ending about the villain is not too believable, but the majority of the show was really good. The child actors at the beginning were especially good. ****

23. Queen In-hyun's Man - I'd read a lot about how good this drama was, and waited and waited for it to show up on Dramafever. Guess what? It never did. We watched it on Viki. A Joseon-era nobleman who protects Queen In-hyun  gets sent to the present by a magic talisman whenever his life is in imminent danger. He meets an actress (played by Yoo In-na) who is playing the part of Queen In-hyun in a drama, and they fall in love. His actions change history as recorded in the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty, and he keeps returning to the past to correct things. Very sweet and fulfilling romance, which flowed over into real life. *****

24. Take Care of the Young Lady - We chose this because we wanted to see something with Yoon Sang-hyun, who played Oska in Secret Garden. It also stars Yoon Eun-hye, who we have already seen in Lie to Me, Coffee Prince, and I Miss You. A poor man is hired to be the personal assistant of a spoiled rich girl. She throws frequent fits, and he's the only one who can get her to behave. Her family wants her to marry a rich guy, but even though it is Jung Il-woo, she starts having different ideas. It's entertaining but not great. ***

25. Full House - Man, a lot of people really like this one, but I just can't see it. How can you let your friends sell your house and abscond with the money, and not turn them over to the police? Really! I don't even think the couple is cute, because he yells at her so much. And his ex-girlfriend shows up and is waaaay too clingy. I read that people used to make pilgrimages to see the house until it was torn down. **

26. A Gentleman's Dignity - Another drama from the kiss list. Cute bromance of four men who have been pals since their school days. One is a playboy who romances a school teacher, one is trying to get his girlfriend to marry him, one is married but keeps flirting with other women, and one is a widower who falls in love with his friend's little sister. The playboy is pretty rude, the teacher overacts when she is embarrassed, and the little sister cries too much. There is so much crying in kdramas that we have sort of become connoisseurs by now. Believe me when I say this girl is not very good at it. (I have heard that you could save a third of your time watching this show if they would just cut out her crying.)  The most likeable of all these people is the wife of the flirty guy. Watch her step up and be awesome during the last half of the show. Eventually a teenager (another CNBLUE member) shows up claiming to be the son of one of the men. He makes friends with a rebellious student of the school teacher, and they have to be retrieved from the police station. In short, the two boys steal the show. You will not be surprised when I tell you that the student is Kim Woo-bin, who stole Heirs right out from under the nose of Lee Min-ho. ****

27. I Can Hear Your Voice - A young boy (played by Lee Jong-suk) gets the ability to read minds when a man, trying to kill the boy's father, rams a truck into their car and the boy has a head injury. A teenage girl who witnesses the crime interrupts the murderer and then testifies against him in court. The little boy vows to protect her. Fast forward ten years, and the murderer gets out of prison and comes looking for revenge. The girl is now a public defender and the boy, now 18, moves in with her to keep her safe. Loveable noona-puppy romance, chilling serial killer.*****

28. School 2013 - Guess why we watched this one? Lee Jong-suk and Kim Woo-bin are both in it! You have your smart students, you have your student being pushed unmercifully by his mother, you have your handicapped kid, and your bullies. And you have your ex-gang-member students who come to a new school looking to start over. The bromance in this thing is what the show is known for. The two leads dance warily around each other and the bully, licking past wounds. This show was just average for a long time, and then near the end I realized I was invested in these characters and wanted to see things turn out for them. ***

29. The Master's Sun - A woman can see ghosts, and they follow her around for help in settling leftover business from their lives. She is afraid of them but delivers messages for them. One day she meets a man who causes the ghosts to disappear when she touches him. He had been kidnapped once, and his girlfriend was killed, and he asks the woman to talk to the ghost of his girlfriend. Interesting. Overarching story with ghost-of-the-week stories. ****

30. Heirs - This was the most hyped drama of the year, on the strength of the popularity of the actors. It turned out to be lacking in plot and not a very good drama, but still rather interesting to watch because of cute scenes with the supporting characters. The main plot is: rich boy likes poor girl and fights his father over her. Meantime the father's wife and mistress duke it out. The main couple (Lee Min-ho from Faith and Park Shin-hye from You're Beautiful) had no chemistry. He ordered her around and she made faces when he kissed her. A secondary couple, Kang Min-hyuk (the drummer from Heartstrings) and Krystal (a singer), is much cuter. The only time Lee Min-ho showed a spark of life was near the end when he was showing Park Shin-hye a new apartment and locked the door and chased her around. The rest of the time was moody staring and crying, and not very good crying at that. Kim Woo-bin was really good as the bad boy who becomes nicer because of the gentling influence of the girl. He should have gotten her in the end - it would have been a more interesting show.***

31. King 2 Hearts - This was actually quite a good show, and the main leads were very good: Lee Seung-ki from Gumiho, and Ha Ji-won from Secret Garden. But the plot shot itself in the foot. Everyone knew early on who the villain was. They should have just arrested him right away and saved themselves a lot of grief. This is another show about Korea with a monarchy. An irresponsible crown prince takes part in international war games and meets a North Korean woman who is a general's daughter. Then the king is murdered and the crown prince becomes king. He has to contend with an evil arms dealer as well as the North Koreans when he decides to marry the general's daughter. ****

32. Nine: Nine Time Travels - A work-a-holic news anchor finds nine incense sticks that can send him exactly 20 years into the past. He uses them to try to save the lives of his father and his brother, but every time he returns to the present, the situation has become worse.  His best pal from his school days suffers through all the changes with him. The girl he loves doesn't remember the original time line at first, but figures things out. He finally enlists his younger self to help him. This is the best of the time-travel dramas. The ending is pretty ambiguous as to what exactly happened time-travel wise. There are a lot of blogs with conflicting theories. My opinion is that the younger self, when he grew up, didn't use the incense sticks. Excellent, addictive story. *****

 33. The Last Scandal of My Life - A middle-aged woman is pushed around by her in-laws and con-artist husband. While she is trying to raise bail for him, he leaves her for a wealthy woman. She meets up with her high school sweetheart who is now a famous actor, and becomes his housekeeper. He does a classic makeover on her - gets rid of frizzy ajumma hair and over-size glasses. Then he starts to love her again. His brother is played by the villain from I Can Hear Your Voice, and it is kind of hard to let go of the creepiness. Kind of a slow-starter but enjoyable. ***

34. The Prime Minister and I - This was the second drama we watched as it was airing. The first was Heirs. Usually in choosing a drama I read reviews and check to see if it has a satisfying ending. You can't do that when it's still coming out. The promotions made the show look cute and fun, so I watched it. It's about a reporter who has a contract marriage with a Prime Minister who is widowed and has three kids he is too busy to take care of.  I really liked the show until about halfway through, when they came to the -SPOILER- return of the not-dead wife. Then the show completely crashed and burned. Check out KDramaFighting for an awesome review. ***

35. Bad Family - A car goes off the road and everyone in it is killed except a little girl, who loses her memory. A copycat family is created for her, to try to jog her memory and find out if there was foul play. An ex-gangster gets various unsavory characters who owe him money to be part of the plan. The first half of the show is not too fun to watch, as these characters are crass and shrill. But the ending is very good. The fake family members bond and start helping each other out of tough spots, and all of them love and take care of the little girl. ****

36. Who Are You? - The 2008 version, not the new one from last year. Another story about a Reaper letting a ghost take over the body of another person for a limited time. The ghost of a clumsy, hapless delivery man takes over the body of a very closed-in businessman in order to try to take care of his daughter. As time goes on the men become more and more like each other. The father becomes less corny and more responsible, and the businessman becomes more open and friendly, as he begins to fall for the daughter. Gets off to a rocky start but nails it by the end. ****

37. Soulmates - This is a light romance story of several people who meet and date. There are three guys who get together to work out at the gym and talk about dating strategies and tricks.  There are three girls who work together for a large publishing company and gossip and compare notes.  One of them has a man-eating roommate who proceeds to steal everyone else's boyfriends. Slow-moving start, then becomes interesting. Doesn't have a real ending because it was supposed to have a second season, which was cancelled.***

38. My Love From Another Star - An alien was stranded on earth 400 years ago in Korea. Just as his people are due to come back (in present day) and rescue him, he falls in love with a famous actress who lives next door. He has superpowers that he is losing control of and he will probably die if he doesn't go home. Plus, he is allergic to human saliva, so when he kisses her he gets sick. Kim Soo-hyun, who plays the alien, is a fabulous actor. His crying is heart-wrenching. He was very stoic and reserved at first, then opened up slowly as the story progressed. We learn that on his planet there are no families and friends. So probably no emotions. He essentially existed unchanged all those 400 years until he met the actress and she turned his life upside down. This show is what is called crack drama. We watched it as it aired and talked about it during the week, anticipating each new installment. I read recaps as soon as they came out, and the often very thoughtful comments people left. There were a lot of plot holes, but they didn't prevent us from really enjoying the show. Major point: this show sparkled with fun moments all through its run. Most kdrama comedies start out funny and then lose their spunk and turn into melodramas. (Prime Minister and I, I'm looking at you.) This one kept the fun going. Some of the most hilarious scenes, with the alien and the actress' brother, were near the end. ***** 

39. The Moon Embracing the Sun - A fictional story set in the Joseon era about a crown prince (played as an adult by Kim Soo-hyun) meeting and falling for a really smart girl. The dowager queen, wanting to solidify power for her own clan, arranges for the girl to be poisoned before the wedding, and manipulates the prince into marrying a girl from her clan. A shaman rescues the poisoned girl, gives her a false identity, and raises her as an assistant. When the crown prince becomes king, he meets this girl again and has to fight the machinations of his grandmother and father-in-law. Very violent start, cute backstory, stressful second half. ****

40. Protect the Boss - A chaebol heir is unable to function in his father's company because of severe panic attacks. His cousin hires a new secretary to help him - a woman who was a rebel in high school and doesn't have good credentials, but is tenacious and clever. There is a little love rectangle with her, the boss, the cousin, and an ex-girlfriend. The moms of the cousin and ex-girlfriend cause most of the trouble; the boss' dad is hilarious, and his grandmother is the voice of reason. The story gets a little repetitious in the middle but recovers. Very enjoyable. ****